Do something great this Sunday.

It’s Friday!

Close your eyes and get those wheels turning about your glorious weekend plans.

Skip to Sunday. Will you be lounging on your comfy sofa watching your favorite football team? Perfect.

After you update your Facebook status or tweet about that awesome play you just witnessed, search the hashtag #2030Now. Retweet something you see that inspires you, or share your own big idea to change our world.

No matter where you are, what you’re doing, you’ll have the power to make a positive mark on our planet, our home.

Starting at 12:00pm EST, your peers all over the globe will be plugging into the Social Good Summit to view a live stream of some of the world’s most influential innovators and thought leaders discussing the power of technology and social media in solving global issues. You can plug in, too. Just click here. Maybe you’ll hear something that really resonates with you. Tweet it, Facebook it, do your part. We’re Millennials. Technology is our thing. Let’s make a difference together through something as simple as a click or tap. Let’s contribute to a global conversation about solving our world’s problems. Will you join me? Can’t wait to converse with you!

Want more info? See my brief article about last year’s Summit, published in Collinson Media’s Rejuvenate Magazine, here.

Let’s have more love affairs.

I miss New York City.

I miss our well-worn apartment, its ramshackle window AC units and impossible-to-regulate radiator heaters. I miss its tiny kitchen, even tinier bathrooms, haggard floors, barred windows and all.

I miss our Mahmoud, who runs the Middle-Eastern food cart on our street corner. Once, at bedtime, Cam and I were discussing family and what it means. Cam listed, “Momma and Daddy and me and Katie and Mahmoud.” Mahmoud is probably the only other person in the city who Cam saw and talked to on daily basis. He left his family in Egypt, his own two-year-old son, to live in the US and make money to send back to them so that they could live a decent life. He’s amazing with Cam and so happy and so positive and so friendly every single day. We would stop in front of his cart as we ran our daily errands and Cam would hold out his right hand. Mahmoud would kiss it and say, “Marhaba habibi,” or, “Hello my beloved,” which Cam would repeat quietly, and with a shy grin, back to him. He has my heart.

I miss our super, Derrick, who would supply Cam with flashlights and let him play with his tools as he’d disassemble his old SUV in front of our building. He’s direct and not very warm, but he’s reliable. And he has a special place in his heart for Cam. And I love it.

I miss Saleem, who runs our corner deli, where we would buy bananas and coffee every morning. His eyes would secretly light up when I’d bring the kids in, and he’d give them lollipops. He would ask about them when they weren’t with me.

I miss the stockers at the Hispanic grocery mart below our apartment. They’re on the sidewalk and energetic every morning at 6:00 am joking with each other and unloading boxes from delivery trucks. They–also–are full of life. I miss the store owner who would greet me, “Hey baby! How are you doing today?” every time I’d walk by with the kids. He knew us.

I miss the old guy who was eternally sitting on the stoop next door and would talk of having remembered my bringing the kids home from the hospital as newborns (they were actually 6 months and almost two years old when we moved to New York).

I miss Mike’s crappy hours that were actually not crappy at all compared to what he’s been working this summer, when the kids were actually still awake when he’d come home from class or studying and they’d jump up and down in the foyer outside our apartment, waiting for the elevator doors to open and for Daddy to be standing there.

I miss Central Park–our giant backyard–so familiar yet bursting with new discoveries all the time.

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I miss the delivery option. From every restaurant.

I miss constantly feeling awe-inspired by the brilliant, ambitious, creative, talented person who is pretty much every New Yorker.

I miss the unique high the city shoots through your veins in the form of your first time successfully navigating the subway alone with both kids; or your first encounter with the Greek and Roman galleries at the Met; or your passionate, vampire-esque confrontation with bloody MacBeth during a performance of Sleep No More; or seeing Central Park bloom into bright yellow daffodils and purple magnolias and pink cherry blossoms and tulips in spring,

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and then transform into breathtaking burnt oranges, yellows and reds in the fall; or a special date night with your husband at an immersive goosebumps-inducing dinner theatre.

I miss weekend coffee and playdates in the park and wine in the evenings with my special friends.

I miss the energy, the buzz, the beat of the city streets.

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I miss the intense, ubiquitous dichotomy of emotions that New York plagues all of its dwellers with. A friend posted this quote on Facebook months back and it’s so perfect:

“New York City is the most fatally fascinating thing in America. She sits like a great witch at the gate of the country, showing her alluring white face and hiding her crooked hands and feet under the folds of her wide garments–constantly enticing thousands from far within, and tempting those who come from across the seas to go no farther. And all these become the victims of her caprice. Some she at once crushes beneath her cruel feet; others she condemns to a fate like that of galley slaves; a few she favors and fondles, riding them high on the bubbles of fortune; then with a sudden breath she blows the bubbles out and laughs mockingly as she watches them fall.” -James Weldon Johnson 1912

I’ve only been gone for three months and already I’ve forgiven New York for all of the cruel ways she treated me, for all the stress she bestowed on me while we were living there.

