Get Outside, Go for a Walk, Play, Hangout, Do Something – but get off that smartphone!

Something has been nagging me for quite some time and as a mom it cannot be swept under the rug. In fact, it’s plaguing most moms these days and I would hazard a guess that the culprit lay heavily in those little machines that our children seem to worship – the almighty smartphone. It would be unfair of me to target only our children. We adults are quite addicted ourselves. I read a very good article yesterday on Today.com by Jen Hatmaker, What Would My Mom do? Like hers, my mom would tell me to go outside and play. Now that my own children are apparently too old to “play”, and apparently “hang out” now with friends, I find they are actually “hanging out” via FaceTime and Skype. Unbelievable! Go outside, meet people! This morning, I went for a walk in the neigbourhood, through the forest and over to the paddocks where horses usually graze. Didn’t see any today. The sun was shining, two deer pranced away when they saw me approaching, no children, no smartphones but plenty of birds skittering after each other. It was heavenly. I thought if only my children would get out of bed and enjoy such an early morning walk. If they had, they could have met the interesting character I did this morning. No smartphone can imitate those surroundings, the sounds, the fresh spring air finally seeping into the west coast, and the chance meeting at the fork of two country roads. Interesting indeed! This man looked like something taken straight out of a Tolkien book – a forest-like hermit really. I wasn’t sure whether to run in the opposite direction, but clearly we were both only out to enjoy the gorgeous weather. This man had a no-nonsense dog with him that I could hear panting behind me until he caught up, sniffing my leg curiously. Not the man but the dog! His name was Rambo. Yes! I repeat, Rambo (the dog not the man). Quite unlike Swedes, who generally don’t look at passers-by, this older man was cheery. I’m quite sure the sun put a spring in his step. We began chatting and within two sentences, he said to me that he detected an English dialect. Here we go again, I thought to myself. I replied, “You could hear that directly?” (in Swedish of course) “Ja,” as though I should be surprised. I like to kid myself into believing that if I speak Swedish quickly enough, I will fool the locals with my very natural Göteborgs dialect. Somehow I always fail miserably. Needless-to-say, he was very curious and asked me all sorts of questions about Canada. He had heard that Canada’s landscape was similar to Sweden’s. Yes, that’s true. He even had some relatives living there – in Ontario was all he could remember. Then it was time to part ways when I asked about Rambo. He asked me if I knew where the name Rambo came from. I looked at the beast, no longer wondering if he’d take one of my limbs away with him, and said that of course I knew the film. He proceeded to tell me that the name Rambo comes from the Swedish immigrant Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, who brought apple seeds to the United States in 1637. It’s possible that the Rambo seeds are responsible for the first truly American apples. Now, if I hadn’t gone for that walk this morning, I may never have learned that bit of trivia. So, get off your smartphones kids, get outside and go for a walk. You never know what you’ll see or who you’ll meet, and you will never, ever regret walking away with all limbs in tact!

Thick Skin to Publication

A close friend has said to me on a number of occasions over the past year that most people would never know what goes into publishing a book. She thought, and rightly so, that a writer writes a book, picks a publisher, and finds it on the bookstore shelves weeks, maybe months later. She often seemed bewildered when I’d say that my editor had sent the manuscript back to me for changes, again and again and again and yet, again. “How rude,” she thought. “Whose story is it anyway?” “And why on earth do you need to do all this social media kerfuffle?” What would I do without my devoted friend? She, like me, has come to realize over the past year what a twisty, uphill road it is to publication. And my road has been many years long, like most writers, dotted with other painstaking, joyous works and a whole mountain of rejections.

An incredible learning experience, having my debut novel published has taught me about patience in an industry that is tearing at the seams with new books every day. It has taught me about patience in seeing the process through correctly and patience in developing the best possible product with my best possible writing. Editing is huge and cannot be rushed. It means months and months of changes, re-writes and tweaking until it feels right – until it is right – the most polished product possible.

