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Touched by a stranger

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These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. The world’s been spinning on it’s axis at regular speed but it’s felt like warped speed to me. Since the start of July – we haven’t stopped. East coast road trips, New York visits and returning to San Diego with immediate guests, the invasion of Comic-Con and more guests on the way – needless to say it’s been a bit busy. But busy doesn’t prevent perspective nor impede wisdom from those you truly wish to ‘see’.

Sunset LBNY

At the same time of the first world ‘busy’ and joyful choice of travel and visiting with loved ones, news of another kind entered our world. The teacher of one of my wisest yoga instructors passed away suddenly, shaking an international community to its core. This man of wisdom, talent and grace who has touched my life through writings, meditation apps and Sarah’s teachings – this man who helped so many thousands find their own way, himself struggled with mental illness. Michael Stone shared his knowledge of psychotherapy, yoga and Buddhism and fostered a world-wide community of followers he met and ones he never will. All of a sudden, the world seemed quieter.

“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world” -Dr. Seuss

Loss is difficult on all levels. Trying to explain how someone you never met impacted your life often seems to fall on a spectrum of ‘how can you be sad’ or ‘you never even knew him’. Unfortunately, I am like millions of others who have dealt with loss of loved ones and those close to them and although losing this ‘stranger’ is on a completely different plane, it’s not any less real. Loss hurts. Sadness happens. Hearts break for loved ones going through massive, tragic changes and for those around them who want to do something yet know there’s nothing that can make this moment hurt any less. The pain is palpable.

sunset San Diego

And then there was Ari. The courageous, witty, brave, spunky, vivacious warrior I never met who put a smile on my face whenever his name crossed my screen. This child of a university friend touched the lives of thousands across the globe. His arrival into the world wasn’t easy, was fraught with danger and life through him curve balls even before he was smacking them out of the park as one of the biggest baseball fans around. He was the pinnacle of a fighter. Somehow, this kid whose heart needed replacing actually had a spirit that was larger than all of ours combined. This tough as nails Red Sox fan filled with courage, wit, wisdom, grace and fierce love for his family and teams – this little stranger changed lives. His and his family’s struggle with waiting for a heart for over 200 days (spending 180+ in the hospital), losing their house to mold and having insurance give them NOTHING for it, finally getting a new heart (while fully acknowledging the loss and gift of the family who would help theirs) and the thrill of going home was shared the world over. He met some of his biggest idols, played in the yard, hugged his siblings, went to the golf course with dad and loved his family fiercely – and after stealing hearts around the globe, he took a turn for the worse and in the words of his parents’ social media posting ‘passed away peacefully…listening to the Red Sox’.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” – Piglet

This tiny person who I never met reminded me of that elusive perspective, growth, journey and struggle. From stories of his parents, friends and those who loved him, the world knew he dreamed big, loved fiercely and had the courage of the bravest warriors. In his short time, he made a huge impact. His optimism, fighting spirit, zest for life and calm demeanor reminds us all of the important things in life. His struggles were real from the get go but they didn’t stop him nor his parents from helping him to live his best life, shine with the brightest of lights, share his whole heart and soul and find tenacity of strength when much seemed lost.

Thankful

I’ve been on a journey of searching for perspective for quite some time. Call it growth, seeking or whatever you will, but I’ve found myself interacting with people, writings and things I never would have before – the universe seems to be doing her thing and smacking me in the face with whatever she feels necessary. I’ve always believed that people come into our lives for a reason, even if the reason is one we never know.

“We touch other people’s lives simply by existing” – JK Rowling

This weekend, San Diego swelled with passionate people doing their Comic-Con thing and being present in the moment. This last month I got the opportunity to hang with close friends, see new things and hug family. Yet these two individuals (whose constant struggle never seemed to divert their spirit), these two individuals I never got the pleasure of meeting, tugged at my heart in ways I never expected. Seeking never gets old. Trying to be the you you’d like to be today is a journey that has twists, turns, stops, starts, crashes, weaving winding madness and always seems to change direction. I am devastated for the families and close circles of these two lives cut short. Since learning of their stories, they have been on my mind (and the minds of many) constantly. Michael and Ari have taught me lessons filled with grit, heart and wisdom. If only for a short time, I couldn’t be happier to have ‘known’ them.

