To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.    ― Mahatma Gandhi

Last month and the month before, when everything was covered in blue and white or red and green and sparkles, some of you may have celebrated one holiday or another.  Maybe you celebrated American Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Human Rights Day… That one is December 10 in case you want to mark your calendar.  Some of you said “Merry Christmas”.  Some of you may have been upset that others said “Happy Holidays”.

Last month, someone I know who celebrates Christmas asked me a question.  They had recently learned that I am one who says “Happy Holidays”.  And the question was, “This time of year, what does someone like YOU believe?”  Keep in mind, this was not a question of sincere interest.  It was phrased with a derogatory tone.  I think they actually looked down their nose at me.  The stressed words in the question were “someone like you”.  She meant, someone who says “Happy Holidays”.  She meant, a heathen.

Last month and the month before, I loved, I laughed, I cried, I gave gifts, I was thankful, I celebrated, I hugged, I wished, I traveled, I fought, I stayed positive, I believed.  I believed in love, in human beings, in laughter, in friendship, giving and being thankful, celebrations, hugging and kissing, wishing and hoping, traveling and taking a journey.  I believed in me, and in you, and in those who say “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays” or any other greeting, regardless of whether they look down their noses at others or not.

I believe that, if more of us celebrated Human Rights Day, that we all could believe in anything we want to.

Last month, when I was asked what someone like ME believes in, I refrained from the profanity on the tip of my tongue.  I simply looked in the direction of my amazing Chinese students and said, “Well, to begin with, I believe in them.  Even if you don’t.”


Tis the Season

Happy Holidays.   Merry Christmas.   Joyeux Noël.   圣诞快乐.   Any way you say it, we wish you the very best this month and always.

T and I are wrapping up another year in Shenyang.  T continues his work for Michelin on a new plant in northeast China.  This is a plant to supply the Chinese market – so many cars and trucks equals a lot of tires.  He likes his work and his colleagues, and is looking forward to seeing the rest of the plan become a reality over the next year or so.  I stay busy in my fourth year volunteering at the Shenyang Yuanjian School.  I dearly love those little kiddos and the teachers in our Chinese school.  I watch them grow and change and do amazing things every day.

Another winter has set in and the year has been good to us.  There were trips and travels, and many normal days in and around Shenyang.  There were trips to the market, the golf course, the vet.  There were dinners and friends, laughs and cries, work and volunteering, movies and tv, music and more music, oatmeal on Sunday mornings, searches for good cups of coffee, and discovering the recipe for the best ever chocolate cake.   Normal days living the simple adventure.

Be well, friends and family and blog readers.  Do good things because it’s the right thing to do.  Help people.  Tell the truth.  Give back.  Make good choices.  Respect others.  Love, and may you be loved.

Songs for My Sister

This week, I’ve been listening to songs for my sister.  Some, we loved together.  Some, I think she would have loved.  All these years later, there are some I cannot listen to without too many memories.  Tears and guilt and a weight that will never be lifted.  My memories are snapshots of us under the eucalyptus trees, wandering through the pasture, fighting about chores, fighting about nothing and everything, and learning to fly in our own ways.  I miss her every day.

She was in love with Rick Springfield.  How did we not tire of “Jessie’s Girl“?  And she was in love with David Lee Roth – “Jump“.   “Every Breath You Take” made her want to play guitar.  I think we acted out the video for “Our House“.  “Dancing in the Dark“, Bruce Springsteen – Oh, how we wanted him to be her dancing on stage with him!  When Quiet Riot came along with “Cum on Feel the Noize“, hell yes, we rocked the big hair! “Rock Me Amadeus“, “Manic Monday“, “Pour Some Sugar on Me” … Prince, Journey, The Beach Boys, Huey Lewis & the News … We were California kids of the 80s.

More recently, I think she would have liked “Crazy” from Gnarls Barkley.  And for that matter, Cee Lo’s “Fuck You“.  “Supermassive Black Hole“.  “Lose Yourself“.  I think she would have liked Outkast, Gaga, Pink, Kelly Clarkson.  I would have wanted her to like “Count on Me“, “Make You Feel My Love“, “Let it Be Me“, “Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey“, or maybe just because I think of her when I hear those.

She would have danced Gangnam Style around her living room to make her kids laugh.  She would have asked me who the hell Calvin Harris is.  She would have remained true to Rick Springfield.

Oh my dear sister, I don’t think the others really knew, but it was always you.

I used to believe we were just like those trees.  We’d grow just as tall and as proud as we’d please. With our feet on the ground and our arms in the breeze, under a sheltering sky.  … and when I look up at you looking down, say it was only a dream.  “Only a Dream“, Mary Chapin Carpenter 

Writing it down

For some, saying it out loud makes it better.  For me, writing it down.  And so I’ve been writing more and more this year.  To celebrate National Poetry Month, and my goal to see the positive, here is a contribution to the blogworld today.

