May 31, 2011

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm......Part 3

I would like to subtitle this post:

You Don't See That Everyday

As life here in Singapore becomes more normal, a girl still can't help but take pause at some of the oddities that present themselves here in SE Asia. I have had some fun chronicling them in Part 1 and Part 2 of Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm. A few weeks ago I realized that there is much about life in Texas that I just don't see here and so, Part 3 was born.

Some of these things you would expect. I never see cowboy boots or cowboy hats...unless it's some dude on the top of one of those tourist buses yelling "YeeHaw" as he rolls down Orchard Rd. taking loads of pictures of "all them Asian folks". It's times like that when I stifle the ya'lls in my speech and embrace a more Canadian venacular....eh?

I don't see enormous vehicles that can seat 37 people or pickups that can haul an entire house full of furniture. Bumper stickers are practically nonexistent here which makes sense when you are paying $100,000 for your Hyundai. I miss the days of pulling up behind someone and in the 2 minutes it takes for the light to turn green I know how many children they have, what sports they play, the names of their teams, whether they made the honor roll or beat up other kids that made the honor roll, how many pets they have, their political affiliation, and if they believe that a fish stuck on your car will make you drive in a more Christ-like fashion. In Singapore, everyone drives around in complete anonymity and it's no fun at all.

I recently took a very informal survey and 100% of the people surveyed (4 out of 4) told me that there are only 3 drive thrus in all of Singapore. All 3 are McDonalds. That's right....I live a life void of drive thrus but since I don't have a car, that seems to be the least of my issues. I did bribe a taxi driver once with promises of a Grande Latte if he pulled over and waited while I made a Starbucks run. That will work unless you get a cranky driver in which case you just close your eyes and pray you make it to your destination alive.

It is rare that you see a parking lot. Most parking is below the building you are visiting and you always have to pay for it. Everyone parks their cars by backing into a spot with your hazard lights blinking. I don't know why, but apparently that's the rule here and one thing folks are really good about doing.....following the rules. It probably has something to do with that whole caning thing.

There are no billboards lining the roads in Singapore. It stinks because you never know how many more exits until the next Buccees.

You never, ever, ever see people out shopping in their cute new pajama bottoms and Uggs. Never. In fact, the folks here refer to flip flops as slippers. Even shorts are frowned upon but that doesn't stop me from wearing them. The women are modest and it's a pleasant experience to go to the mall and not have to shield the eyes of my boys from teenagers, or 43 year old women, who feel the need to display their stuff. Many women wear loose, comfy dresses that look adorable when you're 90 pounds but when you're.....well....NOT 90 pounds, they make you look about 13 months pregnant. Which I'm not.

Viva la shorts!!

I haven't seen a tanning salon or a self tanner since living here. In fact, there will be entire aisles of whitening creams. The whiter your skin the more beautiful you are supposed to be. Women will wear long sleeves and high collared shirts when excercising, wear gloves when driving and walk with umbrellas to keep the sun off their skin. I recently went to a dermatologist here and while I was concerned about things like acne and suspicious spots on my skin, he couldn't get whitening cream in my hands fast enough for "the dark patches on your forehead". I didn't even know I had dark patches on my forehead. Thank you very much!! I now have something else to feel self-conscious about. Then again, not many people see my forehead so I'll let it go. I wonder what would happen if I used the cream on my teeth? Hmmmm.....

There is a distinct lack of facial hair here. And I don't mean pesky chin whiskers, I mean men with full beards or mustaches. In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen an Asian man with facial hair. Apparently, Asians are not very hairy. I know this because it wasn't that long ago that a friend of mine who is Asian was telling me a story about going to college and seeing girls shaving their armpits and being completely shocked at what they were doing. She was confused and scared by what she saw. I listened to her with my mouth hanging open....can you imagine?? How utterly and completely glorious that would be? Sometimes, life just isn't fair.

I would like to mention a few things that I do see here that I won't ever, ever see back home.

If any of you ever thought I had an over-inflated sense of self, the fact that I'm even posting this picture ought to dispel that notion.

I LOVE this thing and am pretty sure it was probably outlawed in the states years ago after setting someone's hair on fire. It's a shame because there's no massage, no facial, no nothing that is more wonderful and relaxing than having warm air blowing on you with enough noise to make conversation impossible. I even talked my hair lady into an extra 5 minutes the last time I was there. I. Love. It!! And clearly, I look my most fashionable while enjoying that thing!

And what about random sea creatures? Ok, glad you asked since I just so happen to have a couple of pics courtesy of a recent field trip to Underwater World.

My understanding is that these things are all over the place here. I have no idea if they exist back home, but just knowing that these are lurking around in the water is just about enough to make me swear off oceans forever.

And these little guys? They're just weird. Bless their hearts. Stuck in one place forever. The scary thing? There's a really good chance I've eaten one of these things since living here.

I just can't even think about it.

In exactly 102 hours I will be home where I know for sure when I bite into a fajita what I'm getting myself into. I can't wait!!

Make that 101 hours and 57 minutes.....

May 30, 2011

A little N & G

I have 16 minutes from right this second to get this post up and running to count for today! This last week has been full of activities and so here's a super quick peak at a few of them.

