20 June, 2018

Speaking of Family

We just finished watching the movie Father Figures, which I'd never heard of. (I was living in a very conservative, communist country when it came out, and the subject matter was probably not approved for Chinese audiences.) 
image: imdb.com

Have you seen it? It's pretty cute. I hadn't intended to watch but got sucked in.

It got me thinking how blessed I am with family. And how appropriate, since Father's Day was this past weekend! So, here's to family! The good, the bad, and the ugly. Because let's face it, all families have a little of each.

Are you close with your family? I used to think my family was pretty close-knit, but I don't know anymore. We definitely come together for each other when needed, and I'm pretty sure I could count on one of my siblings for a kidney if I needed it, but what constitutes close?

I have 4 siblings. At different times in my life, I've been closer to one or the other. (With the exception of sister 2. We have fought like alleycats my whole life.) I'm the only one of us who made the trip to visit our brother in Turkey when he lived there. For a while, I was the only one who saw our youngest brother often enough to know what was going on in his life. Now, I don't talk to either brother. Not by choice. There's just no effort. However, my eldest sister plans to come visit me this winter! I talk to her a couple times a month.

I really have nothing to compare against. I grew up an expat kid, going to boarding schools most of the time, where you no longer sit for meals with your siblings, but they are there in the background for support if you need it. I think this was good. I think by spending more time away from my immediate family, I got to experience a broader range of cultures and lifestyles, toys and foods. Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe it's just what I know.

For the majority of my adult life, I never told people about growing up "overseas". Because there is one question that every single person who didn't do it ALWAYS asks. Say it with me: "What was it like?"

Here's the answer: "I don't know." 
What was it like growing up where you grew up? Can you define it?

When we're growing up, we're kids. Our world view is forming. I don't have a background to judge against, so I have no answer. I know my upbringing wasn't "normal" but it's the only one I know, so what can I say?

PRO TIP: If you come across someone who had an unusual upbringing, do them a favor and ask a precise question. "What was the best thing about living in a dorm / abandoned ghost town / puppy-mill?" "Do you think you got away with more or less by being away from your parents / the living / the pig overlords?" "Did you learn to love spicy food / bats / dog food?" Anything besides "what was it like?" That question now makes me want to stab people with a fork. 

Which I why I just stopped telling people about my past. 
It's easy when you move around. People in Pennsylvania knew I lived in Chicago before that. When I moved to Delaware, I was transferred from PA, so most people didn't even ask. Co-workers in Indiana were content to consider me from Delaware. If you don't tell, most people won't ask. 

Family, though. They always know, don't they? They know exactly where you come from - geographically, emotionally, spiritually - It's why and how we have inside jokes. It's also sometimes the cause for division, which is sad to say. 

I'm grinning at my sibling rival.
I really feel I'm blessed with family. I know not everyone does. I have parents who love me and whom I am close enough to that we can enjoy a card game together when I visit. I have a sister I do not get along with although we both love each other and laugh together at times; I also have a sister I talk with often - we have coffee and wine together (timezones, you understand). I have a brother who refuses to talk to me - I think my words hurt him one time (he never explained, just unfriended me on FB). And I have a brother who is just about the best friend I could have ... if he ever had the time to talk. But with the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with family, all in all, I think I made out okay. 

I hope everyone has at least someone in their family they can trust. If not in their biological family, that they have created a valued family of friends. Because sometimes, that's the best there is.

17 June, 2018

Three Weeks Down

I'm still unsettled about a Sunday catch up or wrap up or what have you. I don't have a title idea, and it's different every time.

Tonight I'm running later than I prefer. I almost totally forgot to post, until Brett was in class, and when he's teaching, I try not to use the internet. If I accidentally slip into streaming mode, it could affect his connection, and that's his job. So I opened my blog to write, and thought, "Oh crap! No!" and shut it down for three hours, and then a storm came and then we went out to grab supper, and now it's almost 9pm and what am I doing still online?

