Crucial Connection


Being an Adventurer-Explorer doesn’t strictly mean traveling for me. It also includes staying connected to the things I love and exploring them in different ways. I also like to try new things and have new experiences. So part of my journey has not only been to see as many places as I can but to follow my whims. I spent a vast majority of my life trying to please others, and I lost myself somewhere in the process. I am the dusty trunk in the attic waiting to be opened with all the forgotten treasures inside. So I have been trying to rediscover myself. I don’t like to say I want to find myself because I never lost myself; I never went anywhere. But I did hide away in the dark corners of myself, and now I just need to coax myself out.

I first started to focus on the things I knew I already loved and enjoyed. Those activities that made me spontaneously smile, feel peace, and made me feel like I had just been birthed into a bright, new world. Since July 2008, I have been a runner. It has spoken to me like a lover whispering a secret. The way I feel on a run when the sun is smiling down, the sky is filled with white puffs of clouds, the breeze is blowing, and my leg muscles are churning is unmatched by anything else in my life. The meditative pounding of my feet and the interaction and connectivity with nature genuinely makes me feel like a balloon that may burst from being too full.

In July 2015, I started a regular yoga practice. I have been lucky to find yoga studios that spoke to my heart. In Colorado, I went to Cambio Yoga Studio, and here in Oregon I go to Seaside Yoga. I can’t even begin to explain all the principles of yoga that have crept into my daily life. On and off the mat, I am able to practice being fully present and attentive in a moment, breathing deeply, and to accept where and who I am at that exact time, not even to mention the strength and flexibility I have gained. To have yoga teachers who know how to reach inside their students and pull out all the light and the shadows and have them harmonize together and to have their students come back and crave more peace, more self-acceptance, and more love is a special gift.

Since I was a child, I have always loved the water. I have a kinship to the ocean, but I love being out on the lakes and rivers as well. I think my initial love of boating came from my dad. He was an avid fisherman, and I learned pretty quickly that the best way to spend time with him was being out on the bass boat fishing. Then I had the opportunity to kayak, and I fell in love with it. My first kayaking experience was in March 2008 in New Zealand when we kayaked through the Marlborough Sounds to Lochmara Lodge. To be out on the rocking waves seeing seals lazily strewn across the rocks, penguins coasting through waves, and jellyfish with long tentacles flowing behind showed me there was no other way to explore or experience water. It was like sneaking into a movie my parents told me I wasn’t allowed to watch. I was exposed to a previously forbidden world that I never would have seen if not for kayaking. So in April 2015, I bought my own kayak. I have continued to kayak lakes and rivers encountering eagles, deer, sea lions, hawks, cows and goats, and just the beauty of the landscape itself.

Which leads me to all the activities that I have just recently discovered. Over the past 7 months, I have started to explore things that piqued my interest. One of those things was art. I have never been an “artist.” If I had any sort of artistic talent the closest thing I have is writing. But somehow I was drawn to art. Even though previously I would classify myself as one of those people who could barely draw a stick figure, I wanted to break that limitation I set for myself. I wanted to crack that mindset. I wanted it to be more about the feeling of creating than the actual final outcome. So I have taken an acrylic painting class, a drypoint class, and a collage class. When I am working on a piece of art, I am completely enthralled. It is like a mother consumed with her newborn baby. I have never had my mind so quiet. I have never been so present and involved in an activity. One of the only ways I can explain it is like being in a trance; it is hypnotic for me. I will be working on a project and the teacher will say, “We have about 30 minutes left.” I look down at my watch, and 3 hours have passed. Art transports me to a creative world where I am free. It has helped me break down walls I have set. Those walls that say, “I can’t do this; I am not an artist. I don’t know how to paint” or “I have never done or even heard of drypoint before.” Now, I just let myself be and create.

The other activity I have found that has challenged me but also helped me unlock a new side of myself is belly dancing. I have always had an interest in belly dancing, but I never pursued it. I never knew where to pursue it. Then one day, I was walking my dog and we passed by the Astoria Arts and Movement Center and there was a sign in the window for belly dancing. When I saw that sign, I knew I had to go. I have never taken a dance class in my life. Well unless you count the few months of ballet in 2nd grade. But I love to express myself through movement. I may or may not have weekly 80’s and 90’s dance parties in my living room.

