Picking up the Pieces in the streets of Rome

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
                                                                        – Michelangelo

I found my journal from my first trip to Italy when I was 21. The trip was led by one of the most brilliant professors I’ve ever had, Dr. Vernon Minor. We spent 3 weeks in Florence and 3 weeks in Rome, doing nothing but roaming ancient cobblestone streets, studying history, architecture, sculpture, painting…all things art that came out of the Renaissance and Baroque period.

As I was revisiting the streets of Rome, I came across this metaphor of sorts I wrote. I was struck with how similar I am to that younger very sensitive, very lost romantic.

I also realized how much I’ve changed. I’m still all of those things, which don’t always serve me. But I’m also confident and courageous enough to share the other parts of me that aren’t perfect. Even after falling to pieces, I still managed to conjure up the strength to pick them back up and rebuild my work in progress.

I’m far from perfect. There are many cracks that cannot be fixed or smoothed over. But perfect doesn’t interest me anymore. I find so much more beauty in the scars that remain.

So here is a little window into the mind of a very young, very naive, very love struck  21-year old version of me.

July 3, 1997

Imagine you were in the shoes of a sculptor. No one famous or known for her talent. But she’s passionate, determined to perfect her craft. She has the necessary materials, maybe not of the finest quality, but she makes due.

She begins to sculpt, spending what feels like a lifetime working on her piece. She makes sacrifices and passing countless hours alone, struggling to perfect what she hopes to be her masterpiece.

Finally, she stands back to study it. It’s not perfect, by any means. But she finally sees beauty in its impefection.

She wants to find someone to share it with, so she switches her focus, searching for that perfect person. She’s impatient. Hasty.

And suddenly, there he is. He’s all there is. Now, it’s only his opinion that matters.

She unveils her piece and waits for his response, hardly able to breathe as he studies her. But she knows, she can see it when she looks at him. He sees her.

He loves her down to the smallest detail- her feet, her hands, her smile, her essence. He wants to experience her, every part of her. He stands in awe, unable to take his eyes off her.

And then he sees it. A tiny imperfection, and then another. He’s disappointed, she can tell. He thought she was perfect…he wants her to be perfect.

She grabs her tools and tries to fix them. Because now, it’s only his opinion that matters.

He leaves her alone to finish her work. She’s exhilerated, thoughts of him consuming her. She keeps looking at the door, waiting for him to come back. He doesn’t. Anxious, distracted, she goes too deep. A crack spreads across the surface. She grabs her chissel, frantically trying to fix her. But she only makes it worse. She feels the crack go deeper, wider, until she completely falls apart.

This can’t be happening. Minutes ago, he was here. It was perfect.

Now everything is shattered.

The thought of starting over again is unbearable. Can she even be fixed? Or is she damaged beyond repair?

And even if she could actually restore her to her original beauty, how could she ever trust someone to get close to her again? If no one sees her, is it worth existing?

She hates him for what he’s done, then feels terrible for hating him. She knows his intentions were good. Weren’t they? He didn’t know what he did was going to hurt her…did he?

She tries to convince herself he truly did love her. He just wanted her to be perfect.

But it doesn’t work. She hates him, because he did this. Because she let him.

Because he left her.

Because she’s shattered, with no one there to help pick up the pieces.



Messy Is Where the Magic is

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

– Jack Kerouac

As painful as this blog has been to write at times (and probably a bit to read at times) I think it is doing the two things that I hoped it would. I think it is helping me move forward and pick up the pieces. And I hope it is helping you do the same. More and more of you are reaching out telling me you are going through something very similar and that hearing my story is helping you.

So, as uncomfortable as parading my mess around is at times, I will forge on. Because it turns out, a lot of you are in a bit of a mess as well.

“The middle is messy, but messy is where the magic is”. 

– Brene Brown

It seems like so many of us are in the thick of our ‘mid-life crises’. And it wasn’t like the first phase was any easier, at least not for me. I spent the first chunk of my life trying to figure out who the hell I was, and it landed me in a lot of messy situations and with people whom I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen had I known myself better.

I think the difference is that this beginning phase felt exploratory. I was naïve and fearless, but not because of courage per se. Because I didn’t know any better.

In this exploratory phase, I felt less panic or concern for the consequences of what I was doing. If I fucked everything up, the sky wouldn’t fall. Or if it did, I would still have plenty of time to pick up the pieces and start over.

And then I hit this phase of my life. And I actually did fuck everything up. Pretty much everything. And it turns out, the sky did in fact fall.

And I’m panicking. Because now it feels like it is going to take a lifetime to pick up all the pieces, to fix everything, to try to start over. And I no longer have a lifetime.

I have always lived my life, to some degree, in a state of panic. I have always done everything fast- I talk fast, I eat fast, I read fast, I run fast. I used to think I was just programmed that way. I now realize that it is because I always felt this sense of urgency to get to the next thing for fear that I would miss out on something- an opportunity, a lesson, a laugh, a friendship, a love.

Love. This is the one thing I don’t do fast. I fall fast, but I love long and I love hard.

This has only intensified now that I’m in my 40’s. My proverbial sky has fallen and I have no idea where to even start with this whole ‘starting over’ process. And there is still so much I want to do and see, friendships I want to have, love I want to experience- a lifestyle I want to experience with those friends and that love…and I feel like I am running out of time.

