service ’17

As we approach the end of 2016, a year that many observe as a seemingly never ending string of tragedies and disappointments (at least from a domestic and world view), I look inward with mostly gratitude, contentment and joy. As you may remember, I began recording these ruminations of mine in time with our big move from Chicago to a little hippie town in the mountains of Colorado. Though it was with a great amount of excitement that we arrived, I was still very much unsettled in my roles as a wife and a mother. Looking back on those times, it’s hard to believe our little family is thriving today. And yet, here we are. In those darker times, it was an exploration of both Buddhism and, more deeply, yoga that helped me find my way back to myself. I’ve made it my personal mission these last four years to put self-care at the forefront of my priority list and it has paid off in a big way. I’ve certainly battled my way through some emotional hiccups along the way, but this year in particular has found me feeling more settled and less anxious than I ever remember feeling in my life. 

For this reason, I’m determined it’s time to nourish others with some of the same passion I’ve been nourishing myself. Parts of me that were broken have healed in these last four years, and I’m ready to give. For starters, I’m finally giving in to my family. Instead of seeing my children as burdensome, freedom-killers, I now see them for who they really are: my purpose and my legacy. In addition, while they say there’s no love like a mother’s, I can tell you there’s no love like the love I feel from my little ones. Maybe it took getting to the ages (5 and 6) we’re at now, but I’ve gone from being needed by my children to being truly loved by them and it feels. so. good. So good, in fact, that I really want to grow our little community. We are going to try for a third baby for a short while, but it’s alright if it doesn’t happen. We can start a dog rescue! Because I’ve mastered the art of making time just for me outside the home, why not fill our home with as much chaos and love as possible?!

I’d also like to start giving more to the larger community. Giving time will be an option in the future, but it just isn’t right now. Instead we are setting up a “kindness account” that both Sean and I will use as we see fit to make donations of money or gifts to people and causes that humble us. I’m personally interested in helping other busy mothers enjoy time with themselves the way that I’ve been able to. It would also be wonderful to help fund someone else’s creative plans for community improvement. In Kauai, the Humane Society allows visitors to take out a dog for the day so you have a companion on the trails and on the beach. I wonder if they have that here????More research required. 

Of course I have the same idealistic goals as I do every year- cut back on sugar, exercise more, purge my closets and drawers. But this year I’m really focusing on service to others, while still working in a healthy amount of self-care. Self-care in the form of subscription boxes!!! Did you know there are monthly boxes with everything from Korean beauty products to craft cocktail ingredients? Have I been living under a rock??? 

Here’s to all of my nearest and dearest as you kick off 2017 in your own special or not-so-special ways. 



the most wonderful time of the year

It’s been quite a bit since I’ve put fingers to keyboard and it’s probably for the best. Over a month ago my fellow Americans elected a new President, a man who I fundamentally opposed. I was sad to learn that so many people in this country are so disenchanted with their current lives and their future prospects that they were willing to put their own inner kindness and compassion toward others aside in support of something (hopefully) new, something (hopefully) better. A month ago I was blinded by the confusion, frustration and anger I felt toward so many who made that choice. So I asked around a little to friends and family members I care for to (hopefully) understand. Turns out it’s pretty easy to vote your conscience when everything else in your life is pretty much awesome – when your healthcare is affordable, when fighting for your country isn’t your best option at an opportunity or an education, when you aren’t living paycheck to paycheck, when your hourly job isn’t at risk of moving overseas or to an illegal immigrant, when you don’t live in a neighborhood where not having a gun isn’t even an option.

Now, that all being said, there are a lot of Trump voters out there who are just as bigoted and ignorant as Trump often presents and Tweets himself to be. A lot. And to them I say, fuck you. But even more importantly, to those of you on the other side who refuse to stand by idly and watch as our civil and social liberties grow more and more at risk, I support you. There are many like me, who, for the sake of their sanity and their children, aren’t going to fight as strongly as their hearts feel, but I know there are those of you who are out actually fighting every day for equal rights and opportunities for all of humankind – not just for white, straight, male, Christian, American citizens. And to you I say, thank you for doing the work that I am just too selfish and scared to do myself. I offer you my encouragement and my money. Keep fighting the good fight.

Perhaps, as some have suggested, we needed our liberal bubble to burst. The sheer awe of what has happened with this election cycle should require every last one of us to do some real soul-searching and ask ourselves if we are really as open-minded as we thought we were. Are we willing to turn toward our Trump-supporting neighbors (and oh yes, they are in fact on every fucking block) and try to see through the lens of their lives for a moment? Is there a better time than now? It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year – the most wonderful time for a kind word, for a $20 drop into the red Salvation Army collection bucket, for donating a few hours at the local homeless shelter, for welcoming family into your home, for creating new traditions with your lovers and children, for putting up a real Christmas tree (or two), for saying a prayer for the Syrian refugees, and certainly for remembering that we are all human. One election does not change that simple fact, nor does it change the fact that every day every one of us has a choice to help or to hurt another. Regardless of how you voted (or didn’t), that is really the only choice that matters.

