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"The book achieves its objective of providing the means to "cope, grow, and handle moves with grace and joy."

Carol Usher, Canadian Social Worker living and working in the UK, and Book Reviewer for Tales from a Small Planet, a website for expatriates


Here are some of our favorite news articles:

March 2017

A Portable Identity just got more portable!
Now available through Amazon Kindle, Apple, Barnes and Noble Nook, GoSpoken/Mobcast, Gardners, Kobo, in addition to 60 global retailers, is the newly released digital version of A Portable Identity; the accompanying spouseís definitive guide to success during international relocation.

Take charge of change and thrive during international relocation
A Portable Identity is unlike any other book about overseas living. With clarity, candor, and compassion, the authors demonstrate how global relocation affects the accompanying spouse at every stage of the move Ė from pre-departure to arrival, while living overseas, and during repatriation or future moves.

We draw from our experience as expatriate accompanying spouses, counselors, and life coaches specializing in relocation for over twenty years to guide the reader through the most profound change a woman can experience when she moves overseas in support of her husbandís career; the change within herself, to her own sense of identity.

A Portable Identity provides spouses with practical exercises, inspiring stories, and The Wheel, an innovative model for taking charge of change. The benefit of the book, and its increased accessibility in digital format, is to give women critical information and valuable tools they can use to make choices for a happier, more meaningful life overseas.

Download or recommend to a friend today
A Portable Identity continues to receive rave reviews from around the world and is recommended reading by the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW).

Share your comments on this article on Facebook!

Take care,
Debra and Charise

Winter 2012

Say No to New Yearís Resolutions in 2012: Simplify your Approach

Consider taking a different approach this year; instead of making a New Yearís resolution that you may or may not keep, think about how you would like to look back on 2012. You may be thinking, ďWhy ask me to think about the end of the year when 2012 is just beginning?Ē

Get Clarity

This approach starts from looking at what you want in your life or where you want to get to in your life this year. Imagine a place of being where what you desire has happened. For example, do you desire more calm or simplicity on a daily basis? Or, do you want to achieve a goal of some kind, such as better health, a new relationship, or more financial security? When 2012 draws to a close, what do you want to be different in your life?

Be Selective

Once you decide how you want your life to have looked during 2012, the next step is to think about who you need to be to get there. For example, if you want more calm and simplicity in your life, being someone who is intentional in making choices and selecting activities that align with this goal comes to mind. If you want more money in your bank account at the end of the year, being responsible in spending throughout the year will most likely make this happen

Tip: When you focus on who you need to be, the doing will follow. For example, ďbeingĒ healthy leads to ďdoingĒ things such as eating nutritional foods, going to the gym, and turning off your phone, computer or television to spend uninterrupted time with friends and family and to get restorative sleep.

Share your tips or comment on this article on Facebook!

All the best in 2012!
Take care,
Debra and Charise

Fall 2011

Ready, Set, Reset Before Go

During relocation, when you accomplish unpacking and settling in to your new home, the task of moving is behind you. As the dust settles, there is newness all around -- new home, new people, new neighborhood, new community, and new culture. If you are the spouse, you may be asking yourself," now what?" or "what next?" Before you get going with ideas and activities, get reset.

Why Reset?

Resetting is about gathering momentum to move forward. It's a chance to rest while you collect your thoughts, ideas, feelings that will serve to fuel your next actions. Relocating requires great effort that can have a draining effect, and you can't run on empty!

Reset for Readiness

To get reset is like switching off automatic mode to gain perspective to power up again, renewed. Here are 4 things to consider as you reset:

  • Remind yourself that you have just completed a job of moving into a foreign country (or repatriating) successfully. There's nothing easy about this. Acknowledge all your efforts that went into making the move happen.
  • List the skills you tapped into to handle the planning and logistics of your move as well as how you handled communicating to others (your family, friends, colleagues) about your relocation. You may have tapped into qualities or capabilities in a more unique way and/or learned some things about yourself along the way. Being on reset allows you to reflect on these skills of yours and on changes that have already happened in/to you.
  • Acknowledge your strength. It takes a lot of courage to begin (or continue) the mobile lifestyle. By being aware of your strength you won't have to spend your time looking for the courage you already have to create the life you desire as an expat/repat. If no one else has recognized you for all you've done to uproot from home and settle in a different country, give your self this thanks.
  • Determine how long you need to reset -- it may take some time in order to feel tanked up again to make the most of your day/week. By paying attention to your motivation and energy levels, when you "press go" you will know that you are ready for the opportunities and challenges ahead.
  • Comment on this article and how you reset for readiness on Facebook

    All the Best,
    Debra and Charise

    Spring 2011

    3 Essential Ingredients to Discover Your Own Happiness

    Moving disrupts your equilibrium and itís normal to feel loss and to experience a range of feelings as you adjust to all the changes. Although the organization or company that relocates you and your family can do things that will support your transition, it is up to you to have a vested interest in your own happiness.

    Happiness Resides Within You

    When you move and life doesnít feel quite right, instead of looking outward for someone or some "thing" to make you happy, look first to yourself. You will find that you retain your ability to create the happiness you desire wherever you live. You are in the best position to make decisions and choices about your life that align with your values, your interests, your hopes, your strengths, your skills, and your view of the future. Itís a matter of tapping into what you already know about yourself and/or making self-discoveries to make it happen.

    3 Essential Ingredients

    The following three ingredients are essential to discovering your own happiness.

    1.Connect with Your Self Ė In A Portable Identity, we refer to this as Communication with the Self, a tool for you to use to connect to your soul or self so that you can get answers to questions, such as: "When do I experience joy? What do I like to surround myself with? What makes me laugh?" This is one way you can use this tool to learn what contributes to your happiness and what you desire for your life overseas.

