The conundrum

I always say ‘I’d never wish it on my worst enemy’ – ‘it’ being an expat – or being me! After living in Atlanta for 18 years, and being a US citizen for almost half that time, I probably feel more alien in the UK than I do here. However, I’ll always be a foreigner here, not completely feeling at home or in sync with the culture.

It’s hard to relate to many cultural references and they remain a red flag to the fact I didn’t grow up here. I didn’t know the who the Olsen twins were before they made it in fashion, as I’d never watched Full House. I still don’t understand the rules of American Football. I don’t have an allegiance with a college football team as I didn’t study here until my MBA. These trite, silly things make me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb at times. At parties I’ve struggled with conversation (yes me!) when friends have been talking about football or sororities, while people glaze over at my own cultural references, phrases and colloquialisms. I still don’t really understand the SATs as opposed to A’ levels. I struggle to comprehend why so few of my friends have passports. I don’t have a best friend here, someone who knows me as well as my husband, someone I can confide in, someone who won’t judge me, someone who laughs at my sarcasm, someone who understands my motivations and the events that have shaped me. Yet there’s no guarantee that all my old friends will suddenly slot back into my life. They may have changed and moved on – I’ve lost touch with several over 18 years. I miss the BBC, Marks and Spencers and walking around town instead of a mall. I miss the Sunday newspapers, Hollands pies and wine gums. All these little pieces of my puzzle that still make me thoroughly British while living in America. A round peg in a square hole. But what about all the things I’ll miss about here? Our favorite restaurants, Mexican food with free nachos and salsa, free diet coke refills, a house with over an acre of land, a walk-in closet, cheap gas, Americana music, sunshine and beaches, pool life in the summer and drives to the Gulf in an F-150.  So there you have it – the constant conundrum.

The longer we stay here the deeper our roots making it harder and harder to pick up and return to the UK, which becomes an increasingly foreign place to us. We own a business and a house. We have savings and retirement funds here. We have two children who were born here.

The children increasingly make this decision so, so hard. They are familiar with the UK having traveled there often, and they have grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and friends there. One of Poppy’s dear cheer friends actually moved back there recently, when her Mum finished her sabbatical here with CNN. However, Poppy and Hugh are thoroughly American. They have been taught here, their friends are here, and everything they do is within the context of being an American. The one thing they do have though, that many of their friends don’t have, is ‘weird’ foreign parents! Parents who have instilled in them a sense of adventure. My children are fortunate enough to consider vacationing (yup my vocabulary has changed too!) in Europe normal, and they understand that having two passports is a privilege that provides them with a life of choices.

My greatest fear is that my children will resent me for taking them to the UK, or that I will thoroughly fuck them up for the rest of their lives by transplanting them to the UK. My Husband tells me not to worry – kids are resilient. As long as they feel safe and loved they will be fine. Easier said than done.

Hugh has surprised me most in our conversations about moving to the UK (I try to avoid saying ‘back to the UK’ as I am well aware it doesn’t apply to them). He’s an old soul and is excited about the prospect of being close to Nanna, Grandad and Grandpa. He wants to be ‘close to fields and not big buildings’ – his words. He loves roast dinners with roast potatoes and gravy. He sees going to a new school and wearing a uniform as an adventure. I worry his Southern accent is so strong he’ll be laughed at. He’ll have to learn to spell all over again. What if they don’t teach math, or maths even, the same way?

Poppy is older and more fearful of change. She has strong bonds with friends here at school and at cheer. I try to reassure her that we would never do anything foolish (!), and that the four of us together will always have fun. I tell her that families move all the time from city to city and that there is no guarantee her friends will still be in Atlanta next year. That technology will keep them connected wherever they are, and to be excited about making new friends instead of worrying about leaving existing friends. I can tell she wants to be excited, and she likes the reassurance our chats provide, but she doesn’t like to keep talking about it – it makes her emotional, which in turn makes me feel like we should firmly stay here. There are a couple of things that give me strength to keep moving towards relocating – we’ve found a cheer team for her and she is excited about being the ‘cool, American cheerleader’, and most importantly she loves to travel – her first question was ‘how many hours is it to Istanbul?’. That 3 hour flight instead of 12 hour flight may make all the difference to her appreciation of the UK and it’s proximity to Europe.

