Stronger, higher, faster is the Olympic motto. I learned this recently at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. There are so many extraordinary lessons for life within the Olympic movement and I highly recommend a visit to this tribute to human excellence in sport and in life if the chance ever presents itself. But as I walked the halls of the museum reading about all the Olympic greats like Jesse Owens and Michael Phelps, it was the photo of Terezinha Guilhermina that stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes. Not tears of pity, no, nothing even close. Tears of total awe. Her photo, shown above with her guide during the London Paralympics in 2012, was in a montage of many incredible athletes with disabilities. When I looked up her story I was speechless. Terezinha was born into poverty in Brazil. One of 12, she had a degenerative eye disease that made a life wrought with challenges almost unbearable. Tragically, she lost her mom when she was 9 and was left to fight for food however possible. She was bullied relentlessly for being different but found she could outrun her tormentors which began her love of running and running very, very fast. She believed very early that she could climb her way out of hardship if she became the best in the world. Her goals were set. Nothing was stopping her.
How was she not broken by just one of the challenges thrown at her? Poverty, hunger, loss of her sight, grief over losing her mother, the pain of being alienated and physically abused by her peers - any one of which could understandably cause one to disappear inside oneself. Yet she says, "I understand that a lot of people that don't have anything can make it. And I have never accepted how little I had." May Terezinha's story be a great reminder that we have so much strength inside of us to soar.
Read more of her inspirational story here: https://edition.cnn.com/2013/02/20/sport/brazil-terezinha-guilhermina-paralympics/index.html.
This Father’s Day was not what I expected it would be. I expected it would be like so many before it where I would celebrate my dad during our family beach trip to Hilton Head – most assuredly sitting on the beach for happy hour with cold beers in hand as we watched the boys run back and forth and eventually tackle each other in a pile of sand and bare feet.
There are some people you meet who just have a gift of making you feel like you've always known them, always been friends. That's just the kind who invited the fam to their lake house late this summer. What I was most impressed with was how our kids were embraced by the others. #inspiredbykindness
Have you ever had one of those moments when you knew without a shadow of a doubt where God was leading you? Where everything in your life up until that moment was preparing you for this one. That proverbial baseball bat has recently taken a swing at me and had a clean hit. I was listening to a podcast over the summer where a pastor from Spartanburg, SC had combined his study of and passion for photography with his call to serve others in a beautiful project called Through Our Eyes. The Through Our Eyes Project puts cameras in the hands of the homeless to allow them the dignity to tell their own story. Their stories are layered and complex, they are perfectly mundane at times and full of pain other times. They have victories to celebrate and they have failures to learn from. The beauty comes when we, as the viewers, can connect to their stories realizing we are all more alike than we are different. That every one of us wants to feel safe, to feel accepted and to feel loved.
Our three weeks in Uvita has come to an end and we are re-acclimating to life back in North Carolina. It's a great life that I'm very thankful for but it's a good deal more hectic than life on a Central American beach. It feels full of demands that I didn't have while pretending to be Costa Rican. Here's my short list of take-aways that I'm working on:
1. Slow down. Get bored.
Life isn't a race. In fact, I'd like to squeeze as many beautiful moments out of it as humanly possible but this isn't going to happen if I'm rushing from one thing to the next and the next. My mom told me years ago that I needed bigger margins. It's brilliant (which if you know my mom, you aren't surprised!). Life margins are absolutely necessary. This begs the question, why do we reserve naps for babies and seniors? I am bringing napping back yo. This doesn't mean I am going to quit working, boycott homework or cancel all after-school activities but it does mean it's time to impose some seriously big margins between each priority so everyone can breathe...and nap from time to time.
2. Live life for YOURSELF
Being so far from everything that I knew and any external expectations, I had the chance to reconsider how I wanted to live each day both on this trip, and more permanently at home. This sounds like a selfish path but I prefer to think of it as an honest one. Societal expectation has always pulled on me in a big way. I'm a pleaser. I want others to like me. I want to do the right thing and say the right thing. I want to be a part of the group. Being able to step back from the subconscious responses that are meant to please everyone else, I could see more clearly what means the most to me and focus on just that. Can I get an AMEN?!
