Friday, April 30, 2010


I just sat down and thought through the number of families we know who are shifting houses this summer - some across town, some to other countries. It's at least 10. This mass shift should happen between the beginning of June and the middle of August. I hope someone out there is willing to make a lot of casseroles for unsettled people. I also hope our city has a good supply of cardboard boxes.

Erik meets with the landlord today to talk about all the things that need to happen in our new apartment. Can you imagine what it takes to outfit a house that is currently 260 sqm of concrete? Thankfully we have water and electrical supplies to the right places already. Erik made this amazing excel document with expanding tabs that outlines everything that needs to be done in every room. He asked for my help last night. I'm not sure how much I was able to contribute, as my help consisted of looking through my Pottery Barn books and putting tabs on pages of things I want to do that have nothing to do with construction.

By this fall we'll have made a lot of decisions and a lot of changes, as will many others. Will be interesting to see how it all looks once the dust settles.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The "Shang" season

A few weeks ago, I was way-laid by the stomach flu. It was a strange kind of stomach flu that involved only throwing up a few times, then lingering for 4 more days in the form of upset stomach/weakness/complete lack of appetite. This week, I've struggled with a sore throat that began on Friday and evolved into a massive headache/sinus congestion/coughing by Tuesday. It's still hanging on as we move into Friday again.

It is just as my chiropractor told me - the "Shang" season.

When I was sick before, she came over to fix an issue in my back, and to see about my health. I warned her to stay away because I didn't want her to be sick, but she was not worried. She told me I couldn't give it to her because this was just my body's natural reaction to spring. Come again?

Spring is the "shang" season, she said. "Shang" means "up." She said in the spring, she sees more patients with issues in the upper half of their bodies - vomiting, head colds, headaches, etc. Fall is the "Xia" season which means, "down." I'll let you use your imagination for that.

Maybe there's something to this I wondered today as I thought it was possible my head might just explode. I guess I'll have to wait and see what happens to me in the fall.

The God of Perfect Timing

I love my children, more than life. Which is why it kills me when they fight. Watching two of the people I love the most not love one another is brutal.

Lately it seems like their bickering has reached an all time high. This could be partly due to the fact that they are together SO much. I'm sure part of it is me being inconsistent in discipline. I will say that we have spent a lot of time praying and talking together, trying to shepherd their hearts in this area. But the reality is, my kids are sinners who need Jesus. Just like me. And also, I blame Satan.

This morning, I stepped away from the homeschool room to use the bathroom, and came back to a screaming daughter and a son with a maniacal look on his face. Seriously? I can't be gone two minutes? I sent them both to their rooms for some down time, and sat down to pray. I thought of a book I ordered a few weeks back called Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends. Due to the ash over Iceland, my book depository books have been delayed. They usually take 2 weeks. It's only been 12 days since I ordered. But I thought, "God, I think I need that book today!" Not that it's the solution, but I could really use some wisdom and perspective in this area and I thought it might help. That and God, of course.

Guess what came in the mail today?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Recommendation

There are a few books I have read in my lifetime which are like old friends now. I read them again and again, and it seems each time God gives me more truth from them to help me grow.

One of those books is Brave Hearts: Unlocking the Courage to Love with Abandon, by Sharon Hersh. I first read this book many years ago by recommendation of a friend of mine whom I admire as a wise, open, passionate woman of God. (Incidentally, she also introduced me to another one of my favorite books - I just wrote her and asked for more recommendations!). I picked it up again last week and have been finding new encouragement to live a life of love.

I don't if I've mentioned it before, but one of my prayers this past year has been, "Lord, teach me to love well." I have been collecting the lessons He's teaching me in response to that prayer (maybe one day I'll have learned enough to write a book!). Sharon Hersh says, "'Go after love as if your life depended on it - because it does.' (1 Corinthians 14:1, The Message) Go after it intentionally, daily, fiercely and prayerfully." In the book, she talks about the many things that can keep us from loving extravagantly - things like jealousy, envy, comparison, addictions of the heart, perfectionism, denying the God-given passions of our hearts, protecting our hearts. And she tells amazing stories of the lives of women who have chosen to be brave with their hearts, and seen their lives transformed because of it.

