Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I've said it before, but this space is long overdue for a face-lift. As far as my profile is concerned, I still live in Shanghai China and am "loving the adventure" there. The fact is I live in Royal Oak Michigan, and I can't come close to a similar sentiment regarding loving or adventure here.

While I recognize that this was part of my life and that I need to move forward, I am feeling strangely nostalgic these days. As I sit here contemplating how to approach the changes needed, I feel slightly tempted to leave this blog as it is and just start a new one. I have moments where I embrace the new and look forward to what will come, but I admit that those are few and far between right now.

It feels like I've taken a step back recently. We moved back to the US over eight months ago, and instead of feeling all settled in and ready to ride this wave, I find my thoughts going toward the what ifs. What if we had stayed in Shanghai? What if we could go back? What if? What if? What if? It's unexpected and frustrating. I figured I would have gone through these thoughts and emotions in the beginning of repatriation--not eight months after moving back to my home country. I can psychoanalyze it to the nth degree, but I have decided to take a less painful approach and simply accept this as part of the process and try to understand it a little better.

This brings me to a note about our culture. So much of our culture is built around the worship of organization and methodology. We focus on minimizing risk, surprise, and failure. We like to know what to expect. We deal in measurable equations. We create routines, organize our families, schedule every moment of our time; and as a result we live with a sense that we are in control. Culture shock, repatriation, and reverse culture shock have been analyzed, written about, and placed into neat little stages. We have even staged grief as a process with the intent of better understanding and therefore equipping.

As a product of this culture, I found myself entangled in a web of thought surrounding repatriation and its stages. Whether conscious or not, I spent a great deal of time and energy wondering if my experience was normal, if I was in the right stage or if I was spending too much time in a particular stage. Somewhere along my thought path, I decided that I was taking far too long to move on and growing more frustrated with each day.

After a bit of reflection (thanks to Aimee Mann and Starbucks), I have come to a fairly simple realization about this whole process. I was hoping to come back, struggle a little, write about it, and then get over it and move on. I wanted a nice neat little package that I could go through with predictable results. For a variety of reasons- this has not been my reality or experience.

I have had to remind myself that I spent more than half of my married life in Shanghai. I lived, worked, and built relationships there. I learned the language, studied the culture, and traveled the land. In my attempt to live as fully as any foreigner can, China became part of me in more ways than I realized. I suppose I expected to come back, shed that part of me and meld into the community around me. Instead, I have been left with the realization that I need to find a way for the whole me to fit into the new reality in which I live.

Times Two

When the boys were born, I received an adorable little frame that read "Twins are Love Times Two". While putting laundry away the other day, I spotted the frame and thought back to the time when I placed their newborn photo inside. I wondered if that person had any idea what she would face two years down the road? I occasionally meet people in public who tell me how doubly blessed I am or how fortunate I am to have twins. I feel a pang of guilt as I fill in the phrase with my new updated versions "Twins are Vomit Times Two, Twins are Snotty Noses Times Two, Twins are Screaming and Waking All Night Times Two". But the guilt gets swept away by a little chuckle.

The last month has been a blur of runny noses, ear infections, coughing fits, vomit, diarrhea, ER visits, and countless calls to the pediatrician. Now that health has returned and life has approached our version of "normal" once again, I am content to stay right here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chronicles of the Trash Heap

Returning to this blog after such an extended absence feels a bit like climbing into my bed after a long journey away. It's comfortable and familiar, but strange and surreal at the same time. It makes me feel like I've been tossing about in beds that weren't quite right. Returning to the familiarity of this space simply illuminates my sore and abused body, while reassuring me that all will be well in the mornings to come. 

I sit here in my basement amidst cartons containing bits of my life- past and present. My trusty old computer has been located; and as of Sunday it was connected to the Internet. Each day holds a small victory in accomplishment and today I began the task of clearing paperwork. While small in notable progress; getting rid of years of accumulated receipts, travel mementos, fliers, and other useless trash is a worthwhile task.

