Thursday, March 8, 2018

Career Choices as a Woman and Mother

Happy International Women's Day! I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a woman, and a mother, and to work and juggle everything, and to still have wild and crazy dreams I'd love to chase if only I weren't so tired. ;)

Are you watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? We were a little late to the party, mainly because I assumed that it was a total chick show and that J would despise it, but I was wrong. It wasn't until we were once again in that weekly slog between Homeland episodes and had fully exhausted Shetland that I finally said to J, "Turn on that Mrs. Maisel show on Amazon. The pink one with all the little sparkles around the title." We were skeptical.

But wow! That pilot is one of the best pilots I've ever seen. It's funny and sharp and quick and I was also very curious to watch it because a bunch of the women I worked with at Nordstrom (past tense, we'll loop back around to that, I promise;) told me I was just like Mrs. Maisel. "You basically are her," one of my co-workers professed. "She is you." Got it.

So there I am watching the pilot and Mrs. Maisel is adorable. She has very fair skin and dark hair. She's chatty and quirky and clearly doesn't mind being the center of attention, but the similarities seem to end there. She's also completely on top of things, and hopping out of bed to wash her face after her husband has fallen asleep, and her outfits are chic and very well put together and she is not at all a hot mess like me. So I'm puzzled. I really am. Was that the impression I had given my coworkers? Surely not!

HA! Then the real point of the show is revealed and Mrs. Maisel is swigging wine straight from the bottle and I looked at J and said, "Okay, I'm seeing it now."

**SPOILER ALERT** Stop reading if you don't want anything from the show given away. Go and watch the first three episodes (because that's as far as we've gotten) and come right back!

So, I may not have been left by my husband on the eve of Yom Kippur when we were hosting the Rabbi, or even be Jewish for that matter, but Mrs. Maisel and I share something. I suffered and plummeted into hot-mess-despair-dom just like Midge after we left Zurich. Of course, I was pregnant the first six weeks back in the US, so I wasn't drinking wine straight from the bottle, or at all. But once Theo was born and our breastfeeding was established, I became the cliche wine-o mom. In Minnesota all booze - beer, wine, spirits - is sold in the liquor store. Initially J would stop into the liquor store and buy a bottle, then a couple. Then we started buying the supersize double bottles. And finally, we just said screw it and started buying wine by the box. I mean, we didn't want to go in there more than once every week or ten days, you know? Sigh. That was such a very dark time. Thankfully I'm able to joke about it now.

So there I am watching Midge do stand-up and it's just making my heart explode and ache at the same time because it has always been my dream-that-I don't-talk-about to do stand up; ever since I was in 8th grade. It is something I think about quite a bit, but don't talk about or take any concrete actions toward doing. I'm not really sure why. Maybe because I have two kids, and a marriage and work and the last time I was in a play or did acting classes or anything on stage was in 2009, before we moved to Zurich? Maybe I - no, definitely - I didn't realize how having children and becoming a mother would change everything. So here I am nine years later, feeling quite amazed.

One interesting aspect of Mrs. Maisel is that it's very anachronistic. It's almost like a modern show, peppered with phrases circa 2018 like, "You got this" and "Who does that?" but stylized to the year 1958. It seems that this is done in order to emphasize the commentary on women's places in society then and now, and to highlight how far we've come. But it also serves to highlight how far we've gotten off track. When Midge complains about the parenting book and feels like a failed mother, that is completely modern. Parenting as a verb and the pressure to parent well are some of the ways we've screwed ourselves as we have progressed. But I'm loving the show. It really makes me think.

When I realized that the actress who plays Mrs. Maisel is the same actress that played the train wreck Rachel in House of Cards, I was blown away. Note that I do not have striking similarities to the train wreck character. Hot messes can be charming. Train wrecks typically are not! She is literally unrecognizable between the two roles. Glad we cleared that up.

Ah, so back to the whole job as a woman and mother thing. This one has been a long, interesting, confusing and illuminating saga. When our plans to go back to Europe fell through last summer, J and I both went into scramble mode, naturally. Almost immediately - the same day! J was offered a fabulous job. Phew! But I also felt like I should have a job. We were also scrambling to find a house and to figure out where Coco would go to kindergarten. It was a really chaotic time. So in the midst of all that, two things came up. A part-time long-term French sub at a local high school. And a friend asked me to apply to work with her full-time at the Chanel counter at Nordstrom. The pay was similar, but the benefits and schedules were much different. Of course, then we found ourselves in the whole conundrum of pay vs childcare costs and schedule and drop-off and pick-up times. Everything was happening so fast. We were making big decisions at the drop of a hat. The Nordstrom job made mornings easy and meant I could have breakfast with the kids and drop them off at school. J had more flexibility in the afternoons, so all in all it wasn't asking too much extra help of my mom. I decided to go for it.

I was working for Chanel, a brand I love, and working with friends who I really enjoyed, so there were a lot of fun things about it. I got to go on a few fun trips to LA and Seattle for training! But the irregular schedule and different schedule every week and the evenings and weekends were miserable. It was not a good fit for our family. After Thanksgiving, I asked to go part-time and my request was granted. But much to my surprise, with evenings and weekends still looming large, being part-time didn't make a bit of difference. It also meant losing all the potential benefits. Nothing felt right.

So I kept looking for other things and then all of a sudden, I got a maternity cover through the end of the school year as a Student Support Specialist with the local school district. And here I am! I work with high school students helping them recover credits needed for graduation and with virtual learning through online classes. While the majority of my job is done at a desk (a very cool desk that can be sitting or standing, I might add!) I do make trips out to the three schools on my caseload each week and meet with students, counselors and teachers. Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised. It's pretty fulfilling and interesting.