Just today I was inspired by this quote from Brave Hearts, "May you be encouraged to hope and dream in new ways, fight complacency, risk more, create wildly, pray fervently, and make good relationships extravagant because you embrace the truth that the greatest life is a life of love."

Next on my list, which I hope to be getting soon from Book Depository is Bold Love, by Dan Allender. I have a feeling it's going to be another one I revisit again and again.

That's my book recommendation for today. What have you read lately that you love?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Red Plate Day

We got one of those red "You're Special" plates for our wedding. We didn't realize how, if I can say it, "special" it was at the time. So it wasn't one of the things that made the cut into the 5 bags we brought when we moved to Asia in 1999.

Too bad, because today was a Red Plate Day. Why? Well, for a reason I'm guessing most of you (unless you live on this side of the world) would never have. Ethan came to me after language class today and said, "Mom, I just pooped in the squattie for the first time!"

For those of you unfamiliar, a squattie is what we call the hole in the ground version of toilets popular here. I hate them myself. I'm pretty sure I'm using them wrong, but I'm not going to into details. I love when I go to a public restroom and there is one sitting toilet, because there's always a line for the squatties but they kindly leave the sitting one for us foreigners. I think they probably whisper about me while I'm using it, wondering why I would want to squat 2 feet off the ground.

But back to Ethan. He continued with, "I thought, 'Uh . . . I'm not sure how this is going to work' but then I just did it." He was really proud. He wanted to be the one to tell Erik later. Now if only I could get Megan to use them at all . . .

Oh, and mom and dad, I'm guessing that plate's in your basement. Next summer. I promise. That and everything else. Ok, most of it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What I'm finding in the quiet

It's been over a week since I decided to seek out more quiet in my life. I have to say it's been hard - the pull of busyness and activity is strong in me. To sit and just be, to choose a more life giving activity, is not natural. I confess I have not been stringent on my no TV rule - I blame Jamie Oliver and his fascinating Food Revolution! And also, being sick and not wanting to do anything else.

But as I have closed my computer more often (I honestly don't really miss Facebook at all, and may just close my account altogether) I have opened more books, spent more time in prayer, and tried to just be quiet. What I'm finding is that these other things are feeding my soul. Take this verse for example:

In repentance and rest is your salvation
In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15)

I'm adopting this as my theme verse right now. Erik pointed out that when I have a "QT" it can stand for "Quietness and Trust" and I added that when I think I need a little "R&R" what I really need is "Repentance and Rest." And now, speaking of rest . . .

If you can't beat 'em . . .

Legends tell of perfectly sane, law abiding citizens turned crazy on the streets of China. People who spent their first months driving here cursing every illegal move, crying out versions of "donkey!" to other drivers, vowing to rid the streets of these outlaws, now find themselves thinking of, nay even doing, those very things.

I never thought I'd be one of them. Oh how far I have fallen.

Today as I cruised the streets of my traffic infested city, I found myself thinking, "When my family comes, they are going to be appalled at how I drive." I don't slow down to make right turns. I just expect people to let me in (and they do - my car is usually bigger than theirs). I park in questionable places. I weave. I pass people in no passing zones if they are driving too slowly for me. I drive in the bike lane if I want to turn sooner than the people in front of me. I have yet to make a right turn from the inside left lane in front of two lines of traffic, or to back down an entrance ramp because I changed my mind. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

But here's the good thing about my anarchy - I'm more gracious to others who pull the same bonehead moves. It's just the way we drive here. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


For a book lover, book depository is like alcohol to an alcoholic. Every time I hear about a new book now, I am at the keyboard - first at Amazon to check out reviews, then to book depository to place an order. You can order just one! No shipping cost! And then pretend it was free because you didn't actually see the money transfer!

Not only has it changed my spending habits, but I find myself at least once a day checking the mailbox, hoping for one my books to arrive. The ash over Iceland has delayed a few recent orders, so I don't know when they'll show up, but I have 3 that should arrive any day. I just ordered another - it takes about two weeks. I'll be the lady hovering by the mailboxes from now until then.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moving On

Our lives as expats are filled with change. The most difficult of that, of course, is when the change in our relationships. Over the years we've said goodbye to more friends than we care to number.

