Author Appearance at Jumpstart Spring Literacy Fair: Saturday, March 8, 2014, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, OC Heritage Museum, Santa Ana, CA

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With fellow authors l to r: Cori Gibb, Dennis Yang, Ron Noble, Ryan Afromsky, Leslie Ryan, Shawn Otomo

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Author Ryan Afromsky, Cat in the Hat, and me

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JFAD Flyer- English copy

 

Address: OC Heritage Museum, Santa Ana, CA

 

The Diversification of Reality TV – Specifically The Bachelor, Season 18 – 2014

This year, I noticed a lot more contestants of mixed heritage.  Maybe I am more in tuned to it because of my Flippish kids and that I am in a mixed marriage?  Nah, I have been married for 14 years and I would have noticed back then if the show had a diverse pool of contestants.  FYI, I have been watching The Bachelor since Season 1.  I don’t know if I should be admitting this, but there you have it.  The cat is out of the bag.  I have been watching 18 seasons of The Bachelor.  It is my guilty pleasure and all you nay sayers can just get over it.

It took lawsuits and complaints against ABC Network that The Bachelor contestants are not very diverse.  I agree.  Throughout the years, a very small amount of African Americans, Asian, and Hispanic were picked for the show.  I was very happy when Puerto Rican American Mary Delgado won the heart of Byron Velvick during Season 6.  Unfortunately that union didn’t last.  After Season 6 I thought there will be a more diverse group of contestants or contestants of mixed heritage.  Or maybe they didn’t stand out or get any air time for me to notice.  And believe me, I notice everything.

Last year, during The Bachelor 2013, we watched Flitalianish (Filipino, Italian, Scottish) Catherine Giudici win the heart of All American Sean Lowe.  I noticed her immediately as soon as she got out of the limo.  I knew she was of mixed heritage.  Her looks or mixed ethnicity weren’t the only things that caught my eye, but her great personality, humor, and positive attitude made me root even harder for her from the beginning.  It was pretty sad she didn’t get much air time.  I guess the ones who creates the biggest drama gets the air time.  She seemed to disappear in the background until later on in the season when Sean finally noticed her.  Finally!  When Sean visited Catherine’s hometown, my kids and I were excited to see that she is part Filipino.  The viewers saw Sean gamely don an apron and learned to cook lumpia.  He seemed to embrace Catherine’s family just like my husband did when he met my family.  Now they are getting married.  I know their kids are going to be multiculturally beautiful.  They will have a lot of great cultures to pull from.

Now we come to Bachelor 2014.  Juan Pablo claims to be the first Latino (he is from Venezuela) Bachelor, but complaints have been made that he doesn’t look it because of his fair coloring.  OMG, no matter what, people will still complain that he is too white, too dark, too ethnic, too non-ethnic.  Blah, blah, blah.  My former nanny is from Peru and she has blonde hair and green eyes and considers herself a Latina.  Just like the USA, Latin America comprises of immigrants of European, Asian, and African ancestries.  Former president of Peru Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) was of Japanese ancestry.  I rest my case.

On to the contestants:

Back to the list of multicultural women that diversify the contestant pool.  They include 1 African American, 1 Latina from Brazil, no Asians, and 5 are of mixed heritage.   I have linked their names to The Bachelor website so you can check out their bio.

Ashley was born in Hawaii and moved to Texas.  She looks mixed doesn’t she?

Clare tells us she is part Mexican.  I was shocked.  Who would have thunk?  She may not look it because she got more of her father’s European complexion.  Just like in my kids, people are shocked to find out they are half Irish.

Chantel is the only African American on the show (aka ABC is being PC).  Need I say more?

Danielle is a stunning woman of mixed heritage.  She reminds me of a writer friend who calls herself Afro-Viking.  I won’t hold it against her that she dislikes my favorite food in the world – sushi.

Lucy the cute free spirit claims she is part Latina – hence her last name Aragon.  She is a little too free spirit for my taste, but as long as it makes her happy, who am I to judge?

Victoria hails from Brazil.  By the looks of tonight’s preview she seems to be a bit of a mess.  I will refrain from commenting further.

