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“The Box”

“The Box:”

Baby calendar, baby book, Big Bird balloon and stuffed toy

First bib, bottle, pacifiers, rattle, shoes, socks, pajamas

First outfit

Captain Crunch Cereal in a sealed cup, his favorite

Newspaper articles, photos, 

Birthday cards, get well cards

Stacks and stacks of insurance claims and bills, hospital wrist bands

sympathy cards

every card that came with flowers we received at the funeral, 

guest book with hundreds of names written inside

his last outfit,  my last outfit

dried tears that have fallen into that box over the years

“The Box”

I have had this box for many years now. As of late, the box sat on a shelf in the closet. It is a box I look through every year on his birthday and death date and random other times throughout the year. I look through the box and think about that very short time in my life and how I wish I could have changed it. There are so many memories packed inside, some good memories, others- definitely the worst time of my life. 

February 22.

Just another day of the year for some, perhaps more meaningful for others and yet bittersweet for a random few, perhaps. I fall into the random few category.

This time of the year has always been bitter but I’ve tried to make it sweet in years past and will continue to do so.

“It” is one of the most difficult days of a bereaved parent’s life. The birthdate of their dead child. However it is a day that can’t always remain exclusively bitter when the twin brother still needs to have a celebration and be recognized.

It’s been this way for so many years now, though it seems like yesterday we had their first birthday party. They smashed their little faces into their ice cream cakes from Baskin-Robbins. It was a party like no other. We were so grateful our little boy had survived so much in his short life and the other two children were handling our insecurities and discombobulations like pros, thanks to grandma and grandpa and numerous friends helping with them. It was time for a celebration!

Our family had already been through so much by the time the boys first birthday arrived. Code Blue is something we were familiar with in the first 365 days of these little boys lives. Code Blue is something you see on “Grey’s Anatomy,” not something you hear while sitting in the waiting room at the hospital realizing it is your little boy the Code Blue team is running toward….again.

Just a short six months after the birthday party, our son was dead.

He had been through so much in his first year of life that I never dreamed he was going to die.  Who thinks that? He survived every Code Blue! Had I known he was going to die would I have done things differently? Who knows? Woulda’ coulda’ shoulda?  Over the years I have beaten myself up wondering if I did the right thing? Did I spend enough time with him? Did I spend enough time with the other kids? Could I have done anything to have prevented his death? Yes and No to all of these questions.

I pulled the box off the shelf in the closet and took things out piece by piece for one final look and shed a few tears.

Packing and needing to scale down for the next chapter in my life, I took one last look at the box, contemplated putting it back on the shelf, but instead sent a text to the kid’s dad asking him if he wanted “The box.”

 He did.  

He came by, picked it up and put it in the backseat of his car and drove away. Standing in the driveway watching “The Box” leave my possession was heart wrenching. However, I know he needed to take some time to look through the box and remember some of the happy memories that were in there, too.  “The Box” is healing in a way, and  I wish him a peaceful heart as he looks through each pair of sunglasses from the Drillers Baseball games, books they’ve read and birthday cards that are stored in “The Box.”

I did keep a couple of things, like the bibs in the picture and the shirt I wore the last time I held my son. I will wear it today.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday Eric. I hope you have a sweet day. 

I Love you.

From the Heart of a 4 Year Old

“Can I make these bigger so I can give them to Ick Ick?”  asked 4 year old Dylan as he was pulling on and stretching his SpiderMan pajamas. “What do you mean? ” I replied.

“I want to make my Spiderman Pajamas bigger so Uncle Ick Ick can wear them and I want to change them from Spiderman to Superman!”  exclaimed Dylan with a sparkle in his eye.

“Hmmm, I’m not sure we can really stretch them big enough so they will fit him but we can try! Why do you want to change them to Superman?” I asked.  “Because Uncle Ick Ick is a doctor and he saves people, so he is Superman.”

From the heart of a 4 year old.  

Attempting to stretch the pajamas was fun but impossible.  Since we weren’t able to stretch the size 5T pj’s into large man’s sized pajamas, we settled for drawing a picture of Superman and will send it to Eric (Ick Ick,) in the mail (Ick Ick is how the kids pronounce Eric. Eric is an Er doctor in OKC- He is my son).

Thank you health care workers.  I appreciate your tireless effort!

It’s August.

Who could have imagined my son and I would be the only ones in our immediate family with jobs and an income? A teacher and a doctor (though his hours as an ER doctor have been cut).   I’ve only been with out a paycheck for August, so I can’t complain. I have had some financial setbacks, minor in comparison to others, but enough for a teacher to at least notice. 

I tried to withdraw $500 from my account in China.  The ATM did not disperse the money though the bank in China charged my account as if I had received the cash. What a nightmare trying to sort this.  But I am thankful for my friend, Melissa who has an international phone plan and lets me use her phone to call China.  It’s not looking good for the recovery of the money. It’s hard to solve these problems being 7000 miles away from the bank and the lack of my Chinese speaking skills, of course complicates things.  There were other China expenses that weren’t anticipated at the end of the contract but I will survive the loss.  Mine are not nearly as bad as so many millions of other people. 