    2.Avoid Random Busyness Ė Say no to what doesnít appeal to you even if it means a lapse in activity. Getting busy fills time but doesnít necessarily promote happiness. Instead, consider getting involved in an activity or pursuit that is important to you by choosing what gives you a sense of fulfillment and meaning and/or what motivates you and gives you energy.

    3.Spring Out of Your Comfort ZoneBrainstorm and make a list of those things you have always wanted to do but have put off "until someday". This is a list of big ideas, meaning no idea is too outrageous to put on your list, even if it does not seem to fit with your current environment and culture you live in; this will free up your imagination, allow you to experiment and try new things. Prioritize your passions and get going on making "someday", today!

    Take care,
    Debra and Charise

    *Content for our Spring 2011 news is excerpted and adapted from ďNo Place Like HappinessĒ, an article we wrote for Acclimate, a magazine founded by Tracey Starr, editor and accompanying spouse, as a resource for expatriate women living in Thailand.

    Fall/Winter 2010

    5 Powerful Ways to Bust Stress

    Stress is a given in the life of expats, and especially in the midst of unpacking after a move and getting settled. You have tasks to do associated with your move while simultaneously getting a daily routine into place. This is all intensified if your move occurs during a major life event (e.g., marriage, a child going off to boarding school or college, a divorce, or death of a loved one). Do you know when your stress level is on the rise?

    Do You Register High or Low on the Stress Barometer?

    In A Portable Identity, we talk about a barometer to measure stress. Letís imagine you have an internal barometer that moves up and down based on your response to whatever is stressing you. This is not a measure of how great the source of stress is, but a measure of how you are responding to it. You can get a handle on your response, even when you have little control over what is actually causing you to feel stressed. Concentrate on lowering the level of your barometer rather than continuing to react.

    5 Pís for Stress Busting

    When youíre stressed, itís important to put into place practices that prevent or counteract the effect of stress. Here are 5 Powerful Pís we recommend for stress busting:

    1. Pay attention

    Pay attention to your physical responses to stress and shift your focus to adjust the ones you can, like relaxing your shoulders, unclenching your jaw, taking a deeper breath.

    2. Perspective

    Keep the situation at hand in check by taking an overview approach Ėask yourself questions like "is this worth wrecking my entire day? Or "how much will this matter tomorrow, next week, or in the long run?" Having a sense of humor always helps as well Ė if this were happening to someone else, you might not take the situation so seriously.

    3. Pause

    "Take off your pack and put it aside awhile". Give yourself short breaks during the day and establish an end-ofĖthe-day stopping time for dealing with tasks. Determine this each day by taking into consideration your energy level and other needs occurring in your life or that of your familyís life Ė like childrenís or school events.

    4. Play

    Do something to give yourself a break, to recharge or to safely let off steam. For example, get some exercise by taking a walk or run. Or get together with a friend to talk or to do something fun together.

    5. Peace

    Create one area in your home that offers you refuge. Feeling "settled" takes awhile once you move, especially if your house is in chaos from boxes still waiting to be unpacked. Remember to also incorporate self-care practices such as sleep and healthy food choices to create a sense of calm and well being.

    (Comment on this Article and Let Us know your Stress Busting Tips on Facebook)

    Partner with A Portable Identity

    If you find that you are having difficulty managing stress on your own, or you would like the added benefit of support, contact either Debra or Charise to develop a tailor made stress-busting plan to get you on your way of living life the way you want overseas.

    All the Best,
    Charise and Debra

    Summer 2010

    3 Simple Ways to Manage Relocation: Say "Yes", "No", or "Time Out"

    Summer often signifies relocating in the life of expats. The tendency during relocation is to be primarily in "doing" mode; focusing on getting organized, making lists, and accomplishing tasks to get you from your current location to your next destination. Do you feel more stressed, less patient and tolerant, or exhausted?

    Instead of letting your move zap your energy and resigning yourself to getting through it, experience the powerful shift in how you view this time of change and transition when you skillfully incorporate the words "Yes", "No", and "Time Out" into your vocabulary.

    Say: "Yes"
    Accept offers of help and enlist support from others to help make your departure easier. Donít feel like you have to do it all yourself. Continue to accept offers of help and give yourself the gift of support once you arrive to your new destination as well. Tip: Prioritize and complete only the essential tasks. The more skilled you are at determining what is essential for you to do when you move, the more time you will have to focus on your own transition. An effective strategy to employ is what we call doing a "mental dump":
    1. Make a list of everything going on in your head that you think you need to do or should do. This process clears your head so you have the mental space necessary to go through your list and evaluate the importance of each remaining item.
    2. Cross out any item on your list that you can easily let go of.
    3. For the remaining items, ask yourself whether the items are on your list out of necessity or self-imposed obligation and delete accordingly.
    4. Pick the top 3 items you need to attend to and rank them in 1-2-3 order. Continue with this pattern until you accomplish the tasks on your list.
    Say: "No"
    Reduce unnecessary commitments. Consider resigning early from roles that deplete or occupy too much of your time, such as work or volunteer positions. Doing so will allow you the time necessary to focus on what is most important to you as you prepare for the move. Resist the urge to say yes to anything new or that would add stress. Tip: If your stomach starts to churn or your shoulders begin to tighten up as you consider a proposed request, this often is a clear indication that you should say no.