Nathan had Play Day last week which is Singaporean for Field Day. It was 2 hours of running around from game to game with absolutely zero structure, lots of water games, and no winners or losers.
The entire 4th grade...there's a lot of them!

Nathan and some of his buddies

Popsicle time!!

Today we got to visit Nathan's class for their Notables presentation. They were asked to choose a person that had some sort of historical impact and they wrote a research paper, designed a backdrop, dressed the part, created informational brochures to hand out and were available for Q and A today in full character.

Nathan chose James Rudder who apparently had something to do with WWII and Texas A&M. If you want to know more, you'll have to ask him yourself! I will say that I was amazed at the variety of historical folks represented and I loved walking around the room asking the kids all kinds of questions. Noone broke character and they were extremely articulate and brilliant with their answers. It was great!

Nathan looking very serious next to Mother Theresa



It is always a treat to go to the high school cafeteria and visit Subway
for lunch so off we went as our last hoorah before summer!!

This past weekend Garrett participated in Brass Explosion which is a Brass Symposium here in Singapore that has a student portion open to kids from the local schools. Tonight was the concert and the first time Garrett got to play in a bonafide music conservatory. The students were only a small portion of the evening and we thoroughly enjoyed the concert!

Garrett and his friend Patrick......and then the little
brothers joined in...

where apparently it is really, really....

difficult to take....

a normal picture.

If you look reeeaaaaalllllllyyyyy hard to the left
of the picture you can spot Garrett's sweet red head way
in the back with the other, well, less trained trumpet players.

You see him? Yep, it's a head only a mother could spot
a mile away.

Yikes!! 7 minutes late! No time for a quirky or clever wrap up sentence!
XOXO

May 26, 2011

Day Off

School is winding down. Homework is gloriously over. After school activities have ended.

That means the boys and I are splurging and having a movie night for the second night in a row.

On a weeknight.

I have a fresh key lime pie in the freezer right now and I'm not going to waste my time blogging.

In fact, I'm taking tomorrow night off too because I have a hot date with my husband who has been traveling the last 4 weeks. I have to soak up as much of him as I can because we will be separated for 7 weeks this summer and I'm going to miss him desperately.

One week left of this challenge and I can honestly say that I am getting really tired of me and I'm sure you are too!!

XOXO

May 25, 2011

Pure

I had the most amazing taxi ride the other day. I was in the taxi for about 30 minutes and my driver talked and laughed non-stop the entire time telling me story after story about his younger days. Because I have picked up some stealth like moves over the years, I pulled out my phone and proceeded to record one of his stories....until he busted me and refused to tell me anymore until I stopped "taking pictures" of him. I so badly want to post it here but have been battling the stupid video and my computer and complete ignorance of all things technological and can't figure out how to post it.
Now that I am thoroughly frustrated, I am taking the easy way out on my post for tonight.
First of all, is it just me or is the print on this blog normally really small??? I don't know why it's that way but I'm kicking it up a notch because I refuse to admit that it could just be my age.
Secondly, I noticed that yesterday's post was post number 201. There was no fanfare...in fact, I almost feel bad about yesterday's totally random post in light of that very small and insignificant milestone. Maybe it is appropriate after all.
Just out of curiosity, I went back and started reading some posts from the early days and I was hit with a huge wave of nostalgia. Then I found a post I titled Pure. I wrote it just after New Years 2009 and I'm amazed how 2.5 years later the bulk of the post still rings true for me.
Consider this taking the easy way out......but I am posting Pure again because it is so where I am these days and I really, really needed to be reminded of what I want most out of life.

PURE
If you have any preconceived ideas that I make all the right decisions, think through everything before I act or speak, and am just an all around perfect woman, please don't read any further because you will be sorely disappointed.

I was having a conversation last week with one of my favorite people in the whole entire world, Lisa. She lives in Florida and is married to a pastor and she is real.......transparent, authentic, and refreshingly real. I miss her in a way that just hurts my heart.

We were talking about the things in our lives that we just can't stand about ourselves. You know what I'm talking about, the stuff that we try really hard to pretend doesn't exist so our appearance says something different from our reality.

Like working really hard on a comment to post on a very popular blog trying to get a shout out from the blog author.

Like checking an Evite invitation 45 times a day to see who is or is not coming to your party and why.

Like keeping the tags on a new shirt, wearing it to church for all your friends to see, and returning it to the store if no one complimented you on the cuteness factor of the shirt.

Like allowing yourself to be tortured over a broken relationship until you can think of nothing else but the pieces scattered all around you.

Like hearing other women talk about their weaknesses and having a moment of intense pride when your struggles are not the same.

We laughingly agreed that being open with each other about our yuck made us feel a little less bad about ourselves and wondering how many women have these same feelings, but never admit it to anyone.

I have never been a big New Years resolution kind of girl because I have horrible discipline and by the 1st week of January I will have broken every resolution. Why set myself up for failure?

I did enter this new year thinking about what I wanted out of 2009. The truth is, I want to be pure.

I want my intentions to be pure.

I want my pursuit of God to be pure.

I want my motivations in life to be pure.

I want my thoughts to be pure.

I want my ongoing, desperate need for approval to be met purely through my Savior.