The $500 ATM withdrawal attempt hurt a bit but a bigger sting came when someone thought they needed the kid’s swings in my front yard more than I did. They cut them down and took them last week in the middle of the night.  So strange, as there are many of these swings in the neighborhood and only mine were taken.  The kids were so disappointed not to have their swings when they came over.  I hope somebody’s kids are enjoying them. Though, I would have loaned the swings to them if they would have just asked, probably would have even thrown a couple of masks. 

Strangely enough, I go for a few days each year in August wondering what is wrong with me as I experience an overwhelming feeling of sadness, sometimes even feeling like I’m sinking into a bottomless pit. 

Then it’s like….”Oh, I know, August 19 is well on it’s way.”  This is the day my son died.  I never forget that my son died, never.  But I don’t really keep track of days in August. They are pretty much all the same, except for the couple of days before August 19, August 19 itself and the first day of school.  Other than that, I never know what day it is. I used to know when Sunday rolled around but that’s even hit and miss these days.

To me, it is the worst time of the year, August. Emotions are all over the place.  The last couple of days have been really difficult.  I don’t know why the whole week before my son’s  death is so hard but it always has been. I guess maybe I think “Could a’ Would a’ Should a.”  I re-live everything up to the point of his death. 

The struggle is real and this go round is compounded with the addition of Covid, the violence, hatred and uncertainty in our country, the theft of the swings, loss of money in the ATM and family members losing their jobs. It seems like a lot to process. These kinds of things can take a person down a deep dark tunnel if you allow it.  Life Sucks if you let it!

 I certainly see how people can be depressed during this unprecedented time in our lives.  It is hard sitting alone day after day all by yourself in a normal situation but now, my goodness.  Give someone a call who you haven’t spoken to in a while.  Check in.  You never know how happy you might make someone.  It’s worth it!

Today however, has been just an amazing day.  It brought happiness and heart felt joy for a moment in time that was much needed.

The DK’S (daughter’s kids) spent the night last night so they kept me busy or maybe I kept them busy, who knows. This morning at 5:42 am, my phone rang.  I’m so glad I heard it! My sweet neighbor across the street had gone into labor. She and her husband, (the doctor who was sleeping in his RV during the onset of Covid) needed to go to the hospital and her mom was an hour or so away but headed toward Tulsa as fast as she could travel. In the meantime, though they needed someone to stay with their kids so they could get to the hospital.  I got the DK’S up and we walked across the street to be with their children while waiting for grandma to arrive from Enid.  They will never know the joy it brought to my heart to help in such a small way.  I needed them more than they needed me this morning. 

Later on, my daughter and her husband came over and helped me with some much needed chores.  My friend Barb randomly stopped by and we all had lunch together.  It’s the little things these days that bring so much happiness and sanity.

After the kids left, Barb and I were sitting in the front yard.  My neighbor, (the other doctor on the street) hurriedly came out her front door, throwing on her shoes and was headed to the hospital to deliver a baby.  It just made me smile to see her hurrying around to get to the hospital to help bring new life into the world. 

Mr friend and I decided to go to Sam’s Club. While there, I ran into three more friends, Jason, Lisa and Cheryl. It was so great to see all of them and actually speak to people.  Sorry friends,  but when I see people now, I talk forever!  I heard from my friend Stephanie this evening who I’ve not seen in such a while. It was great to chat with her. It’s the little conversations and the amazing friendships that fill the heart these days. 

At home, I do for the most part remain positive but sometimes I just feel like banging my head against the wall.  I have two friends who constantly amaze me with their positive attitudes in the midst of this Covid-Chaos.  It is always so great to talk with or text them.  Every day without fail, I receive a good morning greeting on facebook from one of my most positive friends.  I’ve come to look for those greetings everyday now as a great start to the day.  It’s always nice to know someone is thinking of you, or me, I guess. 

Thanks everyone for making this such a great day! I wish you all a day filled with positive people in your life, random people stopping by, messages from friends, a happy family, a life free from financial stress and swings in your front yard. 

Send someone a message today.  Let them know you are thinking about them.  You just might make their heart happy. 


The Journey Home, Part 3

I took a deep breath and said, “Excuse me sir, I have just returned from China and am wearing this mask for both of our protection, I just wanted you to know that. Feel free to get up and move if you would like. I won’t be offended.”

He looked at me, leaned forward with his arms on top of his thighs and said, “Nah, it’s ok. I will just stay here and talk to you, it’s ok”

“Ok, I just wanted you to be aware. I’m really surprised nobody is wearing a mask in here but me!”

By now the lady on the other side of him has become interested in the conversation but never says anything. I can tell she is listening as we make eye contact several times. She smiles.

At that moment, I had so many thoughts and feelings.

What a very kind man!
(I might have moved to another seat!)

Maybe this virus isn’t as bad as it was starting to sound! Neither of these people seem concerned about me sitting here.

Should I have stayed in China after all?

Isn’t anyone concerned about the virus, where are the masked faces?

