Friday, June 6, 2014

Moratorium lifted

I have broken the same big toe four times. 

Incident #1:
It is the night my sister is born.  My parents are at the hospital, and we are being (loosely) supervised by a babysitter.  My two older brothers and I decide to play a brilliant game wherein two of us stand on a blanket and the other pulls it out from under us.  Levi and I stand on the blanket.  Silas pulls it out from under us.  Levi's knee lands on my big toe.  I find out the hard way that there is nothing a doctor can do for a broken toe.  My lifelong hatred of socks begins.

Incident #2:
I am fourteen.  Silas pisses me off to the point of violence, as he is wont to do in these days.  I kick him as hard as I can in the shin.  My kicking form is not ideal, and the toe is broken once more.  My anger is not assuaged. 

Incident #3:
The place is Karuizawa.  Prayer conference, which is the best one because it's short enough that they don't bother planning a kids program.  We play floor hockey in the gym all day, and for some reason I am the only one not wearing shoes (possible influence of sock hatred).  My toe gets stepped on by a shoe-wearing boy and is broken for the third time.

Incident #4:
We are camping.  This really can't be classified as an incident, but more of an inevitability considering the weakened state of my toe.  I stand the wrong way on a rock and break my toe again.

I have since managed not to revisit this toe-breaking tradition, but sometimes that ache is still there on days when it rains or when the seasons change.  I fear that this saga is not over, as only two of my brothers have broken my toe with their knees, and I must now watch out for the third. 

Stay tuned for my next blog, in which I further explore clumsiness in general in search for a cure.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

On memories and sheep

Turns out counting sheep isn't as easy as it sounds.  The other night I laid in bed with a thousand thoughts running through my jet-lagged brain, trying to think of a way to distract myself long enough for sleep to kick in.  I thought to myself of how in children's books and in movies, people count sheep, and figured giving that a try couldn't hurt.  This, my friends, is not the simple task one would imagine it to be.  I remembered you're supposed to count sheep jumping over a fence, but in my mind it was a bridge.   And then my ridiculous brain starts having the following conversation with itself:

"Isn't that bridge supposed to be a fence?  And if there's a bridge over a river, can't the sheep just walk across it instead of jump?  Where are all these sheep coming from?  Oh no, now they're coming too fast for me to count them all.  I think I just saw a fox in there.  Does this actually work for anyone?"

Eventually I gave up and decided I need to hire someone to travel with me full time and sing me lullabies.  Like Josh Groban.  Or Rufus Wainwright.  Or the guy from Aqualung.


On a much more somber note, I was thinking about the complexities of life and death recently.  Or actually, the not-so-complexities.  The relentlessness and unfairness of time and age.  I had the opportunity to visit my grandfather the other day for the first time in years.  Grandpa has dementia, and doesn't remember who I am.  This in itself is sad, but what really breaks my heart is that he doesn't even know all of who HE is.  My grandpa was intelligent, active, loved to tell jokes, and was always singing, not to mention was a respected missionary and theological professor for many years.  Where is the joy in life when you've lost your sense of self that is so closely wrapped up in your memories?  Say you do figure it out one day--there's no guarantee you'll remember it the next.

This got me thinking about the verse in the Bible about the wages of sin being death (bear with me, this jump will make sense in a minute).  I tend to think of death as the moment you exhale that last breath, and you cease to be, at least in this dimension.  But I can see now that death is in every moment.  Each moment to moment that the LIFE in us is gradually diminished.  That last breath is just the final spark being extinguished.  Every instant of aging is the slow process of death.
    Don't worry, people.  I'm not going to end this on that depressing note, so keep reading, lest any of you walk away to go find a bottle of pills (or a bottle of gin).  There's another half of that Bible verse I was thinking about--the gift of God is eternal life.  Each day draws us closer to eternity.  I guess the beauty of this is that as our bodies and minds endure the gravitational pull towards eternal death, our souls are being drawn towards life.  In my mind I see it as a chart, which I tried to draw for those of us who are more visual:

I am hopeful in my belief that Grandpa's soul is being perfected, even as his memories are lost.  I can't wait for the day I can talk to him again when he will be the full person that he is. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

this may be the one we've been waiting for

I've been blessed to be able to be in Karuizawa, Japan for a week and a half right now.  It's been AMAZING.  This just happens to be not only the town I was born in, but also where I spent my first year of life and many summer days throughout the rest of my life. 

