Theme by Themes that you like

The Traveling Cow


sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
Over the summer, The Traveling Cow teamed up with a bunch of unique characters from the Soldiers of Destiny Scooter Club to collect backpacks and school supplies for Safe Place, which is a shelter for kids who have been displaced or removed from their homes, located in Everett, Washington.
Early Sunday morning, 30 or so scooters paraded through back roads from Seattle to Everett, followed by two SUVs carrying backpacks filled with school supplies, clothing, and food. We made the delivery to our friends at Safe Place, who were very appreciative of the gifts.
Back in June, when we first posted information about the ride, friends from as far as Ohio and as near as my next-door neighbor asked what they could do to help.  Immediately, my mailbox began filling up with pencils, notebooks and much more.

The overwhelming outpouring of support from our fellow cow friends crammed my little condo with so many donations that I could barely turn around to get dressed in the morning without tripping over boxes of crayons! Thank you to all that donated and helped the little cow and Soldiers of Destiny - who also were able to raise over $4000 for Safe Place - and help make a difference in the community.

Over the summer, The Traveling Cow teamed up with a bunch of unique characters from the Soldiers of Destiny Scooter Club to collect backpacks and school supplies for Safe Place, which is a shelter for kids who have been displaced or removed from their homes, located in Everett, Washington.

Early Sunday morning, 30 or so scooters paraded through back roads from Seattle to Everett, followed by two SUVs carrying backpacks filled with school supplies, clothing, and food. We made the delivery to our friends at Safe Place, who were very appreciative of the gifts.

Back in June, when we first posted information about the ride, friends from as far as Ohio and as near as my next-door neighbor asked what they could do to help. Immediately, my mailbox began filling up with pencils, notebooks and much more.

The overwhelming outpouring of support from our fellow cow friends crammed my little condo with so many donations that I could barely turn around to get dressed in the morning without tripping over boxes of crayons! Thank you to all that donated and helped the little cow and Soldiers of Destiny - who also were able to raise over $4000 for Safe Place - and help make a difference in the community.

In May of 2014, I visited Luang Prabang, Laos and stayed at a charming little boutique hotel called the Vangsavath. It was a hot day, so after I got settled in, I went for a walk around the courtyard. I was playing by the pond when an older woman appeared and began tossing food scraps into the water. I smiled and said hello. We started talking and I asked her lots of questions about the fishes and fruit trees and it turned out that she was the owner of the hotel.  Her name was Daeng.  After discovering that I was from the United States, she told me she has a sister who owns a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin.  I told her that some day, in my travels, I will find her sister and have a meal in her restaurant. She smiled and I went back to throwing rocks into the pond.

Read More

I gave him and his little sister a toy I brought back from China. He gave me a hug and told me he was going to learn Spanish so that he could go to China with me. 

My new traveling buddy, Bo.

I gave him and his little sister a toy I brought back from China. He gave me a hug and told me he was going to learn Spanish so that he could go to China with me.

My new traveling buddy, Bo.

I got a call from Harley, Becky’s husband, inviting me to go hiking on Mount Rainier with her for the weekend. I had to work Friday and Sunday, so I told him I could only do a day hike. I was hesitant to accept the invitation at first because that was my only Saturday off that month, and I wanted to stay in my pajamas, eat chips and watch Netflix the entire day.

When I arrived at Becky’s at 9 AM to pick her up for the long drive to Mt. Rainer, I learned that there was a thirty percent chance of thunderstorms on the mountain. She gave me the option to postpone the hike, or to choose a different mountain nearby. Deep down I wanted to go home and back to sleep, but instead, I told Becky to choose a day-hike close by.

