Sunday, January 18, 2015


My passport arrived by priority mail on Friday!  It was a relief because I really needed it quick and had paid for expedited service.  Now I can apply for my Chinese visa and get it in time (hopefully, you never know with these things!) for my trip next month.

I am going back to China for the first time since we left in December 1985.  It's been 29 years.  Wow.  "Surreal" is how I would describe my feelings about going back to my native country.  SO MUCH has changed since my family and I left China so many years ago - both with respect to the country and to myself as a person.  Back then, China's meteoric economic development was in it's infancy: Deng Xiaoping had only announced the opening of China to the outside world a few years earlier.  Hope and opportunity were not on most people's radar screen.  Now, the size of China's economy as measured by GDP is second only to the US.  Then, I was a child, barely aware of what it meant to go to America, 美国(meiguo or "beautiful country"), the land of opportunity.  Now, I am an adult - married with children - living the American Dream.  We were embarking on a journey of which most of our then more than one billion fellow Chinese citizens could only dream.

Our good fortune came as a result of my dad's being found by his long lost father.  Actually, it should be said that my dad was the long lost son.  Long story short: Back in 1949, when the Nationalists were defeated by the Communists after a civil war, my grandparents were among the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan.  Because my dad was only a baby at the time and fearing that he would not survive the trip, they left him with my grandmother's mother.  After my great-grandmother passed away, as I understood it, there was some family drama and my dad was put into an orphanage.  He was adopted by a couple in Guangdong Province where he was raised in a small village.  My grandparents eventually divorced and my grandfather remarried.  He and his new family ended up immigrating to the United States and settling down in the Washington, DC area.  When my grandfather retired, he finally was able to find my dad with the help of one of my grandfather's brothers.  My grandfather then somehow was able to get the Chinese government to allow us to come to the United States.

And, next month, I will be one of hundreds of millions of Chinese traveling back to their 家乡("hometown") to celebrate the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) with family and friends.  It will definitely be an interesting experience to go back to a place I haven't seen in almost 30 years and barely remember.  I'm sure I'll feel a bunch of different emotions, too.  I'll be so happy to finally be back where my roots began and to see my grandma and other relatives.  I'll also be sad that it took me so long to get there.  I know I'll miss my husband and my kids a lot - this will be the longest I've ever been away from them.  I'll worry about how my two-year-old will deal with my absence and about my husband being alone with them.  Not that I don't think he could handle things with me gone but just that it's a hard job to take care of three kids all by yourself for days at a time, which I don't have to do because usually he helps out when he gets home from work.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Starting Where I Am

This morning, I went visiting teaching.  Visiting teaching is a program in the LDS Church where women get to visit other women every month.  How it works is you get assigned a partner (another woman, or "sister", as we call each other) and you and your partner are assigned a number of other sisters that you are supposed to visit each month.  I have five sisters on my list and currently I don't have a partner.  I had one last year but she got moved so they're working on getting me another partner.  The president of the Relief Society, an organization for all women age eighteen and older, is usually the one that makes the assignments.

My first visit was to Heather and it was really great to catch up with her on the holidays and how she and her family have been doing.  Her husband is in the Air Force and has been busy with work and with flying helicopters.  She has three boys so we were talking about school and science fairs.  We also talked about the visiting teaching message, which is in the Ensign, a magazine published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I love the messages we get to share each month because it's so uplifting and even though I'm the one bringing it to my sisters, I get just as much (if not more) out of it as my sisters.

My second visit was to Tiffany, who actually wasn't home when I arrived.  I could tell she wasn't there because her minivan wasn't in the driveway but I rang the doorbell anyway just in case for some reason she was there even if her car wasn't.  Because I didn't have my cell phone with me, I had to drive home to call her.  Turns out, she had forgotten and had gone to Sam's Club but she was going to the church to meet her sister-in-law to set-up for the baby shower they were throwing for one of their visiting teaching sisters.  She asked if I wanted to meet her there.  I said sure, even though I wasn't sure because I had wanted to stop by Target to return a pair of pants and to buy a gift for the same baby shower.  However, I figured that I still wanted to see her and to let Gordon play with her daughter for a bit.

I'm so glad we met up with them because I realized that sometimes a visit doesn't turn out as planned but is still beneficial.  I was able to visit with Tiffany, give her a message, and help her and her sister-in-law get things ready for the baby shower.  Part of visiting teaching is to serve those you visit.  At the end of a visit, it is customary to ask if there is something your sister needs.  When asked that question, most people would say no because they don't think they need it or don't like to ask for help.  The best way to know if there's a need is to be observant and offer help when you see a need.  A lot of times opportunities for service come up when you least expect it.

Later, as I thought about it, I realized that visiting teaching is something I truly enjoy doing but have struggled with doing because I get it in my head that it should be done a certain way so then I end up not doing it because I can't seem to get it done that way.  I read an article in the Ensign about a teacher who got a potato from one of her students.  This student had wanted to give her an apple but she didn't have one so she decided to give her what she had, which was a potato.  I love this story because it teaches us that we don't have to wait until we have an apple to give to give something.  I don't have to wait until Tiffany asks me to help her to give help.  I can be willing to meet her where she's going, which today happened to be the church.  I don't have to wait for someone to be sick to bring a meal, I can do it when I am inspired to do it because maybe she had a hard day and was too busy or stressed out to cook.

The principle of giving what we have can also be applied to other areas of life and turned into "starting where we are".  We don't have to wait until the stars align to do something, we just have to do it.  It's especially applicable in making changes and improvements, which is very popular at the beginning of a new year.  Whatever we think we need to do, just do it.  Change doesn't happen over night but it can only happen if we try.  Start where we are.

That's what I've decided to do with this blog.  Often I think I would like to write something but I don't because I think it's not a good topic, or I'm too busy, or I don't have a picture I want, etc.  Those are just excuses.  So starting today, I am going to "start where I am".