Friday, January 30, 2009

The girl with something extra

I'm just the girl with something extra. About 4 years ago a coworker of mine that I admire and respect and like very much had a bad bout with her Lupus. She had been diagnosed with Lupus many years earlier and had had it under control for some 20 years . . but then for whatever reason (stress can be a factor) it took over her body again and she was in serious trouble trying to battle it. At one time I understood what Lupus was but now I've forgotten it. Go ahead and research it if you want. All I know is that I felt so bad for her and she was in pretty dire straights. If you knew her she is just the best person ever.

She was in such serious condition that they feared she would need a new kidney. I thought to myself, "I wish there was something I could do for her." And then it dawned on me that I could. I could give her a kidney. So after having some serious discussion with the doctors about what this might mean and clearing it with my husband and kids, I underwent everything to determine if we were a match.

I can't remember everything that they tested but there were blood tests and physicals and pokes and prods and urine samples and doctors offices and labs and waiting and paperwork. Finally, lo and behold, the doctors determined that I was a match for her. She knew that someone was undergoing testing for her but she didn't know who because I just sort of felt like I wanted to keep it confidential. I told very few people about it because I felt shy about it.

Then, right before Christmas the results came in and I found out that I was a match to be a kidney donor for her. We were off of work for Christmas break but I was so excited to share the news with her so I called her up and made some excuse to drop by her house. I was trying to think of how I wanted to tell her that I was a match. I grabbed a piece of cardboard and glued a kidney bean + a piece of kleenex (tissue) and a matchstick to it and put it in an envelope . . . get it?? Kidney + Tissue + Match.

When I presented her with the card and she figured out the meaning she just couldn't believe it and she was overwhelmed with gratitude . . .. it was awesome. I felt so happy seeing the joy in her eyes. I requested that she keep it confidential, because . . . well, because . . it's personal. There were just a few more tests I had to undergo; including some X-rays and an MRI.

After another long waiting period, the results finally came back and much to the doctors' amazement . .. . . .they showed that instead of the two renal ateries that most people have coming down from the aorta leading into the kidneys, I have three and instead of just one ureter leading from the kidney to the bladder, I am lucky enought have two!!!!!! I'm just the girl with something extra!! (anybody who knows me shouldn't be surprised by this.) At anyrate I was informed, that after much deliberation by the panel of doctors who review this stuff for kidney transplants, they felt it would just be too risky, given my unusual anatomy. According to the nurse that informed me, there had been lively debate by the doctors and it was a very tough call for them.

So . . . . . I didn't get to be a kidney donor after all to someone who would have been so deserving. Alas, this story has a happy ending anyway. My co-worker has her Lupus back under control and (at least for the mean time) she doesn't need anyone else's kidney anyway!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Company Picnics

Who goes to company picnics? Employees with youngish kids that are looking for something different to do toward the end of a long boring summer. At least that's why I went.

The year was about 1991. That would have made K & K about 7 and 5 years old respectively. I had just started a new job with a company called Stryker in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I worked at their small corporate office at the time and had only been with the company a couple of months when the company picnic was announced. A day or two before the picnic was to be held I asked around the office if anyone was going or not. Out of the people I surveyed only a couple planned on attending but my boss told me that I should go because although not that many people from the office were going there were bound to be quite a few people there from the manufacturing facility which was located a short distance from the corporate office.

Being the outgoing person that I am, and looking for some way of entertaining the kids cheaply toward the end of a long boring summer, I was game.

So on the designated day K, K and I loaded ourselves up into the car looking forward to sunshine, yummy food, a few games and a little social interaction with my fellow workers and their kids. I followed the map and as we pulled into the park the kids excitedly pointed to the red and white striped tent which was peaking out above the trees. As usual, we were running a little late so when we entered the picnic there was no longer an official sign-up/registration/name tag thing going on so we just started making the rounds.

The kids gorged themselves and hotdogs, hamburgers, chips, baked beans, and different salads . . . you know, the usual company sponsored picnic fare. Then they partook of numerous activities and games; facepainting, races etc meanwhile I struck up friendly bantering with my fellow adult picnic goers, commenting on their adorable children and making small talk about the beautiful weather and fine event we were attending.

