Tuesday, December 13, 2011


In the middle of this semester one of my students was having huge issues with one of his classmates. They were constantly bickering and fighting, and during elementary strings they would even get up out of their chairs to yell at each other or call each other a name. I was appalled with this behavior and spoke to them both several times, but it got to a point where I had to contact the parents. After a note home, my student's father wrote back and said they had a talk and to let him know if there were any further problems.

Since then, this student has had a complete 180 in his behavior. He is no longer bitter, mean, or caustic with his classmates (or with me). He is helpful and participative, and most of all respectful. Being a 5th grader, of course he will still have his faults, but whenever I remind him that he is doing something he's not supposed to, he will always snap back (sometimes with a funny over-done apology in Japanese and profuse bowing, but I let that go). He is my best string player, because he is the one that is the most with-it. I have been so proud of him for the turn-around.

Today I slipped a note into his violin case after school and he said "oh thank you," when he saw it. I walked away to do other things, not wanting to draw attention, but later he caught my eye from across the room and beamed a grateful smile at me. I remembered the angry, unhappy, mean little boy that he was, saw the difference in the smile, and my heart melted a little bit.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

we never catch it

Dear Matthew,

Today I visited the nursery to help watch you and your fellow friends as the nannies had their training. You and I played our little jumping game as usual, but today when you used your strong, long legs to support your own weight as I held your upper body, you laughed, in your own baby way, as one discovers their newborn emotions and their newborn delights. When did you learn to laugh? You looked me in the eyes and smirked at me, showing off your dimples. For a moment, time stood still for us.

Today I went out with some dear friends for lunch as an early get-together before the rush of the holiday activities overwhelm our birthdays. Conversation turned inevitably to past memories (even uncreated ones), and I couldn't help but think that a year from now, we will probably all be in different places. But for now, these moments--moments such as these--were created for us.

Today I went to our wedding photography studio to pick out the dresses for our photoshoot. "Lao gong hai mei lai?" one of the attendants asked me. Something stirred inside of me as I realized she was using the laymen's term for "husband" to refer to B, asking if he was here yet. Another point of realizing that yes, I am getting married. And yet also, yes, he is not here. It was a strange mixture of emotions at that moment. But it was a fleeting moment.

Funny how time works, sometimes. For you, time only exists in the meaning of feedings and naps. But in a couple months you may be shipping off to California with your new parents. I have had my fair share of comings and goings- they no longer take me by surprise. But I know that at that moment, I will keenly feel the loss of seeing your sweet little face.
But for now, I am going to love learning to laugh with you.
Because life - your life especially - is meant to be enjoyed.

your auntie

Saturday, December 3, 2011

here in this moment

*Photo credit:
This blog is one of the loveliest I have ever seen or read, and it reminds me of what I am about to share with you.

As December rounded the corner this week I found myself rushing around from one thing to the next, feeling burdened with the impending Christmas concert and the added stress it created. My mind was filled with to-do lists and when I wasn't thinking about what to do, my mind wandered and often went blank. As my journal-writings became more bare and my quiet times rushed-through, I felt that something was wrong. A feeling that didn't sit right unsettled me.

I was getting ready for bed one night and it hit me like I ran into a brick wall. I was losing my focus. Three weeks until Christmas break and B's arrival--so little time left from the months spent in anticipation--so little time that I knew would soon pass with the whirlwind of preparations to be made. But what had slipped away from me was that this little time was still time to be had. Time is still time, and I cannot let it get away from me. "You're only ever going to get your first Christmas concert once," I told myself. "Might as well enjoy every minute of it."

So once more I settled into the joy of being--the joy being here in this country, alive in this moment, in the midst of  these people. I thought about my students and how little time I have with them. How I need to stop seeing them as "projects" or something to check off the list but to see them as real people, and to show them that I care. I have to--I can't not do that.

So...time? Bring it on. I am prepared to try to make every minute count.

I am alive in this moment
In this moment I am found
I am alive in this moment
In this moment I belong
Alive in This Moment||Starfield

Just Keep Holding On, Dear

When I was younger I used to dream of one day becoming a famous songwriter (and maybe singer) and produce songs that would speak to people and resonate with them, no matter what walk of life they were from. 

Tonight my dream came true, a little bit.

MAK held a coffeehouse to raise funds for our annual Christmas project. This year we are supporting the Eden Reforestation Project in Madagascar to help plant more trees and give hope and life to people who would otherwise in a devastated land. I love coffeehouses. They are one of the places I find myself getting into my element. And the kids who performed were so cute tonight. There was even a surprise flash mob dancing act from the staff! 

I was so grateful to be able to play one of my songs as well. I picked the Totoro Song because it fit the audience, and it was inspired by a story that came from a forest. I wrote the Totoro Song last year as an inspiration from a mission trip to the Philippines and one of my favorite childhood movies, My Neighbor Totoro. In the story two little girls find a tree spirit that only children can see, and the song I wrote consequently is about having childlike faith and believing in the magic around us that happens every day.

Follow me, we'll take the trail out by the trees,
And fall among the hollows, and find unexpected things
It's open here, we'll stay wonderfully silent
And find the drama is only in the dust

Don't worry, I'll come find you

Just keep holding on, dear
Do you believe me? The story doesn't end
As we grow, some things never change
Look for me in the wind, in the wind

Don't you hide, for out of goodness there will grow

The magic all around us, only the wisest know
So hold on tight, we'll feel light as a feather
And find the music is in us

Don't worry, I'll come find you
Just keep holding on, dear
Do you believe me? The story doesn't end
As we grow, some things never change
Look for me in the wind, in the wind

When I finished and went back to my seat, one of my coworkers tapped me on the shoulder and told me that that was really special because one of the things her father said before he passed away this past year was "Look for me in the wind." Immediate tears came to my eyes. This is the first Christmas she will spend with him gone, and for sure my song was something that spoke to her at a time when she may not even have fully known she needed most. Who knew?

Thank You God, for knowing.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

oh for a day to bake

Last Wednesday I said another goodbye to one of the young mothers I met at His Hands. One of the staff asked me if I felt particularly more sad because I had spent more time with her and connected with her more than the others. I did feel sad, but more so out of a sense of lost time. I felt like there was so much more I could have done...that I was just beginning to get to know her. But I suppose that is how it often will be.

One of the things I regret not doing earlier is baking with her. I had the idea of doing so with the HH mothers soon after she arrived, but never got around to it for various reasons, the main one being that it was difficult for me to get the supplies. But one afternoon as I was in the nursery playing with the infants, another volunteer called and asked me to go next door to help translate for HZ, the young mother, who was baking cookies with a missionary lady.

I was greeted by the smell of baked goods in the oven and the sight of little drops of oatmeal cookie dough waiting on pans. We spent the afternoon talking and sharing about our lives, mostly the life of the missionary. But I discovered that one of the favorite things HZ liked to do was to bake things. Thinking of how I love baking as well, I was a bit shocked with the realization that I had let the opportunity of sharing it with her slip by without knowing it. I told her that next time I would come and teach her how to make a cake with carrots.
But "next time" became the day after she gave birth to a baby girl. So no carrot cake.

I knew we were both disappointed. I was told later that even as she was on the way to the hospital she lamented that we didn't get to make the cake-made-from-carrots. Later in the week I went back to the nursery and met her baby girl. She was so sweet, just like her little mother.