Changing the Way I View Good-bye

“Good-bye!”

I’ve never really liked that word, though I’ve written quite a bit about it. I’ve written about how we should teach our kids to say it, how important it is, a great tool to use to go through it, and how I just feel that it stinks. I mean it sounds so final and ending. When I moved to China I learned the word for Good-bye (再見/zaijian) really meant “see ya later!” ~ my translation, but fairly accurate as it has a meaning of seeing the person again. I remember grabbing that meaning soon after my arrival. It was the bandage to my bleeding heart just after having left my family. The hope that I’d see them in a few years, that the good-bye was not final.

But, what if something happened to one of them and it was my final Good-bye?

The thought had plagued my mind at various times that were usually not convenient – like staff meetings or in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping. This thought turned into a fear. The definition bandage was not enough. I needed something stronger. Out of my comfort zone, away from dear friends and family who had always wrapped up my fears with encouraging words and support, I clung to God’s Word. Hebrews 11:13-16 spoke loud and clear to me.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

(Heb 11:13-16, NIV)

Note that this passage is in the middle of the “Great People of Faith” list in Hebrews. Namely, Abraham came to mind. He left his home and family and just started out on a journey that he had no idea where he was going or when the traveling would end. Yet, he went in faith. I am no Abraham, but his example encouraged me to stay where God had placed me.

My fear became reality.

Death eventually did come. My grandfather. My grandmother. My own father. Each was difficult. There was grief. A few days before she died I talked on the phone with Grandma, the tomboy of a grandmother whose farm had been my second home. We both knew it was coming, and yet she encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing. We talked like we’d see each other again. I grieved, but understood and knew that we would see each other…one day.

A few years later, the phone call came that my dad was on his deathbed. He had battled leukemia for many years, and it had began to attack his body again. His immune system was shot – pneumonia snuck in. My siblings shared with me on the phone that he was peaceful those final hours. My mind raced to the last time I had seen him just five months earlier. I remembered as I hugged and told him good-bye wondering if it would be my last. As I hung up the phone I realized that my dad knew it would be. I remembered the look in his eyes as it seemed he wanted to tell me something, but being a man of few words he patted my back and choked out “I love you.”

As the years pass I know I’ll experience more deaths. We are mortal. It is part of life. Through these years of moves and watching countless others move out of my life, the Chinese meaning of Good-bye has changed from a bandage to more of a reminder of the passage above. Taipei is not my home; nowhere on this planet is really my home. I’m just a traveler passing through this life until the Lord decides to take me to my real home. A place where there is no more tears, no more pain, no more Good-byes!

Until then, I feel that I must live the life that God has asked me to live – not for myself, but for Him who through his death and resurrection made the harshest of good-byes of this earth just a “see ya later!” I know there will still be grief, but in the midst of that grief there is hope – that sure knowledge of knowing what will come. And for that I’m forever grateful for his saving grace.

This post was inspired by The Groove and is part of a link-up with Velvet Ashes. Thanks for letting me share a bit of my heart today. Please feel free to comment below or to contact me via email.

 

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TCK Mentoring – Sea Change

Yesterday I had the opportunity to listen in on a webinar given by Sea Change Mentoring. This organization, founded by Ellen Mahoney, is designed for third culture kids from the ages 16-23, although they are open to reaching out to help children as young as 13. Read their mission below:

“Help international teens develop into happy and successful adults through the power of mentoring and our tailored curriculum.”

Ellen is a TCK herself. She shared her story with us of the time she returned to the US for university alone. It was a very hard year as she felt lonely and even depressed. She found out that she was not the only one – that many of her other TCK friends were also experiencing the various degrees of the same feelings. Throughout her life she has helped children. She began as a high school teacher, then began working with an online mentoring group in the US, and now is the Founder and CEO of Sea Change Mentoring.

So what is Sea Change Mentoring?

It is just that – mentoring third culture kids through all the change that they go through. The mentoring is currently being facilitated through Skype by professionally trained mentors that have overseas experience. They use a tailored curriculum for TCKs that was developed by a TCK. Some of the “units” that are covered are Building Strong Relationships, Healthy Good-byes, Career Exploration, Career EQ, Becoming Independent, and much more.

