Monday, June 11, 2018

To Graft Or Not To Graft? .... ( and Birthday Update)

"So.... have you started dating yet?" - Jade, my ex-girlfriend, asked me between mouthfuls of vegan Mexican food at brunch back on May 20th. We were out celebrating my birthday at "Jajaja". ( and I only add the "ex-girlfriend" part because exes CAN be friends and it's so lovely and supportive on a totally different level, when it works like that. I've never had that before, with the...only other real person that I had dated in the US, my first girlfriend back in college, and I'm so grateful. OK, back to the story....)

Funny enough, the last time I had seen Jade we went for Vegan "Soul Food" at Red Bamboo. She's vegan and I'm pretty flexible like that- I love my bacon and chicken - but NY has some really amazing vegan spots and I'm adding "Jajaja" to that list ( you should too-- the "fake eggs" in my breakfast burrito were unreal- amazing and the mezcal cocktails - off the hook)

Anyway, I guess THAT'S the marker of being settled, huh? Dating. When you've not exactly "put a ring on it" but you've definitely invested your heart into someone who has roots here on this side and who can kind of.... what's the word - it's a gardening word- ahh when you attach one plant to another and they fuse?.... ( let me Google it) ----- GRAFTING. YES. ( Thank you, Google) "The process of joining two plants together ( an upper portion and a lower portion) to grow as one."

I feel like a LOT has happened and is still happening btwn May and June here. Job-wise, Church-wise, LGBT Pride-celebration-wise, Banking-wise, Health-wise, etc...

But no, I have not "grafted" myself to anyone yet at this point. I'm not dating anyone.

Have I smiled to myself over someone recently? Have I had thoughts about someone? Did I just receive an email at 10am this morning from someone re: her updated email and phone number and saying we should really keep in contact?  - YES. BUT I am fairly certain..... that we will not be "grafting" ( lol). I like this woman and we plan on meeting up and staying in touch. She lives just outside of NYC. She's a few years older than me. But, I'm not hoping for anything more than building a solid friendship at this point.

I'm excited to "give myself a year here" ( to decide if I stay) but I think I need to be a little further on before serious dating crosses my mind. Honestly, with everything going on - the stress with my mom and with the long days commuting, I hadn't really lifted my head to "look around" until recently.

With all that there is to update on, I want to keep this post as focused as possible, so I guess, for now, I'll just tell you about my FIRST birthday back in the USA ( in about 5 yrs). I am still..... "30-something" ;) It was lovely and simple. Like I had said, I met up with Jade for brunch here and then we walked around Chinatown and, funny enough ended up in a store that sells QIPAO! SO many qipaos.... all different colors and varieties. It's funny now because when we had our first "Qipao Night" in Taipei back in 2015 to celebrate my friend Leo's grad school graduation, I thought it would be so hard to find one and I didn't see tooooo many that I liked ( besides the one that I bought) but here, there were several that caught my eye. They even had a QIPAO WINE COZY for your wine bottle!! HA. So great! I want to find the shop and go back-- maybe buy a new qipao? ( I still have mine from Taipei) it wasn't too far from Jajaja.

Then, after that I met up with Kate and Sara at their apartment in Dyker Heights and we made salted caramel brownies and played "Candy Land" and then, I read Sara a bedtime story. They got ready for bed and I headed home- Kate called me a "Birthday Uber" from Brooklyn to Grand Central. The day before I went out with Aunt Joan and Aunt Anne for a Birthday dinner at good ol' "Applebee's". (one of their favorites).  It was nice but.. a little bittersweet not hearing from Mom and Dad.

I managed to schedule a session with our therapist for next Monday- my first session since February but I have no idea if Mom has been in contact with her and/or how things will be going forward. I only know that this space- no contact with Mom has been helpful as well as physically/mentally/emotionally healthy for me.... but ultimately I WOULD like a relationship with my mother. What daughter doesn't? ...but I also know that it's not up to only me and I'm not sure what the factors are that are contributing to her behavior and if things can change. So, We'll see. Please keep praying for wisdom, clarity, and humility for both of us going forward.

As far as "grafting", dating, I feel like, for me in the past, I've never allowed myself to stay in a place long enough to commit to someone. I hope that happens soon. Even with 6 yrs in Taiwan/China I kind of always felt like I was "passing through". I didn't make the conscious decision in my mind to commit to being there. As much as I think about putting down roots, I think I honestly might prefer to have a partner who could grow wings though. If something works out over the next year here.... I'm willing to graft, but travel is definitely a part of my life now and I hope it would be part of my future partner's. Even just twice per year. To make time to get out and see the world with new eyes.... to make time for travel.

For June/July I've got a trip up to Maine ( this coming Wednesday!) to see a friend who just moved back after 9yrs in Taiwan, in a theater production he's doing and then I've got a solo bus trip up to Montreal in the works. Since I've just recently stopped working and will be looking for a new job here soon, I think that's enough travel for now. More on that later.

Thank you for the birthday wishes, as bizarre as this year feels, I'm patiently excited for all that is to come. The good and the challenging.

Monday, May 28, 2018

"Why Did We Come Here?".....

Well, I have three days left working this week before I'm a "free agent" again here in America.

It probably seemed a little sudden when I posted about putting in my resignation notice in the last post I wrote, but I had actually been going over it in my head for at least a month prior. After telling my boss, the Assistant Director, that I was considering leaving back on April 30th,  the Director, who I get on with really well ( and who, I just found out will become a "Regional Manager" of the new company that my old company is transitioning into) called me into her office, the next day, to try to convince me to reconsider. I appreciated her concern and care and her own appreciation and desire for me to stay. I told her that I would think about it, but then ended up putting in my notice the next day.

 Yes, the thought of starting over is always a little ( maybe more than a little) anxiety-provoking and unsettling but staying in one place where you feel that you're not truly working at your best, giving your best, feeling present and growing, etc.. can also produce its own anxiety/frustration. It's nice to be "liked" and "wanted" but making decisions for yourself based on how others feel about you..... is a terrible recipe for stagnation, self-hatred, and perpetual discontent I'd think.

