April: Mindful Media month


Welcome to month 3 of The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series! Before I get into our theme for this month, I wanted to share a few notable takeaways from our community members during March, our month of mindful communication. During our mindful communication month, prompts covered both self-talk and communication with others. I also shared a podcast about the throat chakra, an article with 4 tips for mindful communication, and a podcast about altering your self talk.

I heard from one community member about a moment of mindfulness she had during a conversation with a friend. Here’s what she told me:

So after listening to the podcast about the throat chakra, I was talking to a friend who has told me before that I over think things. I tend to blow it off when he says it, like ‘I know better who I am and his comment doesn’t really matter to me’ so I just usually squash it/resist it/defend instantly. But this time, I was quiet, I let that truth, his truth prevail with no defensiveness. The results were brilliant. I saw that I needed to calm my mind and really think about what I was trying to get a across before I spoke. I even chose after that not to speak. And I found him paying more attention to the content of what I was saying the next time I spoke and I was sensitive to his defensiveness and also more willing to let go of convincing each other of anything if it we weren’t getting there. THANK YOU!

At the end of each month, I put out the prompt ‘This month I have noticed…’ to the Monthly Mindfulness Community. This gives us a way to reflect on the month and to recognize patterns we’ve seen, which is the first step in increasing our mindfulness. One community member shared the following on that final prompt for our mindful communication month:

Since I have always felt like I talk more than I listen, I have been trying the zipper trick [imagining you have a zipper over your mouth during conversations, to be more mindful before responding], and it is a good reminder to actively listen before I respond. I have also been paying attention to my inner dialogue when something feels overwhelming, and a couple times I have written down whatever is on a loop in my head, and that seems to at least slow the train. I haven’t gotten to it this month, but the other thing I want to focus on is my tone of voice. I think I sometimes sound irritated, not necessarily as a result of the conversation I’m having, but just because of my stress level in general.

After spending a month focusing on communication, I hope that much of what community members learned can translate into our theme for April: Mindful Media.

We use media in so many ways, so many times each day. We use it to connect, to consume news, to express opinions and ideas. And- I think we all know it- it can be pretty easy to be mindless in our use of media. So, this month, we are going to tune into what media looks like in our daily lives.

Our first prompt this month follows the theme of the first two months. We always spend the first week of each theme tuning into our own personal habits, tendencies and patterns. Our prompt this week is:


As we move through our month of mindful media, we’ll do some Spring cleaning on our social media sites, tune into how we feel when we click out of a social media site and what our ‘follows’ are doing for us, and more 🙂

Are you interested in receiving a weekly prompt from me around each month’s mindfulness theme, connecting with others in the community, and having access to all of our prompts so far? Do you want to get your thoughts rolling further by checking out podcasts and articles on each theme, and completing some ‘mini-challenges’ to increase your mindfulness?

If so, come and join The Monthly Mindfulness Community!

Click here to learn more, and remember, it’s:

  • Free
  • One email per week, and completely self-paced
  • A learning experience, and a sharing experience if you choose to join discussions
  • Meant to help you learn little tips and tricks to increase mindfulness in various aspects of everyday life, like communication, self-care, and media use.

Click here to join The Monthly Mindfulness Community!


After the R: How’s being home?


Before sitting down to write today, I looked back at the first ‘After the R’ post that I wrote. In addressing the question ‘How was leaving?’ the first thing that I mentioned in the post was that I still felt in extremely close emotional proximity to Mozambique and to Peace Corps service. At that moment, I felt that life had changed suddenly in huge ways, that all that we had built up over two years was suddenly pulled out from under us, and that our lifestyle was kind of unraveled when we left.  There was a strange form of grief that I felt for a number of weeks after leaving, and 3 months later it still comes back to me some days. I expect it will for some time.

With 2 months of travel to process through some of the impact of leaving, we arrived home with more emotional distance and clarity. We arrived home to the tune of many questions about life in Mozambique, perhaps more questions about what’s next for us, and one glimmering question about what’s going on right now.

The question is: How is being home?

Remember when I gave you the short answer in that first post? I’ll do the same here.

