Beauty Surrounds Us

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I lived it up today and am happily tired.

I saw beauty everywhere today.

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I saw raw, vulnerable beauty in the pain and struggles of life through the stories shared over brunch this morning.

IMG_6808There are amazingly strong families walking among us.

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I learned that the time for happiness is now. The place to find happiness is right here. And the way to create happiness is to make someone else happy. Brilliant life motto, wouldn’t you say? Thanks Donna for sharing it.

I found beauty in nature and in abandoned buildings.

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I enjoyed the beauty of friendship, sharing time with special girlfriends despite our busy lives. We slowed down for each other and this was a beautiful thing. I am thankful!

Life is good.

Hope you enjoyed a day of rest and feel refreshed and ready to flow into the week ahead. Namaste.

Community Connections and Friendship

Today was filled with love.

I started the day with a special breakfast at Charlie’s school, called Moments with Moms. It was my last one as Charlie is graduating this year, so it was extra special. I loved sitting with him and his friends and mine, soaking it all in and enjoying every minute and all the kids and moms and teachers and principal.  

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I love our school and our international community and my baby boy.  I was filled with joy.

After breakfast and doing a few chores, I went to meet my volleyball girls out on the grass for some outdoor volleyball fun. I hadn’t been out for over a month, since I’ve been fighting pain in my neck and back. I received an “internal memo” from our team captain, who always makes us laugh with her spirit and creativity.  She pretends that we are an official team and sends out weekly reminders of upcoming events and helps to coordinate our schedules and encourages us to get outside and play. I adore her!  Here is what her memo stated:

Internal Memo To: A. Hartley
From:  WBVC Management
Regarding:  The Hartley Shuffle aka Happy Dance
Dear Ms. Hartley,
Please be reminded that according to your contractual agreement with the WBVC you will need to ensure that you
fulfill your 2015 public appearance schedule and perform your signature move “the Hartley Shuffle”
aka “Happy Dance”(listed per your, “Publicity Branding”) as specified in the language found in paragraph 4, addendum 23.8.
We are currently renegotiating our sub leases and incentives with our DVD sponsorship and we need to ensure that “the Hartley Shuffle” will be performed during the high season.  Therefore,you will need to rehab your shoulder in short order and provide a timetable for your future appearances.
For your reference note that as per the contract, “Player will cooperate with the news media, and will participate upon request in reasonable activities to promote the Club and the League.”
The Top 7 Sports Signature Moves:
1.) Colin Kaepernick’s “Bicep Kiss”
2.) Dennis Rodman’s “Jersey Toss”
3.) Jason Kidd “Blows a Kiss”
4.) The Bash Brothers’ “Forearm Smash”
5.) Deion Sanders’ “Prime Time Dance”
6.) Lebron James’ “Powder Toss”
7.) Adriana Hartley’s “the Hartley Shuffle”
Thank you,
The WBVC Management
The shortened version of this memo from M and others reads, where is Adriana and how did that happy dance go?  We need
the happy dance back to which management was requested to send a memo asap.  BTW All members reading said memo should attend all practices weekly as your schedule permits.

It was soooo good to be out on the field again with my friends, playing in the sunshine, sharing stories and catching up while working out with my girls. I was nervous at first to play again, and was on the injured list, which gave me a few privileges, such as extra serves.  After about an hour or so, I warmed up and the pain was less. I was so happy that N encouraged me to come out and play again, as this made me very happy.

The rest of the day was filled with catching up with laundry and work, before getting ready for the potluck dinner with our Japanese students and host families back at school. Every family brought something to share, which made for a fabulous dinner. We made bagel pizza bites and the girls made gluten free chocolate frosted cupcakes.

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The Japanese students provided entertainment that made me very happy.

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My favorite part of the night was watching. The kids perform. The Japanese kids practiced their English, acting as the MCs and directing the agenda for the evening. I loved the boys group dancing, the drama scene, the group song, and most especially watching  Akie perform a solo ballet performance to my favorite Frozen tune, “Let it Go.”  

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She was absolutely stunning and beautiful and graceful. I was so proud of her (as my daughter!) I left from filming, saying to my friends, “that’s my girl!!.” They giggled.

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Seeing and feeling the appreciation and gratitude and love between the students, the schools, and the families made my day.

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This is truly a remarkable experience and I recommend hosting a foreign exchange student in your house, if you have the means. We are all loving her and sharing in this journey, creating connections and friendships that we would never have had otherwise.

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I am thankful!!

My New “Daughter”

I feel like I have another child, in a good way.

Akie has become part of our family now. She is comfortable asking for what she wants and shares in our activities.  She is loving and kind and polite and I adore her.

