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We are Doing it! Location Independent at Last!

I’m sitting under a Plumeria tree and a cactus-like bush listening to the roosters crow and I think, we have really made it. We launched on the road on Wednesday and now it is Sol Four. It is a down day as we work to figure out our travel/international life. We are officially Location Independent.

First Plane Ride They Remember

We are figuring out how to manage our online Traveling Mailbox where we ‘receive’ our mail everyday. Still sorting out the ends of our responsibilities in Oregon. Paying the last of our utility bills this way gives a whole new view of mail sorting, for sure.

I went for a sunrise walk and Kelvin went to the farmer’s market for dinner supplies. The boys are adjusting

to our schedule of writing, math work sheets and reading, reading, reading on their kindles.

It will take a bit to sort out the best balance to assure we keep up with our goals and living tasks (remember that I have been worried about getting enough learning in?). I feel confident we will figure it out.

So, the first days. The boys took their first plane ride that they remember, an afternoon swim with Green Sea Turtles, a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor(free!), take out at  Barbeque Kai

We made it!

(local recommendation) where you get an amazingly yummy cheeseburger for $2.75 and many locals came in after the local high school footbal game to get theirs too. I felt we were in the right place.

We are really trying to keep our budget in check by making pack lunches and snacks. We are trying to spend about $40 a day (after accommodations and car rental). We know that Hawaii is likely to be on of the more expensive places in our trip. We brought a zillion Cliff Bars, a jar of Adam’s No-Stir Peanut Butter and have wandered the aisles of local grocery stores to get some basics.

We are staying in a house (AirBnB) and have a kitchen, washer, and while it is cozy we love the lizards in the yard and the three-minute walk to the beach. Our neighbors rock out to reggae, zoom by on their scooters (one holding his beloved chicken) and hang out their wash as we nod to each other across the fence.

Last week, at the last-minute, I realized we would not be able to make it to the airport in time by bus (none leaving at the needed 3:30am) so, rather than endure a costly Uber ride we rented a car from Turo .

Swimming with the Green Sea Turtles

It’s like Airbnb for cars. For $17 a day we have a trusty Toyota and the owners meet us right outside baggage to deliver the car and an offer to meet up later in the week for a swim at the North Shore. I don’t think that can happen at Hertz.

So, the next steps. I am wrestling to sort out my to-dos, wants and needs. I am trying to follow my own advice in setting a low expectations so I don’t get overwhelmed with the FOMO. Here is to the next steps.

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Moving on Out! Lightening up the Load! On the Road!

We have been counting down the days until we fly out on the 23rd but, we realize that our first big departure day is tomorrow when we leave our house. We have been scurrying around for weeks trying to get all in place. The packing, sorting, donating, selling, scrapping and now, the cleaning.

For me, it feels like one of the most emotional parts. Packing up our lives means going through all the things that are around us daily. IMG_3120The regular coffee cups, the choices of shirts to wear, the boys Legos, that favorite pillow or cuddle blanket. Even going through shampoos, a lucky necklace or board game. We have been reducing our possessions to the smallest of piles to take with us.

 

The pack list is rather minimal. Pack what you can carry. IMG_3129
We still have some honing down to do and we will, however, it is certainly a fraction of what we have had access to everyday.

I have been impressed to see how our kids have been coping with the change and they have shown us, over and over again that they are very resilient kids. Most kids are. They live in the moment better than most adults. They are playing with what is in front of them even if it has been reduced to that last box of Legos and their Kindles.

These last days we have been feverishly cleaning surfaces and taping up boxes. Now the pod is gone (much to our

Good bye Pod!neighbor’s relief, I am sure) and our halls echo with our voices, we are aware that it is really us that makes a home. We ever we are, we will be fine.

We did have one of our two Bon Voyage parties. We had a give away area where folks sorted through some of the items we couldn’t yet donate or dump. It was a fun night where we also drank some of those really nice bottles of wine we have been saving for how long? Literally decades for some of them.

