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.

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It’s that time of year when ‘good-byes’ are being said for expats around the world. Today’s post is by guest writer Dion Bos. I met Dion a few years back at a workshop. She is fun, insightful, and I love what she wrote about her transition she is going through. This post is copied (with her permission) from her Facebook status.
I recently received an IMessage from a friend living in the U.S. that read, “I heard a rumor that you are moving home. Is it true?” It caught me off guard as we had not publicly announced that we would be ending our expatriate experience in Taiwan and returning back to the Chicagoland area within a few months. As I stared at the message considering how I should respond, my eyes locked on the word HOME.

Was I moving home?

Or was I leaving my home?

I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach realizing I wasn’t sure where home was. I mean, at times when I’m going to visit my parents in the farm house I grew up in, I still find myself saying, “I’m going home for the weekend.”

So what exactly is home?

According to the Webster Dictionary Home is: “a place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”. This simple definition seemed so off to me, when here I was, almost 40years old, holding back tears and completely struggling with the realization that I no longer knew where my home was. So, I quickly shut down my computer and closed my eyes to take a few deep breaths and think about MY home.
I realized “Home” is not a building or structure, nor is it the name of a certain city or state where you physically live. Rather…
  • It is everything and everyone that surrounds you.
  • It is everything you drive by on a daily basis.
  • It is everywhere you shop.
  • It is the school where you drop your kids off every morning.
  • It is the teachers you trust with the minds and hearts of your children every weekday.
  • It is all the friends that you can count on to help protect your family.
  • It is the coffee shop where you always meet people to share your stories.
  • It is the restaurant you love to eat at.
  • It is the park you love to sit at or the mountain you love to hike or the route you love to jog… and so on and so on.
Webster also defines Expatriate as: “a person who lives outside of their native country”. Once again I felt so let down by Webster. That this book could downplay the craziness of packing up your family, moving to a foreign land and completely altering the way you have been living your life up until that point. To me living as an expatriate is so much more.
  • It is the people that take you under their wing immediately that you can call when you are lost.
  • It is the Facebook groups you can ask where to find whatever it is you are looking for.
  • It is the community members who take on the challenge of making homemade goods and selling them because you can’t find them easily at the local stores.
  • It is the parents and teachers who volunteer to coach every sport, substitute teach, chaperone culture trips, lead Chapel, and so much more.
  • It is the abundance of people who choose to accept everyone around them instead of looking for inadequacies because we know we need each other.
  • It is taking a challenging and scary situation and instead of calling it what it is, everyone reassures you that it is just an adventure.
  • It is the confidence you gain when you accomplish a task in a foreign language.
  • It is the thrill of exploring land or even countries that would have terrified you in the past.
  • It is the remarkable ability of placing complete trust in tour guides or local people to take you out into the middle of the ocean, or the jungle, or in sidecar rides down the busiest streets in town.
  • It is gaining a true understanding of WHY another culture acts, reacts, believes or denies WITHOUT discrediting them or immediately telling them they are wrong.
  • It is putting complete trust in God that no matter how difficult things may seem, no matter how often you have to play charades to communicate, no matter how much you think you can’t live without real bacon, Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and Dee Dish Pizza, no matter how many stores, markets and fruit stands you have to shop each week for your weekly groceries, no matter how long or short you have lived there or how many hard goodbyes you have had to say, it still becomes your HOME.

Home.

It is not a simple noun. Home is the most complex word that encompasses the entire life of any individual. Now, when people ask where I AM FROM-that is different. Sometimes I’m from a small farm town, sometimes from Chicago, sometimes a suburb of Chicago, sometimes I’m just from America and sometimes I’m from Taiwan. I may always give a different answer here and hopefully I even add more replies as my life continues. But one thing I have definitely learned through this process is that where you are “from” is not the same as where your “home” is. Home is not a single place.

