What Are You Thankful For This Year?

In an effort to create an atmosphere of being seated around a Thanksgiving table together, we asked each of the Kaleidoscope ladies what she is grateful for this year. If you know anything about our team, it's that we don't get to spend a lot of time all together in the same place. We have to settle for one team retreat/workcation per year and, if we're lucky, several opportunities to work together during certain conferences and events around the world. Because of this, we strive to create virtual spaces where we can be productive together and supportive of one another. This year, we wanted the chance to share what we're thankful for this week and every day. 

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What am I thankful for this year? My dogs. I'm so thankful for my dogs! Maybe not Lulu quite yet, because she's still a little bit part dog, part devil, but Ellie's an angel and I love her. Obviously David; I'm thankful for a rockstar husband who just supports my craziness in galavanting off to different countries and foreign states such as Alabama, and who is willing and joyful in letting me leave all the time. I don't want to just give the cheesy my friends and family speech. What else am I grateful for? An exciting new change that is coming up in the near future! 

—Sarah

I am also thankful for puppies, both young and old! This time a year ago, Sofie ate a good amount of chocolate-themed candies. Her tummy was huge and she wasn't eating her breakfast (which is how we know that something is wrong and that she is at death's door). Amid the hustle and bustle of Giving Tuesday, I took her to the vet twice, tried and failed to induce vomiting, and checked her in overnight. This year, she is happy and sniffy as ever and still as squiggly as the day she was born 12 years ago. Plus, this year I got to know Goose, who is a wire-haired pointing griffon and maybe the best dog I've ever met. I'm thankful for puppy love in all of its forms. I'm also grateful for parents and parent figures who keep taking care of their kids long after they've flown the coop. 

—Grace

This year I think the biggest thing that I'm thankful for is the adventures that I've gotten to take and the  community that has grown out of them. There's been a lot this year: lots of new places and lots of new experiences, both personally and with Kaleidoscope, and there have been lots of new friends that have come along with that. My community both here and far away is growing as a result of these new exciting experiences and adventures, and I'm so thankful for that.

—Alex

There are about 1000 things that I’m thankful for this year. As always, the first thing that comes to mind is the people who have supported me and Kaleidoscope through everything. I talk a lot about our community and our Kaleiders and how thankful I am for them, but there's kind of an unspoken support group that I don't mention very often who have felt very close and meaningful, especially in some of the growing seasons of this year. They are my very dear friends who I have never met before: the authors who write on leadership, business development, personal strengths, business, and life as a whole. They’re the men and women who have chosen to share their lives and lessons with those of us who are trying to learn from them and have given us the inside scoop on the vulnerable moments, great lessons, and incredible insights from their own journeys. Throughout this year, through some big question marks, trying to learn to lead the core team better and train up our Kaleiders better, I have felt so grateful for these wise voices in my life. Great authors of great books who are willing to share the lessons they’ve walked through include: Brene Brown and her challenge to be a daring, brave, and vulnerable leader; Jon Acuff's tools on managing your time and energy and finding joy in the little things;  Bill Hibles' lessons on the power of words and finding the right way to communicate vision to those around you; and so many other wise men and women who have honestly felt like friends, family, and personal mentors by getting the chance to read their books and learn from them. I'm grateful for them and I highly recommend these books on your journey, as well. 

—Jessi

What are you grateful for this year? 

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7 Books to Satisfy Every Mood of the Average TCK

Alright guys, let’s be honest. The moods and emotions of someone who grew up overseas are turbulent and ever-changing. One day, we’re so well-adjusted and content with where we are in life and in the world (“Mature adult who doesn’t have any emotional baggage from a lifetime of goodbyes? That’s me!”). The next day we’re suddenly making a bee-line for the airport with a backpack of necessities and the cheapest international economy ticket on the market (“Just kidding. Get me out of this black hole of domestic American living.”).

Okay…maybe it’s not that extreme (for some of us). But TCKs and travel-lovers alike are definitely subject to some emotional, flighty tendencies. Luckily, there are a few stories that have calmed me down on my more extreme “I-don’t-belong-here” days. So, here it is: a list of seven books to satisfy the quirky moods of a TCK.

