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.



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


Image courtesy of 89studio /

Image courtesy of 89studio /

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.  ☕️


This post is part of SoCS:


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:



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:

Feeling Trapped HERE: Stream of Consciousness Saturday (Part 1)

Linda’s Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is “hear/here.” I think I’m going to do this in two parts, starting with “here.”

10530768_10202456215468170_2235054169176470936_nI’ve been struggling for several weeks to feel like myself. The one good thing I know is that I have not been dwelling in the past. And I’m only mildly dabbling in the future — though that is part of my “long-range” planning for heading back to the US next summer. My point is that, for now, I try to be in the present. I try to be here.

The unfortunate thing is that at the moment, here is not an especially nice place to be. I can’t seem to get excited about what to do here. I know this is the best chunk of time I’m going to have for the next twelve months. Yet, I can’t seem to enjoy and explore the here and now.

Luckily, there are moments, when I get little glimpses of motivation and wonder here. And I daresay that those moments might be coming a little more often than they did during the last few weeks. This gives me hope because there are things I want to do in my present here, so that I can make a relatively smooth transition to the future.

I’m not looking for sympathy, or even suggestions. I feel like I’m finding my way out of this. It’s just been a frustration to feel like the moments float by me without my participation. I am not usually this passive — therefore, the discomfort is — haha — uncomfortable. I guess the main reason for following this train of thought in this post is that I’ve learned that these little Saturday exercises often move me to the next level if I let this unconscious part come to the surface. So here I am.

Another reason I can recognize that things are improving is that my productivity is slowly returning to a more normal level. Not quite as good as I’d like, but still — it’s significant. The goal setting I’ve been doing over the past few weeks was supplemented this week by a few “concentrated lists” for a particular day and time. That seemed to make a difference. In other words, I like contests, games, challenges. I need to remember and use that to my advantage, even when I think I don’t have the desire to play.

Because that is the other key: making sure that fun and play are part of my here. It’s important to give myself down time and to really give myself over to the playful side, like when I take time out for Zentangle with coffee, of course (as in the picture above) and a couple finished Zentangles in the photo below.

As August gets into full swing, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about here, and I look forward to having some fun things to show you in the near future.

You might want to check out a whole other angle of this week’s SofCS with my post about HEAR.  🙂



If you’d like to join in, please do. It’s a great way to meet new people and see new blogs!

Here are the rules from Linda’s page:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” or “Begin with the word ‘The’.”

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people will come and read your post! The way to ping back, is to just copy and paste the URL of my post somewhere on your post. Then your URL will show up in my comments, for everyone to see. For example, in your post you can copy and paste the following: This post is part of SoCS:  The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. Have fun!

A question of balance?

Your Friday prompt for Saturday’s Stream of Consciousness post is, end your post with a question. Extra points if you fit an exclamation mark somewhere in the body of your post.

newyear's 2010 002A week to pick our own topic. How to get started. What will I write about? I could write about the fact that this week hasn’t gone according to plan. It hasn’t been a bad week, unless you judge it solely on how much of my weekly list got accomplished. However, there is more to life than a to-do list. I know that. Still, I’d like to be closer to catching up.

On the other hand, today and nearly every day this coming week has social events scheduled. Not my choice, yet they are all important, and they are all time sensitive. In other words, they can’t be put off.

If I had a third hand, I’d be focusing some time on the big picture and what is really reasonable to have on a to-do list over the next 7 weeks. Maybe I should choose just a few significant things (however I decide to define that), and allow lots of down time to do things I find relaxing and rewarding, like more quilting and other creative endeavors.

I realize as I am writing this, that the cloud of apathy that has been my constant companion for a while now might possibly be dissipating. Even if it’s just beginning, that would be great news. It also means that once again, SofCS has helped me make a realization that breaks down the “logjams” that exist in my head (and in my physical environment). Writing is amazing!

So, now I’m thinking that it’s time for a fourth hand that would take a day away from the expected and do some writing and exploring of all the things floating around in my head. In that way, I may discover a fifth hand that I hadn’t thought of. After all, I can let my subconscious mull all of this stuff over for a couple of days, and then see what nuggets of insight it will provide if I just take the time to write and listen to it.

