Monday, May 28, 2012

Resisting the Urge

As much as this impending move might be the most difficult one to date for our family emotionally, there’s a large part of me that wishes it were happening next week. It’s brutal to hold your heart and life in this limbo where you can see the next chapter, but you aren’t there yet. I want to start sorting through things to see what we need to purge, sell, ship. It doesn’t help that people are already asking for various items around the house (back, scavengers, back!). It’s hard to believe we still have three months here, maybe a little more, as I saw this morning that one-way tickets are cheaper after September 11th (and I’m talking like $1,000-2,500 less total). That was hard to stomach – really? I have to drag this out a week more than I expected?

I need to remind myself of all the things we will still get to do this summer because we aren’t leaving yet – the kids hopefully reaching green/blue belt in Tae Kwon Do, cramming a little more Chinese into their brains, trips to Xi’an and Tiger Leaping Gorge, Erik’s hiking trip to Xin Jiang, and just lots and lots of time with our dear friends, who are our family here.
I still might do a little sorting sooner than later though.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Project 365 May 11-18

Now that I'm a bit out of the fog of jet lag (yesterday was a doozy) I can post some of my recent Project 365 pictures. I'm kind of amazed that I'm still doing this, almost halfway through the year. It's been fun and I feel like it's helping me learn to see the photo opportunities around me and challenging me to look for new subjects. On the other hand, there are some days when I think, "Shoot - I need to take a picture. I really don't feel like it. Is there anything I am currently viewing which I have not yet photographed?"

Day 11 - the backyard

Day 12 - fun at the park

Day 13 - Como Conservatory

Day 14 - awkward family photos (the book, not the pose)

Day 15 - so much driving

Day 16 - out the window on the way to the airport

Day 17 - fireworks

Day 18 - yes, technically still Day 17, but this is the aftermath

Friday, May 18, 2012

A familiar fog

I am in a familiar fog. It's the "I just spent the last three days madly buying last minute items and packing them, then 14 hours being hurdled across the ocean in a pressurized metal tube during which I could not sleep so I watched my personal viewing screen until I killed off a sufficient number of brain cells, then I slept 6 hours in my bed which sounds decent except I went to sleep at 8:30, and now I have not one ounce of adrenaline so I'm capable of nothing and our kids are running wild for lack of supervision" fog. This one has a few added bonuses like doing the 24 hours before leaving the States without Erik, who left ahead of us, and trying to do jet lag with a dog (who thought it was cool to get up at 2:30, and then decided that 3:45 was an awesome time to go outside).

I feel like this fog has actually been worse the last couple times. When we landed in Minnesota, by the end of my first full day I was debating which would happen first - I would vomit, or my head would explode from pain, or I would collapse from exhaustion. Answer: option 3, at 6:40 pm. I thought once the kids were older, jet lag would be easier. Unfortunately I forget the corresponding truth, which is that I am also now older.

But on the up side, I only have to do this one more time (because no, I never ever plan to travel ever again). At least I only have plans to do it once more. This is one part of the expat life I will not miss.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More In Between

Leaving Minnesota has been a little easier this time, as we are buoyed by being able to say, "We'll see you in September!" But the reality has begun to sink in, especially for our kids, that seeing family here soon means that is also the amount of time left for us to say goodbye to China and our friends there. It's hard to watch them wrestle with the process of being so excited for what is to come while simultaneously devastated by it as well. This is the in between life I've been talking about.

Housing negotiations

House purchasing is proving to be more difficult than we anticipated, due to the limited supply of straight forward traditional sales. After pulling our offer on the bank owned property last week, we saw a house we LOVED that was short sale. Sometimes these are doable, and we were hoping this might be. Unfortunately the process required for this one sounded a little like Alice's trip down the rabbit hole, with places along the way to deposit money that you might never see again, and a promise that you won't see the light of day again for at least 6 months. Happy house purchasing!

