Kicking off Christmas in Jerusalem

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This past weekend we were invited to a German Christmas Market held at a church in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was a perfect day and start to our Christmas season, both surreal and totally normal at the same time. Much like expat life.  We drank fantastic cups of steaming gluhwien while the children ate German waffles and the moms eyed the tables covered in crafts and decorations.  All the while, the seemingly unaware market was surrounded by ancient churches, mosques, and temples, stone streets older than anything in the United States, and both old and new marks of a history of tension and religious conflict.

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Living in Israel does have a surreal affect on you, some days you could be anywhere in the world and others you are in THE Holy Land, eek! If I am being honest, the city of Jerusalem is not my favorite place in the country. The tension you feel there is palpable and many warnings about potential unrest make me want to run to the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. That said, in the last month I have made the 1.5 hour trip to the holiest place on earth twice, and both times were amazing and fulfilling adventures. I’d say Jru is growing on me, especially when the Christmas spirit is all around you and you’re with some of your favorite people in the country!

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Since it was a rather last minute decision to attend the market, we were unprepared with only a few shekels in hand. Thus, I wasn’t able to splurge on much. However, I did come across a Palestinian artist who was on a mission for peace and unity through her art. My creative heart was inspired by her project and I purchased two sketches, one of Bethlehem and one of Jerusalem, and a painted sketch on a postcard of some of the famous architecture from around Israel.  The whole interaction with the artist made me excited for my own shop this coming weekend.

The kids were less than impressed with the vendors and were waiting patiently for Der Weihnachtsmann, aka Father Christmas, aka Santa, to arrive. They sang Jingle Bells as they waited and finally he appeared ringing a bell and carrying a large sack full of chocolate Santas for each of the children. It was adorable how they sat and listened to him tell his story in German. Even though they couldn’t understand any of it, the heart of the story was clear.

Afterward our party of almost 30 departed and 21 of us attempted to find a place to eat together at 5:00pm on Shabbat (Sabbath) in a highly religious city. Which means the majority of places were closed for another 2 hours. We finally discovered an Irish Pub and it was perfect for our group, including our horde of children hopped up on chocolate.

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It truly was the perfect way to kick off our December –  loosely planned, a bit chaotic, full of joy, and drenched in the Christmas spirit. When you live an expat life, at Christmas time you sacrifice a lot of your traditions, but it can lead to a richer and deeper connection to the season and your family. I hope those of you far from home find your village to celebrate with and make the most of the holiday season as you add new traditions and memories to your collection.

Happy December,

kdg

A few pixels at time

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Have you ever been through a time in your life when you were being consistently challenged to pursue things you were not confident you would be able to make happen? Fake it ’til you make it right? Well, this is the season I’m walking in write now. Things are changing, big things are coming, I can feel it. Lindy-Ann and I have seen so much growth in each other and our community over the past year (shout out to all our awesome photogs who are making their dreams happen!) and there is more to come…seriously I can feel it in my bones!

Truth be told, it’s exciting, overwhelming, and a little scary all at the same time.

It’s stretching me that’s for sure, and I am still processing it, mostly verbally in true Katie style. (Thank you for listening family and friends!!)

It’s that moment when you are doing what you are supposed to do and it’s good, maybe even really good, but there is an ache for something else. Hear me here, I am not saying it’s “a grass is always greener” scenario, but it is the need to do more. The tug on your heart that says, “keep moving forward, grow, evolve.”

We have all heard the sayings that “life’s a journey” and “it’s all about the process,” IT’S TRUE!  If we are not growing and stretching ourselves we are not meeting our full potential. Especially as a creatives, staying stagnant leads to feeling uninspired, and feeling uninspired leads to bitterness as the flow of creativity dries up. Believe me, we have been here too.

What to do?

There is no right or wrong answer to understanding your journey and calling, it’s different for everyone. That said, here is what has been helped me this season.

  1. Pray about it.
  2. Write it out (aka blog about it!)
  3. Talk about it with trusted confidants and mentors.
  4. Process it, chew on it, and then do it all over again.
  5. Really be thankful for where you are in your journey – maybe write that out too…
  6. In the midst of all that the most crucial action (because I am a ‘do-er’) is to keep moving forward. Take the next step as it presents itself and cross off the ‘to-do’ list one item at a time.

