One Week Later: Building Room (At the Coffee Shop)

Image courtesy of nuttakit /

Image courtesy of nuttakit /

Last week, I rejoined the construction crew in Rome, and helped put the finishing touches on our very own coffee shop. You should stop by for a beverage of your choice. There is quite an extensive menu. It’s nice to take a break along with the other builders.

Speaking of which, it would be great to encourage some new and returning builders to join us. Bradley has put together this wonderful space to help us all build the part of Rome we most want in our lives. It’s a fun way to stay motivated, build community, and inspire each other with ideas and support. Spread the word!

So in terms of my goals for last week, I knew it was ambitious. I knew I would not complete everything, but the challenge was to throw it all out there and push myself to do more than I might have with a more “realistic” list. As you can see, this approach definitely had some benefit. Completed items are crossed out. Items in orange have been moved to this week.

For the week of February 9


  • 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 group
  • 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


While several things did not get finished, many things did. With my helper, we got much further on the research data than I had hoped. In addition, my co-presenter needed some materials from me, and I was able to get that put together to send him. Since the main goal was to make a dent in this mountain, I am happy with the progress for the week.

That said, I am reminded that this outside accountability for one’s goals and intentions is really helpful. I like this weekly check-in. That’s also part of the reason why I encourage and invite people to join us above. It doesn’t have to be a big list. Maybe just something you’ve been putting off for a while. Break it down into a few steps, and put the first one on a list for next week. I’ll be there to cheer you on.¬† ūüôā

I’m crazily considering doing a long-range plan for the year and posting it in another ongoing challenge. I’ll report in about my experience if/when I take the plunge.

So, on to the new week! I am moving all my incompletes from last week to this week and adding a few more things. This is my last full week before the new semester begins, so there is lots of impetus to press on. See you in Rome!


For the week of February 16


  • plan ppts for upcoming Japanese intensive English program
  • set up lessons for first four weeks for writing classes
  • write comments for JJE project
  • review thesis draft for TC
  • finish textbook answer key

Research Presentation

  • set up first round analysis
  • prepare ppt slides of first round of analysis
  • register for May conference


  • Write letter of intent
  • Send CV and letter for review
  • Prepare reference information
  • Submit main job app
  • Travel web-site


  • Finish G project
  • Start next section JR (20-26)
  • Write questions for JL
  • Meet with JL


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

Best of luck in whatever the week brings your way!



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:

If We Were Having Coffee (August 24)

Thanks to Gene’O for inviting us all over for this lovely gathering. I will be visiting some of my fellow coffee and tea drinkers later on.¬† ūüôā


If we were having coffee,

  • I’d tell you that I’m excited about the creative discoveries I’m making. I not only finished piecing my current quilting project — a mystery quilt, I also figured out the correct layout for the pieces ahead of the clue that will be released on September 1. It looks great, and since I got word that my solution is correct, I’m going to begin sewing the quilt top. I’ve also been enjoying my drawing practice and Zentangle.
  • I’d tell you that I’m maintaining my exercise schedule–going to the gym and walking, more than ever. The walking is in spite of the fact that the temperature is regularly around 90 degrees (Fahrenheit) with high humidity.¬† And my efforts are paying off. I’m steadily losing a little weight. I’d be a little happier if those promised endorphins would kick in, but I’ll keep going regardless. I can tell that I’m feeling stronger.
  • I’d tell you that I had an awesome time on Monday, visiting a city in northern Taiwan. The day included an awesome seafood lunch, coffee overlooking water and mountains, a trip to the seafood market, and a walk through the night market. The day promises a couple of blog posts–one with pictures of the things I’ve mentioned, and a second one that covers the other activity we did that day–kite flying!
  • I’d tell you that I’m struggling with what is going to happen with my blog next month. That is when I add full-time teaching back to all the other projects I’ve been working on this summer. I really have enjoyed exploring my voice these last several weeks, but it’s been hard to always fit it in. But realistically, I can’t keep up at that pace unless I get more organized and write several posts in ahead and schedule some of them. So for now, I’m thinking that I will try to post at least 2-3 times a week, and spend some time visiting my fellow bloggers. This environment has been great for me as I’ve tried to find my way through a rough spot this summer, so thanks to everyone who has been part of that great connection.
  • I’d tell you that I’m looking forward to a visit to another part of Taiwan this week, and that you should be looking for more posts and photos.

Have a lovely week!

297 days to 60!

600 Days to 60: An Update

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 /

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 /

Several months ago, I began keeping track of how many days it would be until by 60th birthday. I wanted a way to really pay attention to my life–my goals, my intentions, what I wanted in the big picture. I see 60 as a big milestone, and I wanted to use the time leading up to it to accomplish things that could be celebrated at my 60th birthday party. Yes, I’m planning a party.¬† ūüôā


It was back on September 25, 2013 that I posted my first mention of 600 Days to 60. Here are a few excerpts from that post.

