Expat Best Practices

Today I was inspired by this article written about what we can learn from expats. Here is the link:


Maybe I’ve shared this already but I can’t remember. One of the things that being an expat did for me was give me a life sentence… kind of like a death sentence but in reverse.  I felt like I was given a gift to live in the moment, to be fully aware of what I wanted to do with my life and to do it right now and not wait.

When we were getting ready to move overseas, I stopped being tired and busy. I made time to do whatever I planned or dreamed and did it. We went to Hawaii and came back the day before our anniversary. We then drove 6 hours to Southern California the next day on our anniversary to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. Before, I would never have done something like this. I would have used the excuse that we just got back from a trip and we were exhausted, and it was our anniversary and blah, blah, blah.  Instead, we went. Just like that. And enjoyed our family and the journey. This type of event and thinking happened over and over again before we left.

And then we continued living like this the entire year we were expats. We lived and worked like we were on a permanent vacation. We didn’t know when our time would end, so we kept doing whatever our hearts and minds could dream of doing. We lived it up. My new motto.  Sleep when you’re dead. My old motto that I still carry. I have lots of these little statements. Maybe I’ll make a list of them one day.  They help guide me and remind me to live it up, love it out and have no fear.

That kind of connects to the life/death sentence. None of us know how long we’ll live, but we live our lives sometimes like we have forever and we don’t. So I chose to live it up now while I can, while we’re healthy and curious and have a thirst for experience and connection. We should live this way…fully present and aware, adapting and changing and growing every new minute.  What a gift of life we all have… it’s up to us how we choose to spend our minutes.

So back to the article… I’ll summarize what I found to be the best practices that The Backpacker shared about expats:

Expats are:

* Friendly, open people eager to make new friends immediately without pretension

* Fun to be around. They are curious and want to know your story and want to know about their new culture and land

* Adventurous, risk takers, and gutsy! Expats have to leave their home land, pack up their belongings and start new. This is uncomfortable and they do it anyway.  I love this – do it anyway mentality…so what if you’re a bit scared, unsure… try it anyway

* Try new things – new food, new languages, new rituals

* Have an attitude to “Just Do It” like Nike says – stop thinking about it and planning it and just do it

* Live life like you’re on a permanent holiday. Think about that… isn’t that a great idea? We have to do the work and study, but then what? Play!! Travel!! Explore!! Enjoy!!

* Love to hang out and socialize with friends, living it up

* Tend to enjoy themselves and welcome the revolving world of friends with a culture of openness. I love this and live this statement.

I miss being overseas and having the title of a current expat. I liked the experience and the friendships I made and miss them so much, even if everyone is away on summer holiday. I plan to incorporate these best practices into my daily life, living a more normal day to day life back in suburbia. I plan to keep living it up, loving it out and enjoying this beautiful world every day. I plan to fight the negativity I see in the media and continue to spread joy and love every where I go.  Thanks for joining me and sharing the journey.


“Grateful people are joyful people; the more joyful people are, the more we’ll have a joyful world.” – Brother David Steindl-Rast

20130718-222830.jpgThank you Michele for sharing Shasta with me today.  ;-). Thank you Val for having Christian over and spoiling him and for all the books. Thank you Christine for happy hour and my delicious succotash salad. Thank you Ling for the gorgeous Dahlias from your yard and the steam buns for Charlie. Thank you to all 6 kids who came over for dinner and filled my house with joy.  I love this life right now.  😉

Best Part of Being an Expat

Some people have asked me what the best part of living overseas was. There are several experiences we enjoyed. We traveled to new and exotic places. We learned a new language. We immersed ourselves in Dutch culture. We made wonderful new friends and embraced daily life together.

I think that was the best part for me… just sharing time together as a family. We have always been quite involved in each others’ lives. But being in a new country had us depending on one another more than usual. Everything was new and we were sharing these new experiences together.

I have to say the best part of living in the Netherlands was the quality family time we had. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it was different than the family time we shared at home. There were less distractions. We did a lot as a family unit, and most nights we shared a prayer, conversation and a family dinner. This was priceless to me and something that was more difficult to share back in the States with longer commute times, more hectic sports schedules, harder homework, and more volunteer commitments. Seeing my kids together now back home, I can feel and see the bond between them that we created overseas. I hope it lasts!