Oh! My computer will update in 15 minutes, so I'll make this quick.

Well, we've lived in Vietnam for 3 weeks now. We've started taking evening swims after Brett finishes teaching (so, after 8pm) and that's a great habit. 

Friday we rented a motorbike and explored some of the areas beyond our walking distance. Tourist places, you know.

Da Nang, from the Son Tra Peninsula

This is the largest marble Buddhist statue in Asia.

The backside of the peninsula. No more view of Da Nang!

Hoi An river, in historic Hoi An

Anyway, we are getting used to life here.

14 June, 2018

Wednesday Hodgepodge

I've seen this link-up on a few blogs, so this week I decided to take the plunge. It's still Wednesday in the US, so I figure I'm okay. It comes from From This Side of the Pond.
I can't make the button link, so here's the link.
So, here goes. My answers to the six questions of the week.

1. What happens to the mail at your house? 
We just moved to Vietnam, so I have no idea. Since we live in a small apartment owned by the guy who owns the coffee shop on the first floor, I would imagine that any mail would come to him and he will give it to us when he sees us. Or bring it up to our door. We shall see!

2. Something you always splurge on? Any guilt associated with the splurge? 
The first thing that comes to mind is wine, but I don't really splurge. I'm happy with the cheap stuff. Probably croissants. I have found that a proper croissant is a delicious breakfast, but they are hard to find here. Guilt came when we lived in Beijing and I had croissants delivered regularly. Guilt from calories and from the expense. Not here though. I can't get them as often.

3. There are many, but what are two important questions you think every bride and groom should ask/answer before they plan their walk down the aisle?

*blows on fingernails* 
NUMBER ONE! Discuss having children. This is not just a question, but a heart-to-heart, and BELIEVE your S.O. whatever he or she says. If you are not on the same page about having children or not, DON'T DO IT! How many stupid people have I seen get married thinking the other person would change their mind or get on board with the idea, then crash and burn. And I'm not going to soften that word "stupid". To not adequately address this subject before marriage is the definition of stupid. Just don't.

TWO is somewhat related, but broader: What habits does your S.O. have that raise red flags? Ask yourself if you can live with that for the rest of your life. Chewing with their mouth open? Sounds petty but if it will grate on your nerves every day, forever, it's not worth the commitment. Do not expect or hope they will change in conjunction with your wishes. People may change, but you cannot force it.  

4. What's the best advice your father ever gave you?

One time I was planning something and debating whether to tell the other person about it because I wasn't sure it would happen - an outing or party, or something - and my Dad said not to "deprive them of the joy of anticipation." He was very animated about it. Especially since I wasn't sure I could pull it off, at least letting the other person know I was thinking of doing something special would make them smile. I love that. 

5. Your favorite movie where a father features heavily in the storyline?

There are two that came quickly to mind:
Dead Poet's Society (Remember Kurtwood Smith's character?) He's a minor character, but pivotal.
Field of Dreams - I'm not actually sure about the "father" part, but wasn't the whole point his connection with his dad?

6. Insert your own random thought here.

I'm seeing a lot out there this week about failure, or feeling like a failure, or quitting (my own post). I think failure has become a dirty word, but we need to flip the script. Last night I was overcharged for some food from a food cart, and I felt terrible later ... like I had personally failed because I didn't bargain them down. 

Flip the script.
It's not failure on my part or a con on their part. I simply paid extra for a late night purchase when they were closing.
Or, I paid extra because I can. 
I am doing my part to improve their services.

How will you flip the negative script that runs in your head when something bad happens?

13 June, 2018

Easy to Quit

So Easy to Quit.

I started studying Mandarin last fall. I live in Vietnam now. Everyone is surprised that I'm continuing my study of Mandarin after moving out of China, and my response is simply that Mandarin is a good language to know as long as I'm living anywhere in this part of the world. I believe that.