Heart Mission Beach

Tears have flowed around the world and although I know the world will continue to spin on it’s axis, for awhile, it feels like that axis is off kilter and won’t be the same again. It’s painful to realize that nothing’s guaranteed; but, we can do our best to be present, be awake and seek that silver lining. Young and old we can all make a difference. These strangers have taught me lessons of which I will keep always. Their presence is felt and their lessons and love live on in all they’ve touched. We may not be family, we may not have ever met, but I will never forget them.

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same” – Flavia Weedin

Lessons from significant strangers

Cheer for your teams with immense passion

Love fiercely

Have courage of the bravest warriors

Keep the faith

Cherish family and friends

Spread positivity

Smile wide

Practice kindness

Help others

Laugh often

Remember to be a kid

Any opportunity you get to play – take it!

Share your story

Ask for help

Try to keep a calm demeanor

Treat people equally

Be flexible

Listen closely

Be present

Look towards the future

Live in the moment

Share your sparkle

Dream big

Be the light

The public social media pages of each of these special people have further information on how to help. If you choose – send words of love, monetary donations or acts of kindness. The little boy with the giant spirit was helped by the most generous gift of organ donation – if it’s a way you’d like to help someone else – please do so. Above all, remember their lessons, perspective, choice, attitude and light – you can never know someone else’s battles, but you can always, always be kind.

Thank you for the lessons. I will remember you – always.

 

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Journey, change…forward

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thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

Do you know if you’re on a path? Have you felt stuck, in search of a new goal, or have you realized that there’s something else you can do or learn in this world? I’m not sure how much stock I ever put in all of this stuff. For years, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t need a path, journey or any of those what I once thought were ‘life coach moments’, I was living, enjoying, being – that was enough. I can’t tell you if there was a specific ‘aha’ moment or that I read this thing on @Pinterest or saw it on @Oprah® that seemed to click, but somehow, this mindset has entered my existence and it seems it’s here to stay.

“No matter how hard the past…you can always begin again” – Buddha Read the rest of this entry

Growth, travel and pizza

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I have a friend who is known in her circle of friends as the ‘Pizza Expert’. She leads tours of ‘the best pizza’ in Brooklyn, runs races where the prize is a slice, sports a pizza costume on Halloween and has now developed a ‘pizza crawl’ around New York City. I have a feeling she’d ditch me as a friend if I admitted to not absolutely loving traditional pizza – well, now it’s out there. I know, I know – how can I be from New York and not love pizza? For that, I don’t have an answer, but I can tell you I married a guy who feels the same. And yet, over our own homemade ‘pizza’ dinner the other night, somehow we wound up comparing pizza to travel. Some things rarely make sense.

Cheesy Flatbread from Food Network's® The Neeleys - thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com Read the rest of this entry

Warm in Autumn?

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Stacey & Erin - August 2009 - thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

Camp friends for over 30 years

Got a favourite season? My friend Erin’s is autumn. She loves all things ‘fall’. When I spoke to her this week, she was in the midst of making a batch of raspberry jam. She smiles when talking about colourful leaves, crisp air, time in the garden, jam-making, s’mores by the fire, sweaters and a joy in the change of seasons. I’m glad she has a favourite season, but we already know, autumn has never been a favourite of mine…but this year could see something change and it has nothing to do with the colour of the leaves. Read the rest of this entry

Confessions of a World Traveler

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Everyone travels in his/her own way. Some grab a few days at a local spot while others book a year in advance knowing they have to travel on ‘school holidays’. Some are intricately linked to the idea of last minute adventures and yet, there are still others who ditch the norm and try to make travel a life’s focus. No matter the type, each and everyone finds the meaning of travel and its gifts have an effect. Endless long-term travel may not be in store for every traveler, but most who have ever left the confines of their own four walls can agree that boundaries have the tendency to change, perspective sometimes arises and new people are often met. In this guest post, Akaisha Kaderli shares just some of the gifts she’s found in ‘Confessions of a World Traveler’. Read the rest of this entry

Lucky Enough

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Lucky Enough

By: Stacey Ebert

There’s a saying we’ve often seen written on pieces of driftwood and sold in the touristy shops just off the beach. It reads ‘if you’re lucky enough to live at the beach, you’re lucky enough’ and with our recent overseas summer travel having gifted me perspective, I once again know that I wholeheartedly agree with that saying. It tugs at my heart and reminds my toes once again how joyful it is to each day run through the sand.

