Vision Therapy

Quick link: Uncovering Vision

This essay was posted at Mothers Always Write over a month ago and I missed it. The editors didn’t inform me the link was live and life took over and I didn’t check in on it. So, here it is several weeks later. Our journey to help my daughter see clearly.

My son read The Lord of the Rings when he was nine years old. Henry said he didn’t understand all the words but he could recall the storyline in detail. His twin sister Maggie read the first two Harry Potter books but when asked simple questions about plot and character, confessed she had simply turned the pages.

I fought against the inevitable comparing that comes with parenting twins but we live in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and at the time there was not one single other American, native-English speaking 9-year old in the country. I was forced to compare my two. Forced to acknowledge a gaping difference in their reading abilities.

My myopic vision of what a child should be capable of blinded me to Maggie’s unique challenges.

Click here to read what we learned about Vision Therapy: Uncovering Vision




Arrive, Survive, and Thrive in Djibouti

I get emails nearly every day from people coming to Djibouti either as tourists or to live and work. They need to know how to find a house, where are decent hotels, what should they do in a medical emergency? Are there playgrounds? What are the best school options?

I’ve compiled answers to these questions and so much more, in this e-book Welcome to Djibouti.

Phone numbers, websites, email addresses, tips and suggestions…you’ll find what you need here.

Call for Guest Posts: Strong in the Broken

I find the writing community wonderfully and surprisingly generous. I think we all battle with the lie of scarcity – if one writer succeeds, that means less success for the rest of us. But the writers I’ve met and interacted with don’t live out that lie. Instead, they help each other toward success, offer tips, share stories, challenge and motivate each other.

I read an article once in which Jason Fagone said he’d be willing to talk with any aspiring writer who had a question about writing nonfiction boolproposals. I took him up on it, emailed, and he responded in just a few hours with tips and an example of one of his successful proposals.

Others further along than me have offered suggestions on queries, tips on how to pitch to particular editors at certain magazines, or answered my endless questions, either over email or coffee. Writers have retweeted, liked, shared, and emailed stories of mine.

Dan Maurer consistently highlights other writers and spreads their words far and wide.

Asad Hussein lives in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and recently had an excellent article in The Guardian. And the New York Times! I like to say, ‘I knew him when…’ We met over emails and blog posts and editing. Watching his work grow in strength and reach is one of my favorite things about working on this blog – those kinds of connections.

I would like to continue to use this space to share the stories and work of others. So I started thinking of another guest post series. I’ve done a few:

What’s the new topic, you ask?

Recently I listened to the Runner’s World podcast, to an episode called Running While Female. I had seen the episode in my list and avoided it but never erased it. I knew I would have to listen at some point, I just didn’t want to. I knew what it contained.

I was right. It was about the harassment women experience while running. I had to actually turn it off a few times because it was hitting so close to home. I cried. It took me a long time to get through the whole thing. Normally I listen to podcasts while cooking, cleaning, and running. This one? I sat down at the table and just listened.

This visceral reaction didn’t come out of nowhere. It came out of being touched, chased, grabbed, groped, stoned, punched, ogled, insulted, mocked, cursed. People have made throat-slitting motions at me. They have said I am the first one they would kill. They have mentioned my unmentionables.

I keep running. Partly because these things, at least not the worst of them, don’t happen that often. Partly because not running feels harder than dealing with this junk. Partly because in running, I find my strong. In doing what people seem to think I shouldn’t be doing, I am the victor. Not them. Not the harassment.

I wanted to know about what you experience when you do something that, because of who you are, where you are, or what you are doing, carries with it a unique challenge. I want to know how you respond, if you feel strong, if you feel victorious, or if you are still struggling to find that strength. If you are at all like me, it is both/and.

Running While Female. Driving While Black. Traveling While Pregnant. Writing While Uneducated. Studying While Working. Working While Foreign. Blogging While an Introvert. Eating While Dieting. Writing While in a Refugee Camp. Writing While in the Suburbs. Staying Married While Being an Alcoholic. Staying Married While He/She is an Alcoholic…

I don’t know. I have no idea what your stories in this realm might be. They don’t need to fit this paradigm of ____ while _____. But that is the gist.

