Receiving A(nother) Random Act of Kindness in Taiwan

chinese-ink-painting-the-year-of-goat_439-2147504703As most of you know, my semester here is 18 weeks and goes from September all the way through the traditional “American” holiday season. So between November and the end of our semester in the first part of January, we have one holiday – January 1. I taught on Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, as well as the days surrounding them. While it’s a little crazy DURING that period of time, it’s nice when we get to late January and early February because then we get our break before returning for second semester at the conclusion of Chinese New Year.

During the break, I have been doing a new routine, combining my daily walking (to the coffee shop) with a task list so that I can begin to catch up on things that got behind during the textbook project. I get work done AND get my regular exercise time in–walking to the coffee shop and walking back home again at the end of my “workday.” In the morning, I try to get here as close to opening as possible–10 am. Departure time could be as early as 6, or as late as 9:30 or 10 pm.

Last night, it was in between those two. Dave came to walk me home between 7 and 7:30. We headed on our usual route, and waited at the stop light that led to our neighborhood. After we crossed, we noticed someone behind us walking in the same direction. She was carrying a hot beverage cup. (Of course, I like to think it was coffee, but it could have been something else.)  🙂

Anyway, as she passed us, she turned and said, “Hello!” as in English, as in initiating the greeting herself. In general, people are quite friendly, particularly if I greet them first. However, I usually greet in Chinese. So this was a little unusual, but very welcome. I returned the greeting, as did my husband. After she walked ahead and turned on a road to the right, we turned left onto our road. Dave asked me, “Is she one of your students?”

She wasn’t. But the reason he asked me is because it isn’t uncommon for me to have students (past and present) see me in different locations, and run up to greet me. This woman was just friendly, not crazy.  🙂 So we continued walking down the last block before crossing the last street to our apartment building, holding hands, because we’re funny that way. Suddenly, we heard someone coming up behind us from the beginning of the block and a voice calling something. We stop and turn to look, and it’s the same woman we had seen on the other street. She had come back to the main roadway where we had seen her and then found the road that we had turned down.

more cakeShe handed me a small bag, much like the one in this picture. She told us they were cakes, and they were for us. I thanked her profusely, and she smiled and walked away. Dave and I were a bit dumbfounded. These lovely cakes are cooked in a griddle with wonderful goodness cooked inside. My favorite are the ones with a custard filling, and the other one I’ve seen often is red bean (sweetened). But at that moment, the really super great thing about the bag of cakes is that they were still warm. My hand was very happy with its new hand warmer.

Dave and I smiled all the way to the apartment, marveling at this lovely random act of kindness. I hope we see that woman again, but more than that, I hope she knows how much we appreciated her thoughtfulness. When we got home, there was one more surprise. I noticed that the filling was dark, so I assumed a red bean filling, but it was raspberry! So yummy! And unexpected. A sweet surprise to end  our Friday evening.

Thank you, Mystery Woman! You made our day!  ❤

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If We Were Having Coffee: Starting Again

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that it was a week with lots of contrast, lots of ups and downs. I’ve had some good news this week, and some not so good news. I’ve had some productive days, and some not so productive days. I’ve thought about starting to post in the blog again, and I’ve considered making the break longer-term.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that blogging is not a good thing for me to give up on an ongoing basis. While I was on break, it was too easy to just add another day, then another day, then another day to the break. It’s not that I feel there is a frequency I need to maintain or that I’m addicted to blogging. But as my husband pointed out, it is an important part of my process. When I suggested that with my schedule, it might be good to just give it up for a while, he jokingly said, “There are other things you could give up instead. Like sleeping, eating, . . .”  Wow! It hadn’t occurred to me in just that way, but he helped me recognize that like the exercise I’ve now incorporated into my life, this blogging and self-exploration is important as I move toward a different kind of life next summer.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that I got a haircut yesterday, the first one in nearly two years. (I’ve been cutting my own hair during that time. I’ve been really happy with the results until the last time I did it.) So with a faculty meeting this Wednesday and classes starting the following week, it was time. I’ll post a photo soon, along with my adventures getting my hair cut in a foreign country.  🙂

