Lake Michigan Dune Time

If you’ve never seen one of the “Great Lakes” in your life, I recommend making a trip sometime.  Lake Michigan, in particular, has beautiful sand dune beaches and water that stretches as far as the eye can see.  Once at the water’s edge, looking out into the vast blue horizon is like gazing out into the open sea. . .without all that salt, of course.  It is quite a sight.

My family goes camping every year somewhere on the lake and this was the first year I got to attend the annual shenanigans.  I’m no stranger to camping so I was pretty excited to bust out my awesome camping gear. . .plus, sleeping in my tent all cozy in my sleeping bag is some of the best sleep I ever have.  I know, I’m a weirdo to some people.

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After setting up camp at the PJ Hoffmaster State Park Campground, we headed straight for the beach.  And it looked like this. . .

The water was brisk, per usual, but after about 5 minutes it just starts to feel refreshing.  Growing up in Michigan, you get used to cold water.  It’s no big deal.  It’s just how it is.  I think I heard somewhere that cold water stimulates your lymphatic system, so it’s all good for your health, too.

The beaches are tall white sand dunes that are killer to hike up, but make for great adventures.  The best part of hiking the dunes is running down them.  Each step takes so long to sink down in the sand it kinda feels like you’re walking on the moon or floating instead of running.  And it’s even fun to hike up a dune just for the sake of floating back down again.  Me and my dad went on a really fun hike one of the days and I got some primo shots.

I love this one below.  It looks like he’s a lone man in the desert. . .or on some strange desolate planet. . .

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You can tell a little bit how steep this dune really was.  It was a great workout and also a never-ending foot massage from all that sand.  My little footsies were quite happy afterwards.  And BTW, I have the best Dad.  He’s a gem!

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Some of my oldest and dearest friends joined us for a few nights of camping fun.  I’ve been cashing in on all the friendly company I can manage while I’m here.  In the blink of an eye I’ll be back to my little jungle home far far away from so many of my loved ones.

Here are some great shots from another dune hike. . .

We came across this bench on our dune hike and I had to capture the wisdom of it.  I think it’s a good notion for all of us.  Keep dreaming, keep dreaming. . .grab it when you can, grab it when you think you can’t.  Just do what that little voice inside of you says.  Listen. . .

“I believe people should find their dreams and chase them before it’s too late.  If you know what your dream is grab it and run.”

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We had beach disco parties, of course, because I have to dance no matter what.  It’s good for my soul.  We had dinners and fun chats around the camp fire.  And we even made it to the nearest city to see a singing, dancing, light up fountain.  It was something.  It’s one of the oldest musical fountains out there, so check it out for a truly local experience.  Haha.

It was really hard to leave the camping trip, but I will be excited to visit the dunes again and that beautiful blue horizon.  Thanks, Lake Michigan.

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Ann Arbor Daze

So, I’ve been back in the other Motherland. . .aka America. . .for awhile now.  The summer is here and the weather has been delightful.  I even got joy from a big whiff of fresh grass straight off the plane.  Sounds weird, I’m sure, but we don’t have much grass around us in Goa.  We’ve got plenty of lush jungle, but grass, well, it’s a special thing and there’s not much of it.  So, yeah, that first whiff was pretty darn nice. These days, the little things fill me with abundant joy.  It’s great.  I guess I can thank the teachings of Mother India for that.

Ann Arbor is looking pretty great, don’t you think?  These are a few shots from my river run and an old building downtown. . .

I’ve been a busy busy bee on this visit.  It’s actually been more like work.  Doctor appointments, helping my mamma, seeing the family, and all kinds of other task oriented adulting.  No siestas or Goan sunsets around here but I’ve been getting my fill of delicious American beer, diners, eating my way through the gigantic cheese selections and all the Mexican food I can fit in my stomach. . .and of course, loving the grocery stores.  It always takes me awhile to remember what I even used to buy at these places and that is such a strange thing.  Overwhelmed by choices, but glad to have them, I just hope I don’t get out of this place with twenty extra kilos on my booty!  Haha!  Not that my husband would mind.  Heh.

Michigan in the summer is pretty fantastic.  I am enjoying all the wonderful things about Ann Arbor in this glorious weather and catching up with all my old homies.  I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting, too, which I apologize for keeping you waiting.  I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and have barely had enough time to burp or fart. . .I mean. . .well, you know what I mean.

