“SANDOS CARACOL: A Simple Woman’s Review of a Most Excellent Adventure.”

Sandos Caracol, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Like so many of the best people in this world, Sandos Caracol in Playa del Carmen may not look like much by way of outward appearances but, once you go beyond its understated exterior, step inside and begin to explore, a whole new world opens up to you!

This eco-friendly resort stands by its motto that “the only thing we should not be recycling is negative energy!”. The creators of this resort did a fantastic job of preserving so much of the original rainforest/jungle on this large, oceanfront property. The people who work here are not only friendly and helpful, but also some of the hardest working men and women that I have ever seen – tirelessly and meticulously cleaning and scrubbing, day in and day out, so as to keep things sanitary, amdist all of the free roaming wildlife, as well as, to prevent the jungle foliage itself from quickly overtaking this place.

They believe in protecting the environment and proactively becoming as self-sustaining as possible, with solar panels on most of the buildings in order to generate electricity and organic/inorganic recycling waste bins set up every few feet along all walking paths. They have their own free range chickens to supply their eggs, as well as, their own gardens for fresh, organic vegetables and herbs.

They invite local vendors on site most evenings, offering a variety of authentic foods, desserts, hair braiding and handmade clothing, jewelry, toys and crafts. They also prevent the “usual level” of hasseling of guests along their beachfront areas, which we greatly appreciated.

They cater to and welcome families, with multiple pools, beach areas, an indoor and outdoor play area, scheduled activities and a water park – but also provide a much appreciated reprieve from this energy and noise by sectioning off multiple pool and beach areas for adults only.

The beaches are more natural than groomed, but they do an incredible job of raking the sand of natural debris and clearing the seaweed from the water and shore. Much of the ocean is on a coral reef, which is excellent for snorkeling and discovering beautiful conch shells and sea urchins, but can be pretty painful on your feet if you choose to swim bare. They do their best to keep a few pathways clear for people to wade into the water and float on small, soft, sandy bottom sections in the sea.

We were lucky enough to view beautiful sunrises over the Carribean Sea, but sunsets were obstructed by the thick rainforest. It rained heavily late at night a few times but was beautiful, bright and sunny all day, every day, during our stay.

The restrooms at this resort are clean, the food is fantastic, and the Mai Tais are phenomenal!🍹

There is much to do here, with miles and miles of walking paths and trails – a runner is 💯 safe, day or night.

They have bikes and segways available for use and SEVEN cenotes that beckon you to come and explore, with Cenote Christalino being the largest and most popular.

Cenote Christalino

There are protected mayan ruins, a sacred tree and sacred cenote – all of which you may admire and explore, but with zero tolerance for disrespect or damage.

The Sacred Tree
Cenote Sagrado

There are multiple water sports and boats available for use, as well as jet skis for rent, if you so choose. They have scheduled entertainment in the main theatre every night and please pay attention to everything, everywhere you walk – because the wildlife, themselves, are pretty entertaining!

There are monkeys, raccoons, rabbits and coati. Cats and dogs, fish and turtles, parrots and peacock. Albatross and pelicans, lizards and iguanas. Donkey, deer, ducks, guinea hens, chickens, sheep, and some pretty spunky looking squirrels!

If you choose to visit, please take my advice, you will need water shoes, a snorkel mask with breathing tube, and a lot of bug spray – all of which can be purchased at the gift shop right on site!

The only downside we found was that the check in/check out process is lengthy and, at times, confusing. Even as vacation club members, with just one staff member working inside the Royal Elite office, it took quite some time. If you choose to book a trip here, you will need to factor this detail into your plans upon arrival and, more importantly, when planning your departure.

All in all, we give Sandos Caracol 4/5 stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Life, itself, is the greatest adventure… vacations are just our chance to experience it more fully!🤍

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Ghost Stories: The Birthday Party.”

“As traumatized children we always dreamed that someone would come and save us. We never dreamed that it would, in fact, be ourselves, as adults.”

Alice Little
My 3rd Birthday, 1981.

I can only remember celebrating one birthday, growing up. It was my 3rd birthday, back in the summer of ‘81. Mom woke us up early, after dad had gone to work. They were not getting along too well, in those days, but they did their best not to let it show. Dad worked all day, every day, morning till night, with the exception of Sunday, when he was home by 6pm. Today was a Sunday, so “there’s no time to lose”, she said with a look of excitement in her eyes.

My sister and I crawled out of bed and followed our mom downstairs. I remember feeling confused, but in complete awe, of the pretty pink and blue streamers we found decorating the dining room area of our home. There was a white cake on the table with my name on it, next to the most beautiful purple and gold unicorn head that I have ever seen! There were party hats and favors, snack bowls and kool-aid. When we turned around, we saw a homemade clown face, cut out and pieced together from construction paper, taped to the wall behind our front door.

“What’s THAT?”, we asked, excited by our suspicion that it was some sort of game.

