Amelia the Tropicat: Sometimes love is letting go

I’ve had a few pets on Swell over the last 9 years, but most of them made their way aboard on their own. Aside from a lost baby seabird I found after a cyclone, my non-human guests have been uninvited. I don’t mind the geckos that often show up in a banana stock. They make cute coughing noises in the evening and cause no harm. I’ve hosted a wide variety of ants too—from teeny fuzzy black ones to enormous shiny red ones. They’re always extremely busy and don’t like being distracted, so I can’t say much for their company. A roving wasp colony lives in my spinnaker pole from time to time, but we tend to give each other our space. Once a cricket turned up out of nowhere. I never saw him but I adored his evening serenades until they were no more. While I was away on a trip to California, a newlywed rat couple from the boatyard where Swell was hauled thought they’d scored themselves a slick new pad. They promptly moved aboard and raised four handsome rat babies who explored, and chewed, and pooped inside Swell from bow to stern. Their story has a rather gruesome ending, but let’s just say it was either them or me…same song for the prolific cockroach family that sailed with me to Kiribati.

Amelia was different, though. I’m not sure whether I found her or she found me that fateful afternoon in November of 2013, but it felt fairly clear that we were meant to be together. She was a skinny little adolescent then–about 6 months old and hungry for food and love. Something about her commanding lioness air and carefree bravado made me want to give her both. I can’t estimate the innumerable forlorn cats and dogs I’ve longed to adopt over my years of travel, but it never seemed fair to drag them into my nomadic, non-routine lifestyle. Nor was I sure that I had time to properly care for a pet with my already full plate of captain’s duties. So, I don’t exactly know what got into me that day, I only remember it being unbearable to leave without her. I called her, Amelia, after the revered Miss Earhart, sensing right away that we shared a similar thirst for adventure.

Adjusting to boat life wasn’t easy at first. Life on a slippery, 40’ by 11’ hunk of fiberglass surrounded by ocean was a radical contrast to the lonesome jungle living she knew at the empty mountain mansion where we met. The new backdrop didn’t seem to phase her for long, and she adored the constant supply of cat food and caresses. She scoured every nook and locker of Swell daily for any living thing to torment. She resorted to ambushing flies, although she despised their buzzing antics. She nuzzled her food dish, watched sunsets from atop the dodger, and spent twilight dawns on the bow eyeing our fish neighbors. Her high-fangled, over-the-water acrobatics routines, soon led to a few ‘kitty overboard’ incidents. She quickly learned to dread the sea. Despite her distaste for swimming, she was amazingly good at it. She’d claw her way up my rubber dinghy to get back on board. I worried she might fall over when I was away, though, so I devised a ‘ladder’ made from a long strip of old towel that hung over the side and dangled into the sea. I came back from surfing one morning to find her wet and madly preening; she had obviously made good use of that ladder.

Amelia liked to run the show, and whenever possible, I let her. She always had a wily, determined look in her eye–as if the world was out to get her, but she was going to get it first. She was the star of her own mystery film–a sexy, heartless secret agent always on a mission. Business was business. She would constantly stalk me from above the dodger as I came out of the cabin, pouncing viciously on my head or come flying at me from across the cabin out of nowhere as I walked through innocently. She’d stalk fish over the side and birds flying above. I built her a ‘tree’ from a yoga mat wrapped around the mast, tied strings everywhere, made her a fishing platform, and often brought home fresh palm fronds to whip around and let her chase. She did enjoy a bit of luxury in her down time, though, sprawling indulgently across her pillows. On visits to various fancy yachts–after a thorough search for anything to kill—she would always post herself assertively smack in the middle of the scene. For the most part, Amelia the Tropicat had a one-track mind–it was all about the ‘hunt’.

I knew she missed climbing trees and bounding through tall grasses, so I started bringing her ashore on beach walks and jungle hikes. I figured if she really disliked life afloat, she’d just run away, but by and by she followed. We found a flat, shady spot in the mountain on one of our explorations, and returned often in the late afternoons so she could play in the forest, while I practiced yoga. She started coming with me to parties, outdoor restaurants, and friends’ houses. She never much enjoyed the rides in the dinghy, canoe, car, and even a few times on a motor scooter, but she was  happy to arrive and discover new turf. After a few months of these sorts of adventures, she seemed to understand the routine, and she’d climb in and out of the dinghy on her own.

I’m sure she had psychic powers, too. Nothing else could explain the way she knew exactly which drawer or locker I needed to open before I even got near it. She’d casually make her way there in time to plop herself boldly in front of the access just before I arrived, then stare off coolly, like she was busy daydreaming. I was constantly obligated to coax or nudge her begrudgingly out of the way.

She charmed most and ignored the others. Either she hated being coddled and kissed, or was too proud to show it. She’d let me snuggle her for a few fleeting moments, then I’d feel her body tense up and she’d become desperate for a way to escape. I understood…a warrior princess secret agent couldn’t be seen as weak or needy. Now and then she’d curl up on me as if she’d finally found a few moments between her unrelenting quests for a bit of affection, but it was always on her time. We understood each other. We both needed freedom and love, we both got seasick, and we both loved challenge and exploration.

She taught me how to wait patiently for something you want (to kill in her case), how to relax now and then, and the importance of carrying oneself as distinguished and unphased as a noble Lioness–no matter the conditions or company. She could be viscous. Dogs feared her. I didn’t trust her around babies. I was constantly marred with scratches and even got Cat Scratch Fever from her! Once she killed a seabird about her size while I was ashore. The poor unsuspecting fellow had landed aboard Swell for a brief rest, only to be stalked, hauled down into the cabin, and massacred. Sigh. In fact, I’m sure that if she were big enough, she would have killed me too. I know she loved me, and might have regretted it afterward, but her merciless nature was just too strong.

A few weeks ago, Tropicat and I got invited on a little surf excursion on the other side of the island. Due to a mix of unexpected follies, we found ourselves on the back of a kind stranger’s canoe, headed for an islet about 300 yards offshore. She slipped off the shiny angled canoe twice on the way. I quickly scooped her aboard both times, but I knew she was horrified. I don’t think it helped that I found it impossible not to giggle at her drenched, rat-like body. We safely reached the other side, where she followed me out a palm-lined trail to the surf spot. I dropped my bag and spread out my pareo so she’d have a notion of ‘home base’, then paddled out for a quick surf. When I came in Amelia was nowhere to be found. I didn’t want the others to wait around, so they headed home while I tromped around the 1/2 mile squared islet, calling her name and apologizing for laughing at her earlier. She never appeared.

That afternoon, a stiff west wind was mounting. I grew worried about Swell, as she was anchored in a fairly exposed bay. I knew there was a cute little bed & breakfast on the island, I figured she would be happy chasing rats and lizards for the night, and could go see the people there if she was lonely or hungry.

I went back the next day and numerous times since. I camped out multiple times where she was last seen, left my stinky clothes for her to smell, and piles of cat food and fish. I even called a pet psychic. She still has not surfaced. All I can figure is that she is either enjoying the endless game of chasing lizards, rats, and crabs, or she may have been picked up by another visitor? Her disappearance remains a mystery; maybe it was fated in the name? I can only hope she loves her newfound paradise, or chose her new home well. I haven’t been able to put away the reminders of her company; the litter box is empty and her toys lie still and lifeless scattered about. I miss her.

Part of me is stunned by the loss I feel without my beloved little companion, but another part of me knows that, like me, she needs to feel free. I never owned her; we chose each other. I did my best to keep her happy during her spell afloat, but as the rainy season and my book project kept us more and more often aboard Swell over the last month or so, I would notice a far-off look of longing and boredom in her eyes. Maybe the string of calamities that happened at the motu that day was meant to be? As much as I badly want to see her again, there’s a part of me that thinks she’s likely happier in her new land life.

Her untamable spirit will always stay with me. But I believe that true love is wanting for the other, what she or he truly desires for her/himself. So be free, Amelia the Tropicat…I wish you endless new adventures, a full belly, loving new hands to caress you, and a life of the non-stop ever-thrilling ‘hunt’ that I know keeps the fire blazing in your feline goddess heart.

Women and cats

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” –Robert Heinlein

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Tropicat was always the life of the party, even if she peed in the planter box… Photo by Lea Brassy during the epic Swell/Patagonia/Cabrihna Quest rendezvous in the outer islands.

Land Ho!!

Kitty on watch duty.

She would never admit it, but she loved the limelight.

She would never admit it, but she loved the limelight.

She also enjoyed long walks on the beach...

She also enjoyed long walks on the beach…

And always managed to be right in my way...

And always managed to be right in my way…

Navigator

Her job as navigator got a lot easier when I got our amazing new B&G chartplotter installed.

She taught me a lot about relaxing...

She taught me a lot about relaxing…

And was always up for land excursions...

