Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated as the official marking of winter and a pagan holiday. Yet December 21st is also the shortest day of the year. We receive the least amount of daylight annually on this day. This sounds grim, but there is a sacredness to it. I look forward to this day each year, because what comes after is a blessing. Everyday from here till the summer solstice we will gain 2 minutes and 8 seconds of sunlight a day. This may seem minimal, but it adds up. This day for me symbolizes hope.

I watch my dog Bella in our library this afternoon, and she has been pivoting positions on the couch to follow the sun’s rays. She knows how medicinal the sun is, even if it is felt through a window pane. I watch how the sun sets on her body, before she changes locations on the couch and does this all over again. Feeling the sun for a few hours, there is warmth and hope. This is particularly true in the dreary British months.

In the midst of a pandemic and the craziness of 2020, feeling momentary sunlight on one’s face is so refreshing. Knowing that we will get a little more each day reminds me the worst is behind. There is something to look forward to. More sun.

We go through this process each year of Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer. The cycles of life are packed into these twelve months. Intellectually we know what to expect next, but each season still seems to surprise us. We may have experienced 40 winters, but for some reason, this is one is unique. This may be said with each passing season, but there is truth to it. Each season, each moment should be embraced for it’s unique nature. As we officially transition from fall to winter tomorrow, and enter into the holiday season (quarantines and all), may we find the smallest bits of joy that arise in our days. My wish is for you to connect to a thread of hope that will carry you through towards a sunnier tomorrow.

“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” — Henry David Thoreau

My 12 Commandments

I am in the process of re-reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  In the book for one year, she tackles a different theme each month as a way to improve her happiness.  Yet in the beginning of the book, she wrote a list of 12 Commandments to live by and a list of the Secrets of Adulthood, from her perspective.  As I continue to dip into her world, I can’t help but recreate my own list of the 12 Commandments.  What are the lessons that I want to keep in my life daily? 

            As I wrote these, the first commandment written admittedly was a complete copy of hers, although this is paradoxical.  Hers was Be Gretchen, mine therefore was Be Tricia.  Essentially what this boils down to is be authentic. This lesson seems quite simple, yet how often do we live by this principle?  To be true to ourselves, we must first question our behaviors and values that we currently hold.  Are they truly ours, or an inherited value from our families or society.  It is easy to live up to the principles that are set before us, but how often do we reflect on creating our own commandments? How have you been choosing to live your life?  Has this changed over the years?

            What is required of us after questioning our values and principles, is to query if they are outdated, and if they need to be decluttered and either simplified or replaced?  Hand me down values do not always seem to fit in the right way. They are either too loose fitting, tight in the wrong places, or simply out of style.  What holds true for you at this phase of your life? 

            2020 has probably been a deep time of reflection for most of us.  The world as we know it was paused and shaken up.  It took us out of our routine, out of our busy lives.   As we sat at home, without the regular escape to the local pub, getaway weekend, or store, we began to challenge how we have been living our lives. Going forward into 2021, I challenge you to create your own list of commandments and opt to live by them wholeheartedly. 

Acts of Kindness During Pandemics

As I write this on Thanksgiving Day, I am reminded not just what I am thankful of or the pending pre-holiday sales that are looming, but the simple acts of kindness I have experienced over the year. This included a recent visit to my beauty aesthetician who gave me a touch up for free, for no reason. It’s the face masks that were handmade to friends and family as offerings from sewing queens. Kindness is the florist who has extended me free sunflowers. It’s the smiles I witness among strangers even when half of our faces are covered up. Caring is the act of me donating a bike for children in need at a local bike shop. It’s the extension of welcoming an acquaintance to one’s home during the holidays, so one won’t be alone. It’s the weekly zoom call I share with my high school friends, as we laugh, share, and dream together in different cities in the world. Kindness arose as my friend and temporary roommate threw an impromptu surprise birthday celebration for me during lockdown. Warmth is the body heat that arises on cold days, as my dogs snuggle up with me on a couch.

It’s so easy to focus on what is wrong in the world and how this year is different than any other. Life is not full of ease. Our worlds have been disrupted, to include our social lives, travels, and adventures. For those hit worse, many have lost jobs, health insurance, and loved ones. Yet in this, we can still catch acts of kindness. Life may be surreal right now, but we can capture everyday moments of love and gratitude.