I was very tired and sore from having to shoot a basketball game the night before and I was still sleepy as I didn’t go to bed until 3 AM, and I don’t normally wake up before noon on the weekends. But as I thought to myself how much I wanted to be back in my comfy bed, I looked at Becky, and all of my excuses seemed trivial and trifling. You see, Becky was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1992, then in 1999, she was also diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 2, soon after a cluster of tumors began growing at the base of her brain. Slowly, these tumors robbed her completely of her hearing. After multiple surgeries to remove the tumors, Becky was left with total facial paralysis, which affects her ability to eat, drink, smile, speak, and affects her vision. I became friends with Becky and her husband when I help edited a documentary titled “Pole’ Pole’”, chronicling Becky’s long battle with NF2 and her triumphant ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

During our nine hour, ten mile hike, we crossed rivers, scaled boulders, and walked on a twelve-inch trail that offered spectacular views of the clouds above and the ground below. If we had slipped,  there was nothing to grab onto. Becky was my guide; she held the map and led the way.

Along the hike we met some really nice women who spoke to Becky; I had to explain to them that she couldn’t hear them, but that they could communicate with her by speaking slowly so that she can read their lips, or by writing on a pad and pencil she carries with her everywhere. A few hours into the hike as I was standing on the edge of the trail, the same women passed me again. They both stopped and one of them commented that she thought it was so nice of me that I still “take her out”. I smiled as I corrected her: “No, ma’am, she’s taking me out!”.

I sometimes take for granted that I can easily climb a mountain, but choose not to do so because I’d rather sit at home, watch TV and eat chips. Then there are remarkable people such as Becky who can’t easily climb out of bed, but choose to scale mountains. Thank you for taking me hiking that Saturday, Becky.

I got a call from Harley, Becky’s husband, inviting me to go hiking on Mount Rainier with her for the weekend. I had to work Friday and Sunday, so I told him I could only do a day hike. I was hesitant to accept the invitation at first because that was my only Saturday off that month, and I wanted to stay in my pajamas, eat chips and watch Netflix the entire day.

When I arrived at Becky’s at 9 AM to pick her up for the long drive to Mt. Rainer, I learned that there was a thirty percent chance of thunderstorms on the mountain. She gave me the option to postpone the hike, or to choose a different mountain nearby. Deep down I wanted to go home and back to sleep, but instead, I told Becky to choose a day-hike close by.

I was very tired and sore from having to shoot a basketball game the night before and I was still sleepy as I didn’t go to bed until 3 AM, and I don’t normally wake up before noon on the weekends. But as I thought to myself how much I wanted to be back in my comfy bed, I looked at Becky, and all of my excuses seemed trivial and trifling. You see, Becky was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1992, then in 1999, she was also diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis Type 2, soon after a cluster of tumors began growing at the base of her brain. Slowly, these tumors robbed her completely of her hearing. After multiple surgeries to remove the tumors, Becky was left with total facial paralysis, which affects her ability to eat, drink, smile, speak, and affects her vision. I became friends with Becky and her husband when I help edited a documentary titled “Pole’ Pole’”, chronicling Becky’s long battle with NF2 and her triumphant ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

During our nine hour, ten mile hike, we crossed rivers, scaled boulders, and walked on a twelve-inch trail that offered spectacular views of the clouds above and the ground below. If we had slipped, there was nothing to grab onto. Becky was my guide; she held the map and led the way.

Along the hike we met some really nice women who spoke to Becky; I had to explain to them that she couldn’t hear them, but that they could communicate with her by speaking slowly so that she can read their lips, or by writing on a pad and pencil she carries with her everywhere. A few hours into the hike as I was standing on the edge of the trail, the same women passed me again. They both stopped and one of them commented that she thought it was so nice of me that I still “take her out”. I smiled as I corrected her: “No, ma’am, she’s taking me out!”.

I sometimes take for granted that I can easily climb a mountain, but choose not to do so because I’d rather sit at home, watch TV and eat chips. Then there are remarkable people such as Becky who can’t easily climb out of bed, but choose to scale mountains. Thank you for taking me hiking that Saturday, Becky.