Lightening up the load. Today, we take our kitty to her new home with a long time friend, Ace. We pass the keys over to our patient renters. We return that final batch of library books. We use that borrowed vacuum for the last time.Growth chart measurement! Last for awhile We check the mail. Return keys to my office, measure the boys growth on the wall for that last time for a while and return that leftover dish from our Bon Voyage party.

Tonight we sleep the last time on our pile of blankets on the couch and the last bed left  in the house.

Tomorrow we drive to Idaho for a week of visiting family and friends. Our renters move in and we are officially on the road. Our journey in the contiguous 48 States starts our journey.

Bon Voyage! IMG_3077

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I’m Not Gonna Throw Away My Shot!

Days are counting down and we are on the move. This week we are wrapping up tasks. A big one has been getting our inoculations for this trip. I truly thought this would be pretty straight forward to plan and execute. Ha!

I wish, wish, wish I would started this one a couple of months ago. I found out in mid June that our insurance, which was ending on 30 June, actually does cover a lot of travel shots. Amazing as that isn’t usually the case. So, I was trying to wrangle the best schedule to get our shots in before our insurance ran out. The rest has been cash pay (ouch). IMG_2970That price tag smarts more for me than the pain of the shots, although, my sons will beg to differ.

We got about half of them in before paying out-of-pocket. Actually, cross your fingers for us as we are still awaiting the reimbursement from the insurance company after I submitted a 20+page claim on June 30th hours before our insurance ended at midnight. Please, please, please.

The other challenge has been the timing of all the shots. Japanese Encephalitis has one shot then, 28 days later, the booster. Each shot is $330. Gulp! You can do the math. It hurts my head too much.

Typhoid has one shot ($149) effective for two years or a series of four live-virus vaccine capsules ($40 per person with insurance) taken on an every other day, eight-day regiment, effective for five years. They have to be on an empty stomach that doesn’t allow any warm drinks (read NO coffee) and nothing to eat or drink for approximately two hours. Kelvin, Canyon and I figured out the way to go was to take the capsule at 5am and go back to sleep. Oakley had the shot and was none too pleased to be singled out for that one.

Then the Hepatitis series for Kelvin and I, which runs about $159 but, FREE with insurance. When I lived in Hong Kong in the 90s I had a series of shots but, I cannot (shockingly) find the paperwork on those details. Bummer for me as I got to have some of them again. The kids (and now all kids) have the Hepatitis shots as part of their normal childhood regiment so, no extra bargaining there. And it’s covered by their insurance. Yay!

Yellow Fever, about $159 a shot, is also a live-virus shot which requires someone specially trained to administer. Also, the batches here in Portland, Oregon would sell out in a day so, you had to ‘reserve’ your doses. Never knew, we had such a hot market for real estate and Yellow Fever vaccines.

Figuring out where to get them administered was hard. That became tricky as we ended going through Walgreens Pharmacy to get them all sorted. Other places charged a lot to administer (upwards of a $25 per shot fee) and an in office fee per person which could be just $200 for us to walk in the door.IMG_3024

These stand alone places (and even one connected to Providence Hospitals) refused to bill insurance even after I had arranged a conference call with my insurance (BCBS), them and myself on the line. They stated that most insurances don’t pay and I had my insurance company telling them they would if they would just bill for it. They refused. My last conversation with that medical office did not highlight my best, adult problem solving conversational skills. Sometimes you meet people who are very regimented and rigid (what’s that, Kelvin? You know someone like that?).

Also, when you vaccinate young kids you need written (read not phoned in or electronic) prescriptions for these shots so, had to go to pediatricians office to pickup or have them post them to us. Those pediatricians frequently can’t administer the shots as they don’t have them in-house and are somewhat reluctant to order them in as the transport of live-virus stuff gets tricky.

I had my patience tested many a times and collectively, I likely spent about eight hours on calls and research to find the right place. Then came the waiting times at Walgreens. We knew that store’s employee codes and all the aisles after three visits and approximately six hours being there. IMG_3025The folks there were mostly great but, with each day new people had to be told what we were doing and I was beginning to feel like I was in a Groundhog Day movie.

