The Story of Three

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For as long as I can remember, I wanted to have children. Throughout my life I have been involved with organizations that center around children and education. I volunteered at MDAnderson Cancer Center in Pediatrics working with outpatient children, I acted as an advocate with Child Advocates, Inc. and I support the organization Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®, a research-based, trilingual, mindfulness and yoga program designed to empower people of all ages to make OHMazing® choices for their bodies, minds and hearts on and off the yoga mat. Most recently, I partnered with In-Powered, by One Significant Act, a non-profit organization to host retreats at Elm Flats Ranch. Through these retreats, we utilize the healing benefits of yoga to help empower our youth. And my proudest achievement has been to raise money to build a pre-kindergarten school in Bali for the Bali Children’s Project.

In the dream to have children, I cannot say that I ever thought that much about getting married. Even though the expectation in a traditional society is that you get married first and then you have babies. When I turned 35, I went to my gynecologist for a routine annual exam and he handed me a card after the exam with a fertility specialist’s name on it. I asked him, “what is this for?” and he looked at me and said, “you might want to consider having your eggs frozen.” I remember the shock I felt over his suggestion. I didn’t need to freeze my eggs. I had plenty of time. Before I left his office, I threw the card in the trash.

Fast forward to 38 years old at the end of 2012 and the abrogation of a difficult and painful relationship. The circumstances around its demise sent me to a very dark space in my life. I felt completely out of control and was literally breaking down. I was not stimulated in my work, the air at home tasted stale and my yoga practice was the only thing that brought me any peace. I was restless, as happens to me often and when I feel restless, I must travel. I needed a change in order to create space and distance for what would come next in my life. Kids.

I quit my job and my sister lovingly agreed to move into my house and take care of my dog while I gallivanted across the world for an indeterminate amount of time. In May 2013, I took off, leaving everything familiar for everything unfamiliar. My best friend lived in Malaysia and I had a network of friends in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I spent the better part of 3 months off and on, along with a month each in Bali, Australia and India. During this time, I healed, I played, I practiced yoga, I contemplated having children as a single mother and unexpectedly, I fell madly in love.

We loved each other deeply and were very happy for the better part of two years, but our relationship was complicated by many factors, including long distance, different countries of residence and being at different life stages. Thus, ultimately, we made choices that were in the best interest of ourselves rather than our relationship. I believe, however, that this relationship prepared me for motherhood, as it has been the most generous, fulfilling and loving partnership I have ever entered into and I am grateful for all of it.

After six months away, I decided to return home from Asia. I began my research and purchased the book Choosing Single Motherhood, the Thinking Woman’s Guide, by Mikki Morrissette. I devoured everything in it. In my mind, there were two challenging aspects in consciously choosing single motherhood. The first challenge was raising a child without a father. I had an extremely close relationship with my father, who died when I was only 25. The difficult part for me was that my child would not get to experience that close bonding relationship. The question I had to ask myself at the time was, “is not providing a father for my child enough to keep me from pursuing my dream of having a family?” My answer, ultimately, was no. In my heart, I knew that everything my father had taught me about life would move through me and affect how I raised my children. The second challenge for me was the stigma attached to being an unwed single mother. I don’t know why this bothered me initially, as I love to challenge the status quo, so I got over that one pretty quickly.

In 2014, a lawyer friend of mine, also contemplating single motherhood, had made an appointment with a highly recommended fertility specialist at Baylor. I asked her if I could go with her to the interview so I could garner an impression of him. I liked him immediately. He was very honest about what he was willing and not willing to do given certain scenarios regarding a donor and he didn’t sugar coat the situation. But he was adventurous and hopeful and I liked that about him. I made my own appointment with him and began the process of testing to see what shape my reproductive system was in at 39 years of age. Everything looked good, except that my Anti-Mullerian Hormone levels were extremely low. We discussed my options and the statistics given my age, hormones and follicle status. We decided that we would start with IUI, also known as inter-uterine insemination.

During this period of time, I actively saw an Ayurvedic practitioner who helped me prepare my body for pregnancy. We started with Panchakarma, a week long purification and detoxification ritual in Eastern medicine that helps to restore balance to the body by removing deep seated stress, impurities and toxins. It was a perfect end to all that had come before and a clean slate for all that was to come. Over the course of the next six months, I took Ayurvedic herbs to stimulate my reproductive organs and create a hospitable environment for a baby.

