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The Journey Begins

“You don’t choose a life… You live one”

The Way

Why do I want to do El Camino?  I think that is a question I am unable to answer today.  Many say that El Camino will give me the answers I seek, but that is something yet to be known… For some, a pilgrimage will allow them to find themselves, to find meaning in their lives; for me it will be the culmination of a dream.  Maybe I will find answers to my questions, maybe I will begin the quest to regain control of my life or maybe I will discover things I never knew about myself.

In two weeks I will depart on this journey, and I want to highlight the word journey…  For me it’s not so much about if I make it to my final destination in Santiago de Compostela, it is about what will happen within me and the transformations that I will feel as I embark on this adventure.  I don’t doubt that reaching Santiago will be an emotional moment, but what will matter the most is the experiences, the relationships, the discoveries, and let’s not forget the food!

To understand my story better we have to go back to the summer of 1982.  Undoubtedly that summer piqued my interest in El Camino. Spending three glorious months in Asturias and watching los peregrinos walk down the main road with their backpack of burdens as they slowly trekked down the road was something a bit over my head as a naive teenager.  But I listened to my grandfather’s stories, and once back home in Puerto Rico I remember my mom talking about the Way of Saint James, its spiritual significance and how she wished she could do it one day. School, responsibilities and a family soon took center stage in my life, and my thoughts of El Camino were buried deep inside my subconscious brain…

Fast forward to recent years, when a chance encounter, a heartfelt conversation and a search for meaning reignited my desire to walk El Camino.  Nothing makes you think more than examining the last thirty years of your life wondering what happened. Finding myself past my halfway point, questioning my life was quite nerve wracking.  It sure can turn your world upside down like it did mine. But at the same time you can have the hope of new beginnings, new opportunities; a re-do of sorts.

I was never one to have a bucket list, no New Year’s goals for me or anything similar, I just plugged along wanting to love and be loved.  I am quite a simple girl, always the pleaser, but I soon discovered that the more I gave the less I got in return.  In the process of life sometimes we get lost or we lose ourselves is a better term.  I found that I became everything everyone wanted me to be, except… who I really was…

Self discovery is not an easy task at any age, even for a fifty something woman.  But let’s not dwell in the fears of the unknown or the insecurities that plague us and let’s relish on the new opportunities put forth before us.  If anything comes out of my ramblings on this blog, is that I hope that each one of you take a deep breath and understand that there is more to life than what is right in front of you.  The marvels of the world are there ready for you to discover them, each place with it unique charm and wanderlust. Our experiences make us what we are and there is no better way to live than through them.

As I hike my way through El Camino I will carry my own backpack of burdens.  But with each kilometer I will be one step closer to a new place where I hope I will arrive lighter in spirits and hopeful that the me I knew will resurface again.  Maybe then I will be ready to start a long overdue bucket list of my own…

Buen Camino Peregrinos, I have a date with Pulpo a La Gallega and Croquetas de Bacalao… 😉  Keep me in your prayers.

#111

#BeKind

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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El Camino De Santiago Thoughts and Tips

“I realize that kindness will take me farther than disinterest, that love is greater than hate and that no matter how deep someone has hurt you, you do not need to hurt them in return.”

It has been a year since I traveled a portion of El Camino.  I sometimes contemplate how much my life has changed and how, even though everything crumbled around me, I can still find the courage and strength to move on.  El Camino showed me not to give up, it showed me that even though the terrain is difficult you can forge on and you will eventually look back at the path left behind and see it through different eyes, amazed at all you have accomplished.  That path is your journey, and it is part of what makes you… “you”.

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Coming back from that marvelous adventure brought me back to reality.  The losses were still there, but how I handled them was different. I have been told over and over again that if you can’t change a situation, you have to change the way you react to it.  So that my friends, is what I have been trying to do since then… Each and every day has been a small step to try to regain control of everything that unraveled around me. Losing my family, home, friendships, and more, it’s over and above what most people can handle in a year.  Top that off with a medical scare and most would run for the hills. Yet… here I am… I am grateful for each and every individual that has touched my heart. I think when we go through difficult times we tend to withdraw and hide within our shells, but I realized once I opened up, that there is beauty, love and caring souls all around me.

