Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Home Is....


"Home is..." I finish that sentiment like many people do, adding "where the heart is", or "where they love you", or "where you make it". "Home" is on our minds a lot lately! We close today on the sale of the Knoxville home we occupied since 2002. It is (finally) empty, save a broom or two and a dust mop that we were too lazy to remove. There's probably some hidden meaning in leaving home care supplies behind for a new owner to find - do we hope it will continue to be loved - or at least cleaned?

Then too there are the pictures of our future "home" being sent via e-mail updates by one of Bill's kind work associates. The photo above shows the exterior of the house. As you can see, it is a "stand-alone" structure. This is rare in Shenzhen - most people live in apartments. The interior is spacious and finishing off nicely too. There's a bedroom on the first floor and 3 more on the upper level - the same amount we had in the (just about) sold house. Of course, others are choosing all of the colors (well, that's easy since everything will be white!), the wood finishes, the fixtures, etc.. This is a big change for us as we have always done extensive re-modeling of our homes, usually adding bold color and agonizing over every choice. We even wallpapered a kitchen and painted bedrooms in our first TN apartment! This seems especially over-the=top when I think back to the fact that we lived there 12 months and started construction on our first home during that time! Anyway, I'd be lying if I didn't confess that "home" has had some strong ties to "dwelling" in our life's history.

But back to the title of my inky meandering.... Despite all that I have said about "home", I was reminded last week just EXACTLY what it is for me. With deep apologies to my beloved TN "family", and with sincere acknowledgement that east TN is indeed a beautiful slice of the world, I have to confess that "home" , for me , will always be Wisconsin. Spending a few days there over the 4th of July holiday was like a magic elixer to me. I drank in the rolling, emerald green farmland, marvelled at the black topsoil and all of the beauty and bounty it produces. Every scent every scene, every taste, all blankets me like a warm quilt. I'm sure I look like a kid at Disney all the while I am there. Just ask our girls and they will tell you they grew up thinking Wisconsin was akin to Oz itself. They joke that my voice takes on a reverent tone and hands must cover hearts when I utter the name of the unincorporated little hamlet where I grew up, namely (I'll give readers time here to assume a respectful pose ) "Mindoro".

So, without apology, I am basking in the afterglow of a trip "home". I will always feel blessed beyond measure to have grown up in a place where "everybody knows your name". Even the mosquitos and the smell of manure can't alter the way I feel about that place. I am SO THANKFUL that my dear siblings planned a reunion picnic during this latest trip. (See the photo above. We're in "numeric order" from left to right.) Adding seldom-seen cousins and nieces and nephews to the "home" experience was priceless. High school friends (and even a college pal) stopped in as well. Reinforcing all of those precious connections was another shot of that elixer.

Reality beckons..... We have a more loose ends to tie before we leave. We will say difficult goodbyes over the next few weeks and we will reinforce the precious connections we have to our Knoxville friends. It will be hard. Thankfully, I have reserves of "the Good Stuff" (anybody familiar with that Kenny Chesney song?) stored deep in the well of my heart. Since I always appreciate reference to a song, I'll always think of it as 'Love Potion #9"

PS: The date fore this pos t should be July8th, 2009. I can't seem to change the one above. (Thanks for pointing that out, Annabelle!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Moving Out

The big week is finally here - Moving Out! It's not like we've been preparing for months or waiting endlessly, but still it's a culmination.. In fact, Erin and I were discussing last night that this WHOLE THING only started as a CONCEPT less than 2 months ago. In that short time, we:
finished up elementary, high, and pre-school-years;took trips to California (Erin), China (Bill, Mary, Emily & Ellysa), and Florida (all of us); picked out a new home to rent for the next 3-5 years; enrolled the girls in a new school; put our house on the market and sold it! (Closing is July 8); AND, most recently, we have sorted through the collection of a lifetime of our "stuff" to get ready for our move.
I would go to the mat with anyone to argue that moving is one of the most exhausting things you can do. Let this be a warning to you.... don't hang on to so much STUFF! And, don't stuff your stuff willynilly in every conceiveable space in your house! We have made discoveries in so many drawers, attic boxes, crawlspace bins..... we have jammed unrelated "stuff" all over this house!

