mom2nomads

ahhh, the life of a diplomatic princess . . .

Archive for the category “Foreign Service Blogs”

A Whirlwind Trip to Roatan Island

We have, for what seems like forever, been encased in dust and smog in Honduras — especially in Tegucigalpa because we are all valleys and mountains. I haven’t been bothered much by it, other than the fact that it’s dreary. At least not until we were on our way to the airport to begin a short, but very appreciated, trip to the Caribbean island of Roatan, when we were informed the airport was closed — all out going flights were grounded and all incoming flights were being diverted. I get why, the airport in Tegus is a notoriously difficult one to land in. The pilot has to make this crazy hairpin turn, turning the plane nearly sideways  in order to avoid slamming into a mountain, before righting the plane and stopping it very quickly on the short runway. Takeoff is slightly less dodgy.

So, yea, nobody wants to mess with that in smog so thick that visibility is only 1 kilometer. Long story short, rather than spending my noon hour standing in crystal clear water with a margarita in my hand I was sitting with my feet propped up on my suitcase in the Tegus airport, playing Plants v Zombies on my iPad. Thankfully, the smog cleared enough that we could fly out and, seven hours after we were supposed to take off, we were finally Roatan bound, with a stop in La Ceiba to change planes. To a 17-seater. Not that I was nervous or anything. I can’t remember the last time I was on a plane where you could actually see what the pilots were doing …

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Eric thought it was fun to be able to watch the pilots, I found it mildly disconcerting and kept having to stop myself from shouting “Both hand on the wheel! BOTH HANDS!” But it was a short flight, maybe 15 minutes, and soon we were landing on Roatan …

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Our hotel shuttle delivered us to the Mayan Princess, where we checked into a room with this view, which made everything sunshine and rainbows …

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This was a work trip for Eric, I was just tagging along for the sand and the ocean (and because I really like the group of people who were holding the convention he was attending). For the record, I was on our dime — just so everyone is clear. There was an event to attend shortly after we arrived, but we had time to take a stroll along the beach before we needed to start scraping the airport funk off and get all prettied up. We did get to enjoy our first Caribbean sunset in a long time ..

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A highlight of the evening was a surprise performance by Garifuna musicians and dancers. Garifuna are an Afro-Caribbean people with an interesting history, you can click here to find out more about their culture. Whenever we see Garifuna musicians and dancers perform we are immediately swept back to Guinea, our first post in the FS, which was full of the music of djembe drums and mesmerizing dancing.

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After a lovely dinner with folks who are thoroughly enjoyable, Eric and I decided to finally get that margarita, which we drank in an open-air thatched beach cabana. Side note: anyone considering bidding Honduras, most of the places you’ll go on business are not quite like this but, every once in a blue moon, you get really, really lucky! And even the not-so-posh places are oh-so-interesting. So go for it!

The next day was all work for Eric so we woke up early for a beach stroll ..

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Exposed coral at the end of West Bay

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We’re pretty positive that when we bring our kids to Roatan they are going to ask to do this crazy climb/slide inflatable thingy

I spent the rest of the morning with a book, doing pretty much this …

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and after lunch we headed back to the airport. Where our flight was delayed, of course. Still, totally worth it just to stand in crystal clear water and feel the sand between my toes …

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Here’s Why OCD Should Not be Reduced to a FB Meme

Each time a meme about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) pops up in my FB feed I cringe, or roll my eyes, sometimes I do both. I try to remind myself that most people haven’t the foggiest idea about what it means to have OCD, I try to remind myself how misunderstood mental illness in general is, sometimes I can shrug it off, more often I can’t. And here’s why–I have some people in my life whom I love with a fierceness who have OCD, so the misconceptions and stereotypes that surround it get under my skin in a special way. I’ve seen these people struggle with what can be such an emotionally tumultuous disorder, I’ve seen them go through painful episodes, I’ve seen them come out the other side, and I’ve been beyond proud of the strength and courage it has taken to deal with having OCD. And, yes, I’ve seen them joke about the quirks of their disorder, it’s a way to cope and to put things in perspective. I’ve also seen them cringe at the memes about OCD because, while people post them without malice, they represent how misunderstood the disorder is, and they make light of something that is a potentially very serious health condition, most of the time without understanding its severity. Think of it this way, we don’t walk around poking fun at people with asthma or brain trauma, it isn’t acceptable to post memes about how funny it is to see someone suffering from diabetes or a heart condition, and we don’t say things like “Geez, I’m feeling SO cancerous today!” So if we don’t treat other medical conditions this way, why is it okay to treat OCD this way?

