A Love Culture – part 1

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A lifetime ago, when I worked full time (and then some) for an amazing architecture firm in DC, we talked a lot about mentorship. There was always the debate about what was better, organic mentorship or assigned mentors. I can see it both ways. I personally prefer to mentor, and be mentored by, people I’m drawn to. Alternatively, what happens to those that don’t really connect or are too shy to put themselves out there to be mentored?

For better or for worse, my firm chose the organic approach in mentoring, as with design in general. It became a sink or swim situation for people; a culture that you either fit in or you didn’t – and you simply moved on. In addition to mentorship, we used to discuss personality types. The thought process was if you understood where your bosses, peers, or subordinates were coming from, then you would know how to relate to them better. Again, this was a part of forming the firm’s culture.

Even though I’m no longer in the workforce, I still find these concepts relevant and important to cultivating healthy relationships. I also believe love languages play an important role in how we can learn truly love the people in our lives. They way they prefer to be (as opposed to the way we prefer).

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My mentor, Anita and I talk about this a lot. She shared with me that their family took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test to identify each individual’s personality types and the results helped refine how they relate as a family. It was a revelation! Using what we know about my-ENFP-self, my ESTP husband, and our boys, we can learn to adjust what we do (and how we might prefer to do it!) to create an environment where they thrive and develop into who they are meant to be.

Just like in the firm setting these tools can help us form the culture of our families. From the things we prioritize and value to how we relate to each other. Each child is different and often what works for one does not work for the other, but hey they are our kids, we don’t want them to leave our firm…

er family, due to the culture!

Let’s make the decision to mentor and motivate our kids, love them they way the receive it best, and relate to their specific personalities. Then we can be a generation of families that raise each other up, honor our differences, and spread love.

Here’s to developing a culture of love!

kdg

Check out these resources for more:

Personality: Myers Briggs  | Quick MBTI test | GEMS  

Love Languages: 5 Love Languages | For Children: Love Language

Stay tuned for PART 2 on creating your own family culture in the coming weeks!

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Marbles of Kindness

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A few posts ago I mentioned how lucky we are to learn something from the people that we meet along this path of life. This morning I met Ruth, she is American and her family have been in Kuwait for 16 years. Our conversations with her were wonderful and she was an abundant source of experience and encouragement. The best advice I got this year by far, (yes I know it’s still only January) came from her.

If you have children who struggle with telling on each other, especially when you have more than 2 small ones in the house, (there’s extra chaos and so many more stories to tell mom about), buy a big glass jar. Buy enough marbles to fill this jar. Every time one of the kids tells on a sibling for doing something good or kind, they get to put a marble in the jar. When the jar is filled, the family does something special, like go out bowling or go to the movies.

When I heard this tip, I had one of those “why didn’t I think of that” moments, as it seems so simple, I imagine it to be quite effective. I will most certainly be trying this in my home and I will report back on how it goes. We may open it up to more than just acts of kindness on those desperate days like, “Fine! If you finish your pasta you can put a marble in the jar”. Yup, I can see that happening, but I will do my best to try stick to the plan.

I would encourage you to try it as well and I’d love to know how you find it and if/how it works for your household. In addition, if you have any extra tips to encourage kindness between siblings and less tattle-tailing, I’d love to hear them, please post in the comments below.

Cheers to global parenting, it takes a village after all.

la

11 years in the desert

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It was 11 years ago today that I landed in this desert land. It has been an absolute whirlwind of an experience. It has been the best and the hardest season of my life. I came here at the tender age of 25 years. I left my family, friends and my little dog Gizmo to take on, what I thought at the time to be, a two year adventure in the Middle East. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting here 11 years later writing this post, on a blog that I started with my dear American friend who now lives in Tel Aviv. Wow, what a mouth full. I thought it would be fun to share some of my very first Kuwait memories with you, so here goes:

This was my first apartment –

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I will never forget the day that I came home from Ikea (my first experience with Ikea at that) and I started to build my very basic essential furniture. I was very proudly using my pink screwdriver that I had bought earlier from the local supermarket when I reached a point in assembling my wardrobe where I need to “get a friend to hold one side while you bla bla bla the other”. I remember the sense of helplessness that I felt when I fell to the floor in tears thinking “well, that would be great if only I had one!”

It’s tough adulting I tell you!

Those who know me will also know that I’m a little shy in nature. The fact that I jumped from my comfort zone of home and landed in this strange land to begin with is nothing short of a miraculous leap of Faith. But jump I did. I slowly grew braver and through the advertising agency I was working for at the time and a few good flat mates, I started to make some friends, got out and did things I that would ultimately change the very core of my being. I grew up, FAST!

