Getting Grateful

photo  Oh friends… it’s been too long.  Friends and family who rely on this blog to keep tabs on us, I am sorry for the delay.  No news is good news in this case.  Anonymous readers who connect with my heart and writing, I promise I will be back soon. Who was that girl who thought moving to the other side of the world would give her the time and focus she needed to write?

Here’s the quick update for friends and family (anonymous readers you can skip down a few paragraphs; it won’t hurt my feeling a bit):

We finally moved into our “permanent” house and simply adore it.  Boxes are still scattered here and there (my office just got unpacked this weekend and mornings find me sitting at my new desk typing away!), but we’re making good settling-in progress each week. We feel really fortunate to be in this house.  It’s not fancy, but it’s centrally located in an area of mostly high-rise condo buildings.  We can walk to the American Club, the main shopping district and tons of restaurants on Orchard Road, and to the most expensive grocery store I’ve even seen.

Emma’s soccer team traveled to Bangkok and Taipei and eventually won the gold medal in the league. They broke a record for not letting in a single goal all season or something very bigtimish like that.  Her soccer team fully embraced her and I adore the girls outside of sports who have welcomed her into their circles.  I never see her on the weekends as she bounces from one event to another.

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Louis played American football this season and his team will play in the championship game this coming Saturday.  It feels very “Texas,” this football thing, and it’s been one big ball of fun.  I love cheering him on and can see how much he’s learned over the last few weeks.  His fitness and stamina are amazing and he’s gotten even taller!  I can’t keep him in shoes that fit!  He has a big boisterous group of friends from church and enjoys the novelty of being the only American.

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Brad is exhausted.  He travels somewhere each week, works really long hours when he is in town, and there is always something for him to figure out or fix for me at home.  We hugged last weekend and he whispered into my ear “there is so much not getting done.  I haven’t called my Mom in ages, I need to look at our US mail, we need another bank account, we need to set up US tax payments…”  The list of things we need to do right now seems endless.

So that leaves… me.  People, I am good.  But, I still have ups and downs.  Daily life continues to confuse me, but the days are getting easier and my routine is beginning to come together.  I’ve been on a slew of first-dates-for-friends and am beginning to make round two with the women I liked.  It takes time to develop deep relationships– even with women I really click with and admire!

A few weeks ago, I realized that my family seemed to be missing a deep sense of gratitude.  Back in our old city by the Bay we loved our home, each other, our friends, our city, our church…. I could go on and on. It just wasn’t very difficult to wake up each day and feel a sense of blessing hovering over our lives.  When we moved here it felt like the rug had been pulled out.  We were struggling just to find anything to like a little bit!  Everything smelled and tasted unusual, the heat and new rhythm sapped us of energy and we missed home viscerally.  Before meals we’d join hands to offer grace and honestly, some nights I could barely say, thank you for the food we are about to eat and I’d have to leave it at that.  During my round of dates, I met a few women who’ve been here a lot longer than me and they hate it here.  They are deeply unhappy and spent the time we had together expressing their disgust at local customs, the heat, the food choices, the prices and everything else that takes getting used to.  Over an American steak house date night with Brad, (highlight of the month!), I recounted some of their words and said, “I don’t want to end up like that.”  It scared me to see that raw face of bitterness up close.  All of their complaints resonated with me, but I think the way through this hard time is to embrace the difficulties with a sense of curiosity instead of judgment.  So, I’ve been making a concentrated effort to get grateful in a hurry.  I’ve never been good at faking much of anything.  Faking one’s feelings only hurts the faker and usually doesn’t fool any onlookers. The gratitude I am hunting down needs to be the genuine kind.  Some days it’s easier than others.  Here are some of the things I’ve come up with so far.

After God’s grace, our health, my marriage, the particular kids I was given, our jobs and the love of extended family and friends, here are more just-moved-to-Singapore specific things.

Our House.  I know I covered it already, but I feel like it was sent from heaven as a gift, wrapped just for us. In a confessional moment, our realtor shared her belief that this house represents God’s favor on our lives.  I know that my happiness is not the intended end result of God’s blessings.  This makes me curious to see how this house fits into His plan of work for me to do. We must be the only Americans in Singapore paying less in rent and living in a larger space than we had in the States.  I have a guest room for the first time in seventeen years!  We all have room to spread out and heaps of teenaged boys can play video games in the family room and we hardly know they are there. We’ve hosted our first dinner party and had seating for nineteen people.  Emma’s entire soccer team slept over a few weekends ago.  We are close to living the social hosting life we were accustomed to in the States.