Speaking of "content" though, in the middle of all of this, as time as been ticking down at work, my general level of feeling settled in here has actually ticked up and improved a little bit. At this point, my feelings for both Taiwan and New York are "equal", I'd say.  On the same level ( maybe this has something to do with the NYC subways running with fewer delays lately? the days getting longer, sunlight until 8:30pm? the snow being gone?) and I'm feeling a little more excited about staying here "for a year" and discovering what that year will hold. I'm also somewhat afraid of what I'm getting used to here and don't even realize. You know? When something is "so easy" that you forget how hard it was before ( maybe it's finding certain ingredients while out grocery shopping? using a dryer to dry my clothes? air conditioning/heating?). I still want Taiwan to feel familiar and any struggles or "things that take more planning/research in order to find" to be expected and remembered. I guess I mean that I don't want to have to go through "re-culture/reverse culture shock" in my "second home" if I move back. But I guess I'll cross that ... "strait" when I come to it. ;)

My relationship with my mother continues to be very strained here unfortunately- it went downhill again after my cousin's First Communion. When Mother's Day came around at my cousin's First Communion I had said to my mother that.... "Yeah, we'll celebrate at some point here" - meaning after we'd healed a bit and had gotten back into therapy. But then she got upset that #1. I didn't give her a card ON the day and #2. finding out that I had asked friends about keeping distance for now and not giving a card  on FB after a friend of hers saw my post and had called her, concerned. I answered her call while I was at work and when she was "faux sweetly" sharing how "concerned" her ( unnamed) friend was, I just said "Oh?... I'm sorry. I'm at work I have to go now." and she replied in that same " fake sweet" voice "Good. I hope you get fired." and hung up.

So, in addition to now telling me that she "hoped I got fired", - she still never apologized for the really hurtful things  that she said on Easter. On this phone call she sounded selfish and worried more about her "self-image" than anything. Then, 20 minutes later when I WAS free at work, I called her back and said very calmly-- "so, you're still not sorry about what you SAID, you're just "sorry" that you got "caught" and she.... hung up on me. So... that's where we are. Prayers are always appreciated. I'm just really not sure where God is taking this right now. I am looking forward to getting back to my own sessions with our counselor and sharing with her. Ideally I would think that Mom and I WILL have a joint session at some point, but I'm really not sure when that will be. At this point it's so much healthier just to have space and not engage. Emotional stress can really take its toll on your body as well and I'm at a point where I'm finally feeling better physically (after a year of not feeling so great in Taiwan) and I don't want to destroy that. I actually started "running uphill" ( to match all the metaphorical uphill running going on maybe?? lol) at the gym the other day - for about a minute at a time on a 2.0 incline. I'll typically sprint -- run/walk for 40 minutes and then cycle for 30 minutes 3x's per week now- it used to be 4-5 days in Taiwan but not since.... Sept 2016. By October 2016 my knee was really starting to hurt and I cut back a lot.

The end of 2016/beginning of 2017 in Taiwan was mentally stressful and draining and I truly think my body suffered because of it. I hated it. I felt hurt, sad and stressed. I wanted to escape Taiwan ( I think that's really why I left) I developed this - pain in my bones - that started in my right knee and kind of wrapped itself around my knee and up to the base of my spine ( the right side). It was some kind of sciatica I'm thinking. I was worried for a minute that it might be Ankylosing Spondolysis - but tt hasn't gotten progressively worse and it comes and goes now- maybe one day per week. I think there is some extra bone growth on my spine that if "knocked in the wrong direction" causes the pain- presses on a nerve. I'm sure some kind of surgery would probably be helpful but as long as I'm not always in pain and it's not getting progressively worse at this point, I'm just going to let it be. Also, being able to have the energy to workout more is a positive sign too.

As bleak as a day may look- things ARE getting better. I know personally that I feel better mentally when I'm physically active/in shape/challenging myself. So... "better is better."

Anyway, with all of this, figuring out why I came back for now, what I'm doing here, it's also made me curious about our family and our bigger immigration story. My father's family ( Verdon/Lucid) came here the most recently. My mother's family (Hutchinson/McGrath) were here longer- especially the Hutchinson's-my mother's, mother's family- they had a doctor on the Mayflower and have Native American connections to the Mohegan tribe from Connecticut. My mother's father (Martin McGrath) was also born in the US- his parents came over from Ireland and both died of swine flu while he was over in France fighting in the US Army during WWI. He came home and they were already buried in a mass grave.

In comparison, my father's family are "relatively new"- after the yr 1900- US immigrants.

My father's first cousin, Maureen (Verdon) Butt is a wellspring of knowledge when it comes to Verdon family history. My "Grandma Lucid" was born Marjorie Verdon before she married George Lucid. John "Jack" Verdon was her younger brother- my father's uncle and Maureen's father and Mollie Verdon was their older sister.

Questioning my own reasons for "coming  (back) here" to the US now, I've FB messaged Maureen a few times over the last month just to get more insight into WHY a well-off aristocratic family from Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland would "leave it all behind" to become middle class citizens in a  (relatively) foreign country.

From our conversations ( and correct me if I'm wrong, Maureen), it seems that they came for..... ADVENTURE. For something NEW.

My Grandfather, George Lucid, on the other hand, came for different reasons I think. He wrote a lot . He wrote VERY sweet letters to my Grandma before they were married, when he was stationed in Italy during WWII and also some real homesick-laden poetry about Ireland. We still have copies of them. I know that HIS side of the family ( which was really-- just him) came here to escape. His younger brother had died when he was 10 yrs old after eating poisonous berries and his sister, Kathleen, developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during Ireland's Civil War and was put in an institution as was the standard practice back in the day. With his mother and father gone as well, the only rational thing to do, he thought was to.... try something new ( don't we all think that when we're having those "bottom of the barrel" days).

But back to my Grandma (Verdon) Lucid. She and her older sister Mollie, along with their mother - Margaret Sheridan ( maiden name), came to the US when she was 18. Older brother Jack came after he finished his time in the Army. Grandma grew up really well - their family had nannies and boarding schools and trips to Switzerland in the wintertime. My great-grandfather was a "Barrister" which you could say is just a fancy old name for what we'd call a "Lawyer" today. Everyone in his family was a lawyer, apparently. It was the tradition. But he was also ( what we would call today) a "high-functioning alcoholic". I'm not sure what that translated into in terms of his behavior toward his family BUT - since my grandma and Mollie and John were in boarding school for most of the year, I think they were spared from seeing a lot of it. My great-grandmother on the other hand, was not and she and my great-grandfather quietly separated ( since divorce was "illegal" in Ireland, then) and she kept her maiden name "Sheridan" when she immigrated to the US. For most of her life in Ireland, my great- grandmother was an aristocratic housewife- not expected to work despite going to "finishing school" ( where all good girls met their wealthy future husbands). But when she came to the US, she actually went BACK to college and got her Master's Degree in Social Work from NYU! Putting the GREAT, in Great-Grandmother. Not intent on living off her estranged husband's family money.

