30 July, 2018

Photo Flash Fiction?

This is my first time, but I've seen this on a couple different blogs. Sunday Photo Fiction!

Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge to write a story of less than 200 words, based on a photo prompt. To join the fun...
Click on this link 

image: Joy Pixley

“Here. It’s perfect.”

“Out here in the open? They’ll find us.”

“No, the big hollowed out boulder! Perfect hiding place. We could practically set up house in there.”

“I’m not hiding in a skull.”

“You are such a wimp, Bobby.”

Sally clambered up the rocks from the shore. She reached back to offer her little brother a hand. He was never a bold one, but she didn’t think he was superstitious enough to decline shelter. Standing in front of the rock, she agreed with him. “It really does look like a skull. Oh well.”

Sally slung the backpack full of that morning’s pickings into the eye-socket and searched for a foothold, so she could join the bag. She looked back at Bobby, mesmerized by the rock, eyes wide. “Bobby! Get up here! They’re coming!” 

Finally hearing the distant sirens, Bobby accepted her hand and joined her in the eye. Within minutes, it started to rain. At least that might wash away any footprints they left in the sand.

Sally opened the backpack to see what kind of goodies they managed to grab from that electronics store in town, as the sirens passed on the road behind them.

Word count: 197

What Else Am I Going to do With my Time?

Now that I'm writing a book, everything is fodder.

Oh, yeah. Now that I'm almost through (ish), I guess I'm ready to say that I'm writing a book.

Any person who stands out to me through a random experience might turn up in a scene sometime. They might not recognize themselves, but if you are in my head, you might come out sometime. Or, a version of you might come out.

The owner of an Italian restaurant we once visited was so warm and open - the epitome of "When you're here you're family", except we weren't at that chain. This guy greeted everyone with a smile and handshake, and asked your name, then handed out musical instruments and invited you to play along with the pianist. The best Italian experience of my life. And a colorful enough personality that he's easy to convey on a page.

I'm working on a character who is sort of a blend of two people I know. I'll never tell them though, because neither one is fully there, and even if I completely made a character after one person, I'm not trying to write that person, I'm really just writing my perception of things that have happened. I could be totally wrong!

For months, I've had a loose idea of a story vaguely inspired by a wide variety of experiences I have observed family and friends go through. 

So I have a new perspective on social occasions: Observer for inspiration. 
In the US, I had more social anxiety than I've had here, but I still don't love being part of big groups, and even one-on-one sometimes takes getting in the right frame of mind to get me out the door. But now I think: What will happen tonight? What will I hear that might become a character's thought? Will any tiny instance relate into a larger story? 

I think of things like the checkout girl at Target in Indy who gave me some good advice on bargain shopping. Like the guy who cut my hair once and told me about overpricing of women's hair products. Like the woman at FedEx who told me I brightened her day because I was patient and smiled. 

My book has dozens of these. Tiny instances that didn't exactly happen to me the way I write them but were inspired by something like that. 
Do you ever think of the intricate life behind that random person you interact with once or twice and never see again? What do you think happens?

29 July, 2018

Taking a Sick Day

I was supposed to be helping at a Children's home today, but I woke up with ... how to put this delicately ... discomfort in the guts? In Asia, I have learned that if I have any doubt about my digestive system, I'd best stay home. So I canceled at the last minute and said I'll get to next month's event instead.

I didn't eat crazy food yesterday, although my husband thought it looked like they had put ham on my chicken pizza last night. I didn't notice pieces and didn't taste it, but if it was there, my body does not know how to digest pork products anymore so that might be it.

Then again, during my lovely, restful day yesterday, he was busily looking up new houses and apartments to visit, expanding our rental parameters, reaching out on forums, trying to contact our agent, etc. At the end of the day, we have two places to look at tomorrow, and three in a neighboring city on Tuesday. That's enough to cause a little anxious-tummy, too.

I am excited to get into a bigger place, but the actual deciding is a bit stressful. It's not a conscious stress, but every day is a "what if" and that wears a person down. 

