ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

The Tortoise and the Hare, Kind of.

Me and the hubby crossing the finish line of our first race

Me and the hubby crossing the finish line of our first race

This past Sunday my husband, Eric, and I ran our first race, a charity 7k to help Costa Rican police officers buy school supplies for their children. Neither one of us ever saw ourselves as runners but, for a variety of reasons, we’ve both been running for a while now. I’m in pretty decent shape, I do distance running three times a week, usually putting in about 14 miles a week, and I do hill running and strength training twice weekly. Eric does hill running at least five times a week, sometimes six, and when we run together he can leave me in the dust–but he never does. The first time we went running together we ran about 2 1/2 miles, I’d just started seriously running after too much time away from it so I was a bit spent, he’d been hill running for a while and had more stamina. We got back to our house, Eric turned to me, smiled, and said “I’m going to do some hill running, just to get my cardio up.” I shot him a look of absolute disgust as I bent over to gasp for air before squeaking out “I hate you,” he smiled more broadly and took off running up the hill, I dragged myself through our front door. We have a good natured competitive thread in our marriage …

Obviously, for a lot of reasons, men and women run differently, just by virtue of the fact that he’s nearly 6’5 he’s going to run faster than I am, monster legs and lungs count for a lot and the man has mad cardio strength. Eric is the kind of runner who does not need to take walking breaks, I haven’t gotten there yet. On my runs I’ll run for a mile, walk for two minutes, run to the second mile, and repeat that pattern until I’m done my run. So I told him going in to the race that he didn’t have to stay with me, we could each run at our own pace and I’d see him at the finish line, he said no, he wanted us to run together, that was part of the point!

The day of the race came, he calmed down my jitters, as he always does. I said to him “why the hell did I sign up for this?” he laughed and said “sweetie, you got this, you do this distance all the time!” We stood together, watching the clock, bouncing a bit to keep our muscles warm. We both had our music in our ears at that point, getting into the zone before the run. With a few seconds left on the countdown clock I touched his hand, we looked at each other and smiled, then we were off! After running for a bit I stopped to walk and motioned to Eric that he should keep going, he shook his head and stayed with me. For reasons I couldn’t figure out I was feeling a bit more worn than usual (I found out later it was because I was running at a faster pace than I normally do), I questioned the wisdom of running the 7K, asked myself why I hadn’t started with a shorter race my first time out, my brain was starting to beat my body down and I felt like I was dragging. I did a good stretch of walking, wondering if I should just walk the rest, reminding Eric with gestures that he should not wait for me and, each time I gestured to him to do that, he shook his head no. He never stopped running, he just slowed his pace to stay with me.

At about the halfway point we crossed a set of railroad tracks, a man who was racing in a wheelchair tipped going over the tracks, Eric and I, as well as the runner the man was with, stopped to help him. The men got him righted, I handed him his water bottle, he smiled at me, then we all continued on. I don’t know if it was his perseverance or just the fact that I hit my stride but I stopped feeling so sluggish and just ran, time and a couple of miles sped by, I walked a bit but just enough to get what I needed before running again. As we were rounding a corner Eric said something to me that I couldn’t hear, the look on his face let me know it was important so I took out an earbud and asked him to repeat, he smiled at said “it’s the last two hundred meters!” Sure enough, I looked ahead and saw the finish line. I nodded to him, put my earbud back in and we both started sprinting, he could have gone much faster but he stayed with me. About a hundred meters out I felt a bit winded but my brain, that had been so evil to me the first part of the race, had seen the light and said “you are not walking across that fucking finish line, run!” And I did, Eric and I crossed the finish line together.

A friend of ours who’d also run, and had already finished, snapped the above photo and when he posted it to my FB page it struck me as a metaphor for our marriage– Eric and I were together, running together, reaching a common goal together, just as we always do. I will freely admit that it takes a fair amount of patience to be married to me, I don’t know if I could do it. I’m not being overly hard on myself, just honest. I can be driven to a fault (common sense sometimes goes out the window) and very stubborn. And is there a term for “strong willed” that is stronger than strong willed? If there is, that’s me. I come by it honestly, it’s in my blood. Shortly after my great-grandparents, who were both from Ireland but met in the US, were married my great-grandfather handed his new bride a pair of his pants and asked if she would iron them. Soon after, she handed him back the ironed pants, only instead of ironing them so they were creased down the front she’d ironed them so they were flat as a pancake with the creases on the sides, clearly sending him the message “I’m your wife, not your mother, iron your own pants,” which he did from that day forward. So, yea, we Cawley women can be a bit strong willed and we’ve got tempers to match. Oddly, Eric loves those things about me. On the day of our wedding my Da (my maternal grandfather) pulled him aside and said “you’ve married a woman with Irish blood, the two most important words you need to know are ‘yes, dear.’” My Da says those words to my grandmother tongue in cheek for the most part, it either makes her laugh or roll her eyes, depending on the circumstances, and Eric and I are the same.

I can take a lot of patience, I have a selfish streak, I sometimes miss the forest for the trees and Eric has spent countless hours talking me down off ledges created by my tendency to fly off the handle. We’ve not always walked in lockstep but we’ve always managed to find our balance when we’ve misplaced it, hitting our stride and moving forward. We just had the eighteenth anniversary of our first date, in August we will have our sixteenth wedding anniversary and I can honestly say, with my whole heart, that I know we will spend the rest of our lives together. The fact that Eric stayed with me throughout the race, even though he could have gone much faster, is so quintessentially Eric and so quintessentially us–no matter what, we are together. He’s always been one hundred percent dedicated to staying by my side, and I am so much stronger for that. Whether it’s in running or any other thing we do, we’re together. I hope he does run a race where he really lets himself fly, even if that means I’ll sit it out and cheer him on at the finish line. But, for yesterday and for every day before that and every day after, I want to thank my amazing husband for always being my biggest cheerleader, for always believing in me, for always believing in us, and for never leaving my side.

The official crossing the finish line photo

The official crossing the finish line photo


Post race selfie, tired but happy!

Post race selfie, tired but happy!

