Singapore

Singapore is one of those really interesting places that, if you didn’t have a job that sent you there, or a friend to go and visit, you would never have made the trek. In that way, I think that Iowa and Singapore are alike.  

When I first found out I was going to Singapore I was picturing naked light bulbs hanging from the ceilings and mosquito nets as the only protection from the buggy tropical air. Thankfully, I saw none of that on my trip.  Though my hotel room would get nice and cool from the air conditioning, it did always have a bit of moisture in the air.  My blankets at night felt extra heavy from the humidity soaked air, but it was clean, cool and comfortable, and I was happy.  

One of the biggest advantages to Singapore is that most people speak English, and if they don’t speak it, the signs are in English. Though I do have to admit making a poor choice on the MRT (Subway) that caused me to go in a circle around SIngapore and waste an hour of my precious day off, things were pretty simple for an Iowa girl like me to get used to.  Everything was clean, and even when I went running before the sun came up, I didn’t ever feel unsafe.  

Being as close to the equator as Singapore is, it gets light at 7:30 AM and dark at 7:30 PM, all year around.  I could have used some more sunlight, but it was also nice to enjoy the pool, or sit on the hotel roof and have a beer after the hot sun had gone down for the night. 

The biggest chance for adventure that i had during my 2 weeks was really in the food.  With the limited daylight and the constraints of public transportation, I didn’t get to see very much of the island itself, but I did get to try lots of different cuisine.  I had Malaysian food, Indonesian food, Indian and Chinese.  I really didn’t try many things that I didn’t like, but then I avoided all foods that had faces, aside from the chickens and ducks, whose faces may have peered at me from the counter, but did not appear on my plate.  I had lots of curry, rice and noodles.  

As a nod to my midwestern heritage though, probably my favorite food that I had in Singapore was the Cha siu bao.  Basically, BBQ pork in a sweet bun.  

One of the most valuable parts of the trip for me was just to see another perspective.  Living in Iowa and having lived my whole life here, it is easy to forget that there is a whole world filled with people who are different than me, have different outlooks, different perspectives and opinions from what I am exposed to here, not just in the Midwest, but in the whole USA.  

It amazes me how something that is such a focus in everyday life in Singapore and other parts of the world is brushed aside as here-say  and myth in the US.  Climate change and conservation were everywhere, and whenever the subject came up with our Asian hosts, the fact that America turns a blind eye to the phenomenon was exposed as a point of annoyance.  It was really eye opening to me how wasteful we are, and how much we take for granted.  

Since I have been home I have had a couple of reoccuring thoughts…first of all, how is it that I can send myself into a panic that relegates me to my bed over something as mundane as a trip to Des Moines, and yet I can manage to fly to the other side of the world and spend a week and a half with people I barely know and handle it just fine?  I am one crazy chick.

Secondly…I have caught the bug, and I am not referring to the raging case of the stomach flu that I came down with the week after I returned home.  I am talking about the travel bug.  It was so amazing to take that trip, and I would love to go back, or go somewhere totally new for that matter…I can actually handle it! And the world is full of so many amazing and unique places. I want to visit them all!  

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Redemption

When I was a sophomore in College I applied to a study abroad program.  The program was a six week writers workshop in Ireland.  I still have the acceptance letter in my stacks of stuff I can’t quite part with.  It was one of those rare moments where I felt like my potential and ability was being recognized–like maybe I had some! Not only that, I desperately wanted to go to Ireland.  

As is the case for a lot of college students, my bubble was burst on page two…the financial requirements.  Without and extra seven thousand dollars to cover travel, tuition and housing, I was left with the letter as my only Ireland souvenir.  If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am still not quite over this twelve year old disappointment. 

As we approached the doorways from generic airport out into tropical Singapore, in was excited to finally get an opportunity to see the other side of the world.  It may not be Ireland, but the lush green palm trees and warm tropical air told me that I was in for something different then Iowa, and that was enough for me to feel some redemption. 

