Word of the year?

I recently participated in a word of the year reflective webinar with Anna C. Seidel an expat coach from @global_mobility_trainer (Instagram) that was really quite insightful.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I saw that someone else I follow on Instagram, Vanessa Paisley, an English trainer and intercultural coach at Paisley Communication was joining in for the second year in a row so I thought I’d give it a go too.

Anna walked all of us participating through a step-by-step reflective practice to help us determine our word.

I had no idea at the start what my word would be. After about 25 minutes, I thought I had it. However, by the end of the hour, I had chosen a completely different word: deliberate.

Deliberate is an adjective that means to do something consciously and intentionally or carefully and unhurried.

Common synonyms include intentional, careful, cautiously, measured, and purposefully.

I realized during this guided training that all the internal and external work that I’ve been doing, especially during the pandemic, has been leading me toward being more deliberate with my time, energy, attention, and intentions.

Life during the pandemic has been one push-pull for me in general. I’m thankful for the ability to work from home, but because I use a screen for work, staring at it for hours on end has really deteriorated my ability to pay attention. I am thankful for more free time in some areas of my life but have been far too often upset with myself for not using that time better, say with my family.

What is the point here?

What even is the point of an exercise like this? According to people who do this exercise annually, it should help bring increased clarity and focus to who we want to become as well as what we want to accomplish.

A few years back I read “Drop the Ball” by Tiffany Dufu (I highly recommend it by the way) and one of her personal and professional goals is to help advance women and girls. As she explains in her book, she looks at all of her professional decisions in that light, “Does this allow me to help advance women and girls?” She will flat out say no if the activity does not. On a smaller scale, this is the exact action your word of the year should help you with, advancing your goals, whether they are short or long term.

Looking forward…

What areas of my life do I hope this word impacts? That’s a good question that I am not wholly prepared to answer other than to say, all of it.

Having decreased attention means I haven’t been as astute as I think I am in non-pandemic times. There are fewer distinct blocks of time devoted to work, commuting, family, etc., which has really cut into my decompression/ mental preparation time between these blocks.

In December 2022, I hope to look back and celebrate having been more deliberate in my actions and behavior. At the moment this means having more meaningful conversations and time in general spent with friends (and maybe family, if we’re able to see them in person again sooner than later). Professionally, this equates to developing my business craft with intention. In 2021, my goal was to figure out a more definite direction after achieving goals I had long put on the back burner. In 2022, I hope to develop that direction with greater intention and focus.

Additionally, this also means to cut the mindless scrolling or swiping down, way down. In the last few months, this has only increased. I am not happy when Apple sends me my personalized ‘weekly report’ to tell me how much screen time I have abused across my devices. When I stop to think and compare how I felt in January 2021 and how I feel now, it is markedly different. Last year at this time I felt so alive and energized with direction, even if I really didn’t know where I was ultimately going. This year, I feel rather overwhelmed at the sheer tasks at hand presently in front of me. I hope this will subside in the coming weeks, however. The nature of my work is tidal, it is nothing new. I have not yet hit on what in my life is creating this feeling. Year three of the pandemic, maybe – but I doubt that is it entirely.

Choosing your own word of the year

To help you choose your own word, you could follow these five steps:

  1. Reflect… (on the previous year and the year ahead)
    – What did you do that you want to do less of?
    – What would you like to do more of that brings you happiness or joy?
    – What is something new you want to try?
    – What characteristics would you like to inhabit?
    – Which characterists would you like to change?
    – How do you want to feel?
  2. Visualize
    Try to visualize your perfect day. The whole day, from moring routine to the time you are getting into bed to sleep. Focus on the feeling first, then what is happening in it. Are you at work or somewhere else?
  3. Create a list
    Spend about ten minutes just writing down words that come into your mind. Do not edit them.
  4. Review
    Look at the list you’ve created. What two or three words stand out to you and why? Circle those words. Throughout the rest of your day, play with those words in your mind. Which one is your favorite? Go with your gut.
  5. Ask yourself one final question…
    After thinking about your potential words, which one could you really commit too? For example, if your word was fulfillment would you want to commit to asking yourself in the future: “Does this activity or action bring me fulfillment?”
    – Yes, this is a loaded question that sometimes you are likely to answer no too, but that is the point. Unloading the dryer might not lead to fulfillment, but seeing your child in their sport uniform dominating during their competition probably does and having the correct, clean uniform is a part of that. On the other hand, if doing the laundry takes you away from your goals, perhaps you should see if it is possible for you to outsource it to another family member (for free) or to an establishment (for a fee).

    Now, if this is something you are interested in and would like to actually work with a coach to help you determine your word, you could contact Anna at Global Mobility Trainer.

