Balinesian Backpacking Babies

Bali; tropical honeymoon destination and island oasis for surfing and yoga retreats.

…or ya know… The bucket list must-do of hiking up an active volcano with a 2 and 22 month old to watch the sunrise! Obviously.

But packing was quite different than what I originally envisioned when I thought of visiting Bali… Obviously making sure we had our passports, flip flops, and sunnies was as expected. But due to delays in life and a healthy dose of Zika floating around SEA (South East Asia), by the time we got around to booking the trip, we swapped out the surf board for trekking poles and the yoga mat for diapers and Peppa Pig pajamas.


And once Nana arrived, it was off to the airport we went for our way-too-fast 48 hr tropical escape from the big city.

Monday was spent lounging at the infinity pool with our much awaited fufu drinks and a few hours exploring the local market. And what a market. Asian markets in general are well worth exploration…. But Let. Me. Tell. You. Nothing says Bali quite like a bouquet of huge wooden……… bottle openers. I’m serious – those things were EVERYWHERE!

After an early bedtime, our day 2 alarm was set for 2am, where we would head off to spend the day with our (highly recommended) private driver and guide for only $150 USD.

We were a bit conflicted as to what to wear for the hike. Because reviews from Singaporeans made you expect something akin to Denali in December, but others did the thing in flip flops??! After doing it ourselves, our attire recommendation is to realise you’re climbing an active volcano for about 3-4km distance and 1000m elevation each way. You’ll slip and fall a lot less with hiking or trail shoes of some kind. As for the temp to workout attire, we were all pretty comfortable in shorts/capris, a short sleeve shirt, and light (read: fall) and wind proof jacket or pullover for at the top. Or when in doubt, a fleece blanket, Crocs and your favourite Peppa jammies will do. (Mom of the Year forgot kid socks though, so her feet also got wrapped in our buffs.)

It was a bit foggy the morning we went up, but still absolutely breathtaking. As was the view from where we had breakfast afterwards (top photo) looking back at the peak. The crater (2 lower photos) is riddled with stray dogs and monkeys ready to dig through your bags or jump on your head during selfies. So we held kids close, smiled quick, and had trekking poles at the ready for batting practice if needed (only once), and let the less informed tourists take their pictures while actually holding or touching the raccoons of Asia. In case no one ever told you…. Macaques are not cute. They’re annoying and disease ridden. 

Total trip was 2:30am – pickup | 4am – start | 6:30am – summit | 7:30am – start decent | 11am – finish! 

Despite having sunlight in our favour, going down was harder and slower than going up. The misty rain made things a bit slippery, had to pause for a few trail side diaper changes, and navigated a detour due to trees down over the original return path. But overall, an excursion well worth it that I’m sure our guide had no expectation of finishing when the 5 of us crawled out of the van that morning.

After breakkie with a view, we made it back to our hotel, found some rendang for lunch, and headed off to the airport for home. Of all the places we’ve visited in three years so far, Bali is up there on the must-do-again-before-we-leave list. What a fun and fast few days. And all the better to spend it with my mom, better half, and two munchkins. 😍

“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.” ~Aldous Huxley

Advertisements

Help… errrrrrrr

When I tell one of my western friends about our S$650/month (~$500 USD) live-in helper who’s job is to take care of the cooking, grocery, cleaning, laundry, and childcare, I get one reaction: “Wow. That’s amazing and I wish we had something that great here! You’re so lucky…”

Not so fast……

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a relief to have an affordable option so that we can both work; and I haven’t folded and put away my own underwear for a year. But everything comes with a trade off. And only once those friends have come to visit, and they too get to live with the live in, do they start to understand that it’s not entirely home sweet home.

