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When the Going Gets Tough... Change Course... and Remember to Laugh!

Stephanie on the ups and downs of life with this curious illness.

My son just turned three, and what a fun age this is proving to be! Talking, singing, his growing imagination and story-telling with evolving characters, and spontaneous hugs to name a few make this honestly the best time I'm having being a mom so far. Good riddance to the terrible twos and getting through it despite my RA! Kids grow (too quickly) anticipating each day full of its new discoveries while learning about disappointments along the way too.

We were planning a really cool birthday party at the Swiss Air Force Museum near Zurich for over 6 weeks. (This is considered “behind schedule” according to standard Swiss preparedness.) The museum itself is housed in a hangar and as one can imagine, in pristine Swiss fashion, it is utterly awesome and jaw-dropping. I admit, it was perhaps more for us parents to host the party there versus one of those rowdy indoor play arenas with [other] screaming kids. And, as if to test our resilience, just a couple days before the fête a major glitch threw our entire plans off course requiring an immediate venue change. CRASH and BURN. (Thanks again to a new American restaurateur for squeezing us in last minute. I miss those American qualities: being laid back by default and eager to rescue.) SMILE. In the end, the party was much cozier and more fun for the kids. Everyone was relaxed, therefore so were we. Change can be just what you need sometimes without even knowing it. The museum would surely have been momentous, but, there's always next year, right?

Looking back that was such a craaaazy week.

That snafu came ON TOP of everything else going on: a tight deadline finishing up a chapter translation for a book being published highlighting the work of the Foundation where I've been working, a friend visiting from San Francisco, impending in-laws' visit, the cleaning lady quitting, husband out of town, and scouting out and visiting new playgroups for my son to attend this “late” in the new year. I saw that when it rains... it floods!

My lesson (re)learned that week is that when the real stuff hits the fan... I don't back down. I had no time to think. I just had to act. Unforeseen curves on this road of life are expected, but it seems at times those waves of change can hit like a tsunami leaving you feeling as if you never prepped your survival gear. I was averaging about 5-6 hours sleep per night, but the one thing I'm most sure of is that I never lost my sense of humor. The truth is I laugh hysterically when I'm drowning under pressure. This is my personal flaw.

That seemed to prepare us then for the next shock wave to hit home.

My husband's company is relocating us to Geneva (still a Swiss city, of course) later in the year, so I've now assumed the project manager role for something all entirely different and completely unexpected! I was just starting to get through the fog that was the end of our 2012. You know when you sense the light is nearing at the end of one tunnel only to find you've taken a swift neck-wrenching turn into an even longer one and you aren't the one steering? You only hope it will be Wonderland on the other side. Our motto for this past year could be, "only uncertainty is certain." I guess many around the world could say the same given these times we live in.

Thankfully, this move is on a positive note. While I'm anxious to bid farewell to my Zurich life and our loving friends, I feel a big sigh of relief with the prospect of bringing French back into my life. Just days before this bombshell hit, I visited a French painting exhibit and longed for those beautiful words to once again infiltrate my daily life. Et voilà! Now, the more daunting task ahead will be getting my son up to par in French as quickly as possible to aid his transition and integration. German, let alone Swiss German, will "no longer" be useful. Sigh. All of that effort and expense to immerse him in German to be able to attend public school next year are now thwarted and must be refocused on French. 

I’m ready to assist my family's integration with this new foreign language. My son juggles English, Italian, and Swiss German very well to this day so I'm not at all concerned. Kids are so resilient and wonderful examples for us adults that changes no matter how big, ugly, or grand may be handled with grace and determination.

I will even admit after a few weeks of phone calls to the Geneva area, I feel one foot taller. Feeling empowered is refreshing and something I haven't felt since leaving my native language. I am more myself, laugh, and cut to the chase without sounding like a rambling idiot in German. Honestly, I still need reminding just how peculiar and diverse this little curious country, Switzerland, is! It's the size of the state I come from, but has four official languages! (English counts as the unofficial fifth, so at least my child will have a leg up there!)

So, whether it's needing to re-engineer a birthday party last minute, being overloaded with work/life/family issues, or the ups and downs of life with this curious illness, change is inevitable. (But, you don’t need me to tell you that.) Thank goodness too. How boring if we woke up to the same scenario every single day like in the film, Groundhog Day. Life moves on and so does the rest of the world whether we are ready or not. Our relocation is happening and it's shown me, even with the ups and downs of RA - and now needing to source a new Rheumatologist, Physical Therapist and support system - and life with a very active willful toddler (who freely gives out many cuddles since turning 3 that I feel like I'm cashing in after all the struggles of the first 3 tough years!), that change BIG or small is certain. It’s guaranteed. We can't avoid it, but we can decide to stand tall, straighten our shirt, go into the headwind and face it with determination while setting our GPS to Wonderland - wherever and however we define it. Just remember though: Keep Calm and Hold Onto Your Laugh! Bonne chance!

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