Wednesday, June 30, 2010


This summer, the Simpson clan headed south of the border for our annual vacation.

It turned out to be quite an educational week.

Dave Dave learned to walk.

Evy learned to swim with floaties.

Anna Rose learned to float on her back.

Sue learned that the best part of vacation is not having to cook or clean up afterwards.

Cara learned how to use the new lens on her camera.

Todd and Caitlin learned how best to pose for photos at dusk.

Caitlin also learned to relax.

Todd also learned that his best look was shirt unbuttoned.

Todd also taught me to flex one's triceps when getting one's picture taken.

Rich learned where wild macaws live.

Rich also learned to take it all in.

Jeremy learned he was not the weak link at the euchre table (or the Settlers!).

Jeremy also learned that if law doesn't pan out, there is always daddy daycare.

Wyatt taught us to chill.

Chad learned that we all think he is famous because he lives in L.A.
He also learned to accept it.

Lia learned (or we learned about Lia) that she is at least one-half mermaid (does that make her three-quarters human?)

I learned that "el stoppo" does not mean "stop" in Spanish.
I also learned how to make tortillas!

(Although I need another first attempt at home almost resulted in a visit from the fire department!)

All in all, it was a most eventful, fully wonderful week. I think we would also say the best part was getting to know Raul, R.J., Jemma, and Goya. They really became part of the family!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cover Design For My Next Novel

I don't think anyone who has read Falling Into Love would ever characterize it as a "romance novel." However, had the book been written by Lia's sister Caitlin and/or her husband Todd it most certainly would have been.

Is it surprising the housekeeper where we were staying called these two "The Honeymooners"?

"We get that every time," said Caitlin innocently.

So anyway, I'm working on some titles for their book. Feel free to post your own ideas.

How about...

Pacific Sunset
Forbidden Pampers (Todd works for P&G in the you-can-probably-guess department)
Naughty Arithmetic (Caitlin is a math teacher)
I'll unbutton mine if you unbutton yours
Is that Gold Coming Out of Your Nose?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Emails from China - 5

May 31st afternoon:


i teared up reading your last email. i really do miss you so much. i talk about you a lot to people, so it feels like you're here sometimes. and i think there will be some people that you will meet when you come here this summer. which is cool. i want to show you some things for sure. it took me four days, but i'm finally settling in here. of course tomorrow i'm leaving. ha!

today was like the others. both mom and dad had classes this morning. the way they do classes is 45 minutes then a break then the same class for another 45 minutes then a new class. i guess it is sort of like block scheduling. so my dad had me for the first 45 minutes. he had the kids perform songs for each other. they had to pick an english song, learn the vocabulary and the meaning and share it with the class. some did better than others. but it was entertaining. of course that meant that i had to sing as well. last night about 2am i decided to do Love Story by Taylor Swift. I thought they would all know it. turns out it was a good choice. they knew the song and love songs are pretty much the only songs in china. pretty hilarious. next to the michael learns to rock song which i think has got to be a government consipracy or something, the next most popular song is My Heart Will Go On. every one sings it. hilarious! so i played my mom's mini-guitar and sang taylor swift to the students. then i sang My Girl as a duet with my father. we were a hit. i think they have low expectations.
then i went to my mom's class and spoke for the second part. after a short introduction, i told the students they could ask me anything, and i would answer them. so they ripped up scrap sheets of paper and asked me everything! they asked me all kinds of stuff. of course they are interested in what i do for a living. they think being a writer is like the coolest. so i play into that a bit. ha! if they only knew! just kidding, i didn't want to give them a false impression. i tell them you are a doctor and they all think that is the very coolest thing in the world. i play into that. i tell them about our kids. they want to know our love story (of course). they ask if we spank our children. they ask why i have red (blond) hair when my parents don't. i say, "now that's a great question!" they ask me about what i think of china. I say it is beautiful. and the people are beautiful. and they ask about america and i tell them that in every city there are people from china and europe and africa and south america and so they would not feel like a foreigner if they came. which i think is mostly true. it is a lot of fun. it's most certainly in my wheelhouse. ha!
then, i went back to dad's class and did it all over again. so that was 8am-12pm. then we ran to the bus and went to the DVD store where they have befriended the woman who works there. her name is Becky. newly married. she is absolutely wonderful. she took us to her apartment which she shares with her husband, her parents, and her grandparents. they cooked us a feast. i drank many drinks with the father. i learned that if someone was "Goombwa!" that means "bottoms up" and it is culturally advisable to chug your glass (which they fill to the meniscus. it means long life or something. that God the glasses are small! we ate great food.
the food really is wonderful here. and it's not that weird in general. they cooked us all classic dishes from the area and it was like green beans and beef and potatoes. so it's not crazy. Becky is pregnant, and i offered your services. when you meet her this summer you will be more than happy to oblige. she is truly delightful. and she really deserves a better lot than she has in life. her husband Edward (named after Edward Scissor Hands) does not know English, but understands about a tenth of what i say. I told him he must learn. i hope he will. her father is thinkking about selling the business and going into toilets! ha!
he asked many questions about western toilets. on which i have much experience. but in selling them, not any. i hope i didn't lead him astray. i guess everyone needs one. i mean sort of. then it was off to the next place.

