Book Review: ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, AND THE ADVENTURES IN-BETWEEN

ARRIVALS, DEPARTURES, AND THE ADVENTURES IN-BETWEEN

by Christopher O’Shaughnessy

Published by Summertime Publishing, 2014

Here’s a book that is truly one of a kind on the subject matter of third culture kids. As a military kid, Christopher O’Shaughnessy understands living between worlds and cultures, while trying to figure out the identity as a third culture kid. He has a gift to write in a way that words on the page seem to just come to life. His memorable stories are hilarious, and yet at the same time they drive a point that will be remembered well after the book is put down.

To read the rest of this review at CLEW, click here.

If you’d like to read a different review, click here to read the one on Goodreads.

 

The Leaving Series Part 2: Leaving with Traditions

Welcome to Part 2 of the Leaving Series. If you want to read the first story click here. Today’s story comes from Beth Everett. I have not officially met Beth, but we have mutual friends and I’ve gotten to know some of her story through her writing around the web. Today she shares more about the transition that she is currently going through and how she is helping her children in the process.

We are right smack dab in the middle of transition. As I am writing this, the countdown calendar stuck on our bedroom door says we have 10 more weeks before we say goodbye and leave our home in China of almost nine years. 10 weeks! It feels like yesterday when I noted the six-month mark. So many emotions, so many thoughts on my heart waiting to be expressed.

One thought comes to mind now that I’d like to share…

 Leaving with Traditions

 Once we started our family almost eight years ago I had a desire to establish our own unique family traditions; the kind of traditions associated with special holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Over the years these have involved several things including special handmade decorations used every December as we read through the Jesus Storybook Bible; or the resurrection eggs that we hide in our neighborhood garden for the kids to find.

This past Easter I had been so wrapped up in the process of our upcoming move that I almost forgot about the little plastic Easter eggs … but my kids didn’t! They found them in the action packer that is being packed up with all of the other family tradition items. And so we made a plan for our annual Easter Sunday’s afternoon activity in the garden. I’m so glad we did not miss out on this fun opportunity to celebrate both the Resurrection Joy as well as keep some sense of stability with this tradition. Although many of the other details of celebrating Easter will change in our new location, our family-Easter-egg-hunt is now an established tradition that we can do anywhere.

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So we will pack our plastic eggs and look forward to hiding and finding them in a new garden next year.

Also on the list to be packed away for the move are a pretty round floral tablecloth, and several teacups, saucers and dessert plates. This past January, as we approached our six-month mark to departure, I wanted to try to establish a place and time when we purposefully paused in the day to find out how everyone was doing … a “how was your day?” kind of thing. My kids are still little (7yrs and 5yrs) so the conversations are not terribly deep, but a rhythm in our family life is being established. Several times a week, after I pick the kids up from the bus stop we have ‘teatime’. We have done it enough times, with the same tablecloth and accessories, that we can now call it an afternoon tradition. The kids eagerly anticipate it and chatter away about their day at school. During these times we have been able to talk about things they are going to miss, how they are feeling about the move, and also things they are looking forward to. Having this tradition in place seems to be helping with making conversations about leaving more natural in general.

second As a mom, this warms my heart, and I also look forward to pulling out that tablecloth on the other side of this big move, and finding a new yet familiar rhythm for sharing and debriefing in our new place.

But not all traditions involve items that need to be physically packed up for the move. Bedtime routines with the kids are now tradition too … a story, followed by each family member saying something they are thankful for about that day, and prayer time led by daddy. This routine will remain the same wherever we go even if we are stuck in a hotel in transit, or living in a temporary setting until we figure out where our more permanent home will be. I am hoping that even this simple nightly family tradition will provide some level of normalcy in the midst of the upheaval that inevitably comes with transition. And finally, one other tradition that reminds this mom, and hopefully her two little munchkins, that God is in control through every season of life: the tradition our family calls “Looking for God’s Surprises”.

third One bleak, gray, cold winter evening several years ago, I looked out across the city from our tenth floor apartment window and saw the sun determined to say farewell to the day through the haze. With a perfect circular orange glow (unfortunately seen more easily because of the pollution barrier) I felt as if God was whispering to me “I am here even in the midst of dark cold days! Look for me … you’ll always find me.” I called my kids to look out the window to see God’s surprise for us at the close of that day. Since then we have taken time to point out to each other God’s surprises in the sunrises and sunsets (both of which we can view from opposite sides of our apartment!), a rare full rainbow across the city, dainty ice formations in the dead of winter, a perfectly blooming rose along a messy roadside construction site, and many others. Even when traveling, daddy has been known to send us a picture and text message from his point of view of the setting sun before entering the train station, in order to share with us God’s surprise.

