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Merry Christmas!

It’s been a busy month getting festive with friends and Christmas markets. I’ve not had time to pop in and show you the Christmas markets in Brussels, Mons, Aachen, Durbuy and Brugge. So here’s a quick blast of some of it.

Aaron got here on the 16th, and Kaylene and her family arrived a week later, so we’re inhaling time with two of the kids — and the grandbaby!

Mama bear and two of her cubs

lol the child is an artist with his food

my baby working her art

It’s Christmas morning and everyone is still all snuggled up in their beds, while I slowly wake in my big yellow chair. It’s good to have my children here.  I wish Kyle and Kendra were here as well, but we’ll all do Christmas together in Arizona next year.

Tomorrow we do a family road trip to Normandy where we’ve rented a lovely farmhouse.  I can’t wait to sip wine in front of its fireplace.  So, all is well with my world.  The next time I post it will be 2020 (unless I manage to fit in some time to write before then), so here’s a very Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year!  May you all have some blessed quiet time and a little bit of chaos with your loved ones.


Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve bubbly on Brussel’s Grand Place

This time next week Kyle and Kendra will be back in Arizona, Joe will be on a plane headed to Arizona (for a two month visit), and I will be busy at work.  BUT, that’s next week.  This week I’m still on holiday getting all snuggly with part of my family.

We’ve been busy living it up.  We’ve done weekends in Amsterdam, Paris, Cologne and Brussels, along with showing off Mons and Brugge — including lots of good cheer with friends.

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We’ve imbibed in a lot of goodness!  And, the obligatory tourist shots!

We also got to witness a little bit of the Yellow Jacket ruckus in Paris.  Our tour guide was more a fan of the protests than telling us interesting bits about the city, but it’s all good since it’s now part of our story.

The city was way less crowded than normal, and we saw the remnants of the violence that erupted prior to our visit, but we were lucky that no projectiles or fires took off where we were — just people chanting and parading for their something better.


We also got to celebrate Lorayne’s birthday sipping champagne at the top of the Eiffel tower, so our story is always more full of happiness than its antonym.

On New Year’s Eve we joined the party at the Atomium, which was fun until, well, it wasn’t, but that too turned out okay.

The aerial dancers, music and fireworks show was amazing — and free to enter!  But, the trip home was insane.  I love Belgium, and I get it has its kinks, but promising free public transportation after midnight (in Brussels) and then not planning on crowd control eeze a problame!  

We got to the Tram station only to find a swarm of people like us trying to figure out where the damn line to get into the station was — instead it was just a mosh pit of hats and scarves pushing our way forward only to learn that the corner of the crowd we were in was ‘closed.’  Wtf did that even mean?  Long story short we have no idea what was going on inside the tram station, only that our asses weren’t getting in.  So, Kyle took over  the GPS and we began the alleged 1.5 hour walk to our hotel.  The goal was to hail a cab or jump on a bus or try out another metro station along the way.  LOL, but every bus that passed us was so packed with people their faces were literally squished against the windows.  They would have flipped us the bird — since we laughed at the insanity of it — but they were too packed in to be able to lift their hands.  I wasn’t handling the whole thing very well and was really pissed, but then it started raining, and I just gave in to it because what can you do?  Walk in, hopefully, the right direction, while packed taxis and busses pass you by — until Kyle managed to hail us our miracle cab.  

So, we brought in 2019 with amazing fireworks, a bit of a “wtf do we do now” panic, then relief thanks to a stranger, and then, finally, oh thank God we’re home.  That pretty much sums up our years, doesn’t it?

It’s all good because our story will always move forward, and that’s a great thing.  Cheers to all of you and all that the new year will bring us!


And Auf Wiedersehen to the holiday season — we’ll catch you again in 11 months!

Brazil diary…

We’re back in Mons after a whirlwind trip.  While we were in Brazil, I usually woke earlier than most of our crew, climbed to the upstairs balcony of ‘our’ beach house, and either read or wrote.  I didn’t have time to post any of it until now.


July 21

This is my view right this second.  As will be the case with the rest of my photos it can’t possibly do Brazil justice.  The magic of travel isn’t in the party snaps or our landscape shots; it’s the inhaling/exhaling life in another corner of the world. You just can’t post the layers, the sounds, the scents, the soul —- no matter how good you are with filters and angles.

We’re staying at a friend’s family home in Angra de Reis (Port of Kings), a famous beach town nestled among the mountains about a two-hour drive from Rio. So, once again we are blessed to vacation with people who actually live here —- as well as with a group of friends whose mantra has become, “this soooo doesn’t suck.”

Snaps of the nearby beach life.  OMG that dog broke my heart.  She decided we needed to be her people, and we so would’ve kept her had we been able to.

