Impact Travel

There are so many different reasons to travel.  For my own experience, I have traveled for work and school; to visit friends and relatives; to vacation and for adventure, but in May, I had the opportunity to embark on my first experience at Impact Travel.  Here is some information about Impact Travel and why I think it is wonderful!

In May, I had the amazing opportunity to serve a community in Oaxaca, Mexico.  This experience was organized by a fabulous group called Forward Edge.  Forward Edge is a faith-based mission organization that arranges impact travel experiences all over the world.  My church has partnered with them in the past, and this year, a team of volunteers ventured to Mexico to help an emerging community build homes and foster relationships.

I was honored to accompany this year’s trip, along with my 16 year old son, and a group of 11 other individuals with hearts for service.  We knew we would be doing hard, physical labor in hot conditions in an area that was poverty stricken.  We knew we would be working with and for Christians and non-Christians.  We knew we were going there to have a positive impact for the people we were serving.  What we didn’t know, was how much of an impact Oaxaca and her people would have on us.

This was my first mission trip.  I have been in the church long enough to know what a mission trip is, and my church is very involved in mission work in our own back yard – although we do venture outside the US every 12-24 months.  We knew we would be out of our element; not knowing much of the language, exactly what we would be doing and knowing that our “first world” comforts would be challenged.  We all approached this knowledge with calm reserve and were ready to take on Oaxaca!

I won’t describe our day by day, but I will say that we did, indeed, work hard and made some fabulous relationships!  We took part in various stages of building cement and earthen block homes, from the actual making of the cement and earthen blocks, to the removing of wooden framing (and pulling countless nails from boards that are used over and over).  We helped mix, transport and pour bucket upon bucket of concrete and learned how to set up ceiling forms and unbend re-bar (the most frustrating job of the week).  We cut out channels in concrete walls to accept electrical and water lines and we made doors for homes.  We worked with the children of the area playing games, doing face-paint and generally losing our hearts to this crowd of proud, intelligent, diverse young people who live in this community.   We worked with locals on job sites and were guided by Mexicans and Americans, alike.  We grew together as a team and another family was born out of common experience.


The community we were working in.


Our host community.


Our host community.


The earthen block machine.


Earthen block machine.


Adobe – the special type of dirt that gives the earthen blocks their rusty color.


Completed earthen blocks. When dry, they each weighed 22 pounds each.


Some of the kids playing soccer, of course!


Who doesn’t love a tire swing?


The main home site I was working at. This is the home this family of 4 has been living in for the past 3 years.


The family’s NEW house!!!


“Forms” to hold up the concrete roof.

You see, not only did we help a community outside of our regular sphere of influence, we came together for a common goal – in a way we cannot do on a regular basis.  In many ways, I feel most travel experiences lead us to this overwhelming opportunity to know what it really is like to depend on others.  To work together.  To NEED each other.  An Impact Travel experience amplifies this experience out of necessity.  Not only did I come home with a rejuvenated appreciation for my own life and opportunities in my home town, I came home with two new families – the one I hope to see in Oaxaca again next year, and the one I get to live life with here.

All of my travel experiences have had some impact on me.  Impact Travel creates a bond that is unlike any other.  It is a bond with people, with an experience and with a feeling.  I hope you all have an opportunity to serve on some type of mission trip – humanitarian or faith-based.  It will change you.  It will challenge you.  It will break your heart and it will restore your faith in the human race.  It will make you a better person.

Here are some photos from my trip – our work site, our projects and some touring we had the opportunity to do.

TBT…BEFORE the cruise…

Before our fabulous cruise in May of 2015, we hung out in London for 5 days and toured the area!  We arrived in April and we were met by my brother in law and his wife and daughter.  They live in Poland and we took advantage of being close to them and arranged a short holiday!  This was our second visit to London and we enjoyed it very much!  We stayed in a suburb all together and did some AMAZING touring!  Here is a photo journal of that visit!



We walked EVERYWHERE and this photo was taken on way to Harrods!


