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.

Journaling for Clarity and Calm

Keeping a journal is not only for women or for those who want to fine-tune their writing skills. Journaling is for anyone wanting a safe place to record and express feelings, emotions, and secrets.

It’s a place to transcribe what goes through your mind during the course of the day, and how you feel about it.  A journal is the music and voice of your true emotion. For some, the journal is considered their best friend.

One good thing about keeping a journal is that the journal “listens,” doesn’t talk back, and makes no judgments.

Some people like journaling in notebooks and others prefer fancier journals, like the ones sold in book or stationery stores.

Personally, I use an encrypted app called PENZU so I can write anywhere (phone, iPad, laptop), despite being told I’d write better if I did it longhand.

But writing longhand has become so laborious, it robs me of spontaneity and flow, which I feel is equally important. Whatever method you choose, be sure it’s a way that resonates with you so that you are drawn to fill up its pages.

“All serious daring starts within.” ~Eudora Welty

Psychologist and author Diana Rabb lists nine great reasons to keep a journal.  I agree with them.

1)     Empowerment and Self-Reflection. Journaling brings life experiences into focus by putting a lens on your feelings and thoughts.

2)    Clearing the Mind. Your journal is a forum for freeing yourself from confusion and negative emotions.

As you write, you feel yourself grounding in calm and clarity- for better vision and action.

“Ajournalis your completely unaltered voice.” – Lucy Dacus

3)     Journaling builds Self-Confidence. Writing down your thoughts gives you a clearer picture of who you are, your strengths, weaknesses, and accomplishments. (This can be helpful to those of us who have a habit of self-criticism.)

4)     A path to self-discovery.   Journaling helps guide you through challenging times, and glancing at older journals can help you identify certain life patterns that could lead to transformation.

5)    Journaling improves mental health. Expressing yourself improves your sense of well being. When used with talk therapy, it’s a powerful way to understand yourself, and make essential changes.

6)    Encourages self-reflection. Writing down your feelings helps you engage in conversation with yourself, leading to an inner examination and transformation.

7)     Creativity. Writing is a creative endeavor that may lead to further creative endeavors, which can be transformative.

8)     Memory triggers. Sometimes the nature of what is happening in your life can trigger thoughts about your past and offer solutions to current issues.

9)     Journaling is a self-inventory. If you are interested in writing a memoir, your jottings may become a source of invaluable information.

Whether you’re keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it’s the same thing. What’s important is you’re having a relationship with your mind.” Natalie Goldberg

One additional benefit I’d as is to use journaling as a meditation.  As someone who has a hard time sitting still, writing helps me focus, ground, and be present.

On mornings when I can’t seem to quiet my mind to meditate, I write.  The effect is very much the same.

I have been keeping a journal of some kind since I was in the fourth grade.  I even discovered some of my high school journals in the attic!  How painful and funny!

My point is, journaling has been my touchstone and salvation when I have felt loss, anger, and confusion. It’s how I righted myself when I was sure I could not.

It has connected me to unknown sources of courage and resilience.

That’s why I’m passionate about sharing journaling as a method of healing and transformation.

I’ve created a FREE Mindset Reset journal with simple prompts and resources to help get you started.  

Download your copy by clicking here.  

If you’re interested in going deeper. join me for my upcoming Women’s Journaling Retreat, June 10-13, 2021, at the amazing Timber Creek Retreat House.

Register before March 30, 2021 and save $150!

Use code EARLYBIRD at checkout.

Questions?  Please call me at 913 963 8546 today!  Tina

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.

The Birthday Lesson


I am in Vancouver, BC, traveling with two dear friends to celebrate my 60th birthday. This is the first of many celebrations commemorating not just my turning the big 6-0 but the culmination of the past few years of busyness and transition. Life’s directives demanded courage, and being the coward that I am, I fought hard and fruitlessly, of course because life always gets it’s way.

