Helium Project Press Release

Veteran Birmingham Entrepreneur Becomes Helium Patron; Rolls Out Internet-of-Things Network

BIRMINGHAM, AL, April 27, 2020 — Following his successful exit from the online ticketing company he founded in 2001, TicketBiscuit, startup veteran, Jeff Gale, has taken on a new role and a new technology project in Birmingham. Gale will serve to help shape a new connected future and roll out a new network infrastructure for the growing “Internet of Things,” or IoT community in his area. Several prominent names in the Birmingham startup community have volunteered to host the hardware powering the network, called Helium, including Fleetio, Fast Slow Motion, MoxieIoT, Conserv, Hardware Park, and the new Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator launching this fall.

“A forecast from IDC projects the number of IoT devices to surpass 40 billion by 2025–that’s five devices for every man, woman, and child on earth,” said Gale.

IoT devices are typically small electronic devices that need an Internet connection, such as pet tracking devices, or environmental sensors that measure temperature or humidity. Often, it’s not possible or practical to connect IoT devices to a WiFi network, and cellular connections can be cost-prohibitive. That’s where Helium comes in.

The hardware powering the new network is built by Helium. It enables anyone to own and operate a network with Helium Hotspots that are LoRaWAN-compatible, and provides coverage for hundreds of square miles. Gale is one of Helium’s “Patrons,” individuals or leaders who help to drive, recruit and grow Helium, as well as invest in a large number of Hotspots, often providing complete coverage for their home cities. Helium launched its Patron program late last year in Austin, seeking local leaders to emerge and deploy coverage at scale with the help of their local networks and the Helium community.

The network Gale is rolling out in Birmingham will allow such roaming, low-power devices to connect to the Internet in a cost-effective manner, paving the way not only for the devices themselves, but also for new technology startups in the IoT space.

“Birmingham’s startup scene has been on fire for the last few years, and I’m hopeful that creating a ‘network within a network,’ through Helium, will create a whole new playing field for local entrepreneurs, right alongside biotech, fintech, and other sectors where our startups are innovating.” 

The network infrastructure the community will be working off, the Helium Network, is powered by cryptocurrency, an aspect Gale finds especially attractive. “The more I educate myself on blockchain technology, the more I am convinced it will revolutionize nearly every aspect of our lives,” predicts Gale. “At the very least, the combination of IoT and blockchain presents an exciting new platform for starting companies.” Startups building a platform on which to build more startups: that’s the kind of dynamic that can help Birmingham level up from “promising market” to “national leader.”

“My analysis showed that we need about 45 Hotspots to cover the entire Birmingham metro area, so that’s how many I bought,” Gale added. Those Hotspots are scheduled for delivery in May, and will be rolled out throughout the summer.

About Jeff Gale

Jeff Gale founded TicketBiscuit, a leading provider of ticket sales and event marketing software, after graduating from Columbia University and returning to his hometown of Birmingham, AL. Since successfully exiting TicketBiscuit in 2017, Jeff has become a prominent angel investor and startup mentor in the Southeast.

About Helium

Co-founded by Shawn Fanning and Amir Haleem in 2013, Helium is building the world’s firstpeer-to-peer wireless network to simplify connecting devices to the internet by rewarding anyone to become a network operator. CEO Amir Haleem comes from an extensive background in triple-A video games. Helium is backed by GV (formerly Google Ventures), Khosla Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Multicoin Capital, FirstMark, Marc Benioff, Shawn Fanning and other top VCs. The network is live in more than 745 cities throughout North America. More information can be found at helium.com. More information about Helium’s Patron program can be found here.

Earn 8.6% on Cash!*

*or lose it all

One of the hottest segments of the emerging crypto economy in 2019 has come to be known as DeFi. Short for “Decentralized Finance”, DeFi promises to revolutionize traditional finance, starting with the most basic banking activities: deposits and lending. A company called BlockFi wants to be a major player in DeFi. Like traditional banks, BlockFi pays interest on deposits and charges interest on loans. What makes BlockFi interesting to me is that the interest rate they pay on deposits is much higher than the interest rate I could earn on cash in a savings account at a traditional bank. So, I hold cash with BlockFi in the form of a USD stablecoin, and earn 8.6% APY on it until I’m ready to withdraw and spend it. BlockFi also pays interest on deposits of other crypto assets, such as Bitcoin and Ether. But today we’ll focus on stablecoin deposits.

