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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The Transition

The word transition means different things to different people. For instance:

  • Parents bring home their newborn from the hospital
  • Freshman in college (or high school)
  • Soldier returning home from deployment
  • Family moving to a new country
  • Summer to Fall
  • Summer holiday to “Back to School”

Though, expats and TCKs relate the word with “good-byes”, new countries, and new friends, I’m going to talk about that yearly transition from summer holidays to returning back to school. It is an adjustment – for everyone involved.

For the parents: It’s the return of the SCHEDULE – either homeschool or taking them back to local or international school. Either way, we don’t hear the constant two words, “I’m Bored”. Okay, maybe if you’re like a super Pinterest mom and don’t deal with this issue skip this section, I’m not talking to you. If you are like me…well, I’m still trying to “enjoy the summer,” but I’m ready for everyone to get on a regular schedule.

The kids: You remember. Come on, I know you do. Sleeping in just a little bit later (or a lot later) than school days. Swimming, snacking, playing with friends, and swimming some more. That first morning of school was like being thrown in an Arctic Plunge swim. It shocked your system and was just not a pretty site. Times haven’t changed – it’s tough for our kids, too. Okay, my kids can’t wait to see their friends All Day Long, but they are NOT looking forward to early wake-ups and the dreaded homework.

So, what can we do to help them?

  • Start waking them up earlier. It doesn’t have to be the exact time, but definitely maybe trying for a half hour difference. This doesn’t have to be done weeks in advanced either – just a few days before to help their bodies start to adjust.
  • Earlier Bedtimes – This goes hand-in-hand with the above. Same rules, a week before or a few days put kids to bed at their normal “school night” bedtime.
  • Review Math Skills – This tip is more for elementary school aged children, but buy flashcards and a few weeks before school starts have your kids review them. Their brain has had a break, hopefully, so now is a good time to help them “think” school.
  • Reading – If you haven’t had them reading at all this summer, then start. This year we actually are paying our kids to read. They are getting a set amount per book they read and record on their chart. It was an incentive to READ – and I’m afraid that it may just have hurt our pocketbooks, but totally worth it!
  • Collect Meal Ideas/Make a Meal Chart – This one is for the cook in the home. I’ve found that when I take the time to make out a two-week meal plan that I actually feed my kids healthier and spend less money at the grocery store. It’s fairly easy to do this at the beginning of the year, but think about doing 4-6 of these charts and rotate them throughout the year.

What do you do with your children? Do you help prepare them? Do you just “throw them into the Arctic Plunge?” Please share in the comments below. Me? I’ll be doing some of it…I’d like to get to the meal plan, but that all depends on how I do with my lesson plans. Remember…I’m not the super Pinterest mom, though I so wish I was.

Jetlag Blues – The Empty Fridge Saga

The summer is over and Sue and Kris are making their way back to expat-land. They’ve said all their good-byes, they’ve packed-up those suitcases with precious cargo of things they can’t easily buy, and they’ve prepped on-flight entertainment for their three kids. The flights are long, the layovers almost as long – but they somehow seem to arrive in their home with all thirteen pieces of luggage and their three kiddos. It’s dark outside and everyone is tired – no exhausted from the lack of sleep. With fingers crossed and prayers said, Sue and Kris put their three kids to bed and then collapse on their own bed. A few hours later, which really seems like only five minutes, the children start waking up….hungry. Sue notices her stomach is rumbling as well. She looks at the clock, 1am. Groggily she walks into the kitchen and begins to search for something….anything to eat. The kitchen is bare, the cupboards show a little hope – a pack of lemon flavored Ritz crackers. “Will this last until morning when she can get to the market?” she asks herself.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to this scenario. I can remember even digging in the carryon bags in desperate search of airline snacks or rolls for the kids to nibble on until we could get to a store. Fortunately, we now live in Taipei – the land of 7-11’s and other 24-hour convenient stores, so I just send Uwe out at odd hours to hunt and gather food for the ravenous crew. On the RaisingTCK Facebook page I asked readers what they do during these times and guess what? I’m not the only one who makes 7-11 runs in the middle of the night.

