December 16, 2010

What all the girls are talking about

I just got back from a fun lunch with friends. It struck me on my way home how different my conversations are now that I'm living an expat life with expat friends on this side of the world.

When I first moved here, hours of conversation revolved around how to navigate the ins and outs of this city. The best grocery stores, where to get sports related items, where to go to get things like a shower curtain rod (our hunt for one of those almost made this Baptist girl go all sailor on everyone) finding out where I could buy a piece of wood for yet another 6th grade project. Home Depot...I will never again take you for granted.

We talk a lot about traveling. We are here for a limited amount of time with limited amounts of school vacation so it's a mad rush to squeeze in everything you want to see. It can be extremely overwhelming requiring a ton of research and conversations with others for personal recommendations. For most of us, this is our only opportunity to see this part of the world. There's a really good chance Langkawi won't make the Spring Break list when we go back home.

We talk a lot about politics. Much more than I ever did back home. I think it's being immersed in a new culture and new type of government that just creates the backdrop for some interesting conversations about life in America in relation to the rest of the world.

Then, there's the hours and hours of discussion among us newbies about the phenomenon that is "The Helper". There's just no way to sum up our conversations about a helper in a couple of sentences so indulge me as I give you the full 411 on The Helper.

When we were here for our "look see" (still an odd term for the week you visit looking for a place to live...seems a tad redundant), we noticed that every single apartment we looked at had a maid's room. It didn't matter if it was the fanciest or the oldest place we saw, they all had maid's rooms. The idea of having someone move in with me, in an apartment, and do all my work was very unappealing. Because of that, we ended up in a three bedroom apartment and turned our maid's room into Scot's office.

The maid's rooms are removed from the main part of the apartment, usually out in the utility area. They are not air conditioned and the majority don't even have a window. There is usually a small bathroom adjacent to the room that is a shower, toilet and sink all in one type thing. Like you could take care of all your business at the same time. We currently have all our luggage stored in there. I try not to let that gross me out.

Ours happens to have a window is a pretty good size (about 7 ft x 7 ft) so it works well for Scot. Except the no air conditioning thing. It can get pretty warm in there. Oh, and the leak from upstairs apartment that has left a lot of mold and some cute itty bitty bugs crawling all over the walls. Except for that, it's practically like having a corner office! What can I say? It keeps him humble.

What bothered me initially was the idea of even asking someone to live like that while we lived with air con and windows and bathrooms that required more than one step to get yourself clean. Well, supposedly. I do live with boys who believe that the quicker you can get through your hygiene routine the better so there's no telling what kind of shortcuts happen in there.

I think my friends and I literally spent hours talking the pros and cons of getting a helper. It is expected here. The majority of expats have them....I am the only one out of all my friends in my building that doesn't have one. In fact, we've had numerous handymen come through here (reference before mentioned mold and leaks) and they are always surprised to see me back there doing my own laundry. They ask me where my helper is and are even irritated that they have to work around my schedule for when to come instead of having the luxury of always having someone here to let them in.

There are classes offered everywhere for helpers. Western cooking lessons for your helper, how to get along with your helper (she's doing all your work for hard is it to get along with her?), and first aid courses for your helper.

Not having one sets you apart. Even more than not having a car. Since we currently have neither, I would say with confidence that it makes us the most unusual of all helper/car scenarios. Most common is a helper and one family car followed closely by having just one or the other. Less common is a helper and two family cars and then there's us.

Just hanging out being unusual.

Let me lay out some basic facts and let you decide for yourself.

Fact #1
The helpers are usually from the Philippines. A few have some form of higher education. I know of one lady who interviewed a helper that was a doctor back home. They leave everyone behind, sometimes even their own children, to come and work as helpers in Singapore. The fact is that they can make more money here than in their careers there and usually send most of what they earn back home. And that small, non air conditioned room? A HUGE step up for most. A fact I wasn't sure I believed until I started asking some of those ladies myself.

Fact #2
Helpers make between $400 and $550 a month depending on her experience. You have to pay taxes on them as well as health insurance so in total you will usually end up spending about $700 to $800 US dollars a month for a live in, 24 hour a day, 6 day a week, helper. To put this in perspective with my helper/car comment from before, we recently looked into leasing a Hyundai Santa Fe. A small SUV with no outrageous bells and whistles. The lease would run us right at $2000 a month. That's right.....two thousand dollars. It's cheaper to have full time help than it is to even lease a car.