    Say: "Time Out"
    Retreat often to recharge you in the midst of the chaos of the move. Give yourself time to pay attention to how the move is affecting you. For example, one minute you might be excited about the move, and feel confident in your ability to get all the tasks done to prepare for your life overseas. Then, the next minute, your anxiety might soar and you may feel overwhelmed by the tasks that need to be completed or by the prospect of rebuilding your life overseas. Itís important to recognize the impact of change. Tip: Schedule "you" time. Spend time reflecting on the impact of the changes occurring in your life by journaling, or talking with a friend. You can also counteract the stress you are under by allowing yourself space to breathe and/or let off some steam in a healthy way - go for a walk, run, practice yoga, meditate, or get together with friends. You will not only increase the feel good hormones (serotonin and dopamine) but you will also feel more refreshed throughout your move.

    Take Care,
    Debra and Charise

    March 2010

    What is new in 2010?

    Welcome to our first e-newsletter, which allows us to reach out to you directly. This feature marks a beginning for us in 2010, as well as a continuation of our endeavors in support of expatriate accompanying spouses. A lot of exciting change is happening at www.aportableidentity.com.

    In addition to launching e-news, we are now providing coaching services for accompanying spouses. We are excited about this new venture because along with our book, A Portable Identity, our coaching services provide expat and repat spouses with a much-needed source of support when they move and a customized plan for thriving in the internationally mobile lifestyle.

    • Hereís what youíll find at our redesigned website:
    • You can read excerpts from A Portable Identity
    • Answer a short questionnaire to see if you are a good candidate for coaching
    • Get information about coaching packages and Debraís and Chariseís coaching style
    • Schedule a complimentary coaching session
    • Sign up to have our e-newsletter sent directly to you
    • Peruse our resource section
    • Join a chat group with other expat spouses located around the globe
    We invite you to take a tour of www.aportableidentity.com to see all we have to offer accompanying spouses. We welcome your comments and/or questions. You can contact us via our e-mail at: authors@aportableidentity.com, or individually at: Debra@aportableidentity.com or Charise@aportableidentity.com.

    We look forward to hearing from you and being a part of your successful relocation.

    All the Best,
    Charise and Debra

    Summer News 2009

    Coming Soon: A Portable Identity is Expanding to Provide Coaching Services to Accompanying Spouses

    Summer signifies change in the expatriate world. School is either out or almost out for those of you with children. You may also be in the midst of packing boxes and gearing up to move either to a new destination or to return to your home country. Or you may be packing, but it is suitcases to go on home leave or holiday. Or if you are not going anywhere this summer, you will most likely notice the change in your social or support network.

    Change is also underway at www.aportableidentity.com. For quite some time we have been considering various ways to further our reach to meet the needs of accompanying spouses when they move. One area we considered is offering coaching services to our primary readership, expatriate accompanying spouses (we have received inquiries about this possibility on numerous occasions). Attending the Families in Global Transition Conference (FIGT) in Houston, Texas in March of this year solidified our decision to do so.

    Why? Because the number one reason assignments continue to fail is due to the spouseís dissatisfaction. We believe that this, in large part, is due to the changes in identity that occur when you move and we address this topic in depth in A Portable Identity. In addition, having a support system has been identified as one of the critical factors needed for adjustment and a successful transition. Although we and others advocate for sending organizations to provide support and preventative services to accompanying spouses (like coaching), overall progress in this area is very slow. In the over fifteen years we have been working and advocating on behalf of accompanying spouses, little has changed in this area. Very few sending organizations actually provide or pay for services for the accompanying spouse as part of a relocation package. We will continue to advocate on behalf of accompanying spouses, and we will also offer our services as coaches because we know that coaching provides the support, validation, encouragement and accountability you can benefit from when you move.

    Over the next few months we will be working on revising the website to reflect adding Coaching Services - if you are interested in coaching from one of us prior to these changes being visible on the site, feel free to contact us via our e-mail: authors@aportableidentity.com.

    We hope that wherever your travels take you that you remain safe, healthy and at peace with yourself this summer.

    Take Care,
    Debra and Charise

    Winter 2008/2009

    Over the past year we have continued to advocate on behalf of expatriate spouses. The good news is that we are being heard! The word is spreading that accompanying spouses experience unique challenges when they relocate internationally in support of their husbandís or partnerís career. Three publications interviewed us, including:

  • The Expatriate Observer Summer 2008 edition, "The Impact of Foreign Culture on Your Identity"
  • The Financial Times September 18, 2008 edition, "No Place Like Home"
  • Acclimate Magazine December 2008 edition, "About a Book" (A Portable Identity)

    During our interview with Acclimate we were asked the following question: How can I help my husband understand what Iím going through? This is a common concern women have when they move overseas in support of their husbandís career. Tracey Starr, Editor of Acclimate, has graciously given us permission to share with you our thoughts (expanded for this News article) in response to this question.

    How can you help your husband understand what youíre going through?
    Here are a few suggestions that may especially be helpful and pertinent if:
  • you have recently moved, either for your first overseas assignment or a subsequent one
  • you are experiencing various thoughts and feelings about how the move is affecting you.
  • you are exploring sources of support as you navigate all the changes you are experiencing.
  • you feel that the stress of the move is affecting your marriage/partnership.

    Checking in with Yourself:
    First, before you can help your husband understand what youíre going through, you need to understand that the thoughts and feelings you are experiencing are a reflection of all the changes your identity is undergoing as a result of the move. It may be tempting to blame your husband for feeling the way you do, but you must remember that you agreed to the move. Owning this within yourself rather than blaming your husband for feeling the way you do will give you personal power and the foundation necessary to be in charge of you within this process.

    Getting Perspective:
    It is important to remember that your husband is navigating his own changes in his work environment, and may not be available to you emotionally the way he typically would be. If this occurs, donít take it personally -it may be better for you to get the support you need by talking to a trusted girlfriend or may be an opportunity to seek out a new support network for yourself in your community. (Note: if your husbandís emotional unavailability continues for an extended period of time, it may be symptomatic of a problem in the marriage you may need to address).