Home is your life story. I am not moving back home and I am not moving away from my home. I am simply adding to my home. The experiences I have had, the memories that are ingrained in my mind, all of the people who have infiltrated my heart and embraced me and my family at the different stages of my life are all home. And those things will never be taken from me. Each place I have called “home” brings me comfort in many different ways. Memories resurface and familiar faces fill my mind. Life will continue to evolve and people will come and go, but I will always be home no matter where I end up. My only wish moving forward is that I never settle in one place. I pray to God each day that he just keeps adding to my home and that I never forget those that have helped make each physical place I have lived a part of MY HOME.

Dion Dillavou BosBio: Five years ago I packed up my two daughters (age 4 and 7) to move to Taiwan for my husband’s expat assignment. I was terrified at the time, but soon realized It was one of the best decisions I have made. My girls know so much more about the world,  my marriage has grown in amazing ways, I have jump started a fitness career. Our faith and walk with God has grown in so many ways. Now the tables are turned and we are facing repatriating. Once again the feelings we face with change are real and I know so many of you out there feel or have felt the same.
Your Turn: Let us know what you consider part of YOUR home? How do you process this change yourself? What are some things that you have done or will do before you get on that plane for the next destination? Please share in the comments below.

The Art of Letting Go – “Letting Go”

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Today’s guest post is from a new friend, Jodie Pine, that I’ve “met” online through Velvet Ashes, but then realized that we have MANY common friends on Facebook. Jodie has offered to re-post this article from 2013 from her blog Jodie’s Journal

Yesterday I watched my boys run off into the rain. One of them caught sight of a bus ahead and said, “That’s us. Do you want to run for it?” The other one immediately responded, “Let’s go!” And the next thing I knew they weren’t beside me anymore. As the distance between us grew, one of them turned around to yell, “Bye, Mom!” over his shoulder, while the other was so focused on the bus he never looked back. One of them was balancing an umbrella as they jumped and splashed their way through the puddles in hopes of reaching the bus in time. The other one didn’t want to bother with a silly umbrella. Because it’s manly to get wet.

My boys. The bookends of my life. Strong and sturdy. One on each side. So very different from each other. But so close. They’ve always been together, and they just seem to belong together. But one turned 18 yesterday. Soon he will go off to college in America and life is going to change. And as I watched the two of them, stride for stride, turning the corner together my heart ached. For them and for me. It’s hard. This leaving behind business. Because it involves letting go. And sometimes I just want to hold on. But time passes through my fingers like water. And I can’t stop it.

When I reached the end of the street and turned the corner, I smiled to see them huddled with the crowd at the bus stop. They told me, “It wasn’t the right bus.” And I thought about waiting with them until the right  bus came, just to get a few more minutes together. But I decided instead to encourage them to have a good time and to continue on in my wet walk (even with an umbrella) to the shopping area of our old neighborhood to get some things they needed for camp. And this time I was the one leaving them. But it was ok. Because I knew they would get on the right bus that would take them where they wanted to go. They would have a good time with their friends. And I would see them after dinner.

But this morning the boys left on a 40 hour train trip with three of their best friends to a TCK camp in southern China and it didn’t feel ok to me then. Because it wasn’t just this goodbye. It was the projected big goodbye and the reality that they will be gone for two weeks. After they get back to Lanzhou, our family will have less than two weeks together before CJ leaves for a month wilderness program in the US. And then we’ll have just about a week together in mid-August when we take him to freshman orientation at Notre Dame.

This morning, it seemed to me that during our past two weeks in Tianjin, I have been like a trapeze artist. Able to catch the outstretched arms of whoever is out there in a choreographed kind of rhythm. What activity is next. Who needs to be where. Graduations. Meetings. Medical appointments. MUN. Times with people. Kids’ sleepovers. Parties. What can we fit in. What needs to wait. How to coordinate. But this morning I couldn’t catch the hands out there anymore. My emotions hit rock bottom.  God, this is hard. I don’t want to do this. If I can’t go back in time and can’t stop time, could I push the fast forward button to get past this pain of letting go?

As I’ve been battling both migraine pain and emotional pain today, I’ve felt like my physical body and my heart have been like a wet towel in someone’s hands, who is twisting the ends in an attempt to squeeze all the water out. And all my energy and capacity have been drained.