Fact #3
If you have a helper, you no longer do laundry, cleaning, cooking, or even grocery shopping if you don't want to. You have 24 hour babysitting at your disposal as well as an extra person to shuttle kids around. That means you can come and go as you please. When my friend Lisa was moving her helper into her house, her husband looked at her and said, "So, I guess this means you're done! You're on vacation for the next 2 years!". She now gets her sheets and towels ironed on a regular basis (I don't think I knew that towels could get wrinkles) and is loving life with Miss Rose. Heck, I love Miss Rose. She makes flowers out of vegetables and puts them in our salads!

Fact #4
If you have a pet of any kind, it's almost essential that you have a helper. There's no way you're going to travel with your cat or dog back and forth to the states for 8 weeks every summer so someone needs to stay home with Rover. Noone wants to board their beloved pet for that long.

Fact #5
You are responsible for your helper if she gets sick or needs medical attention of any kind. You are responsible for sending her home once every two years. You pay for all of her room and board including groceries that she might need unless otherwise negotiated in her contract.

Now I will grace you with a few of my own opinions on The Helper.

Opinion #1
Since living here, I've seen people who approach The Helper concept in a good way and those that don't. It will take effort on your part to not let your children get completely spoiled by the idea that they no longer have any chores or cleaning up after themselves to do. For that matter, everyone gets spoiled by it. One of my neighbors had her helper go home for a wedding recently and while she was gone, their washing machine quit working. My neighbor had never actually used her washing machine before so it took some time to figure out whether it was in fact broken or whether it was operator error.

Can you imagine? It half horrifies you and half brings out all kinds of envious feelings, right?

There can be a good balance, but you have to work for it.

Opinion #2
I have learned that most helpers LOVE to spoil your children. They will even spoon feed your 6year old. One of my friends shared a story about how she went to lunch with someone that had lived her quite awhile. She had her 6 year old son with her at lunch and he proceeded to throw a wild and crazy fit because he wanted his Nintendo DS. The kind of fit that makes you want to throw on your t-shirt that says "I am NOT with crazy" and a big old arrow pointing at the child. On top of that the child refused to feed himself. So, the mom calls The Helper and asks her to please come to the restaurant and bring the child his DS and an extra spoon so the helper could proceed to feed Henry Jr his lunch. I promise on my life this is a true story.

That being said, there's something really sweet about having another woman in the house that will love on your kids. And in my case? There's not a helper out there that could shovel food into my boy's mouths fast enough for them.

Opinion #3
I have watched children treat helpers as someone beneath them and nothing irritates me more than watching anyone treat another human being like they are beneath them....especially a child. I am very verbal with my boys about how I feel about that and they know that if they ever speak to any adult in a condescending manner, I will drop kick them.

It's weird that I have had to have conversations with my boys on helper etiquette.

Greet The Helper and call her by name. She has a name so use it.
Thank her profusely for anything she made for you or cleaned up for you.
Maintain eye contact with her and by all means, use your manners with her. Do NOT boss her around no matter how the children in the house may speak to her.

It's those chapters in the parenting books I never, ever thought I'd have to use!

Opinion #4
Going to someone's house for a meal where your hostess is not running around crazy, sweating in her non air conditioned kitchen, or frantically trying to clean up after herself is really a great thing. Even better is after the meal when all the dishes, pots, and pans magically get cleaned up so when your guests leave there is nothing for you to do.

It's every night not having to worry about making dinner. There's more time to spend with kids on their activities or schoolwork or just having fun because dinner will be made and ready when you are. And chances are it is going to be healthier than anything you picked up on the run.

It's needing one or two ingredients and having someone at your disposal who can run to the store and pick them up for you without grumbling or complaining about it. Not that that attitude is ever displayed in my house or anything!

It's those things that would and have changed my mind on whether or not I would ever want a helper. Cooking and coming up with meals is something I dread every single day. To have someone else do that for me? It's the closest I'll come to heaven on earth.

Opinion #5
Helpers always call their employers ma'am and sir. They refer to all their employer's friends the same way. I am getting used to it now, but it made me uncomfortable at first. My gut instinct is to try and have a conversation with them, ask them to call me Keri, find out about their families and help them in the kitchen. The reality is that my attempts at proving to them that I feel we are equal makes them uncomfortable. They don't quite know what to do with me. I have learned to just treat them with the same respect and kindness I would anyone and that seems to work. At least, I'm getting used to it.

