Did I agree to attend a workshop or a retreat? This thought came up less than a week before I would be flying across the country to spend 3 days in a cabin in the woods with nine perfect strangers I had never met in person. Didn’t I read a book like this by Liane Moriarty? Things didn’t exactly go well in the book, did they? You are being ridiculous. You always say that strangers are just people you haven’t met yet. If this is a workshop, I am not sure what I really have to offer. I can share a story. I am not a presenter. Why did I say yes? Welcome to the humor and judgment of my inner chatter.
I am glad I said YES before my thoughts could talk me out of it—thank you Shonda Rhimes.
I did not let my fear or insecurity sway me. I got on the plane and headed to St. Paul, Minnesota. After a long day of travel, I was retrieved from the airport by Jean. She greeted me with a huge hug and I dropped my luggage into the back of the car. We set off on a 2.5-hour drive to the cabin on the lake in Hayward, Wisconsin. Jean and I both hear song lyrics in every conversation. Our conversation (and singing) flowed with ease and any lingering fears dissipated.
It was almost 11 pm when we arrived at Elaine’s cabin. Bobby, DJ, Karen, and Elaine were drinking coffee and tea at the table. There was laughter (and magic tricks). At that moment, it felt like I had just arrived at a family gathering. Any remaining doubt left my body. My roommate, Sharon, was already asleep. I crept into the room quietly. I retrieved my pajamas and toothbrush. I got ready for bed and I crashed hard.
In the morning, I met Chris and Sharon. The entire group drank coffee on the dock of the lake watching the sunrise. As the day progressed, Amy and Gail joined the Cabin Crew. Each person presented an activity, presentation, or talk.
From the raw conversations and openness of each individual, to the unique gifts each brought to the table for us to feast upon, it was an incredible experience. The eclectic and electric energy was palpable. The immense joy and gratitude I experienced were overwhelming. Emotions swelled up from within and rolled out of me in tears. Crying and smiling are constant companions in my world. When I am happy, I cry. When I am sad, I cry. When I finally reach a real person when I call the insurance company, I cry—-I am a crier. I shed a lot of tears.
The weekend was filled with incredible food that was all prepared from scratch by our master chef, Sharon. There was carpool karaoke during trips to the store to grab just one more missing thing. There was magic, art, nature walks, personal shares, exploring words, communication styles, planning, tech talk, gratitude practices, listening circles, sunsets, campfire, meditation, morning altars, great food, laughter, and fun.
There is no way I can adequately describe each person in a short blog. Let me introduce the cast of Nine Extraordinary Humans:
Elaine Pardi: The Communication Stylist, nurse, cofounder of Animals Connect Everyone, and our workshop/retreat hostess. Her CARE Assessment program is exceptional.
D.J. Elhert: Creator of Portfolio of Power (POP), magician, tech guru, and the man to call to fix anything (including a light fixture Sharon and I managed to break in our room—Lucy and Ethel were here.)
Bobby Kountz: Author of The Someday Solution, mentor, speaker, artist, writer, and TheEarthHeARTist. A mentor, cheerleader, and friend.
Jean Caples: Cofounder of the nonprofit Animals Connect Everyone, nurse, caregiver, and best chauffeur ever. She sings and dances too.
Sharon Buckler: Writer, gardener, chef, and more. She grows the food and makes it taste delicious. Farm to table master and a great roommate. (When we aren’t breaking things.)
Amy Graham: Licensed counselor at Cityscape Counseling. She is a registered expressive art therapist. She is also the gifter of heart-shaped rocks she finds on her beach walks.
Gail Boenning: Author of Wandering Words and others. She publishes several love letters each week at 3musesmerge. After I read her daily letter, I will ponder, wonder, or wander, depending on the day.
Karen Hoffman: Creator of Living on Purpose. She has created card decks for adults, children, and women in the process of fertility treatments.
Chris Palmore: Creator of Gratitudespace. He has authored several books on gratitude, including The Mechanics of Gratitude, which I have written about in a previous blog.
It was a fabulous weekend of creating, collaboration, and connection. It was magic. It was magical.
Special Gratitude Note: I want to acknowledge and thank the person who started the chain of events that brought these extraordinary humans together, Michael O’Brien. Without his daily group meditations, we may have never connected. My meditation and gratitude practice has expanded and blossomed since I met Michael. He is the starting point for many relationships that have crossed my path in the past two years. Michael has quietly encouraged me and others to share our voices and ripple them out into the world. I am immensely grateful for his encouragement to unmute and let my voice be heard.
3 thoughts on “Retreat or Workshop? Nope. It Was Magic”
I’m literally “Billie-ing” right now! It warms both my heart ♥️ and my heart 💛 rock 🪨 to read this tribute to this Wonder-Full collective of incredible human beings!
The only thing missing is a write-up on YOU, but that’s OK, because I know a guy… 😉
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Beautifully written. Wish I could have been there. What a awesome time to rejuvenate.
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Thanks Marcia. One day we will meet and it will be wonderful.