Windsor Castle – one of our favorite stops! We were rushed in our visit and I cannot wait to go back. This castle is really a fine example of Royal castles and it was a highlight of my stay in London!



Windsor, Char and Sable – you all haven’t met Sable yet, but this kitty gets around. She even has her own book series in the works!




My first favorite thing about this London visit (aside from seeing family, or course) was scoring coveted tickets to tour Highclere Castle – AKA Downtown Abbey. Here, Sable checks out the grounds as “Downtown Tabby”.


My handsome hubby and I at Highclere Castle.



Family photo taken by dad. Yes it was cold, rainy and windy – it was April in England!!!


Kelly and I ate out one night while the kids went back to the flat with the family. We ate at a restaurant in the basement of Harrod’s that specialized in TRUFFLES!!!!! It was SO good!!!!


Kelly and Freddie Mercury at Madame Tussauds.


Sable MIGHT have been getting a bit too familiar with the queen. Madame Tussauds.


Kelton’s hair resembled Albert Einstein’s a bit too much!! Madame Tussauds.


Oh Char….well this is a statue representing the overindulgence of King Henry the VIII’s court at Hampton Court – another FAVORITE stop of mine – a must see!


Char strikes again….sleeping next to the famous wine fountain that was created for a treaty meeting in northern France between Henry the VIII of England “and France” and King Frances I of France. This fountain flowed with wine in front of a “castle” built out of golden cloth to represent King Henry’s magnificence. So famous is this amazing tent that the event in history is referred to the Field of the Cloth of Gold. My history buff side shines through!


Gardens at Hampton Court


My beautiful rose petal and Hampton Court gardens.


Iconic Tower Bridge!


Mind the gap. We got an Oyster Card and used all manner of public transportation throughout London! I love this shot of Char and Sable!


A view of Parliament from the London Eye.


Westminster Abbey


Big Ben!


These adorable sheep were all over the city and the kids posed with them whenever possible! The sheep were dressed in outfits that represented the area where they stood.

Girls’ Trips, and why you need one!


For about eight years, I have attempted to organize and take a girls’ trip.  We have been successful MOST years, and we have done a few different things – including staying in Eleuthera, Bahamas multiple times and taking a cruise.  Our numbers have ranged from 4 of us to 11 so far.  In 2020, we are going to our first all inclusive in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and for this trip, we are up to 28 ladies!!!  It should be an amazing week.

Before I begin, let me start off by saying this isn’t about dad-bashing and why moms/women are the only ones that deserve a “break”.  Dads and father figures TOTALLY deserve a break and I encourage that!  But since I am a woman, I can really only speak from that perspective, so while it may seem like I am saying moms need a break because we do so much more than dads, that’s not totally true – although some DO do more than their significant others – or just DIFFERENT things.  When it comes down to it, it is typically the men at home holding down the fort so the moms CAN go away – so for that and so many other things, I am truly grateful.

But let’s face it!  Women do a lot!  I have a wonderful husband and I praise God every day for him.  But when it comes to the running of our home and keeping everything in smooth working order, that falls mostly on me.  I am the shopper, planner, chef, banker, appointment maker and taker, housekeeper (for the things my children do not do for chores), gardener, business owner, secretary and more.  I don’t resent this lot I have willingly accepted, but I do get tired of feeling like I do “everything”.  I am sure a lot of it has to do with my Type-A personality and things having to be a certain way (my way), but that is the way of it and I either embrace it or it breaks me.  Enter the girls’ trip!

I am so lucky to have a wonderful group of friends that truly care about one another and each other’s lives.  These ladies are people I can count on when the going gets rough and if you live in the real world, the going gets rough sometimes!  Relationships, marriages, raising kids, work, self-worth…these are all things women deal with and they are hard.  Many talks have been had at sunrise on the beach in Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera about feelings of shortcomings as wives, mothers, daughters and friends.  Beach therapy has saved some of those relationships and continues to work to preserve others.  The opportunity to spend precious time with other people who can relate to our most personal experiences on some level is priceless.