For the first time in my life, my writing is being reviewed by people other than my teachers or employers. I have a healthy stash of stoic Scottish blood in me, so I am neither disillusioned nor dispirited and feel perfectly strong to face criticism. However picked apart my novel might become, the one hope that stays true to my heart, is that my actual writing will be seen as good writing. I have worked hard to improve my writing. Every day, keeping an oxymoron alive by lovingly slaving over my craft, certainly to no financial reward as of yet and sometimes to only one pair of eyes. Writers write – it’s what we do. It isn’t easy. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. We feel vulnerable when handing our babies over – dare I say to be judged. Thick skin is a must.

On the other hand, when someone notices your writing, a story you’ve crafted from your heart as much as your mind, it is pure joy to see it go through the publishing process. It makes me think of a watchmaker with a fine pair of tweezers carefully riveting the inner workings together or driving components apart – a jewelling set to fit everything into place.

I’m grateful for such a process.

Moaning Milly and the Dreaded Flu

For three weeks, I’ve been on the outside looking in. Yes, trapped behind this glass wall called infectious disease. While the world has scuttled about taking care of business, writing award-winning books, earning salaries and socializing to the max, I have been Moaning Milly with a cough that rattles the Earth. The next time you feel a tremor, California or Japan, don’t worry it’s only me here in Sweden!

During this time of airborne rascals attacking the general population here in Scandinavia, I have been living in a construction zone while our fireplace has been constructed. The poor creature building it fell prey to my bug after only three days on the job and lay home ill with fever for seven days following. How should I have known how electric my bug was? If I weren’t against the little critter, I’d almost say I was impressed. I stayed cocooned on the other side of the house for goodness sake. But alas, even a hardy worker couldn’t stand up to it.

Honestly, what is a writer to do in such physical distress? I’ve pretended to shuffle about my keyboard, trying to convince myself that I can still be sick and busy – that my brain can function as it always does. I’d even hoped that any delirium I’ve had would spiral into something magical on the screen in front of me – the next bestseller! “Hogwash!” Yes, I’m sounding like my grandmother now, though I know she would have secretly agreed with me. I’m quite sure that in a fit of distress, she must have churned one or two poems into a nightingale. I can almost hear one singing to me now.

In any case, I’m on the mend now and the sun has shone all week – a miracle here on the west coast. When I see the sun, when I feel its warmth, my silly little bug seems to sail away for good. Never thought I’d be quoting my own work, but in this case it seems appropriate. As Gillian Pugsley says about Gilbert Brody, “He should be well thankful for a little castor oil instead of moaning about how it slid down like a land slug.” Right – cheers medicine! I’m much better now, thank you very much.

So to all those nasty bugs out there, I say good riddance. This lingering cough will die down and my computer screen will light up again with magic. It has to – I refuse to go and buy a new one.

To leave you with a fine example of someone who has been taking care of business and writing award-winning books while Moaning Milly has been at work, check out We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen. Susin is a former high school classmate, and has spent the past week in London, Paris and Brussels signing books and rubbing elbows with the right people.  I’m very excited for her.

A final Saturday morning thought. Isn’t it wonderful that even a rotten bug still makes you want to write?

Thoughts of a Hometown – London, Ontario

It was suggested to me recently that I write a post about my hometown of London, Ontario, Canada. My initial thought was how great a tie-in that would be to my book and how I could easily write about the city in which I grew up.

To my surprise, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen. How hard could it be to write about the place I learned how to ride a bicycle, tie my shoelaces, read and write, the place I started kindergarten and graduated from university, the place I made life-long friends, and the one whose waters welcomed me every morning for years as I rowed into the dawn and rowed out the sunset? How hard could it be?

Extraordinarily!

To combat my frustration, I decided to read some articles on the city that I knew as well as any native-Londoner. What I found surprised me. One blog that I thought was particularly charming was one about a mom raising her family in the city, appropriately called www.citymom.ca. I like this woman’s take on London. It’s positive, quirky and reminds me of all the things I like about my hometown. I’ll get to those a little later.

