Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Profile in Strength: Ofelia Lara

Good Afternoon DHF Family,
As I sit at my desk and write this blog entry, there are over 40 loan recipients in the next room crocheting with Hope House Instructor, Rosario Yupanqui. This month’s product is a beautiful and very stylish “yamper” or jump suit. If you were to ask me, “Of all the women in the classroom, who stands out the most and why?” I’d have to say Ofelia Lara of Village Bank “Divino Niño” or “Divine Child.” Ten days ago in a tragic accident caused by the local electric company, Ofelia’s home (and everything in it) burned to the ground in a matter of minutes. Ofelia and her family were devastated and literally left with the clothes on their back.
Last Friday, I visited Ofelia at her home and found her in tears. Despite such a terrible loss, she was especially thankful for the outburst of community support that soon followed, specifically, donations collected by her village bank members, hot meals prepared by the local elementary school, and visits from strangers offering her strength and moral support. As a token of my support, I invited Ofelia to attend Hope House classes during the month of November free of charge and donated a few blankets and extra clothes tucked away in my apartment. She should have word if the electric company will cover all damages by next week.
Despite everything Ofelia has been through, like clockwork, she arrives at our Hope House classes at least ten minutes in advance with her same contagious laugh and cheesy jokes. Today she said to me, “Desi, my Hope House classes are my therapy. Besides making extra money, I get to spend time with my friends, laugh, and go home feeling rejuvenated and with the strength to carry on.” Often time it’s easiest to focus on the financial rewards that educational trainings provide our women. But it’s just as important to consider the emotional and spiritual rewards that are created from the important work we do every day.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ending the Week with Inspiration and Abundance

 Maria Pascuala of VB "Rositas" crocheting a poncho

Happy Friday DHF Family!
I’d like to begin by thanking you all for your continuous support in every sense of the word: spiritually, emotionally, and economically. Over the past month and half our village banking project has transformed and grown in so many ways, keeping our entire Cajamarca office on the go and determined to bring abundance to our women.  As of October 2011, our village banking project is now comprised of 21 banks and 216 beneficiaries. Not only have we fulfilled our goal of forming 10 additional village banks, we’ve now surpassed our goal of serving 200 low income women in Cajamarca, Peru by 16.
Since January, Hope House has provided 394 educational opportunities for our loan recipients which are helping our women develop new skills that provide additional income to grow their businesses and sustain their families. Year to date, loan recipients have reported $2,923.13 in additional income and $1,083 in additional savings thanks to our trainings. Beyond the financial rewards, my conversations with women have opened my eyes to the spiritual rewards that our Microcredit Plus model is providing.

More than 40 loan recipients attending a jewelry class in the Hope House
Magdalena Chatilan of Village Bank “Progressing Women” commented that, “Crochet classes in community have elevated my spirit and self-esteem. I never imagined that I could make money producing crochet products. Now, I am more financially independent and no longer have to ask my husband for an allowance. I feel so blessed to be a part of this project.” After a culinary class in the Hope House where women learned how to make ceviche, Celia Lara of Village Bank “Divine Son” shared the following: “Cooking classes are my favorite. The recipes are so easy to follow. Everything that I learn in the Hope House, I put into practice and the money I make I reinvest into my grocery stand.”

Village Bank Promoters Juana Mantilla and Bertha Garcia hard at work.

Lastly, I’d like to share a new addition to the Village Banking Project. With the growth of our project came the need to include a second village bank promoter with the necessary skills to help our women manage their loans, savings, and businesses. Instead of looking outward, we were fortunate enough to look inward and hire Juana Mantilla, former Village Bank President of “God’s Blessing.” Juana had previously worked as a secretary for the Municipality of Baños del Inca, but with a change in mayor, was relieved of her duties and unable to find a steady job. As a single mother desperate to pay the bills, she began selling roasted chicken’s feet (a common snack food in Peru) near her home in the evenings. Thanks to a loan from our village banking project, she was able to purchase a grill and increase sales. Now Juana will be able to put her profession in practice and help women on their journey of abundance. Her contagious laugh, charisma, and dedication have brought a breath of fresh air to the office. And I am proud to say that DHF is now promoting a legacy of abundance by providing beneficiaries with an opportunity to create and share wealth.
As you can see much has happened in such little time. As we approach the final months of 2011, I’ll be sharing more stories of daily life here in Cajamarca and of our women’s transformations thanks to your contributions.
Have a great weekend everyone!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

And the Winner Is …..

Monday afternoon our entire Hope House staff and village bank members had their eyes glued to the TV screen to see who would be named best crocheter in Cajamarca by the hit daytime show “Lima Limon”. Two of our Hope House Instructors, Alicia Linares and her daughter, Rosario Yupanqui, were the front runners. Rosario presented three beautiful outfits with bright pinks, blues, and oranges— just like her personality. Her designs were one of a kind and I was convinced she would take home the crown. But when Alicia graced the stage, she surprised everyone with an elegant wedding dress that included gloves and a hat. After more than forty minutes of anticipation, the panel of judges finally made a decision. AND THE WINNER WAS…ALICIA LINARES! Along with the title, Alicia won S/. 5,000 (approximately $1,800) and will now advance to the finals where she will compete with women from Lima, Cusco, Arequipa, and other well-known cities. I’m so proud of both of our teachers and grateful that our women are able to learn a trade that provides so much abundance in their lives. Did I mentioned that both sent warm greetings to the Hope House and our women? I wasn’t able to record the programn but I took a picture of the TV screen just before they announced the winner. Rosario is located on the left and Alicia on the right.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action!

Alicia Linares and Rosario Yupanqui preparing to be interviewed.

