Friday, July 28, 2017

a change of heart & big announcement

WE ARE MOVING HOME!
... in 338 days.

If you had asked me three months ago whether this was even in the realm of possibility, I would have said: no (rather emphatically). However, Ruby has proven to be a game changer, and, in the end, I guess it was a little naive for us to think this wasn't a very real immediate possibility. 

I mean-- we just had a kid. 

This is the biggest thing that has ever happened to us. Ever. Bigger than any job, move, adventure, or the like. 

She is a live, breathing human being we brought into this world, and, as it turns out, the world we want her to be a part of at the moment involves grandmas and uncles and cousins and clean air and mountains and forests and ferries and ocean and backyards and fire pits and BBQs and family holidays and old friends and things that are familiar and things that feel like home because they are home. 

Home. 

That is the world we crave because, let's face it, we have a pretty amazing home. 

We came very close to leaving Taiwan this summer and breaking our school contracts-- because what is a piece of paper compared to a year of missed people and places and life? 

In the end, though, we decided that we could do this-- meaning parent our child-- half a world away and completely by ourselves for the next 11 months. 

Taiwan, our adopted home, has been good to us. 
Our school has been good to us. 
The past five years of our lives we have spent here were good to us. 

It felt wrong in some small yet significant way to flee from all of that. 

However, while Taiwan has undeniably done a lot of great things for us, we no longer feel like we belong here. Not for the work, which is really not bad work all things considered, and not for the money and benefits, which are truthfully great money and great benefits for the work we do. 

Life is opportunity cost: what do I give up to get ____________? Prior to Ruby, we could justify the opportunity cost of living in Taiwan, but not any longer. 

So what does this all mean? 

It means we are on a countdown. 

This will be our last year living in Hsinchu. 
It will be our last year working at our school. 

It means that come July 2018, the four of us will board an airplane with one way tickets back to the Pacific Northwest. 

We will likely live with my mother for a short period of time. Sean will likely roof again for a short period of time. I will likely substitute teach for a short period of time. We will likely rent a place in Poulsbo or Port Townsend and buy a beater car.

And we will spend a lot of time with family and friends and nature. 

We will also need to figure out: what next?

I very much doubt we will continue to teach in any capacity-- not in American public schools, at least. Perhaps I will freelance write. Perhaps Sean will sell his custom rock climbing holds.

Who knows what we will choose to do.

I am okay with not having answers because I can see the bigger picture: we will be coming home after six wonderful years away, 100% debt free, with quite an impressive savings, as the parents of a beautiful little girl and a silly fur dog, and as the owners of passports full of stamps from far off places.

Not to mention the fact that we will always have this card-- being a married teaching couple in the international teaching circuit-- in our back pocket if we ever want to or need to pull it out, dust if off, and use it again, which is akin to some of the best job security (not to mention adventure security) we could ever hope for. 

And at the end of the day, this is what we know to be true:

When we came to Taiwan, we had no answers and no idea what to expect, yet a beautiful story emerged from all of the uncertainty. We have no reason not to expect the same to be true moving forward and homeward.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

making a scene at the cold springs

During the summer, one of our favorite things to do is scoot to a small mountain village called Beipu. Why? For its cold springs of course! Summer in Taiwan is hot and humid. The cold, blue waters of Beipu are cool and refreshing.

Our favorite cold springs is not the official cold spring that people are allowed to swim in. Instead, ours has this sign as a greeting:
However, it has never stopped us or locals from enjoying a dip in the river. Last Monday, we decided to head up to the cold springs when our nanny was on duty. It was our friend's last day in Taiwan before moving back to America, so we thought it would be a perfect way to spend the day.

It also turned out to be the most stereotypical Taiwanese day we could ever hope to experience. 

We got to the cold spring after a 30 minute scoot only to find whole families camped out with grills, tables, and enough Taiwan Beer to last for a month (or, for them, the afternoon). Kids were splashing around the cold spring with their floaty toys and squirt guns. And so were the adults. Three people asked if they could get their picture taken with us because, hey, how often do waiguorens (foreigners) appear in small Taiwanese villages and their cold springs? 

We had a good laugh and then scooted home pretty dang sunburned. 

Taiwan, you may be a little rough around the edges, but somehow, that only makes you more enchanting. 
Thanks for letting me borrow your pictures Brittany! 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

to friends and scooters

One downside of expatriate life is having to say goodbye to dear friends. As we have been living in Taiwan for five years now, we have said our fair share of goodbyes to people we have genuinely come to love.

This time around, though, it feels harder.

One of my dearest friends is leaving Taiwan this week. We have spent the last two years playing tennis, going on scooter adventures, exploring Taiwan, and enjoying meals and ice cream and game nights together.