But she was always ready to seize the moment…heading ashore with my beloved fellow Patagonia Surf Ambassador, Lea Brassy, to stretch our sea legs.

Afternoons in the mountains for yoga and tree climbing...

We spent many afternoons in the mountain together for yoga and tree climbing…

Boat, car, dinghy, canoe, or motor scooter...no limits to adventure for Tropicat.

Boat, car, dinghy, canoe, or motor scooter…there were no limits to adventure for Tropicat.

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The only times she was desperate to cuddle were underway…kitty and captain taking a rest at sea.

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She was endlessly curious…

Swimming was not her favorite activity.

But she quickly discovered that swimming was NOT her favorite activity.

Nor did she care much for my plant-based diet...

Nor did she care much for my plant-based diet…

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She made herself right at home aboard the yachts we visited, especially the splendid Josefina…

She loved climbing trees, but this particular one frustrated her...

She adored climbing trees, but this particular one frustrated the hell out of her…

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“Now who’s looking up…?”

Always right in the middle of things...

Always right in the middle of things…

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Damn birds…

She wanted my job...

Kitty mutiny? She really wished she could be in charge…

Her new home...

Kitty’s new paradise…

Never too late…


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A beautiful shot of determined Doba in his open ocean ‘kayak’, showing us that age is no excuse to leave dreams un-lived…

“If 67 years young can do it, you can do it, too.” —Aleksander Doba

A huge congrats and a stinging high five to, Aleksander Doba, who received the mega honor of earning the most votes for the National Geographic People’s choice award, making him the official NG Adventurer of the Year 2014. I was beyond stoked to have been nominated, and I appreciate all of you who took a moment or many to cast a vote for the incredible list of nominees! I’m deeply grateful to National Geographic for recognizing me amongst them.

“At 67 years old, the Polish adventurer made the longest open-water kayak crossing of the Atlantic in history. Using just his arm strength and considerable willpower, Doba paddled 7,700 miles in his 23-foot kayak, OLO, departing in October 2013 from Lisbon and arriving six months later in Florida. The retired mechanical engineer, now 68, is the only person to kayak across the Atlantic, continent-to-continent, alone, unassisted, and under his own power. He battled 30-foot waves and got entangled in the Bermuda Triangle. His engineering skills were tested time and time again.” –from National Geographic Adventure

Click here to read more about his mind-blowing adventure across the Atlantic!

My HUGEST respect and gratitude to fellow ocean voyager, Aleksander, who reminds us that it is never too late to live your dreams!! Courage and luck to you on your next adventure, Aleksander!!

National Geographic Adventurer of the Year??!!


SO STOKED!!

What an epic surprise to recently receive news that National Geographic has selected me as one of ten nominees for this year’s ‘Adventurer of the Year’ award!?!

I’m deeply honored and grateful to be recognized for what I love most: LIVING ADVENTURE!!!

As far back as I can remember, I was always the one who got excited when the car broke down, or oddly pleased when I was stuck up a tree or lost without directions. Something about the unknown, with its the possibilities and surprises, never ceases to thrill me. No matter where you live or what you love, life is an open-ended adventure if you choose to see it that way. That I’ve been able to turn my voyaging dream into the backdrop for my inner and outer adventures is something I’m grateful for every single day. I never know quite where it will lead tomorrow, but in a way that’s what keeps me going. I remain open and do my best to heed the evolving calls of my heart.

To live on faith and passion has been a wild, wonderful, and often challenging ride, and the opportunities it’s afforded me to grow into a better and better version of myself have been worth every moment of difficulty, fear, and darkness. Like Patagonia Ambassador Steve House said so perfectly… “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”

The nominees for this year’s award are truly extraordinary humans. They have each charted their own unique, fearless course and I am honored and humbled to be recognized alongside them. For the next two and a half months, you are invited to learn about each of our stories and vote every day for the People’s Choice award that they will announce in the end of January. Reading about all of the nominees filled me with pride for the tenacity and strength of the human spirit. One story struck me in particular.

A woman from Bangladesh named, Wasfia Nazreen, has been climbing the worlds highest mountains with a hula hoop strapped to her pack. Why? To raise awareness about women’s oppression and sex trade in her country. She wasn’t allowed to hula hoop as a child because it involved too much swinging of the hips. After working as part of an aid group to free 3,000 women from brothels a few years back, her organization lost its foreign funding leaving all those women in limbo and Wasfia feeling helpless. She decided to take the matter into her own hands, starting her own non-profit and learning how to climb mountains. Her story is an example of adventuring for something bigger than yourself. Against all odds–from a country where the majority of people have never even seen a mountain–Wasfia is bringing hope and pride for a new era for women in her country and around the world.

I opened my FaceBook a few days ago, after posting about her incredible story, only to receive a message from her, welcoming me to visit her in Bangladesh!! And that’s just it. For me, it’s about using this nomination to connect with more like-minded people like Wasfia and the other amazing nominees, to spread the world-bettering messages that this 9-year adventure has given me the opportunity to develop and refine.

Here is a link to read about all of the nominees: http://adventure.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/adventurers-of-the-year/2015/

You can vote every day until Jan 31st if you feel! Here is the link to vote:  http://on.natgeo.com/1y8STod

Click here to redirect to voting page!!

Click here to redirect to voting page!!

A few moments from the many adventures…

Swell disappears behind in the rolling blue Pacific.

Swell disappears behind in the rolling blue Pacific.

Through the heart of the squall...by McKenzie Clark

Through the heart of the squall…by McKenzie Clark

Rain

Rain or shine…always ready for an adventure!!

Land adventures too...

Land adventures too…

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Some rest between captain’s duties.

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Headed out the pass with my fuzzy crewmate, Amelia.

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Because for every dark or difficult moment comes an oppositely glorious one!!

Thank you being on board with me all these years!!

Thank you being on board with me all these years!!

Solidarity and the Sisterhood: United we rise


With my cherished seasister, Anna Santoro.

Whether we’re up or down, we sistas always gotta be there for each other! Anna Santoro–heart as expansive as the universe–thank you for embodying unconditional sister love! #seasistasforlife  Photo by Mark Welsh!

“Seriously???” Was the only word out of the police officer’s mouth as she leaned in to the driver side window of Anna’s 91′ Nissan truck “Charlie”.

I cringed and sunk low in the passenger seat. It was my fault. Rules had slipped my mind… In the height of our sunny day joyride to the organic market, I didn’t think anything of climbing out the passenger window to ask Demi in the truckbed where we wanted to be dropped off…(insert emoji with the teeth)…

“We’re so sorry.” Leah pleaded from the driver’s seat. “Our friend is kinda feral. She just got back to the US and didn’t mean to do anything wrong…”

We were respectful and apologetic, but also suspiciously sandy, smiley & shoeless with wild hair and streaks of sunscreen on our faces. She wrote us three tickets: Leah had left her license at home, the car registration was expired, and I got a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt. And she let us off easy… But by the time she walked away, she was holding back her grin. We kinda wished Sista could hop in and join us…

We buckled up and took off, and after about 15 dispondent seconds the car erupted in laughter and we returned to the Soundcloud playlist blaring out of the Blaster, wind in our hair, deep breaths of salt air, and a bond between sisters that meant that everything was perfect–even the three costly yellow slips of paper blowing around on the dashboard…

After hanging with the wonderful Patagonia crew on the North Shore, my dear friend Anna had invited me to stay on at her place for a while. Little did I know, I was moving into a revolving world of glorious goddesses! They came and went like the breeze, some lived there, some didn’t… but all of them were loving and open-hearted. Everyday was a new adventure … every moment was flow and synchronicity … helping or encouraging each other towards individual goals or working together for our collective needs … smiles and laughter all the way. If one person was down, everyone gathered to lift them up. Epic healthy meals began with hands held around the table and a loud chorus of “I Love You…SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE!”. Sister surf sessions meant Leanne bodysurfing past in perfect form me on a set wave, Leah lighting up each wave with her gloriously stylish and powerful surf prowess, and Anna charging close-out tubes and beaming in the sea like always. Finally I wasn’t the only one on the beach participating in post-session ‘sand therapy’, my all-time favorite beach activity of rolling around in the hot, one-of-a-kind North Shore sand to warm up from the sea. Charlie the truck charmed me with his broken driver side door, bent speedometer, and sexy lurch from first to second gear…Rocky lefts on the wave storm, dodging turtles, Leah’s healing hands and ukulele magic, card readings, bonfires, greens delivered by Ethalia, Happy Back yoga with LoLo, the scent of essential oils, moon gazing, sunsets, a very friendly praying mantis, and spontaneous group healing sessions…

Hanging with the hens (and the wonderful roosters that came by now and then…) affirmed that it’s perfectly fine to want to feel free and loved, live simply and close to nature, pursue personal growth, make room for magic, find true love, go without a plan, be barefoot and wild, live positively, nuture our bodies, change the world, want the best for everyone…It wasn’t that we were all the same, it was that everyone respected each others’ unique perfection and way of expressing her divine feminine however felt right.