As I stood in my living room thumbing through the years of receipts and paperwork we collected in China, I was struck by an unexpected sadness. The hundreds, if not thousands of receipts that lay on the floor before me- became more than a useless grouping of papers that were blocking my progress toward organization. They became little bits of history that chronicled our lives through records of travel by taxi and subway; memorable meals by way of the grocery stores; cultural exchanges by way of local markets; and life lessons by way of local and international travels. These small, seemingly unimportant and faded little bits were no longer an excitement to toss away; but rather a reminder of what we had experienced over the last 5 years.

Suppressing the sudden urge to reclaim them from the trash heap, I let them go. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011


As I sit here and search my brain for words, I find myself entangled, struggling to locate ideas among the cobwebs in my brain. The sense of triumph and accomplishment that came largely from the nights cleaning binge begins to wane; and the reality of my life and the fatigue that I feel hits me.

The last four months have been a struggle on many levels. I have moved from a foreign country where I lived in acute awareness of my "foreignness" every single day, back into my country of origin- where I feel oddly fit and slightly foreign still. I have moved away from my friends and a community that I came to know, love and rely on over the last 4 years; and I have entered a country that I no longer fully understand. I have become a mother to twin toddlers (toddler hood being a phenomenon that feels almost like birthing another set of children); and I have purchased a home that has required remodeling every square foot. It's been difficult to breathe, let alone gather myself enough to go through the process required by a person when they re- enter their home country after living abroad.

If it feels like I have been talking about this for a long time, it's probably because I have been. Our decision to purchases and remodel our home added an unusual delay to this entire process. Instead of digging in and spending time with old friends and trying to meet new ones; every extra minute has been spent working on this house. It's stunted the process for us and I fear it has dragged this whole thing out longer than needed.

I have been back in the US for close to 5 months now and I still feel like I am repatriating. All of our home goods are either in storage or laying in wait from China. I continue to live out of the 7 suitcases we brought with us from Shanghai back in May; and as the season change approaches- our complete lack of warm clothing is just another reminder of how behind we are.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Once Again

I'm in the midst of what feels like a sinking ship. My life surrounds me in boxes, my home is in renovation shambles, and there is no end in sight. I need to be writing more regularly, but the tiny keyboard on my iPhone isn't the most inspiring for creative thought.

Admittedly things are much better than they were a month ago. While Some small part of me feels like I must acknowledge the bright side at all times; I can't shake the weariness I feel right now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I find myself so desperate for an outlet that I have decided to navigate the ridiculously tiny keyboard on my iPhone and take this time to write. At the risk of sounding incredibly whiny or negative, I will say that the last 4 months have been some of the most difficult. It has been hard to keep perspective and positivity in the midst of the mounting challenges we have faced during our repatriation process.

We are finally in our new home. I would like to report that all is wonderful in the land of DIY; but one problem after another delayed us to the point that we moved in with 80% of the upstairs finished, and a basement in complete and utter disarray.

I am surrounded by the chaos of an international move, a home remodel, and twin todzilla's; but as I sit here looking around me and taking in the quiet that evening brings- I am grateful to be in my new home. I am lightened by the sense of progress and hope in a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Inevitable

The inevitable. I struggle ever so slightly against it, but realize the time has come to give my blog a major overhaul. It is time to change and update everything about it- its photos, its purpose, and its mission.  In working toward these changes, I find myself struggling with the identity of this space in the blogosphere; and through that, have come to realize it's my own identity I am struggling with.

For the last four plus years I have been Jen Kinney- wife and adventurer; living out a life long dream in the city of Shanghai. I have been an explorer, a student of language and cuisine, a writer, and a traveler. I have had the opportunity to wear many different hats and enjoyed each and every one of them.

As if life wasn't exciting enough- I added the hat of motherhood to my wardrobe. While living in Shanghai we welcomed our twin sons into our family and it has been one of the greatest adventures and challenges yet. However wonderful motherhood can be, I find myself in the midst of this repatriation fumbling my way through stay- at- home mommydom and asking some major questions about what it all means.

Hence the identity crisis of sorts...

