Rise: The Story of the Refugee

Life is still whirling away at a crazy, fast pace. I thought I would take a minute and share a recent project of mine.

I created this video regarding the refugee crisis as an art project for my Humanities class. It is one of the most emotional things I have ever done. As we all sit down to celebrate with our families and give thanks, I hope that you will pause and consider that according to the United Nations Refugee Agency there are currently 59.5 million people on the move as refugees in the world. Humanity has never seen a displacement like this before. Ever.

I know that we fall all over the spectrum, politically, in how to respond to this global crisis but despite these differences I hope that we can remember that the fear, the terror, the desperation, and the pain are the brutal truth for too many.

This is the story of the refugee told through art. A combination of photography, poetry, and music.

Rise: The Story of the Refugee


I believe I can fly…

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That song, “I believe I can fly,” has been stuck in my head for weeks. Seems a lot more fitting for today. Had everything all packed and ready to go last night. I had a small Reece Witherspoon moment like in Wild, trying to put that pack on for the first time. It’s like carrying a large child on your back.

My mom drove me to the Vancouver airport this morning and we made it to the airport a few minutes before 7. I was all checked in, through baggage and security, and in my terminal by 7:30 am! Talk about fast! My flight departs in about 45 minutes and we’ll be boarding soon. Since I haven’t flown for 9 years it was a bit stressful not knowing what to expect flying out of Canada and not having ever used a passport before, but it was super simple. I did get my bag searched by security because my travel size contact solution was a bit larger than they allow, but they let me through with it anyway.

From here in Vancouver I will fly to Toronto, then to Lima, and then to Cusco by about 6:30 am. So, in a little less than 24 hours I will be there.

If you can see it from the picture, I come equipped with Cards Against Humanity and Bananagrams. Should come in handy during the long layover in Lima tonight with all the other volunteers that will be waiting to make the connecting flight to Cusco. We’re all planning on meeting up and playing games. Should be a fun (but sleepless) night!


48 Hours to Launch

In 48 hours, I will be leaving the United States for my first ever trip to another country, unless you include Canada (which I don’t). Sorry Canada. I will be flying out of the Vancouver airport with a layover in Toronto, and then another in Lima, before settling in Cusco. 20 hours to fly in and 22 hours to fly out. All in all, I will be gone for 17 days. The main part of my stay in Cusco will be as a medical volunteer through IVHQ with free time on the weekends to explore. At the end of my volunteer stay, I will be heading out on a 4 day jungle trek to Machu Picchu.

10492337_10207236346649279_2897338813979905637_nEver since I was a child I wanted to ‘do something’ with my life that would ‘make a difference’. I was never able to quantify what that was. These are my initial steps in aligning myself towards that vision to make a difference in whatever small ways I can. Now, I recognize that a couple week trip to another country isn’t going to ‘make a difference’ in any tangible, earth shattering way, but it will likely make a difference to me. To my outlook. To my limited, narrow, unexperienced view of the world.

My life has been dramatically shifting for the last several years. It’s been a whirlwind process of redefining everthing I thought I knew about myself and what I wanted in life.

These pictures are from a recent hike to Mount Baker, last Sunday. This was our first official LEAP hike. LEAP is a group that I organized and created at the end of April and that I’ve been envisioning for almost a year, waiting for enough free time to get it up and running off the ground.


It’s a free social group designed to build community and get more people active and involved in trying and experiencing new things. The group has been in existance for less than 2 months and so far is nearing 90 members. I am excited to see where it will go in the next year.

These great pictures were taken by my friend Pavlina, who joined us, along with KJ Dammel, in the Baker Hike. This is specifically from the Park Butte Trail lookout. I was actually introduced to the Park Butte Trail, two weeks earlier, by Michael Campa. It was incredible what an amazing difference there was in trail conditions in the two week timeframe.

10407320_10207236350009363_8130730868612451348_n I honestly can’t say that I ever saw myself becoming a hiker. Or a runner. Or someone who would fly helicopters, planes, or jump out of them for that matter. It’s all part of a discovery process that has been incredibly powerful and healing. I was the person who had intangible dreams, lots of ‘maybe someday’ items collecting dust in a bucket that was never going anywhere. I watched life happen, I didn’t live it. The realization that you can redefine and shift your purpose and direction, at any point in life, is probably the most empowering thing I’ve ever learned. This drive to challenge myself in letting go of this thought that I’ll never be ‘this’ or ‘that’ has grown right up alongside my desire to see the world, and become a global volunteer. It will still be awhile until I am an RN and capable of making any real significant volunteer impact but I’m not going to let that stop me in making whatever difference I can make at this stage in life.


