A Sassy, a Nova, and the circle of life

Sassy is her name. She’s a white Volvo. New enough to have the nerve to have power windows and a Blaupunkt stereo, but certainly vintage enough to have window motors that have gone on strike and an aircon system that recently quit in Malaysia’s unrelenting heat. And we’re riding in Sassy. The wind is whipping in through one of the 3 operable windows while the aircon blows tepid air.  3 kids under the age of six occupy the back seat in an array of forward and rear-facing seats. We’re hollering and laughing as we speed down KL’s highways and byways. We’re laughing because the wind is currently flinging our hair into innumerable configurations and hollering because the howl of the wind is deafening.

Heidi asked before I even boarded the vintage express, “Are you sure you want to ride in Sassy? The aircon has quit.” I assured her it would be my pleasure. Heidi, this is the point where I tell you why.

The location is Añasco, Puerto Rico circa 1987. My parents (like Danny, Heidi’s hubby) have never believed in new cars. If a car isn’t at least 10 years old it hasn’t started to live, so why waste the money? Their belief system was taken a bit to the extreme when the 1970 Chevy Nova became their car of choice. We never named her, oddly enough (I don’t think people were as attached to their things back then), but if I were to give her a name today it would be something super unoriginal like the Orange Machine, or Sunkist. Yes, she was very orange. An oft repeated urban myth of marketing failure, the Chevy Nova is rumored to not have sold well in Latin countries like Mexico and Venezuela because “no va” means “doesn’t go.” I was surprised to discover that this urban myth is not true and explains why so many Novas circulated Puerto Rico at this time. But I digress.

It was almost cliché  that she had a vinyl, perforated, tan interior that grafted itself to any exposed skin in Puerto Rico’s humid, sun pelting heat. She had no aircon, unless of you course you wanted to count the rusted out floorboards, long ago stripped of carpeting, that bore holes the size of baseballs and generated some air flow. Those holes were legendary. Back when littering wasn’t uncool, that’s where we would dispose our bits of trash and whip our heads around to see it become a dot on  the asphalt horizon. It also served us well when a friend fell sick shortly after a Ruben DJ concert. He had to vomit so my mom instructed him to vomit in one of the holes. Said holes were also responsible for us having to raise our feet when crossing over one of Puerto Rico’s many flooded bridges during the rainy season. “Kids, pick up your feet,” was said many, many times in the Nova.

She was a two door which meant the only way the people in the back were going to be able to breathe oxygen was to scoot all the way forward in their seat and squeeze their head between the headrest of the front seat and the narrowed triangle end of the front window. Obviously, that left absolutely no chance one would be wearing a seat belt while riding in the back. Oh yeah, that’s right, it didn’t have seat belts ! I think they were optional that year of the Nova. To be fair my dad installed some he rescued from a junk yard after we were pulled over by a well-meaning police officer who couldn’t believe that people still allowed their kids to ride around unbelted.

There was always a rag kept in the car for when it rained. The windshield leaked like a sieve and fogged up to blinding, so it was always someone’s task to be the interior windshield wiper.

That car, nonetheless, was famous. I was never embarrassed by that car because my mom used it to take us EVERYWHERE – Us AND all of our friends. She never used it’s hoopty status as an excuse to say we couldn’t go somewhere because it was raining or too hot. Mind you, she was the lone adult who schlepped 6 kids to a Ruben DJ concert (“La Escuela” and “El Alcohol” were his top hits); something most other parents weren’t even remotely interested in doing (Yes, that’s 3 people in the front and 4 in the back).Till this day if you ask anyone that knew the Orange Machine you will see their eyes light up and a trip down memory lane will follow. A trip filled with a ton of heartfelt laughter.