1. For when you want a flashback to your unconventional 90’s childhood:

Peanut Butter Friends in a Chop Suey World

by Deb Brammer

Okay, all you MKs out there probably had a copy of this book shoved in your face at some point in your childhood. If not, let me give you a brief synopsis. Young American girl moves to Taiwan as an MK. Goes to international school. Makes friends. Learns to like authentic Asian food. Basically, if life overseas was an hour-long Focus on the Family radio special, it would be this book.

2. For when you just want to pack up and leave everything (again)

Into the Wild

by Jon Krakauer

If the story of Chris McCandless doesn’t encourage your wanderlust, then I don’t know what will. Abandoning a life of prestigious degrees, white-picket fences, financial security, and even his own name, Chris burns all of his bridges (and his money) and treks from the Southwest to Alaska. His extremely inspiring and tragic story will certainly leave you itching to pack your bags and hit the road.

3. For when you feel like you don’t fit the status quo:

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

by Elizabeth George Speare

Raised in Barbados, with a later move to conservative, 17th century Connecticut, Kit Tyler is a textbook TCK. This chick goes through some major culture-shock moments (i.e. she gets mistaken for a witch just because she knows how to swim). This may be a children’s book, but you’ll find yourself connecting with Kit’s struggle to find belonging in a culture vastly different from anything she’s ever known.

4. For when the reverse culture shock hits you hard:

Brooklyn

by Colm Tóibín

Oh, this book will pull at your heartstrings in the most painful way possible. A story of loving and leaving, Brooklyn tells of an Irish girl named Eilís who emigrates to the East Coast. The theme of missing her birthplace and making a life for herself in her new home is woven throughout the whole book. Get ready to cry when you read this one. (P.S. The movie is equally magnificent and emotionally traumatic. Warning: the quote below may leave you in tears. Proceed with caution.)

5. For when you're craving some [obviously-superior-to-American] cuisine:

The Hundred-Food Journey

by Richard C. Morais

Travel. Mouth-watering descriptions of Indian-French fusion dishes. This book has it all. If you’ve been especially missing that homey comfort dish from your field country, be careful. This book may tip you over the edge and force you to buy a plane ticket immediately.

6. For when you need reminding that your overseas experience really wasn’t that bad:

The Poisonwood Bible

by Barbara Kingsolver

This story is quite literally the Greek tragedy of missionary endeavors. 1 abusive father plus 1 country in political turmoil plus 4 daughters and a wife subjected to the oppressive expectations put upon them by culture equals a freaking train wreck. Need a little reality check? Read this book. Your life really isn’t that bad.

7. For when you’re (still) trying to figure out where home is:

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

by Tsh Oxenreider

This memoir follows the story of Tsh and Kyle Oxenreider, a couple of Americans who spent most of their early married life abroad and feel much more at home outside their home country than within. As soon as their children are old enough to carry their own backpacks, the family decides to leave their motherland once again and become, as O. Henry puts it, “citizens of the world.” Tsh is basically the mother we all want to become, and her grapple with what “home” means will leave you saying, “Me, too.” 

On Your Birthday

I've always said that I would hate to end up married to someone if the first time they proposed to me, I said no. But really, that is kid of what happened with us. And here I am, happy as can be, three years deep into the longest monogamous relationship of my life. 

You like to say that our honeymoon was the first conference we did together in Turkey, our first time working together in a Kaleidoscope capacity. And it absolutely was such a dream-like phase! Three-hour afternoon breaks, all-inclusive wine and smoked salmon, 100 yards away from the beach, 9 of the most well-behaved children ever, and no newby Kaleiders to worry about. 

Whatever happened between now and then is honestly a blur. I remember chatting with you about you getting an apartment and me coming to help you renovate it (lol). And then all of a sudden we were walking around the Upper East Side in desperate search of wifi for a midnight deadline because you didn't have any yet. 40 grant applications, three team retreats, one 30th birthday, a boyfriend and a half later, and suddenly, somehow, we got here. 

And then this year, our first rough patch happened, with all the scariness of not knowing whether things were going to work themselves out in the end or not. But I think my biggest takeaway, and the biggest builder of trust in me, was the fact that rather than things working themselves out, it fell to us to do so, and we both made the decision to. That's enough to reassure me that we can do it again and again if we need to (seriously hoping we won't). 

