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Traveling, Learning, and Spreading Our Wings

12 Jun

Last week my husband travelled to Norfolk, Virginia to the Afterlife Conference. We met incredible people and learned so much as part of the event “Where shamans break bread with scientists” and walked away with renewed spirits and so much to process.

The rest of the attendees took home lots of memories of journeys and out of body experiences and new forms of deep meditation. I took home a ton of photos and of course, I made you some puzzles. Here is a taste with just a few comments. (Hints are in the captions!) If the images are too small, click on them and they will open in a new window, larger!

If I had a tatoo, it would probably look like that :)!
Which one of these is different? HINT: If I had a tatoo, it would probably look like that :)!
One of the coolest things was that I got to meet someone I follow very closely online, in real life! Carol Cassara is everything I thought she would be and then a bit more — it was kind of like finding out I got to have my all time favorite milk shake (chocolate with coffee ice cream in case you were wondering) and then seeing that it is topped with both whipped cream and chocolate shavings!

Find the three differences. Something is missing, something is bigger, and there is an extra item in the second photo.
Find the three differences in the second image. Something is missing (look up), something is bigger (look straight ahead), and there is an extra item (look down) in the second photo.
Our hotel was on the Elizabeth River overlooking the shipyards where the Navy repaired, upgraded, and retrofit their vessels. The ship in the distance above was not one of those Navy ships!

Find the three differences in the second photo. One jumps off the page in an off color kind of way. One is hanging a bit lower and wider for that matter. The final one looks like someone came out with a chain saw.
Find the three differences in the second photo. One jumps off the page in an off color kind of way. One is hanging a bit lower and wider for that matter. The final one looks like someone came out with a chain saw.
I love how libraries often take on the personality of a city. Norfolk did an amazing job on the exterior of their downtown branch.

It wouldnt be a photo walk without a random scene with some changes. Find the three changes in the second photo. You might have to stand on your head to know how to cross the street; call in th sanitation department– its a bigger job now; and figure out where the bucket of paint fell.
Find the three changes in the second photo. You might have to stand on your head to know how to cross the street; then call in the sanitation department– its a bigger job now; and figure out where the bucket of paint fell.
It wouldn’t be a proper photo walk without a random scene or two. Downtown Norfolk is quiet in the evening and a wonderful place to take a walk. During business hours and on the weekend however, the streets come alive with traffic and people.

Three differences again in this set of photos. Something was turned up side down; there seems to be more signage; and there is an intense spot, right in the middle.
Three differences again in this set of photos. Something was turned up side down; there seems to be more signage; and there is an intense spot, right in the middle.
I took lots of photos of this old theater, the Wells Theatre home of the Virginia Stage company.

Which one of these is not exactly like the others? You could be seeing double or triple.
Which one of these is not exactly like the others? You could be seeing double or triple.
I could have spent a week walking the labyrinth — it is the most amazing brain exercise ever and will be the subject of at least a few more pieces.

What have you been up to?

Inspiration, History, Independence, & The Message of One Charismatic Women

16 Mar

This is the third in a series of pieces on how volunteering in Anse la Raye, St. Lucia with Global Volunteers, working toward raising the IQ of a nation, fundamentally changed my husband Dan and me. The two weeks we spent on the island in this village made us reach well beyond where we thought we were capable of going and moved us so far outside our comfort zones that we had to change how we “saw” the world. P1170064 (2)

Each morning of my service program I walked through the gates of the Primary School in Anse la Raye. Each day the students were lined up on the concrete walk leading to their classrooms. Each morning I was greeted by the powerful voices of staff members delivering the messages of the day or honoring students.

In the middle of my first week, one that ended in St. Lucia’s Independence Day, I walked up as the third grade teacher, Ms. Aleen Edward, was delivering the morning messages.  Ms. Edward, by her presence, her posture and her attitude, commands respect like no one I have ever met. When she speaks, everyone in earshot feels compelled to absolutely pay attention.

In her powerful voice she delivered this question: “What does it mean to be independent?”  And then, after the most perfectly timed pause, “Independence does not mean doing your own thing. Independence means doing the right thing, your own way.”

She went on to deliver the most soul stirring summary of the importance of independence from slavery and outside rule.  And then, just when I thought I could not be more moved, Ms. Edward took my breath away.

