Lisa

Our Past Year in the USA

I can't believe we've been back in the USA for a year. A whole yeaR!

It's been a wild and strange ride and even though we're from the USA - Florida is a whole different bird than the Midwest. It's like the flamingo compared to the robin. Night and day. 

I love the weather (really, I do) and there are fewer mosquitos than I ever imagined here. I even like our little community... but everything here seems forced and nobody is happy. The daily grind is too much and everyone suffers. Maybe we'd feel differently if we lived either in the city OR in a proper little single-family neighborhood (wait, did I just say that?!?!) but we're halfway between Miami and Ft Lauderdale in a sort of suburban twilight zone. This is not what we signed up for when we moved here, full of hope and great expectations a year ago.

It's been a learning experience for sure. BUT to be honest, this time in the USA has helped us in many ways, too. 

  1. Brad and the girls have acquired Italian citizenship through his paternal grandfather's line.
  2. I was able to claim Dutch citizenship through my mother. With this and #1, that means the whole family now has EU passports! 
  3. We had amazing visits from our parents. It was a wonderful time to have the kids spend so much time with their grandparents and many memories were made. 
  4. We were able to get all of our worldly possessions out of my father-in law's basement after 7 years and we're doing some major purging of stuff now. 
  5. We realized that this place is not for us long term. Meaning the USA. Meaning now. This was a big realization because while we were in South America, we (I) had this idea that I wanted to be back in the USA, at least for a time and I was all for this move.

But we're finding many things that we don't love here, and the good doesn't outweigh the bad for us: The lockdown drills at our children's elementary school, practicing for the event of an active shooter. The rat race. The commuter (and consumer) society. The lack of a social network. What we disliked 10 years ago about life in the USA, we still dislike.

 

Our lives are certainly richer from being here and experiencing life in the USA again and I'm glad we came here, if only for a year. We are a family that extremely thankful for our options, though!

Celebrating Mother's Day 2017 with Middle Eastern food in Florida

Celebrating Mother's Day 2017 with Middle Eastern food in Florida

Since we have these newly acquired EU passports burning a hole in our pockets and a 20-year-long dream (since our first vacation together to Spain in 1997) to live there someday, that dream is finally happening.

Me & F (almost 5!) on our way to Valencia, Spain. Showing off the continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm for Type 1 Diabetes

Me & F (almost 5!) on our way to Valencia, Spain. Showing off the continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm for Type 1 Diabetes

We visited Valencia, Spain in April 2017 as a family vacation and we're now in the throngs of preparing to move there.

We'll be out of our apartment by the middle of June, then after a bit of travel, we'll arrive in Valencia, Spain the second week in July. 

Then it starts all over again: Looking for an apartment, furnishings, schools, bank account, residency, utilities, friends, health insurance, doctors and medications -- not necessarily in that order!

Plus, this is the first time we're moving with a proper shipping container, albeit a small one. That's an adventure unto itself. Our two dogs were the most stressful part of the move to Uruguay back in 2009. I think the shipping container will be the most stressful part here!

Stick around. I can't guarantee that we'll have a lot of time to write over the next few weeks, but we WILL have a lot to write about. :) 


To learn more about us and our family's international adventures over the past 8 years, click the "About" button on the top right side of this page. 

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Reflection and Recap

Today is the final post of the 10 day blog challenge.


It's been quite an adventure, exploring goals, talents, dreams and how to create a life that aligns with all of these. 

 

Our oldest, Jan 2014. San Luis Provence, Argentina.

Our oldest, Jan 2014. San Luis Provence, Argentina.

I've talked openly about the challenges of coming back to the United States after 7 years abroad. We still have our old life to clear out. We have boxes and boxes that have been hanging over our heads from our old life here, waiting in storage until we (at some point) decided that we needed them or not. Now's the time. 

Even though we were living a minimalist lifestyle in Argentina, it wasn't entirely true... because we still had stuff, just not there. 

After completing this 10 day evaluation of what we are and what we want out of this life, the conclusion is that we need to simplify. We're here, back in the USA with all of our worldly possessions in one place again after all this time, and the purpose is not to be stifled by the rat race in the USA but to let go and move on- both literally and figuratively.

We are OF this, but we ARE NOT this. 

My memories don't rely on a stack of notebooks from high school.

My worth is not based on a pile of awards that I've won. 

My happiness is not determined by a craft room, family room or 3 car garage. 

I do not need a full basement or storage closet to hold all of my "necessary" possessions. They're not necessary, they're only sentimental reminders (most of which are long forgotten) of who I used to be.

I don't want the physical and mental weight of material possessions in this world to bring me down. 

Going back to my long-ago post discussing Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", I will hold each of these objects in my hand and ask if it's still bringing me joy. As was the case before, for the majority of items the answer is 'no'. 

As we've already been doing these last few months, we'll continue to clear our lives of materials that we no longer need. It's a process and it's not going to happen overnight. BUT- after 10 days of questioning why we're back in the USA when neither of us can really see a future here, it's much clearer now. 

This much-needed freedom from material possessions is also about freeing ourselves from who we used to be. That in itself is a grand realization. 

This adventure isn't over. Our current location is but a pit stop in a much longer journey, a necessary time to tune up and tune in. 


Location Independence: Finding Life/Work Balance

How could we balance life and work to be able to life anywhere? How could we plan to work just enough to make a living, while enjoying the richness of life from wherever we want to be in the world? 

I can tell you from firsthand experience because we lived a location independent lifestyle for 7 years. 

A sleepy baby F, January 2014. Overlooking Lago Perito Moreno, Bariloche, Argentina.

A sleepy baby F, January 2014. Overlooking Lago Perito Moreno, Bariloche, Argentina.

In March 2009, we took our 15-month-old daughter, our two Pugs and whatever luggage we could fit on the plane and we left the USA for Montevideo, Uruguay. After a year and a half in Uruguay, we wanted to get out of the city and spent a never-to-forget summer retreating to the beauty of Patagonia.

After another 5 months in Patagonia, we took an epic road trip with our-then-3-year-old through the Andes to Puerto Montt, Chile and drove north, all the way through Chile to Santiago. 

We ended up Córdoba, Argentina. We heard it was nice and family friendly, so we wanted to check it out. After a few nights in a hotel, we knew it was home and we were checking out neighborhoods and rental properties.

We found a house quickly, in a beautiful, walkable suburb. That house is where our second daughter was born, where both of our feisty old dogs died, and where we filled our family with joy for an incredible 5 years. 

During our seven years total living in South America, we traveled back and forth to the USA five times to visit family, traveled extensively around South America and even took a 6 week road trip around Argentina in Jan/Feb 2014. With two young kids. 

Through all of these adventures and moves, we worked from home. Needing only an internet connection, we created a life where we could work remotely no matter where we were.

Traveling was a bit more difficult with the kid/travel/work schedules, so we kept a home base and opted not be completely nomadic. When we were at home, it was life as usual. The girls would go to school and we would go to our computers to work for a few hours. Afternoons usually meant that Mr. Healthy Family had more work to complete because he had clients on the west coast of the USA, which brought a later day, but we ate all of our meals together as a family and we had flexibility throughout the day to go to our local shops, walk our girls to school or have a coffee date together after the girls were at class. 

Location Independence wasn't anything like being stuck in a stuffy office under fluorescent lights. We could sit and work on the patio, at our kitchen table or a coffee shop- and we often did.

We traveled when we wanted and didn't have to worry about a set allotment of vacation days or asking the bosses for time off. 

The only constraints we had were time zones and internet connections. 

A real family photo in front of Mont Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén Argentina-- where a shaved head is a true advantage!

A real family photo in front of Mont Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén Argentina-- where a shaved head is a true advantage!

Now we've been back in the USA for less than 6 months and our adventures in the Southern Hemisphere feel like a different world. It feels surreal, like I'm peering in on someone else's long-ago life --- but was ours, and it will be ours again.

Everything we've worked so hard to create is still right here. We haven't lost our goals. They're being changed a bit, polished and refined. We need this step in order to take the next. 

