Friday, June 26, 2015

Road Trip Part II: Everything IS Big in Texas

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22, everything will be alright if...." Taylor Swift was still echoing in my head minutes after turning my music off. We were talking, commenting on the traffic, the drizzle and then BANG! 

Or was it BOOM?! 

The loud sound of metal crashing.

"What the....!"

I was on the front passenger seat of our SUV, with my Mom behind me, and Dad behind my husband who was driving. Noah was in his car seat between my parents. I looked to our left as I felt our vehicle jerk to the side. Mom screamed. I was mostly confused. I still couldn't process what was happening until I saw this red truck moving between us and the left guardrail, hitting our left side all the way through until BAM! The other driver had obviously lost control and swerved right, further hitting the front of our SUV. At some point, I saw and heard the left airbags deploy, and I could hear my Mom still screaming in shock. I looked back and saw she was in tears, asking if my Dad was okay. Dad's ear was bleeding, though only superficially. He said he couldn't hear on his left ear. AJ's left arm was a bit sore from the airbag. We were all in shock, disoriented. I couldn't figure out why the truck that hit our rear still kept moving and hitting us. It was all so fast and yet it felt like the longest 30 seconds or so.

What just happened?!

It didn't take long before AJ dialed 911. While on the phone, we saw an old man alight from the red truck that hit us, and watched him walk closer towards us. He was shaking, asking if we were alright. He mumbled something about his mother being stuck inside his truck. The 911 operator instructed all of us to stay where we were, flash our hazards and that help was on its way. I'm certain the operator said a lot more but honestly, I was too much in survival mode at the time that I really don't remember all the details of what was said. I was mostly concerned with making sure everyone was okay and figuring out if I was still REALLY alive. (To be honest, I still wonder now if this is all real and that I really made it out of there alive, or if I'm like Tom Cruise in the movie Vanilla Sky).

We were 42 miles northeast of Dallas, travelling towards Benton, Arkansas where we were booked at a hotel to spend the night. One more day and we were back home from our vacation in Las Vegas, our almost two-week cross-country drive. Everything had been fun and amazing up until that point when things just turned plain scary. 

Who would've thought? We were doing everything right. AJ was awake. I was awake making sure he was awake. Traffic wasn't even fast. We were on our lane. We always signal when we change lanes and always do it carefully. But not everyone is the same, right? We still don't know what caused the other driver to hit us. He might have been distracted. He might have fallen asleep. But the logical conclusion is that he clearly did not anticipate that traffic had slowed down in front of him and he just kept going. We're just thankful that it appeared like he had done his best to not hit us head on. Our guess is that he hit the left guardrail first to try not to hit our vehicle, but then he probably ricocheted and ended up hitting our left rear wheel area and then slid all the way to our left side, inserting his truck between us and the left guardrail. Finally he swerved to our front, towards our right, until his vehicle stopped. 

It was a big accident that stopped the interstate for a while. It was bad. And traumatic for all of us. But in the grand scheme of things, we are still grateful and believe that angels watched over us and protected us. It definitely could have been worse...much worse.

What if we were hit directly on the back? The force would have pushed us towards the semi-truck that was right in front of us in traffic. 

What if, instead of hitting the left rear wheel which is a solid part of the vehicle, the other driver had hit the left passenger door which is more vulnerable and not as solid as the wheel? My Dad's injury would have been far worse, far more serious. All of us might have had some injuries too, including my 8-year old. I refuse to even think about it.

Point of impact

Damaged front

Damaged right front corner

Trauma and paranoia aside, this experience highlighted a number of lessons and realizations for me. 

First of all, please, please, please...Wear your seat belt, even when you're seated in the back. All the police officers, EMTs, nurses and doctors asked us that question and were all relieved to hear that all of us were wearing ours. I'm sure it would've been a different story if one or some of us were not securely belted in the vehicle.

