As this pandemic year with challenges around schooling from home while creating some kind of new normal comes to a close I find myself feeling very grateful for the word I chose to guide me: health.
Staying healthy in mind, body, family and business was my focus for the year. While this didn’t mean I participated in the runs I thought I would – I didn’t even manage to run as many km in training as last year – it did keep my eye on the goal of maintaining a healthy balance. In our personal lives we made more friends and reconnected with old ones, managed some travel, had visitors and went exploring together. In business I grew my network and visibility through a variety of activities and feel good about where I currently stand.
In hindsight I can see that health in 2021 was achieved through connectivity in all aspects of my life. Keep reading to find out just what I mean and where I hope 2022 will take me.
PLANS for 2021 - what I intended, what actually happened
At the end of 2020 I wrote a review blog (read it here). In it, I made plans for the coming year. At the beginning of 2021 I also hosted a Word of the Year workshop, where I set goals based on my word “Health”. How did all of these plans go?
|Goal/Plan||What actually happened|
Network even more with other expat focused professionals.
Definitely did lots of this.
Blog less but with more intention and higher value.
Support growth of Here We Are Germany through networking and workshops.
This started strong but has petered out due to various factors. One being that meet ups IRL became possible again.
Launch “adapt.succeed.together” group coaching program.
We launched but didn't run the program.
Build healthy eating habits and exercise 3x a week.
I did another Whole 30 (and felt great) and have started intermittent fasting, which I find really easy. Working out took a long break after foot problems but starting back now.
Stick to a work schedule.
This was tricky with kids schooling from home but I have a new habit of setting my top goal for the next day every night. This helps me know where to start in the morning.
Read a few novels.
Yes! Finally made time to read for enjoyment again.
I loved having a Word of the Year to help me focus on where I was going all year. It worked so much better for me than resolutions because it was broad enough to cover aspects of personal and business developments and narrow enough to set a clear direction.
I’m offering a Word of the Year workshop again in January. You can sign up here.
We spend a lot of time in the same space together (working & schooling from home) but this doesn’t mean we’re actually spending time together.
So, this year again we tried to get outside most weekends. We have the Black Forrest at our doorstep, as well as other very scenic regions. We went on lots of walks and discovered a number of geocaching trails nearby. Now that our dog, Syke, is stronger, our walks could be a bit longer than last year. I for one am looking forward to hiking proper trails again next year.
Saturday night has become our game night. While it’s not always easy to find board or card games for every one (have you ever noticed how many games are for four people??), we manage. Occasionally we played video games and the new table soccer counts as well. Our teen really enjoys EXIT games, which became something of a late night ritual for her and us as parents.
Skye is now fully a part of the family and we’ve sort of gotten used to having a dog. She’s grown into a loving, easy going companion and continues to fulfill her role as in-house therapy dog very well. We cannot imagine life without her lovely presence.
We also managed to “finish” the house, including swapping how we use two rooms, and were finally able to spend a summer in our own garden.
Parenting in a Pandemic
We all know that parenting is not for sissies but this past year we’ve definitely waded into deeper parenting waters as our oldest has moved irrevocably into her teens and our middle child is dipping his toes in, too.
My mom recently sent me this quote (from Julianna Miner) and I’ve taken it to heart, trying to remind myself of it as needed:
“The only thing harder than parenting a teen, is being one.”
As I do when faced with new challenges I’ve ordered books that I’ve only half read and am following a host of new Instagram accounts – some with solid advice and others just for comic relief. It all helps but daily moods and challenges must be met IRL. I did the math and we will be parenting teens for 13 years. I do hope it gets a little easier (or we become more relaxed) over time.
