29 April, 2017


Due to a minor miscalculation, tomorrow will be the skipped posting day, not today. Our trip is not today and tomorrow, but tomorrow and Monday. Monday might be missed as well, depending on our return time. That said, here are my thoughts on movies I watch repeatedly without tiring.

I could re-watch any of the Star Wars movies over and over and never tire of them.
I mean, obviously. Check out my avi.

Very few new movies strike me that way. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one that I can re-watch, not because I love it or think it's a great film, but because I know it, love the book it's based on, and can leave it on in the background while I do other things. But for the most part, if I watch a movie repeatedly, it's an old classic.

Older than Star Wars. Well, except The Princess Bride. I don't know when that came out, but I'm sure it was more recent than 1977. I can quote that one top to bottom.

I've seen Bridge on the River Kwai enough times I can almost recite it. Same with Doctor Zhivago (both directed by David Lean, incidentally). Breakfast at Tiffany's and Casablanca are two more movies I know extremely well.

Of newer movies? Red. The A-Team. Those we have for "everyday". They're at least since the turn of the century, right? 

I guess this was kind of a blah writing prompt for me. I can give you a list as long as my arm of movies I watch over and over without getting tired of them, because when I like a movie, that's what I do! Why not go with a sure thing instead of try to watch some new thing that's horrible? Do you agree?

28 April, 2017

An Exciting Trip is Coming! I Just Wish I Knew to Where

I'm combining the next two posts from this writing challenge into one. So follow along, it may get convoluted. 

Could I write two posts and just schedule one to go up tomorrow? Yes. But this isn't a moderated challenge and there's no prize. I'm doing it for myself, so if I can't write tomorrow, why pretend?

"But Red, Why 'can't' you write tomorrow?" you ask?

Because we have to meet the bus at 8am. Which brings me to Writing Prompt 1: Something I am excited about.

We are going on a two day (one night) trip out of the city! Yea! I'm very excited to see any part of China that isn't Beijing, just because we so rarely can do that. 

Which brings me to Writing Prompt 2: Five Blessings in your Life.

Blessing 1) I am blessed to travel so widely. Personally, I believe travel is a choice. Both Brett and I know people who express jealousy over our adventures, when really, before moving here, most "adventures" were within a day trip of home. It is not impossible to travel, but I do acknowledge that it takes planning and you have to make it a priority. 

Even moving to Beijing - also a choice - I understand is an easier choice for those of us with no kids, and no deep ties to place. Also because we are in good health. Leading me to...

Blessing 2) I'm in good health. I suffer from no chronic physical ailments, aside from having horrible vision. Nothing requiring complicated or expensive medication. Aside from the occasional cold, I'm fit as a fiddle. All my limbs function well, too.

I have often noted to myself since living here, how very very blessed I am that both of my legs function without assistance. Although, obviously, there are Chinese people who require wheelchairs or crutches or canes, to move as a foreigner to this city where walking is not an option would be an extreme difficulty I would not wish for. Legs are so very important here! If yours work, take a moment to be thankful! Which ties back into the story of this exciting trip...

This? Maybe!
Not only are we getting out of the city, we are going out INTO THE GRASSLAND! Something about a farm, and we will be horseback riding tomorrow afternoon! I'm very excited. I like riding horses, but have only done it about twice since middle school. Now I'm no expert equestrian, but I believe this activity would be nigh impossible without complete control of my legs! (see how I tied it together?)

Blessing 3) is that Brett and I travel well together. Ha! Obviously we made it halfway around the world! Seriously, though, we discovered this early in our dating, which has made our adventures even better. Enough said.

While on this weekend excursion, on the second day we will visit "The Great Kahn Palace". This is the first I've heard of it, and I don't have much time to do research in advance, so I'm grateful for...

Blessing 4) An inquisitive and intelligent brain. Holy crap, you guys, with little time this evening, a quick search for "Great Khan Palace" brings up "Kublai Khan" in the first mentions. THIS IS ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE POEMS! Not that I'm a huge poetry reader, but this one is it. "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree..."
Not what I'd call a dome... but poetic license, yada-yada...

Xanadu = Shangdu according to my very quick search.

Kublai Khan, dubbed "China's favorite barbarian" by BBC.

If this is the right place, it was from the Mongol empire! The very people that caused the Great Wall to be built - to keep them out! I really need to know more Chinese history. But I think this is right.
GENGHIS KAHN - wait...what?

