About author

To the world I am a hobbyist blogger, but behind the scenes I am a newly single mother of two awesome kids, a loyal coworker, a sympathetic friend and an unrelenting individual. I enjoy laughing until my belly hurts, making lists, riding Jet Skis, jumping on trampolines, completing tasks, swinging in hammocks, singing with reckless abandon, and writing good material. I appreciate efficiency, accountability, hard work, good humor and forgiveness. I mostly admire my mother and Mary Poppins.

california dreamin’

I’m back! Back to writing on this blog, at the encouragement of my husband, and back home after a glorious month spent oceanside in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. A few years ago, during a particularly difficult time, Sean and I decided that the best thing for our family would be for him to retire from the workforce and transition into being a full-time stay-at-home parent. One of the key reasons for making this major change was the damper that his field marketing role in healthcare was putting on our ability to travel. Those of you who’ve followed me on this blog over the years know that traveling the world is my primary joy in life, and while Sean has always been supportive of my solo adventures, he also knew he was missing out on some incredible places. We decided to give it a year to see if we could sustain a single-income household and to see if being home full-time would really fulfill Sean the way we hoped it might. Two years into the experiment we are happier than ever that we made the leap. Sean has been able to join me on several adventures that he otherwise would have missed, but the best part of our new lifestyle is our ability to really take our summers with the kids to the next level. Instead of spending the entire time in one place based out of our home in Colorado, we can now venture to other places for extended stays. Last summer (our first with so much freedom) we took the entire clan, dogs and all, to Lakeside, Montana for a month of boating, swimming, hiking, ATV’ing and exploring. Due to our proximity to town, we also experimented with giving the kids a little more freedom to do things like bike to the lake without us or stay home while Sean and I went out on date nights (a revelation like no other!). The only downside of last summer’s family adventure was that due to the demands put on the tech industry by COVID, my job became abnormally stressful and I had to put in many more hours than I normally do, particularly in the evenings and on weekends. Despite the additional workload, it was still an obvious blessing to be able to experience a completely new environment as a family for an entire month – so much so that I was already daydreaming about where this summer could take us while we were still in Montana. Having binge-watched the show Big Little Lies on HBO, I became obsessed with the scenery where the show was based in Monterey, California, and decided that would be our next summer destination. A friend recommended we base ourselves in the charming town of Carmel and that was that – we booked it!

Now I’m on a plane heading back to Colorado with the kids and Sean is on the road back with our gear – all of the toys we hauled out there plus a new beach wagon, a couple of Tommy Bahama beach chairs and a surfboard. For all those big waves that Colorado is so famous for, right? Suffice it to say, we had an incredible time. Work was unseasonably manageable for me and we truly embraced everything Central California and the Monterey Bay area have to offer. Here is my highlight reel:

  • Point Lobos Nature Preserve – somewhere I read that this place is “the most beautiful meeting of land and sea in the world.” I can’t say I disagree – a small, but absolutely breathtaking place to see enormous Monterey Cypress trees, plus a rugged coastline full of sea birds, sea otters, Harbor seals, sea lions and hermit crabs. It was only 5 minutes from our house, so I went there frequently on my own in the mornings to jog. I haven’t been a runner in years, so I set a goal of running 30 miles in 30 days and it’s a good thing I had this place to lean on for some flat trails because I was not prepared for all of the hills in Carmel!
  • Surf Camp – Kathryn has been talking non-stop about learning to surf ever since she found out we were going to be in California for a month, so we signed the kids up for the Wahine Project Surf Camp for two of the weeks we were there. After her first week, Kathryn begged us to sign her up for a third week (we did). Both kids put in countless hours at the ocean, either out on surfboards or skimboarding from the shore. Their enthusiasm was so infectious that Sean even bought a second-hand surfboard on Craigslist while we were there so they could practice when they weren’t in camp. It mattered very little to them that every trip to the ocean meant bundling up in a thick, full-body wetsuit so they could endure the freezing-cold water temperatures. It was so fulfilling as parents to watch these two little adventurers take on the ocean with such fearlessness and I am certain my daughter in particular is going to find a place near the ocean permanently one day. I won’t be far behind her!
  • The Monterey Aquarium – I’m not sure the hype of this place lives up to the actual experience, but we did make it a priority based on all of the recommendations, even becoming members so we could go as much as we wanted to. There aren’t as many exhibits as I was expecting, but the ones they have are beautifully designed. Date night with edibles and jellyfish viewing was memorable as well!
  • Friends & Family – we had a lot of visitors in Cali! My best friend flew out for almost a week, we had good friends drive down for a long weekend from the Bay Area, and parents from both sides came out for several days. This travel-centered lifestyle we have created is really special, and it’s only made more so when we are able to share it with the people we love.
  • Carmel – if you’ve never been to Carmel, I insist that it’s worth planning a vacation around. The main downtown and residential area where we put roots down for a month are magical. The homes are small, but unique – each one looking like it was custom-designed for a fairy and her gnome husband. You can easily walk (up and down lots of hills) to shops, restaurants and beautiful Carmel Beach (some of the holes at Pebble Beach Golf Links overlook this beach). We decided not to bring the dogs this time, but at times wish we had since Carmel Beach is one of only a handful of beaches in California where dogs can play off-leash. The absolute best part of Carmel is that it’s close to everything – 10 minutes gets you to the beach, mountain biking, golf and hiking. 30 minutes takes you to the cliffs of Big Sur in the south or to some incredible wildlife watching in Moss Landing to the north.

