About MaDonna

I grew up in mid-west, USA. Moved to mainland China after college hoping to change the world. But, instead, my world changed. I entered TCK-land. I married a German TCK and had three little TCKs of our own. I describe the five of us as the "Fusion Family". We are fused together by cultures and disabilities. All three were born in mainland China. One has a genetic disorder called Cri-du-Chat. And one is adopted. The other is just a typical oldest child. I'm still that mid-west girl who loves a good steak, but with a splash of Asian flair caught eating curry in her tuna salad sandwich.

Sisters

I grew up with my extended family. Every Sunday after church all my aunts, uncles, and cousins would meet at my grandparent’s farm. My grandmother prepared what most people would consider a Thanksgiving dinner every week – mashed potatoes, homemade noodles, roast or turkey… My mom has continued this tradition with my siblings and their growing families. It is amazing to go back to. After my sisters and I clean up the table we sit with our steaming hot coffee and catch up. I love those moments.

I live too far to do that every week. In fact, it sometimes doesn’t happen in a calendar year. That’s just how home assignments go.

But, God has been good to me. He has provided “family” in every location we’ve moved. 20190306_092308He has provided “sister’s in Christ”. I just returned from a ladies retreat where I got to see some of those sisters and to be honest I adopted a few more. It was a retreat for English speaking Christians here on the island. It wasn’t affiliated with a specific sending organization, nor was it focused on a specific nationality. It was beautiful.

  • God’s girls hiking in the mountains together.
  • God’s girls playing “Catch Phrase” together.
  • God’s girls singing His praises together.
  • God’s girls crying together over some tough circumstances.
  • God’s girls giggling in bed like two schoolgirls trying to be quiet so they don’t get in trouble from their mother.

God’s girls are sisters. He has no boundaries in his family. There is no nationality boundary. No racial boundary. No age boundary. No ability/disability boundary. My sisters in Christ are a beautiful bunch of gals.

How about you? Have you been able to find “sisters” among the women you meet where you are located?

 

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Book Review: BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein

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Audience/Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction

Summary: Teo and Emilia are friends from birth. After a bird strike during a flying stunt performance by their mothers they become siblings. Em’s mother wants to follow her late best friend’s wishes: to raise Teo in a place where he won’t be judged by the color of his skin, the country where his father was from. Set in the 1930’s Em’s mother makes the decision to move to Ethiopia where she can raise her white daughter alongside her now black son in the peaceful countryside. But, as Italy moves to invade and war brews, both children, now in their teens, have to make a decisions about home and loyalty.

My Take: This book has so many layers to it. It is definitely a TCK/CCK book. Teo is half Ethopian and Emilia is half Italian. There are inner struggles of “home”, which is something most TCK/CCKs understand. Ms. Wein weaves prejudice into the lives of the children, but also into the lives of their mothers. It is just a good book that will make you think deeper about issues that are relevant today. As I read the bio of Elizabeth Wein, I came to realize that she understands the issues of TCKs because she was raised abroad and is now living abroad as well. I highly recommend this book not just because of the TCK/CCK issues that Ms. Wein attempts to tackle, but because it really deals with issues that are relevant today.

Your Turn: What have you been reading? Share in the comments below. I’m always looking for new titles to read.

Celebrating Christmas with CCKs

IMG_20181205_215554_058It is the night before St. Nikolaus Tag, which my husband celebrated as a young German boy growing up in Taiwan. Even though I didn’t grow up celebrating like this we have made this part of our Christmas tradition with our own kids. Tonight the girls cleaned their shoes and in the morning they will find some chocolate and treats inside.

Celebrating the holidays with family from different cultures is interesting. I was allowed to write “Holidays for Cross-Cultural Kids” for Multicultural Kid Blogs. If you’d like to read more about what a CCK is or other ideas on this topic please read more here.

 

“Where is Home?”: the battle to be content

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I have struggled on and off with being content. I don’t mean where I am in life, or how my life is going (though, there are days), but the struggle of “Where is home?”. I’m not really talking about the same struggle that Third Culture Kids talk about. My struggle is not owning a home. Maybe this comes from all the painting I’ve been doing in home #….. too many to count or remember. After a year here, I think I might actually be seeing the bottom of the paint can for now. With every stroke of the brush I wonder how long I will actually get to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Will we just have one more year before forced to pack again? That is the struggle of many who live overseas. No home to call our own.