I’m missing my Magic Man and my kitties so very much these days but I’m trying to stay in the moment and enjoy it while I can.  In the meantime, Louise the calico keeps me pretty good company. . .

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Good news in:  my mamma has made mega improvements since I’ve been here and she’s on the road to walking again.  Woohoo!  I’m really proud of the progress she’s made and I know she’s stubborn enough to get back to dancing on her feet as soon as possible. That’s a big relief  for me and her and now I know she’s on the up and up when I head back to Goa.  My article Broken Heart News will catch you up on health and life stuff, if you’re interested!

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In the little slots of time I have between all of my daughter duties, I’ve had a few dance parties with old friends and new ones.  I’ve been blessed to hang out with my awesome family all the time.  I really am the luckiest girl in the world to come from such a cool tribe of people.  They’ve been enjoying the good life with me and getting a kick out of my delight in American luxuries.

One of my favorite nights was with one of my dearest oldest friends and a brand new one.  We went to our fave Thursday night dance spot and sang along to Queen songs with the whole crowd.  It was utterly awesome and I will revel in the memories for a long time.  God Bless America. . .and my amazing friends. . .and Queen. . .and my healthy body that let’s me boogie all night looooong!!!

I promise it won’t be so long until the next update.  Sometimes it just takes awhile to arrive, I guess.  So, here I am.

In the words of my new mantra. . . .

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May you all feel the same way.  As always, I hope things are goan good!

 

Ann Arbor Shenanigans

Being back in my beloved hometown, Ann Arbor, has been a full spectrum experience.  I spend most of my time at the hospital giving my super mamma some love and healing energy, but I’ve been lucky to fit in a few nights of revelry with old friends and family. Thank goddess for small mercies, or in this case, wine, good food, superb company, and maybe a bit of dancing!  Okay, really though, I try to fit in dancing whenever I can because it is my church.  There’s nothing like a good boogie to make everything else feel just a teeny weeny bit better, don’t’cha think?!

If you’re saying to yourself that you don’t remember the last time you had a good boogie, then please, do yourself a big favor and move it!  Put on your favorite song and shake your booty like you really, truly mean it.  I promise you’ll feel better.  Whatever stagnant energy you have festering inside you will break up into stardust and float away.

On that note, we celebrated my step-mom, Desiree’s, birthday like professionals. . .starting with a seemingly endless happy hour party.  Some of my longest, dearest friends came to join the good times.

We went to this restaurant called The Quarter Bistro in Ann Arbor, and if you haven’t checked out their happy hour, maybe you should.  Everything is 5 bucks and it did a fine job at putting us in a wild party mood.  Haha.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t take enough advantage of that five dollar food menu (evident by the outcome of the end of the night), but the drinks kept showing up at my table, and well gosh, I couldn’t resist the friendly American hospitality.  I mean, who can?  The below picture is clearly a good example of how awesome the happy hour was.

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And then, we started talking about dancing.  Let’s go dancing.  But, where?  Hmm. . .and after a pit stop we ended up in downtown Ann Arbor at a place called LIVE for “gay night.” We arrived early and had the dance floor to ourselves, and I must say, we didn’t mind at all.  Being the party is the best way to BE!  Be the party wherever you are.

The two DJ’s played tons of good tunes. . . .like Madonna, Prince, TLC, to name a few. There were too many songs to remember, of course, but I shook my booty like a BOSS!!!  Oh yeah. . .and in black suede wedge boots.  Holla!  It’s been awhile since I have worn anything but sandals.  Such is life when you live by the beach.

Thanks to happy hour, and my starved appetite for some good ol’ American culture, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at LIVE.  The dance floor eventually filled up and there was a pretty cool lights and smoke show, too. . .until we got smoked out. . .and not the good kind.  But, it was still a super groovy time, indeed.

One thing I’ve realized after living in India for so long is how much I really love cheese. . .and cheese displays.  O.M.G. Will you just look at this thing?