People don’t mind if I sit amongst them, even with my mask covering my face and my visibly obvious bag of bleach wipes, disposable gloves and shoe covers?

What the heck? So then $$$ signs flashed through my head. If you remember, I had chosen to stay in China to save money over the holiday. Shoot! I guess I should have stayed there!

Then quickly shifting to “No, I needed to leave for my sanity.”

Then “How much is a one way ticket back to China going to cost?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m almost home”

I’ve had some pretty good discussions with myself over the past 5 weeks as I have sat in self-imposed and now mandated quarantine.

Well, back to the man who surprised me by staying and offering to talk with me. He lives in Dallas but grew up in Enid. He was going to see his wife in Tulsa who is taking care of her father while he is in the hospital. We had a great conversation until it was time to board. Other than the customs and immigration officers and the CDC workers, he was the first person to actually speak to me once I was “home.” I will always remember that act of kindness.

The next piece of good news was the American Airlines announcement, “Passengers, we have a very full flight, so if you would like to check your carry on, please come to the counter now and we will check it for free.”

I just about ran to the counter to get rid of that bag. I was so happy! The guy behind the counter placed the tag on the bag and bent to pick it up. He said, “Ohh…” and walked a little lopsidedly to put it with the others.

It was a full flight to Tulsa. I always choose to sit near the window. I feel it is “safer” in regards to catching fewer bugs on a flight. Fewer people can make contact as they pass by in the aisle. I know I bump into almost everybody when I board a plane as I am usually carrying a huge bag or two.

I wiped down my seat, arm rests, seatbelt and tray with my few remaining bleach wipes and buckled up.

trying to read this book on my inhales, as my glasses fogged over on the exhale

As it is not a long flight, I thought I would read a few more chapters of my book before I made it to Tulsa. This didn’t last long though. I could only read the pages on my “inhales,” as my glasses would fog over with every exhale, due to the  mask on my face. But it would clear when I inhaled. It didn’t matter how I adjusted my mask, I couldn’t clear my glasses, except for my inhale. Do you know how many pages you can read on an inhale? Not many, it is more like a paragraph and if I got to a really good part on the page, I held my breath so I could finish the paragraph before I exhaled again. I thought I might choke and then have a coughing fit and have all kinds of attention that I didn’t want.

I finally gave up on the book and just listened to the many people sneezing and coughing on this flight. I just cringed and tightened my mask every time they coughed. I didn’t come all this way to get sick now! Besides, I MUST stay healthy!

I wondered at that time, “If the flu kills more people in a year than the Coronavirus (up to now) why don’t people take more precautions? Where were their masks?” I just hunkered down in my seat and hoped the tall guy next to me didn’t start coughing or sneezing. He didn’t talk to me. I’m sure I was a sight. It had already been a 24 hour journey from China door to Tulsa, I traveled with my mask, goggles and gloves, and my hair was sticking up and out every which way, around my mask, over the straps that hold the mask in place, hair was everywhere. Mascara running down my face, eyeliner smudged.

While descending, I looked out the window thinking, “I’m glad to be home.” I wondered why it took me so long to decide. But of course these are just thoughts that go back and forth in my head all the time. I quickly remembered it took a long time to make the decision to go home because I didn’t know if traveling on a plane was safer than staying on self imposed quarantine. I didn’t know what the reception would be like once I arrived. Plus, I was helping Heather with the baby.

Walking up the jet way seemed so free-ing. Mainly because I wasn’t dragging that dang bag behind me, but I was home. Fresh air. Water from the tap. Friends and family. Of course, I didn’t really know what would await once my luggage was in the car and I was home.

So who was brave enough to pick me up from the airport? Don’t worry! I didn’t ask anyone to pick me up. I wasn’t going to UBER or taxi and potentially expose anyone to what I knew I didn’t have, but I guess couldn’t be 100% certain. I was and continue to be very cautious and aware of people around me.

Remember my friend Shack who offered the words of encouragement during the snowstorm and my luggage fiasco? We had pre-arranged my transportation. He and his wife, Annie went to my house to pick up my car and drove it to the airport. My flight landed at 7:35 pm. They were gong to have my car at the curb about 7:45/8:00p.m.

The luggage took a little bit of time but I saw my car outside and went and tossed my 15 pound bag inside. I had to go back inside and retrieve the rest of the bags. Shack waited in the car, and Annie in their truck behind my car.

My 75 pound bag that I hauled all over the place was first to come out. The zipper had ripped open! There was a flip flop and a card from John 3:16 mission placed on top of my bag. It made me laugh for just a second. I can understand how someone might think the flip flop would have been mine since my bag was open, but just the way the flip flop was placed on top of my partially opened bag with the card placed on top of that, was funny to me.

At what point did it get placed on top of my bag? How did the flip flop and the card remain on top of my bag when it came flying out of the baggage claim chute and down the little ramp?

Anyway, I waited for the next two bags, hoping they made it in one piece on the long flight, too. They did. I gathered them up and started pushing them toward the revolving door. One of the wheels on one of the suitcases had come loose by now and it was hard to maneuver. I left the flip flop on the floor for its rightful owner to claim it.