When I say we did it all, I mean we did it all. All the outdoor activities and all the restaurants, including a foodie experience at Aubergine unlike any I’ve ever had in Colorado, Chicago or the world – thanks again for that one, Poppi! All the shopping, all the attractions, all the wildlife. Side trips to Big Sur, Stanford University, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park and Santa Cruz. All. The. Things.

I am tired and inspired. Ready for the comforts of home in the mountains, ready to see the familiar faces of our furbabies and our friends, but also ready to start thinking about the next big adventure – two months on Kauai next summer and a million more memories to be made as a family.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about our time in California and won’t hesitate to drop me a line directly if you want to hear more about it (or just catch up cuz’ it’s been a minute). As I said, Sean is encouraging me to “put my talent out there” again, so this just feels like a good moment to share and reflect. I hope to put more content out over the next few weeks and months.



reflections of my thirties

In just four short days I will embark on a new decade of life on this planet: the forties.

When I was a child and the adults in my life turned 40, it seemed like all of the birthday cards joked about saggy boobs, wrinkles and being “over the hill” – the implication being that the best years of their lives were behind them. But these days, thanks to Hollywood, botox and boob jobs (check, check.), the physical degradation of turning 40 doesn’t feel quite so severe at least. Furthermore, my thirties were big. Too big, some might argue. I might agree. In some ways it feels like I’ve lived a whole lifetime in the last ten years.

I married the man I love. I bound myself to another human, for better or for worse, for as long as we both shall live. So many people make the choice to get married in our society that we often fail to acknowledge the courage that goes along with it, not just on “the” day, but every day thereafter. It takes an impossible amount of patience, resilience and love to keep making that choice each day, amid all of life’s stresses, but I feel our bond to each other growing stronger with each passing year. This man has been by my side throughout a very turbulent decade, indeed.

[Snapshot: September, 2009. Sean and I drove up to Wisconsin to spend the weekend with my parents. We had just returned from Colorado where we’d fallen in love with Manitou Springs and the future site of our home. We’d also recently learned about some infertility challenges we had to face. My mom had just been diagnosed with lung cancer a week earlier. She assured us that we would have children – she just knew it (we were pregnant a month later).  She offered us the additional money we needed to make an offer on the land in Colorado, though she made us promise we wouldn’t move within the next two years. That weekend with my mom and the tears that accompanied it were the end and the beginning of everything I love.]

My mom died. She died from Stage 4 lung cancer over the course of six or seven months, but really, she died in an instant. One minute she was there – my rock, my eternal source of wisdom and encouragement, the only one whose opinion ever really mattered to me. And then she wasn’t. All of a sudden there was a gaping hole in my heart and an indescribable brokenness that has haunted me ever since. All of a sudden I was 8 months pregnant giving my mother’s eulogy. Sean held my hand while I stood there and read from my paper. I didn’t look up once.