The phrase “Come see God’s surprise” has now become a tradition in our family, and one that we can take with us wherever we go, reminding us that no matter what the circumstance are, God’s beauty and presence does not cease to exist and we can find glimpses of it when we open our eyes with expectancy to see what is around us.

With all of the people, places and things we have to leave behind us as we relocate, it is with a deep sense of peace that I know we do take with us both memories and traditions. Cherished memories that can be reflected upon, and family traditions that can be continued.

Traditions provide stability, anticipation, hope and joy when shared together with those we love most … all things I long for, both during the intensity of transition with all of its loss and uncertainty, as well as that time when we finally feel settled again.

Thanks Beth for sharing today! 

BethBeth was born on the island of Barbados, in the West Indies. Her husband was born in America and her two children were both born in China. She likes to refer to her family as the A-B-C family (America-Barbados-China). She has lived almost all of her adult life in cultures and countries other than her original. This summer she will be relocating to Barbados, and learning how to adjust from living in a city of millions to living on a small island with her husband and kids.

 

If you want to share your story with us please email me at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com your story in a Word doc along with some photos. I’ll be posting one story every Thursday!

 

 

Homes Remembered…the expat life

TCKs struggle with the sense of home. If you raise a TCK or work with them – or really had any conversation with one that is semi-deep – then you already know this. It is not some life-changing news to you. If this is new to you, then I suggest that you read this, this, and this to get started – and then I’d Google it for more information.

Though I’m not a TCK, I feel as if I’ve lived long enough overseas and have moved often enough that I what I used to call “home” doesn’t feel like home anymore. Now, this doesn’t bother me so much as I’m older and mature (most days) and have learned to make “home” in whatever place we are at that moment. If this is something you struggle with I just read this great post from an adult TCK. Click here to read it.

What does bother me is that as I am getting older and we continue to move, that I am starting to remember stores or streets that we shopped at but can’t always remember what city/country it was in. For instance, I was shopping at a Costco here (I know, so spoiled!) and while shivering in the walk-in refrigeration section I was visited by a memory of the past: Ge Ge sitting in a shopping cart in the middle of a huge refrigerator room while I frantically picked over the meat and veges because he had on shorts and a T-shirt and the elderly ladies were starting to scold me for not putting enough clothes on him. I stood, still shivering, in that Costco refrigerator giggling and trying to remember what store and city/country I was in…after coming to my senses and before I turned blue, I grabbed what I needed and zipped out of there. Later, after my brain returned to normal temperature, I remembered where we were at…Metro, Wuhan, China. This is just one of many times where I was trying to remember some street, store, or event from another city/country.

Am I the only one that has moments where memories come to mind from days gone past and can’t remember where it took place? Is this just how it is for expats after years of moving around? The normal everyday places where we once called home become a foggy distant memory that visits us during trips to Costco, a market street, or even in a smile from a stranger at the post office?

Share your stories below in the comments section. I know I’m not the only one.

The Leaving Series: If you’d like to be a guest writer, I’m running a series on leaving. More detail can be found here.

The Leaving Series – Part 1: Taking Time to Process

Today I start off the series with my own leaving story. If you’d like to share your story email me an original story with some pictures at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com.

Though I have moved quite a bit this one was the hardest for me…

It is said that the process of moving starts six months before you actually take your mountain of luggage to the airport to leave behind family or friends that have become extended family. For me, those six months were full of anticipation, grief, craziness, and mixed with a sprinkling of peace. I’ve been in a place now for a few years where I can share the story without tears.

It was a move that I did NOT want to make.

It was a place with some major history for me  – engagement, marriage, and children.

It was a move of LOST dreams and dear friends that had become family.