All of this to say I am not sure when or how these blog changes will take place, but I am certainly working through the details and trying to figure it out. Perhaps this is my way of hanging on, but the time will come when letting go and changing course feels natural. Until then, c'est la vie!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Here It Goes

For the life of me I cannot figure out how or why a video window appeared on my previous post. I therefore, have no greater idea how to remove it. Sorry to those of you hoping to see some adorable little video of the boys- but there is nothing to it. I'm hoping that as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared- it will disappear.

Now on to more or less interesting topics of discussion. I finally have some form of technology that allows me to write again. For those of you ipad, laptop, desktop, multiple techno peeps out there- I can assure you there is nothing glamorous, mysterious or wonderful about the technology free life. So take all those thoughts you have of simplifying your life and running off to some remote space in Ireland to write on paper... with a pen; and toss them out the window. By all means, go to said remote space in Ireland, but just make sure they offer wireless.

Being back in the US has been challenging on many levels, but none more than my lack of time to put thought into written form. I have so many things to sift through and process before I can even begin to share them. We have been caught up in a whirlwind since returning and I am ready to settle down and process through some of these things already.

There are times when I am reminded that I have not fully slotted back into this life here in the US. Times like last night when my husband brought my new vehicle home (a minivan) and I cried...in a beer. No really. I sat down, drank a beer and cried. All because we bought a minivan. I'm thinking that's not normal, so I decided I needed to take some time, let the towels and laundry pile up a little; and just sit down to write while the boys napped. I figure it's time to invest a little in my mental well being for the sake of my sanity as well as my family's.

So here's to processing on repatriating...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Little More

It’s been a while since I have had a chance to sit down and write. I am grateful for my husband who is at home with the children this morning, the hand-me-down laptop that I am writing on, and the coffee that accompanies my brain on this rather dusty road toward a new blog post.

To say that it’s been a long journey to this point is an understatement. We’ve been back in the US for almost 2 months; and in that time we have found and purchased a home, made full plans to remodel it, purchased one vehicle and continue to search for another one. We have celebrated milestones with our children and continue to marvel at how much they blossom and change from one day to the next.

I struggle to find words outside of common clichés but there are moments when it feels like we have been here for days and other moments when it feels like we never left the US.

It’s strange to think that such a significant part of our lives can grow to feel like a distant memory in such a short period of time. We spent close to four and a half years living in China. We built lives, made life long friends, traveled its vast land, learned the language, engaged in the culture, and gave birth to our children there. Though temporary, Shanghai was our home; and I am struggling to feel like it is little more than a dream at this time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

It's been a little more than one month since we moved back to the US and I am just starting to feel reverse culture shock. Since our arrival to the US we haven't stopped long enough to take much in. We've looked for homes, made offers, done inspections, walked away from a house, and started the process all over again. From house hunting and car purchasing, to living everyday life; I haven't had much time to breath, let alone sit and think about how I feel in the midst of this colossal change.

We made an offer on another house and it passed inspection. With one major "to do" checked off our list, it appears as though my psyche has made room for some amount of processing.  I would have preferred a little advanced notice, but instead I awoke this morning to a rather weighty presence known as reverse culture shock. I've been trying to shake it all day but it just won't go away. I miss my friends back in Shanghai as well as the city itself, and I have this looming sense that I don't want to be here, I don't want to buy anything, and I don't want to commit. Yesterday's excitement of rebuilding the interior of my soon- to-be new home has been squelched by the invader of today.

I would really like it to just go away, but will likely need to accept that this is a natural part of repatriation. Easier said than done of course...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Time Crunch

It's early Wednesday morning and I am on the couch in  my living room trying to get a few words in before my children wake. I wish I had more time to write. There are so many things going on here and so little time to actually process through them. That in combination with the fact that I have no computer, the only Internet connection is rather inconveniently located in the kids play area, and I have no time; make my desire to blog little more than that- a desire.

Phil just informed me that he is getting ready to leave for work and needs his laptop, so more later I suppose...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Return

We have been on US soil for approximately 48 hours now and I am not really sure what to say about it all. I think I will need a little more time to unpack, unwind, and try on this new life of mine before I am able to share what I am thinking and feeling. For now, the fog of jet lag and the task of starting life all over with my husband and twin toddlers is taking much of my time and mental energy...