Jordan decided to have a final sleepover with  her friends tonight before she leaves for the same TCK  in southern China tomorrow night (she’s flying instead of training) and I will be on my own here for another week of various activities, as Charly is already back in Lanzhou.

My rock bottom emotions today have brought me to a place of deep sadness. But even as I am typing this, I have a sense of renewed hope because I know that God will meet me right where I am, in this painful ache of my heart. He already has. It is comforting to know that I have heart friends close by who are praying for me, and that I can easily arrange to spend time with someone if I need to. But I really want to turn to God and hear from Him in this time of being alone right now.

I asked Jodie how things were now after four years. Here is what she wrote:

Four years after I struggled with CJ leaving for college on the other side of the ocean from us, we attended his graduation at Notre Dame (amazed that he had the honor of giving the valedictory address). Our family of 5 had grown to 7, through God’s fulfillment of our 6 year long adoption journey by bringing our Chinese sons David and Daniel to us just after CJ left for college. We then moved from Lanzhou, China to the US two years ago and launched Joshua into college (he chose Notre Dame as well). One year later I helped Jordan move into her dorm room at Calvin College. Through all these major changes for our family these past four years, God has remained faithful. CJ shared in his graduation speech that the song “Your Love Never Fails” really helped him through the transition across borders. “Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” God has continued to hold my hand through the ups and downs and it’s been a blessing to see each of my kids, both at home and on their own, develop their own personal faith in the God who never changes.

Thanks Jodie for permission to repost!

If you have a story about “Letting Go” you’d like to share, please email me at mdmaurer135(at)gmail(dot)com.

The Art of Letting Go

 

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Mothering a TCK has it’s up and downs. At times it is not for the faint at heart. The older my children get, the more I respect my mother-in-law. She raised three TCKs from birth in a country not her own, but also in a school system very different than the one she grew up studying under in Germany. Then as they graduated, she watched them board airplanes to travel around the world to begin their own life. Now her grandchildren are spread between three continents.

My kids have not started university, yet. My oldest has three more years, but it won’t be long until I say my “good-byes”. But, then again, I did just say good-bye to him a few weeks ago. He is not going to a dorm, but he does have the opportunity to play soccer with one of the international schools on the island. Unfortunately, it is too far to commute to from our home, so he is living with some friends for the next few months. As I write this post, I know he is in the middle of a game and it is killing me (and my husband, too). We wonder if he’s made a save (he’s the keeper), or if the wet ball has tricked him to dive in the wrong direction (it’s been raining the last few days). We both try to focus on other things, but then my phone lets out a BING. A friend sends me a video clip – the ball slipped between his hands. On my phone we watch the mini version of our son draw his hands up behind his head then smack his legs, a sign of frustration. This isn’t the first clip we’ve been sent. During previous games other friends have slipped us glimpses of him making some pretty good saves. This clip, though, is hard to watch – he can’t hear us cheering in our heads, “It’s okay. You’ll get the next one” and “You’ve got this, Bud.” And my heart is screaming…

This is so hard.

This isn’t what I signed up for (I don’t care if Dave Pollock told me 20 years ago that one day this would happen if I had children while living overseas).

Why isn’t teleporting invented yet?

As I lament, I’m reminded that I’m not the only one who can’t watch their son play a high school sport or long to have him sit at the supper table. I have friends who dropped their children off at boarding school. Some won’t see their children until Christmas. Others left their child, now an adult, at the university dorm room. They are not the first to do this. My mother-in-law was not the first. Parents of TCKs for over a century have had to learn the art of letting go, or maybe it’s thrust upon them.

I feel I’m just at the beginning. I know that there may be other sport seasons he will want to tryout for. He may even have the desire and opportunity to board someday. But, I do know that one day he will leave. He should leave. He must leave. He will become an adult. And though I know this in my head…

I miss him.

As moms we begin this letting go when our children take their first independent steps. They teeter, they wobble and most likely they fall, but eventually they get up and begin walking or possibly with some running. Or maybe it was when you dropped your child off for the first time at school. Walking away as you entrusted your child to another adult, possibly a stranger that spoke a language you barely understood. Those are the first phases of this process. So, whether you are at the beginning stage or getting closer to what seems like the final stage, I believe we could learn a few things from those who have gone before us.