Why is this so important?

We all know that the expat life is much like sea waves, coming and going. Children may have a difficult time adjusting or connecting with friends. This program is designed to be a 2-3 year commitment allowing the mentor time to help the child go through changes, nudging them to build heathy relationships, as well as other issues they may be facing. And for those that are older, to help them begin to think about being independent BEFORE they are independent. We as parents can help, yes, and we should be involved in this process – but sometimes a third party that is standing on the outside can see the whole picture. Possibly even better since this person understands all the emotions that our children are going through. Sea Change works with the child, but they also communicate with the parents – which I found, as a parent, to be comforting. Sea Change was founded in 2012 and launched their first pilot program this past January. So, it’s fairly new – but I don’t believe there is anything like it out there for TCKs. If you have children in this age range and wondering how you can help them with adjustment, this might be a really good option. If you would like more information, you can click here.

**I just want to note that I did not receive anything for this review, but that it is solely my own opinion from what I learned about through the webinar.

Beware of Your “Friends”

Moving Books

Photo by Kaptain Kobold at flickr

We’ve just recently moved. Finally. We have spent the last three months looking for an apartment near the school. Unfortunately, we moved during the first week of school. It was definitely stressful, but I was able to make a new BFF. Though now, I’m regretting that friendship.

This BFF was convenient. She knew that teaching all day and then packing was too much for me to make meals, so she always had meals wrapped up and ready for pick-up. She also was super knowledgeable. She understood that my girls would be bored since their toys had been packed, so she graciously packed a few small toys inside the bag for them. It was such a great source of entertainment those last few stressful nights of cleaning the old place and unpacking the new place. She just knew. It was great until I got on the scale.

This BFF was that fast-food restaurant that conveniently had a drive-through. Drive-throughs are fairly rare on this island, but they were conveniently placed in our path during that transition time of the old place to the new apartment. I *gulp* fell into the “Convenient Trap” because it was so much easier than chopping, slicing, and cooking up a nutritious meal.

Fortunately, after we moved a few real friends brought over some healthy meals to help us out. That was the turning point back to healthy eating. Those meals gave me the energy to do what needed to be done in the new apartment so that I could begin cooking my own healthy meals again. My kitchen is still not in complete working order, but it is enough that I can cook simple healthy meals. For that, I’m thankful because I want to eat healthy and I’m seeing the scales looking better already. *whew*

If I could have done this move all over again I’d do a few things different, like…

1. A few months before the move make larger portions of meals and freeze them. That way, they’d be easy and quick to put into a microwave to warm up.

2. Buy bread, peanut butter/nutella, fruit and veges (cut and bagged). Something quick for lunches.

3. Buy lots of paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils. Though, not the most healthy for the environment, it makes it easier for those first few days of transition.

*Note that if I was moving to another country, I’d only do #2 and #3 once we were there. The first one is not really an option. *grins*

Your Turn: What is something you do when you are moving that helps with the transition? Share in the comments below.

 

Mamas Need Their Outlets, too!

Golfers on the Coral Gables Country Club

photo from The Commons via flickr.com

Schools are starting back up for many around the world. For some families that means getting routines set, taking one last holiday, but for many others it is setting up the new home and getting the kids excited to start a new school – or at least helping them to adjust to a new school.

Women's Curling Briar

photo from The Commons via flickr.com

What happens on that first day though, once all the kids are dropped off at school and you return to a quiet home? Do you collapse in wonderment? Do you get a fresh cup of coffee to slowly savor without distractions? Housework? Chores? Cry?

What do you do? You need an outlet, too! A place where you can laugh with friends, discuss or chat. You just need a place where you can be you, the person – not the mom. Don’t get me wrong, I love being Mom. It’s just that once in awhile it is nice to have adult conversations and to eat at my own pace my very own dessert.