A Letter to Our Nomadic Children: 10 Things I Hope We’re Teaching You

Our time in Costa Rica is coming to a close and we’re headed for Honduras this Summer, which means, according to the map below, we’re moving from the country that does happiness the best to the country that rocks homicides. Awesome!

what each country leads the world in

We’ve all got a lot of feelings bouncing around right now–excitement, nervousness, curiosity, anxiety, grief. I’ve enjoyed Costa Rica more than I thought I would, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the lifestyle we’ve chosen and about raising kids in that lifestyle. Lately I’ve been thinking of some things I’m hoping our kids are soaking in, both about being nomads and just about life in general. The challenges that we face as nomads are some of our most important teaching tools, that’s something I’m trying to remind myself of more often. I think the move has gotten me thinking of some of the lessons that are most important to me. So I’ve decided to sit down and write a letter to our three amazing nomads …

Dear Liam, Aisleen, and Riley

1. Try your best to go into your new host country with an open mind, let it be what it is, find out what that is as time goes on. I don’t have to tell you that moving is tough, and it’s even tougher when you’re leaving a country you love because you’ve had so much fun and so many cool experiences and you love your house and your friends and your teachers and leaving all that? Ick. Leaving Ireland was painful for all of us and we learned it’s hard to be open to a new country when it feels like half of you is still in the country you’ve come to love and call home. Remember that first trip we took to downtown San Jose? We caught the bus by our house and rode it to the end of the line, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of our host country. I was kind of excited to find out there was a pedestrian street downtown, I had in my mind Grafton Street and Henry Street in Dublin–tree lined, peppered with beautiful statues, shops, flowers, buskers, hustle and bustle. I thought of Temple Bar, on the edge of the river Liffy, with it’s ancient cobblestone pedestrian streets, or of the many little offshoots of the three, like this charming narrow mews …


But, of course, that’s not what we found. Because it was San Jose and not Dublin. I had this ideal in my head of what a pedestrian street looked like and, because the one in San Jose didn’t live up to that ideal, I was pretty let down. I don’t know if you guys know but when we got home I cried. Now, I wasn’t really crying just because the street in SJ wasn’t my cup of tea, I was crying because my expectations had been dashed and, really, I just missed Dublin. I’ve learned, though, over the past two years, that expectations can sometimes be pretty harmful and it’s better to just accept a country for what it is. Which leads me to the next thing I hope you guys are learning …

2. Do not compare your host country to other countries, especially the ones you love the most. Boy was I bad about this when we moved here, and I’m sorry because I know that wore off on the three of you, I find myself still doing it occasionally (though, hopefully, mostly in my head). It accomplishes nothing and only leads to feeling resentful towards the country that will never live up to the favorite–which really isn’t fair to the country or to your happiness. So, kids, be fair to yourselves and to your present home, only in doing that will you find joy.

3. Be open to the unique gifts each country can give you. Every country, even the toughest to live in, has gifts to give and if you’re not open to receiving them you’ll never know what they are. All those hours we’ve spent body boarding in Jaco, the monkeys that have shaken trees around us, special people we’ve met, hikes we’ve taken in the rainforest at night with fireflies lighting up the night and sloths sleeping over our heads (and who knew hummingbird butts were so darn cute!) and so much more! Liam, you’re on a first name basis with an enormous crocodile! Aisleen, you spend hours every week helping to take care of animals who need you desperately. Riley, you have become a master tarantula spotter. Me? I got attacked by spider monkeys. They didn’t kill me, I’d call that a gift, and I got a great story out of it! These are all gifts, and incredible ones at that, so remember to be open to receiving!

4. Try to find something beautiful in your host country every single day. Keep your senses open, be conscious of the world around you. Take a moment to sit in the grass and watch the butterflies, stop on the hill in front of our house and close your eyes to feel the warm breeze on your face, hug a friend or a teacher, watch hummingbirds play–just allow yourself to do something to remember what a beautiful and interesting country you live in.

5. Find the humor in the eccentricities. It’s so easy to get frustrated when things don’t work properly (like the eight billionth time the internet goes out or when we lose power), or when you’re dealing with an infrastructure that could use some help, or the fact that there are too many cars for the roads; it’s perfectly understandable and okay to be frustrated by those kinds of things, they’re frustrating! But try, also, to see the humor in them. A tree branch stuck in a pothole that is big enough to swallow an elephant (the Costa Rican sign for “Warning! Major pothole!”)? That can either lead you to roll your eyes and cluck your tongue or it can make you laugh and recognize the world is a funny, wacky place and, sometimes, you just have to laugh, either because it’s actually funny or because, if you don’t, you’ll beat your head against the wall–doesn’t matter the reason, just do it. I promise it will always make you feel better!

6. As your dad and I tell you, you represent America, this is an honor so remember to be a positive example of our country to our host country. All three of you have been amazing at this, I am beyond proud of you for being aware that people will judge our country, and the people in it, based on your behavior. It’s not entirely fair but it is the reality of the situation. Keep up the good work!

7. Find a way to give back to your host country by volunteering or helping out in some way. It’s always good to bring more kindness and compassion to the world by giving the gifts each of you has to offer and I know you’ve all enjoyed doing this! I am so proud of your compassion and kindness and your willingness to share those things!

8. Living in a foreign country isn’t always easy, and it’s rarely simple, but people who don’t live the kind of life we live don’t always realize that. So when people look at you cross-eyed if you are venting a frustration, or talking about how you didn’t get enough sleep because the bar next door was so loud and the roosters kicked in right when it quieted down, or your morning was tough because we got caught in a monster traffic jam that turned the roads into a parking lot, try to remember that not everyone understands the unique challenges that go along with living overseas. You live in “paradise,” after all, so what the heck do you have to complain about? Everyone has bad days, and it’s okay to vent about them (necessary, even, because it’s a way to get it all out of your system so you can move on), whether you live in Costa Rica or Ireland or the US bad days will happen. Every post has its challenges and you know that creating a life in “paradise” is a lot different than taking a holiday there. So don’t take it personally if people don’t understand, or if they belittle your experiences because they don’t think you should be complaining when you live in “paradise,” just remember they have different life experiences. I encourage you to seek out people who understand your lifestyle and vent to them–they’ll get it and that’s all you’re asking. And don’t ever be hard on yourself for being frustrated or upset, it’s just part of being human.

