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!
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.
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.
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?