Leaving Babble

Babble is making some changes this year and moving in a direction that isn’t a great fit for me. I don’t really do celebrities, memes, or pop culture. Personally, I’m in the middle of a whomping huge project plus a gargantuan project in real life and need to cut back on some of my monthly contracted deadlines. So, I’ve opted to step down from my writing work at Babble.

leaving Babble

I’m so thankful for the years they kept me on and I had a great time growing my writing through working with editors there and learning how to write outside my more natural style and to address topics and I might not normally have paid attention to. Yes, I did write about Brad Pitt for Babble, if you need an example.

So, thanks to the great editors and fellow writers! Salaama.

In honor of saying goodbye, here are some of my favorite posts over the years, published by Babble.

No, My Family’s Not Leaving Africa Because of Ebola

What These 18 Parenting Terms Really Mean for Parents of Twins

Dear Mom of the Crying Baby on the Airplane

What We Can Learn about Tolerance from the Only White Kid on this Step Team

babble_contributor_badge_coral_2x22 Ways Teenagers Are Basically Super-Sized Toddlers

Are Your Children ‘Hidden Immigrants?’ 12 Tips for Parents

Kids Who Vomit on Airplanes and the Parents Who Travel With Them

Car-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies

The International Traveler in the Domestic Terminal

How to Go On a Marriage Retreat Without Going On a Marriage Retreat

9-Step Guide to Dressing For Winter

I published over fifty articles on Babble. FIFTY! I had no idea it was that many until I counted just now. I would have said that I’ve published maybe fifty articles total. So that number kind of stunned me. And as I looked back through them, I can see my growth, which is encouraging.

So, thanks again for the good times, Babble, and I wish the site all the best!



Traveling Writing Mom. Do I Have to Choose?

Quick link: Traveler, Writer, Mother?

At Brain Child Magazine, today I have an essay about my summer and how strange it felt to travel alone. (Inside scoop: I had a fantastic time but I did miss my family) So many writer-moms write about the conflict, the balancing act, needing to choose between one or other other. Do we really need to choose? And who are we when we leave behind our little people or our work?

Traveling, Writing, Momming

This is so weird. I’m at the airport and I have my purse and my carry-on. I don’t have a stroller. I’m holding one passport and one ticket. I don’t have a diaper bag or breast milk stains on my shirt. I don’t have to make multiple trips to the bathroom with a different little person in town each time and when I do go, I am the only person in the stall. I don’t get to board early. I’m going to Italy and I’m going alone.

I actually haven’t carried a stroller, diaper bag, or stained shirt through an airport in years. My kids are sixteen, sixteen, and ten. But I did it often enough, as an expatriate, that the memories of toddlers throwing jet-lagged temper tantrums in the Chicago O’Hare airport remain vivid. I remember holding wailing babies in my arms while planes landed and we were prohibited from moving about the cabin and I could feel eye daggers piercing my back as all the other passengers wished they had packed earplugs. I remember trying to squeeze twins, carry-ons, two tiny backpacks, and pregnant me into a bathroom stall.

I remember flying alone with all three kids and seeing that our seat assignment left the 5-year old twins in one row with my baby and I behind them. The third person to sit in my row was an elderly Somali man with a beard hennaed orange, which meant he had been on the Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca, which meant he was relatively devout. I remember feeling nervous that, this being Ramadan, he wouldn’t want to sit close to a non-Muslim woman or suffer through the baby’s racket on this thirteen-hour flight, less than half of our total journey. I remember how he and the baby bonded immediately. He fed her his food, since he was fasting. He held her and played with her, tickled her and read to her, and I fell asleep, hazily convinced he was an angel.

Click here to read the rest Traveler, Writer, Mother?

Hunting for Water in Bankoualé

Quick link: Letter from Bankoualé


Today I have an article over at EthnoTraveler about the time my family went on the search for a rumored waterfall in Djibouti. We saw many fascinating things, including a man the owners of the encampment where we slept called “Jesus.” Did we find water?

I heard a rumor that there was a waterfall in Bankoulé, a village in northern Djibouti. Because the entire country averages 6.5 inches of rain annually, the image of water pouring over rocks with enough volume and force to create a waterfall compelled me to visit Bankoulé with my family.

The village is 45 kilometers from the coastal city Tadjourah, the largest city in northern Djibouti and requires a rugged 4X4 to reach it. A single sign pointed in the direction of the village, or used to, before the paint faded and the sign tipped over. Now there was only a fork in the road. I took the path that veered away from a village called Randa and hoped it was the right guess.

We inched around boulders and over tree roots and kept repeating out loud that this had to be the road. After all there was no other road and we knew Bankoulé wasn’t an imaginary place. At one point the path went over such a steep hill with such an abrupt drop off that I couldn’t see the road below and had to trust that rocks or dirt or something would catch the vehicle as it crested the hill.

After ninety migraine-inducing minutes, we reached the tourist encampment, about a kilometer after the actual village, and stumbled out of the car, our legs wobbly as they tested out the firm, smooth ground after the intense bouncing and vibrating of the trek to get here.

