Tag Archives: U.S.

So hard to explain………

I have been really grappling with how to share my transition back to America. It’s hard to explain. Sometimes I am truly paralyzed at the thought of doing it all justice which means that I have not been putting fingers to keyboard very much and I am afraid that some of it is going to slip away from my memory.

At least ten times a day, I look around and think (sometimes to myself and sometimes to any poor soul standing near me) that America is exactly the opposite of India. And I really, really mean that. It is exactly the opposite! And that does not mean bad or good – just so extremely different that I know my words would have a hard time describing it accurately.

This morning at Walmart was no exception. Just walking into Walmart is a little bit overwhelming. Heck, just getting to Walmart is different. I grab my car keys and I hop in the drivers seat and I drive myself there. No waiting for Rajinder to fill his water bottle. No giving a list to Francis and Rani for what I want. No asking Ravi if he needs anything. No trying to translate what he actually asks for. No waiting for the guard to unlock/open the gate. And certainly no wondering if I will be able to find what I need. Just me, myself, and I hop in the car.

I control the radio – hey, I listen to the radio. I decide which route to take. This way or that way is up to me once more.  On the way to the store, I pass tons of green trees along roads where (nearly) everyone stays in their own lane (everyone except those dingbats who are texting and driving – seriously that needs to stop). No one honks their horn. People stop at red lights and use their blinkers. There are no wild cows or dogs on the road. In fact, people are walking dogs on leashes and they are fatter than they need to be – the dogs and many of the people. There are no children begging or doing tricks on the side of the road. There are no bicycles with 3 or even 4 people on them. There are no women on the backs of motorcycles with their dupattas (scarves) flowing dangerously close to the back tire. There are street signs (in English) absolutely everywhere. There are no people running to literally catch a bus that is so full of people that it already looks like it might explode.

I pull into Walmart’s abundant parking lot and I pick where I want to park. I don’t have to tip anyone to push another car out of the way to make room for me. I don’t have to ask Rajinder where I should meet him when I am done or explain how long I think it might take. A man greets me as I enter the store and I get a cart. Oh sweet shopping cart heaven. No one follows me through the store. No one asks me 25 times if I need help. Two people and two carts can easily pass each other on each aisle. And while I am shopping I can get a Subway sandwich (with meatballs and s.a.f.e. lettuce), order eyeglasses, fill a prescription, develop photos, and just about anything else I want to do.

I do have to push my own cart and pull my own items from the shelves. And it takes me so much longer because there is so much more to look at and so many more choices. But I only have to go to one store.

The reason I went to Walmart was to get clear trash bags for the recycling container. Once again, we are responsible for our own recycling. And we have two trash cans in the kitchen. One for regular trash and another for anything that can be recycled – paper, plastic, glass, and metal items. So I like clear bags for the recycling. That way we can tell which is which and the trash men know which bags have recycling in them. I also wanted small bags for cleaning out the cat litter.

Here again I am assaulted by choices. Upteen size and color options. I really just want trash bags but now I have to decide if I want white, flexwhite, green, black, clear, or slightly opaque. Do I want handles or ties or looped handles. Do I need 8 gallon, 15 gallon, 33 gallon, or yard bags. It takes me just a second to focus. But then I found the recycling bags I wanted.

Now onto the small trash bags. Holy trashbag batman – they come in colors – vanilla and mint green. Then, I realize – not just colors but scents. Huh? I fully understand that perfume was invented to cover up body odor – but we have moved away from that because it can really be a toxic combination. And as such, deodorant was invented. Perfume is much better on a bathed person and scents are much better for candles. And I know the makers of these cute little mint green 8 gallon bags with handles did not know that they would be used for litter – but the potential certainly existed that they would be used for something smelly. And not for nothing, who decided that 76 bags was the right number of bags. That must have been a fun meeting. And who lost out – the person who thought that 88 was just the right number?

So India is the land where not much of the trash finds its way into a bag and America is the land where trash bags are supposed to smell like a cupcake or a bowl of ice cream. I really don’t know if this makes sense to anyone who has not lived in both places – but honestly, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Everything is different, different.

And the the final irony is that I searched and searched for these small bags for our kitties poop only to be given about 15 bags of almighty plastic to hold all of the c-r-a-p that I bought at checkout. And they are the same, same size and they do not smell like cotton candy and they would work perfectly fine for holding cat litter. And I would be recycling if I just used those.

