Hello, G’day Mate, Hola

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

We arrived back in Toronto less than 48 hours ago after three weeks in sunny Australia.  And in an hour and a half we will be making our way back to the airport to head out to Spain to begin our 400+ kilometer trek across northern Spain.  Some have asked why did we even bother to come home, but I’m glad we did.  The short time put a lot of pressure on us to really focus on what needed to get done and we spent a lot of quality time with my Mom and Sister.  I really enjoyed it.

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Our trip to Australia was good.  Before leaving I had a feeling that things weren’t going to go as planned, and with life, that usually happens.  Overall it was a great trip but it had its challenges – from faulty aircraft entertainment units, adjustments to travel plans for family, little internet connection and even not up to par accommodation.  It was challenging, I won’t deny that.  In the heat of the moment I found it difficult to deal with, but what I can see now is that it played a purpose to teach me things.  My initial reaction was to play the victim and have a poor me attitude, but these events weren’t about me.  Things went wrong, people had to look after themselves, I had to adjust.  And I had to let go and let be.  Isn’t that what we should be doing most of the time anyway?  I promised myself that despite what happens, I will have a good time.

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The purpose of our trip though, was to see my husband’s daughter, who happens to be an extremely beautiful and talented actress, perform her opening show for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at the Sydney Opera House.  What an honour to be able to witness and be a part of this.  Wow is all that I can say!!!

Hubby with daughter

Hubby with daughter

We spent most of our time in Queensland, specifically in the Gold Coast, minutes from Surfers Paradise, and up in Hervey Bay, and of course in Sydney.  I already thought that Australia was beautiful, and now I’m even more convinced.  We played tourist for more of the trip, doing a lot of touristy things such as daily walks on the beach, body surfing, visiting amusement parks and meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in years and just took it easy.  It was a busy yet relaxing vacation where we were on the go a lot. Oh and the sunsets were to die for.

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But now a new adventure is going to begin, one that is entirely different.  I hope to write more.

Buen Camino to us!

Love,

Smartie

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And Soon It Will Begin….

I had a dream last night.  I don’t remember much of it.  But one thing that has clearly stuck to my conscious mind is the message (which I can still hear being said with a big, deep voice): Yooooou neeeeeeed to coooonnnnnect with yourrrrrr creeeeaaaativity agaaaaain.

Yeah, yeah….I’m not surprised.  I’ve been missing writing, drawing, dancing and singing (don’t tell my hubby the last part!).

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I’ve just been busy.

This year, 2015, has brought many new things into my life.  I’ve traveled to the Caribbean and Australia, my hubby was picked up by a British publisher for his book, I’ve been in school, opened up a holistic practice (Cheney Holistic) and now a Solution-Focused Coaching practice (Teal Tiger).

Through all of this, I’ve felt myself being stretched in so many ways.  I’ve been happy with the growth, wisdom and knowledge I’ve gained.  My relationships with the special people in my life have improved and I can honestly say that life is good.

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It hasn’t been all rosy, trust me.  I’ve done a lot of ‘inner work’ which forced me to uncover a lot of stuff that I didn’t want to.  I’ve taken a two week home retreat in which I dedicated my 9-5 hours to contemplation and self-discovery.  That was so hard.  I found out about a bunch of belief systems I was carrying around which I realized that they weren’t mine, but were adopted from others.  I learned about what I like and don’t like, and most of all, I was able to make peace with parts of myself that wanted to be heard.

A lot of my growth came especially during my intense studies in Solution-Focused Coaching.  There were many times in class where I felt I was struck by an eighteen wheeler truck as I learned about behaviors, beliefs, values and vision.  My passion for this just kept growing and growing.  I can honestly say that I’ve found my calling in life, and I look forward to helping others live their life to their fullest.

As busy as the first half of 2015 has been, my journey is just beginning.  The next three months will be a different sort of journey; one that requires me to leave the comforts of my home, my city, my friends, and some of the time my family as well, for an extensive period of time.  We will be visiting Australia again and from there we will be going to Spain to do a 400+ kilometer pilgrimage known as the Camino de Santiago plus other travels.

