Amazing little dude!

Just a great photo of Leo. Tingting and our ayi took him for a walk the other day. He is amazing.

Leo received his US passport today, as well as his official Consulate Record of Birth Abroad that formally acknowledges he “Acquired United States CITIZENSHIP at birth. . .” It’s so cute, to see a real passport, with a 2 month old baby photo inside! LOL


Thanksgiving & Giving Thanks day 4 – Amanda Carpenter-Sutton is an awesome woman who’s heart is as full of love as it is strength and passion. I was in middle school when she and my brother Ian Sutton began dating, and I was in the 8th grade when

they gave birth to my nephew Zach. It’s crazy how much I sincerely miss those days! I would stay the night, sleeping on their sofa, and we would play Nintendo or MTG all night long. Many nights, Ian and Amanda would invite their friends over, and I felt so cool hanging with the “older” crew! I even had a secret crush on a good friend of theirs. Often, Amanda would cook spaghetti, and I still think hers is the best in the world!

Over the years, I sort of fell out of touch with Amanda and her family. I have regretted this so much because she and her family are such good people. Amanda, like her sister Saraha, brother Charles, and the rest of her family, are forever welcoming and accepting of others. They don’t shy from differences, rather they embrace them and celebrate them. Amanda is always thoughtful, and always wiling to offer a helpful hand to a friend in need. And while these qualities are deserving of thanks in their own right, I want more than anything, give her a million thanks for giving my brother unending happiness, love, joy and satisfaction. The most I could ever wish for someone is to be happy and to be loved, and she made sure that Ian was!

Thank you Amanda! I love you!

Amanda, Ian and baby Zachary circa 1999.

Ian, Amanda and Zachary

Jeremy Burton is my oldest friend and someone I’m super thankful to have in my life. Through the very worst tribulations I’ve endured, he stood next to me, strong as a rock, lending me strength and support. Jeremy calls things the way he sees it, is willing to put me in my place if I’m wrong, and able to let me challenge him as well. We talk openly about work, school, family, guns and even politics. We listen to each other, often not agreeing, but always learning from one another and taking to heart what we hear.

When people move around the world as I have, friends tend to lose touch and grow distant. In my case, I am especially bad at staying in touch, but he is not. Every week or so, he messages to check in on me, and reminds me of his evolving, sometimes revolving interests! It’s true that Jeremy and I have moved apart in a few ways, but the fact is every time I go home, we pick right up were we left off. He is a good father, a loving husband to Jami Creazzo-Burton, and a great and loyal man.

I know as sure as I breath air, that one day we’ll be lounging in lawn chairs, watching our grandkids celebrate the 4th of July. We’ll be drinking a beer and wondering where our hair went, but we’ll still be friends. Life long friends like him are hard to find, and I thank God we found each other.

Here he is rocking the Cow Bell at the Humanitarian Bowl in January, 2004 with the Sound of the Golden Hurricane.


Thanksgiving & Giving Thanks pt. 2

Thanksgiving & Giving Thanks day 2 – Dan Kerr is a remarkable and beautiful human being. His positivity and heartfelt leadership has inspired me since the day I met him in 2011. In part because of him, I strive not just for excellence in my job as a teacher, but to be a holistic educator who aims to make meaningful and positive impacts on the lives of the people around me.

People who know him, describe Dan as being insanely positive, charismatic, thoughtful, caring, genuine, always supportive, someone who goes above and beyond every day, totally balanced, and so much more. I miss his leadership and guidance, but I am thankful I got to know him when I did.

So Dan, thank you for being the great leader, mentor, and friend that you were for me! William Raduchel said “Don’t pick a job, pick a boss.” If I could pick, I’d pick you any day!

Dan Kerr is the Lower School Director at American School of Paris.

Check out his heartwarming educational blog at or his TEDx talk at

Here’s one of my favorite photos of Dan, along with myself Billy Krugger at SCIS for a MS Halloween party in 2012.

Joel, Dan and Billy SCIS Halloween 20112

Thanksgiving & Giving Thanks pt.1

Thanksgiving Giving Thanks – I am so thankful to work with Mr. Jonny Alexander. He is one of the most creative and most driven teachers I have ever worked with. More often than not, he works right through lunch as his dedication to his students is greater than his need to eat. After school, his room is just as busy as any morning class, as his kids always come in for extra time in the workshop or to perfect their projects. Thanks Jonny for everything you do at SCIS!


Giving and Receiving, pt 2

Back in September, I posted a picture of myself and a small gift that one of my coworkers gave me in response to my Happy Wednesday Treats. If you missed it, every Wednesday, I deliver a small snack (Soda, Kinder Joy eggs, crackers, etc.) to each of the 7 teachers on my floor. It’s just something I do for fun and to make our days a tiny bit brighter. Today, two of the science teachers surprised me before school started with a Christmas chocolate Advent Calendar. I don’t expect anything in response for my insignificant act of kindness, but it shows they appreciate my efforts, and I certainly appreciate theirs!!

As I said in the first post, kindness is infectious! If we all share a little joy and kindness everyday, then life gets better for everyone!”

Thank you Venus and Dawn, you two are the best! 🙂


I know I am leaving Shanghai soon, and that I’ve already said goodbye to so many wonderful friends and people who have already moved on, but tonight I had to give an especially hard goodbye.

When I moved to Shanghai, my life was completely different. I came here in 2011 on a two year mission to land a job in Moscow with my then wife, Natasha. She however, had other plans and left me in February. Nonetheless, I stayed here and in the summer of 2012, I met an amazing soul who would become one of closest friends I have ever had.

Vera and I met on a dating site, and discovered after we met that we lived in the same compound, in adjacent buildings, that literally looked into each other’s living rooms. Imagine that, the largest city in the world and I met a stranger online, who I had lived next to for a year, and did not know.

Vera had just recently lost her fiancé to cancer, and I lost my wife because, well because she was unfaithful. So while Vera and I played at dating for two weeks, we soon found we made much better friends. We were both still hurting in our own ways, but we found support and comfort in one another. Over the next 6 years, we helped each other through all nature of struggles and celebrations. I thank God for our friendship and our time together.

Eventually Vera and Tingting became friends, and life was good. Now, in roughly 28 hours, she will board a plane and fly to Sweden with her baby girl Kayleen, and husband Claes. I don’t know when I will see them again, but I hope it will be soon.

Yes, of course life closes and opens doors all the time, but I am so tired of saying goodbye to people I love. I know it is not really goodbye, we have Skype, WeChat, etc., but those will never replace the great comfort of dinner and laughter with friends and family in your living room, restaurant or God knows where.

Vera…. I wish you a safe flight, and I hope and pray that your new life in Sweden will be everything you wish you for. I miss you already, and I cannot wait to see you again, be it there, in America, or back in Shanghai.

Tingting and I have Leonard, you have Claes and Kayleen. We have come a long, long way together, and I am certain our shared adventures will resume one day soon.

Leo is 100 days young!

In China, they have a tradition of shaving a baby’s head when they reach 100 days old. Well, today Leo got to celebrate that tradition, and here is the result….. a beautiful baby with a shaved head! Lol

My Totoro!

I bought this super cute Totoro hoodie for Tingting at least 1 or 2 years ago, she finally decided to wear it! Hahah