Christmas Eve (and New Year’s Eve) – Taiwan (2013)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs I finish this post, it is New Year’s Eve. Tomorrow is a holiday and there are three students here to hang out and see in the new year. A couple of them will spend the night and welcome New Year’s Day in our apartment.

Last week at this time, it was Christmas Eve. In Taiwan, Christmas is not a holiday. So on Christmas Day, I taught a two hour writing class in the morning, had a couple of office hours, and then taught a general English class for two hours in the late afternoon. (Sorry, no photo of me teaching in my Santa hat.)

On Christmas Eve day (Tuesday), I also taught and had meetings, but in spite of the work schedule, we still decided to have a special gathering for Christmas Eve at our apartment. We had a ready-made guest list. Let me explain.

Two weeks ago, I started meeting with a group of young ladies who were interested in working on their English writing. We had our first meeting on December 11 to explore our ideas and make plans. Some of the ideas include writing prompts, reading and commenting on each others’ writing projects, seeing and writing about a movie, and other ideas that we dream up along the way.

With high enthusiasm, eight young ladies agreed that we should do this on a weekly basis, so on the 18th we moved to another coffee shop for our second meeting. At that meeting, we had sign-up sheets for the next two Tuesdays, the Eves of Christmas and New Year’s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Christmas Eve, we had 8 for dinner, not the exact 8 that started out that first night, but our group is growing, and not everyone could make the holiday gatherings. But 8 for Christmas Eve was pretty nice. As my husband put the finishing touches on dinner, the girls put up the table top Christmas tree and decorated it. They had each brought a gift for an exchange. It was great fun, as everyone ended up with gifts that suited their interests. Santa brought writing notebooks for everyone, too!

Between Christmas and New Year’s, the main core of students in this group decided that they wanted to become an official student organization in the school. Since I’m already meeting with this group on a weekly basis, it’s no extra work for me. But it’s nice to get credit for being an advisor to an English Writing Club at a Taiwanese university. It turns out we needed 20 students to sign that they were interested in the idea. I had two sign up sheets with 20 each, so I could offer them to students at either side of the room if they were interested. I was shocked to not only get all forty spots filled, but have other students still asking if they could sign. Maybe I can start a movement. Prior to this, English writing has been a bit of a challenge on our campus, so as we go into 2014, there is an exciting shift. My work as a writing teacher here is starting to pay off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo tonight, on New Year’s Eve, we only have three visitors. But they have taken down the tree, watched some English comedy video, and are now working on a jigsaw puzzle. Two of them will curl up on our couches and spend the night (the 3rd lives next door). I get to see in the new year with my husband and three young women who are as interested in writing as I am. It’s going to be a good year!

One of the gift exchange photos

One of the gift exchange photos

Opening writing notebooks from Santa

Opening writing notebooks from Santa

Jigsaw puzzle on New Year's Eve

Jigsaw puzzle on New Year’s Eve

New Year, New Beginnings (Music Theme for December 31)

Like any year, 2013 has had its ups and downs. At the moment, it seems the scale is tipped in the direction of down, but that’s just my current story. And in the end, it doesn’t matter, because 2014 is really coming. I can say good-bye to 2013 and embrace the possibilities of 2014.

Sometimes, it seems we put a little too much stock in the new year, hoping that some magical “reset” button is going to make things better. But I know there is nothing magical about it. I also know that much of what will happen in the new year is beyond my control. But my attitudes about it are in my control. And my intentions for the new year are in my control. So, I will focus on building a set of intentions (not resolutions) for 2014. Watch this space for more!  🙂

In the meantime, here are some of the songs that I take into the new year with me. Thanks to Collaborator for her assistance in finding these songs that I will use to inspire me, motivate me, and keep me keeping on when it seems difficult to do so. According to one of them, I have five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes in 2014. My first intention is to make the most of those minutes.

Still Got Tonight (Matthew Morrison)

Taking Chances (Glee)

Seasons of Love (Rent)

At the Beginning (Anastasia)


I Know Where I’ve Been (Hairspray)

Closing Time (Semisonic)


Check out our other themists:






Gumption: Keyword for Winter

A couple of thank yous are in order.

To Joycelyn at for getting me into this whole seasonal keyword thing (and a multitude of other helpful ideas and processes).

To Steph at for her post that inspired this season’s new keyword. As Steph writes,

There are a lot of lessons in “The Holiday.” Two of them go hand-in-hand: (1) “be the leading lady of your own life” and (2) start by having some “gumption.” We need to speak up for ourselves when things don’t go how we want them to go; we need to tell someone when they’re hurting us; we need to fight for what we believe in and deserve.

Too many times in 2013, I was the best friend in so many situations, and I relinquished the role of leading lady in my own life. So my seasonal keyword will be gumption, with this movie clip at hand as my cue to remember. I will focus on embracing the shades of gumption and live my life more fully, more inline with the role I’m intended to play. I have a few ideas about what this might mean, and I will be exploring them here in the days ahead. Thanks for joining me in this journey.

What would you choose for your seasonal keyword?

Check out my previous keywords below, along with the link to Steph’s post about The Holiday.

505 days until 60


Related articles:


This caught not only my eye, but my heart! I have only recently realized that dance is something that I have always loved. Something that I am trying to find ways to bring back into my life. I’ve experienced those fleeting moments, but it’s been a long time.

Home for the Holidays – Music Theme for December 25

Thanks to my students who remind me that home is where your heart is; you hold a very special place in my heart.

