April 23, 2016


They start out in a dark and quiet place. Soft and helpless. Unaware. 

And then they become mobile. Curious. Cute. And yet contained, confined to space and time; in my care. 

And you look at them in wonder, unable to imagine them becoming anything else.

And then, before your eyes, they do.

April 13, 2016

Episode XI

Dear Bright Eugene,

This weekend you turned 11. We celebrated with a pizza party, followed by a showing of The Force Awakens projected onto the wall of our roof room, and then a sleepover in the same roof room.  I don't think you boys got much sleep up there, as we heard you jumping on the trampoline over our heads at around midnight. But the rule in our house is no sleepovers until you are ten. And then we make up for it, I guess, by letting you stay up late and play.

Our Eugenious. You are one special kid, son. Always have been. You could point out almost any country on the world map before you were out of diapers, and nowadays you use words that I myself don't always know the meaning of.

You are steady and strong. You are urgent. You are precise.

You make me laugh. I love it that your humor is smart, too; you could cut-up with a room full of 50-year-old professors.

Gene, I am proud of you. I pray for you each day. I wonder about you, as I catch glimpses of the man that is coming.  To what corners of the earth will G0D call you? To what adventures are you to lay claim?

I smile to think about your wife, who will need to be a very tender person, and yet have the inner strength of rebar. She will learn how happy you can be with so little, so long as changes come slowly, and with plenty of notice. She'll learn how to coax you out of a blue mood by suggesting a shared task, or by asking for your opinion on a matter.

But for now I'm the lady in your life, and I couldn't possibly be any happier about it. HAPPY 11th BIRTHDAY, SON!

All my love forever,

April 08, 2016

Baby girl

One year ago last week, I was invited to spend the first night of this little girl's life holding her, changing her, and helping her mama (my dear friend, Alisa) at the local birthing hospital.

You can see, Brave is smitten with Addy, too.

During that night, I not only cared for Addy, but I got to massage Alisa's bum when it grew numb! If she tried to move, it hurt her stitches, you understand. Where was her husband? Getting a good night's sleep at home, of course. The hospital beds here are made for little guys, and John ain't no little guy.

So you might say I have a special place in my heart for Addy Greene. I think that night was made all the more special for me by the fact that I didn't get to hold my own daughter during her first night of life. Nor her second. Nor her 202nd.

I often wonder about the woman who did hold her that night. Where is she now? How many times a day does she think about Jubilee? How does she cope with what must be an insatiable curiosity, one that will never be satisfied?

Or at least not in this life. My prayer for Jubi's birth mom is that she will hear the Good News (if she hasn't already) and choose to believe, so that one day, when we have all gone to Heaven, I'll be able to introduce her to our beautiful daughter.

My own sweet, delightful, and truly amazing baby girl.

April 04, 2016

Holidays here

Holidays here are special, probably because we are the only ones celebrating them.
This woman is surrounded by young foreigners and their plastic eggs and she has no idea why.

Or maybe it's because all of us are missing our families, and so we band together, united by our suffering.

But whatever the reason, these East Asian Easters (and Christmases, and Thanksgivings) are precious to us all.
On the hunt for eggs!

Daniel is spouting out some sort of wisdom, and John is hanging on his every word.

We love our friends!

Happy Easter from East Asia! He is risen, indeed.

April 01, 2016

When else

I could complain about this place.

Such as the perpetually non-existent slow internet. And the perpetually life-sucking overcast weather. And the perpetually life-threatening hazardous pollution.

I could complain about the fact that our water gets cut off every afternoon between the hours of 1 and 6, so they can "fix" the pipes below our complex.

I could complain about the infuriating interesting driving habits, or how impossible challenging it is to learn the language. I could complain about the dirty public toilets, or the nose-picking in public (it's not rude to do that here, in their defense).

I could.

But I won't.

Because when else will I buy a coke between classes at the local university and exchange a few words with these two?

When else will we gather on Sundays with two other men named Bright? (All three of these handsome Brights live in East Asia for the same Reason)
The middle Bright is from Ghana. He brought the word last Sunday.