Last week I packed my camera and carry-on bag and jetted off for a week of exploring in the mid-west. The only reservations I had were a flight into Chicago and a compact car waiting for me at the airport. My goal for the next seven days was to discover the people and places in a part of America that is seldom on the radar of tourists or travelers.
My first destination happened by accident: after landing in Chicago, I called my friend Ashley who works for the “Wounded Warrior Project” in downtown Chicago, and I was set to visit her office and learn more about the project. She texted me the address of 230 West Monroe Street, but when I typed the address into my GPS, I did not notice that I had entered the information incorrectly and the GPS automatically corrected the destination for me.
I drove for 1 hour and 47 minutes through highways booked ended with picture perfect cornrows that occasionally switched to soy fields. I was not aware that I was driving further and further from the city because I was so captivated by the scenic drive, which reminded me of towns depicted in Thomas Kinkade paintings. All of a sudden my GPS announced that I had arrived at my destination.  I remembered Ashley telling me her office was next to the Sears Tower, and there were no buildings taller that a two story house within sight. When I looked at my GPS again, I realized that I was at 230 Monroe Street in Monroe Center, Illinois. After stopping at the only gas station in town, I was informed that I was two hours away from downtown Chicago. Instead of being upset at my stupid mistake, I decided to visit with Ashley at another time and chose to explore Monroe Center.
In a town of 550 people I met Alyson as she was walking with her niece. I told her I was a lost traveler and instantly we became friends, and she gave me permission to accompany her on her walk. On a lap around almost half the town, I learned that Alyson came from a rough upbringing where her family struggled from paycheck to paycheck. Her parents divorced soon after her dad lost his job, and she was forced to put college on hold while she worked as a waitress at the only restaurant in town called The Sunrise to help her mom pay the bills. “This town is all about farms and football” she told with a smile on her face as we stood next to a cornfield. The local high school football games attract over 2000 people every Friday night, which is almost quadruple the town’s own population. I noticed a 3-bedroom house that is for sale with an asking price of only $58,000. As we walked further, Alyson pointed to a beautiful home surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn and explained that it belonged to an older couple; the two elders are regarded as the town’s grandparents.
At the end of my walk with Alyson I was delighted that an error in typing led me to a destination I never knew existed. Sometimes an adventure is more exciting when you have no expectations or knowledge of where you are headed!

A meeting by chance in a town nestled between fields of corn was my first accidental stop on my weeklong tour of Middle America. Stay tuned for more stories.

Last week I packed my camera and carry-on bag and jetted off for a week of exploring in the mid-west. The only reservations I had were a flight into Chicago and a compact car waiting for me at the airport. My goal for the next seven days was to discover the people and places in a part of America that is seldom on the radar of tourists or travelers.

My first destination happened by accident: after landing in Chicago, I called my friend Ashley who works for the “Wounded Warrior Project” in downtown Chicago, and I was set to visit her office and learn more about the project. She texted me the address of 230 West Monroe Street, but when I typed the address into my GPS, I did not notice that I had entered the information incorrectly and the GPS automatically corrected the destination for me.

I drove for 1 hour and 47 minutes through highways booked ended with picture perfect cornrows that occasionally switched to soy fields. I was not aware that I was driving further and further from the city because I was so captivated by the scenic drive, which reminded me of towns depicted in Thomas Kinkade paintings. All of a sudden my GPS announced that I had arrived at my destination. I remembered Ashley telling me her office was next to the Sears Tower, and there were no buildings taller that a two story house within sight. When I looked at my GPS again, I realized that I was at 230 Monroe Street in Monroe Center, Illinois. After stopping at the only gas station in town, I was informed that I was two hours away from downtown Chicago. Instead of being upset at my stupid mistake, I decided to visit with Ashley at another time and chose to explore Monroe Center.

