When I started this GoTerriGo journey, all I knew to say when someone asked what I do for a living, was “I help people.” I didn’t say “I want to help people,” because I thought that would keep it in the future and I was declaring it as NOW. I had no idea what that meant exactly or what that kind of life looked like in reality. It was such a broad statement and it hasn’t always been met with positive reactions from people who have known me for a long time. I understand, and I haven’t let that stop me from believing my truth, mostly because when I meet someone new and open up to them, it’s an enlightening and amazing conversation! I see a light go on inside them and the conversation turns to something they’ve always wanted to do. It’s beautiful! When those moments come to me, I learn more about another human being and how much we are all alike. Up until now it hasn’t been easy, although I haven’t doubted for one moment this is what I’m supposed to be doing. For the past six years or more, I have been totally immersed in the Human Connection, finding kindness and inspiration everywhere I go, even in the perception of the most difficult conditions. I’ve seen what Love can do. I’ve felt what the absence of Love can do. I choose Love. Every time. ❤️ I love you.
“Blame is useless. Blaming others only gives away your power. Keep your power. Without power, we cannot make changes. The helpless victim cannot see a way out.” — Louise Hay
Maybe clumsy is a better word than messy for this part, like a toddler learning to walk or run for the first time…or like a young child driving a car. I’m excited and scared, filled with wonder and awe, behind the wheel of something huge and magnificent, not knowing whether to hit the gas or slam on the brakes. It’s January 2014, I’ve spent two years on this “road trip” and all I know without a doubt is that I want to help people. I decide to hit the gas (one more time) and see what happens next.
What does happen is a series of twists and turns I never saw coming. Everything that happens is big, and to summarize it all at this point would trivialize the impact these discoveries are having on my life. Each “life event” deserves its own blog entry, essay, or book chapter, and I’m happy to have more to share with you at a later date.
Let’s get to that clumsy part of all this, and be done with it. I’ve heard it said that if you don’t make a move when the time is right, Life will push you. One way or another, the stars will line up and that good ol’ Higher Power, the Universe, or in my case, God will make it impossible for you to stay where you are. That’s what happens to me in 2011, but I’m a little slow on the uptake. I spend two more years feeling a huge shift in myself as I observe changes in my life I can’t explain, but I keep trying too hard to stay on track, doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. The one big adjustment I do focus on is changing my thoughts and watching my words, and I have a great friend and mentor who helps me do that. I start paying attention to all of the information that has been flooding into my life and onto my bookshelves over the past ten to fifteen years, the self-help courses I’ve taken and learned but never applied, and bringing to the forefront of my mind all of the life lessons I’ve filed away for safe keeping. One book in particular keeps following me, popping up in my belongings when I could have sworn I gave it away, or someone gives it to me as a gift. All of a sudden other people notice a change in me, the changes in my life, and they start asking questions.
One example of my disjointed growing pains happens on a rainy day in California. I’m at a small retreat with eight or so other attendees, and we are all sitting around the table talking after dinner. At one point, it’s my turn to tell a story and we are all laughing about my vulnerable way of “fumbling through the weeds on my path.” By now my habit of positive jargon is so firmly locked in, I am constantly mindful of my words. This practice is my lifeline. I’m convinced it’s my survival. I’m just not that good at it yet, and I haven’t distanced myself enough from the shock and pain of recent events to go into detail without fear of a downward spiral. I’m afraid to test it, afraid I’m not strong enough yet to pull myself back up, as I know the brain does not know the difference in a memory and what is happening in the present moment. Because of this, it leads to a disconnect in conversation, but I don’t recognize that, I just honestly answer every question the best way I know how. There is a gap between how bad things really got for me and how life now appears to be heading in a positive (sometimes Divine) direction. It feels like in order to connect to everyone listening at the table that day, one new friend wants me to go back to my darkest time and walk her through how I pulled myself out of it. I get that, but even as I try to accommodate her, I can’t bring back the feelings of despair and paralyzing fright I felt during the worst time that I now lovingly refer to as my “Ten Days at Dana’s.” All I can honestly remember now is discovering my self-worth for the first time in my life, and then the feeling of hope, a knowing, that I am safe and all is well. I was alone at Christmas, house sitting and taking care of Jenni the German Shepherd, and there was no visible sign of how I was going to make it past New Year’s. I had no home, no income, and my bank account was more than $1,000 overdrawn because my new employer paid me with two hot checks on a closed account, and then disappeared. I just didn’t get it. This time my situation was freakishly out of my control and not of my own doing. I dropped to my knees, crying so hard I was almost choking and yelled, “Ok, I give! What am I missing? You have to show me because I don’t see it!” God sat me down at the kitchen table in front of a book and said, “Read this.” And I did. For 14 hours straight, I didn’t move from the table except to feed Jenni and let her out when she needed. I read every word, sometimes going back and reading certain pages over and over, highlighting and underlining, and making notes in the margins of this book that had been following me for at least 10 years. It was Louise Hay’s Life Loves You.