Several months back, I discovered a blog, 400 Days to 40. Even though I found the blog rather late in her 400 days, it got me to thinking that I might like to try something similar for my next milestone. So I calculated (and recalculated) to find the magical day on which I would launch my new blog, 600 days to 60.

In the end, I decided not to launch a new blog. After several months of maintaining a pretty good schedule with Container Chronicles, I started posting less and less. By September, (when it was time to launch), there was no reason to start a new blog, but just incorporate the idea into my current blog. Back to the original post:

I’ve decided that I’m not looking at this 600 days to 60 as a count-down, but rather a count-up! I want to think of these next 600 days as a journey to find the best version of me there is to find. It will be a process of excavation and checking the foundation, and finding new ways to create and decorate. It will be a time of new keywords and of intentions that challenge and revitalize me. A time of decluttering, revisioning, and finding clarity. My intention is that this journey allows me to find what is important and discard the rest as I move forward toward a life full of vibrant possibility.

Well, parts of that have gone ok, but there is a long way to go. I want to refocus my attention on the original hopes I had for such a project. Over the next few days, I am going to review the posts that highlight the tracking I have done. And reconsider and restate the specific activities that I want to participate in during the remaining days until the celebration. 

The moment is now. 600 days to 60!

It may not be as poetic, but the moment again is NOW!

281 days to 60!



An Alternate Route to the Construction Site (Building Rome)

Sm Steve n Menu at DebbiesBuilding Rome is a mini-challenge hosted by Bradley at Green Embers. Participants set weekly goals, then report in the next week, and cheer each other on along the way. You might want to join in the fun.

I’ve come up with a general format for these: (1) Report my progress for the previous week; (2) Provide commentary that explains shifts in progress and understanding and future goals–with the hope it doesn’t bore you to tears; and 3) the goals for the upcoming week. Then, me being me, I added a final note at the end.¬† It seems to work. Preparing these posts really gets me focused for the time ahead.



1. Complete 18 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:  Only completed about 6 blocks during the week.

  • editing project (3 sections) — COMPLETED
  • writing project (finalize template, begin introductory material) MINOR PROGRESS (need more)
  • complete a project spreadsheet (PRIORITY) NO
  • preparing for fall classes ‚ÄĒ type notes for two lessons NO
  • Writing 201 ‚ÄĒ read post, choose piece for revision, and spend at least 2 hours on said revision¬† NO

2. Maintain walking three times this week (in spite of the heat).  DID THIS FIVE TIMES

3. Start piecing possible designs for quilted postcards. NO

4. Visit more of my fellow builders and comment on their posts. I visited everyone. I left some comments.

5. Make a plan for my blog. I gave some serious thought to this and have a general idea. Will pursue it more this week. However, extra points for posting every day last week!

6. Catch up on my unanswered comments. Made some progress. Need more.


I love Bradley’s theme for this week: SETBACKS ARE NOT ROADBLOCKS! Truer words were never spoken. It’s so easy to use setbacks as an excuse to stop moving forward. As some of you know, I didn’t have a great week, and it shows in my unfinished business above. But I am gradually becoming more and more like my normal self, and I expect this week to be better. In addition, I’m still pleased with the fact that I still made some progress in many areas. Plus, I did something that wasn’t on the list. I read a book! I can’t tell you the last time I read a book just for the enjoyment of reading. So that’s a bonus. I think it’s something we should remember in our reports–that sometimes things we didn’t think of when we were planning come up. If we take care of those things, or if we accomplish something that wasn’t on the list, it’s still an accomplishment. So it’s good to report the extras too.¬† ūüôā¬†

For example, I had three! unexpected social events this week. In other words, none of them were planned when I set my plan for the week. They were real opportunities — and with my current moods, it really made sense to embrace the opportunities rather than stay holed up at home trying to meet goals for the sake of goals, while ignoring relationships. So on Friday, I went to the ceramic museum with two friends. On Saturday, we attended a good-bye dinner for my colleague, Steve. (That’s Steve in the thumbnail above.) That evening, another colleague came to spend the night, and we spent Sunday morning together, before she headed back to Taipei. Those three events may have done more to help my spirits start returning to a normal level than any amount of work I might have gotten done.

My last bit of news has to do with a couple of meetings today that have the potential to change my life dramatically. This is particularly significant in light of the fact that I’m planning to return to the US in a year or so. The meetings have helped me think of alternative ways of meeting my objectives. I have a new perspective on a couple of things, and I have someone who wants to collaborate with me on a new research project. Doing something with a collaborator is going to be an added impetus to get it done.