Once you get past the entire lack of privacy — where some woman you barely know is within earshot of every conversation, story, smooch, phone call, or fight you have — the biggest challenge is picking the right one. All of their resumes are the same; great with kids, can cook any recipe you hand her, and able to complete housework with little direction. But it’s a bit like picking out a new pet. They all look pretty great at the store; already house broken and love kids, but there’s no way to know which one is going to chew holes in the new couch the second you leave the house. So you hope and pray that you’ve laid down the rules and training will stick. (Note: I’m not comparing a helper to a pet. A far better comparison in that regard would be that you instantly have somewhere between a toddler and a teenager depending on her mood that day. And on good days even the grown up comes to work too.)

But after employing, living with, and then having to dismiss our first helper, there’s a lot we’ve learned in the process this past year.

And since the Internet is usually so full of smiles and rainbows and pictures of perfect beach vacations, I figured a small glimpse into some of the hard parts of everyday expat life wouldn’t hurt too much.

And this in only our experience with one helper… Note the reference to the helper lottery below. 



The Good

I have a couple of friends here who basically won the helper lottery. Never had to set rules. Dinner is always cooked brilliantly. Children adore her. And the fridge is always full and garbage always empty. Every expat dreams of this. I too catch myself also using phrases like “Wow. That’s amazing and I wish we had something that great here! You’re so lucky…”

But not everyone wins the lottery.

We thought we’d done ok though; bought a $5 scratch off and made $4. She was, on the spectrum, exceptionally average.

  • She didn’t steal from us.
  • The house was still in order if we left her home alone.
  • She didn’t bring other people into our home – that we know of.
  • She started earlier that I think most do at 6:30/7am.
  • She was honest with money – always was sure to give receipts and change back immediately.
  • She did well with chores as long as they were explicitly scheduled and micromanaged.
  • She cooked a few Indian and Filipino meals (in the beginning) that were fun to try.
  • She would have never hit or hurt our child maliciously like you dread hearing about in the news.
  • Dishes were always done.

Days like this made having a helper an easily brilliant decision.

The Bad

But like I said… Exceptionally average. Thing is, we both work. We don’t always have the time to micromanage everything. And over the course of the year, things started to slip… transitioning from her job, to ours. Her consistency seemed to wane over time and to this day I’m not sure if that was an intentional sneaky trick to avoid the work, or just skill deterioration. My guess is the former.

Because when she left us…

  • I had recently taught [the cleaner] how to use a toilet brush.
  • The cooking was almost entirely done by my husband or I. She would heat up lunch or make the occasional egg for breakfast for the baby.
  • After one too many trips where a request for $2.30/100gm steak came home as $4+ (😩), the groceries shifted to our job; and since we didn’t have the time to always get to the wet markets, this meant grocery stores, which means paying more for groceries. And then when we’d forget to stop at FairPrice, but still needed food, we would have to go to the much closer Four Seasons which is basically Whole Foods on steroids. $$$! Bigger 😩😩…
  • Laundry was officially ours to avoid shrinking or too much soap being used if we let her start the machine.
  • The worst part and her conceivably biggest job was that we couldn’t even let her take the baby out alone. She repeatedly doesn’t look for traffic or wait for the green man to cross when we’re with her, and that one alone was enough for me to lay down the law when you live on a major 5 lane road downtown. So the poor kid, to avoid a chance encounter with a rogue taxi, had to sit indoors all day until mom and dad were done with work to go out and play.

On top of the shifting of work from her to us, there was still plenty of instances where we had to ‘sit down and have a talk’ like I’m sure my parents did with me as a teenager; knives are sharp, don’t be wasteful, be careful what you post on the Internet (ie.. Pictures of my kid! 😡), please don’t hang my underwear half out the window on the 61st floor, and plenty of reminders about what the baby shouldn’t be eating (like whole almonds!) or playing with….. Pens… Necklaces… Bags… Small plastic pi— anything!

And it got to a point where we explicitly outlawed the phrase ‘I forgot’ because it was used so much. Here’s a pen and a notebook… Time to start writing things down!

And the… Uuuuuggggghhhhhhhh?!?


Then, in the last few weeks, life came to a decision point. Her visa was going to expire. So do we renew, transfer her, or send her packing?

