the end of sojournaling… i think

Since springtime the blog has been quiet. Not because nothing has been going on, but because it feels like EVERYTHING is going on and I barely have time to read email much less keep up with this tiny space.

So what’s kept me away from blogging you ask (or maybe not, but here it is anyway):

-Launching IndiAanya a blog for Indian women in August

– Travel to and from the and around the US during the summer, then again unexpectedly.

– News of a new baby Freeman arriving in February 2014 and the usual fatigue and such that go along with it.

– The beginning of AshaBelle an income generation business for women trying to climb out of the poverty based in Delhi/Atlanta.

– Every day life and all its joys and trials and life with four other little loves.

– And a whole bunch of other stuff in-between that tends to come up when you live overseas.

This has meant I’ve pulled back from personal blogging and writing, too. And in all that I feel like sojournaling and I have grown apart, so to speak. This space I started four years ago because we were moving to the other side of the world doesn’t feel like “home” anymore. Like I’ve moved on, in a way.

Honestly, I’m not really sure why that is, but it just is.

So, I’ve starting a new blog at www.kwfreeman.com and I hope you’ll move over there with me as I make the switch. (sometimes you just need a change!)

There, I plan to share the ups and downs of starting a business, being a mom of 5 and the other things that energize, keep me awake at 2 a.m., etc.

So unless I have a huge change of heart, Sojournaling will soon be coming to an end in the near future. Sniff. Sniff. Thanks for coming along on the journey!

the perfect post. really.

This gallery contains 1 photo.

There was a post I worked on today, but it just didn’t jive with me, it didn’t ring true. So I scrapped it because something else has been on my mind lately and I’m guessing I’m not the only one … Continue reading

a slow start

To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement… Anybody can have ideas–the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph. – Mark Twain

Thus far, it’s been a slow start to the year as far as writing goes. Perhaps it’s the fact that my kids have been out of school since December 23rd and I’m living on mere slivers of quiet time and 3 cups of tea (I usually drink one) a day.

Or perhaps it is because the house is drafty and cold and if I’m not near a heater when I’m sitting still I’d just rather go to bed and burrow under my three blankets.

Or maybe it’s the holiday blahs I get this time of year when you want to have family and old friends around to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year with, but living thousands of miles away makes that impossible. And skype just doesn’t cut it. Sorry, it doesn’t.

And taxi drivers. What do they have to do with writing? Nothing. But they stress me out and I need to talk about it. There, I feel better already.

Perhaps I could blame those external reasons, especially the taxi drivers, but when the truth comes out, and for me it always does, I have to admit I’ve been scared of writing.

As I sit down and stare at the screen I’ve felt overly self-conscious about words looking back at me. I question my voice– is it really me? I question my motives, my grammar, my creativity. Too many drafts started with no hope of completion. So instead I run from writing and hang out on Facebook and at Downton Abbey. The people there don’t press on me for too much and there’s nothing at stake. It’s a no-pressure relationship.

It’s also wasted time– well, maybe not Downton– the clothes, the snobbery, the beauty of Downton and the Dowager’s one-liners. Sigh.

Anyway. Here, on this little blog, I feel like I should somehow have evolved from my cross-cultural ranting to actually being helpful. And quite honestly, I’m not sure what that looks like here, but it’s the direction I want to go in.

You see, I have an idea of what my passions are and the sort of community I’d love to have in this little corner of the world, but to put them out where everyone can see and to try to build something here means I have to actually do something that I’m not quite ready for yet.

Mysterious enough for you? I know, it’s absurd.

So for now, words are scary. They just are. And I’m sorting out my purpose and passions and hoping I’ll have clarity on this sooner than later which means the blog might be quiet for a while. Or maybe not.

Aren’t you glad you stopped by?

Gratefulness and Air-conditioning

cherriesAs I wrestle with the words that want to be written and wonder if I’ll ever be able to really say all that I want and need to say, I thought I might share something that came to mind today after reading something I read on FB (vague enough for you?).

It was a status update that unintentionally reminded that I need to be more grateful. Really grateful. Not just a little bit because I feel guilty, which is so easy to do here. But truly grateful because it’s the posture that gives me the best chance for finding joy in the mundane and beauty in the ordinary. Or what some might call, “My Life.”

So, until I can get some of the other stuff out that’s been brewing around in my head for months now, I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into a summer in Delhi and the things I’m most grateful for today.

This is exciting stuff, so don’t miss this.

Okay. Well, first of all I’m VERY grateful for air-conditioning. It’s averaging at about 109 degrees every day. When the power goes out, we melt or just sit very still under the fans as they blow hot air on our sweaty heads. We get snappy and frustrated at each other and hate people who are going to the beach and swimming in blue pools back home. But when there is power we like people back home again and are a little less snappy because our apartment is sort of cool. And hey, we at least have AC in every room which is more than most people in this city have during these long months when it’s just dry, dusty and of course, blazin’ hot.