My first trip out to the quad bikes in the desert –

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During my time here I lost my mom and more recently my grandfather, and I had to shelve my preconceived ideas of what the ‘right’ career path was for me. I got married, and had three very cool little people. And since then I have been able to reinvent myself, reignite my love for art and art history.  I explored my photography interests and became accredited through the NYIP (New York Institute of Photography) in the United States. I’m now also studying Interior Design. I have been Blessed with abundant travel opportunities. When I was working, I got to film TV commercials in Romania, Beirut, Dubai, Barcelona and Kuwait. I got to watch the Grand Prix in Bahrain. I went to Cannes, France for the Cannes Advertising Awards. I went to romantic Paris, and loved travelling the Rome and Florence with my better half.  I got diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (Google it – better yet, don’t Google it. Scary). I went vegan. We had our first family holiday to Portugal, Lisbon and Madeira. I learnt a new Language. I found God.

Top 11 things I have learned in these 11 year. 

1 – Life is short.

2 – If you can’t find the joy in life, BE the joy in life.

3 – Practise tolerance, the world is made up of so many different cultures and beliefs.

4 – If you’re not happy, make a change. If you stay in your unhappiness you will only bring people down with you.

5 – Tell people you love, that you love them. You never know when will be the last time you speak to them.

6 – If you’re toying with the idea of going from 2 kids to 3, go for 3.

7 – The food that you put inside your body REALLY does effect the way you feel.

8 – Listen to your body. It speaks to you.

9 – Love those who are difficult to love, that is when you can really make a difference.

10 – Write letters.

11 – Pray – there will always be an answer. It may not always be the answer you’re looking for, but there will be one nonetheless.

I have no idea where the next 11 years will take me. I may very well still be here and will report back then with another recap.

I have met so many very interesting people here, and from each person I have met, I have taken something, and learned something new about myself in the process. I have also learned to look back at my beloved home country with fresh perspective and new appreciation.

Cheers

la

Note: These photo were taken 11yrs ago on a very basic camera.

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

What binds your family?

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How many of us fall victim to talking AT our children instead of talking WITH our children? I do. I recognise this and certainly do my best, where I can, to carve out intentional moments for conversation with my 3 littles. But lets go a step further, what do you talk about with your kids? First thoughts may be conversations around them, their day, their school, their friends, their activities or possibly even their favourite foods.

A lovely friend of mine sent me this article on Wednesday “The Stories That Bind Us” by  which touches on just this. In this article the results of the research conducted showed that a child who knows more about their family, i.e.: the history of their mom and dad, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles and cousins etc, proved to be more resilient, more self-confidant with a better mental health and were ultimately happier.

“The answers have to do with a child’s sense of being part of a larger family,” – Dr. Duke.

The author encourages us to think of a family motto, I challenged my eldest with this task and this is what she came up with:

“Live kindly, love completely and protect ever after.”

I’ll take that, thank you.

Please give this quick article 10 minutes of your time today, it may encourage and inspire you as it did me. {article}

Cheers

la

Mom’s weekend away

Just for perspective, it’s been over 8 years since I travelled anywhere alone, leaving both husband and kids at home. This weekend I took the plunge. It’s natural to feel out of my comfort zone here, but I feel it’s so incredibly necessary to create some space. You see, I have come to realize that as much as my family needs me, I need them too. This may seem obvious, but it’s more than that. I realized that as my kids emotionally depend on me, I in return have become so emotionally dependent on them. I wonder if this is magnified by our expat lifestyle, or the loss of my mom – my first immediate family circle, my safe zone, my green zone, my everything.

I described this weekend to a friend, before flying out, as a neat little present wrapped up with a bow waiting to be opened, and it has been just that.

Where did this weekend take me what am I doing you may ask? I flew to Dubai to watch Ed Sheeran live, of course. Wow! What an amazing concert. He is such an incredibly talented man.


If you ever get the chance to see him live, I’m putting it down as an absolute must!

To add the incredible show, my weekend has been filled with upgrades! Our room at the hotel was upgraded to a suite and our concert tickets upgraded to front pit! Thanksgiving moments for sure.

Yesterday, we attended the brunch at the Maridian Hotel. You buy your ticket ahead of time to secure your table and you just need to make sure you arrive on time and all dressed up. The buffet is waiting, the bar is open and the bill is already paid. Brunch was from 12-3 and then the music got louder and everyone moved outdoors poolside, and danced till 7pm, when we then fittingly went out for dinner. I wonder if this is what people who live in Dubai do on weekends.

For dinner we were recommended this gorgeous little Jamaican lounge called Miss Lily’s. We were early, it was quiet and it was gorgeous.