Now that I'm here, it would be so easy to quit.

I see a few shops that have Chinese characters on their outdoor signage so I know there's some Mandarin presence. I don't have any way to practice it daily.

It would be easy to quit.

But I won't. I know so many bits and pieces of other languages, I want to finally become fluent in one. I can count to 10 in 10 languages. I had the Japanese exchange students at my high school teach me an impressive sentence (while my classmates were learning curse words). Often, common sayings pop into my head in German instead of English. But I can't converse in anything but English. I'm getting there with Mandarin.

Quitting is always an easy option, isn't it?

I have no set "job", although I am still doing bits of work for people I worked for/with in Beijing. My business idea is just that. I am learning/deciding how to set it up, and trying to find information on business laws here. I want to do it properly from the get-go, and that will take time. I know that, for a professional business with a professional webpage, business cards, etc., there will be a capital outlay, and we don't have that yet.

Knowing this, when we planned this move, Brett based our financial expectations on his expected income. He started working this week, but won't see a paycheck until next month. He did not figure any income from me into the plans, because we don't know when or how much that will be.

He believes that we will be able to live comfortably on his income.
I don't need to work. I don't need to start a business of any kind.

It would be so easy to quit.

But I won't. Not only am I not used to not working, I believe what I have to offer has serious value in my new home city! I have certain skills and abilities that I need to exercise. If I fail, I fail, but I won't quit.

I'm curious to hear of your almost-quitting stories. Have you ever been tempted to quit something, but stuck it out to a positive result? Have you stuck it out, but realized you should have quit while you were ahead?

10 June, 2018

Time LInes

Trying another Sunday reflection-type post, but I have a focus today.

Today I have been in contact with several friends and contacts from Beijing, and it got me thinking about how long it took to connect with these people.

I've lived in Vietnam for 2 weeks (not counting the short trip when we basically found our apartment and started navigating the neighborhood). I already have four expat friends, and three Vietnamese friends - by this, I am counting people whose name I know and with whom I have held multiple legitimate conversations longer than "Good morning" or "how much is that".

Two weeks.

When we moved to Beijing, we knew one expat and had been in touch with a few Chinese nationals who were helping get us situated. Of those initial contacts, I am really only still in touch with two. The people I've been talking to in Beijing today include:
  1. The mother of the little girl I tutored. And the little girl.
  2. My primary boss, whom I love and can't praise highly enough.
  3. A contact at one of my very last jobs, sweet girl, although not a close friend. 

1. Actually, the mother's contact information came up on my phone, but she was letting her daughter talk to me. So sweet. I met this woman after we had lived in Beijing for a little over two months. Their family became good friends with us, treating us to dinner several times, and helping us with our Beijing apartment search this past winter. (Which culminated in our moving to a different country. OOPS!)

2. A month or two after I met (1.), while we were still out of work, the expat friend we knew before moving to Beijing connected me with this person, knowing she needed someone to be an on-screen face for the English language books and videos she was trying to produce. She was a great boss, and I consider her a friend. I hope to continue working with her from here.

3. This was a business contact. I took the job in the spring, when we thought we'd be moving later in the summer, and haven't been paid for my latest work. I reached out to check on that.

So, timelines. Two of my closest work connections happened after I had lived in Beijing for over 2 months. We've only been in Vietnam 2 weeks. I need to chill.

Oh, chill about what? Didn't I mention that? This business idea of mine feels like it's stagnating - but with perspective, I realize that I only made my intentions public here days ago. Literally days ago. I need to cut myself some slack. 

What are you being too hard on yourself about? Lean back, take a deep breath and consider the entire picture.

06 June, 2018

Welcome to the Inside of the Joke

You know how families are. There are jokes that no one gets except for family. The "You had to be there" kind of thing.

I have a big family, and there are lots of random inside jokes spanning decades, some of which apply more to certain family members than to others. Because "you had to be there." I want to share one of those stories.

