In the past year, II have taken two trips to Lebanon to meet refugees from the Syrian war and people in Lebanon and near the Syrian border making a difference. I have met countless families who fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs. Like you, I can’t imagine making the choice to leave the only home I knew to move to an unfamiliar place, live in a tent or makeshift conditions and have no access to work and no education for your kids just to stay safe. That is reality for over two million people right now, over half children.
It is hard to put in words the level of need for these people, but it is my direct experience in Lebanon meeting people with needs that led me to join my friends in taking action to help. We created and organization that will directly impact widows and children through education and psychological support. There are many organizations that help with shelter, clothing, support, and food, but few deal with the psychological trauma of war and lack of education these kids desperately need.
Safe Spaces Lebanon, 501c3 non-profit, was formed to empower refugees and others in need who are experiencing the devastating effects of war. Safe Spaces Lebanon is confident that the greatest lever for affecting positive change is education coupled with psychosocial development. Safe Spaces Lebanon’s mission is to engage, empower, and educate refugees in the midst of crisis.
With your help, we will empower women and children affected by the war in Syria to rediscover hope for their futures by creating meaningful opportunities for them to realize their potential and envision a future of promise. We are opening our first Safe Space site, which doubles as a school, in the municipality of Saida, in partnership with Al Reaaya, an NGO providing relief and developmental support to orphans and widows affected by the war.
To advance our mission, Safe Spaces Lebanon has set a fundraising goal of $500,000 over the next 36 months – this will allow us to build & the school including educational and psychosocial support for hundreds of refugees and poor Lebanese and Palestinian children. I have personally committed to raising 10% of our total goal.
Would you and your family consider contributing to help us engage, empower and educate refugees in the midst of crisis?
Here’s how you can help:
Thank you in advance for your support. Your contribution toward our goals and mission is greatly appreciated.
Happy Mother's Day!
In the last two weeks, I've spent time in Berlin & Amsterdam. I'm writing this quick note as I head to Paris by train. We're just leaving Belgium and entering France and the landscape is beautiful -- I only wish it didn't move so fast.
The highlight of the trip so far has been the weather! May has turned out to be a fantastic time to be in Europe with the nights in the mid-60s and the days in the mid-70s -- it makes you want to be outside nearly all of the time!
I started the trip in Berlin, in part because I've become fond of the direct flight from Dallas to Frankfurt on Lufthansa Airlines and otherwise because I love the freedom of expression and spirit of Berlin.
After adjusting to the time difference, it was easy to settle into everyday Berlin life. It's so fascinating to see how the East and West have merged since the Berlin wall has fallen. I'll be putting together a "perfect day" itinerary for each side of the city that highlights some fun and unique experiences like an old airport turned into a city park, a mall filled with boutique shops and a great view of the bombed church, and my favorite eating spot -- a jewish deli!
On Tuesday, travels took me into Amsterdam and old city full of beautiful canals -- seriously not sure why anyone thinks Venice is so amazing when we have the 7 canals of Amsterdam to wander. The city, it's people, it's cocktails, and night-time centric lifestyle really reminds me so much of New Orleans. Beyond that, my best day was spent biking around the city and into Vonderpark to relax and people watch. And, my favorite nighttime activity was taking pictures and having cocktails at Hotel Pulitzer.
I've attached just a couple of the photographs I took in Berlin and Amsterdam.
One from Berlin is of a proposal that happened in Mauerpark in Berlin -- a huge city park famous for its flea market and open-air karaoke.
The other from Berlin is a nighttime shot of the Cathedral. I actually had to follow someone into a private apartment building and the ascend to the top floor to find a small terrace to take that picture -- it's one of my favorites!
Amsterdam was the perfect city to take nighttime landscape photograph. The first photo is a landscape with a small shop to the left, a canal, a smokestack, and boats to the right -- it was featured on an Instagram account with 60K follows called Super Holland. It really captures that magic of Amsterdam. The second is a photo of a small waterfront cafe with a light trail coming in from the left side of the frame formed by a bicycle headlight -- I hope next time I'm in Amsterdam you'll be with me there having a coca cola, Aperol spritz, or something even stronger!