So this was life at the ‘Hen House’ on the North Shore of Oahu, and a great place to kick off the topic of this blog: the Sisterhood.

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The Hens in Charlie…Anna, Leah, Lauren, me (& Leanne and all the others not pictured!!) Thank you, sisters, for such an uplifting, empowering, and MAGICAL time! It was a true affirmation of who I am and where I am headed.  #ILOVEYOUSQUEEZE #Hennanigans

I was a little lost and low after the relationship dramas of last year and a couple other disappointing situations. I was a little afraid to put myself out there again, being so sensitive and fragile to negative energy. But I rolled with it, using my heightened sensitivity to consciously flee from any notion of bad vibes as soon as they arose. To my surprise, the universe started raining strong, loving, confident, and open-hearted ladies! I decided to Leap and Trust. I’m already ultra-blessed to have an incredibly loving circle of long-time girlfriends, but new fantastic Sisters (and brothers!) were popping up everywhere! They were new friends that felt like old ones–the kind of easy and intimate connection that happens instantly and doesn’t even have to be explained. The kind of people who make you feel safe and loved, creating a sacred space where you can let down your guard and really be you.

Our society so often poses women against each other, making it easy to forget that we can be our own endless resource of strength and love. We’re made to think we are in a constant competition for beauty, men, talent, status, etc. And this continued comparison makes us feel like we’re never enough, causing us to look at each other with jealousy or longing to be something other than our unique and wonderful Selves. Feeding this fear and envy makes us feel small and isolated. In the meantime, we miss out entirely on developing our own awesomeness because we’re so worried about what we aren’t, rather than what we ARE. I know because I’ve done too much of it myself.

But when approached on the contrary–seeing other women as part of your precious tribe–new worlds burst wide open! Worlds of infinite love, magic, support, strength, hope, FUN, and positivity become available. These are courageous women who don’t have time to ponder others, because they are too busy bettering themselves. I may not yet have a line on Mr. Right (although, Simon, brother, huge thanks to you… you taught me SO MUCH about Love!!!), but shared with friends like these—no matter where we live: life is a celebration! There is always a love-space available in which to share, cry, laugh, and feel completely supported and accepted. One year since finding myself at an all-time low, I feel more strong, connected, and grateful than ever before–especially for all the love in my life!

It would take volumes to explain all the sisterly magic of the last 9 months. I can’t possibly do the bliss and magic of it justice with words or photos, but here is a brief photographic depiction and a manifesto of what this ‘Sisterhood’ seems to embody. Please feel free to add in the comments!

And Brothers! Please don’t feel left out here! There is absolutely NO intention for exclusion or discrimination…just a simple acknowledgement of the world’s awesome females and the special bond we all share. Enormous thanks to those of you who understand, embrace, and encourage this unity because that makes it even BETTER!!

We Love and Respect all sister and brother humans, regardless of where they are on their journey.

We see the Best in each other, and foster each others’ Highest Potential.

We Trust and Listen to our Intuition.

We embrace the Present.

We are Warriors and Stewards for our sacred Mother Earth, ready to sacrifice and innovate for her.

We remain Open, always ready to learn and/or erase what we think we know.

We don’t ask others to change, we Change Ourselves.

We Feel more, and think less.

We don’t Judge nor Gossip, but we laugh a lot.

We know our Power and use it with Positive Intentions.

We don’t fight, we Flow and Follow Good Feelings.

We embrace our Femininity however it feels right.

We are happy to Help.

We Give without expectations.

We Let Go of that which does not serve us.

We let pain open our hearts Wider, and offer victory to our ‘transgressors’.

We can Apologize, and Forgive.

We can Pee in the Bushes, in fact, we often prefer it.

We love when our Friends Look & Feel Beautiful.

We take our Time because #HurryKills.

We cherish and nurture our Bodies whatever Size, Shape, or Age.

We celebrate our Blessings, and turn our adversities into Opportunities.

We look for the Perfection in the seemingly imperfect, and eventually find it.

We are not afraid to seek our own Truth, and manifest Big Dreams.

We know we are Limitless and Eternal.

We are happy to Share because we trust in Abundance.

We remain Humble, always seeing others as our precious Teachers.

We know Inner Beauty is the source of True Beauty.

We choose Positive Thoughts, and mentally karate chop negative ones.

We see a god or goddesss in Everyone.

We do our best to maintain Positive Vibrations.

We are always seeking Balance, but sometimes we tip the scales.

We keep Trusting that “Everything little thing is going to be Alright.”

We don’t settle, but we do compromise.

We accept that Change is necessary to growth.

We can Laugh and Cry at the same time.

We are not afraid to be Alone, for that is where we learn our own Strength.

We seek to Bring All Other Beings Up, because knowing our Oneness, we understand that we cannot rise alone.

 

I often don’t live up to these words, but I strive to do so everyday because it’s fun, rewarding, and because I believe in a more peaceful, loving, and unified world… Knowing there are other sisters out there doing and wanting the same provides deep reserves of strength to go forward when all seems backwards. Whether I know you personally or through social media or email or not at all, I want to thank all the badass ladies (and gents) out there who aren’t afraid to be themselves, and live and love wide-open!! A universal CHEERS and SQUEEZE to you all!!

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I didn’t know Monique Champon very well when she took me in at my lowest moment last year–nursing me back to strength post-shingles/Bells Palsy/relationship escape in her clean quiet seaside bungalow with healthy food, positive energy, and her big, warm heart. Once healed, her door remained open—for a family meal, a load of laundry, a mooring, a laugh. Never asking anything in return, and always happy to help… Gratitude and Love to Monique and the wonderful Champon family!! #healwithgoodvibrations

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Simple joys–love, sea, and freedom in the South Pacific with Pau, Poema, and Lu. If it weren’t for Poema, I would likely still be crumpled in wad somewhere at the boatyard! #LeapandTrust

Words could never say enough about the love between my blood sister, Leen and I. She welcomed me back to California in March with wide open arms, tea, blueberries, chocolate, creepy dolls, salads, you name it…clearing a space for me in her already tight apartment between her 2 dogs and boyfriend and insisting I feel at home. Despite my impossible schedule, packing messes, and near citylife breakdowns, she was the rock that filled me up with love and reason and damn…if only I had an ounce of her wit and humor!?!? #iwanttobeyou

Reunited!!! Words could NOT explain the precious love between my blood sister, Kathleen and I. I was welcomed back to California with this beaming smile!! Wide open arms, tea, blueberries, chocolate, creepy dolls, unlimited cuddles…clearing a space for me in her apartment. Despite my impossible schedule, packing messes, and near city-life breakdowns, she was the rock that filled me up with love and reason…and dammit…if only I was born with an ounce of her wit and humor!?!? #iwanttobeyou #cantyoujustputthisinyourmachine?

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Me, Leah, Anna, and Leanne and so many wonderful brothers and sisters came together for the celebration of life for Anna’s lost love, Kirk McNulty. Rest in peace, brother. We love you so much. #lifeiseternal #RIPKirkMcNulty

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My guapa Spanish migratory bird amgias, Lucia and Paula, teaching me the fine art of ‘prisa mata’ or ‘hurry kills’… #GoStanley!!

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A dream come true… and sisters at first sight!!! Fellow Patagonia ambassadors and seagoddesses, Kimi Werner and Lea Brassy, plus badass photog sista Jody MacDonald, and the unshakably positive and open-hearted Michaela Laserer, met up with Swell & me in the outer islands recently for 2 weeks of ultimate sea adventures, sisterhood chats, star gazing, fish hunting, coconut foraging, and organic local cooking!! #badasses #meanttobe

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Good thing surf queen, spearfisherwoman, and all-around tough-as-hell adventure Lioness, Lea Brassy, stuck around for two more weeks of sister bliss aboard Swell…we had TOO MUCH FUN! Here Lea, kitty, and me are heading off for an ultimate princess bath in the crystal clear atoll sea river, with sand exfoliation, sunset pink hues, monoi oil, in the breathtaking turquoise sea!!!! Unforgettable!!! #nurtureyourself #youcandoanythingLeaBrassy

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Lauren, Anna, Leah and I forked off at this sacred site of ancient Hawaiian birthing stones on Oahu to reflect and connect with our sisters from another time who surely gave each other strength, love, and support during the birthing process. #weneedeachother

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The indescribable sheer bliss of  laying under the stars on the beach, surrounded by the love of sisters… #teamnanopuff #lookUP

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Leen and Mom. Oh the fun we have…Nothing feels more comfortable, close, open, loving, and right than being with these two wild, wonderful women!! Mom to Leen before our golf round, “Well, Leen, it’s really only between you and I…Liz never golfs…” Who took em down?? The barefoot hippie who ‘doesn’t golf’…Y’all got WHOOPED and dont forget it!!!! #10situpsforeverycussword #ilovemyfamily