I think the first lesson that became clear was belly dancing required me to let go. I am driven and competitive which makes me always want to be the best at what I do. But the more I stressed and tensed up, the less I was able to do in class. I always have high expectations for myself. In belly dancing, my body was learning things it had never attempted before: ¾ shimmy walk, body rolls, and hip twists in relevè with my left arm down framing my hip and my right arm up curved above my head. I found myself getting frustrated at first. Instead of connecting with the music and my body, I was fighting my own body and mindset. I found myself saying, “I can’t do this. My body just won’t do this.” It finally clicked that I first needed to just let go of perfection, and all I needed to do was practice. It took me several weeks to finally be able to do a hip twist in relevè, and it is still a move I am working on. Then I was introduced to the ¾ shimmy walk. In a very fast tempo the right hip must go up, down, and then out then the left hip repeats this motion. This continues back and forth to each hip while I have to try and walk. Right now, I am unable to do it very well. But after two months of taking classes, I have eased up on myself. I do the best I can in class then I go home and practice but even more important I connect with my body.

The second lesson I learned, which stems from what I learned in my art classes, was belly dancing is about feeling. It is about being present on the dance floor, feeling my feelings and conveying feelings. I may not have the best ¾ shimmy walk, but if I am connected to the music, to myself, and to the audience (when applicable) that is the most important thing. I have not always been the best at connecting to my feelings or to my body, but it is something I have been actively working on for years. Belly dancing was another avenue for me to work on it. I have went from fighting with my body to appreciating the muscles that move rhythmically with the music and seeing my growth with every class I take. Now I see it is more about feeling good than being good.

I think the most exciting and surprising thing for me is I have agreed to perform our 4 minute belly dancing choreography at the Liberty Theater with 8 other women for Astoria Pride in a few weeks.

I can only hope to embrace my beauty, my body, and the music and let myself just be.

Goddess in Paradise

NassauWhen I travel, there is so much to see in the world that I rarely go back to the same place twice. But there are a few places that lure me back. (And I actually moved to one of them). One of those places is Nassau and Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Every time I visit I seem to connect with others and leave with a deeper understanding of humanity and myself.

My most recent trip was in January of this year. My aunt was looking for a spiritual getaway, and I had been to the Sivananda Ashram on Paradise Island and thought it was the perfect place for her, and me as well. Our initial plan was to take the daily yoga classes, swim in the ocean, and attend a three-day workshop about divine timing and synchronicity. As irony would have it, or divine timing, the workshop we were going to attend was cancelled. The only other workshop available was one about cultivating your inner divine goddess. As the Rolling Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find you get what you need.” Cultivating my inner divine goddess was exactly what I needed.

This trip’s theme ended up being about connecting deeper with other women and with myself. It was a beautiful experience but quite trying. All I have ever wanted was to be seen and understood for who I was. No masks, no hiding, just being vulnerable and honest. Even though this was what I wanted, I didn’t realize how hard it was to let it happen. There was an initial fear associated with standing in my own power of who I was. It was funny how deep doubt can be ingrained all the way to the cellular level.

The workshop was held on a large wooden platform outside as the ocean air blew through and about 20 women sat in a circle. I was surrounded by women who were powerful and beautiful and looking around this circle making eye contact with all these women created a palpable energy. I started to see more in these women than just what was tangible. Locking eyes with each individual woman felt like a camera that sharply catches its focal point then everything in the background is hazy.

The workshop leader asked many questions which we answered and shared with the group. The one question that caught my attention was, “How would life be different if I believed the divine goddess worked through me?” The question made me realize how I still felt separate from the divine, how I still felt separate from myself. I could see it present in others but somehow it wasn’t in me. But if the divine goddess flowed through me, I would have no fear of standing in my truth. All the self-doubt, criticizing, and giving my power away to others would slip away. It was a huge turning point for me. I had this moment of clarity and self-acceptance. This moment of feeling connected to myself and every person around me. To hear other women share their same stories and to hear other women share how they already honored themselves was refreshing. As these discussions continued, it felt satisfying to have these conversations with other women. To be honest without any repercussions or judgments and to feel supported.

One of the things I love about visiting the Ashram is the questions people ask one another. When we normally meet someone in our everyday lives, the first question we ask, after getting someone’s name, is “What do you do?” This question bothers me so much. I have always felt we are so much more than our jobs. It is a surface level question; it is safe. It probably doesn’t help either that I don’t have an answer that most people understand. But at the Ashram, the first question asked, after we get someone’s name, is “Why are you here?” It is such a simple question, yet it always has rich answers. Everyone at the Ashram is on a journey and seems to have an amazing story.