It doesn’t help when I see photos or hear about friends buying a home.

It doesn’t help that my kids are getting older and I’m not sure where they will “come back home” to (though that is their TCK issues they will have to work out).

It doesn’t help that if we could buy a home, I have NO idea where it would even be or should be? Taiwan? Germany? US? The options are endless and overwhelming.

Sometimes these pesky questions makes me feel homeless. Not in the sense that I don’t have a place to live, because I do. We’ve been able to rent places for the past 20 years. And while I’m thankful for that, we have nothing to call our own. I know I’ve talked to other luggage carrying expats toting kids around the globe who have had this same feeling. Then I’ve talked with other expat friends who have bought a house, but don’t live in it. They have the stress of keeping it up while away. They are also feeling discontent.

Which make me wonder if my real problem is just being content. Period.

Why do we feel discontent? I won’t go in to great depths here, because the answers vary from person to person – but I think it all boils down to what we think about and focus our thoughts on.

I will never be content with myself or where I am IF my focus, my outlook on life is on myself.

But…

When I look at who God is and marvel at all He has done – I am content. Content with life. Content with the home I’m allowed to live in. Rejoice with my friends. Excited to live in a new place. Joyful.

When I’m content with God, then my whining self turns into gratitude and joy. And folks, that is who I want to be no matter where I live.

Today’s post is linked up with Velvet Ashes: Content.

  • PC: nikosapelaths via pixabay.com

 

Language Learning and Special Needs…a conversation starter

RaisingTCKs for Mulitcultural Kid Blogs

My children are bilingual, including my daughter who has Cri-du-Chat Syndrome, a disability that affects her mentally and physically. She’s not the only bilingual person with special needs, though. In fact, I know a young adult with Down Syndrome who is trilingual. And I read about another boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder who speaks at least four languages. This goes against the belief of many educators and therapists that children with special needs should focus on one language only. Most of the research focuses on three specialty groups: Specific Language Impairment (SLI), Down Syndrome (DS), and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but the researcher still believes that other disabilities can learn a second language as well. This is great news for CCKs (Cross-Cultural Kids) and TCK s(Third-Culture Kids) who have special needs and their families who are raising them.

My daughter is fairly non-verbal, but she is able to communicate in both English and Chinese. She uses American Sign Language (ASL), speaks simple words in both languages, and sometimes uses communication boards. We speak mainly English at home and she goes to a Taiwanese special education school where they speak Chinese. Honestly, like most Third Culture Kids she is comfortable living in both worlds. It’s part of who she is.

But, what about just teaching a child with special needs a new language? Are there any benefits? Join the conversation over at Multicultural Kid Blogs where I share some benefits I’ve noticed.

Goodbyes and Skies – Signs of Letting Go

20180811_182558In books, movies, and even in TV shows the weather gives the audience a glimpse into the mood of the story. Other times it is the foreshadowing of something about to happen. Writers do that to captivate their readers. This past week, God used this same technique for me.

Last weekend we took our son to the dorm. The day before, we spent the afternoon at the beach. Heading into town we witnessed the sunset over the mountains. It was the perfect scene to a perfect day. I posted on my IG account, “Reminder of God’s continuing handiwork in creation, in me, in my family”. It brought me hope knowing that even though the next day would require me to “let go”, He would still be there working in my son, working in me.

The next day we drove up and over mountains to campus. We had decided to spend the night, which I believe helped me to truly be excited for him. I needed to be excited for him. It was exciting. He has a great place to live, a good roommate, wonderful dorm parents, and a great school to attend. What more could a parent ask for their child who will attend boarding school? It’s funny because I don’t remember the weather that day. It seems to be a blur.