    When you talk to your husband, state the losses and changes you feel without blaming him for how you feel. You might also remind him that he doesnít have to "fix it" for you, instead you just want him to listen and understand what you are going through. It may also be helpful to reassure your husband that when you are ready, perhaps after a time of processing or grieving the changes you are going through, you will be ready to "fix it" yourself. (In A Portable Identity we call this process re-constructing your identity).

    It is also important to understand that your husband may not ever fully "get it" or understand what you are going through. In fact, this might be an unrealistic expectation because he is not going through what you are experiencing. This doesnít mean that he doesnít love you or doesnít want to understand. The important things for you to know during this time are what you want and/or need from him, and communicate this to him clearly. For example, do you need time alone for self-reflection, words of assurance from him, or would you like to go and do something fun with him or other people? Once you discover what your need is and communicate it to him, he will be in a better position to then meet your need.

    As we approach the holidays and the beginning of a new year, we hope that the above suggestions give you new insight about yourself and/or lead to a conversation between you and your spouse about this relevant issue for the both of you.

    All the Best,
    Charise and Debra

    Spring 2008

    Is It Time to "Spring Clean" Your Identity?

    Moving propels us to clean out the clutter in our lives. In preparation for a move overseas, you evaluate the contents in your home and decide which possessions you will keep, either to take with you or put in storage until you return. The rest you will give away, dispose of, or sell. As you make these decisions about what you need and want in your home overseas, and what you can let go of either temporarily or permanently, you may experience a variety of feelings. You may feel that this sorting and clearing process is being forced upon you, or it may be a welcome task, like "spring cleaning".

    "Spring Cleaning" is a tradition in the U.S.; a term used to describe how we transition our homes from winter to spring. In addition to cleaning and airing out our homes, we put away winter clothes, and clear clutter that has accumulated during the past year. The concept of spring cleaning can also be applied to identity. Whether you are preparing for a move or are already living overseas, you can be mindful of how your identity is in need of attention. This is true especially if you donít quite feel settled internally or if you want to examine who you are and your place in the world.

    When you think about "spring cleaning" your identity, give your self time to consider the four facets of your identity (your roles, relationships, internal view and external factors) in terms of whether they still "fit", or whether something needs to be reassessed in the context of your relocation. Questions to ask your self might include:
  • "Is where I am in my life really where I want to be?"
  • "Which facets of my identity give me a sense of satisfaction and/or dissatisfaction?"
  • "Is there something cluttering up my life that I need to get rid of or let go of?" (If so, grieving may be involved.)

    Remember that spring cleaning allows you to discover what is really valuable to you. In the process of clearing away things in your physical environment that are no longer needed or desired, there is suddenly more space. This is also true of your identity. You can ask your self:
  • "If this space were available, would there be an opportunity for new things to emerge?"
  • "How can I best nurture new emerging parts of my identity so that they have the opportunity to grow, and become central to who I am?"
  • "What do I need in my life to encourage new growth?" For example, you might decide that you will need to reach out to friends for support and encouragement as you make changes.

    As you reflect and evaluate who you are this season, keep in mind that you are in charge of the changes you seek in your identity. Go at your own pace-slowly, with velocity, or somewhere in between. The important thing is that you schedule "you" for spring cleaning so that you can thrive wherever you are in the world.

    Take good care,

    Debra and Charise

    Summer/Fall 2007

    We have several exciting things to share with you, as well as information to consider about your identity if you are preparing to relocate.

    We Offer Pre-Departure Training
    A Portable Identity emerged from our work together conducting workshops for expatriate accompanying spouses in Bangkok, Thailand. In April 2007, we stepped back into this role, albeit a little differently, and began providing pre-departure training for new Foreign Service officers and accompanying spouses at the Foreign Service Institute at the U.S. Department of State. As authors, the Foreign Service sector has supported our work from the first publication of our book. A Portable Identity is on the Foreign Service reading list and is a resource highly recommended by staff during their trainings.

    We are excited about expanding our work in this new direction because of the direct benefits for accompanying spouses. There is greater potential for success of the foreign assignment when organizations, corporations, employers, and employees, as well as accompanying spouses, are informed about the effect of moving overseas on identity and how to reconstruct identity in a foreign country. If your organization is interested in arranging for a seminar or workshop on the topic of identity and the mobile lifestyle, contact us at our e-mail address, authors@aportableidentity.com, and we will be happy to discuss this opportunity with you.

    A Portable Identity Endorsed by www.ExpatWomen.com
    In July, a new website, www.ExpatWomen.com, featured an interview with us and a spotlight on A Portable Identity as the book of the month. We were asked questions about what lead us to write the book, what the book is about, how A Portable Identity can best be utilized by women, and what type of concerns women voice in our chat group. We shared that some of the major concerns women voice in Chat are during the time prior to departure, e.g., women are concerned about how the move will affect their career, marriage/partnership, and/or their family. Visit their website to view this interview as well as interviews with other expat writers in the book section of this fantastic site devoted to the interests and concerns of expatriate women.

    Chat Will Change to a Closed Group to Allow Members More Privacy
    Over the summer, a question on Chat from accompanying spouses has been whether it is possible for us to change the group from an open group (where messages and the message archive is viewable by anyone) to a closed group (where membership has to be approved and messages and the message archive is restricted to the membership). After member discussion, feedback, and consideration, we will be making this change on the site in the near future. We applaud our Chat membership for speaking out about this desired change!

    Relocating? Remember, Changes in Identity Begin During Pre-Departure
    Changes in identity begin to occur the moment the decision to move is made. From that point in time until your actual departure is what we call the pre-departure stage of the move. (If youíve already moved overseas, think back to how long a time that was. For us, it was typically six months.) A lot happens to your identity at pre-departure, which is easy to overlook when your attention is focused on tasks related to preparing for the move, and thoughts about the future.

