Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The one where I get all patriotic

 I'm welling with patriotism this week for various reasons, the first being that Sunday is Independence Day. I haven't been in America for the 4th of July for 7 years so am looking forward to celebrating big time.

Feeding the flame of my fervor, Dan received his permanent green card in the mail this week to bring  closure to year long journey toward residency. This thing is out of control: it feels like it could withstand a nuclear explosion, is fitted with a wireless tracking device (got to keep those Brits in check), comes with its own aluminum carrying case and must be on his person at all times. And yes, it IS green. We are both delighted.

And then, the World Cup. Yes, I know that team USA is out already. And yes, I don't really understand all the rules to soccer/ football (how are the poor goalies expected to catch the ball with those Mickey Mouse gloves?!), but that doesn't stop me from being incredibly proud. Last Wednesday (7am), singing the national anthem ahead of the Algeria game at the George and Dragon pub (hand on heart, naturally), I was really feeling it. When Landon Donovan scored the game winning point when most hope was gone,  I was ecstatic.

And then there's the fans! Without the pressure of expectation, we'd take anything. The hundred or so people who lined up at 5.45am to snag good seats were doing it for the love of the game. There was this huge sense of positivity and community that made me feel like, yes, I've been away, but this is still my home.

Watching the World Cup made me think that the US really comes into its own as the scrappy underdog. As a team not expected to do well, they gave it so much heart and did surprisingly well. I really see the American spirit as one of the little guy challenging status quo through hard work and a can-do attitude (and some luck, thanks Robert Green). I know this isn't how the US is seen in the rest of the world, sadly, but this is still what I love about America. In our hearts we're still the little guy.

It's hard though when the little guy becomes the big guy. Like Starbucks or Microsoft, the big guy is easy to hate. Personalities DO change the bigger you get, entitlement sneaks in, your actions are more preservative than aspirational. But I love stripping all that down and remembering our humble beginnings. The World Cup makes that easy because in the soccer world we're still the underdog.

I know I'm not the only one who thinks this because yesterday at Oddfellows (!) I was overhearing the conversation next to me. One of the guys was like, "It's so refreshing to watch the US play a sport we're not very good at." I think there are plenty more closet underdogs walking around the United States of America, wishing they didn't have to deal with the baggage of a culture that's become obsessed with success.

Anyway, all this to say, I'm so glad to be back home. I definitely had to leave to appreciate America, and specifically Seattle, but now that I've returned, I feel like I'm rediscovering my country again, and I love the spirit that bubbles beneath the surface.

{Photos by AtypicalArt & riptheskull}

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Waiting and Working and Getting a Job

I was planning to do a big post today, but realized I'm not quite ready. I'm basically doing some major thinking about this blog and want to reorganize and re-launch it with more of a focus... just not today. I hope to be ready by next Monday or Tuesday though!

In the meantime, I have some good news: I've got a job!! That's right, and I start next week. I'll tell you more about it in due course, but right now I'm just just really happy that that bird seems to have landed. Thanks so much for you thoughts/ prayers/ support.

Also, just wanted to share these great wallpapers I found on the Aussie on-line magazine Frankie. I've got that top one going on, & hope you enjoy!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday Buoy: Inspiration Round-Up

Hold your breath, because this week's round-up is incredibly buoyant! First, thanks to Jenny for introducing me to the SoCal based photographer Christian Cruz – I've sparkled his pictures throughout because they're just so gorgeous. I love red balloons and this photo processing (anybody know what it's called?) & I hope you enjoy too.

Something else I want to show off is my husband's first music video! That's right, as an extra he played a builder in New Zealand's unofficial World Cup video. If you know him, see if you can spot him. Quite the debut.

Speaking of World Cup fever, anybody with me? Dan's caught it so bad he woke up at 4.30am for the NZ v Slovakia game. I have to admit that though soccer/ football is fun to watch, my favorite thing about the World Cup is not waking up before dawn, but the official song, Wavin' Flag by K'Naan. I saw K'Naan for the first time at a festival in England and was in tears within minutes – I have a soft spot for Somalian child soldiers turned socially-conscious musicians and K'Naan ticks all my boxes. Check out his World Cup remix to lift your spirits.

This picture...these curtains...so wonderful!

On a different note, I was thrilled to receive the debut book of Rachel Held Evans, Evolving in Monkey Town, in the mail this week and am loving it so far! Rachel was my first “blog friend” and I'm delighted to hold her book in my hands. Honestly, if I'm this excited I can only imagine how excited she must be! I plan to review it within the next week-ish so watch this space. Now, of course the content is really interesting to me (a spiritual memoir about faith evolving from fundamentalism to something less tight-fisted), but what also inspires me is that she did it. She's 28 & she published a memoir. I'm sure there were times she couldn't see the end and almost gave up, but she got there. This  tangible evidence of hours of invisible work (albeit her work) spurs me with mine.

And a few blog shout-outs for the road...

  • Shopping's My Cardio is Portland-based Becki's retail therapy blog. Becki quit her job as an attorney to follow her passion, and this wonderful site is the result.