The short answer is: Good.

The short answer is true. It is good to be home. It is amazing to see our family and friends. It is good to take a hot shower. It is good to eat blueberries. It is good to hike and ski and wander and roam. It’s good to drive to the doctor and not fly. It’s good to drive. It’s good to not sweat. And as a close RPCV friend once told me, it’s good not to have “crunchy panties,” due to residual detergent that’s impossible to remove during hand-washing…

There are mountains upon mountains of things to be grateful for when it comes to being home, and I recognize those things every day, and take note of them.

It is also possible to hold two things to be true at the same time.

It’s good to be home.

Remember when I told you before that the short answer is really only sufficient for small talk but provides minimal understanding? The same applies here.

We’ve been home now for what feels like an eternity but is actually hardly more than the blink of an eye. We’ve been home for 7 weeks.

We were gone for 124 weeks, and we’ve been home for 7.

I often forget the disproportion of those 2 numbers when I find myself frustrated at still being overwhelmed by the 87 varieties of Triscuits in the supermarket or still not being able to find words in English or snow boots in some packed-away box. In this way alone it’s incredibly obvious what’s changed in our lives: we’ve moved from a slow culture where ‘Eu nao sei’ (I don’t know) is an acceptable answer to any question from cracker choice to your life plan, to a fast culture where the expectation is to ‘sabe tudo’ (know everything), from cracker choice to your life plan.

Our life has changed so much, so quickly that some days it seems impossible that we’ve lived deeply in these two very different realities within 3 months of each other. It’s a very uncomfortable truth that Mozambique feels like a long, beautiful, vivid, increasingly distant dream. As I listen to a bathroom fan run, I wonder if it really could be true that I used to urinate frequently in a bucket. As I buy tomatoes only in multiples of 4, I realize how odd it is that Moz made that a habit that doesn’t apply here. I could pick up 2, 5, or 30 tomatoes, and there would be no woman to waggle her finger ‘no’ at me as if the idea of buying some willy-nilly, non-multiple-of-4 amount of tomatoes was preposterous.

These days, it seems that I am supposed to be like a rubber super-ball, bouncing back into life in America-the life I grew up in, after all- after bouncing out to Moz for a quick sec. In reality, I feel more like Silly Putty being tugged on by a nasty, grubby, sticky expectation of what re-integration should look like.

In one moment I am pulled into the terrifying maze of Super Target by the [false and infuriating] expectation that my re-integration should include shopping at mega stores.

In the next moment I am pulled into yet another conversation about the future, under the expectation that I should have a plan.

I should remember the plethora of helpful kitchen appliances now available to me. I should be able to eat all foods without my stomach taking revenge. I should be able to speak English well. I should never accidentally drive on the wrong side of the road for a sec (well, Alex should never…), I should be able to buy a 6-pack in less than 20 minutes and 6ish paces in front of the big ‘ole beer cooler. And, goodness gracious, I should know what Triscuit I want because I ate ’em before and what’s changed, really?

should feel normal.

should understand.

I should feel one hundred percent joyful to be home.

Whether these shoulds are pressed onto me by others or self-inflicted, the fact of the matter is that they are a product of the culture and the environment in which we now find ourselves, and staving them off is a never-ending battle.

I tell myself I should because I want to feel normal in my environment.

Others tell us that we should because they think they understand, because they want to understand and are trying to understand, and probably even give us helpful tips as to how we can re-adapt.

I believe strongly that there are pieces to the re-integration experience that everyone can relate to. Everyone has experienced sudden and drastic change in their life. Everyone has experienced pressure from expectations, and from the word should. Everyone has, at times, felt out of place in their culture or environment.

But just as with any of those unique experiences- and any RPCV reading this would say the same thing- no one can understand unless they’ve done it. Unless they’ve done this exact thing. I’ve had this conversation with RPCVs from Moz, from Tanzania, from Guyana, from Morocco, and while our experiences even vary among us, I think this is a pretty universal conclusion about reintegration.

I’d venture to say that all of the shoulds are about 20 steps beyond what any recently returned PCV feels is urgent and vital in re-integration.

