Why “Only Joy, Only Love”?

People have asked me many times why I chose “Only Joy, Only Love” as my tagline for this blog. More than a tagline, it is actually my mantra.  This is what this post is about. It’s a bit long but I wanted to give you some background about me, our life and the experience of moving to China 3 years ago.

Living in Shanghai has challenged me and helped me grow in ways I could never have imagined. It is a highly sensory city with 26 million people. That is not far off from the entire population of Canada.  Think about that??!! It is loud with cars honking and people spitting and talking really loudly. It can be overwhelming in such a different culture and a very foreign language, especially at first. When we moved to Shanghai, I went from being a busy working mom with a career I adored to being a stay at home mom in a foreign country. It felt pretty lonely at times and was a huge adjustment, to say the least.  It wasn’t my first time being a stay at home mom.  My first daughter was born in Calgary, Alberta in 2007 when I was working with the Canadian Petroleum Institute. I did not work for three years after she was born but we moved from Calgary, back to Houston and then back to Newfoundland in those three years so I was very busy and I dearly loved my time home with my daughter. It was a beautiful time in our lives. Shanghai was a different beast all together.

The first year in Shanghai is a bit of a blur……kind of like treading water. Figuring out the basics like where to buy groceries – which can feel like hunting and gathering somedays because you just cannot find everything in one place – and getting around the city was enough to fill a day. Then there was the language. I felt so ignorant not being able to communicate and simple tasks were incredibly difficult. However, I quickly enrolled in mandarin lessons and I was so excited to be living with my husband and girls in the same city after 4 years of him spending more time working in China than being home. It was and still is such a blessing.  Shortly after arriving, I did go through a period of mourning my job and life in Newfoundland. I missed my people and I loved my career where I worked as the Director of Marketing and Development with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.  I was able to work through that and embrace our life in Shanghai. I said “yes” to invites, went to every coffee morning and get together to try and help me and our family meet people and settle in. When people asked me how our first year in Shanghai was my response was always that I totally felt like I was dating again. 😂😂  My oldest daughter would say “Mommy, can you please keep smiling at people so we can meet them”. It was a good lesson for us all…..everyone is a potential friend. It was a busy and fun time, sometimes overwhelming, but I connected with people and made and still continue to make some amazing lifelong friends. The year just flew by.  At the end of the school year, the girls and I travelled back to Newfoundland for the summer and my husband met us for the last couple of weeks.  Time to reconnect with family and friends there and give the girls real experiences, memories and connections to Newfoundland. That will always be important to me no matter where in the world we live.

The second year I had learned some of the language and knew the drill.  I felt less like I had to put myself out there constantly and was settling into a routine.  Both my girls were in school and it gave me time to explore the city and continue learning the language. But something was missing. It happened gradually…..kind of just chipped away. I didn’t even realize it but I wasn’t finding joy in every day situations anymore. I have always been a positive person and could usually see the good in all situations and people but that “talent” was becoming harder to summon. I wasn’t living positively or purposefully. I was being reactive instead of proactive and a little complacent. I have never been a complacent person.  I’m a doer!  I get sh*t done, personally and professionally, but I just wasn’t motivated. Out of the proverbial steam and I guess it was the accumulation of the past few years catching up.  It had taken its toll. I’m not saying it wasn’t a good year but I had lost sight of a piece of myself that makes me, well….me.

When we returned for our third year, I recognized that something had to change so I could feel more productive, positive, and settled. I didn’t want life to pass by and I wanted to appreciate Chinese culture, the people, and our life, in general. I started caring for myself more and connecting to the person that I was and knew I could be.  So here I am. Trying hard to be the best person, wife, momma, daughter, sister and friend possible and most importantly, trying hard to handle life with grace, positivity, patience and purpose.