Fast forward to modern day and I find myself doing market research on luxury mini vans. Seven seaters just won’t do. I think I need 9 seats plus. And I think to myself how far I’ve come. From the Nova to now. But then I wonder, how do I give my kids those same kind of memories? The memories that force you to face your modern day luxuries and be ever thankful for them.  How do I help them to understand that nice things aren’t a right? That they are a privilege that SOMETIMES accompany hard work and dedication. And I think that maybe like Heidi and Danny I should drive around a Sassy. A car that when they do upgrade will cause their kids to appreciate the cool breeze of aircon and the wonder of functioning power windows. There may be less laughter, though, because who laughs at a perfectly operational car?

I must admit that It’s pretty poetic the current car I drive, though. What’s it called? Wait for it…A Toyota “Innova.” Phonetically in Spanish it means, “And, it doesn’t go!” And the circle of life continues.

 

 

Daiso A.K.A. The greatest shop in the world

This post is dedicated to my friend Heidi who upon leaving Daiso one day texted me, “Tell me you’re doing a Daiso post on your blog?’ Heidi, this one is for you!

Daiso. Oh Daiso. I’ve been singing your praises since the first day I spent 5RM in your shop. Ha! As if i’ve ever left my happiest place on earth with only purchasing one thing. What’s Daiso you ask? Oh, it’s like a dollar store BUT 100% BETTER!

Daiso is a Japanese one price shop that I (and Heidi) refer to as simply the “Japanese Solutions Store.” Depending on what currency you are utilizing the price of everything in the store is 5RM or about $1.55. For now, as there is a black hole of crafting shops in KL, this is the place where I get crafting supplies for school, darning needles for quilting projects, supplies to wrap gifts, plastic storage, etc. etc. etc. My most recent fab purchase was microfiber workout-sized towels. $1.55 for a microfiber workout towel? I would say that’s quite a bargain!

And as much as we ladies love it, it’s pretty safe to say nearly every guy I know hates it! Steve loathes Daiso. As a financier he’s quick to point out their brilliant business model, that I choose to ignore. Not everything in Daiso is really worth 5RM. He says it’s like Costco to Americans. You go in to buy detergent but come out with an electric dog washer. Who cares if you don’t own a dog. You may some day! That being said, you know what he loathes more? When I show up with a truly fantastic Daiso find that makes him go, “Well, how did we every get on without this brilliant little life solution?” Seriously, he hates it.

Enough with words. Let me show you the place where the exacting Japanese affinity for order and quality meets cheap!

I grin ear to ear every time I see this sign!

I grin ear to ear every time I see this sign!

It's the presentation that matters.

It’s the presentation that matters.

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What kind do you prefer? Chopsticks galore!

What kind do you prefer? Chopsticks galore!

The world's tiniest sauce bottles! A must for any bento box.

The world’s tiniest sauce bottles! A must for any bento box.

As well as divider papers. Can't have those bento box items touching and sticking now can we?

As well as divider papers. Can’t have those bento box items touching and sticking, now can we?

How many kinds of tea strainers could you possibly need. Many. I repeat. Many!

How many kinds of tea strainers could you possibly need. Many. I repeat. Many!

Just in case you're opening your own shop and need some cheap signage.

Just in case you’re opening your own restaurant shop and need some cheap signage.

Origami for days

Origami for days

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Pre-cut felt. I think I have every color.

Pre-cut felt. I think I have every color.

5RM yarn bundles

5RM yarn bundles

No self-respecting Japanese shop would lack a Hello Kitty section

No self-respecting Japanese shop would lack a Hello Kitty section

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How would you like your gift wrapped?

How would you like your gift wrapped?

Where were you when I was using sharpies and rulers on a white board to track results?

Where were you when I was using sharpies and rulers on a white board to track results?

This section of teeny tiny zip lock bags in all sizes paralyzes me. I think I need one of each.

This section of teeny tiny zip lock bags in all sizes paralyzes me. I think I need one of each.

 

When you're feeling like having a double eyelid day.

When you’re feeling like having a double eyelid day.

And of course you've got options!

And of course you’ve got options!

Pump bottles. Again, spoilt for choice!

Pump bottles. Again, spoilt for choice!

And here some people used balled up tissues!

And here some people used balled up tissues!

