Monday, May 30, 2011

The cherries are so pretty.

There are piles of them, sitting there staring up at us like uncovered jewels from a recently discovered cave. You can't help but reach out your hand and grab a few, to taste. And then to buy.

Of course you can also smash them to the ground like mini red bombs and see how the juice squirts and paints the bricks with its squishy, sweet insides. But they are too expensive for doing that. That's what her mama told her anyway.

Besides drooling over cherries we've been packing and eating with friends and running around trying to finish up all the last minute details before our exodus this weekend.

This weekend. I can't believe it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Making and Packing

The boxes are starting to form small little islands around our house. It's proof that I have indeed started packing. But a friend had a baby, and don't you know that means something knit is in order. Then too, I have this little project me and my Art Director (as I like to call her) have been working on and that I'd really like to see completed before we leave.

And then my friend just gave me the most beautiful mug in the world. Really. In the world. It was hand crafted by her very own fingers and it is so perfect... perfect size for my morning cup of joe, perfect handle that sits comfortably- not too small, perfect rim that doesn't allow rim-drippage (a pet peeve). I'm so thrilled with it, I made it sit for portraits.

She has this really interesting and I think fantastic idea to use these pottery pieces to draw attention to social justice issues in the world, specifically with children. So this one is named "The Abbie Mug" and is the first in a series.

But the making doesn't stop there. Today, Rae launched her first novel, The Eve Tree and I ordered my very own copy which I can't wait to read and review here- maybe even give one away.

And my sister-in-law sent me a link to this: the cutest thing ever. I've been dreaming of some way to make one of these for my daughter here in China, but this is over the top cute. I want MY kitchen to look like that.

I also made lemon-cranberry scones today. The whole baking/cooking thing has been in kind of a lull because of other pursuits, but I'm excited about getting to play around in my dad's garden in a few weeks and shop farmer's markets, and cook with all kind of exotic ingredients like... raspberries. Anyway, today I did make an attempt and whipped up the scones, and last night we had tortilla soup which I love. Love, like I loved a pencil in first grade and the boy next to me said "do you wanna marry it??" Yes, I want to marry tortilla soup, especially with crunchy homemade tortilla strips and sour cream and avocado.

A house filling with boxes and making stuff doesn't seem to really go together in my mind but so far it is working out. I think it just keeps me from blubbering like a baby all day long about moving. Next week may be a different story.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Parting Gifts Part II :: Love Your Neighbor

These are my nieghbors. We love them.

They are far more than just neighbors. More like family. Steph and Carolyn are roommates and teachers at our school here, but to my kids they are like fixtures: steady companions on Sunday evenings and Thanksgiving and Saturday morning when we need eggs or a babysitter.

One of my favorite things about these pictures is that it is so evident how comfortable my kids are with both of these wonderful women. We are really going to miss them. And like any true family member, they are not only loved by my children (though that's all we could get in the photos), but are dear friends to me as well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


My house threw up this morning. Stuff everywhere, all for giving away. Suddenly, all my sorting and cleaning out of closets seems to have erupted and landed on every flat surface of our living space. The boxes also arrived yesterday. I suppose all of this means I can start packing, and really should start packing.

But I feel a bit listless about it all. I just sat on the couch and knitted in the afternoon, my feet tucked under the legs of my husband, who just arrived home after a week out of town. I think this frequently happens right at the outset of a big project like moving. I get bummed and lose my tempo or my energy drive, or somethin.

I'm going to go eat another cinnamon roll, and maybe have a cup of coffee. Book anyone? Maybe I should file my nails. The important stuff can wait, can't it?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Parting Gifts

It seems that Pictures are going to be my parting gifts. I like it. It's a way to give someone a hold on a memory that they may not have the means to do themselves. And it's inspiring to me. I get excited when I know something is important to someone... and it makes me want to capture it for them.