“Do the right thing, the positive thing, the good thing in your own way.”

This hard driving, young woman went on with such passion. “Learn from those who are working hard to do the right thing. They learn, they study, they respect,” she said.

She took a deep breath and in a calm but firm voice continued, “Be independent thinkers and independent learners.”

Ms. Edward turned up the volume just a bit and repeated, “Independence is not doing your thing. Independence is doing the right thing your own way.”

Up another notch and, “Read it and say it confidently.”

The whole school – students, teachers, staff, and I – repeated after her:

Independence is not doing your own thing. Independence is doing the right thing your own way.

“Say it again,” she said.

Independence is not doing your own thing. Independence is doing the right thing your own way.

And then louder and louder and louder with each recital.

In the classroom Ms. Edward commands this same respect and moves many of her students to action. She is passionate about teaching and leading and I felt that every time she was near.

Yes, Ms. Edward expects a lot from her students and she drives them very hard but Ms. Edward gets results. I watched student want to perform to get her approval. I watched postures and degree of intensity change simply because Ms. Edward asked a question. That is an amazing and awe-inspiring quality and one that I don’t see, or at least don’t recognize, in my day-to-day life.

As I listened to Ms. Edward that morning, every inch of my body filled with goose bumps, I knew I wanted to write about her and share the story of the impact of one powerful, charismatic woman on this one day on this little school in Anse la Raye.

And I thought about my recurring theme:

One intention, one thought, one action, one moment, one person at a time is the only way to change the status quo.P1170083 (2)

Ms. Edward is moving the needle in a powerful direction. It may not be the right direction for every single child – nothing ever is – but she is a rare, motivating force who inspires those around her to aspire to maximize their personal potential. I remain in awe.


One intention, one thought, one action, one moment, one person at a time is the only way to change the status quo.

From the Journal of St. Lucia Project Team 32: Daily Inspiration & Forming New Habits

26 Feb

It takes two weeks of repeated practice to establish a new habit.

Good thing because I absolutely love, and want to make a habit of, sharing a message of the day with those I am working with each and every day as we are doing each day to start our morning meeting for the St. Lucia Project.

We are taking turns sharing thoughts — some are quotes from others, some are our own thoughts, and some (those shared by the one who just can’t leave well enough alone…me) create a variation of the two.

Here are a few of our thoughts from this week and a few photos.



Challenges are what makes life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.  Joshua J. Marine



Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for your uniqueness on this Earth, you would not be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in world come about. So be that one person!



We spoke yesterday about not knowing what you can or might just love to do until you try. When you move beyond your comfort zone, you expand your horizons and your possibilities. 

I am the keeper of the Journal for Team 32 — it is my responsibility to make sure that everything gets typed in and turned in at the end of the trip. Last night as I was putting in the entries from earlier in day, I read through all the Message of the Day entries. Oh my how we have evolved and oh my how it shows in what we choose to share each day.


From the Journal of St. Lucia Project Team 32: Little Things Catching My Attention

25 Feb

My entry from Monday, February 23 recapping my Friday activities as part of St. Lucia Project Team 32.

“Friday was a bit disjointed for both Barbara and me: RCP had planning meetings and the Primary School was pretty consumed with Independence Day activities. When I arrived at the school all of the children were outside, many dressed in the patriotic colors of the St. Lucian flag. The children answered questions, read passages about historical events, and several teachers spoke about national pride and patriotism. It was fascinating and uplifting to hear and feel the depth of the passion behind the words. There was one thing from the morning session that stuck with. One of the teachers asked the students to name patriotic acts—specific things that citizen might do to show they love their country. The first answer? Vote. It felt like the perfect answer and one I wished that every child would give, everywhere, first.Flag_of_Saint_Lucia

Chemida brought Barbara over to help at the Primary School so we got organized and started down our long list of students to see, ready to have a full day of one-on-one sessions in both literacy and math. On the way to meet Dan and Chemida for lunch, I snapped photos of the route we walked, the houses and buildings on the way, and an awesome pile of nuts drying in the sun. The little things continue to catch my attention. The father holding his child’s hand. How warmly people greet each other. The produce on the tables in the street. The detail of the braids and the care placed in the ribbons and clips in the girls’ at the Primary School’s hair. The trusting reception I continue to get from just about everyone I speak to—especially the children at the school.P1160801

When we got back from lunch Barbara and I found out that there was a competition—game show quiz style and all about Independence Day—that started at 1:15 and lasted the rest of the day. We went in and watched for a while as proud students representing the four “houses” in the school answered questions based on facts about St. Lucia.  I just love the national pride and deep understanding of the island’s history that is taught in the schools….

