12.05.2012

...if only in my dreams.



Let's not pussyfoot around my blog absence. As always, it boils down to one thing:

I miss home. It's the holiday season and I really, really miss home.

I started to write about the tree we decorated, the packages I'm putting together, the amazingly impromptu Thanksgiving I had with a fantastic new Twitter-turned-real-life-friend who reminds me so much of these blog girlfriends. But at the end of all those half-written posts....my heart was just aching for home and I couldn't quite hit publish.

There's just so, so much to miss during these few weeks.

The hardest part about this year comprised of a marriage and a giant move...is that life will never be the same again. And in one breath that's exciting...because I'm starting my own story with someone I love. I'm a girl with a passport! A marriage certificate! And a frequent flyer member of gold status! Look out, world...I've got a husband AND I get two free checked bags when I fly United!

But aside from that (less than riveting) 10 second soundbite...comes the realization that you can't have your cake and eat it, too.  You can tell yourself you'll be home for every wedding, holiday and birthday. That makes leaving so much easier. But eventually reality sets in. I'm talking the $2500-plane-tickets + 60-hours-round-trip-travel type of reality that makes you realize you can't start your own family of two and live 7,000 miles away without missing things from your old life.

Christmas just feels different this year. My Christmases past have been trees chosen by my family and cut by my dad. Snow angels with my mom, wrapping gifts with my sister to exchange on Christmas Eve. This year it's sand angels and a fake tree Gabe snagged from on base. Every gift has to be chosen + sent weeks in advance, and none of them will be given in person. And the lump-in-my-throat truth is that I don't really know when I'll see my family next. That's what gets me teary-eyed.

I'll go ahead and say it: I'm trying. I really am. But I'm less Christmas-elfy than usual.

I don't mean to sound like a Grinch, because there's still an average amount of holiday cheer in my bones...the Christmas tunes are on, the tree is up and I'm loving every glimpse of Christmas my friends have shared online, and in the few stores that acknowledge Christmas here in Kuwait. My only true Scrooge moment happened upon discovering that the twinkly lights I'd shipped from the states would infact blow every fuse in our apartment if I plugged them in.

Curse, curse, curse.

Expressing homesickness publicly always leaves me feeling guilty...like others will interpret it as ungratefulness. Trust me, I'm grateful for many things in my life. But writing honestly about this curveball year of my life is difficult. No, I don't have to work. Yes, I get to live in a foreign country and travel fairly regularly. Both of these things have their ups and downs. Ups: Lots of free time. Seeing the world. Downs: Lack of purpose. Missing someone no matter where you are.

But homesickness, I've learned, has nothing to do with ungratefulness. It's everything to do with missing the people, places and traditions that feel like a part of yourself.

Somehow, no matter how many ornaments I put on the tree or packages I wrap...I can't quite shake the feeling that I'm missing a tiny piece of myself this year.

Have you ever been away from home for Christmas? How did you fair?

 

40 comments:

  1. Last year was my first different, new marriage, non-Wisconsin Christmas. It was different. We started new traditions. I love my life. Sometimes I miss my family but I love this adventure I'm on now.

    On another note...Happy Almost Anniversary.

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    1. First non-Wisconsin Christmas is so weird, right? :) And you're so right. Starting new traditions is the best part. I love that. Plus you can pick and choose which traditions you'd actually like to carry on with, and what you never liked. :)

      And thanks! It's crazy that I've been married for almost a year. Can I still say I'm a newlywed come January 1st? Hmm. ;)

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    2. Last year we went up to the Inner Harbor in Baltimore to visit Santa and watch a laser light show. While there we found an ornament store and the girls each picked out an ornament. It was fun and low key and we've decided to make that our "Christmas" tradition. My daughters spend every actual Christmas in Wisconsin with their Dad and my family so we work with what we've got!