What about you?

Have you chosen a ‘word of the year’ to help guide your year before? What do you think of it? Do you find it helpful?

If you’ve never chosen a word of the year, why not? Would you be willing to try it? Let me know in the comments below.

Do you like what I do? Why don’t you share it?

Find me on Instagram, where I usually post pictures and videos daily.

Happy Holidays from Germany

It is Christmas Day here in Germany.

I should be lounging on the couch, instead, I am sitting at my computer.

My trusted and lovely desktop computer died in August. I think it was all the video conferencing and distance teaching I was doing. It was rather old and just not used to it.

Luckily it let me finish out my semester and an intense summer language course before calling it quits on me.

This means I have been using my backup computer, which isn’t all that powerful or originally intended to be my main computer as my main computer. It is aging quicker than me these days I am afraid.

I mention this because my friend Michelle and I created a video as MC Culture Consult explaining the differences between our Christmas’ from the UK & USA compared to our German experience (and what we have learned about the German’s since living here).

Truthfully, it should have taken me a day to edit it, but five days later it is finally done. My poor computer…

But, it is done and I really am just using this as an excuse to do two things.


First, to wish you a Merry Christmas & a Happy Holidays if you don’t celebrate Christmas.
Secondly, to share the new video with you.

Click on the video for the full view. It is my holiday wish to you.

If you like what you see, you can find more about MC CUlture Consult over on Instagram, where we post regularly…

And you can watch other videos I have created, as part of MC Culture Consult & myself over on YouTube…

This is a very special episode of MC CUlture Consults’ cultural conversation on the couch.

I hope you have a nice rest of your holiday season.

Be safe, healthy, and hug the ones you care about.

See you in 2022.

A love of simple things

Did you know I have an instagram page?

I do. It’s @amidreameu.

I had created USdreamEU but then I lost access to the account. I don’t remember why.

At any rate, I post about all things related to coffee and culture.

Did you know that just about everything can relate to those two things, especially the latter?

It’s true. We often don’t realize our own culture‘s impact on us until we’re out of that environment, much like a fish out of water.

Culture is also a fishbowl.

Hence the saying.

I used to go to the gym. That was fantastic. I was in great shape and I was also sleeping incredibly well in spite of my ‘odd’ hours.

Sometimes I cannot sleep. so, I create content for my Instagram page. Creating visuals is easy, it’s the copy for the visuals that often requires more forethought than I’m capable of offering between the hours of one to five am.

Weights are a great stress reliever.

However, this pandemic is sticking around…so going to the gym is currently a little complicated.

You’d think maybe since I love coffee so much, that would explain why my sleep has been so disrupted. Maybe.

It’s so delicious…

That said, I usually have one regular coffee a day. Normally I stick to the decaf (blasphemous, I know, but true).

So, here we are. I don’t think that is the culprit. I did try to make an appointment with my doctor yesterday but he was off sick. I’ll try again later today.

I’d like to present some recent designs I created, honoring my love for coffee.

Enjoy & share but please attribute to me.

Thank you.

Which image above do you like best?

A six word story about ME

[°This is prompt 6 in the #virtualcampfire2021 November writing series hosted by @chameleon_coaching & @southboundstories.

Image created by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

“I’m a verbose, life-improvement in process.”

Me

If you have seen my other posts you know by now that I have a lot to say. We all know that it is your choice to read any or all of it if you want.

For those of you that do read it all, I appreciate you deeply.

For those of you who don’t read all the way to the end, I get it. TL;DR! It’s okay.

When I put something out in the world, I attempt to be as honest & respectful as I possibly can be, to myself, to those involved with the content, and to you, my audience. Sometimes I may miss the mark, unintentionally. When I mess up, I will always try to fess up. I am an evolving work in progress, what else can I do?

As I said in prompt 1 “This is me”. You are under no obligation to take it as it is. Know though that I change for me, to hopefully impact the greater good. Not to fit your ideas of what I should be.

Oh, & I am here to support others, especially women but not exclusively, to be the best they can be, whatever that means for them.

What other possible ideas did I have when thinking of ‘My Six-Word Story’?

“One year I said, but then…”

“Woman, man, cat, & a lil’ boy“

“Curious, spirited-woman figuring it out internationally.”

“Creative, curious, interested in culture: Christina”

Which is your favorite? Could you think of a better one for me? What would your 6-word story be? Tell me in the comments.

Lessons learned living outside my home country

This is prompt 7 in the #virtualcampfire2021#november#writing series hosted by @chameleon_coaching & @southboundstories.

