Sunday, December 30, 2012

Resolutions, Smesolutions!

I stopped making New Year's resolutions a long time ago. Like most people, mine never really stuck. Within a month or so, I'd end up feeling guilty, as though there was one more thing I didn't accomplish: another goal I didn't meet.

Recently, I heard about this phenomenon called "One Little Word." It began with Ali Edwards in 2007 when she thought there must be a better way to start the New Year, in focus, but without resolutions. At the same time, blogger Christine Kane was wondering the same thing.

This gave root to the idea of choosing a word representing all you hold dear, all your heart's wishes and its desires for the following year...a way to narrow down exactly what you want to give the world, what you want to feel.

Mixed media artist, Wendy Polin, blogs here about her incredible transformation in 2012 after choosing the word fearless.

You gain ownership over that word and let it guide you through the year as you move forward. It's the foundation for the choices you make, for how you live your life. Like a one-year manifesto tightly wrapped in one word.

Thankfully, there are those out there like me that can't choose only one word.  Some prefer the sound and feel of three words, as it resembles a mantra.

I don't usually follow rules super well, so I was happy to hear I wouldn't have to choose just one word, really: so I chose 2.5 words! (The words will be revealed on January 2nd!)

Have you ever tried picking just one or a few words to sum up your year? 

It was challenging for me to figure out how to come up with my words.Tammie Bennet Art + Surface Design was kind enough to share some of her wisdom with me. She wrote a list of things she wanted to feel for 2013; from there, she was able to start narrowing down words. So I did that. It was helpful, but no word appeared in my mind, really. LOTS of words did, though!

Then the amazing Galia Alena said that her process was to think about what lessons she might need to learn for the year, what she wants to attract into her life, and ponder that for awhile. Beautiful concept, right?  I tried to do that, too; but I got fidgety.  I felt I needed to keep writing down things to figure it out for myself, maybe do something...perhaps an exercise to help me. 

I learned about a vlog by Andrea Scher from SuperHero Journal where she gives little rituals and instructions on how to come up with a word to embody for the New Year. 

Andrea Scher's ritual included reflecting on 2012: the good, the brilliant, the not-so-good, and the ugly. Her vlog resonated with me, probably because there were exercises to do! (If you haven't noticed yet, I'm very process oriented.)  

I spent a long evening watching her videos, notebook in hand, writing lots of stuff down..sometimes hard stuff: the the hard things from 2012. The disappointments from 2012. But also good things: like what I'm proud of. It's like a 2012 cleanse: without doing that, I found I couldn't look at 2013. It helped.  After all, a lot happened in 2012!  Out with the old, in with the new, right?

Now that my 2.5 words have found their way to me, I will join-in with lots of other bloggers and non-bloggers and share what my focus will be for the year ahead.  Many people will be doing this in different ways. I'll be participating in a blog circle and a blog hop about it in early January. (Look out, world!)

Some people are taking courses that provide monthly prompts for them to reflect on their words. Some will do art journals. Others will create pieces of art.  You can even get custom-made jewelry with your word(s) on it. (Etsy's a good place to look or check-out local artisans in your area!)  I think I will do that! 

If this idea interests you, you can look-up these fab resources:

Here are a few other blog posts I really love about choosing your word:

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm starting to get a bit excited for 2013 now. Who knows where it will lead...but I am sure it will be a more holistic and compassionate way moving forward this year.

Friday, December 28, 2012


 View of part of the resort where we're staying up in the mountains.
Hello everyone and Happy Holidays!

You may have (or maybe not have!) noticed that I haven't posted much in the last week. We've been on holiday, as many of you have. Believe it or not, I only just now have a laptop so I can do work and blog while away.

Being expats, our family wasn't quite sure where to land over Christmas and New Year this year; it was a toss-up between being in England with family or heading off to Hong Kong. The main appeal for Hong Kong was cooler weather and, of course, Disneyland. Sadly, Disneyland hotels were totally booked-up and rather expensive. Flights back to the UK were quite costly, too. We also are all out of winter clothes. We kept them in storage back home; sadly, they were destroyed in the fire.