This blog post was meant to be about tips on how to prepare for El Camino, but to not write about what it does to you spiritually is impossible.  Nothing can prepare you for the changes that happen within your soul.  Nothing can show how it will affect the rest of your life… nothing… because El Camino is different for everyone.  Each one of us has a different backpack of burdens, and each one of us will take away a different message.

I have to be honest and tell you that coming back to reality was not an easy feat.  There were days I wanted to give up. But just like the trek through the Pyrenees mountains, giving up was not an option.  Just like the day I yelled up to the heavens for help and I felt the energy from the angels, just like that… I have felt the energy time and time again upon my return.  I am more spiritual now, I tend to lose myself in nature at times, I smile at the sun and talk to the moon, and no… I am not crazy; I just realized that we are all interconnected.  That the universe is this well-oiled machine and that when we heal, we have to heal not only physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well. We need to balance all the facets in our life…

Now, I realize that kindness will take me farther than disinterest, that love is greater than hate and that no matter how deep someone has hurt you, you do not need to hurt them in return.  So to all of those that have been unkind to me, I pray for you each and every day. I hope God opens your heart to forgiveness, humanity, compassion and lots of love…

Now that I spilled my guts out… let’s talk about what this blog is about.  Preparing for El Camino. As some of you know I was doing the trek completely alone and I didn’t know what to expect.  So this is what I did:

PLANNING

Camino Ways at https://caminoways.com/

Camino ways offers a variety of routes and they will find you hotels, albergues or hostels along the route.  You can do entire routes or sections of a route. In addition you can add meals and luggage transfers. I was staying in Spain after my trip and needed to bring extra clothes that wouldn’t fit in my backpack, so I used their luggage transfer service.

They will send your credentials (Camino passport)  to your first hotel/location or home if you reserve with enough time.  Their customer service was excellent.

I stayed at hotels and I have to say the only drawback was that most people stay at albergues and the hotels, although very comfortable, for the most part were empty of peregrinos.  I wrote a bit about that on this post https://wordpress.com/post/myjourney801967800.wordpress.com/164

TRANSPORTATION

Depending on your route/starting point you can plan to go to the closest airport and either take a bus or a train to your starting location.  I do recommend to make your train and bus reservations ahead of time. I paid for my bus ticket and added the insurance. You can read the blog above to see what happened when I didn’t buy the train ticket!

My starting point was in France at St. Jean Pied de Port and I could have gone through Paris, but I opted to fly cheaper from the US to Dublin, from there to San Sebastian, Spain and then a bus from there to SJPP.  I used kiwi.com for all my flights and I didn’t have any issues with connections. This blog talks about that portion of my trip: https://wordpress.com/post/myjourney801967800.wordpress.com/52

If you are not doing the full route you can check which towns have easy access to the trains and plan accordingly

FOOT CARE

It is imperative that you wear good quality, comfortable shoes.  I wanted to wear hiking shoes but both pairs I bought were uncomfortable.  I first tried Merrell hiking boots and I wore them for a day and those went right back to the store.  Then I ordered a pair of hiking boots by Saucony and those had the same fate. Finally, I consulted with my PT and he said if I liked my walking shoes by Saucony to wear those and that’s what I did.  They worked great!

Saucony Ride 8mm offset tennis shoes

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I had concerns about blisters, so I purchased a couple of products to help with that.

Socks:

Wrightsock Double Layer Coolmesh II from REI  They were pricey but worth it. I brought with me 5 or 6 pairs, which per sales person suggestion, I shouldn’t wash every day.  So I rotated them and washed them in the hotel sink and air dried.

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Blister Cream:

The HikeGoo blister cream created a protective layer between feet and socks.  Definitely worth it. I lathered my feet every morning before heading out.