Kellan was born on her birthday – July 23, 2010. He was due on July 25th, but when I went into labor on the afternoon of the 22nd, I couldn’t help but hope. I wanted so desperately for the grandson that my mother had never met outside the womb to have a significant connection to her. At around 8pm on the 22nd, I said to the nurse: “I really can’t have this baby before midnight.” With decades of prenatal nursing experience behind her and my barely dilated cervix, she looked right at me and said, “Oh honey, there’s no way you’re having this baby before midnight.” I cried new tears of joy and old tears of grief when my little boy was born by C-section many, many hours later. On his grandma’s birthday.

Six months or so into Kellan’s little life, we thought to ourselves, “you know what we ought to do? We ought to add as much chaos to our existing chaos as possible and have another baby. We should simultaneously build a house 2,000 miles away in a town where we have no guarantee of employment.” So that’s exactly what we did. In the span of about nine months in 2011 and 2012 I gave birth to our darling daughter, Kathryn, we broke ground on our mountain home in Colorado, we negotiated the ability to keep our jobs at CDW and work from home, and we moved in June of 2012, approximately two years after my mom helped us with the purchase of the land. We kept our promise. Two weeks later we were evacuated for four days due to one of the most devastating forest fires in recent Colorado history.

This June will mark the 6 year anniversary of our cross-country move and we’ve never looked back, though I’ve certainly looked forward. We’ve been to Hawaii a number of times in the last decade, and I’m certain there is a part of my soul that lives there full-time. I feel full and whole-hearted in a way I can’t explain each time we arrive, and tearful when we leave. The whales are there, for one, and you know how I feel about whales. They are my people and I will share a life with them there one day.

Speaking of travel and whales, the latter half of my thirties has seen me on just about every part of the globe and several long-haul flights. As you may recall, the lust for travel in recent years was really born out of a need for self-discovery and a reclaiming of my identity. I am an Aries woman, and as one of the most independent signs of the zodiac, being “tied down” to a family isn’t always the easiest thing for me. I need to spread my wings and fly sometimes. I am blessed with a husband who knows, accepts and loves this about me, but I think it took losing my own mother to really see it for myself. You see, so much of my identity was wrapped up in my mom’s perception of me and whether or not she thought I was making good choices in life. Right or wrong, I looked to her for so much of my self-worth. But it turns out I really am the strong, capable woman she always knew me to be. The silver lining in losing her has been the opportunity to find this out for myself. With no real experience in traveling alone I have crossed oceans to: live in an ashram in Bali; get my open water scuba license in the Gili Islands; white water raft; bathe in holy water; kayak through karsts off of Cat Ba Island; survive street cars, water taxis and buses in Hanoi; drive on miles of questionable dirt roads through Costa Rica; witness the annual turtle nesting at Ostional Beach; swim side by side with humpback whales in Tonga; swim side by side with humpback whales in Tonga (this one bears repeating). Every one of these adventures has helped heal me in some way, little by little filling the gaping hole left by the absence of her. Then again, as anyone who’s lost a loved one knows, they’re never really absent. They are always there with you, guiding you from beyond.

As I approach the big 4-0, I do so with a sense of peace. I feel strong and beautiful in body and mind. I feel as though the chaos of my thirties has in some ways set the foundation for a more passive and enjoyable next phase of life, though we never really know, do we? As Brene Brown keeps encouraging me to do, I am daring greatly. I am showing up and being vulnerable. I look back on the last decade and I see it all – the pain, the struggles, and the loss, but also the resilience, hope and love. If my thirties have shown me anything, it’s that no matter what 43 or 47 throws at me, I will get up, show up and get on with it. I will take the lemons and make the vodka lemonades. Cheers to the next 10!

