Why I give my money to FLYTE

I started traveling when I was very young, and visiting different cities and experiencing other cultures has made a lasting, positive impact on my life.

Because of this, one of my missions is to support others in growing and living a full life through travel and Nomadic Matt’s nonprofit called FLYTE allows me do this in a way that tangible and meaningful.

From their website:

“The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) is a nonprofit organization that empowers youth living in underserved communities through transformative travel experiences. Today’s education system provides very little in the way of global education, and many struggling schools and teachers have little or no opportunity to offer their students access to resources that can provide any type of experiential international education. FLYTE was created to change that.”

What FLYTE does aligns perfectly with two of my passions: seeing the world and making it a better place for everyone!

The most recent school they took on a trip was Victor School in rural Montana. I received an update about the trip via FLYTE’s newsletter and was deeply touched by how these students were changing inside and out. Most of the students had not ever been outside the U.S. and they made the brave trip out of their comfort zone to Guatemala. They learned about the local culture they visited, interacted with locals and engaged in volunteer work. Along the way, they learned about themselves too.

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The students have an opportunity to journal and reflect on their journey. They noticed that what they see on the news is not always accurate about other people and countries. (!!!!!!) They realized how little some people in other countries live with – like clean water, toilet paper, education, and much more. These students found gratitude for what they had back in the states and an new appreciation for the lives of people unlike them.

You can read the full post here. Please take the time to do so.

I just learned that the next school chosen will be from Oakland, CA, and they’ll travel to Colombia. I can’t wait to hear about how their trip unfolds, opens their hearts, and changes them in such a lovely way.

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I donate monthly to FLYTE because I see how it’s helping make the world a better place starting with these young folks. These kids will take their learnings and new-found enthusiasm for exploring back to their hometowns and will hopefully encourage others to open their minds to people who are different.

FLYTE recently featured me as part of their Donor Spotlight series. My spotlight is posted here if you want to hear more about why I love this organization.

I invite you to join me in contributing to the significant growth for these young people by setting up a monthly donation to FLYTE. It’s a wonderful way to keep this work going AND getting a tax deduction!

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Being Good Enough

Being Good Enough

Several years ago my daughter played the cello when she was in elementary school and it thrilled me to no end. The sound of the cello resonates deep in my body. It’s melancholy, and I hear it sing a sad song of yearning and longing for the beloved.

It is truly my favorite instrument – and she was damn good.

So when the kiddo switched to the clarinet, well . . . that was a sad day for me. And when I was required to complete a heartfelt project in the second year of my Master’s Program, I decided that it was time for me to give it shot and learn to play.

I was pretty nervous about this undertaking. I’d not played any instrument since I took piano lessons as a child and over the years had developed a misbelief that I was not creative enough to play anything.

And not only would I be learning to play the cello in a few short months, but there were rumors that I just might possibly perform in front of my 200-person class at the end of the year . . .

So off I went. I hired an amazing cello instructor named Emily at Baxter Northrup, rented a beautiful cello that I named Neda, and met with my Project Team mates (Alycia Schlesinger and Jenny Caruso) twice a month for mutual support.

I practiced in hiding at first because I was embarrassed about my playing but with my husband’s encouragement, I quickly learned to ignore the negative self-talk and moved from the bedroom to the living room for my evening routine.

During our Project Team meetings, I shared with Alycia and Jenny all of the fears and judgments that surfaced about myself while pushing my edge this way. They all boiled down to “I wasn’t good enough.”

The final criteria to fulfill my project was to perform in front of my Project Team – easy – they loved me and cheered me on the entire time. As we neared the end of the year though, I started to wonder what it might be like to actually perform in front of my large class.

When the time came, I signed up to perform for the class on the final day (with everyone else who opted to present their completed project). I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep well the night before. I asked myself, “Who are you and why in the world are you doing this??”

I somehow managed to make it to class, walk up on stage with my heart pounding, coherently say some kind of introduction to the class, and play.

And here’s the thing: I was pretty bad. I didn’t practice enough as I probably should have and I sat up there squeaking away. I knew when I decided to perform that my playing wasn’t going to sound that great and some of my notes were going to be off. But I wanted to challenge myself anyway. Could I get up there and let others see me unpolished and imperfect?

