We are not lost.

Life has some elements that feel uncertain right now; mainly the house we rent is for sale, so we need to find another place soon. This can be a real challenge when you’re looking in a certain price range in Topanga. The idea of not knowing where we are going to set up our stuff and call “home” is still uncomfortable for me sometimes.

By the time Collin and I were 23 we owned a gorgeous, yet cozy house on a beautiful, wooded property with a tiny stone wall out front that enclosed a grassy dell. I thought we’d raise our kids there one day. This day. I thought we’d be there this day and all the days when Senya was learning to talk and when we brought Juniper home from the hospital. I thought we’d be having family birthday parties each year and celebrating the passing of time in that same home.

But life doesn’t follow the script we write. It doesn’t always follow the trajectory of our hard work or dedication or carefully calculated choices.

Some things fell apart there (think jobs, think real estate, think crooks disguised as property managers stealing your rental income, and so on and so forth), and so we had to change our course.

Collin assures me he isn’t lost when we are hiking. Ever. Even when he doesn’t know where we are. Once we set out from the frontier town of El Chalten (kind of like Topanga in Argentina) into the Patagonian wild. After hours of hiking, I started to realize that we weren’t on a trail, and he confirmed that we had gotten off trail at some point. Of course my vivid imagination immediately flashes to our two skeletons—hand in hand—discovered years from that moment, and he knows this look on my face. So, he assures me, “we’re not lost.” “But we aren’t on the trail” I argued, “So, we’re lost.” And then he goes on to explain things about the sun and the shadows and the water and the westerly winds or whatever. “I’m never lost because I can see where I am in reference to things bigger than the details of my exact location.” 

So here I am living in a house we rent in Topanga with all the quirks that are standard for a rental in Topanga (including but not limited to a shared mailbox, power outages with nebulous causes, squatters who sneak into other neighbors’ houses and use their showers while paying tenants are out, and of course the occasional unidentifiable yet horrific smell). And we are not on the trail. Sometimes we see the look on each other’s faces and we know we’re wondering if we are lost. And then I think, “No, we are not lost. We are not on the trail, but I can use the measures of love, and flourishing, and laughter, and creativity, and connection, and meaning, and hope. In the bigger context of what matters most, I know where we are. We aren’t on the trail, but we are not lost.”

Here in this life Juniper Sky is running wild through the wind where a creek meets the ocean. And here in this life Senya runs barefoot through the dirt and onlookers smile in appreciation of her untamed childhood. Here Collin runs miles in the mountains and goes on playdates with the kids. Here we have friends who understand us and share the same perspective on reality that we do. Here we are more than how we do or don’t make money; we are valued for our ideas, our creativity, our interests, who we are. Here we share in each other’s lives, we live in intersecting spheres, we are not so divided by gender, by division of labor, by income.


And I’d love to be able to draw a circle around our life and make it out of stone and call it home forever. But for now, home is not a monument; it’s an experience. It’s when our hearts are connected and we find meaning together. It’s when we do highs and lows at dinner time and report to each other the best and worst parts of our days. It’s playing hot lava and jumping from sofa to sofa and on coffee tables and swinging from hugglepods to avoid the fiery magma that is the living room floor. It’s Thai-day-Friday family-movie-night or camping under the brilliant stars in the desert. It’s sprinting down Topanga Canyon Boulevard because we’re running late (literally) to school again. It’s finding miner’s lettuce in the park and calling that the vegetable for dinner tonight. It’s sharing experiences and meals with friends and family, and keeping close in our hearts those we love that live far away. And it’s engaging again and again through the pain, the beauty, the triumphs, the failures through the gains and the losses and the day to day. And in these hearts within my care, I hope I’m laying a foundation made of more durable and precious stuff than any building made with stones and bricks: hope, resilience, worthiness, joy, wonder, and most of all love.

sen laugh

May we all find home wherever we are.


Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

“Imagine all the people living life in peace.”

I started writing these thoughts before the recent tragedy in Paris; my heart grieves with all affected. I hope that we can move toward a world of love, empathy, peace, and authenticity. I dream of a world where we focus on our universal bonds as humans instead of drawing such harsh divides between our beliefs, our gods, and our political agendas.

The concept of authenticity is ever present on my mind. I recently saw online an article that was criticizing my generation with caring too much about authenticity. To me, that’s like criticizing someone’s perpetual need for water each day.

Authenticity is important because it’s the basis of genuine, human connection. As I wrote in one of my previous posts about Self Determination Theory, authenticity and belonging are two basic, psychological needs. Neurobiologically, spiritually,  and physically we are hard-wired to need connection to thrive. As Brené Brown (one of favorite researchers) writes, “true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” Thus the two are connected and both essential to thriving.

From this point of authenticity I started thinking about how the particular criticism I saw online was regarding religion and how it should be prioritized over authenticity. This got me thinking about the Latin root religare and how it means “to bind together” and how the Latin root spirare (related to the modern English word “spirituality”) means “to breathe.” I was thinking about how religion does purport to bind people’s thoughts and behaviors together and thinking of what a world would be like where we could all just breathe and be and let others breathe and be.