9. Remember that you are you no matter where you have landed in the world. Hold on to your core, your beliefs, your center. I’m not saying don’t be open to change, it’s important to grow and change, but each of you has such a special core and remembering that is crucial. Your core, along with our family, gives you your stability and when everything around you spends so much time in a state of flux hanging on to who you are will make you solid. When we first moved here we faced a huge challenge with Aisleen being bullied–new country, new language, new culture, norms we weren’t used to, some negative things we weren’t prepared for. One of the ways our Aisleen, and our family as a whole, got through it was by being true to who we are and not adjusting our core beliefs to fit the situation. So stay true to yourselves, always.

10. Remember that our roots are portable. We live kind of a weird life, things happen in our lives that, when you stop and think about them, make you recognize our frame of reference is not the same as it would be if we were settled in a neighborhood in DC or Minneapolis. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. With our nomadic life comes a lot of goodbyes. And where is “home,” anyway? It’s so hard to be away from family that we love–both blood family and family that we’ve picked up along the way. I know that sometimes it feels like there are parts of you scattered all over the globe and that’s tough but we always, always have each other and we have proven time and again that our roots are like steel! In five months we will gently uncover those roots once more and move them to a new country. It will not be easy, we will have challenges, we will very much miss the people we’ve come to love here, but we will make it work, we always do. And Honduras will hold many more gifts for us as long as we’re open and willing to receive them, I promise this. Above all else, remember that your dad and I love all of you with our whole hearts and as long as we are together we will always be home.

All My Love,


By Way of Explanation, or Why Africa is Personal for Me

I’m feeling rather feisty today, more so than usual. Maybe it’s because I’m fighting off a cold/flu so I’m kind of in a mood. Maybe it’s because our foster kittens are battling their second round of coccidia and I’m freaked out (though, knock wood, we seem to have turned a corner). Maybe it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed by the outrageous need I see every time I go to the back room of our vet’s clinic–animal after animal after animal dumped on her primarily because of someone else’s negligence and irresponsible behavior. There’s a blog in there about animals, it needs to percolate. But, for now, I’m kind of in the mood to sound off about something else that is tied in to “need” and touches a very personal nerve. Africa. Weird, maybe, but it is what it is.

Most people who know me know that we lived in Guinea, it was our first overseas post, baptism by fire we like to call it. Most people also know that we were evacuated from Guinea when the country erupted in civil unrest and violence. I’ve blogged about Guinea before (here, here, and here) and I’ve often thought I’d left Guinea in the past but I’m learning that will never happen and that’s not a bad thing. Certain places get under your skin and Guinea got under mine. I have no desire to live there again, though I would love to visit, so it’s not that I am missing it or pining for it. It’s just that I feel a loyalty towards it, towards the Guinean people, and towards Africa in general. I guess that will happen when your middle child went through a time in her life answering “I’m from Guinea!” when people asked her where her home is. I guess that will happen when you feel shell shocked moving to a new, very different, country and the thing that finally breaks through the shell shock and pulls you out of yourself is the kindness and the joy of the people who live there. And I guess that will happen when you see those same people suffer every single day from lack of water, electricity, proper nutrition, proper infrastructure, medical care, the list goes on, and it all results in otherwise healthy, vibrant people dying slowly and painfully.

I get frustrated because I feel like too few people pay attention to most of Africa, I guess South Africa is the exception to that rule. Africa is just this place that exists totally outside the frame of reference most people have. Guinea? Where’s that? So when someone has made it a life’s focus to draw attention to Africa, to the epidemics and poverty that exist there, and also to the profound spirit and vibrancy that runs parallel to those things, I feel loyalty to that person as well. My feisty rant today is rooted in some ragging on Bono that happened on my FB page. It honestly doesn’t bother me how people personally feel about him, or what they think about him, people are entitled to their opinions. I get that he has a massive ego, that he’s had tax issues, that he loves to run his mouth. I also get that he deserves a whole lot of credit for drawing attention to, and doing a lot of good for, a continent that most people don’t give a flying fuck about.  So no matter what his other faults are, what else he’s done, I kind of don’t care. What I DO care about is that there are people who are much better off because of him, that AIDS/HIV are weaker because of him, that people who have gone their whole lives without clean water have it because of him. And, granted, he’s not remotely the only one, and he hasn’t done this alone, but he has shown a tremendous amount of leadership, he’s used that big mouth of his to do a whole lot of good, and he has been a bridge between people who might not otherwise think about Africa and the African continent, her people, and her struggles.

I’m sure I’m garnering some eye rolling here, and I’m sure I feel so strongly about this because of my personal experience, but I think it’s important to acknowledge how much good is done by good people–regardless of their faults (and people are only human so they’re bound to have a whole lot of baggage). When things started really falling apart in Guinea our families were hard pressed to find news about it. People–children, ffs!– were being shot in the street for protesting peacefully and few people in the Western world were saying boo about it. After we left, and the civil unrest continued, there was a massive and peaceful march to the national stadium that turned into a horror show of people being shot, women being raped with the barrels of guns, civil society activists being taken by gun point. It was difficult to find out a lot of info on it in the mainstream media. Why? The ONLY conclusion I can draw is that people don’t care that much about Africa.

And it’s not just the violence, it’s the disease. Maybe Bono’s work in Africa touches me on a deeper level because I’ve lived in a country in Africa where diseases that have been pretty much eradicated in the Western world  are still killing people, where otherwise healthy, strong people are struck down by diseases that should no longer be strong enough to do that kind of damage. Malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, internal parasites that cause deadly diarrhea, the list goes on and on. It’s not right, IMO, that when something as simple as a bed net can prevent death, and someone makes it their mission to do things like raise money and awareness about the simplicity of solutions to very serious problems, that we focus on that person’s faults rather than on the profound good they’ve done. I am honestly not calling out anyone in particular because this is pretty widespread, it seems like every time I mention Bono someone around me rolls their eyes. I get not liking the man but why focus on that rather than the tremendous amount of good he’s done? Why can’t people just say “I think he’s an egotistical ass but, man, he’s done some damn good things for a place not many people notice.” Former President Bush isn’t exactly my favorite person in the world, I disagree pretty much with 99.9 % of his policies and I think he’s beyond vapid, but his policies towards Africa were relatively progressive and they did good and, for that, I will give his administration a lot of credit and a great big “thank you!”

