Challenges

Our Past Year in the USA

I can't believe we've been back in the USA for a year. A whole yeaR!

It's been a wild and strange ride and even though we're from the USA - Florida is a whole different bird than the Midwest. It's like the flamingo compared to the robin. Night and day. 

I love the weather (really, I do) and there are fewer mosquitos than I ever imagined here. I even like our little community... but everything here seems forced and nobody is happy. The daily grind is too much and everyone suffers. Maybe we'd feel differently if we lived either in the city OR in a proper little single-family neighborhood (wait, did I just say that?!?!) but we're halfway between Miami and Ft Lauderdale in a sort of suburban twilight zone. This is not what we signed up for when we moved here, full of hope and great expectations a year ago.

It's been a learning experience for sure. BUT to be honest, this time in the USA has helped us in many ways, too. 

  1. Brad and the girls have acquired Italian citizenship through his paternal grandfather's line.
  2. I was able to claim Dutch citizenship through my mother. With this and #1, that means the whole family now has EU passports! 
  3. We had amazing visits from our parents. It was a wonderful time to have the kids spend so much time with their grandparents and many memories were made. 
  4. We were able to get all of our worldly possessions out of my father-in law's basement after 7 years and we're doing some major purging of stuff now. 
  5. We realized that this place is not for us long term. Meaning the USA. Meaning now. This was a big realization because while we were in South America, we (I) had this idea that I wanted to be back in the USA, at least for a time and I was all for this move.

But we're finding many things that we don't love here, and the good doesn't outweigh the bad for us: The lockdown drills at our children's elementary school, practicing for the event of an active shooter. The rat race. The commuter (and consumer) society. The lack of a social network. What we disliked 10 years ago about life in the USA, we still dislike.

 

Our lives are certainly richer from being here and experiencing life in the USA again and I'm glad we came here, if only for a year. We are a family that extremely thankful for our options, though!

Celebrating Mother's Day 2017 with Middle Eastern food in Florida

Celebrating Mother's Day 2017 with Middle Eastern food in Florida

Since we have these newly acquired EU passports burning a hole in our pockets and a 20-year-long dream (since our first vacation together to Spain in 1997) to live there someday, that dream is finally happening.

Me & F (almost 5!) on our way to Valencia, Spain. Showing off the continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm for Type 1 Diabetes

Me & F (almost 5!) on our way to Valencia, Spain. Showing off the continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) on my arm for Type 1 Diabetes

We visited Valencia, Spain in April 2017 as a family vacation and we're now in the throngs of preparing to move there.

We'll be out of our apartment by the middle of June, then after a bit of travel, we'll arrive in Valencia, Spain the second week in July. 

Then it starts all over again: Looking for an apartment, furnishings, schools, bank account, residency, utilities, friends, health insurance, doctors and medications -- not necessarily in that order!

Plus, this is the first time we're moving with a proper shipping container, albeit a small one. That's an adventure unto itself. Our two dogs were the most stressful part of the move to Uruguay back in 2009. I think the shipping container will be the most stressful part here!

Stick around. I can't guarantee that we'll have a lot of time to write over the next few weeks, but we WILL have a lot to write about. :) 


To learn more about us and our family's international adventures over the past 8 years, click the "About" button on the top right side of this page. 

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Reflection and Recap

Today is the final post of the 10 day blog challenge.


It's been quite an adventure, exploring goals, talents, dreams and how to create a life that aligns with all of these. 

 

Our oldest, Jan 2014. San Luis Provence, Argentina.

Our oldest, Jan 2014. San Luis Provence, Argentina.

I've talked openly about the challenges of coming back to the United States after 7 years abroad. We still have our old life to clear out. We have boxes and boxes that have been hanging over our heads from our old life here, waiting in storage until we (at some point) decided that we needed them or not. Now's the time. 

Even though we were living a minimalist lifestyle in Argentina, it wasn't entirely true... because we still had stuff, just not there. 

After completing this 10 day evaluation of what we are and what we want out of this life, the conclusion is that we need to simplify. We're here, back in the USA with all of our worldly possessions in one place again after all this time, and the purpose is not to be stifled by the rat race in the USA but to let go and move on- both literally and figuratively.