I’d like to start a guest series called “The Art of Letting Go”. I know many of you have stories or tips that helped you. Letting go to allow your child to grow is an art – it is terribly painful, and even scary, but the artwork can be beautiful. So, if you have a story you’d like to share, a humble fail that you learned from, or even some tips to help those of us just starting on this journey please send a post. This can be as broad as a child going to university, into a dorm, or first time attending kindergarten.

You can email me in a Word doc. Each post should be around 500-800 words. If you feel you have something to share, but you are uncomfortable with writing, we could even set up an interview type post as well. I’m flexible. Please include a bio with any social media that you’d like people to follow. You can email me at mdmaurer135(at)gmail(dot)com.

*Photo from Creative Commons by Pexels

Raising Children with Special Needs When You Live Overseas

 

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“Your daughter has a rare genetic syndrome called Cri-du-Chat Syndrome, and she needs a feeding tube.”

My dreams, my desires to live overseas, seemed to shatter with that diagnosis. The past 10 months all made sense. This was the reason she was hospitalized in Beijing for bronchitis at 3 months old. This was the reason for choking almost every time she nursed. And this explained why, just a few months before, she lay limp with pneumonia on a large hospital bed in the middle of China next to six other children with some sort of lung infection. All of this led to me flying alone with her to the U.S. for medical tests. This was the reason I sat in that small clean consultation room with a doctor I barely knew.

Was this going to be the reason God would end our time overseas?

And then the haunting question, How am I going to tell my husband Uwe half way around the world on the phone?

To date, that was the hardest phone call I have ever had to make.

When Uwe and our oldest son (20 months) arrived in the U.S., we believed our time overseas was over. At that time we only knew of one other family living overseas with a child with special needs, but our daughter seemed to have more medical issues. As we consulted with surgeons, therapists, and doctors, not a single one hesitated to tell us to go back. This was incredible to us because we, like so many others, didn’t think it possible that families affected by disabilities could live and work overseas. So with a list of diagrammed exercises, extra feeding buttons and bags, and a feeding machine, we returned to China. Uwe went back to work as principal at the international school, and I began therapy with Matthea. Life changed, but God had not. He was still good. He was still providing.

Our story isn’t unique. There are others like us. Last week I was able to interview eight families ministering overseas who also have children with special needs. All of our stories seemed to share the following three themes.

You can finish reading over at A Life Overseas

Book Review: OF STILLNESS AND STORM by Michèle Phoenix

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by Michèle Phoenix

Summary:

Sam and Lauren sell everything they own in the US to move to Nepal. It has been their dream to share the gospel to the distant tribes of the world. But, it wasn’t their son’s dream. Sam trek’s the mountains for weeks at a time. He comes home tired and smelly, but doesn’t want any luxuries because many in Nepal live in worse conditions. Lauren’s sense of adventure soon flattens after their move as she daily bumps along to work at job she doesn’t like, fights a losing battle with the electricity, and watches her son slowly change from the fun and happy kid to a teen who just exists and resents her for everything. As things tense up on the home front, Lauren has an online encounter with a friend from her past. Her isolation leads to disillusionment and soon things come crashing around her.

My Thoughts:

One of the reviews I read compared this book to THE POISONWOOD BIBLE, and I would have to agree. It brought out many of the same emotions I had as I read that book. Michèle Phoenix is a MK (missionary kid) and has worked with MK’s for many years. Her expertise and I’m sure personal experience gives this story the raw emotions that many who work overseas do not want to face. It asks the hard questions indirectly through watching this family try to survive while doing what they believe the Lord has called them to do.

I know that not everyone who reads this blog is a Christian, but I believe that the issues/themes in this book can be related to by anyone who is trying raise their family in a different culture than their own.

*I received my copy from a giveaway on another site.

