Thirty-two

…is what I’m turning today. In honor of my birthday, I thought it would be fun to write a letter to myself. Well, actually, two letters. One to myself at age 12 and one to myself at age 52.

So here goes.

To my twelve-year-old self:

You don’t know this, but you’re about to enter a period of adolescence where the girls turn mean and manipulative, and the boys turn awkward and dumb. Even the smart ones. Enjoy your childhood and cherish this year. Don’t try so hard to grow up so fast. Believe in yourself. Ask for what you want. You are worth more than you think and you don’t have to try so hard to be liked. Learn to play the flute or the violin. Don’t give up on something you love because you fear what others think. The people that you will really look up to, that offer something worth striving for or learning from, you will find when the time is right. You will find friends worth holding on to, and you will find a man who inspires you.

I tell you all this, but I’m really not worried. You will find your way in your own time. You will find who you are and you will stand up for that when you’re ready. Um, but those bangs you’re trying really hard to get? They’re a losing battle. And that first time you shave your legs, PLEASE use shaving cream. Thanks.

Your loving, thirty-two-year-old self.

To my fifty-two-year-old self:

Remember me? I’m the one who is simultaneously fulfilled and still dreaming. I hope you are the same, only better. I’m coming up on two years lived abroad and I feel like I’ve been able to do so much, and yet there’s still so much more. I have dreams of growing my family, of having more of my ideas turned into print, of seeing more of the world and other people, and of leaving this place better for having had me. Those are my ambitions. Not houses or cars or things. Just me leaving an imprint more positive than not.

How’s all that coming?

And just in case you need reminding, here are some things I hope in twenty years not to forget:
1) Respect in marriage is sacred. Extend it, even when you least want to. (This includes paying attention to your husband when he’s telling you something, even if you’re in the middle of something else.)
2) Love your body. It’s the only one you got, so don’t hate on it.
3) Don’t worry so much. It will all work out, often better than you expect.
4) Breathe. You have a tendency to forget to do this sometimes.
and
5) 
Above all, have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. 

With love,
Me.

*     *     *

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
- Author Unknown

 What moments stole your breath away this week? 

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Sarah’s!

 

Absolution, in the Most Unlikely of Places

We were taking a long walk through the park, chatting like sisters do, about high school popularity – and the problem of the lack thereof. Except this particular pair of sisters is separated by about seventeen years in age.

It started with an innocuous question. My sister-in-law, who is in her first year of high school, asked me if I had noticed that the popular kids seem to offer the less popular ones opportunities to become more popular – but that usually one has to jump over some ridiculous hurdle to prove one’s worth. And that it can be the kids you’d think were least concerned with popularity who do so, while someone you thought might be the first to line up, who ends up surprising you.

And somehow, over the course of the conversation, I told a story about a friend I had, Helen. She was a very sweet and smart girl and I enjoyed her friendship…but she was definitely on the lower end of the popularity spectrum. One day, in an attempt to be helpful, I suggested we could have a little fun with hair and makeup and such. I had hoped to help her fit in a little better, in a way that was flattering for her face and figure. But that conversation didn’t go so well, and soon after, I lost her as a friend. In retrospect, I realized that she – better than me – had understood that I, in my teenage immaturity, had not valued her very well as her own person. And I felt endlessly guilty about that and sad that I had done so.

And my young sister-in-law told me it was a mark of how wholesome I was as a person that I felt badly about it; many others would do far worse, with malicious intent, and not feel a shred of guilt. And she said, wisely, that more may have happened to Helen where others had tricked, deceived, or bullied her, and perhaps part of the reason for her reaction had more to do with how others had treated her in the past than with what I was suggesting in the moment.

And in that conversation, I felt a burden of guilt ease off my shoulders: the release of a weight I hadn’t realized I carried. I don’t share this to curry more assurances, but to mention how startled I was to find what little packages of self-chastisement I carry, and for how many years I can carry it. There are things that stick with us, hidden in the nooks and crannies of our character. And sometimes all it takes is understanding, even from an unlikely source, to shed light on these things and set them free.

