Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spring Has Sprung...Updates & New Beginnings

It was about a year ago that I wrote my last "real" blog post...amazing how time just keeps movin' right along...

Since last spring, I have been consumed with launching my business, C.Miro Consulting. It has been such a blessed and amazingly rich time. I have learned invaluable lessons about business, life, and myself, and have had the opportunity to serve wonderful clients. Being an entrepreneur definitely keeps you on your toes, and I would have it no other way. ;-)

Mi Mamama
This past November I went to Peru for my grandmother's 80th Birthday, and it was a beautiful, meaningful trip on many levels (you can see my pictures on Facebook.) My trip was focused on family, and I got to spend quality time with many loved ones, most especially my beautiful grandmother.

On that trip I met a man named Carsten Korch who owns several business and has some great projects in Peru, one of which is called Beyond Volunteering. We both were struck by how serendipitous our meeting was, how much we had in common and how much passion we both have for Peru, its culture, and amazing potential on just about every level. We knew we had to stay in touch, and that someday soon we would be collaborating on something great...

While in Peru, I also got to visit the kids at Casa De Milagros, a brief trip but the first time being back since I lived there for the summer almost 2 years ago. It was wonderful to see the kids, and I was greeted with the most amazing attack of hugs I've ever received! I was happy to see that they were all healthy and seemingly doing well. However, I realized that everyone was still struggling with feeling "safe" after the past couple of years of loss and instability since Mama Kia's passing. I left them some gifts, a few awesome board games, a lot of hugs, and promised to be back very soon...

Ray & Doris - Casa De Milgros
As usual, leaving Peru was very hard, but this time it felt even harder. I really felt like I was leaving behind where I was supposed to be...when I got back I had a very clear message that I needed to go back to Peru - not just to visit, but to begin building a life there. Ever since I can remember, I have dreamed of having a life in both worlds - a lifestyle that allowed me to divide my time between Peru and the states. My trip to Peru 3 years ago planted a very big seed, and I came back from that trip being very clear about the 3 things I needed in order to make my dream happen: acquire my citizenship, finish my college degree, and build a virtual business that I could run from anywhere in the world...Check, check, and pretty much check ;-)

Obviously it is not easy to think about leaving my life here in the states...I have a beautiful life, wonderful friends and family, and lots of things I would be leaving behind.

Was I being irresponsible?

Was I just trying to see the grass as greener?

Was I making a mistake? 

I talked about it with many of my closest friends and family, and in the process, came to realize that my calling to Peru is indeed a very grounded one. While there are always risks involved with any big change or move - there are undeniable opportunities for me in Peru, on every level. I started seeing how much has been lining up for me there over the past few years. I then decided that I would make it happen within the year, and not stress about when and how, but just to set the intention and let it go...

The past few months have been an amazing time of self reflection and inspiration. Beautiful people and resources have shown up for me in big and small ways...the signs are everywhere :-)  I began working with a dear friend and colleague, Anne Martin, who is a Marcia Weider certified Dream Coach, "Reinvention Specialist", and was finishing her certification in a performance coaching program. She offered me 3 months of complimentary coaching, which I enthusiastically accepted. What an amazing gift! Anne was such a wonderful mentor and guide through a process of rediscovering my dreams, and the vision that I have for my life. She walked me through a process of revisiting what I had dreamed of as a little girl, all of the little blocks and negative experiences along my journey that had made my vision a bit blurry over the years, and to tune into what I was feeling NOW. She helped me to create a vision for the life I wanted to manifest as of today, one that incorporates all of the pieces of me and who I want to become. I created an essence statement: "I AM EMPOWERMENT".  That one little exercise shifted how I began to see myself in my life and business, and how I wanted to show up from here on out. I saw how that related to all of the roles in my life that were the most meaningful to me - coaching little girls in basketball, working with the kids at Casa De Milagros, and teaching my clients how to be more successful. I love helping people see their true potential!!!

This time has also been incredibly fruitful professionally, as the process of creativity and reinvention began to show up in my business as well. My other friend and colleague, Tammi Spruill of Fruition Branding has been an invaluable source of inspiration and support as I set out to redefine my business from the inside out, and bring more of "me" into it. She holds such a wonderful, safe space for creativity and helping you develop the foundations of your business from a creative perspective. The work I did with Tammi helped me figure out how I wanted my business to look and feel to people, and what I wanted it to represent. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tammi. ;-)

Little by little I felt myself moving closer and closer to Peru...I knew it was about to happen, but until now, I also knew I couldn't make any firm decisions quite yet. I just kept meditating, journaling, talking to friends & family, focusing on being present, surrendering, trusting, and allowing the universe to guide me where I was supposed to be...