Book Review & Give Away: LOVE, AMY: A MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA

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by Amy Young

Summary

Amy Young shares her life as a single English as a Second Language teacher in China. Her early years in China (mid-nineties) were spent at the Sichuan College of Education. This memoir is shared through her monthly newsletters to her supporters in the United States. This was an interesting time to be in China as the country was changing drastically from a poor quiet country who opened it’s gates wider to “foreigners” allowing more “western” influences to try to take root. The reader has the chance to “see” China during those transition years. Amy’s letters are fun and humorous as she relates the cultural differences in a loving way. She shares her traumatic experience of almost dying in a Chinese hospital and how she recovered and then chose to return afterwards. But, this book isn’t just a memoir, it’s a ‘how to’ book on writing newsletters. Amy shares how to write a better newsletter from what she has learned and from others who have read/written countless newsletters written by others.

My Thoughts

When I first heard about Amy’ health issues in China, I wanted to know more. Here was someone who also experienced trauma in China and not just survived to tell about it, but thrived and returned. Someone I could relate to. I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that it wasn’t just a memoir – though I do love reading memoirs of people who have lived overseas. I felt that her addition of a ‘how-to’ manual for writing newsletters was a brilliant idea. After reading her book, I still think it’s brilliant, but also I’ll add inspiring. I vowed to never write another newsletter again – but instead to write heartfelt letters, with stories and fun unique ideas for interaction –  not facts and a report.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is in a position of writing newsletters. You’ll be inspired and challenged to write them in a different way. And, who knows, maybe you’ll even like writing them.

The Give Away:

Amy has graciously offered to give away one copy of her book, LOVE AMY, AN ACCIDENTAL MEMOIR TOLD IN NEWSLETTERS FROM CHINA.

OPEN TO ALL READERS! If you live in the US, she’ll send a physical copy of the book, but if you live overseas she’ll send a digital copy. 

DETAILS:  Just simply leave a comment about why you’d like to read this book and your email address. I’m still “old school” in many ways, so I’ll just put names in a hat on July 7th and have one of my daughters pick out a name. I’ll make the announcement later that day and contact you via email to let you know.

DEADLINE:  July 7th at 10PM (let’s do US Eastern Time, as it is exactly 12 hours difference for me. So, easy to remember.)

Now, go comment and share this post with others. =)

Book Review: MARRIED IN MISSION

MARRIED IN MISSION: A Handbook for Couples in Cross-Cultural Service

20170531_154049by Alexis C. Kenny

 

Summary:

MARRIED IN MISSION is a handbook based on a blend of psychology and Catholic-Christian theology. As the title suggests, it is to help couples who work (or plan to work) in cross-cultural settings. After Kenny and her husband returned from working overseas, she realized that there was little to no help for couples. This resulted in her focus area for graduate school. In her extensive research, Kenny identified seven phases: discernment, preparation, realization, finalization, re-entry, and integration. These phases begin with the pre-departure stage and end with returning home. Each chapter offers insight and activities for the couple to learn and apply to their own marriages. This book is her thesis compiled into an easy to use book for any couple who plans to live overseas, are living overseas, or have returned home.

My thoughts:

I felt that the book and activities are very relevant to any couple living cross-culturally. Although I am not Catholic, I believe she explained clearly the terminology to those not familiar with the Catholic religion. I understood the concepts she presented. I liked that the reader could skip to the phase that was directly needed and not have to read the entire book to understand or gain personal insight. She also included many quotes from other couples interviewed, which helped to grasp the issues better.

The only complaint I had is towards the publishing house, and I think I know why they did it (to save money), but I feel the font is small. It made it hard to read. This is only a small complaint, but one to point out so you won’t be surprised (and for those of you like me,
have your reading glasses ready).

I do believe that this book could be used for any couple working cross-culturally, whether of the Catholic faith or not. There are some real gems that will help strengthen your marriage – and that is something, I believe, we all want in married life. Strong and happy marriages.

The Leaving Series Part 6: Leaving and Staying

I’ve so enjoyed this little series on leaving and want to thank again all those who have sent in stories to share. Today’s guest post comes from an ATCK who writes books for and about TCKS. You can find my interview with Valérie about her book, B at Home: Emma Moves Again here. Please welcome, Valérie and what she as to say about being left behind.