As I consider my experiences over the past six years, I’m reminded that the only benefit the past has for us is to show how far we’ve come and how much we’ve learned. It’s not a resource for highlighting mistakes, regrets, painful moments. It’s where we keep the batteries to power the flashlight we can shine on our accomplishments, our growth, and the gift of the present moment to start again, to be our best, to live with love and laughter…and appreciation for what we have and who we are right here, right now. Whew! That’s a big thought and I bring it to you from experience, from MY experience, my perspective, my perception, and my heart. My intention in offering my honestly raw, vulnerable stories to you is that in them you might find a twinkle of joy, an answer to a question, a dose of rejuvenation, and the “on” switch for that super-duper flashlight of yours. Giving yourself permission to stand in the spotlight and shine from within, gives others permission to stand in their greatness and shine their own light too. Don’t ever dim your light or shrink yourself to fit into someone else’s box. You are meant to be unique, to be larger than life, to experience unlimited abundance and joy. Right here. Right now.
Love always, Terri
At a hotel in Las Cruces, New Mexico, I swam in a swimming pool today. It was the first time in seven years. For most people that realization might not be a defining moment, but it brought overwhelming joy and gratitude to my heart as I swam from one end of the pool to the other and back again, underwater, holding my breath the whole way. I did handstands and flips. I exhaled all of my breath and sunk to the bottom of the shallow end, and sat on the floor of the pool, legs crossed as though on dry land, like I did when I was a kid. I used to swim every day in the lake where I grew up. I love the water. It’s refreshing and cleansing. It’s holy. The last time I remember swimming was in the summer of 2010. It was midnight, the sky was brightly lit with the moon and stars, and the water was unusually warm at the Burbank townhome complex where I lived with my husband, as I floated on my back to peacefully take it all in. The light in the pool was not on that night, so I took off my swimsuit and felt the freedom of being naked. I laughed out loud with joy, like a child. If I’d known what was to happen next in my life, I might have exhaled all of my breath and sunk to the bottom in the deep end and stayed there. That is the honest part.
I didn’t exhale and I didn’t sink to the bottom. Not that night, anyway. As I floated underneath the vast universe, I had a faint feeling change was coming. Big change. Growth. Stretching. Adventure. The excitement of the unknown. Had I been given a glimpse of the entire big picture, I might have focused on what else was around the corner, potentially a perception of great loss. Fear. Lack. Humiliation. Loneliness. No self-worth whatsoever, and the awareness of uncertainty. I know now that focusing on all of those negative emotions would have only given them strength. Made them grow larger, like a plant being fed and watered. Suddenly, without even knowing what was happening, my faith was growing bigger than my fear and nothing had even happened yet, that I could see, to cause this stirring in me. So I remained still. And I waited. That was the first sign of the faithful part. The scary part, and the grateful part. Those three companions always appear together, The Three Amigos, buckled into the passenger seat on my journey.
Then Bam! My life started shifting with such momentum it made my head swim (see what I did there). Since my focus is to keep this essay positive, and for us to remain in “solution mode” instead of “problem mode,” I’ll zoom right to how I felt in the year 2012, after being catapulted into awakening like a circus clown being shot out of a cannon, too high to see the net below. I felt scared. I felt vulnerable. I felt excited. I felt betrayed. I felt confused. I felt responsible. I felt hopeful. I felt free. I was starting to feel happy.