A nice couple saw me kicking my 75 pound, ripped bag, and yelled at me,”Hey you lost something,” while holding the flip flop in his hand. I told him thanks but it wasn’t mine. He dropped it.

I rolled the good bag and dragged the broken one behind me, while kicking the other one to the revolving door. Again, I must have been a sight to see. I waited until the revolving door was void of people trying to exit then pushed, pulled, and kicked my way into the revolving door. I had to keep the bags moving with me. I got to the other side and the one with the loose wheel fell over. I quickly had to get the other two bags out of the revolving door and that one upright. I did it!

The nice couple said, “Bless your heart! Why don’t you ask one of the workers for help? I am sure they will help you.”

My bag that I dragged, pulled, and kicked thru two airports has seen its last airport, it has a hole in the bottom now

“Thanks, it’s ok.” I’m almost home now. I continued to push, pull and kick my way to the curb. It was nice to not have that 4th bag. At that point Shack yelled instructions from a distance about my key fob not working, he had left a Valentine’s gift at my house and yelled, “Welcome home!” He ran toward his truck! I don’t blame him a bit. I was so thankful that they took their Valentine’s evening to rescue me at the airport.
I hoisted the suitcases into the car. Climbed into the driver’s seat and rested my forehead on the steering wheel. It was over. I was home and Blake Shelton’s song, “God’s Country” was playing on my CD in the car. I didn’t remember what I left in the CD player two years ago. It truly is God’s Country. I then flipped it back to K95.5 Tulsa’s New Country Leader Radio station, which is what it was on when I got in the car. Cash and Bradley, the radio hosts gave me a shout out while I was in China.

I drove toward home and for a brief moment thought, “It’s over.”
By the time I reached my street, reality set back in and I thought back to what the CDC officer told me. Someone will be in touch if there is any problem.

By Sunday, I had contact with the local Health Department.

Will the Fear of the Unknown break us?

Will the 5 positive reasons for staying in Beijing that we mention every time we walk the park keep us here through the virus outbreak or will the virus eventually break us, due to the fear of the unknown? Riding this wave of the unknown is mentally exhausting.

Are we living our lives to the fullest by being locked in our apartments day after day? We do take a stroll around the park once or twice a day, but then we retreat back inside to check the death toll and watch and read what we can about the virus. Healthy?

Friends are beginning to leave Beijing now, one by one, two by two….we aren’t going to be able to have our walks in the park any more and come up with our list of 5 daily positives about being here.

This is sad, but understandable.

We walked the park today and it is becoming more active with people as many are starting to filter back into the city of Beijing, though there were very few people wearing masks.

I dont understand. Ting bu dong (that is about the extent of my Chinese)

Maybe they haven’t heard the news?

I do know there is a shortage of masks world wide so maybe they don’t have masks. So why not stay inside? Perhaps they don’t think the masks really work. 

There are different types of masks that may be more effective than others.

N95 masks vs surgical masks

There is the N95 mask which is a three dimensional mask that is supposedly ideal for protecting against the coronavirus. 

Surgical masks are two dimensional and allow for air to get through, in and around the gaps since they don’t fit securely on your face, so maybe they deem them pointless. Ok.

Is covering one’s face and nose necessary if there is good ventilation? I don’t know.

The death rate is rising daily, as of this writing more than 900 have died and the infected are 37,000 worldwide. Most are dying here in China. This death toll exceeds the SARS outbreak of 2003.  

With so many dying and infected, why is there so minimal protection? Not only no masks, but no gloves or glasses are seen on the people at the park.  Some of these people are children.

When the foreign teachers go outside, we are protected up! We have our N95 masks, gloves and I even sported a pair of goggles on top of my glasses today to avoid any cough and spittle entering my eyes with the addition of so many people now in the park. Plus it is a practice for a potential plane ride. 

I do have two pieces of luggage packed to 50 pounds each, sitting by the front door. They have been in my living room for two weeks, just in case. I’ve packed and repacked. I put things in and take things out, replacing items with something else that might be more important. I have packed all my winter things as I’m not going to need those for much longer, but then I pull out all of the winter-wear  and pack all my better clothes in case I leave and don’t come back.  All electronics are packed along with anything of value.

On the other hand, I’ve washed the sheets on my bed so when I go to bed tonight they are nice, clean and smell fresh, or did I wash them so they will be clean upon my return to China should I  leave? It’s always nice to come home to clean sheets on a bed. 

I’ve sorted the cabinets, thrown things out, given stuff away and am ready to leave China, or is it just Spring Cleaning and I’m going to stay? 

 I went to the grocery store twice this week and stocked up. With 8 million people returning to the city of Beijing this week after their extended Chinese New Year,, I thought I should get a few things before the crowds descend upon the stores. With two trips to the store, maybe I am going to stay after all and I can unpack the luggage at the front door. I certainly have enough food to last a while.

I’ve put chicken in the fridge to thaw. It is a big package and it will take several days to eat it. So I have plenty of food for the week. Or, did I get the chicken out of the freezer because I’m cleaning it out before I leave?

