Michigan

I love Michigan! I am so happy to be visiting our friends Megan and Joe and their family for a long weekend.

We enjoyed the great weather outdoors and explored Saugatuck today. We didn’t really care what we did, as we just wanted to do something together and see a bit of the state and walk around.

The highlights for me were seeing the kids splash around in Lake Michigan and catching fireflies.

Our friends Kris and Pat always vacation in this town and I was curious to see what it was like. It was very quaint and I could see why they like coming here with their family. I just wish we had more time to spend on the water.

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After exploring a bit of the town and having a bite to eat, we traveled along to West County Park on the Lake Michigan Shore. Here we skipped rocks, played in the water, and built rock sculptures, seeing who could pile the most together before they toppled over.

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And to end the day, the kids made my night by catching and releasing fireflies that just fascinated me.

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It’s the simple things in life that make me happy – like time spent together with good friends.

Life is good!

Picking Up Where You Left Off

Do you have friends that you don’t get to see or talk to as often as you’d like, but as soon as you pick up the phone or see each other, it feels like no time at all has passed?

Apryl called the other day and we had ten minutes to chat before kid pick up. We hadn’t spoken for months but both of us are aware and thankful for the few moments and just pick up where we left off, as if no time has passed. I love this about us. We’ve been friends for 15 years but don’t live near each other anymore, which is sad and typical of our transient lifestyle. But we have a shared history and comfort from being true friends, that it doesn’t really matter how often we chat, text, email, or see each other. I miss her though.

Today Jen showed up for a visit and I have been excited all week, just anticipating her arrival. We haven’t seen each other in over a year and now she’s staying with us for the next couple of days. I am so happy that she’s here and when I saw her again, we gave each other the biggest hug and never stopped chatting until she almost fell asleep from the time difference. I guess we’ll have more time again first thing in the morning! I just want to soak up all the stories and hear all about her new life back in Minneapolis. We were BFFs in Amsterdam and loved hanging out there together. I’m so glad she chose to spend a few days in Cali with me before her conference.

Next month I get to see my BFF Megan! She’s a busy working mom with four kids and we hardly ever get to chat and barely even text, but when we do, watch out world!! We are unstoppable. I cannot wait!

These are just a couple of stories and there are so many more, right girls?

I think the secret to having these kinda moments is having had and shared some deep and meaningful experiences that build these great foundations and friendships that withstand time passing and our busy chaotic lives that get in the way of connecting more regularly. None of us have expectations of each other and we know and appreciate that we are all busy, and when we do make the time for each other, even if it’s only five minute or five hours, it’s as if no time has passed at all.

Love you sisters!

xo

Day 194: Friends

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I think when you move to a new place, the most important thing to find is one or two or three good friends as quickly as possible. I’ve learned this from experience over the years, not really knowing that this is what made me truly enjoy each new journey, but now that I reflect on it, this is my new little knowledge nugget.

I’ve also learned that friends serve a purpose and even though we move from place to place, the best of friends easily pick up where they left off the next time they come together. Some friendships naturally serve a limited purpose and the relationships turn into memories without the continuous connection, once the shared time together is gone. That’s natural and ok too.

It took me awhile, but I also learned that it’s possible to have more than one best friend. Even though literally, best is the superlative implying that there is only one, I think I can have more than one, and I’m sticking to it.

If I look back on my life as chapters, I have some friends that have been with me from the beginning, some that have left for good, a few that are Facebook and email connection friends, some that I see once in awhile, and some who I cry with joy when I see them again. And of course there is always the current chapter, filled with friends that help me enjoy my current, day to day life, both here and back home.

There is one friend, Megan, who I guess you could call an expat, although I didn’t call her that. She was just my new friend. She and her husband and four children moved to my neighborhood for a one year sabbatical at Stanford, from Michigan. Her kids went to the same school as mine and I almost ran her over one day. Not literally, but at least I noticed her and introduced myself to her the next time I saw her at school. We laughed and shared stories and connections, and before you knew it, our family and hers and April’s were best friends. We created a strong bond through shared experiences and margaritas, admiration and friendship in that one year, and then she moved back home to Michigan. I never thought I didn’t want to be friends with her, even though I knew she would be moving back. We just enjoyed all the days we could. In a way, I think she prepared me to become an expat too, because she lived life to the fullest while she was on her journey away from her normal routine, and she inspired me.