Finally, my favorite — but not everyone’s favorite…

Sharleen the reserved opera singer from Canada has a wonderfully mixed heritage.  Her mom is Chinese and her dad is a mix of Irish, French, English, and Aboriginal.  Thus her beautifully exotic look that captivated Juan Pablo.  She is very classy and very reserved.  Frankly, I don’t know why she signed up for a show like The Bachelor?  However, I give her props for the gumption to do something so different from opera.  She got flack for being standoffish and not screaming with joy when Juan Pablo gave her the first impression rose.  Viewers, its called class.

There you go, folks.  Out of 27 contestants, we have 7 women to diversify The Bachelor, Season 18.  Wow!  Maybe I have missed some?  If so, please let me know.  During Sean Lowe’s season there were 6 people of color.  That is more than Season 16 (Ben Flajnik) who had zero.  I am tempted to go through each season to see how many women of color were picked to diversify the pool of contestants, but rather not waste my time counting.  I might get disappointed.  So, Bachelor producers, you are heading in the right direction.  It’s a great start but 7 women out of 27?  You can do better than that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The World As A Village That Has The Bayanihan Spirit

When I was a child in the Philippines, I briefly learned about the Bayanihan Spirit. This is what I learned:

In the olden days, houses in the rural areas of the Philippines were made of bamboo and palm fronds. They were light and portable. Therefore, when a family had to move their homes to a different location, the whole village would get together to help the family move. The strong men put the house on their shoulders and together they moved it to the desired location. The movers had musicians walk along with them, strumming their guitars singing traditional folk songs. The other men and women helped carry belongings and some of the women cooked up a feast at their new location. After the men secure the house, everybody had a party.

Over the years, I have forgotten all about it until recently. I saw the devastation Typhoon Haiyan caused in the Philippines. I read all about horrors these poor people experienced. I shared with millions of people around the world the same sick and helpless feeling as photos and videos of the devastations and anarchy that followed slowly emerged for us to see. Then, we start reading and watching heroes who risked their lives to save their fellow man, simple humanity unexpected in a place that is in hellish chaos that the natural order of things were survival of the fittest and every man for himself.  As logistically possible, we slowly watch the world quickly come to their aid.

In my neck of the woods, I too wanted to help. As soon as I ironed out the logistics on how to get the donations to the survivors, I reached out to my friends. The majority of them are not Filipino. In the last two weeks, they filled up my van with diapers, formula, food, clothing, medicine, etc. I was touched by their generosity and humanity. My email asking for donations was forwarded to other generous moms who chastised me for not including them in the email. Even my children’s pediatrician, whom I took a chance to ask for some formula, reached out to another office and between the two practices, donated over 200 cans of formula. These generous donors thanked me, but it is I who needs to thank them for their generosity. Without them, I had nothing to deliver, and without them, there wouldn’t be anything to airfreight to the Philippines.  Every little bit counts toward the greater good.

I know that people around the world are doing the same thing. Young and old, rich and poor, people gave what they could afford. Stories about some street urchins in Manila who knew of a woman who was putting together relief boxes for the survivors, scraped together what they very little they owned, knocked on her door, and handed their donations. Countries such as USA, Japan, Israel, and UK were in ground zero as fast as they could get there.  Countries and corporations donated millions and dispatched their own people — as large as a whole battalion to a crew of 2, they came to aid a country crippled with devastation. It was the most touching sight to see.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote a book “It takes a Village And Other Lessons Children Teach Us” when she was First Lady. I always liked the phrase “It takes a village”. The concept rings true on the impact of individuals and groups outside the family have on the well being of children.

In 2006, I battled breast cancer, and my community helped me get through the ordeal. My girlfriends all came together and helped with carpool, meals, kept me company during chemo, etc. That was when the phrase “It takes a village” really meant something.  My village got me through my illness.

Fast forward to November 2013. After I saw the world come together to help out the survivors of the typhoon, I just realized that the phrases “It takes a village” and “the Bayanihan Spirit” have the same meaning. We don’t have to be children to be raised by a village, nor we don’t have to be Filipino to have the Bayanihan Spirit. The phrases ring true towards any community that comes together to help a cause. Therefore, I would like to say, thank you world, for having the Bayanihan Spirit. Thank you world for being a wonderful village that has made a great and positive impact on helping out my people. Thank you!  Thank you!