We would have an ‘appointment’ to get our shot. This was a loose term I realize and often we waited up to two hours to get everything written up, processed, paid for and administered. Kelvin and I broke all our screen time and sugar rules to get it done. Our sensory kids were nervous and at times it was achingly painful to have to negotiate with a screaming, sweating eight year old. I may apply for SWAT tactical hostage negotiation work later in life.

So, we are basically set in that department. One more thing moved to the DONE column. I know you can’t really put a price on avoiding a life threatening diseases. My advice to anyone out there thinking of traveling like we are. Sort this earlier as it takes longer than you think, you might get some of it covered by your insurance and budget for it. It is not cheap. And I am pretty sure this isn’t covered in any healthcare coverage being bargained over in DC.

 

 

 

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Before the Lemonade there is the Lemon

All of this travel and life planning is full of excitement, fear, anxiety, trepidation and wonder. However, all of this wouldn’t be happening but, for the fact that Kelvin is losing his job of 13 years. Today is the day that becomes an absolute reality.

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This morning he went in to grade the last group of students in the restaurant, yesterday having the last restaurant opening of the curriculum.

Kelvin has been working at Le Cordon Bleu (and previously known as Western Culinary Institute) as a chef instructor, primarily running the student restaurant called Technique, for over a decade.

We have had a lot of happy memories there, celebrating births, graduations, mourning loved ones, birthdays and just a good night with good food. Friends and family joining for amazing meals and bright-eyed students nervously applying their skills.

He taught the practical class where students would put all their newly honed skills to work in creating a live restaurant. Imagine opening a restaurant with new staff every six weeks. He has done it with pride and tenacity.

Five years ago we did the numbers of students he had taught after the restaurant closed to the public and then it was over 2200 students. Five years on it would make sense that number has multiplied. IMG_2030

We are sorry this chapter has come to a close. As most people do, we have chosen to make a new path out of the end of this one. We are grateful that Le Cordon Bleu has given us a lot of notice (18 months) and some help to send Kelvin on his way. We will miss the people, students, experiences and community.

I give a shout out to my very modest husband who has worked tirelessly and devotedly to make an impact student’s minds in the culinary world. He has an amazing mind for menu planning, restaurant management and price point evaluation and culinary insights and application.

I still get nervous from time to time to cook for him. Not because he is a harsh critic but, because he knows his stuff. He gets calls from family and friends for a bit of quick advice and is always modest and ready to help.

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Newborn Canyon and the Chefs

So, please tip your chef’s hat to Kelvin today. To ‘Chef Gurr’ as he has been called by thousands of students. After that celebratory drink after work come on home, hang up your apron and let’s get going on our new path.

We will be traveling the world and soaking up all the culinary delights along the way. Watch out world. Stay tuned to his space. Something amazing will pop up from his mind when set down again next year. Need a consultant anyone?

 

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To Do – Part Two – Feels like A Bit of Scrambling. Just Breathe.

Okay, remember when I said we were working on our list of To-Dos? That was nearly a month ago and now we are down to two months (OH BOY!). I have learned that we need to break these steps into time frames i.e. housing needs and doctors appointments now and travel plans in South East Asia later.

HEY, side bar… What do you think of our new logo! Thanks so much to Zoe at Zoe Pdx She hooked me up with a great new logo and she has a lot to offer. I met her through a connection from TEDx Portland. Check her stuff out!

Here are the next steps on my list.

13. Set up First Aid/Medical Kit: We are going tomorrow to get our shots for travel and are negotiating what that means for the kids (extra shots!?!?) but, we also need to plan for upset stomachs, general medical care and the management of allergies that many in our family navigate everyday. I understand you can get most medications on the road but, when and where might be daunting if we have a sick kiddo in the middle of the night or in a rural area. BTW, my husband won’t like that medical stuff is listed under number 13 but, we’ll keep tabs on it.

