Summer Sweetness

One year ago today we got on an airplane and moved back to California from Amsterdam. It was bittersweet. I cried before the plane landed, not quite ready to give up our expat life and the day to day living and sharing with our new friends and family.

One year already? How did that go by so quickly? I had so many things I was going to do this year but haven’t. It went by so fast.

I still miss my friends and our jetset schedule, but I’m happy to be home in our little house where the sun shines every day.

Kristin walked by our house this week as I was coming home and had a huge bag of plums to share. Her kids are house sitting for another neighbor and their prolific plum tree produced probably 20 pounds of plums. She offered me a fair share and today I made my first gluten free plum cobbler for dessert tonight from the bounty.

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This just made me happy to be home. I am thankful for my neighbors and friends. I am thankful for our beautiful weather. I am happy to be a stay at home mom who has time to be with my kids and cook random desserts and that I have time to think and shop and prepare family dinners.

Today I got to play tennis outdoors and ride the bakfiets to pick up Charlie at a friend’s house, besides the 101 other tasks.

Even though I miss Holland and Barbara and Joseine and my family and everyone else, I am really happy to be living in California again.

Life is good. I am happy.

Namaste.

3 Months Ago…

Three months ago today we moved back home. I’m feeling much happier today about our decision. Almost every day the sky is blue and the sun is shining and warm. If for no other reason, this makes me smile. I feel content just because of the weather. Every morning I ride my bakfiets to take Charlie to school and I smile. I love this new ritual and truly appreciate the daily experience.

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We have reconnected with friends, established new routines and have “normal” schedules now. Even though I don’t like the busyness of Silicon Valley and the daily obligations and time commitments, I am at the same time also thankful for this community and the opportunities my family has here.

I still miss what we left behind but I am happy here. My takeaway is that you have to create your happiness wherever you go and keep redefining yourself as circumstances change. This is exciting too because it keeps things new and refreshing. For now, I’m happy rebuilding, reconnecting, resettling and enjoying the journey back home.

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today we were on an airplane, beginning our magical journey to the Netherlands. We were at the airport, crying as we said goodbye and filled with a bit of anxiety, not knowing what to expect exactly.

As we were coming back home a couple weeks ago, I cried again before we landed, so sad to be leaving behind the life we built and enjoyed overseas. I’ve been busy every day since we’ve returned, however I don’t feel quite right or settled yet, even though I’m having fun and am happy to see friends and family again. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in, and everything looks and feels familiar but in a different way. I’m hyper aware and that feels a little strange too. For example, I notice things I would have never paid attention to before like the sheer size of Safeway and the American flag flying everywhere.

I think moving back in the summer time was a great idea, but not having any structure or camps set up for the kids has presented a few challenges. I’m working on that and things are getting better already. I’m sure I’ll feel more normal, next year!! Lets just hope it doesn’t take that long.

How long does it normally take to resettle? Anyone know? I’m sure it depends… I’ll just try and be patient and not worry about it. For now, I just feel mixed.

Namaste.

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Mid-state Fairgrounds, Paso Robles

Home Sweet Home

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Jeff came home today!! Our family is complete. I was glad that we came home first and got settled and over jet lag and that he stayed back to close up shop, so to speak. He handled the packers and movers and cleaners and final walk through. I am blessed to have a great life partner and I’m so thankful he’s home with us again. I bet I’ll be able to sleep better now!

We had a wonderful homecoming dinner with our family friends and our beloved shared Traeger smoker!!

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Life is good and simple!

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 347: Last Night in Holland

All my bags are packed and weighed.

Boarding passes are printed and passports are ready to go.

The car is coming bright and early to bring us and all our luggage to the airport.

My day was filled with anxiety and sadness as I prepared to let go and leave Holland behind. I felt so much stress in my body, even though I’m happy to be moving back home. It kind of feels like breaking up with a boyfriend that you still love, but you know it’s time to move on, but you still feel sad breaking up, even though its the right thing to do. Does that make any sense? All I know is that anxiety is real and not really any fun. And the quicker it leaves my body, the better. A few deep breathes helped, but it took awhile and isn’t fully gone yet.

It’s time to leave Holland, but I fell in love here. I liked my life here and my friends and all that Holland had to offer and I’m extremely sad moving on and leaving my friends, even though I’m happy for the next phase too. I think that’s what creates the anxiety. I have so much to love about California and my friends and family and life there too and I’m excited to see everyone again and be back in my home again.

I’m so thankful for having had the experience to live in Europe for a year with my family.

So as Jen and Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

So I took a shower and cleaned up and off we went to enjoy our last night in Holland. Live in the moment, right?

There were three things I wanted to do…take a boat ride, take a family picture on the milk meisje bridge and eat bitterballen one last time.

We took the 5 tram into Amsterdam and met up with Ton and Loes for a boat ride through the canals. It was a gorgeous and warm evening and they made my dream come true. I am happiest on the water and felt my anxiety melt away. Thank you Ton and Loes for sharing your boat with us and giving us such a great going away present!

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Afterwards, Loes took our family photo on the bridge by their home on the Herengracht.

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And finally, we went to discover Loetje in Amsterdam, for bitterballen.

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My night is done.

My heart is content.

My journey in Holland is complete.

It’s been a wonderful year of exploring and discovering and loving life.

I Am. Thankful.

Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

Namaste