In a town of 550 people I met Alyson as she was walking with her niece. I told her I was a lost traveler and instantly we became friends, and she gave me permission to accompany her on her walk. On a lap around almost half the town, I learned that Alyson came from a rough upbringing where her family struggled from paycheck to paycheck. Her parents divorced soon after her dad lost his job, and she was forced to put college on hold while she worked as a waitress at the only restaurant in town called The Sunrise to help her mom pay the bills. “This town is all about farms and football” she told with a smile on her face as we stood next to a cornfield. The local high school football games attract over 2000 people every Friday night, which is almost quadruple the town’s own population. I noticed a 3-bedroom house that is for sale with an asking price of only $58,000. As we walked further, Alyson pointed to a beautiful home surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn and explained that it belonged to an older couple; the two elders are regarded as the town’s grandparents.

At the end of my walk with Alyson I was delighted that an error in typing led me to a destination I never knew existed. Sometimes an adventure is more exciting when you have no expectations or knowledge of where you are headed!

A meeting by chance in a town nestled between fields of corn was my first accidental stop on my weeklong tour of Middle America. Stay tuned for more stories.

She picked fruit so that her daughter could pick a major.

Gracella crossed the border from Jalisco, Mexico with her seven-month-old daughter 26 years ago. She worked arduously long days in the fields picking and planting the fruits and vegetables that you and I effortlessly place into our shopping carts in the produce aisle. Her exhausting efforts made it so that her daughter would have an easier life where she would spend her days learning in a classroom instead of a working in a field. That little girl has since graduated from Oregon University and is now the Admissions Coordinator at Oregon Tech.

We had a little bit of a language barrier, but my lack of Spanish couldn’t misinterpret the pride on her face as she proudly proclaimed she has a daughter who is a college graduate.

She picked fruit so that her daughter could pick a major.

Gracella crossed the border from Jalisco, Mexico with her seven-month-old daughter 26 years ago. She worked arduously long days in the fields picking and planting the fruits and vegetables that you and I effortlessly place into our shopping carts in the produce aisle. Her exhausting efforts made it so that her daughter would have an easier life where she would spend her days learning in a classroom instead of a working in a field. That little girl has since graduated from Oregon University and is now the Admissions Coordinator at Oregon Tech.

We had a little bit of a language barrier, but my lack of Spanish couldn’t misinterpret the pride on her face as she proudly proclaimed she has a daughter who is a college graduate.

I was thumping watermelons at the grocery store one day, when I spotted a sticker with “Walchli Farms” on the side of one of the melons. Later at home, I did a Google search for the farm, and found their phone number; a few phone calls later, I was given permission to come visit the farm. This past Saturday, I drove for four and a half hours from Seattle to Hermiston, Oregon to meet the family that produced the melons I was thumping.

My GPS guided me to a quaint little town which 17,111 people call home. When I arrived at the farm, I found my way to a giant warehouse filled from floor to ceiling with watermelons. I watched with fascination as several forklifts zipped passed me cradling enormous crates of freshly harvested melons. In the corner of the warehouse, I found Curtis working at his desk. He was on the phone so I waited patiently for him to wrap up his conversation then I introduced myself.
 Within minutes, Curtis and I were in the watermelon patch and he picked up a fresh melon and threw it on the ground. The melon burst open and he plucked out a juicy piece and handed it to me and said “you got to eat fresh watermelon from the field if you’re coming this far from Seattle.”

