Tag Archives: friends

Breaking news

No. The baby hasn’t come yet.

Yes, I’m grumpy about that (though not yet quite as grumpy as I still am about the fact that apparently he won’t be arriving via the international terminal at Gold Coast airport but via a significantly smaller and much less efficient terminal located closer to home – like just south of my bellybutton).

No, he’s not even technically due for another twelve days and he stayed inside as commanded until Mike arrived, so I know I have no real right to be unimpressed with his lack of interest in relocating but I am anyway. So anyone who’s tempted to leave me reasonable reminder below about how he’ll come out when he’s ready and not before… don’t.

And, yes, Mum and Dad are so thrilled to be watching this waiting game unfold up close and personal and Mike is over the moon to be sharing a continent (and a bed) with me once again. I’m sure Mum’s and Dad’s recently made plans to go up to Brisbane for a couple of nights next week and Mike’s refusal to go out on a hot date with me to Byron Bay last night in favour of sticking closer to home have nothing to do with any tropical storms of moodiness swirling around here.

This morning as we were tidying up Mike picked up a postcard announcing the arrival of a friend’s baby.

“What do you think about printed baby announcements?” Mike asked.

“No way,” I said.

“Why?” Mike asked.

“Money, for one,” I said, flopping onto the bed. “It would cost a ridiculous amount of postage to get these out to everyone who might care that we’ve just had a baby. Even more importantly, it would take a ridiculous amount of time to track down everyone’s addresses and get them in the mail. If you want to do them you are on your own, buddy.”

For an instant Mike looked at me as if being on his own was sounding quite appealing and I felt a little bad. Enough bad to make me ask him what he thought. The problem was, my question came out sounding less like a genuine query than a grudging acknowledgement that a conversation should involve the reciprocal exchange of ideas even though I had absolutely no intention of changing my mind on this issue.

Luckily for both of us, Mike doesn’t seem too attached to the notion of printed baby announcements.

This discussion/diatribe has, however, made me think again about how we’re going to get the news out about little baby McWolfe’s arrival – you know, when that actually happens in 2043.

When we got engaged, Mike was surprised and a bit appalled to discover that I felt there was an important pecking order that needed to be followed in terms of breaking the news. We should, I told him, make every effort to let our parents know first, followed by our siblings, followed by very close friends, etc. We followed a similar process with the news that I was pregnant (with the exception of the fact that the entire country of Laos knew before some of our closest friends due to the fact that near strangers on the street there were completely uninhibited about asking me if I was pregnant yet).

I don’t think we’ll be shooting for a similar, carefully-managed process with the news of the baby’s arrival.

During the last two weeks I’ve had friends ask how I’ll let them know when I go into labour, assume that I’ll share when we’re off to the hospital via facebook, and take for granted that we’ll be calling or texting people shortly after the birth with the big news. And until I started to think through the mechanics of it, I thought some of that might be happening as well.

But when I pause to project forward I suspect that when I do go into labour, as much as I adore my close friends, I won’t want to be thinking about sending emails or updating facebook. And without Australian mobile phones of our own, Mike and I also lack most of our friend’s phone numbers. Those that we do know are scattered here and there – tucked away in emails and on slips of paper.

So, upon reflection, I’ve decided on a very complicated “breaking the news of the birth” plan that goes something like this:

  1. We will call our parents after the baby is born and give them the green light to tell whomever they want whatever they want.
  2. We will send out a mass email, update facebook, and write a blog post when we can – which may not be for several days after the event.

That’s it.

If you object to this plan, feel free to ring and take it up with me. Mike would warn you to tread carefully, very carefully, should you decide to lodge a protest, but I don’t know what he’s on about really – it’s not like I’m grumpy or anything. No, I’m not even going to snap at him one little bit when he reads this and points out I have drafted a plan for breaking the news before I’ve drafted a birth plan or finished packing the bag for the hospital.

Bank cards and inner children

I found my credit card today. It’s been, well, not exactly missing, more like “vacationing in an unknown location”, since we got back from Australia. That was three weeks ago.

I remembered to ask my parents whether they’d seen it while we were on skype the other day.

“Have you seen my credit card lying around?” I asked, oh so casually, in the middle of our conversation.

My father, as I’d guessed he would, sighed.

“Lisa,” he said, and then paused. “Does your husband know about this?”

“Not exactly,” I said, grinning just a little. “I’m a firm subscriber to the theory that one of the best ways to keep your marriage healthy is not to let every single thought that goes through your head come out your mouth.”