Insert many many conversations with friends and the Ministry of Manpower (MoM = government) for advice and to confirm our options. Then add a healthy dose of unnecessary Mommy drama and gossip, instigated and/or fuelled by her… Decision made. It’s time to go.

Which is so much easier said than done.

Because aside from the logistics of doing so in a foreign country, you also have to battle with the emotional hurdle of knowing that you’re at polar opposite ends of the economic food chain – and this is *really* going to suck for her.

But for fear of a mood swing and potential horrible reaction with a child in the house (which fast forward is exactly what happened), and by recommendation of MoM, we decided to smile for a few weeks, buy the plane ticket, send the baby on an adventure with a friend, give her just enough notice to pack before the flight, and have… The talk.

What happened next was the most emotionally trying 24 hours I think I’ve ever been through.

  • 6pm: “Today is your last day. We’ve decided it would be best that it’s time to go home to your child you haven’t seen in 4 years.” Followed by about 90 minutes of yelling, tantrums, threats to run, and a stern warning that God is watching us and we will get our payback. By now I’m sitting on a bench physically in front of our door so she can’t leave.
  • 8pm: The police show up. But since her visa is still technically valid, they can’t enforce anything. They recommend she just stays with us for the night, but they can’t guarantee she won’t run. But if she does, they were kind enough to confirm that we would be fined $2-5k.
  • 9pm-11pm: The most amazing friend in the world comes over and talks her off the ledge. By this point she’s acting like a 6-year old; I’m talking actually putting her fingers in her ears and humming so she can’t hear you. But my friend is an elementary teacher and well versed in these kinds of negotiation strategies.
  • Midnight: Everything so far has been recorded on video. Flight has been rescheduled. We have 15 hours to get her on the next plane. Sleep with the baby in our room and 1 eye open.
  • 7am: She didn’t run. Thank goodness.
  • 9-11am: All three of us head to MoM for some rules clarification. She’s informed that we are cancelling her work pass immediately and that if she doesn’t board the plane, she will be arrested. She still says she won’t go. (What?!?) MoM tells us to call the police again if any problems and they will arrest her on the spot.
  • 12-3pm: Packing, lunch, and a few hours of awkward silence before heading to the airport. Bags checked in. Boarding passes in hand. Escorted to and through immigration without incident. My guess is the extra $300 in cash helped.
  • 6pm: Phone confirmation from airline that she boarded the plane. Deep breath for the first time.

What people don’t usually understand or know about having a helper is that you’re legally responsible for them. We pay her salary and medical bills, provide her housing and food, and until she’s on a plane or gainfully employed by someone else… We are responsible and liable for *everything*.

So while watching her walk through the immigration gate is a solid relief to know that she’s not in your house nor on your payroll anymore, there’s still a punch in the gut to realise that you have no idea what’s going to happen on the other end of that flight for her. And that sucks.

But it’s my family first.

And now that we’ve learned a few things about how to hire and live with a helper, we’re looking forward to starting fresh next month with our new girl.

And in the words of my parents; things are going to change in this house.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” ~ Lesley P Hartley

I love you biggest.

Gramma,

Today is the 86th anniversary of the day the world was blessed with a you. And that’s pretty damn awesome.

Not everyone has a role model in life that has accomplished so much.

  • You spent tax season with us for 20 years
  • You swam every summer of you life, went tubing at 75, and waterskiied at 60
  • You travelled the world; Tahiti, Australia, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Okinawa, London, Copenhagen, Canada, Mexico, Hawai’i and even came to visit us kids all over the States well into your 80s. Though good thing you didn’t need a passport to get to my graduation in the UP of Michigan…
  • You taught us manners and respect and good Catholic values like giving up watermelon and waterskiing for lent
  • And then a little over a year ago, you even became my tech savvy Gigi; Skypeing with your great grand daughter half way around the world.

You make me proud. You make me dream big. You make me a better person. 

But then this past February you also decided we needed a lesson in never knowing how good you have it until it’s gone.

