Worlds Apart, a Book Review

Worlds Apart, by Marilyn Gardner

This is the revised version of Passages Through Pakistan and I had the incredible honor of writing the forward. Marilyn has been an online shepherd for me for over five years now. Though we haven’t met (yet) in person, she knows and holds, with gentle wisdom, the deep waters of my heart. When I’ve agonized over boarding school woes or needed someone to pull me together after writerly rejections, Marilyn always has a word of hope and perspective.

Just because I love her, doesn’t mean you will. But. I’m sure you will, after you read her words. Don’t take my word for it, delve into her wisdom on your own. If you haven’t found her website yet, check out Communicating Across Boundaries. If you wonder about her thoughts on being a Third Culture Kid, read Between Worlds. And if you want to know what made her into the generous, creative, thoughtful, joyful person she is today, here is Worlds Apart.

Through trauma and laughter, boarding school in Pakistan to transitioning to the United States, Marilyn opens up her experiences so we can benefit from her perspective and example.

One scene, among many, that pricked my heart is of Marilyn’s mother attempting to plant a garden in Pakistan. She longs for the vibrant colors of the place she left behind but the earth is unrelenting and nothing will grow. Finally, she gives up and plants fake flowers, for the splash of brightness. From a distance, at least, it is beautiful. And then, it is stolen. Marilyn remembers thinking, as a child, “I thought we were loved.” Why would someone steal flowers from someone they loved?

The story captures the hard work, creativity, delight, devastation, and recovery inherent in so many experiences of living abroad.

The last chapter is especially pertinent to me personally, as I’m about to launch my twins back to the US for university. She offers practical tips and deeper, heart-level suggestions on how Third Culture Kids can process and grow in their unique lives.

If you are a Third Culture Kids, or know or love one, if haven’t lived abroad but you’d like to glimpse the realities of someone who has, if want to see beauty in crossing cultures, you will love this book.

20 Questions with Jordan Wylie

Oooo boy, if there is one thing I need to work on, it is interviews and podcasts and thinking on my feet.

I did it again. (Here’s my interview with the New York Times for the Modern Love podcast and here is my interview with the World Citizen podcast)

Check out the podcast episode Jordan Wylie and I recorded while in Somaliland. I don’t know what makes me more nervous – toeing the line for a marathon or posting the link to this podcast. (You have to actually click the link and listen on soundcloud, I couldn’t get the embed code to work.)

So. Voila. My inner shy child is again on the air. The one who was so shy she never ordered pizza because that would require talking on the telephone to strangers. The one who didn’t purchase things in stores because that would require interacting with the person at the cash register – a stranger. The one who pees like six times before public speaking and who shakes during it and pees again right after it. Yeah, that’s the one you can now listen to, saying ridiculous things, with the incredible Jordan Wylie.


For more about someone truly inspiring: check out more of Jordan’s podcasts here, his Running Dangerously campaign here, and his best-selling book Citadel, about fighting Somali piracy, here.


Good Things. The Eighth. February 2018.

Choosing to focus on one good thing, every day

1 Go Fund Me. Funded!

2 not going to the beach

3 melty butter and jam on a homemade toasted bagel

4 pink food trucks (#iwantit)

5 green, growing things in the desert

6 kind, clean, helpful pediatricians

7 Star Coffee downtown Djibouti

8 school field trip to the port

9 sausage and egg breakfast sandwich, post long run

10 chatting with my preteen

11 the countdown

12 Dr. Edna Aden, once gave safe refugee from violence, now gave of her precious time

13 back to where it started, the day it started, fifteen years later

14 6,000 year old cave paintings

15 sunset over Hargeisa

16 26.2

17 back to the broken places

17b pictures of senior year banquet

18 healing in the wilderness

19 home

20 writing it down

21 lunch with dear friends

22 talking on the phone with all three of the kids

23 port-a-potties

24 a post-marathon massage

25 food. In general. Just, all food.

26 whatsapp across the ocean

27 chubby babies

28 varsity football (soccer)

These are Your Feet on Marathon Training

(in the name of ‘telling it like it is,’ this post includes gross and rather embarrassing phtoos)

I fell during my first long run of the training season for the Somaliland Marathon.


I fell.

Like face to the dirt, skidding on my hands and knees.

I do know how to walk. I even know how to run.

But there are rocks and holes and garbage piles and animal carcasses and all kinds of things to avoid. Sometimes, I just can’t avoid them. Or am too tired to. I tend to fall once a year. I’m, like, a super dorky athlete. I even fall off bikes.

Here are my knee scars to prove it.

I was mostly mad that I ripped my new pants, and a little embarrassed. Still wear ’em. Not gonna buy a new pair just because of a little hole. That’s not the kind of life we’re living.

It took a long time to heal and now there is a lovely pink scar.

It matches nicely with the one on the other knee, from my 2016 fall.

And here are my toes. I’ve actually never lost a nail before while marathon-training, or for any reason. But this time I think I’m about to lose four.

It ain’t pretty.

Unless pretty means strong.

I prefer toes that can go the miles to toes that don’t disgust.

And some blisters. I don’t get tons of blisters either, but once in a while. The heat is a factor. Soggy socks, I mean like chorking socks (a word that means the sound your shoes make when full of water, or in my case sweat), socks that can be wrung out and shoes that can be tipped over and spilled out, tend to contribute to blisters.

I won’t show you the blisters because you’re probably already grossed out enough.

These are my kind of feet.

Which is a good thing because these are my feet.

I’ll keep ’em. Even if I can’t keep the nails.

New Expats, Old Expats, Hold On to What You Believe

Quick link: Don’t Forget the Things You Know Are True

In case you missed it, A Life Overseas published my post this week about some of the things we know are true that are deeply challenged in the first year abroad. And in every year after that.

All the training, preparing, packing, and planning has left you utterly exhausted, unprepared for reality, insufficiently packed, and carrying plans that will be chucked out the window upon arrival. Those who sent you and those you received you have done their best, but they haven’t been perfect or complete, and I want to remind you of some important things.

There are some things you know to be true. These things will be challenged to their very deepest core in your first few months abroad. You’ll forget them. You’ll call people liars (even if just in your head) when they remind you of them. You’ll wonder how you ever could have been foolish enough to believe them. That’s part of the process. That does not change the fact that these things are things you know. They are true. They have not changed, even while life is only wild, chaotic, and stressful.

Read the rest of Don’t Forget the Things You Know Are True here.