Just informed by our guide: It's Genghis Khan's palace. Still, Mongol!

And honestly, China is completely unlike anyplace else. It seems virtually untouched by the western world in its history and culture. Everything I see and learn here is 100% new and unique and fascinating. So Genghis, Kubla, whatev.

Blessing 5) I'm blessed to have this blog. Right now? How this ties to this trip? If I wasn't writing this very blog-post, I probably would never have done any brief research at all, and just gotten on with packing and eating, and resting because I'm getting over a cold.

I'm so freaking excited. The Mongols are coming!

27 April, 2017

Life Twists

The biggest transforming incident of my life, I am convinced, was when I chucked it all and drove east at 25. I didn't know where I was headed, but I knew I wasn't happy where I was!

"Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love-life's DOA. 
It's like you're always stuck in 2nd gear. When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year..."

Sound familiar? Besides being the "Friends" theme song, that pretty well describes the way I felt at that time.

WHAT IF... I hadn't moved?
What if I let the fear tell me I needed a plan?
What if I had actually talked to someone - anyone - before taking the plunge? I doubt anyone in my life at the time would have encouraged such a foolhardy choice.

I was stuck living out other people's goals for me, trying to do "the right thing" with my life, and going nowhere. 
Afraid to get a real job, I kept working on campus and going to school.
My "relationship" if you can call such a one-sided business that, was truly DOA. 

I was going nowhere fast... stuck in second gear!

This "what if" is one that has occurred to me so many times:

If I... never moved to Pennsylvania, I wouldn't have been transferred to Delaware - my home for the longest time, and a place I truly love.
If I... never worked for a state park, I would never have seen an ad for an Environmental Studies degree and gone to Grad School.
If I... hadn't lived in Delaware, I probably wouldn't have been so open and honest on The Transformed Non-conformist blog, and Brett definitely wouldn't have been so fearless in flirting with me... 900 miles away! 
IF WE... never met... never married... my life would be much less colorful.

I doubt I would have done much. I wouldn't have realized what I really can do! I had to fend for myself for the first time, and I succeeded! When people tell me I'm strong, or confident, or independent, the biggest reason is because I forced myself to do it.

I will always encourage people to take the scary option. Don't say you are stuck. 
Don't ever say that or think it. 
Your perfect option may not be available, but there is ALWAYS an alternative.

So tell me, what is something that makes you wonder "what if..."

26 April, 2017

Cleaner, Greener, Leaner

We're killing our planet. We are. Can it recover? Probably, but if things don't change, it will only recover after all the planet-killing humans are dead, boiled away in space on an overheated planet, or after the next major war eliminates everyone.

I'm not going to quote scientific articles here, mostly because this is a BLOG, not a scientific journal. However, I have studied this, and the fact that so many people are waiting for "more science" is just a subtle way to maintain a current lifestyle without thinking about it.

WHILE waiting for "more science", it certainly doesn't hurt to stop trashing the place!

We see and know that air pollution is bad. Why should we wait around for "more science" to clean up the air? Fish are over-harvested and are smaller now than they were years ago for that reason. Why should we wait around for "more science" to set realistic limits? Or to curtail water pollution?

The planet IS warming. The oceans ARE rising. Do we want to wait until we have measurable feet of rising oceans to begin changing things? Because by that time it may be too late! I get that the people on the "wait and see" side expect that this is a phase. If the planet has been through this before, we aren't to blame. But the fact of the incredible speed with which this warming and rising has happened - since the industrial revolution, roughly - should indicate that even if this is a phase, it has been exacerbated by human involvement.

Lightening our footprint is never a bad idea.

Water is a finite resource.
Oil is a finite resource.

Learning how to purify water to make it potable will ultimately be more valuable to more people than simply digging more and deeper wells until we run completely out.
Testing and finding better fuel sources than oil is a great idea and one that needs to be encouraged instead of making the alternative energy sources more expensive.

I do not have the answer. For every solution there is another drawback. But surely we have to try? I feel utterly helpless in this regard. AND I feel like a lone voice sometimes, based upon my peer group.

Today's post brought to you by the prompt "something you feel strongly about".

25 April, 2017

Wisdom for all Ages

When I get a cold, it takes over all of me. I am the worst. I'm also on my 5th cold since moving to Beijing and seriously thinking it's not me, it's the place. 

