On Writing

I write every day and sometimes this is a challenge. Like today.

I have a ton of things that happened that are somewhat interesting – maybe, but maybe not.

And some things I don’t always want to share. Or at least not right away.

Some things might be controversial, so I try to avoid sharing those or if I have a strong opinion, I prefer to keep quiet and keep the peace.  Probably boring… but it works for me.

Today involved boring and non-controversial stuff that is not really even worthy of sharing and doesn’t make for a good story.

I was present, taking the car in to check the tires, shopping, chopping veggies and cleaning fruit and making food ready to eat so everyone can grab and go! That was actually fun. I love to have healthy food prepared and watching my kids gobble it up as I clean and make it readily available.

My mom used to always cut fruit up for us for dessert and it was the only way I really enjoyed it. I think I loved that she prepared it and I got to watch her do it.  Isn’t that weird? I still love watching my friends (AL and ML) cut up fruit and veggies and love when they make them for me. They taste so much better when they do it!  Maybe that’s what my kids think too.

I think Juliana ate half of what I was preparing for the week, as I washed and chopped and packaged.  Probably not really half, but she was so happy enjoying herself eat as I worked and I loved having her in the kitchen with me. It was all worth it.

That was probably the highlight of my day, besides practicing hand stands in yoga. I have a lot to still practice!

There was one other really cool thing I learned about today and that is about Honor Flights.  The Honor Flight Network is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for all their sacrifices. They transport our heroes to Washington D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials, with all expenses paid. The inaugural Honor Flight tour took place in May 2005.  Tonight at my PEO meeting, another PEO who volunteers with this organization, came to share her story about the organization with us. She showed us a slide show and told us about how the organization works. She also brought a star guest, who was a veteran who actually went on one of these flights. Hearing his story and seeing him in tears as he remembered all the people who recognized him and cheered for him at the airports and honored him was so touching. It gives me chills just thinking about his story.  He will be 95 next year and still drives.  He reminded me of Algin Hughes, our PopPop and Colonel!!

If you’d like to learn more about Honor Flight and wish to make a donation, please visit their website:

  
Honor Flight Bay Area Foundation:  www.honorflightbayarea.org

And then just like that, sometimes writing has a purpose that shows up just by beginning to write.  Who knew?

nAMaste and thank you for reading my writing. xo

Superbowl Sunday Fun

Today was Superbowl Sunday. We were excited to watch the game with friends and family and to consume as many calories as possible!  I heard that the average American would consume at least 2000 calories while watching the game. That is more calories than most women and children consume in one day.

When the Weight Watchers commercial came on during the show, I felt incredibly guilty and wished that they would disappear.

We loved watching Katy Perry perform and entertaining us. She was awesome. The lion she came in on was magical. She is so powerful and didn’t even need Lenny or Missy to complete the show.

We enjoyed the American spirit, eating great food, drinking adult beverages, and enjoying the game together.

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This is our life and we’re living it up the best way we know how.I am thankful that Laurie shared her favorite appetizer recipes with me.

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I am thankful that April and Steve had us all over to celebrate together.

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I am happy to be living in the USA.

Life is good.

Hope you had fun relaxing on this marvelous Sunday and that you have a fabulous week ahead.

Be well BeLoveRs.
xo

Today is My Birthday!

I still love birthdays. Thank you for all the birthday love shared. It was the best day to be alive! Much better than the alternative, and my dad wished me another fifty years, hoping he’d be there to celebrate too! Crazy man…I love him!

My car was decorated on the inside with a Dutch banner, wishing me a happy birthday. We usually decorate our kitchen with banners and streamers on birthdays, but since we were gone, Juliana and Jeff decorated my car last night to surprise me this morning. Aren’t they cute? I should have taken a picture!!

We spent the day in Lake Tahoe again and journeyed back home in time for a surprise chocolate cake and visit with April and Steve and the girls.

