Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

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A sunny, breezy time at the Jersey shore town of Belmar beckoned beguilingly. My friends Ondreah and Lisa and I piled into Lisa’s SUV and headed North for a day-cation. The car was packed with coolers, towels, sunscreen, and snacks. As we approached the beach, I could feel my stress melting away like a drippy ice cream cone. My day to day life is filled with client appointments, writing, editing, planning, promoting and facilitating workshops,  as well as fitness, friend and family time. Don’t get me wrong, I love the various aspects of my existence. I call it full and rich and juicy. Sometimes I need to put a bookmark in my activities and just veg. That’s what yesterday was about. I would normally drive since my car gets great gas mileage, but Lisa agreed to get behind the wheel. We set intention for an easy trip, and an Uncle Jimmy parking spot (my mother’s brother Jim always found the perfect spot and I use the mojo and share it with friends) on what we imagined would be tourist filled busy streets. We zipped on the roads and arrived in a little more than an hour on a Saturday afternoon. We circled the block, put in our parking request and voila! one showed up across the street from the sandy stretch. Toting our gear, we traversed the hot surface, feeling the pull of the water.

Settling down, we cast another wish out for a beach umbrella. We attempted to reach the office from which we could place an order, but were not able to get through. Somehow we sensed that one would show up for us. About 30 minutes after we arrived, a family a few yards down the beach were packing up to take their leave. I trekked over to them and asked if they had brought the blue and white striped umbrella from home or rented it. They told me it was the latter, so I asked if we could pay them to use it and return it when we left. This mother and her two daughters gladly handed it over and helped me tote it over and set it up. We agreed to take it back to the location by 5 pm. Hunkered down in its shade, we were grateful that the sun’s penetrating rays didn’t scorch our skin.

In between conversation with my friends, I leaned back, feeling the breeze tumble my curls, and the sun warm me. A few weeks earlier, I was on two different beaches in Ireland and my thoughts returned there. The ocean that separates these two lands was calm on both sides. I wish more people would come to realize that we are all connected and live on the same planet. What impacts each of us, impacts all of us.

The wind and water provided the healing balm that this beach bunny needed.

 

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I love to ponder the thread that connects people and events. Roll back the clock to 1972. Sitting on a wooden slatted bench, painted blue if memory serves, two chlorinated, sun-burned latex bathing-suited 14-year-olds struck up a conversation. Swimming on “two different teams together,” according to one of them, that chat (I don’t even recall what words were spoken) evolved into a 45-year friendship. Barb and I grew up in the South Jersey town of Willingboro, NJ and were competitive swimmers. Our community was comprised of nine neighborhoods and each one had their own swim team. She swam for Country Club and I swam for Pennypacker. Friendly competition ensued. What I do remember were countless hours of exploring life, the Universe and everything as only teenagers can. We listened to musicals and Barb acted in many. She grew up in a Polish Catholic family and I grew up in a Russian Jewish family. We shared holidays (Christmas and Easter at her house and Passover and Chanukkah at mine). I went to public school and she went to Catholic school. She was my parents ‘third daughter’. My father called her ‘Barbie Doll’.  Since I find that life has a sense of humor, when she met the love of her life, his name was Glenn Cohen (a nice Jewish boy). They married and when they became parents, they raised their kids in the Jewish religion. Years later, Barb converted to Judaism.

Each child (Alex, Blake, Cady and now Dara…my mom called them the A B C D kids) stood at the bimah (the altar) at their synagogue and became a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Today was Dara’s turn. This well rounded, intelligent, creative, athletic kiddo crossed the threshold of adulthood in the Jewish religion as she helped lead the service, read from the Torah and recited the Haftarah. She donned the ritual prayer shawl known as a tallis (Hebrew pronunciation ‘tallit’) that her grandmother made for her as she had for her two older sisters. Her parents offered their blessing for her and of course, cried. They definitely weren’t alone.