      My rule of thumb is that Newlywed is under 3 years. ;-)

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  2. I'm still in college, so I get to go home for Christmas. I can't imagine what it must feel like to not be able to see your family.
    All I can say is that I know you'll make your own traditions and build your own family and life with Gabe. As hard as it is right now, you'll look back on this in a few years and see it as the start of a life you love.
    I'm sending good wishes and holiday cheer your way!
    <3 Kiersten

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    1. Thanks, Kiersten! You're always so encouraging. :) And you're right...I think in a few years I'll look back and remember that this is hard, but it will be much sweeter because we'll have solidified our own life and home.

      Wishing you a Merry Christmas, too, and hoping you have a great time at home for the holidays! :)

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  3. Have I ever been away from home for Christmas? Hah! So many times... Here's the deal for me: my parents just didn't celebrate Christmas, at all. The last Holiday I remember spending with them was each of us on a tv (or computer in my case), and a pizza that we didn't even eat together. But I think the hardest is not to spend Christmas away from home, the hardest part is the loneliness. Being a foreigner usually means that all your friends WILL travel home for the holidays, and you'll be stuck home watching your roommates puppy and cat, stuck in the house because there is a snowstorm and you don't have a car and all public transportations are off for the holidays. THAT was always the hardest for me, the loneliness of living abroad. Most of the time it's all fun and games, but when you're back in your room, at night, you're just lonely.

    It gets better though. This is all kind of still too new for you. I only started to feel okay about being away from home about 2 years after moving. I still miss my friends and family (and cat) back home, but I created ways to cope with being without the people I love most in the world. It does help to be with the man I love, and now I do adopt his family for the Holidays (they are all so great), and there's no way I'll even consider going back to Brazil in December when it's 100 degrees out and tickets are very expensive. I'm happy about holidays again. Probably more so than when I was back home. I created my own traditions with the new people in my life. Next Christmas will be much easier, I promise you.

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    1. Oh my! Yes, that would make for some difficult holidays! I'd be a mess if I were left with someone else's cat and no transportation for Christmas. You're a strong girl, and I'm glad you have a second family to visit for Christmas thanks to your man! :) But I'm with you on not facing 100 degree temps and crazy expensive plane tickets to get home.

      And you're right...in time I just know it will be better. The first holiday away from home is just so strange! Thankfully the friends that I've made here are sticking around at least up til Christmas, so we'll have people to socialize with. We're leaving for Rome on December 27th, so I keep telling myself to focus on that...rather than feeling torn up about Christmas. :)

      As always, thanks for the support...fellow expat! :)

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  4. This post tugged on my heart strings...I'm sorry you miss home. I'm a new follower so I don't know your story as well yet, but I can't imagine the culture shock of Kuwait to the U.S... I haven't not been home for the holidays yet in my life, but I can feel it coming. I'm hitting a point in my life where decisions are going to come up of living elsewhere for better opportunities and frankly it scares me a bit too much to admit it to my friends & family. I hope this holiday season you make new memories that may not replace home fully but still brightens your day and makes you happy! =)

    Ergo - Blog

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  5. I just wanted to let you know that you’re definitely not alone in this. My family doesn’t live quite as far away (Germany) but it still is impossible at the moment to be with them. I am lucky to have my fiancé, mom and dad with me in the States but the rest of my family, and the traditional Christmas experience is back in Germany. 11 months out of the year I am ok with the distance and figure out a way to make it work, but every December, I miss everyone terribly. The traditions here aren’t the same and even though we try (and usually succeed), around Christmas time, America is just not our home. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here and wouldn’t ever consider even moving back (irony?) but something about the Holiday Season changes all that.

    So I know how you feel and while it will never go away, it does get easier (even if only a little bit) – hang in there and try and be in the moment as much as possible.

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  6. This is my first Christmas away since I moved out of California to live with my fiance in the Northwest but I haven't been too homesick probably due to the fact that I'm only close to a few people in my family and, besides all the rain, let's face it... the Northwest is not that different from California. Your situation is definitely more unique than mine, I imagine things are extremely different where you are as opposed to where you used to be. You don't sound like a grinch at all. I hope you are able to enjoy your holiday as much as you can being as far away from home as you are. Happy Holidays :)

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  7. I can certainly relate to having to adjust to a different kind of Christmas, and appreciate you sharing so honestly.

