Tag Archives | Adventure

Grace


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It has been one of the most humbling yet uplifting times of my life.

And the word that keeps coming up?

Grace.

It is a word with several meanings.

One is connected to being “graceful,” the opposite of being clumsy.

Another is related to being “gracious,” which I think of as being kind, polite, warm.

Yet another is the blessing that is said before a meal, sometimes recited from memory, sometimes made up in the moment.

There is also the mystical idea of grace. Growing up in a fairly religious family, and taking theology classes in college, I heard phrases like “state of grace” and “grace is a gift.”

But what does that mean?

Well, two times in my life I have (consciously) experienced it. And, in my experience, grace is laced with irony. And it is, like the song says, amazing.

Ironic because it is humbling without being humiliating. Humbling, yet exalting. And amazing because… well, you’ll see.

The Story

My path began shifting earlier this year, in many ways. Most were delightful. Others, not so much. After a breakthrough year with my business, I suddenly found myself at the end of this summer not being able to “close” any new clients and not being able to support myself. A humbling – humiliating – admission for a business coach.

I had been planning to move as part of the shift in direction that has been growing over the last six months, but being forced to move – for financial reasons – was not part of my plan.

My Plan.

Sigh. “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Surrender

I fought the situation for as long as I could, until I finally surrendered and put out the call for help. And when I did surrender and put out the call, I was amazed. (I told this story to a friend, and he said, “Because no one responded?” No.)

Amazed because people came out of the woodwork in response. To help.

I received four offers of places to live. People showed up to help me prepare for a Moving Sale. They showed up to run the moving sale. They showed up to buy things. They brought food, they brought coffee. They brought boxes. They showed up to help me pack. They showed up to help me move. They took me to lunch, they took me to dinner, and they plied me with margaritas. And every time I was about to dissolve into a puddle of tears (like when I sold my plants and the fountain I built), someone was there with a hug.

Some people showed up for a couple of hours. Some people showed up over and over. Some people sent emails of encouragement, or cards. Prayers were offered on my behalf. People did what they could do, even if it was just send love. And that was enough.

Wow.

I surrendered, and asked for help, and help appeared.

It wasn’t the help I originally wanted.

It was better.

Friends

The day of the Big Move, ten people came just to help me move! That night, four of those friends took me to dinner. One of them looked at me and said, “A lot of people showed up to help you.”

“Yes,” I said.

“You have a lot of Friends,” he said.”

“Yes, I do,” I whispered.

“You’re very lucky,” he said.*

“Yes, I am,” I whispered with tears in my eyes. (*Actually, I don’t remember exactly what he said, because I was crying. But it was something to that effect.)

Help appeared.

So much help I could never have imagined it. And no one said, “You should have,” or “You ought to…” They did ask questions about my plans, and make suggestions, but there was no judgment, no looking down on me.

They just showed up. To Help. They lifted me up and carried me through. And what could have been a messy dropped motorcycle on the highway of life, with a bad case of road rash, turned into… a gift.

But I had to surrender first. And ask for help.

And help arrived. Help that was unexpected, and unearned. Help that reminded me that we are all connected.

That is Grace.

It would be easy to say that help was undeserved, but I believe we all deserve it. We are not entitled to it, and we don’t earn it. But we are deserving.

Help that is unearned, yet deserved. We all deserve it. Because we are all One.

Humbling and uplifting.

That is Grace.

Grace is a gift. A gift is not an exchange, as someone recently said to me. Grace delivers gifts that are not earned, even if we have worked hard, and for which the only payment we can make is to Pay It Forward.

Doors

Many doors have been opened to me, so many that I get to choose which are most true to the new path I am on. I don’t know where this path is taking me, exactly, but that’s OK. I get to make choices that strengthen good choice-making muscles. I now have two jobs in addition to my coaching, jewelry making, photography, and writing. I am living with a generous and delightful host. I am being introduced to people who can open additional doors.

I had to surrender and allow the decks to be cleared for something new to come in.

And for a new appreciation of something I already had to come in.

