Connection

I started beading when traveling through Mexico on annual surf trips, in my twenties.

I would drag around a bag of beads, pulling them out at a table in a restaurant, knowing that within a short period of time, local women would begin to hover at a distance, to check out all the pretty colors.

I would invite them to sit and make something. It was such a great way to meet people and learn Spanish at the time.

Decades later not much has changed. I love to pull out the bead bag and make a little something for me, that I inevitably seem to give away, but watch what other’s create as we chat around a table.

Summer at the lake has stepped it up a notch. Every week I now stock up the bracelet stash, with the hope I will meet someone lovely to give one to.

It is a way for me to give a random joyful gift that might make someone feel happy or special. They are conversation starters and small twinkling reminders of time well spent laughing, having heart talks, or being present to the special moments together.

With each bracelet I make, I wonder who will claim it, who I made it for? What future conversations will come from it?

It is a way for me to share connection, friendship and love.

You never know who will come into your life at any given moment. If you come into mine, know I’m ready and waiting with anticipation.

Xoxox V

The random FaceTime

Covid was an interesting time for some and devastating for others, but some gifts came out of it too. More time with loved ones, changes of routine and ways of working and communicating. And thank goodness for FaceTime.

My husband and I would have such great FaceTime coffee or happy hour chats with friends all over the world. And this has become a wonderful way of connecting still.

It puts such a huge smile on my face when random friends video call out of the blue. The planet seems smaller and friendships and family connections thrive.

I know I can be a big part of my family’s life, to see what they are doing and share their life even though we are countries away.

Who will you FaceTime this weekend?

Xoxox Vanessa

The Contrast

The perception versus reality.

We all have life challenges. In times of social media, sometimes we forget that below all the pictures of people doing fun things or looking healthy, there is another story unfolding.

Sometimes they are small speed bumps, other times a complete shift of reality.

Severe chronic migraines are my current life challenge, that remind me to always have empathy for what other people are going through.

This winter was one of the hardest in my life with 75% of my days in bed due to crazy weather.

With more stable weather in the summer months, I have some reprieve, to play and do the things I love.

My life has changed significantly of the things I can and cannot do.

For all of you out there going through a hard time, I’m sending a massive hug and a gentle reminder that this too shall pass and if it does not, you have to power to adapt and make the new reality one that fills your heart and soul.

Thankfully, life is full of wonderful surprises waiting for us just around the corner.

Xoxox Vanessa

Fog Rising Off Water

Pg 240 out of the compilation book Ordinary Oneness ~ The Simplicity Of Everyday Love, Grace & Hope

getbook.at/OrdinaryOneness

By nature, I’m that bounce out of bed, irritatingly happy morning person. So when my husband or family see me stagger to the freezer for another icepack, puffy-eyed and hair in disarray, they know I am deep in the migraine hole. It is a hazy landscape filled with the murmur of missed audiobook chapters, toast for nausea, and long hours of zero thought, with my head in a vice.

Severe chronic migraines are the legacy of a case of the mosquito disease Zika gone awry, giving me encephalitis. Now with weather pressure changes, I am curled up in a dark room. Winters in North America are tough.

Yet, as I slowly climb out of a multi-day attack, I feel reborn to the world. My senses return, the cobwebs in my mind slowly dissipate like fog rising off water. I blink like an owlet, gazing around in wonder, rolling wrists and ankles, each creaky joint stiff from lying in bed so long.

Seeking comfort, my hand reaches out for my dog’s rump to lay in a perfect divot on her thigh. She studies me with concerned eyes and a wagging tail. Is it time? She seems to ask with hope brimming in her gaze. “Yes my pup, it’s time.” Tea first, then walk and sniff the wind, listen to music and feel the sun on our faces.

She can sense my energy. A burble, rising like a geyser, the need to burst out into the world after days entangled in a cotton sheet cocoon.

Her full name is Coquita Muneca Flores Mendes (Coco for short.) Our Nicaraguan beach mutt, born under a satellite dish, at a surf spot. She was a gift from the caretaker and perhaps one of the most important gifts I have ever received. I dreamt her to me at the perfect time in my life.

