Travel Writing

Old Letter

I am so amazed by the things God hides in my heart that I don’t let go of. Here is a letter written to a friend about four years ago mentioning “excosmopolitan!”  I was stoked (that one’s for you babe) to find it today! This letter also shows some of the struggles I had living in Mexico- don’t let it fool you- I loved the place, must have been having a rough time of it when this was written though.

“ So when we stay close to home I can imagine it’s exotic and beautiful, however go to where the cobblestone ends and the madness begins and Mexico is less than ideal. This is a huge city. We take busses to get everywhere and they are annoying, crowded, and smelly. The city is incredibly polluted, so Aaron struggles with his allergies especially now during the dry season when it is so dusty. In fact, it’s SO dusty that you must wear sunglasses all the time, even when it isn’t sunny (it’s almost always sunny though, which is something I really like) so the dust doesn’t blow into your eyes! The rainy season will begin in June and then it’s thunderstorms and torrential downpours every night. The streets flood when it rains and the water pools- sometimes to cross the street you have to walk way out of your way or through quite deep and yuck-o water.

 I struggle here because teaching is not my heart. Being a wife, a mom, an artist, and physical activity is what I love. So sometimes I feel like I am not doing my real purpose, but I do know that this is where God wants me now.

 I don’t paint much………… I wish I did. I am at a new point where for the first time in my life I am not confident in my artistic abilities at all. I feel a little lost. I don’t want to just paint pretty pictures. I want to create something real and meaningful.Sometimes I think the whole concept of being an artist is so egotistical and I need to get over myself and let it go and just work hard and enjoy the little things in life (Ecclesiastes on the mind). On the surface I want to be an artist to make at least some money so I can be “free” of a normal job, the have recognition, to be great, to be remembered. None of these are good reasons. The REAL reason I create is because I AM an artist whether I like it or not. I can chose not to paint but it will make me miserable. God created me to create for His glory and I want to do that, but fleshing that out is an enigma right now.

 I have moments of great inspiration frequently. Ideas are not the issue, it’s the manifestation of them. The look, the paint, the reality.  What will this “excosmopolitan” appear as? How can this idea appear in a show in Baghdad  or Jerusalem? Can it promote peace? Can it show human frailty and divine redemption? Can it ring true as a teacher in this modern age? What color? What symbol? What style? And the scariest question of all, Can I DO it?

 No. But God can. I feel I am not yet strong enough in Him for Him to trust me with such a thing………

N E ways. That’s where I am now. Tormented by my mind many waking hours and soothed by the shadows the sun casts as it trickles through bugambilia flowers. Comforted by warm, though dusty, breezes. Inspired by whispers I think I imagine riding into Las Fuentes on the colors of the evening sunset.

 So dear friend! Thank you for asking and for listening. Life really is to great and beautiful to bear on your own, is it not?

What place do you think mysticism has in Christianity? That’s a thinker. I was asked this recently and am thinking about it. I don’t think they meant “mysticism” as we think with the strong new-age connotations of the word. I think they just meant listening for God’s voice and seeing Him and His signs that are all around us. Not taking anything for granted, but as having come directly from the hand of God.

You know, His still small voice…………. At least it could make for an interesting writing topic.

 With Love.”

 So cool right??? I love to see, even better get a firm piece of evidence- for remembrance- that reminds me of how deliberately I have been led by the hand of God all along and that yes- He is working all things together for the good. Amen!

Categories: Art, Excosmopolitan Theme, Travel Writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments


A few months back we bought a book about perfume for my father-in-law for his birthday. He loves perfumes and colognes (this is an interest of his that I enjoy bonding with him on) and we found the book on the bargain rack. Before sending him the book I perused it a bit and was inspired to write about some of my own experiences with perfume.

The very first perfume I ever had was a gift from a Christmas gift exchange when I was in kindergarten.  I remember being a little bit disappointed when I opened my package- the other children where playing with dolls, stuffed animals, and coloring sets while I sat at my desk starring at and questioning the value of a small glass bottle with purple plastic lid. I remember my teacher approaching me and asking me what gift I had received. I silently motioned to the bottle.

“Oohhh, perfume!” she softly exclaimed, trying to hold back her delight as she asked me if she could smell it. I slowly scooted the bottle across my desk. She carefully lifted the bottle, smiled, and unscrewed the round cap.  She gracefully raised the open bottle toward her nose, and inhaled deeply. “Aahhh” she smiled differently than I had seen her smile before. It wasn’t her teacher smile. It was a smile of beauty and womanhood and pleasure. “This is a very special gift.” She closed the bottle and placed it softly back on my desk. Before moving on she whispered to me, “you got the best present.”