I now know that so many of you feel the same. If nothing else, the disaster that my life has turned into over the past year, and my blog describing it, have brought so many of you back into my life. Many of you with whom I wasn’t even that close to before.

It’s a beautiful thing. My patchwork has become so much more colorful and diverse, so many more layers and textures- life-long friends with whom I have a shared history and new friends who have come into my life more recently. One ‘category’ is no more important or meaningful than the other. I just think there is a tendency at this point in our lives to attract people who fit the person we are now.

Meeting a new friend now feels like…magic. It is exciting and giddy with that ‘butterflies in your stomach’ feeling, because I now know it is so rare. When I connect with someone who fits me at this point in my life, it is because I have found more than a friend, I have found a kindred spirit.

And I no longer need to impress you, or win you over, or keep you, or try not scare you away. You are my tribe, no matter the distance, the differences, the time investment, or inconvenience. Both of us are in this and neither of us is going anywhere.

I think an important part of this, too, has been letting go of old relationships that no longer serve me. This has become increasingly more difficult as I get older. More times than not, it is a friend I have a history with, but our paths have become too different or what we want and need from a relationship no longer fits. If more times than not, I walk away from them feeling worse about myself and my life, then it is time to let go. This has also been rare, and it is sad and painful. But there is always a gift, right, for those relationships that come and go. It takes tremendous courage to let them go, and it is also one of the most selfless things you can do. You are allowing that person to fill your space in with someone who will give them what they now need in their lives, things that you just could no longer give them.

So, it seems to be turning out that the gift out of this whole mid-life mess has been the new additions to my tribe. And yes, you are in fact a lot like me, and you fit. You inspire me and you make me want to be better. You make me laugh and you piss me off and you make me feel. You lift me up, you celebrate me, and you make me want to do the same for you.

You are colorful, a little crazy, a lot opinionated, a bit complicated, and you are smart and engaging and creative and fun.

And, you are messy. You are a big, beautiful, brilliant mess…who burns, burns, burns, like fabulous yellow roman candles…

Your faithful gypsy,


The Value of Our Girls

“Girls are one of the most powerful forces for change in the world: When their rights are recognized, their needs are met, and their voices are heard, they drive positive change in their families, their communities, and the world.

– Kathy Calvin, United Nations Foundation President & CEO

I picked up one of the books I am reading (one of 4…a bit ‘a.d.d.’ and usually have at least three going at once: the light read, the inspiring/self-helpish read, and always a memoir). I thought this one, The Underground  Girls of Kabul, by Jenny Nordberg, was fitting on the heels of last weekend’s epic demonstration to empower women.

I started a social enterprise, Briya Bags (www.briyabags.com), to help educate and empower girls and women around the world, specifically in developing countries and those in conflict. I have frequently been asked been asked why I feel compelled to help abroad and not focus on girls and women in my own country. I can’t say for sure. Maybe it is because I have traveled to some of the poorest countries in the world, where women have virtually no rights. (see blog post, Women and Goats under ‘My Congo Adventure’ blog). Poverty, lack of education, religious influence, and patriarchal views leave women to be treated as labor and a means to produce children, specifically boys.

The information below provided by Amnesty International:  http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/the-worlds-worst-places-to-be-a-woman/

Afghanistan ranks as the worst place in the world to be a woman. Women face daily physical and sexual abuse from insurgents and state forces. Schoolgirls are frequently attacked, as well as women who dare to venture out in public. Rape and domestic violence are rampant. 87% of Afghan women are illiterate, while 70-80% face forced marriage, many before the age of 16.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is ranked second on the list of the worst places to be a woman. The ongoing war has resulted in a brutal and strategic campaign of sexual violence targeted at women, from toddlers to the elderly”.

Armed militias and state forces notoriously carry out brutal gang rapes and use women in human trafficking.  An estimated 1,100 women are raped every day in the Congo. Survivors or women who manage to escape suffer social stigma in their families and communities. Or worse the suffer from fistula, a painful tearing of the wall between the vaginal and rectal canals. This leaves them unable to marry, bare children and leaves them in tremendous pain for the rest of their lives.

All of these crimes against women go unpunished. There are absolutely no consequences.

I am presently not working directly with any organizations working in Afghanistan, but my partner, Marshall Direct Fund/MDF (marshalldirectfund.com) is working to educate girls and their communities in Pakistan, a country that has almost indiscernible discrimination against and repression of women and girls.

The founder of Marshall Direct Fund supports educational efforts in remote areas of Pakistan to ensure a future generation of critical thinkers with the skills to become meaningful economically contributing citizens. The impact of the last ten years of efforts can be seen and felt in the classrooms and on the faces of the students. No one seems to mind the overflowing classrooms, they’re just grateful for the access to free education and the hope afforded to break cycles of poverty. In comparison to previous visits,  the executive director, Jodi Foster, noticed the students sitting taller in their chairs, straighter, with more confidence, bright eyes, smiles, and stories that reflect hope that wasn’t there before.

MDF’s holistic approach is one that I know is necessary to affect change. MDF provides education in these communities, not just for girls. Instead, they educate the community as a whole. They allow boys in the schools, but only if the girls are enrolled first. They go door to door and hold workshops to educate the fathers and mothers about the importance of education for their girls and that their girls are in fact valuable and precious and can make meaningful contributions to their families and communities.

Why does MDF have to do this?