We are OF this, but we ARE NOT this. 

My memories don't rely on a stack of notebooks from high school.

My worth is not based on a pile of awards that I've won. 

My happiness is not determined by a craft room, family room or 3 car garage. 

I do not need a full basement or storage closet to hold all of my "necessary" possessions. They're not necessary, they're only sentimental reminders (most of which are long forgotten) of who I used to be.

I don't want the physical and mental weight of material possessions in this world to bring me down. 

Going back to my long-ago post discussing Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", I will hold each of these objects in my hand and ask if it's still bringing me joy. As was the case before, for the majority of items the answer is 'no'. 

As we've already been doing these last few months, we'll continue to clear our lives of materials that we no longer need. It's a process and it's not going to happen overnight. BUT- after 10 days of questioning why we're back in the USA when neither of us can really see a future here, it's much clearer now. 

This much-needed freedom from material possessions is also about freeing ourselves from who we used to be. That in itself is a grand realization. 

This adventure isn't over. Our current location is but a pit stop in a much longer journey, a necessary time to tune up and tune in. 


Location Independence: Finding Life/Work Balance

How could we balance life and work to be able to life anywhere? How could we plan to work just enough to make a living, while enjoying the richness of life from wherever we want to be in the world? 

I can tell you from firsthand experience because we lived a location independent lifestyle for 7 years. 

A sleepy baby F, January 2014. Overlooking Lago Perito Moreno, Bariloche, Argentina.

A sleepy baby F, January 2014. Overlooking Lago Perito Moreno, Bariloche, Argentina.

In March 2009, we took our 15-month-old daughter, our two Pugs and whatever luggage we could fit on the plane and we left the USA for Montevideo, Uruguay. After a year and a half in Uruguay, we wanted to get out of the city and spent a never-to-forget summer retreating to the beauty of Patagonia.

After another 5 months in Patagonia, we took an epic road trip with our-then-3-year-old through the Andes to Puerto Montt, Chile and drove north, all the way through Chile to Santiago. 

We ended up Córdoba, Argentina. We heard it was nice and family friendly, so we wanted to check it out. After a few nights in a hotel, we knew it was home and we were checking out neighborhoods and rental properties.

We found a house quickly, in a beautiful, walkable suburb. That house is where our second daughter was born, where both of our feisty old dogs died, and where we filled our family with joy for an incredible 5 years. 

During our seven years total living in South America, we traveled back and forth to the USA five times to visit family, traveled extensively around South America and even took a 6 week road trip around Argentina in Jan/Feb 2014. With two young kids. 

Through all of these adventures and moves, we worked from home. Needing only an internet connection, we created a life where we could work remotely no matter where we were.

Traveling was a bit more difficult with the kid/travel/work schedules, so we kept a home base and opted not be completely nomadic. When we were at home, it was life as usual. The girls would go to school and we would go to our computers to work for a few hours. Afternoons usually meant that Mr. Healthy Family had more work to complete because he had clients on the west coast of the USA, which brought a later day, but we ate all of our meals together as a family and we had flexibility throughout the day to go to our local shops, walk our girls to school or have a coffee date together after the girls were at class. 

Location Independence wasn't anything like being stuck in a stuffy office under fluorescent lights. We could sit and work on the patio, at our kitchen table or a coffee shop- and we often did.

We traveled when we wanted and didn't have to worry about a set allotment of vacation days or asking the bosses for time off. 

The only constraints we had were time zones and internet connections. 

A real family photo in front of  Mont Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén Argentina -- where a shaved head is a true advantage!

A real family photo in front of Mont Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén Argentina-- where a shaved head is a true advantage!

Now we've been back in the USA for less than 6 months and our adventures in the Southern Hemisphere feel like a different world. It feels surreal, like I'm peering in on someone else's long-ago life --- but was ours, and it will be ours again.

Everything we've worked so hard to create is still right here. We haven't lost our goals. They're being changed a bit, polished and refined. We need this step in order to take the next. 

Location independence. It's wonderful, it's freeing. It's hard to give it up once you've tasted it, but like a haunting, long ago memory, it's still calling us back. We'll be back. 


Choosing Adventure

Adventure can mean a million different things to a million different people.... on a million different days.

