The Last Rose

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What’s in a Rose? Usually, it’s a symbol of love. We give roses to people to show them that we love them, to let them know we are thinking of them, and perhaps that we wish them a speedy recovery. It is also a popular flower come Mother’s Day.

This rose is very special to me. You see, 9 years ago, I had sent my mother flowers for Mother’s Day.  She saw them, smelled them, they made her smile, they sat lovingly in our home. I was in Kuwait and my mom was in and out of hospital at the time, but doing pretty well considering three years of failing health. A few weeks later she was booked in for major surgery, I sent her more flowers. roses. They made it to her, she saw them. And then I received a phone call in the middle of the night that no one wants to get. “Your mom is struggling, they don’t think she’s going to make it” I was on the first available flight home and as I landed, headed straight to the hospital from the airport. I made it in time to hold her hand and rub her feet as she slowly lost her very loose grip on this life. Finally when I made it home to the house in the early hours of the following morning, I saw the big bouquet of roses that I had bought for her only a few days before.

I picked one of these roses, placed it in her sunglass case and kept it safe all these years. The rose we had both laid eyes on. Like a weak substitute since our own eyes never got to meet again.

This Mother’s Day, as I remember the rose that I lost, I also celebrate the rose that I have become to my 3 beautiful children and more so, I celebrate the roses that stepped up to comfort me and lead me from that day on. My mother-in-law, my stepmom, my grandmother, my friends, my great aunts, my close circle. My bouquet of people.

So today I write this post to honour ALL moms out there, the ones with children who are naturally theirs, the ones with babies still in their bellies, the ones who have lost angels in their wombs, the ones who choose to parent blessed adopted children, the ones who have suffered the unspeakable loss of a child, the ones who become stepmothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, the ones who become mother figures to friends, the ones who mother their communities with love and pride.

Mothers come in all different ways, shapes and forms, but one thing is without doubt, they are to be truly treasured and appreciated every single day.

Happy Mother’s Day.

la

Nomadic Friends

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In a way I was born to be a nomad. I’m a second generation military brat and we moved every two to three years. Like other military brats, I never knew how to answer the question, “where are you from?” That is until about 5 few years ago when I moved from Virginia to Kuwait.

After a stint of almost 8 years in Virginia, (literally the longest I have ever lived in one place), where I graduated from college, met my husband, and had my babies; our little family of four left home and moved to Kuwait. I was confident that we would love this adventurous life and that raising citizens of the world would be amazing, but I had forgotten one lesson I had been taught all those years as a military brat: how to “bloom where I was planted.” I convinced myself that it was about this family I was building and that I didn’t need any new friends. I had “my people” back home. I could make it on my own until our next trip home.

Who was I kidding? I’m an extrovert! Within a week of settling in I dropped my proverbial basket and had a complete meltdown about how lonely I was. Life in a foreign country is hard enough. You need people who understand  just how foreign and often times frustrating a place/people can be, to support you and help you laugh your way through it.

A few weeks later, at pickup from Montessori school, I saw this mom and thought, “I’m going to be her friend.” It took a few more chit chats at pickup to find my way in, and I pretty much forced a coffee/play date on her. Love you Liz!

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Although she was my first real friend in Kuwait, she was just the beginning of our crew that we now call the ABCDGs. Five families (including Lindy-Ann’s) that became each other’s village. Our kids grew up together for a time, our husbands teased each other endlessly (still do), and we kept each other sane living the desert life. Even though a couple of us have moved away, we’re still connected and share our lives with each other thanks to technology. However, the best thing is when we get the chance to travel together or to visit each other. It’s in those times that we continue making memories, laughing, and bonding.

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Over this past spring break, the ABCDGs ladies met up in London, prompting my family’s latest adventure to the UK. Sadly, Lindy-Ann couldn’t join us, but she was definitely there in spirit! It was such a fab time to be with 3 of my 4 buddies and I will cherish those moments until we are together again!

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No matter where you are in your journey, whether an expat or in the same town for decades, don’t close your heart to new people. You never know how they may change you forever. Thank you, Kate, Lindy-Ann, Liz, and Michelle for being a part of my life – you and your families mean so much to us! Until the next ABCDG adventure…

With Love,

kdg

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,

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

 

 

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!

Embracing NO-vember.