It was our move from mainland China to Taiwan*.

In those last six months we got our match for the adoption and a 13-month old beautiful girl joined our family – four months BEFORE we left.20150416_110521

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“I’m a US citizen now!”

During this time of building RAFTs, saying good-byes, and deciding what to ship to Taiwan we took important trips to Guanzhou and Hawaii for Mei Mei’s US citizenship, neither trip restful. It was a crazy roller coaster ride in my life. I was jerked left, then right, and spinning upside down in speeds that I could not control. I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to relish every last minute in the place I had come to love dearly. I needed it to slow down – to process what was going on.

 

 

 

My wise husband planned a time for our family…

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After we said our teary good-byes to two very special ladies we boarded a plane to Hong Kong for a one week vacation on Cheung Chau Island which was exactly what my broken heart needed – a place to slow down and let my heart start to catch up with my mind. No more packing, no more good-byes, just rest.

From there we traveled to Taiwan to drop off some bags and to begin the process of our resident visas, then on to the US to visit family. During our time in the US, we were sent to a pre-field orientation by our new school. I know it sounds ridiculous that we’d been on the field for about ten years and going to a pre-field orientation, but I’m so glad we did. It was another time of processing for me. While my children were being cared for in the children’s program and my husband was attending meetings to help him with work related issues, I attended sessions for the trailing spouse. I cried some ugly tears during those sessions. My heart was allowed time to grieve.

I can’t say that there were no more tears after we arrived and settled in our new home. There were more, but what I can say is that the time we spent away reflecting and grieving were important, nay vital, for me.

If you are in the process of packing to move, can I suggest that after you leave and before you get to the new home that you plan a retreat to reflect on all that you have just gone through. To let your heart catch a breath, to rest, to grieve, to begin to dream of the next place. It’s not just good for you, but would be good for your kids as well.

Take time to say good-bye well.

Take time to remember those you left.

Take time to reflect on those last few whirlwind days.

Take time to grieve – it’s part of the process. Don’t fight it, just go along with it knowing it will get better with time. (I know, so cliche to say, but it’s true!)

And if possible, take time to go away to do the above. It is good for the mind to have a bit of a break BEFORE entering the new.

*Please note, that I’m not saying Taiwan is or is not its own country – that is too political and complicated. What I am saying is that I moved from a place governed by Communism to a place that is not. Also, each place is culturally different due to their history. 

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Arrived in Taiwan with a double stroller – HA!

 

Good-bye book

As parents we want to help our children adjust to changes as best we can. Living the nomadic lifestyle of an expat leads to a childhood where the ebb and flow of transitions becomes a normal feeling for our kids. People come and go in and out of their life just like waves lap with the tides – in and out, in and out.

It is consistent in that it constantly is moving, but just like waves transitions are not always graceful and easy. Sometimes they are stormy and just plain hard.

How can we help our kids through these times, especially if they are really young? Help them build a RAFT. This could look different for you, but for me it was making a Good-bye Book. Basically, I took pictures of people and places that were their favorite and made a book for them. After our move, we’d pull out the books and look at the photos and talk about the places that we left. It was good for all of us.

I’m a writer, so I crafted them after story books themes that I thought might work with each city. The kids were really young, so I used ideas that would appeal to that age, so we could go back and look at them after we moved. Now that the kids are older, I think I’ll still do something like this but use an online photo book to be printed out and get their input as well – cause I’m sure GeGe and Mei Mei will NOT want a toddler type book this time around.

Below are some pictures of different books that I did. They still like to go through and look at the pictures. They don’t remember the places, but it allows us to retell stories from those places to connect them to their own past. It helps them to develop their own story beginning…

Ge Ge was almost two when we left Shenyang, so I used an ABC style for his.

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When we left Wuhan, I made Mei Mei an Acrostic Book to remember her first home with us as a Maurer.
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For Ge Ge’s Wuhan Book, I did a theme on colors instead of the ABC’s. You can see that I did do an ABC book of Wuhan, but it was for Jie Jie.
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And speaking of stories, remember that I am still taking stories for The Leaving Series. There is NO deadline, just email me your story and some pictures if you have any. I will publish one story each Thursday. I’ll start the first of the series this Thursday – so if you don’t want to miss these stories make sure you are subscribed to receive notifications in your inbox. You can also like the Facebook page and get information about other places on the web that reports about raising kids overseas.

