Barbados Brain Spa Resources

welcome!

The resources listed here are to help you increase mindfulness and reduce stress, tension, and anxiety. 

This is a dynamic list so please share your favorite tips and resources by emailing tina@tinasprinkle.com

 Click on pictures to link to the specific resource. 

BOOKS

The Body Keeps The Score
by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.

Getting Past Your Past
by Francine Shapiro

Heart Minded
by Sarah Blondin

Mindful Self Compassion 
by Kristin Neff /Christopher Germer

The Tapping Solution
by Nick Ortner

The Heart Math Solution 
by Doc Childre and Howard Martin

What Lurks in the Woods
by our very own Nicole Bell

Get it!  Read it!

WEBSITES/PRODUCTS

Heart Math Website

Heart Math/Inner Balance 

Touchpoint Solution
Bi-lateral Buzzies for EMDR

Pinch me Therapy Dough

Insight Timer Meditation App

Think Up Positive Affirmation App

podcasts

Living Centered Podcast

Transforming Trauma Podcast

Live Awake Podcast

Michael Singer Podcast

guided meditation

Sarah Blondin is one of my favorite meditation teachers.  Focusing on self-love, and compassion, Sarah’s warm and gentle approach make her meditations especially nurturing. 

Meditations vary in length and focus.

Dakota is an international teacher, author, speaker, and the founder of Gaia Wisdom School.  Trained in Shamanic Breathwork, Trance Dance, Shamanic Soul Coaching, Celebrant, and Meditation, Dakota’s guided sessions take you to another realm of presence and creativity. 

Dr. Kristin Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research and author of many books on the topic. 

Her insight timer library is a treasure trove of talks and guided meditations.

other resources

30 DAY MINDSET JOURNAL

BUTTERFLY HUG TUTORIAL

BLOOD SUGAR BALANCE COOKBOOK

VIRTUAL WORKOUTS WITH TINA

WILD IN MONTANA WOMEN’S ADVENTURE RETREAT

FALL YOGA, MEDITATION, AND JOURNAL RETREAT

Before you head to the ranch

Greetings WILD IN MONTANA Retreat participants! You will be in Montana, hosted at the incomparable B Bar Ranch in just a few days. I thought it might be fun to learn more about the ranch, its mission, unique landscape, and beauty, as you travel this way.  Taking a moment to envision your retreat and what you’d like to get out of it is always good!

welcome to the b bar

The B Bar Ranch, established in 1906, preserves and protects the land, natural resources, and property values within the unique landscape in the Tom Miner Basin.
A place of spectacular beauty, the B Bar ranch is committed to protecting its unique and extraordinary environment in perpetuity.

The B Bar supports this deeply satisfying way of life and stewardship in the way they operate the ranch:

  • Raising Ancient White Park cattle (organic grass-fed grass-finished beef)

  • Embracing ecologically responsible practices

  • Maintaining organic certification of the land, cattle, and gardens

  • Practicing low-stress livestock management

  • Providing habitat and allowing free passage for the myriad of wildlife species that reside on or travel through the ranch

  • Sharing what they do with others who are interested in our activities and the values that underlie them
The Land and Natural Resources
The ranch is a part of a unique and fragile ecosystem and a place of exceptional beauty.

They respect and maintain its splendor by managing the natural resource base for sustainability and diversity, and strive to live in harmony and balance with its many native floral and faunal inhabitants.

They continuously evaluate how their management practices impact native species as to how they influence neighboring habitats, including U.S. Forest Service lands, other working ranches, and Yellowstone National Park.

Wildlife
The distinct assortment of vegetation and topography on the ranch provides important habitat for most forms of wildlife found in neighboring Yellowstone National Park.

Elk, white-tail and mule deer, moose, grizzly and black bear, wolves, coyotes, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bobcat, mountain lions, and numerous small mammals roam the ranch’s 9,000 acres and freely traverse the six-mile boundary with Yellowstone Park.
Respecting the role of established predator/prey relationships and the importance of tempering activities with regard to native wildlife populations, they endeavor to live without conflict with their wildlife neighbors.

Traditional bird migration patterns include the flyways above the B Bar. More than 75 bird species either journey through or reside year-round on the ranch. We are fortunate to regularly observe sandhill cranes, great blue herons, great-horned owls, and bald and golden eagles.

