Like the title says it is a journey of faith by taking the soon to be graduate on a study of Galatians and relating it to where they are in life. The scripture is printed out on the pages and followed by questions that can be answered by the reader. This is nice as the reader does not need to look up Scripture and we all know that time is precious for those in this age group.
It is also a planner that starts twelve months before graduation and ends twelve months after. There are check lists of things to think through and do, but also discussion questions or processing questions to help the graduate during this time. The authors note that this can be done as an individual or in a group.
While I think the idea is great and needed (and I’ll be buying one for my soon to be graduate because I got an advanced e-copy), I think it is lacking for an individual to do alone. Most of the questions need to be discussed because this is a new area for the student and sometimes the parent. I think that some of the suggestions need to be explained a bit more in detail to help clarify what the authors want to convey. That being said, a well prepared mentor could use this book to lead and guide graduates in helping them transition.
I also have questions about some of the suggestions for the months before. I’m not sure twelve months before they leave that graduates can find a “bridge” person (if they know what that term means) because most students at this point do not even know which university or program they will choose, let alone what city, state, country. As I have talked with soon to be graduates, they are nervous and feel enough pressure as it is, especially those that really do not know what is next. So, while the checklists are great, a well prepared mentor would be able to help individuals navigate this unknown world a bit better.
There are some great activities for the graduate to do to help them build their RAFT. There are photo suggestions and places to draw maps. In fact, I do love that they have pages called “Wreck this Journal Page” where anything goes. In fact, they have a lot of blank spaces for processing and making notes.
Overall, I think the book has potential to be a good resource for counselors or mentors who work with students in their final year of high school or first year out. It is also a good resource for parents to help think through and have conversation starters. As for individual use, I do think there are a few individuals who could do it, but discussions are always better within a group.
Julie writes that this book “was inspired by Cynthia Rylant’s book When I Was Young in the Mountains”. Each page shows what a day in the life is like living in Myanmar before the family had to leave. The photos are captured in a watercolor type feel which makes the book not feel like you are looking at someone’s scrapbook or digital photo album. It adds to the creative side of thinking about your own life and how you live in your current home.
Julie has added a few pages at the end which is a bonus to the book. She has questions that can be used as conversation starters with your children. These questions go along with the previous pages to help you talk about your own home. And there are questions to help your child(ren) process that time during the pandemic. The last page is a list of resources for parents of third culture kids which is also a nice touch.
It’s September* and everyone is back in school. Did you hear me sigh? Did you sigh along with me? Don’t get me wrong summers are good, but with a child with special needs they are usually not great. She needs a set schedule with a para and we don’t get either in the summers. Summer schedules are suppose to be flexible. They are to be a time to relax, take a vacation with the family, right?
So, with school starting and the schedule in place life would flow down a lazy river. Nice and easy. You’ve heard of the domino affect, haven’t you? You know after one domino falls, others go right behind it? Today’s story will follow the domino trail; not a lazy river experience.
Domino #1: Beach & Teas
It was a school holiday, Mid-Autumn Festival. So, off to the beach we went for the morning. Just the two of us because the other two were out of town. The sky was blue, the wind was strong, and the sand was warm. M2 rolled around in the sand and waves, built sand mounds, and ran up and down the empty beach. Perfect.
Teas are usually something we buy to take to the beach, but since we left so early there were no shops open. So, after rinsing off the sand and sweat we stopped at a shop before going home. My wallet was at home, but I had a zip-lock full of copper coins. They are worth 1 New Taiwan Dollar. I ordered and paid with 110 coins. Bless those workers hearts as I counted out stacks of ten coins eleven times. (Maybe you are wondering why I had a bag of coins in the car. Well, I’ll save that story for another time, but you can try to guess in the comments.)
We got home and I put the teas in my bag.
Domino #2: Keys & Flipflops
I gathered all our belongings and coaxed M2 out of the car. She is sometimes a sloth when she wants to be. I reminded her that we had tea and then threatened that she would not get tea if she didn’t hurry. Mama had to use the bathroom.
We live in a house with a yard. To enter you have to unlock a tall solid metal swinging gate. Ours is blue. I fanned out the keys on my key ring, but could not find the key to this gate. I looked through the bag to make sure they didn’t get buried under the towels and sand.