I’ve written about those events before so I’m not going into it now; let’s just say it was a remarkable time and I’m glad it’s over. 

I guess one of the benefits of living longer is learning you won’t spontaneously combust when life throws you a big ass curve ball, even when you’re certain it’s eminent.

Last evening, overlooking the sound from our Vancouver Island Air BnB, my dear friends Suba (52) and Gail (69), turned our discussion to birthdays, ours in particular, and all the ripe topics that aging conjures.

“Well, I guess it beats the alternative,” I joked, “My dad used to say, ‘No-one gets out of this alive.’”

“Aging definitely has its challenges,” replied Gail, “and I think as women we should be talking about it and helping one another. It’s hard nowadays because I actually have to think about getting out of my bathtub!”

I nodded, “I don’t know if I am getting more mature, or just more tired. I’m definitely more discerning about what I will spend my focus, energy and time on. It’s like yes, yes, no, no, oh, Hell no!”

“That’s so true. I think that is one of the many gifts of getting older,” leave it to Suba to point out the positive side.

As we watched the sun slip downward over West Vancouver on a Fourth of July evening, we volleyed the topic back and forth, lobbing a “greater wisdom” in response to a “can’t freaking sleep” until we’d developed a list of the hazards (cons) and benefits (pros) of aging.

Here is what we came up with: (and feel free to amend or add your thoughts)

The Hazards

  • Growing intolerant or impatient: ie. Grumpy old lady
  • Narrowing of interests and activities- resistance to change
  • Becoming a know it all
  • Self absorption
  • Lethargy – an unwillingness to make an effort
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Grief and loss of loved ones, friends, and sense of younger self

Then the physical realities:

    • Skin laxity, age spots and wrinkles
    • Toilet urgency
    • Insomnia
    • Fatigue
    • Reduced strength and stamina
    • Weight gain
    • Metabolism slows
    • Menopause
    • Takes longer to recover from set backs
    • Brain fog and memory issues
    • Medical emergencies

The Benefits

  • Wisdom, grace, and expanding consciousness
  • Greater Self acceptance and Self compassion
  • Greater capacity for forgiveness and compassion for others
  • Greater courage and confidence
  • Better sense of humor and patience
  • Mentorship, leadership, and volunteerism to nurture others
  • Greater resilience
  • Less concerned with what other people think of them
  • Less defined by material possessions and social status
  • Greater spiritual depth and connection
  • Greater freedom to pursue personal passions

 

Suba jumped in, “Hey! Don’t forget that we celebrate JOMO!” 

(The use of the pronoun ‘we’ did not escape me), “JOMO? What the hell is that?” I asked.

“It’s the opposite of FOMO- the fear of missing out. That’s what you have when you are younger. When you are in constant motion because you fear you’ll miss out on something. It’s the difference between reaction and creation.”

“Oh, I remember that,” I admitted.

“JOMO,” Suba continued, “is the opposite, it’s the JOY of Missing Out. Because you become more discerning with your time and the way you choose to spend it. You don’t care what you’re missing out on because you’re happy to be doing exactly what it is you’re doing.”

“Like being okay to curl up with a good book, your dog, or a few friends on a Friday night instead of going to the club, ” I confirmed.

“Lord, I’ll drink to that,” agreed Gail, raising her wine glass.

“Or maybe, we’re just apathetic ,” I mused.

“Well, then there’s that,” laughed Gail.

“No! No it’s not about that!” Suba insisted, “It’s about choice and shifting our value of time. It’s about realizing how precious our time really is. Therefore, the way we choose to spend it takes on a different value, too.”

“Oh, like my saying, Yes, Yes, No, No and HELL no?”

“Exactly,” smiled Suba.

“AND, maybe we’re ALSO tired,” chuckled Gail.

We all laughed because we’d just got done listing the physical challenges of aging, fatigue being one of them.

