Monday, September 28, 2015

Yessi & Brad Marry...Again!

Married in America, April 20, 2014!  To be married in China, October 30. 2015!  Brad and Yessi's  Chinese wedding day draws near.  As our departure approaches, I'm busily researching Chinese weddings.  Yessi continues to assure me the rules don't apply, exactly, to us.  Hum…  Given that Yessi's mom has been selecting the right people and activity dates by the Chinese calendar, together with birthdates and other means I'm not familiar with, I'm pretty sure she could feel slighted by us or embarrased by us if we get it too wrong.  And then there are the uncles, six of them.  I'd hate to displease them.

Before I even get on the plane, I'm fretting about being out-of-step with what I've chosen to wear at the wedding.  Although I have the required red dress (well, actually, a tunic) it will have an under-dress that is black, plus my shoes are black.   Yessi has given me her seal of approval, but as mother of the groom, I fuss.  I do, fortunately, believe that my advanced age and foreign roots will shield me.

Yessi's cousin (the bride) and aunt delivering candy boxes

Yessi's cousin is getting married a month before Yessi, so they are well into the swing of wedding festivities. In this photograph they are dressed and ready to deliver the invitations, personally, to every guest in Xiamen.  The wedding party and relatives will help, but still, that's a lot of deliveries and all after a very large lunch gathering and wearing very high heels.  These deliveries consist of little bags or boxes of candy, along with the invitations. 



Yessi and Brad depart for China this Friday, October 2.  On October 10 they will be delivering their Candy Boxes, well before we arrive in China.  Darn, I would have loved to participate in this sweet ritual.  Although, I guess it would have meant another red dress purchase.

Chinese gift-giving is very interesting, overlaid with strong traditions and superstitions.  In reading about the do's and don'ts I realize how really weird Ed and my gift of a Klepper to the wedding couple must have seemed to Yessi.  I can just hear her silently saying, "R E A L L Y ?"  But she graciously said, "Thank You!".

Traditionally, in lieu of wedding gifts, guests give red envelopes holding money equivalent to a nice gift.   The rule, according to my reading, is the gift, at the very least, is enough money to cover the guest's expense at the wedding.  Also, the amount of the gift is relative to the guest's relationship with the bride or groom -- the closer the relationship the bigger the gift.  How much is enough and how much is too much I have not yet discovered.

I found lists of gifts not to give as well.  My research shows variations in these lists from source-to-source, but always with a great deal of overlap.  Here are ten gifts to avoid:  
  1. Clocks -  the sound of a clock sounds like the funeral ritual.  They also symbolize time is running out; therefore, the end of the relationship or of life.
  2. Handkerchiefs - the Chinese word for handkerchief sounds like a farewell greeting.
  3. Towels - towels are given out at funerals.  Gifts should not bring out sad memories of funerals or death.
  4. Umbrella - offering an umbrella means you want to end your friendship.
  5. Knives or scissors - sharp objects symbolize that you want to sever a friendship.
  6. Cut Flowers -  yellow Chrysanthemums or any white flowers are given at funerals so are a reminder of death.
  7. Gifts in sets of four -  the Chinese word for "four" is too close to the sound of the Chinese word "death".  
  8. Shoes -  the word shoe sounds similar to break up. Also giving two shoes says you want them to  leave, thus, ending your friendship.
  9. Green Hats - a green hat refers to the phrase in Chinese implying a man’s wife is unfaithful. 
  10. Anything black or white - has a funeral connection. 

I find this all very interesting, but I can also see pitfalls at every turn.  I will keep reading, hoping to  reduce my blunders.   Despite, the potential snags, seeing and experiencing such a monumental occasion in an unfamiliar culture is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I'm swirling in anticipation, excitement and pleasure.

And, in the meantime, I'm having fun thinking about Brad and Yessi looking like this…

Yessi & Brad

We have a good-sized group going to the wedding:  In addition to Ed and I, also attending are Greg & Deb, Steph & Paul, Joe & Nancy, and Lisa & Aaliyah -- good friends all!   I am almost beside myself thinking about the wonder and honor of having all of these dear people at Yessi and Brad's Chinese wedding and visiting China with our family.  I feel deep gratitude.

