Sometimes You Gotta Jump...

 It's been a really bad week.  Some weeks are like that.  The reason doesn't matter.  What does matter are reminders of what I believe.  I believe there is a loving God who is aware of us all, I believe we all have choices, I believe the very best of people get off track in life, I believe we hurt others without meaning to, and I know that sometimes others hurt us.  Life is not always happy, fair, right, or good.  Sometimes, life just sucks.  I mean, it really, really sucks---more than we ever thought possible.

Without knowing the particular pain I'm going through, a good friend shared this link with me.  I love it.  It is so real and good and clear.  Watch it, and let me know if you find it inspiring.  I think "jumping" can mean different things to different people.  Sometimes it can mean a job change, sometimes it can mean forgiving someone, sometimes it can mean trying something new, sometimes it can mean staying put when everyone else is changing.  Watch it, see if it means something to you.

 Steve Harvey's Lesson to "Jump"

Lessons from Mom and Dad

My dear parents were such wonderful examples to me.  They both overcame various obstacles in their lives and like all of us, they weren't perfect, but as I'm a parent now it is obvious to me that they did so many things correctly.  I'm very grateful for a few things in particular.  I miss them, but I am so lucky to have tremendously happy memories. 

Because of my faith and personal testimony, I know I will, in some way, see them again one day.  I don't pretend to know exactly how that will work but I know we are connected for eternity.  I believe that about families.  Here are just a few things, in no particular order, that my sweet parents did very, very right.

1.  They loved each other. They weren't "lovey dovey" but their actions, sacrifices, and priorities made it obvious to me that they loved each other very much.  What a blessing that is to me now, to remember that.

2.  They took us to church.  They were never preachy or pushy or "judgy"; they gave us a choice about to what degree we would follow in their footsteps, religion-wise, but I never doubted their faith.  Again, what a blessing this is to me today.

3.  They knew how to have fun, and they didn't need much money to do it.  They were both fun, clever people.  We took road trips, we raised chickens, we built "cars", my dad let me drive a snowmobile all over the neighborhood---when I was nine.  We sang, we cooked, we played in the snow in the winter, and went fishing in the summer.  My parents loved being with us and we had so much fun.

4.  They were humble and kind.
5. They enjoyed learning about family history and sharing stories.
6. They were musical.
7. They read, and read, and read, and read.
8.  They believed in us, and built us up.
9.  They thought it was important to eat dinner together.
10.  They prayed with us, and for us.
11.  I felt secure and sure that they loved us, always.
12. Our house was always a "home".

So in addition to recognizing these things and being grateful for them, they are also lessons and guidelines for me, now that I have my own family.  Of course, we are doing some things differently as we raise our children, but I recognize how lucky I am to have had such sweet and loving parents.  For whatever reason, this was on my mind today.

It's A Wonderful Life

When I was a kid, my dad would watch "It's a Wonderful Life" every Christmas Eve, without fail. Sometimes he watched it more than once throughout the holiday season.  I used to think it looked incredibly boring, perhaps because it was in black and white.  I had no interest in it, even though he always encouraged us to watch it with him.  I didn't choose to watch it, but I caught bits and pieces of it over the years as it was often on in the background.

At some point, it became my tradition too---my whole family would watch it.  It kind of hurt to watch it because we always knew what was coming with mean Old Man Potter, but we knew that goodness would triumph in the end, we loved George Bailey, and it left us with such a warm feeling.  We never missed a Christmas Eve viewing of this movie, as far as I can remember.

After my Dad passed away, it really hurt to watch this movie, but it also connected me to him so I tried to make myself watch it every year.  Since starting my own family, I've become my dad.  I quietly watch it every year, hoping they'll join me.  Usually they resist, which is fine---I know that's what I did to my dad too.

This year, though, was different.  I turned it on Christmas morning after the present-fest, after breakfast.  Kids were reading, playing with new toys, we were all just hanging out.  They were in and out of the living room, but by the middle of the movie, all 5 of us were gathered, totally absorbed in George Bailey's life and in his realization that "no man is a failure who has friends".

George Bailey is a quiet hero and represents all of us as we can get overwhelmed with our problems---small and gigantic.  None of us are immune from struggles, but what George Bailey gains is
perspective.  He realizes that even with all those terrible problems, he has so much to be grateful for.  I love that reminder and I cherish receiving it every Christmas.

If you haven't watched this movie, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It will remind you that no matter what is going on in your life, it really can be wonderful if we focus on the blessings---the things and people we do have in our lives.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

What Does It Mean To Be Clean?

I had a very interesting realization recently, one that gave me some assurance that I'm doing at least some things right as a Mom. 