Location independence. It's wonderful, it's freeing. It's hard to give it up once you've tasted it, but like a haunting, long ago memory, it's still calling us back. We'll be back. 


Choosing Adventure

Adventure can mean a million different things to a million different people.... on a million different days.

The work week is done and we felt the need to stay close to home, to relax together and enjoy some peace and tranquility. We went to the pool. 

My 4-year-old, stretching her toes in the sunshine. 

My 4-year-old, stretching her toes in the sunshine. 

The pool was surprisingly quiet, which was perfect for us. We enjoyed the tranquility, while lazing in the late afternoon sunshine. The girls played in the sparkling water while sipped a large iced coffee and wrote in my journal, first at poolside, then reclining in the shade. 

Afterward, we all stretched out on lounge chairs while my oldest drew a portrait of my 4 year old. I rejoiced in the presence of these two wonderful little girls, knowing that they won't be this age for long. 

Sigh. It's days like this where I feel I'm on vacation and there isn't a care in the world. I love these lazy pool visits that help me to reconnect to peace and tranquility.

My adventure day is not adventure at all, but enjoying a peaceful afternoon with my family.


 

 

Action Cures Fear

I'm a perfectionist. If I know a task can't be done the way I want, I've traditionally taken one of three actions:

  1. I don't start it at all
  2. I leave it incomplete because it doesn't meet my standards
  3. I go back and go back and go back (so it's never truly done) because I see all the areas to improve. 

But with all of these, action cures fear. 

-The cover of my writing journal- with sticker from PassionPlanner. 

-The cover of my writing journal- with sticker from PassionPlanner

Pushing yourself to do a task, get it done and not become paralyzed by perfection is the key to accomplishing anything. 

My super power that was determined on day 4 was writing. With my new daily schedule that I detailed yesterday, I have structure and an incredible amount of focus.

My imperfect action, the step that I will take in order to break through procrastination, fear and overwhelm is writing. 

I find that free-writing first thing in the morning brings clarity to my thoughts and lets my inner voice come out. There are often unknown details or concerns holding me back from a certain decision that can only be excised through free writing. 

This free writing could be in the form of journaling or even a rough draft to a blog post like this. The only caveat is that it must be stream-of-consciousness writing with no links to insert or research to cite... writing that deals with thoughts, feelings and evaluation. 

Yes, I'll also devote time to other forms of self care, particularly yoga and walking. But writing will be the physical fitness of my mind and my soul. We all need a few quiet moments every day of introspection....to clear the cobwebs, set intentions and connect with ourselves.

I will write. 


Our Tribe. We Can't Do It Alone

Day 6 of Natalie Sisson's blog challenge is upon us and we're here to evaluate our business support network. Who helps us? Who gives us guidance? Who are the members of our tribe? 

Family is wonderful, but sometimes you need people who've achieved what you want to achieve. Someone who has been down the road that you're starting down now. 

Today is all about these incredible guides- 

There's not one "right" road to travel; there are a million different routes for a million different people.

As a traveler and adventurer, I can appreciate that everyone needs to find their own way and often, paths change over time. 

There are people that I've worked with and people I want to work with. They are my coaches, mentors and guides, whether they know it or not: 

 

Although I've know her for many years, Pam Enz has been my coach for the last year. We connected just as I was starting diaVerge.com and Pam has been an incredible guide while I've been navigating the waters of a start up wellness/activism business, planning an international move and life upheaval. I greatly value her experience, insight thoughtfulness and persistence. I couldn't be where I am without her. 


A friend of a friend, and someone I admire very much is Jackie Knechtel. She was just featured in Forbes for an incredible new program that she co-founded with Justin Faerman. Jackie lives life on purpose. She's an adventurer, a guide, living the freedom lifestyle and showing others how to do so as well. 

While I've always been drawn to Jackie, it wasn't until this exercise that I really felt the internal need to talk with her, to learn from her. It's very magnetic and unquestionably clear to me. Like a magnet, Jackie, I need to work with you. 

Not surprisingly, my last mentor is Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, MD. I've built my business based on his teachings for type 1 diabetes. I feel that he saved my life and I'm forever indebted to his knowledge and perseverance when no one else believed in his methods. Although I'm not in the medical field, I really must shadow Dr. Bernstein in his practice, based in New York. I know he's read my work online and said "she gets it" which is hugely humbling and motivating. 

 

While completely different people with different focuses, I will continue to work with Pam and start working with both Jackie and Dr. Bernstein. I need to learn from each of you.

I'm holding space for you. 


A Daily Success Plan: How I Make It All Happen

Today's blog challenge is to create a daily success plan for yourself.  Write a blog post about what you will do, when you will do it, and how it will get you closer to your dreams.

What my work looks like - except my coffee is much, much larger and the desk is, well, busier. 

What my work looks like - except my coffee is much, much larger and the desk is, well, busier. 

Since my workdays consist of 4 hours at the most (with a few short check-in times after that), I need to focus and get my work done in a short amount of time each day, with very limited distractions. 

I'm usually at home while working, so distractions abound. I need to recognize those distractions and schedule them into certain parts of my day so that they don't go undone. 

I really love the Pomodoro method, as Natalie Sisson mentioned in the description video for today's challenge. I've tried it before but I've never used it consistently. I see the benefits and know that it would help with my personal work style so I'm implementing it as I write this post. Anyone can focus for 25 minutes (okay, maybe not my 4 year old, but most people can!). With scheduled breaks, the work load doesn't seem daunting. Structure really is freeing and that short break is enough to use the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee, stretch or hop on the yoga mat for a sun salutation. 

My work time priorities are writing, research/learning, volunteer assignments and connecting with others.

 

All non-work socializing, laundry, dishes, cleaning, showering, dressing and eating will be completed before or after this work schedule. These activities have traditionally been wound into my "work schedule" but it's an inefficient use of the short work day that I have and an easy way to get distracted, derailing business momentum.  

This is the luxury and curse of working from home. 


My workday, My Success.

8:30-12:30 AM, 4 days per week

 

1.) 8:30-8:55 AM: 25 minutes of writing on www.Diaverge.com, my website promoting the low carb, whole food approach diabetes management. 

8:55-9:00 AM: break

2.) 9:00-9:25 AM: Continue writing and/or editing 

9:25-9:30 AM: break

3.) 9:30-9:55 AM: Research/Webinar/Professional Development 

9:55- 10:00 AM: break

4.) 10:00-10:25 AM: Complete Research/Webinar/Professional Development 

10:25-10:30 AM: break

5.) 10:30-10:55 AM: Online connecting with Facebook, Twitter, email 

10:55-11:00 AM: break

6.) 11:00-11:25 AM: Supporting website content: Photos, videos, links, Amazon store, etc.

11:25-11:30 AM: break

7.) 11:30-11:55 AM: Volunteer work, including PTA, Girl Scouts, etc.

11:55-Noon: break

8.) Noon-12:35 PM: Wrap up any unfinished website editing or email 

 

This 4-hour schedule consists of:

  • 2 sessions writing, editing (with another flex session at the end of the day to wrap up anything unfinished:  50-75 minutes. 
  • 2 sessions research/webinars/professional development: 50 minutes
  • 1 session supporting website content: 25 minutes
  • 1 session of email/social media: 25 minutes
  • 1 session Volunteer commitments: 25 minutes
  • 7 breaks: Totaling 35 minutes  

I'm also currently also completing a certificate program in diabetes education. The associated coursework will take place both in the morning work/professional development sessions #3, along with one hour in the evenings, 3 days per week. Totaling 4.5 hours per week. 

This 4-hour work day schedule will take place 4 days/week, creating a 16 hour work week.

This schedule is intentional, and leaves one weekday morning free for volunteer activities, grocery shopping, my frequent doctor's appointments, etc. 

I'm confident that this schedule will create the space within my work day to accomplish my most important tasks every day and avoid common distractions while also allowing some flex time each day. 

As a result, this thorough evaluation and schedule will help me to achieve both my short-term goals of 5,000 unique visitors/10,000 monthly page views on my website and long-term goal of living abroad again and running a successful independent wellness consulting company. 