Sun is always shining with legend Sista and tube-riding guru, Katy aka ‘Kepitan’–this generous SUPERmom, nick-naming genius, fearless she-ninja, and all-around goddess badass is always there to call me into a wave, whip up a healthy delicacy, deliver me a cold smoothie, let me do another load of laundry, squeeze my fefe, analyze my potential suitors, and kill me with her quiet one liners…The fun never stops in KepiTown. #justanotherdayofyouandmeinparadise #corgettA #Dora #ifGayawashere

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I’m 10 years old again when I get a visit from these fun, fearless, day-brightening mini sea-sisters Kailea, Heimiti, Tehere, and Kohai!!! Playing in the sea with you girls is pure joy!! Look out world, these surfer girls are going to push the gender barriers like never before!! Kailea–you and me behind Moc’s boat on boogieboards is AS FUN AS IT GETS!! I love you girls so much and look forward to watching you all blossom and make your paths. #imsofancy #mylittleopihi #puttheropeswingupalready #ifyoufallifall #lizzyloulovesyou

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Yogini sistas Lauren and Andrea in a spontaneous moment of acro awesomeness!! #lifteachotherup!! #followyourbliss

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Testing out the Hawaiian birthing stones with love and respect for the pain each of the women once endured here to bring new life into the world!! #hangon #naturalchildbirth

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Typical morning at the hen house…Smoothies, yoga, Leah on Ukulele, Leanne & Anna & me singing our hearts to celebrate another blessed day!! #PrincessRestingHour #yourflowisouttacontrolanditsbeautiful!

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Post session sista #sandtherapy is just SO GOOD>>>>>>>> Thanks for the eco-sunnies, Zeal Optics!!

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Celebrating new life, motherhood, and sisterhood with Sista Lindsey Mickelson of CMD-Z clothing…sunshine and love to welcome baby Soleil into the world!!

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What a positive BOOST to get to spend time with spearfishing legend and sisterhood specialist Kimi Werner–this beyond talented lady blew me away with her underwater skills, grace, loving-kindness, humility, and wisdom in ocean conservation, food foraging and preparation, and especially in matters of flowing and following the HEART. #whenyouthinkyoushouldspeedupslowdown #hero #InfiniteHeart

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Mom and Leen delivering me to LAX yet again…and I had to make one last stop at the crystal shop, eat 2 orders of tempe tacos with Walnut quaking on my lap, and try to fit this enormous cast iron pan in my bag??? Up to our final goodbyes, EVERY second with these two is packed with love and hilarity. Epic smile frown, Moma!!! #unconditionallove #iMISSyou

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The original Ya-ya sisters reunited behind the bar this spring where we met and worked together 10 years ago. Heather!! You’ve taught me so much about being open, positive, and dedicated to personal growth and the sisterhood!!! Here we are pouring drinks to raise money for our sister of social change– Emi Koch–and her organization, Beyond the Surface International– which empowers youth through surfing and story-telling in impoverished communities around the world. #doubletime #fernetaboutit #daveisinthesidewindow #findusatlivereggae

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Her grandmother named her, Ishita, which means, ‘Goddess of godesses’ in Hindi. You nailed it Grandma!! Reunited on the other side of the world after meeting one year ago in India for the Beyond the Surface film–what a blessing to hang with sister Ishita Malaviya (and Brother Tushar!!), the first female surfer from India and ‘meant-to-be’ leader of a new generation of free & empowered sisters in India. She beams with positivity, love, grace, humor, FUN, humility, and an open heart ready for adventures!!! Miss you already!! #roadtrippinwithPolininsky #cosmictiming #tushita #howdoigetoutofthiswetsuit?

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Hangin on Swell with the beautiful Uturaerae tamahine!! My little Tahitian sisters always remind me to smile big, slow down and seize the day, and stay forever young!! #empoweryouth

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Ni’au fruit basket weaving lessons from my precious little sister, Haunale. XOXO #letthemteachyou

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Salty good vibrations with sista Lu!!! Sun, surf, bad jokes, sexy brown men paddling canoes, and plastic collection in the line-up… #pervertsinparadise

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When intuition isn’t loud enough…sista surf goddess Leah Dawson asks yogini warrioress LoLo Bosworth to help with some applied kinesiology testing to feel out what’s best…  #yourbodyknows

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A visit with pioneer, legend, and and big sister Audrey Sutherland who paved the way for today’s  adventurous sisters on her innumerable solo swimming/kayaking missions in Molokai and Alaska over the last 30 years. This mother of 4, seeker, nature lover, wild spirit, and courageous leader always made her own rules and insisted on living out her biggest dreams on a dime, in a time when it was absolutely unheard of for a woman to do what she did…what a role model she is for all of us!! Check out her books: Paddling Your Own Canoe & Paddling North #gosimplegosologonow

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Sister Ethalia!! This beautiful spirit shows up at the hen house with daily greens, lemongrass tea, and stories of her youth in the Philippines…her massive garden next door is bursting with love…as is her youthful heart!! #growfoodnotlawns #weloveyouEthalia

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Tatoos!! Post-ink buzzing with free spirit amiga, Lucia!!

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SO grateful for the technology that keeps me close to my sister pillars, despite our physical separation… Chrissy!! Leen!!!…what would i do without our skype sessions of pendulum swinging advice, goddess card readings, hilarious frozen screens, and your unconditional love. I’m so thankful to be able to grow and learn and laugh with you two!!! #ipoopedtoday #creepydoll

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Some souls are meant to fly beside you in this life…my Auntie Julie Ann is one of mine. She’s ALWAYS THERE. No questions. No judgements. No hesitation. Since I was a tiny girl, she’s helped me blossom and find direction amongst the storms of my life…I’m eternally grateful for her love and dedication to helping me become the greatest Me. Love you Sista Auntie dearest!!!! #morethanallthestars

A month earlier, sista Kepitan had bravely squeezed the pus out of the hideous staff boil that surfaced on my ass...and when it resurfaced in Hawaii, healer sister Leah was there to do the same day in and day out...without batting an eye. #healeachother #f&^kingfaifai #DoTerraEssentialOils

A month earlier, Kepi had bravely squeezed the pus out of the hideous staff boil that surfaced on my ass…and when it resurfaced in Hawaii, Leah was there to do the same, day after day…without batting an eye. #healEachOther #DoTerraEssentialOils #medicinewoman

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Nikki Deleon knows where to find the good vibes!!! Thanks for always having your doors open to me, Sister! And always motivating me to find a wave to ride, indulge in a steamy hot yoga class, farmers market crusade, or a high-vibes Zumba dance hour!! We seem to be evolving but our humor doesnt?? #waynedyerOHMS #shakeit #whatwouldEckartdo? #selfdepricationandpenisjokes

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We must teach our little sisters that anything is possible!!! Post chat at the SDYC youth sailing program with these two lovely young sailorette dream-chasers!! #dreamBIG

Sister Bria!! So blessed to have a sister-in-law always ready to open her home and heart to me, no matter my odd schedule. I'm always inspired by your positivity, selflessness, ability to adapt, and the way you always make people feel so special. I love you and the James Robert Clarks SO MUCH!!!! THanks for making my Texas bday so fun! #vegancake #JesuslovesTexans

Sister Bria!! I’m SO blessed to have a sister-in-law always ready to open her home and heart to me, no matter what my odd schedule or habits!! I’m always inspired by your relentless positivity, selflessness, ability to adapt to anything, and the way you always make people feel so special. I love you and the James Robert Clarks SO MUCH!!!! Thanks for making my Texas bday so full of love! #vegancake #backhoespotting

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Off to Indo to fulfill her barrel riding dreams, wave-riding guru, Leah Dawson, pulls a final Goddess Card with me and Anna on the airport sidewalk for divine strength and guidance before her next adventure. Check out her amazing short films at seaappreciationproject.com, with the latest from that trip already up, about grace and tuberiding and oneness with Mother Ocean!!! #TRUST #becomeonewithyouMommaocean

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Shake it Sistas!!! Paula and the Tahitian sisters celebrating culture, unity, and their beautiful bodies as they practice for the big Heiva dance show! #moveasOne #unite

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Sista KatieLady–gorgeous friend and soul inside & out–no matter where our journeys take us, I feel your love every single day. Thanks for always believing I could do it … and always being ready to jump right into the hole to help me climb out–literally sometimes!! #neveralone #inmypocket

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SQUEEZE your sisters!!! Anna is the #besthuggerintheworld!

