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If You Ask Me About My Trip to Africa…

11 Aug

If you ask me about my trip to Africa don’t be surprised if I tell you about the elephants, the hippos, the giraffes, the crocodiles, the zebras, the great kudus, the lioness I saw in the distance and so many cool birds and the spectacular trees.

zebras looking

I will mostly likely tell you about the baboon who got in our jeep and stole our brownies and dropped crumbs all over the seats and how we laughed so hard.

Maybe I will tell you about the day I spent in the kitchen of a daycare center / orphanage with two women who have never been outside Tanzania and spoke marginal English. We cooked porridge, ugali, beans, and greens, shared stories about our lives, our families, and our dreams… and fed babies.

I guess it’s possible that I will tell you about the young medical student on my team who – wearing rain boots, a plastic apron, and gloves that she was not entirely certain were sterile –delivered her first baby. I may not tell you this story not because it wasn’t oh so special, but because, really, there are not words to express the look of sheer joy and radiance on her face when she walked in the door and told me about it. That is a moment that I don’t ever want to diminish.

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Odds are that I will tell you how grateful I am for a stable power grid, reliable internet, western toilets, toilet paper that does not disintegrate on contact (actually toilet paper period), and clean drinking water but I don’t expect that to be meaningful to most. We sooooo take all of that for granted.

It’s quite possible that I might not tell you the story about giving a young woman and her less than 24-hour old baby (and their entourage) a ride home. She had just given birth in the so much less than fully equipped clinic in the village we were visiting. The mom and baby were going to have to either walk to the next village or ride on the back of a motor cycle. We found out the baby did not yet have a name so they asked my colleague (and now friend) and me to give her a name. I may not tell you that story because even I have hard time believing that that actually happened, and now, more than a week later, can’t express just how powerful it was to watch that new mom take out the baby’s record, ask to borrow a pen, and carefully write “Maya” on the top of the page.

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I doubt I will tell you about sitting down with a man who, when I looked in his eyes, I saw the entire universe. You wouldn’t believe that I wasn’t making it all up. I was there; I saw it; and you know what? I really don’t believe I am not making it all up.

I probably won’t tell you about the tiny children who really weren’t that young…just tiny. Not sure you really want to know about that.

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Chances are you won’t hear about the cane or police pay-offs at check points on the highway or the lack of basic sanitation or the cultural norms about distribution of food that leave children malnourished (and tiny) or the textbooks that actually say women are inferior or the students who thought HIV was created by man in the laboratory…. You really don’t want to know about any of that. I am not sure I wanted to know but now I do and, trust me, it all changes you. I honor your ability to not know.

I will tell you about the inspiring people – the best and the brightest – who I am so honored to have worked with and now call colleagues and in many cases, friends. These people allowed me to think in ways that I did not even know I could. I came out not just changed by the experience this time but a better thinker – a multidimensional thinker – because of these three and a half weeks. I bet, however, that you will not see that because fundamental change in people you know is not easy to recognize– even when it is a shift to something so much more. So I may keep all that to myself.DSCN4027 (2)

I don’t believe I even know how to tell you about how a magnificent 13-year-old young woman who, without even realizing, gracefully shined a light in the darkness and changed the tone – created a moment of safety and sanity in a world that held neither – for another young girl whose life, experience, and existence held so little hope. I could never do that justice and would never, in my wildest dreams, capture the overwhelming pride and gratitude that I felt for knowing her and witnessing that moment.

I am happy to tell you about the promise I saw – the abundance of food and natural resources, the staggering beauty of the landscape, the people I worked with’s drive and desire to do more and better, the thirst for knowledge, the desire to spread the word about a program that could change so many lives, and the unwavering position of those I worked with (those with real power to do something) to help bring about a shift in cultural norms that would create a sense of equity and fairness. I bet, however, that you will write that all that off as idealism or the romance of the moment in hindsight or the view from the other side of my rose colored glasses or the perspective from my glass overflowing take on life. I know that. I appreciate that. I respect that position.

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I may not share many of those stories not because I feel you are incapable of understanding or that you lack something that allows you to feel them. I may not tell you about these significant events because I never want to diminish them with inadequate words or language that lacks the power to express true transformation.


Come into my kitchen and pull up a chair and let’s talk about the animals and the trees and the landscape. They were all breathtakingly spectacular.


All thanks to Global Volunteers….

Laughter IS the Best Brain Medicine With Vikki Claflin

11 Apr

It is so rare to find someone who makes you laugh until your cheeks hurt. It is even more unusual to find out that that hillarious person lives with a disease that changes how they think.

Vikki Claflin is that incredibly rare person. Daily she face challenges and changes that come with Parkinson’s Disease and has found a way to laugh herself (and anyone within earshot) through her moments. Vikki’s first book, Shake, Rattle & Roll With It: Living & Laughing with Parkinson’s chronicles her hilarious, and sometimes poignant journey, about living with Parkinson’s disease. Wow, humor as medicine at its finest.

Her newly released book, Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? Middle Age, Modern Marriage & Other Complications is available now on She generously agreed to share a story from that absolutely hillarious book here! A huge thanks to Vikki for sharing the laughter and the love. Here is it!!!

Living the Frugal Life. Not So Much

One recent, sunny afternoon, I decided to make a quick stop at the Taco Bell drive-through and, feeling pleased with my sudden surge of frugality, I reminded the clerk that I was eligible for the senior discount. He replied that although they didn’t actually have a discount, they did offer “older people” a free soft drink. Resisting the urge to kill the mood by reaching through the window and smacking the insolent pup on the back of his head, I smiled and agreed to take the deal.