What’s a stablecoin? A stablecoin is a digital token recorded on a blockchain, kind of like Bitcoin (BTC). But whereas the exchange rate between BTC and USD fluctuates constantly, the exchange rate between stablecoins and their associated fiat (government-issued) currency remains constant. The stablecoin I reference in this article is USD Coin (USDC), and it’s pegged to the US Dollar. Technically, the USDC/USD exchange rate can fluctuate. But in practice, the variance from $1-to-1 USDC rarely exceeds 1%. And many crypto companies offer a $1-to-1 guarantee on USD/USD-pegged-stablecoin deposits and withdrawals.

Here’s what I do to earn 8.6% on my cash:

  1. Use Coinbase to buy 1000 USDC tokens for $1000. Don’t have a Coinbase account? Open a free account here and we’ll both get $10 worth of free BTC.
  2. Send 1000 USDC from your Coinbase account to your BlockFi USDC deposit address. Don’t have a BlockFi account? Open a free account here.
  3. Watch as BlockFi credits your account with $6.90 at the end of the month, the equivalent of 8.6% annually with monthly compounding.
  4. When you want to cash out, you can send USDC back to your Coinbase account and withdraw it as $USD to your bank account, or even borrow against your USDC at BlockFi while it continues to earn interest!

Obviously, 8.6% is a much higher return than you can earn on cash deposits at a traditional bank. So what’s the catch? Well for one, the rate is subject to change and may drop over time. But more importantly, BlockFi deposits are not protected by FDIC insurance, which promises to cover US bank deposits up to $250k. Although they’re not a bank, BlockFi claims to work within US financial regulations, and to store customer assets with one of the leading crypto custodians, Gemini, which recently launched their own captive insurance company to provide their clients $200M of coverage. But I haven’t been able to determine when or if US regulations or custodian guarantees would come to my aid in the event of a loss. So I’ve simply accepted the risk that BlockFi could go bust, get hacked, or run off with my money, and I could lose my entire investment. Ultimately, I’m betting that the chances of that happening during the time I hold funds there is less – way less – than 8.6% per year.

So, is the risk of a total loss worth an 8.6% annual return? For me, the answer is yes, because I’m pretty risk tolerant, and because I get value from conducting the experiment and furthering my knowledge of crypto markets and products. Remember, I’m not a financial professional and this is not investing advice. But if you want to get your hands dirty with crypto without exposing yourself to the price fluctuations of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, consider throwing some USDC at BlockFi. You just might get more out than you put in.

Tokenizing ISAs for Trillions

Mark my words: within 5 years, there will be a multi-billion dollar company that hasn’t even launched yet. This company will take the concept of fantasy football to an entirely new level by letting fans (and pure investors) own – in a near-literal sense of the word – their favorite players. This company will productize the Income Share Agreement, or ISA, such that players – and musicians and actors and writers and anyone – can easily sell shares in their future earnings. We already have patient zero: yesterday, Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets launched a sale of $13.5M of his 3-year, $34.4M contract. Investors will pay $90K per share and earn a 4.95% annual return during the three years, before receiving back their initial investment.

This bell cannot be un-rung. We will hear of a second professional athlete announcing a tokenized ISA within 6 months, and we’ll hear of at least 5 more before the year’s out, including a non-athlete celebrity, probably an actor. By 2021, there will be hundreds of celebrities who want to issue ISAs, going direct to their fans via their vast followings on social media. But at least two big things need to happen before this demand can be filled.