But I remember what it was like the day we left…

Dark clouds loomed over us right before lunch. We said our goodbyes. He left us in the parking lot; walking back to the cafeteria with his backpack slung over his shoulder. We slumped down in the car and buckled up. As we pulled out, the first drops of rain began. I used my finger to wipe my damp cheek. The wipers swiped at the damp windows. As we merged onto the freeway, the heavens opened and the rain dumped its heavy load. We almost had to pull over. My heart felt the same crushing, drowning feeling. Goodbyes just stink, but I didn’t have time to sink to the abyss emotionally because I was co-pilot and had a job to do: keep the passengers quiet and help watch for traffic. It was seriously raining that hard.

Thirty minutes later the sky opened up like a dark blanket being lifted off our car. The mountains were once again in focus. The white clouds hung around the valleys and decorated the sky. It was gorgeous.

Hope returned.

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Isn’t that like life though, or shouldn’t it be? There are going to be days that are tough. Days we don’t want to go through. Days we don’t think we can get through.

We must get on the airplane and leave loved ones behind.

We can’t always take our pets with us when we move. Sometimes they die.

Our child breaks their foot two weeks before soccer season begins.

A typhoon (or insert tornado, fire, etc) destroys the scrapbooks, the photos. Memories lost.

Kids grow up and move on to university.

A diagnosis is learned.

But, we don’t have to stay in that dark and hopeless place. There is a path to where the sun shines down and the mountains can be seen from the valleys below.

Just as my husband kept moving forward in the torrential rain, we can keep moving forward. Sometimes it is a slow trudge, but it’s forward.

He kept his eyes on the road ahead of him. We keep our eyes on the path that is set before us (Heb 12:1).

We bring our focus on the One who put us on that path, who created the road, who created us. And we give thanks and praise to Him (Heb. 12:2, Phil. 4:4-7).

It is then, that the view becomes clearer and we are able to give more thanks. And as our hearts become grateful, the view only becomes more spectacular.

The road hasn’t changed.

No, he is there and I am here.

His first game was this weekend (though cancelled due to rain). There.

I am here. Still here.

The circumstance hasn’t changed. It won’t.

But, I get a phone call from the boy. He sounds happy. And I’m grateful.

Grateful for the age that I live in where he can pick up a phone and call.

Grateful that friends sneak photos of him on campus and message them to me within seconds after taking said photo.

Thankful that he gets to do something he loves to do.

Joy is found in the gratitude.

Your Turn: Have you ever noticed that the weather or the sky seems to reflect the mood or the circumstance that you are going through at the moment? Share your moment in the comments below.

The Countdown to Good-bye

 

20180720_213804If you followed the World Cup at all this year, you would recognize the mini posters hung on our wall. I just took this photo a few days ago. I haven’t taken those posters or flags down. Not even after Germany exited the tournament – enough said about that depressing night. 

Why are they still up?

I realized that this… THIS World Cup is the last one my son will be home for. The last one that we will be a family watching the games together. Okay, there is a chance we will all be together sometime in the future. It happened for my husband’s family in 2010 when all his siblings and kids were in Germany with us. But, that doesn’t happen often. I think I have kept them up because I know that when all the decorations comes down the countdown will begin. Usually this countdown starts their last year of high school, but for me it is starting the year before his last.

Why now?

He leaves in ten days for the dormitory. We will drive him the 6 hours it takes us to cross the island to settle him in his new room. This is not easy and something I thought I’d never need to do. I even prayed I wouldn’t have to, but here I am counting down the days.

And so is he.

One of us counts the days as if Christmas was just around the corner.

The other counts more like she’s watching dead leaves fall from a tree dreading the long, cold, bitter days of winter.

He’s growing up. He’s excited. He’s ready. I just don’t honestly know if I’m ready.

My hope is from those that have gone before me. Friends who have gone down this path putting their children into the dorm. Friends who have lived in the dorms as children. Dorm parents who have loved their “jobs” and share their lives with “their” kids.

And that right there, folks, is where my pain lies. I know his dorm parents are going to be great and I pray they speak volumes into his life. But, I feel I’m handing my extremely precious jewel, a key to my heart over to someone else to care for and love. He’s my kid and I honestly don’t want to share him with anyone else.

My biggest fear? That he’ll love them more than he loves me.

