The end.

18 September 2020

 Hi friends, family, readers who randomly stumble across this blog.  

September 2020: after writing here for eight years, a season of my life defined by my experiences on the Africa Mercy (krissyonmercy), I feel it's time for a new thing. You can find me now over at:

I welcome you to join me on the journey there. 

Looking for sunrise.

21 August 2020

Someone wrote to me this week and said “ long time no blog… are you depressed? Nothing much to report? Winter blahs?”

And the answer is yes.


Occasionally as I’m scrolling through the socials, I’ll come across a promoted article titled “What if all I want is an ordinary life?”.  It’s not a bad article, I glanced through it, more out of curiosity in how it ended up in my feed, but it basically gives women permission not to have big dreams and passions for changing the world, but to embrace the ‘ordinary’ of child-raising and hospitality and other things that may not be impressive on the socials but fulfill the desires of their hearts. 


And every time I see this article in my feed I wonder how it ended up there… because never once have I ever asked myself that question.


Never once have I desired an ordinary life.


The life I’ve created, of travel and adventure and exploring and new things and new people and new places and new languages and cultures and friends; this life, it brings me such joy.  As I’m cruising towards 40, I’ve had a few people ask me how I’m feeling about that, expecting the panic that many women feel about this time in their lives… and my answer is, it’s awesome.  People have a crisis when they examine their lives and it doesn’t look like what they thought it would or should look like.  My life is a million times better than I ever dreamed it could possibly be. 


So here we are, five months into lockdown, and everything I love about this life has been taken away.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without travelling somewhere or exploring a new place.  The joys of my work, what I love the most, were evacuated five months ago and we’re still wondering how and when a return might be able to happen.  I didn’t have a lot of friends here before covid, as my job is all-consuming, and suddenly many of them evacuated and it’s ‘against the rules’ to see those that remain, and even if we could, what is there to talk about besides my excitement about changing a few light bulbs and sprouting avocado seeds?


And then I can’t even believe I have the gall to complain.  How privileged is my life that the hardest thing I’m navigating is a lack of travel and adventure?  I have a steady paycheck, a beautiful house with a full pantry and refrigerator, a dog that worships me and a family that is supportive and encouraging, even from afar.  I have never once worried about whether or not I will eat or whether or not to send my kids into the petri dish that is school or how to pay for medical care if I need it.  My life is an embarrassment of riches.


So I haven’t written.  And I’m feeling all the things. 


Depression, check.  I know so many people who are desperate for a little solitude after being cooped up with their families for months on end, while I’m over here desperate for human contact and something different to do.  I’ve tried to create some good habits to keep me stable, like running and yoga, but motivation is a challenge.  I laugh when I think about the fact that I was certain that 2020 was going to be my marathon year; I had even registered for the Cape Town Marathon, which of course is cancelled. This thing has shown us all how little control we actually have over anything.


Nothing to report, check.  Every day looks the same. My backyard, a walk down the street, the grocery store.  Rinse and repeat.


Winter blahs, check.  I’ve become soft after living in equatorial Africa for so many years, the cold winter mornings feel almost painful.  My house was built as a summer house and is lacking things like insulation; I will be sitting on my couch, inside, and feel a cold draft move across my face.  Houses here are built for the 10 months of warmth, not the two months of cold. And most South Africans say this winter has been exceptionally long and cold. 

But, the good news that I’m clinging to these days is the sun will always rise again.  Someday this will be that one thing that happened that one time.  I’m reaching out to friends, I’m risking disappointment and trying the dating apps, I’m looking for good news in the world and in my circle of influence. I’m growing an avocado orchard. I’m making bagels from scratch.  I’m playing with and cuddling my dog a whole lot. I’m trying some new things at work, and letting go of some others.  I’m being kind to myself, or at least making more of an effort to be less despising. I’m no longer saying things like “what is wrong with you” to myself… because nothing is wrong with me… the world itself is just wrong.

These are not small things.  Maybe they are ordinary things.  Maybe this is what is forcing me to find the good in the ordinary life that I never wanted.  I don’t know.


But I’ll keep going. Looking for the sunrise.


Some words for today.

08 June 2020

It's the 8th of June and my calendar is still on May but my brain seems to still be in March, when the earth seemed to tip on it's axis and I'm still disoriented. Things are starting to open up in South Africa; not travel, or restaurants, or anything that fun, but hiking trails are now an option and Jay and I can go for a walk anytime outside of curfew.  We're all still working from home, and given the trajectory and projections of covid cases in South Africa, we'll be working from home for a long time.