 This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5

Superpowers. Super Me.

Today's exercise is to explore what we're good at, what we enjoy doing and what others see as our talents to determine our "Superpowers".

This isn't a place to be shy or humble. This exercise is intended to dig deep and toot our own horns; to really explore those things that make us who we are and as a result, help determine our calling.

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My Top 3 Superpowers: 

Writing:

Writing comes naturally to me. I love to express myself through the written word, and I always have. I feel better after writing, like some might feel after having a good cry or a meaningful conversation with a friend. I work through my thoughts and feelings when I write. It's an incredible release and I find significant personal growth when I am writing regularly. 

For as long as I can remember, I've loved writing poetry, stories and journaling. I love writing blog posts, but don't devote the time to it as I should.

I've been told that my writing is very "stream of consciousness", like a conversation. Although maybe not grammatically correct, but that tells me that it's approachable and real.

Taking Care of Others: 

My young daughters said this and although it wasn't on the list I made for myself, I see what they mean and I feel good about it. I feel a need to serve, to help others, to ease their suffering, even if in some small way. It's led me to work as a volunteer and to use my voice and my writing to help others feel loved and empowered.

Learning/Searching for Answers:  

If it's something I care about, if it affects the human condition and living a comfortable and fulfilled life in this world, I want to learn everything about it.

I care deeply about:

  • Travel/international living
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Kids issues
  • Nutrition/food security
  • Mindful consumerism/minimalism
  • Environmental issues
  • Yoga/meditation

I've found myself diving deeply into all of these subjects recently and considering how we/I can help others explore these issues, too.

I love to learn and engage with others and search for truth using the written word. That's what all this boils down to; That's my calling, that is my goal in life. 


A Vision For The Future - A Perfect Day

Today's exercise is to explore what a perfect day looks like to me. What would I be doing, where would it take place? How would it feel? 

Based on my experiences in South America, this is my future: 

As I stretch and open my eyes, I hear the sound of songbirds in the tree just outside my window; skylarks, goldfinches and wagtails are all calling for me to wake up. 

There's a light breeze coming in the semi-obscured window. I sneak out of bed, and walk through the door, closing it gently behind me, trying not to wake my still-sleeping husband.

I walk to the kitchen, prepare the coffee grounds and water in the percolator, then put it on the stove. I grab a glass of cool, fresh water, throw in a slice of fresh lemon (pre-cut and in a bowl in the refrigerator) and drink it down. 

Planning for later in the day, I start the load of laundry already in the machine. The gentle hum of the water filling the washing machine overpowers the comfortable little hiss of the gas flame under the coffee. 

Then, I walk barefoot across the cool, rough tile floor to open up the rest of the shutters and let the daylight permeate every inch of the main part of the house. Although it's full-on sunshine outside, the light is filtered through the shutters and as I open them fully, I feel the warmth on my face. The eaves of the roof are wide, but the low morning sun slips under them perfectly, streaming light through the window panes and making beautiful trapezoidal patterns of sunshine on the tile floor. 

I stretch out my yoga mat and slowly, deliberately complete 3 sun salutation sequences. By this time, the coffee is done and I return to the kitchen to stop the coffee just as it's finishing percolating, but before the water reservoir boils dry and the coffee burns. I pour my mug and sit at the dining table for a moment of quiet reflection before I wake up the rest of my family. 

The girls share a room, big enough for the two of them and their things, yet still somewhat sparse. There's a large, ornately patterned rug that stretches across the floor, connecting their beds and creating the feeling of a room within a room. I go to my oldest daughter and rub her back, knowing that she's the crabbier of the two and takes longer to wake than the little one. After a few growls and groans, she's talking about her day, with hard blinks against the sunshine streaming in the window. I move to sit on the other bed and the little one takes a huge stretch, with an big arched back spine and thrown back. She opens her eyes and smiles at me, saying a cheery but drowsy "good morning". 

Their school clothes were prepared last night and waiting for them. They dress while I'm cooking some fresh eggs in local butter for breakfast. The three of us start to eat our eggs together as my husband comes down the stairs, pours a cup of coffee, scoops the last of the eggs in the pan onto a simple white plate, then sits down next to me.

We eat, chatting about the events of the day to come, then finish preparations for school. The girls grab their bags while I get the shopping basket and money to do my morning shopping. We walk the half a mile together, through winding city streets until we get to the small village school that they both attend. There are blooming flowers bordering the front sidewalk, and an open gate with staff nearby, welcoming  students to the front courtyard. I give each of my girls a hug and kiss as they join their class groups. There's a short flag ceremony and announcements, then the instructors usher the kids to their classrooms.  I give them both a wave as they walk inside. 

I'm now on my way to the market to buy vegetables and fish for tonight's dinner. I go to my favorite fish vendor, who knows that I like the heads cut off and the fish cleaned fully. As a foreigner, Im not accustomed to cleaning my own fish, although I've done it before. He chuckles as he sees me and gets to work with his thin and impossibly sharp fillet knife. Within a few seconds, he bags my order, I thank him and pay with a huge smile, grateful for the comfort and ease of the transaction, then I'm off to find produce. I visit a few different stands, buy what I need, then stop for some extra beautiful brown eggs. I buy a dozen, nestle them carefully in the basket on my arm, on a bed of vegetables, then begin my 5 minute walk home. 

I enter our little house and find my husband on his laptop in the back courtyard. I empty the basket and arrange the eggs and vegetables on the counter, then put the fish into a bowl and place it in our narrow refrigerator. 

The Bialetti is calling to me again, almost taunting me to have another coffee, so I empty the grounds from earlier in the morning and prepare it again for the next cup.

I grab my laptop and planner to schedule my day; There's three an a half hours to work until the girls arrive home from school for lunch. I sit down for a moment int he courtyard next to my husband and we talk about my morning excursion, what I bought at the market, and the announcements at school. The coffee starts it's familiar hiss, telling me it's ready, so I excuse myself and return a minute later with a mug full of steaming black coffee- so much larger than the locals prefer! 

My planner shows that I need to complete the final edit to the outline of my newest training program and start writing the week 1 component. I check email. Send a few replies, then get into my work. An hour and a half passes before I realize that I was completely and intensely in the flow of writing . My husband, still sitting next to me, asks a question and my trance is broken. I smile, realizing what had just happened, then answer and decide it's the prefect time for a break. 


The clothes in the washer are now clean so I go back into the kitchen and bring the basket of damp laundry out the back door to the courtyard to hang the clothes. I have a double laundry line stretched at an angle between the back wall of the house and the side wall of our neighbors's courtyard. I shake and hang each piece in the sunshine with wooden clothes pins, made grayish with their time outdoors.  I admire the beauty of the shapes and colors swaying gently in the light breeze.

My husband is also taking a break, having just finished with a phone call and is now chatting about his work as I sit down again. We talk more about what we need to accomplish that week, then he tells me that he can pick up the girls from school today. I need to make some calls anyway, so I welcome this opportunity to go back inside to temporarily get away from the chirping birds and a small dog that has just started yipping wildly somewhere in the neighborhood....


Why Do I Want To Live the Freedom Lifestyle?

TOday's exercise is to evaluate freedom and choice. Why do I yearn for freedom and what does it mean to me? 

Yesterday I wrote about why we need to find our focus-- with the conclusion that maybe we're exactly where we need to be, and although it's tough, it gives us a chance to focus and reevaluate our goals. 

Today, I'm questioning freedom.

This is not referring to the BIG basic freedoms, such as speech, press, religion and assembly. There are plenty of people living in this world that yearn for those freedoms which we take for granted every day. 

I have the luxury of choice; to choose and design a lifestyle that I want, that makes my heart and soul sing. I don't take this luxury lightly, because the majority of the world has never experienced this freedom and never will.  

Why do we miss the freedom that we used to have in Argentina and how can we get that back? How can we design our lifestyle here in the USA, and how does the quest for freedom affect our future goals? 

