Saturday, November 29, 2008

Geocaching for Teens & Libraries!

Calling all teachers and librarians! This just in from Little Willow and quoted from the YALSA website: GITA, the Geospatial Information & Technology Association has a program called Location in Education where educators can borrow 10-15 GPS units.

I am a geocaching much so that my next novel features geocaching! Seek out your inner geek and tell your fave teachers and librarians to snag these devices. So fun!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry Friday: Buddhist Blessing

Traditional Buddhist Blessing and Healing Chant

Just as the soft rains fill the streams, pour into the rivers and join together in the oceans,

so may the power of every moment of your goodness flow forth to awaken and heal all beings--

those here now, those gone before, those yet to come.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Goodbye, China!

Zai jian, China!
Today the kids and I leave for Seattle. Permanently and prematurely. This isn't the ending to the China experience that I had planned. Or wanted. Or dreamed of for myself and the kids when we set out on August 17th.
However hard this ending has been, here are all the things I am most proud of...
  1. Our attitude! I am so proud of my kids and myself for having such a positive attitude about moving to another country. Another country whose language we don't speak or understand. There were some rough patches--like people making fun of us or staring at the kids for being mixed race. Strange, unfamiliar things often appeared on our plates or unwanted at our table. But we made our way through it all...and mostly with big smiles.
  2. Our created communities! The kids made so many good friends in did I. The people here--both locals and expats--have been nothing but wonderful and welcoming and so incredibly interesting. I am personally thankful for all the good people who have taken care of us--from Stacey and Richard (Seattle buds) to Emily Minor (wonderful blogger) to Yucca to my college BFF Shelli to my neighbors Barbara and Pam to Zhang Shifu and Sue Ayi. To new friends like Meg and John who remembered a story I was telling them weeks ago about a real Chinese cutting board...and then sourced one for me!!!! I am especially grateful to awesome kids with enormous heroic hearts who befriended my kiddos: Sophie, Martha, Olivia, Colleen, Matthew, Orion, and Mason.
  3. Our sense of adventure! We might not have known more than a handful of words to start, but the kids and I ventured all around Shanghai together--from ancient water towns to city parks to neighborhoods. We ordered local food at dives. We negotiated like pros at underground markets. We rode the subway. Heck, we rode camels on the sand dunes in the outermost reaches of China!
We leave China with our heads high. Our hearts full of love for all the good people who have surrounded us with care. And our minds ready for our next adventure.

Thanksgiving RAFTS in Shanghai

Moving once is hard enough. But moving twice internationally within three months? Let's talk worried mama bear syndrome here in Shanghai! I've been mulling over how to help my kiddos transition from Shanghai back to Seattle. A wonderful counselor shared with me the RAFT plan--saying goodbye in a healthy, healing way.

Reconciliation: reconcile with those who you've had a rift with during your stay. The kiddos and I have tried--each of us writing letters. Letters. And more letters.
Affirmation: affirm those who have helped you. We wrote even more letters to everyone who has shepherded us in Shanghai, protected us, mentored us, cared for us. I went to one of my favorite restaurants here in town, demanded to talk to the manager, and told him that I was sending my beloved driver to dinner there...and hoped they would provide the most excellent service in history for Zhang Shifu and his wife. They better. I want Zhang Shifu to feel affirmed with our love for him.
Farewell: say farewell to your favorite persons, places, and things. So we said goodbye to our favorite restaurants with great alacrity (can you say Shanghainese dumplings at Din Tai Fund?). And our favorite haunts and favorite people. We even snuck in an adventure today on Thanksgiving to have our portrait taken as we said goodbye to Shanghai lilongs (old neighborhoods) and shikumen houses.
Transition: prepare for the return knowing that while you have changed, home may not have. We have alerted all our friends of our impending return. And have had loooong talks about what we look forward to in Seattle...and what we don't (hmmm...gray gloomy overhead clouds?). That includes some traditional Thanksgiving food...

And people say that the Chinese eat weird stuff? Please. This marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole of American mystery somehow qualified as a VEGETABLE dish at our school potluck.

Today I am thankful for my sense of ADVENTURE. And for my peeps who share the same interest in life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

North of Beautiful: First Reviews

On one of my cruddiest days ever last week, my editor, Alvina Ling, let me know that the publishing house had tweaked my book cover. I love what they did for the final final cover, placing the compass rose directly on top of Terra's cheek. It's absolutely perfect and symbolic of my girl's port wine stain.