It HAS been refreshing to clean out and give/throw, but as those of you who have done this know, it is also emotionally draining. There are the "What an idiot I am!" moments when you discover the worthless stuff you have selfishly clung to. There are the "Aw, look at THIS..." moments that bring you to your knees with a memory. Of course there are the "?@#^ this is ruined!" discoveries as well. After a solid week of those moments, interspered with meetings about customs restrictions, insurance inventory forms, and the occasional discussion of where we'll live when our stuff floats away, I AM SPENT!

This has definitely been the steepest, most rocky part of the climb thus far. (See my reference to "Come to the Edge" in my first post.) I was (happily) raised as a "stay in the pew" Presbyterian but my feet were itching to walk to the alter on Sunday so I could lay this down. The sermon was titled "Faith and Doubt" and it was one of those messages that make you wonder if the minister is a mind reader who spent time in your head recently. Anyway, it recharged me and reminded me that God has it all covered, even when I don't know what"it all" is yet! I have Erin, my daughter who was born older and wiser than I, to thank for nudging me to church when I really just wanted to continue to sit and cry.

Anyway, the packers will work for a couple days, boxing "stuff" and wrapping furniture. We have piles and piles for Goodwill in the garage. There are post-it notes on furniture and closets and cupboard doors to inform the packers that something is to go to China. We have wondered, argued and debated about whether to ship or store many items, but after Friday, we can (MUST!) "let it go...." We will be in a 2-bedroom apartment starting Friday night; a 3-bedroom opens up next week, so we'll move again! The things which go into local storage will be packed up next Wednesday (after a few more rounds of give/throw debating, I'm sure).

We have painstakingly tried to anticipate what we'll need to have in our possession, and on our backs and feet, between now and whenever our stuff gets to Shenzhen. The International movers can not give us a firm arrival date so we may have to live in an apartment there for a couple weeks when we arrive. Emily's task was the most painstaking because, in the worst case scenario, she will need clothes to wear to a new high school for the first week. This is a BIG DEAL!

I covet prayers of my friends and family. There are still many decisions to be made. After a trip to WI in July, our schedules will be full of Dr. appointments and efforts to update legal documents, convert things to electronic mails, etc. Bill takes it all in stride quite well; I get wigged out way too easily, but hey, I'm still moving on! Erin and Emily have been amazingly helpful. Both of them are way more organized than I am so they have made great suggestions and executed with energy I lack. And Elly (I mean Ellysa), well, she is still NOT a happy camper. She has, thankfully, beeen gone every day from 7:45 - 2:30 at "Camp Invention" at her elementary school. Parents of friends have been kind enough to let her go home and play afterwards. She came in from a day of pure pleasure with two of her best school pals and burst into tears when she saw that our kitchen and dining room were reduced to cardboard boxes and paper-wrapped chairs and tables. We all huddled around her for a family hug. It's very hard, but I believe myself when I tell her it will be okay.......

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Could Somebody Change That Station?!

In all honesty, our trip to the beach really was relaxing. As we were making our way back to Knoxville from China, I kept thinking..."We're nuts! We can't possibly come home for a day and then drive to Florida!" But we did it, and thank goodness! There's just something about barefoot walks in the sand and staring at an endless horizon. As Erin put it, the trip to the wedding and the stay on the condo in St. Pete. was the "reset" button that our family needed after the surreal craziness of the past month. We had a great time seeing Bill's family and the wedding...... it was a fairy-tale event complete with a princess bride. (Our niece Brittany, who is a corporate event planner by vocation, had every detail covered and was honestly one of the most beautiful brides I've ever seen. Her Mom commented that she and her bridesmaid friends went to "Bride Bootcamp". Maybe I need to get re-married.....)

But, I digress. We returned from FL on a marathon drive on Monday. After several loads of laundry, Ellysa is nearly ready for her 2-night stay at a church camp near the Smoky Mtns. She leaves today with her forever pal, Isabella. As for me, I am plagued once again by those two pesky stations that I can't seem to shut down in my head. I think of them as "FRET", FM and "PLAN", AM. Despite my faith that everything will be fine, and despite the reassuring nature of our house and school and healthcare hunting trip, AND despite the fact that everything really has fallen into place so far, I can't "turn down the noise in my mind" (can you hear Carly Simon's voice?)