“THAT,” our mom said, hiding her hands behind her back, with the proudest of smiles upon her face, “is a game. Kind of like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, except YOU get to pin the NOSE on the Clown!”. She now revealed the items she’d been hiding in her hands – a blindfold and a big, red circle cut from construction paper. Scotch tape had been applied to the back, and we immediately recognized it as a nose to be applied to the face of the clown that was hanging on the wall.

We began to laugh and jump up and down excitedly, taking the items from her hands. My sister tied the blindfold around my eyes, placed her hands on my shoulders, and began to spin me around. I staggered and stumbled, then made my best attempt to locate the clown face and apply his nose. As I pulled the blindfold from my face, I caught a glimpse of my sister moving the red circle from the wall and placing it onto the center of clown’s face. “You did it!”, she cried out, jumping up and down and clapping.

Mom told us to “go get ready” because everyone would be here soon. I had no idea who “everyone” was, but I was super excited to be celebrating my birthday! We ran upstairs to change clothes and my sister let me try on her prettiest dress. It was silky soft and white with little pink and green flowers (or watermelons?) all over it. The skirt was full and would fly out and swoosh around my legs when I’d spin around like a ballerina. I danced in front of mom’s big round makeup mirror, admiring this dress, despite the fact that it was still too big on me. I plopped down on the floor with the telephone from off of mom’s dresser. I picked up the receiver and dialed “0”. When the operator answered, I told her that it was my birthday. She asked how old I was and I told her that “I’m THREE now!”, watching my reflection in the mirror as I held up three fingers, as if she could see. I told her about the party, the clown game, and my purple unicorn cake. I told her about the dress my sister let me wear and how everybody is coming to play and that she should come too. She said she was sorry she had to miss it, but that she had to work all day. She then asked me if there was someone I would like to call to tell about my birthday, but I couldn’t think of anyone. Just then I heard the doorbell ring so I told her I had to go. I hung up the phone and ran downstairs to see who had arrived.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I remember that it was hot. I had to ditch my sister’s dress. I remember a lot of kids – some I knew, some we were meeting for the first time. I remember my mom’s friends and how they sang to me and cheered as I tried to blow out the candles – but the things kept sparking and relighting, as mom laughed and finally told me that it was a joke. The cake was a delicious marble of chocolate and vanilla that my mom had made herself, and the icing tasted like marshmallow! The clown game was fun and everybody took a turn.

My mom’s friend, Andy, bought me a ginormous purple stuffed animal snake and all the kids climbed on it as we “rode” it like a flying dragon outside and onto the sidewalk. Up, down, and all around the block we rode, and it was so much fun!

When my mom called out to us, we returned home and were told to help clean up. Dad would be coming home soon and she didn’t want him to know about the party. We bagged up all of the streamers, tore down the clown from off the wall, and emptied everyone’s plates into the trash. My sister and I went to take a bath while mom & her friends hung out in our parents bedroom, just across the hall. We heard them laughing, and could smell their beer and cigarette smoke. My sister bathed much faster than I and was already in her jammies and downstairs waiting when dad walked through the door.

I remember walking slowly down the stairs, holding an elastic hair tie with the image of a brown haired doll, wearing a pretty blue dress. It was a gift from my mom’s friend, Gina. As I looked over the banister, I saw my sister sitting on our Dad’s lap. He looked sad, or mad… or perhaps maybe both? My sister was very quiet.

“Where’s your mother?”, he asked.

“Upstairs, with Andy and Gina.”, I answered. I tried to show him my hair tie, but he wasn’t interested. He set my sister down and stood up, heading for the stairs. I started to run after him, but my sister stopped me, placing a finger over her lips. “Daddy’s mad.”, she said. “They shouldn’t be up there.”

I really didn’t understand at the time, but apparently my sister knew, that Andy had a crush on our mom and was trying to be her boyfriend. Gina was gay and, even though I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, dad had zero tolerance for this. It didn’t change the fact that I liked Gina a lot and I knew she was my mom’s good friend.

We stood at the bottom of the stairs as Dad interrupted the party going on upstairs. We heard arguing and the shuffling of feet. Mom sounded upset. Andy and Gina exited the room, walked down the stairs, and said goodbye to us both. They left the house as my sister and I ventured up the steps. We could hear our parents arguing, as we peeked inside the door. Dad yelled at us to go to our room and, as we ran and jumped up on our bed, he closed the door and locked us in.

As the arguing continued, I began to cry. It escalated to screaming and I heard the slam of a door followed by a loud slap. Mom had gone into the bathroom, but dad had followed. I was prying on our bedroom door, trying to unlatch the lock. Mom was crying, dad was yelling and, as the lock released and the door cracked open, I saw our dad dragging our mom out of the bathroom and hurling her body down the flight of stairs. I stood there stunned for a moment, almost paralyzed with fear. But then, instead of running out there to help my mom, who I could see crumpled up on the floor at the base of the stairs, I turned and ran to our bedroom window. I climbed out onto the roof and started screaming as loud as I could, begging for someone to help – anyone to come and save my mom!