So there are some adjustments to my to-do list for this week. Some things that didn’t happen last week will indeed carry through, but I’m going to step back a bit and do some longer range planning so that my goals in future weeks are more in line with this new perspective.



1. Complete 18 12 one-hour blocks. The tasks for those blocks include:

  • editing project (3 sections)
  • writing project (finalize template, begin introductory material)
  • complete a project spreadsheet (PRIORITY)
  • write an abstract draft and other preliminary materials for new research project
  • make a rough schedule for the coming year — determine which projects are really the priority in order to set appropriate course for return to US

2. Maintain walking three times this week (in spite of the heat).

3. Start piecing possible designs for quilted postcards.

4. Visit more of my fellow builders and comment on their posts.

5. Make a plan for my blog.

6. Catch up on my unanswered comments.

As I made the new list, I realized not that much really changes. I cut down the number of one-hour blocks, and make them more focused to leave other time for the other things that I want to pursue (quilting, blogging, and decluttering). It turns out the non-work items (#2-6) really don’t change much at all. I’m just focusing the “work” time differently. It will be interesting to see what next week’s goals look like after I spend some time this week looking at the big picture.

Good luck to everyone on meeting your goals this week!


This post is part of the Building Rome Project.

REUNION (AtoZAprilChallenge)

a-zchallengeAlthough I currently face many frustrations in my work, I love the teaching that I do. I get great joy from helping people express themselves. In my current position, that often means encouraging students to discover ways to express themselves in English, even when they lack the confidence to try.¬†For example, I often hear students say,¬†“Teacher, my English is poor.”¬†I finally realized that I heard it far too often, and many of the students who said it actually had English speaking ability that was quite good. So I finally challenged them to change what they said, AND I made them rehearse it with me before they got away. Now, I have them say, “My English is pretty good, and it’s going to keep getting better because I will keep practicing.” It’s great to see their faces light up when they go through rehearsing that response.
One of the biggest joys of teaching is when a former student goes out of their way to visit me. This was the case last Friday when I had a reunion with Jessica, a bio-technology student I had in a required English class three years ago. She was a junior at that time. She is now completing her Master’s degree doing work in cell biology. She will graduate in June and has just completed the oral interview for continuing for her PhD.
What is especially touching about these photos is that she brought her graduation garb from home because she wanted pictures of me with her. She told me, “I didn’t get any pictures with you when I graduated from Ming Chuan, so I want to have a graduation picture with you now.”
When she posted the above picture on Facebook, she wrote the following:
Last Friday, I visited my favorite teacher, Deb Kraklow.
We haven’t seen for a long time.
We prepared pasta salad for our dinner together.
I am very pleased to be able to see her again because she always gave me encouragement and gave me a chance to speak English.
We chatted about our lives and I explained what I studied in my graduate school totally in English.
I was afraid to speak English before.
But now, although only in simple sentences, I can tell her what my research is.
If I had not met her, I’m still a girl who afraid to speak English.
I really appreciate her.

And I really appreciate Jessica. I couldn’t believe it when she told me during dinner that she wanted to try to explain her research to me in English. Jessica’s research examines the link between¬†type I diabetes and osteoporosis and explores alternative treatments¬†methods that could someday help¬†treat both diseases. As you can imagine, explaining all of that in English is quite a challenge, but we worked together to piece it all together, and it turned out great. She was excited about it, and I encouraged her to think about trying to pursue writing her research¬†in English as well to get even more exposure. I can’t wait to¬†see if she tries. Of course, I’ll be willing to help her if she does.

One more fun fact. Because of her Facebook post, a couple other students have approached me about a reunion. I only taught English to the biotechnology majors here for two years, but it’s a special group to me. In a few days, I may be sharing another reunion experience I had a year and a half ago, with a group of biotechnology students from my first year here. In addition, I have a couple posts planned for next month that tell about my birthday celebrations in Taiwan. Two of them feature biotechnology students. AND Jessica is already working on a plan for my birthday next month.

Even without the birthday plan, I will always have the lovely memories of a week ago when Jessica visited me and shared an evening of reminiscing and research. There are many students who will always be part of my life, and Jessica is definitely one who will always have a special place in my heart.



Homeward Bound

NewYearsSkyThis past Christmas was my fifth one in Taiwan. I love so many things about Taiwan, particularly my students. But the holidays this year brought out a very reflective side of me.

At Christmas,¬†I thanked many people in my post at the holidays on both sides of the ocean. And while I included my children in those thank you’s, I had written¬†another paragraph that night that I didn’t include in the post.

