Wild Adventure-Grayson Highlands State Park

For the entire month of July we were on vacation.  YEAH! We camped, hiked, swam, and visited friends as we slowly made our way up to New York City and then back down again. Our whole trip was based around my son’s acceptance into an “elite” theatre  intensive with the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City.  On this trip, we experienced the powerful magic of nature and the crazy-making magic of the city.  A little bit of everything. Perfect Gemini road trip!

One of the most beautiful places we explored on our trip is called Grayson Highlands State Park, in Southwestern Virginia. The park is home to several herds of wild ponies.

There are signs telling visitors not to pet or harass the ponies, but in all honesty, those sweet little ponies walked right up to us and forced us to pet them! We had no choice!!! (Not sure how wild they really are, but we loved them!)

ponies

 

 

The weather on the mountain is known to change very quickly, and it did. The first afternoon we were there it was warm and sunny, but by late afternoon, and with no warning, strong winds began to blow. The temperature quickly dropped from perfect to freezing, and as the wind howled, heavy rain poured out of the sky. We huddled in the tent, feeling both excited and nervous…rain began to drip into the tent. Would our tent hold up?  Thankfully the storm passed quickly but the cold stayed with us. It was so cold that we had to bundle up in our winter jackets, the only time we needed them on our trip. IMG_4122

The air was so fresh. The views so beautiful. The energy so calm but so alive. The forest speaks a language my soul remembers.

The park has several hiking trails, there are beautiful waterfalls,  and the Appalachian trail runs right through the park too.  We spent hours skipping rocks into the river. I am certain the world would be a better place if we all spent more time quietly skipping rocks. 

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If you ever find yourself in the mountains of Virginia, go to this park, it is worth it. So beautiful.

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Beautiful waterfall At Grayson Highlands State Park

Our whole trip was really magical and I will try to write soon about each place.  

Go on a WILD  adventure~Tiff

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”~John Muir

 

 

 

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The Gypsy and The Sorcerer

There once was an evil sorcerer, who lived in a large dark cave, on a mystical mountain, in a land far, far away.

Everyone in the region knew  that this man possessed a mysterious gift, and people traveled throughout the lands to seek his magic. But his powers fueled his ego, and he became hungry to gain more power. He wanted more followers, more gold. As his ego and lust for power grew, his true soul began to shrink, into a tiny  tightly closed, marble sized ball of energy, which settled in the bottom of his belly.  This was a powerful man, with no compassion. A master manipulator in every way. He took advantage of men, by emptying their wallets, he took advantage of women,by putting them into a trance, and entering them.

One day, a traveling gypsy came to a village, near the mountain where the Sorcerer lived. The Gypsy had her own magic and wisdom, but unlike the Evil Sorcerer, the Gypsy, had a warm heart. She smiled through her eyes. Her life had always been different. She was often “sent” places, for reasons that even she didn’t understand. She traveled by faith. Trusting  her life was being weaved together by the strings of Fate.

When the Gypsy neared the village, the Sorcerer felt her presence, her strength, her power. Wearing a dark black cloak, he set out down the mountain, to get a glimpse of this powerful Gypsy. He noticed her right away, and for the first time in a very long time, he felt a real sense of fear. He knew she had the power to destroy him.

The Gypsy felt his eyes burning on her, she looked up, stared straight in his eyes and felt his coldness. She knew right away, that this man was dangerous. Fully aware of the stare and potential threat he posed, the Gypsy felt that fate wanted her to spend some time in the village. At first, all the villagers stared at her, but one woman, walked right up to her, smiled, and held out her hand. The Gypsy instantly became friends with one of the most beautiful women in the village. The woman asked the Gypsy about her travels, her strange life, her strange stones and tarot cards.They talked and laughed and shared tea. The beautiful woman, wanting to share some knowledge, told the gypsy of the powerful Sorcerer up the mountain. She told the Gypsy stories of her visits to the powerful Sorcerer and how he chanted over her head causing her to become paralyzed. He “worked” on her, while she was unable to move, unable to speak.