mom and baby

Yesterday was my first day out on the water and the reality of trying to locate humpback whales in their natural habitat became clear early on. Despite the fact that close to 400 are estimated to be around this relatively small collection of islands, the sea is a big place, and I know from my many whale watching excursions in Maui that there are no guarantees. I know this, and yet I couldn’t help having my expectations swept away these last several months seeing the many pictures and videos of sightings online. There was a lot of positive self-talk happening that first hour or so out on the boat – “it’s okay, Marissa, you have 6 full days on the ocean, you cannot allow your anxiety about potentially not having a whale encounter ruin yours and everyone else’s time today, just be present, etc., etc.” After I’d just about talked myself into enjoying an entire day at sea with no whale sightings, we caught up with a mother and her calf. It was all so exhilarating and yet frantic. Noah, our boat captain (yep), was yelling from the top deck – “get ready, get, ready, go, go, go!!!” As we’d all just been standing around at that point, a wild dash for fins and masks ensued. There are 8 of us in our group, but only 4 can get in at one time with a guide. Thankfully I was chosen to go with the first group. We had about 10 seconds to get our gear on and jump into rather rough waters and stay close to our guide who was in full racing mode in the water to get to the whales.

I have to admit, my first underwater sighting was not the breathless, hair-raising, life-changing experience I had imagined. I suppose that’s because whales are wild animals that aren’t simply put on this Earth to make humans feel moved. They do whatever the hell they want. Also, pictures and videos online tend to leave out the less glamorous elements about the experience…the race through rough waters to get to them (they tend to move quite quickly at times, go figure), the endless equipment difficulties that seemed to arise…snorkels full of salt water, masks full of fog, a tangle of fins and arms with the other people who also have no idea what they’re doing or what to expect. The water was a bit murky that first day as well and we were working with a mom and calf who were basically sleeping. They’d come up for air every 10 minutes or so and then drift back to the bottom where they’d settle for a bit. This was great in that it gave all of us numerous opportunities to get in and see them, and also to get used to being near such enormous creatures underwater. It was a blessing, really, since in my head I’d sort of imagined being in the water and then suddenly overtaken by a whale with no preparation. I’m now three days in and I’ve learned that whales don’t really sneak up on you. They can move much faster than any human can swim and yet it appears to be happening in slow motion. When they do leave you, you wonder to yourself how it is that you’re unable to keep up since they appear to simply be drifting off into the darkness.

Due to the incredibly unreliable wifi situation here in Tonga, I’ve been writing this one blog for three days so I’ve had many more encounters than when I initially began. Apparently we were very lucky on our first day to have spent the bulk of our time on the water with the same mom and calf. Also lucky to have been the only boat in the area as occasionally we have to “share” the experience with other groups of swimmers. The Tongan population of humpbacks appears to be quite a bit smaller than the one in Maui. If you’ve ever been to Maui during whale season, it’s as simple as looking out on the ocean on a calm day in order to find countless whale spouts. Here in Tonga we sometimes search for hours for just a single puff. That being said, I seem to have the luck of the Irish here with me on this trip because each day has been better than the last. Despite it being rather uncommon to swim with a mom and calf, that’s exactly what we’ve done all three days. On our second day we found mom and baby in the more protected bay areas within Vava’u so the water was much calmer and clearer. She was a young mother with a beautifully pristine white underbelly and her baby was only a couple of weeks old. She was a very trusting mother with a very curious little one; the more protective mothers come up with baby each time he needs to take a breath (which is much more frequently than the adults), but this mom was content to rest near the bottom and let baby come up to breathe and check us out a little bit. Again, we spent nearly the entire day with them and had one encounter after another. Having had two remarkable days in the books, I was content to have no encounters yesterday, but that luck of mine just wouldn’t quit. After some unsuccessful attempts at getting in with some males who were on the move, we eventually found yet another mom and calf, this time with an escort (usually another female adult whale). There truly are no words for the encounters we had yesterday. We were unfathomably close to these beauties, so close in fact that my guide and I had to dodge a fin at one point! As if that weren’t exhilarating enough, I had two more encounters that lasted for probably 10  minutes each (this is a long time to be in with them) where first mom and baby and then all three whales remained at the surface with us and we were literally swimming with whales. Swimming with them, right alongside them, as if we were old friends out in the ocean for a frolic. We were inside of a National Geographic documentary.

It is quite something to be able to say that I’ve learned so much about whale behavior these last three days from first hand experience. I’ve also learned that I do not have a future in videography. I am going to attempt to include a video below (no promises); there will be a lot of time where you’re wondering what I’m even doing…most likely I’m clearing water from my mask or snorkel, jockeying for position, or both. It’s also highly possible that I simply have no clue how to operate a Go Pro. But just wait for it. This isn’t my best video; my best one somehow recorded upside down so I’ll have to deal with that one at a later date. If this does happen to work, please enjoy.