“No! Please don’t tell me I left them in the house?!?!”
M2 giggled, snorted, and smacked her leg.
I dropped the bag and climbed up the side wall to see if I could be like my super amazing husband who climbs over and jumps down. I looked down. It’s about a 6-7 foot drop, so not bad. But I looked at my shoes. Flipflops. I was not sure my ankles could take that jump onto concrete. And I was sure our dog looking up at me wagging her tail would not catch me either.
I called a friend who has an the extra set and lives just down the road. No answer.
I found a curved tool in the hedges. “Oh, Lord, please let me jimmy this door open. I really need to use the bathroom and need your help.”
Nothing. I try several times. Nothing
I felt my breathing pick up and my heart rate quicken. By this time our dog was whining on the other side of the gate.
I tried once more, probably with a little more frustration than wisdom. But the door popped open. I got in and I didn’t break the lock. A miracle, I think.
Domino #3: Wet bag & Wet Keys
After washing my hands, I went to the kitchen to retrieve our teas and get something for lunch. My bag was wet. Soaked. I reach inside and pulled out one full cup of tea and one empty cup. When I dropped the bag, the seal on the tea opened and out went the tea onto everything, including my car key which has a battery operated button to unlock it. I ran everything under the water to rinsed it off and then gave M2 chocolate almond milk. She was just as happy with that.
Domino #4: Car Alarm
Two days later we used the car to go to church. The key fob has the buttons on it to lock and unlock the doors. They were not working. I manually unlocked the doors and we drove to church. Later that day we were heading to pick up a friend to go to the beach. The car began to lock and unlock on its own. Strange, but I thought, “Maybe the keys are still wet and they just need time to dry.”
Monday morning same, but not a huge deal. Monday afternoon, I go out to the car to pick up M2 from school and the car alarm goes off when I open the door. I cannot get it to shut off. I try several times to unlock and get in, but the alarm goes off. One time I get in without the alarm going off, but then when I started the car it went off again. A little later, I had the car started, but when I pulled out of the drive the alarm went off again. By this time it had gone off four times. I was loosing my mind.
I call handsome hubby. Bless his heart, he was of no help.
“Push the button on the key fob, that will turn it off.”
“Really,” I said, “You don’t think I’ve tried that? It doesn’t work.”
“Oh, then I don’t know what to tell you, but you have to get to school now or you will be late to pick her up.”
This conversation was going on while the alarm was going off. You can imagine how we were both feeling.
I prayed, “Oh Lord, please let this crazy alarm stop. I cannot go down the street with it going off. Please don’t make me stand out any more than I already do!”
I sent handsome hubby a message asking him to let the teachers know that I was on my way.
He messaged back: “I’m sorry I was not helpful. I was mad because I wasn’t there to help you. I’m glad you got it to stop.”
I love that man.
M2 was in the office waiting for me. I did not turn the car off, but left it running while I ran in to get her. We went straight to the mechanics and asked him to disable the alarm system. He did.
With a chuckle.
Dominoes are fun to watch as they cascade around their merry path. But when that path is your life and it is affects so much of what you do, then that is not so much fun. In fact, it can make you aware of thoughts and emotions that you have about yourself, others, life, and/or the world. I’ve been studying Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in my final class for my Master’s in Care and Counseling. The biggest takeaway is that beliefs directly influence our emotions and behaviors; not the situation or the event.
Example from my story. The moment I realized that I left the keys at home and did not have them to open the door triggered a belief. The belief that I should never do such a stupid thing like forgetting to take the keys to the house with me and this is terrible, I’ll never be able to get in. This belief started the domino affect of me dropping the bag; not setting the bag down. You could probably go back and see where this belief rises back up at various points in the story. How to change your beliefs is through disputing them, but I’ll save that lesson for another time.
*This story was supposed to be published in September, but for some reason I forgot about it. Maybe it was because I needed to understand REBT more and could begin to introduce it to you all as a way to process events/situations in your own life.
The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is a saying that most overseas workers would agree with. We do not have easy access to trusted family members to help us in times of need. We rely on those in our host country to help. I live on the island of Taiwan. For me, it has taken the island to help me raise my children, especially my daughter with special needs. We have lived on the island now for fourteen years. We have made friends in various cities due to my husband’s role, but also because he grew up here.
