Sharing Space

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Today I loved sharing space with my local Dutch friends and watching the Netherlands beat Costa Rica in the World Cup. There was lots of food and drink to share and we crowded around two TV sets to take in the game together. I loved the shared space and spirit of the game, listening to everyone get excited and cheer for our home boys! There was a lot of orange, red, white and blue and we all had a good time!

We shared dinner and fireworks with April and Steve tonight. I love that we can be so flexible on time, menu and whether or not we plan to hang out. It’s easy and fun and we all enjoy each other’s company. We played soccer and lit firecrackers and ate ice cream for dessert.

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How did you share space today? What did you do? Hope it was a good day!

Life is good.

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Hup Holland!!

I am missing Holland.  I believe today was the last day of school at the ISA, and with the last day at an international school, comes some big goodbyes.  Several people are moving back to their original home countries and some are getting ready to take on new expat adventures.  I’ve been thinking of you Cami, Carolyn, Patti Beth, and Amy and Jen who recently left. And I’m thinking of all the friends who stay and continue on a little bit longer, adapting to the changes of good friends leaving and dealing with the loss and change and adapting. There are always new beginnings.  Wishing all my friends smooth transitions and comforts.  

I’m so thankful that we lived in Holland and that I felt such a connection to my Dutch roots. I got to celebrate with my Dutch friend, Pauline and her Dutch friends, watching Holland beat Australia 3-2 in the World Cup today. I was so happy to be dressed in orange clothes, orange boas and glasses and hats, watching the kids prance around with the Dutch flag, and eating off orange plates. When Holland scored a goal, Karen played Dutch music really loudly and began dancing, while I smiled from ear to ear.  The house felt so gezellig and I was happy to be with the Dutch ladies and kids, drinking coffee and listening to Dutch being spoken again. I felt at home and so happy.

Jen sent me pictures of the Dutch flag flying from her new house in Minnesota and seeing all the Dutch celebrations from Holland on Facebook brought me joy.  I miss Holland and my family and friends, but am glad that I’ll always have a piece of Holland with me.

Peace.

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Trying New Things

I gave a presentation tonight about the journey of becoming an expatriate and a repatriate.  I had an outline and food and props and shared my story with women who are great friends, which made for a comfortable audience. Most of the women had followed along with me through my blog and knew the highlights and virtually joined me on our one year adventure abroad.

So I decided to share the feelings and stories behind the story, kind of a behind the scenes version of the tour.  I think they liked it, as they asked me to share another story, a version 2, another time. This made me very happy, as I am generally uncomfortable presenting to an audience and feel like I talk too much. 

I shared what it was like to make the decision to move to another country. I talked about all the gritty details of the transitions and getting us out the door and into a new home in the Netherlands and back again.  I shared the sad goodbyes, the anxious arrivals, the settling in, the exploration, and the return to our homeland.

I shared the lessons learned, both positive and negative.

What I learned, is that a year goes by very quickly, faster than you really think. It’s important to try new things and to not let our fears stop us from experiencing life. I think that we can do anything we set our minds to do, and that if we want something, really want something, and set a goal, we can do anything for a month, or maybe even a year or two or three. It’s not forever and we have so much to experience and try, if we trust our heart and not our fears.

And so I challenged the brave ones to come up and try some salty, Dutch licorice powder. This was a heavenly treat for me growing up, and one that I loved and used to prank my friends, just to see their reactions
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They were good sports and I had a good laugh!!  I don’t think they liked it much, but I was sure proud of them for trying!!

Life is good, my friends! Live it up, love it out and enjoy your precious time on this great, big planet.  xo

Day 335: Bon Jour from Paris!

I love this living in the moment idea.

I love having a dream and then seeing it come true.

I love this life, right now.

I love that I’m in Paris with my daughter, just the two of us on a dream vacation for a couple days. I can’t stop smiling. Thank you Jeff for letting us sneak away and for taking care of the other two, and the house and work and letting possible new tenants come take a peek at our place. You are amazing!