The first is that someone needs to build this mega-unicorn, because ISAs are really hard today.  There’s no telling how many $1000 legal hours Dinwiddie paid for to have his ISA paperwork drafted, reviewed, revised, adjusted for SEC compliance, adjusted again to comply with NBA regs, and reviewed again. Nor is there any telling how much he or Securitize, his technology partner, spent on technical talent to tokenize his ISA so that shares could be recorded on a blockchain. The Mega-Uni I’m predicting will distill this legal knowledge and turn it into composable bits of code that will eventually allow anyone to replicate and customize Dinwiddie’s efforts with the click of a button.

The second thing that needs to happen is that SEC investor accreditation rules need to change. This is already underway, but will likely be years before any meaningful change is made. Because of the current rules, only accredited investors are allowed to buy “Spenshares” (my term; his is Dream Fan Shares). But imagine if retail investors, aka fans, were allowed to participate: instead of selling 150 shares at $90K, Dinwiddie could have sold 1.5M shares at $9 each, effectively turning a legion of fans into business partners, evangelists, die-hard game watchers, and merchandise buyers.

And that’s what’s in it for the celebrity: they give up a little interest, and maybe some upside in the case of more complex ISAs, in return for 1) getting a slug of capital up front that they can then invest in higher-returning opportunities, and 2) they get hardcore fans who have a real stake in their success. What Swiftie wouldn’t want to own a piece of Tay Tay? What Marvel fanboy wouldn’t want to ride Thor’s cloaktails to a piece of his box office billions?

But what about this: what if your high school valedictorian, instead of taking student loans or his parents’ money to attend that prestigious university, instead sells shares of his own ISA to his well-heeled classmates. Not only does Young Veezy sidestep the student debt epidemic, but he’s made friends for life (assuming he’s successful). What if we all bought a stake in each other’s success? Could ISAs, their value tokenized and flowing freely on blockchain networks, become the economic gravitons that pull society back together after so much technology in the last 20 years has isolated us from one another?

Maybe, maybe not. Tokenizing real world assets like real estate, fine art, and ISAs allows us to fractionalize ownership of those assets to a much higher degree than is practical without token networks. And tokenizing makes those assets liquid: tradable, like stocks, but even easier. That means I can sell my $10 Hemsworth token for $20 when the new Thorigen Story is announced. But it also means I might dump my token when the disappointing opening weekend box office numbers come out. Would we dump our neighbor’s token when his house burns down? Scarier yet, would someone short his neighbor’s token and then burn his house down? Ok, that scenario seems unlikely, since the payoff would be relatively small. But I can imagine a disgruntled fan, pissed that Tay Tay didn’t heart his Insta-gush, shorting Taytokens with his life savings and then setting out to make sure she never plays another show again.

Like any technology, Mega-Uni’s platform could be used for good or ill. And like any useful tech, if it can be built, it will. So who’s going to build the tools to tokenize ISAs with the click of a button? Maybe it’s Securitize. But who’s going to be the first to lock up supply by striking preemptive deals with celebrities via their teams, leagues, agents, managers, and publishers? Who’s going to attract fan demand and maximize liquidity by building the smoothest UI, the most scalable network, and the most secure smart contracts? Whoever does is going to be able to command a percentage of each IIO (Initial ISA Offering) and take a fee every time a token is traded. Binance went from zero to billions in just a few years by facilitating the exchange of a handful of assets only 40 million people care about. Imagine the valuation of an exchange listing limitless assets craved by billions of people. Now that Spencer Dinwiddie has gotten that round ball rolling, who’s going to build this trillion dollar company? If it’s you, DM me and I’ll buy a share of your ISA.

Introducing: Practical Crypto

I spend a lot of time studying the emerging crypto-economy. And I suspect many people share my interest in the space, but perhaps lack the desire to devote hours per day to staying abreast of the latest and greatest protocols, products, and strategies that are available. So I’ve decided to write a series of posts with the following goal: to share my crypto-related learnings so that readers can either adopt them without having to do the homework I already have, or so they can tell me why my practices suck and perhaps save me from losing my shirt. Seriously – I don’t proclaim to be an expert, so please rip holes in anything that doesn’t ring true.

