Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Happy Everything

Happy Christmas and New Year and no alarm clocks!

2016 is coming to a close, and we Greens are off to savor just us three. We're bringing paper and pens to make lists and plans and goals. Every year has its cycles of ups and downs, closed and open doors, discoveries and questions. We had our irritations: The colds never seemed to end. Oscar struggled with early school mornings and long school days. I transitioned a business. Patrick and I both pretended turning 40 didn't bother us until we admitted that it did. But we also had some victories: OGG revealed he has hiking stamina. My body cooperated with long distance running. Oscar lost his first tooth; Patrick published his first book.

I adore the holiday cards coming our way. Cheerful messages. People I want to hug. Stories I want to hear. Everyone beams---happy faces and coordinating clothes. But I always wish I knew what was irritating too. What was funny. What was unexpected and what was hopeful. Many years ago a dear friend said that every time she saw us, she was going to ask how our marriage was. There have been a couple times when that was asked, and Patrick and I took deep breaths. There have been far more relaxed times when that was asked---and we gushed praises. Too often, as one who struggles with small talk, I avoid initiating questions. But her frankness challenged me to be a friend and hurdle over the chit-chat that confuses to ask what is good and what is hard. I cherish those answers.

As our tribe of three, we're off to talk about those answers. We'll also eat some great Pho and drink French wine and take bicycle rides through rice paddies. We will spend time asking and listening and hopefully laughing.

Family photos are not our gift. That would require us all to be showered at the same time and also looking in the same direction while not sweating profusely or swatting a mosquito. Never gonna happen. So, this will have to do:


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Oh My Gosh! You're Building the Nativity!

Happy Christmas and good job, you! I can't believe you actually stopped by!

If you received the Green family Christmas card, you're ready for a little Nativity craftin'. (Didn't get one? I blame international postal systems. Wait a week and then email 

You're going to need scissors, tape, an X-acto knife, and very low expectations. If you're over 21, this is probably more enjoyable with a glass of wine. Go for it. It's the holidays. If you're under 21, thanks for helping out your folks. They owe you hot cocoa.


Step 1: Impatiently cut out the pieces. You could try bribing your six year old, but he will roll his eyes and remind you that this is "your project, mom." 

Step 2: Fold back the sides of the donkey, wise men, shepherd, and manger.  Set the star pieces, baby, and ecstatic new parents aside.
(Keep your eye on the three kings. They either already had a sip of the holiday wine or are poorly designed)

Step 3: Things are getting fancy! Take that X-acto and make a slit along Joseph's arm. 

Fold the sides back on Mary and Joseph and lay the baby in the manger. Much like Oscar Gus at that age, he's probably not as sleepy as everyone told you newborns would be. We'll get him out of that crib soon.

Time to build a star! 

Step 4: Cut a slit from the edge of the star base to the center. 

Step 5: Don't be me. FIRST, take your X-acto knife and cut a slit in the base about the same width of the star handle. THEN, pull the corner of the cut area of the base over a bit and tape it down to form a low (and kind of lame) cone. 

Step 6: Marvel at the simple construction and brainstorm ways you would have done this better. Insert the star in the slit, and voila----a star of wonder!

Step 7: And now, thanks to your sense of humor and determination, you have a miniature Nativity scene. Get that baby out of the manger and into his parents' arms.

And if you're Oscar Gus, invite a few strangers to marvel at the scene. Because we believe that everyone--EVERYONE--is welcome at the manger.

Happiest of Holidays!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Singapore Christmas

Lucky for my readership of two, I'm interrupting the One Green Bee blog ramblings to encourage snail mail:

The Singapore holiday cards are in!
Since the Kapok Tree is in transition, One Green Bee printed a limited run and is selling to the SAS community at the PTA Holiday Fair, December 7/8 in the Riady Centre. If you need cards sooner, drop me a line at Would love to support festive mailings.

This year, our cards are 182mm X 125mm and printed inside and out: 

If you're sending overseas, remember that SingPost offers discounted stamp rates beginning in early December. 

Happy Holidays!

Monday, 17 October 2016


It's October and the first graders have been swapping scary stories. When he comes home, my Oscar spins over them. Rather than clinging to my leg and mumbling and refusing to go to the bathroom alone and irritating your low-patience mother, we are working on saying what we are feeling so others can help us.

