Picture The Mayor of Venice, Florida reading Genesis.
In a city which is small town, on the gulf of Mexico; people gather every year to simply read the Bible. The City of Venice kicked off it's Bible Reading Marathon once again. Once again a few people gathered as the Mayor of the town proclaimed the start, and he began what was to be hour after hour of a whole team of people from a variety of churches reading from Genesis to Revelation.
Some people, briskly riding their bicycles through the town center green stopped and watched awhile. A few more young people came to hear a woman of ninety plus read in a strong, amazing voice. A chapter or two were read in other languages.  Nine am or three am, coffee was provided by one of the churches. Water quenched the thirst of the afternoon readers and mints were always at hand. Soon we were in the more difficult chapters, and young and old alike winced at names resplendent in King James. What on earth were we doing?
My husband and I love being back in Venice, Florida for the annual Bible Reading Marathon, where the Word of God is read our from beginning to end each year. It is such a privilege to be part of this community, even if it is only for a small part of the year. Florida is where we warm up after a cold English winter.
Though Venice is packed with Snowbirds (usually American and Canadian and UK retirees) over the winter, even those that drive out of the frozen northern states say they can sense the remnants of the Bible Belt as they approach the southern most states. Florida can be a bit of a mix, but it was at its best this week. May we live up to the promise of the Bible, what it actually says. May the peace of the Lord be with you if you tuck in.

The Bible says His Word never returns void, and even if you were tucked up in bed you could just about feel the blessing of this word being read our over the town, um city.


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The Three Ladies that started it all!
 
 
PictureJo Tantum London Baby Show!
Global Grandma (me) and London Daughter (Angela), and Baby W (BW) had a blast at the  London Baby Show  this past weekend. If you read my earlier blog on the Baby Show  this past September, you will know that I am not an automatic fan of these shows. BUT this show, at the ExCel Centre was worth the trip from north London to east.

What made it "wtt"? In no small part, it was the speaker Jo Tantum, with her helpful advice on getting babies to sleep. Jo was the reason my daughter even wanted to go to the show, besides us having a fun day out with BW.
Jo has a natural, engaging but down to earth personality with stacks of practical advice for new mums/moms. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you will know that this Grandma doesn't get paid to say these things. I had a good chat with Jo, and look forward to her being my guest blogger in the upcoming months. In the meantime, please check out the link to her website.

Shopping also a feature at these shows, and ExCel provided the bargains we seek.  Major purchases for BW happened at the time of the September show (that bargain travel cot works well), so this time Angela and I mostly looked at teething chewables. We spent time listening to the speakers and tried out some of the delicious Annabel Karmel baby food.

Very much appreciated by the young mums, my daughter included, was the feeding areas and changing nappy stations. I thought the Fisher Price Creche looked good. I talked to several of the workers in the creche and they seemed on top of security as well as making sure the little ones enjoyed themselves.

Last, but not least, was the excellent access to the show itself. I recommend attending the ExCel Baby Show over the one in Olympia if not simply for the fact that it is easier for mothers/dads and pushcairs/strollers or prams to get there! Ramps and elevators make access possible! Mothers in wheel chairs can actually enjoy the day (except for nearby toilets which were downstairs!)

Still, I have to quibble with something I suppose, and that would be the food for adults. There was little for anyone with a nut allergy to trust. Nutrition information? Gluten free? You had to leave the show and head out on the concourse, which is not a real problem; but even there you had not much on offer unless you like bangers and mash. (We do and we did.)

As a  memento of the day we let ourselves be talked into a little photo shoot for BW. It was a very good deal indeed. For ten pounds (approximately fifteen dollars)  BW was the focus of attention with a fun group of photographers. and my daughter went away with a smiling BW and a happy memory of a day well spent.

Altogether, The London Baby Show
was a lovely way to spend a last day out for awhile, before this Global Grandma boards the plane next Tuesday. I am not good at good-byes. (My own mother was worse, so I blame the genes!)  Every Tuesday for the past months (BW is now five months) I have traveled up from Surrey to London to play and have a cuddle with BW and just enjoy my daughter as a new mom. She is doing so well, along with her supportive husband. Angela is blessed and is a blessing. I leave knowing I have been blessed to have had the past six months with her. We shared the last days of her pregnancy, and I was there for the birth (not in the room as we believe that is new parent time) and for the first months of walks and talks and songs and nappy changes. Angela has an amazing friendship team with her church full of young families, and the London borough of Camden has an amazing offering of baby support  (and yes, I am amazed).