I browsed more sites, some that focused on the history of London, while others characterized it as a mini London, England with our Thames River and streets named Pall Mall, King, Talbot, not to mention a Stratford on Avon nearby – clearly in the hope of drawing some tourism to the city. To my delight, I came across an article that amused me with its honesty and straight-up view of London. London, Ontario: A Great Place to Live But I Wouldn’t Want to Visit. The feedback from readers was biting to say the least. Some accused the writer of not being proud of his hometown while others were simply defensive. A Dose of Buckley. 

Despite any criticism the article received, it made me think that we native Londoners, though proud of our heritage, have a tilted, not slanted by any means but a tilted view of our hometown. We see it from the inside out, whereas a visitor sees it from the outside in. We know what’s at the heart of our city. A London whose Thames River may not be as grand as the River Thames across the big pond, but it still has the ability to captivate. Its sprawling oaks, chatty mallards and ever-present Canada geese give life to the river. As Gillian points out in The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley,

I was wrong to imply the Canadian version of the Thames was anything but lovely. Imitation or not, it has its own charm, narrow and the color of jade with magnificent oak trees nearly clutching the opposite bank. The odd leaf has changed color, yellow, red. Soon there will be too many to count.”

It’s a green place that holds many enchanting memories for me, from our fun annual school picnics by the water, to the bellowing out of my megaphone as my crew crossed the finish line. Feeling our rowing shell glide through the mist in the early morning stole our breath for those few sacred moments, where nine people became like one.

As the article pointed out, London’s attractions may well be lacking, but to the people who live there, there is a sweetness that we find in familiar surroundings. Some may visit London and find it dull, but don’t we find joy and excitement in the people with whom we connect.

I have lived abroad for nearly as long as I lived in London. I remember what drove me to travel. Rowing played an important role in that self-discovery by taking me to new and exciting places. It wasn’t that I wanted to leave it was that I wanted to discover. Yet when I dissect every place I’ve been, at the heart, it is always the people that shape the experience into a positive one or not.

London, Ontario, fondly known as The Forest City, may not have much to set itself apart from most Canadian cities, but there are ties that will continue to pull me back — friends and family. It remains a very good city to raise children. Despite its nearly 400,000 people, it remains a small university town in the middle of corn country. It grows the tastiest peaches on the planet, and has just about more snow than the North Pole coupled with blistering hot summers. It is a town of star-makers, (Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Kate Nelligan, Victor Garber, Eric Lindros, among others) and dreamers, of hard workers and nurturers. It is a town where you learn to drive in blizzards and ice storms and deal with it. When you’ve cleared your driveway, you offer to help out a neighbour do theirs.

It is a town that sprawls into suburbia hosting numerous malls and plazas. The city skyline is pretty from the forks of the Thames, and it’s always a joy to see the sky sprinkled in hot-air balloons every August when London hosts an International Hot-Air Balloon Festival.

So why was I compelled to include this city in my novel? Isn’t it the goal of every writer to touch the hearts of their readers? If London, Ontario played an important role in my life, and I could see the beauty in the things that come only to a native of a town, then maybe just maybe it would touch the hearts of my readers.

What do you like about your hometown? Feel free to leave a comment.

Photo References: London’s SkylineMiddlesex College, University of Western Ontario, London’s Old Court House,

18 Reasons to Follow Your Dreams

  1. Your day job is seriously getting in the way.

When your dream becomes so important to you and you are frustrated that you cannot devote more time to it, you need to ask yourself what place that dream has in your life. If your day job drains you of all energy that you have nothing left to give at the end of the day, then there is something wrong. If what you love to do most is suffering at the hands of that job and you feel forced to make a choice, doesn’t your dream have an equal right on the scales?

  1. You begin to realize, why not me?

It’s easy to believe we are not worthy of the kind of success that others may have. It seems surreal. Yet when you put it all into perspective and view your dream as a series of steps and challenges, then formulate a plan, you realize that it is attainable. At least the possibility is there. The key is to change the word from “dream” to “goal”. It’s hard work. You just have to decide if you are willing to do what it takes. In my case, that has meant years of writing, many rejections, but picking myself up and doing it again and again. What’s the expression? “Success is when preparation meets opportunity”.