14. Special Toys for the Boys. I don’t mean big gadgets (that is a later conversations). More about how to help the boys with the transition and feel connected to home. Oakley is often the one who wants to ‘just stay home and play with my toys’. He has this lovely and magical imagination where he creates worlds out of his legos, figurines and other small toys (you remember Toy Story). So, we need to bring a small selection of toys to bring with that help them both feel connected and happy.

Both boys have Kindles and that is amazing and wonderful but, we will use the environment around us as well to explore.

15. Frequent Flier Miles. Signing up every family member for miles is a bit tedious but, can have some great benefits. We are flying with rock bottom deals as it is but, every little helps especially many months in when we may need that boost of miles to get us where we need to go.

16. What to do with Mail? We are still wrestling with this one. I have my business mail and then our personal mail. I have found a couple of places that take care of your mail and scan items that may be important. One is Traveling Mailbox. They charge by pieces of mail and what services you need such as deposits of checks, re forwarding on etc.

17. Special IDs for boys and safety kits. No one likes to think of things going haywire but, sometimes they do and we have to plan with our boys about what our plan is if we were ever separated and IDs for them to keep them safe and officially, noted to us without having them carry their passports all the time. Boots and All has a great article that goes through the basics.

18. Sort our Finances. This is a big one as many countries don’t treat credit cards with the same frequency as we do in the States. Also, there are all those pesky fees, currency trading fees and all that. A lot of that is on the road information. That is another task all in itself and I’ll come back to that on a later post.

We are looking at sorting our money now on this side. We are paying off any balances we have, ending subscriptions and memberships we won’t be using (Netflix will stay!) but, it is amazing how much that all adds up. We are also taking the Money Cleanse through the Paradise Pack we are a part of.

19. Move out of office. For nearly four years, I have had a private practice in a lovely house with other helping professionals and I am sad to leave that space. That move in itself is going to be a doozy as I have all my files, supplies and many, many, many books. I  need to sort how to manage that while I’m gone in the event that someone needs access to those files. My colleague Hillary Mondry is going to be my custodian while I am remote. She is a gem and a great counselor if you are in the market.

20. I also have to finish my CEUs (no time like the present!) to keep my certifications in check while on the road.

21. I am setting up my practice so, I can work from the road with folks who are in ‘maintenance’ mode. I want to have a true ‘holiday’ and I will but, I also want to work some from the road to keep me fresh and of course, for a source of income. That means using video platforms that are safe and confidential and scheduling resources that help with helping us ‘show up’ on time. Gen Book is used by a lot of folks.

22. Set up a good bye BBQ. We are already joking (but, seriously considering) having a grab bag at our good-bye BBQ. Folks get to take a bag full of stuff to use, sell or donate. Ha! We actually have wine glasses from our wedding that will we be giving away as good bye gifts. This is going to be a night fraught with mixed emotions. We are coming back but, really will miss so many. We are going to have one in Oregon and one in Idaho where a lot of family live and we will spend our last week.

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Photo by Eryk Fudala on Unsplash

23. Last night! We are going to spend our last night with a good friend (of 38 years!) who will also be loving and caring for our cat while we are away. Staying with a friend on that last night will be so important even though we will get up at an ungodly hour to take off.

24. World school Supplies. We have a lot to sort here. We have feedback from the boys’ teacher and we are starting to firm up our details of how it will look from the road which  supplies electronic and paper. I’ll write more on this in another post.

Well, that is this update and check in! Whew…so much we are working on. Thanks for joining us and staying tuned. Feed back is welcome!

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Midnight Flight Purchases to Bali

Well, it is not slowing down. This week we had a whirlwind of events. The school camping trip over last week, the last day of school, OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) two day school camp in Fossil, Oregon as well as the end of swim team, swim classes and little league baseball. All in the last seven days. That doesn’t even take into account the regular work/life responsibilities that Kelvin and I are doing; work, house up keep, occupational therapy for the boys, our jobs. You know the drills.

