Wrapping up the Year (and the presents)

I realize that it’s been nearly 3 months since my last blog post… I’m usually not absent from my blog that long, but suddenly September arrived and these past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. It’s amazing how quickly time flies. One moment it was the end of summer and suddenly it’s almost the end of the year. There have been new experiences, vacation plans that didn’t end so well, new projects, last minute trips and finally holiday preparations.

#TCKchat

Over the past few months, I have been a co-host for a twitter chat for Third Culture Kids (#TCKchat). These one-hour chats happen every 2 weeks (Wednesday at 10am/10pm US EST) and every session has a topic and a series of questions. We have participants of all ages, of all personal and professional backgrounds, located all over the world. However, you don’t have to be a TCK to take part in the conversation, so please feel free to join us anytime!

I joined twitter earlier this year for the ParfittPascoe Writing Residency. Although I never expected to use twitter much, TCKchat is a great way to connect and share experiences, lessons, stories and so much more. I hope to connect further with some of you in that forum!

You can find additional information including highlights of previous chats, upcoming topics, and short bios on the founders and co-hosts here: www.bateconsult.com/category/tck-chat.

Expat Resource Directory

A few months ago, I also started working with Global Living Magazine as Expat Resource Manager to help create an Expat Resource Directory. The aim of the directory is to be an ongoing list of expat/TCK resources, including services, organizations, projects, blogs and active expat twitter accounts/chats. There are resources covering a wide variety of topics, ranging from counseling/mental health, to consulting, education, relocation, TCKs, parenting, finance etc. We’re always looking for great new resources, so all suggestions are welcome (Dounia@globallivingmagazine.com).

This photo below is just a sample page of the directory to give you a sneak peek; the full directory can be viewed in the latest issue (Nov/Dec) of Global Living Magazine and will be updated in all future issues.

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Paris: City of Light and Love

After a brief vacation in Florida (that unfortunately ended with all of our personal belongings being stolen), there was a last minute whirlwind trip to Paris to see my family after 10+ long months of only seeing them on Skype… It was short (isn’t it always when you live far away from loved ones?), but very sweet. We visited parts of Paris that I remember so well and also made new memories in some quartiers that I didn’t know as much. Even if it had been over 2.5 years that I had been there, I still remembered the familiar streets, smells and sounds that make Paris one of my homes.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my quick November trip:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Finally I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas (or happy holidays for whichever festivities you celebrate)! I hope you all have a wonderful end to 2014 and an even better start to 2015! I hope to catch you all more in the new year!

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad!

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Joyeux Noel

Growing up I was lucky to spend my first Christmases in winter wonderlands, surrounded by grandparents and cousins. They were magical and perfect in every way. When we started moving around there wasn’t always snow and extended family couldn’t always join us but it was still a magical time. No matter where we were we always celebrated with the same joy and love as those first snow-filled Christmases.

My parents did an amazing job and passed on a love and appreciation for Christmas that we will always have. The most important thing they passed on is that Christmas is a time to be with loved ones. They taught us that as long as you’re together it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. Today we’re heading off to join my family for Christmas – to talk, laugh and make new memories together. I hope that this Christmas you are surrounded by loved ones, wherever you may be.

 

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel! Buon Natale! Feliz Navidad!

(Please share in any other languages you may know!)

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I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas…

Although this first snowfall occurred a few weeks ago, I haven’t had a chance to post the photos. The snow didn’t last long and it was pretty much gone 2 days later, but it was beautiful while it lasted. It’s especially magical right after it’s fallen, when it’s still pure and untouched. I love freshly fallen snow – there’s something so peaceful about it, and watching it snow always makes me feel like a little kid again.

And like a little kid, I’m definitely dreaming of a white Christmas.

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Solitaire, Stamps and Singing

The holiday season is one filled with laughter, joy, family gatherings, the wrapping (and unwrapping!) of christmas gifts, traditions, chestnuts and so much more. This festive time, however, is also one of thoughts and memories. Memories of being a kid and christmas being so magical; waking up christmas morning to see beautiful gifts sitting under the glowing tree. Memories of childhood traditions – some which remain, and some which may fade away as we get older and live further apart, but which are never forgotten. Memories of those who were with us for past christmases, but who are unfortunately no longer around. When those memories stir, I always think of my grandpa.

My grandpa passed away just over 17 years ago, so although I knew him as a child, I unfortunately never had the chance to know him as an adult. I would have loved that. Having the chance to know both of my grandmothers as an adult is incredible. When you’re a kid, grandparents are warmth, love, promises of having a wonderful time, but they’re just grandparents. I think the same can be said about parents. When you’re a kid, that’s all they are; but when you become an adult, you also want to know them for the individual people they are. You want to hear their stories, learn from them, sit in awe as you hear what they lived through. They’re not just loving arms, always available candy or warm soup; they’re amazing people, who have been through more than we could ever imagine. I wish I’d had the chance to know my grandpa like that. And I know I’m luckier than others, even than my own brother. My grandpa passed away about 2 weeks after my brother was born, so they never knew each other. But I know my grandpa watches over all of us, and I believe the he keeps a special eye on my brother. I know he’ll always make sure we’re alright.

