Saturday, November 28, 2009

The early years: A fricking genius is born

Disclaimer: Obviously, I do not remember these events first-hand, but I've heard about them all my life. If I get something wrong... get over it! ;-)

A long time ago in a galaxy very close, a Southern Baptist medical missionary family moved from Georgia/North Carolina to Hong Kong. Officially, my dad was supposed to be heading to HK to work in the Baptist Hospital, however, he got there and found that the "Baptist Hospital" was literally still blue-prints. So, being the guy he is, i.e. Mr. Multi-Talented-Just-Get-It-Done, my dad the surgeon became my dad the building administrator and got that hospital built so that he could work in it!

About three years after they moved to HK, my parents were taking language lessons (Cantonese), going to the Chinese church and sending the older kids to British school, and I was due to be born on April 1. My dad was playing piano on a tour with a Christian singer named Claude Rhea, so he was in Malaysia in the middle of March when I displayed the first evidence of my genius by proclaiming "I ain't no fool!" and deciding to be born in Baptist Hospital just after midnight on March 18th. (Surprise!)

Mom says she was trying to get me born on St. Patrick's Day, but it just didn't happen. If I had been a boy, I would have been named "Patrick Sean". Yeah, we're just a tad Irish. And now that I live in the US, I use the international date line to my advantage and celebrate my birthday just after 12n on March 17th... and very rarely buy my own beer on St. Patrick's Day!

Anyway - fast-forward a couple of years and we're on vacation in Thailand. We had traded houses with another missionary family for a week, so we had full maid service, including a cook. So, I'm about 1 1/2 or 2 years old and I'm in my favorite place in any house, the kitchen, chatting with the Thai cook. My mom walks in and watches, then runs out into the living room yelling to my dad, "She's a genius! She speaks THAI!!!" My ever-sceptical dad went to the kitchen to investigate and saw me having a voluble conversation with the cook, hand gestures and all, and she was responding in Thai. He asked her if she could understand what I was saying, and she looked at my dad like he was crazy as she shook her head, "No." ;-)

But it's nice that my mom had so much faith in me! And, btw, I don't think I've stopped talking... but hopefully it's not all gibberish anymore!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More thoughts...

I had to go to a funeral yesterday. M and G picked me up for the drive down to Old Town Alexandria, and since we had allowed for traffic, we got there about an hour early. We decided to go another 11 miles and see if we could see Mt. Vernon: the answer is no, we couldn't (wasn't open yet), but it was a nice side-trip anyway! The drive was gorgeous in my eyes -- very gray, stark, and misty, which I loved. It seemed appropriate for a funeral, and for Thanksgiving; my favorite was when you couldn't see the difference between the river and the sky. Lovely.

Anyway, during the funeral service, I started thinking: What would my funeral service be like? I was born in a Catholic hospital, raised a Southern Baptist missionary kid, and went to British and Lutheran schools… in Hong Kong. I call my religion "Phredism" because it's mine, an amalgam of everything I've learned and believed through the years and the main tenet of Phredism is "Do unto others as you would have done to you." I can't imagine having a church service for my immortal soul since I believe it's already been taken care of.

I started thinking about the music I would like to be played: Solace (Scott Joplin), Rhapsody in Blue (George Gershwin), All Good Gifts (from "Godspell"), and Every Little Thing She Does (The Police). And on the classical side, maybe "The Heavens are Telling" or anything by Mozart. I'd like to maybe record something with my nephew, maybe "Angel" by Sarah McLaughlin. That would be kind of cool to have my voice at my own funeral. If not, then I'd love for Stephen to sing something, especially if it's his own composition. And "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder. OK, pretty much anything by Stevie Wonder. "Bridge Over Troubled Water"? And what was that song I heard last night by Rare Earth? "I Just Want To Celebrate (Another Day of Living)," yeah, that's it. Elton John, Beatles, Motown (Marvin, 'Retha, Rev. Al Green, Smokey, Gladys and her Pips, etc. etc. etc.), Coldplay, U2, Crowded House, TOFOG, … oh the list goes on, who can choose? ;-)

As for words, I'd like to be able to say something to everyone who had been in my life and made me a better person. And then I realized that it would be a better idea to go ahead and say it while I'm still alive!

