Grab a cup of tea or coffee, relax and read on

alarm-clock-2132264__340I was writing a post for my Meditation Facebook group this morning when I came across this photograph, which led me to slow down a bit and allow myself to spend some time wallowing in the wonderful memories tea and Fall have brought to my life.

I think my reverie was made easier, because there is a chill in the air this Autumn Monday morning in Florida.  Temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s are as cold as we get even in the middle of winter, so today’s weather was a welcome surprise for me.

With a cup of tea by my side I let my mind wander through some of the scenes and memories that a relaxing cup of tea and Fall weather have given me over the years. I spent time in my mind at kitchen tables around the world sipping tea and savoring the feelings those moments evoked.

My mental journey began with my sister in Avon, Ohio’; I love her kitchen and the view through her sliding glass doors – I never tire of visiting her. Her tea is loose leaf and deliciously flavored. I then traveled back in time to my Mom’s kitchen in the parkway house they lived in after moving from the home in which we grew-up. I remember feeling so happy that they were happy, while sipping her honey and milk laced tea.  After revisitng Mom, I stopped by my former mother-in-law’s – she kept Constant Comment in her cupboard for me  – she was a coffee lover her entire life. Next, I fast-forwared to time spent with my amazing host family in a small village in Macedonia 11 years ago, where I enjoyed fresh-dried and fragrant mountain tea and personal cross-cultural exchanges.

During another time living abroad, I sipped tea and cooked-up a storm with my Georgian host family in their tiny kitchen that was always cozy and warm and overflowing with family and friends. I completed my morning’s sojourn enjoying another special memory with my dearest friend in Florida, who I was able to share daily tea and conversation about our lives and the world around us for months at a time before she passed away last year. We odten laughed about the fact that she barely dipped her tea bag into the steaming water in her cup, while I often let mine steep as I sipped.

I hope you find time today, this week, or in the month ahead to sit and savor some of your favorite Fall memories and any present or future moments you create this year with the special people in your life.

Take time to take in the good, and both your body and your brain will be relaxed and refreshed.  I guarantee it will be time well spent.

 

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An even fuller, full circle

About 15 years ago, I began gently and patiently exploring how to create the life I really wanted. I slowed down, stepped back a bit from the life I was leading, began asking myself lots of questions and then, really listened to my answers. The process helped me decide how I wanted my life to look and feel, and I’ve been living my life that way ever since.

bitola-hills-looking-toward-pelister-1-1-079a.jpgMy journey has taken me many places. First stop was an honest look inside myself – the toughest journey of all. I hired a life coach to help me with that. I then used the support and insights I gained to help me create the life I really wanted, which led me to three exciting years as a volunteer with the United States Peace Corps in Macedonia.

It was there that my journey came full circle, when I realized that when we change ourselves, we change the world. And, not necessarily by making major life changes, but by believing change is possible. When you accept that change is possible, others will too, and then all sorts of doors will open – for everyone. That’s how Wishful Thinking Works.

This blog, Wishful Thinking Works: Create the life you really want, is part of my journey. I share what I’ve learned, what I enjoy, what I’m discovering and what lies ahead. I’m glad you have joined me. I also share great photos and information about my time in Macedonia (Search Macedonia for more.), the Republic of Georgia (Search Georgia for more.) and other volunteers’ experiences in the Peace Corps (Search Peace Corps for more.).

Since my first Peace Corps experience, I became a certified life coach, served two additional assignments as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer, spent a month volunteering at a Benedictine monastery, was the Director of Corporate Training and Continuing Education at a state college in Florida and married the man of my dreams in 2015 after enjoying the single life for 18 years! We now split our time living on two islands that vary greatly in size – Fort Myers Beach, Florida and Long Island.

And, today are I am thrilled to be back in Bitola, Macedonia as part of our month long honeymoon! Dan has enlarged the circle, making it even fuller – how fun to share the country I love with him. We will spend time in Macedonia visiting wonderful friends and enjoying its laid back and ancient beauty, then we are off to explore Venice, Italy, relax on a beach in Albania and go sightseeing in Greece, but we will return to Macedonia and dear friends after each side trip!