Now, I know very well that I am riddled with fault and will have days where I fail miserably. I also know that God's promises and love for us are "new every morning" and I don't have to wait until 2010 to start over. Thank you God for that promise!

I hope your 2009 has gotten off to a great start. I pray that each of you finds a renewed sense of purpose in your walk with Christ. I pray you will have pure joy.

His mercy is new every morning and every single morning I take full advantage of that fact. I am far, far, far from perfect and am astounded at the ongoing gift of forgiveness offered to me. But I also know that on the other side of that forgiveness and mercy is Joy. It is something I have to choose for myself.

I choose pure Joy.

May 24, 2011

Bits and Pieces

So today is one of those random days where I have so much bouncing around in my head that I couldn't focus on one topic if I was paid to.

Which I'm not, so therefore I get to be as random as I like!

1. I had a nice chat today with one of Garrett's teachers. It wasn't a "random bumping into you" that led to a chat kind of chat. It was more of a "you need to come in for a scheduled chat" kind of chat. Our year has ended on a much higher note than it started but he still isn't up and running at his normal level. I'm ok with that because I need to be. I learned a long time ago that wrapping up my ego and security in the accomplishments of my kids is a dangerous ride. I'm tempted to jump on sometimes because it can be thrilling, but then I watch parents get off that ride - running for the nearest trash can to toss their cookies - and I regain my determination to stay off that roller coaster.

2. There are some dangers in writing a blog. One of them is that sometimes people read it and after they read it, they call you out on things you write. Remember this post and all my blah, blah, blah about being stretched outside my comfort zone? Well apparently one of the gals that is in charge of decorating for VBS at our church here read that post and then decided to ask me to help. Not because I'm crafty or good with a paint brush or have amazing scissor skills.....oh no. It's because every time I start complaining about how decorating isn't my thing she can look at me and say, "Streeeeeetch". Then she takes pictures of me trying to trace something off a transparency onto paper taped on the wall so I can then paint it....which makes me very nervous.

That's it. From now on I am just going to write about how I love chocolate.

3. It didn't take long after moving here for me to notice stores and restaurants that would look like this.

At first, I wondered if someone had died there.....or was even being buried there. I mean, it wouldn't be the strangest thing that happens around here. I finally asked someone and found out that every single time a new store or restaurant opens, people send these funeral...I mean congratulatory....flower arrangements. It can even be a new KFC opening in the mall and it will be surrounded by flowers. I guess that helps offset the smell of strange chicken parts being deep fried.

4. I haven't been perfect with this whole blogging challenge. I missed one Friday because Blogger was out of commission for some reason. Then I missed last Friday because I just couldn't come up with anything to say and was too tired to care. I haven't been so great with my whole "I'm not going to eat sugar, flour, or dairy" thing I started either. One of the culprits has been a very yummy and easy key lime pie recipe that I have made three times in the last couple of weeks. So, if I'm going down.....you are too.

Get a pie crust. I used graham cracker but you can apparently make one out of vanilla wafers too.

Mix together:
1/2 can frozen limeade
1 can sweet and condensed milk
1/2 of a large container of Cool Whip...which may or may not be equal to one small container but if you can buy a big one why would you buy a small one?

Pour the concoction into the pie crust and freeze. It takes about 4 hours, 37 minutes, and 5 seconds to be ready....approximately.

I had such lofty weight loss goals and thanks to an increase in running, I am happy to report that I will be heading home a whopping three pounds smaller than when we moved here. On a girl with my height, you will notice.....well....zero difference.

Yeah for me!

5. I bought an eyelash curler this past weekend. Nathan happened to be with me and having to explain to him how an eyelash curler worked was one of the funniest conversations we've had. I stole a little of his innocence that day.

And on that note, I will wrap up this little bit of randomness. I'm going to see if I can dig up a piece of key lime pie and I might even eat it off one of my new Spode Turkey plates!!

Just because I can!

May 23, 2011

Egg Wash and Turkey Plates

As the school year winds down so do many of the responsibilities that keep a girl busy during the week. We have taken advantage of some free days to check a few things off the "must do" list......a list that seems to get more extensive the longer we are here.

It was a few months after moving here that Tiffany, Lisa, and I started hearing rumors of a plate factory in Malaysia that was a popular destination to buy nice plates for very little money.

Like Spode plates.

Which means nothing at all to me, but the Martha Stewart types seem to get really excited about these Spode plates.....especially the Christmas and Turkey ones.

Personally, I was just going along for the ride because I didn't want to miss out on anything but I could honestly care less about plates. Spode or otherwise.

We picked a day and began planning only like four women can. We could have been stranded in Malaysia for weeks with as many provisions as we brought along with us. Food, magazines, toilet paper......we were prepared!

It is a known fact that traveling in Malaysia is not always safe. Rumor has it that a popular scheme is to egg a tourist's windshield and when you attempt to use your windshield wipers to clear the egg off it smears causing you to have to pull over where you are then robbed.

Did this in any way stop us from going? Oh no. No threat of being egged was going to keep us from those darn Turkey Spode plates. We were packing. Not the I'm-a-girl-from-Texas-and-can-open-my-gun-safe-with-my-eyes-closed-in-three-seconds-or-less kind of packing. I mean we were packing an entire jug of egg wash.