my dad took me to his dojo. where he learns kung fu or something. i couldn't totally understand what exactly he does there. anyway, it was closed. but on the building they have pop's picture. actually two. i guess he is good publicity. ha!
then we went to the senior center where he takes tai chi class. we were very late. so they berated him (jovially). then he talked in chinese for 20 minutes. and i just smiled. then they did the class. the 48 and the 24. which are the movements i guess. of course i had to as well. it was very humbling. all these 70 year olds doing the moves and i'm looking like a...i don't know what i look like but it couldn't have been pretty. then we jumped on a bus.

we have a tiny break. which i'm spending on this long email. then going to dinner with more people.
i'll pass out. and wake up by bugle at 6am and head to the bus stop! unbelievable. what a wild adventure. i have realized that i do not have many skills. i would not be a very good businessman. really i'm not very good at anything. i can't build things. i'm clutzy and clumsy and not very precise. but i think i would be a very good ambassador. i am certifiably nice. my one credential. i am very good at being a good guy. it's in my wheelhouse. so this trip as been pretty wheelhousy. because i have had limited time with lots of people. not long enough to really screw anything up. ha! i guess we all have a skill. some more marketable than others. i love you. miss you. i'm glad to be married to you and not my parents. it will be good to be home.
Lord willing tomorrow!


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Emails from China - 4

May 30 night:


we had french toast this morning! with chopsticks. have i told you yet that you are going to need to learn how to use them? because you are. i think my englsih writing is turning into the way that i am speaking english to the chinese. very choppy. and robotic. ugh. when i get back home you are going to have to bear with me for awhile. i have learned one big thing. my father does not and will not stop. he cannot say no. and if there is an idle minute then it is a total utter catastrophe. just like me! ha! i am not as bad, at least i don't think i am, maybe i'm worse, regardless, i certainly get this tendency from him. it is amazing to see the similarities between us. shocking. and scary! but lots of fun, too.

we went to a house church this morning. (my folks took pictures, i'll upload them when i get them.) we met a guy on the way who my parents knew and invited him along. Don Shuan or something. (my Chinese is hooked on phonics. i'm sure i spell nothing correctly.) Don Shuan is a really great guy. opera singer. i think he studied in italy or just studied italian singing, it is hard to tell. the church as you can imagine was in this gray cement dungy room. mostly college students. this morning was actually bible study which is much better i am told, because church is listening to one guy speak chinese for 45 minutes. that would definitely send me over the edge. i played a couple songs. amazing grace and how great thou art while they sang. they sang several songs in chinese. then we studied acts 18 and had a discussion. pretty cool.

we bought my bus ticket for tuesday morning. yes, my parents are dropping me off at the bus station in Yongchuan, then i will take a two hour bus ride to the airport in Chongqing and hopefully find my airplane and then go to beijing and then hopefully, find my plane, and then go to chicago, and hopefully get an earlier flight so i can get back home to y'all. i have a growing respect for global travelers. the plane over here from chicago to hong kong was 15 and a half hours. i slept at first, read, tossed, turned, took about as much as i could take, and looked at my watch and it had only been 4 hours! i had 11 and a half more to go! it was a miracle i survived it.

anyway, we came home, ate lunch then i stretched for twenty minutes because i was sequestered into playing soccer in the adult league with teach liu.

they are manchester united. we played arsenal. most are physical education soccer majors. (the soccer team.) we were a bunch of teachers and a couple of ringers i think from town.
i was given shoes. they were basically converse all stars with stubs on the bottom. they were two sizes too small, but they gave me slightly better traction. it had rained earlier. the field was thinner than astro turf.
i played well until i developed a plethora blisters. ha! i had to leave at halftime to rush to dinner at the other school campus.

xing hu. is the name of the town. (where i ate my first chinese meal with the students on day 1.) it is beautiful. a huge man made lake. with an island of flowers. the campus is right on the water. we went walking around and met up with students. they were all very cool.
we ate show cow which is basically like our mongolian barbecue, where you pick a bunch of meat and vegetables, and a guy stir fires it/deep fries it.
we had lots of laughs. good time. celebrated my dad's birthday. they gave him a kobe bryant piggy bank. i think i am going to give it to david as a present. i need to think of something for you and anna rose.