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It’s almost as if they’re blocks of rustic gold sitting like cute little nuggets that just wait to be cuddled.  Riiiiight?!  I still get a little teary eyed in any grocery store even after a few weeks of Michigan time.  I swear, this reverse culture shock is so special.  New perspectives are gems, really, and appreciation for random things is truly a gift.  I spoke to the lady at the check out in this posh grocery store and told her how lovely it was.  She was curious about my opinion and I briefly explained.  And then she stopped what she was doing and said, “Wow, I really need to work on my gratitude.”  Welp, I’m here to remind you, sister.  Sometimes the little things are really really really big, um, like those blocks of delicious cheeeeeeese!  Okay, enough about my cheese obsession.

I’ve done a good job at making friends with the nurses at the hospital.  There’s a really cute Hungarian chick who’s got a holistic preference to medicine and she likes to come into my mom’s room and spread essential oils for some alternative therapy.  My mom has also become so popular that when staff make their rounds they yell hello’s from the corridor as they pass by.  It’s pretty cute.

The good news is:  Mom is doing better. . .ish. . .and there’s some movement and feeling in her lower half.  But she’s got a long way to go.  A long way.  The faeries surely have their work cut out for them.  Keep sending good vibes, dear universe.

I have also reconnected with my most favorite coffee cup in the whole wide world. . .

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My daily morning hot beverage just seems to taste better when those dudes are hanging around.  All you need is LOVE!

I got to hang with my brothers and my BFF’s. . .drink delicious craft beer, attend 2am fried chicken parties (what?), go ice skating, and manifest pretty much no snow AND sunshine for most of my visit.  All in all, I reckon I had some good luck and good vibes on my side.

For my last hurrah in town, guess what I wanted to do?  Yep, you got it.  DANCE!  So, I rallied the troops and we went to a funny little local place called the Elks Lodge.  It’s not usually open to the public, but on this particular night, a dear old friend happened to be the DJ and we enjoyed a super fun night. . .

After a whole month of tiring hospital visits, and a few fun shenanigans, the wind in the palm trees, Magic Man, and miss Shanti have been missing me, and I must take time out of hospital duties to deal with my own life.  However, the winds of change are blowing strong and I’ll soon be back in sweet Ann Arbor to continue the fun.

Now, I’m sitting in the airport on my way to Dallas. . .and then to Abu Dhabi. . .and then to Bombay. . .and then maybe, just maybe, back to Goa.  Right now, it feels like I’m flying to the moon.  At least I know Magic Man will be there to hug me when I get off my final plane delirious and ready for some good sleep.

I left my mamma in the hospital in tears and it wasn’t easy, but I have faith in her stubbornness to heal until I get back.  For now, I’m working on that ever present gratitude. Gratitude for my friends and family who are the best in the world and gratitude for things like planes. . .even though it’s a lot of sitting. . .so that I can zoom back and forth in the universe and tend to my loved ones across the globe.

Remember: Be the party wherever you are and never forget how lucky you are, either!

Loving you, family!

Broken Heart News in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Two weeks ago, I was having my afternoon siesta with Shanti.  It was a hot day in the jungle and the late afternoon sun beat us into a dead sleep.  When I finally woke up, I checked my phone and found frantic messages from my brother.

Are you up?  It’s mom.  It’s not good!

Great.  The last thing anyone wants to hear when they’re on the other side of the world is that a family member is in trouble, especially your MOM.  It takes a long time to travel that far and it’s a lot to wrap your head around in less than 24 hours.  Whew.

So, I jumped on a plane to Detroit immediately and flew back to the good ol’ U. S. of A!

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It’s been a year and a half since I have been out of India, and let me tell you, I felt a bit like Mr. Bean in the airport.  I’ve heard about reverse culture shock but I didn’t really understand it, well, until the Mr. Bean in me was so strong that I started freaking random people out by my charming enthusiasm for American standards.

It started with getting off the plane in Newark, New Jersey.  One might think the arm pit of America isn’t that great, but holy cow, the moment I stepped into the airport I was hit with a wall of aroma. . .and I’m not talking the lovely wall of pungent, aromatic curry-dirt-pee-whoknowswhat smell like an assault on your senses.  It was a wall of fragrant, delicious brownies, cookies, pastries, perhaps.  Oh. My. God.  I dropped my bags and breathed in the air like a crazy person who just escaped from the mental institute.

IT SMELLS SO GOOD!!!!  I kept yelling to the air.  People walked by with confused expressions as I sniffed the air.  God Bless America.  Ha!  I never liked that phrase so much until now.

