Where are we now?

I just poured cold water into Nixin’s breakfast bowl. Nixin watched me, confused and a little amused, as my water bottle stood patiently nearby. That’s why we’re not going to Turtle Town this morning. 

More accurately, we’re not going because Pyra is teething and she and I didn’t get enough restful sleep last night. I quickly gave up and went back to bed after trying to persuade Rod to take Nixin to the beach without us. 

This lifestyle is an interesting mix of vacation and … “life” that I feel we  haven’t yet sorted out. We’re still finding our footing and figuring things out as we go. I feel a bit like we’re moving around in limbo. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to the idea of venturing out from a permanent residence: you leave your home and stuff behind for a certain period and then return and resume where you left off. Only we just left, we didn’t leave off. We have no home to return to (although I admit that the generosity of my parents to share their home with us is very near the feeling of having our own home). 

I was frustrated that Rod wouldn’t take Nixin to the beach without me, because we’re only on Maui a couple more days, and our time with Nixin is fleeting. Who knows when she’ll next have the chance to swim with sea turtles? More importantly, when will he have the chance to share the experience of swimming with sea turtles with his daughter? Well, maybe it will be tomorrow, or maybe it will be never. Who knows? 

On vacations you generally are more motivated to get out and experience things because your time away from “real life” is limited. But what if you’re living a semi-permanent vacation? Is our motivation declining because we don’t have a deadline to return to “real life?” Or is today just an off day because we’re all a little under the weather? I’m sitting on the lanai (pretty sure that’s what they call a deck here?) soaking in some gentle morning sun, listening to the coos and chirps of island birds, with the sea shimmering a deep blue just a few hundred feet away. But I’m letting my daughter sit in the air-conditioned apartment and watch “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.” 

I’m going to have to do better to take these things in stride, because this IS our life. There will be down days, and there will likely be many more than I imagined. We’re not out on a quick 2-week trip, we’re just “out.” There will be indoor tv days even in paradise. But I’m grappling with this, because as much as I appreciate relaxed, having down time, and not over-planning, I feel the tug of mortality and uncertainty in my periphery- the uncertainty of how long this lifestyle will last. There are other variables, out of our control, that we have to contend with and incorporate into the equation. 

We don’t get to make all of the decisions for Nixin’s experience and future on our own. There have already been some shadows of roadblocks coming to light that we’ll have to navigate. And it may potentially lead to a change in course. 

But I ramble in my cocoon of sleepy thoughts. I guess I just want to make sure I appreciate this life right now, as we live it. And to really live it, even as it stretches out in front of us indefinitely. I don’t know if we’re at the beginning of long and durable venture, or if this beginning butts up against the unexpected ending. 

I may have experienced a sleepless night with a teething baby, and awoke to feel unrested and grumpy, but the Maui morning sun has soaked into my bones as I sat writing this, removing the sense of frustration and anxiety that permeated my foggy thoughts. The blue water swept those unwanted feelings out to sea. The chorus of birds have brightened my outlook and helped to adjust my perspective. 

We can never know exactly where we sit on our journey through life. But that’s ok, especially if we recognize and appreciate the inevitable uncertainty as opportunity. 

Mahalo Maui. 

2-For-1 Adventure: We’re Having a Baby in Ecuador

90 days until we depart Alaska for Ecuador … and about 25 weeks more of pregnancy.

(SURPRISE!!! We’re having a baby!)

Adventure #1 – Pregnancy, childbirth, and a baby

If you’re a general member of the public, you may not realize what a huge, huge, huge, huge deal this pregnancy is for us. We’ve been riding an agonizing emotional rollercoaster of infertility for several years, but last year we called it quits and finally gave up trying for a successful pregnancy. We had spent thousands on medical help, lost five (known) early pregnancies, and shed countless tears. The emotional toll of the endeavor had grown too great and we were ready to move on with our lives. And so we did.

Instead of draining our energy on unsuccessful family-building, we redirected ourselves towards positive life-building in general. Our infertility experience made it excruciatingly clear to us that we are unable to control all aspects of our existence, but that nonetheless, we have the power of choice in all situations. Sometimes the apparent options will all seem undesirable; but we still get to choose which is the least undesirable.