    If you are going to relocate internationally, to understand how your identity begins to change during pre-departure, you can look at the before and after picture of your identity (before and after the decision to move is made). The "Who Was I?" exercise from our book (pages 17-20) will give you a snapshot of your identity prior to the decision to move, and can bring to your attention how the awareness of the move is already affecting certain aspects of your identity as you have known it. (For example, this is a great opportunity to see how the upcoming move is affecting you currently in relation to your career/job and your marriage/partnership.) There is a lot to see and discover by doing the exercise, and it represents the very beginnings of a process of change in identity that will continue once you depart and then enter the foreign country.

    The pre-departure stage of the move is also a time that can be symbolized by a huge question mark. There are many things that are unknown, with coinciding feelings such as anxiety, doubt, wonder and/or excitement. These feelings are normal and reflect the degree of change that you are already beginning to experience. When you notice how you feel, you are allowing yourself to pause and reflect on how the move is affecting you.

    When you pause to reflect on your identity prior to departure, you are building in time for yourself, engaging your ability for self-knowledge (a resource), and communicating with your self (a tool); all of which benefits you now and throughout each stage of your move. (Resources and Tools are components of The Wheel, which are discussed in detail in A Portable Identity).

    Take care,

    Charise and Debra

    Winter 2006/2007

    A Look Behind the Scenes

    Our collaboration always seems to intertwine our personal and professional lives. This is really the crux of how A Portable Identity began, and is most evident in the format of our book as our personal stories are integrated into all the other content. When we submitted the first edition for publication, our publisher suggested we take out our stories to form a separate book, creating two books out of one. We disagreed. Not only did we feel strongly that our stories needed to support the information in the book, we also felt that the juxtaposition of both in one book is a true reflection of who we are.

    Another example is when we schedule a meeting together by phone. We usually begin each call by catching up on our personal lives. We have learned from our years of collaboration, that there is a point to doing this. Itís not just for the sake of our friendship. It also re-establishes our connection with each other as the basis for developing our work. We first learned to trust this process as we wrote A Portable Identity, and do so today as we continue to work together to reach out to expatriate spouses around the world.

    Another example is our Summer 2006 News article when we wrote about transitions each of us are experiencing in our personal lives. Our decision to write that article emerged during a conversation where we started out by sharing the recent events in our lives, and how we each were continuing to use the steps of The Wheel to deal with these changes. We decided (during that conversation) that it was important to pass along how The Wheel also applies to daily life, whether at home or abroad, and even years after repatriating.

    The above examples illustrate how our personal connection with each other is the foundation that supports our professional work together. Our personal connection allows us to share freely and develop new ideas, plans, and projects. As we share our personal stories with you in A Portable Identity and in Chat, we also extend our connection to you. We hope that in doing so, you feel supported in your experience, and that you will feel inspired to grow, or make changes, or to try something new in some area of your life.

    Take good care,

    Debra and Charise

    The Wheel: Take Charge of Change and Transition Wherever You Are

    Summer 2006

    Whether you are currently on a global assignment or living in your home country, when change and transition enters your life, you can use the components of The Wheel, our model for reconstructing identity, to help you take charge of your situation. Below are examples of how we are each currently using The Wheel in our lives. Our stories may help you identify how you are currently using The Wheel in your life, and/or give you some ideas about how you can use it to identify areas of your identity that you may want to address.

    Recently, I had an intense need to retreat to the beach for a weekend of solitude. I am a social person by nature, so this initially came as somewhat of a surprise to both me and my husband. Typically, I love to be at the beach with my husband and/ or our kids, or with a girlfriend, or with a group of friends.

    Over the last year, I have felt progressively taxed emotionally and physically in some of the significant roles in my life. My fatherís health has significantly declined in the last year and I have felt inadequate in my role as his daughter. I value our relationship and I am struggling with how to maintain it, and how to be a support to my mother and other siblings, from 750 miles away. Also, in addition to the normal demands and stress that come with my role as mother to my 8 and 4 year-old daughters, the youngest one has had significant sleep issues off and on the last few years. During these times, her lack of sleep takes a toll on the entire family. Motherhood guilt has plagued me a lot this past year because I have been less patient with her due to my own sleep deprivation. Late last fall, I also unexpectedly had to have surgery that required about a two month recovery. Just as I started to feel like I was back on track, I was involved in a car accident on my way to the gym at the end of January of this year. I wasnít seriously injured, but since then, I have had to have various forms of physical therapy two to three times a week. While recovering from my surgery and initially after my accident, I keenly missed my role as an athlete because I was unable to exercise. I not only enjoy the health benefits exercise provides, but it is one of the best ways for me to reduce stress in my life, and I was without it. The exercise I now do is primarily for rehabilitation purposes.

    I also had positive challenges in my life during this past year. Last spring, I wrote a chapter for a book about the Foreign Service that will be out later this year. I also trained and competed in my first triathlon in June of 2005. Charise and I revised and published A Portable Identity under our own press in August 2005 and presented our work together at an international conference in September 2005. Although all of these endeavors were by choice and provided me with great satisfaction, I was still affected by the stress involved in accomplishing these tasks because I also had to constantly juggle the time and attention I devoted to each of the significant roles in my life, especially my roles as a mother and a wife.

    In retrospect, my retreat to the beach for solitude should not have come as a surprise to me because both the positive and negative events of this past year significantly affected my roles as a mother, wife, friend, daughter, author, and athlete. The signs were all there, but until my trip to the beach I hadnít taken the time to listen to the voice of my soul. My soul knew I desperately needed a temporary break from all these roles in my life to be with myself, away from the distractions of daily life. Being at the beach has always symbolized a sense of peace and healing, balance, and cleansing and rejuvenation for me. I knew I had made the right decision to go the moment I got in the car and started driving.