I can't help but drawn some similarities between my great grandfather on my father's side- being a lawyer "because everyone was one" and my own mother on the McGrath side who was the youngest of 5 girls and she and all of her sisters were nurses ( though Aunt Joan was a Catholic Nun and a Teacher first before she went into nursing). I wonder if my mother is now feeling like..... she gave up on some personal dreams for the sake of financial security and doing what felt "normal" back then ? Maybe that's where some of this bitterness is coming from now? I don't honestly know.If my great grandfather was drinking he obviously wasn't happy with SOMETHING - despite having the money and a thriving, healthy family....

But if my great-grandmother and grandmother and her brother and sister came to the US for "adventure", then I guess..... it's in the genes. It's not that "foreign" of an idea.The fact that Taiwan feels like home. The fact that I can speak and read more Mandarin Chinese than any Irish Gaelic, the fact that I am willing to..... pack up and do it all again..... is, in retrospect, understandable.

Leaving my elderly aunts here at this point is the only thing that would be really hard ....
but again, I'm giving it a year.  2019.

We'll cross that "strait" when we come to it.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

You Can't Go Home Again.

"You can't go home again", "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto"....

However you want to say it, I had no idea coming back here to NY would be so... different. 

I was expecting great pizza and bagels ( and NY- you DELIVERED!)  but beyond that, I'm not sure what else. 

Certainly NOT all of the snow that lasted almost into April. 
Certainly NOT the tensions and frustrations with my mother. 
Certainly NOT applying to 8 NYC Charter Schools, going on 2 interviews, only really feeling comfortable with one of them and ending up teaching at neither of them. 
Certainly NOT going back into social work because it was "comfortable and secure" ( but really, so many changes have happened in the field in the last 6 yrs). 
Certainly NOT moving in with my Aunt Joan (along with Mink) while my parents clean out their house and make plans to move ( at some point in the next year)

I'm not sure exactly WHY I came back at this point in time. As I said in my last post, I could have made small changes to improve things in Taipei and could have stayed and have been reasonably happy and secure. 

This change to come back feels as "wild" now as going to China did back in 2011.
Every ball seems to be up in the air. 

Even my Pastor here, Pastor Taylor Holbrook, who has been with Hopewell Reformed Church since around 1998 just recently announced that he will be retiring this year. He has been SUCH a part of that church forever and now... he's leaving ( but staying in Hopewell with his family). I hope he continues to attend service at the church. He's such a beacon of light and joy and encouragement. 

And finally, to cap it all off.... last Monday, April 30th I put in my leave notice with my job. 
My last day of work will be on May 31st. There are just so many transitions happening in the MSC field now and so much paperwork. It's just not where I'm meant to be anymore. I don't feel connected to the work. I know this in my gut. I'd be happier farming or selling real estate or running a food truck/being independent and creative here.  

Even after putting out resumes and going on two face to face teaching job interviews here, I'm wondering now if I truly would even WANT to teach in the US. I could get a teaching job much more easily in a state out in the midwest that doesn't have the requirements of NY ( but also doesn't pay as well) but.... would I want it? If I'm going to live here long term, I don't think I'd want to live anywhere else but New York. 

Teaching ESL in a country where English is not the predominant language, feels much richer to me, more fulfilling to me. I miss it. What I've realized that I miss the most about Taiwan isn't the mountains or the people or the food or the MRT  (although those are all sorely missed). It's the NEED to be PRESENT in conversation. I think I mentioned this in my last post. When it comes to attempting to understand Mandarin, I could spend the rest of my life "needing to be present" in conversation. And feeling so "alive and present" in that need. Not jumping to conclusions. Not assuming. Not filling in the blanks. That's the problem in the US - when it comes to speaking with others in English- we "think" we know and we either tune out from the conversation or we interrupt others. (I'm saying in general, not always). Even speaking with other "foreigners" - from the UK or Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Taiwan is great because your ears are just as open and you learn new slang. 

So, these are a lot of scary thoughts and not something that I could have ever planned for while in Taiwan. These realizations wouldn't have happened while I was there. I had to come back here and be IN it, to realize it. 

I'm giving it a year- as I said in my last post. I'm viewing this US repatriation as an "experiment". I will see after much PRAYER, how I feel and where I am come Summer 2019 and possibly move back ( with Mink) to Taiwan then if that's where God wants me. 

In the meantime here are some GOOD and NEW things that have happened/are happening here.....

Last weekend I went on my first hike in the US since returning. I went with my old friend Charlie. We hiked up Hunter Mountain to the old Catskill Mountain House site and then went and got (really good, natch)  pizza somewhere nearby. Extra cheese and garlic... yummm. ( It was a beautiful area, but almost a little TOO easy compared to any mountain in Taiwan. No stairs, no ropes...)

This past weekend was my little cousin Jackson's First Communion and I had a great time seeing some old family friends and family who I hadn't seen since being home. 

This coming Friday I'm going to a YANKEE GAME with a few old friends. It will be my FIRST "live" game ever at Yankee Stadium!! SO looking forward to seeing Didi Gregorius and Judge and CC Sabithia and Tanaka live and in color. I think they're playing against Oakland, CA. Hope Cali is ready to come face these beasts of the East!

This coming Monday ( tomorrow), after following them on Instagram for the past year, I'm going to my first "paint and sip" painting class at Pinot's Palette- Park Slope. We're paining tote bags and there's some "swag" (in the form of two free movie tickets) included. 

Doing new things, meeting new people, reconnecting with old people. It's all good stuff. There's nothing NOT to like about New York ( except the MTA/subways - let's be honest) but I just don't know at this point. I don't know if "this is it" ... if this is my "last stop".  

So, if you pray, please PRAY for UNDENIABLE CLARITY as to my NEXT STEPS here- in terms of WORKING in the US. Please PRAY for continued HUMILITY and releasing of RESENTMENT and FORGIVENESS between my mother and I, and finally, please pray that I find JOY in the JOURNEY- whatever it may look like and wherever it may take me.

*FOOTNOTE/UPDATE - It's Tuesday May 8th today. Just wanted to update to say, whoever read this post and said some prayers already- they were pretty powerful. I saw Mom for the first time since Easter - so, the first time in over a month- this past Sunday and things went really well. Then, on the phone the other night we had a good, casual conversation and she said "I love you" before hanging up. So... I think distance (and prayers) are giving way to understanding and perspective. Slowly.... still taking time, with a little guard up, approaching her but hopefully we'll be able to communicate what we feel in healthier, more effective ways more consistently going forward. Also-- the painting class last night was so good. Much needed. Next time I'll invite you. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"First Year" Challenges.