This summer we'll say goodbye to our closest friends here, the family who came through training with us in 1999. Our experience with them has been the true definition of community - doing life together. We're so thankful we've been blessed to be next door to them this year! It will be devastating to say goodbye to them, but their move will also facilitate one of our own.

We've decided that with them, and another family we love, leaving, combined with high rents and cost of living in this part of town, and our current distance from the office, it makes sense for us to move to the north part of town. There, we will be close to Erik's office (instead of an hour away!), and will be within walking distance of people we work with. The rents are significantly cheaper and the houses are bigger.

We think we've already found one of these cheaper and bigger apartments, so we're excited! The landlord is fantastic and seems to not be in great need of money, which means he's not asking much from us. The apartment is on the 12th floor across from our office. We're thinking of installing a zip line down to it. The main downside is that the new area of town is not exactly a beautiful place to live, and our apartment in particular is devoid of surroundings where kids could play. This will be particularly difficult for Erik the Outdoor Man, but will not have much impact on Gina the Girl Who Could Live Happily in a Bunker. I will miss running along our canal though!

We plan to move in August, after our friends have left. Between now and then we will be working with the landlord to "zhuang xiu" the apartment as it is currently an empty concrete shell. Pictures and stories of the crazy process sure to follow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Celebrating Megan

A friend of mine gave birth to a daughter Thursday, April 15th, which brought back all the memories of my own experience 8 years ago (in the exact same room!). We're so thankful we've been blessed with this little girl! She is a tomboy who can spend hours playing with her stuffed animals, loves her friends, wrestles with her brother, is determined to be the best soccer player in the world, is growing in her confidence in front of others (but doesn't lack any with those she knows!), is our family clown, has a sweet, sensitive heart that longs to be connected to us, and is sharp as a whip when it comes to school.

For her 8th birthday, she wanted a soccer party. This was a great idea in theory. But in an effort to limit the mass number of children who could be invited to Megan's party, we chose only girls close to her age. Most of these girls didn't have a clue how to play soccer, and if they did, they weren't really interested in it. Megan had grand schemes to play a game of soccer. We started instead with some soccer drill games like "red light, green light" and "sharks and minnows." I could see most of the girls were losing interest, so we set them free to just play in the courtyard. Megan tried to engage her friends in a game of soccer, but when she told one of them, "You play defense" and her friend responded, "What's defense?" I think she knew enough to give up.

Still, a good time was had by all!

Friday, April 16, 2010

After much za-ing, zhao dao le!

After you've heard two people discuss your apartment at length, using the word "za" about 20 times, then you run into one of them later and he tells you that he is going to come back to your house at 1 pm, but he will not being doing any more "za" it's time to figure out what "za" means.

za: to pound, to break, to smash

I should have guessed.

At this point, they have za-ed about 6 holes in our floors between both bathrooms and the hallway. This morning they za-ed under our shower floor, and "zhao dao le! (found it!)" Sweeter words have never been heard from a worker with bits of tile scattered throughout his hair.

They promised they would find it today, and so they have. They also promised that today they would finish all the work. I had my doubts. Sure, you might find the leak, but dude there are six holes that need filling, tiles that need replacing, my bathtub is against the wall, and my sink in is the storage room. Really? But here it is at 4 pm, and they are holding true to their word. Not sure about the tile yet, but those holes are filled. More importantly, there is a shiny new pipe in place of the old one. I've got to hand it to our management company - once they're done with the za-ing they take care of you.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Give thanks in all circumstances

I didn't put it on the list, but I think I'm most thankful today for the admonition given us in the Word, "Give thanks in all circumstances." It doesn't say "for" but "in" - during, while, in the midst of. This has been, on paper, a hard week. I came down with something over the weekend that has lingered so that I have had almost nothing to eat since Saturday. It was only yesterday I could be upright for extended periods of time and not feel awful. Each day it gets better, but that and having workers in our bathrooms each day has kept us from most of our regular activities. Not what I would have chosen! Yet for some reason God has chosen it for me. So I choose today to be thankful for all that He has given me in the midst of it.