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Cushion Protectors:

I purchased at Walmart gel corn protectors and used them on my last two to three toes as an extra precaution.  Just make sure you have enough space in your shoes so you don’t squeeze them too tight.

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EQUIPMENT AND STUFF

Backpack:

I purchased the REI Trail 40 backpack and it had plenty of space and was comfortable.  It was on sale for $89 which was pretty convenient.  I could have gone with a smaller one, as I had luggage transfers and didn’t need to pack all my clothes in the backpack, but this was a good buy.  Make sure you get fitted. I tried different brands and REI’s was the most comfortable.  The employees were wonderful helping me find the correct size.

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Walking sticks:

Redcamp Aluminum walking sticks from amazon.com.  They were collapsible, lightweight and easy to use.  The different tips for different terrains were an added bonus.

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Poncho:

I never had to use the poncho as our days were nice and dry, but I did bring one just in case.  Mine was lightweight and would cover the backpack and I purchased it on amazon.

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Umbrella:

I wanted to bring a trekking umbrella, but the price was too high, so I purchased another one and tried to rig it to the back pack.  It didn’t work and it was too much weight to carry around.

This trekking umbrella was the one I wanted, maybe next time…

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Gloves:

Invest in some exercise gloves or hand protectors.  They saved my palms from developing blisters from the constant rubbing with the trekking poles.  I got mine as a gift and they were from TJMaxx. They took quite a beating, so I know they did their job.  I also wanted to protect my hands from the sun, because at my age, the sunspots are multiplying! They were similar to these ones:

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Clothing:  You don’t need to bring much with you, this is not a fashion show.  Just enough to have clean items with you. I did lots of washes in the shower and hung to dry overnight.

  • Quick dry shirts – I am allergic to the sun so I had to wear long sleeve shirts most of the time.  I recommend swim/rash guard shirts that wash and dry easily, short or long sleeve, that’s your preference.
  • Quick dry pants or shorts –  If the items are quick dry you can wash in your hotel room and be ready by the next day.  I do not recommend jeans.
  • Breathable underwear –   To the women out there, this is a must.  My first day was very long and hot and I was soaked in sweat…not good.  After that I just wore lace, comfortable and breathable underpants. Same goes for a breathable sports bra with medium support.   If you develop any irritation, just take a nice bath and lather petroleum jelly.

Odds and Ends:

  • Inexpensive carabiner clips to hook things to the backpack
  • Multi-purpose tool/knife like a Swiss Army Knife.  Just be aware that there are restrictions on planes and trains with carry on luggage.
  • Anti-Chafe stick balm – but I didn’t use it much
  • Hats and sunglasses – a must
  • Towel – Not all albergues have towels.  I stayed at hotels so I didn’t need one but I had a fast dry washcloth that came in handy because the hotels didn’t have washcloths.  I also used it to cover my neck and head while walking.

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  • Suntan lotion
  • Shampoo/conditioner – I heard some albergues didn’t provide these.  All of my hotels had shampoo but none had conditioner, which it is a must for my hair.  Let’s say I had a brillo pad on my head by the end of the trip.
  • Toilet paper– yes you will need it as some toilets do not have it.  You can always take a bit with you each morning from your hotel. I found toilets along the way.  Some businesses require a purchase, which it was ok with me. This blog retells a funny toilet story:

  https://wordpress.com/post/myjourney801967800.wordpress.com/183

  • Zip lock bags for storing snacks, lunch, ice, etc.  I saved breakfast items to have later for lunch and saved a lot of money doing that.
  • Protein bars, packet tuna for quick protein boost, etc.  I brought my snacks from home, as I am allergic to nuts and have to make sure what I eat won’t give me a reaction.
  • Waist pack – I carried my phone, wallet and passport on a zippered waist bag, in case something happened to my backpack.
  • Phone/camera/earbuds and portable battery/plug converter.
  • Powder electrolytes.  I purchased Emergen-C brand powder electrolytes that I could add to my water.  Easy and convenient and I did use them.