OCD is a complex medical condition, and shows itself in many different ways. Briefly, think of your reaction to stress, think of how your body feels when you’re stressed, how your emotions react to stress, now think of not being able to turn that off. Think of yourself knowing it’s not rational, that the alarm going off in your head isn’t “real,” but not being able to convince yourself of that truly, so you come up with ways that are meant to soothe this stress. It works for a moment or two, then the anxiety comes back, so you have to do the soothing rituals again, which helps for a moment, and the cycle continues. A person might have ten obsessions/fears or they might have 50, each with a different soothing ritual. Can you imagine how time consuming, on top of everything else, that would be? OCD is listed by the World Health Organization as “one of the 10 most handicapping conditions by lost income and decreased quality of life.” It’s something that can cause so much grief, it can shove a life into chaos, it can push someone to the point where self-harm appears to be better than the alternative.

OCD shouldn’t be the butt of jokes made by people who have no concept of what it is they’re laughing at.. Let’s look at just two reasons why that’s true:

Suicide: People who suffer from OCD are at greater risk for suicide than the general population, between 5-25% of people who have OCD have attempted suicide. Then there is suicidal ideation, or suicidal thoughts, sometimes they show up as the “O” in OCD (I want to emphasize “sometimes,” because there are so many different aspects to OCD, not everyone has every aspect). Can you imagine the pain of your brain focusing itself on suicidal thoughts when, in actuality, you have no desire to kill yourself? Can you imagine being a child with those thoughts? How overwhelming that must be, how incomprehensible? Added to that, can you imagine having to perform a ritual each time you have a thought about suicide in order to “prevent” it happening? It’s not funny.

Self-esteem: Put yourself in the place of someone who, for example, is so fearful of something happening that they are afraid to leave the house, or can’t leave it without touching the door a certain number of times, or turning the light on and off a certain number of times. Now, think of some of the self-talk that might be attached to that–“I’m weak,” “I’m stupid,” “I can’t even leave the house without freaking out” and think of what impact that could have on someone’s self-esteem. And think of the anxiety those thoughts would cause someone with an anxiety disorder, perpetuating an ugly cycle. Think of the things you might not be able to do if you had these anxieties, think of the impact it could have on your relationships, on your job, or your school work. Day after day after day. It’s not funny.

In the case of people I know and love who have OCD, it has been overcome– with a whole lot of determination and focus. It will never go away, it’s symptoms may return now and again, sometimes they will be big and sometimes they will be tiny, but it has been conquered. And, keep this in mind, if you have OCD, it doesn’t define you, it’s just a part of you, when dealt with correctly it can be a footnote in a life full of greatness and joy, it can be something that is looked at with pride because it was beaten, because you learned that as overwhelming and strong as OCD is, YOU are stronger. And, yes, you might get to the point where you can laugh about it, about the quirky ways you have to cope with it, or the ways it pops up in your life. You get to laugh about it because you understand it, because you need to laugh about it in order to deal with it, because you know the hell it can cause and humor helps. But people who don’t understand, people who think you’re a stereotype, or a caricature, or someone who just likes things neat and tidy, they don’t get to laugh, they just don’t. And I know there will be people who think I should lighten up, that’s fine, I’ll shrug that off because I believe it’s wrong to laugh at someone with a potentially debilitating illness, and it’s wrong to belittle an illness that sometimes feels so large you’re worried it will swallow you whole. I can laugh with someone, I can glance into their life and gain empathy, I can appreciate when they try to find humor, even when it’s mixed with profound pain–case in point is this video, which is required watching, in my opinion, for anyone struggling with OCD or for anyone trying to understand it:

And to the people I love who have OCD, I will always try to give you what you need from me–unconditional love, a tireless defender, a hug, a shoulder, time, or laughter. Because I love you fiercely. Every piece of you, even the OCD, because it all makes you who you are, and you are incredible.

My “I’m so Damn Sick of Deer Hunting Season” post ~climbing off my soap box now~

Since I am a Minneapolis native I, of course, have a lot of FB friends and family in Minnesota, and, as much as I love them, I dread my news feed during hunting season. Not to say they’re all hunters, the majority aren’t, but there’s a chunk in there and I do a fair amount of cringing and quickly scrolling over certain posts. Because seeing all the “rah rah hunting!” stuff makes me equal parts sad and pissed off.

I think I’ve just seen one too many smiling faces over dead deer over the past few days and I’ve got a question–why? What joy is found in killing a living creature? I just don’t get it. And some of the people I know who hunt are otherwise incredibly kind and compassionate people. I get that there are people who see a hierarchy on this earth–with humans on the top (by the way, we’re doing a pretty shit job of being alpha, IMO). Even so, why? We know, beyond a doubt, that the animals who are hunted feel pain, terror, joy, a desire to live. So why cause that kind of suffering? This is head scratching for me, I simply do not understand.