    My dad died several years ago, and that first Christmas afterwards, my mom didn't want to put up a tree or any decorations. She planned a family vacation instead, knowing that we wouldn't be having a "normal" Christmas. To say that the trip was sort of a disaster is an understatement - we all resented each other and the fact that it wasn't "normal" without really knowing what would be normal any more. We just knew we didn't want to be in Florida (think Home Alone 2). The year after that she was doing renovations on the house, so decorations didn't make sense again. We spent Christmas sitting on a bare floor in a room with no furniture playing the Wii - at home, feeling like it was somewhere else. It took a few years to really celebrate again, but now I spend Christmas with my boyfriend's family, half-way across the country. While I love them, its not the same, and I still get a little sad on Christmas day waking up in someone else's house, as I am sure he feels on the days we celebrate other holidays with my family. I have had to come to embrace new Christmas traditions and give up on recreating old ones, which might mean celebrating with my family during the week before or the week after, or adding in some of our own traditions as a couple.

    I can't imagine that what you are going through is easy. But down the road when you have a family, you can share these stories with them, about those years that you had some different traditions. Even if it isn't exotic or glamorous, its an experience you are having together, right?

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  8. I have not been home for Christmas in awhile. Christmas was/is a wonderful time at my parents house. But, as I have gotten older I wanted to create traditions of my own. I want to have things that just my husband and I do on Christmas. I.E. - we go for a run together and then open the bubbly! No fancy dinner, no one else. Just us, the champagne and movies. There is always a twinge of - gosh I miss - but I love this new tradition I am creating with my new family.

    Although - my heart breaks for you and your home sickness. I don't think you are complaining one bit to admit you are homesick. It would be weird if you were weren't! I hope that you have a fantastic season and that you start lots of traditions of your own!

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  9. Bethany, you always write from the heart and I love it! I love the honesty that you aren't afraid to share.
    I spent my high school years in Mozambique where my family was missionaries. The first Christmas we had there my mom tried to make it seem like home. We played Christmas music, decorated with the sparse supplies available to us, and tried to bake cookies. But in the 100º+ heat with no Christmas cheer anywhere else in the city, it felt lonely and not normal at all. It was a new experience and one that I learned to appreciate, but that first Christmas was rough.
    I love reading your honesty though, because I thought I just had to suck it up, put on a smile and pretend that Christmas in Africa was the most wonderful thing.. with no snow, a fake tree, and trying to cool down instead of warming up by a fire. But admitting homesickness is brave. It takes a lot of courage to let people know how you are actually feeling. I'm sure there'll be rough moments this Christmas season where sometimes crying is the best thing to do, but you also get to start out something new. New traditions, first Christmas as husband and wife! It's exciting, even though it may hurt to be away from home and tradition. Hope you have a merry Christmas and that even the little things can brighten up your Christmas season and make you feel a bit more at home!

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  10. It is great to see you back, blogging again!

    I feel your semi-Grinch pain. Two holiday seasons ago was the first I spent away from my family and shared Christmas with my fiance's family. I attempted to connect with my family via Skype but the logistics were tough and with so much activity on their end they gave up after five minutes. Everyone was so busy having fun they didn't realize how sad it would make me on my end, feeling alone with this new family I was supposed to embrace but feel comfortable celebrating with. My future in-laws had their own traditions and didn't do anything "right" in my mind. It was a sad day instead of a happy one, as it had always been.

    This year we're headed back to my in-laws and my husband's sister will have just had a new baby girl (!!!) but we're focusing on that as basically putting Christmas aside. I think there will be a tree, but no gifts. I don't mind the lack of gifts, but I do miss the thoughtful preparation for the holiday, seeing someone's eyes light up when you picked out something they love, and feeling the togetherness around a Christmas tree. I'm working on getting past the idea of what Christmas "should" be and accepting that with my new, ever-larger family scattered across the country Christmas won't ever again be what it once was. I don't know what it WILL be. I'm even having a hard time deciding what new traditions my husband and I should start together. One year at a time. I agree the only way through it is to experience it and learn from it so next year will feel better than the last.