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  • Pain reliever – I brought your usual acetaminophen, naproxin and ibuprofen.  Wish I had brought Lidocaine patches, but another peregrino gave me some. I also brought some heavy dose prescription strength muscle relaxants but tried not to use them.
  • I brought emergency ice packs and knee braces because of my injury.  The emergency ice packs can’t go on the carry on, although I was allowed because I had a doctor’s note.  I used a pack every day and sometimes while walking, but if you do not have major injuries, there is no need to have the extra weight.

I am confident when I tell you that you won’t regret doing El Camino.  I hope it enlightens you as much as it did me. Every so often I go back and reread the blog, so I can remind myself of the lessons learned, the pain shed and the growth I’ve experienced.  Good luck and Buen Camino!  Keep me in your prayers.

Blogsite: https://myjourney801967800.wordpress.com/2018/06/14/the-journey-begins/

#Lovemore

#BeKind

#111

We only scratched the surface…

Mattie and I arrived here as two individuals enthusiastically ready to lend a hand, but we left as sisters and became part of a family of doers…

As elated as I am for what we have accomplished, I am saddened to leave it all behind.  I feel that there is so much more that can be done for these communities, so many opportunities for positive change and growth.  The positivity of the Dominicans and their zest for life despite the hardest of circumstances, amaze me.  They are a resilient group of individuals.  There is much I can learn from them.

Our last day of our #JetBlueForGood service rounded up our pillars of responsibility by working with the environment.  We united on this venture with Fundemar, an organization that specializes in marine conservation.  Being from an island and residing in one, I know first-hand the impact our environment has on our marine life.  I thought about Cindy, our coworker and sustainability educator, and how she would love to partake in this endeavor.  In reality, I thought about our Pennfield family quite often.  Our school’s core values of kindness, generosity and respect, and our efforts to develop a strong sense of social and community responsibility within our students, align perfectly with what we are doing here.

Fundemar promotes the sustainable use of marine resources through research, educational programs and a variety of projects earmarked for the conservation of the marine ecosystem.  This particular project found us constructing buoys that would be used to protect the coral reefs.  As you all know coral reefs contain the most diverse ecosystems in the planet.  They protect our coasts, provide shelter for marine organisms and much more.  Not to bore you with a science lesson that I’m not qualified to teach, but it is important to mention that reefs help the fishing industry, generate money for the economy, but most importantly, they provide a record of climatic events, including storms and human impacts.

After learning about this and how Fundemar works to protect the reefs, we began our work.  We constructed buoys using PVC piping.  I am glad Mattie knows how to use tools, because using a saw is not my forte.  I wanted to just videotape and take pictures, but safety comes first…  The process was simple, using affordable, easily accessible materials that are durable, we constructed the basics of the buoys and then Fundemar will finish them up by adding the correct amount of cement and a rope to keep the buoys upright.

 

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These buoys will protect the reefs in various ways.  For starters, they will serve as anchor points for boats so the anchor doesn’t damage the reef.  As well, they will provide visibility so divers and fisherman can find the area quickly and there is no need to be boating around consuming gas, which pollutes the waters.

Our #CheckInForGood experience may have come to an end in the Dominican Republic, but it doesn’t mean it ends for us.  I have been moved beyond words and I understand, more than ever, what my obligation is as a civilized human.  We accomplished wonderful things, but in the grand scheme it was just the start, we only scratched the surface of a problem deeper than we can imagine.  I think back at the comments some foreigners made while I was trekking through El Camino…  The political climate in our country is at times controversial, but that can’t stop us from doing what we know in our hearts is ethical.  We are guests in this world of ours, and it is our duty to leave it better than we found it.  We can accomplish this simply by helping those around us and by understanding their struggles.  Mattie and I arrived here as two individuals enthusiastically ready to lend a hand, but we left as sisters and became part of a family of doers…. Thank you JetBlue, thank you #CheckInForGood.  Keep me in your prayers.

