Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blogger's Remorse

So,  it's been a long, long long time since I sat down and posted. Since February, I've purchased a yoga studio with two other partners, Lee haS left for a year long deployment, we've braved a whole summer with mom working full time, our dog has had puppies, we've lost a gerbil, two frogs and a hermit crab, and in general we've been busier than we've ever been in our entire life!

Whew, what a mouthful..... Let's back up to the yoga studio. While living in China I kept feeling that I needed to find a job, but there was nothing there that really suited me. When we got word that we'd be returning to the States, I again felt that I should find a job but also felt very strongly that I should be patient and allow the right opportunity to present itself. I went on an interview (singular, mind you) and realized right away that a position in typical corporate America wasn't going to be a good fit for our family. I posted lots of resumes, entertained a few ideas and ultimately, just as I knew from the beginning, the right opportunity presented itself to our family.

I had been attending yoga classes at a nearby studio for about 2 months, when the studio became available for purchase. I began to investigate, not knowing how in the world I would manage to come up with the capital. I met with the studio owner and her broker, felt really good about things and then got word the next day that she had accepted an offer from a cash buyer. I was disappointed but somehow not heartbroken, feeling as though things would still work out.

The buyers were looking for a manager for the studio and so the studio owner put me in contact with the buyers, who interviewed me and hired me on the spot. I was very happy! Two days later we met over dinner with Lee so we could talk and get acquainted. Richard and Paula Albertson turned out to be a great couple who offered me the chance to not just manage the studio, but to be a partner as well. So, through a roller coaster chain of events, I found my dream job (I don't have to wear shoes all day long!) and feel so satisfied in my career field. I am home each day by about 2:30 and am able to work from home if necessary. I get to practice yoga for free (not that I have the free time very often!) and I get to promote something that I truly believe in wholeheartedly.

You could argue all day with me that there is no God or that He has no part in our everyday life, but I'd never listen to a word you'd have to say. I don't particularly believe in coincidence, but have a firm belief and knowledge that the Lord only directs and blesses us as we listen and follow based on faith. What an opportunity of a lifetime for me and my family! I must say that we've been blessed in ways we could never have forseen.

Stay tuned for more on Lee's deployment and the blessings and challenges that it has brought to our family.

Friday, April 22, 2011

World's Greatest Compliment

Recently I received the best compliment ever.

I'm not married to my brother.... you will all sigh a breath of relief for that admittance. But what that means, is that I'm not married to the King of Words of Affirmation, for any of you '5 Love Languages' readers out there. I'm not married to the guy that gives glowing praises in the form of flowery, romantic compliments. Given that my love language just happens to be Words of Affirmation, I soak it up like a sponge. For any of you who know my brother, he absolutely ruined me for all other men in the 'compliment' department. We roomed together in college, so I spent 3 years enjoying all kinds of ego boosting compliments about how pretty or smart I was, what a good friend I was, or any other number of glowing words of encouragement and brotherly praise.

Anyway, I digress.

A few days ago I was riding bikes home with the kids after school. As we rode through a tunnel of leafy green with delicate slices of brilliant blue sky and perfect dapples of shady patterns splashed across the pavement of our oak lined street, I told the kids "Isn't this street the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?" We rode along quietly  enjoying the soft scent of new leaves and newly cut grass.  I was truly absorbed in the moment and caught completely off guard when my little Cooper said (after quite a long pause of deep thought) "Actually, it's not mom, that's you!".

Oh be still my beating heart! My sweet, sweet five year old managed to take my breath away for a fleeting moment of tender mom heaven.

Salute to Captain Fun

As a new working mother and recently 'single' mother, due to Lee's deployment, one of my chief concerns has been the kids. I've worried about leaving them home alone, about having them feel abandoned or that I don't love them because I'm so busy all the time. Balancing home, work and church life has been a challenge since I purchased the yoga studio.

One evening before Lee left I was particularly stressed because I had to go to work and Lee was stuck in meetings. In desperation I looked across to yard to see Tyler Gambone, our neighbor's 19 year old son, playing outside with his little brother and 2 sisters, ages 3-7. Out of sheer panic, I asked him if he'd possibly be able to watch the kids for a few hours 'just until Lee gets home'.