We were not able to choose to have our own biological children, but we could choose to forego the years of certain emotional turmoil that would come with sticking the course. We could choose to proactively build a healthier relationship and life while we are still physically and mentally able in lieu of the tenuous and dark path that would never guarantee a biological child at the end. We have a limited length of time to live in a healthy body, and our experience reminded us of the importance to control what we can in order to create a life worth living. (If you want to read more about our infertility experience, jump to my old blog: So, this is happening …)

OK … so where was I going before I got off course … oh, yeah!

SURPRISE! We’re having a baby!

We discovered I was pregnant Thursday, January 25th. The next day I was shocked (and elated and anxious) to find that a viable fetus with a heartbeat was snuggled in my uterus (every single ultrasound I’ve had prior to this one has shown us only disappointment or sorrow). Two weeks later, we were nearly 9 weeks into the pregnancy and the baby-to-be was still alive and growing at a normal rate. I had sobbed at all of my zillions of ultrasounds … but never from joy.

Rodney has been my pillar of strength and a well-spring of positive energy from the day we first discovered the pregnancy. You see, when I took that home pregnancy test on January 25th and it was positive … I wasn’t excited. Every positive pregnancy test I’ve ever received … ended with a dead fetus. I was certain that we were in for just another “character building” experience. I really did hold a tiny glimmer of hope deep in my heart … but it’s shine was desperately buried by the shadow of doubt nurtured by years of infertility. But Rodney, from that first day, bolstered me with his excitement and confidence. It was like he willed this baby into good health and denied my body from rejecting it.

We saw the baby in the 12th week … looking like a real baby. Unbelievable. It kicked and somersaulted and was undeniably alive. Today is the first day of week 16 and we’re officially carrying a baby into the second trimester. (Aaaaaaaaa! It’s still sinking in!!) My taste for coffee and hummus has returned, but my husband’s (usually delicious) homemade sauerkraut still repels me and my sweet tooth continues to be much stronger than it has ever been before this pregnancy.

Adventure #2 – Sticking to the lifestyle change

As soon as we realized that this baby intends to join our family, we started to analyze our plans and options. We have tickets to depart Alaska for Sweden in August; plans to  be in Spain and Portugal until October; make our way to Kathmandu for a TEFL course in November; and then hang out in Southeast Asia thereafter. Baby plans to arrive in September. Hm.

To most of our family and friends, there was one obvious and clear choice: delay departure until after Baby is born and then figure out what to do and when. For Rodney and I, this sounded very unappealing. We have been working hard towards and eagerly anticipating the upcoming lifestyle change. To delay departure doesn’t just mean putting off travel, it means that Rodney would be shackled to his 9-to-5 desk job with a daily commute merely to secure ongoing healthcare to afford the birth of Baby. And then, after Baby arrives, Rodney would have limited time off from work to be with his new child. Quite simply, that wasn’t the obvious and clear best choice for us.

We looked at the healthcare costs of various other countries to see if we could afford to stick to our original plan and have Baby along the way. Our minimal research suggested that we would probably pay a similar out-of-pocket amount for Baby to be born in Sweden or Spain as in Alaska, but what we didn’t know is if we would want to bunker down for awhile to adjust to life with new Baby. Additionally, if we were going to have give birth outside of the USA … how about securing dual citizenship as a bonus gift to Baby?

Jus soli, or birthright citizenship, is a privilege offered by relatively few nations- certainly not Sweden or Spain. But when we looked at countries that do confer birthright citizenship, we were excited to see that Ecuador (along with most American nations) is among the few. Ecuador ranked highly in our list of potential countries to move to when we started to talk about lifestyle changes about a year and a half ago. Ultimately, we decided to “slow travel” for an indefinite period before plunging into a more permanent move … but, here was Ecuador again. Waving it’s cheery flag of desirable characteristics.

Ecuador is well-known in the ex-pat community. Its affordable and relatively good healthcare, low-cost living, pleasant climate, incredible biodiversity, foreigner-friendly national language and visa policies have put Ecuador in the top rankings of “best countries for expats” for a handful of years (albeit, it’s rank has slipped a bit in the last year or two as other countries have gained popularity). Having already been on our radar as a potential country to move to, Ecuador quickly became our target destination when it appeared in the list of jus soli countries. We excitedly researched medical and visa options and then with some good-looking data to lean on, decided that moving to Ecuador to have Baby and stay indefinitely will be our new plan.