In Honor of the Victims and Survivors of Typhoon Yolanda

I couldn’t help but cry after seeing the devastation in the Philippines. My heart shattered as I read each tragic story of families of the survivors finding the bodies of their loved ones, many of them had their arms tightly embracing the bodies of their children as if hoping their own bodies will protect them from the flood water and debris. Winds and current so strong they ripped children from the clutches of their parents. Heartbreaking stories of families having to abandon dying family members so they could save the ones that are still alive. Or stories of helplessly watching their loved ones slowly die from injuries sustained from the storm. Thousands of stories of survival and death… too many to fathom.

The aftermath is another nightmare, especially for the survivors. The hunger, thirst, and lack of medical supplies and facilities added another dimension to their tragedy. Not to mention the rampant looting and crime – the by product of the basic human instinct to survive. In cities and towns with no government or police, residents claim they are living in a state of “anarchy.” Help cannot come fast enough for those living in this nightmare.

It will take years to get over the devastation of this magnitude. The survivors will have to rebuild their lives with or without their loved ones. How can they go on with their lives?

I am very blessed and fortunate that my family and friends survived the storm. My heart goes out to the others here in the US whose families did not.

One thing I know is the strength and resilience of the Filipino people — my people. Filipinos fought and survived the suppression and tyranny of cruel colonizers of yesteryears. They came together as a community after every natural disaster, and political upheaval. That is where the strength in spirit of the Filipino people came from. I am confident the Philippines will get through this.

Please take a moment of silence and say a prayer for my people.

CNN has a list of ways to help the survivors.

Click Here For Ways You Can Help!

Reading and Book Signing in Virginia! December 7-8, 2013, 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. – Sweet City Desserts, Vienna VA

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I am so excited to bring “I am Flippish!” to Virginia!  Sweet City Desserts is hosting my reading and signing for both days.  Thank you to my cousin Manuel Tagle and Mitzi Pickard for inviting me and organizing this event. 20% of the sales proceeds will go to Caritas Manila Foundation to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan and the earthquake in the Philippines.

There is nothing like having a personally signed book to give to kids for the Holidays.  So get some of your Holiday shopping done, and preorder your personally signed copies of “I am Flippish!”  Please email me at LeslieVRyan@gmail.com to reserve your copies.

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Please click image for Sweet City Website

131 A Maple Avenue West, Vienna VA 22180

(703) 938-8188

 

The Filipino American International Book Festival

Last Thursday, I left for San Francisco to attend The Filipino American International Book Festival held that weekend.  The owner of Philippine Expressions, Linda Nietes invited me to participate in this wonderful event.  Thank you Tita Linda for including me this weekend.

On Friday morning, I stopped by the Tauber Holocaust Library to see if I could find any more information about the Holocaust in Rome during World War II.

 

It was humbling to be surrounded by millions of stories about the Holocaust.

It was humbling to be surrounded by millions of stories about the Holocaust.

That evening was the author’s reception at the Philippine Consulate.  I met some amazing artists and listened to romantic Filipino ballads and poetry.  Listening to the ballads or Harana reminded me of the old Filipino black and white movies that I used to love to watch as a kid.  Harana is an old Filipino courtship tradition of serenading women. It is mostly practiced in rural areas and small towns.  The man, usually accompanied by his close friends, goes to the house of the woman he is courting and plays music and sings love songs to her.  The part I love the most is when the woman looks out the window with a big smile on her face — reminiscent of the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene.  However, in some movies if the woman is angry at the man, she would throw cold water out the window.

Singing "Harana" songs.

Singing “Harana” songs.

Here are other pictures taken at the Authors reception:

With award winning author Cecilia Brainard

With award winning author Cecilia Brainard

Marivi Blanco, Leslie Ryan, Albert Mortiz, Deputy Consul Gen Jaime Ramon Ascalon, Giovanni Ortega, Linda Nietes, Evelina Galang, Cecilia Brainard, Luisa Igloria

Saturday and Sunday, October 19 & 20, 2013 – Filipino American International Book Festival at the San Francisco Public Library

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Giovanni Ortega and Alleluia Panis perform a Baybayan. I’m so glad I was able to capture their beautiful performance.

With author Adam Cafage and artist/illustrator Marconi Calendas.