We also see red-tail and rough-legged hawks, Clark’s nutcrackers, western meadowlarks, black-billed magpies, mountain bluebirds, ruffed and blue grouse, gray and Steller’s jays, western tanagers, mountain chickadees, pine grosbeaks, Canada geese, trumpeter swans, and various ducks and other waterfowl.

Tom Miner Creek provides precious habitat for its rare community of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout and a growing population of beavers.

The cattle on the b bar

Ancient White Park Cattle
Originally imported from England just before WWII, the B Bar Ranch purchased a bull and several female Ancient White Park cattle to begin their own herd in 1989.

Ancient White Parks have white coats with colored points (ears, feet and muzzles) that are usually black but occasionally red. Some of the cattle are mottled or solid black, expressing a recessive gene for color that runs through the population.

The cows frequently have upswept lyre-shaped horns that continue to twist as the animal’s age. The bulls typically have shorter horns that curve forward with age in a flat arc. 
The bulls reach mature weights of 1500 to 1800 pounds. They are extremely active and alert cattle with large flight zones that require careful handling. They are aggressive grazers and calve with exceptional ease.

The ranch has grown its own herd to a size that now allows for the establishment of new herds throughout North America.

Through the Ancient White Park Cattle Society of North America, they are maintaining the registration of offspring and producing herd books at regular intervals in addition to the registrations maintained with the White Park Cattle Society in Britain.

sustainability

With an abundance of native, bio-diverse grasses and wildlife active,  the B Bar goes to great lengths to protect this ecosystem.

  • They manage cattle activity to imitate that of wildlife while limiting their competition for resources.

  • They assure that the land is certified organic each year.

  • They streamline energy and water use whenever possible with gravity-fed irrigation systems, decreased labor energy, and vigilant use of high-efficiency light bulbs, consolidates trips to down and carpooling.

  • They also use current green guest laundry service practices, utilize gentle cleaning products, recycle materials and equipment, and compost kitchen and garden waste.

  • Visitors are encouraged to participate in our recycling efforts by using the containers placed in common areas and cabins and rooms. 

partnerships

The B Bar’s owners have welcomed non-profit organizations to make use of the ranch guest facilities since they bought it in 1978.

Known for their long-standing philanthropic activity, the owners have opened up their ranch home to select non-profit groups and guests whose goals synch with their agricultural, environmental, and social goals.

It’s especially rewarding how many people find themselves transformed by their experiences at the B Bar.

I’m  excited about our time together in this amazing landscape, so rich in history, and tradition.

Your time on the ranch will be a magical time of rest, renewal, fun, and adventure,  

 

b bar magic

By coming on this retreat, you have already set an intention to step outside your comfort zone and explore the great outdoors.

What other adventures, experiences, or ah-ha moments would you like to get out of your time on the ranch?

Challenging yourself through hiking, riding, rafting?  Wildlife viewing, sitting on your front porch, writing, reading, or simply resting?

All of these experiences are yours to explore, embrace and delight in.  What is your WILD in Montana adventure? 

With love and excitement, 

Tina

The view from the overlook trail on the B Bar Ranch.

Fall Yoga, Meditation & Journal Retreat

Unchanged:
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move

Unchanged:Restore your mind and body as Tom and Tina lead you through daily yoga and mindful movement designed to both inspire and calm the senses.

Coming home to your body through guided movement and awareness is a powerful and healing act of self-love.

Taking this time to move inward to reconnect your head and heart, will strengthen your movement practice or help you begin one.

Unchanged:

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather..” ~Pema Chodron

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Meditate

Unchanged:Stillness is a practice we cultivate to feel fully present and alive. In this retreat, you’ll have ample opportunity to drop down and drop inward with three-daily meditation practice sessions.

You’ll be amazed how quickly you’ll love this practice and the peace and comfort it brings to you.

Tom is an excellent meditation teacher, skillfully weaving humor, storytelling, and music to uplift and inspire your practice at Timber Creek and beyond.

LEARN MORE

Unchanged:
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jourNAL REFLECTION

Unchanged:Keeping a journal can be transformational. It’s a decisive practice that allows us to create a safe place to record and express our feelings, emotions, and deeply held desires.

If this is something you’d like to explore, Tina will provide guided journal prompts to make the process accessible and fun.

Keeping a journal can help access the music and voice of your true emotion.

For some, a journal is considered a best friend.

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“All serious daring starts within.” ~Eudora Welty

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REST

Unchanged:Let yourself sink into the luxurious comfort and care of Timber Creek Retreat House. Just one hour south of Kansas City, you’ll feel you’ve escaped to a magical and magnificent lodge in the woods.

