101 dreams come true

Walking This Crazy Path - DreamsCo

A little over six years ago I began a journey of checking off items on a long list of dreams. The list was made in a time when I was lost and trying to find solid ground. I didn't know where I was going to live, I was alone, my career was up in the air, I was tired, and I didn't feel like things could get any worse. I looked at that huge list of 101 Dreams and thought, "Yeah right. Who am I to want this much? Who am I to think I can do this?" Five years later I'd accomplished 91 Dreams and found a life I couldn't have imagined - one filled with friends, a beautiful home, two new careers, travel, dancing, and parties,and most of all, a new confidence in who I was and what I could accomplish.

It was a crazy path to get there and it wasn't always rosy. At times it was downright terrifying with lots of bumps. I learned to trust in a higher power, to speak from the heart without fear of what people would think of me, and to not settle for anything less than magnificence.

In June of 2013, with THE LAKE HOUSE published and being chosen as the best summer read in major cities, a new book concept coming to fruition, and a very comfortable life with my bridal business going well, I felt that I had arrived where I wanted to be.

But life doesn't sit still.

At book clubs, women talked about my list of dreams. I began to hear conversations about how it was better to be the giver than the receiver in life and many couldn't imagine doing what I'd done. I started to see how women put their dreams last to care for everyone else first. I recognized who I'd been before pursuing my list in so many of these women, and I have to say I was tired of the conversation. So I thought I'd change it.

I put together a contest to bribe women to achieve their dreams. I got answers that they wanted to lose weight, get a six-pack, and many couldn't name their dreams. If they could they found they couldn't find space to pursue them.

The conversations bothered me. Meanwhile, my agent was stating that the book I was thinking about wasn't fully formed and I didn't know where to take it. Along with that my bridal business began to have trouble. Though life was still good, it seemed that no matter how hard I worked, I was spinning my wheels.

Then I had this idea.

What if I could create the space for people to pursue their dreams? A day long event where attendees could try out different items on their list and then go online and connect with the women they met at the event. We could start to change the conversation.

I knew it wouldn't be easy, but as I opened doors and looked into doing these events I knew I needed help. I found what was to be a great business partner, but in order to make it all happen I had to sell the security of my home for the seed money and move back to my hometown of Boston. As soon as I'd done this, and right before my move, I had to fire that partner. But I found new partners and put together a team only to land in Boston and have many of them not return my phone calls. The new web designer I hired was destroying my website and I had to fire him because I was doing all the work. This dream to help others was looking more and more like a nightmare.

I found myself without a home and my stuff in storage waking up every day trying to make this business happen and falling asleep with it still on my brain. I had a new book proposal due and a bridal business to relight. There weren't enough hours in the day.

I write this on the day we launch the site, not for pity's sake, but to show you the truth of pursuing a dream.

I realized this morning, that I stand in almost the same place I stood six years ago when I made the list: No solid home, uncertainty of the huge scale of what I'm going after and if I can do it, fear very much present, and though I have incredible family and friends cheering me on and two young women who work hard to see this dream come to life, I feel alone. Further, it now costs me money to work instead of bringing in income.

So why keep going?

Because I believe this conversation that women and men have about their dreams needs to change. I know after six years of pursuing my dreams that our dreams are the roadmap to life we're meant to live. I have no idea how this will turn out, but I've opened doors and met incredible people along my way, and I'll always be grateful for what this journey has taught me. I now believe I've earned a MBA with the hands on experience I've had.

Dreams aren't about fluffy clouds and magic wands. They are about finding the torch to light when you feel like the light has gone out.

 

What's your dream? How have you or why haven't you pursued it? Leave a comment and let's start this conversation.

Friendship Among Many Religions - DreamsCo

If you want to enjoy time with people there's one rule - never talk politics or religion. It seems no matter how much we advance in technology we can't seem to stop fighting over who's right. When I made my list of dreams I decided I wanted to sit down with people from many religions and have an open discussion. Though I was raised Catholic, my mother brought me to the Ayurveda Maharishi Center to learn meditation, to Healing Arts Festivals with New Age Philosophy, and conversations about religion were never closed-minded. I had friends who were Muslim, Spiritual, Born-Again, Hindu, Mormon, and Jewish. No one ever had a problem with one another and one Christmas Eve my diverse group sat around my dining room table celebrating. But when I moved to California, I met a group of Christians who told me that I wasn't a Christian because I was raised Catholic.

