Category Archives: Musing Roads

The one where with Thanksgiving reflections

Holiday season number two as expats is full on for Barr and I. Another year living abroad has been full the highest highs and unfortunately, the lowest low – though the “ups” far exceed any down(s). We’ve been blessed beyond measure to explore our collective dream and desire to live and work overseas, experiencing new cultures, traveling to unique countries, meeting some lifelong friends, and leaning on each other and God to get through the hard times and celebrate the joyous moments.

Thanksgiving_Expat_Abbys_Roads

And even though we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving (albeit a few days late and with an absurdly expensive turkey), I wanted to take a post to reflect on that which I am truly thankful for.

  1. I am thankful for my husband. Without question, this expat life wouldn’t have been possible without him; he works incredibly hard each and every day (weekends included!) to make this dream a reality. He is my best friend, my constant support, and my shoulder to cry on. He’s there for me when friendships don’t pan out, when I’m homesick, and when I’m stressed or angry (even at him) – and he’s there for those good times, too: travel adventures, quieter nights at home or going to a movie, and planning a big, full life together. He pushes me when I want to give up or when I need a dose of reality. He encourages me to be a better “Abby” and to pursue my hopes and dreams. I am thankful for Barr.
  2. I am thankful for living outside my comfort zone. There are so many times in any given week that I just wish I could turn on American television, purchase a box of cereal that isn’t $7, not fret about finances (and my lack of contribution to the aforementioned), stressing about where we will live 4 weeks from any given day, or worrying about reacclimating to life back in the states, but none of these thoughts even come close to the unadulterated happiness and gratitude I feel to living as a citizen of the world. Living without total control. Living in lesser known parts of the world. Writing instead of working a 9-5 job. Starting over, several times over. 😉
  3. I am thankful for gaining new perspectives. It’s been incredibly enlightening and refreshing to realize what you can live with (and without). As an expat, depending on the city you live in, you may not have a large (or particularly nice) dwelling. Or you own furniture. You may have to learn to take public transportation everywhere. You definitely learn that although English, for the part part, is spoken or slightly understood in many parts of the world, it’s not the English you may be used to – and this means communicating differently or just understanding that what you know isn’t necessarily the norm. I’m grateful to know that I can live without so much stuff, so much space, “my dream kitchen”, a car, English, a Starbucks on every corner. Maybe this one sounds trite, but I hope to return to the states and apply this mentality to the “me, me, me” “more, more, more” or “keeping up with the Jones'” attitude that I can sometimes adopt.
  4. I am thankful for God’s plan.  I like things done my way in my time – I’m not proud of this…at all, but if these last 18 months of expat life has taught me anything, it is that this isn’t the Abby show. Though I may try, I cannot control everything in my life, and just because I think that something is “ideal timing”, I don’t know best. Life throws you for a loop sometimes and you (I) have to let go. There have been some humbling events from our expat life that show me that there is a planner here, and it’s not me. This is the hardest thing to say (well, type), but I am thankful for His plan, even when it doesn’t align with mine. It’s finding the beauty and the good bits in dark times and understanding that you wouldn’t have those revelations if you hadn’t been through the tougher stuff – and knowing that it’s all part of His bigger plan. He knows the plans for me and I am thankful that it is one with hope.

Another important one is my gratitude for writing and specifically blogging. I so appreciate y’all (or even if it’s just my mom) reading and commenting. Happiest of Thanksgiving! And even if you don’t celebrate, remind yourself of the many blessings in your life – any day is a good day for that. Until next time…

Image via SheReadsTruth.com

The important one about a month of awareness

Did you know that October is Miscarriage, Stillborn and Infant Loss Awareness Month and that 1 in 4 women experience a pregnancy loss? Well if you didn’t, now you do 🙂 And not to get too heavy, but I wanted to write a little post on this fact because miscarriage, stillborn birth, and infant loss happens more than I think most people would dare to think. And as I embark upon a stage of my life where more and more of my friends are expecting, I think it’s always important to remember what a blessing pregnancy, children, and your health is. And if you do have to walk down the path that is miscarriage, stillborn, or infant loss, knowing that you are not alone.

