16.12.12

The Conversation

A few months ago, I discovered what would soon become one of my favorite websites, "The Conversation". It is named after Amanda de Cadenet's TV show where she interviews famous women. Since we don't get that show here in Dubai, I grabbed my iced tea and laptop to settle in and watch Amanda interview everyone from Jane Fonda to Lady Gaga. I was instantly hooked!  I spent the rest of the weekend soaking up every inch of her website. It is thoughtful, real and inspiring. Now, I am thrilled to let you know, that I am contributing to the blog with my essay "Finding Bravery in a Butterfly". It is based on a piece I wrote a couple of years ago when I was journaling about my new expat adventure.

As I wait for new episodes of the show to begin, the website continues to speak to me as part of my daily reading.  I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves. You will love it as much as I do.

Let me know what you think! xxo











25.10.12

silence will fall when the whistle is removed

The crossing guard is gone. So is his side-kick. In their place are two more--one with whistle, one without. The difference is, these two have been trained not to abuse the tool of empowerment bestowed upon them.

I have a feeling other motorists must have felt the stress of the constant shrilling and misdirection and complained. How else to explain their disappearance?

A word to the wise. Don't abuse your authority, and stay humble while flaunting your special confidence building something...

15.10.12

blow your whistle, baby

They gave the crossing guard a whistle.  I swear it's made him grow another foot taller. He's now standing straighter and has an "I mean business" look in his eyes.  I'm afraid his lips may become permanently pursed because that thing has been glued to them ever since he got it.

Just the week before you would have seen an apathetic man half heartily waving on the cars with a sheepish look on his face. Cars honked at him and angry drivers yelled. That's all changed thanks to his new prop.  The whistle has empowered the guy and given him a sense of importance. It's given the other drivers, patiently waiting for a clear cue signally them that they can proceed,  a headache.

I am pretty sure the whistle was meant to be used sparingly, to grab drivers' attention at key times, not to be an ongoing symphony of shrill.  But this guy, with his new found power, has not stopped blowing the damn thing. It's a constant stream of high-pitched ear torture every morning as cars are given the okay to proceed. Or, are they being warned to stop? The problem with him blowing endlessly is that you never know what the heck he is trying to tell you.

Last week, they gave him his own stop sign. Now he has the whistle stuck between his lips and the sign in one hand. With his other free hand he frantically waves in time to the constant whistle blowing like a conductor commanding an orchestra. All the fan fare is really unnecessary though since his quiet partner is really the brains behind the operation. Thank god for this whistle-free side-kick. He is the one you really want to take direction from. Make eye contact with him, and he calmly holds up a hand or waves you on.

I am trying to cut the whistle-blowing fanatic a little slack though.  Everyone likes to have a sense of purpose and the chance to feel important.  Many people aren't given the luxury of feeling worthwhile. They are treated differently because of the color of their skin, the way they dress or their broken English. They need a little something extra to make them feel respected or admired. I mean, even the best of us need that from time to time. For this man, it's a whistle and a sign that gave him his swagger. Perhaps he is finally feeling confident and in control for the first time. These items make him feel "in charge".  People finally acknowledge and hear him. Literally.

For the policeman it may be the uniform and the gun, and for the athlete a jersey or a helmet. If we're being honest, most of us can probably admit to having something that helps to give us an extra spring in our step- something that gives us an extra confidence as we navigate our various roles throughout the day. Whether someone is a crossing guard or a CEO, they both deserve to be respected by others.  For the CEO it may be the car she drives that gives her that acknowledgment. And for the crossing guard, it's all about the whistle.

Do you have a prop that makes you feel more confident or acknowledged?


24.9.12

wonder where i've been?

For the past year I decided to put my public writing on hold. If you really know me, you know that writing is my passion. It's like breathing to me. So, while you may not have seen much happening on the blog, much was still going on behind the scenes.

In addition to my regular journaling, I also decided to take a number of my past posts off the blog so that I could work them into a book version about my expat adventure that I was itching to publish. But, a funny thing happened as I prepared to tackle the challenge of finding a publisher. I met someone. She is all kinds of rock-star fabulous. Actually, I had known her for awhile and always admired her bold spirit and philanthropic work in Africa. But, in late spring of 2011, the stars aligned and we decided to form a partnership and combine our mutual interests of fashion and philanthropy to form a social venture called ethical muse . The birth of our ethical muse brand helped to marry my other passion for style with my desire to give hands on support to global social causes. While this blog may occasionally touch on some of my experiences as they relate to work,  this is not a platform for my business. Instead, it will continue to be an outlet for those random, ongoing musings that carry on in my head at all times. The superficial and the deep.