The last thing I had to do was choose a donor. This process felt like online dating, except that I was choosing a biological daddy for my child. It was an enormous and overwhelming decision. Everyone asked me what I would be looking for in a donor. My family history is global like the United Nations. My father was a South African Jew who married a Texas born Lebanese Episcopalian, who converted and raised their family in the Jewish faith. I was not that concerned about finding a Jewish donor and there were not that many donors anyway. To me, the most important thing in finding a donor was what kind of human is he? I wanted to feel a resonance of the heart and soul. What did he believe in? What were his social views? Did he sound kind and sincere? Was he interested in service and love, kindness and equality? One of the first photos that grabbed my attention was of a child, whose smile took up his whole face and whose eyes shined bright. Something about his photo told me, this kid is happy and kind. When I clicked on his biography, one of the questions he had to answer was what do you want to teach your children? His answer was LOVE. It didn’t hurt that his mother was also Lebanese and he had spent a lot of time living abroad, eyes wide open to the world. I accumulated about twenty profiles and had to make a decision quickly, so I invited a good friend over and we opened a bottle of wine, had dinner and my sister, friend and I weeded out all the no’s. At the end of the night, I had five profiles to decide between. The next day, I sat in my office with the door closed, clock ticking and stress accumulating until I had but one option. I chose the happy child full of love. It was no contest really. I always came back to him.

My doctor told me that statistically, the number of times it takes to get pregnant with IUI is between five to seven times. From that analysis, I decided I would try three times. If it didn’t work, then I would think about IVF and adoption. In March of 2015, I became pregnant after the second IUI. I was elated, terrified and in disbelief. A month later, I went for my first ultrasound and imagine my surprise when my sister held up two fingers, eyes as big as saucers while the tech simultaneously announced that I was pregnant with twins! There is no doubt that I was floored by this news. I knew it would be challenging enough raising one child alone, but I was completely unequipped for two. I cried for two days.

Other twin moms pointed out to me what a blessing it was to have twins and how it would make my life easier in certain ways. What I did for one, I would do for the other and they would have each other to play with, rather than always looking to me for entertainment. At the time, I did not find any of this information comforting. I felt completely terrified over how I would financially be able to provide for two children. Eventually, I got over it and fourteen weeks into my pregnancy I discovered they were both girls. In my daydreams, I had always seen a little girl with bouncing curls running through the grass at our family’s ranch.

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I flew through the first half of my pregnancy with little fanfare. No morning sickness or weird ailments, but the exhaustion in the first trimester was remarkable. And then, at twenty weeks, I began fainting in random places. I would begin to get dizzy, then break out in cold sweats, ears buzzing and if I didn’t lay down wherever I was, I would pass out. It would take thirty minutes to an hour for me to recover after an episode and I never felt quite right after that. I once had to lay down on the floor of a movie theater under a row of seats. I missed half of the movie that night. Other interesting locations included floors of restaurants, doctor’s offices and fetal position in my car. I was a total mess and none of the doctors could truly reveal what was happening to me. After visits to neurologists and cardiologists, my doctors put me under house arrest. We set up my office at home and I worked when I was able to sit up. The twins were sucking all of my energy and I felt paralyzed. It was a humbling experience to not have any control over my own body, its reactions to specific activities or the two humans growing in my body. Every movement had to be deliberate and slow.

…I have been stripped naked. I stand empty and barren of who I believed myself to be, but belly full of who I am becoming. I have been put in my place and armed with the knowledge that I have no control over my body, what it is creating, nor what it will ultimately produce. I have been forced to surrender slowly, but assuredly. As these tiny creatures, these as yet to be named humans have forcibly slowed me down to a standstill, robbing me temporarily of  my ability to move my body or ponder on anything other than my next meal or whether I will make it to my next stop without being forced to lie down and restore…

I had a strong desire to birth these babies the old fashioned way. It was a long shot, as I was high risk and my first born spent more time breech than vertex, while my second child felt comfortable enough my whole pregnancy to lay sprawled out transverse like Cleopatra. My obstetrician planned to take them out at 37 weeks, but when it was clear that my body would not go into labor on its own, she waited until 38 weeks to call it. I could barely walk anymore and I felt ready.

The Women’s Hospital of Texas provided me with two phenomenal labor and delivery nurses who made me laugh and eased my anxiety about an epidural and were there every step of the way. My C-Section was unremarkable, except that my first born aspirated and had to be sent to the NICU for a few hours and then spent two days under the photon lights for jaundice. But both of my girls, Sydney and Sasha, were born healthy and came into my arms eyes wide open and ready to take on the world.

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When I first touched Sydney’s hand, she was purple and wrinkly and I asked her if she would like the name Sydney Celeste and she gladly accepted it. I did the same for Sasha Adele. I could not believe how easy it was to fall so madly in love with the both of them. I have been mesmerized by every single moment with them. We all went home after three days to begin our life together.