  1. You realize that making the decision is the hardest part.

Oh, the joy in finally making a decision! Once you’ve made it, you will see that the hurdles lined up in front of you are simply challenges that need to be addressed one at a time. This was exactly the case before my family left for a three-year expat experience in the United States. The “what if’s” were strangling. Once we made the decision, we took each task as it came and got through it. In the end, it was an amazing family adventure that we will never regret.

  1. You’ll find courage inside that you didn’t know existed.

Fear can be a powerful emotion, but ask yourself if you want to get to the end of your life not knowing if you could have done it. Failure after trying your best is never failure to me. It is gratefully a learning experience, a stumbling block at most. If you want something badly enough, you will make it happen.

  1. You will finally be doing what makes you happy, not what others expect of you.

It’s your life. You have one opportunity to live on this Earth. Why shouldn’t you make it the best experience possible? Why shouldn’t you do what makes you happy?

  1. You’ll prove to yourself that it’s okay for dreams to change.

Who said that we are programmed to have only one career our entire adult life? We are constantly evolving as individuals. Think of that first boyfriend/girlfriend you had all those years ago. You are a different person today. You probably wouldn’t even glance their way now. Why should we not change professionally? Being a writer is one of my three professional dreams that I have had in my life. Would anyone out there know for a second that I desperately wanted to become an architect at one time? I spent half my childhood drawing floor plans for houses and office buildings. I had a need to use my creativity then and channeled that energy into story writing in my twenties. A stable career in teaching won over, but the drive to write has never been stronger than it is now. It’s more than okay for dreams to change – it makes us richer as individuals.

  1. You will find that you are capable of things you never thought possible.

When you follow your dream and hone your skills, you will surprise yourself time and time again. The more I read and write, the stronger I become as a writer. After I had written a number of children’s books, my dream was to write a novel. Did I think it was possible? Not when I was younger. When I realized that I could not only complete a novel, it meant that it was possible to write a second and a third. Was it then possible to get published? With each dream, you can build on it a little bit more making it grow into something truly beautiful.

  1. You will wake up eager to work.

Need I say more?

  1. A smile will creep into your face, surprising you every time.

I’ve had many moments since the offer of publication of my book where I am driving my car and that one song comes through the speakers that makes me gush with tears of joy. I left a meeting recently for my book launch securing a venue that I didn’t think was possible. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face as I walked down the street. You will also feel that joy because you won’t believe you are really doing it. You are not only following your dream but you have made someone sit up and notice your passion.

  1. Even if your decision disappoints someone, there will be many more who will be inspired by your choice.

Sometimes the easy route to take is the one expected of us. It is hard knowing that you may disappoint someone close to you, but it is far worse not honouring your dreams and what you love to do most. You will be surprised how time will allow those whom you have disappointed or perhaps stunned, adjust to this new you. They will grow to appreciate and admire your strength. Meanwhile, you have a following of others who have been inspired by your decision, some of whom will take action and follow their dreams.

  1. Not a businesswoman-bone in your body? Think again. You will be surprised at what you will learn in supporting and promoting your dream.

When you are passionate about your dream, lack of knowledge about the industry will not stand in your way. You do what is necessary to make it happen. You research. You meet people who do know about the industry. You learn whatever you can from them. You research more. You attend conferences. You put your shy or uncomfortable side away for the time being and take the bull by the horns. Some idioms are a pleasure to use! You walk straight up to that famous author or that well-known agent and ask what they can do for you. You’ll be surprised what fabulous advice you can get. I’ve done it and I take every single word and learn from it.

  1. Everything you do will feel better.

The food you eat will taste better, the sun will shine brighter, colours will take on a whole new meaning – even your stride will feel lighter.