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Repatriation: Covered Over

“My new life back in the United States lay before me with a degree of mystery and heaviness as I weaved the buggy from one street to the next”….

The paths I have carved will soon be covered over by others. The people and places I have come to know and love will continue on. The security guards, the elderly ladies, and the various neighbors walking along will no longer marvel at the shuangbaotai as we enter their gates, walk down their streets, or pass by their knitting circles. The guards who sit at the entrances of my xiao qu’s (neighborhoods) will go on greeting other foreigners as they venture in to wander the quiet streets- hoping to catch a glimpse of local life and perhaps understand the culture a little more. They will all continue on with their daily lives; unchanged by our absence.

It’s hard to comprehend what life will be like in the absence of Shanghai. While I have ideas of what life will be like back in the US, I do not know what it will be like as a repatriated expatriate. It’s commonly understood that repatriation is oftentimes more difficult than the initial move to a foreign land, and I am not naïve enough to think that I will escape this difficulty.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


We finally sat down today to discuss the inevitable week before us. Procrastination is one way of explaining how we got to this point; but we realized we were down to the wire, so it was time to do something. I think the combination of my moderate recovery from aforementioned sinus pressure, our first farewell party with friends last night, and the realization that the movers are coming in oh…1 week!- has motivated us to get on with the tasks at hand.

I started making mental notes about what I could live without for the next few months, what I absolutely had to have with me, what would go into our large shipment, what would be packed and taken by us on the plane, and so on. It all feels a bit surreal. I have started to go through the motions; now I guess I will have to wait and see if the reality comes along as a result of these motions. I keep waiting for this whole thing to sink in and hit me, but the reality is- it may not until I get back to the US and start settling into my new life there.

After our "planning meeting" I began gathering all of our suitcases- pulling them from their various hiding spots throughout the house, dusting them off, and taking inventory of the tasks that lay before me. As I stood there looking at the collection of empty suitcases awaiting their future contents- it occurred to me that I've lived in this city over 4 years now. These rag tag suitcases have flown countless miles and journeyed with us on some of the most amazing, beautiful, and oftentimes challenging adventures throughout China and the world. I have built a life, a community, started a family, and experienced more than I could have ever dreamed possible over these last four years, and now it’s time to pack that all up into a few suitcases and move on…

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sinus Pain

My children are playing rather happily for the first time in over a week so I am taking this opportunity to write a little about our journey toward repatriation. We’ve all been sick since Monday so the time marking our second to last week in this apartment has been a bit of a blur. I keep reminding myself that we are moving back to the US in approximately 2 weeks, but I’ve given up trying to comprehend it as it seems far to difficult to do so.

Instead, I just have this looming sense that being sick; and therefore accomplishing nothing in the way of moving us back home- has put me even farther behind in this process than I feared possible. I am hoping that this brain numbing sinus pressure will clear soon, so I can think straight and get to the tasks at hand. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Uninvited Guest

I went for one of my daily walks with the boys yesterday. As I passed all of the usual people and places within my local neighborhood- an uninvited guest reminded me that these sights, smells and sounds I have come to know as home, would be nothing more than memories in a matter of weeks. My new life back in the United States lay before me with a degree of mystery and heaviness as I weaved the buggy from one street to the next...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Repatriation: Tailspin

I’m in a fog these days and am therefore having a difficult time organizing my thoughts and putting them into written form. We are less than one month away from moving back to the United States and I can’t even fathom how this process will unfold and take shape. My head is spinning with lists of things to do, things to see, things to buy, people to spend time with, phone calls to make, packing lists to create; and that doesn’t even include the day to day things (like caring for, feeding, and entertaining two 13 month olds who are starting to walk)! It seems like there is far too much to do between now and then; and while I find myself working hard to stay present in this moment, the inevitable elements of planning for a future move finds me growing more and more impatient as we enter the last few weeks of this process. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ode to Miss J

Due to some unforeseen but not entirely surprising visa issues, I find myself without my trusted nanny. I have always felt incredibly grateful to have her in our lives; but it is in her absence that I have come to realize just how much I relied on her. She was an employee, a support person, a co- parent, and a companion of sorts.