I have a good friend here, Sara (above, second from the right) and her good friend Mary (above far right) is leaving Qingdao this year after living here for almost 8 years. Mary and her husband adopted a little girl from China last year and she has some special needs that require attention in the States. It's a difficult departure for them, much like it is for us (times two since they have been here twice as long).

Sara and Mary and a few other friends have this long tradition of walking (nearly every day, and sometimes even more than that) into the center of town for Bubble Tea. This event holds all kinds of sentiment for them, from who they walk with, to the place they get it from, to the mysterious hold Bubble Tea has on them, to the years they have performed this almost daily routine.

When I found out they had no pictures of this place, or of them doing it together, I asked if I could tag along one day to try and capture it for them. And they let me. It almost seemed silly, but I know how sweet it is to have a visual stamp of a place and the people you were there with. And I hope this is just a token of that for them.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Picnic in the Park

Yesterday was almost a perfect day. May in Qingdao should have its own little category somewhere in the realm of Goodness. It is a beautiful time of year. It seemed especially beautiful because we spent nearly all of it outside, and we didn't do anything that we should or ought to be doing right now.

We have only three weeks left here in our home and we have been feeling a little bit of the crunch. This time of year is an especially busy one even without that fact. When your husband works at a school and you live in a community of expatriates who travel to all parts of the world or are uprooting to other parts of the world at the close of the spring term, it generates a lot of frantic- and often dramatic- activity. There are goodbye parties nearly every day (on the hour?), there are wrap up events at school nearly every evening, there are final exams, there is packing, there are sales and stuff-giveaways flooding your inbox. And then there is normal life like dinner and groceries and laundry. 

But yesterday we just spent the day together, on the first full Saturday that felt like Summer was saying hello and giving us a kiss on our pale, pasty cheeks. We took a long bike ride, all five of us, in the morning. We sat around outside and raised seats, patched tires, and hunted for tools picked up by little hands. We ate dinner in a park just up the hill from our home- a park I've haunted for the four years we've lived here and used for so many outlets: picnics, hunting expeditions, photo shoots, evening walks, and I think half the pictures in my [month of mornings] photo challenge.

The light was so beautiful. I can get almost twitchy at this time of day and usually need to tell myself to put my camera down. The sunflare and glowy atmosphere are addicting.

The Man has a week long trip in Hong Kong with his students (he left this morning) so we were happy to get in as many bike rides and hugs and soccer games (my needs were a little different) as we could before he left.

I will miss this park. It's been a sweet little place for us and is full of quirks that make it in particular, a park in China: the Saturday morning choir with accordion, the morning Tai Chi gatherings, the dog poop, the kite flying, the grandmas with their toddling charges- and then us, the foreigner and her kids running around with sticks and shooting at imaginary jedi warriors.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Because I Love Her :: Sonya

This is the daughter of one of my good friends. I took a head shot of her sweet little boy a few weeks ago while they were at my house and gave it to her. She asked if as a parting gift, I could give her a companion one of Sonya.

As you can probably tell, she is pretty fun to photograph. Dreamy in fact. I've already posted these pictures everywhere- facebook, flickr, now here. I just think everyone should look at her and smile.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A List: Part II

Recently I mentioned that we are all out, as in very out, of deoderant. I also mentioned that this is a sure sign it is time to return to the Motherland, as usually we are so stocked up it's hard to find anything but deoderant.

It seemed that the deoderant issue just opened up the floodgates, because since that day one thing after another appears to have dried up. No more band-aids, no more chocolate chips, no more Midol, no more Criscoe, no more pants without holes in the knees.

The pants thing is starting to get embarrassing. I know it may seem like I'm just trying to be grungy-cool or something, but the sad reality is that my very nice fitting, more-than-I-normally-spend pair of jeans have started to deteriorate after just two years of crazypsychowringthehelloutofyourclothes hard washing from our machine here. Just two years! And they are now almost severed at the knee. Anyway, I'm obviously not over it yet- and for some reason I'm starting to feel almost ashamed of myself when I head out the door every single day with two bared knees, feeling like a five year old.