Anyway, that's all from me. Hard to believe I've been back in the States for 2 weeks. For some reason I was expecting it to be a difficult transition, but to be honest, being back home is like riding a bike.

I'm at my friend Joey's house this morning (our husbands are watching the US v Slovenia game) and I need to go and give her daughter Avonlea a cuddle.

Hope you have a good weekend. I'd love to hear any links, songs, blogs, books or quotes that are getting you through Friday...

Monday, 14 June 2010

Bird by bird, brick by brick

One of my favorite books on writing is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. I always remember her title-worthy story whenever I feel overwhelmed in the creative process: when her younger brother was staying up all night to finish a report about birds he'd procrastinated on, her father encouraged him by saying, "Bird by bird, buddy." Yes, there may be a lot of birds that need to go into that report, and yes, some of the most glorious birds might be hardest to pin down (I'm thinking of you, peacock!), but one by one, they'll enter.

Right now, my birds are the jobs, homes and cars we're trying to pin down in our recent move to Seattle. Even with my ultra-organized spreadsheet (!), settling down and making this place our own threatens to overwhelm. But just focusing on one bird at a time helps me to maintain a very nice calm in the storm - bird by bird, brick by brick, we'll build our Seattleite life.

Anyway, I started looking for nice bird pictures for this post and found so many that I thought I'd present you a winged mini-gallery. I hope you enjoy them and they can help you to remember to pin down all your flapping birds one at a time this week too.

Also, just wanted to let you know about some of the posts I've got coming up. I've been thinking about my niche a lot lately and am going to come out with much clearer focus in the next few weeks. And with my 30th birthday a month away (exactly today!), I'm thinking about what I'd say in a letter to my 15-year-old self that I'll be sharing next week. So, lots coming up here.

What about you? What are the birds you're grabbing at this week, taming one by one?

{Photos from flickr by simply photoBunny Cuddler, Katey Nicosia, Picnic by Ellie, & pompomrouge (prev. twolimeleaves)}

Friday, 11 June 2010

Friday Buoy: Inspiration Round-up

When we were going through some of Dan's childhood memories before leaving Auckland we came across the cutest thing. His grandma had scribed his 8-year-old goals and kept them for posterity and guess what was on his list? First, he wanted to marry a blonde. With the help of peroxide, check. Then, he wanted to return to New Zealand. He was living in Hong Kong at the time (my little traveller) and even then could feel the lure of Auckland.

Compare this to an essay I'd written at around the same age in number 2 pencil at size 72 font: "When I grow up I will travel. First, I will go to Japan. Then, I will go everywhere else." No one can accuse the Sanvicens of not knowing what they wanted. 

Today's inspiration round-up is dedicated to people who GO, or have gone, or just dream of packing the bags & moving across the world. It's a bit of closure to my 8 years of expat life and a nod to whatever it is in my blood that's always wanted to dive into a new culture. It's for people like me who like being gaijin, the Japanese word for foreigner, which literally means outsider. Living abroad is a great excuse to be an outsider.

And along this theme I present some scrumptious blog action! Take a look through the portals of these expat bloggers living the dream...

Found, now home Leigh photographs beautiful vintage shopping and craftiness and fun things in London.

Pond Parleys Just found this one recently. Really enjoy the latest entry on how to piss of Americans and Brits. I'd been thinking about what a great invention screen doors were just the other day, not sure why they never caught on in the UK!

Writer Abroad Chantal moved to Switzerland in 2006 and has some great posts about the expat life and specifically the expat writer life. I like this one about what she learned from living abroad -  I could write a book on the subject...in fact, I am.

Ian & Monica in HaitiA great view into the lives of some humanitarian workers in Haiti who also happen to be dear friends.

Expat Women I like browsing the blogs of expats in countries around the world for a sneak peek.

The Lady Who Lunches is an American who moved to England to be with her man. I love her take on it all and am excited that we're both moving Stateside around the same time so I can hear her thoughts on the re-pat life. 

An American Girl in Chelsea A new guide for Americans in London. I found it after I left unfortunately. 

And of course, for those in Auckland or who dream of visiting the City of Sails, don't forget to check out Mel & I's guide to Auckland on design*sponge! {Amazing illustration by by Julia Rothman for d*s!}

Some websites to get you raring to go...

Chris Guillebeau writes about writing, travelling and non-conformation. Love it!

Vagabonding is a fab site about the uncommon art of long-term travel. Perfect for nomads like myself.

Also, I've got Lunch in Paris on hold at the library. Anybody else read it? It's about an American who falls in love with a Frenchman and moves to Paris. A love story with recipes...wonderful.

I hope everyone has a good weekend, whether you're hitting the road or staying home and relaxing. Any other good resources/ muses for living abroad? 

{photos from flicker, cherry blossom by °°k°°& suitcase by Krista Palmu.}

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Auckland City Guide on Design*Sponge!

