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Expectations family travel Grief and Loss kids travel marriage mom blog packing tips Parenting passports relationships round the world travel travel travel blog worry

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!  

unknown
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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New Year, Travel Plans, Ready, Steady Go!

The calendar has turned over to 2017 and we are that much closer to our plan to wander out in the world with our seven and nine-year olds. These next months are chock-a-block with plans to get ready. There is so much to do! 3oiymgdkj6k-dariusz-sankowski

I’ve decided I am spending any free time on these goals as well as personal wellness and to avoid unnecessary lurking on internet sites of click bait news stories that boil my blood. Check out what I find here as I find little gems to share.

This blog is going to help me be accountable for our plans as I share them with you. I love accountability! (mostly). I will still write other adjacent musings as appropriate as my life as a counselor brings many issues to the forefront of conversations.

However, here we go… to get on the road we have to

  1. Pick a departure time: Mid August
  2. Buy tickets. Gasp! This is a biggie as we are still debating the benefits of round the world tickets and one-way as you go. I have found myself hanging out on the site Bootsnall which has such lovely eye candy for travel dreamers.
  3. Decide destinations: So far – SouthEast Asia, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. There was a vote for China (big country) so, we may add that. Then to Southern Africa to S.A, Mozambique and Rwanda. Big hopes for a stop in Israel  as we head back to the Northern hemisphere where we will go to Croatia, and into Western Europe to call upon all my good friends for floor space from Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, England, Scotland and a few other assorted places.
  4. World schooling strategies.
  5. Sort out insurance.
  6. Plan my sabbatical from work and Kelvin’s next steps when he leaves Le Cordon Bleu.
  7. Sort out finances (this should be on top, really). Save, save, save… Getting some advice from this amazing family.
  8. Set up ways to rent house and pay bills while gone.
  9. Sort out other ways to have income or access resources while we travel. So far our jack of trades include: counseling, chef-ing, writing, house/pet sitting (check out house sitting resource), volunteering, teaching.
  10. Sell our stuff! Getting rid of our ‘extra’ stuff that we really don’t need or want to put into storage. Kelvin’s big project is centered around this. We are hoping to clear out our heads as we clear out house. Already feels good thinking about it.

This list is not exhaustive. There are many, many parts but, it is a good round up of the current tasks. 1-29wyvvlja-andrew-neel

So, I hope you will metaphorically join us as we move forward with our goals and plans. I’d love any feedback on travel suggestions and those of you overseas let us know what tasks we can do for a place to lay our wee heads!

Ready, Steady, Go!

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Holding onto Memories from Travel

Last week we got our passport applications in for the boys. A unique experience of paperwork, official documents, checks and the execution of a right-handed pledge to a post office employee in the middle of the postoffice to state that our children are, indeed, our children.

Valid for five years I wonder what their pages will be filled with. In my expired passports I thumb through the stamps from the DDR, Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Britain, an EU work permit for the Netherlands, student visas to NL and UK, many over they years to and from NL, US and the UK as well as an unused visa for Pakistan.IMG_0676 I have memories attached to all these stamps.

Those who know me cite my weird penchant for being able to remember fine details about a day in the past. I don’t have a photographic memory but, I do have a rich memory attached to dates. I can recall events to days decades past. It is my party trick. I admit this skill faded some as I’ve gotten older, became a parent and was more sleep deprived but, it is still somewhat there.

So, with my memories, I look to our seven and nine-year olds and wonder what they remember. I can show them photos and videos from years past and they will remember some of those events and others, nothing. Today, most of us have this odd IMG_0677arsenal of event evidence in our phones, let alone our computers. In a minute I can pull up a 1000 video snippets from the last years.

When I was kid, it took a bit of organization to find the tapes, films or slides from years past and then plug them into the appropriate mechanism to show them. We don’t have the documentation from our childhood we do have of todays events. With that information I wonder what our kids will remember.