#111

#BeKind

#CheckInForGood

#JetBlueForGood

www.fundemardr.org/home

fundemar.cecomar@gmail.com

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#DestinationGood. Thank you!

Working As One

JetBlue’s #CheckInForGood brought us to Meliá’s Paradisus Resort in Punta Cana, our home base while away from home.  Besides offering an out of this world venue, Paradisus Corporate Social Responsibility partnered with us on our second day of giving.  Their mission to create a sustainable and socially responsible future led us to the small community of Higüey, not far away from our majestic resort.

The contrast between our plush accommodations and our service location was striking.  When we arrived at Escuela Básica Las Dos Jardas we found a warm but humble school building, a lot smaller than what we are accustomed to in the United States.  Servicing over 260 children in about four or five classrooms, the school breaks up the day by shifts; a group of students attend in the mornings and then a different group in the afternoons.  In the evenings, it provides services to adults.  Classroom sizes are extremely large by my standards.  The first-grade teacher indicated she had 36 students in her classroom, a room too small to house that many little bodies.  There was hardly any space between desks, and all I could think about was my bright, cheery, ample classroom waiting for me back home.  But the darkness of the room did not dampen their spirits. The students were happy and loving, and it warmed my heart to see their smiling faces.  It was obvious… this school is a safe haven for its community.

Our mission was to help rebuild their basketball court, the only place that children in the area have at their disposal to play safely.  Keeping our children active and giving them an outlet for creativity are important elements in their development.  The well-being of a community can be as simple as having a safe playground, a community center or shaded areas.  The JetBlue For Good Program and Paradisus worked together to not only create a safe space for them, but also an environmentally friendly haven, by reusing plastic bottles creatively.

The basketball court itself was professionally done prior to our arrival.  Our job was to create murals surrounding it and to use recycled materials to give it a 3-D effect.  When Mattie volunteered our talents to paint free-hand, I was skeptical I would be able create anything.  I guess she believed in our talents more than I did.  One thing was for sure though, it was hard to take away the teacher in me…. As the mural was taking shape I felt there was something missing, a trademark of sorts.  I felt that if the mural was for the children, they should take part in it.  After brainstorming our design, I enlisted the help of the first graders to create a caterpillar using their hand prints.  The caterpillar roams the garden below a house encased by some of our handprints, symbolizing a community coming together to build a home…

I will let the pictures speak for themselves, because my descriptions wouldn’t give them justice.  This joint effort is like none I have ever done before, testimony of how humanity can come together to make the world a better place…

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As the day wound down, I was witness to one of the most tender moments, when a young girl named Melody approached Mattie.  Language would not be a barrier for her, she showed her appreciation, gratitude and thanks with a quiet smile and heartfelt hug.  She wouldn’t leave Mattie’s side and her hugs grew stronger as our departing time grew closer.  I think Mattie has a friend for life in Higüey.

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Another project completed, another pillar of service, another opportunity to make a difference in this world.  It all starts with baby-steps, one in front of the other; one idea, one wish, one goal…  I for one have been enlightened by this experience.  I think I can speak for many, when I tell you that this experience has ignited a desire to continue to serve others and to raise awareness of our social responsibility.  Upon our return we will bring our knowledge and inspiration to our communities as we continue what JetBlue started.  Thank you JetBlue!  Keep me in your prayers.

#111

#Bekind

#CheckInForGood

#JetBlueForGood

www.meliahotelsinternational.com

All about the children…

When you enter a contest, you rarely expect to win.  JetBlue’s #CheckInForGood received over 40,000 entries and only 50 winners nationwide were selected.  This opportunity of a lifetime brought us to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Upon arrival our jet was welcomed by a water cannon salute. The water salute is an  airport tradition that typically involves fire trucks spraying water over the plane forming an arc.  This high honor is a sign of respect and gratitude reserved for dignitaries and military veterans.  The area of Punta Cana is so appreciative of our efforts that they wanted to showcase their sincere appreciation with this highest homage.