I have four children, and throughout my time here in Taiwan,¬†technology has helped keep us close in spite of the distance. Doug (the oldest) is the only one who Skypes with me regularly, but Kate (the youngest) and I talk on Facebook almost daily. She and I have a couple of ongoing projects we work on together, and she is the mother of the wonderful Mr. Logan, my nearly three-year-old grandson. She also blogs (, and I can share her life that way. I don’t talk to the middle two sons as often as I’d like, but they both have wives who help me stay in touch. Through Megan’s amazing food blog ( and Mindy’s Facebook posts, I feel like I am still part of Tom and Erik’s lives. But there are times when even technology can’t bridge the longing for family that seems to intensify during the holiday season.

So as I wrote a few weeks back and thanked my family and friend on both sides of the ocean, here is the paragraph I wrote that I did not send that night.

Thanks to my lovely children for filling my life with wonder and for building lives of your own. As I watch from afar, this Christmas has¬†made me realize that I must find a way to make my way back home to be with you not just for the holidays, but always.¬†I don’t like being this far away from you. In spite of the fact that we can keep in touch, it’s not the same, and my Christmas wish this year, is that there will only be one more Christmas that we celebrate on different sides of the world.

I’m posting this now to let¬†you know that those feelings and a lot of thinking have led me to¬†a decision.¬†I will only return for one more year of teaching in Taiwan. Come summer of 2015, David and I will return to the U.S., to you, our families and to our friends who have stayed in our lives throughout this long separation. Taiwan has been a wonderful place to live for these last few years, but it’s time to go home.

I know that home is where your heart is, and my heart is very much here in Taiwan and will continue to be until I actually pack my things and leave. However, as long as Mr. Logan and my children are not here, I feel that my home is somewhat incomplete. I can never adequately thank all the people who have helped me feel welcome and at home here in Taiwan. But in the next  few months, I plan to feature some of them in a few of my blog posts. In the meantime, I still have time here to be with everyone and to continue my work here. The only thing that has changed is that now I know how long I will be here, and when I will head for my other home.

I want to thank Belinda at for the photo above. She loves to photograph the many faces of the sky. Her pictures are always a delight, but this one grabbed at me in a profound way. The sky and the road, both open, both with no end in sight. I feel like I need to trust this road, that it will lead me home.

My Journey to Taiwan

As I am approach the halfway point of my 5th year in Taiwan, I going to answer a question posted by one of my blogging friends. So, Bear, this blog post is for you, as I embark on a new series about where I’m headed as I enter 2014.

I can’t find her exact question, but it was basically about how I ended up teaching here in Taiwan. She’s not the first to ask, and she won’t be the last. Every time I get a new class of students, someone will ask the question. The short answer is: I was invited. The long answer is: it happened through a series of invitations culminating in the specific one that led to my move to Taiwan.

In this post, I will offer three narratives about the journey to Taiwan. Two of them are previous posts for this blog, which detail the series of invitations I refer to in my long answer. Interestingly, it was a year ago that I wrote these two posts. At that time, my blog was only a couple months old. Now that I have more followers, there may be others who are also interested in this story. So it makes sense to offer these posts again.

The third narrative is a piece I wrote for my undergrad college alumni magazine as I was beginning my second year in Taiwan.

Here we go!

In the first post, I detail the first seven invitations and one of the consequences.

Invitation 1: New Job Position
Invitation 2: Entering a Master’s Program
     Consequence: Decision to Complete BA
Invitation 3: A Marriage Proposal
Invitation 4: Joining the Honors Program
Invitation 5: Becoming a Writing Center Mentor
Invitation 6: Taking a Second Major
Invitation 7: Considering Graduate School

In the second post, I continue with three more invitations and a couple more consequences. At one point, the invitations seem to compete, but we sometimes limit what we think is possible, as I would discover.

Invitations 8 and 9: Apply to the Roberts Fellowship Program
     Consequence: Travel to Asia
     Consequence: Shift in self-perceptions
     Competing Possibilities: A Fork in the Road
Invitation 10: ‚ÄúCome to Taiwan to Teach!‚ÄĚ


And now for my contribution to the alumni magazine.

If someone had asked me a year ago where I’d be today, Taiwan would not have made the list of possibilities. Leaving the US wasn’t even a consideration at that point. But life has a funny way of surprising us sometimes.

When I returned to SVSU in 2000 to finish a BA I had started nearly 30 years earlier, I did so because I wanted to enhance my credentials for my work in church ministry. During my first semester back, I took an Introduction to Sociology course both because it fit my work schedule and it met a general education requirement, but I was not looking forward to it. I didn’t think I would be interested in sociology. It turns out I didn’t have a very good understanding of what it was. But I had the good fortune to have a professor, Dr. Joni Boye-Beaman, who awakened in me a love for sociology that changed my life. Within two weeks of the semester’s beginning, I had changed my major to sociology and have never looked back.