For many people, Friday brings hope of relaxation and rest. For me, Monday was that day. I knew that Monday would come and “Miss J” would arrive to help me care for Isaac and Naaman in a way that nobody else could. As the only other person who knew their day intimately- their sleeping and feeding schedules, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, and so on- I truly felt I could rest and relax a bit more once she arrived.

For several days following the realization that she would not be able to re-enter the country; I found myself tearing up at the mere thought of her. When I would read her and the boys’ favorite Dora the Explorer book (one that only she would read to them) - I would feel tremendously sad. The cynic in me said "well of course you’re sad- you lost your freedom and flexibility", but that wasn’t it. Instead, I felt a bit like I had lost a member of my family; and more than anything I was just sad for the boys. They loved her very much; and one day- she was just gone.

The fact that we are repatriating to the US and would eventually have to say goodbye anyway, has not made this loss easier for me. Yes-I had entertained the scenario a few times in my mind, but I would also quickly shut it out and reminded myself that the day would come on its own. So when the day came earlier than expected; I wasn't prepared for the physical or emotional loss to our family.

It's taken two solid weeks, but I think I have found my footing without my trusty side kick

Friday, April 1, 2011

Repatriation: Pause No More

In my previous post, (also known as a momentary rant or blogger mental breakdown) - I asked the question “am I in China or am I in the US?” Rhetorical in nature, this question is a simple reflection of a less than simple process we repatriating expatriates face. Following me here?

Life is in a strange state of pause and motion at the moment. I had been working very hard to remain present while living here in Shanghai; and just when I decided to give in a little and focus on our repatriation to the US, things changed course. This combination of events put me in an unusual place.

To keep in step with my philosophy on life- I decided to regroup and focus on our lives here in Shanghai once again. Phil and I took a look at some things that were in need of change, and decided we weren’t going to put them on hold any longer.

The majority of the “things” we had been delaying were child related. When moving in 3 weeks, it made sense to leave the remaining sleep issues, eating issues, and baby sleep locations alone until returning to our new time zone. But now that we were going to be here for 7 more weeks, we realized we couldn’t function the way we were any longer.

It turns out that after all of the delay and dread, the great big monsters (in my mind) were the smallest of mini beasts. After only one day, Naaman joined his brother in sleeping through the night. I couldn’t believe how truly simple it was and how ready he was to make the transition. It made me realize a lot about parenting and the ways we get into our heads and hearts to our detriment at times.

Other than a host of parenting lessons I have learned in this process- I have also learned about the ways we hold ourselves back. You don’t have to be moving to another country to put things off. We all put things off for reasons we think are good and valid; we convince ourselves it is easier when more often than not, it creates a long term pause or problem. I have decided to adopt a famous line from a sleep training “guru” known as The Baby Whisperer and apply it to other areas of my life as well. When Tracey Hogg says “start as you mean to go on” there is wisdom beyond just what we do with our children. I may be late to the start portion of this, but from here on- I will certainly attempt to live life today as I would like to live it tomorrow, next month and a year from now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Variable or Focus (you choose the title)

I am having an impossibly difficult time writing these days. I have far too many things on my mind as there are far too many variables in my life. Am I in the US or am I in China? What do I focus on and how do I begin to focus? With so much on my mind, it is difficult to prioritize thought and put it into any sensible form. So there- that's my blog for today.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Repatriation: Pause

The landlord agreed that we could stay an additional month here in our apartment... so it's official. We will be staying in Shanghai for a bit longer. May 13th is our new repatriation date.

Just as I was imagining life in Michigan and focusing my thoughts in that direction, it all changed. I'm not surprised and I'm not all that upset either...just a little frustrated by the back and forth and the certainty followed by uncertainty.

I will just look at this as a little pause in the process and added time to accomplish our "Bucket List".