I know I have memories that are really memories of being told about certain memories. Then these memories slowly became ‘my’ own memories but, are they? So, again, I look at our boys as we prepare for this year-long adventure in the wide world and I wonder, “what will they truly remember?”.

Part of our purpose of our journey is to impress upon them the diversity of the world around us and the exploration of new cultures in ways that would not be possible at home in Oregon.IMG_0675 Our boys have now folded our plans into their everyday discussions. “So, next year at Christmas time, where will we be?” or “How will we celebrate Thanksgiving when we are not in America?”.

My hope and dream is that we create a rich year full of adventures and life long memories for them to refer back to forever. My worry is that they won’t remember what we experience and it gets filed away in a dusty box. Then again, I do know my travels experiences impressed upon me urges to make various life choices that led me to go overseas again and again. I find more value in travel than in trinkets.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the comforts of a secure life; house, access to transportation, technology, clothing and the odd thing to explore but, I get more excited from the promise of a ticket to travel than I do a new gadget. I find my excitement grows when I know change, adventure and travel is coming up. Anticipation is a very good drug for me.

I have discovered my dream is to instill the hope, love and adventure of travel into our boys. I hope their memories fuel them for decades to come. We are passing on our values. So, that pledge that Kelvin and I made in the middle of that crowded post office seems even more important now. A small memory of hope and anticipation. We pledged to help them create amazing memories and a lust for life. The travel life.

 

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The Travel Plan Reveal – Trying to Make Something Enormous Simpler. What are the Expectations?

So, one of the reasons I wanted to start a blog was to document our family’s plan for world travel. Travel is such an important part of my life (my middle third especially) and I want to share it with our kids and create new memories in new places today. My fear has been that writing about something that has not yet happened is a bit out-of-order, cart before the horse, so to speak. images-11My fear would wash up inside and worry about being named as a non-doer, someone with all talk and no action and a tiny fear of superstition. If I write about it will it not happen.

Where do all these worries come from? My inner critics pushing their particular voice forward, reminiscing about previous times in my life when I struggled and when I failed and taking those moments and shoving them forward in my mind as if to show me.

“See, you can’t do this. You’re a fool to say these things out loud. Someone will reveal that you have failed in the past. Don’t involve others in your dreams until they are real and countable.”

So, my own expectations are tangled with worry, fear, excitement, hope, joy, trepidation and uneasiness. My point of this blog is to explore the challenge of having really high expectations dashed by reality unfolding. However, this is not a blog about images-13holding back our dreams, choosing the slow and safe lane, redirecting our wants toward the loudest naysayers opinion.

I have already made a lot of choices in my life that were non-conventional at the time. Traveling, studying and living overseas for a collective five years of my life didn’t match the norm of my contemporaries. At no point in those travels did I regret being where I was.
Yes, I struggled at times, feeling extraordinarily lonely and
left with only myself for company.

Which sometimes my own company was not great awash with some self-defeating judgements or thoughts. However, I didn’t try to come back ‘home’. I tried to figure out what was happening and how to make it a little bit better. Often hoping to make it much, much better.

Ironically, those moments are the ones I learned the most from. I think particularly about my time living and working in Hong Kong in 1993-1994. images-17Yes, what seems like a lifetime ago. I arrived in this big, neon city with my Dad as he had me connected to a business partner of his to do some work. We flew business class. I think it might have been the first time I had spent 11 hours sitting next to my Dad.

While flying into Hong Kong, I remember the how close the plane was to the buildings in the city as we circled to land at the airport. To me, the buildings looked like hundreds of matchboxes tipped up on their ends balancing precariously next to each other, almost feeling like I was looking at Dominos on a table top. My worry was that one might fall over.  Looking back, I may have been reflecting what I felt inside myself.

I had willingly left my safe haven back in the States to move to a new place. This wasn’t a new move for me. images-16At this point in my life, I had left my home country for foreign places several times but, landing in Western Europe each time. There, I could find a way for my caucasian self to blend in with my English and weak Dutch. I could be on a train and most would be none the wiser until I ordered a coffee, even then I could tilt and soften my accent to draw away from my American self identifiers.