When I first started training about a month ago, I was swimming in Excel madness and doing Pivot Tables and really intricate formulas I'd never worked in before. The email inbox seemed to never stop accumulating new emails and I was exhausted from all of the learning. But now the woman I'm filling in for is on her leave and I'm in the role 100% and feeling super confident. It feels so good to get praise and compliments from my Assistant Principal and Department Lead. I love being in a workplace where I'm valued and my talents are recognized and where I have weekends and evenings off. My schedule is 7:30-4 and I work with some very smart, capable people. It's really working out for now!

But I do feel like I see my kids less. I miss our breakfasts together and when I get home at 4:15, they're tired from their days. As the days get longer, we'll be able to go to the park, but with snow and ice still on the ground and cold weather, it's kind of drab time of the day to be with them. We have dinner all together and I'm there for their bath and bed, which I'm very grateful for. And the job I'm in is a ten month contract, which means any day there's no school, I don't work either. (I'm looking at you, spring break!) Still, full-time does feel like a lot. The blog has gone on the very, very, very back burner and I worry we'll overburden my mom, who has the kids every morning starting at 7:15.

If there is one thing I can say for sure, it's that life a woman and mother is tricky! It's hard to find work that fits in with our families, and yet through my time as a mother, I have come to realize that staying at home isn't the easiest thing for me either. I like the routine and structure of working. I like getting ready and putting on outfits and presenting my best self to the world. I enjoy interacting with co-workers and other adults. For some reason, those pieces didn't always come together when I was at home. In Zurich, where it is completely unacceptable to wear yoga pants outside of a yoga studio or the privacy your own home, it was better. The pressure to wear outfits and makeup was there. But here, where all the moms go to drop off in yoga pants, it has been a lot harder.

So that's where I'm at on International Women's Day this year. Nothing is set in stone. I have a new job, but it's a temporary position. Maybe something else will come up. Maybe the woman I'm filling-in for will find herself in the same mother's conundrum with her baby and infant daycare costs and placements and decide to stay home longer. Anything could happen! But regardless, it all feels like progress. I'm happy to be moving onward and upward, wherever that may be. Maybe one of these days, I might even get to an audition or two. I'm telling you, chasing wild and crazy dreams is possible. It could happen. I refuse to stop believing that.

Are you a working woman and mother? How do you juggle these different aspects of your life? What makes you feel empowered and supported as a woman, or mother, or both? I hope you're having a wonderful day for International Women's Day today! And if you made it this far, thank you for reading my novella. ;) xoxo

(Photo via Amazon)

Monday, February 5, 2018

2018: The New Years Card That Never Was (and a Four Months Late Birthday Party!)

So...2018 should have been our EIGHTH YEAR sending out a super cute card to our friends and family to ring in the New Year. Oops! Things were so crazy throughout the fall and holidays that it just never happened. We got my sister to take some very cute photos of us, I mocked up the card, and then, it was just too late. So, I let it go! The photos are keepers though:

I guess we'll revive that tradition next year. In the meantime, I'm happy we have family photos from the end of 2017. 

The other thing that fell by the wayside after our move fell through was Coco's birthday party. You see, in July, when we still thought we were moving, we had a Bon Voyage birthday party for Coco with her dear friends from her Montessori class. She was feeling really sad about not being able to invite those friends to her birthday party once we crossed the pond, so we decided to have a separate party just with them. 

Then when we didn't move...well, that was awkward. And it was not a quick conclusion, either! It took nearly six weeks to wait on the appeal and things were really in flux that whole time. Once we had finally moved into our current house, Coco's birthday was just 10 days away. Because she had only been at her kindergarten for a couple weeks and didn't have an established group of friends yet, it would have normally made sense to have a party with her Montessori friends. But, of course, we had just had a party with them a short while before. Yowza!

So, we waited and then a couple weekends ago, we had the absolute cutest birthday party for Coco. She invited a super sweet group of girls from her kindergarten class and it turns out that the end of January is primo birthday party time! Only ONE girl couldn't make it, due to Ski School and they all had so much fun. Pro tip: If you're looking to conceive, April is a great time. ;)

Not one, but TWO of Coco's very best friends actually have her exact same birthday! Needless to say, they were a little confused about the party happening in January. But, the mom of one of the girls said she thought it was pretty awesome. Her daughter's party had been all preschool friends and she would have loved to have delayed it until her social scene was better established at kindergarten. Winning!

So that is how our 2018 has started out. Now that February is here, maybe things will settle down a bit. Maybe? Possibly? Or maybe I'm just a perpetual hot mess? That's okay, too! 

How has 2018 started off for you? Are you feeling cool and collected, or all over the place? 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Have a darling weekend.

I'm in love with this baby bunny - and with those short black fingernails! I must schedule a gel manicure for this weekend and get mine done the same way toute de suite. What are you up to this weekend? I am absolutely dying for spring. It's been so unseasonably warm and rainy here that it's hard not to think that spring is just around the corner. I'm itching for longer days, more time outside and to feel warm sun on my face. It seems so close. Does it seem close where you are, too?

And here are a few links for your weekend:

I had all but forgotten about this album. So. Many. Memories.

Coco's class had a "stuffy party" (?!) and for her ONE stuffy, she chose to take this one. Heart warmed.

They don't call it beauty sleep for nothing!

Birdseye view.