I love that when we decided to become expats that I learned to really dream and learned to make the time for fun, despite the chaos and to do lists. This is one of the biggest gifts I was given…to be fully alive and to not make excuses and to do it now. Whatever IT may be, and IT is always changing. I hope you do the same…it’s never too late to dream a new dream.

This IT was coming back to Paris with Juliana to just wander the streets and to do and see and eat whatever and wherever we felt like doing, eating, or going, without having to worry about anyone else. We are having so much fun! Below are some pictures from our first evening in Paris.

Life is good.

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At the Starbucks upstairs at the Amsterdam train station…a little secret gem of a location. Such a cool building you should check out if you’re ever there.

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On the train…ready to go to Paris.

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Love the cloudscape…makes me think of my mama who loves this.

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Bread and meringues from Coquelicot Patisserie and Boulangerie. Yum!

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Famous bar from the movie Amelie. Juliana and I sat at the bar to enjoy a moment.

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The most delicious French onion soup.

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Sacre Coeur at sunset, around 9:30 pm. We walked up the steps to burn off some of our good eats.

Bonne Nuit from Paris, with love.

Day 333: Our Last European Road trip…(at least for awhile)

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We’re in the process of preparing to move back to the United States. Part of this process included one last family road trip this weekend. I’m thankful that Jeff had a few ideas of places to see today outside Bruges, as the weather was still bad today.

We drove to Ieper, where some of the important battles of World War One happened.

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At one point 500,000 men died within 100 days. We explored the In Flanders Field museum, which was one of the best hands on, interactive and multi-media museums we’ve visited.

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The red poppy symbol comes from this region.

We next drove to find the biggest British Commonwealth cemetery in the world.

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Tyne Cot Cemetery.

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Standing on top of an old bunker in the cemetery.

From Ieper, we drove to Oostende, a beach town in Belgium. I was so happy to see the water and feel the ocean spray, but it was so windy and rainy too!

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Windy and cold at the seaside.

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Artistic tree at the beach.

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Sitting on an art sculpture.

We wandered around anyway, sampling chocolates, Belgian beer, waffles, and some kibbling (fried fish) that was snatched right out of my hand by an aggressive seagull! I shrieked and let him have it!! Wow – that was freaky!!

And finally we drove home… Only 3 hours more in the car!! So glad we went and so glad to be “house,” as Juliana would say.

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Rainbows in the sky near Breda.

Life is good.

Day 322: I Declare

20130612-214456.jpgDid you know that when you leave the Netherlands that you have to go to the town hall and declare your intent to depart the country?  Luckily Jeff knew this and that our awesome Relocation Consultant knew this too.  Today we visited the Gemeente Amstelveen with our passports and filled out our Declaration of Departure Relocation Abroad Form (in case you want to know what to request when you ever have to leave your new country).

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It didn’t take long, but we both had to be present to sign our intent on the form and choose the date we plan to no longer be residents. They printed out temporary official forms and put them in a plastic sleeve for us to carry until our official departure date arrives and they can officially deregister our family. I think we get to keep our Dutch Residence Cards as souvenirs.

I declare that it feels weird to sign out – kind of like we’re getting a receipt or a diploma for our experience here. Weird.

Afterwards, we walked over to the old part of downtown and had lunch at one of the restaurants we first visited when we arrived in Amstelveen – a delicious little Korean restaurant. Jeff and I both love ethnic food and this place reminds us of a place near our home in Sunnyvale, where there is a large Korean population right down the street.  Lunch was excellent!  It’s called Damso if you want to try it for yourself.  I couldn’t find a website for them, but here’s more information:  http://www.iens.nl/restaurant/23922/amstelveen-damso

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By the way, we also had a cleaning service company come visit the house who specializes in preparing houses for new tenants so that you don’t lose any of your rental deposit. The lady who came by today was very thorough and seems like she really knows her business and the expat community. I’ll let you know what the estimate is and if we like her, if this information would be valuable to you.  I didn’t think about having to clean the drapes and to dust out the attic.  Sounds pretty thorough to me.