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There is a reason we do not see the whole picture. If we did we would be paralyzed and  overwhelmed with how we make it happen rather than enjoying the process. The process is what stretches and grows us to get us to that point. Instead we have this small portion in front of us, just a few pixels of the high res photograph of our life, and we work with that. When we look back in a few months we will see what/how it all happened, what we learned about ourselves through it all, and enjoy the beautiful picture of our lives unfolding in front of us.

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I want to encourage you today, whatever season you are in, breathe in the process. Whether you just came out of the growing season and are confidently walking in that or being stretched, it is good. Be thankful. Share your story with others and celebrate theirs. That is another great way to not get overwhelmed. Change your focus, take a minute to encourage another or be their sounding board, it may even inspire you!

This is me: sharing, breathing, encouraging, being thankful, and growing…what a grand adventure right?!

cheering you on!

kdg

 

 

The Mirror House – Kuwait

1DSC_9140Lets just say, if my husband came home from a business trip abroad and found me on the floor with broken pieces of glass and plastering all over the wall, I think he would have had me committed. Thankfully this was not in the case of the lovely Lady Lidia.

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For what started out as a small mirror mosaic project to cover her daughters writings on the wall, turned into her greatest life long work, her pride and joy, The Mirror House of Kuwait. We were greeted by this tiny, Italian woman, with years of life knowledge and life experience under her belt. Yet somehow she maintained her zest and passion for life and she couldn’t wait to share it with us.

We started with a lesson on mosaics and the story of her beginning, but we were quickly whisked away and literally taken on a once in a lifetime journey through what can only really be explained as living surrealism. 

She met a young Kuwaiti man in the UK and he stole her heart. She then moved to Kuwait in the 50s, settled down, got married, had a family, lived life, survived wars, survived parenting, and found comfort in creating.

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Her story is a cherished love story. Her husband, Khalifa Qattan, was a very well known and respected pioneer in the Arab art world.  Yet, he very rarely called her Lidia, he preferred to call her lady, even up until his last days on this earth. Swoon! She brags that when she arrived in Kuwait, most of the houses were still built of clay. Yes, she has seen Kuwait change over the years there is no doubt of this. I asked her what the biggest change she witnessed was, expecting to hear the standard, “oh we used to be able to drink and now we can’t” or, “we could wear short skirts back then and no one bothered us about it” but no, to my surprise, she said the greatest change came from within the family unit.

The family unit has changed.

When she first moved to Kuwait she testifies how most children were being raised by their parents, both moms and dads were raising their kids. She shares that in today’s times children are being raised by nannies. It’s quantity over quality of children that has become important. There is a whole generation of children being raised by nannies and no longer by their parents. And you see it filter over into the Western culture within Kuwait too. All too often it’s the nannies with the kids at birthday parties or afternoon activities, very often alongside the parents, even then parents take more and more of a back seat.

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Her symbol piece for the family unit.

Anyway, getting back to the tour. What a ride. She took us into every room where different themes are represented, from the earth to outer space. Her birds were my personal favourites. On the top floor we even got to appreciate her husbands works. a dedicated gallery to his finest pieces. I loved this part. He was a visual communicator for sure. The statements he made with his art were honest, bold and unapologetic. He loved being Kuwaiti and was so proud of that, but he was despising what the nation was becoming, the changes that the country was going through and he used his art as his voice. It still speaks volumes today. I definitely learnt a lot about the history of Kuwait on this tour, It was interesting for sure.

In the rooms next to his gallery are works of her own. It was fascinating to see these two worlds showcased on one floor. Two very different minds with similar view points being expressed in two very different ways. It was remarkable.

My favourite piece belonging to Lady Lidia was the piece with the two keys. These represent the keys to a woman’s heart (men, pay attention).

They are:

1 – Respect

2 – Generosity (not as in things or money, but rather time and affection). If you get these two things right her heart will be forever yours.

Her art therapy rooms are quite something, too. Darkness, with colour of lights and lights of colour.