You may have surmised from this list that there are many items that are just not available here in China, and most of those things we happily do without. The first time we went home, I was determined to bring back everything (sort of- within reason) that I missed. Had I ever pined for a jar of sun dried tomatoes? Bring it. Did I wish at some point for white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts? Buy them. But after my first bout of this, I decided to just stop trying to bring America on the plane with me to China. I still have my standard  go-to items that I use on a regular basis and cannot purchase here, but most of the things we've just decided to do without by choosing to eat or live differently.

Yet still, times are gettin' a little rough over here where even my essentials, the ones I tried to stockpile two years worth of into my suitcases last time, are running out.
Do you wonder what we crave? Here, just a few things we are looking forward to, or badly needing to replenish...
  •  Did I mention deoderant? By the way, thank you to all my friends who have recently gifted me with some of their stash, used and unused..
  • Yarn... my needles have been itchin and I've been dreaming.
  • Thank you cards/notecards... any kind of cards.
  • Makeup. In general. The non-whitening kind. The colors a red head can wear.
  • Socks for growing boys (without mickey mouse or embroidered bears on them)
  • New cookie sheets.
  • Measuring cups and spatulas, without broken handles, or melted paddles, or chopped up paddles (don't try to unclog the hummus while the blender is still going...)
  • Books... oh, the Amazon wish list.
  • Peppermint, Lemon, and Vanilla Essence.
  • Basil seeds, rosemary seeds!
  • Bed sheets. Hand towels.
  • Family Games (we've moved beyond Candy Land and Junior Monopoly...yay!!!)
  • a lens cap for my poor, neglected camera lens.
  • Yankee candle (splurge-one summer scent, one fall scent)
Well, the list doesn't stop there but I fear I may lose you if I keep going. The point is, it's time to head back and we are pretty excited. Blue skies, green grass, lazy summer nights, and shop shop shopping, here we come!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I can't believe I'm going to tell you how to build a raft.

For a few moments, I just want to sing the praises of the company we work for.

In any organziation there are flaws and failures, and this one has its share, I know... because it's made up of people like us! But at the same time, it is a truly unique and special place to be a part of. For one, because it has a common vision where under the umbrella of seeing this world as God's and it's people as creatures of value- it treats it's employers as such. We are so well taken care of, from the moment we sign on until the moment we sign off, and sometimes even beyond.

One important way this occurs is both the entry and the re-entry process they take us through as expatriates-- people leaving their home country to enter another culture, and then perhaps also someday re-entering that home culture.

When you move overseas, usually you are thrust into chaos. That is exactly what is feels like, because of the speed, suddenness and jolting change of leaving all that was familiar and close to you in people, places, and cultural nuance, and entering into everything that is unfamiliar- from the language to the way you pay your bills,to the food you eat, to the way you make friends, to the places your children can play, to where you buy your groceries, to the way you decorate your home, to the way you get your news information, to the way you get around (or don't), to the places you send your kids to school, to the kind of clothes you buy (or can't), to the weather, to the feeling of security or belonging you no longer have.

So our company, knowing how vital this transition time is, whether leaving your home country or your host country, goes through great efforts to make sure we can do it well. Before we left to move to China, they sent us to New York for two full weeks of Pre-Field Orientation. And now that we are leaving, not even to go back to the States but to another city in China, they are trying to help us work through that as well.

On Saturday, we had several hours of meetings (while our kids were cared for elsewhere) just to talk about what we were thinking, expecting, feeling and needing to do as we prepare to leave this place. They gave us ideas and suggestions for ways to do all of those things, as well as thoughts and testimonies from others who had gone through this transition, and the things that are important in order to do it well. Leaving Well. You may not think it is that big of a deal, but I'm here to say-- it is. Even the things that are now "old hat" to me because I hear them talked (and joked) about so often, were good to look at and think through again.

