Episode 004 - The Quiet Man

Rod Haden

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season! I certainly am. Time is flying and my days are packed. This week we have a conversation with my father, Rudy Haden, a man who has fascinated me ever since I was a wee lad. He's that special kind of quiet that invites others to project onto him whatever they want him to be. Getting him to open up about his past, present, and future, and what he thinks and feels about all 3 was a very special treat for me. I've known the man for 45 years and heard some stories when we talked that I have never heard before. He is my role model for what it means to be a man, a father, and husband, and though we are very different from each other, I couldn't have asked for a better teacher. Thanks, Dad!


I don’t move around very good. I’m in pain quite a bit. It comes and goes. It comes and goes. Some days it’s worse; some days it’s not. It doesn’t seem to depend on how much exercise I get. Some days it’s painful to exercise; sometimes it’s not.

I sit and try to meditate, and it does nothing for me, but when I’m really quiet, or when I’m just totally listening to music, it’s like somebody plants knowledge into my head. I know and I understand things, which I had no idea before. So my meditation is basically checking out and listening to music.

Early on in our marriage, I was in an apprenticeship program, tool and die maker. I had to really concentrate at work. And it’s not easy for me to relate to other people, but I really worked on the journeymen. I would constantly hang around them, and ask them questions, and ask them the best way to do stuff, and I got in as I guess a favorite pupil with about 3 or 4 of them.

So that when I’d come home, I was exhausted, and I would lay down on the floor and play a Beethoven record or something with earphones on, and Robbie would get so pissed off at me because she was making dinner and taking care of the kids, and I was checked out. She didn’t understand that that’s the way I did my meditation.

I’ve been in and out of a lot of churches. My parents were married in a… I can’t think of the religion right now. Reverend Grace. I remember the name of the preacher that married them, and that was there. The guy wore a collar, but he wasn’t a Catholic. But he was deaf. He ministered to the deaf people. He was deaf himself.

He was in the deaf community, and in the basement of his church is where they held all the deaf fraternity meetings.It was based on the Masons. Only it was all deaf men. It was called the Frat. That was what my mom and dad called it. The Frat. We’re going to the Frat. When they went to Frat, the women all sat outside in the waiting room. The kids played on the floor. And when the big meeting was over, they’d throw the doors open, and everybody would go in and have a big social event.

And then my mother’s side of the family was deep into the Reform Christian Church, and I went to a lot of Bible schools and Sunday schools and stuff in that until I was about 3rd or 4th grade. And then I felt like I needed to get hooked up with different churches, so I went to a Methodist church, I went to a holy roller church with a friend, and I went to a couple of Catholic services. As a teen. None of that stuff stuck with me. 

Just because there was so much religion on my mother’s side of the family, I don’t know, I just felt like I was supposed to do it. In order to be accepted by them, I should have a church, but I never could find one. And I came away from it having no respect for organized religion because the main thing they wanted, no matter what it was, they wanted money up front. Seemed like everything was driven by the collection plate. If you were a big donor, you got a lot of attention. If you weren’t, you didn’t get much. And that’s what really turned me off. 

My dad was born on the farm in Kansas, and he was sent to the Kansas State Home for the Deaf and Blind. My dad was born deaf, they think because in the early days when they had the traveling doctors going around the frontier and the farms and stuff, my grandmother evidently had a lot of morning sickness, and the doctor prescribed quinine. Well, later on they found that quinine did stuff to the unborn child. 

My mom came over on the boat from Holland witH her mother. And my mother, we don’t know if she was born that way, or it was some kind of sickness or something that she got in Holland or on the boat or what, but ever since she was a baby, she was deaf. Then my mother was, because she was deaf mute, she was sent off to the school in Colorado Springs.

The strange thing is that the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind insisted that deaf people learn to lip read and speak, and so my mother was pretty good at lip reading and speaking. And they were discouraged from using sign language, so if you compare the deaf people now that use sign language to the old people that use sign language, now it’s all really broad and all over the place, and the older people, their signs are all close in and secretive about it, where now they’re just flamboyant about it. Their signs are all over the place. 

And my dad, the Kansas School for the Deaf and Blind weren’t that way. They were teaching them to do stuff and sign language and be able to be self-sufficient. 

See, in my dad’s side of the family, all the people learned sign language, the hearing and the non-hearing. So I had no idea whether they were hearing, any memory of whether they were hearing or not. On my mom’s side of the family, I had one uncle that learned the deaf sign language, learned the deaf alphabet, and he could do that. He was the only one that made any effort to sign to my mother. All her other brothers and sisters didn’t because she had been sent to school, and they were told that she was to learn to lip read, and so they would talk to her. But the thing of it is, it’s really easy to ignore somebody like that, because all you do is turn away. Turn around, they can’t see your signs. They can’t read your lips. So, whenever there was an argument or something, it was easy just to walk away from that.

My dad’s family had a big get-together once every summer. They came from all over the place. They were Kansas, Nebraska, western Colorado, and they’d have these big, long picnics on the weekend, and there were aunts and uncles and cousins. I didn’t even know all the cousins I had. But I never just seemed to fit in.

He worked in a factory. He started out in a printing shop, a paper cutter. Cutting stuff for the print shop. Then ended up in Shwayder Bros./Samsonite, cutting stuff for the suitcases and plastic tops of card tables and chairs. And my mom worked there on the assembly line putting stuff together. And my Uncle Jim and Aunt Julia also worked in the same factory. Shwayder Bros. hired a lot of, I guess what they called the handicapped people. 

Clarence, he was a rancher. He raised horses, and at one time he had a riding stable up on Lookout Mountain just above Denver. And they had 2 boys, and the youngest one, John, he had a pinto pony named Ruben. And they taught me how to ride. And I could put the bridle on Ruben, lead him over to the fence, they had a rail fence, and I’d climb up the rail fence and get on him. And I was, what, 5 years old.

John would go off hunting. He’d go out, he had a rifle, and he’d go out shooting magpies. I had no idea what magpies were. I was determined I was going to follow him one day and see where he was going, and I’d see these cow patties in various places, you know. So I thought cow patties were magpies, and cousin John shot them. I couldn’t have been 4 or 5 years old. And then he, one time he put his rifle in, we had a, there was a kind of a mud room entrance to the farmhouse, and he left his rifle leaned up against the thing, and he had a thing in the chamber, and I went up there and was messing with it, and I inadvertently pulled the trigger. And it shot a hole in the roof. My Uncle Clarence was really pissed off at John for doing that.

My bed was in this big room where the radio was. There was no TV in those days. It was during the war. World War II. I remember there was a big old tree in the backyard. When I wanted to get away, I’d just climb up in that tree and sit up there all by myself. Could see the whole neighborhood. 

