In Place of my Husband

It’s now been 3 1/2 weeks since I last saw my husband.  We’re at about the mid-point of our home leave.

Since I have a whole big bed to myself, I make it a point to only use half of the bed each night.  That way, in the morning, I only have to make one side.  It’s a laziness issue more than anything.  So, on what would be my husband’s side of the bed, I have replaced him with the following items:

1.  My laptop:  My husband is a Mac snob, so it is a MacBook something-or-other (I honestly haven’t paid that much attention).  But it keeps me connected, so I’m not complaining.  It’s the only computer we brought back to the States with us, so I have to fight my kids for it.  But at night, it’s usually here on the bed with me.

2.  An external hard-drive:  It’s loaded with movies and TV shows.  Really the only thing that I ever watch from it is the series Everybody Loves Raymond which I honestly could watch a hundred times.  That Ray Romano is hysterical!

3.  A cell phone:  It’s an antique iPhone 2.  When we moved to Taiwan it lost its phone status and was demoted to a simple iPod.  But we found that we could put a GoPhone card in it and resurrect it to its former state as a phone, albeit temporarily.  When we go back to Taiwan at the end of the month, it will be demoted back to iPod.

4.  My iPad:  If you have to replace your husband with something, this is it ladies!  The iPad is the greatest invention since fire.

5.  A book:  Right now it’s a book by Robert M. Edsel entitled The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.  It’s a historical book about the soldiers who were responsible for protecting and retrieving the great works of European art from the Nazis during WWII.  I would highly recommend it to any art history buffs out there.

6.  My scriptures:  I find that reading from them each day inspires me and keeps me grounded.  It helps me remember that there is more to this life than the everyday mundane.  Reading from them reminds me of what is really important.  I would highly recommend putting in those few minutes everyday.

So, that’s what has replaced my husband.  My other option was a big slobbery dog.  Although more comparable to my husband in hairiness, a dog would have been harder to get into a suitcase when we go back to Taipei in 3 1/2 weeks.

My Four Men

I have four men.  They’re my men and I love them.  Two of my men are right here in my house with me at this very minute.  I’m grateful for that.  But two of my men are far away.  And on this day, I am missing those two men.

Today would have been my father’s 80th birthday.  He’s been gone for almost 5 years now.  He was my first man.  He was the man who taught me what a man was supposed to be.  He taught me well.  He taught me that a man is strong and energetic; a man loves and cares for his family.  He taught me that a man works hard.  He taught me that a man is good and trustworthy.  My father supported me in all my endeavors, he paid for my lessons and tuition, he came to my games and plays.  He was patient with me.  Best of all, my father believed that I was an amazing person and when I was around him, I believed that I was an amazing person too.  I’m so grateful for the knowledge that I will see my father again one day. My first man was a really, really good man.

My second man is my husband Jason.  Jason and I have been apart for almost three weeks now.  We’re on different continents, in different hemispheres.  We’ll be apart for another month.  By the time we see each other again, we will have spent five months of the past year apart.  I miss my husband.  My husband loves me and I love him.  My husband tells me that I’m beautiful.  It’s wonderful to know that one person on this planet thinks that I’m beautiful.  Every woman should have that.  I’m able to live the lifestyle I’ve always dreamed of because my husband works hard to provide it for me.  My husband is smart, my husband is handsome and my husband is good.  I make it a point to surround myself with funny people, and my husband is truly funny.  And better yet, my husband thinks that I’m funny.  My second man is a very, very good man.

I have two other men.  They are my sons, ages 11 and 13.  My last two men are cute, they are smart, they are funny, they are strong, they are resilient, they are kind and they are growing up to be very, very good men.

