Pup (p)Update: Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?

IMG_0345Some of you may know that Dave and I had a dog (named Puppy) for 3 1/2 years of our time in Taiwan. You can see other photos of her time with us and read the story of how we came to have Puppy in our family. You can even find out how she came to have the name, Puppy! 😉  One of the difficult parts of our return to the US is that Puppy did not make the trip with us.

Luckily, this is a happy story (mostly). I do miss her terribly, but I am confident that she is much better off back in Taiwan. If she had made that arduous plane journey halfway around the world, it would have been with Dave, as my father is allergic to animals. And Dave’s sister has two very cute, but boisterous dogs that might take some adjustment. And we weren’t sure that such a high level of activity might be a little stressful after the rather quiet existence she had lived over the last few years.

puppySept2So, with the uncertainty of our plans in the US, and the traumas and challenges that Puppy has already had in her life, we finally made the difficult decision to have her remain in Taiwan.

But this current post is about how well she is doing now. Last week, her new forever Mom sent me updated photos. Talk about bittersweet! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a bit when I saw the pictures, but it also felt really great to see that she is adapting happily. These photos meant so much to me because when Dave and I originally left her in her quiet upstairs hangout (while they decided where to make her permanent location), she didn’t seem very happy. I mean she was fine, and in fact, much of that perceived unhappiness was probably more my own feelings. I knew she would be fine, but I wanted to see more evidence of it. And now I have it.

puppysept3The lovely thing about this whole story is how the people who originally rescued her, got her off the streets, and brought her into our lives are now the ones giving her a real forever home. When we took her almost four years ago, they had a small child and were planning to have another. Now their children are old enough to have this special dog as part of their family. And she’s back to having her Chinese name, even though she is now a bilingual dog.  🙂

I hope someday that we can visit her again, but I am so happy to have the pictures and know that she is happy in her new home.

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If We Were Having Coffee: The Last Sunday of September

library coffee shop 004If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that

I left out some important information when I posted yesterday about my husband and me and Why We Live so Far Apart. It was pointed out by Dan of No Facilities, who commented, “I’m sure it means a lot to his sister and mom that he is there.” I obviously left out that their mother actually died nearly a year and a half ago. So part of the reason all of this time in Iowa is so important is that Cathy is now alone except for her two dogs. Their mother had ended up in a nursing home when Cathy started her last round of chemo. Helping with the health issues (including a couple of insurance hassles) and working through the decision about what to do about the house is a process that takes a while.

But I’d also tell you that we are looking forward to the holidays and a chance to spend the time together. I will have Thanksgiving with my family, so it will be nice to head to Iowa for Christmas.

planeI’d tell you that today marks two months since I boarded a plane in Taiwan to head back to the US. It seems both like it’s been forever and like it was just yesterday. But things are settling down in many ways, and it definitely feels like it was the right thing to do.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I’ve already been scheduled for two criminal justice classes in the winter semester. In addition, I had an interview this week with the sociology department. I’m being recommended to teach a course for them as well. But it has to be approved by the faculty association, since that course would exceed the normal yearly limit for an adjunct faculty member. Still, it’s across two departments–not all in one, so there will probably be no problem.

I would tell you that Jack is now 3 1/2 weeks old. I haven’t been back to see him again, but I’m going to talk to my parents and see if we can plan a trip to rectify that situation. I love how he seems to know he’s in charge. halvorson familyHave a great week!

Part of the link up at Part-Time Monster.

Why We Live So Far Apart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of my readers don’t understand why my husband and I are apart. And with good reason. I’ve never really explained it very well. So for those of you who think we’re crazy, you’re right I wanted to clear the air.

Dave is from Iowa, and I’m from Michigan. He’s been in Taiwan four years, and I’ve been there six. (This first two years, we thought it was only two years max, so he stayed in the States with an agreement that if my time in Taiwan went beyond those two years, he would join me. Hence, his four years in Taiwan.)