It is a constant battle, and a continued conversation between the remaining few foreign teachers here.  More and more people are becoming infected. The WHO director is tweeting “we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.” and they are sending their top experts to China to learn about the virus.

How many of you have masks, gloves, and alcohol wipes at your front door?

Is trying to save money a good reason to stay here with so many unknowns?  What would the flight be like on the way home? Will I be quarantined upon arrival? Is it still a self imposed quarantine of 14 days in my own home?

I have no fever, I have no cough, though I coughed several times on Saturday and panicked for a moment. But I was only cutting up a very strong, red pepper and some onions. I couldn’t help but think, “Oh no, I hope no one hears me cough!” I was doing everything I could to conceal my coughing spell.  I didn’t want the government to pound on my door again and ask, “Are you sick?”  There was no way I could hide my watery, red eyes and continued coughing spell should that happen again.  I would only be able to bring the pepper to the door and let them have a deep inhale and hope for the best. Difficult and costly decisions lie ahead. 

Stay Strong Wuhan-Stay Strong China (written on one of my student’s papers on Friday during online learning)

Keep your butts out of the water


cigarette butt field trip

The world’s oceans are under attack by humans!  Our oceans contain 97% of the ourplanet’s water and covers nearly 75% of our earth. The ocean provides the air we breathe, food, medicine, transportation, economic benefits and a home to more than 200,000 known species of marine life and another 2 million unknown, which may remain unknown if we don’t keep our butts out of the water.  

5.6 million cigarette butts are smoked each year around the world. People discard up to two-thirdsof a cigarette stick after smoking. The filter tip of a cigarette is non biodegradable and  contains smaller bits of plastic. These plastics are increasingly joininthe millions of pieces ofmicro plastics already in our ocean.

Who eats plastics? Micro plastics are eaten by the smallest of fish and invertebrates in the ocean. These plastics end up in the bellies of the humans at the top of the food chain as we enjoy our seafood dinners. 

Cigarette butts, fishing line, plastic bags, water bottles, candy wrappers, straws, food and beverage containers; there are almost more of these items in the ocean than marine life.

We can read about it online, look at all the pictures, shake our heads and say “How sad!”  It is beyond sad.  Some scientists have even said by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish unless we do something, Yesterday! 

Recently I was fortunate to teach a plastics unit to 3rd grade children in Asia. It was an eye opening experience. We took the most interesting field trip. We went to pick up cigarette butts!  We  walked less than a mile and picked up thousands and I mean thousands of cigarettes butts.

Of course, I had heard and even read about all the plastic in the ocean, but upon further research by the children, we saw that our ocean is in bad shape and if we don’t do something now, we are going to be in a world of hurt. They wrote letters to local grocery stores and to a popular yogurt company expressing their concerns about their over use


plastic retrieved from snorkeling trip

of plastics.  

Shopping for fruits and vegetables in Asia is a miserable experience.  Almost every fruit and vegetable is wrapped in plastic, including bananas. Apples are individually wrapped in foam and then placed in a plastic container closed with a piece of plastic tape. I refused a plastic bag when I was having my vegetables weighed before  purchasing them.  You just don’t do things like that here. It took a while for the lady to realize she could just put the sticker on


why wrap bananas?

the vegetable than on a bag, but finally she agreed to let me go without a bag. I didn’t want to cause to much of a stink, as I am a guest in their country, but the plastic usage in Asia is out of control.

On a recent trip to the Philippines, I was fortunate enough to go diving and snorkeling.  I was so amazed at the sea life.  Whale sharks were swimming nearby, seahorses had attached themselves to fan coral, blue starfish were plentiful and swimming amongst the thousands of sardines was incredible. I was so excited when I was  swimming along and a sea turtle swam next to me.  The turtle was actually faster than I considered he would be. I tried to keep up with him, but his one stroke was to my three strokes.  I enjoyed trying to keep up with him when I noticed a piece of clear plastic floating within reach of the turtle.  I knew what was going


sea turtle in MoalBoal

to happen (as sea turtles often confuse plastic with jelly fish). I tried so hard to get to the piece of plastic before he did, but I did not make it.  I was screaming at him in my head, “Don’t eat that plastic!” The turtle ate the plastic and kept on swimming.  I was just sick about what I had just seen. 

On a different trip I was walking the beach in Singapore.  I have been gathering sand for a friend in Oklahoma for several years.  I took my bottle down to the beach to gather some sand for him.  When I scooped it up, I noticed colorful pieces in the bottle.  I dumped it out and tried again, even more colorful pieces inside. Upon closer inspection, I noticed these were small pieces of plastic mixed in the sand. The plastics just kept coming up in the waves. I had read about all of the micro plastics in the ocean, and it is truly a head shaker, but in person, it is a heart breaker. 

On a recent trip to Tulsa, I was fortunate to get to listen to Alexandra Cousteau speak at the Performing Arts Center.  She is the granddaughter of french ocean explorer, Jacques Cousteau. She mentioned that in the 100 years (1950-2050) from when her grandfather first began exploring the ocean to our very near future, our “oceans have gone from abundance to absolute devastation, it’s something we should all be concerned about.”

