Monday, April 30, 2012


Lex and friends perform the candle dance at Open House

5th October, 1993

Greetings All,

Well, it's October again, my favorite month. That means the holiday season has officially begun, as far as I'm concerned. I played a few Christmas carols the other day, just to help John get into his holiday mode (as in "Bah, Humbug!"). It worked.

I am loving this quilting class I'm taking -- taught by friend Teri, who also leads our early morning water aerobics sessions down at the pool (where she taught me to add some fresh lime to my diet colas, to cut that awful metal aftertaste). The quilting is almost addictive! Of course, so far, all we have done is machine-piece a bunch of blocks to go in a sampler quilt. That goes so quickly that you really feel like you're making progress. When we get to the tedious hand sewing part, I may get bogged down. The bad part is that you tend to get compulsive about buying fabrics and my shelves are filling up fast. In fact, Teri says they have a saying -- "She who dies with the most fabric wins!" I had to take Alexis out to the orthodontist in Singapore last weekend, and without any conspiracy on our parts, three other quilters were there as well. We spent hours at a neat quilting shop, and I got some gorgeous Christmas fabrics to make either a quilted tree skirt or a table runner.

Austin is now in Mrs. Zavala's class (the wife of his teacher last year) with four of his best buddies.
I thought things would slow down once we got all of these going away parties behind us. What a joke! By the way, we had a pretty crazy one last week. The Ellisons have been transferred to Nigeria, so as their send-off to "the dark continent", their going-away party was held totally in the dark! We all had to wear black and bring flashlights. We also had to bring something to go in a "Nigerian Survival Kit". Those parties are behind us, but I'm still doing my quilting class twice a week, and co-teaching a craft class for the kids. (I volunteered before I knew it would be on Wednesdays, which means no Shanghai until Christmas. It's killing me!) I've also been asked to help with a play the K-2nd graders are putting on at the end of the month, which means I have to meet with them three mornings a week. 

Lex gets ready for school, wearing new duds brought back from the States.
Next week a wonderful batik artist from Medan is coming here to do some workshops at the school, and he's agreed to do some for the moms as well. I'm really excited about that, but I hope I don't fall in love with it. I think it could be very time consuming and expensive, and one of those kinds of hobbies is quite enough! In addition to these little projects, we're beginning to crank up on the Halloween carnival, and of course, there's my big 40th birthday bash. Luckily, that doesn't require any work on my part. John has enlisted two of my buddies to help him, and they even went so far as to book me in at the salon for "the works" on the afternoon of the party, to get me out of the way. Should be interesting!

If you will compare my second grader's size with his buddies the guards, who are full-grown men, you will understand why we had to bring all our clothes from the States!
A couple of weeks ago was Open House at the school, and we were really proud of both kids. The older ones had to learn a very intricate Indonesian dance where they hold lighted candles on the palm of each hand, and spin them all around. Alexis did really well, and looked fabulous in her elaborate costume. Austin was chosen to be narrator for a little shadow puppet play, and everyone was totally amazed. He read more smoothly in Indonesian than most kids his age can read in English!

Her only problem was keeping the headdress from sliding down and blocking her vision!
Alexis' big adventure trip to Lake Toba seems to have gone quite well. I'm not sure if she would classify it as "fun", but I know she will remember it for the rest of her life. They all kept journals, and I want to make sure that she keeps hers to show her kids someday. They are pretty funny. After they made the half day trek up to the top of the volcano, they went in some hot sulfur springs to ease their muscles. Lex didn't care much for the smell of "stinking eggs." They did a lot of shopping and the teachers all said Lex was the best "bargainer." Some of the rooms they stayed in only cost $4.00 a night, and they had to order all their own meals (lots of rice) and make sure they didn't spend over $7.50 a day for all three. It was definitely a learning experience!

Guess that's all for now. Take care, and keep those letters coming!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Image from

Dearest Friends,

Have you ever heard of the book Dinotopia? Someone gifted my kids with a copy (Aunt Poo?) while we lived in Indonesia. Not only was it a great story, it had some of the most gorgeous illustrations I have ever seen! The kids spent hours pouring over it, and making drawings inspired by it.

