It’s Like Losing a Suitcase, but in a Good Way!

imagesWhen Dave and I were packing up to come home from Taiwan, we faced a major challenge. Fitting six years of living into four 50-pound suitcases (two for each of us). And we each had a carry-on. OK, we cheated a bit and sent three boxes of stuff literally on a (slow) boat from China. (Actually, the boat isn’t that slow, but you have to agree to let your boxes wait until a ship is going to the same destination as your stuff.) Anyway, you get the idea, reduce, reduce, and reduce some more.

As you may or may not know, Dave and I did not travel together. Since he was going to Iowa and I was coming to Michigan, the flights didn’t line up very well. So I left Taiwan with my two suitcases on Monday, July 27, and Dave left three days later. Luckily, since I left first, Dave was there to help me with my luggage at my point of origin. But I had to claim those two 50-pound bags at LAX in order to go through customs and then recheck them. Not a huge deal, but I was glad I didn’t have to haul them any further.

Which brings me to my weight loss. Between November of 2013 and April of 2015, I lost 50 pounds–the equivalent of one of those suitcases I hauled around in the airport. It was a matter of doing it step by step (literally) and persevering in the face of the multiple obstacles that make any habit change difficult. But all the effort was totally worth it. I can’t tell you how much easier it is to get around. It even makes it easier to maintain my balance without as much to balance.

thumb_skirtAn added benefit: when packing my two 50-pound bags, I could leave behind the clothes that had become too large for me, which left room for other things that were more important to me. One of the most “fun” things to bring back were five skirts that I had purchased two years ago (right before the weight loss — or healthy living — project began. They fit the old me just fine, but as I went through those 18 months, the skirts started slipping. I had to eventually put them aside and not wear them at all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn those last few weeks before we came back to the US, I decided to see if a seamstress could save those skirts. I hated to part with them as they were practically new. I had nothing to lose, so I took the five skirts to a seamstress located on route to my favorite coffee shop. Three days later I had skirts that fit me with the added benefit of very professional and finished stitching in the new elastic. I had one other skirt hanging in my closet that I really liked, and even though it was older than the others, I took that in as well. For less than the cost of one new skirt in the US, I brought back six skirts that I love wearing.

My new wardrobe is building gradually with items from second-hand and thrift shops, a few new items on sale, and some gifting from my mother’s closets. From the clothes standpoint, I’m all ready for school to start next week. My current goal during my transition back to living in the US is maintenance, but within a few weeks, I plan to step up my healthy living habits and lose some more “baggage.”

I know this is a frustrating topic for many people–hey, it took me nearly sixty years to really get it,I can tell you that, in spite of the difficulties–including medical restrictions for exercise, an attitude of slow and steady went a long way to keeping me on track. That and having a specific plan for establishing the habit of healthy living. If I can do it after all this time, anyone can. So if you have specific questions about my journey thus far, post them below and I’ll respond in a future post.

Breaking Through the (Writing) Logjam

cs 6School starts on Monday, and while I’m excited about it, it requires lots of writing to finish the preparation. In addition, I have two  other major writing projects that are on deadline. I’d like to make progress (read finish) these two projects so I can turn to a writing project that is near and dear to me.

Last night, as I headed off to sleep, I found myself feeling quite anxious about not only these projects, but a few other things, like the long-term separation from my husband. About the pieces of jobs that I am trying to juggle and sort out. Even though I rarely have trouble sleeping, last night was one of those nights.

Sometimes, when that happens, I can get up and do something productive for an hour or three, so I considered coming to my cave down here in the basement to at least make use of the time. With the late hour and my husband in another state, there wasn’t anyone to talk me down from the cliff, so to speak. (I know because I did give up and go online for a few minutes to check.)

Luckily, looking around online for a few minutes did make me realize that since this type of sleeplessness is uncommon for me, I didn’t need to really worry too much about an isolated occurrence. After all, it’s not like there aren’t things weighing on my mind. So instead of thinking about all the stuff I had to do and getting overly concerned about being awake, I took a deep breath, made a plan for this morning, and went back to bed. (My efforts had induced some pretty significant yawning, so I was hopeful.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext thing I knew it was a few minutes before 7:00, and even though it had been nearly 1:00 before I got to sleep, I decided to get up and put my plan into motion. The great thing is I made significant progress on one of the two deadlines, and after going out for a walk, I’ll come back and tackle the other one.