Can’t wait for Jeff to get home and join us. The movers came last week and the house cleaner is finishing up tomorrow. A few more steps before he journeys back to us and life can resume as “normal”, whatever that may be as a family.

Saying goodbye to the Aunties and cousins, Hartley style!

Playing in the pool together, not wanting to go home… I love it!!

Life is good! Live it up.

Day 340: Family + Sun + BBQ = Life is Good


The sun was shining and it was so gorgeous out today in London. Nate and Becky have this fabulous roof deck and we sat outside nearly all day and soaked it all in.  Her family came to join us and we all enjoyed being together.

Becky is an amazing hostess and planned and organised a wonderful BBQ for us. I loved watching Juliana work with her auntie,  cutting fruit to make a fruit salad and slicing the bread and making a tomato and basil salad.  Seeing them work together made me aware how grown up my little girl is becoming, and watching them bond together reminded me of the importance of family and how much I miss them.

There was so much food and everyone was so content just being outside, that it was a double BBQ kinda day.  Jeff and Nate grilled twice and we never wanted to go in.  We celebrated CJs birthday and Ant and Emma’s anniversary and Nate and Becky’s new place.  Some people went for a walk around the marina and others went to the local pubs for a few pints, and Charlie fought his fever again all day.  All in all it was a wonderful day of togetherness. I am thankful.


Day 321: Swirled – Sad and Happy and Thankful


Goodbye, Miss Minivan! You’ve been all over the world and we’re leaving you behind in Amsterdam.

Continuing on with the process of moving back to the States, today Jeff and I went to the Honda Dealer to dispose of our 2003 Honda Odyssey Minivan.  Now I never really wanted a minivan, and don’t think they’re very sexy, but I just pretended it wasn’t one and enjoyed all of it’s efficiency, practicality and ability to move many people and children all over the world.  It has 125,00 miles on it and on our last trip to Normandy, the transmission light came on and that was the end of the light for her. To repair the transmission would have cost 6300 Euros, which is $8365 USD. The van isn’t worth that much, but we were hoping it would last for our duration in the Netherlands. Sadly, it didn’t and we couldn’t get a rebuilt transmission because this model of vehicle is not made in Holland. We can’t sell the vehicle as is, because of tax reasons and it not having been here for a year yet. So we were stuck with a sour lemon.

For some reason this made me very sad. I didn’t want to let go of it, but I had to. I didn’t want to give it away for nothing, but I had to. I didn’t want to leave it behind in Holland this way, but I had to. I have to let go. I have to not be so attached. I have to not care. But I do. And I did. And I cried. But I think it was just symbolic of having to let go and leave and say goodbye, and I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to. But I have to. And it’s ok. And I have so much to look forward to.  But I’m sad to let go. And so I cried.  Not an ugly cry, but a sad cry, as part of the process of accepting the change. And Jeff probably thought I was crazy. But you and I know, I wasn’t really crying about the car – it was just a good excuse to cry about leaving and hurting a bit, and letting go.


We took off my roof racks, and emptied the CDs and jackets and wrappers and contents from the glove box. I took down the rearview mirror attachment I used to have eyes in back of my head, looking at my kids while we drove to Thousand Oaks, the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Germany, and France just to name a few places.


And then I said goodbye to my car and the memories it helped me to make, and another tear fell. And I kept saying how stupid I was for crying over a stupid car and that it was really not that big of a deal, and that everything was ok.  And then I took a deep breathe and let go.  Aaahhhhh…..


I was an hour late to my physio apointment that I thought was at 11, but really was at 10. I’m a bit absent minded these days. I said goodbye to my therapist, since I don’t have time left to visit any more. I didn’t feel too sad about this, but more of a relief.  One less thing to do, one less item to check off my list.  Let’s just hope my headaches stay away.

I stopped by the Kringloop (Salvation Army) store to figure out how to donate any furniture and household goods we  won’t need any more once we’re ready to move next month. Between my limited Dutch and the worker’s limited English, it probably took 20 minutes to set up two appointments. They first want to come to the house to see what we have to donate, and then they schedule another visit to do the pickup. All is set now, I just have to finish deciding what to take and what to leave.