She was two when I fell sick and incredibly smart. After working with a service dog trainer to teach her to alert me when a migraine is pending, she has become my constant companion, my extra limb. Coco is forever nosing me to put down the phone, close the computer and be present in the moment. She is my reminder to get outside and play, to savor moments, and go look at the world with curiosity.

Grinning at me with her tongue lolling, we leave the house, walking across our yard to the shorn cornfields, winter smells upon the wind. We follow a farmer’s dirt track and wind our way up a rolling hill. Poking our noses in large burrows of unseen forest creatures, their homes built in tree and rock islands floating in a sea of grass.

With the sun upon my face and arms wide with palms to the sky, I take in the light and clean crisp air, open space to unfurl my heart and mind. I close my eyes, as one of my favorite songs begins to play in my earbuds. I feel blessed to have the ability to travel in my mind through music, especially when challenged by current health circumstances, a pandemic, and an unknown future.

The song is one I listen to almost every day in our heart home of Nicaragua, the chosen country we spend our time in, between work contracts. While my body stands in a field in central Pennsylvania, my mind is instantly standing on our beach.

My heart wrenches, but a wide smile spreads across my face. I imagine my feet in the cool morning sand, the warm tide washing up around my ankles, as my feet sink deeper. I taste the salt on my tongue, the salt and pepper smells of the tropics fill the humid air, a hint of flowers mixed with the smoke of burning cane fields.

I do a slow twirl, and I can see the glassy molten colors of dawn on the sea. A flock of pelicans skim in flight only a meter above the waves, wingtips almost graze the water as they glide so silently, searching for breakfast just below the surface.

I look down once more at the beautiful ripples in the sand at low tide, colorful ribbons of light and shadow. Hidden sand dollars bubble from just beneath, sunken just out of sight from hunting egrets and sandpipers. Artistic patterns cover the beach as the small crabs have excavated balls of sand from their holes, pushed out in spreading swirls to create endless unique designs.

Coco runs gleefully, chasing the small fish stuck in the tide pools, her tail whipping back and forth, triangle ears so erect, her concentration focused. Her dog pack of friends rush down the beach to gather her for a chase of the horses feeding in the neighbors’ field, they run and leap, rolling and tussling as they chase each other back through the shoreline. A perfect symphony of colors and sounds wrap me in the beginning of a new day. Tears run down my cheeks, as my soul longs desperately for the sea.

I open my eyes, somewhat shocked to know we are back standing in the field, winter chill ca-ressing my face. With a deep breath and slow sigh, I acknowledge the heaviness and grief for the fight I will be up against this winter, never knowing when multiple days will be lost in a week. My body feels rather haggard and beat up as the migraine hangover still clings.

Gone are the pain-free summer days filled with exploding energy and a clear mind. Once a year I allow myself a good ugly cry and cling to Coco. This year it was sobbing in a parking lot and then over dinner where my incredible and steadfast husband held my hands, love brimming in his eyes, while he gave me a good old pep talk. A new day dawned, I pulled up my big girl pants and very quickly counted all the blessings in my life, with the new motto of two words. Just try.

With that thought, we continue our walk as a red-tailed hawk leaps silently from a branch above. We study her flight path, as she glides out to circle over the field. I wonder what she sees with her luminous sharp eyes, what she hears creeping in the grass below?

Coco snuffles in holes and tears by me at top speed, with a stick she throws excitedly in the air. She wears her bright orange vest, as deer hunting rifle season is in full swing. It matches the or-ange wool hat of mine, to make sure we are seen from hidden tree stands in the bordering woods.

As we return home, I play catch up on life. Laundry and house cleaning, working on a writing project and the steps to return to online coaching work. I realize creativity and patience will be needed to somehow execute these with the challenges of this current reality.

I have begun a practice of “fluid discipline.” A list of things to get done in a day, week, or month, sits on my table to peck away at, when possible. Today, however, there is a deep need within me to play hooky from it all and go fly fishing.

With gear quickly thrown in the truck, Coco assumes her co-pilot position in the front seat. As thoughts roll by with the passing landscape, I reflect on how much our current life is a vast change from our ice and rock climbing days of living in the Canadian Rockies. After beating up my body in both work and play, I sought new ways to get outside, with fewer injuries.