    Good luck finding your groove in the season. It sounds like "the season" is IN YOU even if you aren't in the season physically this year. It is so much a mental state and that's a blessing and a challenge. Happy holidays!

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  11. As always, beautifully articulated! I understand what you mean about not wanting to feel ungrateful, but also missing a piece of your heart. I think the best thing you can do is remember that it's temporary. I know it doesn't give you an end date, but one day you will get to look back and laugh about this time in your life. I know you probably know that, but hopefully it's worth the reminder. ;) You're in my prayers, brave girl!

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  12. This will be our second Christmas away from "home". But it's also a bit different for me because I've started my own family - now with 3 little guys so we're very much our own unit apart from our parents. But I can imagine how it would feel to be away from our families in our first year of marriage! You are brave and honest.
    But yes to the commenter who said you get to pick your own traditions.
    Personally I'm loving it just being "us" for Christmas. No rushing around. No trying to please everyone and see everyone. Just us. Taking it slow. Really, truly taking time to remember what Christmas is all about.
    But this year it's been a bit different for me. Maybe it's just that I've gone though an entire year with no seasons - no summer, winter, spring or fall. And my sense of time is gone completely. So it's hard to get in that Christmasey spirit. But like you, we've got the tunes going and we're attempting to watch every Christmas movie we own. :)

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  14. so, so happy to read an update from you - i swear, you could write about rocks & i'd be excited to read it :)

    your post really put some things into perspective for me. i am nowhere near as far away from my hometown as you are from yours, but reading this made me realize i'm allowed to be a little sad about being away, especially during the holidays. it really DOES feel like a little piece of me is missing. but, i need to take a note out of your book & not let that stop me from getting into the spirit of things. i need to decorate, i need to shop for gifts, i need to get.off.the.couch.

    i admire your strength & i know you will make the best of this adventure!

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  15. Homesickness sucks. No two ways about it. And it's times like that when you need to grab Gabe and your lovely kitty and hug them close. And find some chocolate.

    You're wonderful and awesome. And I agree with @siddathornton - as hard as this is now - you'll make the best of this adventure.

    x Elena @ Randomly Happy

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  16. So....which family traditions are you leaving behind... :-)

    Your Dad (maker of the traditions you are leaving behind)

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  17. I know how you feel. Both my husband and I are in the army and have spent more holidays and special days away than together. Being away is hard, but family and true friends understand and manage to send their love around the world in tact. We have been married for two years now and have a little one on the way. We already know he will be gone for baby's first Christmas next year. My new look on being away... Home is where my husband is. Period. As long as we are together, we will be good.... Cause we don't always get even that. Enjoy your Christmas! It's gonna be a merry one no matter what!

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  18. Bethany. I've been away from my family at Christmas time as well as most holidays. Around the world or on a different side of the country, it's still so difficult to get home to family. Instead, it's finding your own traditions by blending yours with his. The one constant, no matter where you are, is the joy of our Savior's birth. This is my first Christmas without my mom. And I'm sad about that but in a way it's easier because I wasn't there every year. A strange silver lining to be sure. My heart is with you as you struggle through this first Christmas. It does get easier in time. Love you Sweetheart. Sara

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  19. I am so lucky that I get to go home for Christmas. But I miss out on so many birthdays, holidays, even weddings . . . because it's too expensive and just not realistic to fly across the country for every occasion. I know it's even worse for you! It's comforting though to find a little home-away-from-home and make your own family, so to speak. I hope your homesickness dwindles so that you truly enjoy this holiday!

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  20. I completely know what you are going through, and recently did an art assignment that said pretty much the exact same thing (you inspired me to post it on my too long neglected blog http://girlwithapurplecoat.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-recent-art-assignment.html). I don't have it quite as bad, I can still fly home for much cheaper, but I know the feeling, that you will never stop missing someone, somewhere.
    I read your blog every time you post and look forward to your insights. I don't post much, but please know that I appreciate what you have to say, and I grew up near you, about an hour from Eau Claire, in Wisconsin.