And then as yet another present, Alvina sent me the first teen reviews for my book. Reading each review really felt like opening gift after gift. Here's one of my favorites:

"Saying that the book, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley, is not just another teen book would be a complete understatement. Her book is truly a piece of art and written beautifully. North of Beautiful is a wonderful book and I would highly recommend it to all teenagers. Throughout North of Beautiful, Justina Chen Headley brings up questions like, what is beauty and what makes something beautiful. Headley shows the reader with her book, that physical beauty is not all beauty; beauty is beyond the outward appearance. One message I got from the book was that no one is perfect and what makes one different also makes one beautiful. Although her book may be in the fiction section, North of Beautiful is very real and inspiring. I'd like to thank Justina Chen Headley for writing the book and I think her book will touch many hearts and make a difference in one's life or thinking."
-Cassie, 17
Today I am thankful for my teen readers like Cassie who remind me why I write in the first place and why I write specifically for teens. Thank you for entering my worlds and spending time with my words. And most of all, thank you for understanding what I was trying to express. What makes a person different also makes her truly beautiful. You got it absolutely right. A+

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shanghai: Photo Essay on Mops

As I was out and about photographing the city several weeks ago, one of my Shanghai turnSTYLE interviewees challenged me to begin a photo essay on mops in China.

Mops? I thought. You've got to be kidding.

But as I looked more closely at the fabric-strung mops, I realized there really was something to her idea. Suddenly, I saw the grand ubiquity of mops everywhere in Shanghai: propped against windows, doors, trees. On sidewalks. Inside homes. Alongside shopfronts. And I noticed the grace of their bedraggled Medusan hair. And I saw a story unfold...

Wallflowers pretending to take a much-needed respite...

And looking pensively out the window for her prince to come...

And finally draped over her beloved in a passionate embrace!

Today I am thankful for people who ask me to look closer at the world.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shanghai: More Chinglish Signs

One of the most amusing parts of living in China has got to be finding Chinglish signs. Here's one we spotted at the Shanghai Wild Animal Park. Note: the Fried chicken flesh lump was remarkably tasty.

Today I am thankful for all things funny that make me giggle.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shanghai: Wild Animal Park

What is full of wild beasts and is wonderful in a terribly un-PC way? The Shanghai Wild Animal Park! Half of the park can be viewed only through tour buses which venture into corraled areas where cheetahs and tigers and bears roam relatively free. And then the other half of the park is like a zoo, animals in fairly naturalistic settings...including the adorable pandas!

Where else can you see a baby elephant sneaking in snacks while the zoo keeper is gazing off in the distance?

Where else can you see bears and monkeys riding bikes? (I have to say, the bear on a bike was disturbing and wrong in a way that a sea lion performing stunts does not bother me.)

But the best moment of all was convincing my spouse's driver to play hooky with me and the kiddos. We cajoled Zhang Shiful into the park with us. His joy at watching the animals was a highlight only seconded at his joy at spoiling my kids with lunch at the park.

Today I am thankful for all the people in China who have taken care of us, most especially Zhang Shifu who protected me and the kids every day that we have been here. He has looked out for us, thought about us, worried about us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Shanghai: Face off!

Check out FACE for a fun place to hang out in Shanghai. With locations in Jakarta and Beijing, Shanghai's FACE bar is located in a mansion in the French Concession. Within are a few different restaurants and the all-important bar.
Today I'm thankful for great places to hang out with some of my favorite peeps in the world.

Shanghai: Bejeweled @ David Seno

Apparently, my girlfriends in Shanghai are out to remedy my anti-shopping mentality with a series of Interventions. Bright one morning, Yucca Rieschel--another super-connector on the Shanghai scene (on the right)--hijacked me. I mean, bundled me into a car and took me to one of her favorite jewelers: David Seno. Diana, one of the co-owners, met us in front of a seriously mega-locked door and ushered us into the quiet crypt of jewels.

Aladdin couldn't have seen more gems than I did at that showroom, tucked in the industrial Free Trade part of Pudong.
Here's Diana with her husband who hails from Toronto and is the third generation of jewelers in his family. With production costs mounting in Canada, they turned to China to manufacture jewelry about four years ago.