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We had breakfast at The Old Post Office on the North Shore with my Aunt and Uncle, and my mom and dad. I loved being together with everyone and the breakfast was delicious! If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast, in a cozy, family diner setting with friendly service, you should visit this place.

I opened my birthday cards and presents and after breakfast, we took a drive to the South Shore with my parents to walk near the water before heading home. We stopped by Camp Richardson, at the Tallac Historic Site and beach area, where we hung out 5 years ago. I loved the colored sand and calm beachfront and was so tempted to go paddle again, especially since it wasn’t windy here. We couldn’t stay long as we needed to get back home at a decent hour.

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Just having fun being dry and balanced on the water!!
We said goodbye to my parents and took off for home, listening to the USA vs Ghana World Cup game details on XM radio and loving that the USA won 2-1! We also listened to my new CDs that Juliana and Jeff picked out for me for my birthday.

I loved reading all the lovely Facebook messages and texts and emails with birthday wishes and love and memories. Thank you for sharing this day with me and making the car ride fun!

My birthday ended with my other family coming over with birthday cake to celebrate together. I received a very special gift in a jar. It had a play date coupon inside, for just me and my little friend Jessie, that was hand painted with some great ideas for our date together. I can’t wait to redeem it!!

I am the luckiest birthday princess in the world!

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I wish you love, peace, & happiness every day, that is my birth-day wish for you! Namaste.

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It’s not a party, without M&Ms!!

Laugh Until You Cry

How often do you laugh so hard that you start to cry? I love love love this feeling.

Usually this happens to me when I’m overtired.  I start laughing at something silly and cannot stop. And the more I laugh, the more others around me start laughing which makes me laugh even harder because they are laughing at me and then they are so surprised that I’m laughing so hard that they start laughing harder too. It’s a contagious circle and I love it. I love this feeling, as long as I don’t really start to cry!

Tonight April was over for dinner with her family and we were playing Telephone around the dinner table with the kids. We were laughing so hard, I was afraid that someone might choke. I got such a kick out of watching everyone whispering in each others’ ears and laughing and being confused at what was said and watching and hearing the transformations occur.  I loved this game.

What makes you laugh so hard you start to cry? Tonight was good and my belly is sore from all that laughing.  Have a great weekend, everyone!  

 

xo

Being Loved

Being loved is the best feeling. Period. There is nothing better. Nothing.

This post is a bit personal, but aren’t most? We’re still resettling and it’s the honeymoon stage, and I’m loving all the attention being showered on my family. Thank you for all your shared calls, emails, texts and love and visits.

My parents drove up to my house to prepare for our arrival this week, as I’ve already mentioned. Seeing my kids love on them and tell them how much they’ve missed them and love them, is so nice to see and hear. The love dance is swirling through my house in little moments and details and it fills my soul. For example, I loved just watching Charlie work with my dad on fix-it projects around the house.

My friend Julie had coffee and snacks waiting for us this morning at her house. The kids played while the women chatted and sat and enjoyed her beautifully remodeled house and sunshine out on her patio. I’ve missed days like today and am so happy to be back and in her kitchen again…the best part of the home!

Tracy came by with her kids on bikes and asked if Charlie wanted to go to her house and play. Of course, he gladly went off and had a great time with his friends, riding his bike with them. Thank you, Tracy!

Julie and her kids stopped by with my favorite artichoke dip and stayed to chat for awhile before we headed to the pool.

Our swim club has a Friday night potluck BBQ that we all enjoyed with April and her family. I learned to play Bocce ball with the little ones and made some new friends while playing. Mom and dad joined us too, and it was great to sit outside and NOT have to cook or clean!!

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Marilynne stopped by and dropped off a dinner for us. She’s been making a new Japanese curry and told me about it and I had mentioned I wanted to try it sometime. There she was with a delivery on my porch! Thank you ML! You spoiled us and it was quite delicious!

