Rock on Living’s Travel Guide: Friendship, Maine – Planning a Personal Retreat

 

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March 2019

{Affiliate links are included}

“Solitude is where I place my chaos to rest and awaken my inner piece.” – N. Rowe

Why Maine?

The stars.

The sunrises.

The sunsets.

The coast.

The clean air.

The quiet.

The Woods.

No billboards, noise.

Pristine Stillness.

To set the tone for a trip to Maine and planning a Self-Care Retreat, I will begin by reposting a link to a  think-piece piece I wrote during this time entitled, “Slack Tide.”

https://rockonliving.com/2019/03/07/slack-tide

Like Yellowstone, Maine is one of the United State’s hidden gems. Acadia National Park, located in Maine provides maybe the most stunning sunrises in all of the United States (but you have to be up early to catch!) A few summers ago, our family had one of our favorite camping experiences in Acadia.

If you like open skies, fresh clean air, extremes in weather, lobster, art, woods, hiking, skiing, hunting, relaxing or communing with Mother Nature, Maine is the place for you!

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.” -unknown

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Driving from Portland to Friendship I saw NO supersize stores of any kind – none, zero, zilch! There must be a grocery store chain called “Shaws” because I saw several of them. For the most part, there are a lot of mom and pop type stores along the routes I traveled to my cottage. I also saw several pottery and art stores that were mostly closed this time of year.

The highways were well-maintained and when snow began to fall, they were on it! The back roads to the cottage were “good” but a little rough (I imagine due to the extreme weather/winters they experience.)

 

When choosing my rental vehicle for this drive, I rented a heavier vehicle with four-wheel drive- just in case of heavy snow and boy am glad I did! The photo below was snapped upon my arrival in the Trader Joe’s parking lot! That’s some serious snow for this North Carolinian!

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Maine is the home to many writers, potters, painters and other artists. There is something about the space, cleanliness and pace of life up there that just inspires one to sit in their creativity.  The quiet and landscapes are the perfect backdrop for inspiration and thinking. Our American society can be audibly and visually noisy. Technology is a double-edged sword with the inability to disconnect sometimes always at your neck. Maine is respite care for the soul.

“Maine is a joy in the summer. But the soul of Maine is more apparent in the winter.” – P. Theroux

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Why Maine in the winter?

It is a risky proposition planning a trip anywhere that can receive blizzard-type weather. When planning this trip add flexibility in your travels coming and going because it can dramatically change based on let’s say, oh, maybe, a blizzard! (And, can I just say if you get lucky enough to be stranded in Maine in a blizzard, I am WAY jealous, ok?)

The Airport: I came and went through the Portland International Jetway and it is seriously the cutest, smallest international airport, ever. Security was sweet. Who says that? “security was sweet…” You say that in Maine! It is super easy to navigate, and man can they handle snow. On my return flight I watched an arsenal of snowblowers, power snowblowers, de-icers and snowplows work like a well-orchestrated ballet keep the runways open.

Why alone?

Once again, I refer you to the post “Slack-Tide” where I describe a week in solitude.

https://rockonliving.com/2019/03/07/slack-tide

 

When planning your personal retreat:

Be clear on the purpose of your time away.

Set your intentions and then let your planning flow from there.

I knew I wanted time to read (a lot), write (a lot), and rest. I knew I wanted to take time to create a masterplan for my schedule/routine/life when I returned home. I wanted to do this in solitude, in silence, and in a remote beautiful winter nature setting.

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Think about what YOU need, what makes you refuel and get clear on that and allow your itinerary, location and plans stay true to those.

When I shared with some my plans to travel to Maine for a week alone, they asked “Why Maine? Can’t you just go a couple hours to the beach?” No, I can’t. For me, I wanted silence. The kind of silence you cannot achieve with the backdrop of the ocean waves, cars, planes, people walking on the beach, commercial scrawl. I wanted pristine silence, no people, no consumerism, silence. I was clear on my desires and this is one of the reasons Maine appealed to me.Screenshot_20190305-140102_Gallery

 

My dad said when he saw my post about my time in Maine he was worried I wasn’t ok. I find that funny. Why is time away alone confusing? I have three teen daughters, homeschool my children, live with my extended family and for now am the primary taxi to my kiddos. Like many, my output is great. A week away was exactly what I needed. However, that may not be your jam. The key is to ask yourself, what would fill you up? What does your soul need?

 

 

 

 

 

“You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day…unless you’re busy, then you should sit for an hour.” -zen saying

The Food

On this trip, food was not a priority. I did not even order a pizza for delivery! (Honestly, I am not sure if you even could!) I would suggest stopping at a grocery store (there is a Trader Joe’s right off the freeway less than 5 minutes from airport) or google a larger grocery chain closer to your destination. I purchased all the food for the week (bought way too much! Not used to shopping and cooking for one!)

 

Preparing and eating food on a retreat by your self is awesome! You eat and cook when YOU feel like it. Here are some of the food items I purchased for my meals for a week in Maine.

Note: I’m lacto-ovo-vegetarian (fancy spancy for I eat eggs and dairy but nothing with a face.)

Wine:

Two Buck Chuck red wine

Snacks:

Dark Chocolate Almonds and raisins

Tortilla chips

Cheesy popcorn – love that stuff.

Dr. Pepper (don’t judge)

Breakfast:

oatmeal, chopped bananas/strawberries & brown sugar

Granola & Soy Milk

Eggs, orange sprinkle cheese, tortillas, vegetarian sausage patties for breakfast burritos

Lunch:

PB & J

Spring Mix Salad

“Euro” lunch – sliced cucumbers, fancy cheese (I love Gouda), apple slices, hummus, crackers

Tomato Soup

Quesadillas

Dinner:

Spaghetti and Vegie Meatballs

Steamed Broccoli

Cheese Raviolis

Pizza

The Costs

Flight – AA $225

Uber – $25

Airport food – $15

Car Rental/Gas – Dollar $175 Most car rental agencies will fill your gas tank when you return car at same price offered at pump! If so, take advantage of not having to add another stop to your travels.  When booking through an online booking service for rental cars, pay close attention to the ‘a.m.’ and ‘p.m.’ choice! We accidently chose 10p.m. for our rental pick-up time.  When we called to correct it to 10 a.m. (simple mistake, right?) we were told that this 12-hour mistake (a click of the mouse mistake) would cost us an additional $150! WHAT? When the entire rental for the week was $175. Watch your clicks carefully!