Photo by Gelatin on Pexels.com

Traveling has taught me a considerable lot, each time I thought I evolved a bit more. Moving abroad long-term has made a considerable impact though.

I arrived knowing who I was & what I was doing.

Only to have that upended by my inability to speak the language.

Our German resources have expanded & grown over the years. Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

Then, I found my footing only to become pregnant & give birth. Where was that old me? Was this takeover of body, of duty & obligation to this new living being all that I am now? What?! How could I simultaneously feel like myself but not?!

These were not only new international roads to navigate. ‘How to live abroad’ became ‘how to raise a child abroad’. Always feeling out of the loop or late to the party.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

The number of times I heard “it’s not my job to tell you, you should know.” was numbing. “But if I don’t know & you won’t/don’t tell me, then who should?! 👀

Then, I found a community of international women & mothers in a similar boat. This helped me feel much more ‘Alice’, less Mad Hatter.

Enter global pandemic. Once again I felt late to the party & out of the loop, only ever playing catch-up. So, I decided to attempt to control my reaction to the world instead of feeling lost, while still moving forward-ish.

Change is the constant. Growth must be the equal. I may not always be in the calm waters, but I can be my own lighthouse in the storm. It means doing the personal/intercultural work to not get tossed by the waves of change or the constant evolving weather event that is navigating life outside one’s home culture.

This doesn’t mean going it alone, independently. Rather, it means finding those who speak to your heart, if not your vision, who feel like home, who support your progress as much as you support theirs.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

An attempted rounded view of American Thanksgiving

On the fourth Thursday of every year, most Americans have a day (or a half-day) off work to feast with family & friends to show gratitude.

However, I am not only an American expat living abroad so I cannot just share the public-school textbook version of the history of this day in America. I was a student of history before I trained to become a teacher, specifically American history. So, I thought a more rounded view of this national holiday was warranted.

Here we go!

This is similar to Canadian Thanksgiving & German Entdankefest, essentially a harvest festival, the highlight of which is a meal consisting of turkey or Ham & fall vegetables. Charity also plays a part as well, usually giving to those less fortunate leading up to Christmas.

Our mainstream American history books all claim that in 1621 colonists at Plymouth & Wampanoag shared their fall harvests, but there was no stuffed Turkey. Prior to this, colonists had struggled to successfully grow food in their new world. It took cooperation and education on behalf of the Native Americans to help the colonists learn to be successful. In reality, it was only the second colony established at that time. Others had literally failed because the colonists to the new world did not know how to successfully grow their crops in the new soil – if the seeds even made it across the ocean. Native stories proclaim this was not a sharing, but rather a contact made for investigative purposes, like a fact-finding mission, as the colonists were ‘aggressive’ toward the local Native Americans. 

Previous interactions with the Native Americans resulted in waring & death/murder, the Europeans fought for constant additional space while the Native Americans fought to maintain their established lives. In fact, many Native Americans today do not acknowledge this holiday b/c of the historical devastation brought to their people from colonial settlement, European expansion, & Manifest Destiny. There were hundreds if not millions of Native Americans thriving in North America long before there were explorers or settlers, or even before America was ‘discovered.

This colony is important to American history & folklore as it not only establishes American Thanksgiving, it also establishes a puritanical ethic of work & modesty. It also predicates the NE region as ‘authentically American’ in modern American culture, since it was colonized ‘first’. It is also the foundation for ‘a city on a hill’.

Equally important, it is a Day of Mourning for Native people. There were hundreds if not millions of Native Americans thriving in North America long before there were explorers or settlers, or even before America was ‘discovered. Today there are only 6.6 million (2020) native persons in the USA, or 2% of the total population. It is difficult to say how many native people were living in what is now the United States and Canada as these records were not kept, however, there are general records accounting for how many likely died or were murdered, beginning in 1492.

It wasn’t until the Civil War when President Lincoln’s cabinet (in 1863) felt the American nation needed something to unite it. Yet, it wasn’t federally observed until 1870, on the last Thursday in November. It became a federally paid national holiday in 1875. Finally, President Roosevelt (FDR), in 1942, changed the date to the fourth Thursday in November, not a specific date, annually. It is also often a four-day weekend. The Friday following this Thursday is the start of The Christmas shopping season, also known as ‘Black Friday’.

Find Native Americans and indigenous folks to follow & support on social media.

Ask me for book recommendations to learn more about what I talk about in this post. 

(in)Tolerance?

This is prompt 5 in the #virtualcampfire2021 November writing series hosted by @chameleon_coaching & @southboundstories.

Living abroad has shown me how to live within myself more than ever before.