On February 7th they told us that the cancer was back; and aggressively. Which makes sense, because cancer is as asshole like that. So, as best we knew how, we started bracing for one last summer… one last visit… one last trip back home… one last weekend at Gramma’s. But I suppose with 86 years of experience, you knew how to be ready sooner. 

Way too sooner.

And on February 28th, 21 too short days later, I had to have one last FaceTime call… one last E and Gigi pigeon noise session… and one last ‘I love you biggest’… 

No one told me then that last fall would be the one last time you sat on my lap… and the one last Chalice mushroom sandwich… and the one last time I would get to hug you close…
So I’m going to take your last lesson and do my damnedest to learn from it. I need to make the most of the time with my own parents and family and life. I wasn’t ready for it to be your last anything, so I’m sure as hell not ready for it to be our last anything either. They have way too much Nana and Grandpa-ing to do and we have too much exploring to do.

So right now… today… that means we need to make the most of our remaining time in Asia. And we need to live up to what this blog was started for to begin with — living in the now. Because one of these days will be our…

  • last 61st floor sunrise with a view of 3 different countries
  • last stroll around the Marina
  • last run through MacRitchie or the Botanic Gardens
  • last sunset at the Barrage
  • last quick long weekend to Thailand or Cambodia or Bali

I have no idea when those things will happen, but I know they will. 

 
I can’t imagine what kind of strength it takes to decline treatment and say goodbye like you did; I know they didn’t give me near enough morphine for this past few months. But if I can live and die with even half of the vigour and dignity and courage and gratitude that you have, I will be proud. I will have done something right.

We were beyond blessed to spend as much time as we did with you growing up and spoiled rotten that you stayed so active and able to keep up with us well into your 80s. I know that so many people don’t get to say that. So instead of being sad, I’m going to have to remind myself over and over that the sad only comes from knowing how great we had it.

Thank you for all the joy. I will always love you biggest. 

“I’m going to spend the rest of my life living, not dying.” ~ Phyllis Rothe, 7 Feb 2016

  

Crunchy it is!

Singapore has wet markets. They’re like a farmers market; but trade the frilly signage and promises of organic and grass fed for sweet old ladies that don’t speak a ton of English. **I love it.** And it’s so much better than the “western” grocery stores where you pay out your ears for the comforts of home.

One of those “comforts” we chose to forego was the $5.20/4oz pouches of baby food.   

“The produce manager is more important to my child’s health than the pediatrician.” ~ Meryl Streep

So instead… for $17 and change from our local wet market, I turned this:  

…into this! 

  • 8 ABC
  • 6 Papaya
  • 5 Sweet Potato
  • 4 Mango
  • 4 Applesauce
  • 3 Green Beans & Pears
  • 2 Sweet Potato & Apple
  • and 22 various 1″ (1.5oz) cubes to just use at home

And if my math works, that’s 32 pouches plus another 33 oz of food  … carry the two … Would’ve tipped just past the $200 mark for all those!

“You can do a lot for your diet by eliminating foods with mascots.” ~ Ted Spiker

We had registered for the Infantino Squeeze Station and Pouches. (Which, btw, companies should send you a commission for doing their marketing…) Pretty solid setup, but I ended up ditching most of the station and just used the syringes. 

Tip #1: It works great as long as the purée isn’t too chunky, so you don’t have to force it.

Tip #2: Don’t try to force it. Especially beets. Beets make a huge mess…

Beets, in about any consistency, will also guarantee that your kitchen looks nothing like the cheerful perfect woman in the promo/how to video. I actually kind of wonder what she’s cooking in that video because my kitchen looked less like this…

  *

right before cleanup, and more like this… 

“You will always be your child’s favorite toy.” ~Vicki Lansky

All in all, it wasn’t nearly as time consuming or difficult as I expected. We will be doing it again; already ordered more pouches. Crunchy/frugal mom for the win!

Just hoping her father doesn’t eat them all as snacks before she does…. I can’t blame him too much though, they do taste pretty awesome.

