Connecting the Dots in Homeschool History


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.


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.



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.



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.



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.)


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 Fourteen “Land of Enchantment”

en-chant-ment noun – the state of being under a spell, magic.

One of my favorite words is enchantment – the magic...

In life, I try to sprinkle pixie dust to the mundane to helps us remember that at every moment we have the opportunity to make the ordinary extraordinary! So it is no surprise that I had lived in a state with a tag line boasting “the land of enchantment” for many years!


Has it really been over a year since I started the journaling of our Road Trip USA? What in the world?!  Seriously? Time is moving at warp-speed.  So without further ado, I offer our final day, the closure to our Road Trip, our visit to New Mexico!


We concluded our Southwest trip with a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We snuggled with our former neighbors, visited friends and favorite places. We consumed as much green chili and breakfast burritos from the Frontier Restaurant as humanly possible! This was an awesome way to wind down from our trip, reminisce and connect. Home.


I loved our life in New Mexico. I clearly remember the day we arrived in Albuquerque for the first time. The manner we arrived echoed the feel of our new “home” – simple and expansive.

Before moving to New Mexico in 1997, Quinn and I had owned a home in Virginia Beach. Once we decided to take a leap of faith and move out west, we downsized and sold it all! Now that I am reflecting, it seems a pattern or habit of ours…hmmm.

We packed up everything we owned in our two cars, cats riding gunshot and drove for a week across country. What a simple time.  To basically carry everything you own in two cars.

I will never forget our approach to Albuquerque. The song “Great Pets” by Jane’s Addiction came on the radio and all of a sudden the flat, open endless terrain became interrupted by the enormity of the east side of the Sandia Mountains. For a girl that was raised in Ohio, this mountain looked enormous!

With excitement and anticipation we began our drive through the more lush, rural side of the Sandia Mountain to the urban west side of the mountain – Albuquerque. The enormity, expanse and simplicity of the town is incredible. After our almost 11 years of life in this town I am convinced one either falls under the enchantment spell of the west or doesn’t. It is isn’t a place for everyone, and honestly, the natives and inhabitants of the town like it that way.

“When you turn around, you’ll see something I bet you’ve never seen before. If it takes your breath away, then you’ll fit in nicely. If you don’t feel anything, then maybe you don’t belong here.”  Veronica Randolph Batterson

We were moving so Quinn could attend The International Institute of Chinese Medicine (IICM) to study Chinese medicine.  I had interviewed and accepted a position at the best hospital in the world, (I’m a little biased, but I am pretty sure it is!) Presbyterian Healthcare Services in the Coronary Intensive Care Unit. I made some of my closest friendships at that hospital. Many of my friendships in the unit began in our early twenties and we shared an intimate lens into our ‘growing up.’ We partnered each other as we entered adulthood with one another- growing our families, marriages, divorces, careers, celebrations, buying homes and holding each other close through some of our friends and families untimely deaths. Special people. Special bonds.

We were living in a sketchy part of town, in our rented apartment and life was good.


After a few years, and being the victim of several crimes in our apartment complex, we decided to rent a home in a better area of town.  We rented a sandy-brown flat roofed stucco home that would hold some our most special memories –  Quinn’s completion of studies, my completion of a Master’s degree in Science and Nursing and the arrival of our first two daughters. It was also the home where we met Sherry and Tom, or as our family calls them, “Sherrytom.”  Sherrytom – a perfect compound word.



Sunday Dinner with Sherrytom.


After a few weeks in our new home, Quinn was out back playing horse-shoes by himself. Tom came up to our fence (think Mr. Wilson) and said, “howdy neighbor.” Quinn invited him over, the two drank some beer and played shoes and this began a friendship that we believe was inevitable.  From that day forward, we spent every Sunday together having “Sunday dinner.” Tom even built little wooden steps between our two homes called the “neighbor’s steps” so we could visit each other more easily. They became our best friends. When we moved, they gifted us a pendulum clock with a plaque engraved “neighbors by chance; friends by destiny.”  

Good Buddies

Sean and Liz are our Good Buddies.  We met Sean and Liz through Quinn’s school of Chinese medicine. Sean and Liz are the type of friends that you can enjoy a bottle of wine and then sing and act out the entire score to the musical Rent. (yes, this did happen!)

Inside jokes, intimate memories and shared life.  Good Buddies. Circling back through Albuquerque, visiting and spending time with Neighbors, Good Buddies and all our friends was the perfect ending, like a cherry on top of a big old sundae on our road trip adventure.



Breakfast at Frontier with Good Buddies.