We complement each other in so many perfect ways—I'm stingy, you're generous; you're a die-hard pessimist, I'm a bubbly optimist (lol, jokes); you're the bad cop, I'm the good cop. You're the brunette to my blonde. And we also contrast each other in so many fun and terrible ways. Neither of us seems to have an internal clock (or even know where to find one, let alone how to read one). We both love talking ecstatically about exciting plans for the future and letting someone else bother with the practical details. We both have a weakness for good food, and our eyes are both way bigger than our stomachs (in more than one way). Sometimes our partnership makes me question the great Matchmaker in the Sky and whether or not we were exactly the right two to have embarked on this thing together. 

Beyond all of our jokes about being work wives and also real wives, and mom and dad, and life partners, and etc, the honest-to-goodness truth is that our relationship has taught me more about what a partnership means than any other one has. It feels crazy to say that, but I think it's true. My favorite thing about all of this has been that every time I think that maybe it's over or maybe we accomplished what we set out to do, we get to wake up the next day and FaceTime for seven hours or drive to New York or have a very important meeting before a 6 a.m. plane ride or give each other tattoos or any of the other crazy traditions we find ourselves building. It's such a beautiful and constant reminder in my life of the things that are new every morning. I really do love watching you grow yourself, your team, and your vision in meaningful and unique ways. Thanks for being that and thanks for creating that in Kaleidoscope! I love us. 

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Flip the Script

Will I ever settle down some place?

Will I ever choose a nationality?

While looking at my life and the consistent struggles that come my way, I can’t help but laugh at how much of a TCK I am. I grew up in a country and a culture that are completely foreign to those of my parents. My parents are of Puerto Rican and Colombian descent, first-generation Latinos that grew up American. Then there’s me: I grew up in Central America, in Costa Rica. I’m your classic TCK who is used to traveling and trying out new things, a language learner who can’t help but not be still. And for some reason, I cannot choose a country to be from.

What is nationality? What is culture? What is identity? These are questions that could take forever to discuss and figure out, or spark a constant outflow of new questions with each answer that arises. While writing this and reflecting on the many times I’ve researched TCKs or sought anything to grasp that could explain or encourage me on this path of discovery in the realm of identity, I realize that we often tend to focus on our struggles and not so much on our strengths. 

I take myself out of the box that these questions build and take a look at my life experience. I can shout with full confidence that it is a blessing in disguise. It prepared me with a deep compassion for people and a great understanding of human action and intention. I am a citizen of the nations, and I can embrace this fact. 

Will I ever settle down some place? Will I ever choose a nationality? Those are questions that limit and box people like me from flourishing into who they have been born and molded to be. Why not ask, what is the next country you envision living in and exploring? Who are people groups that catch your attention? Why not flip the questions? Why limit the human heart from venturing into the foreign or the unknown?

 As a TCK desiring to encourage the TCK community, all I can say is, don’t put yourself in a box. Embrace the fullness of cultures you carry, and show off the beauty in each and every one of them. Don’t avoid the uncomfortable feelings in this voyage of belonging. There will definitely be grace for you as you’re humble and open with yourself about where you are in the journey.  

We are wired to explore, to venture into the unknown, into the uncomfortable, to understand and adapt a little faster than others, and to be wild at heart. Show it off. Don’t be afraid to be you. Deal with the consequences and make it a part of a beautiful story. Embrace God’s gift to you. Take a deep breath, look around you, and take on the adventure of living between worlds.

 Photo by  Yoann Boyer  on  Unsplash

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

I Am From: a poem

I am from Manila, where oceans of people meet oceans of cars.

I am from Taiwan, where the scents of my childhood fill my belly.

I am from Hong Kong, where the buildings smile coldly and the streets tell a story.

 

I am from the seaside, where what I don’t know and do know crash together.

I am from the hilltop, where ants heard our secrets and ate our lunches.

I am from the jungle, where trees spied on us and birds laughed with us. 

 

I am from my father, whose emotions fly and pride stands still.

I am from my mother, where wisdom has eyes and a heart has ears.

I am from my brother, where mistakes are stubborn and a song is always giving.

I am from my sister, where blame never points a finger and kindness always lends a hand.