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!


58 days to 60: If We Were Having Coffee with the Japanese Students

58If we were having coffee, I would tell you:

Today marks 58 days to 60. And since the Japanese students left last week, I thought I’d feature them in this week’s IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE.

There is so much I could say about my time with the students from Japan. Teaching them was a special treat, and while I enjoy this program every time I do it, this year’s group especially touched my heart. I’d tell you that even though, I’m grateful to be able to catch up on rest and simple tasks like thinking, I really miss them already.

I’d tell you that in addition to the 14 hours of instruction that each of the two groups of Japanese students received from me, I had designed an extra activity for them before they even arrived in Taiwan. The idea was that I would take each group of ten students to the Tuesday night writing group at the coffee shop that hosts us. Ten students each night with a few of our regulars, and it would make for a nice group.

The plan:  Week 1 – Group B; Week 2 – Group B; Week 3 (just the regulars again)

The reality:  Week 1

Week 1-1Yeah, you might say my estimate was a bit conservative. What happened is that some of the students in Group B wanted to have their friends from Group A with them. I knew we could pull it off just barely, but then their English speaking TA’s ALL decided to come along. As you can see, the results were rather overwhelming for the space.

week 1-3I’d tell you that we survived it, and much fun was had by all. It took a long time to get drinks ordered and even more to take dumpling and noodle orders for the place two doors down that would deliver the food to us in the meeting room.

I’d also tell you that I knew with that many people (we had a total of over 30), we couldn’t actually do any writing activities. So I announced that the English TA’s could have dinner with us, but then they would have to leave except for the TA’s who were already assisting me. I told the departing students they could join the group in three weeks when the Japanese students were back home, but that the time was for them right now.

Whew! After dinner, eight people left. It may not seem like much, but it opened up just enough space at the tables that we could have some actual writing activities. By the end of the evening, we had agreed that now that we had the bugs out, maybe we’d do it again for week 2 with both groups. No point bringing Group A alone, when Group B didn’t want to come without their friends. Tomorrow, we’ll move on to week 2. Stay tuned.  🙂

58 days to 60!



59 days to 60! (Taiwan: the Beginning)



How cool is this? It’s 59 days till 60, which also means that I have 59 days to be 59!

In addition, there is another countdown going on: the one that ends my time here in Taiwan. We haven’t selected our exact departure date yet, but it is somewhere just over 100 days.

I realized that in the last 400+ days, I’ve picked up followers who probably never knew the story of how I came to be in Taiwan, and how–at this point in time, I will have spent ten percent of my life here by the time I leave in July. So I am posting the story one more time about how it came about before heading into the things I plan to do before leaving Taiwan. So if you don’t know how I got here, check it out!  My Journey to Taiwan.

Feel free to post questions if you want more information.

Stay tuned tomorrow, when I update you on the poll results.  🙂  What? You haven’t seen the amazing photo? You haven’t voted?  Check it out here.

59 days to 60!



60 days to 60! (And a Poll!)

Photo credit: balloonpower.com.au/

Photo credit: balloonpower.com.au/

Today is important for several reasons. First, after 540 days of counting, I am now 60 days away from my 60th birthday. I am making plans for a rather unusual celebration that coincides with a chance to say good-bye to friends, colleagues, and students. You will learn more about the plans as they progress, but I will tell you this: I’m working on a bilingual invitation.  🙂

I’m not going to be fanatical about this (famous last words), but my goal is to post something every day for these last 60 days, leading up to the big festivities. I will revisit some types of posts that I’ve done before, as well as a few unusual things. And there are a few fun announcements I plan to make.

My first post is going to be related to the second reason this is a special day. After three weeks of classes and other activities, the students from Tottori University in Japan boarded their plane back home. Even though the teaching load during those three weeks is rather exhausting, I miss them already. But having them on top of my regular teaching load is the reason I’ve been gone for a while.

One of the interesting things that happens during those three weeks, is that our classes are photographed more than a first grandchild. It would be no exaggeration to say that in the last three weeks, there are at least 100 new photographs of me. Sometimes, they’re posed with various combinations of students for various group photos, but there are many candid shots taken of me in various stages of “teaching.” As often happens with candid photos, some are decent, but many of them are kind of duds–as you will see over the next few days.

So in honor of the completion of the Japanese program, today’s post is going to be one of the photos that was taken last week. This was one of those candid shots taken of me teaching. Now I KNOW that everything thinks that learning about compare and contrast essays is one of the most exciting topics known to humanity, but I was rather impressed with this photo sent directly to me by my TA, with a comment on how dramatic I look. My response to her is what I am now going to turn into a poll for all of my readers. I’ve never done a poll before, but I thought it would be a good thing to start off these 60 days.