Finally, the day had worn on and it was time to wind down. K, K and I grabbed the last of the ice-cream treats that were being doled out and plopped ourselves down on a little plot of grass to enjoy our dessert.

There was a freindly family sitting next to us so I good naturedly inquired as to the the couples' affiliation with the company; which spouse worked there and in which department. It wasn't until the guy answered back and named the department he worked in which was something totally unfamiliar to me, that I glanced at his name tag and noticed that the company name on it was not Stryker at all, but some other outfit in the Kalamazoo area. At that point I glanced up and what to my wonderment and bewilderment did I behold, but a blue and white tent jutting up into the sky just beyond the next stand of trees. I guess that's where they must have been holding the Stryker picnic!!

Ha ha ha ha ha. I laughed myself all the way home. I couldn't believe we had gone to the wrong company picnic and had such a grand time. Think about it . . .. . wedding crashing, picnic crashing. In these hard times you might be able to get a lot of entertainment for free.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sokoo Chronicles #2

One day Sokoo, our exchange student from S. Korea, decided that she wanted some coffee as she wanted to stay up later than usual to get some studying done and she was tired.

I volunteered to reheat what was left of the morning's brewed pot or to brew her a new pot because we didn't have any instant coffee.

But she insisted that she wanted instant and then began to concoct her beverage. First she asked me if I had any coffee beans. I showed her where they were. She didn't know the word for grinder but she made the motion of one so I showed her the grinder and then ground the beans for her. I was very amused by all of this because I could tell that she thought instant coffee was just made by grinding up the beans and putting them in boiling water and that they would "dissolve." I told her that it was not the same thing and that this wasn't going to work but she was insistent and since she is rather stubborn by nature I just let her go forward with her plan.

She proceeded to put the coffee grounds in a cup and was about to pour boiling water on them. I told her that she should at least put the grounds in one of those little tea strainer thingys so she did. None-the-less and not to my surprise, when she poured the water into the coffee cup, coffee grounds escaped the strainer and floated unappetizingly loose in the coffee cup.

Next she asked me if I had any cream. I didn't, but offered her the 1/2% milk from the fridge which she liberally poured into the cup.

After that she asked for sugar and then proceeded to dump 4 heaping teaspoons into the murky brown liquid and stirred it in.

I watched her as she hesitatingly took that first sip to try it out. Her expression said it all but her broken English said it better; "I think this isn't coffee."

And you know what? I think she was right!!!!!!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Begin the Sokoo Chronicles - #1

It's been a looooooong time since I've posted anything much besides the group blog projects from JMCS. I'm on a project at work that is all consuming and so there is not much time to hop on the computer and blog, especially since we have "acquired" our S. Korean exchange student named Sokoo who will be with us for 10 months. With our 4 kids all grown up I kind of forgot what it's all about to have a younger teen at home.

Many people ask why we are hosting an exchange student. Unless you've been an exchange student yourself or done a study abroad you may not be able to relate to this. Being an exchange student myself though, I know how much it changed my perceptions and my world and am glad we are now in a position to reciprocate. For me it is one small way to give back to the world. My motto is "World Peace; one exchange student at a time." Cultural differences aside we are all human beings trying to survive, enjoy and make sense out of this world and our own lives. We are more alike than different.

Soo is actually exchange student number four for us. The others were only with us for summer exchange programs though. One liked living with us so much that she came back for a second summer!

Anyway, Sokoo is 15 (soon to be 16 on Nov. 1st). To be honest, even though it wasn't that long ago that our own kids were young teens, I had completely forgotten how young that really is.

Don't get me wrong though. Soo is really a riot. She is a vivacious girl, temporarily somewhat trapped behind a language barrier . . but she has been here 6 weeks and is really starting to come out of that. Her language skills are improving greatly.

The real point of this post was to relate this funny little incident that happened the second week that she was here. School had just started and I was up around 6:30 getting ready for work. I passed Soo's bedroom on my way to the kitchen to make coffee. Her door was slightly ajar and as I passed I turned my head and glanced in her room and customarily said "good morning Sokoo."