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Everyone in my life supported the choice I made to be a single mother. My mother was cautious and thought I was a little insane, but these children have brought our family closer together in ways I never could have imagined. And I know that she is happy to be a grandma. My sister has been an unbelievable auntie to my girls and the best kind of friend to me. It is outstanding to witness how much she loves them and I know without a doubt that if anything were ever to happen to me, she would raise my children as if they were her own.

…Tiny hands gently palm my face, exploring with genuine curiosity at what I can only imagine is love. Their lustrous eyes discover mine and their mouths fall open to adorable smiles. Indiscriminate tones incite them to giggle, pleasing the senses in the most heavenly way. As they discover new tastes, a delayed reaction produces sounds from their lips with exuberant glee. My heart swells with enough propulsion to explode out of my chest, leaving me susceptible to the deepest kind of vulnerability. I feel an uncontrollable desire to drop to my knees and thank whomever is in charge for giving me the honor of guarding their souls.
After 6 months, it is all things. Equal parts an indescribable kind of love, exhaustion, elation, loss of distinction between self and children and the most awesome responsibility imaginable. Happy 6 months #sydandsash

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Syd and Sash at 6 months

I will never again be the woman I was before I had these sweet babies. I notice the significance of that as I begin to come out of the fog of being a new mama, in an attempt to reclaim some of my life. The friendships that have disappeared are mostly those of childless friends who do not appear to connect to my changed lifestyle and lack of freedom to pick up and go. I miss those relationships and yet I understand the circumstances. There are other friendships, however, where bonds have been created or deepened that I did not expect. They feel a profound connection to my children or me that has driven them to seek out more connectivity and time spent with us. I genuinely appreciate everyone’s patience while I learn to navigate the way of things.

Raising children as a single mother by choice, with a full time career is by far the most challenging undertaking of my life and also the wisest decision I have ever made. I do not have a single regret. These beautiful children are little miracles and a blessing of epic proportions. My emotions and expressions of what it feels like to be a mother are best summarized in A Letter of Love to My Babes on their First Birthday.

I have been approached by several women over the last few years who have shared with me their stories of longing to be a mother. They are all unmarried and approaching 40 or have surpassed it. They commend me on my choice to be a single mother, but either do not feel that it is right for them or are still trying to decide whether they can realistically handle the choice. I share the story of three to demystify what it means to consciously choose single motherhood and to remove the stigma surrounding what a family “should” look like. The naked truth is that parenting is difficult, whether one is married or not, whether there are two parents or only one. Today, families are created in many different forms and I believe the most fundamental importance in raising a family is how much those children will be loved and provided with the best tools to lead a happy and productive life. The wisdom of uncertainty is that life does not take all of us in the same direction. Sometimes, we must be brave enough to forge a new path in order to live the life we want.

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A Letter of Love to My Babes on their First Birthday.

I now realize that I have been walking around my whole life, while my heart carried two little pockets sewn onto it. And when you were born, the essence of both of you floated effortlessly into those pockets and filled up my heart, such that every time I hold you and you smile at me or put your arms around me and nestle your head into my chest, I literally feel tiny explosions of joy from the inside out.

In your sweet innocence and wonder in everything you experience, I find you come as close to perfection as I could possibly imagine in any human. You see the world with confined acquaintance and limited understanding of its complexity and yet, maybe it is through your eyes that the world is in impeccable harmony with all that is.

One of my favorite moments of the day is coming to wake you in the morning. I pick you up and instantly, with your sleepy eyes, you smile and search for your sister. “Buenos dias mi hermana!” I say, and you both begin to giggle and babble and I am in bliss.

Sometimes in the middle of the night, you wake up with night terrors. Most of the time I let you soothe yourself back to sleep, but sometimes I just want to be the one who comforts you back to that deep, twitching slumber. To feel you breathing with your whole body as you lean into me and to know that all you needed was your mama.

It is an epic responsibility to be charged with your safety and care on a daily basis. To know that everything I do, whether right or misguided will impact you in some way. There is strength in my desire to protect you, but not too much. To teach you how to be kind, considerate, independent, conscious and loving people who regard all life with dignity and respect. I want to impart all the ways that there is so much more to life than staring at technology all day or test scores or even what everyone else has that you don’t. I want to show you how important it is to listen to your sister and everyone else and how valuable face to face communication still is. I want to teach you that you will always have more than you need and the value in giving to anyone who is in need.