There was silence while my parents, I’m sure, tried to figure out what this had to do with my credit card.

“Almost every day I think that maybe I should really try to find it,” I added helpfully.

Dad sighed again.

“We’ll keep an eye out,” he said.

So “find my credit card” has been on my to list for weeks now, and since today is a day full of life admin – filing, sorting books, and trying to catch up on email – I gritted my teeth five minutes ago and went in the bedroom determined to do a thorough search. I’d already looked in my wallet twice but started by flicking through it again just to make sure… and there is was. Nestled somewhere I still can’t understand why I would have put it. Halleluiah. I found it and I got to tick something off the to-do list and I do not have to go through the hassle of trying to get it replaced over here in Laos, not to mention having to confess the whole debacle to Mike. Happy days.

The whole thing has made me think of one of the first essays I wrote after I started emailing Mike. Called, “Inner Child” I thought it was merely an “all’s well that ends well” tale that kept me amused writing it up on an overnight flight to London. I found out later that Mike found it less amusing than terrifying. So, today, here’s a walk down memory lane and a look at an essay I sent out just over three years now. (PS, Despite this post’s evidence to the contrary let me assure you that I’m heaps more responsible and organized now. Heaps.)

Inner Child (October 2007)

What does my inner child look like, I wondered, rifling through the pockets of all the jackets hanging in my closet, and where on earth was my bankcard?

Both were pressing questions. Ed was picking me up for the inner child party in two hours, and I was getting on a plane to head to Kenya in less than 24. I had six dollars in my wallet, and it was Saturday at 3:30pm. The banks were closed (which I had discovered when I rocked up at my local branch at 3pm with passport in hand all set to make a withdrawal sans bankcard). They were going to stay closed until Monday morning by which time, all going well, I would be in London. This was somewhat of a problem. Plus, I still didn’t have a costume for the party. The afternoon was not going as planned.

Faced with a whole row of stubbornly empty pockets I stood back, took a deep breath, and tried to think.

When confronted with multiple crises it’s always wise to take a moment to evaluate which is the most pressing. Clearly that was what I was going to wear to the party. Perhaps if I figured that out, the secondary issue of how I was going to manage to spend two weeks in Africa on six dollars would seem more manageable.

Robin said we were supposed to come dressed as something that reflects our inner child, and this had me stumped. Did she want us to come dressed as the inner child that actually was a child? Because then all I’d have to do is straighten my hair, put on some appallingly thick glasses, and braces, and then go and sit in a playground and read a book – because that child didn’t actually have many friends and hence, didn’t go to parties often.

Or did she mean the inner child we have now – the un-self-conscious, comfortable-in-our-own-skin inner child that tempts us towards silliness and fun and levity? Come to think of it though, I’m not sure why those qualities get associated with inner children. I got better at embracing them as I got older. Most of my childhood I spent feeling like an adult trapped in a little body.

Perhaps she meant the inner child we always wanted to be when we were children? If that was the case I could go for the entirely unremarkable outfit of jeans and a tee shirt on the grounds that I spent a significant portion of my childhood wanting to just be more normal. Or perhaps I should wear a sari because when I wasn’t thinking it would be nice to be normal, I was thinking it would be nice to be Indian. Or maybe a formal dress and a tiara? I can’t actually remember fantasizing about being a princess (except being a sari-clad Indian princess) but I’m sure I did. Doesn’t every little girl want to be a princess?

I sighed and looked longingly at my bed, which was covered with clothes, work documents, and an open suitcase.

What I really wanted more than anything else in that instant was to climb back into that bed, read a good book, and forget about Africa and parties. And I’d give my kingdom to have someone bring me some ice cream. And a nice glass of wine. Or two.

That was it! My inner child just wanted to be in bed. I would go in pajamas.

“Good idea!” Robin said, when she heard what I was planning. “I will too, and Sharla, probably. Then we can have a slumber party!”

Awesome. Not only had I come up with a decent idea, this inner child went to slumber parties. This inner child had some friends. Things had definitely improved in the last two decades.

Now, the bankcard.

I’d been convinced it was in the car.

This was not an entirely stupid assumption. I’m a relatively neat and ordered person. My office, my bedroom, the house… all fairly neat – if not germ-free clean. Captain Waldo, my car, is a totally different story. My theory is that he is actually a different planet, with his own field of gravity, which has an almost irresistible affinity for things like receipts, empty coffee cups, cans of diet coke, Tupperware containers, CD’s, and books. On Saturday morning he looked like a mobile library. There were at least forty books scattered on the back seat. It seemed likely that my bankcard was buried in there somewhere. It’s been known to happen before.