Admittedly, I spent an hour on my bed in the afternoon with a warm cup of tea processing the experience. Trying to make sense of it all. I couldn’t. I was most certainly over stimulated for the better part of the afternoon. And wonderfully so. I will never forget this morning at The House of Mirrors. For anyone living in Kuwait, you need to move this to the top of your ‘to do before you leave’ list. This experience has the backing of both Trip Adviser and Lonely Planet.

I left informed and inspired.

If you have a House of Mirrors experience that you would like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Special note: One thing that makes this experience even more unique is that you become a part of the visual experience. With the mosaics being mirrors, your reflections are integrated. Thus making everyone’s experience unique to them. 

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Cheers,

la

 

A little ‘no’ can go a long way…

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Truth be told, the art of saying “No” to demands outside my family is stretching me. As Lindy-Ann put in her NO-vember post on Tuesday, I am a “yes friend.” I would say “yes” so often I would triple book myself, and at times our family, which did not go well with my “no” husband, {love you babe and i’m sorry!}

It just feels so negative to say “no” but I am learning that when I say “no” to one thing I am actually saying “yes” to something else. Two days into the NO-vember challenge and I’m definitely trying to be intentional about the yeses I dole out. One such yes is to taking care of myself and working out with Vienna {GULP!}

So far, the biggest “no” I have decided to lovingly, but firmly, say has been to not co-chair the Halloween Spooktacular next year. This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing my vision for this huge event come to life with the help of some fantastic volunteers. My event co-chair (aka chaos co-coordinator), our decorations chair, and I had been formulating the plan and vision for the 2017 Halloween Spooktacular since the week after the 2016 one, and it turned out to be an incredible success. That said, next year we all agreed it is time to pass the baton and spend 2018 experiencing the event with our families. Therefore, in saying “no” to a third round, we are saying “yes” to celebrating and experiencing it with our families, and that is a good thing.

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Hear my heart on this. I’m not saying I won’t be volunteering anymore (it’s not in my nature to sit on the sidelines), or that it is more important for me to enjoy someone else’s hard work. What I am saying is that I was super involved for two years and now it is time to step back just a little and let my family have that much more of me. It’s all about that elusive balance we are all aiming for, right?

That is truly the heart of the NO-vember challenge for me. To take a moment to reevaluate my priorities, give myself the headspace to ponder my calling, and give more of myself to my family.

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If you are a “yes friend” I encourage you to thank your buddies that remind you to say no, we all need them! Thank you Lindy-Ann for always being that person to encourage and challenge me to be better and put my family higher on my to-do list.

I miss your face!

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H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y   W E E K   L I N D Y – A N N ! 

May your NO-vember be peaceful and refreshing! Let us know how you are doing and any ways we can encourage you.

Cheers,
kdg

PS – forgive the iPhone photos, my camera was on the back burner at the event!

Seaside Styled Shoot

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At the heart of It’s A Colourful World and Lindy-Ann and I’s collaboration is the desire help and encourage others, especially other entrepreneurs. We were practicing “community over competition” in Kuwait, before we had even heard about the incredible cultural shift that was happening stateside in the creative world, initiated by leaders like the Rising Tide Society and conferences like the Creative @ Heart Conference.

We felt that our gifts and talents were better served by lifting others up rather than tearing them down or being jealous of their success. This is not always easy, especially for creative souls. There are definitely days when one or both of us wonder if we are fulfilling our callings or if we should throw in the towel. On those days we turn to our mentors, families, and friends and they set us straight and remind us of our focus.

{Oh, how we appreciate you all!!}

We love being that for others! We have joyfully assisted in branding, developing concepts, refining visions, and generally being sounding boards for our friends pursing their callings. Let me tell you, brainstorming ideas and concepts over coffee maybe one of my favorite ways to spend a day! A close second, would be seeing those ideas come to life.

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This past week I had the extreme pleasure of making one of those such chats happen and it was amazing! I spent a morning executing a styled product shoot for my jewelry designer friend, Ana….on the Mediterranean Sea with my gorgeous photography student and babysitter, Grace. Pinch me!