I want to present you with a wide eyed view of the world and tell you that your life can be a manifestation of whatever you are big enough to dream. I want to see you running through the grass at Elm Flats chasing butterflies and looking up at the sky wondering what else is out there. I want to turn over rocks in remote corners of the world with you and watch as your eyes grow wide with fascination, wanting to taste and feel everything. I want to see how you learn to discern from what is valuable and needed and what is not.

But for right now, I am happy to bear witness to all of the tiny moments, such as which teeth will come in next, what your next word will be, when will be the day when you walk across the room grinning so big, your smile wraps around your head. When you will figure out the star goes in the star hole. When you will give each other your first hug. You already know how to give eskimo kisses and now I am just waiting for a really big slobbery kiss on the cheek.

You have so much love around you. Your tia and your grandma adore you and that abundance of love has brought all of us closer together as a family. You are the place where our attention is turned to, where our focus is on what is best for you.

On this, your very first birthday, I wish you all happiness and love and magical discoveries. You are so loved. Happy birthday #SydandSash.

~ Your adoring mama

Life Lessons from 40 Trips Around the Sun

  1. Love has no boundaries.
  2. In the darkest of times, I can still go out into the world and find something of exquisite beauty. Darkness will continually cast shadows, but sooner or later, the sun will always make an appearance and shine its light.
  3. I am in charge of my own happiness. I create the life I want to live.
  4. Take time to really listen and be there for the people you love… whether it is your friends, lovers or even strangers. Everyone needs to be heard.
  5. I knew from an early age that the road I would travel would not conform in time or space to that of convention. Acceptance of what is has afforded me great freedom in living life on my own terms.
  6. I pay serious attention to my instincts.
  7. I have never ever allowed for anyone else to restrain my dreams and desires based on their limited views of “reality” or how life ought to be lived.
  8. Fear is the one limiting factor in our own life’s experience and finding a way to push through has allowed for me to wander the world and taste, see and feel as much as possible.
  9. Every door that has painfully been slammed in my face, has ultimately forced me in a new direction and created room for me to be invited into something new and brilliantly more favorable than I could have imagined.
  10. You can’t have something if you don’t ask for it.
  11. It is important to open the heart and mind to everything life has to offer. For you never know when that one thing you keep saying no to could be the best thing that ever happens to you.
  12. Take time off. Go on a quest. Go wander the world. Open my eyes. Make my own rules.
  13. My world is a reflection of my Self. If all I ever saw was misery, pain, toxic relationships, war and ugliness, I would never get out of bed. Instead, I choose to move toward love and humanity for all living beings and be of service where I can.
  14. Be humble. Never believe that I am better or smarter than anyone else or that I deserve more or that I am always right. That is how I lose every time.
  15. Everyone is our teacher. We have something to learn from everyone. Whether it is something useful to enhance your perspective or it is useless and solidifies your opinion about something, make an effort to be empathetic to other people’s points of view.
  16. In order to be my best for someone else, I must also be my best for myself.
  17. It isn’t all about me. It is about the collective. It is about community.
  18. Be humble. Be grateful. Be kind. Be love.
  19. Do not be rigid in dogma, opinion, extreme in religion, politics or life.
  20. Forgiveness can’t come until I mourn what I think I have lost. Forgiveness must come from the soul.
  21. It’s ok to get goddamn good and angry sometimes. Pain always needs to find a way out.
  22. Live in integrity. Be honest. Be truthful. Be Loyal.
  23. Take responsibility for my own actions and words.
  24. I have found that one of the secrets to a healthy relationship is accepting my partner right where they are. Not hoping and wishing that one day they would meet some expectation I have to be anything other than who they are. I wake up every morning and take time to breathe in the beauty and appreciation I feel for that person lying right by my side. There must be symbiosis in finding someone who loves to be out in the world with me. To be free and malleable to whatever comes… a breathing together and moving like water.
  25. Cultivate infectious joy. Happiness is truly contagious. Be a love ninja and shine the brightness on someone’s day. You never know what it might do for them.
  26. Hug everyone. Give them a really good squeeze. It will either freak their comfort zone right out or they will relax into it and be my friend for life.
  27. Do not make promises I do not intend to keep.
  28. When I do not know the way forward, I sit and wait for the answers to reveal themselves. I listen to that inner voice that will always guide me in the right direction.
  29. Be generous with my time and with my offerings.
  30. Love myself. Love all of my flaws, aging gifts, beauty and peculiarities. Be aware of the language I use to speak about myself.
  31. Don’t pay attention to reality tv, gossip and fashion magazines, ridiculous news and other crap that completely distort reality.
  32. Don’t compare myself to others or seek what they have.
  33. Continually be happy for other’s joy, fortune and love. Do not envy.
  34. Everything changes.
  35. Tomorrow is not promised today. Live for now, not hoarding everything with the hope that you will one day get to it. All we have is this very moment.
  36. There is beauty everywhere. Open your eyes and take it all in.
  37. Self-awareness and mindfulness. How valuable that has been.
  38. Respect and honor everyone and everything.
  39. Tread lightly on the earth, for we leave this environment and earth to our children and their children.
  40. Regret nothing… unless of course my actions have caused harm.