Here’s how it works. I’ll post the picture. Underneath is the poll where you get to guess what I’m doing in that picture. You have three options, but feel free to add others in the comments below. Your rationale for your choice is also welcome.

casting spells

Thanks for playing along.  Answer revealed tomorrow!


60 days to 60!


Friend or Foe: Reacquainting with the Beast

socs-badgeThis week is the one-year anniversary of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. I’ve loved this weekly prompt, even though I haven’t participated every week. Sometimes, when nothing else can motivate me, I look forward to this prompt to break the logjam of ideas.

This week Linda writes:

As a special feature for February’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday, The Bee and I have decided to collaborate! As you may know, on her site – Just Fooling Around with Bee – a month-long blog-hop is going on in recognition of Love, called “Love Is In Da Blog.” The week 4 prompt is Love in friendship.

Then she adds: Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: acquaint and/or friend.


And now, I write:

I apologize to my male readers in advance, but when I personify something that gives me a lot of grief, I automatically make it male. So the character that I introduce in this post has had a male identity in my mind for the last 20 years. It might be time to revisit that decision, but not today.

Thirty years ago, after the birth of my third child, I realized something was wrong. I don’t know exactly when it happened that I had stopped caring about things, when I started simply going through the motions of getting through the day. But on that particular day, I looked out the window of the living room, and knew that things didn’t add up. If everyone had as lethargic as I did,  no one would be out moving around outside. Yet, when I looked out the window, people WERE moving around.

And at the age of 30, I was diagnosed with  depression. It’s possible that it was part of me before that, but we had not been formally introduced. Since that time, the depression has been a rather consistent companion. I used to believe that if I worked hard enough, I could get him to leave. I saw him as an intruder, a thief who robbed me of happiness and motivation. On quite a few occasions, I’ve convinced myself that I had successfully overcome it, and would congratulate myself on being back to “normal,” but after several times of crashing into the depths again, I knew I needed a different approach.

So after 12 years of battling him as an enemy to be defeated, I named him and accepted his commitment to our relationship. I decided to try to “make friends” with him, or at least negotiate some kind of truce so that we could co-exist. Since The Beast (as I not-so-affectionately name him) is convinced he wants to stay around, I/we established  a few ground rules for our relationship. I agreed to stop trying to evict him, and his bids for attention have become less intense–most of the time.

Interestingly, I can usually put on a good face no matter how I feel, especially if I have an obligation to meet. More often than not, people who see me (especially at work), have no idea that I’m battling The Beast. As a result, people (who do find out) are often surprised to learn I’m dealing with The Beast. For example, during my second year in Taiwan, I had a total knee replacement. When I was meeting with my orthopedic surgeon beforehand, we went over my medications, and he expressed something close to shock: “YOU are being treated for depression?” 

In my role as teacher and mentor, there are times when students are also surprised to find out that I understand depression so intimately. When students come to me with motivation problems or depressive symptoms, I am able to help them, often by simply sharing part of my own story.  They are so surprised to learn that it is something I deal with. In fact, sometimes I recognize symptoms in students before they realize that something isn’t quite right. When I’m able to ask them a few questions, and I see the recognition in their eyes, I don’t mind so much that I’ve spent the time with the Beast. Who would have thought that The Beast was serving me well in this unexpected way?

I don’t think I will ever refer to The Beast as a friend, but I no longer treat him as the enemy. I look for ways to keep most of his drama at bay, so I can still get the things done that need to be done. However, sometimes his cries for attention come at the most inopportune times. When that happens, I try to think of him as a part of me that is missing something that he needs, something that I’m forgetting to give myself. I don’t let him control my life, but I don’t try to pretend he doesn’t exist or ignore his pleas for help. I like to think that this attitude is what has made it easier to get along with The Beast. We’re both a little more understanding.

80 days until 60!

If you’d like to participate in this week’s challenge, here are the links.




If We Were Having Coffee: Year of the Goat Edition

year-of-the-goat-with-icons_23-2147502885I missed the gathering last week, but I’m back today to share what’s been going on lately and all the things that are gearing up to keep me busy.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you:

That the celebration of Chinese New Year is winding down. Each day, a few more businesses are open again and the streets get a bit busier, and by Tuesday, life returns to normal for just about everyone. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying extra hours at the coffee shop. Tomorrow, Dave and I will go to Taipei to meet friends for lunch.

My new semester begins on Wednesday. Since Chinese New Year fell on almost the last possible day that it COULD fall, we are getting a later than usual going back to school. My new 18 week semester starts on Wednesday.