When selecting a vehicle to rent in Maine in winter think bigger, heavier and possibly four-wheel drive. Maine does an extremely top-notch job maintaining their roads but going for the cheapest or smallest car may not be the safest choice in this setting.

New cozy writing clothes (sweats, sweatshirts, socks, scarf) $100

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For those of you who follow me on IG, you know I LOVE a heart in Nature! Hard to tell from photo, but this heart is a huge piece of stranded ice in the lobster pound at low tide, has to be 6 feet across!

Food/Toiletries  for week – $125

Fresh flowers for cottage – $10

Candles for cottage – $15

Cottage: $0 very gracious family members

Gifts for very gracious family members $150

 

The Packing

I wanted easy, light. One carry-on.

Things I forgot:

The under the seat suitcase will not fit under the window seat on smaller planes. If you are bringing only a carry-on, when selecting your seat, choose aisle or middle seat or pray there is room in overhead bins. Luckily, I had a cool row-mate who switched underneath storage with me.

Sunglasses! I forgot how bright snow is.

Earbuds.

Binoculars or small telescope (the stars in Maine? Ka-chow! It is so dark you can see the Milky Way with you naked eye!)

Hiking boots. I forgot how badly I would want to walk in the woods in Maine. I could have worn them on the plane easily.

Other Rockonliving Tips learned on this Trip:

Traveling in the winter (March) in this area of the United States was a little tricky! The night before I left, I received a text my flight was already cancelled due to a winter storm warning and luckily, I was rebooked several hours later, on a new flight.

Many homeowners and summer rentals are not busy in the winter and you may be able to find some good deals/prices on renting a cottage this time of year.

Portland has a small airport that is easy to navigate.

Driving to Friendship, Maine took about 2 hours in the winter (normally about an hour and half drive.)

There is a plethora of stores right outside the airport you can purchase groceries and items you may need for your time away. I stopped at Trader Joe’s 10 minutes from the airport. Due to the winter storm warning I wanted to get all my groceries for the week as close to airport and highway-maintained roads. In the summer I love shopping at the local mom and pop general stores, but this didn’t feel wise in winter.

Talk to the locals. Maine folks are down-to-earth and easy to talk to and can give you a lot of insider, helpful information for your time visiting.

Try not to get too attached your itinerary as things (weather, illness, wildfires, war, etc.) can and will happen.

Be aware your flights, travel plans, ability to drive to your location, stores being open or closed may be impacted by extreme weather. For example, my drive to the airport from the cottage took almost double the time due to a snowstorm. Growing up in the North, I was confident to drive in the weather, but it was slow go. I left with extra cushion of time. My flight was delayed for a couple hours and then we were held on tarmac for almost two hours before take-off. Extreme turbulence did not allow for any drink/snack service so next time I will remember to pack a few snacks and a bottle of water just in case.

I packed uber light and did NOT pack the following: Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion. I indulged in these items to be used for the week and then either tossed them or left for future house guest.

While I KNOW packing books take up a lot of room and can be heavy, I LOVE to hold a book and not a tablet. For that reason, I did bring a few books with me but wish I could have brought more. I think in the future, I will order books on Amazon and have sent to arrive when I get to my location. And, then unless I LOVE the book, leave for next guest.

Along that line, after you have considered where you are going and how much you wish to pack, consider sending things ahead or renting items you may need due to season.

Pack a portable charger. Always a good idea.

Logistics of your home life need to be in order weeks prior to leaving. This week away required the coordination of many, mostly my rockstar husband. Take the time before you leave to make sure carpools, appointments, schedules, deadlines, bills are all handled so your time away can leave logistics at home.

Screenshot your boarding pass. Much easier to locate and use when going through security and boarding airplane.

Unpacking from your Trip: (I recommend this for ALL trips large & small. The bigger the experience, the more unpacking that may be necessary) This unpacking is not just your suitcase, but your experience as well.

I came home on a late flight on a Sunday. Before I left, I declared Monday a “Teacher Workday” (we homeschool). This allowed me time to sleep in, unpack (literally), do laundry, check back in with my family, get up to speed on our life – calendar/bills/grocery shop, etc. and finish prepping our homeschool for the remainder of the week.

Unpacking, for me, allows one time to bring  the parts of your experience you wish to incorporate more into your daily life.

Unpacking the experience will also give you time to talk with your family! By sharing my experience and listening about how their week went we were able to do a reboot or – touch-in with one another! A proper unpack will also allow one to get to bed at a proper time (there was an hour shift ahead on my return) and reenter life more peacefully.

Your exit plans and reentry plans are just as essential to your planning as the trip itself!

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Maine is beautiful, ya’ll. For real. I have traveled to many locations and there is no place in the United States like it.  We have traveled in Maine as a family in the summer and enjoyed time in Acadia National Park (amazing!) and at the cottage I am currently staying in, but this is the first time I have been up here in winter, alone. In one word, heaven.

I tend to recharge alone, in silence and love nature so this location is perfect.

This special edition of a Rockonliving Travel guide is for the person desiring some intentional time away to recharge, relax and practice a little Self-Care. I have shared my thoughts and created this guide with the intention of hopefully inspiring you to do a little planning and schedule some time to live your best life!

My trip may not be your thing, that’s not the point. What is universal, or at the core of this guide, is that time away or time doing things that fill up cup, are life-giving and allow for you to hear your heart are as essential as an adult as breathing. That is what I hope you take-away.

If you plan a personal retreat, I would love and totally want to hear from you or see some of your snaps!

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” A. Lamott

One tradition our family has is the “jump shot” photo! We always snap a picture of our family jumping on our adventures and when home, I print the image and place in frame for us to remember – memories are the best souvenirs.
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Jump and Snap! 

Share with us your family jump shot!

All of us here at Rock on Living LOVE a good JUMP shot on location!

Insider’s tip: Video your jump! Don’t try to “catch” the jump. Once recorded, you can then use your pause and scroll option to find the perfect picture and screenshot that image to post!

Share your adventure with us and use the hashtag #slacktide #rockonlivingjumpshot and/or tag us @rockonliving and let us see you jump!