Our first year in Pennsylvania, Coco and I were exploring a hiking trail near a beautiful stream. Two gentlemen sat behind their vehicles in the parking lot, chatting in camp chairs while sipping a morning coffee. After assembling their fly fishing gear, they split up to their own secret pools on the water. When we returned to my truck a few hours later, they were back in their chairs sporting wide grins and a beer in hand. I thought to myself, when I retire, this will be my sport.

Very quickly that changed to, why wait? My body pleaded for a new activity that would lead me into the outdoors, to explore new terrain and water, without the expense of hurting my body.

Pulling up the truck to my first choice of river access, we find the parking lot empty. Giving Coco a scratch and the stay command, she curls up in a sunbeam on the front seat, as she casts me a rather unimpressed look. Fishing is her favorite sport, but at this particular spot she will scare the fish away with her energetic minnow hunting on the edge of the stream.

Setting up my gear is intentionally slow, as I smirk to myself chanting my fishing mantra. Take your time, tie good knots, crimp your hooks, breathe. An impish grin spreads across my face as I pull on waders and boots, what I call my fun pants, as they remind me of being a kid, pulling on a snowsuit to roll around in a fresh snowfall. Wading into the stream brings equally calm and anticipation.

A landscape shimmers with possibility and the gifts of nature. A doe stares from between the trees on the far shore, flicking her tail, before silently vanishing into the woods. An eagle circles high above in the searing blue sky as tiny midges flit in sunbeams, a hint of how I may entice the sleek shadowy creatures below. I sing to the fish, send prayers down the river to my friends across the sea, it is river meditation at its finest.

Yet as any angler knows, the zen moments on a river are finite. It is a roller coaster of emotions mixed with the exasperation of tangled lines, of sneaky trees that snag line and fly, and the utter frustration of seeing fish appear just below the surface and the lack of the correct fly or knowledge to land it.

All my vexation is worth it in the glorious moment it all comes together. To set the hook, let it play, and bring it close enough to scoop the most beautiful fish in the world into my net. With wet hands, I quickly take out the hook to admire its stunning colors. Each fish so incredibly unique in color and pattern. From sunset-colored streaked sides to leopard spots, or skin swathed in orange and green. What a gift to watch it powerfully swim back into the shadows, immediately hidden by its perfectly shaded body.

Anyone within hearing distance will know when I have landed a fish, my loud hooting and happy dance on the river is inevitable.

Content with a day outside, Coco and I make our way home smelling of the wild and water. I ponder the gifts that an illness or injury can bring. The inevitable life balance of light and dark, of struggle and peace.

For this effervescent woman, I am forced to rest my body. To make the absolute most of my days when not in bed. To have deep empathy for others dealing with their own struggle, and feeling so blessed with a warm house, bed, supportive husband, and furry companion. Such deep gratitude fills my heart for the love of friends and family.

We arrive home for a quiet dinner with my husband and some cards. This simple day leaves me content, full of prayers for clear skies, and with patience and diligence we will find a cure sometime in the future.

For now, I can dream of beautiful trout, the sun on the water, the quiet forest, and birds soaring above in a wide and open sky. 

getbook.at/OrdinaryOneness

Ordinary Oneness – The simplicity of everyday love, grace and hope.

2 days until launch day for a new book collaboration I am in – Ordinary Oneness – The simplicity of everyday love, grace, and hope. I feel so honored to be a part of these books sharing stories of life in all its craziness. My story is on page 240- “Fog Rising Off Water”

Check it out 🙂xoxoxogetbook.at/OrdinaryOneness

Just Try.

My mantra of 2021 is “Just Try.”

We all go through the wild ride of life with unforeseen ups and downs, which can be short bumps in the road or life changing ones.

I  have returned to the coaching and personal training world, with a new challenge.

4 years ago, a mosquito disease took an unforeseen turn in my system, giving me encephalitis and leaving me with severe chronic migraines with weather pressure changes. Normally we are running to our southern home of Nicaragua, for sunshine and warm seas in between work contracts, during winter months.