So this is where “only joy, only love” comes in. Shortly after returning to Shanghai from Canada for our third year, I had an experience that greatly affected how I deal with situations.  One day at the grocery store, an old lady literally pushed me out of the way and cut in line at the cash register. It is totally cultural and this is a pretty regular occurrence. Locals just don’t line up in China and they also rarely stop at a crosswalk which has caused me to cuss more here than ever before. 😜 As a Canadian who holds doors open for people, smiles and says thank you, people aggressively cutting in line is sooooo foreign. When it happened this day, I SAW RED and almost flipped out on the poor old lady….what the heck?  That was not me! I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love old people. But thankfully, I paused, took a deep breath and said to myself “only joy, only love”.  The words just echoed in my mind and instead of freaking out, I genuinely smiled at her and told her to please go ahead of me. She looked shocked, smiled back and then thanked me.  HOLY CRAP!  I can still see the reaction on her face so clearly.  It was that experience of almost taking down an old Chinese lady (a little bit of an exaggeration but not really) that I learned the power of pausing before reacting to all situations and “only joy, only love” became my mantra.  That short pause and reminder gives me perspective on how my words and actions affect myself and the people around me. It has definitely made me appreciate living in China more and made me a better mother cause you know how those kiddos can push one’s buttons sometimes.

It doesn’t mean that China and life still doesn’t have it challenges and that I don’t lose my patience from time to time.  Mother Teresa I am not 😂 but I am a work in progress and feel like I am making positive changes to lead a purposeful life. Personally, as a couple and as an entire family we are working to embrace and enjoy life and be tolerant and appreciative. Pausing, taking a breath and remembering ‘only joy, only love’ has helped me live a more peaceful life.  Because no matter how hard one has to look, there is joy and love in every situation. It really is perspective.

So the second half of our third year is filled with a renewed sense of hope and purpose. Our daughters are so happy and content at their school (YCIS Hongqiao) and just thriving socially and academically. After 7 years of diligently and tirelessly working in China, the environmental company that my husband runs (Shanghai West Mountain Environmental) is making positive progress. I am starting a consulting company, focusing on writing this blog and connecting with people all over the world! It’s an exciting time for our family, things are coming together and we are all stoked!

Thanks for coming along on our journey.

Until next time!

Only joy, only love,

Michelle

xo

P.S. This is a picture from our photoshoot with my friend and amazing photographer,  Lisa Browne (@capturingthefabulise).  This man was just lovely. It’s amazing the beautiful people you can meet wandering around alleyways in China.

antle-family-photo-shoot-43
Photo Credit: Lisa Browne @capturingthefabulise
Advertisements

To My Intrepid Friends

I recently celebrated my 41st birthday and I had a wonderful weekend with friends and my family in Shanghai. I also heard from people all around the world. I received so many thoughtful messages. Incredible. Connecting with people and keeping in touch brings me a lot of joy. I am thankful to have met each and every one of you throughout our journey and have so many wonderful memories…..from my teaching time in England, to Glenn and I moving around North America every couple of years and now, China. Thanks for keeping in touch and being part of our lives.  

I received a beautiful compliment the other day when a friend of mine replied to a comment I made on Facebook. She referred to me as her “intrepid friend”. Intrepid is not a word that I use and I had to think of what that actually meant. So I did what I always do when faced with this situation…..I asked Siri for the definition of ‘intrepid”. (I just love that woman!) When the words “fearless” and “adventuresome” popped up, I was over come with emotion. I don’t always feel fearless, although I am working on that with varying degrees of success :-), but it felt really nice to have someone view me like that. So thank you, Becky. You just never know when words of kindness can really resonate with someone. I’m thankful to have met you during your visit to Newfoundland and love getting to know your beautiful family through your photos. 

So to my intrepid friends…be fearless and adventuresome and dauntless. Those are great adjectives to live by. I’m having a lot of fun. I love you and want to thank you for loving us. We have a beautiful life and the incredible people we connect with along the way really do sustain us. 

41 is pretty fabulous so far! Thanks again for the wishes…..they meant the world to me.

And in case you needed a reminder…😂😂😂


Until next time.
Only joy, only love,
Michelle
xo

Super Bowl at Bubbas Texas BBQ and sushi at Hikari 

It’s Super Bowl Monday here in Shanghai and Bubbas opened up at 6am and aired the Super Bowl. While I had full intentions of staying home and getting organized, I ended up at Bubbas for the second half of the game 😂😂 We were there with our friends Nikki, Ryan, Katie and Katie’s new puppy, Lucy. Nikki and her mom showed up at 6:15am to save a table. That’s dedication!! Also S pecial thanks to Bubbas for opening up early! 


