This video was made while my good friend and mentor, Helene Van Manen, and I were camping last fall. We often have discussions like this one about life and how to live it the best way. Keep in mind that we had been camping for 5 days without showering and barely combing our hair!
Learn more about Helene here.
Today, I'll be leaving on an adventure that I’ve dreamed of for years.
I’m going on safari in Africa.
As I write this, I’m pinching myself and realizing that in a few days I’ll be seeing elephants, tigers, giraffes and other animals in their natural habitat in Tanzania.
Last November a very dear friend of mine passed away from cancer. She was a healthy, vibrant 62 year old. After her death, I made a pledge to myself and to her that I would not wait to do the things that I want to do.
I’m not wealthy. But I found a way to do this safari. I choose not to wait to follow my dreams.
When you listen to the video my friend ...
Four years ago today, my first grandson, Andy, was born.
Since then, I have a 2nd grandson, Rob, along with 3 granddaughters. I love them dearly and as their grandmother, there are things I want them to know. I especially feel compelled to make sure the boys are guided to respect and honor women. And I want them to know themselves and how to express their feelings.
The following letter was written just after Andy's birth.
I sent the same one to Rob, my 2-year-old grandson when he was born. My hope is that I will be able to role model this wisdom for them but also verbalize it to them. Luckily, they have parents who will teach them these same ideals.
Here's the letter I sent:
I haven't met you yet but you are my first grandson. You are the 4th one to arrive and you are met with a sister and 4 girl cousins. I can only imagine how you will be when you play with them. As your Gran, I am thrilled because I think that you will learn a lot...
"To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
In case you missed the 1st part of this story, you can read how we started this adventure in Part 1. Go here
We had been warned about altitude sickness…nausea, headaches, dizziness. The only way to get rid of it we were told was to come down off the mountain. My head was starting to bother me now. More Advil and more water. We kept going.
Indomitable. Unable to subdue or defeat. It was powerful to say these words to myself as I heaved my left leg up unto a huge rock.
In-dom-i-table. I WILL NOT be defeated by this damn mountain.
This was an epic trip for me. In the telling of this story about our adventure, it’s important to give you some background on what it’s like to climb Fuji-San (Mr. Fuji).
It was a Buddhist monk in 700 A.D. who first climbed Mt. Fuji. A temple was built at the summit 400 years later. It became a pilgrimage site for Japanese. In 1860, the first foreigner climbed Mt. Fuji.
In 1868, Lady Parkes, an Englishwoman, defied a ban on women climbers and ascended the peak. The ban was lifted afterward. What a badass woman :).
It was my husband’s idea. Thom had dreamed about this climb even before we moved to Okinawa in 2013. He’d always said, “I’m gonna climb Mt. Fuji.
I really didn’t want to go on this trek. I heard about...
In the small Southern town where I grew up in the 50's, it was customary for women to put on a “tea.” These teas were to honor one of the young women in the town who was soon to be married.
A group of three women who were best friends entertained together: Miss Virginia, Miss Sara, and Allene, my mother.
They would plan in advance…sometimes on the phone, occasionally in person. The parties were elaborate.
My mother and her friends were not sophisticated or wealthy.
But they knew how to put on a “tea”. The silver platters were polished and ready beforehand, along with the silver coffee pots, sterling silverware, bone china, and freshly starched linen napkins. Fresh flowers from their own yards and tasty morsels were always featured.
My younger sister and I were designated servers. I’m guessing I was 9 when I became a part of the tea party scene. What I remember is that we had detailed instructions as we learned...
As we celebrate another of our nation’s birthday this Independence Day, I am reminded of a July 4th post I wrote back in 2011 when my son, Rob, was deployed to Afghanistan. Rob is home now, but re-reading the post today brings all those feelings back to me. It also makes me feel a deep gratitude that he returned with his body, and his psyche, intact. I will forever feel grateful for that.
I still feel connected to those who served in that faraway country. I am privileged to have worked as a counselor with Marines, Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors who were deployed and returned from Afghanistan and Iraq. Their stories are chilling, young men who know the horrors of war and are still trying to make sense of it all.
The ones who are still deployed, still in danger, the ones who are struggling, and the many who are wounded warriors.
Think for a moment about the ones...
Summer is the best time to sit back, have a barbeque, go for a hike, lay in a hammock, chill out, right?
Are you doing that? Confession. I’m not. I’m busy and overwhelmed a lot.
I looked up the definition of overwhelm to see if it’s as bad as I thought: Here’s what I found: “to exist in such great amounts that someone or something cannot deal with them. ”Yep, it’s what I thought. Plus they could have added this part:
“And you don’t know what to do about it.”
Thoughts of burning down the house (to get rid of clutter) or running away or bursting into tears because there’s so much to do and you don’t even know where to start doesn’t really help, does it? And to top it off, everyone’s taking a vacay. What if you don’t even have the time to figure out how to get away? Geez. Sheer craziness, right?
Here’s what I think might...
I’ve decided to come clean and tell you the truth: I’m going to write you every week. Whoa. I cringe because I’ve said this before. But this time I really mean it.
When have you promised yourself (or someone else) that you’d do something? And then - it happens. You stop doing something you meant to do. And usually it goes like this: you miss a week. A week turns into 2 weeks and then 2 becomes a month, and then the next thing, it’s not happening. AT ALL. Please tell me you’ve done this, too.
The thing is, I KNOW what happens for me. It’s called a big fat, mean saboteur, who sits on my shoulder.
I hear him breathing in disgust, reading what I’ve just written. “So, Jo ... when did you get so bold that you're telling people you’re going to write them every week? Really?” (I can imagine him rolling his eyes). “How long will it last THIS TIME? You can’t even think of what to write about."...
This is me on my 5th birthday right next to my sister
Today I am 69 years old.
I decided that part of my birthday present to myself would be in looking back when I was 5 years old to see if I have any of the traits she had after all these years.
I wanted to get to know this younger part of myself since I have three granddaughters about this same age.
It's so important for me to be aware and guide them so that they don’t fall into the same traps as I did.
This is me at 5. I look determined and a bit defiant.
It is shocking for me now to see this photo since I grew up with a mother who didn’t tolerate any challenges to her authority and certainly not any sassiness in a little child or anyone for that matter.
When I look into the eyes of this young girl I wonder, was I really a little spunky?
So what was going on here?
Was there a moment of posing for the camera with my real true little self before anyone noticed and could...
Greetings from Port Vila, Vanuatu
Most people have never heard of this tropical island in the South Pacific. Vanuatu is an archipelago of about 82 small islands near the Fiji islands.
I came here to live over 30 years ago when my sons were 3 years old and 6 months. I was excited but nervous to bring little ones here, especially sight unseen. But I trusted my instincts that we would be safe and we were. And for 5 years I was able to call this place my home.
It was one of the best and happiest times of my life.
Now I find myself here again, watching my 3 grandchildren grow up.
In this photo, you can see I am surrounded by my little grandchildren and my beautiful daughter-in-law, Stephanie.
The little boy who was 3 (Andrew) has come back to live here where he has created a shipping business with tugboats and barges for inter-island business.
Here are my sons in 1988. Andrew was 5 and Rob was 3.
The point of this story is that you never know how life will...