I felt broken many times. I felt like she was constantly attempting to attack my marriage and parenting abilities, attempting to bear all of my vulnerabilities, and with such ease. Mike and I no doubt faced our toughest year together there. I think each of us often felt like the city’s galley slave, and yet, her favoring and fondling are what have lingered with me while we’ve been away.

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And I’m really really excited to go back, to face her familiar intensity. Out of all of the places we’ve lived, I think I’ve felt most like myself in New York. I felt most comfortable with who I was there. But I constantly felt humbled, too. Every day, actually. In avenues additional to the way being a parent will humble you.

But when we return, I know I’ll miss Seattle.

I’ll miss the laid-back, even-keel pace of the city.

I’ll miss the wide open space and the endless outdoor adventures. I’ll miss getting my hands dirty with the kids and exploring new worlds any day we choose, discovering inconspicuous treasures together.

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I’ll miss the emerald trees everywhere you look, and watching the sun rise over the peaks of the Cascade mountains from my window each morning, or sinking below the horizon from our rooftop in the evenings.

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I’ll miss watching the kids dig and splash and build driftwood forts on the beaches here, the beaches that have become so familiar to us, our go-to spots on the mild, sunny summer days.

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I’ll miss weekend adventures to the breathtaking national parks and mountain ranges that rest on either side of Seattle. The Olympics keeping watch to the west, Cascades to the east.

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I’ll miss the way the quiet and stillness of the outdoor scene and pace here, the often lonely time I’ve spent with the kids, have challenged me to dig deep to search for inner tranquility as well.

It’s funny how hindsight tends to be so kind. As time passes, the good things, the beautiful things, are the memories that stick with us. And often times, they’re the moments we took for granted, even wished away, as they were passing.

I read the following quote a few months ago and it really resonated with me, “Normal day, let me be aware o the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you as you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth or bury my face in my pillow, or stretch myself taught, or raise my hands to the sky and want–more than all the world–your return.” -Mary Jean Iron

No matter where we are, what we’re doing, the moments are ours to seize. Moments we’ll never be given back. To steal Liz’s words, there is only now. (Mommas, this is a must-read, also featured in Huffington Post.)

When I watch my babies giggling with each other or dancing or asking for a snuggle fest, it’s easy to be present, to have a love affair with those moments. When I flip through my photos of even the simplest, most fleeting moments with my family–no matter the location–my heart is happy. I know how lucky I am. And I’m just so grateful.

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But I think it would be even more amazing to have love affairs with more moments, to remember as they’re passing to cherish and find gratitude in them. Ones that look like these, even.

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So I’m going to sip as much nectar as I possibly can from this beautiful Northwest flower today and in our last week here (my brother, Danny, is visiting us later today!). And when Saturday comes and we return to NYC, I’ll work on cherishing our time there together; really nourishing my relationships; being inspired by every person, my surrounding, each moment; chipping away at our bucket list with the babies; traveling a bit more; and making time for going forward with writing. I have some exciting ideas in the makings and just need to work on the bravery component of going forward with them. Luckily, there might not be a more appropriate place to to do that than in the City of Dreams.

Finding balance

I’m still here.

I promise.  

I’ve been in a moving funk. In fact, I realized as I started writing that I wrote a very similar post right around this length of time after my move to New York. Restarting life with two toddlers is just plain stressful.  

But a few days ago, I was walking clumsily to the playground–a giant iced cafe Americano in one hand (espresso is a requirement alongside my early-risers these days), Kate wiggling relentlessly in my opposite arm, diaper bag sliding off my shoulder, Cam wearing on my patience for not keeping up (you know, because he needed to examine/attempt to sit on some kind of wooden post he’d discovered along the sidewalk)– and we approached two middle aged women who were strolling leisurely toward us.  They were walking their dog and Kate absolutely had to pet it.  

One of the women told me she’d been admiring me and thinking what a wonderful life I was living, gliding along with two beautiful babies and an icy Starbucks on such a nice morning. 

And it made me think.  Here was a lady whom I assumed was retired, leisurely strolling with her friend and her dog along the water, probably going to bask in the warm sun and chat or read a good book. And she was admiring my life. My stressful, messy, responsibility-packed life with toddlers.

And I thought, you know what? I need to stop and admire my life more often. 

When I’m stressed, I’m 100% guilty of searching for someone or something to blame for my unhappiness.  Lately and in a nutshell, it’s looked something like this:

Mike’s hours are way too flipping long. I’m so tired of moving. I hate starting my life from scratch over and over again like this.  I’m lonely. It’s so hard to build a network here.  I can never keep my head above water with these kids. I can’t do this by myself. When will our life just be normal? I’m in the last year of my 20s and I don’t have a career. Or a plan. I really want…well, I don’t know. I really want….something. I just don’t know what it is. I just want.