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Our non-car.  Emma and Louis are very independent and can get themselves anywhere without my help.  I don’t drive them to practices, games, youth group or sleepovers.  Only a Mom who has eaten lunch in her car and picked up burritos for dinner three nights in a week can appreciate how liberating this is.  I am very grateful for the opportunity this offers me and what it has done for my kids.  In the same breath, I have to offer gratitude for the plethora of taxi-cabs.  The drivers very often have no idea where my destination is, and they drive in a way that makes me very carsick, but they are usually very easy to find and cheap to pay.

The safety of Singapore.  Dude, you don’t want to do anything wrong in this country.  You’ll get caned and thrown in prison so fast you won’t be able to say can-can-lah. This means my teenagers can walk the streets at midnight with little fear and their mamma can fall asleep watching Law and Order without the frantic texting and cajoling them to get to wherever they will sleep now. We still have rules and curfews, but these kids have tons of freedom because it’s safe here.

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Travel Opportunities:  I’m a little ashamed, but I’ve never really had a travel bug. My parents took me to loads of places when I was a kid (Africa, Europe, all over the Caribbean) and I know it opened me up and changed me for the better.  But as an adult, I just felt complete. Take me to Hawaii or Mexico and let me read by the pool. I certainly never had a desire to travel to Asia.  But here I am and all of the sudden I am ablaze with desire.  I research all the local airlines and places I can get to from Singapore in one flight. (There are many, many options!) I ask my potential new friends about their travel experiences and everyone has something to share. When Emma and I were in Taipei, we had one afternoon to see some sights and we were one hundred stories over the city looking down at the busy streets, mountains and mist, just pinching ourselves.  Can you believe we are in Taiwan?  In the near future, my kids we will go to the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cambodia on vacations or service trips.  That’s just the beginning. I have plans for this family!

Our helper:  Nan-Nan came to live with us when her British employers had to leave the country suddenly.  Some day, I will tell you more of her story, but suffice it to say we love having her in our home and she takes great care of us.  We’re having tacos tonight with the corn tortillas I brought back from my last trip to San Francisco and I can hear (and smell) them frying right now.  When the kids get home on the late bus I will turn my computer off and we’ll go downstairs to dinner.  Yes, I am very grateful to have Nan-Nan with us.

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Church:  We are still spread out over a couple of churches, but everyone likes where he or she attends each week.  We miss City Church down to our core, but we are all getting the reminder of God’s love and grace every single Sunday.  We go for the reminder, Fred says.  Gotta be grateful for that.

Tuesday Bible Study: This group is full of really loving women. It’s not anything like the Pause group, but it’s life-giving in its own way.  Here’s proof that I am making friends and settling in.  They met at my house this past week.

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The American Club:  Killer salad bar and a teen scene.  Need I say more?  I’m doing the final proofread by the pool today.

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Real grateful living involves being thankful for everything, not just the fun stuff. I read One Thousand Gifts with everyone else and I believe it.  But I’ve got to start somewhere and these were the easiest places.

I’m sure there is more… I will keep thinking…

Singapore Joy

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Easier & Harder…

Photo on 2013-08-25 at 13.29It’s both easier and harder than I imagined it would be.

I’ve been getting some cheery messages from friends in the US that say things like:  Love seeing you all so happy!  Glad everyone is settling in so well!  Seems like Singapore agrees with you!  I read these notes with confusion.  Where are people getting this information?

After the fifth email like this, it dawned on me:  Duh! I’ve only posted happy faces and upbeat statuses on Facebook!  That’s common FB etiquette, probably – keep it real, but not whiney or complain-y.  But it can give the impression that everything is super-duper when really it’s just fine.

All those posts and pictures are true; we’re not forcing smiles out of the kids or ourselves.  But in between those smiling moments, we’ve been living a lot of regular life too, the kind that sometimes feels like a grind.  Except here, it’s a brand new grind where everything is different, overwhelming and exhausting and although the language is supposedly the same, no one can understand me when I ask for help and I certainly cannot understand the answers they give as they are trying to help the poor, sweaty, befuddled woman.

