Your Pirate Coach & Inner Peeps.

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Many people ask me what kind of coach I am. I can say life coach, business, relationship or communication facilitator; all those are true.

My latest response is, I’m the Pirate coach. Here to stir up the pot, climb around your spars and rigging and sniff out the treasures. To inspire you to take charge, sail your own ship and make your life an adventure. (Not the cutting off limbs and walk the plank kindJ) I’m unconventional, authentic in all my wildness and a relentless seeker of joy.

When living my dream in Northern Nicaragua, I may show up for coaching in shorts, sun bleached and salty tangled hair, tank top, and my dog. While coaching in other parts of the world and in my Canadian home of Canmore Alberta, I can be in anything from jeans to active wear and a toque (wool hat for those of you outside of our boarders). Or dressed up all fancy if I feel like it.

I’m a meat eating beach bum, surfer, rum drinker and angler, bumping around in my sand filled truck. I eat healthy most of the time, but love beer and a burger after surfing two sessions in the am. I suck at Yoga and traditional meditation but that’s ok. It’s not me. I dance to the sunset blasting my IPod, I walk under the stars at 4:30 am, breathe; ponder my life and the world. I stretch what’s tight, train when the waves are flat or just lay in a hammock and bet on what gecko is going to get the big bug first.

We are all such individual universes. Ones crazy is another’s sane.

We each have our own rituals that heal us and guide us, if we allow ourselves to be all that we are, both light and dark. We continually reinvent ourselves throughout our lives, we change, we grow, and we lick our wounds after hitting the rough sections and hopefully celebrate with utter abandon when we are standing on the hilltops.

While leading group coaching workshops, as well as with private clients, a common theme that almost always arises, is the war with the inner self. The insecurity or the lack of self-worth, the inner negative dialogue, the discontent that sometimes rules our lives. Sometimes it’s the ignoring the dark that bubbles just beneath the surface.

We all have inner voices, an inner team if you will. Call them angel and devil, assign them a color, a name, we have parts of ourselves that make up the whole. Oh how they speak, act, and push you in crazy ways!

This subject has a few names in clinical psychology known as Voice Dialogue, Voice work, or Parts Work. During my first foray into this topic, I found the conversation utterly profound. It has given me tools for governing not only my inner world but I also continually introduce the concept with coaching clients, resulting in very cool self awareness and insight.

Who are your inner people? Do they come to mind right away or does the question make you pause and wonder?

I immediately knew that I have 4 inner people that sail my ship. (This may make you laugh, as I am a 42-year-old woman.) At the head of the helm, for random periods of time, is the Pirate. As you can imagine he can cause a bit of a ruckus. He’s wild and loud, says inappropriate things, and gets me into the occasional pickle. He does not like rules.

Yet he is also the adventurer, the fighter, the inner voice that drives what I call my male “grrrr”. He stood by me through many crazy world travels; he provides raw mental strength, passion and is a risk taker.

I used to be ashamed sometimes of when he was sailing my ship, yet when I looked at all he brings to the table I would never try to push him down, just have a different conversation or utilize him in a different way.

Shoulder to shoulder, I have the 18-year old boy. Needless to say they both get into trouble. This hooligan keeps me youthful, adventurous, a decent surfer and athletic accomplishments come from this part of me.

I have the soul on a holiday, a 5-year-old girl. Life is grand and she is here to savor it all and celebrate every day. Not wanting a plan to follow, just needing to play her life away. Not wanting to tidy up, wash her feet or brush her hair. She is the master de-motivator when work is to be done, as she just wants to have fun. But does she ever bring joy and absolute stoke with everything she does.

Last, I have the wise woman. She brings me quiet grace (although that does not seem to come over me much, as she is usually busy wrangling the other three). She can be vulnerable, self-judging, she is calm and reflective. She is intuitive, has her hands in the earth and is filled with nature and sunlight, but can also be a pain in the ass matron when the rest want to get out or she can be the only tether for acting properly in public. Sometimes she is face down in the dirt with the other three sitting on her back, yowling and cackling and planning an adventure.

My point is this. If we can reflect on our own inner light and dark, accept with love the voices that govern us, feed them or don’t, celebrate all that they bring or take away and then learn to harness what you need from them, so makes the inner war easier.

I have had a few times in my life when the Pirate and 18 year old were taking over. Then I realized I needed more ground, grace, and stability. So I mentally asked them to be my crew, as hey – they are great at that. I put the soul on a holiday and the wise woman at the helm. This helped me reel in a bit of the wild and harness the positive qualities to achieve certain goals in my life.

