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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sea to Shining Sea: Reflections

The idea for this trip was born somewhere at the beginning of summer. It was the perfect harmony between a much needed business trip to share the Ember story and our appetite for adventure and change. In the planning stages we thought we would be home around the middle of October, giving us about 7 weeks to complete the trip. However, here we are in mid October and we have just recently arrived at the Atlantic ocean!


This marks the half way point in our trip. We have visited roughly 50 Ember accounts, driven 7,155 miles through about about 20 states and met some amazing people who are living and pursuing their dreams.

We have camped in the pouring rain in Michigan, watched the leaves change color in upstate New York, spent many cozy nights in the homes of old and new friends, slept in countless Walmart parking lots after driving late into the night (Including a Walmart in Zainsville, Ohio where the wild animals roamed!), interviewed the protesters of Occupy Wall Street, and most recently STAYED at the YMCA! (cue the song and hand motions:)






We have gained a perspective of our country and ourselves that is much bigger than we imagined. I have been humbled by the hospitality of the poeple we have met and awed by the bridges that the Ember story builds between counrties and most significantly; hearts.

I have watched my girls blossom into confident, open minded, street savvy little companions that chant "Home is wherever I'm with you..." as we begin our days in brand new places. (And yes, Shiloh at 13 months old is singing and talking and contributing to the ongoing dialog)

I see this season as a permanent mark on each of our lives that is opening new realms of thinking about our place and our responsibility in the world. (at the four year old level, Kai has developed a passion for speaking out against littering...she doesn't want to live in a trash world like WallE)

For us, we have had the opportunity to visit many different churches and expressions of faith. We have seen the vast differences that so many speak of, but more importantly we have experienced the truths that bind us all together. We have seen our faith in light of a global move of God and not limited by our own biases and myopia.

As our roots grow deeper, we can ask bigger questions.

---

And now little birds, its time to fly south....its getting chilly up here!




Sunday, September 25, 2011

One month in a day

Time changes when you are traveling. So much distance is covered in a day that it feels like much more than 24 hours. And the time literally changes as we head east...making our perception of time even more confused. I can barely keep track of the day of the week, much less the hour. My figurative watch toggles between eating, playing, naps and Ember account visits.

I've watched the land turn from the flat, quiet prairies of Kansas to the lush green landscape of Missouri. And pretty much every state east of the Rockies so far is contributing miles of open space to cornfields.

As we crossed the Illinois border heading up to Chicago, both girls woke up from a nap in their car seats and needed to exit the car quickly to stretch and run around. I glanced around and saw nothing but corn. A few minutes later, we saw a hand made sign that said "Corn Maze next exit". Sounded perfect to me. We were guided into an empty field with a clear path leading into the corn. Although no one was there manning the small booth, we all entered the maze, glad to be out of the car. Not only did we not bring water or snacks, but we intentionally let Kairah lead the way, picking each turn without thinking much about it. Pretty soon we were completely lost. Just as our conversation began to turn serious about how we were going to navigate out of the endless rows of corn stalks, we were rescued by a young but official looking corn maze worker, whose main job was to rescue the countless innocent patrons that are swallowed by the Lincoln corn maze. Do not underestimate a good corn maze!

That same day we arrived in Chicago and stayed in Rogers Park for several days while visiting our Whole Foods accounts scattered around the city. I could feel the rich and colorful history as we walked through different neighborhoods. The energy of the city is invigorating, but it is uniquely offset by the expansive lake Michigan that sprawls out like an ocean right next to it, creating a peaceful calm as well. We dipped in the lake on one of the last summery days of the season. I could feel the onset of fall lingering in the air and I can only imagine how beautiful Chicago is when it is covered in white for the winter.


Right there in the middle of the city, we celebrated Shiloh's FIRST birthday! A little deep-dish pizza, balloons and huge slice of chocolate cake later she was officially one year old.

Getting to Chicago marked an important stretch of our trip. From Illinois East, the number of Ember accounts becomes more concentrated and our time in each city is defined by meeting with different stores. It is a unique perspective to learn about a city through the eyes of the local business owners. I am constantly moved and inspired by the stories and dreams of the people we partner with.

What an honor to be on this adventure!






Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Life. On the road.

Right now we are driving through the rain; slowly and steadily approaching the Kansas state line. We are about a week and a half and 5 states away from home. My American geography is greatly improving!


So here is what our world looks like:

two kids that now call our traveling caravan home,
one Tahoe packed full with Ember jewelry and displays,
a roof box that holds our clothes and is collecting stickers from our favorite places,
and a Viking trailor that folds up and down like an accordion.



