Gina Butz Uncategorized 2 Comments

The garbage disposal in my parents’ kitchen clogged two nights ago. This was inconvenient on a number of levels, such as: my parents were gone, my husband was gone, I am not good with tools, and oh yeah, after 13 years overseas I lack certain skills most people have gained by this point. In other words, I haven’t interacted with a garbage disposal since I was a teenager.

Spending most of my adult life outside of the States has left me strangely imbalanced in my abilities. Sure, I can help you bargain for something in Chinese and get the local price, but I did not know that potato peels shouldn’t go in a garbage disposal (but for the record, that wasn’t what caused the clogging). I may have mad chopstick skillz, but I don’t have a clue how to unclog a disposal, or when or how to call a plumber.

To make it more fun and challenging, one of the pipes below the bathroom simultaneously began dripping in the basement, and both dogs decided the moment needed to be punctuated by excessive barking. “This is exciting! It’s a big mess! You’re clueless!” I think is how it translated.

So I called some family friends, and was immediately cheered by their voices, especially the one that said, “Why don’t I come over and check on it?”

Half an hour, a messy kitchen floor and an unintentionally wet friend later (there was a lot of water trapped in there!) I had a working disposal again. Not only that, but I think if it happened again I might be able to fix it myself. We’re all going to pray it doesn’t come to that, but it encouraged me to think, “I might be sorely lacking in some basic adult skills for life in America, but they are not unlearnable.”

Which is good, because last night I got to practice, “What to do when your mini-fridge was set too cold and caused a can of soda to explode, bursting the door open.” Opportunities to be an adult abound!

Our Weird Dog

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I had hoped that having left China, we would have also left behind goofy conversations about our dog. What was I thinking? Of course we’ll have goofy conversations about our little foreign pup. We’ll just have them in English now!

Case in point – here’s the conversation I had this morning with a sweet little old lady while her dog jumped around like a maniac at her feet:

Woman: Oh look, you have two! What kind are they?

Me: Well, this one is a cocker spaniel, and this one is from China. We don’t know what she is. They didn’t even know over there.

Woman: China China?

Me: Yep. China. The country.

Woman (looking directly at Scout): I bet you have a story to tell about how you got here!

Me: Yes, a long, complicated and expensive tale. But she was only $9 to begin with so . . .

Woman (still speaking to Scout): DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?

Me, laughing: Yes, she does.

Woman: Did she come on an airplane?

Me: Uh . . . yep. She did.

Woman: Well, she’s beautiful! Have a blessed day!

Me: You too!

Ah yes. We have a weird dog. She goes well with our weird lives.


Here she is, our weird dog.

Project 365 October

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So it appears I forgot where my camera was for most of the month of October. What I have is a sad little offering of the few pictures I did take, mostly in Florida because my camera really wanted some sun and surf. Who wouldn’t? Anyway, I blame transition.

the cloister at the local convent
tomatoes ripening on the windowsill
Homecoming at my high school
playing in the leaves for the first time ever
we found a turtle!
a joyful reunion
waiting for waves
intercoastal waterway
our lemon tree
I heart Trader Joe’s (and Milwaukee because two of my favorite people live there)
a walk in the woods
that time of year


Gina Butz grief, transition 1 Comment

Transition is a bit like someone coming into your life with a giant paint stir stick and swirling it around in your heart. It brings to the surface a whole lot of emotions that might normally stay hidden. If you’ve ever stirred a paint can, you know that vigorous stirring can result in overflow.

That’s how we feel these days – like it’s all right at the surface, and it takes little for it to overflow. A few days ago I made a picture montage from China set to a funny song, and I found myself tearing up as I made it. It doesn’t take much. A song. A commercial. Prayer. Hearing someone’s story. Sharing my passions. The mention of the word “China.” I am brought to tears. It reminds me that there is more grieving to be done. I’m not super excited about that, honestly. There’s a point at which you want to not cry and just move on, but the problem with tears is that they aren’t meant to stay inside you. Letting them out always feels better in the end.