My stressing and worrying has been consuming me.  I’ve called Molly and vented to her constantly. I vented to my parents when they came to visit. I’ve taken it out on Mike. I’ve had a short temper with Cam and Kate. I’ve been consumed with myself!

Aren’t those funks exhausting? When nothing can satisfy you?  I’ll be happy when…fill in the blank.  And either that blank never comes or, if it does, another fill-in-the-blank takes its place. It’s such a sabotaging frame of mind.

Luckily, I dropped my phone in Puget Sound a few weeks ago and it gave me a little push to take control. I was doing a stand up paddle board yoga Father’s Day session with Mike. And if you follow me on Instagram, you know I couldn’t possibly do something as cool as that without snapping a shot of him paddling or yoga-ing on the water against a backdrop of the Olympics. And as I went to snap that shot, I fumbled. And the scene went into slow motion, as if I were watching my life flash before my eyes. 

In those few days of not having a phone, not having anyone to call, not being able to snap pictures of my daily moments and epiphanies, I realized a few things.

I realized I rely way too much on my phone to distract me from myself.  Amidst immediately tending to my very dependent and often volatile toddler lovies, (and when my phone isn’t dead because I’ve once again forgotten to charge it), I’m calling or texting or picture-taking, or browsing, or emailing.

And without those things, life is pretty amazing, But it’s a little scary, too.  

Staying constantly busy exploring with my babes and connected through my phone are awesome ways to distract myself and keep me superficially happy, but I realized I need more than that–something deeper.  

To digress a bit, a few months ago I started a book called the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that an NYC friend recommended to me. And the author emphasized the importance of taking oneself on a weekly artist’s date–a date to go on alone, doing something that is fun, adult fun. Something that’s purely for enjoyment. And she mentioned how it’s almost inevitable that you’ll tell yourself you don’t have time, or that you’ll use it to meet with a friend or bring someone along. It’s amazing how terrified we can be of ourselves and our thoughts.

I still haven’t finished the book, but ironically my new (and totally awesome) Seattle friend read it. And she said how amazing the artist’s date has been for her life as a mother.  

So anyway, to get back on track, I started thinking about that artist’s date. And I liked it, but I just felt like it wasn’t going to fully be the answer to my frustrations. I’m a very (probably too much) fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of person, and I wanted something guided, structured, consistent to get me back into the swing of things. I thought yoga would be the perfect start.

I’ve done yoga lessons here and there, but usually it’s been fitness related and I’ve never stuck with it. I know I’ve mentioned before that Mike does mindfulness meditation and absolutely swears by it, so I thought yoga would be something along those lines.

And let me tell you, even if you’ve done it before and decided it wasn’t for you, do a little research, find a good clinic or teacher or dvd and do it again anyway. And stick with it. 

It’s done wonders for my attitude. It’s probably a combination of the hour and a half I get to myself a few times a week and the peace that comes with meditation alongside pushing my flexibility and strength to new limits, but the change I’ve noticed in my attitude over just the past week and a half has been incredible.

My teacher really emphasizes the meditation aspect of not letting our minds become lazy, drifting off to whatever thoughts and obsessions they desire. If we’re able to be in control of our minds, to acknowledge the thoughts and emotions we let ourselves obsess over without becoming attached to or defined by them, to focus on our breath, prana, the life and vitality of spirit, we’re much more at peace.

And how awesome would it be to be able to detach ourselves from those exhausting emotions more often? To be more present? To find that balance in our lives we’re constantly searching for? It’s a challenging feat, but so rewarding. 

So it’s something I’m definitely going to push myself to stick with.  Because finding balance allows us much more space to focus on the amazing parts of life, to get beyond ourselves. 

And you know, I have an abundance to be grateful for.  I love photography. I’ve realized it’s allowed me to look back at my daily moments with my family and appreciate them, to find gratitude for them. It’s also a very satisfying creative outlet for me. I love experimenting with light and angles; I love editing, I love sharing. And social media has been an awesome medium for that.  But something I started to realize when I lost my phone and wasn’t able to share my moments was how much I enjoyed living life without the “like” button.

Again, I love that Facebook and Instagram provide a medium to share our lives and our journeys, but that button can really bring out our insecurities, can’t it? Just being aware of that has been a good thing for me. It’s awesome to keep our friends and relatives updated and show the world what we’re grateful for in our lives or maybe just feel connected on days when we’re lonely, or display work we’re proud of or words that have resonated with us in hopes that they’ll resonate with others, too. But sometimes it stings when we don’t get the kind of feedback we’re hoping for. Because when we share parts of our lives and our thoughts, we’re making ourselves vulnerable. Would we post and share if we didn’t want feedback? I think recognizing that vulnerability and want for others to like the things we post (things that are essentially us) can help us step back and appreciate those things ourselves. 