Suffering through a stopped nose and a fuzzy brain, when asked what words of wisdom speak to me, the best and brightest gem that floats to the top is:

Starve a cold, Feed a fever.
I know, that's not "wisdom" per se, but it has stuck. 

For the longest time, I couldn't keep it straight in my head which got starved, but then a few years ago I read something about cold remedies. Ahem, ahem, ahem...

A COLD is a virus. Viruses love the sugar your body turns food into. Eating sugar or simple carbs that turn into sugar is bad. 

A FEVER means that your body is fighting off an infection of some sort. Your body uses energy to do this, so it needs you to fuel it appropriately.

Should you fast when you're sick? Of course not. But I like this logical way to think about it: eat less to feed a virus, but keep your body fueled for a fever.

24 April, 2017

The Struggle is Real

"Share something you struggle with."

BAHAhahahahaha! I moved to China 7 months ago. I could make this a list of the chaos of big and small hurdles that require maximum agility to survive. 
But I won't. That would just annoy me. Humor is better. 

There is one thing that is a daily struggle in my life, regardless of where I live. It is a part of married life, I suppose, and perhaps you can relate:


Yes, I married a blanket hog. It's a sad tale, but true. Love him as much as I do, a part of me catches a draft several times a night as he rolls over and takes the blankets with him. We celebrate our 3rd anniversary next week - just THREE YEARS! - and we have already discussed the need for single beds. 

The struggle is real.

First, he is bigger than I, so I recognize that it takes greater blanketal area to cover his body than mine. Add to that the fact that he wraps himself around both a large pillow and a bunched up quilt, and the volume of his space that the blankets must cover is doubled.

Then, that pillow and quilt act like velcro on the cotton duvet cover and grab onto it with each somnolent movement.

I know he tries to be careful. He wakes up to turn over, and tries to keep that velcro action from happening, and cautiously rolling without taking the blankets along. But inevitably I awaken too, either to grab tight hold on my end of the blanket and hold it in place, or with a freezing shoulder, arm, or hip - whichever is exposed.

Do we need a larger blanket? Yes. But the bed is not very high, and I don't want it dragging on the floor. We actually added a fleece blanket on top, which gives several additional inches on each side. It does help, but not completely.
This is us in a few years.

There is no resolution. Only separate beds will fix this.

23 April, 2017

The Music of My Life

I'm not up on popular music. Heck. I live in China. A prompt asking my favorite current music is kind of moot.

Lucky for you, I was raised in a musical family. There is always music in my head even if I can't hear it with my ears.

Just today, I belted out, along with iheart radio the version of Nearer My God To Thee by Vocal Point. This is not a hymn I've ever really liked - kind of slow and dirge-like, usually. But I will always crank up this a capella version.

Listen or watch, here.
I love the counterpoint of that pulsing Latin chorus running all the way through. (My mom does not like this version. I guess it's "too weird.")

Lately, Phantom of the Opera songs have been parading through my head in succession. This is my favorite musical, which I've sadly never actually seen. I've even read the original book, which just adds depth to my love for this. It's actually a heartbreaking love story. I played the soundtrack again a few days after we saw a Chinese Opera, and suddenly wish that it would play here and I could take my musical Chinese friend to see it.

Sadly, I can't find any decent versions on youtube to share here, and I don't know how to drop in a sound file from my computer. You just have to imagine it.

Then, yesterday, randomly, while Brett and I were standing at a bus-stop, something reminded me of narwhals and we were singing that song.

Remember this? It was in an ad in the US last year.

But growing up, we all learned piano and sang in church choirs, from a young age. Mom had a huge Reader's Digest music collection of hits from all different eras. In high school I impressed a friend by knowing all the words to "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head", "Blue Moon", and "The Beer Barrel Polka." Including multiple verses, the bridge, etc.

So many of these have fun little stories within the lyrics. I love it.

Those are just songs. I love classical music, and going to the symphony brings me joy. Number one favorite is Sheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, but my favorite composer overall is Beethoven. His music resonates with me and definitely affects my mood when I listen.

What about you? Do you have favorite songs, or musicians? What is your go-to music?

22 April, 2017

Be Still my Beating... Really?