While I was working on this task, I got a text from Jen inviting me to go for a walk or run with her. I was so glad to hear from her, and since I’d accomplished two BIG tasks, I was happy to take a break. I just wanted to enjoy her company and hear about and see her pictures from her BIG trip to Uganda (and selfishly not think about me leaving.) I invited her over for lunch, if she’d bring her computer with her!!  She luckily agreed.  😉 She recently went to Uganda to support one of her best friends, who is helping to build a school and to raise money through sponsorships of the children. She went primarily to take pictures of the children so that people who sponsor them can see the light in their eyes. I am so proud of and inspired by her for making and taking the time to go to support her friend and those in need. You can learn more about Parental Care Ministries Work in Uganda here:  http://www.parentalcareministries.org/wordpress/  Our lunch date was exactly what I needed – quality time with a good friend!  I was content again.  Thanks Jen for our “run”.  It was a perfect afternoon.


Spontaneous lunch outside with Jen – this is my favorite salad made with beets, balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, arugula, and goat cheese. It was a gorgeous day out!

So remember yesterday I mentioned how I am practicing and learning to let go and to let go of anxiety and to just flow with what comes my way and how uncomfortable this is for me? Phew, that was a long sentence!  Well today I was on one of those anxiety highes and as I breathed and let go, that’s when Jen texted me and then lunch and sharing photos and a bike ride and shopping unfolded from not having a “real” plan.  How could I have planned something that great when I was so sad earlier this morning?  I don’t know how it works, but it does for me and I hope it will for you too.  It’s letting go of fear and control and then accepting what comes your way and adapting every step.  Good things happen that way.

And to add to the list of good things happening today, Patti Beth called me to say she had a gift for me. She’s leaving town in 3 more days, so it’ll be another sad day of goodbyes, that I’m trying not to dwell on, but I’m definitely feeling. The gift she gave me was so touching and meaningful and I’m so thankful for it. She painted a wooden clog for me and the letter she wrote on the bottom of it was even greater and really touched my heart. Now can you see why it’s so hard to leave here? I’ve made really good friends and have new girlfriends for life.  Thank you Patti Beth for your thoughtful gift. I am going to miss you.


One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever been given.

I felt so drained today from moving between the extremes of being really sad to really happy. After picking up 2 out of 3 of kids from school and socializing with the other mamas, I decided to relax and surprise my little Dutchies and stopped near our house for some of their favorite, unhealthy, Dutch treats – bitterballen and Kaassoufflé – deep fried cheese.   We all loved sitting outside and enjoying our deep-fried snacks that we can only get here (I think!) Enjoying the moments…


Charlie with his bitterballen

So there you have it… a busy day in the life of a mom, trying to wrap up the end of the school year while saying goodbye to good friends and planning the details of our move back to the States. Life is good… even when it’s sad and bumpy.



Our simple, family dinner… delicious and comforting and much needed.

Day 307: Joy On A Bike


I played hooky today and skipped my Dutch class. The sun was shining and it’s supposed to rain tomorrow and I needed Vitamin D and exercise. Does that sound like a good excuse? Plus now that I’m moving in 2 months, my desire to master the language has dwindled… Not that I don’t want to learn Dutch, but I only have so many days left with the kids in school (think free kid care) and sun shiny days.

I thought you might love to see the beautiful forest by my house from a biker’s point of view. Enjoy!!







Love the goat farm, and this little guy jumping through the air!



These flowers are right by my front door and were so nice to see when I came home.

And to end the beautiful day, the kids and I and our friends walked to the ice cream shop to celebrate the sunshine and warm weather after school. Living in the moment and living it up!



Life is good, and sweet! Namaste.

Day 256: Family Sunday

This morning I woke up and enjoyed a cappuccino, sitting in my rocking chair, and watching the day unfold. We didn’t have a set plan, besides going for a run together and possibly a bike ride and a family dinner at home. I like Sundays like this. My typical wake up routine is to drink my coffee, check email, check Facebook and Instagram, play words with friends and plan my day while playing.

I read and follow several bloggers and today I met Fionna Lynne and fell in love with her writing.