Our first full day found us working in La Escuela de Educación Especial Padre Cavalotto in conjunction with The Dream Project, a non profit organization that strives to enhance the education of children of the Dominican Republic, one of the most under-performing education systems in the world.  Lacking the most basic needs, many students in this country spend their days in overcrowded classrooms, without the essentials that we consider a norm in the United States.  Founder Michel Zaleski recognized such need and established a program that aids children from infancy through age 25, focusing in areas from early childhood education, to holistic youth development, among others.  For more information visit their website at http://www.dominicandream.org

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Padre Cavalotto School is a special education institution that serves children with various needs and disabilities.  Nicknamed the “school of hugs,” we soon learned that it lived true to its reputation.  When 13-year old Aneudis eyes met mine, we knew we were meant to spent time together.  His gentle nature and love is one experience that I will hold close to my heart when I return home.  During our first activities, we partook in bonding exercises that required us to use our body to interpret words like home, backpack and baby.  Each volunteer partnered with a student and built a home with their arms, carried the student on their back or picked them up; except me of course!  When the word “bebé” came up Aneudis, faster than a rocket, scooped me up in the air and held me like a baby to the delight of all the children around.

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Each program that The Dream Project tackles, is one that is purposeful, thoughtful and useful, and our project did not divert from that.  Padre Cavalotto School was in desperate need of a roof.  The leaks had practically destroyed the classrooms underneath, making them uninhabitable.   The school, which is meant to serve about 180 students, couldn’t provide services to all due to the damaged classrooms.  Upon hearing this, JetBlue sprung into action and paid for a new roof that professionals took care of prior to our arrival.  Our job was to paint the walls and ceilings of six of their classrooms.  We divided into six teams corresponding to six cities that JetBlue flies to.  Of course I was in Team San Juan!

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It was incredible to work with other like-minded individuals and learn about all their previous experiences.  Everyone has a story.  James, a professional photographer from Los Angeles, California has done volunteer work in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  Suhda from Washington DC worked with a solar energy company who provided support in Latin America as well.  The rest of our group included JetBlue employees that volunteered to join us.  We laughed, sang and worked as one team, for one cause and one dream.  At the end I left my mark in a corner of the room…

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Mi mano para que me recuerden siempre…
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Mattie and I left with the feeling that just the simplest of things can make a real difference in the lives of others.  Photo courtesy of James Kao Foto

Volunteering changes you for the better.  I came to realize, that even the smallest of changes had an impact not only on the recipients, but within me.  I felt a deep appreciation for all I have in life and a clearer understanding of what is important to me.  So many times we underestimate the value of everyday things, as they seem everlasting, but nothing lasts forever and we need to recognize this and be grateful for all of our blessings.

As our day drew down to a close, Mattie looked at me and said, “Wish we could do more.”  This was my feeling exactly.  I wish we could have stayed there longer, more time helping, more time interacting with the students, more time feeling the warmth of their love. Their bright eyes, full enthusiasm, emotion and hope will travel home with me. I will not forget…

Keep me in your prayers

#111

#Bekind

#CheckInForGood

@JetBlue

For more information about The Dream Project visit their website at http://www.dominicandream.org/about/ or contact them at info@dominicandream.org

www.jameskaofoto.com

Give More… Love More…

In the movie Pay it Forward, one social studies experiment became a phenomenon. I would like to make an experiment of my own. While I am away will each one of my friends and readers promise to do one Random Act of Kindness? Then post about it in the comments below this blog entry.

My good friend and philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein once said, “Helping to better the lives of others is the greatest of all achievements.”  His words resonate with me today as I plan to depart with 49 other winners and their companions on a volunteering adventure.  It is not a coincidence that #CheckInForGood takes-off today, on #GivingTuesday.  Giving Tuesday is a global movement that originated in 2012 as a way of coming together to celebrate the generosity of giving.  Groups and organizations worldwide partner to try to leave commercialism and consumerism behind, albeit only for a day, and at the same time raise awareness about charitable giving.