With author Adam Cafage and artist/illustrator Marconi Calendas.

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Will The Real Mrs. Ryan, Please Stand Up?

 

What’s in a name?  When you hear the name Leslie Ryan, how do you envision what she looks like?  Close your eyes and try to say the name out loud.  What do you see? You see a typical Irish lass, am I  correct?   Or when you hear the names Deborah Yamamoto or Lydia Bolts, what do you see? Would you think one is Asian and the other Caucasian?

Well, my friend Deborah Yamamoto is a fair skinned, red head of Scottish ancestry.  She married a Japanese American named Andy Yamamoto.  She told me that she always gets a look of surprise from people when they meet her for the first time.

What about my husband’s aunt, Lydia Bolts?  She is a petite woman with dark olive skin and black hair, whose family immigrated from El Salvador.  She told me that it wasn’t easy for her in the 1960’s when they got married.  They thought she was the nanny or the housekeeper, and couldn’t be married to my uncle who is Caucasian.  She has many stories to tell.  (Stay tuned for my next blog.)

Leslie Ryan doesn’t have blonde hair or blue eyes nor white skin.  She is a short Filipino American with tanned skin, brown eyes, and black hair – she is me.  I married a blonde haired, blue eyed handsome Irish American, took his last name and became Leslie Ryan.  It has been 13 years since we were married, and we still experience misconceptions and stereotyping based on my name.

If you tell me that when you hear those names I mentioned above you immediately thought Leslie Ryan is Filipina, Cindy Yamamoto is Caucasian, and Lydia Bolts is Hispanic, then you must be lying.  Thirteen years since I changed my last name to Ryan,  I have experienced several misconception on what a Mrs. Ryan should look like.  Here are my top five moments:

5.  Ten years ago, we moved into our home in a neighborhood that wasn’t very diverse. A salesman knocked on my door, and when I opened it, he asked to talk to the lady of the house.  I turned around and yelled “Hey, is the lady of the house in?”  Then I turned back to the guy, and I sweetly replied, “That would be me!” Then I closed the door in his face.  I guess I didn’t look like a homeowner.

4.   My husband and I were in the process of interviewing landscape contractors.  One morning, we had an appointment with the contractor, but  I had to drop off our kids to school and pick up my nanny.  When we got home, my nanny went into the front door first, and I was right behind her.  We were both in the entryway  when I saw that the two male contractors stood up and walked over to greet her and shake her hand.  My husband said, “That’s not my wife.  That’s our nanny.” Whoops! Their red complexions weren’t from working outside all day.  I took the high road and greeted them nicely. I think the guys tried to make up for their faux pas because they answered every question and concerns I had.  Sometimes when it comes to construction talk men usually would look and address their answers to their fellow men even if the questions posed came from a woman.  These guys knew how to get the contract because they looked at me and addressed me with their answers.  I think they knew that even if my husband liked them, I got the last word on whether or not they got the contract.  They had a lot of making up to do after the faux pas. They turned out to be the best contractors we ever hired.   They have always been respectful and went above and beyond to accomplish all my requests.

3.   Twelve years ago, I was on a flight home from Chicago.  I was almost six months pregnant, large as a house, uncomfortable, and dreading the six hour flight home.  With that in mind, my husband bought me a business class seat on United Airlines so that I was comfortable during the flight home.  After I sat down and put my seatbelt on, the flight attendant came over to me, huffed, and asked me in an accusatory tone “Where is Mrs. Ryan?”   By the tone of his voice, he probably thought I was from coach, snuck into Business Class and stole a seat.  If he asked me for my ticket and driver’s license, I probably would have lost my temper.  I politely replied that I was Mrs. Ryan, and the look on the flight attendant’s face was of surprise.  The only thing he said was, “Ohhhh…”  finally understanding how this short, dark, and pregnant woman could be named “Mrs. Ryan.”  He then turned around and marched back into the galley.  He was nicer afterwards.  Or maybe because he looked at my husband’s airline mileage plus status and saw that it was Platinum?   I couldn’t imagine how it was forty to fifty years ago when mixed marriages weren’t as prevalent.

