But It's Good

This picture is one of my favorites from this entire year, even if it was taken just a week ago in an attempt to take a family portrait for our Christmas cards this year. Mabel wasn’t having it, in fact, she cried every time our friends pointed a camera in her direction.  I was hoping a miraculous picture might emerge, even though I knew it was just not going to happen.

By the end, we were all over it. It was cold, Mabel was crying, and we just couldn’t eek out a single decent picture of the three of us together.

Later, when I saw this picture, though, I felt like this was it.

Maybe it resonates because this entire year has been a blurry one. One where we keep trying to get it together but we just can’t manage to get all three of us smiling for the camera at the same time. It’s been a hard year, an ugly-cry year, one with lots of loss and facing painful reality, and so it’s easy to toss this year out as a bad one.

But when I look at our photos from this year, and I remember back to times together as a family - the last months in the village, when we swam everyday, the Pismo trips, the Sunday night dances parties, the car rides to nowhere, the trips for donuts -   I recognize that we’ve grown even closer, and that we are all in better places then when 2015 first began.

It’s blurry, yes.  But it’s good.


A Snapshot from Today

Mabel and her friend Zoe, scarves around their heads, swords at the ready. 
When I came out to the backyard with my camera to take their photos, they were in the middle of deciding who was going to be Captain Hook.


Life Lately : Since We've Been Back

Since we moved back in April, Mabel has started preschool, turned FOUR, and gotten over the shock of living in the States again.

There were some major freak-outs when we first got back. Permanence and moving were huge topics…

"Mom, are we moving to this playground?"

"No, Mabs, we are just visiting this playground.”

… and there were some some major gaps to fill in, like what in the world is a vacuum? Mabel honestly had no clue! How do you swing on a swing set? What are antennas on cars for? What are traffic lights again? It has been pretty funny to hear Mabel's questions and observations about the States, which perfectly reflect her year of living in a dusty Sumatran village.

I've been settling back into my California life, too. All the things people say about reverse culture shock are true. In big ways and small ways, I have dealt with transition and expectations and reestablishing my identity. Now, it seems, I am pretty much back to California-Anna, the one who multitasks and drives a car and checks the mail. My Sumatra-Anna, the one that washes clothes by hand each morning and points with pursed lips instead of a finger, is safely tucked away for our next trip there.

And so we are adjusting, embracing the comforts, and enjoying Santa Barbara once again. In some ways, these days feel like the normal days... no hauling luggage across the world, no language confusion, no drives up mountains or plane rides to islands. It is nice to feel still again, even if it's just for a season. 

“normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. let me hold you while i may, for it may not always be so. 

― mary jean irion


Isn't this lovely? What if you need it all?


Summer, Fall, and Soup

My whole apartment smells like diced onion and garlic right now, a smell I love more then a fancy candle or yummy perfume.  The day feels cheerful because I’m making soup right now.  

It’s cold outside and the windows are open; I'm trying my hardest to collect this weather. Even though it’s early August, I'm getting a preview of fall. A marine layer fell thick over our skies these last two days, and the temperature went from tank tops to sweaters. Suddenly I’m looking up Mark Bittman recipes and Jamie Oliver on youtube (I sometimes just want to sneak over to his house and have dinner with his family - it always looks so fun there and the food! the fooood!), in search of the perfect cozy meal. I landed on Italian Wedding soup from this simple and always-delicious cookbook which I am borrowing and borrowing and borrowing again from the local library. Ok, so it’s definitely summer but today’s weather has my head stuck in fall. And fall is my favorite time to cook.

All my recipes that I’ve snipped and saved over the years and tucked away in a little folder have been missing since we moved back to California in April. After a year in Sumatra of cooking mostly wilted kangkung, fried tofu, sambal, and a daily pot of rice, I am forgetting how to cook - down to the  basics - and my old trusty recipes are nowhere to be found. I thought I had memorized some, but everything I am making from my sketchy memory is simply not transferring, and is turning out pretty blah. 

So far, this website has been saving me in the kitchen, and so is this cookbook and this one, too.

 Do you have a favorite season to cook? And help me out - what is your go-to- recipe?

P.S. Jools Oliver, I need your yellow sweater.


A New Kind of Bravery

“You are so bad at this!” My friends shriek at me, laughing and holding their bellies as I use a traditional knife in their presence.

With the sloping blade firmly in my grip and the sharp end tucked between my thumb and index finger, I make scraping movements, back and forth from the top of the chicken foot to the parts where each individual claw dangles like little hooks. I hold the still-warm chicken foot in one hand, and with my other, use my knife to loosen small bits of skin, which are flaking off with each stroke and landing in my lap. My neighbors think I am doing a terrible job, but I, on the other hand, feel victorious. Even though it is with forced bravery, I am finally conquering my fear.  

Today you can find me writing at Passion Passport about overcoming fears and learning to thrive in our village in Sumatra. 

Read the rest of the story and see my photography here

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