When I ride my short board surfing and its overhead high, I take the 18-year-old boy and pirate with me. When I ride my long board on a small wave and sunny afternoon, I take the wise woman or the soul. My body moves differently, my language changes, my cloths change. This results in a different experience in my world and in interactions with others.

Leading up to a tough conversation at work or with a loved one, I may take the pirate and the wise woman, for they bring different strengths to the table. One calm and reasonable, one with a strength and fire, who is not going to be pushed around.

Loving and accepting everything within you does not mean you have to accept and never change the dark parts of your personality or never toss the things you want to get rid of, but harness all parts of you, to live a more balanced and self-governed life.

I love hearing what comes up with clients when they ponder their people. Who needs to drive the bus for a while? Who needs some quiet time?

I had my own epiphany recently when a client asked me what the inner people were doing now? I realized for perhaps the first time in my life they all had one hand on the helm and are having a quiet rum together, balanced and all taking part.

Who are your inner people and what strengths or challenges do they bring? How can you use them differently, or put a different one in the drivers seat? What would change for you?

The Return

 

Traveling is sometimes easy and sometimes a complicated dance ranging in varied levels of difficulty. From the minor headaches to the challenges that leave you shaking your head while marching for the nearest beer to slug down, followed very quickly by another one.

Our return south was challenging, yet after a few cold ones and a night panting in front of the fan blowing an inch from our faces it feels as though we had never left!

In our latest stint away from our heart home of Nicaragua, we had been to Canmore Canada, Spokane WA, Cache creek BC, Pennsylvania, New York City, Washington DC, Holland, back to DC to pick up the dog we had left on her own short vacay, threw her on a plane to go south. Dragged ourselves onto our flights and in what felt like the blink of an eye we found ourselves enjoying a rum cocktail while floating on paddle boards on a lake. The setting sun leaving brilliant streaks of pink and gold across the sky, content in the company of lifelong friends.

I keep shaking my head at how time can seem so irrelevant, as well as how much a person can fit in a short period of time if motivated. I enjoy a peaceful morning at the keyboard, savoring the moments while others still sleep. The first few days in a new location have me way too excited to sleep for long. Picture the hyperactive and overexcited five year old that ate too much sugar, minus the meltdowns.

Morning in the historic city of Granada, is filled with tropical birdsong, the breeze off the lake rustles the leaves on the mango trees above. Roosters announce the new day, although I am curious where they actually live, now that I think about it. A massive iguana blinks at me from the roof above, as the dogs pant at me feet; tongues as wide as they can go, and bellies pressed into cool tiles.

Heat and humidity opens the pores wide, allowing a person to sweat profusely from strange places like ones scalp. I recommend a cloth handkerchief or in a pinch a folded piece of paper towel to dab the upper lip and occasionally make a full swipe of the forehead, under the breasts or the classic sternum or belly wipe catching the rivulets making their way to the belt line.

During the acclimation phase little is worn in the home, shirts are off and shade with a bit of a breeze is a coveted piece of real estate.

Time slows down, as it just seems too hot to complete anything at a fast pace. Already I have slid into the lazy flip-flop walking pace of the tropics. Time in town is fun, but the sea murmurs in the back of our minds.

We heed the surfer’s call for the salt on our skin and waves beneath our feet.

Our return to the beach is filled with warm smiles, and many days of bumping down the dusty back roads at 5 kms an hour to greet old friends after almost 9 months away.

For the first time we truly feel home. All errands that used to be arduous due to lack of translation, extreme heat, and figuring out the ropes, now are performed as old pros.

We know where to go, how to keep cool, how to negotiate the chaotic streets in the city filled with bike taxis, horse and cart, and a plethora of wild dogs and people.

We retrieve our stored car, that although has a coating of dust and bird droppings, needs air in the tires and new paperwork, runs like a dream, and has us mobile once more.

Coquita Muneca, our Nica dog/world traveller, has arrived safe and sound and has slotted into beach life with few hitches. She has quickly learned the ropes of how to guard the house, fit in with the other dog packs in the area and has become a swimming fiend; a fun way to cool off in the afternoons.

Our own adaptation is to the surfer’s life. Needing to drop Canadian winter weight and go through the beat up feeling of the first two weeks, groaning with exhausted shoulders, sore ribs and taking lots of siestas.

As I wander down the beach in the early morning light, Coco chasing pigs and horses, I am mesmerized by the artistic hand of the tide. The sea is a master at sculpting sand twice a day on the endless beach. The San Cristobal volcano commands the horizon, salt and pepper smells of the tropics mingle with the ever present smoke in the air of burning cane fields. We are home.