Do you have a packet of guilt you’ve been carrying with you for too long?

*     *     *

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
- Author Unknown

What moments stole your breath away this week? 

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up HERE!

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Homesick

Three weeks away, and I am homesick.

I miss fresh vegetables. I miss raw herbs and colorful fruit.

I miss people who speak volumes with silence and a significant look.

I miss warm rain and the golden hour, motorcyclists zipping alongside rice paddies, and mountains in the distance.

I miss Dot.

I’ve lived in Thailand for only a year and a half, but it’s the home I feel homesick for. And it took coming to Europe, where everything felt comfortable and familiar, to find out that it’s actually Thailand that has become my home.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
- Author Unknown
 

What moments stole your breath away this week? 

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up at Hyacynth’s!

Age {A Bigger Picture Moment}

This week, we’re joining the party at Momalom, where they are hosting a 5 for 5 party. Five topics, for five days. The prompt for today is AGE. So please feel free to set your ruminations this week on “age,” link up here, and then link up at 5 for 5!

In a little over a month, I turn 32. What does this mean? Scientifically speaking, I suppose it means I’ve hit my sexual peak and am moving towards an age marked by reduced fertility. Gray hairs have started to weave their way through my tresses, which are not as thick as they once were. My skin is not as vibrant or taut, my ability to shed weight even less remarkable. Where I might have once enjoyed a few nights on the town, drinking with large groups of friends in loud bars, I now drink in the joy of a smooth cocktail sipped in a quiet lounge, or even a night in.

I remember when life in high school was my frame of reference for most any topic of conversation. Then it became college. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen myself in the faces of college undergrads. They all seem so young to me now.

I recently read David Sedaris’s memoir, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and spent most of it wondering how the hell he remembers all that crap from childhood. Most of my memories have long since faded. Years gained, people and moments lost.

BUT.

At 32, I’ve grown comfortable in my own skin. I know what’s important to me (family, words, travel, creativity, food, new and enriching experiences), and I know what is not (convention, status symbols, money for its own sake). I revel in simple joys more, and more often. I know I have a lot of opinions and ideas and I don’t hesitate to voice them. I know I have the right to be heard and, after many silent years, I’ve now found my voice and I intend to use it. I encourage others to shed their own barriers preventing them from the full realization of self. I know, too, that my opinions are nothing more than that. In fact the older I get, the more I know I don’t know. But I’m okay with ambiguity.

I have a loving husband, a sweet dog, and a large, caring family that extends in many directions. I have a life in which I’ve insisted on pursuing my dreams – even as they and I have changed.

I have many miles left to walk yet and many more destinations to reach, but I’ve never been more comfortable, ready, happy, fulfilled, and proud to be me.

Don’t forget to link up at Momalom’s Five for Five too!

 
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.” 
- Author Unknown

What moments stole your breath away this week? 

Each Thursday, we come together to celebrate living life with intention by capturing a glimmer of the bigger picture through a simple moment. Have you found yourself in such a moment lately? Share it with us! 

Live. Capture. Share. Encourage.
This week we’re linking up HERE!

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Pinnacle Moments {Cynthia}

Welcome to the first edition of our Pinnacle Moments series! Each Wednesday, I’ll be hosting a series of posts where we share transcendental moments in our lives: moments in which the paths of our lives changed, we made important decisions, had epiphanies, or experienced a defining point in a relationship with a loved one. Starting us off is a Pinnacle Moment shared by Cynthia from Running With Letters, and I truly could not imagine a more perfect beginning to our series. Please join us in sharing these Pinnacle Moments, and we hope that you might wish to share one of yours too.

 

From Cynthia:

I had no way of knowing that a reflective moment lying on my bedroom floor at the end of a random fall day would become the opening scene in a 16-year long chapter in my life. All I knew was that I wanted to make a difference, but  I had no idea I was making a decision that would not only bring me joy, but also inspire me to pursue of a lifelong dream.