Others listed great ideas which I will post below…

1. Neighborly Love: One great idea is to ask a friend or a neighbor that is around to buy a few staples to put in your fridge. Of course, they will need to have an extra key, but usually this person has a key for those times that you lock yourself out of the apartment/house. *Table-turner: If you have a key to a friend’s place, why not buy a few staples and put it in their home as a “Welcome Back” surprise. Trust me, you will jump up a few notches on that friend ladder for sure!

2. Stop and Shop: Most airports have some sort of convenience store where you could pick up some crackers, rolls, water, or other snacks to tie everyone over later. If that is not an option, if time and location allows it swing by a store to pick up those staples. It may seem like a pain at the moment, but it might just make that first night of jet-lag bearable for all.

3. Stock-up – As another reader shared: she stocks up on UHT milk and cereal. UHT milk is that boxed milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If that is not an option, then look at what is sold that can be stored in cupboards over the summer and stock up those things. Of course, this needs to be planned out – so this idea may need to be tucked away in your mind for the next time you take a longer trip.

4. Bake and Freeze: If you trust that your electricity won’t go out and if you have a large enough freezer – you could bake quick breads or simple meals and put them in the freezer to use that first night or even week as you struggle with jet-lag. *Table-turning: Make a meal or something to take over to a friend/family their first night back. With email and Facebook, it is pretty simple to find out when they arrive.

I’m sure there are other ideas – like raiding the precious treats from the luggage that you were planning to save for special occasions. Please share with us what you have done to help you through that first night of jet-lag…because none of us like “The Empty Fridge Saga.”

Book Review: PASSAGE TO PERSIA by Margaret A. Frame

PASSAGE TO PERSIA is a story of a young missionary doctor and her 30-years in Persia, or what is now known as Iran. Adelaide Kibbe became a doctor in the 1920s and traveled to Persia. Her story is woven together through her personal letters, diary entries, and mission/hospital reports. It’s through these accounts we see a young lady become a wife, a mother, and a widow – all while working as a doctor in a fairly rough country for women.

You can read my full review at the CLEW website. Just click here.

Coming out of Grief

I’m joining in today with Velvet Ashes in their Friday “The Grove” linkup. This week the topic is on what every expat knows well – GRIEF.

Grief comes in various forms for the expat.

  • Every spring we say good-bye – either we are moving or someone we know and have grown to love is moving.
  • We say good-bye after every “home” visit – each getting a little harder as we see our grandparents, parents aging.
  • We miss family gatherings for birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, World Cup parties, or whatever…fill in the blank.
  • Death of dearly loved ones – either family or tragic accidents

For me, those have been true – but as a parent to a child with special needs I seem to grieve regularly. I don’t mean it is there every single day all the time. No, my grief hits me when I least expect it. It sometimes hits hard like a punch in the gut. It is strong enough to bring instant tears – but not strong enough to leave me in a pit of despair. I wrote a story for the anthology MONDAY COFFEE & OTHER STORIES OF MOTHERING CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS. The section below, I feel, illustrates how grief tries to pull me down.

 I’m told that parenting a child with special needs stays difficult. It doesn’t just “go away.” I have found that to be true. Grief finds me at odd places. It finds me at the park where I see girls playing and laughing together while my daughter stumbles up the stairs to go down the slide. Grief finds me in the hospital holding the results from yet another developmental testing and I see she isn’t mentally where I thought she was. And Grief brings tears to my eyes when party invitations are passed out and she didn’t get one. Grief reminds me that she doesn’t have friends her age. She doesn’t seem to notice, but I do. I hurt.

Through all the grief and mourning, joy does come. It always does. It comes with a kiss and a hug. Joy comes with each new word she speaks. It comes when she dresses up in her cowboy hat, boots, and comes out swinging her pretend lasso. Joy comes from watching her love life in the way I sometimes wish I could.

Yes, joy does come after the mourning.

 

I read a recent blog post from another parent of a child with special needs and she stated it, too.

She is happy. She is totally fine. She doesn’t feel like she’s missing out. It’s not her dream, it’s mine.