Book Review: SAFE PASSAGE by Douglas W. Ota

SAFE PASSAGE LowRES COVER
SAFE PASSAGE
by Douglas W. Ota
Summertime Publishing
Regardless how long someone has been an expat, mobility issues are a major part of their life. Many expats can quickly estimate how many boxes will be needed to pack their belongings. They know the routine of good-byes and hellos. From personal experience, they know the grief that trails after them from place to place.  They recognize this grief in their children, and may long for a ‘quick-fix’ to help them cope with this grief.
A new book by Douglas W Ota, Safe Passages:  How Mobility Affects People and What International Schools Should Do About It, might just be the essential resource needed for expats.
If you’d like to read more about this book, check out my review at ExpatArrivals.

Saying Good-bye…The Leaving Series

When I look back at my history of blogging, I noticed that I have written a lot about leaving, or saying good-bye. I’ve written about the importance of saying ithelping our kids through it; and how it just plain stinks. I’ve also written about the importance of sharing our past with our kids and taking them back to the places where we once said good-bye. And although, these posts may be helpful – possibly even inspiring – I have found something to be even more powerful. Story.

Stories are powerful tools that can speak from the heart of the writer to the heart of the reader. We connect in the story as we see that our own story is sometimes quite similar, yet different. We feel the pain of saying good-bye; or the relief of the hard-to-deal-with drama; or the difficult times of trying to balance our own emotions while trying to comfort our children in their time of uncertainty. We learn from the hardships of moving valuable lessons about life and living in this nomadic life, called expatriating.

And being that time of year, when so many of you are probably looking at your homes and trying figure out what to save, sale, or throw away, I thought maybe you’d like to read about others who have gone before you. Real people who have packed up all their belongings and moved away from dear and precious friends – and possibly first friendships of your children.

Or maybe you need to share your own story….

So, I’m asking you to share your leaving stories. It can really be anything – from the hardest move to the easiest move. It could be about your most memorable move or a tip on how you helped your kids move. It can be moving for the first time to repatriating back to your passport country. It could be from a parent’s perspective or from your childhood (TCKs welcome, so much to learn from you all as well!). I’m hoping to get my husband to write out a guest post here for this as well.

You write it and I’ll post it! I’ll be posting them every Thursday for as long as I get submissions. I’ll start the first story next Thursday, April 16th. So here are the details.

  1. Email me your story at mdmaurer135(at)gmail(dot)com (please use a doc formatting)
  2. At the bottom of your story include a brief bio. Here is where you can share your blog site, books you’ve written, etc.
  3. Please also email me 2-3 pictures to go along with the story; one being a headshot to go with your brief bio.

Okay, so there you have it. So now write those stories. I really want to hear from you all.

Please also consider sharing this with your other friends you have that would be interested in writing a guest post. ~Thanks!

Sharing Your Past with Your Kids

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Photo credit: hey Tiffany! via flickr

This is the second part of the Sharing your stories. If you haven’t read the first part click here.

As you probably know my husband is a TCK/MK. He grew up on the island of Taiwan. A few weekends ago he was out with my son doing what father and sons do – jump off tall rocks into the ocean, snorkel, scooter lessons on the backroads, and sleep under the stars – literally.
The thing is, they were in the exact location where one of the many famous stories my husband shares of his childhood took place – Nixon Rock (The rock really does look like Nixon’s silhouette, go back and check out the photo!)

Here’s a brief story: A group of high school guys biked from their “hometown” to the beach village of Kenting. It took them 2 days to travel the approximately 300km. They spent the weekend jumping off of this rock. This rock is legendary among those who have lived on this island – there are legends and horror stories from this rock. Really.

But the story really isn’t the point. The point is, my husband got to share the experience with my son that weekend. They both climbed up the side of the cliff and jumped off. Our son experienced a bit of my husband’s past – the stories came alive (though the son may not have realized it).

I know I’ve shared before the importance of including our kids or being apart of something that we do. I’ve also shared the importance of sharing our stories with our kids – and not just our own personal stories, but those family stories that are passed down from grandparents and parents.

