Featured Articles

The Challenges and Opportunities in Managing a Health Condition Abroad: Part I

Part one of two posts outlining both the challenges and opportunities that arise when facing a health condition abroad. In this piece, we highlight points made at our “Kitchen Table Conversation” at the 2018 Families in Global Transition Conference in The Hague. Originally entitled, The Uninvited Guest—When Illness Comes to Visit Abroad, this brief discussion reveals the importance of continuing the conversation. Along with facilitators Carolyn Parse Rizzo of Interval Coaching and Consulting, and Vivian Chiona of Expat Nest, participants discuss the interplay between Ignorance, Insurance, Isolation, Trust, (Mis)Communication, Overwhelm, Complex Parenting, Pain and Discomfort for international patients and their loved ones.

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Increase Your Fun Factor!

 What would would be different if you chose to 'Lighten Up and Loosen Up'?

What would would be different if you chose to 'Lighten Up and Loosen Up'?

As adults, it's easy to loose touch with our ability to play.  Maybe we play with our kids sometimes or we play a sport, but are we doing it for the pure pleasure and enjoyment of it, for recreation?  That's right: RE-CREATION: to create again, renew, revive, recover, restore.

If you’re a recovering perfectionist like me, "lightening up" and "loosening up" takes effort. Learning how to “take it is easy” is a life skill and depending upon where you live, it may be a survival skill (i.e. Type A personalities living in Mediterranean countries [me])!

What would it take for you to say,


life moves pretty fast quote 2.jpg

What would be better in your life?  …Just asking.

I’m asking because I am far from the ivory armchair of lollygaggers. Loosening up and lightening up does not come naturally to me. I’ve heard “lighten up” and “relax” from well meaning (more like annoyed) people in my life for as long as I can remember. Mindful walking, yoga, conscious breath, guided relaxation, only someone like me could make these practices my “work”.  But, that’s the point, isn’t? We can learn to relax and up the Fun Factor in our lives.  I've not mastered it by any means, but I have come up with four steps that will jumpstart your F-Factor:


Decide and Declare.  One thing I realized after deciding to increase my F Factor is that we are faced with tiny decisions all day long that can either increase or painfully decrease our Fun Factor for the day.  When I’m really focused, I wake up in the morning and set my intention, “I, Carolyn Parse, greet this day joyfully, gratefully, and with determination to have more fun and be more fun, so that love and abundance have a place to grow.”

Ask yourself, “In the end (of the day, week, year, life), what do I want?”  If the answer is more fun, joy, love, or laughter, make decisions throughout each day that bring you closer to what you want.


Define it. What does your Fun Factor look like?  What makes you feel renewed?  What in your life would you do for free because you love it, it gives you pleasure or relaxes you?

Refer back to the initial question, “What would be better in my life if I (fill in the blank from bullet points above)?

Write it down.


Decrease obstacles.  Ask yourself, “What’s getting in the way of my flexibility?  What’s getting in the way of lightness in my life?” Once you are aware of your fun blockers, you can get to work on diminishing them.

You might begin by examining old tapes that run through your head (e.g. “Jane is the serious one. She gets things done,” says her mother in front of her sister.).  Then, take a look at your beliefs and how, even those that serve you well in one area of your life, may hold you back when it comes to the Fun Factor (e.g. “Serious people are smarter, achieve more, accomplish more.  Having fun is being lazy, self-indulgent, has to be earned, etc.”). Finally, start paying attention to  Thinking Errors. These thoughts are mostly negative, often untrue, and can be debilitating and defeating.  Some of us call them our “gremlins” or the voice of our “inner critic“.

Identify one or two that are directly related to your ability to be flexible and light.  Get to work, enlisting help when if you get stuck on your own.


Do it. Start increasing your Fun Factor a little every day. Look at your typical day and choose one or two places where you could loosen up a bit. Say yes to activities that appeal to your playful side or that increase opportunities to relax.

Create “touchstones” and place them where you’ll come across them often throughout the day to remind you of your priorities.  I’ve used 8X11 signs as well as little cards that I placed in my purse, used as bookmark, posted on my bulletin board, taped to the mirror or inside the toiletry cabinet, and the back of the bedroom door.  You can also use an actual stone, smooth or embossed with a word of inspiration. Keep it in your pocket, within easy reach of your fingertips, as a silent reminder.