See, I was a late bloomer, of sorts.  A caution-to-the-wind kind of girl with a flair for the dramatic and a penchant for impulsive road trips during school hours. My teenage self was interested in present tense fun, with little regard for future consequences. It was a minor miracle, then, for me to have landed safely on the carpet of the townhouse I shared with my first and only husband and our baby daughter. A husband who responded to my third date announcement that, I “just wanted to be friends,” with, “Well, what would you like to do tomorrow?” –a pattern he stuck with until we were planning a wedding.  When asked why he persisted, he said, “I decided that if what we were was friends, I’d be lucky to have you.”

But as I lay in the darkness thinking of all the ways my life could have turned out differently, I knew who the lucky one was.  I also knew that I felt a sense of responsibility to extend a road map of sorts to my younger sisters—a guide marking the best stepping stones around life’s tough neighborhoods.  That night, I resolved to make it happen.

At the time, I was not involved with teenagers in any capacity, but soon, my husband and I started volunteering with our church youth group.  It would still be a couple years and a move to our own house, though, before I hit upon a winning recipe: Tuesday Night, Open Invitation Meetings in my living room, around a warm pan of gooey brownies.

When I first came up with the idea for a teen girls’ Bible study, even my husband, who has been a constant source of encouragement in endeavors ranging from international travel to the ill-advised adoptions of numerous strays, was skeptical.

“It’s a great idea,” he said.  “But I’m not sure if you’ll get anyone to come.  I don’t want you to be disappointed.”

But come they did—sometimes in trickles, others times in droves.  And our group quickly expanded as the girls brought their friends.  Soon teens from all over the community began showing up at my door each week for a dose of scripture, a listening ear, and, of course, a brownie.

Not every girl that came to Bible study was involved in church–in fact there were girls who would never have felt comfortable sitting on a pew.  Some were youth group girls who seemed perfect, yet hid inner hurts and even outward scars inflicted by their own hand.  Others were vivacious and self assured.  Most just needed encouragement through the everyday ups and downs of growing out of childhood and coming into their own.  But every single one of the teens who came through my door was a beautiful person who was worthy of having a place where they could be themselves for two hours each week, free from pressure of judgment.

To the best of my knowledge, the advice I gave to every question poised came straight out of the Bible but was applied to each girl’s specific situation.  Not that every teen accepted my perspective, but every single one of them respected it.

Along the way, we prayed over lost loves, sick pets, and plummeting grades. We had sleepovers and holiday parties, and, as time passed, older girls would come back from college or married life and get to know the new members, creating a continuous thread. Friendships formed on Tuesday Nights led to introductions that resulted in two marriages.  I’ve been in two other weddings, and attended a couple baby showers.  And once, we sat and cried together at a funeral, too.

I keep a few trophies—but not the kind you have to polish.  My favorite is a little Ziploc baggie full of “contraband” a couple of girls unexpectedly gave me one night at the end of a study.  Not even 24’s Jack Bauer could get me to divulge the contents of the bag, but I promise you, it was worth way more than every chocolate chip I’ve ever had to buy and every hour that stretched beyond our usual two.

And that lifelong dream I mentioned?  My experiences with the girls actually gave me the nudge I needed to jumpstart my frustrated writing ambitions.  It began as a chapter-a-week online saga featuring a protagonist who, as one girl put it, “is a little bit of all of us.”  The experiment grew into two young adult novels that have opened doors for me to talk with girls who would never have the opportunity to walk through my door on a Tuesday night.

Those who come usually hit the door with a single question: “Are there brownies tonight?”  They claim my super-chocolaty recipe has “ruined” ordinary brownies for them. I understand.  A brownie isn’t just a brownie for me anymore, either.  It’s a warm, gooey celebration of enduring friendship and the unexpected joys that can come from a moment of clarity and gratitude on an otherwise random day.

That's Cynthia, second from the left.

If you wish to share your own Pinnacle Moment, just leave me a comment or send an email, and I’ll send you the details. Thank you so much for joining us! See you next Wednesday!
 

 

 

Announcing….

