It’s Just a Phase; This Too Shall pass


Tomorrow I will be in Oceanside with baby, waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. Deciding that baby and I should fly instead of driving an eleven-hour drive from Santa Cruz to Oceanside was a no-brainer, despite the extra costs. Baby and I will swap a car ride for a plane ride to San Diego followed by bus, then train (the beautiful “Coaster Ride”), and finally a twenty-minute walk from the train station to our apartment. Pretty complicated, but totally worth it: We could never have endured that car ride because “no, baby doesn’t stop crying after a while”, and “no, baby doesn’t fall asleep after a while”.

Our eleven-month-old is the happiest, cuddliest, and most mellow baby, except for when he’s strapped in a car seat. Having had two babies who hated driving (it’s probably genetic!), we got him the best, most comfortable car seat on the market that even has a large shade to protect him from annoying sunrays, and we have toys ready to distract him. But nothing works. It’s gotten better, these days we have a twenty-minute window before he starts crying, and sometimes I can distract him for up to an hour by singing. It ain’t a pretty picture in the backseat on longer rides, where you will find me singing with a raspy voice, exhausted, and baby crying loudly, not understanding why I don’t take him up in my arms. As soon as I take him out of the chair, he stops crying. Often we would take breaks every ten minutes, I especially remember our trips across the Golden Gate Bridge, where we desperately would try to find a parking spot, always taken by photographing tourists. We only drive with baby, when it’s absolutely necessary. Whenever possible, I always opted for walking or taking Bart (which is the most un-American thing you can do!). When we had no choice but to drive, it was a team effort singing and keeping sane and calm (not), while baby was wailing in the car seat, all sweaty from screaming. Poor baby, poor us. Come to think of it, one of the best things about moving back will be that we can walk and bike to nearly everything.

These days I also apply our mantra “this is just a phase” to my feelings about our repatriation. When people ask us, if we are starting to feel excited about moving back, my honest answer would be: “No, I actually try really hard not to think about our repatriation at all”. Instead I often answer: “I haven’t thought that much about it, yet, but ya, a little bit”, and I start naming all the things that I know, I’m supposed to feel excited about. But the truth is that right now my sadness about leaving outweighs all the good stuff about moving back that I used to feel excited about. Luckily, I have so far succeeded in ignoring our repatriation and focused on our vacation instead. Overall, this past week has been amazing; we all have had a blast in Santa Cruz, what a perfect vacation! We haven’t had time to wallow in sad feelings because we have been too busy entertaining our guests or enjoying Santa Cruz. The few times that it hit me, that this is our last week in the Bay Area, I felt a tightness in my chest and stomach: I’m not ready to leave, not yet.

In terms of weather and nature, California has it all, and we love our outdoor weekends year round. Having to move back to dark and cold winter months feels depressing. Our return to Denmark feels devastating –as opposed to exciting– because we know that we will (probably) never move back to California and its amazing outdoor lifestyle for all the reasons that I have mentioned several times on my blog (living costs and education mostly). All these negative aspects of living in California still outweigh our reasons to stay, but that doesn’t make our sadness about giving up our Californian lifestyle go away. We believe that Denmark is a better place for the kids to grow up, we miss family and friends, but it’s been four and a half years since we left Copenhagen, and we are 100 pct. Californian. This is our home. Having to face a fresh start and new routines in a different country, even in our home country, feels overwhelming and even a little scary because we like it so much here.

My mantras for such dark thoughts are: “This too shall pass”, “Our agonizing transition is just a phase”; We’ll be all right; We’ll find our footing.

I’m thankful that we are too busy having a blast for me to wallow in sadness. I’m thankful that we had such a great last year. Had we moved back after two years, I would never had adopted the many great American qualities that make life so much more fun, such as “going all in” when having fun. From tomorrow there’s Oceanside including a trip to Disney, I can’t wait! 