On to checking out. Even that is different. The woman in front of me was using coupons. Dang, I forgot about that. Note to self – get Sunday paper, cut out coupons, and remember to bring them to the store – then remember to use them at checkout.

Most transactions in India are in cash – so the debit card machine temporarily stunned me. Do I want cash back? It’s a simple question – but I forgot that it prompts you for that. I stand there waiting to be done – and the people behind me think I have dropped in from another planet – how can I possibly not know what to do here. Okay, okay. No, I don’t want cash – well, unless it is a door prize – but I am guessing that is not the case, so no, I don’t need cash back. But that is not the end of it. Do I want to contribute to a fundraiser for a children’s hospital? I can buy a paper balloon and write my name on it. I should not have to think about it – but wait a minute – what did you ask me? Oh, a charitable donation? Sure. How much? A dollar? Fine. And no thanks, I don’t need to write my name on the balloon. Besides, my hands are full because I am going to have to carry my own bags to the car and remember where I parked it.

What he said………..

It turns out I am in good company in the blogosphere. The U.S. Ambassador to India has a blog too – it’s called Roaming Roemer – yep his name is Timothy Roemer and he is certainly roaming all over India – to places that most of us would never know about or be able to find. He is rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty – and sometimes getting them clean. Tim Roemer is advocating for better education, cleaner water, better opportunities for women and children, and so much more. Check out his blog and you can see the real work that is happening in India and how America is being allowed to participate in it. It’s interesting stuff for sure!

where he draws the line………..

My husband embraced the thought of moving to India from the very moment the opportunity shone first light. And to be honest, he was hoping for an opportunity like it before he ever even knew there might be one – probably crossing his fingers under his pillow every night hoping something would happen. Damn him and his good crossing fingers karma. 😎

He has always thought that it would be a good experience, that we’d be glad we did it. I agree. But sometimes India can bring out the “ick” in all of us. That part in all of us that we can keep hidden most of the time. The stomp your feet, I am a brat part of us. The this is a great experience, but I really miss home part in all of us.

It is very hard to let go of simple tasks that we can do ourselves. It is hard to see them undone or done so differently than we would do them that it is nearly impossible to appreciate their doneness. It is hard to know how far in the adoption process to let yourself go when it comes to staff. It is hard to define exactly what your responsibilities for them and their well-being are. It is hard because kindness is very often seen as weakness and the vultures come out.

We are new to having guards. We had them before but they were not under our care. So, I should say we are new to being responsible for guards. We have a cooler for them and every time it is empty, we fill it up with ice and water. That is absolutely not being overly generous. I agree. They sit in a pretty small box in front of our gate for 12 hours at a time. They keep dogs and people away from our front door. They open the gate when we want to walk thru it. Not that I have lost the ability to push a gate and open it – it just comes with the package. They did finally stop saluting us.

Oh wait, I forgot to give you just a smidge of background. A couple of nights ago, one of our boxes of household items came – it had more plastic plates and cups in it.  You might recall that I love me some plastic plates and I have appointed my husband as the King of Plastic Plate Land. I swooned him over to the plastic side and he lives happily there. So when he saw that one of the boxes from home had our very LARGE plastic cups from home in it, he smiled and whispered, “You remembered”. It was like we were filming a commercial for match.com at a tupperware party. It was really a special moment.

So, anyway, these bigarse glasses hold a lot of ice. A lot. That is why number one hubby loves them. And why he loves me for remembering to send them.

Last night, we sat down to dinner – he gets his bigarse cup and walks over to the ice maker. Chink, chink, chink……………nothing. Rattle, rattle, rattle………..nothing.

I hear, “what the hell – what happened to all the ice?”

I am not an ice drinker – so I have no idea. But I am very thankful there is no ice in my cup. I notice there is some ice in his cup – but I am not pointing that out to him. He clearly does not think it is enough.

Hubby: LLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAXXXXXXXXXXXXMMMMMMMMMMMMIIIII?

Laxmi: Yes sir?

Hubby: What happened to all the ice? Where is the ice? There should be ice.

(She looked at his cup and all decided it might not be wise to point out that there was some ice in it. Smart girl.)

Laxmi: Sir – the guards, the cooler. Sorry sir. Sir. Sorry sir. The guards.

Hubby: They don’t get ice anymore. Do you understand that? No more ice for the guards. If they are on fire, do not throw ice on them. Got it?
(Okay he did not really say not to throw ice on them but you can bet he was thinking it.)