A few years ago, at my parents' house in Indiana, my sisters, mom and I were working in the kitchen. Maybe it was Thanksgiving time or something. I was making a pie from a new recipe I found.  The others were working on different tasks.

This recipe called for toasted coconut to be sprinkled on top of the pie. Knowing there must be a set temperature and time for making the toasted coconut, as I spread it on the baking sheet I asked the room, "How do you toast coconut?"

Without missing a beat, one of my sisters raised her wine glass, said, "To coconut!" and continued what she was doing.

O.M.G. The laughter.

From that day on, whenever the family gets together, we always toast "To coconut!"

My brothers were both in other countries, so they missed the moment, but they participate now.

Fast Forward to 2018.
When my family shared a photo online of Easter dinner with everyone toasting coconut, I thought of buying 2 coconuts from the market in Beijing and sharing a picture of Brett and I actually toasting with coconuts, but it seemed extravagant since he doesn't really like coconut milk.
Now in Vietnam, coconuts are everywhere. Bars at the beach serve drinks in them. Bunches of coconuts rest in the doorways of coffee shops and tiny side-street restaurants, and the idea I had in Beijing is stronger. Now that one of my sisters is planning a visit later this year, the idea gained momentum.
Our view across the river in Hoi An at supper last night.

Last night, I did something about it. Brett had taken me down to Hoi an, an historic city that is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and we found ourselves grabbing supper and large tropical drinks in a river-side restaurant. Another of those places with a random pile of humongous coconuts sitting on the floor near the bar. When a small family nearby ordered coconut milk from the coconut and I saw just how huge it was, I had to do it.

It was the size of a basketball!

We ordered the giant coconut solely to get a picture of the two of us drinking from it so that I could share my "To coconuts" picture. (After a first sip for the photo, we had them add some rum to make it more palatable.)

No one else thinks this is a funny joke and I know that, but I love it. What about you? What do you do or say with family that no one else understands?

03 June, 2018

Sunday Reflections

Well, if I'm going to get into a scheduled blogpost routine I guess I'd better start.

I'm going to try my hand at a catch-up post. Maybe that will be my Sunday routine. I'm not following a prompt or anything, but it's been a big week!

One week ago today, we boarded a plane from Beijing to Da Nang, and that was that. We arrived after midnight Monday morning and breezed through immigration and customs. I couldn't believe it. We were home! As annoying as it was to do the move in two trips, it felt good to just arrive, and catch a cab to the apartment we would unpack into. Home sweet home.

The next several days were a blur of unpacking, walking on the beach, and finding the places we need. We now know of one major Walmart-style store that's about a 25-minute walk from home (a different, bigger one is further away). We found a fruit and vegetable market about 10 minutes away, and we've checked out several restaurants. I managed to navigate the pharmacy situation when I fell in the street and gave my knee a nasty scrape. (It's still oozing. Gross.)

Brett and I both agree that, although we notice that we're sweating, it doesn't really feel hot. People who live in arid climates and say "at least it's a dry heat" must be crazy. That's the hot heat! This is just delicious. But to each their own.

Saturday was another installment of the International Fireworks Competition, so we had some friends over and watched the fireworks from the terrace upstairs. It was pretty cool. It's amazing to me how quickly we have friends here. The fireworks were also a good opportunity to meet more of our neighbors who live in this building.

Today was rainy, but I took a walk on the beach anyway. I enjoy the rain, especially near the water.

01 June, 2018

Calling on Anyone With an Opinion!

I need to clear the cobwebs in my brain, so here I am.

I want to start a business to help correct misprinted English signage and marketing at businesses here. Da Nang is hitting its stride as an international tourist destination, so I think if businesses want to take advantage of that foreign market, they should have proper English. Most western tourists will speak English so it will expand their customer base if they can cater to that. (I know that in Beijing, as much as I do not like Starbucks, I found it an easy place to go because the staff there knew their menu in English as well as in Chinese.) 