She is the kind of friend you vent to about life's ups and downs. She is the kind of friend you leave your six week old baby with so you can enjoy a meal out with your husband and mother. She is the kind of friend who is the first person (besides your husband) you tell you are pregnant. She is the kind of friend you talk to about your hopes and dreams. She is the kind of friend you have sleepovers and movie nights with even at 30 years old. She is the kind of friend who teaches you a great deal about friendship and love.

She is the kind of friend you want nothing but the best for, but are sad the best will take her half a world away.

Basically, she is everything a girl could ever hope to find in a friend.

It seemed necessary to take one last scoot adventure together before she heads back to New York soon because hands down, some of my absolute favorite moments in Taiwan have been spent on my scooter exploring the mountains with this lady.

Sean assumed baby duty last Friday so we could take off on one last adventure. It felt so good after mommying for 8 weeks to do something so baby-unfriendly. We scooted through villages and valleys, across wobbly bridges, and to the top of a random mountain. We stopped time and time again to take a bunch of pictures together.

I know that this was not our last scoot adventure ever.

And I know we will see each other again, either in Taiwan or the Pacific Northwest or the East Coast or some other random place & country I cannot even fathom at the moment-- and I hope that one day we will explore somewhere together again on scooters.

But until then, all I can say is-- here is to good friends and scoot adventures and dear husbands who make sure they happen.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2 months with Ruby Mae

I was not eased gently into motherhood. It started with a pregnancy complicated by preeclampsia, which has the very real potential to be lethal to both mom and baby, and evolved into early motherhood complicated by a newborn with GERD, a severe form of acid reflux that means our home is pieced by Ruby's pained cries and that meant Ruby was hospitalized for three nights and four days when she was four weeks old.

If I had to choose words to describe my introduction to motherhood, I would choose: frustrated, angry, helpless, overwhelmed, and disappointed. Overall, not good things; however, they are truthful things.

Things have been really difficult you guys.

However, I am now two months into my journey through motherhood, and I can say that things have been getting better around here.

I made it beyond the six week window during which preeclampsia can still strike after delivery, and today my blood pressure is totally and completely back to normal, so phew.

And Ruby is on three medications to manage her GERD; while she is still pretty fussy a lot of the time, most of the time it is a fussy I can live with (confession: early into this journey of mine, I left Ruby with my mother and scooted deep into the mountains of Taiwan because I was so dang frustrated with Ruby's constant cries and my inability to do anything to help her).

However, more so than normal blood pressure and GERD medications, I think the source of improvement around here has been my monumental shift in thinking.

Before, I was insanely upset that I got the sick baby. I gave birth at the same time as four other women I know. Only my baby had a medical condition that caused her to cry literally all of the time. I was so upset because I felt cheated out of the picture perfect Facebook moments my other new mommy friends were getting to experience with their newborns.

And I was horrified that my baby was miserable all of the time.

Our days were spent hunkered down in the apartment and punctuated by shrill cries. Truthfully, those days seemed endless.

It took time and a three hour visit from a lactation specialist to help me realize that my baby is not miserable all of the time.

The lactation specialist saw how distraught I was and told me that I had a wonderful new baby and that I was doing wonderful as a new mommy. She convinced me that Ruby would get better eventually (which she definitely will) and one day our household would be calm again. She told me to think of Ruby's cries as nothing more than a conversation rather than condemnation. (She also suggested that I get my aura adjusted so I could let go of the stress from the last 15 weeks of my pregnancy and first six weeks of my experience with motherhood, which I haven't done.)

Time has helped me learn to distinguish Ruby's I-am-hungry-cry from her I-am-tired-cry from her I-pooped-my-pants-cry from her I-am-in-pain-from-GERD-and-really-there-is-not-much-you-can-do-cry.

Time has also given us the gift of more calm moments due to her medications and in the past few days more smiles.

Other things have helped too.

A random post on Facebook that had nothing to do with babies helped shift my thinking. It was about how many people miss out on sharing their lives with others because things are not perfect. The article advocated for inviting people over even if your house is a wreck because what matters more: waiting for your mess to be cleared away or friendship? I kinda applied that to my life. Instead of hiding away in my apartment with my crying baby, I can invite people over and go out to meals and homes with my crying baby. She is my metaphorical mess, and I can still have friendship and a life, mess and all.

We also hired our cleaner to nanny for us twice a week for eight hours each time. Monday was her first day, and she and Ruby did pretty well together. I got to have 8 hours to myself to finish some projects around the house and go out to lunch with my husband. It was blissful. That time will save my sanity, and I will continue to employ her after Sean goes back to school in September.

And while it would be a total lie to say that I have settled into motherhood, I can say that I am far more comfortable wearing this hat than I was just a few weeks ago, and today I have a rather optimistic view of the world and the idea that I am Ruby Mae Bucholz's mother.

I hope to report two months from now that Ruby has outgrown her GERD and that all is well in our household, but I am also pretty confident that if I cannot write those words two months from now, we will all still be hanging in there doing pretty okay.


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