So now Laxmi is nervous, I am trying to walk number one hubby off the iceberg. But he is not having it.

He temporarily doesn’t care how cold their water is. He temporarily doesn’t care how hot it is outside. He wants ice. When he wants it. As much as he wants. When he gets home from a long day at work he wants ice. Is that too much to ask?

Now my husband has kicked Al Bundy out of his lead role in Married With Children.

Just so you know that hubby is not a total grump – he would truly give you the ice off his back (just not out of his freezer)  – these two guards work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Hubby was concerned about that and added a third guard so that the first two at least get a day off. The irony in this is that they will probably just be assigned somewhere else on their day off. But now some of our energy is consumed with whether these three men are overworked and whether or not they are well hydrated with cold water. It wears on you sometimes.

Today I am going to buy ice trays so that the guards can still have ice.

Update – I just got a comment off-line that maybe this is a little silly. And if you have never been truly homesick maybe it is. So if you rolled your eyes at this one, please take a second and count your blessings that you have never missed home so much that a little cup of ice could bring you to your knees for just a few seconds. Be grateful that you have not lost perspective over a trivial thing just because you miss all that you hold dear.

And if you did roll your eyes, please understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what it is like to live as an expat. Most of us soak in everyday and revel in the experience, but there are moments………

When you spend your day getting promises that things will get done but those promises are not backed by even a single intention of them actually getting done,
and you worry about your parents and your mother-in-law and your family – that something will happen and you won’t be there, and
when most conversations don’t mean a lot because you can’t trust a lot of what you hear,
and you drive down the road and spill your drink because you have driven over a speed bump in the middle of the highway – a speedbump that mind you only goes half-way across the road – the half that you are on, and
small children with no present adults knock on your window everywhere you go begging not just for money but for bigger sense of purpose,
and you call your driver to pick you up and it takes 10 minutes to explain 5 different ways what you are trying to say
and your skin is heavy with the heat and humidity and the grime
and your children miss their friends
and you see trash almost everywhere you go
, and
you just want a taste of home so you search high and low for tortilla chips, you find them and buy them with excitement even though they cost 3x what you would normally pay for them, and your excitement fades because, alas, they were stale
and your towels are scratchy, and
your guard doesn’t even know your name because he is only allowed to call you sir or madam
and you float over oceans for a new experience that you know will be life changing but it is hard to hard the accept the differences, yet you do your very best to embrace them or at least understand them
and you think a cup of ice at the end of the day might melt some of the challenges away because it feels like home
and you are left iceless.

What’s it really like………..

This is the most common question I have been getting since we came back to the U.S.

Describing India in contrast to the U.S. is nearly impossible. It is an amazing place – full of culture, history, and fascinating people. It is also so very different from everything I am used to. Some of those differences weren’t even clear to me until I returned home.

Some of the things that are so very different really have nothing to do with India – but encompass more the differences between living in a house and an apartment. My husband has always wanted to live in a city – rather than the suburbs. That is what we are doing. I don’t care for it. It is hard to be in a 3-bedroom flat when you are very used to a 3-level home with a yard and a drive way and friends all over the place. There were times I frankly felt a little claustrophobic.

Doing homework is hard when you have 3 kids and no where to go. Having friends over is hard when you just don’t have the room to entertain. The kids in India don’t really seem to be outside playing a lot. I am not sure why – but we just don’t see it that often.

Having staff sounds like a great gig if you can get it. But again – if you aren’t used to it – well, it is also a big adjustment. I don’t like explaining everything to other people when I am used to doing it myself. But I like going into the closet and pulling out an ironed shirt that I had nothing to do with getting cleaned – if only they would wash it and iron it somewhere else. Cooking and cleaning might be a little difficult to accomplish somewhere else – but that would be nice too.

We have two people who work in our house. And after some trial and (some very big) error, we have people that are a really good fit for us. But it is still someone in your house – your little house.  I calculated that our staff works for us for almost 80 hours a week. They work hard and they work almost the entire time they are there – really only rarely stopping for tea. So that is 80 hours of work I do not have to do. Yes, I am very thankful for that!

One thing my husband always says is that there are nice people everywhere. That is true. I have met some kind and generous people who I hope I will be friends with for the rest of my life. I have met some people who are more interesting than I will ever be. The expats who live in India are adventurous and smart people. They soak in the world.