I don’t remember when I realized that there was a hearing world and a deaf world. You never knew. I mean, you could talk to some people, and you had to sign to some people, and some people were talking and signing, and you know, there was no distinguishment. And a lot of the deaf people could read lips. I don’t know when I realized that. I suppose it happened to me some time in high school when, you know how high school gets. How clannish and cliquish it is, and some kids are favored by the teachers, and some aren’t. I realized I was different. During high school, I was really aware of it because people would kind of shy away from me. If I tried to be friendly with somebody, they wouldn’t necessarily because I was a child of dummies. That’s what deaf people were called in those days. They were deaf and dumb. The deaf and dumb part came from deaf and dumb, couldn’t speak. But the dummy part carried on as not being intelligent.

And then in high school, I don’t ever, in junior high or any of those, I don’t ever remember having a parent-teacher conversation. Nobody ever, none of my teachers ever contacted my parents, even when I wouldn’t do my homework or my grades were down. There was nothing. They just passed me along. And in high school, I signed up to take a Spanish class, and I was discouraged. I should take English. I was going to sign up to take some math classes, and I was discouraged. I was to take a general math class where the big thing was to learn how to write a check and keep a bank account and pay your taxes. There was none of that geometry stuff. I didn’t get hooked on that stuff until my senior year in high school. I finally got into an algebra class. 

And I hated high school. I just didn’t fit. Didn’t know how to talk to girls. I had no experience with girls. When friends come over, it was really awkward. If somebody came home with me, it was really, really awkward because of my parents. My parents would try to be friendly with them, but they didn’t know how to deal with it. And so they just dealt with me away from my house.

I really got big into leatherwork because I had an Industrial Arts teacher, Mr. Landon was… he taught Print Shop, Leather Shop, and Woodworking. And I took all those courses. Originally I thought I was going to be an Industrial Arts teacher, then I thought about getting a degree to be able to become a forest ranger, but there was no way. I couldn’t figure out how in the hell I was going to go to college to do that. Although it was a lot easier to go to college in those days than it is now. The costs weren’t so damn much. 

 And I was really into skiing, through the Boy Scouts. Some of us in the neighborhood learned to ski. It was scary in the beginning until I learned to parallel ski. Once I got out of the snowplow thing. I got fairly good at parallel. I never was Olympic quality, but I could do alright. I just loved the freedom. Just felt free. Riding up to the top of the mountain and letting go. And then after I got out of the Navy, I really went into it for a couple of years. In fact, that’s how I met Ruth, my first wife. We met through a friend, and she was really impressed with my skiing. I took her skiing every weekend. She was really into that. And then somehow we ended up getting married.

I really got into skiing, and it was a really good friend that we skied with a lot. And he said he was going to join the Navy. At that time when you turned 18, you were eligible for the draft, so I turned 18 in 1955, and that was right between the Korean War and the Vietnam War, that period. His argument was, “If we join the Navy before we turn 18, we get out on our 21st birthday. Plus the Navy will send us to school.” He laid it out, you know, that we were going to end up getting drafted for 2 years anyway, and there was this opportunity, and I felt, “Yeah, this is a good idea.” It wasn’t all that analytical, it was it felt right. And so I did it. So we joined the Navy. We took tests and everything, and both of us qualified as machinists.

Yeah, I was out in ‘58. I rejoined in ‘61. I was out for 3 years.

I remember going and applying for this one job, and the guy interviewed me and said, “No, you’re too young. You couldn’t do all that.” And then that was the end of the interview. He didn’t believe me. And at the same time, I was going to night school, it was late ‘50s and early ‘60s recession. And you’d work for 3 months, and you’d get laid off. And you’d work for 3 months and get laid off. 

And then when I had such a hard time with all the on again, off again jobs, and I don’t know how I found out the Navy came up with a need for my particular skill. When I got out the first time, I was a second class petty officer, and they… I found out that I could go back in as a second class petty officer, got assigned to a ship in San Diego. We started, originally it was all those old diesel boats, and we worked on those all the time. And then the nuclear subs started to come in. Some of us were cleared to work on the nuclear subs.

So then I was going to make a career out of it. And I just remember getting a call, the piping over the com. And I just remember, “Petty Officer First Class Haden, report to the quarterdeck!” And I thought, “Oh crap! What have I done now?” I go up there, and a guy hands me, you know, he served me with separation papers, and I opened them up and looked at them, and it was, you know, legal language about… I showed the officer, and I said, “I don’t know what to do about this.” And he said, “Well, the first thing you ought to do is get a hold of the chaplain.” 

I knew things weren’t really good with us, but I didn’t think they were that bad. It was a real slap in the face getting served. I was just dumbfounded. “I don’t know what to do now? What?” I had to ask some officer who was probably a lieutenant junior grade or something and was probably 23 years old or something, you know, “What do I do now?”

So I made an appointment with the chaplain and talked to him, and then he got her and me into counseling. And it broke down and went to divorce. It was really traumatic. I had no idea what to do. I was at a loss. And that chaplain gave me options what to do. “Well, you can just not contest it and let her have the kids and stay in the Navy.” And I thought, “Crap, I’ve seen too many of those guys. I ain’t going to be one of them. I want a relationship with my children.” He just gave me all these different options to think about. If it’s something physical, like a computer or a computer program or a piece of machinery or a car or building or something like that, I’m very analytical. But when it comes to feelings and interactions with people, I’m more intuitive. One of my big things that I’ve known over the years is that when a door opens, you look to see whether you want to go through that door or not, whether it feels right or not, and that’s pretty much the way I’ve gone. From being a piecemeal machinist to a maintenance machinist to a tool and die maker to a numerical control programmer to a software developer, and that’s where I was until I retired. But all of those were, a door opened and I went through. There was no analytical thing about it. Did it feel right? Yeah, that felt like it was a good thing to do. 

And then when the divorce happened, I had already... You know, I was committed for another 4 years. And the padre, the chaplain, said, “You know, you could file for custody. If you get custody, you could get an honorable discharge for hardship.” And I just felt like, “Am I good enough to be a father to those kids?” And I just had the feeling, “Yeah, you can do this, but it ain’t going to happen anyway, but what the hell. Go for it.” And I’ll be damned if it didn’t happen. And I thought, “Oh crap. Now what do I do?” At that time, Harold had just gotten a divorce, and he was a single father with 2 kids. He had this big house. And he said, “You could come live with me, and we’ll help each other out.” And so we did. 

And it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. But at the time, more than resistant to it, I was confused by it, scared of it. What am I going to do now? What am I going to do with the kids that I love so much? I had heard so many terrible things about split families, you know, kids bouncing back and forth and back and forth, loyalties, mothers saying bad things about the father and the father saying bad things about the mother, that at one point I thought that if I ever have to get divorced, then I’ll just let go of the kids, not be in their life. Well that was dumb-headed. I realize that now. Just so many things happened there that I had no clue. I had no idea what I was doing. Just taking it a day at a time.