Second, I’m grateful for health. I know, as soon as I write this we’re going to be hit with the plague, or typhoid or an amoeba or something they don’t even have a cure for. But for today, we are all healthy, albeit a little tired from the aforementioned heat.

Thirdly, I’m grateful for a time to slow down, sleep in, eat summer fruits and not have to go to the bus stop. I hate the bus stop. It’s on a main street and I still get the “best” looks from people passing by. Thankfully I’ve mastered a somewhat blank look that tries not to make eye-contact but is fully aware of all the attention I’m getting because I’m not from around these parts. No bus stop = no mid-day stressful cultural interactions. Yay!

Finally, I’m grateful that I’m beginning to dream again and that maybe the fog is lifting and I won’t be scared of my keyboard anymore. I’ve been terrified of it as of late for reasons that would make sense only to me and it’s time to get back to doing what used to be life-giving. I’m easing back in slowly, but I’m finally moving in the right direction.

So gratefulness. It’s good stuff and something we need more of around this place as week four out of seven of summer break is in full  swing around here and the natives are getting restless and we may or may not have watched three movies during the course of the day.

You do what you have to do to survive, right?

looking back on the journey

My four-year-old just ate her third cream cracker covered in artificial jam and started her second viewing of an alphabet cartoon. It’s educational so I’m okay with it. She’s occupied for thirty minutes and Sugar Baby is sleeping so this might be my only chance today to think clearly  so I’m going to take it.

I’ve ruminated on the journey I’ve been on– moving to the other side of the world; having our fourth child; losing my mind, then getting it back (somewhat).  It’s not been what I’ve expected in many ways.

We have been in India for 2.5 years and it’s been quite the adventure. One I never dreamed of and one I’ve fought. Hard. Before we came and even after we arrived I fought it because I knew it would mean a different life for me than the one I had envisioned. And the fighting added to the struggle instead of making it easier. Funny how that works, isn’t it? Wrestling with something for years takes a toll on a soul. At least it did on me and those around me.

But it feels like I’ve had an internal shift. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have what I call too-much-culture days when I need to recharge in the privacy of my own home for a few days.The differences between here and home are vast. But those types of days are not as frequent and they don’t completely undo me like they once did. And by undo me I mean anxiety, depression and sometimes panic attacks. THAT kind of undo.

Life is better now. Not easier, but better because I’ve given up trying to control everything.

So why was life such a challenge here at first, you ask? So imagine you are an overly critical American who has moved to India and had your worldview challenged at every turn. You have no control over anything (or so it seemed). When you have to cook solely with a microwave for several weeks and don’t know where to buy chicken or cheese because there are only a few stores where you can buy meat AND groceries and we live nowhere near them. Where I couldn’t even cook a proper meal for my family, keep my house clean or drive a car anywhere. And the monsoon rains arrived with us and I thought I might melt from the heat, humidity, frequent power outages and no inverter to even run fans. And not to mention the sensory overload every time I walked out of the house. Yes, I became a bit critical those first years.

Okay, very critical. And alone. Life had challenges I felt unprepared for and quite frankly didn’t want. I don’t like hard places, most of us don’t. BUT…

While I would not relive our first two years here for any amount of dollars or rupees, I can say now that I’m glad I lived through them and they are a part of who I am. And hopefully I’m a bit stronger for it. Hopefully. Now that’s progress if you ask me.

So that’s where I am as we approach the halfway point in year three. And I still need to find a place around that sells tender (not chewy) chicken and possibly bacon (I miss bacon!). And we still have mosquitoes biting us at night and I still try not to make eye contact with roaming wildlife. But on a positive note I have working AC’s, mosquito wands that zap and decent cheese. I think I can manage with that.

day in the life

There is always reverse culture shock when you go from an extremes– like from India to the US or the US to India. Having just been back earlier this year I didn’t expect I would need “transition” time, but I as is the case often times, I was mistaken.

It has taken me a few weeks to get back into “American” mode and even by that I don’t exactly mean it in the fullest sense–I’m not sure that’s even possible anymore. When you live somewhere for a time, not just visit, whether you like it or not it becomes a part of you and it is not easy to jump back into being (nor should you) the person you were before you left. Clear as mud, right? Perhaps some over-pondering has gone on as well.

Anyway. It’s been several, um, say about nine years since I’ve been in Georgia and around family during this time of year. When I arrived the leaves were beautiful and the skies were blue. I have to say how lovely it was to soak in the climate and sleep without the nuisance of mosquitoes buzzing around my head. But the holidays bring out so much of the materialism in our culture, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around what a balanced approach looks like in this area. It’s been a little stressful honestly for reasons I can’t fully articulate, so I’m just going to leave it at that.