Grief comes to everyone – unless you are a hermit who lives in a cave with no pets. As expats we must learn to go through the grieving process, to embrace it knowing that it will pass. And as a parent of a child with special needs, I’m learning that it’s okay to grieve – but that I need to not stay there. Here’s how I get out…

1. Count my blessings – you know that song, “10,000 Reasons”. I made a chart on the wall – but even just saying them out loud helps.

2. Sing Louder – speaking of songs, I put on praise music and turn it up real loud and usually break out dancing. It gets all of us into giggles.

3. Remind myself that my daughter is not sad – in fact she loves life to the fullest (most of the time). Just yesterday I used this…at the water park I started to feel sad because she couldn’t run off with the others to zip down the slide, but I looked up at her jumping in her life vest laughing and splashing around. She was fine – so I would be, too.

4. Take note of the gifts and talents that my children, especially my daughter with special needs, have. Not in a “I have the best kids in the world” kind of way, but in a “Wow, look how they are growing and giving to others” kind of way. (but, just so you know….I do have some pretty awesome kids!)

Your Turn: How has grief affected you? What has helped you through the process? Please share in the comments below.

Book Review: A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE

A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE, fourth edition

by Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith

Living the expat life can sound adventuresome, exciting, and honestly quite fun for most people. Most trailing spouses will agree that at the beginning, it is fun and adventuresome, but somewhere in the middle of maybe the third month or so the “vacation” is over. They begin to feel bored, somewhat useless, and possibly even depressed. Most left jobs and/or careers back in their home country to support their spouse or partner. This was the scenario for both Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith, authors of A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE.

Jo found herself on a plane from England to Dubai as a young wife. The first ten years were rough she says in her book, but she “developed…a career in my suitcase, a portable career that moves when I do.” Colleen, a career consultant, moved to the Netherlands shortly after she married a Dutch man. She gave herself time to learn the language, and then began giving career development training in Dutch. The two of them have teamed together to add and improve what Jo created over fifteen years ago.

In their book, they say, “a portable career is work that you can take with you wherever you go. It is based on your own unique set of skills, values, passion and vision and is not based in a physical location.” Technology has really paved the way for many to be able to make a career while they are traveling the world. “The only real limit is your ability to imagine and create it,” they say at the beginning of their book when describing more about a portable career.

A CAREER IN YOUR SUITCASE is packed with useful tools for anyone looking at the next step. It is divided up into three parts: Find Your Direction; Find Your Opportunity; and Putting it Together. The first part helps you find what you are passionate about to remind you what skills you already possess and can use. The second section takes those passions and skills and helps you discover career options. The last section encourages and directs you in ways to step out and make your career work.

This book is not a book you just read through. It is one that is to be used, marked up, and notes taken in. Jo and Colleen created a separate section called “My Career Passport” at the end of the book, which is a space to write out answers to the “homework” questions in each section. This new section makes it worth having the newer version. This version is also packed with so many resources that are available on the internet. One being their own called A Career in your Suitcase.

This book is definitely a must read for those who are the trailing spouse or if you are at a point in your life that you want to do something new. I found this book to be highly useful and resourceful.

Helping Your TCK Say Good-bye

Yesterday I wrote about building your RAFT during the moving transition. It really is important to take time to do it and to be intentional to help your TCKs build their own. Children are not mature enough to understand all that they are feeling about this impending move. Maybe they didn’t have any say in whether the move was going to happen or not. Maybe they did, but their vote didn’t count – or at least that is how they feel. Either way, it is always good to talk about it with them – or at least try.

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Ask open ended questions – not ones they can answer with a “yes” or “no”. Ideas could be “How do you feel about….” or “What do you think about…” Whatever questions you ask, the point is to get them to talk about the moving process.

Listen, Listen, Listen – After you ask the questions, listen and take mental notes. You might be surprised what they tell you. Your child might tell you about an argument she was in with her best friend. Or maybe he/she might mention a favorite place they will miss that you had no idea was such a big deal to them. You might hear about the fears, the anger, and the grief that your child is going through.

