The Leaving Series Part 3: You Can Take it with You

Welcome to Part 3 of The Leaving Series. If you are just reading for the first time, you may want to go back and catch Part 1 and Part 2.

Today’s post if from another friend, who I have had the opportunity to work with on team. Christa, may look short when standing next to her husband, but she is full of life and energy. I think you’ll sense that today as you read what she would have liked to have taken with her when she left…
Valley Of the Giants Western Australia

If you read the title and got upset then give me just one second because I am not talking about passing away, I am talking about moving. Of course it all depends on what the “it” is that you want to take with you. Our family lived in Shenyang, China for 12 years: both of our boys were born there and my husband and I were married there.

Before we left China there was quite a bit of debate about what everyone would be taking with us. When we decided to move, my children wanted to bring their best friends and every toy they had ever owned. My husband wanted to bring every book on the six bookcases in our home. I was much more unreasonable; I wanted to pack the Shenyang Imperial Palace, my best friends, my entire apartment, Starbucks, our school, every book in our home and every toy the boys had ever owned. We could negotiate on some of these items, but I did eventually have to admit that the Imperial Palace wouldn’t fit in my suitcase and I had to accept that skyping friends would be enough.

Our negotiation and moving process took an entire year. I started whittling down items as we used them. As I used items, I thought about whether I would give them to someone, sell them at the garage sale we would host, or pack them to take home. I would also figure out when would be the last time I would use that item then pack it in a box. Yes, in case you are wondering, I am a type A personality. Most stuff got left behind with beloved friends. When I visit now, I get to see my things being used by other people and I have to say it is one of the nicest feelings in the world.

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We worked out that we couldn’t take things with us but we could take experiences with us. We could take parts of the culture and language with us. We also got to take a lot of love and care with us because people did so much for our family to make sure we each knew we were cared for as we said goodbye.

We did quite a few things to make moving easier for the boys. We knew they would miss China, so we made sure to take a long trip around the country to see important places before we left. We talked with the boys and asked them what their favorite places were in Shenyang. We visited those places one last time to say goodbye. We made sure to talk through it with them when we were going to a certain place for the last time. We also made sure to take photos of them in those places. We let them help with packing their own things, so that their things didn’t just disappear one day. We also encouraged them to think through which items they would give to friends and which they could give to children in need. This made leaving things behind more acceptable to them because it was an act of generosity.

We looked to the future in Australia by talking about living close to a part of our family, going to the beach and having a house with a yard. We talked to them about what they were looking forward to and then made sure to mention those positive things with enthusiasm when we could.

The boys wanted a dog in Australia and my husband and I both thought that was reasonable request and something that could help them get through the transition. They looked forward to having Bolt, (our dog), for months and he has helped through emotionally difficult times. He has helped me, too when I think about it.

20.5The experiences, the culture and the language have stayed with us. We have made great Chinese friends here in Australia. I now write for a Chinese magazine here and we speak at a Chinese church in Perth. The boys talk about China often and have kept some of the language as well. The office Darren and I work at is a 5-minute walk from Chinatown in Perth and it is a wonderful way for us to stay connected to a place we all consider home or at least one of our homes. We celebrate the Chinese holidays and enjoy eating Chinese food as often as we can go to a restaurant or cook it. We also keep China in our home by having photos of friends from China, hanging scrolls and keeping things we brought with us from China displayed in the house.

Making sure to keep China a part of our lives, talking about it and participating in Chinese cultural events here in Perth has helped us to feel complete. There is no hole in our heart where China was because it has remained an integral part of what makes up our family. It is our children’s birthplace, and the place where Darren and I were married. Saying goodbye and moving to a new place cannot diminish how important China was and is to us.

Head Shot (1)Christa and her husband lived in China for 12 years. She met her husband, Darren, in China and they married there. Both of their two boys were born in China andlived there until 4 years ago. They moved to Australia, her husband’s home country, in 2010. She has been working with TCKs and other expats since moving to Australia. She is also the China promotions manager for Stacey College and Director of Student Services for Sheridan College. As part of her work she assists students in coming to Australia to study. You can visit her blog at staceycollege.com.

 

Thanks Christa for sharing today! So, readers, what do you want to take with you as you are preparing to leave? For those of you who have transitioned, what are other things that you were surprised about that may have followed you to the next destination? Share in the comments below!

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The Leaving Series – Part 1: Taking Time to Process

Today I start off the series with my own leaving story. If you’d like to share your story email me an original story with some pictures at mdmaurer135{at}gmail{dot}com.

Though I have moved quite a bit this one was the hardest for me…

It is said that the process of moving starts six months before you actually take your mountain of luggage to the airport to leave behind family or friends that have become extended family. For me, those six months were full of anticipation, grief, craziness, and mixed with a sprinkling of peace. I’ve been in a place now for a few years where I can share the story without tears.