But the food has been another story. Yes, the food has been wonderful. That may sound quite shallow, but there is something about my mom making biscuits (American ones, not cookies), gravy and bacon for breakfast that makes my heart happy, if not also clogged by all the grease. I’m also very pregnant, which doesn’t help either. Cravings can now be fulfilled and believe me I’m making the most of my A) ability to drive myself places and B) the beauty that is the Publix Bakery. Cherry Danish anyone?

I’m also resting. Which is something I’m not always good at doing when we come into town for visits. But this seems like a time in life when I’m not overly concerned with taking care of anyone but me and this little baby boy who should be making an appearance any day now. My current goal is to make it through the next week after that… well, I have no idea. I’m learning to live with the tension that exists in life or my life at least. That’s probably not very American, but it seems to be human as none of us really know what tomorrow holds no matter how much we plan.

Life really is just moment-by-moment.

So in this moment, I’m finishing my lemonade, eating a peanut butter cup and enjoying a pumpkin spice-scented candle. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll do some more nesting-type things like cleaning bathrooms, sewing and vacuuming. But probably I’ll just eat a bag of Doritos, watch a video with my daughter and monitor the flight status of my boys who will be arriving here, finally, tomorrow night after five weeks of separation. I’m very much looking forward to the moment they arrive and the big hugs from our guys. Being together again will be good for us all.

Tuesday’s Not-So-Deep Thoughts

Sitting down today with a cup of tea in one of my favorite tacky coffee mugs, I see that I completely neglected the month of September. I love September, nothing against it at all. But I just didn’t have it in me to blog or even check the stats. I didn’t actually write much at all in any form which lets me know that something is going on internally– just what exactly I still haven’t figured out.

But I’m back to blogging at least for today. I suppose I should since someone from Nigeria just checked it and the post on the homepage is a bit old. I figure if you’re going to go to the trouble of looking at my blog from Nigeria I ought to do a better job at keeping it up-to-date. We’ll see if I can swing it for October.

So there’s a ton going on right now. Isn’t that always the case? Just most of it isn’t exactly interesting to everyone outside my close circle of family and friends. Unexpected travel plans, painful conversations, and question marks galore seems the way of it– not exactly blog-o-rrific stuff. Because if you’re like me when you open your computer you have a limited amount of time to spend there and  you don’t just want  entertainment, you want to be moved, stirred into action, mentally stimulated, feel like you’re more connected. Right? You’re probably not so interested in the naval-gazing of a woman in her mid-thirties who is still trying to figure out what in the world she’s doing with her life. Not that the old navel looks exactly the same in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy #4. Still. If you’re like me right now, you want more substance not fluff in your life.

So I’ve stewed over this idea during the past month (I’ve stewed quite a bit all around). How do make this blog a bit more substantive and worth your time? How to be authentically me and helpful in some way? And I have to say that I’m coming up nil, though my desire is to use my words to make some sort of difference in the world–which is what I think most women I know want on some level.

And as for the fiction writing, well, Little Miss Perfection is stuck in another rut and her Steady Eddie Charging Right Along Husband wonders how to motivate her. If you or someone you know is a perfectionist (an INFP type of personality) you know what I’m talking about. If you are the spouse to said perfectionist and have lived to see the end of a large, lingering project maybe you can start a support group and ask my husband to join. Please.

So the goal for October is simple– to find the Muse again (read The War of Art if you don’t know what I’m talking about). To write more and think less (trust me it’s better this way). And to look for inspiration in news places since the old ones feel too familiar and tapped out at the moment. Any suggestions?

Where do you find inspiration for creative endeavors? And how do you keep the creative juices flowing when they feel like they’ve dried up? Inquiring minds want to know.

don’t lose your twirl

When we were children most of us remember twirling around and around until we fell dizzily backwards onto the summer grass, eyes closed waiting for our heads to catch up with the rest of our bodies. That sort of happy/sick feeling inside twirling gave us made us want to do it again as soon as we could stand up straight. Unless, of course you had to stop because you twirled yourself right into a wall or table or your cousin’s head–  this is just hypothetical, of course.

Recently my daughter was twirling, as she is prone to do, when suddenly she stopped mid-twirl and told me quite frankly, “Mom, I hope I don’t lose my twirl.” For a second my heart froze. She was saying that she couldn’t imagine a time when she would no longer want to spin around furiously and swish her skirt in a very princessy sort of way. But to me it touched on a tender spot and I’ve pondered her words ever since.

Why do we grow up and lose our twirl, our sense of wonder and romance and endless possibility? Surely I wasn’t always this pragmatic–was I? No, I’m certain I wasn’t. I was like her– twirling around, dreaming about kissing my Prince on the lips and stuffing baby dolls up my shirt to pretending to be pregnant like mommy. I honestly thought I could be a princess some day. She’s like I was–twirling and all. She has big little girl dreams that she wants to see come true tomorrow. And honestly that scares me to death.