Did I just see what I thought I saw? There she was, this willowy 5'6" 110 pound girl, standing on the bed and seemingly staring into nothing. What the heck? I was totally baffled by what I had seen. I just could not imagine what she was doing? Was she praying? Was she meditating? Was she stretching? Was she jumping on the bed? Did she do this in Korea?

All day long I wondered and wondered about it and just couldn't come up with any reasonable explanation in my head. So that night my curiosity got the better of me and I just came straight out and asked her. "Sokoo, when I passed your bedroom this morning I saw you standing on the bed. What were you doing?"

The long and the short it I found out that she was drying her hair!!! That's right, drying her hair by standing under the ceiling fan that is mounted in the bedroom!!! She told me "in Korea we use fans to dry our hair." She must have thought, "boy, it's so much more efficient to blow dry my hair in Korea where I have a vascillating fan. These Americans are so inefficient."

So that's when I took her into the bathroom and showed her the extra blow dryer we have and how to use it. To this day I have still have never heard her use it but I haven't caught her standing on the bed recently either!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Help Support Marcelo's Education

Check out Kyle's posting over at Just Married Chilean Style and support her efforts to raise money for Marcelo's education.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hardest Custom to Adjust to in Colombia

This is the second time I've participated in a group blogging exercise over at Just Married Chilean Style website

One of the hardest things for me to adjust to in Colombia was the superstition. My experience with this came directly from the family I was living with so I don't really know if it was unique to this family or if it was a "Colombian" thing.

My Colombian Mama taught me (and had taught her children) that if we ever saw a strange or scary looking man approaching we should hold the thumb and pointer finger of each hand together (sort of like the way you hold your hands when practicing Yoga mediation saying "om") until the threat passed. She assured me that this would ward the evil doers and their nasty intentions off. Although I was skeptical, I had plenty of opportunity to act on this. Was it this pose that kept me safe in Colombia or was it fate? I'll never know.

This very same endearing lady told me that when she was pregnant for her youngest child (about five months along) one day while she was walking she passed by the most horrific looking cow one day. The cow, as she described it, was one of the most horrific looking and ugly creatures on all of earth. It was a dirty yellow cow with a black splotch mark on one of its legs that was so unsightly she could barely stand the sight of it. That was why her daughter was born with the exactly same ugly splotch of a birthmark on her leg!! I played along with this one but it was a really tough one to swallow. But hey, maybe there is something to this?!

Then there was the bean counting deal. I can't remember exactly what this was about but it had something to do with it being a certain Saints day and the (Catholic) tradition was to begin counting beans at a certain hour and continue counting until you reached 1,000 of them or something. If you counted the beans as such, the Saint would protect you for one more year (or something like that).

I do admit that at times I can be a little superstitious. Like my last trip to Chile, when Kyle and I were trying to figure out dates for my visit I had my choice of flying down on Friday, June 13th or the following Friday, June 20th. We both agreed right away on the 20th. But if I hadn't had any other option I would have flown on Friday the 13th anyway.

The superstitions that my Colombian mother exposed me to were a whole new level that I could never quite embrace.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Chilean Men

This post comes about as a result of the general group blog topic of "Chilean Men." The topic was started over at Just Married Chilean Style blog but was suggested by Heather.

I haven't had much experience with Chilean men, but not wanting to be left out of this new blog phenomenon, I thought I'd give it a shot, albeit a little late. I have 4 experiences to tell about. Although they are unrelated to each other, they can be related to what the other bloggers wrote about Chilean men.

1. R. - The Chilean guide that melted my gringa soul

The most memorable experience with a Chilean man that I have ever had was when our whole family made a trip to visit K. last December. From Santiago we rented a couple of cars and drove 9 hours south to the resort town of Pucon. We had all decided ahead of time that thing we all really wanted to climb the volcano while we were there. We arrived at the designated time and place to begin our adventure and were greeted by two friendly guides; the lead and the tail. I didn't have much exposure to the guide who was bringing up the end of our line but the one in the front really impressed me. He was an ox. Upon meeting him he looked a little beat up; the kind of guy who was middle aged and over weight and probably smoke and drank too much. But he was very cheerful and despite the languange barrior with most of our clan, he was good humored and seemed to understand just enough English to be able to joke around a little, if not with words then with gestures and looks.