Skip Walchli started Walchli farms in 1960 on just a few acres of land. He decided to grow watermelons because Hermiston is one of the best places in the world to cultivate them due to its elevation, sandy well-drained soil, and the perfect mix of hot and cool temperatures. As Curtis and I navigated the watermelon patch, I learned that the watermelons I bought at the grocery store started out as seedlings, which were all planted by hand around mid-May. The rows of melon plants are nestled underneath a strip of wheat, which grows high above the melon plants as a shield to protect them from the wind. A seeded watermelon plant is placed between every five seedless plants so that the melons may be pollinated. Like humans, watermelons get sunburns too, so a sunscreen solution is mixed and applied to the delicate fruits as they ripen beneath the blistering sun. The first harvest is in July, and two more harvests yield late-blooming melons throughout the season. At Walchli farms, every melon is hand picked, hand pitched and hand packed. And the entire family is hands-on. Skip, the founder still works on the farm. He is a no-nonsense man of very little words, but his heart is as big as the melons that grow on his fields. Curtis is married to Judy, one of Skip’s three daughters. Curtis left behind the life of a rodeo cowboy to become a watermelon farmer and jokes that it’s easier because you only work half a day: 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. You get the other 12 hours off.

I used to be annoyed that I had to peel off stickers from my fruits and vegetables. Now I look at those stickers with a new appreciation, as one of them led me on an adventure to a charming town where I was fortunate enough to meet the farmers that grew the watermelons which I eat. What’s more significant than knowing where my food came from, is knowing that I have a new friend named Curtis in Hermiston, Oregon.

I was thumping watermelons at the grocery store one day, when I spotted a sticker with “Walchli Farms” on the side of one of the melons. Later at home, I did a Google search for the farm, and found their phone number; a few phone calls later, I was given permission to come visit the farm. This past Saturday, I drove for four and a half hours from Seattle to Hermiston, Oregon to meet the family that produced the melons I was thumping.

My GPS guided me to a quaint little town which 17,111 people call home. When I arrived at the farm, I found my way to a giant warehouse filled from floor to ceiling with watermelons. I watched with fascination as several forklifts zipped passed me cradling enormous crates of freshly harvested melons. In the corner of the warehouse, I found Curtis working at his desk. He was on the phone so I waited patiently for him to wrap up his conversation then I introduced myself.
Within minutes, Curtis and I were in the watermelon patch and he picked up a fresh melon and threw it on the ground. The melon burst open and he plucked out a juicy piece and handed it to me and said “you got to eat fresh watermelon from the field if you’re coming this far from Seattle.”

Skip Walchli started Walchli farms in 1960 on just a few acres of land. He decided to grow watermelons because Hermiston is one of the best places in the world to cultivate them due to its elevation, sandy well-drained soil, and the perfect mix of hot and cool temperatures. As Curtis and I navigated the watermelon patch, I learned that the watermelons I bought at the grocery store started out as seedlings, which were all planted by hand around mid-May. The rows of melon plants are nestled underneath a strip of wheat, which grows high above the melon plants as a shield to protect them from the wind. A seeded watermelon plant is placed between every five seedless plants so that the melons may be pollinated. Like humans, watermelons get sunburns too, so a sunscreen solution is mixed and applied to the delicate fruits as they ripen beneath the blistering sun. The first harvest is in July, and two more harvests yield late-blooming melons throughout the season. At Walchli farms, every melon is hand picked, hand pitched and hand packed. And the entire family is hands-on. Skip, the founder still works on the farm. He is a no-nonsense man of very little words, but his heart is as big as the melons that grow on his fields. Curtis is married to Judy, one of Skip’s three daughters. Curtis left behind the life of a rodeo cowboy to become a watermelon farmer and jokes that it’s easier because you only work half a day: 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. You get the other 12 hours off.

I used to be annoyed that I had to peel off stickers from my fruits and vegetables. Now I look at those stickers with a new appreciation, as one of them led me on an adventure to a charming town where I was fortunate enough to meet the farmers that grew the watermelons which I eat. What’s more significant than knowing where my food came from, is knowing that I have a new friend named Curtis in Hermiston, Oregon.

image

I was playing with my niece on the dock when I fell and got a splinter wedged deep into my hand. When I got home, my hand was swollen and throbbing as I tried to remove the splinter, but I couldn’t get to it without cutting into my hand and causing further pain.  Instead, I cleaned it with soap, applied Neosporin and placed a Band-Aid over the cut.  For the next two weeks the area where the splinter was lodged would cause me great pain whenever it was touched, so  I continued to keep the cut clean and allowed my body time to push the splinter out by itself.