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that I feel overwhelmed with the things on my to-do list, with the things in my environment. I’d also tell you that I’ve started mapping a strategy to some clarity about what is important and what can be adapted or left behind.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you that the best part of coming back to blogging isn’t necessarily the posting, but reconnecting with many of you. Even though I am officially returning to a bit of posting today, I started visiting blogs again yesterday. I appreciate you and the parts of your life that you share. I look forward to continuing the conversations.

If we were having coffee,

I’d tell you its 253 days til 60.

Gone Fishing!

me and cat on wallOK, maybe not exactly fishing, but I’m going to be absent from Blogland for a few days. I’ve now posted daily for over 40 days, and I’ve achieved several of my crazy blog goals that I set for August–knowing it would be the last month I had to devote that much time to blogging for a while. During the next few days, I will not be writing for my blog or posting on my blog. In addition, after the next 12 hours (a little time tonight and a little time tomorrow morning), I will not be visiting, commenting, or liking other blogs (unless I slip off the wagon) until my return toward the end of next week.

During these next few days, I will be focusing on a few deadlines and projects that need my attention. To be honest, blogging is more rewarding than some of the projects I need to do. The “responsible” part of me had considered a long-term leave from the blog, but the “rational” part of me vetoed that crazy idea. I learn so much about myself while blogging, and I am unwilling to give up the community that exists among the bloggers I interact with. My life would be so much less without blogging and the people I have met because of it. So I’m taking a short break–just a few days–to try to make sense of my schedule in a way that allows me to get things done and to honor this blogging thing, which has become so much more than simply a hobby to engage in only when I can squeeze it in.

During August, I intentionally made blogging a priority. I’m hoping that by telling myself that I’m taking a break, I won’t say to myself (16 times a day), “Oh, I could blog about that.” And I won’t be asking my husband, “Oh, could you get some pictures of that.” In other words, taking a break is intended to remove blogging (which I really enjoy) from the forefront of my thoughts as I figure out how it fits into my life during the normal schedule.

To help with my blogging withdrawal, I will spend some time doing some sewing on the quilt top for the summer mystery quilt challenge. Hopefully, I can begin to do some regular drawing practice. Or at least, alternate it with Zentangle. But my main focus is to create a schedule for the coming academic year that provides a balance between what must be done and what I want to do.  Such a schedule may be too big a project for a week, but I will see how far I can get, while knocking off a few things on the project to-do list.

I have a couple of blogging “questions” that you can help me with, if you are so inclined. First, I would be interested in how other people organize the reading of and commenting on other blogs. Do you have a system that you would care to share? Some of you seem to get around much more than I do, even when I spend some dedicated time on it. So any suggestions would be welcome.

When I come back (probably on September 4th or 5th), I hope to have a blog plan. The free-flowing thing I’ve been doing may become more structured. It may not. If you have any preferences about which of my posts you enjoy reading the most, I would be delighted if you would let me know in the comment section. You can choose as many as you wish. I’ve listed a few that you can refer to by number (see purple list below). Or if you have other ideas, that’s fine too. This is also a good place to ask questions if you have any curiosities about me. Although, I’m sure that’s not very likely. Right?  😉

1. Responses to challenges where you learn random things about me?
2. Posts about Life in Taiwan?
3. More about my family and the experiences that got me here?
4. Quilting and creativity?
5. The eclectic mix that I currently do?
6. A decluttering challenge.

OK, thanks for all your support. Your comments will help me as I figure out my blog plan.

I’ll see you in about a week!  🙂

261 days til 60!

What Should I Do Next? (SofCS)

The prompt this week for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: start with a preposition.

