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Sunday, May 22, 2011


Taiwanese fire truck
We had an exciting event on Saturday. I had just woken up from a nap when the alarm started going off in the hallway.  This happens A LOT and we never have any idea what's going on, but we always just take the stairs down to the lobby and try to look confused until they tell us to go back up.  Well, this time there was an actual voice that came over the loudspeaker as well, so we could tell it was probably not a false alarm.  One of the guys who works at the desk in the lobby is VERY gung-ho about everything.  Whenever we come downstairs he always says hello to us very loudly several times, no matter what he is doing.  Right when we came out of the stairs he ran past us in full sprint, carrying a fire extinguisher, yelling at the top of his lungs.  I love that guy.

This time there were also other people evacuating.  All of the workers were ushering everyone outside and a steady stream of people came our for probably 30 minutes or so.  Some of them were a little over dramatic, holding up their shirts over their mouths to block the no-existent smoke.  Every so often one of the workers would come out and give an update to the crowd.  We couldn't understand them of course, but luckily one bilingual friend of ours and a couple of our students live in the same building, so we'd just get the translation from them.  We walked around the side of the building to see where the fire was, but we couldn't see anything, so we also weren't that worried.  In fact, it was kind of fun seeing everyone who lives in our building.  Nice to mingle with your neighbors, ya know?  Also, our bilingual friend is also friends with one of our friends from church and it turned out that she'd just called our church friend to have her come over so their kids could play together.  So, we got to chat with them as well.  

It took a while, but eventually this tiny fire truck showed up and two guys (not wearing fire suits) leisurely made their way out of it.  After a little while longer, another bigger fire truck, then two more came through and then an ambulance.  They seemed a little more rushed and were wearing firemen gear, but still didn't seem to be too worried.  In the end, they let our side of the building back up (because the fire was on the other side) and when we came our a little later they'd let everyone else back up too.  We found out from our church friend today that apparently someone had left their stove burner on and there was just a bunch of smoke, but no fire.  Also, she said, the main problem was that they just couldn't get through the door, because the apartment doors in our building are pretty much fit for a bomb shelter.

On a side note, a little about emergency vehicle culture here in Taiwan.  Basically, people just don't really yield to them here.  I'm not sure why.  But, I mean, if they can at all continue driving, they will, even if it's impeding the progress of the emergency vehicle.   This video is a good example.

In fact, the other day I was watching some cop show on TV (there is NOTHING on, and it was in ENGLISH).  The cops had been following this car for a couple hours with their lights and sirens going and everything, but the car just wouldn't pull over.  They just wanted to tell them their break light was out, so they hesitated to take extreme measures, but finally some other police car blocked the road and they got them to pull over.  Turned out it was a group of Taiwanese tourists.  They saw the police car, but hadn't been doing anything illegal, so they just kept going.  I laughed so hard!  I can totally see that happening, because that's exactly how it works here.  Anyway, hooray for cultural differences.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Smallville Finale

This weekend, there was a very important occasion in Tom's life - the "Smallville" series finale.  I'm not a big fan of the show, mostly due to its bad acting and horrendous script.  But, while Tom somewhat agrees with me on the script, and hasn't watched it much lately because of it, the show has a lot of sentimental value for him.  So, by way of closure, I have encouraged him to make a guest appearance on my blog so that he can express his thoughts to the world.  So, without further ado, the one, the only, the amazing...Thomas David Armstrong!!!


It’s an honor to be a guest writer on Sheri’s blog. She works hard on it, and it’s important to her. I love to see the joy a new blog post or comment brings her. And speaking of vicarious joy, I’m here to pay tribute to perhaps the second or third greatest show of my generation. In preparation of the Series Finale, Sheri, despite vehemently disagreeing with me about the quality of the show, took full part in making the day as special as possible {Note to all wives reading this who want happy marriages, follow Sheri’s example}. We did two things to commemorate the auspicious occasion. 

First, I wore a plain blue shirt. Why? Because in over 200 episodes of Smallville, Clark either wore a plain red or blue shirt 85% of the time. Second, we bought some OJ. Why? Because in over 200 episodes of Smallville, Clark pulled out a pitcher of OJ and poured himself a glass 100% of the time he opened the fridge, though rarely ever drinking it.  And dangit, I wanted to pull OJ out of our fridge Saturday morning.  
In my devoted yet unbiased opinion, the Finale didn’t disappoint. Especially when you consider the last 2 1/2 seasons have been almost complete rubbish. I felt that the final episode encapsulated everything that made the show special. Those things being relationships and choices

Relationships: The show was built on fabulous relationships. First between Clark and his parents, which is somewhat of a television novelty. Quickly off the top of your head try and think of how many TV shows currently on feature a mother and father, who are happily married, and provide a moral center for their seed. I can think of – zero. Clark’s relationship with his mother and “now-deceased but still found a way back into the finale” father provided some of the most touching scenes in the show’s history. Whenever Clark had a problem, he went to his parents and received good, sound counsel – as life should be. There was a scene in the Finale that followed this pattern and gave me a good shot of tears…err….misty eyes. 

