FAQ: Why Are You Always Smiling?

Someone recently suggested I write a post answering the question I get asked most. Determining which question was the easy part. Throughout my nearly 40 years on this planet, there’s one question I get asked more than any other: “Why are you always smiling?” So many people have asked me over the years, it’s startingContinue reading “FAQ: Why Are You Always Smiling?”

An Ode To Not Knowing What the Hell Is Going On

I love traveling abroad. When you’re living daily life back home, it all becomes so rote, so predictable. It’s easy to stagnate and go on autopilot. But when you’re traveling abroad, nothing can be taken for granted. The area is new; you don’t know where anything is. The language is new; you don’t know whatContinue reading “An Ode To Not Knowing What the Hell Is Going On”

Around Here, However, We Keep Moving Forward

One of the first things my daughter said when we told her we were moving to Italy was, “Mom is going to be so bored.” At this point, I had developed somewhat of a reputation for being busy all the time; work, shuttling kids to activities, grad school, and just general life. I assured herContinue reading Around Here, However, We Keep Moving Forward

The Dishwasher Wants Salt

So, you know how when your dishwasher stops working, you call the repair man? And how when the repairman shows up, he points to the “S” on the dishwasher panel and says, “It wants salt” (in Italian of course). And you say, “salt?” just to clarify, since you’re confused; you didn’t know the dishwasher wantedContinue reading The Dishwasher Wants Salt

Mad King Ludwig, Walt Disney and the Wild River of Inspiration

They called him “Mad King Ludwig.” Certainly, he did nothing to protest the accuracy of this cruel nickname. By the time he had reached his mid-30’s, the young king had descended into a world of fantasty, full of costumed midnight carriage rides, fairytale castles, and elaborate banquets with the ghosts of Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV,Continue reading “Mad King Ludwig, Walt Disney and the Wild River of Inspiration”

Blue Zones: How To Live Healthier Longer

Have you heard of blue zones? If you’ve spent more than 10 minutes in my company, the answer is probably yes. I’m kind of obsessed with them. If you haven’t, or if you tuned me out (it’s cool, I get it, whatever), here it is in a nutshell: Blue zones as a concept got theirContinue reading “Blue Zones: How To Live Healthier Longer”

We’ll See: An Adventure in Germany

My family and I recently embarked on a three-day adventure in Germany (living abroad is amazing – everything is so close!). We were all very excited to explore Bavaria, do lots of hiking, and see the famous Neuschwanstein Castle in person. We had the whole trip planned out. After an idyllic drive through the Alps,Continue reading “We’ll See: An Adventure in Germany”

How to be Happy: La Dolce Vita

I am American. And, like many of my fellow Americans, I am strongly influenced by our country’s ideals of independence and productivity. After all, we are the nation of Manifest Destiny, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and the American Dream. This cultural baseline has resulted in untold innovations from assembly lines to air conditioning,Continue reading “How to be Happy: La Dolce Vita”

My Big City Italian Driving Adventure

I may have mentioned that driving in Italy is like playing Grand Theft Auto. I’m already a timid driver, with a strong interest in not getting hit or hitting others. So, Italian driving is a bit of a challenge for me. Recently, my son asked to go visit a friend in Florence, about an hourContinue reading “My Big City Italian Driving Adventure”

Funny Dentist Stories: The Italian Dentist

So there I was, in need of a dentist in Italy. As it turns out, the best, English-speaking Italian dentist was located in the heart of Pisa. As this area is a spider’s web of one-way roads and vehicle restricted zones, I decided to park outside the historic wall and walk 15 minutes to theContinue reading “Funny Dentist Stories: The Italian Dentist”

Funny Dentist Stories: I Didn’t Go To Dental School

A year or so ago, a dentist noted that my back left molar was slightly cracked. It wasn’t terrible, so he said we could wait and keep an eye on it. Four months ago, a different dentist noticed the crack and recommended the tooth be capped ASAP. He explained that if we didn’t cap it,Continue reading “Funny Dentist Stories: I Didn’t Go To Dental School”

Learning How To Drive in Italy

Driving in Italy is like a sport. Actually, it’s more like a back alley, black market, underground, live-or-die “sport” like chicken-style, to-the-death drag racing or subterranean cage fighting. It’s fast, it’s furious, there are no commonly observed rules, and it’s definitely survival of the fittest. I knew all of this well before we moved toContinue reading “Learning How To Drive in Italy”

Moving Pets Abroad: The Great USDA Debacle

After five months of waiting, the paperwork for our move to Italy was complete (the first set, at least), the official passports and visas were in hand, the house was sold, the car was shipped, the other cars were sold, the Unaccompanied Baggage was on a plane, the Household Goods were on a boat, andContinue reading “Moving Pets Abroad: The Great USDA Debacle”

How We Moved to Italy – Part Three: Dream Board

A few years back, I got hooked on the dream board trend. For those of you who missed this cultural phenomenon, dream boards are part inspirational and part goal setting exercise in which you cut out magazine pictures of things you wanted to accomplish and combined them into a collage. My collage was covered with pictures of Italy.

