Sunday, July 13, 2014

House Hunting

We've been house hunting the past few days:

House #1:  Built in 1958, and probably never had anything new added since.  Does that sound romantic?  Well, it might be, but actually it was a DUMP!  It would have had to have been totally gutted.  No thanks.

House #2:  I think this one was built in the early 70's.  There were some updates, but it was pretty much the same house as when built, with an orange sink and avocado green tub in one bathroom.  With a little work we could raise the property value, but I'm not sure we are up to the work.

House #3:  This house was BEAUTIFUL!  The only problem is that there was a big problem with the floors.  Everywhere we walked, the floor was unlevel.  I actually got kind of motion sickness walking in it.  It reminded me of the Mystery House in California.  Too bad, because it was a nice looking house.

House #4:  This house is an older house too, but had a gorgeous view of the mountains, and is a BIG house.  I keep thinking about this one, even though it is kind of expensive.

House #5:  This house was also built in the early 70's, and probably not changed much since.  It was just depressing.  Even the realtor suggested we just leave instead of finishing seeing the entire house.  And it was on a busy street. thanks.

So the search continues.  We really need to find something too, so we are praying hard.  :)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Moving on Up!

We are in the process of moving back from China.  We are physically in the States, but some of our stuff is still waiting to be shipped over.  Not much, just a little, but it will take a few months to get here.  We have a storage unit of stuff here in California that we will move to our new home soon.  We have decided to move to Utah.  We have several different reasons for doing this.

I guess our biggest reason for moving to Utah is that we wanted a better environment for our teenage son.  I know what you are going to say.  You will say that you can find good and bad everywhere.  This is true.  But I want to do all I can to create the best environment.  Then if my son chooses wrong, at least I won't have guilt for leaving him in a bad environment.  In addition, I wanted a better schooling situation for my son.  Our school here is horrible.  It has horrible leadership, and there are so many behavioral problems that the teachers can't even teach.  Alot of those behavioral problems are demographic related.  We have kids who have moved in from the "hood", and have brought those kinds of behaviors with them.  I'm not talking color, I'm talking socially learned behaviors.  Anyway, so we are moving our son out.

Another part of our reasoning for moving is that our city has become more dangerous.  It is the number 8 most dangerous city to live.  I'm not going to sit around waiting for it to move up the list.

I have to admit that I'm not going to be sorry to leave liberal California.  My neighbors are rabidly liberal.  I like my neighbors, but honestly I can't stand listening to it anymore.  If Obama wasn't such a horrible president I might be able to listen to them.  But the more he tries to take away our rights, the angrier I get.  I just can't listen to my liberal friends glorify him and argue that socialism is good for our country.  I've lived in China, I know what socialized government looks like.  The Chinese love Obama because they recognize everything he is trying to do.  It fits in with their politics.  I'll pass thanks.

I have a lot of family in Utah, so that makes living there more attractive to me.  I have a sister, brother, cousins, inlaws, etc.  I look forward to being near them.

My husband and I owned a home there after he graduated from college, so we have roots there.  I know it isn't perfect either, but it feels like home to us.  Living there will bring it's own challenges, but I really look forward to going home.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Shut My Mouth?

Recently we have had a big hullaballoo caused by a group of LDS women who are seeking ordination in our church.  From my perspective, they have been given the answer, so I'm not sure why they think they haven't.  The leader of the group was recently excommunicated.  But the group continues to try to recruit from within the membership of the church.  They have developed 6 "discussions" or lessons, patterned after the way missionaries in our church teach.  They have also encouraged feminist LDS women who support them to create online profiles that speak about their desire to be ordained to the Priesthood.  I am troubled by this group because of their methods, and because they are causing divisiveness within the church.  But lately I'm equally troubled by those who try to make those of us who disagree and are vocal, feel guilty.

I have one particular Facebook friend who, in almost every single post she shares, says over and over in a hundred different ways that we should love each other and celebrate our differences.  We should be kind and tolerant.  We should try to understand each other.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  But the unspoken message is what bothers me.  The unspoken message is, "Don't say anything against what people do.  If you do, you are being unkind."  Her unspoken message hints that if you disagree with someone, you aren't being loving, or Christlike, or tolerant.  Perhaps she would like it if no one ever spoke up about any issue.  I mean, heaven forbid we should make someone feel bad!