The plan was if we got egged, my job was to lean out the window and pour our "egg wash" all over the windshield going 90km per hour down the freeway while the other girls held me by the ankles to keep me from becoming roadkill. And don't think I wouldn't have done it.

Mom......MOM!! Put your head between your knees and just breathe in and out...in and out.

When we arrived it was truly nothing more than a ton of folding tables set up under a corrugated tin roof. I get overwhelmed shopping for things like plates in nicely lit stores with air conditioning and songs by Air Supply softly playing overhead. This place was like nothing I had ever seen before. Plates, bowls, platters stacked everywhere....inside and out. It was filthy dirty and I came eye to eye with more than one creepy crawly that day.

Lisa and Tiffany were off and running grabbing stacks of plates...excitedly calling out to each other....squealing for joy when they saw that there were dozens and dozens of Spode Turkey plates to choose from. It was fun watching them while Vanessa and I were a little more "deer in the headlights" about the whole thing. It was enough to send us two girls scurrying for the corner to chug down a jug of egg wash.

Just kidding.

Kinda.
Tiffany's stash.....which cost her about $150 total. Most plates were
about $1 a piece. It was crazy!

After much consideration, Vanessa decided to go ahead and get a stack of Spode Turkey plates. I stood my ground in defiance of buying plates for a holiday where I don't typically even make a turkey. I was proud of my strength of character.....my ability to say no to peer pressure...my fiscal responsibility.

And then, it got ugly.

The taunting began. They pinpointed my weakness and went for blood. They were merciless and I was utterly defenseless against them.

They told me that one day.....one day.....my boys were going to marry girls and have grandbabies. And we all know who determines how much time the mother-in-law gets to spend with the grandbabies. The as yet undetermined wives of my boys. And why in the world would these sweet girls ever want to spend a Thanksgiving at my house with my grandbabies in tow if I didn't serve a turkey dinner? They wouldn't. BUT...if I not only served turkey dinner but had Spode Turkey plates to serve said dinner on then they would be more likely to visit because who's going to inherit those plates one day? That's right....my daughter in laws.

I am now the proud owner of 15 Spode turkey plates.

The End.

May 19, 2011

Sand and Plates

First of all, I would like to report that everyone is happy and smiling today. No visible scarring from my behavior last night. Thank you for all your sweet comments....sometimes it's just nice to know you aren't alone.

I am barely going to get this posted in time to count for Thursday's post so I'm going to make it quick!! Because I'm tired and feel like the few creative nuances that bounce around in my head have been sucked out tonight.

This is a quick post with a few pics.......

For Vesak Day we decided to go to the beach here in Singapore. I have lived here almost a year and have never been. It's crazy because it's a great beach......if you don't pay too much attention to the tankers docked just outside the cove area they have roped off.

Nathan was convinced that oil was spilling into the ocean as we sat there and ate chicken nuggets.

There were Slurpees....


And naps...... (I am so going to get in trouble for this pic)

And an attempt to dig a hole all the way to.......I don't know. What happens when you are already almost in China? You dig a hole to Wyoming?

I am definitely aware that it appears that this last week has been full of one adventure after another......if you can really call a Squatty Potty an adventure. I'm not sure if it's the fact that our commitments for the year are coming to an end and we've all had some free days or if it's panicking that time will go by too quickly without checking things off the long list of things to do in SE Asia.

Since arriving here I've heard over and over about shopping for dishes in Malaysia. There is a Spode factory there which meant nothing to me but made the Martha Stewart types super giddy....something about Christmas and Turkey plates. Today was the day we packed up and took a rode trip to Malaysia to check out the plate factory. Our adventure deserves a post all its own but for now I'll leave you with this picture.

I know....it's enough to make a girl who hates to shop want to hurl.
But I ended up with Turkey dishes and that's going to have to be a story for
another time.

May 18, 2011

The Post That Almost Wasn't

One of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning is to walk to the Botanic Gardens that are about a mile from my house. Garrett is usually the only one that goes with me and we love having lunch at a little outdoor restaurant there.

On a normal day during the week when I am wandering in the gardens I'll see many people doing Tai Chi and I love how it looks....so serene and calm. On the weekends you'll see much larger groups working on Tai Chi routines.

At least I think they call them routines. Except when I think of routines I think of drill team in high school and I've never seen a Tai Chi person yell 5...6...7...8 before starting.

We'll just call them Tai Chi movements. Except I live with boys so they have forever ruined that word for me.

How about this. On the weekends you'll see much larger groups working on Tai Chi.

Anyways, this past Saturday I couldn't resist this group that busted out the red fans and I had to stop and take some quick pictures.

Tonight I wondered what in the world I was going to write after a disaster of an evening....the kind where I was just irritated by the mere existence of my children and made sure they knew it. The kind of evening that makes one wonder if one day the college fund will be used for therapy instead. The kind of evening that means once again I will be modeling grace and humility to my boys when I walk into their rooms to ask for forgiveness for giving into my hormones when I know better.

I almost opted out of writing anything at all except I've stuck to this little challenge of mine......much better than the challenge of not eating anything fun. I thought I'd look through my pictures, see if there was one I could just slap up here, comment on it and call it a post.