Today's annoyingly saccharine prompt wants me to tell 5 ways to "win my heart." Bleah. How cheesy can you get? Really. Besides, does anyone really know until it happens? Of course not. So my version of this will be a brief discussion of how I got together with Brett. For more details, see the tab at the top of this blog "The Saga of Red and the Transformed Nonconformist". It needs to be updated, but the early stuff is there.

For me to have interest in any man, he must first and foremost be smart. I have a high intelligence and do not suffer fools easily. Besides, I have seen guys who were interested in me lose interest as soon as I show myself to be a nerd. So, 1. SMART.

My feelings for Brett really spiked the night that things came crashing down around me as I prepared to move from my home in Delaware. We still had never met face to face, but were emailing regularly. When I came home in crisis and sent him an email about it, he answered, "I'm here if you need to talk," and we emailed (I wasn't foolish enough to give my phone number to a stranger!) all night. 2. BE THERE FOR ME.

I was not one to let religion stop me from dating someone, but the fact that we both had a similar understanding of the Bible - and that he had a theological education - made discussions about religion easy to have, and interesting. Although I wouldn't say that categorically, sharing a common religion is a key to "win my heart," a valuable part of our current relationship is 3. SHARED FAITH.

Some people (my BFF, for one) cannot abide liars. I would hope we all hold ourselves in high enough esteem to steer clear of those who habitually deceive us. If I'm honest, though, Brett "won my heart" through deception. Not malicious lies, but let's just say he's very quick with google. I had posted an Audrey Hepburn quote from a favorite movie, and he responded with a suitable quote from the same movie, making me think he was familiar with it. I was impressed. Months later, after we'd met and were happily dating, he informed me he had never seen that movie, but did a quick search for my quote, and found a good response! This was just one time he showed that he could 4. FAKE IT.

I should perhaps have mentioned this first. Although it isn't the most important, the immediate, first thing I notice about a person is their attitude. Granted, it's a perception that may be wrong - you may not be angry, but merely frustrated in the moment. Still, if I spend an afternoon with you, I can get a pretty good idea of your general attitude towards life. NOTE: I am not talking about a mood. Do you feel the world owes you something? Is everything someone else's fault? Are you rude to the wait staff? I cannot stress enough how vital to winning my heart was Brett's 5. POSITIVE ATTITUDE.

There you have it. I hope by not addressing this topic as a bullet list, and by sort of flipping the script to put the item at the end of the description worked for you, because it was an entertaining exercise for me!

21 April, 2017

Oh The Places I Hope to Go!

Five places I want to go? They're only asking for five?
*blows on nails*
I got this.

First, a few from the bucket list, in no particular order:

1. Easter Island.
Giant Stone Heads! 'Nuff said.
Apparently I have a thing for rocks. Stonehenge is another favorite (which I've already visited). I always say I missed my calling to be a geologist. If I get to Easter Island, it would only be logical to hop over to Chile for a visit, too, which is another bucket list place.

2. Pamplona, Spain.
This could be me!
Yes, I want to run with the bulls. (please keep your moral outrage to yourself. I've heard it.) Since I married a man who has this on his bucket list, too, and we have begun a life of travel, this might actually happen someday!

3. Chichen Itza.
Actually, any of the Mayan, Aztec, Toltec, or Incan temples would suffice.

Another big, man-made pile of rocks. I want to climb this thing.

...And for the last two items on this list, I'll put two new ideas: places that have high demand for ESL teachers, and are therefore possible future homes.

1. (4.) Vietnam.
I miss beaches.
I had heard that Vietnam has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's a shame most Americans only know it for a horrible war. Nowadays, this country is highly ranked by ESL teachers for opportunity, cost of living and other factors. I really hope that we like it when we visit. Even though I'm sure I wouldn't be sitting on a beach everyday, being near enough to visit semi-regularly would be delightful!

2. (5.) The Phillipines.
Mountains AND beaches.
This was a surprise to me, but it also showed on the list of highly ranked places for ESL teachers. My grandparents lived there for a while when I was young, so it would be cool to walk where they walked. This is a highly likely destination within the next year, as some friends of our here in Beijing "have connections" there.

Where would you choose to visit?

20 April, 2017

Who Inspires You?

Right now, the person who comes to mind is Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. Not just because of her writing, which I love.

As someone who suffers from depression, I admire her getting out of bed and functioning, and sharing her journey! I'm not brave enough to share mine. I don't talk about it. So reading her struggles, which are truly greater than mine. Helps.