SUP Rio San Juan, Nicaragua

 

There is nothing I love more than an adventure on the horizon, off the popular travel paths, and into the somewhat unknown and this fit precisely that description.

While bouncing down a dirt road in Northern Nicaragua, we hit a patch of cellular connection, and a text pinged on my phone.

“Hey, how are you guys? Want to SUP paddle the Rio San Juan next week?“

Grinning I read it allowed to my husband EJ. As cell service dropped once more, we pulled up to the beach and went for a surf, with the text rolling around in our minds.

Once back to our place we pulled out the lonely planet Nicaragua book, and got online to search facts about the river. This was to be one of those epic trips of a lifetime.

The Rio San Juan is 192.06 km of majestic chocolate colored river, flowing east from Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean coast. Draped with virgin rainforest it winds between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, defining the southern border of the Indio Maize Biologic Reserve.

Not only was the river used to access the Pacific to join the California gold rush, pirates like Captain Henry Morgan paddled up the river in the cloak of night to plunder the riches of Granada. The river was one of the proposed locations for the grand canal connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. Rusted dredging equipment still looms out of brackish waters in the Caribbean.

Scott and Gea Schmid are the incredible owners of Livit Water, a stand up paddleboard and tour company operating out of Granada. Scott had been eyeing the river for a while,  and wanted to do some recon for future trips with Livit, as well as to potentially be the first person to SUP paddle the entire river. Kayak tours were becoming a bit more popular, yet no one was operating stand up tours in that area.

With the arrival of his brothers in the country and EJ and I in the north, the time was ripe for an adventure with the perfect crew. Aside from Scott and Gea, our minimal paddle experience did not deter us from thoughts of a grand river journey.

Scott and Gea hired two local guides, whose river and animal knowledge was fantastic. Their smiles, humor, and quiet wisdom of their land left us feeling in excellent hands. They organized a support boat to hold all our camping gear, and to offer a fun place to take breaks.

After a flurry of prepping and packing, we found ourselves pushing off into the dawn, filled with a sense of excitement and nervy unknowns. The initial hours of waking up new muscles and figuring out bathroom maneuvers while floating, left us each found our own style and flow.

Travel speed, ability, and proposed destination each night had to be thought of beforehand to ensure adequate supplies and a comfortable place to sleep.

Journal – Rio San Juan,

As we pulled a hard left across the current, floating off a bank draped with vines and bamboo, I hear my husband yelling “We get to camp here?”

 With a mischievous nod and grin from our local guides, we begin hauling paddleboards up a muddy path, stepping into a bamboo island paradise.

 Abandoned between river and dense growth above, sat the remains of one of Vanderbilt’s river steamboats from the California gold rush era. On the other side sat a bamboo cook shack with benches and fire pit. Surrounded by endless jungle and river, we settled into our new routine of setting up camp.

 After a homemade pesto and noodle feast, we sipped on Nicaraguan rum, as I read “The Pirates Code” in both English and Spanish for our mixed crew. I gaze around at laughing faces shimmering in firelight, and shake my head in wonder. Once again I find myself on an adventure of a lifetime.

 After waking to brewing coffee and egg burritos, we pack up in the early morning mist, the excitement of the unknown has me bouncing and like every day I wonder what amazing things will show up around each turn of the river.

 

The variety of accommodation led us to enjoy the unknown of each evening. Our first afternoon found us a boat-access hotel, complete with a trained chef from Managua; an absolute blessing after a long first day. From our remote island campsite and a homestay with a Costa Rican artist, to cooking on the steps of a riverside immigration building while chattering about our daily adventures.

The river itself had a variety of moods. Fast water shooting through narrow channels between small lush islands, to sluggish and wind blown sections where the paddling was with few words and gritted teeth. A rodeo ride through the rapids of El Castillo left us soaking and laughing, with the stone garrison built in 1673 perched above our sodden exploits.

Scott and EJ decided from the beginning they would attempt to paddle the entire river from start to finish. Stopping the support boat or pulling ashore to eat, they longingly eyed the rest of us getting an easy tow for a break or playing cards and listening to music as the river slipped by.

Gea and I took on cooking duties; straddling atop our stacked boards after a few hours of paddling we prepared sandwiches and easy snacks to pass from the boat. Ryan and Kevin had varying days on the river, sometimes pushing hard with Scott and EJ, or joining us for laugh.

Land slid by us with cows staring from green riverside pastures, scarlet Macaws squawked overhead, and toucans perched high in old growth treetops. Spider monkeys swung through the canopy, while howler monkeys’ deep throated calling echoed through misty forest.

Bubbles on the water or splashes from the banks reminded us of the crocodiles living in the area, yet the odd tail or quick view before they slid out of sight was thankfully as close as we got to the beautiful prehistoric creatures.