Everyone who reads this, please vow to use one less plastic each day. Spread the word, tell your friends.  

What is your next step?  


Truman vs Mao

A recent trip to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to see the embalmed body of Chairman Mao Zedong reminded me of a time in 1972 when as a child, we gathered in line to view the body of Harry S Truman, the 33rd president of the United States.

We were visiting relatives in Missouri, as we frequently did in the early 70’s.  Harry S. Truman, the former president had passed away and his body was lying in state at his presidential library in Missouri.  It was decided by the adults in our family that we must go and be a part of this moment in history.


Chairman Mao still looking over the square

As a child, who would want to go stand in line in the freezing cold temperatures to see a dead body?  There were so many other things to do, like….play cards, or board games, or watch tv.  I had no interest in going.  It didn’t matter though, because we were gathering our coats and heading out to stand with the hundreds of others who were waiting in line. I remember packing into my aunt and uncle’s station wagon, which I loved because it had seats that faced backward in the rear of the car!  So cool!

Anyway, we parked the car then had to take a bus to the presidential library to wait, and wait, and wait. It was so cold with precipitation falling from the sky. Why on earth did we have to stand in the cold winter weather waiting to see a dead body?  I needed to use the restroom, but we couldn’t get out of line.  

This is the only thing I remember about that evening, yes we did eventually make it through the library for the viewing, but I could not tell you anything about it.  This did not interest me as a child.  I only remember the wait, the weather and the need for a restroom. 

Fast forward to 2019 and I am standing in line with friends, Jayne and Simon from New Zealand, in the freezing Beijing winter with thousands, and I mean thousands of people waiting to see Chairman Mao, who by the way, has already been lying there for more than 40 years!!  And just as so many years ago in Missouri, precipitation is falling from the sky. It is snowing!  The first significant snowfall of the season. However, it wasn’t snowing when we left our apartments that morning.  

Needless to say, we were cold!  Jayne seemed to be the coldest and the hungriest. I needed to go to the restroom. Simon seemed good to go, but later bought a green Chinese ushanka cap with earflaps to protect his head, or because I came to realize he enjoys shopping for cheap, tacky, Chinese souvenirs. 


Simon and Jayne (Simon’s new cap)

Simon looked like a guard with his hat on his head and when he got ahead of Jayne and I, he was a bit harder to locate as he blended right in with the crowd. 

We waited in line with the local Chinese for about an hour to file by the body of their former leader, who has been lying there since the 80’s, so it’s nothing new! But Chairman Mao was one of the most influential and controversial political figures in the 20th century, so today was just as good a day as any to get out and wait in line to pay their respects to their former leader.

 I wondered if the kids who were standing in line with their families waiting to pay homage to the permanent resident of Tiananmen Square would remember


thousands waiting in line

filing by Chairman Mao’s flag draped, crystal coffin. Perhaps they will only remember standing in the long line and the bitter cold, winter snow. I wondered if they were with their cousins waiting in line.  I knew they didn’t come in a cool station wagon with rear facing seats, as most, including ourselves, came by subway and two feet. 

The line wrapped this way and that and just when we thought we must be getting close to the front, we turned the corner and saw that hundreds more people were in lines that we didn’t even know were there. 

We probably had another hour to wait in line before we got to the mausoleum.  An executive decision was made, and we stepped out of line. Our morning plans for viewing Chairman Mao’s body were thwarted. Our toes were numb, stomachs were empty and bladders were full, well at least mine was full. 

Simon found his way to a tacky souvenir cart and bought a souvenir pin to remind him of his day’s outing, Jayne found a KFC to satisfy her hunger, and miles later, down this street and that, I found my toilet!

 Perhaps we can go again when the weather is a little warmer.

Traits of a Good Teacher, In honor of Frank Marcum…(and now in memory of..Loved by many)

There are many traits of a good teacher.  Some say it’s attributes such as adequate knowledge, high test scores, and not just the ability to transfer knowledge to students, rather encourage students to discover the knowledge for themselves. 

I think the traits of a good teacher are characteristics like enthusiasm, love of kids, interest in the student, and the drive to make things happen after school, such as extra curricular activities that are valuable to the student and to the community.  

This is where I take the time to write about my former teacher, Frank Marcum, who has all of these attributes. 

I first met Mr. Marcum in the late  _0’s (I will leave the year out as it makes me feel so old) at Roosevelt Junior High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I was a student in junior high school.  Yes, that is what we called it back then. Everyone wanted to be in Mr. Marcum’s class!

He was my teacher for civics and economics. What a great class! But more than that, what a fabulous teacher!  I always knew everyday was going to be great in his class. He had such enthusiasm for his subject matter, but more importantly, he had a genuine enthusiasm and interest in his students. 

I remember one day as we were sitting in class, he received a phone call from the office. The call came through on one of those phones with the push buttons that attached to the wall, too big to carry in your pocket as we do these days. But if you did carry it in your pocket, you couldn’t have walked too far from the wall. “At any rate”(Mr. Marcum’s favorite go to sentence starter) he answered the call. Soon after, he ran from the room yelling “My wife is having a baby!” He was gone and we just sat there finishing our class work.  Can’t do that these days! Leaving kids unattended, that is.

