Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Angel Has Gone Home

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog from early on may remember the angel I met on the Washington DC Metro. I learned today that Franklin Fung Chow recently passed away. I had been receiving his newsletter since we met three years ago and stopped receiving it about six months ago, so I guess that’s when his battle with leukemia really started taking its toll on him. The world has lost an angel. I still keep those two little red envelopes he gave my girls in a little pouch in my purse that goes with me everywhere. Below, I’ve reposted the original story I wrote about him. As I reread it just now, I had tears running down my face.  You are with God now, Franklin, an angel gone back to Heaven. Thanking you for blessing my life.

Dear Mr. Fung Chow,

My family and I came upon you in a Washington, D.C. Metro stop on Sunday afternoon, October 12. We were a bedraggled family of four—a dad grumpy from having to lug a double stroller up and down the Metro’s escalator stairs, two little redheads cranky from no naps and lots of activities in the big city, and a mom tired and run down from trying to keep everyone together, sane, fed and happy near the end of a long day of sight-seeing. 

We were changing train lines and had to maneuver through three different sets of escalators when we met you. My husband had just tossed the stroller up against the wall near where you were standing, and I looked at you with apologetic eyes as I picked the stroller up and leaned it against the wall. You smiled sweetly at me. You asked me what brought us to the city, and when I told you about my sister’s wedding the previous day, you said, “Oh, I bet she looked so beautiful. And how did you two meet?”

As I started telling you how my husband and I met, my daughters came over to my side. It was then that you pulled two little envelopes out of your jacket pocket and gave one to each of my girls. I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant at first, a complete stranger in the Metro giving something to my children, but after a moment’s hesitation, I saw the little light shining in your eyes. My girls looked at the beautiful little red envelopes with Asian characters on them, and not knowing what they were, looked at me in confusion. When you suggested they open them, they looked at me for guidance, and I told them it was okay. Of course, all they paid attention to was the dollar bill you had slipped inside each one, but I saw the other card in there as well and briefly read the side that included your name, address, email and position: “Retired Federal Civil Servant.”

fung chow-livvie011

Our train was approaching the station, so we didn’t really have time to say much more than “Thank You” as we gathered up our stroller and children and boarded the train. I watched you for a moment as you entered the train at the rear of our car. As soon as you boarded, you started cheerfully talking to the people around you. I tried to catch snippets of your conversation but couldn’t hear over the noise of the train. But I could see you, a big smile on your face as you brought smiles to the faces of everyone around you. Best I could tell, you got off at the next stop, disappearing like an angel, and it was then that I took the time to read what you had given us. It was a chart of all the Chinese New Years complete with the year, date of the New Year, the animal representing it, and the characteristics of those born in that year. Through it, I learned that I was born in the year of the Snake and am “wise, passionate, determined and attractive”; that my husband was born in the year of the Dog and is “dependable, protective, tender, private and eccentric”; and lastly, that my daughters were born in the year of the Sheep and will grow up to be “sensitive, have success in the arts, aesthetic, and charitable”. I marveled at the similarities to our personalities.

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When we got back to my sister’s apartment, my girls drew pictures for you to thank you for your kindness. I'm mailing those to you today along with this letter. I’ve kept the cards you gave us, along with these pictures, in a little zippered pouch in my purse ever since you gave them to us. I even convinced my girls to let me keep the dollar bills in there so we could save everything as a reminder of the blessing we received from you that day. I’m not sure why you chose us. Maybe it was the frustration and tiredness you saw on our faces; maybe you were just waiting for a family with two small children to come by; or maybe you truly were an angel, sent to remind us that no matter the troubles that may come our way, someone is always watching over us, and that a simple gift of friendly kindness can make a huge impression on someone else’s life, as you have on mine.

I think of you often, dear sir, and whenever I’m having a bad day, I pull those beautiful little red envelopes out of their pouch in my purse and read them again. I’ll save them to give to my children when they are old enough to truly appreciate the gesture. And I’ll tell them this story about the angel we met on the Metro in Washington, D.C. when they were five years old. Thank you, Mr. Franklin Fung Chow, for you truly are a blessing, and I’m quite certain there were gossamer wings underneath your jacket. I wish you the merriest of Christmas holidays and many blessings for the New Year to come.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Great Computer Saga of Thanksgiving 2011

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For those of you in the States, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. For me, I’m thankful for a lot of things, like my family, health and roof over my head, but this year, as crazy as it sounds, I’m most thankful for the two pictures in this post. Why you ask? Well let me tell you a little story called the Great Computer Saga of Thanksgiving 2011.

Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, my computer crashed. Again. This was the third time in about five months. The first time, I took it into one of our IT techs on campus, and once I got it there, of course, it worked fine.  Daunie ran some diagnostics and copied some files for me. He said the next time it does that to just unplug it and let it sit for a day or two. So the second time it crashed in the same fashion (doing nothing but going “beep beep” when I tried to power it up), I unplugged and let it sit for a day. Magically fixed. Fired right up a day later. Well, the third time I wasn’t so lucky. Given that it was the third time, Benny said, “It’s Black Friday. Just go buy yourself a new computer.”