I seem to be on solid ground with the principal and am loving the one-on-one sessions with the students. Dan continues to be an inspirational rock star. And Barbara seems to be feeling more at ease with her role and appreciate the work she is doing with RCP. Bring on week 2 with all its bumps and disruptions! We are ready!”



From the Journal of St. Lucia Project Team 32: The Inspirational Rock Star

24 Feb

As part of our work on the St. Lucia Project with Global Volunteers we, as a team are keeping a journal. One member per day writes an inspirational message and a different person writes a longer journal entry recapping the previous day. Both are presented at our morning meeting. We have an incredibly small team — there are three of us and I guess the optimum size is 14.P1160797

I have been having a bit of difficulty putting how I feel about my days at the Primary School in Anse la Raye into words and sharing that all with you here. Processing the real life manifestations of a huge cultural differences and easing the cognitive dissonance caused by the gross inequities in the world are going a bit more slowly than I anticipated.  P1160829

My husband Dan has been an inspirational rock star. He is working with a group of young adults in the island’s equivalent of a last chance school. Each one faces serious academic challenges and, for the most part, are not equipped to go out into the world. Here is a piece of his journal entry for Thursday, recapping Wednesday, February 18.

“My message of the day yesterday was about never underestimating your ability to make someone else’s life better and not even knowing it, but how cool is it when you see something happen? A student came in and didn’t think I had anything to offer…. We chatted about day-to-day events and the topic of a job interview came up…. He’s never had one and could I help… and thus began our work.

Barb talked about a good day with lots of working and baby interaction. Ruth had a long day that ended with the knowledge that she did such a good job convincing the principal of her competence that he left her alone…all alone…oops maybe too good a job….”



It all sounds so routine and everyday but hidden between the lines is the fact that Dan might have changed the course of a young man’s life that day. Absolutely staggering….P1160807

I know the humbling daily lessons will continue and the words will come in their own time.

One day, and in some cases, one life changing moment at a time.


Hiking, Learning, and Honoring the Past in Travel Puzzles

3 Sep

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture sometimes the world becomes clearer and you see how everything just seems to fit together.  This week’s exercise is a great example of  just that.  Random slices out of a whole scene don’t tell you the whole story and you don’t get the rich in depth view of the experience.

My bigger picture includes living a purposeful life and I try to push myself each day to amplify my experiences by including those things that are meaningful and important to me on a deeper level. I look for those things I love-what makes me happy and feel fulfilled-and turn the volume up on those experiences.  So, when planning a trip, even a two day train get away, my husband and I try to amplify our experience, and make our travel purposeful where ever possible.

We love to hike,  learn, and uncover pieces of the past so a trip to Painted Rock. Carrizo Plain National Monument via Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner to check out an ancient Native American Chumash site seemed to fit our needs perfectly.

Of course you must always pack the proper shoes for the occasion. This is a photo of me, in my natural environment.

hiking boots

Pre-planing served us well on this trip. Carrizo National Monument is open to the public and there is no admission fee however, Painted Rock is behind a locked gate in a protected area.  From March to mid-July you must get a guided a tour and those can be arranged at the Education Center. The rest of the year, you can do a self-guided tour but you must apply for access, get approved, and get a gate code to access the site.  The night before we left for our trip we got our access code via email!

One of the first things we saw was this rock cluster covered with different colored lichen-the stuff that rock art paint is made of! Orange, green, red, and, at this site, even purple lichen covered the rocks.

paint material

Of course, these creatures (Dan and me), in their natural element must take photos!

shaddow camera

The whole scene was a bit eerie. Here we were, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, completely alone. Or so we thought.  Check out what is coming over the hill.

elk 2

And here he is, in all his glory, at full glide, across the side of the hill. It always amazes me just how graceful full grown elk can be.

