Thursday, August 21, 2014

YOU SUPER-DUPER MEN...

 
"My mom says the only reason men are alive
is for lawn care and car maintenance."
Tim Allen
 
Not true...no way! Tim's mom surely was kidding.  Some of my favorite people are men and they do tons of things; so you're thinking I'm partial?  Okay, I suppose having four awesome sons whose father led the way to their awesomeness possibly has much to do with it...I like girls too...however, since my order wasn't filled, I simply haven't had so much experience with them. 
 
A dis-advantage...I never experienced hands on car maintenance...why bother?  After all, those five men who lived with me were up on what to do; okay, even if they sometimes bombed out...fortunately for me it wasn't often.  I had no flat tires and only once had a serious mechanical failure...of course, it was far from home and took some doing to get me back.  I wish I had learned a few tricks of the trade...but...time marches on and I don't want to learn...besides I have my trusty, dusty smart phone! 

Cars are very sophisticated these days...are they ever.  They talk to you, jiggle your buns when you drift from your lane...use the brakes when you're distracted...cameras are placed in strategic places to give you 'drive around' instructions!  No more car keys...don't even start the engine yourself, it'll do it for you!  Wow!  They even can/will tell you where to go...reminds me of M when I'm driving!  Oh yes! 

Some even drive themselves...is there anything they can't do?  Well, they do need regular visits to their 'car doc' for check-ups...like people, right?  
 
Along those lines, I read this:  "Be sure and check your oil...oil is cheap, engines are expensive!"  Oh, I see...you've had some experiences with that...well, live and learn.


(Our grandson, Grant, re-assembling his car)
I was especially vulnerable when M
was 'out of the country' for a year...
more than once...
and I was saddled with four young men w/drivers licenses!

Enough to drive a mom bananas!
Disaster...we had a souped-up 98 Olds that  flew with the wind...fast. 
 


My little angels would vow to stay under the limit if I would just say 'Yes'
to their driving it to Dallas for the OU/Texas game.  Oh brother! 
 
It was even the OU colors...red and white. 
What a crock that was...thankful I didn't learn the truth 'til years later! 
 
Well, truthfully...I wasn't exactly a creep-a-long on the road myself...
inherited my lead foot from my mother and have paid for it a few times.  Ouch.

My twin brothers and my sister also followed suit...my dad discovered the twins antics when a friend of his remarked that Dad had the fastest 'family car' around.  Seems the twins would take it out, switch the tires, etc. and race it...they always won!  Notoriety has a way of making the news!  Ha!  They continue racing...but using their own cars!  Whew!

Men are alive for much, much more than lawn care and car maintenance. I've not always been respectful of their value...my bad.  Once...when I was way out of line, M looked at me and quietly said, "You know Vasca, I'm not your teddy bear that you can just take off the shelf and do your thing...then put me back."  That pricked my heart and I've never forgotten how I hurt him; trust me, I've tried my best never to hurt him again.  More living and learning, the hard way!

These days, my man smiles at me when I get up in the mornings...he tells me how precious and beautiful I am (fresh out of bed)...how much he loves me...he pampers and cares for me 24/7 in the most loving ways...much more than words. 

Oh, and for your information?  I reciprocate...100%. 

I have this idea that of all things wonderful...family relationships are about sticking together and lifting each other up!  The opposite of lifting each other up?  Tearing each other down...nowhere to go then but up...I'm into lifting up!

When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.


You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.  

Lyrics by Brendan Graham

This is dedicated to each and every one of you...male and female...my readers! 

You raise me up and I thank you!
    
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca

 

 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS PART II

"We're being quarantined here.
We're being kept here to die."
from the film 'Ruins'
 
Our classes were avid SARS watchers; certainly no one wanted to come down with it.  The medical staffs stayed on duty...not leaving the hospitals.  Quarantine was the 'word of the day'...and those in charge were clamping down on travel, etc.  






(Quarantined medical staff receiving supplies)
When we shopped for groceries and things at Carrefour (the store of choice for us) we lined up to have our temperatures checked before entering...like the thousands of other shoppers.  Everyone, but everyone was 'masked'.  I never noticed anyone being turned away so I suppose all of us were 'healthy'.  Who was to know...except the police and in China?  The police know everything...really!

