Sunday, September 30, 2012

{Kindess Never Hurt Anyone}

There's something that's been on my mind lately that I'd like to share with you. In the midst of this political season, like every other, the divisive and razor sharp judgements abound on the internet. People grow bold with the anonymity of the internet, and comfortable with words exchanged via social media that I think would be much more hesitantly shared in person. I'm not, however wanting to talk about politics today, as it's not something I like to engage in as openly as others. Today I'd like to talk about grammar.

First, I'd like to throw out a LARGE disclaimer that I am NOT perfect, and I'm positive that you'll find at least one spelling or grammatical error in each of my posts.

With that out of the way, I have to say I've come a long way in terms of grammar. I never considered myself a great writer, but with time and education I feel that I can at least communicate effectively using the written word. Being a teacher, I've learned all the rules and mechanics and stay familiar with them as I've taught English this past year. I've been friends with people who have been sticklers for correct grammar, and have pushed myself to improve. I've even been accused of being one myself every now and again.

When I met Jeff, we were at very different places in our education and outlooks on what we deemed important in life. He's a self-described street savvy person, who has never found it easy learning from books in a traditional setting. In my two years of knowing him I have seen him push himself to read more, learn more, and especially since we've been in China, write more.

Admittedly early on I may have been overly critical and insensitive with reading and editing his initial essays and papers for class. It took humbling on my part to realize that he was doing his best to better himself in a skill that was never properly encouraged or nourished by educators and those around him. After a re-evaluation of how I approached reading Jeff's writing, He started to write more. He's written several passages of experiences he's had since living here in China. Some of them have been put on this blog. They started out simply, and sometimes confusing. As he's written more, he's improved on his mechanics and spelling, and flow. I'm always impressed by how much each piece he writes seems to reflect the kind of communication that Jeff is so great at in person. While he still  has growing yet to do, I am so very proud of his willingness to push himself to step out of his comfort zones to perpetually learn, hone his ability to effectively communicate through written word, and share with others his hidden potential.

I know that to some of you simple grammar and spelling mistakes can be annoyances as you browse your news feeds and blogs. I've been there. Today I hope to ask you to think a little more carefully before you criticize a person that you might consider ignorant, or careless in their language. Everyone is in their own stage of learning and you never know how hard someone may be working to shine through. It's easy to type a snide quip at another s expense, but once said, clicked, and sent - like spoken word, it cannot be retrieved.

A great rule of thumb: Kindness never hurt anyone [on the internet].


{Snapshot Portrait}

On the bus heading back home after church today we, not unlike EVERY time we get on a bus in public drew some attention to ourselves. This tiny old man, who probably gets his fair share of stares with his miniature stature found Jeff to be fascinating and was almost sheepish in his attempts to communicate with  us. Getting bolder in our time here, I gestured that I wanted to take his picture. He at first was emphatically against it, and unlike most Chinese, I respected that and didn't take his picture. Then, after a minute or two of smoothing his shirt and hair, he indicated that he was ready, leaned in toward Jeff and smiled. Too bad I'm a lousy photographer and caught him looking away. Still, you can tell he smiles a lot, and his happy spirit shines through.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

{Reflections on an Adventure}

Tonight as I make dinner and clean the kitchen, I looked out over Suzhou, and from our apartment the view is awesome.   And with our time coming to an end here in China, it’s made me think of the adventure we have had, the things we have seen, the people we have met, the food we have tried and what an experience  this has been.

I am so glad I have been able to spend this last year in China and to have shared it with Ashley.  I never thought I would get to see much of the world, so I tried to see as much of the states as I could.  I do have to say that there is nothing like going somewhere, where you are so odd that people on bikes hit cars while staring at you, or drivers of cars stare so hard that they hit the car in front of them causing pileups.  Or for that matter, I never imagined sitting at a bus stop and having people come up to me to talk to me in a foreign language, and even though I tell them I don’t understand  they still speak a mile a minute. Old ladies love to walk up to me and pet the hair on my arms and legs, and make fun of me because I’m in shorts outside in weather below 90 degrees. 