There, I feel in my power with a clear mind and fired up pain-free body. North American winters are tough for me, with 50-75 % of my days and months in bed.

Yet when I rise out of the migraine fog, I am so excited for everything life has to offer. I want so deeply to move, connect, share, to write, work and to go fly fishing.

I have a list of things I want to get done in a day, week or month. Sometimes I can do one and not the five others. I cycle through them, focusing on ticking off what I can, rather than not. Somehow, it all keeps moving forward, albeit slowly.

With Covid, we are hunkered down and feeling very thankful for my husband’s work. For myself, it was the first year I thought, “Just Try.” The pull to return to my career specialties as well as writing, were tugging on my soul.

For most of my adult life I worked for myself, creating my brand and voice. When younger, I thought I had to conform to the mold dictated by society. As the years passed, I realized that I had the amazing ability and choice to do things my way. With heart, authenticity, and pure stoke.

With speaking my current health challenge, having a clear conversation of expectations, and giving my 100% when at full capacity, I have had glowing support. What I thought would deter clients, has instead shown them that we all have stumbling blocks. How we navigate them and create a new path, is what counts.

So here I am showing up with a fueled heart, ready to share the joy. I am so thankful that it still overflows through tough times.

Big love to you all going through mega life challenges. The sun will rise, the seasons will change, and a new horizon is waiting. Just try.

Mexican road trips & Goals

Driving a 1000 miles of Mexican coastline surfing and looking for land was a pretty cool memory of why I really began goal setting.

My husband had joined a real estate network that was a mentoring group on how to buy and manage rental properties. When he originally got into it, I was uninterested, and thought “Your thing not mine.” So he quietly went to meetings once a month. He went to a weekend seminar where you learn all the basics and as he jokingly said to “Drink their “Kool-aid.” He bought his first property and I had no idea where it was.

During one of our trips south we found ourselves driving long and dusty miles. With content, surfed-out bodies, he would put in CD’s that were a recording of the weekend seminar he had originally taken. Some of it was boring, other subjects got my attention so much that I had to pause and talk about it.

By the time we returned to Canada I joined the real estate group and we bought two more properties.

One of the best practices I got out of it was you had to write down what you needed for the month, what you wanted to accomplish in a doable and attainable list. Then you had an accountability partner that would check-in and keep you on track.

My husband and I began to use the same practice in our marriage. We would have awesome hot tub meetings, drinking wine, and ask each other “What do you need this month?” It might be simple things like needing a night out with the girls or to work more hours on a writing project. It might be a boys trip or to finish repairs on a property.

The lesson was this. We became very, very productive at attaining our goals. This grew and grew, and we are currently living a crazy life that we could have never dreamed up. It has morphed from the original vision and always is evolving, but we keep our fingers on the pulse of our lives and it works.

Of course goal setting is a huge part of the coaching I do in my career now. How do you know what to do, if you don’t know what you want?

Clarify what it is and how you might get there. Maybe you know exactly what you want but get stuck in the overwhelming list of things to do.  A coach can create a space for you to figure out your priorities, hone in on the exact path, and keep you accountable for small actions; the baby steps that move you forward every single day.

Maybe a coach is not right for you, and that’s ok, but I beg you to be relentless in creating what you want. Some people get caught on the treadmill of reacting to life coming their way, rather than purposefully and methodically designing it.

Whatever the dream is, it’s desperatly calling you to live it!

Masked hugs and elbow bumps, Vanessa

Of rain and re-birth.

~ This one is for the Migraine Warriors.

Oh, how I used to adore the rain. 

Lush, northern, west-coast rainforest. Cloaked in mist and deep peaty smells. Fiddleheads and towering Douglas Fir. Raincoats and boots, exploring and sniffing.

Topical downpours gushing down massive canopies, rivulets off banana leaves, and flower petals. Warm and wet, filling flip-flops, as we squealed into a restaurant, hand in hand, to watch old movies on a wall and drink warm beer.

Torrential sheets, streaming from a towering thunderhead, washing over my upturned face, pouring down arms and out-turned hands. Standing on the bow of a sailboat, adrift on the equator, covered in soap and tears, screaming and dancing, for a deluge from the heavens.

