Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Princess and the Sheets

Edmund Dulac - Princess and the Pea illustrator - 1911

Taking in two Chinese international students this Fall has proven an interesting cultural experience, to say the least. Desire for a new adventure being one of the reasons, we would be lying if gain wasn't also a motivating factor.

Life has changed since these girls came to reside in my sons' former bedrooms. The boys moved out to live with house mates during these, their college and career years. I thought I wanted girls again after the long stint of raising four boys. I longed for tea and conversation, for compliments on my decorating changes and house cleaning; things to which boys are usually blind.

And that I got, sort of. The tea was wonderful long stemmed green tea and delicate chrysanthemum. The girls comment on new dish ware, notice my dress, hair and nails. It's nice in that respect. But I hadn't been prepared for the female fringe benefits, if you will, that come with teenage girl life.

Like the bickering and cold shoulders because one allegedly didn't flush the toilet, and one played her music too early on a Saturday morning. The online postings flew -  this 2014 version of note passing and phone gossiping, sometimes qualifying as bullying. Now the girls do not speak to each other, after having started out as BFF's. This is sad, I think. But we are managing to live civilly as a blended international family.

I also didn't expect the only-child entitlement a well-off Asian beauty might expect. Things like $200 sheets and $400 down comforters. This comes after I had purchased new linens, from mattress covers to quilts. The quilt ridges bothered her and the cover was too thin. Sheets weren't quite up to her liking and made her itch, she said. Well you are welcome to head off to the mall and purchase the sheets of your choice, I offered. Mr Shaw took her to the mall with instructions for the size and store. They returned sheetless.

Mysteriously, a set of 500 count sheets showed up at the school office with princess' name on them. Lucky for my wallet, I realized I already had a down comforter she could use. We're all happy now, I think. And the itching has long stopped. After a hasty trip to urgent care for fear of an unknown allergic reaction, medication and absences from school, we concluded the week-long rash came from swimming in an ill- treated pool.

Photo credit -

Keep in mind these only-child, Chinese girls have multiple caretakers back in Beijing and Qingdao ready to meet their every whim. If one can't fulfill a request, there are 5 other parents-in-waiting.

1. Their parents
2. Their paternal grandparents and
3. Their maternal grandparents

Note the robust ratio of six adults to one child! And now they have us, their host parents, which makes 8 to 1. So when Princess #1 needed new sheets, mom in China found some family friend in Florida to buy her sheets and leave them anonymously at her school - even though it took a month and the itch had long ended.

Likewise, when Princess #2 ran out of shampoo, she asked if I could get her some the next day. Sure, I said,  She proceeded to write down the shampoo brand and the mall store called Lush, where it could be found. Well, honey I might be able to pick up some Herbal Essence or Pantene at Target while I grocery shop, but I don't have time to go the the mall tomorrow in the middle of my workday. I'm sorry. I reminded her there was shampoo under her sink. She reminded me it was not very useful. The following weekend she goes to the mall and comes back with handcrafted soaps, her fancy-shmancy shampoo and a variety of other designer toiletries totaling $88.

According to my childhood fairy tales, the proof of a princess was in the pea. A girl of royal blood felt the pea through a stack of twenty mattresses. For these girls, the proof of a princess is in the thread count of her sheets and the price of her shampoo.

Ponder that Hans Christian Andersen. And it's no fairy tale.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Warrior Falls Forward

It was my first staff meeting as a new employee. We were celebrating the past week's events in the upstairs choir room; celebrating Char's first victory of cancer. Her smile spread across her cherub-like face with her hair in the short curls that new hair takes on after chemo treatments. She was radiant and those who knew her early struggle cheered her on.

I remember prayer requests every 6 months for the dreaded blood tests that would reveal whether the victory was permanent.  We prayed. She tested. We waited. Sometimes it would be a shining report of 'negative' results. Sometimes it would be 'positive' with more treatments to follow accompanied by days off work and stories of nausea, extreme fatigue and the physical misery cancer patients come to know as common, everyday life.

Seven more years followed of this pattern. Yet, Char continued to work, lead hundreds of women, events, classes, LifeGroups, nurturing her teams all along the way. She did not esteem her condition as an excuse to not serve God, or a reason to stay home, to give up. But she pushed through obstacles.and discomfort for which many would call in sick. She worked from a couch at simulcasts, emailed from her bed when therapy forced her there, innovated when it was inconvenient, to say the least. She coped and survived to do her job and lead women to walk closer to Jesus.

She returned from lunch one day to say she had asked the employee cafe to offer hot meals, something other than cold sandwiches. She wanted comfort food.

A few wild hormones can put me over, give me an excuse to sit on the sidelines for a spell. But despite years of deviant cancer cells racking her body, Char never quit or faltered or threw in the towel.

Last week, Jesus said, 'That's enough, Char. You've run the race, finished the fight. Well done, my good and faithful servant."

And now they are sharing victories at the big staff meeting in the sky. 

Her smile is like the stars, her hair is grown and gleaming.  Heaven is celebrating in that upstairs choir room. Celebrating a life well lived and a child of God finally home, the ultimate victory over her battle because of what Jesus did on the cross.

Let's celebrate along with all of Heaven!

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