Tyler's one night stand in gig has turned into an extended 'amusement park vacation', if you will. Tyler is getting ready to go to training with the Army as a National Guard Reservist. That leaves him currently unemployed and unattached, all the better for us! He's my #1 go to guy when it comes to babysitting and errand running. He takes Ally to gymnastics when I can't, he helps around the yard and best of all - he's an awesome babysitter.

I come home to a clean house every time. Yes, ladies, you heard right.... my 19 year old male babysitter cleans up with the kids each time he babysits. The kids adore him, I mean downright adore him! They once called Lee and I on our date to find out if we could 'stay out later, please mom, please'. If I come home early from work, the kids are mad at me. They dubbed him Captain Fun.

What did Captain Fun do to earn his stripes, so to speak? He plays board games, rides bikes, rides ribsticks, he plays goalie in full hockey gear.... allowing the kids to whack him with their hockey sticks. Tyler plays catch in the yard, brings over potato guns (when parents are home, of course), teaches the kids to play basketball, lets the kids crawl all around and on top of his jeep. He helps with homework and cooks macaroni and cheese.

Today was my all time favorite. It's Good Friday and the kids are out of school. I got home at 2:30 to find everyone swimming in the backyard pool.... but the kicker is that the pool was FULL of WATER BALLOONS! We had a festival of colored globes floating in our backyard lagoon. Some of the balloons had two or three smaller water balloons inside them. You just can't beat Captain Fun in terms of good times and lots of smiles.





So thank you Tyler, for easing my conscience and keeping my kids safe and happy when I'm not around!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Gal's Best Friend

Some say diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I beg to differ. I've got a little sidekick that really makes me smile. She doesn't require much, just two square meals a day, a ride in the car as often as possible, and a few potty breaks (preferably in the neighbor's yard). My little companion loves to sit on my lap when I drive around town running errands, which makes my husband cringe at the thought. She goes absolutely and fantastically bananas at the sound of my car keys jangling, barking, dancing on hind legs, running frantic circles around my legs and in general causing complete mayhem until we walk out the door together.

We got Brescia (brae-schia) when she was probably only 5 weeks old, while we were living in Shanghai. I had asked the local pet shop owner if he could find us a miniature schnauzer puppy. Much to my surprise, the following week he called to say he'd found one. So, we went in to the shop and without warning, fell irrevocably head over heels in love with our little darling. When I suggested to the pet shop owner that she was too young to take home, he offered to keep her at the shop for a few more weeks. Of course, I had meant that she should be returned to her mother! So, we took her home to our loving family and she's been a joy ever since.DSC_0241.JPG


After she came home from her first haircut I was certain they had given me the wrong dog! She went from this:

brescia and gum.jpg

To this:


She's such a loyal little companion. She follows me from room to room, watching my every move. She knows the jingle of the keys, the flip flop of my shoes and even recognizes the snapping sound of my running socks being put on. My little pengyou (friend in Mandarin) runs my 6 milers with me twice a week, she goes tot he store with me, waiting in the car... she pretty much goes where I go. If I am behind closed doors she just waits by the door patiently until I come out.


She's a gal's best friend and I couldn't ask for a more faithful companion.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Plans

So this year we are having Thanksgiving with our friends, Angie and Brian Kehl. We met them at our one visit to the Brandon Ward, back when we thought that's where we were supposed to go to church. As it turns out, after meeting them just once we really, really like them! They just got back from 4 years in Germany and have 3 kids that more or less match up with our kids.