Am I selfish for wanting to take us all back? As a parent shouldn’t I be selfless and do what is best for the family? But then surely history, castles, green fields, culture and family is better for us all than guns, school shootings and strip malls?

 

The Beginning

It’s hard to know where to start. I guess it makes sense to start at the beginning. In late 1999, a year into our marriage, Dave and I had just purchased our first home – a tiny flat in the heart of Spitalfields. We had literally just finished furnishing it when Dave returned home from work one day and asked ‘how do you like the idea of moving to Atlanta?’. At 28, no kids and a career I wasn’t married to, I LOVED the idea.

Me outside our Spitalfields flat in 2011

‘Well you can always come back can’t you!’

‘You’ll never know till you’ve tried it!’

‘Better to have regretted trying than never try at all!’

These are all things we said to ourselves as we both landed firmly on the side of moving. Our friends thought we were mad or brave. Either way I think most were pretty surprised when Dave headed over to start work in March 2000. In the meantime I was working for an investment bank in the City and obviously getting a transfer visa with them wasn’t going to happen, though they did offer me a position NYC – still quite a commute from Atlanta! So I hedged. I had started my career with Price Waterhouse as an IT consultant – that’s Price Waterhouse with an office in nearly every major city in the world, including Atlanta. So I took the risk of leaving my job with Dresdner to return to Price Waterhouse – claiming I’d made a huge mistake leaving, and knowing in the back of my mind there was still no guarantee that they would help me get to Atlanta. However, it was the best chance I had of going with a job, and more importantly back then, a visa. After just a month back in the job I announced that my Husband had been relocated…and errrr….is there any chance you can relocate me too? Incredibly it all fell into place. I traveled over to Atlanta to interview with the office here – the Partner happened to be English too which helped a lot – and within a month I had a Visa, a job, a one way ticket to Atlanta, and a flat to rent out in London. It all happened so quickly that a friend of ours even sold our car for us, as we weren’t there to do it ourselves!

We came with no plans to stay or leave…basically no plans at all except to have LOTS of fun and relish life in the sun. It was like being on a constant vacation. That was 18 years ago. Little did I know then that 3 houses, 2 kids, countless cars, several dogs and a business later we’d be considering moving back to the UK.

The times they are a changin’

It’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to blog. The last few days have been particularly difficult for me. Yesterday I had to talk to my 9 year old and 11 year old about how to take cover in school from an active shooter. It’s made us assess certain aspects of our life, and after 18 years here in Atlanta we’re making some changes. Watch this space as I’ll be documenting it all – the highs and lows. For now suffice to say our house of 10 years is on the market.

Toga Pulla boots

It’s been a while I know! Various reasons have caused me to hesitate – but I can never seem to quit this blogging thing for good – I guess I just have to wait for the inspiration and blogging mojo to raise it’s head again. I’m still active on Instagram and love sharing my outfits there, along with updates on my thriving Rodan + Fields business. I’m thrilled to say I’m still having a ball with it and it is really flourishing – the hard work I invested a year ago is paying off. I traveled to Vegas for convention at the beginning of October, and it was absolutely incredible to meet so many smart, driven people in person. It has truly spurred me on to take this gig to the top.

We adopted a new puppy too a couple of weeks ago – totally on impulse – but the best things are done based on spontaneity. He’s amazing – so sweet and gentle. He’s been christened Larkin (Philip Larkin – “They fuck you up, your mum and dad…”) and he is a terrific running companion. Running really does make me happy – I hate missing a day and I get tremendous joy from a 4 mile jog round the neighborhood with Larkin.

Fashion wise I am SO OVER the heat. Yesterday, November 7th, it was almost in the 80s here! Not really boot and sweater weather. Well my whining paid off as today it’s much cooler, so my new Zara sweater came out of it’s box. These Toga Pulla boots are superb and various sizes are available on sale here.