What bothers me the most is that this kind of thinking hints that the people fighting for ordination in our church can be just as bold and outspoken as they want, that their voice is more important than mine.  They insinuate that if I disagree with them, I am being mean.  But I believe you can disagree and still love a person.  I was thinking today that even parents, who love their children more than anyone on the planet, would not be good parents if they didn't speak up when their children do something that they think is wrong.

Another thing that bothers me is that by telling me that I shouldn't judge others because it isn't loving, they are in effect making a judgment of me!  How do they know how much I love the other person?  Just because I disagree, and try to speak out in defense of my church doesn't mean I don't love the person.  I try not to use hateful words, I try to speak honestly.  In reality, part of me does this out of love for the women who could easily be deceived by them!  I want to try to warn others to not buy in to their acts of apostasy!

So let me just say that I will not be shutting my mouth any time soon.  I believe in speaking up for what I believe to be right.  You are allowed to disagree.  It would be vain of me to think that everyone will believe the way I do.  But I cannot stand by and not speak up for what I see is truth.  Sorry to those who might think this is an unloving act, but I won't be shutting my mouth any time soon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Jet Lag

Jet lag is such a weird phenomena.  My first day back, I couldn't get to sleep about midnight.  I slept until about 4:30 in the morning I think.  I got up and went about my day, but finally ended up sleeping for a couple of hours in the afternoon.  Once again, that night I couldn't get to sleep until about midnight.

The next day my eyes popped open at 5:00 a.m.  I got up, and later took a nap for a couple of hours.  I just couldn't stay felt like I was drugged!  I went to bed at 10:30 p.m.  This morning I woke up at 2:00 a.m................  I'm still awake and it's 4:25.

I'm not that impatient with jet lag, but some of my family members are, and seem to think I shouldn't sleep during the day.  If you have never experienced true jet lag, you can't understand how your brain just shuts down, and you can't stay awake.  But actually, I'm kind of glad that one family member keeps coming to wake me up after a couple of hours nap.  I'm hoping that this will help me sleep more at night.

I remember when we first moved to China and had terrible jet lag.  Our apartment there has good curtains and shutters on the windows, so the apartment was very dark.  For the first week, we just slept when we were tired and woke up naturally.  For days we didn't even know if it was daytime or night time, we just ate when we were hungry and slept when we were sleepy.  That week was a blur.  We were lucky that we had the time to adjust slowly.

I know this just takes time, but I'll sure be glad when I adjust!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recent Focus on the LDS Church

My blogger friend Ramana shared with me a recent New York Times article about our church.  There has been quite a lot of hoopla lately, so I wanted to try to explain.  So here is my take on the recent media frenzy about our church.

1.  Some feminist members of our church began to discuss their role in the church, and began to ask the church if women could be ordained to the Priesthood.  The Church responded and told them that women are not ordained to the Priesthood.

2.  These same feminists, led by a human rights attorney who is a member of our church, began to try to put pressure on the church to change this doctrine, and allow women to have the Priesthood.  The Church once again responded with the same answer.

3.  These same women decided to ask admittance to a church wide Priesthood meeting broadcast.  This is held in a conference hall that is near our Church headquarters building.   In these meetings they focus on the duties and needs of those in attendance.  These women were told that this meeting is only for the men of the church, and that a similar meeting had already been held for the women of the church.  

4.  This group of women decided to protest by showing up at the meeting and asking for admittance.  They were turned away, and again told that only the men of the church were invited to attend this meeting.  But they were informed that this broadcast would be a live broadcast, and that they could view it from home.  In addition, the whole proceedings would be published in our monthly church magazine.

5.  This group continued to protest, and began to try to rally forces from within the church.  They scheduled another protest at the next Priesthood meeting, and were politely asked to not take their protests on to the sacred temple grounds.  They ignored those requests, and also did not protest in the designated protest areas, thereby disrupting the peace of those coming to attend the meetings.  At this point, local leaders got involved with the leader of this feminist group, and counseled her to disband the group, and not continue to try to draw support from the church membership.  These kinds of acts are considered to be acts of apostasy, and are very serious.

6.  The leader of the group refused to disband it, and in addition, developed a set of "discussions" or lessons to train women about their feminist ideals, and about the reason they should fight against the church.  At this point, a summons for a church disciplinary council was sent to the leader of the group.  About this time, she moved to Utah.  My understanding is that a hold was put on her church membership records because the local leaders knew the whole story, and felt that any disciplinary actions should originate from them.