I'm sorry, but there's just no way I cannot make this.

Still the worst DIY ever.

Emotional courage.

Whoa. I have no words. (But I'll never buy Frankincense again. Shoot!)


They are truly the best sandwiches in the world.

I'm absolutely loving this bag.

Sorry for the light posting this week! Theo has a stomach bug and J and I had a lot on our plates. So, enjoy your weekend and I plan to see you back here Monday! xo

(Photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Birth Plans

Let's just talk about birth plans for a minute if we might. I was so determined to have a natural birth with Coco because I thought that it was somehow wrong or weak or a failure to get an epidural during labor. So I hired a doula for our birth and read tons of books by Ina May Gaskin and others, and got really into this school of thought that drug-free birth was actually superior to other births.

These photos of me are three days before Theo's due date. I was enormous. I did not hire a doula. I did not go into it determined to have a drug-free birth. I had had really debilitating lower back labor with Coco and I knew that it was less planning, preparation and will power than it was just sheer luck and genetics and body type that determine how a woman's birth will go.

So when I was searching for something else today and the website for The Bradley Method happened to come up in the Google results, I couldn't help but read the snippet which included a testimony declaring "People told us we shouldn't try to have a natural birth with our first baby -- 'find out what it's like first,' they'd say. But we decided we'd get it right the first time."

Oh man! That last line really made my blood boil. "...we decided we'd get it right the first time," as if there's such a thing as "getting it wrong." Arrrrgh.

I just want to say this loud and clear: If you are pregnant and fretting about getting your birth "right" just stop right now. Have an open mind, do your best to remain calm, surround yourself by supportive people or just have one or two trusted people with you if that sounds better, trust your body, trust yourself, don't approach it as a sport or competition, do what works for you, and place some trust in the professionals caring for you. When Theo was born, he was gigantic! But much to my surprise, never once did anyone mention a cesarean. I really believe that most of the time, if a recommendation is made, it is with the mother and baby's best interest in mind.

But I have to admit that this culture of "getting it right" is so pervasive that a huge part of my desire to have a third baby has come from wanting to finally "get it right" and have a drug-free birth. I still want to do it just so I can say I did. How stupid is that?! Seriously. I am forever grateful that western medicine has provided us with the tools and options not to die in childbirth at the numbers women did in the 19th century. And to suppose that using pain relief or a life-saving surgical option during labor and childbirth is not "getting it right" is incredibly narrow-minded.

Besides, childbirth is merely the rite of passage into being a mother. Just as a wedding is not a marriage, childbirth is not being a mother. Motherhood is a continual commitment. It's about the love and connection we develop with our children. It is the support and unwavering devotion we make to our babies throughout their lives. It's the relationship we cultivate, day-by-day, year-by-year to be meaningful, positive, caring and life-giving forces in their lives. "Getting it right" is to have a trust- and heart-centered relationship with our children. And that is all.

Okay, rant over. I should also add that if you are one of the women out there who managed to go through childbirth without pain relief or a cesarean, that is simply lovely. I do not mean to belittle your ability to withstand the pain and discomfort of childbirth. I admire your strength. Our experiences were not the same, and both were right.

Did you (or do you intend to) have a birth plan?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Have a fabulous weekend.

This weekend is a long weekend and I'm looking forward to doing a bit of organizing, clearing out and relaxing. We are also finally having Coco's birthday party on Sunday. More about that later...I'm also very excited to attend this event for my talented brother-in-law, Tod. It should be fun to get out for an evening, listen to some poetry, and a enjoy a libation or two afterward. Yes! 

I hope your weekend is fabulous! And here are a few links for you:

Coco's favorite song. She loves belting this one out in the car, or in the playroom, or the living room. Basically anywhere! I can't even tell you how cute it is. :)

My childhood classmate is going to space. No joke. 

Some (very welcome) toilet training wisdom

This French album never gets old.

The difference between wanting and being.

My new all-time favorite lipstick. (I got the raspberry:)

An inspired Helsinki home.

I was incandescent with envy.

Make that decision!

Spokane is making it onto some fancy lists...!

I hope your weekend is 100%! And I'll see you back here Monday. Thanks for reading, and please, please, please tell your friends about Swiss Lark if you like what you've been finding here. It would absolutely make my day! So much love to you, my dears. xoxoxo

(Photo via tentree/Instagram)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Garderobe wherever you go.

Last week I took Theo for a check-up at the pediatrician. We got through the front door and got all checked in with insurance and I signed a bunch of forms and then we made our way to the waiting room. I took off my coat and hat and scarf and then Theo's coat and hat and looked around for somewhere to hang them up, but I didn't see anything to hang our coats. So I walked back toward the front desk and peeked around the corner into an adjoining room, and still nothing. No coat rack, no hooks, no hangers.

In Switzerland, everywhere you go there is always a Garderobe, or cloakroom, as pictured above so you don't have to schlep your coat and deal with the bulk of it during your visit. Restaurants, doctor's offices, anywhere you're going to stay for a while and need to be unencumbered, there will be a Garderobe. It's such a nice touch and so practical and makes everything more comfortable. The practice is so common that when I called to set up our insurance, the woman gave the example of having your coat (!!!) taken from a Garderobe as the example for itemizing something. ;) And it was actually really hard to find a photo of a Garderobe to use for this post because it's a given, not a special feature.