We escaped Miss Lily’s before the crowds and went back to the roof top of our hotel. We chatted and took in the night time views until we were ready for bed.


It’s now 9:30am and I’m still in bed. I will make my way down for breakfast soon, but right now as I write up this post and reflect on the weekend, I am just so thankful. Thankful for my friend who fetched my kids from school. Thankful for my husband who held down the fort at home and made this trip happen for me. Thankful for friends who did all the amazing weekend planning. Thankful for the blessings of upgrades. And now, most of all thankful to be going home to my beloved little family.

I hope if you are a full-time parent like me, that you take moments like this to make some space for yourself and come back refreshed and full of gratitude!

Cheers,

The Christmas Decoration Debate!

So when exactly is it ‘PC’ to start putting up Christmas Decorations? When I was a child, my mom made us wait until December 15th before putting up the tree and then she made us wait until January 15th before taking it down. I never could quite understand this and she never quite explained it either.

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Now it has become a tradition in my household to wait for the first week of December to set up the tree and decor, and pull everything down on the first weekend into the new year. Last year I managed to escape the madness slightly. You see, we went home for Christmas and I was able to convince my kids, 6yr, 4yr, 2.5yr at the time, that if we put the tree up in Kuwait, then all the presents will end up there on Christmas morning and we’ll be in SA with none, so they wonderfully agreed to only have one tree up, the one in SA, which saved me soooooooo much prepping, unpacking, cleaning and packing up.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of the year and very special to our family, but I also enjoyed the opportunity to skip out on a little extra holiday work. Guilty!

And far be it for me to judge on what is too early or too late but I most certainly had a bit of a giggle when my sister-in-law posted that her Christmas decor was going up on November 1st. And just a week ago my friend announced that Christmas had thrown up in her house. My American friends argue that you need to get through Thanksgiving first. It really did get me thinking about when exactly is the ‘right’ time to set up and take down.

I suppose it really doesn’t matter, but there’s no denying that this is a special time of year. For Christians, Christmas is centered around the birth and life of Christ and is celebrated among loved ones. For non-Christians it’s simply a time to cherish those around you. You can feel the love in the air, and you can feel the power of that love with a tangible strength in the echoes of choirs and carols singers.

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Many people ask me what Christmas is like in Kuwait. Well, I can tell you that yes, they do sell trees, and yes, they have some lovely decorations around. It does lack a little bit of the magic that can only come from those big Christmas afternoons with the whole extended family, but at the end of the day Christmas in any country is what YOU make it. What’s in YOUR heart will be revealed in the kind of Christmas you experience.

I will post again about Christmas in December, when our tree goes up, and about the  magical little gems I find at the stores.

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But I’m curious, which of you are? The ‘wait as long as you can before putting up the tree’ like me, or the ‘is October to early to set up’, do let us know in the comments below.

Happy to kick off the Holiday posts 🙂

la

 

Side Note: Keeping with the American line, Katie’s tradition is to start Christmas songs the day after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) and decorate that Saturday – So we know where she stands. HoHoHo!

 

 

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!

Tree Climbing & Kids

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There’s one thing my kids cannot seem to get enough of on our African adventure – tree climbing. EVERY CHANCE THEY GET!

We get palm trees in Kuwait, lots of them, and they certainly add to the oasis look and feel of the desert. But it is very rare that you come across a tree that is climb worthy. It’s no wonder that when the kids come home to SA they are in tree climbing heaven. I am no professional and i’m not about to hash out statistics about why climbing trees is good for kids, all I can do is tell you what we have experienced first hand.

  • Outdoor play – the kids are always outdoors. The weather is amazing, the air is clean and they are constantly being drawn to the trees outdoors. I love the fact that it happily keeps them off their screens and tablets.
  • Creativity – its amazing what the kids come up with only one large earth grown prop around. Did you know that the ground is lava?! And apparently hide and seek can actually be played in a tree? And bark rubbing crafts are so much fun.
  • Gross Motor skills – they are constantly lifting their body weight, moving it around, pulling it up, pushing it through. They’re finding out what their bodies are capable of. Big movements left and right encourage both hemispheres of the brain to work together to solve problems. Excellent when you have a dual dominance child which means that both right brain and left brain competing for dominance.
  • Understanding their own limitations – they are discovering what they are capable of. They are figuring out when to climb higher and when to step down a little. And the joy in their faces when they climb higher than the day before is priceless.
  • Respect for nature – I am answering questions all day long about why we have trees in this world and why they are important, how do birds make nests, what animals live in trees, etc.

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We have only 3 weeks left of our holidays and I think the kids will miss the trees the most. Next to family of course.

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Happy Climbing,

la

As a disclaimer, I do urge you to please keep a close watch on your kiddos, safety first!