What do these “places” or groups look like? Some cities have regular set dates that an expat group has organized. Other cities may not have anything set, but maybe the school has a Mother’s Tea where you can meet other moms. This group could be a Bible-study, book club, or any other small group gathering that meets for a certain purpose.

Why should you get involved in a group? Women in general support each other and talk – as Apple Gidley in her book Expat Life Slice by Slice says, “…international women groups around the world, whether a luncheon group, a tennis club or a sewing group are expatriate man’s best ally” (p40). I so agree with her on this because who understands our situations better than another expat mom? We become fast “sisters” helping and encouraging each other.

How do you find these precious gems? You have to look for them. Ask other mothers at the school what there is to do. Find out if your city has an expat magazine or website that lists activities that would interest you. If there isn’t, you could start one. I’m sure there are others out there who would love to go out for coffee, too!

I’ll leave you with this last tip from Apple in finding a group: Make sure it is international, not made up from solely one country. She says that, “Instead of celebrating the differences they {mono-culture groups} tend to moan about them, whereas international groups are more forgiving” (42).

So, go out and find a group and make some friends of your own. Already in a group? Watch for the new moms and invite them to join – be a bridge to help them settle into their new home quicker.

*Although this is geared towards the mother as the trailing spouse, there are groups out there for dads/guys as well, but I find that guys don’t tend to “need” this close bonding friendship like women do.

**Thanks to Janneke at DrieCulturen for giving away the book Expat Life Slice by Slice by Apple Gidley.

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The All Time Hated Aisle

Cereal Aisle

photo by Rex Roof via flickr

Can you guess what the all time hated aisle for any expat is? Okay, the photo gave it away if you were wondering.

I don’t have solid research on this, but I believe this has to be one of the top 5 places expats hate to visit in the US. I have this theory because, having lived overseas for a-hem several years now, every expat I have talked to gets the same look and pretty much says the same thing, Oh, I just stand there for hours looking at all the choices not knowing what to put in the over-sized cart.

What is it about that aisle? I like lists if you haven’t noticed, so here are my lists of why cereal aisles make us tense up.

1. The aisle is a mile. Have you noticed this? I mean it is the entire length of the aisle and at least 4 shelves high. The pure size of it overwhelms me.

2. The number of choices. So, the aisle is a mile long and each shelf has rows upon rows of every kind of cereal you can imagine. Take for instance a simple flaky type cereal. You can get it bran, frosted, fruity, low-fat, and, and, and. And if you know what type of flake you want, then you have 4+ brands to choose from. I’ve gotten used to only have, at the most, five choices to choose from. Period.

3. The shouting of words. I’m a writer, so words tend to jump out at me. The cereal boxes are no different. I feel like the boxes are shouting their greatness, their newness. “Low-fat!” “Low-carb!” “Healthy Eating!” “Great for the Heart!” And that doesn’t even cover the “prizes” that are inside ~ which my kids have now figured out. I think having lived overseas I can’t always read what the boxes are shouting, so it is like they are on mute. You think?

So, what to do about this “problem”? I haven’t totally figured it out. My plan thus far has worked out fine. I tell my mother what kinds of cereal we “like” and let her bring them home. Then when we need to buy more, I search for the exact same box ~ if the kids liked it that is.

Your Turn: Do you like the cereal aisle? How do you tackle it when you are back in the US? Please share in the comments below.

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CPR/First Aid trained? Why you should be, especially if you are an expat…

First Aid

*photo from flickr

CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, which is a medical term that means heart (cardio) lung (pulmonary) revive to life (resuscitation).

As a teacher I was expected to keep up my certification in CPR and first aid, which I did. When I had my own children and decided to stay at home I did not re-certify. It was not expected of me and it was difficult to find a class where we were located at the time.

And then the day came.

We were in Germany packing to return to Asia. My husband was out with our son buying new shoes before we left. I was with the two girls squeezing the last of the necessities in the last suitcase. The youngest was taking a nap. Jie Jie, the non-verbal special needs child, was playing with toys in the playroom. Before I knew it though, she had slipped out of the playroom into the kitchen. When I found her she was bent over with drool dripping to the floor. She looked up at me with wide eyes and fear. She was choking.