Even more, I don’t understand encouraging children to hunt and kill. Why? A lesson we’ve taught our kids is that every life matters, down to the smallest. I’ve seen them carefully pluck worms off a hot sidewalk and deposit them on cool grass, rescue snails from the street, shoo a spider outside (or, in our daughter’s case for many years, run screaming for someone else to shoo a spider outside and, ahem, I don’t know where she learned that habit from). When our oldest was five (maybe six) and we were living in Guinea, he saw classmates throwing stones at some stray kittens on the edge of their school playground and he yelled at them to stop, but they didn’t. So he marched himself over to the office of the director of the school and told him what was going on, the director put a stop to it. I was proud of him, not only for doing the compassionate and kind thing but for going up against his peers in order to do it. I can’t imagine telling my kids that we were going to go out and kill an animal for fun. To find joy in intentionally ending a life? Why? I keep asking it because I just don’t understand. Part of me wishes that I did because maybe then I wouldn’t be so angry about it, part of me is happy that I don’t because, ultimately, I think it’s something that probably cannot really be rationalized. I know all the “reasons” for hunting–spending time in nature (you can do that without killing anyone), food (you can buy that and you don’t even really need to make one of those purchases meat, and let’s not get in to the subject of slaughterhouses), spending time with family (ditto to reason #1), keeping deer population down (a healthy and balanced ecosystem could go a long way to doing that). I’ve heard all the “reasons” but what they sound like are excuses because they’re all, really, false fronts since none of them actually requires killing animals.

One of the people in my life who has always been against hunting, and who helped to form the way I think about animals, is my grandfather, my Da, who was a veteran of both WWII and Korea. For Da, harming an animal was unthinkable. And this was a man who was raised in the South, who spent a nice chunk of time in foster care with a farmer who was very cruel to him. Had he wanted to he could have found a pretty solid list of “reasons” for why hunting and killing animals is acceptable–instead he went in the opposite direction. I’m sure a lot of it is because, having seen so much death and blood in combat, the thought of intentionally taking a life, of intentionally causing pain and suffering, was repulsive to him. It’s not something you do for fun, it’s something you do as a last resort when all other options are gone and life hangs in the balance, even then there is no joy to be found in it. In our family we file Da’s feelings about hunting in our “Why Da is a Hero” file. The thought of one of my children intentionally harming an animal, and finding joy in it, turns my stomach. So, why? Why is this something that is taught to children? Why is it seen as acceptable? Why does it bring joy? And I’m not asking this question so I can scream someone down, I just don’t understand because when I see pictures like this:

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it makes me ill. I can’t imagine teaching my child to find joy in killing. So, why?

The Poetic Nomad: a Flash of Light, a Gift from My Daughter

I understand that wishes will not always come true

I say that if you believe in it, it will happen

I dream of lifting my roots, walking away from the damp soil that keeps me down

Those words are from a poem that our eleven year old daughter wrote last night for her English class. I think I’ve read it fifty times, the first few times my eyes filled with tears. I’ve been worried about her since we moved here, leaving SEAS, our beloved school in San Jose, was painful, is painful. In SEAS, she was on firm ground. There, she knew everyone, was friends with everyone, adored her teachers, and felt safe and loved. Here, everything is new, it doesn’t feel safe yet, and we’ve had more than a few tear filled conversations that consist of her telling me how much she hates it here and how she just wants to go back. “Please, mommy, can’t we just go back?” On the surface I am steadfast, under it my heart aches for her and wishes I could whisk her off to the place she wants to be.

It is trying to move to a new country, to settle into a new school, to make friends, get to know your teachers, get a new routine down. And she has started middle school, which is a substantial transition in and of itself. She’s straddling two worlds right now–one where she is still a kid and one where she is becoming a young adult, she would prefer to have her feet firmly planted in the place where she is still a kid. She was telling me that part of the difficulty she is having is because “all the girls in my grade act like they’re so grown up! But they’re really just kids! I don’t feel any different than I did when I was in fifth grade, I just want to be a kid!” Yes, be a kid, kid. Please, stay a kid for as long as you can, don’t be in a rush to grow up, this is best for you. But I gently remind her that everyone is different and that those girls are just trying to figure out who they are, we do that by exploring, putting on different masks, trying on different personas. It’s a normal part of growing up, and it exasperates her. She knows who she is, she knows what she likes, she just wants to be Aisleen.

And Aisleen is disorganized, which she comes by honestly–ahem. We’ve been working on different ways to help both of us be more organized, some things are working and that is a relief. But the lack of organization has meant some assignments were not being done or, if done, not being turned in. Which compounded her frustrations and grief, it’s hard enough to do everything she is doing but when you feel like you’re moving backwards frustrations loom larger.

Up until last night Aisleen had yet to truly be sparked by anything at school, but, last night, she sat at the computer and wrote enthusiastically, thinking out loud about words she could use, asking us for meanings and context, and I was thrilled! She loves to learn, she loves the challenge of school, she loves to delve into projects that engage her and help her grow. She had two assignments to finish, one was a poem imagining herself as a willow tree, and one was to write a diary entry from the perspective of a character in a book the class had just read.

