no longer expatriated (as of tomorrow).

Before we knew about our upcoming move back to the US, Jay over at From There to Here dropped a line asking if I'd participate in her Expatriated series. Jay is a super fun expat in Norway...I love clicking over to check out her life. Her Expatriated series is fascinating for the wanderlusty girl like me. She features bloggers who have found themselves in a country other than their own...and they seem to have amazing expat stories...they've spent time in Belgium or Malta, India or England...and they loved it.

Sidenote: Jay and I have never met, but discovered that we stayed in the exact same hotel room in Prague. Small world, eh? :)

Anyway, I was flattered, but my first thought was, "Uh-oh. I'm going to have to say no, because I don't want to be a downer. Or, I'll have to write something super chipper and inspiring, but not at all true." But thankfully Jay, being the cool expat that she is, was actually interested in sharing my somewhat-mixed experience in the Middle East...and in drawing on the less-than-glamorous side of life that expats sometimes stumble upon in their quest for adventure.

Cue a sigh of relief. So, here it is!

Tomorrow is my last day as an expat, so it's fitting to sneak in this last little bit: In the past year, I've become increasingly grateful for the ability to express my honest feelings about my experience abroad. From the first post in which I dared to say, "I don't love it" to my last post in which I pretty much said, "I'm so over it"...I always expected to get a nasty comment or email. I'd understand if it happened...it's hard to stay engaged with a blogger who is trudging through an unhappy time, and tricky to understand the complexity of expathood if you've never dealt with it. But nastiness never happened. I always flooded with so much support. From expats. From friends. From family. From people I don't know at all.

Incase I haven't expressed this yet, I just want to say...thank you for sticking around. Most of my readers began following right before I got married. Life was full of pretty projects and wedding details and romance. And then...suddenly it was full of dust storms and homesickness and mind-bendingly awful depression.

But you all told me it was okay to feel and express. And that everything would be alright in time.

You were so right. Thanks for reading and cheering me on, even when the forecast showed no chance of glitter anytime soon. It meant more than I can truly express. It was a lifeline.

And...I'm no weatherlady, but I feel like sunshine and glitter will return again soon. Very soon.

Maybe even next week. ;)

PS: Check out From There to Here on Twitter (@theretohereblog) and Instagram (@cjstjohn). She's heading to Santorini soon, so hop over in time to take a little virtual vacation with her. :)


one word wednesday: pink.


Finally coming up for air from a world of boxes and piles to join in One Word Wednesday! Everything has been shipped, including our computer...so blogging on a mobile device is proving to be a bit frustrating. Do forgive any funky formatting, and a short post. My brain is on overload and my patience level is quite low. ;)

This week's word was pink...nothing fancy here. Just a cute pink sucker my sis sent overseas for Valentine's Day. I found them stashed in a cupboard during my big clean up, then hemmed and hawed, wondering if these were still safe. 

They were not only safe, but totally delicious. And cute. Win, win, win. ;)

Next week's word is "project". Feel free to share a photo next Wednesday that reflects this word! You can share via your blog, or on Instagram using #onewordwednesday.


who/what/where/when and why.

one of my kuwait camel sightings

I've been sitting pretzel style on my bed for 45 minutes, dazing off into space. It is safe to say I've hit a "moving" wall.

We found out about this move on Thursday, it's now Monday morning. Three fourths of the house is packed or just awaiting more boxes. We've already locked down a home in California, and our plane tickets are booked. Somehow we've packed up our life almost entirely in four days.

That's wild.

Whenever you make a big life change, you wind up explaining what/where/why about a thousand times. It was that way when I moved to Kuwait...there's this awesome human reaction to excitedly ask for details when a loved one is going through positive changes. I love it. But given that we've got four more days to get our proverbial crap together...I know I won't call/text/email everyone I'm supposed to tell about major life changes.

So, apologies in advance family and friends. I'm just going to be the Millennial that I am, and lay it out there on the internet for family + friends + inquiring minds.

Here you go, pals. :)

Why are you leaving Kuwait? Don't you looooove sandstorms, heat and not drinking wine?
Hey, we enjoyed this year of adventure. But our real goal in living in Kuwait was to pay down our debt + travel a bit. That was pretty near impossible given the high cost of living + US mortgage we paid until our house sold in January. On Thursday, Gabe was offered an amazing short term job in the Middle East, living + working on base. We crunched the numbers and realized that simply by leaving Kuwait, we'd save thousands of dollars every month. Thousands. If Gabe took this new job while I returned to the US, it meant spending a few months apart...but it would eliminate the 2 more years of living in Kuwait that we'd need to reach our financial goals.

We chose distance + sanity over staying here for two more years. I can't say I'd recommend the same for a couple who has never been apart. But, we've done distance. A lot. And while it's a little difficult, it has never negatively impacted our relationship. The time flies by (after the first week), and soon you're planning what you'll wear to pick your guy up at the airport.

After this short term job...we will both be planted in the US for good. Like normal people. :)

Where are you moving?
Santa Cruz, CA! We love Santa Cruz. It's a little hippy...a little weird...but totally loveable. It's right on the coast with beautiful beaches and pretty hiking spots. I'm fond of the blend of small businesses + community vibe, but close access to bigger cities with just a short drive. Our best friends live in Santa Cruz with their 1 year old boy, so we're excited to have built in family awaiting us!