Members of the English department faculty were also instrumental in helping me forge a new direction in my life. Judy Kerman approached me after my peer review work in one of her classes resulted in an improved paper for one of the students in my group. She asked if I had ever considered teaching and suggested that I think about graduate school. English would have remained a minor for me, but for Dave Gaskill. Although we lost his gifted teaching way too soon, I will always remember his advice both on my writing and on my approach to project management. He also talked me into majoring in Professional and Technical Writing. Diane Boehm welcomed me into the Writing Center and encouraged me to develop my twin loves of writing and teaching. Kay Harley, Janice Wolff, Phyllis Hastings, and Mary Harmon provided support and friendship as I completed my second major.

In the 2003-2004 year, I was accepted into the Roberts Fellows, and another round of surprises and experiences awaited me. In May of 2004, I visited Taiwan for the first time, and spent time at both Ming Chuan and Shih Hsin Universities. When we went to Tokashima University in Japan, I found myself feeling an urge to return to Japan for a year and teach English. I asked a few people about it while I was there and even mentioned it to my husband, who was also willing to join me in that endeavor. But there were many challenges. My youngest child was still in high school, my parents were recovering from a major car accident, and my age put me in a situation of having to choose between two competing goals–teaching overseas or going to grad school. At that time, it didn’t seem I could do both, so I went to graduate school.

But after graduate school, I began looking for a job teaching sociology in a community college. As I was preparing the materials for my applications, I emailed Dr. Robert Yien (former Vice-President of Academic Affairs) to ask him for a letter of recommendation. I did not realize that he was currently working at Ming Chuan University to assist them in working toward U.S. accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in Philadelphia.

When Dr. Yien responded to my email, he not only agreed to write me a letter of recommendation, but he suggested that if I wanted to come to Ming Chuan and teach for a year or two, that I should let him know. I didn’t respond immediately, but over the next few weeks, I thought more and more about it–both the good and the bad. I knew I would like spending time in Taiwan, but it was a long way from my my family and friends. I knew I would make new friends in Taiwan, but I couldn’t just get on a plane and head home for the holidays. I discussed it with my friends and family, and eventually, I decided to pursue a position teaching English at MCU.

Some things made the decision easier. I had already visited here and had some sense of what I was getting into. I don’t think I would have been so willing to go to a place where I knew no one or nothing of the culture and environment. Also, Dr. Yien was here, so I had someone here that I knew. And most importantly, I knew that I could keep in touch with my family in ways that could not have been imagined even a few short years ago. With SKYPE, I am able to talk to my husband daily,* my parents a couple times a week, and my children with varying frequency. My mother even says she thinks she talks to me more in Taiwan than she did when I was in the States.

I love my work here. I enjoy my students–ok, most of them–and I am learning a lot about them, about their culture, and about myself. I feel very appreciated here, and I’m beginning to pick up a little bit of Chinese. Tonight when the clerk at the tea shop told me how much I owed, I understood the amount without having it translated to English! There have been many special moments–like when one of my students invited me to a student karoke competition because he was singing a Christmas song in English. After he sang, he spoke to me from the stage, thanked me for coming, and told me that even though I couldn’t be with my family for Christmas, that I wouldn’t be alone, that I would have them–my students. I couldn’t really ask for more than that.

*At the time I wrote this piece, my husband was still in the U.S. He joined me here in Taiwan as I began my third year here and has been with me since.


The opportunity to teach abroad has given me a new appreciation of my abilities and confirmed my love of teaching. It has taught me that some of our best laid plans don‚Äôt always work out the way we had hoped. Sometimes, flexibility and creativity are needed to find the path to satisfying life work. And to have a life that’s larger than what I might have imagined for myself.


If you have more questions about my Taiwanese adventure, please feel free to post them in the comments. I will try to respond, either there or in a supplemental post, depending on how many questions I get.

496 days to 60


This post is also part of JustJotItJanuary (JusJoJan)

From Blog Challenge to Quilt-Along

The Blog Challenge

As I approach the end of October, I will be finishing up the 31-day blog challenge sponsored by¬†Lesa Townsend at¬† A final report will be forthcoming when the month officially ends,¬†but what you’re reading now is my 25th post for the month. One of the most important things about this challenge for me is that it helped me focus my¬†intention of taking time for myself. In the past, I¬†would have¬†told myself that¬†I have too many obligations, too many reasons why this challenge is an extravagance of time that I can’t afford. And yet,¬†I did it.¬†Regardless¬†of the final count, I am thrilled with the results. And I’ve learned that nothing needs to keep me away from blogging, as long as I’m clear that it’s what I want to be doing.