Saludos DHF Family!
I couldn’t wait to share the wonderful news with all of you back home regarding two of our amazing Hope House instructors: Rosario “Charo” Yupanqui and her mother, Alicia Linares. Both came on board in February of this year and currently manage three crochet circles in the town of Baños del Inca. Upon interviewing both for the job, I was immediately captivated by their amazing ability to crochet and knit beautiful articles of clothing (in record time) as well as their sincere desire to help our women learn a craft that is both financially and spiritually rewarding. So what is all the good news about? This past Saturday I received word that both were finalists in national crochet competition hosted by the famous Peruvian television show “Lima Limón.” To understand the magnitude of this event, think the “Today Show” meets “American Idol.”  What made the stream of events even more exciting is that both received word via ambush. Charo, finishing her final touches on a poncho with crochet circle “Fuerza y Bendicion,” noticed from the distance an entourage of lights and cameras running towards her. When they finally made it to her she was already in tears excited to know that she’ll be traveling to Lima in less than a week to compete in the mother of all crochet competitions in Peru.  Alicia was at home preparing lunch when a knock at the door similar to a Publisher’s Clearing House moment lead to hugs and kisses congratulating her as one of three finalists in Cajamarca. In a nutshell, Charo and Alicia will be travelling to Lima on Monday, August 15, where they will present three of their best crochet clothing designs. A panel of judges will then select the winner who will then advance to the finals competing with women from Cusco, Trujillo, Lima, and other cities. Part of the competition consists of designing an outfit from head to toe based on a theme (wedding, carnival, etc.). The winner will receive a check for S/.5,000 (approximately $1,800) and a supply of yarn from the company Cisne. I’m confident either Charo or Alicia will be the winner. On Sunday the film crew asked me to tape a greeting explaining or village bank project and our teacher’s involvement in Hope House. By Monday all of Peru will know who DHF is! Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what happens.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Crochet Circles In Review

Hello DHF Family,
It’s Des signing back in! I’d like to start the month of August off right with none other than crocheting! This past July we had some amazing experiences with our crochet classes, which have not only provided our women with extra income, but have helped unite our village banks even more. If you remember in February of this year, I noticed that our women living in rural communities had an extremely difficult time attending our Hope House classes in Cajamarca. The rise in bus fair and the commuting time can make, what should be an easy trip to the Hope House, extremely challenging. After asking the women about the kinds of classes they'd like to participate in, it was unanimous. HELLO CROCHET CIRCLES HERE WE COME!
We currently have 10 active crochet circles in which women select a design for the month. The Hope House contracts an instructor for three to four classes and women pay half the cost of their yarn. In the end, the women have a product that can either be sold or gifted with the end result either being a profit or savings. What started out as an attempt to help bring Hope House to more women is now a well organized program generating additional income that allows our women to help pay back their loans and reivest in their businesses, homes, and families. Many of our participants now have special orders. Others are either focusing their businesses on crocheting or reconsidering changing their current business. During the month of June, our crochet circles reported a total of $312.84 in additional income. I’m still crunching the numbers for July but they are sure to exceed $350.  I’d like to end this entry with a few additional numbers that will give you a better perspective:
·         Since February 2011 we have organized a total of 131 classes.
·         A total of $1,538.94 in additional income was reported.
·         A total of $667.74 in additional savings was reported.
·         More than 98 women have benefited from these classes.
So in conclusion, thanks to your financial contributions our women are living more abundant lives!

Recently formed crochet circle "Las Hortensias" celebrating the end of their first module in which they made beautiful blouses.

Crochet Circle "Las Rositas" completing their first month of classes.

Emerita and Marta from Crochet Circle "Las Margaritas" hard at work finishing the final touches on the baby sweaters.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Lesson in Abundance

Of the 168 days I’ve been working as DHF’s Field Program Manager, Friday was by far the best day of this entire experience. Literacy is one of the pillars of the plus side of microcredit. Currently we have 10 students who religiously attend class once a week in the hope of learning how to sign their name, read short stories, and complete simple addition and subtraction problems. In May of this year, our literacy teacher, Lily Perez, brought to my attention that almost all of our students were having difficulty advancing due to a single problem—poor vision. Being the problem solver that I am, I began to ask around Cajamarca about any vision campaigns, prescription glasses donations, or reduced rate vision tests to get our women help. With no luck, I decided to try one last place. When Maggie visited the project in April of this year she stayed at a beautiful hostal called Los Jazmines. The owners are German and have spent over two decades helping Cajamarquinos receive medical attention and services to improve their health. With my heart heavy, I visited Los Jazmines and shared our situation with the head receptionist, Miss Lucy. About half way through my story, Lucy interrupted me and mentioned that two years ago Los Jazmines had organized a massive vision campaign and box of reading and prescription glasses was leftover. After a few phone calls, Lucy shared the good news… the hostel was donating more than 300 pairs of glasses to our cause! All I wanted were 10 pairs and now I was receiving 3oo! So on Friday we tested our literacy circle students from Tartar Chico for their first pair of glasses. It was an amazing experience to see the women’s reaction as they were finally seeing for the first time in years. This was the first time in my life that I asked for something and in return received so much abundance. This Friday our second literacy circle, which meets in the Hope House, will be tested for their glasses. I’ll be sure to include more pictures.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week in Review: Butterflies, Tiaras, and Blouses

Hello DHF Family,
It’s Desireé signing back in. This week it’s been business as usual here in the Hope House. Due to high demand and constant requests by our jewelry students to build butterfly earring holders, we finally obtained the materials (thanks to Carmen Pajares who traveled to Lima two weeks ago) and made it happen. With 26 participants, the women we’re all about business. Each uniquely painted and designed their butterfly to reflect their sense of style. And I must say, there was paint everywhere but with a little soap and water, our classroom looked just as lovely as before. Now our jewelry students have beautiful displays that they can use when either selling jewelry or organizing new models that design in the Hope House.
In other news, yesterday’s theme was tiaras. Here in Peru, for birthdays, first communions, quinceañeras, weddings, and other special occasions, women often like to wear fancy up-dos with glitter, flowers, and the works. In 30 minutes our students learned how to make a simple and economical flower tiara that can be sold at S/.30 (approximately $7.00). Instead of renting a tiara, now our women can either make one or gift one to a family member or neighbor in need.

Lastly, today we started a three class module for the month of June in which crochet students will learn how to design a fashion-forward blouse with flowers. We had visitors from our newest bank “Las Hortensias.” They were excited to finally visit the Hope House and meet our crochet instructor, Charo Yupanqui. The students take their classes very seriously and already have offers to buy the blouses they are just now starting to make. I’ll keep you posted once they fiso you can see the final results in two weeks.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

DiscoverHope Proudly Hires New Executive Director: A Letter from Founder Maggie Miller

Dear DiscoverHope Family,

Thank you to your continued support, this spring marked the fifth anniversary of DiscoverHope! We are fortunate to have grown at a pace that has far surpassed our goals and expectations. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am so proud to share with you that an organizational dream has come to fruition. To compliment and encourage the upward movement DiscoverHope has experienced, we are elated to announce that we’ve hired a new rock solid, light-filled, Executive Director— Jennifer Edwards.