It wasn’t until we started planning to attend our son’s graduation that I began to think more about this African proverb. We knew our daughter with special needs would not be able to attend the ceremony. She is deathly scared of the auditorium where it would be held. As we tried to plan it out, a couple of friends let me know that whatever we needed, they would be there. That was when I realized that for me it has taken more than just a village, but actually an island, to raise my kids. I realized that in almost every major city on the island there were at least a few families that knew our daughter well enough to help at any given moment. And last year we even had a friend come from a different city to stay in our home for one week so my husband and I could go away for our twentieth anniversary, something we hadn’t done in over ten years. Seriously, that is more than friendship.
I don’t think we are special or have this amazing gift that people want to help. I think that most people want to help, but just may not know where to start. So, I asked some of my other online friends who happen to have raised or are in the process of raising children with special needs outside their passport countries.
To read the rest of this post and to see how you can be an encouragement follow the link to A Life Overseas
Two months ago I finished my first ever half marathon. That would be 21km of feet hitting the pavement at a slow jog. Though my times were nothing to brag about, I finished and I have a medal to prove it. The medal is hung from a wide silk ribbon and it is in the shape of a hot air balloon. It is pretty, but let me tell you the race was anything but pretty.
Okay, parts were pretty. The location was in Taitung, Taiwan. Known for beautiful mountains and blue/green ocean. We started out in Forest Park, which is just that a park forested by trees. We ran towards the mountains. That means that I ran uphill for at least 3km of the race (I calculated), but it also means that I ran downhill 3km. The rest of the layout was flat along the river basin with the view of the mountains the first half. The last half I noticed rice fields flooded, rows of green tomatoes hanging from their tepee-like frames all while dreaming of the finish line and a cold green tea.
It was HARD! I mean I had trained for this day. It wasn’t like I just showed up and put on a number hoping that I’d finish. No, I’d spent the last six months building up my stamina for this day – and it was still hard.
It’s funny how your mind sees things differently when your body is in pain. Like those slight inclines turned into steep cliffs and the curves in the road became tormenting hairpin turns hiding the turnaround. Then the last 3km of the race perseverance was a must. No joke. I was back in the park when I saw the 3km marker. Seriously? I still have three more to go? But I’m in the park! My legs were feeling the burn, I had slight abdominal pain, and the sun choose to come out and shoot rays of hot fire at me. I got to the 500m marker and rounded the turn with a sharp inhale. Where is the balloon filled archway announcing the end?!?! I wanted to lay down right there. Another “more mature” runner was in front of me. He and I had been encouraging each other with the Mandarin phrase “Jia you”. With his encouragement we finished together.
A few weeks ago a friend reposted a quote on Facebook. She, too, is parenting a child with special needs. It said..
“Every parent plans to raise their child for about 18 years, set them free for 30 years and then hope they come back to help them face the final years of their own life. A SPECIAL NEEDS parent plans to raise their child for 65 years and while doing so also has to prepare for the other 20 or so after they themselves are long gone…. Let that sink in for just a moment and you will begin to understand the drive and determination that many of us have while we are here on earth.”
I don’t know who wrote that. It wasn’t me, but it was definitely the feelings I was having during that hot Sunday morning. Let me explain.
I sometimes feel I’m running uphill. Life is hard and sometimes a struggle. Let me give you a glimpse from our meal times: Jie Jie, who is now 13, but mentally about 4, has to have her food cut up into tiny bites so she doesn’t choke. We have to watch her closely when she feeds herself as she tends to take 3-4 huge bites at a time and proceeds to choke anyway. Then she gets upset with our oldest because he has his elbows on the table, and then she thinks her chair needs a cushion (although before the meal she said she didn’t) or we need a completely different chair altogether. By the time she finishes her meal, everyone else is done and the table is cleared.
I feel my body giving out. It has been reported in health studies that parents of children with special needs age quicker. This is due to the stress. Stress of child choking to death. Stress of child getting hit by a car. Stress of trying to plan for the future. Stress from the IEP meeting or trying to figure out how best to homeschool your child. These are just a few that I know parents deal with on a regular basis. For me my body gave out in the form of a sprained shoulder. I was in physical therapy for about three months repairing the damage, which we believe may have been caused from years of me daily tightening my neck muscles every time Jie Jie would grab me in a super bear hug squeeze. Some days this happens 10-20 times. I have a very tight neck.