Happy Planning Friends!

Cheers to living your best life.

Rock on LIVING,

Vickie

Things I thought Rocked (Think Oprah’s favorite things) – items or things I discovered, used on this trip that delighted me enough to buy, purchase, put on my Amazon wish list for home or to perhaps return to in the future. If you want to pick up any of these items, you can simply click on the underlined link and it will take you like magic to the item! Ever heard of an Amazon Affiliate? I have joined the program. Basically, if you want to purchase something I have posted with a link, if you click on the link it will take you to item. If you purchase the item, I get a small percentage of the sale with no extra cost to you! Our hope is to grow Rockonliving to spread the word of living your best life and thought we would try it out!

When I travel I love to bring things that delight me home – sometimes it is a ‘thing’ like a cappuccino machine (France), and sometimes is nontangible things like a commitment to not drinking coffee on the run or in a to-go cup (Italy). Here are my Maine Top Three picks!

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“>Trader Joe’s Lavender Spa Lotion – picked this up for the week and was so sad to leave it at cottage! Will be scoping out our Trader Joe’s in Raleigh asap but is available on Amazon. Just click the link!

 

20190312_123834 “>The Over 45 Mirror! How did I not know this existed? Every human being over the age of 45 needs one! I’m not going to lie, it was S.C.A.R.Y. to see my face this close, but what was even scarier is what I didn’t know was there! SO helpful. It magnifies, lights up, folds, doesn’t fog, plugs in (no batteries!) moves and tilts. I ordered one in Maine to be delivered while I am gone. My husband doesn’t know it yet, but he will thank me.

 

20190307_081625We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich. I brought a number of like self-help/growth kind of books – see list below and didn’t have room for a fiction book. I found this little book of awesomeness on the cottage book shelf.  The author and her family lived in the woods of Maine (close to where I was staying) in the 1940’s. Her writings are stories from her time there and I was moved many times by her application of wisdom from then to now. She makes observations about how the world was getting to connected and challenges to communication. She shared parenting advice more than applicable today and if you write, you will enjoy her musings on being an author. She has a charming humor with a Northern wit. I loved it. I bought several copies to send to some people I think will love her style of writing and the content as well.

Other Books Read on Retreat:

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Open Heart by Elie Wiesel (2011). This was Mr. Wiesel’s final book before his passing (July 2016) where he shares his intimate feelings on ideas of life, relationship and ultimately mortality. A holocaust survivor, Wiesel writings are a testimony to resilience, finding meaning in despair and living one’s best life.
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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (2018). I have read other writings by this author and this one fell a little flat to me. I tried to apply most of this book to running our homeschool and it just wasn’t clicking with me. I am sure it is awesome for people in the professional arena and I was able to take a few things I could apply to my life straight away. Once again, I think because of the audience was not meant for me.

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A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle (2005).  This is a book I feel must be slowly digested and although I didn’t finish it, I made a good dent in the material. I have never highlighted, notated in a book more. So much wisdom, perspective. I will read this one again. Eckhart presents our current state of affairs so well with reasons behind what we are seeing and what he sees as the balance or correction for it too. Guess who holds the key to turning everything around? Each one of us individually and collectively. Life changing book.

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Secular Homeschooler Magazine. Picked It up after a friend published an article in it and loved it. A beautifully illustrated magazine with varied articles for all ages and stages of homeschooling.

 

 

 

 

Slack Tide

 

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The “Lobster Pound” – the cottage sets right on the edge of the former lobster pound. For those of you who follow me on IG, you know how I delight at finding Hearts in Nature! Look at the ice floating in the center of the pound upon my arrival to Maine.

I am in Maine for what I will call “slack-tide.”

Time away. In silence.

I traveled just about as far up the Northern Coast of the United States one can travel to ‘get away.’ I am staying at a family cottage that sits on the Atlantic Coast in Delano Cove in pristine solitude.

Time like this doesn’t just happen. Self-Care usually doesn’t. This time was the fruit of generous family, much discussion, coordination and planning on the home front. Our life is deliciously full and time away had impact on all involved.

It was becoming abundantly clear to me that this mama needed to step up and practice a little of that “Self-Care” we understand to be essential to our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.  We spend much of our time and resource making sure our families are receiving and doing the things they need and that make them whole – I knew it was time to invest the same for myself.20190305_082044

In previous posts, I have shared that mothers, motherless daughters in particular, could benefit from performing more self-care acts for themselves in ways they wished someone would else would think to do without asking.

Self-Care is personal and Self-Care is universal. Only you know what your soul needs. It’s like the ground plug on an electric cord – you can plug and run items off it all day long, but if there is a power surge, a frayed wire, without a good ground your cord is going to fry.

I could sense my brain was overwhelmed and over-taxed. Been there?

I had so much I wanted to write, read and felt little time to devote to these desires, uninterrupted. I love silence and am one of those people that could easily go a week and not talk to another person. Nature is my church. I knew I wanted to go someplace secluded and commune with Mother Nature in quiet…shhhh.

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Friendship, Maine in the winter is that place. Where I am staying faces the water and overlooks a former lobster pound. There are no cars, traffic, sirens, street lights, sounds, planes or other people. I have been in here in the summer, and while it is lovely there is a hum of lobster boats from sunrise to sunset. In the winter, the lobster traps have been removed from the water and I have not seen one boat since arriving. It’s like going on a stage when the audience has left.

The cottage faces the water and you only see water, islands, evergreens, birds, ducks, ice, an ever-changing sky and sparkles. It is winter and it is cold. The highs all week are in the lower 20’s. There is ice piling up along the coast and you can hear the clicks and pops of the ice as they are pushed up top of one another as the tide ebbs and flows.

In Maine, the sky and scenery change every few minutes – sometimes in seconds. The dramatic rise and fall of the tide can be seen like clockwork every six hours in a rise or fall between 8-10 feet of water in and out of the lobster pound each day.

In Maine, one can feel and see the invisible forces that tie us to the universe. You appreciate the push and pull of the moon and sun’s influence over the tides and I swear you can actually not only see but feel as we spin away from the Sun at night and return to her in the morning. Constant reminder of cycles and seasons.

There is this powerful moment during the tidal cycles when water stops ebbing or flowing for what appears to the naked eye just a few minutes, I believe that is called slack water or slack tide. It looks like a period of pause before the tide starts to shift. While there is no visible movement, I am sure there is a lot happening in that moment of pause, rest.