So I’m a bit melancholy today thinking of my two missing men.  But, oh am I grateful for the two men who are here in the house with me right now.  Straight, white men have gotten a pretty bad rap during the past couple of decades.  Husbands have also gotten a bad rap.  It’s become the fashion for women to mock their husbands or to treat them like they’re not really needed or necessary.  Many women have chosen to basically eliminate men from their lives altogether.  I will never do that.  My men are too precious to me.  Each is a blessing from my Father in Heaven and I desperately need each one.  My men bring balance into my life.  Each has taught me important lessons.  Each has made me a better woman.

I love my four men and I thank the Lord for giving them to me.

A Change of Heart

If you read my last post, you undoubtedly felt a little nauseous from my whining about international travel with kids and the resulting jet-lag.  It’s amazing what lack of sleep can do to the human brain.  I am now well rested and over my jet-lag (thanks for the Melatonin tip Carrie) and I am thinking much more clearly.  And, I am not writing this post at 4:00 a.m., which also helps.  So I officially apologize to the readers of my blog, although I can’t promise that you won’t have to endure whiny babble from me ever again; because frankly, it’s just part of who I am. (Just ask my husband.)

Truth be told, after just eight days back in the U.S., I am more certain than ever that our decision to join the Foreign Service and expat life was the right one.  It’s not that our life in the U.S. wasn’t great, and I’ll admit that Foreign Service life is definitely not for everyone.  But it is undoubtedly right for our family.  I know that this path was divinely directed and it is what we need to be doing.

Since I have been home I have gotten the same question over and over:  What do you like about living abroad?  Here’s my answer:  I am living my dream!  It’s a dream I have had since I was fifteen years old.  I love living in a foreign country, not just visiting it as a tourist.  The two are very different.  I love feeling out of my element and the reward I get when I figure stuff out.  I love observing a new culture.  I love the new colors and smells.  I love (and occasionally hate) tasting new food.  I even enjoy the challenge of learning a new language.  I love the opportunities for growth, understanding and compassion that living abroad has given me.  I especially love my new friends; friends from all over the world that have enriched my life.  Living abroad has also given me a new appreciation for my American citizenship.

So, am I grateful for my little home in suburban Utah?

Absolutely!

But would I trade my expat life for all the tea in China (or Taiwan)?

Not on your life!

 

Second Thoughts

This week marks the one year anniversary of Jason’s acceptance into the Foreign Service; and for the first time in a year, I am having second thoughts on our decision to join this life of travel.  Turns out, I am a terrible traveler.

My husband is a much better traveler than I am.  He gets all giddy over the intricacies of travel.  He loves researching luggage.  He once attended a Tommy Bihn rally in Washington D.C. and one of his most prized possessions is his Red Oxx carry-on. (I’m not sure he’s going to be very pleased with me publishing this fact, since, for an otherwise manly man, it’s kind of a girly hobby.)   He also insists on practice-packing a week before a trip.  Seriously, he practice-packs! And the only thing worse than having a husband that practice-packs is having a husband who expects me to do the same.  Here’s the thing, I don’t want to practice-pack because I don’t want to practice-unpack.  And I especially don’t want to live out of a suitcase, in my own house, for a week.  But, he gets way into it and I guess that everyone needs a hobby, so I live with it.  I’ll take it over hobbies like gambling or snake husbandry.

Here’s the other thing: I hate flying.  I hate it so much that the mere thought of having to endure a long flight makes me want stick needles in my eyes.  One of the worst experiences of my life was a flight I took a couple of years ago from Paris to Houston.  The flight was something like ten hours long.  I sat next to a gigantic, smelly Ukrainian man who had no sense of personal space.  He spent the entire flight digging his elbow into my ribcage.  Longest ten hours of my life!

I actually don’t mind short flights, anything less than four hours.  But I hate long international flights because unless I’m in first class, I can’t sleep on an airplane.  That makes international flights really long.  I’ve had people tell me to try taking sleeping pills.  But when I’m flying with children, especially when I’m flying without my husband, I have a fear of someone kidnapping one of my children while I’m passed out in a Tylenol PM-induced coma.  I’m not sure where a kidnapper would hide my kids on the plane until it landed, but that’s beside the point.

