Today’s Interview features blogger and photographer Kate, who has the blog handle of XingfuMama.
*** Note to readers – remember that The Priorhouse interview posts are set up to be skimmed or you can come back and read the full post when you have the time. ***
I really like Kate’s warm outlook on life and her subtle wit; for example, below is a snippet from her “travel tips” page (Here)
“I am not a skinny-mini, perfectly coiffed and physically fit “social influencer” who can learn a new language and bounce up a mountain before breakfast. I am a middle-aged (on the down hill side), moderately active, well-rounded traveler, in more ways than one. I like both saving money and being comfortable (who doesn’t?).
I like people, but I am a bit shy.”
Priorhouse: Can you tell us about about your interesting blog name?
XingfuMama: Xingfu means happy in Chinese. The Chinese language has several words for different kinds of happiness. Xingfu has undertones of being blessed.
Priorhouse: Okay, blessed momma, can you tell us how your blog started?
I started the XingfuMama blog while taking an online class about websites at the local community college. I wanted to try out variations on the lesson. I kept the blog active and it became photography oriented. When I started the blog, I was hoping to write more, but words don’t come easily to me and writing takes me a long time. I was already interested in photography and took a few photography classes at the community college to learn more about my camera.
While blogging, I discovered Cee Neuner’s Photography blog (Here) and learned a tremendous amount from her photography posts. I also participated in her challenges.
Priorhouse: That is awesome how you found Cee . She really has a positive presence in the blogosphere and her challenges inspire many photographers They also allow bloggers to connect more. For example, recently I noticed that author Dan Antion joined in with some of Cee’s photo challenges – it augments his writing posts – and the most recent one he posted (here) allowed us to see more of his woodworking – we saw more of his projects because of Cee’s clever theme!
XingfuMama: I love blog challenges and they have much value to connect is, inspire, and help ideas flow. I have participated in many throughout the years.
Cee Neuner has been a continual source of inspiration with her Fun Foto, Mid-week Madness, and Flower of the Day – they always inspire, even if I don’t get around to pulling together a post.
I do not know how Cee manages to keep up such a flow of energy and inspiration.
Priorhouse: I don’t know how Cee manages it all either – but Cee, we really appreciate you ☀️😊☀️
XingfuMama: Yes, we do appreciate Cee.
In addition to Cee’s challenges, I often participate in Hammad Rais’s Weekend Sky Photo Challenge.
I am pretty spotty about joining In with other blog challenges. I usually take new photos for challenges, instead of going through my archives.
I also appreciate Fandango’s Provocative Question #FPQ ( Here )
Those weekly questions always get me thinking (even if I don’t regularly post for the challenge).
Priorhouse: That is how I feel about the Photographing Public Art Challenge. I am not able to join regularly but the entries are enjoyable and get me thinking. The most recent post is Here.
And by the way, Cee Neuner is (or was) a cohost of this fun art challenge, along with Marsha Ingrao (Marsha also brings such a nice energy to the blogosphere with her challenges (Info here) and the 2020 Priorhouse interview with Marsha is Here).
PULL UP A SEAT
Priorhouse: Speaking of blog challenges, I first discovered you through your Pull Up a Seat Photo challenge and I think the first time I heard about it was when Sylvia shared a post with her and her husband on a bench. (Her recent seat post is here)
How did this challenge get started?
XingfuMama: I started Pull up a Seat back when Cee Neuner was unable to keep hosting so many challenges. She has done so much for the WordPress community and I offered to help. She suggested “benches” as a theme.
I tried to make it a bit more invitational. The Pull Up a Seat title is intended to be a friendly invitation and the description is intended to give people a creative license to use the theme how it best suits them.
Priorhouse: Oh, so that is how it unfolded. I remember when Cee was pulling back from some of her challenges. I wonder if she came up with the idea of benches because Jude did a year-long bench challenge that was quite popular and folks missed it when it ended. Hmmm?
I am glad you went with the more general theme of “seat”
Also, I really like the logo you created for the challenge.
XingfuMama: The Pull up a Seat logo has three photos from my travels.