The reality is, we have hard time just being and breathing; we are drawn to categorize, to bind people and things together. To separate them into groups. Label them. And often generalize and stereotype them.

Henri Tajfel posits that humans have a tendency to categorize people and things in an attempt to understand our place in the universe (my wording, others would say “part of a normative cognitive process” (McLeod, 2008).

It’s less complicated and overwhelming to start grouping data together into categories. We make broad assessments about what we encounter, and then we can go back and fine comb for details.

We also want to know what our groups are. Where do we belong? We find positive self esteem and a sense of belonging by identifying with a group or a number of groups.

We also draw the boundaries of what’s acceptable or normal behavior according to the script of the groups to which we belong. It gives us a very secure sense of place and self concept to have these lines drawn (albeit artificially) of what’s possible and what we wouldn’t even consider doing.

For example, where I spent the better part of 3 years recently, Northwest Arkansas, most people who are part of the groups like “Southerner” and “Wal-Mart corporate” and “middle class”  wouldn’t consider leftover bagels in a garbage bag outside of Einstein bagels edible. But my brother-in-law Shane (an intellectual, authentic person who tries to live apart from any arbitrary, categorical norms) would definitely eat those bagels with good reasons (they are perfectly edible, free, food that need not add to the extravagant wastefulness and excess that is typical in privileged societies).

After we categorize ourselves and the people and things around us, we start looking at the differences between groups and the similarities within our group. This is where we tend to exaggerate. This is where I tend to get anywhere from annoyed to outraged when I hear people doing this.

For example, the whole “Men are from Mars women are from Venus” perspective really bothers me. If we focus and perpetuate these artificial social differences between us, then yes, we will see them; they will be there. But if we, instead, choose to look at each other with empathy, respect, and as few stereotypes as possible, perhaps we can connect on a more meaningful level. Or at least we could try to understand how and why the social environment has played a very large, determining part in shaping whatever differences tend to be there between men and women.

Likewise, I saw on Facebook this morning someone arguing with my brother-in-law, Mike, about how Christianity could never be as violent as Islam based on the fundamental principles. Despite Mike’s well-articulated points on how individuals and sects of any religion can distort its texts for their own, violent agenda, this person could not concede. It’s hard for me to be empathic toward people with this level of ignorance and in-group denial (what about the Crusades? What about the Conquistador Priests who would behead indigenous people if they didn’t convert to Catholicism on the spot? What about right now and the Ugandan government trying to Biblically justify the murder of gay citizens?) but my best guess is that people are afraid. People are afraid of what is different and what they don’t understand.

But instead of perpetuating the loop of fear, stereotype, bigotry, and hatred, we should try to understand. Have empathy. Truly trying to understand from someone else’s perspective is an effective way to stop fear and hatred. Look at the lens through which you are categorizing the world; ask yourself whether your filter is one of love and a pursuit to live in peace and empathy or one of fear that would lead to a desperate reaction to squash that which is threatening and different from you.

I understand that social identity is a vital and real part of a person. I understand that categorization is a normal cognitive process. That is, it is useful and easier than thinking through every phenomenon as novel. What I wish, however, is that we would be more empathic and realistic when examining the differences across and between groups. Rather than look at how other and different out-group members are, look for similarities that bond us together in an overarching category (if we must use categories).

John Lennon’s Imagine basically sums up what I wrote here.

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Social Identity Theory. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html

Posted in intellectual, mental health, personal reflection, political | 7 Comments

Memory Lane…

Summer of 2009.

We were camping in a small backpacking tent surrounded by large, hunting lions. They were so loud that their roars shook the ground beneath us. Surprising to me was the discovery that the powerful, loud roars weren’t quite as frightening as the shorter, softer grunts they would make; worse was the sound of them gently lapping water from the stream just below the hill where we had pitched our tent. The most terrifying yet, however, was hearing them breathe just outside our tent. Hearing the breath of a wild lion mere feet away is one of the most perspective-shifting experiences I’ve had.

My whole life until that point, I had viewed myself as the protagonist of a very complex and poignant story. At that moment I was fodder. All I could do was hope that I was the uninteresting iceberg lettuce of the savannah buffet.

The first night out we both were relatively confident that we were going to die. So, we said a prayer and held each other close knowing that it had been a beautiful–albeit short–life together. At any rate, we agreed, it was a better way to go than slipping in the shower or choking all alone.

Yet, after many long hours of darkness the sun rose. As it did, we slipped outside of our tent to find brilliant hues of peach, orange, red, and yellow painting the horizon of Masai Mara. The silhouettes of acacia trees gradually became illuminated by the morning sun.  We peeked around the nearby premises, and we found those hairy buggers who had kept us up all night. They were just settling down to sleep all day.

The second night in our tent I was inclined to think we would be fine. After all, with hundreds of wildebeests migrating the lions weren’t hungry. So, barring a rogue, human-eating lion, we’d probably be fine. This is the logic of an extremely tired person.

I was exhausted from not sleeping the previous night, so I asked Collin (desperate for reassurance to my proposed logic), “do you think we’ll be alright?” and he replied with badly masked uncertainty, “yes…[pause. hesitation.] I do.” And that was good enough for me. I put in my ear plugs, rolled over, and went to sleep.