This time, I want to challenge us as parents to go even farther – to actually go back and show the kids these places that you talk about so much. Pictures help to tell the story, but visiting the actually place – to feel the coral cut into your fingers as you climb up the cliff, to feel the smack of the ocean, and to see the the fish and taste the saltwater – yes, to experience a little of what we did or where we lived growing up is definitely something we should share with our children.

Maybe you are like me and grew up in one location near most of the extended family. Plan and be intentional to show your kids those places where the stories that you share took place. Go back to that creek, amusement park and ride the Tilt-A-Whirl, or wherever your most memorable fun childhood experiences took place.

I know, maybe you are a TCK yourself and moved around too much. Or it cost too much to make the trip with everyone. I get it. I know that my family is blessed to be living on the same island where my husband grew up, but I challenge you to try. Maybe not this year, maybe not next year – but try to do it sometime before it’s too late to take them.

Plan it.

Save for it.

Do it.

You won’t regret it.

Sharing Our Stories

The longer I live overseas and raise TCKs, the more I firmly believe my husband and I must tell stories from our childhood. We must connect them to our family “back home” in some way. I also am coming to realize the importance of getting the stories from our parents when we are back with them. These stories are like a tapestry that is woven together to make a beautiful rug to hang on the wall.

I’m a mono-culture kid and knew my grandparents (well one set) VERY well. I spent countless summer days out on the farm searching for adventure with my cousin in the back woods. We were explorers looking for fossils in the creek bed – lost in our own world. We helped gather the eggs in the extremely pungent smelling hen house, stack hay in the barn, and feed any orphaned lambs that ended up in the house. My life was drastically different than my children – but they love to hear stories about that life – especially if they involve mom getting stuck in the muddy garden and having to be pulled out with a 3-wheeler (those were the days before the ATV), only to loose said boots.

And though my husband’s life is similar to my own children – he is a TCK; there are some differences…like furloughs in Germany where he went to a very small country school and learned how to buy cigarettes (those were the days they sold them in vending machines on the street); or the time they returned to the field and he sat in class for months staring blankly as he didn’t understand anything the American teacher said. Stories connect the past with the present.

That’s why I think it is important to learn the stories from our parents and grandparents. Take the time to sit and “interview” them when we have those opportunities. Make the most of those few weeks/months we have with them to hear their stories.

Summer is approaching and many of you will be headed back to visit family. I challenge you to sit down and write out some questions you are curious about. Write them down….you’ll forget them if you don’t because we know how we get all caught up in the cuteness of the baby nieces and nephews to remember what it was that we wanted to know. And as you are listening to the stories, record them – make a video or write it down. Then share them with your kids…I believe it is one way we can link our children to their extended family that they see every few years.

Stories help us explain to our children who we are and ultimately who they are – and possibly help them see that their own stories will only add more color to the weaving pattern of the family tapestry of life.

Need some help getting started on questions…here’s some I thought up:

  1. What is your fondest memory during your childhood days?
  2. What was school like for you? Did you go to a public school? a country school?
  3. How did you get there? Any story you can remember about a time going to school?
  4. Did you date (insert mom, dad, grandma, etc)? How did you meet?
  5. Ask about important historical events that would have happened during their lifetime and ask what they remember of that day….how did it affect them?

The Big “D” Word

MaDonna:

This post was from a few years ago – I updated it a little, but I turned to it as we are starting to prepare for a move and I will be starting this scenario very soon….but have decided that it is a good idea to declutter at least once a year or even twice. HA!

Originally posted on raisingTCKs:

Doesn’t the picture above just make you exhale – to feel like you could sit and stare at the sunset, to forget all that is going on around you? Yep, me too – in fact I’ve learned that some of the clutter that is going on around me is to my own doing – to my own collecting. This has become my equation:

Sell + Trash + Giveaway = Declutter.

To some that is a dirty word. I have to admit, I once could barely utter that word. I remember when we were first newlyweds and my husband got all excited about the first move and used the “D” word. I cringed.
“But, we might need that!” I said with clinched fists.
After about the, oh let’s say, the third move I had come around to liking the word. Declutter meant less to pack into a box and less to unpack…

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