I had no idea what to say to this comment. Aren't you Christian if you believe in the teachings of Christ? I didn't say much to their comment, but I did ask them if they thought that Christianity was the only way to get to Heaven. They commented that they felt that anyone who wasn't born-again wouldn't be accepted. When I asked about the billions of people on this planet who believed in other faiths, their answer again was - no only true Christians could enter and that their's was the only true faith.

Why do so many people on this planet believe that in order for their faith to be right everyone else must be wrong? I thought if everyone could sit in a room and realize that we're all just people, trying our best in life, that maybe it could end prejudice - at least in that room.

Let There Be Peace

 

This dream came about when I was invited to join a group at my church to go to the Salam Center (Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims). Imam M. Azeez had put together a course bringing together Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths to explore the differences and likenesses of each religion to bring about peace.

For six weeks all three faiths sat together with great scholars, rabbis, ministers, and the Imam discussing history, faith, and misconceptions. At the hour of prayer for the muslims, we joined together hearing the Imam chant and prostrating next to one another.

I was never asked to convert, though learning each religion's beliefs made me want to join in their ceremonies. I was never told that any religion was bad or wrong, but instead that they're similar. They each teach the same principles: to be good to your neighbor: to love and trust something bigger and more powerful than yourself; to hold dear your loved ones; to not always give in to the pursuit of the body so to be able to listen to the spirit; that we need community; what we do to others we do to ourselves; and that we are more than just this human experience.

I'm certain there are many people who would love to fight me about why certain religions are wrong. I have friends who have been persecuted by radical Islam and had to flee their homes. I'm from the Boston Dioceses and know people harmed by Catholic priests. Every religion is made up of humans and at times humans can be faulty.

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But when it comes down to it, people turn to religion in search of more love and peace in their lives. Maybe if we could understand this we could stop persecuting others for different beliefs and accept that people need love, acceptance, peace, and most of all a feeling of belonging in this large world.

Photos by James Tennery

Learning Photography Dream Come True - DreamsCo

There's something magical that happens when I hold a camera: the world slows; the fine details come to life; and I find myself almost in a meditative state. I love traveling the world with my camera in hand, capturing what I see.

My grandmother was a photographer and I remember sitting in her kitchen as a child with the lights off watching slide shows of her latest photographs. When I was a teenager my brother gave me my first SLR and though I tried to learn on my own how to take photos with the camera, I couldn't seem to understand the concept. As I became older and traveled the world, I knew that I had a natural eye for taking pictures, but I never got the hang of taking the camera off automatic. As I bought a better camera, people raved about my photos, but I felt like an imposter. I had no idea what I was actually doing.

Then I met James Tennery at a private party in the Napa Valley. (Once again, one dream leads to another dream coming true.) James agreed to teach me photography if I was willing to model for him. I have a horrible fear of being in front of the camera. I hate doing it and feel like a deer in headlights, but I was willing to do just about anything to learn this art form. It took just a few lessons with James and I was off auto mode. He was able to teach me that ISO was film speed, aperture was depth of field, and shutter how long the camera allowed light to come through to the sensor. Suddenly, my photos were taking on new form.

James and I would go out and shoot together. Watching how he took photos taught me to see the light in things, literally. I realized that photography was more about how the light affects a subject. He taught me to shoot dirty - that sometimes the greatest photos come from playing, making mistakes, and just shooting everything you see. I'm forever grateful to Jame's teachings. As with any art form, I will continue to grow and learn for the rest of my life. I will find other photographers to shoot with so I can learn from them as well. And more than that, I will continue to seek out the beauty this world offers so that somehow I can find a way to capture it through my lens.