On the flip side of that coin, the people here can be great, and are so willing to help you as much as they can.  Like the sweet lady at the vegetable stand who has tried to teach me how to say the different foods in Chinese.  The neighbor that helps when the guy selling fruit is trying to take avenge of us. The guy who I met on facebook named Tommy who has taken so much of his time to help find Jack a new home, and has helped me with anything I needed help with (If you want to add him on facebook his name is “Tommy LVL” and I know he would love to talk to anyone that would take the time, it helps his English, and he is a great guy. So fill his friend list).

And when you talk about the people here you have to talk about the people we have met at church. The warmth and caring that the people have here is awesome.  They take you in and make you family, and are always willing to help you make your time in China easier.

Being a fat guy I seem to gravitate to the subject of food. We both love the food her and I have learned how to make some of it. I also have a cook book that is in Chinese and English, and there will be Chinese food night at the McLemore’s home in the future!  We have also learned how to cook with almost nothing and have made some of the most accomplished dishes here with limited resources.
All an all I am so glad we spent this time in China for the last year.  Ashley and I have gotten closer and know that we picked the right pain in the butt to spend our lives with.  

I am EXCITED to be coming home, but at the same time I will miss the friends and home we have made here.


{My Birthday}

As some of you know I don’t celebrate my birthday. I haven’t celebrated my birthday in a long time… A VERY long time.  But, I have married someone who is so thankful that I am here that she will not let me miss my birthday and tries relentlessly to make it a great day. 
Last year she went above and beyond to make sure it was a great day and I never told her thank you. This year she couldn’t make too big of a deal about it but she tried.  She is a great person and I am so thankful I have her in my life.

Ashley I know I don’t say it enough, but thank you for loving me the way you do. I’m so glad you are with me and that you try to show me how much you care about me.  I love you and the way you go the extra mile. 

And thank you to the friends of mine that support her nonsense. You guys are awesome, and it was a good one. 


{Pumpkin Pie}

After a chat with some of the girls at work, I was dismayed that none of them had had pumpkin pie before. That combined with my wistfulness over missing fall in Ky, lead to a morning of baking. Jeff found me [half] a pie pumpkin ( because it's completely normal to find produce sliced and sold by sections in China) and by the time I got to work this afternoon I had scrumptious little pumpkin pies to share with everyone.  They aren't the prettiest things I've ever made, but they were a rousing success with some tough critics!

Happy Fall!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

{Happy Birthday Jeff}

Jeff doesn't like celebrating his birthday. We're working on it. Last year there was a mandatory surprise party that marked his first birthday married to an awesome woman. This year he got to spend his birthday in China. While there aren't whole lot of people here to help me force this man into celebration, I did manage to make the morning noteworthy with some home-made biscuits and gravy from scratch.* We've come so far with cooking in China with the meager instruments we have. I'm super proud.

Happy Birthday Jeff!

*Jeff helped with the gravy. He's just better at it than I am.