Surrounded by eighty acres of wooded trails and wildlife, Timber Creek is a refuge from life’s daily stresses with no detail of your comfort overlooked.

Take a nap in your king-sized bed, slip into a good book by a cozy fire, treat yourself to a massage or a lazy walk in the trees, or enjoy the serenity of the beautiful meditation room.

Timber Creek was conceived and created with one goal in mind: your comfort and well-being.

Unchanged:

“Just be, and enjoy being.” ~Eckert Tolle

LEARN MORE

Unchanged:
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retreat

Unchanged:Busyness is an addiction that robs us of our wholeness. Taking time to rest, reflect, and retreat is a statement of our own self-worth and value.

  • Make time for healing.
  • Make time for presence.
  • Make time for sustenance, friendship, solitude, and silence

Open up and make time for your light to shine. It’s greatly needed in this world.

Unchanged:

“Almost anything will work again if you unplug it for a minute,
including you.” – Ann Lamott

Unchanged:

I’M READY!

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Questions?

Please email or text Tina for answers!
Email: tina@tinasprinkle.com
Text: 913 963 8546

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* Timber Creek rooms are limited. Most are private rooms but you’re
welcome to share with a friend if you’re open to also sharing a bed.
Just select the semi-private option @ checkout.

SIGN UP NOW AND SAVE

Added:

Register before May 31st, 2022 and save $150!
Use code EARLYBIRD at checkout.

Why nature is my physician

My love of nature started in childhood as my parents insisted their three children play outdoors as much as possible. While we weren’t allowed to run wild, (you never wanted to hear my Mom’s frenetic bell ring because you were somewhere you weren’t supposed to be), we were given the freedom to spend hours rolling around in the grass, climbing trees, dancing in the driveway, or playing a mean game of tug of war.

Perhaps it was because my parents just wanted us out of the house, or maybe they knew intuitively what scientific studies reinforce today: Nature is a powerful ally and healing force for our mind and body.


nature is good for us

We know that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but does it measurably affect our well-being? Study after study has shown the answer is yes.

Studies show that being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, stress, and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.

According to health researchers Stamatkis and Mitchell, nature not only improves the quality of our lives but the length of them as well. And a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology in 2018 found that spending as little as five minutes outdoors was linked to a significant mood boost.

Research conducted in hospitals, offices, and schools has found that even a simple plant in a room can have a significant impact on stress and anxiety.


nature is our happy place

Our affinity toward nature is genetic and deep-rooted in evolution. For example, have you ever wondered why most people prefer to book accommodations that have a great view from the balcony or the terrace? Why patients who get a natural view from their hospital bed recover sooner than others? Or why we crave downtime in nature when stress takes it’s toll on our zen.

“Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature.
It will never fail you.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

Nature’s Impact on our Health

Who would have thought that a little time with the flowers and trees can actually improve your memory? The University of Michigan conducted a study that revealed students who regularly went for a nature walk actually had a better time retaining information.

  1. Nature improves short term memory.
    Nature also helps us cope with pain. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, nature can distract us from pain and discomfort.

  2. Nature reduces stress hormones.
    In a world flooded by screens, sometimes just taking the time to unplug and go outside can do wonders for reducing stress. Nature has a calming effect on our brains, even if it means going outside for just five minutes each day. As an added bonus, outdoor exercise, like going for a walk, hiking, and so forth, gets the blood flowing and heart pumping, another way to lower stress levels.

  3. Nature increases our levels of Vitamin D.
    Sure, too much sun can damage the skin and possibly lead to cancer. That being said, studies show that getting between 15 to 20 minutes a day of sunshine will allow your body to absorb vitamin D, which helps strengthen bones and reduce the risk of cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

  4. Nature improves our immune system.
    Research has shown that going outdoors and getting enough sunlight can help boost the immune system. Make sure to take a little stroll outside or enjoy a bit of fun outdoors to help fight disease and stay healthy.

  5. Nature reduces inflammation.
    Inflammation in the body can lead to all sorts of disorders, from depression and cancer to autoimmune diseases. A study demonstrated that participants who spent a bit of time each week walking in the woods experienced lower levels of inflammation in the body.  

  6. Nature inspires creativity.
    Nature comes in so many colors, from orange-sky sunsets to seafoam green waters and rose-colored gardens. Spending time outside gives a chance to get inspired by all the gorgeous sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Science backs that up, too, showing that spending time outside actually helps get our creative juices flowing.

