No Turning Back


My drive to Missoula last week was not as easy as it was last year when I made the same journey. Although I’d scouted the weather reports for two weeks and determined that my desired window of travel looked like clear sailing, Mother Nature is often unpredictable and she threw me a bit of a curve ball. I left my mom’s house and almost immediately drove into some light snow flurries. As I headed north into Wisconsin the snow increased in intensity until I crossed the Mississippi into Minnesota. Adding to my anxiety was the fact that for the first time ever I had my bike mounted to a rack on the back of my car. After 8+ hours of driving, I arrived in Sioux Falls, SD quite tired but certain that the snow was behind me.

I was wrong. The next day, as I drove across the interminable expanse of South Dakota, snow squalls interspersed with very short breaks followed me almost all the way into Wyoming. With nothing in that area of the state to break the howling gusts of wind, the snow blew and drifted and froze across the interstate, leaving only one lane moderately clear and limiting visibility considerably. Numerous cars slid off into the median as I crawled along, determined to make it to Sheridan and my waiting hotel room no matter how long it took. 10 1/2 hours later I arrived as the skies finally cleared and the sun shone brightly before setting around 4:30 behind the mountains. I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a bourbon toast over the phone with good friends while watching Louisville in their Bowl game. Exhausted by the long stressful drive, I fell sleep around 9.

I woke early on the final day of my trip, eager to arrive in Missoula and be done with driving. I checked the road reports and the weather, both predicted to be fairly clear. After grabbing some coffee in the hotel lobby, I departed at 5:15. The stretch of I-90 between Sheridan and Montana was eerily void of any other traffic in the wee hours of New Years Day, and I felt increasingly alone as I drove along the dark and icy interstate. I felt pangs of longing to be back home with my mom, or back in Louisville with Kat and among my friends. I took the opportunity to ask myself why I was feeling the loneliness so intensely. The answer came quickly that I was looking for comfort and reassurance from others rather than from within myself.

As the sun rose that morning, it lit up the most amazing and sparkling hoarfrost coating the outside every tree along the way. I arrived in Missoula around 1pm and began settling into the same little condo where I’d been so happy last winter. As I unpacked my car and brought my belongings upstairs, I took the tv remote to turn on some New Years Day football, only to find out that the cable wasn’t functioning. Mildly disappointed, I continued unpacking. Throughout the rest of the weekend, as I continued to organize my little condo, the full impact of my decision to move and the resulting consequences hit me full on. I had moved away, not temporarily this time, from all that was comfortable and safe to me. The city in which I’ve lived for 18 years. My best friends. My gym and my buddies there. VOICES, the most supportive part of my life in Louisville. I felt the most loss from the breakup with Kat and the separation from her and the kids, as I realized how much my life centered around them. I even felt the absence of the comfort of the TV in the background in my condo, and it hit me again just how much I searched for external means to love, comfort, and validate me.

This is my real lesson, to be able to be for myself what I’ve always tried to get from others. This was exactly what I had asked for and intended to do – to take away all my safety nets so that I could not fall back on them, to force me to learn to rely on myself for love and approval. It’s easy to say – but I didn’t realize until right now how difficult it really is.

I’m a huge fan of Mike Dooley and his book The Top Ten Things Dead People Want To Tell You. He describes setting the intention of your life just like you program a destination into the GPS system of your car. You put in the address, and you put your car in gear. You know without a doubt that the GPS is going to take you to your destination. You don’t question it when the route looks unfamiliar, you don’t stop and turn around, thinking that it has failed to do what it’s programmed to do. The Universe works the same with your life dream, Dooley writes. You set your intention with the Universe, you put your car in gear by taking inspired action, and you sit back, enjoy the trip and trust that the Universe will take you to your destination. It makes perfect sense to me.

I’ve thought of that analogy over the past several days since arriving here in Missoula. This journey that I am on now is so unfamiliar, so scary and unknown, that I want to turn the car of my life around and return back to my starting point. To run back to the comfort and familiarity of the life I had in Louisville. But that is unfortunately in the wrong direction and will not help me get stronger.  I’m so scared and have felt so lonesome since I’ve arrived, second guessing and desperately doubting my decision and my inner strength. But at one point over the weekend I looked out my window, at the expanse of mountains surrounding this city, and a calmness washed over me. I thought to myself, “I will let life lead me.” I remember my own inner GPS destination and the intent that I have set with the Universe, and I trust that I am on the route which will take me there, no matter how scary it looks along the way. Having faith that everything is going to work out is the best comfort I can give myself.