 This is gonna take some time.

I feel like I promised a loving, fidelity-filled, commitment to NY for the past two years- writing her love letters filled with longing from "overseas" and now I'm cheating on her- in my head for now- fantasizing about Taiwan. I checked out Tealit (website for expats in Taiwan) before I left work on Friday and saw one specific job posting and thought "That looks great, I could totally do that... if I applied now..." but like an old man lusting after a prostitute outside of Longshan Temple, I toyed with the idea--and then just left it there.

The one upside to this is that it seems that for every "man, this is rough" day I have, God brings someone into my day or week who helps to keep me in the present moment and lets me know that I am loved and needed here for now. Maybe it's an old roommate or a family friend or an old friend or my friend's mom or my pastor here- a warm smile, a pat on the back, a laugh, a venting session.... it all helps. I've established a rhythm where every other weekend, at least two Saturdays or Sundays per month, I've been reconnecting with someone - and that feels good. In addition to trying to have quiet time - outside of work to read and draw and just breathe and enjoy nature here.

 I miss the mountains in Taiwan though, I miss the silvergrass of Yangmingshan shining against the clear blue- you know, that really deep royal blue, sky. This time of year. Tomb Sweeping Festival, is when the weather really starts getting nice - before the summer heat swoops in and attempts to choke you. We have the Catskills here but... not the stairs and certainly not that silvergrass shining in the sun, waving against the wind.  Sigh.

"I'm going to give it a year"...
=  the most recent silent mantra that I've been playing on a loop in my head regarding being back here. Specifically, a year from when I get my apartment and "get settled" here.

That's fair. When I think of growing up trying a new sport or something - soccer or 4-H, or swim team, etc. Mom always encouraged us to "give it a year (season)". With every step comes a new perspective. New muscle growth and development.

Once I get an apartment and settle into my own space here- THAT will change my perspective. 
Once I develop routines in my new neighborhood - THAT will change my perspective
Once I begin to make memories and look forward to traditions in this new place- THAT will change my perspective. 

So, it's really just this waiting period that is making me presently "regress" and "look back" at all the GOOD (while more often than not, glossing over any imperfection and bad days) that was in Taiwan... and is now presently over... and feel a bit... displaced.

As "unhelpful" as you might think it would be, talking with other friends (specifically American expats and Wei and Ching, two of my Taiwanese friends who are presently abroad in Europe,) from/in Taiwan has been incredibly grounding and helpful in the process of getting rooted here. 

The other day I prayed to find a way to feel connected to Taiwan AND New York in a meaningful way ( not just seeing signs written in Chinese on shops here) without feeling heartsick/sad/angsty....Then, yesterday morning in a good ol' "Line Group Chat" I found out that two of my Taiwanese friends currently in Europe MIGHT come to NYC for Pride in June! Flights to America are apparently pretty cheap right now. So, that's an incentive to feel happy and stay in NY-- to make preparations to host them and celebrate with them here. I also want to drive up to Maine to visit a friend there at some point now that the weather is nice. He lived in Taiwan for 9 years and just recently moved back. Looking on Google maps, it's only about a 5-6 hr drive- which feels like NOTHING compared to 13 hr flights from NY to Taiwan or even 5 hr flights between countries in Asia.

Then, I also spoke with another American guy friend from my church in Taipei who has recently repatriated- after a good 3yrs or so living and teaching in Taiwan.. He was on a road trip in Colorado with his cousin and was sharing a little of his reverse culture shock (prices of things here!). It felt really good to touch base and know that someone from "the other side" was safe and having fun back on "this side".  

AND about two weeks ago now I FB messaged with a friend from church in Taipei who was telling me about all of the "leaving soon's" that will be going on in the next year and a half. This one couple who have been in Taipei for 30 years are finally moving back to Minnesota this summer! They've been in Taiwan- FOREVER. I can't imagine - if it was this hard for me after only 6 years. So, I feel like God was confirming that I'm not the only one who is in transition and who is presently experiencing  stress/upheaval and pain. There are others who have "wheels spinning" trying to figure out what's next and trying to let go and walk forward.

Also, after what seemed both literally and metaphorically like, "The Longest Winter" here, the SNOW of 2018 is finally GONE. I think I've had my fill- this past Winter has more than made up for my six snow-less winters spent in Asia. My Aunt Joan planted crocus in her garden back when she moved into her house here in 1989 and they're popping up again here now--so Spring must be on its way.

I've also been thinking back to my first year in Taiwan. 2012. After a year in China, I was home for a month and then whisked away to (what I thought) would be "the same as/easier than" China. I didn't think I'd have to go through culture shock because I HAD BEEN in China ( and in my naive mind, at the time, I probably thought they were the same. Please forgive me now.).

But no, Taiwan Year One was HARD.

 Hard was....
The heat - being thrust into into the summer furnace full force upon arriving in May.
The language-The fact that everyone spoke Mandarin and I thought I could just use English for everything because Taipei was a "big urban city". Not only that but I had been looking at simplified characters in China and now seeing Taiwan using traditional characters was challenging- also the most frequently used words for common things like "car" and "the subway"and even how "xiaojie" was used  in Mandarin in China vs. Taiwan, were different ( "Xiaojie", a word that could be used for a prostitute in China, was used as a respectful term "Miss" for any woman whose name you didn't know,in Taiwan). Because I was in the south, I had been jumping between learning Cantonese and Mandarin in China and so, it was also frustrating because I didn't have a firm grasp of either at that point ( thankfully there are SO many options for studying Mandarin in Taiwan- from the relaxed one on one language exchange in a coffeeshop OR the more structured classes)
The shock of the architecture ( not counting the historic landmarks and temples)- despite gorgeous natural landscapes, Taiwan's architecture can be an eyesore at times. This isn't anything that you can't get over quickly though after diving deep into the life of the
 night markets and/or meetups inside coffeeshops - the warmth and beauty of the people more than makes up for this.
My schedule- at my first job I was off on Wednesdays and Sundays. Not having two consecutive days off was a challenge especially when you are new and want to plan little weekend adventures.Also a challenge in terms of getting over jet-lag/sleep in general. I worked afternoons during the week and mornings on Saturday and clearly remember chugging at least two little boxes or metal cans of "Mister Coffee" iced coffee before starting my Saturday classes. "Jaiyou!"
Getting over Lisa- again, naively I thought how "easy" it would be for her - as a Chinese citizen from Guangdong, to "Come to Taiwan!"to be with me. But I think, in 2012, Taiwan had JUST opened its doors to allowing individual visits by people from China in addition to "group tours" and it was only people from certain provinces. Lisa knew this- I KNOW she knew this. But I didn't. She also had just recently gotten a job working in Marketing for Land Rover in Guangzhou.. WHY would she  give that up? I left her. I was naive, frustrated, and heartbroken but I'm sure I looked like just another wayfaring waiguoren who didn't care about the ceramics she had knocked over in the temple, the wildfire she had set in a country that was not her own... as I selfishly got up and walked away from it.

