Happy Birthday, Dave! Take 2!

Happy Birthday

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A Birthday Tribute to My Husband

It’s more accurate to call this a belated birthday tribute to my husband. Today is Sunday, and tomorrow it will be one week since his actual birthday. Luckily, we have a way of turning events into movable feasts when the situation calls for it, as it does this year. Today, I am in Taiwan and Dave is in the US (in Iowa) with his mother and sister. He is there to help with his sister’s upcoming surgery and recovery. And while we both feel it is important for him to be there, we both find it difficult to be apart.

More than one person has told me I have the best husband in the world. My response is usually to tell them that it’s because he has the best wife in the world! They usually agree, but I think they’re only humoring me. The accompanying eye-roll is a dead giveaway.

Truth be told, he is pretty wonderful. He makes my life easier in so many ways. When he joined me in Taiwan two years ago, we decided that he would not get a job in one of the local cram schools; instead, he would take over the household chores and assist me in my work tasks, so that I could do additional writing and editing work.Of course, Dave, being Dave, goes beyond the basics. In addition to the cooking, dishes, laundry, shopping, and cleaning, he does so many extras. He keeps the water bottle on my nightstand filled; he sets out my pills in one of those organizers; and he even makes coffee for me every day. This last one is particularly significant in light of the fact that he doesn’t even drink the stuff.

When it comes to my job, he goes to classes with me, gets the copying done, and provides coffee and other refreshments as needed desired. Sometimes, he gets to the classroom ahead of me and signs me in to the computer and our online system so that I can just come into the classroom and hit the ground running.

He has gotten to know our neighborhood pretty well. In addition to the grocery shopping, he does the monthly trek to the bank to wire money to the US. He walks me to the coffee shop when I go for a work session there, arranging a pick-up time to come and retrieve me. Sometimes, he checks out stores in the area and arranges to arrive at our pre-determined pick-up time.He accompanies me on crazy adventures when the opportunities arise, even if we’re not sure where we’re going. He even goes to the fabric district in Taipei with me. 

A Gift Paradox

No tribute to Dave would be complete without mentioning his amazing ability to comb thrift stores for treasures. The downside is that sometimes we get inundated with stuff. But there are some amazing treasures and it is clear that he pays attention to the people in his life. He’s great at finding treasures on e-Bay as well.

Interestingly, he is the first person in my life for whom I have difficulty finding gifts.I am a person who makes gifts for others and who enjoys surprising people with all kinds of gifts. It’s fun to figure out what might delight and surprise friends and family. But when it comes to Dave, I’m often baffled. Maybe it’s because he scouts out the things he wants for himself at the same time he’s scouting for others. I don’t know the holes in his collections and hobbies. When we’re separated (like now), I find this gifting thing even more difficult. So when I do come up with an idea, I get a little more excited about it than is probably warranted. But I take my thrills where I can get them.   

Right from the beginning, Dave has been one of my blog’s biggest supporters, even though he didn’t totally understand its importance to me when I first started. He thought he was being helpful when he suggested that I not put pressure on myself to publish on a schedule. He didn’t understand at first that the blog was important to me because it filled a need I had to do something for me. Since I had given up my quilting for a while, the blog has given me a creative outlet that can’t be expressed in fabric right now. When I explained this to Dave, he listened, and from that point, he’s never suggested putting off the blog again. He puts up with my late nights when I’m trying to publish before the clock strikes 12. He helps me with motivation tactics and good humor. He believes in me. After my unintended two-week break from the blog, he was supportive as I tried to get back on track.

So it seemed only fitting that I would use the blog to surprise him for his birthday, even if I am a little late.

Our Ongoing Journey

And in case you think that he’s perfect, I will spill on his one flaw. Sometimes, he drives me crazy when he tries to be Mr. Fix-It Guy, and I just need an ear so I can vent. It can be sweet and irritating simultaneously as he tries to offer suggestions for making everything better again. But he’s gotten better at picking up the signals when I just need him to listen to me, and he can squelch the suggestions–at least most of the time. But when I DO need Mr. Fix-It Man, he’s right there!   