  1. You will feel greater joy in the little things.

When you are comforted in knowing that your dream is not just alive, but is working hard for you as much as you are working hard for it, you feel a sense of relief and freedom to appreciate things you may have overlooked in the past. When I used to go for walks, my mind would be churning with the stress of all my responsibilities, but now I’m much more able to let it all go and find the small moments during my walks that bring big inspiration. I’ll never forget watching a single droplet of water on a twig that hung for dear life, and conjuring up one of the most beautiful sentences I had ever written.

  1. You will begin to look at things with a different perspective.

People will begin to look different, more interesting. You will likely judge less and accept more at face value. Yet on the same token, there will be a curiosity, perhaps even more so for writers, to look deeper, wonder what’s behind that face. You will realize that everyone has a story to tell.

  1. People will enjoy your company more.

Who doesn’t like to be around a positive, relaxed person? I’ve been known to get myself all wired up – no denial there – but there’s a colossal difference between being with someone who is negatively wired than being with someone who is excited and exuberant about his or her work. It just feels good.

  1. It will feel great to be with yourself.

Most of us know the weight of unhappiness and stress, but when you make your dreams attainable goals and follow through consistently, you begin to look at yourself differently. You feel positive and accomplished in reaching even the tiniest goal. For me, that might be conquering the toughest sentence to construct in my writing or finding that perfect word to describe a feeling. That can be enough to make me walk away on a high for the rest of the day, while patting myself on the back.

  1. Your happiness will be contagious.

Just like the feeling of walking past someone on the street – those who smile at you make you feel good, those who ignore your existence make you grumble inside. Your attitude and fulfillment will show in your expression. It will lessen the aging lines on your face and make your eyes brighter. Don’t you love that feeling when you cannot stop laughing, so much so that others begin to laugh and they don’t even know why?

  1. Despite the million reasons you may have not to follow your dream, there is always one monumental reason to do it – it’s what you love.

What is stopping you from following your dream?

The Romance of a Letter – Has it disappeared from our world entirely?

As I sit here in the early morning watching a blanket of cloud in washed-out yellow rush past, I wonder why it’s in such a hurry. Probably running from an encroaching storm. It makes me think of all the letters I used to write and send to far away places, the sky being their steward. As a teen, I used to write reams while waiting anxiously for the post to arrive. It would then be my turn to soak in the words of my first love. Back and forth the letters went and new letters arrived for years.

I don’t think I quite realized at the time, that all the letter writing I did would serve as training ground for my novels. It’s not a wonder why I am drawn to epistolary works, like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or Letters from Skye. There is a romantic quality about them. The idea alone of pouring your heart into words on paper is romantic. Heartache and joy seize the body in a more tangible way when it’s delivered in the handwriting of your suitor—the colour of ink chosen, the melody of the sentences and the beauty of the signature. Emails don’t quite capture it in the same way. Even the word electronic sounds mechanical, as though coming less from the heart and more from an assembly line.

It’s hard to argue that typewritten stories and letters can’t still be affecting. After all, I have gushed tears when reading Times New Roman. If the words are powerful enough, perhaps it wouldn’t matter how they were delivered. But ask yourself this. Do you remember the feeling of excitement waiting for that special letter to arrive in the post then tearing open the envelope, unfolding the paper, curling up in a cushy chair and being taken away? It’s true, you may well “curl up with a good book” as the expression goes, but I can honestly say, that I have never “curled up” with my laptop. Sounds almost comical.

It is becoming a rare phenomenon to receive a letter in the post these days. Bills and ads do not count. For a while I was writing, or rather typing a yearly Christmas letter, as the trend seemed to dictate, and sending them by post. I received a few myself and enjoyed the fact that someone else took the time to write about their year and put a stamp on it. That trend seems to be fading and now I receive maybe one or two a year by email. I do the same—by email now. Nice, but not quite as affecting.

After I had met my husband, who lived across the big pond from me, the handwritten letters flowed again. Now all bound together by a ribbon, each letter holds special memories. Can you imagine how incredible it would be to inherit or discover in a hidden box a collection of letters written by your ancestors? What a treasure it would be. Reading such letters would breathe new life into them, drawing out the richness of history. Would it feel the same discovering a collection of emails? Perhaps, but I would anticipate not.