From my spot on the sand at Azores Beach, just outside my building in Long Beach, New York, I sit watching the waves crash at the shore while our friendly lifeguards sit atop the stand guarding the ocean-going participants. On this last ‘official’ summer weekend people once again hit the beach for what some believe to be the last hurrah, but we, the lucky ones, know otherwise. The lifeguards will no longer arrive each morning, the trucks will cease to drive in the makeshift emergency lane and the lieutenants will close up headquarters on National Beach only to head off to other jobs or locations before they return next Memorial Day.

As this was my second summer not working (by choice) I was given the gift of time and much of it was spent on my old orange beach chair under my umbrella on Azores Beach. I walked the Long Beach boardwalk every morning waving at the same early morning crowd. There were those working out, reading, chatting with friends, checking out the surf breaks and others enjoying the smell of the sea who would be there each day as I walked those 2.2 miles each way and tapped the railings at each end to make it count. The lifeguards took their spots by nine each morning and spent the day in the Long Beach sun changing outfits with the change in the weather while always having a watchful eye on beach and ocean goers alike.

The smell of the sea and the feel of the sand has always been a part of my life but it is this weekend as others pack away their chairs and umbrellas that I am overcome with the feeling of just how lucky I am. Lucky that is that for those of us who live here there is always ‘beach season’. It may be sweatpants instead of sarongs and sweatshirts instead of bikinis but the sand and the sea never disappoint. A walk along the waters edge as the waves crash and the white foam slides over your toes sinking your feet ever so slightly deeper into the sand is a sure-fire way to forget your daily worries. With each crash of the wave the ocean provides answers to life’s deepest questions and gives solace to those searching for that elusive inner peace.

With homemade s’mores cupcakes in hand to deliver to our lifeguards as a thank you for the summer, Mathew and I sat on our beach awaiting that 6pm whistle. Along with our fellow beach goers from our condo at the shore, we clapped as the lifeguards journeyed from their chair and down the mound of sand knowing that when the lifeguard stands come down for their winter rest we will be ready in eight months time to see them rise again in all of their orange glory. When that last whistle blew signifying their departure and the ‘unofficial’ end to beach season, we once again wiggled our toes in the sand and remembered that our season doesn’t have to end and we truly are lucky enough.

-The End

Sleep-Away Camp’s Greatest Gift

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It’s the makings of countless best selling fiction novels; four friends from childhood who maintain their relationships through adulthood.  Without sounding contrite, my story is real. No fictional characters, no made up locations-just four girls who met before their teens and journeyed through life with the help of summer camp memories and experiences.  Last night those same four friends gathered together to share an evening. Four thirty-eight year old women who have been friends for more than half of our lives went to one of our childhood homes and were reminded once again of the meaning of friendship.

It was at Dorothy P. Flint 4H Camp on the Long Island Sound in Riverhead, NY that we all first met. An only child from West Hempstead, a Massapequa girl whose sister had introduced her to camp, a Jewish girl from Plainview trying out sleep-away for the first time and the daughter of the camp manager (from Hicksville) who after being born at the hospital down the road in the summer of ’74 had spent her life’s summers at camp. It was there that we learned about ourselves. It was there that we experienced so many ‘firsts’. And it was there, at camp, in countless cabins every summer that our friendship began and flourished.

For some Long Island children the last week of June meant the beginning of days at the local pool or playing games on their front lawn with the neighborhood kids. For us it was different. As school came to a close we looked forward to eight weeks together in wooden cabins with no electricity and no bathrooms in the bunks. We dreamt of bunk beds, giggle fests, council fires, friendship circles, co-eds, cabin nights, the 209 steps down to the rocky and sea-glass filled beach with the pungent smell of the sea and so many other exciting events. That last Sunday in June saw us all head in busses or cars past the end of the Long Island Expressway, through a round-a-bout and up to the entrance of camp off of Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Once inside the entrance gates, past the larger than life rocks with 4H Camp painted on them and up to the office we found counselors from around the world who greeted us with open arms and ever-present smiles. We weren’t just at camp-we were home.