I was thinking on this last week as we traveled with new friends. They are just awfully kind and cheerful and interesting and smart and easy, and well--normal. Their kids sit and play and draw and eat breakfast and--wait for it---wash their own dishes. Our family tends to travel solo as we are finicky and strange and possessive about the good coffee, so this was an enormous risk for us, and as the week went on---rather easily---I began to do my own version of mumbling and leg-clinging and refusing to enter rooms alone. Turning something just fine into something anxiety-ridden is one of my special gifts:

At night I would consider my wonderings and tell Patrick, "I don't think we are asking them enough questions. They must think us so selfish." Or "I'm pretty sure they saw me put Oscar's shoes on for him. They must think we are horrible parents." Or "We didn't leave the house all day. They think we are insane." Sweet Patrick would do what he does best at times like that, which is to say as few words as possible so that I don't latch onto one of them and thus spin questions into oblivion or at the very least, a weary 2:00am conversation.

Today as I listened to Mary Karr and Krista Tippett banter about faith and poetry and fear, I wondered if maybe if it was because I was saying possibilities but not true terrors. The truth of it is, those people were gosh darn wonderful. It was easy. I spent most of that week in happy city. The truth of it also is that it's hard and scary to make new friends. It's hard and scary to let people see the real you. It's hard and scary to have an emotional IQ in the double digits. It's hard and scary to share your pot of dark French roast and to not blurt out inappropriate comments all day. It's hard and scary to be an adult.

Writers I love, like Mary Karr and Anne LaMott, both echo that we need to holler out, "I need help!" And that's what I've been telling Oscar Gus. When your playground buddies tell you creepy things, you can come home, and you can say, "I need help!" Your mom prays with you and talks to you and looks in spooky mirrors with you and reads funny books and hangs twinkle lights in dark corners.

I need help being an adult. So today I sent off a few emails to some good girlfriends. I sketched for no reason at all. I texted the nice travel buddies, and they must not be too scarred, as they texted back. I read a little Danny Gregory. I took a long walk. I let myself feel hopeful. Mary Karr says, "Daring to hope every day is much more radical than to live in the despair I was born to." So, I shall appreciate my weird and others' weird and live radically and hopefully and trust that if my emotional stuntedness scares off folks, then it's probably best they find other friends who have children that will help with the dishes. We are all just doing the best we can with what we have, and if that means Oscar is in college before he learns to tie his own shoes, so be it. At least he'll be able to make really good coffee.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

What a delight

This weekend, I talked to adults about the power of images to make meaning.

What a delight.

My real aim was to encourage the use of graphic novels for increasing reading comprehension, but in the process of creating my presentation, I realized that what I was really talking about was multimodal literacy.

This making of meaning through words and images is in our every day. Saturday, a dear introvert friend and I were supposed to meet up for a drink. A couple hours before our date she sent a cancellation:
credit to Allie Brosh

I replied in kind:

Earlier in the week, I'd written one of Oscar's teachers to share some worries over how that boy doesn't exactly embrace school and how some his actions could be misunderstood. The teacher replied not with words but with image:
It was such a relief.

And that's what my talk was all about---empathy. Having a seat at the table. Using images to start something or to grow something and to build relationships with books and words and neighbors and society. I'm a soap-boxer about graphic novels, so I'll save that for when schools are foolish enough to give me the mike, but as I spoke on the power of images to make meaning, it touched a very personal nerve.

Last night I was reading Patrix by Nadia Bolz Weber; she writes that we have this misconception sometimes that when something is new---it's clean and shiny. It has a new car smell and tender green sprouts. Ha! Usually new is really messy. It's awful. The new sober person trying to make it through the next 16 hours. The new baby bringing fatigue and body fluids. The new school year for Oscar Gus. 

I'm experiencing some new. The Kapok Tree, a beloved endeavor with a beloved friend, has been at a crossroads for several months. It's as successful as we need it to be. And it's certainly fulfilling. But, in order to grow it, we have to go in a direction and that doesn't quite sit right. So, we have a new path in front of us. The Kapok Tree as we know it in Singapore is coming to a close, but some other things are growing. 

And it doesn't feel clean and shiny. It doesn't smell very good. It has a lot of fear behind it. But, as Brene Brown says, "Unused creativity is not benign." It festers. If there's something in there---you gotta get it out.

Last night I was looking for a visual metaphor of courage to help take on the fear at the changes ahead. Elizabeth Gilbert tells us that fear can come along our creative journeys, we need her, but she gets to sit in the backseat. As I looked for visual courage, I remembered this dog:
Awkwardly posing for her school photo, Weela looks resigned rather than heroic. Her absurd image and her story were published in Outside Magazine in 1996. Back then, I pretended the carabiner that held my water bottle to my backpack was really used for scaling rock faces. I was a poser in every part of life--desperate to be something. Anything. A teacher, a good friend, a mountain climber, an artist, a soulmate, a writer. I was struggling with being in my own skin and with having any sort of compass. I wore clogs and corduroy and long baggy sleeves to cover a self that had no passport and no direction and no defined character. After reading that little ol' Weela saved dozens from drowning, lived through a rattlesnake bike, and was a mighty-hero-dog in a little pup's clothing, I hyperbolically (and cheekily) cut out her image and pasted it over my own drivers' license photo in hopes of channeling her grit and determination--or at least having something to make my geology lab partner laugh.