And the best part of my day was when my sisters and nieces arrived from Thousand Oaks. They drove 6 hours to come and see us and met us at the swim club. We went out to the parking lot to greet them and couldn’t stop hugging! It’s been almost a year, you know! Way too long for me! I’m thankful they drove the distance to be with us.

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Reunited and it feels so good!

I am loved and I am thankful! Love y’all!

xo

Homecoming Joys

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It’s very nice coming home. I had anxiety the first day, but it’s already gone. I didn’t make a lot of plans and didn’t have many expectations, and just have been letting the days unfold. So far, so good.

I’ve loved all your emails and texts and phone calls. Thank you to my friends who have stopped by with flowers, candy, cookies, crumb cake, red velvet cake and dinner! Thank you to April for picking us up from the airport and making us a beautiful welcome home sign. And thank you to my parents for stocking the fridge and pantry and helping us to settle back in, making coffee for visitors and helping me to get some rest. It’s so nice to be loved.

Today Marcia and Lisa stopped by and we sat on the back patio for hours, when they were just planning to stop by for a few minutes. No one wanted to leave, as we chatted and caught up and shared stories. I love my friends.

The kids had friends running in and out of the house, playing basketball and shooting Nerf guns at each other. I loved hearing them play and having a house full again. This has always been my dream… All the kids and friends hanging out at my house. I loved this!

I was craving Mexican food and today was my lucky day! We went to our favorite little authentic, Mexican food place – Taqueria Latina for lunch and I’m still full! We enjoyed the best burritos and quesadillas, chips and salsa!

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Right now I’m sitting by the pool with my mom and dad, watching the kids swim with their friends and playing basketball in between sessions of adult swim time when they are kicked out for awhile. These are the best days of summer…just hanging out by the pool and being with friends.

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Life is good. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Namaste.

P.S. Thank you to all of you who have shared your comments, both privately and publicly about your thoughts on my blog and encouraging me to keep on writing. You inspire me! xo

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Isn’t California so beautiful?? I love it here!!

Counting the Days

I guess it’s time to stop counting the days. But somehow counting the days gave my life meaning and a sense of purpose or awareness. When I first started this blog, I wasn’t counting…just feeling out the writing thing on a daily basis. I wasn’t a writer and was never very good at writing, so I wasn’t sure of this blog thing, and if I would like it or not.

I started a 100 day countdown, until we moved to the Netherlands. Because I was counting and being aware of the days passing, I felt like I should make each day meaningful – sort of because I wanted to have something to share and to have something interesting to write about. Counting the days until the big move helped me to realize how limited time really is and how quickly it is gone. Each individual day I wasn’t really aware of time passing, but as I started to write the days down and could see the decrease in numbers, I became very aware.

I learned something BIG from doing this. I made the most of my days. Not just because I was counting them, but mainly because I was aware of the time change and that I would be leaving soon. Before I left California, I wanted to do everything I ever wanted to do and experience before I couldn’t anymore – not that I couldn’t ever again, but I didn’t know when I might be able to do the things here or see the people I love again, so I wanted to be sure to really enjoy all that I could before leaving. And so I did. And I lived it up. I lived in the moment – kind of felt like I had a death sentence – but I didn’t. I received a life sentence. We all have one… but somehow along the way, we forget.

We get busy. We work. We have kids. We have mortgages. We get stuck.

Counting down the days, I became unstuck. I became alive and stopped making excuses. “So what?” became my mantra and I was able to do so much more. I discovered happiness. I discovered really living in the moment and I became hooked on the endorphines of this awareness. And I took this with me to the Netherlands.