The Gypsy sat quietly listening to the story. She knew fate had brought her to challenge that Sorcerer. She would spread true wisdom. She began to teach techniques of energy healing, she taught about nature magic, yoga, reiki, meditation, protection.

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The Sorcerer used black magic, to try to destroy the Gypsy. He sent curses her way, and even planted seeds of hatred in some of the villagers. The Gypsy endured accidents, misfortune, exhaustion, heartbreak, poverty, but still she continued.

At times, she felt his vampire energy trying to drink up her soul. She often saw him riding a horse by her house. He always stared at her. After a few years in the tiny village, and a few years of his attacks, the Gypsy was exhausted. Worn down, and feeling a little lost, she left the village, and continued her travels.

Time passed quickly. Four years past, and oceans apart, the Sorcerer was still sending psychic attacks. She met many shaman on her path, and they imparted wisdom and healing. During one healing session, it was revealed to her that it was the Sorcerer who was continuing to try to harm her. She worked to strengthen her protection magic and she developed a strong relationship with the angels, particularity Archangel Michael, and he shielded her from harm.

 

As the Gypsy grew in spirit, the evil Sorcerer grew old and tired. He developed a sickness in his belly.  It ravaged him. He shriveled down to bones.When he had only hours left to live, he looked back on his life with regret and sadness. All his power was gone. In a vision, The Gypsy appeared at his bedside holding a small teacup. With compassion in her eyes, she looked at the dying man, smiled, touched his arm and said, “I forgive you.” She offered him a cup of healing tea. She held the cup up to his mouth and helped him drink.  And after enjoying every sip of the special tea, he smiled at her, with warmth in his eyes, and took his last breath.

The Gypsy kissed his forehead and continued her journey.

 

Purifying Force

A few nights ago, at sunset, I taught yoga on the beach to my very dear friends.We started class, soaking our feet in the water. (Partially because of an injury to my foot. A very sharp piece of wood stabbed through my shoe and straight into my foot, two days ago, and it hurt and was beginning to look infected). We put ocean water in our mouths, to taste, to feel, to cleanse, to connect. We “washed” our bodies, rubbing magical ocean water on our arms, shoulders, face, third eye. Feeling both the vibrations of the setting sun and the rising moon, we did the first part of class,standing in the water. The waves were strong and splashed up on us, forcing us to balance with strength and flexibility. 

There was a powerful energetic intensity to that class, it felt like a huge energetic upgrade. That sensation of floating between two magnets.Physically our practice was soft. Energetically, so strong.  The wind blew with purifying force. I felt so free, at peace, energy pulsing. We all shared wide grins. Our energy was so open, so connected. We were absorbing the magic of the sea..

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We celebrated the Full Moon in Scorpio.  Earth Day.  We went to a Drum circle, dancing with the moon as she rose over the ocean..

It seems  like most people I know are going through some heavy stuff. Emotional basket case time. Detoxing. Cleansing. Processing the reality that this life is temporary. And it goes by so fast. We are all receiving big lessons, along with subtle little messages, reminding us of our true purpose, path, mission. We are being challenged to make changes in how we live. We know there are many problems in our world right now. We have to try as hard as we can to begin to live the solution.

All that you have is your soul. ~ Tiff

 

 

 

The Loaded Gun At DisneyWorld

On Saturday morning, Feb 20th, 2016, I found a loaded handgun in the grass, at a playground, in DisneyWorld, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The gun triggered strong emotions of fear and anger, and completely altered our weekend plans.

My mom, sister, and I all live far away from each other, but we decided to meet and go camping together. It wasn’t my idea to camp at Disney, it was my sisters idea. She said the resort was beautiful, and while I protested a little, I finally agreed. Upon arriving and exploring on Friday afternoon, I realized my sister was right. Fort Wilderness is beautiful.  There was a playground right next to our campsite, that my daughter loved.  She probably went down the slide 50 times. Friday night we attended a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale, and while it certainly is not “normal” camping, it was a lot of fun.

 

Saturday morning, I woke up cold, body stiff. Sleeping in a tent, on cement (even with a yoga mat), is not comfortable. I did a little yoga, drank some cold instant coffee with almond milk, watched two cardinals fly from tree to tree, and enjoyed the early morning quiet.