About a month ago, mi amigo Carsten officially offered me the role of Executive Director of Beyond Volunteering, and I accepted ;-)  In a nutshell, Beyond Volunteering helps source volunteers from all over the world, place them where they will be most suited to their interests and skills, do all of the coordination in Peru, and takes care of them when they arrive so that they have a safe, rewarding and mutually fulfilling experience. My job is to help raise awareness of BV, grow their online presence to reach more people, and generally make the whole project more successful by helping both the non profits in Peru find more quality volunteers, and by assuring that the volunteers going to Peru have more positive, meaningful experiences. I couldn't ask for a more rewarding project, and I am thrilled to be on board. :-)

Pretty much that same week, I started getting back in touch with the directors of Casa De Milagros. Without going into too many details, the situation over the past month has become very dire as the Casa has lost not only their interim directors and leadership team, but also their primary source of funding. They have approximately 3 months worth of funds left and no certainty as to what will happen after that. I have been asked to come down and do what I can to help rebuild Casa, raise funds, develop a work/volunteer program, and create a sustainable organization once and for all. I have my work cut out for me...but I am ready...;-)

This was the final "sign" that I need to be in Peru right now...I am following my heart, and trying to stay as grounded as possible while being open to the path that is unfolding. This is a major practice in TRUST! ;-) I am allowing for the evolution of my life and business, and even though it might feel like a bit of a shift in priorities, I realize that this is exactly what I have envisioned my entire life! I always pictured myself doing meaningful work in Peru, and empowering those in need. I feel so blessed to have that opportunity present itself now, and I say YES! For now, I will continue to work with a few of my existing clients so that I can supplement my time there and support myself, without placing a burden on the Casa. However, I know that the task at hand is going to require a lot of my time and energy and realistically may not leave me enough time to take on much paid work over the next few months. So I have put together a fundraising effort to help with my travel and living expenses, and also to purchase some much needed technology equipment for Casa. If you feel compelled to help by donating or helping spread the word - please CLICK HERE.

Also - once again I am looking for a home for my beautiful, adorable, and extremely loveable baby Bonita...so if you know any loving cat people who could use a fluffy pillow for a few months, let me know! ;-) 

Love and blessings to you my friends and family - I love you all and can't wait to share my experiences and developments with Casa & Beyond Volunteering with you very soon...stay tuned! xoxo

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Cleaning & Spring Blooming

This Sunday I decided to roll up my sleeves and attack my storage unit.  It was one of those looming projects that I just hadn't had the time, energy, nor the desire to take on for months.  By months I mean almost one year. I had boxes in there that I hadn't opened since being tucked away almost exactly one year ago when I sub-leased my apartment and left for three months to live in Peru.

One whole year.  

The project took on a "full circle" feel in more than one way.  Not only did I go through stuff that had been tucked away over the past year - I went through boxes of documents and random stuff from when I first came to the Bay Area as an innocent, naive 18 year old; my time at Menlo College; and the many chapters ever since...

Bonita helping Mommy clear out 3 full Banker's Boxes!
It was surreal to think of all of the years that have passed - how some moments feel like a faint memory, and some feel like they were just yesterday. Memories came flooding back, and I was in awe at how much can fit into 13 years.  It can be a bit jarring, and definitely stirred up some emotions.  Mostly it made me just take a moment to take stock, and to appreciate the journey I have been on; one that has in many ways come full circle this past year.

Almost thirteen years ago I came to the Bay Area with no money, no support, and no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I was going to see the world outside of my small town, and get a college degree. I had no idea my academic journey would (like most journeys in life) not be a linear one. 

A year and a half ago, after several detours, I returned to San Francisco State University; resolute in my purpose and determined to finish what I started. I thought I was in it for a piece of paper - but had no idea it would come to mean so much more. I could go on and on about how much more meaningful the learning was this time around, and how pleasantly surprised I was to meet such wonderful friends along the way...even if most of them were too young to remember M.C. Hammer ;-p  The point is, I did it. I finally did it, and you know what? It feels even better than it would have when I was 22. I will be walking in my graduation ceremony on May 21, 2011; and that feels just perfect...

Worth the Wait...
I remember struggling with the choice to come back and finish my last semester, or stay at Casa de MIlagros to help out during the difficult months of organizational transition.  A huge part of me wanted to stay, as there was a huge need for my support, and love. I figured, "I've waited this long, what's one more semester??"  But in my heart, I knew that I needed to come back and finish. I could not let another 6 months, year, or decade go by, as I have learned how easily that can happen in life...It was a very difficult choice, and I struggled with a lot of guilt and sadness.  But I did return, and threw myself into school taking 5 classes this past Fall. I don't know how, but I made it through; with straight A's no less...