Saying Grace

Today when I say Grace, it has a whole new meaning.

Thank you for the many people who have blessed my life. Thank you for the opportunity keep learning and not be stuck, and not be trainwrecked. Thank you for adventure. Thank you for a roof over my head, for health, for laughter, for Connection. Thank you for music, and for play, and the opportunity to work, and for people to share all of this with. Thank you for all the blessings in my life, those I have worked hard for and for those I did not earn but came to me anyway. Thank you for opportunities to pay it forward, for awareness to see those opportunities. Thank you for memories, and for clean slates. May I have the opportunity to be a blessing for others as others have blessed my life.

Thank you all. May you enjoy a blessed Thanksgiving, and may you have the opportunity to say Grace every day.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Being With


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Yesterday I went to the wedding celebration of a friend of mine. A friend whom I hold dear, although we don’t spend that much time together.

I almost didn’t go.

I looked forward to it all week, but when the day came I was reluctant.

I would be going alone, and I didn’t think to call anyone to carpool. Would there be anyone there I knew? I feared going and being surrounded by others but feeling isolated. Would my little gift be good enough? They wouldn’t miss me if I didn’t go…

Wait a minute. I would miss them if I didn’t go. And, I said to myself, there were a lot of people she could have invited, and didn’t. She invited me.

I wrapped up my little hand-made gift, with something for each them, something personal, far more personal (aka Vulnerable) than something I might have gotten from Pottery Barn or wherever, and wrote in my hand-made card with one of my own photographs on the front. And off I went.

I arrived at the wedding party and, as soon as I arrived, a friend I hadn’t seen in months waved at me and said, “Come sit by me!” We chatted and caught up while we ate plates of Mexican food and drank margaritas, watching as party-goers learned salsa dancing. Other friends came and went from our little group, dear friends, new friends, acquaintances I hadn’t seen in several years.

Then a man appeared in front of me and held out his hand, inviting me to dance.

I have never salsa danced. Ever.

And I feel very awkward when it comes to any dance that requires Following.

And.

Remember the movie, “Risky Business?”

Sometimes you just have to say, “What the fuck.”

I put down my plate and got up. And danced. And it worked! “It’s just like walking,” my teacher said. “You’re doing great!”

How funny, I thought, not long ago I needed help walking after a horse stepped on my foot, and my walking partner said, “We’re just dancing, and you get to lead.” “That’s good,” I remember thinking, “I suck at following when I dance.” Now I was dancing, and my partner was telling me it was just like walking, and I was doing great at following. Hmmm.

We danced, and I danced several times throughout the afternoon between conversations and hugs and laughs. Ultimately I ended up in a corner with three other friends (two old, one new), just talking and Being With. It was lovely.

As we were helping our friend load up her car with gifts and leftovers, one of her friends, with whom I had danced, handed me one of the last flower arrangements to be given away and said,

“Here, Wild Thing, you need some flowers.”

Wild Thing? Me?

I laughed, and accepted. The flowers, and the name.

This morning I got up and drank my coffee and caught up on blogs I follow, and I noticed a distinct theme. The first, What We All Need, was about the importance of just being with. The second was about belonging, and how it is a distinctly 21st Century Challenge that requires stepping outside of our comfort zones. The third was about belonging to ourselves, receiving what is here and receiving the sacred. Through just being with it. Hmmm.

Belonging. Comfort Zones. Accepting. Showing Up. The truth is that if I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, I sometimes find greater comfort. I’m glad the voice that says, “I do belong” is louder than the voice that says, “I don’t belong.”

Which voice do you listen to? Which voice do you encourage others to listen to?

Want to Make a Difference?


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In a recent post I told the stories of three friends who have either recently embarked or are getting ready to embark on Great Adventures. I’d like to say more about one of them.

LaVonne Ellis – Complete Flake, Voice Coach, Customer Lover, Writer, Adventurer

I first met LaVonne Ellis soon after I started blogging. I joined a couple of online communities for bloggers and people wanting to promote their businesses ethically and responsibly online, and LaVonne showed up in both of them.