Who would have thought that the struggling with the prompt led to the topic?  haha

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Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of 89studio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With all the things I need to do today, you’d think I’d have gotten off to a better start. I did get to Curves AND do some walking, so it’s not like nothing got done. But when it got to be 2:00, and I was only getting to the first thing on the list, it was a little disconcerting. But I think I know part of what’s going on.

For so long, I tried to kid myself about the illusion of choice. I can do this, OR I can do this, OR I can do this. So many choices. And I waste time and conscious attention wandering around from item to item on my list, spending my limited mental energy playing games about what I feel like doing. Now that I know better, you might think I would do things differently, but today is one of those days that I was on the verge of squandering a perfectly good work day.

On my list for today are six items. I prioritized the list because I have finally learned that just making the list and doing all that pseudo choice thing (choosing something from the list based on what I want to do) just wasted precious time and energy. It took me a very long time to make the connection between my indecision and my tendency to procrastinate. I’ve had people tell me that I thrive on deadlines. NO. What happened in the past is that the deadlines take away choice. Deadlines demand focus, and so there is no illusion of choice. I just do what needs to be done. I don’t thrive on deadlines. Deadlines make choosing irrelevant.

About the only good thing to come out of the deadline realization was that it wasn’t that the stress of the deadlines was the motivating factor as much as not having to decide what I could or should be doing. Or I got trapped in the craziness of believing that I was a good multi-tasker. It could be argued (and undoubtedly will be) that it really doesn’t matter WHAT I’m doing as long as I’m doing something. But that’s not always true. Like everyone else, I find dozens of ways to kill time, and it’s not always a merciful death. So the trick is to make the list, put it in order, and move from one thing to the next. Not that I don’t take breaks, but when it IS time work, I’m actually working, rather than shuffling papers and ideas and possible activities. It’s not like it’s inflexible. If something comes up, I adjust as necessary, but I’m not getting in my own way, by stopping several times a day and asking, “Hmmmm, what shall I do next?” I have many more interesting things I’d like to spend my time thinking about. But I can spend my conscious attention on the actual content of the projects I’m working on rather than a pointless decision process as to what to do next.

Of all the things I’ve learned about the brain and how much conscious attention we really have, the illusion of choice may be one of the most helpful things. Even if the prioritizing is random, removing the choice just makes it easier to move from one thing to the next. I had the perfect example of this today when I sat down to write this post. It was next up on the list, cool! But sometimes I have a hard time making decisions (which is why prioritizing my list really is important). And today’s prompt threw me for a while, because I had to start with a preposition. That should be easy, right? There are LOTS of prepositions. I just had to choose one to start with. DAMN!

For someone who often has trouble making decisions, especially little ones, this prompt really drove it home. Luckily, I came up with a solution. I made a list–just like I do for my tasks. Then I randomly chose one and began. With each paragraph, I stopped long enough to think of a way to start with another preposition and then kept going again. And I know that it wasn’t necessary to use a preposition for each paragraph, but sometimes I embellish things a bit.

In the end, it was the usual thing. Once I started, it was easy to continue, and with each paragraph, I just looked at the list and grabbed one and went. Starting is sometimes the hardest part, but that’s why not having choices really can be freeing, even though that seems counter-intuitive.

At least, the post is nearly finished. It rambles, but I’ve once again learned some valuable things by letting the unconscious part of my brain go to town. That’s the great thing about stream of consciousness writing–you don’t have to think about it.  At least not once you get started.  ☕️

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This post is part of SoCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2314/

 

268 Days to 60!

 

 

Time to Think about Time

Our Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “time.”

Lately, time and I have an uneasy relationship. I keep trying to plan it, manage it, rearrange the plans, and it just keeps on going, as if I don’t matter. When we are in synch, I feel productive, fulfilled, sometimes even invigorated or hopeful. But other times, I feel overwhelmed. Then I realize that it isn’t really time’s fault. It isn’t the fickle one, changing moods and priorities at every turn. Time is so consistent, annoyingly so sometimes. I want it to be a little more flexible, a little more willing to go with the flow. Enjoy the spontaneity of our relationship. But no, just the same old answer every time I ask: tick tock, tick tock, or some variation of it, with a few chimes or bird calls thrown in for good measure. How is one to maintain a good relationship with such limited conversational options?