So, for real, we’re all OK.  We laugh around the dinner table, tuck each other in with kisses at night and we’ve even gone to a movie and found a great steak frites restaurant.  But life here in Singapore is not exactly what I thought it would be.

The weather:  It’s easier because, as it turns out, I like the heat!  I’ve spent too many June nights at Off the Grid in my puffer coat, shivered through nearly every single Giants game I’ve been to, even with a wool blanket wrapped around my shoulders, and forced myself to go down to the nearby beach, bundled in a sweatshirt.  I am ready for warm weather!  Here, I sit and read by the pool in the late afternoons and marvel at how comfortable it is to be outside in a bathing suit as the sun goes down.  I never have to look outside or ask Brad – what’s the weather like today?  Do you think just this cardigan will be enough?  It’s always warm.  But it’s harder because it’s impossible for me to look pretty in this weather.  Imagine that you’d just gone to your favorite spin class or bikram yoga class for a solid ninety minutes, and then added an extra twenty minutes of high intensity cardio.  Afterwards, you’d skipped the shower and instead donned your favorite silk blouse.  Then, you’d walked next door to lunch with friends and noticed that everyone is non-sweaty, their hair is coiffed and their makeup is right where they put it.  This is me, everyday, except there is no workout involved.  I’ve just left my house and walked ten minutes to the American Club, down to the grocery store or to a coffee shop to meet new friends.  Brad and I almost had a fight one Sunday because I wouldn’t walk the two blocks to a better intersection to hail a taxi.  We were on our way to meet new friends who’d graciously invited us to lunch at their club and for once I wanted to appear cool and calm.  Looking pretty is much harder than I imagined.  On back-to-school-night for my 8th grader I accidentally exited the subway a stop early.  The ten-minute walk turned into a rushed thirty-five-minute one once I realized my mistake.  I entered the school theater a red-faced, splotchy, soppy mess with teensy bits of tissue sticking to my skin from my brief mop up in the ladies room en route.  Hi, I am Louis’s Mom and I’m looking for friends… It’s cool; we don’t have to hug hello.

The air-conditioning:  It’s easier because it’s everywhere and for the first minute after I enter a room it feels like heaven, but it’s harder because before the sheet of sweat even dries, I start to shiver.  I carry several cardigan options in my purse at all times for the quick added layer inside, but then I immediately strip off outside.  When I work in the business center of our apartment building, I have to bring a sweatshirt with a hood because it’s that cold and I cannot think with my ears stinging.  I have a constant sore throat and I think it has something to do with living in air-conditioning.

The bureaucracy:  It’s easier because I am not required to think.  There is a method and a way of doing everything.  But it’s harder because there’s only one way to do it, and the game is to figure out that right way.  I filled out an on-line form and entered my name as Joy Elizabeth Libby and it was rejected without stating a reason.  Days of research later I learned that it was because in that particular system, I am listed as Libby Joy Elizabeth.  Now I understand how corruption can flourish (not here!  Too much caning, I think) because I would gladly hand over $100 to anyone who could help me figure out why Brad’s local debit card from Citibank cannot be used to make government fee payments online, but my Citibank debit card from California, the one that will incur a foreign exchange fee with every transaction, works just fine.  Anyone?  Bueller?  We’re fortunate to have relocation experts helping us with various aspects of the move (handling paperwork for the employment and dependents’ passes, overseeing our container clearing customs etc.) and a fabulous realtor handling the reams of paperwork needed to rent a house, but in other areas we are on our own.  It took Brad three weeks and lots of frustrating phone calls with Citibank to open a local bank account and as I mentioned above, the card really only works to get cash from an ATM (and not just any ATM; it has to be a Citibank one.)  And apparently there is no way to connect us to our Citibank account in the US, even though Brad first opened an account with Citibank in 1986! (I know, right!  I was only 13 years old!)  I’ve been here for a month and we still haven’t had the wherewithal to add my name to the account; we are dreading the process.  So, Brad gives me cash and I dole it out to the kids.  If he travels, he leaves his debit card just in case we need more, and that means that while he is in India and needs cash himself, he has to take it from our US account which sets off a trip wire of potential fraud and then our US account is frozen and not even my US debit card will work for a simple $30 transaction.  These things are sort of wearying.