    The weekend alone at the beach was a powerful experience for me. I spent countless hours walking along the beach, picking up shells, and listening to the waveís splash against the shore, soothing and healing my soul. The time away from my usual routine and roles allowed me to gain perspective about my life over this past year and to assess the current state of my identity. During the weekend, I engaged several personal resources and tools simultaneously. The personal resources I used were Ability for Self- Knowledge, Ability to Let Go, and Ability to Manage Stress. The tools I primarily used were Communication with the Self, Seeking Out Internal Activities, and Acceptance.

    What I learned from using these personal resources and tools at the beach was very simple: I was in desperate need of rest and recovery in my life. This is what propelled me to go to the beach in the first place. I discovered that I primarily need more "open space" in my life to re-establish and reconstruct the significant roles in my life that I mentioned earlier (mother, wife, friend, daughter, author, and athlete) that are an important part of my identity in light of all the changes and transitions that I have encountered over the last year. By the time I left the beach, I had once again entered the hub of The Wheel. I made a commitment to take the time to embark on this new journey for my self.

    Alex, my oldest daughter, is heading off to college this summer, while Amelia, the youngest, is heading toward adolescence. You could say that these are their transitions, but Iím moving through them too. It is through these two key relationships that shifts are happening within my identity. I have so closely identified with my mother role, making that role a priority for so many years. Being a military wife, I have added importance to this role because I am often the only parent at home. For me, a sense of home has meant a feeling of safety and security, and I have linked myself with the capacity to provide that environment for my daughters. As they are each reaching a stage of more independence and life away from home, I am suddenly discovering that I donít need to put so much energy or concern into holding together a sense of home. In some respects, that work has been done and the foundation has been laid. What I can do is call upon my personal resource of Ability to Let Go to free up that energy so that Iím available for the changes that are happening with my daughters, and myself.

    As I engage my Ability to Let Go, I feel freer. Iím aware that while Alex and Amelia gain more freedom, I am also finding freedom and a new sense of adventure which I realize I have missed (and didnít know I missed it). Iím tapping into that free-spirited aspect of myself which got buried under the more dominant feelings of responsibility and accountability as a mom. Itís that aspect of myself which seeks expression in certain endeavors (like teaching yoga and performing with a Middle Eastern dance troupe), but hasnít successfully crossed over into the rest of my life. I have been good at supporting the ability to be free-spirited in my kids, witnessing their play, fun, and light-heartedness. Now I am engaging that part of myself that can also play and be spontaneous. Iím using the tools of Communication with Self and Communication with Others to explore that fun-loving aspect of my identity. Not only do I feel more joy, but I actually feel more connected to my daughters because they see me through how I see myself. Like a domino effect, this change is also apparent in my relationships with my husband, with other family, and friends.

    As our stories illustrate, the way each person uses the components of The Wheel is unique. There are as many variations of the use of The Wheel as there are individuals who use it. And, The Wheel can help you effectively navigate through change and transition wherever you live.

    We chose the term The Wheel to describe our model of reconstructing identity for several key reasons. First, we wanted to choose a term that reflects our model as integrated, with a center that other components radiate from. Second, we wanted a model that depicts interaction back and forth between the components, rather than a linear, forward progression. Third, we wanted a model that depicts motion. Hence, The Wheel.

    Another reason for this term is that we all know no one can reinvent the wheel. Likewise, the components of our model of The Wheel are not new. It is how the components are put together and build on each other that make The Wheel work. These three components (making a commitment, accessing personal resources, and picking up tools) are the means to take charge of change. Our model describes the actions and decisions that spouses can take to re-establish identity wherever they live. There are individuals who use The Wheel without knowing it, or without knowing that there is a name for what they are doing. This was the case for us when we lived overseas, and for many other women we met. Our model emerged from our recognition of what it is that spouses do which leads to their success on an international assignment.

    You may be using a component of The Wheel right now and be fully aware of it, or you may be using a component of The Wheel without realizing that this is what you are doing. For example, you may have made a decision to join a certain group based on what you value and how that value can be expressed in an unfamiliar country and culture. By doing this, you accessed your personal resource of Ability for Self-Knowledge where you discovered that this value is a central part of your identity and then you picked up the tool of Seeking Out External Activities to find a place to express that value. This is part of reconstructing identity - making choices based on what is meaningful to you rather than a random selection of something to "fill your time".

    Whether you are in the process of a move, already living overseas, or living in your home country, we encourage you to look at how you are using components of The Wheel in your life, so that you can check which areas of your identity you may want to address.

    Take good care,

    Charise and Debra

    Your Identity in 2006 - A Time for Change?

    February 2006

    You may be beginning 2006 as a recent arrival to a foreign country, or passing another year in a foreign country which has become your temporary home, or you may be in the midst of repatriating to your home country. Wherever you are, the past year is behind you and the future lies ahead. As you think about your hopes and dreams for the New Year, you can use this as an opportunity to consider all facets of your identity - your roles, your relationships, your internal view, and external factors affecting identity. You can ask your self whether you are satisfied with the current picture of your identity, or whether there is a desire for change.

    To find out the answer to the above question, you may ask yourself more questions, such as the following: How would I like my identity picture to look by the end of the year? Are there facets of my identity that I want to keep the same but other ones that I would I like to be different? Do I need to work on building a supportive network? Do I want to start a new endeavor or project? Do I want or need to make a change in some way, such as in my daily routine or my way of thinking about a particular situation? Am I limiting my own potential in some way? Do I need to step out of my comfort zone to accomplish the changes I want to make?