Update: Not working with shit wifi. Will try separate FB upload.


here i go again on my own

It’s that time of year again…time for me to jet away to distant lands in an effort to reclaim my independence and to replenish my sense of wonder. This year is no exception and yet…exceptional. This time I am chasing more than wanderlust and solitude. This time I am turning dreams into reality.

I’ve been in awe of ocean life for as long as I can remember; in fact, the first answer I recall giving when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up is a marine biologist. Many years later in college (and probably many years before that) it became clear that my academic strengths did not lie among the sciences, so the study aspect of marine life went by the wayside. My equal parts fear and fascination of the sea, however, have never waned and I’ve always had a special interest in dolphins and whales. Not until I went on my honeymoon in Maui, however, did I fully understand the connection I would feel toward the humpback whale. For nine days it seemed my eyes never left the ocean, always looking at the countless pulses of water from the blowholes and hoping for that special appearance of a breach or even a tail fin slap. I will never forget the morning I woke up before Sean and, while enjoying a meditative cup of coffee alone on the lanai, witnessed a single adult humpback whale breach not more than 200 feet off the coastline. It was as if she had done it just for me. There were many encounters on that trip and I literally cried as we drove to the airport. I had Sean pull the car over one last time at a scenic lookout so I could say my good-byes. We’ve been to Maui a few more times together since then and I will only book travel during whale season. For our first anniversary (paper), Sean adopted a female mother whale named Malama for me through the Pacific Whale Foundation and presented me with the certificate of adoption. I was pregnant with Kellan at the time, so it was an incredibly perfect and thoughtful gift.  We have retirement plans that will hopefully land us in Hawaii and as far as I am concerned the only acceptable section of real estate is the South side of Maui since that is where the largest population of whales migrate to. Is it sinking in yet how deep my love goes for these majestic creatures?

So a couple of years ago I Googled “swimming with humpback whales.” Hawaii only offers whale watching from onboard a boat, but surely there must be a place on this planet where a closer encounter would be possible? Enter Tonga. Tonga is an island nation in the South Pacific, not too far from Fiji, and the Vava’u group of islands is a haven for whale watching and swimming in August and September. The Hawaiian whales commute from Alaska, but the Tongan variety are visiting from Antarctica. A whole new group of friends to meet! As with the Maui group, the families come up to the warmer waters of Tonga to breed and then return a year or so later to birth their calves.

It’s no surprise then that this has been on my bucket list for some time now. For 7 days I will be, quite literally, swimming with humpback whales. I’ve read all of the reviews and seen all of the pictures that the web has to offer and yet I know these do no justice to the first-hand experience of making eye contact with a 70,000 pound marine mammal in its natural habitat. I feel no fear whatsoever, just utter anticipation of what’s to come. I hope to share a wealth of pictures and knowledge of these beauties over the next week or so on the blog and on social media.

Here we go, fins away!

throw back to now

As I approach the ripe old age of 40, something is occurring to me more and more these days than ever before – there are many more people who are younger than me than ever before. Translation: I’m old…er. One of the reasons this fact becomes more and more obvious the older we get is that our sharpest memories happen in the first 20 years of life – so childhood, highschool and for many of us, 4 (maybe 5) years of college. For this reason one can find oneself in a spinning class where the twenty-something instructor introduces a “throwback” song in the form of Katy Perry’s “Firework” or Temper Trap’s “Sweet Disposition.” To the instructor, these songs remind her of singing at the top of her lungs with her 5 besties in the Prius that one time…or of the first time she was felt up. Either way, it was like, SO long ago. On the other hand, these songs remind me of…I don’t know, fucking yesterday??? Didn’t they just come out? Why is it exactly that when you’re young time seems to take forever and now it just flies by? And, more importantly, how do we slow it the fuck down?