The relocation company has given me a deadline to move out of our serviced apartment but the same company cannot confirm a definite move-in date for us for our new house, and no one sees that this is unsettling.  I’ve asked them five different and creative ways why they’d secure an end to the temporary housing without first securing the date the container will arrive at the door of the new house, but this is the clearest answer I have been able to get:  Kindly be informed that the custom [sic] clearance & delivery of shipment will takes [sic] about 2 to 3 working days from the date of shipment arrival.  The earliest delivery date for the shipment would be 05 Sep 2013 if shipment arrive [sic] on schedule as [sic] 02 Sep 2013.  So, yeah, whatever you can make of that.

While we’re on the topic, communication is harder.  Though English is the official language, Singapore is a melting pot of cultures, so English is spoken in many accents and with different phrasing. Singlish, local colloquial English, is what’s spoken by many taxi drivers, shopkeepers, hawkers, security guards etc.  (Someday soon, when I comprehend more, I will write about Singlish). We’ve already discussed the bank people.  The housekeeping staff at the temporary apartment don’t speak much English at all – they come from all over Asia and are likely new arrivals. Then there are the expats:  the number of accents coming at me in a school meeting or at church is remarkable:  we have Kiwis, Aussies, South Africans, English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh, plus tons of non-native English speakers from all over Asia, India and Europe.  And of course there are American accents, from Texas to Maine.

The Expats:  It’s easy because they were all new to Singapore at some point, so they all understand what we are going through.  Any question I have, someone has asked it before me.  There are forums, associations, clubs and Facebook pages galore to help get me settled quickly.  One church we’ve visited even offers a class each fall for new families to Singapore.  It’s hard because, well, some of the ex-pat women are so … smugly settled and know-it-all-happyish here.  I heard before I left that the expat community would be very welcoming and warm.  Well… I dunno.  Jury’s out.

[Side note: One of the signs of culture shock is constantly making comparisons to your previous city.  God bless our realtor, Woon, who had to listen to me do this at every single house we viewed.  In San Francisco, the landlord would probably have done this, and oh boy this is what would happen in San Francisco.  Ha Ha (knee slap) let me tell you about this one time in San Francisco …”  Gag, I know, but she endured it all with a smile.]

I make (what I think to be) interesting and curious comparisons between Singapore and San Francisco and no one here is the slightest bit interested.  In my current state of adjustment, it feels as if some of the gals might be forcing themselves to like it here.  Like, methinks thou doth protest too much, pale blonde perfectly made-up dearies …  Frankly, there are moments of some days when I don’t like Singapore at all, especially when I am sweaty, late, using the subway system at rush hour, or staring in disbelief at the prices in the supermarket.  And I want to say, Nope, not gonna jump on your fake cheery band wagon sista, I’m digging my heels in.  But last week I met a room full of (mostly) British women and they were just as expats had been described to me.  They were vulnerable, genuine and generous with their time and stories.  They were clearly my people and I know as time goes by, more of my people will cross my path until I have a tribe of women around me again.  And then I will be telling the next gal who moves here, expat women are the best and life in Singapore is greaaaat!

Singapore American School:  It’s easy because it’s American and the accents are what we are used to hearing, the curriculum follows the same path my kids have been plodding, and it’s just a really great school with really fabulous teachers.  It’s harder because many of the American kids have never lived in America and there are significant cultural differences that are nuanced and difficult to name.  Some of the teachers got this gig because they want to see the world, not necessarily because they want to nurture the next generation, but for the most part the teachers are incredible.  At back-to-school-night it was unclear if we parents should stay to the right while walking (as we do in America) or to the left (as people kinda, but not really, do here). The stairwells and hallways were mosh pits of parents trying to get to the next class.  It’s easy because no matter where kids live on the island, the school will send a bus.  It’s harder because that bus might not take a direct route to school and kids can be on a bus for a really long time very early in the mornings and very late into the night.