 

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Travel Woes

My experience with international travel began on my honeymoon to Jamaica in 2004.  We took a couple of fairly short flights, got on a bus in Montego Bay and road to the resort where we spent 95% of our international time sitting on a beach drinking Red Stripe.  No complaints about that trip!  When I was given a work project last summer that looked like it would result in a trip to Singapore for me and my project team I was a mix of excited and terrified.

One summer before we had kids Cory and I took off to go to a family reunion with my family in Missouri and about 2 hours into the trip I told him that i couldn’t handle being away from home.  We turned around and went back and I immediately felt better.

When my tickets were booked for Singapore I looked over the flight details…the hours I would spend in the air, over the ocean.  *gulp*  The time it would take to get to my destination.  The time it would take to get back home if my family were to need me.  The 14 hour time difference between home and my Asian destination, where I would be traveling with 5 co-workers, all men, all acquaintances that I had never spent more than an hour or so together with at a time.  This was a recipe for a panic attack.  But I survived to tell the story!

After a change in plans because of the crappy Iowa weather we drove to Chicago the night before we expected to leave from the Eastern Iowa Airport.  We got to our airport hotel at about 9:30 on Thursday night and on Friday morning we were off to Ohare.  We got settled into our seats in preparation for our 13 ish hour flight to Tokyo.  Then plane troubles.  Everyone off the plane.  It was a roller-coaster of are we going or are we not, as not 15 minutes after we were escorted off of the plane we were told to get back on!

As the attendants were making their announcements we see an attendant scurry up the aisle to the man making the announcements and then I hear in the background of the intercom, “a gentleman in the back says that he may be having a heart attack.”

The intercom went quiet for a moment before the announcements for any Doctor’s on board to identify themselves.  As disappointing as it was to still not be moving and to be pretty sure that we were going to miss our connection in Japan, I am thankful that this happened before we took off.  For his sake, and selfishly, for my sake–an extra landing and take off was not on my list of fun things to do.

When we finally got rolling, things went really well.  I was tired from the stress of travel and I was able to get some sleep on the plane.  And, as a bonus, international flights have free alcohol and lots of new movies to watch.  We had our own screens and controls so I was able to watch more non animated movies on my collective flights then I had in the last 5 years. Best of the bunch – I would have to say, Argo.

We landed in Japan and were met by several airline employees waiting to give us our fate.  No big surprise, the four (the other two in our party weren’t flying with us) of us were set to spend the night in Japan and head to Singapore in the morning. The good point: We got to sleep at a pretty regular hour and we were still nearly on Singapore time, as the difference between Tokyo and Singapore is only one hour.

The bad points: Another weird airport hotel.  This one smelled like an ashtray had real metal keys.  When was the last time you stayed in a hotel with actual keys?

The room itself was…odd.  There were three little twin beds and a sign by the phone advertising cash only massages available from 3 pm to 1 am.  In case you were wondering, I didn’t call.

The toilet, as was the case with every toilet I encountered in Japan, had a heated seat and a baday.  I didn’t have a great night in Tokyo.  I went to bed pretty quickly after we arrived. I went to my room and freaked out a little bit about the non English characters everywhere and the no English speakers on TV.  So much unfamiliarity surrounded me as a sat on my tiny bed and thought about how far I was from home.  Even the warm toilet seat couldn’t bring me any comfort.

The next morning I showered in the weird shower and headed down for breakfast.  The restaurant was super crowded and the four of us were wandering around looking for a place to sit when this couple waved me over and moved a table down.  John and I sat down and started in on our breakfast…then this lady comes by and points at piece of paper with Japanese writing on it and says, “reserved!” Oops.  She told us not to move and took her paper with her somewhere else.  I blame the people next to me, but it took no more than 1 hour in public in a foreign country for me to screw something up.

Next step…checking in at the airport.  The Asian women at the airport were all beautiful.  So put together with perfect hair and make up and beautiful smiles.  The men…stern and serious.  The most puzzling thing about Japan for me was the masks.  Lots of people in airports wear masks.  I couldn’t decide if I should be appreciative that they were keeping their Ebola to themselves, or offended that they assumed I was going to infect them with Americanitis. A quick Google search tells me it is because they are sick and don’t want to spread it.  Thoughtful once you know what’s up. Kinda anxiety inducing when left to your own imagination to explain…like it was for me until just now when I did a quick Google search.

