Pascoe/Parfitt Resident Writers Introduced at FIGT2014

Today I am sharing a blog post by Linda Janssen, author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures, and blogger at http://www.adventuresinexpatland.com. After the Families in Global Transition conference, Linda decided to interview the four ParfittPascoe writing scholars: Cristina Bertarelli, Justine Ickes, Sue Mannering and me!

“One of the highlights of the 2014 FIGT Conference – and believe me, there were many – was the introduction of the first ever group of Pascoe/Parfitt Resident Writers. This illustrious group is named after Robin Pascoe and Jo Parfitt, two luminaries in the field of writing and publishing books which speak directly to the experience of living and raising families across cultures in a globally mobile world.

As an expat author and writer myself, I’ve devoured every single book by Pascoe (including a couple no longer in print) as well as at least a half dozen by the prolific Parfitt, my writing mentor and publisher, learning about everything from culture shock and raising global nomads to finding the humor in sometimes difficult cross-cultural situations and creating a location-independent career. Individually and together they have contributed greatly toward the genre that is now expat literature, from which so many can glean so much.

Knowing these two talents, it is only fitting that the benefits to the writing residents are not limited to a splashy title, new entry on their resumé and attending the FIGT conference sessions at a reduced rate. As conceived by Parfitt, founder of the expatriate press Summertime Publishing, the residency offers much more. The four recipients – Cristina Bertarelli, Dounia Bertuccelli, Justine Ickes and Sue Mannering – received in-depth training on writing articles and getting them placed for publication in an online course developed and led by Parfitt prior to the conference. Once there, they hit the ground running – or note-taking as it were – working nonstop. The residents split up and ensured press coverage of all joint conference and concurrent speaker sessions, which they will write about for the inaugural FIGT Conference Yearbook, due out later this year. The Yearbook ensures anyone interested in the 2014 Conference can immerse themselves in the panels, presentations and discussions of the cutting edge issues addressed.“… READ MORE

If you’re interesting in learning about the writer’s residency or about us scholars, please head over to the FIGT blog to read more!

I am a Writer

Lately I’ve been having trouble getting my thoughts onto paper. I thought I would be overflowing with inspiration after the Families in Global Transition conference (FIGT) and I would be able to write endlessly. Instead, I find myself struggling to express everything I felt. I am overflowing with inspiration, emotions and thoughts, but I am unable to translate them into written words.

I’ve wanted to post an entry about being a writing scholar and what that brought me, yet every time I write something it feels forced. Then I realized I was too focused on just the time at FIGT, without looking at the bigger picture. My journey as a writer didn’t start there, so why was I starting there? So I thought about how I felt at the conference and traced backwards from there…

Learning to Call Myself a Writer

Something I loved very much at FIGT was being surrounded by people who didn’t make me feel uncomfortable or out of place. My background wasn’t an issue, my experiences didn’t make me odd, people even knew how to pronounce my name and what it meant! But it wasn’t just my personal story that felt accepted – my professional story was as well. No one judged me or looked down on me for not having a 9-5 corporate job. So many others at the conference were freelancers in their own domain, or had started their own companies; but even those who do work in corporate environments weren’t judgmental when they knew I was a freelance writer. They showed interest or curiosity, wondering what I wrote about and what led me to writing. Everyone I spoke with at the conference was following their passion, and they also understood the need for a portable career. They understood me.

Outside of the conference, in the “real world”, I often find it hard to be accepted for what I am. I felt like being a freelance writer and trying to pursue my passion wasn’t good enough, so I rarely told people that’s what I do. I usually said I was looking for work and that I sometimes did some writing in the meantime.

But that’s not entirely true.

I have been looking for work – both writing/non-writing related; that part is true. But I don’t ‘sometimes write in the meantime’ – I write all the time. And that’s what I want to be doing. I want writing to be my job and my career.

Over the past few months I had started accepting this realization and was trying to push myself to say, “I’m a freelance writer”, when asked what I do. It’s not easy to make myself believe that. Even though I had published a couple of articles in a magazine, I still couldn’t fully convince myself.

Being a Writing Scholar

Then at the beginning of this year, I saw the ParfittPascoe Writing Residency for FIGT:

If you long to turn your writing hobby into a portable career and want to be published in blogs, magazines on and offline, websites and maybe even books, this might be for you.