Moving with teenagers is harder because they have opinions!  They want to have a say about where we live, where we go to church, what we do on the weekends and where we eat dinner.  They are super polite about what they like and dislike, but we are more like four adults re-settling in a foreign country than anything else.  My little kids just went along with my plan, but my teens help create a plan. It is easier because they’re mature enough to make a go of this huge and un-asked-for change in their lives.  They’re really our heroes at the moment (not least because the bus picks them up at 6:48 a.m. and Emma returns home after soccer at 7:15 p.m. and Louis returns home from football after a long walk from his bus stop, at 8:15 p.m.)  It turns out we’ve raised troopers!

Finding a church is harder; of course we were spoiled in San Francisco, so we have high standards.  We’ve visited two so far and Brad and I would be fine at either one.  During our visits, each of our kids found a church they like, but not the same one. Brad and I prefer the music at “Emma’s” church, but the sense of community at “Louis’s” church is stronger.  I prefer “Emma’s” church because it has air-conditioning; “Louis’s” church is literally open-air, with ceiling fans that don’t do much, but the place is strikingly beautiful.  The building has a roof and some walls, but no windows! Given that we are more like four adults now, having everyone choose a church on his or her own doesn’t seem like a bad idea.  It’s good practice for college when I won’t be around anyway to make that choice for them, and at both of these local churches, the teens go directly to a separate service, so they’re on their own anyway. After a Saturday night sleepover, text a taxi and get yourself to church.  We’ll meet you at lunch, kids.

The American Club:  It’s just easy.  Tacos, diet cokes, salad bars and lounge chairs by a pool.  Seriously, the only downside I’ve discovered is that it’s a bit of a teenage hangout on the weekends and I cramp my kids’ style when I go there for dinner on Friday nights.

I could go on, and I will soon, but for today I wanted to give you just a bit of the real deal of my life here so far.

Much love,

Singapore-Joy (this is the name my mom has entered into her phone with my new contact information.  I think it has a good ring to it.)


Moving on…

894_1_o1a7285_golden_gate_bridgeTony Bennett got it right when he sang, I left my heart in San Francisco.  This city, with its sweeping views, outlandish political and social antics and inspiring friends-who-are-more-like-family has become home to this East-Coaster.  Walking away feels more like tearing the fabric of my soul in half.

I remember my very first whiff of what would become my life here.  Between semesters of my junior year in college, I drove from Washington, DC to San Francisco.  I turned 21 years old mid-trip while in St. Louis, Missouri and crossed into California a few days later.  Cresting Highway 580 somewhere near Livermore, I saw the hulking, Cyclops-like, bright-white wind turbines covering green-like-I’d-never-seen-green rolling hills, and I burst into tears.

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I pulled over and leaned across my steering wheel and let the sobs come.  I could sense the change that was coming.  I was entering adulthood, about to experience the grown-up me and life was pregnant with opportunity.  My boyfriend (soon-to-be-husband), new friends, new food, new landscape, new classes and new jobs lay just on the other side of those hills.  What I couldn’t have know in that emotive moment, was that from my very first glimpse of this city my heart would break into a million little pieces of love for it and its inhabitants.

Brad and I married the following summer (yes, I married him before I even graduated from college – gasp!), and other than very short stints in Washington DC, New York and London, we’ve managed to plant ourselves here in the city where love is everywhere.

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Company transfers, better job opportunities and the recent financial crisis have all provided us chances to leave.  Heck, just paying private school tuition for so many years has led to many conversations about the golden, sun-drenched county just north of us.  But our hearts were inexplicably tethered to this place and what we wanted for our kids was to know and love this city like we did.  And they do.  This is home for all of us.  Though we have no close relatives anywhere near us, we have managed to fill our dining room on Thanksgiving, year after year, with thirty or so people we call family.  And that’s what makes this next chapter so heart-wrenching.