When she finished the poem she first showed it to Eric, I could tell from his reaction that it was a special piece of writing. She handed it to me and I read, curled up on our sofa, the incense I had lit drifting past my nose, my glass of wine untouched as I sat completely entranced by her poem. My eyes filled with tears, I read it a second time, then a third. Then I placed the paper in my lap, looked up at my magnificent daughter, and said “wow.” She smiled and replied “did you like it?” I looked at her with complete astonishment and told her it was an incredible piece. Just, wow. Her smile grew larger before she went back to writing her diary entry. Eric and I looked at each other with disbelief on our faces. We have always known she is creatively gifted, she’s been weaving stories since we was old enough to talk, and then to write. She has notebooks full of characters that live in lands she has invented, their lives are rich and adventurous. This poem, and the diary entry that followed, showed us that she is coming into her own.

I Am, by Aisleen

I am as vast as the distance between galaxies, and as tall as the sky on clear summer days

I wonder if I will be able to graze with the buffalo that live on the plains

I hear the morning birds sing their sweet, calming song

I see the butterflies fluttering around the field of grass that surrounds me

I want to be free like the animals that sleep at my roots during the cold, harsh winter nights

I am as vast as the distance between galaxies, and as tall as the sky on clear summer days

I pretend to be free with the deer, the grass tickling my feet every step

I feel as if I will leave one day, never to return to the soil that keeps me from my dreams

I touch the wind that hits my face as a gust of wind floods over the farm

I worry that my beliefs of being free with the world will never come true

I cry when I think about being cut down, the advantage of leaving, never coming to be

I am as vast as the distance between galaxies, and as tall as the sky on clear summer days

I understand that wishes will not always come true

I say that if you believe in it, it will happen

I dream of lifting my roots, walking away from the damp soil that keeps me down

I try to make the dream come true, walking, flying, adventuring with the animals

I hope that I can explore the world, see the countries many miles from where I stand

I am as vast as the distance between galaxies, and as tall as the sky on clear summer days

Every parent has doubts; we doubt the disciplines we use, we worry if we shower them with too much praise or too little, we have those nagging thoughts tinkering in the back of our minds–are we doing right by our kids? What if we aren’t? What path are we setting them on? When you are the parent of nomads there is an additional layer of doubt–am I asking too much of them? Should we call an end to this and settle down? Which way is right for them? And then there are those flashes that tell you, yes, they are okay, more than okay, they are thriving, and those flashes are gifts. For me, this poem is one of those flashes. In it I see a girl who is wise beyond her years, a girl with roots who recognizes that there is much more to this world than what is outside her bedroom window, so much beauty to soak in, and she recognizes that the journey she is on is full of endless possibilities. I feel abundantly blessed that I will witness her walk her path and whether she becomes a writer, a teacher, a veterinarian, or a stay at home mom she is bound for greatness and her spirit, full of grace and recognizing no boundaries, will not settle for less.

Gramps: By Aisleen

I miss my Gooseberry. I miss the smell of her every night in bed, and how her sweet voice whispered in my ear telling me how much she loved me. She had the most angelic voice. Her words on our marriage day, “I do” echo around my head. Her pale, wrinkled skin, how my fingers felt when I touched it, I felt like if you offered me to stand there and touch her arm forever, I would accept it in a heartbeat. Her grey hair, oh how it shined all day, it would reflect of the sunlight, and would glisten in the brightness of the moon. Her smell was indescribable, how it would dance through my nostrils. I can still smell it in our marriage bed, in the pillow, in her suitcase. I could smell it whenever I went to her grave. Her eyes, oh how I miss them. Her beautiful eyes would sparkle whenever she looked at me, I could see my reflection, as if they were a stream in an evergreen forest. When we kissed, I could taste her cherry lip-gloss, I would hate to admit, but I put it on at night to make me feel like she is there with me, in bed, her arms wrapped around me. Oh, how I want to have her back with me, enjoying the pleasant breeze on the farm, the sun shining down on us.

I have a new dog named Huzza-Huzza. I named his after Gooseberry. Huzza-Huzza and I sit in the back of the car while my Chickabiddy drives around the fields. Driving over bumps, grass, and dirt. As I sit in the back I pet Huzza-Huzza, his short, silky fur under my fingers as I smoke my pipe. It reminds me of the trip Gooseberry , Chickabiddy, and I took, around the United States when we went to visit Chickabiddy’s mom. Sadly, I could not see her grave, since I had to stay back with Gooseberry.

Chickabiddy’s friends are coming over to stay with us for a little while. I have heard so much about them. They sound like magnificent friends to Salamanca. I have been staying up at night because of the delight. Ben sounds like a wonderful, smart boy, and how I am so happy that he and Salamanca are together, and Phoebe sounds like a blast, her life sounds like a roller coaster, excitement, hilarity, sadness, thoughtfulness, uncertainty, anger, but I shall stop with that for if I kept going it would be as long as a ray of sunshine coming from the rising sun reflecting on a beach. Apparently, her English teacher might also be coming. It warms my heart to see my Chickabiddy ricocheting off the walls of the house. Oh how I wish my Gooseberry could be here for such an exhilarating time.