So I'm home again today. Writing, writing, writing. How's your weekend going? Big plans for the coming week?

25 July, 2018

I Spoke too Soon

You know that saying "Don't count your chickens before they hatch?"


That beautiful house from my previous post (here) is not going to be ours. It was just a handshake and verbal agreement, so no harm, no foul.

The landlord's wife wasn't 100% on board with renting it out. Her parents live in the little cottage next door, and I guess she got used to being there so much. Now that the house is almost done, she decided she just can't part with it.

Poor guy, he was SO apologetic. But I have to hand it to him for the way he dealt with this. Monday night we got a message asking when we'd visit the house again, so we said we could come by Wednesday (this morning). We met our agent before going there, and she clued us in a little to her conversation with him but was encouraging about the prospect.

We all sat down together and he told us straight up what happened. He didn't say, flat out, "you can't have the house" but he said that his wife was not happy about it and they were arguing and she loves to be by her parents. I added that it seems like she wants to live there, which I think helped him open up about that. We all understood very clearly. I give him credit for 
  • a) telling us face to face and not through text 
  • b) standing with his wife - next time he will hopefully discuss things like this with her first 
  • c) not beating around the bush and wasting our time.

SO DIFFERENT FROM CHINA! In China, no one likes to tell you "no" so they tell you all kinds of yesses until you find out that it's an actual no. Such a waste of time.

Today has been a good day! We didn't get the house we thought we were getting, but we learned a lot about the process from our agent, and we have a new friend in this landlord. He was SO apologetic, I honestly feel worse for him than for us.

Back to the drawing board. But as I told Brett, we started this process early enough that we were ahead of the game, now it's like we're just "on time" to begin the search.

20 July, 2018

How Did THIS Happen?

We found a house! We have agreed on a one-year lease and will go sign papers on August 1. So this will be a picture-blog. Although no place is ever perfect, we are both quite excited.

The doorway, obviously. Isn't it welcoming?

Inside the front door.
That table-looking thing to the left is a "fa'an" (no idea how to spell it in Vietnamese) It will be covered with cushions and blankets, for relaxing to read or watch TV. It's a luxury item in Vietnamese houses. Yes, there are flowers painted on the inset wall that holds the TV. I wouldn't have probably thought of it, but I don't mind. It adds color and life!

Ample kitchen/dining space, and a washing machine will be added beyond that glass door.

I love the stairs. That area at the top of the landing will be my workspace.
The whole upstairs has these ceilings.

My workspace, blurry.

See? All that wood!

At the far end of the hallway beyond where Brett is talking to the owner are:
  1. A large space that will serve as my yoga/meditation/reading room
  2. Brett's office - all enclosed with a solid door and everything!
  3. A would-be bathroom that will become the shower room. Both bathrooms have showers - an open shower head along the wall between the toilet and sink. Water everywhere. We just don't get it! This extra room was supposed to be a bathroom, but he changed his mind so there's nothing in it, just a drain in the floor with a place to attach a shower head. Which he will do for us.
The 3rd floor "storage" area will turn into a guest room.

View down from the 2nd floor. I love the stairs.
Did I mention I love the stairs? The owner is the architect, so everything was designed with creativity and beauty in mind. Therefore the fancy ceilings. Therefore also a lot of scented wood. "It keeps away mosquitoes." I'm so glad he's leaving the heavy, scented, wardrobes that will keep away mosquitoes!

It's not actually on the market yet, but the owner mentioned it in answer to an expat's question in a forum, and Brett happened to see it. Coincidence? Or God at work?

19 July, 2018

The Last Hodgepodge for a While

It's HODGEPODGE time! I started joining Joyce over at "From This Side of the Pond" a few weeks back. This will be her last Hodgepodge link-up until September, so I guess I'd better make it good. If you want to join in, it's a nice, quick little bloghop, just 6 questions. Click the link under the image.