Finally, since I don’t sleep on planes, I end up with terrible jet-lag.  When we flew to Taiwan in December, I had such horrible jet-lag that I was worthless for a week.  And as I type, although it has been over five days since we landed in the U.S., it is 4:07 a.m. and I have been trying to fall asleep since 11:00 p.m.  Yes, I am a wreck.

I thought that getting all this out of my system and onto the computer would make me at least a tiny bit drowsy.  Turns out I was wrong.  Will someone please just shoot me?!  Anyone?  Anyone?

Bone Crushing Jade

Tonight Jason and I went on a hot date to dinner and to the Taipei Jade Market.  Taipei has a huge jade market located near the AIT (aka the U.S. embassy) where Jason works.  I told Jason that I wanted to get some jade bracelets before I return to the States next month.   The Taipei Jade Market is located under a raised highway, along with a flower market and art market.  During the week the location is a parking lot, but on the weekends it turns into a bustling market full of all sorts of plants, art and of course, jade.

Truth be told, I have never bought jade before and I have no idea what makes a good jade bracelet.  The one thing I can tell you is that most jade is green.  However, the color ranges from a dark emerald-green to a green so light that it is almost white.  There were even some vendors selling red, orange and purple jade.  But I wanted traditional green jade.  So I walked up to one vendor, picked up a bracelet and asked, “Duoshao qian?” With my tone-deaf Chinese, it’s possible that instead of asking “how much?” I may have actually said “cow dung?”  He seemed to get what I was asking though and he grabbed his calculator and showed me that the bracelet was $450,000 NT.  If that amount seems exorbitant, it is.  That comes to almost $15,000 U.S.  Jason and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and I said, “Are you sure you don’t mean this?”  Then I grabbed the calculator and punched in $4500 NT (about $150 U.S.)  He took the calculator from me and said, “No!”  And then he punched in 450,000 again.  I looked at him and said, “Your jade is more expensive than diamonds!”  And with that, Jason and I walked away, shaking our heads.  I’m pretty sure that vendor was smoking something; possibly cow dung.

We perused a few more tables until we came to one with a sweet looking little lady.  I picked up a bracelet and asked “Duoshao qian?”  She picked up her calculator and punched in $3000 NT. (Just a little less than the $450,000 NT the last guy was asking.)  I then tried to put it on my wrist.

I need to pause here and say that the bracelets I was looking at were made from one round solid piece of jade.  There were no clasps on the bracelets.  I had to be able to fit my hand through the circle to put them on.  And therein lies a bit of a dilemma.  See, in the U.S. I’m actually small to medium boned; but in Asia, I’m mammoth boned.   As a result, my hand was way to big to fit through the vast majority of the bracelets which were rightly made for teeny-tiny Asian women.

So the woman handed me a bracelet and told me that it should fit me.  I tried it on, but could quickly see that my hand was not going to fit through the hole.  She then grabbed a plastic bag and told me to put my hand in it.  Now a quick word of advice:  if you ever find yourself in any sort of market under a raised highway and a tiny Chinese woman tells you to put your hand into a bag, DON’T DO IT!!!  Not having ever received this advice, I ignorantly stuck my hand into the bag, at which time, the woman shoved my hand, bag and all, through the bracelet.  It was the most excruciating 20 seconds of my life!  I was writhing in agony the entire time.  Unable to speak because of the pain, I looked over at Jason and with my eyes, begged him to stop this madness.  Mercilessly, he just laughed at me.  When the torture was finally over and the bracelet was safely on my wrist, I looked down at my hand, afraid to remove the bag for fear that my hand was completely mangled.  Luckily, my hand wasn’t mangled, but it was bright red and pulsing.

I turned to Jason and cried, “Now I’ve got to get this thing off!”

He replied with a snickering, “Uh huh!  Did you bring the camera?”

“Really?!  You want to film this?!”

“Uh huh.”

That man is seriously warped.