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Paula in flight…FLY HIGH, FLY FREE, FLY FAR DEAR SISTERS!! United we rise because #WEAREONE

‘Dear & Yonder’ Capt Lizzy section released… 8 minutes from life on Swell


In the midst of running around So Cal–seeing friends and family and gathering supplies for this year’s sea-bound adventures, I got word from Dear & Yonder surf film creators Tiffany Campbell and Andria Lessler, that I could release my section of the film for public viewing!! Dear & Yonder “Daring Stories of Ladies United by the Sea” was filmed in 2007/8 and released in 2009. My section in the movie took three separate attempts to capture over nine months, and across two island nations and thousands of miles of open sea!! These beautiful images were captured by Tiffany & Thomas Campbell, Andria Lessler, Dave Homcy, & Bali Strickland. Huge thank yous to everyone involved! What an incredible souvenir for me to look back on…For more about the film go to dearandyonder.com or email tiffany@villavillacola.com. Enjoy!

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Tiffany Campbell and Andria Lessler, the creators of the film, Dear and Yonder, aboard Swell in French Polynesia in 2007. Their film captures the lives of many talented ocean women for the world to see. And I gained two incredible sea sisters! Thank you, ladies for encouraging all women to live out their highest potential!

Eating for Earth!


Mother Earth fills our bellies everyday, so in her honor I’ve decided to write about ‘food’ for Earth Day. We eat three times a day, everyday… so our food choices have a huge impact on our health and, simultaneously, the health of the planet. This topic is especially exciting for me, as I have tried eating ‘vegan’ for the last year and, after a bit of fine-tuning, I’ve never felt better! In addition to the physical ‘feel good’ benefits, I’ve realized that our daily food choices can be a powerful form of individual eco-activism, accumulating an enormous positive impact over time!

Happy Earth Day!! Our planet provides for us daily--food, air, and water. Give back to her by eating a little more Earth-friendly today! Here, organic pineapple...often organic fruit and veg options are smaller in size than non-organics, but they taste so much better! Be wary of over-sized or 'too perfect' looking foods!

Happy Earth Day!! Our planet provides for us daily–food, air, and water. Give back to her by eating a little more Earth-friendly today! Here, organic pineapple…often organic fruit and veg options are smaller in size than non-organics, but they taste so much better! Be wary of over-sized or ‘too perfect’ looking foods!


Here are a few Earth-friendly suggestions to consider:

  • Support small-scale, organic farms and alternative methods to corporate agriculture! Gardening is not always an option, but buying food from local, organic farms generally is. Between consciously-sourced markets, farmer’s markets, community gardens, co-ops, and local growers that deliver a weekly box of fresh veggies, there are lots of ways to avoid buying from corporate farms. Large-scale agriculture is the least ecologically-sensitive way to grow food. Growing the same crop over large land areas does not take advantage of the naturally beneficial plant combinations that can eliminate the need for using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Corporate farms do not consider the health of their workers, consumers, the ground water, the native plants and animals, and general public safety when they routinely spray highly toxic chemicals on our food and soil. UN: Eco Farming Feeds the World, Is Organic Farming the Key to Solving Hunger? And Climate Change?, Corporate Power in Agriculture
  • Eat less processed food! I like to think about trying to reduce the number of hands and machines and altering processes my food goes through before consuming it. During my outer island roaming and food-foraging, I decided that I liked eating whole foods because it made me feel closer to nature eating things that looked they came off a tree rather than out of a factory. Not only does eating whole food decrease the need for packaging, it ensures that you aren’t consuming artificial preservatives, flavorings, colors and any of the other thousands of often mysterious ingredients that are added to US foods. Various food dyes, Olestra brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, Azodicarbonamide, BHA, BHT, rBGH, rBST and arsenic are banned in other countries but still legal in US foods! There are certainly minimally processed options, but it’s worth having a closer look at food labels and reading between the lines as to what constitutes truly ‘natural’, healthy food. 9 Ways the Processed Foods Are Slowly Killing People, Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry
  • Boycott GMO-containing foods and companies!!! Despite that it is still unclear as to whether or not ‘genetically modified’ foods are safe for human consumption over time, Monsanto and the other ‘big 6’ biotech corporations–BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemicals, Dupont, and Syngentacontrol nearly every aspect of our food system. They are responsible for creating most of today’s genetically modified foods along with producing the chemicals required to grow them. They’re also attempting to control and regulate the world’s seeds, so that farmers will be have to buy their patented GMO seeds. Not only is this threatening to destroy the critical biodiversity of seeds that humans have developed since the dawn of plant cultivation, it gives them a frightening amount of power! These billion dollar corporations are paying scientists to engineer ‘franken foods’ that are not always more ‘nutritious’. Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” crops have been genetically engineered to allow direct application of the Monsanto herbicide ‘glyphosate’. This lets farmers drench both their crops and soil with this chemical to kill nearby weeds and pests without killing the plants, leaving the crops coated in this highly toxic chemical, the soil degraded, and the groundwater polluted. This is just a taste of these companies’ multitude of ecologically and socially irresponsible practices. Please educate yourself further on this issue! On March 26th of this year, The Monsanto Protection Act was signed into US law, essentially giving GMO companies immunity to the federal courts and states that even if future discoveries show that GMOs cause significant health problems. Total boycott of GMO-containing foods is a powerful way to show that we do NOT approve of all this! Documentary: ‘The World According to Monsanto’ , Surf Legend Kelly Slater Attacks GMOs and Biotech Giants, Surfing for Change’s Latest film: Pro Surfers vs GMOs by fellow Patagonia Ambassador Kyle Thiermann
  • Eat less or no meat! The large-scale factory farming of cattle, pigs, chickens and other livestock creates serious negative impacts on the environment. Greenhouses gas emissions, water pollution, deforestation, soil degradation, and habitat destruction are some of the grave consequences of mass meat production. Plus, calculations estimate that it takes anywhere from 2,500-12,000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, versus 60-200 gallons for 1 pound of potatoes, wheat, corn, or rice!? (Vegsource.com & David Pimentel Ecological Integrity: Integrating Environment, Conservation and Health Island Press, Washington DC, 2001). Health-wise, science has proven that people with diets high in animal protein are much more prone to heart disease and cancer. Heard of The China Study? Ever seen the ‘Cowspiracy’ Documentary?  The final straw for me to become vegan, was when I learned how horrifically animals are treated in these CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). If you aren’t ready to give up meat, try to source it from wild or more humanely raised animals. Gary Yourofsky’s Best Speech You Will Ever Hear will educate you a lot on this issue!
  • When/if eating seafood, please choose wisely… Through my years on the sea, I’ve watched and participated in fishing of many kinds. On voyages to more remote island groups, I’ve seen by comparison, how drastically reduced the fish stocks are in more populated, overfished places. These populations now look farther and more remotely to supply their seafood. Ultimately, this is not a sustainable solution. Most of our critical global fish stocks are in steep decline, and although I often enjoyed sustenance fishing, after seeing the results of overfishing first hand, I no longer feel comfortable consuming seafood. So I’ve decided to eat a plant-based diet where it’s an option. “A study of catch data published in 2006 in the journal Science grimly predicted that if fishing rates continue apace, all the world’s fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048.” (National Geographic)  For those not ready to give up seafood entirely, there are certainly more sustainable choices. In general, eating lower on the ocean food chain, choosing wild versus farmed, and eating locally-caught options are generally more sustainable. There are even free apps for smartphones to help you decide quickly at a restaurant which might be the most sustainable seafood on the menu.  Seafood Watch Iphone App,  FAQs for Seafood Watch App,  EDF Seafood Selector,  Tackling Overfishing on Many Fronts, National Geographic: Overfishing
  • When dining out, support restaurants that source their food from local, conscious suppliers! Try to keep up your conscious-eating standards when dining out. Asking nicely about food sourcing spreads awareness and promotes businesses to have healthier, Earth-friendly alternatives.

When I broke my neck in 2012, I spent a lot of time reading about healing through food. I wanted to be on my feet as soon as possible, so I studied up on which foods are conducive to healing and which hinder. I ate well, thought positively, and completely eliminated caffeine, refined sugar, meat, & alcohol. I healed incredibly quickly!!

Through that experience, I learned a lot about what I do and don’t want to eat. I’ve continued researching, experimenting, and using my intuition to understand what my body runs on best. It’s taken years to refine my eating habits to what they are now. I started by cutting out red meat and poultry…then reduced refined sugar and processed foods…then caffeine…then came dairy…and lastly fish. I’ve been amazed at the changes I’ve felt in my body in the past year of eating a very clean, plant-based diet. I feel strong, get sick less often, and have more energy than ever before! And all the nagging injuries I was suffering from have healed. I can’t be sure that this is all a result of my dietary changes, but I want to share that this adventure in food has been as awesome and profound as any of other.