He was also student Council Sponsor, Photography Club Sponsor and so much more. I was fortunate enough to be Student Council President under his sponsorship. I also was a member of the photography club. I learned techniques to take better pictures, but also learned how to develop those pictures in the dark room (before and after school). What a blast that was! Might I mention Mr. Marcum still has many of those photos today. He has shared several of them with me over the years.

He sponsored several trips to Washington DC for his students. I was fortunate enough to get to go on one of those trips. He warned us of buying things from the “moonies” who try to sell fake items to tourists on the street. He gathered a great group of chaperones (his wife, Sherry and other teachers) to join us for the trip.  

For the most part, this particular group of students from Roosevelt Juior High stayed pretty close for the past many years since junior high.  Mr. Marcum called this school “Tulsa’s unknown secret.”  This particular school didn’t have the best reputation and others warned him of taking a position at this school. He loved the Roosevelt Roughriders, and he loved us. You can tell when a teacher has a genuine interest in the students’ well being and education. He was THAT teacher.

Our last year at Roosevelt resulted in the closure of the building with all of it’s students and teachers being dispersed across the city. What a sad day that was for us. Over the years, however our little group has stayed together and met several times at Mr. Marcum’s house for a barbecue and just to catch up with each other. How many teachers do that? 

After the closing and dispersement of our beloved school and teachers, Mr. Marcum went on to teach at a local high school in Tulsa where he touched the lives of even more students. 

During this timeframe, he was nominated as one of the finalists for the “Teacher in Space” program. These teachers spent most of the summer of 85’ in Florida training for their mission to space. In then end, NASA cut the list and our Mr. Marcum didn’t make the cut. Though, I remember telling all of my friends that my former teacher was one of the finalists for the “Teacher in Space” program. I was so proud of him. Another cool factor in my book.

Fast forward to January 28, 1986 and the ill fated mission of the Space Shuttle, Challenger.  Mr. Marcum was so excited to be sharing this piece of history with his current students at BTW High School as they all sat and watched the lift off of the first civilian to enter space, a teacher, his friend, Christa McAuliffe.  A mere 70 plus seconds after lift-off, the unthinkable happened.  The Challenger broke apart in space and all crew members were killed. From what I heard and recall, Mr. Marcum ran for the second time away from the classroom, but this time he was devastated as he watched the Challenger disintegrate over the Atlantic Ocean.  I was so thankful Mr. Marcum had not been on that shuttle, but was sad for him, and destroyed for all of the families who lost their loved ones on that mission. 

This is one of those moments I have always remembered “where I was that day” when I was watching lift-off on TV.  I wanted to call him, but figured I might should wait a while. I can not remember how long I waited to phone him. It wasn’t too long. I talked with Sherry on the phone and asked her to let him know I had phoned to express my condolences. 

Several years passed before we saw each other again. But I had spoken with him right before I decided to move to China to teach at an international school in Shanghai.  I remember he had told me he was going to an airshow in Reno that September. 

As I was watching the news in China that September, there was a story about the 4th deadliest air show in American history; in Reno. I gave him a call just to make sure he had not been a part of that disaster and was still up and kicking.  He was fine. 

Three years later, I returned from teaching in China and began a new teaching position at a school in Tulsa. Guess whose granddaughter went to this school?  YES! Mr. Marcum’s granddaughter, Allison. It was so great to be able to see him and Sherry when they came to school for Veteran’s Day, grandparent’s day, special assemblies, etc. One day, he and Sherry came to school and brought one of the pictures he had saved for so many years, and gave it to me.  He also had our group photo (black and white) from our Washington DC trip, which he also gave me.  What a special day that was. Still, what a great teacher!  

The impact he has had on my life and that of the children who I have taught over the years is immeasurable. Everything I do has been based on what I learned from him.  

I was recently asked to reflect on a teacher who had an enormous impact on my life and why. Immediate thoughts flashed to all of the great things Mr. Marcum had provided to his students. A genuine concern and involvement in our lives has proven so meaningful.

 I have just always thought that is what a good teacher is all about, not just reading, writing and arithmetic, but one who has a true genuine interest in their students’ lives. 

I can only hope I am half the teacher to my students, that he was to me, and to all of the students he has taught over the years.  Everyone I know who ever had Mr. Marcum as a teacher, just raves about his classes. 

Recently, this past July I returned to China to teach again. Prior to my departure, I went to visit the Marcum’s.  I could not believe the news that was unfolding before me. He had been diagnosed with a rare disease, amyloidosis. (I think that is it) It is an abnormal protein that builds up in your organs. I was so shocked and saddened. Such a true, wonderful man, dad, husband, grandpa, teacher and all around good person is fighting the battle of his life. 

I returned home at Christmas just a few months later and one of my few stops was Mr. Marcum’s house. My friend Melissa and I went to pay a visit. His condition had worsened as notably there was a chair lift installed in their home so he could get upstairs. He seemed in good spirits and I knew I would see him again July.