Somewhere in all of that we are finding a rythmn to everyday life on the road. Like knowing where the diapers are at all times, or making sure the top hatch in the trailer is closed when a lightening storm and downpour comes out of nowhere in the late afternoon. Twice.

We figure that most days we will find a campsite as homebase and unfold the Viking while we visit a new town and meet with an Ember account. And there will also be the occasional night where we will appreciate the reprieve of a hotel room to clean up and do some laundry. And then there there will be days where in order to cover some ground, we need to drive late into the night and we will just transfer the sleeping babes into the half pitched Viking for a quick ovnight stop.

A couple of nights ago was one of those nights. We were nearing the end of an epic drive through southern Utah. We had stayed in breathtaking Zion for a couple nights, then were awed by the hoodoos of Bryce canyon, and were on our way to Arches National Park before crossing the state line into Colorado. It was late when we pulled into Torrey, Utah hungry and tired. At this point we hadn't quite worked out dinner on the fly outside the Viking's small kitchen area . (Don't worry, we have since coined the term "road-dillas" thanks to the Colman stove and a few tortillas). Against all odds we found the only restaurant open at that hour in the tiny town. Diablo cafe quickly seated us and served one of the best meals we have ever had. This place is a diamond in the rough with two professional chefs creating unique southern style dishes. Better yet, our waitress suggested a close by spot where we could pull over and camp below the radar. She instructed us to go to the end of a nearby dirt road and park anywhere and not to worry because it's BLM land. I'm still not sure what that means.





So we found this little spot and although we agreed that it was a little too close for comfort to the few surrounding homes, we were too tired to switch course and we popped the Viking just enough to fit inside. Meanwhile another car pulled up, intending to do the same. It was a little awkward, but as soon as we decided we were safe, we all climbed in and hunkered down for the night.

Within an hour both Clay and I woke up to the sound of a raging wind storm ripping through the canvas of the Viking. It sounded like large objects were being thrown against our small trailer. It was impossible to sleep and we spent the night checking in with each other every hour or so wondering if the whole trailer was going to blow over. Luckily the girls slept through the whole thing. So when the sun finally rose, they were bright eyed, rested and full of energy and we crawled out of the trailer about the same time the people in the car next to us did...all feeling like we had been beat up.

So on we went, laughing about our attempt at some quick free camping. Later that day we crossed the Colorado state line and wound our way up to Gunnison, a small town nestled in the beautiful Rocky mountains. We met with Western State College and introduced them to the Ember story and welcomed Deb and the bookstore staff to the family of Ember retailers.




Driving down the east side of the Rockies, we got an invitation to stay at the Peace home. 6 years ago when we moved to Shell Beach the first thing we did was inquire about a bright red VW bus for sale on the side of the road. This led us to the home of Jeff and Terri Peace and thus began our friendship and our bus story. Little did we know they had moved to Greeley CO, and they had answered our call for places to stay. We enjoyed laundry, warm beds and Colorado beer for a few days before hitting the open road to the mid-west; uncharted territory for both of us.

To be continued...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ready...set...GO!

The Ember national tour officially begins TODAY!

I am writing from the front seat of our vehicle thanks to Apple's genius Personal Hotspot. "Snowy", as Kai has appropriately named our White Tahoe is working hard to pull the Viking, an old faithful pop up trailer through the 117 degree California desert. We are in route to Vegas where we will meet with the owner of Mosaic salon and boutique to share the new Fall Ember products before landing at Circus Circus for the night.

This stop will be the first of many that will take across the country and through the doors of the faithful businesses that carry Ember products and support the Ember story.


Go here to see our itinerary and help us decide where to go and what to see!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dream with me.

I have been thinking a lot about the mantra many of us grew up with:

"Follow your dreams".

What does that mean and how do you do it?

As Americans many of us start from a privileged place of opportunity to pursue the dreams in our hearts. Often this starts when we are young; hopping from sport to activity...parents searching for that perfect match.

In college we move through the general ed buffet line, trying on different hats, learning a little about a lot of things and hoping to find that sweet spot where our passions and giftings collide.

Then you graduate and real life hits you like a freight train. Time to dig up those dreams and make something of yourself. Somewhere on the road to adulthood and significance you realize that following your dream may be a lonely less traveled road, and you never had a class about that.

Now what?

Its been a few years, you're not 20 anymore...

Your "breadth of life experience" so far has introduced so many possibilities that its hard to choose.

Your privileged position has taken you hostage.

...

Here are a few thoughts about pursuing that dream:

-Let your mind play with possibility.
if you don't know what I mean, go find a friend with kids and hang out with them for a day.