A boy is status. A boy is good fortune. He is a source of pride, celebrated, and adored.

A girl is an embarrassment, a sign of bad luck. She is a source of shame, to be hidden and used as labor. A boy is a bacha, the word for child. A girl is the ‘other’: a dokhtar.

If a daughter is born…the new mother… will return to the village, her head bowed in shame, where she may be derided by relatives and neighbors. She could be denied food for several days. She could be beaten and relegated to the outhouse to sleep with the animals… (Jenny Nordberg)

It is not uncommon for a woman to have 10 children. If her first 7, 8, 9 are not boys, she is expected to keep trying until she ‘succeeds’.

Mothers usually don’t even get attached to their daughters, because they will inevitably be married off, usually by the age of 12, usually to an older uncle or man twice her age whom she has never met. Often, the family may never see her again. But the son? He will be with them for life.

“As a woman, you must shrink both your physical body and any energy that surrounds it, in speech, movement, and gaze.” (Jenny Nordberg)

This is not the case for every woman/girl or for every family. Families that are wealthy enough to have an education are usually more liberal-minded and encourage their daughters to get an education and engage in their society. There are in fact women doctors and politicians, but this is the exception and their rights are still extremely limited.

There have been various attempts reverse this and provide rights to women in Afghanistan. King Amanollah Khan attempted to assert rights for women in the 1920s…promoting the education of girls, banning selling them off for marriage, and putting restrictions on polygyny. The men were outraged and there was severe backlash.  They would lose future income if their daughters could no longer be sold or traded as wives. The king was eventually forced to renounce his throne.

So how do some of these families remedy their bad fortune? They turn one of their girls into a boy. Problem solved. This is often done at birth so neighbors and family will not know. But on occasion, a family might make the transformation when the child is older. And often times nobody even questions it or acknowledges it. It is understood as a necessary step towards status and power.

And what do these ‘girls’ do? They embrace it. This is their chance for freedom, for privilege, for an education, for more food and preferential treatment by all. This is her chance to go outside alone, to climb a tree or throw a ball, to laugh and play and be a child, while her sisters stay inside, do the chores, and wait to be married off.

But she too awaits this fate. These privileges will not last. When the ‘boy’ reaches puberty, he must turn back into a girl, and she must assume her responsibility to serve as a means of income or status, be married off…and provide sons for her new family.

All of this is not to say that there are no issues here in the U.S. that women face, life-threatening ones at that. I guess I just was so impacted by the fact that women in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Sudan, etc., have absolutely no rights and no resources- the reality that their social structures are so embedded, and their low status and objectification so ingrained. I feel compelled to do whatever I can to help them- through education, through activism, through supporting efforts at a grass-roots level that are making an impact to change the beliefs, the system, rituals and cultural stigmas that are disempowering, even killing girls and women in these countries.

Am I making a difference? Will I make a difference?  I guess I might never know. But I have witnessed the difference that some organizations and their dedicated staff are making. So, that is my hope. I hope I can make a contribution, no matter how small, to support them in the work that they are doing. That is the hope.

If you want to help me and Marshall Direct Fund in our efforts, please visit:

Briyabags.com and Marshalldirectfund.com



Nasty Women

“Please believe in THE POWER OF ONE. One person can make an enormous difference in the world. One person – actually, one idea – can start a war, or end one, or subvert an entire power structure. One discovery can cure a disease or spawn new technology to benefit or annihilate the human race. You as ONE individual can change millions of lives. Think big. Do not limit your vision and do not ever compromise your dreams or ideals”. 

                           – Iris Chang

I have to confess that I was a bit skeptical of the Women’s March that so many of my friends were flying from all over the country to go to. I knew I wouldn’t be in a city where I would be able to go to one, nor did I really want to. The reality is, I felt defeated. I knew he was now our president, and I kind of just wanted to close my eyes, hold my breath, and crawl back in bed for the next four years until it was all over.

I spent most of the morning avoiding all forms of media, horrified at some of the things I was hearing- the policies being signed into action, and the details being revealed about the people who are now running our country. I just couldn’t listen.

And then I started seeing my friends’ posts on Facebook and Instagram. They caught my attention. I felt a twinge of guilt which evolved into full-on regret. Why the hell was I not there with them? I don’t sit on my couch and accept defeat. What the hell!!

“Thank you for understanding. Sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Pressing ‘send’ is not enough.      

                  –   Gloria Steinem, honorary chairman of the march

I spent the rest of the day glued to my phone, my computer, and yes, even the news. I hated the fact that I was one of the ones pushing ‘send’.

And then friends started sending me messages, telling me that I should be there. And so they took me with them. They gave me play by plays, they sent me pictures, face timed me so I could hear the crowds and speeches. I got to go to D.C., Denver, even Paris via text.

I was literally moved to tears watching my friends taking decisive action to be heard and to support those whom he has discriminated against, denounced, and demoralized.

Half a million people- women, men, and children- showed up in D.C. yesterday. HALF A MILLION do not believe in him, in his values, his motives, his actions, his policies, or his capacity to run our country. And those are just the people who were able to be present in D.C. Three million people across the globe showed up in protest of his inauguration. That is unprecedented and a very poignant statement. They were heard.

Interestingly enough, we heard nothing in response to this peaceful revolution from our new leader.