Sometimes I get caught up in thinking about what I’ve lost in life. The marriage. The friends. The faith. I see the struggles the kids go through, and the struggles that I face, and the ‘damage’ that has occurred, and inevitably you have to ask yourself, again, and again, whether it was ‘worth it’. It isn’t a pleasant or easy process. At this stage, I can easily say I am better off. I am happier than I have ever been in life and more aligned to who I’ve always wanted to be. I don’t long for some far off distant time when such and such will be possible. It’s harder to answer about the kids. Obviously, what I’d like to believe is that they are also better off. However, they are too young to even understand most of what has happened over the last three years, or to see where things would have been if a course had not been changed. Only they, as adults, will be able to reflect back on everything and make their own personal decisions on what has happened and on how it has impacted them. I hope only to be able to communicate and show them, through my actions, a few things that have become important to me in life.



1. You can walk away from toxic relationships. Family is important. Friendships are important. Working hard to solve problems is important. Not giving up too soon is important. But sometimes, walking away, is more important.

2. You are in control of who you are and where you are going. You always have more choices than you think you have.

3. People are worth knowing, worth helping, and worth being vulnerable for. Human connection supersedes anything else in life. Human connection is life.

11217575_10207236300768132_2144568646868708883_n4. Sometimes your vulnerability is going to get you hurt. Really, really, hurt. It’s still worth the pain. Walk away. Learn the lesson. Be vulnerable again.


5. No matter how long you have believed something, advocated for it, lived and breathed it… it’s okay to change your mind. Embrace when you’ve been wrong. It makes you a more empathetic and understanding person.



6.  Life is incredibly short. There are a lot of things to chase in life. You get to decide what you will chase, but I hope you won’t chase money.

7. I’m fallible. You’re fallible. Everyone is fallible. No one really knows what they’re doing. Forgive easily. Keep boundaries where you need to, and walk away if you must, but let go of the anger. It’s not worth holding.

8. Your thoughts and your beliefs belong to you. What I believe, or what anyone else believes, does not matter. Try on as many beliefs and thoughts as you’d like. Build them on a foundation of love and understanding for others. People worth having in your life will love you despite differences in belief and thought.


9. When you become a parent, it will be easier to see what I got wrong and what I got right. Don’t worry, I’m well aware that I’m doing a lot of things wrong, and I don’t expect you to do things like I did. Don’t let anyone else control how you parent. Build and improve on what I’ve done and know, that despite my flaws, I love you like crazy and that it will be hard to comprehend until you’re doing it yourself.

10. Be weird and silly and different. Life is better that way. Life will have hard moments no matter what you do. What makes the greatest difference in life is your attitude and the people you surround yourself with.

I Need You to Know That I Loved You.


I need you to know, more than anything else, that I loved you.

I was so scared. I have never known fear as great as the day I found out that you would be coming to this world. But I loved you. So much. I still love you and I will always miss you.

There were so many things I wondered, worried and agonized over. Almost every waking moment, and many of my sleeping ones, I ran over every possible scenario that I could think of. How much of that did you feel? How much of my stress caused you harm? Could you feel my love too?

Never have two little pink lines been so terrifying. I am so sorry that there were no tears of joy and squeals of laughter. All babies should be welcomed that way. You weren’t any less beautiful, miraculous, or amazing. I was so angry when I realized I was pregnant. Not at you, or because of you, but I was angry at how it could be possible for a responsibility and a privilege so great to be given to someone like me, who had no way of providing, protecting or loving you the way that you deserved. The way every beautiful, precious, miracle of a baby deserves.

Your amazing beating heart flickered there on the screen for me. It was weak and you were small but you were fighting. You lived, if only briefly. I wanted not to worry. I wanted to be joyful but instead there was just gut wrenching fear.

How do I explain who your father is? What he is? Where he is? What he did? How do I conceal that you even exist to protect you? The world is small and eventually he would have found out…how do you trust a broken governmental system to protect the most vulnerable among us? How could I provide for you? How could I walk away from you every day to leave you in daycare? How would I afford daycare? How do I face each day, being the mom you need, stretched too thin, with no financial resources? How do I deserve you? How will it feel for you to watch your siblings leave to go see their father and you won’t have one to go to? What will you say? How will I explain it?  Will my love be stronger than the pain he caused? Am I a good enough mom? How will I afford any of this? How do I face my fears, acknowledge them, and let them go? How do I trust that the world will be here for us when the world has felt so dark?

Darkness. Everywhere things just feel dark. How could all of this happen? What did I do to deserve this? How do you keep faith in humanity when things keep going wrong. Consistently, irreparably wrong? I have always been a positive person. Looking on the bright side. Trusting the good in people. In the world. Little by little, the world is changing me. How do I stop it from changing me? How do I stop from becoming dark myself?