In my first post, I will describe how I hope to earn 8.6% APY on good ole $USD. I’ll include step-by-step instructions, and layout what I see as the risks that come with the promised reward. Some of the other topics I hope to cover in future posts include:

  • Earn 6% interest on Bitcoin holdings
  • Bet big with crypto options and futures
  • Beat the market with a no-code trading bot
  • Use a mobile wallet app
  • Use a portfolio tracking app
  • Plug ‘n play Bitcoin mining
  • Join a decentralized IOT network and earn crypto

I must mention that I’m neither a financial advisor nor an accountant, and I’m not offering legal, financial, nor investment advice. I’ll simply be describing some of my investments and some experiments I have personally performed, for your informational and entertainment value. In some cases, I’ll provide links to products and services I use, which may offer me compensation for referrals I make. Whenever possible, I’ll provide referral links that offer you some benefit as well.

With that, stay tuned! Post #1 on high-interest $USD savings will be out soon.

Eating Crow

A few months ago, I took on a personal experiment in the form of a plant-based diet, based on the compelling film, Gamechangers. I followed the diet for about 3 weeks, and during that time had good results: perceived increases in strength and endurance, and a slightly slimmer waistline. But I’ve since abandoned the experiment and come to believe that the optimal human diet includes animal protein – but with some major caveats.

As I wrote in my original post, there is a tremendous amount of conflicting information out there, when it comes to diet and nutrition. Determining the credibility of information on any topic in this day and age is extremely difficult. This holds especially true with diet and nutrition, perhaps because food is one of the largest economic markets in the world, estimated at nearly $4 Trillion in 2020. But I’ve come to appreciate the approach of thoughtful scientists like Chris Kresser, who explains his methodology in an entertaining and informative debate with Dr. Joel Kahn on an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience. I maintain a bit of skepticism with regards to Chris, especially since a couple of his recent podcast episodes have a bit of a product shill to them (still, pretty convincing; I bought some). But I generally agree with his scientific approach to seeking truth.

So, about those caveats:

  1. Not all animal protein is created equally. Even when excluding meats fried in oil (see below) and restricting the comparison to just grilled or roasted cuts of meat, free from marinades and other toppings, the difference between grain fed and grass fed meats is pretty significant – and entirely non-obvious! My current understanding is that the feed of traditional meat animals includes a lot of industrial seed oils, taking the omega-6 content of their meat up to unhealthy levels. Grass fed meats, on the other hand, are higher in omega-3 fatty acids. 
  2. Conventional meat animals are typically given significant amounts of hormones and antibiotics, to boost “yield” (the amount of sellable meat per animal) and offset the risks of farming practices that would otherwise make the animals very sick. These hormones make their way into the meat that humans consume, and are not optimal for human health (to say the least).
  3. Almost all prepared foods – whether meat or vegetarian, whether sold in a restaurant or in a grocery store – contain industrial seed oils, which I’ve come to believe are at least as bad for human health as my previous enemy #1, sugar. Check out Chris Kresser’s article on these ubiquitous food additives and see what you think. Industrial seed oils are commonly listed on labels as soybean, canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut, vegetable, etc – basically any oil that’s not olive, avocado, coconut or tree nut (cashew, macadamia, etc). If seed oils really are as bad for us as Kresser believes, it’s no wonder we’re seeing record levels of obesity and chronic disease.

So what’s my diet now? It’s pretty simple. As much as possible, I eat whole foods that I prepare myself, in reasonable macronutrient proportions (protein/fat/carb), during a 6-8 hour “feeding window” each day to keep with my intermittent fasting regimen. I don’t pay any attention to the quantity of food I eat during that window, and I certainly don’t count calories. I could probably optimize my diet another 10% by really dialing in the macro proportions. But that’s a lot of work for a relatively small incremental benefit. Basically, I’ve arrived at Michael Pollan’s common sense prescription from The Omnivore’s Dilemma: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants [by volume, not calories].”

