Beyond Fear

I never finished sharing my story from Peru. I don’t know why. It slipped away from me.  I fell back into the pattern of my daily life. I got reconsumed by parenting, work, grocery shopping, running, and finding pockets of quiet. The magic I felt in that country stayed inside of me, but I lost it in my day-to-day routine.

Our world is filled with a lot of fear these days. The events that fill our news have always been there, but we have sharpened our focus. The events in Paris have made us all stop and pay attention. In the midst of the terrifying news, I watched a segment where a dad explained the events to his young son. He told him to look at the flowers. The flowers were there to fight the guns. He told him to look at the candles. The candles were there to remember the people. In the simplicity of focusing on the good, I saw the fear physically leave his four-year-old body.

Peru and France are separated by more than six thousand miles, yet my mind keeps wandering to my last day in the Sacred Valley as I watch the world news. Just like the young boy turned to his dad for answers, I am turning to a point in time where the world felt like a celebration.

It was my tenth day in Peru. Homesick and heavy-hearted, I laid in bed wishing I could go home one day early. I had hiked Machu Picchu Mountain. I had explored ruins, ate local food, and stared at the stars. My heart was full, and I missed my family.

A stomach ache sent me to the lobby of my bed and breakfast. I was looking for comfort. Tea harvested from the vegetation in the B&B’s garden cured my stomach, and a conversation with the staff cured my heart. He opened a binder, flipped a few pages, and pointed to a place I needed to visit. I took his advice to find a sacred ruin not too far outside our small community. I would need to find a taxi to take me. Knowing my Spanish is nearly nonexistent, he wrote down instructions on a scrap piece of paper, I took a photo of the place he showed me in his binder, and I set off on my quest. He left me with one piece of advice: when you get there, ask the universe for what you need. The universe already knows what you don’t need, so ask for something that will make you feel whole.

My “street”

Taxis were always lined up in the main square in Ollantaytambo. Step one in my journey would be easy. As I walked down the cobblestone street towards the square, there wasn’t a taxi in sight. When I got to the square, the street that was normally filled with taxis was empty. Not sure of what to do next, I stood there. I stared at my piece of paper, and I stood there. How in the world was I going to find this place now that I was determined to go? I needed to visit this temple. I needed to make an offering to the universe. My soul needed the world to hear it.

A local policeman must have recognized the confusion on my face. He spoke to me in Spanish, and I was more confused. I handed him my piece of paper. He motioned for me to follow him. I followed him away from the square. I followed him down winding local streets. Minutes later I followed him into a local market. Me motioned to a man to join us. In Spanish they discussed something. I assumed he was telling him what I was hoping to do. After many reaffirming gestures, he introduced me to a man and handed him my piece of paper. Hand gestured communication continued. I wanted to go there. He would take me. I got into his personal vehicle with who I assume was his wife and daughter. My adventure began.

As we got further away from town, I started to second guess my decision. Who are these people? Where am I going? Am I crazy? Are they crazy? Fear crept in. I took notice of my surrounding. I made mental reminders of landmarks incase I needed to walk back to my B&B. The river is on my right. The mountains are to my left. As we arrived at a point where the road, railroad tracks, and the river all intersected, he stopped the car and motioned for me to follow him. I grabbed my backpack, and I followed. We followed the railroad tracks for at least a mile before we pushed through shrubs and bushes (avoiding cactus) and made our way up a mountain. The soil was loose. I slipped so many times. My legs were filled with fear. What was I doing? Where was I going?

Can you see it?

As I swallowed my fear, I finally looked up. In front of me was an unassuming temple. I would have walked past it. As I got closer to this temple built into the side of the mountain, I felt it. My eyes might have missed it, but the energy in the air would force anyone to stop.  I was overwhelmed by the peace I felt in the air. My fear melted. I sat in awe of this place that was filled with love and wishes. My questions turned away from fear. Curiosity took over. How many people journeyed to this spot? What were they searching for? How many dreams were offered to this universe? How many of those dreams came true? In that moment, I was the exact same as every person who stood in this exact same spot. Our eyes were the same. We all took in the otherwise unimpressive rock, but our hearts were also the same. We all knew this place was special. Our dreams are all the same.