During the service Alex, Blake and Cady read this poem. Of course, I teared up since it speaks so powerfully to what children all over the world face. The disgraceful part is that those who are supposed to protect children are the monsters spoken about here. Our own government is abusing children with their horrific policies. My friends have raised their kiddos to be socially conscious.

We Pray for Children

We pray for children
who sneak popsicles before supper,
who erase holes in math workbooks,
who can never find their shoes.

And we pray, for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
who never “counted potatoes,”
who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
who never go to the circus,
who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And we pray for those
who never get dessert,
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
who watch their parents watch them die,
who can’t find any bread to steal,
who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
who like ghost stories,
who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
and never rinse out the tub,
who get visits from the tooth fairy,
who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
whose tears we sometimes laugh at
and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime,
who will eat anything,
who have never seen a dentist,
who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
who want to be carried
and for those who must,
for those we never give up on
and for those who don’t get a second chance.
For those we smother…
and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
kind enough to offer it.

We pray for children. Amen

from We Pray for Children, 1995, William Morrow publishers

I was invited up to read a poem called A Rainbow of Friends during the service as well.  I joked as I walked to the front of the sanctuary, that Barb knew me well enough to have printed it out in 14 point bold so that my aging eyes could read the words. Since I am Barb’s flower child friend, they specifically chose a reading rainbow that celebrated diversity.

During the reception I found myself chatting with family and friends of Barb and Glenn’s including his aging parents Alan and Cookie who I have known since they were far sprier. It was a bittersweet experience seeing them need a wheelchair (he) and canes (she) to get around. Their generation is dwindling. My parents and Barb’s parents have since passed.

When Barb and I met, we were only a year older than Dara and her friends. As I watched Dara do her thing, my mind tumbled back 46 years ago when I was 13 and although practiced, was reallllllly nervous when it was my turn to be on the bimah and become a Bat Mitzvah.

The new generation-my son and daughter-in-law who were there as well and Barb and Glenn’s kids are the ones who will lead the way into what I pray will be a much more loving, equitable, compassionate, socially conscious and equitable future.

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Awake before the sun peeks over the horizon, to the sound of chirping birds. Eyes open, heart open, body a bit fatigued and rather confused. It thinks it is still five hours later since, for 10 days, where I was living, it was. Time can be a confounding and fascinating thing. At birth, we are given so many tick-tocks, that measure out our days. I ask myself all the time how I want to spend those moments. For much of my life, I have toggled back and forth between bravely leaning over the edge about to leap into the unknown and playing it safe with my feet firmly planted on familiar ground. Both have served me in some ways, and yet the second has certainly prevented me from living as fully as I would like to. As I am approaching 60, I decided to fulfill a long-term dream of traveling to Ireland. I have imagined that it is a past life connection which draws me to the people, culture, music, art, language, and land, since in this lifetime, to the best of my knowledge, I have no ancestry there.  Irish accents melt me. I have two friends who grew up there and immigrated to the U.S. and they supported my dream of this birthday gift to myself.   A typical pub tour wouldn’t have worked for me since I am a teetotaler. I then cast out a wish to the Universe, declaring that Spirit would be my tour guide and I would find the ideal circumstances.

This is what happened a few days later:

“Heeere we goooo…taking a big leap. I have wanted to travel to Ireland for as long as I can remember but was all tied up in knots over money. That has been my go-to ancestral fear, despite the fact that I have always been able to support myself. I mentioned a week or so ago that I planned to go for my 60th birthday which is in October. I asked Spirit to be my guide and true to form, She is. Back in 2003, I discovered a video called A Knock at the Door, created by Angi Sullins and her husband Silas Toball. I fell in love with it. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and Angi gets in touch with me for the first time, about the possibility of incorporating a piece of my writing into her work. Then this morning, I see that she is taking a group of folks on a tour to…wait for it…Ireland. A clutch of fear and then after talking to a few trusted friends and getting an unmistakable sign this morning, I called her and am all in! Totally committed.”

And so it was that I embarked on the Muse Juice Tour.