LaVonne didn’t just show up, she welcomed me. And in the faceless, potentially anonymous world of virtual “communities,” that meant a lot. Then she started following me on Twitter. So I started following her blogs and Tweets. (Two years and one week ago today, in fact!)

As it turned out, part of LaVonne’s fascinating story is that she used to work in radio. Which, of course, means she has developed (or was born with) a wonderful Radio Voice. And one of her businesses was providing services as a Voice Coach.

Well at about this time, my frustration with my voice was reaching critical mass. For ten years my speaking voice had been deteriorating, making telephone work, public speaking and online presentations well, difficult. To say the least. And my frustration hit its last nerve when I was interviewing someone over the phone and she said, “I think we have a bad connection, can I call you back?”

Sigh. “No,” I said, “It’s just my goofy voice. It’s not the connection.” *hungheadinshame*

So I reached out to LaVonne, who was offering promotional half-off half-hour voice coaching sessions. I ponied up the money and sent her my pre-session questionnaire with a recording of me interviewing someone. I was so excited to get started!

She turned me down.

LaVonne Lives By Her Ethics

LaVonne read my description of my voice problem, and listened to my recording, and declined to work with me: She said it appeared to be a medical condition which had not been confirmed and could be serious, and said her strategies wouldn’t be effective for me. She encouraged me to see a medical specialist, and she immediately refunded my money.

I was crushed.

I had finally worked up the nerve to do something – again, after being disappointed by multiple doctors who couldn’t solve my issue and brushed me off to others – and she turned me down.

She did The Right Thing.

LaVonne could have taken my money and coached me and then said, “Hmm, too bad, so sad.” But she didn’t.

And it kicked my ass into trying one more time to get my voice diagnosed – this time successfully. Which has led to a two-year process of discovery, which is still going on.

I later reached out to LaVonne to thank her, and she told me how bad she had felt about saying no and disappointing me. But she did it anyway. The right thing.

Tough love.

Customer Love

Not long after that, LaVonne and much of the online world read a post by Naomi Dunford, “Make Them Love You. THEN Ask For Money.” Like many others, LaVonne was inspired. Unlike everyone else, LaVonne decided to do something.

And she invited us to come along.

And the Customer Love Challenge was born.

I won’t go into all the details about the Customer Love Challenge – you can read the backstory here.

What I will tell you is why it matters to me, and why I hope it matters to you.

Why It Matters

The Customer Love Challenge quickly grew into a Phenomenon. A website was born. Tweetchats were held. A community formed. A free ebook was published. 28-day Customer Love Challenges were launched. Formats were experimented with. Budding business people who really didn’t have a clue – or an audience – found support and encouragement.

Nearly all for Free.

For Love.

LaVonne provided a catalyst that helped people (us) focus their (my) attention on their (my) customers rather than exclusively on making money. She helped people (me) put the horse where it belonged, before the cart. Love your customers, she taught, and the rest will follow. And she led by example.

She provided a platform, a forum, for people to connect and support each other in figuring this stuff out. Guest posts were solicited and published. Ideas were incubated and loved into life.

Ironically enough, LaVonne helped me find my voice – as a writer. I wrote four guest posts for Customer Love Challenges in less than a year and a half. I am not alone when I say the opportunity she provided me to develop my thoughts in this area and be exposed to a wider audience meant a LOT to me. And I met a TON of fascinating, inspiring, hilarious, creative, dedicated people, many of whom have become friends and some of whom have become colleagues. Several of my Customer Love confreres, including LaVonne, went on to write Captains Curious guest posts for my blog – what an honor for me! And that is just an example of another of the lovely benefits that grew out of Customer Love – members found people with complementary skills who could help each other out.

In other words, LaVonne helped me see the positive power of the internet for Good.

Evolution

As time went on, LaVonne noticed that many of the Customer Lovers, as we called ourselves, needed technical help with their websites and making all of the bits of online business work. So she branched out, and launched Trust Wanda. Since LaVonne had figured out how to do all this online WordPress, shopping cart, hosting, eeek, stuff for herself, she began offering that as a service. First to Customer Lovers, then to a broader audience.