  7. Nature improves vision.
    We spend a lot of time looking at screens, which can damage eyesight. Going outside gives our eyes a break from staring at a computer, television, or smartphone. Australian scientists even found that children who spend time outdoors reduce the risk of developing myopia later in life.

  8. Nature improves our sleep.
    Spending time in natural light helps our bodies better regulate sleep patterns. When the sun goes down, our brains will release the right levels of melatonin to help get a good night’s sleep.

  9. Nature increases feelings of happiness.
    You can find all kinds of different activities outdoors for all fitness levels and preferences. Whether it means going for a swim in the sea, taking the dog for a walk in the park, or mountain biking, finding outdoor activities that we enjoy will boost your mood and help you to feel happier. Plus spending time in nature promotes mental well-being.

  10. Nature can open the door to a deeper sense of spirituality.
    A long walk in nature on your own gives a chance to clear the mind and can even count as a type of meditation. Spending time in nature helps us live in the moment as we breathe in the air, listen to the sound of the birds chirping, or feel the grass on our feet.

    Nature can even teach valuable lessons and reveal metaphors to help us connect with our spirituality. The changes of the season reflect the peaks and valleys we go through in life. Meanwhile, a coursing river reminds us of our need to “go with the flow” and navigate the waters of life, so to speak.

    Nature’s generous lessons are all around us when we slow down enough to take notice.

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”

Mary Davis

take a walk, skip the pill

A walk in the fresh air, the sun on our skin, bare feet in the sand: spending time outside can bring so many small pleasures, making us feel refreshed and revived. Whether it means sitting in your backyard garden sipping a cold iced tea or going for a thrilling white water rafting adventure, time in nature has the power to heal, inspire, and guide you daily.

The B Bar Ranch in Montana

Need some nature?

Join Tina Sprinkle and Lisa Looy for an amazing adventure on their WILD IN MONTANA Retreat. Daily meditation, guided hikes, horseback riding, and more. Space is limited so don’t delay! This retreat will sell out.


What do you want in 2021?

I came across this reading in a mindfulness group that I am part of led by Sean Fargo. I am a little jaded on setting resolutions myself since I have not only set so many myself that fizzled, but watched countless clients do the same.

Reading how a “resolution” is different than an “intention” changed my perspective enough to want to share. Perhaps it’s just my current place in life, but setting an intention for this new year feels more intuitive and grounded than setting a challenge or resolution. What about you?

Here’s the article.


Setting new year’s resolutions is something that many of us do as the end of December approaches. In truth, however, we can set resolutions for ourselves at any time of the year. We need not wait until January rolls around.

But what is a resolution? And how do resolutions differ from intentions? The difference may seem to be semantic, but new year’s resolutions and new year’s intentions hold important distinctions. 

New year’s resolutions are often:

  • Clearly defined
  • Quantitative
  • Goal-oriented
  • Specific

For example: “I resolve to exercise four times per week in the new year.”

On the other hand, new year’s intentions are more typically:

  • Energy based
  • Qualitative
  • Progress-oriented
  • Nuanced

For example: “I intend to cultivate more self-compassion in the year ahead of me.”

This example highlights the qualitative nature of intentions versus resolutions. By focusing on the quality or energy we long to embody or experience, we open ourselves to the many ways this might manifest. 

Resolutions and intentions each have their place. At certain times of life, we may feel more drawn to one or the other. Take a moment’s pause now to consider:

What type of new year’s practice makes most sense for you in this moment?
Do you wish to set an intention, a resolution, or some kind of hybrid?


What do you want for yourself in 2021? Please share in comments below or on my FB page!


Goodbye 2020

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the fitness industry for 40 years, or maybe because I’ve been on the planet over sixty, but I’m not keen on New Year’s Resolutions. Wanting to be a better partner, parent, co-worker, or steward of world peace is admirable, but why wait until January 1st to begin?

Perhaps this year, when all we want to do is put the misery of 2020 behind us, we can be forgiven for wanting to indulge in something hopeful.

When I think about my own transformative beginnings, not a one sprang from resolution, new year’s or otherwise. If that sounds tragic, it’s not. My beginnings usually came in the form of divorce, job loss, death, and illness. They were difficult, messy, and painful. My reactions, denial, resistance, or feeling victimized made no difference. Spirit has taught me the only way to transform an ending into a beginning is a one-day endeavor called “allowing.”