*I respectfully reserve the right to add to this list.

To Touch the Stars

“When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bonds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.” ~ Patanjali

When the seed was planted to undertake raising money to build a kindergarten school in Bali, it was never my intention to go it alone. It was my desire to bring this project to my community as something we could all invest in together.

Kristin Brooks says, “Community does not mean that everyone is your best friend. Community means that you can come together to support each other and that which they hold dear to their hearts.”

There is an enormous sense of joy that comes from building a strong foundation cemented together from the simple act of supporting one another. It fills your heart up with an almost mind blowing kind of love, respect and gratitude. And when you can take that loving platform across the globe to build bridges for the future of kids everywhere, it feels as if nothing is impossible.

Friends, family, people that I have yet to meet and friends I haven’t spoken to in years are all a part of my community. And the deep devotion and gratitude in my heart for their love and backing of this enormously gigantic adventure has often times left me humbled and without words for their generosity.

Today, I am proud to announce that not only have we met the goal of raising $10k, but we have surpassed it. The Bali Children’s Project’s pre-kindergarten school will be built and the children will have not only classrooms for learning, but a playground, a library and a garden. It is my plan to return to Bali in October to see the progress and present to everyone at home what can manifest when we work together for the benefit of all.

From the depths of my heart, thank you to everyone. This life is nothing if not an amazing and miraculous gift.

The Bali Children’s Project

To Begin Again ~ Chiang Mai, Thailand

To Begin Again ~ Chiang Mai, Thailand

In May 2013, I left my life behind in Houston to set out on a   six month sabbatical through Southeast Asia. I desired to throw caution to the wind and go out into the world to see what existed beyond the confines of my American life. An eternal wanderlust with deep reverence for seva (service), I knew I also wanted to serve the global community in some way.

Delivering toys and shoes to kids in Siem Riep, Cambodia

Delivering toys and shoes to kids in Siem Riep, Cambodia

I have always possessed a passionate interest in the well being of our youth. Over the years, I have volunteered at MDAnderson Cancer Center in Pediatrics working with outpatient children, as well as being trained as an advocate with Child Advocates, Inc. Most recently, I have partnered with In-Powered, by One Significant Act, a non-profit organization to host retreats at Elm Flats Ranch. Through these retreats, we utilize the healing benefits of yoga to help empower our youth.

A month into my journey, I found myself on the enchanted island of Bali. From the moment I arrived, I felt captivated by everything around me. A sense of enthusiasm and renewed inspiration burst forth a wellspring of creativity for writing and photography and an overwhelming joy for life had re-awakened in me. The sari (essence) of this resplendent land had begun to work its healing magic on me.

Then, one jungle book morning while driving through an area of Ubud called Penestanan, my search for a seva project had ended as I discovered The Bali Children’s Project.

The Bali Children’s Project (BCP) is a tax-exempt non-profit charitable foundation registered in Bali, Indonesia. Helping children on the beautiful spirited island for almost 20 years, it is dedicated to education as a means of improving the lives of the disadvantaged youth in Bali. BCP was founded on the belief that children, empowered to realize their potential will enrich their own lives and their villages and contribute to the world we all share.

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Their wide-ranging and well structured programs include the sponsorship of children so they may complete primary and high school, classroom support, teacher training, workshops and classes for sex education and HIV-AIDS awareness, as well as health and nutrition.

Located in an unassuming building and nestled next to a coffee shop with a sign painted across the front, the sound of children’s laughter immediately drew me in. I located the director, Linda Venter and set up a meeting. We sat down for coffee and I asked her how I could be of service. Linda began listing off all BCP’s needs, from volunteering to teach the kids, to sponsoring a child, or raising money for school supplies. Dissatisfied with any of those options, I told Linda I needed bigger. I wanted something tangible and permanent I could present to my community to help me invest in. IMG_1927

Linda’s eyes lit up and she suggested that the kids need a school. The students of BCP are currently being taught in the overcrowded office front room and they need a dedicated space in which to learn. I asked her how much it would cost to retrofit a pre-existing building or build a school from the foundation up, pay the teacher’s salary for a year and maintain the school. She confirmed that $10,000 would go a long way in Bali. I told her consider it done.