If you have already proven your desire of turning your dream into a reality with maybe a blog, a few articles published in newsletters and online (not necessarily for money), then you are definitely the kind of person we want.”

It felt like an opportunity tailor-made for me. I wanted to apply but I was scared. Scared that it was too big a commitment and that I wasn’t good enough to do it. There was so much to do, both before and after the conference. There were lessons and articles to prepare beforehand and after it was a whole other story. There would be articles, blog posts and book reviews to publish; interviews to prepare and write-up; and the articles/chapters for the FIGT book. If I applied and was rejected, I would be devastated. If I applied and got accepted, I would be elated…and terrified. I was scared of failure and of success. But I couldn’t NOT apply. It was exactly the chance I was looking for.

While waiting to know if I had been selected, I remember checking my email on my phone before heading off to sleep. And I never do that. I don’t even have my email set up on my phone. But I knew that the decision was probably made and I had to know. There was no way I could wait until the next morning to check. When I read the email telling me I was one of the four scholars, I was thrilled beyond belief. I couldn’t stop smiling. I even woke up my sleeping husband to let him know. The news was too good to keep to myself!

I was so excited about being a writing scholar; it felt like a dream come true. Nervous as I was, I knew I was capable of doing it. I had been waiting for this opportunity and I was going to make it count. It was my chance to prove that I am a writer and that I can make a career out of my passion.

From the very beginning of the conference I realized that I was in the right place – both as a Third Culture Kid and as a writer. The fact that everyone around me was part of a global community fulfilled the TCK side of me, and everyone’s endless encouragement fed the writer in me. But among all the inspiring words, a few stood out – probably because they spoke directly to me and attacked my doubts about being a writer. At the writer’s forum on the first day of FIGT, Shirley Agudo* told us that whatever you want to be, claim it”. Linda Janssen** echoed that thought, reminding us to own what we do and what we are. Sometimes the biggest step is saying those words: “I’m a writer”. Then we must learn to claim them and believe them.

Well, I am a writer. I don’t know if I fully claim it and believe it every day, but I know I’m on the right track.

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*Author, photographer and assistant editor of Global Living Magazine; ** Blogger and author of The Emotionally Resilient Expat: Engage, Adapt and Thrive Across Cultures

“If You Wish to be a Writer, Write…”*

Twenty-nine years. I don’t know exactly how many of those have been spent writing, but I know it’s many of them.

I started keeping my first diary in elementary school and although my writing notebook isn’t a diary it’s still a journal of sorts. I don’t remember when I wrote my first poem but I know for sure that I have been writing poetry since middle school. Many of the themes are still the same – love, nature, growing up a Third Culture Kid… Although the way I write about them has definitely evolved and matured since those first poems!

I’ve written for a long time and I hope to keep writing for much longer. It brings me a joy and a comfort that I don’t often find elsewhere… And writing has carried me through many ups, downs and transitions. This blog is proof of that as I started it after one of my biggest transitions, and it has been a constant source of inspiration and comfort. It has kept me busy and connected, at a time when I felt otherwise idle and lonely. It has opened the door to many wonderful people and many unexpected opportunities.

Writing continues to be such a source of joy and I hope it always will be. Thank you for following me on my journey. Thank you for your support, your company, your comfort and your inspiration.

Here’s to many more years of writing – about love, nature, being a Third Culture Kid and everything else in between.

“You can make anything by writing.”  C.S. Lewis

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(* Epictetus)

One Year Later: What Have We Accomplished?

The subject matter of this post often stirs up strong and opposing viewpoints, so please be aware that these are simply my opinions. You may agree or disagree, but if you choose to comment, please do so courteously.

* The second part of this post explains why I’ve chosen to write about this topic, as I feel it is important to explain where my thoughts and emotions are coming from.

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It’s been just over a year since the Newtown, CT school shooting. A little more than a year since I read the horrifying news and saw the heart-breaking videos. It still breaks my heart today.  But as time has passed, I’m more than just sad – I’m angry and frustrated too. Angry that something like this can happen and frustrated that as a nation we seem incapable  – or worse, unwilling – of doing anything concrete to stop it. Instead of trying to work together to find a solution, everyone obstinately clamps down on their own opinions, unwilling to listen to others. Our government, even us as a people, has seemingly become incapable of open, civil and effective discourse on issues that really matter. And doesn’t something like gun control, mass shootings and our rising number of gun related deaths warrant such discourse?