Recently he has been admitted to Clarehouse, which is a wonderful hospice facility that was created to provide palliative care so that the family can be family and not the caregivers. It has only been three weeks since I last saw the Marcum family and I am stunned that he is now in hospice care. Mr. Marcum, I am still praying for a miracle cure and still plan to see you in July.  

I thank you for your encouragement and support over the years. I thank you for taking an interest in our lives. I thank you for letting me fly your plane. I thank you for taking us to Washington DC. I thank you for your work on behalf of NASA, I thank you for your service to our country, I thank you for sharing your life with us, I thank you for your wonderful family. I thank you for being the role model that so many youth need today. 

Praying for a miracle.

Your former student,

It Just Takes too Long…

Thought I would try and keep up with “Life Sucks If You Let It” blog, as I haven’t written anything in such a long time.  I’ve had plenty to write about, but it just seems time gets away from me, especially in America.

But now I am back in China, though this go round I am in Beijing.  So far, I don’t enjoy it as much as Shanghai. The school at which I am employed and the apartment in which I live are so far away from any activity.  

I must say I became spoiled while living in the Brookside area in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  There I can get anywhere I need to go in just 10-15 minutes or less.  It has always been my mantra that if it takes any longer than that, I just don’t need to go.  I must change my attitude while in Beijing or I am going to be quite bored over the next couple of years as it takes more than 15 minutes (sometimes hours) to get anywhere of value, in my opinion.

Beijing is the capital of China and is a major transport hub. There is a seemingly sophisticated network of roads, airports and railways.  There are 6 ring roads which encircle the central business district and nine expressways. There are also eleven national highways, highways 101-111, which branch off in every compass direction.

One would think with all of this pavement, people could get where they need to go in a decent amount of time, but there are more than 6 million cars on the road.  Beijing did try to restrict congestion and pollution by restricting everyday travel to cars with odd or even license plate numbers driving on certain days. 

The government has been building more subways and increasing their track length. They even lowered the subway fare to encourage more  people to use the subway.  Even with all of these additions, the roads in Beijing are always congested.

 I live in between the 5th-6th rings.  Much of the activity seems to be near 2nd-3rd rings. It just takes too long to get there, wherever “there” may be. But again, if it takes longer than 15 minutes, it’s too far!

I haven’t ventured out as far as I had in Shanghai by this time, as I just can’t be bothered with the time it takes to get somewhere.  It’s ok though. I am focusing on saving money and paying the bills.  Since July, I have paid off my car and a credit card (can’t do that at home) and am now closing in on paying off the house.  

In addition to staying in more, I am working on pedaling a new business. Recently I have become a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils. I have never been a fan of multi level marketing anything.  Nor do I usually care about any type of product that goes along with MLM.  However, I have really become a fan of these oils and everything that goes along with it. 

Before I left for Beijing, I heard Young Living was opening the market in China. With 1.4 billion people here, I thought surely I could get 3-4 people or so to sign up and begin to change their lives with essential oils. 

Recently three of my new downline members and I attended a Young Living marketing event in Beijing. One of the speakers at the event has apparently made quite a bit of money with essential oils.  He recently met with a group of investors to discuss their investment in the oil business. Imagine the look on their faces expecting to see barrels of crude oil, but instead are met with small bottles of essential oils pulled from his pocket.

Being from Oklahoma I would love to have a hand in the oil business, crude  or essential, either way, I could use your help. Take a peak at the website:  Spread the word! Buy a few, sign up for discounts, or try the cleaning or kids products. Thieves products are AMAZING!

I really think you will like the oils, diffuser, cleaning supplies and everything else they have to offer.  When you visit the website you can use my Member ID: 15478021.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Not Inspired

October 20, 2015


“The Doctor wanted me to come out and let you know that Clifton might not make it off the table and is preparing you for the worse.”  Words no parent wants to hear, ever!

I remember my dear friend, Debra sitting by my side in the waiting room at St. Francis Hospital repeating again and again, not to give up hope. I often play this over in my head, but just tonight it played heavy on my heart.  I was so fortunate to have dinner with her again tonight after all these years. Shortly after my son died, she and her family moved to North Dakota, and visits have been few and far between. We talked about and relived so many memories, good and not so good.  A good friend is one who you can just pick back up with as if no time has passed at all. We talked about the benefit fundraiser the Tulsa Fire Department had for my sons medical bills. We talked about our kids, spouses, current and former, jobs, and the crystal heart she still has in her jewelry box that I gave her when my son died, thanking her for her friendship. That means the world to me, just knowing she hasn’t forgotten my son. We both left the restaurant with tears in our eyes and many fond memories in our hearts. Thank you Debra for being an amazing friend for so many years. You have inspired me to continue writing my blog.

Up until now, I have had no inspiration at all to continue writing my blog. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about,I guess. But it seems all the adventure was left behind in China. America means work, and lots of it!  People are busy, and rarely make time for others. We get so bogged down with everything, that we sometimes forget who and what are important.

It has been a year of settling in, trying to reconnect with old friends, and forging ahead with new ones.

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