Then, I passed a cafe on the way to my next gate and the smells of coffee, bacon, and cheese wafted over to me and literally made me giddy.  The sensations hitting my olfactory system made me do a little dance at the counter.  The clerk just smiled and tried not to stare in strange wonder at why the heck this weird chick (me!) was so excited to smell stuff.  I mean, smells at the airport aren’t necessarily a famous memory for most people.  And when I ordered a SMALL latte and it came out looking utterly gigantic?!  Wow.  God Bless America again!

Home sweet home.  Mmmmmm!

I finally made it to Detroit and my cool dad picked me up.  Yeah, I said cool.  He plays guitar, rides a skateboard, and knows all the good music.  I’m a lucky girl and I count my lucky stars all the time.

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And then after a nice, long, HOT shower to wash off the funk of twenty five hours of traveling, I made my way to the ICU at the hospital to see my mama.  She just had an aneurysm in her aorta and almost died.  In fact, the doctor said that most people that suffer aortic aneurysms don’t even make it to the hospital, so my mama is one tough cookie.

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When I got to the hospital, she was one drugged cookie, too.  The surgery lasted TEN whole hours and all the anesthetics and drugs took days and days to leave her system.  She said she saw lots of weird “things” in the room while the drugs wore off.  I told her not to tell anyone else.

Since I’ve been home, I’m catching up on all of my fave American TV shows, hanging with the family, seeing friends, and enjoying the simple things in life that are so good here. . . like grocery stores and donuts!  Wow.  I recently ate a custard paczki (poonchkey) and I dare say it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my whole dang life.  Haha!  I cut the thing in half and when I finished the first half I almost cried remembering there was still a second half.  I had a good laugh at myself. . .maybe even for a couple minutes.  I laugh at myself all the time.  It’s the only way to live.

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I’ve also been remembering myself.  Like, what the heck I even wear in winter!  Pants, hats, jewelry I haven’t seen in years.  Sliding into an old pair of jeans is like seeing a long lost friend, except that friend is ME.  What a trip.  Phases of myself and my life that have been packed into boxes. . . the comfortable, comforting memories of being me.

Being back in America makes me appreciate the amenities of first world.  Doing laundry is so fast and easy.  Going to the store to find some random thing is simple.  Clean air to breathe.  Raspberries, blueberries, kale and all the things I’ve missed are never hard to find.  These little, unappreciated luxuries surely balance out the hard stuff.

I’m at the hospital every day.

Days are long.  Sometimes stressful and sad.

We’re still waiting for my mom’s nerves to wake up in her legs and then hopefully she’ll walk again.  I’m pretty sure the faeries are helping out.  They always know when I need them.

If you’re reading this, wherever you are, send a little love to my mama.  Send a little more love to everyone around you.  Everything in this life can change so fast.  One day you’re fine and the next day you can’t walk.

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Say ‘I love You,’ do the things you always dreamed, appreciate walking and talking and being healthy, and never take life for granted. . .for even something like going to the grocery store to buy your favorite cheese.  Most people don’t know how lucky they are.

Everything right now is hard. . .but it gets a little teeny tiny bit better as the days go by.

Gratitude.

If there’s one good lesson my mom can teach you, it’s respect your body.  Love yourself. Take care of yourself.  She didn’t do those things and now she’s facing the consequences. . .and they are not fun.  Not at all.  Not for her or anyone around.

I’m missing my dear Shanti but I’m glad she has company until I get back.

I think I brought the sunshine and beachy vibes from Goa to Ann Arbor because since I’ve arrived it’s turned sunny and springy.  I hope all the good vibes of my jungle home in India help heal my mama’s broken heart.

And I hope that you beautiful people out there can feel the love, too!!!!!   Aho!

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2016 Rainbow Gathering in the Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh, Kheer Ganga

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“When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the rainbow.” Native American Prophecy

It was a perfect sunny morning.  Puffy white clouds decorated the bluest sky and the hills were definitely alive!  We set off on a hike to the Rainbow Gathering about 30 minutes from Kheer Ganga.  It was, ummmm, totally gorgeous. . .

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We probably took longer than 30 minutes to do the hike because we had our packs, there were too many good views to marinate in, and the incline/altitude made it a bit tricky for everyone.  Snow capped mountains were almost within reach, herds of sheep and goats roamed on their luscious salad buffet meadows, and the energy of the Himalayas settled into all of our souls.  Slowly, slowly. . .we made our way Home.