Awesome Super Easy Recipe For Biscuits

2 cups All Purpose Flour (An entire bag of flour costs less than 1 can of biscuits, fyi.)
1 Tbs baking powder (The stuff in the white can, not the stuff in the orange box that you can also brush your teeth with or add in with your laundry!)
1 Tsp salt
1 Tbs granulated sugar (That's the stuff you put in your coffee, not the stuff you find on doughnuts. Mmmm....doughnuts.)
1/3 cup of shortening (Use margarine. It's cheap and you don't have to worry about accidentally buying lard...which would work, but your Hebrew and Muslim friends couldn't join you for breakfast.)
1 cup of milk (If you use one of the non-milks like soy or almond, this recipe is vegan. But, I guess if you're vegan you know that already. Carry on.)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. I know the packaged biscuits only say 375, but that's because their chemical additives make them weak!
In a large-ish bowl (The one you use to make cookies in should be fine. You don't make cookies from scratch? Well, that's a discussion for another day. Also, your family doesn't love you as much as they could.*) mix together all the dry ingredients. Cut in the margarine. That means to cut up the margarine into cute little square pats and put them into the bowl. Then, mix in the margarine (I've found hands work best for this...but when do they not?) until what's in the bowl resembles coarse meal. Gradually stir in the milk until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If your dough seems too sticky, add a tablespoon or two more flour. If it's too dry, add more milk.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (like your counter top, or a large cutting board placed on top of your counter top). Knead the dough. You don't want to over work it. Just until there are no sticky parts. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Use a round cookie cutter (or the rim of a glass if you're cool like me) to punch out the biscuits. Or, you could just pull off a little less than a handful and call them drop biscuits, if presentation means nothing to you.
Place the cut outs onto a greased cookie pan. Place in the oven for 13 to 15 minutes, or until the tops and edges start to brown.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

{ Ladies and Gentlemen... My husband}

" So what I got from reading your post yesterday is that when you walk around in China, you're Deuce, and I'm the giant lady. And when we walk down the street all I hear people say is " Freak!"

Apparently I need to update my film list.


Saturday, September 22, 2012


For the past year everywhere I go I have been the most interesting thing to look/stare/gawk at within a 3 block radius ( Unless I'm with Jeff, in which case HE'S the most interesting thing to look/stare/gawk/take pictures of/with in a 3 block radius... or more).

I'm so very much looking forward to being invisible and ordinary.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

{Fashion is Danger}

As in it would be dangerous for me to walk in these. Chinese fashion summed up in a few pairs of shoes.



There's a lot that should be said but hurts too much right now, sufficient to say we are going to miss this little guy a whole great big much.

Good Boy.


{Today wasn't a date}

" What's your definition of a date, then? "
" A planned event where one person asked the other in advance and pays for the whole thing. "
" Fine. Tonight, I'm taking you to dinner. You're going to wear a nice shirt and pants, and afterwards we're going for a walk. I'll pick you up at  7. Be ready."

He had never been picked up for a date before. They had Chinese food in a candlelit restaurant. She ordered for the both of them. Walking along the path in the Arboretum afterward she hopped onto a park bench to meet his height. He went for a kiss, and missed. She blushed, and kept walking.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

{The Brightside}

*Today's post is brought to you by the colors yellow and grey. *

Of all the things we have to do as grown-up individuals, my very least favorite are moving, packing, resumes, applications, and interviews. I've done all of them far too many times since college, and I'm very content with the idea of settling down for a while. None of these things are what I'm looking forward to coming back to in our transition back to Kentucky.

Want to know what I am excited about? (Aside from family, friends, and a whole list of state-side luxuries)
Apartment/House browsing. Not the actually fill out applications and pay deposits. Just the search. There's something about the search for places to live that opens up your imagination to possibilities and the idealism of what you want your dream home to be like. Yes, I'm clicking through the housing strictly in my budget range... but let's be honest, I'm also clicking on those sneaky ones that just a few... hundred... thousand...or so out of it. I can't help it.

Who WOULDN'T want a grey shingled house with yellow shudders and sun-room? Complete with big well established trees and lush yard I would die and go to heaven living in this simple but perfect house.
Ooooooh and vaulted ceilings, and rustic floors with rugs and flooding natural light. Yes please!
I have seen the barn door implemented in a couple of designs and I can't really explain why I like it so much, aside from the fact that I do. I guess it blends the loft style concept that I fell in love with as a kid watching "Ghost", and the shabby-chic romanticism that I naturally flock towards.
I'm suck a sucker for a claw foot tub, and one situated in a bathroom flooded with light and dark floors has my name all over it. This is where you would find me 90% of the time if it were my house.

Ahhhh to dream.

This is Jeff's "contribution" to the search*:


* I -think- he's joking.