Click HERE

1. I feel most energized when I ____________________.
Workout. Well, workout properly. I haven't had a proper "workout" since moving overseas. I do yoga, I get some strength training at home. I even did a couple online cardio workouts while in Beijing, so maybe that counts. (I definitely worked up a sweat.) But my primary exercise is walking. I miss getting up and hitting the gym for an hour before going to work.

2. Where were you ten years ago?

WOW. July of 2008, I was living in Delaware... that's four moves ago! That's the place I call home. I was working on my Masters, living and working at the beach. I had friends and margaritas. I still have the friends, but I don't see them anymore.

3. July 17th is World Emoji Day. Do you use emojis? Which one's your favorite? Your most used?

I wasn't much of an emoji user - only in Messenger, really. But then I moved to China. Chinese people use emojis more than possibly any other nationality on the planet. Maybe because the characters often have more than one meaning, and you can't hear tones in a text, so they add emojis. On WeChat -
the Chinese social media - they actually have a facepalm emoji! Why hasn't the western world done that yet? So yes, now I use emojis more than most of my western friends. In Wechat, I use the giggle emoji the most. On Facebook, probably the winkie.

4. What song would you put on a wedding DO NOT PLAY list? 

I have no idea. Anything tacky. Things like that 80s song "I like big butts and I cannot lie..." You know, anything I'd be ashamed for my mother to hear should NOT be played. Keep it classy, people.

5. What deserves less of your attention? More of your attention?

Less = games on my phone. I don't have many, but without working, I play them a lot. I just deleted one today.
More = people. I'm not naturally social, but maybe it would be good for me to put effort into the friendships I'm making here. My social anxiety has notably lowered since moving to Da Nang.

6.  Insert your own random thought here.

Joyce called this "Winds of Change Hodgepodge", and the questions do lead me to think about change. I'm at a place in life now where, once again, I'm trying to figure out how I fit. My identity is a bit up in the air. The person I am inside hasn't changed much but the way I live my life, and the obligations or lack thereof are extremely different. What is my role? What should I be doing? How do I do it? Can we afford it? 
For not going to church in a long time, I have to say my faith is about the strongest it's ever been.

17 July, 2018

Eating Habits

Real quick thought for today:

It's almost 5:00pm. I ate fruit early (8-ish) before we went to look at a house, then as soon as we got back I was STARVING, so we grabbed lunch to bring home from the tiny little hole-in-the-wall place near us: rice and tofu and egg and veg. That was before 11am. 

I was cautious about eating "lunch" so early, but everything is closed here from about 12:30-3:00, so if I didn't I would probably have had to eat my shoe. (or potato chips, something bad for me).

I just now realized that I'm not even hungry now when I should be!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Listen to your body. Eat when you're hungry, not at the "right" time.

14 July, 2018

MIssing Activity

A couple of weeks ago, I said we were going to watch the Dragon Bridge show. And we didn't because of rain. So we were going to go tonight. And it's raining again. We're not in a rush. They do it every Saturday and Sunday, and we live here now so we can go anytime the weather is clear.

But since I said so, here are some pictures. Since I can't get aerial pictures, and I haven't seen the dragon shoot fire myself, these are both taken from online at vietnam-guide.com.

The Dragon Bridge, lit up, before dark.

See the fire coming from the mouth? It follows with water, I'm told.

I will still post pictures after I see it myself, from whatever vantage point we select, but I hate for you to miss it.

This week I was a bit under the weather, so I didn't do much, but today we went to look at a new place to live. This was a house, not an apartment. It had nice space, but we have a month to look and would like someplace cheaper. Monday we get to go look at two more places. One is just a block or two south of where we now live. It would be convenient to live near all the things we already know. Of course, it would be cheaper to live further away from the beach.

I have read blogs of 3 other people who are also moving this summer. Are you another? Are you moving near or far? Do you do it often?

11 July, 2018

Purging HodgePodge

 Today I'm participating in the Wednesday Hodgepodge, at From This Side of the Pond. If you'd care to join me in this blog-hop, click the link below the picture.
Join here!