So there you have it. We’re off on a serendipitous 2-for-1 adventure, thanks to the inability to control all aspects of our existence, combined with the invaluable power to choose. It’s deliberosity, baby: there’s always a choice. And we are doing our best to make the most of our insignificant and fabulous lives. Woooot!!

Perceived Stumbling Blocks May Actually be Your Stepping Stones

About a year and a half ago, Rodney and I started to talk seriously about moving out of Alaska. While we both feel incredibly fortunate to have grown up in this beautiful state, we want to live in a more temperate climate with better access to fresh foods and where we can trade in our dependence on personal vehicles for more environmentally friendly and physically active transportation.

Furthermore, despite the fact that I grew up in the dark winters of Alaska, my body and mind function a trillion times better with exposure to sunlight. (I think I may be part plant.) I want to live where there is more sun, more of the year- for the sake of my health and well-being and in turn, the well-being of my family.

Whenever we’ve discussed moving outside of Alaska, the sticking point has always been the same: a sweet little girl named Nixin.

Nixin is a delightful, intelligent, good-natured human. When I first met her, she was a chubby, hilarious, sweet, almost-two-year-old. At this moment, the slender 9-year-old is bouncing around the house with long legs sticking out from her pajama t-shirt.

Rodney shares equal custody with Nixin’s biological mother. As far as these less-than-ideal situations go, things work out pretty well; Nixin seems incredibly unperturbed by her dealt hand of a split family and we manage fairly good communication between our families. Yet, the custody arrangement has always made our dream of an out-of-state move seem out of the question.

Alaska is far removed from any other state and requires one to fly (or drive for several long days), just to get to any other part of the USA. Seriously- a whole other country sits in between! To get from Anchorage to Seattle (the nearest big city in the “Lower 48”), one must drive  2,250 miles (3,620 km). That is the same as driving from Chicago to San Francisco, with enough miles left over to continue down the coast a couple of hours to Monterey. The feasibility of equal custody with one family in Alaska and the other outside seemed … mmmm, NOT feasible. Especially if Nixin were to remain in the public school system.

However, Rodney and I had reached a point that we could no longer imagine remaining in Alaska until Nixin graduates from high school. (Did I mention that I’m part plant and NEED MORE SUNSHINE?!) We decided to broach the subject with Nixin’s biological mom as a “what if?” We said that someday we’d like to move outside of Alaska … what would we do with the custody agreement then? Much to our surprise, we weren’t the only family with dreams to move.

Nixin’s biological mom had been wanting to move out of Alaska, but like us, thought that it wasn’t feasible. All of a sudden the conversation turned to a discussion about how homeschool would allow for both families to move to wherever they’d like and still allow equal custody of the sweet girl who has little choice in the matter.

Fast forward several months and plans were rounding out. Nixin’s other family decided to move to Washington State to be closer to family, and after some contemplation, we decided to spend a year or so “slow traveling.”  We started to homeschool Nixin in preparation for the planned big changes. Now we have about 6 months of homeschool experience under our belts, our personal belongings and real estate are finding new owners, and we’ve got plane tickets out of the country.

As I finish up this post, we’re 105 days from leaving Alaska, and Nixin’s other family is currently trucking their belongings down the Alcan highway towards Washington State- they actually took the plunge before we did!

What if we had never broached the subject? The response we received was beyond our imagination and turned the tide of our life towards realizing our dreams sooner than expected. Don’t hold back for fear of how others will receive you or what response you might get- who cares what they think! Besides,  your perceived stumbling blocks may actually be your stepping stones.

What’s on your “someday” list?

Your life will end.

Sooner or later.

As macabre as this sounds, it’s true. Each day is a gift of existence and you get to choose how to live. Every morning when you awake is not “just another day.” It is THE day. It is the only day you are certain to wake up to. I know we shouldn’t necessarily live each day as if it’s our last and that living that way wouldn’t be sustainable. But I think that generally, we maintain a dangerous perspective of our mortality and how one ought to experience life. We lean too hard on an expectation of a long and healthy life, and the concept of working hard to retire comfortably is ingrained from childhood. For some, this will work well and they will reach their “golden years” feeling fulfilled. For many, we will look back and say … “What the heck was I thinking?!”