Yesterday Wilber’s mom graced us with Feijoada, a traditional Brazilian bean and meat stew. She and her husband cooked all day while we napped, read, and watched Brazilian families sing, dance, swim at the beach.

On Thursday we rode a party boat to four of the 300-plus islands that bud off the coast. We ate amazing seafood, drank bevies with freshly-squeezed juice, partied with locals (and other tourists), swam in the Blue Lagoon, strolled the beach of what-felt-like a deserted island, relaxed at an open-air restaurant (more seafood please), and rocked and lulled our way through sunset.  Then we put on our sarongs, ripped off our wet bathing suits and ended the night at a beachside bar watching a guy sing Brazilian country music.

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What a day this was!

Someone is practicing the flute while I type this.  Booty-shaking music blasts from another house closer to shore. Children squeal while playing soccer.  Birds gossip about whose laying whom’s eggs.  Stray dogs shade themselves under tropical bushes, waiting for suckers like me to coo over them.  Tourist (or those of the wealthy) helicopters hover above, until it’s their turn to land on the numerous helipads scattered among the islands.  And, the annoying chihuha mix across the street is barking at all of us:  there’s always that one guy that’s gotta mess up the rhythm!

We also spent a day in Rio, and we’re spending a night there next week, so I’ll do a separate Rio blog.

July 22

It rained throughout the night, so this morning is blessedly cool.  While it may be winter in Brazil, it certainly isn’t cold.  Mist devours surrounding mountains; birds circling above the trees disappear into its density. The Atlantic pounds the coast. A grandmother scolds the young while she begins the long process of cooking today’s Sunday meal.  The clanking of her pots and pans adds to the disco (seriously!) music reverberating from a neighbouring house.  Rooftop satellite dishes taunt the few remaining anorexic rooftop antennas.  My cohorts are still snuggled in their beds since we exhausted ourselves touristing yesterday.


The plan was to end the night Sambaing in the streets of Angra, but all but one of us was done. It’s all good because as curvy and wild as the roads are, we unintentionally sambaed our asses in the car.

We spent the day at a beach near Paroty, which was surreal.  You can either wade through a frigid canal (the water comes from a nearby waterfall) or pay 1 real for a boat to take you across to the beach (no brainer on which option we chose!).  Then you have the choice to either lounge on the beach or take another boat (lol the Shrek) to a nearby island to do the same.  This beach’s water is calm because it’s surrounded by islands that tame the feral waves, but there’s plenty of fun going on inland.

Behind the sea are mountains on top of mountains, and surrounding the beach is a small farm with chickens so tall they could be poultry runway models.  There’s also a restaurant, so we got to gorge on more fish, sausage, acai (it’s served with bananas and nuts), beer and a freshly-squeezed pineapple juice drink.

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After that we walked the large-cobblestone streets of Paroty.  I’ll never bitch about navigating the  streets of Mons again.  Brazilians used boulders to cobble their streets.  It’s a lovely town of artists, musicians, shops and restaurants.  Sadly, one of our crew had to leave to continue her summer journey.  Another one of us leaves tonight, and the rest of us leave on Wednesday.  In too short a time we’ll be back to the rhythm of our routines —-maybe being envied by tourists visiting our corners of the world?

July 25

We fly out early tonight.  The boys are packing up their suitcases; Joe is reading on his phone.  It’s been an amazing trip.  Our last night in Angra was spent whooping it up with Wilber’s family.  Oh my God did they ever cook up a storm.  Brazilian barbecues are the best.  Basically, you sit around drinking beer or calparihnas, laughing and waiting for platters of meat to be passed around.  There’s also salad, a Yucca condiment (basically yummy crumblies you put on top of stuff), spicy oil, rice, and this amazing garlic bread concoction —- it’s grilled and stuffed with sausage, butter, mayonnaise and other goodness (I’ll try to replicate it with my sandwich grill!).

I’ve already bored you with too many words on a trip that can’t be done justice with pics and words, so I’ll end this with a thank you to Wilber’s family and Brazil for welcoming us to this layered, complex-yet simple haven.  Yes I know there is an incredible amount of awfulness here too, and, yes, we totally avoided the poverty-crime stricken areas, so our view is biased.  It always saddens and surprises me that the most beautiful places in the world (with the most amazing people) are always partnered with corruption and violence.  So, I’m even more grateful for the good we get to experience.