    Commitment is the starting place for taking charge of any change that you want to make to your identity. Commitment is the first step towards actualizing the changes in your identity that you envision by year-end. Commitment becomes your foundation and it provides you with the motivation to make the changes you seek. In essence, commitment puts you in the driverís seat, fully in charge, instead of being a passenger just going along for the ride.

    In A Portable Identity, when we talk about commitment to making changes in your identity, we also talk about how this requires you to be willing to take risks, grow and change. Stepping out from the familiar into the unknown isnít always comfortable or easy. In fact sometimes it requires hard work! The process of making changes in your identity (even changes you want) can create anxiety, self-doubt, guilt, etc. Having support during this time is critical to your success. Make sure you designate and enlist your supports during this time (like your partner or friends). You might even want to consider joining our chat group where you can talk with other accompanying spouses who are in the midst of making changes in their identities as well. The group provides a wealth of experience about the challenges and rewards of initiating change, and would welcome your participation.

    Take good care,

    Debra and Charise

    Autumn Symbolizes Change and Transition

    Autumn 2005
    Here in the USA, the summer season is changing to autumn. As the heat of summer subsides, in some parts of our country, the air is turning cooler and nature gives a glorious display of color before the starkness and cold of winter. Autumn signals change and transition and this serves as a metaphor for us as well, as co-authors of A Portable Identity and co-founders of www.aportableidentity.com. We have four exciting changes to tell you about.

    Revised Edition of A Portable Identity Published August 2005
    The first exciting change we would like to tell you is that we published a revised and updated edition of A Portable Identity: A Woman's Guide to Maintaining a Sense of Self While Moving Overseas in late August 2005 under our own press, Transition Press International. We are now co-publishers and are learning the ins and outs of the publishing world. We are pleased to have full ownership of our book with this newly revised edition which is true to its original content and also enhanced with information on how to use the book at each stage of the move, beginning with pre-departure and including repatriation. We have also fine-tuned some of the exercises and updated our information.

    Families in Global Transition (FIGT) Conference September 15-17, 2005, Houston, Texas
    The second exciting change we would like to tell you about is that we have recently resumed the role of speaker/presenter on behalf of accompanying spouses. While we were expatriates living overseas, we led workshops and gave presentations on our topic of identity and the accompanying spouse. However, once we repatriated to the U.S. we stepped out of this role to write and publish both editions of A Portable Identity, and develop our website, www.aportableidentity.com.

    A Portable Identity is crafted so that it contains all the necessary information you need as an accompanying spouse to understand what is happening to your identity during an international relocation, how to take charge of the changes that occur, and how to successfully reconstruct your identity while living overseas. We purposely wrote it this way since accompanying spouses are often located in remote parts of the world, and we thought it was the most efficient delivery of information to you, wherever you may reside. We also put ourselves into the book through our stories, thereby providing you examples, guidance, and companionship without the requirement of our physical presence.

    However, for you as an accompanying spouse to have the most optimal and successful international relocation, we also recognize the importance of educating others, such as your husband/wife/partner, human resource managers, relocation specialists, employee assistance professionals, employers, and sending organizations, about the importance of understanding the changes in identity that occur during an international relocation and the role of others in supporting you throughout this process. In order to do this, we decided to directly engage in dialogue/conversation with others who assist expatriates by presenting at the Families in Global Transition conference in September. We gave two presentations: "Accompanying Spouses Can Reconstruct Identity for a Successful International Relocation" and "What is Normal for the Accompanying Spouse's Identity During an International Relocation and What Can Be Done for A Successful Outcome" to an audience that included representation from military, corporate, foreign service, missionary, coaching, relocation and international education sectors, as well as accompanying spouses and their husbands/wives/partners. This was a fun, rewarding, and successful experience of sharing information and spreading the word about the unique situation and concerns of the expatriate accompanying spouse. We had several goals for the conference, which included the following: to emphasize that changes in identity, and the associated thoughts, feelings, and behavior are normal for the accompanying spouse to experience to some degree during international relocation; to illustrate how our model of The Wheel can be used to take charge of change and reconstruct identity for a successful international relocation; and, to highlight how the accompanying spouse, her/his husband/wife/partner, and the employer/sending organization all need to recognize the importance of this critical topic for the accompanying spouse and acknowledge the need for on-going support and resources, such as A Portable Identity, to truly make a difference in the lives of accompanying spouses overseas.

    New Links on www.aportableidentity.com for Research in Progress to Benefit Expatriates
    The third exciting change we would like to tell you about is that we have added a new category to our "Other Resources" section of our website: "Research in progress to improve the lives of expatriate accompanying spouses, families, and children". We have added this category on our website in response to requests by several researchers asking for our help to assist them find expatriates, including accompanying spouses, who are willing to participate in their studies to find answers to some critical questions about expatriate life. When we were at the FIGT (Families in Global Transition) Conference in September 2005, we were able to personally meet and talk with all 3 researchers who currently have links on our website to their research studies, about their work on behalf of spouses, families, and children. Like us, they are passionate about making a positive difference in expatriate lives. If you would like more information about some wonderful opportunities to participate in research studies that can potentially benefit you and other expatriate spouses, children, and families, go to this section of our website for a complete description and the link to each of these studies.

    Yvonne McNulty's Research Study on Behalf of Trailing Spouses is Now Available
    The fourth exciting change has to do with Yvonne McNulty's four-year research study on behalf of trailing spouses-it is now complete! Her findings were published in May 2005. Yvonne is a trailing spouse and she is founder of www.thetrailingspouse.com. As part of her work to complete her PhD program, Yvonne compiled information from 264 trailing spouses from around the world, and her research findings highlight factors that are significant and critical to success overseas from the spouse's perspective, including the following: assign qualified IHRM personnel; provide access to expatriate policy; improve communication with trailing spouses; encourage work/life balance; address the dual-career challenge; support intrinsic needs; and, help balance gains and losses. The level of disclosure from the spouses who participated is touching and impressive, and you may find yourself identifying with many of the things they discuss (we certainly did). For more information about Yvonne, her research findings, and/or to purchase a copy of her research study, visit her website at the above link.