  
~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Fast forward to a few weeks later and so far I highly recommend this kind of set up. These pouches have been awesome! Except for mangos. Apparently kiddo is NOT a fan of mangos. Oh well… More carrots next time.

“As a child, my family’s menu consisted of two items; take it or leave it.” ~ Buddy Hackett

*Photo: Infantino Squeeze Station video on Amazon

The waiting game

I have been blessed with a very healthy, very active pregnancy. (Up until the last week where I slowed down exponentially…) I can only imagine that this list would be longer for those that were not. Feel free to add more to the comments!


I’ve seen the blog posts about what to do for the new mom and the advice about how we can take advantage of these last weeks as DINKs. (Dual Income No Kids) But I’ve noticed there’s not much out there to help the rest of you through those last few weeks of pregnancy. With you being defined as the multicultural world I now live in; an American abroad in an Asian country that is about 40% expat – so throw in a healthy dose of European influence as well.  

And all y’all have so many different ways to do things. Let. Me. Tell. You. So I won’t even get into the advice about things like my not being allowed to eat pineapple or rubbing it in that the US doesn’t have maternity leave …

I’m sure you think you’re being helpful. And that’s great. But if you’re doing any of these things, chances are, you’re actually probably not. So I’m trying to help you here. Promise. 

Please keep these in mind the next time you talk to a woman about to give birth. 

Things NOT to say in those last few weeks…. Side note: this was majorly written while bouncing on a yoga ball during my four days in mild but long (early) labor, so I do not apologize for nor did I edit much the tone of it. Some of you need to hear it. And some women don’t have the ‘tude to tell you straight. 

  

Me in my pillow fort of support at exactly 40 weeks – about 8 hours before labor started.

~*~

#1: “The baby will come when it’s ready!”

Don’t say that. Ever. We get it. But you’re likely saying this in response to one of two things:

1) you asked when I was due and that date has passed or is fast approaching. 

or 2) I just told you about the weird food concoction I tried because the internet said it can bring on labor. 

Either way, you’re diminishing how I’m managing my exhaustion and frustration and pain. And it’s probably just going to make me want to punch you. 

Newsflash: We’re not in control of really anything right now – including the ability to sneeze without peeing. So the small feeling of forward progress that we get when drinking that tea or eating spicy food or getting acupuncture helps. Or realize that maybe we just like spicy food and those little needles actually do help with the back pain.

Either way, we’re probably uncomfortable as hell right now; I guarantee something is sore and we’re watching our other half sleep soundly through it. So when you try and negate that little bit of relief, you’re kind of just coming off as an ass. 
  
Instead – try optimistically suggesting/lying that “It’ll be here soon!” or just reassuring us that the first minute/week/month/year will make this part all worth it. 

~*~

#2: “It’s going to hurt!” (Or really any reference to how much “pain” I will be in or insistence on how much I will need that epidural.)

No. No. No. Especially if you’re citing references from your favorite movies or your friend’s birth last year. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s painful for a lot of women. And good on you if you opt for the epidural. Your birth, your choice. But birth doesn’t have to be long *or* painful. Mine was neither. I brought a 4.2kg babe into this world without the epi. And I did it in less than 6 hours; only 1 1/2 of them at the hospital. And didn’t even have an IV. So just stop. Especially if it’s a first time mom – there’s no need for you to put that in her head. 

How’d I do it? Hypnobirthing, an amazing doula and partner, and alternative birth positions like kneeling and standing lunges. Yup you read that right; look it up. And then stop insisting that it will be painful. 

  
Instead – really with this one it’s the old saying of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So say something positive or keep it to yourself. And suggestions or stories are one thing, I can deal with a few of those. But for the love of all that is staying my friend, please don’t *insist* on what I’m going to want or dish out medical advice. That’s between me and my OB. 

~*~

#3: Checking in every day to know if the *baby* is here. 

I’m not talking about sending encouragement here. I’m talking about the direct “Is the baby here yet?” posts. I get it. You’re excited. You’re waiting for the flood of baby pictures that should follow making a human. But did you just make yourself the 8th person to post on some version of *public* social media to ask if my kid is here yet? 