The flight from Tokyo to Singapore was worse than childbirth. Hyperbole? You may think so, but if given the option–that exact flight including the last seat in the plane, constant turbulence, crappy diet pop and fish omelet’s served for lunch, or–7 hours of hard labor at the University of Iowa Hospital with my husband by my side and I take childbirth every time.  Every. Time.

I never could have imagined how excited I would have been to touch down in a foreign country as I was after that experience.  I strolled right through security with my chewing gum in my backpack, and my marathon travel spanning 3 days – at least i think it was 3 days…You have no idea how much that time difference screws with your mind on travel days–was officially over!

More on the trip itself later!

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Expired.

I got a
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Good night

Last night I was juggling putting girls to bed.  It is one of the things l like least.  I love my girls more than anything, but I don’t like bedtime duty.  I was shuffling back and forth from one room to the other.  As soon as I would get out the door I would hear, “check on me!” from the little lady that had been waiting to see me appear in the hallway again.

I gave Thea a kiss and told her I loved her and she was my baby forever.  I made my way to the door and her resolve was wearing because she gave me a sweet “good night Momma” and I was one kid down.  I went into Leila’s room to give her the final good night of the day.  Leila looked up at me from her bed and said, “I don’t really know why Mom, but I really just want you tonight.”

I don’t think there is a parent in this country who isn’t feeling a little extra sentimental, a little extra vulnerable and carrying around an extra dose of gratefulness for the beautiful children in our lives. I crawled into bed next to my big girl and held her in my arms. She asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I told her that I just wanted everyone to be healthy and happy.

She started rattling off her ever changing, but always long list of desired toys.  “Oh, you didn’t ask me yet what I wanted!” Leila exclaimed with a little giggle.  I assured her that I wanted to know what her heart desired.

When I picked up Thea on Friday afternoon I couldn’t hug her long enough.  Friday night was spent curled up with the girls watching the Polar Express.  The kind of things that you don’t want to take for granted, but you do.  Until you get a slap in the face reminding you how lucky you are.

Cory and I were walking around Costco on Friday at lunch time and I thought to myself but didn’t mention out loud…It has been a really long time since I have let myself get totally wrapped up in someone else’s tragedy and spent days obsessively worrying and crying over things I can’t control. I was feeling good about my medication, knowing that it was effectively keeping me balanced and engaged in my own life.  Checking in on the news online when I returned to work turned out to be the ultimate test.  

I could go on and on about the many things that have crossed my mind over the last week.  Some of it debilitatingly sad…like, curl up in a ball and hope that the 21st really is the end of the world so this suffering would subside. Some of it enlighteningly faith saturated and peaceful. Most of it in between.  I read all of the obituaries and accounts.  I feel like the victims deserve that, they deserve to be individualized in all of our minds and remembered for the people that they are.  I haven’t cried. I think that’s the drugs in action because my heart is broken, for the families left behind, for the fear that those children likely died in, for myself and every other parent that has to wonder…will we be next?  For the whole country.  *sigh*

I will do my best to not live in fear.  To instead embrace the lighthearted joy that fuels my little girls.

Deuteronomy 1:39

 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.

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Rotten

I woke up on Saturday morning hoping for a warm day.  Back in August when cold weather seemed like a distant memory I signed up for a November 5K on a whim.  Now it’s here and though we have been fortunate to have a mild month, I was prepared to bundle up.  My girls came barging in while I dressed for my run.  After Leila brought up her Kindergarten teacher’s pregnancy with twins Thea says, “Mommy, are you growing two babies!?! HaHaHa!” Before I could feign offense for Thea, Leila jumped in with, “No Thea! She just looks that way because she has such a chubby tummy!”  

I no longer had to worry about pretending to be offended.