Oh, hello. You're new. A DIY parent could certainly make their own block set with these bad boys!

Oh, hello. You’re new. A DIY parent could certainly make their own block set with these bad boys!

Have you seen cuter zip ties?

Have you seen cuter zip ties?

I'm starting to think the Japanese sweat a lot. Lucky for those of us who live and work in SouthEast Asia.

I’m starting to think the Japanese sweat a lot. Lucky for those of us who live and work in SouthEast Asia.

These elephant watering cans have brought our boys hours of entertainment at the pool. Obviously I already own them.

These elephant watering cans have brought our boys hours of entertainment at the pool. Obviously I already own them.

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When those pesky little furniture pads just won't cut it.

When those pesky little furniture pads just won’t cut it.

For when the formal table leg chair covers are just overkill. Enter the casual collection.

For when the formal table leg chair covers are just overkill. Enter the casual collection.

Hooks are so handy when organizing kids closets and play areas! And of course they come in every size imaginable.

Hooks are so handy when organizing kids closets and play areas! And of course they come in every size imaginable.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is simply melamine. So Daiso of course offers them in every size imaginable. For when just a tiny square will do.

Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is simply melamine. So Daiso of course offers them in every size imaginable. For when just a tiny square will do.

I mean seriously. How else can you deep clean a window frame during Spring cleaning?

I mean seriously. How else can you deep clean a window frame during Spring cleaning?

Sticky rolls. A size roll for every sized job!

Sticky rolls. A size roll for every sized job!

Cotton buds. Who needs this much variety?

Cotton buds. Who needs this much variety?

Them lashes. Gotta get them 5RM falsies!

Them lashes. Gotta get them 5RM falsies!

This is a girl rising…

I am struggling. No! I am BATTLING. Battling to find my way. Find my way into the impoverished communities that are drawing my heart. Drawing my heart to see, to REALLY see who they are. See who they are so that I may understand how to best serve them and how to best stand WITH them. With them. Not apart from them.

As I habitually (you can say out of self-preservation) draw my circle of life and existence to exclude the suffering, I find that circle lacking. Lacking because my faith is nothing without works. Works to clothe the naked. Works to feed the poor. Works to help the sick. The orphans. The widowed. My holy scriptures demand that I do them. Not because my works will be what saves me, but because works and good deeds are a natural outpouring of someone who has been saved. Saved when they were clearly undeserving. Saved by grace. No one fights more to save others than those who themselves have been saved. You can say they have been freed. Freed from poverty, from slavery, from the drudgery of a life without purpose.

I am struggling because I want to draw that circle. I want my circle to be free of pain, of illness, of suffering. Can I be so cavalier to draw said circle now because I and mine are currently not ill, not poor, not suffering? And I wonder. Wonder what will that do to my children. If I craft this world for them that never exposes them? It’s not a real circle is it? Pain and suffering will come no matter how hard we try so to attempt to exclude it from our lives, and no one carries the burden more nimbly than those already carrying it on a daily basis. Can we not learn from them? We’re so convinced there is so much they must learn from us.

I was on the verge of surrender. Trying to make pathways into a community where I didn’t speak the language. Charged with communicating complex ideas without my most sharpened of tools – My words. I confessed to my fellow volunteers that I didn’t see how I could make a real difference being mute. Relying on others to translate my heart’s message. My heart’s burden for my youth. Youth who simply want a breath of the winds of change. Youth with empty tummies and eyes full of injustices. But all along God has been speaking to me. I hear Him saying. Show up and shut up. SHOW UP. I’ve always had a way with words but amongst my youth I am silent. Only able to communicate with my touch. With my presence. Understanding now there must be something I am to learn from them.

Only God knows what the natural extension of this burden on my heart will produce. This struggle that addles my mind day in and day out and never leaves me quite alone. For now, though, He is saying. Don’t start then quit. Quitting is no longer who you are. COMMIT, PERSIST and keep SHOWING UP.

See below for a video on compassion and kinship that has renewed my fervor for working with those on the margins.

 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17