So at the pediatrician last week, I was sure I was just missing it and I asked the receptionist where we should hang our coats. She looked at me like I was from Mars and then laughed and shook her head and said there was no coat check. So I just ended up piling everything onto a chair next to me. Once we were in the exam room, I thought surely there would be hooks on the back of the door, but still nothing! So, in the end, our huge puffy coats just got shuffled from chair to chair and kept falling on the ground until it was time to go. How ridiculous!

Spokane has long, cold, snowy winters every year without fail, so I'm surprised this hasn't caught on yet! Do you have (or need) cloakrooms where you live? Would you use one?

(Photo via Zahnarztpraxis Dr. Freichel. Psst...Garderobe are also very much a thing in Germany;)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Thinking Back on The Cranberries

As I mentioned last week, I was really upset to hear the news of Dolores O'Riordan's passing. I hope that her family and loved ones were able to properly say goodbye during her services and that they will find slices of peace somehow amid this tragedy. Because what a tragedy. She was so young. 

I found myself, among many others I would imagine, listening to The Cranberries a lot after hearing the news last week. I found it amazing that I remembered and could sing along with almost all of the lyrics. What was also amazing was that, despite knowing them, I had never had fully paid attention to the lyrics. Not properly anyway. Many of The Cranberries' lyrics are so sad. So complicated. So grievous. Dolores O'Riordan clearly had a great capacity for vulnerability and experienced life's highs and lows with a great intensity. 

I didn't appreciate it at the time, but Dolores' lyrics and The Cranberries' music really buoyed me through my teenage angst years. I owe them so much gratitude. 

For example: 

Something has left my life, 
And I don't know where it went to
Somebody caused me strife, 
And it's not what I was seeking. 

Didn't you see me, didn't you hear me? 
Didn't you see me standing there? 
Why did you turn out the lights, 
Did you know that I was sleeping? 

Say a prayer for me, 
Help me to feel the strength, I did. 
My identity, has it been taken? 
Is my heart breaking? 

On me, all my plans fell through my hands, 
They fell through my hands.
On me, all my dreams,
It suddenly seems, it suddenly seems, 

I had never noticed that she was singing the word EMPTY in that song, which is of course the title of the track. That is at once embarrassing and somehow sweet and innocent. And it's also understandable because as a teenager, I listened to this album on a CD, so I didn't see the track title on the screen in my car or on the screen of my phone. It just said "05" on my Sony boombox. But as an adult, I'm surprised that Dolores O'Riordan could write those lyrics in her early 20s. I find myself in awe and appreciative of their poignancy. 

And then there's the Ireland factor. When we moved to Dublin when I was 7 years old, it was the first time I'd ever been on a plane. It was a year and a half after my dad died when my mom decided to move the family to Ireland! And as it turned out, all it took to be completely whole again was getting on a plane, flying up into the air and landing somewhere else. In Ireland, I was invincible. No one knew my dad had died of cancer a few years before. No one thought of me as that poor child who lost her father. There was no pity anywhere. And on top of it, I was the American girl. I had an accent (for a while anyway) and I was novel and exciting. It was heaven for a bereaved child. 

So when we left Ireland, following my First Holy Communion with my classmates from the Dominican Convent School in Dún Laoghaire; and riding the Dublin City bus home from school each day; and my best friend Sinead from school; and my First Holy Confession; and Christmas the Irish way (lots of nuts and mandarins); and pneumonia and house calls from the doctor; and watching I Dream of Jeannie after school; and going to the chipper; and hanging the laundry to dry on the radiators; and sleeping by the fire in the living room when the boiler was out; and watching my mom desperately try to light a coal fire with rings of newspaper like the neighbors; and playdates with Karen and Emma, neighbors down the street who were Catholics from The North and had moved to Dublin after their grandfather was shot point blank upon opening his front door one evening when the bell rang; and standing on an old coffee tin to watch the tinkers beyond the back garden wall; and sneaking past the bus driver to save my 25p to spend instead on candies at the little shop across the road from our house; and the brilliant, dazzling rays of sunlight streaming through the clouds when they parted long enough for the sun to break through; and the wonderfully heady smell of peat smoke; and the wet, grey almost-rain-drizzle that hung low over everything and made it all so green. When we left all of that and that life we had established, I was devastated. 

I remember sitting in the upstairs hallway of our house waiting for the taxi to come take us to the ferry and feeling a pain that could only be described as "a tiger inside my stomach." I remember so clearly saying "It feels like a tiger is in my stomach." If that pain could have made a noise, it would have been a primal, screeching, destructive roar. And it was inside me. I was 8 years old.

Less than a decade later, as a high schooler in Oregon listening to The Cranberries, Ireland seemed so far away as to not even be real. Ireland had been this huge, significant, shaping force in my childhood and yet it didn't feel like something I could claim as my own. Once I had regained my American accent and way of life, Ireland receded into the realm of distant memories and dreams and seemed as if it didn't exist at all. I clung to those dreamlike memories and I longed for that time and in some small way, Ireland always felt alive through The Cranberries' music and Dolores O'Riordan's lilting Celtic vocals. It was a quiet savoring. Like a link to something I had lost. All of this came rushing back to me while I was listening and singing along to The Cranberries last week. Music is mystical like that.

So I wish Dolores O'Riordan's children and family and mother great courage and strength as they navigate their grief. And I send so much love to them and to all of Ireland as they mourn the loss of a great.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Photos of Cats and Dogs Dressed Like People

Boom! File this under Bizarre treasure only the internet could give us. Today, in lieu of our regularly scheduled programming, I present you with these century old photos of cats and dogs dressed up as people.