Second, I still can't explain why I remained so oddly calm while it was all happening. I remember hearing a crashing metal sound and then the airbag popping and everything else that happened around me. But I also remember just simply looking and knowing deep down that we were going to be alright. I don't know how or why I thought this but the thought definitely kept me calm. Divine intervention? Perhaps. Who knows?

Third, I know it's cliche but life can really change in an instant. You always say it will never happen to you, until it does and you're shaken to the core. These experiences really make one focus on the good and the real things that matter. I believe that is Love. It's the people we truly love, the relationships we genuinely treasure. Everything else is 'stuff', background noise, replaceable. It's a shame that it takes crises for this realization to be brought to the fore. But as Maya Angelou always preached, "When you know better, you do better."

Before I end this post, I'd like to share that though the accident was truly unfortunate, I believe we were still fortunate and blessed to have met such caring and supportive Texans. Officer Daniel looked after us and made sure we received the help we needed. The hospital staff who cared for us at Hunt Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Texas, specifically nurse Brandi and William, are two of the most amazing strangers I've ever met. They were willing to give us a ride to the closest hotel and went above and beyond their professional responsibilities. I will forever remember their kindness and thank them from the depths of my being. May they always be blessed with earthly angels just as we've been blessed with them.

Thank you everyone for your thoughts and stay safe!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Road Trip Part 1: What Happens in Vegas and Beyond

After my two-week hiatus, here I am doing my best to catch up. I've realized that having a social media-based type of work brings with it a different kind of pressure. Nothing stops or waits for you. No one else can really take over your workload. But that's how it is with every vacation, right? You have fun, be in the moment, and just deal with 'reality' post-vacation. 

As with anything, there is the good, the bad, and the scary ugly in our case. For now, let's treat this post as part one, where I'll share with you the fun highlights of our trip.

Our family went on a (semi) cross country trip. From TN, we drove all the way to Las Vegas, NV, stopping by (1) Oklahoma City, OK and (2) Albaquerque, NM on the way there. On the way back, from Las Vegas we stopped at (1) Albaquerque, NM; (2) Abilene, TX; and (3) Benton, AK before finally reaching home. The whole trip took 12 days, 7 of which were spent in Las Vegas.

Here are some highlights and I hope you enjoy!

I did my best to capture photos whenever we crossed state lines. I guess I was too distracted and excited by the time we reached Nevada that I completely forgot to grab my camera. 

Weather got a bit scary, ESPECIALLY during our drive back. We got stormy weather in Texas and at some point, visibility was severely affected and I was holding my breath as I looked around to make sure there were no funnel clouds forming around us.....whew!

Taking my parents and Noah to see the Grand Canyon was really fun. The last time AJ and I were here was in 2005 and Noah always wondered why he wasn't in the pictures displayed at home. I guess it's time to update them...

Las Vegas is ALWAYS fun for us! AJ was able to get us front row seats to a Blue Man group show and it was a blast! The theme was science and technology but I'd be happy to just call it a light and sound party! Noah enjoyed it so much and I'm sure it was even made more memorable by the fact that he was chosen by one of the blue men to receive an artwork made during the show. Paint was spat out from one of the cast member's mouth as he spun a canvas in his hand. It was amazing! Noah is so proud and so attached to the painting that I can't even bribe him with anything to surrender the canvas to me. Boo!

A few other Vegas highlights were----

...watching the light show at the Bellagio

Me smiling a bit too much ;-)

...AJ and I making it to Rao's since eating at the original New York location is humanly impossible. And yes, the food was phenomenal. You know how they're known for their meatballs and I was thinking it's probably overrated?? Well, they are NOT. Our meal from start to finish was impressive. The mussels were perfectly cooked. The Pasta Bolognese was well-seasoned. The Ossobuco with risotto was tender and velvety. And the meatballs were ethereal! We were so stuffed that we had to skip dessert. Now that's definitely reason enough to go back!