Ready for what? I had no idea. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a story to tell people that would fit, make sense, put them at ease, release myself from judgment and hurtful comments. All I had was the truth within myself, and two choices. I could continue to do what I’d always done, and walk through Door Number One. Fight the crazy-strong desire to be myself and follow my heart, busting my ass to replace all that had just fallen away, get that solid high-paying job with benefits and a new place to live, get back out there and mend the deep heart break I’d experienced from the dissolution of my marriage and the shocks of cruelty and humiliation that came with it. OR I could choose Door Number Two. I could embrace that crazy-strong desire and surrender to it. I could finally do what my heart was telling me to do, even though it made no sense to anyone else. I could choose love, not fear. I could trust that if it feels good, it’s the way to go. I could be open, honest, vulnerable and RAW. I could keep it simple. I could believe that life happens for me, not to me, and all of this craziness was God cleaning my house. I could believe all is well and I am safe. So that’s what I did. I chose Door Number Two. That was the joyful part.
Here is the messy part. It took a while for me to really “get it.” I had a lot to learn about dissolving limiting beliefs and the habits that felt safe but had really always held me back. I had chosen Door Number Two with my heart, but my head was still knocking on Door Number One because it was familiar. I was close, but still standing in the hallway between the two doors to my future. There were lots of funny parts too, and one of them was that my life choices were now being carried out on a January to December schedule. Once again, Life was making it easier for me to recall while telling my story later. The entire year of 2012 was crazy-making, with my 14-year marriage coming to a brutal halt, my secure dream job becoming a hurtful nightmare, and my longtime dentist pulling my four front teeth, which I found out later did not need to happen. It was the perfect storm…more on that funny part later. In 2013, I came oh-so-close to getting on the road to happiness, but instead of following my heart I listened to what was going on in my head and accepted, you guessed it, that good ole high-paying job with benefits. I do believe that everything happens the way it is supposed to, and that job taught me to stay present and observe what is going on instead of just going through the motions. What I noticed during that year was that my Executive Assistant and Manager skills were fading, like a soul being released from a Harry Potter photo. It was a year of mild disasters, and when it ended I felt grateful for having said “yes” to the lessons I’d learned and cannot unlearn, to my growing certainty that the corporate world was no longer serving me on my path. Two years into my new topsy-turvy life, I jumped. In January of 2014, I gave most of my possessions away, loaded the Jeep with what I thought I needed, determined to use the fact that I had no home address (let’s reframe “homeless”) as an opportunity to just keep driving. To go where I hoped I could be of use and to help others if needed. I became the alchemist of my own life, melting, mixing and welding together “what I do” and “who I am.” From there it got messier.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
Love always, GoTerriGo!
Hello there! I have a story to tell you. Yep, that’s right…another story. I hope you like this one.
I know a woman who woke up one morning, looked in her wallet and counted only nine dollars. It was all she had, a $5 bill and four $1 bills. Her bank account was empty, she had no credit cards, and she was getting dressed to meet a friend who was driving her to her bankruptcy hearing.
Ten months prior to this day, she’d made the decision to change her life in a big way, and to help someone she loves very much. She knew the risk, didn’t hesitate, just made the move filled with love, riding on blind faith. Shortly after making this move, a series of events unfolded and to some it might have appeared that she’d “lost everything.” In her eyes, there were miracles happening all around her. She was elated. Grateful.
Now back to the day she woke up with only $9 left…
She rode with her friend downtown to the courthouse for her hearing. There were several big buildings, and it took them three tries to find the correct one. All along the way, with each attempt to get to her hearing, she met wonderful people and stopped to smile and share stories. Her morning was beautiful and cheerful, in spite of her current perceived conditions.
Once she found the correct building, the right hearing room, and patiently waited her turn to confirm her paperwork was indeed factual and correct, things progressed swiftly. The Trustee informed her that she needed to go over to the other courthouse and confirm a small detail regarding her contact information. She thanked him and went to do just that.