When the Mighty Fall: Our Family’s Conversation about Ray Rice

We are a Ravens family, my husband is from Baltimore and has always been a Ravens guy, our older two caught football fever and love the Ravens (younger one, not so much, he’s a soccer kid, “American football” doesn’t hold much interest for him). While I’ll sit down and watch a game now and again I fell in love with them because of their Softies, my personal favorite is Torrey Smith who is not only active with the Show Your Soft Side campaign (tough guys speaking out against animal cruelty) but also with BARCS, Baltimore Animal Rescue Care and Shelter; not only have he and his wife adopted a pitbull from them but when they married they asked people to donate to BARCS in lieu of giving them wedding gifts. Good people.

So the news of Ray Rice hitting his then fiancee, now wife, came as a shock to us, especially since we’ve always seen him as a stand up guy (as you can see in my blog that I linked to up there). I’m not going to blog about what we thought of the initial punishment for his abuse, that’s not the point of this, so let’s fast forward to yesterday when the Ravens announced that they were cutting Rice and the NFL indefinitely suspended him from the league. Again, I’m not going to blog about what I personally think of this punishment, what I want to focus on is the conversation we had with our kids about Rice because, for our family, it was an important one.

Shortly after Eric messaged me that Rice had been cut I came across a screen shot in my facebook newsfeed of Janay Rice face down on the floor of an elevator after Rice had hit her, her shoes were askew and her dress looked to be up around her backside. My reaction, right or wrong, was not “how could he have done that?” because I already knew what he had done, my reaction was “what the hell is wrong with the American media?” Janay Rice had already been victimized once, now she was being victimized again by the media. Folks can sugar coat it all they want, claim that it’s important for people to see the violence, but if that was you would you want it plastered all over the place? The best article I’ve read about this second victimization is a blog in The Nation called “The Revictimizing of Janay Rice,” please read it, it’s short and it has been updated to include Janay Rice’s statement about the video being released and about Ray Rice being cut. 

Eric and I talked about how we were going to address this with our kids, in part because they like Rice and in part because we saw this as an opportunity to talk about some bigger issues–domestic abuse, consequences, and how the media is handling this (because they are going to see those screen shots too). Their initial reaction was “WHAT?” Not because they thought Rice was innocent but because they didn’t understand why the Ravens and the NFL had swung so hard in the opposite direction from where they had started. But we wanted them to understand that, regardless of how the NFL has handled this, Rice being cut was ultimately on him–he punched his now wife, he did something nobody should ever do, there are consequences to that and they are life changing. 

And part of their confusion is because the NFL is rife with abusers. Now, so I don’t get flamed, I am not saying Rice shouldn’t be punished because there are so many other abusers in the league, I’m saying the fact that there are (and our kids know this) and that this one, this particular one, has been cut is confusing to our children. It’s hard to explain to your kids why one of their players was tossed when players like the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger, accused of rape and sexual assault more than once, is still playing. Or when Greg Hardy, who plays for the Panthers, was found guilty of domestic assault. So the question of “Why Ray? Why not them?” that our kids asked is a fair one and, in my opinion, points to a league that takes money a lot more seriously than it takes conduct. Duh, we all knew this. But, damn, NFL, you’ve taken this step with one player what about the others? They have changed their policy about how domestic abuse will be dealt with, it now will earn players a six game ban for the first offense and a lifetime ban for the second. That’s progress, if it actually happens, but we still have all these men who are abusers who will walk on to football fields this week, and hypocrisy is a tough thing to explain to a kid. Ultimately, we fell back on “he did something awful, he’s paying the price” but that doesn’t wash away the inconsistency. So, there’s that.

There’s also the larger plague of domestic abuse and this was something we really wanted our kids to understand–this one famous couple is in the spotlight but there are so many others, every minute of every damn day. It’s important, we think, to teach kids that things like this don’t happen in a vacuum, they are part of a larger problem. The fact that NFL does not take violence against women seriously is a symptom of the greater disease, the disease being, of course, that the US does not take violence against women seriously. I watched Liam’s eyes grow large when I told him that every day women are beaten by their partners and that, often, those beatings ultimately result in murder. He didn’t know, now he does, and I hope it helps him put this whole event into some context. And I hope it gives him an empathy for Janay Rice, who I think gets lost in all of this.

Eric and I told Liam that we didn’t want him watching the video, out of respect for Janay Rice. When Liam asked why it would be disrespectful of her to watch it my question to him was “would you want strangers watching a video where you were abused and humiliated?” He hadn’t thought of it like that and he responded with a resounding “no.” Good, neither would I, neither does she. And the fact that people still are is voyeurism at its nastiest.