Happy holidays, with love.

we are one

Today’s post might come across as being less thematic or organized than they typically are, but only because I have a lot of seemingly disconnected thoughts running through my head these last couple of days. So where do I begin? For starters, I’m no less in love with this place than I was four days ago. I’m actually on a bit of a mission now to meet as many locals (both natives and expats) as I can and ask them as many questions as possible to get a genuine feel for what living here might be like. Sean and I have for the past year or so been trying to wrap our heads around our retirement plan. Neither of us plans to work within the confines of corporate America much longer than getting our kids into college and out into the world; if we end up keeping our family the same size it is now, this plan will conveniently time itself with the payoff of our house as well. In order to execute this plan successfully from a financial perspective, we know that a relocation to another country may be necessary. And in many ways, welcomed. If I could make it happen in my current remote sales position, I wouldn’t be opposed to moving our family down here sooner than later. Giving them unique international exposure at such a young age, and at a qualified Montessori or Waldorf school here in Costa Rica wouldn’t be the worst thing we could do for them. At this point, however, I’m already pushing the boundaries of my company’s comfort zone as it relates to my location. To one of my bosses who I know will be reading this, though, I offer you these facts: the internet quality is high, the time zone is the same, and you’d have free lodging any time you wish in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Esta bien? 🙂

So, back to my investigative research on living here. Two of the tours I’ve been on so far were guided by a local Tico named Alan (natively, Rio). He runs one of the primary tour companies here in Nosara and because it’s the low season here, both of my tours were near-private opportunities for me to ask a million questions about the area and its culture. Alan was an absolute wealth of information on everything from the medicinal properties of the local flora (his grand-father is one of the community elders and nearly shamanic in reputation), to the governmental corruption (a factor to some degree in all countries) affecting things like road conditions, to the pros and cons of owning real estate in the various sections of Nosara. Surprisingly when I asked him if the natives felt overrun and resentful of the expat growth in this area, he said no. In addition to bringing the wealth of tourism to this small community, Westerners, he said, have also added incredible value in teaching them about environmentally friendly practices, thereby helping them protect and preserve the land they hold dear. Alan, along with all of the other locals I have met so far, have engaged me with nothing but warmth and kindness. He encouraged me to seriously consider relocating our life here, saying, “You just bring your beautiful family down here and I’ll show you everything you need to know.”

While I certainly appreciate his confidence, I know that as an American I’m used to certain amenities. I may be more adventurous than some, but I still take things like security and an endless supply of hot water for granted. So that’s why I needed to and still need to spend a significant amount of time talking to the Americans who’ve actually up and left their nice cars, paved roads and health insurance for a life here. For that reason I was compelled to say yes when a fellow Coloradan on my waterfall hike tour invited me to a kirtan chanting session (If you’re from Colorado and you practice yoga, you’ve probably done it or have heard of it; if you’re from the Midwest and just Googled it, you’re definitely rolling your eyes right now) with some local expats. In the zen state I’ve found myself on since I got here, I thought nothing of climbing into a stranger’s truck last night with three other strangers, only to head straight up a mountain in the remote jungle to yet another  stranger’s house to chant. Did anyone else see the movie Turistas and is now wondering how I made it back with all of my organs in tact and properly stored inside of my own body? As if I’m not painting enough of a horror movie-worthy picture just in time for Halloween, now imagine the part where the car full of me and the strangers blows a tire…at dusk, in the rain. How do I appropriately convey that this all happened without any sense of fear or worry on my part? The sense of peace and calm in this community is difficult to put into words. It took all of three minutes for a local man to pull over (with his kids waiting in the truck) and help us out. We had a tire, but no tire jack. This man had a tire jack and an air compressor. And sure, as our driver suggested, he probably knew she’d give him some cash for his time, but who really cares? People here earn money doing just about everything and anything, and I for one was more than supportive of helping to boost the local economy in this way! Not to mention being in any undeveloped country has always made me realize how much excess (and expectation of excess) we have in the United States. My tendency is always to over-tip and to avoid bartering, even when it’s not what the culture dictates. It just feels like the right thing for someone in my position to do. In the end, we made it up the mountain, we ate, we chanted, and I opened myself up to new people and new experiences.

