Saturday, June 6, 2015

#ETHAN Project Challenge 1: Friendship

I love that we're starting the #ETHAN project (Enjoy the Here and Now) with a mom friendship challenge.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I find motherhood a bit lonely. As a SAHM I'm isolated at home most of the time with my kidlets, and there are days when I don't ever go outside. Contrary to popular opinion, I'm an introvert. What that means for me is that I am energized by connecting with good friends on a deeper level rather than being out chatting up everyone I don't know at a party. Unfortunately, conversations with me while my kids are around sometimes resemble turrets syndrome (and I'm not meaning to offend anyone here).

Friend: So how are you?

Me: I'm doing well (Hey you guys stop! Off the table!). We've been busy (Hey! Don't sit on your sister! Hands out of your diaper!) We're planning to go on a trip (Hey! Where are your pants?) Maybe I should call you back.

Know what I mean?

Add to that the challenge of connecting with folks back at home via Skype or FaceTime and things just get crazy.

When my husband and I started dating, he told me about some advice he had received. Someone told him that when looking for a spouse, look to the right and to the left and find someone who is already running beside you, then run together. In my experience that can apply to friendships too. I used to try to connect with people that I met in all sorts of circumstances (church, running, college, dancing, jobs, etc.) by getting together with them one on one. Like I said, I feel most energized by getting to know someone in individual conversations rather than group settings. Now, I just can't get together for coffee dates with everyone I'd like to, so I've needed to figure out a new normal for maintaining my friendships.

This week I had an opportunity to meet a friend whose son is the same age as my middle daughter. The two of them play together really well, they're two peas in a pod. We met at an indoor playground down the street and sat and drank hot chocolate while they ran and climbed to their hearts content. (and then went home and took really long naps). It was good for my mama's hear to watch my daughter play with her little buddy. I haven't seen kids her age play so well with others, yet these two just love each other. I love that they enjoy each other so much.

And it was also good to connect with my friend, to shoot the breeze and catch up on our daily lives. It was so simple, just sitting together watching our kids play. Yet it was so needed; we each needed the encouragement of a good listener and positive voice in our lives that day. Connecting with my friend didn't need to be anything super involved or extraordinary, it just flowed naturally from what we were already planning to do that day (letting our kids play). We just did it together. 

Will you join me in this summer challenge to Enjoy the Here and Now? 

I'd love to hear about your experience with each challenge! Be sure to comment here or on Facebook by June 10 to be featured in next week's #ETHANproject post! Also check out the #ETHANproject Facebook page to follow all the great bloggers involved in this summer project!

Linked up at Grounded and Surrounded

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ex-Pat Life Series Part 5: Acculturation: What's a trashcan go to do with it?

“You know you’ve acculturated when…” is the question I recently asked on a Facebook group for ex-pats. I got a lot of fun answers:

-“You see a crumb on the floor and automatically assume its gecko poop.”
-“You smile (and mean it) when someone says, ‘You are very fat’.”
-“You never feed the monkeys.”
-“You’re conversation doesn’t stop just because the lights go out.”
-“You can bargain in another language at the market and get a good deal.”
-“Brown water from the faucet doesn’t faze you.”
-“Personal space has no meaning.”
-“Your facebook friends post in 12 languages.”

Acculturation is, the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group”. Its something that gradually sneaks up on you and surprises you with its dimming of peculiarities, its normalizing of differences.  One day you’re walking down the street and find yourself questioning the oddness of a hole and torn up sidewalk in the middle of a week day on a busy street in the rain, while vaguely recalling that the same sight a year ago would have sent you into a scathing Facebook status update.

Acculturation is a process of internal change, one of those things that takes time. The longer you live somewhere, the more you adapt and adjust to the customs and culture. Not only that, but the more open you are to new ideas and new experiences, the more flexible your attitude and more positive your outlook, the easier it will be for you to acculturate.

Of course there are always those who don’t seem to acculturate no matter how long they’ve lived overseas. And there are people who, no matter how seasoned a traveler and how optimistic, don’t seem to be able to adjust due to extenuating circumstances.

Last year after our move to China I found myself initially really frustrated by life here. (I still have my “Shang-low” days (as opposed to Shang-“high” days, get it?), but they’re getting further and farther between). There were 2 things in particular that just really irked me about living here: the size of our kitchen trash bin and trash bags, and lack of a garbage disposal. First world problems, I know I know! I knew these were little ticks on the back of world peace type problems, but they were my scapegoat for why I was frustrated. 

“I HATE not having a garbage disposal! How am I supposed to wash dishes? How can we even function like this?”

“I MISS having a large kitchen trash bin! I wish we had brought a stockpile of trash bags, these just don’t hold everything I want to throw out during the day and they always break! It’s so annoying!”