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Many people have asked that we post pictures of our trips onto Facebook.  I honestly didn’t want to post anything, and wanted to stay screens free during this time period and disconnected.  I’ve really been trying to minimize my interactions with social media and really, media in general.  I am planning to write in my journal during this time, and my husband is planning to take pictures so we’ve decided to combine the two together.  This way, you can join our journey with us.

And so, our journey began today with our last long walk on our favorite path.  We’ve walked this path for months and have logged at least about 300 kilometers on it as we trained for the Camino.  We’ve encountered many friendly (and curious) people along the way, and have seen such beautiful wildlife (deer, rabbits, beautiful birds, beavers, snakes) – all within minutes of our front door.  I will miss this path during the next few months, and look forward to seeing it again in the fall.

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If you’re wanting to hear more of our journey, please subscribe to this blog.

With Love,

Smartie and Philosofree

How Do You Kill a Mockingbird?

I’m a sun worshiper.  Not the type that lies on the beach all day long, but the type that simply loves the sun shining.  It can be the most bitterly cold day, or everything possible could be going wrong, but as long as the sun is shining, I’m OK and all is well.

As I sit here writing this post it’s snowing outside.  It’s cloudy, dreary and cold.  But not that cold that cuts right through out, but that damp cold that gets into your bones.  It makes sense though because it needs to be that cold for the snow to fall.

Look at how miserable it is out there

Look at how miserable it is out there

I can’t help but remember that just over a week and a half ago; my hubby and I were in the beautiful Caribbean on a splendid ship celebrating our honeymoon.  The sun shined every day; it was hot, and just glorious – my kind of weather.  I must admit that when we decided to book our honeymoon for mid-January I was worried that I would have a difficult time and be depressed once I got back as the last time I went away at this time of year, it felt like the winter just dragged on forever.  This time it’s different.  Maybe it’s because of the company I traveled with, maybe it’s because I’m not locked up in an office building anymore, or maybe it’s because I can freely enjoy the sunshine as I please.  I think it’s one and three.  I’m grateful to be home with my hubby, to be able to open all the window coverings during the day, and to be able to go outside and soak in the sun when I please.

But my mind does keep going back to our trip.  The islands we visited, the activities we participated in, the events which took place, and specifically the people we met.

We had a blast even though our honeymoon didn’t exactly start off on the right note.  Thankfully hubby asked me to check to see that I had my passport shortly after we departed our home. Needless to say, I didn’t have mine.  And while we were at the airport we had issues checking in.  The flight from Toronto to Houston wasn’t ideal – it was freezing and our seats didn’t recline.  It had to have been one of the worst I had ever been on (and I’ve been on many, many flights).  And once we arrived at Houston Airport, I swear it felt like we were taking part in the Amazing Race.  We had exactly 10 minutes to get from Terminal A to Terminal E to avoid missing our connection. We ran down the terminals with our gear on our back, barely made the inter-airport train.  We arrived at the gate huffing and puffing. Luckily we didn’t miss the flight.

We took the red-eye from Toronto to Houston, and our connection took us from Houston to San Juan.  Our intention was to sleep on the planes – if only that would have happened.  I should have known better because I don’t sleep very well if I’m not in my bed.  What was I thinking?  And so we landed in San Juan at 6 am.  He slept, I didn’t. How lovely.

As we made our way to the baggage claim area, hubby turns to me and says “I wonder if our luggage made it?”  Sh*t!  We barely made it to the flight, so how the heck could our luggage?  As soon as we get to the baggage area I scan to see where I can file a report for lost luggage, and he’s trying to convince me to wait and see as it may have arrived after all.  I love my hubby, I really do.  And I love that he’s such an optimist.  And because we both insisted on our points of view, we both waited – he near the carousel belt, and me in line at the lost luggage reporting area.  Once the belt stopped and our luggage was nowhere in sight, he decided to join me.