I am writing delicately on this one – but parenting is different in India. And on this issue, I am talking mostly about expat parenting because that is what I have been exposed to. Some of the parents I have met depend on their staff a lot. Drivers drive kids to and from parties. Not everyone is that concerned with meeting the parents on the other end. Ayahs (babysitters) supervise play dates. This is all about comfort level and, again, if you are used to it, surely this is easier. But I cannot let go of my parenting long enough to enjoy this benefit of India. I like being the one to take my kids places and I want to meet the parents any where I might be dropping them off. I know this is all about balance and I am a little heavy on the side of caution. But it is who I am and I do not want to let India change that part of me.

And this is not the friends that I have surrounded myself with. I gravitate toward people who think more like me. I roll like that.

The expat children I have met are confident and outgoing. They all seem to find their niche and thrive in their own circles. They are comfortable talking with adults and don’t seem too affected by moving around the world. They are impressive in that regard. They will surely accomplish great things. On the down side, some of them are a little entitled. I mean, really, if you have a driver, a cook, a house cleaner, a gardener, and an ayah – yeah, you might feel a little more than special. But a lot of parents I have met work hard to keep their kids on an even keel.

I have written a lot about shopping. Haggling is fun. Very fun. But I do miss Target and Costco and the grocery store. It is just so convenient in the U.S. But I have gotten some very fun Indian items that I probably would never have found in the U.S. – even at World Market – and I negotiated good prices for them.

The best way I can think to describe  living in India is that it is like living in the U.S. about 30 or 40 years ago.

People do not have answering machines – well, I guess technically they have human answering machines. Everyone has a cell phone but nobody leaves messages. It’s all about texting. I stink at texting so it takes me a really long time to do it. I am usually about half-way thru my message when the person I am calling calls me back. Augh.

I am not used to electricity and water being sporadically available. Although we are really fortunate that we will have not been inconvenienced by the outages.

And I know many Indians are not thrilled with the portrayal of India in Slumdog Millionaire – but honestly – it is a dirty place. Pollution is abundant and it is dusty and in many places, very dirty. You see people working hard to sweep the streets and move the garbage – but there is just so much of it. There are lovely places that are not dirty – in fact, they are meticulously maintained. But there is a hazy sky almost everyday. It’s just not what I am used to.

Delhi is less organized than my little corner of the U.S. And India is less predictable. Which makes everyday interesting. You really, truly never know what you might see.

In some ways I feel we are living in a little bubble of expats. We really spend most of our time on the school campus. Most of our activities are there. We have not met that many Indian families. The Indian people we have met thru number one hubby’s work are delightful and kind. They are generous with their support and thoughtfulness. They certainly have made me more comfortable about living in India.

So – what’s it really like – it’s very different. I miss all my routines and friends  and family and conveniences. I am enjoying my new friends and experiences. It’s a mix – it’s a great adventure that really makes me homesick.

Water, Water Neverywhere………..

One of the main reasons that number one hubby wanted us to move to India was to see what the “rest of the world” was like. India is very different than the United States for many, many reasons. Because we have moved here, we have learned that we have taken a lot in life for granted.

This neighborhood does not have running water. Water is delivered here. You get a little bit and you better make good use of it because you won’t get any more until the truck comes back.

img_8235

img_8236

I am it………….

When we were in the U.S., I used to love to sit on the front porch and watch my kids play games in the cul-de-sac. I loved hearing “not it” when the games began. Which was always followed by a game of bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish. No one wants to be “it”. But in the blog world, there is always a lovely game of tag going on. And, now I am “it”. This time was bizarre because I got tagged by a mom in India and by a mom in Ohio. Yes, bizarro. The world is indeed becoming smaller.

Monika from Life of Our Darling Prince tagged me first. Then Naomi from Delhi Bound got me too.

I am supposed to share the 5 things I love best about motherhood. Some days 5 whole things would be hard to dream up. It’s a tough job, the pay stinks, and it can break your heart. But most days, I would say “just 5”. That is simply not enough. I am amazed that I have been so blessed with my family. Truly, truly blessed.

But motherhood is always a balancing act. Here is my attempt to balance just 5.