I've decided that this would be so much easier if we could just do this Chinese bargaining style. If we could sit down with the seller, it might look something like this:

Us: How much do you want for the house?
Seller: $1,000,000 dollars.
Us: Are you kidding me? That's too expensive (we start to get up from the table)
Seller: No wait! Ok, (pulls out a calculator, glances around and types in $600,000).
Us: . . . . .
Seller: Ok, ok ($500,000)
Us: That's just still too expensive.
Seller: Ok you say how much.
Us: We were thinking like $250,000
Seller: What?? No! I'll lose money.
Us: (start to get up from the table)
Seller: Ok, ok, listen friend. Give me your best price.
Us: $250,000
Seller: No, please, best price. Ok, $400,000.
Us: (walk away from the table)
Seller: Ok, $300,000. $270,000!! Ok $250,000!!!!
Us: Great. We'll take it.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Gina Hears a Who

Erik and I are waiting to hear back from our real estate agent about the house we're trying to buy. We hit a bit of a snag this week because the bank rejected the clause that said if the assessed price is less than our offer, we don't have to buy it. They came back and said that if it assesses lower, we have to pay the difference in cash. Oy.

So we had to decide - do we still put in an offer? And for how much? Do we want it enough to try to outbid the other offers? (there are several, though we don't know what they are). Are we willing and able to pay the difference? And how do we feel about paying more than it's really worth? In the end, we decided to go for it because it actually meant we could make a much lower offer than our original, and the house is in a great area that will more than likely increase in value in the next few years.

Then today, the day we hoped to hear from the bank, we saw a house come on the market that hits almost all our criteria (this other one lacks the east facing lake view Erik really wanted, among other things). Unfortunately, it's short sale, which can take up to 6 months. On the plus side, we have that kind of time. On the down side, um . . . well, we're currently trying to buy something else.

If you've read my blog for long enough, you might know that I like control. So the manic beaver in me (that's my nickname for the obsessive control freak part of me) wants to go into overdrive and figure this thing out. I want to cancel the other house and go for this one, but only if I know that we can get it for the right price (did I mention it's a wee bit expensive?), or I want to hear right now from our agent (We don't know why we haven't heard).

And then there's a little part of me that's sort of like the Who voice in Horton Hears a Who, that cries out, "You know, I think God has this one." It's a little voice, but it's trying its best to be heard. Because it knows that we've prayed for His guidance. We've asked Him to give us wisdom even when we can't see the end as He can. In putting in this second offer, we prayed and felt like it was a good decision. We've asked Him to let this fall through if there's something better out there. So the Who voice says, "You just need to trust, Gina. It's going to work out. You just need to wait."

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Form of Gluttony

People have always asked us, when we get back to the States, what restaurants we like to hit, what American food we've missed. This is funny to me on a couple levels because it assumes that a) we have no western food in Asia, and b) Chinese food isn't awesome enough. These are both erroneous thoughts, especially b.

It also assumes that food is important to me. I'm an "eat to live" person. That list that's been going around on Facebook about the top 100 foods you're supposed to eat before you die? I think I've eaten 20 of them. That sadly includes Pocky and Spam, which under no circumstances should be included on that list. I eat so that I do not die. So no, there's really nothing I crave from the U.S.

No, my gluttony takes other forms. Primarily, it is literary. I was inside the library within 24 hours of hitting American soil. I got some books for the kids and hunted down 4 for myself. I went again yesterday and got a whole new stack. I'm on my 3rd fiction book while here, which seems tragically low to me, but I've been distracted by things like weddings and house hunting. I have two more I hope to cover before I leave.

Some people overeat in America. I overread.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Project 365 - May 1-10

May 1 - chilling in our friends' pool

May 2 - morning in Orlando

May 3 - after a storm

May 4 - bridge on the path where I exercise

May 5

May 6 - breakfast with Christopher and Rachel

May 7

May 8

May 9

May 10 - Ethan as guest photographer again caught this one

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Any recommendations?

I'm currently sporting a new haircut, thanks to Frankie at Studio 52. It's so low maintenance, but it doesn't look it (at least I hope it doesn't. The test for me of good hair is whether or not it looks good on day 2). Usually my haircut is the opposite - it takes a lot to get it to just look ok. I now have to make this haircut last until we come back in September, especially since my salon (and I use that term loosely) in China has shut down.

I found myself yesterday scheming on how I could continue to get my haircut by Frankie even after we move to Orlando. I quickly determined that this would not be feasible. I love my family in Minnesota, but I just don't think I'll be getting up here every two months. Sigh. So I come to my conclusion:

I will have to look for a new hairstylist in Orlando.

And come to think of it, a new dentist, doctor, chiropractor, vet. And that's not even considering the things that will come with having a house, like a pool guy (will I have to bring him lemonade?), electrician, plumber, etc.

And friends. I'm going to need some new friends.

It's all a little daunting, but I imagine I'll do what I did to find Frankie - send out a desperate Facebook plea for recommendations. I'm thankful we live in an age where it's easy to network for resources.