No. No it’s not. And believe me, by this point, I want this kid here exponentially more than you do. 

Remember when I announced pregnancy via social media? I promise I will let you all know when the actual child arrives. Until then, please spare me the 5 week window of regular public check ins on the tiny human arrival. 

  

Instead – if you’re actually concerned, just check in on ME. Via private message. I guarantee I’ll appreciate it way more and will tell you if there’s been a change and the kid is no longer on the inside. You’ll likely even get a more detailed answer/update rather than a sarcastic one.

My favorite was the friend that sent the message; “Since I haven’t seen an announcement I thought I would send encouragement 😊” <insert link to Salt N Pepa ‘Push It’ video> 

Humor is good. 

~*~

Or better yet, for conversation in general, talk about something that isn’t baby related. I’m going crazy waiting and it doesn’t hurt to feel like a normal human again. 


46 hrs can make all the difference in the world. Literally. 

Thus begins a 46 hour commute home. PEK – SIN – NRT – ORD – ATW. 

Friday morning. August 1st. 10am. Beijing, China. 

Time to leave the office and head for the airport.

It was actually a pretty nice day; even used my sunglasses as the smog was exceptionally bright that day. 

  

Some wonder how I do it. Here are a few of my secrets…. 

Rule #1: Seats matter.
Most flights these days have a version of Economy Plus. ~$100 in exchange for 5 extra inches of legroom. Pay this. It is worth it! 

I’m only 5’6″ so I can actually fit in regular seats pretty comfortably, but that extra dough usually scares most people away so they end up cramped back in steerage. What this means for me on many flights is all 3 seats to myself. (or atleast that middle one open) And the  extra pillows and blankets pad my 2nd class bed decently enough so it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get some actual lay-down sleep on the long haul. 

Rule #2: Timing of naps and meals.
As soon as you push back from the gate, set your watch to the time of where you’re going. And start living on that time!

This can help you avoid the craptastic and dreaded jet lag for the most part when switching major time zones.

Example: NRT – ORD departs at 4pm Japan time. Which is actually 2am in Chicago. We should be sleeping; not being served “the chicken or the steak”!
So while the flight attendants seem to think everyone needs to eat immediately, insider tip…. You can go ask for your meal later (say around 7-9am) when it makes more sense for your body to eat. They have warmers too that you can ask to use if it’s not hot anymore. I once had someone tell me that ‘but it won’t be as good when it’s not fresh!’  Uhhhhh…. It’s airplane food. It’s not good to begin with. Get over it or pack your own lunch. 

Rule #3: Noise canceling headphones and an eye mask.
This is how you block out the beverage cart and cabin lights at “3am”. Any questions?
I like my Bose QC15s (and they have a new model QC20; also good and more compact); comfy enough to lay on, batteries last forever and worth every penny. 

Rule #4: “Larger items should be placed in the overhead bin, and small items under the seat in front of you”

The overhead bag should be for the things you need at the airport but maybe not on the flight; like souvenirs or a change of undies for example. Bird bathing is so much easier in the airport bathroom so if you don’t really need it at 30k ft there’s no need to be “that guy” rummaging around in the overhead bins. 

Change into your compressions socks before boarding. Read: make sure you bring compression socks; they help with circulation for when you’re immobile for such a long time. 

The small bag under your seat (I have an awesome pack and love it)

Should be for the things your use on the long flight; computer, books, water bottle, headphones, light jacket, healthy snacks and neck pillow. Some favorite TSA allowed snacks include: oranges, grapes, cut up celery or carrots, chocolate dusted almonds, Snack bars of some kind (I like Attain, Simply Fit or Lara Bars), and water enhancers with electrolytes (I like Sustain) or Vitamin C (Again, my preference is Activate). 

P.S. Never a bad idea to down extra vitamin C when navigating the giant petri dish that is a public airport. 

P.P.S. I don’t recommend ever bringing a full jar of peanut butter through Hong Kong. They’re not a fan. story for another time…..