It's the helpers that are almost subservient in their attitude and won't even look at you that I really struggle with. It's just a hard concept and not one I've ever been exposed to before. It's weird to be living in a place where news stories on the abuse of maids and having safety houses available to them is commonplace. I just flat out have a hard time with the inequality of it all.

So there you have it. Some facts and my opinions about having a full time helper. I am glad I didn't write this when we first moved here because my opinion has changed some. Initially I swore I would never consider it. Now, I would absolutely consider having one for the cooking alone. And because I understand better that these women are here because they not only have a better life working as a helper, but they can provide a better life for their families back home.

There's a popular saying here:
Noone ruins a good maid like an American.

I would completely ruin a helper and wouldn't feel bad about it at all. For now, my husband is the one spending most of his time in the maid's room. There's something about that that makes me giggle a little bit. Maybe I can ask him to iron some towels for me in his spare time?

This is a picture of Miss Darsi. She is the helper for our friends on the 23rd floor and according to my boys, she's an amazing cook. They LOVE getting invited to their home when Miss Darsi has cooked something. She hands down makes the best Spring Rolls you have ever, ever tasted. We love her. It took a little convincing for her to be willing to take this picture, but I talked her into it. She's beautiful.

There are so many times my friends and I look at each other around a lunch table and just laugh at how crazy it is that we came from all over to live here. Together. That our worlds can change so much in just a few months.

On the agenda for tomorrow's lunch? World peace

Stay tuned. I'm sure we'll come up with the perfect solution!

December 12, 2010

Pajama Party Singapore Style

One of my favorite nights of the year back in Houston was my Christmas pajama party. It was an opportunity to get all my friends under one roof to celebrate Christmas and to give back in a big way. We donated pajamas to the women and children at a local shelter. I loved it. It just felt good to give.

I have been trying to not recreate my life in Houston here in Singapore, but this one tradition I just couldn't live without. This time I talked my partners in crime, Lisa and Tiffany, into hosting it with me. We came up with a guest list of friends we all knew, picked a night, and chose the Philippine House of Safety to give to. It's a house of safety that our church supports regularly and they are always in dire need of underwear for the women that seek shelter there. So, in the spirit of kicking it up a notch, we collected bras and underpants instead of pajamas. The response was incredible and I'm excited to hand it all off to the women that regularly go to serve at the shelter.

Although it has been funny watching the reaction of my boys when there's nothing but women's underwear under the tree. The walk a WIDE berth around the tree these days!

It was a very fun evening. My friend, Lisa, recently wrote a post on her blog about what it's like to make new friends here. You go into it knowing it's going to be temporary. You may have 3 months, 1 year, or 3 years with your friend before someone in the relationship moves away, but you have to be willing to invest. You jump into friendships here because you have to have them to survive and you just can't think about the good-byes. It's a risk worth taking and we felt it only fitting to celebrate that.

It wasn't the same as back home and that's good. It needed to be new and different. For one thing, having a bunch of women over when living in an apartment means your kids have a more difficult time staying sequestered....especially if they happen to be the over curious type or the type that likes to continue sampling all the treats well after their sampling services are no longer needed.

The one thing that did and will always stay the same? The hot chocolate bar. We cranked down the air con and pretended like it wasn't sticky hot and humid and mustered up some holiday spirit with some hot chocolate.

It is hard to believe that one week from today we will be traveling back to the states. In some ways this last 6 months has flown and in other ways it feels like forever since we've been in Texas. All of us are looking forward to time with family and friends, overindulging in types of food we've been deprived of for so long.

Now if we could get some snow while we're there it will be just about perfect!

December 03, 2010

A Dozen Years

Sweet Garrett,
I am several days late in writing this to you. I guess I figured that if I put off writing your letter then it would mean you really didn't just turn 12. I am having a hard time with your birthday this year. It feels like what is left of you being a child is slipping through my fingers and I am on the cusp of having a teenager on my hands. I am happy that you are growing up because it's what you are supposed to do, I just don't want it to happen so quickly.