I am aware that gun control is a complex issue, one where everyone seems to have a strong opinion on opposite ends of the spectrum. I know there are many factors that should be covered in a conversation on gun control. Perhaps the true problem with finding a solution is that no one seems to want to address the entirety of the issue. Some focus solely on the mental health aspects, others focus on the lack of control for selling and buying legal guns, while still others focus on the role of illegal weapons. These are all part of the problem and we should work on them simultaneously. It is true that in many of the mass shootings the perpetrators suffered from psychological troubles. We have heard time and time again “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” – but without guns, it is more difficult to kill. We shouldn’t ignore the mental health aspect, but we also shouldn’t forget that we’re letting these people have relatively easy access to legal weapons. That we are unable to recognize the severity of the problem and find a unified solution is disheartening.

We seem to forget that legally purchased weapons are the biggest culprit for gun-related deaths. There’s so much concern that restricting gun access infringes upon the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens, that we lose any rationality when discussing these issues. What does it say about us, that we seem more concerned with protecting our right to bear arms than protecting our people? We could drastically cut down the number of deaths due to guns; cut down all those devastating mass shootings that have become a normal part of our lives. We seem to have become de-sensitized to such crimes if the shooting of 20 children under the age of 7 does not spur us into action. Real action, not empty words.

I have lived in many different countries, and I have never seen as many reports of shootings as in the U.S. In fact, I almost never saw reports of shootings, because they were so rare. And I did not only live in Western nations. Since we moved back to the U.S. just over 3 years, I have noticed nearly daily reports of shootings and far too many mass shootings. Even that phrase betrays the depth of the issue – “far too many mass shootings”. Isn’t one already too many?

Oh, everyone is appropriately shocked after they happen – but as soon as conversation turns to gun control, one roadblock after another pops up. First it’s the supposedly caring version: it’s too early after the tragedy to talk about gun control. Then it’s the psychological view: the shooter was disturbed, so it’s the health care system that’s to blame. Then the usual slogan: ‘guns don’t kill people; people kill people’. Then we end up at the final roadblock, which I find to be so illogical, and yet so clearly sums up the problem: the true solution is that more guns are needed – “the victims should have been armed, then they could have defended themselves”.

And I worry…

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* Why I Write:

Many may ask why write about a topic like gun control? Why write about something so controversial and that stirs such strong emotions?

Because it matters.

Do we not care what we’re becoming as a society anymore? Should it not matter that so many are getting killed by guns, including defenseless, innocent young children? How is it that 20 children under the age of 7 are killed and we’re still incapable of taking any real action to prevent another tragedy like that?

I worry about my future children.

I worry for all the children and all of the innocent victims.

I worry that so many seem to think that only criminals and illegal weapons are responsible for these horrifying massacres.

I worry that our government as a whole is more concerned with getting money from lobbies and getting reelected than about protecting the lives of their people.

I worry that as a society and a country we’ve become completely de-sensitized to the real tragedy of mass shootings or of any shootings really. We seem to accept them as simply another part of our daily lives. Does that not speak volumes about the gravity of the situation?

I worry that we’ll never have a real solution – not because there isn’t one, but because we’re not willing to implement it.

I worry that no matter what is said, no matter what is written, it will fall on deaf ears.

And yet, I write.

I write because of all these worries, these frustrations and these indignations.

I write because sometimes I feel that is all I can do.

Who I Am

I am a third culture kid.

Of that I will never be rid.

 

I’ve grown up among worlds,

Like many other boys and girls.

 

I am made up of one travelling heart,

Which is often spread worlds apart.

 

I am internationally grown,

But I have a hard time defining home.

 

I am made up of many places,

Like a dice of six faces.

 

The places I’ve lived and loved,

And those that run through my blood;

 

Each of them is a part of me,

Part of my story and my journey.

 

Much of it is yet to be told,

But to one thing I will always hold:

 

I’m an adult third culture kid,

Of that I never wish to be rid.