When I first met Ana, about a year and a half ago, she shared that she didn’t really know what her calling was. She knew she loved being creative, but she wasn’t sure where to focus. A few months later she was hit with loads of inspiration from her many walks on the beach collecting sea glass and started making jewelry. It is really exciting to see how much she has grown in both skills and demand. Hope you enjoy these images as much as I enjoyed creating them!

For all you still seeking your callings and sometimes second guessing yourselves, we are cheering you on! Keep pursing your passions and, even if it just touches one life, one heart, then you have made a difference and it was worth the journey! Not to mention that there is only one of you and the world needs your unique perspective, don’t buy the lie that it doesn’t.

On that note, follow Treasures by Ana on Facebook and Instagram. It is always fun to see what she will come up with next, because, like you, each of her pieces is unique.

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Cheers,
kdg

Whats in your bag? – episode 1

Katie and I thought it would be a neat idea to start our own IACW series of the popular ‘What’s in your bag?’ videos. As the title suggests, it will be a small video clip of different people, that we interview or write about, taking us through the contents of their bag. So naturally to kick off the series I thought I would take you through what is in my bag on any given photography exploration walkabout  or photo shoot day. Enjoy!

Want to see who’s bag we will be going through next? Make sure to follow the blog so you don’t miss out.

Cheers

la

The Simplified Planner by Emily Ley

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A few months ago Katie and I wrote up a review on Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley, we mentioned in that post how she is the designer and creator of The Simplified Planner. Since we read her book, Katie and I both were itching to get our hands on one of them. That itch has been scratched. In South Africa our school year went from January to December, it took some getting used to when the kids started school here and the new year went from September to June. To help that, I opted for this version of The Simplified Planner the academic year, going from August 2017 to July 2018.

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The Simplified Planner comes in 4 different designs, I chose the floral print. Katie went with the Gold Dot.

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I ordered it on Amazon and it arrived last night, one week into the first school term. (See why I need an organiser). It came in a very strong, high quality, easy to open, navy blue packaging box. I will keep this for future travel to add extra protection to my planner in suit cases. The planner itself was covered in bubble wrap and an extra layer of plastic. They made sure no water or dust could get in anywhere with this packaging. And I love  the attention to detail, even in shipping!

Emily has also included a handy little start up brochure for people like me who need a little extra beginner’s encouragement.

As a self taught designer she combined her love for design with her passion for helping others simplify their lives to produce something that is not only useful, but it is beautiful and intentional too. I love her use of colour on different pages, her space allocation for things like meal planning… (Something I have also only recently starting doing and oh my gosh has it been life changing).

Possibly one of my favourite features is her sticker page. I’m a sucker for extra detail splashed with fun.

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She has recently launched her Yearly planners as well going from January to December, for all our SA readers, those not in the school aged season of life, or if you just prefer yearly planners – there’s a beautifully designed option for you too.

Much like Katie’s post about starting fresh this fall and setting your intentions, I hope this has encouraged you to get organised and prepare yourselves for the year ahead. One thing Emily stresses, which both Katie and I are trying to implement more and more, is the power of saying “No.” To intentionally save blank space in your schedules for down time, family time, or just a little time-out time. These quiet moments are just as important, but we need to be intentional about it – especially in our ‘Always On’ society.

Cheers!

la

Once a designer, always a designer

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Seriously, you cannot turn it off! Whatever your passion, occupation, or education, you approach the world through that filter. You simply can’t help yourself! I walk into a space and move the furniture around in mind to make the flow better. In daily life I see potential photographs framed and composed. And don’t even get me started on how I see color and how happy it makes me when a group of people unwittingly coordinate.

You may already know that, although I’m a photographer and graphic artist, I went to school for interior design and worked at a commercial architecture firm, STUDIOS architecture, for 6 years before we became an expat family. Those were 6 amazing years for me. I learned and grew so much. I was blessed with fantastic mentors and work colleagues, as well as design experiences that inspired and changed me forever. There are days I’m nostalgic for the old days (and nights), my design buddies, the thrill of the creative process, and working in the city. That said, there is a season for everything, right?

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Five years later, it seems that this season will include interior design again. Thanks to my Mindfulness  buddy, Ms. Stacy, I have been tapped for my knowledge and experience in interior design..a lot. Being the exhorter that she is, she has shared the work we have done together on her house and her fabulous classroom. Thanks to her recommendations, I have space planned a few residential interiors, as well as the office of our Head of School, and consulted on ways to update the Elementary School office.