As I travelled to this place, I knew exactly what I needed. I was going to ask the universe for strength. I wanted to feel strong. I wanted my heart to have courage. I wanted the universe to scoop me up and give me wings. In that moment, I realized I have wings. I have courage. I have strength. I just need to trust it. I need to trust the journey. I need to let go of the fear that causes me to look down instead of up. I simply need to look up. I have everything I needed. In that moment, I was filled gratitude that can not be defined. It was the same gratitude I felt as I stared at the newborn faces of my boys. It was the same gratitude I felt when I realized my husbands hugs made the world disappear. It was the same gratitude I feel when I let my guard down, and I welcome life.

Inside the Temple

I sat on the dirt floor of the temple looking to the valley below me, and I remembered I wasn’t alone. The family the brought me there laughed with each other. They told their daughter a story. They showed her the details of the temple. They searched each corner of the temple, and I sat there. I was paralyzed by my love for the world. I saw love in their faces. I saw gratitude in their interactions. I saw past the blinding fear that took me up the mountain, and I saw a family that is deeply rooted in love.

As we made our way down the mountain back towards the river, I saw a husband and a wife who flirted when their daughter wasn’t looking. I saw a dad who carried his daughter down a mountain on his shoulders. I saw a man who offered me his hand every time I slipped. As we pushed our way through the undergrowth on the mountain side, they motioned for me to stop. The cactus beside us was filled with fruit. Using a leaf as a glove, they pulled the spiking fruit from the cactus. They rolled the fruit around in the dirt to remove the needles. They used their fingernail to split open the shell, and then they offered me fruit on the inside. Hidden behind a guarded plant and thick sick, was one of the most delicious fruits I have ever tasted.










I spent the rest of my day with this family. They took me to local ruins scattered throughout the Sacred Valley. As I walked back down the cobble stone streets towards my Bed and Breakfast, I looked up towards the stars and whispered thank you. I almost spent the entire day in bed missing my family, but instead I found a family who reminded me of everything I need in life. It’s simple. In a community where most people don’t have running water in their homes, I found love and gratitude. In a community where people work hard all day so that they can feed their family, I found spirit and heart.


When Cole asks me if our world is going to war again, this is the story that I tell him. I tell him that our hearts can not be consumed by fear. We can’t stop looking up. We can’t stop feeling. We can’t stop giving our best. We need to see the flowers and the candles. We need to find the fruit inside the cactus plant. We need to offer our hand to someone as they lose their footing while trying to climb a mountain. Paris and Peru are separated by thousands of miles. The United States and Syria and every other country are separated by thousands of miles, but we are all the same. We are all standing on the same soil, staring at the same temple, sending our wishes into the universe. There is ugly in the world. There will always be ugly in the world, but we owe it to ourselves and our communities to see beyond the fear.


Celebrating Running 

Richmond never disappoints. I love this city every single time I visit. This weekend I kicked off Friday with a day date with my husband – enjoying sushi at our favorite spot, walking to Belle Isle, racing up stairs, and visiting a local brewery – before I was joined by my two best running buddies for a girl race weekend. 


Up and Over to Belle Isle

Saturday morning started just how I like it: chilly. We navigated our way to a parking garage, walked a few blocks to the started, took one last bathroom break, and jumped into the race a few corrals behind our scheduled started. No PRs would be chased at this race. It was simply about having fun, feeling confident, and most importantly, welcoming my friend Leah back to the running world after taking a year and a half off to have a baby. 

The race course was gorgeous. The miles flew by. We laughed. We talked. We sang along to music. I may have thrown my fist into the air one too many times. And we crossed the finished line feeling better than when we started. This race will always be a favorite. 


Mastering my running photography skills

As my fall “racing” comes to an ended, I’m filled to the brim with satisfaction. Every race delivered exactly what I needed. Running is fun again, and winter training has some really exciting things in store. My favorite half marathon is waiting to be conquered. PRs are ready to be broken. I’m taking on an exciting new role on the J&A Racing Team (more to come soon!). I’m adding an exciting new strength regiment to my weekly routine. 

I have big dreams for this sport I love so much. I’ve always had big dreams, but now I’m ready to do the work to make it happen. I’m ready to push a little. I’m ready to see what these running legs can do. 


