Castle Valley Parable

Yesterday a woman told me about the way she raised her sons in Castle Valley. There was no electricity or running water. The two boys spent a lot of their time chasing after 20 goats the family owned and herded. The boys made up their own language, which they didn’t share with their parents. They created intricate toys made from the rocky high desert ground.

One day, a family friend came to visit. He saw that the boys didn’t have toys, and he took pity on them. After his visit, the man went home and gathered toys from his childhood into baskets, which he brought to the Castle Valley homestead. The boys were excited to receive Tonka trucks, green army guys and yo-yos. The man’s visit was fulfilling. He felt proud of his good deed, and all of the blessings of being one who gives.

Later that day, the woman heard her sons angrily saying “mine” to one another. It was a word that hadn’t used before, and it was the first time they spoke to each other in conflict.

Company of Friends

There’s a song I’d like to share with you. I recognize that last sentence makes me sound like a lovesick teenage boy, but it’s true. There’s a song I’d like to share with you, and here’s why. The holidays are a time of embracing loved ones-family, friends and community. For those of us that love someone that died, the holidays can be a bewildering time. We fully participate in the cheer of the season, but there is an element of sadness. There’s just something missing a lot of the time.

The song is “Company of Friends” by Danny Schmidt and performed by Schmidt and Carry Elkin. For me, this song illuminates a way that I can honor my father, while also acknowledging that he has passed. I commemorate that I am in his eternal company of friends, and I hold the flame of his embers. I also take time to appreciate friends and family that are right here in the now, and to acknowledge how richly those unique individuals texture my world.


When I die, let them judge me by my company of friends

Let them know me as the footprints that I left upon the sand

Let them laugh for all the laughter

Let them cry for laughter’s end

But when I die, let them judge me by my company of friends

When I die, let them toast to all the things that I believe

Let them raise a glass to consciousness

And not spill a drop for grief

Let the bubbles rise at midnight

Let their tongues get light as thieves

And when I die, let them toast to all the things that I believe

I believe in restless hunger

I believe in red balloons

I believe in private thunder

In the end I do believe

I believe in inspiration

I believe in lightning bugs

I believe in slow creation

In the end I do believe

I believe in ink on paper

I believe in lips on ears

I believe what’s shared is savored

In the end I do believe

I believe in work on Sundays

I believe in raising barns

I believe in wasting Mondays

In the end I do believe

I believe in intuition

I believe in being wrong

I believe in contradiction

In the end I do believe

I believe in living smitten

I believe all hearts will mend

I believe our book is written

By our company of friends

Copyright 2007. Words and music by Danny Schmidt.

Best of the season to you and yours, Kaci

Larry James

My Dad passed away on May 28th. Grief has become my new bed fellow. He grips me at night, repeating scenes of horrifying sadness, whispering memories of words said and unsaid during the final moments of my father’s life. He urges me to live each day to the fullest. He tells me there is no time for sleep. There is only time to reach into this crazy human existence and grab onto anything and everything that will bring me joy, or, at minimum, numb the intensity of his presence. He forces me to live in a way where I push myself to feel more alive than I did before he came along. Life must be something other than wandering around wearing this heavy cloak of sadness. I must go fully into the moment, this VERY moment, and truly live it.

I know now, three months later, that grief will be with me for a long time. I cannot attach deadlines or make a goal sheet of how I will slowly ween myself from him. There are no rules to anything now. Everything that made sense before no longer does.

I am humbled in a way I never imagined, and for that, I am grateful.

Some of you that are reading this did not know my father. Many of you heard me read this eulogy at his funeral. I guess I just want to throw it out there, to see the words here on this site I have ignored for most of this year. Sending peace, love and comfort into your heart. Let your light shine, beautiful humans. Life is short and long, mysterious and bold…..LIVE IT.


Eulogy for Larry James Yoh

My dad has never been perfect, but he has been perfect for me. If there is one word that describes my dad in all aspects of his life it is devotion. He lived his life as a devoted husband, father and employee. When I think about devotion, I see it as the epitome of love. My dad wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and honestly, most men aren’t, but he was devoted to his family and his work. Other than going out on a wrecker call, he was there every night to say, “Good night. Love you. See you in the morning.” each time I began my trudge up the stairs to bed when I was growing up. And I mean EVERY NIGHT, without fail. Even on those nights when I was upset with him and stomped up the stairs as loudly as I could.

He was both unbelievably strong and unbelievably humble. A man who believed in honesty above ego. The value of hard work never had to be explained to him.

Those of you who know him, know that he was on the shy side. He tended to be pretty quiet, but I think anyone with three girls and a wife at home would probably act the same.

He wasn’t one to toot his own horn, but he would raise his hand for anyone in need. Many of you in this room benefited from his expertise with car repair, construction and really just about anything needing muscle and WD40. He probably didn’t say much when he was with you. He tended to be focused on getting the job at hand done, but the finished, perfect fruit of his labor was his greatest expression of his love and caring for each of you. When I was growing up, if my dad wasn’t moving, he was sleeping. And he didn’t sleep much.

He wasn’t always hugs and kisses, but he was always, ALWAYS there. Though he challenged me to grow in the direction he wanted me to, he loved me during those times that I didn’t.

He and my mom created a family that gave me my best friends. I don’t know how one could ever say an appropriate thank you for that, but thank you mom and dad for that gift. Having Troy, Denise and Josie in my life has blessed me many times over.

Ted Hughes said:

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”

Well, you did it, Dad. You invested your heart and you lived a bold life. I hope you can feel the love here that has been created from your devotion and caring.