Today when I picked my girls up from school (I always wanted Juliana to have a sister!), they both wanted to go to a birthday party for their Japanese friend at the park.

We have a google group between the parents of host families and I had read about the party invitation from the host mom this morning. She was bringing chocolate cake and drinks and all were invited to attend. I was happy for our family to be part of the celebration and so we brought a gift and some food to share and off we went.  I love kids of all ages. I especially loved walking up to the park and seeing small Japanese children under the age of 5, playing with and teasing our students. At first, I wondered if they were siblings of one of the host families. I quickly realized that there were young, Japanese moms playing with their little kids at the park, and the little kids made a connection with our “real” Japanese teenagers. There was a natural connection for them and the little kids and big kids were all playing and having fun together, chasing and tagging and running around together. I loved this moment and realized that there is a natural comfort in the familiar that we all share.

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We sang “Happy Birthday” and the birthday girl blew out her candles. I hope she enjoyed celebrating with us today as much as we did celebrating with her.

After the birthday party, I dropped off Charlie at his practice and brought the girls to Daiso, so that Akie could compare the Daiso in Cupertino to the Daiso in Japan. They were both relatively the same, of course. We also drove by the Apple Headquarters campus that is being built and tried to use English words to describe headquarters.  What words would you use? I think she understood.

Tonight I decided I didn’t want to cook and clean again, especially because we had a very busy day. I hosted a tea party for several friends this morning and had been busy all day, with no time to cook. We decided to go out for American fast food at Taco Bell, instead of eating left overs. She picked what looked good from the picture menu displayed and we ordered a couple other things for her to try. She really liked her steak burrito and the nachos. She tried the mild sauce and it was pretty spicy for her. This is why we chose Taco Bell over Chipotle, because she doesn’t care for spicy food. It was fun to see Taco Bell through the eyes of someone new. Even the girl working behind the counter was intrigued by our new “daughter.”

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The girl behind the counter came over to my side of the counter to ask me a question. She wanted to know if she could give Akie a hug, because she had never met a Japanese girl before and she was so curious and happy to see her. I told her that in Japan, there isn’t a lot of hugging and kissing and that this would be uncomfortable for her.  Having a stranger ask for a hug would be weird in any culture, but I could tell that she genuinely was wanting to see her and connect with her. As we ate, I told Akie about the strange request. As we left the establishment, I introduced Akie to the girl and they bowed to one another. This was a really cool moment. I wish you could have seen it. Love sees no color.

Today was busy and rewarding. I learned a lot again, even in Taco Bell.

How was your day?

Good Night. Be Well. You’re Welcome.

 

 

These are some of my favorite simple sayings.

When you say “good night” to someone, do you mean it?  What does it mean to you? “Good night” is a way of closing a conversation and wishing the other person a nice end to their day. It represents closure and peace and rest when I think of it literally.  When I texted a good night message to L and she texted me back, saying “good night. hope you sleep well.” I felt like we exchanged hugs and good byes and we were done for the day.

“Be well” is another expression that I like, and may have mentioned this one before. Instead of saying “Have a nice day,” which is another way of saying “so long, farewell… as you leave me, I hope that you will be well and happy.”  Simplified, we could just say  “Be well.”  I love this.

I love the simple gesture of recognizing someone’s gratitude by saying the more formal and simple, “You’re welcome.”  By saying “You’re Welcome” to their “Thank you”, you close the gap between the two of you. I love this.  It provides a closed connection that feels balanced. This is much better than the “Uh-huh” or “Sure. No problem.”  I have to remember this little gift.

All of these expressions provide points of connection between two people. By communicating with these words, we are able to acknowledge one another in a way that says, “I see you.” and “I appreciate you.” and “I like you.”

Namaste, BeLoveRs.  Good night. Be well. And thank you for sharing this wonderful life journey together. xo

p.s. Do you know what the opposite of a salutation is called? Neither did I. It is called a valediction. A valediction is the action of saying farewell.  Ha! We or I learned something new today.  We just practiced new valedictions.  Goodbye. 🙂

 

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Women Appreciating Women

I like to have a circle of BFFs so that I always have someone to walk with and play with and confide in on this journey of life. I learn so much from my girlfriends, including my mom and sisters and aunts and daughter, and need them as role models, surrounding me and coaching me and guiding me and offering comfort and love and laughter and companionship. And I hope I offer the same for them too.

I want all women to walk with confidence and to laugh and be silly and to have fun and enjoy each other and to enjoy themselves and to live their truth, without judgement.