As for the other things on the big list. I’ve mapped them onto the next few days, and now that they have a safe place to wait, I don’t have to think about them. I had been experimenting with using electronic scheduling methods, but I think I’m headed back to paper. The upcoming complexity of my living situation (an upcoming post) has made the idea of daily planning and tracking a little bit challenging, but I’m starting to see my way clear again. More soon.

Finding My Way Back Home

Aug 25 grants and stuff 025It may not look like much to you, but I’m thrilled to have half of this wonderful corner room in my parents’ basement. Now I have space for my books, files, and other work-related odds and ends. I also have a desktop (and one of the file drawers in the desk) to call my own.

My parents have been awesome about letting me move back in with them while I get on my feet. I live in the guest room with access to half of the closet and three dresser drawers that were vacated for my arrival. I appreciate these arrangements immensely, but it was clear to my parents and to me that the bedroom wasn’t going to allow me to get much work done. (Although, I did have this cute mini station figured out, where I put a TV tray in front of the chair in the guest room. My lightweight netbook fit very well on it, but it didn’t allow for any materials to be on a surface next to me.)

libraryaugust5 001Luckily, my parents have two tables in the dining room, and we cleared off one of them for me to have a temporary space. During the last few weeks, I worked there in the evenings, but it was an adjustment for both my parents and for me to have me in the living space. After all, they’re accustomed to it being just the two of them. Going to other locations, such as the library (remember this cool place?) or a coffee shop or even a bookstore(!), worked well. It gave us all a break, and I got reacquainted with some of my old haunts. But I’m not always quite as productive as I’d like to be, because of the travel and set-up time. OK and all the amazing things to look at when I’m at the library or bookstore.

A few days ago, when I came home from one of my outings, my parents told me they had a surprise for me. And they took me downstairs to show me the space you see above. My dad had sorted things that were stored in the room and on the desk to make this space for me to work. (My mother and I have been sorting through other areas of the house in preparation for a rummage sale at the church, but that’s a whole other story. Let’s just say, we’ve been quite productive!)

Over the last few days, I’ve been moving my books and work-related things to this basement space. In the meantime, I was still working on my netbook either upstairs or at one of my neighborhood haunts. Yesterday was productive, with major progress on three different writing projects. And today is my first day in my new space. It’s quiet and comfortable, and all of my stuff for my projects is within arm’s reach.

admin-ajax.phpI just had a lunch break with my parents. With a cup of coffee, I’ve just returned to “my office” to work for a couple more hours before heading out with my mother this evening. Since classes (and other work projects that will be discussed in a future post) will limit the time I have to work here, it’s nice to know that I have a place where I can work without reconstructing my workspace each time. Now back to finish my syllabi for next week.

Thanks, Mom and Dad!  :-)

Two Weeks to Baby Nom Nom

In approximately two weeks, I’m going to be a grandmother again. Tom and Megan (my son and his wife) are happily anticipating the birth of their son. I’m very excited, since this is the first time I will be close enough to a new grandchild to spend time with him while he’s still a baby. Although I’ve been back in the US just over two weeks, I hadn’t yet seen the parents-to-be. so last Sunday, my parents and I drove to Saline, MI (near Ann Arbor) to see them and the wonderful home they’ve had built. Plus, I thought it was a good idea to go see them so they didn’t think I was coming to visit just to see the baby.

As many of you know, Megan has a food blog (that’s often peppered with other things about her interests). If you check out her recent post, you can see her pictures of Baby Nom Nom’s nursery. These pictures were particularly exciting to me because I’m planning to make a quilt for Baby Nom Nom, As you can probably see in the pictures, Megan set up the nursery theme around bears and neutral colors, with a touch of sage/avocado green and some yellow and orange tones.

I asked Megan her preference and she’s opted to be surprised by the quilt, which makes it even more fun for me. But it also means, I can’t show you the fabrics I’ve found or show you the steps along the way. Instead, I’ll attempt to take some photos and notes along the way to show it after everything is finished.

In the meantime, I’ll give you a picture of me in the nursery. You’ll have to settle for that until Baby actually makes his appearance sometime in the next few weeks. It’s a very exciting time!

Love and best wishes to Megan and Tom as they begin their new adventure as parents. <3


Stream of Conscious Saturday: Enthuse

socs-badgeAs I work at trying to get back into some kind of regular blogging, Linda Gill’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is one I can’t really ignore. Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “enthuse.”  Add a prefix or suffix to it or leave it as it is and go to town with it! Enjoy!