I contemplated jumping off of the roof or trying to climb down the railing and onto the porch below, but my sister was telling me not to be stupid. She grabbed my hand and pulled me back inside the house. I went back to our bedroom door and saw my mom slowly climbing back up the stairs. I ran to her, refusing to look at my dad as he stood in that hallway, completely silent. She walked me back into our bedroom and laid down on the bed, holding me as I cried. My sister climbed up and laid down too, holding our mom. Then Dad came in and laid down, holding my sister. All of us, right there, in the same bed. Our parents continued to bicker back and forth and so I started to scream. The room fell silent as mom held onto me, stroking my hair. I sucked my thumb and, eventually, fell asleep.

The next morning when we woke, dad had already left for work. Mom didn’t look so good, but she smiled at us anyway. She said we were going to visit Aunt Gale, so we got ourselves dressed and jumped in the car. We weren’t at Aunt Gale’s for very long before she was packing us up in the car again… but, this time, we wound up at the hospital. Turns out, mom’s arm was badly broken from the altercation with dad last night. The police were called and the adults were called in, one by one, “to give a statement”.

My sister was convinced that our parents were getting a divorce. My cousin said that our dad was probably going to jail. I was hungry and trying to find a few quarters on the floor with which I could buy a candy bar.

I tried to stay with my mom after they had immobilized her arm, but the police officers wouldn’t let me. They said they needed to “speak with her in private”. My Uncle had now arrived and he took me out to the waiting room. I sat in a corner, trying not to cry, scared that I was never going to see my mom again. That’s when dad walked through the door.

The entire room fell silent. No one spoke and no one smiled. They just stared at him or stood up and walked away. I jumped up and ran to him, climbing up his big body and hugging him like a teddy bear. He held me tight and whispered in my ear, “I’m so sorry, kiddo. Do you hate me?”, at which point I saw his tears. Never have I ever seen my dad cry before this very moment, and my heart ached terribly for him. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember wiping his eyes and kissing his cheek, wishing that my own forgiveness could somehow be enough to fix this. We sat together, in the corner of that waiting room, away from all the rest of our family, and shared a cup of hot chocolate from the hospital’s vending machine.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, our parents sought counsel through their church. They credited the elders and their god for helping them to save their marriage – and themselves.

After that, we no longer celebrated birthdays or holidays in our house. Our parents chose to become serious followers of their faith, raising us under the influence of a very strict religious organization that preached all glory and honor were to be bestowed upon God, and never upon mere humans.

As a child, it set me apart. It alienated me from a lot of friends in our neighborhood and especially at school. I upheld my family’s religious standards, even fought heatedly, at times, to defend them – but, underneath it all, I really just couldn’t understand.

If humans really are God’s most prized creation, made in His image, how could the celebration of them or their lives detract any beauty, or glory, or honor away from Him, as the grand creator and giver of this great gift of Life?

I questioned this explanation on many occasions and was told that Jesus Christ, himself, never celebrated his birthday… or, if he did, it wasn’t mentioned in the Bible. According to my parents and the elders in our congregation, the only two birthday celebrations mentioned in the bible were that of the Egyptian Pharaoh who ordered the hanging death of his baker, and that of King Herod, where he ordered the killing of John the Baptist and had the man’s head delivered to him on a platter. In the reasoning of my parents and that of their church, this indicated that “bad things” were associated with birthday parties and, therefore, we wanted nothing to do with them. As a child, I just couldn’t understand… but, then again, “bad things” happened at my birthday party too, so perhaps they were right?

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“May You Never…”

“Your job is not to judge. Your job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Your job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the hurting.”

Joel Osteen

May you never be the reason why someone who
loves to sing, doesn’t anymore.

Or why someone who dressed so differently, now wears standard clothing.

Or why someone who always spoke so vividly of their dreams, is now silent or solemn about them.

May you never be the reason for someone giving up on a part of themselves because you were demotivating, non-appreciative or, even worse, sarcastic about it.

On the flip side though… you may also never know how you inspired someone to believe that they could, when they were doubting if they can.

Uplifted them, when their confidence was low, insecurities weighing them down.

Encouraged them to keep going, when perhaps they were just about to quit.

Or caused them to smile amidst their darkest moments, as they were wondering if they would ever again feel the light of day or the warmth of the sun.

We can be all silent killers – but also silent heroes.

When you are kind and true and authentically YOU, you unknowingly give others the courage they need to, also, be themselves.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Ghost Stories: The Letter – Chaos in Bloom.”

(“The Letter”, 2002)

“I was told what was important, before I had a chance to decide what was important to me. I was given a religion, before I could decide in what it was I wanted to believe. I was told who was in power, before I had a chance to decide the type of systems I thought should lead. I was given a social class, before I had a chance to decide to class myself as I deemed. I was told what was already impossible, before I had a chance to decide what it is I’d like to dream. I’ve been told since day one what it’s all supposed to mean. But I’ve had the chance to decide it’s not what it once seemed.”