Many thanks to JB for turning me on to the Kresser/Kahn debate and other good info from Dr. Peter Attia.

Go Veg?

Veggie meals are so colorful!

I’ve been voluntarily vegetarian (and mostly vegan) for two weeks now. Let me say right off the bat that I welcome any compelling info regarding canivory, veganism, nutrition, etc. I generally try to base decisions on first principles. But there is so much conflicting information on diet and exercise out there (and all of it so convincing! except maybe this one) that it’s basically impossible to separate signal from noise. I’ve tried ‘em all: Paleo, Zone, Keto. Was even tempted by GoMaD at one point. I do time-restricted eating, aka Intermittent Fasting. And I’ve been curious about plant-based diets (PBDs) for years now. I had concluded that a PBD is probably optimal if your top goal is longevity. But I had assumed the cost of those extra years was athletic performance, lean muscle mass, etc. Now, I’m no elite athlete – far from it. But I do like to push my limits. And I figured I could always make the switch to a PBD later in life when being active and pushing myself wasn’t as important to me.

Catch it on Netflix while it lasts.

What finally got me off the fence was the movie Gamechangers, a documentary hosted by UFC fighter, James Wilks. I’m a sucker for documentaries anyway. But this one really got me. Where other veg-docs have stressed the environmental or general health benefits of PBDs (Cowspiracy, for example), Gamechangers addresses athletic performance head-on. I nearly wrote it off in the first 5 minutes, as it started off featuring a sinewy ultra-marathoner (400m is plenty, thanks). But then it featured a world-record strongman, an olympic weightlifter, and a bodybuilder – folks with more than enough lean muscle mass supposedly packed on through hard work and vegetables. The film highlights plenty of pro-veg science. But then again, the meat industry has plenty of pro-meat science too. Still, the film made me PDB-curious enough that I decided to seek some first principles the only way I can in this case: to self-experiment.

At two weeks, it’s obviously way too early to call. But I can confidently report the following:
1. I have plenty of energy. Truthfully, I feel especially energetic. But I’m going to tip my hat to the placebo effect and say no more than that I have noticed no decrease in energy levels.
2. My bodyweight workouts (pushups, pullups, airsquats, etc.) have not suffered. The empiric evidence is that my performance has actually improved. But again, there are other factors in play: I might weigh less from a likely calorie deficit, making bodyweight workouts easier. And/or, I could just be improving naturally from doing workouts on the regular. So I’ll simply say that I have not noticed any reduction in strength.
3. The food has been delicious. Our staples are rice, lentils, baked potatoes, pasta marinara, salad, fruit, and nuts. I do still find the smell of grilling meat appetizing (and there’s plenty of that here, in the land of carne asado). But I haven’t craved meat like I thought I would, and I haven’t gotten bored with our mostly-vegan fare.

If you don’t believe veggies can make you strong, watch me break this apple in half!

I imagine a behavioral change as big is this would be very difficult if those around me were still eating meat. Luckily, Dallas led the charge, followed by Julia, and finally Dana and me. We are encouraging each other remotely, although none of us has really needed much encouragement. I keep reminding myself that this doesn’t have to be forever, nor does it have to be all-or-nothing, as most diet advocates would have me believe. But as long as I continue to feel good and don’t detect any drop in strength or energy, this experiment might just become something a little more permanent.

Dallas led the veggie charge!

El Cajas National Park

Family Gale at Tres Cruces (13651 ft)

Cajas National Park is a high-altitude area west of Cuenca, Ecuador. It’s known for trails through evergreen cloud forests and hundreds of lakes, such as Laguna Toreadora, where our second hike began. It’s also home to rich wildlife including Andean condors, giant hummingbirds and raccoon-like coatis. The number of orchids and flowering plants alone make this a destination worth visiting.

The name “Cajas” is derived from the Quichua word “cassa” meaning “gateway to the snowy mountains” or “caxa” (Quichua:cold). It has also been linked to the Spanish word “cajas” (boxes).