Thanks to all of my friends, both in the US and here in Taiwan, who make me feel welcome and appreciated wherever I go. Even during rough times, your friendship and support keep me going and get me smiling again. 

Thanks to my family back in my country of origin, my parents, my siblings and their families, and my children and their families. Because of you, I have cherished memories of the time we spent together. No family is perfect, but we had some wonderful moments and experiences. 

And thanks to my husband, David, for helping me make a home away from home.

It is in the spirit of what we’ve shared in the past that I offer these selections about home and holidays, and what it’s like to be in a home away from home at this time of the year.


I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Bing Crosby)

I’m Going to Make This Place Your Home (Phillip Phillips)

Where Are You Christmas (Faith Hill)


Merry Christmas, Darling (Carpenters)

Somewhere in My Memory (Home Alone)

Homeward Bound/Home (Glee)

There’s No Place Like Home (Wizard of Oz)


Thanks to Collaborator for helping to find songs, some that are here, and some just enjoyed and put aside.

Thanks to my other fellow themists for welcoming me to this group and making this activity so interesting and rewarding.

2014: Time to Start Shoveling?

Have you ever felt like you were suffocating with all the physical, mental, and emotional stuff going on in your life. Here’s a challenge worth considering if you want to get out from under all of that clutter. I’m taking on my clutter. Who wants to join in? (using your own clutter of course!)


English: Merry Christmas Briggate, Leeds

Briggate, Leeds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It feels a bit like Christmas to me!

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that I’ve been participating in a group of people who do musical (and other artistic) interpretations of various themes. I have now been invited to also take a turn in the rotation for selecting the theme, and my first time is NOW! What better theme for me to start with than Christmas?

So bring out those songs, movie clips, pictures, poetry, and other artistic bits!

  • Will you be home for the holidays this year?
  • Are you hosting those who are coming home for the holidays?
  • Do you want to run away from home for the holidays?

Some of my personal thoughts on the topic.

As I spend my fifth Christmas away from the US, I think a lot about how my attitude about the holidays has changed. In spite of those changes, I still think about the fact that I won’t be home for the holidays. Not that I was really ever that HOME anyway. I was a church musician for years, which meant that I worked all the holidays, particularly Christmas and Easter. And now in Taiwan, where Christmas is not a national holiday, I actually teach this week, even on Christmas Day.

Also, the holidays bring so many high (and dashed) expectations of how things should be, along with memories of how they were in the past. Even though some of those memories have been idealized beyond what really happened. The holidays have good moments and bad moments; and those idealized memories only contribute to the disappointment we often feel when the present doesn’t match up to that idealized past.

And then add home to the mix. We have idealized ideas of home and family, and how we should all be happy and harmonious. Again, we all have good moments and bad moments. I think it best that we accept the reality and stop setting ourselves up for unavoidable disappointment. I’m sure my children, for example, have both good and not-so-good memories of the holidays with a mother who always worked through them.

What I’ve learned by being away is that by lowering the expectations of what I want the holiday to be, I can create new memories of Christmas present instead of being haunted by illusions of Christmas past. For me, that has been the most helpful, finding new ways to add something to the season–not in terms of pressure or extra obligations, but rather to reduce the reliance on what we did in the past and plan a holiday that expresses who we are in the moment.

So I invite all of you to join fellow themists, Eva, Johnny, Willow, BearD.S. Nelson, and Collaborator, and join in the festivities. Show us the music, clips, and other works of art that mean home and holiday to you. It will be fun to see what everyone comes up with.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Dwelling Between – Musical Theme for Winter Solstice 2013

I’m going to let the music speak for itself. Thanks to the Collaborator for the Glee fix and the Joni Mitchell piece.  🙂

Snow is Falling (Kalafina)

Amid the Falling Snow (Enya)

Solstice Bells (Jethro Tull)

I’ll Follow the Sun (Beatles)

River (Joni Mitchell)


Wintersong (Sarah McLachlan)


Winter Light (Sarah Brightman)


Don’t Dream It’s Over (Glee)


Fellow musical themists:






A Moment in Time – 9:16 a.m. on 12/21/13

I still have my post to write from the last moment in time, but this it’s very interesting to get involved in this project and observe what happens in particular moments. Please consider joining the fun.

A String of Pearls

The next A Moment in Time is on Saturday, December 21 at 9:16 a.m.

A Moment in TimeHere is how A Moment in Time works.

1. I will provide a time–an exact moment on a specific day–for bloggers to be aware of, to think about what they are/were doing right then and whether it’s significant enough, in some way, to be written about and added to the list. Each new day and moment will be provided via a regular blog post as well as at the bottom of the A Moment in Timepage.

2. Sometime after that moment passes, write your post. Title it with this format:  9:16 a .m. on 12/21/13

3. Let your readers know how to find the A Moment in Time prompt by providing a link to this post so that they can learn more about it and participate themselves. If it’s easier, just copy and paste the blurb below.

View original post 153 more words


I am swamped this week, but I will answer Johnny’s call about classical masterpieces with an abbreviated post. I thought it would be fun to take a few musical masterpieces and look at how they have been used in conjunction with other art forms.  🙂

Tribute to Chopin


A Tribute to “Two”

“Nutrocker” Trans Siberian Orchestra

For other masterpiece selections, visit the following:

Eva:  Classical?
Willow:   home page
D.S. Nelson: home