Stacie Martin

I was born wild – a bit of a rebel child, immediately questioning everyone and everything around me. Initially, I was celebrated for this… my mom often stating to her friends that I possessed the untamable spirit of a wild horse, running free. She admired me for this, calling me “wise beyond my years”. It wasn’t much longer, however, before my parents chose to become more devout in their religious faith. In doing so, they refused to let me continue on this way or to grow in just any direction.

Indoctrinating me with their rigidly dictated beliefs, I became something much like an espalier – the distance between the vine and the thing that trains it almost imperceptible. Even though I was a child, the fact that I allowed this to continue for so long perhaps speaks just as poorly of me? Whereas I was once the girl who questioned every reality and so-called truth, I quickly became silenced and, eventually, shunned.

For the nearly two decades that followed my leaving of this religious organization, even my own thinking was framed in apology. I would tip toe around others, make myself feel small, apologize for the space I’d take up. I did my best to blend in or, better yet, fade out into the background, like white noise, rarely ever drawing attention to myself. I would occasionally engage in small talk, but barely scratch the surface of anything with depth. I could accept a compliment, but never truly believe it. Trusting myself and the world around me became this never ending mountain that I have had to climb.

I couldn’t help believing that my dad was the reason for every feeling I had – the comfort, but also the anger. The silence that ensued between us that cold November night was much like the change in the weather – something that rendered us both powerless, but in a way that was hard to take personally. I could tell by the way my skin felt, inadequate for the task of holding everything in, that I was going to write that letter.

I disassociated myself from the toxic faith in which I had been raised fully knowing, yet still so unprepared for, the consequences that would ensue.

Like a person about to break the law, I felt a thrill at the decision I’d made – that, however briefly, “the rules” did not apply and I was free from the forces that had circumscribed me for so very long.

I dropped that letter in the mailbox and drove away… not quite certain that lightning was not about to strike me down, as the first taste of ultimate freedom pulsated through my veins.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Forgiveness & Grace.”

“As children, we ask big questions to try and make sense of the world. As adults, we offer answers without any proof. I now understand, there isn’t any single answer. We must all walk our own path and find our own truth. But I figure, if I go my way and you go yours, we’ll all wind up in the same place in the end.”

It strikes me how we live our lives, determined to end the cycle – whatever “cycle” we so choose to blame our ancestors for placing us in. We think we have all the answers. We believe we’ve found the way. We vow to give our kids a better life, to do better than our own parents did.

We come into parenthood with the best of intentions, armed with the knowledge of all the things our parents did wrong and everything we think we’ll do different. But what we fail to realize is the fact that times have also changed since we were kids, therefore, so must our methods of parenting – and then, even if we do, the outcome is still not guaranteed and, unfortunately, is not always what we’ve intended.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican, pro- or anti-vaccine, into homeschooling, virtual learning, or doing school in-person – raising kids in any day or age is a Herculean task. Just as soon as you start to find your footing, it seems as if the earth shifts again. Doing “the best thing for your family” seems like a frustrating impossibility, riddled with severe consequences. How are we ever supposed to raise strong, resilient, independent adult children in a world like this?

There has never been a time in our world’s wild history that has ever yielded the “perfect circumstances” in which to raise the “perfect child”. And, for the record, there’s no such thing as perfect children – nor any perfect parents.

Regardless of when this great responsibility bestows itself upon you, you’re going to do the best that you can – and you’re going to make mistakes. That’s just the way that it is. Don’t beat yourself up over it, that’s not going to help. Give yourself some credit. Allow yourself some grace.

I was talking with a friend recently, who is currently struggling with her teenage daughter. The arguments and behaviors she relayed to me brought back memories of myself and my own daughter. The funny thing is, while our life stories are a lot alike in so many ways, the decisions she and I ultimately made as mothers were completely different – yet, the end result is still very much the same. So, again, I implored her to give herself some grace.

It’s easy to look back and question decisions
you have made in the past, but it’s unfair to punish yourself for them. You can’t blame yourself for not knowing back then what you know now – and, the truth is, you made every decision for a very specific reason, based on what you believed was best at that time. As we grow up, we learn and evolve. Maybe the person you are now would have done things differently back then? Hindsight is always 20/20, but you can’t live your life well if you’re constantly looking behind you. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made when you simply didn’t know any better and understand that, no matter what, no mother is a better mother for your child than YOU!

The truth is, you can not predict the future or foresee what the ripple effect of your actions may be. You’ve got to trust in your journey, make the best decisions you can based on the knowledge you have at the time, and hold onto the hope that it will all work out in the end. The rest is out of your control.

Let’s be honest – no mother is ever completely a child’s idea of what a mother should be – and I suppose it works the other way around as well. Looking back on my own family life and upbringing, despite everything, we didn’t do badly by one another. We did as well as most. I wish my mother were here so I could tell her that I finally know this – so I could tell her that I forgive her…and then, one day, ask my own daughter to forgive me.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“The Way Forward.”