Grandma and Grandpa Cannon are in town for Thanksgiving and we are so happy to have them here. Originally I had told Lee that I just wanted to have the holidays by ourselves, since he's leaving in April. But then, I thought about it and realized that I really wanted to have the Cannon's with us, to see Lee once more before he leaves for almost a year. It's been a year since he's seen his parents, and I just didn't want one year to turn into 3 because of a deployment. While I wish my parents were here to celebrate, I'm looking forward to lots of visits from them while Lee's away and am already working out my summer trips to visit them in Atlanta. :-)

So, between the three families, we've worked out the following ideas for Thanksgiving:

Turkey (of course0
Ham, because the turkey I had already gotten for free is only 12 lbs.
Green Beans
Sweet Potato Fluff
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Homemade Dinner Rolls
Orange Knots (Angie's family tradition) - sweet knot shaped bread with an orange glaze (You Can Never Have Too Much Bread!)
Cranberry Sauce
Grandma Cannon will make some fancy Jell-O creation :-) (I think whipped cream is involved)
Angie's bringing some sort of cranberry dessert.
Apple Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Pecan Pie

Angie and I had a fun time discussing our menu, deciding who will cook what, and talking about our favorite family traditions.

I'm not sure if we'll have enough to eat! Ha! I'm excited to share Thanksgiving with new friends, happy to try new recipes and Thankful for another prosperous and healthy year for my family.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shanghai Immortal

It's been almost four months since we left Shanghai, yet questions continue to pelt my thoughts like painful showers of hail, unexpectedly surfacing in a random springtime storm. Why are we Stateside again? Why were we uprooted from our home, our life and our friends, without choice? Why are we in this hot place, where winter never comes but fall taunts with false promises that peep quietly around the edge of a distant corner yet never materialize? Why is making friends so painful and hard. Will I ever really find a satisfying rhythm to my life here in Tampa?

Take warning, there will be no glorious moments at the end of this post. No epiphanies of gratitude will frost the edges of my lamentations.

I miss the bustling city, the dirty sidewalks filled with dark haired Asians, the faces of whom I never thought would haunt my waking dreams. I ache for the smells of bread being fried in a cauldron-like container of hot oil, set upon a propane fire. If only I could just walk across the street, greet my favorite fruit vendor with a smile and a receive her traditional greeting of "Have you eaten today?" I want to peruse the selection of greens, smell the tomatoes for freshness, bargain with the vegetable man over his overpriced mushrooms. I want to take a special trip down the canal side street, even though it's not really on my way home, just so that I can go through another vegetable market where they sell my favorite frosting-less Chinese version of cupcakes, which are baked in a dutch oven heated by charcoal. In that market all the vendors, dressed in their many layers of dirty coats, leggings and gloves with the fingertips cut off, would stare at my white face. They would all whisper about the 'outside person', ie, foreigner, that is in their market. I'd smile, ask them in Mandarin what the price is for their spinach, and enjoy the look of shock as they realized that this foreigner not only speaks a little Mandarin, but savors each tone, each inflection which gives meaning to the words that are spoken.

Strawberries aren't in season right now. If I were in China, I'd yearn for a big plump strawberry (because they aren't available in the off season) hand chosen from various baskets to ensure I was getting the very best berries for my RMB. I'd watch the lady dump my chosen basket into a plastic bag. She'd set it on her scale and tell me the price, rounding down to make me feel like I was getting a good deal. Now I just go to Publix, choose the best looking plastic box of strawberries, no matter the season. I won't have a say in the price, and the berries although always available won't taste nearly as sweet and some sort of satisfaction will be lost in the impersonal process of putting them in my cart as I amble down the aisles of the overstocked grocery store, living in the land of plentiful.

I miss my housekeeper. Plain and simply, I loved her help around the house. I loved the freedom of no dishes, no laundry and a break from cooking dinner whenever I pleased. However, to be even more bluntly honest, I miss her companionship. Ying began working in our home when neither she or I spoke even a word of each other's native tongue. Over the course of two years, we learned to communicate. She taught me to speak Chinese, to understand more than just the words, but also the people, the culture and the way of life. She became my closest friend in Shanghai. I find immense satisfaction and joy in serving my family again. My offerings of manual labor fill a void in my soul and bring fulfillment to my life that was undeniably missing while Ying shouldered my burden for two years. I ache for Ying to walk through my front door, smiling and eager to see me.