Rule #5: Plane choice matters. Maybe this should be rule one, since you should note it when booking, but in case you missed this step, be prepared. 

Airlines upgrade their fleet just like any other industry. So what kind of plane you get makes a difference. Watch out for the transpacific 747. Some are upgraded to personal entertainment; some still make everyone share that 1 screen up top. Yes, I know….. 1st world problem. But it’s annoying to constantly miss the first 10 minutes of whatever movie they’re playing. If your flight is one of the screen sharing type, be sure to load up on extra batteries for your entertainment device(s).

Rule #6: Plane clothes matter. Wear something comfortable. These pants are my favorite and are absolutely worth it.

I will never understand how or why business men do the suit thing on long flights. The flight attendants don’t care how fancy you look and *how* can that be comfortable to sleep in?!? 

Rule #7: Layover timing. Sometimes the 6+ hour layover can be better than the 1 hour one. 

1) You don’t chance missing your flight and never have to do the mad dash to your next gate. 

2) You can get out of the airport and stretch your legs! Sometimes even see friends in the area. 

3) After a week of Chinese food, Chipotle never tasted so good. 

  

And then 46 intentionally planned hours later…

Saturday evening. August 2nd. 7pm. Home Sweet Home, USA!

  

When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money.  ~Susan Heller

CastAway

Once upon a time…. In a forest, in the middle of the woods…. Wait wrong story. That’s every campfire I ever sat at as a kid.

This story starts in 2006. When I went through a relatively major life event in the form of a break up. One of those “well, crap… Now what?!?” kind of new career, new country, what-in-the-heck-do-I-want-to-do self-discovery phases. Where people talk about windows and doors. And they’re opening and closing…….. Or something like that. Yet all you see is a crapsammich.

And in going through that hot mess, I got some of the best advice of my life. From my dad.

“Watch CastAway. And pay attention to what Tom Hanks says after he’s rescued.”

wtf does Tom Hanks have anything to do with this, dad????

Turns out; everything.

I couldn’t see it then, you rarely ever do, but hind sight really is 20/20!

And that one bit of advice snowballed into a mentality that has stuck with me ever since. It was the open window.

The ability to keep breathing, even when you have no pressing reason to do so or idea why, has been a life changer. It’s made me happier. Reduced stress immensely. And has helped me deal with the unexpected, new, and (many times) shitty parts of life like I never thought possible. Because I’ve learned to embrace the fact that it’ll all make sense later.

And today, because I devoured that crapsammich, the most unplanned and gloriously perfect part of my life just arrived in Singapore (after 48 days apart) to celebrate 6 years since we met randomly at Britt’s Pub in Minneapolis.

So try not to lose sleep over the crappy parts. Try and see the open windows. But even if you can’t, just keep breathing.

It’s *so* worth it once you get there.

20140704-071715-26235064.jpg

“I know what I have to do. Just keep breathing. Tomorrow the sun will rise and you never know what the tide will bring in.” ~ Tom Hanks

Superhuman

bionic [bī än′ik]
adjective

1. Of or relating to bionics.
2. Having anatomical structures or physiological processes that are replaced or enhanced by electronic or mechanical components.
3. Having extraordinary strength, powers, or capabilities; superhuman.

First of all. And I repeat: superhuman.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, we can officially celebrate the exactly 2 month anniversary of turning this pull up fall:

20140626-164130-60090426.jpg

Into my new superhuman arm!

20140626-164202-60122676.jpg

Yes, today is 2 months post foreign country surgery. And while it’s all cool be bionic and I’ve gotten over my relatively suicidal looking scar, it’s even cooler to realize how much different today would be had I opted for the 8 wk, we’ll hope it heals correctly, cast method originally suggested.

Little tidbit: Never be afraid to your own health care. Ask questions. Get 2nd opinions. Do your own research.

Surgical care in Singapore was a great choice. And it was a brilliant solution and collaboration of science and nature.