I'm sorry: looking at the jewelry was nice and all...but seeing the 100 or so jewelers making the baubles? Now, that was cool! I got to see the entire process...from the shaping of the rings and bracelets. To the polishing...

And even their lunch break! The food smelled yummy!

Diana insisted on having our rings cleaned. Yucca and I were giggling over her expression when she saw our beat-up, dull rings. Mine hadn't been cleaned in, oh gosh, at least five years. Possibly longer.
This wasn't just any old ring cleaning. When my ring was returned to me, I couldn't even recognize it--it looked brand new. Scratches from my daily rough wear had been polished away. The stones checked to make sure the ring was still sturdy. My ring sparkled. Gleamed like buffed up hope.

Today I am thankful for the unexpected silver lining even in dreaded experiences. Here I thought shopping for jewelry would be horrendous. Instead, I got a behind-the-scenes tour, a clean ring, and....yes, I found a new bauble that will be the perfect talisman for my next novel. How fantastically fantastic is that?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Poetry Friday: The Great Wall

The Great Wall
Nalan Xingde (1655-1685)
Through how many panels of mountains and seas
Do the high parapets of the long wall
Wind and wind?
Our eyes follow, slope after slope
And we understand
How it ate up the dragon hearts of our grandfathers
And in the end they built it for whom?

Shanghai: M1nt

My new favorite hangout spot in all of Shanghai? M1nt.
After a few weeks of soft openings and parties--none of which I could attend--I finally made it here, thanks to my beautiful new friend Mae-Ling. How could you not love the long tank filled with baby black tip sharks, dangerous yet mesmerizing in their lethal beauty? Anyway, the restaurant/bar was the perfect spot to mark a new beginning.
Today I am thankful for GROOVY places that make celebrations delightful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shanghai: Chinese Hair Wash

My new friend and ultra connector of the Shanghai universe and co-partner of Diva Life Spa, Mae-Ling, told me: "Justina, there is NO way you can leave Shanghai without first having a Chinese hair wash."

A Chinese hair wash?

She nodded. Brought me to the her favorite hair washing salon in the French Concession where we were immediately shown to swivel chairs. I knew I was going to like this new experience when the hair wash started with a 20 minute shoulder and neck rub. Nice!

Afterward, my masseuse-slash-hairdresser approached with a bottle of liquid something-or-other that she squirted directly onto my dry hair...which somewhat alarmingly began to suds up in a way I've never experienced in the shower.

After much scalp massaging and scratching, a pompadeur of clouds appeared on top of my head. (Note to any reader who happens to be doing a book report on one of my novels: you do NOT have permission to include the pictures from this particular blog in said report. Do you hear me?)

So here we are, Mae-Ling and I post-sudsing and scrubbing. Is it not amazing that Mae-Ling still looks like a model with her hair all sudsy? I look like...a clown.

After our hair was hosed down, scalps massaged again, we ended back in our swivel chairs for a blowdry.

And finally, shiny hair and all, we were ready to hit the town at M1nt, a private club that just opened officially 3 days ago.
Today I am thankful for new Experiences, especially ones introduced by friends and that cost less than a Starbucks latte and make me feel like a billion bucks.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Girlfriend Therapy

Egads! With just 11 days left in Shanghai to go, my BFF from college, Shelli, said to me, "Girlfriend, we have to take you shopping!" The last thing I wanted to do was shop, not when I have to pack. And let's not forget the manuscript I haven't picked up in the last three weeks. But Shel was not to be deterred. She pointed out: you have Christmas presents to buy. Yeah, yeah, I thought.
But then there's my mentor, Janet Wong, who kicked me in the pants with a well-worded email: We, the few remaining readers of your blog, are tired of your self-help induced, quasi-inspirational posts. Show us Shanghai. That's all we care about. (Okay, okay, that was my translation of her email.)
So to Taikang Lu we went. This is a rehabbed neighborhood turned enclave for boutiques, coffeeshops, restaurants and galleries. Wouldn't you know it? Who do we see on our first stop at Nest--a wonderful boutique? The amazing Francine Martin--professional shopper and purveyor of the finest goods and one of my first Shanghai turnSTYLE interviews! I was so thrilled to see Francine who was yet again absolutely exquisitely divinely decked out. She was In Action with a lucky client.
After another stop at June Woo--THE place to go for cashmere scarves--Shel and I dropped in on Ginger for some sustenance. The score? Shel checked off 3 people from her Christmas list. All my peeps are still present-less.