 

 

 

Trust in Something More - DreamsCo

This past weekend was my three year anniversary of my list of dreams. I decided that like a marriage anniversary I would celebrate June 10th as the day I made a commitment to have a deeper relationship with myself and life. I took the day off and drove to the ocean with the  plans to do some hiking, spend the night in Sausalito, California, and then the next day at a spa. The day was perfect: a cool breeze, bright sunlight, and empty trails. The heavy rains of the last month created lush greenery and an abundance of pink, purple, yellow, and blue wildflowers. It was like I was hiking in a postcard. As I walked up and down the hills, I began to think how many people put so much energy into their relationships with others, their jobs, their commitments, and yet they don't spend the time to deepen their relationship with themselves. I have many friends right now going through break-ups of marriages, long term relationships, or they are newly single. Instead of being alone, they rush ahead to online dating, a new intense sexual relationship, or they move from one person to the next afraid to be alone.

Why is it that as humans we fear being alone? When I ended my relationship of eight years, one of the catalyst to my list, I decided that I wanted a partnership where I was whole and complete within myself and the other person the same so that when we came together we overflowed. I'm curious how people who rush ahead to a new relationship before they've even mourned the loss or dealt with the pain of the past can come to a relationship not carrying the baggage. If a relationship starts because we are afraid to be alone, I think in many ways we will cling to that relationship even when it goes badly because that fear remains.

Along my walk I saw a lion mountain cub. He ran up the trail, stopped, looked back at me and then took off. I was close enough to see the softness of his fur on his thick ears. Then the realization dawned on me that where there's a cub, there's a momma who wouldn't want me around. I looked to the hills above me and didn't see anything. I stopped and I put my trust in something higher than me. I'm not trying to get religious on you here, but the one thing that I've found through this entire process of going after my dreams, is a faith that something bigger than me is guiding me along the way. I don't know how my dreams will come true, yet they do and they come in unusual ways. I began to walk with loud stomps so that I wouldn't come up quickly on the animals and within ten minutes I felt safe.

Lately I haven't felt safe in life. I've been scared that the rest of my dreams won't come true, that the book I've written and put so much of my heart and soul into will never get off the ground, and I've been hurting over a few interpersonal relationships. In all of this, I've been praying, saying what I want, how I want it to happen, and pushing what I believe is right for me. In this moment of my hike, I felt something akin to surrender. That life has never gone the way I thought that it should, it's always come bigger and better than I could've imagined. I can force my will and expectations on my life acting like a child who wants candy for breakfast or I can let go and realize that life has this divine miraculousness to it that I can't even imagine.

It was at that moment that I realized that one of my dreams came true - to find true trust in a higher power. My life may never be what society deems successful. I may never live the perfect picture I've envisioned. But when I let go and become grateful for all that I have - which is so much - a serenity envelopes me and I know that life is just meant to be enjoyed in the moment. More than that there's a feeling that I'm never alone. And who says that an idea of perfection is right. This picture of San Francisco at night came out so neat because it wasn't the clear vision of the city, but a scrambled mess of light.

Skating At Adult Nationals - DreamsCo

"Do your athletes sometimes wonder why the heck they do this?" I asked Kris Sherard, my stand-in coach at the Adult Nationals Figure Skating Competition, as I stretched in preparation to step onto the ice. "They all do. Dorothy Hamill didn't want to take the ice before the Olympics because her nerves had gotten the best of her. Then she went out and won a gold medal. If you weren't nervous I'd be worried," Kris said.

I'd arrived four days before in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'd only had ten weeks to work with my new coach Kris Amerine to choreograph and learn a new program. This was only my fifth competition and my first at the Silver level. I'd trained as hard as I could learning to eat as an athlete, to push through fear and my mind's limitations, while striving to improve. As I stood at the boards, ready to take to the ice, I looked at the other competitors; All powerful women whose lives were so much like mine. They held full-time jobs, some had families, and yet they found time to be on the ice to practice. Many of these woman had years of experience competing and skating and knew each other from other events. Though they were all competing to win, they were supportive and friendly making me feel welcome as the newcomer.

As they called my name for warm-up, adrenaline pulsed making my legs quake. I ran through the elements of my program - warming up each move's precise technique. I stepped off the ice after six minutes and then had to wait almost fifteen minutes till my turn. They announced my name and I skated to the center. My heart raced and I took one last deep breath before I posed to begin. The music started and I found myself lost in movement. My skating felt shaky but then I began to find my flow as I smiled at the judges. Then I did one move too quickly which put me too far down the ice and I backed myself into a corner causing me to lose focus on my lutz loop jump combination. For the first time I fell in competition. I stood wondering how to get into the next move since I was against the wall. I tried my sit spin and fell again. I stood, took a deep breath and thought, this is my moment, my dream come true, I'm going to enjoy the rest of the program.