So, the countdown continues towards our departure date and I am, quite honestly, getting a bit freaked out anxious. The pace of folks interacting with us to start saying good-bye has increased and that feels like this all has  gotten really, really REAL!

l had a crazy interaction with Kelvin in the middle of the night when I was looking at travel information and stumbled on cheap flights from Australia to Bali. stil-251826There was a sale on JetStar and I was clicking around thanks to Scott’s Cheap Flights (woo hoo). I found an amazing rate but, in a 36 hour window that was a different departure date than we originally planned.

I wasn’t sure when the rates would expire so, I nudged Kelvin to ask him what he thought.

Picture this, he is sound asleep next to me and I am stage whispering, “What do you think of these dates? And look at these rates!”

“Uh-huh”, he said.

“Do you think we should do it?!” I asked in another loud stage whisper.

“Okay,..(big pause).. whatever you think….” he mumbled.

“Whew”, I exhaled. And I grinned!

So, I bought tickets after double checking the rate in Australian dollars to US Dollars, the timing for our Australian visas, places to stay for the extra days, etc. My first card declined.  This was a fraud alert that card was concerned that someone was buying airline tickets in the middle of the night in Australian Dollars for departures and destinations that were nowhere near where the card was being used. So, I used another and no problem, purchase made.

I was literally standing in our office pacing around, recounting all the calculations in my head and then pushed ‘Click to Purchase’ and jumped back to see what would happen. What happened was, we now have four tickets to Bali that cost about $160 each. Not too shabby!

sebastian-tiplea-271948The next morning as I danced around Kelvin as he drank his first cup of coffee I smiled brightly. We have an agreement that I don’t ask questions that I want answers for until he has consumed his first cup of coffee. I was impatiently peeking in his cup and he said, “What is up”.

I burst out, “Are you excited!?”.

He cocked his head and squinted his eyes, “For what?”, he asked.

“Our tickets to Bali!”, I exclaimed.

His eyes narrowed as he said, “Does this have something to do with the conversation you were trying to have with me while I was asleep?”

“Yes!” I beamed, “We’re going to Bali!!”

He slowly smiled, “Well, Okay…when do we arrive?”

That is not the way I should plan most of our steps but, it worked out this time. With all the steps to get ready that sieze my stomach in cramps, these moments make me feel like it is all worth it.

The check list will continue…and I’ll get you up-to-date on our progress. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

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OMG! We ARE really doing this!!

The last couple weeks pieces of our plan have officially fallen into place. Kelvin’s new passport arrived. Yay!! Then we had a flurry of activity as we set up two house/pet sits in September in Brisbane, Australia. And we got our tickets to fly!

So, here is a rundown of recent events. Over the last months, I have been searching for a good fit for a house sit in Australia. Trying to make sure that where we choose or get chosen is where we want to be but also, logistically a good place to be.

In the US, we are used to driving long distances but, it is a big deal to try to drive 1400 kilometers between housing opportunities. hugo-villegas-174015And an even bigger deal when we try to do it in three days in a country we haven’t driven in together (Kelvin was there on his own in 2001), driving on the ‘other side of the road’ for us Yanks and in a camping vehicle we have yet to rent or even select. The situation gave Kelvin and I some pretty funny conversations as we were trying to rationalize a mammoth drive to get in between locations for a place to stay.

The organization we have been working with Trusted Housesitters to find the best matches. We have had lots of conversations, Skype chats and emails with potential matches and I was beginning to feel like I was online dating as I was proposing matches for our family as being the ‘best match’ for others on the other side of the world.

We finally sorted a match with a woman near Brisbane, Australia to care for her three kitty cats and bird. She is also, generously, allowing us use of her car while we are there. She is actually going on two trips with an eight-day break in between and she asked us if we could do the first leg as well. jesse-collins-92501It sounded good but, we were coming from Hawaii and wouldn’t be there for the first two days of her trip. She, again kindly, offered to make her trip work with ours so we can be her support and she ours.

I then started scrambling to figure out our tickets to Australia from Honolulu. I have been playing around online with searches for the ‘perfect’ ones and had yet to officially commit.

This is where things got really interesting for me. We have been planning this trip, at least in theory, since last August. A good eight months ago and just like a woman in denial of her pregnancy, I didn’t actually believe it was all happening until I had visual proof. For me, it was the tickets.