Collin, on the other hand, laid awake all night wide-eyed and armed with a tiny kitchen knife we bought for 70 bub in the market. I’m not sure what his plan was…to poke it in the eye? The illusion of self defense made him feel better, I guess. I don’t know. If anyone could fight a lion almost barehanded, it would probably be a Palkovitz. Of course, they’d just as soon try to lull it to sleep with beautiful songs they’d written on their guitars, but if that didn’t work…

I often think back to those nights and days on the savannah. Our life was completely just ours. We made it a point back in those days to get as far away from other humans as possible to experience extraordinary things in nature. Often our excursions would last for a week or more at a time. We’d come out of the woods or off the savannah looking slightly more like animals and feeling much closer to God.

Some girls prefer diamonds. Some people like to have their lives figured out with dishes that match and drinking glasses that aren’t primarily comprised of mason jars that were former gifts of jam.

As for me, my wealth comes from other sources. I love knowledge and the exchange of ideas between people. I love people and relationship. And I love experiences and sharing those experiences with the people I love. I’m not going to pretend these experiences are always free or even inexpensive; it costs a pretty penny to fly to Thailand and spend a month there as a family of four. But we put our money and time into these experiences because they matter to us.

When I am about to die, I doubt that I will say, “I just wish we would’ve had nicer things.” When I die, I will have lived and I will have loved, and I won’t regret that.

Posted in personal reflection | 6 Comments

Know thyself. Be thyself. Live well. Love well.

I recently read an article by Richard Ryan and Edward Deci (2000) about Self Determination Theory (SDT). Herein I summarize and respond to some of the main ideas in the paper.  At the end, I come up with some of my own suggestions for practical application.

Authenticity: why is it important? Because people who live authentic or self-endorsed lives are more likely to remain interested in the decisions they’ve made and the consequences those choices have. They are also going to experience greater well being over the course of their lives.

Basically speaking, people who live authentically will be more engaged and invested in the lives they live. Consequently, it stands to reason to think that living a self-determined life will lead to more life satisfaction because an individual’s core values will be directly linked to the life s/he is living. People living authentic lives are more likely to be intrinsically motivated more often than those who are not.

Conversely, people who primarily live by external motivations (by social pressure or otherwise) may end up living a life that does not keep them interested.

This is sad to me, and I’ve seen it happen up close from time to time. That sad, winding road of people who defer, defer, defer making authenticity and competence priorities. I’m not blaming…sometimes these psychological needs are at odds with another one we deem more important: belonging.

Belonging: It’s our desire to connect to others, to be loved and to love, that is a powerful motivator. It can internalize extrinsic motivations as self-endorsed ones. That love can attach us to the behaviors that aren’t exciting or naturally interesting to us. It’s important, however, to remain authentic in this pursuit of belonging.

If we feel that we need to deny ourselves authenticity and a sense of competence to be accepted by those we consider “our people” then we let ourselves erode until one day it’s all too much. People snap. Or people don’t snap, but they rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms (overeating, alcoholism, addictions of various sorts, etc.) until they aren’t experiencing well being; they are merely coping with their life.

Of course it’s impractical to think that every behavior in life should be intrinsically motivated. Some things have to happen. There are seasons where we do things we’d rather not day after day because it’s what we have to do. What then? Live an alienated life like machines in human flesh? I hope not because there is an alternative. It is possible for people to internalize an extrinsically motivated behavior as self endorsed. If you can do this then you will remain attached to your life, so to speak (meaning your life will feel volitional, self-endorsed, and purposeful).

To do this, you’ve got to tie your immediate behaviors to values, beliefs, or goals that do matter to you. So this way, you are being authentic even if your actions aren’t intrinsically motivated. This will make you much less likely to become disengaged from your life, your behaviors, and the commitments you have.

Examples of extrinsic goals would be working a job to get money to live a certain lifestyle or doing homework to get good grades to eventually land a good job. Extrinsic goals alone (wealth, fame, beauty), however, do not meet basic psychological needs directly.

Better yet is if you can tie the behavior to intrinsic goals (connectedness, a sense of belonging, or personal growth) because these do meet psychological needs directly. Thus it stands to reason that this would lead to more fulfillment overall. An example would be that maybe someone doesn’t love running for exercise but they have friends who invite them to go running. The running part might sound dreadful but the friend part triumphs in the end.

But we do need to make sure–to experience well being–that we are working toward a life (if not already living one) where all of our basic psychological needs are met. If we keep deferring our other very real needs (i.e., to be authentic and competent) in the name of “it’s because it matters to so and so,” we end up doing “so and so” as well as ourselves a huge disservice.


According to Ryan and Deci (2000), the above are the three basic psychological needs that must be met over the course of the lifespan to experience well being.

Extrinsically motivated behaviors can become self-determined (authentic and self-endorsed) when all three of those basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness) are met in the immediate context of one’s life.

All three needs must be met for someone to thrive. You wouldn’t expect someone to flourish with water and oxygen but no food; furthermore, if needs are at conflict with each other, it can lead to ill mental health. If someone is expected to conform to someone else’s prescription for how to live or to hide who they truly are to be accepted, that would mean that autonomy and relatedness are being put in mutually exclusive terms.