At most international schools, June is marked as the ‘leaving month’. Last year, I wrote a piece here specifically about leaving and saying goodbye. It was prompted by people leaving, people close to us dying, and a lot of grief. “Partir, c’est mourir un peu” (translation: Leaving is to die a little), but I have come to realize that staying is as well. This school year, my focus is shifting towards ‘staying’.

Clearly, being left behind by loved ones who pass is an entire different kind of loss. The abruptness of death’s goodbye can be heartbreaking and so few words of comfort can do justice. However, in terms of the global mobile lifestyle, we are often granted the luxury of anticipating goodbyes. Staying au lieu of leaving confronts us with just as much loss. Perhaps even more, because when others leave, we are left with a certain emptiness. And as the emptiness is not filled with all the new input that comes along with starting again somewhere else, the emptiness can sometimes be more overwhelming than we imagine. After all, when we stay, we are not confronted with intense changes to our lives on almost every front. Yet, our lives do change forever.

Last year, I had to say good bye to one of my closest friends and her family. When they left, my daughters and I had to part with certain small rituals and traditions that we had built up together with my friend and her daughters. At the ages of three and one, my girls didn’t understand why we didn’t have regular play-dates any more. Even after traveling on many trans-atlantic flights to visit grandparents, distance is not an easy concept for a young child. Months after our friends left, my three-year-old would still ask if we would meet up with her friend when we drive to the local playground or in the general direction of their old house.

When we are the leaver, or the mover, nothing can ever replace what or who we leave behind, but eventually the transition curve catches up and excitement about what is new catches on. When we are left behind, eventually things do fill up the empty space that other leave, but we all know that filling up never replaces. And then the seasons pass, and the people who fill up our lives become the very ones who we grow another attachment to and who we will need to say goodbye to at another point. The cycle of mobility doesn’t stop, and most of us wouldn’t even want it to.

As an ATCK, teacher and mother, and passionate about the subject of children and mobility, I do believe we can help our children become strong leavers and stayers. With the luxury of anticipation, and the research-based evidence of the effects of unresolved grief and mobility on a child’s life, we owe it to our children and students to provide them with the tools and language to say goodbye properly. To be able to leave well and to be able to be left behind well, is the beginning of intentionally jumping into a new journey.

As many TCKs feel that their idea of ‘home’ is associated with a sense of belonging, this attachment to ‘home’ changes when people around them leave. It is important to ensure that they are supported in their transitions as well. Just as there is an art to leaving well, there is most certainly an art to staying (as) well. For the first time in my adult life, I am moving into my sixth year in the same house, in the same town, holding the same job. For the first time I am starting to feel like a stayer, without losing sight of the probability of leaving again one day, and it is putting so much in perspective.

Thanks Valérie for taking time to write for us today. 

VBesanceney booksOriginally Dutch, Valérie Besanceney grew up changing schools and countries five times as a child. She is a quintessential Third Culture Kid (TCK) turned adult, with a passion for traveling while cultivating a strong sense of home. Currently, home is in Switzerland, together with her American husband and their two daughters. Apart from writing, Valérie loves teaching Year 3 at an international school.

Valérie’s first book, B at Home: Emma Moves Again (Summertime Publishing), is a fictional “memoir” about the experiences of a ten-year-old girl and her teddy bear who have to move, yet again. During the different stages of their relocation, Emma’s search for home takes root. As the chapters alternate between Emma’s and her bear’s point of view, Emma is emotionally torn whereas B serves as the wiser and more experienced voice of reason.With this book, Valérie hopes to give younger TCKs a story that they can identify with while they experience their own challenging move.

Her second book, My Moving Booklet (Summertime Publishing), is designed to help children through the initial stages of an upcoming move. Moving can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. It can be very sad to say goodbye, but it can also be incredibly fun to experience new things and meet new people. Everybody experiences a move differently, but it is very important to say goodbye properly. This booklet allows children to truly welcome the new challenges and adventures that lie ahead of them, together with their parents and teachers. In many parts of the booklet, they will have the opportunity to either write about it, to draw a picture, or to glue on a photograph. This is their own unique story that one day will serve as a keepsake of a life-changing event.