I took the cool bottle into my pudgy hands and observed the sticker on the front of the square vessle. It was an illustration of a little girl in a pretty purple dress and a straw hat picking flowers from a lilac bush. I tilted the bottle and watched the pale purple liquid move mysteriously. I clumsily unscrewed the purple lid and with two hands brought the perfume to my nose. I smiled; it was beautiful. I inhaled more deeply, it smelled so happy. It reminded me of a real place. I wasn’t sure where or if I’d ever been there, but it smelled like a real place. The scent in that small bottle spoke many things to me- about possibility and hoping and accepting. I had received a very special gift.

I remember showing this gift to some of the women in my life- my mother, an aunt, my grandmother- I loved to watch their reactions. The reactions were all beautifully similar but also unique. The smells in the bottle made each woman’s eyes twinkle as they connected with some special memory. I kept that little bottle long after the perfume was gone. Each time I unscrewed the lid the scent remained and it never failed to bring a smile to my face and to remind me of unexpected wonder waiting to be discovered. I think I finally threw it away before I was married when I was going through old things and consolidating for a cross-country move. I wish I still had that bottle and all the sweetness it contained.

Between this maiden perfume and my current perfume there have been many others: Sunflowers, Ici, Channel Chance, Emporio Armani, Aqua Di’Gio……….. some smelled nice, some didn’t, but none of them meant much until my Eclat d’ Arpege………

I was 21 and on a study abroad in Italy. I was living in Florence, but it was Easter weekend and a friend and I decided to get way off the beaten track. We bought overnight train tickets and traveled to Sicily for our Easter break. Sicily or Sicilia was magnificent and very different than Florence or any of the cities of central and northern Italy. Sicilia was wild and immediate and a bit outside my comfort zone. How I wish my time there had not been so brief.

One of these precious numbered days in this intricate and bold land, Jenny and I spent in a small seaside village called Cefalu. Cefalu was non-pretentious elegance. After an hour attempting to sunbathe on an overcast day we packed up our towels and wandered from the beach and surf into the little town that jutted into the sea creating a mini peninsula of bell towers and terra cotta rooftops. We popped in and out of shops and eateries that afternoon, but one shop remains clear in my mind- it was a little perfume shop.

It had dark wooden floors and dark paneled wood walls. A long heavy wooden apothecary counter ran the entire length of the left hand wall and was densely populated with shiny bottles of sparking liquids and large glass jars of dried herbs. The remaining floor space was scattered by round tables draped in fresh white linens- each table held pyramids, boxes, concoctions of scented wonder- the whole scene was overwhelming. By the time we realized we needed to exit this shop we were lost in a maze of perfume. We maneuvered through the lyric configuration of tables toward the exit where a sales lady had positioned herself. Poised with spray bottle in hand she asked, ”Do you want to try?” Jenny jumped out the door and before I could say no thank you she spritzed me twice. She looked quite satisfied with herself……all I could say was “Grazie” as I descended into the street and the door jingled closed behind me.

“She got me.” I laughed. I pulled my wrist to my nose and inhaled. For the second time in my life I was surprised by a perfume. I lifted my eyes to the shop window, the sales lady was watching me knowingly- she held the small round bottle gently up to her cheek and smiled. As we walked away from the shop I kept looking back over my shoulder I had the feeling I was walking away from an experience I could never again recapture. I lifted my wrist to my nose again, simple passion,  and again, childhood, and again,  possibility in creativity. I stopped walking, “Jenny, I have to go back and buy this perfume right now.”


“Smell this”, I shoved my wrist to her nose.

“It’s nice, but…….. let’s just go get a bite to eat and catch our train.  As we continued walking further from the shop I continued smelling my wrist and looking over my shoulder. I thought of that beautiful and wise scent fading and not knowing what it was and never having the chance to know its secrets and my heart sunk.

“I cant live without that perfume. I’m going back.”

I remember my friend being slightly annoyed as we agreed on a meeting spot, but I didn’t care.

I turned and nearly ran back to that shop! My heart soared with expectation. I reached the door and stepped up through the stone threshold. I scanned the floor for the sales woman. She was waiting for me behind the massive counter. The perfume bottle sat glistening next to her calmly folded hands-she smiled victoriously as I gladly handed her a purse-full of crumpled euros.

I emerged from the shop somehow changed. Somehow my response to that perfume in that moment had made me brave, certain, and sure of infinite possibility. I still wear this perfume today. I listen to it like an old friend. Some days it tells me to take a risk. Some days it tells me to be still, but always it reminds me that each moment is a precious gift.

A little more- I think it is quite interesting that both perfumes that have made an impression on me are the same color- which lavender isn’t really that common of a perfume color. If I were rich I’d hire a private scientist to “disect” each one and make a report of their similarities- I bet there are quite a few- even though they smell quite different.

