It’s the Little Things

We went to an Alice in Wonderland tea party today and these were two of the many ornate party favors.

I was so impressed by the small details and coordinated decorations. Our hostess did an amazing job and showered us with love and attention.

I am inspired!! How about you?


Thank you CM for opening up your home and planning such a fun gathering for your PEO sisters.

Life is good.

Downtown San Jose 

I don’t normally come down here, but I am in town for a PEO convention.   I decided to get out and walk and to enjoy the sunshine on my break.   It sure was beautiful today. 


Today I am thankful that my kids are older and can manage on their own without me for longer periods. I’m grateful that my husband will schlep the kids around town while I’m gone. And I’m thankful for my PEO sisters who I get to spend time with this weekend in a beautiful location.

Life is good. I hope you have a great weekend and take time to reflect on what brings you joy.



Luckily my feelings of being anxious and lost went away today. That didn’t take long. I think it’s important to feel what we feel and to acknowledge the bad feelings too so that we can realize and process them and let them go as fast as possible because who wants to be anxious and lost?  That is never my intention but sometimes life just is and that’s okay too.  

I found my happiness at midnight and throughout the day, when I received a message from Juliana that she had landed safely.  I could finally sleep but I kept waking up wondering if she had texted again and how she was doing.


I found happiness by volunteering with my PEO group and admiring the sunshine and natural beauty of the Redwood trees in Portola Valley. I enjoyed spending time with women and sharing lunch together.


Isn’t this the most beautiful and peaceful place? I want to come back here again.

I felt alive again and cleaned my house and got things organized for the weekend. It really makes me happy when clutter is gone and my space is neat. Seriously, it’s the simple things that make me happy.

Juliana FaceTimed with me when she woke up and SnapChatted throughout the afternoon. I was so giddy to see her face and to hear her voice!!


My sisters both called today and we had time to catch up and I got to talk with my mom too. Since they don’t live close by, I was thankful for our cell phones and time to connect because I love them and need them! 

Jeff came home from work and the boys both had events, so we went out to dinner together, which was a great way to the end the day and crazy week with my best friend.

Found my happiness again.  

Life is good.  Thank you for sharing this life journey together. Have a wonderful weekend, filled with time for you, time to relax, time to exercise, and time to just be.

nAMaste BeLoveRs!


Happy Hours

Have you heard that helping others can increase your happiness?

The magic number seems to be 100 hours per year, which amounts to about 2 hours per week. Who knew that helping others could enrich our own lives?

Are you volunteering or helping someone other than your immediate family?  If so, how much time do you spend being of service?

This has been a question I’ve been noodling on for awhile and am using as a guide as I’m always trying to maximize the Happy Hours in my days.

When I felt like everything was ok in my life and still felt like I was missing something, it was Susanne who asked me how I was being of service and how much time I was dedicating to this part of life. She loves to help youth and seniors and spends a fair part of each week helping others and she told me how helping others really made her happy. Her face would light up when she’d share stories with me. She inspired me to think about how I was spending my time.

I belong to a Christian’s women’s group that runs a thrift shop. All proceeds from sales goes into an endowment fund, from which scholarships are given to women pursuing higher education goals. I love being part of this volunteer organization and believe in the mission. I started volunteering one day per week for an hour or two, helping out with donations. I love going to the shop and seeing the ladies who work there regularly, and feeling appreciated for my little Happy Hour of service.

Recently I joined the board of directors, who make decisions about running the store. I have been working on a strategic change project that has been taking a lot more than 2 hours per week. I love being involved and using my business background and interest in change management to help lead the change and “working” with a team. As I share my time, I feel helpful and happy to be making a difference. I think this is an example of how helping others can actually make you happy. I feel thankful for the relationships I am building and for the difference I am making.  Happy Hours well spent.


Life is good.

MamMam’s Funeral

MamMam’s funeral was today in Colorado and we had to miss it. Jeff flew back from being with his family late Monday night and we would have had to return last night to make it in time.  We decided to give the family time together to grieve and share the memories and to plan a special trip in the next month or so to celebrate her life and share stories together, once things have settled a bit.  Thank you to all who have sent us well wishes and blessings. We appreciate you.

I usually do ok with death and understanding and accepting how life changes and flows, but for some reason, this one is shaking me a bit more than I would have expected. I truly loved the woman that she was and all that she represented. I admired her for all that she was and all that she gave to her family and friends.  I loved that we shared the sisterhood of PEO too, that gave us a common bond.

I contacted her PEO sisters in Colorado after she died, and this was extremely comforting to me. I loved that we shared this connection and that the women there loved her so much. Suzy sent me several emails and told me that she and several other sisters attended the funeral today and sat with PopPop, sharing loving memories of MamMam. By her being there, I felt like I was there too.

I am thankful for family and sisterhood and this beautiful life. Rest in peace, MamMam and bless you PopPop and family as we take the next few steps in this life journey without beautiful Elaine Hughes.


Here is the link to MamMam’s obiturary:



Miss You MamMam

MamMam died today and I have felt a deep sadness all day. It’s a sadness that lingered and permeated by body as I moved through our busy day, when all I wanted to do was to be still and feel her presence.  It’s so strange to me how when someone you love dies, the world keeps on moving and not everyone else knows this event happened. I feel like the earth opened up a hole and she fell through and then the hole closed up again and everyone kept moving on, not even noticing the hole and that she left us. But those who loved her, still feel her and the hole in our hearts is huge, and you can’t see that either.  

MamMam is my children’s great grandmother, Jeff’s grandmother, and my PEO Sister.  She was just shy of her 90th birthday. She loved to read my blog and would read it every day on her ipad. I have loved writing, knowing that I was providing her with a little bit of entertainment and a glimpse into our life away from her and PopPop. My writing and her reading made me feel connected to her. And now she’s not there anymore and that makes me really sad.

PopPop – I know how much you loved her and how well you cared for her and how you both dedicated your life to each other and your family. You both have been and are my heroes and I strive to be like you and her in my marriage and with my family. Just last month you both shared your 71st wedding anniversary and I treasured our long conversation with you both sharing your love and tips for success, so humbly and graciously.  I’m so sorry that you’re constant companion has moved on to her eternal life with Jesus and I pray for you to find peace in the days that are ahead.

Miss you MamMam.  Love our family. xo


Julie and MamMam

Three Wise Women

There are definitely more than three, but three women came to my mind today. Vicki, Thuy and Susanne.  I want to share their wisdom with you too.

Vicki is a woman who lives in my neighborhood. She and I would see each other as we walked kids to school in the morning. She walked her grandchild and I walked my three kids. Every so often we would have time to chat as our walks were in sync. I used to wonder if I should go back to work and I asked her if she worked when her kids were young. She told me that she didn’t and she had advice for me. She said if I didn’t really need the money, then I should continue doing my mother’s work and be happy that I was raising children and that was good enough. She said, and this is the best line, that has stayed with me forever:  

“The more money you make, the more money you will spend.”  

In our consumer culture and always wanting more, this was brilliant advice. I think of her words often as they spoke to me. I think women must also choose what makes them happy, and if working makes them happier than staying at home with children, then they should go to work and be happy. For me, I’ve always wanted to stay home with my kids, but felt like I should be doing more and I struggled with what was best for my family. Hearing Vicki’s words, helped me to be ok with my choice to stay home and I try to remember these when I start to get restless.

I tend to get restless often and like change. I like to shake things up and discover and learn new things and redefine myself. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it creates angst. I am not ready to go back to work just yet (or if ever) but I start to think of what else I can or should do. I am in the stage of my life where my kids are older now and don’t need as much help from me, but their schedules are so flexible and still need rides and help with homework and meals at sporadic times. I can do my work and help them and still have extra time. Susanne mentioned that she finds happiness by helping others, outside her own family and recommended that I find ways to help others too. I think she’s brilliant.

“Helping others creates happiness.”

I volunteer 2-4 hours per week, but maybe this isn’t enough. I am thinking about Susanne’s words and seeking out other ways to help others and have a couple ideas. 

One of the ways I volunteer is helping out at a thrift store that PEO owns and operates. All donations and sales go to support women in education. I love this mission and I love being part of this organization. I really do enjoy helping out and being part of something good and am happy every time I show up. Today I was working with Thuy, and we were talking about the 40 bag challenge and how I have been trying to fill 40 bags of stuff to create more open space. I was telling her how I’ve been cleaning out drawers and bins and collecting bags of stuff to donate to our shop. I was telling her how our house was small and that I like it that way and that I don’t need a bigger house, but just need less stuff. She shared that she also has a small home and that she tries to limit the amount of stuff she brings home. I was telling her how one designer once told me as we were redesigning my small office, that I should limit the space I was planning for my magazine storage, because the more space I had, the more space I would fill.

“The more space you have, the more space you will fill.”  BRILLIANT and SIMPLE advice.