So here we were, in beautiful San Juan sans luggage and hubby is chirpy and happy and I’m crusty and sleep deprived.  We have only the clothes on our backs, our backpack and purse and I want nothing more than to put on flip flops.

Crusty me.

Crusty me.

The only saving grace was that we were told that there was another flight due to arrive in San Juan from Houston that afternoon, and that our luggage will likely be on it, but we were told to call “just in case.”  We made our own way downtown, which is also the pier, and I was starting to relax.  The sun, the beauty everywhere, was taking effect.  We spotted a public pay phone and we decided to call the airline before hitting the sights.  As I’m trying to work my way through the teleprompters, I hear:

“Excuse me, do you need some help?” in a male voice with an accent.

I give hubby a gesture that tells him to deal with it.  As I’m trying to talk to the airline employee I’m also trying to hear the discussion between hubby and the stranger.  I’m failing miserably at both because the payphone keeps crackling and the person on the other end can’t hear me, and I can’t figure out what hubby and stranger are talking about.  So I hang up the phone.

I turn to the stranger and say “No thank you, we don’t need any help.”

He says “But it looks like you do.  I can help you.  See, I work for Air Canada (he points to a badge).  What airline did you fly in on?”

I’m thinking to myself ‘oh boy, I bet he says this to everyone, so I respond “United” which was true.

His face beams “Great, because they’re Star Alliance, which means I can help you. Listen, my office is right there. You can use my phone, my internet, relax and even use the washroom if you need to.” And then he goes on and on about the different places to visit, what time to check in for the cruise, etc.

I’m from the big city.  I was brought up in a time where you locked your front door even when you were home.  You don’t talk to strangers.  You question people’s motives.  I do need to tell you that I try not to live by that, I do believe there is good in everyone, but at that moment I was tired, crusty, in a foreign city with no luggage and I just wanted my flip flops.  I turn to hubby for some direction and the look in his eyes told me everything: ‘Smartie, nothing is going to happen to you.  I’m here to protect you.  It’s OK to go along with this guy. He won’t harm you.’ Oh how I love this man.

And so we did.  And I’m glad we did.

Leo (his name) ended up being an angel sent to help us.  As we walked to his office everyone on the road said hi to him: ladies walking with their children, shop keepers, police – everyone.  And as we walked my anxiety melted away.  He was good to every word he spoke to us and more.  It took us over an hour to deal with United and all the while we were in his office.  We never did get our luggage that day and thanks to Leo, not only did we get to see the sights in San Juan, rest in his office, we also were directed where to buy clothes and toiletries at a reasonable price, we were able to check onto the cruise earlier.  If it weren’t for Leo we’d be wearing the same clothes for four days (yes, that’s how long it took for us to get our luggage).

Our cruise ship!

Our cruise ship!

We were so moved by this man who was motivated in helping people just because that’s what he does.  He didn’t want anything from us, but for us to have a good time in San Juan.  Throughout the trip we kept thinking about him, telling people about this angel in an Air Canada hat. We ended up having a fantastic time and he was a big part of it.

And so when our cruise ported back in beautiful San Juan, I was sad that our trip was over, and I was reminded of Leo.  Suddenly we heard “Hey! Did you get your luggage that day?” Hubby and I looked at each other with smiles from ear to ear.  We turned around and there he was!  LEO!!!!

He was at it again, trying to help us.  He was trying to organize our transfers to the airport, and when he found out that we had half a day in San Juan, he grabbed my luggage and started walking.  We followed him to the tourist office.  He insisted that we enjoy the local festival and not to worry as our belongings would be safe.  He gave us a curfew and when it was time to go to the airport he came with us, ensured we checked in safely and walked us to our gate.  He even tried to see if he could get us on a direct flight home!

I began writing this post before leaving for our honeymoon.  The one I was writing before had obviously had different content, but essential the meaning of the two are very much the same.  They both have to do with the book “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

I read this book in high school and it stayed with me since.  I love that book and meeting Leo just emphasized one of the key learning of the book.  And no, he didn’t kill a mockingbird, which is never actually done in the book, but rather that you aren’t to kill one.