As I was scrolling through the Tai Chi pics from Saturday I stopped at this one and just had to laugh. You see the poor lady to the left? She is obviously Tai Chi-ing to a different beat than everyone else.

That is how I feel tonight. A little out of sync with my normal routine. Actually, not just a little out of sync, enough that it's like having my big red fan waving in the air while everyone else has theirs behind their backs. I'm quite certain it was apparent to everyone around me this evening that I was indulging my bad attitude instead of getting myself in line to behave like the mature adult I supposedly am.

*sigh*

I got nothing else except to go snuggle with two guys I adore who need their mom to hug them and to let them know that my world would be completely desolate and empty without them. Just in case they were wondering.

Then I think I'll work on my routine. I guarantee the step I'm missing is the step where I spend time on my knees making sure my life is a little less about me and a whole lot more about Him....and the hims....in my life.

May 17, 2011

Closed Toe Shoes

Happy Vesak Day to all of you!

The boys had a day off of school today thanks to Buddha. Vesak Day is a celebration of Buddha's birthday, achieving of enlightenment, and his death. So naturally the kids get a day off from school!

In the last few weeks Garrett has been studying world religions in Social Studies. They will finish the unit with a field trip to visit a Buddhist and Hindu temple, a synagogue, a Chinese temple, a mosque, and a church.

Let me just say up front that I love the fact that he is being exposed to all these religions. I will also say that my opinion has put me on the receiving end of some criticism from those that feel it is dangerous to expose him to ideas outside Christianity.

I am certain I have stepped on some toes in my explanation that I feel there is nothing that will strengthen your faith like living life out from under a cloud of ignorance. I am not saying that one has to be student of world religions to be wise, but I am certainly saying that accepting everything told to you at face value without reading, studying the Bible, praying, researching and asking good questions will do nothing to deepen one's faith.

Stepping off my soapbox and putting it away in the closet.

I figured I'd go straight to the source for this post and ask Garrett some questions about what he has learned recently in Social Studies. You will see that Garrett has mastered the art of not being overly verbose.

Me: So, tell me again what happened the first day that Miss Miller started the world religion unit.

G: She said that she wasn't trying to convert anyone to a different religion, she was just going to inform us about different religions.

Me: What about the poll she took in the class.

G: She asked how many people were Christian and 6 or 7 kids raised their hands. There are two kids that are Hindu, one kid that is Buddhist, three Jews, and no Muslims. Eight are Free Thinkers.

(I was shocked that they actually went through a list of religions and had kids raise their hands to indicate which they believed in. I am pretty certain that would never happen back home.)

Me: What in the world is a Free Thinker?

G: Someone who doesn't have a religion.

Me: Which religions have you studied so far?

G: All except Islam but we aren't going to learn about Free Thinking.

Me: What do you think about the fact that you've studied all these religions?

G: It's a good opportunity to learn about what different people are accustomed to.

Me: Did any of the religions make you question Christianity?

G: No

Me: Do you think it's bad for Christians to learn about other religions?

G: No because if you're a Christian and you learn about different religions it helps you to see what other people believe in. And it was part of school and I had no choice which is fine with me.

Me: Which religion did you find the most interesting?

G: Judaism. Can you ask me some different questions now?

Me: Are you ready for school to be over?

G: Yes, I think every kid is.

Me: Are you excited to go home?

G: Yep......I get to eat Whataburger, Buffalo Wild Wings and Chuys.

He has been required to write a paper of sorts about each religion and I can honestly say that Scot and I have learned a ton from Garrett. It has allowed for some interesting conversations and I've loved watching the wheels in his mind turning.

Do I think he's going to come out of this a very wise Christian? No. He has a whole lot of life to live and much to learn that will refine him and his relationship with God.

Do I think he will be more accepting of others and have more of an innate ability to love? Absolutely and for that I am extremely thankful.

May 16, 2011

Keri:1 Squatty Potty:0

*Disclaimer: Much like this post, my husband is mortified by the subject matter I have written about below. If you are overly emotional, prone to sudden queasiness or are very delicate in nature, please do yourself a favor and skip today's post. Thank you!

There are things in life that have a hold over us. Our fear immobilizes us and renders us useless.

Just a spoken word of this thing can cause us to tremble and break out in a sweat. We lay awake some nights and create situations in our minds that involve this particular thing that seems to inhibit our ability to slip into blissful unconsciousness.

We dread the day we are forced to come face to face....toe to toe....with the thing that could quite possibly bring us to our knees in total surrender. We hear of others that have survived and we become obsessed. How did they do it? How did they overcome the thing we fear the most? Could I ever be that person?

Today was the day I came face to face with a fear I've had for 9 months now. I was forced into a situation where there was no out and I wasn't prepared.

Today was the day I went to battle with? The Squatty Potty.

I had no other choice. I was on a bike ride through the mighty jungle of Pualu Ubin, an island just 10 min from Singapore by boat, and it was hot and humid and I was drinking water like a marathon runner.

Which I'm clearly not. But I can drink water like one and that's as close as I'll ever come to being one.

After a particularly brutal and bumpy ride over roots and ruts that lasted about 3 minutes, it was time for this girl to visit the ladies room. We had just passed an incredible view of submerged gates used to keep out illegal immigrants when we pulled over for yet another break. Apparently it was the policy of our guide to never ride more than 5 minutes without taking a break.