Jumping into the deep end




When I returned to Louisville after being in Montana last winter, I thought I had things all figured out.  I returned to Kat and the kids and felt like I was better equipped to be with them. I continued the life coaching program I started in May. I intended to finish the book I’d started in Montana. I re-joined VOICES and looked forward to singing under our fantastic AD and going to the GALA festival in Denver this summer. I felt spiritually renewed and strong and inspired. As the months passed though, I began to struggle. I was focusing all my attention and energy outside of myself. I wasn’t meditating consistently so I lost my peaceful center. I wasn’t journaling, writing or blogging at all. I realized how unhappy I’d become by getting further away from what made me spiritually healthy. In November Kat and I came to the decision that we made better friends than partners and mutually agreed to separate. After being so certain about our relationship and my life back in the Spring, I was lost and didn’t know what to do next. Fortunately I’m in the middle of a life coaching program and have a wealth of tools from which to choose to help me in difficult life situations. I thought of one of the questions I routinely ask my coaching clients almost every session. “When have you been the happiest in your life?”

When I pondered that question, I reflected back upon my years playing my horn and teaching.  I had so much confidence in myself. I had something of value to offer and could make a career doing what I loved to do. When I lost the ability to play my horn, my whole world crumbled into a million pieces. I was completely lost.  In the years since then I have struggled to find my purpose and what to do with my life.

When I examined what has made me truly happy since then, the answer is undeniably clear.  The summer I traveled around the country writing about my adventures followed by the winter I spent in Montana have been the happiest in my life. I felt so free, so full of gratitude, so full of life.

I look at everything I do that gives me joy, whether it’s teaching kids to play the horn, working with the singers in VOICES, coaching group fitness, life coaching sessions, or writing about my own life experiences. It’s crystal clear to me that I love to teach, motivate, and inspire others. When I returned from my first adventure around the country, my friend Mark Simpson told me “Find what you love to do and find a way to make a living doing it.” Everything I’ve been studying this past year teaches that if you follow your heart and your passion, and take action, the Universe will support you in fulfilling that dream.

I recognize that I have many false, limiting beliefs about my ability to create my own success. I have doubts about my ability to make a living by traveling and writing. Although I’ve heard the stories of others who had nothing but pennies in their pocket but created their own success, I’ve always thought that those people were special – they have some innate quality or ability that I don’t possess. But that’s not true. Every single one of us has that power to create our own success. I can’t help others believe this if I don’t believe it and live it myself. In doing so, I can inspire others and give them the hope to do the same. They can follow their dream and trust the Universe to help it come true.

In the past couple of years, I’ve done some brave things. I quit my job and traveled around the country for three months.  I spent four and a half months out West in a city where I didn’t know a single person.  I’ve felt like I’ve dipped my toes into the deep end yet not really jumped all the way in. Because each time, I returned to the safety net of my familiar and comfortable friends, routine and relationship. But that safety net has prevented me from taking full responsibility for my life. Now I’m facing that responsibility straight on and taking another leap of faith. I’m moving back to Missoula, where I have been the happiest in my entire life. It feels like I’m going home.  I’m going to do what makes my heart sing and trust that if I do, the Universe will support me and opportunities will arise to help me achieve my dream. I want to travel and write and inspire others to look within and realize their true potential as I realize mine.

One of my favorite inspirational quotes is by Richard Bach. I love it and it encourages me to move forward: “You are never given a  dream without also being given the power to make it come true.”

My Backpack


A couple of weeks ago, Patti Hall mentioned to me that she really missed reading my blog posts. Truth is, I’ve really missed writing them.

When I was in alone in Missoula this past winter, I started a daily meditation practice each morning as the sun rose over the mountains. My mind, free and clear from most external stress, drama, and conflict, was free to make some incredible self discoveries. Each day after my meditations, I would journal about the amazing insights I was having about my life, and my beliefs and paradigms. As I made these discoveries, I felt lighter and lighter, as if I was easily coasting along a new and clear path of my life.