Often when I’m feeling down, I’ve looked through the the pictures I’ve taken and thought, man, my online life looks like I’d never have anything to stress about; I do have so much to be grateful for.  

But if our lives were really just the highlights, the picture streams of our timelines, we would be bored and static and never learning and never growing.  Stress definitely feels real and suffocating and without end when we’re in the eye of it, but I think we need tough situations in our lives to grow and become better versions of us. We need to learn how we can better respond.  Has anyone ever truly grown when she wasn’t challenged?

So I would love if you would join me in the challenge of striking a healthy balance in your life. Let’s appreciate the awesome and work on responding better to the not so awesome. And if you already have special tips you’d like to share about how you keep your balance, I would LOVE to know them.

I’ll post soon (promise) with some pictures and updates about our move. Hope you’re having a fabulous 4th of July weekend! 

 

 

South Africa

~Note~
I remember my sister Molly writing in her first post about Africa that she had no idea where to begin or how to fully capture her experiences there.

It’s so true.

Africa is this majestic, dreamlike place that deserves more than words and pictures. Those expressions just can’t capture its richness, beauty and depth. I hesitated to write because I don’t want this blog post to put boundaries on the way I remember my time there—some of it is remarkably indescribable. But I don’t want to forget anything about the journey, either. I’m hoping Africa will forgive me for not being able to do her justice in my writing, but I’m determined to attempt to bring you there.

~Johannesburg~
After we arrived in Johannesburg, affectionately dubbed Jozi or Jo’burg by the locals, we met with Molly and her roommate Alyssa to join some others from our group to eat dinner and toast to our good company and forthcoming adventures.

Dinner at Butcher. From front of table going clockwise: Lauren, Jenny, Jason, Mike, me, Molly, Alyssa, Brian, Marc

Dinner at Butcher. From front of table going clockwise: Lauren, Jenny, Jason, Mike, me, Molly, Alyssa, Brian, Marc

After dinner under a statue of Nelson Mandela

After dinner under a statue of Nelson Mandela

We spent the following morning exploring the Apartheid Museum.

The museum immerses its visitors in the country’s history of racial segregation and illustrates Nelson Mandela’s role in taking down the tradition of apartheid. It was a heavy morning, as remnants of apartheid’s legacy are evident throughout the country in the form of poverty and racially divided townships, but just as we’ve experienced gradual improvement since the civil rights movement in our own country, so are the citizens of South Africa.

After we left the museum, Mike and I and our friend Brian grabbed a cab to pick up Molly and Alyssa to make a local orphanage visit—one that Molly had arranged for the afternoon. Our driver—we belatedly realized—spoke next to no English and had a very limited understanding of the city routes and roads. We drove for close to three hours through countryside that reminded me of very remote corners of Kansas—flat, golden fields and run-down pastures divided by dirt or gravel roads and sparingly sprinkled with low rolling hills. Our driver stopped frequently to ask local road-wanderers for directions in Zulu, but they usually rubbed their chins looking stumped, chattered a bit, and then pointed up the road.

Just as we made our way down what we decided would be the final wrong dirt path, a guarded steel gate appeared on our right next to a low concrete wall adorned with the letters TLC, an acronym for The Love of Christ Ministries. It’s an orphanage completely funded by donations and staffed with volunteers from around the globe. We met five volunteers there, all in their very early twenties—three from Canada, one from Germany, and another from Oregon—who spend their days caring for and playing with children and babies sent to them by mothers who aren’t able to financially care for them or don’t want to raise them. Bara, the hospital in which Molly and Alyssa are interning, also sends abandoned babies there.

We talked with a German volunteer who had spent a few months at the orphanage before going back to Germany, only to realize that the children she had left at TLC still “had her heart.” And so she returned to work with them for as long as she could. And I think she described it perfectly. The minute you lay eyes on these babies, they have your heart. I fell in love with almost two-year-old Laurel, so smart and sweet and adorable, who snuggled up under my arm to read a book. It’s easy to see how loved the children are by the volunteers there and the ambivalent feelings that would plague them when a child is adopted. While I was worried that our visit would be heart-wrenching and tear-jerking, it ended up being just the opposite. It was an incredible home filled with caring people, beautiful children, and hope for what lies ahead for them—hope that too many other abandoned babies in the area won’t experience.

We spent the drive back to Jo’burg talking about three-month-old, cuddly, chubbiest-cheeks-you’ve-ever-seen Charlotte, 1-year-old future sports all-star Alaric who (coincidentally?) learned to both throw a ball with Brian and open a window while we were there—we couldn’t help but think the two tasks might hold figurative meaning together, and one of the little twin boys who belly-laughed contagiously when Mike tickled him.

To bring the day to a close, we stopped by a local market to haggle for souvenirs,

African dancers performing outside the local market in Rosebank

African dancers performing outside the local market in Rosebank

drank coffees at a small café to shake off our jet lag and drowsiness from our previous late night of drinks, then met some others from the Columbia group for dinner in Mandela Square. It was so comforting to spend the day with Molly, listening to her and Alyssa’s stories about their time at Bara, and just being. My heart ached to leave her that evening, but it did help knowing I would see her in a couple of months. I’ve really missed her.