In Hong Kong, I wasn’t going to blend in. I was, what my co-workers later told me was ,a ‘gweilo’. A ghost face. I could try to mix in but, my skin, eye color, the general way I held my body and my illiteracy in the various Chinese languages showed me for who I was, a stranger in a strange place.
Yet, I so wanted to blend in. When I travel, I am one to carefully hold the map inward, cautious to avoid too much attention. I want to be in step with and nearly anonymous in the community I am exploring. One to one, I don’t mind meeting new people and, actually, quite love images-15it but, I don’t want to be painted with the brush or spotlight of FOREIGNER where ever I go.

I was acutely aware of the ‘ugly American’ that would travel about the world, bumbling into people, cultures, languages, cuisine without an awareness of or care about the ripple effect of their wake. I may have kept to the shadows to my own detriment at times. As in Hong Kong, I found it not only very hard to blend in but, also to make friends. I didn’t connect to the ex-pat community. Back then there was no internet, Facebook, email list to join so I could safely explore my options in the comfort of my own computer before walking in a room and hoping to make a friend. I also didn’t want to make friends only with foreigners in this strange place with me. It would have probably helped a lot but, I was stubborn. I wanted to find my own way. And it turned out to be a very lonely path.

That Hong Kong travel experience was one of my darkest but, it taught me a lot. I can get through things. Most everything is in motion and we don’t get to stand in one place for very long. I look at my own kids and see that. Are they really seven and nine? What happened? The hard times move on and the good times move on. What we have control over is maneuvering ourselves towards better, healthier, happier times. This doesn’t always work as we don’t control anything but, ourselves. images-18However, perhaps we can point ourselves in the direction we want to go. Like a boat on a stream…there are plenty of obstacles but, we can navigate.

My husband and I are preparing to navigate ourselves into the greater world outside of our comfort zone in Portland, Oregon with our kids in tow. We want more experiences, unpredictable and hopefully, joyful. Yes, we will experience heartache, frustration, headaches and differing opinions but, we will be living and learning. We plan on leaving on a year-long journey in August 2017. What comes here is further exploring, planning and navigation of our life and dreams. Please stay tuned.

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Parenting, Marriage and Hopes and Dreams

As my husband and I approach our 14th wedding anniversary, I pause and look around me at the changes that have transpired and where we are today. I am struck at the difference of our family of four from the two of us, with our hopeful and shiny faces of yore. I was 33 when I got married and thus, look at my life in thirds.

The first third, infancy, childhood and young adult time. The next was the era of the single girl to woman phase with earning degrees, traveling and a host of poor decision making and the lessons that followed. Then to the last third, learning to create a life with another person with intentions of making the ‘right choices’ together, growing in our careers, succeeding in making a family and moving forward with parenting highs and lows.

I am struck, with a bit of fear, when I look forward to the next 15 year block. What choices will we or I make that have a ripple effect on the future. I am 47 now and in 15 years, I ‘ll be 62. The age my mom was when she died. A tiny piece of me worries that this may be my last series of chapters so, I better make them good ones. Every day I struggle with choices  that effect me; what I eat, what I drink and what I say. Questions of, Did I exercise? How much sleep did I get? How am I handling stressful situations so, they don’t bite me in the backside later?

With clients we talk about the HALTS; Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired and Stressed/Sad. These are things that we can control, in some measure, in our life. We often feel overwhelmed by events happening around us and we try, frequently, with all our might to control things we can’t: other people’s thoughts, feelings, actions, desires, words. In HALTS we can look at a situation and see what areas that we may be able to make some changes or at least, gain some leverage.

When I look at the next 15 years, I feel I do have a better understanding of what I can and cannot control. I also need to remember that when I am in a mood, I don’t always remember this helpful information but, perhaps I am more likely to access it having had some years practice. Read: we are all imperfect! So, coming back to that block of time. How do I want it turn out? Am I okay with the choices I making, big and small? I make mistakes but, do I feel okay about that as well?