The work week is done and we felt the need to stay close to home, to relax together and enjoy some peace and tranquility. We went to the pool. 

My 4-year-old, stretching her toes in the sunshine. 

My 4-year-old, stretching her toes in the sunshine. 

The pool was surprisingly quiet, which was perfect for us. We enjoyed the tranquility, while lazing in the late afternoon sunshine. The girls played in the sparkling water while sipped a large iced coffee and wrote in my journal, first at poolside, then reclining in the shade. 

Afterward, we all stretched out on lounge chairs while my oldest drew a portrait of my 4 year old. I rejoiced in the presence of these two wonderful little girls, knowing that they won't be this age for long. 

Sigh. It's days like this where I feel I'm on vacation and there isn't a care in the world. I love these lazy pool visits that help me to reconnect to peace and tranquility.

My adventure day is not adventure at all, but enjoying a peaceful afternoon with my family.


 

 

Action Cures Fear

I'm a perfectionist. If I know a task can't be done the way I want, I've traditionally taken one of three actions:

  1. I don't start it at all
  2. I leave it incomplete because it doesn't meet my standards
  3. I go back and go back and go back (so it's never truly done) because I see all the areas to improve. 

But with all of these, action cures fear. 

-The cover of my writing journal- with sticker from  PassionPlanner . 

-The cover of my writing journal- with sticker from PassionPlanner

Pushing yourself to do a task, get it done and not become paralyzed by perfection is the key to accomplishing anything. 

My super power that was determined on day 4 was writing. With my new daily schedule that I detailed yesterday, I have structure and an incredible amount of focus.

My imperfect action, the step that I will take in order to break through procrastination, fear and overwhelm is writing. 

I find that free-writing first thing in the morning brings clarity to my thoughts and lets my inner voice come out. There are often unknown details or concerns holding me back from a certain decision that can only be excised through free writing. 

This free writing could be in the form of journaling or even a rough draft to a blog post like this. The only caveat is that it must be stream-of-consciousness writing with no links to insert or research to cite... writing that deals with thoughts, feelings and evaluation. 

Yes, I'll also devote time to other forms of self care, particularly yoga and walking. But writing will be the physical fitness of my mind and my soul. We all need a few quiet moments every day of introspection....to clear the cobwebs, set intentions and connect with ourselves.

I will write. 


Our Tribe. We Can't Do It Alone

Day 6 of Natalie Sisson's blog challenge is upon us and we're here to evaluate our business support network. Who helps us? Who gives us guidance? Who are the members of our tribe? 

Family is wonderful, but sometimes you need people who've achieved what you want to achieve. Someone who has been down the road that you're starting down now. 

Today is all about these incredible guides- 

There's not one "right" road to travel; there are a million different routes for a million different people.

As a traveler and adventurer, I can appreciate that everyone needs to find their own way and often, paths change over time. 

There are people that I've worked with and people I want to work with. They are my coaches, mentors and guides, whether they know it or not: 

 

Although I've know her for many years, Pam Enz has been my coach for the last year. We connected just as I was starting diaVerge.com and Pam has been an incredible guide while I've been navigating the waters of a start up wellness/activism business, planning an international move and life upheaval. I greatly value her experience, insight thoughtfulness and persistence. I couldn't be where I am without her. 


A friend of a friend, and someone I admire very much is Jackie Knechtel. She was just featured in Forbes for an incredible new program that she co-founded with Justin Faerman. Jackie lives life on purpose. She's an adventurer, a guide, living the freedom lifestyle and showing others how to do so as well. 

While I've always been drawn to Jackie, it wasn't until this exercise that I really felt the internal need to talk with her, to learn from her. It's very magnetic and unquestionably clear to me. Like a magnet, Jackie, I need to work with you. 

Not surprisingly, my last mentor is Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, MD. I've built my business based on his teachings for type 1 diabetes. I feel that he saved my life and I'm forever indebted to his knowledge and perseverance when no one else believed in his methods. Although I'm not in the medical field, I really must shadow Dr. Bernstein in his practice, based in New York. I know he's read my work online and said "she gets it" which is hugely humbling and motivating. 

 

While completely different people with different focuses, I will continue to work with Pam and start working with both Jackie and Dr. Bernstein. I need to learn from each of you.

