Home/Tag: fear

A Quiz about Fear

Quick link: 10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, a Quiz, at A Life Overseas

I recently heard an interview with Kim Brooks, the author of Small Animals, parenthood in the age of fear, and was reminded of how irrational fear can be. Understandably so, but still, in an age of fear and also judgment and rage, parenting can feel fraught with risk.

I had written this quiz several years ago, but found it again in my drafts and pulled it out to publish now. What are we generally afraid of? What should we actually fear (if anything?)

A quiz:

  1. Are Americans more at risk of dying by terrorist or dying by an appliance falling on us?

Death by appliance.

  1. Is a predator more likely to attack a child walking home from the playground alone or to attack a child playing in the home?

Child playing at home.

  1. Does a child face more of a health risk while climbing a tree or while staring at an iPad?

Staring at an iPad.

Click here to continue with the quiz and to read my conclusion: 10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, a Quiz, at A Life Overseas

Running Afraid

Y’all did it. You helped me raise the funds for the marathon and education fundraiser in Somaliland. Thank you.

And now that means I have to do this.

Uh, I mean get to do this.

But kind of? I mean I have to do this.

I’m kind of a chicken type of person.

You might not believe me. People call me brave. I rarely feel brave. I rarely feel competent. I often doubt my decisions, question my ability, cower before negative self-talk.

I am also stubborn. That’s one thing I have going for me. Stubborn works well for long-distance running. It works well for long-term cross-cultural living. It works well for the years of research and rejection and revising that go into book writing.

But stubborn is not the same as brave.

So I confess that I’m feeling nervous.

I have my plane ticket. I have my visa. I paid my fees and made our donation. I won’t back down (thank you Tom Petty), but I’m doing it afraid.

Anything can happen.

Anything can happen at any time and in any place. I know this full well. I’ve written about it several times.

There’s the marathon nerves that any runner feels before the start of a big race. We’ve spent months training our legs and lungs and brains. We’ve read for inspiration, woken up way too early, pooped in places we wish we hadn’t, downed GU by the bucketfull, kept pasta-makers in business. We’ve tweaked training plans and figured out the best shoes and running gear. We’ve given up on ever having ten toenails all at the same time. So we’re ready, but also not ready.

Its a frickin’ marathon.

That’s a long way.

26.2 miles. 42 kilometers.

It hurts.

The nerves are excited-nerves. I love this stuff. Running, education, the region, the people I’m meeting and spending time with. I love it.

But it is also outside my comfort zone.

So I’m nervous.

I’m nervous about being one of only a few women, only a few international runners, about the location, about what I’ll wear (I’m bringing several options). I’m nervous about the meetings I have arranged for before and after. I’m nervous that not everyone will be thrilled about this event.

My husband tells me to stop being so self-conscious. To not worry about what to wear or what to say or who to talk to, to not doubt myself, to be strong and assertive. He says, “Its all strange.” Meaning: female, running, white, foreign, Somali-speaker. He says to stop thinking so hard and to enjoy it.

He’s right.

I think that’s what it takes to do something while afraid. To jump in with both feet. Forget about dipping one toe in at a time. Forget about self and focus on what I know is true. This is such a unique opportunity. I should not waste time being timid or afraid.

I should be all me. Meaning: curious, interested, hopeful, excited.

Instead of bringing all my baggage of:

I’m too slow

Women don’t run here

I stick out

Its unsafe

I look ridiculous

What was I thinking? (this will come in mile 22, if not before)

I should bring:

My love for Somali culture and the ways it has molded into my American-ness

My dreams of competitive female athletes from this region

My thrill at being part of this unique experience

All the Somalis who have loved me, welcomed me, helped me laugh my way through these years abroad, all the people who have fed me and clothed me (quite literally) and embraced my kids, and forgiven my faux pas, and shown me how to create a home here, and given me their courage when I lacked my own.

So yeah, I get to do this.

Here we go!

(Here are a couple of videos I made of my last two long runs, if you want a peek at running in Djibouti)



Parenting and Risk, Outside the Camp

Quick link: I’m Not Called to Keep My Kids from Danger

This is an article published by Christianity Today Women. (I hope fathers as well as mothers read it, or are thinking about these topics as they parent!) The piece was commissioned in response to a recent post John Piper wrote about bringing kids abroad, to live in risky or dangerous places.

His piece focused on spiritual risks. I’ve written a lot about fear and danger, mostly in terms of physical aspects. I believe, as I wrote in the Proper Weight of Fear, that safety is an illusion, it can even be crafted into an idol. No matter where we live, our kids are never guaranteed any level of safety. What are we going to do with that sobering reality? My piece responds to Piper’s, with a personal take.

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I did the riskiest thing we could imagine and took a job in the Horn of Africa. People often responded by asking, “Are you bringing the kids?” We had two-year-old twins at the time.

…Yes, we were bringing the kids.

It still amazes me that people ask this question. But I heard from a friend who arrived in Africa about a year ago, she too, had been asked this. And several others have commented that people ask the same question.

Yes! We’re bringing our kids. And we don’t believe we are destroying them.

As I drafted this essay, I asked my kids if they thought they lived a dangerous or uncomfortable life. One responded, “I think its pretty comfortable. But from the outside, someone might not think that.”