An interesting element is that signing up for the blog challenge was a fluke. I saw¬†an invitation in an email, and I thought, “Why not!” And so when I had the opportunity to join a quilt-along, I had a similar response. Sure, it’s the same old problem. Where will I find the time? But if I don’t try, I’ll never know. And I intend to quilt in the next couple of months, so why not have some support along the way. Let’s lay the groundwork with two quilting stories that converge in this quilt-along.

My Role Model for Fabric Play

(Photo Credit: StitchedInColor)

(Photo Credit: StitchedInColor)

Not too long ago, I wrote about my¬†fabric play role model.¬†(Click on the heading above the quilt to see that post.) Rachel had used a photo she had taken to match up fabric with those colors and created a palate for the quilt you see at the left. I was enchanted by the idea of using photos to create such creative palates for quilts. In fact, I love seeing what comes up in Rachel’s blog. I often save some of her ideas¬†so I can find them later. Looking at her creative work makes me happy and ready to tackle quilting again.

I had selected a project, chosen fabric, and set a quilting date when Rachel put out feelers for a quilt-along. That idea would have intrigued me on its own, but two things sweetened the deal. First, the timing was good. The real work would take place in November and December after the blogging challenge was over. Second–and¬†more important for me,¬†the pattern Rachel chose for the quilt along is the very one I fell in love with when she did the fabric play–the quilt shown above. How could I say no? I couldn’t. To be honest, I didn’t try very hard.

BONUS: Once she posted the actual schedule, it turned out that the biggest push for sewing comes during the week of mid-term exams. I have to grade exams, but I have no classes to teach that week. I can focus on my other to-dos, in order to smuggle a day or two for quilting.

Like the blogging challenge, I look forward to what the quilt-along will bring in terms of quilting progress and the things I learn about myself. I suspect that this blog will feature a few updates on quilting projects in the next couple of months.

Related articles

Invitations: My Path to Taiwan (Part 2)

A Recap Of Part 1 Invitations

Map of Taiwan

Map of Taiwan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m back for the second installment of how my responses to a series of invitations led me to Taiwan. If I had declined any of those invitations, I would not be here. Other invitations would have led me down other roads. Of course, when an invitation comes along, there is no way to know where it leads. One opportunity presents itself, and a decision is made based on its own merits. It’s part of the adventure. To be honest, I only became gradually able to accept the fact of moving halfway around the world. If I had known at the beginning of this path where it was actually leading, I may have talked myself out of accepting invitations that put me in line for something I didn’t feel ready for. But more about that when we get to the next invitation. For now, I think it’s good to only see one part of the path at the time. Taking on each of these experiences was done without knowing what the results or consequences would be. It is only in retrospect that I can see the path. In a way, I suppose it was more like trailblazing, if trailblazing can be considered an unintentional activity.

The first seven invitations on the path are listed below. The details can be found here.

  • Invitation 1: New Job Position
  • Invitation 2: Entering a Master’s Program
  • Consequence: Decision to Complete BA
  • Invitation 3: A Marriage Proposal
  • Invitation 4: Joining the Honors Program
  • Invitation 5: Becoming a Writing Center Mentor
  • Invitation 6: Taking a Second Major
  • Invitation 7: Considering Graduate School

 Invitations 8 and 9: Apply to the Roberts Fellowship Program

These were technically more college invitations, but the consequences were significant. An invitation to apply for the Roberts Fellowship comes in the form of a letter. I was not successful in my bid for the program when I responded to Invitation 8. It wasn’t until 9 that I was even called in for an interview. In 2003-04 I was accepted into the program as part of the Roberts Fellows as part of the 5th year’s group. The link above provides information about this program if you’d like to know more.

I can’t begin to tell you how transforming that first year is. Friday morning seminars and a variety of activities, meetings with leaders, cultural experiences, and bonding with the others in the group as we explored our potential as individuals and as a group.

Friday morning seminar of Roberts Fellows, Year 5.

Friday morning seminar of Roberts Fellows, Year 5.

As an aside, my fellowship experiences enhanced my coursework in ways I could not have imagined. As part of a sociology class project, I had the honor of interviewing the benefactor of the Roberts Fellowship, Donna Roberts. That led to an idea of creating a memory book of the first five years of the program. It included her biography, as well as reflections from key people in the university. The President, the Director of the Program, and the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert Yien. (Remember that name. He issues an invitation later.) I sent emails to the all the Roberts Fellows from all five years inviting them to offer written reflections for the book. Many responded, and I edited the volume, while another Fellow from an earlier class took care of the graphics and cover layout. At that spring’s banquet to welcome Year 6 Fellows, we presented the book to Donna Roberts (as a surprise!), and every one of the Fellows also received a copy. (The tradition was continued when the Year 10 class also put another book together in 2009.)