Watching the crazy…


Reykjavik, December 2016

Is it just me or was last week totally exhausting.  OMG so much going on at the same time, and then, well, there’s, you know, the news back home.  I am just totally drained (lol and haven’t been back to work long), and sitting here going WTF.  dsc09201

Zanzibar, December 2015

The good news is my spring break is just eight weeks away, and I’ve got most of that trip booked.  My friend Michelle is coming for a visit, and then we’re flying off to Kenya for a week.  Safaris, beaches and plenty else will keep us amazed and loving life.  But, damn, I gotta survive February first.   This is always the hardest time of year at work (for me).  I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m looking forward to March and being past where we are right now.  I’m pretty sure my girls are with me on that too.  If only the days would go by faster, and then slow down when we get to the easy part again.  Yeah, I know I’m greedy.

I’m also in the process of booking my family’s summer vacation while beginning my close out process.  I’m starting to sell my stuff, and getting my head into the resignation thing, which I don’t look forward to.  It’s hard because while I’m happy to move on to the next phase, I’m really sad to leave this life (maybe not ALL of it, but most of it).  It’s been good to me, but it’s time I moved along with my man full time again —- and with as much time as my kids will allow me to spend with them (since they’re busy doing their own versions of the adult thing).

I’m nervous about my job prospects at this point — more so than I was a few months ago — but it will all work out.  Joe says I need to relax and just enjoy living off of his paycheque for a bit before I get back into working full time again.  I keep telling myself to quit the damned worrying — hello?  housewife with no kids?  pinch me!

I type all of this knowing full and well my dilemma is not a dilemma at all. There are plenty worse lives to lead.  Go back 20 years, and I’d slap you for teasing me with such a lie.  There’s no way I could’ve imagined this to be my conflict, so I’ll take it — even with all the unknowns and uglies going on in our world right now.  I’m still loved, supported, healthy with a whole slew of possibilities in front of me.  Of course none of us knows what the future holds, and there are so many whose present isn’t even as close to as good as my past, which was hard but still a lucky life.


Reykjavik, December 2016

And when I am working I no longer feel like this poor guy — although lol sometimes I do feel like that goose behind him.

But yeah I’m just kicking back right now watching the crazy and waiting for my next move (while also enjoying our lovely weather here and my friends who’ve become family).


It won’t be long before I awkwardly (because you know I’m the chunky bird flapping and kicking me feet willing my fat ass up and over) fly to my next horizon.

Post bridezilla post


My favorite one of Joe and me, which is a hard pick because there are some great ones.

Four months later, and I’m finally able to take a look through all of the wedding pics Anna took for us.  It’s gonna take me a bit to put it all together in a photo album, and I’m trying to send everyone my fave of their pics, but it’s easier if I blast a bunch in here and if any of my friends/family would like one on the blog, just let me know and I’ll get it to you.  There are also many great ones not posted here because, well, I just can’t upload them all.

First off credit for all of these photos goes to Anna Purdy, who is based in Virginia.  If you’re interested in her work, check out her website here.

Secondly, if you’re looking to read a post about one of my great adventures, this one’s a big one for me and my family, but will probably bore those of you who don’t know us.  Hopefully, my next post will be of more interest to you.

Thirdly, I totally suck at posing for pics.  I am not a model wanna be in any way, shape or form.  Sooo kudos to Anna for getting so many lovely shots because I’m a hard one to photograph well.

Take for example this lovely pic, which through no fault of the photographer looks like I’m in phase one of zombie transformation.  How in the hell do you even get your eye to do that?


BUT, despite my whackadoodle facial expressions I got a nice assortment of 50+ year old glamour shots — ewww even have some cleavage/thigh shots (but those are Joe’s pics to keep).

dsc_9087 See not too shabby.  Thanks to Shannan for doing my hair (not finished yet in this pic) and Michelle for doing my makeup.

My absolute favourites, though, are not of me in my shiny white robe.  They are the family and friend shots, and the ones of Joe and me.  I love all of us and what we have together, so I will never get tired of looking at our group shots!

Oh how I love my zany friends

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And the women in my family/wedding party

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And the men…

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Sadly, Brian, Joe’s friend since grade school, isn’t in any of these photos, but we’ll have shots of him in the wedding album!


aw the kids and us.  I’m so thankful for all the fun and love we have together!

And, of course, some of Joe and me

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And the wedding party, which doesn’t include everyone who played a role in making our wedding weekend so fabulous…


Now all I have to do is wait two and a half months before I see my man again, and way too many months before I see the kids, but we’re always connected, and we’ll make the best of our time when we’re together.


Bonding in Sedona…



Forgive my focus on all that green, but you see I see so little of it so it gives me joy.

It’s raining real rain — not the normal two-second tease — in Phoenix.  It’s dark outside, the dogs are huddled by my feet (as if I could protect them), and my youngest is snuggled up in his bed sleeping his way through the storm.  It’s an awesome morning to sip my coffee and share some more photos.

