Dreams do come true

WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT

Vietnamese woman-johatcherretreats

Don’t ever give up on your dreams.  Sometimes they come true when you’re not even thinking about them.

Years ago, I was visiting a winery in Napa Valley. In the showroom there was a photographic exhibit of women in India. As I stood in front of each picture, I felt touched and mesmerized by the faces I saw in the photographs.

I wanted to know more about the women and about the photographer who took the photos.  I felt moved and inspired. The colors caught my eye first. The rich intense colors seemed to match the beauty of the women.

I decided then and there that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make photographs of women around the world.

Immediately the inner critical voices said to me. Jo, you know that’s impossible.  How in the world would you do that?  How could you have the money or the expertise to photograph women in another country?

That was 5 years ago.

As many of you know, I was recently in Vietnam. When I returned home and looked through my photos, I had the most incredible aha moment.

There they were…the Flower Hmong women at the weekly market.  Their ruddy faces, worn by the sun…staring back at me from my computer.  There in front of me were women dressed in colorful hand sewn outfits.

Flower Hmong woman-johatcherretreatsThese women touched me. I was unable to communicate with them except for when I took their picture, I showed them the digital photo I had just taken and received beautiful smiles back.     [Read more…]

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Traveling with the Women of Vietnam

Traveling can teach you many things. My recent visit to Vietnam provided me with new insight about the lives of women in the Sapa Valley region, their ability to live close to the land in very difficult situations and what we can learn from these strong women. Vietnam Rice field waterfalls-johatcherretreats.comAs with so many places when we travel as tourists, we get a mere glimpse into other people’s lives. I don’t pretend to know much at all after a few days journey into a small region of Viet Nam.

Yet the experience made me pause and think about how we live our lives. These women live so differently than me and yet I felt a sense of connection with them and their lifestyle.

I’m always interested in the women. Women of Vietnam [Read more…]

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Cracked Open

On Becoming a Grandmother

There are those moments when life opens you, breaks you into pieces, and you get to experience wonderment.

Avery Mae.

Avery Sweet Mae

That’s the wee baby who came to us, to my son and daugher-in-law a week ago.  Avery Mae took her first breath in the world and started her life journey November 20th at 9:15 pm.

9 pounds 5 ounces of grace and beauty.

It was a tedious labor…24 hours it took her to get here.

Her mother was strong. Her father right by her side.  Avery’s two aunts… sisters supporting, waiting, texting.  She was surrounded by love.

I also was waiting…minute by minute at the end of the phone….the text messages were like gold nuggets for me.

The words would pop on the screen:

4 cm.

now at 6

When things got hard, I saw it on the text. When the doctor came in, there was my text.

I felt slightly bonkers, dizzy, gaga, ridiculously inept to focus on anything.

[Read more…]

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A Letter to those Voices in my Head

Dear Saboteurs,

Some people call you their inner critics, monkey mind, critical voices, gremlins… but I call you guys my saboteurs.  Because that’s what you do.  You sabotage me.

I think you all know who you are because you’ve been around since I was about 6.

Remember?  When I looked at everyone else’s drawings in 1st grade and realized that mine didn’t look the same as all the other kids.

I’m talking to you, Mr. Comparison.

You probably didn’t want me to have my feelings hurt, so you said, hey, kiddo, yours isn’t as good as the other kids.  Your drawing looks stupid.  That was a perfect way to get me not to draw anything but stick figures and even then you said they didn’t look right either.

What’s been happening is that I am having phenomenal experiences traveling around & I’m always taking classes in cool stuff and so I really would like to share all that with my peeps.  Okay, so I’m not always clear about what I’m going to write or why I’m standing on my head in front of castles, but hey, I want my readers to have fun and do some silly stuff, too.

So Miss Not Good Enough shows up & I say to myself, “who wants to read about my life?  And it’s just being self indulgent anyway.”  That is you, MISS NOT GOOD ENOUGH…that is you, talking in my head.   See….I know, when I’m in my best moments, I can recognize you and know that it’s not really true.

[Read more…]

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The Women Behind the Scenes

                   What it Really Means to Wear the Uniform

I am the mother of 2 active duty Marines.  Each of my sons have strong, patient women waiting for them.  These women & I wait for them to return from war, from deployments, from dangerous and faraway places.  We have been waiting 7 months.  We have been waiting 3 weeks.

We are waiting women.  We wear the uniform, too.

I remember back in 2007, when General Peter Pace was serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staffs, he said, “Thank you for your service.  You are serving in the military even though you don’t wear a uniform.”  He was speaking to a rather large audience of family members on an Army base in Hawaii.  All of them had a loved one deployed, mostly to Iraq.

At the time, I didn’t get what General Pace meant but I thought, hey, that’s a nice thing to say to the families.  My sons were new Marines and so we had not experienced a deployment.

Today I get it.  TOTALLY.   When I saw my daughter-in-law bravely send her husband off to war, just 6 months after getting married, I knew she would be wearing the unseen uniform.   That was their first goodbye.  My son has just returned from his second deployment in less than 2 years.  Since they have been married, they have spent more time apart than together with his 2 deployments to Afghanistan.

[Read more…]

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