“It just gets harder to do things. You kind of have to push yourself,” said Gail. “I notice it’s harder to accomplish the same things that used to be rote. I can see how it would be easy to want to give into inertia.”

“And what about the big skin,” I offered, a term my friend Linda created to describe what happens to your skin as you age. “‘My body is pretty much the same size,’ she explained, ‘but my skin keeps stretching so it’s too big for my body.  It doesn’t fit anymore – it just sags.’”

Ah yes.  We went on to discuss our insomnia, chin hairs, expanding Meno-pots, (aka: post meno-pause belly fat), hot flashes, brittle bones, dry hair, dry skin and assorted ‘other’ dry parts.

The physical symptoms are an inevitable hazard of birthdays. But, we agreed, while inconvenient, they aren’t insurmountable. The decisions we make about what we eat, how much we move, the sleep we get, and the attitude we embrace towards aging all make a big difference.

We may not have a choice about aging, we agreed, but we do have a choice about how we age.

Just in case we had any doubts about this conclusion, God sent us as a timely reminder in the form of Elizabeth Robertson.

The following morning, exploring our Horse Shoe Bay neighborhood, Gail and I were delighted to discover a dirt trail.  Snaking elegantly through the woods, it was a welcome alternative to the narrow shouldered bike path we’d first encountered.

The trail was lovely, offering spectacular views, wild flowers, soft footing, and stunning quiet. We walked a long in peaceful reverence until we got to a fork.  Not sure of which direction to take, we asked an older woman who’d been walking in front of us about which way to continue.

“Well, you can go right and take it all the way the Whyte Lake if you want,” as she gave us a slow once over, “It’s about 3.9 kilometers to the turn off and another 2.5 up to the lake,” hands on hips, waiting for our decision.

“Thanks,”  I replied, eyeing her worn gray t-shirt and high water walking pants.

“Or,” she offered, seeing we weren’t making a decision, “you can go left and the trail goes up to the street above.  And there’s another trail just up the way that takes you down to the street below.  That’s my street.  My house is just down there,” she pointed. “I walk this trail every day..”

“Which way are you going?” I asked.

“I’m going towards the lake,” and as if to settle it, “ I’ll walk with you.”  

Elizabeth Robertson was a talker. And she seemed to know everyone else on that trail, including us.

We learned a lot from Elizabeth on that walk.

We learned that the blackberries growing wild on the trail would soon be soon ripe enough harvest.  That she’d return wearing a bucket around her neck to pick the first and best berries. We also learned that it didn’t snow in Horse Shoe Bay because it’s so close to the ocean, that it had been unseasonably dry of late and that she hoped they’d have enough moisture to ski up at Cypress Ski area this Winter. (Apparently it did snow at slightly higher elevations).

“Is this a bike trail, too?” asked Gail.

No, it’s just for people. And dogs,” she harrumphed, “A couple of weeks ago four dogs were off leash, just running wild, and they jumped on an elderly woman,” accentuating the word elderly to imply ‘present company excluded’.

“Poor thing was just standing there, and just got bowled over, flat out, by those crazy jumping dogs. And then here come the owners, a few minutes later, absolutely clueless. Idiots. I think she may have even broken bones!”

Clearly Elizabeth, who we’d learned was 84, did not consider herself vulnerable to the same fate.

“I walk this trail every day.  You get out, you to see everybody and except for the dogs, it’s pretty safe,” as she picked up her step, “And it keeps me in shape. Did I tell you I was eighty-four?  Look at these!, “ she said proudly pulling up her ankle length pantaloons to reveal her calves of steel.

“Wow, impressive,” we both agreed.

Elizabeth continued, “I went up to Cypress last Winter with a friend to do some downhill (skiing). It had been some time since I’d had that opportunity because my husband was ill and I couldn’t leave him alone like that. But after he passed, I just called up a girlfriend and said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

“And do you know what happened?,”  Elizabeth’s tenor and pace picked up as she snickered, her arms flailed about nearly hitting me in the chest, “I got about half way down that mountain and my quads just seized up on me and I went ‘Argh,’ before I just fell down.  I couldn’t get up. The ski patrol had to come and put me on a sled and take me on down.”