If ever a place existed where people from all different cultures, religions, continents and lifestyles existed, this would be it. All of them, minus the assholes.

a spiritual experience

Today was my second full day in Nosara, where, despite all manner of round-the-clock bird and monkey calls, it’s impossible for me not to sleep like the dead. I assumed like any other vacation away from the kids that I’d maintain the same 6am internal alarm clock my son has cursed me with for the last six years (notice how I specifically reference Kellan here – if it were up to Kathryn we’d all be sleeping until 9am every day…very soon I sense we’ll be taking many mother/daughter trips to all corners of the world and sleeping our faces off in every last damn one of them). But not here, not in this place that feels to me as if it’s producing actual joy from every leaf, wave and creature I encounter.

Not only do I sleep better than I can remember ever sleeping before, but I have none of my usual fear of all tropical creatures – remember the gecko in my room in Bali that caused me days of anxiety, albeit one of my more entertaining blog posts? That experience, along with last year’s girls’ trip to Tulum fraught with scorpions, snakes, lizards, behemoth moths and a bat in our room have taught me well.

Upon check-in:

Me: “Okay, Adrian, let’s have a serious conversation about what sort of things might scare me around here.”

Adrian: “Um, okay….”

Me: “What do you got? Snakes? Lizards?”

Adrian: “No, we don’t really have anything like that here. You know what a gecko is?”

Me: (fuuuuuuuuuck) “Mmmmmhmmmm”

Adrian: “They’re super tiny (makes hand gesture to show me something that is maybe 2 inches long).”

Me: (large wave of relief washes over) “Oh, okay, no problem”

Adrian: “Yeah, that’s about it.”

Well guess what? Adrian is a motherfucking liar. Yes, there are tiny geckos. There are also giant lizards, bright red poisonous crabs and an unnaturally fast-moving snake that nearly slithered right over my feet on my way to get a massage today. But here’s the crazy thing – I’ve barely flinched at the sight of any of them. My massage therapist nearly came out of her skin today (no pun intended) when I said, “oh, there’s a snake”, as casually as if I’d just noted the color of the sidewalk. For those of you who’ve been witness to my irrational fear of anything that lacks fur (exception: mice) and moves with what I would call reckless abandon, you know what a big deal this is. I have no explanation for this phenomenon other than to tell you that I feel like this is my other home. Every new sight is incredible, yes, but also strangely familiar. I cannot stop smiling. I am by no means fluent in Spanish, but I seem to have retained considerably more vocabulary and grammar than my peers who took the same number of classes in highschool and I’ve been told in multiple Spanish-speaking countries now that my accent sounds legit. Is this all just coincidence or is there really something more spiritual happening here for me in Costa Rica?

For now, I’m just going with the flow. I acknowledge that my experience here is very limited at this point and that I’m far from living the local life and the lack of Western amenities that must entail, but another thing I’ve learned is this: the extensive expat community that I read so much about when I was researching Nosara consists not just of Americans, which I originally assumed, but of people from all over the world – Europe, Australia, Canada, India, South America. Again, is this really a coincidence, or is there a more powerful force at work here – a unique gathering of seekers, perhaps?  I did learn that this particular area of Costa Rica is one of the world’s rare Blue Zones where people live considerably longer than in other parts of the world. If the spirit and joy I feel at the cellular level here isn’t fleeting after all, then I can’t say I’m surprised.

nosara, costa rica

Nosara. Also now known as my own personal slice of heaven. I arrived just over 24 hours ago and I am already seeking out realtors. You might be wondering how I even chose this place out of the infinite options available to me, seeing as most people who’ve been to Costa Rica on vacation have never even heard of it. It is not a resort town by any stretch of the imagination – it is essentially a coastal wildlife preserve on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula with a bunch of surf shops and a few high-end hippie bungalows. It’s where jungle meets pristine beach. It’s an area where hundreds of thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles come to nest. It’s a place where, in part due to the turtle migration, commercial development is banned within so many meters of the beach. Though I can’t quite recall my Google search terms, I discovered Nosara some year or so ago on the web. All I remember is reading about its focus on ecosystem preservation, its plethora of yoga schools and studios and its well-established expat community. It basically sounded like Boulder, Colorado with a Latin tropical flair, so after biting off more than I could chew with my poorly planned trip to Vietnam, it sounded just perfect.