Here's a rundown, in case you ever need to leave a place... and want to attempt to leave it well.
It's called building your RAFT. And my apologies to all my comrades who may be laughing at me for posting this right now... but you know you love the raft.

this acrostic was developed by the late David C. Pollock
Forgiveness and apology. We need to reconcile with people who we are upset with, or who are upset with us. Usually the first things that spring to your mind are the things you need to pay attention to. If we leave without fixing these problems, the problems don't disappear but stay in our lives and affect the future. Reconciliation is obviously not something that should have to wait for when we leave, and it's also not just about getting your ducks in a row before you go off somewhere else... but the point is that it also should not be brushed under the rug because you are leaving and somehow think your departure will take care of the problem. This one of the most important parts of leaving well.

It's so important to thank, encourage, affirm and commend those who have had a significant part of our lives. It not only is affirming to the one who receives the note or word of thanks, but it helps to cement some of the good memories that we have experienced overseas. This helps us say goodbye to others and helps them say goodbye to us. It's being intentional about those who have mattered in your life and who you have mattered to and sometimes if not done well, can bring about regret later.

As obvious as it may seem, we often neglect the importance and health of saying good-bye. We need to make sure that we say our proper good-byes, not just to people, but to places, pets, and possessions.
This is also important to think through for and with your children if you have them. Taking pictures of places you want to remember, even rooms in your house, and making a point to say goodbye to the people in your life- usually days or even weeks before the actual departure date.

Think Ahead
This is where you try to articulate what expectations you have about your re-entry or your move, whether good or bad. Even down to what you are imagining the arrival at the airport will be like. This is helpful in not only communication with family and friends, but also in preparing yourself for what may be unmet expectations.

I know that many things I hope to do in order to leave well are already overwhelming to me, especially since with a sudden decision (and there are some who have had far less time than I have!), I just don't have the calendar days to do all the things I would like to. But nonetheless, the reminders were good in and of themselves. And the care that was shown to us on that day as we were prayed for and listened to, brainstormed with and fed with cinnamon rolls and lunch, and even given amazing childcare-- was a loving good-bye all by itself.

Monday, May 9, 2011

What She Taught Me About Mothering

A repost from the archives... Mother's Day one year ago... but it is still true.

I remember it well, the mama-loving machine that always seemed to be filling our house with strange faces on the days we wanted most to be alone. I would squirm under the uncomfortable conversations, the turkey served to drool dipped chins, the small rooms teeming with too many who had nowhere else to go.

Today I sat in the cushy chairs where the followers gathered who want to walk in the Way. We listened to sweet words read, words of rhyme and rhythm, that spoke of the forever love, the eternal sacrifice, the endless depths of a mothers heart, and they gave me a flower to tell me it was so of me.

But today being the day to think of mothers, I thought of mine and the way she filled our house with strange faces. And I thought of the sweet words and how they weren't really true of me, because the love in my heart has limits. It cuddles and cradles the the soft cheeks of it's three, it listens to heartaches and trials of it's own, it comforts and cares for the needs of it's kind, the flesh brought forth from my flesh. But does it have room for strange faces?

They crowd around outside in the courtyards, racing bikes, kicking balls, making forts out of junk. It's a blessing, this group, this troupe of arms and legs. And I send mine out and into the fray, giving thanks. Then, it changes. The dynamic. A different kid, different background. Words don't sound gentle and actions speak loudly, too loudly for my comfort. My eyes narrow, my heart hardens, biting words in my head. They spill out with a friend, my dislike, my dismay. I build fences, pull my brood in, put up signs barring entry.

Are mothers to be praised when they love only their own? Isn't this, the grace community, the one that should be everyone's home? Aren't they, these little urchins, these ones that grate my skin-- also loved, also cherished, also eternal beings within? When my son looks down at his dirty hands from play, and asks me as his mind runs, about the dirty ones we pass by every day; he wants to know if we can help them, give them something Good and Clean. And I think, how can I help him love those dirty hands but not a dirty mouth, a dirty background, a dirty mind, a dirty child?