I was talking with a few boys who are part of the scouting program.  I asked them what it meant to be "clean" as that is one of the qualities listed in the Scout Law.  Most of them said it meant to have good hygiene, to wash our hands, to keep our bodies clean.  Others talked about the idea of "leave no trace" when camping---that we want to keep nature as we found it and keep the outdoors clean from rubbish. These were all perfectly good answers, coming from some great kids

When I asked my son, Abraham, though, his response was to tell me that being clean meant using clean language, having good thoughts, not watching shows with inappropriate messages or words.  He was talking about being clean spiritually.  I could not have been more pleased.  Whether or not he could tie 6 kinds of knots or could tell me the ins and outs of treating insect bites (he probably could, actually) didn't matter in the least at that moment. What mattered was that my son knew something very central to being a good scout, and a good person---to be clean. 

It was a good reminder for me, too---as I think about my thoughts and actions, and interactions.  How clean is my language, how clean are my thoughts and intentions?  Nobody's perfect, of course, but I thought it was a good reminder, and it gave me some assurance that despite my gaps in teaching my children, they are picking up some good things along the way:)

Where's My Spring Fever?

Somewhere in my mind, I have images of spring being so full of joy, almost magical!

Spring Fever comes to mind, when the sun comes out after having been hidden for awhile, we feel the warmth, and even get a little tan. Around this time of year, I often get nostalgic for high school summers when I'd spray "sun in" in my hair and lay out in the backyard, soaked in baby oil, "working" on my tan, not a care in the world other than what time drill team practice was that afternoon.

Adventures in Australia

I love traveling---it has definitely become a passion.  I love planning our trips---researching where to go, getting input from friends around the world, and then putting our own little spin on the adventure.  My life is pretty simple in many ways---I just want to have fun with my family!  Australia made it very easy to do just that.  
We didn't do the Reef, we didn't do Sydney, we didn't do a lot of the "must do" things.  What we did was perfect for us, and I highly recommend our itinerary! 

The Other Side of the World

The Other Side of the World (Possible chapter 1 from my book)
by Lori Qian

The drive to Aurora had never taken so long.  The car seemed to have a mind of its own, perhaps wanting me to think things through before making any rash decisions.  I was done thinking, though.  I knew what I wanted.  Sort of.  I wanted to go to China, but I needed to talk to Dad first.

Adventures in Cambodia

Although our family has travelled to many places, I don’t remember the last time I blogged about our travels.  Yes, I post lots of pictures on facebook, but I’m usually too lazy to recall the details of our trips once we are back.  I just come back knowing we had some great family time and saw some cool new things.  However, our trip to Cambodia was different. 

We did so much and yet it never felt stressful, the kids never complained, and everything was just easy and magical and wonderful.  I learned about Cambodia.  I got to see a small glimpse of real life there, which gave me a lot to think about.  Of course, we were tourists and we did lots of tourist things, and enjoyed every minute of it!  A few of you have asked me about our itinerary and how we structured our time, so that’s what I’ll give you in this post. 

A Love Story's Beginning

I started writing a book about a million years ago. When I tried to get it published and it was not immediately swept up by a national publisher, I lost confidence and put it on the shelf.  That was eleven years ago. This is my attempt at dusting off the manuscript, and beginning to try to put my stories out there, even if they are in little bits, rather than the book I envision.  I'm not giving up on the book---it will happen someday.  Interestingly, I never feel nervous about a face book or blog post---I'm a pretty open person, but  I have butterflies in my stomach as I put this chapter out there.  Enjoy, and feel free to give me some feedback.  I  envision putting about 10 of these chapters together into a book someday, hopefully soon.

                                                                   Climbing the Tower

William and I have decided to climb a TV tower.  It’s something we’ve talked about doing for several weeks and for whatever reason, we have decided tonight is the night.  The tower sits at the top of a big hill, right down the road from our apartments.  Usually, people climb this hill for exercise but William pointed out that if you climb a little higher, there’s actually a tower at the very top.  He had been curious about it and thought it would be fun to climb sometime.  I told him I was game and as I now leave my apartment to meet him, I feel incredibly excited. 

Taking Readers & Writers Workshop to Public Schools in China

So,  this is what I did last week---introduced some of Panyu's best English teachers to the Columbia readers and writers workshop model as an approach to literacy instruction.  It was interesting, to say the least.  These are Chinese middle and high school English teachers, and 30 of them were chosen from over 12 school districts in the Panyu area to take part in a 3-week course taught by faculty from Brigham Young University.  I was lucky enough to be included as part of the faculty team for the course.

Guest Post by Annabelle Qian: Hawaii Highlights

Aloha! In Hawaii we saw some very big sea turtles! They were huge! Since sea turtles are endangered, many people came to see them.  There shells were a meter long! 

We also saw some beautiful scenery of the beach and other places.