Choosing to eat more consciously doesn’t mean you can’t make exceptions, or that dietary decisions are forever. I think we are all fabulously unique and this means no one type of diet suits everyone. If someone told me five years ago that I would stop eating cheese and not miss it, I would have laughed! This is a very personal process, and I’m not trying to tell people that eating this way is best. Rather, I’m encouraging everyone to go on their own dietary adventures and educate themselves to make more informed food choices. Doing so comes with the great benefits of better health for you and our dear Moma Earth!

***Thank you to my dear and wise sister, Kathleen Clark, for your editing help and input on this piece! She has her own amazing food story of healing her incessant migraines through a shift to mostly plant-based eating. I Love You, Leen!!

Been so fun sourcing local organic growers!

It’s been so fun sourcing local organic growers in the South Pacific…It takes a little extra work, but it’s always a fun adventure and I generally come home to Swell overwhelmed with amazing food and new friends.

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Amelia, my newly adopted crewmate, is a little less excited than I am about eating a plant-based diet. 🙂 Unlike humans, she is a real carnivore! All locally-sourced, organic foods–tomatoes, lettuce, chives, basil, breadfruit, papaya, pamplemousse, passionfruit…and my jar of probiotic-plentiful kombucha brewing in the background!!

Still crazy about coconuts!

Still crazy about coconuts! They’re high in fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, magnesium, lower cholesterol, contain lauric acid which is known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties, boosts immunity, and helps regulate thyroid and metabolic function. And coconut water is one of the highest known electrolyte sources!

Grating coconut. I've learned to love cooking in the last few years...

Grating coconut by hand…I use it to press for coconut milk, put in smoothies, curries, oatmeal, or just eat plain…SO tasty!!

Plant based meals under the stars!!

I’ve learned to LOVE cooking in the last few years…Here, enjoying a plant-based meal under the stars!!

Passion fruit!!

Passion fruit!! One of endless, nutritious, and absolutely delightful spoils of Mother Nature…

Ch ch ch chia!

Ch ch ch chia! Who knew the seeds we spread on clay animals in the 80s were an Aztec superfood high in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, protein, and minerals! A little chia limade on a hot South Pac day…

I even got to grow a few of my own this past year!

I even got to grow a few of my own this past year! Putting my hands in the dirt felt heavenly. Watching them grow and eating from the garden was a true blessing.

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Spread the word…partake in the radiance, positive impacts, and health of more plant-based nutrition for today and for the future generations who deserve to inherit a healthy Earth!! We can reduce and prevent diseases of all kinds, and reconnect with and heal our Great Mother. Here, the beautiful Hepua about to participate in a traditional Tahitian banana-carrying running race.

Hovering Neon Droplets: a moment between the sea and me


The tiny raindrops had stopped by the time I got back to the boat, but this was taken just after, so you can imagine how it looked with the raindrops falling!

The tiny raindrops had stopped by the time I got back to the boat, but this was taken just after, so you can imagine how it looked with the raindrops falling!

Despite a day of gray, the sun refuses to depart unnoticed, surprising me and the thickly-clouded sky with a lavish splash of reds and pinks. The heavens then toss the light down onto the sea, where it warps into a hypnotizing tango with the water’s evening shadows. A dark line appears ahead. I study its form and decide to paddle over it. It lifts me up, and then I fall softly down its brilliant, berry-colored back. The second of the set is bigger, fuller–its arm reaching farther to the south… I calculate my placement as it nears, turning just before it’s upon me, and stroking twice.

I rise to my feet as it picks me up. Two quick, extended pumps and I’m high-lining along a blossoming, neon-lipped water wall. A moment later, the wall stretches out well beyond me. With one more high-toed pump I think I can make it, and crouch under a translucent-pink water roof. Bracing toes, surreal excitement, all of me aimed for the exit. Briefly there is no confusion, nothing out of place–just trim and bliss behind the waterfall…

Then poof, it’s over. The sea boils and the reef sucks dry just ahead of me. Dropping back to prone, I stroke for deeper water while attempt to take my mind back inside… The vision runs fugitive but the sensation lingers like an electric shock.

Before I start the paddle home, I stop to acknowledge my tremendous Gratitude to the Greatness. No matter the time or struggle between moments like this, I am thankful for All of it. For without the bitter, how could we know sweet? I take a deep breath and cherish once more the vast silence of alone and adrift between sea and sky. How oddly comfortable it feels… How marvelously empty my mind can be when surrounded solely by raw, undivided Nature and Wildness…? It’s as if I cease to exist, or maybe it’s more like reattaching to the Rest?

I wipe my eyes and watch tiny raindrops begin to collide with the shiny pink surface of the sea. They each send out a perfect, teeny ringlet. Soon a zillion miniature gongs are singing! My eyelids drift closed and I lay my head on my board. It sounds as if I’m afloat in a giant glass of just-poured mineral water; its effervescent tickle exceedingly delightful. The patter sends fine, glowing mist onto my face and into my smiling mouth.

I become so entranced I almost loose my balance, sitting up at once. But I’m quickly stolen into the scene again by the countless neon droplets that scatter across the sea upon their impact and hover just above it for one fleeting instant–touching, but separate—for one glorious final moment of their individual journey from the sky before sinking into oneness with the endless sea again. Mesmerizing…

A chill brings me back to my body; goosebumps rise on my arms. I turn and paddle for the boat, watching those miniscule hovering droplets scatter as I go, knowing I am just like them–momentarily and illusorily separate, yet inescapably and fantastically Part of the Great Sea of Oneness.

Live your Dreams, Heal the world: Why doing what you love makes the world better…


I wasn't sure it was real until i woke up

After years of dreaming to succeed as a captain in search of remote waves, I had to pinch myself in moments like these. Panama 2007

“Passion is the love of turning being into action. It fuels the engine of creation. It changes concepts to experience…. Never deny passion, for that is to deny Who You Are, and Who You Truly Want To Be.” –Neale Donald Walsch

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The mothership,  the quiver, and the happy cappy in 2010. Photo by Adrian Midwood.

Wishing you all a peaceful, love-filled, and joyful holidays!! …I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a long time…excited to share it here with you all!!

So aside from the obvious reason that following your dreams and living your passions makes us, as individuals, happier and more fulfilled, I believe there is a Greater reason why doing so is important…So let’s break down my theory…:)

We are each born with a great, unique potential. All of us have a different call or purpose in this life that cultivates a deep yearning to be fulfilled through physical experience. Imagine…you can know that you want to be a great chef, a wandering traveler, a singer/song-writer, or the proud owner of a business, but until you actually have that experience, there is an inevitable part of you that doesn’t feel complete. Or maybe you don’t quite know what you want, but you know you need to go figure it out. I’ve come to believe that the best thing that we can do for ourselves, our families, and for the world is to hear and follow our hearts and calls. The alternative is living in quiet frustration, haunted by whispers of what ‘could be’ or ‘could have been’. We can attempt to repress these whispers, to push them deeper, but I don’t think they ever truly go away…

But it’s never too late to hear and honor them! Even a small step toward living closer to our truest self makes us feel more alive, more vibrant, more inspired, and closer to the person and potential we know brews within us. Every time we make a choice that moves us in that direction, even slightly, vitality trickles in. We often don’t know what we’re moving toward or even what we really want, but we do know which steps feel like progress and which don’t. Trial and error, forward and back, faster, slower, but eventually closer to what feels right.

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Way back in Costa Rica in 2006, it hardly seemed possible that I’d sailed myself there… Photo by Jeff Johnson

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A few thousand miles later in 2007, things were starting to feel real and right! Photo by Ryan Hargrave

We tell ourselves a thousand reasons why we should not move towards our dreams and goals: “There’s too much risk!” … “I’m comfortable…” “I don’t want to fail…” “I have a family to support…” I say the risk of regret is much riskier. I say that comfortable is caustic and that the only failure is having never tried. And for the noble householder, I say, what better example, what more important message could you pass along to your children and/or partner, than: ‘Become the greatest You!’, and ‘Live a life you Love!’??  The joy and peace transmitted through this example are worth more than all the material things you could ever provide.

This could seem like a selfish concept at first, as it may not intuitively link to uniting humanity and saving the planet. But wait…I’m getting there…

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There is no way to know if you can until you try. Photo by Bali Strickland

Doing what we really want to do in life can seem a little selfish, probably because we are taught from youth that sacrificing ourselves for others and doing what society needs us to do is what makes us worthy and admirable (…granted that sometimes there are situations and consequences that demand our responsibility and/or  we should always avoid hurting people and use integrity when making decisions!). But in general, our society teaches us that achievements are the things that you can note on your CV or measure in the number of zeros in your salary.

I say achievements are the decisions we make and actions we take to be true to ourselves. I say learning to truly love Oneself is our greatest achievement…and hearing our dreams and calls is a powerful path to getting there. It’s a process, and the road is long and windy, but in my opinion, it’s not money or fame or letters of recommendation that make us admirable. Admirable is each small, humble, and inwardly-celebrated step that we make toward becoming more self-aware, changing habits that don’t serve us and others, and living a life we believe in.