Years ago when I started this blog, it began with gifting strangers and loved ones with little inspirational cards with a positive quote and a photo of my pets. It was a small tangible token of gratitude for an act of kindness they may have done or given in addition to a tip. Since Covid, I have paused in passing out these small little cards but have been offering bits of inspiration on my podcast below. For those who are in my atmosphere, I have ordered new itonlytakesasmile.com cards, with another captivating quote. I can’t wait to start sharing these again. This habit is something that was such a small part of my life, but it had a big impact. My heart warmed when I visited people again who kept these cards on their desks, whether they were friends, store owners, psychics, or beauty aestheticians. Thank you for all that have served me. Covid is not the only thing that is contagious, kindness is contagious. And kindness will continue to outlast this all.

I’ve started a podcast this past year, called The Golden Mirror. Check out a recent episode below about unexpected acts of kindness.

Silent Retreats are like Extra Work

                  On a silent retreat this past year, I couldn’t help but explore how silent retreats are similar to extra work.  Extra work are also known as background players, those who walk in the background of your beloved television shows and movies.  I did this part time job while in graduate school for four years, and here is what I learned.

  1. We don’t talk…pantomime.
  2. It’s a unique experience, and you bond quickly.
  3. Food included is a bonus.
  4. Don’t talk unless spoken to.
  5. Long hours sitting (or standing) can be tough on the body.
  6. Unpaid work is unappreciated
  7. Nobody understands unless they have been there.
  8. You have hours to kill.
  9. Only 1-2 people talk while everyone else is quiet.
  10. People from all walks of life have central individual goal: liberation or to “make it”
  11. Vulnerability is achieved quickly, go deep with others when you finally do talk.
  12. Romances may form (inc. vippasana romances)
  13. Bring multiple changes of clothes.
  14. Feels like groundhog day: same day activities repeat or the scene repeats
  15. There can be familiar faces you recognize at both retreats and extra work.
  16. There will be showoffs.
  17. Since you are silent much of the time, stories build in your head.
  18. You are paired off into dyads or walking partners.
  19. Boredom can breed creativity.
  20. There is time to write.
  21. It is what you make of it: horror or dream
  22. Everyone is playing an unnamed role.
  23. We are likely to overstuff ourselves with food, obsess about when you will eat and what will be served.
  24. SAG vouchers attained or number of silent retreats attended are like badges of honor.
  25. People try to get close to the star/meditation teacher.
  26. You are the extras in each other’s experience: extended time to be in each other’s background.
  27. You daydream how life can be different.
  28. At one point you question, “what did I get myself into?”
  29. When have you had this much free time?
  30. There’s a bonding over the next show or retreat to book when it’s over.
  31. Celebrations are at the end, numbers are exchanged.
  32. You cannot leave unless they release you.
  33. Delirium can set in.
  34. There is a collective goal of community.
  35. There is no escape, you are stuck in a small place.
  36. There is a potential to explore possibilities. 
  37. On the outside if people observed this, may view you as zombies. 
  38. Friends and family not familiar with these activities are yearning to hear how the experience went.
  39. The event is generally enjoyed in the anticipation building up to the initiation or the end, but rarely in the process of being amidst it. 
  40. These experiences will make great stories to tell later.

The Garden Maze

            On the banks of Bath, there lies a Garden Maze. In actuality, it exists as a maze or labyrinth.  I believe if you enter and turn right it is a labyrinth.  Labyrinths exist with only one entrance to the center.  There is no trickery here, only one route to go.  If you opt to go to the left, it is a maze. Mazes are a choose your own adventure story.  Multiple choices are made with your feet, and you could be steered wrong to a dead end or feel as if you are walking in circles.

             I had led a couples retreat on this exact Garden Maze years ago.  I let couples have the choice of labyrinth or maze.  I had forgotten which direction led to maze or labyrinth as I stumbled on the path again today.  It was the maze.  I tried to go the route that didn’t seem obvious, what appeared to be the longer route. I knew it would attempt to trick me. I was curious if I would just give up, but I was determined to make it to the center.  As luck would have it, I did.  There was so much pride in this.  It would have been so easy to give up and jump straight into the core, pretending I had the knowledge to make it here. Or just give up.  Yet, when I made it, I breathed a sigh of relief. As I gazed at the central figure, I couldn’t help but feel as if this was the journey of life.  There were various paths and options to take.  There was no easy answer that took you straight to the center.  The reward was in the hopeful meandering would lead you towards the end result of jubilation.   I wanted to celebrate my achievement by doing a yoga or dance pose.  I didn’t but opted to walk around the large mosaic that formed the center, and actually choose to write this blog post from the core.  