There is a sense of urgency, perhaps, but it is not in what you think. There are a million subtleties that define each day, completely invisible to the person that sees them day in and day out, but stark to the person who doesn’t, or who hasn’t for a while. This is culture.

It defines how we relate to each other. It defines when and what we eat. It defines how we perceive our surroundings and our world. It defines expectations, goals, and desires. It is ‘the air we breathe.’

So, when you ask ‘How is being home?’ and I pause to inhale before I speak, know that I’ve already answered, just by taking a long, deep, slow, breath.

Being home is trying to catch my breath. Trying to catch my culture.

Meant to fill a void I have observed in the Peace Corps blogosphere, this series will address personal elements of life after earning my ‘R,’ a designation that changes a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), after 27 months of service. Look for posts that answer common questions, address elements of transitioning back to life in the U.S., and reflect on Peace Corps service.



March: Mindful Communication month


Our first theme of The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series wrapped up with a few notable takeaways from our community members. By being mindful of self-care throughout February, a few community members noticed how little time they take for self-care, how it can be easy to make a plan but difficult to stick with it, and that it can be easy to say we are too tired or too busy for self-care, but if we make time for it, it helps with energy, stress, and productivity in other areas.

While you can certainly tell by now that this series is all about mindfulness, we can now start to see how that translates into daily life: paying attention, noticing patterns, and then moving from that place of awareness if we wish to make change.

Our strong foundation in self-care will now help us move forward as we explore mindfulness in other areas of daily life. This month, we’ll be focusing on Mindful Communication, and applying our self-care practice as a tool in helping us communicate most effectively. After all, we all know it’s hard to communicate well when we are hungry, tired, or stressed. So, we are building on our mindfulness practice!

Our prompt this first week is meant to help you bring awareness to patterns in your communication, both with yourself and others. Our prompt this week is:

The ending to this prompt seems simple, initially. We use communication to talk to ourselves and others, express ourselves, make connections and build relationships. These are overarching, universal themes of communication. So, this week we are taking a look at what really makes up our individual communication patterns. How do you tend to communicate with others? Is it in a way that encourages, entertains, or something else? How do you tend to communicate with yourself? Are you encouraging, critical, or something in between in your self talk?

In addition to this prompt, I shared one of my favorite podcasts on the Throat Chakra and communication with community members this week.

If you would like to receive a weekly prompt and additional resources, and/or join discussions in our Facebook group, come and join the community!

Remember, it’s

  • Free
  • One email per week
  • A learning and sharing experience

Click here to join the community

The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series: Mindful Self-Care Week 3


The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series is in it’s first month, and we are focusing on mindful self-care as a way to build up our foundation so we can move toward mindfulness in other areas of our daily lives.

Check out the introductory post to our Mindful Self-Care month to see what this month is all about!

For the first time on Happily Lost, readers can sign up to join one of my blog series! Community members in this series receive a weekly email with a prompt and additional resources to help explore our month’s theme.

For this month only, I will be sharing each of the weekly prompts here on the blog so that you all can get a sense of the series.

Our prompt this week is:


You can use this prompt to focus in on where in your day or week you can let go of a non-nourishing habit in order to make space for a piece of your self-care practice. This is meant to help us make space slowly, letting go of 1 or 2 things to begin with, and making space in 10-15 minute increments. In this way, we can start to see that small steps add up to big changes!

If you’d like to be part of a discussion around this prompt, and/or receive future prompts and some additional resources for each monthly mindfulness theme, come and join the community!

Click here to enter your email and join us!

I’ll send you an email when you join with a full list of our monthly prompts, plus the extra resources from February so you can start building your foundation in self-care, mindfully! Hope to see you soon in our community 🙂

Community members, Check your inbox for this week’s email, including one of my favorite simple mindfulness exercises, and after you have a chance to think through this week’s prompt, head on over to our Facebook group to share your responses to the prompt and some follow-up questions that are posted there. If you aren’t receiving the emails, please let me know by emailing me at happilyherwithcece@gmail.com.

The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series is a blog series, as well as an interactive, peer-based learning community, centered around mindfulness in various aspects of our daily life, Click here for more details about this series.


