A review of “Manuscript Found in Accra” by Paulo Coelho

The book does not contain much of a story, but rather human advice being passed on because Copt, the main character, “does not believe that will change in the next thousand years.” I think that’s more a statement about the human condition, and not intended to be quite as pessimistic as it could potentially sound. We still suffer and overcome, just like humans did thousands of years ago. Here are my ten favorite bits of wisdom:


“…religion was created in order to share the mystery and to worship, not to oppress or convert others.”

“The people who really help others…rarely give advice, but serve as an example.”

“Small things are responsible for great changes.”

“My life was an interesting one. I didn’t squander the blessing.”

“And to those who believe that adventures are dangerous, I say, try routine; that kills you far more quickly.”

“Outer beauty is inner beauty made visible.”

“…people who love expecting to be loved in return are wasting their time. Love is an act of faith, not an exchange.”

“For most people, generosity consists only in giving, and yet receiving is also an act of love.”

“Stay close to those who are not afraid to be vulnerable, because they have confidence in themselves and know that, at some point in our lives, we all stumble, they do not interpret this as a sign of weakness, but of humanity.”

“Help us to know that when our legs are tired, we can keep walking, thanks to the strength in our hearts, and that when our hearts are tired, we can still carry on, thanks to the strength of our Faith.”

“I’m crying because he is a dearly beloved friend, and yet I knew nothing of the difficulties he was in. I only found out when he came and knocked on my door and asked to borrow some money.”


Chasing Dreams

I’ll just get real with you from the beginning: it has been my lifelong goal to complete a full Ironman Triathlon. After competing in several sprints, a handful of Olympic distance tri’s, and completing a Half Ironman this past summer, I am proud to say that I am registered for Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June 2014. That’s seven months away, but training starts now for a race that big.

Getting a coach would obviously be a huge benefit, but there are way too many resources online to justify paying for a coach. After scouring the web for some new and challenging (but manageable) workouts, I’m going to do these circuits from Coach Jay Johnson to build strength and speed.

What is the hardest workout you’ve experienced?


Portrait of Anza Borrego

Anza Borrego State Park is an inland desert of Southern California.

Anza Borrego State Park is an inland desert of Southern California.

I could live this way: spending the entire day outdoors, sleeping in a tent (or under the stars), no electronics, simple meals, hiking and good conversation. Camping is a dream for me. However, I camped with 50 teenagers for Outdoor Education, and they were a little less than reluctant to be so far from the comforts of home.

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Bravery became the theme for the three days and two nights we camped. Glimpses of bravery surprised me again and again. Bravery looked like a different kind of beautiful on everybody.

Palm Oasis hike.

Palm Oasis hike.

Camping is not for everyone. One student captured the sentiment well: “Home is so good.”

Where do you recommend camping? What is your best (or worst!) camping experience?

Night swim





Last night at about 9pm, I – along with some of my triathlon training buddies – swam around the Seal Beach pier. For safety precautions, we fixed flashing red lights to our goggle straps. The waves were probably about 2 feet, but seem much bigger when you can’t see them coming because it’s so dark. The water was a warm 67 degrees F.


There were many people walking along the beach and fishing on the pier; their reactions were a mix of “that’s insane” and “that’s really awesome” all at the same time. It’s amazing how often those two sentiments can be interchangeable.

At the end of the pier, I floated on my back and gazed up at the stars: summer’s last hurrah.



Night swim


It was a fun summer night; an annual event for our group of friends.

What are your favorite traditions with your friends or family?

Santa Barbara: day trip

I intended to use my summers off (I’m a teacher) to travel, but this summer has been a a stay-cation because I just moved back to Southern California after three years in Massachusetts. Yesterday, I soaked in the culture and the sights of Santa Barbara – a beach city with a rich history. 

ImageI started at the Old Mission Santa Barbara, which was built by the Spanish Franciscans in 1786 for the Catholic conversion of the Chumash Native Americans and to colonize California territory. I spent $6 and 40 minutes on a self-guided tour, passing through the Sacred Garden, into the Cemetery Garden (which contains the burials sites of early settlers and Native Americans), into the Church (with Mexican art influences), and ending in the Museum and Shop.

ImageThere is a magnificent rose garden at the open, grassy park in front of the Mission. It engages all of your senses: I spontaneously pulled over and parked because the sight of it caught my eye as I was driving away. What really got me were the sweet scents wafting through as I walked through I walked through the grassy paths weaving through the several different types of roses. I felt the sunshine on my skin: 80 degrees and clear blue skies – just the beginning of a perfect SoCal summer day.


Then I went to the Karpeles Manuscript Library (free admission!), a true treasure of original manuscripts from history, literature, art, and sciences. I spent about 40 minutes perusing manuscripts from Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, and America’s founding fathers. I also happened to be there while they were putting in Mark Twain’s work (they rotate exhibits every two months, through their eight locations throughout the USA). Fun fact: the man who was changing the exhibits told me that they are kept in 50% humidity — in Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, the characters in the archive claim their is 0% humidity to preserve the documents. But that would make the papers too brittle! (I haven’t checked this yet).


Afterwards, I walked State Street – seven miles of shops in Downtown Santa Barbara. There are many galleries and museums to see, plazas and paseos to shop and eat, as well as several theatres for entertainment. My favorite shop, of course, was The Book Den. It is California’s oldest used bookstore, but also has new and out-of-print books. State Street ends at Stearns Wharf – an active pier with a beautiful beach, clear blue water, and a mountain in the background.



I ended my day at 1000 Steps Beach. (A misnomer, if “1000 steps” refers to the 150-step staircase to get there). I unknowingly went at high tide, so the waves came right up to the steps and I had to time it just right to scurry onto the little stretch of beach that was no more than 10 yards between the ocean and the cliffs that provide a mostly secluded atmosphere. 




What has been your favorite day trip getaway?




LTC Workshop #4: Instinct

This post is a response Laura’s writing workshop. This week we are working on free writing without editing, following through on an impulse.

I’m on the verge of unemployment, with one week left in my summer job. I quit my job in Cape Cod in favor of relocating to Southern California – my home. I hoped that part-time summer employment would allow some serious soul-searching and to figure out what I really want to do with my life. I mean, how can I spend 25 years on this planet and not have a clue?! 

I loved my previous job as a high school teacher. One may think that teenagers are a hard group to love, but loving them came easy. They need it so much. How difficult my transition has been is certainly a testament to how much I loved my job and my life back east. And yet, somehow, it still feels like I absolutely made the right decision — even though I’m not where I hoped I’d be at this point in my life. 

Enlightenment hit me over the head last week and I realized that I have known, all along, my ideal career. My frequent trips to the library, my love for local bookstores, the fact that I fill pages upon pages of my journal daily, and constantly have an overly-ambitious list of books that I want to read…hello, I’m a writer. I read through my first diary (a gift for my 9th birthday) and I listed the potential careers I wanted: Olympian, astronaut, teacher, author. Well, it turns out I’m not Olympic material, but I’ll still enjoy triathlons. College astrophysics apparently satisfied me enough, I did the teacher thing for the past three years, and now…

Yeah. So I’m really scared of this whole writing thing. Like, really freaking scared. The vulnerability required to put your thoughts out there for everybody to read. The fact that newspapers are dying. Freelancing is not exactly a steady paycheck. 

Also, this is a new career path, and who’s going to want me? I’ve written a few speeches that were very well-received and I took an online writing course through coursera.org. Is that enough experience for an internship? Hire me?

This. Exactly this.

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.

You have to pay your own electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth.

But that’s all.”

This is an excerpt from Cheryl Strayed.