When I’m with women, I like to see their beauty (both inner and outer) and find their strengths. I like to hear what they have to say, even when their opinions are different than mine because they challenge me to think and I love this.  I like to find connections between us and within our groups. I like to hear womens’ stories and about what their lives are like and how they do things. I like to learn from them. I love seeing the good and authentically sharing my thoughts and celebrating us.

Our words are powerful.  Our egos sometimes get in the way and I want to protect us and each other, so that we can be our best selves and not be afraid or feel threatened by the gifts and talents of the women in our circles.

I think this is how we make the world a better place. We see the good in each other, despite our flaws and quirks and we keep on loving, keep on laughing, and keep on living.  We forgive and we let go and we love over and over again and it never ends. Some friends we hold close, and some friends with a little cushion of space, and some friends we let go, but we always do so with love.

This is what I want to teach my daughter. This is how I want to teach her to be a friend. And I hope that she goes out and helps support and lift up other girls and women, as she finds her way on her own journey, sharing and celebrating this wonderful life she’s been given, laughing along the way.

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Goodnight, BeLoveRs and thank you for your friendship. xo

Social Media and Connections

I obviously love social media, as I write daily to share my life and to connect with you. I love that I have a platform where we can share ideas and learn from one another, and I love when you click the like button or actually take the time to submit your name and email address and leave a comment, which takes 10 seconds at least and you’re busy, I know, which makes me appreciate you even more. When you write, I see you. I love this part of writing. I don’t really see you, but I see that you liked something that I shared and you validated me and I get to think of you. It’s kind of a cool virtual exchange that means something to me. Thank you for that.

I don’t typically promote my blog, but last night I decided to link my post to my Facebook page, because I was proud of my parents and wanted others who might not know that I write, to have a chance to meet them via my writing.

65 people clicked on my link from Facebook and maybe they even read it.  I was impressed that this many people were curious and took the time to venture over to a new window to check out my blog.  Thank you!

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On my personal Facebook wall, 82 friends liked my post and 7 friends left a comment and 3 friends shared my link. Can I just tell you how good this feels?  You like me. I like you.  I love us!!

One friend tonight mentioned that she didn’t click “like” on my status because she saw so many other people had already liked it and didn’t think it would make a difference whether she clicked or not, because she said there were already so many likes and what is one more.

I told her that I look at every name that shows up on my screen and think of each person individually. I literally do.

I see the 3 most recent friends that liked what I shared and a link that says “and 79 others.” I click the link to the 79 others and read through each name on the list and think and pray for each of those who chose to connect with me.  My prayer is a moment to remember you and to think of something positive about you and I am grateful that we had a shared moment, even if it is just through social media.

We live busy lives and sometimes we live far away from each other, but we find ways to connect however we can and make the world a better place because of the love and likeness we share for each other. That’s a good thing.

So thank you, for reading and sharing and posting and loving and living it up, every day, BeLoveRs! xoxo

Messy Relationships

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Brené Brown

Relationships – Part 2

This is the week of relationship challenges.

I had another situation this week that left me saddened.  

I was not chosen for something and it hurt my feelings. I felt rejected by my friend and at the same time accepted her decision. As I dealt with my feelings of rejection, I also practiced letting go of anger and accepting her and her choice, even though it wasn’t my favorite choice.

I am practicing letting go of hurt and sadness and moving on as quickly as possible, after acknowledging the sense of loss. I don’t want to dwell on loss and pain and sadness, even though these feelings are also part of life. I want to acknowledge the feelings and release them so that they don’t consume my mind space. This is a practice, let me tell you, but it’s so worth it.  There are so many other opportunities to explore and one loss shouldn’t take away our energy, but rather should energize us to try new things and to create new relationships.

I choose to let go.

I chose to share my story of disappointment with my kids. I wanted them to know that even as adults, we will sometimes get hurt by others choices and that we have to find peace in that. We all experience rejection in different forms, and we cannot always be chosen for the team, for the role in a play that we wanted, as a friend, for a job, as a partner, etc, and we have to develop ways to cope with the changes that life delivers to us.

I wanted to teach compassion and forgiveness. I wanted them to be aware that we are sometimes the ones that do the unintentional hurting, and that I want them to be careful with their choices and their relationships and to be mindful of how their actions affect others.  I wanted to teach them self confidence, and to be ok with themselves, when they are rejected for whatever reason, and to carry on.

They got it. They understood.  They shared how they have dealt with similar experiences and shared compassion with me. And then I cried. Because I was understood and was thankful that my little ones got it.

Life is good. I am ok.  We move on and it’s ok. Shine.

xo

 

 

Day 259: 7 Ways We Quickly Settled as Expats.