Expanding my Comfort Zone

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarding genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” ~Calvin Coolidge

Today I hit the “submit” button on the registration page of my fourth marathon. On April 9, 2016 I will tackle 26.2 miles again. It will be different this time. This race is like no other race I’ve run before. It will be 26.2 miles of trails along the Potomac River. 

I believe that marathons are filled with magic. I believe marathons are the place where my heart comes to life. 

As I ran the Chicago Marathon, I did something I’ve never been able to do in a race. I stayed positive. What could easily be considered a terrible race considering my marathon history and my fitness level, I found myself loving every mile. There were a few moments when the negative thoughts tried to creep in. At mile 14, I found myself think not yet. I wasn’t ready to feel so weak just yet. At mile 17, I found myself think I miss my husband. It was the first marathon I didn’t have him cheering on the back half of the course. (Ironically he was at mile 17. He ran all over town to get to that point which was never part of the plan. I never saw him.) At mile 22, I begged my legs to keep going because there was no way I was doing this for another hour. But as quickly as a negative thoughts surfaced – and there were so few in comparison to my training and my race history – I let it go. I welcomed the thought, and I let it pass through me. This marathon was my marathon to own. It was slow in comparison to anything I’ve run before, but my heart stayed a float. 


Missing this city already

The end result of that race was a healed heart, a happy spirit, and a deep desire to do it again. The Chicago Marathon left me hungry for so much more. How can I layer on speed? How can I push myself while keeping my heart engaged? I’m going to attempt to answer these questions this winter. While I have signed up for marathon #4, my goal for winter training is a speedy spring half. 

Marathon #4 won’t be about speed at all. Marathon #4 is about celebrating friendship. (I’ll be running with my best friend!) Marathon #4 is about adding fuel to my dreams. Marathon #4 is about finding the courage and the confidence to push myself out of my comfort zone and embracing the process. 

Winter is my season to shine! I can’t wait to tackle another season of training! 

Finding our balance: miles with Chet while he fishes

Scavenger Hunting

(October 23, 2015 – En Route to San Diego)

As we fly over the Grand Canyon, I know just to the north is a place that holds all of my heart. It is a love story that led us to Utah – a boy and girl fell in love and said “I do.” Two  days after our wedding, we headed to Utah. It was our love that took us there, but it is where we fell deeply in love. It’s where our loved gained roots. It has been our anchor. As I fly out west today, I want to jump out of this plane. I want my bare feet to be covered in red dirt. I want the vastness of the sky. I want the air at the top of the mountain.

Grand Canyon

My plane left Virginia Beach at 6:30am this morning, and I landed in Chicago as the sun was rising. It is a cloudy day in Chicago. As we made our approach into the airport my eyes searched the horizon for the skyline. I rediscovered a piece of my heart hidden in those city streets one week and five days ago. I wanted to see the skyline that pulled me to that finish line. As soon as I accepted that my only vision of Chicago would be the O’Hare airport, the sun escaped the clouds. A spotlight shined down on the city. Where are my running shoes?  Please let me run to that skyline one more time.

The month of October has felt like a scavenger hunt. Perhaps that is why I have been compelled to search the world outside of this flight craving Utah and the streets of Chicago. October has been a quest to find the brightest part of my soul. It started by returning to the town I was born in just north of Chicago. I attended a PQMD Meetinh (Partnership for Quality Medical Donations). Not only did I attend, but I participated. I contributed. On the second day of the meeting, I was asked to present. I came prepared. I had notes and a Powerpoint. I was ready to share my script. When I walked into the meeting, I realized I actually had no clue what I had signed up for. I wasn’t just presenting. I was sitting on a panel to discuss increasing access to healthcare around the world. What I had prepared would be the backbone of a conversation, but it wouldn’t be my script. As I listened to other panelists, I sat in awe of their accomplishments. Soon the microphone was pointed in my direction. In that moment something magical happened. The voice that came out of my mouth was confident. I had something to say. I floated somewhere above myself, and I was gifted one of those rare moments when I actually saw myself. I wasn’t distorted by fear or insecurity. I was the best, most authentic version of myself. I thrived, I was engaged, and I loved it.