I have flown around the world many, many times, however, I have never been responsible for two little humans in the process.john-cobb-14130 It’s one thing to throw things in a backpack and dig out my passport but, an entirely different kettle of fish to be arranging four flights to another country with visa applications, baggage requirements, thoughts about timing, food accessibility, world schooling plans, accommodations and time changes for all of us.

We were up very late at night. It was the only time Kelvin and I could effectively talk about these plans without the’ regular’ day logistics happening around us. My brain froze as my hands hovered over the ‘Click to Purchase’ button.

This is after several more searches in Google Flights and Momondo as well as the airline Jet Star where we eventually bought our tickets. I was breathing heavily. I looked at Kelvin and my eyes grew big. He looked at me questioningly.

“Yes….?”, he gently asked. “What’s going on?”

I stared at him and said, “Are we really doing this?”

Here is where my very patient and kind husband could have said any number of unhelpful things. Instead, he just said, “Yes, we are and it is all going to be okay”.

At that moment I had all the details of our trip that I have been pouring over in my mind, on paper and on the internet swimming around in my head and I thought, ‘Where is the adult around here that we can check with?”

Then I realized, WE are the adults! Yikes! This just got real.

I had a similar brain freeze when I was seven months pregnant with our first son, Canyon and my friend Wendy was driving me home from michael-waters-105757Baby’s R Us with the crib my in-laws had bought us.

I knew it was going to happen. That baby was going to be coming soon.  But, I didn’t really know it until that moment. I was looking like I was nine months pregnant as it was but, it was that crib being brought into our home that really hit it home for me. It was real.

Wendy was reassuringly hilarious as she calmed and comforted me that we would get through this, the baby was indeed going to be here in about eight weeks and, that it would all be okay.

So, that night last week, we officially bought our international tiIMG_2002ckets that will transport our family to the other side of the planet.

And it will all be okay. Right? Of course, right.

The day after we bought our tickets my husband left me a bunch of flowers and a note that read, ‘Australia, here we come! I love that we are doing this!’

He is my elixir, yet again.

Onward and upward to the planning…. more to come. Thanks for joining us on this journey and we prepare for our journey.

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5 Things to Do Before We Skip Town-Cleaning out the Mental Cobwebs

We hit the six-months-to go mark yesterday. Whoa, yikes!..I just caught my breath when I wrote that. That means about 180 days to ready, steady, go. In my whirling life I realize I have a lot of loose threads I am constantly picking at. Some are reasonable and others are just plain, annoying time sucks. So, while I am trying to ‘clean house’ literally I also need to do it figuratively.

These are the things I am working on.

Kicking Toxic Relationships to the Curb! I am a human, non-sociopath (thank goodness) but, that also means I am a deeply feeling person. While this is not a bad thing, I find that I invest in relationships that are clearly not helpful, kind, symbiotic or healthy for me.kristopher-roller-188180

I spend a lot of time trying to craft a response from someone I care about and ache for them to like me back. I spend too much time, energy and, quite frankly, pieces of my soul in the output of others without receiving a balanced, authentic connection in return.
I am practicing turning towards the ones that have shown up and have earned the right to hear my story.

Say No When I Feel I Should say ‘Yes’. How many times a DAY do I mumble out an ‘okay’ or squeak a ‘yes’ when I know, in my heart of hearts, this request is not what truly aligns with my value much less, even have time for. It feels like a must but, at what cost?
dikaseva-34987Now, I don’t mean shirking my responsibilities but, rather saying yes to a time commitment that ever shrinks my sliver of ‘me time’ that have on my calendar. No one is making me do this. I do it. And I need to cut it out. Now.

 

Paying attention to the ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’ that rattle in my head.  Or otherwise said, stop ‘shoulding’ on myself. I say this to my clients all to time and like other  psychotherapists, I don’t always practice what I suggest (shock!). I think of these words as threads from someone else’s rule book, goals and they hijack my own dreams, hopes and intentions.

jared-erondu-15318I find myself surveying the room to find the ‘best’ choice or solution for all involved and meanwhile my voice, and often, my values get muffled.