The privilege of a lifetime is being who we are. On my list of decisions that have enriched and changed me forever, being the Founder and five-year Executive Director of DiscoverHope is right there at the top. Creating and growing an organization from the still small voice of an idea into where we are today is indeed an Odyssey. The entrepreneurial journey is intoxicating, exciting, intense, tough, lonely, electrifying, uplifting, and an endless list of emotional expressions that span the continuum of being human. In any journey, the fabric of the people woven into that adventure is forever changed. I see clearly that DiscoverHope is the living example of loving transformation that people gift to this world. Every one of you has helped people radiate!

Inevitably, the natural questions of “what now” and “what next” will be asked. There is no juicy gossip in the Austin pipeline on this one. What next for me, as Founder, will be to continue my role with DiscoverHope as an integral part of the Board of Directors. I am truly excited to fulfill this strategic role and will be focusing on our vision, growth, fundraising, and program development. I hope my conviction and faith in this organizational decision being the right one is highlighted by the fact I wrote myself out of my own job.

Just as DiscoverHope was created by listening to the inner vision of the still small voice, once again, after seven years (including two spent living in Peru) of pouring my heart and soul into the fabric of DiscoverHope, I KNOW we are in a very healthy place to allow someone with an incredible set of experiences to take over the operational helm of leadership. Through my own prayer and reflection, it comes down to the fact that sometimes you “gotta get out of the way” to allow fresh perspective and new growth. So many young nonprofits don’t get the chance to experience this next level of growth. I feel ecstatic that DiscoverHope has grown to the place where we can hire an expert Executive leader to continue guiding our team and simply shift over my role onto the Board where my greatest strengths will compliment the organization.

Replacing yourself is an intriguing learning process. As we sorted through resumes (more than 200!)— the one requirement was to find someone who could hold the internal Light of DiscoverHope that is so inherent to our family.

Jennifer Edwards shines with the executive energy we were seeking. Under her guidance, we look forward to growing into a more mature, well rounded nonprofit. Jennifer has spent her career working to help people achieve success and has expertise in fundraising, operational excellence, and strategic planning. She boasts more than 15 years of nonprofit executive experience in Central Texas; most recently as the founding Chief Executive Officer of United Way of Williamson County. Other organizational leadership positions with Helping Hand Home for Children, Paramount Theatre, and United Way Capital Area highlight her ability to lead and strengthen nonprofit fundraising. Jennifer is a special woman and we are very grateful to have her.

You are endlessly special to me and I know that in Jennifer, you will continue receiving the reflection of Love that you deserve. For those of you who have grown accustomed to getting some doses of love and light from me, I’m still here for you! I hope that as Founder/Board Director/Friend I can count on each of you to continue to hold and grow this vision with us through your continued generosity of time, talent, and financial contributions.

Please celebrate this exciting chapter of growth with us knowing that we believe in the decision with every ounce of who we ARE.

I have so much Love for you,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reflections of A DHF Intern

As I write this entry, I reflect back on my time at Discover Hope, and all of the wonderful memories, stories and experience I feel privileged to take home with me to Madison, WI. Throughout my last three months at Discover Hope, I have not only learned non-profit organizations in developing countries, but I have been able to work with the women in the local banks on a variety of tasks. I have attended local village bank meetings, observed data collection meetings on the socio-economic status of women to see if they are eligible for a loan, created and facilitated Business-Oriented English classes, worked with the child care provider in offering child development knowledge, parent communication and child management techniques, attended dozens of Hope House trainings/classes with local women on jewelry, knitting, and cooking, and participated in meetings where women receive their loan and pay back their loan. It truly has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I know when I enter the workforce as a social worker upon my arrival into the States, I will be more culturally competent and socially aware as a professional. I have Discover Hope, Desiree, the many local women and my host family to thank!

I think back to all of the incredible women and children I have met at Discover Hope. I feel very fortunate I have had this inspiring internship to enter into the lives of families, offering support, guidance and a set of ears. As I walk away and enter into a new chapter of my life as a professional social worker, I will remember the knowledge, patience and teaching that Desiree offered me throughout these past three months. I will always admire her determination and dedication in offering these women a different, better life full of opportunity.

From the first day I arrived into Cajamarca, I have been treated like a daughter. With the help of Desiree, I have been living with the most wonderful family I could ask for. My Peruvian family has been an amazing resource and stable home for me during my last three months and I will miss them dearly and always be appreciative for their kindness and generosity. I couldn't have asked for a better family to live with during my time in Cajamarca. Their altruism and constant devotion to me still amazes me every day. I will forever remember in my heart this experience and treasure it always, wherever life takes me.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Introducing the Hope House Wellness Series

Saturday we commenced a new initiative at the Hope House geared towards improving our loan recipients’ self-esteem and overall mental health. We are calling it the Hope House Wellness Series, in which women will have access to group classes that will tackle problems impeding their personal growth and relationships. Subjects are based on what the women request and include: improving self-esteem, depression, anger management, raising adolescent children, improving interpersonal communication, and child discipline.
So on Saturday afternoon, Psychologist Roger Human and Jenny Munoz, elaborated a beautiful presentation on defining self-esteem and the origins of both high and low self-esteem. Twelve loan recipients from village banks located within the city of Cajamarca attended. What impressed me the most was that three participants invited their daughters to attend the talk because they felt it was such an important topic. Roger and Jenny are hard at work finalizing their work plan and budget to make this Wellness Series a reality. Our goal is to eventually offer interested women an opportunity to attend private counseling sessions with a psychologist so they can begin to find solutions to problems that impede their ability to be better individuals, mothers, spouses, friends, daughters, and business women. Thanks to your donor support and contributions, our educational trainings now encompass mental health- a topic that often goes unaddressed in Peru. Next Saturday our village banks from the countryside will be receiving the same talk on self-esteem. I’m looking forward to seeing the turnout. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Annual Mother's Day Event

Even though it’s been five days...I’m still recuperating.  Last Friday was a REALLY special day for the village banking project and for me. On May 6th we celebrated our First Annual Mother’s Day Event. Mother’s Day is one of the most important holidays celebrated in Peru… I’d even argue that it trumps Easter and Christmas. Because most of our village bank members are mothers and cherish their role as such, it was important that we honor them and provide them with an opportunity to laugh and have some fun.  For over  a month Ahidee ( our project coordinator) and Bertha (our bank promoter) have been hard at work, helping me create invitations, select a location, design decorations, organize indoor/outdoor competitions, select prizes and music, and hundred other things that are required when organizing such an event. Thanks to Bertha we were able to rent an indoor/outdoor recreation center located in the countryside of Otuzco, located 15 minutes from Cajamarca. After tallying the numbers, we had over 110 attendees that day. The best part was witnessing the various village banks participate in our indoor competitions. There was the Egg Run, the Sack Race, the Chicken Dance (yes!), the Yell Competition, and our infamous Balloon Bursting Competition. We ended the day with a healthy dose of soccer and volleyball. Overall, the event was a success. Our loan recipients laughed, played hard, celebrated with their village bank members, and had the opportunity to meet the other village banks for the second time.