Today I am thankful for the sheer joy of SERENDIPITY. It completely floors me that out of all the millions and million and millions of people in Shanghai, I actually bumped into ONE person I know. I love that. It makes me feel as though I have established a community of my own in this big huge city, so far from home.

Tacos in Shanghai

The meal on this table? Took 3 days of scavanging to create and cook. My kiddos said, No more Chinese food, please. So I decided: TACOS! Easier said than done.
Taco shells, imported by yours truly from America on my October visit.
Meat and lettuce, found at my local wet market.
Cheese, purveyed at Carrefour.
Today I am thankful for Cuisines of all types. Who were those original chefs to create the various indigenous meals across countries and cultures? Isn't it amazing how many different things there are to EAT in this world?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Shanghai: Metersbonwe Costume Museum

Since I haven't been able to write for the last several weeks, one of my writer-buddies, Dia Calhoun, suggested that I do whatever last research I can do for my next novel while I was still in Shanghai. Brilliant!

So I hauled myself over to People's Square in Shanghai where I had heard there was a marvelous Costume Museum on the 5th floor of Metersbonwe. Think of the clothing store as the Gap of China, the leading casual wear company with something like 5,000 stores.

Back in 2003, the CEO of Metersbonwe visited Cambridge with a professor from China. There, they took in a ton of museums...and saw Chinese antiquities on display...including old clothing. The professor apparently turned to the CEO and said something to the effect of: how sad that we have to go to a foreign country to see our own traditional clothing. And an idea was born: to create a world-class museum solely focused on China's traditional clothing through the ages and representative of the 56 minority groups within the country.

The museum is FREE and open to the public. The collection of clothes was absolutely breathtaking. Had I more time in Shanghai, I would call the curator and ask for a private tour. Apparently, the museum has amassed some 10,000 items. Only a small portion is on display. How cool would it be to see more of the collection--and get the inside scoop on each of the displayed items: where they were acquired, what each symbol meant...

I loved watching a woman embroider silk at the museum. And just as Dia promised, I got a ton of new ideas for my work-in-progress. More than that, I felt the first twinging to get back to writing.

Today I am thankful for the Curators of Culture who safeguard the best of humanity for all to share into the future. (And for friends who nudge me in the right direction.)

Geocaching: Skunked in Shanghai

For months, I have wanted to go geocaching in Shanghai. For you geocaching muggle neophytes, think high tech treasure hunting. Thousands and thousands of treasures are stashed around the world--some even near you.
Finally, armed with a bike, three intrepid scouts, our handy-dandy GPS, and our latitude and longitude coordinates, we headed to Century Park, the largest public park in Shanghai. After peddling around the park for 20 minutes, we landed on the coordinates and skulked around. I was a little worried that some lookiloos would report us for suspicious behavior. Which wouldn't have been a problem if we had found the cache and could point to it as tangible evidence of FUN, not FOUL play.
However. No amount of skulking, poking, shaking, inspecting, crouching uncovered the "glass container with a white lid."

Our theory: perhaps some aggressive recycler assumed that the glass container was JUNK. Oh, well. It was wonderful to get out to a part of Shanghai that we had never visited before.
Today I am thankful for my adventurous buddies who happily troop beside me. Even when I get odd ideas and inspiration.

Beauty Everywhere

On the hunt for my daughter's PANDA PAJAMA PARTY, I decided: decorate with bamboo! This led me back to my local flower market--that huge warehouse with vendor after vendor of all matters flora and fauna.

Mission accomplished: I found miniature stalks of bamboo and anchored them in cups of water with the strangest little squishy balls. Can you see them in the above picture? Imagine food-colored tapioca pearls. They worked! Bamboo stood at attention!
Today I am thankful for Odd Inventions that make my life easier.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Let Sleeping Turtles Lie

Isn't this the picture of adorableness? Look! Turtles do close their eyes when they sleep. We are going to miss our wugui (turtles) when we move from Shanghai. They may not be the most cuddly of creatures, but they do have a way of burrowing into your heart.

Today I am thankful for all things Cute that make me smile.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Poetry Friday: Winter


Ziye (c. 265-420)

When ice on the pond is three feet thick

and white snow stretches a thousand miles,

my heart will still be like the pine and cypress,

but your heart--what will it be?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Words to Live By

A very wise neighbor and former counselor here in Shanghai sent me some advice. I think these are words to live by on a daily basis...and particularly when you find yourself in a crisis.