Until next time -- Bonsoir!
I'll be visiting Berlin and have drafted the following list of places to eat and drink. Would love feedback on this list from anyone who lives in Berlin or has recently visited. What should I add, remove, or adjust?
House of Small Wonder Coffee Shop
Father Carpenter Coffee Brewers
Bonanza Coffee Heroes
Concierge Coffee (tiny)
Silo Coffee (also good brunch)
Bar Marques — under Spanish Restaurant
Fragrances Ritz Carlton
Becketts Kopf — portrait of Beckett’s head, ring doorbell.
BRLO Brwhouse (restaurant/brew/“mod” biergarten)
Cafe Am Neuen See (overlooks a lake)
Loretta am Wannsee (sunset)
Restaurant Slate Berlin
Panama Restaurant & Bar
Maison Han (Vietnamese)
Burgermeister — lunch, expect a wait.
KaDeWe (department store food court)
No Hablo Español
Donau 115 (jazz)
Piano Bar Van Gogh
Bikinhaus / Bikini Berlin Sopping Center
I'll be visiting Amsterdam in a few weeks with a few friends. If you've lived in Amsterdam or visited recently, I would love any feedback you have on this list:
Door 74, Reguliersdwarsstraat 74, 1017 BN Amsterdam, Netherlands
Hiding in Plain Sight, Rapenburg 18, 1011 TX Amsterdam, Netherlands
Vesper, Vinkenstraat 57, 1013 JM Amsterdam, Netherlands
Twenty Third Bar (with a view),
La Rive (fine dining), Professor Tulpplein 1, 1018 GX Amsterdam, Netherlands
Madam (with a view), Overhoeksplein 1, 1031 KS Amsterdam, Netherlands
Dum Dum Palace (pan asian), Zeedijk 37, 1012 AR Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam Foodhallen (food hall), Hannie Dankbaarpassage 16, 1053 RT Amsterdam
Patisserie Kuyt (bakery), Utrechtsestraat 109-111, 1017 VL Amsterdam, Netherlands
Choux (wine, lite), De Ruijterkade 128, 1011 AC Amsterdam, Netherlands
Restaurant Stork (cool vibe, near water), Gedempt Hamerkanaal 201, 1021 KP Amsterdam, Netherlands
La Perla (pizza), Tweede Tuindwarsstraat 53, 1015 RZ Amsterdam, Netherlands
Thrill Grill (burgers), Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat 37, 1054 BR Amsterdam, Netherlands
Le Garage (French),
The Fat Dog,
Keukenhof Gardens (early or late in the day)
Zaanse Schans Windmills
De Tweede Kamer
Travel gives you the ability to live life at a hyper pace enjoying the very best parts of a destination. Trips can be filled with magical moments exploring famous places, eating delicious food, and interacting with locals.
It is also not unusual when you're in a far away place to hit a few snags. Here are a few of the apps I have on my phone that help me smooth out the bumps in the road. If you're about to go on a big trip, consider some of these apps that I use on a regular basis when traveling.
Apps for Planning
Packpoint is a packing list app that considers where you're going, your planned activities, the weather, and the length of your stay. I like to travel lite, so the max number of days I'll pack for is 10 (which I can pack in a three-day carry-on bag).
TripIt stores all of your travel plans in one place including information on flights, hotels, transportation, special events, travel insurance and more. Setup your account, then forward your confirmations to an email address. TripIt builds your electronic itinerary.
I love TripIt for two reasons:
Apps for Getting from Point A to B
Rome2Rio allows you to discover the costs & time of traveling between two points by any mode of transportation (plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile). I typically use this app up front to decide the best mode of transportation between two cities (Amsterdam to Paris, for example) including what rail or air transportation company sells tickets between those cities.
If you need help navigating major city transit, check out the Citymapper app which helps you find the best route between two places in a city using any combination of bus, subway, train, ferry taxi, bike share, and walking. Citymapper even tells you the nearby departure times. If I'm using a subway or bus system, I almost always refer to Citymapper.