I saw many people’s statements on Facebook mocking the marches. I tried not to engage, but I caved a couple of times. I know it is not an effective way to sway people to adopt your opinions, and I know everyone has a right to their own… just a consequence of being very opinionated and passionate. Sometimes it gets the best of me.

So, after my two attempts to sway people to my side, I gave myself a break from Facebook and ran across Ashley Judd’s speech, proclaimed to be the highlight of the day. I was blown away.

Judd recited a poem written by a 19-year old girl, Nina Donovan, written in protest to Trump and everything he stands for. It was simply brilliant. Here is my favorite part:

“Tell me, why are pads and tampons still taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not? Is your erection really more than protecting the sacred messy part of my womanhood? Is the blood stain on my jeans more embarrassing than the thinning of your hair

I know it is hard to look at your own entitlement and privilege. You may be afraid of the truth. I am unafraid to be honest. It may sound petty bringing up a few extra cents. It adds up to the pile of change I have yet to see in my country. I can’t see. My eyes are too busy praying to my feet hoping you don’t mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact. Half my life I have been zipping up my smile hoping you don’t think I want to unzip your jeans.

I am unafraid to be nasty because I am nasty like Susan, Elizabeth, Eleanor, Amelia, Rosa, Gloria, Condoleezza, Sonia, Malala, Michelle, Hillary!

And our pussies ain’t for grabbing. There for reminding you that our walls are stronger than America’s ever will be. Our pussies are for our pleasure. They are for birthing new generations of filthy, vulgar, nasty, proud, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, you name it, for new generations of nasty women. So if you a nasty woman, or you love one who is, let me hear you say, hell yeah”. 

So, this is my “few extra cents” about yesterday’s monumental expression of solidarity, conviction, and demand for change. For those of you who believe it was only a statement, a pointless demonstration, or our refusal to ‘accept reality’ (Bill Hemmer’s, reporter for Fox News), I ask you this. If it impacted only a handful of young girls (and I am positive it impacted thousands), if it made them feel empowered, if it demonstrated the power of taking action, if it convinced them that their bodies, their ‘pussies’, are sacred, are theirs to be enjoyed and seen as their gift to the world and not a part of them solely meant to be enjoyed by others or, worse, to be ashamed of, if it made them embrace the fact that they are not objects or ornaments to be paraded about, if they now believe that they are worth infinitely more than their bodies and faces. If any one of those girls adopted one or all of those things as their truth, then yesterday’s date should become a national holiday, no an international holiday. I believe it was something that should go down in history.

I believe it will. And I believe all of you who marched, and even those of us who could only push send, I believe we contributed to a stronger, more confident, more powerful, more active generation of girls and boys who will grow into women and men who will, in fact, change the world.



Quitting Facebook is the new, adult version of running away from home. We all know you’re doing it for attention and we all know that you’ll be back.

I love Facebook. Almost as much as I hate it.

I’m pretty sure this feeling is ubiquitous at this point. It seems the love part, however, is the stronger of the two, enough to keep us all scrolling, posting, texting…and then checking back 10 seconds later to see what we missed.

I am still leaning more towards the love part, myself, because FB has become an invaluable vehicle for reconnecting me with friends from all phases of my life. I can’t imagine how many friendships have been rekindled, relationships started, even marriages and divorces initiated, because of Facebook.

I would say 75% of my present friendships, and a relationship or two, are credited to Facebook. For me, it has been a way for me to stay connected to my tribe, which consists of friends on almost every continent. Even for friends who live in the same city, I have found out some important news or have successfully read between the lines when they needed to connect beyond what is possible using our thumbs.

But honestly, there are times when you just don’t feel like talking. And the reality of finding time for that much-needed, catch-up call with our best friend from high school just isn’t feasible in our day to day. Facebook serves it all up on the proverbial platter. We get to see what the kids are up to, birthday announcements, anniversaries, most recent vacation excursions. Such a time-saver, really. Now, all we have to do is text and say congrats, happy birthday, or bon voyage. If we wait long enough, we can knock out all of the above in one text…2 minutestops, depending on how dexterous you are.

Yes, being cheeky. We all know that taking the time to show up in person is what we should actually be doing. Because let’s be honest, how many people do you know who post ANYTHING on their Facebook and Instagram pages that is even close to what is really going on in their lives??

I’m not discounting that our friends’ posts aren’t real, exactly. Of course, they are having good times and celebrating legitimate milestones in their lives. But, how many posts do you see announcing their kid’s bad report card, or the fact that the youngest came so close, but didn’t quite make the cheerleading squad? No one is throwing up pictures of themselves in the throngs of a bad hair day or taken from a bad angle.

Yes, Guilty.

I have seen countless pictures of hands boasting shiny new engagement rings, but have yet to see one of a divorce certification. I see status updates, daily, announcing ‘married to’. But, I have only seen one in my entire Facebook career announcing, ‘divorced’.

Again, Guilty.

Hell no. You are all going to see how amazing my life is. You are going to be blown away by how many friends I have and the unprecedented amount of likes I got on my most recent profile picture. And, yes, my hair always looks this good, my smile is always this perfect, and my life is nothing but a series of unimaginable vacations, good deeds, major accomplishments, and my beautiful friends and family engaging in the picture-perfect moment that someone just happened to capture on their iphone.

