18 years ago

This was my life a little less than eighteen years ago.

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I was 20. He was…weeks old.

This was my life four days ago.

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Photo credit to my mother.

And yesterday, was his eighteenth birthday.

He was my “baby bear”* until about kindergarten when he informed me he was no longer a baby. I reluctantly graduated him to “Bear” until about third grade when he explained with a huff that his name was NOT “bear”. And then, ironically, he hit high school and all his friends started calling him “Papa Bear” with absolutely no input from me.

He has spent the past ten years, give or take a few, adopting and looking out for every younger child around him. And he has been attempting to take care of me since he could toddle to the front door and fling himself against it yelling “NO MAMA” because I walked into the living room in just shorts and a sports bra to retrieve my purse but he was concerned I might try to leave the house in an indecent state of dress.  The concern was cute until I tried to get my ears pierced with a second hole when he was about seven and a friend had to remove him the premises because he freaked out so badly.

I have received phone calls from teachers stating that he needs to be reprimanded but “He’s just so sweet I can’t do it…” Then there’s the time he told a teacher that if his eyes wandered during a test it was because he hit his head in P.E. and his eyes wouldn’t stay still…it certainly wouldn’t be because he was cheating. (She moved him into the hallway for the test if I remember correctly) And THEN there’s the time that he irritated a girl so much that she finally tackled him…into a cinder block wall. (And yet she still counted him among some of her best friends)

The character of Dominic Toretto (Fast and Furious franchise) repeats his mantra of “I don’t have friends, I have a family” so often in the movie series that it becomes a bit cheesy – but this kiddo has been living that for years. He is ferociously loyal and once you’re in his inner circle, he will adopt you and everyone you love. It can be a little overwhelming but somehow he always manages to win over….everyone. He has a multitude of “mom”s, all of which have contributed to his growth , and an impressive collection of “little sisters” that he fights with – and for. He has chosen to surround himself with guys that will hike the foothills with him, then spend hours playing video games…but they always hug their mamas before taking off.

He loves to make people smile and laugh and if someone leaves his presence without feeling loved, it’s not because he didn’t try. Young children adore him and he is always willing to give them his time and energy. He loves babies…and he loves the attention he gets from girls when he’s cuddling babies. He shaves his own head now (and let’s people rub it)…but “forgets” to shave his face. Sometimes he doesn’t see that line between funny and annoying until he’s well past it. Sometimes his family is as likely to swat him as they are to hug him. But he makes really good coffee.

There are plenty of stories I could tell many of which I need to write down for future generations but I won’t try to recount here and now. The point is, he’s eighteen. Four years ago, I sobbed as he entered high school because there were only four years left and he was nowhere ready for the world…and the world definitely wasn’t ready for him. Today I can say confidently that I think he’ll be okay. He’ll have some rough patches and he’ll learn some lessons the hard way. Most everyone does. But he’ll be fine in the end.

I’m still not sure the world is ready for him though.

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* I let him preview/approve the pictures used in this post. He scanned part of the text as well and on the way to bed, kissed me on top of my head and said “I’m still your baby bear.” Dawww….

 

Philippines Trip – May 30 – Daytime

Well I didn’t anticipate or plan to take quite so long a hiatus from posting but then again, I never do. I started to write several times but I was dreading writing about the Philippines again. I know. I KNOW. I sound like a broken record. “This is hard” “This is emotional”.  So no more whining. I’ll suck it up and get the last of the posts up so I feel free to write about other things too. (Although I guarantee, these girls will still be a regular topic).

So. May 29th ended on a high note. May 30th dawned bright with anticipation. We went down to Clark Assembly of God church and picked up bags of food to take to a slum. The experience was oddly…muted. After the emotions of the previous day, I was firmly back in my little insulated bubble. It wasn’t a conscious act. In fact, I didn’t even know it was possible for me to be so detached.

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Yes, there are people living under that bridge.

Yes, there are people living under that bridge.

I have very few pictures of the area which, if you know me, you know is a rare result.  But as we were loading up that day, Anjel blew me away with a simple but profound act of love. She took my backpack, loaded it with food, then informed me she was going to carry the load for me but wanted me to carry…and use…her camera. My biggest only regret on this trip was that I did not take my camera. My phone was a decent substitute but I desperately missed capturing the experience through my actual lens. I felt like I without part of myself most of the trip. Anjel somehow knew that and gave me that piece back for a time. It sounds silly and trite but it truly was an amazing gift.