In October of 2003, as I was experiencing everything that being a Roberts Fellow meant, my husband and I were married. His love, devotion, and support helped me through all of the work involved with the extra activities that had come into my life. I have never doubted for a minute that he wants what’s best for me and for us. When I doubt myself (which I am prone to do from time to time) he is there to remind me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. With him by my side, I finished the activities of the Fellowship year and prepared for the culmination of that year–a trip to Asia.

Consequences: Travel to Asia

English: Great Wall of China near Jinshanling ...

Great Wall of China near Jinshanling (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t begin to cover everything we did in two weeks. Our May 2004 trip included stops in Taiwan, Beijing (where we climbed the Great Wall), Hong Kong, as well as three cities in Japan: Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokushima. Maybe in a future post, I can give more details about some of these stops, but for now I’ll briefly review our time in Taiwan, because it affects the final invitation and acceptance that brought me to teach here. While in Taiwan, we stayed at the Grand Hotel and spent most of our time in Taipei, with visits to the Taipei 101 building,¬†the ¬†Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and the campus of Shih Hsin University before heading to the Taoyuan campus of Ming Chuan University.

During our time in Taiwan, Dr. Robert Yien joined us there to guide us around Taiwan and share his knowledge with us. On a bus ride after we had visited Shih Hsin University, I asked him about starting an English Corner for international students at our university, similar to what we had seen at the Taiwanese university. He was receptive and the following semester, he funded the start-up costs for our own English Corner.

Consequence: Shift in self-perceptions

The best way to demonstrate the shift that happened to me as a result of being a Roberts Fellow can be demonstrated in my entry in the memory book:

This program has challenged me to reconsider many of the ideas and believes I’ve carried with me all my life–especially the ones about myself and what I can hope to accomplish. I found myself believing in possibilities that used to seem out of the question. I have taken advantage of opportunities I might have passed up even a year or two ago. The best part is that it hasn’t just affected my life: it affects the lives of my children and those with whom I interact. I have always encouraged people to reach for whatever they wanted in life and to embrace their talents and gifts, but I have a new sense of urgency and excitement whenever these gifts and dreams come up in conversation. I actively encourage everyone within my circle of influence to think differently and to believe in themselves and in the power of what they can accomplish, both individually and as part of the groups to which they belong. I am excited about this new vision of the world.

Competing Possibilities: A Fork in the Road

While in Japan in 2004, our group also visited Tokushima University in Japan. While there, I felt an urge to consider teaching English there for a year. I did some checking and came home and discussed it with my husband. He was willing to join me in such an endeavor. But there were many challenges. My youngest child was still in high school, my parents were recovering from a major car accident, and my age put me in a situation of having to choose between two competing goals–teaching overseas or going to grad school. At that time, it didn’t seem I could do both, so I went to graduate school.

Invitation 10: “Come to Taiwan to Teach!”

When I emailed Dr. Robert Yien (I told you he’d be back), to ask him for a letter of recommendation, I discovered that he, too had accepted an invitation. While I had been in graduate school, he had accepted he not only agreed, but he suggested that I come to Ming Chuan University and teach for a year or two. I took a few weeks to think about it. I knew I would like spending time in Taiwan, but it was a long way from my family and friends. On the other hand, I already had a few contacts and would certainly make more. With SKYPE, I could talk with my parents and my four children. In the end, my husband and I decided that I would go alone, and that if it turned out to be longer than a year or two, he would join me. In the meantime, he kept things going in the US. When things extended to a third year, he did the major work of dismantling our household and joining me in Taiwan. When I flew back for year three, he was with me. I am now in the middle of year four, and we are planning to be here at least through year 5.

Christmas Day my first year in Taiwan

Christmas Day my first year in Taiwan

And now our home is in Taiwan. The invitations converged, resulting in an unexpected opportunity that went far beyond teaching. I’ve been involved in writing and editing projects involving accreditation, academic journal articles, and historical documents for groups and individuals. I am involved in research about teaching writing and the writing process to English language learners.¬† I‚Äôm even coordinating the development of a new in-house textbook project, which involves eight new books for the new curriculum of our University‚Äôs English language program.

I had no idea that any of these invitations would bring about such a major factor in my career trajectory. These years in Taiwan will forever change my life. For me, that‚Äôs the gift of this experience–making a difference in the lives of my students while doing the work I love. I have found a home half-way across the world, a place where I can flourish in spite of the physical distance between me and my loved ones in the US.

Related articles

Invitations: My Path to Taiwan (Part 1)

Happy Chinese New Year!