I guess this goes along with my own struggle to focus on the positive, to push away cynicism, and to nurture those things in our kids as well. I found myself, for quite some time, drained by the negativity of focusing on less than perfect political policies, politicians, advocates, whatever, and ignoring the slow slog of good that less than perfect policies and people can do. So I decided to switch my focus, that’s just me, personally. But I kind of think it’s more important to focus on the awesome good that people put into this world than on the imperfections they– we– have. I’m not saying we shouldn’t call people out for being assholes, I just think that folks like Bono have balanced the scales a lot further towards good than towards evil and it’s nice to focus on that, and to acknowledge all the concrete and very tangible good he’s put into a continent far too many people ignore.

Also, I know from personal experience, he gives nice cheek kisses :-) And, for now, I will climb off my soapbox …

This was pretty cool

This was pretty cool

Find a Place You Love and Go There. A Lot.

One of my least favorite parts of moving frequently is leaving spots I absolutely adore– a particular beach, a special B & B, a park I enjoy. These are places where I can breathe deeply and center myself, where my shoulders climb down from the bottoms of my ears, I leave them feeling refreshed and ready to tackle life again. I have several of these places in Ireland, one of them is my very favorite spot on earth, the others always left me feeling pretty damn awesome too. It was tough to temporarily let go of those special spots when we moved but I sooth myself knowing that I will always return.

About a year after we moved here my husband and I were lucky enough to find our spot in Costa Rica, it immediately became our place and we can’t get enough of it. Vista del Valle Plantation Inn (which I’ve blogged about before here) is a gorgeous hotel tucked away from the noise and movement of San Jose, it’s very near to the airport but you may as well be in the middle of nowhere because it is absolute tranquility. Instead of rooms there are houses, which is something we prefer when we go on romantic getaways, some are small enough for one or two people and some are large enough for groups. We just returned from our fifth stay at Vista del Valle and, while relaxing on the porch of our casita, staring out over the valley, listening to all the sounds of the forest, a thought occurred to me–it’s time for me to give some unsolicited advice to people who are new to the Foreign Service. Here’s my unsolicited advice: wherever you move, find at least one place that feels like yours, one place where you can breathe deeply and just be. And go there as much as possible. Don’t feel guilty about spending the money, or leaving the kids, or informing houseguests that the price of admission is a weekend of babysitting, or taking a day off work –just go. There you can feel like you belong to a place, which isn’t always easy when you move around a lot, and feeling like you belong, like you have a place that speaks to you and you can put down the shield so many of us carry around because of the challenges of living overseas, is more important to sanity than I think is often realized.

The minute we pull into the winding driveway of Vista del Valle my husband and I both inhale and exhale deeply and audibly, our muscles begin to relax, and we are completely in that moment, savoring the joy we feel each time we return. We know its paths and trails well enough that we can stroll them in the dark, guided by the moon and the soft Japanese lanterns that line the trails, moving by feel, soaking in the night sounds. Our time there consists of whatever we want–reading, napping, enjoying the quiet. My hubby loves asking me “what are we going to do today?” and hearing me answer “whatever we want!” While we always feel like we belong with our family, that home is wherever we are and that our roots may be mobile but they are strong, it’s important to us to also have a place, a spot of earth where we feel physically like we belong. Each time I find one of those place in our travels I feel very blessed because I know they help me remember who I am, which sometimes gets lost when your sense of place is constantly changing. So find your spot, you’ll know it when you meet it, and return as often as you are able.

Next Summer we move to Honduras, and while I will miss Vista del Valle badly, I look forward to finding another special place. Until then, we will return to Vista as many times as we can–feel free to visit us here in Costa Rica knowing what the price of admission is! Of course, the photos …

Inside the Mona Lisa

Inside the Mona Lisa

Path from the Mona Lisa

Path from the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa, the other casita we've stayed in.

The Mona Lisa, one of two casitas we’ve stayed in.

Vista Del Valle May 2013 023

The resident cat, who is an absolute love

The resident cat, who is an absolute love

Christmas concert, Irazu, Vista del Valle 103 Christmas concert, Irazu, Vista del Valle 106

The porch of the Ilan Ilan, we've spent many hours sitting in those chairs.

The porch of the Ilan Ilan, we’ve spent many hours sitting in those chairs.

The outdoor shower in the Ilan Ilan, showering with a view of the valley is divine!

The outdoor shower in the Ilan Ilan, showering with a view of the valley is divine!

The Ilan Ilan

The Ilan Ilan

Christmas concert, Irazu, Vista del Valle 139

The path leading to the Ilan Ilan, one of the two casitas we've stayed in.

The path leading to the Ilan Ilan.

My hubby trying to coax the resident dog, also a love, to look my way.

My hubby trying to coax the resident dog, also a love, to look my way.

The view of the valley from the restaurant which, by the way, has fantastic food.

The view of the valley from the restaurant which, by the way, has fantastic food.


My Chelsea (Bradley) Manning Purge

Fair warning, this will be less blog and more rant but if I don’t get this out of my system I will become completely non-productive and I just have too much to do for that to happen. So … I swear to God, if I read the impassioned words of one more human rights activist who is defending Bradley (now Chelsea, so I will refer to her in the feminine from here on out) Manning I’m going to scream.

I’m curious to know what human rights activists who are defending Manning think about the fact that her actions have further exposed people around the globe who are also human rights activists–civil society activists, opponents of repressive regimes, people who risk everything to try to make their countries more just places. Their names were in the classified State Department cables and now any foreign service intelligence agency can see who they are, they are at great risk. Many already risk everything on a daily basis–their jobs, their freedom, the safety of their families, their lives–in order to try to make their countries more humane and just places. When they interact with the State Department their identities are classified for a reason and, for the sake of diplomacy as well as for their sake, they need to stay that way. Manning’s actions weren’t a precise revealing of war crimes, she made a massive document dump, an indiscriminate revealing of information that has now put at risk people whose anonymity needs to be protected. How are those the actions of a heroine and why is that something some human rights activists are applauding? I’m gobsmacked, seriously. Do they not realize how much more at risk those people now are? Are they not thinking past the headlines surrounding the now folk heroine? Are they just jumping on a bandwagon? Jesus. I expect more from organizations like Amnesty International and School of the Americas Watch (whose founder, Father Roy Bourgeois, is an absolute hero of mine). Shouldn’t they be more worried about protecting and advocating for the people Manning exposed? People whose lives are at actual risk? People who could be tortured and murdered, dumped by the side of the road? Their support of her makes me want to beat my head against a wall.