I was struck by a review of a new book by Maria Semple called Today Will Be Different. This character, a mom, wife and professional tries to find ‘A Basic Amount of Dignity’. I love that sentiment. 9780316403436_custom-6f05dbe55c3c89ca57eaf0d25423b88bc014eade-s300-c85That the small choices we make everyday can have small but, longer effects. We often look around us in exasperation and think, “How did we get here?” and think of the roads or choices not taken. We think big change only comes from big changes.

Well, I’d like to think that small changes can have a ripple effect as well. If I have a green drink this morning, my body will feel a little bit better and I will feel that I’ve gotten a start on one of the many ‘shoulds’ that come up for me (eating enough fruits and vegetables every day). But, more I feel, at that moment, that I have made a small difference. I can be a tiny bit happy and satisfied that I made a healthy choice. Also, challenging the first of the HALTS – Hunger.

So, here is to change, the anniversary and next 15 year block (one of many, I hope). Also, here’s to green smoothies.

Expectations Grief and Loss Parenting Pregnancy loss

The Heartbeat That Lasts for a 100 Years

Nearly every night, my husband and I snuggle with our two boys as they drift off to sleep. Our nightly rituals include each of us saying ‘no bad dreams’ a certain number of times of our choosing and listing things we have gratitude for that day. Simple things that happened, we saw or experienced that gave us a little smile or a moments pause and remind us that there is a little good every day everywhere, even on the really crappy days.

As I am listening to the breaths of my youngest son stretch out as he succumbs to sleep, I have my arm across his small chest. In that position, I feel his heartbeat steadily thumping through his Batman pajama top. Sometimes, while we cuddle I think of the things I need to get done (dishes, work, laundry) and then I bring myself back and focus on that heartbeat. I am reminded of the time when we first heard our first living child’s heartbeat.

Over the course of a couple of years, we had experienced three miscarriages and in our awareness of this new pregnancy we were so worried that this pregnancy would be another that didn’t ‘progress’. Such a perfunctory word to hope for while experiencing our anguish and trepidation. I remember the mix of joy, worry, excitement, terror, love, fear, and hope pinged around in me like a quad shot latte. I  was truly scared. Almost every moment of the day that I remembered that I was pregnant and had a growing baby inside me I would then plunge into worry in the pit of my stomach.

Then, that day, 10 weeks in, we heard the heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump, thump…rapid like a rabbit hopping. images-5We had gotten to the stage of heartbeats before but, something about this heartbeat struck me and held me in such an odd moment of time. The thought of this heart beating for a long time stretched out in front of my mind. I imagined that this heart would beat for over a 100 years. The thought wasn’t just hope, that was there too but, it felt like it was fact, a truism, the future. Almost like pictures on a screen.

That baby did grow and was born nearly nine years ago. As I scurry around in my everyday busy-ness I to try to slow myself to appreciate the moments of snuggling with the growing babes, now really young boys, and listen to their breaths and heartbeats. It gives me hope and it helps ground me, reminding me that no matter how far behind I get on my to-do list, these breaths and heartbeats are still going. Those moments that I take the time pause in that mindfulness is so peaceful for me.

I still count out the years of the babes whose hearts stopped beating, wondering what they would be like at this age or what pajamas they would be wearing tonight. images-2I send a silent kiss to wherever they are and hold a tiny piece of their souls in my heart.

This experience touched me today as I think about my own expectations of motherhood that are constantly shifting and being redefined. The gift of reflection, acknowledgment of loss, change and growth help me adjust my bigger, unwieldy expectations back into bite size pieces. And, hopefully, that continues to ground me.

Resources for Pregnancy Loss include:

Brief Encounters – Resource for Pregnancy/Infant Loss

MISS Foundation – Support for Grieving Families