When you think about it for a minute, the why is obvious: the first 20 years of life are full of nothing but firsts. Starting with just the things we remember and skipping over first steps and all that jazz we’ve got our first day of Kindergarten (and our first day of every grade thereafter), our first pet, our first F, our first medal in tennis, our first cheer camp, our first vacation, our first time overseas, our first sexual encounter, our first good sexual encounter, our first heartbreak, our first major loss, our first graduation party, our first wet T-shirt contest, our first time getting drunk or high, our first job. Nothing but firsts, all wrapped in shiny newness and naivete. These 20 or so years are just bursting with high drama and anticipation. Combine all that with the physical advantages of youth and you’ve got yourself a banging couple of decades to refer back to for the rest of your life. For many of us, excusing some relationship and life hiccups along the way, we settle into one career, one sexual partner, one best friend, one house, one internet provider, one cut of steak, one brand of underwear. On one hand we can argue that we spent all that time figuring out who we were and what the best choices were for us and we made them accordingly. On the other hand…BORING.

So how do we make the back three-fourths of our lives interesting (and more memorable) without joining some type of traveling Mormon band of gypsies? It sounds so cliché, but I really think it comes down to trying new things and making a commitment to get unstuck from our routines once in awhile. As you know, travel is a big part of my life and I do think these amazing trips I take each year make the rest of the year more palatable and more enjoyable. Outside of travel, however, I am one of the best nay-sayers around. Sean is the spontaneous one in our household and I would probably do well to emulate his enthusiasm for the unplanned aspects of life more often than I do. The other thing is, the opportunities for firsts in the early phases of life require almost no effort on our parts. We don’t choose whether or not to show up for the first day of school or to get our first job. If the choices aren’t made for us, then they’re at least staring us in the face. Creating an effervescent, thrilling life in your 30’s and 40’s takes real effort and real energy. I definitely do not have all the answers and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter because I want a full lifetime of good old days and throwbacks.  I’d love to be able to hear a song from 2012 and think, “Oh my God, Katie, do you remember this one?? That was, like, SO long ago.”

winds of change

I enjoy the belief that as humans we should aim to be as dynamic as the weather in Colorado: beautifully unpredictable at times, but offering a near constant supply of sunshine. As long as we are breathing love, light and optimism most days, then the evolution of our selves through our relationships, hobbies, careers, etc. is a glorious thing. Laying the groundwork for change by first establishing our commitment to a positive attitude is essential to happiness. Colorado makes a deal with its residents that goes something like this: I’m going to guarantee you 300 days or more of sunshine every year, but I expect you to put your goddamned big girl panties on when I decide to throw out hail, 100 mph winds and thunder snow in a matter of 30 minutes. At that point I will quickly regain your favor with a triple rainbow and a fox sighting. 

Much like my current home state, I find it fairly easy to remain in a sunny state of mind most days. Though while I personally love the violent weather shifts in Colorado, I don’t always embrace changes in myself quite as enthusiastically.  People grow more and more resistant to change as they age, I find. If you didn’t travel before you had kids and responsibilities, what are the chances you’re gonna book a flight to Barcelona with your tax refund when you’re 45 and thinking about college funds? Then there’s that thing called mastery. Are you really going to weigh the effects of your $7 morning coffee on your retirement age when you’ve worked for years to reach the perfection that is a Grande Almond Milk Latte Macchiato with one pump of sugar-free Cinnamon Dolce syrup?? Heavens, no. Then there’s the opposite of mastery, which can also be problematic. Enter my relationship with skiing. 

For nearly a decade I have somewhat desperately tried to match my expert skier husband’s passion for the sport, hoping for just a fraction of his skill. I’ve taken trips “out West” to the best resorts, taken lessons, torn ligaments, spent thousands on gear, rented seasonal ski condos and oh, I fucking moved to Colorado. So much of the sentiment I have surrounding my marriage is tied up in skiing. Sean proposed to me while we were skiing (literally) in Park City and we went back there to get married a year later. We started a life in Colorado in part so we could be in with the ski culture and raise our own little shredders and rippers. The fact that I have acquired neither the skill nor the passion in all that time has continued to haunt me. More than anything, my own obsessive mental pursuit of being better than I am has taken away the joy that skiing used to bring me. My usual unfailing positive attitude has failed me. Until recently. This year I’ve very quietly allowed myself a break from skiing without really talking about it too much. I’m slowly accepting that a goal I once had is no longer a healthy one to keep. With a 6-year old who is now skiing above my level, I knew I needed to embrace this change now before I end up resenting his joy in the years to come. With this in mind, I will go into the 2018 season as the only skier I was ever meant to be – a joyful companion to my husband, children, and a few other dear friends and family members only. My boots and gloves will be heated. The runs and the skies will be blue. 