Being witness to that moment is like getting front row seats to the greatest show on earth and the ultimate metaphor for Self-Care. Caring for yourself at that moment where activity (ebbs and flows of life) cease and you can be still, even for a moment to just be. Not do, just be. If the ocean rests every six hours, so can we. Right?

I believe nature is dying (literally) to reflect and teach us how to live better lives in synchronicity, balance.  Everything in nature is a lesson for us if we can take the time to touch her, be out in her and pay attention to the lesson’s role-modeled for us day after day, season after season. She is the ultimate mirror of how we are living.

If you want time away, you must make it happen. It is all too easy for life to ebb and flow with no slack water for you. With the risk of sounding cliché, Self-Care doesn’t mean just putting on your oxygen mask first, then children and people around you as you are crashing…. that’s survival at its finest.

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This Self-Care is proactive, honoring yourself and doesn’t have to be a big trip away for a week (although I would highly recommend if you can swing it!) it could mean waking up an hour earlier than your home or work to dedicate to doing the things that fill your heart and soul up for you, only you.  Not oxygen mask this plane is crashing self-care but life-giving, heart-touching focused prioritized time to fuel you to show up in your life the best you can be.  To live your best life.

Coming to Maine solo didn’t start off so peacefully. At 3:30am when I was waiting for my Uber to arrive, I had a mini-panic attack and almost lost my stuff on my husband in our kitchen. I was overwhelmed at the thought of getting in an Uber by myself, navigating the airport, layovers, car rental, trying to get groceries and driving 2 hours in Maine when they were currently under a Winter Storm Warning – alone. Wah.

But a beautiful thing happened. I thought of my 15-year-old daughter getting on an airplane to fly to ENGLAND by herself. Surely, if she could do that, I could handle this! And, then I heard this in my heart, “I choose the experience.”  We choose the experience, ya’ll! It could be all that I described above OR it could be a fun adventure where I trusted myself and rather than be afraid I could and would choose excitement, adventure, growth! Count my blessings at the opportunity and carpe diem!

To sit in this big over-sized chair typing on my computer in silence watching the sunset over the evergreens required me to say yes to a challenge and my soul couldn’t be thanking me more. 20190305_082020

If you had one hour, one day, one weekend, one week or one month…what would a retreat of your heart and mind include? Dream it, visualize it, manifest it. THAT is some oxygen for your soul!

Rockonliving friends,

Vickie

 

 

BHAG’S & Teens – Ten reasons you should say “YES!”

 

Kayah on steps at Oxford

Our teen on the steps of Oxford University. She had been on campus less than 24 hours and looked so happy! BHAG achieved.

BHAG’s – ever heard of that acronym before? If not, let me share.

Backstory: BHAG is a term I was introduced to by my homeschool-mentor-guru, Julie Bogart. I believe it originally was coined in the business world, but it stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals.  Awhile back, Julie did a talk on her top ten must do’s when raising teens and BHAG’s were one of her recommendations. She shared that every teen should be given the opportunity to tackle one before they graduate from high school.

BHAG’s are exactly what they stand for…big, ginormous, difficult, bold goals.  They usually start with the words, “hey mom, I was thinking…” They are going to sound CRAZY when they share them with you! Your mind is immediately going to scream “danger, danger…” Your brain is going to immediately turn into a calculator adding up the costs! But, if they are sincere, if they are for real, if this is something they really really want to do…say “YES!”

Some of your friends and family are going to think you’re crazy or insane for spending the amount of money or time necessary to dedicate to helping your teen achieve their BHAG, but do it anyway! I promise, it is completely worth it! Regardless of the outcome of their efforts,  the experience of chasing a BHAG is where their grit and ability to follow through on a dream will emerge.

A young adult supported through a dream will more likely continue to chase passions and have the courage to say “yes” to new opportunities as an adult.

Find a way to fund it. Find a way to make it happen. And by find a way, I mean help your TEEN find a way, NOT YOU.

No matter what – at least once in high school try to give your child this opportunity. No matter how gifted you are as a parent or teacher, you could never recreate the learning or experiences they will gain when accepting the challenge of a BHAG.

So, what is going on in the Takei house that I wanted to share? Our oldest is in England, studying at Oxford Summer Courses and is having the time of her life! This was her BHAG and she is doing it right now! While she off on her adventure, I have had some time to reflect on the process of getting her there and thought I would share some of the things we have learned along the way!

 

Quinn, Kayah and Me

Kayah, our teen – she’s the one in the middle just in case you couldn’t tell the night of her Bon Voyage Party 😉

So without further ado…

Top Ten Takeaways from supporting a Teen achieving a BHAG!

  1.  Let your teen discover their BHAG. Encourage exploration of areas they want to experience or explore, but don’t find their BHAG for them. They must own it from the start. It has to be something big, bold that they want to achieve – big time! Our oldest, Kayah age 15, googled and researched, applied and was accepted into the Oxford program completely without our knowing. We found out AFTER THE FACT. No kidding. Praise, support and encourage any initiative, interest or any action taken seriously by your teen.

    Kayah 1st text from Oxford

    Our first text. Less than 24 hours and our teen says, “I don’t want to leave!!!” 

  2. Listen with an open heart. Do not immediately say no or dismiss their idea! Avoid the temptation to naysay  because it is too expensive, too far away, too scary, too crazy of an idea. There will always be a way! Enlist your teen to make it happen. Kayah had a part-time job, worked extra small jobs and was able to secure  her deposit on her own. She created a Go Fund Me page and as a part of her campaign, she committed to providing community service based on dollar amounts to every single contributor. This was not just an awesome way for her to raise funds for her dream, but a hands-on way to reinforce one of our core family values of community service. Our teen has and continues to be involved with many acts of service and connection within our community as a result of her BHAG. I couldn’t have planned the things she is donating her time on right now!

    Screenshot of plane landing in England

    Just imagining our teen flying without us (internationally) made this momma break out in a cold sweat.  But, she did it! 

  3. Partner your teen! Kayah did not do this completely on her own. She needed some reminding, refocusing and direction at times. She needed rides, feedback and encouragement. Hold your teen accountable to their dreams and be a solid partner. Praise and applaud your teen – let them know they got it! Emphasize your pride in their efforts, not the outcome.