Even though I only knew my grandpa as a child, and it’s been a long time, there are some memories that will never fade away. His twinkling eyes, always laughing at some unspoken joke. The kindness that you could see in those eyes, even when we were getting in trouble.

He always had a smile ready, even when he was pretending to scold us. Sometimes he wasn’t pretending, but he never stayed angry with us for long, and would be slightly more indulgent with us after.

The way he was always singing or humming. While he worked, in the shower, while getting ready for lunch…it didn’t matter where he was or what he was doing, you could always hear him carrying a tune. I always loved that about him.

He would always have a fruit after a meal. Always. A pear, an orange…He used to love oranges. My grandma and my mom hate them. But my sister, brother and I love them; I always love finding something we share with him.

He had an amazing stamp collection. So many different styles, sizes and images. Some were so old, almost vintage, and I loved watching him while he worked. He had special glasses that were magnifying, and a special liquid to put the stamps in. I was never sure what that liquid did – I’m not sure if I asked him and I’ve now forgotten, or if somehow I strangely never thought of asking. He would hold them with tweezers while dipping them in that liquid, and then hang them so they would dry. He helped us start our own stamp collections. Sadly, they didn’t continue for very long after he was gone, but we still have them. I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of those.

Something he loved to do was play solitaire on his bed. He would stretch out on his side, leaning against his arm and he’d set the cards up in front of him. That’s how I learned to play solitaire. I loved watching him play. I’d either settle on the bed next to him or on the floor beside the bed and I would watch. At first I just looked at what he did, at how he moved the cards, without saying anything. As time went on and I learned the game, I would sometimes point out a move he could do. He would playfully slap my hand away, give me a pseudo-stern stare, and then slowly make the move I’d suggested, looking at me out of the corner of his eyes. He didn’t have to say a word, his twinkling, laughing eyes said it all. I still play solitaire to this day. I know we can play it on the computer, on our phones, and on every possible technological platform, and I have done that, but nothing beats playing it with real cards. I always think of my grandpa when I play solitaire. Those quiet moments with him were very special to me, and they’ll forever be engraved in my heart.

I mentioned in an earlier post that when we were kids, living in Wisconsin, we used to drive up to Montreal every christmas, where my grandparents lived. My grandpa was still alive for all those christmases, so he was always there for the first memories I have of christmas. I don’t just think of him at christmas-time; he’ll also pop into my mind at unexpected moments sometimes. Those are the moments that catch me off-guard, that make me suddenly miss him, that sometimes almost bring me to tears with memories of him…

Maybe that’s when he’s looking down on me and letting me know that he’s still around.

Holiday Cheer

It’s been a day of lovely and uplifting encounters that have put a big smile on my face. Ok, so there were only 2 encounters, but they were unexpected and most welcome.

This evening I returned from Whole Foods with fruits, poultry, beautiful poinsettias and a light-hearted mood. I had the 2 kindest and happiest people at the register. I was greeted with such a bright and genuine smile and attitude that was absolutely refreshing after dealing with seemingly cranky and rushed shoppers. I always wonder why everyone seems to be always scowling and unable to smile or say excuse me or thank you. The ones who do seem to be the rare exception. So when I arrived at the register and had not one, but 2 smiling faces and kind, light-hearted banter, it definitely put me in an even better mood. An earlier encounter had already set the tone for the day, and this was just another wonderful and welcome surprise in my day. The first encounter was more of an observation rather than an exchange, so I suppose they complemented each other; either way, they both kept my spirits high today.

The first ‘episode’ of the day happened when I was in the post office, to get stamps for my christmas letters. As it is the holiday season, there were quite a few people there, with cards and packages to send to surprise family and friends.

But one man stood out. He came in a minute or so after me, and he was behind me in line. An old man, with gray hair, a slightly stooped back, but a very steady walk. He had a box with many envelopes, all of which were sealed, so I assume they must have been christmas cards. There must have been easily 50 envelopes in there, all lined up perfectly and without a single crease in any of the seals. I was as impressed by the amount as I was by how tidy it looked. But that’s not what has caused me to write about him. As he stood there in line behind me, in a busy post office, he was humming and singing. He was singing bits and pieces of christmas songs. It was so unexpected, and so lovely. He kept singing the entire time, even when he was in front of the register. He brought such a smile to my face, and it was so uplifting, because it was so simple, so carefree and so joyous.

How often do people do that? He just seemed happy. Happy to be enjoying life, perhaps; happy that it’s the holiday season; or maybe he was just happy, for no particular reason. And why not? We should be happy just like that, but it seems like people forget that. Everyone else in the post office seemed so serious, rushed, busy, as if there was no time to smile or sing. Such a shame. I think the world would be a much nicer place if people took the time to smile, to sing, to just enjoy life and all the joy we’re so lucky to have.

They all reminded me of what holiday cheer is, what christmas is, and how to enjoy every moment we have. We’re lucky to be here, lucky to have the people we love and who love us, no matter how near or far they are. There are so many reasons to be happy, so let’s not forget them. Laugh as much as you can, smile as many times as possible, sing no matter where you are. Everything is better with laughter, smiles and singing.

Happy holidays – I hope they’re full of love, laughter and singing!