I continue to be pushed to grow in ways I never imagined, and challenged to move further out of my comfort zone. Bad hair days and chipped manicures are all part of the crazy, fantastic journey of life.















19.9.12

well, hello! getting my feet wet again.

I've been away from my writing for a long time. Too long. I've missed it but life and exciting opportunities have put one of my passions on the shelf for awhile. 

While I've been away from my blog over the last year, I noticed some changes in myself.  Okay, so actually I've noticed them for a few years but they started off subtly... at first. Subtle enough that I could ignore, or really, I should say, deny them.

It started off with a squint in a low-lit restaurant. A year later I was outstretching my arms so my hands that held the menu were as far as they could be from my eyes.  A few years on I gave in to having "cheaters" handy. Those eyeglass frames that always look cool on someone else until you have to resort to wearing them yourself. I have recently graduated to my very own personal prescription frames. Prada eye wear helped soften the blow. I'm afraid I am just a few years away from bringing a small flashlight with me in my purse to illuminate the offending menu in the low-lit restaurants.  And trying to read the small print on a bottle of Advil or thread a needle? 
Forget it. That's what I have kids for.

Now, just in this last year I've noticed something else happening. My elephant like memory is not serving me as well as it used to. Sure I can still remember where I put my car keys, most of the time, but challenge me to remember who sings a song I just heard on the radio and I struggle. I listen to the sound of the artist's voice and it's familiar, crazy familiar. I can even hear the other songs they sing in my head, but the name of the singer or the band escapes me. There is a patch of blank in my mind as I search my brain for their name. Is this a new Coldplay song? No mom, my son corrects me, this is The Killers. Ah, yes! The Killers, of course! How could I have not recalled the name attached to that tell-tale voice? Silly me.

It's not only names of famous people and bands that have me struggling, it's names of real people and places as well. When I have that blank feeling my first instinct is to turn to my kids for my total recall. But my pride won't let me do that without challenging myself to try and remember first. My kids have insane memory skills- they can remember every minute detail of every situation. I used to be like them once upon a time. Now my mind feels so full that I just can't commit all these little inconsequential things to memory any more. But it's a good exercise to at least try. I read that you must exercise your mind just like you do your body if you want it to stay sharp as you age. Now I own scrabble, word search and crossword apps in the hope of those things helping to keep my mind toned and fit.

It's true that names and little things are becoming more and more illusive. They always seem to be just on the tip of my tongue. But all is not lost yet. If I really rack my brain, the illusive name of the person, place or thing comes bursting in. The other day, driving in the car with the boys, we were trying to remember the name of the girl that was the first American Idol winner. The name had escaped us. But I racked my brain. I knew this. I could picture her. I could remember words to her songs. Her name began with a K or a C, I just knew it. Then, like a powerful wave, the name came rushing in and flooded my mind! "Kelly Clarkson" I shouted out, so proud that I thought of it before they did. The name had a K and a C in it. Ha! I've still got it.

4.2.11

i think

i think
there's nothing better than a clean black car

i think
mean people do suck, just like the bumper sticker says

i think
you get what you give

i think
most people are genuinely kind

i think
everyone should smell good

i think
i'll never be able to manage proper French pronunciation

i think
i could get used to living in Europe and drinking red wine at lunch

i think
that being grateful for what we have is something we should practice every day

i think
i can find beauty and art in almost anything

i think
it's crazy they have food delivery service here from burger king and kfc

i think
summer vacation should last all year long

i think
sometimes, graffiti can be a great expression of modern art

i think
that good health is more important than money

i think
that if you expect good in people or situations that is exactly what will be brought to you

i think
there is beauty in an aging face, unless the aging face is my own

i think
that thoughts can become things, so be mindful of what you are thinking

i think
that living near water makes it easier to breathe

i think
listening to a great musical soundtrack can feed my soul

i think
you should never be without a pack of gum and a lucky charm

i think
it's easy to find gratitude in great things, but to be able to find it in life's challenges, that's where the real lessons are learned

4.1.11

seasons

2010 brought a roller-coaster of memories. Summer in Paris can not be forgotten. And, having one of my besties travel to see us as Fall turned to Winter was a wonderful gift.

But in between the highs there were challenges that life can sometimes throw at you. Like when Winter began to turn into Spring a soul-sister got sick with the dreaded "C" word and I struggled with the feeling of helplessness at being so far away. Or, before Summer made its transition into Autumn, my mom took a fall and I tried to read between the lines of her brave sounding emails hoping she wasn't just telling me what I wanted to hear.