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  21. Please don't feel guilty about venting; this was and continues to be a really tough change in your life. I totally get that longing for home. You vent whenever you want. We're here listening!!

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  22. I love hearing from you, Bethany. It's so refreshing to read a blog where the person is so real and so honest and doesn't write just to write. I appreciate it so much. I know exactly what you mean about the lack of purpose. I was unemployed last year and people thought it must have been so great to stay home all day every day, but it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I lost my sense of self and my sense of self importance. I'm not at all domestic and constantly felt guilty that I didn't clean or cook. One thing I started to do though was to set a schedule for myself. Thursdays were documentary day and I'd watch documentaries that taught me something. Some days I'd go on iTunes University and listen to lectures. Hang in there, I know it's not easy.

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  23. For me the difference now that we're married us how the holidays are celebrated as well. As much as I get excited that I get to travel every other year to Germany for the holidays to visit the inlaws - I miss my family and holiday traditions dearly! It's so hard when you spend 20+ years having experiences you look forward suddenly change. I feel like I'm missing out, this year my plan is to try harder to be present and build traditions with the inlaws - as this is how it will be. Change is hard -- but one thing about the tech ages makes it a little easier if you can Skype into Christmas morning -- and experience the joy twice in the different time zones -- have to look at positives right?!

    Hope you have a somewhat happy holidays!! (Maybe we can look forward to more frequent posts in the new year?!) xo

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  24. I love your honesty! <3 I'm in Okinawa, Japan with my military spouse, so i know exactly how you feel! We didn't do anything on Thanksgiving and all i wanted was that traditional dinner at my grandparents house filled with delicious food and family! Instead we stayed home all day and ate "normal" food, lol! It sucked.

    Thankfully i found a used christmas tree online last month that someone was selling here and got all the decorations to boot.. but it sucks having a fake tree!!! I miss the delicious smell of christmas filling my home with holiday spirit. I'm grateful that i get to spend the holiday season with my husband and a few friends we've made so far, but something is always missing whenever you're far from home... try the other side of the world -.-"! We just bought plane tickets back home for our wedding ceremony and they were a wooping $3,000!!! After that we're stuck here until we PCS again in 2015! I am excited though about traveling through Asia and getting all that new life experience but sometimes its just hard being away from all your family+friends back home!

    I hope you have a nice holiday with your love! and that the New Year brings happiness and much more travel for you both! <3

    theinspirationsparks.blogspot.com

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  25. Hi bethany! I first want to thank you for sharing this post with all of us. It's easy to say things will be okay lalalalala, but when you're in that situation it's still challenging. I've been away from home during Christmas time the last two christmas's and this Christmas as well. My friends back home are family to me and my family IS there too, so as much as I try to stay strong I do feel that there's a little bit missing when I celebrate Christmas. And you're right, homesickness isn't about being ungrateful, it's just missing those who you aren't around, especially during this time. I am so grateful to be spending my Christmas with my boyfriend, his loving family, my mom and sister, but i miss my friends and family back home immensely. We call each other often, skype, and communicate in all means possible!! Sending you hugs from nebraska Bethany! I hope you'll be able to live closer to home soon!! take care :) :)

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  26. Oh sweet Bethany...I've never been away from my family on Christmas and I don't know if I could bear it. But it sounds like you're doing the very best you can, enjoying what you can. Nobody said you had to be VERY Christmas-elfy every year. The silver lining of having that lump in your throat sadness is that it means you have so many people to love and miss, and who love and miss you, too.

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  27. Hang in there Bethany! Several years ago I was teaching English in Korea for a year, a world away from my friends and family. Your post reminded me of the journal/blog I kept that year, and I just reread it to find I was feeling the EXACT same way you are feeling. Christmas isn't really a big deal in largely non-Christian Korea. It's slightly available in the form of fake trees and pictures of Santa here and there, just for the commercialized display, but it seemed to steal the Christmas spirit right out from under my nose. As stupid as it sounds, I even missed seeing holiday commercials on TV. So, I can totally relate to how you are feeling, I was so grumpy, and trying really hard to put myself in the Christmas spirit.

