The Spontaneity Challenge!

My trip had a special element to it – spontaneity. I was finishing up a week of skiing in Breckenridge when my dear friend Manda Morris came up Thursday evening to join me for skiing later in the weekend. She made it up from Denver just before the “huge” snow storm hit. Thing is…the storm only pounded Denver with two feet of snow and we got nada in the mountains! So there we are Friday morning doing our first run of the day in Keystone and it’s all ice! We turned in for the day and while enjoying a beer at lunch, Manda and I saw the snow report for Taos…hhmmm…they got snow! And they were still getting snow!

That solved it…an hour later we were in her SUV and driving the 5 hours to Taos, New Mexico! The weekend was my first visit to Taos, first time skiing their mountains, and first time road-tripping with Manda. You can read the story of the trip in my other blog, but in this post I want to focus on another aspect of the trip: being challenged in what we really want out of life and who we claim to be. Now hang in there with me…maybe this is getting deep for you, which if that’s the case, this may not be the blog for you to enjoy. Thanks for trying though.

But for those of you intrigued and feeling the starting twinges of familiarity within you…well, you’re reading the right blog and relating with some similar people.

So the story goes like this – just a week before I acted out this last-minute trip to Taos, I had written a blog post about Being Synonymous with Spontaneity (click here to enjoy please). Have you ever found that when you start to really chase after what you want out of life, you can be challenged in that? It’s almost like life is saying…”Oh, so you want this and you’re going after it…okay, let’s see how serious you are about that…”. And the doors start to open, while others close, all the while carrying you on what seems like a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. You better make sure you paddle hard so the current takes you where you want to go rather than washing you up on some shore far from your desired destination. And hey, doesn’t staying in the raft safe and dry (of course, you’re still gonna get somewhat splashed and wet), sound good for the journey as well?

“Where are you going with this Amalia?”, you may be asking by now…to this point – I believe all things can be used as opportunities for us to really go after what we want in life. We pretty much have no excuse and we’re ultimately responsible for ourselves. So what you want will seem to be challenged and at the same time encouraged and the biggest thing I’m learning about it all? Here it is…I’m the one who can turn away from it, the one who can choose fear and the illusion of security rather than take up myself and life on what I really want out of life.

This trip taught me about that. Because there I was at lunch with Manda, having just come off of skiing ice and now comfy and warm, when Manda excitedly suggested we take off spontaneously for Taos, and I hesitated! I started to come up with excuses, to feel apathetic and lazy about it! Thankfully, Manda served me up with the wake-up call question of “Didn’t you just write a blog post about being Synonymous with Spontaneity?” Uh…yeah, I had and there I was with a chance to back away from the ledge or…take a leap off the edge. Good thing I took that leap because I enjoyed several new first experiences and also came to learn, we can come equipped with parachutes! Or gliders or bungee cords…whatever your imagination fancies for the leap that helps you overcome the challenges that you will surely face in pursuing what you want out of your life.

Here’s to happy jumping and when you see me around next, feel free to raise that challenging question. I’ll do the same for you.

Inspiration from Me to You…

It’s fun to learn new things about ourselves. For me, I’ve recently been learning that I like quotes. Okay, so that’s a bit under-stated…I love quotes! Why didn’t I see this before? You would think that when one gets goosebumps and feels their spirit lift that they would recognize they love what they’re partaking in. And no, it’s not because I’m drinking coffee…although that gives me great feelings as well.

So now that we’ve learned that I love quotes, I’m going to let you in on the fact that what I love even more is to share quotes with others. With that in mind, there is little more that needs to be said except to share here with you, today’s quotes that have touched, encouraged, and brought a sweet laughter and peace to my soul. I hope they do the same, and perhaps even more, for you. I would love to hear what you think of them and of any quotes that are special to you.

“…adventure is not made up of distant lands and mountaintops, rather it lies in one’s readiness to exchange the domestic hearth for an uncertain resting place.” ~ Reinhold Messner, Free Spirit

“This is the best way to act: Talk a great deal to me (God). Let others talk a great deal to you, appreciating everything fine they say and neglecting their mistakes.” ~ page 66 in “Letters by a Modern Mystic” by Frank Laubach

“I choose another road for myself. I choose to look at people through God, using God as my glasses, colored with his love for them.” ~ page 71 in “Letter by a Modern Mystic” by Frank Laubach

“Slavery is simple and predictable. Freedom is neither.” ~ Pastor Jim Burgen and Scott Nickell at Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, CO

“You are a part of a great purpose and I think until you realize that, you won’t be able to get rid of your past. Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. Live in it; it has a lot to offer you (psst – healing is one of those things).” ~ dear personal friend , Camilo Andres Bustos, on November 12, 2012

“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm!” ~ Colette

Good ‘Ol Live Music

Chimney Choir Live at the Taos Inn

I believe that great musical talent can be measured by how well a musician or band performs live. When you think of all that goes into performing live, it makes sense. Recently I enjoyed some great live music and boy…it packed a full punch of exceptional musical talent! They call themselves Chimney Choir and are a collage of bluegrass folk music and so many other sounds that you just to need to hear them to get what I mean. Really, don’t deny your ears of these melodies.