My personal pissed offness has also been focused on the fact that her actions potentially put at risk people like my husband and other diplomats, and her fellow soldiers. Yes, I realize it has been established that no evil things transpired because of the leaked cables but she did not know what she was revealing, she just did a flat out, no holds barred, dump and could have very easily revealed things that put those people at great risk–my inner mamma bear is poked big time when someone potentially puts my family at risk. Period. So there’s also that.

Manning is being treated as a heroine. She isn’t. She took an oath and part of that oath is to keep classified documents classified because they are classified for a reason. I have a husband with a security clearance and I have never, not once ever, asked him to reveal anything to me. I wouldn’t do that. Nor would he, not in a million years, reveal anything to me. Because he took an oath, because it’s his job, his career, his duty to our country and, if at any time he felt he couldn’t uphold that duty to the absolute highest standard, he would resign. If you feel, morally, you cannot believe in the oath you take when you have a job like Manning’s then step down and I will applaud your moral strength and integrity. Until that point, do your freaking job because lives actually do depend on it.

Living in the Past, Present, and Future–and how that fits into our Foreign Service life

First day back to school for my kiddos and, while I love them dearly, as they raced around excitedly and noisily getting their day started, I was definitely looking forward to a bit of silence. When I got home from dropping them at school the dogs looked at me as if to say “didn’t you forget something?” Our lab mix even went so far as to pop her head out the door before I closed it, glance around, look at me, glance around and look confused. “No, my four-legged lovelies, I didn’t forget anything!” I hummed as I skipped through my house, smiling at the silence. I made my way out to the terrace, unrolled my yoga mat, plopped myself down and let out an ahhhhhhh … before starting my warm up for sun salutation. I felt how tight my muscles were, and how warm and loose they became as I settled into the routine. In perfect silence, ahhhhhh …

As I sat in prayer position, focusing on the Buddha I have on a table for exactly that purpose, I found my mind drifting to a sunny Dublin morning, one of many where I made my way to City Center after dropping the kids at school, sometimes for errands and, on days when I had time, sometimes for whatever struck my fancy. I saw myself wandering the rooms of The Chester Beatty Library, full of ancient artifacts and texts. This is a museum that is an introvert’s paradise–while you will often find many people moving through its rooms everyone is silent, immersed in their own thoughts as they absorb history. Each time I went there I found myself standing in front of various Buddhas, lost in their curves and the tranquility they brought me. I sat in front of my own small, seated Buddha and appreciated being taken back to those peaceful strolls through one of my favorite museums; I breathed deeply again, feeling quite centered somewhere between the present and fond memories of the past.

I went downstairs to shower, thinking about what to do with the children once they got home, standing under the hot water I thought about the possibilities–ice cream at the mall, swimming in our pool, a walk with the dogs–and found myself again lost in memory, this time the memory of picking our two youngest up from their school in Dublin. Often we would take a stroll with Terry, my closest friend in Ireland and my very favorite Aussie, and her daughter, who was my daughter’s BFF. We would all walk to the Starbucks near the school for hot chocolate and a treat, Terry and I would chat while the children giggled over pastries, and we would giggle as we watched them sprout a heavier mustache with each sip of chocolate. Then we’d make our way back to our cars, still parked in front of the school, and hug goodbye. Each time, Terry would say “We’ll see you tomorrow, my darlings!” Thinking of her voice, and how she’s the only one who calls me darling besides my grandmother, made me smile. I thought about that walk, which I could probably do with my eyes closed, saw myself strolling those wide sidewalks and turn towards the gym where the kids took swim lessons …

I found myself sitting in the gym watching my two youngest children learn to become the strong swimmers they are today, glancing to my right when my oldest, fresh off the rugby pitch and covered in mud, sometimes battered, always content, walked through the door of the pool room to grab his suit from me and get cleaned up for his lesson. Which led me to another memory of me texting my husband in Iraq, where he spent the last year we lived in Dublin, each time a large man in a tiny speedo sauntered past me, typing out “holy crap, it’s another one! Stop this madness …”

The thought of speedos brought my mind to a quiet, breezy room on an island off the coast of Conakry, the capitol of Guinea, Africa, where I and a handful of others were immersed in the movements of sun salutation when we heard wild laughter coming from the beach, so loud and joyful we couldn’t help but move to the open door to peek. Snaking its way down the beach was a conga line of giggling Guinean children, led by a heavy Russian man carrying a bottle of vodka and wearing a tiny speedo. We stared in disbelief before we all burst into laughter at the surreal sight of the drunk man leading the children in an early morning conga line.

Then my mind was back to the present and my brain that was no further along in figuring out what to do with the children but had gone on quite a journey, from Dublin to a tiny island in Africa, each experience linked by one thing or another. We are in the middle of bidding right now, which means doing all the things we need to do in order to figure out where we will land next. Since we don’t find out for a while, and it’s completely out of my control anyway, I try not to be preoccupied by it but it’s hard not to think about. The other night my hubby and I were discussing the possibilities, things he’d heard from various people who make decisions, ways we can push harder for our top choices. In a moment of silence I looked at him and said “we live a weird life,” he laughed and said “yes, we do!”

It seems like so much of what we do is somewhere between the past, the present, and the future, which I’m sure is true for many people in many different ways. We say goodbye to one home, settle in another, then after two years, with one year to go, prepare for the next country. There is always the challenge of not losing the present to the past or the future but, at the same time, there’s the warmth of so many full and beautiful memories and the excitement of new experiences in a new country.

There are a good handful of things about life in the Foreign Service that frustrate me but I think my husband and I have learned that we are, in our hearts, nomads and at least two of our children are as well. So we float, somewhere between the past, the present, and the future, trying to savor all of them while never shortchanging one for the other. Which leads me back to today, hugging each of my children before they raced off to play at school, smiling at the laughter coming from the yard, marveling at all the possibilities that are open for our family, and for our kids, marveling about everything their past, present, and future means to them and holds for them.

Speaking Out About PETA–and Why No Animal is Beyond Help

Our home is full of animals who have been cast offs at one time or another. Each one of them has ended up with us because they were abandoned, neglected, sometimes abused, and each one has had, through no fault of their own, at least one human turn their backs on them. A pathetic reflection on some people but their loss is our gain, and, though I wish very much our four-legged babes hadn’t had to trot through hell to get to us, our animals help make our house a home, they ground us, they are an integral part of our family and our traveling roots.