At that time travel between provinces (like our states) was prohibited which presented a problem for some; such as lovers separated by miles!  You remember what that's like? I'm sure...of course you do.  'Off Limits' is not what they want to hear so what to do w/an aching heart?
                    
Why you take action of course...
in this case one sneaks across the border into our province of Hunan and into the city itself...Changsha...and into the down room of his lady love herself. 
Our friend April stayed out of the picture and kept her mouth shut about what was going on...but remember?  The police know everything...
they have eyes and ears in every corner...oh yes they do! 
Don't call them 'snoops' for nothing! 
(You don't suppose we have those here in the U.S. do you?)


Sense of humor w/masks!                      SARS quarantine hospital; closed 2010.
 
Some informer squealed and the raid was on.  Oh my, along w/her roommate's boyfriend and the roommate...April was to be deposited in the quarantine prison on our campus
 
While processing to the quarantine facility she sneaked upstairs to our apartment...stopped on the landing and left a letter she had written.  She wouldn't come near us; tearfully walked off...saying we would never want to see her again...ever!
 
The letter was rather like a 'death-bed confession' of everything she'd ever done wrong, trust me, everything.  Convinced she was going to die, she bared her past...laying it at our feet.
"When you get caught in a lie,
the truth doesn't seem so bad anymore."

She was horrified, humiliated and totally ruined...in her eyes, that is.  While it was anything but humorous to her but M and I couldn't help but smile at the irony.
 
M & I weren't surprised by anything she'd confessed...we had already figured out what was going on in her life months prior to SARS.  After all, at our ages we were more than  experienced and besides, we were fairly smart cookies! 
 
She rode out the quarantine...didn't contract SARS and we had lots of heart-to-heart talks and lessons were learned; she vowed never, ever to lie again.  As far as we know this story has a happy ending.  Whew!
 
While the quarantines were in effect the international inspection teams visited Beijing, taking stock of how China was handling the epidemic.  It was almost laughable; the hospitals would load the suspected SARS patients into ambulances and tour the city during the inspections...then return the patients to the hospitals when the inspectors were safely out of the city.
 
In no way do I mean to take epidemics lightly; they are extremely serious and dangerous.  I merely share with you what took place in our lives during the SARS epidemic in 2003.  Illnesses come and go; some worse than others.  These days the world is plagued with Ebola which is extremely deadly...we're learning more, day by day.
 
Fortunately for those of us living in the USA we have first class medical care and facilities...we have much to be thankful for.  China made it through SARS and other things in these past few years.  They handle it in their own way...our country handles epidemics in our own way...to each their own. 
 
China is old...and she is changing at break-neck speed; still maintaining traditions w/a fascinating culture.  Michael and I have been privileged to witness the 'real China' and the experience continues changing our lives...for the better. 
 
"Heavenly Father,
 
You chose Michael and me for something that we never dreamed of;
revealing you to those who didn't know you...in China!
 
We remain in awe of your love and your confidence in us...
we are an ordinary couple that you chose for something extraordinary. 
It seems you had been prepping us for this most of our lives...
we just hadn't realized it until it you put it into action...
as always your timing is perfection.
 
Being 'spirit-led' is one blessed gift that you have given us...
thank you for protecting us, trusting us, encouraging us
and putting us where you meant us to be. 
 
We remain conduits for your living water.
 
Thank You, In your son's most holy name...Amen"
 
From my heart...to yours,
Vasca

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS...



 
 
"We saw in 2003 the beginnings of an outbreak of an illness called SARS.          
SARS ended up killing 800 people which is a significant
number of deaths, but nowhere near as high as it could have been."
                                                                      Michael Burgess
Ebola, the epidemic sweeping Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, is in the world news every day; it's tragic and pushing to the limits those countries and individuals stricken with it.  Epidemics of this magnitude bring fear into hearts...feelings of expediency, rushing to bring a halt to the sickness and death.  Many prayers are being lifted 24/7...prayers for the caregivers, the people who are stricken, the families affected...there’s a tremendous effort being put forth...and it goes on and on.
I wonder, have you ever been personally involved in an epidemic?  I had not...that is not until Michael and I were living in Changsha, China.  Not until 2003 when something called SARS barged in...bringing with it sickness, fear and death.
SARS is the acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome...viral and destructive.