When the kids woke up, almost immediately, they started begging us to take them to a theme park. We told them they would have fun at the campground, which has playgrounds, trails, and swimming pools with waterslides.I thought of sending the kids off to the playground, but I wanted hot coffee, and the kids needed breakfast, so we all decided to walk to a restaurant at the resort.

Pushing my daughters stroller, I looked down in the grass and  I saw a gun. At first glance, I thought it had to be a toy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t. We told park management, and soon the Orange County Police arrived. We spoke with one officer who shook his head in disbelief and said, “That gun was fully loaded and at a playground in DisneyWorld.”

I felt really upset. I  kept thinking “What if a kid had found that gun?” Of course I imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios.Loaded guns, children, Disneyworld. Certainly not the normal situation for the “Happiest Place On Earth.”

Back at our campsite, management was there, waiting to take our statements. We told our story, and added that we felt very uncomfortable and wanted to change campsites. They said the resort was completely full, but instead they offered us a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. In addition to the suite, they gave us one day park hopper passes to the theme parks.

When we told the kids, they started jumping up and down in excitement. My niece and nephew ran over to me, hugged me, smiled, and said “Thank you for finding that gun!!!” Of course they didnt really understand what could have happened.

We packed our things and drove to Animal Kingdom resort. When we entered our room, our jaws dropped. We walked slowly, in awe of our beautiful and enormous suite. The Disney Staff gifted us with Chocolates, Candy, Coloring Books, Crayons, and even a Disney Board game.  Our suite had three sliding glass doors that opened to a large balcony, overlooking a large field, designed to look like the African Savannah. Zebras, Giraffes,gazelles, ostriches, and many other African animals walked around freely. I had never seen anything like it.

Feeling like all of this was a strange dream, we checked the internet for the price of our suite, and saw that it costs over 1,500 dollars per night.  (Slightly above my normal hotel price range. Haha.)

 

We rode the shuttle to Magic Kingdom, which was very crowded. But it was beautiful. The kids were happy, smiling ear to ear, they seemed to skip rather than walk. My 2 year old daughter, who looks like an owl,  her large eyes grew even wider as she looked around and took it all in. We rode many rides, saw two parades, the firework show.  We stayed at Magic Kingdom until the park closed. All of us had a wonderful time, even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering about that gun.

 

 

 

Back at the hotel, we slept in the master suite, and that bed was the most comfortable bed  I have ever laid on. Very different than sleeping on cement as we did the night before. 🙂

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning and an afternoon of waterslides and swimming.

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I made it back down to South Florida last night, just in time to see the very end of the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth. I saw a painting that fit our weekend perfectly. And right below the painting, someone had written the word “destiny.”

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Destined Disney Weekend

 

The weekend could have ended tragically, but through destiny and perhaps some guidance from a guardian angel, we had a beautiful, safe,  fun, and memorable weekend.

 

I want to add, that Disneyworld has clear rules that guns are prohibited. I think the police handled the situation quickly and professionally. However,  I don’t know if the gun was registered or if the police were able to find the gun owner. I don’t know if someone accidentally dropped their gun or if this was malicious.  But I do know that this should not have happened. This is just one more story, that proves, once again,  that this country has a problem with gun safety. This was a loaded gun at a playground. And while our story has a happy ending, most stories involving loaded guns, do not. 

 

 

Inspired: Bryan Kest Yoga Workshop

Last night I had the opportunity and pleasure of meeting and studying with a well known Yoga teacher, Bryan Kest. It was the first time I had ever met or studied with Bryan, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

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Me, Bryan Kest, and Jessica McCarrick

The room was crowded, full of yogis.  The workshop began with a lecture, or a talk rather. Bryan is funny, charismatic, and a bit of a rebel.. His words are what I will remember long after these sore arms of mine recover.