I tried to be brave for you. To think of the beautiful birth you would have. Would you be born wide awake and curious like your sister? Huge and quiet with one eye open like your oldest brother? Or would you sleep through a fast and furious birth like your youngest brother? I imagined wearing you in a wrap and nursing you. I imagined rocking you and holding you and our quiet days together, when your siblings were with their dad.

Were you the little girl we’ve all been hoping and waiting for? The sister that’s been longed for? Were you going to teach me that I am stronger and braver than I give myself credit for? Would you show us with your beautiful smile, your sweet grasping hands, those deep soulful eyes, and that indescribable baby smell that despite the darkness in the world, that each amazing, beautiful life possesses the power to bring meaning and light?

I will never know the answers to those questions. Your little heart stopped beating and you, my brave, sweet baby, with your short powerful life, will leave me forever wondering about you. Missing you. Loving you.

I am thankful that you have been spared the fears and possibilities that I agonized over. I am grateful and relieved and yet pained with guilt, remorse, pain, and loss. But above absolutely anything else… I love you.


Truly’s Natural Deodorant

Truly’s Natural Deodorant was developed by Angela for her family and friends in order to provide them with a safe, natural and effective solution to body odor. As the demand for her product grew she realized she had a product that should be made available to all. Truly’s Natural Products is run by the Collison family in Harrington Delaware and the natural deodorant is named after the youngest Collison daughter, Truly Mae.


!!!!  WINNER: Tabitha Polley  !!!!

The Scoop

If you are an individual bent on finding natural alternatives for everyday products than you have likely encountered the challenge of finding a natural deodorant that actually works…and works well.

There are a number of ingredients in many deodorants that are important to avoid. The main culprits are: aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens, triclosan, steareth-n and phthalates. For information about these ingredients and why they should be avoided please see the link below:

Deodorant Ingredients to Avoid

What makes Truly’s Deodorant stand out in the natural deodorant world? Two factors.

1. There are 3 ingredients! Even better, they are pronounceable and they sound like the beginning of a tasty cake.
2. It works!! Not only does it work but it works better than any product I have ever tried.

So, what is it made of? Would you believe it only contains…

Coconut Oil

Powdered Sugar

Baking Soda

Those three simple ingredients combine to create a simple but powerful product that completely eliminates body odor. Why does it work and why in the world is sugar in there?

The sugar in the deodorant combines with your own sweat to form a hyperosmotic solution that prevents bacterial growth. The growth of bacteria is what causes body odor. Before the use of antibiotics, sugar and honey were used in open wounds to prevent infection. Additionally, baking soda helps to combat odor and the antimicrobial properties of coconut oil also help to eliminate bacteria. Want to read more about it? Click HERE.

So, with these three ingredients, Angela created the natural deodorant that I feel like shouting from the rooftops about. Consider my blog my rooftop. This is me waving my arms and shouting like a mad woman. YOU WANT THIS!

The Crunchville Experience

If you have followed my blog at all then you will be surprised to see this post show up. I fell away from blogging back in 2008 when my son was born and shortly after that my personal world blew up. Chaos still reigns supreme in my world but when Angela contacted me about doing a review for her natural deodorant I could not resist! I mean, there were my stinky armpits begging for attention as I read her email. I even had a painful rash from the Toms of Maine deodorant I was currently using. I have used many natural deodorant products but nothing has worked effectively for me. So, I excitedly wrote her back thankful for an excuse to bring my blog back from it’s virtual dusty shelf.

Truly’s deodorant comes in what looks very much like a can of chewing tobacco. Thankfully, it smells much better. It has a circular lid that you twist off and on. Since the product is made out of coconut oil it becomes a liquid state at warm temperatures and a solid at room temperature.

When I first received the deodorant it was the middle of summer in Tri-Cities, Washington. If you’ve never been there it is a hot, dry, cough, ugly, cough, cough, desert. So, when I took off the lid it was pretty melted and a little bit of the deodorant spilled out. I also had to swirl it with my finger a little bit to mix the ingredients back together. Instantly, I realized that I did not care for the type of container the deodorant is packaged in. However, I have spent the last month trying to figure out what a better type of container would be for this product and I can not for the life of me, figure it out. It may just have to be one of those things that is tolerated based on the nature of the product.