But there’s an upside to all this stirring. It’s evidence to me that I’ve made it through with a soft heart. It’s difficult to stir a heart that is hard, that refuses to be touched by pain or sadness. It doesn’t always look hard on the outside – sometimes we coat it with a thick candy shell and pretend all is good. Whatever we do, I’m learning that the best route is to stay open, to be vulnerable, to let the stirring happen because good things come to the surface too. Things like being able to recognize when others are being stirred, and to enter in with them and catch their overflow; being able to give others a more authentic you; being as in touch with joy and laughter as you are with sadness and pain. That’s the fun part – the fact that it opens me to being quicker to laugh as well!

I’m sure it will be awhile before the swirling settles down. In the meantime, I hope to make the most of what it does in my heart. And don’t be surprised if you see me cry. Or laugh! It’s all there, and it’s all good.


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Starting From Scratch

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My cupboards are bare. By the end of the week, hopefully, our belongings will arrive on that slow boat from China and be deposited somewhere in our new house, but our pantry will be bare. There will be no milk in the fridge, no cereal in the cabinet, no sugar, flour, soup, bread, spices, oil, or random jar of God knows what that’s been in the back corner for longer than you can remember.

I’m starting from scratch.

While that prospect feels a little daunting, there’s a great freedom to it as well. I went to the people’s co-op the other day and bought seven spices-only ones I know I consistently use (and all in identical containers on top of which I can put cute labels. This delights my structured and creative sides to no end). I can buy as I go. It forces me to consider what I get and why. It simplifies. I like it.

We’ll be starting from scratch in a lot of ways down there, and while it’s not quite as pleasing a thought as a new pantry, it does have its advantages. We’re starting with a clean schedule. We can choose what fills it. We will have to consider what we do and why. It simplifies. I like it.

A day at the beach

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 It’s hard to know why Ethan wanted to crawl into this hole.

Or stay in it when this happened.
 A further mystery as to why he decided to let his dad and our friend bury him in that position.

Why he waited for this with excitement.

As it swarmed around him.

And crashed over him.

While still really enjoying it.

 But he did.


Gina Butz grief, transition 0 Comments

I am torn.

We spent a few days at the beach attending a debrief conference for people from our company who have returned from overseas stints. It was all a bit theoretical for us because we haven’t landed in our “planting” spot yet where we’ll have to try to figure out where to buy food and make friends and tame our wild yard.

But not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to hear from God, I tried to pay attention to my heart. As I did I realized I was feeling a new feeling about the whole transition: guilt.

That surprised me, until we had a session on grief and loss and they reminded me that it is one of the stages of grief. But still, guilt? I didn’t see that coming. I’m more of a denial or anger stage kind of girl myself.

Why do I feel guilty? Well, I’ll tell you. I feel guilty because I think the US is awesome. I can plug my computer in to ANY outlet in the house. That’s big, people. No hunting down an adapter these days. The shower has consistent water pressure and temperature. Have you ever thought about what a gift that is? I do, every day.

And where we’re going to live is practically tropical! I’ve done tropical before and it’s not shabby. Sure, it gets hot and humid but who cares when you have a pool? And . . . and . . . and . . . I could go on and on.

Why feel guilty about that? I feel guilty because I know that my friends who I left don’t have a lot of these things. Why do I get to have them? More than that, several of them are going through difficult things and I am not there to walk through those things with them, and I hate that. I’m here enjoying sunshine and raspberry m&m;’s. There’s a strange feeling as though I have abandoned them, betrayed them even, by leaving. I remind myself that this is where God has led us, and that He has kept them there, but I feel guilty all the same.

Hey – no one ever said feelings were rational. But there they are.

So I am torn. Torn between wanting to enjoy these beautiful gifts God is giving us, hopes of good things in this new life, and the separation I feel from my friends who do not have what I have, who in fact have difficult things. Torn between loving the family and friends we have here and those we have left behind. It’s one of the by-products of moving people don’t always mention – the fact that you don’t get to keep all your heart with you as you go. Parts will be left in each place, and it’s possible for one part to feel something while another part experiences something completely different.

Will it ever be put back together? Probably not. But I choose to see it not as fragmented but as stretched to a greater capacity. Yeah, I’m going to call it that – not torn, but stretched.

Our Future in Signs

Gina Butz transition 0 Comments

Signs can tell us where we are. They tell us something of the culture we’re inhabiting. They provide boundaries, assurance, that we are in familiar territory.

