Figure It Out Friday: Elizabeth Gilbert

On Memorial Day, I spent the day with Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell.  As a contributor to Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It, I was invited, along with another guest, to their workshop on creativity.  Angelina was unable to go since we were originally invited to her Carlsbad event which was changed at the last minute.

It was a day of journalling, discussion and creativity.

What I Figured Out

Elizabeth Gilbert is truly and authentic person.

Pictures from the event…enjoy!!


IMG_2741 IMG_2732 IMG_2731 Peace,


Figure It Out Friday: What I Haven’t Figured Out

I want to live like a Kardashian!

I still want to believe that what I see on TV (not that I watch the show because I don’t) is real.

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 11: (L-R) Khloe Kardashian, Lamar Odom, Kris Jenner, Kendall Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Caitlin Jenner and Kylie Jenner attend Kanye West Yeezy Season 3 on February 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Yeezy Season 3)

I still want to believe that super rich equals no problems.


What I Haven’t Figured Out

I still want to believe that I can escape being human…but I can’t.  And no amount of money can solve my state of being.

Figure It Out Friday: Endorpha, Dopamine and Sera

In my twenties and for most of my thirties, Endorpha, Dopamine and Sera took center stage along the pathways of my brain.  The euphoric buzz created between the three sisters caused my body to stiffen and my nerves to shake as I searched for a place to unload all the energy trapped within.  I couldn’t help it; my youthful body and the biology associated with it automatically welcomed any event that created a chemical dependency.

After clearing my first credential, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I was thirty – two and obsessively waiting for the new academic trimester to begin.  I worked hard to complete my B.A, earn a certificate and was about to start the graduate portion of the program.

I felt ALIVE.

My life at the time consisted of three things: work, school and going out on the weekends. In those days, I drank up all the validation I received from my education until I was drunk; on the weekends I’d crave staying up way past three in the morning, as if were heroin.  As for work? I’d snort up every new experience I was learning in the classroom.  I was definitely using every coping strategy available during those stress filled – yet exciting times. That was 2007.


After the housing market crashed in 2008, I had to fight year after year to keep a teaching job.  The party life was officially over.  All the energy and money I’d put into my two credentials and Master’s Degree amounted to nothing as more and more seasoned teachers were let go. Every summer, as I waited impatiently for some sign of returning to the classroom I would think to myself, I’m thirty – nine and can’t afford to look for another career.

Then, after a five year cycle of the same routine, something broke.  A nearby district, in an affluent community posted positions for the upcoming year.  When I applied, I’d been so beat down by the previous five years I didn’t put much hope in the idea of getting an interview.  This was a highly desirable district and many, many people would be applying.

Once the district sorted through 250 applications with only sixteen positions available, I was hired on at a full time teacher…on temporary contract.  I didn’t care, the interview process woke up the sleeping sisters who had been laying low for quite a while. Endorpha, Dopemine and Sera were up to their old tricks as they coursed through my brain.  If they got me through school; they’d also get me through my first year at a new district as a first grade teacher.


One Sunday night in October of 2013, after a couple of months on the job, I felt the dark cloud of depression hovering over my head.  I hated the feel of depression.  It scared me. The heightened sensation of everything around me and the lack of energy was a weird combination.  It was really odd because the cooler weather and upcoming holidays always guaranteed an automatic high.  Even with Halloween as an incentive, I couldn’t muster up any strength to get me through the next hour.  I hated teaching first grade.  No matter what I tried, I couldn’t find success among the six year old kids.  It was not a good fit.  And to top it off, I had piled on so many extra responsibilities at my new site, I was overwhelmed and over loaded.

I snapped.

The next morning, as usual, I arrived at work before everyone else.  I opened the door to my classroom, placed the pile of teacher edition books I’d taken home for the weekend on the desk, looked around and thought, “I can’t do this today; nor tomorrow or for the rest of the week.”  I took off my lanyard and keys, left them on the desk, got in my car and drove off. Once I got far enough away from the school, I pulled the car over, text my principal and wrote, “I’m so sorry but I won’t be returning to this job.”

I had no savings, no plan, and over a hundred grand in student loans.  I had made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

What I Figured Out

I have an addictive mind.  I always have.  I can trace it all the way back to when I was a teenager and I found Christ.  I wasn’t satisfied just being a regular Christian, I had to be a saint.  I fasted regularly and prayed obsessively because I believed there was a true formula for holiness and I was going to reach it.  When I turned eighteen and discovered the nightclub…I had to be there every weekend.  When I was accepted into the seminary, my job couldn’t be just any job – it had to be a call from God.

