January 5, 2013

...And Then We Were Struck By Lightning.

This year's Christmas card picture was taken on the beach outside our house in Saudi.

When I was born, we didn't have a car.

I don't remember this, being more concerned with the obvious fact that I didn't look like any of the other kids in the newborn nursery.  Being the only Caucasian baby in a Malaysian hospital  can leave you with life-long insecurities, most of which stem from the fact that my hair was not shiny, my skin was not tanned (still isn't) and I didn't begin life with a higher IQ just by default of my nationality.  (Andrew's Note: That's right, folks, we get the racism out of the way right off the bat.)  Differences aside, I was easy to spot with my white blond hair.  You know those horrible news stories where the mom is given the wrong kid from the baby nursery and she raises someone else's kid just because the babies were accidentally switched at birth?  Not a problem on Floor Three.  Anyway, they didn't have a car.  Don't ask me how they got home from the hospital.  Public bus?  I always assumed this was their way of making my birth story "special."  Or they had just spent a whole lot of money on getting me into the world, and a mode of getting me home didn't strike too high on the priority list.  Nor did having a child car seat, but I think that had more to do with the fact that no one in the 1980's seemed to care much about child safety in vehicles, my parents included.  
Yikes.  I promise I get less gooey and cuter.
Awww, so content with my beautiful Mom.
This is before the 'we-don't-exactly-own-a-car-seat' disclosure.  

The first car I remember us having was an 1970s Ford Cortina.  I named it "Fred" during my name-everything-a-horrible-name-that-only-I-think-is-cute phase.  I even promised my mother that her first grandchild would be named "Fred."  Since we haven't had kids yet, she's still worried.

"Fred," was a great car.  Actually, it was probably the suckiest car on the entire island of Penang where we lived, but I didn't know any better because, just like the hospital, I was distracted by other things to notice.  Nowadays, kids have fancy DVD players in the car playing Veggie Tales so many times that they forget to question why the characters don't have hands.  Am I the only one this bothers??!  (It would bother me if the vegetables had hands.  They don't in real life and it's impossible to tell what they would do with them if they did.  It creeps me out.)  Fred, however, provided other distractions.  For example, Fred didn't come with floor mats in the back seat.  Instead, there were little holes in the floor of the car where you should put your feet (think Flinstones but smaller, like bullet holes).  These holes provided all sorts of entertainment for viewing the dirty streets over which we were driving.  This combined with the lack of car seats might make you question my parent's judgement, but again, it was the '80s, and that was just as normal then as handless vegetables singing to your kids now. (Oh wheeeeeerrreeee is my car seat?")