Crazy? Maybe, but that is where my raw emotions are.

This new chapter is scary and unknown.

I’ve been at the scary unknown place before. Different reason, but it feels the same. Fear and Anxiety try to take a couch seat in my heart squishing Peace and Trust right off onto the floor. If Fear and Anxiety had their way, they’d push Peace and Trust right on out the door of my heart.

I don’t want that. I’m sure you don’t either.

What to do?

  1. Name what you are fearful of.
  2. Acknowledge if it is a real threat or not.
  3. Walk in truth.

For me my fear was losing my son to someone else. As soon as I wrote it out, peace broke through like a river (that song has never made sense to me until just now). And now I need to remind myself that I’m not losing my son. He’s just growing up. I can grieve that – but I also need to rejoice in the fact that he is growing up and becoming his own man.

Your Turn: Are you at a place that is Scary and Unknown? Or do you have some tips on sending your child to the dorm. Share your story and where you are in the comments below.

 

My Mother’s Day Surprise

Celebrating holidays while living overseas and far from extended family is hard. I come from a large family who once a week regularly sits at my mother’s large table for the Sunday meal. Most holidays everyone is there – it is how I grew up. So, I love hosting get-togethers with other families, especially when they become like family. It makes me feel at home.

Mother’s Day was no exception. We had a potluck lunch after church. People ate between conversations and laughs. Kids splashed in the small pool. It was just a beautiful day.

After everyone left and I had a lovely nap, my husband asked if I’d like to try a new coffee shop nearby. “Bring your writing stuff,” he says.

I grabbed a notebook, my draft of my novel, and the book/handbook PLOT WHISPERER by Martha Alderson (if you are a writer, I highly recommend them). I glanced at my laptop, but decided time was too short for that. I noticed Uwe’s bag bulging, and figured he would work, too.

Oh, well, my Mother’s Day has ended.

I sat at a sidewalk table while he went inside to order. It wasn’t too hot with the shade of the umbrella. It almost seemed like we were in Europe, sort of. We talked about the day and the upcoming things that we were going to be involved in. I wondered when we were going to pull out “work”. Okay, honestly, I was thinking about when would I get to pull out my writing.

Uwe then looked at his watch and mentioned that we should probably go. I looked at my unopened bag and sighed.

“Wait, I think you should see the inside. You want to see this funny/cute French style hotel, don’t you?” he asks.

I followed him in. We checked out the restaurant.  We took the elevator, which has a ceiling to floor Eifle Tower painted in it. We got off on the 7th floor. While I looked at the view, he entered an empty room. I peered in nervously because he just entered without knocking as far as I could tell. I mean, who just wanders into hotel rooms without a key? 

I stood in the hall peering into the room. “What are you doing?” I yelled in as much as a whisper as I could without actually yelling. My mind told me this was all wrong, but my feet seemed to have a mind of their own and pulled me in.

It isn’t your typical hotel room with one bed, desk, TV, and carpeted floor. This room has wooden walls and flooring. All the furniture had a dark wood, including the tiny wardrobe. It had two beds facing each other, not side-by-side. And to top it off the two windows, one long and narrow and the other short and set low to the ground, had wooden shutters! It was mesmerizing in a cheesy cute sort of way.

Uwe rested his bag on the bed and began empty out the contents.  I watched as my toothbrush, toothpaste and brush bounced on the bed. He continued with my clothes and a few other books.

“Did you get us a room?”

“No, I got you a room. You have your writing books. I brought your Bible and journal. One night for you,” he said as he handed me the keys (which had an Eifle tower key chain).

“What?!? Excuse me? Uhh, What? Man, you are good. I had NO idea.”

With a kiss on the cheek he vanished out the door. I’m sat on the bed and stared out the window. I love my family and I love spending time with them – but sometimes as a person, a writer, I need to break away with no distractions. No guilt. Freedom to be creative. My husband knew this – he knew I needed a surprise.

So, that is just what I did. I began deepening my characters and hashing out scenes – all are steps to finishing this novel I started a few years ago.

And that was my Mother’s Day surprise.

Have you ever been surprised by someone? Share your story in the comments below.