After much work stress there was a new beginning when Design Guy changed companies last Spring and we made a commitment to extend our stay in the UAE. But in the Fall there was a sad ending. We faced our biggest challenge when his mom passed away.

When someone close to you dies you can't help but reflect. It shouldn't take a death to realize how we want to live, but the truth is, losing somebody is sometimes the reminder we need to take inventory of how we are living our own life. Are we doing all we can to live it fully, compassionately and honestly?

I am ready to bring on the seasons of 2011. It is a given that there will be challenges mixed in with the rock-star moments, but you know what? Challenges are part of a life fully lived. You can't have one without the other.

We are each responsible for the choices we make as we continue to create our journeys. So choose to look for opportunities to learn and grow every single day and find at least one thing to be grateful for. Choose to find more reasons to laugh instead of cry.

Now, grab the champagne, and pop that cork.

12.9.10

i suck at transitions

Very soon the weekends will begin to mean something to me again. No more of one day blending effortlessly into the next. No more nights where we don't give any thought to starting a movie at 10pm and no more days where we can open our eyes as the light breaks through the window, squint at the clock and then roll over to snooze for awhile longer. Those will now become things we had the luxury to take for granted as we now begin 9 months of counting days till the weekend and till the next holiday on the school calendar.

I have begun to grieve the loss of another summer. It happens every year. Usually the sadness begins to creep in around two weeks before school starts and my mind becomes acutely aware of the first day looming ahead. To thoughts of "the routine" and my boys spending the week-days on their own journey of growth and learning and me spending the day crafting mine. At first I try and push it out of my mind not wanting to taint our last moments of pure togetherness and freedom with thoughts of what isn't even happening yet. But then as the one week mark approaches I begin the self-talk. The voice inside your head that reasons "the structure of a routine will be good for all of us. We should be looking forward to the different change of pace. After all, we can't realistically continue this blissful floating forever." Me, myself and I have this silent conversation until a few days before the first school bell is about to ring. Then, at that point, I begin to cut through the silence and say out-loud what we all don't want to hear "school starts in a few days." We all know it, but to say it out-loud makes it a reality that we now must prepare to face. For my boys it means that their days will no longer be entirely their own, their responsibilities will increase as will expectations. Not such a bad thing after 3 full months off. For me it means the beginning of my 5:30am wake up call so I can start my day with the newspaper and my cup of tea before I rouse my boys out of bed, make breakfast, make the lunches and greet the morning traffic as we head towards campus. Soon I will need to go back to being the homework police and the bedtime police. Two of my least favorite roles.

While I am sad to say good-bye to summer I also know from experience that once I step over the threshold into the school year on that first day I don't have to shut the door behind me all the way. In a weeks time we will begin to thrive and be grateful for the routine and the definition it brings to our life. And, we will still find ways to keep that vacation spirit alive each day in little ways. The school year offers a stretch of time where we can each concentrate more on our own personal growth while still carving out time to grab those spontaneous ice cream cones, night swims and exploration of new places on the weekends. We will appreciate those moments when they come along even more knowing we have a way to go before they are endlessly swirling around us again.

But, what is really making my heart extra heavy this year is the thought that my oldest guy is starting high-school and I am consumed with the realization, and am acutely aware, that we only have 4 summers left with him before he goes off to college. How did time speed up all of a sudden? How can I now be at the point where I can count the traditional family summers we have left to spend with our boy on one hand? When my thoughts head in that direction I need to remind myself to stay in the present and make the most of our time, because, guess what? I still have the gift of that time right now. Just like with these final days of summer, I need to make the most of the next 4 years and not cloud what I have now with thoughts of things that aren't even here yet. I need to enjoy each moment because someday I will be wishing that I had two lunches to make, two boys to rouse out of bed, and an entire school year ahead of us to spend together.

With a few days left, we will enjoy what we've got and look forward to the balance the school year will bring. It's never let us down before, always offering is own type of magic along with growth and a structure that we didn't even realize we were all sort of missing......

3.9.10

so what

I am in danger of becoming a hoarder. You know those people they show on Oprah that have all kinds of stuff hidden everywhere? Except that I wont have knick-knacks and kitty litter piled high and a house smelling like cat pee. Instead, you'd find boxes and boxes of Stevia I bought back in Arizona (since I have a hard time finding it here) hidden discreetly in cabinets alongside my favorite reed and oil room scents. The ones I was lucky enough to find here with the perfect vanilla fragrance, not the vanilla that smells like a mix of sugar and barf. Thus the reason I felt compelled to "stock up".