In the book Scout is told by her father Atticus that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird and the reason is that mockingbirds simply exist to provide pleasure with their song.  They do nothing but sing their hearts out for everyone to hear.  And to kill a mockingbird is to kill that which is innocent and harmless.

And I was prepared to kill one (figuratively, not literally).  You see, in San Juan I was so wrapped up in my own misery that I couldn’t see beyond my nose.  I was so set on trying to find out what Leo was up to, what he wanted from us, what his next move was and because of my hubby’s optimism, his outlook on life and mankind and his love for me and my love and trust in him, I was capable of handing over my skepticism and surrendering to the situation.  And because of this, I was able to receive what was being gifted to me at that very moment.

Leo ended up being that mockingbird for me.  In the short period that he entered my life I noticed that all he wanted was to ensure that hubby and I were blessed with his song.  I was also reminded of the final words in the book, when Scout tells Atticus about misunderstandings off Boo Radley, and how he hadn’t done anything of the things she thought he did, that he was “real nice.”

Atticus’ response to that was “most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”  And when I finally was able to see Leo I could see just how ‘real nice’ he just is.

I’m also amazed in the synchronicity of it all.  I didn’t feel comfortable in publishing the first post.  It just didn’t feel right and I knew I just had to wait, that something else was to come along to write about.  Never in a million years did I think this was going to happen and that we would have a beautiful angel/mockingbird in San Juan named Leo.

Oh, by the way, yesterday we received a beautiful email from Leo.  He wanted to know if we arrived home safely.  Our hearts were touched once again by our angel in San Juan.

Our Leo and Hubby (they exchanged hats).

Our Leo and Hubby (they exchanged hats).

Racing Towards What Exactly?

“Can you tell me, who called the race? / Can anyone stay in one place? / And when you get to the finish line /

Will you wish for more time?” ~ Katy Perry, This Moment

I remember listening to this song the very first time.  I was stressing out because my daughter, partner and I were behind schedule which meant that we weren’t going to get to Great Wolf Lodge as early as I had planned.   As part of my daughter’s birthday gift, I got her an overnight at the hotel, along with Katy Perry’s new CD Prism.  We were listening to it on the drive to Niagara Falls and needless to say that when this song played over the speaks in the car, it put things in perspective. I realized that I was in a race with myself and from that time onward, for the rest of the weekend, I was present and did not let my mind race ahead.  I made sure to be at my daughter’s birthday weekend.  We ended up having an awesome weekend.

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Then a few days passed and I kind of somewhat lost the message.  I let life take over again and sometimes would get lost in the day-to-day routine and life would seem mundane but stressful at the same time.

Then I went away for the weekend down south.  I totally decompressed and really unwound. My biggest decision of the day would be where to have lunch and dinner, and if an afternoon nap was called for.  My eyes were really opened to the simplicity of the place, and I was able to get connected again, truly appreciate what was surrounding me.  I realized how blessed I truly am, and this brought forth a great deal of gratitude.  I was really present the entire time!

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Then a few days passed and I kind of somewhat lost the message.  I let life take over again and sometimes would get lost in the day to day routine and life would seem mundane.

Since then I’ve been running around trying to be a superhero and get as many things checked off my to-do list as possible.  I find that I’m being short with everyone, and have a sense of anxiousness in my chest.  I get really frustrated that people can’t read my mind and do things the way I don’t like.  I don’t like disorder of any kind and can’t rest if things aren’t put back in their place.  For example, if the dishes are on the counter, and not in the dishwasher, I feel that I can’t enjoy the movie I’m watching in the daughter, I feel them pull me towards them.  Or the emails seem to call me, tell me to write them to the people who are awaiting them.  Or as I’m laying in bed, I can’t seem to get my mind to slow down.  Am I being present?  Hell no.  But I can feel the conflict between my heart and my mind.  My heart is yearning to be present, begging me to slow down and be with things and people who bring me joy, that these things can wait, but my mind keeps telling me “get this out-of-the-way and then you can enjoy whatever it is you want to enjoy.”