Two of the Tottori students from the 2013 visit.

Two of the Tottori students from the 2013 visit.

Weeks 2-4 of the semester will be especially exciting and busy. Twenty students from Tottori University in Japan will be visiting our campus for a three-week intensive English program. During that time, I will teach 14 hours of writing each to two groups of ten students from that University. This is in addition to my regular teaching. This is the third year Tottori University has brought students to Ming Chuan University for this program. It’s also the third year that I’ve taught the writing portion. I love the challenge of trying to change students’ attitudes about English writing in the tight time frame. 

admin-ajax.phpSpeaking of teaching, it’s a good thing that I like to use PPT (PowerPoint) presentations, because I was informed by the doctor last week that my shoulder is deteriorating, and that writing on the board is not something I should be doing for the next few weeks. So, we’re managing pain and resting it and using heat. So fun. I guess I’ll look for alternative ways I can torture teach students about writing.

Did I mention that I suspected this doctor is likely younger than my oldest son? Not only that, he had the nerve to tell me This degeneration is due to aging! AGING! Who does he think he’s talking to? I finally asked him at our third encounter how old he was, what do you know — I was right on. He’s the same age as my second son. Geez!

I’m in the final stages of preparing my job application for a job in the US for the 2015-16 academic year. For now, think good thoughts and I’ll tell more when I have more information, and maybe an offer.  🙂

This is an interesting birthday time in our family. My two youngest children, were due two years and a day apart. So their birthday are one week and a day apart, and they were both late! So yesterday (Saturday) was my son, Tom’s birthday. Next Sunday (March 1) is Kate’s. She’s the one who usually tries to talk me into doing some kind of Kate-friendly post for her birthday. We’ll see what happens.  🙂

It’s been great having coffee with you and catching up. Wishing you a great week.

Thanks to Diana for hosting our gathering:  https://parttimemonster.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/4149/

 85 days until 60!

It’s All Relative: SofCS

socs-badgeJust Fooling Around with Bee – a month-long blog-hop is going on in recognition of Love, called Love Is In Da Blog is a month-long blog-hop from Just Fooling Around with Be. The week 3 prompt is Family Love. During February, Linda collaborates to make the Stream of Consciousness prompt cover both events. So here is the prompt for this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday: “relative/relativity”. It can pertain to a person, a thing, a theory, or a concept. Play with it and have fun!

Having spent the last 5 1/2 years in a foreign country, the idea  of family has become a blurry concept. Of course, I have my parents, my siblings, my children on the other side of the world. I miss them terribly, and although I’ve visited 4 of the summers during my teaching position in Taiwan, I am eager to return to them next summer. During the last four years, I’ve been blessed to have my husband here with me, but the first two years I lived and worked here, I was on my own.

taiwan-mapStill, I had a few people that I knew (including the one who invited me to consider teaching here), and from those early beginnings, I’ve grown another family here in Taiwan. We may not be officially related, but it hasn’t stopped the friendship and caring that are part of so many relationships I have here. I’m going to share a few of them, but the list is not exhaustive. But you’ll be finding out about some of these (and other) people and the ways they’ve touched my life, as I plan to focus on posting about these people and events as I wind down my time in Taiwan.

In all kinds of ways, big and small, there are people who’ve made me feel like I belong, even though I’m living in a foreign country, where I still can’t speak the language. People are very kind and giving. From the first day, I arrived here, Amy met me at the airport and helped me find a place to live.

Diane and her family were my anchor during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Several times, I was invited to their home over the two years we both lived in Taiwan. When my children were half a world away, I felt privileged that she was willing to let me be part of their family and spend time with their children.

Through Diane’s husband, Erik, I also met Mei-Hung, who has been our adventure lady, both before and after Dave arrived in Taiwan. I have written about some of our adventures, and there are more write-ups to come. She has been such a dear friend over the years here.

When I had my knee surgery in my second year, Jessica C. was the one who came early and stayed through the day with me. Steve and Patrick helped me change apartments just weeks after the surgery.

Mac, the taxi driver, took me under his wing and was as close as a phone-call away. He and his wife invited me to dinner at a Japanese restaurant. Another time, they invited me to their home. After Dave moved here in my third year, he took us to a meal to welcome Dave to Taiwan. On another occasion, he took us to the ceramics museum in Yingee.

I found out that I have a twin brother I didn’t know about. Well, maybe Joe isn’t really my brother, but once we connected as colleagues, we discovered we thought so much alike on so many things that we tell people we are twins who were separated at birth. We are both from the US, but Taiwan is where we finally met.