If I had enough room in the freezer I would have boxes of Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Pancakes (my Shakes favorite) piled to the tippy top and boxes of Kind Bars, cranberry almond, in the pantry. And the Egyptian Cotton Linen Spray I found that I can't live without? Bottles and bottles of that lining the shelves of my laundry room.

You see, here in Dubai you can eventually find anything your heart desires at some point......after driving all over town and making trips to multiple stores. The catch is, will they have it again when you go back? I am all excited that I found the perfect unsweetened green tea in a bottle and then next time when I walk in the store, slap in the face, the shelf is now empty. I sigh, head to the tea-bag aisle and buy a box (or twenty, in case those are gone next time) and remind myself it's less expensive to brew my own tea at home anyway. Sooner or later my favorites seem to pop up again on those shelves. In the meantime I try and find the next best thing and stay patient. This adventure I am living is not just about the novelty of being in an foreign country. It's about the lessons learned in adapting, compromising and becoming more flexible every single day. I am pretty sure that by the time we move on from here my middle name will be "flexible" instead of "wtf".

I have never been a multiple purchase kind of girl but I am becoming one for fear that my old favorites and new favorites wont be found on my next trip to the store. But, you know what? I am also becoming the kind of girl that can say "so what." They may not have exactly what I'm looking for right when I want it but maybe I'll find something new that I like even better.

And, when that Stevia I bought in Arizona runs out? Well, then I will drive all over town, go to five different stores and if I still can't find it, I will resort to asking a friend back home to send me a box......or twenty......

8.8.10

summer

This summer, especially in contrast to last year, has been one of my very favorites. We traveled halfway around the world and then traveled back again. On our way from Paris back to Dubai I had to pinch myself. What was I doing on a plane bound from Paris to Dubai in the first place? And more than that, the craziest shock of life about it was I was flying back "home" to a place I couldn't even locate on a map a few years before.

Last summer we spent 2 months in a villa next to a dirt lot that was under construction. No driver’s license allowing us to head to the mall during the day for an escape from the constant noise. No internet, no swimming pool and no television to distract us from the jackhammers. (See posts from June/July 2009 in case you don't remember that story...) This summer we have wifi and internet connections wherever we are, we are able to drive to theaters to watch movies and we have TV with pay-per-view. And not once have I broken out in a sweat wondering how many times I could say "excuse me" in attempting to understand someone's broken, heavily accented English before it would appear rude. Not even in Paris. It's not as daunting to me anymore.

Last summer we spent our days reading and playing endless games of monopoly. This summer we’ve had no time for board games yet. Books, we have still managed to squeeze in before bed or on our stream of sometimes seemingly endless plane flights.

Last summer we would sleep in late to make the days seem shorter and go by faster as we waited for Design Guy to get home. This summer we slept in late because we were exhausted from non-stop days of fun (and, ya, jet-lag too).

Last summer I would read the National newspaper cover to cover because time was all we had and it would kill two hours of that time. I still read the newspaper most days but it doesn't always get the attention it deserves.

While this summer has definitely been one of our very best in terms of great memories, last summer, in hindsight, offered us some good memories of its own. Looking back it was actually sort of fun (albeit in a weird way) to have no outside stimulation or electronic entertainment most days. At the time it felt boring and alienating. Then, even that was a routine we got used to. Really, I have found in reflecting on the last year, you can get used to anything. Lemons will always be able to make lemonade if you take action and accept what you've been given. It may not always taste exactly right, but anything is drinkable… if it wont kill you....

Last summer we had to rely on each other for amusement. We were creative. We had more time to talk and to listen. God gave us a slower pace as we adjusted to our new situation.

This summer we had everything we could ever want in terms of fun and diversity. Time with family and old friends and time to enjoy another new culture, Le Tour de France and amazing cathedrals. But each summer brought us something unique. And while I'd take this summer over last, a million times over, I am realizing my greatest lesson in comparing the two is about balance and not taking what you have for granted. What makes life a really great adventure or a not so great one? It's how you choose to view the situations you are given and how you bring balance and gratitude into living your life.

Now that we are back from our travels and non-stop pace, we will make sure to balance the rest of the summer with some of those "read the paper from cover to cover" and "monopoly” days we learned to enjoy last year. We will be grateful for all of it, the great days and the challenging ones, the busy ones and the quiet. You really can’t have one without the other. Both offer gifts.

My view is clearly different this year as I look out my window and compare it to the one we had last summer. I see blue sky- even through the humid haze that covers it some days. I never ever want to take what we have now, or even what we had then, for granted. There are lessons in both summers. Going through last summer got us to this fantastic one, so I will take it all.

Wow, it's amazing what a difference a year can make......