You have had quite a year. There have been some amazing highs and some devastating lows. How all that fit into 365 days is beyond me. It doesn't seem possible!

The first part of this year involved you and your friend Chandler. You took a big chance on her and had some hurt feelings because of it, but it certainly worked out well in the end! It was so fun to watch you navigate the ins and outs of having a relationship with a young lady including a "breakup" that actually ended in a continuing friendship with her. A skill most guys don't ever master!!! Now, let's take a bit of a break before falling head over heels for another sweet girl! Althought if constant ringing of our apartment by a certain group of 3 girls that live here is any indication of my future, I don't know that I'll have any luck with that.

I love how much you embraced all our travels this year. Your curiosity in the world around you thrills me to no end. One of my dreams is for you to experience as much life as you possibly can. Different cultures, different people, different ideas. All of it will make you think so much bigger and I can already see that in you. You even went to Malaysia without the rest of us on your first trip with the school and loved every moment of it. You are so much like your dad in your desire to see the world and in your love for being at home. It's finding the balance between the two that is the most challenging.

You have had the most change thrown at you out of anyone in our family. Not only do you live in a new country, in a new home, making new friends, but when we throw the start of Middle School in the mix, that's a lot to take at one time. I can still vividly remember being in Middle School myself and how awkward those years were. You have been put into a situation where the academics are incredibly difficult and those that excel socially are the ones that excel academically. You figured this out on your own and were surprised by it. I am thrilled by it, but the struggle has been intense for you. If we survive this year, I think we can survive anything.

In looking back over the last 12 months of your life.....the last 6 in particular.....there is no denying the impact your dad has had in your life. There are times that I feel we moved here just so your dad was in a position to work from home and travel less so he could be available to you. He has taken you under his wing and has made it his personal mission to shepherd you through this year at school. Many times I will lose my patience with you and your absent mindedness and inattention to detail.......easily losing out on any chance I may have had at being Mother of the Year. Your dad, however, has modeled for you exactly what grace looks like. Sounds like another Father I know. How lucky you are to have him. He has started taking you to breakfast on Friday mornings and you look forward to those days in a way that makes me think that 10 and 20 years from now you will remember those breakfast dates as being some of your favorite things from this point in your life. It is hard for me to step back and not play the primary parenting roll that I have been used to, but we are fighting for you right now and that means there is no room for my ego.

I love the passion you have for your guitars. I don't necesarily love that you ask us to buy you new guitars all the time since there's barely room for you in your bedroom, let alone a collection of guitars. I enjoy listening to you practice chords and songs in your room a whole lot more than I enjoy listening to your practice trumpet. Although you are getting pretty good at that as well! I'm sure our neighbors above and below us could attest to that!!

I have also let you venture out with my beloved camera enjoying watching you being creative with taking pictures. This picture you took is one of my favorites from our travels this summer.

You still love to run and I have finally gotten you to agree to give track and field a shot. That may have something to do with the PE teachers hounding you to give it a try. All I had to do was promise to buy you the very cool track shoes we found not that long ago. You are also pretty good at tennis. At least there's one person in the family making good use of that wing span!!

You are growing up. It matters to you what your hair looks like, how you're dressed, and how much visibility I am allowed to have in your life. I am excited for you! It still freaks me out that you are so comfortable hailing a taxi and riding it alone and that we can give you our orders for Subway and you can walk down the street and get dinner for us. You are independent and confident in that independence.

You love buying and wearing hats and you can certainly pull it off.

Your relationship with your brother has grown since we left Houston. You guys have had a lot of time to hang out with each other this year. This is an experience that will bond you two together forever! All those years when you were younger when I'd have you guys "practice" how to deal with each other is finally paying off. You resolve your differences more rationally and more articulately than you have before. You guys aren't perfect and can still get on each other's nerves and fight, but I love watching the moments when you are enjoying each other's company.

I am thankful every single day for Wyldlife. The Young Life of Middle School....something I had not heard of before moving here. I remember finding out about it and telling you that you were wasn't an option. You weren't thrilled about it, but you went. It has been amazing for you to have that interaction with other kids your age that love God and with leaders that are significantly cooler than I am. My prayer for you is that you understand what it means to have a relationship with God. Not just to know a bunch of Bible stuff or all the right things to say and do or be a rote church attender, but a real relationship that you want to invest in. We are at that point where much of what I say goes in one ear and out the other, but I can bend the ear of God when it comes to you and pray for people to invest in your life that you want to listen to and you better believe that I do that earnestly.