My heart stopped. I yelled for my mother-in-law. She didn’t hear me.

I was alone. Bits and pieces from that CPR/First Aid class came to my mind.

I began the Heimlich. A few seconds later, which seemed to be minutes, out popped a blue plastic object covered in saliva. And then the greatest sound, a cry.

She was breathing again. We sat there on the floor crying together. I knew right then that I needed to get re-certified. Not because certification would give me permission or status, but because I needed to refresh my memory. It had been too long and I felt I had forgotten too much.

Just this week we had another experience with choking due to eating issues. My heart jumped, but because I just re-certified a few months ago it didn’t stop completely. I knew what to do.

It made me think, though. Are you certified? If not, why? Here’s why I think you should be, especially if you are an expat-parent.

1. Alone. You could be the only person with your child when that time comes. Husbands travel, housekeepers have days off, and neighbors vacation. Knowing these simple skills can really save your child. Another tip: Have a SOS number of a friend who speaks the language who you can call if more assistance is needed.

2. Language. The emergency operator may not speak English. Having a little CPR and first aid training can give you a head start on saving your child. Use that SOS number of a friend who does speak the language. Have them call while you are administrating CPR/first aid.

3. Time. In cases of choking, you don’t have time to call for help. Knowing what to do can help reduce further injury from pushing in the wrong spot.

I hope that you never have to administer CPR/Heimlich, but if you should one day, I do hope that you have taken a class. I’m so thankful that I was able to get re-certified here in my city. I highly encourage each of you to find a class, whether in the city you live or when you go back to your home country. It is something you won’t regret.

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Translation Saga at the Dentist…

A few weeks ago I took the kids to the dentist for their checkups. Living overseas and finding dentists isn’t always easy, but we’ve gone to this dentist for the past few years. I feel like she knows my kids and understands our circumstances with Jie Jie.

I was wrong.

Let me back up a bit. In the past I’ve let the kids know and I even “practiced” with them when they were younger. I still get out the plastic toy dentist set beforehand and play dentist with Jie Jie, but this time I didn’t get that done. Bad, bad, bad.

She was fine watching the other two get their teeth checked, but when it was her turn that content child left the building. I don’t mean she got up and left, I mean she was no longer content and did NOT like anything or anyone.

I was okay. The dentist is great with her and quick.

She understood. I thought.

“Your daughter has a mouth sore and she will need to see a doctor.” (What I thought she said)

We go to the lobby and wait to pay. Jie Jie calms down and plays with the train set. The nurse comes out with a prescription and tells me about a doctor I need to see. Now I’m confused as to what kind of doctor, especially since she gave me a prescription for the mouth sore. I had not understood the conversation with the dentist.

I phoned my husband and gave the nurse the phone.

They talked. I listened. She gave the phone back.

“I’m not sure what she was saying, but I’m almost there. Just wait,” said my husband.

He arrived and talked with the nurse some more. After about five minutes, it was clear that the nurse was telling us that we needed to have Jie Jie tested. She was a little slow for her age.

We kindly let her know that she is a special needs child and that it should be on her medical record from the first visit. It was awkward.

We left giggling because anyone that has ever met Jie Jie knows immediately that she has special needs. We couldn’t be angry, because for one they were so sweet in how they were trying to tell us. I really felt bad for them.

Lesson Learned:Even though you are the only foreign family that visits a dentist and you have been their for years, take your medical information to give to the dentist to look at. It’s better than having awkward conversations like the one we went through.

What dentist/doctor stories do you have with your children? Any communication stories? Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

Hospital Tips

A few weeks ago I posted on tips for seeing doctors and dentists. My middle child was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia last week. Unfortunately, this is not the first time for her. But, as we spent our days and nights at the hospital I thought I’d share what I pack when we’ve had an overnight stay (or two, or three, or…) at the hospital.

1. Clothes/toiletries. Extra clothes for me and for her. The basics of toiletries. I went home for showers. I should have packed a sweatshirt because it was freezing in our room, but a good friend brought me one.