Slow Healing

It was a broken hearted family that left San Francisco, we all took turns feeling overwhelmed and sad. After four amazing days in DC, we are healing. Phew. DC turned out to be much cooler and more exciting than we had expected, one of our most interesting vacations in years. On our second night as we dined at this outdoor cozy restaurant with a sleeping baby and amazing food, I felt bubbling happiness rising in my chest for the first time in months. Visiting DC has been the perfect distraction; It has helped us detach more emotionally, I think, I hope. Next stop is Santa Cruz, where good friends will visit and hang out with us, which is a perfect combination of transition and vacation.

For the longest time, probably five weeks, I kept pushing away my feelings. I felt that if I gave in, sadness would take over. Organizing moving out of our house upset me. My husband believes that sleep deprivation was the main cause. He’s probably right, the world seems overwhelming, when you’re feeling exhausted and foggy. That said I also now understand that I had grown more attached to our home, friends, and expat life that I had realized. The whole family had.

Uprooting the kids after nearly five years is heartbreaking because of their sadness about leaving their friends. We understand. My heart also aches every time I think about leaving our closest friends, our community. It hurts that we won’t be as close and able to support each other. Distance breaks those tight bonds, it just does. At the same time I know that the second we reunite, we’ll rekindle our connection, because that happens every time we reconnect with Danish friends in person. I’m so thankful for the people back home who have reached out and let us know that they are excited about getting us back home, it was the only thing that kept me going.

For us adults, as a couple, the last two years have in many ways been our happiest. Expat life either breaks or strengthens your relationship, because you have only each other to lean on for better or worse, until you forge new deep friendships. We have never felt stronger and more united. We have cherished our family time and the fact that we didn’t have many responsibilities in our weekends, including towards other people. There was plenty of room for spontanouity, when the kids’ soccer games were over. 

We are excited about moving back to our “village”,”our people” in Denmark, who are a huge group compared to our small community in San Francisco. After nearly five years’ exile the size of our Danish community feels almost overwhelming. Returning to Danish culture will be “hyggeligt” (cozy), we can’t wait, but at the same time Denmark’s homogeneity suddenly feels intimidating. The U.S. is a melting pot, people are different, have diverse values and traditions, and do things their own way. You never stand out, everybody blends in on their own terms. Diversity is appreciated. In Denmark we’re going to have to get used to more scrutiny and less elbow room. With less free time we won’t be able to be as spontaneous, we’ll have less family time with just the five of us. On the other hand I’m looking forward to us all being more independent; We’re trading in freedom for a stronger community.

For me personally, going back to working in the legal field is awesome. I’ve missed the law. At the same time, I dread how we will handle the kids’ sick days, which we have many of, much more than average. In the U.S., I was always available to stay home or pick up if school called, now we’ll have to share this responsibility, both in new jobs. The Danish weather will aggravate our situation. Before moving to the U.S., kids’ sick days were a huge stress factor. This time we plan to hire a nanny to help a few hours here and there, we just need to find the right him or her for the job. The nanny will not be for the baby, who needs his parents, when he’s sick (I feel :).

Ok, enough worrying! It’s done, we’re repatriating. We’ll handle the bumps along the way. I can’t wait to reconnect with my favorite people back home, it’s been two years since we were home. Writing this, we just arrived at the most perfect Santa Cruz beach cottage with a beautiful ocean view and vibe and plenty of space to have our friends sleep over. The energy is changing from sadness to excitement, I think, I hope. The worst part about the move is over, NOW is the time for new adventures, before the big changes in our everyday life begin.

San Francisco Anno 2016

I’m in DC taking a break at the hotel with a sleeping baby in my arms and found this blog post that I’ve apparently never published. It’s about what we’ve experienced happen to San Francisco in our nearly five years living there. There’s so much good we’re leaving behind, but there’s also a good bunch of bad, which is a relief to leave: how crazy expensive the city has become and how the city fails to deal with the homeless situation and helping those who are being pushed out of the city to make room for the techies. San Francisco Chronicle pretty much nails “reasons not to move to San Francisco” here.

This is a picture of my morning commute on Castro Street, you can see a total of five big tech buses, known as Google buses. For me theses buses symbol the changes I’ve witnessed.