And something interesting began to happen.

Just as many of the Customer Love peeps grew in confidence and began to stand in our abilities and plant flags on the tops of the mountains of our dreams – or at least make progress up the sides of those mountains – LaVonne grew in confidence too.

First, it became clear that the Complete Flake identity behind which LaVonne had been masquerading was, in fact, obsolete. A Complete Flake she clearly was not. So that website – and alter ego – was retired.

Then, LaVonne launched One Blue Berry and had us all hanging on the edges of our chairs, waiting for the next installments of her Green Card story.

And then, LaVonne knocked us out with her announcement about deciding to pull up stakes and set out on her Road Trip. Charles-Kuralt-style, LaVonne intends to set out and roam the continent (or at least a big chunk of it) and write about her adventures.

I, for one, can’t wait to read about them!

But first, she has to leave. Set out. Make it so.

LaVonne has helped so many of us make our dreams come true and find our voices (literally and figuratively). I want to help her make this dream come true.

How? Well, Moral Support is important and, I’m sure, always welcome. But there are other ways we can help.

  • Although the Customer Love challenges have run their course, you can still have access to three of the Customer Love tools to help you love up your customers and build your business on a firm foundation:
  • Hire Wanda – I mean LaVonne – to build or maintain a WordPress website. She’ll even help you with recording and editing audio files to post on your website. Interviews? Webinars? Piece of cake. With coffee.
  • And, of course, you can Chip In and provide direct financial support to the Road Trip in the amount of your choice.

LaVonne is someone who has made a difference in the lives of many, although she’ll probably blush to read that. Let’s make a difference in her life.

Please join me in supporting LaVonne on her Road Trip! I’m so curious about what adventures she will have, the people she will meet, the tales she will tell, and how she will be changed by it all. Are you curious? Let’s make it happen, and make LaVonne’s voice heard.

(My thanks to Jenny Thomas of DesisisterJen for inspiring this blog post. Thanks Jen!)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Something Is Afoot


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Maybe it’s fallout from the world’s ongoing financial debacle.

Maybe it’s coincidence. (Although I tend to see connections in coincidence and not mere Chance.)

Maybe it’s how the planets are aligned.

Maybe it’s part of an awakening that seems to be happening.

Whatever it is, three different people in my life are preparing to take to the Open Road in the near future and embark upon their Adventure Of A Lifetime (Up To This Point).

The Great Adventure

It started last year when my virtual friend Drew Jacob announced his plans to walk from Minnesota to Brazil. More specifically, from the source of the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Amazon.

Seriously.

Why?

The word Adventure comes up, but it’s only part of the reason. A part of Drew’s drive to travel, to live heroically, to meet The Gods through meeting others – and himself.

Drew has been preparing for The Great Adventure since last summer, and he has been very transparent about his preparations, ranging from Spanish-language immersion in Mexico City to road-testing shoes to wrestling fear and doubt.

I have only met Drew through blog posts, comments, tweets and email. I love his commitment to living his ideals, and his willingness to ask Big Questions. And be vulnerable. And he cracks me up. Of my three friends who are setting out, he’s the only one who won’t be coming through California. So I’ll be following him online and trying to figure out a way to meet up with him somewhere along his way. Meanwhile, you can learn more about Drew and his Great Adventure at http://roguepriest.net. Oh, and while you’re at it, get his ebook, Walk Like a God. It is wonder-full.

On the lookout for Wonder

And then there’s my friend Kelly Nolan Shafer. Kel and I have been friends since high school, and she’s one of those friends you can lose touch with (I did) and then you re-connect and you not only pick right up where you left off but it’s even better than it was before.