Before we had kids I worked with the animals who were cast offs, first at the Humane Society in Missoula, Montana as an animal caretaker and adoption counselor, then at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA) where I was a field worker investigating abuse cases, promoting our spay neuter program, teaching people how to properly care for their animals, and, among other things, euthanizing animals. In both those places I saw the best and worst of humanity. I worked with people who were passionate about animal welfare and passionate about furthering the humane treatment of animals. I encountered people who were abusive, who thought nothing of beating or abandoning an animal. When I felt overwhelmed by the brutality I had to remind myself of my goal–it wasn’t to hate people but to help animals. In my interview with the director of the Humane Society one thing she said to me really stood out: part of our job is to help these animals regain their self-respect because they’ve often been treated so badly that they are beaten down, but they can be brought back to a place where they trust and love again. It’s such a gift to be able to help an animal rediscover that there is kindness and love, and that they deserve those things.

Which is why when I read a recent article about PETA in the New York Times I went on such a rant that even my husband, used to my fire-filled venting sessions, was a bit taken back. Especially because it went on for a looooong time, poor guy. I lasted about eight months at PETA before I could no longer fall in line, which was fine because I was pretty much burned out with trying to do that. I was treading on thin ice for my last month or so, no longer buying into what I thought of as the triage mentality with which my department was supposed to operate– we were just stopping the bleeding temporarily rather than preventing it and I was desperate to turn that around. I asked if we could open a small shelter in the area where I did most of my work, that way I could spend less time in my van, we could do spaying and neutering right there, I could more easily integrate into the neighborhood and get to know people, and we could actually adopt out animals instead of euthanizing them. I was also really wanting to start a comprehensive foster program so animals could be in homes rather than in a shelter and so animals who needed more socializing or physical care could be given another chance instead of euthanized. I was met with absolute resistance, it was never going to happen.

I should have guessed it was going to go down that way since I had to fight hard for each animal I adopted out or brought to a local shelter. Every time I said “This animal is perfectly adoptable, I want to find a home for him/her” I was met with a stare from the President, Ingrid Newkirk, that conveyed complete disdain and clearly was meant to communicate that I was completely naive and foolish. I suspect the final cut to my short-lived time at PETA happened in a meeting where we were discussing paying for the spaying and neutering of pitbulls. Ingrid wanted to stop paying to neuter pittbulls, continuing only to spay, in order to save money. Again, I felt this was such a triage mentality, especially for an organization with a lot of resources. I reminded her that overpopulation, while a big part of the battle, was not the entire battle. I reminded her that an intact male is vulnerable to being used in fighting, which creates such a cycle of brutality and violence for children that the fight we ultimately were fighting–changing the way people thought about animals–was very much harmed by not tackling the whole problem. When she gave me that look of hers I continued to talk, to the point where a friend of mine who was also at the meeting was looking at me with a wild eyed “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” look. Shortly after that I was fired, told, essentially, that I wasn’t good at my job and should look into another line of work. This, of course, was hot on the heels of an excellent review and a raise just a few months prior to my being told I was a disaster in the field. I was pretty upset because, even though I was burned out and happy to leave, I was pissed off that I’d gotten fired for voicing my opinion and that lies had been invented to cover up that fact. I remember talking to my dad, someone who has volunteered for and worked with and for, many non-profits. He told me a downside of an organization like PETA, one that is driven not just by a mission but by one strong leader, is that they often become a cult of personality and if you don’t fall in line you are tossed out of the cult because there will always be people clamoring to work for them, who will fall in line–no point in dealing with troublemakers no matter how good they are at their jobs.

On to my present day rant, started by this article, “PETA Finds Itself on Receiving End of Others’ Anger,” in the New York Times. It’s primarily about the number of euthanasias that PETA does, which I only want to address by saying it’s WAY, WAY too many and not nearly enough is done as an alternative to them. I believe, ultimately, that stems from this idea:

For their part, officials at PETA, which has its headquarters and only shelter here in Norfolk, say the animals it rescues are in such bad shape from mistreatment and neglect that they are often better off dead than living in misery on the streets or with abusive owners.

“It’s nice for people who’ve never worked in a shelter to have this idealistic view that every animal can be saved,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA’s vice president for cruelty investigations. “They don’t see what awful physical and emotional pain these poor dogs and cats suffer.”

And my response to that is to call absolute bullshit. Yes, many of the animals I took in were in rough shape emotionally and physically and, yes, it is a drain on resources to take an animal like that and rehabilitate them to the point where they can be adoptable but it is entirely possible, especially with a good network of foster homes (see above, my request to start working on a foster network that was roundly refused). And a fair number of the animals, I’d say the majority, I took in were absolutely adoptable–immediately, without hesitation.

I used to work in a shelter, and I’m a realist, I completely understand that, while working towards a no-kill nation is absolutely the right and possible thing to do, we aren’t there yet in most parts of the country and, until we get there, animals will continue to be euthanised because of a lack of resources and a lack of homes. As completely crappy as that is I get it. But PETA asserting that the adoptability of the animals they take in is the reason they don’t adopt out most of their animals is false. Period. I know, I used to feed people the same BS line when I worked there. Part of me believed it because I had, in a short time, become quite jaded but, eventually, I realized that I was wrong, that PETA was wrong, that they were doing it wrong–that’s when I burned out on the mission and I became so conflicted about continuing work that I believed in, in many ways, but I also wanted to put an end to the things that I could no longer comply with. I’m not writing any of this to jump on the “PETA is evil” wagon because, for the most part, I don’t believe that. I believe in their aims and their mission, not all parts and not always the way they go about it, but the work they’ve done with exposing cruelty on factory farms, in the fur industry, in science labs that use animals, in circuses, to name a few, has been groundbreaking and absolutely vital. But their work with companion animals–no. My belief in the larger good of PETA is the reason it has taken me 13 years to speak out about this but I cannot, in good conscience, keep quiet when the assertion is made that so many animals are too broken to be saved.

Others are working hard to get the message out that animals who end up in shelters are not damaged, or beyond saving, or broken …

… and PETA, in an article in the New York Times, states that the animals it takes in are usually too damaged, beyond saving, too broken. What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck? THAT is putting the organization over the well being of animals, THAT is upholding stereotypes about shelter animals, THAT is utter bullshit.