I carried this with me onto the streets of Chicago. For 26.2 miles, I was the best, most authentic version of myself. I thrived, I was engaged, and I loved it.

Today I am sitting on a plane heading to San Diego. The scavenger hunt continues. I lived in San Diego for a few years shortly after I was born. More important than my toddler development, I also revisited San Diego as part of the trip with my family when I was twenty-one. It was on that trip that I read about medical volunteers in Cuba. It was after that trip that I put my adult life into action by accepting a proposal that squashed my dreams of returning to Cuba and ultimately lead me down the path of divorce. But it was that trip and all of my actions after that trip that carved out my soul. The last time I visited San Diego, I didn’t have any idea of the gifts I had hiding inside of me.

Fourteen years later, I’m on a plane amazed and grateful for my scattered soul. I’m amazed and grateful that this month has become such a pivotal month in my life. This scavenger hunt is perfectly timed. I’m picking up the pieces of my heart, not because it is broken, but because it is incredibly whole. My heart is complete so there is room for every lost piece I left scattered around the world over the past 35 years.

Sunset on the San Diego Bay

Every moment of life won’t contain the love of Utah. Ever mile won’t be as magnificent as the miles in Chicago. But for the first time, I have the confidence to work through it all. I have the confidence to use my voice, to trust the process, and to work with whatever life brings me.

Over the past 35 years, I’ve spent a lot of time telling myself to “Let it Go.” I needed to. It was a lesson I had to not only learn, but a lesson I had to live. I needed to let go of guilt and burden. I needed to let go of things I couldn’t control. As I complete this scavenger hunt, I’ve started a new chapter. I’ve learned something new about myself. I’m ready to accept wherever this path takes me. Instead of focusing on letting things go, now I want to scream “Let it come”. I’ve opened up my arms and my heart. Welcome life! I’m ready to live it!

Pacific Ocean

Chicago Marathon

Oh Chicago! A normal race recap doesn’t do this race justice because this race wasn’t about racing at all. This race was about heart. From the top of Machu Picchu Mountain in Peru to the finish line in Chicago, Jerry has been telling me that this race was about loving the marathon. I always believed him, but I took creative liberty to define “love” how I choose. At times love meant fast. At times love meant a personal best. At times love meant taking one too many photos on the trails.

After a perfect peptalk, Jerry sent me off to Chicago with one goal: ENJOY THE RACE!

I had a conference just north of Chicago the week prior to the race. Recently Operation Smile was accepted into an organization called PQMD (Partnership for Quality Medical Donations). It is a collaboration of nonprofits and corporates to establish and execute best practices of medical donations around the world. The meeting was filled with amazing people and organizations – people and organizations that are changing the world. I left the meeting on Thursday filled to the top with excitement and passion. It sharpened my focus at work, and gave me clear perspective on what is next. Not at all a bad way to approach marathon weekend.

Christian met me in the city along with a few favorite friends, and the next few days were spent eating, drinking, laughing, and taking in the sights of Chicago.

And then there was the marathon. This was my slowest marathon by far, but it was also my most enjoyable. I took my time. I took in the city. I felt the excitement. I embraced the marathon. It was when I sat back, and allowed myself to flow with the never-ending crowd of runners that I truly understood what Jerry meant when he told me this race was about loving the marathon.

This race was about embracing the marathon.

This race was about embracing myself.

This race was about embracing Chicago.

We left grant park and got pulled to the magnificent mile. I spotted Christian at mile 1.5 (earlier than I expected) and was more than happy to steal a kiss. I couldn’t keep my eyes from looking up. Running between the skyscrapers was amazing. At mile 2.5, I saw Christian again. One more kiss to send me north of the city. It was in the miles that took us north that I allowed my heart to settle. I just wanted to feel the entire race.

I allowed myself to be embraced by groups of runners. I allowed myself to observe the race. I allowed myself to slow down. This race was a constant flow of happiness.

My body started to fatigue around mile 14 (after another hello from Christian). I felt the lack of miles in my training, but my heart stayed happy. I gave myself permission to slow down even more. I checked on runners who looked like they were struggling, I high-fived spectators, and I kept going.