It was a great theory. The only problem being that during the half an hour it took me to dig through all the detritus it became clear that the bank card was not buried in there somewhere.

I tackled the problem logically. I marveled at the cleanness of the car for a minute or two, then I went back inside and decided it still wasn’t time to panic. It was likely somewhere in the house, I reasoned, but just in case it wasn’t, I’d better go to the bank before it closed and make a withdrawal using my passport as ID.

So off I toddled to the bank.

Which is when I learned that the bank shuts at 2pm on Saturday.

So now my costume was all sorted and another half hour of searching in the house hadn’t yielded any bank-card-joy there was no avoiding the fact that I was going to have to figure out a plan B or embrace solidarity with the poor.

Plan B would normally be Bank-O-Dad. But, unfortunately, Bank-O-Dad only has one branch, which is in Australia rather than Los Angeles. But, I suddenly realized, I had friends. Friends who would be coming to a slumber party with me that night. Friends who would surely empty their checking accounts for me. After all, what are friends for?

So I rang Robin back.

When she didn’t answer I left a message telling her I had an “unusual request.” I tried for an upbeat, “I have a really neat plan for a big adventure” tone, but had a nasty suspicion as I hung up that I had sounded more guilty than cheerful.

This was confirmed when she rang back and the first words out of her mouth were a wary, “what do you want?”

“A thousand dollars,” I said in a small voice.

“Lisa!” Robin said in a tone I’ve heard more than once in the last four years of our friendship.

“Where did you have it last?” She asked after I explained the problem.

“Chicago,” I said, even more softly.

“Lisa! You went to Chicago a month ago! I heard you say your bankcard was missing weeks ago. You didn’t find it in between? When did you really start looking for it?”

“This morning,” I whispered.

“Lisa! Wow!” Robin said. There was a long silence that gave us both ample time to reflect on my idiocy. “Well I can’t get out a thousand dollars at the ATM. I can only get four or five hundred.”

“That’s okay,” I said, relieved. “I can write you a check right now for that, and I’ll ask some of the others too.”

In the end my Bible Study group came through with the goods, and Robin, Paul, Sarah, Sharla, and Joe, all contributed to my financial solvency for this trip.

“Don’t lose it,” Robin warned me as she handed me an envelope full of cash. “And don’t tell Jenn about this. She’ll be mad.”

Yeah. Our mutual friend Jenn, and my parents, and everyone else who manages not to do things like this on a regular basis. But the way I see it I’m home free now. I only make one or two big and potentially serious mistakes per international trip. And this was my second, because this year I completely forgot that I needed visas to go to Kenya and Ghana until three weeks and two days before I was scheduled to leave and anyone who knows anything about the pace at which African embassies generally operate know that’s not exactly a safe margin. So given that I’ve already had a potential visa-debacle and weathered a missing bankcard… it should be a great trip from here on out.

Thank the Lord for growing out of lonely childhoods, for grown-up pajama parties, and for good friends is all I can say.

And, for those good friends who live in Chicago – if you happen to see my bankcard, can you mail it to LA?

Thanks.

Missionaries and motorbikes

Whatever else can be said about missionaries, they sure are good at sharing. All the ones Mike and I have met recently are, anyway.

Many people have extended hospitality to us during the last couple of months, but several missionaries here in Luang Prabang have gone above and beyond. They have given up time to drive us around town and help us look at houses. They let us set up camp in their own house for a couple of weeks while they were away in Thailand. They’ve taken me to the market. They’ve called just for the heck of it – to see if we need anything. They’ve lent us sheets and towels. And, last week, two of them lent me a motorbike.

I ran into Marc and Raquel in town the day after we moved in.

“How was the move going?” they wanted to know. “Was I finding everything?”

I was getting there, I told them. It was a start. It would get easier after we got bikes or some form of transport that I could use during the day.

Raquel and Marc looked at each other.

“Well, you could have one of our motorbikes for a while,” Marc said, without hesitating. And without, I should point out, asking me if I’d ever driven a motorbike before.

(I had, by the way. In Vietnam, a decade ago. For one, gloriously reckless, afternoon.)

I did confess my lack of recent experience. That didn’t stop them.

“Oh,” said Raquel, with a casual wave of her hand. “I’ll take you to a side street. You can ride up and down a time or two.”

“Did it freak you out when you first got here, driving around town?” I asked Raquel as we headed off.

“Ooh yeeaah,” she said her shoulder, in that soft southern-state drawl that doubles the vowels in every word.

“Everyone drives so crazy here, you know. Not stopping at the corners, or the stop signs. See,” Raquel said of the person in front of us, “he hardly even slowed down. But I’m fine now. I just watch out for the people in front of me to do crazy things, and it’s the responsibility of people behind me to watch out for me. You don’t stop for pedestrians. You go around other bikes. You get out of the way of trucks because they do whatever they want. Those trucks… they’ll just run you right off the road.”

OK, I thought, trying hard to catch all these road rules for Laos from the back of the bike. Watch out for the people in front of you. Don’t look behind you. Stay away from anything bigger than you.

“Now, y’all call us if you need anything else,” Raquel said to me later that afternoon as I took a deep breath and prepared to drive from her house back to ours – an epic journey of less than five minutes. And so it was that I was took temporary ownership of one motorbike and one pink helmet.

When I got home that day I checked my blog and gmail, and what did I find?

A letter from Kate – a friend and missionary in an entirely different country – asking if we needed anything.

She’d read my date night post, she wrote. She knew what it was like to be far away from home. Could she send me up anything with our mutual friends, Matt and Alida (who were currently in Phnom Penh and headed up to visit Mike and I in Luang Prabang in a couple of days). Books? Cheese? Wine? Chocolate? Pirated movies?

“I’m pretty sure I could find good quality (ahem, pirated) films here if I just figure out where the pirates… I mean, dealers… I mean, cinematic entrepreneurs, hang out.” I wrote back. “But if you happen to have a good quality copy of Letters to Juliet lying around that you don’t mind sending up here on a loan, that’d be cool.”

What I really need to do,” I continued – thinking in type more than anything else, “is to find TV series on DVD. They are the best “wind down from writing” distraction. I can’t wait until the entire last season of Lost comes out.”

As for the rest of the comfort items, I summarized:

“Matt and Alida are already carrying me up some books that I’d had shipped to them before they left California.

I’ve found some cheese in one of the expatriate grocery stores.

We can actually get some Chilean wine up here.

And chocolate, well… as I’ve recently picked up the dangerous habit of eating Nutella straight out of the container perhaps it would be best if no one tries too hard to share chocolate with me for the next little while.”

Matt and Alida arrived yesterday. In addition to the books they came bearing big hugs, wine they’d carried from California, and some toiletries. They also ferried up another present from Cambodia.

Kate had sent up the last season of Lost.

Sharing – it is such an elegant conjugation of the verb “to love”.

Thank you to all our old and new friends – from Los Angeles to Anchorage to Laos – who have shared with us these last few months. We feel loved.

In, out, and about

It has been a quiet weekend. I ran myself all over town last week (including a 2 hour 20 minute drive from Pasadena to Westwood on Thursday to farewell good friends who are moving back to Australia). I had such good plans for how the evening would go. I was going to turn up at their place as a calm and caring presence. After all, I am an expert on relocation and farewells – I have done both far too many times. I was going to be cool and collected, ask insightful questions about their transition, and bring take out for dinner so that we could have a lovely, intimate, farewell sitting in the middle of their empty living room and eating off paper plates.

None of that came to pass.

The 110 was crawling, and so was the 10. TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES after I left work I arrived at their appt frazzled, exhausted, and having left my wallet on my desk at the office. No calm, cool, and collected presence. No money to buy take out. I lay on the floor of their appt for 10 minutes and then we went out for dinner.

They paid.

I did pull myself together at some stage and we had a lovely conversation. I was glad I’d gone – even with the traffic.

LA, oh how I love thee… let me count the ways.

Traffic would not be on that love list, by the way.

Anyway, it was a busy week and I was ragged by Thursday night. So, knowing that I had a busy week upcoming too, I turned down several other lovely friends who suggested dinner and stayed indoor nursing a sore throat and snuggling on the couch with my laptop.

Which is not nearly as good a snuggle buddy as my husband…

Who is currently on some remote island north of Banda Aceh in Indonesia and who I will not get to talk to again for another 48 hours. (In proofing this entry before I pressed published I noticed that I originally 48 days instead of hours… sometimes it feels that way).

Sigh.

Silver lining??? I am making good progress on the next book.

And I did laundry for the first time in three weeks – which may not sound that exciting, but is.

Trust me.

Thanks for stopping by,
lisa