So after pursuing the sale ads, I first headed to Sam’s, but when I got there I did not see the system I saw in the paper. I came back home and did some research, talked to a computer geek friend about recommended systems, and then headed to Best Buy. I purchased an HP with 8GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive. Mack Daddy compared to the seven-year-old system I had! I also went ahead and got a new monitor to go along with it. 

So fast forward to two hours later and me trying to set up this computer. Now mind you, I’m no super tech, but I know how to set up a computer. So when my new monitor would not talk to my new hard drive, I tried everything I knew to do, to no avail, and then called the HP tech support line.  I proceeded the tell the HP tech what my issue was, and after she took all my personal information she could possibly ask for short of my social security number and name of my first born child, she proceeded to walk me through a series of steps to diagnose the problem. This included (hold on, this is a long list): hooking the blue VGA cable and the white DVI cable from my new monitor to various points on my new tower; hooking the new VGA cable from my old monitor to my new tower; and hooking the VGA cable from my new monitor to my laptop (this was after she suggested hooking the new monitor to my old computer…which had, um, crashed…which is why I was having this conversation to begin with).

When none of that worked, she said, “Well, now I’m going to need you to get a screw driver and take the back cover off of your tower.” Me: “Um, doesn’t that void the warranty?” Her: “Oh, no! Not since I’m telling you to do it!” Me: “Um, since I just bought this thing three hours ago (by this time we had been on the phone for an hour), wouldn’t it make more sense for me to just take it back to Best Buy?” Her: “Um, hold on, let me ask about that……..[tick tock, tick tock]….okay, yes, if you’d prefer to do that and have the receipt, you can do that.” Me: “Well, since I’ve just spent an hour on the phone with you, can you email me stating that we’ve just gone through this so that I can take that to Best Buy as well?” Her: “Well, why don’t we just keep trying?” Me: “Can I please speak to a manager?” Her: “Now why would you want to do that?” Me: “Why can you not email me documentation of this conversation?” Her: “Can you give me the number to Best Buy and I’ll call them?” Me: “I would need a working computer to do that.” Her: “The number should be on your receipt.” 

flying liv

So completely worn out, I go downstairs to find my receipt to give this totally unhelpful chick the number. She calls and gets the Best Buy Geek Squad on the line. They proceed to have a conversation I am not privy to, and then finally connect me in. She just wanted to make sure I knew Best Buy’s return policy. Best Buy dude: “If this was a Black Friday sale item, we may not have a replacement system in the store.” Me: “This was not a sale item.” Best Buy dude, stalling: “Well you can bring it back in.” Me: “Will you be there? What is your name?” Best Buy dude: “Alfred, and yes, I’ll be here until close.” The totally unhelpful HP online tech: “Will you please stay on the line so that we can finish processing this call?” Me: “Oh sure, I will.” HP tech: “Hold please.” Me: Click.

And so…then I packed up the entire system and went back to Best Buy. I found Alfred, and he said he just wanted to confirm that the HP tech had been giving me the correct information. He proceeded to show me how to correctly hook the monitor to the tower. Do you think it resembled any of the things the HP tech had me do? Nope. Not a one. Alfred: “Did the HP tech ever ask you what type of monitor you had?” Me: “No, she just asked me the serial number on the tower.” He just kind of shook his head and asked me if I still wanted to return it now that he had told me how to do it correctly. I was so incredibly frustrated by that point that I said no; I just wanted to return the whole freakin’ shebang. He continued to shake his head and said he didn’t blame me. I felt like I had just been the subject of an episode of Candid Camera. 

But oh, dear friends, the story does not end there! So on Saturday, I went back to Sam’s. After looking around a bit more, I got a Dell with the same power configuration, plus a wireless keyboard and mouse, plus a 24” monitor…all for the same price of the tower and wired keyboard and mouse without the monitor at Best Buy. I got home and hooked that one up. Monitor was beautiful. But….the wireless internet would not connect to my Wi-Fi. I tried everything I could think of. I reset my modem. I reset my router. I unplugged it all and plugged it back in…three times. I moved it to another room, much closer to the computer. Nothing. This was Saturday night and again Sunday morning. With tears of frustration running down my face, I gave up Sunday morning and went for a run. As I was walking out the door, Benny said he was headed up to give it a shot.

When I got back, he hadn’t gotten it working, but he decided it was the router and had gone online to find recommended compatible routers for my new system. So off I headed back to Best Buy with my list of recommended routers. First I went to the Geek Squad counter. Totally unhelpful. See, here was the thing that was unexplainable: my five year old laptop downstairs on the ground floor of my house in my studio picked up my wireless router signal on the third floor of my house just fine, four bars out of five. Yet my Mack Daddy new desktop, sitting 20 feet from the router on the same floor, only registered one measly little bar, not enough to get online. This made no sense to me and pointed to a problem with the tower, not my router. But no, the Geek Squad guy just said to move computer to another location in my house. Gee thanks. I wandered over to look at routers just for the heck of it and had a conversation with Richard in the blue Best Buy shirt. I proceeded to tell Richard the Great Computer Saga of Thanksgiving 2011.