They all came unto Him and he would let them. He would let this child, my child, and all those children come unto Him. He gives me children to love and then he asks me to love all the other children too. Who did I think I was, saying no, saying they were not good enough? Isn't this, the grace community, the only place they can come, not being good enough? Aren't I the same dirty girl, the same dirty child who gets to come to my Father every day?

I think of my mother's house today, and every other day, still teeming with the unlovely, still feeding drool dipped chins. She raised a dirty girl there, two dirty girls and two dirty boys. She loved them with words and meals and comforts and prayers, memories and sacrifices and the burning hurting love that only a mother who loves dirty children can give. She washed us clean with the Word, she pointed us to the Way.

She showed me and shows me still that mothers can't just love their own. I still squirm under the uncomfortable truth of it. I still squint my eyes at first. But there's a fresh Wind that blows through me and lays its hands all over me, changing me. I'm off to tear down fences. Take that sign down. Swing open the doors. Let love come in this place, let it spread itself around. There is more than one way to celebrate Mother's Day.

And I would add that I still struggle, and yet I've seen Him grow my heart a little larger, and some of that through just showing me my own dirt.

 And which of our kids doesn't seem dirtier to someone else than they seem to us? And which of us doesn't grate against loving the dirty whether flesh of our flesh or not? And which of us doesn't struggle to look in the mirror and see what is really there- rather than never look and only imagine yourself all bright and shiny?

 But this is one thing my mother has always shown me... that she knows she is dirty, but she washes herself with the Word, and she scrubs the feet of her neighbors and gathers all the grubby kids in, even me. And these three things I want to be true of me, and if they ever are, it will be in large part because she showed me the way.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A List

Lest you think I am unable to see beyond the sad little thoughts running through my head, I share with you my abundance today.
  • The weather has turned, I have a bike, and a kid seat... all our errands and shopping can be done on two wheels now and it is pure delight. I'm addicted.
  • Asparagus this morning-- and every April I think of Barbara Kingsolver's chapter on this, my favorite vegetable, in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I bought a whole lot of asparagus.
  • Friends who have become dear enough that it is hard to leave them. But the gift of knowing them-- worth it!!
  • The blessing of a good life here, which was unknown and scary to me just four years ago.
  • Wonderful tickets taking us Stateside in June. An itinerary I could kiss, knowing I will be traveling alone with three kids.
  • The promise of summer.
  • My sweet girl and the growth I see in her-- turning a corner in areas we were struggling with for months (years? there has only been two...) Seeing her emerge sweeter and yet still her spirited, wonderful self. I'm starry-eyed all over again.
  • Did I mention how sweet she is? Cute litle pigtail buns and her brother's soccer jersey only make it worse.
  • I love when the Truth is richer than you can grasp- when you know you're not getting all of it- that you won't ever fully "get it" and arrive.
  • Oh, and I'm so glad the Truth is not Republican or Democrat. But this is supposed to be a positive list, so anyway...
  • Cherry petals that flutter to the ground, littering it with pale pink footprints and twinkling in the sunlight. And the joy that it brings to a two year old who belts at the top of her voice "MAMA! FLOWERS IN THE WIND!!!" as if it's the most marvelous thing that has happened since light first dawned on the earth.
  • Friends who write thoughtful emails, who love my kids, who are my family, who call and and aren't put off by who I am (or can forgive it, or try and like me anyway), who make life here grand, who have made life in other places grand, who make me grateful for life and that it is to be lived, together.
  • Lotus, our market lady, who always gives us something extra-- today, two fresh mangoes.
  • Scout on the bike shouting, "Yeeee Haaaaw!!!"
  • My boys and their full blown soccer uniforms in the morning, every morning, socks and all. Just for school.
  • Skills taking showers now in the morning, like a man or something, because he doesn't like his hair sticking up after sleeping, and he likes to feel "fresh."
  • That in moving, I am secure, and even unmoved. That I have a dwelling place and I know who holds my head no matter where it lay.
Whatever things I am struggling with, they are always infused and surrounded by the bounty of God's grace. It really is enough... it really is.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It's Not Like We're Crossing the Street This Time