Turning 46

I truly embrace growing older and consider it a privilege. I’m healthier than ever and enjoying success in many areas of life. A lot has changed in this past year, most for the better. I hate to keep harping on about it but not drinking has contributed massively to lots of positive changes. I truly consider it as a better choice I’m making, not something I am depriving myself of. All the things that you imagine alcohol to alleviate – like anxiety and stress – I’ve realized were actually caused by drinking, or at least exacerbated. I feel more confident than ever, and deeply connected with my emotions and the universe. I’ve read a lot too over the summer – meditation, affirmations and universal energy are all new concepts to me – but I truly believe in their power after practicing them, being more open minded, experiencing real results and receiving the abundance I asked for. Certain people have entered my life recently who have become incredibly important – I may not even have noticed these people a year ago. It’s funny what can happen when you consciously embrace situations and opportunity, instead of relying on chance and luck.

Top – ASOS  (love it in lilac here – I’m wearing a US8 it is oversized) // JeansHudson // Shoes – Sam Edleman // Bag – Alexander McQueen

An evening with Garbage and Blondie

My birthday celebrations began last night with a trip to Chastain Park Amphitheater to watch Garbage and Blondie. It’s an open air venue in the heart of Buckhead, Atlanta – and VERY middle class – not remotely rock and roll. There’s ample space between rows where you can set up your picnic table and nibble on olives and hummus, while muddling your Old Fashioned. I kid you not.

Hampered by a couple of severe downpours Garbage and Blondie completed 2 incredible sets. It’s hard to believe that Shirley Manson is 51 and Debbie Harry is 72. They are absolutely fierce women, dressing as they please and aging as they please – I adore them both for their strong examples to women everywhere. They can both still belt out a tune too.

The irony of ‘Only Happy When it Rains‘ was not lost on us…Shoes – Isabel Marant // Lace-up Jeans – TopShop // T-shirt – AllSaints

T-Shirt – Garbage tour t-shirt // Jeans – Madewell // Shoes – Converse // Bag – Stella McCartney

Before I go today I want to appeal to anyone in the US or Canada looking for a new challenge, or opportunity, that they can run alongside their regular job, or that will help them get back into earning an income, if you’ve been out of work or a SAHM. Rodan + Fields can be a lucrative side gig for a plan b, a safety net, an exit strategy or to relieve the burden of debt. My business is thriving and I’ve set a goal to add a number of consultants to my team this month. So if you’d like further information don’t hesitate to email me joanna@poppys-style.com – no commitment, purely informational – and see where it takes you. If I can do it I know you can – I’d never sold a girl scout cookie before last August and my business has transformed my life and the wealth of my family.

When you’re woken by an earthquake…

It was early morning and we’d just gone to bed after a lovely evening out in Datça. I was reading and the Husband was falling asleep. Suddenly my Husband appeared to be having a major twitching fit in his sleep…but no the walls are shaking too?! He sat bolt upright as I tried to comprehend what was happening. A storm maybe? Dave jumped out of bed and said ‘quick get the kids!’ I stumbled to the door – the power was out – so I looked for my phone for the torch app. ‘My god is it an earthquake?’ It suddenly dawned on me as  the walls were still shaking. It seemed like it lasted 20 mins but can’t have been more than a couple of minutes. It was really scary! Fortunately the power came back on, I then proceeded to update my social media accounts to inform everyone and check other updates from Bodrum, Marmaris and Kos, and then we all went back to bed. Surreal. Thanks to multiple after shocks I wasn’t really in the mood for sleeping, so I did what every girl would do, I shopped.

Now I can barely contain my excitement about my newest discovery. I say discovery – I have shopped here before but for random stuff like curry sauce – they have a world food section. World Market, it seems, now has the BEST selection of bags and home decor on the planet! It gives IKEA a run for its money too.

This clutch is just $29.99 and it is gorgeous.

World Market Clutch

This straw clutch is just $19.99

World Market straw clutch

Baskets are EVERYWHERE this summer and this one is a great shape.

As is this with tassels.

Or similar with pom poms.

Some slightly larger bags now but still at great prices!

Remember the H&M clutch that sold out in a heartbeat last year?

Then more tassels.

You MUST check out their home decor too. I’m planning on doing a bit of updating when I return home so I’ve ordered these in the sale.

Clear Evie chair – they also come in a similar style in blush, grey and clear.

Rolling cart – perfect for jewelry or cosmetics and half price!

I love this to use as a planter.

These crates would work to – or as a stand for a plant when turned upside down.