Okay, I might have photoshopped one of my pictures, just a wrinkle or two around my eyes. And I might have opted for the ‘ludwig’ filter (it makes me look tanner). Okay fine, the picture I posted was actually the 10th shot because the 9 before made my face look fat. Other than that, everything I post is 100% real-time and how I and my life looks 75% of the time. Or maybe 25% of the time.

The most fascinating thing about social media, in my opinion, is the way it has taken control, or the way we have taken control of it, as a means to court a new love… or stalk an old one.

Again, Guilty.

A recent study revealed the ways that Facebook has impacted our relationships, both good and bad, during each stage. (see link below)


The best part about using FB as a means to court an interest is obvious for the not so brave at heart. All you have to do is ‘like’ a few posts, followed by liking every post, transitioning into commenting on one or two, and then going for the plunge and sending a message. With any luck and the correct concoction of posting content and frequency, you will be sitting across from your new love within a matter of days.


As far as a tool to declare and prove the depths of your love, FB is your weapon of choice. What better way to say ‘I love you’ than a status update, ‘in a relationship’, or a selfie post capturing a moment of bliss for all to see.


Maintaining a relationship? Again, FB is your friend. You are on a work trip, no better way to tell your beloved you miss her than by posting it so that your 1,400 friends bare witness. You fucked up and did something stupid? A simple post stating: I fucked up and did something stupid…and I love you. Instant ‘get out jail free’ card.

The Break Up:

And then there is the ultimate reason to utilize FB. The whole “all’s fair in love and war” thing…specifically the War part. You want to make them jealous? Pictures, pictures, pictures. You want to let them know exactly where you are and what you are doing?

‘Check in’: location determined.

‘Tag’: proof that their worst nightmare is sitting next to you.

Note. This is a particularly good strategy if you are not, in fact, sitting next to his worst nightmare, nor are you at the same restaurant where you two had your first date. That is what I hear, anyway.  


And so the FB world watches in horror as the whole thing unravels. Suddenly, we start seeing the ‘covert’ posts from your heartbroken friend… followed by pictures of said friend sitting next to hot guy, who you later find out (when you finally get together, in person, to sort out all the confusion between her actual life and her ‘Facebook’ life) was actually a guy who she practically accosted in a bar and pretty much threatened bodily harm to if he did not pose for a quick selfie, explaining that he looks just like her brother and could she please get a picture with him so she can post it on Facebook…so her brother can see the uncanny resemblance.  

Nope, no brother. But she will be damn sure that this poor, unassuming hot guy will be paraded on her FB page for the world to see… for the ex to see- the ex who is most assuredly stalking her on Facebook.

So there you go. For all of you Facebook haters, or those of you who have tried to ‘quit’ or cleanse yourself from the non-stop reminders of how inadequate you, your life, your house, your job… your pretty much everything is, don’t give up. Keep searching, scrolling, posting, texting, and stalking.

We have faith in you, and we don’t really believe anything that you are posting…and we know you will be back.


Research study In Psychology Today:


Wild Ones, Goddesses, and Goddamn Warriors

“You are one of the wild ones, and no matter how you tried to hide that fact, you can’t be anything other than what you are—and that’s okay. You are just as you are supposed to be, magnificently wild in all of your chaotic beauty.

I know you’ve had your heart broken and I know that you don’t understand why it always seems to never work out, but I’ve finally figured it out:

You don’t need a man, you need a goddamn warrior.’”

– Kate Rose

This was sent to me from a friend yesterday, and it could not have been more timely…and true.

When someone you truly loved, who you thought understood you and loved you for everything you are- for your fire, for you wildness, for you craziness and chaotic beauty- when this person takes it all back, when this person takes all the beautiful qualities that he claimed were the exact reasons he fell in love with you and morphs them into all of the things that are terribly wrong with you, you start to question all of those beautiful things you believed that you were…all of those things that you are.

The truth is, you scared him. You scared the shit out of him, just as you have so many before.

Why do you think this is? Is it because there is something wrong with you? It is because you are damaged? Is it because you are in fact crazy? Is it because you are too much or not enough?

It is none of those things, quite the opposite. You scare the shit of them because they realize that they can never match your fire- your wildness, your fierceness, your craziness, your chaotic beauty. They tried. And they failed.

No one wants to admit defeat. So, they blame it on you. They convince you that it was you who failed. They claim that you proved yourself to be unlovable, undeserving of their love. And you believe them.

What a tragedy. What a waste of your free-spirit, of the conviction so very few of us have to refuse to conform or settle for a life that does not fit us. It is so easy to convince ourselves that this is what we should do, that ‘normalcy’ can only be the white picket fence.

You are not normal, nor do you want to be. You are not someone who needs to rescued or fixed. And you most definitely do not need to be tamed.

“You need a goddamn warrior.”

Please know, they are out there, just as wild, just as fierce, just as passionate with just as much fire. And you will not spend the rest of your life searching for them.

Summon him. He will seek you out, and he will not stop until he finds you.

Don’t you dare settle. Instead, try your best to be patient and thank the universe every day that you did not mistake the one who tried to tame you- or worse, who tried to break you- that you did not mistake him for your warrior.

Your faithful gypsy,


You can access the entire article by Kate Rose here: (please do!)



Inauguration Day

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

               –Margaret Mead

Today is an especially sad one for me on many levels. Yes, for the obvious reason. It is also the day I am putting all of my belongings into boxes, yet again. I made a terrible decision and I am suffering the consequences.

And I am leaving.