7.  This kind of council is made up of church leaders who hear all sides of the problem in question, and allow the member the right to express their point of view.   Then they make a decision about whether or not the person accused should retain their membership, or if they should be disfellowshipped, or if they should be completely excommunicated.  It is a very solemn duty, and those responsible pray and try to find out God's will in the matter.  Since this feminist leader had already moved away, she was given the option to reschedule the hearings, or to do them via video feed.  She refused, and sent a letter expressing her side of things.  Ultimately, it was decided that she should be excommunicated because of apostasy.  But in our church, if a person repents and changes their ways, they can be allowed back in to full membership in the church eventually.

8.  I read several articles that painted an untrue picture of these events.  This feminist leader, in her interviews with the media,  made it sound like this was the first time a disciplinary council had been mentioned to her.  But in actuality, her Bishop and her Stake president had both counseled with her and advised her not to persist with these apostate behaviors.  The media proclaims that she is being silenced and punished for her attempt to speak up for women.  That is not true.  She is receiving the consequences of apostate behavior.  She still has the right to appeal this decision.
I want to mention here that I have a close friend who is an alcoholic, and who at one time lost custody of her children because of her drinking.  Eventually she regained custody of them.  I told her I was proud of her for working hard to get her kids back.  She had to meet many court criteria before she could get custody.  She said to me, "I would do ANYTHING they asked to get my kids back.  Nothing is more important to me than them."  I feel that same way about my church membership.  I would give up any political ideals, or any fame or views of the world to retain my membership, or if it was already lost, to regain it.  But this feminist leader could not give up her "cause", and lost her membership as a result.

9.  As a result of her actions, others have been influenced by the untrue media portrayal of the events, and some are considering leaving the church.  One has to wonder if they really ever believed it in the first place.

10.  This woman posted the actual letter from her Bishop telling her that her membership was revoked.  I feel it was an inappropriate for her to make that letter public.  The church disciplinary council results are held in strictest confidence by the church leadership, and I think it should be held equally private by this feminist leader.  In her effort to rile up the media, and her followers as well, she has tried to become the poster child for the fight against our church.

This is sad because the church leaders do not enjoy taking away membership.  They feel the weight of their responsibilities heavily.  They genuinely care for each member in their congregation, and would hope that no one would ever be excommunicated.  In addition, they counsel excommunicated people to work toward regaining their membership eventually.  They invite them to continue to attend church, although they cannot take part in full membership.  Their hope is that the person will effect a change in their life, and help them feel sorrow for what they have done that is wrong.

If there were any truth to her claims that she has been unfairly treated, then I would not find fault with her actions.  But as I read through many different interviews she gave, I began to see inconsistencies in the story, and soon realized that things were not as she presented them.  It's sad, because now there are many non-members who will read the articles and get an untrue understanding of how our church is run.

Feel free to ask questions about the process of church disciplinary counsels.  If I get any disrespectful comments, I will delete them.  But if you would like to discuss this peacefully, I am happy to accomodate.

Reverse Culture Shock

Today was my first full day back in the States, and my first day of reverse culture shock.  I'm sure I'll adjust quickly, but I actually could feel the culture shock today.  I went to a large grocery store to buy a few things, and it just felt surreal.  My brain was whirring trying to remember which aisles had which items, and how to use the self check out.  The most at home I felt was when I went to the Dollar store.  Everything sold in China reminds me of the Dollar store.  I drove around for awhile, and I had to keep reminding myself that the traffic in America is orderly, and I could peacefully wait in line.

One big shock today was that for the first time in a year I got full sun on my face.  It's a weird feeling after being deprived for so long.  The pollution in China is so bad, even this time of year, that it looks like there is constant fog.  But it's not fog, it's pollution.  But today I was walking outside in the clean air with actual sunshine beaming down on me.

My first purchases here?  Tortilla chips and a bottle of nacho cheese sauce, a cantelope (Why don't they sell these in China?) a basket of strawberries that I"m sure were never fertilized with human night soil, some bagels and cream cheese, and some Cheetos.  I've missed Mexican food so much, I'm looking forward to getting reacquainted.

I'm still having a little trouble stopping thinking in Chinese.  But it's easier now that I'm away from the airport and from a large Asian population.  I don't want to forget my Chinese, but my brain needs to let it go a little now.