I hope this next year is easier for you. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I flat out hope you have a great 12th year of life. I adore you and am so stinking excited to see what happens next in your life!

I love you more!

December 01, 2010

Left Behind

Her name is June. A very fitting name for her. June ushers in a season of adventure and abandonment of the mundane routine that keeps our spontaneity stifled. June is warm and echoes with the sounds of families gathering together for reunions and bare feet, happy to be free from the bondage of shoes, slapping on the pavement. All of that is her. She was adventurous, carefree, edgy, and sentimental about her family.

Today, I feel like I have been left behind as she goes on the greatest adventure of her life. I can't imagine the party that welcomed her into heaven. I am jealous of every single person there because they get to be with her....and I don't.

I must admit that I was hesitant in writing about her. Hesitant because I don't feel like my words will do her justice. Hesitant because I really wanted to write something fun in a run of serious posts. At the end of the day, I just didn't have a choice. She loved this blog. She told me she would go down to the library at the retirement home (or "institution" as she called it) where she lived and have them print out every single thing I wrote. There is nothing I could do to honor her more than to write about her here.

I don't have many memories of her from when I was younger. Our relationship is one that grew as I did. There is so much of her that is me, that I feel the pain of having a missing part. But every time my stubborness rears its ugly head or I go off on an adventure or I stand up for myself, I'll remember her.

She instilled in me a love for a good murder mystery. I remember comparing notes with her on all the Agatha Christie novels I could get my hands on. Just last Christmas I sent her the latest installment in a murder mystery series she loved. She used to love curling up in bed with a Cadbury bar and a good book. With her, I would never get into trouble when just one more chapter turned into a sunrise.

She was a big believer in skinny dipping. A fact that I loved telling all my friends while their faces reflected an odd sort of horror at the thought of an older woman skinny dipping, mixed with a healthy sense of awe at how audacious she was. The one and only time I've ever been skinny dipping is because she talked me into it....and it wasn't that long ago. I didn't love it, but I floated around in the pool in the dark of night trying to capture some of the free feelings she insisted I experience. It was an odd sort of way, but she was so proud of me! I absolutely put my foot down on doing the cannonball.

I loved that the older I got, the more open she was in the telling of her life story. She was a wild one, even by today's standards. I am still convinced there was so much more she didn't tell. Her passion was the pool and especially diving. A sport that she was considered a champion in. She was well traveled and experienced plenty of naughtiness to give her stories a good dose of spice. If there was anything she truly loved, it was a good juicy story. When she could tell one of us was winding up with a good one, she would always say "Oh, boy" and get that glimmer in her eye.

When I was getting married she bought all of my lingerie for me, and then proceeded to have some very frank conversations with me that no girl should ever have to have with her grandmother. Let's just say she was passionate about being passionate. Fifteen years into my marriage with Scot and she would still tell me every time I talked to her that we needed to go on a date and spend lots of time hugging and kissing. My sisters, who are both single, have been on the receiving end of so much dating advice that it's now a family joke. She would advise them on flirting, tell them that they needed to be a little more sexy....often all in front of my dad who would just sit there and laugh.

This past summer we had the opportunity to visit her in Palm Springs. As usual, she wanted to be in the pool anytime we were.......WITH her bathing suit on. I loved watching her walk to the water's edge in her cute one piece suit, bathing cap, goggles, and cane. The cane seemed so oddly out of place. She'd get in the water and do her infamous handstand.

She was just as quick to go down the waterslide and I honestly don't think bystanders quite knew how to take it watching a 90 year old woman laughing her way all the way down to the bottom.

She had an excitement for life. Age did not deplete that, if anything, she was frustrated at how it slowed her down. A couple of years ago I went with my sister to visit her in the retirement home. They happened to be having a happy hour and dance while we were there so we went. I have never laughed so hard or had a better time as she pointed out to us the men she thought were cute, the women she thought were catty all the while trying to find my sister and I dance partners.

She missed nothing. She was curious about the world around her. She wasn't judgemental.....every tattoo, piercing or hairstyle my brothers and sisters have had over the years she was interested in seeing. She would probably drive us to the tattoo parlor herself! Heck, she'd probably jump right into that chair so Kat Von D could ink her herself.