3. Smaller spaces = more cuddling
Two years ago, Mike and I built a big home that afforded us each a generous plenty personal space. Here's the thing though, when you have a ton of space, you don't see each other as much. Our house in CR was two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living/kitchen area and large outdoor living space. While our spaces were open, there was not much of it and we lived close and cuddled a lot. We played games on each other's beds, laid side-by-side reading books, stood behind one another while brushing teeth. Are we going to sell our house now and buy a tree house off the grid? Mike would shout "NO" from the rooftops. But we are having a sleepover in our room tonight complete with a movie and air mattresses. We need each other and we have to be close to get what we need. This goes for friends too so my peeps better get ready for some hand-holding :)
4. Stuff is overrated
Don't get me wrong, I like a good cashmere blanket as much as the next girl but I had a "stuff" catharsis. Our first day at the beach we had towels, my camera, a boogie board, sunscreen, goggles, hats and who knows what else. The beach is part of a national park and required us to park outside of the entrance and walk in. Park officials were adamant that we should never leave our belongings at the risk of someone walking off with them so Mike and I spent the day taking turns swimming with the kids and hauling all the gear around the beach. Funny thing was, I took very few pictures, we never rode the boogie board nor did we wear the goggles or the hats. We made mental notes not to make that same mistake again. The next day we headed back with water and towels that we left in the car and headed to the beach in just our bathing suits. We spent 4 hours walking, body surfing, hermit crab racing and resting in the shade of the palm trees. We headed home exhausted and never once needed an umbrella or cabana boy (although with said cabana boy, I guess all the stuff would have been a lot easier to carry!). The life lesson here is that to live large, we need a lot less.
5. Even in paradise, it's not always paradise
Quick tongues and losing patience, being scared or frustrated are all parts of our humanity. We are flawed and no matter how far away we go or how beautiful the surroundings, those flaws will still be there. And thank God they are because that's what keeps us humble. It forces us to continue to work on ourselves for the benefit of the people and the world around us. Having realistic expectations of life is ever more important to me and understanding that there will be lemons that can't or won't turn into lemonade is a fact to make peace with.
The ceibo tree (pronounced "say-bo") is believed in ancient cultures to be a sacred tree. The Mayan culture believed that a single, great ceibo tree was a symbol of the universe, offering a connection between the underworld, the heavens and the land of the living. They felt the tree offered them a connection for their souls to the departed. Many Mayan tribes would build their cities around the tree as a symbol of life to their people. It met many practical needs as well. They grow near water sources, offer enormous shade canopies and have medicinal properties.
All this I learned after meeting this beautiful tree but I knew from the moment I saw her that she was extraordinary. I had been on a short walk away from the family and turned down a narrow, curved path that opened up in front of her. My personification of her is not an accident. It is impossible to deny this tree a soul. It is not easy to explain except to say that I was breathless in her presence. Her sheer size was staggering. But it was more than that. I felt she was looking at me.
She was certainly stunning with her moss covered trunk and powerful roots diving into and up out of the ground across the grass, along the creek bank and around the garden. Her branches climbing, curving and shooting into the sky with such personality, almost as if she was playing a game with my eyes. She seemed to be moving yet I knew she was standing still. She was magical.
I slowly approached her trunk - half imagining her huge limb lunging down and picking me up to get a closer look - Harry Potter style. My hand reached for her. My knees bent and I lowered to be at eye level with this part of her trunk that I was going to touch. My hand rested on her and I realized I was holding my breath. I exhaled and was overcome with a feeling that this great tree was a mother like me. She had spent her life trying to do the best she could for those around her - sometimes failing greatly but always hanging on, always trying, always reaching towards the light.
We stepped back in time today. We thought we were headed to a new waterfall about 20 minutes from our house and we found ourselves in the Garden of Eden. At the base of Cascada Pavon is a home owned by a family who runs a small restaurant out of their house. The place looked deserted when we stopped but we could see a woman walking in our direction from across a field maybe 200 yards away. She was pushing a child in a small ride-on-car across dirt and grass, passing a couple of openly roaming horses, two ducks, and a few chickens along the way. She didn't speak any English so it was a test for me to ask about seeing the waterfall nearby. She pointed in the direction of the falls but led us into her house and beyond it into the garden out back. I don't think I have ever seen anything as beautiful and breathtaking as that space.
Sunday and Coconuts...
Sunday started with a big stick bug crawling on my leg (pic above) during my downward dog. Needless to say it took me a while to get my zen on after that - I think the same could probably be said for him too.
All Miller asked for on this trip was to ride a horse. Yesterday we made it happen. He loved it and so did we. We walked through a rainforest and a cattle ranch. We saw iguana, eagle and a stray cow who challenged us to a game of chicken on the trail (haha!). When we got the beach everyone got to trot and I got to gallop...well as much as my horse was willing that is. It took a lot of coaxing on my part. Miller & D, who had only ridden ponies walked on a lead before, trotted down the beach like pros with smiles as wide as the beach itself.
While I love Dominical, I'm happy that we're 20 minutes from this little hippie place. It's a fabulous excursion though with lots of great shops, restaurants.
Welcome to my blog Photos + Footnotes. I am Tyler Cunningham and I love taking pictures. It is the best way I know how to express myself and my view of the world. It's when I'm behind the camera that I'm most comfortable. I see colors and details, I observe connections between people. I see joy and pain, abundance and poverty. I am my least judgmental behind the lens, simply seeing and recording. It is how I process the abundance of information the world throws at me.