Category Archives: Self identity

Day 13 of 20 *Questions*: Am I the only one struggling not to [fart] during [yoga]?

Wow, this question is so perfectly worded, I can’t think of anything to put in the brackets.  Though the best part of the question, to my mind, is the first 5 words:  Am I the only one … ?

And the answer is, no, you’re not the only one.  In a world of nearly 7 billion people, you’re probably not as bizarre or – what’s the word here – well, you’re not the target market, and you notice that you’re different, and that doesn’t usually make life easy or pleasant.  Being lonely is really an awful feeling.  This question might free you from feeling so isolated when you don’t fit.

We used to say “you’re one in a million.”  A friend once replied, “wow, there are 8 of you in New York City!”  Being one in a million makes a person far less of a star – or a freak.  In our world, as connected as we are, people can generally find a place where they feel they “fit.”  Eric and I joke about how delighted we are when we find that we’re someone’s target audience – like we finally exist to someone who has power for setting trends, creating products, or building communities.

I know that being the target audience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re real and that you count.  Like the person who posed the question above – real people fart during yoga – as a mom I used yoga to *help* my baby pass gas! You’re supposed to release that particular pressure… but we put pressure to be people who are somehow “above” it all.  The more pressure we put on ourselves, the more alone we feel.

So – listen, you are an amazing person.  You can keep improving, you can always do “more” – but check in with questions like this one.  Are you trying to be something perfect, non-human, or just not you?  Let it go.  You are real.  You were created by love, for love.  If you’re wishing to be a target audience, congrats – you’re one in a million! There are 7,000 of you in the world.  You are not alone, but you probably are distinctive in ways that can change your community (however you define that).  Stop trying to not be real.  Real may be the best thing you can be.

Day 12 of 20 *Questions*: What potential memories am I bartering, and is the profit worth the price?

Ah, this is the question that, in part, led us to serving as missionaries in Malaysia.  We were just fine where we were – a beautiful congregation that we co-led as pastors, hopes of Eric finding adjunct teaching in the tri-state area, kids in a great school, financial stability, and a great Y and public library.  It was the American dream.  (Yes, our garden even had a picket fence.) 

But as happy as we were, it still wasn’t *our* dream.  Our dream has always been to serve abroad.  For Eric’s Ph.D program we tried to move to South Africa, because we felt this strong pull to moving outside of America.  Nothing against America – but I know that I’ve always wanted to see how others outside of America experience life, and to see their perspectives on the life I’ve assumed as “normal.”  But South Africa didn’t work out (in part because I was pregnant, and my mother put her foot down that “my grandbabies WILL be born in an American hospital” … and there are times when you don’t mess with a fierce Mama Bear.)  Our plans would have to wait, and we mostly thought they were gone, and that was okay.

Until this opportunity in Malaysia opened up.  This time we had Mom’s permission!  (Thanks mostly to Skype and Air Asia.)

In coming here, we had to ask ourselves about our potential memories.  We were giving up Little League and youth group pizza nights and a house that we had named.  (Blueberry Cottage, if you’re asking.)  We were giving up a place where dogs are vaccinated for rabies and vehicle emissions are controlled – those certainly help toward creating memories, though they’re often unnoticed.  We were bartering those memories in order to come here  – and we were certainly deciding a lot for our kids without their voice or consent.



But under it all, we decided that the biggest and defining memory for our kids would be them watching us follow our passion.  That hope goes for all who had to grieve at our leaving – our family, friends, congregation and colleagues, and even our kids’ friends.  We bartered their memories as well, and that is no small thing.  But I fervently hope that people who have lost track of those specific dreams might have a door or window opened by knowing that people can indeed follow their passion – whatever that passion may be for them.

This question asks us to balance our todays and our tomorrows, as well as the things that give us satisfaction now versus what we will look back on someday.  This question reminds us that we are always defining our future and that we have a say in what not only our future will be, but the future of those tied to us.  It reminds us that we are always negotiating, always finding our way.  This question reduces our complacency, and replaces it with verve.

Day 11 of 20 *Questions*: Where am I wrong?

Isn’t it intriguing how the questions we make lead us to answers – but we may not notice how leading the questions are?  I think there are too many people who willingly ask themselves “Where am I wrong” because they expect themselves to be wrong.  I know for me, I tell myself that I’m being humble or modest or flexible or proactive, when in reality, I’m looking for ways to shoot myself down. 