Right now I'm preparing a facebook business page so that I can link into some of the facebook groups here, but I need a name. While marketing and written English is my forte, I intend to partner with an English teacher to provide English training as businesses may require it.

With that in mind, I was thinking of naming my business something to imply we offer both written English marketing and spoken English training: 
All-in-All English 
English 360, or maybe 
Pinnacle English (has a more business-y sound, maybe?). 

Then I got to thinking about the culture I'm moving to - a beach city in SE Asia, tropical climate, relaxed living - Lotus English was my favorite for days. There's just so many ways I can go with that concept. But after being here a week I've noticed that the Lotus is a commonly used symbol for many businesses. Lotus English would not stand out.  
Bamboo English maybe.

But since I don't want to be mistaken for an English training center or school, I think I should choose a name that will entice business owners. Something implying wealth or growth:  
Golden English 
Crystal English or ... I'm back at "English 360", "All in All English", "Pinnacle" or maybe  

Help? Do you like any of these ideas? Does anything else come to your mind? I still need to try to figure out the meaning and value people place on names here, but I'm open to ideas!

29 May, 2018

Routine? Routine? Where are You?

After the A to Z challenge, I set my goal at 2 posts per week - one on a weekday, one on a weekend. I haven't done exactly that, but I'm averaging at 2 per week, so yay!

Now that we are unpacked, if not exactly set up and organized, I'm thinking about what my new routine should be. The hard part is, right now, I have no job. But working or not, the sun is up at about 5:30, and our bedroom window faces east.
This morning's walk on the beach, facing the Marble Mountains.

This morning, for example, I was on my way to the beach by 7:30, home before 9. Then I did some organizing in the apartment. Brett was meeting with a fellow teacher who wanted his input (my man is a genius, he is), so I joined them for lunch, went to the corner store, and chilled after lunch in the ample tropical breeze that blows through our apartment when we turn off the a.c. and open it up. (I need to learn the Vietnamese word for "siesta".)
Coffee on the upstairs terrace.

My routine so far is to have Vietnamese coffee for breakfast, some kind of noodles for lunch, and eat out in the evenings, but eating out won't last too long. We just don't have produce to cook in the house. I haven't got an exercise routine yet, because I just put away the luggage this morning, so there hasn't been any room. Just walking every day.

I need to add in dedicated study time - studying Mandarin for my classes which will continue, and Vietnamese for survival here.

I need to add in "work" time. I plan to start my own business and need to figure out what to do and not do, look up local laws, set up a website, etc. 

I need to add in writing time. And reading time. For blogging and books.

A lot of this will depend on Brett's schedule. He'll be teaching online, so depending on his schedule is when I will either leave the house for my own activities or hide in the bedroom or the upstairs terrace.

25 May, 2018

All Joking Aside

A real quick one today.

In Beijing, many websites include "...BJ.com.cn" and it amuses the 12-year-old side of my brain. The BJ jokes - that nobody else seems to notice. >sigh<

We are moving to Vietnam, where the national currency is the DONG! Oh, the jokes, the jokes!

And the currency is in such denominations that, for example, a breakfast sandwich costs 15 thousand Dong (and that's less than 1 US dollar).

One of my new expat friends in Vietnam already made the comment about "I don't usually give away that much Dong." I can't wait to settle in and listen to the jokes start coming, or see if it's like Beijing where it just goes unnoticed.

23 May, 2018

Step One - Find A Home

As I said yesterday, we wanted to move in two steps so we could establish an address and ship things for later. Shipping is cheaper than paying the overage fees on checked baggage, for sure!

We arrived after midnight, and went to our hotel, which was actually a very small studio apartment. This is common. 

The next morning, we had an appointment with a real estate agent we'd been referred to. Never wanting to be late, and not knowing how long it would take, we started walking, deciding to grab breakfast on the go. Breakfast for me was the delicious Vietnamese iced coffee! 