His name began with an "R." It was something like Rodrigo or Ricardo. I can't remember for sure. It was not Rafael or Rodolfo. I'll just refer to him as "R" for the rest of this story.

As someone else noted in their blog (yes, I cheated and read everyone else's blogs already), chivalry is definitely not dead in Chile. Not too far into the climb it became apparent that E. was not doing too well with it. She wanted to give up because she felt she just could not make it. R. would not hear of it. He very graciously insisted on taking E.'s back pack and slung it onto his own back and continued to climb effortlessly. A little later E. was still struggling. He encouraged her step by step and for about 4 hours of the climb he actually held her by the hand and literally pulled her up the mountain. When the going got tough for me toward the top of the climb he gave up his poles for me to use.

But my favorite part was when it came time to don the funny chap type pants that are made especially for sliding back down the mountain. He assisted each of us in figuring out how to untangle them and not put them on upside down. R. was down on his right knee directly in front of me, almost as if he were about to propose. In the American culture, the space between us would most likely have been deemed as uncomfortably close. He helped me put my right leg in and then the left leg and then right when I was hoisted the pants/chaps contraption up and wriggled them over my butt, he looked me square in the eyes and with a big grin on his face he said "SUPER SEXY!"

I thought that was about the most hysterical thing in the whole wide world right about then. By that time I was totally exhausted after all of the climbing we had done and I'm sure I looked like an old hag, but I had to hand it to him .. . .his delivery was smooth. I'm absolutely sure it wasn't original. I'm absolutely sure he used those almost universal words on every woman tourist that he had ever assisted up that mountain. And maybe his motive was a bigger tip in the end. But guess what? I didn't care. He made me melt up on that moutain!

2. Piropos for the mother of the bride to be

This story dates back to that February day in 2007 that K. got married. I went with K. and her Sara of honor to get our hair done for the wedding. We went to a salon that was located at in an upscale area of Santiago although I'm not sure exactly where we were. The talented gay hairdresser put my hair in an updo and I was all set to go. While I was waiting for K. & S. of honor K. sent me on an errand to walk to a nearby ATM and withdraw a bunch of money that she needed to pay for some of the wedding expenses. I was dressed in blue jeans and heels and somekind of button down shirt (so I could take it off without ruining the do) and was clicking down the street when suddenly I heard cat calls and whistling and whooping from a car passing by. I looked around. Really, that couldn't be directed at me, now could it? I glanced around and there was no one else in sight, so I guess it was. O.K. so there were no gross, dirty remarks and to be honest I didn't catch sight of the men (I'm assuming) in the car so I don't know, they might have been gross and dirty . . . but at the ripe ole age of 48 (at that time) I'll take a cat call in Chile as a compliment cause that sure as shootin' wouldn't have happened in the good ole US of A.

3. Chilean men will do anything for their friends

I witnessed this first hand during the week of K & S's wedding. S.'s friends bent over backwards to accomodate all of the requests from K. & S. for their help; from acting as chauffers to hair appointments, hauling mattresses, providing transportation to the wedding to participating in the festivities, S.'s friends impressed me with their loyalty to him and K as his bride to be. They were at K & S's beck and call and did whatever was requested willingly and good naturedly.

4. S. as a son-in-law (SIL?)

What can I say? S. is an awesome SIL. He takes care of my K and puts up with her shizzle. He lets her use the cupboard space under the kitchen sink to store her shoes and boots in. He works like a devil all day and comes home and gives her love and attention. He let's her be in charge but once in a while will call the shots (as well he should / better). He let me invade their precious space for an entire week when I recently visited in June and never once complained about it, at least not to my knowledge. He makes K. laugh with his cauliflower antics!! S. is an awesome SIL.