Keep in mind that the average altitude during our day exploring the park was around 12,500 feet. Cuenca, where we lived for about 7 weeks, sits at a perfect 8,399 feet. That’s quite a jump. Hiking at that altitude feels like moving through molasses and the air is about as thick. It’s really as if the oxygen disappears.

I wish words could adequately capture the beauty of Cajas National Park. But since they pale in comparison, allow me to take you on a photographic/video journey of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Be sure to keep scrolling to see the videos Jeff put together!

First hike around Lake Llaviucu
View from the opposite side
Just one of many orchids
Moss moss everywhere!
I still can’t remember if these are alpacas or llamas…
Big thanks to my man for spending so much time editing together these great videos!
Delicious hot cocoa after Tres Cruces before our long hike.
Just a few minutes in on our second hike.
10 minutes later (already tired and starting to complain – but they both did really great overall)
So perfectly petite
Julia’s favorite plant – Puya clava Hércules
The bloom of the above plant
In the “paper” tree forest.
Tired but happy
Beauty
Almost done!
Seriously active day

Oh, Brother!

My favorite childhood TV show was “Phineas and Ferb”. The two main characters are step brothers with an older sister, Candace, who’s always trying to bust them for breaking rules. In one episode, Candace succeeds and gets the two boys shipped off to boarding school. Eventually, Candace realizes she misses and loves them, despite all the trouble they cause. Candace’s best friend Stacy sings a song that captures the essence of the siblings’ relationship. That song inspired me to write this post. Here’s a link to the song. If you have younger siblings, please tell me how it made you feel in the comment section below.

Little brothers. I have one of these. I love him so much I don’t know what I would do if something were to happen to him. I am not going to say his name. But if you know me, you know him. It makes me so sad when he gets hurt badly or cries. Now I will admit, I have been the cause of some of these injuries (almost all of them accidents). But any time I hurt him, I always feel awful about it right afterwards.

Me and my brother, in Cajas National Park.

My brother can be a pain sometimes: he fusses about eating (lately he has been eating better but still fusses a lot). I’m not trying to tattle on my brother or anything like that. I just want to be the best big sister I can be. My parents and I have some hard times with all his tantrums and hitting. “Apparently that’s what siblings do,” says my mom. That’s true. But my little brother is a little extreme. I think it’s because he is the younger sibling. When I was his age I did not do what he does. Now, I definitely had some tantrums over stupid stuff. But every child does that when they are young. I think he just wants everything he sees me get. He gets angry when he doesn’t get what he wants, or if I get something he doesn’t. I can see how that would make someone angry or upset. But my brother goes a tad bit over the top.

Ride that horsie down through town, ride that horsie don”t fall down.

My brother and I fight. We usually fight about stupid stuff like who gets to choose the movie, or whether he is supposed to do his school work or not. In arguments where he says that he doesn’t have to work anymore, or he doesn’t have to eat all of his dinner, it makes me really angry. Then the mom side of me comes out. I tell him, “Yes you do have to do your work or you won’t get a treat at the end of the week,” or “yes you do have to eat all of your food; if you don’t, you don’t get your dulce [a little treat from the local tiendas].” I need to work on letting my parents do the parenting, because as much as I want to be a mom someday, it’s definitely not today.

Our house in Cuenca!!!!

Now it probably sounds like I am only telling you the things that are bad about my brother. But I’m not. I love him more than anyone (besides my parents of course). He is super duper fun to be around and play with when he is in a good mood. We make up awesome games and do really fun things at the park. He is amazing and nice when he has eaten good food and had a good night’s sleep.

Let’s play avocado!!!

I love my brother so much. So I want to share with you what I’ve learned from my 9 years of being a big sister. I’m not always good at following these rules. But I try, I really do.

