Swords into Plowshares – One Ex Army Ranger doing just that….

“What the hell are Combat Flip Flops “, I asked myself as I perused the NW Overland Rally event calendar.  Of course I had to go…..

IMG_1392I’ve met a lot of people in my travels over the last three years – many nice, a few not so – many interesting, a few not much – and then there are the ones who are well and truly compelling.  Enter Matthew Griffin or “Griff” for short.

Griff is an ex Army Ranger Captain with three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq under his belt and, like all vets, observed the vagaries of war.  Case in point – the Afghani boot factory that employed 300 workers being shut down with the wrap up of the war.  Peace bringing poverty, peace bringing another level of despair and uncertainty for the local population now that the lucrative war machine was leaving.


During a tour of the factory he noticed a lone flip flop on a shelf.  It dawned on him that here were a few hundred skilled workers who needed employment and here was a simple product that is used the world over.  Why not make them out of the same materials the boots are made of? Why not make them as sturdy and long lasting as combat boots?  Stylish though….  Why not put this factory and these workers back in business and support their local economy with something sustainable long term that doesn’t involve killing to do it?  Combat Flip Flops was born. http://www.combatflipflops.com/

IMG_1394Based in Issaquah, WA (USA) with a simple mission: – “Combat Flip Flops creates peaceful, forward-thinking opportunities for self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict.  Our willingness to take bold risks, community connection, and distinct designs communicate, “Business, Not Bullets”–flipping the view on how wars are won. Through persistence, respect, and creativity, we empower the mindful consumer to manufacture peace through trade.”

IMG_1399They have recently expanded on this mission to include jewelry crafted in Laos from unexploded ordnance (UXO) and war scrap left over from Vietnam.  The Peacemaker collection incentivizes the clearing of mine fields and adds another channel to helping small business in the region.  One less mine – one less limb blown off…..  More importantly – it creates a successful  business model for other post-conflict areas in the world.  Jewelry with a real and compelling Purpose…..







Claymore bagPost conflict challenges are happening right here at home as well.  Many US textile companies are floundering with the reduction of US involvement in world conflicts.  Combat Flip Flops recognized this and is doing their bit supporting US manufacturing with the Claymore messenger based on the army ordnance bag design.

You can check out their other great gear and get inspired at: http://www.combatflipflops.com/Gear-and-Accessories  and if you are inspired, please share this with as many folks as possible to keep the momentum going!

Griff asked me if I knew what “Swords into Plowshares” meant.  I do now. This vet owned business is working hard to make a real and tangible difference in post conflict regions around the world.   Think about it – you aren’t just supporting them – you are supporting those left with the challenge of rebuilding – so you are making a real and tangible difference too.

So make that difference by learning more about Combat Flip Flops and their mission at :  http://www.combatflipflops.com/


Pompeii and Herculaneum: Two Beautiful Mummies

Andrew’s travel blog is one of my favorites. I wrote some time ago about my fascination with buried things. Andrew’s visit and photos of Pompeii and Herculaneum may just have dictated my next adventure. Enjoy!!

Victor Travel Blog

By Irina

Johann Goethe said about Herculaneum,
“Humanity survived many disasters, but no one of them brought so much pleasure to descendants.”

I walk along the street which has been uninhabited for two thousand years and enter the next house. Some frescos are preserved on the walls, and Doric columns stand in the patio. People used to bake bread in the kitchen and make love in the bedrooms on the second floor. We are in the abandoned city that was hidden from view for an unimaginable two thousand years?in Herculaneum, Italy.

The Augustus College or Collegio degli Augustali. Herculaneum, Italy. The Augustus College or Collegio degli Augustali

A thirty-meter thickness of mudflow (lava, dirt, and water), which covered the city after the Vesuvius eruption, killed much fewer people here than in neighboring Pompeii. Most of the citizens managed to escape, but their city was preserved for many long years. Today, the empty Herculaneum lies in a huge funnel very…

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The Carrier – The Vision – A Wedding Song

art courtesy of leadingsmart.com

art courtesy of leadingsmart.com

These hands separately

Are just our hands.

Together………….. gently … they become the bowl that holds our life.

The treasures collected…………… the special moments

Those memorable events……………… like watching you sleep, then wake…..

Each triumph over the mundane, the petty, the insignificant……..

And over time, this bowl will fill with these – the gems of our life

 They will – in their turn – create an alchemy that feeds us, inspires and expands…. Us

art courtesy of Mirlande jean-Gilles

art courtesy of Mirlande jean-Gilles

The eagle will watch over this – our precious bowl

Our hands together………………. Our Life

and protect it like the lost tribe of David

Reminding us with its haunting cry

to follow our united vision of a larger grace

Beyond an immediate horizon…………….



copyright –R. Golden 1998 – a wedding song for Lori and Mark –


Celebrating an Aimless Wanderer…..