New Year's items being sold at Dihua Market, T...

New Year’s items being sold at Dihua Market, Taipei, Taiwan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If someone had told me four years ago that I‚Äôd be seeing spectacular Chinese New Year‚Äôs fireworks from my 4th floor apartment in Taiwan, I wouldn‚Äôt have believed it. But here I am. I am often asked why I came to Taiwan to teach. The short answer is that I was invited, but in reality, it was the culmination of a series of invitations. Even though I didn’t always understand where the invitations would lead, I embarked on several extra adventures that eventually led me here. This post traces those invitations and the resulting events that brought me to Taiwan.

Invitation 1: New Job Position

In my previous life, I worked in church music. I planned the music for services, played the organ and piano, rehearsed and directed choirs, trained and scheduled people who were interested in serving in various liturgical ministries, and “other duties as requested.” In the late 90’s, after many years in liturgical music, I received an unusual invitation to try my hand at directing the religious education program for our parish. At first, I wasn’t sure about this unexpected opportunity, but with some encouragement from the retiring Director of Religious Education and the pastor, I decided to give it a go. Turns out I loved it, and it gave me my first experience in curriculum design for a multi-year program.

Invitation 2: Entering a Master’s Program

While I was exploring my new position at the parish level, I received a call from the director at the diocesan level, inviting me to participate in a master’s level theology program through Loyola University. Initially, I hesitated because I hadn’t finished my BA, but he assured me that I would receive funding for the program and a certificate upon completion. I took the plunge. I attended weekly meetings, requiring substantial reading and assignments in preparation for each session. Our group of ten completed the 30 credit hours over three years.

Consequence: Decision to Complete BA

By the time I completed the certificate program in theology, it was clear that I could handled the routine of going to class and completing assignments, while still working full-time. So although it had been 30 years since I started my BA, I returned in 2000 to complete it. At six hours a semester, it would take a while (I went in with 38 hours  completed during my freshman year back in the 70s), but it would add up in time. A happy coincidence during my first semester back led to my decision to major in sociology and minor in English.

Invitation 3: A Marriage Proposal

What is a marriage proposal if not an invitation to share your life with another? I had been married before, and it hadn’t been the best of experiences. This invitation took a lot more consideration, weighing pros and cons, and deciding whether I was willing to make such a risk again. In the end, I accepted his invitation, and our lives have been blessed in many ways because of it. More about the details as this list continues.

Invitations at College (#4, 5, 6, 7)

#4 Join the Honors Program:  It required taking honors courses or creating an honors version of a few courses and completing a research thesis, but an invitation to return to the Honors Program I had left 30 years ago seemed a worthwhile endeavor.

#5 Become a Writing Center Mentor:¬†A friend invited me to apply to become a mentor in the Writing Center. I’d always loved writing, and even the application process led me through a process of assembling a writing portfolio and reflecting on my own writing process. The number of “mini-invitations” that resulted from joining the Writing Center was totally unexpected. Conference presentations, starting an English Corner for international students, and coordinating the Writing Center’s English 111 course presentations were just some of the experiences that resulted from accepting this invitation. Little did I know that it would be instrumental in my later certification in Taiwan, particularly my extensive work with international students.

#6 Take a Second Major:¬†I enjoyed the classes I took for my English minor, but the only writing major at the time was Professional/Technical Writing. I didn’t think I was interested in it, but at one of my conferences about a writing project, the professor made a case for turning my minor into another major. At that point, it would only add one year to my time in school, and as will be seen later, there were lots of other things going on that made it hard to argue his point. When I asked whether the courses I needed would be offered in the following year, he offered to do an independent study with me if needed.

#7 Consider Graduate School:¬†Another professor asked to see me as a result of some peer review activity we had done in class. A student I had worked with made significant progress in a rewrite. The professor asked about the techniques I had used and then asked if I was considering graduate school. She encouraged me to pursue teaching, particularly in writing. This suggestion, along with the other three “college invitations” resulted in an¬†honors thesis that combined sociology, teaching, and writing, a trend that would follow me to Taiwan, even though I didn’t know it at the time.

to be continued . . .

English: Chinese dragons at LongyinTemple in C...

Chinese dragons at LongyinTemple in Chukou, Taiwan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who knew that invitations held so much possibility? I used to think about invitations as social obligations to be included in one’s calendar, but the question about how I’ve gotten to this part of my life got me thinking about all the choices we make when it comes to all kinds of invitations.

In Part 2, I will share the final invitations that brought me to Taiwan. It involves an invitation that led to admission to a fellowship program and a trip to Asia. Stay tuned for the details.

Also, if you have any specific questions about the journey to Taiwan, feel free to add them to the comments. 

Happy Chinese New Year!