And so far, it is. My problem with most beach destinations that Americans generally flock to is that they are flat. Think Florida, parts of Mexico and the majority of the islands in the Caribbean. Sure I love a nice clear, turquoise surf as much as the next person, but I also need terrain – rolling hills, mountains and valleys. That’s why for me Hawaii has always been the cat’s pajamas – lush, green volcanic mountains with dramatic cliffs overlooking the deep blue sea that is at times filled with what I believe is the animal kingdom’s most impressive member – the Humpback whale. There’s a reason they filmed Jurassic Park there. That’s exactly what Hawaii looks like and it is, without a doubt, nature perfected. On the other hand, it’s also one of the United States and in the middle of nowhere, making it one of the most expensive places on Earth. Looking over the Costa Rican landscape from my plane filled me with the same feeling I get flying into Maui except with the very real thought that, “this could be my home one day.” I landed at the relatively small Liberia airport and because this is the low tourist season, flew right through customs and quickly found my way to the Hertz rental location. My perma-grin took a temporary hiatus during the car rental process as I was firmly informed that my estimated $300 weekly rental was in fact going to cost me $600 due to vaguely-disclosed, mandatory insurance coverage, but it quickly returned on the 2+ hour drive to Nosara. Another reason Hawaii is so appealing when you compare it to other islands and 3rd world tropical destinations is that, because it is one of the 50 states, its standards for things like garbage collection and road maintenance are the same as they are in any of the other 49. Bali, on the other hand, while uniquely beautiful in so many ways, has poorly maintained roads, the sides of which you often find piled with trash. There are of course monkeys picking through it instead of rats and mice, but it’s still a mostly unpleasant scene. For the first hour of my drive through Costa Rica, I kept thinking to myself how beautiful the landscape is as I drove around one winding road after another, similar to at least a few places I’ve traveled to, but I couldn’t put my finger on what decidedly made this one different. Then it dawned on me – Costa Rica is clean. Not only are the ditches free of the trash you see in so many 3rd world countries, but even when you drive through the poorest of towns and villages with mostly aging buildings and infrastructure, the area around them is well-maintained. The homes, no matter how humble in stature, are extremely tidy and well-manicured. Of course I’m speaking only of the small portion of Costa Rica I’ve driven through so far, but I believe it’s enough to know that most “Ticos” take a great deal of pride in their own environment as well as the environment as a whole.

90% of the kilometers from Liberia to Nosara is newly paved two-lane highway. Ah, but there’s that last 10% – about 24km of gravel and potholes that takes about an hour to navigate. Once you get here, you don’t leave, unless it’s on a motorbike or a quad and it’s only a mile or two. But why would you want to? I am staying at the Harmony Hotel – one of the upscale, jars-of-local-organic-toasted-cashews-in-the-room places. I have a private outdoor shower and hammock. For when it rains (it definitely rains in October), I have a covered outdoor chaise lounge with its own ceiling fan in case I get a little too warm while reading my latest feminist memoir. There is a lovely pool and a yoga studio – excuse me, a “healing center” – and a juice bar. A real bar serving up blended homemade ginger-infused vodka concoctions (I’m on my third as I type this) and a sandy, jungle-y pathway to what is seriously the best beach I have ever seen. Which explains why two months ago you’d have found as many as 300 surfers in the water at any given time. But now that it’s low season, it belongs only to me and the 11 other people staying at the Harmony Hotel this week. I took my first surfing lesson today. It went about as expected – I fell and I fell and I fell and I fell. And I got up a few times. I’ll say this – there’s a reason you don’t see any overweight surfers. Runners, yes. Cyclists, yes. Baseball players, yes. Football players, yes (yeah, I’m talking to you Ben Roethlisberger). Surfers, no. In order to create the muscle memory needed to even get up on the board, you need a strict workout diet of burpees and chaturangas. That’s even before the art of balance and navigation of the board come into play. Because Playa Guiones (that’s the incredible beach I currently own) is so perfectly free of rocks, shells and coral, I still had a ton of fun. The water is warm and the waves are inviting.

I then took my first nap in years. Years.

Shortly after I woke up I was picked up by my tour guide, Alan (real name, Rio), to go see this whole turtle nesting process that everyone talks about down here. The arribada, it’s called in Spanish, or “the arrival.” Once a month on average, usually in line with the lunar cycle, hundreds upon hundreds of sea turtles come on shore here to nest and lay their eggs. Tonight I was witness to this incredible natural phenomenon. The beach where all of this hoopla takes place is maybe 5-10km north of where I’m at – it’s a black sand beach, which the turtles prefer because it makes it that much darker (they come onshore at night). Since white or bright light scares the mama turtles, the guides carry around special red lights so that we can see what’s going on without freaking them out. The female turtle comes onshore at high tide, usually at night, and digs and digs and digs with her back fins (fins?) until she has a hole that’s about a foot deep. She then props herself over the hole and starts dropping eggs that look like ping-pong balls. About 100 of them. As I watched one mama finish up this mass birthing ritual, I said to the all-male group, “Wow, she must feel SO GOOD now.” Especially since those eggs have been inside of her growing and growing for the last 4-5 months. About 100 of them. By the time we left, it had gotten considerably darker and the tide considerably higher so there were turtles everywhere- so many that it was important to stay very close to my guide with the red light so as not to step on one or, more importantly, get in the way of her getting 100 eggs out of her body.