Ultimately, our kids are kids and we can only expect so much of them. I don’t expect them to turn against Rice, or disavow any loyalty towards him, or say that they don’t want to watch him play anymore–it’s not that simple. Liam stood in our doorway and said “I can’t believe I’m never going to see him play football again,” that reaction went hand in hand with our daughter’s “what? why?” when Eric said stores were pulling Rice’s jersey. Black and white this situation ain’t and as bad as what Rice did is he’s still someone who has given our kids joy and reasons to cheer, I don’t think my personally verbally flogging him to our children serves any purpose. They don’t need a diatribe about how horrible what he did was, they know it was horrible, and the one thing Eric and I won’t do is tell them that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel.

One thing I am thankful for is that Eric and I have been very careful about teaching our children that elite athletes (or any famous person), while fun to watch and often admirable human beings, should not be placed on pedestals or viewed as heroes and the kids take this to heart. There are exceptions to this rule, people who broke boundaries and fought for equality, like Jackie Robinson and Kathrine Switzer, but they are rare.  So at least we have no broken hearts in our little family, just disappointed kids trying to wrap their heads around some very big things.

 

Saying See You Later, this is the part that really sucks

I should be sorting and organizing but I need to write this, my heart is aching for my children and I have to acknowledge that in words.

Last night we were having dinner, eating, chatting, each child trying to get their voices heard. Our daughter, who is ten, had had a very long day, she’d gone straight from school to the vet clinic where she volunteers and she’d assisted in several surgeries, she was tired but also her normal silly and sassy self. About halfway through dinner, seemingly out of the blue, she looked at me and very quietly said “mom, I don’t want to leave Costa Rica.” I saw tears in her eyes, she looked down and wiped her eyes with her shirt, kept her head bowed for a moment, took a deep breath and let the pain pass. I told her I understood, I didn’t really want to leave either, that I was sorry. I felt completely helpless when faced with her grief. I knew she was thinking of our vet, who has become a good friend to all of us, I knew she didn’t want to leave Anna and her clinic.

On the way to school this morning our youngest, who is seven, said “mom, I don’t want to leave Costa Rica.” I asked him why and he said “because my two best friends are here! I want to stay with them.” Of course he does. The kids and I talked about how it’s so hard to say goodbye. We talked about how, when you live a nomadic life, you learn what is really and truly important to you in a different way than when you don’t move all the time. Bad roads? Too much traffic? Electricity that goes off? Internet that magically disappears? Frustrating laws? Honestly, we learn none of that is truly important. It can all be frustrating in day to day life, and there are days when those problems feel huge, but when we are so close to leaving and saying goodbye to people that we love, we see what is truly important to us–family, friends, love.

So this is the part that sucks. When faced with this pain my children feel I am often clueless how best to comfort them. Hold them. Listen to them. Talk with them. I can do all that, but I can’t make it go away. This is going to be a pretty difficult grieving process and we’re all just going to have to move through it.

I try not to think about my own grief, I try not to think about leaving people that I love. It’s so important to make friends, especially when you’re nomadic and don’t have your family near by, your friends become your family. My friends here have become such an integral part of my life, woven so deeply into my happiness. They’re always there for us in a pinch, always there to listen to me, to laugh with me, to help guide me, and they’re just really, really good people. My closest friend here is someone I see almost every day, I’ve grown to rely on her smile as a way to start my morning, thinking of letting go of such a simple thing is tough. I was at her house the other night, we were chatting with another friend of ours (who is also moving this summer) when she started getting tears in her eyes. It’s inevitable that when she tears up I tear up, and I hate crying in public, so I pointed at her and said “don’t start with me, woman!” and our other friend said “there’s no crying in baseball!” which made us all laugh. Tears were still there though and she said “it’s just that you’re my peeps and I know as long as you’re both here everything is okay.” Two of us are moving this summer, one of us is staying. It pretty much sucks. These women are the mothers of my youngest child’s two best friends, all of our children have a tough road ahead of them.

I am not whining, I’m not complaining, I’m not even having a pity party (yet). But the weeks leading up to each time we move are always some of our toughest and the ones that make me ask questions; are we doing the right things for our kids, would they be happier if we just stayed in one place, are we expecting too much from them emotionally? We’re almost to the tenth anniversary of joining the Foreign Service and I still don’t have the answers to those questions. They’re fantastic kids, they’re healthy, happy, kind, smart, and so much fun to be around. So I guess they’re okay. But how do I best help them say goodbye to people they couldn’t love more if they were blood? I simply do not know.