I am tired and weary at times. Many kids with special needs may not sleep all night long. Many parents go about their day on about 3-4 hours of sleep. Plus all the trips to the hospital for therapy, check-ups, and surgeries. Fixing supper? Laundry? Who has the energy?
I can’t see the finish line and afraid I never will. Just like those deceiving turns from the half marathon that blocked the finish line, I can’t see the finish line of parenting. And this is where that quote hit home for me – it can be overwhelming. This is when perseverance has to kick in. There are days I want to give up, but I can’t. I want to finish this life well.
But…(here’s the encouraging part)
We don’t run alone. Just like the other runners in my half, there are other parents who are running this race with me. They may not live in the same town, and maybe not even the same country, but, they are on social media. We are there to support and encourage each other in our knowledge, our joys, and even in our frustrations. We understand the pain and the fear. I am part of a Facebook private group for those dealing with the same syndrome that Jie Jie has. If you are not part of a group, I highly suggest either searching on Facebook or on a search engine.
Spectators. Running through a small village near the mountain’s edge a few elderly people sat in white plastic chairs cheering us on. In life, I have people who come alongside me and help me. That morning of the race, a dear friend came to our home at 5:50am to be there when Jie Jie woke up so the rest of the family could complete their own race (yep, I signed everyone else up for the 10/5km).
Qualified Help. During the run qualified EMTs on scooters rode up and down the road ready to attend to those in physical need. As a parent of special needs, there may come a time when qualified help such a therapist, counselor, or psychologist is needed. Don’t shy away from mental health help. I just read in a local English newspaper here of a elderly Taiwanese man killing his sister who had special needs because of the stress from the past 30 years of taking care of her. None of us want that. We need to take action before it gets bad.
So, who are you?
A runner? Parenting a child with special needs?
Active spectator? Maybe you’re the spouse, the grandparent, the aunt/uncles, or maybe a friend who helps out. Thank you. Thank you for your help, your encouragement, your presence in our life.
Sideline spectator? You see families, but not sure how to help. You may not even know anybody with a special needs – they are not in your line of vision. I have a challenge for you: First, look – you always see what you are looking for. Second, just smile and say “Hi”. Seriously, just that small act of kindness speaks volumes to us. It’s a reminder that we are human and that you acknowledge that we and our children are humans
Just as the scenery during my half marathon was beautiful, a small act of kindness brings beauty to a harsh world – no matter if that person has special needs or not. I challenge you to do one small act of kindness this week to anyone, but you’ll get extra points and a virtual medal if you do it for a family touched by disability.
You know that American phrase, “Actions speak louder than words.” Well, today I experienced just that.
Walking along a busy sidewalk in Taipei. Gripping Holding the hand of Jie Jie, I noticed an older couple holding hands. They were probably in their 70s, at least. I smiled. The man said something. The lady let go of his hand and slapped him on the back. The elderly man chuckled. She smiled back and shook her head. Their hands found each other and with fingers interlocked together once more continued walking in front of us. My smile broadened.
I hope Uwe and I are just like that when we are 70, 80-years old.
Nice scene isn’t it? I mean, I didn’t hear/understand the conversation, but I gathered up enough about this couple to know that they have a love for each other still. It was apparent in the way that they interacted with each other.
About, oh say, twenty steps later, I was struck with this thought, What do my kids see from me? Do they see love? Do they see patience? Do they see forgiveness? Do they see joy? Ouch…
We tell our kids to do this and to do that. Or maybe more so, don’t do this or don’t do that, or stop that now. But, what are we showing them in our actions? They learn more from what we do, rather than from what we say. Seriously, think about it. What did you actually learn from your parents? Was it something they said? Or something they did? Yeah, me too…
Well, if you think times have changed because of social media…wrong. I just read a paragraph from a middle school student about the same thing. This student wrote about how adults always tell him what to do, but he sees that these same adults do just the opposite. Hmm, interesting, isn’t it?
Actions do speak louder than words.