Use what your intelligence says is right and discount the rest. Rely on only what you know is absolute fact. Listen to what you know is true in the deepest part of your heart. Be careful of what lies on the surface of your heart as it may be misleading. The fewer people you talk with the better. Express your feelings with only one or two people who you know extremely well and you have had long, trusting relationships with. Use them as sounding boards only. Do not talk to others who you do not have this type of relationship with as they don't know you well. Do not make any rash decisions that might be difficult or impossible to undo. Remember time is on your side. Evaluate your investments carefully before you decide what you are to do with them. Before you say or do anything imagine what consequence that word or action might have on any and all possible decisions you might make in the furture. Do not become a recluse but free yourself of anything that you do not have to do. Take short vacations from you worries so you can periodically un-clutter your mind and think more clearly. Take the very best care of yourself physically. Take time to pray and meditate.

Today I am thankful for Wise Women who guide gently yet firmly.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shanghai Regrets

Believing you have all the time in the world--such as an entire year in Shanghai--lulls you into thinking that you have a boundless largesse of opportunity. So you put off what you really want to do. What you want to see. What you want to accomplish. As I have learned recently, reality can shift with a single phone call. Or an email, marked with a red flag.

I've been asking my kiddos what last adventures they want to take with me in Shanghai before we leave for home: visiting the Science & Technology Museum? Touring the historic Jewish neighborhood? Shopping in the Underground markets? Geocaching?

As for me, my biggest regret isn't what I didn't see or do in Shanghai. It's not having the time to turn acquaintances into True Friends. Like with Margaret, my dear buddy Shelli's friend.

From Malaysia, Margaret's half-Pakistani, half Malay with the most extraordinary childhood story. She is a walking novel. Just look at her! She's one of the most beautiful and sexy women I've ever met.

Today I'm thankful to have met marvelous people throughout my travels in Shanghai. However abbreviated this time in China was, I have been blessed with interesting mentors and fierce protectors along the way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Inspiration Monday

One of my girlfriends who paved the hard path I find myself following now sent me a wonderful quote:

"Let yourself begin anew. Pack your bags. Choose carefully what you bring, because packing is an important ritual. Take along some humility and lessons from the past. Toss in some curiousity and excitement about what you haven't learned. Say your good byes to those you're leaving behind. Don't worry who you will meet or where you will go. The way has been prepared. The people you are to meet will be expecting you. A new journey has begun. Let it be magical. Let it unfold."
--Journey to the Heart Daily Meditations

So today I will journal about what I will bring on this next journey: humility will need its own enormous duffle bag. And the lessons? Whoo boy, I will need an entire cargo container for all the lessons I've learned in the last two weeks. All the things I wish I could redo, rephrase, rethink.

Today I am thankful for the Right Words that people are feeding me. Thank you so much for your loving support.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Shanghai Foot Massage: Happy Feet

The mark of a good friend is her willingness to talk sense into you. So when my friend, Stacey, realized I had only put together a Must-Do-Before-I-Leave-Shanghai list for my kiddos and not myself, she immediately remedied that oversight.

Top on her list: A foot massage in a truly local spot. None of this fancy spa business nonsense.
Imagine a street lined with neon lights advertising massages--so glaring that one might mistake the signs for Those Kinds of Massages. I was a little skeptical, a lot nervous. But this was Stacey. She of wholesome goodness. She of amazing character. She of discerning taste.
So I pushed through the door. Selected the foot massage I wanted (just herbs, no oil). And was taken to a room of our own. The foot masseuses lugged in heavy tubs of scorching hot water. And told Stacey and me to SUCK IT UP when we looked nervously at the thick steam spiraling into the air. One image came to mind: bubbling volcano. And this was supposed to feel good?

(Note to my germ-phobic sister who just finished a microbes class in nursing school: the bucket was lined with plastic. I am assuming--HOPING--that the plastic liner is changed with every client. So far, no weird fungal action on my footsie tootsies, thank you.)

I mistakenly thought foot massage = foot massage. But no! My back was tended to first. Thank goodness. My shoulder muscles were so tight that the woman leaned her scant weight into me.