Whatever our education and experience level, we think we understand how the world works, common sense, and how to interact with others. The reality is, though, that generally we only know how to interact with others within our cultural group.

Blessed be those TKCs (Third Culture Kids) who grow up an insider to multiple cultures while also possibly not fully feeling like a part of any. They and a lucky other few have the opportunity to see and learn from multiple#diverse personal and cultural perspectives. Most of us have to learn about this along the way, on top of it in addition to our home, community, & familial culture.

It is true that traveling changes you in initially#invisible ways. We grow from the inside out, because much like the Tardis, we are bigger on the inside.

Like a fish in water who is asked about said water to only reply ”Huh, what is water?!” I could very easily see other cultures, but not necessarily mine.

It has taken stepping away to adequately begin to process where I came from, both in the micro and macro sense.

Once I finally began to explore that, I knew I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to formally train to become an intercultural trainer. For years though, that goal sat on a metaphorical shelf in the back of my mind.

Then, we suffered a global pandemic. I realized after about a year that I didn’t want life to ‘return to normal’, whatever that meant, without having done something personally different finally.

Thankfully, I was in a position to be able to take action.

Six months of intercultural train-the-trainer courses with a ❤️ of reading diverse perspectives (& living abroad) has helped me to become more patient, more reflective, tolerant, & understanding of differing perspectives.

Next, I present a part of my bookshelf books that I love that has taken me to other places without me physically going anywhere.

It is with these books & a few others (especially Trevor Noah’s book, “Born a Crime” & Ibram X. kendi’s “How to be Anti-racist”) where I have become immersed in other worlds, rising with their characters’ victories & falling alongside their pain & tragedy, learning what their life is/was like. Something I would not otherwise inherently know because of my time & place of birth, not to mention who I was birthed to. They’ve given me a deeper understanding of the complexity of human experience. They’ve helped me also learn that multiple perceptions exist. That another’s autonomy may manifest differently than mine, but that does not devalue or differently rate it.

Honestly, if a student asked me to explain the word off the cuff in an English lesson, I would say “to tolerate, put up with, deal with”… similar to the German definition of „Tolerenz“, which another Instagramer explained is not necessarily positive.

That cannot be the goal of human interaction. To grit our teeth and ‘deal with’ people we don’t know or don’t see eye to eye with or shun & demonize because they don’t look, act, or speak like us – until we can return to our own little safe bubbles. Really?!

No. The goal must be greater understanding. If we can understand each other, not just in language, but in internal & external motivation, we may have an easier time meeting in the middle. It doesn’t mean we need to convince each other that ‘my’ way or ‘your’ way is better. Instead, this understanding should help build empathy toward others instead of against the idea we have of them.

It is through these (and other) books that I have learned that my heart can grow bigger, making space not only for people I have met but also for people I have yet to meet, whose stories I have yet to learn.

Food I miss living far from home

This is prompt #4 of the Instagram (@AmidreamEU) writing prompt #virtualcampfire2021, ignited by  Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.

My mother’s cookies – Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

In short, I miss my mother’s cookies (and my mother).

Her cookies are perfection, plain and simple.

These cookies are legendary. Back in the day, she would sell them two for an American dollar to help fund her charity bike rides, and she constantly sold out. People were addicted, they couldn’t get enough.

Her secret? She says she just follows the recipe in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. (I do too, but mine is never as good as hers.)

The last time I went home I asked her for a ziplock bag full of peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies to take back with me. At first, she refused because they’d turn to crumbs before I would even get on the plane. (If they lasted that long.) I told her I absolutely didn’t care.

So, she filled up a bag for me.
En route my husband tried to eat a few so I put a stop to that real quick!

I ate them all – even all the crumbs!

I could probably go on, but that is the pinnacle.

My favorite photo of my mother (with cookie and coffee [the apple does not fall far from the tree]). Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope
My mother & me. Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope


Explanation of the last image: The trip home where my mother probably gave me the bag of cookies-turned-delicious-crumbs. I had made a series of funny, yet horribly unattractive faces – this was the best one of the lot at the time.

Re-Entry and the New Normal

I am currently behind on these prompts mainly because I want to post something honest.

These posts are part of the Instagram (@AmidreamEU) writing prompt #virtualcampfire2021, ignited by  Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.

What is my new normal?

This is a tricky question.

Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

We’ve been living this grand experiment for so many years that what is normal would probably be unthinkable to the old me. I often can’t believe this is the life I get to live and raise my child in. I often feel like pinching myself, like I might finally wake myself up if I do it just hard enough.

But it isn’t a dream.

And this dream isn’t perfect, by any means.

It is still amazing though.