    Welcome to Oxford Welcome Packet

    Dreams come true. 

  4. Document the journey. Help your teen find a medium they enjoy and document their story. Kayah used a closed FaceBook group called “One Step Closer to Oxford,” to share her story and when this experience is completed, she will have a beautiful online electronic scrapbook of her entire experience.

    Quinn, Kayah, Kira and Miko at airport to England

      Sending off our teen at the airport. 

  5. Celebrate! Take time to recognize and celebrate the small and big achievements along the road to achieving their BHAG. Recognizing that it takes work and lots of little steps to achieve Big Dreams. Letting your teen experience  first-hand is the best way to learn! The night before Kayah left for England (she is there right now!) we had a Bon Voyage gathering. It was a tremendous opportunity to surround her with friends, love and positive energy and recognized what SHE achieved. She glowed.

    Kayah Bon Voyage Pic

    Picture from our teen’s Bon Voyage gathering the night before she flew across the pond.

  6. Empower your child. Once they are actually doing their BHAG, just let them be! Let them own it start to finish. At the time of writing this blog Kayah has been on her adventure for only two days and I can see and hear how much she has changed-already. She looks different and she is lit-up. She doing it alone. Teens need to know they ‘got it.’ They need opportunities to fly solo and know they can trust themselves. For our teens to learn how to dream, follow-through and make their dreams manifest is a parental gift. This experience will help them spread their wings and trust that they can repeat the process as adults. A process, we as adults could sometimes use a little more courage in doing ourselves!

    Kayah dorm room

    Her new home.

  7. Grow their worldview. To expand your child’s worldview, they must bump up against other worldviews! Nothing will increase your teen’s ability to understand other points of view then immersing themselves in different countries, cultures or experiences away from home. Within 24 hours of arriving in England, Kayah has already developed a circle of friends from Romania, Saudia Arabia, Australia and many other countries.

    Screenshot of Kayah and new friends

    Our teen’s friends from around the world! Awesomeness.

  8. Nurture Gratitude. Teaching a teen gratitude is completely different than a teen experiencing gratitude. Taking your teen out of their comfort zone (their house, bed, air conditioning, sleeping with mosquito netting, having to secure clean drinking water, walking everywhere, not understanding the language spoken, getting lost, etc.) is one powerful way that may help them appreciate those things when they return home. Just the simple fact you have allowed them to tackle a BHAG will require the help and assistance of many. They will learn first-hand how to be grateful to others.
  9. Trust the process & LET IT HAPPEN. This is my favorite mantra in all things. Once your teen embarks on the experience they have created, get out of the way and let it be – good or bad – it is theirs. Let it unfold as it will, without judgement or opinion and let them have their experience. Let them learn. Let them grow. Even if they hate it, or have a horrible time, there is still immense value in the experience for them to build upon.
  10. Unpack the experience. We are still weeks away from Kayah’s return from abroad. We are planning on spending some time just letting her come off her unpack literally, mentally and emotionally. I am not sure who will come home…I can see changes and I am curious who will walk through our front door. I imagine there may be a little readjustment required by the entire family. After some time, we are going to support her as she creates a presentation of some sort for family and friends to share her experience. We will pair it with a nice dinner and really allow her to wrap up her experience full-circle with the people that helped her make her wishes come true!

    Wishes fulfilled

    crazysexy love notes by kris carr & artwork by lori portka

I leave with a quote on adventure from one of my favorite travelers of the Earth, John Muir…“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.” 

Until we chat again, Rock on, living.

Vickie

 

The Jump

 

Hey Friends!

Happy summer!

Although my blog doesn’t reflect it, I have been diligently writing. I have almost completed the revision, additions and changes to my first book – well, book may be a stretch…how about a collection of thoughts?

The book is in the final stages. I am excited to see this process through to the end. This book is specifically for families hearing the whisper or feeling the nudge for a possible change. This is a book for parents who are not only questioning if the current education of their children is really meeting their personal needs, but if their lifestyle is allowing them the type of connection and joy they desire, too. This is a book for all those considering homeschooling.

I will be learning how to format and transition the material for publishing soon! This is the first time I have done anything like this. It is a cool process to learn and fun to witness the book take on a voice and shape.

Quinn and I spent many hours reminiscing and discussing the time leading up to our decision to pull the trigger and bring the girls home from public school.

Quinn recalled the very day I withdrew the girls from public school. He described a feeling of dread all morning – like for real, dread ya’ll. He said he even called to tell me to wait so we could talk a little more about it (we had been talking about it for TWO years!) but I had already done it.

We are happy we made the choice, but it was not (and is not) without worry, anxiety and stress if we were making a huge mistake. Some comfort I have found is that every parent, regardless of the choices we make, worries a little! Right?

Five years later, our only regret? That we didn’t do it earlier…

My hope is this book will serve as some inspiration, encouragement and food for thought for a family contemplating a big change. This is for all of you out there who question the status quo and entertain different and new ways of being. This is not a “How-To Homeschool” book, but more of a guide to support you in determining if home schooling may be the right fit for you and your family.

This is the book I wish had been available to Quinn and I all those years we contemplated back and forth on whether or not homeschooling was right for us. It is my intention to support you and your family in making choices, whatever they are, that serves you best.

Here is a sneak peek at the first chapter…

Rock on, Vickie

 

~ Chapter One ~

The Jump

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.”

–  Joubert Botha

militray men sky diving

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

If you are reading this, I am guessing you may be desiring change, something different. That is my hunch. You hear that whisper late at night “is this it?” I know. I was there.

Perhaps it isn’t homeschooling, but just a big change, a shake-up in life? Many a night, I laid in bed going back and forth on withdrawing our girls from public school and bringing them home. I thought I was only contemplating a different way of educating our children, but what I have learned, is it was a different way of life.

I remember in my late 20’s my husband and I went skydiving. Before our jump, we watched a brief safety video. After our “training,” I was strapped to the front of a retired Navy Seal and taken 3 miles into the sky in a little propeller plane.

When we reached the altitude to jump, they opened the hatch-door to the plane – they opened the door – take that in for a second…they opened the plane door three miles above earth.

