Things I’m Semi-Seriously Grateful For: Diabetes Edition

keep calm

Sometimes being grateful means looking for the silver lining in something that is generally a rain cloud. In this case, it is a chronic rain cloud. A rain cloud without a cure.

Diabetes is mad annoying and frustrating and scary, but it’s not all needles and blood and people asking me Are you sure you can eat that? (For the record: Oh my god yes I’m sure)

Here are a few things that aren’t terrible about living with type 1 diabetes:

  • When my blood sugar is low, it is a medical emergency that I eat/drink sugar is some form. Sometimes that form happens to be a candy bar. Chocolate is medicine, y’all.
  • I always carry at least one juice box and granola bar with me, and there have been many-an-occasion where I’ve been out and about and very hungry and didn’t technically need the granola bar because of blood sugar reasons, but….. I was hungry. So I ate the granola bar and felt better anyways. Never underestimate the power of a casual granola bar. Also, once I was on the subway in NYC and a homeless man was asking if anyone had any food for him, so I gave him my granola bar. It was actually a Lara Bar so I don’t know how stoked he was, but he said thank you. Anyways, Granola Bars 4 The People.
  • I get to bring my purse with me during the queues for rollercoasters at theme parks instead of paying $2 each time to put it in one of those stupid lockers for 15 minutes.
  • I’m a carb-counting wizard. Since low-carb diets aren’t “the thing” anymore, no one probably cares, but it is a finely crafted skill of mine! TRY ME!
  • Cheese doesn’t have carbs so I’d like all of it, please and thank you. Not sorry. Also, bacon.
  • I’ll take your “No outside food/drinks permitted” and raise you Type 1 Diabetes. That’s what I thought, thank you for understanding. Now please step aside so my friends and I can skip the snack bar and enjoy all the food I brought for us to share.
  • The school nurses were always nice and respectful to me instead of just eyeing me suspiciously as if I were another outrageous teenager faking sick to leave school early.
  • It has given me a lot of ridiculous things to write about which is good when you want to be…… a writer.
  • I can intimidate people with complex medical terms like hyperglycemia and ketoacidosis (which, I just learned from the squiggly red line underneath it, Microsoft Word doesn’t even know is a real word. Add to dictionary, betch) and hemoglobin a1c. Yeah. I really know my shit!!!!!!!
  • I’ve only been to one diabetes conference, but it was wonderful and I got to meet so many other kind, funny, awesome people with diabetes (who inspired me to start this blog and now here we are) (hi!) that I would never have met if my arguably over-zealous immune system hadn’t destroyed my beta-cells, leaving my pancreas to flounder in a sea of guts. It’s really cool to talk to other people that also experience this weird disease on a daily basis. And not just because we all have a similar struggle, but because they are also just cool people. It’s not all about diabetes. Diabetes wants it to be all about diabetes, but we do our best not to allow that.

In conclusion:

Cheese is awesome and so is the support, friendship, and necessary humor I have found from other diabetics/the DOC.

Cheers to that, and may the Thanksgiving-meal-bolus-calculations be ever in your favor.

Really good days

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“And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.”


It can be truly difficult, in this life that is so chaotic and busy and seemingly out of control at times, to simply take a moment and breathe and remember how good we have it, how thrilling and weird and wonderful life can be, and how many people we have cheering us on. We could probably stand to do it more often.

That being said– I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for how grateful we truly are on a regular basis, in even the smallest of ways. Sure, every day isn’t Thanksgiving (and thank god because I would weigh 9 million pounds) but we do say thank you quite often, and quite often, we mean it. When someone holds the door for me and I say thank you, it isn’t just because I learned when I was 5 that I’m “supposed” to. It’s because I genuinely appreciate this small gesture of human kindness, and I recognize that, and I want that person to know that I am grateful for it. When (as 2014 of an example as this is) we (and everyone we know living in the same area) upload nearly identical pictures of a gorgeous sunset on Instagram to the point where your news feed is literally 34 different perspectives of the same sun and clouds, it’s because we all recognize how awesome it is to live in a world with big, free cotton-candy sky shows. Or maybe you just want a bunch of Likes, whatever, let’s pretend it’s just for how awestruck and appreciative you are.

It’s human to have expectations. It’s human to be disappointed by things. It’s human to sometimes lose perspective on how generally good our lives are. I don’t think that means we’re not still generally grateful for everything we do have.

I just think it means that when we once again do remind ourselves of how lucky we are, that feeling is even sweeter, because we know what it’s like to feel disconnected from the good things. The good things are always there, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize them. Stress and deadlines and bad moods and arguments and nerves can overshadow the thankfulness. But I think it’s still there, always. I think overall, the tough times and the moments of despair make us even more grateful as people. Some of the most understanding, compassionate, grateful people I know are the ones that have been through the most. There is an awareness that comes with knowing the dark and the light.

