so busy.

“Do you run every day?”

“What are you volunteering for now?”

“You’re the busiest person I know.”

Such missives constantly come at me from my pals, and almost always are met with a defensive response. It’s funny: I don’t ever feel too busy. In fact, I feel quite idle, and often. There’s always something to do/read/make/visit/fix/explore/learn/discover. At the same time, I freak out (again, quite often) that there’s never enough time (ah, priorities) to do everything. It’s not just a matter of ticking things off my life’s master list but rather diving into the projects and interests and people with which I am eager to engage. And, it’s not that I can’t sit still. I just prefer to keep moving and gettin’ it done. (Debilitating inertia coupled with serious depression made up a sorry, uncomfortable slice of my former life. Even though I embraced it for what it was – keeping still to save me from myself – I don’t want to repeat that state of affairs. Ever.)

So I put it out there. That was one of the main reasons for moving away from my sleepy little fishbowl on Cali’s Central Coast to get busy, really busy, and connected with more people and projects who are my people and projects, and make it happen. (Whatever it is.) The real challenge is not being able to decide on the myriad of options presented daily in my chosen Pacific Northwestern metropolis. From music to art to lit to sports to community ventures to culinary delights to vast cultural and not-so-cultural pursuits of all sorts, I’ve never had so much freedom of choice. (Or, actually, been bombarded with such a tyranny of choice. Sometimes it’s annoying.)

But I slack, too, spending too much time on the Interwebs and not enough time absorbing that ever-growing stack of New Yorkers. My crack-whore house remodel was projected to take two years, tops – eight years later, I still have just a bare light bulb hanging from the kitchen ceiling. (Keepin’ it real/ghetto). Cool volunteer opps come my way but those that aren’t totally aligned with my core values still manage to sneak into the line up. Too many coffee dates. Too many lunches. People! I want/need to get stuff done, and get itchy from the not doing.

The B-side of this is, of course, that I feel incredibly UNambitious, and often. That feeling usually washes over me upon reading the glossy alumni journal from my elite alma mater. Girls are doing projects across the globe that help, save, invent all to truly make a difference, and do. These are the girls who secured high school summer internships at the UN and now get book deals and exciting jobs upon graduation. Me? I worked in a donut shop (but it’s the Jonathan Gold critically acclaimed SoCal hub for all doughy goodness that is fried and sugared!). Backpacked for weeks at a time. Mowed lawns. Read books. I wasn’t out saving the world, but had a great time, learned some life lessons, enjoyed tremendous freedom. Even though, sometimes I really feel I missed something.

Not missed something missed something. But it baffles me why I didn’t volunteer in those days, or intern at the UN, or start a nonprofit, or work for the rights of others, or dig new trails. I certainly have that drive and have always had that interest/energy. But for some weird reason, I just didn’t have the impetus to make it happen, at least like that, then.

So, I do it now. My life is constructed with balance in mind, a balance that I hope continues to embrace my go for it approach. When I first got to town, I made a pact with myself to do anything for an hour. And, I did. Showed up for events alone (very uncomfortable for someone quite like me), stepped up to boldly engage strangers in conversation (ditto), observed my new environs to get a hit on how I might (best) fit within it. That MO certainly wasn’t a waste of my time – it served me well on many fronts. The current game is to cut away the stuff that truly does waste my time so there’s more energy to spend on the people and projects that matter to me.

I know how I fit in the landscape, at least for now. It’s not taking a Saturday afternoon nap or watching tv, but printing out table toppers for a book release party. I’m tired, or maybe just lazy, and the couch with the dog and the tea and that book look quite inviting, but I know the book release party is gonna be a blast and I’m more excited for the featured author’s time in the spotlight than I am for taking it easy.

Tonight, I’m busy.

so busy.

how i got kicked out of india before i even got on the plane.

They left Saturday without me. To do good. To build a school. To help people. But the people they end up really helping will most likely be those who love Jesus – rather than the kids who just really need to go to school.

I’ve been wanting to shift my travel focus after decades spent having a range of experiences on five of the seven continents (if you’re an American, that’s how we count ’em). Adventure travel? Done it. Ecotourism? Er, maybe. Voluntourism? OK – that’s more like it, though I’m not too keen on the title. I want to volunteer as a way to travel and connect with people, communities, and cultures in a way different than how I have done so in the past. I want to see things from a different vantage point. I want to get busy and get dirty. I want to build, create, and learn, rather than be the teacher or voyeur.