One year.

A year of challenges, hard work, uncertainty, inspiration, soul searching, value defining, and faith walking...Today I feel energized by yesterday's "purge" - I feel lighter, and more open to the possibilities and new beginnings; of the season, and of my life...

One year ago I bought an orchid. I got her at the Farmer's Market - I found the perfect one with gorgeous, white, blooming flowers!  And then, as orchids do, she sloughed away her beautiful flowers, and she was left to nothing more than stems.  I have never maintained an orchid, and have a notorious "black thumb" when it comes to plants.  Part of me wanted to throw her away and just buy a new one next year; I thought it was such waste of time for something so ugly, taking up space, and besides, I didn't even know if the investment of energy would pay off. What if she didn't bloom? What if it was all for nothing??  I was sure that my attempts at keeping her alive were futile, but I kept watering her anyway - once a week, every week (well, most weeks...) And I waited.  

Last week she sprouted buds. At first, I didn't realize that's what they were - not only because I was convinced I was incapable of keeping a precious orchid alive, but also because I couldn't believe it had been one year.

This weekend she bloomed ;-)  Two beautiful, white, perfect flowers; to be followed by at least ten others by the looks of things...Orchids have always been my favorite flower, because they are so precious, so rare, and so worth the wait ;-)
A Beautiful Bloom!
So much can happen in one year, and all of it is part of the beautiful journey that is our lifetime.  There will be "good" years, and there will seem to be "bad" ones...but it's all important, and it's all necessary.  The challenges, the uncertainty, the walks of faith, and the times of heads-down hard work - it's all "worth it!"

At the end of every Winter comes Spring; and with every Spring comes the bloom...May your Spring be beautiful and full of new life, new energy, and a fruitful "bloom".

Lots and lots of light and love,


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Back in Gringo-land...

I miss Peru. And today it hit me like a ton of bricks how much I miss the kids and the entire family at Casa...;-(

While my time in Peru was not without challenging moments – at the end of the day, it was one of the most special experiences of my life. The kids of Casa de Milagros are incredible...I feel blessed to be considered part of the family, and to have been received with so much love.

In addition to working at the Casa, I was also able to spend some time in my country, and soak in my culture in ways I had never been able to before...spent some quality time with family and loved ones in Lima, traveled to regions of Peru I had not been to before, and experience two of Cusco's most amazing festivals: Corpus Christi and Inti Raymi. 

In addition to settling back into life back in the states, since being back – I have mostly been consumed with school. I was able to enroll in all five classes that I need and will finally be graduating in December! It’s been a 12 year journey – so graduation day will be super sweet ;-) What this means in a practical sense for me is that with five classes I will have a very full plate and have already begun the process of “clearing the decks” so I can focus on school and get the most out of my final semester. As you all know – I like to juggle many projects and interests – so this is no easy task ;-) I am super excited about my classes! My Political Communication professor, Joe Tuman is running for mayor of Oakland, so our class gets to live an actual campaign with him. Also, I am taking a California Food, Wine, and Culture class, which totally sucks since you guys know how much I hate food, wine and culture...;-)

One of the major decisions I have made recently is to step down from my responsibilities as a Board member of Casa de Milagros. I will continue to be involved in the kids’ lives, and will be returning in December and January to visit, volunteer, and help with some big projects that are in the works. However, due to my school and client responsibilities, I do not have the space to commit to the Board at this time. Once I graduate in December, the Board and I will reassess where things are on both ends and how I can continue to stay involved, what role I will play, and what projects I will be involved in. I will keep you guys posted! In the meantime, if you guys want information on how you can help Casa or any other volunteer opportunities in Peru - contact me and I will send you information.

I have posted all of my pics up and you can see them all HERE

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Last Night at Casa

Me and Beautiful Ada

Argh!!! I don't want to leave!!! ;-(  I know I have to - and I am actually looking forward to being home for many reasons...but the reality of leaving here and not seeing the people here whom I have grown to love so much is going to be really hard.

There were moments when I wasn't sure I would be able to make it all three months - mostly when my immune system tanked, and I was freezing the night away in a Cusco hostel...or when my wallet was stolen, or when my vest was stolen...

But enough about all that - I am going to focus on the positive - and share about my beautiful last day at Casa!