The tough times make the good times even sweeter.

That’s another thing to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Xoxox 

people more than anything

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“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breathing screaming invitation to believe better things.”

― Jamie Tworkowski


I’ve been missing my people back home a lot lately. (All the time, but especially lately.) The holidays are definitely the toughest time to be away from home long-term. I’m so grateful to have such an amazing group of friends back home. They are my favorite thing about my life, this group of kind and hilarious people who somehow (thank god) all found each other in weird Hampton Roads. Our friend-family is a constant source of stability, reassurance, and laughter. We go on vacation together every summer (okay actually we go on like 5 vacations every summer. Vacationing is what we do best), we go on road trips, we have Friendsgiving. We go to each other’s graduations and birthday dinners and one day  we will go to each other’s weddings and we will all promise to have open bars (we haven’t discussed this, but I just decided)  and it will be beautiful. Sometimes we fight like siblings and call each other out and get annoyed and frustrated and bitchy. We all know each other so well. We’ve been growing up together and we all have no fucking idea what we’re doing and we’re confused and scared and broke but we always help each other find the humor, and that, I think, is the most important thing we can do. I miss these people more than anything. Thanks for making my life so bright. You know who you are.

wonder & wander: 11/13

So much happens in the span of 7 days. We have so much information zooming towards us from all angles, at all hours, it can be difficult to find the time or head space to reflect on what we’ve just done, or even what we’re currently doing. But in this crazy age of Instagram, I find myself taking tons of photos every week that can document how I spend my days; what I do, what I notice, where I wander. I’m hoping, while also giving a little window into my life abroad, Wonder & Wander will help me appreciate the past week in lieu of just hurdling into the next one. Because as we know, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”


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It’s November’s world, and we’re just livin’ in it.

Here’s a quote I love that actually has nothing to do with November:

I gave myself permission to care, because there are a lot of people in this world who are afraid of caring, who are afraid of showing they care because it’s uncool. It’s uncool to have passion. It’s so much easier to lose when you’ve shown everyone how much you don’t care if you win or lose. It’s much harder to lose when you show that you care, but you’ll never win unless you also stand to lose. I’ve said it before. Don’t be afraid of your passion, give it free reign, and be honest and work hard and it will all turn out just fine.
- Tom Hiddleston
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Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please came out last week and I bought it immediately, despite its lukewarm reviews. I love Amy Poehler. She is a hilarious human and I personally think her book is wonderful and anyone who likes her and wants a good laugh should read it. “I tried to tell the truth and be funny,” Poehler writes in the intro, “What else do you want from me, you filthy animals?” I love memoirs because I love learning about other people’s lives. I want to know everything about everyone, especially the tough stuff. If you ever just want to tell your life story to someone, I’m your girl. (But please don’t ask me for advice because I have no fucking idea what I’m doing either.)

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This is a Dutch Oliebol. That literally translates to “Oil ball.”

Yesterday, my host dad came home with a bag full of them, some with raisins and some without. They’re basically like giant doughnut holes without the glaze, and come with powdered sugar packets that you can sprinkle on. They were delicious and oily, as they were supposed to be, I think. I think their name is simultaneously hilarious and appalling, but at least its realistic! I think if we named everything in America what it really is… we would stay away from a lot of foods and maybe not be so obese. Let’s start by re-naming corn dogs “deep fried cornmeal mystery meat bits.” You’ll never think of a corn dog the same way again. You’re welcome!

Screen shot 2014-11-13 at 11.59.43 AMI’ve been spending a looooot of time inside this week watching a sick lil 8 year old, so when I had a free evening on Wednesday, I decided to take an hour-long walk to the city center. Walking is my very favorite thing to do, I think, and it all started during my time in Aix en Provence, France- where it was a 40 minute walk just to get to the city center. I like not having to rely on anything but myself, not really having to abide by traffic laws (I’ll walk down this one-way street in whatever direction I please!), and being able to go at my own pace (which is actually extremely fast, much to the annoyance of my slow-walking friends. But sorry, leave the weak behind, am I right?) Walking feels very freeing to me, and it’s a bonus that it’s such good exercise and is actually a much overlooked mode of transportation. Plus, when you’re crossing a bridge and see a magnificent sunset like this one, you can stop right then and there and take a picture instead of fumbling with a phone and a steering wheel and getting a terribly blurry picture, or even worse- missing the sunset entirely. Walking rules.