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A different type of journey…The Gift of Yoga

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Written 28 June 2012

“Take one last breath, seal in your intention for your class today” said the instructor. I think my intention would be something about trying not to fall and eat sand. “Now squat down with your feet wide, place your hands in front of you on the ground, lift your bum up and place your knees on your upper arms. Be sure to look forward while starting to lift your feet one at a time” said Kristen as I stared at her quizzically. Are you kidding? This is definitely not normal was all I was thinking as I fell face first into the sand on my first attempt at crow pose.

Since I was fifteen years old I have worked every summer. I’ve been a sleep away camp counselor, a lifeguard and spent many wonderful years as an aquatics director & private swim instructor. Until last summer that is, when my best friend convinced me to take the summer off from work and go back to school in September a more rejuvenated teacher. I loved my summer job and had great difficulty giving it up; but, I decided it was time for a change. With a heavy heart, I passed the torch to my assistant director and asked her to take care of my campers.

For the first time since moving to Long Beach (& for the first time ever) I was actually going to enjoy all of the benefits of living here-the ocean air, the sand between my toes, the people watching on the boardwalk & time; that elusive entity that we all hope to grasp but never seem to be able to find. Those first few days were strange-not having to make my lunch, head to work and be exhausted upon my return home while hoping to stay awake long enough to shower & eat never mind having an actual conversation with my husband. Then I found my feet and went for that first summer walk on the boardwalk and felt that rush of relaxation with each step as the rays of sunshine hit my face. I was past National when I saw what would change my summer-a yoga class on the shoreline practicing to the music of the waves.

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Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Day 68: Polokwane, South Africa-Kruger National Park, South Africa (14 November 2009)

Well, the storm had come and gone and the tents were still standing, so that was a good thing! We woke up at 6:30 this morning to the scene of a very heavy storm with the outsides of the tents drenched but we were dry as a bone on the inside! We got ourselves up and had a lovely brekky of Jungle Oats So Easy, South Africa’s version of instant oatmeal. We had banana and toffee and chocolate and added peanut butter and oh my goodness they were delicious! Like a warm reeces peanut butter cup and a warm banana dessert!

After a cup of tea and the wash up of the dishes, we were on our way to Kruger National Park! We attempted to go to a small game reserve first but unfortunately it was raining a bit and the reserve was closed since they were afraid of the cars sliding into the animals. Lucky for us, this is the only time so far in this whole journey that weather has been a factor at all in our holiday plans. So, in lieu of the reserve, we hit a shopping mall to get some food for Kruger and we had a bit of a wander around and picked up a few of our South African favorites for the road (two boxes of rusks and some Braai salt) and then we headed to Kruger! How cool is that! We were actually going to Kruger National Park in South Africa-I’ve wanted to go here for as long as I’ve known it existed!

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South Africa here we come!

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Day 67: Nata, Botswana-Polokwane, South Africa (13 November 2009)

Well, aside from watching the elephant drink from the pool last night after another beautiful sunset, we didn’t get eaten by lions, we survived the giant dung beetles and made it to morning when our alarm went off at four! We got up and put the tents away in the dark; then hopped on the truck and fell straight back to sleep for quite awhile. We drove for what seemed like forever with a few toilet stops along the way; breakfast was at a toilet stop (some muesli and yogurt on the truck) and lunch was at a non-descript place just before the South African border post.

We crossed over the Limpopo River and through the border of South Africa just after midday, got another stamp in our passports and then made our way another three hours or so to the town of Polokwane which is the capital of the Limpopo Province in the Republic of South Africa. We made our way to Boma the Bush campsite in Polokwane. It’s a nice place (there are guest chalets that we didn’t have) with a pool table and a pool, some guest cottages and a campsite. Hey, at least we were off of the truck at this point which was great and although we were out of biscuits (cookies for s’mores) we would still be able to toast some marshmallows over the fire tonight after dinner which is apparently wildabeast sausages (but not for me, of course).

Polokwane was basically a stop along the route to Kruger National Park. Not much to see and do altogether here but a place to lay our weary heads. We hung at the pool for a bit and then showered (in a really nice shower with great water pressure and NO bugs) and relaxed by the fire for a bit until dinner was ready-dinner that we helped to prepare! Mathew made the mash, I made the salad and Colm made the toasties…dinner was on the braai of course…toasties, Greek salad, potato mash and wildabeast sausages for the carnivores among us. Then it was time to chat and bedtime was upon us as the lightning was here and the storm was on it’s way!

Tomorrow: Kruger National Park!