And I now confirm that choice as the right one in a few ways:
1. I was immobile (catered to by a wonderful woman – MH!) for only a few days; even traveling to Taiwan for work 6 days after surgery.
2. I was given nothing but an oversized bandaid and some antibiotics/painkillers to wait for the stitches to heal. Amazing.
3. No cast = No shrink wrapped arm to shower. FTW!
4. I got to work with a surgeon, physio, acupuncturist, chiropractor, and masseuse to collectively heal. And no one gawked at my using the others. As it should be.
5. I have 57% of my flexibility back. And graduated to 1 PT session/wk.

And most awesome is that I’m already back to 6 mi runs, 40# power cleans, double-unders, and even ring pulls working my way back to full on pull-ups!!!

Piece of advice: when given 2 options… You will rarely regret the “take action” option.

I don’t for a second.

The cure of the part should not be attempted without the cure of the whole. ~Plato

48 days

Most of our civilian friends have never had to deal with a relationship gap that crosses state lines for more than a holiday weekend. (Side note: thank you for your service! You know who you are!!)

But with this new job, we made the intentional decision to spend this year focusing on our own jobs, saving as much cash as we can, and planning to see each other about every 4-8 weeks.

Ideal? Absolutely not. Doable? So far! Thanks to the wonderful iWorld of FaceTime. And the part where I’m lucky enough to be dating my best friend.

20140613-172418-62658011.jpg
I moved to Singapore Jan 26th.
Went back to the States for 2 weeks in March/April.
And he visited here for the first time last month; for the shortest, most gloriously packed week of vacation ever.
We’ve spent 47 whole days together of the 164 so far this year.

And that last trip — for reference — meant 65 hours of travel for only 7 measly jet-lagged yet wonderful days together.

Imagine working for a week and a half straight. But sitting. In coach. On a flying people tube. Being 6’4″.

This can mean only two things; Economy Plus is so worth it and he obviously loves me. 🙂 I win.

So this leg we have to endure just shy of 7 weeks; 48 days.
Roughly the time it takes to drive from New York to Los Angeles.
And back.
14 times.
In a row.
Without rest stops……….

Mom says you can do anything for [insert time period]…. and she’s right. But time passes so much faster when you ignore it and instead focus on the task at hand. [something about a watched pot and boiling… ??]

So we’ve learned to count events, not days. Maybe because it’s a shorter list, maybe because it’s more quantifiable, not sure. But it feels easier. And, frankly, keeps me occupied.

And we’re over half way there………..

So we don’t count the days. We count the things on the to do list. And I have a lot to do before he gets here…
a condo to get moved in to
a 4th (6th) of July party to plan
grocery trips to make
laps to swim
miles to bike & run
…and hit up Macau, Australia & China for work!

But with only three weeks to go, the tickets are booked!!! July 5th, our 6 year anniversary, will be here before we know it!

20140613-170925-61765542.jpg

I. Can‘t. Wait. Because some people are worth waiting for.

“How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel… extraordinary?” – Marley and Me

In case of emergency, break glass.

Everyone has had *that* day.

Why is he yelling?
What is that smell?
How on Earth do the three of you think were all going to fit through this A330 aisle together?!?

While for most people that won’t have anything to do with your average business meeting or the sweet sweet aroma of durian, some of us might call that day: a random Tuesday.

And sometimes the only thing that will fix *that* day is *that* place. I thank my parents for mine. I was raised on ‘The Water’…

After a long day at the office, a glass of Malbec & 52nd floor view of Indonesia tends to do the trick.

20140531-155545-57345756.jpg

And following a week in China, Brisbane feels like Heaven.

20140531-155800-57480733.jpg

So after you’ve figured out what can cure an emergency, I highly encourage breaking the glass the next time *that* days shows up – even for 5 selfishly worth it minutes. Because a 6am Monday morning meeting with a latte and the sunrise makes for one hell of a week!!!

20140531-155037-57037240.jpg

“The cure for everything is salt water; tears, sweat, or the sea.” ~Isak Dinesen