Lunch at Garduno’s with some of the CCU gang! (best margaritas, ever.)


This trip was a trip of a lifetime. I know for sure our family is at its best when we are doing life – having adventure – and we are committed to continuing to make changes and adaptions in our everyday life to allow for more!

If you have never visited any of the National Parks in the USA – GO! Experience them! They are treasures, truly, and a gift for you and I.

I conclude with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt…

“In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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


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






Road Trip USA – Day Eleven “Monument Valley & Grand Canyon (and some sketchy dinosaur tracks)”

Our Day Eleven trip was ambitious! We had a six hour drive south to Monument Valley, Arizona and planned to arrive at the Grand Canyon early evening to watch the sunset over the rim.

Day 11

I think I have mentioned this in every post, but remembering that the drive IS part of the vacation/adventure is important when traveling with kids –  that especially echoed true today.  Our kids continued to impress us and traveled like rockstars.  Not too long after we left Moab, we saw a questionable sign for “Dinosaur Footprints.”

20160830_162326Dinosaur Footprints, ya’ll!  65-200 million years ago dinosaur footprints.  We knew that Utah was full of dinosaur fossil findings and footprints, but this advertisement was intriguing.  Homemade spray painted signs made out of wood and siding promoted this stop on Navajo Nation land. These tracks are right outside Tuba City, Arizona and I am so glad we did a quick turn at the spray painted red arrow on the dirt road to stop and see.   As you arrive, you will see about 10-15 shack lean-tos selling Navajo items with members of the community awaiting your arrival to serve as your tour guide.  Our guide was an elderly Native American woman.  It appeared that the guides await a vehicle and take turns  inviting you to take a walking tour of the grounds.  Armed with nothing but a plastic water bottle to squirt on the footprints to highlight the dinosaur impressions, we were on our way!  While we found some of the information shared by our guide questionable, there was no doubt the tracks were there! I was awestruck by the irony of the unbelievable gold mind of fossils and footprints and tangible poverty of the tribe.

My mind was blown. There were so many tracks. Thousands. Just right there. You were walking all over them. As soon as water was poured on them, they almost ‘came alive.’  Our guide claimed that at one time in history (millions of years ago!) this was a watering hole.  This explained the number and varied species of dinosaur footprints we were seeing.  It was so surreal that we started to feel like we were being taken for fools! We continued to the ‘tour’ and took a million pictures.  The tour is free of charge, but at the end a donation is requested. We gave our guide $40 and she encouraged us to consider more as she was struggling and recovering from being an alcoholic. When we declined, she was nothing but grateful.  The kind woman thanked us many, many times. I walked away amazed that this tribe has to be sitting on most likely one of the largest set of dinosaur tracks in our country and are flat out broke.  There was a double-edge beauty to the entire experience.

As soon as we got in the car we googled the heck out of the stop and we found several paleontologists whom confirmed the authenticity of many of the tracks. Dinosaur Footprints Tuba, Arizona Mind blown.

The stop at the dinosaur tracks took about 45 minutes total and then we were on our way to Monument Valley in Navajo County, Arizona. I was grateful we had a full tank of gas before we left as there was nothing…nothing…but wide open spaces for hours.  When we started to get hungry for lunch we finally came through a town that had a community picnic shelter at a run down playground. As we stopped and pulled out our picnic tubs we were  instantly greeted by “Brownie.” Brownie was a sweet dog that appeared to be fed off the kindness of strangers and the community. He was dirty, missing fur and appeared to have a broken leg. He followed us to our picnic table and just laid next to us during our meal.

At one point, Kira stopped eating and was crying. When we asked her what was wrong, she just said she felt bad eating when he was so hungry. She took her entire plate over to him and just left it for him to eat. After he finished her lunch, we took some of our paper bowls and left him some bowls of water to drink as well. He finished them off before we even left. Sweet little Brownie.

As we were leaving the shelter a Native American man rode over to us on his bike and told us some of his story. He made several mentions of being free of the evil – which for him was alcohol.  Although I doubt he was free of his vice, he was kind and hungry. We offered him bottles of water and food and he accepted. However, he requested that we not directly hand any of it to him. He provided an explanation we did not understand but were able to figure out that we were to place the items on the ground between us.  Once we did so, he said a few things and then picked up everything. It was an odd experience and at the same time, a sacred encounter.