I must digress to a story from 21 years ago. I was 19 and traveling to Europe with my University Design Program. This was not my first trip to Europe, it was my third and I remember telling my Mom that I will live in Europe some day. It was so foreign, yet comfortable to me. So interesting in the cultures, people, clothing, languages. My Mom's family immigrated to the USA from the Netherlands in 1955 and being a first generation American with a love of travel, I knew she would understand the draw that I had to Europe. 

Fast forward to early 2008, when I had many more incredible international trips under my belt, a husband, newborn baby and a design business that was faltering due to contractors owing us lots of money. We placed liens on houses and fraudulent contractors refused to pay us for services rendered. 

We decided, as a couple, to take a great leap that we had discussed a million times before: life abroad. Our life in MN was stifling and was the exact opposite of freedom. We were slaves to the independent businesses that we created. The exact thing that was supposed to create freedom, took it away from us. If I were to do it differently now, I surely would, but live and learn. 

We loved the freedom we experienced in South America. We could live locally, without a car, walking or taking public transportation. We could take off on a weekend trip when we wanted, everything was new and different and exciting. Yes, there were challenges, but it was expected. We moved around, first landing in Montevideo, Uruguay, then Bariloche in northern Patagonia, then Córdoba, Argentina. We worked online part time and it payed the bills, since cost of living is much less than what we were accustomed to in the USA. 

We moved back to the USA because of a job offer and decided to try it on for size after 7 years abroad. This has been a very telling experience.

Yes, the grass IS always greener on the other side of the fence. You always want what you haven't got (at least we haven't got it YET), but now we're dreaming of Europe: of Italy or Spain.

 

We're dreaming of a little house with a clay tiled roof; a sunny garden filled with citrus, avocado and olive trees; a warm breeze coming from the mediterranean and ruffling the white gauze curtains. We dream of fresh seafood and produce, an walking to the market to buy that day's groceries.

We dream of slowing down and connecting with the land of our ancestors... of living life at our own pace and by our own rules.

We dream of the ultimate freedom to do what we want when we want, and not be a slave to the mortgage, to a full time job, or to the commute. 

We want the pace of the lifestyle we had in Argentina, along with the food and culture of Southern Europe.

That's what freedom looks like to me. Everything we are doing now, all of my writing and studying, all of Mr Healthy Family's building connections and experience, is building a program to be able to live independently, outsource the majority of our work responsibilities and live more than ever, within my (our) dreams.   


Finding Focus: The Challenges of Life

This is Day 1 of Natalie Sisson's Blog Challenge. 

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After moving from Argentina in April of this year, we've been busy getting settled, sorting through boxes (many that we haven't seen in the last 7 years), starting school and work, and finding our groove in a new city and new country. 

There've been more challenges than we expected, but there always is. We've moved often enough to realize that we're overly optimistic. The reality is, it's hard. 

Now that we're here, and mostly settled, there are unique challenges that we need to resolve: 

1.) Life in the USA requires A LOT more money than that in Uruguay (which was still very expensive for South America) and Argentina. Yes salaries are higher here in the USA than in South America, but everything else is exponentially more expensive. Healthcare, food, housing, utilities, services are all incredibly expensive in the USA. 

2.) Time and flexibility: Here we have more commitments, more time spent commuting to work, PTA, Girl Scouts, more meetings at school, more time going to the big box stores instead of the neighborhood shops, more time seemingly wasted, pulling us from other commitments such as family and work. 

Since we're not both self-employed and working from home anymore, the incredible flexibility that we experienced in Argentina is also gone. We can't just walk down the street to pick up some eggs or milk, or have every meal together as a family. Everything has to be scheduled, planned because of time, proximity and ultimately, lack of convenience.

3.) The time that IS free, is spent with family, trying to actively avoid technology to show the girls our true priorities: Them. Us.

How can we spend this precious little time that we have together by working? We fell into that trap when we first arrived in South America, before our oldest daughter was in preschool. She thought we always worked because that is what she always saw us doing. 

 

So, how do we combat this lack of time/flexibility/money and also prioritize family while following out dreams and not ending up destitute on the streets? 

Right now, it's a struggle to regain our sense of gratitude. We're back in the rat race and that's a hard place to be, especially having worked hard to escape it 7 years ago. 

 

I'm writing and building a wellness empire at diaVerge.com and on FB at DiaVerge:The Alternative Path to Diabetes Management. I'm also working to complete the coursework to become an Associate Diabetes Educator. 

Mr. HealthyFamily is working more than full time, changing both company culture and revenue structure within his new company. He's rocking it, but not feeling very fulfilled. 

What we need to do: 

We need to focus on ourselves, our spiritual and emotional development and our wants/dreams for the future. This is currently lost as we're rushing around, being pulled in so many different directions.

In the short term, I need to increase my income to improve cash flow and ease the stress of money. Although by working more or shifting my focus, this will increase the stress of already over-scheduled time commitments.

Lowering our future costs will also help, as we've spent an incredible amount of money setting up a home again, buying furniture, sending the girls to private summer school, and buying my new medical devices to assist with my Type 1 diabetes. 

In the long term, we have to reconnect to the sense of abundance and gratitude that has brought us here, focusing both on what we have, and what we can give to others. We are not living in a bubble, and our abundance (even if we don't feel as abundant as we did elsewhere) can serve those less fortunate. 

Why I choose gratitude: 

I'm happy to be in this place of transition, no matter how difficult. We needed a change to keep life interesting and reaffirm our goals as individuals, as a couple and as a family.

I'm reminded of the summer of 2000, when my then-boyfriend and I broke up. We spent some time apart, then both realized that we were right for each other. We realized that life together was much better than apart. We re-committed to each other and have been together since, through two kids, two dogs, several international moves, business start-ups and shut downs. Through adventure and adversity. 

Our current move is like that long-ago break-up. The foreign-living dream is over (for now) but this time of challenge is proving to us that this old life we had in the USA so many years ago is not a good fit for us. 

The last thing we want is to stagnate somewhere. Life in the USA is pushing us to rediscover what's across the oceans again.  This dissonance is the universe pushing us further. Pushing us to explore. 

We need to breathe, refocus on our goals of family, independence, flexibility and simplicity. This is one adventure of many and although not entirely comfortable, it keeps reinforcing our goals. 


Moving On

"This is the tale of the tiny snail

And a great big grey-blue humpback whale. 

This is a rock as black as soot

And this is a snail with an itchy foot. 

 

The sea snail slithered all over the rock

and gazed at the sea and the ships in the dock.

 

And as she gazed she sniffed and sighed

The sea is deep and the world is wide!

How I long to sail said the tiny snail. "

 

- "The Snail and the Whale"  by Julia Donaldson

 

We loved our life in Argentina. 

Our original 1-2 year plan for life in South America stretched out to 7 years. We were starting to get itchy feet and thinking about our next move when an unexpected opportunity came into our lives.

We sold/gave away almost everything we had in Argentina and left there in April 2016. Now, we're working on developing our routines and our life in another country. 

After nearly 3 months away, I can tell you that we really miss Argentina.

We miss our lifestyle there, the people, the closeness that we felt with teachers, friends and neighbors.  We miss our walkable neighborhood in Córdoba, we miss our shopkeepers at the deli, vegetable market and health food stores. We miss being able to live without a car. We miss the good quality beef and wine and the ritual of Sunday asado. We miss public parks in every neighborhood. 

Moving is tough. An international move with kids ages 8 and 4 is even tougher. This isn't a decision that we came to lightly. We want a home base. We want to give our girls some stability of being in one spot for several years, but we're really not the stay-in-one-spot-type-of-people. The more we see of the world, the more we want to see; the more we want to experience and discuss and celebrate. We want our children to be citizens of the world.

Dear Argentina, we'll be back.

It's such a grand country. Even with our 6 week road trip in 2014 and other trips around the country, there is so much to explore. I'm sure that we'll be back to visit, if not to live. Argentina takes up a huge place in our hearts. While we look forward to our coming adventures, it's hard to close the previous one when it was so good. 

Chau, Argentina. Hasta luego. Nos extraña mucho. 

(Goodbye Argentina. See you again. We miss you very much.) 