I’m ashamed to admit it now; I know how petty it sounds. Like I said, my kitchen was my scapegoat for the stress of relocation.

One day, upon taking out our kitchen trash yet again, I had an epiphany. I asked myself two questions that empowered me in a stressful situation and shifted my attitude from that day on.

What can I change?

In this situation, I had control! I could find a new, larger trashcan and trash bags, adventure though it may be. I could ask people from the U.S. to bring me trash bags when they visited (er…awkward!). I could find a better garbage situation. Its my kitchen and my trash after all! I could change things if I didn’t like how they were done! I may not be able to change things outside of the walls of my home, but there are things I could change behind them.

What do I need to accept?

There was no way I was going to convince my landlord to install a garbage disposal, really I don’t even know if that’s a thing here. So rather than get frustrated every single time I went to wash a dish (and lets be honest, its not that often), I could choose to accept it and move on. I could learn to do dishes differently. I know that in many countries its not the norm to have garbage disposals and many homes in the States don’t have them, so really this was a luxury that I could easily learn to live without.

These are two SMALL, miniscule even, examples of things to which I needed to adapt. Like I said, I know how petty these things are, and there are things happening in the world that are so SO much worse. In no way do I feel entitled to having a large trash bin or garbage disposal, they were just silly things about my previous lifestyle that required an adjustment.

When moving, especially internationally, sometimes it’s the little things that help make the adjustment just that much easier. Its empowering to take a reality check of your life to determine what is actually in your control, and what is out of your control but you have to live with anyway.

Whether you’re living overseas or in your passport country, the next time you find yourself frustrated by your circumstances, ask yourself what you can change and what you can accept, and watch how your attitude shifts. Hopefully for the better. 

And hopefully you have a garbage disposal in your kitchen sink.

Lived overseas? What bugged you initially and how did you cope?
Monday, June 1, 2015

How will you Enjoy the Here and Now this summer?

When I was a young mother, I had to learn the difference between happiness and joy. Happiness, for me, is that light, easy feeling that comes when life is simple and good. Joy is the persevering peace that abides whether life is easy or complicated, full of strife or full of contentment. Learning to live in joy (en-joy) is a vital skill to master. – Tessa from "The Homestead Lady

If you follow me on facebook, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m participating in the #ETHANproject this summer…since I announced it. I couldn’t wait! I’m so excited to be joining some of my favorite bloggers in a 10 week series of summer challenges and want to invite you to join us too.

#ETHANproject stands for “Enjoy the Here and Now”, and was developed to encourage moms to intentionally create space to be present (not just physically, but mentally and emotionally) and enjoy their kids this summer.

If you’re like me and you’re a mom of young kids, I know you can identify when I say that life is a whirlwind. The days often are long but seem like nothing got done and are full of busyness that I have trouble remembering at the end of the day. I mostly feel like I’m in survival mode and am trying to get everyone through until bedtime. Since my kids are not yet in school, summer pretty much feels like the rest of the year, perhaps with less resources and activities available. I’m hoping this challenge will help me parent with intentionality this summer.

In Shanghai in the summer, many families visit their home countries while the husbands stay here and work, so it can be a bit of a lonely time. This means that there are less activities taking place and that many friends are out of town. On the flip side it provides an opportunity to get to know people on a deeper level, and I’m grateful I had that experience last year. If you’re in a similar situation, perhaps the #ETHANproject is the just the thing you need to help you through the summer!

I’M SO EXCITED that we’ll be visiting America as a family this summer for the first time since we moved to China! I’m looking forward to letting these prompts direct my time with my kids and with my people. I’m hoping this will help remind me to tune into my kids as we travel and are a bit out of our routine, to help me connect with them in the midst of this fun time, as well as during the transition and the challenges of leaving family and friends and coming back to China.

If you don’t have children there’s something here for you too! We can all learn to live with a little more intentionality, learn to better reach out and connect with others, and practice the discipline of “presence”.

Every Friday I’ll be sharing my experience that week as well as introducing the next challenge. I’d love to hear from you about how you lived it out each week, about your experience and stories from your week. Be sure to comment on the Friday post introducing the challenge, or on my Facebook page, by Wednesday and I may feature your story in my post!

You can also join the #ETHANproject Facebook page to hear from other bloggers and participants, and check out the weekly Friday link up page.

Are you interested in becoming an #ETHANproject blogger? Click here for more information.

      As a mom, life goes by so fast and we don't usually get the chance to really enjoy it as it is happening. Sometimes you get so caught up in the dishes and the laundry and the everyday stuff, that you don't see the bigger picture. Take some time every night, or once a week, and just reflect on what you did with your kids, what you think you did right that needs repeating and the things that you would like to change going forward. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, but it does take conscious effort to just reflect on the immediate past and enjoy the here and now a little more. – Kristen from “The Practical Mommy” 


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