I was relieved to hear there was a restroom available and I ran up the hill so I could be first in line.

Survival of the fittest, people.

I walked in and went from stall to stall only to see that there was no escaping the thing I have feared for months. In a typical Singaporean restroom you'll have the option of choosing a squatty or a western toilet. That was not the case here.

It was do or die time.

Please know that while I enjoy pictures that make you feel like
you've been transported to Asia to live this life with me, this
picture was taken post flush. What you see is what happens when you're on
an island with only well water. I'm not THAT desperate to give you
an authentic look at my life here.

I took a deep breath, held all clothing out of the way, braced my 5'11" self on the wall that was on either side of me refusing to think of the germs festering there and then.....I went for it. All the horror stories I've heard about missing entirely and not being able to engage the proper muscles to stop that gallon of water you drank from rolling out under the door were ringing in my head.

NOT TODAY ZURG.
(5 points if you can name the movie)

I flat out ROCKED the squatty potty.

I ran outside cheering and announced to 10 women I don't know that today was the day that I stared my nemesis in the face and was victorious. There are now 9 expat women in Singapore that think I am weird and then there was Tiffany who in true friend fashion, took a picture of my moment.

I just want to encourage all of you out there that are full of fear of the unknown. At least when you conquer your fear, you'll have a much cooler thing to shout than "I rocked the squatty potty".

I'm just here to help. To offer hope for the hopeless. That's what I do.

May 12, 2011

Day By Day

There are many aspects of life as an expat that are completely foreign to me. Which makes sense I guess since our whole life is foreign right now.

We have learned that this life will chew you up and spit you out if you don't approach it with a sense of adventure. I'm certainly not implying that we have our Tevas and REI gear on every day ready to embrace the craziness thrown our way. Sometimes we are still wearing our pajamas at noon and eating all things carbalicous. But somewhere along the way - once you recover from jet lag, unpack the limited items you brought with you, and figure out how to get to the grocery store - you have to jump in with both feet determined to soak in every single thing you can about this strange life as an expat.

Because your time here is likely very short.

We have approached the end of the school year and everyone is buzzing with news of friends moving back home. I personally know about 7 people moving back home so these next few weeks are full of going away events. There are email notices and postings in the American Club as folks start selling off their stuff they can't take with them and the good Helpers are being snatched up by new families. Some families are going back to the exact home they left, some are moving somewhere new and some know they are leaving but are still unsure of where they are going.

In most cases, you will never see these friends again. That is life here. It is temporary.

It is sad to watch people go but the alternative is to isolate yourself waiting for your departure date to roll around and never invest.

I, for one, am willing to take the chance that my heart is going to hurt many, many times as I say good-bye to friends year after year that have helped me to survive my time here. We have missed births, deaths, graduations, and other life changing events happening back home and it isn't easy. But then you get a call from a friend here who understands and she reaches out to you because it's just what you do.

You create family.

They don't replace family and friends from back home but they are, each and every single one, a gift from God to make your life feel more whole. I love the variety in the friends I have made here. I have friends from South Africa and the Philippines, friends that have been expats for years and friends that arrived here when I did. I have friends from church and friends that have never stepped foot in a church. I have friends that are newly married, friends with toddlers, friends with kids my age, and friends who have children and grandchildren they've left behind in the states. Some friendships make sense and others seem like a random pairing. But we all have one thing in common.....we've been plucked out of a life that was familiar and comfortable and dropped here in a foreign land to sink or swim.

And we are swimming.

Today a group of girls I spend loads of time with celebrated the June birthdays in the group. We will be scattered all over the place this summer so we took advantage of a free day and decided to go on a wild adventure. Think zip lines, swinging from trees, crossing swinging poles to reach the other side......think blood, sweat (lots of it) and laughter. We stared our late thirties/early forties in the eye, threw back our heads, and laughed.

Then we ate cupcakes.

And spent a moment appreciating each other and this crazy opportunity to leap out of our comfort zones knowing we have each other, no matter how fleeting the time.

I have no doubt that one day when it's my turn and I'm selling our stuff we can't take back home and eating amazing dumplings and friend rice for the last time, I will mourn greatly the friends I will be leaving behind.

But I will never, ever, ever again take life for granted.

I have learned that life is what you DO with it. And that doing life alone is not nearly as much fun as doing life with people who challenge you, love you, and make you laugh.

Red On!!

May 11, 2011

Love In Any Language

Today was our last day of ESL so it was a party day for all the ladies. We started off in the assembly with a fun program put on by ladies from all different countries.

We had the ladies from Myanmar doing a traditional dance.

Forgive the poor quality of the pics but I was in charge of videotaping for one of the dancers and taking pics for our team leader so I was taking quick shots with my phone!

We had a group of women who sang in Chinese.

This is Betsy who is clearly not from India. She is one of the teachers and has learned Indian dance since living here.......she brought the house down! Loved it!!

The women were asked to dress to represent their country. There were several Japanese women dressed in kimonos and that was when I decided that someday I need to own a kimono of my own.

