The 2nd Best Decision I’ve Ever Made

How many decisions do you make in the course of your life? Cereal or toast? (Neither) Coffee or tea? (Coffee) Open the bottle of wine or not? (Is it Friday? Then yes.). Life is chock-a-block with decisions, from the mundane to the momentous.

Every now and then you’re whistling along happily enough, tearing through the mundane decisions like a boss, when you come face to face with a giant one.

Marry me?
Should we start a family?
Should we buy a house?
Should we open the 2nd bottle? (Is it Saturday? Then yes.)

Sometimes they’re expected decisions you’ve been sort of prepping for your whole life, but sometimes they come out of nowhere.

In the back of my brain I knew my husband’s job might offer the opportunity to move overseas. But you know, when you’re talking about it, it’s all sure, great, what an adventure! It’s in the future. It’s the abstract. It’s not real.

Until he comes home one day and says, “Hey! There’s a job opening in Cyprus. What do you think?”

What did I think?


Have I told you how much I love NYC? Really? I mean have I really told you? Have I told you how the city boogied down deep into my bones until it became part of my DNA? Have I told you…oh, I have?

Forget Leaving Las Vegas, if there was an alcohol sopped memoir movie of this mid-section of my life, we could call it Leaving New York.

Leaving the city of my heart, where I fell in love, got married, had my babies…was tough. Like drag me away tough. Kicking and screaming tough. New York, man. It gets into your blood, it seeps into your pores, it worms its way…but enough about New York because I was leaving it.

On a jet plane, with two kids, a couple of suitcases, and a plan of action so loose it was jiggling like my post-baby muffin top.

And then there I was, in the middle of The Mediterranean. Me, my two kids, and a Yiayia down the street named Poppy. That was it. Me and a Greek Cypriot Granny. My entire life turned upside down because one momentous decision we made sitting in bed on a sunny Sunday morning while our second son slept a few feet away in our too small for two kids apartment.


For the first year, I was convinced it was, quite possibly, the worst decision I’d ever been a part of. Worse than the plaid pants with the ribbed yellow turtleneck get-up in 3rd grade. Worse than my hair in high school. Worse than every shitty financial decision we’ve ever made. (Note: Should you buy the one-bedroom apartment? Hell, yes you should).

I cried because I missed the election of Barack Obama. I cried watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. My mother and my sister came to visit us and when they left, I ugly sobbed on the sidewalk as the car pulled away. It was…not good. It was in fact, bad. Really bad.

Of course things improved, even within that first year. As nice as Poppy the Yiayia was, I made friends who were slightly closer to my own generation, more Breakfast Club than the Early Bird Special club. But still, it wasn’t until after we left Cyprus and, if I’m honest, well into our Copenhagen cycle, that I started to really think about the decision we made all those Sundays before.


It’s not always easy being an expat. There are times it is appallingly hard. Being a family unit without the support of nearby relatives as a buffer can be–well, let’s just say intense. Family time, I am often caught saying, is overrated.

Some things about it actually are great. Being abroad has given us an opportunity to bond in a way I’m not sure we would have had if we’d stayed in NY. I’m not saying we wouldn’t have had a bond, it would just be a different one. This one is born of living a specific experience all together, simultaneously.

Our horizons? Not broadened as much as exploded.

I’ve learned to stop fearing change, and, dare I say, embrace it. Or at least more so than before. I’ve gone so far outside my comfort zone, I’ve gotten jet lag. Bizarrely, I’ve learned how to relax. Let’s just say I’m now type B- rather than type A.

Is it Friday? Drink the wine.

Living as an outsider in a country that isn’t yours, when you don’t speak the language, or understand the nuance of the culture itself, often at the mercy of a job, teaches you nothing if not this: you can’t control everything. Some stuff yes, other stuff, no. I think, for a long time I got them mixed up.

It’s taught me that I really only truly need the people I love around me and a decent wine shop. Should we open the wine? (Is it Sunday? Sure.)

Being an expat has taught me how to offer my friendship..and receive friendship in return. It has redefined my concept of home, on every level imaginable. It has honed my criticism of my own country, but it has also deepened my love of it.