Dense jungle gave way to marshy river delta; narrow alleys of water lazily wound through verdant grasses. Our final day was a blur until we could hear the surf pounding on Caribbean shores and together we passed the finish line as the Rio San Juan met the sea.

Greytown was met with dirty taped body parts and hoots of triumph. Slumping into plastic chairs, cold beer slipped down our throats as we shared favorite moments and personal challenges. With a fried fish meal and a night out at the local bar we crashed into the deep sleep of the accomplished.

The boat ride back up river was a slow reflective journey, retracing our memories from beneath improvised sunshades. Five days on the river suddenly felt too short; all agreed we could have continued on a longer trip, as a map of Nicaragua spread across our boards, dreams of other river adventures already formed in our minds.

Poste Restante

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“Poste restante (French: post remaining) or general delivery is a service where the post office holds mail until the recipient calls for it. It is a common destination for mail for people who are visiting a particular location and have no need, or no way, of having mail delivered directly to their place of residence at that time.”

The traveler’s road can be a lonely one at times, yet one of the most romantic and interesting memories I have about staying connected is “Poste Restante.” Before the age of Internet and the technological birth of cyber cafes that now can be found in the most obscure places in the world, letters fluttered their way around the world. I love finding old journals with pages I wrote to my parents, filled with drawings and chicken scratches and stains from coffee shops or sand from attempting to write from a wind blown beach. Pressed flowers, and worn folds speaking of another untold tale.

In so many countries I have wandered to the nearest post office to collect a handful of gifts in those small packets of worn pages. Love and stories sent from family and friends that were written and mailed all over the world.

My most profound poste restante memory was from the isolated islands of “Les îles Marquises” in the South Pacific. I had embarked on yet another random journey, this one with a charismatic one armed captain, sailing from San Diego to French Polynesia. We had been at sea for twenty-four days, following the trade winds on one of the most classic crossings of the greatest seafarers in the world.

After weeks of living by the rhythms of the ocean, I remember beginning to see an increase of birds. Not just long distance flying albatross but great frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. When along the wind came the smell of soil, rich and pungent, salt and pepper smells of the tropics.

There is nothing quite comparable to the excitement of a sailor that has been to sea for weeks on end, quivering with the anticipation of setting eyes and feet on a new land.

Dark blue depths gave way to turquoise shoals, as the island of Fatu Hiva rose out of the horizon like the back of a giant sea turtle. Binoculars were pulled out, charts consulted and anticipation grew as we passed by Tahuata, to enter the main anchorage of Hiva Oa. With a surreal feeling enveloping our minds and giant grins upon our faces we pulled into a new port that harbored a rag tag congregation of seafarers. We maneuvered through the bay to eventually drop anchor with greetings and waves from other nut brown and wind blown souls.

From shore paddled smiling islanders with boats filled with exotic fruit, vying for a new sale, or the potential to trade goods with the newly arrived.

Our crew cleaned ourselves up, smiling with the novelty of putting on actual cloths and shoes to travel to shore, wobbly legs staggering upon the shore. After restocking our supplies, refueling, and water as well as the search for parts to complete repairs needed after a long crossing, we finally made the walk into the heart of town, and to the post office.

It was a small building of brick painted white and green, with simple windows and a carved wooden door. Inside at each booth were bundles of the most fragrant and tropical cluster I have ever smelled. It turned out to be a regular hair dressing of local Marquesian woman. A core of a pineapple rolled in sandalwood, and speared with small thin sticks were exotic local flowers of Tiare and Frangipani and pods of vanilla. The combined scent was like nothing I have ever smelled in my life.

In a daze I walked up to the smiling woman behind the counter, giving my name and requesting in rusty French for any letters addressed to me. To my utter amazement I was passed 3 worn letters. Two were from Canada and one from Australia. It blew my mind that these small pieces of paper had made their way so far, to such a remote spot for me to collect. It was like receiving a prize of jewels, the gift of communication from loved ones so far away.

When I think today of email, cell phones, and internet cafes, I am conflicted with feelings. The loss of a romantic age of communication, and the simplistic joy of a handwritten note, and the opposite sense of instant connection and ease of staying in touch. It inspires me to sit down and write a few letters to friends of old, scattered around the far reaches of the globe.

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The calling

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As Mother Nature paints the land a change of shade; swaths of color sweeping up the flanks of our mountainsides, my world becomes utterly surreal.

I wade among tall grasses turning cinnabar and amber, my open palms stroking tips along with the wind. Searing cobalt sky frames golden Aspen leaves; they dance with the same music as the surrounding land.