A few weeks later, as I was working at my desk, I looked down and noticed the splinter had surfaced; I could just simply lift it out. Within days, the infected area on my hand closed up and healed itself.


Tuesdays at two is the day and time I see my therapist each week.  Last Tuesday, we were talking about how I have been healing over the years from the pain and trauma of my childhood.  I then held up my hand and showed her the scar that was healing, and explained how the splinter that was lodged inside my hand for the last few weeks was like the pain and torment that was lodged inside my heart for the past 36 years. Like the wound on my hand, I helped the wound in my heart heal by removing all toxic things and people that were making the infection worse. The Band-Aid I placed over my heart was me choosing to stop echoing my father’s words that I was worthless.  I healed because I chose to take care of the wound in my heart as I did the wound on my hand.

I grew up in a house where criticism was spoken more often than praise; I embraced violence easier than I could endure a hug. I couldn’t and didn’t know how to initiate a hug with my mom until I graduated high school. I spent my adult years relearning many emotions I was taught to suppress as a child.
For almost half of my life, the only feeling I knew how to express was happiness hidden between a cheese and cracker layer of humor and sarcasm. I didn’t allow myself to cry at sad movies because I was told that tears showed weakness. I couldn’t utter the words “I love you” to someone whom I still love today because I didn’t think it was possible that another person could ever love me.
The word “love” by itself is easy for me to toss around. I use it to close emails with colleagues, friends and even strangers because “love, Tan” is a lot easier to type than “sincerely, Tan.” It is only when the word “I” and “You” are added to the beginning and end that the word “love” goes from being simple to complicated.
There are two moments in my life where I regretted not being able to say, “I love you.” The first moment was when I watched my mom walk to the elevator after she had visited with me. I stood at the front door wanting to run after her to hug her and tell her how much I love her, instead I closed the door and said “I’ll see her again tomorrow I’ll hug her and tell her then.” She died suddenly the next day.
The second moment was when the love of my life walked away from me. Instead of chasing after her that day, I turned and walked the opposite direction. I was too proud to turn around and too afraid that if I said, “I love you” to her, she wouldn’t say it back to me.
I love you came too late.

I grew up in a house where criticism was spoken more often than praise; I embraced violence easier than I could endure a hug. I couldn’t and didn’t know how to initiate a hug with my mom until I graduated high school. I spent my adult years relearning many emotions I was taught to suppress as a child.

For almost half of my life, the only feeling I knew how to express was happiness hidden between a cheese and cracker layer of humor and sarcasm. I didn’t allow myself to cry at sad movies because I was told that tears showed weakness. I couldn’t utter the words “I love you” to someone whom I still love today because I didn’t think it was possible that another person could ever love me.

The word “love” by itself is easy for me to toss around. I use it to close emails with colleagues, friends and even strangers because “love, Tan” is a lot easier to type than “sincerely, Tan.” It is only when the word “I” and “You” are added to the beginning and end that the word “love” goes from being simple to complicated.

There are two moments in my life where I regretted not being able to say, “I love you.” The first moment was when I watched my mom walk to the elevator after she had visited with me. I stood at the front door wanting to run after her to hug her and tell her how much I love her, instead I closed the door and said “I’ll see her again tomorrow I’ll hug her and tell her then.” She died suddenly the next day.

The second moment was when the love of my life walked away from me. Instead of chasing after her that day, I turned and walked the opposite direction. I was too proud to turn around and too afraid that if I said, “I love you” to her, she wouldn’t say it back to me.

I love you came too late.