Hurricane rain, slashing sideways on the windows, and running down the walls from window-seams, as we giggle at midnight. Throwing towels on the floor to stop our bedroom from flooding, as the dog barks and chases her tail on the bed, in sheer joy.

Quiet sprinkles on fall leaves, eyes twinkling, waist-deep in a river. Singing made up songs to entice the trout to my fly.

Howling and heckling with you, as massive drops bounce off the surface of the sea. We surf with close friends as warm waves roll in, ocean warmer than air, hazy mist in our own dream.

The first rain in 6 months, massive tears from heaven hitting the gasping land, hidden plants shuddering with joy. Running naked in the dark, to dance on the beach, celebrating the break of the drought. The land drinking feverishly.

These days I sigh, as I check the forecast, rain looming on the horizon. 

My spirit collapses inward, as the vice grows tighter. Heart pulsing in my throat, stomach heaving. Long restless nights, ice pack deliveries, blurry eyes, and low light movies, half-watched, with one eye open. 

Murmuring in my ear, books on repeat, as I miss chapters. Mind slow as molasses. The dog curled butt to butt, with propped head and worried eyes.

Body stiff and sore with no movement. Loving texts, message check-ins. Mind full of clouds, no thoughts, just breath. We all wait. 

Then I roll over and begin to stretch, and hope. I walk through memories or the previous world of taste and smells. My mind slowly bubbles to the surface of a glowing new world.  I dream of movement and air searing my lungs with possibility. Of joy and sun and water and clear star-studded skies.

You will know when I am back from my inward journey, eyes aglow, heart afire, for a few more days. 

The Gift

I could not to bed. My mind was buzzing and my heart overflowed with life, joy, the magic of the day, and I desperately needed time to savor the feeling beneath the canopy of stars. 

My husband, exhausted from a busy work week, had crawled into the tent to cuddle with our equally shattered lake dog. I shoved my headphones into my ears, tapped on my selection of celebration heart songs, and wove my way through the flickering firelight of the campground.

I was deeply aware of all the hidden faces, the human stories born in the dark, twirling up into the silky night amongst lightning bugs and the campfire sparks of possibility, like prayers sent into the cosmos.

Kicking off my flip-flops, I padded onto the deserted dock, to dangle my feet in the warm lake of mid-summer. As I craned my neck back, I opened my eyes as wide as they could go, taking in the entire swath of the milky way. A deep and breathtaking ache curled around my heart. Not one of pain but a blissful flittering of the sacred passing moments time, of breathing another day and being alive at that star-studded moment.

As I reflected on the day, I thought of floating in the lake, with my friend. The subject came up of personal miracles and deep life lessons. Those beautiful and unplanned conversations, that sprout from a fertile moment. With glassy water surrounding us and evening light gilding every shadow, I decided to share with her my deeply guarded tale, one I have told only a handful of times in my life.

I was a brash 12-year-old, who had stopped attending church and youth group. I remember helping my mom pull weeds in the garden. She broached the subject and asked that I return to her church. I exclaimed to her over the flower beds, “Mother you can’t tell me what to believe in!” She very graciously swallowed any retort and I never heard another word.

So began the explorative adventure into my personal beliefs, my heart and my mind. Well, let’s be more accurate. It burbled up through the awkward teenage years as I fumbled into changing skin, exploding hormones and learned how to sift through the onslaught of information from a yet to be discovered world.

On the cusp of going to university, I was immediately disillusioned by the walls and rules of the establishment. After my first counselor meeting gone awry, I bought a one-way ticket to Australia on the way home. I was gone for almost 6 years, wandering the globe alone.

A knowing began to bubble to the surface, with each passing mile of coincidence and challenge. Sometimes I’d feel that I had the key to understanding in my hands. Then I would fumble and drop it into the shifting sands of un-discovered or un-realized beliefs.

One day I was surfing in Australia and pondering life. Something caught my eye, a flicker of movement in my periphery. A sea eagle perched on a nearby jetty, was staring directly at me, into what seemed my heart and soul.  

Slamming into my mind was the word “Listen.” I was forced to look away as I ducked through a set of waves and when I surfaced and looked back, the eagle was gone.