As I ran through one of the 29 neighborhoods, I saw runners in front of a building waving. I looked towards the direction of their hellos. We were running by a nursing home. Every window had a smiling face cheering us on. I waved hello too.

I meet a group of runners from Boston. We chatted about favorite races. They couldn’t stop raving about a race they ran in Virginia: the Harbor Lights Half Marathon directed by J&A Racing (my running coach!). They told me it is the only race they haven’t unsubscribed to emails from because they want to run it again, and he was quick to tell me they never run the same race twice.

As I made my way down through the final miles, I spotted a familiar face, Michele from NYCRunningMama. I only know her because I’m a fan of her blog. I hesitated before I said hello. Maybe I should just keep going? But this contradicted my entire plan to embrace the day. I quickly made my way across the street and introduced myself as a creeper. Before I could even finish my hello, I heard someone else shout my name. Just on the other side of Michele was Jess (from Paceofme) who has become a friend near and dear to my heart. I spent the last few miles catching up and laughing some more.

Before I knew it, the marathon was over. My heart was ten times bigger and 100 times lighter than when I started the race. It’s all still a blur punctuated by some really amazing moments. I can’t stop smiling when I think of this race. I feel so content, happy, and satisfied.

This race and this trip to Chicago brought me back to a place I’ve been chasing for two years. It gave me my love back. I have some really big running goals, and I can’t even begin to express how thankful I am that my running coach recognized exactly what I needed (even when I begged to focus on speed). I needed to slow down. I need to embrace this race. I needed to polish my heart.

Mission accomplished! I finished this race ready to do it all again. I can’t wait to add another layer to my training. The Chicago Marathon just gave me the foundation I needed.

My love of the marathon is back!

The Road to Chicago

Twenty two weeks ago I got the email telling me I was accepted into the Chicago Marathon. One week from today, I will stand at the start line, I will run 26.2 miles, and I will cross the finish line. This training cycle has been everything I expected, it has been everything I didn’t expect, it has surprised me, and it has pushed me. Each week had a life of its own. One week was filled with confidence boosting runs where the numbers on my garmin surprised me. I’ve been amazed by the speed I have found on the boardwalk as the sun rose over the Atlantic ocean. Another week was filled with doubt and questions. I have stopped on that same boardwalk two miles into a long run and cried. I have questioned my own ability and my own strength. My thoughts have consumed me. My body has rebelled. My hip reminds me that I’m asking a lot of my body. The only consistency in this training plan is that I showed up every single day determined to run this race.


Last weekend my mom and I headed to DC. We had a date with Elizabeth Gilbert. She is currently on a book tour that celebrates her newest book Big Magic. The evening started with a reading. I sat in the second row of the historic synagogue with my heart glued to her heart. I had purposely not read one single word of her new book. I wanted it all to be fresh.

Her words were delivered at the exact right moment.

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”   ~Elizabeth Gilbert


Every marathon has it’s own story to tell. More important than the story of the marathon is the story of the hundreds of miles ran to prepare for the start line. There is a jewel buried within each mile.  This training cycle has been riddled with fear. The list is endless. What if I don’t run fast enough? What if my hip doesn’t behave? What if I disappoint my coach? What if I just can’t do it? What if? What if? What if? 

It’s paralyzed me. At times I’ve fought back. At times I silenced the fears. But fear has won more times than I’d like during this training cycle. But then I found my sweet spot. Life shifted. I found myself buried beneath the debris fear left behind. I dug myself out.


Last Tuesday I sat across from my running coach for one last time before I run the Chicago Marathon. As I listened to my plan for race day fear was still present, but fear wasn’t my driving force. 

“It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.”   ~Elizabeth Gilbert

My race plan is simple. It makes me smile. My running coach crafted a plan that is exactly what I need for Chicago. I sat across from Jerry and absorbed his words. My heart was glued to his as he reminded me of the magic of the marathon. 