Sometimes I wonder why he is so taken with me. When I’m stressed, I feel like I’m not a lot of fun to be with. And sometimes, it seems like I’m stressed A LOT! But he is patient, gentle, and caring. He makes it clear in hundreds of ways, large and small that he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

During this separation, Facebook chat and Skype conversations keep us going. Memories we’ve created together, and hopes we have for the future keep us strong through the challenges of this time apart. But when all is said and done, I have total confidence in him and his love for me. And I am grateful for another year to show him how much I appreciate him.

H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y,   D A V E !

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My Recent Adventures with The Cat in the Hat

The Disappearing Blog Posts

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in more than two weeks. A few people asked me what was going on. I asked myself what was going on. How could something that I wanted and enjoyed disappear from my calendar? Unfortunately, it seemed to have devolved into just one more thing that showed up on my to-do list twice a week. And increasingly, it became one of the things that kept getting put aside.

Interestingly, the subtitle of this blog is TIME, SPACE, MONEY, THINGS.. This post is all about focusing on the THINGS part of it. And who better to start this literary journey than those endearing creatures from Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat—Thing 1 and Thing 2. Aren’t they just so cute? Wouldn’t it be fun to have around?

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If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this book or having it read to you, you’ve missed out. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it and then read it as I was growing up and then with my own children after that. I think this summer, I may have to introduce Mr. Logan to The Cat

Story Time

Sally and her brother (who serves as the narrator) are left alone while their mother goes out for the afternoon, entrusting them to follow the rules. Because it is raining, they are indoors. They are bored as they sit in front of the window just looking outside at the rain.

That’s when the Cat in the Hat shows up. A rather insistent fellow, he’s not put off by our narrator’s recitation of his mother’s rules. He keeps insisting that they need to have fun and that there is lots of fun to be had even when it’s raining outside. Over the course of the next undetermined length of time, the CitH shows them a variety of activities that they can do, all of them threatening to mess up the house and get the the two children in trouble. Even the talking pet fish tries to get them to make the Cat go away, but the Cat isn’t budging.

images (1)As if the Cat in the Hat weren’t causing enough trouble on his own, he went outside to retrieve a box. When he opens it, out bound Thing 1 and Thing 2. These two appear to be on an unmitigated mission to create total mayhem. Their success can be measured by the increasing dismay you see on the two youngsters’ faces as they become increasingly worried about how their mother will respond to the mess upon her return.

I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll stop there. The Wikipedia link above has the rest of the story if you can’t stand the suspense. If you have a child in your life (or maybe even if you don’t), you might want to invest in the book. If you like this story, you might want to pick up The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, too. I might have to pick up another copy. I’ll use Mr. Logan as an excuse.  <wink, wink!>

My Own Thing 1 and Thing 2

If you’re a follower of my blog, you may recall (Come on, it hasn’t been THAT long!) my struggle with an overwhelming series of projects and responsibilities. While I’ve made some minor progress in my attempts at clearing away the list of tasks, it takes a lot longer to get out from under the pile than it ever took to create it. I sometimes am not very productive. Or at least, not very productive in MY opinion.

images (1)The problem is that I tend to get overwhelmed, so that even when I have time to work on things, I don’t always take full advantage of it. I realized that there is a separate organization issue involved in making progress on these projects. It’s not about just time management, but thing management–the physical organization of stuff. If I motivate myself to work on a particular project but can’t find the pieces of paper and other paraphernalia I need, I am soon at a dead end. Reaching that point reminds me of how I would if the Cat in the Hat brought Thing 1 and Thing 2 to visit me. Except that in my case, I also have Thing 48, Thing 79, and Thing 6,350, and all of the Things in between (too numerous to mention by name). And while 2 of them look really cute, they lose their appeal long before 6,350.

images (1)Duh! It turns out that once there are that many things, it doesn’t matter if they’re ones I want to spend time with or I feel obligated to spend time with. There are just plain too many of them. I am overwhelmed by ALL of them, pleasurable or otherwise. It’s like stress and eustress. Good stress, bad stress: to our bodies, it’s all the same, and too much is too much. My containers in were overflowing in multiple categories.

Return of the Blog

images (1)Which brings me back to my blog. Every time I thought about getting back to it, there were so many loose ends, so many THINGS that I needed to resolve. How many two-part (or more) ideas had been left undone? I know that the blog benefits are that you can do things in any order you want. It’s MY blog. But I started feeling that my blog was being overrun by those hyperactive little Things threatening my sanity and my blog. I became immobilized. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities.