Mindful Consumerism

I've written about our small house and how we've sorted and downsized our stuff through the years (leaving the USA in 2008, leaving Uruguay in 2010, moving within Córdoba in 2015) with the most recent downsizing thanks to Marie Kondo and her amazing book

But what I haven't said is...

we really don't buy stuff.

This isn't easy. It's not something that comes naturally. We work on it and struggle with it all the time. We WANT stuff. It's ingrained, taught from and early age. Now we're fighting against it. Every. Day.

We recently made our first clothing purchases in over a year. We bought 2 pair of pants & 2 shirts for our 7-year-old (she is 56"/142 cm tall and is going to be a giant like her parents) and two simple tops for me. That's it. 

Thankfully we have two girls. Everything from daughter #1 gets packed away according to size & season and saved for her younger sister. The girls wear uniforms to school and don't need many other things. As adults who work from home, we don't need work clothes like if we went into an office every day.  

When we do make purchases, we create lists for what we have versus what we need (I am a little obsessed with spreadsheets), including where we could get that item for the best quality, then watch for sales and strike when we can get a great deal. If possible, we prefer to wait until we're in the USA to make purchases, so sometimes that means delaying purchases for 6-12 months (or purchasing ahead of time, in anticipation). We find the quality is much better and the prices lower in the USA than purchasing in Argentina. 

We all still have too many clothes, among our too-much-stuff in general.  But we're working on that. 

Yes, there are things that we want, but nothing that we really NEED. That is the difference. 

We've switched from focusing on needs and wants, to focus on ENOUGH. We have more than enough to make us happy and comfortable. We do not NEED anything more in our lives

With our new, small house, we had to buy a bed for the girls (our previous house was furnished and their bed stayed with the house) but we've not purchased any new furniture. We have two desks, a kitchen table with chairs, a rocking chair and two beds. Thats basically it. In a small house, you don't need (and can't fit) much more. 

Here are a few of our questions about use, sustainability and function that influence our purchases: 

Can we repair or replace items when worn out? 

  • I have Birkenstocks (love them or hate them. I think they're amazing) that I purchased in Germany in 1996. Seriously. They have been re-soled 3 or 4 times, with footbeds replaced twice but these things are nearly indestructible and will be with me until I die. They've been well worth the expense nearly 20 years ago. Now the Vibram replacement soles are better than ever and will last even longer between re-soling. Bonus. 

Quality (and careful consideration) will outlast cheaper alternatives.

  • We will always spend more to buy quality items. They are usually a better design, long-lasting and sustainable/repairable. 
  • When our oldest was a baby, we bought an expensive, foreign-made, wooden highchair, the Stokke Tripp Trapp. We were already planning our move abroad, so we purchased with the consideration that this seat is not only beautiful, it packs flat for easy shipping/moving and thanks to adjustments & accessories, the seat can "grow" with the child(ren). We love this chair, our kids fight over it and we anticipate it'll be with us for many years to come, long after a typical high-chair would have been relegated to a yard sale. 

Can it serve more than one Purpose? Is it Multi-function?  

  • Because space is at a premium, both in our home and our luggage, we search for items that can be used in more than one way. 
  • One appliance that is the epitome of multi-function is our 14-year-old Braun MultiMix (a wedding present that is, unfortunately, no longer made). It's a standard hand mixer with interchangeable immersion blender attachment and mini food-processor. 
  • We practice the concept of "capsule wardrobes" where your closet is built from a certain color or colors, with almost everything being able to mix and match to make different combinations. My capsule consists of 20 main pieces for summer and another 15 for winter, with some overlap (this does not count accessories or athletic gear). It makes packing and travel much easier, too. 
  • I specifically buy products that can be re-used, repurposed or recycled. At the grocery store, I'll spend more for a product that comes in a jar that can be re-used for spices or dry goods, rather than a different packaging. (I avoid styrofoam and canned goods whenever possible).  

(I know I was just mentioning multi-purpose items, but...) 

Is the Simple Solution Better?

  • Why do I need a toaster when we rarely ever have bread in the house? A stovetop, oven or one of these nifty gadgets work great for warming up a tortilla or defrosting Low-carb Ricotta Pancakes (my favorite!!)  
  •  Although a huge pot of steaming hot coffee is appealing, it really is mediocre coffee (and our old drip coffeemaker broke. Twice). An old-fashioned percolator, press pot or our trusty AeroPress have few moving parts and less to break. (Okay, I must admit, I've broken a couple of press-pots in my day.) The routine of boiling water over the stove and physically going through the steps to make a cup of coffee is really simple but beautiful. 

Do we want to move it or sell it when it comes time to leave? 

  • We evaluate everything that comes into our life (even more with the small house) by asking ourselves, "Is this worth buying just to sell it or move it (internationally) within the not-so-distant-future?" Very often, that stops us in our recovering-from rampant-consumerism tracks. 
  • Since we are not in a "forever" home, city or country, we are okay with not having the perfect "thing" for every corner of the house. 

It is hard though, because while we're comfortable where we are in life and how we're living, I do want to feel settled somewhere, and that hasn't really happened in the last 7 years. We're not living out of suitcases, but we are keeping our eyes open for the next opportunity. A semi-nomadic lifestyle leads to (and alternatively is caused by) a restless spirit. Itchy feet. The travel bug. 

We're also a little jaded because we started off in our 20's with the American Dream that we're all indoctrinated with as kids in the US---

"Grow up, find a good job, get married, buy a house, fill it with stuff, have kids. That's what life is all about!"

Blah, blah, blah. 

We had all of that. For a time, we REALLY wanted to be like the Joneses. Then we decided that the house full of stuff, two new Euro-imports in the garage and our full-time jobs that we needed to afford all the stuff were not worth it.

And I guess our story really began there. 

We've grown to look at frugality in a completely different light. This is not austerity. It gives us the flexibility to decide how we want to live our lives. It gives us options to work part time, spend more time with our kids and travel for 2-3 months every year. 

It isn't easy. We struggle with the burning WANT (and keeping up with the Joneses) but we always come back around to the fact that those material wants do not get us to our life goals. We have what we need to be happy and comfortable. We want to spend our money and time elsewhere. 

 

So, in reference to the first photo:

No, I DON'T want to go shopping. I won't buy a new pair of jeans, because I already have one and I really don't need another (at least not until my current pair of jeans wear out.) How about coming over to our little house for a great cup of coffee and conversation instead?? 

Peace, 

Lisa 

 

So, what about you?

 

We want to know about your interests...

(in a general, non-creepy sense)

...and what you want to read here.

 

Franca says "Please!!!" (...complete the survey, that is!)

Franca says "Please!!!" (...complete the survey, that is!)

Do you like our health posts, lifestyle/minimalism topics, foreign residency and citizenship? Do you want to see recipes, kids stuff, our adventures,  or something else entirely? 

Lay it all down here so we can move forward in the direction that best serves you, our reader.

Take about 2 minutes to review the 20 little topics listed below. You tell us how much you want to see more of each. 

Thanks for your support!

Un beso enorme, 

Lisa

 

 

HEALTHY FAMILY ABROAD TOPIC SURVEY
HEALTHY FAMILY ABROAD TOPIC SURVEY
We want to know about you and your interest in our blog. Please answer IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE MORE of each post topic on the spectrum of Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. Thanks for you help in making Healthy Family Abroad even better.
GENERAL HEALTH POSTS
Mental Health
Homesickness
Fitness
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Meal Plans & Menus
Recipes
GENERAL FAMILY POSTS
Bilingual Kids
Minimalism/Small House
Education
Kid Stuff
GENERAL LIVING ABROAD POSTS
Foreign Citizenship
Foreign Residency
Planning an International Move
Tools for Expats
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How to Budget

Thanks again for your help! If you would like to see more (or less) of a topic not listed here, please leave a comment below. 

My 12 Health & Fitness Tools

After sharing my food/fitness/diabetes story, I want to talk about tools that helped me lose 25 lbs and get (more) fit over the past year. I am not some amazing physical specimen, but I hope that something here might work for you, too...

Sorry, but these are NOT sexy, high-tech solutions.