Well, it’s late here and I don’t want to miss a minute of my second night’s sleep. All 10 blissful hours of it. Ah, la pura vida.



bad student

Soloventure 2016 is upon me. I skipped out on skipping out alone last year because of a not-so-shitty 2-week family trip to Italy instead, and as some of you may recall my 2014 journey to Vietnam didn’t quite feed my soul the way I’d hoped it would. Which brings us to now, and I’m sitting in the Houston airport waiting to board my flight to Liberia, Costa Rica, where 8 much-anticipated and well-planned days of enlightenment and joy await me. The lift on the language barrier alone should eliminate most of the anxiety that plagued me in Vietnam. If not, I have exactly 27 Xanax. This trip also feels about two years overdue in part because the last two weeks of work have felt like two years.

These trips out into the world alone are necessary in no small part so that I can take back control over what often feels like a life built solely on obligation and responsibilities. Now that I have a student in the house, there are even more responsibilities (i.e. more paperwork, more being on time, more remembering to put fucking snacks in the backpack) put on us, the parents and specifically on me, the mother – you know, the default parent. The one with not only the most guilt (or is it just the most anxiety?), but also the only one who gets the text from the school requesting an updated vaccination record. Despite being a very engaged and supportive father and husband (oh, hey babe! thanks again for taking over while I sit here blissfully alone and blogging con mi mimosa!), Sean would have to put out a local news bulletin announcing my sudden and confirmed death before anyone in a care-giving role ever called, texted or emailed him first about one of our kids. Therein lies both the empowerment and the burden that every mother tries to square on a daily basis. At some point the greatness in being “the one” stops feeling so great and it instead starts to feel like a tired and annoying sandwich on the wrong kind of bread with the crusts still on. WITH THE CRUSTS STILL ON – OH, THE OUTRAGE!!

Did I mention we are thinking about having another baby??? Wait, whaaat?!!! Motherhood makes me so strung out and wrung out that I need to go away for a minimum of one week each year and yet I want to add even more stress to my plate in the form of a literal shit storm? Well, three kids probably equates to two weeks away each year, right, honey? Who knows what will happen, my eggs aren’t spring chickens at the ripe old age of 38, and maybe we’ll just adopt seven Syrian orphans instead, but one thing is for sure – somehow amid the chaos of our lives, I long for those sweet, innocent days of infancy and I have a major case of the kindergarten blues.

We are about 6 weeks in and I just got my first (of many, I’m sure) email from Kellan’s teacher confirming once more his unfailing insistence on doing things his way, come hell or high water. In the way that most of us think of a “good student” as someone who listens attentively, takes instruction beautifully and, above all, conforms, Kellan is not one of those. But I was. When it came to student achie vement, I sought praise from every last one of my teachers and professors and while I may not have been the very smartest in the class, I maintained mostly A’s all through school and I never colored outside of the lines, unless of course the teacher told me to. I was a conformist. The interesting thing is that as I’ve gotten older, I become more and more like Kellan every day. I often think nowadays one of my strongest traits is my utter disregard for social and professional protocols. Maybe it’s because I spent the first quarter century of my life trying to live up to the expectations of authority that I now find real joy in doing the opposite of what is “expected.”

I go to foreign countries without my family because it makes me feel good about myself. I spend my remaining precious free time how, where and with whom I want and not how, where and with whom I am expected to. I say no to things, people and places all the time. Sometimes I say no to my favorite people because the timing is wrong for me. On the other hand, sometimes I speak up and push my opinions on controversial topics in or outside of the workplace because it suits me. Sometimes my peers and superiors would prefer I stay quiet. In this way, I have learned how to be a bad student. Perhaps my own modeling is teaching my son how to be a bad student. My way, not their way. Of course I want my children to thrive in all of life’s settings, but I am also more confident and centered at this point in my life, doing things mostly my way, than at any other point in my life. Yet another conundrum facing this mother.