We're sad Brad's dad, Barry, and his wife, Susan, cannot make it.  Susan's health does not allow for long distance travel and having Barry that far from home is of too much concern.  We will miss them both but will keep them showered with photographs.

Another fun activity underway is I've been busy gathering together gifts to distribute to Yessi's family.  Made in America, or at least not Made in China, is proving to be a challenge.   Keeping the weight down, and the cost modest, are challenges as well.  My package of gifts so far is about a foot square and weighs 10 pounds, at least.  Our island thrift stores have been  fabulous sources for little trinkets to tuck into the gift bags I've created.  Jams, honey, lotions and coffee, made on Whidbey Island, have been another wellspring.


"Life has taught us that love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction."

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Our Birthday Season

It is the season of our births.  I'm an August baby.  Ed is a September baby.  We are, naturally, feeling contemplative about the years lived and the years yet to live.   

Ed & Fran

It was just a small party.  Not a birthday party, just a gathering of long time friends, complete with Whidbey Island's notable food and talk. Not dissimilar from the many get togethers we'd attended over the years, yet different.  Changed in ways I should have seen coming, but I'd somehow missed.  Suddenly, everyone was old.  Stooped old. Overweight old. Creaky old.  Curmudgeonly old.  How did I not notice this happening? I'm fully aware that our once youthful town had grown into a town of gray haired retired folks.  But, not old, not really.  Just an aging population.   One-by-one we were living lives without the daily grind of work, but still standing upright, still alert, still active -- walking! hiking! biking! fishing! sailing! traveling! We were still fully engaged, perky even.
Yet, there was another thing I noticed at this party besides our physical condition. Our conversation content had changed too. Topics had subtly moved from the doing-of-life to the undoing-of-life.   The latest health crisis held our attention as we discussed the ways our bodies were unraveling.   We all nodded and listened and understood. After all, we're all standing in the same line. 
I'd had my own health crisis in 2013 with five surgeries and no energy to spare. My usual activities were simply too much and I had to bite my tongue to avoid talking about health-related issues. Now, two years later, I feel so much better I'm thinking I've simply bypassed old

Too old to play?  Not yet!

Then I look around at my peers and understand the depth of my self-deception. At 75 I see lots of obituaries of others my age. I stand up a little straighter and look aging in the eye-balls and say, "No, not yet!" I still have things to do. I'm thinking, 105 might give me enough time. Might!!! Or perhaps my goal is 400 like a good friend who is hanging onto that number as her choosen life span. Her very cool doctor said, on her mentioning this to him, "let me know if there's any way I can help you with that."
The last two days I've gardened like a crazy woman pulling the salmonberry off a hillside, uprooting blackberries, uncovering and restoring a damaged woodland. This is the work I love and at the end of the day my arms are bleeding from thorn scratches. I am exhausted! My body is creaky, my feet are sore, but I am high as a kite. On this wonderfully windy day I feel frisky like Benton when he's on a rip with wind in his ears.

Benton, the Cutest Aussie Ever

A glass of wine, food, an aspirin, and sleep heal me. It feels good to kick all those years-of-my-life in the butt! Tomorrow I bike, kicking my ol' butt two days in a row.
And I read, in this season of our births, Being Mortal, Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande, a surprisingly upbeatish book about aging.   Do read it!

“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.” 
~ Andy Rooney 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Yessi Ye

As part of my adventure blog I've inserted posts about my family.  It's through their eyes, as well as my own, that I see our world.  I've written about my mom and dad, my husband and more recently my son. I have yet to write about the newest member of our family, Yessi.

Sometimes things kinda just happen to us, pretty much out of our control, and sometimes these things are of pure delight.  Yessi came to us this way.  Unexpectedly, from a far off land, and in the form of pure delight.  She and Brad met in New Zealand toward the end of their 2012 solo adventures.

Yessi had been in New Zealand because her country offered 1000 young English-speaking Chinese an opportunity to visit.  Yessi applied and was selected.  Suddenly, this young woman, raised in a traditional Chinese manner, was exploring another country -- working, traveling and testing her classroom English.  It's with awe I look at her courage to just up and go it alone. 

Yessi with brother, sister-in-law, mother
and nieces

Yessi with her mother, father and brother

When in NZ, she hitchhiked...

She skydived...