A week later, I was running on a deserted beach with a grumbling storm brewing off the coast, the eagle’s word was still tumbling around in my head. “Listen. Listen.”

My mind was as turbulent as the layered horizon, thinking about life, when a thought occurred to me. “What if faith, religion, and spirituality are just things humans make up. What if there is nothing more. You live, you die, you become dirt. There is nothing else.” 

My heart fought back with calm clarity, “I choose a path of wonder and adventure into the deep unknown. It has to be more fulfilling than nothing.”

There was a growing sense of so much more around me, pushing, governing, guiding. Something dramatically painting in the color and magic of my imagination and experience. I abruptly halted, my feet digging in the sand as I looked out to sea . “Listen!” filled my mind once more. 

“Listen! Listen. To all the signs, to my heart, my intuition. Listen to the aching colors of dawn, the wind in the leaves. Listen to what people say and do not say, listen to the words in between. Listen to the sea, the earth, the animals.” 

At that moment, I chose, to believe in something more. Something higher, because I knew, even if it was a dream of the human imagination, I would have a way deeper and more meaningful life, in all my glorious ignorance. 

My heart swelled and with a huge grin on my face, I turned for home and immediately stopped dead in my tracks. My hands flew to my mouth, as the wind sucked into my lungs. A massive sea eagle, flew by my face, around and above my head, in two widening circles. As the bird flew over the tree line, I dropped to my knees and sobbed with my head cradled in shaking hands. 

“I’m listening.”

When I looked up, tears streaming down my face, I hoped to see the eagle again. The majestic bird was gone but not it’s message. I howled with joy as I jumped up and sprinted toward home. The empty beach now wrapped in a curtain of rain. Gasping in sheer awe, before leaving the beach, I reached with hands and eyes to the sky, I whispered, “Thank you.”

When I glanced at my friend, as she bobbed in the lake, she had an odd expression on her face. Breaking  into a grin, she said, “The whole time you were telling your story, dragonflies were landing on your head and shoulders and hovering all around you. When you were done they just, up and flitted away.”

I gaped at my friend in wonder. My Aunt Ruth passed away two falls ago. She was an introverted woman of faith, that was always in our lives, offering guidance or a friendly ear. She loved dragonflies and anytime I see them, I say hello and send her a kiss.  

In the deep night, as I sat on the dock, I thought the dragonflies seemed like another confirmation that she was listening or perhaps approved of me sharing my tale. 

Maybe it was a nod from God, Allah, Mother Earth, whatever you wish. I shared my story with a grin on my face and a calm in my heart as I knew, no-one could take it away. The faith I carry is my own undefined and glorious treasure.

  With a wide smile and eyes twinkling, I said goodnight to the stars as I reached once again toward the heavens to whisper,“ Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

A gift for you?

gift

Finding a personal coach is like finding a hairdresser or massage therapist that rocks your world. It is an individual fit. I am certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but those that can appreciate whacky humor, a lively spirit, and shoot from the hip communication, might be a good match.

Well, I have a gift for two motivated individuals.

2020 has been quite a year so far.

I love the cartoon that is floating around the internet, of a group of people hiding behind a corner, and trying to use a broom to open the door to July.  What the heck will be next? What if you could use this time as a pivot point into the best year of your life?

Many people are experiencing deep personal change or upheaval in their lives. Perhaps you have realized it’s time to take a new direction, but are not sure where to start? Maybe it’s time to add more thought to leadership or how to shift your business to adapt to this blooming change of society? 

I have two spots available for bi-monthly coaching that I want to offer someone in need, that is seeking growth in personal, business, or relationship development. I want to offer these free of charge as a gift for up to 4 sessions. I know so many people are financially strained during this pandemic and it is my way to give back. The only catch is you have to be somewhat flexible with meeting times as I deal with severe chronic migraines, and get hit at random times. If you think you are ready to do the work, fire me an email and tell me what you are looking for. Not ready but know someone that is? Please share. For more about me or what the heck is life coaching – www.stokeyourfire.com

Please note: I am currently EST zone for booking sessions and most weekends away with limited cell service. I will get back to you as soon as I am in range 🙂