I remember one morning after breakfast I headed to the beach. I was wading in the water watching the cool waves roll into my thighs then pull the sand and small shells out from under my feet. A beautiful young woman was standing 10 feet away doing the same exact thing as me. We made eye contact and smiled. She said, “I will do it if you do it.” We both had been standing there for quite some time deciding when the ripe moment would be to duck under the surface of the waves but neither one of us had made a move. I let out a long sigh through a puckered lip smile and hesitantly said okay. While the sun was sitting brightly in the sky, the ocean still had a chill to her. But we counted to three and both bobbed under the surface. I stayed under for a while to let my body adjust to the new temperature. I popped back up and the young woman was floating close to me.

We started with the “Ashram” introductions as we treaded water. Her name was Erin, and she was on escape from life. She visited the Ashram at least once a year because it replenished her body, mind and soul. Right now her life was hectic, and she needed some quiet reflection time. The Ashram always offered that to her. She was a successful business woman who moved from New York to London. She was single, never married and didn’t have any children. She had spent her 20’s traveling the world then she settled in London and started her own business. She could have fooled me. I thought she was in her 20’s still, but she was in her 40’s. She had a youthful, gentle energy and a radiant smile and skin. She said she loved owning her own company, but it took so much of her energy. She wasn’t able to travel and do all the things she loved like she had been able to in her 20’s. She thought about selling her company so she could be freer, but she was afraid she had become too accustomed to the lifestyle she was living.

She shook her head with a smile on her face then asked about me. Why was I here at the Ashram? I told her this was my second visit here. This time I came with my aunt who needed an escape as well and wanted to have a spiritual getaway. At the time, I didn’t call myself an Adventurer Explorer, so I always said I wasn’t actively working because I had been afforded some opportunities that allowed me to take some time off. In actuality, and this applies now as well, my job is me. My job is to rediscover myself, to take time to have fun with myself, and truly experience the joy in life. I normally didn’t share much more than that, but there was a rapport with Erin. There was an ease to our conversation. My story began to unfold right there in the ocean. I told Erin both my parents had passed away from cancer in 2014 six months apart from each other. While my parents didn’t leave me with millions of dollars, I was still left enough money to be able to spend some time traveling and exploring and following my whims.

Death is always an abrupt wake up call to life. Watching two people pass away who wanted more time to live is unnerving. When they passed, my mom was 61 and my dad was 65. I don’t think I ever took life for granted, but I think it is easy to get lulled into auto-pilot when cruising through life. And I don’t want to miss the ride.

After I finished my story, Erin nodded voraciously understanding the need to not just live, but to experience life. She was a fellow life traveler and appreciated others who shared that common interest.

There is power in connecting with another human being. Erin and I talked for 30 minutes in that ocean. We shared hopes, fears, joys and concerns; we were vulnerable; we were honest; we were our true selves. In that short time, Erin inspired me, and I was in awe. She had amazing experiences of traveling that she shared with me from spending time with monks in India to experiencing an intense Native American ceremony in Oregon. It made me crave traveling even more. To hear her story of how she started her own company and moved to another country, another continent, alone elicited excitement in me for all the possibilities that life has to offer.

She was proof of what could happen when we take chances and risks and believe in ourselves.


DeceptionPassIslandIn 2011, I decided I wanted to run a half-marathon in every state. Combining the two things I loved, traveling and running, seemed ingenious. One thing I realized was there was no better way to see a city than to run through it. Running through streets, downtowns, neighborhoods, state parks, mountains, and everything in between was like seeing into the soul of a city. As I stated in my last blog, I was working on my 17th state last week, which I did accomplish. Up until this point I have run in Tennessee (Nashville), Virginia (Roanoke), Oregon (Portland), Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana (Franklinton), West Virginia (Charleston), Utah (Midway), Colorado (Grand Junction, Aspen, Colorado Springs, Georgetown), North Dakota (Fargo), Georgia (Lawrenceville), California (Santa Cruz), Wyoming (Green River), Texas (San Antonio), Hawaii (Lahaina on Maui), New Mexico (Albuquerque), Nevada (Boulder City), and now Washington State (Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island). Currently on the schedule for May and June is Arizona (There isn’t even a city for that race; it is just GPS coordinates! But it is in Kaibab National Forest.) and Alaska (Anchorage).