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A Mother’s Day Letter to My Younger Self


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It is the night before Mother’s Day. For some reason my mind traveled to a time period fourteen years ago. I was a young mom about to hear my daughter’s diagnosis. With time wisdom grows. It’s through this wisdom that I wish I could have shared these few thoughts with that mom I was back then.

Dear Younger Self-

I know you forgot what today is, but let me gently remind you. It’s Mother’s Day. Don’t put your head down in shame. I know you’ve lived with your mother for the past several weeks. I know you forgot to buy even a simple card to thank her for her selflessness. For all the drives to the city, waits in the hospital, and the endless cooking she has done for you. I know you wish your husband and almost two-year old son were with you instead of back in China. The hospital visits and tests have taken a toll on your mind and body. It’s a scary place to be. You’ve talked with doctors, and even specialists. You’ve held your baby while nurses have poked her with needles. Yet, still no results. No diagnosis.

Emotions will visit you, strong emotions that will come when you least expect it.

Fear…

Don’t play the “What if” game. It will open wide the door to Fear. But, I know you will. The questions will come at you like quick shooting arrows. “What if she never walks?” “What if she dies?” “What if we have to leave China?” Don’t worry; he gets the best of me still today with his quiet whispers of doubt. Fear wants to consume you, but he won’t. Your daughter will get the diagnosis you don’t want to hear – Cri-du-Chat Syndrome. Your mother will be next to you in that small room in shock. Maybe it is a mother’s instinct, or maybe not – but you won’t be shocked because deep down you already know. Your world will be shaken though. Your baby will need a feeding tube. You will feel like all the air was taken from your lungs. Sit tight – the God who created that bundle of joy topped with red curls already knew. He’s not surprised. So, just breathe – in and out, in and out. You will feel like waves are pummeling you to the bottom of the sea, but dive deep into those waves. It is there where you will find peace. Dive deep into the peace that passes all understanding, the peace that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ. Just breathe.

Grief…

Grief will come, in fact, she already has. This Mother’s Day you will grieve for that child you thought you knew. You will cry hot tears that seem to never run dry. They are tears of healing. Release them. Let them wash over your face while they wash over your heart. I wish I could tell you that Grief eventually exits your life, but I can’t. She will come back when you least expect it. Fourteen years later, she still visits me. When I see other kids in middle school laughing with their friends at the local 7-11 or tying up their shoes about to play in a soccer tournament, she comes back. My throat tightens and my eyes begin to drip tears. And there she is. Grief dressed in black. I’m learning that Joy can accompany Grief. It is those times I offer gratitude and praise that Joy is also there. I give thanks for what Matthea can do and I praise God for his many blessings in our life. So, as you grieve this Mother’s Day know that “joy will come in the morning.”

Loneliness…

This Mother’s Day you will feel lonely. Uwe and Marcus are miles away. You feel like you are the only one going through this, yet you know that is not true each time you enter the hospital. But, Loneliness comes and tries to squeeze out those in your life who love you. Don’t let her. Remind yourself that you are not alone. God is there with you. Your family is there. And remember your friends just drove a few hours to spend time with you. They are praying for you. Don’t let Loneliness crowd out the others.

Guilt…

Yes, you will feel guilt. Guilt will overshadow Grief. Guilt will remind you of friends who have lost children. Guilt will point a finger and say, “You’re child is living. Why are you grieving?” You won’t really know what to do with Guilt. You will try to hide Grief, but it will still be there. I want to give you permission to block Guilt out of your life. You have permission to grieve. This diagnosis is hard. There are a lot of unknowns. It is scary. So, don’t believe Guilt. Pray for those friends and be sensitive when you talk with them, but don’t bow down to Guilt.

Hope…

You may not feel like there is any hope right now, but she is there. Hope will come pouring in when you find out that you can go back to China. Hope will come when you gain confidence in using the feeding tube. And even this day, Hope will come in a form of a Mother’s Day gift from your sister. A small cut rock that says, “A Mother’s Love begins long before we can remember…And brings us Warmth and Happiness We Never Forget.”