I'm determined not to let this time go to waste, though I do find motivation more challenging than usual. When you live a normally high-stress life, to experience a lack of stress for an extended period it's really an unusual feeling! I'm working on projects that we would never have time for, normally, and I'm loving it, though I also really look forward to what it will look like when things are as back to normal as they will get.

I've been in South Africa for over a year now, and it's gone by so quickly. I was in Liberia for a shorter period of time and it felt like it dragged on forever.  This dream job is still a dream and I'm looking forward to spending the next few years here without the anxiety of moving to another country on the horizon! 

A few recommendations on content I've engaged with this week (and links for easy access)

1619 - a podcast series from the New York Times, which has really opened my eyes to some of the gaps my whitewashed elementary school history class taught me, as well as the decline of black farmers in the south and the history and politics of universal healthcare. It's just six episodes, I listened while cleaning my house, doing laundry, cooking. Very much recommend listening.

Unlocking Us - Brene Brown is one of my personal life heroes, her content on leadership and engaging with vulnerability has shaped how I interact with the world.  I was thrilled when she finally started a podcast, and this episode is How to be an Anti-Racist.  It's a bit more cerebral, which I love, but if you've never engaged with anti-racist messaging before, you might want to try something else.

White Women's Toxic Tears - a conversation between Jen Hatmaker and Lisa Sharon Harper outlines the history of women crying to get what they want, and it's not pretty.  Excellent watch for white women and those that love them.

White Fragility - I've had this book for awhile, I read it the first time maybe a year or so ago, and found it so uncomfortable and wonderful and sickening and freeing.  Now I'm reading it again while I wait for some of the other resources I ordered to come in.  We must be willing to consider that unless we have devoted intentional and ongoing study, our opinions are necessarily un-informed, even ignorant. (pp.8) I haven't linked to a particular book store, but I encourage you to buy from an independent bookstore instead of amazon (more on this in an upcoming blog)

and finally...

Queer Eye Season 5 has finally released!!!  This show is just so, so beautiful.  There's so much love, acceptance, generosity, hope, laughter... all the things we all need in our lives right now. You don't have to have ever watched it before to jump right in and enjoy any episode, so don't let that stop you. You will not regret it. On Netflix.

Well, that's all I've got for today. I meant to write this over the weekend and somehow the weekend got away from me, so thought today I'd send y'all the update on life in South Africa.  In short, it's pretty much the same as every day :)

A few photos of my Jay because everyone loves photos.

On feelings and flames.

30 May 2020

A few days ago I was looking around my home office, the room I have spent most of the last two months in and it’s looking like I’ll probably spend the next six, and wondered why on earth I spend most of my time in a room that gets no sunlight.  I then set off on the task of moving several large pieces of furniture myself, thankfully aided by the smooth tile floor, and a few hours and only one major ding in a wall later I had set up what has quickly become my most favorite room in my house.  It’s light and airy and has a fireplace I hadn’t ever used, and on these chilly winter nights I thought a fire sounded right nice, even if it meant I had to clean out the fireplace afterward. 

And for whatever reason, the last few days have felt transformed.  Somehow evenings spent watching a fire and cuddling my Jay and reading or writing or just thinking are fulfilling in an opposite way to how evenings without a fire left me feeling restless and unproductive.

So this is who we are now, Jay and I. 

And as I stare at the flames consuming the wood and paper and oxygen, I’m grieving and wondering and asking and hoping and raging and speechless. 

To steal a line from a friend: 2020, you ain’t cute.

I know I don’t need to explain why.

And I’m wondering what I should say, or share, or post, or do; then I think, my voice is not the one the world needs right now, and with cases skyrocketing in South Africa the place I belong is here, by the fire.

But I know this for sure – I want to be a better anti-racist.  And my friends of color tell me the first step is just to listen and learn.  So I’m going to do that.  And white friends, I recommend you do the same.  I have big thoughts and feelings and opinions and emotions about all of it but the world does not need another white lady spouting off her opinions into the universe.  So I’m going to keep learning.  And I’m going to vote.  And I’m going to send financial support. And I’m going to stare at the flames, and cuddle my dog, and pray for justice, and love, and mercy, and hope, and peace.