2.   Recently, I had several really large and heavy pots delivered, and when I opened the garage door to let the guy bring the pots in, he asked me where Mr. Ryan was and if I worked for him.  Seriously?  I was even dressed up that day.  I was so annoyed, I made the poor guy move the heavy pots a couple of times.  Then I felt bad and offered him some water.

1.   This is the most recent and most ludicrous incident.  I schedule a one on one tutorial at an Apple store, and when I arrived, I was seated with three other women who were Caucasian. The Apple tutor I was assigned to went to the first woman and asked if she was Leslie Ryan.  She shook her head.  I raised my hand and said, “I’m Leslie Ryan.”  The guy ignored me and went to the second woman and asked if she was Leslie Ryan.  Second woman said, “No.”  He then went over to the third woman, who already shook her head before he asked her.  I was the only one left at the table, and he finally looked at me.  I gave him a look that says I’m the person he was looking for.  I couldn’t resist and asked him, “What, I don’t look like a Leslie Ryan?”  Awkward, right? The rest of the hour was a little disconcerting, to say the least.  Even though this incident happened an hour ago, I still left the store shaking my head in disbelief.

Some of the above incidents happened twelve years ago to just recently.  One would think there would have been progress where people no longer assume what a person looks like based on their name.

What about multiracial children?  My son’s name for example is Sean Patrick Ryan, but he looks more like me.  My husband and I thought it would be cool to give him a full Irish name.  Did we make a mistake by doing that?  Should we have included a Filipino name and hope that they would see he is half?  What is he going to experience when he grows up?  How will he handle situations of misperception and stereotyping?  I can only hope and pray that he doesn’t resent us for giving him that name.  So far, he hasn’t experienced any of this.

How do I teach my children to deal with misperception and stereotyping?  My husband and I discussed this matter, and we decided that the first thing is to make sure our kids have a strong sense of who they are.  As long as they are confident about themselves, nothing can break them.  Incidents like I have experienced will just roll off their backs and afterwards, they can laugh about how ignorant people can be.  The next is to lead by example.  If I get angry and throw a fit over every incident I have experienced, then that is exactly what they will do.  I usually say something funny or use humor.  It diffuses an awkward situation and makes the other party feel dumb.  However, if the situation is not based on ignorance but malice, then I will fight and stand up for what is right.  I pick my battles.  Hopefully my children will learn this as they grow up. I feel that I can’t protect my children forever.  Neither can I control what other people say and do.  All I can do is teach my children to be confident about themselves and try to lead by example.

Our country is the most diverse than it has ever been.   Mixed marriages are prevalent worldwide.  More schools celebrate and teach multiculturalism and diversity.  Parents seek to raise global children.  Traditional and social media often talks about multiculturalism and diversity.  Movies, television shows, and commercials are incorporating multicultural families to get with the times.  At some point in this century, issues like this will be a thing of the past.  One can only hope…

#mondayblogs

“I am Flippish!” is coming to San Francisco! – Filipino American International Book Festival, October 19-20, 2013, San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch – San Francisco, CA

“I am Flippish!” is coming to San Francisco!

Filipino American authors and artists have come together to share their stories at the second Filipino American International Book Festival.  Hosted by PAWA, a Northern CA based 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization and independent publisher of Filipino American lit.  PAWA’s main goal is to create and encourage literature and arts for the preservation and enrichment of Filipino and Filipino American historical, cultural and spiritual values.

I am honored to be invited by Mrs. Linda Nietes of the Philippine Expressions Bookshop to participate in this wonderful event.  Come to this free event and get your signed copies of “I am Flippish!” and other wonderful books written by my fellow Filipino American authors.  You can find our books at the Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s booth.

This event will be held:

San Francisco Public Library, Main Branch
100 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

My assigned schedule at the event is as follows:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

12:30 – 1:30 Fisher’s Children’s Center, 2nd Floor – Reading “I am Flippish!”

2:00 – 3:00 Book signing at Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s table – Table A

Sunday, October 20, 2013

1:00 – 2:00 Book signing at Philippine Expressions Bookshop’s table – Table A

Click Here For More Information About The Filipino American International Book Festival

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#mondayblogs #hapa #multiculturalfamilies #biracial #mixeracefamily #filipino #irish #multicultural #kidlit #sanfrancisco

 

Wilmington Children’s Book Festival, Booth #35, Saturday, October 5, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Banning Residence Museum, Wilmington, CA

I had a wonderful time at the event.  Lots of enthusiastic children sharing their love for books.