What I have learned is that once I make a decision to do something, events unfold, people show up, opportunities arise, feelings flow. Even though it was a few months away, the trip had already begun. Within a few weeks, a potential roadblock arose, as I found myself in the hospital with pneumonia, feeling as if I was drowning. Another exercise in trust as it brought with it, a challenge to allow myself to receive support from family and friends who visited both while I was there and once I returned home. They brought food, so I didn’t need to cook, some offered energy healing work, others gifts, but primarily the gift of their presence and love. I reluctantly, but necessarily breathed it all in. I have been on the offering end of all of these things, and yet, (not sure why), have resisted being on the receiving end. Call it control, not wanting to be vulnerable. That I certainly was, as each breath was sometimes hard won. To compound matters further, I coughed ribs out of place and a few days after discharge wound up back in the ER. Even though I knew I would heal, I still fretted over my condition and feared that I wouldn’t have the stamina to go on the trip. How would I keep up? I didn’t want to slow anyone else down. Another core issue came to the fore; not wanting to inconvenience anyone. I knew I needed to explore that one more deeply. Since our bodies are resilient, I bounced back slowly, taking time to both rest and re-build my strength, so I could easily trek about.

Another cosmic coincidence occurred that told me I was on the right track.

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“Is  Universe in synch, or what? My friend Erdinc Oktay just dropped by with food, some reading material and a few gifties. One was this notepad. I hadn’t noticed this little factoid until he was on his way home. Guess who designed it, Angi Sullins? I had told Ernie about my upcoming trip to Ireland and had begun to talk about Angi and her husband Silas who are leading the trip. Thank you for the swoop by TLC, my friend.”

As the time approached, that financial fear came back with intensity since I had missed two weeks of work as a therapist as I was recovering. How would I afford the trip and pay my bills since I would be away for another 10 days? My dear friend, surrogate mom, and mentor, Yvonne Kaye came up with an ingenious plan. She posted on my Facebook page that since my birthday was approaching and this trip of a lifetime was my gift to myself, that perhaps other people would like to contribute as a way of early celebration. I had several competing feelings about it. I was tearfully grateful that she would do that for me, embarrassed that I needed a boost, feared that no one would help out and questioned my worthiness to receive such generosity. I then took a deep breath and trusted. Money began to flow in, offered by some who have known me for decades and some I have never met face to face. I still shake my head in awe about those who stepped up and chipped in; some for whom it was a stretch to help out. I bless you and love you all.

My sweet son and daughter-in-law, Adam and Lauren paid for my airfare and gave me a vividly pink, (came to be known as a combo of bubble gum, Pepto Bismol, and Pink Panther) suitcase that was not only easy to spot on the baggage carousel as was the initial intention, but on the busses on which I rode).

I went into hyper-organization mode. That meant letting all my clients know I would be away, making sure that I had coverage for anyone who needed emergency care. It entailed packing for all four seasons since I was told that weather in Ireland is unpredictable. Passport..check, enough meds (cardiac)…check, bills paid in advance…check, writing deadlines met…check, bank and credit card notified that I would be away…check. I could feel those tasks overshadow the anticipation and delight of the trip. Once they were completed and I walked out of the office on the day before the  flight, I sighed with relief and finally allowed myself to immerse in the bliss of it all. I kept saying to myself, “Holy shit, woman, you are actually fulfilling another dream. This really is your life. You planted these seeds and they are coming to fruition.”

The day arrived when I boarded the plane and settled back for a long leap across the pond. As much as I intended for the transportation to flow smoothly, sometimes glitches occur.

“As Divine Providence would have it, I missed my connecting flight to Dublin going through customs and met these two delightful women from Seattle named Mary and Nicole who are traveling to Dublin for a friend’s wedding. Because I got bumped to a later flight British Airways paid for breakfast. We must have trekked a few miles to the new terminal. Now flying Aer Lingus. Trusting the process and the pancakes with fruit and pumpkin seeds at a place called Wondertree.” We had hung out together for awhile and got separated and then, wonder of wonders, ended up seated next to each other in the restaurant!