Sending her off in a cab back to her dorm

Sending her off in a cab back to her dorm

~Bongani~
The following day, we woke up early to make a 5-hour bus ride to what would be our home for the following two nights—Bongani Mountain Lodge, tucked away in the private 7.7 square-mile Mthetomusha Game Reserve in Mpumalanga on the southern outskirts of Kruger National Park. My photos truly don’t do our experience there justice.

A typical shack in a remote township on the road to Bongani

A typical shack in a remote township on the road to Bongani

The scenery (aka the bush) alone makes the trip worth it—rolling mountains thick with lush, green vegetation and flecked with purple Wild Fox Gloves, yellow Morning Glory, and magenta Pride of the Cape.

the bush

the bush

But there’s something distinctly majestic about being guests in the wild animals’ kingdom.

To soar in an open-topped jeep through their mountains to simply admire them in their natural habitat without the thought of hunting or of conquest or of their being caged at a zoo on human turf is just purely humbling. A theme of newfound respect for the creatures there seemed to radiate from our jeeps each day. And on top of that, the crisp mountain wind caresses your hair and beckons your senses while the bush gently ushers away any thought that would impose on living in the present. I’ve never been to a place more calming and welcoming. No internet to surf, no texts to send, no phones to answer; just the sounds of distant roars or squabbling baboons or snapping trees being taken down by far off elephants.

Mike's classmate, Jon, experiences how it feels to sit in the tracker's seat

Mike’s classmate, Jon, experiences how it feels to sit in the tracker’s seat

Our jeep’s driver Stanley and tracker Elliot spoke softly to each other in Swazi, the regional language, throughout our drive. They were a seasoned team; Stanley compared them to a married couple.

Stanley and Elliot

Stanley and Elliot

Elliot would notice tracks on the ground and motion with subtle confidence which way to go when the dirt trails diverged. The man’s eyes saw everything—a green chameleon blending into a leaf, a brown spotted owl perfectly camouflaged high up in the branches, grazing impala on a rock in the distance, or a gray elephant softly fanning its ears on a rocky cliff far away. We constantly found ourselves imploring aloud, “How did you see that?!” to which Elliot always acknowledged with a quick look back at us painted with an ear-to-ear grin.

And Stanley was just as impressive. He gave us a thorough story of every animal and plant we stopped to admire—the group of five wallowing rhino whose horns were cut down to deter poachers from hunting them; the towering giraffe whose tail was missing and infected due to birds who peck at the parasites in it, keeping the wound fresh.

“It is part of life for them,” was Stanley’s calming, rhythmic response to our laments as he started the low grumble of the jeep to depart for our next discovery.

This was my typical view on our game drives. I love how the sun shines through the clouds to resemble a lightening bolt in this photo

This was my typical view on our game drives. I love how the sun shines through the clouds to resemble a lightening bolt in this photo

Elliot spotted these lion tracks on our first game drive. We wouldn't find her our final drive.

Elliot spotted these lion tracks on our first game drive. We wouldn’t find her our final drive.

a mama and her baby

a mama and her baby

We had driven off the track to see elephants sunning on a high cliff above us. This bull appeared from nowhere right in front of us.

We had driven off the trail to see elephants sunning on a high cliff above us. This bull appeared from nowhere right in front of us.

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magnificence

Stanley dubbed our jeep group "The A Team." From left to right: Andrew, Elle, Brian, Stanley, Elliot, Lauren, me, Mike, Prentice, Kola

Stanley dubbed our jeep group “The A Team.” From left to right: Andrew, Elle, Brian, Stanley, Elliot, Lauren, me, Mike, Prentice, Kola

One of my favorite moments included stopping on our drive back to the lodge in the pitch blackness of night to bask in the twinkle of dozens of fireflies surrounding us and the serenade of frog songs accompanied by the trickling notes of a nearby creek. It was magical.

There was a moment the following morning when we came upon a clearing where a herd of impala and zebra were peacefully grazing together. The zebra—three or four of them—saw us and galloped away in straight line just feet away from our jeep, and the impala paused for a moment and then did their prancing high jumps over the tall grass as well. I was heartbroken not to have had my camera that morning, but grateful to have been able to fully live in the moment.

That evening, we took a break at sunset next to a watering hole to have cocktails. As darkness rolled in over the pink and orange sky and we settled back into the jeep, we heard the deep grumbles of Cape buffalo and looked up into the blackness to see them completely surrounding us. It was a bit unnerving, admittedly, to be surrounded by one of the most aggressive animals in the bush, especially with Elliot’s spotlight only permitting us to see a few at a time. As we made our way past them, we swore we saw an incredibly fat one bleeding and about to give birth. Stanley and Elliot glanced at each other a laughed. “You’ve had a few too many drinks, my friends,” Stanley said. “She was just pooping.”