HARD here and now in NY is.....

Having patience with the NYC subway system and accepting that it will NEVER be the Taipei MRT. Somehow hearing the "We apologize for any inconvenience" just makes me hate it more.
Wanting to go hiking on a weekend and realizing it's not just as easy as jumping on a subway and then a bus to get to the trail head. It will most likely require a car here.
Trying not to get sad and frustrated trying to find a dumpling spot that feels like Bafang ( "Dumpling Crawl in Flushing" coming soon, NY friends. Date TBA for now AND
I also discovered "Dessert Kitchen" for cute desserts afterward)
Missing my usual Honey Nut Queerios Tuesday night meetups. Weeknights here for now involve being on the train home and watching tv and crashing. Not yet time for meetup groups.
Family issues- not getting into it in this post, but trying to have peace with Mom has become hard again. We're not talking to each other at this point. We haven't talked since Easter- April 1st and it's.... just sad. I can't get into it here but your prayers and/or "good mojo" for peace and true release of past resentments for both of us and real reconciliation would be welcomed. She's said some really hurtful things and I've said some hurtful things and we're both holding onto them and having a hard time.

There was A LOT to adjust to in that first year in Taiwan. I need to remember that going into this first year here. I need to treat this year the same. I need to be gentle with myself and patient with the process.  There is that same frustration and angst. It's just a lot harder to accept on a certain level because in your/my mind, "this" is "supposed to be" home.

When I think of Easter and how they were looking for Jesus in the tomb. I hear "He isn't here" playing over in my head. When I have those times of "scrambling" in my mind- trying to figure out an "escape plan" or how/if I want to "go back" to Taiwan ( to live), I have to realize, this moment right here and now, isn't death. I'm not burying anything. Even if I am mourning the past a bit on different days- we ALL do that at different points in life whether we've lived abroad or not. Though we may wish for it to be "1994" or "2015"  (and/or fill in any "awesome year" that you loved overall) again, no one ( at this point in history) can turn back time for themselves. So, this repatriation isn't death. It's "new life"... a revitalization, stretching new muscles, breathing new air.

"Find Joy In The Journey", I'm trying.

Hiccups are natural when you're trying to swallow too much too fast. God knows, I've had a few metaphorical  "hiccups" here - but I feel ( as cliche as it may sound) truly blessed by the "henchmen/anchors/angels/stage crew" that God has set beside, behind, and in front of me in this process. Protecting me from my own self-destruction.

A final note, to three of those anchors/angels/stage crew/henchmen- three lady friends presently in Taipei. Dear, good hearts, each sassy and fun in their own way, who reached out a few weeks ago, genuinely concerned about my repatriation and healing here. Renee, Cat, and Donna. I truly cherish each of them and their tender yet firm, objectively honest way, their genuine love and care, and their irreplaceable friendship. Wherever you are in the world, in life, it's always a comfort to be "seen" and "heard" and "known" by people you care about and miss. Thank you so much. <3

I'm going to give it a year. That's all I can honestly say at this point. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

That Awkward "Push/Pull"

This blog entry has ended up being a little longer than expected, but I've got a snowday today- so plenty of time to hang in pj's and blog. ( watching the news now, it's a "serious storm" apparently, the 4th Nor-Easter of the year according to Channel 7 Eyewitness News on ABC now. 12-15 inches expected in NYC ???? WOW.)  Yet- none has fallen in Dutchess County yet ( 90 min north of Manhattan).

The month of March 2018 here has brought New York a mix of all sorts of weather -some gorgeous ( but still cold with the wind) bluest-blue sky days filled with sunshine and now..... snow again, apparently. I'm off today because my company is on the same schedule as NYC Public Schools and so when they're off, we're off. But so far, at almost 10am here now I'm home and haven't seen a flake fall. I'm using my work laptop now. I have paperwork to do and phone calls to make so I'm still "going to work"  (probably from 11-4ish) just to be caught up for tomorrow. But it's nice to be able to work remotely out of the office and not have to take a "personal day". I've stayed home and worked remotely twice before, since starting my new job in January. But on those days we actually had a ton of snow up here in Dutchess County while in the city, they didn't.

Looking at the calendar, it's OFFICIALLY been 6 months now that I've been back in the US. Sept 20th-March 20th. At this time back in January 2014, 6 months in back home, after my first year in Taiwan, I was getting ready to head BACK to Taiwan from New York. New Teaching Job. New Apartment. Getting Mink back from the expat foster couple that she had been staying with in Taipei, etc... it was time.

So, understandably,.... I've been feeling a little more antsy, aggressive/impatient (?) this past month. I didn't know why at first (though PMS and end of the month paperwork stress were likely partners in crime in this as well), but I think that explains it.

In my mind-- it's time to go back. Stop sitting here -- get on that flight. It's time to go back to Taiwan.

I was looking on FB in my "Year Two In Taiwan" photo album from that time- after those 6 months back in the US when I went back to Taiwan. 2014 was a great year .... hiking Scissors Stone with a group from my church....going to see "The Queen's Head"  and the really cool stone erosion at Yehliu Geopark.... taking the train to Nantou and going to Sun Moon Lake, it was my first year with "MY" kids - teaching L1 class- and I taught them how to make heart-shaped white chocolate lolli-pops with the same plastic heart-shaped molds that Aunt Joan had used with me back when I was a kid. It was a year full of wonder and joy and "newness"- returning and seeing Taiwan with new eyes.

The transition back to the US now kind of reminds me of that awkward "Push/Pull" of the doors in shops in Taipei- like 7-11, Family Mart or even some restaurants. I think for Westerners, it's common to PULL the door CLOSED from the outside when you are leaving a shop and PUSH OPEN to go OUT from the inside, not pull from the inside when you're trying to get out. Yet, I would forget sometimes in Taipei and try to PUSH when I should have pulled. Or when walking on that god-awful TILE pavement sidewalk outside of some hotels and shops in Taipei. Wearing shorts and flip-flops because despite the rain it is hot and humid. And there are no "Caution: Slippery When Wet" signs and you don't think you're gonna be walking on tile and then.... you slip and skin your big toe, or even worse, your knee, and hobble in pain the rest of the way to your destination. Thinking of my older aunts.... really, what do the old people  in Taiwan do? I never saw one fall ( or asked).