1. I will never forget the day that Bear was born and how I felt when he was put in my arms. It was a long, exhausting day that ended up in an emergency c-section (which you can read about here) and he had a dislocatable hip. He needed to spend some time with the nurses. I had to wait what seemed like an eternity to even see him. I was very worried that something was wrong. Then I was wheeled away to recovery. I just kept thinking “where is my baby”? Finally, they put him in my arms and he was small and squishy and I was completely overwhelmed. I had not done a lot of babysitting and did not grow up with younger siblings in the house. My first thought was seriously, what the hell was I thinking and what the hell am I supposed to do with him? I was laying flat on the gurney and I could not really see him, I was straining my neck. Holy smokes. Then they got us in our room and I was allowed to sit up a bit and look at him. I was completely blown away by the love I felt for him. Someone I had never met, who had never spoken to me – he had not even smiled yet or gripped my fingers. And, I realized in that moment just how much my parents loved me. It was amazing to feel their love through my own child.

And, yes, I knew that my parents loved me very much. I simply had no idea how much they loved me. The potential of their love surrounded me that night.

2. My children are the reason I was willing to move to India. I lived in Germany in 5th and 6th grade and I know it changed my life. I wanted to give them this experience to learn about the world. I love watching them here. They would rather be in the U.S., but they are taking advantage of this adventure fully. They are trying new things – even some new foods – and they are soaking it all in. I love that they have roots and that they are sprouting wings.

I am amazed at how willing they are to try new things and how they have learned to be proud of themselves even if they do not win. And, yet, they try their best to win. Still, they have learned to appreciate the journey. That is truly a gift. And it one of the things that makes me most proud of them. They know the difference between disappointment and devastation and they simply will not give up.

3. I love hosting sleepovers for my kids and their friends. Usually we have about 20 something kids spend the night. They insist on tacos for dinner and then waffles, eggs, and bacon for breakfast. EVERY TIME. There is never a question on what the menu will be. One time I ordered pizza because I just ran out of time – that did not go over well. The sleepovers are super fun. Even with all the different age groups, they all seem to get along well. We had one last hurrah before we left Virginia and I invited the parents to come in for a happy hour. That is another tradition we will continue. Good times and great memories. If you live in the glen, you better get your calendar out – we have some sleepover making up to do.

4. Of course, when you have kids, you have endless blog material. That is definitely a big fat plus of parenting.

5. And, finally, I love that my children give me the gift of being true to myself. This is hard to do as a parent – especially if you are not following the main stream line of thinking. As your kids get older, the rules get a little more loosey goosey. Partly because they are gaining independence and partly because parents simply run out of steam. Parenting stretches you thin. There is no doubt about that. My parenting philosophy is simple — I would rather say, “oh that was a little silly” than “damn, I should not have done that or let them do that.” I am probably seen as a little over-protective and I am fine with that. My children have taught me that it is not only important to beat to your own drum – but to, in fact, make your own drum. I know this will get harder as we reach the teenager years and I pray for the strength to continue to go with my instincts. They have served me well so far.

6. Did you really think I could only do 5? So sorry. Six – I love it when I hear Mommy quietly whispered. I will never forget when I went from Mommy to Mom. It was a tough day and it came much earlier than I thought it possibly could. But when I hear Mommy spoken softly – I know I am needed in a way that only a Mommy can be needed. (And Mommy whispered softly is not to be confused with “MAAAAWWWWMMMMY” yelled by a child running full speed at you – that is another story altogether.)

So now I am to tag others. I would love to hear from

Lola – she is my favorite blog smart arse – so hers will probably be funny – if she does it – I know you might take a pass sassy! She’s not a big fan of being tagged.

Miss Grace – I enjoy hearing her perspective

Kristen – although she just had a baby so she might be a little busy

Black Hockey Jesus – who says men can’t love being a parent too – I might just be a blip on his radar screen – he has a huge audience – so we’ll see if he has time to do it

Mrs. Smith – she has been looking for blog material – so here is an idea – she has 7 kids – it should be good.

Donna – she is recently separated and on a new adventure as a parent

And of course, anyone else who wants to play along is welcome to do so! There are some people I did not tag because I know they have a lot going on – but if you find the time – you are now officially “it”.

Grandpa Chuck………

I was blessed with a grandfather who loved me more than even fairytales could imagine. No matter what. Always. Period. He was also proud of me – well, maybe not every single second – but he never let me know any different. I hope everyone is loved like my grandfather loved me. (I am very fortunate to be loved very much by some fabulous people – in time, I am sure you will hear about all of them – but today is just for Grandpa “Chuck”.)

When he died, I was somewhat caught up in my own life – number one hubby and I had a one-year old little bear. I was working part-time and I lived 747 miles away from him. He called me the night he died. I had sent him flowers that day and he wanted to thank me.