I’ve spent months trying not to think about saying goodbye but it’s close enough now that it’s not dwelling as much as preparing. I guess what we’ll all have to do is focus on the positive side of all of this, if we hadn’t made such amazing friends we wouldn’t be going through this, the pain is a testament to the power of our friendships. We’re letting ourselves live and love. My closest friend here and I decided this is our theme song, I think it sums this crazy, nomadic life up nicely …

This is Your Brain on Post-Packout Panic …

I woke up at three this morning, suddenly seized by panic at the thought of everything I need to get done in the seven weeks leading up to our move. Where the hell did the time go? How is it this close already? I managed to fall back asleep sometime around 5:30, and then wake back up a bit before seven. The DH, sweet as ever, said “go back to sleep, I’ll get the kids to school.” Sigh … too much to do. I’m not entirely lucid right now and I’m only just starting my first cup of coffee so I can’t guarantee this post will make a whole lot of sense. There are a million things I need to do but if I don’t get some of these thoughts out of my head they’ll still be there at three am tomorrow. Well, they’ll be there anyway but I’m hoping to weaken them.

When my brain made it quite clear, somewhere around four, that it would be damned if it was going to let me sleep I decided to preoccupy it. I eventually stumbled upon a very funny blog post from another FS mom who is also in the middle of pre-packout panic, in my FB feed, and there I lay, in bed at half four in the morning with our youngest next to me snoring away, reading it and giggling. I love our life, I love it as much as I could possibly love a life, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some seriously stress-inducing, hair-pulling, ohmygodI’mgoingtobeatmyheadagainstawall, moments. At this point I just have to keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other, because I have this monster looming behind me and his speed is better than mine. I feel like the woman in the original Evil Dead movie who is racing through the woods in her robe and slippers while the evil force tears after her. Just keep going, one foot in front of the other and, for the love of god, don’t look back! When you look back you let your guard down, everyone knows that, and then the evil force will get you! It’s like my favorite line from my favorite running app, Zombies, Run!, “Don’t look back! Just run!” Only the move is a lot less fun than running from imaginary zombies. And I pretty much feel like this is where I’m headed …

Freaky, right? Totally freaky. And nuts. Which is how I increasingly feel as the move comes closer. Eventually, you’ll find me sitting on the floor, huddled tightly in a corner, moving between maniacal laughter and quiet tears, the only sound you’ll hear is the “plip, plop!” of tears hitting merlot.

Here is the BIG dilemma, the one I face with every move– how do I live three lives at once? I have present day life, which is a wonderful and full life with friends, my running (this is therapy, it cannot be sacrificed), volunteering at my kid’s school, trying to squeeze in a few more weekends at spots we still want to see, keeping in touch with friends and family back home, keeping up with all the day to day responsibilities of life. And then there is packout/moving life where I have to sort through an entire household of stuff to determine what gets tossed and what comes with us. And if it comes with us do I put it in our air freight or do I put it in HHE (House Hold Effects–this arrives much more slowly than the air freight), or do we drive it to Honduras when we (knock on wood) drive our animals there to set them up in the new house before we leave for the US for six weeks? And how do I organize it all so it doesn’t get mixed up? I am not the most organized person in the world, and I have a very tenuous hold on the concept of “attention span.” I’m the person who will sit down, telling myself I will focus and, fifteen minutes later … Oh! Shiny! So I’m thinking what I’m going to need to do is turn off the internet during the day so I can’t get distracted by facebook, email, or quizzes about what kind of seltzer water I am. Because between the house, the stuff that has to happen for our medical clearances, the paperwork, and all the eight billion things my DH has to to on his end well, see the above video.  I swear, I have opened the seven year old’s closet a half dozen times this week, gazed at the vast amounts of crap, sighed, and quietly shut the door. “Closet, you have defeated me, once again. Fuck you, closet, just, fuck you.” Yes, I am firmly in the place where I am actively and frequently muttering swear words at inanimate objects and household space.

The third life I’m living is future life. This is co-coordinating with my DH what we need to do for our new adventure in Honduras–the house, the logistics of moving our animals, going over info for different schools, figuring out what we need for life in Honduras, putting out feelers to see if we can do the activities we love, trying to find activities for the kids– I feel like I have one foot in the present, one foot in the packout, and one foot in the future. Except I only have two feet. This is a problem.

So I make lists, master lists and sub-lists, and I plot and I plan and life gets in the way and the move prep gets put on a hold for a day and I inch ever closer to madness. And have I mentioned we have two foster animals we’ve been trying to find homes for? A one-eyed cat and a four pound dog. Both very sweet and wonderful, and adorable! See for yourself …

Mooshie 008

 

Aren’t they fantastic? Wouldn’t you like one? No? Okay. Sigh …

So, here’s my final question to anyone reading this, and this is an incredibly important question so please take it seriously. Is it acceptable to have a glass of wine at three in the afternoon in order to help me tackle that evil closet? And every evil thing I need to tackle after it? Because, three kids, three closets. And our daughter has two closets. So I’m thinking two glasses of wine when I do her closets. That’s acceptable, right? Please? And please don’t tell me that they should organize and sort their own closets because then I’d have to smack you, and that would be ugly. I will co-sort with them but, ultimately, as I just reminded them this morning, “this is not a democracy, this is a dictatorship and I AM THE QUEEN!” to which our oldest helpfully responded “that would be a monarchy, Mom.” Somebody pass the wine, please …