The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series: Mindful Self Care Week 2


The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series is in it’s first month, and we are focusing on mindful self-care as a way to build up our foundation so we can move toward mindfulness in other areas of our daily lives.

Check out the introductory post to our Mindful Self-Care month to see what this month is all about!

For the first time on Happily Lost, readers can sign up to join one of my blog series! Community members in this series receive a weekly email with a prompt and additional resources to help explore our month’s theme.

For this month only, I will be sharing each of the weekly prompts here on the blog so that you all can get a sense of the series.

Our prompt this week is:

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This prompt can be used to start being mindful about the start and end of the day, two times of the day that can be crucial to how our day goes, and then how we take in and perceive what happened throughout the day. These two times of day are vital for my own self-care routine, which is why I am encouraging readers and the mindfulness community members to get curious about what these times look like for them.

If you’d like to be part of a discussion around this prompt, or if you’d like to  and receive future prompts and some additional resources for each monthly mindfulness theme, come and join the community!

Click here to enter your email and join us!

I’ll send you an email when you join with a full list of our monthly prompts, plus the extra resources from February so you can start building your foundation in self-care, mindfully! Hope to see you soon in our community 🙂

Community members, Check your inbox for this week’s email, including a link to one of my favorite podcast episodes about tending to our roots, and after you have a chance to think through this week’s prompt, head on over to our Facebook group to share your responses to the prompt and some follow-up questions that are posted there.

The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series is a blog series, as well as an interactive, peer-based learning community, centered around mindfulness in various aspects of our daily life, Click here for more details about this series.

After the R: Travel and the Transition


Within the last few days of a 9-week trip around Southeast Asia, on our last long journey on public transportation for a good long while, I wrote the bulk of this post as I reflected on how far we had come-geographically, emotionally, and mentally- since finishing Peace Corps service and leaving Mozambique at the end of November. Alex and I made the choice to take a long trip between the end of service and returning home, and I’d like to share with you a few Smiles and Struggles of travelling as part of our transition.


Re-energizing: When we left Mozambique I truly felt exhausted to my core. Mentally, emotionally, and even physically. Our last two weeks in-country were a blur of grading, packing, goodbyes, paperwork, medical tests…and who knows what else. Oh yeah, and Alex’s bout with malaria ten days before leaving our site. I remember saying at the beginning of our trip that I was glad we chose to travel before going home because I felt like I had nothing to give, emotionally, to people back home right after we left Moz. Although traveling can be tiring, my reserves of energy got refilled during our trip, and I got on the plane home feeling much more ready mentally and emotionally.

Re-connecting: One of the challenges of Peace Corps as a married couple is that, after a while, there is no news. Every day we saw the same students as each other, the same colleagues as each other, and functioned on almost the exact same schedule as each other. In short, by the end of service there were very few experiences that were noteworthy to share with each other. Needless to say, sometimes things like ‘I cut my nails while you were at the market’ constituted as news. Taking a trip was a great way for Alex and I to reconnect over some still shared but new experiences, see a new part of the world together, and ultimately remember how much we love adventuring together.

Gaining mental and emotional distance: This has to be one of the biggest benefits of a long trip right after service, and over a quick chat in Ho Chi Minh City with a couple other volunteers from our Peace Corps group, we discovered the same to be true for them. Comparisons to Peace Corps life and post-Peace Corps life are inevitable as things change in a huge way. Now, we have something in between, a kind of pause, between our Peace Corps chapter of life and our U.S., post-Peace Corps chapter While the comparisons still seem inevitable, things aren’t so stark: Mozambique vs. the U.S ; Peace Corps vs. post Peace Corps. Having gained a whole lot of new experiences during our pause reminds us of the broader perspective that life is a flow, not a ladder, and that our lives and our world are extremely dynamic things. In addition, having some time away from Moz before having to explain the experience to people at home allows for better clarity; two months out, while still a short time, I can ask ‘what’s sticking the most from Moz for me at this point?’ And then I can move from that place when chatting with friends and family at home. Right after service I felt much more overwhelmed at the thought of trying to sift through the details of Moz life in conversations back home. While Mozambique is just as dear to my heart-if not more- as it was 2 months ago, I know that I am speaking from a less emotionally cloudy and confused place after having some time to sift through some of my own feelings on my experience before trying to articulate it to others.