Moving is probably not a dramatic event for everyone. I moved across the street as a kid. Not a big deal- kind of fun and weird actually, lugging boxes and a TV across the lawn, riding your bike out of one garage, down over the driveway lip and up over the curb of the next, into what was now your new garage.

My friend is building a new house a couple neighborhoods away. She's excited and looking forward to it, counting the days almost. I know someone that is moving from China to another country (not their home country) and they seem pretty jazzed about what they will be doing.

Most of the time when I tell people we are moving and then they start to gather from the slightly pained look on my face that this many not be something I am over the moon about, they say comforting things like,
"You'll make new friends!!" or,
"It's a whole new adventure!!" and,
"It will be such a great experience!!" or my favorite,
"They have Pandas there!!!"
And absolutely none of these things make me feel even one tiny ounce better. Because I know all those things already-- and I even believe them. It's the leaving part that is hard for me.

I never moved as a kid, aside from that stint across the street. So when I live in a place, I dig deep. My roots bear down and grab hold of whatever is there and hold, hold, hold. I have found life in three places now besides the town of my childhood, and I think I have thrived in those places because I was able to drink deeply from them. Leaving each one of them was hard and left a mark on me in places that spring up every now and again. And the places I loved are the people and the people are the places. It's the people that I'm leaving and that is what feels like the breaking.

I've rooted deep into people and they into me-- and though they may roll their eyes at the things I like to talk about and how every conversation can turn a bit too serious-- they have taken me seriously and we have lived life, heart and soul and dirty laundry, together.
So this leaving is not just an adventure.
Or a switch from one group of friends to another.
It is for me an uprooting.

The beautiful, even hopefuly thing about the painful tearing up of roots is that I believe they will dig deep again. It is a common phenomenon among expatriate (which often means transient) communities that after repeated uprootings (whether by you or the friends you keep making), you start to shrivel up. You don't let yourself get down there anymore in the dark, loamy soil. You stay up near the surface and maybe spread wide, but not as deep as you used to. I don't think I've lived here long enough to speak to the temptation to hold myself back. I'm not tempted quite yet to keep to myself because I'm tired of the root ripping. I believe in the importance of people, and the Grace to be able to live fully, wherever you are.

I know I'll dig deep in this new place that looms on our horizon.
I know it will be an adventure and that there will be new friends and that the ones I say goodbye to are not really lost or anything and that the new city may one day feel like home. 
But like I said, right now it is just the leaving.

Moving is not a dramatic event for everyone, I know that.
It just really is for me.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lego Church

My son built a Lego Church today. The particulars of it are still cracking me up.

First of all, only three people attended Lego Church, but they were eager beavers or feeling bad about the low numbers and they all sat in the front row.  All the congregants also strangely resembled one another and the speaker (Matt Welsh- care to say a word about that?). The seating was backless, grey benches-- ouch. That wouldn't fly for most church-shoppers goers these days. It was also decidedly trendy, though not well attended; the speaker was wearing sporty, red-tinted glasses. It reminded me of Bono. Bono spoke in my son's Lego Church today.

We don't have many Legos. We need replenishing, especially since I say at least five times a day, "why don't you go play legos???" when they ask what else they can do. Maybe this is how the cathedrals of old were built too... maybe some sweet little boy somewhere was tired of playing with the same old bricks out back day after day and decided to build a Brick Church-- which one day became an architectural masterpiece.