But it does cost.  Our girls’ trips have been kept at around $1000-$1200 each for a week.  So many women have said, “Oh I wish I could go but I just can’t afford it.” And for some, that is true.  People who raise a family on one salary, are still paying college loans, have had extra bills lately or unexpected expenses.  I get it.  But some people say they can’t afford it but really what they mean is, it isn’t necessary in their lives.  Rather, they would prefer to spend the $45 every two weeks on their nails or buy a new iPhone every time it comes out, or get Starbucks four days a week or whatever it is they CHOOSE to spend money on.  And that’s cool – for those people, those expenditures might have the same soothing effect as my once a year girls’ trip.  But for me, I want to go someplace (almost any place) where the only person I have to tend to is me.  I only have to pack for me; make sure I put on sunscreen and not everyone; skip a meal if I want; read in bed until 10am if I want; only do my own laundry and not have to clean up after anyone!  To me, that is worth the $20ish I have to save per week to go on my girls’ trip every year.

Every year, the ladies that are able to attend changes slightly, but I have some steadfast girls’ trippers and I am thankful for them and the close relationships we have formed on the beaches of the Caribbean.  I look to these ladies for help, guidance, celebration and they make up the core of my village.  These are also relationships that have taken work and as I have experienced with so many other relationships, it is worth the time and effort for those we care about.

I hope you get the chance to take that friends getaway – that time of rejuvenation, reflection, growth, self-evaluation and a little indulgence.  When you return to your families, you will do so with a fuller heart and a patient soul – ready to take on the world like the wonder woman that you are!  Here are a few photos taken on some Girls’ trips so far – most of the photos we take are group selfies so these are just some of the picturesque places to preserve the privacy of my friends.


Storm clouds following the island. Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, Bahamas


Queen’s Bath, Eleuthera, Bahamas


Sunsets on Eleuthera are the most stunning ever! Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas


Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera, Bahamas


Glass Window Bridge – where the “Caribbean” meets the Atlantic, Eleuthera, Bahamas


Harbour Island – ACTUAL pink sand!!!


The stillness of Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Throw Back Thursday….Growing up Disney

If you know me in real life, you now that if you start talking about Disney World, my eyes light up, my voice raises an octave and I talk 100 miles per minute because I LOVE DISNEY!!!!!  I know people who hate Disney and I am not sure they are human or believe in magic 😊  Seriously, though…I think you either love Disney or you do not…there aren’t many wishy washy Disney people out there!

When we plan our Disney trips (we go every 12-18 months), we start getting pretty psyched about a year out!  We start with the WHEN (we never go during school vacations or holidays), then move to the WHERE (we have stayed at Saratoga Springs, Bay Lake Towers, Animal Kingdom Resort, Coronado Springs, Old Key West, Art of Animation and the Polynesian).  We plan out which parks we will be at which days based on crowd projections, plan our dining experiences and fast passes when the time is right.  And then we wait – probably not so patiently – for our vacation to begin!!

I love helping my clients do all this planning as well!  It is a labor of love – as not all agents take on Disney, but I know it well and love to help bring the magic to others!  Every new trip presents a new point of view and new experience!  I have enjoyed this ritual trip with my family and have enjoyed how, at each stage of my kids’ lives, Disney brings another level of wonder and growth along with the crazy joy that is Disney!

Here are some of my favorite memories from some of our trips at Disney over the years.  This succession of memories are so precious to me!  They are experiences my kids will always remember as times spent with their parents, family and friends.  I hope as they become adults, they will also enjoy bringing their families to Disney and have the same fond remembrances that I do of my own childhood at Disney with my mom.  What an awesome gift!

PS – we ALWAYS wear matching/themed shirts and always will!  That is part of the fun!!


I have a picture of my kids doing this SAME thing in London in 2013. It is fun to recreate special moments in different locations! EPCOT 2019


Beef hot dogs. OK – well…what can I say?! We were at Disneyland Paris and needed a pick me up!!! 2019


From the other side!!! Disneyland Paris 2019


Finding Eva and Wally – pure joy!!!! Disneyland Paris 2019


Gusteau’s!!! Disneyland Paris 2019


Germany/EPCOT 2018


Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Magic Kingdom 2018


Cousin’s Trip – Animal Kingdom 2016


Magical Christmas – EVERY year!