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This was my second year participating in this fun event. Thank you very much United Way, Tesoro, Valero, and other generous sponsors for making this event possible.

Click here for more information about this fun event

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A Soldier’s Gift

(I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because editing gives me a headache. Bye, bye Aspirin!)

In light of an impending war, and the anniversary month of 9/11, I wanted to write about something positive — about a precious gift we received and still cherish.  No, it is not an expensive gift like jewelry or an electronic toy, but it is a priceless gift that money cannot buy.  The idea for this blog came from my twelve year old son who decided to write an essay for his homework about two special souvenirs he received three years ago.  Until now, I did not realize the impact this gift has made on my children.

My family and I love to travel as much as we can.  We love to see new things, eat the local food, and collect souvenirs.  My two children have collected many souvenirs from every place they visited – Philippines, Italy, Singapore, Hawaii, Mexico, Hong Kong.  Some of the souvenirs are cheap tchotchkes that broke after we got home, disappeared somewhere in our house, or is now gathering dust in a corner shelf in their bedrooms.  The mean mom that I am would get rid of some of the junk, and surprisingly they did not miss or ask for them.  For the most part,  my children remember where they got each surviving souvenir, but the rest, unfortunately, remain insignificant.  As a mother who abhors clutter, I rather put them all in a box instead of giving my housekeeper another tchotchkes to dust.  However, there are two unlikely souvenirs my family and I treasure with all our hearts.  They are a small can of 7-up and a cheap plastic pen.

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How could a can of 7-up and a cheap plastic pen be so important to a family? Pretty laughable, right?  These two items are kept in a safe place.  The soda will never be opened and drank, nor the pen will ever be used to write something down.  One time my husband accidentally put the soda in the fridge, and my kids threw a fit.  Yes, that is how valuable they are.  We received these items three years ago as a gift and to this day my children still remember how we got them.  They tell the story to their friends just like it happened on a recent trip.  That is how much we treasure them.  Even my husband who is not a sentimental person, he too now respects our treasure.

It happened three years ago when we decided to spend spring break in Oahu, Hawaii.  We noticed many soldiers on our flight from LAX and happen to sit across of one of them.  They were all young.  Young, exhausted, and battle weary.  Many of them slept for most of the flight.  Some just stared off into space, deep in their own thoughts, maybe relishing the peacefulness of their surroundings.  My husband told me that they probably have been traveling for over 24 hours from Iraq or Afghanistan. As I tried to get comfortable in our narrow seats, he also added that the uncomfortable economy seats are probably the softest bed they slept on in months.  I could not imagine what these boys went through, and my heart went out to every one of them.  My nine year old son who is a military buff was in awe to see real soldiers up close.

Airlines nowadays no longer serve free food on flights from Los Angeles to Oahu but have boxed lunches available for purchase.  With two picky eaters, I packed lots of snacks such as string cheese, cookies, candy, and for lunch, several slices of cold pizza.  As the flight attendant began drink service and selling their boxed lunches, passengers began taking out their wallets and purses to buy their food.  The soldier next to us was awake and looked as if he wasn’t going to buy any lunch.  It was a five hour flight, and I was sure he was hungry.  My husband and kids were starving by that time, so he probably was too.  I nudged my husband and motioned him to buy the soldier some lunch.  He understood and gave the menu to the soldier and told him to order whatever he wanted to eat and beer if he wanted that too.  The young soldier gratefully accepted the lunch but politely declined the beer.  I saw that he was ravenous.  He ate everything, savoring every bite.  When was the last time this soldier ate?  Airport food is not cheap, and I don’t blame the kid for not spending a fortune on crappy airport food.  I took out our pizza and doled them out to my husband and two children, I wondered how long since this soldier had pizza, so I gave him a slice too.  Yes, I didn’t offer it, I just put it on a sheet of the paper towel I brought and placed it on his tray.  He gave me a big smile.  I think he hasn’t had American pizza in a long time because he seemed to savor it too.  I normally don’t give food to strangers in an airplane it was just that my mama bear instinct kicked in.  This young man is not only a son of a mother I don’t even know, but he is also our country’s son.  He is giving his life to his country, fighting for us while we sleep peacefully in our warm and comfortable beds.  As a mother, I know what it is like to worry about my children if they are eating properly, or taking care of themselves.  Albeit they are still young, I cannot imagine being far away from my child let alone know that he is constantly in danger fighting for our country.