Her friend said he would meet her in the car, he had some calls to make. She agreed, and proceeded along to the courthouse across the street. After taking care of her paperwork, the clerks (who were all very nice) told her if she wanted copies of her filing, she would need to pay for them. She knew from experience that having copies of such important transactions was in her best interest. She asked how much it would cost to attain the copies. The person helping her said, “With the amount of pages included, it will cost you $4.25 and we can’t give you change.” The woman said, “That’s ok, I have a $5 bill,” knowing that would leave her with only four $1 bills. When the person behind the desk made the copies and took them to her co-worker, she asked her to charge the woman $4.25. “How many pages did you copy for her?” asked the co-worker. The clerk told her how many. Her co-worker said, “It’s only four dollars, we round down.” The clerk said, “It doesn’t matter, she only has a five dollar bill and I told her we don’t give change.” The woman, hearing this, said, “Oh, it’s ok, I also have four $1 bills, so I can give you correct change.” It all worked out. She gladly gave them her four $1 bills, she received her copies, and left the courthouse with only one $5 bill left to her name.
The woman could not explain it, didn’t question any of it, just walked out feeling filled with grace and joy, smiling at everyone she met on the street as she went to cross the street where her friend was hopefully still waiting in the car to take her to work.
As she approached the corner, something made her cross the street, even though she hadn’t seen where her friend had parked the car because he’d moved it. When she got to the other side, there was a man standing there holding what appeared to be a large bag of clothes. He looked at her and said, “Excuse me. My wife and I are trying to raise enough money for a room to stay in tonight. We just need $12 and all I have is $7 so far. Could you help us?” The woman looked into his eyes and she was immediately filled with love and happiness. She said, “Wait…so all you need is $5?” He said, “Yes.”
She reached into her wallet and gave him her last $5 bill. The man beamed with gratitude. “Thank you,” he said. The woman said, “You are most welcome.” As the man turned to walk away, something stopped him. He looked at the woman, and she was smiling from ear to ear. She said, “I want you to know something. I just left bankruptcy court and that is my last $5. I’m sure I crossed the street because you are supposed to have it.” The man said, “What? Now I feel bad!” The woman laughed and said, “No, don’t feel bad, it’s a GOOD thing! The only reason I told you that is because I want you to know things are turning around for you right now! I truly believe that this $5 is yours…I was just holding it for you.” The man said, “Oh, I get it. If you give to me, someone will help you. It’s karma.” The woman said, “Well…I’m giving to you because you need $5 and I have $5. I’m happy to help you because others have helped me in the past and I know without a doubt that you and I are going to be fine, we are taken care of…and all is well.”
The man said, “My wife will be very grateful and excited to sleep in a warm, safe, dry space tonight,” and then he smiled a bright, knowing smile as though the tables had turned, and he was the lender, not the borrower.
I don’t know what happened in this man’s life after he met the woman on the street that day, but I do know the woman personally and her life has continued to unfold in ways she could not have imagined all on her own. She sees miracles happen each and every day, all around her on this amazing journey, and every minute holds endless possibilities of something absolutely wonderful for her…and for you. It’s all good.
Love always and in all ways…GoTerriGo!
NOTE: This entry is a bit longer than my usual writings because I was mindful not to edit too much and instead, to be raw, honest and vulnerable. I hope it moves you…
It’s very easy to “go with the flow,” have faith in the Universe, take a risk or two, let go and let…when there is well…not much, but enough money in your savings to pay the bills for a few months and you are filled with the knowledge that you are on the right path. Even when it makes no sense to others.
You tell yourself you are taken care of and you believe it.
When people ask how you are making this ridiculously risky, against-all-odds plan(?) of yours work you simply say, “I’m not sure, but when I need the means to stick with it, they appear.”
You make plans to do things you know are not extravagant but a necessity, even though, again, it doesn’t make sense to your friends. And it works out. When you decide to live a life of receiving the deep bounties that Spirit provides and you accept small jobs in California even though you live in Denver, those small jobs become bigger ones and they lead to more opportunities. And you get to stay connected to your dear friends because you make the effort. It grows your heart. It fills the holes with happiness. More importantly, you begin to understand why the holes were there in the first place. The hurtful experiences that were filling up your world were removed to make room for the bliss.