So, if you've been following my Facebook page, you know we opted for Thailand instead of Hong Kong or England. At first we thought it was a little lame visiting Thailand since it's so close and somewhere we can easily go; but we left it late to book anywhere (it was hard to believe Christmas was so soon when it felt like July-weather to us!).  Yet, Thailand is amazing and we've been having a fantastic time.

The last several days, we've stayed just outside the city center of Chiang Mai, which is in the northern part of Thailand. It's the second largest city here, but it doesn't feel super congested.

The first hotel we stayed at had a freestyle lagoon-like swimming pool. It was very cold (you eventually got used to it), but it was still incredible with water features and a little kiddie section. We spent quite a bit of time lounging around. 

We don't have a bathtub in Yangon and our shower water pressure is...welllll....weak, to say the least.  Soaking in any kind of bath is a luxury for me now and it's one of my favorite things to do. It was a wonderful surprise to find a massive tub that could easily fit two adults. The shower had seven or eight shower heads with super strong water pressure...I was in heaven!

I spent quite a bit of time in the bath and in the shower! (Those of you with good water pressure and a great soaking tub: don't take it for granted!)

We spent Christmas day at the hotel. I managed to buy a couple cheap mini Christmas trees and packed them up with our stockings. It helped make the hotel room a little more festive. The day was relaxing and it ended with a fantastic cultural night show at Khum Khantoke which specializes in Northern Thai culture. There was dinner with the show as well.   Totally recommended.

Chiang Mai is a very family-friendly/kid-friendly destination. You can go to the zoo (which has an aquarium and a snow cap area. You can also see Pandas and feed jaguars!); pick strawberries in season (now); go on the Night Safari, visit Tiger Kingdom or the crocodile farm or the snake farm. There's so much to do!

Today, we've left the city of Chaing Mai for the mountains. We're still not too far: just an hour or so out of the city in an area called Mae Rim. The place we're staying is amazing and we got a very good deal on Agoda (if you're planning to travel around SE Asia, Agoda is similar to TripAdvisor, but specifically good for this region. You can get really good discounts on amazing hotels. The rating system is good, too).

We haven't yet explored around; I'm just happy to be sitting here, writing:

 Patio off the room where we're staying. Heaven! Even has that little table to put my lap top on!

This is a little patio (not so little, really). And don't you just love those turquoise tiles? I'm pretty much loving it because it's totally my favorite color. It's nearly 8pm. I'm alone, listening to the frogs. It's cool enough  need a little pashima around me. It feels perfect...I haven't needed to wear a pashima since March, and have missed this cool weather!

Inside the hotel room, my daughter is blissfully watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on her own little bed. (Yes!) The husband is working.

The resort where we're staying. This isn't from our room! lol 
It's great to have the space where we can all spread out. It's already incredibly peaceful here. I'm sure it will be the perfect place for us to all start to recover from our bronchitis; we spent several hours getting check-ups at the local hospital yesterday. Severe bronchitis for me: four or five different meds! The husband and daughter have much smaller doses as well.

Perhaps this fresh mountain air is just what we need: none of us having been hacking up our lungs quite as much in the last few hours!

I also feel like I have found the perfect spot for me to write, reflect, and relax: right here on this patio.

What have you been doing over the holidays?

Friday, December 21, 2012

What’s Beautiful in All of Us

I have a hard time dealing with super negative, scary, or violent things.

I’m not a news junky for this very reason.  And I avoid certain types of movies and news as much as possible because I get quite affected by it all.

After watching the film, “The Road,” I was incredibly upset and wasn’t sure how I was going to sleep that night without having nightmares.  I felt panicky.  My husband was laughing at me and asking why I watched that movie. I groaned, “I had no idea it would be like that! Why didn’t you tell me?!” He just laughed.  He had read the book and knew it was grim.

I knew I needed to replace all those horrid images with positive ones.  I snuggled in bed, lit a candle, and found the fotopedia World Heritage Sites app on my iPad. I kept quietly chanting, “I just have to see all the beautiful things in the world. I just have to see all the beautiful things in this world. The world is beautiful. The world is beautiful.”