As you can imagine word travels fast in Peru. I still don’t know who the culprit is but somebody spilled the beans that my birthday was on Friday. What that meant was besides the Birthday Cake and 12 village banks inviting me to a plate of food for lunch, I had to dance, sing, and hug and kiss everyone (all 110). It was really sweet and hands down, it was one of the most memorable birthdays ever! I’ve included some picture for your enjoyment!


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Hardest Working Team in Cajamarca

Ahidee providing biz advice to loan recipient
Teresita of VB Azucenas
 Hello DHF Family,

First things first…I AM alive and running a hundred miles per hour. I’ve disappeared for the past three weeks in order to give Maggie ample space to share her “Adventures in Hope and Chocolate” entries with you. This was a blessing since I’d been hard at work revamping our educational training methodology and heading strategic planning meetings with our counterpart, Multicredit. Today’s blog entry is accurately titled. Yesterday the world celebrated International Worker’s Day, which is a big deal in Peru. In true Peruvian fashion, however, I woke up this morning at 6:00 AM ready to work only to find out (after the fact) that today, May 2nd, was declared a national holiday. So on our day off, our project coordinator, Ahidee, and our village bank promoter, Bertha, decided to join me and put in a full day’s work at the office. I’d like to take full credit for organizing the 46 educational trainings in March and the 27 classes completed in April, but it would be a deception.

Bertha, our village bank promoter (first right), and I congratulating our Computer Basic Class on completing their module.
Bertha and Ahidee are my colleagues, personal therapists, cheerleaders, problem solvers,multitasking Hope House helpers, and so much more.  I’d like to dedicate International Workers’ Day to them and all of the hardworking public servants, who regardless of pay, give 110 percent because they absolutely love their jobs and enjoy making a difference in the lives of others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Last Pass.

Last pass.

The pass through the Andes from Chiclayo on the coast to the Northern “eyebrow of the jungle” bring you through coastal ocean air, over the misty cloudy high mountain pass, and descending into the humid layers of rain and tropical foliage.

Sitting at the front of our bus looking through the panoramic window in the front seat, my favorite moments of this journey included driving past beautiful people on the side of the road as we passed through their tiny towns, sometimes a population of several homes. The literal connection eye to eye with someone I would never otherwise encounter in my entire life—and for just this one small passing micro moment in time, we took one another in. So many thoughts passed through my mind about their lives and what it felt like to be in their skin and shine through their soul. Pondering the rivers they walk wrapped into these mountains, the pineapple stand woman on the roadside, the 5 year old girl holding guard for a small bathroom fee to use the covered hole in the ground, a pregnant woman with a walking stick on the rocky edge of the high hazy path, the dark brown shades of their skin from the powerful equator sun. In these instants, just a real and complete thought about all of these amazing lives, and wondering as they looked through those large windows at me glowing by the light of my IPOD, did they wonder at all? Such it was driving through the valleys of the great divide.

To protect the location of the majestic cacao project, I won’t use names of the towns where we wandered. We arrived to the base of the high jungle with sheets of warm rain falling from the sky. This was a very different energetic shift for me after years of working in the high mountain culture of the Andes. We descended deeper for about two hours into the gorgeous tints of the lands, literally driving into breathtaking roadside tropical flora as if we melted into a painting. We passed by a roadside shack for a fresh machete-hacked coconut and drank the glorious water so chock full of life. Through a neighboring town we kept our speed to evade the local “bandilla” (gang), and at a slow high curve on the path encountered the informal security team who took on the policing of a pass that was once wrought with robberies. The local guards even donned their own camo shirts and strapped guns to their bodies. The price for their labor to keep you safe was tipping them 30 cents as we passed by.

At the literal end of the road, we came to a rushing river, one of the many tributaries of the Great Amazon River. Two big floats made from wood planks were connected to cables that plunged into the rock cliffs on both sides of the roaring water. With a push from a team of men who managed the floats, the wood raft would move across the water connected to the cable as the guide (almost like a zip line from ground to cable high up in the air). Without electricity, the angle of the cables was directed perfectly by the flow of the water current and slowly but surely, the raft would arrive at the other side of the river. It is seriously amazing what creativity comes out of people! These floats were typically used to bring a car/moto to pass to the communities on the other side of the river, since the other side would otherwise be impenetrable within Peru as the road functioned like a jungle dead end. We crossed the river in the usual people fashion, sitting in wooden row boats balanced in the middle of our seats to stabilize (mind you, with modern luggage against rustic wood, it was a sight I am sure!). The other side of the river functioned as our “home base” for the next three days. Here we entered the sleepy 4 block pueblo with a dusty road running through the middle of ramshackle concrete.

Rolling my small travel bag down the middle of the town, I was met with stares and wonderment, inviting smiles. Several girls came up and stood next to me, staring. I wondered if they had ever had a seriously white blond ghost like me stumbling through their streets. I felt safe and cradled in this small place where people definitely CHOOSE to come into. HOME. It made me think of the transient people we are in the U.S.—many of us finding several different homes in different places over the course of a lifetime. These small towns I have visited in Peru (and developing world in general) are usually places that people stay for their lifetimes. The pulse of community is very deep and strong, and how you show up in this community is known to all.

After some mud oven fired bread and a cup of Criollo coffee made from beans picked, roasted, and mashed right from the land—we were off to visit the magical lands that surrounded these thick brushy hills for as far as the eye could see. Driving out into the small rocky paths through rice fields with lime-emerald-jade-greens that almost blinded the eyes, tropical trees with of coconut, lime, grapefruit, and bananas, framed the muddy road. Leaves of all shapes and sizes scraped against the bed of the truck as we whipped by with six of us bouncing around in back against the metal bed.