Quite the contrary; my tools are very simple:

  • Books (okay, I buy on Kindle, is that high tech for you?!?!)
  • Websites
  • A few physical gadgets

Yes, low-tech might be boring, but these things have been great reference materials and have kept me accountable. Which, in my opinion is the most important thing. Don't knock it if it works. 

**Included are several Amazon affiliate links (in gray) and buttons, which do not cost you anything additional if you choose to purchase, but we get a small percentage of the purchase price to help to support our travel and blogging activities. Thanks for your support!

BOOKS: 

"It Starts With Food" Book: This is where I started two years ago. Mind-blowing. Contains very detailed descriptions of what grains and sugar -in particular- do to your body and how to re-set your diet to reduce cravings and move in a healthier direction long-term. It's the basis for the Whole30 (of which I've completed 2) and Paleo programs.


wellfedheader1.jpg

"Well Fed" Cookbook: This is a cookbook spin-off of It Starts With Food (above). I was very excited for the first Well-Fed cookbook (there is also Well Fed 2 which I have not read). I cooked a lot of whole foods before starting to eat Paleo, but this had some great concepts for organization, shopping, meal planning and prep. 

If you are not accustomed to cooking whole foods, or are looking for ways to cook once or twice per week and create flexible meals for the rest of the week based off of your pre-prepared ingredients, this is a great place to start.

Now that I am doing more meal planning ---Imagine that! Me, plan ahead!?!?---and have less time to cook every day, these cookbooks are a great fit for my (our) lifestyle. Time for me to start reviewing and planning our recipes. I'm already using several recipes and concepts from the first book and I look forward to digging into Well Fed 2. 


Diabetes Solution Book: The Holy Grail. THE guidebook for Type 1 Diabetes management and low carb eating to control blood glucose levels. The author is an 81 year old medical doctor and engineer who has type 1 diabetes for the last 69 years. After suffering serious complications due to high blood glucose levels, he revolutionized diabetes self-care and developed the low carb eating plan for diabetes in the late 1960s to botain normal blood glucose levels (using himself as a test subject). Dr. Bernstein went to medical school at age 40 so he could teach others what he had already learned from his years as a diabetic, successfully reversing many of his long-term complications.

This book is incredible, but strict stuff. Not for the faint of heart but it works like nothing else I've read/seen/experienced to control blood glucose levels. 


ONLINE and PHYSICAL RESOURCES: 

 

I tried MyFitnessPal, SparkPeople, MyPlate by Livestrong and others but I prefer MyNetDiary w/ optional Diabetes App for the metric food inputs, more whole foods listed and the diabetes trackers. Integrates with Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings.  You can get the app for Ipad/Iphone for $10 on the iTunes store. 

 


DoYogaWithMe.com is my favorite free yoga website where you can search through a variety of styles, class lengths and fitness levels to find the perfect at-home yoga class. Classes are all beautifully shot in a professional studio or gorgeous natural setting and the instructors are all seasoned professionals. You can also download your favorite classes for a small charge, which is perfect for when you can't stream video. 


A DIGITAL FOOD SCALE:  Simple, simple. Costs less than $15 and it's crucial for accurate inputs of non-processed foods into your online food tracker program (such as MyNetDiary, as listed above). You can get some cool bluetooth digital scales that connect to Ipad apps for automatic food tracking, but that is not where I am right now. Simple is fine, just make sure it has a "tare" function. This food scale on Amazon is similar to mine. 


A PEDOMETER (OR WEARABLE FITNESS TRACKER): I had a pedometer and really liked it. Then I shattered it on the tile floor when I forgot that it was clipped to my belt (damn tile floors!!).  I wanted a fitness tracker but it is too hard to get one to Argentina, and I'm cheap, so I've done without.

One thing that helped keep me on track with walking (my every-day workout) is to have a non-flexible walking schedule (I had to get my daughter to school every day).  If you need to see your numbers to stay accountable, get a pedometer at the least or a wearable fitness tracker that can sync to an online program such as....


MAPMYRUN / MAPMYWALK / MAPMYFITNESS: Using these programs can show you where you've gone, track your steps and keep you pushing forward. I love to see my maps and log a new entry (Yes, ahem.. I am SO analog and log the routes by hand after they are completed). You can also sync with all the major wearable fitness trackers to automate your fitness and connect with your friends to see how everyone is doing and stay accountable. Do you see this common accountability thread here?? ;) 


WHOLE30 WEBSITE: The companion to the Whole30 book and It Starts with Food (listed above). Positive online community in the forum, recipes, sample menus, shopping lists (including specialty lists, such as Vegetarian Whole30, GAPS Whole30 and Nightshade-free) and answers to all your questions/real-life situations when starting a Whole30 diet re-set or beginning a paleo eating plan. 


Dr. Richard K. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution Website: Additional information and online forum for Dr. Richard K Bernstein's plan for both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes management. Includes excerpts from his book, Diabetes Solution (mentioned above) and includes numerous supporting articles, research and patient testimonials. 


Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes UNIVERSITY on YouTube: Dr. Richard K. Bernstein's online resources, with an incredible amount of sort video sessions answering questions and addressing recommendations about his diet/blood glucose maintenance plan for the treatment of Diabetes.


TypeOneGrit Fan Page on Facebook:  Facebook page and FB online community for Type 1 Diabetics following Dr. Bernstein's recommendations for diet and optimal blood glucose control. This is the most strict of the Dr. Bernstein groups and dedicated to those trying t achieve A1c level in the low 5% and upper 4% range, in an attempt to reduce and reverse long-term diabetic complications through the maintenance of normal (non-diabetic) blood glucose levels. A closed group for Type 1 Diabetics (and parents of juvenile T1 diabetics) that requires vetting prior to acceptance. 

This group has been incredibly supportive and full of additional information about Dr. Bernstein's plan, along with recipes, research and real-world experiences. It's like family. 

 

So, yes, I might be SO 2005 in my technology here, but This works for me.  Please Leave a comment to share what works for you. 

 

 

 

Our Small House Experience

FOR THE LAST TWO MONTHS, WE'VE BEEN LIVING IN A SMALL (BUT NOT TINY) HOUSE.

It's a duplex and measures about 800 sq. ft, not including the garage. 

This has led to many hours of evaluation and re-evaluation: about our possessions, about what our family of 4 truly needs to be happy, our future goals and what factors have contributed to our being able to live this way.

A few things about us/our thoughts: 

  • We're not terribly organized. This is NOT a contemporary DWELL magazine-worthy space and we still have too much stuff lying around.
  • This house isn't perfect, but it HAS exceeded our expectations in many ways.
  • While we have lived in houses that push the 2500 sq. ft. mark, this small house is more comfortable, more cozy, more HOME for us. 
  • We find that we are actually more calm here, even with the close quarters. We don't have to yell to get someone's attention across the house, yet there are spaces where we can escape if we are feeling too much togetherness.
  • This IS a live-work space with the adults in the home almost all the time. Add the littlest one for lunch and every afternoon, and the oldest kid here the rest of the time. We spend a lot of time in the house, together.
  • This house fits perfectly with our thrifty, minimalist goals: Less stuff, less expense, less time working, more time together, more time traveling. 

Here are the plans for our 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house in Córdoba, Argentina (click on the image to view larger):


There are some lifestyle factors that we feel make it easier to live in a small home, many of which are influenced heavily by living in Argentina.