Sharing stories helps us be brave and vulnerability makes us strong. These are stories of victory, even if we don’t yet feel victorious.

What’s it called?



The title of the series is: Strong in the Broken. I don’t mean the broken places of ourselves, like the Ernest Hemingway line from A Farewell to Arms: The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

I mean parts of this world are broken. The parts that harass and terrorize and damage. Sometimes those parts are in us or are us, sometimes they are external to us. And in those places, places that aren’t all green grass and chocolate ice cream, we can still be strong. Or we can at least step toward being strong.

We can keep running.

How can you participate?

Send your stories. Email me at rachelpiehjones(at)gmail(dot)com if you have questions or want to submit a post.

I can’t pay (publishing while impoverished, perhaps?) but I can offer a wide, global readership and a byline with links to your own website and social media pages.





In Which I Am Played By Mireille Enos. Or, the Modern Love Podcast.

So, this crazy thing happened.

My Modern Love essay was published on the Modern Love Podcast.

Sometimes Tom and I talk about who would play us in the movie of our lives. I usually say I don’t want a movie of my life and I don’t want anyone to play me because it just doesn’t seem interesting enough. He usually says he wants to play himself. That can give you quite a view into our marriage and personalities. But…Mireille Enos (Big Love, The Catch, The Killing) plays me in this podcast!

It took me hours to summon the courage to listen, and some encouragements from people who said they cried.

Lucy and I listened to it together this morning and she was enraptured by the story, her story.

It feels a little surreal. But, yeah, Mireille Enos (of the TV show The Catch) chose my Modern Love essay, A Child of Two Worlds, to read and this week it went live.

I wrote the piece almost 6 years ago, the birth it describes took place almost 12 years ago. So much has changed. The hospital mentioned doesn’t exist anymore, there are more options for women to give birth in other locations, but some of the same issues persist. It all seems so long ago.

Mireille did an incredible job with the reading, evoking emotion and depth. Her voice is gentle and rich and descriptive. It is strange to hear your work read by someone else, but I enjoyed it and the quality doesn’t get any better than the NYT and this lovely actress.

I’ll tell you more about producing this and about how I nearly vomited after the recording in another post.

For now, click here to listen to the Modern Love Podcast and A Child of Two Worlds.




Registration is Open at the International School of Djibouti

Registration for the school year 2017-18 is now open at the International School of Djibouti.

There is some confusion regarding the new English schools in Djibouti, partly due to the similarity of our names.

Registration is open at all the English schools (and I encourage parents to look into each school in order to make the best choice for their own family needs), which are:

The International School of Djibouti (ISD)

Quality Schools International International School of Djibouti (QSI)

International School of Africa, Djibouti (ISA)

I am sure all these schools are doing excellent work. But of course, I am completely biased and love ISD.


ISD is affordable (less expensive than both these other schools), offers a high quality education for 3-year old kids up through seniors in high school, uses the Calvert Education Curriculum, hires qualified teachers who speak excellent English (native speakers), uses the latest technology, and offers exciting after school activities from art to swimming, music to basketball. We have thousands of books in our library, a playground, basketball court, and more.

ISD will seek full accreditation in the US and internationally and a year spent at ISD should be transferable to most international schools. An ISD degree using the Calvert curriculum comes with guaranteed acceptance into several American universities upon valid completion of high school and based upon GPA and test scores.

We have a strong community ethos and are focused on whole families. We host school picnics, game nights, and field trips with the aim of engaging in Djibouti and helping local and expatriate families thrive here.

We are also committed to English education throughout Djibouti. This means we offer night courses for adults and participate in the distribution of educational materials in refugee camps and low-income areas. We donated books and classroom materials to local schools which target at-risk populations. We’ve offered tutoring in English and in French. Also, in our first year of operation, ISD received a grant to provide education to refugee students.

We love watching Djiboutian and expatriate students come together and learn and we would love to have you join our community!

ISD is now open for enrollment for the upcoming school year.

Visit the website or stop on by for more information.

*photos by Jessica Gardner