wednesday wisdom: inspiration from a bread baking buddhist monk.

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a few weeks ago, i was asked by the newspaper to go and visit a bakery that specializes in gluten free products, and then write an article about it. ok. very, very cool. my first “on assignment” job! but, the super cool thing was that the bakery was run by a by a woman who was a christian minister, and now is a practicing buddhist monk. it gets even cooler: the bakers are former homeless & at-risk teenagers. for real.

so, let me see:

one female buddhist monk + a group of homeless/at-risk teens + a bakery = a recipe for an amazing, inspirational afternoon.

i am dying to tell you about this amazing woman, who singlehandedly decided that she simply had to do something to respond to the needs of the community. she created an emergency shelter, a life skills program, and gave these teens a home & a purpose for being.

she and i sat and talked for i don’t know how long on the day i visited. and we could have stayed all day, just chatting. connecting on a deeply spiritual level. it was clear that we were kindred spirits who understood each other, in our search for truth and love.

i will never forget her. her words during our conversation may fade, but her face is etched in my memory. those eyes. those cheeks. the love and joy that radiated from her. this was a woman, who still had struggles, still faced everyday life, but did it all with an abiding peace. she just glowed.

so, i have no words of wisdom for you today, only a photo i took of her. but, that photo is filled with wisdom. let her speak to your heart.

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peace and joy to you all.

click here to read my article in the newspaper.

call me crazy, but i’m risking it.

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i just gotta write about today’s word prompt for the photo challenge. today’s word is risk. and i’ve been obsessed with risks all freaking day long. and i’m serious about that. i have not gone more than 3-4 minutes without thinking about risks… what the risks are in life. what risks i’ve taken. what kind of image can i use to symbolize risk. good risks. bad risks. how scary risks are. how exciting they are. i’ve been on pinterest and pinned an overload of risk-y themed pins today. and it doesn’t seem like i’ve gotten anywhere in my thoughts. the word “risk” has just echoed and rolled around in my mind over & over.i don’t know exactly why i’ve been like a girl obsessed with this word today.

i have so many, many thoughts in my head. and i came across quote after amazing quote about risks. i could photo plaster risk posters and images all over this blog post tonight. but, i’m only gonna share 2 with you. both are photos i took. one i took on top of one of my favorite mountains in western north carolina. and the other is from one of my favorite cities in the world. and the both have the same quote on them… one that really spoke to me today.

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about 5 years ago i found a bracelet that spoke to me. i was in the middle of selling/giving away almost everything i owned. i was recently divorced, had turned in my notice to quit my job that i’d had for almost 8 years, just completed my master’s degree, and was planning a move to denmark in the hopes of securing a job after i got there. i had no detailed plans about anything. i just knew that one part of my life was coming to an end and another was about ti begin. it was a huge turning point. monumental, i guess you could say.

anyway, the bracelet. i remember i was shopping with my mom in waynesville, north carolina, and when i saw the simple stretchy black band with the little copper rectangle on it, i was intrigued. i picked it up and read the words engraved on the copper piece:

the biggest risk you can take is to not take one at all.

it was meant to be. the universe was confirming that even though what i was doing and planning was crazy, it was right. the timing was perfect. so, i purchased that little bracelet and wore it like crazy from that day until the day i moved to denmark.

fast forward about 3 years and i had lived in denmark, fallen in love with lina, moved back to the states, married lina, and was working as a teacher in asheville. yes, all of that was a shock to me. none of it planned and none of it imagined. but, i took a risk, and life gave me crazy happiness like i’d never known. i was impatiently waiting for the school year to be over so that my love & i would be reunited. yes, we were separated by the atlantic ocean for the first 6 months of our marriage. lina was coming to asheville to spend the summer with me, and then we would move to sweden together in august.