1. What's something in your house you'd like to get rid of but can't?
The white bedding. I have others stored, but the bedding is included with the 2x weekly cleaning, so it stays. I've gotten makeup on it, and just the other day I killed a bug that smeared BLOOD right in the middle of the duvet! Yuck. Who uses white bedding anymore?

2. When is the last time you experienced a sense of nostalgia? Elaborate.
Thanks to Facebook, quite often. But I don't really have close friends to talk to "about the old days" - they are all so far away we stay in touch through social media. I think without someone to talk about the nostalgia, nostalgia passes pretty quickly.

3. You're only allowed three apps on your smart phone or tablet...which three do you keep?
My Bible app, Sudoku (maybe Brain Yoga, actually. It's a toss-up), and GPS. If GPS doesn't count against my 3 apps because the phone came with it, then I'd choose Instagram. A lot of apps can be done on a computer or piece of paper, but Instagram requires a smart phone or tablet!

4. July 11th is National Blueberry Muffin Day. Who knew? Do you like blueberry muffins? If you were going to have a muffin would blueberry be your choice? What's the last thing you baked?
Blueberry muffins are, perhaps, my least favorite muffin. Lemon Poppyseed, or orange-cranberry, or apple-bran are all more flavorful than blueberry, to me. However, I'll happily eat a plate of blueberry pancakes! 

I haven't had an oven in two years. I cannot remember what I last baked, but it was probably scones of some sort. I'll take any scone over any muffin almost any day! (unless it's red bean - which I've seen in Starbucks in Beijing.)

5. What's the biggest way you've changed since you were a child? In what way are you still the same?
I'm much more open-minded now; more accepting. I also have a better understanding of some issues I had as a kid. I still love Asia and geography, and I'm still an avid reader.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I titled this "Purging Hodgepodge" because it purges something from my home, many things from my phone, and memories. Maybe there's a better way to connect these questions, but that was the first thing that came to my mind.

09 July, 2018


On January 24th, I came across this statement/quote?/meme somewhere and jotted it down. (unattributed, sorry.)

"Six months from now, you could be in a completely different space - mentally, physically, spiritually, fnancially. Keep believing."

At that point, we were beginning to look for a larger apartment in Beijing, so I knew I'd be in a different physical space. I just didn't know how different!

  • I'm no longer working - well, a little bit, for people in Beijing, but nothing here yet. 
  • My lungs are happier with Da Nang air. I feel I'm healthier from the climate and from my new exercise habits.
  • I'm not eating well, though. I used to get a salad a day, now I get so many carbs! But I eat less, because of the hot climate. 
  • I'm back at square one, language-wise!

I can't help but think how everything will be different, again, at the end of the year.

  • We'll be in a new, bigger apartment.
  • I'm working on my business idea, but it will probably not be official until sometime in 2019 - such a layout of expense!
  • I should know more of the language, although I'm not formally studying it.
  • We will have found places to shop for the things we need and want.
  • I hope to find somewhere to buy clothes in non-tiny Asian sizes!
  • Who knows what social changes are in store? I already have more friends here to hang out with than I did in Beijing.
What am I hoping for? Pizza, the necessary ingredients and utensils to bake, fruits and vegetables, a comfortable mattress. Not much, really.

We all have these moments of future-thought, don't we? Not to dwell on the future, but maybe during goal-setting, maybe after a big change, isn't it kind of important to consider where we think we'll be next year? What might happen in the intervening time? What are our expectations? Where do we hope our lives will be?

07 July, 2018

Perspective is Everything

A recent conversation led me to explore Points of View. Only, in reality, not fiction. I think it's a good metaphor for current events and modern views, particularly since we see SO MANY points of view on social media, whether we want to or not.

Here is the example from my life that started this train of thought. To maintain anonymity I will call my siblings and I by numbers, with 1 being the firstborn, etc. I am 4.