Kristy the person has to show up to Chicago. Kristy the person has to run this race. Kristy the athlete isn’t invited to Chicago. I need to run light hearted. I need run for fun. I need to fall in love with the marathon. One day Kristy the person and Kristy the athlete can run a race together. Chicago is not that race. The first ten miles need to be slow. I need to run 10:xx. I need to get to mile 10 feeling fresh. If I run the paces I know I can run, I will get to mile 10, and I will think I have a shot at breaking 4 hours. That isn’t my reality for this race. If I run slow, I will get to mile ten excited for 16 more miles. I need to be okay with walking if my hip hurts. I need to run this race with a smile.


Today I ran my last run in Virginia Beach before leaving for Chicago on Tuesday. A hurricane is swirling off our coast. The winds were wild. They danced between the trees. The trails were flooded. My shoes were quickly filled with water. My legs felt strong. I felt myself pulling forward. I wanted to run, but I heard Jerry’s voice in my head. Kristy the athlete isn’t invited to this race. I practiced this strategy, and I digested it mentally. Fear crept back in: am I taking the safe route? am I choosing comfort over courage? am I making excuses for a slow race?


Maybe it was the wind or the trees or the puddles, but I found myself laughing at these thoughts. Jerry may have known long before I did what I need from Chicago, but I had glimpses of it all along.

“Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”   ~Elizabeth Gilbert


Two years ago after I crossed the finish line of the Richmond Marathon I was exhausted. I had run a PR. I was getting faster each week, but I was burnt out. I don’t want Chicago to have this same story. My only goal for Chicago is to cross the finish line craving more – more miles, more marathons, and more me.

I had no idea when I signed up for this race how much I was going to transform my heart over the hot and humid summer. On Tuesday I fly into Chicago, the place of my birth, to run a race of gratitude. This entire journey has delivered me to a brand new chapter of my life.


Eat and Pray and Love

A few months ago, Elizabeth Gilbert announced that she would be publishing a collection of stories from her fans: Eat, Pray, Love made me do it! I jumped out of my chair with excitement, and then I sat back down and started writing. Eat, Pray, Love made me do it all. From the moment I read the book, my brain changed. It started to listen to my heart.

So I wrote, and I submitted…and I wasn’t selected. But I wrote, and I submitted which was a huge step in the direction of sharing my voice.

This weekend I will be driving to DC. Inside an amazing book store, I will get to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert speak. I’m jumping out of my chair again, so it feels appropriate that I sit back down and I share what I wrote.

Here is my version of Eat Pray Love made me do it!

I didn’t know yet that I was allowed to dream. I didn’t know yet that dreams come true. I didn’t know yet that I had the power to navigate my own life.

I had just blown out twenty-one candles on my birthday cake. My heart wasn’t born yet. My existence in this world hadn’t matured into anything yet. With champagne glasses in hand, my parents and I cheers to our next adventure. We were headed from Virginia Beach to Phoenix to visit my grandparents.

As I flipped through the pages of People magazine skipping over the celebrity news, I immediately stopped on a story sandwiched between news of the Oklahoma City bomber’s execution and horoscopes. The story highlighted Cuba as a vacation destination. The beautiful beaches and electric city life didn’t appeal to me. It was the method of travel into the country that stirred my heart. Vacationers travelled to Cuba as volunteers. They worked with a charity to deliver much needed medical supplies to the country. My heart whispered. I want to do that.

As the magazine got buried in my carryon bag, I also buried the whisper in my heart. I was living life the only way I knew how to live. I was following the road that had been paved for me by generations before me. As soon as I returned from the trip out west, I got engaged. My fiancé checked off every item of what I thought I should look for in a husband, but yet my heart whispered he’s not the one. A year later we got married. My heart whispered again. There is always divorce.  In another year I graduated from college, I moved to Alabama to support my husband’s dream to become a pilot, and my heart grew quiet. A later year I gave birth to a perfect baby boy. I was living the life I thought I was supposed to be living, but the moment I held my baby in my arms my heart couldn’t remain quiet. As I burst open with love, my heart screamed. Create a world for this baby that allows him to dream and love. Show him. Let him know there is a whole world waiting for him. Teach him to dream.

I gave birth to myself the day I gave birth to my baby boy. I instantly understood that it was up to me to create a life that reflected the whispers in my heart. Two years later I started to live my life. I left my husband. I abandoned the picture perfect life I had created, and I started again. In a tiny apartment in Nashville that was perfectly decorated for a mom and her little boy, my life began.