And so, with great courage, we might take a step towards living our version of a more authentic life. Initially, your loved ones might feel betrayed, but with persistent, loving explanations, the people who really love you will understand and want you to seek happiness. Your choosing to do so is a very powerful statement that they can too. As you walk, no matter how slowly, toward each small goal and higher vision of yourself, you give others courage and reason to do the same. This courage is profoundly contagious. And it all starts with a small decision to go within and listen to what you really want out of life.

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We can always improve! Putting one’s self in question allows us to see where we can do better…Off for a little soul-searching at this lonely right in Indo on a Patagonia trip.  Photo by Jeff Johnson

I don’t think you have to know exactly what you want forevermore. I think the ‘call’ often evolves along the way. One might need to become the richest woman alive in order to know that money doesn’t make her rich. Or compete mercilessly in surf contests in order to one day realize that giving an epic wave to a friend actually feels more like winning.

The first steps are the surely the hardest. But as it does when you choose your hopes and dreams, the universe conspires to move you steadily, often magically along. The steps start getting easier until one day you find yourself striding right along–strong and confident that your feelings, instinct, and innate knowing can be trusted. The unknown hardly seems intimidating anymore. In fact, it starts to become kinda exciting! You wonder what twist in the tale will appear, and know that if you choose to greet your daily angels and teachers with an open, humble heart you will never be led too far astray. With great patience, practice, hard work, stumbles and strides, self-examining and reflection, you move closer to the person and place you so desire to be. You keep listening, you keep doing what you do because you love and believe in it.

a work of love is hardly work

Even the hardest work is a labor of love when it’s your dream.

Then one day you wake up in your dreams. They have become undeniable reality. It might not be exactly how you had imagined. Maybe it’s even better! You bathe in the glory and greet new adversities with optimism. For each day doing what you love is a gift, no matter how hard or stressful. You learn deep gratitude. You are so thankful that you listened to the voice within you, and cherish those who encouraged and believed in you. You learn to appreciate your life so deeply and wholly that all of a sudden you look around and realize you’ve made a great ascent on your climb to personal peace.

peak of peace

Nothing is more important to peace in the world, than peace in your own heart. Climb to your ‘peak of peace’!

While sitting blissfully atop that ‘Peak of Peace’, a few important things might happen:

  1. You look down at the steep and hard-trodden road to where you are sitting and see that, in fact, all those misfortunes, failures, difficulties were the means to arriving there! You stop mourning things in your past because you see how they helped you to where you are now. A deep trust is born in the Greatness and Perfection of it All. True Wonder and Awe is awakened at the thought of each of our wildly unique and complex journeys!
  2. Compassion flourishes. The feeling of deep peace combined with the understanding that the same is possible for every human on earth, creates a longing for others to feel what you feel and desire to help them on their way. The thriving, positive energy feels SO good, that you just want others to thrive, too! Your compassion soon expands out beyond your family and friends to all people and plants and animals too…
  3. Competition is replaced by a sincere wish to bring others up. Jealousy vanishes, for you now know from experience, that life’s truest riches abide solely in the realm of the internal. Rather than feel threatened or envious of another’s good fortune, you praise and cheer them on, in hopes that that they may one day call out to you from atop their own peak of peace… “Hello dear sister! Hello my brother! How glorious is this view!!?!
  4. We begin to truly feel and see the interconnectedness of all of life; that we all come and return to one great Energy, regardless of our form. We see the similarity in the struggles and victories of each living being, regardless of its species, race, or gender. Knowing we are One, we understand that we can only truly rise if we all rise together.

And so I conclude that the more of us who take this journey, and make it to their personal ‘peak of peace’, the better chance we have at creating a happier, healthier, more loving world. So be assured that living your dreams, hearing your call, and pursuing a life of passion and is as powerfully serving to humanity and the Earth as it is to your Self. I believe it is as practical and direct a means to contributing to a better world, right now, as any other.

For how can we possibly hope to feed our hungry, end war, repair our ecological crises, learn respect for all life, and move towards fuller, more satisfying ways of existence if we as individuals are not whole, realized, and peaceful ourselves? I tell you it is just not possible…

So do, be, and live what you love! A better you makes a better me makes a better world, because essentially…We are One.

One Great Heart

We are all of One Great Heart.

jdhfd

Smile, your truest life awaits you!

The ‘Fill Me Up’ List


Fill me up with empty warm waves!!

Fill me up with warm waves!!

“Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. Your finest work, your best movements, your joy, peace, and healing comes when you love yourself. You give a great gift to the world when you do that. You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves. Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would sunshine.” ~ Melodie Beattie.

Let’s get back to the wonderful and the worldly! After posting my last blog, a tide of relief rushed in. Thank you for all the love and positive comments. I was practically backstroking through all the support. It felt like hundreds of virtual hands lifting me up! I thank you deeply and will continue to send out my highest hopes that those words continue to reach others ready to free themselves from unhealthy situations…

Since then, I’ve been focused on finding my balance again. There was still so much work to do on Swell at that time and emails piling high in my Inbox, but I knew it was time to focus on feeling like myself again. We have little to give when we aren’t feeling whole and strong ourselves. So on the cabin wall, I taped over the ‘Swell To-Do list’ with a different sort of list…It read:

The ‘Fill Me Up’ List

  1. Go S-L-O-W, no rushing…
  2. Go surf!
  3. Meditate and do Yoga
  4. Take time to be truly Present
  5. Eat whole, Organic, sustainable food & drink coconuts!
  6. Dance outside
  7. Read
  8. Massage your feet
  9. Sleep outside
  10. Watch the sunrise/sunset/stars
  11. Do only what you feel like doing!
Bring your thoughts to the present to turn average moment into magic...

Bring your thoughts to the present to turn an average moment into magic…

Good friends, blazing sunset, my favorite board, peeling rights, and fresh air...filling up!

Good friends, blazing sunset, my favorite board, peeling rights, and fresh air…filling up fast…

Coconuts unlimited!!!!

Coconuts unlimited!!!!

It worked wonders! In no time at all, I was feeling strong and blissful—soaring high like as a little coiled spring, just released. Maybe plunging deep into darkness, allowed me to heartily catapult back into the shiny world of Love and Light! As was said, we can only appreciate a smooth sea, for having traveled a stormy one.

So I’m happily back to a clean, humble, hard-working sea life. Restoring my foundation has helped me appreciate the sweet little things again. I wake up grateful for my simple freedom, the sea’s soothing embrace all around me, and the positive, loving people who recently appeared on my path. The sky is bluer, the rain is sweeter, and the wild waves call to me ever stronger…

No matter how busy, we MUST make time to do the things we love. Sacrifices often have to be made, but whenever possible, fill up your ‘me’ tank. Practicing loving-kindness to ourselves is a critical part of being ‘full’ enough to love, listen to, give, and support our brother and sister humans!

Ahhh the nightlife!

Fill me up with the riches of the heavens…starry nights getting lost in the Universe’s infinite grandeur…  Photo by Bali Strickland

Epic salads under the stars...

Epic solo salads under the stars…dancing to come… 🙂

Good morning Mother Earth!

Good morning sweet, glorious Mother Earth!

Nothing better to replenish the soul than an all girls camping trip to the top of the mountain!! Bring your own firewood and Waves for Water waterfilter for refilling the Mizu bottles!!

Nothing better to replenish the soul than an all girls camping trip to the top of the mountain!! Bring your own firewood and Waves for Water waterfilter for refilling the Mizu bottles!!

Fresh fruit smoothies with super greens and protein!

Fresh fruit smoothies with super greens and protein!

Fill me up with morning sunbeams on my head!!

Fill me up with morning sunbeams on my head…

Everything is rolling right along again...:)

Thanks to a little self-love, everything is rolling right along again…:)

Lesson in Love: fear and expectations kill the cupid


To know paradise as a place, we must first know it in our minds.

To know paradise as a place, we must first know it in our minds.

We’ve all found ourselves in a situation that we know isn’t right for us, but for one reason or another, we resist change. Our innate knowing of what is best taps patiently at the door of our stubborn minds, but sometimes we are so intent on a certain desired outcome, that we refuse to hear the knocking and continue to push, force, and turn round and round in a negative situation for weeks, months, years…lifetimes?

I’m going way out on a limb here, as I’ve never talked about my love life on the blog before, but I’ve decided to share my recent experience because it was such an enormously growth-producing event for me and with hope that my doing so might comfort/encourage others dealing with something similar.