Plan Good-Byes  – Sit with your child and make a friend’s list, then plan what they would like to do to say good-bye. Maybe they want a sleep-over, tea and cake party, or even going out and doing something – remember though to do what your child likes to do, not what you love to do. Oh, and take pictures – lots of pictures. Another idea is to have your TCKs write letters telling their special friends good-bye. It will help them process and give them the opportunity to say “Good-bye”.

Note Memories – Do something with the photos you’ve taken. Either make an album or allow your child to make their own album. My friend, Shelley, made her daughter a photo album when they went back “home” on furlough last year. She put in photos of her child’s home, desk, bedroom, favorite activities, and friends. I just took my daughter bowling with a group of her good friends. I took many photos, of course. I had a notebook that I had each girl write in. They could write a memory or whatever they wanted to tell Mei Mei. I told them to leave a page free and as soon as I develop the photos, I’ll put them in. Later after we move, I’ll give Mei Mei her book. Now, my son doesn’t want his friends to write anything – but we’ll still take photos of their upcoming campout and I’ll make some sort of album for him because I know he’ll go back and remember the good memories.

Use a Calendar – Remember to say good-bye to places and things. This could be favorite restaurants, night market stalls, tea shops, parks, swings, even a climbing tree or hiking trail. With all the good-bye parties and end of the school year activities time will run out if you don’t plan. Use a calendar to mark out dates to go and see whatever your children (and yourself) want to go to one last time. Again, TAKE photos. Seriously, after a few years – or even months – you’ll forget and wish you could remember.

Read books about TCKs – This one you could do anytime, but right now I’m holding a giveaway party with Valérie Basenceney, author of B at Home: Emma Moves Again. She has agreed to give one signed copy of her book about a TCK moving to one of you! Here is your chance to get a book for your child. You still have time to register – so click here and here (extra points). Other books that I’ve reviewed can be found by either clicking here or clicking on the tab labeled “Book Review”. It’s always good for kids to read about others to know they are not alone in how they feel, especially when it comes to moving.

These are just a few ideas, but I think the most important is communication. Remember that communication involves listening, not just talking. Sometimes I think as a parent it is easier to do all the talking and we forget to listen – or maybe it is just me.

Remember, only one day left for the giveaway. May 30th is the deadline, so go and enter the giveaway. It costs you absolutely nothing.

Book Review: Harvesting Stones

Harvesting Stones by Paula Lucas 

Summary: This memoir is about a Catholic farm girl journeying through Europe and the Middle East with her international photographer husband. To the outsider, including her family, everything looked perfect – even fairy-tale like. In reality, though, she was surviving a nightmare and protecting her three children at the same time. This is the inside look of a woman beaten, bruised, and trapped and how she turned her experience into starting two organizations to help expat women who are experiencing domestic abuse. These organizations are Americans Overseas Domestic Violence Crisis Center (AODVC) and Sexual Assault Support & Help For Americans Abroad Program (SASHAA)

My Take: I really liked Harvesting Stones. Though the first few chapters are a little slow reading, I do believe they need to be there to help you understand where Paula came from. After those chapters hang on because the ride she takes you on is, seriously one you won’t believe really happened. It is like something from the movies with all the twists, turns, and suspense. The difference is that after the movie, you can sigh and say, “Well, I’m glad that was just a story and not real,” but with this book it is real – and the sad thing is her story mirrors many other expat women. Women I may know by name, but not deep enough to know the hurts they are experiencing. This book forced me to open my eyes a bit wider, with not just the knowledge that there are women like this living overseas, but that there are organizations – people who care, support and help these women and children. I love how she describes how she was able to take the “stones” that were thrown at her and “harvest” them into something good. What a challenge to us all – to take whatever hardships we’ve been given and to harvest them into something that can help and encourage others.

* I received this book for review by the publishing company, Summertime Publishers. The views are strictly mine alone.

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Counting My ….

A few months ago we moved to a new apartment. There are things that I like about the new place. For one it is just a three minute walk from where I work and the kids go to school and it has a fair amount of storage space.

And I like this….

We have a small entrance way into our apartment.

We have a small entrance way into our apartment.