We are also out of deoderant. This is a sign that we are nearing the end of a two year term away from the States. Usually when we reach into our bathroom cabinet, the last thing we fear is running out of deoderant. They spill out of every corner and crevice, and basket that could hold them. But suddenly, we are out. And this means, we must Return.

For Legos, and deoderant.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Moody Blog

I don't know if anyone else notices this, but I seem to go through little phases or patterns here on this blog. Sometimes I get into a photo kick, sometimes a writing challenge, sometimes everything is sad, or reflective, or about things I'm doing around the home.

I like thinking in "themes" and sometimes it helps me to push myself when I'm not feeling particularly motivated. So the photo themes push me to get out there and see what I otherwise wouldn't. But there are times when this kind of patterned or thematic thinking is oppressive too-- like when I really feel dried up with not much to offer, and the parameters seem stifling, or paralyzing. Yet, one of the things I enjoy and can appreciate about blogging is that it can offer a place to develop a habit- a habit of regular writing. It can do a lot of other things to, but the most important ones for me are this writing habit, as well as a way to have a creative outlet with photography or other projects like knitting, cooking, etc.

Right now is one of those dried up, unmotivated times. I notice this happens when there is not a lot of input going into my creative places. Less reading which means less material to chew on and spill over into other areas (thematic thinking, remember), less time for creative projects , less time spent just enjoying my surroundings and life and more time spent on the logistics of life.

So here we are, heading into our final six weeks here in Qingdao. Suddenly I am in moving mode, having to clean out under beds and go through storage and cupboards. There are so many logistics to think through with the timing of our move and packing our things up to be trucked across the country while we fly home to the States for the summer. At the same time, I don't want to think about those things at all, wishing the time would trickle by so I can see all my dear friends at least twenty more times and savor each one of them, but instead the calendar is filling up with final coffee dates and dinners together.

Then there is the summer which we have been trying to plan for what feels almost like 2 years now, and still the dates and events are constantly changing. Part of me relishes the idea of my kids running around in my parent's backyard in the height of summer, and seeing all our old friends and family. But this particular summer is also a bit harried, with the Man being in Beijing for the month of June while I fly ahead with the kids, and then month of July being absolute back to back traveling from one end of the country to the other and barely a moment's breath in between, until the last hurried moment when we rush back from a reunion to board a plane for China... and our new city, new job, new family and friends to learn.

The reason I share all this is to say that I'm tempted to almost shut down and not write anything at all for the next six weeks.  I look at my camera and have almost no desire to pick it up. I don't know exactly what to say. But I can also see that the next several months are only going to get more stressful than they are right now, so instead of shutting down I want to travel through it well, if that is possible for someone like me to do!

I remember years ago thinking that I was quite flexible and resilient during times of upheaval or stress. This was before I had ever really experienced any I think, because now that I have a bit of background too look back on, I realize I actually respond with impatience, annoyance, and often a mild form of depression! This morning, as I sat and read and looked out the window thinking of the coming months, I really just prayed that I could learn to walk through all this differently, maybe even in a way that the people who live with me could enjoy. I was immediately given the opportunity to practice, when the fourth member of the family came down with the stomach flu and our washing machine flooded the bathroom twice in a 24 hour period.

I actually had a sweet day with my kids, while the Man lay passed out in the bedroom. They were entertained by the strangest things like a mummy sleeping bag I pulled out from it's hiding place, an old mop on the porch, hunting the first flies of the season, and wrapping yarn around our living room like a spider web. Scout continued her A-game Goading with "you're a girl and I'm a boy!!!" which never fails to ruffle the feathers of her four year old brother. Every. Single. Time. It's quite comical actually, especially when he argues with her, but gets it wrong himself.

So maybe in these next few weeks, I will just write about the little things, like dirty mops and sleeping bags. That sounds more appealing right now than anything else, and it may be all I have to offer. If we're lucky, it may even be something worth reading.

And if you're here, thank you for sharing my moody blog moments with me!