Time knows me though. It knows that if it weren’t consistent, I’d complain about that. I’d be asking how am I supposed to get anything done when I can’t depend on you? Geez, Time, if you’re going to change the details of our relationship without giving me enough information, how can I trust you? Time just looks at me with a knowing half-smile. Damn, maybe I’m the one with the problem!

I guess, if the truth be told, I’m a little jealous of Time’s consistency. I think I’d like to be consistent–maybe not in a regimented way, but in a way that allows me to walk in better step with time. It would be nice not to be out of synch so often.

I keep trying things, dividing time into blocks, compartments that I can use to have at least small pieces of success with the way I use time. I try to play matchmaker between these time blocks and the tasks on my to-do list. Sometimes it works, but not consistently. So I try other ideas.

I know I need to get along with time, but some of my other regular companions don’t always play nice. Motivation is totally fickle, and I wish it would learn a few things from Time. But if I’m honest, the one that really messes things up pretty regular is Depression. It comes and drains all the Excitement and Vision from Motivation, snubs its nose at Time, and is totally comfortable with the misery it leave behind.

Therein lies my real problem with time, but I need to be careful not to use depression as a reason to give up on my other friends. They deserve more. Time, Motivation, Excitement, Vision, and Well-Being are the ones who make life worthwhile and who keep in touch with my human friends. Without them, Depression has a tendency to be a little possessive and get in the way of all my friendships.

Somewhere along the way, several years ago, I read something about making friends with Depression, or at least, don’t spend so much time actively resisting it. I’m not quite so sure how I feel about that, but I do know that ignoring it isn’t the way to go. Maybe Time and I will need to give a little, and at least help Depression feel a little less like an outcast. Maybe a listening ear is just is needed. It’s worth a try.

 

This post is part of SofCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-1614/

 

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Decisions, Decisions: Stream of Consciousness Saturday

This week, Linda’s Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: double/two/bi-/twin or anything else you can think of that means “two.”

Two Cats

Two Cats (Photo: Rena Chen)

I’ve noticed that when people have to make a choice about something, they often during the process, might utter the expression: Decisions, decisions. That title came to me as soon as I was thinking about what “double/two/bi-/twin” stuff I wanted to write about. Without two much thought, I had come up with two idioms having dual (another two-thing) words in them. Once they emerged, the title came along, and it didn’t take long for a story to be created around idioms involving “two.” And I got to explore the consequences of my decision (five years ago) to come to Taiwan.

First up: Of Two Minds

This was the first one that came to mind as I was puttering around with pressing my fabric strip sets for my mystery quilt project. I wasn’t thinking about decisions at that point, but just how when we are considering alternatives or possibilities, it’s often that there is more than one way to think about. And wow, there’s an idiom for that! I was two minds about using that as a part of my writing prompt. It was a cool idiom and it had “two” in it, but on the other hand (sort of a two reference), I didn’t really have an angle. Not that something as silly as that would ever stop me, but I had hope that something else would pop up. And it did.

 

Second up:  A Double-Edged Sword (“Second Up” works for two’s better than “Up Next”)  🙂

Early this afternoon, I was back with the fabric strips to cut them into segments for the next block when my adventures with changing my rotary blade made me think of “double-edged sword.” The places my brain goes when it’s wandering can be a little scary sometimes. Anyway, I thought: OK another idiom with a two-ish thing in it. I started thinking about all the ways that we tend to look at the pros and cons of something, and how rarely things seem to be clearly one way or the other.

