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?
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.
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!
OK- it did snow here this winter. This is our local tearoom. Husband taking me out to tea for my birthday.
Nursery School in Sant El'Pidio a Mare
This is a photo of my step-grandson's nursery classroom. It is a delightful and good sized room, with excellent teachers. It's in Sant El'Pidio a Mare- and what a delightful place to go to nursery school!
I was able to visit the classroom and get to know one of his teachers a little. She has even invited me to come into the classroom on our next visit, and teach English to the children.
It was a delightful experience to get to visit a local, state/public Italian school, and this school goes from nursery to early high school. Like many good times, it did come a time to say good-bye. All of the Italian teachers had been so friendly, when ever my husband and I accompanied little D on the school run. I wanted to think of a way to say how much their warm welcome meant to me, especially as my Italian leaves much to be desired.
I decided to give them a copy of my book, "Parents on the Move!", signed with my love and saying that though I have retired "once a teacher always a teacher!" One teacher met me at the end of the school day and jokingly asked me if I could please translate it into Italian! I countered that it would have to be my step daughter who did the translation as I am dreadful at the spoken, much less written, Italian. It was a fun way to say good-bye; and the teachers seemed interested in what they could understand from my writing about choosing schools in other countries.
Still, the difficult good-bye came to actually saying it in English and Italian to grandson, Little D. There was no way to explain Global Grandparenting in any language. To a three year old, it was "leaving" however you wanted to say it. My husband's daughter said that after we left he walked up the stairs to our room to see if we were really gone.
I miss reading stories to Little D, and watching the Disney Channel in Italian. Still, I've just had a thought about skyping him and reading a bedtime story (laptop propped up on his bed perhaps?). I'll see what his mum thinks; but in the meantime, I'm seeing what children's stories I have around our English house.
Do you have thoughts on saying good-bye to little ones?
Last night my husband and I and step -daughter, son in law and grandson all stood at the terrace window of their home and looked down towards the sea. There was the full moon, and it reflected in the water. It was a stunning scene, and one I won't soon forget. Italy has an ancient beauty, full of ruins and new design, full of great food and wonderfully friendly people; but I hadn't fully connected until husband and I went to church this past Sunday.
We drove a hundred kilometers (about 75 miles?) down from Sant El'Pidio to Pescara, this time not for a meeting with my publisher but to attend the growing church led by Pastor Pietro Evangelista.
Upstairs, in the same building as Evangelista Media (Destiny Image Europe) a non-denominational church meets; and husband I tried to follow the words (in English and Italian) on the screen, as the band led worship. I loved the music!
But suddenly I had to stop singing.
As I tried to get my mind and mouth around the Italian syllables, the Holy Spirit flooded my thoughts and captured my heart. Tears started down my face, with a gentle but powerful anointing for listening.
"Stop singing," I heard the Holy Spirit say.
"What?" I tried to murmur.
"Just listen," the Holy Spirit spoke again, "Listen to these beautiful Italian voices, singing."
And so I listened and in a way I have never experienced before, the beauty of their voices swept over me, rolled over me like a wave. I could feel the Father's love for this congregation. I could feel His love for their voices rising, warm hearts blessing the Father. He was SO pleased with their worship, so blessed by their worship and told me to tell them He longed to hear more! In a world of so many languages, He wanted to hear the Italian voice! I can't even say in words what I experienced, as I could picture their voices truly warming His heart- He so valued (not the word I want)- was blessed by their singing.
Wherever in the world you may be, when you are with your brothers and sisters in Christ; you are home. For a moment, I was home.
We dropped off Little D at school, and today I was allowed into the classroom. It is such a lovely (bella!) room and I asked the teacher if I could take a photo or two. She readily agreed. I did not take photos of the children (for obvious reasons) and look forward to getting back to the UK where I can upload these scenes. Please may I never, ever again forget my camera cable when we travel. So with apologies for temporarily using stock photos, please know that this expat grandma was having a ball being back in a classroom. I may have retired, but once a teacher always a teacher.
Knowing Granddad would be working on the "To Do list" given him back at daughter's house, I decided this was the perfect time for my somewhat-daily exercise walk.
I walked up the steep slope from the school and into the ancient section of Sant El'Pidio a Mare. I popped into the chuch for some quiet time, surrounded by ancient beauty as well as memories of our grandson's christening. We may not be Catholic, but we shared our Baptist blessing on that day. Today, I just used the time for my morning devotional, praying for all the family. Then I headed down the other side of the medieval walls to the Friday market. The market stall holders were friendly, but it was all the Italian I could muster to say I was American and that my Italian was limited. This isn't Florence or Rome or Milan, so there were plenty of smiles with zero English. I like that! In the big cities there are also smiles and a friendly atmosphere at the market, but they readily switch into English. I need the encouragement to learn Italian in this arena, as well as with three year old grandkids.
As you can see, the food is fabulous. And oh, do I love Italian cheeses. I walked through the market (admiring some of the fashions as well as food) and up into the ancient section once again before heading home for a cup of tea with my English husband. What a lovely start to the day. As I've written in the past, whenever settling into a new location, I always need to find "my walk" and a walking "partner." Most days my husband has been that partner while here in Italy, and now I think I've confidently found "my walk."
Do you have a favourite walk?
We were up with the sun, said good bye for the day to the kids and grandkids; and hopped into one of the family's cars. Brave husband was bound and determined to brave the Italian motorway, and we left Sant El'Pidio for Pescara.