Jeff's find ( WELL worth the read and other pictures):
Not quite the dream home I was hoping for...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

{Culinary Wish List}

We eat well for living in China. We really do. We've been blessed by having good friends to leave behind spices and left over pantry items, even better friends who go through enormous efforts to arrange care packages with tastes of home, and an expat rich community that blossoms western style restaurants and groceries so that we can always get a fix if we need it.

That being said... we, as fat people, have had some wanderlust over food lately, especially with the new knowledge that home is only three months rather than another year away. Perhaps it's in poor taste to make a list like this, but I'm doing it anyway. Here's a list of the places and food we're going to be visiting when we get home:

  • IHOP - Bacon. French Toast. Sausage. Colorado Omelet. Pumpkin Pancakes with Butter Pecan Syrup. Stretchy Pants.
  • Taco Bell - This one is all Jeff. Though I'm sure it will involve the destruction of a lot of tacos. and Mt. Dew. 
  • BBQ - Oh so much BBQ. 
  • Frozen Yogurt - This one is all me, but it WILL include a girl date and pedicures. 
  • Hamburgers - Cheeseburgers. Bacon Cheeseburgers. Monster Thick Burgers. Hugh Jass Burgers. Burgers with burgers on top. Mostly we just miss BEEF. It's so expensive here, so we've only had it a few times. 
  • Steak - Medium Rare ( Jeff just gagged... he'll get over it) with a bottle of A-1. It's gonna happen. Grilling in the snow. That's what boots are for.
  • Butterfingers - and chocolate. Really. They suck at it here. I don't even like chocolate all that much. 
  • Chinese food - Don't laugh. We're serious. The food in China is yummy but NOTHING like your run of the mill drive through/ delivery/ Chinese take-out in America. There will be some OM NOM NOMing of crab rangoon, egg rolls, general tsos chicken, sesame chicken, Mongolian beef, and beef and broccoli.
  • Gigi's Cupcakes - and baking in general is going to happen. So much baking. Kentucky's apples and pumpkins better run, we're coming, and we're hungry. 
  • Popeyes - This will take a drive to Louisville or farther, but it's going to happen. I never want to see another KFC in my life.
  • Fazolis - I miss you, bread sticks. I'm sorry I have forsaken you. I'll be back soon, we'll talk. Johnny Carinos, we'll be seeing you soon, too. Don't leave town.
  • Ice - and cold beverages in general. Yes, they exist in China, I will just enjoy the becoming the assumed preference, again.  
Who's up for helping us complete the list / work off the calories afterward?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

{Set In Stone}

Well, over the past three or four months we have bounced around different options for the next year. We've looked at international schools here in Suzhou that would pay twice as much as where I work now, Staying with Disney, and coming home.

We really love Suzhou. A lot. It's a comfortable place and we've grown accustomed to -most- of it's quirks. We could both see ourselves staying here for a while. That is... if we could ever find work for Jeff. Who is terribly bored. And beating every video game we buy in record time. And while he's become very popular with the locals in our neighborhood, been an immense asset to the church here, and a tour guide on more than one occasion, He misses having a job, and *sigh*, his guns.

With that taken into consideration, and recent events developing at home, we both made the final decision this week to come home - a stunning 19 days early. We found great deals on tickets, have put notice at work, and are making our budget out for the final months that we are here. Unfortunately, this also means finding a home for Jack ( the hardest part of this whole thing right now). We've grown attached to him, and he would have been one of the bigger reasons for staying longer, giving us time to save up money to bring him home with us. Luckily, there seems to be some interest floating around, and I'm sure that we'll find him the perfect fit with someone here before we leave.

So now we are officially down to three months left in China, with so much to do, and now so little time. My dear friend Ashley Fister will be here in October to get her own taste of China and head down to Hong Kong Disney Land while I still have the passes, which I'm elated about. We've still got a ton of sights to see that sadly, we won't have the money to do this time around, and so many tasks to carry out in order to be ready to leave and arrive back in Kentucky.