For me, a handwritten letter begs the question, what can we tell about a person based on their handwriting? Right or wrong, we often connect personality to handwriting. Is it hurried writing in scribbles, suggesting little care for whom the letter is intended? Or is it pristine, suggesting care, education, authority or even snobbery? That is surely unsubstantiated and left to the imagination of the beholder. Though I have to admit, there was one person whose handwriting struck a chord every year when she would write a personal note at the end of her Christmas letter. It was the most elegant handwriting I’d ever seen like “a moving sonata for the eyes”, to quote my novel, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley. To me, her handwriting was an extension of her personality, because she was and still is just that, elegant.

Dailymail.co.uk suggests that based on the science of graphology or handwriting analysis, more than 5,000 personality traits are linked to how we write.

  • Closely written letters suggests a person is intrusive and crowds others
  • Illegible signatures mean a person is private and difficult to understand
  • Slant to the left and you generally like to work alone
  • Slant to the right and you are open to the world around you
  • Large letters means you have a big personality
  • Small and you are focused, meticulous and can concentrate easily

Based on this assertion and the handwriting alone, could the writer’s story be told or even hinted at if you discovered that collection of letters from your ancestor? It is something to consider no doubt and further romanticizes the idea. On the other hand, maybe it’s easier not to read between the lines, but rather consider the tone and style of writing and the feeling that permeates. As Anne Trubek writes in Pacific Standard Magazine, “When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticize the older one.” Perhaps that is exactly what I am doing here with keyboards having replaced much of today’s handwriting.

In any case, on this cold morning with its yellow-tinted clouds now replaced with a heavy, brooding sky, I choose not to believe that the romance of a letter has disappeared entirely. It’s a lovely thought to conjure up ideas of holding back the almighty keyboard and writing letters the old-fashioned way again—perhaps sending a friend a thoughtful handwritten letter once a in while. But the reality dictates something else. Our hurried lives and the ease with which we use a keyboard now, makes it much easier and faster. My romantic vision is that this will make us put more meat into our words, into our thoughts. It can drive us to produce more thoughtful letters (I hesitate to use the word emails as it still sounds impersonal). Though I will treasure the beautiful handwritten letters tucked away in my past, the ones wrapped up in ribbon, I’d like to think that I will strive to infuse a bit of romance in any writing that I produce. After all, isn’t that at the heart of all writers?

Book Review – What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French

What to do When Someone Dies is a mystery novel by the writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. I needed a good read, something to sink my teeth into over the holiday and I hadn’t read a mystery novel in eons. My friend’s advice, “Ignore the title. It’s exciting.” So that’s what I did.

Ellie Faulkner’s world collapses when a police officer shows up at her door with news of a car crash. How do you move on when your husband and his alleged lover are killed? Convinced her husband, Greg wasn’t having an affair, Ellie sets out to prove everyone wrong. Who was this mystery woman in the car with him? The more she investigates, the more she is certain that their deaths were no accident.

It’s easy to be critical of someone’s work. My first thought was to list the less appealing aspects of the book. After all, a review needs to be honest. But it’s still just an opinion. It’s perhaps a matter of taste. I noticed this novel has 5 star reviews down to 1 star. Some enjoyed the building up of suspense over the first 200 pages while others felt it dragged on. I was caught by moments of intrigue but felt frustrated by the first person voice, never getting the point of view of other characters, as though the pendulum was stuck on one side.

On the other hand, the reader has all the power in the world while the book is cradled in their hands – the power to see what’s right about the story. Although Ellie’s actions seemed contrived, unbelievable at times, she was in a frame of mind that perhaps only those who have lost a close family member would understand. I welcomed the bizarre adventure that unfolded, finally gaining momentum in the final third of the book. Yet I walked away asking myself if Ellie’s character was likable. I’m still not sure. One important lesson that I have learned as a writer is that it helps if you like the main character. It helps a lot. Certainly she/he needs to be engaging. But something held this story together. Maybe it was the mundane that seeps into everyday life turning fiery. Maybe it was suspicion set against a backdrop of friends. Maybe it was the faith in her husband, the almighty thing called love, and my hope as a reader that loyalty can prevail. Or maybe it was the inner sleuth in me.