At 10:32 am on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017, one of those opportunities literally dropped from the sky.

Our neighbor’s 120 foot oak tree chose that precise moment to come crashing down on our home.

I was in the kitchen, in the center of our little house, when I felt something resembling a train wreck.

I ran outside to find my dog Jack staring back in alarm. It was a bright, sunny, windless morning so we were both confused.

“It must have been a transformer,” I explain to Jack, who’s already forgotten it.

When I went back inside, I noticed the front of the house was weirdly dark. I went to the front door and opened it. A swarm of neighbors rushed towards me.

“Are you okay? Is anyone hurt?” They all said at once.

I just stared at them. “Yeah, I’m okay. Why? Did you hear it, too?”

One of them waved uncomfortably for me to turn around. “Uh, that,” she said.

Somehow, I’d missed the air thick with dust, the bedroom door blown off its hinges, the mangled metal air vent, and the gaping skylight created by the limb now piercing the roof.


For context: 2017 was a shit year for Herb and me. He got very sick, very fast with mysterious and scary illness. This necessitated moving to a hotel for three months to have our home remediated for mold. And this day, after celebrating just three days back home, our bedroom, the last oasis, was destroyed.

I choked and coughed, stomped my feet and pumped my fists, “Okay God! I’ve had it with you! It’s God (3) and Tina Zip! That’s not fair! That’s not okay! What the hell is WRONG with you?”

The next few days were surreal. In shock, I could only manage the most necessary tasks: deal with the insurance company, go to the grocery, get Herb’s medications.

But by Friday I’d come out of the ether in an extremely hateful mood. Angry and indignant, I looked for someone, anyone, to knock the chip off my shoulder just so I’d have the excuse to clock them. I cussed and swore at stupid drivers on the road. I glared at strangers in the grocery store. I flipped off a bus driver and honked at an old person. I was rude to friends who sought to console me.

And I thought GOD was the asshole!

As it turns out the tree had root rot. You’d never known it took look at it- tall, regal, strong, full with leaves. But all it took was a strong gust of wind on a sunny day in May to send it toppling, and me along with it.

It took me a while to upright myself and longer still to regain faith in my roots, but through a circuitous route that took me to a jungle cabin in Belize, I stopped finally stopped shouting long enough to listen.

I made some hard decisions in that cabin, decisions that were unwelcome but needed which lead to larger transitions built solely on faith.

“Allow,” Spirit coaxed, “then, act.”

Now, nearly three years later, my life feels like an open door, beckoning me to a delightfully unknown future.

As we look forward to a promising 2021, I sincerely hope a tree doesn’t fall on your house. But, if it does, be sure to look for the sunlight streaming in through the ruins.


WILD IN MONTANA WOMEN’S RETREAT – SUMMER 2021

August 20-25, 2021
The B Bar Ranch,  Gardiner, Montana


Escape to the rugged beauty and solitude of the Montana wilderness to reclaim your inner strength and calm. Just minutes away from Yellowstone National Park, the magnificent B Bar Ranch is the perfect spot for wild repose, restoration, and reflection. We’ve reserved the entire ranch.



On this retreat, you’ll learn healthy ways to nurture yourself beyond cravings, convenience food, alcohol, and overindulgence.  Delicious farm to table meals, daily morning movement, guided meditation, and outdoor adventure will challenge your body and restore your soul.  Come learn mind self-care practices that you’ll embrace long after you return home.



Celebrate new friendships as you connect with women seeking the same fun and freedom you are! How better to bond than sharing the beauty of nature,  transformational rituals, fabulous meals,  and thrilling adventures!  The friendships you make on retreat often endure for a lifetime.



Hike, white water raft, ride horseback, and explore the wonder of Yellowstone National Park together!  The memories you make and the lessons you learn on this retreat will inform your choices, decisions, and the way you move forward in life. Time away from the daily demands of life is not only restorative, it’s transformational.



Wake up early to enjoy the breathtaking sunrise. Greet the day with a steaming mug of fresh-ground, organic coffee while sitting in a rocking chair on the big porch of the lodge or curled up in front of the stone fireplace.  This is just the start of your day.  Every day on retreat is an opportunity to savor nature, stillness, and the possibility of presence.



We’ll circle around the campfire, under the full moon, to perform a traditional Medicine Wheel Healing ritual. Based on the Four Directions of Native American culture, this rich, nurturing practice and sacred communion is an experience you’ll carry in your heart, every time you look at the moon, for years after the retreat.