There are occasions where I'm traveling with slow to no coverage on my cell phone. Maps.me allows you to download maps for offline use with turn-by-turn navigation. It also lets me mark favorite destinations on a map. As a backup, I typically always download the city map for my destination and mark my hotel for future reference.
Apps for Translation
The Google Translate app & website are my go-to's for translating on the fly when traveling. I've used Duolingo to learn conversational language in the past, but I found that the learned language goes out the window when you're tired, hungry or frustrated. It's nice to be able to quickly translate back and forth with whomever you're trying to communicate with in the moment.
This is a a catchall for other apps to consider downloading to your smartphone before you travel:
I'll be traveling abroad later this spring and would love to know what apps you use when you travel. Share them below.
As you know, I've been transitioning from my first adventure in life, working at Raising Cane's, into work focused on improving the lives of hourly workers through my new company Good Workforce. I'm excited to say the transition is going well and I'm grateful to your for your encouragement and support.
Perhaps a downside of leaving a high growth company is having too much time to consume the barrage of bad news, especially about international refugees. Recently, an opportunity presented itself to join leaders from the www.safespaceslebanon.org American Methodist Alliance of Love (AMAL) on a scouting trip to Lebanon with two purposes: raise awareness & return with insights on how to help.
An upside of my new work life is that I have the flexibility to pursue adventures when I'm called to them. Though nervous, I'm looking forward to joining a small group of leaders from the Dallas area to experience the humanitarian crisis unfolding around Syria firsthand and document it through the lens of my camera. I know the AMAL leaders are genuine people and focused on doing good work.
The purpose of this post is to seek your spiritual and financial support for my fellow travelers. I'll be funding my own expenses but to make this trip 100% successful, please considering donating to the AMAL=Hope Go Fund Me page to defray the necessary costs for this exploratory visit to various refugee and NGO sites in Lebanon. No donation is too small or too big to be supportive.
Regardless of your position to donate, I appreciate your prayers, love and light toward a safe and constructive journey for me and my AMAL friends. I look forward to sharing my own story with you through words and photographs upon my return.
Alex de Tocqueville once said “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” If we learn only one thing from the outcome of presidential race last week, I hope we learn there are serious faults in our country that must be repaired. Regardless of party affiliation, we all have a duty to make America greater or great again and here are five ways to participate in the process:
I woke up this morning. Since we are all destined for a dirt nap; I count waking up a good thing. This morning was a little different than my morning just five nights ago. I’m in the middle of sailing around the British Virgin Islands with Paul, Ann, Justin & Jennifer.
I woke up feeling the gently rolling waves of beautiful blue, salty water. The sunrise breached into my cabin through a small port window gently warming my face. The more you resist waking up here, the more you toss and turn knowing you are missing a glimpse of paradise.
I woke up this morning in paradise. I have had the same feeling daily since we arrived in the islands. Our boat is currently moored off Anegada Reef Island among other catamarans & sailboats with the fortitude for a long sail. The sun is yellow. The sky is blue. The clouds are white & grey. Water laps at the edges of the boat creating the sound and feeling of tranquility.
I woke up this morning in my own temple… without worry. There is a deep feeling of gratitude for the spiritual gifts of water: relaxing, invigorating & cleansing; renewal & rebirth. Without direct knowledge, I can understand why Christians use water for baptisms, the Hindus consider the Ganges River sacred, the Buddhists say life is a stream.
I woke up this morning wishing you were with me to enjoy just a single day here. Until then, the next time you take a hot shower, go for a swim, or tip your toe into a large body of water, I hope you’ll experience your own renewal. Let your worry wash away and renew yourself in being the person your called to be.
What a noble pursuit to find the very reason that you were put on Earth?
Feeling unfulfilled by my work, last year I began an earnest pursuit to identify my purpose. I read books, spoke to influencers, meditated and more; yet my purpose became even more elusive.