It's a beautiful sunny day here in Shanghai, so I am going out to lunch with some friends at a Xinjiang restaurant; and if I have time I will follow that with a visit to the camera market.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Repatriation: Change of Course

I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or a message from above, but I do find it amusing that less than five hours after I decided to shift my thoughts slightly more toward home, we got word from Phil's boss that he wants us to stay in Shanghai for an additional month. At this point we're not even sure if it's possible, but we have to try.

This sort of last minute change is nothing new to our experience here; in fact, it's been the norm. This is yet another reminder to me that being present in the moment isn't just an important element in savoring life's moments, but also in maintaining sanity.

Now let's see if the landlord will let us stay an additional month...

Repatriation: Tension

We had our first phase of meet, greet, and assess- the- belongings with various moving companies yesterday. They descended on our home eager to seem competent and capable and ready to quote the job. With each new face came a growing dislike for the process and a reality that we were in fact moving; and very soon. 

I have spent the better part of our time left here in Shanghai focused on living here in Shanghai. I have been so entirely present in this moment, so focused on living up the last moments and doing all that I can before I leave that I have completely ignored the major moment in my immediate future. So when moving company number one came to assess our items for shipment, a slightly sick feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. By the time moving company number three arrived, the poor guy could have served me chocolate dipped strawberries while rubbing my feet and I still wouldn't have liked him or his company.

I have a dilemma and I am trying to figure out how to approach it. Currently, I find myself in a very strange place emotionally; stuck in a tension between wanting to remain in the moment here, and a desire to start planning for our repatriation to the United States. There is a grieving process involved with repatriation that seems like it will sting slightly less if I start to sever ties, focus on the US, and grow more annoyed with the things about China and living here that many of us struggle with. These are the things many expats tend to do as they prepare to leave. It just seems to make things easier. Whether it truly does or not, I don't know; but I am tempted to think it might and more tempted to give it a try.

Monday, March 7, 2011

In the Moment

I've been trying to write this post for well over a week now. Every time I sit down at the computer and prepare to share our big news, I get "side tracked". I realize that I am avoiding the inevitable so I have committed to getting this written today. (I won't mention how many days ago I wrote that sentence.)

Several months ago we decided that it was time for our family to move on from Shanghai, and as a result we have accepted a position that will take us back to our home country. In short, we will be repatriating to the US in less than 2 months.

It’s difficult for me to fully grasp that our time in Shanghai is coming to an end. And while the temptation is to begin distancing ourselves from the people we love so that we can somehow "soften" the transition when we move, we are doing the exact opposite. With only 6 weeks of our journey here remaining we are focusing on spending time with our friends and completing our "Shanghai Bucket List". Being present in the moment is a discipline I have found very helpful in maintaining perspective on life and growth in relationships with people- particularly while living the expat life.

So for now, I live in Shanghai China with my husband and our twin sons.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Grass Isn't As Green As I Remember

After 20 long hours of travel, we made it to the United States for our much anticipated home leave. Tired and bedraggled, we entered the airport. We had survived and we were finally in the home stretch! Detroit in February couldn't even squelch the excitement I felt about being in the US. With only a few more obstacles between where we were, and a nice hot shower; we made our way to the immigration line.

The line was long and it appeared to stretch on endlessly. I naturally looked for the "family" line; or the VIP line as it's known here in China; but I was reminded rather quickly that we do not have special lines for the disabled, infirmed, or families. Just to make sure though, I decided to take my chances and ask the not-so- friendly looking immigration officer if there was such a line. I think she growled at me, but I'm not too sure. The only thing that was clearly communicated was a gruff "no"; so we got in line with the hundreds of other tired, zombie- like passengers and prayed our children wouldn't have massive meltdowns while we waited.

Several days into our trip, the fog of jet lag began to lift from my body and brain and I decided it would be okay to operate a motor vehicle. As I went out to one of my favorite stores, I was amazed to find a rather large number of parking spots unusable due to the simple and annoying fact that the person in the spot next to it had parked poorly. 