Lovely date night with my darling my parents and Noah the Fremont Street experience. Actually, this wasn't so kid-friendly given that there were half-naked women walking around. I kind of regret taking my son there but...oh well...lesson learnt.

Outside of Las Vegas, we were able to visit the Hoover Dam....

...the Meteor Crater in the Arizona desert...

...and the UFO Museum in Roswell, NM. Unfortunately, I did not spot any real UFOs while driving through the different states. 

It was a fun and memorable family time UNTIL our drive back home. I'll share with you more details in Part Two next time. Let's keep this post lighthearted and end it on a positive note! 

I hope everyone is having a great summer break! To those who have missed my online presence, THANK YOU for your patience and your thoughts and for welcoming me back! I'll see you around! 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

When Love Ages

A friend and former co-worker recently posted on Facebook an old photo of me and and my husband. It was taken less than three months prior to my giving birth to Noah in 2007, when some of my coworkers decided to throw me a baby shower. It was to be my first baby, and it was my first job here in this country so I thought the gesture was really sweet and I'll always be grateful for it. 

I've been staring at this picture for days now and I can't help but feel like it came from a lifetime ago. And it's not just because I weighed less then and looked much younger. No, I won't go there lest my friend (and the photographer herself!) Anne ends up lecturing me on loving myself more and to stop body shaming myself! 

It's really because when I look at these two people in the photo, I'm reminded of the simple times. He had an office job and so did I. We would see each other at the beginning and end of each work day, eat dinner together, watch shows at night before falling asleep and on and on it went. With the sensitive pregnancy and the hard work we put in just to conceive, I felt that my husband took such good care of me, like I was fragile and needed to be spoiled. I couldn't be stressed out, shouldn't be angered, or made to feel sad and depressed. I felt especially adored.

And then I gave birth and nothing was ever the same. I decided to quit my office job to take care of our son full time. The amount of stress became unquantifiable, the depression undeniable. Love and adoration were no longer just shared between the two of us. It had to be spread out to include our wonderful son. Worries and paranoia became permanent residents in my brain as I became consumed with my role as mama bear. And he, as papa bear, found new priorities, greater responsibilities and demands on his time. New stresses came as we faced the economic recession, threats of job loss, and then a new job and a new home in a different state, 500 miles away from what he's known most of his life. Far from his family and friends, it was the first time in our marriage when both of us found ourselves with a new sense of isolation and the need to reconstruct our reality as a couple and family. 

The joys are there for sure, though perpetually balanced by some heaviness, doubts, anger, insecurities. More than ever, we found ourselves as two beings with quite disparate axes, yet willing ourselves to stay on orbit as we are pulled and grounded repeatedly by an undeniable force.

Love. This must be lovethis force that is built by us and yet also bigger, more powerful than just our consciousness combined. It creates us and yet demands our nurturance. We know of its endurance, and yet also cannot deny its fragility. 

Love is when you surrender to what will make your beloved truly whole and happy, knowing that this act of death on your part only breathes more life into what truly matters and what is lasting. It is to feel a vulnerability so deep that fear takes over every inch of your essence. And this is why you can't fully love unless you have faithnot that your beloved will make you happy or give you what you desire, but faith that your mere experience of true love, without expectation, ALWAYS brings gifts to those it touches. When you learn how to truly love, your deeper understanding of it makes you recognize more of it around you as it fills you. When you learn how to truly love, you automatically feel the Divine's presence in your being. 

The younger version of us in that photo may represent a simpler, more romantic version of our bond. But I won't trade the complexity we have now for that past life. We have fought more since. Cried more. Screamed more. Hurt more. But we've also talked more. Opened up more. Experienced a greater level of authentic intimacy. We remain imperfect, as is our marriage. But Love
with all its gifts of devotion, courage, compassionremains our bright and persistent star that keeps us in orbit. It is that force that always reminds me that there are no other arms I'd rather have draped on my shoulders, holding me close, than his, my AJ's.