So when two of my fave people told me about their travels with a small group that builds schools primarily in Africa and Southeast Asia, I was super excited about the prospect of joining them. The early spring 2013 build would take the group to a remote (and perhaps dangerous) location outside of Bihar, India. It sounded great. I signed up, got my many, many shots and visas and tickets and gear and excitement, and sent my paperwork and donation $ to the organization.

Always conduct proper research and check your references.

Well, I did. (At least I thought I did my due diligence.) My pals had been on two such build/adventures with the group in previous years, and were close friends with the executive director. While I focused primarily on researching travel in this part of India – researching safety concerns, mostly – my beau actually looked up the two partner organizations on this particular assignment: two wildly religious (Western/Christian/perhaps right of fundamentalist) groups whose web presence scared the hell out of both of us.

I decided to first approach my pals who were going on the trip, too, and see what they knew about the partner orgs. They had told me that the two previous trips had no partners of religious affiliation, and that the host org certainly was secular. It’s common, of course, to partner with groups with a strong connection to the community in which good works are being committed – and those groups are typically churches or those conducting missionary activities. The threat of that didn’t bother me right off the bat, but as the sleuthing continued, the story got weird.

My friend asked the executive director (her trusted college pal) what the affiliation was. He responded with a long-winded email spanning missionary work, doing good work in general, and how it’s important to be tolerant of other peoples, cultures, and religions. Totally skirting the original question, this man in charge insinuated that I might be uncomfortable working alongside Hindis, Buddhists, Muslims. Right. The school we were helping to build would be a government sanctioned school and curriculum, with no religious attachment, but the people with whom we’d be working would be from all over the globe.

We posed the question again. Still, resistance. So, I called him. We had a very brief conversation about the trip, and I instantly felt the need to defend the fact that I am a well-traveled independent person who has worked alongside people of all walks. No novice to operating with diversity here. I offered that I realized that it’s important for small organizations doing work overseas to connect with those who have the connections. I posed my question about the partner orgs again. He didn’t know. The executive director of a very tiny nonprofit organization that has been doing this work for years DID NOT KNOW WITH WHOM HE WAS PARTNERING. But he was going to check.

Six hours later, I got a text informing me that the main partner organization was indeed going to be much more involved that just providing contacts for us in the village in which we’d be volunteering. Included was another comment about how I’m probably not a good fit for this group. (Because I asked a reasonable question?) I still had not bowed out of my spot on the trip but he was pushing me in that direction. Strongly.

Even later, I received another email suggesting that I was not going to be included on this build, but that I could use my “donation” for another trip with them, one that would be more my speed. Also noted was that his newly hired project manager for this build was the son of the founder of the partner organization in question. (Told you the story gets better.) That they were going to be heavily involved with the project. (Really? Quelle surprise.) That even though they don’t refund money (it’s a pricey “donation” to go do good works overseas), they would do everything they could to refund mine. I emailed back that we should talk rather than text or email about such serious decisions, that I was still thinking it through.

He wouldn’t have any of it. I was asked to not attend this trip. I was voted off the island. And it really pissed me off, for a variety of reasons. He ended with a note about agreeing that he and his organization had been transparent about their mission all along. (Which doesn’t even make sense in this context or otherwise, but we’ll come back to this.)

My beau suggested that the guy was lying to me all along. I really hate to believe that about people, but this guy is one who has seven different titles (Dr, PhD, DC) after his name in his email signature so he was suspect from the get-go. There were other annoyances in the communications spanning the many weeks leading up to this pivotal point in our drama. (Did I mention the project manager blasted my passport number and personal details to the other 12 participants in other countries? Awesome.) But the biggie was he avoided answering my original question. To what extent is XX Ministries your partner in this project? It’s not a particularly daunting question. Seems appropriate. So, why avoid it? And why 86 me for asking a perfectly reasonable question? He probably was lying all along.