As for jewelry there is just too much fabulous stuff to share – like these earrings – just $9.99!!

I think I may have found my new favorite shop – what an Aladdin’s Cave!!! I haven’t even started on the clothes section yet – look at these dresses – just beautiful!

 

Some of my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks

Cardholders have early access from today and then the public get their access on July 21st – so compile your list! I’ve done a beauty selection here so check that out too – meanwhile here are some other items that are in my cart.

These Spanx faux leather leggings get rave reviews and they are reduced to $64.90 from $98 in the sale – both colors are gorgeous and it’s nice supporting an Atlanta born brand.

I have my Flyknit training shoes here on vacation with me and they are wonderful – super light and supportive. This gorgeous blush pair is reduced to $89 from $120 in the sale.

FRAME jeans are some of the best I’ve tried – lovely and soft with a great stretch. This pair is really unique with the split. Reduced from $269 to $179.90

Rag & Bone boots are some of my favorites as you know. These Harlow boots with the tassel are gorgeous. These are reduced from $495 to $329.90

Have a browse – all the items on sale are new for Fall and it’s a great time to make some big savings. The Beauty section has to be my favorite though so check those picks out here – there are some great exclusives.

 

 

Week 2 in Datça

We’re well and truly into the holiday flow. Lazy mornings with coffee and watermelon by the Med, followed by lazy afternoons with tea and olives by the Med. It’s no wonder we came back here. Boats come and go out of our cove and there isn’t another soul on our beach. I’m reading lots too and can’t recommend enough Johnny Marr’s autobiography ‘Set the Boy Free’ – I was sad to finish it – and you really don’t have to be a Smiths fan to enjoy it.

As for outfits I bought a couple of pairs of trousers off the local market which I’m enjoying wearing – organic cotton and made in Turkey – great souvenirs!

Datça MarketOn Poppy – Dress – H&M // My dress – Zara // Shoes – Birkenstock // Earrings – Mango

Boo Hoo yellow dress from ASOSDress – ASOS // Earrings – J.Crew

Free People t-shirt DatçaT-shirt – Free People // Trousers – Datça market

H&M tank with Datça trousersTrousers – Datça market // Tank – H&M

This guy came to visit yesterday too…

 

What’s in my shopping carts right now?

Being away for 4 weeks at a time means I have to practice patience. Not one of my strengths – but I don’t want items turning up at home, or being ‘held’ by USPS for days at a time. I can of course get them shipped to the office, but that, in past years, has resulted in several VERY embarrassing piles of boxes waiting on my desk. You don’t really need all your colleagues watching your sale items stack up! 😉

So here is a collection of things I have juggling in and out of my carts…I’m bound to hit order before I get on the runway home.

These I have actually ordered as I know they will sell out – the Nike Vapormax in blush – they are just beautiful and they are available here and here. I have them in platinum and they are so flattering on the foot.

Staying with sneakers TheOutnet.com just had a bunch of Golden Goose arrive. Sizes are selling out fast but there will be returns.

Now for ASOS – browsing on ASOS is not good for me – I always find something I love. This skirt is beautiful – I have it in red and the pink will be gorgeous with my tan and the above mentioned Golden Goose. I sized down to a US 8 as it has an elastic waistband.

I can never say no to a pair of harems either and these Reebok sweats are new in.

H&M are killing it at the moment – their color palette this season is spot on with so many oranges and reds. There’s a heavy Marant influence too.

I love this orange embroidered top and the price is great.

Fitted items don’t normally work for me with H&M’s tiny sizing but I’ve ordered this blouse anyway to try – just to beat myself up with when it doesn’t fit 😉

I love this skirt – so pretty worn with either of the tops above (this is the black version of the orange top).

Several of my UK blogging friends have these mules – they look gorgeous. Check them out on EveWornOut and TheFrugality.

This Gap dress is currently reduced from $79.95 to just $19.99 and it comes in black too. It’s a perfect light vacation dress for evening wear and really easy to pack.

Finally – a couple of other gorgeous cheap and cheerful skirts from Old Navy. Just over $18 and available in navy, black or white. I normally size down at Old Navy as the fit big.

 

How’s your sale shopping going? Mine is virtually non existent – I really haven’t been tempted – I must be ill…