On a very deep level, I am finding that I reject the notion that we must always remain in a constant state of doing. We have such serious focus in the spiritual community around the need to heal. We spend so much time in a constant consciousness of:

  • “I’m not there yet”
  • “I’m working on myself”
  • “Who I am, is broken”


This “awareness” continually keeps us seeking rather than accepting. Rather than loving ourselves, we pick ourselves apart. We become consumed with all the work we still have yet to do, rather than acknowledging our quirky bad ass selves and appreciating every little thing that we already are.

Those committed to personal growth will always remain cognizant and continually strive to improve – but do not let this admirable desire to pursue personal growth, in fact, become your affliction. Release this iron grip that you’ve placed upon yourself and the expectation that you must remain in a constant state of motion, always striving to become more or better or different. Sometimes you just need to relax and appreciate the hard things you’ve already accomplished, as well as your willingness to continue on in your spiritual journey. How can one ever maintain or enjoy a state of inner peace if they are in a constant state of unrest, plagued by this incessant desire to do more and be more?

Pause for a moment, breathe, and just BE.

Trust me, a person who has been on this path does not become more selfish or self centered as we integrate. On the contrary, when we relax and learn to love and accept ourselves in all our flaws, we soften – we allow ourselves and, therefore, in turn, allow each other. Afterall, love is what actually heals us – not necessarily noticing every single thing that we think is wrong with us or behaviors that require work for us to unlearn. In this way, the idea of “healing” is, in fact, a form of separation – an idea that you need to be something that you currently are not, and this continually pushes away consciousness for present wholeness.

This isn’t to highlight or diminish the actual experience of gathering the pieces of your heart through a healing process but eventually, on this path, you will get to a place of enough – when you’ve had ENOUGH of healing and you decide, instead, to simply accept and love exactly who, what, where, and how you already are.

How about – let’s heal the idea that “healing” is even needed? And, instead , move into and through this paradigm by celebrating the F*ck out of everything – because celebrating your incredible self, as you already are, really is THE WAY FORWARD!

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“The Ultimate Friendships.”

I don’t have any magic to give you. I’m here to lead you back to a place where you can remember your own… because that’s what friends are for!🤍

I’ve got a thing for the type of people who are undeniably themselves.

The ones who offer up their friendship with no strings attached, no hidden agendas – no tit for tat, no this for that. The friendships formed simply for companionship and camaraderie. The people who exude sunshine and grace, silver linings amidst the intermittent storm clouds of Life.

The ones who have nothing to gain from loving you and, with whom, you can be your most authentic self – no brave facade facing the world, no explanation or justification.

The ones too busy loving you to ever find time to judge you – who help repair whatever is broken, heal whatever hurts and never hold anything against you. The ones capable of patiently acknowledging the simple fact that human imperfection plagues us all – not a single one of us has walked a completely blameless, straight and narrow path, free of shortcomings and mistakes.

The ones you can be silly with, completely real with – raw, uncensored and unfiltered. The ones who are always up for an adventure – who, regardless of their age, refuse to ever grow old. They innately know how to navigate life intentionally, while never taking anything too seriously.

The ones who will rise up in the morning, with no incessant need or desire for “productivity”, and sip coffee while watching the sun rise. The ones who appreciate the metaphorical beauty of every sunset, whether pristine or a random mixture of chaotic colors. The ones who marvel at the stars, admiring their ability to shine brightly against a sky full of darkness.

The ones who stand by your side, steadfast and strong, as you observe and question this world, all of its happenings and life experiences along the way. The ones who help you reason your way through them, knowing that neither one of you will ever truly know the WHY behind any of it – because the most definitive answers are almost always, ultimately, out of this world. Still, they speculate with you, the best that they can, understanding that interpretation is always subject to our own personal perceptions.

The ones who see in color and feel vibrations, who trust their gut and encourage you to always trust yours – the sixth sense that is rarely ever wrong.

The ones with whom you can talk incessantly about all the magical and mundane details of Life – or share in the comfort and simplicity of mutual silence, knowing that not every detail requires discussion and not every topic is deserving of speech.

I’ve got a thing for these types of people – the ones who are unapologetically themselves. The ones with messy hair and even messier souls, who wear their hearts on their sleeves and have passion in their tears. The ones with poetry in their heart and song lyrics running through their brain.

The ones who laugh at their own jokes and rejoice in their own success. The people who fight for what they believe in and never let their spirit settle. The kind of people who have the strength to remain soft, yet let their fire burn hard. The ones who possess the mysterious ability to sense precisely what is stuck or wounded in you, who often appear unexpectedly, with uncanny timing and, through the energy of their presence, restore your spirit and leave the world feeling alive and remarkable once more.

The ones you love for all the “right” reasons… as well as the ones you love “just because”. The ones you can not describe with words because their aura is so vast that it can not be contained. These kinds of people do not arrive accidentally; they bring with them a particular gift and illumination.