I sat down multiple times yesterday and today to write a Montessori post I had come up with about nudging the child at times when following actually doesn't work, and might even do more harm than good. (What message do we send when we follow a child's reticence? "You can't," or "You're not capable?" Problematic!) But I couldn't make that post come together because for the first time in my blogging career, I felt very strongly that as a mother I was wading into not-my-story-to-tell territory. So after trying two days in a row, I decided to scrap it.

But back to the cat and dog photos. Are they weird or completely fabulous? I'm kind of in love with them and yet find them entirely deranged. You decide. I just can’t.

Regularly scheduled programming shall resume tomorrow! The rest of the bizarre treasure only the internet could give us pics can be seen right here. You're in for a treat because there are fifteen of them. I find "Weighing the Baby" is particularly good. 

(Photos via The Atlantic)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Have an amazing weekend.

Do you have anything exciting (not boring;) going on this weekend? I'm afraid that I don't, but this David Bowie quote still made me smile a little smile. I frequently worry that posts I write will be too whiney, or negative, or depressing. But then I get all of your incredible comments and I am so happy to have pushed through the fear and hit the "publish" button anyway. Thank you so much to each and every one of you for being part of this little corner of the internet with me. Whether you comment or not, it is such an honor to write words you take the time to read.

And here are some links for your weekend:

A new way to prepare the boring vegetable I never tire of.

If money is no object, this is the face spray you want.

How gorgeous is this Berlin apartment? (Oh, those floors!)

Must make this warming winter soup ASAP!

Small space design lessons from an unlikely source.

OMG. The best sticky notes!

In Praise of an Aggressively Unfashionable Shoe. (And the cuter updated model I'm currently wearing;)

A countertop dishwasher! Incredible.

The easy way to keep those resolutions.

Gigantic waves on the Oregon coast.

The Butter Chicken lady. (Do you have one?)

Europe's next destination hot spot.

Finally, I cannot fathom the sad news about Dolores O'Riordan. Full post coming next week. It's just too big. I'm starting to cry listening to this song.

From the archives:
Dublin summer.
Davos winter.
Spokane summer.

I hope your weekend is amazing! See you back here Monday. xo

(Photo via Pinterest)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Where are you from?

I have realized over the past few years that I am "fromless." There is actually no place that I feel like I am from. On my Facebook profile it says Portland. I think that's partly because I lived in Portland when I joined Facebook and partly because where else? I had gone to high school in Portland, learned to drive in Portland and come of age in Portland. It's where J and I moved and had our first apartment together after we were married. It made sense. On my birth certificate, it says Spokane. Living in Spokane again for the first time since I was 13 years old, I can definitely say I am not from here. Yes, I was born here, but I had lived in three countries by the time I was ten-years-old and then the summer after 7th grade, we moved to Portland. I stayed in Oregon for the next 11 years with the exception of studying abroad. But once my brother had graduated from high school, my mom sold our house in Portland and moved away. In fact, when I returned from my adventures studying abroad, mere weeks before I met J, I had just a padlock key and the address of a random storage unit to go home to. My brother was at college, my mom was already gone and the house had new occupants. I got all of my things out of storage and went back to Eugene to finish college. I never even bothered to drive by the house. 

So it's ironic that for the longest time, I wanted one of these family origin map art pieces. Then today, I took Theo to the pediatrician for a check-up and when they asked what hospital he was born in and I had to say he was born in Minnesota, it kind of changed my mind. Sigh. Would I really want a family map depicting Spokane, Illinois, Minnesota and Zurich? 

Well, maybe the Zurich part. Actually, I guess it's not ironic at all that I would want one of those family origin maps. All of my adult life, I have been longing and searching for a place to call home. Do you suppose the woman in this photo realizes that she's wearing a Zurich manicure? Probably not. But that's all I see when I look at it. I suppose in the absence of fromness, not being homeless is the next best thing. But it's strange and unfair and too bad that it took leaving for me to realize that out of everywhere I've lived in my adult life, I have never felt more at home than I did in Zurich. Somehow that city got under my skin and stole a piece of my heart and I don't know what to make of it. It's very possible that I'll never be able to return there to live. And yet, while I am fromless, at least I know that I am not entirely homeless.

Tell me where you're from in the comments below. I would love to hear.

(Family Origin Map photo via Terror Dome/Etsy. Manicure photo via Pinterest)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Best Netflix Show

J and I just finished watching the most exceptional series on Netflix. It's a French show called La Mante. The basic premise is murders by a serial killer - happening for a second time, 25 years later.

I'll admit that initially I was in it for a few very silly reasons. Number one: Le Français. La Mante is a French production, so you'll need to turn on your subtitles. It was so nice to listen to French again! It is absolute music to my ears. Never mind if I still need the subtitles. Reason two: The clothes. I'm sorry, but those Frenchies really know how to dress men. French men's style is much different from American men's fashion. It's so chic and form fitting and way sexier! Finally: The sights and sounds of Europe. I'm completely obsessed with the sound of European police and ambulance sirens. Hearing one always takes me back to that very first jet-lagged day in Paris when I studied abroad in Angers in 2002. Oh, to think of it now. That time. That place. The decision to go to France and study abroad was such a good move. It hugely informed who I am today. But I digress.

Suffice it to say that I found La Mante a bit slow, if not très prévisible at first. However, I was soon completely sucked in and hooked on the compelling narrative. Sure, there is plenty of blood and gore in La Mante, but it is made tolerable by the tension and intrigue from the interpersonal relationships. La Mante goes in-depth examining the emotional forces that lie behind all of our desires and motivation. By the end, I was absolutely floored, as I'm sure you will be.