I’m a little embarrassed telling the whole world about my mini panic attack after watching “The Road,” but I’m illustrating a point which you’ve clearly figured out by now: I’m just a teensy bit sensitive about things, so…err… try to avoid yuckiness. (I’ve learned this is part of a personality trait called Highly Sensitive People.)

But there’s been a lot of unavoidable, horrific news lately.  We don’t have satellite TV so my main way to connect with the world is through Facebook. There’s also been a lot of super negative, blame-y, nasty stuff there, too. Sometimes you have to dig for the good.

I've been doing some digging around lately because...well...there's a lot of that yuckiness around and frankly, I don't want to be bogged down in negativity.  So just like I had to find my trusty, happy iPad app, I've been looking online for the happy stuff.

Thankfully, there is lot of nice, fluffly, restore-your-faith-in-humankind content online. I’m thinking most of us need a bit of that right about now. I know I sure do.

 So, I thought I'd share some happy websites you can visit:

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to inspirational stories and people. You can find it here

I’ve discovered that many people have similar boards which are very uplifting.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned Highly Sensitive People; if you think you might be someone who’s quite sensitive as well (check out this test here), then here are a few lovely blog posts from some of my sister bloggers that you might find helpful:

Below are some cool news websites I’ve found that only report positive stuff. I listed some of these on my Facebook page recently: 

  • What are some of your favorite uplifting sites? Where do you go to get positive news?

    Enjoy! Hope you have a happy, peaceful day!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reflections: Circle Post

You may remember from this post on Thankfulness last month, that I participate in a blog circle with amazing, creative women from all over the globe. On the third Thursday of each month (today!), our circle of 15 women each post on a particular topic.  It's kind of like a game of "Tag! You're it!" The first blogger writes her post, sharing a hyperlink to her sister blogger at the bottom. This goes on and on until the circle is complete. If you click on all the hyperlinks (please do!), you should experience an array of creative, inspiring blogs and posts!

This month's topic is: Reflections.
I don't know about you, but I just can't wrap my head around the fact that it's nearly the end of the year. Since today's topic is reflections, I thought it only apt to do a Year in Review

It's perfect timing, too, because I won't be sending out any Holiday Cards this year; living in Myanmar, it's difficult to send reliable post to people overseas.

This year was jammed-packed with stuff, so you might want to snuggle in there on your computer chair for a bit! 

Here it goes!

December 2011
In December, we were still living in the Pacific Northwest, USA.  We hosted Christmas parties with friends and soaked up as much time as we could with them and family. We knew the impending move to Myanmar was right at our door.

We had special celebrations with family at my brother's house with our entire immediate family.  My mother had just experienced a terrible accident where she had broken her neck; thankfully, she was recovering and back home with us for Christmas.  All of us were incredibly aware and grateful for the time we had together.

Can't do a year in review without giving a shout-out to our doggie, Jack . It was the last Christmas with our dog because we decided it was best to leave him with a new home and not ship him all the way to Myanmar. Our dear friends - thankfully - took him in.

He's very loved and happy, yet we still miss him!

I tried to soak up as much of the holiday season as I could because I knew December 2012 would feel different in a tropical country.  We took many wintery, cold outings.  On one, F got to see Santa. He was part of a Victorian Christmas celebration at the local, historic Gilbert House.  What an amazing Santa, right?!

February 2012
My birthday is in February and my special friends threw me an epic birthday party. I hadn't ever had a party like this before. It was held at our local bakery, Essencia bakery, co-owned by one of our dear friends. I felt incredibly grateful to have been so completely and utterly spoiled. It was really one of the best and happiest nights of my life, ever. 

Our friend, R, who works at the bakery, made that phenomenal tiramisu for me; the candles were bedazzled by one of my BFFs.  She also made me a spectacular, sparkly birthday hat. There was a photo booth where one of my besties took shots of all of the guests; they could even write special messages on a board. This was especially memorable because I knew we would be moving overseas shortly afterwards. 