I miss my Shanghai Branch family. Being an 'outside person' in a city of 18 million Chinese could render you feeling quite helpless and alone, if not for the genuine love and tenderness shown by the members of the Shanghai Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We arrived in Shanghai on a Monday and our first week was so scary and overwhelming. It was such a relief to attend church for the first time the following Sunday. We were welcomed with an exuberance that I have never before experienced. We were invited to dinner, invited for play dates, invited for lunch, invited for just about any sort of social occasion that you can imagine.

Holidays in Shanghai were never a lonely event. Thanksgiving was full of love, laughter and people. The Butters family would invite 50 of their favorite people into their home to share turkey, mashed potatoes and all the traditional dishes, simultaneously sharing their love and friendship. I don't think Thanksgiving will ever be the same for us.

I miss the thrill of searching out a rumored 'Western' restaurant where you hope that just once, the food will be right. Of course, it never tasted like the food at home, but for some crazy reason just exploring the city and chasing down that shadow of a hope was always exciting and fun.

I miss the seafood department at the grocery store, where one could buy anything from live shrimp to live bullfrogs or turtles. Picking out the choicest cut of meat or piece of chicken with your bare hands and 10 of your closest (or not so close) fellow Shanghai residents was always high on the list of exciting things to do on a Saturday. Just in case you're in the neighborhood, NEVER go to Carrefour (the local version of Walmart) on a Saturday. I'd rather have my toes run over by a scooter than go shopping anywhere in Shanghai on a Saturday.

I'm still aching for the sights, smells and sounds of my favorite city. I'm still longing for a crowded subway ride, or eating dinner at a restaurant with my winter coat still on because they don't turn the heat on in the winter. I'm still yearning for a nice long conversation in Mandarin.... hungry for a piece of Chinese bread with salt and chives. I'm still dreaming of a trip to the Science and Technology Museum's subway station, where you can find the city's best fake market.

Shanghai will forever linger in my heart. Somehow it's etched into my soul and has changed me. I think I feel much like someone who has lost a dear friend to death. I know I must move on, I know I must let the ache and anger over leaving go, but somehow am afraid that if i do, I'll forget the city that I loved so much. How do you move on without forgetting? Does the memory of friends and treasured experiences become less important, less vivid or less monumental if you move past the pain and allow it to settle into a mellow warmth in your heart? I'm not sure and I'm terrified to find out.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Morning Ah Ha's

This morning I had a great Ah Ha Moment. As I scanned the kitchen and my family, each one jetting about doing their own private morning ritual, it dawned on me that I'm doing it all wrong. OK, well not ALL of it, but some of it.

Here's my daily cycle:

Get up, get the kids moving.
Start the kids on breakfast or getting dressed, depending on whether or not they are eating free breakfast at school.
Pack lunches.
Hurry to the table to read scriptures.
Get everyone out the door for school so they can arrive 30 minutes early (they REALLY like to get to school super early, don't ask me why).

We either ride bikes or take the car, depending on the weather and the after school activities schedule.
I arrive home to a disheveled home, full of breakfast dishes, clothes from the prior day's ritual nightly shedding for pajamas... newspaper strewn about the living room.... dad's snacks from watching football.... my untidy mess of shoes (I NEVER put my shoes away)... toys randomly mixed with school papers, homework and yet ANOTHER fundraiser paper from school...

I stare at the mess, shrug in frustration at the futile efforts of keeping a tidy house and amble off to my clean bedroom for an hour of watching TV, reading a book or napping.

About 9ish I decide that as much as I want to be a lazy couch potato, it's just not in me to leave a messy house. So I get up and start the day's inventory of to do's. I steadily work my way through house cleaning chores, laundry, grocery shopping, random yet necessary errands and somehow 2:15 comes way too soon and I am back at the school picking up my angels.

We flit from home to play to homework to after-school activities. About 5:00 I start panicking (yes, I do this EVERYDAY!) about what I'm going to cook for dinner, recommitting to getting an earlier jump on dinner tomorrow. Somehow I get dinner together only to play unsympathetic ear to the many and varied complaints from my family about what I have chosen to prepare.