Divorce is hard. It’s filled with doubt and insecurity. It is riddled with question marks. As I questioned my strength and my intuition, as I questioned my courage to embrace who I am, as I questioned the rawest version of myself, I found Elizabeth Gilbert.

Every other weekend my house was painfully quiet. Beneath the Nate Berkus brown knotted afghan sold exclusively at Bed, Bath and Beyond, I opened up a book I was told I had to read. Eat Pray Love was about to give me the courage to turn my heart whispers into my reality. I was about to read a book that would teach me that dreams come true.

“Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword.’ On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where all is correct. But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, “all is confusion.” Nothing follows a regular course. Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will be more perilous.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

As I turned page after page, my heart said thank you. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for understanding me.

The years that followed were filled with extreme highs and lows, but my heart felt validated. I felt alive. I knew the struggle was worth it. With my little man in tow, I fought my way to find balance in my pursuit of heart whispers. I took a job to pay the bills, but left for a job that echoed the wishes of my heart. Rent was late, checks bounced, but we kept moving forward. In December 2007, I found myself floating down the Choa Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. As I stared at the golden temples glowing in the moon light, I was overwhelmed by gratitude. My job brought me here. My dreams were coming true, but somehow I knew it wasn’t right. My heart was still making noise. Surround yourself with love. You can’t do this alone. While managing the logistics of a small pharmaceutical company allowed me to travel to other side of the world, it also required late nights and long hours. My body started to shut down. I was constantly sick. I missed being fully engaged as a mother. Listening to my heart, we loaded up a U-haul and headed east. Virginia Beach or bust. It was time to move home to the open arms of our family.


“To find the balance you want, this is what you must become. You must keep your feet grounded so firmly on the earth that it’s like you have 4 legs instead of 2. That way, you can stay in the world. But you must stop looking at the world through your head. You must look through your heart, instead.” ~Elizabeth Gilbert

It took having a little boy to find my place in this world. It took two hearts, two minds, four hands, and four feet to plant me firmly on the ground. When my feet became anchored, my heart came to life.

I learned that I am allowed to dream. I learned that dreams come true. I learned that I have the power to navigate my own life.

I had just blown out thirty-five candles on my cake. I quietly kissed my husband and my two sweet boys goodbye while they slept cozily in the home we created for ourselves tucked amongst the trees by the river. I headed to the airport. As my plane took off and I began my journey to Lima, Peru, I let the tears roll down my checks. I was nurturing my heart. I was trusting my life. I was loving each moment. This is my version of Eat, Pray, Love. A medical mission was waiting for me.

For the next ten days, I worked hand in hand with a medical team to deliver surgical care to patients living with cleft lip and cleft palate. Every single day I work with corporations to secure donations of medical supplies needed to perform safe surgery. I’m not reading about volunteers delivering medical supplies anymore. I’m working with companies and a team of amazing volunteers to make sure medical supplies are available around the globe. This trip was allowing me to see the medical donations come to life.

I would see every suture, every needle, and every drug. I would blow bubbles with children waiting to meet the doctor. I would hug and hold a little girl for hours as she waited for bloodwork. I would hold the hand of a mother as she waited for her child to come out of surgery. I would watch the skillful hand of surgeon recreate a smile on the face of a baby. I would walk beside a family as they headed to the recovery room listening to them sing a sweet lullaby to their baby. I got to see the final masterpiece of healing a child’s smile. I get to see the final masterpiece of life. What was once broken, became healed.

After 106 children received free surgery to give them the smile they deserve, I set off on a journey of my own to explore the sacred valley of Peru. My heart needed a moment of solitude to absorb the magic of my life. On my final day in the country, I ventured to Ñaupa Iglesia. I had been told that it was the most sacred temple in the sacred valley. Spiritual leaders from all over Peru journey to this spot.  I had been told that the temple was a place to ask the universe for what I need in my life. My heart whispered. Trust. Explore. Go. As I followed the local family down the railroad tracks and up the mountain to this temple, my heart was filled with gratitude. There isn’t a single thing that I need in my life.

I sat beside the altar, and my heart, mind, and body were one. I was filled with one single vibration: thank you, thank you, thank you.