Have you seen La Mante? (No spoilers, please! Email me if you must.) And any shows you recommend? Also, are you counting down to the Homeland premiere, too?! I actually cannot wait.

(Photo via Le Journal Des Sorties)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Happy, Wish, Want, Love

Have you seen Mel Robbins' TED Talk "How to Stop Screwing Yourself"? I watched it last week and I can't stop smiling because of it. Her premise is that having whatever you want in life is simple. But not easy! She lays out very clearly in the space of a mere 21 minutes how to have the life you want, or more bluntly put, stop screwing yourself. One fact that she brings up which really stuck with me is that each of us had a 1 in 400 trillion chance of coming to exist on this earth. Isn't that incredible?! We've won the lottery, everyone! Don't squander your winnings. ;) And if TED talks aren't your thing (?!) she also has a book and a Twitter.

Right now, at the very top of my wish list is this chic yet practical Patagonia down coat. I have been wearing the same sporty, hip-length Mountain Hardwear Puffer for seven years now. It's so warm and toasty, but I want something more grown up, sophisticated and that covers my behind! I think I need to get this beauty for next winter! Time to start saving up...

You know when your makeup isn't quite settling into your skin right, or you just want to look extra dewy, or you need a quick refresh during the day? Well, you can use MAC Fix Plus for all of those moments and more! It comes in four different scents: Original, Rose, Coconut and Lavender. And right now, you can get this set of three minis for just $15. They all smell wonderful, but I'm a sucker for anything rose scented. Mmmmm, want!

I finished this book last week and it was absolutely beautiful. Murakami is a Japanese writer with a cult following for his ethereal, almost fantasy novels. He blends reality with the realm of dream and imagination to create a truly magical world into which you are swept up and come to quite literally inhabit as the reader. Translated by Phillip Gabriel from the Japanese, the original linguistic spirit is maintained with short, simple sentences which somehow weave an intricate, poignant tapestry of human nature. I thoroughly loved this book and I would recommend it to anyone, but particularly to anyone going through a hard time.

One passage in particular made me stop to re-read it several times: "Tsukuru had never lacked for anything in his life," Murakami writes, "or wanted something and suffered because he had been unable to obtain it." He goes on: "Because of this, he’d never experienced the joy of really wanting something and struggling to get it."

For me, that turned the idea of what struggle is directly on its head. Or maybe, it turned me completely upside down and I saw struggle from an angle which I'd never seen it from before. Suddenly, it felt as if Murakami were speaking directly to me, whispering in my ear not to despair, but to recognize that if we choose to see it that way, to struggle can be a joy because it means that we want something truly wonderful with all our heart.

And then, in an absolutely surreal moment, I turned the page and someone had left a four-leaf clover pressed within the pages of the library book. It blew my mind and I felt changed somehow. Rather magical if you ask me.

So tell me, what is making you happy right now? Anything on your wish list? Tell me about something you're loving these days. I'm all ears! xo

(Mel Robbins photo via Twitter)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Have a gorgeous holiday weekend.

Do you have big plans this weekend? It is Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend here in the States. That means three days off of school and work for J and the kids and we are planning to take it easy. Here's hoping the kids sleep in every day! Have a great weekend, and now a few links to keep you busy should you be looking for something to listen to, watch or read.

A good song for the nostalgic repat.

How to Approach a Rage-Cleaning Mother. (LOL!)

A quick and easy, delicious weeknight meal.

Anyone else's kids obsessed with these?

On not dreaming.

The best decluttering advice.

Seriously swooning over these. (Insert heart-eyes emoji face here)

This is my kind of gym class! ;)


Calling all Berliners!

Like co-washing, but better.

And from the archives:

Infinite cuteness.
You either love it or hate it!
Feeling peckish?

As always, thank you so much for reading and for your thoughtful and kind comments. I am so happy you're here. May your weekend is blissful and enjoyable in every way! See you back here Tuesday. xo

(Photo via Ryan Sheppeck/Instagram, h/t Bridget)

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Have you gotten botox? Would you consider it? Now that I'm getting older and friends who are ten years younger are getting botox, I've started to wonder if maybe it's time to give it a try. It was easy when I was 27, and had no wrinkles or fine lines to speak of, to say I would never do botox! But now I have some pretty clear forehead lines. And crow's feet. And smile lines. Ugh. It's all part of aging, of course! And those of us who are lucky enough to grow old and get wrinkles must never take that for granted.

But still. Those lines! I would love to have a perfectly smooth forehead instead.

Sigh. I will not be getting botox. Reason number one is that I do not have $400 to put towards it every 3-6 months. So that settles that. But, even if I did, I'm not sure I would do it. I have a very expressive face (hence all the lines in the first place;) and I worry that my children wouldn't even recognize my different moods or conveyed messages if I did botox! Seriously. And then there is the slippery slope factor. At some point, something else would need to keep pace with the smooth skin and it would be so easy to justify a little eyelid lift, and who knows what else?

So, no. At this point it looks like botox is not for me. Instead I'm going to keep following my daily skin routine and get really serious about sun protectionstaying well-hydrated and getting plenty of beauty sleep.