In December, when I opened the Nolan Shafers’ holiday letter, I learned that Kelly, Steve and their twin daughters, Helen and Olivia, planned to embark on their own Great Adventure when school got out in June. Their plan was to pack up their RV and tour the U.S. and Canada for six months, meeting up with friends and family as they visit landmarks along the way. In fact, they’ve named their Great Adventure “Our A.T.L.A.S. – Adventures Touring Landmarks Across the States.”

Kelly and Steve will be home-schooling the recently-graduated-from-fourth-grade twins as they go. (Can you call it “home-schooling” when home is an RV? Hmmm…) I am sooo jealous. I don’t just want to go – I want to be a 5th-grader on the road being home-schooled in an RV, too.

Of course, Life has happened between December and June, as it usually does, but instead of letting it talk them out of it, they let it talk them further into it. So the Nolan Shafer clan is hitting the road…tomorrow! And their motto? “We’ll be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. . .”

Wonder. One of my favorite things! How can you not love that? Now you want to go, too, I’ll bet.

My thoughts and prayers go with them, and I’ll be following their adventures as they blog about it. You can follow them too, at http://ouratlas.net/.

A Complete What?

And then there’s my virtual friend LaVonne Ellis. I have a soft-spot for LaVonne for several reasons, not the least of which is that she is one of the Captains Curious.

LaVonne, curious creature that she is, has decided to set out on her Great Adventure next year, touring the country in a van and, like the others, letting us ride along virtually as she blogs her way around the country.

Not only do I adore LaVonne and everything she does, but she mentioned Charles Kuralt in her announcement (OK, I have to go check, maybe I made that up…no, she really did), and he is one of my heroes.

You can learn more about LaVonne and her plans at http://completeflake.com/road-trip/. You can sign up for her newsletter, and check out her most recent posts with updates on her preparations. And don’t be deceived – she is definitely not a Complete Flake.

Something’s definitely afoot.

Whether it’s economic/socio-political fallout, coincidence, or something more cosmic, it is pretty amazing that I know of three different Great Adventures that are in the works. And I’m sure they’re not the only ones – they’re just the ones I know about.

And, of course, there are plenty of people in my life who are on interior adventures, myself included. And that is an important point: External adventures are important, but we should not disregard the importance of interior exploration. It can be just a scary. And fun. And rewarding.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

Life is an adventure – what adventure are you on?


Image: Ian Britton, freefoto.com

Captains Curious: Use Curiosity as Your Compass


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of the Captains Curious is Paula Swenson! To learn about the series and the other Captains Curious, please click here.

I let Curiosity be my tour guide

Being curious enriches my life in many ways, but never more so than when I travel. It’s curiosity that pushes me to walk a little further and see what’s around the next bend or over the rise of the hill, even though my feet are tired and the day has grown quite warm.

Curiosity draws me down a narrow stone walkway that opens into a pocket-sized piazza, brimming with flowers and a tiny café with only 3 tables. It’s a local place that has no sign, no need to advertise, discovered purely by chance. I eat exquisite handmade pasta with black truffles, thanks to being curious.

When I travel I view every journey, near or far, as a voyage of discovery. I let curiosity be my tour guide. I’ve discovered obscure but fascinating museums, archeological digs in progress, fabulous local cuisine, secluded idyllic beaches, unadvertised local festivals, world-class musicians, sanctuaries, parks and most important of all, glimpses of the real life of the places I visit.

Asking curious questions has led me away from danger…

Stopping to ask my curious questions of local people has both led me away from danger and toward amazing experiences that don’t ever come as part of a packaged tour or pre-set itinerary. Those experiences are key pieces of the mosaic of my life. Without my curiosity and the things it uncovers, I would not be me.

Once, in Rome, we saw streams of people headed the same way we were headed. My curiosity was fully engaged and we started to follow – but couldn’t really grasp the colloquial Italian we heard around us. We stopped to buy a bottle of cold water and I asked the shopkeeper where everyone was going. “A protest,” he explained, “against the government . . . perhaps,” he suggested, “today is a good day to travel outside the city to Ostia or Tivoli.” He was right, the protestors that day skirmished with the police; we enjoyed the countryside.