I don't know if my son has experienced culture shock or not.  He was gone most of the day visiting his friends.  But I do know that he hasn't stopped smiling since we got here.  :)


There's No Place Like Home

I arrived in the States yesterday afternoon after a long 25 hours of travel.  We left our apartment at 6:15 in the morning on Monday morning, and arrived 25 hours later at my in-laws' house in California.  That is one loooooong trip.

We were able to work things out to get our tickets from our frequent flyer miles, so that was a huge bonus for us.  But being free tickets, our seats were the very farthest in the back of the plane.  Literally, we were the last two seats next to the bathrooms.  That may sound crummy, but my son loved those seats.  We both loved that we didn't have a third seat next to us where a stranger would sit.  My son had his favorite window seat and I had my favorite aisle seat.  The only really bad thing about being by the bathrooms was that sometimes people would open the door before flushing the toilets and so the loud flushing noise would wake us up.  We had personal movie players at each seat, so we were set!  The really only complaint I had about the flight was the food....bleck.  Oh, and we did have quite a bit of turbulence, but it was just a constant rocking instead of really bad turbulence. Another good thing about the flight was that they kept the air conditioner at a good temperature.  Usually the Chinese are more cold blooded than most Americans, and they crank up the heater even in warm temperatures.  But this flight was nice and cool.

 So when we got to the San Francisco airport, we trudged our way through customs and then made our way over to the rental car building.  My husband had reserved a rental car for me online.  I think the company must have thought I was only going to use the car online, because when I got to the desk, they had about 10 people standing in line in front of me.  I stood in line for an hour, and then a woman ahead of me in line told me that they were out of cars, and that was why the line wasn't moving.  I asked, "What about if you have reserved a car online?"  She said, "Even those people who reserved a car can't get one."  At that point, and since the line wasn't moving, and since I'd already been waiting an hour, I bailed and decided to take BART.

Imagine if you will my son and I each pulling two 50 pound wheely suitcases with a small carry-on suitcase piled on top of one.  Imagine us each trying to pull these suitcases on to the BART train.  No so bad.  The ride to our city was smooth, and our suitcases didn't seem too much in the way.  But after we arrived at our city stop, we had to quickly pull all of the suitcases off the train.  Then we had to pull them quite a ways to the elevator, then after getting out of the elevator we had to pull them through the gate.  We got permission to take them through a side gate.  Then we had to pull them to another elevator, and then all the way to the parking lot.  It's one day later, and I'm still tired.....  But it was nice that my father in law was able to pick us up from BART.  Take THAT, crummy rental car agency!

That was one long flight.  Actually, it's been a long two years.  It's good to be home.  Here's a pic from the airplane.  I actually dropped my Ipad trying to take this.  But here it is in case  you ever wanted to see China from above.  :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Anyone Up For Some Kaka?

My husband and I found this little refreshment stand the other day.  Anyone want some Kaka?

Comment Troubles

I don't know if it's because of the China government internet blocking, but I have had a hard time commenting on posts recently.  Sometimes I can get the comment box to pull up, but then when I start to type, all of a sudden the box disappears.  So if I'm silent on your blog, when I usually would make comments, know that it's because of my lousy internet.  But I'm moving back to the U.S. next week, so I'll have better access there.

Service With a Snarl

A friend of mine teaches at the international school here, and called me because she was worried about a gas leak in her apartment.  Every year the gas company comes to every house to check for gas leaks.  When they came to her apartment, they said there was a very slight leak, and turned off the gas.  But she couldn't cook, so they came back and turned it on.  No one explained whether or not they actually fixed the leak.  She can smell a strange smell in her apartment, and has noticed that bugs are dying in the kitchen and bathroom, and wondered if that could be from a gas leak.  Yesterday the gas people came by again to check it, and said there was no problem.  She still smells the odor, so asked me if I could call the gas company.  I told her I wanted to first call the school and speak to them in Chinese to verify what had been done.

When I called the number she gave me, the Chinese woman on the other end of the line was LIVID!  She was very angry that I was calling, and started, almost yelling, saying, "Have you been to the apartment to smell it?  I have!  It smells like humidity and hot air, but not gas!"  I couldn't even answer her with a full sentence because she kept interrupting me.  Finally I was able to get her calmed down enough to get out the full story.

I'm still not sure I believe that anything was ever repaired, but I also believe that the first people could have been wrong about a gas leak.  I noticed that when they came to my apartment to do the inspection, their instruments aren't very good, and sometimes beeped when there was nothing wrong.  The inspector would fiddle with it for a minute, and then check again, and it would not beep. So I don't think there is anything to worry about.