So – if you see the question above and think, “I’m always wrong” or any thought like it, may I submit this reframing:  ask “What am I learning?”

Oftentimes when we’re processing things that have gone wrong, we ask ourselves (often angrily), “What was I thinking?!?!????”  This is a question that beats us up and does not lead anywhere good.  But the more important and realistic question to ask, if we want to process past events, is “what was I …”  [ready?] “learning?”  If you’re looking back, you’re hoping to find something that you can use for changes in the future – and this is the perfect question for accepting that something failed, without spiralling into negativity.

“What was I learning?”  is a question that gives hope, and creative energy, and it reminds us of the power in each of us to influence the future.  We are not powerless.  We are not without resources. 

If you can first ask yourself, “what was I learning,” then you are probably more ready for asking “where am I wrong” with the needed self-respect, hope, and true courage.  That way you get answers (because questions are leading!) that will build you up, and by extension, care well for the matter at hand.

Day 9 of 20 *Questions*: How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk?

First off, that is really fun to say.  Second, this is one of the areas in which I feel I’ve grown most in my years, so I could say a million things about this.  Third – and proof of second –  I wrote a blog post on this way back in August  – you can find it at:

Fourth, and I’ll stop counting here because I think I know the main thing I want to say:  junk is clutter, and clutter does not enhance life.  Often, clutter just sucks the energy right out of you , or me, or us.  For many people, we look around our house and there are little piles on each of the flat surfaces.  That’s visual clutter.  It’s also mental clutter – each of those things hangs on us in some way: the catalog I wanted to order something from, the toy that’s waiting to be glued, the medical bill that I have to call about, the picture my friend sent me, the plate that didn’t get back to the kitchen, the DVD that didn’t go back in its sleeve.  I have to be careful of each of these in some way (don’t lose the toy part, scrape the dvd, lose the bill).  And I don’t have a place to set anything else down without starting an avalanche – so I am less free, even in my own home.

Here is the take-home message for today’s question, and for me it was a game-changer.  “CLUTTER” is “A DECISION DEFERRED.”  Each and every piece of clutter is something that was in my hands, and I said, “I don’t know what to do with this.  I will deal with it later.”  And I set it down, and there it stays.  95% of the time, the decision is no easier later; in fact, it’s harder, because that item now has a story and a challenge and I’m unlikely to have the energy for those when “later” does or doesn’t come.

So here is what one does: say you’re holding a phone bill, and there’s an extra fee on it.  Yuck.  Get a post-it and write on it the steps to getting it fixed (1. Get phone # to call; 2. Call and write result on bill; 3. File and move post-it to front of that file to remember to check bill next month.)  WAIT.  Write down WHEN you will do these steps.  Stand up for yourself in getting to these tasks.  You deserve a life without little hooks and large piles of crap.

Tell yourself that you will only defer decisions if there is a legitimate reason to.  And if you’re facing junk like full closets, recognize that there are a lot of “deferred decisions” in there.  Take 15 minutes (set a timer) and start MAKING decisions: wear, donate, trash, repair (how & when?).  Being a chic chick means making decisions.  (And guys, you can be chic, too.)  The more you make, the better you get, and the less clutter will have power over you.

If you want to learn more about caring for the spaces you live in, I highly recommend  She has a system of what she calls “home blessing” and she teaches how to manageably clear out junk and make your home (office, car, etc) hospitable.  She emphasizes that you deserve to live with energy and joy – and she is right!

Day 7 of 20 *Questions*: Are [vegans] better people?

Again, fill in the brackets with your own word.  Early risers, ultra-marathoners, from-scratch bakers, people without a sweet tooth, and people who lift their hands while singing at Church would be my go-to ones.  There is nothing wrong with any of the above categories, yet I often feel like there’s something wrong with me that I’m not in their club.  Each of these sounds really, really good to me, I’m just not sure how to get there, and so my energy goes into judging how far better they must be than me – rather than maybe taking a step or two in their direction. 

So the question is, are [they] better people?  In theory, no.  In practice, I’m tempted to say yes, but wait! The root of the question is, “who is judging?”  Is it your favourite magazine that’s judging?  Is it your teenage self?  Is it that person you’ve never really connected with, who only sees your surface?