Again, formerly titled The Assault

It lulls you in
bright lights
Wake at 3am and there, still, is a spinning world.

Eyes wide.
Wow. What. Why. How.
I can do this.
Look at that.  Photo. Photo. Photo.
Why are they staring?
(laugh) I can do this.

And then, I don’t remember the details.
Was it one thing?  A switch turned by the movement?
Or a beat down.

I can do this. This elephant.
One fascinating experience at a time.
One language conquering moment at a time.
One cheap electronic and copy handbag
or unbelievable deal at a time.

Some days you lose your way.
Some days the way is just gone.
One fascinating, story-telling experience at a time.

I want to go home.
wherever that is
I want easy.  Understand and be understood.  Hide.

Maybe it’s been eating me all along.
one bite at a time
the beat down
the assault on my senses
the gradual attack

Ahhh. Fresh air.  Light.
I can do this.  Get away.  Remember.  Smile.  Breathe.  Drive.
It lulls you back
Eyes wider.
A good day, a good choice, and you forget

So it’s me.  Is it me?  I let them in.  I did this.
Shut up, you.  (expletive)
Shut up, me.  Stop.

Stop.  Figure it out.
Leave it.  Again.
And again. Leave it.
Embrace that glorious, thick-skinned, floppy eared, dirty, wet, beautiful beast.  Every day.
Follow it home.
Find the way.

I can do this.

A new day

A little inspiration to begin this week.

Her father left his questions unasked.  But both knew, and for the same reason, that bad days go better without any questions at all.  

– Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson


I want my life to be simple, happy, positive, drama-free.  I really do want that.  So every day, I look for inspiration.  Or create it.  Or listen to it.

It doesn’t always work.  In the words of the incomparable John Mayer, “Hey world, you ain’t seen nothing yet, Great, now it’s raining.”   Sometimes, you have the best of intentions.  You’re prepared to be positive, and then…  the proverbial rain.  On to another day. Time to stumble on a better place to be.  (Mark Bryan)

Like so many, I enjoy those ecard boxes with quotes and photos or pretty backgrounds.  George Takei has made this a Facebook art form.  I laugh openly at the ones with curse words that seem to know exactly how I’m feeling.  I decided to create some of my own, just for The Simple Adventure, and added a companion to this blog,  The Simple Adventure on Facebook.  See the gallery for a taste.  I post almost every day to help find my early morning inspiration.

I hope we can all be inspired in a positive way every day.  Smile and appreciate what’s out there.  Spread it around.  Listen.  Feel.  Just be.                                           

Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.  – Edith Wharton


At the Window

Sometimes, I like to be on the outside looking in.  Or rather, looking in at them while they are looking out.  The window people.  Those in doorways or sitting on porches.  They’re looking out at the world, the start of a new day, or the end of one.  They are contemplating, people watching, working things out, watching in the hope of seeing something worth seeing.  They are beginning.

I am them.  I stand at a window looking out at the busy streets.  I am reminded of where I live, which is strange because how could I forget.  I watch, contemplate, smile, wonder, and always see something worth seeing.

When I photograph a stranger at the window, I wonder what they are thinking.  I invade their privacy for a brief snap, not to offend, but because they are worth seeing.  If they catch me, I smile and hope they smile back.  The photo may be blurry, or something else in focus.  But I remember that I’m not a photographer, I’m a traveler in the moment, seeing what I see.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,

we must carry it with us or we find it not.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

In This Classroom…

I was having a bad morning.  It didn’t really have anything to do with China, in particular, just a blah day.  I hadn’t slept well.  I had things on my mind.  I missed the bus because I felt like changing my shoes at the last minute. I forgot my umbrella and had to go back for it.  Ugh.  But then, the taxi driver was nice.  He knew where the school is and I didn’t have to explain or show him the map or convince him this foreigner knows the way even though she isn’t allowed to drive in this country.  And I felt it starting to turn around.  No more shadow day.  I stumbled on a better place to be.

When I got to school, one thing after another made me smile and reaffirmed I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  Little Simon waved to me from the other side of the Kindergarten classroom and said, “Good Morning, Miss Julie.”  Perfect.  Tom re-enacted a tv commercial for me using part English-part charades.  Awesome.  My taobao order had been delivered to Miss Sunny and she gave me the new black and pink handbag we both loved.  Smile.  Our school staff got new name badges and, in my third year as a volunteer, guess who is now official?  Wow.  And Enoch, who, three weeks ago wouldn’t speak out loud, walked up behind me and read English words off the computer.  T-H-E  the.  All before noon.  Quite the turn-around.

At one point, I was working on the computer in the First Grade classroom, listening to the lesson.  Every day, they talk about their classroom oath, a code the teachers instill in them through repetition and excellent role modeling.  I was reminded that we could all use a lesson from First Grade once in a while.