2. Bible and BSF material: I’m a Christian, so reading the Bible is important to me. I also just started Bible Study Fellowship, so I wanted to keep up on the study material. =)

3. Computer/cell phone: The hospital has free wifi, so having the computer helped me to stay in touch with the world. Also, I was able to do some writing while she was sleeping.

4. iPad/iTouch: We were blessed with an iPad last spring, so this provided some major entertainment. Jie Jie wasn’t allowed to go out and about, so having this was great. We had some educational apps and videos that she could play on and watch.

5. Books. I brought books to read to her. I also brought a book for myself.

6. Snacks: She wasn’t too hungry, so I didn’t have that much for her. I mainly brought some seeds and nuts for me to snack on during the times I was there by myself. We did have a little refrigerator in the room that we shared, so we put in some yogurt drinks for her and some green tea for me.

7. Stuffed animal: We couldn’t bring her favorite because right now that is a giant sized dog, but we did bring the next best thing, her giraffe. A friend did bring her a fairly large monkey that she loved on as well.

This was pretty much what I packed into a small suitcase. We ended up only being there for two nights, which I’m thankful for.

How about you? What have you taken to the hospital to entertain your child or yourself? Any other thoughts that would help make that overnight stay smooth? Share in the comments.

Doctors and Dentists, Oh My

*photo by flickr

I was young and single when I boarded the plane to begin life overseas.  I didn’t put a lot of thought into doctors, hospitals, or any other health related issues. Probably not that wise, I know, but that was years ago and I was young. After I became pregnant I began to look at heath care differently. When my second child was diagnosed with Cri-du-Chat, a genetic disorder, I really studied the whole medical scene.

So, how do you handle heath care in a language you don’t understand? This is difficult and often a huge reason why people don’t move overseas. Many times there is a translation problem, and frankly, who wants to vaguely understand what is being said by the doctor. I know I don’t, so here are a few suggestions I have to help.

1. Study the “system”. Each country has different systems and procedures in seeing a doctor. Ask other parents questions like: Do you need an appointment? How do you register? Do I need to go to the hospital or is there an office?  In our last move I was fortunate to have a friend who could speak the language and knew the system well. She actually took me to the hospital and showed me how it all worked. If you can take a tour with a friend, think about registering your child(ren) at that time. Taking time to fill out the medical forms = less time to wait for doctor with a sick child. Knowing and understanding the system before the crisis is beneficial.

2. File important medical documents. Put any medical documents such as vaccination records, diagnosis records, and even insurance information into a filing system. It doesn’t have to be elaborate and huge, but it should be in a safe place and easy to find.

3. Make a list of doctors.   It is better to have this list before your child(ren) is sick. Ask parents at the school what pediatricians, family doctors, and dentists they like. Find out if they speak English or not. Another idea is to check for an expat website for your city. There is probably a forum for hospitals and doctors where other parents recommend their favorites.

4. Start a medical dictionary.  I’ve used a simple notebook to write out medical phrases or words that I needed the doctors to understand. This has really helped with translation problems during a consultation. If you have a language teacher, ask them to help with this or find a friend that can read and write the language.  Another thought is to download an English/foreign language dictionary onto your smartphone. This has been helpful for me in other situations, so I highly recommend finding a good one in the language you need.

5. Bookmark a few medical websites. I’m not suggesting that you should check your child’s symptoms online, even though there are some websites that offer that service for free. What I am suggesting is that you use these sites to research what a doctor at the hospital/clinic has diagnosed. Many times treatments and descriptions get lost in translation. I have used webmd.com or have searched on Google to find a description of the diagnosis. I have also used Google to research medications that were given to my child. Internet can be a wonderful tool, can’t it?

*Note that if you live in an area where medical availability is limited, then make sure you have your medical records easy to pack; and if you don’t already have emergency evacuation insurance, I’d suggest you look into getting it. It saved our daughter’s life.

I’m always up for learning more, so if you have any other ideas that would be useful please share in the comments below. Thanks!