Last night, twenty years later, I Googled old Weela, and I cut her out again. I pasted her mug on my jar of drawing pens. An awkward talisman. Like Weela, I don't feel particularly ready for my close-up. But the difference between 40 and 20 is that I am not lost wondering who I am. I can send a cartoon to cancel an evening out and not be thrown into a spiral of self doubt. I can doodle something mediocre and not think it's me forever. I can live in the mess and believe in the hope. I can make meaning.

What a delight.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Keeping Place

One Green Bee is going home for a few weeks!
She's going to see lots of trees and trails and sky!
She's going to eat food from the farmers' market! And pick her own raspberries!
Wiiiiiiiiild times!

Before she goes bananas back in the Pacific Northwest, she has to be organized and pretend she has her act together and leave generous shop owners with little signs that say, "This person is real and does some stuff for sorta thoughtful reasons." Consider the following a place holder for a revamp of the One Green Bee Studio website. When I'm not jogging those trails and staring at that wide Washington sky, I will also hopefully be piecing together a web presence that isn't just me rambling about what I'll have for breakfast. Although fresh homegrown raspberries are kind of the best breakfast in the world.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Tiny Wishes

Recently, a friend and I started to cope with the countdown towards summer through Tiny Wishes. He casually said when leaving the room at work, something to the effect of, "I wish I had a cup of coffee to take with me to this meeting." And I replied, "Tiny Wishes by S." I'm encouraging him to launch a line of cartoons. I'd buy 'em.

Tiny Wishes started winging back and forth on email. Hopes disguised as complaints? Maybe. But they are amusing, and amusing is healthy.

I wish my desk chair didn't squeak.
I wish this bagel didn't have raisins in it.
I wish I could remember everyone's name at work.
I wish my Yankee Candle didn't smell like cardboard.
I wish I could dance like Beyonce.

Okay, maybe that last one isn't so tiny. But, you do whatever you gotta do to laugh your way through the last 17 days until Gramma's.

I wish the hideous floral background matched the pears.
I wish I could look at these sunflowers and see something other than eyeballs.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Turn on the AC

It is almost May. And I just want to repost my heat fueled litany from last year. It's hot. It's hot every day and that's really boring. And it's hot at the same time our seasonal work life is ramping up for its grand finale, so the external pressures are mirroring the internal tensions and not every one is being her best self.

It's time to turn on the AC.

In Singapore we call it aircon, which sounds to me like some sort of aviation company for prisoners, but maybe that's appropriate. It's time for Aircon to take us away from the boiling temperatures and to keep us going for five little more weeks until we can wake up with lungs full of cool Northwest mornings.

In the meantime, we'll try to behave.

I'm behaving by celebrating these good folks. If you have a birthday coming up, it's possible I enrolled you in a button a month club. I'm not sure that's what you wanted, but it's going to be just great.

I'm also behaving by listening. It's not my gift. I'm really good at being a bad listener. I'm working on it, but I still end almost every social gathering dope slapping my forehead and lamenting, "Shoot! Did it again!" But I'm sincerely trying, and I have patient teachers willing to turn the AC on my hot air and patiently nudge me through more careful exchanges. This last week was full of moments where people needed to be heard, and I hope I carved out some space for that despite the fact we're all sweaty and nervous looking even though it's the weather and not our emotional states.

It's at this point every year that I holler, "Do-Over!" and wish for a speedy end to the miserable temperatures and the mistakes I've made and the time I've wasted and the frayed edges I've helped unravel.

But as a dear friend reminded me recently, every day is a do-over. Every blessed morning, whether that be one awash in cool Cascade breezes or stifling inter-Monsoon haze is a chance to listen a little more, behave a little better, and be proverbial Aircon to those around us. Sylvia Boorstein, a favorite author of mine, writes, "every single act we do has the potential of causing pain, and every single thing we do has consequences that echo way beyond what we can imagine. It doesn't mean we shouldn't act. It means we should act carefully. Everything matters." Knowing her work, I don't think Boorstein is trying to scare us into deliberating over decisions or thinking we're particularly important. I think she's just saying that whether you're gritting teeth through the last five weeks of a school year or lying without a to-do list in the grass under the family pear orchard, you're a force for good. For generous and gracious space. For aircon.

