Coming home!

This is a Taiwanese Mini-Van. Look! No car seats!

Things I will miss about Taiwan:

Our nanny, sweet Chai Ling

Firecrackers in the street to move out the spirits

Tofu stands

Sofia’s best friend Brian and his mommy, Aileen, “The Angel of Taichung”

Walking everywhere and people always around

Waffles in the apartment lobby and the gym

Everything in Mandarin around me so I have the quiet of my own thoughts

The lovely, warmhearted, beautiful people of Taiwan. I love the Taiwanese.

What I Am Excited About Returning To:

Our friends

Our home

Trader Joes

Almond butter

Mrs. Salisbury, the world’s greatest violin teacher and Sofia’s tutor, Terry

The gardens around our home

Homeschoolers! There are none in Taichung

My vitamix (Never leave home without it)

Raw foods

The woman who does my eyebrows! It’s been so long I can’t even remember her name!


It’s all happening so fast and I’m noticing everything as I spend our last month here. It’s a miniature version of life. I wonder if at the end of my life I’ll feel the same: “It was such a fun and wild adventure and it went by so quickly.”

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Lily’s Nightmare and Our Late Nights

Ok, now I’m blogging instead of editing the memoir. I have no idea where to start on this mammoth beast, so I’ll tell you instead of Lily’s first nightmare…

Yesterday she woke up screaming a high-pitched horrific scream and crawling with her little body like something was happening. She has had a terrible time of sleeping since she was born. She doesn’t like to sleep alone and so after much suffering on all sides, I’ve given up and let her sleep beside me at night. She is fine for a 1 or 2 hour nap, but at night she must have a human beside her.

Anyway, she woke up screaming and I happened to be right beside her. I hugged her to me and asked her, “Was that a nightmare? Were you having a bad dream?” She is now able to talk and tell me so much more and she nodded and said, “Ya. Ya. Woof.” She told me she was being attacked by a dog and when I asked where he bit her she told me her knees, her head and her neck. She seemed to feel better telling me all about the woof-woof who bit her and we had a long talk about telling the dog NO and to GO HOME. And I assured her that Mommy and Daddy would never let a bad dog get her.

It’s now Monday at almost 11am and she is still sleeping. Maybe she finally can get some rest?

She has been talking in 2 or 3 word sentences and is quite taken with the moon, the large, shiny moon of the last 2 nights. Her nanny Chai-Ling showed her the moon when she was babysitting. I guess I’ve forgotten to show Lily the moon because we usually go to sleep so early here. Lily was certain I didn’t even know about the moon. She woke up after we came home and she would not go back to sleep until she took me out on the balcony and showed me the moon. She kept saying, “Moo! Moo! NaNa (her name for nanny) Moo big!”

I did not have the heart to tell her I’ve know about the moon for years and forgot to tell her about it. Her favorite book is “Good Night Moon” and I think she thought the moon was only a literary device. It’s real! There really is a moon, Mom!

Last night we took a late night walk to Finga’s, an American-style deli here. We walked through side streets and could see into shops and houses. Sandalwood was drifting in the wind, and night in Taichung feels somehow more foreign than daytime. I suddenly realized we were thousands of miles from home on the other side of the world. I felt very alive and so happy to be with our girls and my favorite husband, under a very large moon. Lily fell asleep on Claudio’s back and he played with her little limp-sleepy hands. There were no dogs in sight and I felt incredibly happy.

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I’ll be committing this to memory…

Thanks to my pal Eddie for finding this one.

From 12 Step Prayer Book # 67

Lord, keep me from the habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from wanting to control everybody’s affairs.

Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details–give me wings to get to the point.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. Help me to endure them with patience, but seal my lips on my own aches and pains–they are increasing and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by.

Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint–some of them are so hard to live with–but a sour old person is the crowning work of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but You know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

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Gratitude in the middle-place

We have been watching Japan with saddened hearts for all the people there are so gracefully enduring. We are also debating ourselves whether or not to leave Taiwan or wait it out here. It’s a very middle-place to be sitting for the moment. The past few days have been spent with bags packed and ticketed itineraries, far too much CNN and googling of “worst case scenario” as I have tried to figure out nuclear science and what this all means for our travel plans and living in Taiwan.

For the moment, we are staying put. At the same time, I have a ticket for the girls and I for Monday night.