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Now I’m honored to teach and guide a group of High Schoolers that manage our campus Genius Bar as they design their newly renovated space. (Think student-run help desk a la Apple Store.) So far, we have had three workshops or, as we say in design, charrettes, with their teacher advisor as well as my buddy Brian, the Director of Technology (my guru who taught me the “faux app” trick). The students have been really receptive to learning about the process and it is so fun for me to share my knowledge and experience with them! I will recap our design adventure in the coming months, so stay tuned!

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I don’t know where all this design work will lead me to next, but I’m enjoying the journey and the memories.

On a side note: If you are in a place where you have a set of skills or knowledge that you don’t know what to do with, I say share them. Let me encourage you to volunteer those skills, talents, and knowledge. You never know what could come of it. We believe “stay-at-home” parents, particularly, are an untapped resource. Not only were we all something else before we had little people, those little people have made us better with perspective and, believe it or not, wisdom. Talk about the old days with your friends, your school, your kids, and just maybe it will put you on a path to your new purpose. Be encouraged, we are cheering for you!

with love,

kdg

Ein Hod Artist Village

{Guest post by: Keturah Maraska}

Have you ever thought about running away to live amongst other artists? Well, if you ever do feel the urge I have the perfect location – Ein Hod. Last week I was lucky enough to join a group of ladies for a tour of this quaint little village and learn a bit more about the wonderful artistic culture here in Israel.

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This Israeli artist colony is nestled just south of Carmel Mountain National Park and has a great view to the Mediterranean Sea thus providing the perfect picturesque inspiration for new pieces of art. Artists first began to move here in 1953 when artist Marcel Janco invited some of his talented friends to join him in settling in a colony with like-minded individuals. The original group of villagers was part of the Dado movement arising post WWI. Though there were just a few initial residents of Ein Hod, the village has grown to approximately 150 artists and their families.

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What makes this village unique is that only artists are allowed to own homes and live in town. Artists are not permitted to deed their property to their descendants unless they too are artists who are living and working in the community. This policy maintains a creative culture inside Ein Hod, even leading to second and third generation artists living in the neighborhood.

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Artists in Ein Hod consist of photographers, potters, painters, jewelers, sculptors, those who work with textiles, and even musicians. During our tour we had the privilege to meet a few of the artists and experience short demonstrations of their craft. First, we encountered the Magal sisters. These twins are second-generation Ein Hod residents. They are potters who use glaze to paint their pottery before they fire it. They do not paint and then glaze, but use the glaze as the paint, which makes the process more complicated since the glaze melts and blends during the firing. This technique is laborious and tedious, but these women spoke of their work with a passion that filled the air. The final product is vibrant in color and often very detailed. My favorite pottery items are the sheep they painstakingly create by rolling and looping each piece of “wool” before glazing and firing the final product. As I admired their work it was clear the Magal sisters love what they do and are extremely proud of their craft.

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As second-generation artists, the Magal sisters first found themselves in Ein Hod due to their father’s love of painting. His original oil works are available for a hefty penny; however, the sisters produce silk screens of his work which are much more economical. The sisters are also quite proud of the work their father produced and will gladly discuss his inspiration – the Mediterranean Sea and elements of Jewish culture.

Another artist we met was the potter Tal Shahar who opened her Ein Hod workshop in 1985. Shahar shares her workshop with budding potters and serves as their mentor and guide. Her palette is more earth tone than the Magals though she does paint her creations at times. Cups, dishes, and vases that Tal produces in color are usually developed by using a pigment and underglaze. One more unique technique that Tal employs is the Japanese style of Raku – firing at a high heat, them removing and “smoking” the ceramic so that it darkens and cracks in spots. I have seen this technique before, but I did find Tal’s finished products rather beautiful. The most interesting were a white design made through useof the “naked” Raku process. (For more information on ceramic pigments and stains visit this site).