There are usually only a handful of moments in our lives that are truly transcendental. They stand out in our memories as crossroads where our lives diverged from the path that once was. It can be a turning point in a relationship. It can be a moment of profound clarity, where we gained insight into who we truly are, or were meant to be, or finally understood something larger than ourselves…and have been changed ever since.

Sometimes these moments are long in coming, the slow buildup like grains of sand in an hourglass until we reach our time. Sometimes they strike like lightening.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be hosting a series of blogs, where a fantastic group of amazing writers, bloggers, mothers, and all-round fabulous women have agreed to share their Pinnacle Moments. I invite you to join us each Wednesday, to sit in our circle of sisterhood, and read their tales of love and growth, epiphany and change.

The first one begins next Wednesday, October 19. The series will last as long as I have people willing to share their stories. If our stories inspire you to pen one of your own, please share it with us. Leave me a comment if you’re interested in participating, and I’ll email you with the details. I’m so excited to see these stories, and I do hope you’ll join us too!

Love,
Jade

P.S. A little tidbit I thought I’d share: I recently learned that the Thai word for “travel” is *deurn tang*, which literally means “to walk the path.” I just thought that was so lovely and apropos.

On Not Living Numb


I admitted that part of the impetus for us to pack up our lives and move to the other side of the globe lay in a secret, deep-down need to feel…something. There we were in a little paradise city snuggled up against the mountains and overlooking the beach, and ohmigod there’s the most amazing new coffee shop…and have you been to Red’s yet? And Edomasa is just a little jaunt down the street, for the nights you don’t have the energy for the Farmer’s Market and fresh, organic, free-range, local, sustainable, guilt-free produce to cook Ayurvedic style in between yoga and chai.

It was a beautiful life, with beautiful friends and beautiful habits…and we gave it up. We screwed up our courage and threw caution out the window like yesterday’s old coffee grounds. For a different language. For signs we can’t read. For food that might make you ill if you don’t wash it properly and smog in the air and incoherent traffic. For impenetrable social customs. For alienation. For bewilderment. For frustration. For discomfort.

For joy.

For childlike wonder.

For stretching and growing.

For beauty and profundity and spiritual depth.

For fear and challenge – and, oh, is it not amazing what you learn about yourself?

That you weren’t sure you ever really wanted to know. Things like: the fact that you will rearrange how you dress, how you speak, how you commute, how you show respect and how you conduct business, but you will not – WILL NOT – learn to drive stick.

We had the gauze ripped right off us, and we knew once more what it was to feel.

But the truth is, even the most alien eventually becomes routine. You find the good restaurants, and the good coffee, the pretty mountain views, and the friends to call when you want to share a glass of wine.

And some days you find yourself sipping tea and looking at flowers and realize you could be anywhere in the world, and you’d still be doing this. Just this.

And that’s okay. So long as you’re okay with the you that’s you underneath it all.

Also linking up with Heather @ the Extraordinary Ordinary, for Just Write.

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Native Speaker

Native SpeakerNative Speaker by Chang-rae Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you’ve heard me talk about Chang-rae Lee’s book, “The Surrendered,” you’ll know I’m simply enamored of his work. “Native Speaker” is his debut novel and I was excited to read it because it deals with the immigrant experience: about being American, but nevertheless a perpetual outsider, from two worlds and belonging to neither. It’s the story of a Korean-American, whose marriage with his white wife is on shaky ground, while his career leads him into dangerous paths that force him to choose loyalties between the America he longs for and the Korea in his blood.

In terms of navigating a world of conflicted identity, this book speaks more cogently than any other I have read. Lee’s writing is, as ever, beautiful and haunting, with wonderful lines like: “Sometimes you have to meet the parents to figure out what someone really looks like” and “I want to call the simple Korean back to him the way I once could when I was Peter’s age, our comely language of distance and bows, by which real secrets may be slowly courted, slowly unveiled.” I have a tendency to highlight beautifully written sentences and my copy of this book is covered in the marks of my pen.

While it doesn’t quite sink right into your gut and marrow the way “The Surrendered” does – which, I think, shows the trajectory of his growth as an author – “Native Speaker” is a good read to take slowly, in quiet moments. For anyone who too has felt themselves caught in the doorway, able to see both sides, but not quite enter, I think this book will resonate with you.