We continued our drive into the historic and stunning Monument Valley! The contrast of flat open desert and buttes and rock formations required a constant reorientation that we were still in the United States! It is so unlike any other place we have visited before. If  you have never visited the West, you will walk away with a completely new appreciation of the significance and wonders contained in the United States.  Our piece of North America as it relates to the story of our planet, not just the metamorphosis of civilization, but the evolution of the planet is truly exceptional.


Finally, we continued our journey south to the Grand Canyon. We arrived with just enough time to explore the park and find a location on the rim to have a picnic dinner and toast the sun-set. We reserved one evening for this visit so we did not set up any excursions into the canyon, but the abyss will forever hold a special place in our family’s heart as a moment of taking in something larger than you can imagine, together.  Watching the shadow of darkness slowly rise up the canyon until it became pitch black – amazing.

Despite a huge day of travel and experiences, everyone was in great spirits and we checked into our hotel at the Grand Canyon. It was a quaint hotel with a southwest vibe we all enjoyed.  Kamiko’s American Girl doll, McKenna, even found this to be one of her favorite lodges. Tonight, we go to bed slightly melancholy that tomorrow we will make the long drive to Albuquerque, New Mexico (where we lived for a number of years and all three girls were born!) because it means we are days away from this epic adventure ending.  We have plans to pick up our new rental, eat at the BEST breakfast restaurant EVER and drive further south to Carlsbad, New Mexico to explore the caves with the girls! Sweet dreams.



Road Trip USA – Day Ten “Canyonlands National Park”


Today, I continue blogging our road trip west last fall  (yes, it has been awhile!).  As I am taking in the panoramic ocean view of Topsail Beach, North Carolina,  I reflect on a very different panoramic view we experienced on Day Ten of our Road Trip USA – The Canyonlands National Park, Utah. The Canyonlands (a 337,598 acre National Park treasure) provided a different type of panoramic view – a view from a desert mesa.



Our family arose early to begin a day of adventure!

Day 10 - take 2

We started with a  four-wheel jeep exploration of the mesa and finished by paddling through the canyon on a family safe white water rafting trip.


There are several companies in Moab to navigate the Canyonlands.  We highly recommend the company we used, NAVTEC Expeditions. This company coordinated both our excursions. The driver arrived at our hotel to pick us up in a 4X4 and after safety instructions we were on our way. Our family had no idea what to expect and were clueless to the white-knuckle, terrifying and exhilarating couple of hours that lie ahead!

Before we began our mesa climb, we stopped and stared at monumental petroglyphs and cave writings from long ago.   Although there is debate, most agree humans inhabited this area between 7,000-10,000 years ago.

pet·ro·glyph   /petrəˌɡlif/  noun a rock carving, especially a prehistoric one.


Our driver was a cool cat.  He reminded me a bit of Indiana Jones. Cool, cocky, confident.  Characteristics one desires when they are trusting the lives of the four most important people in your life on steep, narrow, rocky high cliffs edges.

I do not lie.  The roads, a word I use loosely, switch backed or crisscrossed the steep climb and had enough room for ONE vehicle to pass.  There were times where the road was no more than five feet across and one wrong turn we would have fallen to most certain death. When you stick your head out the window there are times your vehicle was flush with the wall of the canyon.



Look closely at the switch back roads in this image.


Several times we came across other vehicles coming in the opposite direction and there was NO room to pass. Indiana would relish (and win) each game of chicken. I would have never ever, ever attempted to drive this narrow dirt road etched in the side of a cliff without a guide. I saw people (families) doing it and I tell you, no way, no how would this girl ever try this solo.

Once we arrived at the top of the Island in the Sky, the views were spectacular.  The rock formations, fossils (at one point in the evolution of our globe this entire area has been under water – several times) and vast spaces are something one rarely experiences in a lifetime.  Our guide recommended using Google Earth to truly understand the enormity of the Canyonlands.


You may not see this when you first look, but it is a ‘sky bridge.’  Do you see the plank between the two boulders?  Look how high it is! Until recently, people would walk across it. Makes my palms sweat just thinking about it. 

Here are some more images from the Top of the Island in the Sky.


After our jeep experience we returned to headquarters and switched guides.  Aubry, a sweet and college-aged river guide drove us to our drop in point where we enjoyed a riverside picnic and many laughs with the local squirrels.  They were a trip.  Aubry shopped and prepped our delicious lunch- with our vegetarian restrictions honored.

The white water raft experience was family-friendly.  While we flirted with Class 2 rapids, we mostly enjoyed Class 1 rapids.  It was a beautiful, quiet experience.  You felt so small down inside the canyon.  We enjoyed good conversation, listened to history of the formation and changes of the canyons through millions of years.  We relaxed.  The tempo and safety of this experience was a nice balance to the high-adrenaline experience of the mesa earlier in the day.