Companies such as Google, Ebay, Apple, Genentech, and Yahoo shuttle their employees from San Francisco to Silicon Valley. Besides slowing down public muni transportation, for many people these buses represent the skyrocketing rent prices in San Francisco — now the highest in the nation. Along with the surge of buses, I have witnessed new coffee spots, restaurants, and shops catering to young techies pop up. Former unpopular neighbourhoods are now getting a makeover. I love “techie places”, I love that former unsafe neighborhoods now feel safe, but I resent what the changes entail: higher housing prices that people with a “normal income” can’t afford and long time residents being pushed out of their rentals to make place for those who can.

If you are a newcomer to San Francisco, the rent market may seem inaccessible. Our friends rent out their three bedroom, one bath apartment to three techies in their 30s, each with more than a $100.000 yearly income. Yet they share the appartment, which says it all! They take the commute shuttles to work. Families and non tech people, who haven’t been lucky to own a home and thus benefit from this housing boom, flee the city. Long time San Francisco homeowners on the other hand talk and dream about early retiring financed by subletting their home — which they could, but it would entail relocating to a different state :)

I would be beyond stressed if we had to find a rental now. Our landlord is an old Irish guy who adores my husband, and he has been kind enough to keep our rent down. When we leave, he’ll sell it or charge three times our rent amount.

The good thing about those tech buses is that they help ease the congested highways by lowering the number of cars. Also I know plenty of people who use them, the buses have aircon and wi-fi, so instead of spending their up to two-hour stressful commute behind wheels, they are spending it working or relaxing. Families that would otherwise move out of the city stay because their commute is comfortable. Experts claim that buses or no buses, San Francisco would still have to welcome new residents from the tech boom, because cities such as Mountain View and Palo Alto have a no growth policy and therefore no vacant rentals.

My take on this is that I can’t believe how bad the public commute from San Francisco to Silicon Valley is! Why not invest in Caltrain, get faster and more trains to Silicon Valley and in that way get even more traffic off the congested highways. Today either you have a flexible schedule (i.e. don’t have to pick up kids) and you can take Caltrain, or you need to drive yourself, or be fortunate enough to take a Google bus. Finally there should be more legislation to protect people from being evicted from their homes. There’s also talk about legislation favoring renting to teachers and policemen, which sadly right now seems to be the only way San Francisco can welcome these needed workers. If you are planning to move here, Craigslist is your best bet to find a a reasonably priced home. Here is an article about how much you need to make to live in the city (school and childcare costs not included).

Is This Necessary? Really? But Why?

My last time, I hope, wearing a patient paper gown.

Right now I should be packing, writing a job application, translating my resume into English, working on a work assignment, or sleeping. I’m usually the most efficient, hard-working person I know (who usually never feels the need to pinpoint this), but this week I can’t recognize myself. I struggle getting things done. I’m definitely not living up to my own expectations. Writing this I realize that this week has been more than challenging, besides the packing part, I got sick, I had to watch the baby, and my lack of sleep for more than two hours straight for ten months caught up with me, again.

Yet here I am, blogging, instead of working or sleeping? Well blogging (or rambling?) calms my mind and gives me a good laugh at my own expense.

On my to-do list this week was a quick visit to my doctor. Or so I thought when I put it on my list. Americans know that a medical appointment is never speedy. For us as expats, there’s a complicated insurance part including a long drive to a doctor, who accepts our insurance. But there are more time consuming parts, which affect Americans too. Before I moved to the U.S., I thought American movies were exaggerating, when they portrayed people dressed in gowns at the doctor’s office. Because why would you need to undress and wear a gown? Especially when you need only a throat swab or a referral? Well you do! All appointments start with a nurse weighing you and taking your blood pressure and then asking you to undress and put on a gown, unless you strongly object. Sometimes the gown is made of soft material, other times rough paper texture. I hate the paper ones especially because they are extra flappy. I forgot to argue against wearing the gown because I was entertaining my baby and because I undressed out of habit from the time when I was pregnant.