So, before I get in to my experience with Truly’s here is my experience with what I had finally settled on with deodorant. After trying many things that never worked I finally settled on Tom’s of Maine deodorant which gave me mediocre results. Even the one that claims to work for 24 hours didn’t last me very long (6-8 hours) before I began smelling. It also left a sticky residue in my armpits and after a few weeks of use I would get a chapped like burn in my armpits that was very painful. If I sweated from activity, I smelled right away and when I woke up in the morning I always smelled.

Since I’ve started using Truly’s deodorant for the last month I have only had body odor ONE time. One time in 30 days no matter what time of day it was! It’s like a body odor miracle! I have jogged and mowed the lawn in 90 degree weather. No smell. Walking outside in 110 degree weather? No smell. I have gone without showering for several days in a row. No smell. I’ve sat nervously in a courtroom for divorce proceedings. No smell. That one time that I did smell was because I forgot to reapply the deodorant first thing in the morning the next day.

To apply the product you remove the lid and dip your finger into the mixture. My product has ranged from a very liquidy cream, to a thick cream to a fairly solid mixture that you have to apply pressure to in order to remove some with your finger. This varies dependent on the temperature in your home. No matter the consistency the product always works great.

A few of my favorite factors that have not been possible with other deodorants is that there is no residue that builds up in my arm pits. They don’t get sticky. There’s been no burns or skin sensitivity. It doesn’t make my skin peel at all. And in the mornings, even if I sweat at night, I don’t stink! Even more amazing is that if I don’t shower every day all I have to do is put on more deodorant when I wake up and I still don’t smell all day even though I’ve been using it during the hottest month of the year in the middle of a desert!

The one setback I had with this product was when I traveled to a friends house for the weekend. Without thinking, I put it in my travel bag and when I got there the deodorant had leaked a little out of the container and slimed some of my bathroom products with coconut oil. I recommend putting it in a ziploc bag for travel.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy or excited about a natural body care product. Now if only I could find a natural shampoo that worked as effectively for my hair as Truly’s works for my armpits…I’d be set.

Wrapping It Up
-Suggestions, Observations and Wishes-

-I would love to see Truly’s deodorant come in a different type of container that prevents it from leaking or spilling. I honestly have no idea what this container could be but it would improve the overall usability of the product tremendously.

-On the website FAQ’s it states that the product will last from 4-6 months. I am only applying the product once a day but it is more than halfway gone and I’ve been using it for a month. Some of it was spilt and I found out after speaking with Angela that I have been more generous with it than I need to be. Even after this, I would say that I will still get 2 months of use out of it. However, even if I had to go through one can a month this would be more than worth it to me.

-Based off of my review Angela has created some tips to help make the transition to Truly’s deodorant a more seamless transition. Apparently, some of these were written on the packing slip that I did not read. Whoops. I threw away that pressure seal that prevents spilling when I opened it. Double whoops.

Truly’s Tips:

1.  Truly’s Natural Deodorant may liquefy during shipping and for ease of use should be left overnight in a climate controlled environment to allow it to re-solidify.  (This is printed on the packing slip, but I don’t know if anyone reads it!)  If you do open it right away, do so carefully to avoid spillage.

2. The Truly’s Natural Deodorant container comes with a pressure seal which if peeled off carefully and reinserted into the base of the lid, it will keep your container of deodorant from leaking even if it is in a liquid state. Just be sure to mindfully close the lid tightly before packing, and it is not a bad idea to slip it in a baggie to be on the safe side.

3. Our statement that one 2 oz container of Truly’s will last 4-6 months is based on our experience alone and not a scientific study as we are just a small family business.  I use it usually twice a day…once in the early morning before I exercise and again a bit later after I shower and it lasts me well beyond 4 months.  It is very concentrated and I encourage people to experiment with how little they actually need to stay fresh all day.  (See picture below for amount recommended).

4. If you have airconditioning and keep your home around 75 degrees,  Truly’s will stay as a creamy semi-solid but it will work at any consistency or temperature.


This is a must have product. It’s simple and extremely powerful. You can feel safe letting everyone in the family use it. For those women that are pregnant and nursing you don’t need to worry about the effects your deodorant may be having on your baby. Gentle enough for your kids and powerful enough for the stinkiest among us. I love how simple the ingredients are. I love that I can directly support another family by purchasing it. It’s nuances  (product consistency and the need to put your finger in it) are small when compared to how amazing it works. Who knew you could become so excited about deodorant??