So what is going on?  At times, I can master this being in the moment thing, and at others, I may as well be in a different galaxy than everyone else.  What the heck?

Then a few books came across my path and lo and behold I could see that there was a lesson that I needed to learn at this moment.  I had lost what it meant to live in the moment.  For the most part, I had stopped seeing the beauty in everything.  I didn’t take note of what was in front of me.  I forgot to look for the miracle in everything.  I forgot to    s l o w   d o w n.  My body was here, right now, but my mind was elsewhere.  I was constantly always trying to find ways to make more time by making myself busier.  What an oxymoron!

Slow Down!

Mark Nepo said it best in “Exquisite Risk – Daring To Live An Authentic Life.”We often feel compelled to sacrifice or postpone the seeds of joy in favor for a practicality that we hope will insure a secure future.”  Totally true!

He then went on to say “…reduced to Now, some deeper part of me began to live, holding nothing back.  It is a moment that changed my life.  And through that deeper part, I began to see that we are delivered through all these gifts and tensions until we are honed by experience into something more and more vulnerable and beautiful.”  Yep, totally true!  I had forgotten this lesson which was handed to me years ago.  This enabled me to get through the darkest times of my life.  And I forgot it.

Am I going to beat myself up over it? Nah, that wouldn’t be much helpful.  It would only make me feel crappy about myself, and I don’t want that.  I know better.  What I am going to do is I’m going to be compassionate and forgive myself.   There is an ebb and flow in life.  We make progress, then we regress a bit, and then make more progress.  I’d like to believe that I have just come out of the regression phase and I’m now entering into the progress phase.

So tell me, while reading this, how many times have you left me, or where you with me the entire time?

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

“For life is quite absurd / And death’s the final word / You must always face the curtain with a bow / Forget your sin – give the audience a grin /  Enjoy it – it’s your last chance anyhow” – Monty Python

I bet you sang, didn’t you?  And I apologize if you have that song stuck in your head…well no, not really…because it was intentional 🙂

Recently I had the pleasure to converse with a few good friends.  This conversation first took place in person with a couple of gals, then over email with other people and then finally with a wonderful woman.  The common theme was “thinking positively.”

Although I’m trying my best with that, and I admit that it is very difficult at times but I think overall I’m making it a habit to think positively. But a friend brought up a good point, that thinking positively will only bring you so far.  And he’s right, you can work your butt off with thinking positively but you really have to look at what’s behind your negative thoughts in the first place.  Why do these negative thoughts come up to begin with.  In other words, you have to find out what’s going on inside of you and pick things apart.  You have to go on a journey – like I did to Australia (joke).  Seriously though, you do have to take a journey.

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And it’s scary to do so.  We are conditioned to repressed certain beliefs, memories, feelings for a reason – because we don’t want to face them and acknowledge what they mean to us. It could be that we will have to admit to a big mistake, that we hurt someone, and the worst thing of all – that we’re human! Imagine that! But I’ve found out in my work that facing these beliefs is a lot easier than continuing to repress them, and a lot less tiring.  It’s actually beautiful really.

I do this a few different ways, and what I find the method that works for me is to get out in nature and meditate.  I admire the scenery while in thought or take a walk in nature.  As a result, I am beginning to see the beauty in everything including nature, people, situations and events.  I’m a lot more calmer, more open to relationships, more easy-going and accepting.

In fact, I make it a habit that whenever I’m outside, whether leaving home or a building, or even driving, I look up to the sky and look at what beautiful picture has been painted across the canvas sky.  It centers me. Like this beautiful sunset I saw last night as me and my daughter came out of the mall.

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Wouldn’t you want to be in this place?  It’s there for your taking, if you’re willing to do the work.

Under Construction

“Be able to read blueprints, diagrams, floorplans, and other diagrams used in the construction process.” ~ Marilyn vos Savant

That’s what I’ve been up to all these months – construction.  Seriously, I have.

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I haven’t been building a house, or anything of those sorts.  I have been building my life.  And I’ve had to take a mental break from a lot of things, including writing, not willingly.