These are the kind of people I fall in love with. These are the kind of people I want in my life. These are the people who become my friends.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Don’t Wait!”

“I woke up one day and realized that I could do better. I could create a life that I love, travel more if I wanted it bad enough, take control of my health, and find weird and wonderful friends to go on adventures with. I started walking toward that truth and I never looked back.”

– Brooke Hampton

Three years ago, my life was completely different. I had hit rock bottom, personally and professionally.

I could have chosen to remain stuck there, drowning in grief, blindsided by PTSD, and succumbing to complete and utter professional burn out – but I knew that I deserved better. I knew that I was capable of more. I chose to step forward from that place and, once I did, I never looked back.

Was is scary? Of course!

Was it uncomfortable? Absolutely!

Change is almost always scary, and growth is most definitely uncomfortable. Both are time consuming processes and results do not happen overnight. You’ve got to put in the time. You’ve got to do the work. But, when the metamorphosis begins, you’ll be so thankful that you did.

If this resonates with you, even just a little bit – what exactly are you waiting for?

Just three years after completely changing my own, I can find no better words to describe the urgency in pursuing a better life for yourself than by quoting my friend, Tony Garcia, in a piece that he’s already perfectly written:

“Don’t wait…

…until you’re older or bolder or told you can.

…until you’re ready or unafraid or completely certain.

…until tomorrow comes or the time is right or you have it all figured out.

…until a door opens or a door closes or a door finally appears.

Don’t wait…

…to write your book, to write your song, to write your love letter.

…to take the trip, to take the leap, to take the day off.

…to quit the job that doesn’t work, to quit the art of procrastinating, to quit the doubting of yourself.

…to launch your business, to launch your product, to launch yourself.

Don’t wait…

…to speak your apology, to speak your gratitude, to speak your I love you.

…to chase the clouds, to chase the storm, to chase the dream.

…to create your masterpiece, to create your vision, to create your life.

…to spread a little hope, to spread a little kindness, to spread a little love.

Don’t wait…

…to do something epic, to do something impossible, to do something memorable.

…to dance with wild abandon, to dance with your love, to dance with the wind.

…to use the good dishes, to use the good linens, to use the good within you.

…to start climbing, to start flying, to start living.

Don’t wait…

…for life is short and fragile and finite.

…and before you know it, most of it is behind you. Because you can’t put time on hold.

…yet, so many live their life in a constant holding pattern.

…simply waiting.

Don’t wait.”

If this resonates with you, the time is NOW.

Don’t wait anymore.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

”Faces of Death.”

Today, I was (almost) asked “the question”.

The question that runs through every person’s mind when they’re face to face with a Paramedic whose resume harbors nearly two decades of field experience.

The question that flashes with realization first in their eyes, then spreads across their face and, occasionally, presents itself in the words spoken from their ignorant mouths.

It starts with:

“Wow. You must have seen so much!”

The question that often follows:

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”

This is the question that every seasoned Paramedic dreads. The question whose answer, once spoken, can never be unheard. The answers are things our minds can never unsee – emblazoned in our memories and seared into our hearts. Flashbacks filled with unprocessed emotions as painful as each of the moments in which these things occurred.

The saddest part is, there is no single answer to this particular question – as a million memories of calls gone by flash through my mind in rapid succession. The answer I might choose to give may actually even surprise you.

It is not always the most gory scene – a plane crash or train derailment. Vehicle crashes complete with mangled bodies, twisted metal, tales of heavy entrapment and intricate extrication. It’s not always the gunshots or stab wounds, or bar room brawls that spilled out onto the street in the darkest of nights. It’s not the blackened face or elongated neck of the man who hung himself from the ceiling in his garage – or the disturbing fact that he all he had to do was stand up on his own two feet in order to save his own life.

The worst is found when you focus your attention upon the details, themselves. The heartbreak of a man left to face “the golden years” of life alone – so broken down in his sadness and heartache that he gives away all of his earthly belongings and writes a note so sound with his decision, certain in his belief that he’d be with her, once again. The way he warned his cleaning lady, rather than surprising her, by posting a sign on the door of his home to be seen before she entered:

“Body in garage. Call Police.”

The way he meticulously laid down that plastic tarp for easy clean up, penning an apology to all of us responding, for any mess he may leave behind, as he placed the barrel of that gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Why would you want to know of such things?

Like the man so distraught over a financial crisis and loss of his business that he swallowed a handful of pills, washed it down with a bottle of bleach and ran rampant through the streets, screaming, as his internal organs began to shut down and he died a very slow and painful death.

Or the limp and lifeless body of the child who suffocated inside a hope chest, following a game of hide and seek gone terribly wrong. Or the two unsupervised toddlers, who climbed up on an unsecured dresser, being subsequently crushed to death beneath its fallen weight.

Why would want me to paint this picture or have these images parading inside your mind?

The distressed mother who attempted to “accidentally” drown her child in a bath tub.