I'm holding space for you. 


A Daily Success Plan: How I Make It All Happen

Today's blog challenge is to create a daily success plan for yourself.  Write a blog post about what you will do, when you will do it, and how it will get you closer to your dreams.

What my work looks like - except my coffee is much, much larger and the desk is, well, busier. 

What my work looks like - except my coffee is much, much larger and the desk is, well, busier. 

Since my workdays consist of 4 hours at the most (with a few short check-in times after that), I need to focus and get my work done in a short amount of time each day, with very limited distractions. 

I'm usually at home while working, so distractions abound. I need to recognize those distractions and schedule them into certain parts of my day so that they don't go undone. 

I really love the Pomodoro method, as Natalie Sisson mentioned in the description video for today's challenge. I've tried it before but I've never used it consistently. I see the benefits and know that it would help with my personal work style so I'm implementing it as I write this post. Anyone can focus for 25 minutes (okay, maybe not my 4 year old, but most people can!). With scheduled breaks, the work load doesn't seem daunting. Structure really is freeing and that short break is enough to use the bathroom, grab a cup of coffee, stretch or hop on the yoga mat for a sun salutation. 

My work time priorities are writing, research/learning, volunteer assignments and connecting with others.

 

All non-work socializing, laundry, dishes, cleaning, showering, dressing and eating will be completed before or after this work schedule. These activities have traditionally been wound into my "work schedule" but it's an inefficient use of the short work day that I have and an easy way to get distracted, derailing business momentum.  

This is the luxury and curse of working from home. 


My workday, My Success.

8:30-12:30 AM, 4 days per week

 

1.) 8:30-8:55 AM: 25 minutes of writing on www.Diaverge.com, my website promoting the low carb, whole food approach diabetes management. 

8:55-9:00 AM: break

2.) 9:00-9:25 AM: Continue writing and/or editing 

9:25-9:30 AM: break

3.) 9:30-9:55 AM: Research/Webinar/Professional Development 

9:55- 10:00 AM: break

4.) 10:00-10:25 AM: Complete Research/Webinar/Professional Development 

10:25-10:30 AM: break

5.) 10:30-10:55 AM: Online connecting with Facebook, Twitter, email 

10:55-11:00 AM: break

6.) 11:00-11:25 AM: Supporting website content: Photos, videos, links, Amazon store, etc.

11:25-11:30 AM: break

7.) 11:30-11:55 AM: Volunteer work, including PTA, Girl Scouts, etc.

11:55-Noon: break

8.) Noon-12:35 PM: Wrap up any unfinished website editing or email 

 

This 4-hour schedule consists of:

  • 2 sessions writing, editing (with another flex session at the end of the day to wrap up anything unfinished:  50-75 minutes. 
  • 2 sessions research/webinars/professional development: 50 minutes
  • 1 session supporting website content: 25 minutes
  • 1 session of email/social media: 25 minutes
  • 1 session Volunteer commitments: 25 minutes
  • 7 breaks: Totaling 35 minutes  

I'm also currently also completing a certificate program in diabetes education. The associated coursework will take place both in the morning work/professional development sessions #3, along with one hour in the evenings, 3 days per week. Totaling 4.5 hours per week. 

This 4-hour work day schedule will take place 4 days/week, creating a 16 hour work week.

This schedule is intentional, and leaves one weekday morning free for volunteer activities, grocery shopping, my frequent doctor's appointments, etc. 

I'm confident that this schedule will create the space within my work day to accomplish my most important tasks every day and avoid common distractions while also allowing some flex time each day. 

As a result, this thorough evaluation and schedule will help me to achieve both my short-term goals of 5,000 unique visitors/10,000 monthly page views on my website and long-term goal of living abroad again and running a successful independent wellness consulting company. 


 This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5

Superpowers. Super Me.

Today's exercise is to explore what we're good at, what we enjoy doing and what others see as our talents to determine our "Superpowers".

This isn't a place to be shy or humble. This exercise is intended to dig deep and toot our own horns; to really explore those things that make us who we are and as a result, help determine our calling.

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My Top 3 Superpowers: 

Writing:

Writing comes naturally to me. I love to express myself through the written word, and I always have. I feel better after writing, like some might feel after having a good cry or a meaningful conversation with a friend. I work through my thoughts and feelings when I write. It's an incredible release and I find significant personal growth when I am writing regularly. 