- The picture of the older gentleman with his “geezer” stool is from an alleyway in Weifang, He is likely on his way to play chess with his friends at a nearby park. I took the photo because it was a classic Chinese street scene.
- The truck seat sculpture was is in Morro Bay, California, taken on the last of the countless trips up and down the US West Coast with grandma.
- The woman in the third picture is Emily, a Chinese friend. The location is a pop-up sidewalk restaurant in Qingdao, Shandong Province, PRC. Emily took me to Qingdao for a “play day” on my first trip to China; we bought fun hats and walked around. It was a gorgeous spring day and the cherry blossoms were blooming everywhere. That is the day when I became Xingfu Mama. The post Here tells that story.
Priorhouse: That was so interesting and I will never look at that logo the same!
WHATSOEVER IS LOVELY
What other challenge do you host?
XingfuMama: I recently started the Whatsoever is Lovely challenge – Here
The approach to that challenge is simple: step back for a few minutes each week to find a lovely thing, a precious moment, anything you find lovely. Then post about it. You can just post a picture or you can go into detail and tell it as a reflection, story, or poem.
Priorhouse: Such a lovely idea. 🙃
Please tell us a little bit more about your travel experiences.
XingfuMama: I’ve had the opportunity to just be, as opposed to touring, in a couple of countries that many would consider off the beaten track for a Westerner: Kenya and China. Interacting with regular people, not those in the tourist trade, who are from a totally different culture can both humble and expand you, if you are willing to let go of your ego. It is worth it.
Another thing about travel in those two places is that I am a blondish, blue-eyed, white person. I stand out like a sore thumb. People made assumptions about me based on how I look. Another humbling experience.
Priorhouse: I really like how you said you “let go of your ego” and how traveling “humbled and expanded you.” You share some of this in your A to Z travel posts.
XingfuMama: Yes, I created that series of posts over the course of a month, and the content there is a good way to understand more about me and my traveling experience. The master travel page is Here.
Priorhouse: What other posts would you suggest folks check out on the XingfuMama blog?
XingfuMama: My post about holidays-
Here offers insight for understanding how I think.
Aside from that, the posts I have written on and off throughout the years about my grandparents are perhaps my best work. There is a list of those posts in this recent blog post Here
Priorhouse: Can you share your bio with us?
I like to get out and travel to see new things, but, aside from high school and college, I have lived within about 25 miles of where I was born my whole life.
I live in the city now, but I am from a rural area in the Pacific Northwest (it isn’t as rural now as it once was).
I grew up in a rather isolated location even for that: At the end of a county trail, no roads, and most of our neighbors were “summer people”. My parents were extremely young (17 and 23) when I was born and they divorced when I was about 13. My grandparents provided a lot of stability while we were growing up. I have two younger sisters and was rather thrust into care giving at a pretty young age (the beginning of the “Mama” thing).
After my parents divorced, my mom suddenly moved us to Corvallis, Oregon. It was a few days before I started High School. That put me into shock after living in a small town for my entire life, and lacking basic social skills even for that.
To give readers some perspective, I think that my first High School, Vashon High, had about 500 students whereas the new one, Corvallis High, had about 5000.
Priorhouse: What about college?
XingfuMama: The best, bravest, smartest, and possibly, in some ways, most foolish thing I ever did was to go to college as far away from home as I could.
I went to college in Boston, Massachusetts, which was a change that went much better for me than the move to Corvallis. I made the decision myself and spent time walking myself through how to handle the change.
Another plus was that, as an engineering student in college, I was finally among nerds like myself, so I didn’t feel like such an odd duck (I was the only girl in AP Physics in high school).
My profession was engineering; specifically, I was a stress analyst in the space industry. I was fortunate to work on some pretty exciting missions: Galileo to Jupiter, Magellan to Venus, Ulysses to the sun, and the launch of the Chandra space telescope. Even though stress is stress (there isn’t actually a lot of rocket science in rocket science) working on missions going to interesting places on complex trajectories is intrinsically more interesting than designing the rebar for walls on the interstate (my degree is in Civil Engineering).
Priorhouse: While we were putting this interview together, I asked for info about High School (because I recently rewatched the documentary “Generation Wealth” – and one of the girls said that she spent a lot of adulthood repairing from high school). So I was wondering if the new larger high school was traumatic?