176. Spring blossoms all over the courtyard
177. I feel a little better each day
178. My kids are old enough to make their own lunches when I'm sick!
179. Opportunities to bless my friends this weekend by watching their kids
180. I have an eight year old girl today! She was seven yesterday.
181. The workers are determined to fix this leak
182. After all their work yesterday, they brought a maintenance woman in to clean for me
183. My Canon Rebel
184. My helper
185. Erik is here the whole month
186. I get to coach LEAF again in May
187. Teaching drama and coaching soccer start again today
188. Despite my illness, we had a fun night away with our best friends on Saturday night
189. My treadmill
190. Chocolate chip pancakes to celebrate our little girl
191. Book Depository - I know I've said it before, but it's worth mentioning again
192. As is Tao Bao
193. I learned the word for "pound, break, smash" this week
194. Aside from last night, I've had hot and cold water all week. Looking forward to having them both again today
195. Lots of quiet time with God lately
196. Books like Abba's Child, Life of the Beloved, and Brave Hearts
197. Kids who are flexible enough to do homeschool from my bed
198. Fun new games with the kids like "hibernation"
199. Things that make me go back to Jesus over and over
200. Our car

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


It's a beautiful day here, and for the first time since Sunday I headed outside (weird stomach flu having kept me mostly in bed for several days). On the way to the market, I captured some of the beautiful flowers blooming in our courtyard with my favorite lens. I didn't know someone was growing lilacs! I'm going to be hanging around her backyard like a creepy stalker, just to get a sniff.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Ethan wisely said recently, "Sometimes things have to look worse before they can look better." That was in reference to getting the mass of legos off his carpet so we could vacuum. The same can be said about our apartment. At least, I hope that this "worse" will lead to something better.

Here's the hole the workers made. After the first hole (in the white tile) proved to be like an underground well, continually refilling itself, they decided to break new ground toward the pipe, and found that it was not as wet over there.

Which led them, after much debate, including a lengthy conversation with our landlady, to rip up the flooring and demolish the tile beneath it on the outside of the bathroom. It was not fun to hear the Scooby Doo sound the worker made when he hit dry concrete about 3 inches down. The bummer of this is that despite him only breaking into about a foot of tile, the tiles underneath our wood laminate are 1 meter square. That's not going to be easy to replace.
Tomorrow, they plan to come back and make a hole in the master bathroom. Warmly welcome them. At this point, I don't care what it takes to stop The Thing.

Good or bad?

It's hard to say if this is a good thing, but right now in one of our bathrooms, there is a pile of tile that has been broken into pieces, and two workers staring down into a foot deep hole that is filled with water. It might be good if it means they've actually found the source of the leak. It might be bad if it means they simply made a giant mess in my bathroom, uncovered some water, and will simply leave when they're done. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Today I've been paring down. My status update on Facebook said I'm taking a break from it - a month, to be specific. Not only that, but I just unsubscribed to several blogs I follow, and have decided that watching TV on the internet will also be out.

It's an attempt to regain silence, stillness, quietude, in my life. I am by nature an active, high energy person. The "manic beaver" I sometimes call myself. I feel God calling me to a quieter, more restful heart. I've decided to have it, that I must be ruthless in eliminating the noise.

Here's what C.S. Lewis said about noise in his book The Screwtape Letters, which was written as letters from Screwtape, the under-secretary to the devil, and his nephew, Wormwood, detailing the best ways to tempt the people of God:

"My dear Wormwood: Music and silence - how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell-though longer ago than humans, reckoning in light years, could express, no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise - Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile-Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end."

I'm hoping that in the absence of these distractions, I will allow God to train my heart to be still. Not an easy task for the manic beaver, but a necessary one. I'll still post here, hopefully things that I am able to hear more clearly without the noise.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Guo Liang Tian

In every language, there are phrases that you can't take literally. I need to remember this whenever someone throws me the phrase, "Guo liang tian." It means, "after two days" but REALLY what it means is, "Not today, lady. Maybe some time in the next few weeks." Ironically, I'd rather have a "guo liang tian" than a "ban tian" which means "half a day" but really means, "Your guess is as good as mine."

I got "guo liang tian" yesterday when I called the management company to find out when the workers will come to fix The Thing. It's like a cancer spreading through our house. Maybe if I take these pictures over to them, I'll get a "jin tian" (today).

This hallway is where it all began. There was a small spot here when we moved in. The landlady said it was "where a dog peed." Yeah, I don't know any dogs that big. She had it fixed for us, but it's back. (that was supposed to be said all creepy) Every day I scrape off the new paint/plaster that has bubbled. The darker part is where it's constantly wet.