On Baking and Breaking, part 2.

25 May 2020

This upside down world is hard to navigate.  Lockdown is grating and lonely, keeping motivation up to accomplish anything besides binge watching whatever I can find on one of the streaming platforms is a challenge. However, one of the things I’ve found that helps is baking, and I’m enjoying the challenge!  Part of the challenge is I can't always get everything I need here, part of it is using what materials I already have (i.e. I don't have a mixer so everything is kneaded by hand... I don't have a rolling pin but a wine bottle works great!) And also? My oven is tiny. I'd say a quarter the size of a regular American oven. So things can get tight! 

Buttermilk biscuits made with kefir instead of buttermilk. 
Now I’ve gotten really good at bagels and English muffins, I’ve also done baguettes, biscuits, and a variety of sweet breads and cookies. This last weekend I tried what felt like the ultimate baking challenge: Croissants and pain au chocolate. (they are the same dough, just rolled differently with chocolate in one of them).

Croissants that would rival any bakery in France. 

They’re not a lot of work, but they take a significant time investment.  Here’s the recipe I used: 

English muffins are good but a pain, I think I will try English muffin bread next.

Honestly the whole time I thought for sure these are going to fail, so when they turned out a million times better than I could ever imagine, I was shocked and awed and really excited.

Sesame bagels - I'll def make these forever.

And when I post photos I get fun comments like “you might have missed your calling!” and “maybe a bakery is in your future” – which I’d like to respond to.  They’re sweet comments and I appreciate the heart behind them, but really? I don’t love it, I haven’t found my inner passion or calling in puff pastry and bread dough.  It’s just something to pass the time, and I need a new challenge every so often and this is one I can do at home. 

Pain au chocolat - same recipe as Croissants (above) just shaped differently with a chopped up bar of chocolate.  Next time (if there is ever a next time, no promises) I would use 70 or 60% dark chocolate, this time I used 80% and it was a little too bitter)
It’s funny, in another convo this week someone asked how old I am and I said 39 and she asked if I was going to have a crisis at 40 like so many women.  I’ve thought about the convo a lot, and I realize that’s a common occurrence, but my answer to her is that I think that happens when a woman looks at her life and realizes it’s not what she hoped and dreamed it would be.  And I look at my life and I think, it’s exactly what I hoped and dreamed it would be.  I’m in my dream job, I get to travel the world, making a difference and experiencing new cultures and trying new things, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. 

Baguettes, didn't turn out quite as crispy as I wanted but I will try again.

And that’s kind of what I think about baking, too. It’s another challenge, like learning Spanish last year or surfing or trying a new job or field or focus.  This is just how I roll, it’s not my hopes and dreams coming to fruition.  I’ve already got that, in my regular life.  Quarantine has just forced me to be creative in a different way than normal – in the chemistry of the kitchen. 

Next week? I think I’m going to try old-fashioned doughnuts or macarons.  Or both.  Who knows, it seems like we’ll have plenty of time! Any other baking challenge suggestions?  Send them my way!!

My Favorite Place.

23 May 2020

As I look back at my life, and where my journey has taken me, I can feel nothing but gratitude. I’ve had the privilege and the honor of traveling the globe and experienced some pretty incredible places.  Lemurs in Madagascar, bioluminescence in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, sloths in Costa Rica, surfing in Hawaii, castles in Romania, hiking the Pyrenees, penguins in Cape Town, the list could take up pages.  It’s truly awesome. 

People often ask me what’s my favorite place in the world? In all my travels, if I could go back to one place, what would it be?


This little white cabin in central Minnesota.  The Lake.  The place where the vast majority of my favorite childhood memories happened.

I grew up spending summers here, right in between two lakes, with a road full of cousins to play with and adventures to imagine and games to share and turtles to catch and paint and release back into the lake. It’s where auntie Kathy would whistle when it was time for dinner and we’d come from wherever we were and fit around the big table on the screened porch and tell Nana to stop fretting, there’s plenty of food.  We’d celebrate birthdays and open gifts and pile back around the table in the evening to play Tripoley or Seven Up or some other big group game. We’d live in the lake when it was hot, leaving wet splotches and sand when we came into the house for a snack, usually the cut fresh fruit Mom would leave on the counter. The mosquitoes were huge and the thunderstorms loud and the sunsets were beautiful, and we’d fall asleep to the sounds of the loons calling from one lake to another.