WE HAVE FEWER THINGS:

  • No microwave (although one could be installed above the range).
  • No dishwasher. I know, I hate washing dishes too, but it's easier to keep up when we have few dishes to get dirty. 
  • Few pots/pans I currently have 4 but we use 3. One more thing to give away!
  • No counter coffee pot. We use an AeroPress Coffee Maker. It is absolutely worth the time and becomes a great morning routine. It was perfect for our 38-day road trip around Argentina last year and we bring it everywhere we travel, along with a travel mug and thermos for hot water. 
  • No clothes dryer. The washing machine is in kitchen. We have a portable drying rack that can sit at the end of the kitchen or outside on the patio.
  • No furnace. We have two natural gas wall heaters to warm the chilly winter mornings. Nothing more is needed. 
  • Outside storage is available for bikes, brooms, etc. Even a few extra boxes are sitting in the carport with no fear of freezing temps. Note to self: Get the boxes cleared out!
  • Local, fresh food. No bulk storage needed for refrigerated and/or pantry items.  We shop the local, neighborhood stores every few days to get the essentials, with a trip to a larger grocery store every few weeks. 
  • Few pieces of furniture. We don't have a living room. It's a play room. We don't watch TV in the traditional sense and we sit together at the kitchen table, so no living room set is needed. The girls share a full-size bed, so two beds are not needed. This also saves on extra bedding. We COULD use a shelving unit to get the toys off of the floor, but then again, maybe the girls own too many toys. ;) 
  • Few lights. Small space + lots of natural light = not many lightbulbs needed. We have installed half LED and half CFL for the lights we do use.  

WE LOVE THESE DETAILS OF OUR HOUSE:

  • Walk-out outdoor spaces and the back  patio has a "galleria" with a mesh cover to filter the light. We leave the back door open all the time, and with no screen door and a straight-walk out to the patio, it's a great transitional space. 
  • Built-in outdoor grill. A parrilla is standard in Argentine houses...and large garden/yard available for entertaining.
  • We're across the street from a large park.
  • Great natural light in all rooms (the only exception is the powder room). Both upstairs bathrooms and the center hall have clerestory windows. 
  • Substantial masonry construction. This is a very solid house. 
  • On-demand water heater hidden inside a kitchen cabinet. Never-ending hot water is amazing. Who needs a 50 gallon tank in a small home? A "giant" albatross. 
  • Two gas wall-heaters provide more than enough heat for the entire house.
  • All tile floors in the main living areas, bathrooms, stairs, garage and back patio. Easy maintenance and they get toasty warm by the heaters.
  • Operable shutters on all main floor and bedroom windows. The bedrooms can become pleasantly cave-like, night or day. 
  • Vaulted ceiling heights in bedrooms provide for extra tall closet storage and create a much more spacious feel in the small bedrooms. 

what I WOULD CHANGE:

As an interior designer, I look at every space with a critical eye, and our own space is no different. Besides changing most of the finishes to reflect our more contemporary aesthetic (hey, I can dream), there are a few plan changes that I would recommend: 

  • Widen the house by 2-4' to accommodate easier entrance into house if a car is in the garage (you enter through a gate into the garage, then enter the house). This would also create better head height in the stairwell.. we have to duck ever so slightly. But, hey, we're tall.
  • In colder climates, the house would need additional heating supply, possibly a utility room and mudroom and/or entry storage for cold-weather gear.  
  • The garage could easily be made into another room, or elongated to add a mudroom and utility room against the stairwell wall, which could also add space to the terrace off of the 3rd bedroom. But... then it wouldn't be such a small house anymore, would it?? (However, do we really need a car? We lived here four years without and feel we could do it again.)
  • If the house is built free-standing (not a duplex with walls on either side, as it is currently), additional windows could be added on the side walls, as well as bump-outs for stairwell and/or dining room.
  • Remove the utility sink from the kitchen because hey, counter space is at a premium and add a prep/utility sink to the side of the parrilla area outside for the grand asados we would surely have on the back patio.
  • Merge the two upstairs bathrooms into one larger bathroom. Both are on the small end of comfortable and I wouldn't recommend more square footage, unless you absolutely needed a larger kitchen as well (which is directly below).
  • At the very minimum, take out the bidets in the upstairs bathrooms. For us, it is not a cultural norm and they take up a huge amount of real estate in those tiny bathrooms. 
  • Change the wood-burning fireplace in main level to gas insert or more efficient heating stove for an auxiliary heat source.

WE FEEL CONFIDENT THAT WE COULD LIVE (AND WORK) AS A FAMILY OF 4 IN A HOUSE THAT IS 1000 SF OR SMALLER NO MATTER WHERE WE ARE. 

I really love that after years of designing for size and luxury, I'm now designing for efficiency and extreme usability. "Mindful, minimal and efficient" is our personal goal and this little house fits right in. 

 

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We're Dual Citizens!

Our Argentine passports just arrived!

Our Argentine passports just arrived!

After an 18-month process, we are proud to announce that we are dual US/Argentine citizens! Okay, the adults of the family are naturalized Argentine citizens. Our youngest is a natural-born Argentine citizen since she was born here. And our 7-year old... we are still working on her status. She is a permanent resident but citizenship is a bit tougher since she was born in the USA and is currently a minor, but we will get to that in detail later. 

Dual citizenship was not our goal of moving abroad, but it has been a nice benefit. 

Brad represented the two of us throughout the process with the federal courts in Cordoba and it was an unbelievably smooth and inexpensive, albeit fairly long process. We have now been through both the permanent residency and citizenship/naturalization process here in Argentina and I daresay, citizenship was easy. 

The US State Department does not limit the citizenships that one can acquire and you can read more about that here and here . The main point as written is: 

"In light of the administrative premise discussed above, a person who:
  • is naturalized in a foreign country;
  • takes a routine oath of allegiance to a foreign state;
  • serves in the armed forces of a foreign state not engaged in hostilities with the United States, or
  • accepts non-policy level employment with a foreign government,
and in so doing wishes to retain U.S. nationality need not submit prior to the commission of a potentially expatriating act a statement or evidence of his or her intent to retain U.S. nationality since such an intent will be presumed."
(i.e.: We have no intent of giving up US Citizenship, and the US government presumes the same.) 

We'll be writing about the steps to Argentine Citizenship in great detail in upcoming posts. 

ALSO in the works: We're reclaiming Italian citizenship (granted since birth to Brad and the girls) with the goal of the three passport trifecta of USA-Argentina-Italy. The exciting details will be saved for yet ANOTHER post- or ebook if these citizenship posts get too lengthy. 

We feel that Argentine citizenship was a natural step for our family because:

  • Our youngest will always be a natural-born Argentine citizen
  • We have spent the last 5 years here in Argentina
  • We feel a great connection to the Argentine people and culture
  • As citizens, we can move freely throughout Mercosur (The EU of South America) without visas (US Citizens need visas for many countries in South America or pay a reciprocity fee for entry) and have the flexibility to travel/work at will... and not run into the possibility of having permanent residency taken away from us at some point in the future. 
  • While we do not plan to stay forever, this gives us options. 

The girls will have the option to live, study and work on three continents, with little or no bureaucratic or visa requirements.  United States of America, Italy/European Union (EU), and Argentina/Mercosur and its affiliate members.  

Examples:

Want to move to Medellin, Colombia? Residency visa is granted in approximately 5 days to Argentine citizens. Nothing more than a background check which can be obtained same day. The process is substantially easier than what US Citizens would have to do to get a similar residency visa in Colombia.

Want to go to University in Germany?  It's free to all. See the link here to compare University costs throughout Europe. 

Now we just have to keep track of our 7 passports... hopefully soon to be 8...and not long after that...12! Looks like we'll need a larger travel wallet. 

 

 

 

 

Food, Fitness & Type 1 Diabetes: Lisa's Story

Food is a very personal thing. There is no one-size fits all in the real world and I'm convinced that what's right for one person may or may not be right for the rest of us. I also believe that if you've found something that might lead to self improvement, you need to give it a fair chance. If you've found something that works for you, you have to stick with it.

Easier said than done, I know.

I am not a nutritionist, a doctor, a fitness guru. I just want to share my story in the hopes that it might help someone out there find their own path. There are so many people looking, searching for answers. I hope to serve as a guide.

The Back Story:

Like most people, my relationship with food has been complicated and flexible (more like dancing and gyrating, but we'll get into that...)

I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (I will refer to it as T1D) in late 2002. I had just turned 26. My mom and brother both have T1D, so I grew up around diabetes and didn't think it would affect my life too greatly. I knew it. I thought I understood it. I used insulin injections for a while, then switched to an insulin pump after a year. With the exception of two short stints on injections when I was traveling in recent years, I have used an insulin pump for the great majority of the last 13 years.