I finished getting dressed in my running layers and headed downstairs to get the girls their breakfast. Yes, I still fed them after they trampled on my ego.  I know, mother of the year over here!  As I  walked through the messy kitchen I noticed a stench of rotten veggies from last night’s dinner that was left out on the counter.  I sighed and turned to open the fridge, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of Zoey out the deck door.  She was standing over the biggest dead bunny I have ever seen with guts in her mouth and a detached, very unlucky rabbits foot discarded next to her.  I choked back a gag and opened the door to shoe Zoey away from her kill.  What a great start to the day.

As I laced up my running shoes and headed out the front door I noticed our caved in, rotten jack o lanterns oozing on the front steps.  Ugh.

I pulled away from the house overcome with the rotten attitude that I had developed over the course of the morning.  I was happy to escape my house and the dead bunny, dirty kitchen, oozy pumpkins and though unintentional–hurtful little girls.

I pulled in to the lot at the UI tennis courts and headed in to find the sign for the Hills Elementary School team.  This was my first experience with the Girls on the Run program, and I can’t think of a better way to turn around my rotten mood. Girls on the Run is a program that lasts for 10 weeks and is open to 3rd through 6th grade girls.  The girls have practice twice a week while they prepare themselves for a final celebration 5K  The event started with a speech from a former University of Iowa and 2012 Olympic Marathon runner.  She did a great job of encouraging all of the girls to do their best and have fun at it!

 I had run a practice 5K back in October with a couple of the girls from Hills. It was a fun experience, but it also kind of reminded me of running with my dog.  The girls wanted to stop and check everything out.  Keeping them moving proved to be a challenge and I quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a true test of my stamina…I could hang with these girls without a problem.

On the morning of the race there was some shuffling around of running buddies and I ended up being placed with the sweetest little 3rd grader who I did not remember from the practice 5k.  Inikka is probably about the same height as Leila, so she is petite little thing.  When I introduced myself to her grandmother at the starting line I said, “She looks pretty fast, I hope I can keep up with her!” 🙂  I was kidding.  I mean, sure, she might be fast, but she is 9, how hard could it be to keep up with a 9 year old.  The Grandma responded, “Yeah, my husband likes to run and went out to the track to run with her and he couldn’t keep up!”  Ut oh. He may be a grandpa, but that was enough to make me nervous, after all I run like a grandma.  

The whistle blew and we were off!  Inikka told me that her coach says that she has a really big stride.  Her coach was right.  About a mile in I started to get nervous. Finally she slowed to a walking pace.  I sent up a silent prayer of thankfulness.  Too soon and she was ready to run again.  As we approached a big hill I asked her if we were going to run, walk or jog up that hill…”walk” she says. Praise Jesus.  about halfway up the hill is a race volunteer who gives us a cheer and that was all it took to get my little buddy fired up as she sprinted up the rest of the hill.  On the sidewalk the volunteers had written encouraging words to all of the different girls, calling them out by name over the course of the concrete trail.  Inikka stopped on a dime when she saw her name written in bright chalk.  We had to admire how cool that was, and I was thankful for another rest! 😉 We approached the last turn in the course…less than half a mile left and my buddy started to lose steam.  I finally got to feel like I was fulfilling my duties as a running buddy as I reminded her of all of her family members waiting at the finish line.  I told her that its ok to walk when we get tired, but whenever I run a race, I always try my hardest to be running when I see my family.  She told me about her siblings, and her Mom, Dad and Grandparents who were all waiting to see her come through that finish line. She hoped that her Dad would carry her to the car when she was done running…I told her that I couldn’t believe he would deny her that reward.  I could see it now, the finish line was at the bottom of a big hill.  Perfect…this girl loves to take advantage of the downhills!  I pointed it out to her and she caught her second wind and sprinted in the last quarter mile.  I ended up finishing a few seconds behind her.  I literally could not keep up!  We cross the line and a volunteer was standing by to award my buddy with her medal.  After I fetched her some cider and a post race bagel we found her proud family.  Her Dad showed her the sign that he had held up for her and she gave him the sweetest smile. I gushed to them about what an awesome job she had done.  How determined she was to keep moving.  Her competitive spirit shined through when she asked me if I had seen anyone else from her school.  When I said that I had not, her grin told me that she was basking in the glory of beating her teammates.  That’s my kind of kid.  She was an awesome running buddy and together we came in after a tough course in 35 minutes.  It wasn’t a great time for me as far as 5Ks go, but I don’t know that I could have done better on that course without her.  She was a great buddy and I left the course feeling on top of the world, for both of us.  I can’t say enough about the program, the girls or the race.  It was awesome.  I am hoping I can get Leila to run it with me next year, though the random running buddy experience was pretty special as well.  Is it weird if I drive to Hills to run with my buddy every week?