In addition, I’ve gone as far as to color code my appointment calendar to include a “fun and enjoyment” category.  My voice lessons, band rehearsals, time with friends, morning walk, and yoga are all labeled purple for this reason. When I’m really focused on increasing my F Factor, I can quickly see if, and when, I am falling short.


Remember not to change too much too fast or put too much pressure on yourself. It's supposed to be FUN, remember? Start with small things. Do just enough to make you want a little more. For me, upping the F Factor means prioritizing fun, connection, peace, and good stress over perfection, isolation, conflict, and distressThis takes effort when juggling relationships, household responsibilities, a professional life, an inner life, and the care and guidance of a sharp-witted, busy seven year old. 

My methodology is a variation of  Covey’s Think Win-Win and Put First Things First with a little visualization mixed in.  In the end, I ask myself, WTF?  

Where’s the FUN?!

For Expat Parents of Children with Health Conditions

Shared wisdom from a Certified Child Life Specialist and other expat parents who have crossed borders with their child's health condition.  Mindset shifts and trusted advice from parents who have been there. Leading your child's healthcare team, exploring fact vs. cultural belief, tradition, or opinion, and prioritizing self-care.  

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BOOK REVIEW Knocked Up Abroad: Stories of pregnancy, birth and raising a family in a foreign country by Lisa Ferland

By Carolyn Parse Rizzo

For those of you who have been “knocked up”, given birth, or are raising kids abroad, you’ll enjoy this collections of real life stories.  I met Lisa at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference in Amsterdam in 2016.  She is a dynamic expat mom, writer, and public health professional who has found her niche while living abroad in Sweden.

“No fear, no tension, no pain.” That’s how she describes the EVENTFUL birth of her daughter in the chapter entitled “Lucy’s Birthplan”.  I know her on a whole other level and have a whole new respect for this woman. In fact, she may be my idol in the world of Labor and Delivery!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE how she demonstrates, in this chapter, the power of self-hypnosis and guided imagery.  

This delightfully raw anthology of 23 stories of pregnancy, birth and parenting abroad unexpectedly moved, inspired, horrified, and thoroughly entertained me.  Lisa pieces together snippets of life in 24 countries, including China, Scandinavia, Malaysia, Japan, Dubai, Australia, The Netherlands, and The Seychelles, creating a seamless world of same, but different. “…Birth is not easy” writes Sherah S. Haustein, who birthed her three children in Israel, Germany and the US.  “…No two births are the same.  Each one has its beauty, its difficulties and its memories, even when things don’t go as planned.”  Themes around expectation, communication, cultural custom, internal and external physical challenge, naiveté, courage, control (or lack thereof!) and pure joy weave in and out of these vignettes of early parenthood.

Ferland, along with her contributors (including her own husband), showcases the complexity of crossing cultures when growing a family.  Fin, Katarina Holm-DiDio introduces sisu into our vocabulary which, she says, can only be translated as determination-perseverance-guts-and resilience – a necessary quality and common thread that binds these parents together.

The variety of writing styles is refreshing and many of the writers, including Ferland herself, are natural and gifted storytellers who leave me curious and hungry for more.  The stories are laced with humble authenticity, humor often dancing through the poignant moments. Empathy for these 21 women and two men is unavoidable as we witness their transformation into cross-cultural parents.

If you find yourself wanting more, Lisa Ferland has recently published volume number two in the series entitled Knocked Up Abroad Again: Baby Bumps, Twists, and Turns Around the Globe .  I’m reading that next!  You can find out more by visiting her website. www.knockedupabroad.eu

My Birthing Room at a Public Hospital in Italy

I had a wonderful midwife and gave birth in this tub.  I did not have an epidural, though one had been ordered along with a doctor to administer it, if needed.  After the birth, I stayed in a room with 3 other women.  The bathroom was down the hall. Lactation specialists visited daily. Aside from the fathers, no visitors were allowed. There were no translators and only one doctor spoke English.  I stayed for three days. We didn't pay a cent.