This is the HARD part… a photo essay

April 15, 2012 in North America, Travelogue, United States

It’s not easy to put love into words.

Impossible, some would say. Perhaps pictures will do it better justice.

Can I just start by saying, “We love our life.” 

We live this way on purpose. We’re nomadic by choice. We love the diversity. The newness. The constant stretching and learning. We love the people we find and who find us.

Take Kari, for example: She taught us to make chocolate in Guatemala, ate dinner around our table in the shadow of volcanos, laughed at our sloppy swing dancing to late night jam session populated by hippie kids almost half our age. She was at Tony’s birthday and farewell party at Fe in San Marcos last year. She made chocolate the Mayan way for all of our friends in NH and was at Tony’s birthday and farewell party in the shadow of very different mountings this year

We have countless friends just like her; I could never name them all. People who have been woven into the tapestry of our lives because we drift with the wind. They are precious to us. We love them. They find us wherever we happen to be and make the world a richer place.

We’re often asked how we cope without community, without local family, without those ties that bind and roots that ground people.

We don’t.

We don’t have to cope, because we have that.

We have community, chosen family and roots. We’ve got that kind of love in spades, and even when our bodies are absent our spirits are as bound as if we lived down the street.

Sounds crazy, I know.

How is it possible?

I don’t know.

But I can assure you that it’s true.

Once upon a time we lived in a mountainside chalet, in a pine scented forest. Then, like now, we rarely went three consecutive days without friends or strangers around our dinner table. We went to music classes, ballet classes, church and the beach with a delightful group of chosen family and were as rooted as natural born gypsies can be.

You would think that when the wind blew us onto the open road those friendships would fade, paths would diverge and children would grow up and apart. That’s not how it’s happened for us.

Here is a snapshot of our day:

This isn’t everyone. This is just five of the families who came to our See Ya Later party in NH.

Let me give you a quick tour:

The Wood Family: Of No One Flies Without Ground Crew fame. They hosted the party at their lovely farm, even though Lois still has pushing 100 chicks in various stages of growth in and outside her house. They’ve got seven kids who are among our children’s very best in the world. They throw the best parties, hands down! She’s the other crazy half of The Mama Bus adventure that we took this fall.

The Deml Family: You read the posts about adopting the kids in Ukraine, didn’t you? Same family. They’ve had all of their NINE children (ten years old and younger) on one continent, under one roof for six weeks now and the transformation is AMAZING! Those imported kids bounced out of that van and into my arms bringing tears to my eyes. Robert brought me a bottle of strawberry wine (my very favourite) earning him a kiss, and a bottle of Concord Grape that I’m hoarding for our blast off toast. Knowing these people removes every excuse I might have for not living a completely others-centered life. They’re an inspiration.

The Klekars: Alanna is Canadian. That is how we met, our mutual friend figured we MUST love each other because we’re both Canadian. We both rolled our eyes (but she was absolutely right). We’re so alike it’s a bit scary, actually. They traveled to Mexico with us for three weeks once. They’re threatening to visit in Thailand this fall. We go months between visits and always pick up like it was just last week that we’d last seen one another. Alanna makes me laugh until I cry.

The Schenks: Chosen family. That pretty much sums it up. These people have been through the best and the worst with us and only they know how good, and how very, very bad those two extremes were. I’d say more, but I’m at a loss. We love these people.

The Glines: What do you get when you cross a red-headed fireman with McGyver, with a Nascar driver? Jay Glines. (Okay, maybe not a Nascar driver for real, but that’s what he reminds me of on a snowmobile or four wheeler!) Add to that his Snow White featured wife with glossy black hair and sparkly eyes and you’ve got the center of a really fabulous family. These people are serious contenders for the most giving people I’ve ever met. The crazy part? We didn’t know them when we lived in NH, we’ve become friends through the community as it’s grown since we’ve left.

Those are just the folks in the picture… the Allards came too, taking time out of their coop building weekend to hug us in person even though we can count on our hands the number of times we’ve seen them in person. The Platte Family came and met us for the first time, discovering an existing connection through our friend Nancy and her family who the Platte’s have followed on line for years. It’s such a small world.

These people are one half of our community: the rooted, static part. We don’t write about them very often, because we aren’t often among them, but they’re there. They’re the people who really know us, who love us anyway, who take care of us when we crash land with jet lag and continental shift hangovers.

I stood apart today, more than once, just watching Love in action.

These people drove, some of them over and hour, with vans full of kids (and I do mean FULL of kids) just to grill a hotdog with us, sing Happy Birthday (we celebrated five that fall within the next couple of weeks) and wish us “Happy Trails” once again.

We don’t deserve that kind of love… I’m not sure anyone does… but it feels amazing.

I hope you have that kind of love somewhere in your life.

The kind that is one part strawberry wine, two parts giggly little girl, one part deep tissue back massage, four parts sweaty little boy dog-pile and a million parts dirty black kid toes and frosting sticky fingers and three parts tiny babies being passed around a room full of lovers in the truest sense. You need that.

We need that.

So this is the hard part.

It’s easy to sit on the beach, sip a Mai-Tai and write to you about the joys of location independent living.

It’s easy to post pictures, send home packages of exotic spices and crazy kid joy.

It’s not so easy to let go of that last long hug. The one we’ve been dreading for months. The one we try not to think about while we’re sipping the strawberry wine and passing around the babies. The one that says, “See Ya Later” for real.

We love our life.

We’re looking forward to Asia. Hannah can’t wait to celebrate her 16th birthday in Angkor Wat. Elisha is dying to ride the long boat up the Mekong river. Gabriel has his sights set on kite surfing lessons on the Andaman Sea. Ezra informs everyone he meets that he gets SCUBA lessons in Thailand for his tenth birthday. But they cried hard, one and all as we pointed the van for the coast and pulled out of the Wood’s driveway after the last of the party guests had departed.

This is the hard part.

The reality is that we can’t have it all. Life is about choices and more of one life means less of another. I don’t like that. Selfishly, I want it all. What would I do if I won the lottery? Buy about a hundred of my closest friends passports and plane tickets. Immediately. Without questions. Every single one of these people would be at the top of the list.

To all of you who this one is about…

Thank you.

  • Thank you for loving us.
  • Thank you for letting us go.
  • Thank you for welcoming us with open arms.
  • Thank you for finding us on other continents.
  • Thank you for signing up for Skype.
  • Thank you for welcoming our parade of gypsy friends like they’re old family.
  • Thank you for being our roots.
  • Thank you for the community.
  • Thank you for the love.
  • None of the words I have can express it just right… but you already know that.

You are loved.

To the rest of you, who follow us along from your corner of the world… it might be good for you to know that even our gypsy hearts long for home sometimes and when we’re homesick, it’s not for places, it’s for people. Specific people: These people.

We’d like to introduce you to our extended family:

Jillian with the five star birthday cake she made

Kari making chocolate

Jay Glines... grilling

Me with Benjamin... who won't speak English to me yet, but who chattered along in Ukrainian like I should understand. 🙂

Girls... on a fridge!

Why yes, Jonathan IS lighting the birthday candles with a blow torch!

The shirt seems perfect, doesn't it?

Deml people

Max & Jeremiah feeding the dog from their plates.

With Jeremiah in the sandbox.

The Jeremiahs

The Schenk lovelies

The Gabriels

Randy, Andy & "candy!"

The "Elis"

The Jennys

Randy & Jess



Fifteen-Sixteen Year old club


Fourteen year old club

Jody and Eli

Eleven year old club


Nine-Ten year old club