The Culture Cup: One of the things that felt like a challenge during the first couple weeks of our trip was feeling unready to embrace a new culture. This may sound insensitive, and I didn’t expect it to be a challenge. Even though Moz came to feel like home and we had become comfortable with it’s oddities and challenges and joys, I realized when we arrived in Vietnam that my capacity to be excited about a culture I didn’t understand was very low. I kept thinking ‘I just spent 2 years trying to understand a culture that isn’t my own. I just don’t have it in me to try to do it in another place right now. My culture cup is full to the brim and there’s no space for more.’ After time, after I became more generally re-energized, this feeling faded and I became more excited about experiencing more of the culture where we were travelling. Another thing that happened over time was that I let go of the idea that because this culture was foreign it was on the same plane as Moz in terms of what I should know and understand. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t here to get to know a culture deeply and that that was not even possible in the amount of time we had. The kind of sad truth is that I will probably never do that again. Travel provides us with the chance to catch glimpses of a culture, but it only takes us so far. Once I adjusted my expectation and accepted this fact, I was able to be receptive to any bits of culture that we found along the way.

Staying away from home for longer: While I strongly believe that we made the right choice by traveling for a couple of months post-service, it meant that we were away from most of our family for 2 months longer, that we missed a third holiday season, and a host of other events. While we were lucky to meet up with some family for portions of the trip, the anxious feeling to see others and the somewhat guilty feeling for choosing to stay away longer was a challenge at points during our trip. The fact that everybody in our family was supportive of our decision even if it was challenging for them to wait longer to see us was a huge factor in helping me work through my own hesitations about being away for longer.

Self-care and feeling okay: I knew that this would probably be a struggle going into the trip, because a big part of me feeling ‘okay’ has to do with feeling stable. So, it goes without saying that living out of a backpack for 2 months, at a time that already felt emotionally tumultuous, had its challenges. Again, working through this struggle came mostly with adjusting my expectations. When we left Moz I was holding onto my self-care routine tightly, afraid to let any of it go for fear of feeling totally out of control through this change. After some time, I loosened my grip a little and realized that we were, after all, on vacation and that no matter my routine on the trip, it wouldn’t be the same afterwards as it was beforehand because we weren’t going back into the same day-to-day routines as it was. I was able to find a balance that mostly worked, that included the most vital parts of my self-care practice and still allowed me to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of travel.

Now, after 868 days abroad, we’re back home in Colorado, working through this change one step at a time, realizing that 50 degrees no longer means what it once did, and starting to catch up with all the people we’ve missed.

Until next time!


Meant to fill a void I have observed in the Peace Corps blogosphere, this series will address personal elements of life after earning my ‘R,’ a designation that changes a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) to a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), after 27 months of service. Look for posts that answer common questions, address elements of transitioning back to life in the U.S., and reflect on Peace Corps service.


February: Mindful Self-Care Introduction


Welcome to the first post of The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series!

We’re starting our series by focusing on the foundation from which we will build our exploration of mindfulness in various aspects of daily life. This foundation is self-care.

When we think about building a house, we know that it will soon fall down if the foundation isn’t solid. When we think about cultivating plants, we know that they will never thrive if we don’t tend to the roots.

The same goes for us as humans, right? Think about how much more likely it is to speak or act mindlessly- without really thinking- if you are run down, stressed, and frustrated. When our foundation is crumbling, everything that sits atop that foundation begins to crumble too.

This month, we are going to take a look at what self-care means to us, what it looks like for each of us, and how we incorporate it into daily life. We’ll work to make sure that our self-care is accessible to us daily, in a number of small practices throughout the day.

Take a look at our first prompt of the series. Feel free to use this prompt for journaling, thinking, discussion, or any other manner that serves you.


Consider trying the following exercises to help you tap into your instincts about what self-care means for you. I think this could be especially helpful if the prompt feels a little too vague for you.