When I was a child being tormented by my older sister. I would dream of living far away from her, in NYC, and being so successful that her bullying was a distant memory of a life before. Fast forward to now, I have lived in NYC, I have lived in London, I have worked all over the world and traveled through a bit of it. I also know now that it takes more than physically leaving to grow beyond the past.

Photo by ME, @livingtheamericandreamineurope

So, here I have settled with my family in this little corner of Germany that is just big enough, but close enough to everything and everywhere else in Europe that is bigger and occasionally more exciting. This place feels safe and comfortable, enough that we give my son a sort of freedom and independence my parents didn’t give me until I was a wee bit older.

I still have yet to master the language to the degree that I would like, but I practice it daily. My dentist and doctor speak to me in German first even though when I communicate in return it is often at a lower level than my elementary-aged child.

I use translation websites daily.

I began my website almost a decade ago in an attempt to figure out what my normal was then and now amidst a global pandemic I am still working it out although I feel I have come a long way in understanding.

First, I focused on just being a good teacher.

Then, it was about being a good English teacher.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Then, my normal was about preparing for motherhood and what that meant living far from our own parents. I am thankful for the friends whom I met around this time who helped me remain grounded through the third trimester, the birth, and postpartum depression (that I really only recognized after the fact).

I felt completely lost because I physically felt like simply a vessel of nutrients for my new baby while my brain felt overloaded. I didn’t feel human, I didn’t feel like a woman. I didn’t feel like me.

I am so thankful that I happened upon a private Facebook group of international ladies shortly after my son was born. These ladies were better than any book, website, or self-help anything that I could have come across to help me feel normal. This community has only grown since then, and the friendships have only become deeper.

Post-birth, I have understood that creating a community of positive, supportive friends and chosen family when our blood family is so far away is worth the effort of cultivation and nurturing. This has only deepened during the pandemic.

Photo by NO NAME on Pexels.com

In late December 2020, I woke up one morning thinking about how we would celebrate New Year’s Eve as a family, how we would reflect on the year before, and how in the world would plan for the year ahead since all the old familiar ways were out the window. At the time, as it is most days, it is important for me to create a happy and positive environment for my child to thrive in – even if I don’t feel like personally thriving or the outside environment is in utter chaos. How else am I going to help teach my child to look for the good, especially if all the external sources (mass media) keep telling us the world is going to hell in a handbasket?!

My sister once commented to me that I was “running away”. “From what?!” Was my response. This was long after I had settled with my husband in our little corner of Germany and child was very well a part of our life here. I didn’t and still don’t feel like I am running from anything, but maybe I wasn’t really running toward much of anything either.

I realized I didn’t want this pandemic to end with the world going back to normal without long-unrealized goals I had within myself remaining dormant. I started yet another blog and Instagram account (which I still have to close) dedicated to health and wellness and signed up for Intercultural communication train-the-trainer training. I was exercising every day either at the gym or at home, whatever the pandemic would allow. I attempt to meditate daily, but don’t beat myself up if I don’t. Finally, I write whenever I can. Some of it I publish to the world, some of it I use simply for self-reflection.

Photo by ME @livingtheamericandreamineurope

I also started another venture with my girlfriend, MC Culture Consult (@MC_Culture_Consult) because I had a feeling she was kinda in the same weird boat as me knowing there was more to all of this life and living abroad than what we had simply been doing. Plus, the two of us get together and talk about everything under the sun and the moon together anyway, so why not record it and put it out there into the world.

But, what if we fail?!

Yeah, sure. I would rather try and fumble, or even try and fail rather than never having tried at all. I would rather be running with all my energy toward something, than not going anywhere at all.

That is my new normal.

Photo by ME, @livingtheamericandreamineurope

The little things

This is prompt 2, from the #virtualcampfire2021 from Instagram (@AmidreamEU), begun by Christina Kapaun @southboundstories  and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.

🤔I had to sit on this question for a minute as the answer has evolved over time.

👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 In the beginning it *was* food, like my mother’s Chile Rellenos. Then, it was people & activities, like going to the hardware store with my dad, going anywhere to buy anything on a Sunday.

👯‍♀️Now, however, it’s the people. Breakfast with my parents, learning about victories, or overcoming defeats with my college girlfriends. Beers in a beautiful, huge chalice with my besties. Christmas Bingo with my family. Road trip weekends to the Oregon coast.

✈️It’s these long-distance relationships that are tricky. Some are lost over time, some are given their own separate life because of social media interpretations, & then a few are always there like the last chat was simply Tuesday, not 5 months ago.

🏡In the end isn’t it the people who either make or break a place anyway, really…then the food in that place?!

🌊The short answer is friends, family, and the Oregon Coast.