sometimes you need ‘home’

The worst question you could ask my (or any) TCKs (Third Culture Kids) is ‘where are you from?’ For Xavier and Anouk, they are from everywhere and their ‘home’ is wherever the four of us are together. During the school year (at the present moment), ‘home’ is Muscat, Oman. For three weeks in the summer, ‘home’ is Geel, Belgium and for another three weeks, it’s Fremont, California. For Rob and I, ‘home’ is reserved for those places we spent our formative years and where our parents still reside. And though we wouldn’t give up our lifestyle for anything (except maybe our dream B&B (read: Bed & Brewery) in some fabulous small town in some distant land), sometimes we are desperate for our connection to ‘home.’

It was on one such day back in late February when Rob and I looked at each other and wondered, “What the hell have we done?” Like any move that has come before, this one has been hard, wonderful, challenging, and joyous all at the same time. Usually the sense of adventure and excitement supersedes any feelings of loss or regret. But first years can be hard. It’s not hard in the where-is-my-next-meal-coming-from hard but challenging in the: making new friends, setting up a new home and new job, cultural differences, and where the hell is the grocery store? hard. I would actually say, first years are exhausting! No, no… they suck!

But in late February, the feeling of fear, apprehension, and WTF have we done? came with a vengeance.

And then… I called my mom.

With a lump in my voice and tears streaming down my face I asked my mom, “Could you or dad please come to Oman?” After a tearfully honest conversation about how hard (yet also how easy) this transition has been, my mom said, “Let me call you back in a few hours.”

And 24-hours later, since my mom and dad couldn’t make the trip at this very moment, their representative was on her way to Oman. After rescheduling appointments and frantically packing her suitcase, our dearest friend and Anouk’s Godmother, Tricia, arrived at our home 8,500 miles away. And in the first moment with her– the deep and all-encompassing hug she gave each one of us made everything right again in the world.

For the short four days she was here we didn’t play tourist at all. She came and left Oman seeing nothing this beautiful country has to offer. But what she left in her wake was far more powerful. She filled our buckets to the rim with the love and joy we needed to get ourselves to the end of year 1. For the days she was here, we were in a loop of: talking, drinking, crying, laughing, hugging, glamorizing, eating, walking on the beach, and playing games. This loop was on repeat up until the very moment we needed to hightail it to the airport.

40 days later, my heart is still full.

I’ll say it again… though we wouldn’t give up this opportunity for the world, sometimes you just really, really, really need ‘home.’ And thank goodness to our army of loved ones–this time, ‘home’ came to us.

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a book for christina

We had a great summer holiday in the USA and I was going to hit the ground running in Belgium and start blogging about our trip to California. But when we walked in to the Bomma and Bompa’s house, my phone *dinged* with a message about the passing of my friend, former  colleague, and Xavier’s 3rd grade teacher, Christina Hutterer.

Between cleaning up the kids vomit (they caught Roman and Katya’s tummy bug and it reared it’s ugly head at 37,000 feet) and drugging away their headaches and fever, I tried to console my grief. I added every one of my Indonesian friends to a big group list where I asked people to share their favorite memories of her. This “work” began to quench the despair I was feeling.

When I woke up on Day 2 in Belgium, I thought… I have to do something with these beautiful memories. I have got to share this with her parents. So I grabbed my Mac and consolidated the messages and photos in to a book.

What you see below is a slideshow video of that book. Before I print the book for her family, please look through the pages (I had to embed it as a video, so you might have to pause to read your comments). I had to make some changes for spelling and space but I think that your thoughts have been captured appropriately. If not, please contact me.

my little dog (by Xavier)

by Xavier

My dog is the greatest gift I have ever received.

Here I am, on the couch upstairs, writing this blog with my Samsung slate in my lap, my dog staring up at me and my video games calling my name. My dog has moved up to the couch, laying next to me, staring at the wall. I wonder what she thinks about, day after day, week after week, month after month. She is very lazy.

I wonder what it feels like to be a dog. Is it good, or bad? Sure, she doesn’t have to go to school, and she get’s to slouch around the house. She doesn’t have to hunt for food, she doesn’t have to do chores, and she gets to sleep whenever. Wherever! But, she is skittish. She seems to worry about people coming into the house and this is because she was abused when she was just a pup. We got her when she was just 5 weeks old. So we saved her from a bad life.

Having a dog can be bittersweet.

It was Halloween, 2014. I came home on the school bus. But when I walked into the house, my dog wasn’t there to greet me. I searched the house and garden. I ran outside and even looked around the whole complex, but I couldn’t find her. When I called my parents, I was bursting with tears. Scared out of my mind. Worried for my dog. My parents got home and we started searching in the car. We drove around our housing complex and neighborhood. The next day, a Saturday, we printed out many lost dog signs. We passed them out to the guards, hammered them on to trees, in front of  housing complexes, hospitals, and we also alerted all the pounds.

Everyday, our family felt more hopeless of finding her. Though we secretly hoped she’d be on the couch when we walked in, she never was. We were sad. Lonely. Lost without her. Our family wasn’t whole with her gone.

Four days later, in the middle of class, my dad came in and pulled me out. He said a man selling bananas near a hospital had seen our dog. My mom had rushed there to get her. She called my dad and said she was coming back to school. When she drove up at 11:24 on a school day, we saw our dog, poking her small, little black head out of the car. We all started to cry again. But this time, tears of joy.

Getting her as a puppy was a good gift. Getting her back was the greatest gift!

 

 

living life!

Our friend Maureen was hit by devastating news last week. The tragic details traveled the world quite quickly. And without any way to “reach” out to our dear friend, she requested only one thing… LIVE THE DAY! In an email, Maureen shared a  list of simple things we could should do to live our lives… everyday! This week, we have worked on doing just that! It wasn’t much, but we: walked in the rain,  left work early, ignored gossip, belly-laughed, planned an exotic holiday, came home at lunch to walk the dog, and all cuddled in bed on a stormy night.

Tonight, after a casual dinner out (where we talked, laughed, and planned together) we decided to cross one thing off of Maureen’s list (see the list below): make a video with your kids and send it to your family — all of them; they will all love it! Below is the fruits of our labor. We hope you love it.

Maureen’s List:

When you wake up on Friday, say to yourself, “Everyone I love is here” and then live the day…

  • call in sick and take your kids sledding
  • have a glass of wine at 1:00 in the afternoon
  • sing in the aisle of the grocery store, or the wine store
  • hand-write a note to someone and tell them it’s just a note to say you love them
  • eat chocolate for breakfast
  • leave work and have lunch with someone you love, and then don’t go back
  • book a trip, or better yet, throw your stuff in a suitcase, open a map, and drive away for the weekend
  • skip around – at work, in the parking lot, wherever
  • make a video with your kids and send it to your family — all of them; they will all love it
  • hold hands all day – with your spouse, your kids, your mom, your sister — just reach out and grab on

How will you live your life today?