The Basics:
Company Name: Truly’s Natural Products
Product Name: Truly’s Deodorant
Price: $7.99 for a 2 oz container OR $42.94 for a family six pack (each 2 oz)
Where to Buy: trulysnaturaldeodorant.com


Would you like to win a container of Truly’s Natural Deodorant to try for yourself? To enter our giveaway please do the following:

1. LIKE Truly’s Natural Deodorant on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TrulysNaturalDeodorant

2. Visit Truly’s Website: http://www.trulysnaturaldeodorant.com/

3. Comment on this review: Please comment on this review something you learned from Truly’s Website


4. For an extra entry into the drawing: Please share this review OR Truly’s Facebook page on your Facebook page.

Farewell Journey To Crunchville

I am sad to see it go but I am getting to a point where I have outgrown this blog. As much as I have enjoyed it, I no longer have the time or energy to research and post about topics that were central to this blog’s mission/point/audience.

Rather than change the title and scope of this blog I have decided to begin a new one. Most of the people that visit Journey To Crunchville are here to read articles or recipes that I’ve written and aren’t necessarily interested in our families day to day life. Since homeschooling and our day to day life is what I am currently consumed and absorbed by, that is what I’d like to write about. I will keep Journey To Crunchville up and running since it still receives a lot of traffic everyday.

If you would enjoy reading about our family or our journey in homeschooling please visit our new blog that I have just created:

Our Learning House

Do Not Buy a Toshiba Laptop

If you want to save yourself time, headache and most importantly, a costly investment then please heed my warning: “Do not buy a Toshiba Laptop!”

They have a known issue with the internal charging unit breaking off within the laptop so that you can not charge the laptop. This is faulty manufacturing and we have been told by individuals in the computer repair industry that this is a known shortcoming for Toshiba.

We purchased our Toshiba laptop in the summer of 2008 for over 1K dollars. This is NOT a $200 dollar laptop. Our specific laptop is the Toshiba Satellite model # PSLE0U-00H00J. The first time this problem occurred our laptop had just fallen outside the 1 year warranty by a few weeks. We were frustrated but figured it must have been user error and paid for the laptop to be repaired locally. Less than a month later the same issue occurred again. We paid again out of pocket to have it repaired. We thought we’d be in the clear.

It happened again in January 2010. I was FED up! Our computer repairman encouraged us to call Toshiba since we obviously had a lemon and he also informed us that he sees this in Toshiba laptops regularly. It is a known fault of their equipment. So, I called Toshiba and was happy to find that they were willing to let me ship the laptop back to them and they repaired the laptop and sent it back to me. I was one happy customer and at that point was willing to overlook the obviously faulty design in favor of good customer service.

Scratch that. What used to be good customer service.

Yesterday, on October 4th, our laptop in a complete lack of originality stopped charging yet again. So we got 10 months worth of service from the repair that was supposed to forever solve the issue.  I now have on my hands a $1000 paperweight which is completely useless. Frustrated but confident that Toshiba would pull through again I called their customer service number at 1-800-457-7777. I talked to Roy, explained the situation and he warned me that since my laptop was out of warranty I might be charged a $35 fee just for talking to him. Nice.

I explained the situation, explained it was an ongoing issue and that our laptop had all ready been sent in for a “repair and return” for the same issue. He was polite, filled out his paperwork and offered to transfer me to Customer Relations. He gave me my case # and transferred me.

I was transferred to Matthew, a case manager. He looked up our previous issue and informed me that the program that they created to repair and return laptops for this known issue expired in June 2010. So, at this point there was nothing they were willing to do for me. He would not transfer me to a superior and in fact, wouldn’t even tell me his superior’s name. I was not belligerent or rude. I was mad and firm but polite. However, I was denied any solution other than have fun on that creek ride…too bad your paddle expired.

So Matthew, if you read this at some point. Shame on you. Shame on you for willingly working for a company who disrespects the little guy. We, the little guy, make your job possible. Shame on your for working for a company that serves only it’s best interest rather than admitting fault, correcting a mistake and praying for our forgiveness as the consumers that feed their families. Shame on all of us. Shame on all of us for being willing to accept this type of treatment from companies simply because, “they can get away with it.” Why? Why should they? What happened to being able to naturally expect that a company would stand behind their products without shame and without excuse.

It is a pure coward that can hide behind an expired warranty waving it as if it is some magical get out of jail free card. What happened to quality and honor and reputation? It is both sad and frightening that with today’s technological developments that we can not produce quality items that are made to last.

There is no reason that I can justify that a $1000+ laptop should not be operating 2 years later. Not to mention this is the 4th time within those two years that a consistent problem has occurred.

Please help me stand up to cowards like Toshiba and pass on this information to everyone you know. Maybe it will save them their hard earned money. For now, I am stuck with a $1000 paper weight and a years worth of family photographs and other important documents that I am going to have to pay someone to retrieve from my laptops hard drive.

Please help me with this. Our voice is the only thing that can make a difference. Pass it on and why you’re at it…pass on Toshiba.