We first stopped at Noë’s family farm. Noë is the head of the agricultural association of more than 300 cacao (chocolate bean) growing farmers in the surrounding communities. Noë has the most honest round brown eyes and a big smile with a large gap between his two front teeth. He is an observer and watches. Noë has been described as a savant of sorts related to the cacao tree; he was the sole farmer who invited my friends Brian and Dan of Marañon Chocolate to come to this area, telling them that the trees on these farms were bearing special fruit. Noë described that he could see the auras off the trees and that these farms had something quite different compared to farms that were growing modern strains of cacao introduced by USAID. Brian and Dan listened and when they began opening cacao pods back in 2009 (chocolate beans grow in beautiful pods that look like fruit, see picture!), the pods were partially full of white beans. Cacao beans are normally purple in color, and so white signified a genetic mutation over time (like an albino child). As they began searching, white beans filled pods in most of the nearby farms—later verified by agricultural scientists that this sort of genetic mutation would signify years of change over the long-term and the frequency of white beans showing up meant that the trees may be over 1000 years old!! Noë knew what he was talking about indeed…

This is the magic that we stepped into. This meant that for countless years these trees had lived, adapted, and created. In fact, they adapted so much that unlike a normal modern cacao plant variety, these trees actually created their own ability to impregnate themselves! On the branches, you could see the tiny new pods no bigger than the size of a pinkie nail sitting 4 inches from the open female flower—pollinated by a tiny jungle fly. Evolution is seriously amazing. Well the magic of Spirit is too!!

Bottom line is…this is where we walked all day, charged by ancient history. I loved the feeling of walking in the haze of sunlight misting through the trees, being so far away from the usual buzz of the world and plugged into a different stream of energy that nature provides. We stopped to knock coconuts off other trees and hacked them with machetes…that life giving water just pouring into you and getting sticky on your cheeks. I ran my hair through the falling streams to cut the heat and humidity coating my skin. This was pure and celestial.

For lunch, Noë’s wife and mom prepared cuy (guinea pig) for everyone. This is a delicacy and was surely their symbol of caring and gifting for us. I was prepared for this as this is often a special meal shared with those deemed as important guests, and to say no to an invitation like this is an insult especially when a family is giving you more than they would do for themselves. Being a vegetarian and knowing I would probably truly vomit if I ate the guinea pig, I ate my rice and mashed lentil beans and swapped the bones of Brian’s cuy carcass for my fresh meat. In situations like this, the local family will eat in a different room and allow the visitors to dine together. This allowed me the space to pull this off. Right or wrong…I always struggle with this as part of the journey and regardless, I made it through lunch with an empty plate of bones and joy.

Noë’s Mom truly impressed me. She came into the room when we asked to thank her and half of the right side of the front of her head was gone from an aneurism she had. It was truly a miracle that after more than 20 hours in a truck, boat, bus…she lived through an operation in Lima. The farmers from the lands all over pitched in to pay what they could of her surgery. I sense she is a Mother energy to many of them. She came out of the fire lit, steaming kitchen with the brightest smile and sat by my side after a round of several thank you’s and applause. We talked about how she was glad to have a little more time with her children, and that she was not fearful of death. She said every new day she got to share with her family was important and warmed her heart. I couldn’t help but to think of how graced I was to share one of these special times with her and her family…blessed to eat from the labor of her hands and heart and spirit (I think I got it, even minus the cuy!)

Each evening when we returned from the field at about 6pm included a debriefing of the day as a team. A full bucket shower of cool water accented the day’s end. Carly (NPR reporter) and I shared a mattress with our mosquito net hovering over us like those fancy queen like bedroom sets with cascading curtains. I called our bed the “Queendom” and we laughed laying down the first night how we had known each other for about 12 hours. We made an agreement not to try and move too much on the bed during the night. I think we both felt like frozen robots—trying not to bother each other in the total heat of the night, sweat drenched under our PJ pants and long sleeves.

Another amazing stop we made was on the farmland of the Fortunato family. The chocolate being made from all these majestic beans in this area (processed by a Swiss chocolate maker) has been named Fortunato No 4. Last year, Brian and Dan sent samples of these trees to the USDA Agricultural group and the results came back astounding…that the number 4 sample became the new benchmark for purest sample of cacao in the entire world registry, with all their other samples hovering close to it. Hence, number 4 sample from Fortunato’s farm…Fortunato No 4.

Fortunato is a humble and quiet man who has lived his entire life on these sacred lands. His mom lived to over 100 and his dad to over 90 farming the same earth. Campesinos (farmers) are often in incredible shape from the constant physical labor on their land and eating the purest forms of food they grow. Weathered and leathered from the sun, Fortunato didn’t talk very much, but kept a steady closed lip grin that accentuated his deep face wrinkles and stared with pensive caramel eyes from under the brim of a hat. His land was indeed his best friend…and provided conversation for him as he walked around looking, machete pruning with care, and talking to the nature around him—surely nature conversing back with him. One of the most beautiful things was to watch Fortunato and his wife meander together through the groves of trees. They walked in such comfort side by side, occasionally glancing at one another. Slowly sauntering, they talked of history, children, joking gently with one another, and glowing with HOME for each other, a place where Love was flowing.

I couldn’t help but think of Fortunato and his family and the double meaning of his name (Fortune). Here was the most docile of people who had farmed their land for generations. As we sat together next to the No 4 sample tree, the purest mother genetically to all other trees around it, I touched it thinking of how life emerges. Part of me couldn’t help but see our photo snapping group of gringos with our camera extensions as conquistadores, but yet I heard and saw the gratitude in Fortunato for getting nearly 50% more for his beans than a big company would pay if he sourced them the usual route. Without even trying, Fortunato found himself a star…and all that this brings with it. For better or worse, or both.

During these journeys into the farmlands, I also had the goal of gathering women to talk about microcredit. I said before in previous writings that the “pasa la voz” (pass the voice) method of sending information works like magic. This is a place where cell phones don’t exist (that is, there was one phone booth in the 3 block pueblo that was operated by someone. You couldn’t make any calls, you could only receive calls. If someone called for you, the operator of the booth would use a loud megaphone speaker to announce to the town that you just got a call. The person who called would be calling back in 10 minutes, so you have to get to the booth!) In this kind of a communication system, the concept of passing information works like it did for people during the Incan times…word would literally travel from person to person through the mountains to reach villages of people.