I'm not sure where I'm going with these analogies. But I guess what I'm saying is: transitions can be a blessing and a curse. Exciting and HARD. You see a place with new eyes and joy and yet you're baffled by some of the rules and customs in this place and end up doing an "awkward dance"  often in public (several times over) for ALL to see in your attempts to.... "settle in".

 When I left Taiwan, in my mind I wanted to leave, but I didn't. I was aware that I was leaving and yet I was clinging to people and things there that were not going to serve me in this next chapter. I was in denial that I was moving INTO a next chapter DESPITE my vocal desire to "go home" and "being homesick" over the past year from 2016-2017. I was meeting new people and forming friendships and that kinda sucked because I knew I was leaving and so, investing time and making meories was almost a bit painful. I had to really think about WHY I was leaving.

Did I want a new job at a different school? Did I want a new apartment? Did I need to hang out with some other people and change up my social life a bit? Was I needing a new church? ...

ALL of that could have been changed and WAS possible. I could have still STAYED in Taipei. If I was going to go BACK to the US, there had to be another reason. You don't leave a country just because you're unhappy with a few things in the present moment. I'm still trying to figure what the specific reasons for coming back at this point are -I think God knows better than I do - but I'm seeing and feeling that reconnecting with old, good friends who I haven't seen in FOREVER here is definitely one of them.

So, because of this tension- (unhappy with some things going on, trying to make the best of my final months, in denial of grieving the fact that I was leaving) I acted out in ways that were not healthy and that reflected that tension of "pushing Taiwan away while grabbing to pull her close" at the same time. During my last few months I drank too much and at the worst times of day on occasion ( dang you little "convenient" bottles of Jack and Absolut sold at every 7-11 on the island). While trying to escape my angst and sadness, I also had a one night stand with a friend of a friend, someone who could have become SUCH a good friend if it wasn't for my "push/pull" and angst. She is an an amazing teacher, fantastic baker, loves hiking and ktv and baseball games, has a great snarky sarcastic sense of humor (courtesy of being a fellow East Coaster/south-Jersey native). But I f'ed it up. I clung on when I should have let go and made it.... awkward. When, now, what I truly think my heart and body needed were maybe just a few good spooning sessions. Just good arms connected to a good heart, to rest and sleep in. 

The whole "leaving" process ended up being really messy and hard. I was slipping all over everything, pulling when I should have pushed, pushing when I should have pulled.... and so, in some sense I REALLY WANTED to leave just to escape this chaos.

These 6 months in NY have been a kind of "break" and now I think my mind thinks- "Ok, we're good. It's time to go back." The fact that I don't have an apartment in the city yet also keeps me in a bit of denial of "living here" and fighting that denial, has been challenging. (maybe repeating the mantra..."I'm living and working in the USA...." would help?)

I'm also itching to travel again- in general. Going to Chicago in October was nice. I will be in Minnesota for a christening in July (that's just a family thing though not really touristy), but I'm REALLY excited about and hoping to take 9 days and go to Antigua, Guatemala in August. More on that later. I would love to go to Taiwan THIS year but realistically I'm thinking it will be in 2019.... along with a stop back in Chiang Mai/Rai and possibly Ayutthya in Thailand.

I think when I DO go back to visit Taiwan, just as in that 2nd yr return, I will see it with new, fresh eyes again. I miss rechao, and KTV, and "Honey Nut Queerios" <3 and some friends from my church who I'm still in touch with. I'd love to camp out in Teapot Mountain ... there are joyful reasons to return.

Just please PRAY that for now the "push/pull" will end and that I can "unpack" my heart and mind and take it completely out of denial to truly settle in here fully in NY as a "resident" .... for the moment at least.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Repatriation Struggles- Humility and Patience.

Welp, February sure flew! Whereas January seemed to drag us through its gray slush and cold and.... seeming unending-ness, it was more like February stopped by and said  "Heeey! Good seeing you!*kiss. kiss.*" and headed out the door.

When I was in Taiwan we never turned the clocks forward or backward and I wasn't really aware of it staying "lighter later" ( or the much less fun alternative, getting "darker earlier") but here, I notice. It's staying lighter and getting slightly warmer - though we just had  SNOW yesterday. It's supposed to be 45 and partly sunny today. March is always somewhat unpredictable like that in New York but despite that you know, it FEELS like the start of spring. And HERE Spring means breezes and warmth and birds starting to chirp. I think, in both Asia and the US ( DC and NY come to mind specifically) there's the celebration of the "Cherry Blossoms" as a sign of spring. However, Spring in Taiwan can still be pretty DAMP and COLD (esp without indoor heating). The unending monsoon rains- even without the summer typhoon winds, can sound like the ocean is swirling and pounding up against your house.(This especially sucks on a weekend and sucks even MORE when it happens on consecutive weekends when you'd like to be outside). I remember coming back from my 2014 CNY trip to Bangkok and Phuket where it was HOT and I got sunburned. I was probably in short sleeves and capri pants and flip flops on the plane and coming back to "my little island" I found it was FREEZING in Taiwan. This was the time that my Taiwanese cab driver GAVE ME his coat. We were chatting in broken Mandarin and English and he pretty much left it's return up to fate saying something like "if I see you sometime in the future, you can give it back to me." It was chocolate brown and shiny. I have a picture wearing it to the Pingxi lantern festival that year and then I think I left it in my first apartment in Dingxi when I moved! Oops! On to the next much needed owner...