The sky during our cocktail break or bush party

The sky during our cocktail break or bush party

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And the next morning, in the final minutes of our last game drive, a fellow driver radioed that they had tracked down the only two lionesses on the reserve. Stanley put his foot on the accelerator and we soared through the mountains, a green blur watercolored with the purples, yellows, and magentas of flower patches in our periphery. Elle, a second-year CBS student sitting behind me, described it as being on a rollercoaster without the height factor, truly exhilarating, and enriched by our knowing the end would bring us to the royal highnesses of the bush. We ducked and dodged branches and thorns stretching their arms toward us and finally made it to the lionesses’ spot. Stanley slowly moved the jeep off the path and through thickets of thorn trees so we could get close to her. I don’t know if there are words to describe the feeling of looking straight into a lion’s eyes in the wild, but “breathtaking” seems like a good word to use.

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We ducked down to the floor of our jeep to avoid these thorn trees

We ducked down to the floor of our jeep to avoid these thorn trees

~Cape Town~
Leaving Bongani left a pit in my stomach, but knowing the beautiful city of Cape Town would be our next destination lightened the pain. Mike and I hit the hay early that night for a 4:30 a.m. departure to Kleinbaai for shark diving. When we arrived in Kleinbaai, we watched the sun rise over Van Dyks Bay and then boarded our catamaran to see the Great Whites.

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We drove for about twenty minutes into the ocean, all the while watching the crew string tuna heads (aka chum) soaked in anchovy oil to attract the sharks. The smell combined with my heavy wet suit and swaying of the water made me nauseous, but the adrenaline of being in the cage and eye to eye with a Great White Shark quickly pushed away the sea sickness. It was a unique experience, but I enjoyed standing on top of the boat in the warm sun just as much. Luckily, a portion of the fee associated with the dive was dedicated to poaching prevention—the animals are frequently hunted for their fins. To learn more, visit www.whitesharkprojects.co.za

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our cage

our cage

the birds would fly parallel to the boat and scavenge for chum right out of your hand

the birds would fly parallel to the boat and scavenge for chum right out of your hand

From left: Mike, Kola, Marc, Brian

From left: Mike, Kola, Marc, Brian

Marc snapped this awesome shot of a shark approaching our boat

Marc snapped this awesome shot of a shark approaching our boat

Another amazing capture by Marc

Another amazing capture by Marc

We spent the afternoon strolling along the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton, and Mike and I got in on a few games of sand volleyball with some fun Cape Town locals. It felt fabulous to be active after days of lounging, and now, being back in NYC, I’m longing to just be able to hop to the beach for a quick game. I’m devising a plan to convince Mike that our home is there, in Cape Town, waiting for us. Michelle Perry, let’s work on this together!

admiring the view on a cliff between Camps Bay and Clifton Beach. Photo credit Marc Benson

admiring the view on a cliff between Camps Bay and Clifton Beach. Photo credit Marc Benson

Camps Bay. Photo credit Marc Benson

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We had a lovely date night—just the two of us—at a hip restaurant, Blues, on Camps Bay. We talked over the gentle swish of waves meeting the shore. We inhaled the slight saltiness of the ocean breeze. We drank red wine. We laughed with each other. We talked about the way the trip had made us realize that the simple things—slowing down, living in the present, appreciating our surroundings—are what make life grand. (Is that possible with two toddlers during b-school in NYC?) Then, we joined the rest of our group downtown for drinks with other business school groups from the New York and New England area.

The following morning was another early one to depart for wine tours and tastings at the KWV Wine Emporium and Moreson Estate. I have to say, although this was a relaxing morning, I’m jealous of the guys from our group who opted out, rented motor scooters, and spent the entire day exploring Cape Town and the coast line. That’s kind of immersion that energizes my spirit.

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We spent the evening climbing Lion’s Head to get to the top for sunset. I felt alive on top of that mountain. Our friend, Kola, was such a trooper and conquered his fear of heights climbing with Mike, Marc, Brian, Lauren, and me that evening. He did it the right way. I don’t think there’s an experience out there that can fill your senses quite like standing 2200 feet above sea level watching the orange sun sink into glistening water that’s met by mountains, and gradually seeing the city below you sparkle to life as the pink sky fades to black. The only word any of us could manage to pull to our lips was “wow.” As we began the descent, Brian asked, “Did you leave anything on top, besides your heart?” I can honestly say mine is still there.