This is typical of how you are treated in China though.  Usually, this is the way Chinese treat each other in business.  If you are a foreigner, they usually treat you better.  But the only real power people have in their lives is in their work, so they will really laud it over you.  I remember when we lived in Beijing 20 years ago, at that time the stores had all merchandise behind the counter.  They had a person standing behind the counter, and they would reach the merchandise for you.  But they would do it with a snarl.  Things haven't changed much.  Some people here are of very high character, and will be nice to you  no matter what the situation.  But many people are sharp and short with each other.

I feel so sorry for the woman who sells me vegetables.  People who buy from her are so snippy, and are always accusing her of cheating them.  And then they try to get her to give them free things.  She is one of the poorest among them!  One day recently I stopped to get some vegetables from her and as I was getting ready to leave, I noticed her eyes looked swollen.  I asked if she has allergies.  She said, "No, I'm just in a bad mood."  Then I noticed that she was crying.  I asked if I could help her.  She said, "You need to get home to cook dinner."  I again asked if I could help her.  She just said, "No, I'm just not in a good mood, but I'll be okay.  Thanks"  I wished her well and left.  But I kept thinking about how hard her life is, and how people should be nicer to her.  When I go to buy vegetables, she responds differently to me, and we sometimes talk.  When other people come, they just argue with her.  She doesn't respond meanly because there is a lot of competition in that market place.  But that's the way most people act here.  They are snippy with each other unless they know the person well.  And it's highly unusual to offer to help others.  People get so surprised and almost scared when I ask if they need help.  If I see someone struggling, and I offer to help, they automatically say no, and then look at me like I have some ulterior motive.  This is one of the things that I hope will change in China as the years go by.  I hope they can be nicer to each other and respond with kindness instead of with a snarl.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Delayed Gratification

My husband has been reading a book lately that he has told me about.  I can't remember the name, but one of the interesting themes in the book has to do with delayed gratification.  The author uses another term, "hedonistic" something....I need to ask him that term again.  Anyway, basically it means delayed gratification.

The author said that studies show that delaying gratification actually helps us to enjoy things more.  For example, if we were to move in to a fully furnished house, we would enjoy it at first, but there comes a time when we get used to the new things, and they become normal to us.  The author suggested that instead of spoiling ourselves with everything we want, we should allow ourselves to get one thing at at time, thereby spreading out the enjoyment.  For example, let's say that you decide to redecorate your living room.  It will be more enjoyable for you if you buy one piece of furniture at a time, or do one thing such as buying new carpet, then wait awhile before buying the next thing.

Another example of this that the author mentioned is a carton of ice cream.  You could buy a quart of ice cream and eat it all in one sitting.  But it would be more enjoyable if you were to eat just a little bit each time, over a longer period of time.  Can you see how eating it all in one sitting only gives you perhaps a half hour of enjoyment, whereas eating a little bit over a few days time stretches out that enjoyment?

I think this kind of practice also makes us appreciate our blessings more.  The world advertises to us that what we have is outdated, and that we need newer and better.  The temptation of covetousness is very real.  We see the clothes in the store window and buy them because they make us feel better about ourselves.  But that enjoyment only lasts a short time until we get used to the clothes, then we have to go out and buy more in order to duplicate that pleasure we felt while it was new to us.  If  instead we really learn to appreciate and enjoy what we already have, we stretch out the enjoyment time.  Then if we only allow ourselves to occasionally buy something new, we appreciate it more and enjoy it more because it is a rarety.

While I've been living in China I have tried to do this more; partly because of wanting to appreciate what I have, but partly because there really isn't that much here for sale that I want.  I bought a leather purse before coming here.  Over the past two years I have used it every day, and it is starting to get worn.  But I'm learning to enjoy the charm of worn things.  I also have a pair of sunglasses that I've had for awhile, and the paint on them is starting to wear off.  Instead of buying new ones, I'm trying to see how long I can use this pair, just for the charm of having something old.  We often buy "vintage", but not many people can allow their own belongings the chance to become vintage.  It's funny how we are willing to buy a beat up antique, but when our new things become beat up, we discard them.

So all of this is on my mind as I prepare to go home to America.  Most of the furniture we owned before we came was used. and not worth the cost of storing for two years, so we gave it away.  When we go home this summer, we have to start over and buy new furniture.  I think we will try it the way the author said, and do a little at a time.  I want to really try to enjoy the experience for awhile.