They were all so beautiful and the Japanese ladies that performed for us all made sure, in broken English, to dedicate their music to their families and friends in Japan. I can't even imagine what they have all been through in the last couple of months.


We had a slideshow of all the national flags for the countries these ladies were from and they stood when their flag was shown. It was fun to watch them get so excited to see their flag and clap and cheer for each other.

I have been so surprised at how much I love working with these women. I am not teaching them.....I am working on the administrative side of things.....but I still love the interaction I have with these precious ladies on Wed mornings.

The year is wrapping up as various commitments come to an end. It's hard to believe that 3 weeks from Friday the boys and I will be climbing on a plane to head home.

I may have to take some dancing lessons this summer!

May 10, 2011

Reading List

It is late and it's been an exhausting day. I took a trip to the dermatologist and it was confirmed what I've suspected for a few months now.

I'm getting old.

Throw in some 6th grade drama and a hard lesson learned in choosing the right friends to surround yourself with and I'm pretty much done.

So, I am going to take the easy way out on this post and highlight some folks that I love to read.

This is not a complete list since I will probably opt for this again on another night that has me seeing double before 10:00 p.m.

I do love to read. Despite the fun I was poking at using reading as a hobby in my last post, I do honestly love to read. When it comes to blogs, though, I have a relatively short list of those that I keep up with regularly.

A few of my favs......part 1.

This is Beth Moore's blog and I LOVE it! I have enormous respect for her as a Bible teacher. When we were in Houston I would go to her Bible study on Tuesday nights and would soak in every single word. She is real and honest and humble and she is hysterical. After volunteering for her ministry for awhile I can say that she's as authentic as they come and it comes across in her blog.

I have never met Marla in person and I'm not even sure how we became blog buddies but I adore her. She has three beautiful daughters and has a huge heart for missions....especially in Cambodia. She is currently trying to raise enough money to visit Cambodia this Christmas and we have high hopes of maybe meeting up there. I can't even imagine! She has written several books, does speaking gigs and is just all around a transparent and incredible woman! I am happy to call her friend!

Lisa is my friend here in Singapore. I stalked her at 4th grade orientation this year and we became good friends. We traveled together with Tiffany's family to Vietnam and Lisa wrote an amazing blog post recapping that trip. She journals her travels and has some great insight into what she sees. She doesn't blog often and I am linking her Vietnam blog post specifically. It was interesting to be surrounded by so much propaganda while there and it really made us think about how we perceived things. No need to reinvent the wheel so instead of writing about it myself, I'll just let Lisa tell the story! I adore her....she's been a very good friend to me!

Rhonda and I became blog buddies a couple of years ago. Like Marla, I'm not exactly sure how that happened. We had a chance to meet for the first time in January 2010 in Houston and it was so much fun! I saw her again at a Skillet/Toby Mac concert in Tyler, Tx a few months later.....which is the most random thing ever. She has some of the funniest stories to tell and then will turn around with one of the most thought provoking posts you've ever read. She is not overly verbose ( a trait I am trying to adapt, I promise you) and is very, very real and honest. She is actually one of only two friends that has sent me letters here in Singapore (not to make anyone feel guilty....but if any of you happened to have lost my address I'd be happy to resend it to you!). She is beautiful inside and out and I'm proud to call her a friend.

Ok, that's it for tonight. I'll save the other favs for another night.

It's off to bed with a bowl of apples and peanut butter and yet another crime drama.

Happy reading!

May 09, 2011

Hobby Lobbying

Every single time I am filling out a form that asks me to list my hobbies I want to run and hide in a corner. I am the most un-hobbied person alive.

There's the standard "reading and excercising" response that seems to be very popular. I happen to love that answer because unless you indicate otherwise, reading People and walking to the mailbox and back make that answer valid.

I am always tempted to be flippant in my responses and put "eating chocolate and sleeping" just to shock the hobby police.

It's one of those questions that I always sit and stare at while I begin to feel more inadequate second by second.

About a month or so ago I happened to be in the office of the women's ministry director at our church. I popped in briefly to drop something off and found her in a meeting with the woman in charge of events at the church.

I was aware of a Spring Tea coming up and knew they were looking for table hostesses. As soon as I walked into the room I knew I would not be leaving unscathed.

Sure enough......I was coerced....I mean asked.....to do it.

Let me just say that if it just involved sitting at a table and keeping conversation going? No problemo....sign me up.

Talking is a hobby I can claim as my own.

But no, it also meant DECORATING the table. A word that strikes fear in me like nothing else.

You have to realize, I come from Texas where events like this are popular. I have been to them. It is incredible what women can come up with........straight out of a magazine type stuff. Centerpieces with moving parts.....live animals in cages. It's crazy!

I was assured by them that this was much more scaled down but that didn't stop me from being terrified.

Since procrastination can also make my hobby list, I promptly put the tea out of my mind.

It's a defense mechanism, people. Don't judge.

Last week I began getting the last minute emails and realized that no amount of denial was going to take away from the fact that I had to produce some kind of table for the tea on Saturday so I did what anyone else in my position would do.

I complained.....then I begged a friend to help me. And by help me, I meant design and create the whole thing for me.

My Texas friend, Tiffany, loves this kind of stuff so she got right to work creating a table for me while I cheered her on.