I assured myself that I would still get there in plenty of time to settle in before the Muse Juice Tour officially began. The theme was ‘anam cara’, translated to ‘soul friend,’ and was made popular by writer and philosopher John O’Donohue. Angi beckoned us to befriend our own souls as we welcomed others. I have long loved John’s writings and the ideas he espoused. One of the places we stopped along the way, was his grave at the Creggagh Cemetery. The group sat in silence at first and then offered wishes and thoughts to this man who inspired the journey since he was a major influence for Angi.

Uncharacteristically, I didn’t feel compelled to write much, so I allowed photos to do the talking for me, as I took people along on the ride with me. Social media is a grand thing when it offers a window (or in this case, a doorway) into the lives of others. Journaling was part of the experience and Angi offered morning writing prompts to spark our inner explorations even as we explored sacred sites, ruins, landscape; saw sheep, horses, and cows (which may well outnumber people in Ireland- 4,803,748 as of 2018).

33059059_10215991960050005_1811328128383975424_oI found myself in repose a great deal of the time.

This rock was in the middle of a standing stone circle and it spoke to me quite clearly. My mother had always been the rock of the family on whom everyone leaned. I used to tell her that rocks crumbled, even as I came to take on that role. On this day, the boulder’s message was that I need not do that and that I could lean into her. I sprawled across her cool surface, embracing her and absorbing the energy she emitted. I then turned around and faced the sky as I stretched backward into her as if being absorbed.

 

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On one of our final days there, we visited the Cliffs of  Moher, initially viewed by boat and then from the top of the structure sculpted by wind and water over eons. I found out that two major movies Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, as well as one of my favorites, The Princess Bride were shot on location there.34133607_10216052090673233_3962199814090784768_o

The food for this near vegetarian was healthy and plentiful. This was an aubergine (eggplant), kale and pumpkin seed pie served at The Piemaker in Galway. Another time  I found a lovely Indian/Nepalese restaurant. Excellent vegetable biryani and raita. My sinuses were really clear afterward and I drank nearly an entire pitcher of water.

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One of my intentions was to hug my way through Ireland, which I had the joy of doing. Portable sign and open arms, I found people (with very few exceptions) willing to embrace this Love Ambassador as a friend had called me before my trip. These were buskers and their friend. The two men had just done Etta James proud with their rendition of At Last.

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One of the most memorable people I met, was this young man who was blowing massive bubbles in Eyre Square in Galway. He told me that I came from the land of the purple marshmallow people since my hair was dyed that shade and I was wearing a vividly purple scarf. After the first round of hugs, I passed through the park again and he snagged me, rubbing his head against my shoulder and told me that he was spreading patchouli oil on me. How did he know that this tree hugging, crunchy granola hippie loved that scent?33869777_10216040019731467_7421521260615565312_o

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Kylemore Abbey is one of the most visited sites in Ireland and is a shrine of sorts in tribute to a loving union. I was fascinated by the mirror image that called out to be photographed. That night, we were treated to an intimate concert (maybe 100 of us) in the chapel. The performer was one of my favorites, Irish musician Luka Bloom whose music I heard initially on WXPN.  When I met him afterward and told him about the connection, his face lit up and he said, “Oh, World Cafe.” (One of the station’s signature shows that he was on).33663751_10216033006436139_493327738984202240_o

Connemara ponies in the field. We were told that newborns are darkly colored and it isn’t for a few months that they gain their white coat.