On and on and on, Endorpha, Dopamine and Sera kept coaxing me into believing the next best thing would eventually send me to a place of external bliss.  Just like a drug addict who uses chemicals to experience an eternal high, I used the natural sisters in my brain to balance me out.








Figure It Out Friday: Enraptured By A Wrap

Donna Tilly was nervously trying to lock the front door of her classroom which made the collection of keys around her key chain rattle even louder.  I could tell she was struggling as she tried to remember whether left or right was the proper way to find security.  It’s a simple task but can instantly turn into a huge ordeal if there’s twenty other things on your mind.  The onlooking students stood quietly as her frustration grew.

“Do you need help Mrs. Tilly?” I asked, as she finally found the right turn.  She let out a short exasperated gasp – made her way towards me and whispered, “Daniel’s father was killed in an accident last night and he won’t be returning for a while.”  I didn’t remember who Daniel was but any tragedy that involves a  student deserves a quick dramatic reaction.


After two years of teaching second grade, I decided it was time for me to try something different. In my head, third grade was the next logical step in furthering my pedagogy and sharpening my teaching skills.  It was also the year I figured out that no matter how many degrees I had hanging on my wall, there is no preparation for student tragedy. When you work with a child on a daily basis and an event changes their life for good…it can be devastating for all parties involved.

Daniel’s father was well known parent at Crestview Elementary.  All the female teachers from kindergarten to third loved the fatherly devotion to his son’s education.  He attended every classroom field trip and activity throughout the year. Daniel’s father worked an evening shift which allowed him the freedom to spend the mornings with this son.  As sweet and loving as this all appeared – life had other plans.

One Sunday evening, Daniel’s father, two uncles and a friend were driving home in a black Chevy Blazer.


As they approached a major intersection, the driver of the Blazer decided to gun it as the light changed from yellow to red.  The Blazer wasn’t close enough to safely cross the intersection as he accelerated the gas.  Unfortunately, a vehicle was already approaching from the right side before both cars collided.  After the hit, the oncoming car spun out several times before coming to a complete stop.  As for the Chevy Blazer, it spun around as well but met its fate around a cement utility pole:


This light pole is similar to the utility pole.

After everything was said and done, one of the passengers of the oncoming car was killed instantly.  It turns out it was a mother and her twelve year old son.  The boy died.  All the passengers of the Chevy Blazer died instantly as the car WRAPPED around the utility pole and broke half.


That’s all I kept thinking about after I heard the news.  Once I processed the wreckage, I then had to process the casualties: a mother lost her son and mother of three who lost her husband.


When the day of the funeral arrived, the staff collected funds and supplies for the now single mother of three.  From what I learned, Daniel’s mother didn’t have a job and was now responsible for her three kids under ten years of age.

What I Figured Out

I remember during this time, I was going through my own personal struggles with relationships,  It was at a time when I had to make peace with that fact that no church sanctioned marriage, no wedding ring or even being right with God guaranteed happily ever after.  Even if you’re an atheist and you found your soul mate it still didn’t matter.

Tragedy can happen at any time and when it does life doesn’t tell us which direction to go in.  Most of the time we go kicking and screaming but eventually something has to give; either we learn to go with the flow or become so resistant to change that we become bitter.  And maybe bitterness is part of the journey?  Either way, we’re left to figure it out.

Create Your Own Religion Wednesdays

A couple of days ago, Angelina and I were engaging in a long text conversation about spiritual practices.  While Angelina does Yoga and meditation to fulfill her spiritual needs I continue on with my Catholic traditions.  As I move forward and expand my fascination with the divine (and at times obsession with it) I’ve felt the urge to change my daily routines a bit.  As I was mulling over the idea of giving up on them all together, I thought – that would be too easy.

I guess my petition was heard; I came across this book which I am currently listening to on the way to work.

A Religion of One OwnI felt an instant connection with the author who at one time considered becoming a Catholic monk but left instead to create a religion of his own.

The central idea of the book concentrates on expressing ones own way of finding God. Personally, I felt this was another way of saying “stay present” in all situations.

So in order to put the suggestions of the book to good use, I decided to stop and get out of my car on a busy highway and find my own religion.  Every morning before work, I ride upon a road filled with industrial buildings and unincorporated housing which no longer serve their purpose but house wooden pallets instead.

Nestled between the smell of fuel and the buzzing sounds of super charged electrical posts lays a beautiful jasmine bush in full bloom.  It’s not a small bush by any means but a tendrilled monster that has taken over an entire fence.  The white petals stretch far and white nearly covering the green leaves that birthed them.  Every morning as I whizzed by was another opportunity lost to lose myself in their gentle aroma.

Over the weekend, I paid homage to the new out door chapel created by nature herself.

Please enjoy a part of my new religion.