You know you are where you are supposed to be.
When a two day promise of work on a project in Ojai turns into ten days of work which pays your rent, and gives you the opportunity to spend time with your cousin, you know you are where you are supposed to be.
When that same trip gives you time to hike the stairs in Santa Monica with a very dear friend, stopping along the way to be invited into a lovely stranger’s glorious garden while she is cleaning her breakfast dishes and she shares her story with you, then hiking back to your friend’s home for pancakes, you know you are where you are supposed to be. And you smile as you think back about the squirrel you and your friend saved from being trapped in a net…a long, delightful story and possibly incriminating so it will remain a secret.
When someone from your past sends you a text on Halloween, two months before you move to Denver, offers you a part time job doing what you love for people you care about and a cause you believe in, you know you are where you are supposed to be and you are grateful.
When you get to Denver and circumstances change, as they do in life, and your living arrangements do not turn out as planned, you see the opportunity and excitement around the move instead of the heartbreak and anxiety. It lights you up as you think, “something fantastic is about to happen!” And it does. You find the most amazing little home that is just right for yourself and even if it appears that there is no obvious way to afford it right now, you know that is not the Truth. You know you are where you’re supposed to be and you are grateful. You know you are doing everything you can to network and find a job, to pay your bills and your debts, to make a difference, to follow your heart, to help others, to live your purpose, to move forward and take the lessons learned with you while leaving the pain and struggle behind like the gift wrap in which it all came to you.
Now here‘s where the scary part happened…and where I found out that I’ve changed and there is no going back.
A month ago, I looked at my situation and realized I had only enough funds left to pay for one more month of living expenses, then I was out. Yep, down to zero. I’d done all the right things, had that nest egg they tell you to save that should last you three months, and it was almost gone. Instead of letting a sense of panic overwhelm me, I felt excited, relieved, blessed. Yes, blessed. I thought, “Wow! I’m about to find out what’s next for me! I’m going to find out very soon what my new job will be because I know in my heart that all is well.” I’ll be honest, my chest tightened for a second and I almost threw up.
The very next day I got a call. My resume had come across the desk of someone at an office in downtown Denver and they wanted to talk to me. We set an appointment at a coffee shop early the next Monday morning.
I took off for a weekend of housesitting in Los Angeles for Carol, who would later hire me to do research on a project for her. Another opportunity. More seeds planted.
Early Monday morning, I was at the coffee shop for the first interview toward my new job. “K” and I hit it off, had a great talk. She asked me to come back the next morning, same coffee shop, same time, to meet with the General Counsel of the office. I did, “T” and I got along great, found out we have a lot in common. Great people, loved them. They called me back and we arranged a Skype call with the CEO to whom I would be reporting. That call happened the next week while I was working in Seattle on my part time job. We talked, laughed, had a really good conversation. I instantly liked him. This was going very well. Human Resources called me back a few days later and asked for references, they wanted to make some calls. I gave them three references with summaries of my relationship with each one. I’d called each person and verified their contact numbers and let them know to expect a call. All good. It was a go…then nothing.
One week went by, no calls made yet. I got back to Denver from Seattle and started to wrap up the previous week’s project. Another week went by, no calls made yet, and I took my monthly trip to Los Angeles for some work and another dose of inspiration, both giving and getting. I also went to arrange the details of having my four front teeth replaced after having them yanked out by my trusted dentist of five years, but that’s another story…and to connect with my friends, my cousin and my niece. A random discussion with my cousin in Ojai sparked an intention for more work in California for the future. Great, plant those seeds for later. All good, but no money coming in that I was aware of. I reminded myself that money is not my supply, no person, no situation or condition is my supply. I have unlimited Abundance. And I also took several really, really deep breaths.