I began to skate again finding my edges and speed. The pure joy of being on the ice radiated from my smile and I stopped caring about perfection and just skated. I finished strong, but it was only enough to place twelfth.

Two days later I was back at the arena. This time to perform a program I knew well. Nerves still got the best of me but I thought again, this is my dream come true - live it to the max. This time, I skated my program with passion, emotion, and most of all love for the sport. I glided across the ice taking in the experience and when I finished, the energy I radiated made me feel as big as the ice arena. People came up and congratulated me on my performance and told me how it had moved them. I'd skated well enough to be awarded a Bronze Medal.

If there's one thing that I've learned on this journey it's that nerves, butterflies, and fear will always be there when you go after something you want with all your heart. I'm beginning to understand that those feelings mean you're really living to the max. I've also realized that going after my dreams always gives me more than I expect: I met incredible new friends; bonded deeper with my dear friend Kathy, who in her sixties competed at her first Nationals; and I was showered with love and encouragement by someone very dear to my heart. It was an inspiring week that will remain with me forever.

photos by James Tennery

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO0zcNwoniw&feature=related

 

Lust - DreamsCo

Lust is considered a mortal sin that takes you away from the presence of God and poisons your mind with thoughts of physical pleasure. The church lectures that lust is to be suppressed and to even think a lustful thought about another who isn't your married partner is considered adultery.

In my research, I found that the Seven Deadly Sins weren't from the Bible: not the Old Testament, The New Testament, nor The Gospel. Instead, the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins was created for monks who had chosen to live a spiritually devoted life; to have pride, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, envy, or to be sloth-like would not only make it hard to uphold their vows, but these emotions would also create problems amongst the community. But these sins were taken further than the hallowed walls of the monasteries and placed on human kind. To turn away from lust has created what I consider a deeper sin: the suppression of joy, passion, and sexuality which in turn has created guilt and a crudeness to something spiritual and deeply beautiful.

The Websters Dictionary defines lust as pleasure, delight, personal inclination, intense or unbridled sexual desire, an intense longing, enthusiasm, and eagerness. These words don't seem sinful to me. Instead, they call to the soul to be desirous of life and all that can be felt and experienced.

When I placed the dream, To Really Experience Lust, on my list of 101 Dreams Come True, it wasn't just about sexual desire. I had known the rush of a first kiss and the way my body responded to another, but at that time in my life I lived by rules about pleasure. I was more about hard work, struggle, and perfection. To know true lust, to be swept away by enjoyment not just of the body but of the world and life, seemed a distant capability.

What I've learned on this journey of going after my dreams is that we're meant to be pleasurable beings, but we've forgotten what true lust feels like. This kind of passion has nothing to do with one night stands or finding fulfillment in another person to fill a void. It's not about gorging on chocolate or buying expensive clothing and toys. It's definitely not about the sex we see on television.

Lust is about having an appetite for that which is pleasurable; It's a hunger to taste life. To experience its truth one must know thyself.  It's when you're comfortable in your own skin, when life has opened up in a glorious way and pleasure comes from tasting something decadent, feeling joy in a raindrop on a spring day, or in the simple happiness of being alive that you can know real passion. Then when sexual lust does happen you are free to let go and experience it - the touch that melts all thought, your breathing and heart rate quickening, becoming so lost in physical sensations you flow with a tide of energy that lifts you beyond this world to one of complete pleasure. It is said that true meditation is when all thought has ceased and you experience the present moment. Therefor lust is not a sin but a way to connect to that which creates life.

We are meant to be lustful creatures. For if we weren't meant to taste, touch, smell, feel, and see the pleasures of life then we wouldn't have been given these amazing bodies from which all our human experiences come. Lust is our birthright.