Although both books are targeted at a younger TCK audience, Valérie also hopes to reach out to parents and educators of TCKs. You can find more information on her website: www.valeriebesanceney.com and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/besanceneyvalerie.

The Leaving Series Part 5: Leaving in a Hurry Doesn’t Mean Grieving in a Hurry

Today’s guest writer comes all the way from DjiboutiMany of you, I’m sure, are familiar with her writing. You may even be familiar with her story, but today she has so graciously opened up and shared even more of that evacuation from Somaliland and what she learned from that traumatic experience. Please welcome, Rachel Pieh Jones.

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In 2003 my family evacuated from Somaliland. I have written about it here (The Big Round Table) and here (Brain Child) but the short story is that we had thirty minutes to pack a small bag and leave and I didn’t go back for over ten years.

We first flew to Ethiopia, where we stayed for three days. Then we flew to Kenya where we stayed for three months. Then we resettled in Djibouti and have now stayed here for eleven years.

In the flurry between that final phone call and when we started the drive to the airport, my husband and I had to close down our house, remember to grab the essentials, keep our toddler twins from becoming frightened, and hold our own broiling emotions and thoughts in check.

There were a few flashes of fear, a few brief tears, even some laughter as I helped the kids wave goodbye to friends they couldn’t see and toys they had left behind. But there was no time to fully feel the impact of what was happening. We had to function, keep moving, don’t think, don’t feel. Just get out.

The emotions struck like an earthquake two days later.

I had to walk away from our family meal at a cafeteria. I climbed rickety stairs in the hotel in Ethiopia, up to our tiny room. I lay down on the bed and cried.

Once the ‘just get out’ had been accomplished and everyone was safe, once we had informed our families and read some newspaper headlines, once we had time to sit down and breathe and no work to rush off to since we were in limbo-land, I started to see flashes of the faces of the people we had left. I started to think about what had happened to cause our flight, the gunshots and dead bodies. The what-ifs.

I kept crying off and on for a few days. When the kids asked about whether or not they would see their friends again, when the kids asked after a book we hadn’t brought along, when my husband asked where we should go and we tried to talk about work prospects.

We flew to Kenya where we received some post-trauma counseling. We made plans to move to Djibouti, on the invitation of a Somali friend who wanted my husband to work with him, teaching. We moved on.

But the aftershocks of grief followed us and occasionally shook the ground, unexpected. I was surprised by this. We hadn’t lived there long, no one I loved had been killed. Just a home, possessions, work, and an idea of what the future would look like. But it was still loss and so I learned to let myself feel it. I was also surprised by the resurgence of it now and again into the following months.

I still thought about people, still wondered what had happened after we left. Who was now taking care of the chickens in our yard? Who would keep the dirt watered so the neighbor’s goats could come and munch weeds? Who would hire our guard so he could continue to provide for his family? And I thought about all that we hadn’t finished – my husband hadn’t finished the semester at the University. What about his students?

Eventually the sadness faded, as we stepped into the new place and new life, and after a long time, as I began to feel at home in Djibouti, I came to think of our village in Somaliland with nostalgia. Sadness had somehow transformed into a tender affection. Gratitude even, for the privilege we had been given of a few short months living there. I don’t think that is what happens with all forms of grief, not even close. This is one of the biggest things I have learned about loss. It comes in all shapes, sizes, and time frames and so does the grief that follows. Leaving in a hurry doesn’t mean grieving in a hurry. And so enters grace. Grace on ourselves and on others to allow each other to uniquely grieve.

Thanks Rachel for sharing with us today. I really appreciate your willingness to share your grief with us. I love your last few sentences, which is why I bolded them. Such wisdom.

If you still would like to share your leaving story with us, you can contact me at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com. I will be closing the series in a few weeks unless I hear from more writers. I’ve truly enjoyed reading and gleaning insights from you all.

Here are links to the other stories if you didn’t get a chance to read them: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

djiboutijonesRachel Pieh Jones lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children. She has written for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, the Big Roundtable, and Running Times. Visit her at: Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones