Transitions and Surprises

We all go through transitions every day. Nothing stays the same, which is so obvious, but for some reason I think that someday things will be normal, but normal never comes, whatever that may be. And a new normal takes its place, which is normal and to be expected but it’s not! And I think that’s crazy.

Why do we expect things to stay the same or to reach a steady state? That’s probably just stupid thinking, but we do it anyway. And as soon as we think we’re ready to start something new, something else changes that we weren’t expecting. Hopefully one day I’ll stop being surprised.

I shared with my husband that we should expect 5 things to go wrong at home, 4 things to go wrong at work and 7 things to not go as planned with the kids. Don’t ask me where I got these numbers. I just made them up. My point was/is that we always really seem surprised when things didn’t go as expected, so I told him maybe if we changed our expectations and expected things to not go as planned, we’d feel more happy and not so surprised and have less drama. Really what I was sharing with him was what I’m trying to tell and teach myself so that I can flow with whatever comes my way and not feel like I’ve been given such a surprise. That makes sense, right?

So my new normal is to have a plan and then expect it to change and transition and flow with it, whatever it may be and to not feel so surprised or perplexed.

Like tonight. I planned to go to bed early and did all the work to be ready on time, but 3 things went wrong at home that changed my plan, and by wrong I mean differently than I had planned, which is really normal and not wrong, but just kept me up later than expected. Phew… did you follow all that?

I was going to write tonight about my parents leaving and the feelings of saying goodbye and transitioning again, but then the words took over and changed, along with the intent of this post, but I’ll just go with it. My new normal.

What’s your new normal?

Namaste.

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Day 344: American Pride on the 4th of July

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Happy 4th of July! I love the red, white, and blue. And fireworks and friends and freedom! And BBQs and guacamole and drinks and fun times shared together.

I worked with the kids all day today, cleaning out all the kitchen cupboards and preparing for our big move in 4 more days. And then I spent a few minutes freshening up, preparing hamburgers and salads to bring to the Fourth of July party at Bob and Danielle’s today. Juliana made April’s best chocolate cake to celebrate all the birthdays this month and last, and off we went to enjoy our friends and Independence Day. I was so busy today, that I didn’t have much time to feel homesick, even though I missed singing Firework with Jessie on top of our lungs this year, out in the field in Cupertino!! It was jacket weather- cold in Holland today, and it didn’t get dark until after 10:30 pm…just a bit different from California!! All is good…

I’m thankful for our friends, our time in Holland and for our freedom. Hope you’re enjoying the holiday wherever you are!!

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Day 343: The Space Between

I’m in that space – that in between place, living in the moment and preparing for the next chapter amidst the chaos and joy, filled with anxiety and peace. I think they call this transition. Christine described it as liminality in her blog today as she prepares to move her family and transition to a new community in another state. I totally understand what she’s experiencing. You can read about her transition here: Christine’s blog

My toe nail polish is chipped, my hair is wild and curly, the laundry machine keeps whirling, and the sorting and organizing and tossing has begun and I haven’t worked out in weeks. The kids are loud and a bit crazy, I might add. And I think they actually liked seeing me come a bit undone. I can laugh now, but could you see my head spinning?

One of my mottos is to work hard, first, then play. And today I did just that. I organized and shopped and packed and cleaned all day, knowing that I had something fun to look forward to later.

Barbara invited me to join her for dinner and a boat ride. I can’t even tell you the peace that came over me, being out on the water one more time, and spending time with my dear friend. This was the best anti-anxiety medicine ever! Thank you, Barbara!! You made my day.

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Our routines are shaking, our community is changing, and in 5 days I’ll be on another plane heading back home. I’m excited for what’s to come and a little anxious too. I’m sad to be leaving a part of my soul behind with the friends and community that have loved me and my family in this short year. And I’m ready for what comes next, whatever that may be…to hug my family and friends, to resettle in our cozy, little home, and to enjoy all that California has to offer.

Namaste.

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 321: Swirled – Sad and Happy and Thankful

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Goodbye, Miss Minivan! You’ve been all over the world and we’re leaving you behind in Amsterdam.

