Monthly Archives: January 2017

Nature’s Arena

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; 

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or

a redeemed social condition; 

To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. 

This is to have succeeded. 

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lessons from the Trail

She broke the world record by hiking the entire Appalachian Trail which runs from Georgia to Maine… in 46 days.  

Pretty dang impressive!

The calls and requests for interviews came quickly for Jennifer Pharr Davis. What were her stats? How many calories per day did she eat per day? How many pairs of shoes did she go through?  As she stood in front of our high school students recently sharing her remarkable and courageous journey she noted that ‘not one of the reporters asked her what she learned or how she felt, what obstacles did she endure and overcome’ while trekking through fourteen states. She admits she was pleased with this record however that was not what was most important.


She had made this hike before as a young recent college graduate looking for something greater then your typical 9-5 job.  She found it on her first hike -which on average takes 5-6 months, hiking through the 14 states that make up the AT.  With a wry sense of humor about her extreme exhaustion, foul smell and wanting to quit, she pressed on… one step at a time.  Battling nature’s elements, meeting people from all walks of life(if you ever get to hear her speak, ask her about the stalker), seeing her inner strength shine through in a way she had never seen before and most importantly, discovering and learning to love and believe in herself.


Since her capture of the world record in 2011, someone else has gone on to beat her by only three hours.  While she admits that stings just a bit, it’s ok because no one will ever be able to take away the incredible journey, lessons and love for the Appalachian Trail.

Her experience has in fact led her on a different path; one that she didn’t plan or anticipate.  She has gone on to travel the world hiking many of the long trails on six different continents including hiking all 50 states with her now four year old daughter. And has since started sharing her passion and love for hiking and nature with others by founding the Blue Ridge Hiking Company and gave her first Ted Talk awhile back.

What I know for sure… there is a tremendous opportunity to connect with others through storytelling.   When we truly take the time to listen, ask questions, show empathy and allow ourselves to be vulnerable with our stories,  we often will see ourselves through their journey. This connection can happen anywhere- with students in the classroom, book clubs, chatting with an old veteran or coworkers working the midnight shift at the hospital.

While many of us are driven towards accomplishing our goals and dreams, perhaps the greatest moments and memories of our lives are when we trust the journey of the path unknown.





Nature’s Arena

she talks to me

not in words

words would just not do

they’d fall short of saying

all she had to say

fall short of reaching

the soul

she sings to me

in misty shades of purple and blue

in a way that only she can do

she lifts me

high above the skyline

to a mountaintop

high above the noise

the chaos down below

she loves me

like no other can ever do

she touches me

in misty shades of blue

~Michael Traveler

Traveler on the Backroads

Asheville, North Carolina

photo by Jaki Miller

Plug Into What Matters

I’m not much of an artist, but allow me to try and paint a picture here for you.  The courtyard of the high school where I teach or probably any high school for that matter may fit this description…

-Ketchup packets strewn about on the ground that some teen thought would be  funny to stomp on all the while engaging in flip the bottle contest with pals.

-A table full of girls turning their backs to a couple of boys who like  sloths slowly make their way over, move in with a sly grin, throw out a couple of jokes and boom-score a number!

-Laughter, smiles, teens vigorously trying to type their essay before the next class.

-Group of boys rough housing it on the lawn, tormenting the young bucks on the team with a few slams to the ground and a lunch monitor giving a slight warning to knock it off.

Yep, we see it all on the daily including the times where the opportunity zooms overs their heads to create a connection or a touchpoint with a friend, teacher, parent.  Today was no different.  ‘Laura’ – sitting with four friends at lunch.  As they always do, they  pop open the lunch boxes, cell phone in hand or within quick reach.  She began to confide in them that her father had been in a serious accident and was in the hospital.  Each taking their turn with the required “aww, sorry- hope he’s ok” while  continuing to text and stare scrolling right along on their devices. Now in some cases, keeping things as normal as possible can be helpful.

In her situation, she needed them to really listen and  could sense that they weren’t truly interested in what she was sharing. A few moments later, she gathered her lunch and backpack and off she headed towards the library.


Pay attention.

It is so easy to miss these opportunities to make a deposit into the relationships that matter– to create  meaningful  connections where people feel validated, heard, appreciated, supported and where  people know  that trust and empathy are present. When we do this,  it leads to more productive and healthier  relationships between parent & child, among friends, partners, colleagues and within our communities.

As a teacher and Mom of two, I must  guide my students and children in understanding and practicing the right times and situations to plug into their cell phones/computers and when to plug into people and the moments that matter.

I must also remember to practice what I teach.

Please watch Simon Sinek discuss it best in describing the generational changes and the power of connection in our personal and professional relationships.