I love it, even the baby steps, which still advance the final goal. There have been a number of days of baby steps, but they do add up.

3 hours of solid book work so far this morning, furthering the revision. I keep removing clutter. It’s getting lean and quick… which is inspiring all its own. Feels great, but why did I wake up at 4 am? That’s just irritating.

School’s also pretty great. All good students.

Another good day. 🙏🏼

Still writing.

Revision, revision, revision

Spent the morning pruning chapter 1, committing many edits I’ve been thinking about for months but on which I was avoiding pulling the trigger. Now it’s done, and wow, the improvement’s dramatic — everything in the intro moves more quickly. I haven’t actually altered the story itself much, only the presentation, and a few things happen offstage instead of in their own scenes. The result is a leaner, tighter first chapter and a faster pace, bringing us into the main action so much more quickly. It was definitely the right move; though the removed scenes are necessary to the story, their explicit action wasn’t. I needed but never liked them; problem solved.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the next round of queries.

Classes tonight, and a supply run to the vet soon .

How are you?

New School Year, Yay!

Definitely miss going back to the university, obviously. One of the highlights of the change of seasons is heading back to campus as the days cool down, with the colors just beginning to show. There’ll be none of that this year. What a letdown. It’s the best part of the year.

New semesters are great, though. That “fresh start” feeling — there’s nothing like it… syllabi shiny and new, everything still possible. So there’s that, at least.

Life is good.

Many people are without jobs or income right now; I know how fortunate I am to be working. And not just working, but working from home. And not just working from home, but doing something I love. And not just something I love, but something rewarding.

And not just rewarding to me–teaching language builds communication ability, its benefits extend beyond individuals, beyond teacher and student, beyond the international classroom on the other side of the world to allow us to cross borders of not only nations but minds and mouths and homes and centers of experience, into each others’ cultures and lives; the intimate levels where we’re all the same in all the ways that matter–heart and health and spirit and the knowledge of love… things which need no translation.

That is a worthy thing, and I am grateful.

& then…

A friend of mine lost his mom today after a long illness; I sent him this, because it’s the most comforting thing I can say to that level of loss:

Everyone has his own beliefs about what comes next; mine is that [your mom] is again as she was originally, and will hear you now if you speak to her.

When I was 9 years old my grandmother died. About a year later I began to really miss her; it wasn’t until then that I got a sense of the finality of death. When I understood that I would not see her again I cried and cried. Then wrote her a 14-page letter.

That night I had a vivid, very odd dream: there were no images and there was nothing to see, but suddenly she was with me. I was so excited, I yelled and told her how much I missed her and that I had so much that had happened that I wanted her to know. She put me on her lap — still no images, I never saw her — and told me to tell her everything. I talked and talked and talked, filling her in on the past year.
When I was done she told me she wanted me to know something, too.

She said that she would still have to leave, and that we couldn’t see each other for a while, but that there was a very important reason for the separation, and the distance was necessary, but temporary. She told me if I ever missed her the way that I had that day, that I should write again, exactly as I had. She said, “Just aim and write, exactly like you did, and even God will hear you.”

I woke up so comforted, relieved and peaceful. I was not quite 11 years old. The letter I had written her had disappeared; I never found it again.

Because of this I have never feared death.

My belief is that your mom is safe where she is, whole, at peace, and aware of what you’re going through. ❤🙏🏼


And I do believe this.  That was one of the most defining moments of my childhood, because it shaped my response to every big, significant thing that came after it.  This experience was such huge comfort to a grieving kid… maybe it can give solace to someone else.


The trees!  They are magnificent.  Even here on the edge of the city they’re exploding into brightness so brilliant it practically has auras.  There’s been a spate of rainy days so everything’s more striking, bursts of red and gold against a low gunmetal sky.  The chill in the air finishes it all off perfectly.  Yesterday was Halloween; for the first time the wind really kicked up, and after dark there was a driving rain.  This morning I was thinking we must have lost the leaves but there they still are, hanging on.

Such seasonal perfection surely can’t last.  I do not venture far from the windows; I don’t want to miss a minute of it.  I’ve been spoiled by fall this year:  during our trip up north for my sister’s wedding, the colors at our destination were peaking as we arrived.  The days were uniformly blustery, all high blue skies and bright sun, trees shining.  We stayed for 4 days and by the time we made the return drive, the trees for the entire route home had also reached their peak.  There was snow for the first 2 hours of the drive, then frigid wind and rain; the trees practically strobed against that deep autumnal sky.  We were rapt for the full 8 hours.

And as the trip had been marred by a couple practically back-to-back emergencies still in the process of resolving, the beauty of the drive was a very welcome distraction.  Arriving home, the color change began here and advanced slowly, with stately progress.