And, we both give thanks that she has Jo Tantums telephone number!

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Photo Shoot for the Babies at the ExCel Baby Show. It was fun and not showy!
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Designer of beautiful breast-feeding coverings! www.loveyush.co.uk
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Love the details organized by the event planners.
 
 
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So did someone say having a baby was, in addition to the love; a whole new 24/7 job with perhaps on the job training?
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"You're the American!" said the Women's Ministry co-coordinator at our church, "so do you think you could arrange a baby shower for the two mums expecting a baby this year? Can we do it in February?"

"Sure," says I and then I think, "I am not sure about a cross-cultural baby shower. Oh, it's been done thousands of times around the world. American mom asked to share something of how we do things and explain it to our new friends in the country we are now residing. Sometimes the request comes because of a magazine article; for example, a feature article in a national magazine on Thanksgiving and suddenly you are asked as the resident expert to demonstrate or at least explain. If you live in a city with many of your compatriots there may be a bit of support for "doing Thanksgiving," or "giving a baby shower" to someone who says, "It sounds like fun!"

When you live in a small, rural community you can be given the same sort of request but you are on your own to define your tradition. I asked for time to think. I am a grandmother now and I remember living overseas when my babies were born. An older American mother gave me a shower, as she knew it would mean something to me and our friends were curious. What was this Baby Shower thing?!

Then, it came to me. There is a new idea, a new type of baby shower floating back and forth across the Atlantic. I was in Florida when my daughter experienced her Baby Shower of Blessings in her home church in London. My daughter, half-English said it suited her and her friends much more than receiving presents. Oh, they like "stuff" and know their babies will needs loads of it; but when expecting your first baby you might be forgiven for finding it embarrassing opening items in front of your friends. Perhaps that, too, is a cross-cultural outlook but what many first time mums/moms seems to really, really want is answered prayers and blessings and good information and support from family and friends.

Here's how a Baby shower of Blessings goes....everyone arrives to lots of food, which is the same as a Baby Shower of Stuff. You might even receive a present or two from the group that has gathered around you. There is laughter and jokes, which is also the same as BBof Stuff; but then comes the difference. Now, sitting comfortably around the pregnant women we are around a well dug deep of sharing prayers and verses that we have prepared before hand to bless the women. Last Monday night, when I led my  gathering of women from my church we prayed for the flourishing of the child within. We borrowed a prayer from our Jewish sisters, and prayed for a "goodly hour" of the baby's arrival. We prayed for a safe delivery and for there to be no fear, but joy. We prayed for both the husband and wife to be all that God wanted them to be as parents, and to not bother with wisdom that came from marketing of worldly wisdom that would make anyone feel inadequate. We prayed for sleep! At least sometimes!

Then, still inspired by the Baby Shower of Blessings my daughter experienced in London, which apparently was inspired by a similar experience held in New York City...(you know how these things travel)...we gathered all that was written or said by the women that evening and will put it together in a scrapbook to present to both mum and dad. Oh, and the two pregnant ladies had a goody bag to take home to the dads. That evening, we blessed and were blessed; all of us. The mums said they had never seen anything like it and the culture that was really crossed was that of the secular world into the sacred.

Have you ever experienced sharing a cultural tradition with a new generation twist?

 
 
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Last year's winter. So glad I took the photo as the storm in England this Christmas took down a tree or two.


