Saturday, December 30, 2006

English corner

Ni hao to all my friends from English Corner !!

Friday, December 29, 2006


Ni Hao from China!

My blogging aspirations from China have been temporarily delayed due to the earthquake in Taiwan (see CNN). I hope we'll be back online soon. In the meantime, I'm limited to email. (Thank you, Niels, for posting this on my behalf).

I remember how as a child how my mom, in an effort to get me to finish my meal, would tell me about children in China. It's mind-blowing to believe that I am actually here, nearly 7,000 miles from home! Melva and I are so fortunate to be able to experience this amazing country through the eyes of those who live here. In many ways, the lack of connectivity to the outside world is enhancing our experience. We have no TV to distract us, no international calling ability, our cell phones don't work here, we can't read the newspaper and can't access any websites outside mainland China. Outside of our first 24 hours in Beijing visiting T Square and the Forbidden City (in which one could spend days and not see everything), we have simply been absorbing every day life.

The character for happiness is ubiquitous here, and in that spirit (along with the sketchy duration of my internet connection), I offer...

as defined by Jen and Melva on their Chinese adventure
  1. upgrades to business class!!!
  2. safe arrivals
  3. seeing our friends at the airport with Santa hats
  4. safe travel in taxis
  5. Beijing beds--so comfortable!
  6. western toilets!!!
  7. fresh mandarin oranges
  8. sweet Chinese bread
  9. Starbucks in T square
  10. Imperial Garden in T square
  11. bookstore in T square
  12. translated English signs in T square
  13. beauty of Chinese language
  14. Hall of Mental Cultivation in T square
  15. Hall of Literacy Brilliance in T square
  16. cypresses with entwined branches
  17. long underwear
  18. Chinese food in China: current favorites--corn and pine nuts, garlic broccoli, chicken with Ancient Chinese Secret sauce, fried cucumber, all the tea in China
  19. escalators and elevators--no ADA here (#19)
  20. not living on the 10th floor--our friends are on the 6th, see #19
  21. kennedy kiddos
  22. new chinese friends
  23. legend of the candy cane (#23)
  24. telling new friends about #23
  25. ribs so tender the meat falls off
  26. Chinese candy
  27. Banana popcorn
  28. Peach popcorn
  29. fresh fruit from street vendors
  30. cooking with "Wendy"
  31. hot water
  32. house slippers
  33. illustrated books
  34. translators
  35. any internet access!
  36. sharing this experience with Melva
  37. thoughts of returning for my next visit
  38. guest apartments
  39. local tour guides
  40. Good Friend Stores
  41. successful shopping
  42. Chinese currency exchange rates
  43. Chinese generosity
  44. Chinese respect for authors
  45. conversations leading from my book
  46. conversations leading to Dad's book
  47. English club
  48. joy of giving
  49. a boyfriend who posts news about Chinese trip from the Netherlands on an American blog read by family and friends around the world
  50. Seeing Dad at work

Sunday, December 24, 2006

China: Day 1

It's midnight. Christmas Day, 2006. Our bags have been packed and repacked, weighed, shuffled and repacked. My house is clean--hopefully for a potential buyer, and definitely for some Ohio friends who will come up for a weekend while I'm gone. My brain is fried and my body tired, so I'm going upstairs for a few hours sleep before the journey begins.

Melva and I will head to the GR airport at 8:15 tomorrow morning. Our flight takes off at 10:30, arriving in Chicago at 10:15--thanks to the first of many, many time changes we'll encounter tomorrow. A little after noon, we'll board the plane for a THIRTEEN hour flight to Beijing. Our game plan is that exhaustion will help us sleep through a good portion of the flight. I hear we'll be flying over the North Pole on Christmas Day. How cool is that?!?

We'll land in Beijing at 4:30 in the afternoon on the 26th. So much for Christmas! Our friends will meet us at the airport and we'll head to a hotel for dinner and an early bedtime. We'll visit the Forbidden City and Tiananmin Square on the 27th. We won't likely have internet access until at least the 28th, but hopefully we can make some posts after that.