When you take time out of your day for self-care, thank yourself afterwards. I began by using the phrase ‘Thank you for taking this time for you.’ After time, pay attention to whether more crops up in your mind to follow this statement. For example, I always thank myself after a yoga practice and after some time, without me trying to form this specific form of thanks, I realized I was telling myself ‘Thanks for taking this time to honor your one and only body and mind.’ From giving myself the opportunity to give thanks from a clear head space, I discovered, instinctively, what that part of my self-care practice meant to me. For me, this took time to become clear, but it started with the simple act of thanking myself for taking time for me.

Perhaps counter-intuitive, try giving up  your self-care for a couple of days. This may help you realize which aspects are the most important, as well as what you feel is missing when you don’t have that self-care practice.

On a personal note, my month of refocusing and rebooting my self-care practice is starting after about 2 months of travel, and as I return home to the United States after being away for almost 2 and a half years. In fact, as you read this, I am on a plane home! I am so excited to be exploring this topic with a community. Whether you all are facing big changes, little changes, or staying steady in your day-to-day, I believe this is one of the most important elements in moving toward a more mindful life.

Community members, you all should have received a Welcome email from me with our themes for the year, and the first February email, which includes a self-care accountability tool that I love! If you haven’t seen these, please let me know by sending an email to happilyherewithcece@gmail.com. Make sure you add that email to your contacts to avoid the messages going to junk mail, and request to join the Happily Here Monthly Mindfulness Community group on Facebook as we start discussions!

This month, community members can look forward to receiving a self-care accountability tool from me, a link to one of my favorite podcast episodes on this theme, and more!

Join this interactive, peer-based, learning community to receive a weekly prompt and additional resources from me, as well as have access to community discussions around our prompts and themes.

Click here to enter your email and join us!

The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series is a blog series, as well as an interactive, peer-based learning community, centered around mindfulness in various aspects of our daily life. Click here for more details about this series.


Join me for The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series


If you are one of my long-time readers, you’ve surely seen Happily Lost grow and evolve many times over the years as we embark on new adventures, or become curious about new things. I love that Happily Lost is a living, breathing blog and that I have the freedom here to explore the many parts of life that I am curious about, and have the opportunity to share that curiousity with my readers.

This year, Happily Lost is growing again! I am opening up the Happily Here section of the blog, where you’ll find the ‘Just Talk’ posts, in which I have explored life’s everyday curiosities over the years, and the new Monthly Mindfulness Community Series.

I have touched on the topic of mindfulness before, in the ‘Just Talk‘ section. I have talked about a Blue Sky Brain,  about living in each of life’s seasons, and about eating mindfully. As my interest in this topic has grown, I am following my curiosity into a year-long series that will not only explore this topic in depth, but create a learning community here on the blog.

What is the The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series?

An interactive, peer-based, virtual learning community, centered around themes of mindfulness in various aspects of our daily lives.

What is Cece’s role, and how will this series look?

During this series, I will be in the roles of facilitator, and peer learner alongside those that choose to sign up and join in the learning community. As the facilitator of this community, here’s what you can expect from me throughout each month:

For all readers:

  •  Introduce the month’s theme in a regular, public blog post on the first Sunday of every month, including one prompt (journaling, thinking, discussion- your choice how you use it) on that theme. We’ll be talking about things like mindful communication, mindful movement, and mindful self-care.
  • Share the takeaways from each month’s theme, based off of our community discussions, in a public, audio post on the blog at the end of each month.

For Community Members:

  • Send you the complete list of monthly themes for the year when you sign up.
  • Email weekly prompts on that month’s theme to help you explore what mindfulness looks like for you in that area of your daily life. I’ll get your thoughts rolling with prompts like ‘Communication is most challenging for me when I feel…..’ or ‘I use self-care as a way to….’
  • Offer additional tools and ‘mini-challenges’ to help you become more mindful in the area we are talking about each month. I’ll give you a tool for self-care accountability one month, and together we’ll do some ‘Spring cleaning’ on our social media sites another month.
  • Manage a private Facebook page, where we can discuss the prompts, share resources, ask questions, and vote on themes for a couple of ‘free’ months throughout the year.