Continuing on with the process of moving back to the States, today Jeff and I went to the Honda Dealer to dispose of our 2003 Honda Odyssey Minivan.  Now I never really wanted a minivan, and don’t think they’re very sexy, but I just pretended it wasn’t one and enjoyed all of it’s efficiency, practicality and ability to move many people and children all over the world.  It has 125,00 miles on it and on our last trip to Normandy, the transmission light came on and that was the end of the light for her. To repair the transmission would have cost 6300 Euros, which is $8365 USD. The van isn’t worth that much, but we were hoping it would last for our duration in the Netherlands. Sadly, it didn’t and we couldn’t get a rebuilt transmission because this model of vehicle is not made in Holland. We can’t sell the vehicle as is, because of tax reasons and it not having been here for a year yet. So we were stuck with a sour lemon.

For some reason this made me very sad. I didn’t want to let go of it, but I had to. I didn’t want to give it away for nothing, but I had to. I didn’t want to leave it behind in Holland this way, but I had to. I have to let go. I have to not be so attached. I have to not care. But I do. And I did. And I cried. But I think it was just symbolic of having to let go and leave and say goodbye, and I’m not ready yet. I don’t want to. But I have to. And it’s ok. And I have so much to look forward to.  But I’m sad to let go. And so I cried.  Not an ugly cry, but a sad cry, as part of the process of accepting the change. And Jeff probably thought I was crazy. But you and I know, I wasn’t really crying about the car – it was just a good excuse to cry about leaving and hurting a bit, and letting go.

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We took off my roof racks, and emptied the CDs and jackets and wrappers and contents from the glove box. I took down the rearview mirror attachment I used to have eyes in back of my head, looking at my kids while we drove to Thousand Oaks, the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Luxembourg, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Germany, and France just to name a few places.

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And then I said goodbye to my car and the memories it helped me to make, and another tear fell. And I kept saying how stupid I was for crying over a stupid car and that it was really not that big of a deal, and that everything was ok.  And then I took a deep breathe and let go.  Aaahhhhh…..

………………..

I was an hour late to my physio apointment that I thought was at 11, but really was at 10. I’m a bit absent minded these days. I said goodbye to my therapist, since I don’t have time left to visit any more. I didn’t feel too sad about this, but more of a relief.  One less thing to do, one less item to check off my list.  Let’s just hope my headaches stay away.

I stopped by the Kringloop (Salvation Army) store to figure out how to donate any furniture and household goods we  won’t need any more once we’re ready to move next month. Between my limited Dutch and the worker’s limited English, it probably took 20 minutes to set up two appointments. They first want to come to the house to see what we have to donate, and then they schedule another visit to do the pickup. All is set now, I just have to finish deciding what to take and what to leave.

While I was working on this task, I got a text from Jen inviting me to go for a walk or run with her. I was so glad to hear from her, and since I’d accomplished two BIG tasks, I was happy to take a break. I just wanted to enjoy her company and hear about and see her pictures from her BIG trip to Uganda (and selfishly not think about me leaving.) I invited her over for lunch, if she’d bring her computer with her!!  She luckily agreed.  😉 She recently went to Uganda to support one of her best friends, who is helping to build a school and to raise money through sponsorships of the children. She went primarily to take pictures of the children so that people who sponsor them can see the light in their eyes. I am so proud of and inspired by her for making and taking the time to go to support her friend and those in need. You can learn more about Parental Care Ministries Work in Uganda here:  http://www.parentalcareministries.org/wordpress/  Our lunch date was exactly what I needed – quality time with a good friend!  I was content again.  Thanks Jen for our “run”.  It was a perfect afternoon.

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Spontaneous lunch outside with Jen – this is my favorite salad made with beets, balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts, arugula, and goat cheese. It was a gorgeous day out!

So remember yesterday I mentioned how I am practicing and learning to let go and to let go of anxiety and to just flow with what comes my way and how uncomfortable this is for me? Phew, that was a long sentence!  Well today I was on one of those anxiety highes and as I breathed and let go, that’s when Jen texted me and then lunch and sharing photos and a bike ride and shopping unfolded from not having a “real” plan.  How could I have planned something that great when I was so sad earlier this morning?  I don’t know how it works, but it does for me and I hope it will for you too.  It’s letting go of fear and control and then accepting what comes your way and adapting every step.  Good things happen that way.