Some say I am running. But the people who really know and love me have pleaded with me to run, to run as fast and as far away from here as I can. Whether it be running or simply just taking care of myself, I am leaving. And, on some level, it is empowering. I am taking decisive action, and I am taking back control of my life.

And, on some level it is sad. It is the end of an era that was full of hope and dreams coming true. I truly believed I was living life to the fullest and making my dreams come true. It was honest and exciting and full of possibility.

And it is over, at least this phase of it is, and it is scary. I have no idea what the future holds. I have no idea how to even feel or what to do to make sure I do not take 10 steps backward, which quite honestly, I feel like I have already done.

I believe our country, too, has made a terrible decision. And I believe that we will suffer the consequences. It is scary. We have no idea what the future holds and there is a real fear that we will take 10 steps backward.

And I am leaving.

You can say I am running. And yes, part of me just wants to run like hell, as fast and as far away as I can. The irony is that I always said that if he becomes our president, I’m out. I am moving to Paris. And here I am, moving to Paris. But it is not because he became our president, although it is a timely coincidence. It is for many reasons.

But I am not running from my responsibility to serve others, to try to make a positive impact in their lives, to work like hell to empower them. That, I will always try to do, regardless of what continent I am on.

If nothing else good has come out of this, this is exactly what I have seen so many people do to counter the terrifying prospect of oppression, bigotry, misogyny, and extreme, destructive actions that are driven by greed, power, hatred, stupidity, and fear.

People have hit the streets. They are taking decisive action to make a difference in the lives of others in their schools and communities. They are doing whatever they can, no matter if they are only one person, no matter how seemingly small their actions may be. They are taking control. They are making an impact. They are changing the world.

This is all we can do. There is no sense in looking back or wishing things would have turned out differently. It does no good. That is not the direction we are going. We can only take steps in the present to make sure our future is what we dream it can be.

So please, don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. Don’t think you can’t affect the outcome and make a difference. You can…and we will.

Your faithful gypsy,




“I have learned that if you fake your life it will kill you slowly… and cause the most pain for everyone. You try to do the right thing, not hurt anyone, conform to what love is supposed to be and what it is supposed to look like, but in the end, it destroys you. You slowly destroy those around you that you say you love, and you slowly destroy yourself.”

 Mark D’Arbanville, The Naked Husband

So, what do you do when someone is following you, your blog, reading your every thought, when you don’t want them to?

Yes, I know. Clearly, I opened myself up to this. I knew that anyone would have access to it, and I knew that people might get hurt or upset, which is the very last thing I want. I also knew that I would be exposing things about myself that I don’t necessarily want the world to know.

I know, a complete contradiction. But shit, I’ve never done this before. I don’t ever know what is going to come out on a day to day basis. So, what do I do? Do I sugarcoat it? Do I alter the truth to protect people?

And so she is back, my biggest critic. And I kind of want to stop writing. (see blog post, “Inside Out”).

 But I promised myself I would be authentic. I promised you I would be authentic… and it is proving to be so much harder than I thought.

Be clear, I would never expose something someone disclosed to me in confidence. I will not use names unless people give me permission. Again, my intention with this is not to hurt anyone. If it does, I would prefer it be because they relate to it- it is something they can apply to their lives and use to work through their pain

But I can’t conform my thoughts to appease you or anyone else. That is not authentic. You don’t have to agree with me or what I write. I want it to make you think, to challenge you, to give you another perspective. But you do not have to agree. 

I truly want this to reach people who it might help. I guess to do this, it has to reach people it won’t. I’m having a hard time reconciling this.

That is all I have for today. For those of you reading this who it is hurting, I am truly sorry. For those of you who are doing it as a way to try to see if I am doing or saying something that you do or don’t approve of, I am truly sorry. I know it is a form of self-torture.

I know, because I do it, too.

Your faithful Gypsy,



We’ll always have Paris

If you ask any of my friends what my passion is, they will not hesitate. Travel.  I have been close to obsessed before I made it to kindergarten. I remember sitting on my grandma’s floor. She had this horrible ceramic zebra and giraffe that sat on either side of the t.v. set. I would just stare at them, so curious. Where did they come from? I had yet to even visit a zoo, so they just seemed like they were from a different planet. When she told me they came from Africa, I asked to see a map. That was it. I decided right then and there, I would go to Africa and I would see a Zebra and a Giraffe for myself.

Growing up in Oklahoma, however, did not afford me a lot of opportunities to hop on the next flight to Kenya. About as close as I could come to see any exotic animal was to go to the Oklahoma zoo, which as you can imagine, was a bit painful. I have never been a fan of zoos. I hated to see all of those animals stuffed into tiny cages. They all looked so very sad and bored. Little did I know this would turn into another great passion of mine, and I would do everything I could to free those caged animals, or at least try to make sure no more were captured for our enjoyment.

But that is another blog for another day.

It turns out, I did not get the chance to cross an ocean until my dad took me and my sister to the Bahamas when I was 12. I remember stepping off the plane, the intense heat and humidity taking my breath away, and my gyspy roots started to take hold.

It was a resort, which is not my thing, but I didn’t know any better. The ocean was 10 steps from our room and all things adventure were waiting for me to tackle. I snorkeled, I parasailed, I boarded, I played volleyball, I kissed a boy on the beach, and I got the worse sunburn I have ever had in my life. I even took scuba lessons with my dad.