It has given me an understanding of being the odd one out, of being on the back foot, of having to pay attention. It’s deepened my appreciation for difference, from the minor to the major.

It’s taught me how to bake from scratch and how to live with less choice, and how to start using cloth napkins because paper products in Denmark are stupid expensive. Also that I don’t know how I survived as long as I did without an electric kettle.

It’s taught me that when someone is meant to be in your life, you find a way to make sure they stay in your life.

No dinner, no drama.

This decade long adventure has allowed us to get to know each other in a completely unfettered way. It’s just us over here. No insulation. All family, all the time. No Sunday dinners, but no Sunday drama either.

It has, quite honestly, fundamentally changed who I am as a person.

For the better.

So as I meander through the mundane, bus or train? (Bus) Pizza or Thai? (Pizza) Should we open that bottle of wine? (Is it Monday? Then no, you big lush), I can look back at some of the momentous with more clarity.

That decision we made all those Sundays ago, saying yes to taking that chance? It hasn’t always been easy, but it was probably the 2nd best decision I’ve ever made.


The Day The Music Died

2124885502_559cafa7f0Another anniversary of late summer remembrance and sky blue conversations.  Another year of promises never to forget.  Another solemn reading of those three thousand names; names slowly fading in resonance next to the names of the Newtown children, the Boston marathon victims, the countless others whose names we have never heard, the ones who are only afforded ink in a police blotter, whose faces have never made it onto television channels or newspaper headlines.  The ones whose names we will never know of because they live across oceans, across continental divides, across worlds.

September 11.  New York City.  My city.  The city of a million separate stories, but one of those stories was always mine.  I used to avoid the films and the television specials.  I used to avoid the memorials and the telethons.  I used to avoid the E train.  I used to avoid downtown.  I used to avoid the footprint, the hole, the void.  I could not close my eyes against the famous photograph of someone falling into nothingness.  I used to think, enough.  We should not dwell on or cocoon ourselves in maudlin memories.  We should move forward, move on.  But as I move farther from that sky blue day, both geographically and chronologically, I have had a change of heart.

Because those tributes and light shows and status changes and pauses for remembrance are right.  We should not forget.IMG_4100

We should not forget the lives that were lost that day.  We should not forget the loss of a way of life, regardless of whether it was naive or hedonistic or lived in coils of bubble wrap.  We should not forget the way the sun shone off the steel of those towers.  We should not forget the smell of burning fuel or the feel of scorched paper and ash that rained down for nights and days and nights again.  We should not forget the plumes of smoke that rose into the air, searching for some God to make sense or the tiny echoed plumes of a hundred thousand candles lit in lieu of prayer or lament.   We should not forget the faces of the missing, strung upon walls and barriers, hastily glued and plastered.  We should not forget.

Yes.  This is an American thing.  But even more, September 11th is a New York thing.  And I am, above all else, a New York girl.  I have not forgotten.  I remember.  I remember that we New Yorkers, infamous for keeping to ourselves, spoke to one another deep in the bowels of the subway tunnels in those late September days, on city streets and in hallways and office corridors and waiting in line for coffee.  I remember how we gave of ourselves, our time and money and blood.  I remember walking in the shadow of the missing.  I remember the bells tolling, not needing to ask for whom they tolled because they tolled for an entire city, a nation, a past.  We should remember.

I do not remember to fuel an anger toward a stranger in a strange land.   I do not remember so that there will be a scapegoat to blame, a donkey to pin a tail on, an easy target.  I do not remember so that we can justify (or not) boots on the ground and drones in the sky.  I do not remember for any of those reasons.  I remember because as time goes by and memories fade it is important to take a moment to reflect and to look forward.  To make a notation in the history books.  Like anything  that has a profound affect on a soul, a city, a nation, you need a rubber band snap every now and again to remind you.

We have moved forward.  By September 12, 2001 we had already begun.  Through the stench of the tragedy, through the sifting of steel, through a cloud of disbelief and discordance, the city moved forward.  But the need is still there.  The need for questioning and reasoning and the need to look deep within, the need so summon the strength to keep going, not just along the same path as before, but to forge a new and better road forward.

And that in and of itself, is a reason to remember.