I can be content where I am and still dream a little...right?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Not just one thing

I spend most of my day with teenagers. And they are fabulous. They are reading wonderful things, and they are telling me observations on life I wish I wrote down with more dedication. But every now and then, I get to visit the littles. The littles with the grand ideas. Today I whiplashed between 9th graders and 1st graders, and man---it was fun!

We talked about fonts, and then we played:

We talked about images and place, and then we played:

Those kiddos surprised and delighted me with their willingness to try, to scribble, and to fill pages full of ideas that were judged not on their alignment to any standard but only by my one rule for the day: "Does this make me happy?"

It made us happy indeed.

So, brain percolating new ideas and pockets brimming with sweet doodles from sincere seven year olds, I raced back to an afternoon with the teenagers. The dichotomy of my day reminded me of a conversation I had with a colleague when I moved from middle school up to the high school. He well intentioned-ly remarked that, "some people just aren't middle school folk." I was mildly offended, as in my transition from betweeners to teeners, I hadn't for a moment wished to escape any age or to shake off my 15 years working with younger adolescents. I just wanted to learn more and try more and explore more. I worried about how my change was perceived by others and whether or not I could be both teachers. Today affirmed for me that in so many facets of life, we are not just one thing. Just like I taught those first graders that we can be both authors and illustrators and creators and typographers, I have to remind myself that I am large, I contain multitudes.  It has taken me a long journey of teaching and creating and living and learning to get to a place where I feel settled in those multitudes.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


We are figuring things out. Kaye and I figuring out what to do with our little book:
What to do with our little selves:
And what to do with our wee creations:

It's a magical and fearsome and yet also super silly thing to learn so publicly but yet in such good company. Just when we're on the verge of taking ourselves seriously, we spell something wrong, or forget to return a phone call, or get really sweaty carrying cards and books all over a summer-season island. I'm-a-humbled and I'm-a-happy!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Happy New Year

"There are years that ask questions and years that answer." Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

We started this brave new year in Oscar's first visit to New Zealand, exactly ten years after our first visit on a belated honeymoon after a surprise marriage and difficult first year overseas. On that quiet road trip around the South Island, we walked windy hillsides and sat on rocky beaches and paddled blue waters and slowly talked about the lives ahead: Where we'd move, what we'd do, how we'd never have kids. We had a lot of being time. Just us time. Silent time to ponder what would be our normal. And then ten years later we had a trip of contrasts with a rowdy five year old sidekick we couldn't imagine living without helping guide us around the North Island visiting housefuls friends we'd made on three different continents in the last strange decade. Loud children bounced on trampolines and ran down trails and filled tables at dinnertime. Ice cream was eaten by the bucketful. It felt good. It felt normal. 

Our normal has been the subject of great discussion at home lately. Our dear son doesn't want to ride a bike or wear shoes, but he does want to learn to surf and rock climb and build a fortress in Minecraft. Is this okay? Our retirement system is not a solid 401K but is a hodgepodge of plans and savings and unorthodox choices. Is this okay? As we both face 40 in the coming months we are finding our social lives whittled to a handful of lifers that we feel just as close to whether they live on our street or 10,000 miles away. Is this okay? 

"God with one to another, we ask that you interrupt our isolation." Nadia Bolz Weber prayed this in one of her sermons recently, and it struck me. My isolation was interrupted loudly by a surprise move to Asia 11 and a half years ago. And then a year later, a surprise marriage. And then five years later a surprise boy-child. And now, my isolation is filled with a tentative business and friends I didn't know I'd make and jobs I didn't think I'd have and a looming but also wonder-filling unknown of what comes next. Normal has never been what I thought it would be, and it has turned out okay. It has been ridiculously challenging at times, and I have been unfairly unkind to it, but it has been okay.

So new year, we sit in our questions and our community and we marvel. We marvel at what is to come and what answers we will live---even if we don't know that's what is unfolding and even if we fight against it (rather angrily) sometimes. Here's to good art, and good writing, and good travels, and good company, and good intentions. And to letting our isolation be interrupted and our normal be okay.

And I'll interrupt this a-bit-too-dreamy-self-centered-sort-of-like-some-of-the-follow-your-bliss-blogs-I-make-fun-of-blog post to mention the lack of art I did in the last two weeks but the art I deeply admired. On our New Zealand travels I fell in love with Jane Galloway:
And all the interpretations of the pohutukawa tree:

Now it's time to return to one's grounded senses and do something really normal like wash some dishes and then step on a Lego. It's all part of the journey to what comes next. Which will probably be a cup of tea and a flippant podcast and worrying over whether or not the loud five-year-old ate his school lunch. Happy New Year.