Doris, Senobia & Ada being silly
The last day was quite busy as I was running around getting three months worth of projects, conversations, and to-do's wrapped up.  I was so busy in fact that I didn't notice the party being orchestrated in the midsts...Apparently the kids wanted to do something special for my last night, so they put together an incredible Fiesta!  Soraida, Melina, Maria Flor and Senobia choreographed and performed two dance routines, and then sang me a love song ;-) It was precious.  Then Jorge, Leo performed some SkyWalker moves with Marcito as a guest star who rocked the house!!

My Gang
I was blown away by how much effort they had put into the making my last night special, and at their love for me.  And their TALENT, which just never ceases to inspire me! Papa Wesly and Mama Paty got up and said some words, and at that point I was just speechless...which didn't help when they made me get up and say some words...I don't really remember what came out of my mouth - I think I just repeated I love you a bunch of times...

Despite my inability to articulate, we had an incredible party complete with music, popcorn, cake, many laughs, and even more PICTURES!  I didn't want the night to end...

Waiting for the bus
In the morning, I woke up early so I could see the kids off to school.  I stood there as they piled into the Combi van, and gave them all hugs and kisses and told them I would be back soon.  I started crying, but thankfully they were driving off at that point.

Then I turned around to face the Casa, and got this awesome shot of Charlie and Rover:

I know guys, I hate when they leave too...

Bye for now Casa de Milagros - I will be back very soon...


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cienciano Soccer and Inspire To Do

I was privileged to have the opportunity to partner with Wendy Lee and Miles Ito of Inspire To Do in organizing an awesome event for the Casa kids. Wendy contacted the Board months ago with a desire to design a program/event that would inspire the Casa kids, help them connect with the community, and also incorporate her skills and experience working with special needs children. The initial idea was to hold a soccer clinic at the Casa that we could invite other children from the community to, but the logistics involved proved challenging during our timeframe. What we ended up putting together was still an incredible experience that I know the children enjoyed tremendously, and won't soon forget.

Wendy was incredible, and somehow made a connection with FPF (the Peruvian National Soccer Federation) who connected us with their PR Director, Enrique Mayor. When we shared with him what we were trying to do, he graciously invited us to attend one of Cienciano's (Cusco’s National Soccer Team) practice sessions in person, and to attend their game the next day.

Wendy and Miles spent their first few days at Casa getting to know the kids, doing motivational games and exercises, taking pictures and videos. They brought a colleague with them, Leonordo Carrizo, who is a Photojournalist and professor at Ohio State University. Leonardo took some stunning pictures and was able to help us capture all of the special moments from their trip. Wendy and Mils also presented the kids with some amazing donations. They were able to contact Kodak, who donated 5 brand new Digital Cameras, and Miles was able to round up an IBM ThinkPad Laptop! The kids (and I) were beyond excited!!

On the big day, we took a big bus from Casa into Cusco to attend the practice. Once there, the kids were able to meet and greet the players, interview them, hear their motivational stories of overcoming personal challenges, and take pictures and videos with them (with their brand new cameras!) The players and coaches were incredibly gracious, inspiring, and made a huge impact on the kids. After speaking to the players afterward, it seems our kids were able to do the same for them ;-) It was an unforgettable day…we even made one of the local papers!

Unfortunately Cienciano's game was postponed on Sunday, so the kids were not able to see them play.  However, the team managers were so gracious and invited us to come back any time we want!  Instead, we took the kids out on an educational tour of Cusco and some of its ruins.  We had a blast, and the kids were beyond thrilled...

I am incredibly grateful to Wendy, Miles, and the entire Inspire To Do crew for all of their love and energy put into this experience. I look forward to partnering with them again soon!

Click Here to see the Pics
Click Here to Read the Article

Saturday, July 24, 2010

5 Reasons I Love Cusco

1. The Energy!

Whether you are in the city, or in the Sacred Valley - the energy of this land is palpable.  It is called the Sacred Valley for a reason.  There is something about being high above in the Andes, 11,000 feet above sea level, nestled amidst these huge, magical mountains...it's a power... and a closeness to God that I've never felt before. Or maybe it's just the oxygen deprivation...;-/

2. The Beauty
One of the Breathtaking views of the Valley

Everywhere I look it is a Kodak moment (hence the 500 photos I have taken on this trip thus far).  The drive between Cusco and the Casa through the Sacred Valley can start to wear on one's body after awhile - particularly when you do it too many times in a week.  But when I start to feel worn down - I remind myself where I am, and take a moment to stop along the roadway to soak in the glorious scenery...and I suddenly feel so much better ;-)

Just strolling along
2. Seeing Cows, Donkeys, Sheep, Goats and Llamas every single day

Not just in a field, or on a mountainside - oh no - they are everywhere!  On the street, in the roadway, on the sidewalk walking in downtown Cusco.  The other day I woke up at Casa, opened the door to head to the bathroom, and there were two fat, happy donkeys grazing right outside my door...just chillin.  I love it!