How We Moved to Italy – Part Two: Feelings

That initial feeling of ecstatic glee lasted for weeks. I couldn’t believe it; we were moving to Italy! Italy. My lifelong dream was about to be realized! I was walking on air. Then, slowly, insidiously, something else started creeping in; a different kind of feeling entirely. It was a strange feeling; not anxiety or stress;Continue reading “How We Moved to Italy – Part Two: Feelings”

Benvenuto in Italia (Welcome to Italy)

I promised myself I would write every day in Italy. So here I am, DAY ONE, staring at the blinking cursor and suddenly finding I have no idea what to write about. Isn’t it funny? Even in the midst of one of the biggest changes and most unbelievable opportunities of my life, I could suddenlyContinue reading “Benvenuto in Italia (Welcome to Italy)”

Chapter Thirty-Three: Swimming Free

If anyone had seen the family heading down a wooded path for a seaside picnic, nothing would have seemed out of place. If they’d noticed them skipping rocks over the water, or snacking on sandwiches atop a fallen log, they’d have smiled and thought nothing else of it. But had they seen the seal emergingContinue reading “Chapter Thirty-Three: Swimming Free”

Chapter Thirty-Two: The Girl

 “Aveny – look at this,” Brand stepped through the door, still dressed in his fireman’s work blues. Aveny glanced up from her computer as he thrust a newspaper into her hands. “What am I looking at?” she asked. “Here,” Brand pointed at a black and white image. “Does that girl look familiar?” Aveny gazed atContinue reading “Chapter Thirty-Two: The Girl”

Chapter Thirty-One: A Selkie’s Story

The drive to the sound was punctuated only by the noise of surrounding traffic. The air was so thick with tension, Aveny could hardly breathe. She kept expecting Brand to turn off the road early and take her to the nearest asylum instead. She ran her fingers over the skin, calming herself and trying notContinue reading “Chapter Thirty-One: A Selkie’s Story”

Chapter Thirty: No More Lies

“What is this?” Brand pressed, stepping into the kitchen one morning after Miriam left to drop the kids off at school. Aveny’s eyes widened and her heart plummeted. The seal skin was clutched in his outstretched hand. His exhausted eyes were rimmed with red. Aveny caught herself, barely subduing the urge to lunge for itContinue reading “Chapter Thirty: No More Lies”

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Holding On

The first day that Brand went back to work, Aveny snuck into Miriam’s room and stole the drugs he’d left for her to administer. She quickly opened each pill and dumped it into the toilet. Then, she refilled each one with flour and slid the capsules gingerly back together. She hated herself for doing itContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Nine: Holding On”

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Exposed

Aveny was required to meet with both a social worker and a psychiatrist before they let Brand in. The psychiatrist was a kindly, albeit harried woman with brown hair and bright purple glasses who asked Aveny a series of questions. Had this ever happened before? “No.” (Yes.) Did she remember anything? “No.” (Yes – almostContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Eight: Exposed”

Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Selkie Escape

When Aveny awoke, everything had changed. Sunshine illuminated the interior of the clinic, glinting off the shiny metal table and sparkling across an array of draconian medical instruments.  What time was it?! A clock hung on the wall but Aveny could barely get her eyes to register its ticking hands, let alone read it. ItContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Selkie Escape”

Chapter Twenty-Six: Selkie Survival

It wasn’t. The next time Aveny woke, she was still caged, still encased in the skin, still in pain. She had no idea how much time had passed, but she could tell by the sunlight streaming through the doorframe, that it was daytime. Which day, she didn’t know. No matter what, by now, her familyContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Six: Selkie Survival”

Chapter Twenty-Five: Trapped

In Aveny’s dream, a woman studied her with furrowed brow. Her hair was long and dark, wafting around her luminescent face like an ebony wind storm. Her skin was the color of fresh cream; her eyes like glimmering orbs. She muttered something and her words poured pain over Aveny’s body – more acute than anythingContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Five: Trapped”