It was cold, loud, windy and our green and blue marble looked so far away. The instructor looked at me and yelled, “You’re first!” All these years later, I am not lying, my hands still sweat as I recall this experience.

We waddled to the door to get in position. I was in the open doorway. My toes were dangling over the transition of the plane. Crouched at the doorway I could see the outside of the plane – I was looking at the wing of the plane, I could touch it.  I was standing between the plane (safe) to free-falling (not-safe, but exhilarating.)

I looked back at my husband and I was T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D. terrified. If I had been last in the line of jumpers, I may have chickened out, but everyone was sardined tightly and waiting to jump.

My partner yelled in my ear, “just rock back on me and then we will roll forward…” I have never felt more scared in my life.

I trusted and let go…

I jumped.

I shut my eyes for the first 10-12 seconds of our jump…it was too much. It was loud, the wind was strong, and I was falling. I was freefalling to earth. I was not in the plane, I was not on earth. I was freefalling – untethered. After two miles of free-falling, my instructor touched the top of my head. This was the signal that we were going to open our parachute.

The second we pulled the cord to open the shoot, everything changed. It became silent, slow, peaceful, beautiful. This transition from freefalling to opening the parachute is like a hurricane changing over from the tumultuous outer bands  to the silence and peace of the storm’s eye.

We swirled, like a leaf falling from a tree and I got to see the big picture – Earth never looked more beautiful. It was an incredible moment where I saw life different. I guess you could say, my world-view changed from a change in perspective.

If you have ever sky-dived before, you know as you approach your landing you experience something called ‘ground-rush.’ It can be frightening.

After soaring and coasting down to earth, the ground appears to suddenly rush up and if you’re not careful can freak you out! We skidded to our landing and my legs were so weak, I could not stand for a moment. But, I did. Changed, forever.

Big changes do that!

Big changes or experiences sometimes require overcoming fear, a leap of faith, disorientation and a re-entry to life. They can leave you with a new life-view, a broadened world-view. I believe these are the moments where you are ‘living’ and can be the booster shot needed to enjoy other areas of your life, too.

You make a change and it allows you to grow deeper in your understanding of yourself and builds the muscle of courage to do life. You grow as a human.

I don’t know if this analogy will help settle your mind, but honestly, if you have a desire to be with your family ( a lot), learn together and have the courage to try something different, this jump may be for you. Regardless of how much your read, study or prepare, it truly requires a leap of faith.

If you have a desire to be with your family, learn together and have the courage to try something different, this jump may be for you.

I spent many of our first years homeschooling anxious and looking for ‘proof’ that we weren’t  going to mess our kids up forever. I felt lost at sea for about two years. Disoriented, I found myself repeatedly saying “I feel like I have lost my footing.”

Everything was new, foreign and counter-culture. Quinn and I were both public-schooled and up until this point, so were our girls – we knew what that looked like. But, for homeschooling, there was and is no one size fits all blueprint.  I found myself trying to explain and put a form to something I didn’t quite get myself, yet.

In hindsight, I had lost my footing. I was standing in the transition between viewing school as ‘other’ and something done separate from home life and school coming home and becoming a lifestyle.

For about two years, I remember when our family was seriously considering home-schooling, I scoured the internet for books, blogs, testimony about how families came to the decision to homeschool. My kids were in public school and doing well. I needed to hear people’s thought processes as to why and how they brought their kids home and honestly, if it ‘worked.’

Quickly, I discovered there wasn’t much out there for us.  At least families like mine whom were not considering home-schooling for faith-based, behavioral, cognitive or  children that just didn’t fit the public-school mold reasons. I discovered there were and are a lot of resources available for those groups. While homeschool families owe much debt to these pioneers of home education, this was not our story or our why.

As the number of homeschoolers are swelling at record rates, there is a new groups or type of homeschooler emerging and those were the people we were looking for to help us navigate this uncharted territory. Families that were restless for not only a different way of educating their children, but living their lives.

             I was looking for families that were happy with their lives, but still wanted more.

I found my inspiration in a book called Becoming BareNaked by Jenn Barenaked. Now, before your mind goes to the gutter, as the title does make one go, “Hmmm…” stay with me…This book was about a family that was tired of the status quo. A family of five that had worked and achieved The American Dream.

This family was good, but discontent. They were looking for more…more time together to learn, to travel, to grow, TOgether as a family. This family left a six-figure income, sold two homes and set out into the unknown  with three young children.

They homeschooled. I liked that. But, homeschooling was one small piece of the pie they were creating. Homeschooling was almost a byproduct of the style of life they desired for their family. Education happened, for the most part, in the world. This family stepped out of mainstream America and had the courage to do something different, on their terms, together…together my friends.

             Life is too short to settle.

The book, Becoming BareNaked is a raw, collection of Jenn’s handwritten notes and is a glimpse into the inner thinking and thought process this mother was going through before they made the decision to sell it all and blaze a new path. It was the book I needed. It wasn’t a homeschooling book per se, but a book about having courage to go for life! To be brave and make decisions that are true to you, even if they are counter-culture.

The name Becoming BareNaked is a metaphor for how they are living their life…in the wide open for all to see, no lies or covers. Just their truth.

Becoming BareNaked was our impetus to jump. I provide a list of books at the end of this guide containing some of the resources and books I found helpful on our homeschool journey. I hope they may help you, too.

Stone Henge (2)

The next chapter, Our Story, will hopefully give you a better understanding of how we became a family of unexpected homeschoolers.

 

From:

A LIFESTYLE OF LEARNING:

Insights for a family considering homeschooling from a family that said, “YES!”

coming soon…

 

Connecting the Dots in Homeschool History

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Miko at The Tower of London Fall 2017 – (built in late 1070s) stories of knights, prison, palace, torture, crown jewels. Currently, Queen Elizabeth II is the ‘owner’

Right now we are enjoying an unplanned and completely welcome serendipitous coordination of learning with our history and geography curriculums. One of my favorite perks of home-education is our family learning together. I love when connections are made – where we kind of connect the dots between subjects as a family and create common familial context.

Case in point:

DOT: In language arts we are reading historical fiction novel, Georges, by Alexandre Dumas (France, 1800’s.) We are using the Bravewriter Boomerang Guide for literary analysis and copywork.