We live in a global world where everyone is connected. The future and prosperity of humanity and their healthy relationship with one another is dependent on the love, support and education we provide our children. In Bali, kids under the age of seven are not entitled to a free education by the government. Early childhood education is crucial to the development of social, communicative, cognitive and physical motor skills.  By providing opportunities for education, we are giving children the chance for a better tomorrow, while assuaging the burdens of today.

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high quality early education. ~ US President Barack Obama (State of the Union 2014)

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Every aspect of Balinese life is rich with ritual. Every act is completed with intention and purpose, and in harmony with the fertile earth, gods, and the smiling people with which they live.

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“At BCP, we are determined to help their students know their potential and be motivated to grow and explore possibilities. Not to become western but to become limitless, to see beyond the confines of poverty and to want an education for the sake of knowledge. Great volunteers really help with that mission.”

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It is my intention to raise $10,000 to build a kindergarten school in Ubud. Will you help me and contribute $5 a day for one month? That is only $150. Your donation will be the foundation of these children’s education and will support a community for years to come. The building has already been chosen for this school. All that is needed are the funds we raise to manifest this gift of education for the youth of Bali. Our combined gift of $10,000 will go directly to funding the construction of a school in Penestanan and supplying that school with the requisite furniture, school supplies and teacher’s salaries for one year.

If you are unable to contribute monetarily, you can still help by collecting and donating:

  • school supplies: crayola crayons and markers, play-doh and pencils
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • legos
  • picture books for 4-6 year olds

It is with a heart full of love and open hands that I wish to give back to this lovely community that gave me so much. With your assistance, I look forward to watching this school be built, brick by brick and classroom to garden, as the gates open and a new learning center is created. Please join me in helping to establish this space that will contribute to building a brighter future for the children of Bali.

To donate, please go to my indiegogo campaign at: http://igg.me/at/Build-a-School-in-Bali/x/1343115

 In love and service,

Jenn

The Sari of a Friend

Her presence and attentiveness, even in the silent moments, revealed an intention for complete sensitivity to where I might be in any given instance. This kind of focus and sweetness is the epitome of generosity in friendship.

Within one week of my arrival in Asia, I met Kathy Gade. Super acro yogi, playful spirit, handstand extraordinaire, outrageous goofball, intensely serious lover of all things related to food, phenomenal scrappy chef and as it turns out, filled with an exquisite heart space for friendship and love.

I want deep friendships. I want to make a connection for a lifetime. I never want to say goodbye. ~ Kathy Gade

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Ipoh, Malaysia

I came here broken in half and traumatized by deception, heartbreak and loss of friendship. I was in complete agony, and I spent the first month in a coma like state trying to understand the why of things. The safety of my inner family circle had imploded and emotions came roaring out like ravenous monsters exposing never before seen anger and rage and metamorphosing me in a way that I had become unrecognizable to myself. Living a life of love and compassion had been replaced with darkness. I no longer trusted the people I loved most in this world. The love, passion and joy in me had burned out.

In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Magically, however, medicine arrived for me in the form of Kathy. For a week, while on retreat in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I laughed with careless abandon. We connected through play and her silliness provided the perfect outlet for my silliness to reveal itself again. The foundation of Acro Yoga lies in cultivating trust, playfulness and community through partnership. Three of my favorite things! Generally uncomfortable with flying due to lack of exposure, Kathy flew me with patience and grace. I recall the exact moment of our first partnering together when trust was established in her and I witnessed her gift for teaching.

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Star – Om Waters, Sri Lanna National Park, Thailand

Kathy was five-ish months into her travels and had another two months to go. Unlike me, she knew exactly where she was headed after Thailand. She wanted to return to the island of Koh Rong, Cambodia where she had previously spent five glorious weeks. I was not capable of making important decisions about where to go next. I wanted to trust that time would lead me in the right direction if I listened to the messages. And it has done exactly that. No planning, just feeling my way through and allowing myself to be guided by intuition.

We had discussed the possibility of my traveling to meet her in Cambodia, but after “Greek Tragedy” struck, it was no longer a viable option. She decided to shave one month off of her trip and go home early. I told her that I would travel with her for her last month, wherever she wanted to go. She chose Bali. Best decision ever! We spent one month living a beautiful existence in a magical kingdom of devoted devotion to tradition and soaking up everything we possibly could. We were alive, present and engaged in the world according to Bali. (More to follow on Bali in another post)

Early on, we were fascinated with the word Sari, which means “essence” in Balinese. I asked Kathy what she believed Bali’s sari to be and she responded, “I believe the essence of Bali is its healing power. I have received so many gifts from the smallest of things, which makes me want to give even more.”