Our climbing group. From the left: Mike, me Mark, Lauren, Kola, Brian

Our climbing group. From the left: Mike, me Mark, Lauren, Kola, Brian

Photo credit Marc Benson

Photo credit Marc Benson

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The next morning, Mike and I woke up early to climb Table Mountain as dawn began to break. This one was a toughie—imagine a 3563-ft tall and steep staircase. It was a cloudy, windy morning, and we embraced the cool mountain mist sprinkling down on us throughout the climb—we were happy to have another one-on-one date together. Although the clouds and haze didn’t allow us to see the sun rise over the peaks, the views and being able to look down on Lion’s Head, which we had just climbed hours before, were well worth the early morning wake up. While we had planned to take a cable car down, the wind didn’t permit it and we made the jaunt by foot.

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We gave our legs a rest for the remainder of the morning on a motor scooter soaring behind Brian along the coast. It felt like a safari through the city, along the beach—the perfect experience to keep South Africa lingering within us as we wished her goodbye.

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Exciting adventures on the horizon

In June, we’ll be moving to Seattle for three months for Mike’s summer internship! A balmy, albeit rainy, little change of pace during the scorching summer heat of NYC.

I have to admit that, on first thought, we were disappointed with the location. This city has captured our hearts! We felt like navigating the rough and frigid waters of winter time with kids in New York earned us its summer treasures of Central Park, the beach, and just the general ease of frolicking about in skimpy clothes. We. Need. Sunshine. Plus, another move with kids for such a short period of time and with a three-hour time change isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

But we’re taking this on as an exciting adventure and a chance to explore new territory. It will give us a better idea of whether or not NYC is best for us. I’ve heard awesome things about Seattle and we’re hoping to make a weekend hop to Vancouver and maybe even (if time and funds allow) swing a trip to San Fran while we’re there.

Feeling super grateful and ridiculously proud of the hard work and exhausting hours Mike has put in.

Also…

We booked tickets today for spring break in South Africa!

Our trip just so happens to coincide with my sister’s physical therapy clinical in Johannesburg (Molly is another love in my life who I just couldn’t be more proud of), so we’ll get to meet up with her for a night or few. And I’m hoping I can get her to do a guest post for me documenting her experiences there. She will see a much different, eye-opening, and immersive side of South Africa than we will, and, of course, she’ll be there for much longer–she leaves next week!!

I know our trip will be unimaginably breathtaking and exciting and beautiful and wonderful to get a full nine days of quality time with Mike in an exotic land, but I’m so so nervous to be away from my babies for such a long stretch. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make the entire stint without whittling my fingernails away to nothing, and I’m not even a nail biter. Im trying not to think too hard and much about that part of it, although it’s seeming a little impossible. Fortunately, the kids will be in great hands, and we’ll be able to Skype with them frequently.

Such exciting things to come!

Why I marched

On Martin Luther King Day, I joined the One Million Moms 4 Gun Control Movement and marched in support of legislation for gun control.

The shooting at Sandy Hook shook me to my core. That day and the weeks following, I, along with every other mom in this country, put myself in the position of the parents of those children and felt sick–with terror and fear, with rage, with sorrow, with hurt. How had we evolved into a world where this type of tragedy could be a legitimate worry when our babies walked out the door? I didn’t know what to do with all the thoughts and feelings racing through my mind and heart but to share them with my other mommy friends.

We all felt the same way.

One of those amazing friends organized a candle-lit vigil where we prayed and we talked and we asked questions. What was going wrong in our society? Why were these things happening so much more frequently? What needed to be changed? How could we raise and protect our babies in a world like this?

We knew talking about it wasn’t enough, though. We needed to act. Luckily, so so many other moms and families felt exactly the same way.

I had never personally owned a gun, but many of my extended family members and friends were very responsible gun owners. Hunting and going to the shooting range were hobbies that composed a giant part of their lifestyle. Others owned guns that were passed down to them from generations past, heirlooms. Others simply owned a gun for self-protection from an intruder.

How could I advocate against something that they felt was such a right of theirs to have, something that was so meaningful to them, and something with which they had always been so responsible?

Should they be punished for the actions of criminals?

I came to the conclusion that by advocating for gun control, I was in no way stifling their rights or knocking on them for being gun owners. To me, legislating tighter restrictions on gun ownership doesn’t punish responsible owners, if they are in fact already responsible.

I personally have no desire to own a gun and have no hobbies that require possession of one, so, yes, it’s easy for me not to fear what gun-control legislation would look like or eventually turn into. But making this world a safer, more enjoyable place is something I think people on both sides of the fence hope to achieve, and I think new laws will promote that.

In fact, New York’s recent assault weapon and high-capacity magazine ban was put into place by Gov. Cuomo who is, himself, a gun owner. Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly are two high profile gun owners who are also in support of gun-control.

If legislating common-sense measures to promote responsible gun ownership wouldn’t dramatically affect citizens who are already responsible, why are there so many people who have their panties in a wad? I think a lot of the fear many people have of these measures comes from the NRA’s voice on the matter.

Is the NRA truly upset because it genuinely feels our rights are being infringed upon?