33612522_10216025161280015_6866871460342792192_oThis sweet pupster was my companion on a trek down a hill. I had hiked up with the other folks to the Burren green road and turned around to take a solo jaunt back to the visitors’ center. He was one of three I had met on the way up and as the trio greeted me on the return trip, the other two remained and he kept on going, playfully jumping up and grabbing my wrist. I encouraged him to back home and he encouraged me to let him stay. He won. He kept me company for nearly an hour as I waited for the others. I suspect that this angel in a fursuit was sent as a reminder to slow down and be more playful.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather; sunny and in the 60’s and 70’s all but one day. We joked with the locals that we brought the weather with us. Who comes back from Ireland with a tan?
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Kevin Clancy was our driver/guide for most of our time on what I have come to think of as ‘Further,’ which was the bus from the Tom Wolfe classic The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. We were indeed a band of Merry Pranksters. A seasoned guide and photojournalist in his previous professional incarnation, he took us to many places where tourists don’t normally go. I felt a kindred spirit connection with him as we chatted about life, the Universe and everything. He encouraged me to climb aboard a rope swing and once on it, I felt like I was flying. What a freeing experience!33174538_10209764264978347_2958025705687875584_n

These are the people with whom I have become family of choice as they challenged me to expand comfort zones, stretch physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. One of the things I realized as I got to know them is that each of us carried with us (as if packed in our luggage), losses, wounds, and traumas, that we safely unpacked in each others’ presence. I am convinced that people are called together for a higher purpose and to help each other heal. There was a sense of incredulous, “You too?” responses to certain conversations, many that were prompted by Angi’s morning emails and questions throughout the trip. She is genius at pulling the deep stuff out of people with her sometimes no filters/no holds barred/no limits expression. Silas is her balance; grounded and calm. He is a composer and artist with a deep appreciation for Gustav Mahler and a curiosity about the world.  I found that we are all mirrors for each other, reflecting the beauty that exists within each of us, even if we are blind to it at times. Angi is aptly named as a Muse; with the heart of a wild child and the soul of an ancient elemental. I see myself in that description as well.

I was blown away by realizing the planning that goes into an experience like this. Months of research and reservations, carving out wondrous encounters, trusting that all will flow into place, allowing for flexibility and change of plans, infinite imagination, shepherding a group of strangers safely, creating the container for conversations that might not otherwise occur, beckoning us to stretch comfort zones while honoring our own needs. That is a gift that no amount of money can buy.33457353_10209764264938346_8068918607607758848_n

I feel as if I am between worlds at the moment, missing my tribe who are re-integrating back into their pre-trip lives, but I imagine, like me, are forever transmuted by the time in Ireland. I feel at home in both places.

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“May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven around the heart of wonder.”-John O’Donohue

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The clock reads 7:45 a.m. I am listening to my favorite radio station WXPN and simultaneously preparing for a typical workday of writing and clients and a dream of a lifetime trip to Ireland. A few last minute details, including packing and I am on my way across the pond. Heart racing in both anticipation and a wee bit of anxiety. I have wanted to travel to this country that beckons with magical fingers. I am convinced that it is a past life connection that draws me there, since (as far as I know), I have no Irish heritage. In this lifetime, my ancestors came from Russia. I have long been fascinated with the music and culture, as well as the people. Irish accents melt me. Many of my friends do have Irish heritage. Two (Jacinta and Colman) were born there and now live in the States. Another (Yvonne) finds it to be her heart’s home, since her sweetheart who has since passed, traveled there with her. We agreed that John will be with me as my celestial tour guide. I have packed two pictures of him. My husband (also on the other side of the veil) told me about his great-grandfather who he never met, who came from County Clare.

The words of John O’Donohue speak to my soul as well. In his writings, he popularized the Celtic concept of anam cara, which translates to ‘soul friend’ in English. We will be visiting his gravesite on the Muse Juice Tour, led by the colorfully creative team of Angi Sullins and Silas Toball, wife and husband from Taos, New Mexico. I discovered their work back in 2003 when I was led to watch a video called A Knock at the Door. Mystical, magical, it set my heart leaping and soul dancing.  Fast forward and I am approaching my 60th birthday this October. After a series of health challenges and loss of loved ones, I was poignantly reminded that life is fleeting and that living juicy, slurping from the bottom of the glass is much more fulfilling than anything else I can imagine and that the trip would be my gift to myself.