Give yourself some grace today. Your love for your children comes through. I can’t tell you that everything is perfect and life is like a rose garden. Life isn’t easy. I mean whose life really is easy, huh? But, life is good and full. I can’t tell you all the great things because you need to experience some surprises in life.

I wish that the decade older version of me would send me a letter like this. I sure would like to know how these teenage years turn out.

Your loving “more mature” self,

MaDonna

Book Review (and giveaway): ALL THE NEWS by Amy Young

Today’s book review has a bonus – a short interview with the author and a giveaway.

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Title: All the News That’s Fit to Tell and How to Tell it: How to Write Christian Newsletters

Author: Amy Young

Review: ALL THE NEWS is written for those who write newsletters. Amy has taken her skills as a writer and applied them to newsletter writing. This short book is divided up into these four sections:

  1. The Unseen Battle
  2. Newsletter-Specific Writing
  3. Simple Ways to Improve your Writing
  4. Developing as a Writer

Amy doesn’t tell you how, but shows you how to write a newsletter that is “better than an insurance report”. She explains and gives examples on how to weave your story with your explanations. The overall point of this book is to help you build, or rebuild, relationships with those that read your newsletters.

My Take: As a writer, I felt like “duh” – why haven’t I connected these dots over to my newsletter writing before now? I found her tips to be helpful and inspiring. So many times I want to make sure I “report” about everything – but Amy has given me permission to pick and choose, to save some stories for the next letter. And, she reminded me that it is all about relationship building. So, I honestly believe that if you write newsletters, even if you love to write them, this book is worth it. We can always improve in our writing skills, no matter our level – right?

I’m so glad that Amy agreed to answer a few fun questions about herself. Amy is originally from the US and worked in China for about 20 years. After 16 years of newsletter writing she started her blog The Messy Middle. She’s author of two other books, Looming Transition and Love, Amy.

Now for the questions…

1. What is the best airport you’ve traveled through?
I have spent the most time in the San Francisco airport over the years. So, for sentimental reasons it is the best :). They have a bookstore I love browsing through and a great walking area with traveling exhibits—okay, I guess it isn’t really a walking area now that I think of it. Most people probably don’t use it to do laps as they wait for their flight, but I do. 
2. During the flight, do you A) read a book  B) movie marathon  C) sleep
I always have a book, but I tend to watch a movie through the meal service and then do my best to sleep with some Tylenol-PM :). 
3. List one destination you wish to still see?
Israel, Italy, all of Africa, Australia, the North East in the US during Fall, and a train trip across Canada. Okay, so I couldn’t pick just one!
4. In your book LOVE, AMY you mentioned that while living in China you killed rats with a frying pan. How many did you kill total?
Well, this is a bit tricky because how I killed them changed over the years, but in total, probably 15. I will say, the one that haunts me isn’t one I actually killed. We kept used ribbon in a zip-lock bag so either my teammate or I could reuse it. I went to get a piece of ribbon and as I took out the tangled mess it started moving and, shrieking, I realized I had a mouse in my hand. I threw it down and as it scampered off I kept screaming. No one came. How could I have such a traumatic experience and no one heard me screaming?! So, I did what any rational person would do. I kept screaming and went down the hall to my teammates apartment, knocked, entered, and got myself a witness! 
5. You are now living in the beautiful state of Colorado. What do you like best to do in the winter months  A) snowboarding   B) skiing  C) hiking  D) other…and please do tell.
D) other. My two favorite winter activities are snowshoeing (I cannot stand the feeling of going fast downhill, so people do not like to ski with me, nor I with them) and shoveling. Warmly Welcome you all to Colorado! 
Anyone else laughing about the rat? (sorry Amy, it was just too funny!) Amy is a great story teller. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read her other books, I highly recommend them. All three books are on sale at Amazon for $2.99 on Kindle now until April 28th.
Thanks Amy for taking the time to share with us today and for offering a free copy of your book ALL THE NEWS.
One lucky reader will receive a physical copy (US only) or a digital copy (anywhere in the world). To enter comment below telling us why you would like this book, then click on the link below to officially enter. There are more ways to enter. So, what are you waiting for?
Giveaway ends May 7th.

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