Well, my hubby, as you know, is a great lover of gifting and surprising. Completely unbeknownst to us, he had contacted the fellow who painted all of our yard decorations, and the backdrops for the Halloween carnivals, as soon as he got back to Indonesia. He showed him the book, and as a result, each kid had something like this waiting for them, upon their return:

Dad really knocked their socks off that time -- and mine too! Too bad I can't find a picture of the one that was painted on Austin's wall -- a different scene, but just as awesome -- and ever so sad that they probably both got painted over, when we had to leave such a short time later.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Spa night at Poo's house -- mustn't smile or the facials will crack.  Can you tell we are related?
Dearest Friends,

After John headed back to Indonesia, the kids and I settled in at my sister Carolyn's (aka Poo) house for a few more weeks.  I signed Lex up for a couple of fun classes and Austin for a baseball camp, then got down to the serious business of shopping for enough clothes, shoes, swimsuits, underwear, birthday and Christmas gifts, etc., to last us through the coming year. Luckily, my Girl Scout co-leader was also visiting family in Dallas, so we were able to meet up one day and get everything we'd need for our troop that year.

In mid-July (what were we thinking?) Poo and I left the kids with a friend and joined up with her daughter, and our two other siblings, to take our parents to New Orleans to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It was hot -- really, really hot -- but we still managed to have a ton of fun.

Mom, Dad and sister Kathy (aka Gus)
I was born into a family where being a mere 5'5'' makes me a giant!
Niece Steph and I headed out for a little Zydeco music, after everyone else pooped out on us.
The whole gang, including brother Bill and his wife Dani, at Court of Two Sisters (I think)

That ex-football player pretending to be a sumo wrestler was our cooking instructor/entertainer at Joe Cahn's New Orleans School of Cooking, at the Jackson Brewery on Decatur. His class, and the feast that he prepared for us, ended up being the highlight of our whole trip.

Once the kids finished up with their camps and classes, we moved up to Plano to stay with sister Gus for a little while, and on Wednesday, August 11th, at 10:00 pm, we boarded our flight for home -- probably our worst trip ever, after that honeymoon trip to Singapore. We ended up with a really long layover in Tokyo, I think it was -- too long to just hang in the airport with two exhausted kids -- so John had booked us a special day room at one of the airport hotels, so we could catch a few hours of sleep. There was supposed to be a shuttle that would take us to the hotel, but I couldn't figure out where to catch it, and was having trouble communicating my needs to any of the airport staff. We ended up having to run from one end of the airport to the other and back, lugging all our backpacks and carry-ons, several times. I remember passing the same woman each time, and that she seemed to be watching us with interest. On one of our final runs, when I saw that the kids were about to lose it completely, I called back to them "I know this is tough kids, but I promise, one day we'll look back on all this and laugh about it!" I heard someone burst into guffaws, and looked over to see that same woman, wiping tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry", she said. "I shouldn't laugh, but I just can't help it. I know exactly how you feel!"

We didn't arrive in Singapore until Friday around 1:00 pm, which is a really, really long time to be traveling with two small kids! Which is why we gave ourselves all day Saturday to rest and recuperate, before catching our flight to Medan on Sunday, then the company plane the rest of the way home. As much as I loved our time in Indonesia, I do not miss the trip there and back. Not even one iota!

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Dearest Friends,

By the time we left Doss, John was running out of vacation. We headed back to Dallas so he could regroup before heading out on one last little adventure -- a father-daughter road trip! He was sooooo looking forward to spending some one-on-one time with Alexis, something he hadn't had much opportunity for since their Indian Princess campouts together when she was five or six. His primary goal was to deliver her to the aquatics camp she was to attend at Texas State University in San Marcos, but he figured it wouldn't hurt to swing by UT first, maybe do a little brain-washing while he had the chance. (Alas, that plan backfired big time -- she ended up choosing Texas State over UT!)