One thing about risk and danger and pushing beyond our comfort zones, is that it is, partly, a matter of perspective. I look back at the US lately, and I feel a tingle of fear! I’m starting to understand my African friends who ask, “Aren’t you afraid to visit the United States?” and who assume I would have no fear about living where we do. Clearly, some places are more dangerous, physically, than others. I have never been to Mogadishu. Also, we do face unique risks regarding disease and healthcare. I am not ignoring those scary realities. But, the conversation about fear and risk is more than physical danger and more than simply thinking everywhere outside the US is less safe.

Anyway, head over to CT, and read the piece, about going outside the camp.

I’m Not Called to Keep My Kids from Danger


Book News and an Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

You guys.

Book deal.


I signed a book contract. What a saga, a story for another day, of how it came about. But all the peaks and valleys brought me to a publisher who fits this story in ways I couldn’t have imagined a few months ago.

I signed with Plough and couldn’t be happier. I love their books, their vision, and the way they work.

One of the first things I wanted to do was to tell you, Djibouti Jones readers.

I want to thank you.

Thank you for reading, commenting, sharing, challenging, and encouraging me. Thank you for the emails and private messages. Thank you for saying hello at the grocery store or the airport. Thank you for letting me write on your own websites. Thank you for reminding me that as an expat and a writer and a mother, three identities that can be so lonely, I am not alone. Thank you for sharing your words here, in guest posts.

I’ve been blogging now for ten years, working on essays, learning how to write in public. Some of you have been around that long. Thank you. I’m sure many of my posts are ridiculous.

I don’t ever take it for granted that you spend time here and that, when we have the chance to meet in real life, you offer words of support and encouragement.

I have a thank you gift for all of you but first let me tell you a bit about what I’m diving into.

Our world seems to grow only more divided and brokenness is exposed every day. How do we continue to live and love when fear of the ‘other’ permeates the very air we breathe?

This biography, with a little memoir sprinkled in, addresses that question. It is the story of the most inspiring woman I have known. It is a global story of massacre, war, secrets, and disease, and it is a testimony of how love, through radical service, conquers fear.

Research took me across the world. I’ve been in musty Nairobi archives (bliss), unfolding hand-drawn maps from 1910. I sat in an Italian doctor’s attic with a bowl of gelato in my lap to watch a slide show, with actual slides from the 1990s (also, bliss. Actually? I’m loving all of this). I’ve talked so long with Somalis in Holland that they gave me a toothbrush and pajamas and insisted I spend the night. I’ve been in Somali deaf schools and gorged myself on homemade Italian feasts. I’ve been hosted by the bravest, most generous people, our world’s quiet heroes. I’ve cried with them as they told stories of this woman and I’ve cried when they passed heirlooms to me. I’ve been changed by this research, the writing of the story, and by this woman.

This is a story that needs to be told and I can’t wait to introduce you to her.

But. I have to wait. Publication day is far out in the future. You’ll hear more about that down the road.

For now, I want to offer Djibouti Jones readers something as a token of my gratitude. I’m so excited about this book and want to celebrate with you!

Some of the themes in the story are fear, courage, and love. I’ve written many times about these themes and the best piece is a longform essay published originally by The Big Roundtable. I want to gift it to you. This edition includes stunning new photos by the talented Matt Erickson, who has been involved in the research and development of this book from the start.

After the essay, I’ve included my top 12 tips for fighting fear and living a full life, things I’ve learned over the course of 15 years in the Horn of Africa.


I’m offering a $50 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader! (I know, book stuff blahblahblah, but free money?! Now we’re talkin’)

To download The Proper Weight of Fear book and be entered to win the gift card, here’s what to do:

  • Sign-up for my newsletter, Stories from the Horn (the confirmation email includes a link to the book)

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 Do one or more of the following:

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  • Tag a friend or two (or 12) you think might enjoy Djibouti Jones, The Proper Weight of Fear book, the upcoming biography, or who just needs $50 from Amazon

Optional: Leave a comment below letting me know what you’ve done!

By signing up for the newsletter, your email address will automatically be included in the drawing for the Amazon gift card.

If you already subscribe to the newsletter, don’t worry, your email is already included in the drawing. But don’t be shy about sharing/commenting/following/tagging!

*the book and gift card giveaway will end November 30th, just in time for holiday shopping!









Going for a Walk. In Somaliland.

Quick link: Walking in Somaliland

At EthnoTraveler I address, again, the perennial question for expatriates living in the Horn of Africa: Is it safe?

Short answer: What do you mean by safe?

Long answer: Read the essay.

Walking in Somaliland

Here’s an excerpt:

My husband and I went for a walk in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Before we left the house where we were staying with friends, the Somali woman employed there swore Hargeisa was peaceful. “There is no danger?” I asked. “No,” she said. “Only in Hamar.”

Hamar is the Somali word for the southern capital, Mogadishu. There may not have been any overt danger in Somaliland but there were checkpoints every few blocks and more visible weapons than I was used to across the border in Djibouti. I wasn’t supposed to go out walking alone. And after dark, my husband needed to ride in a car the two blocks between where he watched a football match and our guesthouse.

I wore baggy pants and a loose t-shirt covered by a shimmering blue floor-length robe. A tight cream scarf covered my hair and a tablecloth-sized scarf draped over my head, down past my shoulders to my fingertips. This was not a romantic stroll through a quaint foreign village. It was more of a sanity walk. I hadn’t left the walls of the compound in three days and needed to get outside. We didn’t hold hands. I walked nearly a foot behind. We barely spoke…

Click here to read the rest of Walking in Somaliland

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