Anjel, loving with all her heart, as always

Anjel, loving with all her heart, as always

That picture up there? One of my favorites from the entire trip.

The day was full of laughter and smiles, hugs and hands clasped. When we finished at the slum, Anjel and I went with a small group from the church and Beka (one of the missionaries) to give food out to families behind the church and visit the Sunday School children.  Watching them love on the kids was amazing.

We went back to the hotel after that to rest and get ready for our last night on Walking Street. But I think that night needs it’s own post.

Philippines Trip – Annnd we’re off

It’s time to get back to (or actually start) documenting the trip to the Philippines. I find myself readjusting disturbingly well to the remarkably comfortable life here…a realization that, perhaps ironically, makes me uncomfortable.  And while I still think about my Filipino sisters on a daily basis, the actual trip is starting to feel more like a daydream than a reality. I look at pictures and think “Was I even really there?” I need to re-visit the memories and journal entries. I need to remember.

Throughout the months and days leading up to the trip, the only time I felt an inkling of excitement was when the team members in Boise met together. I was surprisingly unemotional about the whole endeavor. But the night of the 25th, a small group flew out ahead of the rest of us. I met them at the airport to pray and say goodbye. Watching them check baggage and hugging them before they left, suddenly it started to feel real. The next morning I woke early to pray for the east coast contingent flying out from various areas. And my excitement grew a little more. The rest of us weren’t meeting until 10:00am. Our flight was at 11, a time I maintain was perfect. We did not have to be up ridiculously early. We had time to finish packing and/or double check our bags. We could have a nice relaxed morning but weren’t waiting FOREVER to leave. It was great.

Hubby and son seeing us off!

One last pic before saying goodbye!

Once at the airport, I was absolutely blown away by the people that showed up to send us off. Practically my whole life group was there as well as multiple other friends. And that was in no way unusual. I think everyone of us had multiple people that took time out of their holiday to stand in an airport, pray and say goodbye. My lifegroup gave me a journal (that I’m still using). The first few pages were filled with notes of love and encouragement that I treasured during the initial flight.

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My first entry was made on the plane as we left Sea-Tac on the Asiana airline.

“I was amazed and overwhelmed by the people that showed up to see me and the team off. This trip has seemed so personal but so many are invested….”

One observation I had while on the plane was the recognition that I was suddenly a minority. I’ve lived my whole life where English was primary and surrounded by other white people.  Then I look around…and the only other white people I see are my team. The instructions and messages on the plane were translated into English but it was not the primary language. It was mildly uncomfortable for a moment but I was laughing at myself too. Hi. We’re going to Asia. And while English is spoken quite prominently where we were going to be, we were still leaving America. It was good to experience that moment.

The trip itself was relatively uneventful. Sitting in the Seoul airport I received a message from another team member flying by herself from the east coast. She had been bumped from her flight in Tokyo and was having to stay the night there. Poor girl had been on diagnosed with strep fairly recently and while she was on medicine and doing MUCH better, she was still stuck in a strange country, alone. She’s a world traveler though and quite capable. She had an amazing attitude. We were probably more upset that she would be delayed than she was. As for the rest of the trip, it’s mostly a blur of engine humming and lines at airports and endless counting to make sure everyone was together. We landed in Manila late on the 27th, stepping out into the heat and humidity causing one team member to gasp “It’s like this at MIDNIGHT?!!?”  I wish I had thought to get pictures of  the airport pick up area. It was outside. It was crowded. It was….our first taste of the third world. And I could not stop smiling. We found our vans and the rest of the team that had proceeded us, loaded everything and headed to our home base in Manila.

I made another journal entry at 1:45am on the 28th. I wasn’t at all tired even though I hadn’t slept on the plane. I was unable to see much out the window of the van although I tried desperately. I had heard such stories about traffic in the third world and was relatively disappointed by the tameness of it. I thought my expectations were too much…and then I realized it was midnight. And while it was tame compared to what I expected, it was still very similar to rush hour in downtown Boise except with less adherence to any kind of lane or law that I could determine.

And that closed out the day of traveling/began our first day. We were due to leave bright and early for Angeles City. It was time to get some rest so we could hit the ground running.

Our room in Manila.

Our room in Manila.