My 1974 car was built before cup holders, so I set my drink carefully on the console and began to pull forward, forgetting that my car has a tendency to surge at will when you press the gas pedal. Unfortunately, it willed and immediately lunged forward, just hard enough to toss my drink in one direction and the lid in another, spraying the entire interior of my car, including the dashboard, windshield, and sheepskin covers, with sticky, icy cola. Seriously??

This frugal thing may not be for me.

Generally speaking, when I hear the word “frugal,” my brain conjures up visions of living in a yurt, weaving my own clothes, wearing Birkenstocks year-round, and using dryer lint to re-plump my couch cushions. Frugal living seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to dieting. Its entire premise is based on deprivation. “Here, take this notepad and write down everything to like to eat/buy. That’s going to be your list of things you can never have again.” Awesome.

But it’s hard to argue with the fact that today’s economy often requires cutting back on non-necessities. Like many couples, Hubs and I have spent countless evenings ferreting out exactly where the money went that month and why, and whether or not we can avoid or reduce that expense next month. Like DEA dogs sniffing out cocaine at LAX, we’re constantly on the hunt for hidden spending habits that need to be eliminated.

Then a few weeks ago, I received a newsletter from a local financial guru, promoting his upcoming talk on “How to Live a Frugal, but Fabulous Life,” and it included these “fun tips” on saving money:

1. Buy generic brands. This only works if the generic brand is actually edible. Some are fine. Others are just plain nasty. Hint: If it comes in a large plastic bag and the leprechaun on the front looks more like a garden gnome, it doesn’t taste like Lucky Charms.

2. Buy in bulk. Unless you have four refrigerators and eat a lot of hamburgers, who the hell needs 12 bottles of ketchup? And “Split it between friends” assumes someone (yeah, that would be you) is supposed to drive all over town to deliver the other 11 bottles and collect the money. I’ve already got two jobs.

3. Reuse your paper towels. So now I’ve either got a clothes line in my kitchen, or every surface is constantly covered with drying paper towels that we can reuse later that day. If you’re OCD, this will make your head explode.

4. Wait until the dishwasher and washing machine are full before you run them. Since there’s only two of us, that means I’ll be standing in the kitchen tomorrow morning, buck naked, with a dirty fry pan.

5. Pump your own gas. I tried this once. Sprayed my clothes with back-splash and spent $40 getting the gas smell drycleaned out of my favorite jacket. Big savings.

6. Take your cans in and recycle them yourself. By the time I repeatedly stuck 100 cans in those constantly jamming recycle machines at the local supermarket, I was pissed off and covered with sticky cola residue. The $3 I made didn’t cover the 90-minute relaxation massage and cleaning costs required to regain my zen.

7. Clip coupons. Perfect. Now I get to become one of those women who backs up a line at Safeway for 25 minutes while she digs for the appropriate coupon in her erroneously named “EZ Coupon Finder” notebook, and then proceeds to argue with the cashier about the expiration date, until a manager has to be called over the loudspeaker to come down and resolve the issue. This is a small town. We know where you live, and we hate you.

8. Set up all your bills on Auto Pay, to avoid late fees. Don’t. Think. So. Financial experts are constantly warning us to keep our banking information secure and confidential, but then, because it’s a business request, we cheerfully hand over our account numbers and all our personal information, which they immediately email to an English-as-a-9th-language yahoo in their Billing Department in Sri Lanka. Like that’snever backfired on anyone. And once they take the money out, good luck trying to get it back.

9. Make your own housecleaning products. I tried that once. In an ill-advised attempt to create a better bathroom cleaner than what was on the market, I poured every cleaning product we had into a big bucket, including bleach and ammonia. Almost blew the house up and it took months for my eyelashes to grow back. Moving on.

10. Ditch the gym membership and work out at home. Good idea, if you’re not ADHD. 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer takes two hours to accomplish if you’re getting off every other minute to put the clothes in the dryer, let the dogs out, answer the phone, and check your blog stats. Who’s got the time?

11. Take home the sugar and condiment packages from fast-food restaurants. Because nothing says “class” like serving your family and guests dinner with bowls of ketchup packets you boosted from the local McD’s.

12. Don’t flush after just a pee. Wait until it matters. Wow. Few things leave me speechless.
But in keeping with the spirit of savings, Hubs and I have our own way of being frugal. On those days we’re just itching to go on a spending bender, we head out to Costco (an hour away) and spend the afternoon happily going up and down every aisle, piling our cart high with every single “really cool and amazingly low-priced” item we just can’t live without. Then we park the cart at the front of the store and dash across the street to the Wooden Chicken Pub for cheap lunch and drinks, feeling the rush of shopping, without spending any money.

White trash frugality at its finest.

headshotVikki is an international best-selling author, humor blogger, and inspirational public speaker. She lives in Hood River, OR, where she writes the award-winning humor blog Laugh Lines: Humorous thoughts and advice on how to live young when you’re…well…not, where she doles out irreverent advice on marriage, offers humorous how-to lists galore, and shares her most embarrassing midlife moments. She shows us how to master midlife with a little common sense and a lot of laughter.
Vikki has been featured on the Michael J. Fox Foundation website, Erma Bombeck’s Writer’s Workshop, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Generation Fabulous, Midlife Boulevard, Better After 50, and Funny Times Magazine. She also received a BlogHer14 “Voices of the Year” Humor award.
Vikki’s first book, Shake, Rattle & Roll With It: Living & Laughing with Parkinson’s chronicles her hilarious, and sometimes poignant journey, about living with Parkinson’s disease. Her newly released book, Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? Middle Age, Modern Marriage & Other Complications is available now on You can find more of Vikki’s writing at

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