It calls to me.

Catching my attention and softening my gaze, my adventurous heart aches and my soul yearns.

I have always left in the fall; it was my pattern for years. Playing in nature, long days filled with sunlight. Yet as the land yawns, and prepares for winter, I can almost smell the sea 1000 miles away. I can hear palms rustling instead of pines creaking, and distant shores murmur just beyond the horizon.

Instead of cozying up with soup and a book, I long to shed all my belongings except my dog and a backpack filled with music.

To shoulder my fond memories, and wrap love around my heart, I will smile with the freedom of an open road.

BC Postcard

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After perusing the internet for information on a local hike, I found great directions to “The driest grasslands park in BC.” Elephant Hill Provincial Park.

Leaving my truck behind an electrical station and graffiti sprayed water tank, I re-read the directions of the trail on my I Phone. They are surprisingly good, and I make my way up a gravelly drainage that is achingly dry and full of cactus. My young dog picks her way around the clumps of spikes, as I listen for the telltale warning of a rattlesnake, that I do not wish her or myself to encounter.

A winding trail through scrub, leads me through a fallen part of barbed wire fence, climbing steeply to a summit peak revealing a 360 degree view of the area. With a warm wind and sun on my face, I feel so fortunate to have a curious spirit that takes me to so many random places on the planet.

Descending through tumbleweed and desert blooms, I imagine the rugged days gone by of the BC Gold Rush era. In my mind the classic western movie soundtrack plays from “The good the bad and the ugly” and a grin spreads across my face.

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Nica life. Sometimes for us “ex-pats” it’s a bit complicated.

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Stop signs and no street names in Chinandega (our closest city). Complicated. Locals who grew up there know where the stolen stop signs used to be, or what street is what. The rest of us have to have a hair raising guess as carts being pulled by horses, sugar cane trucks, taxis, took-tooks, dogs and locals giving you the finger wag of “wrong choice” make you second guess any decision you were about to make.

Or when you have super explosive diaharea belly and need to find a bathroom that is not a plastic wall in front of a bunch of people at a bus stop, soccer game, or in a bikini at the beach. This situation often leads to jumping over barbwire fences and hiding behind a cow, tree or just your own self-disgust.

Internet or cell phone function. Always complicated. Everything is pay as you go or “saldo” that can be sold at any grass roof, mud hut with a sign outside. Often includes pigs, chickens, and smiling yet slang speaking locals, who are a bit challenging to understand. Then you have to send in a text or sms, all with different terms of conditions. So you send 10 different texts hoping one will work.

That paired with dust covered, salt encrusted electronics, it’s really a hit or miss. Coming from plugged in North America, and friends who are addicted to Facebook and phones, they wonder why we have dropped off the face of the earth. It also becomes less complicated because we just stop caring. The give a #@!$ factor drops to absolute 0.

Vehicles are another never ending delight. Feels more like owning a money pit boat than a car. Driving washboard at best dirt roads, and sand beaches jars your vehicle parts to a state of loose or fallen off. Driving in our car “Juanita” the other day, we are happily pulling off boards to go for a surf. Suddenly the electronic window does not want to roll up. After pulling off the door panel and wiggling some wires EJ was successful in getting it closed. Yet once returning to our car, now the door would not open. The stereo decides to stop working and just as we get one thing fixed, the windshield wiper falls off mid swipe. All you can do is laugh, give “Juanita” a little pat on the dusty dash and put it on the manana list.

We used to have a saying on surf trips. If you have a job to do it takes 4 days.

Day1 – You think about it

2- You push it to manana

3- Come up with a plan

4- Finally tick it off the list.

Here it’s dragged out to more like a week. I am the queen of making excuses not to go to town for another day, and am willing to gum down a bag of refried beans for dinner not to have to go. Then once you pump your self up and declare to make it fun, you get the Chinandega beat down. Inevitably 3 jobs turn into 8 or 10, and we limp out of town covered in sweat and city grime with our tails between our legs.

All that said, most of our complications are from our own white boy and girl “chele” problem of just not knowing. It takes time to get to know a country, and it’s quirks. To adapt, and learn the way things roll. Just like a Nicaraguan would have to get used to being in Canada or the US.

You either learn to adapt a relaxed attitude or survival is unlikely. All these things are endearments of the passion we have for this country and the adventure of adopting another country to be our home.

And you know what’s not complicated? The wonderful routine in-between the complicated, of wake up, beach walk, surf, eat, surf, nap, go adventuring, eat, sleep. I sign off with that oh so satisfying feeling of having a full fridge (most importantly cheese), and most of our job list done.  The ones not? Refer to the above formula.