When the game finished we headed down to Hikari for some sushi. Hikari has been closed for several weeks while they were renovating and we’ve been anxiously awaiting its reopening. The sushi is incredible and the owner, Lucine, is lovely. She has one of the best smiles in Shanghai. I already can’t wait until our next visit. If you’re in Shanghai, check out Hikari. 
Hikari http://www.smartshanghai.com/venue/6823

I took some photos to show you the beautiful space and food. 



Just another Monday in Shanghai. 😂😂  Have a beautiful week. 
Until next time!

Only joy, only love,

Michelle 

xo

Traditional Chinese meal at the Zhu’s house on Chongming Island. 

This past Sunday we were invited to the parent’s house of one of Glenn’s business associates. His mother cooked us the most fantastic traditional Chinese meal. His father is a farmer and they have lived on the land their whole life and while it was originally a grape farm, it now grows many types of fruits and vegetables. One of my favourite dishes was the “golden melon” and they told me it is only grown in Chongming. It is similar to spaghetti squash and was prepared beautifully.

Here are some of the pictures from our beautiful day on Chongming Island.

Traffic was brutal because apparently everyone was going to Chongming Island. 😃 It was a sunny day and we all enjoyed the drive. 

 

But the 3 hour drive was totally worth it.  We were greeted with smiles and amazing dishes….just incredible!  img_2896-1


The yellow dish below is the golden melon that I mentioned earlier.  It was so delicious. 

Zhu Lei’s friends pouring Baijiu. It’s liquor….strong liquor… but if you sip it, it’s actually quite nice.  

Zhu Lei’s Dad wanted to drink his homemade stuff.  img_2899

 

We took a stroll around the neighbourhood after we finished our meal.

The woodshed….with dried bamboo and corn husks.  

img_5035

Neighbours scaling their fish.

Zhu Lei and his Dad giving us a tour of his fields.

Glenn and Zhu Lei posing for a photo.

The next few pictures are of Zhu Lei’s mom teaching the girls to make dessert dumplings with sweet fillings of either red bean or sesame. The girls had a ton of fun learning how to make them.

I  think my favourite part of the whole house was the double wok that was heated with fire.  Georgia loved stoking the fire with Zhu Lei. img_3034img_3018img_2995img_2998img_3045

We left Chongming Island with our bellies and hearts full.  We can’t thank Zhu Lei and his family enough for the invitation and hospitality.  It was a day for the books!

Until next time.

Only joy, only love,

Michelle

xoxo

 

I am an immigrant living in China

It is such a scary time in Canada and the USA. Between the immigration ban in the USA and the horrible shooting at a muslim mosque in Quebec, it’s really hard to comprehend what’s going on. I can’t imagine how the people stranded in airports and fear of being deported must feel and how the families of the shooting victims feel that their loved ones were attacked in their place of prayer. Such hatred in an uncertain time.  

I grew up in the biggest city in Newfoundland but in comparison to the world, a very small population. It was safe. I had a loving family with two happily married parents who offered me and my two sisters all the opportunities in the world. They taught us the value of hard work, to be independent, educated women and provided us a with a beautiful childhood. Simple pleasures. I am blessed and it is not lost on me. I am also blessed to have lived in England, Texas, and now China and have travelled to many countries around the world.  These moves were always made to enhance my life by experiences, they were not made because I had to flee or I felt unsafe, as many immigrants do. I cannot begin to imagine the fear, desperation and courage people must feel to leave their home country in search of a safer life.

But I am an immigrant in China….although for some reason westerners in foreign countries are called “expats”.  I understand what it is like to live in an entirely different culture. I do not speak the language (although I’m learning) and after 2.5 years, I am beginning to understand and appreciate the culture. With the exception of the odd taxi driver passing me by when it’s pouring rain outside, I have never felt discriminated against in China. I always feel safe and welcome here.  Safe…..everyone deserves to feel safe. I tell you what, it’s not easy being surrounded by a completely foreign language but when I speak my “caveman chinese” to locals, they appreciate it and encourage it. Living here has definitely made me more aware and empathetic of people in similar situations around the world and I’m grateful for the kindness shown to me daily. What I do know is that a smile and simple kindness go a long way anywhere in the world. 

In my next post, I’m going to share the experience of our family being welcomed into a Chinese family home to share a traditional meal. The world needs more people like the Zhus. Just a beautiful experience for my family. 

Until next time. 

Only joy, only love,

Michelle 

xo