Meet our dog Firu …



When he lived on the streets, he was mowed down by a car that was going so fast it broke his femur in half and dislocated his hip. Was he not worth saving? Thank heaven the person who found him shattered on the side of the road thought that he was worth saving, and thank heaven the shelter here, which operates (in stark contrast to PETA) on a shoestring budget, where she brought him thought so too. The one thing they weren’t sure of was if he would make it because he was in such bad shape, but they believed in doing everything in their capability to help him. Firu underwent an operation that not only saved his life but his leg and now we call him our 3 1/2 legged baby because he often treats his injured leg a bit gingerly but, really, he just knows that he gets sympathy from his limp.Yes, he was damaged emotionally and physically but he was far beyond hopeless and you don’t just throw animals away, even if you tell yourself that you’re doing it in the name of mercy.

Meet Squiggles …


Squiggles was discovered in a garbage bin with his brother and sister, someone had tied them all up into a plastic bag and dumped them when they were about a week old. They were filthy, our vet said they’d likely been in the bag for at least a day or two judging by the amount of waste in the bag. They were full of parasites, external and internal, and the other boy was very near death. Our vet kept the very sick kitten, who died later that day, and we fostered the other two kittens, named Squiggles and Cookie by our daughter. Cookie also later died, her parasites weren’t treated in time, but with a lot of intensive work Squiggles pulled through and is now a member of our family. His full name is Sir Lord Wesley Squiggleton the Third, we believe he deserves to be treated like royalty. Was he not worth saving? Were his siblings not worth fighting for?

I understand having to make choices, I understand knowing that you can spend a ton of money to save one dog or you can care for ten for a month, and those choices blow. But those choices are not why PETA makes the decisions that drive their animal companion program. I believe what drives their decisions is the belief that too many humans are inherently bad and undeserving of animals, that overpopulation is too overwhelming, and that you must euthanize and euthanize in order to combat it. But there are a whole lot of good people who want to make animals part of their family, and euthanasia should only be the very last option, it shouldn’t be a matter of course, it shouldn’t be the first, often only, choice.

Working with animals who have been neglected, abused, abandoned isn’t about bailing water out of a sinking ship, it’s about patching up the holes, rebuilding, preventing what caused the crisis in the first place. And what really bites at me is the folks at PETA must know this, either that or they are so completely jaded that they’ve given up on humanity entirely and, in turn, have given up on the animals we have a duty to care for. And that is a sad state of affairs for an animal rights organization.

PS. As an aside, I’m not interested in bashing PETA, or in communicating with people who do. There’s a difference between flat out bashing and pointing out problems, I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe there are big problems within PETA but they also do a whole lot of good so, really, it should just be about shining a light on the problems and hoping the people who have the power start to make changes.

Equality is a Beautiful Thing!

So much has been said and written about yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act that I wasn’t going to do more than just jump for joy and yell “YES!” in the background. Then I watched this clip of Andrew Sullivan talking about what this means to him personally and I just had to share it:

He emphasizes that Justice Kennedy used the word “dignity” nine times in his opinion. Dignity. Exactly. All of this, at its core, is about dignity, about equality, about justice, about all the things we’re supposed to stand for in America but still struggle with every single day. We are far from perfect in how these ideals play out in our country, but the fact that the struggle for marriage equality, for equality for LGBT people in general, is finally being seen as a civil rights issue and finally being embraced by majorities in our country is huge. The first sitting President to say he believes in marriage equality, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, DOMA in the trash, thirteen states where same sex marriage is legal–we can, with confidence, say to bigots “You are on the wrong side of history. You and your bigotry will be left in the dust.” I know there is a lot more progress that needs to be made but I’m so damn excited about this, what it means for our country, what it means for LGBT people, what it means for my children to know equality isn’t just an ideal! And a big cheer to the State Department for releasing this photo with a statement by Secretary of State Kerry (yea, my hubby has an awesome boss and for all the complaining I do about the Department I LOVE that it embraces equality and has for quite some time)

"The U.S. Department of State applauds the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an unjust and discriminatory law and increasing freedom and equality for #LGBT Americans." - #SecKerry (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“The U.S. Department of State applauds the Supreme Court’s decision striking down an unjust and discriminatory law and increasing freedom and equality for #LGBT Americans.” – #SecKerry (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)


When I opened my Facebook yesterday morning one of the first things I saw was the status of a friend of mine who married her wife quite some time ago, yesterday she proposed to her and now they get to be legally married and given protection under federal law. It’s just so exciting! I haven’t seen my friend in ages but she is such and sweet, kind person and when I see pictures of her with her wife the love that they have for each other shines through. And, now, that love is going to be legally recognized! Have I said I’m excited?

And a word to people who are upset about this …

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Equality is a beautiful thing!

This Just Can’t Be Who We Are

Yesterday I read an article in the Washington post about a family whose child was killed in the Newtown school shootings, it was heartbreaking and important and I sat at my kitchen table wiping away tears as I read. Reading about this family struggling to put their lives back together, to move forward for the boy’s siblings, made me realize that all of our lives have gone on but, in some ways, theirs are frozen in time. It is relatively easy, after the initial horror passes, for those of us not personally touched by such a shocking, violent event to start to intellectualize things. On the one hand, that’s important because we need to think about what happened, we need to figure out how to prevent it happening again. On the other hand, there are twenty six families for whom what happened in Newtown can never be put into an intellectual box–the emotional tangle of disbelief, profound loss, grief, rebuilding of  lives, and all the other things they must be experiencing prevents that from ever happening.

The article made me think, really think, about what it means for parents to not only lose a child but to lose a child in such a brutal, violent way. Maybe, as a mother, I’d not thought about how horrifying that would be because it’s just too bloody scary to think of losing a child to violence, to know that they were terrified in their last moments and you couldn’t be there to hug them close, to comfort them, to try to protect them. This is the part of the article that really drove all of this home for me:

But lately everything about the house reminded them of Daniel, comfort and affliction all at once. Up there, on the ceiling, was the sticky toy he had bought in a vending machine and accidentally thrown too high. In the kitchen was the blender Mark had used to make him a smoothie each afternoon, always with four gummy vitamins at the bottom of the glass, always, in Daniel’s words, “the best one yet!” Out front was the dead-end road where he had waited for the school bus in a sprinter’s crouch each morning, so he could run alongside it for a block before climbing on board. Out back was the wooden play structure where he had knocked his head and bled for the first time, which sometimes made Mark and Jackie wonder about the last time. Had it been quick? Had he been scared? Had anybody held him?