The year is 1980-something, and our family is moving from a small town in Iowa to a small city in the mountains of Sri Lanka. At the time of the move, 1 is 16yo - ready for her Junior year of high school. 2 is 14yo - just out of junior high, preparing for high school. 3 is 12yo - in our small town, middle school was grades 5-8, and she was right in the middle of that. 4 just turned 10 - going into 5th grade. 5 is 7 - only headed into 2nd grade of elementary.

Moving overseas. Exactly around the world. The only thing similar from our old home to our new is that both are in the northern hemisphere. (LOL!)

The following POVs are based partly on assumptions, and partly on my observation of behavior.
Probably about 5 years after this.

1 has a somewhat defined world-view. Views can and do change, but she's had many years of 4-seasons, holiday traditions, Lutheran church and catechism class, time to consider what is "normal" food, etc. Her direction in life is not yet determined. The next couple years will solidify that. Her friendships are solid, and were initiated earlier in life, when everyone expected each other to be around for life! What will living in a different country do to friendships?

2 is at a milestone in life. He is going into high school. Everything will change in the coming year, whether he is in the US or overseas. Solid friendships have formed, but his  direction in life is undefined.

3 is in the middle of middle school. At 12 years old, she might predictably hit a rebellious stage within the next year. Strong friendships through grade school and into middle school are going to be ripped apart. Not to mention, as a middle child, she has a bit of an identity crisis going on anyway.

4, according to the school system in the small Iowa town, has been prepped to start at the middle school in the coming year. Big, scary, transition looms on her (my) horizon no matter what location. With a virtually unformed world-view, 4's mind is still quite malleable.

5, at 7yo, is smack-dab in the middle of elementary. His world-view perhaps is more dependent upon what happens among his older siblings. Family life is more dominant than any school social life. (Although, as a student in his same school, I can say he was already a bit of a class clown.) The world is open to him!

I clearly remember that 1 and 2 were not happy about the idea of the move. They made that very clear. 4 & 5 thought it was a great adventure. I think that 3 joined 4 & 5's view, but I can't be sure.

Amateur psychologists, does this sound logical? Again, this is based somewhat on what typically happens at different ages, but my perspective is definitely colored by observing what life was like in my family and upbringing.

That's the POV prior to moving. But that's not even half of it. We still didn't have a clue how this would affect any one of us. Enter: Boarding School. The only international schools in Sri Lanka were in the capital city of Colombo - 4 hours away. An international boarding school in southern India had been selected, but they began their school year at the end of July. We arrived in Sri Lanka at the end of August.

Home school was a temporary solution.
1 and 2 were home-schooled for just one semester. As the oldest, they went away to boarding school in January, after the semester break. Therefore, 1 had a year and a half of boarding school, and 2 was granted almost all of his high school experience in one school.

3 and 4 were to be home-schooled for one year. Although the chosen dormitory accepted students as young as 5th grade, a full-year transition time was the preferred option.  (Preferred by my parents or the school? Who knows.)

5 stayed at home 3 years before going away to school for just one year prior to our first furlough back in the States. He was in 5th grade for his first year away. I believe the prevailing wisdom was that he should at least have the boarding school experience his siblings talked about, since the future is not guaranteed.

Now, if I was going to write a book about a kid transitioning from a western culture to a Third-World Culture (back then, that was the accepted term) I would use 3 as the lead character. 2 and I (4) were at natural milestones. 1 had minimal time overseas before returning to college in the US. From later conversations, I believe 5 felt more impacted after our first furlough in the US, at which point he and I were sent to an American boarding school.

But 3 - She was in the middle of middle school, moved to a different culture; then as a middle child, she was initially treated as a younger child (stayed home for a full year). Later, pulled out of the new school after her sophomore year of high school, when we returned to the US on furlough. She had to have had so much more mental and emotional transition!

I can honestly say, from my POV, 2 and I seem to have had the least bumpy growing-up experience. Mind you, we are also the only two who have selected life outside the US as adults.

This was partly an illuminating exercise for my-own-self, but maybe, if we start considering that people view things from a unique combination of stimuli that created a unique POV, perhaps, maybe, we can be a little more understanding and tolerant and less vitriolic in our responses?