  • Thanks to the Hoodlums who have stuck with me through thick and thin and thick (and thick) again.
  • Thanks to my family who love me anyway.
  • Thanks to my parents for raising me to think for myself.
  • Thanks to Mom for always being willing to stand on her head.
  • Thanks to Dad for introducing me to mystery books, crossword puzzles, and Shakespeare.
  • Thanks to my kitties who snuggle with me when I am down.
  • Thanks to Sara, Rachel, Emily, and Stephen who give me inexpressible joy, always.
  • Thanks to my brother for being there when I needed him and for always ALWAYS laughing with me.
  • Thanks to my sister "K" for being such a wonderful, caring, amazing person and thanks to her and her husband for letting all of us invade their space for so many Thanksgivings!
  • Thanks to my sister "C" for opening up about things she didn't want to talk about, so when I experienced them I knew what I was in for and wasn't as scared. And thanks for sitting on Dave when we were kids.
  • Thanks to my in-laws for recognizing what wonderful people my siblings are, and loving them even AFTER you met the rest of the family.
  • Thanks to the people who serve our country, in unbelievable ways.
  • Thanks to Ang who will sit down right next to me even (especially) if she has nothing nice to say.
  • Thanks to the police and all emergency personnel who go into the situations from which the rest of us run away.
  • Thanks to all of my ex-boyfriends who taught me something even though it hurt. Every time.
  • Thanks to all my high school teachers for being brave enough to move overseas to teach ornery, obnoxious, smart-ass "third culture" kids. And for doing such a great job of it! (Especially Mr. Matthews, Mrs. Chern, Mrs. Jiminez, Mr. Kohl, and Mr. Meyers)
  • Thanks to the people who walk their dogs down the street and let me meet them. I can't have a dog in my apartment, so I really NEED my dog fix!
  • Thanks to the dogs I meet who give me waggy tails and puppy kisses.
  • Thanks to my DC friends for laughing at my jokes and making me giggle and "lol out loud" when I really really need it.
  • Thanks to the people walking on the sidewalk who make eye contact and smile.
  • Thanks to the guys behind Monty Python for making me laugh and laugh and laugh.
  • Thanks for sunshine and for rainy days.
  • Thanks to Todd for letting me hear the Elton John/John Lennon concert (awesome!), Rare Earth, and Motown, and all of the great bands to whom you've introduce me.
  • Thanks to my friends at Crowe Crossing for their imagination, artistry, hilarity, and caring.
  • Thanks to Dale Wilson (and "The Sting") for introducing me to Scott Joplin music.
  • Thanks to my best friend from college (M) who introduced me to DC so many years ago and helped convince me to move to DC. And G for loving her, and for being the token man in the Hoodlums.
  • Thanks to Mike, Andy, and Ben for being the best trivia team EVER (even if you did move away and leave me stranded).
  • Thanks to Pioneer Woman for making me laugh, smile, and drool over her cooking. And for convincing me to start this blog (without even knowing it).
I'm pretty sure this list will continue!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Remember to be thankful

I went to a funeral today, the day before Thanksgiving. I sat in the church, listening to the music and thinking how odd it felt to have a funeral on the day before Thanksgiving. It's been an emotional year for me because this was the third funeral I've been to this year, but honestly? I'm pretty thankful for all three of these people.

My grandmother died in January at the age of 99½ … I know the reason she didn't make it to 100: she always hated it when Willard Scott would yell people's ages on TV! She was a wonderful, amazing, hilarious, strong, soft, intelligent and beautiful woman, and what's funny now is how much I've learned about her since her death – mostly about her youth, when she was just as forthright and determined as she was later in life. But also how much we are alike.

That funeral was very hard, especially since I had to be part of the eulogy and everything I wanted to say had been said in a poem I had written for her on her 90th birthday, and which was posted at the viewing! But, I spoke from the heart and was lucky that I had heard a really good quote that week: "Don't cry because [she's] gone, smile because [she] existed!" I am very happy to be related to her and I'm soooooo glad that I was given the time to get to know her. I hope I can be more like her in the rest of my life.

My friend, PJ, died this summer. I've only known him a few years and wouldn't say we were that close, but I counted him as a friend. He was a little older than me and when I first met him at Nanny's, he had quit drinking and smoking for health reasons. I loved the fact that he still went to Nanny's for lunch every day and every day he had a new joke for Sharon (and the rest of us). He was the nicest person in the world, and would do anything to help a person out. I hadn't planned to go to his funeral because I was supposed to be starting my training to do a 10k… but I went to the viewing on Friday night and the ensuing Irish wake, and so I woke up too late for the training. I got dressed up and ran out to catch the bus to his funeral. Since I had just missed the bus, I was lucky that my friends Tommy and Dan (who I had not seen in eons) saw me on Connecticut and stopped to pick me up. I got to the church and joined more of my friends in the pews for the service, which was sad and funny, and just perfect. My favorite story was by PJ's brother who said that shortly before he died, PJ had pulled him aside to tell him something he wanted to pass on to the "younger generation": "You know kids, I quit drinking, quit smoking and started eating healthy… and look what THAT got me!" That was PJ!

Today's funeral was for my friend Cathy's mother. I met her mom once, nearly 20 years ago, but Cathy is one of my best friends, one of the "Hoodlums" – a bunch of friends who have been hanging out together since the late 80s. I didn't know Cathy's mom at all, but her daughter is an awesome individual. Her mother used to always ask her about her "Hoodlum" friends with a little giggle because the name is so silly and inappropriate when applied to us (Cathy's dad was in law enforcement so he had a completely different definition of "hoodlum" and doesn't much like our adopted sobriquet). And more, Cathy told me of a recent incident that just melted my heart, because her mother had started understanding her daughter more and remembering the love that was always there.

I am sad for the loss of all three of these people even if I didn't really know all of them all that well. All three had their faults as well as their sterling qualities, but all three made a positive impact on my life just by living theirs. And I've learned a lot.

Remember to be thankful, remember to love, and most of all remember to live.

Getting started

Welcome to my blog. As you might have figured out, I'm a bit of a "Real Genius" fan. ;-) People have been telling me for years that I should be writing down all of my stories and anecdotes, as well as general thoughts and stuff, so.... having determined that it was a"moral imperative" I decided to start this blog.

I'm quite scared about this, but I hope you find it entertaining or at least thought-provoking. I look forward to your comments!