November

My 7yr old put it perfectly, “it’s like trying to draw a straight line with a ruler yet you keep going all wonky”. Brilliant! It is the most spot on explanation for how I try to calm things down, yet never seem to succeed.

For the past 6 weeks or so my life has been this wonky line. I’ve tried in vain to pull it straight, but without much success. While off loading to my friend Kerry, she kindly reminded me of the book I read, Grace not Perfection, and how important it is to actively allocate down time. She presented me with a brilliant strategy.

NO-vember!

What if we took one month out of 12 where we reserve the right to say ‘No’ without guilt or explanation? (While I recognise that some people are lucky enough to live their lives like this permanently, Katie and I are not one of those lucky ones). If something falls within this month that does not ‘feed’ us as a family or individually, then it’s ok to say no. For one month, to not be obligated or coerced into something that eats away at precious family time. Our family time is really precious and yet it is something that we usually compromise on first. Why is that? We are always commenting on how quickly our kids are growing up and how quickly time is passing us by, yet we seem to be so willing to give it away at the same time. I’m going to try this crazy plan and I dedicate this post to my dear Katie who desperately needs a NO-vember in her life, as well. My ‘Yes’ friend needs to take heart and find the rest that can come from a simple and uncomplicated ‘No’ (or ‘No thank you’ if it makes you feel better).

If you have a ‘Yes’ friend, or are a ‘Yes’ person then I challenge you to give this NO-vember thing a try. Please share this with your ‘Yes’ friends and encourage them to get on board. If you find yourself on the receiving end of my ‘No’, then please don’t take offence, it’s not personal, it’s simply me trying to regroup myself and my family and restore a little energy to my soul so that I can be a ‘Yes’ person for the rest of the year.

I want to leave you with a little TedTalk that my other friend Kirrily shared with me. One of the reasons we are even more drained of time in today’s society is the fact that our screens and devices no longer have ‘off’ cues. This turns our news feeds into complete time sponges. If you take nothing away from this post this week, I challenge you to at least watch this 9 minute clip. It will, at the very least, encourage parameters and help you set those all important screen boundaries which will pull your eyes off your device and help you look at the world around you with a little more detail and love.

As we say goodbye to October, I wish everyone a happy No-vember!

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

My thankful heart

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Katie and I both seem to have the ‘feels’ this week.

As I sit at the deli up the road from the house, I watch the children playing in the sand. I’m always taken aback at how easy it is for them to make friends. Sometimes it’s literally a matter of seconds. I envy their openness and kindness and while I would like to take credit for this skill of theirs, I think I’m a lot more shy and reserved than they are. I praise them for this gift whenever I can as I want them to see the good in people every chance they get.

When you choose an expat life the first thing you lose is your support system. Everyone you know, everyone who knows you is gone, everyone who would be there for you at the drop of a hat is now at least 2 flights and a day away. You find yourself alone. Really alone. When I first moved to Kuwait I would never be caught dead in a coffee shop by myself or at the movies alone. Now it seems like such a simple thing which really isn’t a big deal and dare I say it, even nice at times. I think that shows how much I have grown and changed over the years and how living abroad has toughened me up. I will never forget the time I moved into my first place with a car boot (trunk for my American friends) full of Ikea specials. I dragged each box up to my apartment by myself one by one and when everything was up I began to unpack and build. I remember sinking to the floor in  despair when the instructions called for me to ask a friend to hold one side of the wardrobe while I set up the other. “Ask a friend?” I laughed, what friend?! And that was the moment I realised that life really isn’t always going to go according to plan, script, or instruction.

Over the years I came out of my shell and learned to make friends, friends that would ultimately come and go given the nature of this expat travel region. I still feel blessed to be close to each one of those friends to this day. As, Katie so beautiful puts it.

“my heart has been left in pieces around the world in the hands of our family and treasured friends”

(she’s one of them)

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My friends and my family back home support us from a distance with understanding and love. Overtime as we travel home for holidays they are there with open arms and open hearts and even more so… open homes. It’s not easy living out of people’s homes as a family of 5 and yet they take us in so graciously. They babysit my kids so I can make doctors appointments, they drag us to remote places to experience hidden gems, they feeds us with familiar tastes from home, but most importantly, they love us as if we never left at all. So to all the friends and families supporting loved ones over seas, from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU! Thank you for keeping the connection across thousands of miles and many years. Thank you for making the world a smaller place and thank you for making my world a colourful world indeed.

Cheers with a thankful heart,

la