So, what’s the practical application for this? I think it’s important to believe that it’s never too late to start trying to be well, to live well, and to start living a self-determined life. Here are some of my thoughts on how to work towards living a self-determined life if you feel trapped and alienated in a life that feels somehow boring and overwhelming all at the same time:

Step 1: Don’t panic. No, really. People freak the heck OUT when they hit some milestone in their life where they start to wonder if their dreams have passed them by. Before you do anything stupid that could hurt yourself or others, take a minute. Perhaps go to therapy or a trusted friend to talk openly with them about what you are experiencing.

Step 2: Be authentic. Do the work that it takes to figure out who you are. What do you value? Why do you have those values? Who do you love? What decisions are you making because you are intrinsically motivated? What decisions are you making for externally motivated reasons? In the case of the latter, if you are thinking it’s for someone else’s good, ask yourself if you are sure the people (for whom you’ve been living a somewhat alienated life) are requiring you to do so. It’s unlikely there aren’t any improvements that can be made in your situation if you are honest about your needs. If there is absolutely no possible way you can change anything about your circumstances (this is very rare in my opinion), how can you tie your values into the commitments you must keep?

Step 3: Do things that matter to you. Even if you feel alienated in one area of your life, find a way to get yourself into some activities that give you a chance to feel and be competent. Learn a new skill. Help others. Get a better job.

Step 4: Get connected to others. You do not exist in isolation nor do you need to pretend you do. Humans are social and relational beings. Find a way to get social support if you don’t readily have family and friends already surrounding you (common interest groups, church, sports, etc). If you do have family and friends around you, be honest and authentic with them. Take the plunge. You must be known to feel loved. And you must love and be loved to be well.

Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist. 50, 68-78.

Posted in behavior change, health, intellectual, mental health, personal reflection | 3 Comments

hold onto love.

Friday I’m in love. With Bangkok. With Thailand. With my family. With new adventures. With pushing myself beyond what I used to think I was capable of doing. With knowing that inner growth has been inspired by motherhood.


Ten and a half years ago, Collin and I came here to Thailand for our honeymoon. We spent one month traveling, backpacking, hitch-hiking, rafting down rivers. We stayed in thatched-roof bungalows with (harmless) (but HUGE) coconut snakes living inside in the rafters, and venomous cobras dwelling underneath. One of our first days here during that trip, we were on Khao San Road (an international, backpacker scene) and we, newlyweds that we were, spotted a young family of four. The parents looked to be in their early thirties, the kids both under the age of 4; I remember it so vividly. Coldplay’s “Clocks” was blasting on the street, and life felt magical, infinite. Time stood still for a moment. The smells, the sounds, and that little family sparked something inside of me. I wanted that to be us in 10 years. And now it is.


During that same trip, we traveled south to a tiny island named Koh Jum for our last week in Thailand. A woman named Delia gave me something and called it my lucky bean. I never knew exactly what it was; a bean, a seed, a shell, or otherwise. I kept it these ten years, and I brought it back here on this trip for sentimental reasons.


Last week, on our last morning at that beautiful beach where we stayed, I had about an hour to myself. I walked the shores and decided in my heart that I wanted to find something significant. “It seems like the kind of thing that should happen on my last morning at this beach” I distinctly thought to myself. “Send me something God, please, that will give me direction for my life.” Within moments, I heard tiny, little footsteps getting closer and closer behind me. It was Senya. My eyes filled with tears. Yes, this was something special indeed. And yes, this is what I’m doing with my life right now.

Photo on 1-22-14 at 12.30 PM #2

Senya and I combed the shores together for beautiful shells and coral. Guess what I found? Another lucky bean. A bigger one.


I may not know where we will live in a year from now. I may not know what ten more years from now will look like. But I do know this; I have been blessed beyond all fathomable belief with true love. Love that brings life. Love that has, at times, cost us everything. Literally, we lost all our dollars (and more) at one point pursuing dreams that didn’t quite work out as planned.

We moved from our cozy, dreamy cabin on our 2.8 acres of wooded property to live in a rustic 450 square foot cabin in Topanga for a year. I drove a crappy car that I had to fill up with water every ten minutes so it didn’t overheat in hot weather. On cold mornings, I had to open the hood and bang the starter with a hammer to get the engine going…in one of the wealthiest places in the USA.

I quit my job and finished my Master’s and traded it all to be a stay at home mom in a culture that considers that Nanny’s work. I learned to drive and navigate my own way for the first time in a land of 5-lane highways that all warrant an article before their names because of how intense they are (THE 101, THE 405, etc).

And THEN. I moved to Arkansas.

That’s love, folks.

No, just kidding. Northwest Arkansas isn’t bad at all.

Here in Thailand, I’ve realized how strong all that has made me. I navigated my way all over this place with Senya and Juniper while Collin worked in Bangkok each day. I took public transportation–the Skytrain–and even used a map to figure out the route and everything. What? Who am I? I’m a mom; that’s who. A mom who would rather get lost in a city where I can’t speak the language than sit around bored in a place full of opportunity for my kids to live, experience, and fall in love with traveling.