Save yourself the angst. The one thing I know for sure following my search is that finding your purpose in finite time is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else has done it, and so everyone claims they have too. Rather, I arrived at the following truth:
We cannot identify our purpose, we can only answer callings we receive throughout our life. The complete path of responses to each calling as life ensues becomes our purpose.
As Barbara Brown Taylor says, we can be called to things and called away from things. Perhaps we're called to be a parent, a caretaker, or an expert in pediatric cancer. No matter how ordinary or extraordinary the personal or professional calling, we must respond. As the calls arrive and responses are sent, the journey of life will lead to our destiny. To put this simply:
Suppose you find your purpose, you fulfill it, and you have remaining life... what then?
You might stop here and resign yourself to allow life to simply run it's course. Rather, I suggest you build tools and a practice to decipher when to say Yes or when to say No as callings arrive.. Think of these tools as a compass on a journey through the woods or a What Would Jesus Do bracelet when you are seconds from flipping someone off in a road rage incident.
What Do These Tools Look Like?
There is no one right answer to what tools will be most useful and compelling to you, but I can suggest to you some patterns that have been effective for me.
This is a practice and you are a perfectly imperfect human. From time to time, you are going to get something wrong. That is totally okay. I believe it better to learn a lesson (by making a mistake) than live a life of regret; so did Mark Twain.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain
Miraval, at the edge of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona, is a health and wellness resort focused on the physical and emotional wellness of its guests. This top-ranked destination spa was the location of my respite following my last day at work. Allow some of my post-trip zen rub off on you through these three things I learned at Miraval.
You need & deserve a break. Hyper scheduled work. Late nights. Overlapping commitments. News, email, social media and other alerts every few minutes. Crazy traffic interrupted by honking horns and a flashing middle finger. These are normal parts of our modern lives. We can reduce the chaos by changing notification settings on devices, better organizing our lives, and learning that NO is a complete sentence. There is no substitute for an extended, purposeful break, though. Take every single vacation day you earn.
Stay at home or travel near & far. Just make space for yourself. Go on a vacation where you live life in hyperreality experiencing sights, sounds, tastes and adventures uninterrupted. Retreat home or to your favorite place focused on improving your physical and emotional wellness by disconnecting electronically, resting completely, eating healthy, meditating, reading, exercising, and in other ways which recharge you.
We all make choices. Our lives are a series of choices made using an array of factors including our mind, body chemistry, environment, and direct stimulus from others. We can not control external stimulus nor our immediate physical & emotional reaction. Current research indicates, following an emotional trigger, the chemical reaction within our bodies which cause a specific emotion last only seconds to minutes.
As the chemical reaction subsides, we can mentally move in two directions. We can uptalk the situation creating a story that reinforces and extends the emotion (perhaps into a longer mood). Or, we can calm ourselves allowing the emotion to subside then move into a more rational thought-space to solve for the situation.
Rituals can be powerful tools. Imagine lying prone on a table as a licensed doctor conducts a healing ceremony combining Native American drumming, guttural chants, wafting incense, waving feathers, and acupuncture. That is my best pithy description of Dr. Tim Frank's Samadi Healing Ceremony at Miraval. If the words -- are are you freaking serious? -- come to mind, then I was with you to a point. As I relaxed into the flow of the ceremony, something changed. My crooked smile transitioned to a feeling of peace and lightness that I can not logically explain.
I believe there is amazing power to process, heal, release and accept through ritual. You can create your own rituals in life to move on, forgive, welcome love and acceptance into your life, and at other transitions. Write a note and prayer to someone you have forgiven and use a fire & burning ceremony to release and deliver that note to the universe as a way to move forward. Check out Creating Rituals: A New Way of Healing for Everyday Life.
Miraval is a bucket-worthy destination spa and resort, but Miraval is not the only place you can retreat and these three things are not the only things you can do to recharge. Find your own way. If you don't recharge yourself, how can you keep pouring yourself into your work, family and friends? Namaste.
You can view my Miraval photos on Facebook.