In case you haven’t heard, I’m moving to Singapore this summer.  My husband is already there working and building the beginning of our new lives.  The time difference makes it somewhat difficult to connect, but as he is waking up and I am picking up the kids from school, we video chat.  It’s hectic and chaotic on our end, but we’re happy to see his face and hear bits about his day.  He always mentions the heat in Singapore, and I talk about the fog in San Francisco.  We’re moving from a city that is too cold to one that will feel too hot for us.  We’ll deal with it, like we’ll deal with the new food (last night I asked him if he’d spotted any sort of taqueria – even something like a Chevy’s.  No.  Ugh.  Knife to the heart.), new friends (I’ve already have phone dates with friends of friends and a few people from Singapore will be in the states this summer and I’m going on blind dates with them) and a new environment full of tall buildings, crowded sidewalks and a blending of languages and cultures.  We’ll deal, and slowly our hearts will open up to that gateway into Asia.  We’ll meet interesting people, travel to places I never thought I’d see, expose ourselves and kids to cultures, needs, lives, sights, smells and sounds and we will fall in love with what’s next for us.

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But be clear:  pieces of our hearts will be planted here forever.  In Shelly and Craig’s backyard, on the fourth row and in the balcony of City Church, around the Pause circle, on the walk from downtown to the Marina, in the living rooms of women all over, at Gordos and Panchos, at the Bruce Mahoney, at AT&T Park, in a classroom at Herbst House, one across the street teaching Latin and another in the basement where math is made exciting, wherever flan is homemade or Diet Coke from a fountain is on offer, on the stoops of 7th Avenue, in the arms of hug-giving teenage girls, in pods-for-life and cabinet, in the heart of one Salvadorena wherever she goes, where the meatballs, roasted chickens and lemon bars are made, where the hearts beat huff, where children remember that nothin’, nothin’, absolutely nothing can separate,  in a hot tub in Mill Valley and another in Sea Cliff, and especially, especially at one house on Broadway.  A million little pieces is the only way to describe the heartbreak we feel right now.  Like maybe, this thing here (however to describe it?  Life?  Love?  Investment?  Work?  Time?), it’s just not finished.  Some relationships feel as if we’ve only just begun!  We’re spread too far and too deep here in this city to know how to begin to pull out.

Like with a band-aid, we just need to rip it and know we will sting and maybe even bleed, but time is on our side, as it always is.  What seems hard today will feel possible tomorrow.

So …we’re leaving.  Many of you have asked questions I will try to answer here.  I will keep the heartache and emotion out of the answers as best I can and just try to stick to the facts, ma’am.

When?  Brad is there already.  Kids and I fly August 1st.

Why?  The short answer is that Brad took a new (great!) job and the kids and I are so thrilled for him that we jumped up and down congratulating him and beaming with pride.  The longer answer involves his leaving a job not worthy – or welcoming – of his character and moral compass.  To say that he had been managing a stress level in code red would be an understatement.  So, yes, a new job in Singapore is a wild, big change, but one we are all embracing for him.

Why now?  Our kids are breaths away from being launched, so why inject all this change and transition into their lives, right?  Well, I guess because opportunity knocked in such a way that suggests there is work for us to do there.  As much as I wanted to give my kids a full childhood here in beautiful San Francisco (I’ve clung to this dream so hard, fingers clenched, knuckles white, holding on for dear life), I am choosing to believe that offering them this chance to see a different part of the world, to know a different life and to see their parents in action with new people, places and things is just what The Good Doctor is ordering.  So, we’ll board that flight full of hope and expectancy, searching for the stones signaling our path.

School?  Kids will be going to Singapore American School with loads of expats from around the world and some local kids.  Close friends of close friends run a Christian youth group organization there and have invited my kids to join a group at a camp in June.  Yes, literally thirty kids from the new school in Singapore are coming to Oregon for summer camp and we happen to know the adults chaperoning them and they extended an invitation to my kids.  Fer realz.  I can’t make this stuff up.  One of the stones laid for our path …

Housing?  We are not at all sure.  Brad is hotel living for now, and we’ll move into temporary housing when we arrive, then the housing search will begin.  Choices include high-rise modern, possibly smaller, apartments, a multiple-level “cluster house” (growing up on the East Coast we called these townhouses, but here in San Francisco this is just the way most houses look!) where we’d share walls with neighbors and common grounds, or a “landed house” which is free-standing, has a yard, etc.  I could be wrong about all of this.  I’m getting it from the interwebs.  I’ll figure it out when I get there.