Hmmm...I thought back to the flight home and the incredibly rude flight attendant who I wanted to put into a head lock and give a noogie to (oh if I could really say what I wanted to do to her...). I was beginning to wonder about the US that I had left and my memory of it. Could it be possible that the friendly and thoughtful United States of America was a little less friendly and thoughtful than I had remembered? Perhaps there had been a major shift in culture since I left four short years ago? I was beginning to sense with some amount of unease that something sinister was afoot. I parked my car, shook off this sense, and began my short walk into the store.

Just as I was about to enter the store, I was pushed aside by a man in a hurry. Certain he was running to buy a card and some flowers for his wife who had been hospitalized, I was dismayed to see him stop in front of the apple juice and look at it quizzically before moving on (rather slowly) to the next item, and the next, and the next.

First, there was the flight attendant from you- know- where, the lack of deference for families traveling with small children, and the growling immigration officer. Now I was faced with rude and thoughtless parkers and physically pushy people. I would expect this in China, but the US?  I was so perplexed by this series of events that I asked my friends about it upon my return. I was certain that in my absence, people in the US had grown less friendly, more hurried, and just plain rude. I was assured however, that there was no significant change and dually assured that these occurrences were not outside the realm of normal every day dealings.

Could it be? Had I fell victim to making the grass greener on the other side? During some phase of culture shock living in China, had I imagined my home country to be more than it really was? The conclusion I was forced to come to was that I had indeed.

Monday, January 24, 2011


We are supposed to leave for the US in exactly 4 days and the sickness looming over my home is threatening the very reality our trip. I am arguably on the mend after a good 10 days of uselessness. Phil is seemingly on the mend after his bought with what appears to be a simple head cold, and now Naaman has a fever.  Having one person sick in a household with children is like a game of dominos; we just wait to see who falls next. With twins it’s double whammy.  As much as I have tried- they share slobber in ways even the most cautious parent cannot control; and well, I am not the most cautious parent.

So I suppose the only real thing I can do is plan accordingly, move forward with packing, and see where the dominos fall…

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I have bloggers guilt. It's been exactly 1 month since I last posted and I feel nothing but shame. This happens more often than I would like to admit and on such occasions when life, holidays, or simply being the mother of twins takes me off my writing game; I fight the urge to apologize profusely upon my return. I attempt to pick up where I left off as if no time has lapsed, and continue on as if I have been writing every day.

But alas, I have not been writing every day- and here we are in the beginning of a new year. The holidays have passed, the Christmas tree is without its glittering adornments, and life is returning to its usual baby filled days. 

Winter in Shanghai is not conducive to outdoor activity with the kiddos, so I have been spending much of my time indoors with the little ones. As I write, Isaac and Naaman are in the other room with Miss Jane listening to their favorite CD- a mix of English and Chinese children’s songs. I never realized just how difficult it was to think straight, let alone write while such music plays in the background. "Why did you let it go? Because it bit my finger so. Which finger did it bite..." and so the song goes. Needless to say, the combination of baby chatter, children’s songs, and the overall lack of writing I have done to date is making it difficult to sort through my thoughts. 

This time of year is always a bit challenging for me though. The cold gray days keep people inside their homes, and the vibrant streets of the warmer months give way to a quieter less inhabited feeling city. My daily morning walks are on hold until the weather becomes more baby friendly, and I have been inside and largely surrounded with English speaking and feeling comforts in the meantime. I find myself less enamored with life in Shanghai and am feeling an intensified sense of home sickness.

Feeling home sick is nothing new to those of us who make our homes in foreign countries. It can be more intense at different times and for different reasons, but we usually pass through the mist and come out into the sunlight to appreciate life and the experience once again. This time things are different. I have lost patience and perspective with this city and many of the people around me. I'm not feeling the usual end- of-the- holiday’s home sickness so many of us experience, and I'm not simply in need of a trip home or a holiday away. There is something deeper in this mist, and I think it's time for a change.

I don't know what this change is and I'm not sure that I am ready for it, but I think it's around the corner. As the Chinese New Year approaches we are preparing to go home to the US to visit friends and family for a few weeks. Perhaps that will provide a little clearing of the mind and a dose of perspective…

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