we then were coerced/forced (which did not take a twisting of any part of my father's appendages) into going to KTV which is the classic kareoke bar. it was everything you imagine a kareoke bar in China to be. we bought a case of beer. and sang chinese kareoke into the night. i don't know how to spell kareoke.
and sorry, lia, that i'm using these emails to chronicle the trip. i have barely a spare second (i'm serious). it's crazy how busy they are keeping me. i have this haze over my eyelids at all times. it is also very polluted. very very polluted. which puts a haze onto everything as well. so i sang I Want it That Way (twice, with two different chinese dudes) then Hero (which i thought was enrique, but it turned out to be mariah carey). the chinese guys definitely love the ballads. a couple of them, john and len (i think) really could sing lights out.
my parents sang Puff the Magic Dragon (truly worth the price of admission. classic moment.
then i ended it with We Are the World in honor of the trip i was on (and Jonathan Murfee). we finally called a cab and escaped. i'm emailing now because my dad is IMing his students/ He can't stop! am i this bad? i'm so sorry, lia! anyway, it is good to know where i get my bad habits from. and it truly does make coming to China for only a week worth the trip. i guarantee you i have done as much China in these four days as i could have done in a month on my own. i could not have lasted much longer. it is nutso!

tomorrow I am attending (performing) for four classes. then traveling into town to meet my dad's Tai Chi master. then we are eating "hot pot" for dinner with a whole nother crew of people i have not met. i'm tired just thinking about it. but i love you, lia. i have thought to myself that i was glad that you are not here sometimes because the velocity at which we are doing things is lightspeed. seriously, every minute i am being introduced to somebody or trying something new. or on my way to some fire to be thrown into. so i have thought that it was good for you to not be here. at the same time, i wish you could have experienced everything with me. china is cool the people are wonderful. and i miss you so much. and i miss the kids of course. i am not sleeping any better here than at home. it's 11pm and i will be awoken by the bugle at 6am. ugh. i love you! good night.


Emails from China - 3

May 30th morning:


i knew david would walk as soon as i left! ha! tears.

let's see where did i leave off. i think i told you about tennis. ate lunch on a street. fish and assorted vegetable. then we came home. the tennis player's name was futichen. we also played doubles with a gal (name too difficult). when we took her picture she said she looked ugly because she was too brown.

skin color is a big deal here. especially for girls. just the opposite than the usa. the paler you are the prettier. strange how stuff like that goes. i played with two other fellas. and my father of course. my email writing is turning into the english that i speak here in china. it is choppy and short and clear. maybe not so clear. it will probably take me days to get back to regular.

about fifteen people came over in the afternoon. they were very likable. two girls were the most likable. jolene and free (above photo). i think i am going to try to connect them with some college students when i get back so they can start an american friendship with folks their age. there was a couple who came with a little boy the age of david. it may me miss the little fella. his name was shuay.

i played guitar with this guy named charles. he said it was one of the greatest moments of his life. ha! something must have gotten lost in translation. he told me about the most popular song in china. it is called Take My to Your Heart. by this band called Mike Loves to Rock i think (actually Michael Learns to Rock). it is pretty classic. you'll have to listen to it. seriously, every person in china loves this song. (i've done a bit of research. this is a danish band that sings in english. they are connected somehow to bmg in taiwan. i think it is some kind of conspiracy by the chinese government. i don't want to say more because i'm afraid they may revoke my visa).

it was time for dinner. we went to my mother's tai chi instructors apartment. her husband is a chinese teacher at the school. her name is jai ping. the way they described this woman to me was that she was the lady whose dog bit my mother. turns out my mother was bit by her little yappy dog a week after the Peace Corps had sent a memo warning about rabies in China. mom spent a week at a hospital in Chongqing. we went to her house for dinner. the first time mom has been back since the incident. i heard the dog yapping as we entered.

turns out, jai ping is one of the most delightful human beings i have ever met. her laugh was classic. and the way she spoke english was the way we should all speak english...loud, deliberate and full body. i could not stop laughing. which made her laugh. which made us all cry because we were laughing so hard. her sense of humor was remarkable. she calls her husband teacher liu. to his face. all the time teacher liu teacher liu. he is a football fanatic. i am going to play on his team tomorrow in a game! he is 46 years old. and came home remarkably drunk. it may have been the alcohol but teacher liu is possibly the funniest human being on the planet. he called me his little brother. i called him my little brother because he is only something like 5'1". he said "i am your big brother, and you are my big brother!" and he laughed so hard i had to hold him up. he was remarkable. the whole night was remarkable.

he autographed his book of poetry for me. he described it as love poetry though none of the poems were written about his wife. we had a rendition. we did tai chi in the computer room. they made me play guitar. it was virtually impossible to leave their apartment. but we finally made it home. i was very tired. but after all the stuff of the day it was difficult to sleep. plus, the biggest mistake of this trip was that i forgot earplugs. china is very noisy. i don't think people have any real sense of how their actions appear to others. everyone butts in line. no one waits turns for anything. the women hock loogies. and there is a rule. it may even be written, but it is certainly followed that you must be quiet until 6am. but at 6am you can be as loud as you want. some guy played saxophone outside my window for 45 minutes. no lie. they have a wake up bugle for the students at 6:20am. no lie. it's ridiculous!

the town and campuses (my parents live in one and teach in two). they are both beautiful. i don't know if i'll get pictures of them but they are very beautiful. but there is so much construction in the town that there is dust on everything. you breath dirt all day. and the haze is something to get used to. ok. that's all for now. breakfast time and another full day awaits. i love you.