Isn’t it scary to think that “someday” may never come for all those things that you really want to do, but don’t make time for? It might be travel, starting a business, eating out at a ridiculously pricey restaurant that serves 16 courses, skydiving, taking an art class, going to the spa, taking a trip to see grandparents, hiking that one really impressive mountain you’ve been eyeing for years or checking out that one trail you keep hearing about. Why is it that we postpone those things that will make us smile and fill our hearts with joy? Why do we risk that “someday” may never arrive?

I play a game with myself to help maintain my perspective. I ask myself if something will matter to me a week from now, a year from now, 10 years from now, or even on my death-bed. This helps me assign value to various experiences, to shake off an annoying or frustrating interactions, and to make decisions that feel difficult.

When Rodney and I were trying to figure out what to do with our lives, we asked ourselves, “What are we likely to regret most when we’re elderly?” And what we came up with: we are likely to regret that we didn’t travel more. Isn’t that a fairly common one for folks? I’m guessing it is, and I’m guessing that you may have had similar thoughts about wanting to get out into the world more. We use all kinds of excuses to justify why we don’t travel: money, kids, job, responsibilities. But the thing is, if you want it enough, you can make it happen.  You just have to want it enough to work for it. You start putting money aside, you start budgeting and you stop making superfluous purchases. You read about how other families with kids travel. You realize that the world will roll along without you if you duck out for a few weeks and take that trip you’ve always wanted to. You CAN do it. If you really want to.

The trick is to make a concrete plan. Make the decision. Really, that is the hardest part. In fact, even if you decide NOT to do whatever it is, and take it off your “someday” list altogether, I bet you will feel lighter and more satisfaction from that decision alone. If instead, you scratch the item from your “someday” list and move it to a concrete plan, but think that you are likely to cave in and back out on it, build in accountability. Make it public. Use an anticharity. You know your habits and what makes you tick. What will you need to do to make sure you follow through?

What is on your “someday” list? Is there something hanging out there that really belongs on your “do it now” list? What are the excuses you’re using to push it out until “someday?” When you’re wrinkled and hairless (should you be so fortunate), will you be looking back with regrets and wishing you had done more when your body was capable, or will you feel fulfilled and satisfied with the life you chose to live?

I recently heard this Japanese proverb that stuck with me:

Fall seven times, get up eight.

We’re only human. But we can try. And try again. And try again. Don’t let your old-person-self down.

You just never know

“I’ve been thinking; selling the rental properties and not having those responsibilities to deal with while we travel would feel really, really good,” Rodney says to me a few days ago. I sit up a little taller and try not to shriek with joy.

“You are absolutely right,” I say in a voice so calm it surprises me. “We would never have to deal with emergency maintenance bills, nightmare tenants, the inevitably disappointing management help … selling would remove all that potential stress.”

I’ve wanted to sell the properties before we take off, but Rod has been hesitant. Whereas I’ve never much enjoyed being a landlord, Rodney grew up helping out with his parent’s property business and was pretty much raised on construction sites. Rod literally cut his teeth on a wrench (maybe that’s why he needed so much orthodontic work later in life? Ha!).  It’s kind of in his blood, and I think he almost feels like it’s just the right thing to do. We “should” own property because it worked out great for his parents. I completely understand, and do agree. I just don’t enjoy being a landlord. Anyway, regardless of our differing preferences, the little bit of real estate that we own is unquestionably a major component of our longterm investments for “retirement.” For all these reasons (and perhaps others), Rod has resisted my inclination to sell off our property and so I dropped the subject. Instead, we’ve been trying to figure out how to best manage the rentals from afar. Ugh. Headache. Sigh. Sigh again.

Buuuuut, low and behold (and fingers crossed), Rodney may be changing his mind?! The lure of a life without major responsibilities lurking around the corner may be drawing him in? Embrace that notion, my dear husband!!

Eeeeeeeeee!!! (that’s me, no longer containing my shriek of joy!)

We would get on the airplane with only our bodies and backpacks. No obligations or responsibilities back at home requiring our attention. Talk about absolute freedom!! We would have endless doors of opportunity in front of us, and we could walk through any one of them without us first having to consider our responsibilities as property owners. If we didn’t want to, we would never have to return to Alaska. We will definitely want to return, but we would never have to.

Is this just a passing thought for Rodney? Will the property management in his blood outweigh the call of absolute freedom? Apparently not. Several days have passed and Rodney’s enthusiasm to sell has increased, not waned.

We have decided. Absolute freedom wins. We will sell our properties.