Magic Kingdom 2017 – mom and dad’s second trip to Disney without kids!!!!




Sunset from the Contemporary 2019


Our first trip to Disney as family. Magic Kingdom 2006


Magic Kingdom 2006


Magic Kingdom 2009


Magic Kingdom 2009


Polynesian Luau 2013


Morocco/EPCOT 2015


Hollywood Studios 2015


Hollywood Studios 2015 (our favorite time of year to go to Disney is during the Holidays!

Notre Dame

In April, while I was traveling to the American south west, I learned about the tragic fire that destroyed the wooden spire and 700+ year old roof of Notre Dame in Paris.  I certainly won’t get into the social implications of the fire; the costs to rebuild and the controversy that surrounds all the donations coming forth, but I wanted to share my own experiences with this amazing place and some of my favorite personal pictures.

I first visited Notre Dame in 2013 with my family as a part of a month-long European Adventure.  We went in March during the off season and enjoy fewer lines and more exploring!  My kids were 6 (almost 7) and 10.  They did great!  We spent 4 nights in Paris and saw all the must-see sights!  As soon as we arrived (even after traveling overnight), we unloaded our luggage and headed to Notre Dame!  It was right around the corner from where we were staying in the Latin Quarter and we loved it!

I can really appreciate this site on many levels – as a Christian, I appreciate the devotion of the followers who, for years, poured their lives into building this masterpiece as an outward expression of their faith.  I appreciate the significance of this holy place to Catholics all around the world and marvel in its beauty and divine mission.

As a historian, I appreciate the place this building holds in history – the advancements in architecture and science it took to build; the priceless artifacts that are preserved in this building; the craftsmanship that went in to the carvings, the stained glass and masonry and how this place has witnessed so very much over time.  If those walls could talk!

As a humanitarian, I appreciate the grief and joy this place has housed; the turning point for so many on their journey of faith and life and the hard times that have brought people to its huge doors.  I image how many people brought their sorrows to the alter – how many marriages and deaths were observed over the past 700+ years and the unfathomable amounts of history that took place within these walls built by men.

This past January, my daughter and I had the joy of seeing this beautiful site once more.  We saw the outside of the cathedral three or four times and went inside once.  We visited in the snow and made a small snowman in the park in front of the cathedral.  We visited on our final day and fed the pigeons there.  We have made many memories of this place and I feel eternally blessed and thankful that I have had an opportunity to visit a place that embodies history and humanity.  My hope is that, however it is arranged, this place is restored and reopened expeditiously for countless people that journey to Paris just to see this holy place.  I hope you get to see it, too!


Snowfall at Notre Dame, January 2019


What do you do with fresh snow in Paris? Build a French snowman at Notre Dame!


We pop out of the metro and the phone comes out!!!


The arrival!!!!

Fear Factor

Recently in the news, we have been bombarded with fear producing stories.  Stories out of the Dominican Republic of vicious attacks on a resort property, tourists dying in their beds, visitors disappearing.  The alleged murder of a US attorney general at a Club Med in Turkoise (Turks & Caicos) last October (by all accounts and pocket books, an expensive, high end resort), a Texas couple recently dying in Fiji, a cruise ship collision with a tourist boat in Venice, trouble with specific makes of airplanes, terrorism attacks, kidnappings and everyone is familiar with the scare tactics implemented to keep people away from Mexico.  In so many cases, as with most of the sensationalized news fed to us Americans, there are details missing that are important to know in order to speak intelligently about many of these situations, and yet, fear is what rules us.

Did you know that one of the original reasons the concept of an “All Inclusive” resort came about was because the builders/planners/innovators of this concept wanted to create a haven of safety in a place that might otherwise not be considered “safe” for everyone?  Many of these places are in the equatorial belt – the paradise islands with crystal blue water and lush tropical landscapes.  SOME of these places also boast revolutionary governments or no proper governments at all.  Some of these governments are corrupt and poorly aligned.  They have disgruntled and disenfranchised citizenry and poverty is rampant.  They are crossroads for drugs, dark undergrounds and unseemly characters – and this is nothing new.  But these places have and continue to provide the respite many Americans and Europeans enjoy, and yet, when bad things happen – many times out of lack of common sense, we are afraid.