I almost feel like we’ve earned it, after the past 3 months or so.

Preparations for that trip took a ton of time and money and energy away from the beginning of the semester, and I paid for it in more ways that one.  Things have settled down now, so I’ve been writing regularly again.  Emergency situations were quickly resolved.  All that remains to do for the moment is think, relax, and admire November.




Well, that was unpleasant.

Am I really thinking about a return trip to China already?  I barely got through submitting midterm grades for the fall semester and speaking of that, how is it possibly time for midterms already?  This semester’s flying by.  I have a ton of work to do at all times.

School and writing are taking just about all I’ve got.  Now that my sister’s wedding is over, I can focus a little.  There has been a great deal of extra time and energy demanded since last month, which has made things a bit harrowing, but now things should settle down a bit.

Next week is my birthday… so, just in time.

Final Beijing Entry: Grading hell, victorious. Dragon Tie. Non-communication Taxi. PEK. Delta slacking. SkyClub lounge. First Class with a sliding privacy door.

On the tarmack, and I have to get this up ASAP because we’re due to take off relatively soon and this lady just handed me a menu.

I’ll really miss Beijing.  I’m ready to go home, but I fell in love with it.

Grading sucked up the entire day yesterday, as I knew it would. Thursday I was able to venture out one last time into the city via the most excellent supreme Beijing subway system.  Thanks to my friend Fan, a Beijing resident of 25 years, I saw the Temple of Heaven park and grounds, The National Museum, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City (from one end to the other), Ghost Street, downtown hutongs, and experienced Peking Roast Duck.  I saw things I never would have on my own.  She made the trip incredible, and  I’ll be forever grateful.

So much more to write about; I’ll post this one now, but will have lots of flight time in my private first-class cabin to work on a more thorough report.

Overall: Beijing 2019 was a rampant success.  The kids did exceptionally well, I worked my ass off, and I totally earned my Delta One seat.

The plane’s rolling… bye for now, China.  Maybe I’ll see you next year.

Wild dogpack fight beneath my windows; The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, The National Museum, Ghost Street crawfish, & hutongs.

Tuesday June 25 in Beijing, 9:48 am.  Tuesday, my day off.  It’s Monday night at home, 9:48 pm.

The wild dog fight woke me in the middle of the night; not last night but probably the night before… Sunday night, maybe? Yelping and barking.  When I got up to look, I counted at least 7 of them, though the “fight” was actually more like a dramatic family reunion,with half of them wagging their tails and running around, and nobody really actually looking mad or biting anyone else… more of a territorial standoff, really, and when they were done with their carrying on they went bounding off together on their merry way into the 3 am darkness of the construction site.

Finally made it out into the city to see a little of the world of Beijing I’ve been missing because I spend absolutely all of my time in the classroom or preparing for the classroom.    It was an extraordinary day, really — ripping around Beijing on the subway and various buses, stomping through The Forbidden City from one end to the other in the sweltering smog-dense 97F Beijing heat (an utter and contemptible misery, I was likely within arm’s reach of heatstroke); exhibit after exhibit in The National Museum, viewing Tiananmen Square… then on to Ghost Street and a restaurant renowned for its crayfish, Hunan something.  The menu was a hard-bound oversized book in color with photographs of every dish.  We had some kind of cooked greens, pumpkin leaves with steamed soy stems, and a very American-looking salad with lobster in it and some kind of ginger/mustard dressing.  A note:  there is no cheese in China.

On the other hand, classes have been a tremendous success.  All of these students  have dramatically, even drastically, improved in their ability to speak before a group, which is not a small feat for students speaking a foreign language.  I’m really proud of them.  I’ve also managed to pick up a couple of bonus students–word of the American teacher’s public speaking class travels, I hear:  last week I was approached by a student who said, “Professor, I have heard about your class.  My friends and I would like to know if we might be allowed to visit your course to sit in for the rest of the term.”  I was pleasantly surprised; as the semester goes on in America, generally the trend is one loses students and attendance falls off, but here I think I’m a bit of an anomaly… people stare at the foreigner.  Why not, I said, come anytime, and there were multiple new students in the last class.  Also, another teacher — an Italian instructor — asked to come to observe as well.  The more the merrier.  We already have a full house, what’s a few more.

I went into the city with Fan, one of my Teaching Assistants, on Sunday.  Headed out on the 8:30 am shuttle from the campus, down to the East campus by 9:30 am, where I met Fan and her son, and then out into the city.