The Hidden Story

I started this blog to share my experiences growing up as a third culture kid and trying to navigate life as an adult third culture kid. Lately I had started wondering if I was still doing that or if my blog had moved away from its initial purpose and goal. I thought about all that and more for quite some time, not sure where to go from there…

My blog does have a whole mix of things: posts specifically on being a TCK/ATCK, photography, poetry, posts of simple observations and memories… It does not follow a simple straight line – it twists and turns, sometimes ending up in an unexpected place. Growing up as a TCK, I quickly learned that life does not follow an easy linear path. There will always be unexpected curves and surprises. I am learning that life as an adult third culture kid has just as many (if not more) challenges and hidden turns. That is what this blog has always been about, even when I didn’t fully realize it.

The blog posts that are not specifically about growing up as a TCK or adapting as an ATCK may seem out of place, but actually they are a very important part of my journey. They are how I see my current world and how I feel about this particular home. I realized that the posts I initially thought were deviations from my original purpose were, in fact, simply part of the story. They were just telling a different side of it.

Third Culture Kid For Life

The first time I heard the term “third culture kid” I was in 10th or 11th grade. By that time I was living in my 6th country and attending my 5th school – I had been living as a TCK my whole life without ever knowing there was a special name for us. I remember someone came and spoke to us during an assembly. The funny part is that I don’t remember what he/she talked about specifically but I remember hearing about third culture kids for the first time and realizing that that’s what we were. It wasn’t necessarily an epiphany or and “a-ha” moment; it was more “wow, that’s us. We’re TCKs. Pretty cool.” It probably had more of an impact on me later, but it was still a moment of profound understanding…and also of pride. I thought it was pretty awesome that we were third culture kids and that our lifestyle could be understood by others. It also explained why we could all relate to each other even if we’d lived in completely different countries. It wasn’t the locations or languages that allowed us to have this unspoken understanding; it was the shared experience of growing up across continents and oceans. Each of us knew the goodbyes, the packing and unpacking, the anxiety of a first day at school, the heartbreak of leaving a home, and that ‘home’ is so much more than a fixed location. We know all that and so much more. Those are the invisible bonds that tie us TCKs together, that allow us to connect with each no matter how different our geographical paths may have been. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s a community I’m very proud to be a part of.

As I’ve gotten older, I realized how that community continues to grow every year and how lucky I am to have grown up at a time when people were talking and writing about TCKs. I know that many older TCKs didn’t have a sense of understanding of why they felt the way they did or how their life impacted them so much. Since graduating from high school 10 years ago, I’ve seen just how much my life as a third culture kid shaped me, and how much that experience will always be part of who I am. It’s only when you leave a TCK environment that you really notice the impact of the life you led and how much it sets you apart. I’ve really become aware of that over the past few years and especially since I’ve moved back to the U.S.

It seems that being away from any TCK environment unlocked something in me – I wanted to write about my experiences, and I wanted to read stories of others like me. My Christmas list included David C. Pollack and Ruth E. Van Reken’s book Third Culture Kids – Growing Up Among Worlds, my notebook is filled with stories and memories of my life as a third culture kid, and I started this blog. Suddenly I had so much I wanted to say, so many stories I wanted to share, and such a strong desire to connect with others who understood. I learned early on that writing brought me a special kind of comfort that I didn’t find elsewhere and writing about my experiences, sharing them and communicating about them has been both cathartic and enriching.

It’s only recently that I fully realized just how pivotal that moment of enlightenment was for me, all those years ago. It opened up a world of understanding and led to a lifelong fascination for this community I’m so lucky to be a part of. Those words helped explain my life to those who hadn’t lived it and strengthened the bonds with those who had. I was proud when I found out I was a third culture kid and that pride has only grown with time. You may not choose to be a third culture kid, but you can choose to embrace the experience and the adventure. It may be difficult at times, but what you gain from it and how you grow from it makes every tough moment worth it. Being a third culture kid, and what you learn from that incredible journey, is something that will stay with you for a lifetime.

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Seasons of Change – 2012

Autumn has often felt like a time of reflection, maybe because it’s a season of change. Change in the weather from the hot, muggy days of summer, to the crisp, cool days of fall; change from lazy vacation days to the start of school, college and new projects. The leaves are ever-changing, from green to all possible shades of yellow, gold, orange and red. Two years ago we arrived here just as autumn was beginning, at the end of September, so it’s definitely a season of change and reflection for us.