So, I wake before the dawn and mentally wander through the lists. It has become clear that we will need to get our furniture and selected possessions on a ship by the end of next week! This means we need to find a furninshed place to dwell until August 1st. This means we need to seriously sift and sort, make a run to Sams to but bulk quantities of items that we can't get in China (like deodorant and tampons that we would want to use, coffee, dishwasher detergent, and on and on if you're crazy like me) We need to start cancelling utilities, figure out what to do with the mail, the dog.....YIKES! Everyone also needs to get to the doctor, the dentist, the hairdresser. We need to order long=term supplies of medicines. We'd like to sell some furniture. Bill needs to take care of the items found on the home inspction for the sale of the house - we think we'll close before July 15 if the appraisal (done yesterday) goes well.

Oh, we also need to arrange for a furnished place in Shenzhen for a couple weeks after we arrive as it is likely our stuff will not be there August 1st, even if we DO ship it next week. So much for being settled in the house when school starts, but this appears to be a small hurdle.

Seriously, if someone doesn't find a better station, I'm gonna have to get rid of that radio!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Few Thousand Words

Hopefully, these pictures will paint my story....

Here are a few photos to reflect our recent trip to Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Ellysa and Emily are pictured in the courtyard near the Shekou Int'l Elemmentary School. They are also together in near the entrance of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Hong Kong's Aberdeen area. The picture of the house under construction should give you the idea that we really are getting a stand-alone house. It also reveals what "redecoration" means in China! The interior pic. is of Emily looking over the construction plans. There were many workers everywhere and it was hard to get pictures.
As our high speed journey continues, today finds us at in a hotel in south Georgia, on the way to a wedding in St. Petersburg. Erin drove most of the way; we will get to unwind a bit before the return to Knoxville to begin the sorting process. Some days it feels like we have to move a mountain by August. Breath....

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Falling Into Place

Obviously my big ideas about keeping up with our adventure in a real-time way while in China did not pan out. Between the challenges of hotel computer speeds, sleep deprivation, a very full schedule of events and decisions, and "Big Uncle" (aka the Chinese government), I failed.

We are, gratefully, back in Knoxville after a L O N G trip home. As if a fifteen hour flight from Hong Kong to Chicago is not enough time spent in the "friendly skies", we were again treated to a little extra time in Chicago. This time we got to sit on a taxi-way for three hours. We arrived in Knoville at midnight Monday night ((Tuesday afternoon where we had just spent 10 days), so we are pretty wiped out. The girls were troopers as usual, even despite Emily having stomach pains the entire HK to ORD flight and Ellysa throwing up several times on that same bumpy ride. We think Emily ate something that disagreed with her. As for Elly, well, she frequently needs a bag nearby during travel if you get my drift. They are both fine now.

Anyway, things are "falling into place". For my part, it sure SEEMS like falling too! I continue to have mostly positive and confident thoughts about this undertaking but I would be lying if I didn't say I feel overwhelmed and scared every day too. I still can't believe we found a home, enrolled the girls in schools, met an MD in Hong Kong who agreed to coordinate healthcare for us while we're there. Thanks to Bill's amazing organizational skills, we also bought cell phones so when we arrive in August we'll quickly be able to contact our new network! To increase the comfort factor in a land of strangers, we even got a cheap phne for Ellysa! (You can imagine her excitement!) I got the same cheap model as I expect to remain a simple(tech)ton for some time! Elly was proud that I chose the same phone as she so that she could teach me to use it. (Sad but true....)

We feel good about the decisions we've made so far. One big question before the trip was related to furnishing the house. We decided to ask for our unit to be unfurnished so that we can take our familiar things with us and make it feel more like our home and our sanctuary. We think we'll get quite a lot of resistence to our requests to hang pictures on the walls as they are all concrete. It' sad and worrisome to think about storing the many prints we have bought as souveniers on vacations over the years, but maybe the tropics would be hard on them anyway.

Not long after sharing our "We're moving to China!" news with people, a fretting friend told me that if God is behind a plan, things will just "fall into place". It seems that this is the case for our move. I pray daily that God will keep sheltering us and give us wisdom We have already been given so much advice, encouragement, hospitality and support, both here and in China. Really, I can't put my appreciation into words. I never dreamed I would be taking such a big adventure. I certainly would have denied my ability to absorb the events of the past month and still be standing upright. (Okay, I admit I sway and swoon every now and then.) God is great .....and He has many hands and feet around His world.

Oh..... I almost forgot. Today, after being back in TN for about 12 hours, we accepted an offer for the purchase of our house. If all of the steps "fall into place", we'll close on July 15th.

I'll post some photos on my next entry into cyberspace. Right now, I need an Ambian and a pillow, in that order.