Once we arrived, I changed the count. I started counting the days living abroad as an expat. I was curious how long we’d be away and everyone I’d meet would always ask the same questions… How long have you been here? How long will you be here? Where are you from?…

The only real answer I had, besides where we were from, was the exact number of days we’d been in Holland because I was documenting the count and people would laugh when I knew to the day how long we’d been there. When I’d answer their next question – How long will you be here?… that made some people uncomfortable. We had agreed to one to three years, but were at first only wanting to be away for one. When we told our new friends we were only planning on a year, everyone told us that was much too short of a time. The best practice of time spent as an expat seems to be 3 years. The first year you’re getting settled, the second year you’ve settled into your routine and have developed friendships and structure, and by the third year you’ve seen it all, and are really ready to go back to where you came from, or move to the next expat location. One year didn’t seem like an option or a best practice, according to the “experts.” But one year seemed good for us…I’ll have to wait and see and feel how I feel about this after I’ve experienced this transition to know for sure… but I think it’s ok.

I felt like we were “speed dating” in Holland. We quickly moved in and settled and created a great little life for ourselves – filled with friends and family and community and travel opportunities. I’d say within 3 months, we felt like we belonged in Holland – if not sooner. So from my perspective, we didn’t need the full year to feel settled and were able to absorb and enjoy our new land and home right away. And since we weren’t exactly sure how long we’d be there, we chose to make the most of our days. And the counting continued… and process of enjoying life in the moment became my reality.

Here I Am (the title of my blog) became more than just about living abroad. It became truly living with the ups and downs and in betweens. I originally chose to share our journey, thinking I’d connect with family and friends so that they could be part of our experience back home. I also thought it would serve as a memoir for our family to look back on, so I could remember what we did and felt during our year abroad, as I don’t have the best memory. I also hoped that it might help other expats who were thinking about moving overseas, to give them a glimpse of the “real world” from my perspective, one perspective. I wanted to share the best of Holland and the highlights from our travels too.

Through the process of writing and sharing, I feel like I have been given an unexpected gift. I was given the gift of presence… to be fully alive and to be fully aware of how lucky I am to Just Be… perfectly imperfect. I don’t have life all figured out, but I know I want to live it up each day and make the most of the days I’m given while I am able. I wish the same for you.

I hope that you will also be aware of this one beautiful life you’ve been given, and that you’ll stop and pause and think about where you want to go and what you want to do, despite all the burdens, responsibilities and any obstacles you may face. What will you say “So what?” to, and do what you want anyway? You can, you know… give yourself permission and go after your dreams. What are you going to BE today? What are you going to DO today? Just do it…

I’ll stop counting now, as I think I’ve learned this lesson. I’ll just be sure to remember our days are limited and we really never know the exact answer as to how long we’ll be here and when are we going home.

Namaste. Live it up. Love it Up.

p.s. My first day home was great. We went to Target, had lunch at Panda Express, and had friends stop by and call and chat. I got my cell phone connected and CJ made dinner for us with my mama – our yummy family favorite, Chicken Pho Soup. I took a little nap before dinner, and afterwards, we went for a walk around the neighborhood before stopping in at April’s house for a quick visit. My anxiety is gone and it’s really nice to be home… thanks, for asking! xo

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Home Sweet Home!

Day 348: I Am Home

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It’s weird to think I woke up in my Holland house this morning, and I’ll be going to bed in my Sunnyvale home in a couple hours.

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It’s 2:30 am Holland time and just before dinner at home. I’m feeling a bit delirious, yet trying to stay awake for at least a couple more hours.

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I am happy to be home again, although I have to be honest and say I felt really confused coming back. I am feeling the transition, feeling sad as I let go of my house, community and friends in Holland and leaving Jeff behind for two more weeks. And then happy as can be, seeing my parents and April and my home and my neighbors and the neighborhood friends dropping by.

Julie came by for a cup of tea and biscuits, and the kids walked to the park and went swimming and rode bikes like we never left. They just picked up where they left off almost a year ago.

Mom made a pot of her spaghetti sauce and the whole house smelled good and welcoming.

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I cried as we were landing at SFO, afraid to land and seeing the airplane crash remains still on the runway. I felt really sad, thinking of what I am leaving behind and a bit anxious about the transition back to life as it used to be but isn’t anymore the same. I know it’ll all come together, as it always does…just breathe and relax, right? It’s all good. Life is good!!

