Expat Life – Where Are You From?

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Oh, that little question, “Where are you from?” still gets me.  A question I never thought much about until we moved to Switzerland some ten years ago.  Growing up, we were a family that moved frequently.  Five States to be exact before I turned 16, but I always considered California home because to be honest, it was where we had lived the longest.

California is where I grew up.  Where long day and endless summers were spent exploring, playing tennis, swimming until my hair was tinted green and growing up along side of my best friend.  California, oh that Golden State, witnessed me go from child to adolescent and my heart was crushed when my dear father announced we would be moving East after finding a new place of employment. Even when residing in the States, I was always from Cali.   So, now, when people ask where I am from, I typically refer to the old standby, “Well, before moving to Switzerland, we were living outside of Philly, but honestly, I have lived all over America.”

The other night, as we were snuggled up in bed, our nightly conversation ensued.  “Can you believe we have lived here ten years?”  We both fell silent; “The longest I have lived anywhere,” I muttered.  Ten years is a decade, an almost lifetime in the eyes of our children, yet to us, this time together, creating our family, building careers and shying away, embarking on a whole slew of firsts, seems to have spun by ever so quickly.

When we think about the notion of home, especially this time of the year, most reflect on a place, but honestly, over the years and throughout my lifetime, I have come to learn that home is not necessarily a place, but rather a feeling.  And thus, as we embrace more indoors than out lately, this tiny place of ours feels just right and very much home.

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One of the Best

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There is a lot swirling in the media these days about the way in which men conduct themselves.  So much in fact, we cannot seem to escape the way in which women’s lives  have been altered by the poor, often grotesque behavior of the men that surround them.  Each time a story emerges, I shake my head and wonder the same thing, often out loud to my husband,   “Why is it so hard for an entire population of people to conduct themselves with manners, with decency, and with gentleman like qualities?”  The conversations that ensue after are often long, deep and thought provoking.   Thank goodness I married a good man.

On my way to work a couple of weeks ago, I was listening to This American Life Podcast and was so moved, so captivated by the first segment, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Eleanor Gordon – Smith, in the episode 603: Once More, With Feeling, took to the streets and spoke to each man who heckled her or other women, and/or had the audacity to grab them as they passed by.  Her approach was bold and necessary.

It is worth a listen for both men and women.  The main takeaway from the piece that really got me, was that most men think when they heckle women on the street they are actually complimenting them. Wow…what a disconnect.

Take the time and listen to the 20 minute piece, which was done so well.  Eleanor perfectly captivated each moment and worked with painstaking patience to try and alter the way in which these men behave, often sharing statistics and the female perspective on how such behavior makes us feel.  I commend her efforts and her professional approach to a topic that crosses cultures, and ages.  It is worth sharing as well with older children (teenage years) as they make their way independently into the world.  As we raise our children it is imperative that they treat all people with respect and that movement starts with us.

 

Expat Life – Together Again

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“They are our storytellers – our elderly are meant to be those who share the secrets of wisdom and knowledge and life with our youth.” – Cameron Diaz

I read the lines on a Facebook post and it broke my heart.  “Elderly people frequent the grocery store two – to – three times a day just for social interaction.”

This made me think about an idea that had been festering in me for quite sometime.  What if the expat community (but honestly anyone for that matter) were to “adopt a grandparent(s)?” What does that mean?  An expat family, residing in Switzerland, far from their own family and grandparents, would reach out to an elderly person or couple in their community in hopes that together they would each benefit from their new found friendship.

You see, as expats residing in a country far from home, that often means that we are sadly raising our children without the unique connection they might have with their own grandparents.  By reaching out to the elderly in our new communities, perhaps we can create a relationship between our families and those individuals that might be feeling alone; thus fostering the powerful connection between the young and the old.

What would that bond look like?  It is hard to say and would be unique for each family, however, the idea is to reach out to the elderly and invite them for a cup of coffee, a meal perhaps, write hand written notes to each other (pen pals), invite individuals to your child’s play or sporting event, include them in the activities that our children’s own grandparents would normally participate in, should we live in close proximity.  Thus filling a void on behalf of the children and the elderly.

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How to get involved?

I will be honest, this is a completely new initiative and one that I have never embarked upon with my family, but there is a need and thus, I believe we should do our best to full that emptiness.

I need your help.  Do you know of a home for the elderly that would appreciate creating relationships with local families, which might mean our German skills are emerging at best?  Do you have a neighbor that might benefit from a pen pal?  Do you know of a Senior Home that would benefit from the energy of youth in their community?

Please let me know by posting a comment on this site.  Together we can create happy communities one family at a time.

“The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” – Andy Rooney

*Update:  I reached out to the Dalbehof Elderly Residence in Basel and my students might become pen pals with the residents in the New Year.  If you have an organization that would benefit from student art or letters, please let me know.

Today

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“This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever. In its place is something that you have left behind. Let it be something good.”

– Unknown

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I just read this quote and it literally gave me chills.  As my heartaches for those closest to me, I am once again reminded that our time on this earth is never promised and is extremely fragile. This quote is the perfect reminder that we must make the most of our time and that time is now.

Kindness Advent Calendar

“If we all do one random act of kindness daily, we just might see the world move in the right direction.” – Unknown

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This year for advent we, as a family, put together a kindness calendar.  Each day we perform one act of random kindness and bestow that upon a stranger, a friend or someone in need.

The notion was born after observing such an idea online, but took off when we went around the table one evening saying what we were grateful for.  The words that filled the room, brought such joy to my heart, that I realized to give my children little trinkets they don’t need would be to miss the point.  So, instead, we are picking up trash in the neighborhood, bringing tea to our teachers, holding doors for people, complimenting individuals, writing notes of gratitude and reaching out to long lost friends.  My hope is that my children will learn that kindness, no matter how small, is something everyone can give.

May your advent be rich with love, kindness and joy!