    I think it was the little things that did it- I found things to put on the tree that reminded me of home, a beautiful friend sent me Christmas cookies, and I made plans with my friends in Korea to do a gift exchange the day before Christmas Eve. I even learned to cook chicken soup from scratch, which really seemed to help. You can find the spirit in little moments, so I hope you can experience the joy of the season in new, interesting, and inspiring ways this time of year; some you can make, and watch out, because some of it will find you when you least expect it!

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  28. This is going to be my third Christmas away from home, and it really doesn't get easy as the years go on. It's easy to shove away homesickness most of the year, but the holidays always heighten my awareness of how much I miss my family and friends. Just know you're not alone, and wishing you the happiest Christmas possible :)

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  29. Bethany! It was a welcome surprise to see a new post!
    I'm sorry that you're having such a hard time with the separations during the holidays. I appreciate how well you've expressed your dilemma. Reading through the other comments it's clear that you've touched a common nerve among your readers. Taken all together they do make sense: it is tough to be away from the familiar and yet it is an opportunity to create traditions and memories that reinforce the idea of you and Gabe (and the cat) as a self-sufficient family unit.
    For a variety of reasons some of my favorite Christmases were the one when we lived too far away to make the trip "home".
    Don't be so hard on yourself - acknowledge those aspects of the holidays that you miss, cherish the missing elements of your traditions that drive you to be you. You're young, resilient, creative and - yes - still a newlywed! Enjoy what you have, life is good. Merry merry merry Christmas to you!

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  30. I'm so sorry you're experiencing this...it's tough. Very very tough. I've lived over here for 10 years though initially left home thinking I would only be gone 1 year. But life happens and we adapt, even if it doesn't feel like we have. Every year I plan to go home 'for good' so I've only ever planned a Christmas vacation home once...in 10 years. Telling myself, "It's OK, I'll be there for good next year!" Then every year I feel exactly what you're feeling now. That horrible emptiness, the missing traditions, wishing Facebook photos filled those voids, longing for the shopping crowds, and snow. It's terribly painful and you have every right to feel this way. I wish I could say this time of year gets easier, or it will pass before you know it, but for me it never did. Now, that I really am finally moving back home, I realize I'm terrified all the traditions have carried on without me and I'll no longer 'fit in'.

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  31. I faired about as well as you when I was away from home and family at Christmas. It's still hard to work every Christmas, know you can't go home and be where you want to be. It stinks. Hang in there. And know there are lots of other people struggling with a new idea of the holidays.

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  32. When I was an AuPair, the only time I was homesick was during the holidays. I pretty much felt just like you do now. I still had a nice Christmas with my host family, but it's just not the same without your family and all usual the traditions.

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  33. Just discovered yiur blog and I really like your writing style and honesty. I moved to the US (Las Vegas out if all places) from a small European town in the Ukraine eight years ago. I know exactly what you feel! When you miss the little things and the big things - everything about the place you called home. I guess it just takes time to adjust to the new life you have, and there is no guilt in being homesick! Hope you feel better and have fun exploring your merried life and the world!

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  34. I just want you to know that I have been reading your blog for awhile. I'm not sure how long, plus I went back and read some of the ones I missed before I knew it existed. I have also had an eventful year. In one year I met and married the man of my dreams... And the Air Force moved us to the UK over the summer. About 9 months after our first date. So I find I have a lot in common with your posts and feelings and emotions. Thank you. Every piece of yourself you share, makes me feel a little less alone. I hope you feel less alone too. Merry Christmas!

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  35. When I lived in Costa Rica I had the same guilty feeling. I was very homesick, but I wanted to be there. It was a difficult tug of war in my heart. Blog hugs to you during this difficult but happy time. :)

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