Check her out: Fionna Lynne’s blog

She had an entry titled 31 Days to Embrace Expat Life that perfectly sums up so many of my own thoughts and learnings. Her Day 10: being family to friends, really touched me. In the short time we have been here, we have made so many good friends. These friends are like our family away from home and I want to be with them and help them and enjoy life with them. As I was reading, I decided right then that we had to invite friends for a Sunday dinner. I would like to do that every Sunday that we are home! Who’s up for dinner?? Danielle and I were texting each other about another event and I asked if they could come join us tonight. Luckily, they said yes, and brought their fun friend Jill along.

I love when we entertain because it makes me declutter and clean up our house as a family. And we are so casual, so there’s no need to stress ( although I always do!) even though it always works out. We made appetizers, pan roasted chicken and potatoes, broccoli, salad with toasted pine nuts and ranch dressing, and bread. Juliana made April’s rum cake and voila – we had a Sunday family dinner.


Afterwards, we skyped with my family back in California. I was so happy they picked up the call and that I got to see them all. It made me cry, missing them! The little ones are getting so big and are so funny. My mom and dad are so loving and cute. I need to hug them again! Soon enough… Thank goodness for Skype!



I also got to google chat with April for a few minutes. The time change is sometimes challenging to connect with each other. But tonight all was good, and I got my family and friend fix, near and far.



Day 246: A Nail Salon

Today I had my first pedicure since I moved to Holland 246 days ago! I didn’t really know where to find a place and so when Jen suggested we to go get our nails done, of course I said yes! I love when someone else has the idea and plan. I felt like I got a mini-day off from thinking and deciding.

We drove into Amsterdam and found parking near Rein, the spa place. We enjoyed a cup of tea and conversation while we were pampered. It was a lot of fun to have some girl time and to ponder life together.

What would we do without our girlfriends??

NOT cute feet, but happy, clean feet ready for the sun and sand.

Day 242: The Red Light District?

There are no photos or videos to share today, except this one:


I am in photo hell! I’ve taken way too many pictures (is that possible?) and haven’t edited or deleted many either and now everything is full. I’m out of disk space. My iPhoto library won’t take any more content and I have photos stored in a flat file structure and am trying to integrate them all to have them make sense and its taking hours and hours and hours! How did I get here and do you feel my pain? Do you have an easy solution? Please?!?

So while I was sitting here for hours all day and night with Jeff helping me to move, edit, delete and back up files, Charlie decided to sit next to me and look at YouTube videos for things to do together in Amsterdam tomorrow. I was happy that he was sitting near me and found something to do besides making noise and jumping up and down. All was good. The video was playing in the background and I was listening and multitasking, feeling proud that he searched and found a video with a list of exciting things to see and do in the heart of the city until I heard, “number 9. the red light district. just don’t take pictures of the ladies in the windows otherwise they may throw your camera in the canal.” I jumped away from my busy-ness and as I looked at what he was seeing, I saw flashes of red lights appear. Oh no! I grabbed the iPod out of his hands and turned off the video before he saw anymore. He was surprised and didn’t understand and said he hated when that happened. I’m pretty open with my kids but really don’t want them seeing that or even asking questions about it at the kitchen table. Yikes!

Back to the photo conundrum – taking pictures is to help us capture our memories from the past and that’s all great, but what happens when you’re trying to manage your past and package it into nice little receipts packaged into nice little albums with copies ready just in case you lose your package, but in the process you lose the present because you’re so busy remembering the past? What a dilemma. I struggle with that concept, but know I want to be able to look back one day to remember and share the journeys we have taken, explored and enjoyed.

I guess I have to borrow from the present, to pay to remember the past, so I can have the future benefit of being able to share our history. Huh. That’s weird. Boy, I’m exhausted now.

Day 237: Paths and Hives


Love this imagery of a hive and a path

I think when we have our own home again, I’ll have to put in a yellow brick path that leads up to our front door. Because Christina was right – I found my yellow brick road that leads to our home, wherever we are together. I just had to move to Holland to figure that out. I Am Content.

I love the imagery of the path alongside the hive pattern. I also kind of like that the path is messy and dirty, although I don’t like the cigarette butt thrown on the way. The hive represents communities to me and I think that we build and shape our interconnected communities based on the paths we choose. I Am thankful for family and the friends I meet and make and share time with along the way – at home, overseas, online and in thought.


Where will our paths lead?