I put out a call to the Universe, asking to be guided to the absolute best way to enjoy the Emerald Isle, wanting Spirit to be my tour guide. Shortly afterward, Angi, who I had not yet met (in this lifetime), reached out to inquire about incorporating a piece of my writing into her work. I was honored and amused at the way the Universe brings people together. Within a week or so after friending each other on Facebook, I noticed that this Renaissance couple was leading a tour to….Ireland! I jumped on board that day. I know that once we take that leap into new experiences, the journey has already begun. I took care of the details that go into such a monumental (for me, since I am not a frequent flyer, although I have traveled more in the past four years since the heart attack than I had in the previous two decades) undertaking. Checking items off the list (at this writing, I still need to pick up a few things and pack), felt rewarding. In the meantime, the butterflies, labeled anticipation and anxiety were having a dance-off in my stomach. Reassuring myself that all will flow with ease and grace, I am counting the hours until I board the plane and wing my way there.

I will be toting a beautiful suitcase that my son and daughter-in-law surprised me with as a Mother’s Day gift. I describe the color as bubble gum-meets-Pink Panther-meets Pepto Bismal. Lauren laughingly reminded me that it will be easy to spot on the baggage carousel.

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A few weeks ago, I experienced a cosmic coincidence related to my trip. My friend Jodi and I took the train from Doylestown to Philly for the World Laughter Day event as Laughter Yoga Leaders. When we got to Suburban Station, we headed to the potty. There, I noticed a woman carrying a big bouquet of red flowers and I commented on how beautiful they were. She smiled and said she was giving them to her twin grand-daughters who were performing today in a show. We then went on our way and did our Laughter Yoga thang. On the way back, we caught the train and got on at 30th Street Station, which was one down from the one at which we arrived. We were sitting down and in walks the woman from the bathroom, minus the flowers, of course. We smiled and shook our heads at the serendipity/synchronicity of it as she sat across the aisle from us. We rode together for about 30 minutes and talked about her grandchildren, her job as a nurse, the state of the world, the Women’s March, and that she was going to the Sellersville Theater that night. Turns out that Jodi had lived in Sellersville and was able to give her directions. We told her about Laughter Yoga and she liked the idea of it. In her line of work, it would benefit her. Heck, I can’t think of anyone it wouldn’t benefit!

Part 2… I noticed a man and his young son a few rows back. The little guy who looked to be about two or three was crying and dad was attempting to comfort him. I always carry some kind of kid-friendly thing, like bubbles, stickers or feathers. I pulled out a feather and asked if he wanted it. He declined, but I gave it to dad in case he changed his mind. I asked if he had a fun day. He started to crack a smile. His dad explained that he had just woken up from a nap. I told him that I sometimes get cranky too. A little more smile. As I was listening to his father talk, I asked, “Do I detect an Irish accent?” He smiled and said ‘Yes.” I’m thinking that this guy looks really familiar but I couldn’t place him. I told him that I was going to Ireland soon and he told me to have a good time. I introduced myself to him and when he told me his name, I had a sense of who he was and how I knew him. Turns out that we met back in 2013 when we both spoke at a Mo’Monday (Motivational Monday) event. Afterward, I had asked him, “Where does a vegetarian teetotaler go in Ireland?” His response was “Darlin’ a vegetarian teetotaler doesn’t go to Ireland. She goes to Ohio.” I looked back at my PM here on Facebook and saw a thread of conversation that chronicled that. Remember that, Jacinta? You told me back then that as a vegetarian teetotaler, you COULD tell me where to go. (: What a sense of humor the Universe has. Had we gotten on at our original station, we wouldn’t have encountered these folks.

I am planning on doing FREE Hugs while there. Last year, as I was offering them in Philadelphia, I encountered this woman from Dublin and we hugged it out. In a few days, I will be embracing people in her homeland.

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I am trusting that this journey will reap as yet unknown rewards, unearth treasures, call into my life kindred spirits (anam cara) and inspire so many more words and so much love. Catch you on the other side of it.