The truth is I can’t twirl anymore, not literally anyway. I get a little queasy just thinking about it. Something happened to me in my twenties to my head and now I get dizzy just staring up at the sky while I’m walking or watching 3D movies. And twirling? Not going to happen without me passing out. Or worse. So I guess you’d say I’ve lost my twirl. And lately it feels gone in more than in just a literal sense. Wonder, joy and awe replaced often with anxiety, fatigue and fear. Who can think of twirling when I’ve got all that holding my feet down like lead weights?

But this is not what I want for her. My dear, precious girl who is full of so much joy and kindness and determination. I want her to keep her innocence and free-spiritedness as long as possible–which seems increasingly difficult to manage in this world. Oh, that her heart would not be too bruised or damaged by others! But even if it is, I hope she can face these storms with the grace and fearlessness I’ve already seen in her.

This is the choice I hope she makes– to keep dreaming and dancing and loving with an open heart. To keep her twirl even when life is hard; when there are monkeys hanging around the neighborhood, the power is constantly going out and family and friends are far away. Again, speaking hypothetically.

And if by chance she ever loses her twirl, my deepest hope is that someday she would find it once again. Maybe I will, too.

musings on Downton Abbey

Most of you have heard of a little Masterpiece Classic series called Downton Abbey.  I saw everyone raving about it for a while on Facebook, but in my usual desire to stay behind-the-times, had resisted the temptation to get caught up in a British drama. I wasn’t even curious about it. I amaze myself sometimes.

But then a few weeks ago I was having a little bout with culture stress and decided I needed to turn my brain off for a while. So I did. In one week I watched Season 1 and Season 2. I relished afternoon nap-times and free evenings, just me and the colorful bunch of Downton residents. The days following my Downton ingestion I think I may have said a few words like the Dowager, a few like Mary, and when I was in the kitchen it may have been a little bit like Mrs. Patmore when she’s trying to get dinner on the table.  Needless to say I fell in love with the series as many of you have as well.

I’m going back now and watching the series a little more slowly and chewing on it a bit. As such I’m noticing things I didn’t see when I was solely interested in the plot development–particularly as it pertains to a pair of lovebirds I won’t mention right now. So here are a few musings from a new Downton fan. At this point I should warn you, there are spoilers in this blog post. There. You’ve been warned.

Meal Time Manners – I love that the family dresses up and has dinner together every night. It’s important and expected. Now, I’m not saying I’ll be putting on my black dress every evening (oh wait, black is just for mourning and girls in black don’t get kissed according to the Dowager Countess) but I could probably stand to not look like a Holly the Haggard Housewife, even if I feel like it some days. I also want our kids to know how to behave at the table and not lick their plates and eat mashed potatoes with their fingers. Sometimes I’ll look over and my sons haven’t even touched their forks and we’ve been eating spaghetti. And no offense to the Holly’s of the world, it started with an H.

Aesthetics are Essential- For me, this is definitely true. When my house is in order I feel better and even more productive. When there is an Evererst-sized pile of laundry, dishes covering every inch of counter-space and this house is in a state of disarray, I feel out of sorts. Downton Abbey and everyone in it is expected to look a certain way. Clean, orderly, inviting. The servants particularly have to be conscious of their appearance and their actions because…

More than Just a Servant they are representatives of the family they serve or at least this is what Carson hammers into them day after day. Some certainly see it as a just a job, but for many of the servants they feel the pride of being a part of something bigger than themselves and gain their identity from it. This easily applies to modern life, too. What do I represent to the people around me? When they see me what impressions of America, motherhood, Christianity, ect, do I leave people with? Scary thought.

People Need to Feel Useful Season 2 brought this truth out. This particularly applied to the women of Downton who rolled up their sleeves during the war and found out there was more to life than tea-time and fancy gowns. Others were left struggling to understand their place in a changing world–bless Lord Grantham’s heart! Even gentlemen need to feel a sense of purpose in their day-to-day lives, even if it is just managing a grandiose estate, having a weird, albeit brief liaison with a maid, and walking your dog.

British Love is Alive and Well I’m an American and I’ve always been fascinated by Britain like so many other ladies I know. And I confess I do wonder whether or not Brits find us at all interesting or if it is still a bit like Cora’s relationship with the Dowager Countess, who clearly thinks Americans far inferior, even though Cora has the money. Here’s a quote to the point: Cora (the American daughter-in-law) “I might send Mary over to visit my aunt. She could get to know New York.” The Dowager (played by Maggie Smith says) “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

So there you have it. Some of my observations. Feel free to leave your own below or let me know who your favorite character is… Mine’s Lady Mary with all her good and bad points she has tremendous to potential to be great or tragic. Ah, so long to wait until Season 3!