For tiny little women, these masseuses had surprisingly STRONG hands as they pressed and pummelled and slapped (yes! slapped!) my calves, heels, and toes.

Bottom line: painful, but oddly therapeutic and weirdly pleasant. Better than a full-body massage in the states, for sure. And for less than $10 an hour, I can see why people get addicted to these.

Two thumbs up. (Or should I say, two big toes up?)

Today I am thankful for the kindness of girlfriends and strangers who have been taking such exquisite care of me.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Shanghai Chic

So my good friend and co-diva of readergirlz, Lorie Ann Grover, challenged me to find the most fashionable figure in Shanghai. Out to lunch with my family, I spotted The One:

Hip down to the dog's four-sneakered paws.

Fashionable or questionable?

Today I am thankful for all things ludicrous that make me laugh.

Poetry Friday: Sutta Nipata

Sutta Nipata


Let your love flow outward through the universe,

to its height, its depth, its broad extrent,

a limitless love, without hatred or enmity.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Panda Pajama Party

Dearest All: Thank you so much for your outpouring of support. Really. I am so humbled that people around the world even read this blog, much less respond with such care.

Twenty-one days left in Shanghai and counting. And what am I doing? Procrastinating, that's what. A scant five weeks ago, I unpacked the entire house when our shipment finally arrived from its three-month oceanbound journey spanning Seattle to Shanghai. I just can't even stand the Sisyphean task of boxing everything back up. No no no no no nooooooooo.

Good thing then that my college friend, Shelli, called this morning and asked if I wanted to go to Yuyuan Garden to shop for my daughter's birthday party favors. As my friends know, I am not much of a shopper. I don't care for the butt brush--you know, when all the merchandise is stuffed so close together, you can't move without having your tush brush against something. Well, welcome to shopping in Shanghai.

However. Shopping or packing. You can guess which was the lesser evil. Let the butt brush begin.

My daughter chose a PANDA PAJAMA party as her birthday festivity theme. No problem, I thought. Uh-huh. Now, China is The Land of the Panda, right? So tell me why it is virtually impossible to find a single panda anything. Frogs, yes. Rabbits, yes. Tigers, yes. Strange, unidentifiable creatures, oh YES. But pandas?

(Side note: in China, what you see above are PLUSH animals. STUFFED animals are taxidermical specimens.)

For an hour, I trolled the enormous market for panda trinkets, scouring stall after stall. At last: panda stickers. And then nirvana for the paper freak that I am: a stall that sold only giftwrap and paper bags. Including one with BAMBOO on it. Perhaps not a panda, but do we all agree that panda food is good enough?

Today I am thankful for girlfriends who know how to divert me and force me out of my big, must-be-packed-soon house...even if it is with shopping.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Homeward Bound

Due to unforeseen and absolutely sad personal reasons, I will be returning to the states with my kiddos at the end of November. On Thanksgiving, to be exact.

So in the midst of sorrow, I am trying to find some things (anything!) to be thankful for. Here's what I came up with:

  • My family. From my parents who said, "Come Home." To my in-laws who echoed, "You are always welcome here." To my sister who stands tall next to me no matter what. And especially my kiddos who are Pure Love and Light itself. For all of them, I am thankful.
  • My friends. No one has better, more loyal, more loving friends than I do. No one. I am truly the most blessed person. Who else has friends who meet them at the airport...with presents for the kiddos? Who has friends who don't take no for an answer and show up on my doorstep anyway? Who has friends who are housesitting, yet say, "You need to move back? No problem!" For all of my buddies, I am thankful.

  • My readers. On the darkest of all days, a teen reader emailed me, telling me that my forthcoming book changed her perception about herself. And then she quoted me back to myself. As odd as that experience was, those words were actually the right message at the right time: "To dream, you must starve doubt. Feed hope." For all the authors who write so that we can find solace in story--and the readers of this work, I am thankful!

  • And today...after returning to Shanghai and having to visit the Police Station to register myself yet again, I am counting myself as very THANKFUL not to have to stand in that endless line, serviced by one lone man, ever ever again. As an addendum, I am also thankful not to have to return to the Public Security Bureau in Shanghai. Honestly.

4. By the time I return to the states, there will be a NEW president. And for THAT, I am exceedingly thankful.

So my project in the next three weeks is to continue adding to my Thankful List. I will be feasting on hope. Will you?

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