Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Glimpses of Gold

So here’s what I’ve been up to lately, spending the summer stateside after leaving Busan and our unexpectedly rather wild night in Shanghai:

A whole lot of swimming, staying up too late and letting my kids do the same.  Standards of hygiene and grooming that would normally be inexcusable (i.e., “They swam today.  That’s basically a bath.”).  Letting my kids eat a lot of what we typically call “Woah Food” (or is it “woe food”?  It’s occurred to me time and again that California just has to be one of the prettiest — the wine country... the beaches... the mountains... it’s breathtaking.  

After years of talking about it but never quite being able to coordinate it, I took my kids on a day-long tour of San Francisco led by my dad. 

He went to college in the Bay Area and knows his way around so well, and he is pretty fearless anyway, since he travels the globe for his work.  It was such a fun day, doing almost all the San Francisco things, including a walk on the Golden Gate
and also Lombard Street, riding the cable cars to and from Pier 39,
 and even visiting the Full/er House house.(We didn’t get to tour Alcatraz because the sign-up time was so long!). My kids were exhausted, but they all fell asleep with smiles on their faces.

We spent several days with our close family friends, who also have five kids (also four girls and one boy!) and even managed a trip to Yosemite with them.

 I hiked and swam and soaked up the warm sunshine, and it was wonderful.  We took a road trip that I will write more about in my next post.

But it’s also been... well, different.  There have been some big surprises.  While we were on that road trip, we stopped at a lake for a swim.  While we were in the water, Lilly suddenly cried out and said she’d hit her foot on a rock.  She’s pretty tough, so when she said it hurt a lot, I said, “Let’s go take a look at it.”  I had this weird feeling that I hoped was wrong. As she lifted her foot up and I saw the blood streaming down and the skin hanging from her foot, I knew I didn’t have to look any closer at that moment.  I called Matt over, and we started first aid.  I raced around to other picnickers asking if anyone had paper towels or anything we could use for clean compression.  One family offered a clean diaper, and another a wad of paper napkins.  We managed to wrap them against her foot with an old tank top as we drove twenty-five minutes to the nearest hospital.  Seven stitches later, she was back on her feet — er, foot — and smiling.

Ironically, that was not the hardest surprise to deal with this summer.  I didn’t feel panicked because it was very clear what each step was that I needed to do.  That wasn’t the case with everything, though.

For instance, we found out that Matt is being extended a couple months at his current position.  We kind of saw this coming, and it’s not the worst thing that could happen.  But October is not exactly an easy time for moving three school-age kids, especially since Skyler is in high school.  After a whole lot of deliberating, we decided I will be moving as planned in August with just the kids.  On the one hand, same country = good.  We can still see Matt on the weekends.  On the other hand, it’s still a foreign country.  And I don’t speak the language.  And I don’t really know anyone yet at the next location.  I’m thankful for Facebook, despite all its ills, because I’ve been using it to connect to some people that have been incredibly gracious and helpful.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little stressed.

Another surprise was Jayna.  Okay, Braggy Mom warning: she had a fantastic first year of college!  She changed her major despite getting all A’s in what she was doing and picked something I think is a great fit.  Her advisors suggested she contact one particular professor because her work is an interesting subject matter to Jayna, and when she did, she was offered a job doing research this summer!  This is great!  So... so... great... at least that is what my head keeps saying.  But my selfish mama heart is sulking because it meant that I got a lot less time with her.  We still managed to see her at least one night every weekend, but it didn’t feel like enough and she couldn’t travel with us on our family road trip.  I wanted to just spend every minute of our time stateside with her, but I’m trying to enjoy the beauty of her finding something she is passionate about — because it really is an amazing thing to witness.

The last and most difficult big surprise involves my extended family.  Since it’s not my story, I’m not sharing details here, but it affects people I love, and I’ve found myself awake in the middle of several nights battling anxiety, heartache, and grief.


While we were on our road trip, we had the opportunity to pan for “gold”.  It was obviously not real gold, but the younger kids got such a kick out of sifting through the gravel and sand trying to find the nuggets.  It made me think about how even before the surprises popped up, before I knew all the ups and downs this summer would have, I had moments when I could just see so clearly that what was happening was beautiful and precious, a glimpse of gold that I knew I needed to hold onto.  They were really simple moments, like the last Saturday before we left Busan, when I knew that it was the last “normal” family day for a while.  Or the times my kids we’re all together.

Or a walk I took early in our trip with my parents when it was a beautiful evening and I just knew it was something special even before the news came a couple days later.
Or the way strangers came to help when Lilly was hurt.

Of course, I’ve had many moments like these before, but looking back on our time in the States, I’m so grateful that I recognized them for what they were when they happened.  I think for all of us, it’s easy to get focused on the hard and messy things and miss those glimpses.  For a few days, I was really struggling, complaining, and feeling bitter.  But when I think about those times — because there were so many of them— I’m filled with much-needed gratitude.  I can honestly tell you that this summer was good.  I hope the same is true for you.