For as long as I can remember, I've loved writing poetry, stories and journaling. I love writing blog posts, but don't devote the time to it as I should.

I've been told that my writing is very "stream of consciousness", like a conversation. Although maybe not grammatically correct, but that tells me that it's approachable and real.

Taking Care of Others: 

My young daughters said this and although it wasn't on the list I made for myself, I see what they mean and I feel good about it. I feel a need to serve, to help others, to ease their suffering, even if in some small way. It's led me to work as a volunteer and to use my voice and my writing to help others feel loved and empowered.

Learning/Searching for Answers:  

If it's something I care about, if it affects the human condition and living a comfortable and fulfilled life in this world, I want to learn everything about it.

I care deeply about:

  • Travel/international living
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Kids issues
  • Nutrition/food security
  • Mindful consumerism/minimalism
  • Environmental issues
  • Yoga/meditation

I've found myself diving deeply into all of these subjects recently and considering how we/I can help others explore these issues, too.

I love to learn and engage with others and search for truth using the written word. That's what all this boils down to; That's my calling, that is my goal in life. 


Why Do I Want To Live the Freedom Lifestyle?

TOday's exercise is to evaluate freedom and choice. Why do I yearn for freedom and what does it mean to me? 

Yesterday I wrote about why we need to find our focus-- with the conclusion that maybe we're exactly where we need to be, and although it's tough, it gives us a chance to focus and reevaluate our goals. 

Today, I'm questioning freedom.

This is not referring to the BIG basic freedoms, such as speech, press, religion and assembly. There are plenty of people living in this world that yearn for those freedoms which we take for granted every day. 

I have the luxury of choice; to choose and design a lifestyle that I want, that makes my heart and soul sing. I don't take this luxury lightly, because the majority of the world has never experienced this freedom and never will.  

Why do we miss the freedom that we used to have in Argentina and how can we get that back? How can we design our lifestyle here in the USA, and how does the quest for freedom affect our future goals? 

I must digress to a story from 21 years ago. I was 19 and traveling to Europe with my University Design Program. This was not my first trip to Europe, it was my third and I remember telling my Mom that I will live in Europe some day. It was so foreign, yet comfortable to me. So interesting in the cultures, people, clothing, languages. My Mom's family immigrated to the USA from the Netherlands in 1955 and being a first generation American with a love of travel, I knew she would understand the draw that I had to Europe. 

Fast forward to early 2008, when I had many more incredible international trips under my belt, a husband, newborn baby and a design business that was faltering due to contractors owing us lots of money. We placed liens on houses and fraudulent contractors refused to pay us for services rendered. 

We decided, as a couple, to take a great leap that we had discussed a million times before: life abroad. Our life in MN was stifling and was the exact opposite of freedom. We were slaves to the independent businesses that we created. The exact thing that was supposed to create freedom, took it away from us. If I were to do it differently now, I surely would, but live and learn. 

We loved the freedom we experienced in South America. We could live locally, without a car, walking or taking public transportation. We could take off on a weekend trip when we wanted, everything was new and different and exciting. Yes, there were challenges, but it was expected. We moved around, first landing in Montevideo, Uruguay, then Bariloche in northern Patagonia, then Córdoba, Argentina. We worked online part time and it payed the bills, since cost of living is much less than what we were accustomed to in the USA. 

We moved back to the USA because of a job offer and decided to try it on for size after 7 years abroad. This has been a very telling experience.

Yes, the grass IS always greener on the other side of the fence. You always want what you haven't got (at least we haven't got it YET), but now we're dreaming of Europe: of Italy or Spain.

 

We're dreaming of a little house with a clay tiled roof; a sunny garden filled with citrus, avocado and olive trees; a warm breeze coming from the mediterranean and ruffling the white gauze curtains. We dream of fresh seafood and produce, an walking to the market to buy that day's groceries.

We dream of slowing down and connecting with the land of our ancestors... of living life at our own pace and by our own rules.

We dream of the ultimate freedom to do what we want when we want, and not be a slave to the mortgage, to a full time job, or to the commute. 

