Rachel Pieh Jones

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Rachel Pieh Jones

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So far Rachel Pieh Jones has created 774 blog entries.

Good Things, the Thirteenth, July 2018

1 Ethiopian coffee at the mall

2 emptying freezers for friends when they leave

3 desert golf date

4 lasagna lunch with friend also launching a child to Uni

5 new books for the school library

6 American cheesecake at a party at the US embassy

7 one whole week, no power cuts

8 still able to run in the heat, still wanting to run in the heat, makes me feel strong

9 gathering memories for a Djibouti basket graduation gift: volcanic rock, shells, salt balls, the nation’s flag, favorite cereal, and more

10 goodbye to Djibouti, for too long, for not long enough

11 senior night, all the memories

12 graduation times two. All the feels.

13 watching musicals on a long haul flight

14 jet lag-fueled sunrise run in garden of the gods, colorado

15 endless supply of Lindt chocolate while debriefing and crying

16 slip-n-slide

17 hike with family and a new writer friend

18 breakfast on the veranda of a real, live castle

19 blueberries, granola, and yogurt for breakfast while talking books with new friends

20 pancake breakfast with old Djibouti friends, away from us for five years, the friendship not changed at all

20b airplane travel without any layovers. Get on, get off, you’re there

21 the farm, the cousins, the grandparents, the aunts and uncles

22 picking raspberries to refuel after my country-road run

23 open house, pulled pork, all the yummy desserts

24 cousins who turned the old barn into a bowling alley

25 25-cent massages from my sweet nieces and my daughter at the farm pop-up spa

26 happy 18, times 2!

27 TCKs from Djibouti and Kyrgyzstan

28 open house and a great cloud of witnesses

29 TCKs from Russia, Djibouti, and Kenya at Valleyfair together

30 axe-throwing double date (it is what it sounds like and it is just as awesome)

31 lemonade stands

What I’m Reading, July 2018

Or, what my 12-year old daughter is reading, for the young among us, and the young at heart (personally, I still love books for this age), some classics and some new-ish books. She’s a reader, keeping mom happy.

The Giver

The Westing Game

This Island Isn’t Big Enough for the Four of Us. Oh man, I still just love and love this book. I can’t read it out loud to the kids without laughing. I must have read it a hundred times as a kid.

The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. Could barely tear her away from this one.

The Scourge

I have a hard time reading much while we are in the US, there is just a lot more to do here. Things like axe-throwing events, frog-chasing, mini golf, multiple graduation open houses, and so much more. Plus, I have a massive stack of magazines that piles up while I’m away, because yes, I still prefer to read magazines in hard copy format rather than online. So I’ve had a lot of Runners World and New Yorker to catch up on.

The Day the Revolution Began, by N.T. Wright, about the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus. The particular copy I’m reading is full of my dad’s underlinings and notes, which is fun and adds another perspective to the book.

Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd, about spirituality and femininity

The Destiny Thief, by Richard Russo, about the writing life

Good Things, the Twelfth. June 2018.

1 walking through coffee fields at sunset

2 breathing room

3 gentle strangers

4 Mau Mau caves, paradise lost waterfalls, funny little yellow boats

5 fog, school in the clouds, lamplight like Narnia

6 24-hours of no rain

7 1,000 pieces, finished

8 driving stick shift on the other side of the road, successfully

10 this house, a home away from home, a surprise

11 baboons on the porch swing

12 sunrise over mount longanot, view from my room

13 hearing a description of being deep under water and turning up to see the sunlight

14 fried chicken

15 fire in the fireplace, masai blanket around my shoulders, and a fresh book

16 long, lazy afternoons with my girls

17 baboons on the roof

18 remission. almost.

19 19 years

20 hiking mount longanot

21 final project, finally done

22 high school musical performance of high school musical

23 double, full rainbow

24 bought a ticket home

25 walking in fog and drizzle

26 peanut butter cookies

27 mangoes

28 going home

29 Djibouti, desert golf

30 good friend, long walk, ocean breeze

15 Things I Want Tell My Graduating Third Culture Kid Seniors

Five years ago I wrote a post, 15 Things I Want to Tell My Third Culture Kids. I’ve been writing my kids letters and telling them things for years. When they return to school every three months, they return with packets of letters. One for each week, usually written on the back of a photograph of people and places they love. I’ve written them verses, prayers, quotes, poems (so much Mary Oliver), song lyrics, and rambling mom-junk. And we talk. So, they know this stuff. But, too bad for them, their mom is a writer and sends some of that mom-junk out to the wide, beautiful world.

I wrote this several weeks ago, a lifetime ago.

You can always come home. Home might not be this house but home is always this family. Come rejoicing, come weeping, come whole, come broken, come lonely, come with packs of friends, come in silence, come and spill it all. This table, meaning the table I’ve set in my heart for our family, always has room.

You can never go back. There is no rewind on life and no redoing spent years. You can’t go back, even if you come back. In You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe wrote, “Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.” Keep going. Djibouti will keep going and changing, too. When you meet again, whether this country or the people you have known on the continent, know that you will have to reintroduce yourself and re-explore the other and rediscover who you can be together, or from a distance, now. You might want to go back, you might think things were better or easier or simpler back when…that’s nostalgia. That’s saudade. That’s okay. Those days were good and beautiful and hilarious and I can testify to that. They are part of you now, in your very being, the fabric of what makes you, you. But you can’t live them again. Hold them, honor them, and live into the now and the new.

Guard your heart, your mind, your soul, your body. Be wise, be discerning. Make good choices. Be patient, take your time. Stay in touch with old friends. Don’t sink into social media or the internet or porn or alcohol or consumerism.

But don’t lock it up. Don’t shut the door to keep out what might feel like overwhelming American culture. Don’t be afraid to be tender and loving. Don’t cling so fast to friends far away that you don’t have space for new friends. Be vulnerable, in the appropriate relationships.

Don’t treat Americans with contempt. Even, especially, when they have no clue what a ‘Djibouti’ is. Hear them out, learn their stories, ask inquisitive questions.

Don’t be afraid to be who you are. All that Djibouti awesomeness. All that Kenya awesomeness. All that you awesomeness. You can blend it up however you want, but don’t be ashamed or embarrassed or too proud. Be you.

Be honest about what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask for help. People might think it is strange that you don’t know something they think is normal American life, but most of the time, they will also enjoy helping you and you never know what friendship might come of it. Be humble.

Explore and be curious and savor. Think of your college campus or your new city as though you have just moved abroad, which for all practical purposes, you have. Think of American English as a new language, restaurants as exotic local fare, a trip downtown as an exciting cultural exploration. Try stuff. Try broomball. Try downhill skiing. Try snowball fights. (Don’t try licking the flagpole in January). Try saying “oofdah.”

Seek out a trusted advisor with whom you can be completely transparent and ask for cultural guidance. Here gender and race conversations look different. Here poverty, justice, corruption, wealth, privilege these things look different and are talked about in different ways. It will be hard and you might feel confused sometimes, but try to learn to contextualize your conversations and learn from the people around you. Conversations in America have changed since mom and dad lived there and we can’t be specifically helpful in this regard because we are often confused, too. In this same vein, seek out a counselor, a trained professional, who understands cross-cultural issues.

Find a strong, healthy, joyful, creative, supportive, purposeful spiritual body to be part of. Maybe a church, maybe a campus group, maybe a small group of friends. Explore who you are, spiritually, apart from mom and dad.

Root yourself. You might be tempted to flit around and there will be potentially appropriate times to leave – to transfer or to study abroad – but don’t move just for the sake of movement. Settle in, make a home, even a dorm home, connect with people, invest in your community.

Call home. Text. Facebook message. Send photos. When you do, be honest. Goods and bads. Talk us through it. We’re transitioning, too. We miss you like whale sharks would miss the sea.

I am eternally grateful that we have had the honor of sharing this life abroad with you. Djibouti hasn’t always been easy, but what is easy? No place is easy. The way you love this small, fascinating nation blows my mind. You have embraced it, the heat and the dust, French school and Djiboutian best friends, Papa Noel and Eid Mubarak, volcanoes and ocean, with exuberance. And it has embraced you back. This is a rare thing. Including you, I can count on two hands the number of non-Djiboutian American children who have spent their lives, from toddler-hood to graduation in this country, and you have loved each other well.

You are not alone. You can cross the sea, go to the highest mountain, the lowest volcanic lava tunnel, you are not alone. God is with you, cliché and true. But also, all the people who have loved you and taught you and coached you and prayed for you are with you. You don’t leave friends or family behind, not when they have invested in you. They have become part of who you are, part of your character and your stories. You know this, from the Open Houses that we had/will have. We need to have them on two continents, with letters from people in dozens of other countries, because love and support is coming at you from all corners of the globe.

Live here and now. They might be hard words to live in and I’m still learning how to do this well. Right here, this now. And then this one and then this one. Pay attention to your here and your now and feel it. This actually builds new pathways in your brain. Did you know that? How you choose to receive and embrace each moment matters. Make it good, even the hard ones. Learn from them. Savor the good moments. Laugh when you want to, cry when you want to. Get angry and feel wonder. Here. Now.

Okay and a couple bonus, obligatory things:

I love you. I’m proud of you. Always and forever, to the moon and around to Djibouti and back around again.

What do you want to say to your graduating senior, TCK or not?

Read suggestions on helping TCKs transition to university in Finding Home.

Find more wisdom for graduating TCKs here.

The Bookshelf, June 2018

Summer reading seems to be a popular blog or podcast topic. For me, summer reading is no different than winter, fall, or spring reading. I read a lot and don’t make changes based on seasons. I read based on what books come up in my library queue.

Here’s what has been in my head lately:

This is Where You Belong by Melody Warn This is a wonderful book for anyone moving, graduating, starting over in a new city. Where you live and how feel about it, how you interact with it, how you find meaning in your place, matters. Warn offers practical tips for forming a connection with where you live. Even though I’ve lived for fifteen years in the same city and even though I have to modify some of her suggestions based on my specific location, I found it encouraging and challenging.

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. Put simply, LOVE.

Inspired by Rachel Held Evans I actually purchased this book as a preorder and I became the publisher’s biggest pain in the ass. I couldn’t download the bonus content. So I wrote to the publisher and asked for a different format. It took almost aw eek and about six different attempts before I was able to finally access the materials. I have no idea why. But I was incredibly impressed with this woman’s patience and willingness to keep trying. That has nothing to do with the quality of the book, just sayin’. The subtitle, “xxx and loving the Bible again,” fits me pretty well right now, so I was excited to dive into this. Plus, she has a few paragraphs about what it means to us evangelical children to be named Rachel. For her, she was upset to hear it meant, “Ewe,” which she first took as “eeewwww,” and thought she had perhaps been an ugly newborn. For me, the name Rachel made me horribly embarrassed every time the story of Jacob and Rachel and Leah came up. There was a Jacob in my grade at school and on my bus and people teased me. I didn’t even like that Rachel was the ‘beautiful’ one. She was also nasty.

The Very Worst Missionary by Jamie Wright. Don’t read it if you can’t handle her language. I was hoping for a little more insight into the issues she takes and didn’t really care about her pets, but that’s just me. I’ve read her blog for a long time, so I was able to fill in a lot of the blanks and I appreciated hearing her personal journey of discovering the God who is always, ever, Immanuel, God with us. Her voice is an important one in helping the North American church examine, critically, its actions in the world and she has very valid concerns and issues.

What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney. Modern life protects the body from our physical, natural environment, maintaining a constant temperature, pursuing comfort, etc. Unless you live in Djibouti, where things like dust and heat force the natural surroundings on us…This book talks about why putting our body into contact with our environment can make us stronger and healthier. If you’re the type inclined to take ice cold showers, you’ll enjoy this book. If you aren’t that type, you’ll enjoy reading about other people doing that.

The Dream of You, by Jo Saxton. “Let go of broken identities and live the live you were made for.”

Scary Close, dropping the act and finding true intimacy, by Donald Miller Ever since Blue Like Jazz, I’ve read Donald Miller. I have a bit more trouble getting into his newer books but I appreciate watching him grow and change and adapt as a writer. It encourages me, to realize I don’t have to only write about one thing.

Scream, chilling adventures in the science of fear by Margee Kerr Why do we like (or if you are like me, hate) scary movies? Why do we choose to do something we know will terrify us?

Deep Survival, who lives, who dies, and why, by Laurence Gonzales

Educated by Tara Westover

Longing for Home by Frederick Buechner

What are you reading?