            I saw a couple initiate the path, but they started to walk different directions.  The male had said they could go two separate ways and see who made it.  The female didn’t want to go on the path alone, and so they gave up. As I sat in the center, I saw two blokes who looked like they wanted to take the path.  They started to draw the lines with their fingers, seeing if they were tracing their way to the center.  Since they did not do it immediately, they chose to not even begin the path.  I was by this maze for more than one hour with more than loads of tourists passing by as the sun began to set.  Nobody else even tried.  

            Is this how it is in life?  We are in an era of instant gratification.  If the results are not achieved immediately, we may not even try.  Discouragement is found so easily, that it prohibits some from even beginning the path. In observing these two groups of people, one group barely entered the maze and the other never even started. Even though there are no guarantees in life, it doesn’t mean you cannot overcome a challenge.  A puzzling situation may arise, and I am curious if you have the patience to walk your way through to the answer.  It reminds me of Rilke’s quote: “Live the questions now, like unlocked doors. And one day you may live your way to the answer.”

The highs and lows of travel

We don’t always post the struggles of travelling. It’s easy to share the beauty we behold in front of us.  The images are breathtaking and we want to ensure others are jealous of what our eyes are absorbing.  But the reality is to capture only sunshine and glamour shots is a falsehood.


My recent trip to Amsterdam was in 33 degrees weather (96 plus Fahrenheit), which is quite grueling if you choose to walk around the city.  Temporary leisure exists in a sixty minute boat ride, but an idealized pleasant stroll along the shaded side of the canals can turn excruciating under a cloudless sunny sky.

Despite this, there is hope in the cooldown.  As I ate in this fancy floating Chinese restaurant, I observed locals seeking refuge from the opposing window.  Not only were they dressed in swimsuits in the center of the city, but they were hopping off the dock and into the river.  I stared at them longingly, wishing I had brought a bathing suit. There was nothing I wanted more than a refreshing dip in the river.  Travels are made of snapshot moments exactly like this, and I knew if I didn’t take the chance I would regret it.  I embraced the courage of the moment as I charged into the river in my makeshift bikini of bra and underwear.  This childlike jump into the river was perhaps the most memorable part of the journey: a simplistic pleasure.

Yet, when I returned to my hotel seeking more rejuvenation, I found my room had no air conditioning.  It was a hipster hotel in a 900 year old building on the top floor, with a tight staircase. Luckily my carryon luggage was a backpack and not a rollie, as it would be difficult to navigate the four flights of tiny stairs.  Two fans did not suffice in cooling me down.  I hated to be the privileged American expat complaining of a lack of air conditioning, but when you pay for hipster you expect some luxury.   Instead, I chose creativity as a solution, as I placed a cold towel under my legs during the evening to keep me cool, just as a mother would put on her child’s forehead if they had a fever. It worked.

The second day of my journey consisted of a war wound. For some reason on the previous scorching hot day, I unknowingly wore a skirt around the city.  My thighs burned against each other.  The next day I thought wearing a pair of white shorts under my dress would ameliorate the chafing.    Nope not at all, but I didn’t notice the pure damage while at the Van Gogh Museum, local parks, or on the stuffy bus ride.  I noticed it as I tried to seek relief at the river for a dip for a second time.  When I looked down I saw a skin tag/mole had been opened and was falling off.  I had been bleeding for an entire day as I walked around the city.   Luckily I caught myself before infecting the wound in the river.  The shorts were ruined to the point of needing to be thrown into the trash.  Prior to the return to my hotel, I opted to visit the pharmacy at the train station. I swallowed my pride as I showed my bloody souvenir to the staff to ensure proper treatment.  She asked if I was on my period, “nope just a pure half pulled off mole.”  They encouraged me to buy two ointments for healing to be applied twice a day.  It worked.