I was tired and in bed, so I let the machine get the phone. He left me a beautiful message about how special the flowers were and how all the women at the nursing home wanted to know who their competition was. He laughed and said good night. Then he died during the night.

It’s hard to say if I regret not picking up the phone. Of course, if I had known….. But I did not. So I was left with his voice on tape. And I played it over and over many, many times. So, who is to say. He knows I loved him. He got the flowers. And I got his voice on tape. But yes, I would have taken the opportunity to tell him how special he was – had I known.

I drove down to Georgia to help with the funeral and clean out his room. As I sat down to write his eulogy, I knew I would not be able to be the one who would read it out loud. So we asked a family friend to share my stories.

My grandfather had moved down south so my mother could be nearby to help him. He lost touch with many of his friends from New York – sadly many of them had died. As such, his funeral was mostly attended by my mother’s friends – in support of her. So it was very important to me to let them know why he was worth the time they took out of their own busy lives. I knew he needed to be remembered and in some ways introduced to the people attending his service – his memories needed to be captured.

Desperately, I wanted them to know why my grandfather was worth mourning. That he made at least one life a lot richer just by being a part of it – mine.

I started my tribute to him by writing that my very first thought when I heard he had died was to gather up all my memories of him and put them in a basket. My heart did not feel big enough to hold every laugh and every tear and every smile. But that was foolish. Me trying to be clever with my words. There is absolutely no way I could forget him or the special things he did for me. Even 10 plus years later, I can still hear his laugh and taste his fried potatoes. I can feel the warmth of his hug.

He would fill my fridge with fresh fruit and diet Pepsi (he could never remember I drank diet Coke – during his visits, I drank diet Pepsi). To this day, I cannot eat a green grape without thinking of him. He would always buy me a poppie from the VFW volunteers and I would hang it on the rear view mirror in my car. He loved to sit in the bar for an hour before eating dinner at a restaurant. He would always order an apricot sour for me. I was not 21 and I did not like the taste one bit. But I would sit and sip and watch him flirt with the waitresses 50 years younger than him. He was charming. Sometimes he would steal the steak knife from the restaurant if it was a really good one. He’d wrap it in the cloth napkin. He stole the napkin too. Sometimes he would embarrass me.

He would scour the weekly ads for the best deal on mayonnaise and other groceries. Then he would go to three different stores and stock up on the sale items. With his big old heart in tact, he would give away half of what he bought to neighbors and friends. I tried to no avail to explain the concept of saving money to him – that if you buy things on sale and then give most of it away – there aren’t many pennies left in your pocket – clearly pennies were not the point. He was not foolish with money – but sometimes his heart won out over his bottom line.

He always found the perfect gift for me – usually because he always asked me what I wanted. When I was in elementary school, he used to let me sit on his lap when I got out of the swimming pool, even though I was soaking wet and he was in his street clothes. He bought me a car when I turned 18. He called just to see how I was doing. We used to drive down to Georgia together and he would always pack his lunch. A sandwich and a beer. He was never really in a hurry. He could just sit and enjoy. He always waited until 4pm to have a cocktail and he always took the phone of the hook during his dinner. He was a very good cook – even when he was a little heavy on the pepper. He bought me my first iron skillet and I was mortified when he told me to never use soap on it. But it turns out he was right.

After Bear was born, my mother bought him a Dr. Suess book as a gift from my grandfather. She had my grandpa sign it. He signed it “With Love, Grandpa Chuck.” It was a sad day for me because we never called him Grandpa Chuck. It was his handwriting for sure, but it was not his signature. I guess that day I realized that Bear would never get to know my grandfather. My very special grandfather was slipping away little by little. That was a heartbreaking realization. My children have their own spectacular grandparents – and for that I am so grateful.

So, I treasure the fact that my children have grown up with so much family nearby. It has given them many soft places to fall. And now, we are oceans away from dinners at IHOP and sleepovers and homemade cookies and art projects and reading books and all the other gifts their grandparents are giving them. And I do not even have an answering machine. It is so hard to be away.

I wonder if this would work in the U.S…….

I had seen this sign once before – but I did not have my camera – dang it. I was so hoping that I would see it again and that I would have camera in hand. Wah Lah!

I have to wonder if the threat of embarrassing yourself is really a deterrent against traffic crimes. If so, how lovely! In the U.S., I am afraid this sign might actually serve as encouragement…..

img_68512