How long will I be gone?  Lots of families moving to Singapore have a definitive amount of time they’ll be “stationed” overseas.  We don’t.  His new job is there.  Like, right there.  His region is vast and includes all of Asia, including India, and Australia.  He doesn’t have a contract to return to the States, but if there is one thing any of us can depend on, it’s that everything always changes.  We’ve agreed he’ll be in this role for 3- 5 years and I am hoping for five because that would get both kids through high school and launched (likely) back in the States.  (My heart just oozed a little with that reality.  In five years, both of my kids will be gone)

Language barrier?  Singaporeans speak English, often referred to as “Singlish” because of its unique lilt and vocabulary.  Most of them also speak Mandarin, Malay, or various Indian dialects.  We’ll stick to English and probably come back with a little Singlish as well.

Our Stuff?  This is by far the most frequently asked question.  After some massive purging efforts, we will bring everything we own.  The way we figure it, if we store it for five years and that becomes ten years, we probably won’t want it and don’t need it.  And seriously, why own something I can’t use?  So the furniture, the bedding, the china, the silver and the crystal are going to float at sea and make their way to us in a container.

Me?  How do I feel?  I’ve already covered that I am heartbroken, right?  Like torn in two, hung from the rafters, gnashing of teeth, devastated to leave my people.  Two hours after telling my 15-year-old that her life will radically change, she turned to me with sudden beyond-her-years insight and said. “Mom, Papi will have a new job, Louis and I will have a new school and friends, but I am worried about you.  You will have to give up Pause and CAbi and you will have nothing.”  Uh-huh, way to name it, sister.

Pause is my third child.  Literally my actual heartbeat can be traced to Wednesday mornings and the brave group of women who show up on my doorstep and work through all their questions, confusion, hurts and hopes.  Sometimes we sit in a circle and pray out loud to a God some aren’t even sure exists … it’s a slice of heaven right here in the Marina District.  The last Pause gathering was beYOND emotional.  Shelly called all the ladies who have gathered in my living room for the last eight years – some for a short time, some while they job-searched, some only when they could and some every single Wednesday – and together we had a two-hour sobfest.  I am still recovering because, Oh! the words that were spoken.  It was the closest I will ever come to witnessing my own eulogy and hearing, feeling and knowing what I mean to people.  It was wrenching and inspiring and none of us had any mascara left and our faces were swollen and red and I’ve never seen a room of women so stunningly beautiful, whole and connected in all my life.  I’ll miss them desperately and I will think of them each Wednesday, all off on their own paths, continuing the work we used to do together.

CAbi is encouraging me to keep my business thriving.  (If you are a client or hostess, you’ll get a note from me soon with all sorts of details.)  Because I won’t be able to sell CAbi in Singapore (yet), I’ll be making regular trips back to the US to hold shows in jam-packed days and nights.  (I get a thrill just thinking about those return trips!)  I met a client at a show last weekend and I explained my plan and she raised an eyebrow in confusion, Whaaattt?  You’re going to fly for 20 hours around the world to sell clothes to women who could just order them online?  Later in the evening, after hours of laughter and connection unique to CAbi shows, she sidled up to me and whispered, “Now I get it.  If I had this job, I’d fly back from Singapore to do it too.“  I’m doing it for myself and for all the women I get to love on at each show.

Finally, you know how I say I like to write, but it seems like what I really do is think about writing all the time while actually doing a whole bunch of other things.  After the initial hubbub of moving and settling in, and in between my CAbi trips, I really won’t have much to do.  Like a peeled onion, the obligations I carry now will be stripped away and I will be left with a big choice:  To write or not.  And I hope I choose to honor this passion and write the essays, book or manifesto that’s waiting to come from me.  It will take some courage to face down the fear, so Plan A is to be brave and show up for the stories that want to be written.

I’ve heard the kindest, most generous fare-thee-wells since we announced our imminent departure.  I hold each one in my heart and keep replaying them like a soundtrack stuck on repeat.  At one of the many goodbye gatherings we’ve been privileged to enjoy, my dear friend, Dan, gave a toast and offered up a challenge.  “You are leaving a crater sized hole in San Francisco.  Go make a crater in Singapore.”  We’re going to try, Dan, we can promise you that.

Dear God, please hold all of these loved ones here in San Francisco in your tender embrace.  And show us who needs love in Singapore.

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Golden Gate Bridge photo credit

Wind Turbine photo credit

Singapore photo credit