We each made one separate trip home a year (except the last year, where neither of us made the trip). He would go during part of the school year; I would go in the summer. During one of his trips home, he stayed much longer (nearly three months) because his sister’s cancer had returned. Since this sister also lived with their mother and did a lot of her care, Dave was there to help with his mother and help his sister through insurance hassles, surgery, treatment, and general recovery. Since that recover, Cathy goes in for regular check-ups and tests to monitor things.

Several months ago (maybe even a year or so–I’m not clear on the timing), they found a spot on her lung that had shown up a little too late to be considered scar tissue, but too small to be conclusive, so they stepped up the checks to every three months. We were still in Taiwan during this time, and we kept hoping this would stay small and on a wait and watch situation until we could get home. It would have been nice to think it could just go away, but after the history, it was likely the cancer would return at some point. In June, Cathy went in for tests, and things remained unchanged. We breathed a sigh of relief because by the time she went in again in September, we would be back in the US.

Based on this situation and the fact that Cathy is considering selling the house she shared with her mother and moving to something easier for her to manage with her ongoing health issues, Dave and I made a decision that he would go to Iowa, and I would return to Michigan. I applied for jobs in both locations, and we agreed that we would ultimately end up in one place. But it was important to both of us to do what could be done to help Cathy through the next set of treatments and decisions.

This past week, it was time for another visit to the doctor, and this time the CT scan showed that there was a change, and that things were going to need to be done. Now, further tests will be done next month and a treatment regimen will be recommended. We are all grateful that surgery is NOT part of scenario this time around. Still, there is a lot of recovery ahead. And as much as Dave and I would like to be together, he is where he needs to be right now.

Dave will be working with Cathy to see what she wants to do about the house, but it has also become clear that job-wise, I’m better off here in Michigan. That means that by sometime next spring or early summer, Dave will most likely be joining me here. We can’t wait! In the meantime, I will go to Iowa to visit Dave and Cathy during the semester break. So Dave and I will have three weeks together in addition to our ongoing daily phone calls and our weekend online emails. Although, he’s going to be getting internet at the house as long as he’s going to be there for several more months. That will help increase our connection until we can be together again.

In the meantime, I will comment from time to time how much it sucks to be separated, but at the same time, I know that it really remains a good decision.

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If We Were Having Coffee: A House Divided

10246575_237262193144357_4338164945583312658_nIf we were having coffee, I’d tell you that:

This post isn’t really about a house divided as much as my time being divided between two houses. Monday to Wednesday in one place, Thursday to Sunday at my parents’ place.

This arrangement has been in the works for a while, but this past week is the first time I actually did it. It went quite smoothly overall, so I’m in pretty good shape for the transfer to my Monday schedule.

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’d tell you that my long-time friend, Dan, is in the midst of getting a state-wide choir off the ground. He holds rehearsals in three different locations–on Monday and Tuesday evenings and the third on Saturday mornings. How does this affect me? I’m the rehearsal accompanist for the Tuesday night group. I could do Monday evening too, except my classes don’t finish early enough to get to his place to make the trip to the western part of the state. I also do some grant-writing and fund-raising for the group.

If we were having coffee, I would give you a run-down of how my schedule is divided between Dan’s and my parents”. I leave my parents’ house on Monday morning (last week, before either of them were awake), and drive about 20 miles to teach my two classes at the local university. After classes are finished, I drive another 30 miles south to spend the next two nights in the guest room at Dan’s place. When I arrived last week, Dan was at rehearsal, but I got in on the early stages of a Star Wars Trilogy with a couple of the other people who live there.

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On Tuesday, I worked on grant-writing, class prep, and upcoming summer programs for international students (more on that in a much later post). I have a desk to work in the attached office which is a combination travel office and music studio. OK, it’s weird, but it works. It also means, that I can rehearse the music I’m going to be playing parts for that evening. When it’s time for rehearsal, Dan and I head over to the rehearsal site, and I totally enjoy the fast-paced rehearsal.

I would tell you that I love how I can focus bit by bit on getting my piano skills built back up while helping the group learn their parts. And of course, hearing the results is awesome. It’s a win-win. And we can have coffee on break!