I follow her on twitter, and every now and then, seemingly out of the blue, she tweets something like, "Hang on. You are needed. You are loved." Or words like that which can actually be the most positive point in my day!

Of course, if you've read her blog or her books, you know she is laugh-out-loud funny, too. There is light and darkness in this woman, and I love her for all of it.

Short post today because very little sleep last night.
I'm counting this short post an achievement.

19 April, 2017


I told Brett last night that today's post was about my top three pet peeves but I could only think of one.

He laughed, then proceeded to list several things that annoy me, most of which I would argue are not "peeves" but simply situations I've been in. I'm not really that peevish, am I? However, his comments did provide a needed paradigm shift to set me on the right direction.

First, my Cardinal Pet Peeve: Unsolicited advice
Yes, anytime someone posts on social media they have a cold, everyone says, "So sorry you're sick. Get some rest," or generic advice like that. I guess I consider that something of an "I'm showing my concern" statement rather than actual advice.

No, for me, the unsolicited advice is when my best friend - yes, ironically enough my BFF does this to me All. The. Time - says things like, "Oh! You should buy a car in Beijing and be a kind of uber driver for the expats," because she's trying to solve my problem of getting around. Fortunately, with a BFF it's okay to snarkily respond with, "oh sure, if I wanted the expense of a car, or knew my way around the city well enough to drive it, or even WANTED to drive in this hellish traffic!" and she can laugh it off.

One time, I said I was looking for an apartment in the city with a rent of about $XXX, and my brother-in-law, who doesn't live there, has never lived there, and doesn't know anyone in that city, said, "You'll never find that! You need to be looking in XXX range!" WTF? I stuck to my guns and got what I wanted. Suck it, B-I-L!

I think this peeve rankles so, because as the youngest girl in a large family, I have been subjected to TONS of advice from those older and wiser, throughout my life. I'm a grown adult now - have been for decades! - so just shut it. Please. 

Second, surprise events. (at least, those directed at me)
I don't mind surprises like my husband making the bed, or a gift of flowers, but I am a planner. DO NOT deny me the ability to plan what I'm going to wear, whether to bring a gift, how to get there, or any errands that can be planned in conjunction with said event. How do you know I didn't have things that I need to get done at that precise time? Nope. Count me out.

Finally, I give you a knew one: Lack of information
This one I would never have considered before moving to China.

Not lack of general information. You can keep your child's potty-training progress to yourself. But if it pertains to me, TELL ME! Who knew this wasn't an obvious concept? 

Case in point: Qing Ming festival was a couple weeks ago. This is a Chinese holiday to respect your ancestors. While in the office of a private school where I help with their English printed materials, I heard talk of having Monday off. I mentioned this to Brett, asking if he had the day off. He hadn't heard about it. So on Thursday, he asked the head of his school's English department, "Is there a holiday Monday?" and was told, "Of course! We have off for Qing Ming Jie!" Great. Was anyone going to tell him? No. But it gets better. They make up Monday classes on Saturday! If he hadn't asked, they would have expected him to be there on Saturday, but he would not have known about it!

Tell me what I need to know. Or even, just answer my question! Our leasing agent has ignored our pleas for a mailbox key. We've lived here for 6 months, and know there is mail in the box downstairs. He insists: "Key is useless. No one uses." Most mail here is sent by courier. But news flash! We didn't ask your opinion! We asked how we can get a key! 

It's vastly annoying, but hopefully just a China thing. I won't be here forever.

...I have to say, this was an annoying post to write. I think next time this writing challenge list has an idea that focuses on the negative, I will skip it and come up with my own subject. Now I'm all angry about these things!

18 April, 2017

Words That Stick

Today's prompt was to share something someone once told me about myself that has stuck with me ever since. I could share several, but I'll go with the first that came to mind.

Remember the early days of the internet? If not, you're too young, so you won't get it. Haha!

Back in those olden days when I was in college, and we had this place called "The Computer Lab." It was a big room full of desktop computers, because most of us didn't have our own personal computers. I mean, unless you were a computer science major, maybe then.

My favorite time to use the lab was late at night because it was less crowded. One night I was there, working on some project, with only about 2 or 3 others in the place. Someone entered the lab that late, saw me, and came over to talk. I'd probably been there a couple hours and was ready for a chat break.