I hope to post lots of new photos, along the way!

среќен пат,

Happy journey!

Patrice Robson (Koerper)

WTW Dandelion

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Journey of a lifetime

Patrice BitolaWishful Thinking Works

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to change your life dramatically? To try something terribly new and scary, but truly heartfelt – all on your own? To do more and learn more than you ever thought possible?

I did, and I am sharing the experiences of my amazing adventure in Macedonia as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006-2009 at a program for the Fort Myers Beach Library on March 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Only 450 people over the age of 50 serve in the Peace Corps each year, I was lucky enough to be one of them. I was 53 years old when I decided to take the biggest risk of my life, and ended-up on an remarkable journey serving in a tiny, ancient, mountainous, wine-soaked country just north of Greece. It truly is my personal “Eat, Pray, Love” story.

You are never too old – or too young – to decide who you want to be!

My journey really began in 2004 when I started looking at my life through a new lens. I spent less time “doing” and more time reflecting and thinking about how I wanted my life to look, feel and be. During that time I discovered three things:

  1. I wanted to “touch the face” of the people I was helping. I am a visual thinker and that was my way of saying I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with folks. I had risen as far as I could in management within my field, and although I loved my job and was impacting my community in a way I wanted to, I knew I had more to learn and give at a personal, one-on-one level.
  2. I knew there were more people I was supposed to know in this world – not just to meet, but to know. Luckily I was right, and made friends for life on my journey.
  3. And, I knew I wanted  to live in Europe. Didn’t know how or why, but knew I wanted to live within another country and culture.

During my two years of introspection and months of research, Peace Corps (PC) rose to the surface. Joining PC was never planned, but popped-up while searching Internet options that would allow me to live as I realized I wanted to. And, and as sad as this is to admit, I had no clue where Macedonia was until I started exploring serving in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe.

You are never too old – or too young – to become who you want to be!

During my presentation you will find out what it is like to pack two suitcases and leave behind everything else you love – family, friends, your home and your job to volunteer in a country where you must learn a new language, work in a new job and make new friends, while trying to understand and meld into a culture that is foreign to you.

Through photos and stories I will share how this wonderful trek enriched my life and broaden my understanding of myself, others and the world around me.

Postscript:

I returned to Macedonia in 2010, 2011 to visit and for projects and in 2012 for a short Response Corps Peace Corps (RCPC) assignment. In 2011, I served in the Republic of Georgia on another short RCPC project. This summer, I will be visiting Macedonia for a month; it is time to introduce my new husband to my second home. 

 

The learning and the fun never has to end!

Checking expectations

I am giving a presentation today to a wonderful group of Red Hat Ladies on my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Macedonia where I served from 2006-09. As I was updating my presentation, I came across a post about living abroad I had written in 2013 when I was returning from another short assignment with the Peace Corps in Macedonia.

In the post I shared what I learned about checking my expectations with my luggage; today I am sharing excerpts from that post, along with some tips on letting go.

luggage-646311_960_720While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others, because you expected yourself or others to act differently?

How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your expectations or the expectations of others? Did not meeting those expectations cause you pain or frustration?

travel-164574_960_720Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind? To give yourself and those around you a break? To unpack your baggage?

Why not give yourself a free and totally unexpected gift by decreasing the expectations you have for yourself and others (past, present and future), which just might  be the gift that gives you more happiness!

A great way to get started is to simply become more aware of the expectations we place on ourselves and others.