“Oh no!  That wasn’t fun,” commented Gail

“It was just fine because that ski patrol guy was very good looking, “  she said without hesitation.  “And now I know to do my 90 degree wall squats to be in better shape next year.  I’ve been skiing since I was three years old so I guess I just took it for granted!”

Elizabeth went onto tell us she’d been living in the area most of her life.  Originally from the Eastern side of Canada, her father was a physician who was relocated from Newfoundland to Vancouver after the war.

She herself had worked as a nurse, then as a nursing teacher before becoming the director of nursing at the University of Vancouver, BC.

“That must have been interesting,” I offered.

“Well, it was,” Elizabeth said, but explained that nursing students and teachers, unlike other college departments, worked during the Summer break doing internships at the hospital.

“I didn’t like it that I had to work while the rest of the teachers were playing ping pong so I complained about it and eventually we got it worked out.  Then I got a group of us together to take that three months off to go to Kathmandu but my superior blew a gasket and said we couldn’t all be gone at once.”

“ ‘You can’t do that, You cannot do that!’ he kept saying to me, over and over, and I just sat there listening.”

“Did you end up going?” I asked,

“Well, I went home that night and wrote him my letter of resignation.  I put it on his desk the next morning, booked my trip to Khatmandu and packed my bags.”

“Did your colleagues go, too?”

“Well, no. It’s hard to get people to take three months off, but I did and I’ve never regretted it.  I took a lot of treks like that all around the world, adventure truck trips, biking trips, in Africa and Asia and all over Europe. ”

“That’s amazing. How did you decide to go to Kathmandu?,” we asked.

“Well there was a travel department at the University and I went in there and looked at a pamphlet about Kathmandu and that was just it. I went, but you can still book those kinds of trips online!  Look it up!  You can go!”

She said this with the enthusiasm and authority of any good teacher and I made a mental note of the web address she’d suggested.  Her energy was catching. 

I looked at her then, a little more closely.  Her face was soft, lined, with the faintest hint mustache over the lip. She wore her gray hair short, unceremoniously fashioned like a helmet. Her arms with covered with age spots and her busy hands were uneven and overly knuckled.  I marveled at her upright posture, brisk walking pace, and ability to tell a story without pausing; she was quick, astute and funny. 

At 84, Elizabeth Robertson may have looked old, but she behaved agelessly. She was clever and energetic and completely full of herself. 

When we told her we were tourists who were going “forest bathing” the next day, she snorted, “Forest bathing? What’s that?”

“Well,” we explained. “its when you commune with the energy of nature by walking and meditating in the forest.  It’s pretty amazing.”

She looked blankly at us before retorting, rather sarcastically, “Well, you’re in a forest now! There’s a tree- go hug it,” and she guffawed. Then she continued to talked our ears off.  I don’t think either Gail or I said more than two words the entire walk.  But that was okay because Elizabeth’s presence reminded us the many benefits of aging we’d included on our list.

Elizabeth was without guile, unabashedly herself, unencumbered by fear, doubt or apology.  She chose to stay active and engaged, never hesitating to offer her experience through a creative and entertaining stream of consciousness narrative; stories she just assumed others were dying to hear.

She was not timid. She was not shy and she definitely did not use her age as an excuse to withdraw or grow narrow.

“When I get home,” Elizabeth announced, “it will be 4 o’clock.  At 4 o’clock I watch the BBC British Kennel Dog show.  I watch it every day after my walk.  I love it.”

I smiled to myself. There was no FOMO for Elizabeth Robertson.  She was clearly  enjoying her JOMO years.

As we hugged her goodbye, I felt inspired as well as a little tired.  She was, I had to admit, a tad bit exhausting. 

But then I thought, I am getting older.