What if it is God who judges?  (See Romans 8:31-39 –Oremus Bible Browser )  Ultimately we know it is God who judges – but whose judgment matters more to you today?  Your fashion or health magazine is certainly hoping that you aren’t hearing a voice that says you’re fine just as you are – that’s bad for business.  Your teenage self is so insecure, s/he probably shouldn’t be driving your thoughts and emotions.  That person who knows only a little of you?  They only know a little of you.  Don’t be afraid of their judging; get to know them (they’re wondering if you judge them, too) or let them go.

Ultimately, and today, it is God who judges – God, who created, who sent Christ to gather and redeem, who forgives, who offers both to accept us as we are and to open doors to who God made us to be.

I have a tattoo on my right calf (yes, I have a tattoo… stay with me here…) of the Chinese characters for “Beautiful Friend.”  A beautiful friend is there with us, and if they judge us, it is with love and hope and compassion.  My tattoo reminds me that God is my Beautiful Friend.  It also reminds me of the human beautiful friends who have shown me what life is all about.  And it reminds me that what I want, more than being an early riser or ultra-marathoner, is to be a Beautiful Friend to others.  Not so that I can count myself as “better” but so that I know my voice counts toward the good in this all-too-judgmental world.

"beautiful friend"Mandarin: Mei You

“beautiful friend”
Mandarin: Mei You

Day 5 of 20 *Questions*: “How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?”

I’ve long known that I won’t be starting an orphanage or rewriting legislation or curing diseases with my life.  I’d like to, but I won’t; I’m 36 and have pretty much set a direction for my life.  But these things matter to me – why else would they come up first when asking this question?  And so I realize that I still dream that I may someday welcome foster children, and I have met with my Senators (when I lived in NJ), and I’ve walked with people facing debilitating illness.  In the classic example, I work to be more of a steady candle than a firework, and maybe my flame isn’t as big or bright, but it’s better than darkness.


Changing and Saving Lives
God’s Work – Our Hands

But — I don’t want to sell myself short, either, and pretend like doing less is okay.  I’ve heard from statehouse friends the difference that *one* testimony can make in local and state law.  I imagine that once a person joins the foster care system, they learn enough to *challenge* the system when needed.  I *can* make a difference.  The tagline of the New Jersey Synod – part of the ECLA/Lutheran Church – speaks loud and clear:  the job of each person, congregation, and organization is to “Change and Save Lives.”  Hold that like a mirror up to your life.  How have you changed and saved lives?

At first blush, you may say, “aw, shucks, I can’t do anything like that.”  But maybe you’ve stood up to a bully, or offered your time at an animal shelter or school classroom or at a friend’s bedside.  As a camp counsellor, I once had to walk over a live bee’s nest out on a wilderness trail to carry an epipen to a child who had just been stung.  Would I have thought I could do something like that, or that I would be one to volunteer for that job?  Nope, because I’m humble (I hope…) and not so creative in dreaming up differences that I can make.  But that doesn’t mean my future – or your future – won’t hold life-changing or life-saving moments.  Be prepared.  Be a person that others know they can ask for help.  God may be preparing you for something wild – or God may already be using you daily for the most domestic of miracles.

As a side note, often the resources we can best share aren’t hands-on service.  I lent $50 to five years ago, and have funded microfinance loans to 7 different entrepreneurs around the world.  The original $50 keeps getting paid back so I can re-loan it.  I can go back and look at the stories of lives changed, of parents who can now educate their children, of groups that have bonded together to create more industry in poverty-stricken areas.  Your money can make a difference.  Don’t hide from that or think, “I don’t have enough.”  If you can afford a meal at McDonald’s, you have enough money to share, whether it’s with Kiva or a local food pantry or Bread For The World.  With your time/energy and with your shared monies, you can indeed Change and Save Lives, so that the world is a better place for your having lived in it.   Take another look at the question above – use today to let it sink in!

Day 1 of 20 Questions

What questions should I be asking myself?

OK, this question gets the “obvious award.”  Any project based on questions starts with, “well, what question(s)?”  But this question, for me, links to one of our House Rules (our 10 Commandments):  “Look and listen – slow it down.”  At almost any point, it helps to Stop, Look, and Listen.  I’m consistently amazed at what I learn when I do those simple things.  We get into a groove, and it can become a rut in no time at all – but if we pause, we might notice other options, other dreams, other ways of being that we wouldn’t be open to if we keep on at our same pace and direction.