I opted for sensibility as I purchased new pants that would not aggravate my wound to open up again.  Trying on pants while you are soaked in sweat in a non air-conditioned clothing store with a semi bloody leg, is quite a challenge.  Clothes want to cling, while your body wants to breathe. The successful purchase of pants were worn the next day as I took the five hour journey from Amsterdam to Wildervank for a long awaited wellness retreat.  Two trains, followed by a bus transfer and a long haul walk of 2.5 miles to a wellness retreat with my backpack was quite an adventure.  No taxis or uber were available in this secluded area.  The only way through it was I imagined it as a resourceful ruck march, purpose driven.  I rewarded myself 40 minutes into the walk with a delicious Kinder Bueno chocolate.  As the retreat ended, I asked a fellow attendee to ride with her to Amsterdam for our two hour car ride.  It worked.

And as I prepared to return back to the UK, I face a 14 day quarantine.  The Netherlands turned into a red territory 1½days into my journey due to Covid scars.  My holiday was five days long, but if I cut it short by one day, no quarantine would ensue.  I have chosen to reframe it as a blessing.  As the wellness retreat was so full of reflection that I incurred minimal sleep for two nights.

How is it that less than one week away from home can feel like a month long journey?   It’s like I returned to my 25 year old European backpacker summer in a span of several days.  It was full of highs, lows, exuberance, stress, endurance, and exhaustion.  Many friendly strangers along the way who assisted me on the journey, along with the travel gods.  The metaphors of life were squeezed into one trip.

There is always beauty with struggle.  I would like to honor the wanderlusters that exist within us all, may we find courage in the unknown, peace in the serenity, gratitude in the gift of foreign lands, and strength in the temporary  setbacks that are placed in our path.




 “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” – Anthony Bourdain

Ode to a Wanderlust’s Favorite

                                                            Ode to a Wanderlust’s Favorite



            my favorite part of a city is sunday mornings,

or any morning

where people aren’t busy about their days yet,

the world is asleep.

and I am alone.

my serene to keep.


the best souvenir is the city just exists for me

or so it seems

and the early dog walkers or joggers.

we mutually nod.

as we walk our prayers.

silence transforms to god.



reservations for these moments

can be purchased daily

and yet time reminds

via constantly ticking

an ice cream cone can soothe

or sadly melts unless we’re licking.


Ukulele Spirituality


After seven years of being in a case, I decided to pick up my ukulele again.  I began to re-familiarize myself with several major and minor chords, as my fingers were reminded of the nylon strings being pressed tightly against them and the calluses that sometimes form.  I attempted to follow along with a Youtube learning channel: Andy Guitar.  As I progressed to the third lesson, Andy encouraged me that knowing only four chords could be an entryway for numerous songs: C Major, G Major, A Minor, F Major.  I rehearsed and found empowerment in that with several particular strumming patterns. And then we landed onto The Beatles’ Let It Be.


When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be


As I sang these words and strummed my ukulele, I could not help but have tears form.  Perhaps it was the beauty of the words sung, and the reminder of sacredness that can exist within a song.  It could also be the power of finding musicality within oneself.  I have always reserved the creation and exploration of music for artists.  I could let them entertain me and suffice to find joy in that.  But to hear the lyrics and sounds emanate from myself was shockingly touching.   I know that my voice and skills on the ukulele are pure beginner, but that didn’t manner.


When I played these four chords, something unlocked within me.  The sounds were a transportation to a spiritual place. I began to cry in the act of engaging in this artistic endeavor.  I didn’t write the song lyrics or note progression, but I was participating in playing in it.  I cried for the years that had passed in which I had never afforded myself the freedom and latitude to immerse myself in music.  I had always compared myself to others who were better, played music for longer, or could do it as a career.  I used to think why should I make time to play or improve?  Why even start?  And now I was crying for the fact that I never allowed it to flourish.  Yet, here I was finding beauty in the simplicity of song.  Temporarily I was being the song, even if I was the only witness to this.


During this time of Covid, perhaps you are in the same place.  Being locked down or staycationed in, we have nothing but time to engage in our artistic bucket list items.  It’s time to pick up that musical instrument collecting dust in the corner, pull out the paint brushes, start the book you’ve been putting off writing, craft your first poem since high school, or learn that tik tok video.  Whatever it is, whatever your age, it’s not too late to start.


“Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise—you can make anything. So please calm down now and get back to work, okay? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

From Sea to Shining Sea

Watching America literally on fire from afar creates this uneasy internal feeling within me, which is a mixture of nausea, fear, and dread.  I am an American living overseas for the past 7 years, and as I see updates from cities across the U.S., these questions spontaneously arise:


  • Is this really where I am from?


  • Is this what our founding fathers fought for?


  • Is this the place my family members struggled to be part of, leaving behind everything they knew?


  • As a multiracial individual, would I be welcome back as a resident in the country?


  • For a country founded on freedom, who actually is free?


Each time I return to America, the disparity is more and more evident.  Last year, almost each of the five cities I visited were bursting with increasing numbers in homelessness. The racial divide is prominent.  Amidst the coronavirus millions have lost their jobs and health insurance.  I know I am not alone in wondering what I can do.


Looking at your home country become an internal war zone is devastating.  We are our own worst enemies. Our national militaries are not being called upon to fight “the bad guys” overseas, but protesters and looters in our own states.  A different type of civil war is emerging, and it isn’t a matter of fighting between the North and the South, but more about the haves and have nots.  What will it take to realize that injustice for one race is injustice for all of us? Although looting, rioting, and setting buildings on fire throughout America is not the answer, will anyone hear the call for help that’s been pleading for years?


What can we offer during this time to our fellow Americans? Prayers, peaceful protests, donations, registering to vote, learning and unlearning about our privilege, creating conversations in our communities, families, and with our children.  How can we step up as a country versus step out? Can we transform our anger and disgust as a trigger to collectively transform?  There may not be one specific answer at this moment, but perhaps we can live our lives through the questions together.  We can continually ask ourselves, how can we as our country move forward and not leave anyone behind?   It is possible to win as a society versus win as an individual.  This is a call to put the collective good in front of our individual goals.  When we begin to realize there is greater power of interdependent achievement versus independent wealth we will become a progressive society once more from sea to shining sea.


Observing and empathizing the outcries and strife of our fellow citizens, most of us are filled with frustration, sadness, anger, and a stirring within to revolt.  It’s easy to complain, blame, or passively watch this happen before us.  Escaping and becoming a resident of another country is a fleeting possibility that has emerged in many of our thoughts.  Part of me recognizes it’s easy to leave (or for me stay an expat), watch from afar, and think that the country’s turmoil is no longer my problem.   Why return to an America that’s burning to the ground?  Yet the United States doesn’t need her countrymen to flee the fire, she needs us to stand tall and together in the midst of it all.  My hope from this blazing fire a new united phoenix will emerge.


This moment has been brewing and bubbling up for years.  It’s time for an inclusive revolution.  I challenge us to follow the words of JFK in his inaugural speech: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Power of 5

One theory that has always stuck with me is the power of five.  Motivational speaker and coach Jim Rohn once said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Here’s a question for you to reflect on: who are these five people for you at this moment?   During the time of Covid-19 and living overseas we may think that this is limited to the people that are physically in our homes or work spaces.  Yet I want to encourage you to reflect on the following questions deeper.


Who do you have zoom calls or face time sessions with? How do you fill the free time in your life? What are the shows you binge watch on Netflix?  What are the podcasts you listen, music you stream, or books you read?  Are you doing these activities with intention?  Are you aware of the impact they have on your life?


As you reflect on the five people who are the most prominent in your physical and virtual atmosphere, how would you describe them?  They could be inspirational, complainers, entrepreneurs, jokesters, drama kings or queens, calm, content, distrusting, loyal, competent, spontaneous, health conscious, spiritual, philosophical, loving, fearful, athletic, artistic, and adventurers.  The list is endless, and may not all be positive or negative attributes.  They are a combination of all these characteristics, as are we.   I encourage you to really take the time to dissect who influences you and your environment.  What are the themes that begin to emerge of these people that are part of your life?


It’s important to note how these individuals impact your mood and the choices you make in your life.  We have heard that negativity is contagious, but so are other emotions such as positivity, presence, and joy.  Research has even shown that our peers’ eating habits can impact our choices of caloric intake, with some studies even noting that weight gain can be contagious. Despite all this, there is a silver lining.  We do not have to mindlessly be a product of who we surround ourselves with.  Take intentional action.  What values are most important to you and are these influencers exemplifying this?  If not, who can you begin to surround your world with?  This is the time to curate your power of five.



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