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And I have the most amazing friends and family all around the world now. Can’t wait to catch up again! xoxo

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Day 75: Rituals

Do you have any favorite rituals? Usually when I try to make something a ritual, I get bored and change it. Maybe change is my ritual. Although my favorite ritual is Jeff making me coffee in the morning. However, I’ve been getting up before him and really want coffee right away, so I’ve been making my own coffee.  See? There’s that change again. 

I’ve been thinking that I need a new morning ritual. My mom used to exercise, have dinner planned, sometimes prepared and cooked, and the house clean, and she was showered with her lipstick on before 10 am.  She was ready to go on with her day, whatever that looked like.  How did she do IT? I know how – she was and IS super organized and is not a procrastinator and doesn’t have ADD!  She also knows how to prioritize and doesn’t waste time on email or Facebook! I want to be like her when I grow up. 🙂

I was trying to think about what I actually want to do in the morning before the craziness of the day begins.  Of course, my list is a 100+ things long. So I started last night by actually going to bed before midnight so that I could get up comfortably and easily in the morning.  I decided that I’d get up at 6 am, do a few yoga stretches, drink a glass of water and then make my coffee – all before anyone else got up. And guess what? I did it this morning and it was a great start to the day. I’m going to try this one again tomorrow.  I’m also going to plan what to make for dinner first thing in the morning or the night before. (Want to know what’s for dinner tomorrow?  A baked pasta dish, as requested by my regular diners.  That was easy. And for exercise? A tennis lesson tomorrow.)  So simple, right?

Speaking of rituals, blogging has become a ritual. I have posted 200 posts – that means I’ve been writing every day for more than have a year. That’s crazy to me. I actually enjoy the process of writing at the end of the day. It’s sort of relaxing when I’m not trying to figure out what to share. But.. I’m considering changing this too. I don’t want my story to become stale, and I wonder if it’s starting to get boring, me talking every day. Maybe I’ll start counting my weeks or counting by 5’s. We’ll see. Thanks for following along with me on this crazy, journey. 

Tell me – what is your favorite [daily/Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas/Birthday] ritual?  I’m curious…

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A Halloween Ritual from Last Year

 

Day 69: Orange and Halloween

There are so many good things about the color orange:

It’s a happy color.

It’s warm.

It’s the color of the sun – at least in my drawings!

It’s bright and cheerful.

It’s the color of Holland and part of my nationality.

It’s one of my favorite colors (today).

It represents the changing of the seasons  – fall and holidays.

And it makes me think of Halloween! I love Halloween. And today, my other family sent us a care package filled with Halloween goodies that made us all so happy!! It was filled with candy and decorations and magazines and even our California mail!

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I still have the best wife ever!! 😉 Thank you for making our day and spoiling us, April!! I wish you could have seen the kids’ faces. We love Halloween and we didn’t pack any of our holiday decor and I was starting to feel a little sad about that. Halloween isn’t celebrated in Holland, although the Americans at the school are putting on a Halloween event – nothing like Halloween Happening, I’m sure!  But at least we’ll get a taste of tricks and treats. Charlie wants to be a leprechaun!! I don’t know why, but that just makes me laugh! Wish me luck in pulling off that costume!

Back to colors – what is your favorite color?

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I mentioned that mine is orange, and sometimes blue, oh, and purple and red too. But today – Orange.  Today, I looked through my closet and found these orange pieces – I have to wear these more often because they make me feel happy. I tend to wear black and neutrals, and workout clothes. I need to change this and dress it up a bit! I love to wear my orange Stella & Dot Olivia necklace – it’s my favorite piece from the Fall Collection.  Yes, I still love my Stella & Dot and wear it all over Holland. Hup, Holland!  

So what’s hanging in your closet? Are you shining in your favorite?