Fear binds us.  It doesn’t allow us to grow and it keeps us stagnant in our learning and in our full experience of life.  Are there truly UNSAFE places in the world?  Well, yes.  And even more so, I think that depends on who you are and your purpose for going to a place.  People live and thrive in many places I would consider dangerous, and yet missionaries and humanitarians travel to these places all the time.

I once visited Bogota, Colombia (about 20 years ago) and the people I was visiting assigned a family member to me as a personal “guide” (bodyguard).  I was a cute, tall, blue eyed, blonde, young American woman – prime for the ransom/kidnapping market.  I did not go out at night and did not venture outside of public places or familial settings.  I was cool with that.  Precautions were taken for safety.  Don’t we do that all the time to mitigate dangerous situations?  We wear seat belts, force our kids to wear helmets, we don’t (or shouldn’t) walk alone at night, we don’t leave our buddy and we don’t take candy from strangers.  We don’t get into a stranger’s car, we don’t meet someone in private we met on the internet and we don’t give out our address on-line.  We caution our kids about on-line interactions and warn them about the dangers of drugs.  We implore them not to text and drive and beg them to call us instead of driving home drunk.  Bad things happen everywhere.  The occurrence of bad things will not be the guiding force in my life.

Some people cannot overcome the fear.  I think what it boils down to is that they are afraid of death; their own or a loved one’s.   I know people who have longed to travel to Europe – absolutely DREAMED of it and have the means to do it but will not go out of fear.  Fear of terrorism, fear of not knowing how to get around, the language, the culture, fear of what might be happening at home, fear of dying.  So, they stay and they dream and they fear and they miss out.  In my perspective, they will regret being held in place by irrationality.

There is no shaming here – just an acceptance of how our choices shape our being.  I personally have a low opinion of fear.  I have things I very much dislike – the dentist, for example.  It is irrational and I know it and I go to the dentist every six months anyway.  I am not fond of heights, but I like to fly, go on roller coasters and climb ladders, but I am cautious when I do these things.  I am not afraid of dying.  I am confident that the people I love know my love for them, and I am resigned to the multitude of things in this life of which I have no control.  I am confident in my salvation and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.  I know I could walk out my door this very second and die – die behind the wheel, die of some horrible and fast moving disease, die of carbon monoxide poisoning, die by getting kicked in the head by a horse, die by drowning, get electrocuted in my bathroom… I need to go on?

I choose life.  I choose adventure.  I won’t miss out!  That is MY take on fear.

TBT…The Best Cruise Ever, Part II – my husband’s pictures!!

Last week I shared with you a photo journal of our dream cruise of the Mediterranean in May 2015.  Here are some other pictures of that fabulous journey and the stories behind them!


On a 15 night cruise, one collects A LOT of towel creatures!


Cadiz, Spain. Churros and chocolate!!!! AMAZING!


Like a garden of Eden – Malaga, Spain


I *think* this was in Marseilles, France…but I could be wrong!


Scooting in Cinque Terre, Italy.


The Roman Colosseum


Villa-France-sur-Mer, France – this is where we moored and was the port for Nice and Monaco. The town of Villa-France itself is stunning and quintessential Mediterranean. I am itching to go back!


On board the Anthem of the Seas, moored off the coast of Nice, France.


Barcelona, Spain – On one of the main promenades. I love how Kelton is fussing with his sister’s hair!


We always find critters – Barcelona, Spain


The construction continues at Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain


La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain


Anthem after dark


Gibraltar – long lost cousins? Oh and behind Kelton in the distance? AFRICA!!!!!


In the mountains of Gibraltar


ME! Flying in the iFLY – aboard the Anthem of the Seas


Suspended in the North Star – a fabulous way to see the Anthem!