And then when I got out of the Navy the second time, because I worked on nuclear submarines, I had a top, not a Top Secret, but a Secret clearance, so when I came out, I went to Rocky Flats, which was the big nuclear plant. They made triggers for the atomic bomb. And I applied there, and they said, “Well, it’s probably going to take about 6 months to get your clearance through the FBI.” 3 weeks later, I got a call says, “You’re hired.” 

I was a maintenance machinist. We just went around fixing pumps and stuff, generators. And they opened up an apprenticeship, and I was close to 40 years old. The cutoff date was 40. And I took the test, I went into the interviews and took all the tests and everything they gave us, and there were 2 of us that were picked for the apprenticeship, and I went into that. So I went into the tool and die shop, and that’s where they made all the tooling and everything for the equipment, the nuclear stuff. It was all classified stuff.

Well, when I got… finished my apprenticeship, I became a journeyman, and I worked nights. But during that time, they brought in a milling machine that was numerically controlled, and all those old journeymen, they had no clue about that thing, so I really jumped on that, and I learned all about how to manually program it. And so whenever they wanted to put something on there, why, I was assigned to do it. They had other numerically controlled machines all through the plant. Well, there was an opening there for a programmer, and I applied for it and got it. And in the meantime, during that time I had taken some nighttime college courses on FORTRAN and drafting programs through The University of Colorado.

You know, you get out of marriage and everything, and all you’ve got is work and little kids, and you just figure you need something else. That dating thing was not analytical. That was totally gut. I kept seeing it in the paper and throwing it away, seeing it in the paper and throwing it away. And I read it and thought, “Aw, what the hell. I’ll try it.” And I was ready to give up on that because I had 2 or 3 bad dates. I remember going and walking down the steps into her garden level apartment. And opening that door, and thought, “OK, this is a good one.” And we went out, and the rest is history.

It was such a whirlwind. We were going to get married at 6 months or something. I didn’t think it was right to get married right away. The divorce wouldn’t even be final until March. So then we thought, “OK, in the summer. No, let’s get married in June. How about Spring Break?” And I thought, “My God, this is soon!” But I’ve been following her lead for years. I just know that it sure as hell worked out. Here we are, almost 50 years later. 

When Mom and I met, she was determined that she had found me and that I was the guy, and she was going to marry me, and I had just 2 years ago gotten out of a marriage. I didn’t even know who the hell I was. I had 2 little kids, was living with my brother in his basement, and your Mom was determined we were going to get married, and she was going to have 2 kids. And then we got married, and she was determined she was going to have her own kid. And then she had her own kid, and then she determined that she wanted another one. In those days, it was all the hippie thing, you know. You replenish yourself. So I’d already, I was the husband and a wife, and we had a boy and a girl, so when I got married again, I said, “OK. One more, for Robbie.” But then she was Empty Arm Syndrome or something, and she was determined she was going to have you. And so we had you. Best thing in the world.

After I worked at Rocky Flats for 7 years, I got laid off because they were cutting back, cutting back on nuclear bombs and everything. So they had to cut back on the staff, and they ended up closing Rocky Flats because it was so contaminated. For a long time, I had to go in and be monitored by medical once a year because I was exposed to americium and some other chemicals I don’t remember. I’d go in, and they’d take blood. I was exposed, but I was never contaminated, so I was alright. 

I knew that if I was just a piecemeal machinist, I’d be doing that 3 months on, 3 months off thing for the rest of my life and never getting out of debt. And so I just followed the path. I knew that I had, because the layoff from Rocky Flats, the Bomb Factory, I was back in that mode of working in small shops for short periods of time. And I knew that I was going to get into numerical control. I wanted to. But my goal was the eastern boundary of Colorado, anything west, and the southern boundary of Colorado, anything north. And all I kept getting was this crap in Texas! And they kept offering to bring us down here for a weekend, for a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and put us up. And I thought, “Well, what the hell. It’s an opportunity to get out and spend the weekend on somebody else’s dime.” And I came down here, and I was interested. They were interested in me.

Because I worked so hard at it. I spent a lot of time self-educating. The computer has been the best damn thing in my life. Although I got a lot of enjoyment out of my kids. Just enjoying watching you do things and try things and being assistant coach for your soccer team and watching Rik at swim meets. I was a timer and a stroke judge, and I also shot the gun. Starter. It was either sit in that stupid tent, or else go out and participate. Mom just really enjoyed sitting there, and I enjoyed watching how the thing worked and keeping track of Rik’s times.

Yeah. I got involved in Scouts because of you. They fill out those papers, and I’d very carefully fill them out so that I didn’t raise any flags to where they’d want me to do something, and then when you guys went into Webelos, I said, “OK, I can do it for a year,” and the next thing I knew, I was a Scoutmaster. I seemed to get all the misfits. We had some strange kids in our troop. 

One of my favorite memories is that Ford Escort you had, when I taught you how to put new brakes on it. We went through one wheel together, and then I showed you how to do it, and then I said, “OK, you’re on your own now.” And then watched you do it on your own. It was big. 

Ruth was a very outgoing person. Early on, her dad was a senior forest ranger, and it entailed being lots of parties and groups and cocktail parties. And it’s pretty much the same with Mom now, Robbie. I’m just also-ran. I just tag along. We go into groups, and she’s willing to talk to anybody, and I have a hard, hard time. Especially with people I don’t know. I can open up like to you. I can have a conversation with you, or I can have a conversation with Rik. You get into a group of people like Rik’s New Years or Christmas when he has people over, I have a hard time talking to those people. Some of them I can talk to because I know them, but I can’t talk very long. I don’t know what to say. My brain just does not work that way. I’m very very shy. I had a hard time in my jobs too. I just never really fit into those kind of groups.

But the thing of it is, my brother Harold went through the same experience, and he didn’t have any trouble. My cousin Jimmy and my cousin Elaine. Man, Elaine was really into it. I mean, she could talk sign language with the fastest of them. And I couldn’t. I could tell that people automatically slowed down when they talked to me, and I would say, “What?” a lot, and they would spell it out, and then I would understand what the sign was. But deaf people don’t like to spell things out. And so, it was easy for me to check out because if you’re not looking at somebody and reading their signs, you’re not conversing with them. So you’re looking over here. They’re signing, and you’re not paying attention. And it’s a cop out, and I realize it now, 70 years later.

If I had nothing in common with, I’m at a loss. Walk up, you know, Robbie can talk to store clerks and have conversations, and I don’t know what the hell to say other than, “Have a good day.” I don’t know how to deal with those kinds of situations.