Xingfumama: High School was so long ago and not really traumatic.
One story comes to mind. I needed to take typing because being a secretary was considered a good career.
I hated typing. 😩
I can remember being in tears about it. I could never disengage my brain enough to make a decent level of words per minute. I got a B, only because the 32 words per minute at the end of the term was twice what it was at the beginning and the teacher took pity. The top students of that class could do 80 words per minute. Ifinished the year and it is a skill that has helped me tremendously in life, but not for the reasons that Mom and the guidance counselor chose it.
Computers really came into routine usage and being able to type, even as few as 20 words a minute, was actually a great edge with computer programming (which I did to pay my way through college) and composing on the keyboard (which I am doing now!). Yet I also discovered physics: Mr. Cannon, my High School physics teacher, was phenomenal! That led to my studying engineering in college. I would say that high school did me a lot of good, largely because I had no expectation about socializing.
Priorhouse: How did it feel to be a woman in a profession that was male dominated? I am reading a vintage book right now by H J Tichy, “Effective Writing for Engineers, Managers, and Scientists” (Wiley & Sons, 1966) and she has mentioned (a few times) the resistance she felt as a woman working in a male dominated technical field during the 1950s and 1960s. I plan on posting about the book later but how was it for you?
XingfuMama: I don’t know what it is like in this workforce area today but in my time, it was unusual to be a woman in engineering. However, it was also changing and on the upswing as more women entered the profession.
I certainly saw a variety of reactions as a woman working in that field.
The thing that I noticed was that most competent people were fine and quite professional.
I usually worked on teams. I was in a field where they mostly needed my signature on drawings to go forward so I didn’t have to do anything other than say what needed to be done to get my signature. ✍️ I was in a great group and in general we got the job done well ( the Inertial Upper Stage is one of the most successful space programs).
- I have extensive training and experience in leadership and group facilitation from years of volunteer work.
- Starting with Model United Nations and student government in high school and then going through PTA, Boy Scouts, Homeschool Support Groups, and at my parish.
- I spent quite a bit of time running spiritual formation programs. That included a program called Education for Ministry, through the University of the South in Sewanee.
- I completed the four-year program and was a group mentor for a few years. I am no longer involved in that, but it was formative for me.
- For many years I wound up running point for my grandmother as she aged. That involved quite a bit of travel until she moved up here. My car could just about drive itself the 1250 miles between our houses. She died in the spring of 2019. Now Dad is 83 and I go over once a week. Fortunately, he lives a short ferry ride away.
💙💛 I have been married for 35 years and have one son, now 32.
We have lived in the same house since 1987.💛💙
Even though it sounds like I don’t really “do” change, that is a bit misleading: I like to change with personal growth and self-development.
- I often take classes or take on projects to learn new things.
- I love to go out and see the world.
- The special part for me is that I also just really like to come home afterwards.
- I feel like I have both roots and wings.
Priorhouse: Roots and wings. That sounds so nice together.
Do you have any wisdom to share with us?
- In life it is important to participate. Don’t just go somewhere, take a photo, and buzz off to the next Instagram scene. Walk in the park, buy an apple at the local market… little things like that become your most treasured moments.
- Try to actually be where you are. Don’t go somewhere, take a photo, and buzz off to the next Instagram scene. Walk in the park, buy an apple at the local market… little things like that become your most treasured moments.
- Don’t get target fixation in your life. I’m not against goals, but they need to be a tool you use, not the boss of you. Sometimes you need to let go of old ones to let a new thing into your life.
Priorhouse: I like all of your advice, and the “goals” balance resonates with me, especially as to how you said, “Sometimes you need to let go of old ones (goals) to let a new thing into your life.”
Also, the note about boundaries stood out: “It is important to have sane boundaries, but it is more important to be part of things.”
Back in 2002, we had friends who were always missing at an event. Someone would ask where they were and then the reply would be, “They are not here – they are drawing boundaries.” It became a light joke, but the truth is that they missed out on so much because they were always binding. Always drawing those boundaries!