Or is it because they’re trying to protect their ability to make a profit? If the new legislation at all decreases the ease with which a gun can be purchased, the NRA loses its profits, and its power is weakened. Although, as of late, the fear of our rights being taken away by our government, in which the NRA has played a huge role, has actually increased gun sales. And the NRA’s enormous lobbying power is exactly what Giffords and Kelly are trying to combat in the 2014 congressional elections.

I’ll save you from reading my stats on crime and comparisons to other developed nations because there will always be data from each frame of thought that “debunks” its opposition’s argument. I will, however, give you my candid thoughts on why I marched in support of gun control on Martin Luther King Day.

In my support of this movement, I’ve been confronted with the idea that, “Kendra, criminals don’t follow laws. Just look at the drug-trafficking that takes place despite and because of laws put into place about the use of illegal drugs.”

To that, I want to quote my friend Natalie, who eloquently articulated an awesome response on my Facebook page. She wrote, “We don’t decide what laws to pass based on whether every single criminal will decide to follow it. If we did, then we would have no laws and no set of guidelines with which to dictate what we, as a nation, view as reasonable.”

I feel from the bottom of my heart that the answer to a more civilized, peaceful and compassionate world is not more guns. I don’t believe that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. It just isn’t.

Opponents to gun control might say that schools are an easy target in shootings because they’re gun-free zones. Even the head of the NRA suggested employing armed guards at every school.

Each of the high schools at which I taught had an armed policeman employed there.

And although there weren’t mass shootings there, I don’t believe either of the policemen could have prevented a gunman from attacking the campus. I don’t believe the massacring of schools has anything to do with their being gun-free zones.

I think it has more to do with the fact that school is typically the place and institution in which these shooters have formed or exacerbated their contempt of themselves and others.

Does the answer to solving this growing problem consist of loving and being compassionate toward our students, and teaching them how to love others and be compassionate? Yes, yes, yes. Does part of the answer lie in cracking down on bullying? Absolutely.

Does the answer partially consist of reforming our mental health system and keeping guns out of the hands of those people? Yes, and gun-control measures can help.

Making an effort to keep guns out of the wrong people’s hands is necessary and is an immediate and controlled way to work toward solving the problem. In my eyes, it’s a way to work toward making the world a safer place for my babies. A way to give them more freedom to live a happy life.

Many who are against gun-control legislation site that the 2nd Amendment was formed so that we would have a way to defend ourselves against and deter a tyrannical government. Some have even gone to the lengths of comparing our president to the likes of Hitler and Stalin, simply because he wants to make it harder for the wrong people to get their hands on guns. It simply baffles me. This is a president who has worked tirelessly to give rights and freedoms to a broader range of people. His stance on gun control suddenly puts him in the same category as Hitler?

Even if tyranny were a threat, I’m sorry, but I think we’d each need a tank, fighter jet, drone, and Ranger training to stand a chance against our military. A stockpiling of assault weapons wouldn’t do the trick, and they shouldn’t have a place in a civilized society. I don’t think any civilized human being–who is not at war–needs to own an assault weapon, even if it’s simply for the sake of collecting and admiring.

Even if aesthetics are the only thing that differentiate these guns from other semi-automatic weapons, they send the wrong message. They send the message that military-style weapons can and should be used outside of war zones.

Our society is one that should be the example of progression and peace.

And because of this belief, I marched.

I marched with Mike and our kids.

I marched with my inspiring friend, Michelle, and her husband, Timon, and their kids.

I marched with other families and a community who feel just as strongly about moving our society toward a more peaceful and compassionate place.

I’ve never considered myself an activist. So following through with this and making my voice count was incredibly empowering. It was an awesome morning. Freezing, cold, adrenaline-pumping, and awesome. We joined the One Million Moms 4 Gun Control movement and marched across the Brooklyn Bridge, holding our signs alongside others, two of my favorites being “Magazines are for reading” and “Protect these (with pictures of children below), not these (with pictures of guns below). Person after person drove by, honking in support of our effort. Then we gathered to rally in front of City Hall.

We left early to spare our tired babies from the freezing morning air, but it’s a day that will forever have a place in my heart and mind.

Kendra Canty:

As Christmas and family time fill and comfort our hearts in the coming week, my incessant thoughts of the those babies’ families make it hard to fully embrace the joy of the season. I resonated with and found comfort in this post by my friend, Jenna, and wanted to share her poetic words with you.

Yours,
Kendra

Originally posted on :

Like so many others, I remain haunted and devastated by the recent shooting in Newtown. Since Friday, I have fallen asleep and woken up with an incessant yearning to understand how something so evil and senseless could cross the paths of so many innocent and loved women and children. I am brokenhearted for the families and pray they can somehow, someday, reconcile with the tragic event and profound loss they have been forced to endure. What more can I say, as everything sounds trite in the face of such tragedy. I found the following quote from Thich Nhat Hanh to share and hope it comforts others as much as it comforts me:

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“This body is not me. I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. I have never been born, and I have never died. Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my…

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