Sharing Our Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Meeting a Famous TCK

Before the flu hit our family like a vicious creature from the black depths of the sea, I had the opportunity to listen to a John Newbery Award author speak at one of the International Schools here in Taipei. Linda Sue Park to be exact.

She’s a TCK, really!

I’m not sure she’d call herself a Third Culture Kid, but I do. Her parents are US immigrants from South Korea. Most of her books are tied back to South Korea in someway, which I love. Her curiosity of her parent’s life before America lead to questions, which lead to story ideas.

She was inspiring…

I’m not Korean, but I was inspired to share my stories and to find out the stories of my family to share with my own children. My kids should know about their great-grandparents and how they survived the dust bowl of the 30’s, how their grandparents survived WWII in Germany/Prussia, and how their parents grew up on opposite sides of the world yet still met and married.

How do you share family stories when you live on different continents?

Stories are usually shared around the table at family gatherings. I grew up in a family that met every Sunday after church at my grandparents’ home for lunch. This is where I heard many of the family stories, but my kids do not have that same opportunity. We live on a different continent and see them every few years.

What to do, what to do…

Be proactive. Keep a journal with the questions you want to ask. Get your kids involved if they are old enough and ask them what they want to know. Buy a book that already has the questions written down. Then spend time with those loved ones and find out the answers. You could even video the question/answer time so your children can watch it later. Your kids may not be that interested in it right now, but someday they will be – and when that day comes wouldn’t it be more fun to have a video or book to look at together than to just stare at them open mouthed and say, “I don’t know.”

My in-laws are visiting in a few months – I need to get that journal bought and ready.

Your Turn: Have you thought about your family stories and how you are going to pass them down to your kids? How have you managed it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and responses below.

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Christmas Gifts for the Grandparents

Christmas presents under the tree

photo by flickr

Buying presents is something I like doing. Even though I live overseas, I like coming up with ideas for my nieces and nephews. Sometimes this is done online, but most of the time it is at the local market.

What I do find hard is buying for the grandparents. My husband’s parents lived here and have every little trinket and painting that they have to offer in this Asian country. My mother doesn’t need another trinket, table covering, wall hanging, etc. So, a few years back I began to think about this dilemma. What do you buy them? Do I just add money to the gift fund that all my sibs are doing and let them buy the gift for us? Do I try to find a new book that they haven’t read?

A light went on. The one thing they don’t have is seeing my kids on a regular basis. I decided to make something with them as the focus. So, here are just a few gift ideas that I have given in the past.

Note: I’m not mentioning this year’s idea because they might read this. But, I’ll post a picture of it AFTER Christmas.

1. Home DVDs of the kids.

2. Calendars with the kids’ pictures for each month. I’ve used Shutterfly, which has been great because they mail all over the world.

3.  Album of specifically of our time with them that previous summer/winter. This I also did with Shutterfly.

4. I’ve had the kids trace their hands to make various craft projects. This was a visual for them to see how big they really were getting. I’ve made Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths. Pinterest is a good resource for finding ideas of this sort.

I have this year’s gift almost completed, which is a good thing since I’m about out of time to get it there before Christmas Day!

What are some gift ideas that you have for the grandparents? Any favorite that they really liked the best? Please share in the comments below.

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