“She Lives by her own definition and will not compromise that – not even for the illusion of belonging.

I dedicate this to an extraordinary woman who lives by example and compels us all to see the world through new eyes.

By the time you read this she will be traveling the world where I know she will find new and inspiring ideas, amazing cultures, vistas – the lonely and the crowded, history, art, music, food, people, philosophy – possibility.  And in that way that is only her – that crazy thing she does – she will make something happen.  Some alchemy that leaves the world a better place.

I’ve heard her called a quitter –

“An Aimless Wanderer”

But not all who wander are aimless….

Especially not those who seek Truth

Beyond Tradition,

                Beyond Definition,

                                             Beyond the Image”

(Excerpt from last scene – Mona Lisa Smile – the movie – mostly)



Ethics of the Fathers….

In a flurry of going through and cleaning out old papers – again – I came across my college commencement address that I ended with the following:

Taken from The Mishnah – Ethics of the Fathers-

“It is not your job to complete the work of perfecting the world – however – you are not free to desist from it either.”

It seems just as compelling today….

Perhaps even more so….

courtesy of cooleycooley.blogspot.com

courtesy of cooleycooley.blogspot.com

Looking Past a Particular Horizon…

Looking Past a Particular Horizon….

11 Guys and Me … Part 2

The Carson Overland Journey continues…

DSCN2656Chris Miller – being organizer extraordinaire – dovetailed in two side trips on our overland adventure.

Who knew we had natural stone bridges in Washington?  I think they were formed by ancient lava tubes and you can see evidence of that theory in the curved features of the open stone channels on the ground.  DSCN2658It helped my cognitive leap that there are actually lava fields not too far away – noted on the map…  After lunch we climbed around, under and  over both bridges.  It felt really good to get out and stretch after several hours of bouncing in the truck.


DSCN2666Next stop was the Ice Caves by Trout Lake.  Again – who knew?  It was fascinating to feel the temperature drop at least 20 degrees just going down a short flight of stairs into basically what appeared to be a hole in the ground. Should you attempt this yourself – it’s very dark and slippery so torch or headlamp and sensible shoes are a must.

There are ice formations all over – stalagmites and ‘tites – with some obviously hanging for the duration and others…. DSCN2664Well, I thought twice before using them as a handhold.  You can actually climb all the way through the cave and come out about 50 yards from the entrance.  It takes a bit of doing and at one point – I actually got kind of claustrophobic.  Images of cave ins were unwelcome guests in my overactive imagination but if the short cute guy could do it (Jamie – age 9) so could I – so I soldiered on.  The tall guys were great – just followed their path.  DSCN2665However – a 34 inch inseam is a heck of a lot more helpful in negotiating big rocks than my diminutive 29″.  Read “it takes a lot more effort with short little legs”.  It’s all about clearance on the road and off!  DSCN2670


According to the requisite park signage – back in the day – the ice from this cave supplied Hood River and the Dalles. Can you imagine having to literally hoof it here to get ice and then haul it all the way back?  I got a whole new level of appreciation for our ice-maker at home.  And to think I used to complain about those old ice metal trays with the handle.  Remember those?

DSCN2682It rained a lot on the first two days of this trip.  While that made it tons of fun for overland driving – things are slipperier, mud puddles are deeper, ruts are more challenging – while in the dry passenger side – I was thinking to myself “hmmmmm – what about setting up camp in the rain?  What about sleeping in the little tent in the rain?  What about my hair in the rain??”  I sent some silent pleas to the heavens and Lo and Behold  at our first site – the rain magically stopped – Yea!  It was perfect – the crowning glory was a huge old free standing fireplace.  In the pioneer spirit – there was wood split and a fire crackling in no time.  DSCN2676

The portable blow torch helped things along quite nicely albeit perhaps it was cheating just a tad…  Folks got down to the business of setting up camp.  We were ever so grateful for the stop off at REI on the way out of town for the canopy.  It came it very handy as a rain shelter and shade at the rally.   After set up – we got to the important stuff – Food and eating!







I mentioned in part one I love road cruises.  Being blessed with a bladder the size of a walnut I have scoped all the rest stops, Starbucks and other pee points along the I-5 corridor from Vancouver BC to San Diego (seriously – I should write a book…)  While there were forest service outhouses where we camped – blessings from above – during the 10-14 hours on the trail it was “pick a spot”.