This relationship was contrasted beautifully by Lex’s relationship with his father, who pushed, manipulated, and ultimately gave Lex ample motivation to become the villain of the story. An easy 1,500 words could be devoted to this complex dichotomy between the Kent and Luthor families. 

The second set of relationships that was paramount to the show was Clark’s friends: Chole, Lana, Sam, and Lex (through seasons 1-5). In fact, one of the first lessons I learned from the show was that it was better to have 3-5 really close, “I can walk right up to your loft without knocking and be at home”- kind of friends, then 113 “facebook friends”. Again, more could be said about each of these relationships, especially Clark and Lana (the single greatest TV love connection that never panned out). Clark’s unrequited love for Lana drove 6 of the 10 seasons to stardom in my opinion.

 But the beauty about Clark and his close friends, is that he was ultimately left alone to deal with many of his “who am I going to become” issues….a position that I think we find ourselves in much of the time.

Choices: My dad always told me, life is about choices. And Smallville highlighted this fact both in the finale and over the course of the show. The best episodes to me were always the one’s that illustrated the complex choice Lex faced between choosing good and, for lack of a better phrase, choosing bad means to reach a good end. I think any follower of the show can own up to feeling sorry for Lex as his father worked him, as his mother left him, as nobody showed up to his birthday parties, and on and on. Sheri is always telling me to feel bad for evil people because we don’t really understand all the circumstances in their lives that lead them to do what they do. In that sense, Sheri should be a fan of the show and join me in the three week long marathon we are going to have in the future where we watch all ten seasons straight through! Seriously. 

For purposes of the finale, I was thrilled to see Michael Rosenbaum come back, a Newburgh, IN native, and like always his acting was pitch perfect. He’s a highly underrated actor with plenty of depth and range. The writers haven’t always given him the best lines to work with, but he’s always made the most of the hand he’s been given. 

Finally, the Finale did what the show’s always done best – inspire me to be compassionate and help others.  I can’t count how many times I finished an episode (usually after downing over a pint of ice cream and three-fourths of a pizza) and been filled with the desire to be a better man, to be like Clark, to help other people. That’s what Clark has always done, and what he’s always wanted to do. Again, how many television shows today even attempt at leaving you with that after-taste? For better or worse, Smallville has always fed and fueled my Savior complex. 

Ultimately, the Finale was epic. I loved it. To me the show was never about Superman. It was about a young man trying to find his way. Say what you will about Smallville’s reputation as a teenage melo-drama, filled with strange freaks and cliché lines about destiny, but ultimately it’s a show that shaped much of my personality and character at an age where we are more susceptible to being shaped by TV shows. Equally important is the fact that the characters and themes gave me hope when I had voids in my life. So thank you Sheri for giving me a forum to voice my love for Smallville. The show I love. Smallville, you would be missed if it weren’t for the fact that I can watch any episode at any time.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Need a Pet

For a while now I've been daydreaming about getting a pet.  It didn't make sense to get one while we were in Taiwan because it would be difficult or impossible to take it back to the US, but now that our return to the US is a bit more impending, my drive for a pet has reached a fever pitch.  The process of finding a suitable prospective pet has been a bit difficult because Tom is VERY picky.  He doesn't like rodents or fish, which take out a lot of options.  He also doesn't like.....most everything else.  Luckily, I like almost everything!  Let me take you through the options I/we have considered getting when we get to Philly.

#1 : A Dog

This is pretty much the only one that Tom wants too.  Unfortunately, we both agree that it would be a bad idea right now.  We'll likely have a tiiiiiny apartment in Philly and be gone all day and most dogs don't really like that.  We both agree though, that when we can get a dog it'll probably be a Bulldog!

#2 : A Miniature Pig!

Some of you may find this a bit strange, but hey, why not?  They are actually odorless and very clean despite their reputation.  They'll eat anything and are VERY intelligent.  They make great pets!  I got the idea because "Jersey Girls" was on TV the other day and although I am not a big fan of the movie, I found the pet pig to be quite endearing.