I remain in prayer for Japan and the people who were lost and also those in very trying circumstances now.

I’m reading Huston Smith’s autobiography, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine. I am rarely envious of another’s life path, but Huston Smith had such a grand adventure. He spent 10 years living and practicing each of the world’s major religions. (Born Christian and lived as missionary kid in China, practiced Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim.) He traveled the world and studied with everyone. I’ve been engulfed in his tale and plan to read everything else he’s written about religion and get a copy of his PBS series he did with Bill Moyers.

I just read about his Zen studies in Japan. He studied at Myoshinji sodo to learn Zen Buddhism. It was not an easy course. Right before he left for home again, the roshi knocked everything off the pedestal of what he had just learned, saying that koans are not Zen, sitting in meditation is not Zen.

He said this, “Make your whole life unceasing gratitude. What is Zen? Simple, simple, so simple. Infinite gratitude toward all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility to all things future. Have a safe journey home. I am glad you came.”

Practicing gratitude and remaining teachable are the qualities that have most saved my life. Huston Smith, I sit at your feet today.

Today I am grateful for:
terra firma,
clean, ironed sheets waiting for me in the bed,
healthy family and clear minds,
yummy dinner with good friends,
and a ticket to L.A. that is currently salving my anxieties.

I could go on, but I should rest now. Gratitude lists are so simple and almost mockable, but they work. I always feel like a millionaire when I write one.

“There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Let the beauty we love be what we do.” –Rumi

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Turning Japanese

Our hearts are with the Japanese right now. Much love and light to all concerned.

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Sofia lost her first tooth!


Sofia has been begging for a pet for some time. She longs for a cat, a dog, a pig and a pygmy bunny. We travel so much it is impossible to have animals. However, at the local grocery store today she found fish eggs. She is keeping them all. We have a house full of pets.

Play time with her pet fish eggOh, and she lost her first tooth last night at 10:30. She couldn’t sleep and told me, “Mom, I swear, my tooth is SO wiggly. I think it is going to fall out.” We sat on the couch together and she did the hard work, back and forth, and the blood, and then she twisted it and with big wide eyes placed it in the palm of her hand.

“Mom! I have been wanting to see the back of my tooth forever. So that’s what it looks like!”

Last Milk-Teeth-Intact photoShe looks so different. Is it just me?

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Screaming at the Buddha at 5am

Taichung, Taiwan 2011

There is a meditation group of older ladies that meets at 5am outside our apartment. They have tinkley music and loud announcements in Mandarin. It’s peaceful/not peaceful.  They stand like statues and do slo-mo aerobics. Tai chi?  But they have their Guru booming directions out of a speaker of sorts.

It had been days since I slept, Lily our youngest has needed a very little sleep since she came out of the womb 20 months ago. I was exhausted. You know the tired when your eyes feel like sand?

I stormed through the house and went out on my balcony to scream at them.

I stood there in my panties and t-shirt. I just looked at the women. They all had matching navy blue tracksuits. I wondered if it was because of  wanting to look official at 5am or to keep out other 5 am interlopers who would just drop in for a class without paying. I took a deep breath. They looked so still and beautiful. The city was not yet awake, but they were, and now I was, and they moved so slowly through their exercises as some guy screamed directions it seemed they almost were not moving at all. I was charmed by the sight.

I was so tired.

I took a deep breath. I don’t speak Mandarin so I had a moment of clarity. I had no idea what I would scream. Some ideas:

“Hey you. Pipe it down.”

“Hey hey hey. No good.”

“Nee How.”

That’s the only thing I know how to say in Mandarin. That and “thank you.”

I ended up choosing to whistle, with my fingers in my mouth. A loud Wheeeet. They didn’t move. They didn’t turn to look at me. I did it two more times, Wheet Wheet. Nothing. They didn’t move.

I started laughing at myself. “I’m out of my mind.”

I went back inside the apartment. I sat and tried to meditate on the couch. The bullhorn started up again. That was it. I got up and wrote a long and pissy email to our rental manager. I am not proud of this, but that is what I did.

The next day I woke up at 5am and it was peaceful and still. And they were gone. The little blue tracksuited ladies were gone and the street was still.