My mom was good at it. And my dad too, just talking to people. My dad carried a little pad of paper and a pencil in his shirt pocket, and he had no qualms at whipping that sucker out and writing, talking to people. And my mom would talk to them and try to read their lips. Biggest problem she had was that once people learned that she was reading their lips, they would exaggerate everything, and she couldn’t understand it.

Best thing I ever did was get hooked up with your mom. She’s given me so much love and stability. We still have our rough edges. Mostly it’s me not talking to her enough. That’s because she’s lost all her friends in Dallas. It’s become more important to her to be more interactive with me. I have to cope with it. One of the things is, this iPhone here, I couldn’t live without it. See that? 10:30? This one here. 10:30. It’s my alarm clock. It means “Get up and talk.” When I get up out of bed, it’s time to get up out of bed, because I slept in as long as she will tolerate, and I have to talk. Sometimes I just go on down the hall, saying, “I’m walking, and I’m talking. I’m walking, and I’m talking.” And then we’ll get in a conversation, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. This one here says, “Get up for PT” which is physical therapy, “and talk, and have a happy face.” Because she’s convinced that those girls will work harder with me if I have a happy face with them. The therapists. So that’s how I’m learning to cope with that stuff.

Big thing that we have is that she’s the balloon, and I hold onto her string. I keep her grounded. But every now and then, I have to kind of float with her. To keep me in the world. Not let me crawl in a hole. To give me love.  And it works. It works for us.

In Richardson after the stroke, I was pretty much isolated, just me and Robbie and my therapists, and the therapy ran out. Robbie over the years before that had been talking about someday we need to move to Austin to be with our kids and grandkids, you know. And then when I was in in-house rehab, I just realized that maybe that’s what we ought to do. And then it was a whirlwind.

I had nothing more there. She had all her friends and her contacts and her woo woo stuff was all up in that whole area up there. When we came down here, she had a, she’s still having a rough time, but she had a really rough time in the beginning, mostly with the driving thing. Over the years, I’ve had to map things out for her. And I still do that. I map out where she wants to go. I’m really proud of her, because she’s got to where she’s really moving around a lot.

Big events in my week are physical therapy, and now that’s about to stop and I have to do it on my own. I have to force myself to do it. It’s too easy to blow off. Mom will say, “Let’s go to lunch,” and I blow the rest of the afternoon off, which means I don’t do the exercises I should. I’ve got to do it, got to get myself on a regimen. You know the old saying, “Use it or lose it?” With me it’s really true. If I don’t do it, I’ll lose it. My walking is worse than it was 6 months ago. Although I try. I just don’t seem to be able to get the rhythm good enough, fast enough. And Robbie’s really patient with me. She just walks along at a slow crawl, either behind me or by my side.

She does a lot for me. She’s walking a narrow line about doing stuff for me and not doing stuff for me. She has to decide what I really need her to do and what I can do on my own. I try to do my own laundry, but she’s pretty much grabbed a hold of that. When she hears me kicking the bucket down the hall, she runs out and grabs it and does it, but she leaves the shirts and pants for me to hang up, which I can do. I can fold the other stuff, too, but she has a need to do something. So it’s a fine line on what she wants to do and what she wants me to do.

I’ve had a couple of times since I stroked. I thought my family would be better off without me, but then I realized that’s not true. Robbie would not be better off without me, even though she has to do so much of the physical part of it. I still keep track of the finances and when things need to be paid, the mortgage and utilities, and I give her moral support. I keep reminding her that she needs friends, and she needs to make them. She’s found a couple of lady friends that she really likes that she has coffee with on Wednesdays but I really wish she could find a clan. I just have to keep reminding her that she needs to look and not give up on it. So I can’t give up. I still got to hold that string.

The biggest thing is that she got all her talking and communication with all those people she had up north, and now she depends on me to do it, and it’s difficult for me. I try hard to do it, but it doesn’t satisfy her needs. People project onto me that I’m stuck up and antisocial. It’s not true. I just don’t know how to be social. It sounds like a cop out, you don’t know how. Of course you should know how. I read all kinds of books on how to do it. I can’t do it.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint things. It’s just a path. Some of it’s rocky and some of it’s grassy and easy going, and some of it’s a struggle to climb up, but I’m just on this path. Hadens are resilient. I don’t know whether it’s in genes or whatever the hell it is. It’s there. My next goal is make it to 85. Try to talk to my wife whenever I can. Enjoy my kids and grandchildren. I’m satisfied with my life.

 I don’t know how you’ll make sense out of any of that.

Episode 003 - The Changing Channel

I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as ours, if you celebrate that sort of thing. Ours was filled with travel and family, new places and new people and new food. It was a joy!

This time, we have my first time conducting an interview, and my first time recording an interview. The interview took place a couple of months ago now, and there was a key equipment malfunction, so the audio quality isn't great. I hope you'll stick with it anyway, because it's a great story told by a woman with a big heart and a lot of courage.

Here's the transcript:

For recreation as a family, we would go to the airport and watch the planes come in. You could go into the airport. You could go anywhere in the airport. There was no security that I remember, so we would sit right up at the window where the planes were coming and going, and the passengers were coming and going, and I would observe people saying hello to each other as they arrived, or goodbye to each other as they left, and I would cry because I felt it in my heart that these people are sad because they’re saying goodbye to each other, or these people are happy because they’re saying hello to each other, and I would respond to whatever that emotion was. And this was beyond my understanding or my mother’s understanding. I would be tearful or sad, and she didn’t understand. She would want to know why I was so moody, and her question always was, “What’s wrong?” and I never had an answer. I just thought I was strange, because I had no explanation for it, and that was why it was so frustrating to both my mother and me when she would say, “What’s the matter?” Because she had a desire to fix it, whatever it was. And I could not give her an answer except, “I don’t know!”

I now know, many many many years later, that I was an empath as a child, and I still am. I feel other people’s emotions. As an adult, in some conversation or class, where somebody was talking about empathy and being an empath when I was like, “Oh! I get it. That’s what was going on when I had no understanding of it.I wasn’t an unpleasant, moody kid. There was a reason for it.” And it was OK. But I didn’t identify it as coming from anywhere outside of myself, which I do now.

Once I learned what the deal was, then I could control it and not accept all those feelings. You can say, “If this emotion is not mine, please let it go.” But it was a great relief to find out there wasn’t really something horribly wrong with me. And my mother went to her grave never understanding any of that, or wanting to.