The thing is that wearing a gown distracts me, this time to the point of making me forget the main reason I was there. Sigh. I’m usually super organized (I really am), but wearing a gown – especially a paper one – I’m busy covering up because I never figured out how to tie the strings. As always, I had put my questions down in my iPhone, but as always my iPhone was in my pile of clothes and because of that damn flappy paper gown, I didn’t want to walk across the room and stand/squat looking for it. Instead I stayed put and forgot why I was there in the first place and made small talk about our upcoming vacation. Sigh.

Thank goodness for MyChart, where you can email your doctor directly with questions. And thank goodness that this week will soon be over, so that I can get back to a more efficient (and happy) version of me. Now I’m gonna throw the stuff that we’ll need for the next three months on our bed (easy peasy), because our beds are the last things they’ll take, and I’m gonna meet my friends and walk on 24th Street one last time.

Five More Days

Five more days with this amazing foggy morning view. Two more days before we start packing down. I’m consumed with sadness. I’m waiting for the sadness to be replaced with excitement about all the good things ahead. Because this sucks. Saying goodbye to our house and life and saying goodbye to the kids’ school and our friends sadden me more than I had anticipated. I have set a deadline for myself to start getting excited about our upcoming vacation and new life. Because if I’m sad, the rest of the family will be too. So I’ve got to pull myself together. And I will. The second moving guys invade our house, I’m replacing my sadness with thankfulness and joy, so that I can be the rock for the rest of the family who I know will have the same feelings, just delayed. Moving back is the best choice for our family, but it still hurts.

… As I was writing this, the doorbell rang. Outside were standing three guys, ready to start packing — two days ahead of time! After clearing the misunderstanding,  I send them away. I don’t feel sad anymore, just relieved: it’s 9AM, we still have two full days — and I’m gonna make them count! 

One Last Time

My last month in San Francisco I had imagined would be spend hanging out with my favorite people, breathing in the atmosphere at my favorite San Francisco spots, lingering in the last precious moments, appreciating all the little things that are special to San Francisco. Instead I have been staggering around at home with a baby in my arms – dizzy from sleep deprivation and super stressed about the amount of tasks related to our move – or on the go driving the kids to or from somewhere. My brain has been as foggy as the San Francisco summer. There’s so much I should be doing such as writing my resume, working on this big well-paid freelance assignment or organizing the stuff we should get rid off before movers invade our house in eleven days. Eleven days! But our 10-month baby is all over the place and getting hurt the second I look away, so one little activity will take me a day to complete.

Last night I finally enjoyed precious “last moments”. I left the baby and the rest of the family at home and ventured to my favorite restaurant Fresca in Noe with one of my favorite people. On the street I ran into friends, which I always do when I’m out and about. San Francisco is so big but yet surprisingly small because people hang out in the same neighborhoods. At Fresca we sat down at the bar eating amazing flavorful Peruvian ceviche and talking, while everybody else in the restaurant was watching and yelling at the Warriors basketball game on display. San Franciscans love their teams! Then I ubered home, carpooling with a weird, silent, creepy dude but with a very nice talkative driver. “So Francisco”, everybody ubers around the city (to avoid parking and to drink alcohol) and sharing your ride  means half price! I actually hit the uberPOOL button by mistake, but I’m happy I did because the ride with my creepy co-passenger was another small “so San Francisco moment”.

This weekend I’m gonna keep not worrying about all the things I should be doing and enjoy more precious last moments. The next one today is our last family trip to the zoo, which just welcomed my daughter’s favorite animal, wolfs. Then we’ll take a walk on Ocean Beach one last time and get coffee at our favorite beach cafe one last time and breathe in its laid back surfer atmosphere. Tonight I’m gonna book us an epic trip to Washington DC where we will head to after our house has been packed down. A trip where we’ll celebrate our love to America, our home. We can’t wait to see the White House, Capitol Hill, the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the National Mall! In July we’ll enjoy SoCal, our second home in the US, and hang out with friends on and off.

Starting now I’m gonna stop feeling guilty and start enjoying the little things!