My first husband was born on a British Military base in Germany, to a German mother and an English father. Talk about a challenge for a new mum/mom/Omi in difficult situations! It was after World War Two, and Germans were not flavor of the month. Often, as an American mom I have been in situations where I have not felt acceptance; and oh, there is nothing like Christmas and New Year's Eve to bring out the differences in family life.
I have to say one of the highlights of my Christmas this year was one of our six grown up children saying he liked my pumpkin muffins enough to ask for the recipe. I was SO pleased that I made him a stocking which included the Libby's Pumpkin Pie (found in a store called Phoenicia in Camden, London and in Whole Food, London) and American measuring cups, alongside the printed out recipe from www.verybestbaking.com .
Many of us thrive on mixed-culture marriage, or simply spending holidays in lands not our own; but whether you do or not I want to suggest that the days between Christmas and New Year could just offer a little "time out" for you. Please do not stop reading at this point-let me suggest some ways to do this before you throw up your hands and say "she doesn't know my life!" With six adult children, five spouses, one girlfriend, six grandchildren and a host of work and church obligations I have experienced a little of the need for figuring out quiet time in several different countries (South Korea, USA, UK, Italy and one year Russia...might have forgotten a place or two. How did I forget Germany?!)
Which brings me back to my first husband. He was excellent at finding "A Quiet Moment" over that time of the year, a time I call "The Interval."
He went to work! And before you think I am criticizing him, I am not. We agreed that this time between two major times of celebrations was a couple of days when most people took off work. He could work quietly and have a few moment to THINK in his office. And before you think I am encouraging Work Addiction, again I am not. You see, the children were at an age where they enjoyed having two or three days to just play with the new Christmas toys and not go anywhere. In the midst of all the building the new Lego etc, I chose not to clean up and to have a few minutes with a cup of coffee and a devotional myself.
But oh my, during The Interval this year I took my Quiet Time to a whole new level. Let me explain:
We had visited one daughter and son in law in London for their Carol Service- I got to hold adorable Baby Zac the entire service! He is two months old now and is mesmerized by all the twinkle around. I am totally mesmerized by him!
Next, back out in Surrey Husband had three of his grandchildren arrive just as my son arrived on his motorbike. It was an afternoon of making gingerbread houses and scrabble...soon by candlelight, as we lost all power. My son stayed in the study/guest room until Christmas Eve. I love cooking for this guy as he has always eaten and enjoyed what I made, which is not what I can say about some unmentioned children (who have other strengths if you are reading this!)
Christmas Day Husband cooked for two hundred very elderly people who were on their own over the holidays. He did the full English Christmas menu in the community centre, while I did some of the meet and greet and chat with some lovely veterans of World War Two. I could go on from there but as we get around to all six kids and their families and have them with us as well, you get the picture. I am a writer who works from home. There was no "Honey, I'll just pop in the office for a few days" (home office is working as a bedroom anyway at this time).So..............
Oh my, I have a little work to do on the guilt, but I took a time out to go and visit a gym. I am not into exercise. Truly, I need to be past caring what I am "into" and "not into," I need the THIS gym. And it is not about the cardio or the strength training; oh no, they have a hot tub at the place I visited. I thanked The Lord (seriously), and prayed that He would give me more and more crazy-to-me but oh more-me-than-I-ever knew- ways of having Intervals.
As I learn acceptance of me, as I am wherever I am.....I may just have to pay rent at the jacuzzi.


 
 
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Several Saturdays ago I headed from north London to west London for the Baby Show at the Olympia Exhibition Hall. Checking the Transport for London website (www.tfl.org) I looked to see the best way to get there. There were quite a few travel options, but once there I was surprised to see that the large numbers of young families with buggies were a little stuck. The problem? No lift/elevator to get them from the train/underground platform to the exhibit entrance. I watched the dads struggle getting their family up the stairs, and this was not a great start to the day for tired parents. Still worse, the single mums who looked at the stairs and almost out load you could hear the thinking, "Now how am I going to do this?"
I couldn't help but wonder how a major exhibition center such as Olympia couldn't sort this out with Transport for London- disabled access for all their attendees.Still, the line to purchase tickets wasn't too long as there were plenty of people at the desk to move us along (once you actually made it to the desk), and most of us had the London Standard newspaper's coupon; so no complaints about the entrance fee. If you booked early online even a grandparent could get a very special deal!
Inside the exhibit, the stands were packed with helpful advice, as well as items for new parents.There were not a lot of "freebies" but for two pounds UK currency you got a loaded party bag.
From feeding pillows to a complete nursery, maternity and parent "stuff!"; there was so much to see and buy. I was able to get an Italian travel cot at nearly half price...as I am looking forward to my grandson coming for Thanksgiving. I was one happy grandma. Then, oh joy! If you have read some of my earlier blog posts, you will know how much I love palm trees....and there it was! After a long day and worn out legs, I rounded the shopping corner and saw just what I needed... a baby play mat with a palm tree sticking up at the end. Baby Z would be introduced to the world of palm trees. After a "pause with the plastic," I continued on my way; starting to think about heading home.
And then I found a delightful young designer, with an inviting display of baby outfits. The young lady had one of those little squares that you attach to your phone that helps you take a credit card from a customer. It is supposed to be a boon to small businesses, and it would have been if the Olympia internet really worked. Finally I was able to make my purchases. Christmas pj's sorted for grandson.