The fractured face of young, up and coming model whose jealous boyfriend inflicted irreparable damage with his fists and the help of a Louisville slugger.

Picking up the pieces, strewn across a quarter mile, of a person who stepped in front of a train.

Or the elderly woman, suffering from a “simple nosebleed” who, over the course of the next hour, continued to bleed out into the bathroom sink at the assisted care facility where she lives, proudly boasting the title of “Mayor of the West Wing”, where she had won the facility’s “Dance Off” competition the night before. At 99 years of age, she is sharp as a tack, fiesty and independent, full of detailed stories about her world travels and exciting escapades experienced in the days of her youth. She holds stable throughout the rapid transport to the hospital, despite your inability to control her bleeding. But, as your partner backs into the ambulance bay and prepares to help you unload her, she looks up at the sky and lets out the biggest sigh:

“Oh, Honey! Is this what it’s like? This is nice!”

And, just like that, she is gone… leaving you stunned and speechless, with nothing more than the emesis basin holding every drop of blood her tiny body had contained.

Why do these details fascinate you?

The popping of a person’s ribs and the snapping of their sternum, palpable beneath your hands as you compress into it, performing CPR, knowing that the breaking of their bones is a small price to pay for the opportunity to save their life. Eventually, however, you remove your hands from that person’s chest, look into their dead eyes, as their family and friends surround you, anxiously watching every move you make and you just know… there’s nothing more that you can do.

Don’t you realize that it broke my heart when I delivered that infant, born at just 22 weeks gestation, and I heard him cry? How I held him in the palm of hand and worked to resuscitate him for nearly 45 minutes straight, only to find out that no help is coming because “protocol states, it’s not a viable pregnancy until 24 weeks”. How I was forced to let him go – just stand there and watch as his tiny heart beat so hard against the wall of his skeletal chest… until it didn’t anymore.

Or how I was ridiculed for stalling in the Cath Lab hallway, giving verbal report to the receiving cardiac team, while providing my patient and her husband the opportunity for what would later be remembered as their one last kiss.

Or that hot and hazy 4th of July when, upon calling back into the county and being assigned a post, we came upon an 8 year old in distress, waving us down in the middle of the street. His hair was red and wet, matted down with sweat. He was covered in dirt, wearing only a pair of red and blue shorts – no shirt and no shoes.

“Lady, can you help? It’s my mom – she can’t swim!”

It took nearly an hour to locate the scene along the riverbank from which this child had run, in search of help. It took another hour to assemble river rescue and execute their search, locating her body beneath the murky water. I will never forget the striking resemblance between this woman and her son – same fiery red hair, same pale green eyes. It will take my entire lifetime to forget the look of betrayal on that young child’s face as we carried her lifeless body up out of the river, through the woods, and placed her in my Ambulance for transport to the morgue – my words of reassurance to him echoing in my mind as I had held his little hand along that riverbank, praying to a God I’m not even sure I believe in, begging for some miraculously better outcome than the one I, inevitably, knew would follow.

Can’t you see that a piece of my soul died along with them? That no amount of time will ever make any of these things “alright”?

The placing of a needle through the submental portion of your patient’s neck, administering Narcan through the vasculature beneath their tongue, because their jaw is clenched down, containing a mouthful of vomit, and they have no adequate veins left in their arms, hands, legs, feet or neck in which to place an IV. It’s the moment when they wake up, insisting that they did nothing, and then sign out of the hospital AMA only to repeat this cycle again a week later and die.

It’s performing conscious BVM ventilations on a patient who is struggling to breathe – and that awkward moment when they lock their eyes on yours in an uncomfortable mixture of silent, somber communication and gratitude.

It’s strategically placing a large bore needle through the chest wall of a woman who looks like your grandmother, decompressing her fragile, collapsed lung, temporarily restoring her ability to breathe.

Or the moment when those bullets, fists, and blades are turned upon you – and suddenly you are no longer racing to the scene to save someone else, but rather, in a race for your own personal safety and the safety of your partner.

It’s the terrified cardiac patient who attempts to strangle you with your own stethoscope because he believes you’re not doing enough to help him or save his life.

Or the irrational psych patient who breaks through their restraints, kicks you in the chest and again in the throat, as you struggle to breathe and get away safely while they continue to advance, threatening to kill you.

The retired veteran suffering from PTSD, after being held captive as a POW, who wakes up startled, in a fight for his life, sees you as the enemy and squares off in preparation for battle. It’s that terrifying look in his eyes that causes you to jump out the side door of a moving ambulance and lock him inside the box until police can arrive and assist you with backup.

“What’s a nice girl like me, doing in a place like this?” (2019)

Delivering a baby, in the backseat of car, through the leg hole of an oversized pair of shorts, to a 15 year old who refuses to even look at, let alone hold, her newborn daughter the entire way to the hospital. It’s walking out of that ER, speaking with the patient’s grandma (her legal guardian) who never even knew the girl was pregnant and realizing that, had that bystander not been walking by, had they not noticed this teenager giving birth, and had they not called 911… this infant quite possibly would have ended up inside the dumpster in that alleyway across the street.