Communicating Without Need - DreamsCo

When we say the words, "I love you," our hope is that the sentiment will be returned. When we're upset and try to express our emotions to another our desire is for that person to accept that they've caused us pain and to make it better - to heal the wound. We long to be heard and understood. The problem many of us face, is the reality of our egos. Many times, when we communicate, we're saying first, "I need you to hear my pain so that you understand that you've caused it. Or I disagree with you, and I expect you to see my point of view because I believe that I'm right." We go into our communication with an expected outcome and if we don't receive it, our egos feel wounded and the pain grows.

When I wrote the dream - To say what I feel without need or expectation - I knew it would be one of the toughest dreams to achieve. It didn't take money, time, or anything material to come to me. Instead, to make this dream come true, I would have to place my ego aside; not an easy task.

I've always had the gift of communication. I can eloquently express my emotions, thoughts, and in a fight I'm a tough opponent. I can easily make someone see my point. When the other person refuses to see my side, an anger roars. I push harder, forcing my view, and at times I can make someone feel small. This can be helpful in business when I'm trying to get my way and the term Dragon Lady has been used, but the emotional place I have to go inside to become this person isn't pleasant.

When we enter into communication with need or expectation, we have already decided the outcome. We're no longer looking to see the other side, but instead focused on our needs. This was what I wished to change in my life. I no longer wanted the anger it took to force someone to see my side. I also, didn't want to back down from the things that were hard to face: conflicts, emotions, expressions of love, or even different viewpoints.

I realized that my dream had come true of saying what I need without need or expectation when I began catching myself thinking about the outcome before I entered into a conversation. Instead of allowing my ego to storm ahead, waging war, or expressing its needs, I stopped and waited. I began to step away and ask myself why I needed to say what I felt. What I've found, is though I don't always get the outcome I originally desired, I have found peace in stating my feelings.

For instance, I needed to tell someone that I felt they were being unfair in a charge for a service rendered. I cared deeply for this person and it was a hard conversation to have. The charges were placed without my knowledge and I was expected to accept them. I knew if I didn't speak up for what I felt was fair, I would feel resentment. I also knew that I didn't wish to fight and when the other person's feeling arose, I was able to step back realize that whatever the outcome, I would know that I spoke my thoughts from a place of peace. In the end, we came to a compromise.

I believe, that if the world began to really listen to one another without placing the outcome or need before the other person there would be more understanding and acceptance. For how can we really listen to someone else when we're busy defending, planning our attack, or allowing our egos to dominate?

All My Heart - DreamsCo

Last night a friend said to me, "I think you're amazing, but with that said, you don't have to accomplish everything within a certain time frame. Why can't it take years to accomplish your dreams? You can be settled in life and still pursue what you desire." I understood what he was saying, and I knew it came from a heartfelt concern about how much I've been pushing. The last four months haven't been about romping around the world or even taking time to relax and enjoy life, my time has been spent pushing for my biggest career goals. I've felt like I've needed to add three more days to each week.

I didn't know how to explain why I push as hard as I do or why I don't want to stop actively pursuing my list.

This morning, I found my journal from three years ago. In the first entry, I wrote, My prison is of my own making. I feel like life hurts and I don't like myself anymore. I'm afraid of losing the security I have in my relationship and financially. I'm terrified that I'll mess up my life if I go after what I really desire. I take care of everyone else first and if I decide to take care of me will I still be loved?

As I read the entry, I wanted to go back in time and shake the woman who wrote those words. Back then I spent hours planning trips and thinking about going after my dreams only to find excuses: my relationship would suffer; I'd be homesick; it cost too much; etc.

When I created my list, I was the woman who wrote that she'd made her own prison. By actively pursuing my dreams, I metamorphosed into the woman I always wanted to be. The excuses ended. Life became beautiful and joyful with a few dark clouds of pain that were lifted quickly by my own sunlight. I learned to spoil myself and in return found an amazing group of friends who loved me not for what I could give them, but for who I am.

I now know that going after what means the most will always come with doubt and fear. If everything I've been working for doesn't come to fruition - my book doesn't get published, no one ever looks at this website, I don't accomplish the rest of my dreams - I might feel like the work I've done was a waste of time. But at least I'll know that it wasn't because I put myself in a prison of my own making. I will be able to say that I gave everything I had for the chance to have everything I desired.