A friend from Durham, Melinda, brought this month of awareness to my attention via her own blog, Palindrome at Home – she wrote a moving entry about her own experience, and she is one of my heroes. There was also an article written from my hometown of Charlotte about a fellow Wake Forest couple who have also recently lost septuplets to miscarriage, but their faith and hope in the midst of it all is touching beyond all belief.

And that is the note I want to end on is hope….I think it’s a good one! To honor these brave parents and their angel babies, there is an international day (October 15) where you can light a candle or vigil. And to any parents out there reading this that has gone through something similar, I hope that you know that you aren’t alone in this  and I hope that you find the peace you so desperately deserve. Until next time…

The one about the re-entry blues

Have you ever returned home from a vacation and felt a little blue? The worst, huh? Well, coming back “home”, which is thousands of miles away from a majority of your friends and family, is doubly challenging, let me tell you. And maybe it’s just {partly} the jet lag talking 😉 Lack of sleep will do that to you, too!

Coming and going can be tough both physically and mentally, but getting back to a routine is key – and as my mother has always sagely told me, “You have to make yourself happy.” 🙂 This is all to say that I am of course happy – just getting back into the swing of things after a fun vacation or trip is always tricky.

So how can you cope with these so called re-entry blues? Here are some of my thoughts..

  • Stay busy! When you’re days are full, you don’t have time to miss family, friends, and hubby (at work) – head to the gym or go for a walk, grab a coffee (or glass of vino) with a friend you haven’t caught up with in awhile, explore your city (I, for instance, want to visit a new (for me) beach here in Perth
  • Unpack, clean, and de-clutter! Take a page out of Karen Simpson’s book and don’t be idle. Barr doesn’t like to unpack until about two weeks after returning from a trip, so I take it upon myself to unpack and reorganize (not such a sacrifice since I’m an organizer at heart). Also, after a few days/weeks away, cleaning up your home can be necessary and therapeutic.
  • Volunteer and count those blessings! Doing something for others can help you really put things in perspective. Sure, I miss my family and friends back in the states/Dubai, but heck, we live in Australia – who am I to complain? (Along those same lines, particularly when I can’t sleep due to jet lag, I remember a song from one of my favorite movies, White Christmas – just “…count your blessings instead of sheep…” That Bing Crosby really knows his stuff.)

  • Develop a new skill! Remember my knitting class? Well, I’m planning to sign up for another – with so many friends having bambinos, I want to make some baby blankies 🙂

So there you have it. Remember that you have to be able to make you happy – returning from a fun trip isn’t always easy, but staying busy is key. Until next time…

 

 

Adventures of an Expat: Making Friends as an Adult

Having grown up as an “expat brat”, it’s been interesting transitioning to “expat wife” – a lot of the situations I’ve encountered in my adult expat life are merely reenactments of similar situations that my mother went through during our time in Calgary and Singapore. Chief among these is learning (relearning?) how to make friends…and making friends as an adult is definitely a different experience than that of a student/child. Obviously making friends as an adult is not an exclusively expat experience/skill (side note, please google “how to make friends as an adult”, and don’t mix it up and accidentally google “how to make adult friends”…probably not what you’re looking for…), but expats are absolutely thrown into the deep-end, and many times it’s sink or swim.

This is 100% how awkward I am. All. The. Time.

Bottom line: making friends as an adult can be hard. And awkward.

Disclaimer: Being a parent can sometimes make making new friends as an adult much easier – you have a common ground with that kiddo – whereas I would just be that creepy 27 year old, sans child, at the playground. 😉 This is not a “woe is me” post though! I’m just saying to all you mamas out there, use that bambino to your advantage! There are plenty of mom groups, especially in expat groups abroad, and that’s a great outlet for entertainment for children and parents alike. (That being said, the American Women’s Club of Perth has a moms group, and they couldnt be more welcoming to even the childless! Though I consider our dog my child, but whatever.)

