Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Curse of Flat Stanley...

I have triumphantly survived yet another week. Normally, I don’t find many reasons to relish the successful completion of a week. That is, unless, it is a week with Flat Stanley.

If you don’t have kids or live in a boring place, you probably don’t know who Flat Stanley is. To make a long children’s story short, Flat Stanley is a character that was squashed paper thin and mailed around the US in zainy adventures.

Every elementary teacher in America has discovered that loads of valuable learning time in class can be easily forfeited in lieu of a pre-written activity. Genius. The kids spend half a day reading the book. Another half making a flat version of themselves. Then another half day deciding who to send the paper effigy to and writing a form letter to send with it.

Weeks later, a day or two of class time can be eaten up with reports of the how the flat similes’ fared in their far away land. Pictures are shared, the kids with rich relatives bask in the lime light and the others sulk. It’s all very productive.

Years ago, my nephew, whom I will keep anonymous for safety purposes, sent me his Flat Hunter Jones. Flat Hunter was the first of the Flats for me. Living in Hawaii at the time, I was not surprised that it did not go to his cousins in Tuscon, Arizona. It just so happened to be the same week that I was in between semesters at my university. I figured it would be a good time for me to do all of the cool things that people associate with Hawaii.

A slight oversight found me homeless that week. My friend and I lived in his car. It was less than comfortable, but it solved a problem. To break the monotony of having a steering wheel in my esophagus for 8 hours a night, we spent one evening camping on the beach. It just so happened to be the same evening that some local thugs were driving around with a shinny red hammer and too much free time. The next morning I found Flat Hunter curled up on the back seat, covered in shattered glass. I detected faint weeping. Being rained on through the vacant window the remainder of the nights was the icing on the cake.

Although I had fun with my flat nephew, it did end up being a week of stress and discomfort. I was happy to have it over.

Then I moved to Guam and my niece, again anonymous, grew to be of the ripe age of Flat, Stanley. I was confident now that I had a nice car, home and other luxuries that it would be a better round. I was a fool.

When I finally was able to get a day off work, I decided that a trip around the island would be a great way to get footage. Just as we were getting under way, my wife offered to take a picture of Flat Sydney and me on the beach. But lo, the picture was never taken. For reasons that can only be described as “acts of God” the camera simply stopped working. Back to the apartment to try to find a suitable substitute camera. One was obtained; the trip resumed. Although the camera was only the backup, we seemed to be back on track.

Cameras broken to date: 1.

I was unable to take Flat Hunter into the ocean in Hawaii, so I wanted to up the ante with Flat Sydney and take her scuba diving. Putting a 1.5 foot piece of paper 80 feet down into the Marianas Trench without getting it soaked is slightly more difficult than it sounds. I found a bag that I assumed would do the trick, but alas, the plan was still halted. Just as Flat Sydney arrived, my ear started to hurt. A doctor’s trip confirmed that I had an ear infection and would not be able to dive for as long as Flat Sydney was in my possession.

I bravely decided to put my health on the line. While preparing my underwater camera, I found that it too was broken.

Cameras broken to date: 2.

I was able find an old digital camera that would likely never get used again. I put it in a Ziplock bag and hoped for the best. I was able to get about 3 poorly composed shots off with it before it also became another victim of Flat Sydney.

Cameras broken to date: 3.

That just about did it for me and flat family members that week. I didn’t dare take any more pictures of her lest I must buy a new camera. I put the images together in a video, burned off the pics to CD and sent the package out after filling it with four leafed clovers, horse shoes, and a trial size box of Lucky Charms cereal. A quick sprinkle of holy water as the post man walked away seemed to ensure safety.

So, maybe it’s not me. Maybe these Flat nemesis’ are cursed. On the bright side, I was able to make my niece as cool on her presentation day as I did for my nephew. My pain was transparent to them.

A sigh of relief was quickly curtailed when I remembered that Flat Hunter and Flat Sydney have two younger Flat sisters on their way. Next time I will be ready. Next time I will be pro-active. Next time, I’m moving to Yuma, Arizona so they won’t even bother sending them to me.

Watch the royalty-free version of the video I made:

Or see it here.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Lord Giveth...

Here in Micronesia, a car is not exactly necessary for daily life. However, getting around on the island is nigh impossible without some sort of reliable transportation. And though the cars may have the steering wheel on the wrong side, or lack basic safety features (seat belts, etc) they are valuable.

That is why a branch president here in one of the smaller islands was grateful to receive his sister’s hand-me-down car. The engine ran hot. Sometimes it stalled out. The doors and windows didn’t all work properly. The hot tropical air seemed relentless as the air conditioning was broken. It appeared that the car was just barely on the salvageable side of a scrap heap. And the branch president could not be more thrilled to receive it.

On the first ride it was clear that this car was on its last, wheel. Rather than put a bullet to its hood, the president decided to wear it to the ground. After using it for his personal needs, he soon realized that the blessing of transportation would better suit his flock than himself.

Soon, the car was devoted to bringing up, or really, bringing forward the gospel at about 30 miles per hour daily. Shortly after the car was dedicated to the work of the Lord, it seemed that the Lord was dedicated to working the car. The engine one day stopped sputtering. It was no longer a gamble as to whether or not the car would start. The doors and windows suddenly one day started to open and close as they should.

The blessing of the car seemed complete when one day the air conditioner kicked on and began supplying cool air for the weary travelers. Amazingly, the branch president had done no work to the car. Not once had he even gone as far as to look under the hood. There was no mechanical consultant to prolong the vehicle’s life. It was nothing short of a miracle.

Had the story stopped here, it would be an Ensign submission. You know me; I can’t leave it on the obvious. Once word got back to the sister who first gave the car to the branch president, she decided maybe the car wasn’t something to give away after all. You guessed correctly. Now that the car was in perfect working order, she was ready to take it back.

Well, it is her car, after all. What can any one do? Hm...Is it wrong to pray that a car breaks down on someone?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Yellow Anutie...

One thing I have always loved about my wife is that she never sees things the same way that others do. Some people think inside the box. Others think outside the box. But Anna is special. She thinks through the box. Some would say that she marches to the beat of her own drummer. Truly, she marches to a different beat from a whole different band. Don't bother trying to comprehend it. She just does.

Often, that is a blessing, but every once in a while that and the language barrier can be the cause of confusion or even contention. For example, not long ago my niece saw Anna online through a chat program. She wanted to say hi to her, so she casually typed, "yello auntie". Anna looked at that for a minute and said, "I'm not that Yellow, just because I'm Asian. I can't believe that I'm 'Yellow Auntie' now..."

One other thing I love about Anna is that she has a good sense of humor. She knew what my niece meant, she just wanted to give me trouble. And give me trouble she did.

And what's more, she gives me great blogging fodder...