And to add to the list of good things happening today, Patti Beth called me to say she had a gift for me. She’s leaving town in 3 more days, so it’ll be another sad day of goodbyes, that I’m trying not to dwell on, but I’m definitely feeling. The gift she gave me was so touching and meaningful and I’m so thankful for it. She painted a wooden clog for me and the letter she wrote on the bottom of it was even greater and really touched my heart. Now can you see why it’s so hard to leave here? I’ve made really good friends and have new girlfriends for life.  Thank you Patti Beth for your thoughtful gift. I am going to miss you.

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One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever been given.

I felt so drained today from moving between the extremes of being really sad to really happy. After picking up 2 out of 3 of kids from school and socializing with the other mamas, I decided to relax and surprise my little Dutchies and stopped near our house for some of their favorite, unhealthy, Dutch treats – bitterballen and Kaassoufflé – deep fried cheese.   We all loved sitting outside and enjoying our deep-fried snacks that we can only get here (I think!) Enjoying the moments…

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Charlie with his bitterballen

So there you have it… a busy day in the life of a mom, trying to wrap up the end of the school year while saying goodbye to good friends and planning the details of our move back to the States. Life is good… even when it’s sad and bumpy.

Namaste

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Our simple, family dinner… delicious and comforting and much needed.

Day 50: Transitioning

Lots is happening and I realized last night that it’s tiring! I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30 pm. You’d think running a household, meeting new friend’s, shopping, and working out would be easy, but it’s not, really. I have to think and concentrate and focus more intensely than usual on things I usually wouldn’t spend time on pondering – like where to but rain boots. It’s all good, though.

Christian left yesterday for a class trip overnight for two nights. Juliana left today with her class and was very excited to go with her new friend’s. They have been away to sleep away camps before, so it didn’t feel too bad to let them go, but then again we’re in a new country and it did create some stress for me to let go. They are becoming more independent, which I love and desire, but it causes me to change and let go and let them be responsible for themselves. Ying and ying. Good for them and good for me, yet another change and transition, and it’s still all good. I’m just mindful and aware of the transition is all, and did I mention, a bit tired?
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But my new expat friends say this feeling is very normal and that I should feel this way. It’s good to be “normal”!! Its nice to share stories with other like women. Today there was a gathering for the American Community from our school at one of the women’s home.
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I always enjoy meeting new friends and hearing their stories. There were new moms, working moms, moms with MBAs beginning to look for a job, moms preparing to move back home, and permanent moms who have lived here for 11 years. There were moms who are career expats considering meeting with child psychologists to determine the effects the expat life will have on their third culture kids. We talked about learning Dutch and not learning Dutch, and I found another friend who plays tennis. We talked about plans for Halloween and where to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. It was a great day to network and to connect and to share knowledge, and to discover more about my new “normal”. I love hearing people’s stories and connecting with them. That was one of the things I loved about Stella and Dot – it gave me a reason to get out and meet new people and share stories and style. And so today I’m happy and tired and loved every minute of it.

I wasn’t too tired to play tennis before picking Char up from school. I think playing gives me more energy to keep going.

I declared today, Charlie Day, that he could pick his favorite snack, and plan our afternoon, since I only had him to look after. I thought it would be a nice reward too, because he’s been trying harder to behave and to adapt and be happy. He chose a chocolate chip croissant and to play on the playground.
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Afterwards, we went to the toy store for him to spend his gift money that Jenny so graciously shared with him while we were on London last week. He picked two Play Mobil motorcycles with police characters. I think it funny that we gave away all our Play Mobil toys before we moved and those are the toys he is choosing to collect here. He reminded me that Tyler B. said he could come over anytime to play with them, so he’s not worried about having given them away. Phew!!

And to wrap-up the day, the three of us drove to Haarlem for dinner tonight. It was nice to get in a car and drive across town and to go on a date.

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We met up with Jeff’s friend from work, which really made life feel normal. I loved it! Afterwards, Charlie wanted to see his drum set so we walked over to his house, 2 blocks away. It’s so nice that things are so close.
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Haarlem is a beautiful city! Can’t wait to go back again.

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Tot ziens for now. xo