When else will my eldest son chit-chat over takeout with his best girl friend?

When else will I truly appreciate nature, stopping what I'm doing to watch as blossoms break through the drear and pollution as if to say, 'If we can do it, so can you.'

When else will I find myself in the Asian tropics from time to time, sipping curry?

Or stopping to get Daniel a late-night banana rotee?

When else will iced milk-tea come in a bag?

When else will Jubilee eat mango sticky rice in the mall?

When else will Brave cuddle with crumbling panda statues?

When else?

The truth is, never again. Because someday we will live back in America, and we will be eating Sunday potroast with our grandkids, and telling them stories of East Asia. Then I will be longing for this place, and I will be so glad I chose not to complain.

March 21, 2016

Their Paul's Pharmacy

As a kid growing up in the Maplewood neighborhood of Holland, MI in the 80's, the place to go for candy was Paul's Pharmacy. And what else was there to spend our money on than candy? I didn't receive an allowance, but my friend Lindsay and I were always scheming ways to fill our pockets. And just as quickly as the coins were earned, they were spent.

At Paul's Pharmacy.
Low-quality picture taken from the Internet. Actual Paul's Pharmacy.
It was a five-minute bike ride from my house. Half a block east to Central Avenue, where the road jogged, and then three more blocks through College and Columbia avenues to Lincoln, where a quick left and a quick right brought us to Paul's.

We would stand in that candy aisle forever, blinking as our pupils adjusted, shivering as the air-conditioning sucked the sweat from our limbs. One dime bought an Airhead, a nickel bought a Bazooka or a Tootsie Pop. It was $.40 for a Snicker bar, $.80 for a Symphony bar, and a quarter would buy you a whole bag of Brach's.

Those. Were the days.

And now I am seeing the whole thing played out again in the lives my kids. Only they don't live in the Maplewood neighborhood of Holland, MI. They live in a neighborhood called Tong Zi Lin, in a city of 12-million people, in the middle of East Asia.
The walk to their "Paul's Pharmacy" takes them through 'concrete park'

That is a kite.
The fruit stand they pass every time they walk to their "Paul's Pharmacy."
The road they walk beside on their way.
Sabrina's, which is their "Paul's Pharmacy"

March 11, 2016

Full bloom

Comparing my lifespan to that of a flower, now is when I am in full bloom (albeit the edges of my petals are curling ever so slightly with age).

Now is the colorful and fragrant season of life. The time when all is well.

Now is when my kids are old enough to feed themselves from their own airline trays, wipe their own bums, and read their own instructions. And yet, they are young enough to go berserk over Thursday morning show-and-tell!

Now is when Legos litter the rug like grains of sand upon the seashore.

Now the zhoooommmm of battery-operated light sabers slice through the silence of our seventh-floor afternoons.

This is the era of black coffee, popped into the microwave each time it cools, on account of my having to discipline a child, cuddle a child, or wash honey from a child's hair.

Now is when we build forts together in the living room when Daddy is out of town, and then we sleep in them, even though our beds are just around the corner.

Now is the season in which the kids are in bed by 9, and I am left to relax with a bowl of wok-popped popcorn and the company of the world's most wonderful man.

Now is when I get looks like this from my precious Jubilee.

Yes this is the time I will cherish for the rest of my life. Walking in to kiss Zion goodnight while he looks down at me from the top bunk, his little arms holding Beary the bear, begging me from behind blue glasses for more reading time. And my heart melts.

Or Gene, coming to me with a look of total dismay on his face, which has been sharpening of late with the angles and muscle of a preteen. And me, bracing myself for whatever he is about to say. Did he see something disturbing online? Did he get in a fight? Was he having girl problems?

And he says to me, in a shaky voice, "Mom?"

"What is it, Babe?" I say with a smile. I'm trying to play it cool.

"It's just that...well..."


"Well, you see, I finally found Ned my stuffed sawfish, and now I can't find my stuffed stingray."

And my heart squeezes with gratitude that the petals haven't fallen from the flower just yet.