Thanks to all that have made this trip possible, and especially to my neighbors Sandy, Caleb and Beth for taking great care of Bailey and watching over my house while I'm gone. Jared and Tina, enjoy your stay!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas in China!

My holiday celebration will be a bit different this year. For the last several years, more often then not, I found myself down the street celebrating Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays and other special days. In August of this year, my GR family moved to China. Thanks to the financial support of some good friends, I will be heading to Beijing Christmas morning with my friend, Melva. We'll spend 17 days touring and catching up with our much loved friends.

We've been planning the trip for about six months. Last month, we finally made the trip to Chicago to get our visa and Thursday night, we accomplished the minor miracle of packing. Niels caught us in the middle of the action. As you can see, Bailey was an excellent supervisor.

Believe it or not, we're all set with three big suitcases, one little carry on (filled with treats and many hopefully entertaining diversions) and two purses.

We're not exactly sure what to expect technology-wise, but hopefully, we'll be able to post updates of our travel. If you don't hear from me for a while...Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Yesterday, my boyfriend's parents celebrated their 37th anniversary. It saddens me that so many couples have lost the opportunity to celebrate double digit anniversaries due to divorce. I was talking to my mom yesterday as she opened her Christmas gifts from me. One the books I gave her was about retirement. She was skimming through it and reading different headings to me. One had to do with adjusting to all the time with your spouse. My mom made a comment to the affect of, "Where's the chapter on finding a spouse?"

My stepdad and step-step mom celebrate their 15th anniversary today. The parents of another friend celebrate their 35th anniversary next month. As I get older, I see more and more of a disparity in the lives of my friends' divorced v. married parents. Our parents are baby boomers and many, if not most, are now retired. Those who are married seem to be enjoying the time to reflect and enjoy their years of partnership. Those who are divorced seem more reflective as they wonder if they should have taken different roads. Retirement is more difficult when you've had to financially have to start over a time or two. And emotionally, facing the twilight years can be daunting when you approach them alone.

When my younger sister married, she said something to me that has stuck with me. In fact, it made it into my book. We were talking about the idea of marriage snapshots, somewhat tangible concrete pictures of what we want our life to look like in the future, so we can work towards them, even when--especially when--we are creating that which we haven't experienced. I gave the example of a hallway in a friend's parents' home. The hallway was lined with pictures, first of grandparents and ancestors, then with the couple's wedding picture, then with baby pictures, annual family portraits--some formal, some not, and other visual representation of the family history. I love the continuity that hallway conveys, and I told her I want to have a similar hallway or stairway when I marry. I asked if she had any marriage snapshots, and she said, "I want to celebrate my 50th anniversary." I love that! Approaching marriage in the long-term view like that will help my sister and her husband overcome the inevitable struggles they'll face together.

I was thinking of friend recently who has been going through a rough patch with her husband. With all the milestone anniversaries around me, along with a few weddings, I thought it would be fun idea for a newlywed couple to get frames for several upcoming anniversaries (5th, 10th, 25th, etc.) In the frame, they could write the date they will celebrate those milestones. They could also talk together about what they think life might look like for them at that point in their marriage. As they celebrate each milestone, they could replace the date with a photo, and read their predictions. They could make a note of what their life is really like at that point, and in doing so, create a bit of history for the next generation.

I'd love to hear about marriage snapshots you might have.

p.s. Happy 37th, Jan & Kitty!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Selling a Home is a Lot Like Dating....

On Saturday, I had my fourth showing. As I recuperate from the flurry that is preparing for a showing, it occurred to me that selling a home is a lot like dating. There's a lot of praying that someone will notice you. The heart goes pitter-patter when the phone rings to set up a date. You run around before the appointed hour trying to make everything look just right. And then--especially as a girl--there's a lot of praying and waiting afterwards as your mind spins with a bevy of questions like:

"Does he like me?"