…and toward amazing experiences

On another occasion, in Kapadokya, curiosity led us to walk through a gate standing ajar at what appeared to be an archeological restoration in progress. We took a few photos of the empty site from our vantage point and as we turned to leave a man with a dog appeared. Certain we were about to be chased off, but ever curious, I called out a greeting and managed enough basic Turkish to ask the name of this place, so we could look it up later and get more information. Not only did we learn the name, Kaypakli, but we also got invited on a personal, private tour of the site. The man, it turned out, was one of the archeologists. Although he spoke almost no English and we spoke almost no Turkish, he was moved by our curiosity to share the work he was engaged in.

Curiosity opens doors

These are not isolated incidents. Curiosity opens doors and makes my travel more vibrant and relevant. I’ve been invited into people’s homes for tea and coffee, been taught to dance rembetiko and sirtaki in Greece, and been given lessons in the Turkish art of Ebru by a master craftswoman. I’ve witnessed ceremonies in villages unchanged since medieval times, eaten fresh sea urchins and been treated to traditional music by men gathering at the end of their working day to play simply for the joy of it – all because I let curiosity be my compass.

The next time you travel, whether around the world or just around the block, remember to pack your curiosity. It will change everything.

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Paula Swenson is a Creative Catalyst, artist and writer born in the USA, currently exercising her curiosity in central Bohemia, exploring castles and cobblestones in her free time. You can find her online at http://creativecompasscoach.com and www.zografis.com and on Twitter: @zografispaula

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Piazza Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.freefoto.com

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

Captains Curious: A Life-Saving Curiosity


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of the Captains Curious is Sandra J. Wing! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Was it curiosity?

Susan asked me, “Did you incorporate healing therapies into your cancer treatment regimen because you are a curious person?”

I never really thought about it that way.  I can see how curiosity plays a part in my decision to explore or try something new, such as skydiving, repelling and zip lining.

I am receptive to tackling a challenge. I enjoy doing things outside the box.

Is that openness?
Is that willingness?
Is it adventuresome?

Is it being curious?

A different challenge than skydiving

Nearly 5 years ago, I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for ovarian and uterine cancers.  The big “C” news is enough of a challenge for any of us that receive the diagnosis.  The surgery and chemo treatments add other dimensions to the challenge. I wanted to know what I could do to get through the cancer journey. The chemo drugs were debilitating and came with side-effects of weakness, lethargy, nausea, and sleeplessness.   I wanted to stay positive and keep my strength up.

Since I wanted to know what I could do – since I was open/receptive — does that mean I was curious?

How could I keep up my positive energies?  How could I find the strength to go through another round/cycle of chemo? How can I fight those cancer cells that are defeating the good cells inside me? What can I do to take care of me during this time? When so much is out of my control, what is within my control? I was curious to find the answers.

Adventure of a different nature

I sought out therapies that helped me.

I tried acupuncture and acupressure for the first time. And, as a result, my nausea and sleeplessness/restlessness subsided.

I tried guided /visual imagery meditation and I learned how to focus on my breath. And, as a result, I was calm, more focused, and able to keep a positive view.

Maybe I needed the “C” push.

Maybe I needed the “C” push. Was it the cancer diagnosis which prodded me to try these wonderful healing therapies? Would I have ever realized their benefits without it?

Long-Term Benefits of Curiosity

One thing I know for sure, the benefits of the healing therapies, such as deep breathing meditation and applying acupressure techniques, continue to be valuable to my recovery and to my over-all well being.

Life brings on its typical demands and busyness sneaks up pre-occupying my attention; however, when I stop, breathe, and take time for me – I reap the benefits once again.

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Sandra Wing is the President of the Sandra J. Wing Healing Therapies Foundation.  The Foundation was established as a result of her cancer journey and reaping the benefits of complementary healing therapies.  The Foundation provides funds so that cancer patients can experience the immediate benefit of complementary therapies to help alleviate the side effects caused by radiation and chemotherapy. www.healingtherapiesfoundation.org.


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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

Skydiver Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.FreeFoto.com

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