The Things We Put Up With….

I’m not going to go into the details of why, in our expat life, we find ourselves ordering shoes online for our kids, but suffice it to say – we do. There are myriad complicating factors to international shoe purchasing (especially if you live in a place where the general population finds shoe-wearing highly optional). The cost, the quality, the sizing, the styles…the possibilities for shoe misfortune are endless. In the end, you guess your kid’s shoe size, cross your fingers and click “order.”

Over the last several years, as a result of my own experience with this, I have found myself with at least 3 pairs of shoes per child that didn’t quite fit. Too long, too narrow, too short, too green (to which I admittedly say, “But you wanted green shoes!”), too wide or just plain “uncomfortable.”

When I think about the shoes, I think about all of the inconveniences that we must deal with as a simple fact of living life outside our home cultures. But, I also think about all the inconveniences that we accept simply by being blinded by our own habits. There’s a balance to be sought here I think. Those expats who chose to accept a certain level of inconvenience undoubtedly fare better. There’s very much something to be said for going with the flow and making adjustments to your own sense of normal in order to merge successfully into your new lifestyle. If you’re constantly fighting, the only thing you’re really defeating is yourself.

At the same time, isn’t it possible that over-flexibility or extreme-acceptance causes us on occasion to put up with things that actually have real, obtainable and viable solutions? The challenge, of course, is being able to recognize the difference.

It can’t hurt to regularly take stock of the things you’re “putting up with.” If you find yourself repeatedly struggling with the same issues, write them down and then ask yourself (or a friend) if maybe there’s a solution you hadn’t considered before. Then, list concrete steps to try out the solutions. And remember, when it’s all said and done, give yourself the reward of letting go of frustration over the things that really can’t be changed. Pat yourself on the back for simply taking a new approach, regardless of the outcome.

And, as for the shoes, the solution was simple (and very much thanks to the suggestion of a friend and mother of four) – purchase a Brannock Device. Life (and pocketbook) changing.


When In Doubt…There’s Always Flash Mobs

When you move a lot you find surprising ways to perk yourself up. Your typical habits for brightening a rainy day may not exist…no Starbuck’s, no lunch with your very best childhood friend, no quick cup of coffee with your mom, no browsing the crafts aisle at Target. Did I mention no Starbuck’s?

So, you find other ways to celebrate life. One of my favorites? Watching flash mobs on YouTube…especially ones that involve marriage proposals…although anything that combines both smiles and tears can be a winner. All it really takes is 3-4 minutes and the decision to let yourself smile (or cry) and you’ll be all lemonade and absolutely no lemons!

This one’s been making the rounds quite a bit. I love it! Happy Friday Everyone!


Should We Really Be So Busy?

A Facebook friend recently posted this article from the New York Times and I’d like to offer it up as food for thought. The piece is over a year old, but the idea of the “busy trap” is nothing new.

It’s easy to read the article and think, “Of course this guy doesn’t have to be busy. He’s a professional writer. He works for himself. He has the freedom (and probably the funds) to set his own schedule!”

But, the truth is, whether we’re rich or poor, cramming in 60 hours a week at the office or sauntering into Starbuck’s at 10:00 AM to sit down to our laptop for a few hours of work, we’re probably much more in control of our level of busy then we care to admit. We don’t really fall into the busy trap so much as jump…with our eyes closed…and without a parachute.

So next time you feel yourself being pulled into something you really, really don’t want to do, ask yourself, “Is this really necessary?” Maybe your answer will be a resounding, “Yes. This is important to me because ____________.” But on the other hand, maybe you’ll find yourself deciding to skip out on yet another pointless meeting. And, if you do, maybe then you’ll find yourself, quite pleasantly, doing nothing at all.



We’re coming up on our 5-year anniversary of our Foreign Service life. The crazy thing is – in some ways I don’t know where the 5 years have gone and in others I realize that our old life, the pre-Foreign Service life seems like a distant memory.

Every step of this journey has been a learning experience. Perhaps more than anyone, expats learn to say, “Never say ‘never.”” The truth is, no one knows what’s just around the bend, but our lifestyle adds a whole additional set of layers.

With so much unpredictability, we benefit from putting ourselves in full-simplify-mode. If you don’t need it, give it away. If it’s broken, throw it out. If you haven’t used it in a year (or more), someone else surely will. If you live in a developing country – one woman’s trash is almost surely another woman’s treasure. Play Santa. Play giver-of-things. When you unload, you unlock so much space (literally and figuratively).

Need motivation?

A key to finding your motivation (especially for things that can be challenging) is taking the time to examine the values you hold most dear and use those as your source of inspiration.

Are you naturally altruistic? Focus on who could benefit from the stuff you give away.

Do you value environmental responsibility? Think about lowering your carbon footprint by not shipping so many things to your next home. Or, if you’re staying put, think about the power of reuse and recycle – someone can put your un-wanted (or un-needed) things to use!

Do your values center on financial responsibility? Have a yard sale. The money you make can go into savings or help you purchase something you really need.

Is a sense of freedom your most important value? Then take time to remind yourself how it will feel to not be bogged down by all that extra weight.

What about family? Do you value family above all else? Then get the kids involved! Plan a family celebration – a pizza night or a trip to get ice cream – once you’ve unloaded all those extra things. Sound like bribery? So what – perhaps your kids’ primary motivation is a special treat.

Put that motivation to work!

Once you have a sense of what values most motivate you, give yourself frequent reminders to stay on task. Put up sticky notes around the house. Email your spouse or partner and update him or her on how things are going. Ask them to reply so you get an easy in-box reminder. Treat yourself to something special at different stages of simplification – a chocolate sundae today (you may notice a theme with the ice cream…primary motivator anyone?), a massage next week. Be kind to yourself! Say, “Well done!”

So, what are you really waiting for? If you start now, you’ll be halfway there in no time! Before you know it, you’ll be done…and enjoying that chocolate shake.


Visual motivation courtesy of Blue Bell – the best ice cream in the country