Early Bird Registration Opens January 15, 2021
Schedule a call with Tina to learn more!



The time for letting go of what no longer serves you is now!  It’s time to claim and relish your wild, audacious spirit!  Life is happening~ join the adventure!  Reserve your spot in this amazing retreat! Get Updates!


My Socially Distanced Summer

What does a travel bug do in the era of COVID? She agrees to a road trip, roof-top tent, and, an activity once strictly off-limits: camping.

These are desperate times.

We wouldn’t get on a plane; hotels made us squeamish and the prospect of another three months cooped up at home was not an option. So, what do you do? Exactly.

Herb grew up on a farm so I had some confidence in him; not so much our twenty-year-old Jeep. Sporting over 343,000 miles, I insisted it is inspected and reinspected before we leave town.

“What if this damn thing goes belly-up us while we’re on the road?”
I implored.

“Well,” Herb sighs, “if it does, I guess we’ll get another one.”

This was our first adventure of this kind and we learned a lot of lessons.

Like, don’t stuff so much in the jeep that you can’t find anything when you need it.  Or it’s probably not necessary to put sleeping bags in huge plastic bins; and we didn’t really need to cart two bikes to hell and back on that pain in the ass carrier.

This led to some laughter but mostly cussing.

We also learned some good things, like teamwork (learning to set up our tent in seven minutes including inflating the (3) air mattresses I require under the memory foam mattress); efficiency, (no need to change clothes when you’re already dirty); resilience, (who knew Herb could swing an ax like that!); and gratitude, (for nature, the stars, wildlife, backroads, blankets and morning coffee).

We had a few hiccups (a broken axel, oil changes, a leaking boot, whatever that is), but overall our Golden Goat held up for our circuitous journey.

We were just short of the 350,000-mile mark as we drove into Fairway, joking that we needed to drive to Topeka and back to make it official. I have a lot of gratitude and respect for that damn Jeep.

This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have a timeline, a schedule, or a plan. If you know me at all, you know the import of this. This trip wasn’t only an amazing adventure, it was a miracle.

But pictures say it so much better than I can.  Thanks for letting me share.

 

 

* If you’re interested in a rooftop camper, we highly recommend IKamper.  The ONLY way I’ll ever camp!

Surrender in the New World

I woke up this morning early, slipping out of bed to make coffee, meditate and get ready for a new day. The robins wake me; their song permission to get out of bed. I tiptoe to the kitchen, turn the kettle on and stare at the pot, waiting for hot water. The cups and French press set out the night before, wait too.

I pull the cream from the fridge. Pouring the water, now hot. I smell the beans as I fill the press.

I love this time of day; the quiet, the darkness, the calm space between. The time when my mind is settled and clear, and my heart, warm and squishy, open to the whispers of Spirit. This is gentle time; those peaceful moments before the inevitable distractions of dawn.

The full moon illuminates a bird resting atop the suet house. Struck by his stillness, I realize I’m holding my breath.

I breathe in and reach for my headphones to meditate. I’m hungry for guidance and grounding. I find it in Oprah and Deepak’s latest 21-day Meditation gift, “Hope in Uncertain Times.”

Oprah begins by telling the story of her difficulties learning to swim. Being afraid, she’d always fought the water. It wasn’t until she let go, surrendering to the water’s flow, that she learned to swim. “Move with the flow,” she says, “don’t fight the current. Resist nothing, let life carry you- don’t try to carry it.”

I gaze into my backyard, letting the lesson sink in. I see the figure of a woman I’ve discovered in my Aspen tree.

I realize she’s another messenger.

“Surrender,” she coaxes, “Look at me. I need do nothing to be a tree. I just am.”

The bird, still miraculously perched on the feeder, chimes in, “Look at me. I need do nothing to be a bird. I just am.”

The sun, climbing slowly, also beckons.

“Look at me.” she says, “I rise every morning. I need no justification. I just shine.”

I feel their invitation and pull it inside. I feel my heart expand, then realize I’m holding my breath again.

I smile. The water offers buoyancy, yet I insist on sinking.  Flow is as foreign a concept as surrender.

A hummingbird by nature, I focus on doing, achieving, producing, not ‘being.’  Most comfortable whirling around at light speed, I reject the very stillness I crave. I am habitually fast and flitting.

“But,” I reason, “these are very different times.  The world is upside down!”