Pushing others agendas to the front of the line will get me nowhere and often, it is not reciprocated

Resetting my Expectations of Others. Also, something I talk a lot about with clients. I am trying to do this more in my own relationships and, luckily, I have a very supportive and intuitive husband that often takes me by the shoulders and tries to redirect me to the more realistic path.

When we have an event, gathering or interaction coming useemi-samuel-15564p, my husband and I will talk about what the minimum expectations are (seriously shooting as low as possible), what is reasonable and achievable and then, the dream scenario.
All the while, becoming abundantly aware that I can only control myself as I am hoping for some crazy, magic, Jedi mind trick to get others into knowing and doing what I want. Often without saying it out loud.

Minimum : Low, low, bottom of barrel e.g. I show up at an event, I have a coffee
Reasonable and Achievable: e.g. I see the person, have a couple of connectingwords. 
Dream Scenario, aka, Lottery, Bonus, Gravy: The names says it all, expecting the best!  

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I am setting simpler expectations. Dream Scenario will not likely happen but, if it does, what a pleasant surprise! It’s a lot shorter fall from high expectations and landing splat in a pile of disappointment and resentment to saying ‘that was unexpectedly awesome’.

 

Slow down and Look People in the Eye. In our technologically focused society we are often bumbling around the streets, coffee lines and even traffic lanes with our eyes angling down at a device. We are missing connections around us that are as authentic as anything we desire from those we are following on social media. jon-tyson-77013Simple eye contact is a deeply personal, human experience.

Now, I am not saying I am trying to see into stranger’s souls. No, I am merely saying we often feel so alone while surrounded by dozens of people. And a simple head nod and eye connection can boost our serotonin and release a few healthy hormones in blood stream to battle the anxiety and cortisol spikes we get while scanning click bait online.

 

Whew…so, what are you working on? Is this helpful to you?  These are not going to be accomplished immediately. These are all practices that are like pulling the car alignment into place. It takes attention and management. Saying them out loud makes me more accountable for them as well. So, how about you? No high expectations, just the minimum please.

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Here’s Your Notification: Turn off Your Notifications!

As I write this in the middle of the night, I am not struck by the irony of my thought or suggestion. I was tossing and turning tonight as I churned thoughts after attending at talk by Michael Lewis. He is known for his works The Big Short, Moneyball, The Blind Side among others.

In his varying topics last night, his talk included the new Trump Presidency.  I was really struck by his discussion with Hanna Rosin about what is going on in our country. Hanna asked, ‘Are we going to be dumber in four years? He said it’s like Patton standing in front of the American flag in movie theaters in the 1940s with the statement.

“There is one great thing that you men will all be able to say after this war is over and you are home once again. You may be thankful that twenty years from now when you are sitting by the fireplace with your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great World War II, you WON’T have to cough, shift him to the other knee and say, ‘Well, your Granddaddy shoveled shit in Louisiana.’” ― General George S. Patton, Jr. to his troops on June 5, 1944

Then WWII. Now, 2017, our new reality. Get involved. And make it count. And we’ve seen this over the weekend.qc6vnbe4jqs-jerry-kiesewetter Millions out walking, marching, speaking out for a multitude of reasons.

Yes, it is good (I know, there are plenty of competing thoughts on this) however, your involvement has got to be balanced or your going to end up in my office. This week, I found the tone of many sessions came back to and unpacked angst, fear, anxiety, worry, anger and grief.

In only a week and how many times have I been bounced around the blogosphere, social networking sites with topics and events from inauguration, women’s march to minute by minute updates of what is being done or said in Washington and, therefore, bouncing around the world)?

My clients and I discussed this and pondered, maybe we are not only online too much but, we are being ‘pinged’ too much.otedkfse3j0-anete-lusina My work is hearing about what is taking up space and interrupting people’s lives and making it not work as well – it frequently comes back to – too many notifications.