-Learn to manage yourself. Reign in the free spirit a bit and take control of your life. Read 7 habits of highly successful people.

-Identify your wise guys. Find people older, smarter, wiser, and more ambitious than you. Hang out with them and ask lots of questions.

-Help others accomplish their dreams. Step outside of yourself. Find a place to pour out what you have to give. Volunteer, serve, invest in the dreams of those around you, hang out with the poor and bridge that imaginary divide, LOVE your neighbor, celebrate as those around you succeed.

-Start moving! Take the risk...go for it...over and over.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

7-8-9 months

Im playing catch up...the last three months have flown by and I can hardly believe Shiloh is 9 months old! Here are some highlights from the last few months:
7 months: The Professor.





8 months: EATING, scooting


9 months: CRAWLING

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Untold stories: part 1


The other day we decided to eat dinner down at the beach. We packed some pasta and a couple Sierra Nevadas and joined the tribes of colorful characters that grace the lawn at the end of Newport as the sun goes down. This is why I love this place:)

Right as we sat down, I noticed a man off to my left that was making his way across the grass with a sleeping bag; obviously getting ready to settle in for the night. He was probably in his 60's, had long unkempt grey hair and a matching beard. His mustache was so long, you couldn't see his mouth. His clothes were dirty and worn, revealing that he been without a shower in weeks...maybe months. Truthfully, he looked similar to many others I had met here. EXCEPT, he had no legs beneath his knees and he was wearing shorts. He was dragging his body across the grass, attempting to move his stuff. This drew a lot of attention including ours...it was hard to watch.

Clay jumped up to grab his remaining bag and carried it over for him. He initiated conversation and invited him to join us on our blanket and share a meal. As the man neared our picnic, I was grateful to be able to help out with some food, but I braced myself for what I expected to be a typical conversation; erratic and hard to follow.

His name was J.C. When asked what had brought him to the streets of OB, he answered clearly and politely. He had just finished riding a hand pedaled bike from Lake Tahoe to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The journey had taken him 7 months. Just after crossing the border back into America, he was jumped by a group of street kids. They stole everything he had, including his prosthetic legs.

What?!

I was shocked and I think my jaw actually dropped. He went on. The local Veterans hall had heard about his situation and were providing him with new legs and arranging a ride home. They had also offered him a job working with other Vets that weren't as ambitious and needed a role model and a little inspiration. He declined. Evidently, the police were so thankful for his presence on that grassy knoll that they brought him breakfast biscuits every morning...he looked so intimidating that the normal band of vagrant troublemakers had stayed away since J.C. had arrived.

Intrigued and curious to know more, Clay continued, "J.C., if you don’t mind my asking, how did you lose your legs?"

He answered simply, "I froze them off on Everest 4 years ago."

He explained that he had been caught in a storm with his climbing team. Buried in snow for 3 days at an elevation with very little oxygen, three of them had died and he had just lost his legs.

Although I felt a little awkward asking, I was captivated by his story and I pressed on," So were you able to summit the mountain before the storm rolled in?"

He answered humbly, "I've summited Everest twice. This was my third attempt."

So by now I’m thinking that this man was either crazy, or one of the most amazing individuals I have ever had the pleasure of sharing a meal with. My only frame of reference for an expedition of this magnitude is John Krakauer's book 'Into Thin Air' about his epic Everest accent. I brought this up to try and connect with his experience and I'll admit, partly to test the validity of his story. He immediately corrected me on the pronunciation of Krakauer's name and then explained that he knew him well. They grew up together in Oregon and were climbing buddies. Guess that solves that. He went on to tell us how National Geographic had caught wind of his bike adventure through Baja and had come down to follow him for a story. Next summer they would follow him again as he pedals his bike through South Africa.

As I stared at this rugged, remarkable man who had overcome so much, I was struck by how misguided judgments can so easily erect walls that eclipse opportunities throughout our life. Stories we never hear, roads we never travel.

We form judgments all day long. This is a necessary process as we traverse our little worlds. A lot of the time our judgments are healthy and wise: When to switch lanes on the freeway, when to keep my daughter close at a shady park, when to press in to a relationship...when to step back. Other times, it is not so clear.

As intentional as we might be, our judgments are based on a very small, myopic perspective, shaped by a unique combination of experiences and constraints. From this lens, we peer out and begin our search for truth and assign meaning and significance to our lives.

I read the other day in one of Timothy Keller's books, "We like to think we think for ourselves...but we think like the people we most admire and need."

Let that someone that I most admire and need be my Creator and let my thoughts align with His thoughts. Only then can I judge rightly...at least some of the time.