Chapter Twenty-Four: The Darkness

Aveny knew something was wrong the minute she heard it. The sound cut the night with its strange guttural desperation. It chaffed her skin and pieced her heart. Only a quarter of a breath in duration, but it alerted every screaming sensation in Aveny’s soul. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. She had just emerged from the inkyContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Four: The Darkness”

Chapter Twenty-Three: Yearning for the Sea

Aveny didn’t go out at night – at first. She clung to the safe confines of her bed, limiting her adventures to the daylight hours. This concession appeased her guilt. She didn’t know what she would have done if the accident had taken place at night. There would have been no explanation. The fact thatContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-Three: Yearning for the Sea”

Chapter Twenty-Two: Selkie Powers

The weeks that followed were among the happiest of Aveny’s life. Each moment was enhanced by the profound miracle of reliving what she never thought she’d experience again – something so fantastic she still wasn’t entirely certain she was actually experiencing it in the first place. Every morning she dropped the kids off at school,Continue reading “Chapter Twenty-Two: Selkie Powers”

Chapter Twenty-One: Selkie Farewell

The next morning Aveny dropped the kids off at school and drove north, along the well-worn track toward Olympia and Puget Sound. She coached herself as the interstate exit numbers increased. You can do this. The skin is gone. It’s time to accept that. She had stood along the water’s edge perhaps a hundred timesContinue reading “Chapter Twenty-One: Selkie Farewell”

Chapter Twenty: Selkie Obsession

Aveny was obsessed. Everyone said so. They weren’t wrong. She reduced her hours at work and dropped all voluntary commitments. Every spare moment was dedicated to cleaning up the sound (and a few not-so-spare ones too). When she wasn’t orchestrating Budd Inlet cleanups, she was caught in a strange mania – writing like her lifeContinue reading “Chapter Twenty: Selkie Obsession”

Chapter Nineteen: Lost Selkie Powers

Miriam arrived on Aveny’s front porch the next day, a vibrant maroon and yellow carpet bag in one hand and a neon purple air purifier in the other. “Miriam?” Aveny stammered, when she opened the door. “What are you doing here?” “I came for a visit,” Miriam replied, stepping past Aveny and into the house.Continue reading “Chapter Nineteen: Lost Selkie Powers”

Chapter Eighteen: Diving Deeper

Aveny awoke to the sound of her children’s hushed voices. She cracked her eyelids just enough to see them through her lashes. They stood at the edge of the bed staring at her with wide eyes. Brecken shifted nervously from one foot to the other and Luca furrowed his brow analytically as he studied her.Continue reading “Chapter Eighteen: Diving Deeper”

Chapter Seventeen: Lies Exposed

Aveny didn’t remember the drive, or abandoning her car in the ambulance pull-through. She only remembered waking, her arm freshly bandaged and an unpleasant burning sensation where the IV pushed new blood into her vein. Aveny blinked her eyes in weary confusion. The room swam in a strange haze of translucent blue and beige. Somewhere,Continue reading “Chapter Seventeen: Lies Exposed”

Chapter Sixteen: Danger Lurks

Aveny wriggled happily into a small, rocky enclave like an overzealous puppy. She was in hot pursuit of a particularly lovely little octopus. Unlike the others, this one hadn’t fled at first. It had hovered before her nose, its tentacles churning the water like a magician casting a spell. One large protuberant eye locked Aveny’sContinue reading “Chapter Sixteen: Danger Lurks”

Chapter Fifteen: The Forgotten

It bothered Aveny, how quickly people disappeared. Now that her grandmother was gone, there seemed to be so little left of her – easily contained within a few boxes. And almost no evidence remained of those who came before her; just a few blurry photos and a stack of polite correspondence. Was that all she’dContinue reading “Chapter Fifteen: The Forgotten”

Chapter Fourteen: The Pool

Aveny’s ability to tolerate tap water improved. It still singed her skin with its chemical acidity, but she could handle it. She had to. Otherwise, Brand would wonder why she often came home – or woke up – smelling like fish. Quick, ice cold showers were tolerable. Public pools were not. Not yet, anyway. TheContinue reading “Chapter Fourteen: The Pool”

Chapter Thirteen: Puget Sound Selkie

Slowly, Aveny became acquainted with the sound’s murky depths. Bit by bit, she memorized each open expanse and explored every well-hidden crevasse. Some she knew better than her own home. Their inhabitants, she knew much better than her own neighbors. But then again, what lived beneath the surface of the sea was much more interestingContinue reading “Chapter Thirteen: Puget Sound Selkie”