And I’m a soul mate. A soul mate promised to my true love forever, whatever that looks like.


I guess all those little anecdotes I noted above are bragging rights now…scars of which I’m proud. I’ve always liked scars; they tell stories of what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve survived, what we’ve overcome. I’ve gotten my most impressive ones living. Truly living. I won’t get any new ones when I’m dead, probably.


Collin’s got his own story of the past ten years of sacrifice, facing fears, digging deeper for meaning and truth than he formerly knew how. He’s worked on himself, on his life, on his career, and in every way possible. He has worked extremely hard. For what? For love.


We are probably some of the happiest people on the planet. We truly love our life. But it would be dishonest if I didn’t say that we’ve worked for it. It would be like presenting a photoshopped image of a magazine model as reality for me to pretend that happiness doesn’t take effort. Happiness and love take work, take strength, and perseverance.


I had this dream once right before we were married. Collin and I stood hand in hand facing the ocean. Others were there, standing in the water scattered around. We were watching, waiting for a tidal wave to come. We could see it coming in the distance. We were bracing ourselves, but not terrified. It came; it crashed over all of us. I saw Collin and me together, under the water…the power of the water above thrashing us violently underneath. Yet our hands remained clasped together securely, and we were okay. It felt so real and so deep. The memory of that dream is as vivid today as it was the morning I woke from it.


Hold onto love, folks. It’s our best gift. It’s a gift that’s meant for more than keeping in a glass case. It’s meant to be used, spent, and allowed to work its magic. The magic is it never fails, it never runs out, it never ultimately disappoints us as long as we Keep. On. Going. It’s strength. It’s life. It’s inspiration.


Believe in Love. Fight for it. Sacrifice for it. Follow the road wherever that love takes you. And don’t be afraid. Oh, and enjoy the adventure…because this is life.



Posted in family, personal reflection, travel | 19 Comments

Why it’s worth a difficult day of traveling…

Two days ago was a doozy. Picture violent fits on a tiny airplane. Picture little pals screaming and spitting and yelling at well-meaning strangers (flight attendants, taxi drivers, and anyone who looked in our direction, generally). Picture a long day of traveling and waiting to travel and being out of our hotel room hours before our flight, a delayed flight, and then taxi drivers who insist on driving you even when they have absolutely no idea where to go (and yet they just start driving).



Imagine after all that wanting desperately to just arrive at a comfy hotel where you can all fall asleep only to find that the room is approximately 90 degrees and there’s no baby crib; there’s just a dingy sofa mattress on the floor for your baby. And thank GOD that you decide you’re definitely NOT going to put your precious baby on that dingy mattress because mere moments after you resolve not to do so, a SPIDER THE SIZE OF YOUR HAND (not exaggerating. I promise.) runs across the dingy mattress. Imagine both kids screaming (mostly because *their mother* is screaming) and a desperate dad/husband running around chasing that large animal-esque spider with a random, large umbrella (circa 1975) that he grabbed from the corner of the room. Imagine that the spider is now jumping. JUMPING. At everyone. And landing on dedicated dad/husband from time to time causing more screaming. More screaming from everyone. It was more terrifying than any scene from Arachnophobia. Comical now for sure, but at the time…it was less than awesome.


I did not sleep much more than a few uncomfortable winks that night. I clutched Juniper in my arms all night, and Collin held Senya. As I was lying in bed, I was wondering why we do this…why Collin and I always choose the path that is inevitably less easy, less comfortable, less normal. I was questioning my decision making skills and my wisdom as a mom.


And then.


After a taxi and a boat ride the next morning…


We arrived to Railay Beach.


This beach is amazing. It has gem-colored water, a wide, sandy beach with lots of space to play. It’s surrounded by large, limestone cliffs and tropical jungle. The ocean has a silky, soft sandy bottom, and the water is shallow, calm, and bath-temperature. It’s perfect for our family.


Senya wears her awesome shark floaty vest (my friend Katie is a genius for introducing me to this kind of floaty suit for kids that makes them entirely water-independent) and can splash and run and swim in the water like it’s her own, personal ocean. Junes floats around in her floaty or crawls at the waters’ edge. She plays in the white, soft sand. The sun is warm and strong. Our private cottage is clean and comfortable with every amenity we could want. And as Senya observed on her own, “it’s just footsteps to the beach. Like no stairs or anything.”

This is awesome. It’s a life highlight. A dream come true. And today is just the beginning of a 9 day stretch here.


And this is why, I remember again and again in my life with one Collin Russell Palkovitz, we seldom choose the easier path. It’s because the path with one or two giant spiders along the way may lead to a tropical paradise. A day full of fits accidentally making a plane-full of enemies is worth limestone cliffs that plunge into tropical waters. It’s worth hearing your daughter cheer again and again in the water “this is the BEST time I’ve EVER had!!! This is AMAZING!!!!”


In other news, our Bangkok week last week was also really fun. We got to see Shane a couple of days, chase large monitor lizards that were wandering in a park, paddle in swan boats across a pond, have ice cream every day, and swim in the pool for hours at a time.


So far, so good, Thailand.