Richard listened patiently. Richard said it might be your router, but it might not. Richard: “Is it a laptop or a desktop?”  Desktop, I told him…again.  Apparently he tuned out somewhere in the middle of the saga (as you may well have). Richard: “Oh, a desktop, eh? Does it have an antenna?” Me: “An antenna? What would that look like and where would it go?” We walked over to the desktops and he showed me what an antenna looked like and where it would go. “Hallelujah!” I heard the angels sing. Me: “I saw two little funky black things like that in the box, but they were not mentioned anywhere in the set up instructions!” Richard: “Hook them up and that should solve your problem.” Me: “Richard, I love you! You have been the most helpful person I’ve talked to in three days! You deserve a big smackin’ raise!” Richard: “Glad I could help, ma’am. You have a nice day now.” 

So back to these two pictures. And a big thanks to my wonderful IT friend on campus. Remember waaaaaay back in this story when I told you my computer first crashed and that IT friend copied a few files for me? Well, I remembered those CDs. And when I looked at them, I saw that he hadn’t just copied a few files; he had copied my entire desktop and all my picture and document files. And that’s where I found these two wonderful pictures. Daunie, I love you! What I’d done since Daunie copied those files, I found either on my external drive or still in my camera. All I’ve lost are my jewelry pics I uploaded last Wednesday. And that, my friends, is the Great Computer Saga of Thanksgiving 2011.  If you've made it this far, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope I at least made you laugh. And, oh, remember to ask for Richard at Best Buy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hoot! Hoot!

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Happy Thursday! Since I haven't had time to photograph any of my own artwork lately, I thought I'd share another note from my girlies (a scanner is a wonderful thing). Olivia had left this for me on the door when I got home this past Tuesday night. She loves owls, loves drawing owls, and has at least five owl t-shirts. 

Now, this has probably come from some subliminal owl promotion from her Mama. I'm a Chi Omega (no, the sorority/fraternity experience does not end when you graduate from college), and our mascot is an owl. I have a whole collection of owls, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional, and am currently sporting the latest addition to my collection on my arm: a fun little cuff bracelet I found at the cute little shop where I met a friend for lunch today. This morning, Olivia sent me to work with not only this drawing, but also a larger drawing that she did inside the bottom of a bottled-water crate this morning over breakfast. That, I'm afraid, I cannot fit on my scanner! However, I can tell you that is it a drawing of a tree with four owls, each colored the favorite color of the members of our family: purple for Olivia, blue for Sarah, crimson for Benny (Alabama fan), and green for me. I think my preference for green has something to do with the fact that Benny tells me that my eyes are like two pools of green algae, and I choose to take that as a compliment.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Love Notes

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I've had a very, very busy few weeks (as evidenced by my lack of blogging!). I've been working late at least two-three nights a week lately and have had just a bit too much on my plate. When I got home late Tuesday night after a 13-hour day, I found this note taped to the front door, and it melted my heart. 

My girls leave notes on the door for me quite often, and I realized that's because I get home late quite often. Tuesday night when I opened the door, I found the girls asleep in the bed with Benny. When I woke them up to take them up to their room, they said, "We were waiting for you, Mama." :-)

November is a month of giving thanks. Today is Veterans' Day, a day to give thanks to those who've served in our military. I come from a military family on my mom's side. My granddaddy and his brothers served in WWII, and my mother's brother served in Vietnam. Benny's dad served in the Korean War. I'm thankful for the freedom our soldiers continue to fight for, and watching the news, I'm often reminded of just how lucky we are, economy in the tank or not. We are still so much better off than so many others across the world. 

I'm very thankful for this sweet family of mine. I know that even in times of 13 hour days, I am blessed, and I'll have a whole box of love notes to save for those rainy days when I really need a little reminder.

Friday, November 4, 2011

November Free Bling Friday!

November 2011 Free Bling

Time for my monthly Free Bling Friday giveaway! Random.org picked comment number 16 as the winner of my October Free Bling, so congratulations to Brenda from Canada!

For November, how about a little something to brighten up your holiday season? I've paired pretty green glass briolettes with lt. Colorado topaz Swarovski crystals and sparkling sterling silver.  To be eligible to win, simply visit either of my Etsy shops (here for jewelry and here for photography) and leave a comment in the comment box below with the link to your favorite piece along with a way to reach you and where you’re from by midnight Thursday, December 1. Want more entries? Tweet, blog or Facebook this giveaway and leave another comment with the link. The next winner will be drawn via random.org Friday, December 2 (my birthday!).

Don't want to miss a single Free Bling Friday? Click here to sign up for free weekly email updates or subscribe in the reader of your choice over there in the right column. And be sure to join my Facebook Fan page for specials. Thanks for stopping in! Giveaway open to US and Canadian residents only.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Treasury Shout Out: Artsy Gemini

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Thanks to Sandy of artsygemini for including Miss Violet at the Starting Line in this treasury (first row, first spot)! Love all this rusty stuff with a touch of teal. Great job putting this one together Sandy and thanks so much for including me! See the treasury with clickable links to all work here, and take a peek at Sandy's vintage goodies here.