When I travel, I will generally drive anywhere that is within 8 hours from me. Anything over 8 hours, and I will usually opt to fly. But there is nothing like a road trip. This last adventure kept me fairly close to home. The drive from Astoria, Oregon to Oak Harbor, Washington State on Whidbey Island was 4 ½ hours. There is nothing quite like the open road. It just happened to be sunny that day. I had the sun roof open, my left leg propped up close to the dashboard, and my music floated out the speakers. The evergreen trees lined the roads and skyline like dutiful soldiers standing tall. Eagles soared in circular patterns never flapping their wings. The sun gently laid her warmth on my skin and the top of my head. (The sun also highlighted how dirty the inside of my windows were.)

En route to my hotel, I stopped at Deception Pass State Park for a hike. I started at Rosario Beach to Bowman Bay and Lottie Bay and up to Lighthouse Point and Vista Point. One thing I noticed was when I was outside, and especially in the woods hiking, it was hard to not breathe deeply. The same air I was breathing was the same air that rustled the tree leaves and blew the blades of grass in a synchronized wave. There was such a peace and relaxation that I just wanted to take it in and be a part of it.

The trail wasn’t overcrowded, but there was a steady amount of people until I arrived to Vista Point. It was there I had the cliff edge all to myself. The silence hung in the air like a framed picture on the wall. The water crinkled and reflected the sunlight, and Mother Nature decided to put on a show. Porpoises arched out of the water breaking the rippling surface. All around seagulls dove at the water surrounding the porpoises, grazing the surface, and pulling back up into flight. The sound of heavy breathing and spraying water caught my attention in the silence as a sea lion swam onto the scene. For quite some time, I sat mesmerized under Mother Nature’s spell; she exposed herself in my own private peep show.

The hike back to the car felt light. I seemed to glide right over the trail, rocks and roots. The path wound around the bay’s shoreline, then dipped into the woods, and then out into a park and open field. The trail picked back up by some campsites where the woods cloaked the trail but occasionally opened like a curtain to showcase the bay, cliffs and islands. The trail eventually led right back to the wooded parking lot.

The other big part of my trip was my half-marathon. It wasn’t sunny on race day, but it wasn’t raining either. The skies were gray and white with just a hint of blue in the backdrop. A strong breeze was blowing in off the bay, and pre-race the runners were hiding behind port-a-potties and buildings to try to block the wind.

The race was released in waves. About 200 people started every 90 seconds; there was about 1,200 runners participating in the half-marathon. I seemed to be surrounded by the half-marathon newbies. It was fun to hear the nervous chatter, and the vows to just survive and never do it again. (I may have uttered those words before my first half-marathon, but I am now 22 half-marathons in, so I don’t think it had much validity).

For each race, I always set three goals. One goal that I know I should be able to accomplish; one goal that is tough and pushes my limits but still within the realm of being possible, and then one final goal that is just out of reach, but hell I never know. Any given race day, right? With my goals in mind, I hovered around the 2 hour and 15 minute pacer before the race began. This race was an out and back on the road that hugged the shoreline. The race started flat for about a mile. Then the road continuously rolled up and down as if it was a wave itself. I decided to not try to stay with the pacer I initially started with and lagged behind. I watched her lean figure with a swinging ponytail get farther away, but I could still see her star-shaped sign she was holding up. That can be hard to do especially for someone like me who is goal-oriented and results-driven. But I decided to run my own race. Halfway through the race, I did pass the pacer. I know I am always a slow starter. Oddly enough, I get stronger as a race goes on. So I always try to keep in mind that I know myself and my own body. A pacer is always an awesome tool to have in a race, but only I know the best way for me to run. I am able to gauge how I am doing around the halfway mark, and then mile 10 is the marker I start to get a good idea of how my race will pan out.

This ended up being my fastest race time since I had knee surgery. My accomplishments are now referred to as pre-surgery and post-surgery. So I guess I had a post-surgery PR. My pre and post-surgery goals and accomplishments have not crossed paths, yet. So they still need their own categories. (That is a discussion for another blog, but there is nothing like tearing your ACL and both meniscus, as well as spraining every other 3 letter acronym in your knee, and then throwing in a cyst for shits and giggles). I took 2 minutes and 28 seconds off my post-surgery PR. It always feels so good to see the finish line sign jutting up above the crowd.

And then realize on this day, I would be accomplishing my goals.