It was introduced in a province in southeastern China...began its move and our home city was in its path...not a good thing, not at all.

There were other American teachers in the city but they opted to return to America until things blew over; Michael and I decided to stay for a variety of reasons.

For one thing...what if when we were leaving the country they slapped us with a quarantine order...then we'd be stuck somewhere strange for many weeks...that happened to some.  No way!  Actually I think both of us felt a need to help those students we taught...perhaps in some way we could help make it through the epidemic.  Believe me, we're in no way medical minded but we do know cleanliness/sanitation and that was extremely necessary during this time.

The challenge was where to begin...what to do to 'be/stay safe'?  Ah, that's a good question and we prayed a lot; we thought a lot...we would do what we could to educate and protect those students we were spending many hours with. 

Initially, SARS wasn't publicized in our neck of the woods...it was under cover, so to speak.  The government definitely did not want to start a panic...a stampede.  Imagine what that could do in those cities like Changsha with a population of more than seven million. 

Of course, we all know China is a communist country and Changsha is actually where Chairman Mao was converted to Communism...all this to say 'it is definitely a communistic biggie'...in the strictest sense of the word.  

There were absolutely no precautionary steps being taken...hmm...enter my hero (of course that's Michael)  who took charge of me and our 600 students...300 of his, 300 of mine and we mobilized...whoop!
He outlined a plan...one of self-protection and learning tools...ready, set, go!  Gear up!
We became a small, private army...wow...did we ever.  Michael got masks for all of us...bought gloves, sanitary cleansers, mops...you name it and he got it.  Next up, he organized the students....they worked in teams w/M and I directing!  We sanitized/cleaned floors, desks, any and everything in our two classrooms.  You should have seen those kids work and they loved it...they were so proud of what they were accomplishing.  We became the talk of the school.
Of course the Dean of the English department discovered what our small army was doing (the school had 'spies' who always knew our every move)......he became quite the little informer.  One day he met us on the stairway going up to our classrooms and said, 'Michael and Vasca, I need to let you know there is a SARS epidemic taking place in China!'         Why thank you, Dean...we had heard about it.  Oh boy...wasn't he the clever one...oops! 
After sanitizing our classrooms we needed some personal health education; we worked that into what was going on in the SARS world...every class period we had the 'SARS Report'...how many new cases, how many total cases and sadly, how many deaths...open forum discussions.  Our advantage was that we designed our own curriculum anyway; now we had the students attention...100%...and talk about interest...they were engrossed in helping, making a difference!
Note here; it was next to impossible for us to sanitize outside our classrooms.  We were in a seven story building with no a/c, no heating...the doors and windows were usually wide-open...when it rained or snowed the floors were sopping wet...and then?  There were the rest-rooms!  You don't even want to know, or go there...trust me!   
 The dorms didn't have showers...actually they didn't have much of anything...we're talking 'bare bones' dorms.  Probably nicer than some of their homes, but to us?  Well, you and I are extremely fortunate to have what we do...we're so blest.  On designated days/times the sexes had their 'shower days'...here they are...rain or shine...sunny or freezing...on their day!  This was just below our windows.

 
Finally the school began taking steps...like?  One day, when we had no classes,
a person (like the one in this picture) appeared at our apartment door .  He came in and quickly turned our apartment into a lake. Don't take another step; do not spray our kitchen. 

We mopped, mopped, mopped for a long time to get our place habitable again...the scary thing was we didn't know what it was they had flooded us with...a disinfectant of some sort...but what??  You think they even knew?

They returned a few days later to re-spray and we refused to let them in...SO…they turned around, left and never tried spraying us again.  Rather than dying from SARS, we could've died from accidental poisoning of who knows what!

The experience was much like an eerie 'three ring circus' and this was only the beginning...
but from the chaos...hearts changed in surprising ways. 
To be continued next week.

From my heart...to yours,

Vasca