I went to a fairly small, private University - was it 2,000? 4,000? students at the time? Small. Not so small that everyone knew everyone else, but small enough that if your paths crossed regularly you got to know people. This guy who came in was one of those people. I don't remember a name, just that he was a few years behind me, and I was familiar with him, but not quite "friends". I *think* our paths crossed either through music or theatre. 

We didn't talk regularly except to say hi, but this time he came over to say hi and we had a conversation about something I don't remember. During the conversation, he interrupted himself to say, "You know, you have really pretty eyes!" This was not a flirting situation - I think he had a girlfriend and we didn't know each other well anyway. It was just stated as matter-of-fact. 

Of course, I stumbled with some kind of, "oh! Well thank you!" because I'd never been told that before. He continued, now scrutinizing my face, "I mean, the whole shape... and eyebrows and everything."

THAT has stuck with me. And I groom my eyebrows every day! Not pluck. I only pluck if a hair won't lay straight, but I shape them. So I guess the words not only stuck with me, but affected my daily actions!

Words are powerful. Use them wisely!

17 April, 2017

Ten Joys

I found a "30 Day Writing Challenge" that isn't blog-related, isn't time driven, so I'm going to try to follow it. It's just 30 writing prompts, and the first is:

List 10 things that make you really happy. 

I almost moved to the second item, because I'm on the brink of depression again, and coming up with things that make me happy is HARD! But then I decided it would be a good exercise, simply because of that. I am not happy. My inclination is to see all the doom and despair, so forcing myself to dredge up memories of what makes me happy might help!

1. Singing along with the music - in the car, at home, joining the earworm du jour. I was raised in a musical family. I once read that a sign/symptom of depression is when things that bring you joy no longer bring you joy. That was my first step toward successfully warding off the black cloud. When driving to work, if a singable song came on the radio and I was too down to even sing, I started to force myself to sing anyway. It helped!

2. Walking on the beach. Not a romantic walk. I think I'm actually happiest doing these walks solo. I lived at the beach for 12 years and walked it in all weather. I'm not a swimmer - I can, but I typically don't - but walking in the shallows is heaven. The sand between my toes, the roar of the waves, or the light sloshing sound of low-tide. Joy.

3. I am finding that I truly enjoy editing scripts. It's a weird one, but as an ESL teacher in China, I have had to edit nearly every play they want me to do. I can find scripts, but typically the ones that are age-appropriate use words that are a bit advanced for early English learners. That, or I'm given a script that someone wrote based on a Chinese tale, or perhaps through a non-native speaker or simply non-theater-person, and the dialog is clunky. OR - I have too many students for the number of parts and I'm asked to add more roles! I actually enjoy it now. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.

4. Sitting in a coffee shop with a coffee and a book. Actually, I guess it doesn't have to be a coffee shop. It could be at home or in a park, too. This is my ideal. I've been working on a reading nook for myself in our tiny apartment, and it's nice to escape to when I can. My perfect house will have such a place.

5. Yoga. I do yoga every morning, and used to do more at night sometimes, but my evening workouts have slipped as our wifi slipped: I follow 2 youtube yoga channels, but they keep buffering now so it's just annoying.
Yoga With Adriene and Yoga By Candace
If you're curious to try yoga, I recommend Adriene for beginners.

6. Acting. I miss it now, but when I was on stage regularly, that truly made me happy. Each play is a rollercoaster of joys and struggles, but overall I love it. For now, the closest I get to that feeling is when I'm recording the English lessons for the online portal of the publisher I work for. It's not the same. I could never do TV. Too much starting and stopping.

7. My in-laws. Is that weird? They are a fun bunch, and I truly enjoy the company of my husband's family. It's very different from my family - less drama, fewer "rules". 

8. Baking. When I lived out east and couldn't see family for Christmas, my tradition was to spend Christmas Day baking. I would do about 7 types of cookies, and bake a quick zucchini pie for my lunch. It was a science - everything planned out - cookie dough that needed refrigeration was started the night before, and I did dishes as I went, so that I could make new dough for the next batch while one was baking. Loved it. 
Married, I discovered the joy of making scones for breakfast. From scratch.
Here in China? We don't have an oven. SOooo... it's another thing to miss for now.

9. Planning. I wasn't going to list this because right now, trying to find tickets to plan a trip back to the States is kind of annoying, but planning in general is still a happy thing. Like planning my baking days used to be. I can plan a day, or a week, or plan my reading nook or the organization of my desk. Order makes me happy. It's probably an attempt to find control in the chaos. So much for my psychosis!