Jokia and Mae Perm are best friends. Today, they live a tranquil and serene life at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But before they arrived at the sanctuary, their lives were filled with hard labor and brutality inflicted upon them by their previous owners.
Mae Perm was the first elephant rescued by ENP back in 1992. She is over 90 years old and is revered as the grandmother of the pack due to her age and nurturing demeanor.
Jokia worked in an illegal logging camp. While she was pregnant, Jokia was forced to pull logs up a steep hill. She went into labor as she was working and her calf rolled down the hill. Her owners cruelly denied her the chance to even pause to see if her baby was dead or alive. After the incident, Jokia became very depressed and refused to work. Her handler used a slingshot to shoot her in the eye in a brutal attempt to get her to return to work. After she refused to budge Jokia was viciously stabbed in her other eye, permanently blinding her.
Elephants have their own cliques and are loyal to a certain herd. When Jokia arrived at the sanctuary, the herd had already been formed. Mae Perm left the group and walked over to Jokia and instinctively began to guide and protect her. The friendship was formed immediately and today the two of them do everything together. Although Jokia can feel vibrations with her trunk, Mae Perm acts as her eyes and guides her when they maneuver around the park.
A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. –Leo Buscaglia

Jokia and Mae Perm are best friends. Today, they live a tranquil and serene life at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But before they arrived at the sanctuary, their lives were filled with hard labor and brutality inflicted upon them by their previous owners.

Mae Perm was the first elephant rescued by ENP back in 1992. She is over 90 years old and is revered as the grandmother of the pack due to her age and nurturing demeanor.

Jokia worked in an illegal logging camp. While she was pregnant, Jokia was forced to pull logs up a steep hill. She went into labor as she was working and her calf rolled down the hill. Her owners cruelly denied her the chance to even pause to see if her baby was dead or alive. After the incident, Jokia became very depressed and refused to work. Her handler used a slingshot to shoot her in the eye in a brutal attempt to get her to return to work. After she refused to budge Jokia was viciously stabbed in her other eye, permanently blinding her.

Elephants have their own cliques and are loyal to a certain herd. When Jokia arrived at the sanctuary, the herd had already been formed. Mae Perm left the group and walked over to Jokia and instinctively began to guide and protect her. The friendship was formed immediately and today the two of them do everything together. Although Jokia can feel vibrations with her trunk, Mae Perm acts as her eyes and guides her when they maneuver around the park.

A single rose can be my garden… a single friend, my world. –Leo Buscaglia

Imagine on one of the happiest days of your life: you’re in the delivery room and the doctor hands you your new baby boy. Then she informs you that your baby has no arms and he will never walk, eat or even be able to live on his own without assistance.

Greg’s parents disregarded their doctor’s opinion when he was born, and raised their son just as they would any normal child. Today at the age of 37, Greg lives independently. He has graduated from college, leads a career in advertising, has a girlfriend, drives a car (Greg has a specialized car that has a steering mechanism installed down by the gas and break pedal allowing him to operate the vehicle all with his feet) and he even makes his own the coffee in the morning.

His entire life, Greg had to negotiate a world designed for people with hands and feet, but having only feet to function with. I was taken by his ability to use his feet in place of hands, and how he is able to reach and even hold things.  At home, I witnessed Greg doing his laundry, wash dishes, cook, and even style his hair. He has a stool that he uses to sit on which acts as a base when he transforms his legs into arms. He even has an iPhone on which he can text by either using his feet or by holding it with his neck and using his upper lip to type with.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, protects their rights and ensures they have equal opportunities as everyone else with regard to employment, education, transportation and all areas open to the general public. Greg is appreciative of the ADA because it helps him maintain his independence by simply requiring businesses with public restrooms to have a handicap stall. 

We take for granted that we are able to jump into a car or hop on an airplane and travel to any destination we desire; once there our basic needs are met. For Greg, traveling requires him to do lots of research and planning to ensure his special needs can be met.