Fred was A LOT sketchy-er than this one.
Fred was also missing a window.  Chris, my brother, probably punched it out.  He was a hyper child who had ADD and ADHD (ADHDADD....AD.........D...squirrel!), but my Mom was super patient with him and never got him tested.  Which is why all my memories of Chris as a child involve him wearing a leash.  Oh, and she had to sit on him to make him take naps.  No kidding.  Chris really liked Fred.  So much so that he decided to drive Fred out of the driveway the one time my parents didn't have the leash attached.  He was 3.  You think I'm making this stuff up.  I'm not.
This was the only picture I could find of Chris and I where he wasn't wearing a leash.
 Notice the vice-like grip I have on the poor kid.  
Meanwhile, (I know... this story just keeps going and going...) Dad and I used Saran Wrap and tape to produce a mighty fine window substitute.  It was a real learning experience for me because I had just invented something I called the "Seed-Protector" for my 3rd grade invention project.  The "Seed-Protector" was Saran Wrap with holes poked in it stretched across a sewing hoop and put over potted plants to protect the seeds in the soil from the heavy rains in Malaysia.  I totally thought that up all on my own.  Cough.  Actually, my first idea was to invent a robot that collected pretty rocks.  But since my Dad was the principal of my school, he and Mom "helped" me invent another more "useful" idea.  I won 3rd place. But not for the robot-rock-collector idea.  The girl that won 1st place rigged her mailbox to alert inside the house that mail had arrived.  LAME.  My idea helped seeds grow to produce food so that those mailmen could be fed to deliver letters, so I ask you.... who's idea is better???  That's right.  Where was I going with this?  (The seed protector.) Oh yes, the seed-protector.  It was absurdly similar to the window we rigged up on Fred the car.  Except it was just as susceptible to holes being poked in it by overly hyper little brothers.  And it rains a lot in Malaysia, so the idea wouldn't have won 3rd place.  Or 1st.
My 3rd place winning 'Seed-Protector' sans Saran Wrap.
Lady Rock Robot would have been WAY cooler. 
Everyone on the island where we lived knew when our family was coming because Fred was loud.  Really loud.  It sounded like my parents had hidden a banshee and a couple of hyenas inside the engine.  Except we didn't believe in banshees because we were Christians.  (I submit that banshees are real - see here)  Anywhere we drove involved a high pitched squeal emanating from the bowels of the car.  (I think that's called IBS.)  It was probably Fred's way of protesting that he was missing a window...and a floor.  This all seemed completely normal to me until I rode in a friend's car and discovered the luxury of floor mats, four fully functioning non-holed windows, and a banshee-free car ride.  I must have complained too much because Dad and I began walking to school after that.  This was much less entertaining because nothing exciting happened outside Fred... except for having to avoid the Malaysian wildlife.  One day there was a 26 foot snake stretched across the road that 6 locals were wrestling to remove.  (Wife, the world record for the longest snake is 24 feet.)  I remember my Dad running to our friends house to get help.  The friend was a pastor...  so I guess we were supposed to pray the snake out of the way..???? (Lord, in Thy mercy we supplicate for this satanic beasts' destruction, that in Thy good and holy name You may smite mine enemy from before me and save me from death.  Amen.)
Well, in all honesty is was freaking big.  And it DID stretch across the road.  We made it to school that day alive, and I've been afraid of snakes ever since.  I blame Fred. 

As you can see, I've never had much luck with transportation.  (Ah, now we come around to it!) Which is ironic considering the lifestyle we live now.  We travel A LOT now.  I was on airplanes from when I was a newborn on.  My first passport actually has my mother's hand holding me upright in the picture because I was only a few days old.  Planes are the worst.  At least with cars you can control the situation with good brakes and Saran Wrap, in planes you are just a passenger and the food is abysmal.  My greatest fear as a kid AND today is the "air pocket" while flying.  This is when the plane suddenly dip in the air and makes you feel like you were forced to ride a roller coaster that you're only riding to impress your friends but actually you're terrified of heights and feeling weightless.  Once my family was on our way to Langkawi (Malaysia) for vacation, the plane hit an air pocket so large that the stewardess serving food actually levitated for a few terrifying seconds.  Chris went flying with her because my parents forgot to attach his leash and I wished we had driven Fred instead of flown.  I must look ridiculous when I fly (because of your earplugs, eye mask, and gaping mouth?? ;-) because I live in constant fear of the next air pocket.  One time the guy sitting next to me asked me if this was my first time flying because I looked so scared.  I was 16 and on my way to Scotland for 3 weeks for a missions trip without my family.  I was going to try to explain the whole "I-was-born-in-Malaysia" bit but decided it sounded too outlandish and just nodded yes.  Yes, this is my first time ever on a plane.  He calmly told me to watch the stewardesses, if they don't look scared, you don't need to be scared.  Surprisingly good advice, actually!

The advice proved true on our latest plane ride to Atlanta to visit Andrew's family for Christmas.  And yes, I do realize that I am skipping most of what happened to us in October and November here in Saudi.  I'm getting there.  Maybe in the next post.  This one is getting a bit out of hand.  (Agreed.) First you have to hear about how we almost did die on a plane and how that guy's advice is so very true.  If you stop reading now you'll miss the bit where we get struck by lightning and that might make you think twice about flying, so you should definetly keep reading.  