I didn’t really open any doors to spirituality with any understanding until a teaching job took me to Colorado as a young woman, and I met a couple there. They took me under their wing, and they were pretty far into some spiritual stuff, and they started talking to me. And this couple told me some things to read, some books to read. I had become very fond of them. The woman was a secretary at the elementary school where I had a new job, and she and her husband and 3 boys sort of took me as the young, single teacher in the school, took me under their wing and had me at their house and talked to me about stuff. This stuff. And the first time they brought up the whole reincarnation thing, I remember going home being so disappointed because I really liked these people, and now they’re crazy! But 24 hours later, I went back to them, and I said, “OK, now tell me that again. How does that work?” And from there on, it was kind of an ongoing thing. Thing to read about. Thing to think about. Thing to wonder about. So it started in my early adulthood, but life happens, and it had to go on the back burner.

I went to see a reader, an older woman who lived out in the country, and she did psychic readings. I went out to this house out in the country, and she was an elderly woman, and she took me into a room where there was nothing but little candles all around in little saucers and stuff all around the room, and the room was otherwise dark. But the thing that was interesting was, in the middle of her reading for me in which I was asking questions about, “Will I ever get married, and will I have children?” which was my whole goal in life at the time, one of those candles exploded and went “Pop!” And she laughed, and she said, “Oh!” and I said, “Oh what?” And she said, “Oh nothing. You will be doing this at some time.” And I was like, “Yeah right!” Because there was nothing yet for me to think anything like that. I was just learning something new, and I wasn’t applying it to myself.

Remember I got married and inherited 2 kids and was teaching full time, and then I was pregnant. So stuff was going on that wasn’t related, but there was always a thread in some way. Always in the back of my mind, always kind of thinking there’s more to life than what we see. But I knew years ahead of time that when the children were grown, and I was retired, I would claim some time, and I would learn this stuff. I would find out what was what. And that’s what happened.

I started out with creative writing classes, which helped me sort of examine myself, who I was, what kind of writer I might be. And then the other I did, this was at the community college, was take pottery classes. And I did it for, you know, as long as I needed to do it, I guess, which was probably a couple of years. I gave pots away, I was just so happy with them. It was opening my heart in some way to do that. And what I loved, I think, what was the draw for me, was the hands in the dirt. The hands in the clay. There was some kind of connection made with something really basic.

Then I went into a period of “OK, I know I’m ready for something. I don’t what it is, and I don’t know where it is.” I guess I’m praying, but I’m not really praying to anybody, I’m just sending out in my mind, “Help me find my tribe. Help me find people who have these same questions, have the same thing going on.” And I couldn’t find anybody.

Well, time goes by, and then eventually I did find a place where people who were on spiritual paths were meeting and talking. It was within 7 miles of my house where I’d been waiting for something! But when the time was right, it came to me, and I started attending with groups. And that’s where the growth really happens, I think, is with like-minded people. And I found those like-minded people. I learned so much. I learned to channel from the people there who channeled. My friends who were channels taught me to channel, and I’ve since taught people to channel.

You are in control. It doesn’t just happen to you. You allow it to happen to you. You are not taken over by anybody, or it’s not mysterious once you are able to do it. It’s not such a big deal. I mean, it’s just what you can do. Like maybe you can play the piano, but I can channel. Different channels describe it differently. I have a good friend who is not a conscious channel, and he describes it as, he goes somewhere else and sits on a bench somewhere while the channeling is going on for him. When he comes out of this state, he’s not aware of what happened. I am too much of a control freak to let go to that degree. Nothing ever happens that I don’t want to happen or allow to happen.

But my guides tease me. Their humor is wonderful. They make fun of me. They laugh at me, because I repeat the same patterns and things sometimes. I have a wonderful relationship with my spirit guides. It’s fun. And one evening with my friends, I said, “I have someone. I have someone who wants to come through.” And I had channeled Mother Mary before, and I knew what she felt like, what that energy felt like. But this energy was different, and the message I got was, “We are four. Can you guess what four we are?” Playing games with my friends. It turned out that I was channeling Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Quan Yin, and Mother Theresa. All those energies at once. And it was Mary Magdalene who turned out to be the main spokesman, although the other energies are always there when that comes through. But she said, “We are four. We are the Merry Band of Holy Mothers.” And so that’s what I channeled for a long time was the Merry Band of Holy Mothers. Which showed a sense of humor, which much appealed to me, because humor is my path in many instances. But Mary Magdalene is fun. I called her a modern woman because she’s firm and opinionated and smart, is what you get from her energy. So I loved that, and I still love that.

And then my most recent thing that’s happened was I learned that I can channel what is called a Language of Light. I was driving by myself in the car back from a meeting, and I began speaking words that I didn’t understand, and I’m driving, and I’m also gesturing. And then it’s gone, and I’m left there going, “Well what the hell was that?” And it sounds like language when I speak it, and various people try to identify it and say, “Oh, that sounds like Hawaiian.” or “Oh, that sounds like whatever other language.” It’s none of those.

I channel an archangel, Zadkiel, and he was the one who came through to explain to me what was happening and that it’s a privilege, and it’s useful, and I have the privilege of having it and the ability to use it. And he explained that the Language of Light is not a language as we would think of language in which there are words, and the words have meaning. The Language of Light is vibration, energy, the vibration of sound and the energy of sound. Zadkiel has channeled many times saying, “Don’t try to identify it as a language you have heard. Don’t get hung up on words. Just open your heart to the vibration and receive it as it is given.” And that’s the best and only explanation I really have except that it comes from the highest, most divine source, and it is for the good.

Zadkiel has been with me, and I had a vision of him before I really knew what was going on. I think being by water has always been special for me, and we were at the lake. But I meditated, and then I lay down on the bed, and a great angelic figure came and was beside me on the bed. I think that was my first introduction to Zadkiel, and then I recognized him later as our connection got bigger. But he’s always been with me.

I know you’ve read my memoirs, so I know you have read about a spirit called DeLight. And she was a delight. But her name was DeLight, which means “from the light,” which is where she was from! The light! And she was a spirit who had never incarnated on earth, and so she came to me for preparation to be incarnated. She came to me and to my group. It was like a group project to deal with DeLight, and she was with me for a period of several months. And I channeled her many, many, many times. And she became a beloved child of mine, almost. And there was a lot of humor around DeLight and channeling DeLight. And she made me do things that I would never do on my own. She liked to dress me and put things in my hair. And so I would go out with flowers in my hair. If I’d go to a group, they who knew DeLight now because I channeled her so many times, they’d go, “Ah, DeLight dressed you today!” You know, I’d have bright colors, and up until the time of DeLight, I was pretty conservative and age-aware of what somebody my age might need to look like, and after DeLight, I just never cared anymore. If it pleased me, I’d wear it. That’s why I’m wearing red Converse now.