So I knew those were my two and I headed to the computer to start screaming streaming (my consciousness). As the blank post came up, that’s when the idea for the title came to me, both because of the “two thing” and the fact that both of the idioms could be directly tied to the way people often make decisions.

Considerations and Consequences

While making decisions, I find myself confused when I don’t have clarity about what I really want.

I use the first idiom (of two minds) during my deliberations–the considerations part.

For example, I have to make a decision about taking on a Saturday morning activity in the fall. I am of two minds about it. It would be interesting, it would provide a little money, and it is something else I can add to my resume. But the other part of me realizes that I have so much to do already, and that the money that would come from this activity probably doesn’t justify the amount of time it would take when you consider travel time. I can offer them another alternative that makes it more attractive to me, but I’m thinking that the time commitment takes away too much from what I am already doing.

I use the second idiom (double-edged sword) when looking at consequences.

My example of this pertains to my decision to come to Taiwan. While I was still of two minds about it, I then had to consider the pros and cons. But beforehand, I could only anticipate and speculate. I could collect information, talk to others, and try to predict my reaction, but I can’t really evaluate how it will be until I’ve actually had the experience. And it’s always interesting, because there are surprises on BOTH sides of the ledger.

I can now say, for example, that my time in Taiwan has been a double-edged sword. Let me speak for each edge of the sword.

EDGE 1: “It’s been such a great adventure to be here. I’ve learned so much. I’ve met people from here and from other countries. I’ve taught exchange students from Japan. I’ve accomplished things I wouldn’t have done if I had worked in the US during this time. I’ve seen a part of the world I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.”

EDGE 2: “Being in a foreign country for five years has meant that I missed the birth of my grandson and many of the milestones of his first four years. I missed birthdays and other family events–weddings, baseball tournaments, funerals, milestones, graduations, holidays, and day-to-day interaction with my family and friends. Technology has helped keep us in touch, but there are moments when I still feel the great distance between us.”

If I could go back in time, I would make the same decision. I don’t regret it. Sure, there have been rough moments, but there is good and bad with everything. But with the friends I’ve made and the experiences I’ve had, I wouldn’t trade these last five years for the world.

 

This post is part of SoCS: http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-914/

SCARY CAT: Cartoon Craziness Challenge

cartoon-craziness-challenge-banner

In the course of teaching writing classes, I sometimes draw things on the board to illustrate principles. For example, I draw an iceberg so that students can see how much more of it is submerged below the water line than what is seen from a ship’s deck, for example. When I try to draw a ship on the water line, it’s not always pretty. But the students get the point that I’m trying to make–at least I hope they do–between the unconscious (System 1)  and  the conscious (System 2) processes of the brain. In the course of drawing this iceberg scenario for them, my explanations are often accompanied by lots of smiles and a few laughs from the students. Especially when I deliver my last line of that particular lecture:

“And this is why I teach writing and not drawing!”

You may wonder why I told you that story. It’s because even though I don’t think I’m very good at drawing, I still put it out there when I have a reason. I am intrigued by this challenge, but if I get one piece of it that is reasonable, I feel like I need to stop and not risk ruining things. So even though I know the challenge this week is for KIDS (and their pets), I got the pet, so we’re going to call it good.

CAT

NOTE:  My stats took a hit last week when I posted my attempt at creating a superhero. Coincidence? 🙂 I think not. So, just for fun, I’m doing a test. If the number of visits goes down when I post this latest masterpiece, I will probably keep my drawings to myself.  Luckily (or not), you probably have guessed I’m bluffing. But why take a chance?

Go check out the other entries to this week’s challenge.

Thanks to Mental Mama and Indecisive Eejit for hosting this challenge.

Share Your World: My first session (Week 29 of 2014 for the rest of the world)

Random photo: compliments of my daughter

Random photo: compliments of my daughter

While I’m still trying to figure out what I really want this blog to be, I keep experimenting with different things. Today, I thought I’d try the Share Your World, hosted by Cee’s Photography. Each week, 4 questions are posted, and you just answer them. And since the questions are totally random, it fits right in with my current blog “untheme.”  And by the way, for those of you who like photography, Cee’s Photography also has several photography challenges you might want to check out.