So I sort of lost sight of the clearing that I was working on through the winter season. But now, I’m back. In this moment of clarity, I can focus on eliminating the unnecessary clutter, and make room for what’s important. I will have access to what I need to work to on when a time slot is available. I can plot a course back to the clearing and begin to expand it. And meanwhile, I will be blogging again. I can also order those Dr. Seuss books for my summer visit with Mr. Logan.

See you next time!images

A Spring Adventure in Taiwan (1): Recharging the Spirit

Outings in Taiwan

English: Hsinchu_County, Taiwan

Hsinchu_County, Taiwan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lately, I have been thinking more and more about seeing more of this beautiful island I’ve called home for nearly four years. I’ve seen many interesting sites in northwestern Taiwan, but I’ve yet to head east or south. Still, the places I’ve been have been enchanting. Particularly, when I visit the mountain villages near Hsinchu with my friend, Mei-Hung.

I first met Mei-Hung at Christmas my first year in Taiwan at the home of mutual friends. Shortly after that meeting, I was dog-sitting for those same mutual friends while they were in Malaysia. That is when Mei-Hung and I had our first adventure to Old Street in Hukou, a trip I will recap in a later post. Then last year, my husband joined our adventure that took us on a series of errands and outings that resulted in an ongoing day of wonderful surprises. 

My personal tendency is to plan things out and to know what’s going to happen next. But on these days, I surrender to the spontaneity of her “plans.” I say that because, while she definitely researches possibilities and discovers lots of ideas, no plan is ever final until the car is parked. We will be driving along and suddenly, she starts thinking out loud, and the plans start changing form again. But we’ve come to refer to our trips as adventures, and we both like it that way.

When she picked me up at the train station in Hsinchu, she asked me if I wanted mountains or water, and I’m so spoiled by the mountain trips that I opted for that direction again. Our first stop, a bakery that had been closed during last year’s adventure. This time, she had checked and found that Thursday and Saturday were their baking days, so we were in luck.

BK Fun Bakery

Entrance to BK Bakery (Photo Credit: Deborah Kraklow)

Entrance to BK Bakery (Photo Credit: Deborah Kraklow)

I loved this path. The smell from the wood-fired bakery beckoned us to come closer. The building itself was small and old. Screen doors on delicate wood frames were pushed open to reveal a room domnated by a large work table. To the left (and kitty corner from the door) was the stone oven. This bakery is the result of a man who left his job in Hsinchu’s Science Park and took up a dream to have a bakery. During his travels, he discovered German bread. He bought a brick oven bakery and started experimenting with recipes. He and his wife have created a life full of meaning that allows them to do what they love and to give back to the community. Even though the building is very tiny, it is a peaceful place, full of hospitality, and scintillating scents and flavors.

100_0473The day we arrived, they were baking nine types of bread. You can check out the varieties they bake here (make sure to scroll to the top before all the comments). Mei-Hung had ordered one of each before we arrived. She went through them and left a few for some other visitors who followed us.Their breads have no eggs. His wife teaches people who come in about the nutritional value of the breads, fruits, and nuts. The sample plates include some of each of the breads they are baking that day, as well as olive oil, coconut paste, and other dips and spreads.

The breads are so dense and crusty. After a taste of cranberry orange bread, I was sold. But then, I tasted the nut bread, and I found out just how fickle I can be. I loved the nut bread. So as Mei-Hung went through the breads set aside for her, she made sure to keep the nut one in her order, and she gave it to me to take home. Yum!

A few more pictures from the bakery:

The largest pineapple cake I've ever seen.

The largest pineapple cake I’ve ever seen.

They gave us a free sample of this to take home! So different than the usual pineapple cake. That sourdough taste and wonderful crust!

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This is a view of the oven. They were gracious about letting me move around the space and take photos. Here’s one of him moving things in the oven.

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Here’s his wife, cutting up the breads of the day.

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Here are all the visitors enjoying the samples.

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You can see the spot on the table where online orders are filled and readied for delivery.

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What a great start to our adventure. And the souvenirs we brought home are great, too! If you want to poke around their website, there is lots of information, once you click the translate button. Next stop: a Hakka tea factory.