I just realized that I've accomplished another dream: to give my heart completely to all that I do. I think I'm proud of this dream more than the others because it definitely took the most courage to accomplish.

Tallest Roller Coaster in the World - DreamsCo

  When a roller coaster has a 428 ft drop, goes over 128 miles per hour, and gives a face-lift the second it takes off, how could it not be one of my 101 Dreams Come True? Riding coasters makes me feel like a kid. I love how my heart slightly races as I hear the click of the cars moving up the hill, inching over the top, and then rushing downward, my stomach in my chest as I scream at the top of my lungs.

When I realized the tallest coaster in the world was close to my childhood home I thought it would be an easy dream to complete. Every October I travel to Boston to see fall foliage. In order to achieve my dream I simply needed to rent a car and drive the five hours from Boston to the amusement park. The year I made my list, I planned to achieve this dream, but weather fouled my plans. The second year, again rain was in the forecast.

By the third trip home, determination had taken over. I was going to ride this coaster even if I had to do it with water pelting my face. Things seemed to be on track as I made plans with a friend to drive to the park. I flew home, rented a car, and was ready to have a blast at the amusement park. Two days before our big adventure, my friend had to back out. I’m comfortable doing my dreams alone, even enjoy it, but I didn’t want to play in an amusement park by myself. I asked numerous friends to accompany me, and though many were excited to join in, one by one they came up with excuses: the drive was too long; they’d have to get up early; they’d be tired the next day; if only they’d known sooner. “Do it next year,” my friends said. I thought about taking their advice, but I’d made the promise that if the opportunity to make a dream come true came to me, I had to do it.

I decided I would go alone. There could be no excuses when it came to making a dream come true. Roadblocks wouldn’t stop me.

It turned out that universe had a better plan for my dream than I could’ve imagined. My girlfriend from California, who’d been traveling in China and Romania the past year, was in New York City and she was willing to join me. I drove four hours alone, picked her up outside the city, and went to the park.

With blue skies and sixty-five degree weather, the park was crowded for late October. We made our way to the roller coaster only to find out that it had been shut down for over an hour. As we walked away, the line started to move and the ride re-opened. It took us only half an hour to reach the front of the line and we decided to wait the extra time to sit in the front seats.

We sat down, the ride moved forward, and stopped. I looked at its tall hill, so unlike any other coaster I’d ridden. Would it even be good? I wondered. Where was the hill you slowly clicked up? Where were the rolling ups and downs where you put your hands up so you were lifted out of your seat? I’d come all this way for this?

Then the ride moved. Or should I say shot like a rocket with such force I felt my skin pulling as if I were skydiving. We twisted and turned up to the crest and then slowed as we came over the top of the hill. For one moment I took in the view - miles of trees bright with the colors of fall. Then I was falling, shooting back to the earth with incredible force and up over the final hill. I screamed with joy as my arms went over my head.

I felt the rush of living to the maximum. Hyper with adrenaline my friend and I laughed our way back to the line planning to ride again, but now there was a four hour wait. We rode only two other coasters that day due to the crowds. We spent hours in line, yet, it was a day I will never forget as I caught up with my dear friend sharing stories of our year and how we’re choosing to pursue our dreams. Maybe it’s crazy to drive eleven hours in one day for three minutes of ride time, but I think a little crazy in life makes living that much more fun.

Let There Be Peace - DreamsCo

 

On September 11, 2010,  I stood at the Sacramento Cathedral steps, the setting sun illuminating the church spires in pink, as white doves were released over the crowd. A soft song of "Let There Be Peace On Earth" was sung, as one by one, people placed roses on the Quran in blessing. Religious leaders from the Bahia, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Spiritual Life, Hindu, and different Christian religions read passages of peace from the Quran. The crowd was just as diverse, coming together in the understanding if we're to have peace on earth then prejudice must come to an end.

The ceremony was an attempt to heal the hurt caused by a man in Florida who called for the Quran to be burned. As I looked around the crowd, who stood together in a vision of a world united by differences instead of disgraced by ignorance, I was surrounded by hope.