This week I have been talking with clients about a media diet and that delicate balance between FOMO and awareness. During sessions, my clients are aware that my office is one of the few places where they don’t look at their phone for 50 minutes. I see them carefully put their phone at the other end of the couch or hesitate in their handling of their devices as they settle in.

I had to take deliberate steps to reduce my access to information and I am doing this imperfectly. My morning routine, for nearly 30 years, has been listen to NPR. It is as much a part of my day as my coffee, and getting dressed. This news cycle is ruining my everyday experience. I used to find it grounding. Now, I find my own levels of agitation are raised before I leave the house. Then I may take it out on my kids, or in my driving or my stress eating. I can’t do this. Not every day. Not for the foreseeable future.

I think of Stephen Colbert’s Election Night speech. Before the outcome was fully decided, Stephen encouraged us to get back to our lives and reminisced about when he was a kid and politics was a once in a while topic at the dinner table. Now, it can be several times a minute depending on how many notifications you have on.

I am also drawn to work by minimalist parent advocate, Asha Dornfest, who has been trying to help us be better parents and humans with her blog and podcast. that-horrifying-moment-when-youre-looking-for-an-adult-but-then-realize-you-are-an-adult-so-you-look-for-an-older-adult-someone-successfully-adulating-an-adultier-adult-fcb44She said in 2015 at the World Domination Summit that sometimes we are searching for someone else to be in charge.

So, given this. What do I recommend? Who am I to recommend anything? Well, I am a struggling  woman, mom, business owner, therapist, friend and human. I have to figure out how to balance it myself or I won’t be able to see you and I don’t want to be in the fetle position in the corner of my bedroom. But, like Brene’ Brown says, we need to embrace our imperfections. Well, excellent I can do that!

Some suggestions include; screen free days or, a at minimum, screen free pockets of time in our days. zajstp1nb88-alex-holyoakeThat is a start. I also recommend a couple of apps Calm and Mindshift that help us distract or rather, be in the moment.

Okay, enough for now. Excuse me while I go crawl back into bed and hope my hot water bottle has a little love left to give. And I will resist the urge to flip over the phone to see what’s happened in the last 20 minutes.

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One Small Personal Way We Measure Obama’s Legacy

Our son, Oakley Grange, crawled into our bed early this morning. This hasn’t happened in a while and it was a welcome, warm snuggle. There was a time when this was a nightly occurrence and, while it did disrupt my sleep some, I so loved the snuggles and pure loveIMG_1320 that radiated from this little boy along with the furnace heat from his body. It was like a living hot water bottle. I figured there would come a time when he wouldn’t come find us in the night and so, I always welcomed it.

Last night I thought it was poignant that he came to snuggle. See Oakley is, in his words, exactly seven years, six months and four days old. He was born in July 16, 2009.

He was our second successful pregnancy after his brother and a series of losses. We fought for our boys. So, in that journey to grow our family we tracked and tracked our ‘progress’. We knew exactly when he was conceived, Election night, November 4th, 2008.

He was a hard-fought prize. During my pregnancy I called myself an Obama Momma. I had read that Obama himself was a Kennedy baby being conceived when JFK was elected. I felt we were in good company.

I proudly felt that he was a gift of good will that came on a night when the world celebrated good things to come with an budding Obama presidency. Yes, we can and yes, we did. Oakley was one of our ‘good things’.

Gurr(small)_001_20090823Now, at the end of Obama’s presidency I feel a strong sense of melancholy when I look at Oakley. To us he is a living representation of length of Obama’s transition, presidency and tenure.

Of course, we will keep measuring Oakley’s life in other common ways; weeks, months,  years, feet grown, grades achieved, teeth loss and Lego sets built, however, he will always have this special place as a living reminder of the time that Obama was in office.

Oakley is snuggling less and less and Obama has left the White House. Change is upon us. Tomorrow will be the first day of his life that Oakley will wake up with a white man as the President. I hope his early years and Obama’s legacy give him wings, hope and strength in his life that what is diversity to us older folk is his ‘normal’. Right now, we can all use some hope and a return to normal.