Right now I’m into interval training – riding an exercise bike, and *every minute* I spend 30 seconds at high difficulty and 30 seconds recovering.  It completely changes the workout for my mind and for my heart (literally).  For the whole workout, I’m starting something new every 30 seconds.  It’s like asking myself, “what should I be asking?” – entering into a different interval in the pace and direction of my life.


the 10 Commandments at the Trozzo house

So – if you don’t know what 19 questions lie ahead of us, and I hope you don’t – what questions do you think should go on a list of “20 questions we should all be asking ourselves?”

Let’s play 20 Questions … a new way!

I just read an article by Martha Beck about the 20 questions that you should be asking yourself, your whole life long. Kids ask about a million questions a day, it seems, and they use questions to learn about their world. They are curious about the world, themselves, and how things relate to each other. As [so-called] adults, maybe we can learn from them to keep learning about ourselves, this world we live in, and how we keep on relating to everyone and everything around us.

Full disclosure: these questions are from the article in the February 2011 issue of Oprah magazine. Later in the magazine, Dr. Phil says, “A question is really a statement in disguise.” Questions do lead us to what we believe, and can lead us to changing our beliefs (again, about our world, ourselves, and how we all relate).

I got this magazine from our state library, and in 2 years it’s been checked out 23 times. (That’s pretty good for a magazine!) Hopefully you’ll check back here 23 times to see the questions, comments, and if anybody has answers to share. Because this is one way to learn!

Take a poll …. about questions!    

The Hap-Happiest Season of All… or, 3 months away from home

Advent greetings, friends. Is your Christmas tree up yet? Our is, no thanks to my annual humbugginess. I am definitely a humbug. I love the idea that God comes to Earth, to meet us as we are, that God isn’t afraid of being a vulnerable baby, that it took a whole cast of people to live out the original nativity that we celebrate. I just hate untangling Christmas lights, and people running up to me saying, “If we don’t get the decorations right, it ruins the whole feel!” As Mary about the whole feel of Christmas, and I bet there was no turkey, wrapping paper, or post office involved!

OK. You get the gist. But, there are parts of Christmas I really like, especially the music. Eric made us a whole Christmas playlist from our digital music collection, 11.1 hours of all kinds of Christmas music! And amongst the music came this radio favourite:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year 
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer” 
It’s the most wonderful time of the year 
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings 
When friends come to call 
It’s the hap- happiest season of all ‘

We tend to hear these songs and accept them as a picture of normal holiday feelings. But really, kids are not jingle-belling, they’re prepping their list of demands from Santa; and if you’re in a blue or cruddy or tired mood for any of a thousand reasons, being told to “be of good cheer” is not going to cheer you up, especially if you are depressed or grieving or lonely. Is it the most wonderful time of the year? I love that moment of candlelight at Christmas Eve worship, but I think I really like those first days of spring when you can smell the earth blossoming more. And the song goes on – those holiday greetings (that we politicize and haggle over) and gay happy meetings (in our free time, right?) when friends come to call (and we don’t worry about if our house is photo-shoot ready)? Really? In my mind I romanticize the days before electricity and cars and central heat, when people had nothing to do in winter except feed the animals and wait for spring, and if they did go out across the prairie, they would stay awhile with friends just to warm up before coming home. When things were slower, less was expected, and people knew their neighbors’ names *and* their stories. Maybe it wasn’t that great in real life, but I tend to think of it as better than today’s consumer rush and drastic expectations of ourselves. There. Have I ruined the song for you?

Now, it’s not quite fair that this song played just about at our 3-month mark of being here. Here is a chart of average responses to moving to a new place:

The process of adjusting to living in a new place, by Clide Sargeant, with revision by Daniel Kealy

Note that there’s a dip there. I was warned that this would be coming (and many thanks to author Clide Sargeant, with revision by Daniel Kealey) and so I can keep some perspective on my emotions and reactions and expectations these days. I can be gentler with myself. This morning I lost my voice, had a terrible head cold, and looked at this chart – right below “frustration” it notes that this is the time when people develop colds, headaches, and are most prone to take sick leave. So I spent the morning reading the not-so-holiday “Hunger Games” trilogy. I took the boys to mail Christmas presents and didn’t lose my temper when we found we had to re-pack them twice and still not get it right (“ah, I thought, ‘frustration.'”) I sent an e-mail inviting friends to come to call.