When I made my list of 101 Dreams Come True, I wrote that I wanted to bring all faiths together in an open discussion for understanding. At the time, I wasn't part of organized religion but had my own spirituality that I hold to this day (though I'm now part of a Franciscan church). I didn't have contact with any Muslims, so my only knowledge of the Islamic faith was what I'd seen on newscasts, movies, and what I'd heard from other people. If I'm completely honest, I had prejudice towards many organized faiths (Catholicism being one) that I hadn't recognized.

But as I've searched for ways to make this dream come true of bringing faiths together, I've become part of the Interfaith Service Bureau of Sacramento that's opened my heart and mind to many religions: I've shared Ramadan in my Catholic Church; gone to Iftar at the SALAM center; prayed with Muslims in a mosque; taken a class on Monotheism led by Christian leaders, Rabbis, and an Imam; meditated with Unitarians; done Yoga with Hindus; walked through Potala Palace with a Buddhist monk; attended Non-denominational services; and have become an active member of my church. As I've studied faith, I've realized that all religions are based on the same ideals: a higher power; love; treating others better than we expect to be treated; and that humans so often get it wrong and need a little help along the way.

I have to wonder, if we're similar in our basic beliefs then why do we have a bloody history when it comes to religion? The only answer I have is that ideas are formed in ignorance and then passed along. It's only in learning and sharing with one another that we can end this horrible history of hate. For when people come together in peace, no matter what the faith, it brings forth love, understanding, and friendship. And isn't that what life is all about?

Photos on this blog were done by James Tennery. To see more photos of the event go to his gallery.

Je t'aime Paris - DreamsCo

Je t'aime Paris

How could I not be in love with a place where I can buy a bottle of reserve wine for five dollars and each corner has a Boulanger and Patisserie with delicate, pretty pastries lined up like little girls in a beauty contest? There are so many cheeses and desserts to eat and so little time.

As a teenager my only desire was to someday see Paris. I remember staring at pictures of the Eiffel Tower in french class and dreaming of someday walking along the banks of the Seine. When I received my passport my dreams heightened as I imagined shopping, seeing museums, walking through Notre Dame, and trying out my french. Things didn't go as planned that first trip. Instead of the romantic vision I had of Paris, I got lost in the metro, had accidentally booked a brothel, no one understood me when I spoke, I slept in a disgusting youth hostel, and after a day in tears I ran to Germany, away from Paris, in fear of another horrible day. Honestly, after that experience, Paris became a funny story and I no longer wanted to return.

This time, as my plane landed at Charles De Gaul Airport, anxiety built a furious ball in my stomach. I hadn't realized how the memories of my first trip Paris had been playing in my subconscious.

This experience is much different. I'm staying in a lovely apartment in Vincennes, a suburb of Paris called the Royal District due to the Chateau de Vincennes in the center of town. The Chateau was built as the hunting lodge of the king best known as Saint Louis. Louis loved the surrounding woods in Vincennes and many days he spent sitting by the oak trees lost in thought.

Vincennes is a slice of real life in Paris. I began my exploration at the open market where the locals buy their produce, shoes, flowers, and meats. The music of street performers filled the air and the atmosphere was much like a farmer's market in America. People lined up outside their favorite Boulanger and waited up to fifteen minutes to buy their bread and pastries from their favorite shop. Children rollerbladed in the parks, and little girls, dressed to the hilt ,danced together by the fountains. Most of Vincennes is a wooded park with a lake at it's center where people picnic and play bocci.

It's the beginning of spring here, and the flowers are just opening as the buds on the trees begin to explode with greenery. In another two weeks Paris will be in full-bloom. Though I'm sad that I won't get to see it at its peak of flowers, it's just as well. The weather is amazing and the crowds are to a minimum. In another two weeks I fear that the hordes of tourists will overrun the city.

The center of Paris is just a fifteen minute ride on the Metro. My first full day in Paris, jet-lag had gotten the best of me and I napped for almost three hours during the rainy afternoon. When I woke, I didn't feel up to going into the city center, but I didn't wish to sit around. By the time I walked out of the subway in Chatelet les Halles the clouds had cleared, the sun was shining and the city looked decorated in a golden hue. I hadn't walked three steps from the subway when a nice young man asked me to join him for coffee. He spoke little english and my french at the moment was a rusted shut wheel in need of greasing, so I declined. Along the way to Notre Dame there were three more offers from men to be my personal tour guides. With a smile and a thank you I declined. I guess French men can rival the Italians when it comes to being suave or dogs however you would like to think of it.