I felt completely loved.

A couple days later, reality started to sink in because The Husband was packed-up and off on a plane to Myanmar. F and I would join him later...

March 2012
By March, F and I had finished packing up our house with the help of friends and family...and movers, of course! We were lucky enough to find great tenants to rent our home.  My mom lived just down the road, so we were able to camp out at her place for a few weeks. 

After saying good-bye to our home, our friends, family, and all our favorite places to visit in our community, F and I flew to England to spend time with family for 2-3 weeks. We had a fantastic, magical time.

In England, we spent a lot of time with The Husband's family having BBQs, taking walks on the beach and in the forest, and hunting for fairies in Furzey Gardens. My sister-in-law was working at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust; we were actually able to go see wolves and hear them howl! 

The best thing was watching F reconnect with all her cousins, Aunties, Uncles and her grandmas in England. One of the challenging things about being in a bi-cultural family where relatives live oceans apart, is that at least one family is always much too far away; however, that just makes visits that much more special.

By the end of March, F and I had met-up with The Husband in Bangkok. The plan was to spend a few weeks in Thailand, on holiday, easing into life in SE Asia. It was a perfect idea. We were able to visit lots of fabulous places and spend time with dear friends.

You can read more about all those adventures here and here , here and here.  (I know, lots of adventures! And I haven't even blogged about all of them yet!)

April 2012
We arrived in Myanmar just after the Buddhist Water Festival which also marks the beginning of the hottest time of the year. It was boiling. 

Thankfully, The Husband was able to find a house for us and move in before F and I arrived in Myanmar.  This certainly helped for a smoother transition while we waited for our belongings to arrive. 

The house had been somewhat painted and fixed-up before we arrived, but it still needed a lot of work. The A/Cs had broken down and it got up to 104F (40c) with a crazy amount of humidity. Yes. It was hot and many of my days ended in tears.

The first few months living anywhere is's all a process and takes time to adjust.  I've given some top-tips for helping ease a moving transition here. 

June - October 2012
The Monsoons spanned across this time period. I'm not sure how to explain the amount of rainfall that occurs during the Monsoons. Despite the rain, it was hot, incredibly humid, and damp. Mold grew everywhere.

I don't usually mind the rain (in fact, I love rain), but four months of it incessantly falling does get to be a bit much. Even at the beginning of December, we still were experiencing a bit of rain here and there!

In July, I started this blog; I had only lived in Myanmar for a few months at that point and most expats were away for the summer, so there were some lonely times. I also was able to meet some very special people during that period, too, who really helped ease the transition. (V - I'm talking about you!)  You can go back through my archive here and take a look at those early days.
In August, F started Kindergarten. It was quite a memorable day and one filled with reflection.  You can read more about that in this post here.

June - October was a time of tremendous growth for me; I began meeting new people by joining a book club and the writers' group. I started to feel like I had a life here. 

September unearthed a new joy: the Flying Lessons e-course I took from mixed media artist extraordinaire, Kelly Rae Roberts. Through this five week course, I found a network of over 600 women globally. It's how I found my blog circle friends! The experience was incredible; the greatest part about this, though, is that we're all still quite connected!

Around the same time, our entire family began settling in. F found good friends at school. The Husband joined an indie rock band, LUCID, where he drums. Through the band, we have an extended little family. And that's super cool. In addition to his day job and the drumming, he's also a talented photographer. You can check out his stuff here.

In October, our family took a fabulous vacation within Myanmar to ancient Bagan and serene Inle Lake.

The new Yangon community website which I'm the editor for, What's on Yangon, officially launched at the end of October. It's something I haven't really blogged about, but the exciting project keeps me really busy and helps me feel more integrated into the Yangon community.

Do you need to refill your cup of coffee yet? lol   

Almost done! lol...

November 2012
In November, much of my time was spent preparing for F's sixth birthday party.

After her birthday was over, preparations for Thanksgiving began.  It was hard to be away from family during Thanksgiving: it's by far my most favorite holiday. I blogged about how much that time of the year means to me here.