I can’t distract myself in the same ways; my flight pattern, along with the rest of the world, has been grounded. My anxiety about the present only surpassed by my anxiety about the future.

“How many people will die? What is our government really doing to help? Will my friends and family be okay? Will Herb and I be okay? How long will this go on? What will the world be like afterward? Why is this happening!”

Ah, the hummingbird, again.

She’s not undone by the uncertainty, but by the looming certainty of a larger lesson.

Things now do not differ from how they’ve always been.  Hummingbird’s obsessions a futile attempt to order a world beyond control.

In my ear, Oprah coos, “In the words of Eckhart Tolle, in his book, The New Earth, ‘There are three words that convey the secret to the art of living.’” (Now she has my attention.) “‘The secret of all success and happiness. Those three words are: Be one with life.’”

I sit still, determined to take it in.

“Be one with WHAT life?” I say out loud. “A global pandemic?  Financial risk? Death, disease, and unknowable suffering?  Are you freaking kidding?”

This is not what hummingbirds do! We don’t allow. We don’t flow. We don’t choose. We flutter!

I look back at the tree. I look at the yellow finch and the rising sun.

“Be one with life,” they say with a knowing smile.  “Just be.”

“Can’t I just be a hummingbird?,” I ask.

“You can,” they chorus, “Surrender. And be a hummingbird.”

Homecoming in Jersey

As the train pulled into the Hamilton, New Jersey, I suddenly felt ill. I looked at Herb, stricken.

“I think I’m gonna throw up!” I moaned, “I’m scared!”

Waiting to meet us at the station were my three half-siblings, Darlene, Lorie, and Tony. We’d discovered each other via ancestry.com

“Hi Tina, my name is Darlene de la Cruz,” the message titled ‘Cousins,” read. “I’ve been investigating my ancestry and your name came up as a close match. I would love to correspond if you are open to it. I live in Bordentown New Jersey. Be well. Darlene.”

With help from an adoption researcher, Darlene and I learned we were half-sisters. Our father, Manuel was married to her mother, Delores. Together they had three children, Darlene, Tony, and Lorie. Elated to know more of my birth history, we planned a visit later that Fall.

“If it doesn’t work out, get on a train and come to Long Island,” warned my friend Gloria. “You don’t know jack about these people. For all you know they’re grifters, creeps!”

“Hooligans!” I laughed. “Don’t worry Glo, I promise, I’ll be fine.”

“If they don’t get who you are- if they treat you bad, cut your trip short and come see me sooner!” I also planned to see Gloria on this trip.

My sons also advised caution. I understood their concerns but wasn’t worried about the visit, until now. Now, I just felt nauseated.

“You’re just excited,” Herb reassured me. “Try breathing.”

We stepped onto the train platform. I recognized Darlene from the bright shock of purple in her short hair. Lorie, my childhood lookalike, gaped in wide-eyed amazement. Brother Tony, sent to watch the other exit doors, walked up with a shy smile, open arms, offering bear hugs.

We stood there a few moments, smiling at each other, stunned by our surreal reunion. Bags flung into the trunk, we piled in the car for the short drive to Bordentown.

Proud of their hometown, we heard how Joseph Bonaparte, former King of Naples and Spain and brother to Napoleon I of France, established a residence in Bordentown. He entertained famous guests like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and the future 6th U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. History and home are important parts of our family fabric.

We drove to Tony’s house where we met more friends and extended family. We sat in the back yard in a circle of lawn chairs, making small talk.

Suddenly Lorie asked, “Is there anything you’d like to know about our Father?”

“No,” I smiled, “I think I’ll just take all this in for a moment.”

There was a lot to take in.

Later, at the jazz brunch arranged in our honor, we met Tony’s wife, Melanie, Darlene’s wife, Sandy, Lorie’s children Ashley and Josh, assorted cousins and extended family which included my half-sibling’s half-siblings! Walt, a retired Camden, New Jersey cop, and Cheryl, who lives in Maryland, both drove in to join us. Lorie and her daughter Ashley came from Atlanta, and son Josh, in the military, traveled from his station in Hawaii.

“This really is a family reunion,” I laughed, humbled by the effort everyone made to attend.

Rosemary Schoelllkopf (aka Roe), Lorie’s plucky childhood friend also came. The next evening, after dinner and a few drinks at the local pub she warned me about writing anything unflattering about the De la Cruz family. I laughed it off, but she was serious. The message was clear: don’t mess with her people.