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Finally, our tour guide, Lea Ben-Arye, demonstrated her silkscreen technique for us on the steps just outside her store. Nestled under the trees in a corner, Ben-Arye’s shop is the perfect location of group lessons in silkscreen. She has her own technique that allows her to reuse her stencils and create unique designs. Her husband Dan Ben-Arye works beside her creating jewelry, wooden sculptures, etc. She said he likes to learn from the other artists in the colony and then develop his own technique. Their store is filled with many of their creations from scarves, necklaces, wooden benches, and Dan’s newest passion – photographs of the clouds of Ein Hod. The one item that really caught my eye was their necklace design of a pomegranate and Star of David in one – both very symbolic of Israeli culture and life.

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Should I ever decide to run away this would be high on my list of places to end up. Art is everywhere – from the garbage cans, to chairs, to roadblocks, etc. Sculptures are on just about every corner. You can’t help but have some pop of color catch your attention around each bend in the road. Traffic is almost non-existent so strolling through the streets and admiring all of the craftwork around you is not only possible, it is almost demanded. Oh, and don’t worry, there are great restaurants and a coffee shop or two to fill your stomach and please your eye with “art on the plate” in order to energize you for the next set of galleries and workshops on your list of “must-sees”.

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It doesn’t take much of an imagination to understand why people would be drawn to this location; it takes even less of an imagination to see why generation after generation would want to stay here; once here, though, your imagination is the only thing that can limit what lies ahead.

keturah

 

 

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Keturah is a Marine wife and mother to two high school boys, and an Elementary school teacher.  Their family is currently transitioning back to the United States of America after a year abroad in Israel. She loved living in Tel Aviv and will miss living on the Mediterranean Sea.

Katie featured her family’s photo session earlier this week and shared about their creative bond and friendship. We are so thankful to have Keturah as a part of our creative community and look forward to  having her share her adventures with us again.

Here’s to the Volunteers

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This post is dedicated all those mamas and papas who volunteer on behalf of their children. To those of you coaching little league, helping in classrooms, volunteering with the PTA, and the other countless and thankless tasks, we salute you.

We are huge supporters of our children’s schools and both volunteered at many events thrown by our fearless parent associations. We know first hand how disheartening  negative people can be, especially those who also never seem to step up themselves to help. It can be defeating, frustrating, and just plain sad. It’s in the spirit of cultivating kindness that we had to write this post to say THANK YOU.

Thank you to all of you who have at some point borne the brunt of the naysayers and negative feedback. Who’s hard work and hours spent was ignored by the Monday morning quarterbacks and playground mom-squads.

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We also challenge those of you who have stayed on the sidelines thinking your positive thoughts were known, we encourage you to say something. Tell your people you appreciate them. A little goes a long way, and you never know who may need a little affirmation on the day you cross their path. Their hearts need to be filled up and appreciated and your words of kindness and encouragement will be welcomed!

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Anne Taintor

We also wanted to share our most recent experiences with our respective International Days. Expat communities really know how to host a good International Day! They are colourful, lively, and educational. It is a fantastic day for our kids to share in, and  learn to appreciate, other cultures and countries. It breeds tolerance and acceptance, which we all know this world could use a little more of.

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Funnily enough, we shared similar roles of logistics and graphic designers at our respective schools’ events merely a week apart. There was drama and unintentional hurt feelings, but, for the most part, both events were successful and the children, for which they are ultimately for, had a fantastic time and learned a great deal. That really is all that matters in the end, right? It’s why we volunteer for our little people. For them to have a good time, but also to show them how to serve.

International Day 2017 – Kuwait Style

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International Day 2017 – Tel Aviv Style

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We are all called to serve, in one place or another, and our children need to learn that lesson and look outside themselves, as well as recognize and appreciate the efforts of others. It would be amazing if we could teach our kids that it’s not always what we get out of this world, but it’s what we can give back to it, that matters most.

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So here’s to all of you volunteers.  We are cheering you on and supporting your efforts! A special shout out one of our favorite volunteers and crafty friends, Kate: as always, anything for you friend!

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In the spirit of John F. Kennedy’s famous words, the next time an opportunity to serve comes your way ask not what it can do for you, ask what YOU can do for your others.

Don’t forget to thank a volunteer today, they will really appreciate it!

xoxo,

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