Some of the changes we’re learning about together are increased usage of screens (read some thoughts by Melinda W Moyer here), trust, moods and (eeeek!) boyfriends. There are good days and other days…
I’m not sure if parenting in 2021 was made harder or easier by pandemic measures but it certainly meant we needed to make constant adjustments. Keeping kids motivated and on track during lock down in the first half of the year was challenging. I tried different methods and timing, nothing was ever perfect but I found it easier to get concentrated work done after school was finished. The mornings where tech in three virtual classrooms went smoothly were rare.
A different challenge has been budding friendships – one the one hand we’ve been delighted that our kids have started to develop some stronger friendship. After repatriation and 18 months of (mostly) online learning they were overdue. On the other hand, well, COVID. Vaccinations and regular rapid tests in school have made it possible for us to welcome other children into our home again. There is always a niggling doubt as to the safety of it but we cannot stop living either, so we’ve been trying to balance it all.
We’ve had lunch with 7 kids at the table/kitchen, homework sessions, game days, cookie baking and even a long overdue birthday party (with rapid testing before hand). I always wanted our home to be the place everyone wants to hang out and some days it feels like it is.
While we didn’t go to any exotic, far-away places we did take two wonderful trips. The first was back to the German North-sea island of Langeoog. A spontaneous trip and we were really, really lucky to get a perfect vacation rental with lots of space for all 6 of us and as close as you can get to the beach.
The weather was wonderful and we all came home feeling refreshed and revived. Bonus: we stopped off near Bremen to see old friends.
After our summer holiday in Austria last year with my brother-in-law and his family, we decided we’d go on a trip together again this year. We spent 2 weeks in Italy in a vacation rental near lake Garda. Italy is a few hours car ride away for us, which makes it a great place to visit.
Unfortunately lots of people agree, so the drive down took 10 hours and I ended up driving over a spectacular but very much unplanned mountain pass to avoid the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the autostrada.
Our first week was the hottest on record so we really appreciated the pool and lots and lots of gelati. We did get out and explore local ruins, the lake & parks and spent a day in Verona. While everything went well the trip reminded us that travel with lots of people & puppies can be tricky.
Connections IN REAL LIFE
The biggest change in 2021 – thanks to science – was that we could meet people again, albeit with some restrictions. After a 2 year hiatus transatlantic travel was finally possible. Gramma & Grandpa Guy came for a wonderful summer reunion, my sister Katy visited us twice, and Grandpa came for a month. It was so wonderful for our souls to be together again.
We also connected with old friends we hadn’t seen in a long time – friends from our childhood as well as friends from other phases of our lives, some of whom we hadn’t seen for 5+ years or longer.
We also took steps to integrate and connect locally. My husband started playing tennis again in a local club. This was a childhood passion that has languished for too long. It’s great to see him back on the court. I also revived an old passion and joined a choir. I had forgotten just how much joy singing brings me and am looking forward to going back again when restrictions are lifted. The cooking team at school was also allowed back for a few weeks so that too gave me a chance to meet people IRL.
Blog Content Creation
A couple of things happened on the blog this year – as per my intentions for 2021 my content moved away from personal stories and recipes to parenting-related content and expat life experience and advice, as well as self-care (Mini Breaks, Getting enough rest).
I created the series MOMS LIKE ME and hosted other writers to share their experiences as expat moms. Together we filled the Moms Like Me series with life and stories, both happy and sad, from around the world. I loved having this space to hear their voices.
Presentations & Workshops
The year kicked off with a Word of the Year workshop. My word was “health” and I tried to let it guide me all year in personal and business decisions. The workshop was a success and I was invited to hold it for iwibdus late in January. They liked it too and have invited me back for 2022.
In the first quarter I developed, recorded and ran Expat Family Flight School for the first time. The participants in the pilot program enjoyed it and gave me some good feedback. I didn’t have the time/energy to run it again but plan on offering it in 2022 again (let me know if you’re interested!).
I also presented at two big virtual conferences: Language & Mental Wellbeing conference and ICH BIN EXPAT conference for German speaking expats in the USA. Both were good places to hone my skills & message and to increase visibility.