 

As I once again attempt to get my shit together with this whole blogging endeavor, my next post will be covering my past 2 weekends, highlighting: me attempting to be a tour guide to my friend in a city I’ve lived in for 2 months, Halloween, Museum Night, and a park in Amsterdam that secretly (not really secretly) has kangaroos and alpacas!!!! It’ll have you on the edge of your seat.

Diabetes Is Weird

My Dexcom, Wednesday, and I are pretty tight. She just gets me, ya know?

She relieves a lot of my daily blood sugar-related anxieties. She lets me know in some FDA-approved way what’s happening in my blood, which eases some of the exhaustion and hyper-awareness that is an eternal struggle with type 1 diabetes. She allows me to sleep a little bit sounder, assuring that if *something* (that heavy, loaded word) were to happen, she would beep and beep and beep until I was annoyed and awake… but alive. We’ve had a few minor issues with communication and reliability- but that’s often after I’ve been wearing the same sensor twice (ahem or 3 times) longer than the 7-day warranty. For the most part, Wednesday and I are golden.

Yesterday, though, was different.

The prior few days leading up to yesterday, my CGM graph was comparable to the Alps and I was an advanced skier that like… lost their ski pole or something. I don’t know how to make this analogy actually work. I’ve never skied before. Maybe there was an avalanche, whatever. Anyways the point is things were already all over the place.

But then yesterday, although my BG was a bit high when I woke up, things settled down into the 120s and hovered there for the rest of the day. Even after eating lunch, the number peaked at 140, no insulin involved. I thought maybe my body was finally giving me the break I deserved after the past several days of turmoil. In retrospect, why would I ever think diabetes worked like that? There is no reward for good behavior, because “good” behavior (an elusive term, anyways) is just the tip of the iceberg (or mountain, if you’re still holding on to that analogy: just the peak of the mountain.) There is only this moment, and then the next one. 

So right before dinner, I noticed I was extremely thirsty. I checked my CGM. 136. My thoughts began to stick together, and that’s when I knew. A quick poke of the finger, a meter reading that stabbed me in the chest: 435. I looked back at my CGM: 132.

I felt deceived by this little piece of technology, especially because it was a brand new sensor, only 2 days old. But even further, I felt deceived by myself. Why did it take me so long to feel a 300-digit gap between my perception and reality? Am I that out of touch? Has this digital reliance- so convenient, scientific, accurate- numbed me of my fine-tuned internal scale? Maybe I did feel a slight difference, but chose to ignore it, because the CGM’s numbers were more appealing. Maybe there are million reasons why things didn’t line up. But I’d still much prefer to have a Dexcom than to not.

After a few failed attempts to re-calibrate, I ended up replacing the sensor later last night, and my CGM went back to knowing me almost better than I know myself. And then we lived happily ever after.

Just kidding! As if that’s how this game works.

At 2:30am I woke up to a billion beeps and saw one of the worst graphs I’ve ever seen on this thing:

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Like….. wut. My blood sugar was swimming in those dark, dangerous waters (mountain version: my blood sugar was trekking those icy, slippery slopes) for 2 hours without me knowing? (sidenote: Are anyone else’s dreams SUPER WEIRD when they’re low? Mine are like the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas of dreams)

I’ve never had low blood sugar consistently for that long before… especially while sleeping. I’ve never not woken up at first beep, treated the low, and been okay. It’s weird that I didn’t immediately wake up. It’s weird that it held steady around 65 for so long. It’s weird that while all of this was happening, at 2:36am I decided the thing to do was take a picture of it (I’m glad I did, though.) It’s all weird. Diabetes is weird.

That is my conclusion from yesterday’s all-consuming horrors: diabetes is weird.

I can over-think this disease and its daily outcomes forever- what am I doing right/wrong, what is my CGM doing right/wrong, what are scientists, society, and the FDA doing right/wrong- but right now I’m so tired of thinking about all of it that I just want to lay down every ounce of blame and disaster on the disease itself.

I want to lay down the guilt and walk away from it. When my blood sugar is 250 for no logical reason, I want to know deep in my bones that it’s not all my fault, that diabetes is just a big, dumb, dramatic weirdo that doesn’t know how to handle itself sometimes. When someone asks me why my blood sugar is low after I’ve tried to do everything right, I want to shrug and say, “diabetes is just weird sometimes.” And I want that to be enough.

Oops, I was going to keep rambling about all the things I want (even the ones that have nothing to do with diabetes, like a small, wooden cottage on a big mountain in Switzerland) but at this very moment, my blood sugar is low. Why, you ask? Well, I don’t know exactly. I’m trying my best. But diabetes is weird.

on doing the damn thing

Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. If it’s important to you and you want to do it ‘eventually’, just do it and correct the course along the way.