Since this is my absolute favorite place to run in the whole world, I'm using this week as a little kick-start to getting back into fighting shape.  Between chronic pain from a knee injury, adjusting to a new job and a new city, and a crazy schedule that makes me ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS choose sleep over exercise, I've been on a bit of a fitness hiatus.  The tricky bits about getting back into running are that 1. running isn't really all that fun until a couple weeks in when you no longer feel like you're about to die, 2. running with a bad knee is a delicate process, and 3. bad running form leads to further injury.  Case in point on that last one--during my run the other day, I somehow managed to kick myself in the ankle (yes, kicked myself, you read it right), causing it to bleed.  The even more embarrassing thing about this is that I saw the blood first and couldn't figure out where the cut came from until the second time I kicked myself in the same spot.  At least I wasn't running fast enough for that to cause a full-on face-plant.  And thus starts my most recent running saga.

By the way, if anyone wants to experience the carnage up close, I'm planning to run a 5K race soon, hopefully in September or October, so come run with me :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

but I'm always on the run

There's something to be said for good ol' rest.  It's pretty great to have my brain in one place for a few days, considering the last several months have been nothing but ping-ponging from New York to LA to San Francisco (oh yeah, and everywhere in between when I'm actually working).  I haven't had a proper night's sleep in weeks, thanks to Restless Legs Syndrome and trying to keep everything straight as I move my residence as well as my work base.  I've decided there are few things more anxiety-inducing than a constant feeling of I-think-I-might-be-forgetting-something-important. 

Anyhow, lessons learned in recent days:
1. RLS is a bitch when you're in Queens and you can't go running at midnight on the track at your perfectly safe, Christian college.
2. It's pretty hard to buy a car when you don't have a car.  Think about it. 
3. You can break a plastic lawn chair in two to make two plastic lawn chairs and seat two people.
4. Only one person will be comfortable.
5. Easy Mac and tortilla chips make for a perfectly acceptable dinner.
6. Three breweries and two wineries in one week does not make you an alcoholic (or that's what I keep telling myself).
7. Having a sense of direction is more like rolling your tongue than tying your shoes--you can't learn it.  You either have the ability or you don't.
8. I seem to attract people who are directionally-challenged.
9. Regressing back to childhood habits when with your family is a very real problem.  On an unrelated note, I can still sing man-opera and get stuck talking with about five different accents at once.
10. The people you make time for when you have no time are the ones who matter.

Yeah.  Not the most profound list, but it's my blog, and I can write whatever I want. 

P.S. If someone could google whether it's illegal to throw something off the balcony of the 35th floor of a hotel or not, that'd be super.

Monday, May 28, 2012

I've got some real estate here in my bag

It seems summer has come to New York City, and it's arrived in full force.  I'm sitting in my living room with the fan on high, shades closed, ice bag on my neck, as few clothes as possible, trying to sit completely still.  I went for a run earlier and nearly died of heat exhaustion after just fifteen minutes. 

This weather reminds me of when I first moved to New York, almost a year ago now.  Seven of us from flight attendant training were sharing a dingy room at the Newark Howard Johnson for two weeks until our apartment lease started.  It was communal living then, hard core.  Two double beds meant if it was your turn to sleep in a bed at all, you were sharing it with whoever happened to be there.  Male, female, snorer, kicker, whoever.  And if you got the floor, you got stepped on by whoever had the 5am sign-in at JFK and had to leave at 2am.  Suitcases were EVERYWHERE, uniforms hung wet and wrinkly on hangers on any available makeshift hook.  Toiletries covered every inch of the bathroom sink, and there was no way to know which towel was yours, so you just felt around for the driest one you could find.  We had only two keys to share between the seven of us, so we had to come back after a trip and just hope someone else was there.  We ended up telling the front desk we'd "lost our key" multiple times.  I'm pretty sure they were onto our hippy-commune setup. 

On the day we left, only four of us were available, so we rented a car and lugged all the suitcases into the trunk and backseat--anywhere we could fit them.  Wifey--the youngest of us--braved New York traffic until we made it to our third story walk-up apartment.  And in that blazing heat, we heaved every last suitcase up three flights of stairs into this very apartment, though at the time it was entirely unfurnished.  Almost a year later, most of us have already moved out, and are getting ready to go on to the next chapter of our lives.  For a year, we were family--at training, at the HoJo, in New York.  We're at the end of an era, my loves.  On to another year of successes and failures and laughter and tears.  And lots and lots of wine.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Would you like cream and sugar with your panic attack?