It’s arguing with the patient about to be transported to a level one trauma center, who regains consciousness and wishes to refuse, just as the medical helicopter is landing. It’s the look on her face when you tell her that she was unconscious for nearly 15 minutes straight, as you worked to extricate her from the wreckage… and the heartbreak that follows as reality sets in with the news of her friend, pronounced dead, in the passenger seat beside her.

It’s locking eyes with your patient or their family, their faces so close to yours, and absorbing all of their unspoken emotions – the fear, the pain, the terror, the heartbreak. It’s taking all of that fear and pain and terror and heartbreak and transforming it into a reassuring smile or randomly awkward joke that lets them know that it’s all going to be alright – even when you have no way of knowing if it will, in fact, ever be alright again.

Like the time a young woman locked herself in the tiny bathroom of a local bar, injected heroin into her veins, and collapsed on the floor, completely blocking your ability to break in and save her. It’s listening to the ticking of the old clock on the wall, as you wait for the fire department to arrive with an ax to break down the doorframe, knowing that each minute that passes by equates to more and more death of this patient’s brain tissue, thereby decreasing her chances for survival. It’s breaking down that door’s barrier, gaining access to her pulseless, apneic body and working swiftly to resuscitate her, as her family arrives at the scene, enmeshing their own energy into this dire scenario. It’s being successful with your skill set and in your endeavors to reignite the automaticity of her heart… only to find out, a few weeks later, that although her heart is beating and she is independently breathing, the damage to her brain was severe and irreparable. She is completely incoherent – unable to eat, speak, sit, stand, walk or follow any commands. She will live out the rest of her life, practically lifeless, confined to a bed – her days filled with nothing more than diaper changes, tube feedings, and body rotations by staff, helping to minimize the severity of her bed sores and lessen her chances of severe and chronic infections.

The next time you find yourself face to face with a current or former Paramedic and hear yourself say: “Wow, you must have seen a lot.”, please – just leave it at that. Do not allow yourself to follow it up with “What’s the worst you’ve ever seen?” … because the only Paramedic willing and eager to answer this question is the one whose hands are still so fresh and relatively clean – before the dirt of these experiences have marred their hearts and the blood their patients have shed throughout the years permeates their soul. Once it does, it forever changes who they are.

Asking a Paramedic:
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”, is like saying “Relive, for me, your worst nightmares – the images you can’t get out of your head, the things that completely changed the kind of person you are.”

“Yeah…” I replied, earlier today, as their eyes were fixed upon mine. I offered up a forced smile, before continuing, “…but that was then, and this is now.” But, even as I said it, the weight of these things (and about a million more) pressed down heavily upon me. I offered no further details with my response.

Their faces flickered with the disappointment of unrealized expectation, but I held my ground in silence, and they chose not question me further – because eyes that have seen too much will always give you away.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Love That Man!”

Lifelong commitment is not what most people think it is. It’s not waking up every morning to make breakfast and sip coffee together. It’s not cuddling in bed every night until the both of you fall asleep. It’s not always a clean home filled with laughter and love making everyday.

It’s someone who steals the covers and snores. It’s slammed doors and a few harsh words at times. It’s stubbornly disagreeing and giving each other the silent treatment until your hearts heal – and then forgiveness.

It’s coming home to the same person every day that loves you and cares about you in spite of, and because of, who you are.

Its laughing about that one time you did something really stupid – and vowing to never do it again. It’s dirty laundry and unmade beds. It’s helping each other with the hard work of life. It’s swallowing your nagging words instead of saying them out loud. It’s eating the easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at a late hour because BOTH of you had a crazy day.

It’s when you have an emotional breakdown and your love lays down with you, holds you, and tells you that everything is going to be alright – and you believe them. It’s loving them even when they’re driving you absolutely crazy and especially when they are acting like their most “unlovable” self.

Loving someone forever isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s really hard. But it is amazing and comforting, and one of the best things you will ever experience in your entire lifetime!

So, if you’re lucky enough to have already found that man… don’t waste any more precious time. LOVE HIM!

He’s not perfect. Neither are you. And the two of you will never always be perfect together. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, admits to being human and making mistakes, holds your hand and kisses your forehead, LOVE THAT MAN – and give him the best that you can.

Maybe he can’t quote you any poetry, and he’s not going to be thinking about you every minute of every day, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than what he can give. Don’t over analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, tell him when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there.

Love hard while there is love to be had and live it up for as long as it lasts, because no love is absolutely perfect, but this kind of love is absolutely perfect for you.

I promise to help you love life, to find excitement and passion in every adventure. To hold you with tenderness and have the patience that love demands. To speak when words are needed and to share the silence when they are not. To agree to disagree on the best kind of cheesecake, and live within the warmth of your heart and always call it home.♥️

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine