Motorcycle Mishap in South Dakota

On a Sunday afternoon in June, while riding through the hills of South Dakota, my sister-in-law, Chireen, was involved in a near fatal motorcycle accident. She and my brother, Jon, were 350 miles from home and, for the next 3.5 weeks would endure numerous complications and setbacks from her extensive injuries.

It was a scary time for them, as it was for all of us who love and care for them.

It began as an overnight trip riding motorcycles through the hills of South Dakota. The weather was beautiful and the scenery magnificent.  However, it all changed in that proverbial ‘blink of an eye’ when they came upon a sharp curve that was not clearly marked.  Jon – about 1/4 of a mile ahead of Chireen –  went through the curve first.  Realizing she would need to slow down he immediately pulled his bike over to warn her.  But it was too late.  Time slowed to a crawl as he turned around and saw her and the bike tumble through the air, hit a guardrail and crumple to the ground.  The bike landed on top of her and by the time he reached her side she was making gurgling noises and bubbling was coming from her mouth.

The accident occurred in a secluded area with no cell service and it was 20 minutes before anyone drove by.  The first car to pull over then turned around and drove back to a spot with a cell signal to call 911.  A few minutes later a family of three came by on their bikes and stopped to render aid.  Stephanie – a nurse – was the calm in a raging storm as she took charge of first aid until paramedics arrived.

The extent of her injuries were bad and, the area pretty remote, and it was decided she needed to be air lifted to the hospital.  As they loaded her in the helicopter Chireen was semi-conscious, and as Jon told her goodbye, all he could think was, “this may be the last time I see my wife alive….”

When he finally caught up with her at the hospital she was – for that moment – in stable condition and the good news was she had no head or neck trauma. (Thank God they are a safety-conscious couple and each were dressed head to toe in protective gear.  Without a doubt these items saved her life.)  However, the other injuries she sustained – a broken collar bone, a fractured wrist, multiple fractures in each rib on her right side, a punctured lung and a shattered ankle – caused a myriad of complications that ended up prolonging her stay way longer than the originally anticipated few days.

The complexity of things that went awry were, at times, baffling to everyone involved in her recovery, and there were several low points as she battled to overcome the seriousness of subsequent infections. As the length of her stay went from days to weeks the news would be good and it would be bad.  It felt like she would take one step forward and then two steps back.  We would be encouraged by her progress and then discouraged as she encountered one complication after another.

It was an extraordinarily stressful time for my brother.  Not wanting to leave her bedside – especially that first week – he dealt with every single thing on his own. Phone calls, texts and emails to family, friends, employers, insurance, tow companies, police and the bike shop.  Bombarded with new medical terms and procedures he was forced to learn and absorb on the go. Sleeping was in bits and spurts as he watched over her and her care. The hospital food was not appealing to him and as a result he was not eating.

For Chireen, bad days that brought unbearable pain and little to no progress were discouraging and, when the effort became too much to cooperate with the treatments Chireen was tempted to give up.  And, while those moments frightened all of us they were short-lived.  Her determined will and desire to live would resurface each time and ended up being stronger than the infections.

Bob Marley has a quote attributed to him that says, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.”

They had no choice. The reserves of strength, courage and patience each of them discovered were beyond their imaginations.

At the beginning of the third week in the hospital the doctor came in with the grim news that, in essence, the infection was winning.  As they digested this latest setback Jon and Chireen took the opportunity to say all the things they each wanted the other to know.  After signing a DNR (do not resuscitate) and a Durable Power of Attorney they discussed her final wishes.

I spoke to my brother that afternoon and he was peaceful.  He realized he had been given the gift of time with his wife. Time they wouldn’t have had if she had died the afternoon of the accident.

But, as we talked he also recounted another God-incidence which had occurred that morning.  A mysterious picture showed up on Chireen’s phone which had been lying on the windowsill of her room.  A picture in which the whole frame is some kind of bright light.  He didn’t understand it but, it filled him with the knowledge that everything – no matter what happened – would be okay.

As I said before, Chireen is a fighter and that last setback was just that…a setback.  She battled and ten days later was finally released from the hospital to make the six hour journey home.  Home (and two year-old grandson, Jace) proved to be the tonic no antibiotic could cure and, her recovery has been moving forward and on track.

The experience was life changing for Jon and Chireen.  Their faith was tested but they never underestimated the power of our Lord.  The picture was just one of many ways God revealed his love and mercy during this time.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely. In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.

For all of us the number of God-incidences and the multitude of angels he sent to watch out for both of them were numerous.  Our faith is also stronger for the experience.

Philippians 4:13 I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.

There was Stephanie, the nurse who first arrived on the scene.  She stayed with them both and, then, realizing Jon was alone and far from home traded phone numbers with him so she could stay in touch. And she did.  She was an invaluable source of help and support.

There were the numerous hospital nurses, techs, doctors and specialists who consulted and provided unparalleled counsel and care.

Chireen’s mom, Haide, who arrived and provided support for not only her daughter but, also respite care for Jon so he was able to leave the hospital for brief periods of time. Jon’s daughter, Kelli, took care of everything at their home; feeding the dogs, checking the mail, making sure all was well. Their employers, who were gracious beyond reason, offered love and support.  They were told to take all the time they needed – and the beautiful part was, they meant it.   Friends picked up the bike trailer.  Family provided meals so he didn’t have to leave the hospital.

And, the prayers.  So very many prayers for healing were offered up to God. Prayer chains, prayers of the faithful (offered during Mass) prayer warriors, individuals, big groups, small groups, prayers out loud, written prayers put into prayer boxes and prayers held silently in our hearts.  We offered God praise when things looked good and we thanked Him for his love and strength when things felt desperate.  And in those moments when we despaired and railed against the injustice of the situation he gently reminded us He is always in control.

This storm came to pass with the answered prayer we were hoping for – healing.  But, if the gift of Chireen’s life had been shortened we would have continued to offer praise.  Why? Because no matter what God is good…all the time.  All the time….God is good.

Saved Images (2)


James 1: 2-4

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Jon & Chireen playing in the snow


Mass in Mandarin

Staying in the Jiading ‘suburb’ of Shanghai or district, as they are called here, our light colored skin, hair and freckles have proved to be a source of fascination for many locals.  Heads have turned as we walk by and many have taken our picture.  Some openly and others, thinking we can’t see them, take our photo on the sly.  It doesn’t bother us and we are happy to smile and pose as long as they are relatively polite and respectful.  Which, without a doubt, they have been.

This morning we went to a very small (300 people) local Catholic Church to attend Mass.  We came in the back and sat in the last pew but, in no time at all, word spread through the sanctuary that foreigners were present. Heads turned and they made no secret of staring at us.  I’m not kidding, LOTS of heads turned.

Mass was lovely and while I understood 4 words total….Ni hao (hello) XieXie (thank you), amen and alleluia I was able to follow along because worldwide the service is the same wherever you go.  Same readings and same prayers no matter the language and no matter the location. It.Is.Awesome. (Plus, with Mass Apps I can follow the readings in English)

Jesus I trust in YouI know what this says!! (Jesus, I trust in You)

Sared HeartThe altar of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Diocese of Wenzhou

And a big kudos to the congregation for the beautiful and roof-raising singing.  It was amazing to hear such joyful voices being lifted unto the Lord!

After Mass we wandered back into the courtyard where we ended up the main attraction for pictures. We happily posed for about 10 minutes while taking different group shots and individual selfies.  It was fun and the Chinese – in all their curiosity – were welcoming and excited to see us.

Sacred Heart

Taking a picture of them taking pictures of us

Sacred Heart

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.

Stormy Day in Jiading

The rain came fast and, because I hadn’t been watching weather reports, unexpectedly.  Thunder followed and a stormy day set in.  It was a good time to relax the schedule as the heat and humidity, while sightseeing the day before, had tired all of us.

When the rain tapered off we ventured out for lunch and ended up exploring the streets and shops in the surrounding area.  Our group split up which left my son, Patrick, and I hanging out together.  JIading shoppingWe were wandering around, ambling in and out of the little shops when I spied a sign with a teapot.  Loving all things tea, and especially drinking tea in Asia, we went into the shop to see what was what. The shopkeeper seemed excited to see us and began talking to us.  Unfortunately, we had no idea what he was saying.  We wanted to ask him questions but were not able to communicate effectively with him.

Note….Patrick has had two years of high school Mandarin and both my fluent-speaking Mandarin son, Joshua, and me, his mom, (speaking absolutely no Mandarin) are highly impressed with how well he has been able to communicate.  However, this chatting was above his capabilities.

Finding no success in asking him if his teapots were for sale or display we left the shop to find Joshua and, upon our return, discovered this gentleman was completely delightful and wanted nothing more than to share his tea while working on his painting and flute-playing.

One of the things I love about staying in the less touristy areas is stumbling upon these amazing experiences that you can’t buy with money.  It had been a lazy, rainy day calling for a ponytail and no make-up.  No matter that I was ultra-casual though, our host could have cared less.  Discovering this hidden gem and being treated to an absolutely wonderful encounter completely made my day.

Jiading Tea

Confucius Temple and Huilongtan Park


We are enjoying our time as guests of Jiading District – outside of Shanghai – and our sweet little hotel.  Having time to leisurely explore the area and appreciate the sights I’ve been especially taken with the abundance of parks and green space.

Confucian TempleWe saw the Confucian Temple of Jiading also known as the China Imperial Examination System Museum.  This is where philosophers spent much time studying and taking the exams to become scholars.  It was a high distinction to pass these tests.

Confucian Temple

On the other side of the park from the Temple was the Huilongtan Park.  A peaceful area with families, walking trails, a tea room, some amusements and a small lake.

Huilongtan ParkHuilongtan Park Huilongtan Park Huilongtan ParkI really love these gentle oasis’ amongst the hustle and bustle of a busy city.


Looking Up – Jiading, Shanghai

Looking up to see Fahua Pagoda in the historical city of Jiading.

Originally constructed during the reign of Emperor Kaixi (1205-1207) during the Song Dynasty.  Seven Stories tall it has wooden stairs to the top which gives a birds-eye view of the city.

At night the lights make it even more special.

Jiading Fahua Pagoda

Life Around Jiading, Shanghai

No desert to be found anywhere near here as we are smack dab in the middle of a very large city.  In other words – We made it to Shanghai!  Despite a setback on our original travel day we did finally arrive, without further incident, on the next flight to China.  Shanghai, being on the southeastern coast of China, is hot and sticky but we are having a good time.

My son, Joshua, who lives here, met us at the airport and got us to our respective accommodations before we crashed for the evening. After all, jet lag does take a toll. For this trip we are staying north of Shanghai in the Jiading district.  It’s kind of like a suburb of Shanghai. My teenage boys – Patrick and Ben are staying at the apartment with Joshua and his Japanese wife, Ema, while my mom (Granny) and I are tucked away in a quaint little hotel in a historic part of the city.   We have been keeping it low key since we arrived – soaking up the local culture and becoming familiar with our surroundings.  It’s been lovely.

Jiading Villa Garden Hotel
Our boutique hotel
Jiading Villa Garden Hotel
The view from our room
Granny waving from the window in our room
Granny waving from the window in our room
Our private patio
Our private patio

Scooters are a way of life and it is amazing how creative people can get with transporting things and extra people.

These children were so cute – following me and practicing their English “hellos”.  I couldn’t resist taking their picture and they couldn’t resist hamming it up.

Shanghai McDonaldsMcDonalds



Adventures in Traveling

07 July 5 (3)

The sun is rising while I sit, looking out my hotel window, with a view of San Francisco Bay, watching as planes land and take-off.  It’s peaceful and I am relaxed and rested after a good night’s sleep. A far cry from the forbidden stress of a crazy travel day yesterday.

Ever heard that saying, “red in the morning, sailors take warning. Red at night, sailors delight.” For us yesterday it was fitting  except I would change ‘sailors’ to ‘travelers’.  When we left the house promptly at 6:00 am I commented on how intensely red the sky was and hoped it wasn’t a sign of the day to come.

It was.

Long story short – for the first leg of our travel we took two separate flights from Dallas to San Francisco.  Don’t ask – it’s just the way it was.  For me and my sixteen year old, Patrick, it was a breeze.  For my mom, aka Granny, and my fourteen year old, Ben, it wasn’t. While our flights were only 30 minutes apart for a variety of reasons we left right on time but they left 2 hours late.

Emma & PatrickIn the end, Patrick got to have a little adventure – taking an international flight all on his own while navigating security on this end and customs and immigration in China.  I can’t wait to hear the details when we finally catch up.

I stayed behind for Granny and Ben and the adrenaline flowed as we attempted to get them off quickly, claim their bags, run from the domestic terminal to the international and get bags rechecked for our next flight.

No such luck and we had to rebook to try again today.

While the day brought it’s fair share of stress we encountered a multitude of angels.  San Francisco peeps rock and we have met several wonderful people who did what they could to help us. It made the stress of the situation a little more bearable.

Ben and Teresa

Today is a new day and it will be a good one.  And, hopefully the next time I write it will be from our final destination in China!

安全旅行 和这一伟大的日子 safe travels and make it a great day in Mandarin (I think.) 🙂

Feel The Burn

My gym has started putting motivational phrases on the bags we use to ‘hit it hard’.  It was thought provoking for me as I did spend time reflecting on why I began to exercise regularly.

06 June 28 Title

Originally, my motivation was simple. It wasn’t about losing weight or getting into shape.  I just could not run for 30-60 seconds without becoming completely winded.  And so, after setting a goal to run a mile without stopping, I began to look  at IPhone apps.  I found a couch-5K program and the rest, as they say, is history.

I mastered the mile.  Then, the first time I ran two miles – without stopping – I was in our neighborhood park. I scared the moms with their young children as I fist-bumped, high-fived and woohooed in mid-air.  Three months later I participated in my first official 5K race.

Lovejoy 5K

The best by-product of figuring out how to run? Dropping 25 pounds.  At that point it did become more about getting into shape and I wondered, “could I lose 50 lbs by my 50th birthday?”

Although I didn’t hit the 50 pound mark by birthday time, I got close.  An invitation to try a class at Title Boxing Club was the next step in toning up.  The trainers and the workouts helped me to reach my goal. And three years later I am still hitting it hard and feeling the burn with the amazing power hour classes.