I will not be playing the role of mindfulness coach or teacher. While I am not an expert in this area, I feel that I have a valuable personal perspective to offer on the topic of mindfulness, and am looking forward to learning more as I complete a Yoga Teacher Training this Spring and Summer. That being said, I also know that my family, friends, and other readers have valuable perspectives too, and I’m looking forward to learning from you all. You don’t have to be an expert either to join in the community! During this series, we will all be exploring mindfulness in various areas of our daily lives and sharing our perspectives and insights so we can learn from each other.

Why The Monthly Mindfulness Community Series?

Image credit to: https://www.uhs.umich.edu/files/uhs/field/image/Mindfulness.jpg

Simply put, mindfulness is a way of paying close attention, of bringing awareness into the present moment. If you are curious enough about this series to have read this post this far, you may already know that there is a lot of research out there about the benefits of mindfulness including increased gratitude, less stress, better health, better relationships, and higher productivity.

Everyone has different reasons for wanting to be mindful in their daily lives. I’ve heard people talk about how their cell phone distracts them from time with their kids or significant other, about how they wish they were more in tune with their body, or how they wish they could be a more assertive communicator. When we take the time to focus and practice mindfulness in these areas, we are ‘flexing our mindfulness muscle,’ and strengthening our ability to use it in a variety of situations.

My decision to put a big personal focus on mindfulness this year comes as I am transitioning from life in the slow-paced culture of Mozambique, to life in the fast-paced culture of the U.S., and feeling pretty strong (whirl)winds of change for the coming year. Mindfulness is a tool that helps me ground into my life as it flows and changes, and observe both the world around me and my internal self. It is a constant practice; it is a journey without a destination.

If you are ready to get curious about how mindfulness looks in your daily life, and want the support of a community, come and join the Monthly Mindfulness Community!

Click here to enter your email and sign up!

***Your email is safe with me. I won’t give your email away or fill your inbox with unexpected messages. What you’ll get is what I’ve promised above.

Still not sure if you want to join in? That’s okay! Check out the February posts on Mindful Self-Care and see what you think, or sign up now to receive the prompts and join the community discussions at your own pace. This is your journey!

Looking forward to being Happily Here with you this year.


Cambodia: Best of Angkor Wat Images


From the cool, shady inner hallways to the faraway temple vistas, the 162 hectare – or about 400 acre- temple complex of Angkor Wat is so varied and stunning that words alone would not do it justice.

While the grandeur of the temples in this complex are undoubtedly something to be marveled at, the details in the bas-relief carvings were the most unexpected of Angkor Wat’s treasures for me.

We hired a tuk tuk for the day and just barely scratched the surface of this sprawling temple complex. From the main temple of Angkor Wat, to the many stone faces in Bayon and the strangling figs of Beng Melea, and a few of the smaller temples in between, I hope you’ll enjoy a wander back in time in the images below.


If you’d like to know more about the history of Angkor Wat, click here.

If you’d like an interesting historical fiction read about Cambodia’s Kings during this period, and modern post-war Cambodia, I’d recommend The King’s Last Song.

Cambodia: 5 Things To Do In Kampot


Are you looking for somewhere to take a breather during your Southeast Asia travels? Look to Kampot. Cambodia seems to be a midway point for many travelers on the ‘Banana Pancake Route’ through Southeast Asia, and it’s the perfect place to find a spot to lay your pack for a few days. When we rolled into Kampot to spend some time with family- joining us for various lengths of time on our trip- we quickly got used to vacation mode, after spending about a month in travel mode through Vietnam and other parts of Cambodia. We loved unpacking and staying put, spending a few days doing stuff and a few days soaking up the sun poolside. This little river town is a great place to unwind without getting bored. Check out these 5 things to do in Kampot.

