Money, Money, Money. And the Expat.

Quick link: Why Is It Always About Money?

Expats, especially in developing countries, talk and think a lot about money. So much that it can sometimes feel like the only way we relate with local people is in the context of money, living standards, giving, beggars, fundraising, on and on.

I wanted to push on that a little bit and wrote this piece for A Life Overseas.


Nik Ripken wrote an excellent article a few weeks ago about how foreigners need to be better at being needy, how we need to grow in dependence on the people around us. The specific example he used of a man doing this well was about money.

I appreciated the article but one thought lingered: Why is it always about money? I feel like our conversations about how to engage well abroad are often myopically based on money. We talk a lot about it. I’ve written a lot about it. Poverty. Beggars. Giving. Wealth. Vast differences. How to live wisely and give wisely…But living abroad well and growing in dependence on local friends has to be based on more than economics.

Click here to read the rest of Why Is It Always About Money?

*image via Flickr

Pregnancy Scars

Quick link: I Know I Should Boast about My Battle Scars

What if I don’t want to brag about my jiggly belly? What if I refuse to post belly selfies? Social media makes me feel like we have to bare all and love it, or that if we wish we didn’t have stretch marks that means we don’t love our kids. I totally disagree and wrote about it for Brain Child Magazine.



So, this is NOT me, NOT my belly or my child, NOT how things looked while I was pregnant. We were more of the sweaty walrus variety. But this is how we’re told to feel and be during pregnancy, isn’t it? By ‘those people,’ the ones ‘out there’ on social media.

I know I’m supposed to boast about my scars, stretch marks, and shape.

I’m supposed to be empowered by naked selfies.

I don’t boast and I’m not empowered or posting those naked selfies (I’m not even taking them).

I have a stomach that looks like a saggy raisin. I never really had the chance to feel good about my body. I got pregnant at 21-years old, before I had grown into the idea of loving my size and shape. I was still in the high school and college years of hating it all, of never being thin enough or strong enough or having the right size ass or big enough boobs.

And then pregnancy changed my stomach permanently (the big enough boobs didn’t last long and leaked milk so they weren’t exactly what I’d hope for). The pregnancy was twins, it went full-term, I looked like a walrus. My skin stretched until it couldn’t stretch anymore and so it started coming apart, cracking open new seams that would never go back together, pushing the elasticity of young skin up to and then beyond the point of no return…

Click here to read the rest I Know I Should Boast about My Battle Scars

But What’s It About, About?

Can you sum up your favorite book in one word?

Can you sum it up in one sentence?

Can you sum it up in three words? Three sentences?

There are two kinds of ‘about’ in this question. There is the plot: what happens? And there is the theme: what does it mean? Or, how do the events in this particular story touch on something universal?

What is It about?

One of my favorite books is Unbroken. It is about former Olympian, Louis Zamperini, and his struggle to survive in the air, at sea, and as a POW during World War II. And, it is about resilience and what it takes to overcome evil. Resilience. Survival. Evil. War.

Another favorite of mine is Behind the Beautiful Forevers. It is about life in an Indian slum. And, it is about finding beauty in brokenness. It is about a family wrongfully accused of their neighbor’s murder and it is about the creative and terrible things people stuck in poverty do to both get ahead and to affirm their dignity. Poverty. Beauty. Brokenness. Dignity.

As I work on my current project, I am really struggling to boil it down to these kinds of words and sentences.

Whenever someone asks me what it is about, I stumble.

I need my ‘elevator pitch.’ This is what writers call the answer to ‘What is your book about?’ If you were stuck in an elevator with a top New York literary agent, what would you say about your book before the doors open? What could you say that would make them want to read it when you only have thirty seconds, maybe a minute? You can’t give a full plot. You can’t lay out the intricacies of your fascinating character. You only have a few words, maybe one or two complete sentences.

It really helps me when I hear what people say about other books.

What are some of your favorite books and what are they about? And then, what are they about about?





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?