  • Next time you feel frustrated or angry – check to see if you have any expectations that weren’t met.
  • Try to identify what your expectations were. Write them down, if you can.
  • Don’t bother at this point trying to determine whether or not you should have expected something, or if you deserve some type of behavior or pay-off. What is key, is becoming more aware of the role expectations play in your life and feelings.
  • Later when you are not in the throes of the situation, you can look at your expectations more objectively and determine if they have value to you and if you need to keep them around or not.
    • If you decide to let them go, next time they pop-up, smile at your brilliance and foresight for being prepared to deal with their arrival, and then breathe deeply and slowly before your react. Repeat as necessary, until your frustration fades and only your congratulatory smile remains.
    • If you decide that a particular expectation is valuable and worth keeping, then spend some time figuring out how to change your situation (on a small or large scale) to ensure your need is met. This process takes time, so be patient and be prepared to do some work, but please don’t beat up on yourself along the way. Just keep moving forward.

I know it isn’t easy to change ourselves or our expectations, but I also know you can do it. In fact, I expect you to!

Just kidding, the choice is yours.

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Fall fun in Macedonia

Every fall since 2006, I have been in the beautiful country of Macedonia, which offers a very different autumn than southwest Florida. The changes here in Florida are subtle, soft, and without fanfare. Macedonian fall weather is similar to the crisp, cool, and colorful days of northeast Ohio where I grew-up, but one of their traditions is very different and so aromatic that the wonderfully rich and dusty scent of roasting red peppers in preparation of making ajvar stays with you for life.

Ajvar (pronounced I-var) is a delicious tasting, dark-orange to deep-red, roasted red-pepper spread that can make even the coldest winter day seem a bit sunnier. Every Macedonian home has it’s “special recipe”, and each is equally delicious. To honor and share the ajvar-making process I wrote this post two years ago while visiting Macedonia; I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to give ajvar a try, which I whole-heartedly recommend, you can find it at Trader Joe’s and many Eastern-European grocery stores here in the States. It will add zest to your table and will be a perfect accompaniment to any fall party where family and friends gather to share companionship and a respect for fall traditions – including football!

In Macedonia, making ajvar is not only a tradition, it’s part of the fabric of life. Families gather in villages, towns and cities for days of roasting, plunging, peeling, cooking, and stirring deep red peppers to creamy perfection. The aroma of roasting peppers permeates the autumn air. Kilos of peppers are bought in Macedonian fresh markets (pazzars) for the equivalent of American pennies. (One kilo equals 2.2+ pounds.)

Fall pazzar favorites

Their pungent crimson, thick, flesh dominates the cooking scene at this time of year. It seems every family has a special recipe for creating this rich spread, which is scooped into sterilized jars, set on shelves and shared with family and guests throughout the winter.

Fresh peppers are stuffed with cheese or meat and baked to perfection. Peppers of all shapes, colors, and intensity – burn-your-mouth-hot to sweet and mild – are served swimming in oil at almost every meal. The remaining peppers adorn walls and balconies, and are dried so large chunks of their leathery, slightly crisp, dusty-flavored goodness can be added to a delicious array of meats and bean dishes to warm-up meals during the colder months.

This year my American guest, Annie, and I had the honor of being on-hand for part of my friend Dragica’s ajvar-making odyssey. Dragica’s spirit and love of life flavors everything she does, her tasty ajvar being no exception.

We arrived after the ruby red capsicum had been roasted and peeled – a full day’s work. Our day of ajvar making (watching) began when the wood was burning and the peppers were slid from a huge pail into an even wider-mouth enamel pot for the long and arduous cooking and stirring process. Ajvar is always made outdoors, and city neighbors set-up shop in garages and backyards.

This year, after enjoying Turkish coffee and rakija in the mid-morning shade and chatting in broken English and Macedonian with her friendly and interesting neighbors, we moved to the steamy garage to talk with Dragica’s husband and college-aged sons, Marjan and Dan, who were home for ajvar making.

We decided the process might benefit from some literary inspiration – Dragica loves writing poetry, and within minutes we had created the following masterpieces. (Please remember these words were created with love, just like ajvar, and followed some homemade rakija sipping, which is basically moonshine-light and another great part of the Macedonian way of life. I must admit not everyone was sipping, but those of us who did felt even warmer and cozier.)

And, now without further ado . . .