Well, I’m leaving it as is. Enthuse is what I’m all about these days. But it’s a relatively recent development–one that happened over the last few weeks. As I finished my time in Taiwan, I was  looking for a full-time job here in the US. But it was quite challenging, when you are not physically in the place. Sure, technology is wonderful, but realistically, people aren’t too serious about checking into your possible fit for their position unless you are closer to their own back yard.

I found myself getting a little uptight about the lack of response to my employment attempts. To not hear a word on ANYTHING was quite disheartening. But two things happened to change my attitude during my last month in Taiwan, and those changes have made all the difference. I now feel “enthuse” in my life again. And the possibilities seem endless. A little background: As you may or may not know, my husband and I are in two different states right now. The “plan” was that we would both look for jobs where we are, while I continued to look for a full-time teaching position somewhere in the US. Dave and I would eventually end up in the same place when we found the best place for us to be financially.

The first trigger to my change in attitude was that the colleges near my parents’ home posted adjunct positions in sociology. To that point, there hadn’t been any such things going on. As anyone who does adjunct work knows, the pay is only really marginal and is a nice addition if you already have a job, but no one can make a real living doing adjunct work. Plus, it’s limited in how many courses you can teach because of faculty unions. Still, it solidified a thought I had been moving toward. Even if I only spent one or two semesters adjuncting AND being near my parents, I could help my mother with a few projects that she wanted to do while I looked for something that really fit me. The bonus is that when I’m at my parents’ house, I’m about 45 minutes from my grandson, Logan and about an hour and a half from my grandson-to-be (who will be joining us sometime VERY soon). His impending birth is doing a lot to enthuse me. But more on that in another post.  :-)

coffee with joeOnce I got to that point of letting go of finding a secure full-time job, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to realize that I was limiting myself by targeting what I already had done. After all, the reality is that the best jobs I’ve ever had have been those that I didn’t actively seek. With that realization, my last couple weeks in Taiwan were much less stressful — other than the “minor” moving stress.  ;-)

Within a week of landing in Michigan, it happened, and I have had a couple of lovely surprises.

  1. In spite of the disadvantages to teaching as an adjunct, I am delighted that I will be teaching two courses this fall. Interestingly, they are in a department I would not have chosen for myself. Not sociology, not English as a foreign language, but criminal justice. At SVSU, Criminal Justice is a separate department outside of the sociology department; however, I would not have thought to apply for that job had I not been recommended to teach research methods, a subject near and dear to my heart. When I got the email that I had been recommended, I watched for the announcement and applied during my last week in Taiwan. hey day after I landed in the US, I was called for an interview. I thought it was just for that course, but then I was asked about other courses. I said I’d teach an Intro to Criminal Justice if one were available. There were two sections, and one of them is on the same two days (Mon and Wed) that the Research Methods course is being held.
  2. I have been asked to be a weekly rehearsal accompanist at one of the three rehearsal sites or a state-wide choir in Michigan. It may work into a few piano students. I’ve also been given the job as their grant writer.

Not only are these opportunities total surprises, they are things that enthuse the building of my new life back in the US. Now I have two new projects that I can be totally enthusiastic about, while still allowing some time to start-up another project I’m passionate about. Security provides some level of certainty, but I’m glad I decided to be open to possibility.

The View from this Side of the World

coffee with joeOne of the nice things about being a mother is that my children are a source of information and ideas that make life a lot more interesting. My oldest son offered me tips on doing on-line tutoring if/when I decide I want to do that. Another son has helped me when I wanted to clarify statistical tests I was running for a research project. And my daughter has helped me get back into blogging.

After landing in LA nine days ago, I have now had eight days in my home state of Michigan. (I landed in LA on the 27th, but flew through the night to get to Michigan on the 28th.) I have conquered jet lag and begun to put together a workable job situation. In addition to spending time with my parents, I’ve also had a chance to see my daughter, my son-in-law, and my grandson, Logan. The only real downside (other than missing my friends in Taiwan) is that Dave and I are separated by 10-12 hours of driving (one-way) while he is in Iowa helping his sister as she deals with some health issues.