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Kira’s Copywork for Georges using the Bravewriter Boomerang Guide

DOT: In geography we are studying Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

DOT: In history we are reading the Story of the World (SOTW), Volume 2 – Middle Ages.

DOT: We are binge watching the Crown on Netflix.

 

thecrown

The girls love this show and have acquired such an understanding of who Elizabeth, Philip, the monarchy, Winston Churchill, historical events and much more. We are excited for Season 3!

 

DOT: We just returned from a field trip to France and England.

DOT:  Poetry Teatime Tuesday is a Bravewriter staple in our home. We have tea, hot chocolate, lemonade and treats on Tuesdays and read poetry or lyrics to songs. When we were in England we made sure to have high tea and brought home some special souvenirs to keep our holiday alive just a little longer.

 

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Poetry Teatime Tuesday special treat

 

DOT: My eldest daughter just finished reading Don Quixote and recently attended the  Carolina Ballet perform it as well. (Spain, 1600’s.)

DOT: In the story, Georges, the main character is confiding to Lord Murray that he intends to duel his nemesis to win Sara’s (his love) hand in marriage from Henri (to whom she is already engaged.) Henri is of no masculine threat to Georges. Lord Murray makes a comment to Georges that perhaps he not worry about Henri as he is like a “windmill and not a giant.” This subtle little reference could have been so easily glossed-over and missed if it were not for my eldest.

CONNECT THE DOTS: Kayah giggled and ‘got it’ straight away! She explained to us that in Don Quixote he is preparing to fight a “giant” that turns out to be nothing but a mere windmill. Thus, the author was implying Henri maybe should be of little concern to Georges…nothing but a mere windmill.

 

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Kayah sharing the passage from Don Quixote during our read aloud this week.

 

All of these dots connect to create an image of connected context (that is some serious alliteration!) I may be a total dork, but I love when that happens.

These are the AH-HA moments that can never be planned – learning that occurs across curriculum.  THAT is exciting! Subjects never seem independent of one another, but connected.

One of my favorite questions to ask the girls when we are exploring a new topic is “what was going on in the United States at this time…” I love this question because sometimes the USA was not even an idea and other times they can connect the global dots of what was occurring during the many phases of the United State’s maturity – a layering of history.

If you are looking for some ideas to study this time period, here are some links to product we enjoyed! You can just click on the image for links or more information or select the links in the text above.

(All  amazon links are affiliate links.)

Henrietta

Hey all,

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I agreed to a short-story challenge.  The challenge was to create and illustrate a short story by January 31st.

Without further adieu, meet “Henrietta.”

Rock on! Vickie

20180121_153120 Continue reading

Road Trip USA – Day Twelve & Thirteen “Carlsbad Caverns”

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Chili vs. Chile

I ate Hatch green chile for the first time on July 13, 1998. I had moved to Albuquerque, NM in 1997, reluctant to try ‘chile.’  Being raised in the Ohio, “chili’ was something we ate on Sunday afternoons, in a pot, with beans, ground meat and crackers while watching the groundhog day Cleveland Browns almost take us to the Superbowl with my family.

As a staff nurse,  I was given (not offered as declining wasn’t an option) a green chile breakfast burrito from the Frontier Restaurant from a hospital administrators on a jet plane ride to select new hospital beds for our unit.  Feeling cornered, I politely unwrapped the shiny foil wrap and took a small bite.

It was the best thing I had ever eaten in my life – scrambled eggs, cheese, and green chile…so spicy, so good.  I could not stop thinking about that burrito. From that day forward (for almost 12 years), Quinn and I ate a breakfast burrito from the Frontier every single Sunday.  Like the many that have gone before me, and they many that will come after, an addiction was born.

The Frontier Restaurant, located on old Route 66, across from the University of New Mexico campus is a place you must visit if you go West – it is quite the operation to witness. In operation since 1971 it is open seven days a week from 5am-1am! Frontier Restaurant  Opening the doors, you may see a line a mile long that wraps and twists through the various rooms of the restaurant and will be in awe of the lightening speed service that moves everyone to green chile comas.  Not only is the chile amazing, but they sell a cinnamon bun (a.k.a. the cardiac bun or sinamon bun) that was never meant to be eaten by just one person (but trust me, you can!) and they have this mesmerizing fresh squeeze OJ machine that produces the best Orange Juice Ever.

It’s were the locals go.

There are two types chile, green or red, and it is THE condiment (some would argue a food group) in New Mexico.  Many love one or the other, and even more order ‘christmas‘ which would be both red and green chile on everything from their eggs to pizza! Each Fall, New Mexicans enjoy the constant aroma of roasting chiles outside, 24/7.

Today we began another day of driving to Albuquerque.  Logistically, we had to once again change out our rental vehicle to save money.  We returned our rental and picked up a new one.  When you pick up and return your rental vehicle at the same location it is always less expensive.  We changed vehicles a total of three times on this road trip.

Immediately after the rental car exchange we headed to the Frontier! After our fix, we began our drive to Southern New Mexico to take the kids to Carlsbad Caverns.  This drive was a long one – New Mexico does not offer the same land features as other drives we experienced – it was flat, open and much of the same – with not much to do between destinations.

Carlsbad Caverns is a magical place in Southern New Mexico that has over 100 caves for exploration.  In addition, each evening there is an evening bat flight program. Carlsbad Caverns We planned our trip to arrive in Carlsbad to catch the nightly bat program and then return the following day to explore the caves.

The bat flight program is a free event that takes place from May-October each year.  A park ranger conducts a talk on bats and describes what to expect at the sun set – hundreds of thousands of bats emerge from their slumber to a night of feasting. While it is difficult to provide an exact number, estimates have ranged from 300,000-400,00 bats. The mass exit takes between 45-60 minutes.  The caves are migratory homes to the Mexican free-tail bats.

We sat in an outdoor amphitheater right outside the cave entrance and waited with hundreds of other vistors hoping the evening would provide the conditions that would entice the bats from the darkness. After an educational session, questions and strict viewing instructions we waited…and, then a few dark flutters emerged! We sat in awe of what felt like an unending cloud of bats that flew right over our heads and out into the night sky.  Magical experience.

The next day, we woke up and returned to the Caverns and participate in a self-guided tour. Quinn and I had been there before and remembered it being an amazing experience, but crowded.  Today, we hit the jackpot!  As we began our descent into the cave, we discovered we were almost ALONE.  Aside from maybe two other families, we had this amazing cavern to ourselves!  It was eery, quiet, mystical…perfect.