Chapter Twelve: Borst Park

Aveny’s heels made dull thudding sounds as they bounced off the behemoth stump’s gnarly, bulging bark. Its serpentine roots clutched the ground in a firm embrace, making her feel steady and safe. Brecken sat next to her atop the wooden throne, his dark hair standing up like an explosion. His slender form relaxed into aContinue reading “Chapter Twelve: Borst Park”

Chapter Eleven: The Madness

Aveny searched through old photo albums, boxes of letters, and all of her grandmother’s journal entries, scouring each page for some hint of the skin’s origin. Something … anything. But there was nothing; nothing that would explain … this. The skin wasn’t even mentioned. But there was something else.  One entry, buried deep inside anContinue reading “Chapter Eleven: The Madness”

Chapter Ten: Selkie Stories

Aveny’s grandmother gently rubbed the lump on her granddaughter’s knuckle, rolling it back and forth between her soft fingers. “It’s a Ganglion Cyst,” she pronounced definitively. “Look, I have one too.” Catherine extended her papery hand and Aveny ran her fingers over the joint, mirroring her grandmother’s motion. Sure enough, she could feel the lumpContinue reading “Chapter Ten: Selkie Stories”

Chapter Nine: Mystery and Mania

Aveny’s fingers tore over gardening tools, shoved aside half-empty seed packets, and dug between a trio of Elvis-themed lawn gnomes Aunt Miriam had given them as a housewarming present. She’d buried the skin here, in this bottomless bin, beneath four other heavy totes at the farthest, darkest corner of her garage. She’d wanted to trapContinue reading “Chapter Nine: Mystery and Mania”

Chapter Eight: A Selkie is Born

Aveny stood on the rock-encrusted shore, mere feet from where she’d discovered herself only a few long hours before. She knew the spot now. She’d meandered through there with her children once. They’d skipped rocks and played with the tiny capering crabs – the same minute crustaceans which had rustled around her motionless body justContinue reading “Chapter Eight: A Selkie is Born”

Chapter Seven: Over the Edge

Aveny awoke peacefully, long silky tendrils of nocturnal illusion still gently entwined in her psyche. Their tender embrace warmed her soul and soothed her normally chaotic mind. She marinated in the sweet sensation. As consciousness dawned, she felt the dream slipping from her like loose feathers from a soaring bird. She clenched her eyes tightly,Continue reading “Chapter Seven: Over the Edge”

Chapter Five: Saga of a Seal Skin

“The Alaskan seal skin is known for its durability and appearance, which, in the author’s well-established opinion, exceeds all others in the luxurious beauty of its thick fur coat. Far more preferable than ermine, silver fox, or sable, this treasure is a highly sought-after accompaniment for the ladies of London’s high society.” Aveny turned theContinue reading “Chapter Five: Saga of a Seal Skin”

Chapter Four: A Selkie Stirs

The dream clung heavily to the edges of Aveny’s psyche as she eased slowly into consciousness. Its remnants hung in thick milky webs, draped between her subconscious and alert state. She fought to maintain it, to remain adrift in oblivion. Unlike her recent nightmares, this had been a wonderful dream. She lingered for a longContinue reading “Chapter Four: A Selkie Stirs”

Chapter Three: Seals in the Sound

Aveny’s paddle made soft, succulent plops as it slid into the deep blue sound. The breeze tickled her face, tingling her flesh with undertones of cold northern air. A chill spilled over her shoulders and she shivered despite the sun’s relentless adoration. Brand’s unusual work schedule, coupled with Aveny’s flexible hours allowed them to occasionallyContinue reading “Chapter Three: Seals in the Sound”

Chapter Two: Puget Sound Magic

Aveny lowered herself onto a fallen log with a sigh. She relished the revitalizing sensation of soft, green moss swelling abundantly beneath her. A smile danced across her lips as she watched Luca, Brecken and Tali charge up Seminary Hill in hot pursuit of their father. Brand lived for moments like this. He laughed, slowedContinue reading “Chapter Two: Puget Sound Magic”

Chapter One: A Strange Discovery

Aveny’s heart was a drum. Its steady rhythm resounded in her ears, reverberating through the seemingly empty cavity of her head and chest, each beat echoing into a cacophony of sound. It throbbed wildly, beating against the taut drum of her flesh; a summons to war. And somewhere, someone was crying. Aveny plunged into theContinue reading “Chapter One: A Strange Discovery”