But honestly, I'm starting to think the most important piece is finding role models and imagining how we might like to age as we become older. I remember seeing an older woman walking by the lakeside one afternoon in Zurich and deciding I wanted to emulate her completely as I grew older. She had silver hair, a cute black and white striped top, dark jeans and red flats. Her posture was great and she carried herself with such gaiety and confidence. I said to my friend as we pushed our toddlers on the swings, "That is what I want to look like when I'm older!" and she said, "Oooh, yes! I can totally see that being you someday." Bingo.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Delicious Sun-dried Tomato Cream Cheese

Nothing is quite so satisfying now and then as an everything bagel with sun-dried tomato cream cheese. It has everything to comfort and delight on a freezing winter's day: chewy hot bagel; creamy decadent cheese; bright, delicious, sweet tomato tang, garlicky yumminess. Add a cup of coffee and it is a little moment of heaven.

Read on to learn my quick and easy recipe for the best cream cheese ever, with a secret tasty ingredient to take it to the next level.

You can buy ready made flavored cream cheeses, of course, but I like to have full control of the intensity of the flavor. When you make it yourself, it's just better. I used ingredients from Trader Joe's, of course. The best results I've gotten are with the full-fat cream cheese (duh), genoa pesto (although fresh basil leaves would work just as well, but would discolor if not used right away) and julienne sliced sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil. The olive oil is important. The batch I made with the sun-dried tomatoes which come loose in a zip-top bag didn't work nearly as well. Finally, the pesto is what really gives it that kick! So don't skip the pesto. :)

Put the cream cheese in a food processor, add 1/3 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, being sure to get a decent amount of oil along with them and 1 to 2 Tablespoons of pesto. Then pulse to blend.

It's done when all of the colors have blended and the sun-dried tomatoes have been chopped into little bits. Put it all in a container with a lid and keep in the refrigerator for one week. Because of the oil and pesto, it's soft and easy to spread straight out of the fridge. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Repatriating? Don't talk about that.

A funny thing happens when you repatriate: Very quickly, you learn not to talk about your expat life.


No one is interested because it's over and that part of your life is history, so why would you keep on talking about it? And more often than not, they're also offended because they can't help but feel that you're bragging about a several-years-long vacation you just took. Of course, everyone goes on vacation sometimes. You weren't on vacation as an expat, except when you actually were, but it was normal everyday life, just somewhere else! No one wants to hear about it. 

Because you feel like you can't talk about it, and because nothing around you resembles anything you had during your expat life, it's almost like it's gone. Poof. It never happened. All those memories have nowhere to reside. Talking about it is the only way to keep it alive, but when you do, even in the most innocent and genuine of ways, people are turned off, as if you're putting on airs or being pretentious. So you don't and it's the most disorienting thing to have several years of your life erased, and along with them a huge piece of your identity. It hurts like hell.

I can remember so clearly the first time I stopped myself mid-sentence from saying something completely reasonable and in-context about my expat life. We had only been back in the States for a few weeks when J and I were on a dinner cruise on Lake Superior. As we set sail, I looked at him and started to say, "The last time we were on a boat was --" But I stopped myself before I said "in Venice!" and instead said, "before Theo was born!" I just knew saying the former wouldn't go over well. Still, it felt weird to have to edit out the truth in order to avoid awkwardness.

It has definitely made repatriation a lot harder for me not being able to talk about it. It's made it a sad, lonely and isolating experience. Of course, no one is to blame. People don't get together and coordinate reactions to expat stories and conspire to force repats into silence by being so disinterested and offended by their stories. It's just a natural, seemingly universal reaction. But I can't help but wonder if I might have had an easier time settling in and envisioning my future here if that hadn't been the case? I guess we'll never know.

Are you a repat or an expat? How does it go over for you when talking with friends and family about your experiences abroad?

Monday, January 8, 2018

My New Favorite Perfume

Perfume is, as Coco Chanel so famously said, the invisible accessory. So when we lived in Switzerland, I especially loved wearing perfume because of the dreaded kisses. I didn't have to wear too much and yet everyone I greeted would smell it. I really felt it added something to my outfit and made an impression. I've always liked perfume, but I wasn't disciplined about it or anything. In Europe, it became a total necessity because I wasn't about to risk getting that close to that many people smelling bad!

On my first birthday in Switzerland, J gave me a bottle of this fabulous Prada perfume for my birthday. I loved it so much, I used every last drop and I even bought it again! I have a bottle of it on my vanity right now. There is nothing else like its woodsy, incense-y, bright and vibrant smell. But, as much as I adore it, sometimes I want something a little more floral and feminine. Something pink!

Enter Miss Dior.

Miss Dior Eau de Parfum is far from new, but it's new to me and I can't believe it took me so long to find it. I love the sweetness, the rosy fullness, and after it's been on for a few hours, it is delicate and powdery and warm. I don't think I could find a better winter scent. I've been wearing it almost daily for a few weeks and J has asked and remarked a few times, "Is that your new Dior perfume? I like it." Win, win! This one is a keeper.

These days, I've become a total perfume junkie. I have 7 different bottles going right now and three on my wish list. That seems a bit excessive. ;) What are your favorite perfumes? Do you switch it up with the different seasons? How many do you keep in rotation at a time?

Friday, January 5, 2018

Have a lovely weekend.

Did you have a good first week of the year? I spent a lot of time reflecting and thinking and writing and then today I went crazy doing a bit of financial planning and it all feels so good. Tonight we're having dinner with my cousin and her family and I can't wait to sip a hot toddy by the fire to soothe the sore throat that decided to pay me a visit. Ugh. The colds and flu this winter just won't quit. Coco and J are skiing tomorrow and Coco gets to be part of the Mighty Mites (Mights?;) class for the next six weeks. She is so excited! Theo and I intend to lie low and maybe go for a walk or two.

I hope your weekend is lovely and here are some links for you:

Kind of wish I had gotten a flu shot now.