I received word while I was in Los Angeles that all the reference calls had been made. Human Resources called two of them, and the CEO, himself, called my current part time employer on Friday. Ok then…here we go….I should hear something soon. Another week went by…it’s the holiday, a long weekend. And I got a horrible sore throat. What?? I never get sick! Then I got a wretched cough and sore, raw chest cold. Great timing! No, really, it is! I can stay in, rest and drink orange juice, get healthy, ready to start my new job! So I did. I slept a lot, took Nyquil, and took good care of myself.
I got a call from my friend, J.P., who was on his way to hike Mt. Rainier in Washington for two weeks, and he asked if I’d heard back about the job yet. I said no. He said, “That doesn’t sound good.” Great. Like I needed to hear that. But strangely, it didn’t bother me at all. I immediately said, “Actually, I’m not sure if it’s good or bad. It is what it is and if this doesn’t work out, something better will.” And I truly meant it.
Did I hang up the phone and start to over-think everything while I was alone for four days in my lovely apartment for which I might not be able to pay next month? Did I doubt the Universe and try to control what’s happening next? Did I panic, fall apart and practice sleeping scrunched up in my Jeep that I won’t be able to pay for if I don’t get this job, but I’ll be on the run so they won’t be able to take it back? Well…almost. But I didn’t. Because what happened next, happened instead.
I discovered what it means to Trust, and to know Truth, when it appears that faith is all you have.
I woke up each morning seeing the sunrise and knowing that all is well.
I spent time finishing projects and gathered things to donate to Goodwill, cleaning up and cleaning out, getting ready for what was coming next. I wrote thank you notes and condolences, and rearranged the furniture in my apartment (all I have is a desk and a couch so I switched them) and told myself that I’d better get ready because my new job was starting soon and I was going to be really busy. Maybe not the job I was expecting, but something was about to come my way and I knew it. I went running in the cool, crisp air, training for my next half-marathon for charity. I enjoyed nature and said “thank you.” I drank lots of water and ate healthy foods so I’d have energy for life. I looked at my calendar and made tentative plans according to my new work schedule. I submitted myself to audition for the lead in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” a play in Denver that was by “invitation only” if you got past the initial submission. Why not? I meditated. I laughed. I watched the Breaking Bad Binge on AMC television.
The weekend passed, I felt completely healthy again with no sign of that chest cold. I rose before the sun came up and went for my four-mile run. The morning was colorful and beautiful. It was a new day.
Later that day I got a call from the office in downtown Denver and they offered me the job. I start work the 15th of this month.
Oh, and I was invited to audition for that play in Denver. I go in on the 14th of this month.
As I stated at the beginning of this very long article, it is easy to have faith in the Universe and have confidence in what you are doing when things are going well. You want to believe your faith in the Source will be strong if things get scary, but sometimes you don’t know for sure until it happens and things appear desperate, maybe hopeless. And when your faith is bigger than your fear, when you go against everything safe, secure and practical, still knowing all is well, finding it difficult to explain why you are not worried when all of your friends are, when you live by what you know and not what you see, THAT’S when it happens. True bliss.
I couldn’t post this story until now, because I wrote the ending before it actually happened. I just knew it would go that way. Yep, I just knew it would…and it did. GoTerriGo!
Sometimes you think you’re just meeting an old friend for drinks in Los Angeles and you end up in Papua New Guinea for two weeks.
I was 14 years old, a tomboy wearing cutoffs and a bikini top, standing on the scorching blacktop road and my feet were burning, blistering up. Mark was waving goodbye through the back window of his family’s car as they drove away from Shadowood Lake on a hot, summer day. He was 14 too, and we both had tears in our eyes. Mark was my best friend, my neighbor, my brother, my heart, my sounding board, my enemy when he told me things I didn’t want to hear and now he was leaving. His family was moving out of state and I would probably never see him again. This happened in the 70’s and we didn’t have cell phones or computers. We had no internet, no Facebook to keep in touch or track each other down or post photos. He was gone.
Oh well…the car was soon out of view and I realized my feet were burning so I ran to the grass and cooled them off. Then I probably went swimming and decided to grow up the rest of the way without Mark to laugh with, cry with, fight with. I held on to happy memories of running through the woods to his house, sitting at their kitchen table for occasional meals with his parents and little brother, pretending I was part of their family too. I never forgot about him and thought about his family often, wishing them well in my prayers at bedtime.
Thirty-six years later, after marriages, children, divorces, happily remarrying again, making many moves and having several jobs, seeing hundreds of friends move in and out of our lives, we found each other again. Yep, that’s right. I got a call one day from Mark, “My son and I will be flying through Los Angeles from Nepal and we have an overnight layover. If you’re not busy…” You kidding me? I told my husband I was going to see my childhood friend and had no idea what time I’d be home because I wasn’t letting him go until I’d caught up on the entire three decades since we waved goodbye at Shadowood. He laughed and understood.
I knocked on the door of the LAX airport hotel room where Mark and his son, Matt, were staying overnight until their flight home the next morning. As soon as he opened the door and we saw each other, it was like we were 14 years old again. We hugged, we laughed, we punched each other in the arm like dudes. Mark stood well over six feet tall, and so did Matt, both still filthy dirty from their trip, and I was thrilled to be there. It was surreal. Matt was stretched out on one of the double beds, feet hanging off the end, chuckling and rolling his eyes at his father acting so giddy.
Within 10 minutes, Mark had given me the t-shirt he’d brought me from Nepal and we were looking at photos from this amazing trip he wanted to share. I was in awe. He had just spent two weeks in Nepal building a school for underprivileged children with a group called Be The Change Volunteers. It wasn’t his first time doing this, he’d built schools in other places in the world with BTCV and I wanted to hear more. I was captivated. We’d lived so many years apart, yet our missions were the same. We wanted to help people and nothing was too big, too far, too much. I looked at him and said, “I have to do this.” He shrugged and said, “Then do it!”
And so I did. We did. When Mark got back home to Montana, he called me to follow up on my desire to begin building schools all over the world with Be The Change Volunteers. We looked at the planned trips for the year and found one in September 2012 that would work for both of us to go with the group. That was it! We were going to Papua New Guinea, and being geographically challenged, I had no idea where I had agreed to go…and it didn’t matter. I was on top of the world at the idea of going to a remote part of the world to give children hope. Nothing too big, nowhere too far, nothing was too much.
My 50th birthday was coming up and I was elated. I knew I would wake up that morning changed. My life was coming together and making sense and it was a feeling beyond description. I spread the word and in lieu of gifts, I asked for donations for my trip. Thanks to my many friends, co-workers and other loved ones, I raised the money for my trip in no time. I requested and was graciously granted the two weeks off from work, got all of my shots, checkups and malaria meds to take with me. I got hundreds of stickers for the kids, shirts to cover my shoulders and shorts to cover my knees, work boots and flip-flops, sunscreen and mosquito repellant. After three flights and an open, muggy bus ride in the pitch black of night into the jungle, I found myself watching a tribal dance, beautifully choreographed by the children of Omo as a welcome gift to us. One of the pastors of the community also welcomed us with a speech where he mentioned that God had preordained this moment and on the day each of us were born, it was decided that we would come together that night as one culture, one family, one skin color, in order to do something good in the world. To help each other and to love one another. I was transformed. I was home.
It was extremely hot and humid, we showered (sort of) with spiders as big as the palm of my hand, washed our work clothes outside in tubs and hung them on the line but they never dried. We worked hard all day building a school from the ground up, in the hot sun and through torrential downpours, and with the exception of the day my son was born 27 years prior, I had never been happier. We laughed, we cried, we sang songs and played guitar, we told stories and listened to the children tell us stories handed down from their grandparents. We colored pictures, played games and handed out stickers and small gifts to the children each night. I spent time with the ladies as they cooked three meals a day for us, helped them take the dishes to and from the kitchen hut that was yards away from the house they had built for us. By the end of the first week they were teaching me to speak their language, laughing with me as I tried to learn their ways, and lovingly christened me an honorary “PNG Lady.” I was never afraid but always aware of how remote our location was, hearing the sounds from the jungle each night, watching the geckos run up the walls of the rooms where we slept.