Sometimes we have to NOT draw boundaries and maybe instead we expand the parameters! Maybe sacrifice a bit so we can connect and fully experience life. Never a formula for what to do, but I like your advice to “pitch in and get involved.” We need each other and while boundaries and time to pull back (to heal and repair) might be needed, we can’t forget to get involved.
Priorhouse: Can you describe a typical week?
XingfuMama: My week involves walking the dogs and fixing dinner every day.
- Once a week we go over to my dad’s for the day. We help him with various projects, walk the dogs on the beach, and provide him with a couple of solid meals and some left-over food.
- We usually have a phone call with our son, who lives in China, once a week on Sunday or Monday night.
- I read blogs most days, and prepare and schedule the posts for the challenges I host a day ahead of time. I am less regular about posting other things. It depends on whether I am inspired by something.p
- Right now, I am contemplating a trip to South America, so I am working on learning Spanish and exercising so I can make it up all of the stairs at Machu Picchu. I don’t know if it will come to pass, but having the goal helps me. I tend to procrastinate if I don’t have a goal. Especially about exercise, I am not into any sports and my dogs are so old that walking them isn’t really exercise.
Priorhouse: As many folks know, this month marks the end of the 2022 #DickensChallenge, which is in its second year and is hosted by Priorhouse blog and Trent’s World.
Have you read Bleak House or any other Dickens works?
XingfuMama: No, I have not read Bleak House.
My son recommended it but I didn’t get past the first little bit. I should try again, because his recommendations are usually excellent.
I did read Great Expectations in high school.
I also read The Pickwick Papers aloud to my son when we were homeschooling.
Priorhouse: I liked the miniseries drama of The Pickwick Papers and enjoyed the horse and carriages (stage coaches). I read that Dickens knew that the horse and carriage mode of transportation was ending and his goal was to write about it as a way to preserve some of the details.
Xingfumama: My son and I both thoroughly enjoyed the Pickwick Papers.
However, I was put off reading any more from Dickens because of his book “Ye Old Curiosity Shop” (1841). Not to say that Dickens wasn’t a genius, he was, but that book was too close to the reality in my life at the time. I had nieces who were preyed on by a boyfriend of their grandmother. I just couldn’t cope emotionally.
Priorhouse: I understand that completely and even in Bleak House there are some topics that might rouse certain emotions. Trent’s essays this week have been exploring some of the characters and their potentially sketchy motives! Recent post is Here
Let’s end with some favorites.
XingfuMama: These days my favorite hobby is photography, which includes photo editing.
- I like to cook and bake. I don’t have big enough audience to do much baking these days, but I always try to fix a nice dinner. To sit down together at the end of the day for a nice meal is important in many ways.
- I like to walk on the beach and take a stroll in the woods. I do not really mind getting wet and muddy, especially if I can come back inside to sit in front of a fire to warm up.
- I used to love to sew and quilt, but we have so much stuff that it’s hard to get motivated to make anything anymore. For several years I made burial gowns for the NICU at local hospitals just to have projects to do. Organizing that ministry became too much for me when Grandma moved to Seattle.
- I miss working with my hands and cling to my substantial fabric stash. I do try to make a garment from the stash before I buy anything new. I usually develop my own designs rather than working from set patterns.
- I like animals. We have two dogs and a cat. The dogs are hand-me-downs from Grandma. Walking them is perhaps my most regular activity in life right now.
- I like both coffee and tea. Coffee in the morning then decaf tea. My favorite teas are: oolong, darjeeling and green (sencha, not macha).
- personal blog is XingfuMama.blog
- website is theSquirrelChase.com.
To read more details about XingfuMama, things that were not included in this interview, Kate’s about page is HERE
Questions for Readers
- Have you joined in with Pull Up a Seat or Whatever is Lovely challenges?
- Did you know the some of the photos In today’s posts are from Kate’s photos for sale ?(Gallery Info is here).
- Have you had the chance to travel where you could just “be” rather than stay in tourist mode?
- Kate shared some advice about not letting goals rigidly govern your life (target fixation) – and reminded us to be present in life while also investing some of yourself to get involved (rather than drawing boundaries all the time!) – Do YOU have anything to add to those tips?