When I started blogging, I didn’t do a lot of challenges, but I’ve picked up a few along the way. I’ve noticed that Sheena Not a Punk Rocker might be responsible for roping me into many of them. She writes such cool posts, and then I think — hey I should do that. Go check out her blog, she’s got lots of cool RANDOM stuff. I really like random! And if you like the random photo on the left, you might want to check out my daughter’s blog, Sincerely Kate and see what else she’s up to.

So, I’m going to jump in right here with this week’s questions and see where they take me.

Share Your World – 2014 Week 29

Have you ever been in a submarine?  If you haven’t, would you want to?

BecunaIn the early 90s, I was in Philadelphia with my two oldest sons. We were visiting our friend, Sue. One of the things we did while in Philadelphia was to go to the Independence Seaport Museum at Penn’s Landing. While there, we had the chance to tour the Becuna (SS-319), a submarine built in New London, CT. It was launched in 1944 and was involved in WWII missions. It was involved in surveillance after the war. It was decommissioned in 1969, and is now in the museum in Philadelphia. My oldest son love American history, and at that time, he was fascinated by WWII, so this was a natural stop.

So yes, I was in a submarine, but not in one that was submerged. I’m sure modern submarines have a little more space inside than the Becuna did. I admire anyone who actually works in space like that, even if it’s just standing still and you can come up for air. I can’t imagine being in that confined space for days or weeks on end.

On the other hand, I would say that if I were just going as a “passenger” and could read or write or knit on my own schedule, I might be interested in going to sea for a few days. There I said it.  But I don’t think I’d want to do longer than 3-4 days.

Are you a listener or talker?

This definitely depends on the situation. As a teacher, I have to do a lot of both. I am accustomed to people coming to see me when they need to talk, so I guess I’m perceived by some as a listener. I do find there are times when I’m overwhelmed with stuff, and I just talk and talk and talk. I try to watch how much I do that or who the audience is, because I tend to be a little too self-revealing at times. I’ve made a point of getting better about that. Now when I’m thinking about revealing something, I’ll check in with someone I trust before spouting off. But in terms of the general give and take of conversation, I know some people who also do both listening and talking, so I think it works out most of the time.

I have to say though, that my preference is to do less talking. I like that I can communicate with people through online messaging of various kinds. I’d much rather email or message someone rather than call them. It’s funny because it wasn’t always like that. I used to talk a fair amount on the phone, but no more.

Do you prefer crunchy peanut butter or smooth peanut butter?   Anything with your peanut butter?

Crunchy. Extra crunchy even! At least two companies make it. It’s awesome! I like mine on home-made wheat toast for breakfast.  Thanks, Dave!  ❤

Oh, but you can build fudge around my peanut butter anytime, with or without chocolate involved.

Have you ever been drunk?

No. I was willing to try it once. In my early 20s, I was staying somewhere for New Year’s Eve, and thought, let’s see what all the hoopla is about. But halfway through my second drink, I just felt fuzzy and uncomfortable. It didn’t seem like anything I want to go any further with. So I stopped, and that was that.

Fast-forward 20 years, and a friend (hi, Sue!) went barhopping on foot in the small town I lived in at the time. I had two drinks, and supplemented with Sprite. I had a good time, but again, it just felt like something I didn’t want to go further with. It’s not that I never drink, but I do it rather infrequently.

One more thing. Friends who know me well know that I can be just as much fun as the next person at a gathering even if I don’t drink alcohol. A few of my friends know to just give me a Coke, and I’m in having a good time right along with the rest of them. haha

 

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SO, what you think? Is this the kind of post you’d like to see from me? Should I put it into the rotation? Tell me what you think in the comments.  🙂