I was all in. I was the youngest diver in the course, passed my certification test with no problem, got on that boat, no problem, put my scuba gear on, hopped up on the edge of the boat preparing to plunge in, and then this kind man beside me announced to all what he saw the last time he dove. “The last time I dove, he boasts, “I actually saw a shark. He was huge! I think it was a Great White. I thought we were all going to get eaten alive. Luckily we were all able to make it back in the boat with no casualties”.

And, the scuba gear came off.

I regret it to this day, especially the fact that I had a chance to see all things and creatures ocean with my dad. But, I was 12. And I am still petrified of sharks.

My next opportunity to travel was not until college. And I pretty much chose my entire undergraduate degree, and Master’s degree for that matter, based on the places I wanted to explore. No, I could not just do a normal ‘semester abroad’. I would spend an entire year, three semesters, abroad. I would start in Italy, spend three weeks in Florence and three weeks in Rome. Then, I would hop over to Spain, become fluent in Spanish, and then finish in London.

Italy, amazing. Beyond amazing. It was my first time in Europe and every single thing was magical. The beautiful people, the men cackling at us as we walked by, the language. It sounded like they were singing when they spoke to each other….well something in between singing and hurling insults at each other. There is no shortage of passion flowing between those Italians.

Back in the day, the men were still super affectionate with each other. You would even occasionally see them holding hands. And, no, it was not because they were in a relationship with each other (which would have been just as strange and exciting to see, and completely fine, by the way). They were just good friends and it was not taboo to show affection, regardless of your sex. Easy access to American t.v. shows, movies, etc. has unfortunately transferred our narrow-minded, conservative, homophobia to most other cultures. But at the time, it was just another beautiful, romantic, magical thing about a beautiful, romantic, magical country.

And then there was Spain. One of the most challenging things I have done, oddly enough, was spending 9 months in Spain, which I now consider my second home.

I chose Spain after reading The Sun Also Rises. Everything about it fascinated me. The way Hemingway depicted the language, the people, the passion they exuded- in their music, their dancing, their bullfights.  Spain is where I would go. And  I would learn Spanish. I would learn how to dance. And I would maybe pass on the bullfights.

Although I had studied Spanish all throughout school, I was terrible at it- the accent, the grammar, the vocabulary. It just never clicked for me like it seemed to for my classmates.

So, what better way to remedy this than to move to Spain? I would just throw myself in, face first, and force myself to learn.

It was long, painful, very lonely process. In my mind, if I was going to learn Spanish, this meant little to no contact with other Americans- no exploring together, no going to have drinks at the local Irish pub, and no talking in class, unless it was in Spanish.

This is how I met my best friend, Oscar, who is still my closest friend, twenty years later. I met him through an ‘intercambio’ program- basically, a way for Spanish boys to meet American girls and vice versa. But not for me. I was there to learn Spanish, not to mess with the whole dating thing.

We met for the first time at a bar. He was introverted, somewhat serious and spoke hardly any English. To make matters worse, Sevilla is in the south. Like most places in the south, Sevillanos have extremely thick accents. Very similar to Texas, they speak very quickly and ‘comen las palabras’, which means they ‘eat their words’. An example- Pescado becomes ‘pecao’. You will rarely hear an ‘s’ the end of a word, and the velocity is astounding. I felt like I had landed in Russia.

I eventually met all of Oscar’s friends. There was Alvaro, Oscar, Manolo, Pedro, and Alejandro, and each had a girlfriend. So, I had found my pack, my tribe, if you will. And they still are. I go back almost every year. And, it is as if not a year has gone by when we all get together.

I did eventually ‘conquer’ the language, but it took every ounce of strength I had. I had such a hard time learning, and I just got tired of not being understood. I decided to leave early. I stopped trying as hard, I stopped going out as much. Full on culture shock. I called my university and pleaded, “Please, just let me transfer over to England early. I will only be 2 months behind. I mean, come on. The classes are in English, how hard can it be to catch up?”

I told Oscar I was planning to leave early. He just looked at me, looked away, and said, “Brooke, you can’t just give up. You have learned so much since I first met you. You speak more Spanish than most Spanish people can speak English”.

He had a point.

He quickly added, “But, this is how you won’t learn it. You won’t learn it by sitting in your room. You won’t learn by not speaking at all or not taking risks and making more mistakes. And you definitely won’t learn by going to London.”

He had a point.

That was all it took. I stayed and was virtually fluent within three months. I completely immersed myself in the culture. I took Flamenco lessons and learned the local traditional dance for the spring festival, La Feria. I spent every moment possible with Oscar and his friends, I went to class every day, I did all of my homework, I made myself ask every question possible to any passerby. And I was petrified every time I opened my mouth.

That brings us to the present. Including my year abroad, I have visited more than 15 countries and lived in 5 of them. Some people bust out pictures of their children. I bust out my passport. They brag about their kids’ grades and sports achievements. I show them the extra pages I had to add because there is no more room for stamps.

So it’s fitting that I am moving back to Paris. I can honestly say that I wish I wasn’t. Not because I don’t want to live in Paris, let me be clear. I was just supposed to move there with the person I fell in love with, or at least be taking him with me to visit.

But, that is not how things worked out. So, once again, I’m headed out on another adventure solo. But better than no adventure at all.