I was newly married and gained weight, as many newlyweds do. I remember huge glasses of orange juice, and matching my portions of pizza and Thai take-out with my husband. We were both chubby, but happy. I felt like I could eat anything and as long as I covered it with insulin and I did. My A1C levels were good, but I probably still produced some background insulin (appropriately called the "honeymoon period" after T1D diagnosis).

In order to gain control of our eating habits, we latched onto the South Beach Diet in 2005-ish and both lost weight. Portion control was key, along with the tough initiation period that broke your addiction to simple carbs.  The thing with South Beach is that you gradually re-introduce carbs and herein lies the downfall. 

Like most "diets" we slipped away from those better eating habits as the years passed.

Jump forward several years:

I had two beautiful baby girls, 4.5 years apart and although I lost all my pre-baby weight after my first pregnancy, my second wasn't so easy. I was at the heaviest (non-pregnant) that I had ever been, 175 lbs.

In late 2013, I had heard of Paleo eating and the Whole 30 and was trying to cut down on my carbohydrate intake to lose weight and gain better control of my T1D & blood glucose numbers. October 2013 I completed by first Whole 30 month and it changed my entire outlook on how I could feel. I started at about 173 lbs and lost about 10 lbs in a month. I felt amazing while not eating dairy or grains, but tons of protein, fruits and veggies.

Then came the holidays and a 6 week road-trip around Argentina in Feb 2014 with hours in the car and more restaurant eating than I care to admit (plus the tragic thinking of "Oh, I can have that. We're on vacation!!") The weight was back and what I had learned on the Whole 30 just months before went out the window.

Here's the visual evidence. This is hard to post: 

Feb 2014 - Our Road Trip through Argentina. Lisa at approx. 170 lbs

Feb 2014 - Our Road Trip through Argentina. Lisa at approx. 170 lbs

March 2014 was my second Whole 30 month and much harder than the first. It was also the start of daily exercise, bringing our youngest daughter to preschool everyday. I walked 5 km round trip, half of that pushing a jogging stroller along bumpy suburban sidewalks. I walked fast and felt strong. I felt great. The weight came off again and then some, totaling 23 lbs lost in a year.

March 2015- Lisa at approx 150 lbs 

March 2015- Lisa at approx 150 lbs 

I didn't care so much about the weight, though. I wanted to feel strong, fit and healthy.

Here it's July 2015. My daily walks with our youngest have ended as she started school with her sister, much closer to our home this past March. To make up for less time walking per day, I am taking 2 Pilates classes per week and trying to walk more on the weekends. I've also been looking for a yoga class nearby and have been exploring the concepts/motions of MovNat. Their motto "Be Strong To Be Useful". Who can argue with that??


Dr. Bernstein's Low Carb Diet for Diabetes Management: This past January, I re-discovered Dr. Bernstein's Book, "Diabetes Solution" after I bought it on Kindle last year.

Dr Bernstein is an 81-year-old Engineer (his first career) and Medical Doctor (he went to med school at age 40) that has had Type 1 Diabetes for the last 69 years. Dr. Bernstein has successfully reversed many of his own diabetic complications that came from years of high blood glucose levels following this diet that he advocates and discovered in the 1970s. He is currently practicing medicine in New York and accepting new patients.

I first read Dr. Bernstein's book in early 2014 and thought it was extreme and insane. It's an eating plan that is close to the Ketogenic diet, which has been used to treat Epilepsy since the early 1900's. Dr Bernstein's plan is close to what doctors prescribed to their patients at the discovery of insulin in the 1920's. It advocates very low carbohydrates to control diabetes blood glucose levels but even reverse the complications that high blood glucose levels produce. It is tough plan, with a limit of 30 grams of carbs per day, completely through vegetables, meat and dairy. No fruit. Higher fat than you'd imagine. Target blood glucose of 83 mg/dL. My target range is 70-95 mg/dL. 

So, with Dr. Bernstein's plan: 

  • Healthy fats/oils, eggs, red meat and dairy. YES!!!
  • Non-starchy vegetables. YES!!!
  • Nuts & seeds in limited quantities (depending on the type). YES!!!
  • Sugars (as in breads, crackers, pasta, rice, legumes, fruit, etc. -- because they are all turned into sugars in your body) ABSOLUTELY NO!

The first month was a difficult transition, but my blood glucose levels have been normal. Completely non-diabetic normal, with an  A1c of 4.4%. It had been so dramatic of a change that I don't know how I can give this up. I am not hungry, not feeling deprived and my T1D is completely under control. 

I am within a healthy weight range and BMI using all the recommended charts. (Based on some, my weight is still on the high end of recommended, others I fall right in the middle at 5'-10" and 150 lbs).

I feel great compared to the previous ups and downs of blood glucose levels that make a person feel tired, irritable and at times really foggy.

Do I feel less emotional, more clear headed, more ... ME?

I am happy to say.... YES!!!

March 2015-Lisa at approx. 150 lbs 

March 2015-Lisa at approx. 150 lbs 


** The next Health Post will discuss specific tools that I use and recommend to keep track of food and exercise. I'm not selling anything here, but there are things that work for me and keep me accountable on a daily basis.

New Beginnings and Reminiscing

The Truck Being Loaded
The Truck Being Loaded

Just over one week ago, we left the house where we have spent the last 4 years in Cordoba. A lot of living had been done in that house and it was an emotional goodbye.

When we moved to Cordoba in early 2011, we had just spent 5 months in Bariloche, Argentina. We left our two dogs there and had driven with our eldest daughter from Bariloche, across the Andes mountains to Puerto Montt, Chile and north through Chile to Santiago.

Cordoba, Argentina was to be our sight-unseen home. A few nights in a hotel and a temporary rental in downtown Cordoba led us to an exploratory drive where we stumbled upon the house and neighborhood where we've spent the last 4 years.

First Day of School for Daughter #1 - 2012
First Day of School for Daughter #1 - 2012

That house, while not perfect, was partially furnished and in a great neighborhood. We moved in when daughter #1 was just over 3 years old and our two Pugs joined us soon after their extended vacation in Bariloche. We were a whole different family unit when we moved in. Parents, one child and two dogs. Now, after the birth of Daughter #2 IN that house (who is now the age of daughter #1 upon move in) and the deaths of both dogs in that house, we are a completely different family upon moving out.

So... After strained contract negotiations with the owner of that house, we knew that this was an opportunity to change. We opted to stay in the neighborhood, took a referral and found a great little house that I will call the "casita" just across the plaza from our "old" one. In fact, even our street name is the same, just the number has changed.

We are taking this opportunity to re-group and reevaluate our possessions and in fact, our needs. Truth is, we don't NEED half of the stuff that we own and it doesn't bring joy to our lives (see my post on Mari Kando's Art of Tidying Up)

At first glance, it looks like we are crazy.

We went from a large, furnished 3 bedroom/3 bath home with a pool and garage (and much more space than we needed) to a very cozy 3 bedroom/3 bath that needs work and furniture. Bedrooms/baths aside, the casita about 1/3 the living space of our previous home but honestly, we love it.

Maybe we thrive on change and things had gotten a bit stale after 4 years at the other house. Maybe we are looking for adventure. Maybe both. The excess is being sloughed away and the essentials are coming to light. This is a test for the type of small living that we have always wanted and will seek out in the future, whether that is in the USA, Europe or elsewhere.

We are convinced that our family does not need 2000+ SF to live in. The casita has about 300 SF on the main floor and I am estimating about 500 SF on the upper level (which extends over the carport). It is efficient. Every inch counts and there is thankfully no more yelling across the house to get someone to hear you. We had rooms in the last house that were never used. For us, it wasn't worth the cost to rent and maintain when something smaller is much more fulfilling.

Last Thing Out Of The House: The Fish
Last Thing Out Of The House: The Fish

We will miss that big house and swimming pool and will always reminisce about the good times and the changes that happened within those walls. Goodbye big house, you were excessive but we loved you nonetheless.

Now we look forward to streamlining our lives even further and saving a ton of money in the process. Onward and upward!!