In This Classroom…

We care about each other.

We share what we have.

We listen to each other.

When someone says stop, we stop.

We help each other learn.

We are kind to others when they make mistakes.

We always do these things, even when no one is watching.

And I’ll add one more.  We always do these things, even when others do not.

To be Jedi is to face the truth, and choose. Give off light, or darkness, Padawan. Be a candle, or the night.  Thanks, Yoda.

The Big One

Last year, I started to get emails from a wonderful woman named Suzie.  She had lots of questions about getting her cat here and I was happy to help.  Her husband would be in Shenyang on a contract with an aviation firm.  Once Suzie moved here, we became friends.  We watched each others’ cats.  We talked and shared.  I got to know her children.  Then the contract ended after only 9 months and they were faced with a lot of decisions.  Such is the life of an expat.

One of those big decisions was about their cat, Humphrey.  Her husband had a line on a job in England, but it was another short-term contract.  She was torn about moving her 11-year old furry son to China for 9 months, then England for 6 months, then who knows where?  After much anxiety, Suzie popped the question.  She asked if we would be willing to take care of Humphrey for those 6 months, or 9 months, or longer, depending on their situation.  I said yes, then I asked Tim what he thought.  Then details, details, details, and Humphrey came to stay with us for a transitional period to see how it went.  He’s still here.

There was hissing.  Our 7 pound, 13 year old Daisy wasn’t too happy about waiting such a long time be the Alpha, then have a big ole British Blue move in on her territory.  The 10 pound, 12 year old Bandit just wanted to be sure the thing wasn’t going to eat his tuna.  And the much bigger, 11 year old Humphrey had never lived with other pets before.  So there was more hissing.

It’s been a couple of months now.  Daisy still doesn’t like him, and Humphrey isn’t sure what to make of her.  But he and Bandit are buddies.  The “wake the humans up at 5 in the morning, eat some tuna then go to sleep” buddies.  Suzie was true to her word when she said Humphrey prefers women.  Tim might get to pet him once a day.  But he loves me, even takes a shift sleeping under the covers when we go to bed.  Cutie.

So why “The Big One”?  Our other two cats, Daisy and Bandit, have names that can be translated.  Chújú (雏菊) and Tǔfěi (土匪) were the names given to them by our driver, Pan.  So what do we do with a given name like Humphrey?  It was difficult for him to pronounce and he didn’t understand.  So we decided on Da de, big one.  And the name fits.

Welcome to The Next Adventure, Humphrey!

Happy Holidays from the Adventurers

Happy Holidays! 

We moved to Shenyang, China in April 2010.  Since then, we have experienced life, chaos, adventure, happiness, a little heartache, a little confusion, food, beverage, love and more.  Tim is working for Michelin, on a project to build a new plant about 10km outside of Shenyang.  The rubber and tires they produce at the current plant, and what they will produce at the new plant, will supply this huge consumer market in China.  We expect to be here through 2014.  And yes, visitors are welcome.  Julie stays busy with volunteer and teaching work, the International Club of Shenyang, and some typical activities of expat spouses.  That being, see as much as I can in the time we have, along with serving as blogger, housewife, travel agent, errand runner and temporary “summer” vacationer.

In 2011, we traveled to Harbin, Benxi, Beijing and Shanghai, China, as well as Hong Kong.  Tim got to experience Xi’an, plus France and Poland for work.  For our summer trip, we chose an Alaskan cruise that was absolutely awesome.  And we threw in a couple of trips to the US for family and friends too.  In December, while the temperature in northeast China starts to dip toward the winter high of -10C, we will be off to Malaysia for fun in the sun on Pangkor Island and in Kuala Lampur.  Can you see me smiling through the font?

In 2011, we saw Tim’s sister, Ann, graduate from Clemson. She came to visit us in China before heading off to graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis.  We met up with Purdue friends in Beijing for more than one amazing meal and great times.  We both celebrated our 40th birthdays. We experienced the flu, the Chinese fireworks event at the Hong Kong harbor with 20,000 of our closest friends, and the month-long fireworks celebration of the Chinese New Year in Shenyang.  We spent many dinners and activities with our friends here in China; everything from our hamburger tour of Shenyang, to the Green Mile Pub’s pizza, to gu bao rou, potato towers, baby cucumbers, July 4th, pumpkin goodness, ganbei, Thanksgiving and more.  In October, Julie had a family reunion of sorts with Mom, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews in Indiana, and it was her first visit to the Covered Bridge Festival.  She also made the incredible trip back to Purdue for Homecoming and Alumni Band with Susan and many more friends.  As we look back on the year, there were challenges and some difficulty, but we put them all in perspective and move forward to find out what is next.

We wish you the very best this season and through the New Year.  Enjoy some images from our life and travels in 2011.

Julie & Tim