10. Having a productive day. This is an assessment I make every night. I don't always make a to-do list, but I have a daily "done" list. Again, gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Making this list wasn't as much of a struggle as I thought it would be, but several items are part of the past... If I limited myself to things that make me happy now? I don't know what I'd replace those things with.

Your turn. What makes you truly happy?

16 April, 2017

No A to Z for Me!

A while back, I asked for input on subject matter for the A to Z Challenge. I successfully completed the challenge last year, and with all my new circumstances - including spotty wifi - I wanted to attempt it again.

You may notice that I am posting neither daily, nor alphabetically!

I admit, I did not even get around to looking at the A to Z set-up page, but Brett did. He informed me that this year would be different: rather than a list of participating blogs, that required daily maintenance, everybody would simply link their A to Z posts through twitter or facebook. (Are you doing the challenge this year? Let me know in a comment.)

As an anonymous blogger, that poses a serious problem for me! I understand why they are doing it. Managing that challenge must be a huge pain when you have to verify every single blog every day. But I cannot remain anonymous and utilize social media! I decided that joining the challenge served no practical purpose for me this year.

Since my primary goal is to increase my writing frequency, and improve my writing, surely I can simply write every day!


You may notice that I have not posted regularly in April. Yes, things got in the way, taxes, a new work visa, job changes... All kinds of things left me under-motivated to plug into the blogosphere. Now that life is settling down - Again. For about the third time since we moved to China - I am going to challenge myself to write daily.

This may not always be blog writing, though. As I said, wifi is not always reliable. Also, some days I expect that I won't wish to sit at the computer in my down time. I have a lovely reading nook now, where I might simply journal in a notebook. That said, I will be a little more present here.

That is my intention. My challenge to myself. Not A to Z, and not themed. Some days may be a bit of a ramble through my thoughts. Read it or don't. Comment or not. If I can write every day for a month, I'll be happy!

15 April, 2017

The Dreaded "Medical Check"

It’s really not as bad as it sounds. It’s just the biggest pain in the neck about the visa process here!

The set-up is basically two floors, spacious, with about 8 different rooms you go to for different procedures, and you can do them in any order, avoiding the longest lines as you choose. Each room is very quick:
~Chest X-ray
~Blood draw
~Eye test
~Blood pressure and Heart-rate
~Plus a photo room – everyone needs a headshot for everything. They seem to attach passport photos to everything.

All that, plus registering and paying up front, and I was in and out in less than an hour. Not too shabby! These Chinese are very efficient!

Except the place is impossible to find, and no one had told me how much the fee was.
Using our handy Google Maps, we located a route to the address we thought. We spent about 3 hours trekking to that location and not finding the right building.

Then I was sent a different address.

So I spent over 2 hours trekking to that site, only to quickly realize that the intense business district was all wrong, plus realizing the address was for the 23rd floor! Not right at all.

Finally, my would be employer sent me a third address, that at least seemed to be in the same area as the place we went last fall. So, undeterred, Brett and I looked up the easiest route and trekked optimistically beyond the fifth ring road. No dice. 

After three hours wandering through the no-man’s-land of the extreme outskirts of Beijing, we hopped on a bus, rerouted ourselves toward pizza, and I asked my boss to help me by providing a car for Monday morning. Because naturally, the place is only open on weekday mornings!

That was the worst part. The feeling of helplessness because, after looking up how to get somewhere, if our directions are wrong we, a) don’t know the language well enough to ask for directions and b) don’t yet have data open in China on our American phones, which means no live GPS. It can be very disheartening.

Again, the exam is simple and quick. However, either I mis-remembered the fee, or they have gone way up! I brought along 300RMB (about $45), according to my memory of the last time. I did not think to take our debit card, which Brett typically holds, because my backup money is in my phone, through WeChat, the Chinese super-app.
When the cashier asked for 502.50, I showed her my 300, and said, “weixin” (way-shin) which is the Mandarin name for Wechat. She looked extremely annoyed as she indicated I needed to go back out to the main counter.

Eventually, with the help of my boss on the phone talking to another staff person there, they finally let me pay the remainder via WeChat. 

I'm glad that ordeal is done. Now as long as they can finalize my new visa before it expires in six months!