I told 10 women about the microcredit meeting I was having at 4pm on Friday, and when I walked to the home of the woman who hosted us in her back yard of dirt and animals, nearly 40 women from four different pueblos showed up. It was awesome! There we sat as dusk fell and shared some pop and talked about microcredit + training. It was clear to me they were thirsty for growth of business for their families. We spent two hours laughing, questioning, explaining, and sharing. As dusk fell, I was amazed watching the native women innately KNOW when the tiniest weight of a mosquito was landing on their skin. They would pick them off effortlessly and with precision. I started feeling some bites and the fear of disease crept into my head. I pulled out my REI 35% DEET and they were all looking at me with wonder and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself in a bright white shirt melting from the heat, putting poison on my skin from somewhere so far away…sitting with these people who had adapted to nature over many years.

La Barbie as they called me…sitting under the drops of rain. I watched them work in unison, holding each others children, sharing ideas for business. For me, it left a residue of possibility and pure joy. The world was moving in slow motion and just watching the power of these ladies. I wish they could have understood even an ounce of what Love they modeled for me.

As I make the last pass of this journey approaching Austin, I just want to say that these stories find their meaning in you and through you. This is the gift we give each other. In every word you’ve read, you’ve affirmed the lives of every person connected here.

Love is truly infinite.
Signing off. Safe and Sound. Loved beyond words.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A reckoning.

A reckoning.

How to give you the story that it is my Heart?

I invite the story into me like a wave arrives onto a sandy shore, nourish it with all that I am and let it lap back out into ALL that IS to join you.

My Heart is open wide and my body is tired as I watch the mountain majestic greens pass through my window now leaving the jungle. I write under the dim sunlight filtering through thick clouds.

This was one of the most physically rigorous journeys I have taken in my travels, but through total disconnection from the world we know, the soul is nourished through absolute simplicity of Life, so present in front of you. This reflection is a time where I rode the rails of all that lives between Love and fear. In the physical form of being lost at the mouth of the jungle, there is an opportunity to find. Some of the things I thought and felt:

Joy and marvel at the seemingly hundreds of different hues of green that drench the framework of the land. Every vista is more breathtaking than the one before. Life is breathing everywhere.

Humility in being a tiny speck in such an enormous natural force. Feebleness in knowing I am just another living organism in a seriously unexplainable web of creatures.

Fear winding through the blinding curving roads soaked with rain, rocks, and a new set of rules that crippled all my own logic.

Respect for the creativity and inventiveness of people who live rudimentary with nature as their primary teacher. They are patient beyond belief, calm, warm, and in the most present way—happy for what matters—health and life for their children and family.

Terror in the discomfort of undeniable heat, disease, and total lack of control.

Kindness and sadness in being given food by beautiful weathered strangers across the world and watching these locals scrape my plate for their own meal.

Judging and judged as a blue eyed, blond haired woman who got the opportunity to walk on some of these deep foliage paths filled with ancient magical trees. The continuum of the world colliding and merging in the very same instant. These moments of learning can be painful as they expose layers so hidden in the forests of your heart—to SEE who you are. These moments can be exhilarating beyond any excitement I’ve known to feel LOVE that binds us in such tangible ways. I think the body sometimes doesn’t even know how to process these layers.
During one moment, I found myself under an almost full moon sky taking a bucket bath with rain sheeting down from the sky onto me. The shower teetering on a wooden platform above the river I crossed on a small wooden paddle boat with my bags, now churning wildly below me. Pure darkness in the shower to evade the Dengue mosquitoes. Here, I wept and laughed together. The river, rain, darkness, cool rush, frustration, and unexplainable gratitude exactly matched my physical surrounding and poured from within me. I don’t think I’ve cried that hard for many years, but there was a LOT of rain falling to be in concert with me and me with it. We can never really unravel all that is in these spaces of us, I just assume that as I wade into the layers of me—I become a more whole soul. I appreciate more. I know how precious this life is as I get to breathe in these morsels of living color.

This kind of journey brings you to new plateaus of respect for so many things: health, safety, family, comforts that we take for granted and…spiritual nourishment. This kind of journey also hurts as parts of you are literally exfoliated into change. This can only be described as a reckoning. An awakening. And with it there is the work that is total forgiveness, around every mountain curve. It takes a lot of love. To taste Love is our function. I’m going to finish this eve’s writing with a piece from a beautiful tune (hyperlink if you want to hear it). I am physically so very tired and looking forward to dreaming. I’ll write more of the specifics on the gorgeous parts of the trek and the people that lit the path soon!

Rolling River God (Words Nichole Nordeman)
Little Stones are smooth
Only once the water passes through
So I am a stone
rough and grainy still
Trying to reconcile this river's chill

But when I close my eyes
and feel you rushing by
I know that time brings change
and change takes time
And when the sunset comes
my prayer would be just this one
that you might pick me up
and notice that I am
just a little smoother in your hand
Sometimes raging wild
sometimes swollen high
never have I known this river dry
The deepest part of you
is where I want to stay
and feel the sharpest edges wash away

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle BaBY.

Hey beautiful folks.
I have 5 mins to write this...and leaving for the outer jungle country tomorrow at 6am.

6 hours thru the night. 4 hours wait, 6 hours thru the afternoon.

We made it. I know how amazing Spirit is. The ride was one of the craziest of my life, and most beautiful. My bus seat was in the front of a two story bus, 12 feet in the air with a 2 foot window, to SEE the entire journey. During the day...electric green hues like your eyes have never seen. Riding into the clouds. Jungle rains falling. Rocks sliding onto the road (sometimes blocking up to 24 hours...if big enough). We slid around deep mountain curves, missing cars, buses, animals, people, rocks...and well...I am glad to just sleep tonight and know I am safe.

No connection for several days as far as I can tell as we will be sleeping out in the country of the jungle. Just wanted to bring you to this small corner of the world, where the jungle road ends and beautiful people shine.

You are all with me...more than you know.
Love beyond words,

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chasing chocolate in the high jungle.

Dear Family! Ready to disconnect and leave for the first of two 6-hour bus rides…this will introduce the second part of the journey of hope. I am consolidating my bags in half so I can travel light up into the high jungle. It is always fun to “drop” things here, I think mostly for the realization that when it comes down to it, the material things don’t matter much.

Many of you have sent me your Love and protection and I know that this will be with me. I am dropping my computer with a family on the coast after the first 6-hr ride, so my connectivity may be sparse. If there is a way to write, I will. I will scribe it all for you for whatever moment I can get to this space of sharing.