She kayaked…

And, she hooked up with this guy…

Yessi & Brad

When Brad and Yessi's solo adventures were over, she returned to China and Brad returned to the U.S.  I suspect everyone, including Yessi and Brad, thought that was that, but the communication continued and visits back-and-forth began to happen.  First Brad travelled to China.

And, while there why not Nepal?

Brad & Yessi, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
(Yessi's first long hike.)

Yessi came to the U.S.  Returned to China.  Came back again.  Her mom and aunt came to visit.  The chance meeting of two strangers in New Zealand was blossoming.

Road trip to California

 Hiking, Big Sur, California

Snow play whenYessi's mother and aunt come to U.S. for a visit.

Christmas in Langley

As a result of all this back-and-forth, look what happened...

April 20, 2014

To say we are pleased is an understatement.  We are delighted.  First, we have a wonderful daughter to call our own, plus she makes our son so very happy.


"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."

~ Angela Schwindt

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Oh, The Places You'll Go!"

"You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own.  And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go…"

~ Dr. Seuss
 Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Sometimes when things get tough you take a walk.  Sometimes when things get really tough you take a very long walk.  This nation's economic downturn was really tough on Brad's newly formed business setting off his 5,000-mile, take-a-very-long-walk, 2012 hiking adventure.  First, he trekked the TeAraroa Trail in New Zealand; followed by the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States; and then the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.   The first two trails he hiked solo, and the third with Yessi, soon to be his wife.   Earning the trail name, Freestyle, Brad learned to "dance", the dance of life.

After a year's sojourn of monumental accomplishment and reflection, plus a recuperating economy, Brad returned to Whidbey Island ready to hit restart.  

Brad jumps for joy on finishing the TeAraroa Trail, NZ


 Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Yessi, soon to be our wonderful daughter-in-law,
Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

(If you're interested in more trail adventures, see Brad's blogging, (2012) and my blogging, (2012).

When Brad was three, I became a single mom.  He and I remained just-the-two-of-us for a number of years.  Yes, others were part of our lives, but we bonded as a twosome.  I was his mom and his friend; he was my kid and good buddy.  Between school and work and home responsibilities, we camped, skied, biked, hiked, kayaked and kicked the soccer ball together.

Brad (middle) riding time trials at Seward Park, Seattle

Celebrating the finish of a week-long kayak outing,
Desolation Sound, B. C.

Coming into this life at high speed, with a 6 hour delivery from start to finish, proved to be just Brad's style -- fast and intense!    As a kid, after a day of hard play he never balked at bedtime.    Asleep in seconds.  Of course, I had help raising him once he reached age five.  Brad got a dog, a beautiful collie, with the money he received for his 5th birthday.  He named his new puppy, Bingo.

Brad & Bingo

 There was a farmer had a dog,
And Bingo was his name-o.
And Bingo was his name-o!

There was a farmer had a dog,
And Bingo was his name-o.
(Clap) -I-N-G-O!
(Clap) -I-N-G-O!
(Clap) -I-N-G-O!
And Bingo was his name-o!

Somehow, entirely on his own, Bingo figured out putting Brad to bed at night was his job.  Curling up on the foot of the bed, he stayed there until Brad was fast asleep.  A short time later here came Bingo, job done, to join the adults downstairs.    I've always said, I don't know how a kid can be raised properly without a dog, and Bingo set out to prove me right.    Bingo was Brad's friend, playmate, protector, sibling and parent.

Brad, Fran & Bingo

I could never have anticipated the depth of my feelings for the 6.8 lb. baby boy who arrived with a rush early on the morning on July 13, 1968.   This little creature was beautiful, warm and smelled like heaven.    I was drunk with happiness.   Being Brad's mom has been a highlight of my life!

Toddler years

College years

Our beautiful Fredley Home was designed and built by Brad, but we all pitched in together.  Working with our adult child was a tribute to the relationships we'd developed and the result is a statement of his creativity and skill in designing and building us the best home we've ever lived in.

Ed, Fran & Brad 

 dbBrad,  Design ~ Build
 Sustainably-Minded Design and Construction

And then Brad brought us more joy, Yessi.

Brad's dad, Barry, escorting Yessi down the aisle

"I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist
 until you love a child."

~ Anne Lamott