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I love how nature adapts.  These goats with their majestic, long hair and magical horns. . .wow, huh?!  I never got tired of seeing them roam around the hills, listening to their funny sounds echo through the valleys.  They all have such different voices.  It’s almost like you can tell their personality by the sound they make.

The Rainbow Gathering had about 70 people already camping when we arrived.  People from Russia, Canada, Spain, USA, India, Germany, England, Ireland, Israel, Ecuador, Belarus, Netherlands, and many more places. . .gathered in this beautiful meadow and shared community duties, hosted workshops, cooked communal meals, made art, went hiking, played music. . .connecting and reflecting about this giant, yet so small, world we live in.

We scored a sweet spot next to a wonderfully, huge rock.  It was our wilderness abode for two weeks and it served us very well.

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Days in the mountains went slow.  We created a morning space by our groovy rock and a different crowd came every morning for chai and biscuits, and of course, boundless good conversation.  In the afternoons, the shepherds came through our meadow so their flocks could graze.  It was like a tsunami of pungent aroma that overtook our city of tents and it was awesome!

None of the animals seemed to mind me hanging out while they ate around me.  Some of the goats gave us a really good show, too.  They loved our special rock and climbed all over it.  It was damn good nature TV, people.  Go to the mountains, wherever you are.  I promise you will find magic if you look for it.

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There was also heaps of cows.  No surprise, though, considering this is India and cows have a way of infiltrating every inch of the Mother land.  Unlike the afternoon wave of goats and sheep, the cows were just around all day long.  Amit carved a special stick for our camp so we could practice our Krishna skills. . .aka. . .cow herding.  If you let the cows graze too long near your tent, you might get an unwanted cow pie or piss puddle, and well, I wasn’t into that much Nature TV.  Let’s get real.

Loud grunts and strange noises came out of any person with the special stick.  It wasn’t long before the cows got familiar and knew to move along.  Several surrounding tents, however, didn’t have such savvy tenants and got robbed or peed on.  The cows in India are quite ambitious, too, and will even try to inhale your one of a kind Pashmina.  They have no shame!

Nights at the Rainbow Gathering begin with a communal gathering for dinner.  We hold hands, sing silly songs, and ohm like we mean it.  Afterwards, any announcements are made and then music around the main fire goes into the wee hours of the night.  It sounds a bit, you know, bliss-ninny’ish, but singing those songs with people from all over the world does something to your heart.  I swear.  We had tons of Indian tourists visiting the hot springs in Kheer Ganga who came over to see what the Rainbow Gathering was about and a lot of them were supercharged by our dinner ritual.

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A few days into the gathering, one of my dearest friends, Raj, arrived to join in on the mystical mountain experience.  He had never been to this part of his own country or spent much time camping in the mountains, or in general, and he found our camp with a hypnotized look on his face. . .freshly mesmerized and shocked by the massive beauty present all around us, and probably exhausted from the insane hike up.

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We made lots of new friends. . .shared hugs, visits to the hot springs, evening dances under the starry sky. . .

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I think it was the cleanest I’ve ever been while camping.  Visits to the hot springs were so nice.  Rejuvenating soaks, clean clothes, and an awesome hike every single time.  Himalayan living treated us well.  Now I see why Shiva stuck around for 3000 years.

One of the coolest encounters on the mountain was with an old shepherd.  She didn’t see the point in discussing her name, but she told us stories of the cows, the plants, and her two daughters who are married to foreigners.  She would hang at our camp while she was wandering the hills and we happily fed her biscuits and snacks in trade for her company.  I have no idea how old she was, but the wrinkles on her face reminded me of the lines on a  road map, and those highways had stories you couldn’t dare to dream.

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The days melted away and the Himalayas took its’ toll.  Dry skin, sunburned noses, sore feet, sore muscles from the endless hills in every direction. . .but we never stopped having fun, laughing with the global community, and sharing love with our family. . .

No matter where you are in the world. . .if you want a new experience, to meet different kinds of people, to indulge in beautiful nature. . .go find a Rainbow Gathering.  They happen all over the world and you can find whatever journey you might need at this very moment in life.  It’s that kind of magic.  It’s that kind of goodness.  And it’s just waiting for YOU to find it!

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Loving you, family!  Thanks for the hugs, the laughs, the tears, the memories.