The Ajvar Trilogy

Created with love and inspired by moments shared by Dragica, Marjan, Dan, Annie and me.

The Flavor of Ajvar

Red as the burning coals
Hot as a chick
Ladle mixing food, family and friends
Circle of life
Tastes so fine, makes me want to drink a bottle of wine.
With bread and cheese, we will eat with ease
Rex sits watching like TV.

Notes: Rex is their huge German Shepard, who sat  quietly by. Can you guess which lines her sons added?

Lace in the window

Smiling faces looking down
Cooling breeze
Smell of smoke and peppers overtakes the day.
Mother and sons, paddling together.
More oil, much better.

Ajvar Beach

Many friendly people sit on ajvar beach.
Who asks what is that?
Foreign fires burning,
Roasting tradition.
Sharing time with family and friends as the earth tilts away from the sun, is a wonderful way to lighten your mood and warm-up your life.  I hope you take time this weekend – September 22 is the northern hemisphere’s fall equinox – to relax and reflect on how you want your life to look and feel – and, if you are lucky enough to be in Macedonia – smell! 
 
ajvar_spread.jpg

Learning to check your expectations with your luggage!

Chaska, Macedonia 2013 Mountain Road

An unplanned journey, and a day I will remember always – near Chaska, Macedonia.

I’m finishing-up my third Peace Corps assignment, and will be heading back to the States on Valentine’s Day – a sweet treat for sure. I served with the Peace Corps from 2006-2009 in the Republic of Macedonia, 3.5 months in the Republic of Georgia, 2011-2012, and I’m now finishing a 3.5 month assignment in Macedonia.

A big part of the joy I have experienced in my work here and in Georgia has to do with being open to exploring and understanding different cultures. So, earlier this week, when I opened my email and read an e-newsletter about “Cultural Intelligence”, I started thinking about what I’ve learned by living and traveling abroad and how those lessons have shaped my life.

My favorite line in the article is . . . “The last part of cultural intelligence relates to how you behave, and, in particular, how well you adapt when things don’t go according to plan.”

While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

  • How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others?
  • How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your or other’s expectations, and felt embarrassed, sad or stressed?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind?

Why not give yourself a special gift this Valentine’s Day and lessen your expectations for yourself and others (past, present and future) and increase the likelihood that happiness will find a special place in your heart and grow to become the sweetest part of your life?

“Sreken pat” or happy journey, as they say to travelers in Macedonia, and may your happiest journey be your life.

Elephants never forget . . .

I’ve been thinking how lucky I am to have such warm and wonderful friends here in Macedonia and in the States, and since my Peace Corps Response project is at the Bitola Zoo, it seemed like a good time to share with you this video that my best friend from junior and senior high school, Sally, recently posted on Facebook.

Tarra, the best friend a dog could have.

Tarra, the best friend a dog could have.

The video features the unusual and enduring friendship of an 8,700 pound Asian elephant, Tarra, and a tiny stray dog, Bella, who live at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Besides playing and enjoying their daily walks through the 2,700 acre sanctuary, Tarra showed her deep devotion to Bella by keeping vigil for three weeks when Bella had a spinal cord injury in 2010 and had to stay inside the clinic on the sanctuary grounds. The elephants at the sanctuary usually befriend another elephant and shy away from the dogs, but Tarra was different. She was not concerned about her little friend’s size or the sound of his bark, only the connection they somehow felt. Unfortunately Bella, passed away in 2011, but before she died, she and Tarra had spent almost everyday together for 8 years! It’s a heartwarming tale, and a touching reminder that elephants never forget  – a friend, and we shouldn’t either.

The holidays are a great time to call old friends and let them know just how much they mean to us. Many of us call or write at this time of year to say “Hi” and share what’s been happening, but why not take a moment or two to let the folks you care about know how much their friendship has meant to you. It’s a super, sweet, holiday treat that doesn’t require shopping, ordering, baking or mailing!

I’ll be calling Sally cross-continents to let her know, don’t forget to call someone you care about, too.

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