Things didn't exactly unfold as I had planned as far as celebrating Chinese New Year HERE this year, BUT the unexpected ways were almost just as nice. February continued to be a month of reconnecting with friends who I hadn't seen in YEARS. I met up in early in the month with my old elemtart/middle/high school friend Kelly who I hadn't seen in 20 years! Like the typial 15 yr-olds that we stil are... we went to "the (Galleria) mall" and ate and window-shopped and laughed over ridiculous things- like the fact that it had been 20 years and it felt like absolutely no time had passed. Then I met up with Masha - one of my first post-college roommates. We had "met" back in 2006. I was looking for roommates and apartments and found her on CRAIGSLIST, without any pictures of the apartment or her - funny to me now, but I guess we trusted the internet more back then. We shared a 4 bedroom apartment in Park Slope with two guys that year. She had been living in it for about 2 yrs prior with 3 other girls who were all moving out back then. I hadn't seen her since about 2010 by this point. This time we met up in Park Slope right outside of our old apartment at 462 3rd St ( btwn 6th and 7th aves). Then went to the Brooklyn Flea! ( neither of us had ever been, so many treasures to be found there) and ate ramen burgers and bought plants. :) 

I ALSO met up with "Pa" this month! I saw her once when I came home for Christmas in 2014 and Sara was just a baby, about a year old. But hadn't seen them since then. Now Sara is 4 1/2 yrs old, standing on her own two feet- smart as a whip and sweet as a bowl of "hong dou tang" :). It was SO nice. Typical Kate tried to round up people, get the "old gang" (gay-ng? ;)) together for brunch at her fairly new apartment in Dyker Heights. She managed to get a hold of Mo and Carly and we had delicious brunch with mini-quiches made by Sara and ginormous bagels courtesy of this shop in Kingston up near my Aunt's house. I had never been to Dyker Heights before that and so I was SO shocked and HAPPY, pleasantly surprised to see the "Flying Dragon" market and other shops with their Chinese characters and to hear people speaking Mandarin. Apparently Sara is one of two non-Chinese American kids at her Pre-K  ("just Sarah and Mohammed"....). So, part of my " unexpected CNY at home surprise" in addition to being surrounded by Chinese in Dyker Heights/Sunset Park was hearing her singing CNY songs that she learned in Pre-K, in Mandarin. I was smiling from ear to ear and just like the "Aunties and Uncles" in Taiwan who would hear me speaking Mandarin and continue on waaay past my comprehension- with their rapid fire questions and excitement, I "naturally" wanted to continue to speak with Sara in Mandarin -asking her questions, etc. lol. I think we got as far as talking about "hong bao" - which is really ALL you need to talk about as a kid at CNY anyway though :) 

Another part of my CNY surprise was going into Flushing in Queens to visit one of my clients and seeing the vibrant Chinese street life there. I chatted up the ladies in this plant shop and bought some pork baozi and a good sized take-out portion of douhua with this ginger sauce ( I'm not the biggest fan of douhua so the majority of it, unfortunately got tossed a few days later). Wanting to keep the peace and not knowing where "everyone was from" ( as far as Mainland vs. Taiwan) I only mentioned working in Guangzhou/Foshan. One woman then began talking in Cantonese and I was pretty certain, despite not detecting a good ol Beijing "R" that these were all PRC folks in this shop. Then, later on, out on the street I saw a man selling newspapers and he caught my eye and I wished him a "Xin Nian Kuai Le!" He handed me a paper, a bit surprised, and we chatted in Mandarin a bit. I told him that I had taught kids English in China ( again, not wanting to get into politics, only mentioned Guangzhou and Foshan here) and he smiled and HUGGED ME! It was SO sweet. SUCH a good way to ring in the "New Year" - even if it wasn't firecrackers and dragon/lion dances ( I didn't go to the parade in Manhattan bc it ended up raining).

Despite not being able to "scare off the "Nian Monster" with any firecrackers,  It felt like "FAMILY" and that's really what the " Lunar New Year" is about anyway. Fresh starts... and family. ( and yeah, I mean some hongbao and/or end of the year Weiya celebrations from your boss maybe too ;)).

So, I guess THAT right above there, is the best segue to bring me to what I really wanted to talk about, but never got around to, in my last post. The struggles- a lot unforeseen- that come with repatriating. I think you can "Google it" and get a sense of the typical things that go on in various forms at different stages of "reverse culture shock" for the INDIVIDUAL WHO  IS repatriating - loneliness, impatience, confusion, excitement, wonder, etc. BUT it's a little different when you add other people and their struggles into that equation.

To cut to the chase- My mother and I had a really bad patch here- from about mid October to end of November and then a little "flurry" in January - to compare the tensions to slippery ice. I didn't know "where to walk", I didn't know what to say that would or would not set off some 0-60mph switch where all of a sudden voices were raised and I was being told to "go to Aunt Joan's". At the end of the day, it ended up where I felt like I was walking on eggshells and I would have just rather avoided her than attempt to engage and heal things at all.

But I did realize that, not counting the 6 months I was home between my 1st and 2nd year in Taiwan, before now, I HADN'T lived at home since 2004. 13 years. A long time. A lot can change. I truly feel that a lot of these current issues stemmed from Mom's anxiety about things that weren't in the picture 13 or so years ago, the last time I lived at home- things like my father's health, my mother's own health, things with my brother and his wife, me getting settled here, my parents wanting to sell the house but not knowing/never having sold a house before... ( SPOILER ALERT- everything is working out fine in its own way in each area- Thank God.)

I know that 10 different people can have the EXACT SAME issues and deal with them in 10 DIFFERENT ways. It's not the hand you are dealt, it's how you deal with it. When you take on ALL of that worry it can be overwhelming- especially when you're older- I'm thinking. So I tried to have compassion and understand that, but my attempts to see every glass/situations that mom was worrying about as "half-full" even turned into arguments at times. So I went and (left Mink at my parents house-- I missed her but she was in good hands and had a chance to develop her own relationships with "Amah" and "Agong") stayed with my Aunt Joan for about a month and a half in total. I also sought out therapy for my mother and I to address our concerns individually and then hopefully come together and have a joint session. Things cooled down and got better before that joint session ever materialized but I'd still like to go back and have one just for closure. The therapist I found was specialized in family therapy and she was/is wonderful. During that time I got to really engage with and care for my Aunt Joan and Aunt Anne ( my mom's two sisters, who have always been like Moms to me). I made homemade turkey noodle soup and baked salted caramel chocolate brownies and we played Scrabble and on Sundays went to their church and bought bottles of red wine from "Uncle Paddy's" and Aunt Annie made dinner and we watched old movies/old episodes of "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman".  So, in the midst of all that was going on it was GOOD QUALITY time and I just... want them to be happy. With both of them on the cusp of turning or having just turned 80 yrs old,  I can see in little ways that they've gotten older since I left in 2011 and I just want them to be happy. (I also want to note that neither of them have ever spoken a bad word about my mother or any of their "sister frustrations" to me, which says a lot about their character. I love them. Rockstars.)