Posted in family, personal reflection, travel | 10 Comments

The Quest for the Funarium

Today I woke up a tad nervous. Here we were in Bangkok with a week sprawled out in front of us during which Collin would be working all day every day. I started thinking, “I’ve got two tiny pals, and I want to do more than just bide our time swimming in the hotel pool and playing on the hotel playground.” Sure, that stuff is fun, but I’d like it to be what we’re choosing to do; I don’t want to feel like it’s our fishbowl of activities that we can handle.

So, today was a day of venturing. First, Sen and I headed to Starbucks at 0’dark thirty. She woke up at 4:30 am and by 5:50, I realized that our day had begun. So, we threw on some clothes and got some drinks. Then we headed to a city park.


Collin and Junes met us there; Collin showed up just in time to witness his little Sen chasing rainbows.



We walked back to the hotel by way of a fruit stand. We put the girls down for naps, Collin went to work, and I researched what Sen, Junes, and I were going to do for the day.

When they awoke, I informed them that we were going to the Funarium. Yes, like a planetarium but instead it’s a Funarium. They were pumped.


I googled the place and then took a screen shot of it on my iphone. I had the phone number and the address. I was set.


I gave the cab driver the address: 111 Sukumvit 33 Soi, Bangkok, Thailand.


About ten minutes in, I had this feeling that we weren’t actually headed in the right direction. It felt like we were headed really far outside of town. So, I tried to use my Thai cell phone to call the number. It didn’t work. I asked the driver to call it for me because I was sure I was doing something wrong.

He assured me that he knew where he was going and that the phone call was unnecessary.

We arrived at 111th street about an hour later after fighting our way through stand still traffic.

There was definitely no Funarium at that address.

So, I asked him to try 33rd street.

About another hour later, we arrived to another non-Funarium address.

Finally, he called the phone number, and they told us that they had changed addresses. The Funarium is on 26th street now, in case you’re ever in Bangkok with a 31/2 year old who is hell bent on finding it (despite your low-moment attempt about 2 hours in when you may try bribing her with ice cream to forego the funarium).

About two and half hours later, we finally found it. Thank God it actually was fun. Sen and Junes were troopers, and they deserved all the fun that they had there.



We played and played and ate dinner and then took a cab back to our hotel. I felt victorious! It’s so exhilarating to feel like we can do this. Sure, we got lost for a while. But I won’t make those same mistakes again, and our experience at the Funarium was so worth it all. I’m sure I’ll make new mistakes, but I’ll have even more confidence by then that it really does all work out in the end.


It’s so empowering to travel my way around a busy, huge city with my two tiny pals where no one really speaks my language and vice versa.

I learned today that an address that reads 111 Sukumvit 33 Soi, Bangkok, Thailand is actually described to the driver as “Sukumvit 33.” Forget everything else in there.

So, when I gave the driver the address “111 Sukumvit 33 Soi” he took us up to 111th street, when in fact, we should’ve been going to 33rd street. But really, it wasn’t the right address at all because that info was outdated. So, the ultimate lesson is: learn how to use my Thai cell phone. Call the destination. Put them on the phone with the taxi driver.


But really what I learned today is: it’s an adventure. And people are just people wherever you go. And usually, there are enough kind souls along the way that you’ll get the help you need to eventually get where you’re trying to go.

Posted in family, personal reflection, travel | 14 Comments

Senya and Juniper in Thailand

Having Senya and Juniper along for this trip is extremely fun. I wasn’t sure what it would be like to have Senya in a developing country. Junes, I knew, would be fine. She’s so laid back, friendly, and small enough that we define her world just as much or more than her environment does.


Senya isn’t quite as laid back. She’s got a lot of strong opinions, is very sensitive to her environment, shy, and completely offended by bad smells and overly friendly people. I wasn’t sure how those traits were going to translate to this kind of travel.

Senya with groceries

So far, she and Juniper both seem to just be completely fine with the cultural differences. They don’t seem at all shocked or overstimulated by the city traffic, the different smells, the pervasive noise of the city on the streets. They both seem to be just enjoying the trip as much as we are. By day, we have a sweet, little routine going.


So there’s been a lot of this:




And there’s also a little playground with dubious safety standards, but still. It’s a good time.



By night, we look for fun experiences to have together.


I’m so happy to report that we got to visit a floating market last night. Amphawa, a tiny town about 70 kilometers outside of the city (an hour and a half by taxi), holds its floating market during the evenings on the weekend. When I suggested this as our plan b for a fun night out (our plan a was not possible by taxi due to the protesters), I didn’t realize that it would be quite that distance.

Fortunately, Sen is starting to adapt to what it’s like to travel in a developing country. She was fine with the first half of the Thai version of “The Prince of Egypt” on repeat for a good hour. Then she watched “Tangled” without any sound. She’s learning to roll with it.

Once we arrived (about two hours later) we went out on our own little boat to have a tour of the market from the water. We also got to see the fireflies sparkling in the trees once it was dark.



We then ordered three vegetarian Pad Thai entrees cooked over an open flame on a boat. All for the low, low price of 90 baht ($3.00). A regular drip coffee (Venti) at Starbucks in Sukumvit costs almost twice that.