... Twice. 

I'm realizing that no 2 places make it or serve it in the same way. But it's all quite addictive!

While walking, I was amused to see a woman riding a bike wearing one of those iconic conical hats. After 3 days, I now know not to be surprised. 
We met the agent at her house, and she loaned us a scooter to follow her zipping around the city looking at places. The first place wasn't suitable for us, and she listened to our thoughts. The second place was the one!

Part of the bedroom, with a street view.
The living room, taken from the kitchen area.
One of the 2 rooftop terraces we have access to.

The first floor is, conveniently, a coffee shop! 
The building caters to foreigners, so our bathroom actually has a door separating the shower from the toilet, and the kitchen area is roomy. 
Also, it's a "full service" place, so it comes with linens and twice weekly cleaning. They offer laundry service, but the laundry facility is on the premises, and one machine is available for us to use if we don't want it done for us. (We don't.)

We were moved in shortly after lunch, unpacked a bit, and had dinner with friends Brett met on his brief trip here a month ago. It was delightful, and I'm sure we will be long term friends no matter where the winds take any of us.

Next day. First order of business, the beach.

My Khe Beach, Da Nang. Also known as "China Beach." 8 minutes from home!!!
My pale legs, feet slipping into the sand.
I lived at the shore in Delaware for 12 years, and even before that, anytime I'm near a shoreline, I always have to dip my feet. That was enough for the first beach day.
A restaurant on the beach had these swings nearby, so I sat here while the sand on my feet dried enough to brush it off.

We wanted to hit the beach earlier the next day, so we could walk more before it started to get hot. I walked in the shallows a lot more, seeing jellyfish and ghost crabs to my heart's delight!

Not a black and white photo - morning fog just hides the horizon.

The next day was our last full day there - our flight left after midnight, so we left for the airport around 8pm. But meanwhile, we found a burger joint for lunch, and later went to a new night market for supper.

We go back on Sunday, and Sunday can't come fast enough!

22 May, 2018

On The Move. Again.

I don't even know where to begin. My beloved husband made me sit on this move for about 3 months, so there is A LOT that has been heretofore unsaid, which is just BURSTING to get out of my brain! 

So the BIG REVEAL: We are moving to Vietnam!
Da Nang, specifically. We just returned to Beijing from 4 days there, finding an apartment, moving in whatever we could take with us, and getting a little acclimated. I'm in love. It smells like home. I am amazed to find that I don't mind the tropical heat. As long as you don't make me dress a certain way, I can make the heat and humidity work.  (My hair is actually better there.)

We didn't even want to come back to Beijing this time. Why did we? We had planned two trips so we could establish an address the first time and maybe ship things the second time. Although we got rid of a lot of things before moving to Beijing and we're not big spenders, we have a few extra mementos to keep, and I'd like to bring certain housewares. They are things that might be bought anywhere, but it's so difficult to RE-start 100% from scratch with every move. (Especially when moving means a new country and having to actually FIND all the places to buy the housewares you like.) Plus tickets were cheap, so it seemed reasonable.

I know this is short, but I've been so busy packing all day, I can't sift through my pictures. Writing this post is such a relief to me, you have no idea. I'll post pictures tomorrow or as soon as I can. Ask any questions you want. I'll be fleshing things out in the next few weeks.

16 May, 2018

Red Tape

Here's my joke: 
They call it "red-tape" because the Communists do it the best. 

...or the most. 

I'm not good at jokes. 

Living in a communist country has really introduced me to a depth of layers of bureaucratic B.S. that I would never have believed existed.

We spent more than 2 hours this afternoon at our local police station to get a document that it turns out none of the staff there knew how to do!

TWO HOURS! We never did get the document. Brett was livid. Now we have to go back tomorrow armed with a Chinese-speaking friend, and another friend's phone number, who knows people higher up at this office and can perhaps get something done.