Now that we’ve been in Holland for 259 days, I’m realizing that there are several factors that helped us to feel settled living abroad rather quickly.  Here are a few things that come to my mind.

1.  We hired an excellent, personal, relocation manager. Lion helped us to pick our rental property that would suite our family best based on our needs. He did the walk through with the owner and got the keys before we arrived. He referred us to rental furniture companies and met them at our house to let them in and set up our furniture before we arrived. He was here to meet us at our front door the first day we arrived with our 15 suitcases. The day we arrived was so hot, that he arrived early and opened all the windows to air out the place. Once we got settled, he drove us to the grocery store so that we could have a few things our first day.  He has supported us every step of the way, and has been very humble, kind and generous and a true help to us.

2.  Our Dutch Relatives. My mother was born in the South of Holland and her cousins still live here. Jeff and I have good relations with them and have visited each other both in Holland and in the States several times. When we arrived, Gerard and Anita and Dorine and Nadja helped us to shop for hours and buy furniture and assemble it. We have been to each others homes for dinners and birthday parties and they made us feel welcome and a part of their families. We also were invited to Rio and Helma’s dairy farm and to spend time with them too. Franca and Henk came to see us, along with all their kids and everyone enjoyed chatting and playing and getting to know one another. When you’re far away from your own home, family and friends, having a new family to welcome you is the best feeling.  We didn’t feel alone and it was comforting knowing that they knew the language, culture, norms and could help us navigate the process of getting transportation cards, and such, and could help us if an emergency occurred.

3. New Friends.  One thing I love most to do is to connect people to friends and knowledge and to help one another. It’s what I used to do in a past life, and a skill that I think has helped me to find my way. I was able to meet and connect with friends through PEO, a philanthropic organization to which I belong. that supports, celebrates and motivates women to achieve their highest goals. A Dutch friend of mine who worked with me at Stella & Dot, introduced me to one of her friends who lives in my new home town. Before I moved, I had a Dutch coffee at my house and invited my Dutch friends over. One of them had a Dutch friend that worked in the US Consulate. Another one had a sister in law that lives in my new home town, who brought us a house plant once we got settled.

Our children’s school made it very easy for us to build a community of expat friends very quickly. Once the children started making friends, I was able to meet the moms and dads of their friends, and friendships were formed. We started sharing experiences and new relationships have grown.  I love my new tribe and am so thankful for each and everyone of my new friends.

4. I filled my time doing things I love and got out of the house. I met people who played tennis and found a group of women to play with indoors and they connected me to the right people to take lessons and play in tournaments. I found yoga and yoga friends. I sought out a place to paddle board and met the owner of a Dutch company to paddle the canals with across Amsterdam. Now if the weather just warms up! I took up running with my husband, something I’ve always wanted to do, and now found the time and place. I went to all the social events I could the first few weeks at school to get out and see the town. The school is so good at making newcomers feel welcome, with coffees, and outings and having an open door where parents can sit and socialize while waiting for their kids.  And as I started making friends, we’d have girls’ lunches, and girls’ nights out, dinner parties and happy hours, celebrated a baby being born, and birthdays and all that is good. Bottom line is I’ve stayed busy and productive and happy and love the friendships that have blossomed through all these shared events. I am so lucky and never am bored.

5. I have a very supportive partner.  I probably don’t say enough about my husband, who works hard day and night, working to build his global business and support our family. He worked so hard behind the scenes to get us here, without a support staff to do all the work for him, as he works at a start up company, and they don’t have these type of resources. He researched everything, set up our legal documents, bank accounts, car transfer, cell phones, drivers’ licenses, cable and internet services, etc. all while setting up a European company.  He is smart and loving and supports me and laughs with me and makes me coffee every morning!  I am blessed.

6.  Social Media & Technology.  Having Facebook, Skype, Email, Google Voice, What’s App, Instagram, Magic Jack, my blog, Apple TV and a VPN have helped me to feel still connected to friends and family and America. I’m able to share and see and connect with those I love every day. When I feel lonely, I can always check in – just sometimes have to wait for the time zones to be in alignment where we’re both awake at the same hour.

7. A thirst for adventure.  We wanted to do something fun as a family and to learn about the world. Having something to look forward to every month is very exciting. Whenever we feel down or homesick, someone is coming to visit, a trip is planned or a package arrives.  We aren’t bored or stagnant and there is a lot of excitement and adventure awaiting us, if we so choose, and most weekends, we’re choosing to see and explore and enjoy this journey as much as we can.

If you’re an expat, what has helped you to settle in to your new home? What makes you happy?   Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me.  😉