So DeLight brought so much richness through humor. She was like a 4-year-old. She was very unruly and open, and I was to teach her how to behave. And she would approach somebody, now she’s in my body, so it’s me, it appears to be me, but she would approach somebody, and she was always kind and joyful, but she would say, “I like your necklace! Can I have it?” And they would go, “No, but you can look at it.” You know. And then she’d get raucous, and then she’d say, “Shh!” And she called me Mama. She would say, “Mama says, ‘Shh!’” and then she’d get really quiet, and then she’d just explode or jump up or do something crazy. And she was with us, and then we knew she was ready to go. And she did. I had several of those kinds of channelings that come and stay for awhile and do whatever it is they need to do, and then they leave. It’s sad when they leave, because they’ve become part of you, of your heart. I will never forget DeLight. She did a lot for me. She loosened me up.

In the beginning, when I first began being connected, I found feathers all the time. And one time, you know the house in Richardson, in the hallway down the middle of the house, I found a feather in the middle of that hallway, which had no explanation for being there. And I found an actual arrowhead in the front room one time. And these are just gifts of connection. These are just “hello!” or “I’m here.” They’re just, “ha ha!” And out here, I told you I’ve been meditating out under the trees, and I found a feather on the seat of my chair. And yes, it could have fallen, you know, from a tree, from a bird, but it was so specifically placed. And then another time I found one right by the back door, which is where I go in and out to go to my sacred space, and you know, they’re just a comfort. A “hi!”

Those of us who channel have been getting messages for at least the last 5 years I’ve been part of it, and probably longer than that, of receiving messages from Spirit that what we are in now in the world was coming. And we got message after message about chaos. There will be chaos, but chaos indicates change, and chaos is necessary. This is necessary because in the end, things will be entirely different and better. Just stand in the chaos, shine your light, don’t keep asking what do I need to know, to do, what can I do to make things better. Nothing. Just be there while the chaos goes around you. And you will have, you may not know it, but you will have a calming effect.

Many, many, many more people are openly doing what I’m doing.We’re here, we can help. And when you start, you think, “I should be doing something. I should be teaching groups. I should…” This was me. “I should be reaching out. I should be healing people. I should be…” And that message is always, “It isn’t necessary for you to do. It is necessary for you to be who you are.” 

So I would say there’s more and more and more awareness. But there’s another side to it, which is, we are not accepted by everybody as anything but nuts. Just nuts. And I’m hearing stories about holistic practitioners, doctors, practitioners like me, I guess, but I don’t have a platform that puts me way out there, which there are people who are big time spiritualists. But I’m hearing now that there are unexplained deaths among practicing holistic doctors who are preaching against big pharmaceuticals, against big medicine, against the food we eat, against the way we treat food, the way it’s grown, etc., etc., etc. There’s a lot controversy now, whereas our side of it is to simplify. And the messages I get for the last few years have been there’s going to be a big change in the food industry, for instance. We spend huge amounts of money shipping food far distances at great cost when the trend will be toward local production of healthy food. Has it happened? No. Is it happening? Yes. Now we’re seeing things about city gardens, individuals and communities that are making gardens and making the produce available to the residents, and so on. It’s very small, but it’s a start. And we’re bringing up consciousness about where your food comes from, what poisons have been put in it or on it, and so I don’t expect to see the changes that are coming in my lifetime, in this lifetime, but I can see that they are coming. And I think that in many levels, there is change now occurring in business. There’s more awareness at the top of businesses about the right way to do things and the wrong way to do things. The right way to lead and the wrong way to lead. You just hear small stories about change, and that’s what we’re hearing. And it’s all starting to happen, but it’s a long process. And it’s been going the wrong direction for years and years and years.

Whether I’ve done what I’m supposed to do, I don’t know. Will I have to come back and do it all over again? I don’t know.

For a long time, I was getting visions or flashes, before I was really connected, but I would get scenes in my head which I knew were in Ireland, and I knew it was me. It was like watching a movie, kind of, in which I was a young girl, probably 15. I knew it was me. I knew it was in Ireland, and I knew that I had been hired by a family to care for the children. And I knew that it did not have a good end. It was in the time of the Potato Famine, when people in Ireland were starving. I can’t give you a year because I haven’t studied it. But I know that’s what I was seeing. And we died. The children and I. I saw a scene of me lying in a white dress on the ground somewhere with dead children around me. We had died.

And that was my vision. It’s interesting now because in this lifetime, food has been a big part of my life, and getting enough food has been a big part of my life since early childhood. I’ve been chubby. And I thought that my feelings of hunger are different from other people’s feelings of hunger because through all my years, I could eat a good meal, and within half an hour feel hungry again. And I knew that didn’t make physical sense, but it was the feeling, and I would want to eat more. So it wasn’t until the last very few years that all of that has come into my consciousness of the connection between that life in Ireland, at least that one, and who knows how many others that had food issues in them. I don’t know, and I don’t need to know. But what I learned from having conversations about this and having somebody wiser than me help me see that we didn’t have enough food, so I have a drive to have enough food, have more than enough food. And I have a drive to take care of kids. Well. What happened in this lifetime? I chose to care for a whole bunch of other people’s children. And I was driven to take good care of them and to fix them if I could. And that was with foster care. So those themes can recur in other lifetimes. And it wasn’t really until I had that understanding, which as I say was in the most recent years, that I even came close to solving the obesity problem.

I’m learning who I really am, and liking who I really am, and loving who I really am as a spiritual person with some awareness and a wonderful connectedness that I’m so grateful for always. I have some difficult things to cope with in my life right now, but things just changed drastically, and it’s taken me awhile to swim back up to the top and look around and say, “You know what? It’s OK.” And that’s where I am now.

Part of the story is that we had to move suddenly. Things changed very suddenly, and we moved away from my wonderful, safe place and my wonderful connections and connected friends and people that I enjoyed so much because if you’re in a group of people, of like-minded people, it’s so wonderful because you don’t have to explain anything to them. They already know. You can just talk. And so your relationships get close. You find like-minded people that mean a lot to you. And we needed to leave that place, and that changed everything for me, because I lost all that support and joy.

And my instinctual thought was, “I need to recreate what I had, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m in a different place, but I’m going to find those like-minded people, I’m going to recreate what I had, and it’s going to be wonderful.” Well, that hasn’t happened, and I suffered a long time over, “Why isn’t it happening? Why can’t I do this? Why is nothing working? Why? Why? Why?” And it’s taken, you know, a year or more for me to finally listen enough to understand that that’s not what is meant to be. That was then, this is now, and I won’t recreate what I had, and I don’t need to, and I shouldn’t. And what I’m finding is, it’s on a very low-key, one-on-one connection, one person at a time. And I don’t know quite where it’s going from that, but I’m finding a lot more resources in myself and a lot more meaning in my connection with Spirit. Instead of being so connected with people who are connected with Spirit, now my connection is me and Spirit. I don’t have to stop being who I am. I don’t have to stop doing what I can do. But it will be different.