First stop was The National Museum, right on the edge of Tiananmen Square and adjacent to the main entry to The Forbidden City.  What a pain it is to try to buy stuff in China, including tickets for the tourist attractions.  You have to use their version of PayPal for everything, or WeChat, China’s version of Facebook.  Everybody’s on it, but foreigners can’t get accounts because they don’t have a Chinese ID number.  I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the help of native Beijingers at nearly every turn in the time I’ve been here, so getting to and from everywhere I’ve needed (or wanted) to go has been simple.  Given my utter illiteracy, this is a great relief.  My goal is to learn Mandarin, and I hope to be invited to return next year.

During the 2nd faculty meeting, a number of the professors were bestowed with an honorary title, Adjunct Professors of BUCT.  They received certificates in very nice keepsake folders.  It would be a great thing to be invited back, and I’d love to have the opportunity again.  If I do return, I’ll need to be able to speak more of the language than I currently can.  The extent of my abilities so far are ni hao (hello), xiexie (thank you), and meiyao (no).  I use “xiexie” quite a lot.

[to be continued]

The Great Wall. More wild dogs. Hot Pot. Satan’s Testicles. Also, the kids are learning. [this is an entry in progress]

Just when I think I couldn’t get more behind with entries, I look up and a week as passed.

What all have I done?  We’ve been out to the same mall so that I could re-supply with groceries and incidentals, and I was able to pay for my purchases using my Bank of Beijing card; I shopped for Chinese shoes, but didn’t find anything; I’ve had to hike to the gates on the perimeters of the campus every time we go offsite, and it’s roughly a mile to every gate. Any time we leave the campus we have to scan out, where a camera scans our faces, and a card reads my faculty ID before we can either exit or enter.  There are BAOAN (Chinese police) stationed at every entrance to the campus, and no cars not affiliated with the university can get onto campus.  Police here are not armed.

I rode a public bus for the first time with my student assistant (pretty much the same as riding a bus in the US, except the ads are all in Mandarin), because when we left for our last shopping run it was raining at 9:30 am on Saturday and the DiDi drivers (China’s version of Uber) were nowhere to be found.

Construction on this new North Campus of Beijing University of Chemical Technology never stops.  There are cranes everywhere, each of them with the Chinese flag at the  top.  The workers live in dorms on the construction site.  The wild dogs like to wander into their living areas.  They’re working most days before 6 am.

Beijing smog is pretty much the equivalent of Los Angeles smog, to my eye so far.  It also doesn’t smell as bad as LA.  Also, it isn’t as grotesquely rust-colored, just a mild stain.  On the worst days here so far, it’s still been nothing like I’ve worried it would be. People do wear the masks you hear about.  I have breathing issues but have had not a scrap of trouble so far.

The time really does fly.  I got here Friday, June 7th; it’s Tuesday the 18th. Have I really been in China for almost 2 weeks?  How is that possible? I’m leaving the 30th, still 12 days away, and have completed four classes of the 9 total I have to get through to complete their course.  The 9th class period will be entirely spent hearing final exams, so that’s a class I don’t need to prepare for.  Four 3.5 hour classes remain for each section, so four morning and another four in the afternoon, a total of 4 days of teaching; I can see the finish line.

I have a great deal to do the day before each class to prepare lecture notes and the day’s activities, about 3 hours of work, then another 3 or so review before class.  It sounds like a lot and may even be overkill, but I think classes have benefited tremendously from it; every one so far has been a great success, even the afternoon class on my first day, when I’d been up since 11 pm the night before because of jetlag and was low-energy and feeling put through the wringer.

I made it, though, and the harsh schedule and pressure I’ve put on myself and my student assistant has made it a little grueling but in the end, the payoff has been worth it.  I’ve toughened up and can finish the days without trouble. And these are excellent classes, for their size (36-38); every single lecture has been successful, the kids are entertained, enlivened, engaged, and actively participate.   We have fun.  They’re speaking every day and they work hard in class.

But there’s just so much to do all the time.  It’s also kind of a pain that there’s been yet another dinner and faculty meeting summons to the East Campus this afternoon, one of my only days to do class prep during the week.  I just want to stay in and rest and work from my bed, but I do need to take advantage of the opportunity to go to the main campus and see the Dean again, as well as take advantage of the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the other profs.  I really have almost no time to myself, but Saturday I realized a lifelong dream when I visited and walked upon The Great Wall of China.

Wow! Talk about breathtaking.  This one stop made the entire trip worth it; I’m pleased that this was my first real tourist attraction that I visited in the city, and I’m glad I was able to do it my first weekend, because this is the one thing I really did not want to miss. It was incredible, a stunning thing to witness, unfurling along the spines of the green mountains around Beijing.  We walked along as far as it was possible to go, and I took about a hundred and fifty pictures with my husband’s camera.

There’s so much more to say, but I need to get the lecture notes for tomorrow’s class  done before I have to get ready for this meeting and dinner again, so I have to fly.  More to come, and hopefully soon.