I took her advice and limited the storage space and still think of purging vs. saving my magazines because of what she said so many years ago. As we continued talking, we discovered that she used to work for the company that designed my office, and that SHE was actually the woman who had come to my house many years ago and shared this brilliant advice that I still heed today. Who knew??  What a small world, right?  She is so smart.  I can’t believe we shared this connection too.

All these stories are connected and I’m thankful for all the women in my life.

More Money = Spend More.

More Spending = More Stuff

More Stuff = More Space.

Spend Less = Collect Less = More Open Space.

Life is Good.

Happiness = Helping Others.

Be Happy.





Gratitude Jar

Today I was thankful that I sat next to my 89 year old friend at breakfast this morning. I haven’t seen her in over a year and just hearing her southern accent and seeing her sweet soul shine made me happy. Her eyes sparkle and she talks with you and asks you questions, that show her genuine interest and she is just charming and doesn’t even know it.

I used to see her more regularly, but as she has aged, she feels more comfortable staying home and not going out in the evenings, which is when I would usually see her. I appreciated her honesty and sharing her knowledge, knowing her own limitations and being comfortable with life’s transitions. I have so much to learn from her and wanted to know more about how she spends her days, as I was curious. So I began asking questions and she shared her wisdom, while I listened intently.

She told me how she looked forward to her son’s visits, how she really enjoys cooking, playing cards with her friends at the Senior Center and spending time with her church friends and community. She said she used to have about 22 friends at church, but now there were only 4 left, because most had passed away or moved into assisted living homes. I asked her what this felt like, and she said it was lonely, but that she was thankful to still be alive, and that the good Lord still had work for her to do. I couldn’t agree more! She said that some of her friends were unhappy and questioning why they were still here. She didn’t understand that, and said that she had so much to be thankful for. She then proceeded to tell me a simple story about how she was thankful today.

She said she was in her kitchen and her bottom drawer was stuck and she just couldn’t get it open, even as hard as she tried. She felt frustrated and thought maybe it was time to have someone come in to help her, but it wasn’t what she really wanted. She likes living on her own and taking care of herself, so she looked for another solution. She put a folded towel on the floor and sat down on top of it and then pushed and pulled and pushed and pulled while she wiggled and jiggled the contents until she was able to dislodge the lid that was blocking the drawer. She was so happy and proud of herself that she was able to do it on her own. She said that she decided to write this down and put it in her gratitude jar on the table. I was in awe. I asked her if she reread her blessings after they had been shared and she said yes. She said she could always find things to be grateful for and which made her happy to be alive. I couldn’t agree more and felt so inspired by her. I’m so thankful that she chose to come out this morning and that we had time together to sit and share a meaningful conversation. I love that I have friends that are more than twice my age and I Am thankful for her!! xoxo

Do you have a gratitude jar? If you did, what would you put in it today?

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.  😉

Day 82: Stop and See the Goose

ImageIt’s kind of like stopping to smell the roses, but today I had to stop and notice the goose across from my car before driving off to volunteer at the bookfair. I still find it surprising to see him out of the water and sitting so close to the edge of the sidewalk.  I just like to stand and watch him and smile. When a dog walks by, he stands up and stretches his wings to make him really tall and squawks loudly, alarming the dog and his walker. The next dog walker walked by in the street as to not alarm him.

ImageThis is a picture of the school book fair, that I thought Brenda and Val would especially enjoy.  It was so chaotic and kids were everywhere. It was quite exciting to see everyone so excited about English books. Another small world story… my PEO sister owns the bookstore in Amsterdam that put on the book fair today. So of course I had to volunteer and have fun during the process, chatting with friends and meeting new people. I think that’s one of the joys that comes from volunteering!


Juliana is standing in front of the boxes that included books on hold. The children came through with their classes during the school day and picked the books they wanted. They then filled out a small paper form with their name and their room number and attached the paper to the book with a rubber band. They were then staged here and waiting for them when their parents arrived with their money or PIN (everyone PINS…aka using a debit card to pay; usually credit cards aren’t accepted, so instead of asking if someone takes credit cards, they ask if they can PIN. Did you learn something new??)  This process was quite crazy as the little pieces of papers would fall out of the books as eager students looked for their treasures. But there were several happy faces and most of the boxes were empty by the end of the day.


Did I tell you that tomorrow my parents leave Sunny California to fly and come stay with us for 2 months?!?!?!

I AM very excited!!  Isn’t it strange to think they leave on a Tuesday afternoon and arrive on a Wednesday morning?  Only 2 more sleeps…just hope I can sleep!  xo