I never lost my spiritual connection, but I lost the abundance of it. I lost the total presence of it. It was always there, and I could always connect, but there were periods of time when I didn’t because I was distracted and coping. And not remembering that my best coping lies in my spiritual life. So I kind of got things backward, or screwed up somehow, because I have this great source that I sort of lost track of. And now I’m in that coming back to it and really forming it into something different. And that’s where I am now. I know that my passion is to teach people who are coming into this realm new, who are coming to spirituality as beginners, because I remember being a beginner, and I remember how it was when things opened and opened. And I found that I can teach people who are ready and wish to channel, and I just think that’s a wonderful thing, and I would like a way to use that. It just hasn’t shown itself yet. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t.

My husband had a stroke. And that changed everything, because he is now a disabled person, which changed my life. Probably not as deeply as it changed his life, but changed my life. We had a pretty traditional married relationship. We are now in our 50th year of marriage, and he was the husband, and I was the wife. I was not a non-participating wife, but we had roles, the things that he took care of, and the things that I took care of, which was kind of traditional. But I didn’t always fit in the traditional role because I hate housekeeping, and I don’t cook. But other than that… And I always had an equal say in things, but just in day-to-day things, he took care of this stuff, and I took care of that stuff. He took care of the cars. He took care of the maintenance. He took care of the manly stuff. I took care of the other stuff. I took care of the kids. I took care of the whatever needed taking care of. Because I’m a caretaker.

I want him to feel like in my eyes he’s still the man I married, but he knows. He knows that that’s not entirely true, but in the important things, it’s true. He didn’t lose his intellect. He lost his physical abilities. Having lost so much of his humanity. Not spiritually, but his human life is much restricted now, and his sense of self has changed. And I want to help him hang on to that. I don’t want to push him or say, “you need to do this” or “you need to do that” because he knows exactly what he’s doing for his own good. I think he’s stayed through this stroke and so on for my sake. I think if he had gone, it would’ve been fine with him, but he knew I wasn’t ready for that, and so he’s here doing the very best he can, and it’s lessons for both of us, real lessons on how to be in the world and where to find comfort, and where to find inspiration, and how to keep on keeping on under really difficult situations.

It’s interesting, because when we met, I had just learned about reincarnation, because I’d just gotten to Colorado, met that couple, they told me about it, and I got hooked into it. Well, then I met Rudy, and our courtship and marriage was very quick in time because there was recognition. And so we went from A to Z really fast, and met on February 4th and married on March 30th. I knew it was going fast, and I thought, “I have to tell him that I’m crazy. And he’s going to think I’m crazy, and that’ll be it. I have to tell him what I’m doing, what I’m into, what I’m searching for.” And so I did, trembling in my shoes, thinking this is the end of a good thing for me. And, you know how quiet he is, and he said, “Oh. Yeah. Well, I knew that. I just didn’t know I knew it.” End of discussion.

And here’s what I know in my heart, is that he has done it all before. He’s a very old soul. He came into this lifetime to see me through it. That is my belief. And I’ll stick to it. He’s just… And we’ve used this metaphor: I’m the balloon, up in the air, all around, whatever, uncontrolled sometimes, and he holds the string and keeps me grounded, and that’s been his mission, and he’s done it very well. He listens when I talk. He doesn’t talk much about it. But he already somewhere in him knows this stuff. He knows it backward and forward, and he doesn’t need to practice it or participate in it other than through me. 

And so, when this happened, all of a sudden things were different. I’m now the only driver. He now has to depend on me, which is a huge change for him. It’s difficult. I don’t know how to explain it other than that, but that’s what happened. And so, all of a sudden, I’m in a new place, in a new marriage, trying to figure things out. Who am I? What is my job? Am I doing it well enough? And I do worry about that. You know, should I do more? Should I do less? Blah blah blah. And we’re working it out, but it’s very hard to see someone you love and have loved for so long be in pain, have the things that used to come easily don’t even come any more. Can’t do stuff. It’s hard.

Of course it’s changed our relationship, because he can’t see himself now the way I still see him. And no matter how much I tell him how much I love him and, you know, the things that husbands and wives say to each other, I don’t think he receives it as much as I want to give it. He sees a truth. And the truth is that we cannot sleep together. We cannot even lie together, really. You know, he has to be in a certain position in bed, so there’s an intimacy that is lost, and I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about intimacy that is lost. And I mourn that. We kiss. We say how much we love each other. And again, his having to depend on me for sometimes the most personal things that he would certainly want to keep to himself, I have to be a part of sometimes. And that’s hard on him and me.

But here’s the thing: we have a very solid base. And we’re doing OK with it. You wish it could be different, more like it used to be, a more equal relationship. But I still depend on him to be holding my string. I still depend on him to be my rock. We talk more openly about how old we are and what’s coming, and not knowing when it’s coming, but knowing it’s coming. When you get to be 78 and 80 years old, you have to know. But I think his faith and my faith that we will go somewhere, you know, we won’t just end and that’s it. We’ll be OK. But on an earthly plane in the 3rd dimension, it’s hard to think about it and talk about it. There’s some squeamishness about it, and I think we need to start bringing that forward more, even in a humorous way, that it’s part of our life.

He said, “Just call somebody to pick me up. Tell ‘em I’ve kicked the bucket, the old man kicked the bucket” or something, you know, humorous. And I think that’s where we need to go more of than me worrying in the middle of the night, “Is he all right? Oh my God!” But you know, that’s not productive at all, and yet it’s still there for me, and I need to work on that. Because I’m torn. I don’t want him to continue to suffer for years and years and years, but I don’t want to be alone for years and years and years. And who’s to say he’s the first to go? If I’m the first to go, then that complicates things a lot. But we have wonderful children who have stepped up and stepped in, so we’re very, very blessed in that way.

In some ways, I’m still hypervigilant. I still get up in the middle of the night and go down and look at him, he’s in another room down the hall, and look until I get a sign that he is breathing. And he’s not aware of it as far as I know, that I do that. But my anxiety gets to the point where I just need to do that, and then I’ll be OK. And not all the time. We have really good days and really bad days, so it’s kind of difficult. But I think there’s a purpose for both of us. There are things that I need to learn. There are things that he is needing to learn. I can’t name them all, but I think we’re learning. I think we’re receiving lessons. His is his ability to allow me to care for him. And me, my ability to care for him, you know, in a very personal way sometimes.

Sometimes he says “thank you” to me, and humbly. And I don’t know how to feel about that because I know he’s grateful, but I wouldn’t do any… Of course I’m going to do this. I’m going to do what I can do to make his life bearable, and some days we have a really good time together, and other days it’s hard. But it’s not anything unusual or that everybody suffers through some time. I don’t feel like it’s punishment for anything or any of that.