Dan fixed food for the two of us when we got back (since we couldn’t really make up our minds about food before we went.) We got in on the last part of the Star Wars Trilogy before heading off to bed. I got up early the next morning, Wednesday, to head back to the University to teach my classes, before returning to the semi-routine that is living at my parents’ house. Now it’s Sunday evening, and it’s time to finish packing and change gears for my parallel life.

If we were having coffee, you’d probably also be curious about my teaching, and I’d surprise you (like it surprises most people) and tell you that I’m an adjunct for the criminal justice department. And I’d probably need to tell you (or remind you) that criminal justice really is one of the many subjects within the discipline of sociology. I teach two courses this semester: one in research methods for criminal justice majors and the other an introductory course that anyone (who has completed English 111) can take as a general education requirement. The courses are going well, and I’ve already had both classes renewed for next semester–just on different days.

So there you have a basic idea of what my work week looks like at the moment. I still have to fill in a few gaps to make sure I have enough income, especially once Dave and I are back in the same place and getting a home of our own, but for now, this is how things stand.

I feel a bit like a nomad with no real place to call my own, even though I have lots of places where I spend time. And while it’s only the beginning of week two of the crazy schedule, at least I’ve kept track of where I’m supposed to be at any given time–so far.  🙂

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Dancing with the Beast

fifties_dancers_3What a week! I’ve managed to complete everything that was required of me–on time even, but it’s not been easy. Since my last post, things have improved in some ways–and become worse in others. I’ve tried all kinds of strategies to improve my outlook, and from all outward appearances, most people would think I’ve succeeded.

At least this week, only a few people have had to glimpse into the reality of the negative energy that tends to sap my strength and my hope. It’s a constant give and take, but at times like this, it takes a lot more resilience to find my way to the surface again. And while it’s a struggle I am quite familiar with, it is only in the past week that I’ve likened it to a dance — dancing with the beast.

You see I’ve known for a long time that the beast will always be a part of my life. And at times, I’ve tried to “make nice” with him — which is probably sexist of me, but that’s the image I have in my mind. But in spite of my best efforts, we don’t always get along very well. And when we dance, . . . . . well, it’s not always pretty. I’ve had my foot stepped on more than once, and I’ve taken a spill or three. But still, we keep trying.

As we practiced our steps this week, I discovered that we weren’t alone. Another long-time companion, who I only recently identified, kept trying to cut in. So the anxiety guy thinks it’s great fun to trigger my insecurities and watch me squirm as I try to talk myself back into a vision of the world in which I’m actually competent. A world where stepping along with the beast at least feels familiar and where I can, given enough time and incentive, give in to the dance.

A New Gauge for Depression

I’ve been back in the US for over a month now, and while the job situation is only partially resolved, things are going fairly well overall. OK, there is always that missing husband thing, but we at least talk on the phone every night.

monsterSo imagine my surprised when I realized that after about three months of really good functioning (resulting from a medication adjustment at that time), I find myself feeling depressed again. Or, as I’ve often said, the beast is back for a visit. Now, I know that everyone has bad days, and that a bad day or three doesn’t mean depression, but the signs are there. Loss of interest, periods of intense sadness (in spite of wonderful things that I am happy about–like my new grandson, Jack), and a lethargy that gets a little more persistent each day. I am taking steps to pull myself through it and get past it. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), I have a big work deadline at the moment, so it does force me to keep going even when I’d like to retreat to a vegetative state.

Halloween_unhappy_pumpkin_decorationSince I’ve made absolutely major shifts and adjustments, this dip in mood is not really that surprising. In fact, I would have chalked it up to a move halfway across the world and all that entails, except for the loss of two very significant interests. First, the only time I ever think about totally giving up this blog is when the beast is visiting. I start wondering what’s the point. I tell myself I have lots to do, and I don’t need to keep up with the blogging, which — according to the beast — isn’t serving any of my larger goals at the moment. Giving up the blog and all the blogging community is the last thing I need to do at this time. I know that, and so instead of giving it up, I’m writing this post — a testament to not giving it up.