  1. Always stay calm. Even if your little brother is having a gigantic tantrum about something stupid and he is hitting you and crying, always keep your cool.
  2. Don’t hit back. Even if your brother is hitting you and pinching you, don’t do it back. It just makes everything worse.
  3. Use words. When he is screaming or hitting you or doing anything that is wrong or that you don’t like, ask him to stop. If he doesn’t stop, use a sterner voice. If he still doesn’t stop, tell your parents or guardian.
  4. Let him believe what he wants to believe. If he believes that you did something wrong, don’t try to make him believe otherwise; just leave the room. If he tells your parents and they come ask you about it, stay calm and tell them the truth.
  5. Discretion. I’m still working on this one a bit. If you want something that you know your little brother can’t have, keep it to yourself until he is out of range.
  6. Love is always the answer. If your brother has done something to hurt you (physically or mentaly) always let him say sorry and forgive him. Just be ready for when he does the same thing again though; little brothers don’t learn very fast.
  7.  Always be the bigger person. Even if he is being a baby or crying or whatever your little brother does, stay calm and be yourself.
Drinking some hot cocoa at Cajas National Park right before a big hike.

I hope these guidelines can help you if you have problems with your little siblings. And I hope that your relationships turn out good in the end. I hope Dallas and I grow old together, and laugh together, and spend our lives together… but definitely in different houses.

Look at this amazing view at Cajas National Park!

If you want to watch the episode I was talking about earlier, I’ve added a link to it here. It’s Season 1, Episode 45.

P.S. [in Siri voice] SPOILER ALERT! If you don’t like spoilers, don’t read the following message: in the end, Candace wakes up from this whole big dream and at breakfast they all discuss it. [also in Siri voice] End of spoiler alert. Thank you for reading.

Wacky Fruits of Ecuador

Since I’ve been in Ecuador I have eaten many weird fruits. The first fruit I ate was called the Chirimoya. It was green on the outside and looked kind of like a dragon egg. Inside, it was white and had big brown seeds. I did not like it at all. My sister didn’t like it either. My mom kind of liked it. And my dad loved it.

My sister opening the chirimoya. Doesn’t it look like a dragon egg?
The inside of the chirimoya. You can eat all that white stuff. But watch out for the seeds!

The next fruit we ate was called the Granadilla. The outside was hard and orange. But the inside was soft and squishy. It looked like it was full of mucus, and it had seeds you could eat. I forgot to try the mucus looking stuff, so I only tried the seeds, which I kind of liked. Mommy liked it. Julia liked it. And Daddy loved it. 

The granadilla, or as I like to call it, Snot Fruit.

The next one that we ate – well, I didn’t eat it – was called the King Mandarina. It was like a regular mandarina but bigger, and green on the outside. On the inside, it looked like an orange, and my family said it tasted like one too. They ate it without me, so I didn’t get to try it. But guess what: they loved it.

My dad peeling the king mandarin.
Here’s the inside of the king mandarin – just like an orange!

The next fruit we ate was called the Pitahaya Granel, or Dragon Fruit. It was red and kind of green and had spikes sticking out. Man, a lot of these fruits are like dragons! The inside had little seeds and everything around them was white. My mom thought it looked like a giant, white kiwi on the inside. I didn’t like it. Neither did Julia. My Mom liked it. And Daddy… what do you know, he loved it!

I’m about to cut the dragon fruit.
Here’s the inside of the dragon fruit after we’ve eaten some of it.

I am proud of myself for trying allllll of those weird fruits (except the King Mandarina, which I probably would’ve liked). Also, I learned that I like more basic fruits. In the future, I will keep trying wacky fruits that catch my eye. And maybe – just maybe – I will find one I like.

A Dose of Truth

It’s cold, raining, and we missed the first TWO buses…

I recently made a social media post expressing the challenges of the first few weeks of living abroad with the family and it got quite a few comments.  It seems like telling the truth about hardships in life, as uncommon as that may be, is something most people can identify with and even appreciate. Get ready, there’s a buttload of truth coming you way.