Lexie's roommate Lizzy, a friend from Indonesia
Once he was back in Dallas, he barely had time to pack his bags before having to return to Indonesia. I think he sort of dreaded going back alone, for there would be no furry friend there to greet him this time. While we were in Odessa we had got a phone call from our next door neighbor Judy in Indonesia. Apparently our housekeeper Asnah had come to her in a panic when she noticed there was something wrong with our beloved dog Munchkin, but she wanted us to know that she had called in the vet, and they were doing everything they could.

A few days later she had the onerous task of informing us that Munchkin had passed on. I have never been so torn. On one hand, I felt devastated over not being there to comfort Munchie in her final days. On the other, I felt guilty relief over not having to see her suffer. It had certainly been a summer for facing hard truths. Not only had we lost our beloved pet of almost fifteen years -- our first child, really -- we also had to face up to the fact that John's father was never going to get better, and his mother was teetering on the edge. Then we had to face up to the dwindling size of the school on our compound, and that by the end of the coming school year, there'd be almost no one left in Lexie's age group. Could we send her to boarding school? I don't think so. All of this meant, of course, that we needed to return to the States much sooner than planned, and there would be no point to, and no money for, buying a vacation home in the Hill Country just yet. Once the seed was planted, though, it never died. The following week, when my sister Carolyn and I returned to fetch Alexis, we took our time. We traveled the backroads, checking out little towns like Boerne and Comfort. Just in case. Some day.

Sister Carolyn in our room at the Crystal River Inn, in San Marcos

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Dearest Friends,

The next stop on our Home-Leave-'93-Tour was at Danny and Peggy's place in the Hill Country, not too far from Fredericksburg.  Danny was from a nice litte town called Doss, settled by German immigrants, where he attended a two-room school house until he reached high-school-age, and where all three businesses on the main street bore his family's name.

One day we all decided to drive over to San Antonio for the day, to take the kids to Fiesta Texas.

The thing I remember most about that day was foolishly deciding to go down one of those huge water slides without a mat, and ending up with the worst wedgie of my life. I remember feeling really sad for the poor teenagers who's job it was to help people up and out of the pool at the end of the slide, 'cause they probably had to see an awful lot of wedgies every single day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Hangin' with the Price kids in Oatmeal
Dearest Friends,

When we first took our kids to live in Sumatra, we knew that the school only went up through 8th grade, and since we didn't plan on sending Lex away to boarding school, we knew we'd be wanting to move home about then.  After spending our entire first summer living out of suitcases, hopping from one house to another, we came up with the brilliant idea of purchasing a little cottage in the Hill Country that could be our vacation home for now, and eventually, our retirement home. Instead of our bouncing around all summer, the friends and relatives could come spend time with us in the Hill Country!  Brilliant, no? So, early on in this year's home-leave-planning, we made sure to include stops in Doss and Oatmeal, to scope things out, and even found Lex a camp to go to in San Marcos, which was near another favorite town, Wimberley.

No, he doesn't have a wandering eye. He's just at that stage where he felt the need to cross them for every photo.
Our first stop was in Ohio, where it was much cooler than we expected. Good thing we had sweaters in our carry-ons! John had a week-long school to attend in Cincinnati, and his brother's family lived not too far away in Middletown, so we got to spend lots of time with them while there.

John's twin brother -- who happens to be several years older than him. I could always look at him and say "OK, this is what my hubby will look like in about 5 years!"
At the end of the week we flew to Dallas, where we had left our Taurus station wagon with my folks. John drove straight out to Odessa the next day, but wanted the kids and I to stay in Dallas a little while longer. The reports we'd been getting regarding his father were so dismal, I think John needed time to adjust to the situation alone. He was probably worried about breaking down in front of the kids, and wanted to have his happy face in place by the time we got there. Not an easy task, since they had given up on trying to rehabilitate George in any way, and he had steadily deteriorated into a mean-spirited, over-sexed, wheel-chair-bound, diaper-wearing toddler -- not uncommon for someone who's had multiple strokes.

We arrived the following weekend, just in time to send Theda, who was in desperate need of a vacation, off to Ohio for a few days, to attend our nieces high school graduation. The kids went to a sports day camp over at the local college each morning during our 3-week stay, we took turns going for physical and dental checkups, and we met up with some of our old friends from Midland (just 20 minutes away) whenever we could. Apparently I didn't take a single photo while we were with George and Theda. I guess it was just too depressing. By the end of our stay there, we needed some serious cheering up, so we headed straight to College Station, to spend time with our dearest friends, Paula and Tim.