Let me tell you a bit more of what has been going on.  Back in January, since my last post, I was laid off again.  Yeah, it sucks, three times in two years but I decided to take it as a sign from God.  Or more like a kick in the butt from him to tell me to finally get on with my plan, my path, my purpose.  Yeah, I know, I’m stubborn and I don’t listen very well but it’s one of the areas in my life which I’m reconstructing.

Then about a month later I made the trip with my daughter to the land of Oz.  It was a life changing trip for me.  I do believe that I had to go on this journey to spring forward my spiritual journey.  That was the beginning of a lot of changes to my life.

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And to add more to the mix, the house I’m living in right now finally sold while I was away, and I’m in the midst of packing and getting ready to move on.

And the list goes on and on and on and on.  FINALLY! I’m starting to live my dreams.

So like I said, lots of rebuilding going on here.  But all good, and all will be good.  You’ll starting hearing more from me again, I promise.  Oh, and you’ll see changes slowly take place here too, so don’t worry if things don’t seem familiar.

Missed you lots,

Smartie

I Bless The Rains Down In Africa

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can  change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead

A couple of weeks ago I was given the opportunity to put a big, fat, stinking check mark next to item #7 on my Childhood Dreams List.  Since then, life has been whirlwind for me.  My head is still spinning with everything, and I finally feel like it’s all making enough sense in order for me to write it down.  Or is it?  Let me step back for a minute.  Have you ever heard the song Africa by Toto?  I absolutely love that song.  It’s one of those songs that when I hear it play something inside of me moves.  For whatever reason, I found it be powerful.  Not sure why, but I did, still do, actually.

On the topic of Africa, over the last few months I have been a witness to a very small group of individuals with big plans and even bigger hearts.  This group of people met over a year ago, formed a union, put together a business plan and this week are in the process of executing it.  At this moment they are in Ghana, Africa working towards providing affordable housing for its citizens, among other things.

You’re probably thinking, ok, so why is this a big deal? Let me explain – this is the first time in my life that I have ever witnessed someone actually go after a dream of theirs, let alone a huge one like this.  I’ve heard stories of people making it big, I’ve met people whose dreams have come to fruition long before meeting them, but this is the fist time I’ve seen it from the time it was just some ‘discussion’ at the kitchen table.  And now, this group is trekking along the streets of Accra, meeting with officials, and getting things done, and I get to experience it vicariously through them with up to the minute updates.

As they cross the city and countryside and send me pictures and updates, I am learning that the world, as big as it is, at the same time is so small.  As much as we all curse technology, at the same time it grants us to do amazing things.  Accra, even though their infrastructure isn’t all that great – no road signs, potholes everywhere and poverty ridden areas, also allows us to keep in touch the way we are.  I feel like I am in Africa right now, even though I’m typing this blog while sitting at my kitchen table.

I’m helping my Ghana Group as best as I can.  I lend advice, I provide ideas, I’m a sounding board.  Even though I can’t physically be there with them, in some way I am.  I’ve also been given the opportunity of corresponding on a regular basis with a beautiful woman from Ghana.  She is in charge of ensuring that these children in the school Children Of The Ark receive a good education and a chance at life.  I’m helping her by brainstorming ways to help these kids.  And it feels good.  I feel as if I’m also helping the people in Accra every which way I can.  I’m finding that by giving what I can, I’m actually receiving so much more in return.

These recent events have got me thinking, that if you’re open to life and what it gives to you, the goals you set out for yourself really do get met.  You just have to be open to the reality that they may not unfold in the way you expect them to, and that’s ok.  It doesn’t mean that you haven’t met them.  I unknowingly have just reached goal # 11.  I suspect that this will be an ongoing thing, but to think that I am able to help people in a different country, one that I have never been to, and communicate directly with some of the people there is an awesome thing.  My Ghana Group has been so inspiring and I can’t wait to see them reap the rewards from the seeds they are sowing.  Life is truly amazing, especially if you have the drive to go after what you really want.  And really, the only risk in life is not taking a risk at all.