#3 : A Skunk!

I know what you're thinking - don't they stink?  No worries, whatever it is that emits the smell is removed by the breeder.  I can't remember everything I read about why they do and don't make good pets, but I know it reminded me of my sister's Ferrets.  Anyway, they're pretty cute.  Tom says, "no way."

#4 : A Hedgehog!

Yes - I think they're a great idea for a pet!  Isn't this little guy adorable?  They are totally doable as a pet. The only thing I don't like about them is that they aren't as social.  Like, they don't really form a bond with you.

# 5 : A Sugar Glider

This one was a VERY compelling option and one which I would love to have some time in the future.  They are very sociable and loyal and love to be around people (once they get used to you).  They are marsupials, like koalas and kangaroos, so when you first get them you put them in this "bonding pouch" and carry them around with you all day.  They are great with kids and other pets and you can stick them in your pocket or purse and take them anywhere.  They also won't run away if you put them down because they like to stick with their owner.  They just sound so sweet.

As much as I liked all of the above options however, none of them would work for us at this time.  I still wanted a pet though, so tentatively we have decided on getting

Hermit Crabs!!!

I'm not sure how most people feel about hermit crabs.  I think they're cute and endearing.  They aren't as cool as some of the other options, but they're pretty compatible to our Philly situation.  They don't need a big apartment, they don't need you to be home all day and they don't cost a hue amount of money.  I feel pretty good about it.  

One fun thing about hermit crabs is that they change into different shells periodically and you get to pick them out of course.  I mean, you provide them with several that you think they would like and then they get to pick out of those.  A lot of hermit crabs that you see at the pet store have painted shells.  Painted shells are cute and all, but I've hear from lots of sources that they aren't good for the crabs for various reasons, so I'm going natural.  Here are some shells that I like:

Hermit crabs also like to be active and move around and climb things, so I'm having fun coming up with ideas to occupy them.  For instance, you can stick them in a hamster ball and let them run around the apartment.

Similarly, I am excited to set up a killer "crabitat" for them.  I'm going to try to get an aquarium second hand for cheap and I'm going to try to make a lot of things myself.  One thing I'd really like to do is give it different levels.  Here is an example of one that I think is pretty cool.

So, what do you think about these pets and what kinds of pets would you like to get?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day in Taiwan

Even though Mother's Day was a few days ago, I really wanted to make a post about it anyway for a few different reasons.  I wanted to talk about what Mother's Day is like in Taiwan and I wanted to talk about my own mom as well as some other "mothers" of mine.

So, to begin with, I was surprised to find that Mother's Day is actually celebrated quite a bit in Taiwan!  I assumed it would not be, seeing as how it isn't the most highly celebrated holiday in America and seeing as how most American holidays are only minorly (new word) celebrated, if at all.  Instead, I would say Mother's Day may have even been more celebrated in Taiwan than it is in America!  All my kids at school knew what it was, I saw it mentioned in ads, the women were given both pin on fake flowers and real bouquets of carnations at church, the men sang a special Mother's Day song to all the women at church, and (my favorite) people dressed up nicely and handed out carnations to women who they didn't even know who were driving by on their scooters.  Also, do you even know the story behind Mother's Day?  I sure didn't, nor has any other American I've asked in the past few days, but the Taiwanese sure do!  You can check it out here.  So, basically, I think what I'm trying to say is that I feel like the Taiwanese have really stepped it up on this holiday in some very good ways.  Go Taiwan!

Onto the mothers, but most importantly, my one and only real mom.  I would like to pay a tribute (however inadequate) to the woman who gave birth to me and has put up with me ever since.  As with many people, my mother and I didn't have the best relationship while I was a teenager...and maybe a little before and a little after.  However, even though I won't say my mom was/is perfect (something she shares with everyone), I will say that now that I am older I can clearly see how immense of an effort she put into raising us.  My goodness, I don't know that she had any "easy" kids.  I may have been the hardest one (then again...Arron?).

Some things I would like to praise her for and do for my own children someday (no I am not pregnant):
- Read to them, a LOT

- Take them to the library, a LOT

- Come up with a summer activity/reward system where the kid gets some kind of prize for completing little tasks (like a certain amount of sit-ups or weeding or learning geography)

- Being a solid church member: going to church every sunday, doing FHE and family prayer and family scripture study, magnifying callings

- Service : My mom always had food in the car for homeless people, took me with her on "Meals on Wheels" trips to people who were unable to leave their house to get food for themselves, always made goodies for people at Christmastime, loves to give our leftover fruits and veggies to people, etc. etc.