I don’t have any problems dropping trou when needed but I do prefer privacy.  Scouting for bushes, looking back to make sure the line of sight was truly around the bend and making sure the nettles were below squatting distance was hilarious. DSCN2680 In a pinch – if the rigs were in line and since we were the tail – I’d just deem the back of our truck “the spot”.  Did I mention clearance earlier?  Ladies – if you decide to go this route – make sure before hand that the lift on your vehicle doesn’t make for a particularly interesting line of sight when down for business.  My Beloved did gift me with a potty tent for this trip.  I was overcome with the sheer romance…

Back to food.  Or more specifically – planning, preparation and presentation of food on the trail.  I figured hey –  Simple, no nonsense, portable, easy to clean up after – I mean its just camping, right? OMG!  My culinary abilities just paled – no scratch that – just faded – I hung my head in shame.    I wandered around seeing what was bubbling in the other overlander’s pots and the myth was busted.  Left to their own devices – men can take care of themselves and rather well I might add.

DSCN2671Will made a pork butt for pulled pork that made the angels sing.  Dan had premade meals that were done in like a nano-second and smelled divine.  Chuck had wine in a box and was very generous with it and his peanuts.  Mike’s rear kitchen setup with grill was crazy efficient.  And then there was Chris…  And then there was Chris….

DSCN2684I used to love to cook and maybe some day I will again so kitchens aren’t high on my list but – just looking at his set up made me want to whip out my apron and get cracking.  It was a vision of organization – gadgets, cooking and prep surfaces, storage racks neatly housing everything needed to prepare the evening’s menu for himself and his three compadres.  Yes – menu.  DSCN2715I think the first night was amazingly thick steaks with grilled asparagus, something else equally yummy topped off with desert.  Was it sauteed peaches and ice cream?  All of this gastronomic sensation was taking place under a canopy with twinkle lights and solar spotters (that have a flicker mode) for atmosphere.  Chris assured me the main reason was to keep happy campers from stumbling over guy wires in the dark after one too many – a brilliant idea.  I thought they were pretty..  On the second night of watching this extravaganza I just had to dubbed these four “The Metro Boys”.  The highest compliment…

We went through so many different micro climates on this trip.  Freezing and soaking wet in the morning packing up sodden gear only to be sweating a few hours later.  I’d watch the temp gauge in the truck literally go up and down 15 degrees in a half hour.  Weather didn’t matter though.  It just added to the overall good times.  DSCN2716The second night camp was soggy but that didn’t stop anyone. Shaun was the crack fire tender that night and got the green logs blazing pretty quickly.  I didn’t see him use the blow torch…….  Chris had a seriously cool laser pointer that had shapes he beamed on the fire smoke and trees.  It was like Christmas in 3D.  I want one of those!  No pics except in my head….  I crawled in my little semi-soggy half dome with laser points dancing behind my eyes and raucous humor in my ears.  Blissed Out…

Part Three – the Overland Rally, breakdowns in the Sudan, motorcycles on salt flats, driving blind and more.  Stay tuned…

11 Guys and Me….. Part One

Hmmmmm – I can hear a few mental wheels turning…..

most of the group - at the start and still clean...

most of the guys – at the start and still clean…


….. and Me

But before you go down that particular road let me tell you – a different set of wheels were turning.  Actually – there were 28 wheels.  On 7 rigs. With 11 guys – 10 tall and over 21 plus one – very short, adorable and under 10.   And me. The self professed princess agreed to spend a week  on an overland adventure in Washington state with a group from the NW Overland Society of which my Beloved is a member and passionate overland enthusiast.  As in all my previous travel posts – what follows are my random experiences and observations – in no particular order or level of importance. It was all absolutely amazing.  Really….!

We traveled from Carson to Packwood then onto  Ellensburg ending the overland portion of the trip in Wenatchee.  (For those interested in route specifics – Here’s the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route link: www.backcountrydiscoveryroutes.com/WABDR)

The 7 Rigs - courtesy of Chris Miller

The 7 Rigs – courtesy of Chris Miller

Overland Journal defines “What is Overlanding?” as “Overlanding describes self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal. Typically, but not exclusively, accommodated by mechanized off-highway capable transport (from bicycles to trucks) where the principal form of lodging is camping; often lasting for extended lengths of time (months to years) and often spanning international boundaries. While expedition is defined as a journey with a purpose, overlanding sees the journey as the purpose.”  http://www.overlandjournal.com/

I love road cruises – highway miles zipping by as I sip my latte, blast the tunes with off key accompaniment, munch on junk  – all in the comfort of my very cushy car with leather heated seats.  This was Not a road cruise. 

courtesy of Chris Miller

courtesy of Chris Miller

First – sipping anything is an art form when the rig is bouncing, jouncing, swinging from side to side, stopping and starting abruptly while negotiating rocks, ruts, trenches and all manner of obstructions.