So here we go…

In 2011, I fell in love with a wonderful Tahitian guy. It was a powerful, unexpected, fairytale kind of love story, and after knowing him for only a few months, I trustingly took a leap and invited him to fly up and join me aboard Swell on a tour of French Polynesia. Having proven all I needed to prove to myself in terms of solo sailing, I was ready to love and share it all. I just knew that together we would be unstoppable…

When he was at his best, we were. But shortly following his arrival, I began seeing that his extraordinarily caring, chivalrous, talented, courageous, and hard-working ‘good side’ had an equally extreme and radical jealous, possessive, and manipulative ‘bad side’. But there I was, out in the middle of the Pacific, already overly attached to my expectations for our relationship. I resisted sending him home, in hopes that giving him all my love and wisdom might help him overcome the darker aspects of his character so that we could live happily ever after…

Tahiti 2 237

That was stupid. On the good days all was blissful, but after a few months aboard those days grew fewer and farther between. Nothing I did was ever enough. His jealousy was always my fault. Amidst awe-inspiring paradise, he only felt fear. Fear of losing me. Fear that I would stop loving him. Little by little, he pushed and tested me, whittling away my energy and hope until there was no question that I had to get away from him. But around the same time we arrived back in the Society Islands, and Swell got t-boned by a charter boat, which complicated distancing myself from him, as he was from the island where the Charter company was based that was responsible for doing the repairs to Swell.

Hence, putting real distance between us was impossible until I flew to California for the birth of my nephew, and even then, I felt like Swell was vulnerable there on the island with him if I didn’t keep things friendly.

When I eventually returned to French Polynesia and climbed up the ladder to Swell in the boatyard, all the memories of our voyage and the deep sadness and disappointment returned. He came around to help and against my better judgment, I caved and let him. I missed him and wanted to believe he’d changed like he promised he had…but before long, the neurotic jealousy started again and I knew I had to cut him off completely.

But the more I resisted, the more he persisted to be near me. The island became very small. There was nowhere to hide. He was always watching me. It soon became clear that he was more unstable, unpredictable, and prone to violence than I had ever imagined.

One evening I locked myself inside Swell at the yard, seeing his mood go south earlier in the day. He arrived later—drunk and crazed—and set to violently bashing on Swell’s door, yelling belligerently that he was going to beat me when he got in. Horrified and panicked, I fumbled to call his mother, my friends, the police… I got quite a reality check about the general attitude surrounding domestic violence when the police said they wouldn’t come because they needed a key to get in the gate!? Luckily the yard owner and my friends came quickly to my rescue. He slinked away into the night when he saw them coming…

After this terrifying moment, I knew there was no other way to ensure my safety until Swell was floating, than to go along with his wishes. I moved out of my girlfriend’s house and in with his family during the final months of the haul-out in order to placate him and decrease my chances of being alone. His family welcomed me graciously, but his behavior remained erratic. His frightening mood changes had me living in fear all day, everyday, not knowing when or what might set him off. He wasn’t ashamed to steal and hide my belongings or threaten me with force.

The more I quietly shared my story with other women, especially Tahitian, the more stories I heard about others dealing with the same. In fact, this kind of behavior is quite common here. This was one of many scary incidents I went through with him, and despite that I managed to avoid ever being directly ‘hit’, the threats and bullying and psychological abuse are not to be disregarded. The next day he always acted as if nothing had happened and, as they do, promised that nothing like it would ever happen again. But knowing I feared him and that I was trapped there, he continued to threaten physical violence to keep things his way.

Never in my life did I think I would find myself in such a radical situation, stripped of my independence and personal freedoms. I couldn’t be myself because I was constantly questioning whether he would misconstrue my actions. He became paranoid beyond belief, hardly letting me out of his sight for those long, laborious months. Desperate to gain my liberty from him, I worked madly on Swell from dawn to dusk, usually with his help, as he never wanted me to be alone. I couldn’t call my friends or go where I pleased, and I felt ashamed and guilty to tell people what was really going on. Even the sunniest day felt dreary.

Sometimes me must call upon our deepest reserves of strength and keep believing that everything is happening for our highest good.

Sometimes me must call upon our deepest reserves of strength and keep believing that everything is happening for our highest good.

To be honest, I never thought I’d be sharing this here, but with a month or so away from it now, I feel that hiding the situation only adds to the silence and shame that cloaks the lives of women (and men) in similar situations. Concealing it would betray them. I cried in the night, thinking of them–all over the world—people living in fear everyday of oppressive, unpredictable partners. I knew I would soon sail away and have my life back, but in so many places there were women who would be forced to remain in such situations out of fear for their safety. It pains me to know that females are still treated as possessions or ‘lesser’ than males in so many parts of the world, and that this kind of behavior is just accepted as ‘the way it is’. I was raised to believe that my potential had nothing to do with my gender, but so many women in the world aren’t that lucky. I mourned humanity’s massive loss of potential squashed under the world’s repressed women. For how can one pursue their gifts and passions under such stifling circumstances? And how does love manifest itself in such an ugly way?

I’m not looking to blame or demonize him, only to call to attention this kind of backwards behavior. As, in his mind, he was showing me how much he loved me. Through the long saga, helped me enormously on Swell any way he could. My choices were my choices. I could have found another way. Maybe I needed to see the depths of his darkness in order to free myself from my last hopes for his transformation. My love for him and sympathy for his confusion about how to express his love, made me weak to leave for a long time. But I see now that every time I accepted him back into my heart after the bad behavior, I was telling him it was ok.

Evidence of the long, tough job...

Evidence of the long, tough job…

New non-skid completed.

New non-skid almost completed.

Ready to launch.

Swell in her new seafoam green dress, finally ready to launch.

In the end, instead of relishing the sweet completion of the enormous overhaul of Swell on the day she was re-launched, he became instantly jealous because Swell was berthed next to a boat with two young men on it. I watched his mood begin to unravel and I wasn’t about to wait around for the wrath I knew was coming… I feared he’d lash out like never before, knowing that my freedom was now possible. So despite my bone-deep fatigue, I devised a plan and notified my friends. With trembling hands that night, I snuck my belongings out of his house and my friends helped me sail away under a big lovely moon…

Regaining my freedom felt completely surreal, but the fear lingered on. He called and threatened relentlessly to come find me in the days following, and on the third morning after my departure, all the stress and fear and exhaustion manifested into the temporary paralysis of one side of my face, a condition called Bell’s Palsy, followed by a bout with shingles!!! Awful!?! Luckily, I was safe and surrounded by loving friends, good health care facilities, and had the long-distance support of my family to get me feeling strong again.

So there it is… the reason for the big blog delay, and why I haven’t yet replied to a lot of your emails. It’s taken some time to heal and process it all. I deeply appreciate your patience and continued support.

I’m all healed now, and feeling stronger than ever. As hard as it was, I bless this experience for all the perspective it has given me. For we cannot know the Light without the darkness. We cannot choose who and where we want to be in life unless we know who and where we don’t want to be! Hardships are our greatest opportunities to choose anew, grow and redefine ourselves. But only if we choose to see them that way.

I realize now that when it comes to relationships, ultimate love and fidelity to one’s Self—by both parties—would be a much better foundation. Love doesn’t mean you put someone else before you or sacrifice who you are for them, it means you support each other to grow into the ultimate best versions of yourselves, with respect to individual pace and method. When that doesn’t include each other anymore, may we lovingly go separate ways. Every soul is undergoing its own unique journey to becoming who he/she wants to be, and I was naïve and self-righteous in thinking that I could get him to evolve faster than he was ready for…or that what he was choosing wasn’t perfect for his evolution. I got attached to results, and in doing so, caused myself a great deal of pain.

Fear and attachment work contrary to love. They erode what builds and binds us, and we constantly have the choice of to use. It’s often so much easier, safer, more comfortable to lean into fear and blame the other. But in the end, this doesn’t serve us. It only digs us into a lonely hole. As much as I couldn’t understand his behavior in the midst of it, I see now that if he never crawled into that hole of fear, and truly experienced its dark, isolated, empty space, how would he know and decide that he doesn’t want to be there?

…All paths lead to the Light in the end, we just have to accept the often painstaking duality along the way.

If we choose to look within and ask ourselves what we can do to change our unhappiness, life becomes unlimited potential. When we keep blaming others or grappling at expectations, we stay in the hole. Trying to convince people of their greatness is futile. We can only be so busy working on ourselves, that we might inspire them to realize that their own evolution is possible.

So, may we free ourselves and our partners from expectations, and truly want for them, what they want for themselves. If you have the luxury of choice to leave a relationship that isn’t serving you, do it. And feel all the women (and men) in the world who can’t (or don’t), cheering you along. A better life awaits…

I pray that as humanity, we learn to cherish our women (and men) across all lands. Not to fear their power, but embrace it. Not to stifle their voices, but sing together in harmony. We must rethink standards we have set, question our prejudices, and help our sister and brother humans call forth a new era of respect and love among us–no matter the gender, race, or social status. Your individual power to change yourself is a critical spark in the global fire of human evolution towards Love and Oneness. So let the sparks fly!!

So thankful to be free and me again...

So thankful to be free and me again…