As I played the last note, I looked up and saw my fellow classmates erupt into a standing ovation. It went on for a long while as I bowed in gratitude. I remember looking over at my husband, Alycia, and Jenny and seeing all three of them crying. I could see on their faces how proud they were of me. It was a pretty special moment.

I left the stage thinking, “Wow! I just did that!” and I was high the rest of the day. This was a significant stretch for the introvert who prefers to be in the background. Students congratulated me all weekend and several thanked me. One person said, “I realized when I saw you up there that I didn’t have to be perfect and that was freeing.”

I’ve become a fan of being good enough, of ignoring the whispers of ego-perfection, of letting whoever I am in the moment be just fine.

Go Change Lives, Mom

Go Change Lives, Mom

“Go change lives, mom.”

That’s what my kiddo said to me the other day as my husband and I left for Madera, CA, to spend three days in a women’s prison.

This was a service project with 80+ other volunteers for the Freedom to Choose Foundation led by Drs. David and Bonnie Paul. For three days we teach and practice communication skills with the women and these skills are life-changing for them. They share with us how much they learn and how they use the skills with their fellow inmates and their families. (You can learn more about this on the FTC website freedomtochosefoundation.org. And watch these videos!)

But I’ll tell you what the secret ingredient is for these experiential workshops. It’s not just communication skills the women are getting from us. They are also getting our open hearts and our care and our loving attention.

When I first volunteered for FTC several years ago, I was afraid of going into a prison, of being around people who had committed murder, of the correctional officers, the watch towers and metal fences everywhere. The no bargaining for hostages policy was sobering. My fear lasted for all of three minutes as the inmates greeted me with gratitude, smiles, and hugs. What really struck me was how much the women in prison were yearning for connection, for someone to care. And not just the women – we completed our first workshop in a men’s prison last year, which was amazingly successful, and I experienced the same thing: people wanting someone to care.

This recent workshop was my fifth time volunteering for FTC and as I share about this with other people, I’m often asked the question, “Why do you go and spend your time doing this?”

How do I put into words what it feels like watching someone who has felt worthless their whole life and has made decisions based on that finally start to see that there actually is good inside of them, of watching their heart open to loving and care for the first time in years? Or perhaps the first time ever? To watch someone realize that they can make different choices and that they are worthy of love and kindness and can give that back to others. To hear a lifer say that even though she’s in prison she can start to be a better person to herself and those around her. In the men’s prison, one man said to me, “I come from the projects and I always thought that’s where I belonged. I’m realizing that I have other choices and that this is my designed community of caring people.” There are no words for how deeply moved I am to be part of this.

Sometimes people ask me if the inmates deserve it – the bigger question they are asking is do people in prison deserve us to treat them with loving, respect, and kindness and deserve to have a free self-improvement workshop given to them. That question is short-sighted.  And my short answer is yes. They’re doing their time, and, as one inmate put it, prison is hell. Some are paying reparations for their convictions. I met one woman who had been in prison for more years than I’ve been alive. And if they want to learn a new way to be and learn how to be better people and better citizens of our society, let’s help them do that.

The bottom line is that if people feel loved, if they feel good about themselves they will make different choices with their lives. It’s likely that a lot of these women will be paroled sometime in the future. Doesn’t it just make sense to give them tools that they can actually use to make their lives better when they’re out?

I hear their stories of repeated physical and sexual abuse, forced prostitution, neglect, betrayal and I understand why they wound up in prison. I’m not making excuses for them, and I’m not advocating emptying the prison system. My message here is one of understanding and empathy. The Freedom to Choose Foundation is proving that people in prison can make positive lasting changes in their lives.

This has easily been one of the most profound experiences of my life. If you’d like to help with real and lasting rehabilitation, check out the Freedom to Choose Foundation and donate or spread the word.

The JOY!

The JOY!

I was talking to one of my friends recently and she asked me how I was doing. I shared with her that I was feeling extraordinarily well and have been for weeks. I also shared that I was starting to feel guilty about telling people how great I was doing.

This is what’s been fun and sometimes challenging to share with people: Since the end of December, I’ve been feeling amazingly great – and I mean super-duper fantastic. I’m experiencing deep peace inside. More internal and external freedom, copious amounts of joy, contentment that I’ve not felt before, courage to dream and try new things.

(There are several reasons for what I’m feeling and they can basically be summed up by saying that I’ve started doing things I enjoy rather than things that I feel obligated to do.)