Bryan shared the story of how and why Asana practice began. He talked about the true meaning and purpose of yoga.“To still the fluctuations of the mind.”  He talked about the ultimate goal of yoga, enlightenment, Samadhi. Not pose perfection.”You are never going to heal relationships with loose hamstrings. We have to try to develop the benevolent qualities of our mind. Through awareness we can start eradicating the shit that is hurting us.”

Something in him, I connected to on a deep level. Perhaps it was his honesty. He was real. He talked about his angry and wild past (which I can totally relate to).  He openly shared that he smokes pot, and he said the “F” word, more than once. He did not come across as a phoney know it all yoga purist. He came across as someone just like me, a person, a parent, who came to yoga to heal.  He talked with passion about the state of our world, and how we are all contributing, creating this world, this chaos. He also stressed that it is up to each of us to change. We have to be the change… or nothing will change. 

He also talked about how even within the yoga community, there are fights, judgments, egos, teacher bashing, blacklisting.. Each style claiming they do it correctly and other practices, styles, and teachers are wrong… I have experienced this first hand, and it is really toxic. The snobbery that can be found within the yoga community is intense. Yoga is not about designer yoga pants and a perfect body. It isn’t about memorizing the sanskrit words for poses. It isn’t even about the ability to perform a difficult pose. It is about stilling the fluctuations of the mind..

Bryan is known for teaching a strong physical practice called Power Yoga. And while I am a yoga teacher,  I do not have a very strong physical practice, and I certainly don’t have buns or abs of steel. Since my recent car accident, my practice has become even more gentle. I am very aware of my injuries, and I am very gentle with my body.

Thankfully, during the asana practice, Bryan repeatedly reminded us to listen to our bodies. He said, “No yoga teacher on earth knows where your body should be.” He instructed us to rest in childs pose whenever we needed. “There are 7 billion right ways to do a yoga pose.”  With a strong voice he told us not to look at what other people in the class were doing, but to focus on our own breath, our own body. I was dripping in sweat halfway through the practice.

We ended the practice with a long and quiet Gratitude meditation..

I feel grateful and inspired by Bryan. I feel grateful to connect with a yoga teacher who is sharing (on a much larger scale), the message that I share with my own students..

The workshop was hosted by The Cozy Yogi, a yoga studio in Lake Worth Florida. The workshop was awesome. It ended up running late, past the scheduled time. So, without a proper thank you, I had to rush off and pick up my son and breastfeed my tired daughter.

Bryan Kest, Thank you. When I do my “head touching my leg pose” I will think of you and smile.

~Tiff

 

The Great Transition

Tuesday was moving day. It was a day full of tears, saying goodbye to so many people we love. It was also the beginning of three days of flying. The start of a great transition.

Looking Forward
Looking Forward Together

Back to Tuesday, we packed and cleaned and cried all day. Leaving a place you love, and people you love, is never easy. We had a house full of friends who came to say goodbye, and even at the airport, many of our closest friends came to see us off. The day and our situation could be described as the perfect Fado song. Fado is beautiful and mournful Portuguese music with lyrics of longing and sadness.. 

Back To Tuesday, after all the crying and goodbyes, we took an airplane to the island of Sao Miguel, where we spent the night. We stayed with a dear friend who lives there. Outside the door to her house was a welcome banner my friend’s son made, that read “Bem Viendos.” It was very sweet. We sat around, ate pizza, talked, and laughed, and cried.

We woke Wednesday morning and went to the park, I kept thinking that maybe we should move to Sao Miguel.. it is a big island, with a big modern city.Maybe someday. 

Sao Miguel fun
Sao Miguel fun

Before lunchtime, we were on a plane to Germany. A 1 day layover in Dusseldorf, felt like a mini vacation. We decided to take the train to our hotel. It was a good way to see the city and it was fun. Well, it was fun after we figured out which train to take. A very helpful couple from India, helped us figure out the train schedule and we rode the train with them into the city.

Train To Germany
Train To Germany
Old Dusseldorf
Old Dusseldorf

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We stayed in a hotel right in the center of the city. Right next to the “Old Town”, the fashion district, the main train station. We walked around for hours.  We had a dinner at a restaurant that played Portuguese music (that dinner is quite a story, maybe next post). The night was fun, we wanted to keep exploring, but it was cold, it was late, and we had an early flight to catch the next morning.