I came home to no more bunny on the deck, my sweet husband cleaning in the kitchen and hugs and congrats from my baby girls.  After chucking some rotten pumpkins into the empty lot next door my morning was deemed a total success.  Now if only I were growing two babies right now. 

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Its a 10k, not a marathon

I was all set to sign up for the race for the schools 10K coming up on October 14th…what a great way to wind down my 31st year.  I decided this weekend that I had to run it on my own before I signed up, to give me the confidence to know I could finish. Sunday after church I grabbed a quick snack and took off.  The first mile felt great, though the weather was confusing…I wasn’t sure if I should be bundling up, or sweating buckets.  About the time that I hit mile three I was starting to have my doubts.  By mile 5ish I knew that this would be my last 6.2 for a while.  

I love to run.  When I finally gave up and decided to walk it in the rest of the route my feet were killing me.  My knees were hurting.  My knees never hurt when I run.  I survived and I celebrated with a turtle sundae from Whitey’s.  Naughty I know.  But the pain wasn’t worth the distance.  For now, I am a 5K girl, and I will get myself under 30 minutes if it takes me another year.  I may work my up to 10k again, but right now I am still 25 lbs over weight and my knees are too important to me to destroy.  I want to keep running, even if I can’t cover the distance that I strive for. 

So here is my fall itinerary:

October 6 – Color Run in Des Moines with my best Sistas Andrea, Cassie, Bekah and Dani

October 13 – IDT 5K with my big girl Leila – running/walking at her pace…I am excited for her to do her first 5K!

October 14- Run for the schools in Iowa City

November 17 – Girls on the Run of Johnson County…I will get paired up with a 3rd to 6th grader who completes the 10 week running program and run with her (I guess?)  I don’t know anything about the program really but it looks cool. Hopefully the little girl can’t outrun me! 🙂

Happy Running! 🙂

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Things that are Awesome

Kids wearing costumes when it isn’t Halloween.  Today I saw Woody shopping at Wal – Mart and then I saw Rapunzel walking on Front Street after work.  Awesome. 

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Healthy Kids 5K

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain drops hitting my bedroom window.  Not what I was hoping for on the morning of my first *real 5K* (I say real, because I have done a few, but I have never gone out and run one with the intention of getting the best time I could muster).  Cory, being the wonderfully supportive husband that he is told me that even though he did not want to go, he would come with me.  I knew that I needed to do this, rain or shine and I didn’t need to drag anyone else through the mud with me.  I have a feeling that he was grateful as he rolled over in bed. 

I rounded up my favorite running gear…I figured anything I could do to convince myself I was a runner would help me when I got to the track. Bonus, Under Armour really did keep me dry…for the first 15 or so minutes in the rain.

As I drove towards the starting point I realized that I had left my earbuds at home.  I told myself, that’s ok…I don’t really have to run this.  But I pulled into the Walgreens and paid too much for a pair of stand in earbuds, just in case I decided I was really going to do this.

As I got closer to the school the rain started to pick up, but it was ok, I could just get my T-shirt and go home.  I didn’t really need to do this.

I walked up to the registration table and collected the packets for my family.  My glasses were fogging up and covered in rain drops.  That was annoying, but I could just go back to the car.  I didn’t really need to do this. 

I attached the chip to my shoe and the number on my shirt.  I was ready, but I didn’t really need to do this.  By the time I made it back to the track everyone was getting set to take off.  I stood in the crowd behind the starting line.  Ok, maybe now I had to do it…but I could always walk.  I didn’t need to run. 