When you move to China, you have to register with your local police bureau - very local, like just a few blocks - and they will issue a residency permit. If we stay anywhere else we are to register there until we go home. Staying at a hotel is not a problem, because most hotels have an officer who handles this kind of thing.

We recently read that when you move from your district, you should go to that same office to get a - well, basically a criminal background check. An official letter that says that you haven't committed any crimes while living here. That is all we were trying to get. We had the name of the document in English and Chinese to show to the clerk. I noticed that she seemed somewhat baffled, but they collected our passports and started working. 

Other people came and went, and 2 hours later we were called up to get ... new residency permits! Which we didn't need because ours are still valid. 

This is a very Chinese thing. They don't want to admit they can't do something so they will do what they can. Even if it is the wrong thing and wastes your afternoon for a pointless new piece of paper.

I love traveling. I love living in different countries. I think visiting is great, but by actually residing in a new culture, you really learn about them and yourself.

But seriously, people.

13 May, 2018

Traveling in Tandem

We are moving. 
I will tell you where to later this month, but it is a big move.

This trip is different from our previous travels together, however.  Typically, I make the travel arrangements along with any required stop points on the trip, and he handles other logistical details, like forwarding mail etc.

When we had been dating less than two months, I was in a wedding in New Hampshire and invited him as my guest. (I was living in Indiana, he in Illinois, at the time.) I handled tickets, hotel, all my bridesmaid stuff, and let him figure out how to get to me to fly out of Indy and what to do with himself while I was occupied with wedding stuff out east. It was an awesome trip.

The year we got married we had many road trips. In fact, truth be told, part of the logic behind wedding in May when we had talked about doing it in the fall was because we had so many places to go and wanted to go together! His daughter's graduation, my goddaughter's graduation, and about a billion weddings all took place between that May and October. It was a great summer.

We developed a system: If it was my family/friend, I planned the travel details. If it was his, he did. His planning tended to be along the lines of... let's see how far we get the first day, and contact Hotels.com while on the road. My planning was more detailed. I learned to incorporate some leeway because, when you marry someone who is at their best and most comfortable flying by the seat of their pants, you accommodate! 

October was the finale of the traveling and it was my friend's wedding in Moab, Utah. We both knew people in Colorado, so we chose to fly in and out of Denver and rented a car. I secured rooms in the hotel recommended by the bride - OUTSTANDING - but allowed whole days with no plans. There is so much to do out there, I had a vague idea of "we must visit this and that" but left timing to him. 

It was possibly the best trip of our lives so far. We were supposed to leave the hotel on Sunday but were having such an amazing time in Moab that we extended our stay by a day. 

That was a fun reminiscence for me! Circling back to my point...

For this move, HE got the tickets! Our last major trip was to return to the US after about a year in China, and he noticed that the arrangements seemed to stress me out. There are SO MANY details and potential pitfalls when traveling internationally, and going through a 3rd party, I found, added to the headaches. So this time HE did the travel arrangements and is handling logistics of moving like canceling the lease and dealing with banks and things. While I am home working few hours right now I am packing the house, putting out feelers for potential buyers of furnishings that will not travel with us, etc. 

I love our marriage. I don't know of any couple as thoughtful of each other.

07 May, 2018

#AtoZChallenge Reflections: A New Hope

A long time ago in a galaxy (well, continent) far, far away, I did the 2016 A to Z challenge. My goal was to re-start my blogging habit and hopefully find some new blogs to read. I succeeded.

Then life happened, and we moved to China, and I regressed. In 2017 the A to Z challenge was not designed in a way conducive for anonymous blogs such as myself to remain anonymous, so I did not participate.

This year, thanks to the efforts of the A-to-Z team - I know it was a lot of work to organize and maintain, so truly, sincere thanks! - I was again able to participate, link up, and connect with other blogs without breaching my own security. Similar goal to 2016: build better consistency in my blogging habit, and connect with others.