There have been a lot of thoughts floating around inside my mind during these constantly changing autumn days, but I’ve had trouble finding how to put them in writing. They drift around, like the leaves dancing in the air; the difference is that the leaves find their way to the ground, whereas my words are having trouble finding their way to paper. I’ve been in a pensive phase, as I often find myself at this time of year – it must be both the change in seasons and the approach of another year’s end. I reflect on everything that has happened during this year so far, and on how things have been these past years since we moved back to the U.S. It’s been a time of growth and learning for us, in so many ways. It hasn’t always been easy, but each struggle, each obstacle only made us stronger and more adaptable for the future. I’ve also been thinking of some of the things I’ve accomplished in our time here, because I think I sometimes forget what I’m capable of and to be proud of myself for what I’ve achieved so far.

I started my blog, something that would have never happened without the unwavering, rock-solid support of my wonderful husband. Starting a blog was a huge accomplishment for me and something I never thought I would do. I have always loved to write and to suddenly have a way to share my writing was amazing. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love blogging or for the overwhelming, kind and motivating support I would receive from the blogging community. My blog allowed me to improve my writing, to explore my love of photography and to communicate with people all over the world. The best part is reading comments where someone relates to what I’ve written – that’s what matters most to me, and I love when readers share their stories with me. I’m always excited to post something new but my favorite part is seeing the responses to something I have written and to feel connected on such a global level.

Something I wrote was published: two articles so far (I mentioned the first in my post Published, and the second has recently come out here). This particular accomplishment is really a milestone for me. It’s incredible to have a chance to do something I love and to have it published in a magazine. It’s all the more exciting because it’s a magazine that is made for (and by) TCKs, expats and travelers. You can see a preview of the 2nd article in the newest issue here, and you can learn more about the magazine on their website and in a previous post. These years have been filled with writing and accomplishing amazing things with my writing. I hadn’t written much for a few years and having my blog and articles published has given me goals to strive for with my writing.

In a non-writing area, in these past years I’ve settled in a new place, far away from my family and from everything familiar. I’ve done that without having a regular routine, like a job or school, which would allow me to meet people and find a structure to my days. This was the first move my husband and I did as a couple; a first leap into continuing our TCK lives as adults. That’s not a negligible accomplishment, but somehow I always seem to overlook it because moving someplace new and adapting was always a part of our lives. Yet I realize that all the other times I was in school or college; this time was a very different experience, but one I’m nonetheless happy to have. Every move allows you to grow as a person and to learn more about yourself. I know that may sound clichéd, but it’s true. This particular move has been a huge growing and learning experience for me. I realized that even after many years of being in the same place and not having to move, I’m still so resilient and adaptable. I’ve learned a lot about myself and about how much being a TCK shaped me and my outlook on life. I’ve also grown more aware than ever that I’m an adult TCK, which I mentioned in a recent blog post. Growing up we were somewhat aware of what we were getting from the TCK lifestyle, but only in these past years have I realized how much of an impact that life has had on us as adults. For all the difficulties it might present, I’m grateful to be an adult third culture kid because it’s given me the strength to take on any challenge and to overcome any obstacles, no matter where life leads me.

When I started preparing a blog post today, I had been planning on only posting some pictures I had taken of the beautiful autumn colors, accompanied by a few simple words. But it turns out I had more than a few words to say. Oddly enough, some parts of this post were written a couple of weeks ago, but they were in a post that would have been very unlike this one, and in a very different frame of mind. I’m in a much better place today – still reflective, but positively so. I know that things don’t always go according to plan, but a lot of times the unexpected path just leads to something better. If I had found or followed a ‘traditional’ path in certain aspects, it’s unlikely I would have started this blog or had articles published. Planning for the road ahead is always good, but you never know when a loop, fork or dead-end will show up on the path. When that happens, we just need to learn to see it as an opportunity to move forward down a new path and not as a roadblock that causes us to backtrack. It’s easier to believe that when things are going well and you’re in an optimistic mood – find me on a bad day, and I might disagree with myself. But I’ve been through so many changes in my life: by the time I was 18 and finished with high-school I had lived in 6 countries on 4 different continents. The changes didn’t end there, whether it was about where I went to university, the language I studied in, or the latest move back across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the U.S. I know change. I know how hard, heart-breaking and devastating it can be, but I also know how enriching and empowering it can be.

I both dread and welcome change. I am afraid of not being able to handle it, but I know that ultimately I’ll be able to deal with whatever is thrown my way. It’s part of growing up as a TCK – you learn very early on that change is a huge part of life, and it’s going to happen, whether you like it or not. You have to take it as it comes and make the best of the change, otherwise you’ll be miserable. TCKs realize very quickly that our whole life is made up of change and of adapting. It’s important to see the good side of the change and to know that no matter how hard it can be, it will make you so much stronger once you overcome it.

Adult third culture kid, pensive and reflective in the season of change, signing off.

Published!

Writing this blog and sharing my experiences is something I love to do and it’s helped my writing improve and evolve over the past months. I have always loved to write and it is a deeply cherished hope of mine to one day be published – both in freelance writing and eventually maybe even a book. I recently got my first chance at being published, and an article I wrote is included in a truly fantastic magazine. My elation at this opportunity is even greater because Global Living Magazine is dedicated to the lifestyle of global nomads, TCKs, expats and travelers of the world. An even bigger bonus is that the founder and editor-in-chief is all of those things as well; she really knows this life, understands it and embraces it.

Issue 2 has a lot of interesting articles, that touch upon all facets of the global lifestyle. For expats raising TCKs who may be off to university soon, there’s a great article on the transition they may face. For those interested in writing a book about their expat experiences, you’ll find an excellent article with very helpful tips (I particularly enjoyed that article!). For anyone who loves traveling, seeing new places and trying new things, this magazine is for you. This second issue will take you on an Alaskan cruise, to a wine festival in Provence, France (courtesy of yours truly!), show you breathtaking photos and so much more.

Of course I’m excited that my article is included in this issue, but I really appreciate this magazine as a whole. It caters to people who have lived a global lifestyle and that speaks to me so much. Even if you haven’t been an expat or TCK but just love traveling, you’ll find great ideas and articles in Global Living Magazine.

Make sure to visit the webpage and browse through to get a better idea of the magazine. Stop by magcloud to check out a preview of the magazine and order your own copy of Issue 2 or the premier issue; it will be well worth it.

I hope some of you head over to the website and maybe even purchase your own copy of the first issues. If you do, let me know what you think, of both my article and the magazine as a whole!

Thanks, and happy reading!

Sisterhood of the World

A fellow TCK and expat, with a wonderful blog, Expat Alien, has very kindly nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

The rules are

  • Thank the giver, link to the page, and add the award to your site
  • Tell 7 things about yourself
  • Give the award to 5 bloggers

Thank you, Expat Alien!! Make sure you check out her blog, whether you’re an expat/TCK or not! 🙂

Now onto seven things about myself…

1. I just celebrated my first wedding anniversary a few days ago (it’s been a wonderful year!).

2. I have just had my first ever article (or anything!) published – more to come on that in a separate post.

3. As much as I do like being settled down somewhere, my TCK itchy feet are looking forward to change…whenever and wherever that may be.

4. I love the feeling of excitement of being someplace new, of discovering a different place, even if it’s mingled with a scared feeling of being completely lost.

5. I haven’t really traveled to a new place or gone exploring with my husband in a while, and I think that exacerbates the TCK feeling of needing to change. I’m looking forward to future trips!

6. I just recently started writing a list of things I would like to accomplish or see. I haven’t put a timeline on it yet, so I’m not sure if it’ll be a list of things to do/accomplish throughout my life, or before I’m 30, or while I’m living in the U.S. … I’ll just stick with writing what comes to my mind for now and worry about timelines later!

7. When you’re a TCK, family is more important than ever. They are your support system, your best friends, the only unchanging and unwavering aspect of your life. I’m lucky that I have the best parents, siblings and husband in the world (at least in my opinion!).

The 5 bloggers I would like to pass this award to are:

Cortney at The Adventures of Miss Widget and Her People

Sarah at Stars and Rainbows

–  A Single Letter

Paige at Stories From a Small Village

Global Anni

Make sure to check out their fantastic blogs!