As many of us have realized, social media is generally a place where participants most often post only the brightest shiniest happiest easiest look-how-great-my-life-is moments.  We view other people’s BEST and most AMAZING achievements, vacations, yoga poses, (the list goes on and on) and we, unintentionally, begin to judge ourselves by the impossible standards they set.  We start to believe that their ENTIRE LIVES are exactly like their BEST moments. Nothing could be further from the truth. But, really, who wants to post an “unmade” face with blemishes and half dressed kids in the background having a tantrum on the dirty kitchen floor while dinner burns?  Try this: google struggling mom in kitchen with kids. All you get is Donna Reed-esque perfect families…

When the truth is…

My goal from the beginning of our adventure was to express the truth about our experiences to the best of my ability (without posting anything my kids would be too embarrassed by later); to be honest about the joys AND the challenges of the choices we’ve made.  In a nutshell, as Sheryl Crow said in a song that has stayed close to my heart for years, “No one said this would be easy. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard…”

I make one post on IG/FB each day with a picture and a short write up about the day – this is my own journal/photo documentation of our travels, as well as a way to “rank” the days.  Each day gets up-to-5 stars. I post for myself as well as those who have expressed an interest in following along with our travels It’s gratifying to interact with my loved ones who aren’t close by, to read comments of support, to answer questions about strange fruits and where we are and how we are managing things.

We’ve been in Ecuador for a little over 3 weeks and I can, with brutal honesty, say it’s been the hardest three weeks of my life. The kids are insane. We’ve had more tantrums and screaming fits and meltdowns in three weeks than we’ve had in the last 3 years.  We had to go back to NAP TIME in an effort to help with behavior – it’s like having toddlers again. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Check. Check. Feed them. Nap them. Cross your fingers…

 I’m overwhelmed with the isolation that goes along with not understanding the language of the land.  I’m struggling in Spanish school – the pace is so quick and I haven’t been able to memorize the MASSIVE vocabulary necessary to really start to feel successful.  

I’m over stimulated every single day with requests and needs and attempts to make sure the young one eats enough protein to keep his mind working in human mode instead of reverting to lizard brain.  

I’m NEVER alone – unless I hide in the bedroom for a nap.  

I’m always cold – unless I’m in the shower and boy you better believe I take some long ass showers.  

I’m the tallest woman on the bus, on the sidewalk, everywhere I go.  I look different than almost every other person besides my own family.  I stick out like a sore thumb. The people, while they are kind and helpful in times of need, stare at me – like I don’t belong…

I miss my friends and loves – I miss my friends and loves like I miss breathing when I’m under water.  There are a few that border on desperate missing – the kind where your belly aches and you aren’t sure you can make it another moment without them.  

Loves

Y’all, the list goes on and on.  It’s. Fucking. Hard.

And now for the BUT – y’all knew it was coming, didn’t you?

All that – that giant self indulgent pitiful Anne of Green Gables “depths of despair” talk and there’s now a HUGE

I’m so glad I’m here.  I’ve been practicing yoga for about 6 years now.  I’ve been through trainings that tested every piece of who I am, what I believe, the choices I’ve made – all those trials were for this year. K. Pattabhi Jois said “do your practice and all is coming.” I’ve been practicing for THIS MOMENT.

Yoga says you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Even if you don’t like it…

So, I can feel overwhelmed and sad and sullen and lost, but it doesn’t last forever.  In fact, it lasts mere seconds, if I come to my breath and find even a MOMENT of stillness.  Impermanence. Anicca. Change. NOTHING EVER STAYS THE SAME. Not even for one moment. We breathe in.  We breathe out. We wake. We sleep. The sun rises and it sets. We are born and we die. Again, the list goes on and on and on.  

I CAN do this.  I AM doing this.  I will make it through each day with gratitude for the gift of this journey.  I will settle into a warm bed each night with the knowledge that this year is a once in a lifetime experience.  I will still feel ALL the feels, but I will not allow my mind to grasp so tightly. It’s ok for me to feel pain and loneliness and even despair.  It’s ok for my children to struggle to adapt to a new culture and routine and this much togetherness. This, too, shall pass. Just breathe in, breathe out…  

This entire album is AMAZING. Do yourself a favor and give it a listen.