We had planned on staying 1-2 hours and ended up leaving over 4 hours later.  We just took indulgent time and the kids loved it.  My oldest ran out of camera space!  Talk about a field trip!  Here they were seeing firsthand stalactites, stalagmites and columns.

At the conclusion of the tour, we took the elevator back to the surface and visited the gift shop for souvenir shopping. Once again, entrance to this park was free with our 4th grader National Park Pass. 4th Grader Park Pass

We headed back to our hotel and went to sleep for the final night of our vacation.  Tomorrow we would head back to Albuquerque to stay with our old neighbors, Sherry and Tom.  We planned to visit friends and places with the kids and enjoy a day of reconnecting and reminiscing.  So hard to believe our two weeks was coming to an end…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gifts of Grief.

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear” – C.S. Lewis

Unfortunately, grief cannot be scheduled from 2-4pm on a Sunday afternoon.  No. Grief is the visitor that will arrive and paralyze your breath while folding laundry.  It will sucker-punch your heart when you hear a song.  It will bath your day in melancholy on Christmas.  Grief shows up and she doesn’t consider timing.

In the first few months after my mother’s death I hated everything.  I couldn’t believe I could go the grocery store and people were smiling and buying groceries!  I wanted to scream, “Don’t you know? My mom died!”

I wanted every 1st holiday following her death cancelled. Christmas was horrible.  We sat under our tree and did nothing but cry the entire time.  It was terrible.  There was no joy.  The holiday glue was painfully absent.

Slowly, over time, a new normal began to emerge and while I still could not find comfort or peace in my home, I began to grow as a human being and develop the skills I would need to enter adulthood.

Losing my mother as a young girl has been the biggest loss of my life.  When she died I felt alone.  None of my friends had experienced what I went through.  Some of my friends had experienced the concept of loss through divorce.  But, no one close to me had had their mother die. I felt alone and very misunderstood.  Lost. Scared. Abandoned.  And, Life kept going.

We buried my mom on a Saturday and I was in school Monday.  As I walked through the halls and attended classes no one said a word.  How strange. I understand many didn’t know what to say and I am not criticizing, just sharing that when someone has experienced the death of a loved one your acknowledgment will not make anything worse.  They already feel their worse.  They want to know they are seen, not alone.

I am beginning to see some of my friends lose their mothers or fathers, and for many, entering the all-consuming process of grief.  Grief has no end point.  You will feel joy again and you will be happy, but there will forever be this small raw sad pulsating spot in your heart.  It will beat softly, always,  and at times resonate like a kettle drum.

“She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts” – George Eliot

When a loved one dies, there are logistics that need to be handle and there is the business of final arrangements .  I think this is good.  You need something to remind you to breath.  To get up, brush your teeth, get dressed. Rinse and Repeat. However, Monday will come.  Your friends go back to work and you sit with this grief, alone.  It is a personal relationship like no other.

Life is relentless and will not stop for your loss. Grief is no different.  It is relentless and will never end.  Allow it.  Receive her when she knocks.  Cry.  Be angry.  Smile.  Acknowledge it – Grief isn’t always sad.

Grief, to me, is like any other emotion with one painful caveat – you will only understand this emotion when you experience the loss of someone you loved dearly.  It is a bittersweet gift.

Not one of us will escape grief.  It is inevitable.  Someday you will hear or witness your biggest loss.  Grief will knock and you will open the door to a place you could never prepare to greet.

Many times, I feel so fortunate I was able to experience this type of loss at the tender, naïve age of 14.  Young enough that I truly had no big picture understanding of the what I was losing (yet).  I find now, years later, as a mother, I grieve her in new and different ways.

Grief will also brings you gifts.  When you lose someone you love, not much will really ever rock your world again.  Once you survive your worst fear or pain, you may learn first-hand that aside from your health and relationships, nothing else really is a big deal –

I have found grief offers us three beautiful packages for living a more meaningful, joyful and empowering life if we are able to receive.

Perspective. Gratitude. Resilience.

Gift One: Perspective. This is a precious gift I can thank my mother for daily. Truly, there is not much that rocks my world. I can fathom a few, but for the most part, I don’t complain. I can see a silver lining in just about any situation. Life is a gift.  Time is relentless. Time is a constant reminder that life is finite. Time does not lie.  Time does not play.

Don’t waste your life wishing it away or failing to recognize the beauty of another day.  Even the messy part.  The messy part is where the growth and deepening of the soul has greatest potential. My mother would have done anything for another day with us – you do have today – live well!

Perspective is like the best human super-power, ever.

Gift Two: Gratitude.  When I wake up in the morning, before I even put your feet on the floor, I try to remember to take a deep breath and say “thank you.”  To be given the gift of another day…say thank you.  I take a daily morning walk to connect with nature – It is the time were I commune with nature and feel my version of God.

Sometimes it so easy to find yourself caught up in the aggravations, irritations and demands of your day, but if you practice the gift of gratitude you will quickly realize there is always something to be grateful for.  I am sure my mother would be grateful for a day of aggravation, irritation and demands if it meant to also experience more time with the people she loved and to witness the beauty of another sunset.

Gift Three: Resilience. The third gift you may receive is the nurturing of resilience. Nothing tests your inner strength more brutally than grief.  Grief is like the moonIt waxes and wanes but even during the month when it becomes invisible to the eye, it is still there.  Grief will always remain, but you will find in each day you continue to face your pain your confidence in facing any challenge in life will increase and be ready for whatever hand life deals next.  Resilience can be your greatest strength.

I would not be who I am or be living the life I am without my mother’s death and allowing grief to enter my heart.  My mom left to allow space for me to grow. Such a blessing.

my mom and grandpa spencer

My Mom & her Dad.  My mother lost her mom before she was 10.  A legacy of loss I have broken.

To all of you grieving or facing the loss of someone you love, know you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself today and always. Grief may come when you least expect it, or have poor timing, but at those moments open the door…

Grief is like the ocean;

it comes on waves ebbing and flowing.

Sometimes the water is calm,

And sometimes it is overwhelming.

All we can do is learn to swim.

        – Vicki Harrison