This feeling was further deepened when I was driving home from an appointment a few weeks ago and remembered a Byron Katie quote and had a powerful awareness that struck me in every cell in my body. The thought was, “I have everything I need. I have every single, little thing that I need – and I always have.

“When you realize that whatever you need is what you get, life becomes paradise.” -Byron Katie

Writing about it now, I’m not sure that I can truly convey the profoundness of this experience for me. Not only do I have everything I need financially, but emotionally and spiritually. And I always have.

Driving on the freeway that morning, I laughed for a long time in my car and experienced such a deep sense of gratitude.

And the only time I step out of that peace is when I think I don’t have enough or I need more than I have.

So when people ask me how I’m doing, I want to say that I’m feeling so freaking fantastic that sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs!

Not to say that I don’t have challenges – I do, because I’m human. I sometimes feel hurt and sad and angry. But I feel different when those challenges come up. I’m different, and I approach those situations differently.

And I’ve felt guilty saying that up until now. I’ve been feeling guilty sharing with people how amazing my life is – how amazing life is.

My silly irrational thoughts? They were:

  • Maybe the person I’m talking to will feel bad because they’re not feeling as good as I am.
  • Maybe the person I’m talking to is going through a hard time and doesn’t really want to hear some loony talking about inner peace.
  • Maybe someone will think I’m full of shit.

Ha! What BS!

So here I am sharing my JOY!

I won’t hide my light because of or for others because of some false sense of loyalty or protection. In fact, Joy is contagious, so spread it around!

In what subtle ways are you dimming your light? Be still and let this question sit for awhile. What comes forward?

 

A Thought on Depression

A Thought on Depression

Depression can be a stepping stone to the next higher version of ourselves, and, as someone who has experienced depression in the past, this was the case for me. You can click here for a quick post about reframing depression and the opportunity it affords someone if the message it has can be heard.

“The word ‘depressed’ is spoken phonetically as ‘deep rest.’ We can view depression not as a mental illness, but on a deeper level, as a profound (and very misunderstood) state of deep rest, entered into when we are completely exhausted by the weight of our own identity.
Jeff Foster

Not that depression is restful – it’s not. It can be deeply painful.

But have you ever felt exhausted by who you thought you had to be – by the weight of your own identity? By the false self that has been a heavy facade to carry?

It’s unnecessary, and it’s time to put it down.

 

My Highlights of 2013

I’ve been reflecting on the blessings of my life this past year and my cup runneth over. And I found myself pondering this quote:

“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”  -Zora Neale Hurston

Last year was a year that asked many questions – really great questions – of me. Questions such as: What kind of person do I want to be as I get older? How am I going to use all of the gifts that I have in a more impactful way? What risks can I take that I haven’t let myself take in the past? What do I want my life to mean to me and others? How can I live a more wholehearted life? How brave can I be?

The personal highlights I list below prompted me to ask these questions. I’m still steeping in them. I’ve decided to list only five highlights from the past year (in no particular order).

1. Becoming licensed – I’ve known that I wanted to be a therapist since I was six years old. It’s true. I’m not even sure that I really understood what a therapist was when I was six, but I knew that I was a good listener and that I’d be able to counsel. When I started this journey towards becoming a licensed therapist, I thought I would learn how to be a therapist and help others. I didn’t realize how much I would grow personally and how much I would heal while in school, and I most definitely didn’t realize how important and significant my personal healing would be for my career as a therapist. (More on this in a future post!) When I learned I passed my last test, well, that was a fantastic day.

2. Traveling to Italia – My husband and I spent a week in Florence and a week in Rome with another couple that are our dear friends. I can talk all day about how beautiful the country is and how much I miss being there. This was a significant trip for us for many reasons. It was one of the longer trips we’ve taken together, and we had a magical time. We both have parents who are immigrants to this country, in fact my husband’s not from the U.S., and we consider ourselves global citizens. I came back inspired to live life differently and more deliberately and listed some of my Italian photography for sale on Etsy. This delicious trip sparked a renewed commitment to travel with the realization that we had created more freedom in our lives to do this, and we’ve committed to visiting a new country every year. This takes planning, cooperating, and saving! Next on the list? The majestic land of New Zealand.