We’d have friends visit every year, and the kids would play dress up and put on a show for the adults. We’d go to Paul Bunyan, the local amusement park for kids where the giant statue of Paul would greet each child by name as they walked in the park and it was magical, every single time. There was sailboats and paddleboats and fishing boats and all number of floaties and tubes and toys to play with in the lake. There were turtle races and mini doughnuts and riding on the mechanical horse in front of the The Totem Pole. We’d ask auntie Kathy to help us pull out our loose teeth; she had a magic touch that somehow made it painless.  Uncle Dan would take us for rides on his motorcycle or in the boat or pull us on the tubes or water skis; uncle Peter would throw us around in the water like toys. There would be sweet rolls for breakfast and hamburgers on the grill for dinner and I’m sure it wasn’t wonderful all the time, but looking back on it, all I can remember was the magic of it all.

If the world weren’t upside down, it would be a full house there now; Memorial day weekend, the first long weekend of summer, when the nights were still cool but the days were finally free of the snow boots and coats and hats and mittens that are the norm for the long, long cold winter.  I’d miss my Nana fretting over food but relish in the joy of the next generation of kiddos enjoying it every bit as much as I did as a kid. I planned to go home to Minnesota in August this year, intending to spend at least a week at The Lake, and I’m grieving the loss of the magical time with family that won’t happen this year.  I can only hold on to hope that next year will be different.  In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the memories and the magic and the gift of The Lake, my favorite place in the world.

On bad days and good.

18 May 2020

I really should write on the good days.

They do exist.

They are the days that are filled with the smell of baking bread and the feel of dirt under my fingernails from digging in the garden and grass clippings stuck to the hem of my yoga pants and a good movie and a cuddle with my Jay.  Or they are days with dedicated space to creating and dreaming and strategizing new and different ways to improve our programs and impact on those we are serving.  Or they are days where everyone collaborates in the meetings and it feels like finally we may have gotten over the hump of ‘new boss’ and realized we’re all in this together, longing to make the world a little bit better today and tomorrow and every day that is yet to come.  Or maybe they are days that aren’t that magical, but end with an online happy hour where I feel seen and heard and understood and not quite so desperately lonely. 

Those are the good days.  And there are many.

And today is not one of them. 

Today I woke up feeling the anxiety and the panic that comes with an exponential increase in cases yesterday and the searing knowledge within that travel in 2020 is effectively finished.   My sister made a comment on something I posted about the fact that science has become political and while I knew that, for some reason those words this morning sent me into a spiral of grief for the America I was once proud to call my home.  I’m wondering how long we will be without Volunteers and if we’ll get them back at all and what that means for my job that has been and still is my dream job.  I worry about my family and friends and humanity, as this drags on and the clinically-careful attention to prevention starts to wane as restlessness and frustration begin to take over.  I watch from the sidelines as others refuse to collaborate and argue about minutia.  And then I spent what felt like hours on the phone with the IRS, who is holding my 2018 return hostage, only to find out they are entirely dependent on the US Postal Service and there’s nothing I can do, no alternatives to be found, no electronic options, I have to just wait and wait for the letter to be delivered and then wait another few months for the next letter to be delivered while at the same time our dear President thinks the USPS should be to be defunded entirely.  It’s ludicrous.

I want hugs, and in-person meetings, and happy hours with friends, and a trip to the grocery store or the mall without anxiety, and a travel schedule, and a week at the cabin, and a trip to the beach, and my 2018 tax return, and Volunteers, even the ones that drive me batty.

And now that I’ve had my mini temper tantrum of I want I want, I’ll brush myself off, feed myself something healthy, and get on with my day. Because none of this is how it is supposed to be, and I keep telling myself it’s okay to grieve and rage and cry and all the things… as long as I don’t stay there.

Here’s some photos that make me smile:

Baguettes made at home. I didn't get the really crunchy crust I was looking for but I'll try again. 

My soulmate.

Signs of winter.  Most leaves don't change color, they just dry up and fall. 

A little friend on my passion fruit vine

Another baking adventure, they turned out amazing. 

After our morning walk we will sit on the patio, me with my coffee, and he will fall asleep... this is his face when I say his name, I imagine he's thinking "what you want, woman? I sleepin' here...."

On sunrises and carbs.

09 May 2020

Well hello there.