The gun went off and the crowd started running.  I picked up one foot and then the other and I started to run.  I would say I was in the middle of the pack to start off and as I followed the faster runners I just told myself that I could not stop and walk until someone in front of me did, and then I could just walk.  I didn’t need to do this.  I jogged along and as I approached the volunteers in the yellow shirts the yelled out, “one mile down!” Wow, that wasn’t so bad.  I looked down at my watch. 10 minutes 30 seconds…better then typical for me.  Now I realized, I had to do this. Mile two wasn’t quite as hilly, and as I made it through the neighborhoods I watched for the yellow blobs through my rain soaked and fogged over glasses.  Is that Melrose Ave. ahead?  Oh good lord its almost over!  I started down Melrose and I had to take a walk break and catch my breath.  Another runner came up behind me and as she passed she says, “You can do it, keep going.”  She was right, I could do it.  I had to do it.  And I ran.  I passed her as we came through the parking lot to the finish line and through my breathlessness I gave her a “Thank you!” as I plowed on through to the finish line.  

Previously, I have run 5K on a treadmill in 34 minutes.  That was my best.  My 5K outdoors was about 35 and a half.  Today I finished in 33 minutes and 39 seconds (by my watch, not sure on the official race time).  That may not sound like much, but to me it was pretty awesome.   My best time, and I actually really enjoyed running in the rain.

I grabbed a water and walked up to the car.  Cory was bringing the girls to participate in the kids 400 meter race that I had signed them up for.  The girls were unsure about getting out of the car in the rain, but brave little Thea said she wanted to run.  Leila was a hold out but ultimately, she decided to venture out into the rain with the rest of us.  We waited for the kids race to begin.  Leila and Thea stood at the blue line on the West High School track.  Cory stayed next to them to cheer them on and I made my way across the field to add some encouragement after the first turn.  A few boys were ahead of Leila and as the first kids approached me I started to clap and cheer them on.  Up came Leila with a big beautiful smile on her face as she sped by me. 

Thea was one of the littlest racers.  She came around the turn and she gave me a huge grin.  Her little legs were working hard and I could tell that she was already struggling.  I climbed up on the track and ran along side of her.  She said, “Mommy, my side hurts and they said if your side hurts you can walk.”  We walked for a bit and I could see a really big puddle of water up ahead on the inner lanes of the track.  “Thea, do you want to run through the water?!”  And we picked up our pace and splashed through the puddle and around the corner.  The cheers started as we approached that blue line once again.  We ran right up to the orange cone where Thea stopped on a dime and turned way towards her Daddy and away from the man trying to give her a congratulatory high five.  That’s my girl! 

I could not be more proud of both Leila and Thea.  And a little proud of myself too.

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Random memories

I was lying in bed tonight trying to fall asleep and I remembered a TA I had my sophomore year at Iowa. He was the one that pointed out to me, and the rest of my undergrad creative writing class that The Foxhead was a “writers workshop bar” and George’s was where the English majors hung out.  I remember thinking how odd that was the distinction even matter. 
Matt was that TA’s name. He was probably only a few years older than I was.  Everyone in the class had to write an original short story. Fiction.  The day I had my personal conference with Matt to hear his feedback on my “fiction” story about a poor college girl…let’s call her Alicia, who got dumped by her loser boyfriend and couldn’t let go, may have been one of my most awkward human encounters.  We sat on a bench on the front porch of the Dey house, where the cool fall breeze blowing and crunching the leaves were my only distraction from the utter embarrassment I felt while Matt attempted to analyze my character development.  He had to know very well, if not by the absolute patheticness of the “story” then by my red face and avoidance of eye contact that I was the sucker in this pathetic prose.
Everyone in the class had to read each of the other students
stories.  Mine was bad, but the bar for crappiest excuse for a short story because its really just a personal essay about the happiest/ saddest/ proudest moment of our uneventful first couple of decades, was set very high.
After being kept up past my bedtime with this memory I have realized three things. 1. Matt had a really shitty job. 2. Fiction is hard, and it takes talent and creativity that I do not have. 3. I understand why the distinction between George’s and the Foxhead is so important to the few who can do Fiction well.

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