It was a magical night, really, and it made my heart full to see these little people that I love so much taking it all in. I wonder sometimes what their making of it all, how it’s becoming part of their psyches and shaping their reality. I feel incredibly grateful to be here and with these people that I love so much.


We still have had the occasional rough patch with defiance and a battle of the wills (name(s) omitted deliberately to preserve a pretense of anonymity), but such trials are related to this phase of life and aren’t specific to being in a developing country. In fact, it’s liberating to get out and do this and see that we CAN still travel with small children. And while it’s different than our travels used to be when we were just the two of us, it’s wonderful and rich in its own rite.


Posted in family, travel | 9 Comments

Live from Bangkok, it’s Saturday morning!

Collin gave me the gift of a few hours to myself to roam Sukumvit (the neighborhood of Bangkok where we are staying). Sukumvit is the perfect little place for us. It’s quieter than Lumpini or the other parts of the city that are pulsing with nightlife. We have everything we need, though, and more.



Our serviced apartment is located inside one of these tall pink buildings (below). It’s a hotel room in the sense that every morning someone cleans it for us and gives us all the basics that we need; it’s an apartment in the sense that we have a kitchenette and a washing machine. It’s a nice combo, if you ask me.

president park hotel

So back to my morning out–I knew exactly what I wanted to do with at least one of my hours: get a traditional Thai massage. After a 30+ hour journey from my parents’ house in Middletown, Delaware to Bangkok, Thailand, I was ready to be pampered. The traditional Thai massage did not disappoint me.


Our little neighborhood here is pretty family friendly, so I wasn’t too concerned with selecting my spa. I’ve heard stories of people going for a massage in Bangkok and getting something a little different than expected. So, just to be sure, I chose a really nice-looking spa that boasted all of their treatments and explained them in detail in the brochure.

inside refresh24 spa

For a mere 350 baht (approximately $12.00), I got a full hour massage. The massage included “passive yoga” which means that the massage therapist put me in all kinds of yoga positions and then massaged me. It felt amazing. It was like an incredible hour long stretch combined with a massage. Afterward, I felt so incredibly relaxed. This is me sipping my lemongrass-infused water at the end.

feeling good again

Then I found my way to a little tea house. It was tucked away a tad off the street, but I saw it’s cute pink storefront peeking out beckoning me to come have a tea party for one.

cute pink tea house

I probably wouldn’t ever go out for a tea party for one back in Arkansas or on the east coast. But this morning, it was just what I wanted to do.

tea party

Now I’m back to our tidy little abode and the kids are napping while Collin reads our Lonely Planet guide to find something fun to do when they wake up.


In other news, there’s a revolution going on here. I knew that, but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. I’m still trying to piece it all together, but the basics are that there are protesters who are very unhappy with the current Prime Minister and the majority party dominating the government.


Tomorrow the protesters plan on marching through these city streets encouraging people to join them. On the 13th (one week from tomorrow) they will shut down the city for at least three days and perhaps up to twenty (per the Bangkok Post). We plan to leave the city on the 11th to head either north to Chiang Mai (a hip city full of art and amazing cuisine) or down south to the islands. Either way, it should be fun!


For this week, I’m enjoying the comfort of getting the kids back into a routine, albeit a new one in a new (to them) land. We are still dealing with jetlag (little heads that pop off the pillow at 1:00 am ready to party and want to sleep all day long), but the routine is helping with that too.

jet lagged sensai

Both Senya and Juniper are doing exceptionally well here. They seem happy and not overwhelmed at the cultural difference. They are little celebrities, though, and everyone smiles at them. Senya is a bit shy, so she sometimes doesn’t enjoy the attention. Junes eats it up like it’s her mealtime.


Bugs and me in a taxi

I miss Zuri; everytime we get back to our little apartment, I half expect her to be waiting and guiltily trying to snuggle me into oblivion about her napping whereabouts (always on some forbidden piece of furniture). I know she’s in good care with my parents, though.


That’s the update for now~

Posted in family, personal reflection | 10 Comments

my clean(ish) food journey continues (with recipes!)

I haven’t posted in too long. I haven’t slept more than 3 consecutive hours in too long too. There is a correlation there; I’m sure.

So what am I eating these days? Lots of people wonder what I DO eat when they find out that I’m not eating gluten, dairy, or meat.

I am eating whole plant-based foods as the majority of my diet. This means that I consume LOTS of vegetables and fruits. So much that the check out people at the grocery store pretty much cringe when they see me in their line…what with all those PLUs they need to consult from that plastic binder and all that.

So, I eat all plants. I guess some would call that a vegan. Though, I eat honey. So, no dice on the vegan title. Also, the label “vegan” conjures up a lot more conceptually than just dietary habits in my opinion. So, I think I will just say that I eat food made from plants.

Taco Tuesday is a standing thing in our family now. We use tempeh instead of meat and then change up the toppings week by week to keep it interesting. Last week I made tofu sour cream and vegan melty white cheeze; this week I made black bean and corn salsa.

I never feel deprived; in fact, I think because my body is getting everything it needs, I feel really great. For example, I’m the only one in our little family who somehow didn’t get terribly sick this past month. Also, I’m averaging about 5 hours of broken sleep a night and feeling fine. Go team plant foods!