Regardless, I still had to get the thing off and the mere thought made me want to cry.  And all the while, the woman continued to try to convince me that this bracelet was the right size for my huge hand!  I spent a minute or so gearing up for what was to come, then stuck my hand back in the bag and told the woman to take the bracelet off me.  She then started the painstaking process of removal.  Again, I writhed in pain and opened my mouth in a wide, silent scream.  And all the while my husband stood next to me laughing.  This time, I honestly thought she had broken a couple of bones in my hand.

Luckily, I have no broken bones.  But now, four hours later, I have three big bruises on my hand, lingering pain and three lovely jade bracelets.

 

 

Holding Babies

Every mom remembers that moment when the doctor places their first child in their arms.  I’m going to be perfectly honest here, that moment was a little uncomfortable for me.  My oldest daughter was born a month early and I wasn’t quite emotionally ready for her when she was born.  When I was on the delivery table and the doctor told me to go ahead and start pushing, all I could think of was, Just hold on a second here!  I’m having second thoughts on this whole motherhood thing.  I’m not ready to start pushing because I’m not ready to be a mother yet.  Let’s all just take a little break here and discuss this like adults.

Realizing that these thoughts were futile, I threw them out of my mind and obediently started pushing.  Ten minutes and a set of forceps later Cecily was in my arms.  Again, my reaction was a little strange.  Because she was a month early, Cecily was super skinny, weighing in at 5 lbs. 11 oz.  She had really long skinny arms and legs.  Her nose was smashed flat against her face and her ears were curled up against her head.  She had some pretty good bruising on her head where they used the forceps to pull her out.  When I got my first look at her the my only thought was, I just gave birth to a spider monkey!  

I think that the nurse could see that I was holding her a little awkwardly.  She took her from me, cleaned her up, ran the Apgar tests, bundled her up and handed her back to me.  At that point I felt that I bonded with my baby.  I had time to take a few deep breaths and accept the whole motherhood thing.  That’s when I fell in love with my daughter.  That’s when I became a mother.

Fast forward a few years to when I had my two sons.  I love baby boys!  They are hysterical!  They are especially hysterical when they come after an extremely feminine girl.  Little boys are all roly-poly.  Their little diapered behinds look so cute in a tiny pair of jeans.  They make little boy grunts that are so different from the sweet little dove coos that come from girls.  They’re so physical and they are always moving.  All of this combined makes it so sublime when they stop moving for just a few moments and sit on their momma’s lap.  When the only thing that moves is their big belly which goes up and down as they breathe.  That is a great feeling for the mom of a boy.  But unfortunately it only lasts for a few brief seconds and then they are right back to being roly-poly, physical boys.

One of my favorite things about my little boys was squeezing their little bum cheeks when they were in the bathtub.  I would say to them, “Someday you won’t let me squeeze your naked rumpy, so I have to get all of it in now, while I still can.”  Sadly, the day did come when I was no longer able to do this.  At 11 and 13, they don’t particularly appreciate my reaching my hand into their showers and squeezing their bottoms.  Sniff!

So, what got me thinking about all of this was today when my 6-year-old Elizabeth woke up with a fever.  She slept half the night in our bed between me and Jason.  This morning I asked her if she wanted some breakfast and she shook her red-cheek face.  So I picked her up and carried her into the kitchen, set her down on a bar stool and fed her breakfast.  But during that walk from the bedroom to the kitchen I thought how grateful I was that I could still carry my baby.  After about one more inch growth I will no longer be able to carry her.  It will probably be about that time that she will no longer want to sit on my lap.  That makes me sad.  I think that right there will officially end my tenure as a mother of little kids.  But for now, it’s the last thing I have to hold onto, both literally and figuratively.  For a few more months I can still carry my baby and hold her on my lap, feeling how perfectly moms’ and babies’ bodies mold together.

Once this is over, I will officially be an old lady.

(Cue the wailing and gnashing of teeth.)