Your Turn: Do you agree with this phrase or not? Why?
Today is Day 3 of 15 of the Chinese New Year. As an expat in Asia, it just means another vacation day with the kids, but to my Chinese neighbors it is another day of celebrating with family…usually the wife’s family.
I’ve been more nostalgic this year. Maybe it is an age thing. Maybe it is because we moved again this year. Maybe it is just because I have time right now as I sit here and write. Whatever the reason, my first experience was wild.
I remember walking from my third floor apartment over to my friend’s apartment, which was just the next building over. Not far. I could hear the explosion of firecrackers booming and others popping like an automatic gun. I stepped out of the exit-way, only to jump back inside the stairwell. A flaming rocket had just flew by within inches of my head. I peeked out cautiously and wide-eyed. The quiet little neighborhood had turned into a free for all war-zone of a party. I covered my ears and ran towards the safety zone, heart beating as I ran up the stairs to the fifth floor apartment.
I’ve not experienced that kind of celebration for a few years now. Reasons?
A few years after I was married with babies, we’d hide out in hotels on the 19+ floor where we couldn’t hear a thing, except the TV episodes of “Friends” showing on Star World. Who wants to deal with crying scared babies at midnight? We didn’t.
Other years, Christmas and Chinese New Year’s vacations were linked together and we left the country to visit family for the longer vacation time. Christmas with extended family is always GREAT!
The past few years we have lived in Taipei. Most of the people that live in Taipei, especially in the area we had lived in, were not from Taipei. That meant they left for their parent’s home, leaving that part of the city very quiet, a bit on the eerie side. Our move has put us in an area of Taipei where people stay and celebrate. They are really from here.
This year we have experienced more of what we remember of CNY. Our neighbors have all decorated their doors with various banners.
One of the gods of CNY on neighbor's door.
Another neighbor with a banner.
We have decorated our door with the traditional red signs that some Christian friends gave us. If you want to read more about why this is traditionally done by the Chinese, you can read about it here.
Our door decoration.
We experienced the fireworks, though NOTHING like my first experience. Uwe and I stood on our balcony and watched a beautiful display of fireworks on the river for about 15 minutes or so. It was too cold for me to stay out longer.
As we stood and watched the green and red glows, an automatic gun sound blasted in the other direction. I looked up and saw the silhouette of a bamboo pole swaying over the building with about 2-meters worth of firecrackers popping it’s way up to the end. These loud firecrackers are to scare the evil spirits to not come into their home. I’m not so sure how much of this is still believed vs. tradition. I’m thinking a little of both.
So, what does tomorrow look like for us? Maybe we will go and let the kids spend some of the red envelop money. Close friends and family give children red envelops with money inside. Maybe we’ll watch more movies. Maybe we’ll go swimming in the local indoor pool. We are going to grill with some friends that evening. I am loving this break!
Your Turn: If you have experienced CNY, what is your most memorable one? If you haven’t, what aspect of this holiday intrigues you the most? Please share in the comments below.
And if you want to read more about this holiday, here is an informative blog post by Culture-4-travel about the 15-days of CNY/Spring Festival. Click here to read it.
***This will be one of several pieces on lessons that I am learning from Jie Jie, one of my TCKs.
Disability. Handicap. Special Needs. Special Ed. Words that just don’t tend to flow off the tip of one’s tongue easily when talking about a loved one or someone else’s loved one. I find that people (some, not all) feel uncomfortable using these words, especially around me. A mother to a mentally handicapped daughter. Hey, even I feel uncomfortable using those words to describe one of my most treasured gifts given to me. They are NOT pleasant words. They don’t bring encouragement or happy feelings, but they are real and can’t be overlooked.
My daughter is a three year old trapped in the body of an eight year old. Trapped is probably not the word that she would use. If she could communicate, I believe she’d tell me it is “Great!” I mean, what three year old wouldn’t love to have the height to reach the cereal box to sneak a snack when mommy isn’t looking? I know she does. She doesn’t tell me in words. That smile of success, those squeals of joy complimented with the beat of hand clapping is enough for anyone to know she is quite satisfied with life.
Over the years she has been teaching me much about life, about giving, and about love. Every once in awhile, I’ll share it with you. Today is one of those days. This lesson is something I knew to be true in my head, but to really see it makes has made me know it and believe it to be true.