Elk 1


At the end of 3/4 mile hike and some serious exploring and wonder, we came to another rock formation just sitting in the middle of this huge plain.  The rocks formed a protected bowl and here is just a sampling of what we found in that bowl.

rock art chumash

The Chumash used this area for ceremonies and gatherings. Standing in the middle of the rocks, you can almost feel the ancients, hear the drums and the singing, see the dancers and painters, and experience the rich history this place holds.

P1130038 (2)

And some bonus photos of this amazing site!

The trail in…. Hot, dry, and completely civilization-free!P1130001 (2)

Across the Carrizo Plain is the dried up Soda Lake…. More on this next week but this shot of the vast plain gives you an idea just how alone we were on this site. Very powerful feeling.

P1130002 (2)

And there, in the distance, was the Painted Rock site.

P1130004 (2)

Rock art is a generic term for the images left behind by the ancients all over the world. There are two types of rock art: petroglyphs and pictographs.

This etching is one of the first images we saw as we walked.  Carvings are called petroglyphs.

P1130041 (2)

Paintings like this one are called pictographs. This particular, was mostly likely painting using lichen similar to what is still present on the rocks less than 1/3 of a mile away (see above).  We believe that this is a symbol that represents and a blanket but no one is really sure.

P1130055 (2)

Many of the stories, legends, and meanings were lost over the centuries but this one is pretty clearly a lizard!

P1130074 (2)

Purposeful travel is such a meaningful and enjoyable way to see the world.  Learn as you go, gain a deeper appreciation, and come out on the other side with a stronger, more connected appreciation of where you and those before you have been.



Travel Dreaming: Infusing Purpose Along the Way

29 Aug

The great thing about travel with the intent to learn, explore, and contribute to the world is that it flings open the doors and windows and gives you a view of the world like no other.  It is harder to hate or be impatient with what you have gotten to know on a more intimate level.  Traveling with a purpose, in my opinion, breeds tolerance and the desire to understand another point of view.  Take it from Mark Twain:

Mark Twain on travel


When you sit down for dinner with someone from another world, the lines that divide us become more blurred and you start to look for what unites us instead of divide us.   In the words of one of my favorite poets

travel maya angelou


I have been travel dreaming about sites closer to home.  What is right in our own backyards? It all, after all, starts at home.

This is one of my favorite travel songs because it talks about the stories we tell ourselves and each other, along the road.

My travel dreams are taking me to a place where we can all start to build a deeper understanding and stronger empathy for each other. A place, in this country where the lines that separate viewpoints are blurred beyond recognition so we can start to examine how we are alike and what unites us instead of being scared shitless of each other. A place where understanding might just might lead to a kinder, more peaceful country. It is a good dream…. One worth having and a conversation that we all need to have.

Do you feel that travel can help bridge gaps?

What are your travel dreams?

Photo Walks: Stories the World Tells When You Pay Attention

11 Jul

Sometimes my husband and I set out on a photo walk with no expectations — just see what we can find when we open our minds to paying attention to the details and open our senses to experiencing what is going on around us.   Recently we knew we set out to find very specific details.

approach to Gilla Bend site

The approach to the site…. Do you notice anything yet?

Above is the approach to the Painted Rock Petroglyph site.   If you look closely you can see some etching on the rocks.  Some ancient some not so ancient….  Now a closer look at that rock.

Petroglyph 3

 My initial reaction was disappointment and file this supposed spectacular native American site under “People can be real idiots”.   But after some thought, a quick attitude adjustment and a bit of research, both 1879 and 1907 have historical significance in the area — a different history but history none the less.  We pressed on and look what we found….

petrogly[h 4

Oh my….

And around the next corner….

glyph 5

Oh the stories on these rocks…. staggering

We have been to quite a few Native American sites across the southwest.  Some absolutely breath taking but we have never seen a site where the carvings tell entire stories.   We follow the story of a hunt and the sun rising/seasons changing and a child growing up…all documented in stone more than 2,00o years ago.   We did not have a modern translator or a book to guide us — the stories were right there for us to see.   No doubt about it….


Here are a few more images from this wonderful Hohokam site.  Enjoy, appreciate, and learn from the stories.  What do you see in these?

6 glyph




Don’t forget to pay attention to the stories the world has waiting for you — right in front of your eyes.

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