How Switzerland made international headlines in 2017.

I can't wait to make this delicious winter salad!

Talking to toddlers.

Me rn. (Go away, cold!)

How flying seriously messes with your mind.


Try something new for 30 days.

If Jupiter were as close as the moon.

When spring comes, I'll be wearing all black and these daily.

Frozen Niagara Falls is so otherworldly!

Stay healthy and warm wherever you are! See you back here Monday. xo

(Photo of balloons by Geronimo via Instagram/Olivia East H/T Design Sponge)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Why is approaching 40 so scary?

A few months ago, I turned 38. Ever since, I have felt 40's unrelenting approach. In my mind, 40 feels like some deadline or end point. I can't tell if now is a time to make grand changes and get in before the cut off, or to hunker down and stay safe because it's too late. I've been trying to figure out when life started to feel so limited and finite? When did the possibilities seem to dwindle and narrow?

The last six months have been pretty wretched for me. Ever since our plans to move back to Switzerland fell through, my spirit seemed to bottom out right with them. I've spent many a night lying awake running back over everything in my mind. Regrets large and small; pondering my life at the present. Connecting the dots that led me here. Is this all there is? I ask myself in the darkness, willing myself to go back to sleep. Finally, after some time, sleep comes. I rarely dream. And then morning comes. For a brief moment before waking, I feel calm, warm, safe. And then wham! It's as if I'm smacked in the head with a 2x4, every day. There is nothing actually wrong with my life. It's quite beautiful and comfortable in so many ways. But it is also quite a ways off of the track I thought it would be on at this point. Or maybe it's just where I thought I'd be but for whatever reason doesn't feel the way I thought it would feel. Either way, time is running out. 40 somehow became the finish line and it's almost here.

I have been feeling so alone. Alone in worrying. Alone in feeling so much pressure to have everything squared away by now. Alone in feeling like I am dropping the ball more often than not.

Then last week I read Ada Calhoun's article The New Midlife Crisis for Women. Calhoun writes about the major stressors plaguing women in their late thirties to mid-fifties today. Money is a major one. Relationships. Career and competitiveness in the workforce. Children or the inability to have them. The general pressure to have it all.

A few of my favorite passages:

Possibilities. We still have them in midlife, but they can start to seem so abstract. Yes, I could go get a doctorate, but where would I find the graduate school tuition? I could switch careers—therapist? Zamboni driver?—but at this stage of life, do I really want to start from the bottom, surrounded by 20-year-olds? If I went on an Eat, Pray, Love walkabout, who would pick up the kid from school?
"Having kids was the thing I wanted my whole life," says Karen, 42, a psychotherapist in Arizona. She pauses. "I had to turn off the Facebook feature with 'Six years ago…whatever.' I was torturing myself with it: If only I'd done things differently then, I'd have a baby now.
You come to this place, midlife," writes novelist Hilary Mantel. "You don't know how you got here, but suddenly you're staring 50 in the face. When you turn and look back down the years, you glimpse the ghosts of other lives you might have led. All your houses are haunted by the person you might have been."

Reading Calhoun's take on everything, I definitely don't feel alone anymore. I highly recommend reading the whole essay.

Maybe a high school librarian I know was right. Last fall, I was weighing a couple different job options and running through the pros and cons with her. She just shrugged and told me they both sounded good and I really couldn't choose the wrong thing. "My grandma used to say," she smiled, "'You can have it all, just not at the same time.'" Well, that certainly takes the pressure off, doesn't it?

How are you feeling at your current stage of life? Do you feel like you're where you're supposed to be, or thought you would be right now? Do you relate to Calhoun's words at all?

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Family Ski Day

Today we all went skiing all together for the first time this season. J has been up with the kids many a time, but I have been wimping out since ski season began. This is embarrassing, but I kind of had a hard time falling asleep last night knowing that I was going skiing this morning. I really was nervous about it and was sure that I would fall a million times and not have fun at all and determine that skiing was not for me.

It turns out I had nothing to fear! Not only did I remember a lot from last year, but Coco was such an amazing teacher. I told her to go first and take it slow and then I followed in her tracks. She is a ridiculously good skier (more than a few people stopped us to say so!) and following her and seeing how easy she made it look made it easy for me, too.

Coco is so comfortable up at the mountain and Mt Spokane is such a family place where everyone knows her by name, that we can just let her lap us on the bunny hill as she wishes. She is responsible riding the chair by herself and never gets tired of riding over "the bumps" at the side of the bunny hill, a little jump course made into the side of the hill. J got me my very own skis and boots at the ski swap this year and they are AWESOME. If you're learning to ski, I highly recommend shorter skis to start out. They make everything easier.

In the morning, there was a lot of fog. But by noon it had begun to burn off. And for the remainder of the afternoon, we got a beautiful sunny day.

The sky was a brilliant blue and it felt like we were in a different world looking down on the fog lake below. It was breathtaking!

We took a couple different breaks for hot chocolate and beers and french fries. It was so much fun and I really can't wait to go again. Just before sunset, my phone died and then we stayed on for a few more hours of night skiing. I even went on the run that I fell at least 8 times and cried on last year - and had a blast! I really was surprised, but turns out I'm a skier! I feel rejuvenated and refreshed after a day outside in the sun. It was the absolute dreamiest day.

Do you do any winter sports? How do you combat cabin fever? Do you know how to ski - if not, would you be willing to learn?

PS - More (including Coco on the bumps!) in my Instagram stories if you're into it. ;)
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