My first time hearing them was a few weeks ago in Taos, New Mexico. The trip down there from Denver was spontaneous and our first night there, my friend and I came across Chimney Choir jamming out in the historic Taos Inn. Right away I was impressed with how their sound was so rich and strong, yet they sang and played so naturally. It seemed to come from every part of their being with little effort because it was such a part of them – their voices and their instruments. When they moved into the next song, I was really intrigued and even more impressed to see them each change instruments. One went from playing the banjo to the keyboard, another from the acoustic guitar to the percussion, and the third band member added a harmonica to wielding an acoustic guitar. My favorite? The guy with the guitar and harmonica was sitting on a white Samsonite suitcase that he used his foot and drum pedal to keep the beat with. On practically every song, they rotated like in musical chairs and showed such talent in everything they each touched.

Believe it or not, that neon sign does read "Taos Inn"...

At some point in their set, I of course introduced myself: Kevin Larkin, Kris Drikey, and David Rynhart were who I got to know. I was excited to also learn that they’re based out of Denver. Within a week after getting back home, I went and enjoyed them once again at the Walnut Room in downtown Denver. At that performance, they had an additional member (my apologies for not remembering his name, but let me know and I’ll update this) who played a metal trash can lid while also spinning a bicycle wheel frame, allowing for the click of the spokes to blend into the melody of the song! Now that’s what I call creative talent. And it sounds amazing!

So check out their site: and let me know what you think. Make sure you look me up to go with you to their next show too!

Home Cooked – Dinner with the Neely’s

Please Meet Chef Steve Neely

One of the things I enjoy most with friends is cooking and eating. Recently I indulged in this friend past-time with my good friends the Neely’s. Now, keep in mind that I did none of the cooking and simply brought two bottles of wine – a red and a white, each that came highly recommended from the wine store in Lower Highland called Amendment XXI.

To really get started though, let me introduce you to the Neely’s: Steve Neely is from Scotland (I love the accent) and Becky Neely is from Nashville, TN (another lovely accent). They met in Dominica while Becky was living and working there for the Peace Core and they have traveled the world together in the years since they’ve been married. Steve is the cook of the family and a very fantastic cook at that. Creative and willing to put much more time into preparation than I ever am. I knew this was going to be a fantastic meal that would spoil my taste buds for weeks to come!

When I arrived at their cozy Highland neighborhood home, Steve was just pulling everything out to begin cooking. Becky and I appropriately began to chill the white wine, which we then proceeded to drink even as we were cooking. Here is my disclaimer on the “we” reference in this post…if it’s in reference to cooking, it is referring to Steve Neely, unless you are gracious enough to count some occasional chopping and rinsing which I have to give credit for to Becky. All three of us stood in the lovely kitchen and caught up on our lives. This is one of my favorite parts and almost as good in my mind as actually sitting down to enjoy the meal – conversing and interacting, standing around in the kitchen. It feels so real and I like the casualness of this.

Look at all those ingredients!

The chicken had been soaked in a brine since the day before to tenderize the meat and prepare it for cooking. Looking at the cookbook that Steve had received as a Christmas gift, I learned that the meal we were having that night was essentially very similar to paella. “Wonderful” I thought, “I love paella!”…I love practically all food! Yet what a special dish this was…it was a wonderful new version, we can call it a remake or better yet a “cover dish”. Like a cover song…get it? From there I could not tell you in what order things were done, except that the end result was the following: a fantastically colorful and most delicious dish of crawfish, shrimp, chicken, sausage, peppers, green beans, mussels, roasted tomatoes, and very likely much more that my memory is not pulling up. That is not all though! All of this was laid out in a bed of savory yellow rice full of spices and cooked to perfection ( rice can still be ruined, believe it or not).

This was one of those nights that encompassed both fantastic food and amazingly wonderful friends. I would say that the company is what certainly makes any occasion and in this case, even the fantastic food did not rank higher than being with my friends.

I had seconds, just so you know...

You see, Becky and Steve have these open hearts that result in an open home. Their conversation is interesting and welcoming, while their minds are engaging and accepting. Perhaps this is embodied in their cooking as well. As much as Becky likes to point out that Steve is the cook, I like to remind her that she is his inspiration and “cohort in crime” when it comes to any masterpiece created in their kitchen and for that matter in their life together. Quite a pair they make and I must say I will always be thanking them for feeding not only my stomach, but also my heart. Thank you both and here’s to many more amazing dinners. May we one day cook and eat together in another country as well!