A few weeks ago Kyle moved from Colorado to Sedona, so on Wednesday Kaylene and I took a mother-daughter day to enjoy one of our favourite places on earth while getting the chance to visit our boy.  We treated ourselves to a ‘room,’ which turned out to be a mini cabin.  We loved it so much I’m thinking of booking a night there with Joe (because I now have a really good excuse to drive up to Sedona again, although does one ever need an excuse to visit living art?).  I won’t waste your time bragging about how wonderfully awesome my kids are (hehehe guess I just did), but I will tell you how proud I am of my babies.  Man oh man I have spent countless hours worrying about each of them and some of their choices, but this time I have with them now is proof that I need to just let them be and continue doing their adult thing their way.  They’ve totally got this.

Kyle has learned that he is most grounded and most at peace surrounded by nature.  He is finding his way, and I’m so glad Kaylene and I got to enjoy a bit of his happiness with him. Sedona is already proving to be a good move for him and his pooch Piper (if his dog nurturing skills are any indication of the kind of father he will one day be, I envy my future grand children).  I also envy Kaylene and Aaron’s future babies.  Ohhhh and I so want to write about them now too, but I’ll do that privately so you can get your chance to enjoy some pics of Sedona (and two of my amazing offspring).  Long story short the three of us had a fantastic time together.

For those of you who’ve never been to Sedona it’s a must-see if you ever go to Arizona.  It’s kind of the reverse of the Grand Canyon.  When you see the Grand Canyon you look down (unless you’re one of the lucky ones who also get to hike to its bottom), when you go to Sedona you look up.  Artists, psychics, naturalists thrive there.  It’s a spiritual place thanks to its beauty, its connection to ancient times (use your imagination and you’ll see faces embedded in its walls), and its vortexes — although I honestly don’t know much about the vortexes.  For me hiking through its woods and trails is magic enough; maybe its the vortex energy, maybe it’s not — who cares because it’s all good.  So, please do make sure you hike as much as shop if you ever get a chance to visit.  And hey if you’re into the psychic thing get a reading or buy a crystal while you’re at it.

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Fun times with two of my kiddos

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A boy and his dog…

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So, this creek is right near where Kyle lives.  THIS is where his dog gets to play every day while Kyle sometimes strums his guitar (sorry no guitar pics this time around).  Lucky dog!

Aaron, my youngest, had to work so he couldn’t make this trip with us, but we’ve had plenty of mother/son lunches.  Sadly since he still lives at the house we don’t think to take pics doing our thing together, but he’s as awesome to spend time with as his brother — and  I’m gonna sneak some shots of him and post before I leave!

Next up?  A weekend in Yuma visiting friends, and then Joe and I will have a few days up north by ourselves, and then I’ll cry my eyes out leaving the fam until we gather together again.


Packing up…

Pool Time Memories…too many to post

Fifteen years ago I packed up my kids,  my cat (who passed at the age of 20 last year), my belongings (most of which have been replaced over the years — oh those kids!), rented a Ryder truck, attached my car and drove 2,300 miles to move to the Arizona desert.  The first time I set foot in Phoenix was the night we pulled up during our first monsoon storm.

While the heat about killed us, we immediately fell in love with our new state.  Within our first year I bought the house my kids did most of their growing up in.  It’s a colourful, kid-pet-party scarred home full of love, laughter and tears.  As beat up as it is right now — needing new windows, new floors, new paint — I love this house, but it’s time to spruce her up for another family.

I’m sweaty, dusty, and a bit too furry (thanks to my shedding dogs) because I’ve been packing up the stuff that needs to be stored until Joe and I are ready for our next American home.  It might be awhile since I’m not yet finished with my overseas adventure (Joe has yet to begin his), but the things that matter to us will be waiting for when we’re ready to replant our roots.

It’s hard packing up now because the house won’t even go onto the market until the Fall, after Joe and the kids have gotten some of the cosmetic fixes taken care of.   I’m sad that I won’t be here the last day I own it, but I’m totally cool with missing out on all the moving hell that comes with it.  I’m also looking forward to using some of its sale money for our family, summer Europe trip next year (now that’s fun packing!).  I’ve been wanting to take my kids on a trip like this for forever, so yay we can finally do it — in about a year.

In three weeks I fly back to the second desert I moved to, and I’ll finish off my probable last year in the UAE (who knows what the future holds?!).  Until then I’ll continue enjoying my time here.  It’s not all melancholic packing.  There are more pool parties, happy hours, family trips and gatherings planned before I leave, so it’s all good — just a little nostalgic.

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Just some random (stuff posted on Facebook throughout the years) home memories.


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