And these words define her sari… gracious, loving, possessed with a wicked insight and a deep inquisitive nature of self and life, loyal, tender yet fiercely courageous, vibrant, generous and above all, present.

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Mount Batur, Bali

I have often wondered what it would look like to have my love reciprocated back to me. I showed up with no expectations. I was happy to have someone to travel with and share in some laughs to distract me and soften the shock of having uprooted my life for six months. It soon became apparent though, that I was in the company of someone like me, who freely gives their love away, expresses and pours out their feelings and who sometimes invests too much of self in the well being of those they care for.

I want to live from my heart space, make connections and risk my heart every day.  ~ Kathy Gade

Sharing space with her was like being with myself, but with a better version of me. I do not know another who has shown such an unshakable interest in me. From the moment I awoke, until the minute she would drift off to sleep, she constantly checked in with me, wanting to know, “where are you right now?” She wanted to communicate. We could be completely silent and still or fully engaged in the most philosophical and thought provoking conversations and no matter which of the two, there was always a look in her eyes telling me, I am here with you. I do not have a desire to be anywhere else.

To hold a friend in the heart without judgment, without demand – simply to care for this person because we are interested in what she thinks about our ideas and because we know she is ready to listen to and understand us and be on our side. Even though other factors are at play in friendship, its essence is loyalty. ~ Piero Ferric

How is it that a friend’s loyalty gives us strength and hope? Because in this quality we see a person’s true measure. When we show loyalty in hard circumstances, we show how much we care, we show the stuff we are made of.

Kathy forced me to confront some of my demons and requested that I view things in my life from an alternative perspective. She called me out on my bullshit, insisting on playing devil’s advocate, a position that pushed unfamiliar and uncomfortable buttons, but which are necessary in any healing process.

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Gili Air, Indonesia

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Ubud, Bali

Kathy infused me with strength to stand back up on my own two feet and reclaim MY power to be my most radiant and noble Self. She reminded me that I am love and loved and worthy of sincere and loyal friendship. My ability to rise above and persevere were hovering at the surface of my being and all I needed was to listen to my soul and stop fighting with life when things fall apart. Her friendship encouraged me that despite these most difficult circumstances, I did not have to remain shut down indefinitely and I did not have to harden my heart against others who love me. That notwithstanding the pain of betrayal and loss of trust in one friend, I could allow for another to walk into my life and love me in the most simple and kind ways. The gift of Kathy’s presence and desire to be my friend, to hear me and to tell me that she was available for me in whatever way I needed was profound.

In Hinduism, Atman is the innermost essence of each individual. It is the little voice inside that guides us. It is the knowing in the heart and if we follow its wisdom, it will guide us far better than our mind ever will. The atman and the sari of her radiates in the beauty of her face, in the kindness of her eyes, the generosity of her heart, her presence, curiosity, and interest in what I have to say. I have known very few people who truly exemplify living with the fire and passion of their convictions and who adhere to those convictions in a purposeful manner. She offers herself to the world as a work in progress and she represents the kind of truth and authenticity that mankind would do well to learn from.

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The Yoga Barn, Ubud, Bali

During our time in Bali, I witnessed both Kathy’s vitality and her vulnerability. It was as if Bali had infused her with its god-like powers. In her courage to show up and let herself be seen, she was able to participate and offer her greatest strengths. In return, doors marvelously opened and provided her with unfathomable opportunities. And from there, she continued to step into her dynamic Self, while continually turning inward to inquire how she could better respond to obstacles that threw her off her game or forced her to reevaluate her position on certain situations. In this brilliant blossoming of her Self, she discovered that her passion for acro yoga, building community and fostering more loving kindness are the breadcrumbs that would guide her on her path in life.

There came a time when she said to me, “I am ready to go home and leave you to have your own experience and growth without anyone distracting you.” The words stung me, but in her willingness to admit not only that she was ready to go back to her life, but that she also wanted me to continue flying and have a legendary adventure of my own, there was nothing but kindness and sincerity in her desire for me to find my own way. I realized that this was my opportunity to practice letting go and allow for our travels together to end as naturally as they began. Our time together always had a shelf life, which unfortunately went by too quickly.