– Tim Ferriss

IMG_1375

One of my favorite things about traveling and especially about actually living abroad, is that I get to meet a lot of like-minded people. People that want to see the world and don’t allow a laundry list of reasons to stop them. People that are adventurous or curious or, in some people’s opinions, crazy enough to leave everything they know and love to see what else is out there- to embrace foreign lands, languages, and lifestyles. It’s not for everyone, I get that. I’ve lost count of the number of people that have told me, “I would looooove to do what you’re doing but insert other priorities here.” Family, relationships, jobs, money, fear, etc. All completely understandable, relatable, and valid. All things that will never ever ever get easier to walk away from, even temporarily. Every moment, we spin our life’s web into a more intricate design. The conditions will never be perfect, and in fact, will only grow more complex.

Yesterday, I went to my first Girls Gone International brunch meet-up in Amsterdam, and it was incredible to meet so many women in simultaneously similar and completely different positions as me. We’re all living in Amsterdam, we’re all foreigners here, but we all have such different reasons for it. Hearing the stories of how everyone ended up here and what they’re doing now and what they want to do is so freaking inspiring and eye-opening and exciting. (Like the 29-year-old woman from Croatia I talked to who also spent several years working on Wall Street or the Portland, Oregon native 20-something who decided she wanted to live in Europe, so she started her own business.) Creating a (long-term) life abroad feels so much more attainable and enticing to me all the time…… but I’m not really focusing on all that right now, not yet.

Right now I’m just focused on doing the damn thing, and correcting my course along the way.

wonder & wander: 10/13

So much happens in the span of 7 days. We have so much information zooming towards us from all angles, at all hours, it can be difficult to find the time or head space to reflect on what we’ve just done, or even what we’re currently doing. But in this crazy age of Instagram, I find myself taking tons of photos every week that can document how I spend my days; what I do, what I notice, where I wander. I’m hoping, while also giving a little window into my life abroad, Wonder & Wander will help me appreciate the past week in lieu of just hurdling into the next one. Because as we know, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.”  


 

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Autumn is upon us here in Holland, meaning it is often rainy and windy and cool. But this past weekend was really nice, so I went running a few times on this pretty trail near my house. I don’t run all that often because I seem to have perpetual shin splints (so annoying, so painful) but when I do, I always feel refreshed and clear-headed… especially when the route is this lush! Don’t these shades of green look like mid-summer?

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I got my first care packages in Amsterdam! The first was from my dear friend Michelle and had the cutest little stuff in it from her recent trip to Georgia. She even made hand-sewn tea bags for the loose tea because she wasn’t sure if I had a tea strainer. Such a gem of a person. <333

The second was from my mom and had a bunch of cool souvenirs from Portland, a few books, 4 bottles of glucose tablets, and a whole lot of movie-theater butter popcorn (!!!!!!!!!!!) The essentials. Thanks, mom.

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I’ve only been here for a month (I can’t believe it’s already been a month, though, eeeek) and I’ve already met a lot of great people. And to be honest, I haven’t really even tried to meet people much yet. This month has been a lot of just ‘figuring stuff out’ and trying to navigate and taking a Dutch course and adjusting to everything. Most of my friends here are also au pairs from all over the world, which is cool because we’re all kind of in the same boat. I’d like to go to some Meet Ups, like language exchanges and book clubs, so I think I’ll dive into more of that once my language course is over!

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This past Sunday was a gorgeous day, so instead of the 20/30 minute bike ride or the 1o/15 minute tram, I decided to take an hour-long walk to the center of the city to meet a friend. Walking is still, and probably always will be, my favorite mode of transportation. It was really nice just listening to music and sporadically stopping to take pictures, and I noticed so many things I don’t see when I’m quickly pedaling by. I was 20 minutes late meeting my friend (Sorry, Kate!) but…. it was pretty cool ;) Then Kate and I continued to stroll around for the rest of the afternoon, popping into random shops, getting coffees and pancakes, and ended the day by people-watching with a pint of beer at an outdoor café. Pretty ideal.

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Sometimes I just stumble across a quote that really stays with me, or seems really relevant at the moment. This one has been spinning in my mind all week:

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.  - John Steinbeck

(Ok, technically I didn’t take this last picture this week. I took it a month ago in Iceland. But look how moon-like Iceland is! I love it.)

say thank you

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Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t ‘mean anything’ because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.

One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.

Say thank you.

– Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things 

diabetes as thief

It’s Friday, it’s beautiful outside, and I live in one of the (in my opinion) best cities in the world. And I don’t have any responsibilities today! I decide to bike to a park about 20 minutes away for some reading, writing, and vitamin D.

My blood sugar has been hovering around 265 all day. Despite my best insulin injections, it won’t budge. I decide the bike ride will do some good.

About 20 minutes in, I get distracted by the sprawling lawns of Museumplein, leading up to this lovely building:

a

I spread out a sheet and bask in the sun, thinking of my life for the past 3 weeks: I’m so happy, I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I’m so happy.

I take out a pen, my notebook, and scrawl “Be blooming” at the top, because I’d passed a sign earlier that said it, and I liked it. It seemed fitting.

b

But I don’t get much farther than a loopy flower beside my title when that haunting, familiar feeling starts to set it. Words blur, my mind scatters. The anchor, my blood sugar, has finally dropped… and now I’m rapidly sinking.

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I gulp down the 2 juice boxes I have in my tote bag, but an uneasy 20 minutes smears by before I start to feel like myself again. 20 minutes that I planned to spend writing about how exciting everything is, how new it is. 20 minutes I could have spent people-watching or listening to music, or feeling the sun on my face. Time I could have really enjoyed.

Instead I didn’t feel anything but the tides of my body; the shaking, sweeping emptiness of the low, then the sugar washing through me.

I didn’t do anything but watch warily as the CGM spat out low numbers, then lower, and even lower still (this is when it gets really scary- I feel so helpless and desperate every time; this is what I constantly try to avoid) then finally finally a hopeful higher number, an upward arrow. A digital “you’re gonna make it, kid.”

Another 10 minutes rolls by and I pick up my pen to keep writing. But that sunny excitement I’d felt before… I’ve been emptied of it. The emotional toll of low blood sugar- the frustration, the fear- lingers on long after the fact.

Under the flowery title that had such high hopes, in weak scribble, I note: diabetes is a thief.

about a life in Amsterdam

I’ve been in Amsterdam for 18 days already. I can’t even believe it. Time is such a strange thing… in some ways, I feel like I’ve been here forever, biking around and picking the kids up from school and drinking all the cappuccinos. And in other ways, I feel like I just landed here today. I still get lost everywhere I go, I don’t understand 97% of the Dutch language, and my list of ‘places to explore’ is 5 miles long.

But I really like it here, and every day is a new adventure.

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The question I’ve been getting asked the most is the most basic one, but what do you DO all day?  To be honest, I haven’t really worked out a routine yet. I like routines, and I’m sure I’ll fall into one, but I haven’t yet. But just to give you an idea… right now, on weekdays, I wake up around 8am, get ready, make a cappuccino, eat breakfast (usually granola + yogurt with fruit or jam), and bike 10 minutes to my Dutch course, which is from 9:15-11:45. After, I’ll either get another coffee at a café, do errands, or meet up with a friend and explore the city. (After I get my museum card this week, I’ll be going to lots of museums, too!) At 3, I bike to the kids’ school to pick them up, and we come back here, or they go play with their friends, or I take them to their sports. When the parents get off work, we eat dinner together, the kids go to bed, and then I either go out and meet friends, or I stay in and read and write and watch Netflix and drink tea (some things never change).

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I don’t watch the kids Friday-Sunday, so the weekend before last, I flew to Copenhagen to meet a friend (more on that soon), and this past weekend I biked and walked all over the place, getting lost and navigating my way through the city. On Saturday I went English bookstore-hopping and found some really cool places along the way, and yesterday I found an amazing café called SLA (Dutch for ‘lettuce’) and they had the most delicious, colorful, organic salads and so many succulents everywhere that it looked more like a greenhouse than a salad bar. I can definitely see myself going there often.

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It’s still surreal to me that I’m even here. I still don’t actually believe it, that I’m living in one of the most beautiful cities in the whole world, with the nicest family and that my actual job is to play games with (and, I mean, also look after) two adorable little kids. I can’t believe I’m living in Europe again. Again! I can’t believe I am lucky enough to even be able to say that I lived in Europe a first time, and here I am doing it again.Screen shot 2014-09-30 at 2.45.36 PM 

I can’t believe how quickly we can change our whole lives, how the things I’m channeling energy into now (perfecting the art of cappuccino, learning a third language, navigating the canals on my bike, not getting into bike accidents, learning how to cook and play piano, deciding which book club to join, making friends from all the lands with all the languages) didn’t hold space in my mind until 18 days ago. Everyone I see on a daily basis, or almost-daily basis, I didn’t know until 18 days ago. Just an overnight flight to a whole new way of life.

We can build worlds so quickly.

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