I waited until I received my returned funds, cashed the check, and considered my forthcoming response. It took some time. He eventually emailed me before I could craft my message, asking for a donation to his org in the amount of my already purchased plane ticket so his small, struggling nonprofit wouldn’t be out that huge sum. They worked so hard on my account.  It was only fair that I not leave them high and dry. (Me, with $1200 worth of rabies and typhoid and other crazy inoculations in my system.)

So, I answered his question. The one about being transparent. Aside from the obvious cautionary focus of my message, I asked that he and his staff of three learn who their partners are and communicate that (and other key information that had been lacking all along) with their volunteers. Then they could attract and retain the volunteers best suited for their projects. His response? That they are all doing such good work for the children, that he knows that volunteers [everyone but me] will continue to support their projects, that it’s so amazing doing this work which is so damn humbling.

You bet it is.

Sea turtle egg saving in Costa Rica, anyone?

floral offerings, india. (, obviously)
floral offerings, india. (, obviously)

PS: My BFF pointed out that my aborted mission to the subcontinent should be called Vish*NO.




how i got kicked out of india before i even got on the plane.


What is home* to you?

An actual place?  A feeling of comfort?  A semblance of family from the people around you?

Do certain smells or sounds or activities trigger that sense – or, just nostalgia or longing?

I’m currently with my oldest friends. We went to preschool together. They are married (to each other); I am not (to anyone). My annual pilgrimage to their love-art-dogs-music-family-friends-laughter filled abode is where I feel most at home (here, and my favorite beach). It’s partially this unpossibly beautiful, comfortable, artistic physical space. It’s partially the light and the sun and the salt air that saturates this particular location. And, it’s most certainly our shared, long-standing history.

We talk all at once, starting and stopping and stuttering and carrying on 17 conversations simultaneously. There are plenty of interruptions and tangents. There is no editing, not even with the kiddo in the room. Sometimes we follow one another around the property. Sometimes we just shout from where we are planted. There is boundless energy and excitement about all sorts of topics – until there isn’t. And then we each retreat to our pjs, our rooms, our own head space only to start up again after a brief pause.

Nothing’s awkward. Nothing’s off limits. Nothing’s boring. Everything’s safe. (Recent statement – backed by blatant and maniacal laughter – in response to the latest family gnar: Isn’t it great? Everyone’s crazy! And: Have I told you this before? [Uh, only two dozen times.] Well, that doesn’t matter. [No. It doesn’t.])

This is home.

The Weller home by the Tumbleweed tiny house company. From:

*also known as Naive Melody.


inspired + intentional: welcome to a new year.

All intentions of writing on the regular start today. (Midway through the new year already. Sheesh.) I was motivated. I am motivated. Inspired! Eager to be intentional and focused and not squander precious time doing what I don’t really want to be doing.

Each year, some pals and I choose a theme (2012 = balance) or brand driver (2011 = make it happen), set goals (make $! find bliss!), and then check in with each other quarterly to see how it’s all progressing. Overall, it’s been a good game, keeping us accountable and connected on a certain level. But this year, I’m focused on the present (more so) rather than all those damn goals that need achievin’.

Just after xmas, I ventured south to sunnier, bluer, more vibrant climes, and since have enjoyed the opportunity to be simply inspired, intentional about my activities, (re)connected with those I admire, and engaged with my landscape with a new perspective. It feels good. It feels better. (Hell, it might get even better so I’m staying put for a spell.)

Hate to break it to ya, but there won’t be any themes or brand promises or values statements in 2013 – those buzzwords are expressly reserved for paying clients. What resonates with me right here, right now is being intentional – without over*thinking (everything). Being committed to what I believe in – sans fanaticism. Offering up a healthy sense of humor and a humor infused sense of self. Getting it done – and getting it done right. Oh, and enjoying the ride.

The first two weeks of this bright and shiny new space have already presented mucho mas more smiles, real conversations, beach walks, adventures in music-art-food, superb views, rave runs, all weathers, trips down nostalgia street, extra puppy time – and all with some of my dearest ones. Lucky me.

So, here we go, 2013. Let ‘er rip!

avocado street gym.

And, by that I (also kinda) mean:

Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. (Thanks, Rumi. Translation: be intentional.)

Do not keep calm and carry on. Put on your big girl panties and sexiest boots and kick some ass. (Thanks, Interwebs + Riot Grrrrls.)

inspired + intentional: welcome to a new year.