Yall – in college (and as a child, as Jerry Seinfeld in the above video can attest) it was SO easy, right?? You live in a dorm with tons of other people your age, you’re trapped on a campus together literally 24/7, and despite my lamentations to the contrary at the time, you have more free time than you know what to do with. I also find that as an adult, I’ve become much more introverted and, well, lame – I like to watch Netflix (or Masterchef) and have a nice glass of vino on my couch – not exactly conducive to socializing/friend-making (I did tell you that I’m an introvert at heart, didn’t I?) 

Probably not the best route…

Making friends as an adult truly is like dating all over again: you’ve got to make the effort, and yes, sometimes it’s awkward, doesn’t work out, isnt a good fit. That’s okay…I like to think that’s natural.

That being said, you have to be willing to put yourself out there and try something new or out of your comfort zone. For example, I went to a bloggers seminar a few weeks ago and met two really great women with whom I keep in touch with on a regular basis.  My mom took up bridge when we lived abroad growing up, and while maybe she’s not besties with everyone she played with, she met a good network of people and learned something new that she still uses today. These kinds of things also give you a common ground with other adults – it’s not a forced situation.

Yeah…there’s that awkward bit again…

But I think the most important aspect of making friends as an adult is that you should always try to remember how you felt trying to foster new friendships/acquaintances and warmly welcome new people, really making that effort – it comes backs to you tenfold. There’s a super-expat (looking into trademarking this term…) here in Perth who is quite possibly one of the warmest women I’ve met, always checking in with new expats, organizing fun events; she’s very inclusive and bubbly – that personality and those traits have stuck with me, and I hope to effuse that same energy when I meet and make new friends as well. That’s the golden rule for ya, huh? Expat or not. 

There you have it…some deep thoughts for your reading pleasure! 🙂 Until next time…

The one with my Favorite Books of 2014 (so far)

If you know me, even in passing, you probably know that I love to read. I mean to say “love” is almost an understatement. Sad but true. So to kick off the weekend, I thought I’d share a short list of my favorite reads of 2014 so far!

1. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker – A beautiful love story that really brought to life pre-WWII Burma (now Myanmar)

Via Amazon

2. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – The author of The Secret Life of Bees really did it again with this one. Primarily set in pre-Civil War Charleston, the story follows abolitionist Sarah Grimke and her personal slave, Handful, as they struggle to find their path in life.

Via Amazon

3. China Dolls by Lisa See – I am obsessed with Lisa See’s novels! This one follows three young American women, all of Asian heritage, in San Francisco in the 1930s.

Via Amazon

4. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Warning: read only if you want a good cry. Other warning: you’ll be thinking about this story long after you finish, so the cry is 100% worth it.

Via Amazon

5. The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C Morais – If you’re a foodie/cook (or if you wish you were a foodie/cook!) this book will make you smile. Also great for the traveler in you. They’re also making it into a movie – thanks, Oprah!

Via Amazon

6. Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore – Not a 2014 release, but I just got around to reading it this year; however, if you’re more of a non-fiction person, this may be a good bet. I felt very lost when discussing (let’s be honest, listening to other people discuss) the crisis in Israel and Palestine, and this really helps a layman understand (in addition to another 2,000 years of history). 

Via Amazon

7. My Life in France by Julia Child – Another [lighter] non-fiction choice. Loved reading about Julia Child’s life as a new bride and expat (hmmm…wonder why??)  Plus, learning about her path to finding and developing her passion of cooking is incredibly inspirational! 🙂

Via Amazon

And although these were two of my favorites from previous years, they’re both being released as movies this winter – I think both trailers look awesome! (Though I am that person that always thinks the book is better than the movie – maybe one of these will prove me wrong?)

8. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – I love the casting choice of Reese Witherspoon!

9. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand – You’ve probably either already read this one or at the least, heard of it. Haven’t read it? Do yourself a huge favor and do so immediately.

{Okay, and since I have slight OCD and a list of 9 isn’t as pretty as a list of 10, I’ll throw 10. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – After my trip to Savannah, Georgia in May, I was inspired to read this classic. Chilling and beautifully written.}

Have you any additions? Your favorites from this year? I’d love to hear about them as I’m always looking for new reads…especially as we’re off to the beach for a few days! 🙂 Until next time…

Uniquely Australian – Same, Same but Different

How you going?