Rusted-out pickup trucks, heaps of trash, and empty gas cans tipped on their sides littered the parking lot. A narrow walkway led from the parking lot to an outdoor, roofed eating area, and a dozen huts, each equipped with beds, lanterns, and mosquito nets. A few bangles of silver tinsel were tacked to the walls of the eating area for decoration and seemed incongruous dangling next to a tusbah, a string of Islamic prayer beads.

After dumping our belongings in the huts and drinking steaming tea, we prepared to hike to the waterfall. I wasn’t sure what we would find and tried to keep my expectations low. I’ve been to Niagara Falls, I’ve canoed on the Mississippi, I come from Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes, I grew up with a river in my backyard. I love running water. And I have lived in Djibouti for twelve years. I know how little water there is in the desert, how unlikely it is to fall in substantial cascades.

Click here to read the rest of Letter from Bankoualé



Writing in a Small Town

I live in the capital city but it is the capital city of a small country. Total population: 800,000 give or take. Total population in the city: 600,000. I can, and have, run around the entire city on a morning workout and need to add loops or extra roads to make it a ‘long’ run.


We have lived here twelve years. We are some of the few westerners who speak Somali. My husband was a professor so he taught hundreds, if not thousands, of students. This makes him easily recognizable.

There aren’t a whole lot of expatriates and there are almost zero expatriate blogs about life in Djibouti. My photo is here, right up there in the corner. That curly blond hair. That’s me.

I’ve realized lately that people recognize me. I used to think it was just my husband. Once, when our kids were little, our son said, after driving around town for a while, “Dad, I think you’re famous. Like a hundred people know your name!”

He was super impressed and we haven’t let him forget it, we regularly laugh at how ‘famous’ Dad is.

Once I wrote in a post about how I was tired of running, that I should maybe give it up. A commentor said, “You can’t be that tired of running, I saw you this morning.”

Another time I was in the grocery store on a quick errand. I wore clothes that felt grimier than pyjamas and I was pushing a stubborn cart around a corner, grimacing and nearly grunting to get the darn thing to turn its rusted wheels. A man in the aisle greeted me with a loud,” Djibouti Jones!” and pointed a finger. “You’re the reason I moved here!”

I was so shocked that it took me a minute to realize he was pointing at me. “I hope you aren’t angry with me for doing that,” I said.

“Oh no, I love it.” His employer had suggested moving him to Djibouti and he hadn’t been certain until he stumbled across my blog, which apparently gave him the confidence he needed to take a risk on this country.

I’m not boasting. I’m not famous. I feel kind of silly about it, in fact. And lately, I’ve started to feel uncomfortable with my online presence. It just feels weird. Am I the only one to want to shy away from this social, online exposure? I feel more cautious about baring my life for strangers than I used to. Is it because I’m getting older?

I’m not sure how I feel about this. And now, writing it, knowing people will read it, the people who see me every day, that feels weird, too.

This might be why I haven’t been blogging as much lately.

Somehow the attention makes me shy away. When my neighbors say they see me running almost every day or taxi drivers I run into at the airport ask me why they haven’t seen me around lately, I feel funny and am tempted to quit running. The more people mention they’ve noticed something I do, the more seriously I contemplate not doing that thing. I’ve always been that way, I am, by nature, shy. Timid. Not so gregarious. But I love to write and I love when people read what I write. Writing, because it is done alone, gives the false impression of isolation. But then it goes out into the wide world and there is no more isolation.

I’m currently working on an intensive, long-form research based project and that is consuming a lot of my time, energy, creative resources, and brain power. I don’t know how much of it to share here, while I’m still in process but the process will likely be quite long. So, I’m trying to figure out how to balance that with blogging and with living.

I haven’t figured it out. I don’t want the blog to fizzle while I focus on this other project, though I’m not sure how or what to share about it here. And, I don’t want the the paralyzing feeling that comes with feeling overexposed but I love writing and am encouraged that this small space on the internet has encouraged people and helped them to live well here.

So. What do I do?




The Savvy Traveler or the Stupid Traveler?

Quick link: Savvy Expat Traveler or Overconfident Traveling Idiot?

I’m at A Life Overseas today, describing another travel fiasco in which I was the one completely at fault. I felt so stupid, to say the least. Especially because I have previously been feeling pretty smug. Go figure.

Savvy or Idiot Traveler?

We’re expats and we fly a lot. Right? We can fill out a lot of immigration forms with our eyes closed, have passports stuffed full of visas. We can use several different currencies, even in a single transaction. We know how to pack liquids, how to sail through airport security lines, what kinds of snacks work best on long haul flights. We know just how much medicine our babies need in order to sleep (or was that just me?) We can navigate airports no matter the language and can use whatever type of toilet is available, with or without TP, water, or walls.

We’re expats, international travel is what we do and we’re totally calm about it. Or at least competent.

That’s what I thought.

I recently spent a month in Europe. Two weeks in Italy, a few days in the Netherlands, and two weeks in the UK. In Italy and the Netherlands I was on my own. By the end of those two weeks I was feeling pretty confident. Like, hey-hey, I’ve got this European travel thing down. On top of thirteen years of doing the African travel thing, I considered myself savvy.

Then, I flew to London. Here, I thought, is where I will really shine as an expert traveler. Everything will be in English! It will be so easy!


Read the rest here: Savvy Expat Traveler or Overconfident Traveling Idiot?