For the record, it should be illegal to fly in bad weather.  Unfortunately, Southwest Airlines doesn't agree.  It was Christmas day and we were on the evening flight to Atlanta.  The weather reports looked like a Klingon had slit his artery on the radar map, heavy rains, lightning, tornadoes.... and our flight.  (Ten points for Gryffindor if you get that reference.  And ten more if you get mine :-)  I had a window seat in the middle of the plane right behind the wing.  I tried to get a seat at the back of the plane (those are the ones that you are least likely to die in if the plane crashes FYI) Southwest has a weird boarding policy where no one is assigned seats so we were stuck in the middle of the plane.  (Um, if a plane crashes, it doesn't matter where you are.  The people in the back of the plane in Alive all died.  And...maybe got eaten, but that's neither here nor there.)  We were both looking out the window and then...we were stuck by lightning.  Yes, the plane.  Was. FREAKING. Struck. By. Lightning.  It sounded like a massive gunshot right next to our ears and a really bright camera flash.  Oh, and it struck right outside our window.  I've never heard collective cussing like I did that night.  It was like the whole plane banded together and decided to use the "S" word simultaneously.  Good group effort. 

My first thought was this "Hey!  We're still up!"  My second thought was, "It would suck to die on Christmas day."

(Um, what about "I still have so much life left to live with my good, kind, faithful, caring, loving, smart, handsome, witty, charming husband??)

Um, no.  That is....I have no explanation other than we were holding on to each other so hard that they would have had to pry us apart with a crowbar when we were found in the wreckage.  Which means I love you, Husband!!  My third thought was to look for a stewardess to see if they were panicking.  There were none to be seen.  (not a good sign).  Then one got on the loud speaker and said "Looks like we've struck Santa!"  Which is all well and good, but everyone knows that Santa flys around on Christmas Eve, NOT Christmas Day...lady.  Santa is probably enjoying a nice glass of wine, or a shot of tequila.  Both of which I needed at that moment.  (That was also *all* she said!  Nothing about how "the plane's fine", "statistically, we are more likely to die in a car crash", or "R2 has been known to make mistakes..............................from time to time...................." or anything of the sort.)  (Side note:  Should we begin numbering the nerd references in posts?? That's #3 for the six of you who are counting)

Thanks to Google images and Photoshop for this disturbing gem.
We made it to Atlanta and celebrated Christmas with Andrew's family catastrophe-free.  We even made it back to Houston and then home to Saudi without any hiccups.  And now, if you're still reading, I'll post some pictures.  I should also say that I hate bloggers that get online and apologize for not posting in a long time at the beginning of the blog.  Which is why I'm apologizing now, at the end.  I got a little busy at the end of last semester because I got a temporary job as a band director at an international school for the maternity leave of their band director.  I'm sure you'll hear more about it in future posts, and also more about all the traveling we've done to England and Turkey.  I was supposed to talk about those trips in this post but I though you would much rather hear about Fred, my insecurities with flying, and my brother's leash-bound childhood. 

You're welcome.

Part of Andrew's family.  We like them because their kids are really cute.  And they make good food. 

Adrienne's Christmas dinner table.  I don't really remember the table because the food was freaking distracting.

I mean... seriously.  This child is adorable.  And her name is adorable too:  Coco Sage!

Andrew's sisters Allison (left) and Adrienne (right).  He didn't get the memo on the whole blonde hair thing.  


  1. FOUR nerd references actually: X-men, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Star Wars. Does this mean I win?
    :D Glad I got to see y'all! I'm back at school now and I will say hey to people for you.

  2. WOW, reading this was so much fun. Made me go through my childhood memories too. I always believed that Saran wrap was almost as useful as duct tape. We had a car much like Fred too. No air conditioning so we traveled with a block of ice in a pan on the floor with all the windows down to create a cool breeze. So see, we didn't really need windows either. Ha. Lightning strikes planes all the time and your are safe as long as the engines keep going! So you made it. Keep these up you need to write a book. Happy New Year.

  3. You and Jim Kelley could be writers instead of educators. Miss you BOTH (you and Andrew that is).