After we finished our adventures, we were returned to our hotel.  We showered and enjoyed a nice stroll through downtown Moab and ate one of our few meals out.  A delicious Mexican dinner.  We shared a lot of laughter and reflected on many of new memories made that day!


We walked back to our hotel, did some laundry and packed up in preparation for our track further south to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon in the morning.  Four more days to go…sigh.



“Mountains Beyond Mountains”


Worldview. Our worldview is the way we see the world based on our own circumstances and exposure to life.  It is like a puzzle — collective experiences of our gender, race, socioeconomic status, faith, cultural, childhood, school experience, health, talents, family — there are many pieces — placed to fit together to form an image and philosophy of how we view the world.


Mountains beyond Mountains on almost every page illuminates how worldview impacts who & how people receive (and do not receive) healthcare across the globe.

Before I heard the word  ‘worldview’ the concept had been swirling inside my heart and brain.  Having children whom attended public school, participate in swimming at a private school and now homeschool, I have been intrigued at observing how different the children in each petri dish of education experience life.  In essence, how they begin the creation of their worldview – not good or bad – just as it is.

Children see the world (for now) based on their environment, families and peers…and, one can hope  as they grow into adults they  continue to push and expand their understanding of the world.

I remember one evening  waiting for my daughter to come out from swim practice at the private school they use — I noticed students coming out of a theatre type building – it appeared they were coming out of an orchestra concert —  girls in full length dresses, boys in shirt/bow tie.  I watched child after child get into nicer cars than mine and could not help but think how their set of circumstances…the random ‘luck’ they were born into put them in a place where this is ‘normal’ — conversely, you can drive about 10 miles South and there are schools where music is no longer even an elective in their school due to budget constraints.

These children already have such a different beginning -such different beginning worldviews – I find it fascinating.  Perhaps a key to creating a more compassionate and peaceful planet is by growing your own worldview to not judge or change others, but to understand and partner instead…

Friday evening I hosted my middle school daughter’s Boomerang Book Club.  The book we selected was “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder – there are two versions of the book available (student & adult).  While our family chose to read the adult version, most of the girls read the student version.  This is a book that does not leave you – it has left a lasting impression on us all.  The book focuses on telling the story of Doctor Paul Farmer, a Duke/Harvard trained physician, who has a calling to serve the poor of Haiti.  Paul Farmer views and understands the complex and cultural dynamics of integrating healthcare into their community with a lens not many can see through.  The author truly brings a voice and tangible understanding of starvation, poverty and the socioeconomic and political ingredients that contribute to the situation in Haiti (and other countries like Haiti).  For the critical care nurse in me, I loved the medical jargon and exploration of administering medicine in a way I have never personally experienced – through public health.


For this book club we hosted a “Hunger Banquet” modified from material we found online.  This is an easy and powerful experience to recreate.   While the organization that created this experience is a faith-based group, for our club, we modified the material to create a secular event.  Our idea was to take the concept of poverty and have the girls have an experiential book club instead of just a discussion this time.  We were not sure how it would go, if the girls would ‘get it,’ but, oh my, it did not take long at all for them to embrace the experience and play out their roles.



The girls were divided and served dinner at three different tables based on distribution of wealth in the world – wealthy; middle class and the poor.


When the girls arrived (they had no idea what was going to happen) we had them wait outside and each ‘class’ was escorted to their ‘table.’  We sat the wealthy first, the middle class second and lastly, the poor. My husband dressed up in a shirt and tie and played the role of the ‘server’ for our meal.  This was an important element to the success of the experience.  He did an excellent job really making sure the rich felt cared for and the poor were virtually ignored and slighted.

The girls always eat dinner at book club, so they came hungry!

Mary (our book club organizer and blogs at and I divided the girls thoughtfully into 3 world classes (we had to explain and important to note that we asked them to forget their “American citizenship” for now, and view themselves as “world citizens”) – the wealthy; the middle class and poor.  We decided we wanted the teens in the book club to have the experience of the poor, and for that reason most were placed in that class.

This experience is designed for large groups –  the ‘world’ wealth is broken down to 10% wealthy; 20% middle class and 70% poor.  That is, for every 100 people that would attend this banquet 1 out of 1o would sit at the wealthy table; 2 out of 10 would sit at the middle class table and 7 out of ten would sit with the poor.