Yesterday's meal was french fries and frozen chicken nuggets, by request from my aforementioned angels. I never put out purely prepared frozen food heated in the oven at 425 degrees for 12-17 minutes, but acquiesced. Lee wasn't thrilled at the prospect, so I made creamed tuna on toast for him, which I  don't really care for, so I made myself a salad. Proud of my ability to please the crowd, I plopped down into my seat at the table only to discover that I had failed to purchase more ketchup, and dinner was on the verge of ruin. Of course, not two bites into the meal, I was allowed the honor of holding audience to the symphony of complaints about the french fries I had chosen to purchase and cook (at 425 degrees for 12-17 minutes). "Mom, you shouldn't buy these french fries next time." "Yeah mom, they're too spicy." "What ARE all those little black things on the french fries mom?" "Mom, do I have to eat ALL my french fries?" "If I don't eat ALL my french fries, can I still eat my Halloween candy after dinner?" You got it folks, somehow, after preparing three separate meals to please the family, I managed to screw it all up!

So, we clean up dinner dishes, I go for a run and come home to find Lee helping the kids with homework (thank you dad!). I set up Family Home Evening, we have our lesson, have ice cream, I scoop Cooper up off the carpet where he has fallen asleep during the lesson, get ice cream dishes into the sink, tuck in the girls and plop down onto the couch with my laptop to watch my shows with ear plugs while Lee watches Monday Night Football. 15 minutes later he is snoring, the TV is blaring and I decide that my bed is a better place to finish my show.

Finally, the day is over. The house is destroyed again. The dishes are only partly done by my sweet children who do the dishes every night, but never quite up to my standards. The table and counters are still littered with crumbs and the sink is half full of pots left to soak (ie, left for mom to handle). The living room is once again strewn with random bits of evidence of the life we live: twizzlers laying halfway out of the package on the table next to dad's recliner, keeping company with a half drunk glass of squirt, separated into layers of squirt and melted ice. Children's socks turned inside out lay in small piles. Half finished book reports echo 4th grader questions in my mind as I walk past; "Mom, do you think this is a good conclusion sentence?" The dog stares at me expectantly as the rest of the house sleeps...."Please take me out, just one last time?" I finally make it to the bedroom, but the cat is reluctant to relinquish his.... no make that MY spot in MY bed. Lights out so that I can listen to the snores of my exhausted husband, who has spent the day working for his family, only to come home and spend his evening doing homework with his kids.

Morning begins again, deja vu like, as we repeat the cycle. So, what's my morning ah ha moment? Before I started writing, my ah ha moment was that my kids should spend part of their morning helping me recover the house. This morning I had them helping me separate dirty laundry. I THOUGHT my ah ha moment was that they should be helping me more. Though I haven't changed that realization, my moment of clarity has shifted, after writing this post.

Here's the amazing Kitty thought for the morning.... none of those daily details that I've so carefully crafted in a written devotion to the disorder in my life are really all that bad. Actually, they aren't undesirable in the least bit!

Waking up to a house full of children means that our life is full of LIFE. Watching kids bustle about the house in seeming disorder and chaos is  a sign of vibrant life, of healthy children. How blessed are we to have healthy, happy children?  Cleaning up breakfast dishes (again!) simply indicates that our pantry is full, our bodies are well fed. We have the means to purchase food for our families and the strength to prepare and serve it. Standing amidst the disorder of the home, shrugging my shoulders and climbing into bed for an hour is only possible for me because my husband works hard to provide for our family, so that I can stay home and be available for my children and husband. If we weren't so well taken care of, I'd simply be leaving the chaos behind closed doors as I too hurried out to join the masses of the work force. Instead, I am able to  pace myself, choosing which tasks to conquer at my own whims and desires. 

Of course it's not all peaches and cream. We take our lumps as they come. I'd rather be in China. I'd rather be soaking up the culture, complaining abou the filthy and smelly city and the rudeness of Chinese people, who for some unknown reason, refuse to conform to my ideas of a polite society. However, the Lord has seen fit to have us here. People keep telling my to Bloom Where You're Planted. Maybe I'm not quite ready to embrace that saying just yet, but at the very least, I can be thankful for the amazing things that the Lord has provided for me and my family.