We want the pace of the lifestyle we had in Argentina, along with the food and culture of Southern Europe.

That's what freedom looks like to me. Everything we are doing now, all of my writing and studying, all of Mr Healthy Family's building connections and experience, is building a program to be able to live independently, outsource the majority of our work responsibilities and live more than ever, within my (our) dreams.   


Finding Focus: The Challenges of Life

This is Day 1 of Natalie Sisson's Blog Challenge. 

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After moving from Argentina in April of this year, we've been busy getting settled, sorting through boxes (many that we haven't seen in the last 7 years), starting school and work, and finding our groove in a new city and new country. 

There've been more challenges than we expected, but there always is. We've moved often enough to realize that we're overly optimistic. The reality is, it's hard. 

Now that we're here, and mostly settled, there are unique challenges that we need to resolve: 

1.) Life in the USA requires A LOT more money than that in Uruguay (which was still very expensive for South America) and Argentina. Yes salaries are higher here in the USA than in South America, but everything else is exponentially more expensive. Healthcare, food, housing, utilities, services are all incredibly expensive in the USA. 

2.) Time and flexibility: Here we have more commitments, more time spent commuting to work, PTA, Girl Scouts, more meetings at school, more time going to the big box stores instead of the neighborhood shops, more time seemingly wasted, pulling us from other commitments such as family and work. 

Since we're not both self-employed and working from home anymore, the incredible flexibility that we experienced in Argentina is also gone. We can't just walk down the street to pick up some eggs or milk, or have every meal together as a family. Everything has to be scheduled, planned because of time, proximity and ultimately, lack of convenience.

3.) The time that IS free, is spent with family, trying to actively avoid technology to show the girls our true priorities: Them. Us.

How can we spend this precious little time that we have together by working? We fell into that trap when we first arrived in South America, before our oldest daughter was in preschool. She thought we always worked because that is what she always saw us doing. 

 

So, how do we combat this lack of time/flexibility/money and also prioritize family while following out dreams and not ending up destitute on the streets? 

Right now, it's a struggle to regain our sense of gratitude. We're back in the rat race and that's a hard place to be, especially having worked hard to escape it 7 years ago. 

 

I'm writing and building a wellness empire at diaVerge.com and on FB at DiaVerge:The Alternative Path to Diabetes Management. I'm also working to complete the coursework to become an Associate Diabetes Educator. 

Mr. HealthyFamily is working more than full time, changing both company culture and revenue structure within his new company. He's rocking it, but not feeling very fulfilled. 

What we need to do: 

We need to focus on ourselves, our spiritual and emotional development and our wants/dreams for the future. This is currently lost as we're rushing around, being pulled in so many different directions.

In the short term, I need to increase my income to improve cash flow and ease the stress of money. Although by working more or shifting my focus, this will increase the stress of already over-scheduled time commitments.

Lowering our future costs will also help, as we've spent an incredible amount of money setting up a home again, buying furniture, sending the girls to private summer school, and buying my new medical devices to assist with my Type 1 diabetes. 

In the long term, we have to reconnect to the sense of abundance and gratitude that has brought us here, focusing both on what we have, and what we can give to others. We are not living in a bubble, and our abundance (even if we don't feel as abundant as we did elsewhere) can serve those less fortunate. 

Why I choose gratitude: 

I'm happy to be in this place of transition, no matter how difficult. We needed a change to keep life interesting and reaffirm our goals as individuals, as a couple and as a family.

I'm reminded of the summer of 2000, when my then-boyfriend and I broke up. We spent some time apart, then both realized that we were right for each other. We realized that life together was much better than apart. We re-committed to each other and have been together since, through two kids, two dogs, several international moves, business start-ups and shut downs. Through adventure and adversity. 

Our current move is like that long-ago break-up. The foreign-living dream is over (for now) but this time of challenge is proving to us that this old life we had in the USA so many years ago is not a good fit for us. 

The last thing we want is to stagnate somewhere. Life in the USA is pushing us to rediscover what's across the oceans again.  This dissonance is the universe pushing us further. Pushing us to explore. 

We need to breathe, refocus on our goals of family, independence, flexibility and simplicity. This is one adventure of many and although not entirely comfortable, it keeps reinforcing our goals.