So much excitement. So much stress. So much to do.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

{ I Love My Mom}

I'm having a rough day today processing difficult news from home. Life had been tough for our family the past couple of years. We've had more than our fair share of accidents, sickness, and death. I'm always impressed with how other members in my family seem to rise to each occasion and transform into something even more amazing, while I feel useless, cowardly, and diminished. My mother has been sick since November 2010. When she first got her diagnosis she was given 4 to 6 months life expectancy. We were devastated, but confident in the tenacity of my mother's will power and the care of doctors. Operations, Chemo, and Radiation have extended her time on this Earth and has given us all the opportunity to strengthen our relationships with her.

My brother, Tyler, left to go on his LDS mission in February of 2011, the same month I married Jeff. It was a tough decision for him to make, but was one he chose to follow and has been a blessing in his and all of our lives. It's been amazing to carry on a written communication with and witness the amazing personal growth and insight he has gained. My mother made the personal goal to stick around to see him return in February of 2013. So far, so good. She's a tough bird and fights for what she wants.

When Jeff and I made the decision to move to China in October it was met with dynamically mixed reviews. Jeff and I had to make some financial and work decisions that would have lasting impact, and knew that for us moving to China and my teaching here for a period of time would be a solution to some problems. However, it also meant leaving family behind, and being absent during a turbulent period in my mother's life, and the rest of my family in turn. I regret the way things were handled, and things that were said in the heat of emotion. I miss my mother and don't get to communicate with her as frequently as I would like. It's very hard and frustrating knowing the trials and pain my parents are going through and not being able to step in and do anything.

As my mother's health declines, and my family members take on more burden, I am ever grateful to those who keep persisting with desires of help, assistance, and comfort to them. I come from a proud and independent family. We have had many lessons in humility and service the past two years, with more to come, I'm sure. I'm grateful to those who have worked with my mother and have given her friendship and respect, and have allowed her to transition out of her job in a way that allowed her to keep her dignity.

While I don't know all the details, I was told that she has made the decision to end her chemo treatments.  I don't know how this is going to affect her progress, her goals, or the near future. I knew that this would eventually come, and I know how it progressed with my grandmother. It's still hard. I'm not sure exactly how to feel, or how to act. I'm notorious for mishandling feelings and interactions with others. I'm not very good at expressing to others how I feel.  I'm better at ignoring grief than confronting it. I'm extremely frustrated at the helplessness of my geographical location.

I love my mother so very much. She and I are two very dynamic and stubborn people. I have always been a headstrong daughter who has always been insistent on being independent in my decisions and thinking, and she has always been as patient and understanding with me as she was able. We've found ourselves in conflict with each other much of my life because of my stubbornness, and I really didn't start to develop a great friendship with her until I was in college with a little distance to gain perspective. While she and I haven't achieved the level of closeness she had with her mother, I have always maintained an amazing respect for my mother and the amount of tenacity and steadfastness she has in her nature. There was never a project she set her mind to that she did not complete to the level of perfection she set out to achieve.  She is a talented woman who has a knack for creating things although she never gave herself enough credit. Even though we have differing opinions on most things, it never stopped me from going to her to vent or get her perspective on things going on in my life.

The thought of not being there when/if something happens to my mother is a difficult one to handle, although I knew when I left that it was a likely reality. I've been pondering whether or not I would come to China again if I were given the chance to do things over. For now, I don't think I would have done anything differently. The experience has given Jeff and I a chance to grow in our independence, and share important experiences here. It's also given my mother and father the opportunity to have time together without interference from children for the first time in 25 years. Will I have regrets? Probably. Most likely. Absolutely. Thankfully, I have the comfort of my faith and religion and the knowledge that I have eternities to share with my mother and family after this life. 

If you know my mother or family, please keep them close in your prayers. They are soldiering on, and she is the bravest of us all, but could always use the extra support and positive energy.

I'm sorry if this is a little incoherent. Sometimes emotions do that.

Love and hugs [needed],