My bags were getting heavy.

There was a bag check post, but I soon realised that the lines for lunch-even coffee-not to mention tea; were just too long and I needed to make myself go home if I was not to be tempted to scrap any semblance of a Grandma Spending Budget.

So, that saving I made on the travel cot? Spent it on a taxi home!

There was no way I could lug all my purchases and me down the stairs, but I consoled myself that there would be another Baby Show in February; and it would happily be located in the London Excel Centre. I am told, by a very reliable source, that the Excel has excellent transportation access. So come on west Londoners-see what an exhibition with good/fast/accessible transport and good internet connections is like in the East End!

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All over the world "global Grannies/Grandma's/Nona's/Oma's" are packing photos with pride. Having just joined the ranks of being a grandmother, I can see it is a whole new world; and as usual our generation will do it differently. More on this topic another time, for now I just want to celebrate!
On September 5th I arrived back in the UK, thinking I was just in time for my grandson to be born.....ha! Two weeks later, on September 26th at 7:35 pm, Zachariah-Zak!- was born at the University College London Hospital. There is no way to express the joy I felt when I was sent a text by my son in law that I could come up to the fourth floor to see my grandson. I had been spending the afternoon going between the cafe for coffee and the chapel for prayer.
I know many people will say, "Why weren't you in the delivery room with them?" but I just felt that this was an occasion  best shared between husband and wife. They agreed.
At any rate, that is why I have not been writing lately, as there is no more amazing joy than to hold and behold a grandchild. To me, my own children were a miracle, and I gave thanks for them and still stand in awe at the joy of their lives......but there is just something about being a grandmother. God only knows. 

 
 
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To say I am excited would be a British understatement! I am "joyed!" That's my new word, meaning "Buzzing with joy!" The reason? My daughter and son in law are expecting their very first child. The Little One is due in September, so I shall be making my way back to the UK at the end of the summer.
Now, I have to admit that while husband and I are so happy to be in Palm Tree Land (love being warm), husband says I am not quite "here," if you know what I mean. I felt and still feel a tremendous sadness at not being in London with my precious daughter. She is precious to me and these are precious times. I want to go maternity clothes shopping with her! Still, I told myself; missionary and military families are used to this.

Repeat after me, Kathleen....we are used to this!

"No," I answered myself (now you know how bad it is at the moment), "I am not happy to be so far apart at this time and I am not going to pretend. Even skype isn't enough."
I felt much better when my sister came down to Florida and we went maternity clothes shopping together, which was a blast. We remembered sharing regular overseas phone calls ( a real treat then) comparing pregnancies, and talked of hopes for the next generation.

If I was in the UK, I wouldn't have had this great time with my sister. Don't you just love cross-cultural family living! Yes, is the answer to that most of the time....but then, while we are having our Girl's Shopping Day; I realized another problem:
The UK won't allow gifts without making the receiver pay VAT! I didn't want my daughter to pay for her maternity gift.

What to do?

Well, there are many reasons for going to church. Worshiping God being the most important, but right up there on the list of reasons is the connections- and wait for this one! I still call my church small-group leaders Sunday School Teachers (as that is what I knew growing up in the US as a child)...well, that very next Sunday they announced, " We apologize we won't be here next week, we are going to London............"
Thank you God, thank you.