After lunch, the soldier took a nap and so did my children and husband.  After an hour or so, my children woke up and were hungry again.  What is it with flying that makes my children constantly hungry?  I dug into my snack bag and took out string cheese, Goldfish crackers, Oreos, and apple slices.  Then I divided them into three – my two kids and the soldier across from us. When I placed the snacks on the soldier’s tray, he  protested that he couldn’t take the kids’ snack away from them, but my kids assured him the snacks were good.  My kids probably thought he didn’t like them.  I told him to save the snacks for later in case he gets hungry.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw him munching happily just like my kids.  It made very happy to see him enjoying himself.

The soldier slept during the remainder of our flight, and once we landed, he profusely thanked us for feeding him throughout the flight.  We thanked him for fighting for our country, which, was far more important than our mere offering of pizza and snacks.

After we picked up our bags, my husband had to take a shuttle to get our rental car.  While waiting for him, the soldier ran up to us and asked us to wait until he got his bag because he wanted to give us something.  The soldier had to wait a long time to get his bag, and he frequently glanced at us as if he was afraid that we were going to leave.  I texted my husband to take his time so that it gave the soldier some time to get his things.  The bag finally came out of the conveyor belt, and he walked over to us and rummaged through his bag and took out a can of 7-up and a pen.

“I really appreciate your kindness in feeding me, and I just want to give you these humble tokens of appreciation.  I was in Iraq, and this can of 7-up is written in Farsi, and this pen printed with a hotline is what we distribute to the locals during our patrols so they can call us with leads.  They are just little souvenirs for the kids,” he said. The kids and I were surprised to receive a present.

I never expected anything from this young soldier.  I did what every mother would do without a second thought.  We chatted while I waited for my husband to return with the rental car.  We found out he is a Sergeant on a two week leave from Iraq.  His wife gave birth to a baby girl three months ago, and he was going to surprise his wife and see his daughter for the first time.  My son Sean asked him some questions about Iraq and what he did over there.  Sean loves anything that has to do with the military – past or present.  To be able to talk to the soldier was one of the biggest highlights of his trip. By then my husband texted me to tell me he was out front.  I offered to take him to where he needed to go, but he declined and was going to rent a car.  He offered his hand, but I gave him a hug instead and told him to enjoy his time with his family and to stay safe for the sake of his wife and daughter.

During our week long trip, my children talked about the soldier and how cool it was that he gave them presents.  They told the story to the relatives we visited during our vacation.  They even brought it to school for show and tell after we got back from vacation.  Throughout the years, my kids would still proudly show the 7-up can and pen and tell the story to their friends.  This is one story that will never get old. I don’t think the soldier knew how much his simple gifts had an impact on my family.  We live in a very material world where everybody clamors to get the latest and greatest toy or gadget.  Today’s gadget and toys are obsolete a few months later, discarded by their owners like Woody in Toy Story.

I am proud to say that my children still treasure the 7-up can and pen which is safely kept in a place where we could see it.   To my family, the 7-up can and pen is a symbol of the men and women sacrificing their lives to fight for our country and to remind us to be grateful for being able to sleep in our soft, warm beds every night and not be afraid of bombs, IED’s, and bullets when we walk out of the safety of our homes.  Every time I see these objects, I remember to say a prayer for the safe return of the soldier who gave them to us, along with all the soldiers fighting for our country.  Last Friday, my son finished his essay and returned the 7-up can and pen in its rightful place.  He informed me the can of 7-up has expired.  I told him it didn’t matter if it expired because we were never going to drink it anyway.  He agreed.  I then asked him why he wrote an essay about a gift he received three years ago.  This is what he said.

“Mom, he gave us the coolest gift.  He is fighting for our country, yet he gave us gifts.  That soldier is a cool cat.”

Yeah, I agreed the soldier is a cool cat.  Funny thing is we remember what he looked like, and every detail of the story, but we never got his name.  Keep safe soldier, wherever you may be.