Change is inevitable and undeniable, but it can also be healing and beautiful. It all just depends on your attitude. 

how to be a surrogate

What does it mean to you when someone says “I’ve got your back?” In my experience it means they’re about to be confronted with a situation on your behalf, possibly even a conflict, and they’ve committed to standing up for your best interests and “having your back.” Hearing a friend, relative or coworker say that to me is always followed by a feeling of immense relief because usually that impending situation is one that’s causing me a great deal of anxiety. Knowing that the outcome might be positively manipulated or even just softened by a surrogate is a gift. It brings a certain peace of mind, right?

I like to think that filling the surrogate role for others is one of my shiniest features. I would love it if at my funeral party someone close to me said, “Marissa said the things I couldn’t always say for myself.” Since it’s a party, there would be booze and so later in the night other things would be said as well – “She was a real selfish bitch, that one. Always had to run the show. Left me with a thrown out back on the floor of our bedroom with nothing but a TV remote for a TV I couldn’t see.” But, if just one person recognizes that I’ve always striven to be an advocate for those who’ve felt tired, scared or weak, and to speak up when they cannot, that will be a legacy I’ll be proud to own. What would make me even prouder is if, before I leave this planet and my spirit swims for eternity with the humpback whales in Maui (I guess my spirit would also need to migrate to Alaska during the summer months, but that sounds so cold…I think my spirit prefers to stay in Maui year round…), is if I could inspire others (you!) to take on a true surrogate role for their (your!) loved ones. I want to share some examples of things I’ve done or said to step in for people I’ve thought could use it, not because I’m a braggart, but because I genuinely think we are lacking in this area as a society. We are more than happy to defend our favorite political figures all day long on social media, but how often are we defending the people in our lives that we have actual, personal relationships with?

Example 1: Many, many years ago a rumor was going around my very large company that one of my coworkers was sleeping with multiple married men at our company. None of the people sharing this information had received this information first-hand (of course they hadn’t). I could have listened silently, but a rumor like that, true or not, could ruin someone’s career and their personal reputation. I instead said something to the effect of, “No one has any actual idea whether or not that happened and it isn’t appropriate to assume that it did.”

Example 2: I once witnessed a Starbucks customer verbally assault his barista over the amount of foam in his drink and then storm off. I gave the woman a knowing look and then I followed him out and told him what an asshole he was for treating someone that way.

Example 3: Someone very close to me is estranged from her father, mainly because he is a pussy and is married to an evil step-witch, but I’d been hearing about this woman’s suffering since childhood and decided that I couldn’t not say anything any longer. Their relationship was so damaged at this point I felt it couldn’t hurt matters any more and for the record I did ask her permission first. So I wrote him a very long, heartfelt letter about all of the things he was missing out on in his daughter’s (and grandchildren’s) lives, hoping that an outside perspective might help wake him up. It actually did, for a hot minute, until he settled back into his pussy ways again.

You see, the point isn’t to necessarily get the source of the conflict to bend to my way immediately. I am merely letting them know that someone other than their victim is paying attention. So maybe they start to think it’s not just me, maybe everyone else is watching too. Maybe then they start to feel some accountability for their words and actions. If all of you reading this start speaking up in a similar way, then we create a culture of accountability. No one likes to be judged or to have their flaws pointed out, as evidenced by our esteemed POTUS, so it seems reasonable that if enough of us start holding each other accountable for our asshole behavior that eventually the tides will turn.

Maybe for you it doesn’t have to be so flagrantly assertive; perhaps the next time a friend is saying awful things about their wife/boss/mother-in-law, you simply offer another side to the story (in this scenario you’re actually standing up for the other side…still very useful in many ways). Suffering isn’t usually one-sided. How many marriages might be saved if instead of saying “call a lawyer,” the person’s best friend said “call a therapist?” The larger point here is, I don’t see a whole lot of anything other than status quo reactions when people witness other people behaving like assholes. So take a stand! If not for yourself, then for the ones around you who need you to.





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.