As much as I sometimes think that I’ve been raised into a beautifully open-minded and non-judgmental human being, the truth is not as inspiring. The truth is that I pick and choose whose appearances, circumstances and actions to judge. If you ask one of my closest friends whether or not I’m judgmental, I would guess (and hope!) the response would be something like, “Marissa? Hell no, that woman will help me justify any and all choices and then ask me if I’d like her help burying the body.” The point is, if I’ve known you at all and decided that your intentions are good and that you are merely a victim of unfortunate circumstances, I will stand by you and help you see that you are simply doing the best you can in this life. Admittedly I used to gossip about people, including friends, family members, coworkers and acquaintances…a lot. I’m not saying I never talk about people behind their backs anymore, but I do it a lot less now. When I know I’m sharing information that isn’t mine to share or when I find myself criticizing someone who isn’t there to defend themselves, I feel shameful. It’s like I can literally feel the bad karma I just earned about to strike me at any moment. But again, this yucky feeling I get only applies when I feel that I’m betraying someone I know. I still find myself secretly or not-so-secretly judging and criticizing strangers all the time. This is a very dangerous habit of mine and I’d very much like to rid myself of it. Here’s one example why:

Last week I was killing some time at Target before an appointment I had. While I was checking out, there were two male coworkers talking within earshot of me and the cashier. They were clearly discussing the presidential election and the older of the two made some critical remark about the Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obama Care) and how he couldn’t wait until it would be abolished by Donald Trump. Standing there, silently judging, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Colorado Springs has a reputation for its conservative populace, so criticisms and accusations toward our current Democratic President are rampant. The younger, millennial-looking guy with the tattoos he was talking to appeared to disagree. Again, no surprise. We’ve got our fair share of liberals here in Colorado as well, but, I thought, he’s probably from the West side (where we live – hippies, tattoos, piercings, art co-ops and street musicians galore). I looked toward the middle-aged, somewhat frumpy-looking checkout woman and she was shaking her head. Before the assumption that she too was an uneducated, irrational conservative could even fully formulate in my head, she looked at me and said, “I wish more people realized that these governmental policies are not made overnight. There are a lot of people who contribute to the decision-making that goes on in Washington. We have Congress and the Senate for a reason. It’s not just the President who makes the call.” I literally almost laughed out loud at what I saw was such a clear example of me being nothing more than an uneducated, irrational asshole. I told her that I couldn’t agree more, thanked her and left.

I walked to my car with a new perspective about a lot of things. I frequently allow myself to have very strong opinions about things I literally know nothing about. Because I don’t personally associate myself with organized religion, I tend to criticize people who do. I say, they are blind, they don’t see the impossibility of their beliefs, they don’t acknowledge things like science, they don’t have enough self-esteem to get through life on their own and without the guidance of an intangible, antiquated belief system. Because I have no personal experience with the military and because I’m fundamentally opposed to war and violence as a means to resolving conflict, I judge people who see its value. I allow myself to believe that people who join our military are either pre-disposed to violence, are looking for an affordable education or simply have no direction and are perhaps following in the footsteps of a family member. Because I’ve never so much as talked with a homeless person or even volunteered at a homeless shelter, I choose to judge and fear this part of our community. I assume that they are all alcoholics, junkies or just plain lazy. Because I myself obsess so much about the way I look and how much I weigh, I frequently criticize people, especially other women, who are overweight. Again, I assume they are lazy and don’t care about themselves or their health.

I’ll be honest, it’s really hard for me to read all of that back to myself and even consider posting it for everyone I know to read (and of course, judge me for). It makes me look and feel like a horrible person, but I know I’m not alone and that is why it’s worth the risk to share my short-comings with the world. I am going to practice what my one West-side, hippie tattoo preaches and “be the change.” I can reframe my thoughts about religion – I can celebrate the freedoms we have in this country to believe whatever we want to believe. I can thank organized religion for all of its charitable contributions to our society and for all of the faith and love it’s brought into the lives of so many people, including many of my loved ones. I can stop being a jackass about people who risk their lives to serve our country and actually talk to some of them, find out what their thoughts are about the world we live in today and what inspires them to be a part of our military communities. I can stop fearing people who have nothing compared to what I have and I can instead choose to respect them for putting themselves out there and continuing to ask for help, day after day, while getting very little in return. Even if a homeless “scammer” on the streets of Chicago makes a hundred bucks a day, their quality of life still pales in comparison to what I’ve been blessed with, so who am I to judge?  I can also choose to stop criticizing people who don’t look a certain way because, guess what? I don’t know their circumstances, their beliefs, or their experiences any more than they know mine. Sometimes I’m fat and sometimes I’m not, but maybe if I was a little more forgiving of myself where appearances are concerned, maybe I can be a lot more forgiving of others.

So there it is, all of that ugliness spilled out in front of you to either judge for its outside appearance or to instead see through to the beauty that lies within – the possibility for personal growth and change. Join me in giving each other a break, won’t you?


i love you

Those three little words. Those three little words that are in fact, so big, that we yearn for them all of our lives. Or at least I do. The context may vary and we may take them for granted at times, but they never completely lose their luster. And here’s why: because hearing those words are a validation that we matter in this life to someone other than ourselves, and that is a powerful feeling to be gifted with.