On a more fun note and another sign that the year is wrapping up, I met with a team today to discuss Grade 8 celebrations. I’m the parent rep for Christian’s grade and am helping with planning the details for his “graduation” ceremony. I can’t believe he starts high school in the fall. And knowing that Katie graduated from high school this year, and feeling like it was just yesterday that I watched her walk to kindergarten for the first day of school, I know these next four years are going to speed by so quickly. I want to slow time down and savor every moment.  I declare that I’m happy that we’re moving back home when we are so that Christian can start high school with his friends in our local neighborhood. This makes me content and feels right, and helps me to accept and appreciate this transition and it’s timing.  Ahhh… that feels better!  I just had to talk it out. 😉

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Natural beauty inviting us into Vondel Park

I have one last celebration to share before wrapping things up for the day. Tonight we were invited to a very special 2 year old’s birthday party in Vondel Park.  The kids and I took the bus into the city and walked to the park to meet up with Jen and Todd and friends. It was nice to be together outside and I loved watching how happy Miss J was, eating her ice cream cake, running with her friends, opening presents and flirting with the fitness group in the park.  When I asked her for a hug goodbye, she came running and gave me a big hug, saying “I love you” back to me. I am going to miss her little face and her playful personality, and her mama too!

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Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, Jen! You look so happy.

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Happy girl – a bit blurry having to crop out the leg that walked in front of this cute face!

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Miss J joining the fitness fun bootcamp in the park.

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Charlie playing in the park with his friend G.

I declare it was a good day, a fulfilling day, and I am content listening to the rain, even though it’s June 12th!

What do you declare?

Namaste.

Day 261: Still in My Pajamas

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ssshhh… don’t tell anyone, but I never really got dressed today and loved it. My headaches are still lingering, and it was raining and hailing out. I just wanted to nest and loved the stillness of my house. Good things come when you rest. I enjoyed a lazy morning and went to get a facial before lunch. I’m not one to spend a lot of time pampering myself, and its been years since I’ve had a skin treatment. Today was good.

I went to see a lady who works from her house. Not only did I love that she worked from her home and her charming personality, but the facial treatment she gave me was amazing and relaxing too. She shared stories about how she became a beautician and always wanted to be one since she was probably 3 years old. Her parents thought she should be something more. So she went to law school, but then decided to became a flight attendant for several years. When she started to tire from the travel, she ran into someone who worked in real estate and offered her a job. She then became a realtor for several years, got married and then had the opportunity to redefine herself again. She chose to go back to school and follow her life long dream. And here she was today, providing a service to me, in her gorgeous home office, happy as could be. Her eyes were smiling and her passion was quietly oozing out of her. I just loved her story and that she found her way.

While sitting in her chair alone while my mask was drying, I began thinking of what I wanted to be when I grew up. My dream was simple. I always wanted to be a full time, stay at home mom. I knew I wanted to be independent and have my own money first and be able to survive on my own, but my true dream was to be home one day. I had a successful career, made great money, got married, had my first baby, kept working, had a second baby, stayed home, and had a third baby to solidify my role as a full time, stay at home mama. We chose for me to stay home. So for the past 12 years, I’ve been living my dream, thankfully because I have a supportive life partner. I am content. I’m not searching for something more and I don’t feel like I’m missing out. There is this whole discussion about women leaning into their careers and taking positions of leadership. I love my decision and it works for our family. I believe every woman has to chose what is right for her, and what makes her happy should make her family happy. I know some women do not get to choose, and I hope they find peace in their situation and doing what might not be easy, but what is right for them and their family.

“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already I am.”
-Thomas Merton

Here I Am. Namaste.

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