This is the wall across the hallway from the bathroom, which means it's seeping under the laminate floor.

Megan's room, on the other side of the bathroom, has had the brunt of damage.

This part's right up by her head. I didn't show the damage in Ethan's room, or our room, but it's growing there too. I had a picture of the flooring too, which is no longer flat but increasingly warped. I accidentally deleted it and feel like eating breakfast instead of reposting it. I think you're probably sufficiently appalled already anyway. Hello, management? Jin tian people!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Those Who Can't, Teach . . . or, Ooo, Can I Play Too?

I've been reliving my childhood this year, vicariously, through our homeschool co-op. When you start mentioning what you were involved in as a kid, people latch onto it, and suddenly, you find yourself teaching it!

Case in point: I just finished teaching drama this quarter to middle school kids. If I'd had any idea how much fun it would be, I would have signed up from day 1. Granted, it was facilitated by the fact that I had 7 out of 8 very willing, highly dramatic participants. But in the midst of it, I found myself reliving some of my best memories from age 5-15, filled with rehearsals, classes, performances. Today I had printed out scenes from what I hoped were their favorite movies for them to act. I was right, and scored some points by asserting that Lord of the Rings: Two Towers is not only a great movie, but the best of the three. What I didn't expect was the pull inside me that said, "I want to play Gandalf!" and later, "I want to be the White Witch!" (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe). I'll admit I've taken advantage of a few opportunities to demonstrate things to them, but mostly I try to sit back and just enjoy them.

Exhibit B: Next week I start coaching soccer again for the little ones. I have to own that when I say I made varsity in my first season of soccer junior year, I have to add the caveat that we were most likely the worst soccer team in the history of high school soccer. We didn't score ONCE my junior year. We lost one game 0-21. No, that's not a typo (I will add though that that was my senior year when I didn't make varsity until after that disastrous event). So I had to wonder what I might have to offer them. But in watching them play, and in playing in the evening with our daughter (who plans to be the BEST soccer player IN THE WORLD when she grows up), the joy in me is being awakened, as are my dormant skills (maybe I'm better than I thought?).

The best part? After class today, the kids begged me to teach them again next quarter (I can't) and one of them said, "You are an AMAZING teacher!" Aww. So fun!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Thing

I feel like I should post some pictures of the ever-encroaching damage that's happening to our walls as a result of this water leak. It is now prevalent on the walls outside both bathrooms, across the hall from the bathroom on both sides, all along Megan's wall, on parts of Ethan's wall, across the flooring in the hallway (we have wood laminate floors) and this week has traveled to a second wall in our bedroom and crept across Ethan's floor. Now when we step on the floor outside our bathroom, water seeps up between the floorboards. It's like a monster from a horror movie. Maybe should call it The Thing.

But there is hope! (this is the part of the horror movie when the hero swoops in. Or wait, are there not heroes in horror movies? I don't watch them). Today I called the management and told them they needed to send someone again asap. A new worker showed up at the door and I thought, "Shoot. I'm going to have to explain this all over again." He was pretty shocked at the state of things, but walked into the bathroom, removed a tile from the wall, looked in, and said, "Here's your problem. This pipe is leaking, and so are those."

Ok, dude, where were you two weeks ago?

I asked him what he was going to do about it, and why it was happening. He said something about the changes in temperature with winter, having heat, then not having heat - basically I think he said it was causing a lot of condensation. The pipes themselves are the ones which supply toilet water to both bathrooms. I was greatly encouraged when I joked with him, "Should we just go use our friend's bathrooms instead and you turn our toilet water off?" Encouraged because he understood me and laughed. That made up for me not understanding so much of what he said about the pipes.

Unfortunately I couldn't nail him down to what he's going to DO about the leaks. He said he had to talk to his buddies and plan a course of action. I believe this course will probably involve demolition of some sort, but at this point, I don't care.

The best thought

Sometimes I look around my house and think, "Hmm . . . I should really pick up this place," and then the most glorious, stress relieving thought hits me, "My helper comes today." When I'm reminded of this, I usually smile and go find something pleasurable to do instead. Go ahead and hate on me if you're helperless, I understand. I've been there. But now I'm here, and I'm lovin' it.