So what am I going to do there, where am I going to live, for how long? No idea. None. But, it will all work out. It always does. All I have to do is pack enough clothes for at least a 3-month stint and book a ticket. The rest will work itself out.

But I’ll tell you a few things I do know I will do. I will explore. I will make sure to go into every old church I see, no matter how much of a hurry I am in. I will go to one museum a week and then go back until I have seen every painting in every room. I will navigate the old, uneven cobblestone streets, stare in awe of the Eiffel Tower every time I walk by it (steel and lace, as Natalie Lloyd so eloquently describes it). I will eat crepes, indulge in my favorite macaroons, run along the Seine and count the days until the flowers start to fill the air with their intoxicating fragrance that follows your every step as you stroll through the Luxembourg gardens. I will do my best to improve my French and join my dear friend, Jane, for our weekly Zumba class. And, I will eventually not be sad. Not in the least. And I just might not ever come back.

This is what I will do. So, if anyone needs a place to crash in Paris…

In the Service of Others


“Everyone can be great…because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”   -Martin Luther King Jr.

In keeping with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought I’d write a tribute to what I believe his legacy stood for- his steadfast commitment to fighting for human rights, justice, and equality through nonviolent activism on a scale that had never been done before in the U.S. He was driven to serve others, to lift up those who didn’t have the courage or capacity to raise their voices.

I believe this to be the underlying motivation for most people who achieve success in their endeavors: to make a difference in the lives of others- whether that be their children, co-workers, neighbors, or complete strangers. I think this is why most change-makers accomplish what has never been done before. They ultimately want to help improve the lives of others in whatever capacity their gifts and talents allow them to.

This might sound naïve. I know there are those hungry for power or fame or other self-serving purposes. We all deserve to experience joy and success in addition to fulfillment from helping others. But I think most who achieve success (whether that success is on a smaller scale or one that impacts millions) are driven by their inherent goodness and compassion for others.

I was struck today when my young friend who works in my complex declared, without hesitation, that all people suck. “I don’t suck!”, I reminded him. “No, not you, and there are a few others, but for the most part, people suck. Once you accept this, you will quit being disappointed by people.”

I wanted to stay and argue with him, to try to change his mind, but a customer came in, so I quietly made my exit, shooting him an ‘I’ll deal with you later‘ look.

I’ve thought about our conversation all day. I don’t think he really believes that. He has always gone out of his way to help me when I needed it…which has been a lot over the past 6 months. And I don’t think it’s because it’s me. I think he would do that for anyone precisely because he does believe people are good, and he does want to make their day better.

I’ve been the recipient of random kindness from complete strangers more times than I can remember. People in every country I’ve traveled to have helped me out of various predicaments I get myself into- from spending the day showing me the highlights of their city (Siena, Italy), to driving out of their way to get me where I need to go (I have a tendency to get turned around at times), to fixing me a warm meal and giving me a place to stay when I got stranded in the pouring rain on a bike trek. (Northern Ireland).

I know a big part of being the recipient of such kindness is because I do my best to extend the same when I can. I seem to attract people in need of rescue as well. I’m usually the random person people select when they are in need of directions (which is both comical and hazardous) or want someone to sign their petition or are hungry need someone to catch them as they stumble down the stairs. And it makes me happy.

The point of this is just an effort to remind you (and myself) to ask for help. Most people really do love the opportunity to help someone, to feel like they are making a difference in someone’s life. When we ask help, we are giving those who are helping us something invaluable. We’re giving them an opportunity to experience the joy and fulfillment of making someone’s day better, even if it is in the smallest way.

I recently experienced this with one of my closest friends. She invited me over because she knew I needed a friend in the worst way. We settled into her cozy couch, and I gave her the nutshell version of the nightmare I had been going through. She got tears in her eyes and told me how strong and courageous she thought I was.

Yes, I needed to hear that, but it made me stop talking. This girl had been through most people’s worst nightmare, and she had handled it with such grace and resilience.

She’s one is one of the most upbeat, positive people I know and doesn’t talk about things that might make people sad often. I knew she hadn’t talked about what happened to her as much as she needed to, so I asked her to tell me about it.

She took me through that day, described what the lighting looked like when she found him, the thoughts that went through her head, what she said out loud, what she did immediately after. And she cried and I cried and we laughed and cried some more.

It was a conversation that most of her friends most likely had avoided because it is uncomfortable and sad and terrible. But I know from experience, we desperately want and need someone to ask those questions. Otherwise, the pain just festers inside and continues to haunt us.

I went to sleep that night feeling the closest to happy I’d felt for months. I helped one of the people I love most release a little bit more of her pain. At least I hope I did. She unknowingly gave me something more valuable than a shoulder to cry on. She gave me the gift of letting me help her.

So no, I don’t think all people suck. I think most are kind and compassionate and generous. Maybe some have difficulty giving of themselves, but deep down, I think most truly do want to.

I think Martin Luther King Jr. believed this, too. I think he believed in the inherent good in people. That’s why he had the impact he did; he made people want to begive back, to take action to make the world a more peaceful place.

Yes, he showed us the power of serving others, of giving people who feel powerless a voice and hope and a way to fight for what they deserve with love and peace, instead of with fear and hatred.

But he also empowered people in the most effective way we can; he gave them the opportunity to make a contribution, to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.

This, the capacity to help others- to love and serve- and the courage to ask others for help- to receive and express gratitude- this is humanity at its best. This is why we’re here.