We woke early yesterday morning and went to the airport, dreading our 11 hour flight to Miami. 11 hours is a VERY LONG TIME. Especially when traveling with a 22 month old. But we made it. And we made some new friends.

Our friend picked us up at the airport, and we drove up to West Palm Beach. I felt exhausted. I felt culture shock. I needed to sleep. But sleep wasn’t an option. We dropped off our suitcases, and I took my son straight to rehearsal. My son did a video audition to be in a musical, and he was cast, and last night was his first rehearsal. 

My daughter and I watched the end of rehearsal.   I felt so much joy watching my son onstage. He was shining, back in his element, performing. When he left the stage, smiling from ear to ear, he skipped over to his sister, picked her up and said “that was the funnest rehearsal of my life.”

I am awake early. I miss my sweetheart. But I am strong. I know why we are here. Life is always in transition. And great big transitions can offer beauty, growth, and possibilities. 

Have a beautiful day. I am going to the beach. 🙂 ~Tiff

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”  ~Maya Angelou 

Beyond The Fog

On Friday, the weather was terrible here. The Azores are known for having intense weather, often we experience all four seasons in one day. The fog here is sometimes so thick, you literally cannot see. It is eerie and intense.

Friday was the day that my son and his 3 teammates were supposed to head to the mainland of Portugal for a Science Competition. They were scheduled to catch a flight at 7am.

I woke up at 5 am, yawning, groggy, tired. I made some coffee, looked out the window, and I saw dense fog. I felt worried. We drove slowly to the airport. Driving is scary in thick fog.

7am came and went, the flight was cancelled. The Fog grew thicker, visibility zero. The airline told everyone they would give updates every 30 minutes. So we waited. At around Noon, my son and his teammates were told they would fly  on a 4pm flight directly to Lisbon. That flight also got cancelled.

I was nervous. The teacher was nervous. The principal of the school was also nervous. He drove to the airport, and announced that even if they couldn’t make it on time to be in the science contest, he would personally make sure that these four boys would still go, and see a little more of the world.

CanSAT Azores, My Son and his Teammates
CanSAT Azores, My Son and his Teammates

Because this team of four teenage boys worked so hard all year to participate in this contest. They competed a few weeks ago at the regional level and they were one of the top three teams in the entire Azores archipelago. They made it to nationals.  This team shocked many people, because not only were they the youngest team to compete, but also, none of these boys live a “privileged life.” Other than my son, these boys had never left the Azores.

Flying in a small airplane, conducting their expermient
Flying in a small airplane, conducting their experiment

This team of four boys, who live on an island so small it doesn’t even have a movie theatre, sat nervously, quietly, and waited. The more I looked at them, the more my heart went out to them. These cute, slightly geeky teenage boys DESERVED THIS TRIP: In my broken portuguese, I talked to a couple of their moms. They shared with me that their kids were scared to go on an airplane, leave home, and venture out into the great big world. Two of the boys were so nervous they couldn’t even eat.  This trip was a big deal. And with the fog, the future was clouded. It was unclear what would happen.

At 6:30pm the fog cleared just enough, and they were off. After more than 12 hours waiting, they finally were on their way. They flew to Lisbon, and then made the journey to a small beach village called Santa Cruz. (I wish I could have gone).

My Son Took This Photo In Santa Cruz, Portugal
My Son Took This Photo In Santa Cruz, Portugal

They did their presentations, experiments,  and a little exploring. Checking in every few hours, my son called last night and quietly announced that his team won first place at Nationals!!!!!

Both my sweetheart and I started crying. These four boys came from an island of 5000 and It is likely that this will forever change their lives. Confidence, opportunity, connections, travel, adventure.

Now, at the end of June, they will travel and compete again, on an international level. They will compete with the winning teams from all the participating countries in Europe.

It is stories like these, that lift us up, make us smile, and give us hope that a better world is possible.

We all journey through dense fog. But every once in a while, the fog disappears and we see a rainbow.

BELIEVE-Tiff