Mina and I have been good friends even though we have a very small shared vocabulary. Between friends, Google translate, guesswork, and body language, we’ve done quite well over the last three years. I first met her at the coffee shop around the corner, and when she moved to work at another restaurant, I still visit her, even though it’s not nearly often enough.

I am surprised at the things that came out in this post. The people I’ve introduced here are only the beginning of the people who have become my family here in Taiwan. Future posts will mention others and provide some details of the activities and events that we shared. So if you’re part of my Taiwanese family, and you don’t see your name listed above, check back. There’s more to come.




Share Your World 2015 (Week 7)

year-of-the-goat-cartoon_23-2147503522I’ve not been doing too much sharing of my world in the blog lately. But it’s the first day of  the Chinese New Year, and I’m sitting in my office the coffee shop making progress on several projects from my to-do list. As a treat, I thought I’d jump back into this challenge. Hopefully, I’ll stick around for a while, but I can feel things shifting for me. Who’d have thought that Chinese New Year would be such a time of introspection for me. I thought I just did that introspection thing last month.  🙂

Here are Cee’s questions for the week.

041514-sywbannerIs the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

hahahahahahahahaha! We’re having a good day when all the paper money in my possession is put away into its zippered pouch. But that aside, the paper money in my possession is Taiwanese, and there are only three denominations in regular use. Rumor has it that there is a 2000 NTD note, but I’ve yet to see one in actual circulation.

A 100 NTD note is worth about $3 US (depending on the exchange rate)

A 500 NTD note is worth about $15 US.

A 1000 NTD note is worth about $30 US.

I usually don’t have more than 1000 NTD with me. Most of the time I have a small wad of 100 NTDs. But their arrangement is not that orderly. If they’re folded together in one bunch, that’s about as organized as we get.

What is your favorite type of dog?  (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal or character in a movie)

My favorite type of dog is my unique little chihuahua. Even though there was a chihuahua in the house when I was younger, that thing would bark up a storm any chance she got, including if a tissue dropped on the floor. Well, maybe not THAT bad, but no one could come near the door. And then it took forever to calm her down again. I didn’t dislike her, but she could get on your nerves sometimes.

I’m usually more of a cat person, and so when we adopted this rescue dog, it was kind of surprising for me to discover how quickly I became attached to her. Anyway, I tease people that she acts more like a cat than a dog. But she NEVER barks; occasionally, she lets out a single growly yelp, but it happens so rarely, it always gets out attention. Maybe that’s her point.  I don’t care too much, because she’s a nice little bundle when she’s curled up in my lap.

If money was not an issue, would you go on a cruise?  If so where would you go?

If money were not an issue, I would definitely go on several cruises. Some for location, some for a theme. The places I most want to cruise would be to Alaska and around New Zealand. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down the Caribbean. In fact, I can’t think of a place I would flat out refuse.

I’d also like to go on a cruise for quilters, where I could hang out for 5-7 days, sewing, learning, sharing, and having fun with other quilters. For that one, we could go anywhere. I would still like to see things, but I would like a few days where any available time could just be used for sewing.

Would you dare to sleep in haunted house overnight?

That depends.  🙂   On two things:

1) What kind of haunted? How serious are we talking here?

2) Whether or not I would have to be alone when I did it.

If it was a place that was reported to have doors opening and closing in the night, sounds, voices, etc., I’d probably do it if there were a good reason. OK, maybe three things:

3) Why? What’s the point? Is there some kind of award or prize?   LOL


If you want to join in the fun, head over to http://ceenphotography.com/2015/02/16/share-your-world-2015-week-7/

February Follies (aka Fast-Forward Fridays)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe best laid plans of mice and men. Except I can’t blame mice or men in this case. I can’t even blame the clutter cats. They’re only mascots, after all. I can only blame myself. For this crazy challenge.

Design your own challenge, I said. Set up your own steps, I said. It’s only four weeks, I said. You can compete with yourself, I said. It will be fun, I said.

OK, enough ranting. 🙂  It’s really not that bad. And I still believe most of those things, except the one about four weeks. There are only two left.

The reality is I fell off the Fast-Forward-Friday express. On the left, you can see one example. Fabric sorting did not happen last week.  In fact, most of my decluttering challenge seemed to have died in the water this week. But have no fear. I have a plan. And I have something else — perseverance.

But one thing I have known since before starting this (rather ambitious) challenge is that no matter how well thought-out plans and ideas are, unexpected events always interrupt the “ideal” plan. But the one thing that I’ve put into practice in the last 18 months that’s helped more than anything is perseverance.