Before I moved overseas, Megan gave me a pep talk about our upcoming move, and told me how it would bring my family closer together and to make the most of it. She also wished for me that I would meet someone like me in my new town, that would welcome me and make me feel a part of my new community, sharing all that was good about being in my new place, like I did for her. I secretly prayed for the same thing, knowing that sometimes it comes down to luck, and timing and chemistry.

Well her wish and my prayers have come true. I am lucky and blessed. I have made many new friends here in Holland that fill my life with joy. We meet for drinks and meals, study Dutch, visit new places, exercise, shop, share stories and raise our kids together. Who knew that you could make friends where ever you go and that your capacity for friends is never full? I love my friends, both old and new and am so thankful for all of you.

Day 31: What Defines Home

It’s been a month ago today that we arrived in Holland.  The best part of being here is the friends we’ve already made and the family with whom we’ve reconnected.  I think that is what makes us feel at home. Of course, we miss our friends and family back at our first home, but we’re creating new bonds and making new friendships that make the days fun and memorable. Before we left, a couple friends that moved to our neighborhood had wished for me that I would meet someone in our new home town to make us feel welcome and a part of the community, as they had when they moved from France and Michigan to Sunnyvale. When you have someone that welcomes you, and shares tips and best practices,  and invites you to coffee or dinner or a beer, you no longer feel like a stranger in a strange land.  Well, those wishes came true. Thank you, Anouk and Megan for your well wishes. And thank you, Pauline for introducing me to Birgitta.

We were invited to Birgitta and Frank’s house for a BBQ tonight. They are local residents here where we live and invited my entire family over for dinner. Their kids are in college and so I felt even more honored that they included all of us, and made the little ones feel welcome too.  The kids brought their bathing suits and went in the hot tub, in the rain.  The dinner was fabulous and tasty and everyone enjoyed every bite. We all had such a good time, enjoying conversation, dessert, wine and coffee, that we didn’t leave until after 11 pm!  I was so happy that the kids were good and behaved and that we could enjoy some adult time with new friends.  Thank you Birgitta and Frank for your hospitality and making us feel so welcome, not only to your home but also to Holland.

Today I also joined Holland Homies – a Facebook Group for local Amstelveen/Amsterdam friends that are there to share ideas and resources. Inga told me about the group while we were at lunch on Friday. I posted a question about how to see American TV and heard back from several people. I have some places to look now without having to reinvent the wheel. Thanks, girlfriends! And I found a couple friends there that I had seen at school, but didn’t have their contact information. Now I do, and we’re going to get together next week. I love these type of connections.

For me, what defines home is my family and friends. That’s what I miss about home in Sunnyvale, home in Thousand Oaks, and that’s what I love about Holland. Here’s to home! 

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Rainy day today

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Rainy day art made out of packing materials at home today!  

 

Day 52: Do What You Love. Love What You Do.

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I have a bucket list of things I want to do before we move. One of them was to see my friend Megan again. I was trying to figure out logistics to fly to see her and her family in Michigan, when she figured out a way to come see me instead. I'm so thankful!!

April and I planned a weekend in Capitola – one of my favorite hang out spots. We had a great time going out to eat, shopping, hanging out on the beach, paddle boarding, walking along the Cliffs and just relaxing and chatting until late at night with no real schedule. Debbie shared her condo with us, which was so much nicer and more relaxing than staying in a hotel. Thanks, Deb and Gary!!

3 things I learned this weekend:

1. Take time for yourself. Make yourself a priority and don't feel guilty when you do.

2. Don't think that you're too busy or that your family can't survive without you. They will be fine even if they eat fast food while you're gone and play video games all day. Dads can do hair and makeup for dance recitals – just ask Joe! And kids get time alone with their dads and get to bond over squirt guns and miniature golf – just ask Steve and Jeff. Everyone needs a break in routine, especially moms. We need a change of scenery without anyone needing their meat cut up, or a shoe tied, or another question answered or a decision made for someone else besides ourselves. We need to be able to sleep in and do whatever we want without worrying about taking care of the needs of others. Ahhhh…..

3. Girlfriends need the advice and wisdom shared by their girlfriends. Women are gatherers and we process and solve problems by talking and sharing and listening and learning and supporting one another, without judgment.

Life is good.

What's on your bucket list? Are you making a list and checking things off?

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