This lesson? That each person possesses a gift or a talent that just naturally flows from them. It maybe something that everyone notices like being athletic or joyful. Or something that is not noticed like discernment. Some may label these “gifts” as personality traits, unique qualities, or rather just a person’s nature. Maybe this is true, but I think it is more than just that. As a Christian, I believe we’ve all been given some sort of gift or talent that is to be used for God’s glory.
Even people with disabilities.
My daughter? I see compassion and hospitality naturally flow from her personality. It isn’t a lesson I’ve taught or even really intentionally tried to teach. It is just something she naturally does.
Compassion. She cares for her stuffed German Shepherd, Shrek. She pets him, watches TV with him and tries to feed him real food when I’m not paying attention. She’s very caring for her baby dolls, making sure they are rocked and loved. Many days I’ll be handed the “baby” and a blanket. As I swaddle this doll again and again, Jie Jie signs for me to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. And lately, I’ve seen her compassion for those hurting. One day I saw her facial expression soften as she squatted down beside another little girl that had just fallen down. Jie Jie patted the injured girl and rubbed her back until the girl felt better. She didn’t needs words to be compassionate. She didn’t need a band-aide. She was just compassionate to care and give.
Hospitality. This one just came to me right after Christmas. I have noticed that any time someone comes over for a meal or coffee, that Jie Jie always runs to her room and grabs either a book or a toy. At first, I thought she wanted our guest to read or play with her, but then I realized that after she handed off the item she would turn around and jump up and down with either a squeal or come and give me a hug. I feel like she wanted them to feel welcomed, to have something “fun” to do while they were visiting. To her just sitting and chatting is not so fun, I guess.
Now that I’ve noticed these gifts I want to help her use them more. I want to create opportunities where she can practice these gifts. I want to show her how to be gentle with my friends’ babies. I want to show her more ways to be hospitable in our home when guests come over. I want her to grow and develop in these areas that seem to be natural and in a way, easy for her.
Your turn:What gifts have you noticed in your children, whether they be special needs children or not? How have you helped them grow in those gifts? Have you ever thought about this kind of training? Please comment below.
Living abroad has always brought many fun opportunities.
Like meeting some of the players from the Chinese national soccer team.
Having the President of the country speak at your daughter’s field day because he went to that school as a child.
Interviewed on TV for various things, mainly because we are foreigners.
A few nights was just another to add to the list…and one that my kids will remember.
President Ma Ying Jiu making his way to the stage.
The President making a speech at the rally below our balcony.
Here’s a few snipets of things we heard/saw:
Fireworks shot from the building across the street. Our windows were shut at that point.
Whistles. Chanting. Shouting. Cheering. Flags waving. Mamma Mia sung with intervals of a man screaming various chants that the crowd would repeat. Did I mention that this was taking place just 10-floors below us between 6-9pm?
President Ma giving his speech to rally the crowd to go and vote for him that Saturday.
50, 60, 70-year olds dancing. So wish I had a picture of this!
Yep, not something you see on a normal day, but then again what is normal when you live outside the culture you grew up in? It is all in the point of view of the beholder, isn’t it?
**Note that President Ma won the election and will remain the president of Taiwan for another four years.
Although living overseas can bring some holiday blues, it can be blessed with some good cheer as well.
Here are some of my blessings this year:
1. Skype: We were able to skype with most of my family just this past weekend. I have 4 siblings and they are all married with kids and some with grandkids even, so there are a lot of people to visit with. Skype wasn’t so nice to us, as we had trouble…but considering that we were able to see each other briefly over miles and miles of ocean, I really can’t complain. Something that was NOT available when I first moved overseas.
2. Boxes like this! LOVE my European chocolate and candy…do I really have to share it with my kids and husband?
3. Putting up the Christmas tree and looking at all the ornaments like this and this.
My kids are all home now for vacation. They are counting down the days on an hourly basis. I love my time with them watching Christmas movies, sipping hot chocolate, and watching Christmas tree lights.
I pray that your Christmas holiday is one full of joy, peace and good health.
Your turn:What has brought you cheer during this Christmas season? Please share in the comments below!