Categories: Travel Writing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Poem

Dangling love over a foreign cliff at midnight,

risking my desired life

and most fulfilling love,

for no reason

other than,

I am lonely and refuse to admit it.

circa 2001

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Called To Stay

I like to move, preferably slowly. Walking is bliss.

I’ve always had a wanderlust- a bit of a gypsy spirit.

An old Italian friend of mine used to call me his, “little gypsy head.” Whenever he called me this peculiar nickname he would always follow it with, “but not like these (gesturing rudely toward the street) beggars- no you are like the beautiful old gypsies full of life and mystery.” (These were his words and feelings- I am actually quite interested in the plight of the modern day Gitana- who are also just people who need Jesus.)

When I was in fifth grade my response to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was, “A wanderer.” I imagined myself on horseback wearing an ankle length leather trench coat riding slowly over mountainous terrain through heavy cool rain.

I broke up with my very first (elementary school) boyfriend after one day with a note that read as follows:

Dear Billy,

I have to break up with you. I can’t be tied down because my soul is as free as the wind that blows over the rolling prairie grasses.



I’m not joking- I really wrote that! (Too much Laura Ingalls Wilder)

In high school I built a friendship with a foreign exchange student from Austria (Shout out to Lisi- love you!) Almost twelve years later this amazing creative woman is still a dear friend. I have visited her twice at her home in Vienna, and she and her boyfriend were just with us in the Springs last summer.

When choosing colleges I wanted to leave Ohio and attend a university in California. My parents told me I couldn’t go any farther west than Texas. I went to Baylor and married a man from California! (This was a coincidence- not for spite=)).

In early college I traveled to Belarus on two occasions. Belarus is a beautiful country with a lively wit that resonates over the stillness left in the air from years of communist rule. A beautiful friend of mine there is possibly the most vibrant and alive person I have ever met.

I studied in Florence, Italy. I became obsessed with Italy after this experience- I’d wake up in the middle of the night and start searching the web for jobs in Italy. I even found jobs for Aaron in Italy. I’d go into a trance for 48 hours working out a plan on how we would get there and be there- the plans were never fleshed out- sad. Someday. But, I am happy to report I no longer go into to crazy Italy trances.

So it ended up I had to settle for Mexico. (If you asked me now though, I love Mexico right up there with Italy- and on some accounts much more.) I moved to Guadalajara, Mexico with my husband to teach- we lived there two years. Our first daughter, Clara, was born in water, in Mexico.  Mexico made me an adult and a mother.

I miss my days and the people I love there frequently. I often want to go back- two years was nothing! I have many friends still there in their 6th, 7th,8th ,and even 30 something years there! Sometimes I feel like a loser for leaving after only two years. I was just getting passed the new culture shocky-type stage. I wonder what I would have experienced and how much more deeply those experiences would have shaped who I am becoming had I stayed.

We returned to Colorado Springs and bought a house. You know what I thought about that, “great, now we’re stuck.” Which isn’t necessarily true, but for me it feels a bit cumbersome. I think about decorating and improving and creating a beautiful warm place and then I think, “well, it can be beautiful but not too comfortable because then I’ll become attached to it and when a cool opportunity comes I won’t want to seize it because I like my curtains too much.”

Sometimes I just want to go somewhere- anywhere new and foreign. Anywhere where I’d need to carry a map around and finding a place to pee could be considered an adventure.

This is my struggle- the desire to go- the pursuit of the unseen- the search for beauty- the quest for the unknown……………it has at times bordered on pathological (watching a House Hunters International Episode for the 6th time because I’ve seen them all multiple times!)

It isn’t only searching for what I don’t know, but also reaching out and reconnecting with what I do know. I love visiting places I have been before. Seeing the same faces and signs and breathing familiar foreign smells and walking familiar foreign paths is comforting. There is some continuity that is grasped, some whimsy-at-large that comes full circle when the foreign is established as familiar.

All these feelings aside my husband and I are growing some roots here. I think this is healthy and good for our family.

Just two months ago hubby and I were mobilizing for another international move. He was interviewing with international schools and I had begun reading the stack of books I had ordered on Amazon about raising kids in foreign countries and was packing boxes in my head.

Guess what happened? We were invited to stay.

We accepted to invitation. For now I am learning to quench my thirst for far-flung adventure with the challenge of seeing myself as an ex-cosmopolitan (mind games are fun=)). Even here in Colorado Springs, I am a foreigner a sojourner- life here can be strange and uncomfortable, lonely and frustrating, exhilarating and surprising, rich and alive!- just like it was abroad.

I am confident in God’s purposes for grounding me and growing me here- home.

For now, I have been called to stay.

Categories: Excosmopolitan Theme, Travel Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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