For our experience, we really wanted the teens to feel the slight of poverty and chose to have some of their younger sisters and mothers sit at the wealthy table; 2 sit at the middle class table and the rest on the floor.  Here are some of the pictures and observations made that evening…it was fascinating how quickly everyone fell into their roles and how the evening played out.




The Wealthy Table. 10% of World Population.


The wealthy table was set with cloth napkins, china dishes, flowers, lemonade in fancy wine glasses, candles and enjoyed a 3 course meal.  They started off with a tossed green salad and were offered choices of dressings.  The server spoke loud enough for the middle and poor tables to overhear it all.  After taking our orders, he went back to the kitchen and served our salads….every time he served the wealthy, he made a point to walk through the poor and middle class so they could see what was being served as well.  Ouch.

At this point, the middle class and poor had been served nothing.

And, the poor was getting restless.  Immediately, they began throwing the trash from the floor around and at each other and being loud – really loud.

The middle class just sat at their table and waited quietly and observing the situation.  We observed the middle class stayed pretty neutral through the experience – pretty quiet.



The Middle Class Table. 20% World Population.


The middle class table had chairs; plastic wear and clean water. Clean water for many is a lacking necessity.





The Poor Table.  70%  World Population. They were given no utensils and we made something the packet called “Dirty Water” which was water tinted with tea and coffee with some pretzels thrown in the bottom to look like dirt/contaminate. (they drank it!)


The Poor “Table”.  We threw empty grocery bags, cans & paper on ground.  As girls were being seated, they immediately noticed & acknowledged the ‘unfairness’ to the seating – based on nothing/random…just like children born into different situations – no choice of their own.



“Dirty Water”



After the wealthy finished their salads the main courses were delivered.


The wealthy enjoyed a black bean burger with cheese melt of choice; rice; steamed vegetables, avocado slices & marinated kale – all organic. This was paired with a delicious bottle of pink lemonade.



The middle class were given rice and beans.

In our discussion later, we asked the middle class why they didn’t share their food with the poor  —  one of the girls shared that they saw the wealthy were giving them food so they let them — they had more and should…and she added, “mom, our food wasn’t even really good, but I was hungry.”




The poor were served last and were given one English muffin to share.  They had no utensils and were left on their own to decide how to divide their meal.  One girl immediately grabbed it and was going to shove it in her mouth…but was encouraged by her friends to ‘share.’  They made a huge mess with their muffin.  They ate it quickly and truly left a mess of crumbs and even began licking them off the floor at one point.  They seemed restless and used their energy to be loud and messy – interesting…



To end the experience, the wealthy were served a bowl of ice cream for dessert.  The middle class and poor received no dessert.  This was a brutal blow to all.

We had printed up a poverty true/false quiz from the packet and during the meal each table worked together to answer the quiz.  We would use this quiz to guide our discussion later.

Mary & I knew we were going to offer the rest of them food after the experience (we had some pizza’s cooking in the oven during the experience) AND dessert, but they did not know it….when the wealthy finished their desert we kind of said, “Ok girls, lets get on the couch and talk about the experience.”  They were stunned.  “You mean, we really aren’t getting any food??  We aren’t getting dessert??”  It was awesome.  We felt we would keep this going as long as possible.

The discussion was great.  Thoughtful insights & observations were made. Here were a few…

Mary intentionally didn’t eat all of her meal and asked our server to give them the ‘leftovers’ on her plate.  When he did, they almost savagely started pickup up and eating her leftover food with their hands without a moment’s hesitation — we all agreed had we been sitting at the table together eating our meal they NEVER would have thought to eat with their hands and eat food someone else had already eaten!



Using their hands to eat Mary’s leftovers.


One of the poor people was very quiet and tried to encourage the other two to be more quiet and united in their approach to getting food and was ignored.  The wealthy table recognized her ‘good behavior’ by ordering and paying for an ice cream to be sent outside for her.

The middle class really felt they did not have much, but more than the poor and felt they should not have had to share – they felt it was the wealthy table’s job.

Some at the wealthy table felt bad at their status and others did not.  One girl said, “if I didn’t know who the poor was, like if we had been at a restaurant or something, I would have shared.”

At one point, 2 of the poor became beggars and came over to our table (before being ushered out) and one of the girls offered them her avocado (because she doesn’t like avocado) and they grabbed it right off her plate and got it all over their hands and shoved it in their mouths.

After a debriefing of the experience we invited the girls into the kitchen to grab some pizza and we sat down to review the true/false poverty quiz &  tie our experience into the Mountain beyond Mountains book.  It provided an excellent framework for the book and overall, we felt, a meaningful experience they will not forget.