So, I’m taking comments and suggestions. I suspect I know how this will go, but I’ll ask anyway. If you were in my situation, what would you do?


This post is part of SofCS:

When You Don’t Know What to Do: SoCS

It’s no surprise that things don’t always go according to plan, but some things tug at the decision-making process than others. That was the case this morning, when we awoke to a telephone message from back in the States. Dave’s mother had passed away. Even though she had been in a nursing home for several months, there had been no specific warning that this was coming. But apparently, once they got her ready for breakfast this morning, they went to get her tray and when they returned she was gone.

So what to do? Do we get a ticket and send him back for the funeral? There are so many complications. The funeral is scheduled for Wednesday–external pressure from somewhere–not sure where. Even if we put Dave on a flight tomorrow, he would get there just in time for the funeral. As it takes close to 20 hours to make that trip. Then there’s the fact that our resources are very limited right now. Then there’s the fact his sister, Cathy, the one who has been the caregiver for Mom all these years, has already had two bouts with cancer and is being watched for another recurrence. Dave returned to the US last year to help her through one of those times, with surgery and chemo. So the real issue is that if he goes now, there won’t be resources to go again before our final return to the US in the summer of 2015. There are no guarantees about anything, of course, but there are certainly none that suggest that Cathy may not need Dave before our return.

Too many factors, too little time, too little money. The options weigh heavily. Luckily, though, there is no heavy expectation that he return. It’s just his siblings are asking in case he does want to try to make it because it would then make sense to delay the funeral to make it less of a tight fit in the schedule.

Then, of course, there’s the idea of separation again. Dave and I spent the first two years of my Taiwanese adventure across the ocean from each other, and then have spent our summers visiting respective families. We had already decided not to travel this summer, when this surprise came along.

Emotionally, my preference is to not have to deal with it. If he wanted to go, if we had the resources for it to happen easily, I would somehow manage. I have before. But I don’t want to. I selfishly want to keep him near me as I work through the second half of this crazy semester, with textbook deadlines looming repeatedly in the distance–the disadvantage of having so many left to do and a tight timeline if I want to leave for the States by summer of 2015.

Luckily, Dave seems to be ok with the way things appear to be lining up. He wants to stay with me. He wants to believe that things will be good with this sister until 2015 and beyond, but he clearly wants to have the option to go to her if she needs him. And going now would eliminate that possibility. There is no way we could do this twice.

What to do? Not quite sure, but it looks like the dust is starting to settle. In the meantime, the other things that need to be done don’t seem all that important.

RIP Dorothy. We will remember you fondly.


This post is part of SoCS:

Right Writing: SofCS

Image courtesy of nuttakit /

Image courtesy of nuttakit /

I haven’t paid much attention to Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompts–only vaguely aware of them, but for some reason, this week, I wanted to check it out more. And I was intrigued. Didn’t want to actually write it as a blog post though. My blog isn’t for SofC. But then what is it for? Lately–meaning March–my blog has languished. I have lots of ideas, but no inner push to put myself out there. It’s not like I’m not writing–I am, but I’m not writing the things that I want to put in my blog.

Oh hell, that isn’t even true. I have three freewritings–much like this–about things in Taiwan that my “audience” says they want. I used the freewriting to demonstrate the process for my writing classes. But I didn’t take them farther yet. They are still in the list of drafts. There’s something wrong when the drafts are almost equal in number to published posts. Or perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps I need to stop worrying about the right thing to write and just get back to writing. Was it only October when I was writing nearly every day? I signed up to do that challenge again in March, and talk about total fizzle. Now the ABC challenge is due to start, but I drag my feet.

Much like I dragged my feet on deciding to participate in this SofCS post. In fact, for me, it’s not even Saturday anymore, but I finally got to the point where I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about writing “right” or if this was the “right” thing to be writing, or even if I was doing any of my current writing “right,” I just needed to write. And here it is, in not so much glory, but in breaking through the silence of the non-writing that has been my blog lately. Maybe now the floodgates can open.


This is a weekly feature of Linda Gill’s, and I’ve obviously finally taken the plunge.