I started thinking about this today because it occurred to me that I live in a near-make-believe land where the words “I love you” are nearly as abundant as the air I breathe. It started with my own childhood. My mom had a rule that you never said good night or good bye without an “I love you” no matter how upset you were with the other person because, she would argue, “I might get hit by a truck tomorrow.” So I said it then and I say it now. A lot. Even when I’m mad, sad, frustrated or all three. My husband and I say it so often to each other you might argue that it’s not as meaningful anymore. What I’ll tell you is that of course there are times when we say it out of habit, like when we’re hanging up the phone or going to bed at night or leaving for work. There are also times when one of us says it out of the blue when we are just sitting and talking (or not talking) with each other and certainly those times might seem more special. Then again, I am devastated when we are in a really huge fight and Sean hangs up without saying it. I literally feel sick to my stomach and will likely follow up with a text that says, “you might hate me right now, but I love you.” Because, you know what? He might just get hit by a truck. My best friend and I say it to each other every time we get off the phone. Why? Because we mean it!!! And why not say something that we feel?

Don’t even get me started on the love I spout for my wee ones:

“Kathryn, please go get dressed and brush your teeth. I love you.”

“Guys, I love you, please stop fighting in the backseat.”

“Thank you so much for helping me put the laundry away. I love you so much.”

“Kellan? (“What?”) I love you. (“I love you too, Mommy.”)

Kathryn being the love bug that she naturally is has taken to saying it almost as randomly as I do. There literally are no words to describe the fullness I feel when out of nowhere that girl tells me she loves me. No words. As far as I’m concerned, those two little people are going to hear me say I love them no less than ten times a day every day for the rest of their lives.

Here’s the point: Say the words. Say them with reckless abandon to the people you love – your friends, your parents, your siblings, your children, your spouses. Why wouldn’t you? I hear people who are clearly on the phone with their spouses and hang up without saying it and I feel so badly for them. Why aren’t they saying it??? Are they afraid to? Afraid of being too vulnerable? You’re sharing a life together – SAY I LOVE YOU!!! Say it all day, every day! Raise your children to say it all the time and feel comfortable and confident expressing their love so they can really, truly share themselves with the world. Teach them to say it even when they might not hear the words back. Lead by example. As the old saying goes, it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

To my readers, I love you.





A good yoga teacher, in my opinion, will spend some time (gently) pushing her students’ thoughts as well as their bodies. Last week I was fortunate enough to stumble back into a studio I hadn’t practiced at in over a year. I noticed that my yoga practice, while consistent, was lacking creativity and progress, so I humbly walked my butt back into Playoga to spend some quality time with Becca. Why I haven’t been there in over a year is ever a mystery – the woman sings like an angel during savasana for crying out loud! Anyway, the point is, she got the group focused on what really motivates us each individually in life. Is it money? Is it creativity? Is it philanthropy? Is it family? Something else?

Before she even got the question out, I knew my answer. Freedom. And the crazy thing is I think if you asked me this question 5 years ago or even one year ago, I would have faltered. But now it’s just so crystal clear. So, so obvious.

For starters, my drug of choice, my passion for life as I know it, could not exist without travel. But perhaps not in the way that some people enjoy travel. I do not particularly enjoy cultural immersion or tourist attractions. What I do enjoy is the high I get (quite literally) when I’m jet bound to some far-reaching corner of our planet. As a self-affirmed experienced solo traveler, there’s also the freedom in waking up in a foreign country without a single responsibility, a single worry, a single itinerary item to tend to. Travel is freedom, but of course tied to it are financial freedom and the freedom of United States citizenship. I may have to seek out Canadian citizenship if Trump gets elected, but my personal income and my luck for having been born here are not lost on me – the ability I have to slap down my U.S. passport and my United Mileage Plus Explorer card and go anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice is one of my greatest treasures.

Freedom in my career – I’ve been able to fight for and succeed in achieving an almost impossibly liberating work from home situation. I have built a network of long-standing customers who trust me and who have consulted with me for years; backing that up, I have an employer who believes in my ability to keep these same customers happy from just about anywhere; currently from Colorado, but hopefully one day from Costa Rica. And I do, because when I’m happy, my customers are happy. And for me, happiness means having the freedom to set my schedule in a way that I can balance hard work with a demanding family life and a host of self-care practices like yoga and happy hour. Whiskey business, if you will. (Stole that one from New Girl – another one of my many self-care practices). “Working from home” also means I have the freedom to liven up my workspace by settling in for the day at any number of hipster coffee shops. Or there’s my breathtaking home office which overlooks the mountains. Or there’s my other office in charming Old Colorado City which I’ve decorated into a lovely zen-like sanctuary. I’m still trying to figure out how to get a Koi pond in there. So many choices…ah, freedom!