Despite feeling a bit melancholy about missing our traditional family Thanksgiving, we had a lovely international Thanksgiving at our house. F and I were the only Americans. The motley crew included families from England, Ireland, Myanmar, and Italy: a group of people I'm grateful for.

December 2012
And now, we're here. Towards the end of December. 

This weekend, we're off to the north of Thailand for the Christmas holidays; we're really excited about that!

Looking back on this year full of change and transition, it's no wonder our family is now feeling run-down with nasty chest colds and experiencing overall exhaustion!  The holidays have come at the perfect time and we're all looking forward to much-needed rest. 

Though we'll be in Thailand for Christmas, we decorated the house. At CityMart, one of the local supermarkets, I bought a few very tiny trees that I can easily pack in my suitcase and put in the hotel room.  I'm also taking our stockings and some garland in hopes of making the hotel feel a bit more festive! (I've never spent Christmas in a hotel before, so it will be weird!)

I'll blog from Chiang Mai, where we'll spend Christmas and New Year and keep you updated on what kind of cool things we do there over the holidays.

What I'm most looking forward to this holiday? Just relaxing. My Christmas wish is that my daughter sleeps in past 8am some mornings with the help of black-out curtains!! (Isn't that every parent's wish?)
And I cannot...cannot...wait to have long, hot baths and long, hot showers with the proper amount of water pressure!  Though feeling much more settled in Myanmar, you still miss those little luxuries that we don't have at our house.

It's been quite a few years since we haven't spent Christmas with family either in the US or England. It will be strange and a little hard this year, but we will think of them. Thankfully, there's Skype and good internet connection in Thailand: we'll even be able to video Skype there. 


So that's my big, 'ol Year in Review! To all our family and loved ones in our respective countries: we're sending you lots of love over the holidays and wishing we could be with you. Thank you for being so supportive of us during this big - yet exciting - change. 

Roll on 2013!

Now, please join me by following the circle and clicking on Nazmoon Laila's beautiful post about reflections and magic. Nazmoon is a doctor and artist from Bangladesh, living in Australia. You will absolutely not be disappointed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

For Our Children

All Rights Reserved. Shwedagon Pagoda.

I've said here multiple times I will not discuss politics. Even in my comments section, I say that if you write something political, I will delete it.

Today is an exception. 

Tears streamed down my face while sitting at my computer in Yangon Saturday morning, reading the sick news about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

My daughter and I had a lunch date planned. We kept it and went to an  American restaurant in town, Master's Cup.

While driving to Master's Cup, my urge to be around Americans grew stronger.  I became impatient as we sat in traffic near the fly-over being built.  I wanted to feel something from home, from my own culture. I wanted to feel connected to others who were mourning.

Because, let's face it: what happened to these poor little kids, their school, their families, their community is a national tragedy.

I know the scale was much smaller in Connecticut than some massive tragedies like 9/11 and Katrina, but we're talking about six and seven year olds here...

My daughter is six.

Just as this feeling to be around Americans - to find some sort of comfort in that - grew, so did thoughts like, "I'm so glad we're living in Myanmar," pop into my head, and "That would ever happen here."  Of course, I hope this to be true. But I can't know that. Tragedy can strike anywhere.

What I have become increasingly grateful for is my ability to protect F from the news of Sandy Hook. She may not know about this incident for many years. We don't have satellite TV.  She did not see me cry for the children and teachers.  She will not hear it on the news.  She won't hear about it at school.

But what about our children in the United States?  With the sensationalist media that prevails, I've heard there are YouTube videos of little third graders describing what happened. I'm sure children are frightened and schools are on edge. Parents, too.  The whole country.  Kids are smart. They pick up on these things.  In this digital age, how are we teaching them to cope?

One year after 9/11, I lived in England. My sister-in-laws were in primary school. There were drills and discussions about what to do if there was a massive attack. I remember them feeling scared. I remember many children feeling afraid and somewhat unsafe.