Boomerang Lessons, How My Kids Inspire Me

“Boomerang lesson” is the term I’ve decided to start using for things I tell my kids that I need to pay attention to myself; in other words, listen to yourself speak, Heather, you might learn something. This past Sunday we ran a 5k race with our two oldest children, our 13-year old boy and 10-year old girl. It was a charity run for the Children’s Museum here in San Jose, my husband ran with our son and I ran with our daughter. Our kids are athletic and, despite the fact that if we let them they would immerse themselves for hours in electronics, they really enjoy being active. Since the time they were pretty young our kids could hike for miles and miles, the hubby and I are not parents who would push a 5-year old in a stroller–move forward and push on are lessons our kids learned early in life.

Our daughter was a bit anxious, she told me that she was worried she would slow me down, which I found a bit funny because I am not a fast runner, I consider myself to be a speedy turtle. My response to her was that I didn’t care one bit how fast we went, I only cared that we ran together and crossed the finish line together. I reassured her that she would set the pace and tried to drive home the lesson that there is no shame in walking or in running slowly, the only thing that matters is that you’re out there, having fun and challenging yourself and, in this case, being together.

The morning of the race came, she had butterflies (loads of them, she told me later) but was excited. I reminded her of all the things we’d been talking about, reassured her that she could do it, she nodded and smiled and we were off! We ran, we walked, we talked. The boys were far ahead of us (I’ve written before about how my hubby is a much faster runner than I am) but we all expected that. About two thirds of the way through the run her brain started getting the best of her, she began to believe she couldn’t do it, that it was too hard for her. Luckily for both of us two things are true: I believe in her completely and I have a Pinterest board that is brimming with inspirational running quotes! I told her that her brain could either be her best friend or her worst enemy, which side it landed on was entirely up to her. I told her “runners run a race in three parts–the first is with their body, the second is with their brain, the third is with their spirit and your spirit is so strong!”  She nodded, she liked that but she was still doubtful. I reminded her that she’s run 5k before, I reminded her that I believe in her. She still was not convinced. So I used a trick that I use for myself and told her we would just run to the next stoplight, then we could walk to the one after that, then run to the next, then walk. Running is a good metaphor for life in so many ways, in this case, just like in life, if things seems too large it can be overwhelming, but doing a little at a time can get you through to the finish line. We did this until we rounded a corner and she said “This looks familiar!” I told her to look straight, to the end of the street because the museum, and the finish line, were there, about 4 blocks away. She got a huge smile on her face and said “I can do this! I CAN DO THIS!” And she started to run, with me shouting after her “You’ve got this, girl! GO!” She ran and ran, walked for a few seconds, then hit the last 100 meters, a daunting hill–and she started to run, weaving through people, completely pushed forward by that unstoppable spirit of hers, totally focused on the finish line! She reached the top of the hill with me behind her, I caught up to her and we ran the last few meters, crossing the finish line together, just as we had wanted to do, it was a pretty incredible moment for both of us and, as her mother, I couldn’t have been more proud of her.

We stopped running, both winded from the hill and the last sprint to the finish line, and saw my husband and son walk out of the crowd towards us with huge smiles on their faces. Hubby told me he and our son, Liam, stayed together the whole way, then they hit the hill and he told Liam he was going to sprint it and then wait for him at the finish line. About halfway up hubby looked behind him and there was Liam, determined to keep up. They hit the finish line just a few paces apart, Liam felt pretty satisfied, then he moved to the sidelines and promptly booted– thank goodness that didn’t happen at the finish line!

So here’s my boomerang lesson … tomorrow I’m running my first 10k and, honestly, I’m pretty terrified. I can do it, I’ve done the distance, I’ve been training for this specific race for weeks and weeks but I am truly frightened. I’m not sure about what because I know I can finish it and I know even if I finish last, hey, at least I ran it! But I guess I’m intimidated by doing something new, and something that seems pretty daunting to me. So I have to remember all the things I told my baby girl while we ran, and I have to remember her spirit that refused to give up, and the determination our son had to keep running with his dad. So tomorrow my children, all three of them, will be my inspiration. The strength with which they approach life, all the change they go through, all the difficult transitions and goodbyes that go along with the life of a nomadic child, and the grace with which they handle these things, will be my inspiration to run, to keep moving forward, to not give up, and to believe in my own strength and spirit.

There was an amazing runner on Sunday, a man who would run to the front of our pack and then to the back, the whole time pumping his arms and shouting “Si, se puede!” Yes, we can! So, forward, and si, se puede!

Me and my baby running uphill, I reassured her that pretty much everyone had the look on their face that she does here, it was a tough way to end a race.

High five! The hubby crosses the finish line!

Liam crosses the finish line (pre-spew)!

Time to show off the medals!

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 …

Dublin

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,

Mom

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