I love how stylish she was. Always accesorized with amazing turquoise and silver jewelry and I love that in this picture she is loving my boys and has a ribbon tied onto her ponytail.

I am going to miss her so much. Right now I can still hear her voice and visualize her facial expressions. I'm so scared of those memories fading. I'm going to miss her saying "Oh, hey" with a giggle when she's being teased or how many times she would call something or someone "lovely". I remember the way her hands looked and the way she walked. Her passion for pictures and how much she loved grapes. As funny as that sounds. I'm going to so desperately miss it all.

In a final act that can only be called brilliant, she is giving my family reason to gather together this Christmas to honor her. Our family is notorious for being spread out all over the globe, but we quickly realized that distance should not keep us from honoring her memory. It took all of one hour for us to decide that no matter what it from New Zealand and Texas, rearranged schedules.....we would be together to spread her ashes. It is exactly how she would want it to be.

Then maybe we'll do a little skinny dipping, play a little bridge, eat a little chocolate, and settle in for some juicy story telling. Her memory will live on.

November 29, 2010

What Do You Say?

To say that it was a different kind of Thanksgiving for us this year is an enormous understatement. The most glaring difference was celebrating a holiday not recognized by the country we live in. Life in Singapore was business as usual unless you happen to bleed red, white, and blue. Kids were still in school, most of our husbands still had to work, nothing was closed, and the grocery stores were no more busy than a normal day. There was no Black Friday hype and we had to wait until Friday morning to watch the Cowboys and Aggies play. If you can call what the Cowboys did as "playing", but that's an entirely different post.

We had plans on Thursday to get together with several other families in our building along with some new friends from Houston.

We had reserved the area by our pool for our dinner....a dinner we ordered from the American Club so there was no major cooking required. 5:00 rolled around and the heavens opened up requiring us to move to Plan B. Our neighbors, Don and Anne, were gracious enough to open up their apartment for our feast.

No big deal? Considering there were 12 boys 11 years old and under, it was extremely gracious of them.
We piled into their apartment, decided to eat in shifts, piled the food everywhere there was space and proceeded to celebrate Thanksgiving.

We kinda made it around the kid's table with a "what are you thankful for" kind of discussion that never went deeper than being grateful for brownies and Nerf dart guns.

The parents managed a prayer of Thanksgiving and an uninterrupted meal which is miraculous in and of itself!

Friday we had plans to have dinner with my friends, Tiffany and Lisa, and our families. Tiffany and Lisa made most of the food......I threw on an apron and brought a couple of appetizers and the fixings for mashed potatoes and tried to blend in with the Martha Stewart girls.

We may or may not have had one small towel casualty.....but we did learn a valuable lesson in how to quickly put out a small fire!

We could have fed a small country with as much food as we had. This picture is a snapshot of the appetizers only. There was A LOT of food.

It was an all afternoon/evening affair with kids running between the pool and Wii with stops in the kitchen to check on our progress.

Tiffany's husband smoked the turkeys on his grill and it was hands down the best turkey I've ever had. It was decadant and wonderful meal.....we all rolled out of there completely sick which means it was a successful Thanksgiving.

Yesterday we sat in church as the pastor, whom we've come to adore, spoke on the story in Luke where Jesus healed the 10 lepers. He healed them from a disease that had kept them out of society and away from their family and friends for years. He gave them back their lives and only one returned to thank Him. One. We were reminded of all the blessings we are given and how often we forget to thank the giver of those gifts. Our pastor encouraged us to not only remember to be thankful to God for all He has given us.....and we are ALL so very blessed, but to remember to thank the people in your life that have impacted you.

I sat in the pew and cried. Big 'ol tears just rolled down my face. I am so thankful to God for so much. For my salvation. For His neverending mercy and grace. For being a very big God that cares about the smallest of details. It reminded me of all the years I have looked at my boys when they've received even the smallest of treats and said, "What do you say?". I felt exactly like that. Like my eyes had been opened to all that I had to be thankful for here in Singapore and God was saying, "What do you say?".

I'm very thankful for the people in our lives here. The new friends that have taken us under their wing, have helped us with the boys, have hung around during my often unpleasant mood swings. The friends that have skipped all the silly stuff and gotten right to the nitty gritty with me, knowing that in many cases we only have a year or two to be in each other's lives before we go back to our previous lives. The friends that have opened up my eyes to life all over this planet. Friends that have taken a chance on me.