She must take the journey all on her own, from the beginning to the end, because its very purpose is that; to go alone into the flames, to burn away the illusions and to arise from the ashes with the prize of one’s true self. ~ Elizabeth Lesser

There exists an idea that nothing is born and therefore nothing dies. If everything is nothing, then nothing can be separated from anything else. So in that nothingness, we are all connected becoming everything at the same time. Kathy believes that we are each a tiny speck in the cosmos and therefore there is no need to hang onto anything, because nothing is in harmony with everything. In moments of pristine clarity, where we both found ourselves in awe of the beauty of this idea of nothingness being everything in life, an informed admiration arose in us for the opportunity to be where we were turning over rocks in remote corners of the world, and to partake in these occasions of greatness together. How could we not appreciate the wonderfully complete, brilliant, vulnerable and flawed humanity we shared? In its simplicity, these snapshots of experiences were epic. The kind of slideshows that stay imprinted on you as you scan the memory books for splendid moments in life.

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Gili Air, Indonesia

Each one of us matters, has a role to play and makes a difference in another’s life. Each one of us must display respect and love for everything around us, especially each other. Thank you for making a difference in my life and for showering me with love, helping me to heal my wounds and for honoring our friendship.

May we both continue to be love, so that the love returned by others can be received as the gift that it is. Love is its own reward. Generous, expansive, inclusive, receptive, liberating and supportive.

You are loved. You are seen. You are heard. You are appreciated. Here is to carrying around each other’s sari everywhere we go.

To love is to see yourself in another… We are reflections.

Happy continuation (birthday) day.
No birth and no death.

Of course!

What Patience Brings – A Letter of Longing

Often times when you are splayed out on the bathroom floor with a broken heart, all you can do is lay there and pray that when the wound heals, it does not lock the heart in and the love out.

Forward toward the light

Forward toward the light

The pre dawn hours have secrets to share…
I meander down the path,
Away from me and toward you.
Away from the darkness and weight of the full moon shining bright in the night sky,
Toward the cracking of the sun’s desire to awaken us to the fullness and promise of a new day.
She is begging me to follow her forward.
The longing in my heart has risen from its slumber.
It aches to feel the power of your warmth.

It yearns to feel your breath on my neck as you embrace and fold me into the strength of you.
I feel the synchronicity of our souls dancing as we breathe together.
It is a point in time where your breath and mine stop their separateness and merge as one.
That moment of release brings comfort, excitement, safety and a heightened awareness of our connection.
It is home.

Walking down the path in the darkness, there is fear and exhilaration.
You slide your tender hand in mine.

Hold onto me, I’ll hold on to you. Take my hand, we’ll hide in the corner.

There is a promise in the silence that tells me I am safe.
Lay down with me under the haloed light of the overpass and listen to the music above.
Look up at the stars with me and together, let us wonder what is on the dark side of the silvery moon.
Share with me your dreams and your desires.
Talk with me forever about everything and nothing and about our shared passions.
Love me while my eyes get heavy.
Let me soften the sadness of your heart;
The hidden pain screaming to rise up and be excised from your body, face and soul.
Pull me to you and let me place my palms over your tired eyes.
Leave me with the smell of you permanently imbedded in my skin.

It took awhile for you to find me, because I was hiding in the lime tree.

Meet me in our secret place, where the blue door beckons us to trespass and the wind blows through the black paned windows, carrying all of our worries off into the pastel colored sky.
Let’s kidnap each other and get lost on some grand adventure.
Somewhere where fear is left in the dust and we are able to move forward into the all that is.
Spend the day with me riding around on two wheels, soaking in all of the beauty of our surroundings and observing all of the magical environs waiting to be discovered.

In the morning when I wake and the sun is coming through,
Oh, you fill my lungs with sweetness, and you fill my head with you. Can I be close to you?

Breathe with me as we flow through our practice together.
Place your hand in mine while we lay in the stillness of savasana.
Teach me all of the brilliance stored away in your mind.

Come.. surprise me with some of my favorite things and I will surprise you with the kind of love and touch you have been longing for, but afraid to let in.
Where is the mounting list of all of the things we wanted to do?
Finger the strings into a melody and sing to me the songs in your heart.

You are the place I feel at home, when all my bones are tired and cold and all alone
You are the time that I seem to find that occupies most of my mind

Show me your tender, your lawless, your nurturing, your naughty, and your love.
Lift the veil from the iron wall surrounding you and reveal the vulnerability in your smile.
Drive away the brutality of all of this silence and loneliness.
Let me once again see all of you.
Gaze upon me again with sweetness.
Seat with me and be my friend.

“Meet me there, bundles of flowers, we wait through the hours of cold.
Winter shall howl at the walls, tearing down doors of time.
Shelter as we go.
And promise me this
You’ll wait for me only, scared of the lonely arms.
Surface, far below these words
And maybe, just maybe, I’ll come home.
Who am I to you darling?” ~ Ben Howard