The journey goes: 6 hr ride thru mountain roads to the coast of Chiclayo (I like it better in the dark, because if you see what lies below you and the rubble road without any protection from the edge, well, it is unnerving. Chiclayo arrival 5am…where I will meet up with Carly Y., an NPR International writer who is doing a story on the Maranon Chocolate site I will be visiting. Second 6 hour bus ride northeast into high jungle were we will meet “Gringo Brian,” an unspeakably awesome friend who helped me frame DiscoverHope’s work in Peru many years ago and directs the operations of the chocolate project. Another 1.5 hours into the rural high jungle and we will be there…

Wrapping up the time here in Cajamarca, I am so proud of the team and the history we are building with the communities here. Today I had the chance to reflect on the very first days in winter 2007 when Nora and I traveled here to drop her off to begin our project. So beautifully the torch was passed to Desiree this year who continues to grow the vision planted years ago with an amazing team (both here and there). From team strategic planning in Spanish (hard!) to visiting women in the countryside, I suppose I could sum it up by saying I just want to wrap my arms around LIFE and say thank you.

My beautiful friend Paige sent me a blog piece that I loved; it seemed to sum up the journey ahead for me, so will just share it:
“Today marks a major Turning Point and powerful changes will be set into motion. How these changes occur, how they affect us and how we deal with them will be determined by the level of our commitment to Trueness. We are taking our first steps into unknown territory. To do this, we need to follow the Compass of our Heart which will lead us true and to trust our inner knowingness that ALL IS WELL, even when it doesn't always appear that way. There may well be challenges, but they will be brief if we are able to demonstrate our mastery by walking upon the Path of Love as a True One.”

Well, I am taking this Path.
Loving you all around the swervy, rocky mountain roads. Maggie

Monday, April 11, 2011

southern cross

the southern cross watches me tonight
a gift from this hemisphere
the aboriginal eye in the sky
celebrated by generations of culture

tonight as we eat together
they present me with thanks
for the dignity and power we give women.

I say in our quiet hearts and open minds
Love will always blaze its own pathway
Love will shine outward from us as Home
through every opened door.

dear world:
I do not know the way
but you have called
and I am open to receive the gifts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I am at the end of a wonderful weekend of learning. Sunday night…and I wonder what you are doing in your own spaces and places? If there was a word that best sums up the vacillating emotion of this journey, it would be “vulnerability.” And by this, I mean the entire continuum of emotion that is contained in that one amazing word! Vulnerable: · heart open to the beauty of different culture · exposure to being completely physically different and constantly watched · routine = non routine · the known no longer known · contact with total poverty and (non)perspective by being among it · worry for safety at times · connotation of being an American (woman), the good, bad, amazing, and ugly · fullness in seeing opportunity light up lives · practicing (sometimes choppy) language to connect across experiences · heart open to the spiritual journey (and heart fighting spiritual journey) Friday night ended with a visit to our newest village bank of women, Madre Dolorosa. Outside of town in Nuevo Cajamarca, this amazing group of women joined together to open a cooperative restaurant with their microloans. I really enjoyed hearing them tell their stories of their own vulnerability… once being embarrassed to sell anything and now standing strong as a group who serves daily lunch menu out of their collective restaurant. Desiree is the “madrina” (godmother) of the new space and participated in a blessing for the positive growth of the restaurant; this speaks to me of the trust that women have for her. I held the newest child of the group, Daniella, who must have been less than one year. She smelled like an innocent and pure heart, and made me feel comforted holding her thinking that all over the world, new lives hold that utmost beauty. Just as a week of intense work ended, I looked forward to a pisco sour, the specialty drink of Peru (colorless grape brandy). I was shut down by the country’s “ley seca” (dry law). Who knew! This weekend happened to be the Presidential elections and for 3 full days, not a drop of alcohol could be sold or drank without a steep fine for businesses or jail time to eliminate the violence of political disagreement. Most people took the party to their homes, and I found myself playing a game of indoor soccer with a young teen boy who didn’t know that the women in my family are serious soccer chicks. I’m happy to report— game ended with 2-1, my win (a proud moment and hurt knee from a concrete floor slide tackle)…and an evening of conversation with women about the challenges of being a woman in a very macho society. Nevertheless, the elections made for an intriguing weekend of observation…as any election of a country leader would be. After firework explosions, virgin blessings, and rallies in the streets, the front runner is Ollanta Humala, a left leaning Nationalist party guy and Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori who is now in prison for his corruption against the Peruvian people. Just as we all sit and argue, agree, and wonder…well the same goes ‘round the world. Des and I enjoyed an evening at Usha Usha, a live music jam session where anyone is free to be a part of the musical creation. Melodic harmony brings people from all over the world to experience this place and Don Jaime, the owner and leader jam guitarist is a legend in town (and Lonely Planet). Des and I broke out a couple of our own tunes when they asked us to sing in English. I must say, we did a pretty good rendition of “More than Words” by Extreme (thanks to years of sister harmony in my household). I think we were forgiven for our “Hey Jude”, well at least they didn’t know what we were singing. I am much stronger with the 80’s and memories of the highest hair in the world. I went to the “mall!” today, which didn’t exist here back when I lived here in 2004-06. It is super captivating to watch people see a single escalator for the first time (there is only a single person up ride, not a down). Some of the campesinos (rural farmers) come from far and wide just to see this steel jaw machine! In this warehouse of stores, the place to be on a Sunday…the social energy converges and it is quite a sight to see people ride the metal monster into modernity, and all that it offers (and takes away) just by the mere fact of its existence.) Finally, the weekend punctuated by a perfect trip to the house of our favorite knitting teacher, Charro. Her family “received” me (this is very common here, the entire extended family gathers to say hello, gives you a kiss, watch you). Her crochet work was beautiful and I commissioned her to make me a couple unique pieces for my hippie wardrobe, including a small dress coat-cover that I hope to wear when I marry my incredible friends Haley and Joe on April 23. People here are not used to getting paid for their time…and when I broke out the money for Charro, she literally poured down tears of joy! Her whole family applauded me and asked me to try on all of her pieces so they could take pictures. As any loving gathering ends here, you are always “invited” to have something of theirs, and on this day it was some powder instant coffee that left my heart beating strong and full. Monday brings team strategic planning, and Tues begins the 12 hour bus journey to the high jungle. Vulnerable, and fulfilled in so many ways. Loving you! maggie

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Drops of Inspiration

Under wet and rainy skies, I am inspired by so many things:

Desiree our Program Manager represents DiscoverHope as an active, moving, and kind force.