A different greeting for me, huh? Well that is one that you will hear everywhere in Perth (and Australia – I definitely heard it at the Melbourne and Sydney airports!) A typical Aussie hello.

Now, I do not presume to know everything about Perth/Australia in general – actually, far from it; however, in the short time that I have been here, I have noticed more and more things (restaurants and shops mostly) that look and seem familiar to that which one may find in the states, but upon further inspection, something is…well, uniquely Australian.

I bring you Exhibit A – a picture of a cereal that I am certain many fellow Americans will immediately recognize, but look a little closer…

Rice Bubbles (as taken by a fellow Perth expat)

The Aussie version is a better different than our Yankee version (and can we talk about the fact that bubbles dont snap, crackle, or pop?!?!):

Rice Krispies (via Wikipedia)

Exhibit B: Hungry Jack’s. What does the Aussie restaurant chain logo below remind you of?

Aussie Hungry Jack’s (via Wikipedia)

If you guessed Burger King, you are our winner! Now this one has a bit more history/explanation behind it. I won’t bore you with something you can read about here, but the gist of it is that Hungry Jack’s originally started as an official franchise of the US-based chain of Burger King, but things fell apart (read the Wikipedia page – I’m no lawyer). Interesting fact: Australia is the only country in the world where Burger King operated under a different name.

Via Swaussie.se – click the pic for a story about the case in more layman’s terms

Exhibit C: Target.

Yall, when I first saw the iconic red Target signage here in Perth, I literally almost cried – actually maybe I even teared up a little.

If you’ve ever been to a real Target (and you have a soul/shopper’s heart and/or youve been Target-deprived), youll understand – it was like a piece of home right here in Oz. Imagine my supreme disappointment when I entered the Australian Target and noticed that, while similar upon first glance, there were just things off from the version in which I was accustomed.

Australian Target logo (via Targettrek.com)

vs.

United States Target logo (via Wikipedia)

Similar enough where you’re deceived into thinking they’re the same, but when you look a little closer, it’s just a tad different. What I dont understand is how Australian Target, which is in no way associated with the American counterpart, can get away with this trickery!!

Dont get me wrong, at its most basic, the stores are essentially the same (both sell a wide array of items from clothes to toiletries to home goods, etc), but the level of quality in the products and stores themselves are definitely different.

So there you have it. Three exhibits that hopefully demonstrate some uniquely (oxymoron now that I am thinking about it?!) Australian – similar, but different. Now I am not complaining – it’s nice to have things that remind me of the states here in Perth, and truly, Australia is so cool in that they are so patriotic and unique, probably more so than any place I’ve visited; maybe the fact that the country is so isolated/an island that they’ve really developed (partly out of necessity) there own mark on language, culture, products, food, etc. Given that, I will probably make a mini series on things that are uniquely Australian – there’s no shortage of material! 🙂 Until next time…

The one where I Quit Sugar (!?!)

Yikes, yall. I’m alarmed even typing the title of this post, but no, you arent misreading things: I, Abby Blanton self professed sugar addict, am going to (attempt to) quit sugar. The impetus behind this was a friend of mine, who happened to show me the book, I Quit Sugar, by Sarah Wilson (an Aussie!) Sarah, my friend, and I all deal with some autoimmune issues (in varying degrees of severity – mine is Celiac Disease) – Sarah’s own health issues became so challenging that she decided to rectify the issue by cutting back on sugar. Actually, one of the main premises in her book is “Autoimmune + Sugar = Bad”; sugar can really affect one’s hormones (duh) and this can spell unnecessary discomfort for those with autoimmune disorders (or anyone really!)

Gosh, I really sound like I’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid, huh? Given that, I wont regurgitate the book, but if you’re interested in learning more, check it out or the website I Quit Sugar. 

So, given my new found knowledge, the aforementioned friend and I are embarking on the I Quit Sugar 8 week detox program. In it, you basically are cutting back on sugar (natural and otherwise) for the first week before cutting it out for the remainder of the weeks. At the end of the 2 months, the theory is that you can reintroduce sugars back into your diet, but you wont have those same cravings. Honestly, yall I know I am addicted to sugar because it is day 2, and I have been suffering from withdrawal headaches – bad, right??