4. Meeting People from All Around the World

Cusco draws some of the most fascinating, diverse people from almost every corner of the world.  I have met so many fabulous friends, and met people doing magnificent things out here.  Most are only here for a brief time, but some just never want to leave - I love to hear their stories...I have been here during one of the most "touristy" times of the year - June and July, which definitely has its drawbacks if you are actually living here and trying to get stuff done.  But I have also been lucky enough to be here during a WORLD CUP - which has just been electric.  Every game is televised at the plethora of bars and pubs in town, and draws at least a few fans from each of the competing teams.  The last week was insane - so many Dutch fans in bright orange T-shirts, and rowdy Spaniards in their blue, yellow and red.  Cusco definitely has a global appeal...

5. Mercado San Pedro
Scoring some medicinal herbs @ Mercado San Pedro

If there was one thing I wish I could stuff in my suitcase and bring back with me to the States it would be Mercado San Pedro.  Obviously this cannot be done, but one can dream...You see, Mercado San Pedro is much more than a locals market - it contains anything you could possibly need to survive, and at ridiculously cheap prices. There are different sections for fresh juice, cooked food, produce, dry goods, meats, artisan goods, and any service you can imagine. The other day I got my backpack stitched up there for the equivalent of $1. Granted, there are certain corners of the market that one with a weak stomach just should not go...but thankfully I am not one of those people, and I get a kick out of just how many parts of a cow can and are used in some parts of the world...The tradition of a trip to San Pedro is of course, JUGO (juice). There are several rows of juice ladies - all smiling down at you from their elevated platforms, flirting and grinning sweetly in an attempt to seduce you to their booth. Each one has their own special blend of fresh fruits, vegetables, sacred herbs, and magic ingredients.  My favorite gal was #56: Rina. Rina was the cutest little woman ever, and she always made way too much juice for any one person to consume in one sitting, so I would usually share one with a friend - usually Aiden or Lulue.  Oh how I will miss "popping in for a jugo at Sen Pedro"...

I could go on and on...and on and on...and I could share a few things I'm not so crazy about too - but I'll save that for another post ;-)  In the meantime,  Check out the rest of my Pics of Cusco from this trip!

From Paddy's Pub - the "Highest Irish Pub in the World",


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

National Geographic Student Volunteer Rafting Trip

Marcito and Seth
Fourth of July weekend proved to be quite eventful at Casa de Milagros!

We were graced with a group of seventeen high-schoolers with a National Geographic Student volunteer group.  They arrived on Saturday and we spent most of the day putting them to work!  They helped garden, level out the back field, and taught the kids some photography skills.  My good friend Aiden came by on Saturday as well to put on an english class for the kids and some of the staff.  In the afternoon, Jorge and his dance group, the newly-dubbed "SkyWalkers" put on a performance for our guests that blew everyone away!  That evening after dinner, we had a party in celebration of our guests, and a few of our kids' birthdays.  It was my first official Casa birthday party - and it was a blast!  I even got our shy little Illari to come out and blow out her candles ;-)

That night, Marie, Allen and their family welcomed their newest member - Asher Allen Patton into the world!  Born on the Fourth of July like a true Gringo! ;-)  Marie's amazing mid-wife, Leonie, and her fabulous assistant, Kata, were sleeping in the volunteer quarters with me, so I had a clue what was going on as they raced out of the room at 3:00 AM and came back buzzing with excitement an hour and a half later.  Asher sure took his time, but he finally came and he is perfect. Best of all, Marie can take a break from being pregnant and soak in being a new baby's mommy! ;-)

Me and the Kiddos geared up and ready to GO!
It was hard to leave Casa with a new-born in the midst, but the Nat Geo group had planned an incredible excursion for the kids on Sunday.  So we all boarded a bus early Sunday morning and headed out to Ollantaytambo for our very first rafting trip!  We got to take most of the kids, a few of the mamis and papis, and all of the Nat Geo volunteers.  I was slightly nervous, but mostly so excited to finally go river rafting - and down the Urubamba River with Inca ruins lining our path...incredible.  The kids had a blast, as did I, and we are so very thankful to our new friends for their hard work and generosity.  Best Fourth of July ever - topped off with some Peruvian fireworks courtesy of Allen ;-)

Click Here to see the Pics!