As I walked along the Pont du Neuf a nice guy, named Robert,  came up and started to speak french to me. When I said I was an American he looked at me in shock. He asked in english, "Where is your baseball cap and trainers? That's all the Americans wear."  We began to talk as we walked along the Seine. Originally from Toronto, he came to Paris eight years ago to visit, fell in love with the city, and never left. He never asked to be my tour guide, but as we walked he pointed out the important buildings: Musee du Louvre, Les Invalides, Musee d'Orsay.

The sun began to set, and dusk fell over the city as we walked came upon the Eiffel tower. Robert began to laugh and apologize, "At this time of night the tower's not that impressive. I should've brought you here later. Right now it has kind of a dull look to it. It will have more of a wow effect later." He was right, the structure looked bland in the twilight. but I couldn't bear to say that to my faithful guide. But as we walked across the Pont d'iena  I looked back across the Seine and the tower illuminated in golden light. The wow factor kicked in and everything inside me became a huge smile. From the patio of the Musee La Marine we stood staring at the beauty of Paris as the stars began to shine.

The night air was cool and we began to walk again through the city. We came to the Arc de Triomphe then walked along the Champs-Elysees window shopping as we passed by the expensive stores. Along the banks of the Seine, the candlelit world of Paris shimmered on the surface of the water. We entered into the courtyard of the Louvre and Robert made me close my eyes as he led me into the inner square. When I opened my eyes, the old building looked magical in it's romantic lighting.

It was the perfect first night in Paris.

Patriot's Game Dream Come True - DreamsCo

I'm an avid football fan. When the Patriot's play, a whole new side of my personality explodes from my being. I throw pillows, jump out of my chair, and expletives slip through my lips. Until nine years ago, I didn't know I liked the sport. As a young girl, I was a cheerleader who had no idea what the cheer, "first and ten do it again" meant. I dated the captain of the football team who spent every Monday morning re-living the game as I pretended to listen, yet I had no idea how football was played. Then I went to a professional game in the old Foxboro Stadium, and watched a young Tom Brady play his first game as quarterback. The team was down by two touchdowns and a field goal with only a quarter left to go. The fans had left and everyone had given up except for him. This young man refused to quit, running in touchdowns and playing with everything he had. The Patriot's came back to tie the Chargers in regular time and won in overtime. In that moment, something happened to me. I became a jersey-wearing fan who felt that my prayers could change the outcome of the game.

Since moving from Boston to California, seeing a game in the stadium has been impossible. Tickets are sold out months in advance. When I originally made my list I thought about wanting to see a game in the new Gillette Stadium, but it didn't make the cut. As I was watching a game this past October the longing returned. I went to my list and changed one of my dreams.

I thought it would be at least a year before I could make this dream come true, but once again magic happened. The day after I wrote down the dream, my mother had a vision of a convenience store and a Patriot's lottery ticket. She went in, bought the ticket, and won. The only problem was that the date of the game would be determined by the lottery, and I wasn't certain I could find a flight home.

It turned out that the universe was on my side. The game happened to land two days after Christmas, when I would be home for the holiday. I thought that I couldn't be luckier, but even more greatness came my way. It can be brutally cold in December. The stadium doesn't have much cover and wind-chill can reach the negative numbers on game day. As I entered the stadium, after the official tailgate party, the rain ended and the sun broke through the clouds. I stripped off my winter coat as I cheered on my team.

The Patriot's won that game by thirty points. I watched our wide receiver joke with the fans and the defense dance during time out. I wondered at how this could be happening. I asked to see a game and without my doing anything it came true.

That first game nine years ago, I saw Tom Brady believe he could win. Against the odds a sixth-round draft pick who only got to play because the regular quarterback was injured, took the first step to making his dream come true of becoming a Super Bowl MVP.

Many times we feel that life is against us. In truth, the guts to ask for what we want and the determination to never quit turns life into a magic hope chest.