I'm guessing it will be a great way to find a new stylist. Not sure how helpful it will be in finding new friends.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Off the Beaten Path

I have always been a play by the rules, inside the box, compliant kind of girl. It's served me well (and probably those trying to lead me) for the most part. People generally like those kind of people. At least they like that they aren't doing things that others don't like.

But this morning at breakfast with friends, I was reflecting on the fact that God seems to keep leading me off the beaten paths. Asia for 13 years? Homeschool? These aren't the norm. I know this will become more apparent as we move back to the States and out of the realms where others are doing the same oddball things. 

On top of my seemingly wacky life choices, I feel like I am moving into a place where many of the values and lessons I have learned are counter-cultural, both at work and in life. I'm starting to see that one of the great challenges for me is not only to stand firm in these things I have come to embrace, but to recognize the times when God is calling me to share them with others, to stir things up. I am not a stirrer. I am a "gently slip into the shallow end and hope no one notices" kind of person.

But a few weeks ago, during our bi-weekly Dan Allender mind meld, he talked about passions and burdens. Passions are those things you love, the places where you want to say "yes," where you are even brought to tears because you are so moved by an issue. Burdens are the other side of the coin, the things you hate, the things that make you say, "not on my watch," the places where your blood boils.

This whole topic came to me this morning because my friend was sharing about some things at work that are disappointing to her, things that touch on my passions and burdens. I felt my heart caught up in the issues, that sense of wanting to pound my fists on the table and say, "Something must be done!" and then, "And I want to be part of it!"

Then I thought, "Wait. Did I just think that? But I don't do that kind of thing! And I don't like being that person!" But the passions and burdens in my heart are from God, and I know that I must honor them, even if I get a few sideways glances or create some discord. I've been wandering so far off the beaten path in the last 13 years, why try to find my way back now?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Project 365 - April 15-30

This month has been a little crazy with coming to the States, so sometimes I took a lot of pictures and other days I took none. I've assigned them days, but let's just call these "my favorite 15 of the latter half of April."

Day 15 - our 10 year old

Day 16 - Scout in a bag

Day 17 - the new pastime at the circle

Day 18 - street food

Day 19 - red flowers on my iphone

Day 20 - breakfast on the street

Day 21 - street food is never ending

Day 22 - notice the "cash register" drawer

Day 23 - Scout at attention

Day 24 - any port in a storm

Day 25 - tulips in my parents' backyard. LOVE!

Day 26 - Megan and Nai Nai shared a birthday party

Day 27 - Ethan messing around at the groom's dinner

Day 28 - Andrew, the happy groom

Day 29 - ok, technically still 28th, but I had to

Day 30 - how could I not include this?

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

House Hunting

We have never owned a house. That's one of the by-products of living overseas for 13 years in a state of flux. The most expensive thing we have ever purchased was our car in Singapore. That actually felt much more daunting than this, maybe because buying a car in Singapore meant swallowing the fact that we were paying probably twice what the car was worth, while most of the houses in Orlando are selling for about half of their previous price. It is, indeed, a good time to be a buyer in Orlando.

Yesterday, we saw 11 houses. A few of them were easy to write off the list. One of them, as we drove through the neighborhood to get there, I realized I didn't even need to view (we did anyway. It had a nice kitchen). Of the 11, four of them have potential, but none of them are a no-brainer.

One of the last houses, nicely situated 7 minutes from Erik's new job in a beautiful, "Was this built by Disney? Do they colorize stuff down here or is it actually this green?" kind of neighborhood, seemed ideal. Bank-owned, which normally could mean, "Be prepared to witness something akin to a prison riot scene," it was beautiful, huge, well-kept. There were only 2 downsides-no "nature view" for my outdoor needing husband, and no downstairs full bath.

I know, I know, we're spoiled right? There's a bedroom downstairs, but no full bathroom. So what this says to the many guests we anticipate is, "Sorry, friends, no shower for you, unless you don't mind walking through our house to the upstairs bathroom you get to share with our kids who will soon be teenagers and I've heard teenagers spend a lot of time in there."

But such seems to be the case with each of these houses. There's just one thing about them (wrong location, no yard, odd layout, etc) that keeps us from jumping on them.

It's possible that the bathroom could be converted into a full bath, if we take out the closet and put in a rather small shower stall. But we're sitting here wondering, "Should we just go for it? Or do we wait for something better to come along?"