Birds out on a limb

by Beth Shepherd
( May 12th, 2015 )

Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.

~Mark Twain

Hummer on a limb

Baby robin on branch

Flicker on branch

Chickadee on branch

Cattle egret on a wire


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Take the road less traveled, Beth

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Dear Birth Mother: A letter on Mother’s Day

by Beth Shepherd
( May 8th, 2015 )

Dear Birth Mother,

I think about you on many days, and especially on Little Bird’s birthday and Mother’s Day. Had it not been for the difficult decision you made, I would not be celebrating this day.

With respect and gratitude for for the path you chose for your daughter,

Little Bird’s Mama

Me and baby

Full disclosure: I know who Little Bird’s birth mother is. I know her name. I have seen her face. And I know her story, the story that led her to place her daughter in an orphanage.

In many countries where children are placed for international adoption, though not all, there is very little, if any, information provided to adoptive families about a child’s birth family. For decades the U.S. sealed records for domestic adoption. Adoptees were unable to obtain information about their birth family, their own story.

Some families might find this comforting, distance between them and what—in most cases—is a painful story. I do not judge them. But for me, for us, we wanted to know. We wanted our daughter to know, because we have seen the ache this loss can cause for adoptees. From the very beginning of our journey, I knew I would search for my daughter’s birth family, and that I would search soon, before the trail ran dry.

As much as possible—and we fully acknowledge our own limitations—we want our daughter to grow up with a full picture of her life: not just her time spent with us. We want her to understand her Armenian heritage and be proud of it. We hoped that her birth family, if they chose to do so, might help us complete a few pieces of the puzzle. And I confess, maybe unrealistically, we even hoped we might be able to establish a line of communication between us, our daughter, and her birth family. I know families who have been fortunate enough to be able to have this link, and while the road may not be smooth, in the long run I believe it’s the healthiest outcome for all: birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee.

This was not how our search ended. Our daughter’s birth mother, though grateful to know her daughter is healthy and loved, did not want to establish contact. She offered up a few details, as did another member of Little Bird’s birth family, and we received some photographs, priceless gifts. Maybe one day we will try again, or Little Bird will be interested conducting a search of her own. Until then, on Mother’s Day, I will always think about the woman who gave birth to our daughter, with gratitude.

 Happy Mother’s Day

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Take the road less traveled, Beth

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Shipshape: Lindblad Expeditions and the National Geographic Sea Bird

by Beth Shepherd
( May 5th, 2015 )

They had me at “massage in the waters of the Galapagos Islands, surrounded by sea lions.” I confess: Visiting the Galapagos has always been at the top of my bucket list where travel is concerned, and now that I’ve had a personal tour aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird, I am even more certain this trip would be the experience of a lifetime.

Although the Sea Bird is not one of the ships with Galapagos on its itinerary, Lindblad Expeditions has ten ships in their fleet with wide-range of destinations in North America, South America, South-east Asia, Polar regions, Europe, and Africa. The Sea Bird, a 62-guest ship travels the waters from Alaska to Baja, and up and down the Columbia and Snake Rivers, most likely too chilly for in-water massage, but ripe for many other exciting adventures.

National Geographic Sea Bird

And, the Sea Bird plies the waters in updated style, one of the reasons I was invited on the tour, to view the myriad of changes that have been made on board. Rooms were redesigned—literally down to the woodwork—which, after all was said and done, took three tons of weight off the ship!

Sea Bird two tins

Sea Bird has new ceilings, new linens, LED lighting, USB ports, Wi-Fi, new bed boxes. All the wood used is fireproof and lightweight, made from a honeycomb wood product. The rooms are airier, sleeker and more inviting.

Double bed on ship

As someone who lives in a very small house, I am forever trying to find clever ways to create storage and functional living spaces despite a lack of square footage. The Sea Bird does this in spades with beautiful artwork in every room, efficiency bar none, every nook and cranny used wisely.

Sea Bird sink

Shower Sea Bird

I’ve never been on a cruise and confess I never had any interest, until I saw small ship like those National Geographic has in it’s fleet. I really like the personalized, intimate approach—definitely not “one size fits all”—provided by Lindblad Expeditions, as well as the focus on education for passengers and stewardship for the regions their ships traverse. They told us about the thousands of dollars that they have spend removing non-endemic species in the Galapagos and many other ways they do much more than simple transport people to a location—as a company, they commit to conservation in the local communities where they travel.

Map and magnifying glass

On every voyage you’ll find six naturalists per one guest, a wellness specialist who offers everything from on-board yoga and fitness classes to that massage I mentioned earlier (which you can have in the ship’s own tiny spa, as well as in the midst of the Galapagos), and a host of experts on local flora and fauna and—hello—National Geographic photographers, who are board to help capture the splendor of the natural world.

Sea Bird Spa

Sea Bird stern

It also doesn’t hurt that the food is divinely delicious as well as being locally sourced, seasonable and sustainable—and healthy. I always figured cruise food was overly sauced, overly rich, overly everything, but the meal I had was generous with fresh vegetables and salmon right from Washington State’s Columbia River.

salmon dinner on Sea Bird

As a mom, I was heartened to hear of all the really awesome ways the ship staff engage kids. Each kid receives an “expedition kit” with a book, maps, and details. Every day kids are asked questions about what they’ve learned and if they answer all the questions, at the end of the trip they receive a Jr. Naturalist hat. How cool is that?

Sea Bird bridge

Like our guide said, going on an expedition with Lindblad and National Geographic is “the difference between watching the Discovery Channel on television versus being one of the film crew on location.”

National Geographic Sea Bird

After touring the Sea Bird, all I can say is sign me up. Bon Voyage!

Kahlil Gibran quote

This experience was complimentary and provided by Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, but all opinions expressed are my own.

And if you want to read more about all things Pampers, follow me on Facebook, Twitter or RSS/email.

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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