    Join Our Chat Group
    We have described several changes happening for us during this season. What changes and transitions are you experiencing in your life at this juncture? Many of you may have moved during the summer, or went on home leave and are now back in the daily routine of your lives overseas. If you would like to talk with other accompanying spouses who are in the midst of change and transition in their lives as well, join our chat group — we'd love to have your participation.

    Take care,

    Charise and Debra

    Put "You" On Your "To Do" List for the Move

    Summer 2005
    This is the time of year that many of you are preparing for a move overseas. This may be your first move, or one of many. In either case, you are faced with multiple tasks, and often with limited information from the sending organization as to the complete details and timetable for your move. Handling the tasks is one aspect of preparation. Another aspect is how to handle the changes that are already occurring within you, to your identity. Relationships and roles are a key aspect of your identity, as well as how you view yourself and how others view you in these roles and relationships. It's helpful to recognize that once you decide to move, shifts start to happen in these areas. How you relate to others, and how others relate to you, changes as you prepare to leave. Your roles also begin to shift. You may be leaving a work role, or a role in an organization or group that you belong to. You may also be anticipating taking on the role of accompanying or trailing spouse for the first time. Within the context of so much change, it is normal to experience a wide range of conflicting thoughts and feelings about the move. For example, one minute you might be excited about the move, and feel confident in your ability to get all the tasks done and look forward to rebuilding your life in a foreign culture. Then, the next minute, your anxiety might soar and you may feel overwhelmed by the tasks that need to be completed or by the prospect of rebuilding your life overseas, or you may feel depressed about all you are leaving behind that has defined you. Even before you move, even before you encounter your new environment, your identity is in a pre-departure stage of change.

    The simple act of recognition of these changes to your identity is a powerful piece of knowledge. It explains how the event of the move can feel overwhelming and evoke strong emotions and/or anxiety, even when you are making progress with the tasks you need to complete.

    As you prepare to move, remember that there is the "doing" mode of accomplishing tasks, and there is the "being" mode of attending to how you are and how you feel. When you are in the "doing" mode of accomplishing tasks, you get organized, make lists, and take steps to complete the tasks that need to get done. However, you may not be as familiar with the "being" mode of moving. This is where you pay attention to your self and how the move is affecting your identity. Why not put "pay attention to my self and how the move is affecting my identity" on your "to do" list of tasks? Talk, reflect, or journal, find some way to make your experience known. By doing this, you may also reduce the anxiety or the intensity of what you are feeling about the move.

    With the move season upon us, a great number of trailing or accompanying spouses around the world are going through a similar experience as you, at this very moment! You may have a different angle on it, and are in a different situation, but you are part of a community of women who are experiencing major shifts in identity in the pre-departure stage of the move. If you would like to discuss this topic (and many others), we invite you to visit and join our chat group where you will find conversation with a very supportive group of accompanying spouses from around the world.

    Take care,

    Charise and Debra

    Welcome To Our Site!

    January 2005
    We are so excited to have a website presence because it allows us to reach out to you, the international expatriate woman, to offer you the information, support, and tools to take charge of your life, no matter where you are located in the world.

    We began our mission to help expatriate women understand the effect of the overseas move on their identity and to help them successfully transition to life abroad in 1993, by leading workshops in Bangkok, Thailand for women who move overseas to support their husbands' careers. We published our book, A Portable Identity: A Woman's Guide to Maintaining a Sense of Self While Moving Overseas, in 2003 in order to extend our reach to include expatriate women everywhere. Our website, created in December 2004, makes it even easier now for us to reach out to you, and bring together trailing spouses and expatriate women from around the world in a community of support.

    When you look at the graphic at the top of each page of our site (from the cover of the book), you see a woman stepping forward onto new terrain with a perk in her gait (thanks to our artist, Sandra Guiloff). It is confidence that we witness in her gait, and it represents a woman's ability to take charge of all the changes that correspond with an overseas move, the most profound being the changes that occur to her own identity.

    You may be called "the trailing spouse", but you are the person who decides how to define yourself in the overseas setting. This is what your international relocation is about - deciding how to live in such a way that honors who you are in the midst of moving and living overseas. In order to do this, you must understand and acknowledge who you are, what you need to sustain yourself, and then take the necessary steps to make it happen. When you are able to have your needs met while simultaneously living overseas in support of your husband's career, there is a positive ripple effect from you outward into your entire community, and everyone benefits - you, your husband, your children, your friends, the employer, the sending agency, and so on. You will radiate with the confidence of a woman moving forward, evident when you walk with a perk in your gait similar to the female image on the cover of our book.

    One of the features we are most excited about on our site is "Chat". We decided to set up a chatroom to provide a place for you to seek support and encouragement from other women living overseas who are going through a similar process. Expatriate women everywhere experience a sense of loss of self in some form or another at some time during the move. Historically, women have struggled with this issue on their own, and therefore have felt alone in what they experience. We believe it's time to speak up and share (as we do in our book), for the silence on this issue has kept women from moving forward with the confidence and zeal for living that they (you) so rightfully deserve. Chat is the place where you can speak up and be heard so that you can move forward.

    Take a look around our site. Read our excerpts; find out what our book has to offer, voice your thoughts and feelings about how living overseas affects your identity, and stop by often to see what is new.

    Thanks for visiting us,

    Charise and Debra

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