In my moments of missing all those that are precious to me back home, I don't for a minute want to overlook the blessing of those put into my life right here.

As for you back home, and you know who you are, thank you. I am spoiled in the amount of love and support all of you have given me. I am thankful that you have been willing to go on this journey with me. I am a very, very blessed girl and don't want any of you to ever think I've taken you for granted.

Be thankful. Be thankful and tell Him. Family and friends are a gift. They give us our lives back when we think we've lost them and they make life worth living wherever you are. I am so incredibly thankful for each and every one of you.

We are now looking ahead to Christmas which is a holiday Singapore does big. I love all the lights and trees everywhere. I found my box of Christmas decor that I happened to throw into our shipment and was so excited to see that I had packed our stockings and some of our favorite decorations. It doesn't look exactly the same, but it still feels really good. My favorite is my view out my kitchen window. It makes me smile and that's a good thing.

November 17, 2010

Keep The Change

I find myself saying the phrase "keep the change" quite a bit these days. My only mode of transportation is walking, subway, bus or taxi and I opt for the taxi probably more than I should. I ADORE chatting with the taxi drivers here. So many of them have been so kind and curious about where in the states I came from....offering me all kinds of advice on life in Singapore. I have laughed with some of them and taken notes with others. It is amazing how so many of them have never lived anywhere outside of this little island and yet know so much about the rest of the world. They are kind to my boys and take their jobs very seriously. Every once in awhile I get a driver that is cranky and irritated at my mere existence, but overall they are kind and polite.

Tipping taxi drivers is more the exception than the rule here. I get great amounts of joy at tipping them because they always are so grateful. My statement of "keep the change", even if it is only rounding out the dollar, is always met with gratitude.

Recently, I have not been as gracious with the change that has been handed to me. Before you quit reading out of exasperation for a post where I bemoan my current situation, let me just tell you that this will be the last you hear of it.

When I set out to write about and document our experience I promised myself that I would be authentic in recording the details in our move. That means stuff that's not always fun and exciting. Life is never always fun and exciting. Good, bad, or indifferent I am not going to pretend otherwise.

That being said, I will honestly say that this last month has been the hardest since we've moved. The homesickness has been almost crippling at times and the fight against it often left me exhausted. People deal with emotions differently and I wish I could say that I dug into the Bible or went for a run, but my way of dealing with life that is overwhelming is to go back to bed and pull the covers over my head. I'm not proud of that and I don't think it's healthy, but it's what I do.

This past Friday I found myself with a completely empty day and a completely empty apartment. Of all my options for how to spend my day I chose the one that required the least amount of effort and I went back to bed after sending the boys on their way. It was many, many hours later when I woke up and was completely ashamed of the time I had wasted. Completely and totally wasted time.

I forced myself to have a quiet time knowing that enough was enough and I needed some godly inspiration. I've been studying Ruth and on Friday it was the day that Ruth had a turning point. The day that she was done mourning her dead husband and ready to move on. A coincidence? I don't believe in coincidences.

I spent a lot of time talking to God that day. I told Him that in case He hadn't noticed, I'm not the most graceful with major life change. I told Him that I was sorry for the time wasted. I told Him that I was really ready to be done with the sadness and to be present right here where I am. I also thanked Him for putting some amazing women into my life here in Singapore that deserve a me that is not emotionally high maintenance.

I was reminded of the fact that on at least two occasions in Houston I had spoken to a group of women and addressed how important it is to leave your past where it belongs and not to walk through life looking behind you because that's how you miss what's in front of you. I so love the irony of the opportunity to put into play what was so easy to say.

Friday was the day that I put on my big girl pants. I realize that there will be times when I will still be sad, but the way in which I choose to deal with those emotions is 100% my choice. I am choosing to get on with life.

Change happens to everyone. Sometimes it's good....a new life, a new relationships, a new opportunity. Sometimes it's hard....a lost life, a lost relationship, a lost opportunity. It is what makes life interesting and keeps us humble - a solid reminder that we are not the ones in control.

My goal is to "keep the change" that is given to me and to be grateful for the opportunities it provides. To be real with my emotions and know they're a part of life but that I have a choice every single day in how I deal with it.