"If he does like me, does he like me enough to call me again?"

"Will he treat me the way I hope and deserve?"

and most importantly...

"Will he commit?!?!"

As I type this, I'm praying and waiting for a call from my Realtor ("Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match..."). So far everyone who has seen my home has loved it, but has gone with other options due to things they knew about the house before they ever looked at. Sigh...The first wanted three bedrooms; I have two. The second didn't want stairs; mine is a two-story townhouse. The third, who was between mine and one other, opted for the two-car garage over my single. Can't say I blame them. Hopefully, the fourth time is the charm.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Red Plate Blessing

Someday, when my brain is working again, and I can write again, I'd like to write about how Generations X and Y are embracing ritual and tradition as they raise their families. I have a long list of ideas I hope to incorporate with my own family.

In a few short weeks--after I return from China--I will be moving in with an amazing family in Ohio. It'll be an adjustment going from a nice-sized home of my own to a room in the home of a family of five. I've been blessed to spend several weeks with this family over the past few months, and though I'm sure there will be adjustments for all of us, I am really looking forward to living with a family, with all the joy and chaos that comes with it.

This family is part of the community to which God has led me in Canton, Ohio. One of the things I most appreciate about this group is their own sense of ritual and tradition. Today, this community is having a blessing ceremony for my host family's oldest child. It's a time of affirming celebrating the person being blessed. This is my blessing for T.

The Red Plate Blessing
for T., on the occasion of his tenth birthday

For most of my adult life, I’ve observed the character and traditions of those I admired and looked to as models. Older women to demonstrate the woman I want to be, couples whose marriages grow stronger even through the seasons of struggle, families who create rituals and traditions to commemorate a collective history of celebrating everyday life.

A few years ago, I heard of the Red Plate tradition. Typically, it’s a red plate with the white words, “You are special today.” The plate is used to celebrate birthdays, awards, good grades, championships, acts of kindness, accomplishments and any event worth noting. At the end of the meal, the act is written on the back of the plate as a way of memorializing it. Other Red Plate rituals include the recipient choosing the evening meal and leading the family prayer.

T., because we are brother and sister in the family of God, I wanted to do something unique to celebrate our Father in this tradition, so I used the words, “You are blessed today.”

And T., as you turn ten years old, you are blessed, and very much loved. I am thrilled to come to live with you and your family. I’m looking forward to watching you grow into a godly young man. I can already see how you are choosing to live your life in a way that makes God smile. When I wasn’t feeling well after the car accident, you volunteered to help me by getting my things from downstairs, bringing me water, taking my plates after meals, and asking me what else you could do to help me or make me more comfortable. I saw Jesus in you. And I know He was smiling.

My blessing for you as you turn ten is to give you a Red Plate and commission you to start this tradition with your family, with your friends, and with us, your church community. Actively look for reasons to celebrate the good around you. As a big brother, recognize when A. or K. are good or helpful. As a son, be kind to your parents, and let them know what you appreciate and love about them. With your friends, be the first to cheer, first to apologize, and first to love. With your church family, help us discover the things we have in common, seek to learn what you can learn from us, and show us what we can learn from you. You are loved. You are special. You are blessed.

Much love,

I'd love to hear from others what traditions and rituals you've incorporated to celebrate life.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Celebrating Sinterklaas

Today is December 5, and as I'm quickly learning, the day the Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas.

About a month ago I was in the Dutch store here in Grand Rapids (the Netherlands of North America), and saw a display filled with chocolate letters. A sign explained that part of the Sinterklaas tradition is giving chocolate bars in the shape of the first letter of one's name. So, I bought an "N" for my new Dutch friend. I put it in a red bag with a note that he couldn't open it until today. He opened it at midnight and somehow I managed to surprise him. Either that, or he was being very kind. That wouldn't surprise me.

He promised to do a post explaining the celebration better than I can, so click here to read what he has to say.

You can also learn more here.