The seasons come, whether it be Christmas or monsoon or “frustration.” But in our missionary handbook, right beside the chart that says some seasons will be hard, are these verses, appropriately, from the book of Lamentations.

“The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!        My soul continually thinks of it, and is bowed down within me.                                           But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:                                                         The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is God’s faithfulness.                                      “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in God.” -Lamentations 3:19-24

Week 2 – a log of Day 10

At the entrance to one of the 5 buildings here at Sabah Theological Seminary is a garden with koi, plants, and stones. It is both a quiet place to meditate and a place to gather with people to be introduced and connect.

What a day.  We mostly wake up at 6 AM, which is common here – getting things done before the day gets warm.  First we went to the “wet market” – produce, meat, spices and sundries, in a warehouse with aisles and aisles of booths.  We gave each of our boys 5 ringgits to buy something.  Caedmon picked out broccoli, which actually cost 6 ringgits ($2) for 3 heads.  It was his job to pay, but he couldn’t reach, so the woman came out from behind her wares and gave Cade the kindest smile, patting his head and pinching his cheek. Everyone does this here with kids – tender smiles from everyone passing by at the mall, head pats and “hello”s from so many people.

Dante couldn’t decide what to buy, so we finally agreed on a bag of cooked lo mein noodles and a strawberry soda.  Soda is a treat since we can easily boil water and carry it with us.  Then we walked back up the stairs from downtown to the seminary.  We had thought it was 90 stairs, but having counted once it is somewhere between 110-150. One loses count, though, as there is so much to see – lizards and ferns and such.

Then is was time for showers and off to Karamunsing – the mall for electronics.  It is what we now think of as an Asian mall:  Lots of technology, and yet in a smaller space with no clear layout.  It’s little things that are different, like stairs instead of escalators, and people wearing anything from jeans to hijabs.  It is foreign to us but very accessible.  Today was a day for big purchases, so the I.T. director from the seminary accompanied us as we bought a tv for our apartment (we will get satellite – ESPN and NatGeo Wild, plus local tv so we can practice Behasa Malaysia, the local language).  We looked at desks for the boys (at the top of their wish list, we don’t really know why) but someone from the seminary will soon be moving to Hong Kong and may have furnishings, like desks, to part with.  We are settling into our apartment quite nicely, with our rice steamer and toy boxes.

Then we came home and rested.  Then we set up the tv (though we don’t have anything to watch yet) and I mopped the whole apartment – it’s amazing how much dirt and dust comes in even when we don’t wear shoes inside.  I was grateful for my camp days that taught me to mop a floor well.  And it was good that I did, as Cade later broke a glass on the floor, and we could see easily where the pieces were.

Last was dinner, which we had ordered from the school’s canteen.  We figured that ordering what the students are eating will help us learn local foods that we can then try to cook.  Tonight was a major challenge, though:  whole fried fish.  We wanted to balk at that one – other foods have been more like things we would get in a Chinese restaurant in the U.S.  But we were brave and tried them.  Tricky to eat, but delicious.  A local would probably have been horrified at how much meat we left on the bones, and would definitely chide us for leaving the best part – the head and eyes.  But we had used up our brave quotient for that meal.  Dessert was the biggest treat for me (Wendolyn) – years ago in the U.S. I had a yellow watermelon, and I’ve been trying to find them ever since.  Well, here they are.  I sliced them in small pieces and we ate ½ of a watermelon in no time at all.

Then it was off to bed at 8 PM.  We are going to Church tomorrow with the YAGM coordinator (Young Adults in Global Mission – one-year volunteers from the ELCA come to serve in one of 8 locations worldwide).  We’ll go to an English-speaking congregation of the BCCM – what Lutherans here are called.

Time to go now and see if there are fireworks – Monday is “Malaysia Day” when the states of Sabah and Sarawak (on the island of Borneo) joined peninsular Malaysia.  A day off from school and a day to celebrate this amazing nation which has welcomed us.  Thank you for reading this – I hope it gives some clues and images for life here.  Perhaps it will let you look around at where you live and see what you can celebrate or mull over.  Peace!