I know I'm posting a lot in a short space of time but I had to let you know some exciting news! The city guide for Auckland that my friend Mel and I did for one of our favorite websites, design*sponge, is live!! What a privilege to create this guide for a city and site we both love. Please stop by design*sponge and leave a comment. :)

If you've come here from design*sponge, welcome. I hope you have a little browse around. I've been an expat in Japan, the UK and New Zealand for the past 8 years and just moved back to my hometown of Seattle this week. I blog about creativity, justice, spirituality and the expat life here & hope you enjoy.

Here are some of my favorite posts you might like:
8 countries in 4 years: pros & cons of expat life
Vintage shopping Kiwi style
Do mums have time to be creative?
Fighting for Invisible Things

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Homecoming - we made it!

Yes indeed, the eagles have landed! At long last Dan and I have completed our circuitous journey from London via 6 months in NZ and a day in LA to arrive in Seattle. We are nestled and caffeinated and both doing well in the Emerald City. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers during this entire journey which started 1 year ago when Dan began applying for his green card. Uncle Sam held him for an hour at LAX, stamped his passport and now my alien spouse is fully legal for work and play in the USA.

Landing in Seattle I had a stuffy and bloody nose and foggy head, I proceeded to get 3 migraines within 24 hours and it was pouring down rain in true Northwest form - but even circumstance couldn't dampen our readiness to finally be home and start nesting.

As a returnee I'm loving WA's forest-like conditions and the towering evergreens and rhododendrons that cocoon the Pacific Northwest and smell so nice. I've always been a tree girl and it's good to be home. I'm also acclimating to the disarming friendliness of strangers and enjoying how skilled Americans are at the art of small talk. I've known lots of Brits who think it's fake - and we've got plenty of fakers, I admit - but I also believe most people here honestly gain energy from inviting strangers into their daily lives, even for a minute, and genuinely want you to have a fan-freaking-tastic day. I've have upwards of 20 inter-stranger interactions since Friday and my repressed American earnestness is slowly being revived.

The best thing about coming home though is the feeling of slotting into place. Even after 8 years out of the US and 12 years away from the Evergreen State, I still know this place by heart. I feel fortunate to have a generous family to welcome us back and friends I can pick up with like I never left. I'm all about flinging myself out of the comfort zone - I've been well and truly flung for almost a decade - but coming home also feels pretty good.

One thing I've learned about moving around internationally so much is that everywhere has pros and cons, but I'm a lot happier when I focus on the good stuff.  So, what's the good stuff about where you're living now? I LOVE regional pride, so bring it on. :)

{photos on flickr from la tristesse durera toujours, Carolyn Coles & Seattle Municipal Archives.}

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

My last night in New Zealand and a season of rest

It's about that time to close the chapter on one of the best seasons in my life - the last 6 months in Auckland. Some reasons as to why I'd love this time so much are obvious: free rent, living in a house by the beach, not having to work, spending time doing what I love, amazing coffee. I don't need to spell it out too much. 

But my appreciation goes much deeper than the creature comforts. I am SO thankful for this grace-drenched season because I needed to remember that seasons like this do exist. Seasons when things fall into place, when you feel like you're doing what you love and what makes you come alive, when you physically feel yourself being restored. Life doesn't always have to be a struggle. I needed this. 

I've kind of alluded to this on my blog, though I've always tried to be diplomatic and positive, but truth be told, England kicked my ass. I had and have some amazing friends in England (you know who you are!), I did work that I believed in and I learned a LOT, but it was hard. For 4 years I felt like I was pushing against something, struggling not to be crushed but to be made stronger. I always smiled, always tried to be positive, always looked on the bright side, but it was tough. I don't blame England and I'm not bitter towards England because I know that it was about something much deeper - it was a season of resistance and training that just happened to be set in the UK. 

So that's what I'm thinking about - seasons. There really is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. There's a time to graft and push through and be stretched beyond comprehension. There's a time for intense discipline, training and resistance (such fun). There is a time to feel out of your depth, out of your culture and way out of your comfort zone. There's a time to put the things of your heart on the backburner to grow in other ways - patience, perseverance and character. 

But that's not it, because there's also a time to rest, to just collapse on a Kiwi beach with a flat white and a handsome husband and a good book and be overcome by unforced joy and sunshine. There's a time to go back to your comfort zone, changed and more flexible. There's a time to feel at home and to not have to fight for every last thing. There's a time to grab your heart back off the backburner and start feeding it again. There's a time to dream audacious dreams and a time to experience boundless grace.

So I just needed to say thank you. To Dan's parents for letting us stay here, to the amazing friends I've had here (you know who you are too!), and to God for not only training hard and pushing me to the limit in England, but for times like these, when I get to well and truly rest. My heart overflows with gratitude. I'm also so thankful for New Zealand in general, which has been so good to me. I'll always have a very special place in my heart for this place. And thank you to you as well for letting me gush on!

Well, next time you hear from me I'll be back in the States! Thanks for all the encouragement from everybody. This is an emotional time, moving across the world and all, but I feel blessed to be journeying with so many amazing people.  

I'd love to hear about places that hold a piece of your heart for whatever reason. Got any to share? 
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