I made sure I visited a few new blogs each day - some days because of the time difference, only one new blog - and after a few days I had quite a list of blogs that I liked and wanted to visit daily. I did not make it to all of these blogs every day, but will be back later!

I hope the Master List will be available for at least a couple months. I think it will be, if I understand "road trip" correctly, but I know nothing about this road trip yet except that it was mentioned in 2 posts that I read on the A to Z challenge page, and I don't understand what one needs to do to participate. Hint: for events connected to the A to Z challenge, a separate page would be helpful

That said, I hope to do this challenge every year. In 2016, I had each post planned out including images, and most of them were written with time to spare. This year I winged it - wung it? - and still survived! I was blessed with limited work to interfere with my life and time, so I could take my time and visit blogs and comment. I made a point to visit at least one genre each day, that I would not typically search for. THAT was a great idea on my part. I highly recommend it. Great writers exist in all realms!

Every year is different though. Who knows what 2019 will be like? (Yikes. Just writing "2019" felt like a knife in my neck.)

What about you? If you did the A to Z challenge, did you meet your goals? If you didn't, did it keep you away from AtoZ blogs?

05 May, 2018

A New Month - New Plan

I was all set to write some sort of "A to Z reflections" post, but apparently, there's a right and wrong way to do it, and the post on how to do it won't be up until the 7th. For some reason. So I will wait until I have a clue what I'm doing and then post it.

Meanwhile, I added a page to my blog ^^ to explain my blog's name. I also need to update my other page, I'll let you know when that's done. 

My new goal is to write two posts a week, once during the week and once on the weekend. There will probably not be a theme to them, but there may be a lot of venting during May, as we are moving this month (I'm not saying where until it's done, so don't ask) and my husband is away on the weekends judging English competitions!

I can't really complain though. My work is rather random right now, so I am home a lot and have the time to take care of things. I just need to do it.

Keeping it short today, I'll be back soon!

For any new followers, is there anything you want to know without sifting through back posts? Ask below.

30 April, 2018


I married a funny man. A bonafide joker.

If you follow his blog, you know it is primarily funny stories. Even now that we live overseas and his posts are more about places we go and things we do in the expat world, they are still typically told with a heavy dose of humor.

Twitter? All jokes.
Facebook? Jokes. 
To the extent that when we started dating and my friends and family started friending him on facebook, I cautioned them, "Just remember only about 15% of what he posts is true." When he first announced our plans to move to China, he prefaced it with "THIS IS A SERIOUS POST" and still found that many people disbelieved him.

This doesn't frustrate him, as he takes great pride in his zingers, even if they aren't really zingers. It just makes him laugh.

Now we are preparing for another move, away from Beijing. His idea was to not tell anyone back in the States until afterwards. Since we started looking for apartments here this past winter and I had freely been sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of this hunt, I'm onboard! After we get our new apartment in a city no one expected, I'll just post something like "Hey! We finally found our new place!" and explain a bit.

~~~SIDEBAR ~~~
My dad, ever since retiring in the Midwest, has his own "zinger": They built the house just right "but the driveway is just about 1,000 miles too far north." Think about that. He's funny too, but in a different way. So I will have to make that joke and know that even if no one else gets it, he will.

Back to my situation: 
Turns out (either his mind changed or there was a miscommunication) Brett has no intention to ever share a "we've moved" post. He figures he'll just wait for people who never believe him anyway to finally notice that all his location tags are really far from where they thought we lived. Zinger!

I don't know how well that will work, since anyone who is friends with both of us might see my announcement. 

Do you have success with jokes (or sarcasm) in social media or any other kind of writing? I think my humor must be too acidic, I'm almost always misunderstood. I'm best sticking to the facts in my writing.

This concludes the A to Z challenge! I hope you'll come back again. If you comment, please include either a link to your blog, or at least the name you use in the Master List, so I can find you.