Many volunteers join BTCV in order to travel the world and give hope to children by building schools and actively participating in their lives. I sat there one morning with the wonderful group of volunteers in Papua New Guinea as we finished breakfast, rubbed on our sunscreen and grabbed our work gloves, ready to get to work. We were nearing the end of our stay and the school was almost finished. As the discussion turned to other places we’d like to see, I asked Jimi (he and his wife Cristi are our fearless leaders) if I could come back to Papua New Guinea. I wanted to be on “Team PNG.” This project, as planned for the community of Omo by our friend and PNG contact named Martin, is on a 10-year plan with several schools and a community center in mind. I want to be a part of that. I want to watch these children grow up and help them to be everything they want to be. I want them to look back when they are adults and have children of their own, and know that I was with them from the start and I never let go. I want them to know that I care, that nothing is too big, nowhere is too far, nothing is too much to give.
It’s been two years since my first trip and I’m going back to Papua New Guinea with Be The Change Volunteers again this year. I’ve already raised the funds for my part of the trip and it’s all set.
AND I KNOW none of this would have happened if I hadn’t lived a life of challenges and gratitude, heartaches and humor, fear and faith, friends and enemies, loneliness and loving relationships, sometimes despair but never giving up. And hope. Always hope. From waving goodbye at Shadowood Lake as teenagers, to picking up thirty-six years later as though no time had passed at all, two friends, bound by the need to help others. Can’t beat that.
I know a young man named Adam. Adam is a good man…the kind of man you want to be around all the time.
I’ve known Adam since the day he was born. In fact, I was in the hospital with all of his family at the moment of his birth. That MOMENT, that very moment we all realized he was here, he was real, he was healthy, he was beautiful, he was something special, and he was…HUGE. Adam weighed 11 pounds and 3.5 ounces when he was born. He was a delightfully wonderful bundle of smooth ivory skin, big blue eyes and not just red hair, but the magnetic color red that you can’t find in the Crayola box without mixing a few crayons together. He was, and is, that particular and rare kind of strong, gentle soul, to this very day.
Adam grew up in East Texas, around horses and cattle and was allergic to farm animals, so to this day he’s probably never smelled anything. His skin is fair and his dad used to say he’d “get sunburned in a picture show.” He has just the right amount of freckles on his skin and when he was four years old his mom used to tell him that while he slept, the freckles on his face would rearrange themselves, depending on whether he slept on his right or left side. When he would wake up in the morning, she would get excited and say, “Let’s go look in the mirror while you brush your teeth and see which freckles moved last night!” Laughter was a big part of his growing up, a tool his mother tried to make sure he appreciated and used often to enhance the good times and get through the times that appear more challenging.
Adam is a gifted high school teacher, a thoughtful and loving husband, a loyal and trustworthy friend, a joy to be around. He’s funny. He’s really funny. He’s the kind of funny that makes you laugh those big guffaws from your gut so that after spending an afternoon with him your stomach muscles think you did 100 sit-ups. His humor is subtle, though. You watch his wheels turning, anxiously awaiting to hear his take on the conversation or you marvel at his silence when there is just “nothing to say about that.” Babies and dogs are so drawn to him that they have to sit close and gaze up at him as though they are saying, “I like you. You get me. I’m safe with you.” His curiosity is insatiable and he can spend hours roaming the internet, touring a museum, or walking around Best Buy on a Saturday afternoon. And you want to go with him.
I’m inspired today to write about Adam because I am filled with gratitude to know him, and I want to share that with you. It’s important to shine a light on the people in our lives who stand out, who teach us the lessons we are here to learn, those who are valuable treasures to us, the ones we can’t imagine our lives without. I KNOW we need these people in our lives because they also shine the spotlight back on us, to show us what’s missing, what’s important, what to pay attention to, how to love fiercely and with abandon. Adam’s vibrant place in this world, his heart, his soul, his values, his laughter, everything he has been, is now, and will become, make him that person, that special being, that good man we all need in our lives.
I am forever grateful that among all of those other gifts, he is also…my son. This is indeed a Happy Mother’s Day. GoTerriGo!