So I’ve been paying attention to the signs around me as we have a week here in Orlando. I want to set up my mental map. I want to understand this future home of ours.

I had planned to post a series of pictures of the signs we’ve acquired ourselves – our license plate, the name of our part of town, our street name, our address. And then I realized that armed with all that, someone could potentially stalk us all the way from Minnesota to our new home. I’m not typically paranoid, but that seemed too much like a trail of cyberspace breadcrumbs.

So picture, if you will, these signs that we see. The highway signs – most often 417 and 408 – all have the outline of Florida. Despite that, it took me 3 days of driving to stop thinking, “Hey look – that person has Florida license plates. He’s from Florida!” We too have exchanged loons for oranges. (Not that I am a loon, though that thought was kind of loony. Minnesota plates have loons on them).

The sign I don’t like seeing is the EZPass toll overhang, strung over the highway periodically, there to suck money from you every few miles on the freeway.

Today we drove past an actual “Welcome to Orlando” sign. Why thank you.

It’s encouraging to see signs we know well – Target, Panera Bread, Walgreens. And signs for things we have heard exist – Chick-fil-a, Del Taco. None of these signs were in China. I like seeing them.

Then there are the signs that show we are heading away from the crowded parts to our little neck of the swamp – signs with words like “oak” and “pine” in them that tell us we are heading into the woods. Our woods.

And there’s the one small sign, just 5 numbers hung above our garage door, that will signify home.

Those are the signs in view.

LSQ home 1 (Small)

I’m guessing our new signs will make more sense than this one.

Becoming More Real

Gina Butz transition 1 Comment

Did you know that in Orlando there are toll gates every 50 feet? OK, that might be an exaggeration, but there are a lot of them and they aren’t cheap. Most I’ve seen range from 50c-$1. Yesterday on the way to check out a school for the kids that required a 15 minute drive on the highway I had to spend $3.25. That’s a pile o’ change folks because they don’t take dollars. If you’re wondering where all the coins in America are, look to Florida.

Well all this coin tossing (literally, you throw the coins in a funnel. Freaks me out every time) is impractical in the long run so we needed to get a Sun Pass, which allows you to drive automatically through the tolls without paying, or so it feels. And this is one of many little ways that life in America is becoming more real.

Why would I need a Sun Pass if I were just passing through? When the woman at Walgreens asked if I wanted a store card, I realized I probably did. The Minute Clinic at CVS now has all my local information (and I discovered that my insurance card is actually useful in America. Apparently Asia was outside my PPO). Erik is going to get our license tags this morning for our Honda Fit, which my Asia friends will be happy to know is orange like our previous Hover. At dinner the other night a new acquaintance told me about a weekend market for home furnishings and said, “I’ll take you there.”

Oh and did I mention there’s an empty house to which we have keys? I fully expected there to be a homeless man squatting there, at least some snakes and cockroaches to have taken up residence, but it’s just waiting for us to fill it with our stuff.

A house. Two cars. Getting connected to local businesses. Making plans with new people. Yep, it kind of sounds like we’re going to live here.

The Familiar

Gina Butz transition 1 Comment

People might guess that our 13 years overseas in various locations means I’m a girl who loves adventure, but this would be an erroneous thought. I like familiarity. I like routine. I like consistency. I eat the same thing every day for breakfast, almost without fail. That’s how I roll.

One of our last weeks in Asia, I was driving a new friend around town, and she said, “I can’t wait until I know this city like you do. You just seem to know how to get anywhere.” Indeed, it was very familiar to me.

So here we are in Orlando this week, our future home, and I find myself longing for that kind of knowledge. I want to sense, as I’m driving down the 417, how much further it is to our exit. I want to have a need for a certain store and know instinctively how far it is from where I am. I want to be able to drive on mental auto-pilot to other parts of town. I want to know this place.

As I was pondering this yesterday, God reminded me that I do already have something constant, something familiar, and it is Him. In every new place, He is there. He is the same here as He was in Asia. His character and His ways toward me are steady and unchanging.

This is where I need to put my focus, my faith. My city view may change, but He remains the same.


Someday I will know my way around this place.