 Gives new meaning to the term “uneven surface”.  Will and mud 3

courtesy of Chris Miller

courtesy of Chris Miller

As a passenger – I got the added entertainment on occasion of seeming to be suspended over a cliff  – white knuckled and trying to keep my comments to myself while keeping my brain busy calculating length of fall proportional to injuries sustained.  Eating just seemed like a contact sport…. 

Music was replaced with “the Comms”.  For the uninitiated – all vehicles in the convoy need to be connected via radio for safety, trail direction, hazard warnings, troubleshooting, “is every one still here?”, “tail has made the turn”. etc. 

courtesy of Chris Miller
courtesy of Chris Miller

The fun part was listening to a bunch of guys being – well – guys.  Locker room humor, potty mouths, really bad jokes and yes – picking on the blonde. Dan the Fireman just had to go there… But, this blonde held her own on the mike and gave as good as she got!  It was all in good fun…

Side note – Dan was the only one who got a flat on this trip.  Hmmmm – Who has the last laugh?? BTW- he changed that huge muddy flat in about 17 mins!changing the flat

The views and vistas were incredible.  It was really amazing to me where we were able to go in these vehicles. Never tell an off-roader “you can’t make that…”  I got “the look”…

courtesy of Chris Miller
courtesy of Chris Miller


courtesy of Chris Miller

courtesy of Chris Miller


courtesy of Chris Miller

courtesy of Chris Miller

Courtesy of Chris Miller

Courtesy of Chris Miller

vista Will

What boy – young, old or “of a certain age” can’t resist a mud puddle? Alas, since we were the “tail” rig – by the time we got to gun it through –  it went from water to thick mud. Momentary blindness as the windshield and passenger window was covered. Why do I need to see?  I’m not driving….  Oh, but he can’t see either!  I wish I’d have taken a shot of that but I was too busy just hanging on!!!

courtesy of Chris Miller

courtesy of Chris Miller

courtesy of Chris Miller

DSCN2641As any conscientious overlander will do – if there are obstructions on the trail – They’ll be a good person and remove it or minimize the impact to the next traveler.  Besides – it’s a great opportunity to use tools and test ingenuity.        I took the opportunity of finally not moving to read while I could.  And eat….


Part Two – Camping rough, weather, ice caves,  potty stops, the Metro Boys and more …..  Stay Tuned!

For those interested in Pacific NW Overlanding – here is the link: http://nwoverland.org/

Sky Speak…..

I was witness to a very rare and amazing two hour Northern Lights show in Plain, WA – it was totally awe inspiring!

Thank you Chris Miller for this incredible photo!!

Aurora Borealis in Plain Wa June 2013

Written in Stone…..

I was gifted a beautiful intentional exercise by my wild and lovely pal Nadya.  Me – being me – took it a step further.

We were talking about making order out of seeming chaos, embracing the chaos and accepting that perhaps – just perhaps – layered under the mystery is a larger natural order.  We also spoke of directed energy.  Taking desires from a vision to an intent but – rather than focusing on the ‘thing’ – focusing on the qualities.  The energy of the qualities imbued, given name – thus give form to formless energy.  The outcome remains a mystery and therein lies all the fun.  Seriously – isn’t it the anticipation of a gift that keeps us juiced rather than the gift itelf?  Well – maybe not if we’re talking about shoes…

You’ll need time, a sharpie, and a place where rocks gather –

stone fieldFind a field of stones that strikes your fancy and just enjoy the whole of it.  Each rock an individual but gives itself over to the collective that we see as this field…

stones 1Select your stones – perhaps they will speak to you, call you to pick them up.  You’ll know if you need only one or many…. Arrange this selection and just appreciate their blank beauty – their individuation outside of the collective you just plucked them from.  Do they look different to you now that they are not the faceless many in the stone field?

written in stoneTake a few breaths, empty your mind of the chatter and focus on your heart.  Without taking too much time – write the qualities that your heart is speaking to you on your rock.  Take a few minutes to appreciate the message given.

Here is the message – all of these qualities you’ve named – you already possess – you just got distracted and forgot.  The ‘things’ you desire that you think will give you these qualities – once acquired – don’t.  Start with affirming these already exist within you regardless of any outward or worldly appearances.

It’s written in stone….

PS:  Nadya likes to throw her stones in the water.  Me?  I like to leave them for another to stumble upon and perhaps be inspired.  Better yet – wander away with one or more that spoke to them.

BTW – This is how rocks travel….