View all my reviews

Is this Culture Shock I’m Feeling?

By and large, I feel adjusting to life in Thailand is not such a difficult thing. The food is varied and enticing, the standard of living is quite comfortable, and if you remember to maintain a little patience, all things work themselves out – generally faster, the less you fight it. But every once in a while, something will throw me for a loop.

I had several loops today.

I was excited to find a salad-bar type restaurant close to our home. The only other one is quite a jaunt into town, which I’ll do for unique Thai dishes or the perfect cup of cappuccino, but for which I rarely feel the motivation for a salad. The first time I went to this restaurant, I ordered a specialty salad, which was scrumptious, except for the fact that it was drowned in so much dressing it more closely resembled soup. This time, I decided to try a “create your own” salad and ask for the dressing on the side.

Little did I know that by “create your own,” they really meant CREATE YOUR OWN. My salad arrived looking more like a vegetable platter, with each ingredient served whole and organized into neat little piles. Even the lettuce leaves were whole and pristine. I had to cut everything into bite sized pieces (even the corn) and toss it myself. And my dressing on the side? Came served in a cup bearing almost the whole bottle of dressing, of which I used approximately a tablespoon.

No major inconvenience, I grant you, but it does make me wonder why bother going all the way to the restaurant for the salad that’s about the same amount of work of one made at home. After two such bizarre salad experiences, I also wonder whether they’ve quite grasped the concept of a salad.

Then, after lunch, I stopped by the 7-11 on the way home to pay our internet bill. The total for the month was 950.16 baht. The cashier scanned the bill into the register, then asked me how much I’d like to pay. I’m sorry, what? Is there a pay-however-much-you-feel-like plan I was previously unaware of? So I pointed to the amount on the bill and he spent a long time entering in mysterious data. I handed him a thousand baht bill and then he handed me 70-some-odd baht in change. “The bill amount is 950 baht, isn’t it?” I ask him innocently, trying to indirectly show him his mistake. He realizes his error and calls over the manager to void the charge, explaining that he transposed the 5 and the 0. Except I see the receipt from the transaction and it says 905.25 baht. Which, 1) where do the 25 cents/satang come from? Did he just see the first number and enter whatever amount he felt like? And 2) STILL, how does that translate to 70-some-odd baht in change? I could have shrugged it off with a mai phen rai (it doesn’t matter) since it was only a 20 baht difference and in my favor. But really. How does that even happen?

But then, I think to myself, I live in a country where you pay your internet bills at the local 7-11, where you can get an ice cream bar as you hand over your payment.

And later, when I had a late-afternoon hunger pang that I decided to salve/ignore by making tea and going for a walk, I pulled out the box of tea bags, and instead of shrieking and tossing it in the waste bin when I see the cobwebs and spider inside (as I would have done in the U.S.), I reason the cobwebs are really just tiny dust catchers and the spider just a wee little pin drop. I ask my husband, “How safe do you think it is to have tea with spiders in it?” I show him the box and he shrugs, “Just don’t eat the spiders.” I wonder if it’s because I’m more comfortable with waste in the U.S., or that I’ve just gotten used to the ubiquity of spiders, that I can be so blase about the tea.

I wander out for my walk, with tea cup in hand (sans spider), and just as I step outside, the otherwise apparently sunny sky begins raining. I’m a California girl and I’ve never been one of those who welcomed rain. I’d grumble and hide indoors if it rained three days in a row. Well here, it’s been raining for three months in a row, and I’ve long succumbed to the fact that if you wait for it to stop raining to do anything, you’ll never leave your home. I also know, without a doubt, that if I leave the house and it’s sunny outside, it’ll begin raining as soon as I hit the main road and stop as soon as I reach my destination and shelter.

So I grab my umbrella and commence my walk, regardless of the rain, and halfway through the walk, the rain stops. I look out from under the umbrella and see butterflies and a double rainbow and feel grateful I didn’t let a little sprinkle prevent me from seeing this.

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