But the other interest currently missing from my life is coffee. Coffee has been a big part of my life longer than the blog. And when I realized today that I was having a headache (I rarely get headaches), I also realized that I hadn’t bothered to finish my first cup of coffee, let alone consider a second cup.

I need a latte. Or I at least need a coffee shop fix. While I don’t need to be at a coffee shop every day, my last several months in Taiwan did include my coffee shop visits five or more times a week. I loved the atmosphere and how productive I was there. Sure there were a few visits when the beast joined me for a cup of java, but in general, it was a good experience. And while I can often be very productive in my office downstairs, I need to make sure I’m getting out more.

In my last few weeks in Taiwan, I visited several new places as I met with friends before leaving for home. And after posting a picture of a beast and a sad pumpkin, I thought I should close this post with a photo from one of my good-bye coffee visits. I found this picture while I was looking through, and at first I couldn’t remember being there. But I really liked the picture, so I uploaded it. Just looking at the picture made me smile, and then I remembered. I had gone there with my friend, Joe. I’ll have to hit him up for the pictures from his camera that day. He got some of the two of us together. Friends and coffee. A great combination. And while I will never meet most of my blogging friends in person, it’s nice to know that you’re there, and that we are all connected by the words we post.

IMG_0128You know what? I’ll go have an early supper and head out for a walk and a latte. I’ll have to wait for the quaint coffee shop experience, but I’ll make sure I do that before the weekend is out.

My New Grandson: Meet Jack!

JackYesterday, I had the awe-inspiring privilege to meet Jack, the first child of my son Tom and his wife Megan. We’ve been waiting (almost) patiently for Jack since his due date on August 28. But he had other ideas. When Tom called me shortly after midnight on Friday morning, I was so excited that I forgot to ask whether Jack had made his entrance on Thursday or Friday. (It could be that in spite of my excitement, I was a little groggy from being awakened.)  🙂 Anyway, it turned out he arrived late Thursday evening, with a birthday of September 3.

Jack weighed in at 8 lbs., 10 oz. and is 21 1/4″ long. He was definitely worth the wait! While I accept the fact that I may be a “bit” prejudiced, it was the second picture Tom sent me that moved me to tears. I cannot believe how absolutely beautiful this baby is.

Jack2

Yesterday, my parents (the great-grandparents) and I went to Ann Arbor to visit Tom and Megan and to meet this precious little one for the first time. I have never been close enough to hold a grandchild in the first days of life before, and holding Jack so early in his life was one of the most moving experiences of my life! I can’t wait to watch this little guy and his parents as they start out on their journey as a family. ❤

Visit with Jack 001Visit with Jack 002

Music is Alive!

bike_rider_girl_w_helmetAnd I am so excited! It really is almost like riding a bike, except I don’t  ride a bike anymore. I don’t even have a bike, but I do have a piano. The only thing is that it’s been at my brothers’ family’s home since I left for grad school in 2005. During grad school, I rarely touched a piano. And during my six years in Taiwan, I think I played a piano four times while there, and just a couple of times during my summer visits home. There was an opportunity to have my own piano in Taiwan as reported here, but that didn’t work out.

In my former life, playing the piano was almost a daily event. At various times, I was a music director in a church, a K-8 school music teacher, and a piano teacher. After ten years away, someone asked me to be a rehearsal accompanist for one area of a state-wide choir. I wasn’t too worried about accepting because initially, all I would be doing is playing each sections parts for them. Still, I was curious.

But I didn’t want to just go to my brother’s house. I wanted to go to a church and pull out some of the music and see if I could really do the kind of playing needed for following a director and supporting a group of singers. So, after lunch today, I went over to my parents’ church, pulled out a book of music, and sat down at the piano.

piano_1Yes, there were starts and stops, places where I had to work over some rough spots before playing confidently, but within an hour, I was playing well enough to realize that with practice, I could still be a competent accompanist. And it really raised my spirits. I had forgotten how good it feels to move my fingers across those keys. Now, I’m really looking forward to September 15–the night of my first rehearsal with the group. And it is rumored that I might be picking up a couple of piano students.

I am delighted that after a 10-year hiatus, I will be making music again.