Brother Mitch is HOME!

Brother Mitch is HOME!

Unless you never read a thing that I post on Facebook and Twitter, by now you know that my brother Mitch is back in Iowa after being deployed with the U.S. Navy. I went ten months without seeing my baby brother. And I was not alone. His friends and our family, as well as his girlfriend, endured the same length of time without seeing Mitch in person.

baby4A lot can happen in ten months:

  1. My sister Sarah became pregnant with baby number four.
  2. Our dad retired from his sales and marketing job of 19 years.
  3. I crossed off a bucket list item when I appeared on the Today Show on Caucus Day.
  4. Nephew Gabriel and Niece Lucy completed another year of school.
  5. Gabriel, Lucy, and and Niece Amelia all grew a ton. I feel like they grow too much when I haven’t seen them in a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine how different they are after ten months!
  6. Numerous terror attacks took place across the globe.
  7. Iranians fired missiles at my brother’s carrier.
  8. My brother’s carrier was featured on CNN for setting a record number of bombs launched against ISIS.
  9. Mitch’s deployment was extended by one month.
  10. As if I wasn’t emotional enough in my normal state, I now get teary eyed around anything patriotic, having to do with the armed forces, etc.

Mitch Navy ProfileMitch shared some amazing photos and videos with us during this past week. The views were breath taking, and the sleeping quarters were insanely small. They provided a unique glimpse into my brother’s new life as a sailor.

Hannah MitchWe only have a few more days with brother Mitch before he goes back to base. This time he is taking a piece of home with him though – girlfriend Hannah. So, while this big sister is fighting back tears, I will be so excited for the new adventure ahead for the two of them together.

troopsThank you SO MUCH to everyone who has offered words of encouragement, given hugs, and simply let me babble (happy babble, interchanged with the-world-is-going-to-end babble) on and on and on and on. We know there will be another deployment, and I will always need my tribe to talk me off the ledge and then hand me a glass of wine.

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India: Simple Things

India: Simple Things

Before I visited India, mention of the country would bring up images of meditating, Buddha, zen stuff. My brief time in the cities seemed nothing like that.

However, in the rural area where I visited and spent the majority of my time, I saw this every day.

When waking at dawn every day, serene music played from the speakers in the open air court yard at Bijolai Palace. It was surreal to look out on the country side while hearing this foreign music and taking in the amazing sights. I really felt like I was in a faraway land.


The simple “Namaste” greeting became routine. I found myself placing my hands together and nodding my head downward while saying this without even thinking about it after only a couple of days in India. This word / phrase carries a lot of regard with very little fanfare.

The stone structures that house families and businesses in the villages are incredibly simple. A few have bright colors in the city, but on the country side, you see a lot of bland color. Since I visited during the dry month of December, the ground was dry and vegetation was scarce.

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Dirt is everywhere. It blows around and is a part of the dry air. The simplicity of dirt everywhere struck me. Most homes had dirt floors. The schools where we stationed our vision clinics had dirt yards. Often the people who live there were mostly covered in dirt and did not seem to care.

In the midst of all of this blandness, one would see bright flashes of orange, pink, blue, and every color of the rainbow. The women wear bright, yet simple, attire that stands out in a land of brown and grey.


The villagers have very few possessions. A few pots could provide cooking and table wear purposes for everyone. When giving a child a sticker or a pencil, her eyes would look at you like you just gave her something much more than that. Some villagers had to be reminded to wear their new glasses rather than tucking them safely away. These interactions and more made me pause about how casually I regard all of my material possessions in comparison. (I will discuss my post trip feelings in future blog posts.)

I did my best to embrace simplicity while I was in India. When my mind wandered, I really tried to keep the wandering scope within India. I tried not to worry whether I had remember to pay all of my bills before I left the U.S. or think about how Percy and Jag were faring without me. I found it fairly easy to keep my head in India though, because random sightings would churn back around in my head all of the time.

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I found myself to be an early morning person in India, largely due to the 11.5 hour time change. I embraced that quiet time each day to walk around the court yard, take in the music and scenery, and process the awesomeness that is found in the simple things.

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Namaste.

India: Go Big or Go Home

India: Go Big or Go Home

Prior to my trip to India, I had never set foot outside of the United States. I was becoming a world traveler overnight. To my surprise, I was not very tightly wound about this whole concept of going from 0 to 100 out of the gate.

I told myself when I found out I was going on the trip on December 10, 2013 – nearly a year before I was scheduled to leave for India – that I was going to embrace everything uncomfortable about it. That was easier to do than I had anticipated. The trip seemed so far off, and so I just continued on with life. Even one month out from the adventure, while I was sitting on conference calls about security and travel requirements, it still seemed forever away.

I crave change, almost too much at times. I was going to be traveling with a group, many of whom had traveled a lot internationally. I listened in on all of the pre-trip conference calls and read everything that OneSight emailed to me to prepare for the trip.