Learn something new at a pepper plantation

We spent a day getting to (it’s a bit out there) and touring La Plantation between Kep and Kampot. The staff here offers free tours in multiple languages, where visitors learn about how pepper is grown and processed, and then have the opportunity to try a variety of peppercorns before taking a walk around the property to see the plants. La Plantation has a little shop full of green, red, black, white, salted – and more-peppercorns. They also have a small restaurant attached to their large deck, a great place to relax, enjoy the quiet and the mountain views. The best way to get to La Plantation without a private vehicle is to hire a tuk tuk for the day. This costs $25, and your driver will take you onward to Kep or to any other stops in the area that you are interested in. We loved that La Plantation had a house for the tuk tuk drivers to hang out in- including a TV and lawn bowling- while visitors were on their tours. We were also impressed by La Plantation’s social component: supporting the local primary school and employing Cambodians as tour guides, cooks, cashiers, and more.

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Enjoying the view from La Plantation’s restaurant, with pepper plants growing up trellises.

Ponder the Durian fruit statue

There is a roundabout in Kampot that is adorned with an impressively large statue of a Durian fruit. At the base of the gigantic Durian are other, smaller fruits. The walkway around the fruits is an indicator that it warrants a visit: here you will see a near-constant stream of people posing for photos with the fruits. I don’t quite understand this statue, or why the Durian seems to be the King of the fruits, but it’s strange enough to be worth seeing.

Get messy eating Kep crab

Kep is a beach town about an hour away from Kampot, famous for it’s crab fresh out of the Gulf of Thailand. The Kep market itself is full of crab, and it’s not hard to spot the wire traps along the beachfront. While we didn’t get a taste of Kep crab during our short visit to Kep, we did indulge in this local delicacy in Kampot on New Year’s Eve while we watched an endless stream of Roman Candles light up the night sky above the river. Being the landlocked Coloradoans that we are, we were unsure as to how to best get at the meat when our crabs arrived in tact and laid gently atop a bed of veggies. We cracked and dug, coming up with messier fingers after each bite. As it always does with crab, it felt like we got a few nibbles for a lot of work in the end, but that’s just the way it goes for people who don’t really know how to eat a whole crab.


Test your ‘go with it’ skills during a traditional Cambodian massage

All through the streets of Kampot you’ll find salons and massage parlors. With achy bodies from bus travel, a massage seemed like the perfect way for our group of 5 to loosen up, relax and unwind. The loosening up part soon became a necessity of surviving the massage, as I tried my best to be a ‘wet noodle,’ offering no resistance to the woman massaging, stretching, and gently beating my body with her tiny fists from bottom to top. While it’s possible that we left feeling more tense than when we entered, the Cambodian massage was a worthwhile experience and left us giggling the rest of the evening while we compared stories from our 60 minutes under the hands of sweet Cambodian women. : Alex’s talking on her phone, mine burping and at one point ripping the towel off to expose my breasts, and our friend Jorden’s leaving a gnarly thigh bruise on her that we wouldn’t notice until the next day. My best advice for enjoying the Cambodian massage: just go with it.

Find peace on the river

The Kampot River, while it still has many conservation challenges, is much cleaner and much more inviting than the muddy Mekong we had seen in southern Vietnam. We spent one day kayaking up the river- don’t think ‘whitewater,’ think ‘narrow lake’- and through some mangrove forests and back channels. We rented our kayaks from the lodge we stayed at. As we saw many kayakers along the river, it seems that a number of the lodges offer this service. The next day, we spent the late afternoon on a stand-up paddleboarding trip down the river and into the Gulf of Thailand with SUP Asia. We boated part of the way down the river before receiving a lesson in SUP basics and hopping on the boards.The trip was laid-back and leisurely and perfectly appropriate for those in our group that had never done stand-up paddleboarding, but still fun for those that had. We stopped for a while to play around with yoga on the boards, and once in the Gulf we stopped on a small island for snacks and drinks, and to watch the sunset. We then jumped on the boat to head back up river. A trip with SUP Asia has the added benefit of supporting sustainable tourism in Kampot. The company hires and trains locals, organizes river clean-ups and mangrove planting in the area, and works with local youth on conservation education.


If this doesn’t scream ‘relaxation,’ I don’t know what does. My bro-in-law looking much more suave than he really is.