I have a feeling this will be me come day 5…. (via psychologytoday.com)

That being said, the recipes, meal plans, and shopping lists that we are sent each week really make things easy and delicious! (And dont worry, you can still have wine, I absolutely checked) 😉 Here’s a look at my first lunch: a homemade veggie bread topped with avocado/feta smash – yum!

photo-28 So wish me luck – I will probably be posting some of my thoughts, recipe/pics, and rants/raves of this experience over the next few weeks. Here’s to a healthier (happier?) Abby! Until next time…

Note: I am not paid to write about I Quit Sugar or the 8 week program. All thoughts are my own. 

100th Post!

Wow! I couldn’t believe it when I posted yesterday and I was on my 99th post. It seems crazy to me that:

  1. I have kept this blog up as long as I have
  2. There are people still reading the blog (!)
  3. That Barr and I have been abroad for almost 10 months
  4. We are now living in Australia, something that wasnt really on the radar when we initially embarked upon this adventure

To all of yall that have read, liked, commented, re-blogged, etc Abby’s Roads, I thank you 🙂 Your comments (either in person or virtually) mean so very much to me. I’ve so enjoyed writing about my experiences, some of them more exciting than others, and to receive such kind feedback is really rewarding.

So how about some stats? WordPress offers a few statistics regarding readership, and while I’m not a slave to the numbers, I do enjoy seeing the patterns.

  • The United States, United Arab Emirates, and Canada are the top three countries from which I get hits (now I just need to up my Australia readers to capture all my former and present home countries!) Now, to my (few) readers in Guam, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan: spread the Abby’s Roads gospel 😉
  • People are inevitably curious (okay, nosy may be a better word – but I’m guilty of it too!) because my top viewed post is back when I posted on what our apartment in Dubai looked like – pictures get people every time!
  • The 2nd most viewed post is one of my personal favorites, and I’m really honored and pleased to say that True Life I’m an Expat Housewife is a popular post as well.
  • One of the stats provided is the search terms folks have used to get to my blog. You have your standard “Abby’s Roads”, “Abby Blanton”, etc, which I would expect; however, I love finding out the random searches people use – some faves include: “eid al adha 2013 similar to old testament”, “bambi learning to walk”, “pecan pie in abu dhabi”, and “abby simpson biltmore wedding”. Whatever gets ya here, yall!

Anywho, I bit of a random post today, but again, thank you for stopping by – it truly makes my day! Until next time…(and have great weekends!!)

Missin’ ‘Merica

I recently came across this amusing (and accurate) Huffington Post article entitled, “27 Things You’ll Miss About America When You’re Abroad“. Give it a look – I can absolutely relate to numbers 2 and 3 in particular! My chattiness gets me some eye rolls from time to time, especially when a long line starts to form behind me at the grocery store 🙂

I dont, however, miss expensive gasoline (we can fill Blanca up here for about $10 USD)!

What about you, fellow expats? Anything glaring that HuffPo missed?

No Plans for a Planner

Anyone that knows me knows that I am a planner. I love writing to do lists and ticking off the boxes. I love researching and studying before deciding which activity/situation would be best. My husband would say that this is probably one of the things that he necessarily love about me – and I admit, I sometimes take it too far.

So ever since we got the news about our move to Perth, I’ve been planning. Hello? It’s what I DO. Now I wish I could share (you know I love to share) with yall the plans for this particular move; however, not much has been confirmed. We have a plane ticket, but the date may be pushed. The Easter holiday is playing a bit of a game with us and the timing. So, here we sit – with bags (semi) packed, a car in Dubai we have yet to return (when?), and a housing situation up in the air in Australia. Marrying Barr taught me two things (well WAY more than two, but that’s another post for another day): you can’t plan everything and you have to take things as they come with grace. I have learned the former and attempting to execute the latter (hence my venting to this blog:)) So while we play this waiting game, I’m holding myself to a standard of grace, not perfection. Have a great week! Until next time…

Via EmilyLey.com