When you have kids it’s not just your heart that is filled by them, it’s your home. I looked around and saw just how much of my children there is on every counter, in every corner, on every bookshelf, closet, wall, floor, our home is filled with our children–stray stuffed animals, a book half read on the arm of the couch, toy cars lined up in a row, a creation taped to a wall, a hair band, a marker top … If you lost a child none of that would be erased, those spaces wouldn’t be cleaned they would just be emptied, never filled in the same way, and you would still know your child was gone, taken from you, stolen.

When I finished reading the article I composed myself and went in search of one of my children. My youngest, my “sweet sweet baby” as he is nicknamed, was at a sleepover, I was desperate to feel him in my arms. My middle child was having her computer time, playing minecraft. I wandered into the office and asked her how it was going, she smiled and told me all about what she was building and as she did that I ran my fingers through her hair, thinking about parents who would never be able to experience these simple joys again–the velvet touch of  your child’s hair, the sound of your child’s voice. I can’t imagine, I just can’t. I looked at my beautiful little girl, so vibrant and joyful, so many possibilities ahead of her, so much promise, so much excitement in store for her, and just felt profoundly grateful that she was sitting next to me.

When we were preparing to leave Ireland my oldest told me he was worried about going to school in Virginia, he said he was scared it wasn’t safe, scared that someone would come into his classroom with a gun. I reassured him it wouldn’t happen, that it was rare for something like that to happen, that he would be safe. I reassured him while keeping it to myself that I was scared of the same thing. It happened to me, when I was in college, and it was traumatizing. Nobody was hurt, the man was tackled by students and taken away by police, but huddling under a desk watching a screaming man wildly waving a gun around is terrifying. We were adults, I can’t imagine children going through that, I can’t imagine what they saw in their last moments, and, honestly, I would rather not, at least not to dwell on it.

Our Constitution was written to be fluid, to evolve as we evolve, and it was written during a time when high capacity rifles didn’t exist, when it wasn’t possible to steal twenty six lives in the blink of an eye. It is so important to acknowledge that, as of now, this is the choice we’ve made, we’ve chosen guns over children. We’ve chosen extremism over sensible, reasonable regulations. Really. What does that say about who we are, what we value, the future we want for our children?

I want my kids to be safe, I want them not to be frightened, I want that for all children. For now, reassuring my children that they are safe in the US, as much as I need to do that, feels like a bit of a lie. This just can’t be who we are.

Following Bliss

Have you ever stumbled upon a place that, for a reason you can’t quite put your finger on, just feels right, like it’s a place you’ve been missing but you never knew it was missing until you found it? Before we moved to Ireland County Donegal was not really on my radar, even after moving to Dublin I’d never thought to myself ” I need to go to Donegal!” But, one family holiday, I found a beautiful thatched cottage for rent on the Inishowen Peninsula and, upon arrival, I fell in love with the Peninsula; it was wild, rugged, remote, the mountains touched the sea, the beaches stretched for miles, it was full of ancient history, it was perfect and it became a place I returned time and again.

Within this perfect place was the spot I’d been missing and had just never known until I found it, a tiny speck of land called Doagh Island. When my husband was in Iraq I took two holidays by myself, renting a thatched cottage on Doagh Island. I spent hours roaming the beaches of Doagh Island, gathering rocks and shells, and I felt more at peace than anywhere I’d ever been. It’s hard to explain, there are a lot of places that make me happy, Doagh Island brought me beyond that, it brought me to bliss.

When we went back to Ireland this past April and May we spent our first week in Inishowen and I, again, spent hours wandering the beaches of Doagh Island. In this perfect, blissful spot, is a beach called Pollan Bay–it is the heart of my bliss. I don’t know why, it isn’t any prettier than any of the the other beaches, it just is, and I’ve stopped trying to figure out why, I just accept it and feel blessed that I’ve found my spot.

Our last morning in Inishowen was spent wandering Pollan Bay, my family knows how I feel about that beach and they always indulge my “just one more visit” mantra. It was very cold, very windy, completely silent except for the sound of the waves crashing on the sand, and I walked the beach one last time with tears in my eyes. I know I will always return but that doesn’t make it an easy place to leave– the one downside of finding “the spot” is that you know what is missing when you’re not there. I leaned into the wind with my full weight, held my arms out, and closed my eyes. I stood like that for a good minute or so, letting the wind hold me up, letting it roar against my face and dry my tears, knowing the one thing I can do is hold the way I felt in that moment with me until I returned. I will always return, it isn’t an option not to go back.

I have a hard time putting how I feel about that spot into words, it seems easier to do in pictures and some of my favorite quotes …

"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls." Joseph Campbell The road that leads to Pollan Bay, my bliss

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.” Joseph Campbell
The road that leads to Pollan Bay, my bliss

"Youth is happy because it has the capacity to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." Franz Kafka My boys exploring Pollan Bay

“”Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.” James Joyce
My boys exploring Pollan Bay



"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order." John Burroughs Pollan Bay

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” John Burroughs
Pollan Bay

"I believe in God, only I spell it nature." Frank Lloyd Wright Sunset over Pollan Bay

“I believe in God, only I spell it nature.” Frank Lloyd Wright
Sunset over Pollan Bay


"Do not feed children on a maudlin sentimentalism or dogmatic religion; give them nature. Let their souls drink in all that is pure and sweet ... They will absorb it as a plant absorbs the sunshine and the dew." Luther Burbank My kids absorbing the sunset over Pollan Bay

“Do not feed children on a maudlin sentimentalism or dogmatic religion; give them nature. Let their souls drink in all that is pure and sweet … They will absorb it as a plant absorbs the sunshine and the dew.” Luther Burbank
My kids absorbing the sunset over Pollan Bay



So that is my little spot of heaven on earth, the place I was missing and didn’t know I was missing until I found it. I wandered onto that beach, by chance or fate, one afternoon a handful of years ago and something inside of me clicked on, as if to say “look, you’ve found it, finally!” I remind myself that even when I’m not in my spot, my spot is always there, always gorgeous, always wild and untamed, waiting for me to return.






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