You can find evidence of freedom’s lure in the most mundane aspects of my life as well. I may be a planner, but I loathe routine. And rules. I endeavored to get eyelash extensions a few months ago and ultimately came to the conclusion that, not only am I likely allergic to them, but that they require me to not do certain things like rub my eyes, put my face directly in the shower water or sleep on my side. So many restrictions, so little freedom. Doctor’s orders? I never follow them. Diets or food restrictions? Ha! Go ahead, just tell me no. Tell me I can’t do something or can’t have something – I will unleash the fires of hell in order to take back my power and my free will. The circumstances and relationships I find most challenging are the ones in which I feel somehow trapped. I would be lying if I said this doesn’t make motherhood a challenge for me, especially in these early years. There are just some rules and responsibilities that every self-respecting mother must accept – like picking the kids up from school, feeding them, bathing them, playing with them, talking with them, answering their questions, answering more questions, reading to them, putting them to bed. Above all, loving them. That one is easy. Trading in personal time and freedom for the rest, though? It’s hard. My remedy for this assault on my free will is likely the same one my mother had – teach them independence and nurture their creativity. Give them every opportunity to learn from their own power to choose, within reasonable safety guidelines of course.

The point is, I encourage all of you to spend a few minutes thinking about what really, truly, in the depths of your soul, motivates you in this life? If you aren’t sure, look to people and circumstances that bring you joy and you will probably find some good clues there. When you finally identify it, sit with it for awhile. Stew on it. Are there areas of your life that are not serving your feeling of purpose? Can you alter them or maybe even let them go completely? Sometimes finding contentment in greater self-awareness is a gift in and of itself.

Peace and love from a free bird in Colorado.







karen o’malley, saint

If you’re a married woman there is at least a 90% chance that your mother-in-law drives you nuts. There’s maybe a 50% chance that you can tolerate her but prefer not to, and an even lower chance that you actually like her. I don’t think the same is necessarily true for married men, though, and it likely comes down to the stereotypical drama that women create with one another – the competition, the cattiness, and the fact that while most daughters tend to stay close to their mothers into adulthood, sons who get married eventually have to give into the whims and fancies of their wives. As they should! Not surprisingly, this fact can create turmoil within the wife/mother-in-law (not to mention grandchild) dynamic.

But every so often an angel drops down from the heavens into the lap of that unsuspecting bride-to-be. Let’s call her Karen O’Malley, the example by which all mothers-in-law should measure themselves. Not only do I like this woman, but I would go to the ends of the earth to defend, support and protect her. Today is her birthday and on this special day I want as many members of my social media circle (and hers) to know what a gift she has been to my life. From the very early days of my relationship with her son, Karen has been a beacon of warmth, light and love. She welcomed me into her world without hesitation and without judgment, despite some of our differences. Even at wedding time, as we were making the unpopular choice to have an out of town event, she remained an expert of graciousness, respect and support.

A few years into my relationship with Karen, we both found ourselves on the brink of losing our own mothers to the same type of cancer. While we’d been close to that point, I do believe that an unspoken shift took place in our relationship that would bind us together forever, come hell or high water. And I’m pretty sure both hell and high water did come a few years later when Sean and I uprooted our family to Colorado. Our marriage suffered a very dark phase during that time – a time in which any other mother-in-law might have abandoned me. But not Karen – she was no longer a mother-in-law, but the mother I no longer had. I was her fourth child and there was no way she was ever going to let me suffer alone. The sheer number of tears I have cried to this woman in our years together could flood the Chicago River.

Turns out, we are actually a lot alike. We both work hard at everything we do – careers, child-rearing, cleaning, you name it. My offer to have her live with us will always stand because having her visit is like cloning myself – neither of us can stand to sit still so we are always getting something accomplished wherever we are. When business is done, though, we can both chill out, be funny and have a great time. Again, when business is done, and not a second before.

Sean once told me that he realized he was in love with me when he met my family. And to his credit, between all my moms, dads, siblings and grandparents I have one of the most incredibly supportive, dynamic, and hilarious families you’ve ever met. But Karen brought a truly unique warmth and love to my life that I never knew before I met her. At my most vulnerable moments I long for her company. I can’t imagine not having spent the weeks after my babies were born with her. I can’t imagine not having someone in my life calling me “doll.” I can’t imagine not having her love in my life.

To one of the loveliest, most beautiful, most selfless people I know, happy birthday from your eternally grateful daughter, Marissa. XOXO.