I first noticed Zachary as we were taxiing on the runway, about to take off from Detroit to Minneapolis.  I was sitting on the front jumpseat of a 737 facing first class, and he was sitting in the first row of economy, on the aisle.  He was staring at me with this panicked look in his eyes, and at first I couldn't tell that he was trying to get my attention.  He finally raised his hand, so I walked over to him, hoping this wasn't going to be some crazy emergency.

"I think I'm having a panic attack.  Do you think I could get a drink or something?"

I told him I couldn't get him a drink right then since we were about to take off.  He looked nervous and a bit sweaty, and I started racking my brain trying to think back to my psychology classes and what to do if someone's having a panic attack.  I asked him if he wanted to breathe into a paper bag (always a solid solution).  He said no, he just wanted a drink.  As we talked a bit more, he told me he just got out of rehab for alcoholism and meth amphetamines. 

"Well now I really can't get you a drink."

I asked him if he had anything with him to do, because sometimes a distraction is the best way to get your mind off of your anxiety.  He said his iPod had died, and he couldn't focus on his book.  I ended up offering him my iPod, feeling slightly embarrassed that country, Billy Joel, and the Backstreet Boys may not exactly be to his liking.  In any case, he thanked me and said he would be fine (he gave the iPod back as soon as we got up in the air, go figure).  I told him to let me know if there was anything else I could do to help.  There was an elderly couple sitting next to him who overheard our exchange, and the husband kindly started chatting with Zachary, trying to keep his mind off of takeoff.  As I went back to my jumpseat, he kept shooting pleading looks my way, and I tried to just smile at him, because what more could I do? 

Throughout the short flight, I continued to check on him, and he seemed to be hanging in there, although I could tell he was still on edge.  He kept writing in a little notebook with a skinny Sharpie, and I hoped that was keeping him occupied.  Part of the way through the flight, a doctor on board stopped me in the aisle and said he had overheard what had happened, and volunteered to switch seats with the elderly gentleman so he could help keep Zachary calm.  This seemed to work, and every time I walked by, Zachary and the doctor seemed to be deep in conversation. 

After landing, as everyone deplaned, Zachary came over and thanked me.  I put my hand on his shoulder, wished him good luck, and told him he would be fine (as if I knew).  He walked off the plane, and I just hoped that he had someone to meet him at the airport. 

As the doctor passed by me on his way off the plane, I thanked him for all his help.  All he said was,

"You really made an impression on him.  He said he would marry you."

I walked back past Zachary's seat to get my suitcase, and saw a skinny Sharpie on the seat.  I picked it up and put it in my pocket.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A letter to the city of angels

Oh, Los Angeles. When I first moved here six and a half years ago, I loathed you. I despised your smog, your traffic, your graffiti, and your awful public transportation system. You, in turn, scoffed at my curly red hair, my pale skin, and my aversion to wearing bright colors. We've had our difficulties over the years, but we've come to know and accept each other's quirks and idiosyncrasies. I learned your freeways like the back of my hand, and your sunshine put color in my cheeks and brought joy to my soul. Your traffic became a time of solace, where I could listen to music or make faces at the people in the cars around me. Your smog became just an indication of the borders of the place I tentatively called home.

And then I left you for the hustle and bustle of New York. On my first day there, someone told me I looked "way too approachable for Queens." Everyone there was busy and rude. The street smelled of trash and exhaust from the subways. And then the day came when a rat scurried past my feet on the sidewalk, and a crazy man started following me home from the bus stop (turns out I AM too approachable for Queens). And the worst thing of all was that I had to try three different grocery stores before I found one that carried corn tortillas.

So now I come back to visit you, L.A., and your deliciously thick smog says, "Welcome back, Emma," in its raspy, throaty vibrato. On the train there's a man carrying what I think is a hammer but what turns out to be a collapsible cane (I wouldn't have questioned it even if it was a hammer). There's a girl who can't be more than thirteen with tattoos all over her bare arms and stomach (Does she have parents? And WHERE does she get the money?). A woman with sideburns tells her kid to "SIT DOWN" for the fifth time. But L.A, your strange citizens on this train are endearing to me, rather than repulsive.

Even though "home" will always be Nagano, Japan, you've managed to carve out a little space for yourself in my heart. Someday I'll drive your streets again, Los Angeles. And we'll play our little car flirting games, and go get tacos on Tuesdays, and watch the sun set over the Pacific. I promise.