We already have a little place lined up...a few blocks from the beach...with a guest room! So give me a month to get settled, and Casa Contreras is totally open. :)

When are you leaving Kuwait...and is kitty coming, too?
We leave this Friday, and wind up in Santa Cruz on Monday! And yes, absolutely Lucky is coming too! We're so nervous about that. The travel time from Kuwait to California is crazy long...something like 36 hours with all layovers included. Leaving a cat in a tiny carrier for over 20 hours was unfathomable to us. So, we're taking a one night break between flights once we arrive on US soil...holing up in a hotel so Lucky can stretch, play and eat for 24 hours before climbing back in her carrier for the second half of the trip.

Incase the above paragraph didn't make it clear...we are those weird cat people now. Here's the clincher: we used miles to purchase an international seat for our cat. Her ticket reads "Lucky Cat Contreras".

Yeah. That happened. ;)


missing tea + moving boxes.

This morning, just like every other morning, I opened the kitchen cabinet and reached for a small, red box of tea.

It wasn't there.

It wasn't there because we're moving back to the US with 8 days notice. (Yay, bring on our new home in California! Seriously, I welcome the crazed timeline.) And although I may be a procrastinator in almost every aspect of life, I am a fantastic mover who has already emptied the cabinets and placed everything in sorted, labeled boxes.

But something struck me in that tea-less moment. Our life has felt anything but normal, and yet this year of homesickness and occasional adventure has still managed to breed routine. Certain things go in certain places, the days flow in such a way, and the tea is always right above the stove.

Leaving is everything I've wanted for months, but it feels strange to leave behind our new normal. Gabe and I didn't live together before we were married; our entire relationship was long distance. This was our first home together--the only "normal" we've ever known. And so, our move feels a little more bittersweet than expected!

I will not miss:

...the way our kitchen floor floods every time I wash dishes.
...the tiny washing machine that always makes my clothes smell funny.
...the dryer that shrinks everything it touches.
...$18 broccoli.
...Skyping in for birthday parties.
...drawing snowflakes on my windows and pretending it feels like Christmas.
...paying a cab every time I want to go somewhere.
...130 degree days.
...a life without wine.
...constantly fearing I'm showing the tiniest bit of boob. Or shoulder. Or knee. Or the bottoms of my feet.

I will miss...

...sunrises over the Gulf right out my window. Our beach view is insane.
...my neighbor friend who has been a source of sanity, even if we don't see each other for a few weeks.
...our checkerboard floors, which I used to loathe but now love.
...the passing feeling that we're on an adventure.
...random camel sightings and calls to prayer.
...funny stories or weird experience from simply stepping outside our door.
...interacting with people who are so different than me.
...my side trips to Europe in an effort to stay sane.

Mostly, I'll miss the way this experience has brought lots of introspection. I've learned so much about myself, my husband and my marriage. We've never fought more than we did the first 3 months in Kuwait. It was ugly, but given the circumstances + our newlywed status...it was probably quite normal. But, that has passed. We've never been more in sync than we have in the last 5 months. It's as if life plodded forward enough for us to be retrospective...to appreciate how much we both gave one another this year: I loved him enough to leave behind a comfy life at home for his job in Kuwait...and he loved me through my lowest, most depressed days when I felt particularly unlovable. And we both fell in love with a little helpless kitten who has turned our world upside down more than a few times.

Not to be a cheeseball, but in hindsight...it has been quite deep and beautiful for two people who didn't expect to find deepness or beauty in the desert.

My only true sadness in leaving is breaking this awesome marital period. While I haven't been creatively or intellectually fulfilled in Kuwait, I've felt so safe and loved. It's like one glass was empty, the other full...and it forced me to learn a few lessons. I've discovered that my husband loves me even without my usual Pollyanna personality, and with a larger pants size. And, I've learned that life still goes on even if your apartment doesn't look like a Pinterest board. If there were any lessons I desperately needed to learn in life...discovering I am loved + worthy of love and learning to let go of perfection were at the top.

So for that...for this year of learning...I am so grateful.

For the ability to move forward, into a new normal...my heart is overwhelmed.

I cannot wait. Home, home, home. Here we come.


one word wednesday: morning.

If there's one thing I could use more of, it's inspiration...so I jumped in when my blogging girlfriends emailed about starting a new photo challenge: One Word Wednesday. It's not about elaborately staged, perfect photos. (Whew.) But rather a simple challenge to keep one word in mind throughout the week, then pick up the camera when inspiration strikes.

I hope you jump in, too. Join us every Wednesday by sharing a snapshot that celebrates a real scene from your life. You can share via your blog or Instagram...or both! Each word will be announced one week in advance, so you'll have plenty of time. Just leave a link or add hashtag #onewordwednesday to your photos. Next week's word: PINK! 

Morning. When we first moved to Kuwait--to our tiny ghetto apartment--I hated mornings. Gabe was off to work by 5am, and while I'm not one to easily feel lonely, he wouldn't be home until nearly 7pm. So it was just me, the tiny apartment and a long, long 14 hours. I'll fully admit that once I cried and begged Gabe to stay home with me. Alright...more than once.

In time, we moved. We got a kitten, a better view and a more stable internet connection to help fill those hours.

Now, mornings usually commence like the photo above. Kitty snuggles up on the desk, where she demands I place her favorite pink blanket near the window. I make a latte, read the news and we both watch the sunrise over the Persian Gulf. Those early days of loneliness feel so far gone. No more tears, and I now relish the few hours of quiet before the world beneath my window is overtaken by an overwhelming amount of street noise.

bloghop from left to right...these girls are great: 1. Bethany 2. Leslie 3. Jessica 4. Jenna 5. Amanda  6. Briana
If you'd like to participate, next week's word is: pink. So, run wild with that...and post your photo on your blog or Instagram (#onewordwednesday) next week! 


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