It was a beautiful drive, complete with snow capped mountains on one side and the Adriatic on the other. A hundred or so kiometres later, we were in Pescara; home of Evangelista Media-formerly Destiny Image Europe. Don Nori started the Destiny Image USA (as I understand it), and Pietro Evangelista is "papa" to the exellent publishing team for Europe.
We had a great day discussing my up coming Book Number 3, planning some changes and discussing distribution issues before heading out to lunch where we continued our discussions- chapter headings, new title.
Then Pietro gave me the good news: I was to have the same editor as I have had for the past two books. Hooray for Editor Angela! I love this editor, though we have never personally met. I send her - OK the publishing team sends her the manuscript when it is ready for this stage. She has a gift for encouragement; a word or two of how she enjoyed the book, and then down to work!
She seems to know she only needs to half way correct something I've written and I'm there! I was never one for responding well to the heavy handed approach. She has the creative, encouraging touch that is also thorough and into details I might/do miss. What a blessing to work with the Evangelista Media Team.
Have you ever worked with an editor who has the gift of "getting" you?
Finally, my walk!
It is a privilege to be here, grandparenting in Italy. My husband has been cooking the meals in the evening and I have been loading and unloading the dishwasher, cleaning the kitchen. We've both enjoyed the school runs, and looking after Little D while his parents are working.
This is all in the life of supporting the next generation of global nomads. We can't run around the corner to see our children. We hop on a plane. We lived this life ourselves, of raising our children in a country not totally our own; but now it's their turn. We are the support team.
I think it is important to show up and to be here. Skype is good, and I wouldn't want to do without it; but there is nothing like actually being in the country where you are a grandparent. In our case, we grandparent in a couple of countries and you can;t be in more than one place at a time even in this age.
One thing I learned when I was a young global nomad with two children stays the same: we need to remember to look after ourselves so we can look after others. In Parents on the Move! (published by Destiny Image Europe) I wrote that I always needed to find my walking path and partner when settling into a new location. Sometimes it took awhile to find "my walk." Sometimes it took awhile to find a walking partner.
With the traffic and narrow paths, it was a challenge in the first days of this grandparenting trip to Italy. Our family had lived on the otherside of Sant'Elpidio a Mare and I knew the walk into the ancient part of town from that direction. I pushed the baby pram and loved the exercise!
From this direction, from their new house; it has taken me longer to find my way. Now there is no baby in a pushchair/stroller. Little D is in school. I need to find this new walk myself.
I spent a day or two not walking.
That's not like me.
I'm usually out there finding a good walk.
This time though, I just didn't want to once again fine a new walk.
But, thankfully my husband decided to take things in hand and partner me in getting this walk going. (He recognizes when I have that trapped look!) We have walked to the school and into town.
Sometimes I guess it just takes a little time and sometimes it takes someone to kick start the challenge!
The School Run!
OK, we did the school run in a normal kind of car (whatever that is in Italy) but don't tempt me. My step-grandson already has his own little toy Ducatti and it is a short run over the hill and down the road to school. Sant El'Pidio a Mare has a Vespa club, and I can just see Little D zipping around the ancient and modern sections of the city!
Having driven the two minutes-Papa drove- and got there before I could get our seat belts fastened- we entered school to a warm welcome by the teachers. The kids can arrive anywhere between eight am and nine fifteen, depending on when you need to drop them off. We have a slow, chatty breakfast so only slip into school in the last minute.
Little D showed me where he hangs his coat (cute picture of an owl with his name on it) and then his classroom. It is a beautiful classroom, and as a former teacher I just had to tell his teacher how impressed I was with her room arrangement and displays of the childrens drawings.
"Bella," I said to her lovely smile.
There is a large tree (wooden, think IKEA) and on it hangs an assortment of homemade snowflakes, depicting the season. There are little chairs, each with a child's name; just waiting for storytime. My teaching days are long over, but memories of the joy of teaching came flooding to mind. It was hard to leave, saying good bye with a "chow!" and a High Five; but the afternoon run will soon come.
Well, it's Sunday.
And I am not sure what to make of it. The early morning sun came up and lightened up the olive grove that I can see from the bedroom balcony. Still sleepy, I could hear the church bells tolling away. But no one in this section of the family goes to church. I want to go, but it is quite a dangerous walk with no side walks and speeding cars; and Mr BB and daughter and Little D are heading in another direction. The car is heading to the winter-cold beach.
We all have gone to church together in the past, but that was for a christening in the church that has been part of the family for hundreds of years. Nono and Nona will be going to church this morning, but they have given up on inviting son and daughter in law.
The square in the ancient part of the town is small, but boasts three or four large churches, and each local family seems to be born into one. I gather you need the baptismal certificate to get into school, and baby carriages sport a silver Madonna to keep away the evil eye. Church has some influence, I suppose; and they are places of great pageantry for festivals.
I don't expect English speaking churches in Sant El'Pidio a Mare, but I just wonder if there is a church anywhere nearby that will draw what I see (a small portion I am sure) of this generation to church for a life of living as a follower of Christ. Not someone frightened of "not belonging," but with a faith that rocks in worship. I would love to join in somewhere this morning. Not sure what I would do if I were a year round expat. Grandparents just fit in for the time they visit their children, but can't help but wonder how Little D is going to grow up with or without a tradition of faith that is more than just a heritage in art and architecture? Longing to know a wider view of what Italy has to offer this new generation.