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 300: House Sweet House

It’s nice to have a place to come back to, after a whirlwind vacation, but we still don’t feel like we’re home. I am thinking it’s the Ikea bed. I don’t look forward to falling into my bed because its not very comfortable and is very hot. I am happy to be out of the car and off the road. So as Juliana said, “it’s nice to be house'”

I think since we’re moving home to Sunnyvale soon, this feels more like an intermediary place and less like home than it might have if we had decided to stay longer than a year. Since we know we are moving, we already feel a bit more detached,and we don’t feel as rooted here anymore…we are kind of in Limboland.

For example, at the dinner table tonight, we talked about where we want to go first when when we get back home. The kids thought in terms of restaurants and I thought of people and places I wanted to see. The kids want to go to The Habit, Jocko’s, and Taqueria Latina. I want to go to April’s house and sit at her counter, and to my mom’s house and to the beach. Those places feel like home to me besides our own home. Our home feels like home because that’s where the kids did so many firsts. There are so many memories there that make me long for this place, even though home should be wherever we are. We’ve created so many memories together here, but home is still there… For all of us. I wonder where home is for kids who do this expat living thing for longer than 3 years. I bet it becomes confusing in a sense, and liberating in another.

Today we are back in the Netherlands – 300 days after moving away from home. That’s a long time to me!

We explored Reims, France today and drove through France, Belgium and Holland to get back here. It rained the entire day again. I’m looking forward to relaxing and catching up with everything tomorrow. Hope you had a good day!

Namaste.

Here are a few pictures from Reims, France.

Day 276: Two Lives

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Everyone assumes I’m excited to move back home and I am. But I’m also nervous and have anxiety over it. I want to move back and I want to live here a bit longer. And I get to do both, but I have stress about moving and leaving my home here. My life is good here in Holland. And my life was good in California. It’s that yin and yang thing that is constant. And I’ll flow with whatever comes my way, but it does cause stress and I just wanted to mention that as I feel it and move through it.

I have great friends, who I enjoy every single day here. And I have great friends with shared history back home who are waiting for us and want us back (thank goodness) who we want to see and hug and hang out with again too.

But today I hung out with my friends here – I picked up Charlie from Joseine’s house and shared a cup of coffee with her, while the kids played outside and ran around together and talked us into another sleepover. How could I say no? We walked over to see her new home being built and she shared with me the details that she’s been planning for a year and a half, if not longer. She is passionate and I loved hearing and seeing her vision, and that she was sharing it with me. She is quietly proud and chose to let m be a part of her journey and dream, which I think is really cool. It made me not want to move just yet, because I won’t be here when it’s completed and I want to see it and be a part of her joy. I know I can come back someday, but I want to be here for the housewarming when it’s all done. You get it, right?

At the same time as I was enjoying my friends here, Jeff is back in California and enjoying our friends there. He went to Jessie’s soccer game and saw her score a goal.

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He went to Costco and bought ribs to grill/smoke on the Traeger with Steve and is enjoying his last day there before heading back to us in Holland, probably drinking a tasty margarita in a green glass from Megan, with salt!! He went to deliver gifts to Becca from Juliana and helped to keep us connected with our loved ones back home. I love that he is there enjoying the yin and I’m here enjoying the yang. 😉

As he was getting ready to grill, we were just leaving a BBQ with Patti Beth & Amy & Mindy and their families. The weather was sunny and cool, and the kids – both young and old, played together, laughing and chasing and enjoying one another. The parents all brought food and wine to share and we had a potluck – just like we do in California.

It’s weird, in a good way.

Knowing that we’re leaving makes me savor the moment more than ever. I’m hyper aware that there won’t be many more and so I want to be 100% present and I am, and it’s weird to feel that. It’s kinda like a gift to really enjoy and appreciate your friends. I know, I’m sappy. It’s just who I am. I’ve always been like this and will probably drive my kids nuts. Hopefully I’ll know when to be quiet. 😉 I’m sure they’ll let me know.

During the car ride to J’s house, the sun was shining, flowers were blooming everywhere and Jack Johnson sang to me:

“And there will always be stop and go and fast and slow
Action, reaction, sticks and stones and broken bones
Those for peace and those for war
And god bless these ones, not those ones
But these ones made times like these
And times like those
What will be will be
And so it goes
And it always goes on and on…
On and on it goes

But somehow I know it won’t be the same
Somehow I know it will never be the same.”

And so it goes…

Namaste, friends. Thanks for reading and sharing this crazy journey. xo

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