They were just what the doctor ordered! From there we headed to the Hill Country. First stop was spending the day with our friends Mark and Ann, who lived in the country near a cute little town called Oatmeal, which is near Bertram, which is near Burnett, which is near Marble Falls...if you keep going, you'll eventually reach a town you've actually heard of.  Anyhoo, when we first came to visit them here as newlyweds, I remember saying "Well, it's a great place to visit, but I don't think I could live there. It's just way too far from a mall or a movie theater!" The more we visited though, over the years, the more my opinion began to shift.

(to be continued)

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Dearest Friends,

Anyone who refers to the "merry" month of May has never been an expatriate mom. Those of us who have know that it is anything but. It was not merry, it was mayhem, bedlam, and I doubt if my hubby has any clue how close I came to edge a few times -- especially when we'd get everything worked out, only to have him come home and announce a change in plans. Here is just a sampling of what I found written in my agenda for the last few weeks of the school year in '93:
  • hosted/attended at least 16 lunch, dinner, and cocktail functions, over and above the usual weekly things like Shanghai group and Girl Scout meetings
  • planned and carried out the infamous Girl Scout campout
  • prepared for and taught the littles in Sunday School each week
  • stressed out over the care of my sons eczema, which had flared into some icky infection
  • went to choir rehearsals and performed on Mother's Day
  • made hotel reservations for the stops on our trip home, confirmed flights, and updated friends and family on our plans
  • held a scout leaders meeting to make our plans for the following year, and to figure out what supplies needed to be purchased in the States while we were there
  • prepared and sent out invitations for a special murder mystery party I was planning to host the following fall, since guests might want to gather "parts" for their costumes while home
  • held a teacher appreciation luncheon
  • withdrew enough money to pay our staff salaries while we were away, and took it to my next door neighbor, along with instructions
  • met with the school principal to tie up loose ends, since we needed to take the kids out of school a few days early in order for John to attend a school in Cincinnatti
  • bought last minute hostess gifts for all the people we would be staying with over the summer, including Marie Biscuits and cans of the coffee-flavored candy that everyone loved
  • made shopping lists of everything we might possibly need in the coming year, that we couldn't get in Sumatra
  • tried to figure out what to pack for a family of four, three of whom would be away all summer, and two of whom would be going off to camps and such, so that we would have everything we might need, but still have plenty of room left in which to bring back all that stuff on the above shopping lists
  • left instructions for our staff, and prayed that they would take good care of our puppy dog
  • Oh yeah! There was another play to help out with too!
I don't really recall what the play was about. All I know is the kids wrote the script themselves, and somehow managed to include wizards...

Kitty Kats...


and the cutest big red ant ever!

Monday, April 2, 2012


Dearest Friends,

I have a very vague memory of Miss Laura and I needing to take our little scout troop camping, in order for them to earn a particular badge. I remember making those sit-upons the girls are holding in the picture above; I remember setting up tents behind one of the houses up on the hill, though why any of us would have brought tents or camping equipment to Sumatra, I haven't a clue; and I remember a gully-washer storm that came in the middle of the night, threatening to sweep our tents right off that hill! The rest is a blur.

Since my memories were so hazy, I sent word out to the rest of the Indo Crowd, asking if anyone could fill in some of the blanks for me. This response came from friend AnneMarie:

"The campout was just outside our backyard. It started to pour so we moved the campout into our sunscreen. This worked well at first, then it also started to leak and make some of the sleeping bags wet. We then moved further into the house and used all the sofa's, plus a few of the girls ended up in a bed. Not really a camp out, but l think we gave them their badge for this anyway. We did make situpons while hiding from the rain in our garage, or at least l think we did. I also recall our driver starting to dig a big hole in the nice grass area so we could make a fire. Fortunately someone was thinking and put a stop to that before Bruce Jones fired my husband! The girls loved the s'mores. That's about all l can recall."

Ahhh, it's beginning to come back to me now.  Thanks AnneMarie!