I feel like "humility" and "patience" are the biggest lessons being learned in these 6 months. For example, before I got my job ( in late January), when I was looking for a therapist, I had no health insurance. I had to go on "Medicaid" which, "as an American" can be kind of... embarrassing. BUT, having come back from Taiwan where health care is UNIVERSAL - it really took the sting out of it. I realized- who cares WHAT KIND of healthcare I have.... as long as I'm being treated and TAKING CARE of my HEALTH! At the end of it all, I didn't have to pay a cent out of pocket for the 3 sessions I went to and neither did my mother ( on Blue Cross/Blue Shield). So, by humbling myself and going to the Social Services office and chatting with the wonderful woman there and getting a Medicaid card and then seeking out therapy, I feel that both my mother and I grew stronger. ("For when I am weak, then I am strong"...)  During all this time, my father was a good middleman and initially tried to have a "family sit down" where we could all talk ( despite that, Mom and I still needed therapy). Dad was so good and trying to.... find a way out. God bless him for riding the waves and being the calm in the storm.

As a final note- I'm not posting this to "air dirty laundry" and I would hope that if you are family or friends of mine and reading this, you would NOT mention this to my mother- it would NOT be helpful and would only create anxiety and probably put distance between you and I. Please, leave this here where you found it.  I'm only admitting this to show to any person who has been so "homesick" and who is thinking of  "coming home" or who HAS "come home" and is struggling that- YOU'RE NOT ALONE. Repatriating can be difficult for unforeseen reasons.... not only the individual occasional "sadness of missing your adopted country". and it DOES GET BETTER. SO much better--- I promise you.  I'm so thankful- for Kate and Kelly and Meghan and all my cousins ( esp Meg- letting me crash at her apartment that night) and Aunt Joan and Aunt Anne and  Joy and Jade and Jerry and Annastasia and all my old co-workers at YAI, and Loren  and therapy and Planet Fitness and Hopewell Reformed Church and good pizza and that guy at Panera's who gave me a free large coffee and baconeggandcheeseonabagel and music in the subways.... lol. You get the point. :) Gratitude goes a long way.

As a closing final-FINAL note- Isn't "Shout Out To My Ex" a song?... I feel like it is. I'm not sure what the lyrics are, I honestly don't think they're flattering to exes, BUT I have a "shout-out to my ex" - Jade- who has resurrected in my life here after 9 years absent, as an amazing sounding board, listening ear, encouraging texter, sending me "good mojo" on those job interviews, sharing her own year of hell that she went through dealing with another ex who totalled her car and stole money from her. Jade is just... such a good person, still. Going through my own issues with identifying what a "good friend" truly was in Taiwan, and thinking back on her and our relationship I realized what a good person she was and how I had just let her go. I was cold and distant and she was and is still so.... warm and forgiving and encouraging. When I got back I sent her a FB message and apologized for my coldness and distance and told her I'd love to meet up- and we have- twice now- in addition to texting and playing occasional "Words With Friends" games. Sidenote to any romantics out there: Jade HAS a current 1 yr and a half long relationship going on now with another woman. So, This isn't about "dating". At all. This is about appreciating GOOD people and being SO glad for her friendship and forgiveness.

It's been a truly unforeseen journey the past 6 months......


but home is finally starting to feel like "Home".

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Repat Firsts: Year of the... CNY in NYC.

Well, it's a little over 4 months that I've been here now. It's currently almost 6am on Sunday and I am wide awake, coffee in hand... er... on desk. I'm getting good sleep and feel generally "well" here ( no flu for me).

Again, some days it feels like I've been here a year already. Being in Taiwan doesn't quite feel like it was "just yesterday" anymore but I'm still shocked to (still be) here at times. My most recent shock was the random, out of the blue realization just the other day that I'll be HERE for Chinese New Year this year (????!!!) That's bizarre to me. Even when I was home for those 6 months between my first year and second year in Taiwan, it wasn't during Chinese New Year.

It's not exactly a holiday that I've celebrated since birth, but it has become one that I HAVE celebrated regularly for the past 6 years in China and Taiwan ( specifically Dragon, Horse, Snake, Sheep, Monkey and Rooster years if we're talking about the animals) and one that I enjoy celebrating. Lucky candy!..... Red envelopes!.....Overpriced plane tickets to somewhere that's typically not THAT far away!..... A paid week long holiday!..... cleaning the house to rid it of "bad energy" from the past year!....... Lots of bright festive red color everywhere!

I have to celebrate here this year and who knows? Maybe I'll feel that need every year from now on. And that's OK. It's not in a sad, "homesick" for Taiwan way. Rather I feel like it's helpful in connecting and keeping Taiwan close. It's become a part of me. I'm happy that NYC has such a vibrant Chinese and Taiwanese community and that there are some things going on to mark the "Spring Festival" that is soon to be upon us.

I will also be buying some dumpling skins and filling and making some jiaozi/shuijiao. I still have lots of Taiwan money (meaning coins... NOT millions of TWD lol)  and I'll even be putting some 10nt coins in three or four of the dumplings that I make to give out to various family and friends here .... SO be very careful when you bite into your dumpling. Legend has it that if you get a dumpling with the coin you will have the best luck this coming year. :)

Here are a few links for the CNY Parade and Festival on Sunday February 25th (admission is FREE) if you're in NYC and want to join me. I'll probably send out a FB invite in a week or so to get a group together. kuai lai!

This is not actually what I planned on writing about when I woke up here but I guess my excitement for CNY got me carried away a bit. It's good to have something positive to carry you away I guess. I was planning to write more about the struggles of settling in here (along with the joys and benefits of connecting with old friends, regular exercise, and therapy). But I'll leave that for another day.

Some final good news here:  I've put down another nail in the..... homestead? I just recently got a job here in New York. I'm working as a case manager for students with developmental disabilities at the Heartshare School. My clients range in age from 3-20 yrs old. The Heartshare organization has been around for a long time - it initially started out way back in 1915 as Catholic Charities ( and, looking at the 2018 paid holidays sheet that HR sent out- we STILL get "Good Friday" off) working with Adoption and Foster Care services and then expanded to cover special needs children and adults. They're ALSO co-sponsors for the TD Bank "5 Borough Bike Tour" coming up in May.So, look out for more info on that! Jaiyou! :)  It's a good start I think. The people are wonderful and I have the option of  going on for my Masters in Special Education and teaching at the school if I want to go back into the teaching arena and they'll even pay for a certain percentage of my grad school coursework. So, lots to think about. One step at a time. Trying to still settle in and enjoy the quiet. I'm trying to ride the waves and settle in rather than use distractions ( too much drinking or just too much socializing) to "carry me away". I'm trying to "be here" and I think  I've been a good mix of a recluse/hermit and a social person since being back. So.... onward.