When I interact with Greg, I hesitate to call him “disabled” because when you consider the fact that if Greg had arms, he too could do the same things you and I can do with our hands, but with our arms, can we do the same things he does with our feet? Sometimes life doesn’t give you the entire deck of cards to play with. Some people fold even before the bet is called but some, like Greg can bluff their way though the game of life even when short a few hands.

Imagine on one of the happiest days of your life: you’re in the delivery room and the doctor hands you your new baby boy. Then she informs you that your baby has no arms and he will never walk, eat or even be able to live on his own without assistance.

Greg’s parents disregarded their doctor’s opinion when he was born, and raised their son just as they would any normal child. Today at the age of 37, Greg lives independently. He has graduated from college, leads a career in advertising, has a girlfriend, drives a car (Greg has a specialized car that has a steering mechanism installed down by the gas and break pedal allowing him to operate the vehicle all with his feet) and he even makes his own the coffee in the morning.

His entire life, Greg had to negotiate a world designed for people with hands and feet, but having only feet to function with. I was taken by his ability to use his feet in place of hands, and how he is able to reach and even hold things. At home, I witnessed Greg doing his laundry, wash dishes, cook, and even style his hair. He has a stool that he uses to sit on which acts as a base when he transforms his legs into arms. He even has an iPhone on which he can text by either using his feet or by holding it with his neck and using his upper lip to type with.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, protects their rights and ensures they have equal opportunities as everyone else with regard to employment, education, transportation and all areas open to the general public. Greg is appreciative of the ADA because it helps him maintain his independence by simply requiring businesses with public restrooms to have a handicap stall.

We take for granted that we are able to jump into a car or hop on an airplane and travel to any destination we desire; once there our basic needs are met. For Greg, traveling requires him to do lots of research and planning to ensure his special needs can be met.

When I interact with Greg, I hesitate to call him “disabled” because when you consider the fact that if Greg had arms, he too could do the same things you and I can do with our hands, but with our arms, can we do the same things he does with our feet? Sometimes life doesn’t give you the entire deck of cards to play with. Some people fold even before the bet is called but some, like Greg can bluff their way though the game of life even when short a few hands.

Have you ever walked by a homeless person and wondered what their life was like before they ended up on the streets?
It was a rare scorching hot day in Seattle when I walked up to the ice cream shack at the pier. I had enough cash for one ice cream; she was sitting in the corner and I asked her what flavor she liked. “Caramel crunch” she answered.
I gave her my ice cream and she shared her life with me. This is Janet, and she was once a substitute teacher from New York. Her husband was a construction worker who moved the family to Seattle for work, but he died soon after they arrived. She has three children spread across the country; one lives close by in Port Angeles, Washington. She lives off of the money she gets from the state and relies on the local gospel mission for a bed at night.
When we look at a bird, we don’t realize what a remarkable engineer it is until we see its elaborately structured nest. When we look at a spider, we don’t recognize its extraordinary ability as a weaver until we see its intricate web. We can look at things as they appear, but until we can see what they are capable of, we will only see just a bird, just a spider and just another homeless woman.

Have you ever walked by a homeless person and wondered what their life was like before they ended up on the streets?

It was a rare scorching hot day in Seattle when I walked up to the ice cream shack at the pier. I had enough cash for one ice cream; she was sitting in the corner and I asked her what flavor she liked. “Caramel crunch” she answered.

I gave her my ice cream and she shared her life with me. This is Janet, and she was once a substitute teacher from New York. Her husband was a construction worker who moved the family to Seattle for work, but he died soon after they arrived. She has three children spread across the country; one lives close by in Port Angeles, Washington. She lives off of the money she gets from the state and relies on the local gospel mission for a bed at night.

When we look at a bird, we don’t realize what a remarkable engineer it is until we see its elaborately structured nest. When we look at a spider, we don’t recognize its extraordinary ability as a weaver until we see its intricate web. We can look at things as they appear, but until we can see what they are capable of, we will only see just a bird, just a spider and just another homeless woman.