When you do something big, you have to break it down into manageable pieces.

For me, the first manageable piece was taking in all of the information thrown my way. In addition to reading the OneSight email updates, I googled Jodhpur, the city where I would be staying. I watched multiple YouTube videos. I began to buy a new Indian food each week when I went to the grocery store.

Then came the paperwork for my U.S. Passport and my India work visa. I have to admit, I waited until nearly the last minute to get all of these things processed. I think part of this was due to my suddenly laid back approach to this process, and the fact that I have passed multiple secret service background checks during my years in politics when I worked presidential events and had a Vice President come to my office.

The U.S. Passport proved to be an easier process than the India work visa. I take for granted that I live in a country that is not physically surrounded by so much turmoil.

The next thing was packing. I actually packed light. I did not pack every little thing that was recommended, such as a flashlight. Yes, I am such a risk taker! šŸ˜‰ I am pretty proud of how well I packed, since I did not take a lot and I had never traveled out of the U.S. before this. The planner in me was somewhat on autopilot, as I did not even take my suitcase out until a few days before I left. And I bought my final item – an outlet adapter – the day before I left home.

While I did a pretty good job of packing for my first time traveling overseas, I could have used a lot more paper products. Instead, I confiscated as much toilet paper and as many napkins as I possibly could from our hotel room and dining area to tie me over and to prevent me from blowing my nose like a farmer. The dry northwest India winter air did a number on my sinuses. I was miraculously back to normal within 48 hours of arriving back in the U.S.

And then all of a sudden, the time had arrived. Once I was at the airport, the rest was out of my hands. I was anxious and relieved all at the same time when I checked in at the Moline airport. With each leg of my trip to India, I became less anxious. I was getting closer to the destination. It was really happening! I was going to India! I had such a laid back approach because the idea of going to India was so big that my mind just shoved it to the side. Then the anxiety of not forgetting anything nagged at me for a few days leading up to the trip (when I finally decided to start packing). The entire journey to India still seems surreal to me in some ways. I knew no one going on the trip with me. I had not even met any of these people in person prior to meeting them in Newark, New Jersey. Thanks to a crazy broken exit sign on our plane scheduled to take us from Newark to Delhi, we had an extra night in the states to “bond” while we waited for the next flight on the following night.

Everything was already new once I reached Newark: the people, the airport, the whole international flying experience, you name it. I did take comfort in the familiarity of Starbucks. šŸ˜‰ I was so excited that I could barely sleep during our short night/day at the hotel in Newark. And when the plane FINALLY took off from Newark, I took a deep breath and pinched myself for about the 20th time since leaving home.

The truth is, you can’t really prepare yourself for the really big stuff. That’s because going big requires a big leap of faith that everything will be just fine.

My journey across the globe to help people see

My journey across the globe to help people see

Three months ago today, I returned from the trip of a lifetime. I was part of a OneSight global clinic in India.

While I journaled regularly while in India, once I started my long journey home, it was difficult to put pen to paper. Thus, it was even more challenging to think about how I would even begin to blog about my trip to India.

I fully intended to blog while I was in India, but alas, the internet and wi-fi there is spotty. So I stuck to my once or twice daily 140 words or less posts on Twitter and Facebook. And thankfully I had a paper journal that my dear friend Beth had given to me specifically for the trip.

So here I am, three months later, finally starting to share everything I saw and felt while experiencing life on the other side of the world. It will take multiple posts to cover everything I want to share. I somehow managed to condense my thoughts and photos down into a twenty minute presentation for the Durant Lioness Club on St. Patrick’s Day just a few days ago, so I will kick off my series of India posts with a small section from that presentation titled “My journey across the globe to help people see.”

By the numbers:

360 days of counting down

40 people from 8 countries on our clinic team

20 of those people flying from the United States

2 – 15 hour flights, in addition to the domestic connecting flights

11.5 hour time difference

1 broken exit sign on the departing plane

1 – 24 hour delay due to cancelled flight after broken sign

10 clinic days

432 near accidents while riding to and from anywhere (animals, other vehicles, you name it)

23 photos taken with random Indians because they asked me to pose with them

7 compliments on my nose ring from Indian women

1 almost glorious meal at McDonalds in Jodhpur (no beef and no ice!)

956 times I told myself how thankful I am to live in the United States

5,000 patients seen, with most receiving Rx eyewear

5,000+ pairs of sunglasses donated and distributed

7 offers to refill my plate each time the villagers fed us lunch

321 “namaste” greetings

3: the number of people we were required to have in groups when exploring the city of Jodhpur solo – and my native New Yorker friend Helen actually counted as 2 people šŸ˜‰

36 hours spent traveling to get home

5 days to fully recover from jet lag

1 redhead whose life has been changed forever

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I look forward to sharing more of my journey with you!