My guilt, I know it doesn’t make sense to feel guilty, but on the morning… We don’t know exactly when he had the stroke, but we were in separate beds at that time, for various reasons like snoring and different time tables, and so his comfortable schedule puts him in bed late in the morning and up late at night. Mine is exactly the opposite. And so, I was up and ready to leave the house, almost out the door before he was able to get my attention that something was terribly wrong. And he just barely got my attention, or I would’ve been out of the house for 2 or 3 hours. My guilt, which doesn’t make sense, is, there’s an hour, or possibly two, time after a stroke when the outcome can be really, really good. And we missed that window totally. But obviously, this was how it was supposed to come down, and so here we are. I know that, but there’s still that, “Golly. Think of how much better things could’ve been if we had just been alert to something.” You know. “Well, if I’m intuitive, why didn’t I know?” is part of it. Which is, again, it doesn’t make sense. And I know it. And I don’t think he feels that way. He’s not really talked of that, anyway. But I imagine he would go, “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!” But that’s me, you know?

But I don’t wallow in it, or anything. It is what it is.

It’s still hard for me to ask, but I’m getting better and better, and I think that’s part of the lesson is to be vulnerable in that way. And so my asking my kids to do things for me is a really big deal. And you’ve all been totally wonderful about responding, but it’s still hard for me to say, because I’m the mom and you’re the kids. But to know we have kids who will respond no matter what is wonderful.

I ask for help. I ask for calm. I ask for whatever I need, and then I expect to receive it, and I do. I have trouble at night because I’m a worrier. And there are things to worry about in my life right now, and I haven’t conquered entirely and as much as I’d like with the “all is well.” I believe all is well, no matter what is happening. I believe it’s not random, and it’s intentional, and it’s necessary. But there’s an emotional part of me that has trouble calming down to “all is well” in the middle of the night. So sometimes I get up and work on it and try to connect and say, “Look, help me! This is no good!”

One of the energies that I channeled when we were living in Richardson came to me and identified herself as Rose. She said, “I am Rose!” And I said, “Well, who are you?” Well, Rose is my Joy Guide. Her whole thing was simply to make me express joy. And she does it, she did it, by coming through in a group and just raising cane. She would come through, and she would say, “Hey! It’s Rose! Say ‘Hello, Rose!’” And the group would say, “Hello, Rose!” And lots of them already knew her. And I have people that I hear from from Dallas who still refer to Rose and how much she meant to them because she would make them stand up, stamp their feet, clap their hands, yell, and, you know, dance and do, you know, crazy things that were not of my own nature. Until she showed up. I couldn’t be as silly as Rose. And when we moved to Austin, I lost Rose. I didn’t call for her, and she didn’t appear. But recently, as I am starting to get myself back into a good place, she’s showing up. She hasn’t come through in any raucous way, but I hear her, and she’s there. And there will be an occasion at some point where Rose appears, and that’s a good thing.

Now that might sound like a crazy story to somebody, but to me, it’s my truth. And I love it.

Episode 001 - Travel

In my quest to figure out what I'm doing, I got excited and couldn't wait until my first interview is ready, so I spent my wild Friday night making this episode for your pleasure and mine. So much to learn! This is my first time making and mixing music with the audio. Fun stuff. We'll see if I can get it to publish to Apple Podcasts as easily as the Squarespace help pages make it seem.

This episode features a recording of the first live storytelling event in which I participated. 

Here's a transcript of the Adult Story Hour story that I told:

"Well, since we’re here for storytelling about travel, I thought I should start by telling you: all of my stories about travel are really, really boring. I’ve taken my share of photos of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, and I’ve strolled along the Seine from Le Tour d’Eiffel to La Musée d’Orsay, and I felt so worldly speaking in French in Paris to my hotel bartender.

I read a paperback on a fenced-in beach at a resort in Puerto Vallarta, and I went horseback riding on a very bored and slow-moving horse through the mountains, and I laughed at the jokes of the tour guide when we passed the local prison with the crowd of visitors outside waiting to see their loved ones, and he told us, 'We’re so proud to have the most exclusive hotel in the region with people lined up for days waiting to get inside!'

But these were all safe travels. They were all comfortable journeys. And I’ve come to a time in my life where I realize that I don’t want 'safe' and 'comfortable' to be the adjectives that I use to describe my life. I want to choose from a much broader vocabulary.

I went camping for a week by myself not too long ago, and it rained the entire week, completely soaked everything I owned. Nothing went according to plan, and it was perfect. One of the mornings when the rain slowed down, I went kayaking on the lake, and I watched individual raindrops land on the surface of the lake and float there, and they sparkled like jewels before they sank into the surface of the lake and disappeared. And I looked across the surface of the water, and there were millions of them, glittering. And that was just for me. There was nobody else there. And I saw a great blue heron, and I got within about 10 feet of him, and he and I looked at each other a good long time before he finally took off. And when he did, a single blue feather drifted down to me. It was like a gift from him to me. And in that moment I realized: I can have adventures!

When I was 14, my father and I took a trip to Belize. We were there for 2 weeks. It was not long after it had stopped being British Honduras, and now and then, when strangers would yell at us, 'Go home, Limeys!' I’d notice there were a lot of shades and colors of skin in Belize, and not a lot of them matched the shade and color of my skin, and I realized: I was the stranger.

And I remember we went hiking in the jungle to an archaeological site. It was a Mayan pyramid that they were just reclaiming from the jungle that had covered it up for centuries, and we hiked there with some Belizean kids. And all of a sudden they all whipped out their machetes and went dashing into the forest, and I thought, 'These are kids my age! And they have machetes!' And they’d seen a 10-foot constrictor going by, and with the joy and glee of childhood, they hacked it to pieces.

And I remember climbing up the rocks in the jungle and leaping out into a bottomless blue hole, and swimming out, and climbing up, and leaping again. And I remember World Cup football was going at the time and the passion the people had for football, and it was such a different kind of football than my people had in Dallas. And I remember my first beer. It was a Belikin beer, with the Mayan temple on the label, and to this day, it’s the greatest beer I’ve ever had because I’ve never tasted it again since. And it was infused with the taste of chicken neck stew from Corozal and the smell of the open canals in Belize City and all the flavors of that completely new world that I’d never experienced before.

And there’s not one way to look at the world. There aren’t a hundred ways to look at the world. There are 7 ½ billion people in the world, and there’s 7 ½ billion ways to understand the world. And travel is the only way that’s open to us to leap out into that bottomless diversity and experience those small joys and fears and pleasures and struggles that we all have in common and see the ways that all of the 7 ½ billion people are truly family. And I think that’s the world really needs right now. Thank you."