And this…

This Japanese Tea room is now the play room for the girls. If it's too messy, just shut the doors.

This Japanese Tea room is now the play room for the girls. If it’s too messy, just shut the doors.

But that is it – really. That is ALL that I like about it. I don’t like that the bathrooms are not big enough for a bathtub. Or that the living room is SUPER dark – think cave. And, please keep in mind that I am not new to Asia, but having six neighbors – and this is not including those living below or above us – living so so close makes me almost crazy. I’m talking so close that I can reach out and water the plants in the window of one neighbor and wash the windows of my other neighbor.

Don’t believe me? Check these out.

I can water your plants for you....

Our windows almost touch…and opposite side is the kitchen to another neighbor.

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I could almost wash the windows off my balcony.

This is what I’ve been whining about for the past few months since moving here. There have been other things that I’ve whined about, but this was what caught my attention to how LAME I had been. As soon as the photos started coming in from the Philippines, my head hung in shame. “At least I have a home….”

The whining had to stop. And it did for a short time…

And then Thanksgiving was approaching. And I was whining because our awesome plans to start a new tradition with the kids fell through. It was a week before and we had NO plans for Thanksgiving. Slight panic – then a friend at church asked us to join their family.

Last week was Thanksgiving and I had the greatest time in a huge church kitchen with a few other ladies to finish up the last touches for a gorgeous meal. I had the chance to pause for a brief minute and take in the beauty of family. The yelling as one uncle threw the long pass of a football, girls giggling about the baby, and the shrill laughter of the women in the kitchen (I’ll not admit to anything on fire, to which caused the excitement) – all of this caused a deep sigh in my soul. Not a longing sigh, but a grateful one. Grateful to have had time to cultivate friendships – to take time to stop and remember all that we should be grateful for this past year. It lit a fire in my soul to do this again…

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That is our “Blessings” Chart from last year. I wanted our family to give thanks each day for things that God had done for us. I wanted it for my life and I wanted it for my children as well – so every night after supper we each shared one thing. We did this for almost two months. So, we’ve started it again. The day after Thanksgiving I taped up a new chart…this chart.

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It’s bigger and I’m excited to see what we will be putting up there. I’m also excited, as I know that when I have to think about all my blessings, that my whining decreases and I my thankfulness increases.

I don’t know if you are like me – wanting to give thanks and to have a grateful attitude, but find yourself singing your own version of the country western song “There’s a Tear in My Beer.” If you are like me, what do you do to stay positive? If you don’t do anything, I challenge you to do this or something similar for a month – you may find yourself doing it longer like we did last year. I’d love to hear how it goes if you choose to do it. Please share your stories below. I’m so encouraged when you do.

Book Review “Expat Life: Slice by Slice” by Apple Gidley

Expat Life Slice by SliceExpat Life Slice by Slice

by Apple Gidley

Book Description: Apple Gidley is not only a TCK, but one that has parented and now grandparenting TCKs. She shares her life from the beginning in Africa with her pet monkey, to the various moves and boarding schools, to life as a young mother, and the challenges of elderly parents. She offers insights and tips throughout the book that all expats can use.

My Take: I received this book from Janneke, a fellow blogger-friend who writes at DrieCulturen. I was excited to read it after Janneke’s review because Apple has been an expat all her life. With a full understanding of the TCK experience, she shares her frustrations and excitement living and traveling around the world not only as a TCK, but also as a trailing spouse, or as she has renamed this group STARS (Spouses Traveling And Relocating Successfully). I enjoyed her humorous stories and related to many of her, let’s just say, interesting experiences. I liked this book because it wasn’t just a memoir of an expat life. At the end of each chapter (slice) she gives tips and thoughts that she calls the “Take Away Slice”. Although, I didn’t agree with everything that she writes, I do think it was a good book that made me think through some issues.

I must warn you now, I was inspired with a few ideas for posts while reading this book. So, you will be hearing more about this book later. So, I definitely recommend it to those who are about to venture into expat life, those who are in the midst of the adventure, or to even those who have left or about to return “home”. She has much to share.

Your Turn: Have you read this book yet? What were your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.