It was a move that I did NOT want to make.

It was a place with some major history for me  – engagement, marriage, and children.

It was a move of LOST dreams and dear friends that had become family.

It was our move from mainland China to Taiwan*.

In those last six months we got our match for the adoption and a 13-month old beautiful girl joined our family – four months BEFORE we left.20150416_110521

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“I’m a US citizen now!”

During this time of building RAFTs, saying good-byes, and deciding what to ship to Taiwan we took important trips to Guanzhou and Hawaii for Mei Mei’s US citizenship, neither trip restful. It was a crazy roller coaster ride in my life. I was jerked left, then right, and spinning upside down in speeds that I could not control. I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to relish every last minute in the place I had come to love dearly. I needed it to slow down – to process what was going on.

 

 

 

My wise husband planned a time for our family…

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After we said our teary good-byes to two very special ladies we boarded a plane to Hong Kong for a one week vacation on Cheung Chau Island which was exactly what my broken heart needed – a place to slow down and let my heart start to catch up with my mind. No more packing, no more good-byes, just rest.

From there we traveled to Taiwan to drop off some bags and to begin the process of our resident visas, then on to the US to visit family. During our time in the US, we were sent to a pre-field orientation by our new school. I know it sounds ridiculous that we’d been on the field for about ten years and going to a pre-field orientation, but I’m so glad we did. It was another time of processing for me. While my children were being cared for in the children’s program and my husband was attending meetings to help him with work related issues, I attended sessions for the trailing spouse. I cried some ugly tears during those sessions. My heart was allowed time to grieve.

I can’t say that there were no more tears after we arrived and settled in our new home. There were more, but what I can say is that the time we spent away reflecting and grieving were important, nay vital, for me.

If you are in the process of packing to move, can I suggest that after you leave and before you get to the new home that you plan a retreat to reflect on all that you have just gone through. To let your heart catch a breath, to rest, to grieve, to begin to dream of the next place. It’s not just good for you, but would be good for your kids as well.

Take time to say good-bye well.

Take time to remember those you left.

Take time to reflect on those last few whirlwind days.

Take time to grieve – it’s part of the process. Don’t fight it, just go along with it knowing it will get better with time. (I know, so cliche to say, but it’s true!)

And if possible, take time to go away to do the above. It is good for the mind to have a bit of a break BEFORE entering the new.

*Please note, that I’m not saying Taiwan is or is not its own country – that is too political and complicated. What I am saying is that I moved from a place governed by Communism to a place that is not. Also, each place is culturally different due to their history. 

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Arrived in Taiwan with a double stroller – HA!

 

Saying Good-bye…The Leaving Series

When I look back at my history of blogging, I noticed that I have written a lot about leaving, or saying good-bye. I’ve written about the importance of saying ithelping our kids through it; and how it just plain stinks. I’ve also written about the importance of sharing our past with our kids and taking them back to the places where we once said good-bye. And although, these posts may be helpful – possibly even inspiring – I have found something to be even more powerful. Story.

Stories are powerful tools that can speak from the heart of the writer to the heart of the reader. We connect in the story as we see that our own story is sometimes quite similar, yet different. We feel the pain of saying good-bye; or the relief of the hard-to-deal-with drama; or the difficult times of trying to balance our own emotions while trying to comfort our children in their time of uncertainty. We learn from the hardships of moving valuable lessons about life and living in this nomadic life, called expatriating.

And being that time of year, when so many of you are probably looking at your homes and trying figure out what to save, sale, or throw away, I thought maybe you’d like to read about others who have gone before you. Real people who have packed up all their belongings and moved away from dear and precious friends – and possibly first friendships of your children.

Or maybe you need to share your own story….

So, I’m asking you to share your leaving stories. It can really be anything – from the hardest move to the easiest move. It could be about your most memorable move or a tip on how you helped your kids move. It can be moving for the first time to repatriating back to your passport country. It could be from a parent’s perspective or from your childhood (TCKs welcome, so much to learn from you all as well!). I’m hoping to get my husband to write out a guest post here for this as well.

You write it and I’ll post it! I’ll be posting them every Thursday for as long as I get submissions. I’ll start the first story next Thursday, April 16th. So here are the details.

  1. Email me your story at mdmaurer135(at)gmail(dot)com (please use a doc formatting)
  2. At the bottom of your story include a brief bio. Here is where you can share your blog site, books you’ve written, etc.
  3. Please also email me 2-3 pictures to go along with the story; one being a headshot to go with your brief bio.

Okay, so there you have it. So now write those stories. I really want to hear from you all.

Please also consider sharing this with your other friends you have that would be interested in writing a guest post. ~Thanks!