In reality, giving is not something we should just earmark for one day of the year.  Each an every day is a brand new opportunity to make the world a better place. One act of kindness, as small as it may seem, will make a difference.  I think back to a day that out of the blue someone gave me a hug. It felt like the biggest gift of all, because that’s what I truly needed.

As my friends and acquaintances started to find out about our #CheckInForGood trip, they asked how they could get involved.  My response was simple “perform good deeds in your community.”  You can start small by giving your time or talent, by looking at what needs the schools have, what you can do for the environment and how you can help those less fortunate.  Hopefully next year JetBlue will hold the same contest again, but in the meantime there is so much that can be done right on our backyards!

In the movie Pay it Forward, one social studies experiment became a phenomenon.  I would like to make an experiment of my own. While I am away will each one of my friends and readers promise to do one Random Act of Kindness?  Then post about it in the comments below this blog entry. Share the link with all your friends and family, I want to see how far our kindness can go!  You don’t have to put your name in the comments, just where you are from and what your good deed was. The comment will be uploaded after its been reviewed by the administrator.

If you think about it, kindness is like a domino effect, as one act may trigger another one.  Performing a good deed changes your mood, brings a smile to your face and an upbeat tempo to your step.  There is a link between showing compassion and happiness, because random acts of kindness incite gratitude.  I want to thank JetBlue for this opportunity. I admire organizations like JetBlue that truly think about the impact of volunteering in our society.  By being socially responsible we understand we have an obligation to act for the benefit of the world at large. Our #DestinationGood is… The Dominican Republic!   Keep me in your prayers.  Always be kind.

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#111

#CheckInForGood @JetBlue

#bekind

https://www.jetblue.com/jetblue-for-good/

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A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way…

How many times have you heard the phrase “the Lord works in mysterious ways?”  I always felt it was one of those cliché phrases meant to make you feel good just at that moment, but today I can say for a fact that it is true.

If you have followed the ramblings on my blog you know that life has thrown quite a few curve balls my way.  Throughout it all I have done my best to keep myself afloat, albeit sometimes just treading water. The “woe is me attitude” resurfaces every so often, until I give it a kick in the rear end and hit it to the side.  Every day I see progress in my life and mindset, as a glimpse of the old me resurfaces slowly.  I know that I can’t change what has happened, so all I have left is to look forward and forge ahead.

The healing process has been slower than I thought, but I hear over and over again the Spanish saying “dale tiempo al tiempo;” “give time to time.”  Although I do not believe that time heals all wounds, I believe it helps take the edge off the pain. It affords us a stage to use our creativity and find tools to transform those losses into something positive.  For me, El Camino was the start that I needed, but once back home the reality of my life did hit me like a ton of bricks. So… I decided to do what I once loved to do… write.  Thirty years ago writing was my outlet, one of my passions.  I never thought for a second I was a good writer, I just loved to put on paper what my heart couldn’t express verbally. Then life shook me and with it took away my creativity, so I put my pen aside, destroyed most of what I had written, and never gave it a second thought.  Fast forward to recent years, when a brush with fate brought with it my inspiration.  It revived someone that I presumed was long gone; and that brings me to today…

When I heard about the JetBlue Check In For Good campaign contest, it seemed like a subliminal message.  For starters those that know me, know that I love to help others, and for years have been involved with the Feinstein Foundation and their good deeds campaign.  Not to mention that my students are probably tired of hearing my speech on random acts of kindness and making a difference, so I decided to participate and write an essay about what volunteering and kindness mean to me.  Pulling from my own experiences and the values instilled in me by my parents, I wrote a heartfelt composition hoping that maybe whoever read it could get inspired. I soon forgot about it until I received a message stating that I had been selected as one of their winners!