during this year that i was teaching, i had a student in my class who i adored. ok, i adored many of them. but this young lady was something special. she so wanted to be her own person, but she felt pressure from her culture and her family to live up to everyone else’s expectations. still, she was doing exactly what 15 and 16 year olds should do… questioning, wondering, spreading their wings, dreaming, and beginning to develop their own sense of self. she saw my bracelet one day… i was still wearing it 3 years later and read the inscription. she admitted that she didn’t quite get it… the negative phrasing was difficult for her to understand. so, we talked about it some until she began to get the jist of what it meant.

take risks. if you don’t then you’re risking even more.

she decided that since i was moving to sweden and had lived in denmark, that i must believe what my bracelet said. i told her that, in fact, i did believe those words. all the way down to my soul i believed them. and then she began to dream a little and wonder what kind of risks she could take in her life that would lead her to happiness and peace.

for the rest of the school year, she continued to bring up this whole “risk” thing. and she decided that she wanted to take risks. believing in herself was the risk that she wanted to take. believing that she was more than a pretty face, more than a girl destined to take a crappy job just to get by, believing that she had something to offer the world. for her, dreaming was a risk. but, she did it.

on the last day of school, i brought the bracelet with me. i made sure one more time that she understood its meaning, and i gave it to her.

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i have taken a lot of risks. made a lot of decisions, crazy and sane ones, that have gotten me to where i am today. even though it has been scary, uncertain, uncomfortable, and super scary at times, without taking these risks i never would have…

  • met lina.
  • moved to denmark and discovered more about me
  • been a fighter and advocate for marriage equality and other civil/human rights from a first-hand perspective
  • worked as a teacher again… in an amazing high school
  • moved to sweden and learned swedish
  • met many, many, too many to mention amazing people
  • become friends with people all around the world
  • begun blogging
  • traveled to greece, ireland, germany

in other words, this picture above of my love & me in dublin, ireland sipping fresh guinness with our amazing friend would have never happened.

without following the words on that bracelet from years ago, without leaving my comfort zone, i never would have become an ex-pat, married the love of my life, learned a new language, met nicole & found a true & loyal friend for life, visited dublin (twice!), had the chance to sip beer at the guinness brewery, and captured what was a perfect moment on film. (plus oh so much more).

all this to say… this word, “risk“, has meant the world to me. this word has changed my life.

and now, as my love and i begin to close the chapter of our time in sweden, the word returns as an old friend, tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me that new adventures await me/us. risks are there… scary ones, breathtaking ones, exciting ones challenging ones. yes, it’s time to set sail again. time to poke a little hole in my comfort zone bubble and burst out. time to see the next amazing thing that life has to offer.

i have contemplated a lot these past days about what comes next. and i have no idea. but, i am certain, that unless it scares me a little, challenges me a lot, and forces me out on a limb, then it is not for me. yep. my dreams are big. there will be no settling in, no acceptance of an easy, safe life. i can feel it in my soul. i don’t know what it is yet, but something great waits for me. something that requires me to take another leap of faith… there’s another great risk waiting on the horizon.

the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.

~ steven pressfield

is it time for me to work on my PhD? is it time to publish a book? is it time for me to be an lgbt advocate and write full-time? these are the things that frighten me, that seem impossible, and crazy. perhaps, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. however it turns out, i know it will be more amazing than i ever could have imagined.

baby, you were born to fly.

here’s to courage, boldness, and peace.

week 1: april photo a day.

the first week of april has come to a close, and i’ve got some pictures to share from the #photoadayApril challenge. i made it through the whole week & found some days a challenge, but I pushed the creative side of my brain to the max… hehe. i truly enjoy this little photo experience & i’m looking forward to next week!

ok. here we go!

day 1- reflection: my reflection in my iPad, as I rode on the train.

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day 2 – color: colorful easter eggs.

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day 3 – mail: how mail is delivered in my neighborhood.

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day 4 – someone who makes me happy: my love, of course. ♥

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day 5 – tiny: a tiny elephant i got as a gift from india.

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day 6 – lunch: a yummy quiche made by my love.

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day 7 – shadow: the shadow of my easter egg on the table.

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by the way, all my photos are taken with my iPhone using the Instagram app. i have a tiny addiction to it.

peace out, peeps.