 
 
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We walked into the Travel Spa at Gatwick Airport and I thought, "well, I'll just stay right here!"
There was room upon room of space to relax, to have a meal, to watch a movie, and then there was the spa! The "Fix-It Message is ten minutes for ten pounds (UK money). The shoulder Relief is fifteen pounds. The Mani-Pedi is twenty five pounds. Then there is the Mix and Match; where for sixty pounds you can choose three fifteen minute treatments complete with a glass of champagne. I actually chose none of the above and husband and I headed straight for the wide corner window where we could have a totally satisfying breakfast while watching planes take off.

You have young children? Check out the Travel Spa playroom. Honestly, I would seriously consider this Travel Spa as a destination for whole families. Just come here for a few hours peace and quiet and then head to your plane. When you think about all the agro, the packing up, the re-packing because you are one kilo over weight etc.....I would encourage young parents to just check in and chill at the Travel Spa- and no, no one has paid me to say this!

For those of us who are expats, transition time is just part of life. As a military mum/mom my mother in law often said my generation missed something in the process of moving from one country to another. In my book, Parents on the Move! I told of how her generation (in the British Army) relocated via ship. It took days to go from one base to another and they used that time to talk to their children, or to journal or just reflect on where they had been and where they were going. "Now days, " she said, "you change countries within hours and you can hardly catch your breathe never mind process the changes happening in your family."
If my generation changed countries swiftly, this next generation goes swiftly and armed with so much information on "the next place;" but with even less time to reflect on the process of change.
My husband and I tried to stretch the minutes we had to enjoy great Travel Spa coffee and fruit. He read the paper and I just sat there, exhausted from the process of wrapping up our home in England and the emotions of saying goodbye to our adult children. Though I look forward to the sun and relaxation and reuniting with family in Florida, I hadn't wanted to leave family in England. When it was time to board the plane, I had a fleeting moment when I seriously thought about staying put. Transition is neither here nor there, but sometimes you just find a great spot to be in between.

Do you have a great transition spot?

 
 
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Do you want the palm tree in your retirement? We do!
When expats "retire" they find themselves trying to "pick a country." For some reason, there is this idea that you retire to a country instead of a state of mind. Retirement is a stage of life, and you can do it anywhere. As parents with six adult children, their spouses (and one girlfriend) and a growing number of grandchildren we get to be grandparents in two countries; but we have close family members in yet a third country. How to choose a country?
Like many expats who have lived and worked overseas all their adult lives, we took a serious look at where we wanted to be when it came time to retire. We see some expats happy to pick a place and stay put. Their travelling days are over, and they are quite happy to let the young ones come to them for family time. Others travel back to places they once loved, or travel on to places they always thought they would like to live and now is the time to taste and see. My husband and I chose a third route; and that is, we decided to narrow our countries of abode down to two or three locations where family reside- and rotate. Yes, I know this choice is dependent on health and finances, and we may need to rethink this in ten years time.
But our family focus means a wealth of family time; and as a missionary, military family, NGO and corporate family (talk about crossing cultures!) it is family we have missed more than places. It is the multicultural, multi-generational family adventure that calls.

 
 
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From the back balcony in Italy.
Husband and I are back  in the UK, and I have decided to find a good story to skype Little D in Italy. His mum is up for this thankfully, as it is a way Little D can continue with at least some English language.

My husband has spent the last days here in the UK working in the garden (it is snowing in Sussex but sunny in Surrey) and visiting his grandchildren that live nearby. I have been packing up our English home and am looking forward to seeing my daughter and her husband in London on Saturday, and then out to the countryside to see my son and his girlfriend for son's birthday lunch.

Then, on Monday we board the BA flight to Tampa; for eight months in America. Whew!  I , am not much good at good byes; but I have to say I am looking forward to just dropping on a beach somewhere and to recover from the challenges and joys of cross-cultural family life. It has been a wonderful winter here in Europe, seeing the children and their children; but now it is time to go to the other side of the pond for the rest of the year- to see the other side of this increasingly global family of ours.
My parents did most of their grandparenting from South Korea and North Carolina-makes the London-Tampa route seem a cinch!

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OK- it did snow here this winter. This is our local tearoom. Husband taking me out to tea for my birthday.