So, my dearest readers, the Lord does work in mysterious ways.  When life brings you to paths you are not so sure you are prepared to traverse, sometimes you find yourself face to face with new opportunities.  I am ready for this adventure, and this time with no fears or backpack of burdens, but with the excitement and hopes that I can serve the world by giving back to those in need.  I am being flown to an undisclosed location with 49 other winners and together we will be doing our part to make the world a better place. It is our social responsibility to help our fellow men and our environment, and to make sure that all children have the opportunities of a good education.  If I inspire  you to do just one act of kindness, then my job is done.  Always be kind.

Keep me in your prayers.

#111

#bekind

#CheckInForGood

https://www.jetblue.com/jetblue-for-good/

Reawakening…

“Caminante no hay camino se hace camino al andar

al andar se hace camino, y al volver la vista atrás

se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar…”

Antonio Machado

Ten days of walking may not have been enough to solve the world’s problems, but just that bit of time gave me a new perspective on my life. Almost like seeing it from a distance; as if I was using a different prism to look at myself, what I have endured, what I have become…

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Compostela means “field of stars.”  What some of you may not know, is that El Camino Francés is in alignment with the Milky Way, and in ancient times “Milky Way” was one of the names for the route.  Throughout the centuries, it has been noted that there is an energy on this path as in none other.  Many that have trekked through El Camino Francés have had the opportunity to experience spiritual awakening and life changing events, including me. The 20th century French alchemist Fulcanelli was quoted saying that “The Way of Saint James is the stellar route, accessible to the chosen ones, to the courageous, persevering and wise mortals.” In a way, I am one of those.  I had the courage to embark on this journey on my own, even as the odds were stacked against me.  Maybe I didn’t find concrete answers to questions, but I saw a multitude of signs.  Signs that steered me into looking deep within me; signs that taught me not to let fear stop me.  Before El Camino, I was paralyzed and broken, but then El Camino’s positive energy engulfed me, and in a way taught me more on those ten days that I have learned in a lifetime.

My search for meaning reaffirmed that things happen for a reason. That not all the grief can be erased, but that it is possible to create a new life for yourself despite of it.  That I can’t delete the past, but if I am strong I will be able to build over it and over the pain caused by it, and the scars left will only make me stronger in the long run.  El Camino showed me that even though I should let go of things, maybe it is impossible to let go of everything, and instead I need to forgive and move on.  By forgiving I am not only releasing myself from the angst, but I am accepting my failure. Just because I failed, it doesn’t mean I am imperfect, because failure is just one way that the world is telling me to take a different path.

I have encounter people that have painted my life with colors, albeit only for a little while.  I have realized that maybe they were not meant to stay, but just like my failure, were meant to steer me in another direction, one with meaning and passion.  My losses were a wake up call of sorts so I could center myself and look toward my true destiny.

I will no longer feel afraid or ashamed for wanting to seek happiness in my life.  The acts of selflessness ended up hurting me instead of helping me.  Being a bit selfish is not a negative trait. We all need to take care of our personal, physical and emotional needs, and by doing so we become better human beings.  So yes, I will continue to travel, to look forward to the enjoyments that the world has to offer.  Yes, I will do a bucket list of sorts with places, people and experiences I want to explore, because it is time to take care of myself.  By taking care of me I will become a better friend, partner and mother.

I will not search for a soulmate, as a one its not found but created.  I know one day I will meet the person that will inspire me to be a better version of me, with whom I will have a spiritual and emotional connection, and who will want to create a life with me.  I am happy.

El Camino was magical, and there are not enough adjectives in my Puerto Rican brain to describe how it changed me.  I was reawakened, repaired and restored.  Learn from me and from what I have gained through this journey, I know each and everyone of you is capable of creating your own path, wherever that may be.  In a way, I had to wait until I was at my lowest to realize it.  As the beginning parts of the Camino continued to break me I was able to release all my pain, frustration, anxiety, sadness…  I was able to unload my backpack of burdens…  So go ahead, find your way, only you are capable of creating your own Camino…

“… and if I ever forget who I am, remind me of who I used to be, and the life I promised to live…”

Buen Camino.  Keep me in your prayers.

#111

#wanderlust

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