Not for a moment do I think it will be all peaches and cream from here on out. But for now, I'm done talking about it and I'm done writing about it.

I'm going to work on channeling my emtions into a love for running. Then maybe my big girl pants will need to get a little smaller. Now that's a change I could really embrace!

November 07, 2010

Double Digits Baby!!

I can't believe you are 10 years old today when it seems like yesterday you were that cute little blonde 4 year old. At 11:07 a.m. Texas time, 11/08, you will turn 10. Last night you told me that I should have just waited until 11:08 to have you because that would have been really cool. Someday I will tell you exactly why matching your time of birth with your birth date wasn't much of a priority in the throes of giving birth to you with no epidural. But there's no reason to ruin your day and steal your innocence so we'll wait for that fun conversation until you're 23.

10 is a big, big deal. Noone in our home is a single digit anymore! This is the big time and I am as fascinated with you today as I was the day you were born. I told you the other night that I wonder why exactly God chose us to be your parents and in place of a witty retort, which is common for you, you just smiled at me and rolled your eyes a little. I find it beautiful that hearing how loved you are doesn't even give you pause because you know it well. That part of my job, I can say without a doubt, I am doing well. Too well, if I go by all the protests when I kiss all over your sweet, freckled face.

It has been quite a year for you. For all of us. Your dad and I made some big decisions for our family and as our kid, you got to come along for the ride. You and your brother have been amazing with all the changes in your little life.

You left behind some really good friends.

But have made some new ones. They don't replace your Houston friends, but they make your life here in Singapore a whole lot more fun!

You have traveled to six different countries this year. Seeing as how your passport was brand new at the beginning of the year, that's pretty amazing. I love how intrigued and interested you have been about all the new places you've experienced. You have met some interesting people and have asked some challenging questions but I welcome them all. Even if I don't have the answers, I am glad to see your world becoming bigger. My prayer is that you embrace people from all over this planet as being unique human beings worthy of love and respect.

You continue to be fearless when it comes to adventure and you have certainly had the opportunity to prove that this year. I don't know whether to be afraid or amazed at your fearlessness when you run off a platform into thin air being held only by a cable or hang out in a ring with a deadly snake. I kinda just think you're crazy.

For some reason you have developed an interesting way to stand still. You don't cross your arms, put them in your pockets, or even on your hips. You stand with your wrists bent creating a nice set of chicken wings. I don't understand how this is comfortable, but it's you.

We still struggle with your tendency towards being dramatic. We thought channeling some of that into a creative source would help. You tried out for and got a part in Annie and loved every minute of it. As wonderful as that was, if something doesn't go your way or doesn't come easily to you, we can easily have an Oscar winning performance on our hands. We have talked self-control until we are blue in the face and you are getting better. I think climbing Masada in Israel in 100+ degree weather was hands down one of the most challenging things you and I have ever been through. I used every single trick in the book to coach you up that mountain with quite a bit of drama and tears from you the entire way, but you did it.

There will be many mountains in your life and I will coach you up every single one of them. We may reach the summit dirty and sweaty with tear stained faces, but we'll get up them together!

Our other struggle with you has been reminding you that even though you can participate easily in most adult conversations, you are still the child. There is a line that is not to be crossed and we remind you often to stay on your side of the line. I love your wit, but maintaining a healthy level of respect and humility is something we are working on constantly!

You have slowly but surely broadened your culinary horizons. Still not the most adventurous of eaters, but you love chicken tikka, buttered naan, egg prata, and you can put away a significant amount of pork and shrimp dumplings! You love the fruit smoothies, or Tropicanas, at school so much you have started a Tropicana club that meets at lunch. Before you know it, you'll be eating duck tongue and fried beetles just like your dad!

You and I share a love of reading and we definitely like the same kind of music. I loved taking you to your first concerts this year.....Newsboys and TobyMac/Skillet. You now religiously follow your favorite artists and know when they're touring and when they'll be in Houston. You've going to have to stop torturing yourself like that!!

Nathan, I am so excited to have a front row seat to your life. I pray for you consistently that God will protect you and that you will have a heart for Him. I also pray for the sweet girl you will marry someday, but you could care less about that right now.

I love and adore you. Even more than that, I just flat out think you are a cool kid.

I love you more!

Site design by Fabulous K Creative