It’s been about seven weeks, I guess, since the world turned upside down and fell to pieces around us. I’ve gotten really, really good at making bagels, my English muffins are pretty good, and I’m considering trying to make baguettes tomorrow.  

Sesame bagels

We’re moving into winter, the days are getting shorter, the nights chilly, and the sunrises beautiful.  For the first five weeks of lockdown, we weren’t allowed to walk dogs or run outside; thankfully, a week ago they began to allow walking and running between the hours of 6-9am, so Jay and I have enjoyed sunrise coffee on a walk instead of on the patio.  It's a nice reminder that the sun rises every single day, time keeps moving forward, and travel bans and isolation won't be forever.  

On Freedom Day.

27 April 2020

On Freedom Day

Today is a public holiday in South Africa – Freedom Day. It was on this day in 1994 that the country held it’s first free, non-racial democratic elections, Nelson Mandela was voted into the office of the President, and the Republic of South Africa broke free of the chains of colonialization and apartheid.

I have vague recollections of this happening; I was 13 at the time and woefully ignorant of world events, though I remember hearing the word apartheid on the news and asking my mom what it meant.  South Africa might have well been a different planet to me back then.

But here I am today, in this place I now call home; a place I love living and with a myriad of cultures I’m slowly learning more about… in lockdown.  It’s strange, this dissonance, a holiday to celebrate freedom while we’re forced to stay home.  

Trevor Noah, a South African comedian and television personality, talks about growing up mostly inside as a kid, because his very existence was illegal in South Africa during apartheid.  I can only imagine what life was like in those times, and it makes me so very grateful for the freedom I’ve been privileged to be born with, and others my life choices have afforded me.  As I think along those lines, I think I don’t really have a great understanding of what freedom really is; like a fish not being able to understand water, I’ve always lived in and with freedom.  And I’m so, so grateful. 

And I’m grateful to get to live here in this time, to be a part of the free South Africa, to learn and grow and work together to see greater things yet to come for this nation and her people.

Happy Freedom Day!

My favorite ever photo I've taken in South Africa - Boulders Beach, Western Cape

On baking and breaking.

26 April 2020

I woke up this morning with a tear-damp pillow; before consciousness was even fully realized I was aching and grieving and hurting and lonely.  This thing isn’t going away anytime soon; I wonder if I made the right choice by staying here, I wonder how many months or years it’ll be before life resembles that which was ripped away so suddenly a few weeks ago, I wonder how we as humanity will manage the toll on our mental health while fighting fiercely to protect the physical health of ourselves and loved ones.  Sometimes it all feels so big and overwhelming and heavy.

And like many across the globe I’ve found solace in baking.  There’s just something about it, isn’t there?  I went to the kitchen and mixed the oil and flour and water and yeast, spread the flour on my counter top and kneaded the dough, set the timer and while it raised I cleaned and organized and washed and felt the solace of just a little bit of control in a world that is in chaos, kneading again, washing the dishes in the sink and drying them while that heavenly smell of freshly baked bread filled my kitchen.

There’s something about bringing the elements together and having it make something beautiful, useful, that makes my kitchen smell amazing and my taste buds happy.  None of the elements on their own are particularly wonderful but when mixed together they transform into something glorious.  I’m sure there’s a profound metaphor in there that probably hundreds of bloggers much more talented than I have already written about; my heart just wants to marvel today at the magic that takes place when all those things are mixed together and you add heat and bam! There’s bread.

There’s something about kneading, about the transfer of energy from my body and heart into this process, the physical pressing and stretching and molding and creating.  Pressing into the dough always reminds me of my grandmother.  She would visit once a year in the summer and we always made bread with her, and I think about the generations of women that baking bread was as much a part of their daily existence as eating.  There’s something about the predictability of mixing these things together, following the recipe and the instructions and knowing that the end result will be successful. There’s very little I know right now about what my future looks like, but I know if I do these things right in a couple of hours I’ll have fresh bread to enjoy. 

And there’s something about dreaming of breaking bread together again in the future. Something I’ll never take for granted in the future; the way living in Africa has made me always appreciate clean tap water in a way others perhaps can’t relate to, being so isolated for so long leads me to anticipate the gathering around a table with bread and wine and laughter and love with such longing I never would have guessed I’d have.  

Yesterday: Sesame Bagels

Today: Hamburger buns

Also today: Banana bread

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