I facilitated six #IamRemarkable workshops. These are always empowering both for the participants and for me. The satisfaction ratings on both my facilitation skills and overall workshop delivery are above average but the goosebump moments that come when people start finding the strength to speak about themselves cannot be measured in points. Two of my participants have gone on to become facilitators, too, which makes me especially proud.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2021 was running an in-person mini retreat for local international moms with Gravidamiga. Kira (read her story here) was a social media contact, then virtual business contact and finally co-host to this in person event. I look forward to our next me time for moms in the spring.
One result of this co-operation was some research and a comprehensive workbook on rest. You can get yours here.
Growing & Showing up in my Network
Wow. This has been a year of growth in my network. I cooperated and connected with so many international women on a large variety of projects. Some examples include: webinars for expats.together, Happiness Challenge with Talu & Kira, translation for Me and My Big Move New Language workbook, Me Time for Moms in-person workshop, speaker & presenter at ICHBINEXPAT and Language and Mental wellbeing conferences, organization of Here We Are Germany, guest blogs, Instagram challenges, podcasts & YouTube appearances.
Some things were fun but didn’t give any immediate business return. Some things laid a foundation for longer term cooperations. Some things were good ideas but didn’t work out. It was all learning and was usually fun.
Facts & Figures
What I did to grow
I posted on Instagram 5+ times a week and started using stories more often, 2-3 times a month I shared something on LinkedIn. I sent weekly newsletters (except during the summer) and changed the format to “A little something” in April. Since then each newsletter contains tips, links and advice for parents and a joke for kids.
Besides showing up and actively networking I also offered free coaching/mentoring sessions and made a number of getting-to-know you calls with other coaches, language schools, relocators and training companies. I wrote guest blogs and made appearances in podcasts and even YouTube. A big success for me was being included in a list of TCK experts in a LinkedIn chat – establishing my place as someone in this space.
Personal growth: huge. Thanks to lovely people in my network I was invited to a 2 day iPEC coaching training and a TCK caregiver training through Interaction International. I love learning and developing further so these extra courses delighted me.
IG: 300% growth – 852 (up from 271 in December 2020)
LinkedIn: 150% 616 (up from 409)
Newsletter: 600% growth 28 to 169 active (188 w bounces (9) & inactive (10))
Some things are already lined up for 2022, others are in the pipeline or still on the drawing board.
- Word of the Year workshops in January
- International Parenting talks, January – May
- Network more with local schools, expat support groups, newcomer networks, women’s networks and training companies
- TCK talks for expat organizations in Austria
- Me time for Moms mini-retreats in March & June
- Continue running #IamRemarkable workshops
Other big Ideas
- Run Expat Family Flight School in person with a few families.
- Work with international schools in Germany to raise awareness of TCK issues.
- Cooperate with a training or relocation company to onboard and care for families during and after transitions.
- Mentor expat moms through Adapt & Succeed Abroad.
- Work with Competence Online as a trainer to continue improving facilitation skills.
- Develop a workshop for kids.
- Develop a workshop for kids – about TCKs and transitions.
- Long term: English language STEAM club, once in person is more reliably possible.
Personal Goals & Wishes
- Get back on the trails and participate in at least one trail run.
- Try something new – but I’m not sure yet, what.
- Travel to Scotland for my sister’s graduation.
- Travel to USA for Mueller Mania.
- Sing more!
What would make 2022 a success
2022 will be my third year in business and it’s time to start making a profit. I’m hoping all the experience, networking and connecting I’ve done will pay off as I move more actively into promoting myself – as hard as that is.
If you’ve made it this far – thank you for reading and I wish you a wonderful start to 2022!
- Take things with more ease
- Grow email list to over 500 active readers with opening rate of 30%
- Run Flight School in Spring & Fall
- Present to students, staff and parents at international schools, raising awareness of TCK issues.
- Develop idea of mastermind for other coaches or parents
- something regular to generate more reliable income.