So just like any other plan or project, there were some glitches in this system. In this particular case, I wasn’t expecting two extra doctor appointments this week (with accompanying bus trips). Nor was I expecting to have to adjust what I can do physically. But, that’s life. Things don’t ever always go according to plan. On the good news side, I did make a lot of progress on work-related tasks.

Before I made a practice of perseverance, I would sort of let things go. I would call the challenge a good try, but it “just wasn’t meant to be,” at least not this month. But I’m determined not to give in to that cycle. I can persevere by doing one simple thing: pick up where I left off and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

As you can see in the list below, I have a lot of fancy footwork to do to catch-up, but rather than defeating myself with my attitude, I’m going to see just how much I can catch up. If I don’t make it all the way, I will still be much closer on celebration day (February 28) than I’d be if I gave up now.

So here is the 2nd Friday update (a little late):

List of Daily Tasks
  • (green – on-time completions for week 1;
  • purple – early completions;
  • blue – on-time completions for week 2;
  • red – missed items – scheduled for catch-up)

    Clutter Cats

    Clutter Cats

    • 2 – Middle shelf
    • 3 – Lower Shelf
    • 4 – First Metal Drawer
    • 5 – Second Metal Drawer
    • 6 – Three wood drawers (FRIDAY)
    • 7 – Hanging Clothes
    • 8 – Printer Cabinet (2 shelves)
    • 9 – Printer Cabinet (other 2 shelves)
    • 10 – 2 bookshelves
    • 11 – 2 bookshelves
    • 12 – 2 bookshelves
    • 13 – 2 bookshelves  (FRIDAY)
    • 14 – Fabric
    • 15 – Other quilting and craft supplies
    • 16 – black ottoman

By persevering, I can keep my spirits high and just continue on. Getting upset with myself for not keeping up is not productive. That frame of mind would only serve to give me a “reasonable excuse” to explain away my lack of progress. Perseverance helps me to continue on, even though the results may not be exactly what I hoped for. But who knows? Just as setbacks are often the result of when things don’t go according to plan, sometimes unexpected breakthroughs can also come. So I’m going for progress.

I’ve also made some really significant discoveries about myself, but that’s for another post. See you in a few days with another update. Anyone else?

92 days until 60!


Building Rome: At the Coffee Shop

janfricoffeeI’ve been away from the Building Room project for several weeks months, but I’ve returned because: 1) I miss all my fellow builders and 2) I need a kick in the seat of my pants to get back on schedule. For some reason, when I post things here, I stand a better chance. So I’m back.

I did make sure that one item now stands in Rome: a coffee and tea shop. When I need a break from building, here it is. It’s a nice place with lots of lovely drink options. I invite anyone to stop by when the building gets to be a bit overwhelming.

Even though this post would typically start with how I did on last week’s goals, it seems kind of pointless to go back and talk about goals from August and September. So I’m just going to jump in with making a list of several things that have been stalling out on my to-do list. After all, some of them will obtain crisis status within a few weeks if I don’t get back on track.

Most of these are work related, either for my current job or upcoming work. But I’m including a couple of play and relaxation things as well. Take a deep breath, because the list will seem huge. And I realize that it may be too ambitious for the time I have. But I’m trying to give myself a jump start.

In other words, while I don’t really expect to get everything on this list done in a week, I’m thinking that I’ll get more done by upping the ante a bit. It becomes a game–a version of “Beat the Clock,” which seems to get me going sometimes. It’s my competitive nature.  Or my insanity, but I’m not taking a poll. My apologies to those of you who wanted to vote.

In addition, I have a student coming to help me with some of the research tasks. In addition, having her there will keep me more focused in general. Setting a good example and all that.  😉


  • plan ppts for upcoming Japanese intensive English program
  • set up lessons for first four weeks for writing classes
  • sort papers for comments
  • pull document together for JJE project

Research Presentation

  • set up data collection file for last groups
  • set up first round analysis
  • register for May conference


  • Finish CV
  • Write letter of intent
  • Send CVs for review


  • Finish G project
  • Finish current JR section
  • Start JL


  • Two blog posts
  • Go for appt on Friday
  • Catch up on Fast-Forward Fridays
  • Do some sewing for my play date

Yeah, I told you it was big. Maybe next week’s list will be a little calmer. We won’t have a poll on that either, but if you’re curious about what happens, tune in next week.

 This ongoing challenge to keep people focused on weekly goals and projects provides both the method and the support to keep participants going. You can check it out here: Bradley Corbett at: http://greenembe.rs/2015/02/09/building-rome-week-6-for-2015/


97 days until 60!