Living in Myanmar, there are times I feel like I can protect F's innocence a little longer. At least in some ways. At least in terms of violence.  And I can protect her from media crazes. I'm very grateful she will not know about this senseless massacre. I'm not so sure how I would talk to her about such a thing. How I could help her feel safe when such a terrible thing happened.

I could make a long list of things I don't really love about my passport country. I could write a longer list about the things I do love.

Our *gun culture is not one of them.  Our culture of violence is not one of them. Our systems for [not] providing access to proper care for those who are mentally ill, is not one of them.  The combination of the three? Deadly.

I feel angry. Our children shouldn't grow up hearing and knowing about these killings.  We shouldn't live in a society where some parents think the answer is for teachers to carry guns. People should be able to walk into a shopping center and feel safe.  We should enter movie theaters without worrying you might get mowed down by semi-automatic weapons that are used in the military for one purpose only.

Those who are sick should have access to treatment. I'm not a social worker, but last I heard, in many states, the only way to get in a psychiatric hospital is if a CSW determines someone might hurt themselves or another person.  Usually that means an attempted suicide or a threat of hurting others, resulting in criminal charges being brought against someone. That's not good enough.  It's too late then.

Things have to change. They really do. For our children's sakes.  And when I say "our children," I mean all of our children. Globally.

 All Rights Reserved. Pagoda.Bangkok.

I can't talk about this without mentioning little children needlessly die all over the world every single day.  Most of them die from preventable diseases. Those children rarely make the news.  There are children killed in war. In genocide. Generations have been annihilated from our planet. Their stories gone.

Most people in the west don't seem to notice.

It's not close enough, relate-able enough, I guess... 

But that's sad. Because just as those mentally ill in the USA need access to proper care (we're not paying enough attention to that, either), families all over the world deserve access to safe, clean water so they don't die from a diarrheal disease (the second leading cause of death for children under five, globally).  They deserve access to vaccinations, antibiotics, mosquito nets.  And education.

Can you imagine the horror that many children face daily as they walk out of their homes, not knowing when or where the next bomb will fall?

Let's not forget children and families, victims of natural disasters. A stream of storms, earthquakes, etc. have stomped all over our planet this year.

All these children and families deserve our tears.

My acknowledgment of our children suffering globally doesn't lessen the shock and despair of Friday. Not at all. It compounds it, if anything.

When you take your six year old to school in a small, quaint, safe school one morning in any non-war-torn country, you expect to see them in the afternoon. Alive.

Scratch that. Any time you take your child to school, you expect to see them that afternoon, whether you live in a war-torn country or not. And whether you live in nice, safe community or not.

Our world needs to change.

Maybe we can grasp compassion.  I think we start in our own families. With our friends. In our communities. We do our bit.  We support others who are struggling. Maybe try not to ignore those that we willingly allow to become invisible: the homeless, the mentally ill, those on the fringes...people on other continents... 

I talked here about how we need to see the stars. Find the light, the beauty, in the midst of darkness. It's hard to do when tragedy strikes.

 All Rights Reserved. Market lights. Thailand.

So, I think it helps to find the brave souls in all this, who shined their light:
  • Teacher, Victoria Soto, only 27 years old, sacrificed herself, saving some of the children in her classroom, by placing herself in front of the shooter. She is a hero.  She is to be remembered.
  • The Principal, Dawn Hochsprung, lunged at the killer, trying to disarm him.
  • The library clerk, Mary Ann Jacob, hid 18 children in a library closet, saving them.
  • The first responders who have worked tirelessly in this horrid event.

Resources and thoughtful blog posts: 

A chilling article written by a mother of a boy who is extremely mentally ill. 
The article is called "I am Adam Lanza's Mother." It is chilling.

We're not alone in this world. Not in our hope and our love. Not in our suffering and our pain.

Here's to going forward and promoting love and kindness and compassion and understanding in our lives. In the very least, it might bring a smile to someone's face.

And trust me: sometimes that can make all the difference in that one person's life.

*I mentioned American gun culture in this post. I don't want to, or intend to, have a debate about it. If it's really important for you to know my stance on civilian access to certain types of arms/weaponry - not sure why you'd care, really - you could email me.*