I already had several blog post drafts on deck when I started taking photos and notes during my last few weeks in Taiwan. And now things are happening on this side of the Pacific Ocean. If I waited until I had the time to sort it all out and get everything “organized,” you wouldn’t be reading this today. In fact, I may never get back to regular blogging at all. So, I decided to steal Kate’s “blogging schedule.” Over her blogging experience, she has tried several additions and adjustments, but her basic recipe has kept her publishing regularly at least six times a month (5 in February). It’s similar to what I did in the beginning, posting on Tuesdays and Fridays. Even if the posts weren’t always exciting, they were regular and I was developing a writing practice. I’ve gotten away from that kind of simple yet flexible approach. But Sincerely Kate has keep this steady pace since September 2012. Her schedule is posting on the 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, and 30th of each month. I may post more often than those six times, but at least you’ll now be hearing from me six times a month. It’s good to put it out there like this because I have to admit that if I hadn’t already decided to go ahead with this plan, I probably would have let today come and go without posting today.

One last thing: the picture above is from the Grace A. Dow Library in Midland, Michigan. I will be spending many working hours there over the next few weeks. And today’s excitement was getting a library card. The only library cards I’ve had in the last ten years have been issued by universities. It’s nice to have such a beautiful place to explore books. As I sat working there today, this was my view.

libraryaugust5 004

Did I mention they have a coffee shop right in the library? Cup and Chaucer.  :-)

If We Were Having Coffee: The International Travel Edition

This is not the way I intended to restart my posts, but it’s another chapter.

I left Taiwan several hours ago. I spend a few hours in Shanghai before my 12-hour flight to Los Angeles. In two hours, I will board the plane to Detroit. More soon.

But I’m enjoying my coffee as I type this message to you. More to follow when I get settled.  :-)

If We Were Having Coffee: Mother’s Day Edition

library coffee shop 004If we were having coffee, I would say that it’s nice to have a chance to chat with you again. I’ve been out of communication for a while. The reasons aren’t all that important. A lot has been happening in the past several weeks. While things will be sporadic for a while, I’ll be filling you in on the changes and surprises that have been coming our way. In the meantime, I’m just glad to have this chance to reconnect over a cup of coffee. I’ve missed blogging and connecting with the bloggers I communicate with, but the great thing about this medium is that it’s always here when you have the chance to come back.

tomothersdayI’d also like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to all women who care for the people and the world around them. As Taiwan is 12 hours ahead of the east coast of the US, I don’t usually hear from my children until the later part of Mother’s Day here. But this year, Tom surprised me and changed his current Facebook profile to this picture from his wedding almost seven years ago. I am so surprised and delighted by his thoughtful gesture.

And I would invite you once again to check out my daughter-in-law’s blog. Megan is Tom’s wife, and she has been doing her food-based blog for over five years. Even though I’m partial, I really enjoy her restaurant and product reviews, her recipes, and tales of some of her other adventures. I’ve mentioned Megan’s blog before, but I’m especially excited about the post below.

Actually, I just read about it again, because I was so excited the first time I read it a couple months ago, that I didn’t read it very carefully. If you check out her post, you’ll understand why.

Megan and Tom are expecting their first child!

babynomnomIn that post, Megan writes, “Currently I am 16 weeks along, and in two weeks we will find out if we are having a boy or girl – though we are both convinced that it is a boy!”

As it turns out, they are correct. Logan’s new cousin will be a little boy!

Wishing you all the best as you and Tom await your precious son in late August.
SEVEN days to 60!

57 days to 60: Week 2 at the Coffee Shop

heinz_57_sauceI probably should have resisted, but with today being 57 days to 60, I just couldn’t bring myself to ignore the obvious. Anyone who knows me isn’t really surprised anyway.

The poll results are in. This was the picture that readers could vote about:

casting spells

The results:

Three choices were given about what I’m doing in this photo from my last day of teaching the Japanese students.

21 people voted as follows:

  • Teaching a class   – 48%  (10 votes)

NOTE:  OK, you are right. But did you have fun being right?  :-)


  • Casting a spell – 38% (8 votes)

NOTE:  I have to admit, it was the first thing I thought of when I saw this picture. My favorite comment was from Emmely, who had this to say: 

Definitely casting a spell! You’re bewitching those students to love writing as much as you do.

  • Getting over caffeine overdose – 14% (3 votes)

NOTE:  I admit to setting the three of you up. When it comes to me and coffee, there is no such thing as too much.  ;-)


57 days to 60!