- Setting a good financial example: My parents are both very frugal and aware of their finances.  They have a ROCKIN credit score.

- Teaching us to think for ourselves and not doing everything for us.  I am a big fan of this type of parenting.  It should, of course, be done lovingly, but I think it's great to put faith in your kids and get them to do things for themselves even if they don't believe they can.

Well, there's plenty more, but this post is ALREADY long and I still have several more people to pay tribute to!

Sadly, I don't have very many good pictures of us with me right now, so instead I'll compliment this one with some of her with my adorable niece and nephew!

The picture above introduces mommy #2 : Tom's mom!  Poor mother-in-laws are constantly being the butt of jokes and I suppose some of them deserve it.  Somehow, though, I ended up with the opposite kind of mother-in-law.  Tom's mom doesn't have a mean bone in her body and she has been the very picture of welcoming from the very beginning.  She has ALWAYS made me feel like I am a welcome addition to the family and, as far as I can tell, likes me much more than she really should!  It's always good to have at least a few people in your life who give you more credit than you really deserve.  She is one of those people for me.  Hooray for Betty Ann!

Mommy #3 is my Grandma Linnell This is my mom's mom.  She is a fabulous grandma and has always  been there to support her grandkids in any way.  My favorite is that without fail, every year, she sends each of her grandkids a Valentine's Day card with a stick of gum in it (usually strawberry).  She added another stick for Tom this year.  She was born on a farm, in Kansas, during the depression, and had to move to California because of the Great Dust Bowl (think "Grapes of Wrath").  As a result, she is no wimp.  She'll smash spiders with her bare hands and eat ANYTHING.  She does NOT waste and works HARD.  She rocks.  Oh, and despite all of her hard-core qualities, manages to be the cutest grandma on the block.

Mommy #4 is my dad's mom, Grandma Money.  Just to be clear, she is only number four because this is a Mother's day post and to my overly analytical brain MOM'S mom should logically come before DAD'S mom.  I don't pick grandma favorites.  My grandma Money, like my Grandma Gorg, is a VERY proud grandma.  She thinks the world of them and would do anything for them.  I remember Emily and I having a sleepover at her house when we were kids and boy were we ever spoiled!  Another great thing about her is that she has the most spectacular skin of any grandma around.  I know this sounds like a relatively unimportant thing to be praising, but seriously, her skin is that nice.  She is quite the looker and, as I understand, she and a few of her friends were the first BYU cheerleaders...I think.  She's a great grandma!
Also, I really had a hard time finding photos of her, so sorry!

Speaking of great grandmas, #5 is my...great grandma!!!  I mean, my Grandma Money's mom!  Unfortunately, she won't be seeing this post because she passed away just a couple of weeks ago.  She would have been 100 in August!  Nana was an AMAZING woman.  I don't know if I ever met anyone in my life who was more of a ball of sunshine.  Anytime you looked at her she was just smiling ear to ear.  And, I don't know how to say this, but she had the...kindest....hands.  I know it sounds strange, but anytime you were near here she'd just take her sweet hands and clasp them over yours.  Then she'd hold on with one hand and pat your hands with the other.  It was just this very sweet thing.  You can actually see her doing it in the photo below.  Also, not only did she manage to live a very long life, but she had a steel-trap memory until the end and was still on a bowling and league into her 90's!  Yeah, Nana was one impressive lady!!!

The photo below is from the wedding of my cousin Scott (pictured).

Finally, we have mothers #6 & #7.  These last two are the only ones who I am not technically related to.  Although, we really might as well be.  Introducing Sister Valdez and Sister Lapuz.  I first came to know these two lovely ladies through dating their son/grandson.  While I still have a high opinion of him, we obviously weren't meant to be.  However, I am ever so grateful that somehow his family and I managed to stay good friends all this time.  Strange relationship, I know.  Not only did I date their son and not marry him, but no one else in the family is my age and I've been in another state/country through the vast majority of the time we've known each other.  So, how are we still good enough friends for them to make in onto this list?  Simple - we are good for each other.  Or at least they are good for me.  They other examples of the type of people who give you more credit than you deserve.  They have always been hugely loving and supportive.  They have treated me like family and like someone special.  I haven't deserved it, but I'm beyond grateful for it.  Every time I have come home for a visit I have been anxious to make it over to their house for a visit as well.  As soon as I walk in the doors I feel as if all of my cares have disappeared and I am content.  I cannot fathom what they get out of our relationship, but I feel incredibly blessed by it.  I have undying affection for these two ladies (and, of course, the rest of their family) and hope we stay friends always!