Repatriation – Easy? Not really

My intention for this blog initially, was to focus primarily on writing, but each week, I find myself reflecting on my family’s move back to Sweden. I have read several articles on the subject of repatriation, one in particular from the Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB123745981080883001 in which it makes clear that most people find moving back home to be more difficult than moving abroad. This was echoed in the cross-cultural course that my husband and I took prior to our move three and a half years ago.

The problem is that those at home, who haven’t experienced the same, tend to think it’s no big transition to move back – after all, it’s home, you should be used to it. Of course, when we first arrived, most people asked the proverbial, “how does it feel to be back?” However, as the weeks rolled past, the question disappeared altogether. Certainly no one has asked five months later. Why? Don’t they realize it’s only a honeymoon stage when you first return? No, of course not. They don’t know that. They haven’t gone through it themselves unless they’ve lived abroad. Perhaps this is why very few people have asked us how we’re doing now.

I’m beginning to understand that in order to combat the loss that is creeping into your skin as the months roll past, you begin to crave interaction with others who have experienced moving back home. Perhaps this is why we’ve noticed our son shifting his attention to classmates who have also moved abroad and finding a natural connection to them.

BUT — and it’s a big but. Although I have found several articles on expats and what to do when you return home, I have yet to find a single article on what to do if you are returning home to a country that really isn’t your home at all. Rather, it’s the home of your husband, the home away from home, the place you thought was home until you stirred things up by moving abroad again — only to come back and find that what you thought was home, you’re not so sure about anymore. The length of that sentence surely mirrors the confusion of it all. Yet if you go back to your real home, your birth country, the country you grew up in, you know darn well that you’ve lived away so long that it doesn’t feel like home either. So, again the conundrum returns. You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Hence, my blog post last week. Perhaps I need to keep in mind Pico Iyer’s words that “Where you come from is becoming much less important that where you’re going.” Though this is one way of looking at it, we all crave being understood. I had tea recently with an American who had just returned to Sweden after several years of being back in her homeland. Prior to that, she had lived in Sweden. Like me, she is married to a Swede. The simple joy in that meeting was in not having to say a single word about the experience if we didn’t want to, we knew. We knew how the other felt. We knew the tiny losses that snowball into something more. Even though both of us are happy with the choice to move back, that lingering feeling of sadness, sitting there like a wallflower at a high school dance while the perfectly satisfied parts of you are dancing up a storm, doesn’t go away.

Is there a cure to this dilemma? You can’t make the people around you understand if they haven’t moved abroad. Certainly, no one wants a sourpuss at a party. Somehow over time, you gravitate toward others who have been through the same. It’s not a question of misery loves company but rather a soft place to settle. I am blessed with such a diverse set of friends, many who are living abroad permanently, who have, like I had, settled into a comfortable life. I have all the best ingredients; a happy marriage, great kids and wonderful friends in just about every port so it seems. So why all this disorientation? I suppose it comes with the territory, it comes with being vulnerable. I suppose in some twisted way, it’s what keeps me ticking. It’s what keeps life exciting and fresh for me – always trying to find new bits about me.

Looking out my window seeing the first snowfall this season, I can’t help but compare myself with one of those snowflakes out there, happily falling but just a little confused in finding the right place to settle.

Where is Home?

For years, I’ve been trying to define what home is and where it is. The question, “where do you come from?” hit an all-time high when I was living in the US. As several of my posts have touched on the subject, I thought it warranted a TedTalks presentation – one that is so eloquently expressed, it took away any confusion I thought I had. Pico Iyer says it beautifully. “Where you come from is becoming much less important that where you’re going.”

Please click on this link for a lovely way to look at home when you live abroad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m6dV7Xo3Vc