Some upcoming new changes in our family dietary habits are that Senya will now be consuming only milk and eggs obtained straight from a local, small farm.  It’s called Summer Kitchen Farms, and they sell raw milk and eggs and all kinds of non vegetarian food, too. She seems healthier already, and I don’t have guilty conscience about contributing to all those dead baby boy chicks.

The modifications that have kept me from feeling deprived and abandoning the wagon for fluffy loaves of white bread or dollops of cream or whatever it is I crave when feeling too restricted…are as follows:


  • coffee every morning
  • one or two (alcoholic but gluten free) drinks one or two nights a week
  • incorporating a few gluten free, dairy free items that substitute for their wheat or non-vegan counterparts (gluten free tortillas on taco Tuesday, making things from tofu that satisfy that need for creaminess)
  • having treats that meet the criteria (I made a pumpkin pie last week,  chocolate pudding, and raw chocolate truffles over the past month or so).


Tips from my journey so far:

Variety is KEY. If I get bored eating the same thing again and again (I was in a protein shake rut for a while) then I’m going to feel restricted and freak out. I love trying new foods from the produce aisle.

Finding new recipes and learning how to use new foods or create new foods from scratch has been both helpful (so I know what to do with those new thing I just bought from the produce aisle) and fun.

Staying stocked is crucial. If I open my fridge and see an assortment of fruits and vegetables or snacks/meals that meet my dietary criteria, I’m going to more often than not satiate that hunger AND that appetite with healthful foods. If I don’t have options, I’m going to go into survival/freak out mode and eat whatever is easy or tasty and available (cereal, snack foods, etc).

Reading about the healing and nutritional properties of foods has kept me informed and interested in what I’m putting into my body. Raising my awareness about food makes it so that I am mindful more often about my food choices.

Do what you can. Don’t stress if it feels like not much. Just keep trying and be patient with yourself. 


Here are a few excerpts from my food life (aka: recipes):


Caramelized Fennel

Take anywhere from 1-4 fennel bulbs, trim off the fronds (save a few for flavoring) and trim of a little of the bottom part. Discard or trim off any less than perfect part of the bulb.

Quarter the fennel bulbs.

Take anywhere from 1-4 Tbs of extra virgin coconut oil and heat in a big pot.

Braise fennel bulbs on medium high heat until a little golden or brown. Then cover the pot, turn the heat down to medium low or low (depending on whether you can attend to it at all or not…mine stays on low because I have little pals who wouldn’t love it if I stirred a pot for 45 minutes straight). Stir whenever you remember over the course of anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes (longer will result in a softer bulb…I prefer mine super soft but they’re good with a little more tug and crunch too).

Either eat solo with a few of the feathery fennel fronds for flavor or serve over brown rice or quinoa or something. Delicious.


The Best Frozen Margarita Ever in the Whole, Wide World

Here’s one of those aforementioned modifications, and it is amazing. Hitherto I’ve always thought of myself as a shaken drink kinda girl when it comes to cocktails (and typically have only really gone for quality red wine or microbrew beer) but upon ownership of a vitamix, we decided to try our hand at a few homemade frozen cocktails.

The limeade is the only part that takes a bit of work, but if you like perfection it’s worth it. (Tip: we make the limemade base in a large quantity and then keep it frozen in our fridge for future use. If you have the limemade base ready, then the prep is a snap).


Limeade Base:

2 1/2 cups of filtered water

1 1/4 cups of fine raw cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 1/4 cups fresh (don’t skimp here; fresh is best) lime juice

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. If you’ve got time, let it cool. If you’re making the drink all at once, don’t worry about it. Add lime zest and juice and pour into a jar. Keeps in fridge for 3 days; keeps in freezer for a few weeks at least).

Frozen Margarita

12 ounces of limeade base (if you made it previously and froze it, you’re in luck. Use it in as much of a frozen state as you can. If it’s not frozen, no problem. Just use it as is.).

2/3 cup silver tequila (Milagro is the brand of choice for us. Personally, I like it better than Patron).

1/2 cup Grand Marnier

3 cups ice cubes

limes for garnish if you’re into that sort of thing

salt for the rim if that tickles your fancy

If you have a strong and powerful blender such as the vita mix, then throw everything in there and blend until it looks almost frothy. I always think, “shoot, I blended it too long because it looks melty,” but it never is.

If you have another kind of blender, I’m guessing it’s the same dealo. You may need to work it in several batches to get the ice super smooth. I’m not sure. I can only guarantee perfection with a vitamix.


Lentil Paté

1 cup lentils (we prefer red, but you can use brown or green)

2 cups of filtered water

1 cup walnut pieces

olive oil

1-2 onion(s)


1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper

juice of 1/2 a lemon


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the lentils and place them and the 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast walnut pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven for 12 minutes.

Sauté onions in olive oil until translucent. Press one or more garlic cloves and add that. Sauté for another minute or two.

Place everything in a vitamix or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add olive oil if needed to make it a nice, smooth consistency. It should be thick, though.


Eat as you would a dip or spread.





Posted in behavior change, health | 7 Comments