3. Moving to part-time – I’ve been working full-time since my daughter was born. When she turned 19 last year, I realized that I had been working full-time in order for us to survive: pay rent, buy food, pay bills, etc. Playing safe in order to take care of us both, which was necessary at the time for a young mother like me. I had been operating in survival mode for a long time. Now that she is an adult herself, working, driving and taking care of herself much more, I had the opportunity to expand into taking more risks if I wanted to with my career. In June, I quit my full-time job and starting working very part-time. This was a frightening transition, and I’m still in the process of learning to structure my time, but it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Without the grind of a full-time commitment, I’ve been able to slow down and I actually have energy to enjoy going out and spending time with my friends. There’s more space in my life and in my head to sit in silence and wonder in amazement about what’s next for me. I love this. I love the space and have found that ideas and inspiration are coming forward that couldn’t before.

“Let go of promises you’ve outgrown.” -Danielle LaPorte

4. Volunteering for the Freedom to Choose Foundation – I’ve volunteered for the FTC workshops in the women’s prison in Chowchilla, CA, twice before 2013. But when I returned this past October, something was different – I was different. The work that’s being done with the workshop participants is nothing short of miraculous, but this time I allowed myself to open my heart much more. I allowed myself to be touched in an even deeper way by the courage of the women in prison to dive into their healing no matter how painful it was for them. In November, we brought the FTC workshop to a men’s prison for the first time. I expected the men to be harder to reach. I expected that the men would be too macho to cry or to be vulnerable and open up to strangers. I don’t think I could’ve been more off the mark. Their emotions were just under the surface and they were yearning for connection. A lot of healing crying happens during these workshops, and the men’s FTC was no different. I heard men say, “I’ve never been treated like a human being before you came here” with tears in their eyes. They were kind and respectful and desperately wanted to learn anything to help them be better people. They were making the best of their lot. The weekend was one of the most profound experiences of my life, and I’m eager to go back. It’s truly work of the heart. Mind = Blown!

5. Starting to write – I’ve never considered myself a writer before. I didn’t think I was good enough or that anyone would want to read what I had to write about. Starting to write this blog was a huge step in realizing more of who I am. Using my name for the URL and expressing myself to a wider audience was challenging at first. I tend to be more contemplative and quiet, and I’ve enjoyed stretching myself to communicate in a more public way. I’ve also had an idea for a novel rattling around in my head for several years. It’s about a topic that’s dear to my heart, and my husband (who’s a published author) finally sat me down and started coaching me through the process of starting to write my book. It’s slow work and sometimes painful, and I’m taking it quite literally word by word.

What will 2014 bring? I’m ready.

What were your top highlights from last year? I’m interested – share below.

Liberation

A dear friend gave this quote to me a while back. I wanted to share it today as lately I find myself contemplating it frequently:

The moment of liberation arrives when you realize your
approval is the only validation you need…the moment of
liberation arrives when you stop “trying” to change people
and change yourself…the moment of liberation arrives
when you stop asking for permission and give yourself
permission…the moment of liberation arrives when you
realize nobody can hurt you only your thoughts and
interpretations do…the moment of liberation arrives when
you realize nobody can give you love for love is what you
are…the moment of liberation arrives when you stop
seeking outside of yourself and look within yourself to
discover that is where the answers lie…the moment of
liberation arrives when you realize “people” are simply
yourself mirrored back, there is truly but ONE expressed
uniquely as many. The moment of liberation arrives when
you realize how you “see” the world is the only way you will
experience it. –Judah Isvaran

I’ve read this many times, and each time the words seem to sink in deeper. To me this quote means living from my authentic self and becoming aware of when I’m depending on another for my peace and happiness. For my peace and happiness is my responsibility and not someone else’s.

This quote means not living unconsciously as if my life is done to me rather than something I can co-create.

How am I choosing to see this amazing world that I live in? How am I choosing to experience it?

My First Post!

My First Post!

Welcome to my website!

About a year and a half ago, I met my dear friend Jennifer Herrera. She has been cultivating her blog these past few months, and I’ve been inspired by her openness and vulnerability.

I’ve written a few blogs and posts here and there under different titles – one about being the mom of a teen and another called the Green Challenge, which was fun and time consuming! (My friends tell me they still think about that challenge when they buy disposable dishware! Yes!)

But this blog here is my own. And I’m giving myself permission to write anything and everything that I want to. This is new for me – I’m a natural introvert and don’t usually seek attention or share on a large scale. But I’ve also realized that I have a lot to say about a lot of things. So here we go.

I’m excited to see what comes forward here. Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Here’s to having fun!