Every village bank we visit in the field gets a “kiss in” and “kiss out”, that is, every woman connects with us to welcome in Gratitude and again to send off with care. Feeling is creation and quite simply, I am lifted by their feeling. Can you imagine that something so simple as being grateful can completely change your life?

Sharing is paramount…no matter what little resources people have, they greet with something that is a symbol of them: fried dough, hot chocolate, boiled potatoes in cheese sauce, laying a blanket across a dusty bench to sit on. Kindness grows out of everything.

Opportunity creates pride, listening to stories of women and watching the flicker of light come into their eyes is one of the best gifts I’ve personally received from this life work. There is power in a woman who moved from a depressed, debilitated, and beaten person to an animated teacher of crochet for countless numbers of women. In the greenest field so physically far from the coolest city in the world (Austin!), I was talking to a woman sitting on a dirt floor who had never touched a computer a year ago and knew nothing of the “internet”..today she asked me to “Friend” her on Facebook. In my own mental quiet, I know that every difficult moment and every doubt I’ve had sitting in my office staring at pictures of these beautiful women is translated into someone having a magical journey.

And without a doubt, every one of you who makes this possible by being connected, you are in every awesome drop of rain.

When we love, we are using the greatest power in the Universe.

And I gotta say, Love and I have a thing going on…


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Knot of Community.

April 5

Just as the sun peeked above the cloudy blanket of the morning, our plane hovered above Cajamarca Peru, the former Incan Northern stronghold. The arrival into this small mountain town is such a beautiful experience…the landing is done purely by sight as the town is very remote (aka no radar tower, sometimes just cannot happen on extra rainy days). The pattern is always the same: plane circles mountain morning haze and drops into layers of the clouds, one layer at a time…you literally enter the bowl of green and brown patched land sprawling over the expanse below…framed by mountains on every side. It is really glorious and slightly nerve wracking! Desiree our Program Manager and Oswaldo General Manager of our NGO partner greeted me in the early morning hours with a familiar welcome. We laughed on the ride into town about the welcome sensory vista of Cajamarca: flooded broken streets accented with farm animal dung and crisp air washing the fresh day into your lungs.

I slept for two hours to acclimatize to the mountain altitude and get it all together. There is vulnerability in settling into a totally different culture where you are so different from everyone. I usually begin it all with 1) rest 2) shower 3) coffee and 4) plain old remembering through any doubt that WE ARE MEANT TO HAVE AN AMAZING LIFE.

First stop: Hope House. Today’s class was 40+ women who requested crochet lessons from their favorite teacher, Charro. Walking into their Presence is such a refreshing reminder of all of the conversations I have on the US side…to be close to the women and the reason we do what we do. They are gracious and strong. The KNOT of their community in one another’s lives is so apparent. Watching them all settle into their class, I just let myself float away for a second and listen. I heard the ECHO of communion punctuated by laughter, sharing, and advice. Humbled time and time again by the strength of mothers all over the world, I just loved being close to the experience of their agility and determination—toddler wrapped in blanket on the back, young infant in their arms, and somehow crocheting the design with pride and power. Introductions and goodbyes are very ceremonial so the class began with me giving a formal speech of appreciation and ending with a personal shared kiss with every one of the ladies and their kiddos…talk about love amplified! That I get to be in receipt of such power is truly an honor.

Late Day was punctuated by bringing the entire Peruvian staff together for an evening of sharing over Peruvian pizza (aka cheese not familiar to our pizza). The world is a canvas for our imagination…and this was a joyous evening, inviting each person to contribute to how they see the future ownership of the program here. The resourcefulness and intelligence is well and alive in all of them.

Sitting in safety and gratitude. If you feel it, you can receive it! Your goodness is a magnet to all the riches in life.


Monday, April 4, 2011

The Diary of a Journey

April 4th into early am 5th. Sitting in the Lima airport…12.5 hours into the trek. I am in the in-between world of an all-night adventure—my 5:30am flight awaits to take me in the Northern Andes. Seeing the sun rise with the new day’s light over the corridor of icy caps that rise above the cloud line…well, this is indeed a beautiful treat of the first morning flight into the mountains. But first, 4 hours to go…and maybe a one-eye open doze off with my bags wrapped into my arms. Life’s journey is so special. All day I watched incredible people coming and going on their unique paths. I feel so blessed to be an observer of so many unique intersections of life. The awesome part is that we each get the very same gift! Here I am---there you are---here we are. Somewhere in here we get to share a union together. I am constantly changed by this, lifted, built, it’s as if I imagine tiny bursts of light being added into all that I AM—and as we get the chance to observe and gift—we gift the very same way. Example..today I brushed shoulders with Leann Rimes…who was moving through the Houston airport to eventually sing the National Anthem at the NCAA Basketball championship game…and to know that you may have seen her on this evening, wherever you were in the Universe, and that she also had a piece of me by virtue of the gift of passing by and getting a brush of Love. Well, it just confirms for me the connectedness we have. On the plane ride from Houston to Lima I sat next to Hal and Dot, two extraordinary people, nearly 80 years old and traveling to Macchu Picchu to stand in the energy and spirit that engulfs those magical rocks that sit atop a green vista of the world. Hal, once a structural engineer and Dot, once an RN, raised 4 children together and their thirst for experiencing life inspired all of the 6 hour flight for me. 57 years of marriage later I asked them the secret of successful love…they peppered our time together with stories of joy and pride and humor and disagreement and well, quite frankly, a love for one another that you could feel in the very comfort of their inhale and exhale side by side, their conversations a rhythm. Hal joked about the geriatric woman who hit on him at Trader Joe’s and that the secret to being picked up was some sweet spare ribs in your cart. They spoke of the most important times of their years of memories—time with family—this was their golden gem. They told me their last name was Efron and I may know their grandson Zach (hello, hot Hollywood High School Musical now grown up babe?!). We talked lovingly about stardom and its perks, but the tough trade off of just being able to BE. Bottom line, they were such special, intelligent, and grounded people. They reminded me of the spark that we are—that we can literally see and witness in every person and ourselves. What if we knew this to be true all the time? I AM A SPARK! What if we saw every person and every situation as worthy of getting a part of that from us with loving intention. What if we KNEW that was possible for us to get back also. Every time you give this…through feelings, actions, words…you just add more to what’s around you. YOUR FEELINGS REFLECT WHAT YOU ARE GIVING. Enjoy the extraordinary power you have today, Resting with You. Mags