“How many nights do you want me to book the room?” Herb asked when we were planning our visit to Bordentown.

“Better make it one,” I replied, but when Darlene asked how long we could stay, I immediately replied, “two nights.”

Our short visit was filled with laughter, stories, food, football, and an impromptu trip to the Jersey shore.

I burst with pride when Darlene introduced me to her spin class, “This is my sister Tina who is visiting us from St Louis, Missouri!”

The class was full because she’d been talking about me for weeks. I met more cousins who immediately asked, “When are you coming back?”

Darlene and her wife Sandy have been together for over forty years. That’s not easy, especially when you’re a bi-racial, lesbian couple. Former educators, they now fill their days teaching and training at their health club. Sandy is spirited, funny and quick, the perfect balance to Darlene’s calm, gentle approach to life.

Lorie is the most like me; animated, outgoing and boisterous. During the Falcon-Eagles game, I watched amazed as she called every single play and player by name. Ashley, Roe, Darlene, and Sandy were all equally passionate and game savvy. I’d never seen women who loved and knew football like this group! I wondered aloud if this was a Jersey thing or an East Coast thing because it definitely was a thing.

I observed brother Tony quietly absorb every conversation, only occasionally choosing to comment. He is thoughtful and gentle and reminds both Herb and me of our son Cary.

In quieter moments, we talked about our careers, our children, our relationships and our struggles. We also talked about our Father. He’d divorced their mother when they were very young before they had a chance to know him. Each had a story about meeting him later in life, but none of those stories was very happy.

Our Father is Venezuelan and has eleven children. Darlene, Tony, and Lorie are from his first marriage; five more are from his second marriage. At least three more are like me, born out of wedlock. Let’s just say, our Father got around.

Each told a story of disappointment. Lorie traveled to Venezuela in her early twenties to discover her father had not told his second family about his first family.

“I’m sorry but that’s kind of F’d up,” I said when she told me.  “Did he know you were coming?”

“YES, Tina! He did!” Lorie said, shaking her head.

Tony, also went to Venezuela to meet our father when he was in his early twenties. He stayed longer hoping to connect on a deeper level, but after two months he returned home disappointed as well.

“I’m grateful that he gave me life,” Tony said on our drive to the Jersey shore, “but I don’t think he’s got the capacity to be fully present.”

“I agree,” said Darlene. Always the optimist, Darlene had a similar experience but didn’t share the details.

“That’s just so weird isn’t it?” I said. “Because the one thing we all have in common is him. And look at our hearts! They’re huge! We’re here loving each other and he’s missing out!”

Darlene said softly, “that’s true Tina.” Tony nodded quietly.

That night I wrote in my journal,
“Meeting my siblings is mind-blowing. We have an easy kinship and deep recognition I wasn’t expecting.  All of the angst, suffering, and displacement I’ve felt surrounding my adoption is dissipating. It’s like being able to take a full breath for the first time.” 

When Darlene and I confirmed we had the same birth father, I emailed him a picture along with a short introduction.  I left it up to him to respond if he chose to.  This was during a time of political and economic stress when communication in Venezuela was very difficult, so I’m not sure he ever got the email.  So far, he has not responded.

My birth father is now eighty-four years old and recently moved from Venezuela to California to be near one of his daughters. He lives there with his second wife who has dementia. I don’t feel the need to send him a second email.

As my biological father, Manuel Antonio De la Cruz responsible for my birth, but my adopted Father, Ehret Oscar Ramey, is responsible for my life.

My parents always told us we were lucky because we were ‘chosen.’ I never accepted that because I secretly believed I was damaged. Why I was given away? Why I was unwanted? I felt immense shame for being born.

Meeting my birth family has helped heal that wound. My siblings are loving, resilient, loyal, and optimistic. We love animals, being in nature, big hugs and laughter. We tell the truth, have faith in one another and God. We try to be kind and generous. We love to love others. This is my family; this is me.

It took me sixty years to understand that I was adopted, not abandoned. I was loved by parents who did choose us; parents who raised three amazing humans.

I feel every adoptee is entitled to know their birth story. In the state of Missouri that was not legal until 2018. Perhaps this was to protect birth and adopted parents, but the child is the one who pays the price. When you deny the child her story, she’s left wondering, longing to understand.

I still don’t know the details of my adoption, but finding my siblings has helped me understand more about my history.  This is more than an answered prayer; this is a miracle and a new beginning.