My dad would often say “Keep the Faith.” And I say that to all of you now. You never know what is coming down the pike, what challenges you might face, but like Larry did: excercise humility, embrace devotion and keep the faith.

And, if all else fails, spray it down with WD40.

Good night, Dad. I love you. I’ll see you on the other side. Until then, I’ll be sure to check the oil.

A Golden Home: Estes Park, CO


(For Amelia Josephine Burr)

by Joyce Kilmer

The road is wide and the stars are out
And the breath of the night is sweet,
And this is the time when wanderlust should seize upon my feet.
But I’m glad to turn from the open road and the starlight on my face,
And to leave the splendour of out-of-doors for a human dwelling place.

I never have seen a vagabond who really liked to roam
All up and down the streets of the world and not to have a home:
The tramp who slept in your barn last night and left at break of day
Will wander only until he finds another place to stay.

A gypsy-man will sleep in his cart with canvas overhead;
Or else he’ll go into his tent when it is time for bed.
He’ll sit on the grass and take his ease so long as the sun is high,
But when it is dark he wants a roof to keep away the sky.

If you call a gypsy a vagabond, I think you do him wrong,
For he never goes a-travelling but he takes his home along.
And the only reason a road is good, as every wanderer knows,
Is just because of the homes, the homes, the homes to which it goes.

They say that life is a highway and its milestones are the years,
And now and then there’s a toll-gate where you buy your way with tears.
It’s a rough road and a steep road and it stretches broad and far,
But at last it leads to a golden Town where golden Houses are.

With gratitude to the mountains, lakes and my family of friends in Estes Park.

heart rock


Top 5 Travel Tips from a Wayfaring Aficionado

My nephew, Riley, is getting ready to take his first international trip.  He is part of a team going to Rwanda to study biodiversity.  He’s a 20-year-old sophomore at Case Western University.  Yeah, he’s pretty smart.

As Riley prepares for his trip, I began thinking about some of the experiences I have had traveling over the last few years.  I wanted to tell him about some things I have learned on the road, but not in a way that seemed condescending because he can probably school me on most things.  And, I don’t want to make my trip his trip.  So, hey there Riley, this one is for you.  Have your own trip, but maybe read this first.

Top 5 Travel Tips from a Wayfaring Aficionado

1.  You never have to give your passport to anyone. Hoteliers will often tell you that they must hold your passport during your stay.  Um, no, they do not, and I strongly advise you not to give it to them.   They may give it to their uncle, who will take it to his house which is “many kilometers away”,to put in his “safe”, and then not be able to return it to you when you must leave because your train out of town departs in 30 minutes.  Obviously, I speak from experience (Goa, India).

The hotelier wants your passport in case you do not pay for your stay.  Offer your hotelier cash accompanied by a photocopy of your passport.  This course of action has worked for me every time.  It has not worked on the first offer, but in the end, I have a 100% success rate with this method.

Car and scooter rental shops also expect your passport as a rental deposit.  In Thailand, I watched a couple get charged three times the amount of their one-day scooter rental for “damages” to their vehicle that they adamantly claimed they did not create.  The next day, I watched a family of four go through the same scam.  Unfortunately, everyone gave the company their passport, and everyone had to pay to get them back.

Vehicle rental shops can be tough.  A photocopy of your passport accompanied by an expired credit card usually does the trick.  Pay cash for the rental.

International Driving Permits are great documents to secure before you go abroad.  If you do not feel comfortable using a photocopy of your passport, get this document.  Leave it behind if there is a dispute.  You can get one for $15 at AAA office nationwide.  You need two passport photos for each license.  You may want to get a few.

2.  Scan important documents into Google Docs.  Important documents include: a copy of your passport, immunization records and travel itinerary.   You may also want to upload a copy of your bank statement and credit card statement (with account numbers blacked out).  If there is any problem with your visa, you need to extend your visa, or you decide to visit another country that requires a visa, you may need to have financial statements that prove you have access to a set amount of money.

3.  If you get sick, try to be your own doctor.  The degree to which you must be your own doctor depends on where you are traveling.  If you have access to a hygienic clinic with medical supplies, kudos.  If not, you might find it easier to access Google.  When my boyfriend and I got horrendously sick while visiting a remote village in India, it seemed like a good idea to get online and try to figure out what was wrong with us ourselves.  In most countries, you can go to the pharmacy and get what you need without a prescription   Seriously, know thyself.  If you need medical attention, go for it.  Just be aware of the type of service you might receive.  Remember how you wanted to “have an adventure”?  Well, this is part of it.  Don’t lose your head.  Even if you feel like you are going to die, you are going to be fine.

If you have health insurance in the States, you may want to fill all those scripts your doctor will write you before you go.  If you do not, make a concise list of what you need, and purchase it at the pharmacy when you arrive.

4.  Watch out for the creeps.  I am woman.  I carry a vagina.  I might garner a little more attention than those who let it dangle.  I’m not sure, but I can tell you that I have been followed in Italy, Greece, India, Croatia, Slovenia, Argentina and various places in the United States.  I mostly suppose that people are just curious.  However, I also do not want to find out.

If you are in a city, glance into storefront windows, and look at your reflection to monitor the people behind you.  If you think you are being followed duck into a shop.

If everyone carries a machete where you are traveling, you may want one too.  It will make you feel better.

5.  If you get new gear for your trip, put all of it on and roll in the mud for a while.  Do not put a Canadian flag on your backpack.  Your fellow Americans do not need all of the cool American backpackers being taken for Canadians.  We need you to be one of us.