I felt sick to my stomach, like I had killed something alive or spit on someone’s poem. I felt instant remorse. I felt like a hit man. I felt like the word “writhing” sounds. I wanted to curl up in a ball. I made the sweet old ladies leave.  I kicked prayers off my corner of the world.

I didn’t know how to make amends for this. I sat in meditation with huge judgment at myself. This judgment feeling is so old and familiar it’s like a blanket in a way. I can cozy up with it. But it had been awhile since I felt it so strongly. My head was very loud, varying between hating myself and trying to find a still, quiet breath. I watched myself berate myself. I heaped big cups of shame on myself and poured it over my own head and then I sat and looked for one quiet moment.

I apologized out loud. I wanted them back. I wanted to be awoken at 5 am by a Guru on a bellhorn. I did not feel powerful and efficient for my email that made them leave.

I finally put my hand on my own heart and said, “I forgive myself.”

Then, I fell asleep until the kids woke me up at 9.

The next morning at 5am I woke to the Guru on the bullhorn. I heard the annoying, tinkly music. I ran to the window and there they were! They were back in the same blue track suits in the dimly lit street. They were still, barely moving through their Tai Chi.

There is grace and forgiveness in this world. They were only taking a day off. It had nothing to do with me, and yet it was a great teaching . Let life be, Kelli. Just let it be.

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A wonderful day under the water slide

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The Sleep Fairy

Sofia has 100 bracelets, little Madonna 1980’s-esque rubber band bracelets that the Sleep Fairy brings her and puts under her pillow when she goes to sleep without screaming for a human, asking for water over and over, and basically just clocks on and goes to sleep. The Sleep Fairy is a small lie that started from my desperation to have sleep be easy and nondramatic, and one of my pals recommended the book.

The first night it arrived from Amazon, I sent Claudio up to put Sofia to bed by reading it.

“Kelli,” he called, in his worried voice. “Have you read this?”

“No,” Sofia was curled up in his arm.

“The Sleep Fairy will bring me a present tonight if I go right to sleep, without crying or asking for a drink of water or getting out of bed a hundred times!”

Claudio looked at me. “Are we ready for this?” I could tell he was thinking he would be the one to run to Target after dark to grab something.

“We’re good.” I said. We tucked Sofia in and she went to sleep as fast as she could. Our daughter can be bought.

“We’ll give her a rock,” I said.

“That’s not fair. A rock? A rock? That sucks. She’ll hate it.”

“She’ll love it.”

The next morning we heard Sofia gasp, “The Sleep Fairy came. She brought me a good dream rock. This is awesome!”

Sleep Fairy doesn’t come every night, but it works. She brings little somethings and puts them under the pillow.

Last weekend we were at a local park and Sofia was talking with a four-year old. “Do you like my bracelets? The Sleep Fairy brought them to me.”

“I got mine at Target,” the kid answered.

Tonight over tea I asked Claudio, “Do you think she’ll be bummed we lied to her?”


“Listen, we’re never fessing up. We’ll never break. From here on out, in our house, The Sleep Fairy and Santa are real, and flock it if other families don’t believe. We’ll never admit it. Let her figure it out on her own, but promise me we won’t break.”

Claudio briefly looked up from his new Ping program with his iPad. “We’ll never admit it.”

I feel oddly close to my husband, comforted by his promise to lie about The Sleep Fairy and Santa forever. Like maybe I can keep this heaven when my kids are small and believe in magic going and going and going.

Tonight I wrapped 4 orange M&M’s in wax paper twisted into a pretty bag with a black-sharpie heart on the outside, and placed them next to her pillow. I like hearing her discover the treat: sharp intake of breath, a whispered, “Huh?” and gleeful calling to us.

“Mom, The Sleep Fairy came!”

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Sofia is done with Pacific Oaks

Campfire night

Last night was Sofia’s final day as a student at Pacific Oaks, a wonderful little preschool in Pasadena. (Well, except for her play time summer….but not the structured day program). I love Pacific Oaks–used to be a Quaker commune, a number of houses hidden down this little pathway in the heart of Pasadena. It feels like going to the best Grandma’s house to visit here, with kids  running free and playing, singing, reading and learning.

I woke with such sadness that it is complete. This year has been a blur and it is a teacher to me to slow down and notice it all. It’s trite, I know, but there I have it.

Bongos, guitar, autoharp and No More Pie!

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