Add that to my list of hobbies.......I am a great cheerleader. Especially if you are doing something that makes my life easier!

My attitude was horrible but I qualified it with all kinds of churchy reasoning like:
"Hospitality really isn't one of my giftings" or even "I don't feel called to do this". Comments that anyone outside the church community wouldn't understand.

I went to Tiffany's house for a practice run where she made sure I did everything correctly. She told me I could do it, gave me plenty of instructions and sent me on my way with the promise that she could talk me through any disaster that might come up.

I dreamt the night before that I didn't get the table set in time and I came in last. Not that it was a competition or anything, but these kinds of things always seem to end with a winner and a "bless her heart, this just isn't her gifting" award.

I showed up at the church with all my stuff.....checklist in hand and walked into the room where the event was being held. I was slammed full force with major insecurity when I saw table after table decorated so beautifully for a tea.

A vegetable garden theme complete with fun things hanging from the ceiling, a butterfly theme with bows and birdcages with CUPCAKES inside. There was an English garden theme and chocolates at most tables.

I didn't even bring chocolates! I should know better than that! You always win....I mean minister better to women if you have chocolate at the table!

It was just beautiful in the room. Most women had been there the day before to decorate so it was just breathtaking. I have very few pictures because I was sending them to Tiffany while I was freaking out about my table that was not like the others.

I put my head down and got to work.......giving myself a pep talk the whole time. Everything went in its place and I sent off a picture to Tiffany for her final approval.

That's right, we went all out Texas....complete with a cactus for every guest at the table. Tiffany lent me her awesome boots and I promised up and down that not one pastry or tea leaf would touch them.

As women starting filtering in and moving table to table to ooh and ahh over every single idea from the simple to the complex I started to realize that I was the one bringing judgement into this situation.

I left that day after the bandanas were packed up and the boots safely tucked away having learned a couple of valuable lessons.

How easy it is to assume judgement where there is none.

How easy it is to skirt obedience by claiming that we aren't "called" or "gifted".

The reality is that I had a Dutch friend and her cousin at my table that loved the decorations and 3 generations of women with roots in Texarkana that got a little taste of home that morning. It was perfect for them and that is what really mattered the most.

Add "getting a slap on the hand" to the list of things I'm good at.

There are a couple of things I've been asked to do that scare me. Plain and simple. I have been putting all kinds of labels on why I shouldn't do them but I have no peace about saying "no". I don't want to be dragged out of my comfort zone and I don't want to make myself that vulnerable. I want to just have Tiffany do it all for me.....or someone, anyone, else.

I want to wrap this all up with some deep theological insight, but I've got nothing. I have decisions that need to be made and lessons recently learned that aren't going to make it easy for me to anything other than say "yes".

But I have faith.

There.....put that on the list of hobbies.

Eating chocolate
Sleeping
Talking
Procrastinating
Cheerleading
Getting slapped on the hand
Faith

Now, where are those knitting needles?

May 06, 2011

Party Time!

Do you remember her?

Today, Nathan got to meet her.

It was carnival day for the kids at the home so it was the perfect time to pull Nathan out of school to put him in "life school" for a day.

On the 40 min ferry ride to Indonesia.

Our way of welcoming the kids as they came home from school.
It's a party day!!

His first meeting with the house mom, Ibu. She loved him.....gave him kisses
a couple of times while we were there.

These boys are all around 10 years old....just like Nathan. They were so sweet
in welcoming him and trying to communicate with him.

This sweet boy came up to me and was gesturing something to me and
saying "boy". I asked him if he wanted my boy....yes he did. He wanted
Nathan to come outside and play balloon badminton.

Then Nathan broke out some dance moves and his new friend was
quick to follow his lead!

But this is the boy that stole Nathan's heart. Nathan kept telling me
how cute he thought Niko was and that's not something I hear often
from Nathan who doesn't often pay attention to kids younger
than himself.

The kids decorated their loot bags.

Had a cupcake walk which they LOVED.

Lots and lots of games to play and they ran laughing and screaming
from one to the next.

Nathan and I were in charge of the fishing game. We made a fishing
rod (my one attempt at being crafty for 2011) and went
shopping for prizes. It was fun for the kids to throw that rod
over the curtain and pull back a sparkly headband or yoyo or toy
car. They came back over and over and we never ran out of treats!

Niko got a pack of bouncy balls and jumped up and down cheering
when he got them. It was fantastic.

The prize wizard behind the curtain. He was rarely alone as his buddy, Niko,
spent quite a bit of time back there with him.

I asked Nathan on the ferry ride home if it was what he expected. It wasn't, but he wasn't sure why not. He told me it made him a little sad but was glad that the kids were never lonely because there were so many of them there.

Then he told me he couldn't wait to go back.

Me too. It's hot and uncomfortable. There is a language barrier that makes it hard to talk to the kids. But there's just something that grabs hold of your heart while you're there.

I am trying very hard to learn as many of these kid's names as I can. It is important to call them by name. It is the one thing that is theirs alone....it's their identity and what sets them apart from all the other children there.

It just matters.

Each one of them is special. Each one of them is loved. Each one of them has a name.

"Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you BY NAME; you are Mine."
Isaiah 43:1

 

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