When I returned to Louisville, my daily routine changed. Instead of living alone, I’m now with Kat and the kids. Although much better equipped to handle the relationship with all of them the second time around, I still have many old, ineffective habits and self-limiting beliefs that get in the way of my relationships with everyone. As I’ve tried so hard to juggle or “manage” the household, its daily tasks, and the demands of my life coaching program, I’ve slowly left behind my daily meditation practice. Occasionally I’d allow myself some time to get quiet, but when I did, it always felt to me as if  I had a huge backpack full of heavy rocks which I’d have to empty out before I could find some relief and achieve that centered relaxed state of meditation in order to make any personal spiritual progress. Every day, I’d empty the same backpack full of the same rocks that I collected, because they seemed to be in my way as I made my way along my path. If I was not meditating and emptying this backpack, I’d keep adding to it and it would get heavier and heavier, weighing me down and keeping me from moving forward at all. I’ve felt so angry that those rocks are on MY PATH, so I pick them up and put them in my bag to get them out of the way. THEY ARE SO DAMN HEAVY. I’d empty my backpack but the next day they’d be there all over again!

In the past two or three weeks, I have re-dedicated myself to the practices that brought me so much relief, comfort, and progress last winter. This morning as I meditated, I realized that I don’t have to keep picking up those rocks. I can walk around them, I can step over them, casually, relaxed and without any resentment or anger that they are there. There is no reason at all to pick them up.  No one is telling me “You have to do that, Alise.” I can just leave them as I walk along my life’s path. And I realize that if I just walk past them, they won’t keep appearing over and over again.

And I can even ditch the backpack…..

Two Girls and a Truck!

Last year, my younger sister Renée was offered an opportunity to transfer to San Diego, CA to a new satellite office of her company after working there on a project the previous year. Eager for a new adventure, she jumped at the chance. At Christmas, she expressed some trepidation at the prospect of driving across the country and wondered if I might like to keep her and her kitty company on the drive. After my cross country travels the previous summer, I told her yes! As the July move loomed closer, she brought up the subject again and I reassured her I was game. How could I pass up an opportunity to see more of the country as well as a city I hadn’t yet visited?

At the beginning of June,  movers packed up her house and she and her kitty Rigger moved in temporarily with my mom until the July move-in date. Her plan was to fly me to Chicago, pack up a small truck with her remaining personal items, work stuff, and Rigger, drive to SD and then fly me back to Louisville. I was excited for another adventure, as well as the chance to spend some time with my sister. I eagerly plotted the 4-day trip, making our hotel reservations in advance. It was a fairly straight shot that would take us through Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, a smidge of Arizona, Nevada, and California.

On July 1st I took the short flight into Chicago. The next morning, we picked up the 12 foot box truck and packed all her remaining belongings in the back. Rigger was given a dose of a kitty knock-out drug and she was stowed in a nice roomy wire cage that fit absolutely perfectly between the two seats in the cab.

Rigger in her truck home

Rigger in her truck home

After a tearful goodbye with Mama, we headed west on I-88 at about 10:30am. Rigger meowled but as the drug took effect, the white of her third eyelid closed over her eye and she settled down. This route was familiar to me; I’d traveled the state of Iowa many times while I lived in Iowa City and Ames. Soon we passed into the flat state of Nebraska. Dark skies and thunderclouds loomed ahead in the west, but luckily we’d left late enough that we dodged them all. As we approached Grand Island, NE, our first stop, the skies cleared and the sun shined brightly into our eyes. We celebrated our first complete day with a couple of Blue Moons at the small bar and grill at the hotel.

Blue Moon!

Blue Moon!

The next morning we rose early, drugged the kitty cat, and set off. I dreaded the remainder of Nebraska, remembering it to be flat and ugly. However, it was much prettier than I recalled from years past – lush and green from all the recent flooding rains. Eventually we crossed into Colorado, and as we drove through Denver the snow capped Rocky Mountains appeared before us in the hazy sun. As we passed Empire, my WAZE app directed us off of I-70 due to some construction. The detour was just as gridlocked, but took us through Clear Creek Canyon, a spectacular canyon with a stunningly picturesque creek where kayakers and rafts rode the rapids. We were grateful to crawl along the detour, viewing the magnificent beauty around us.


weeping wall

weeping wall

IMG_6610After getting back onto I-70, the landscape was even more breathtaking as we drove past Central City and Vail. We stopped for the night along the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. After a nice outdoor dinner at a local Mexican place with a couple of well-earned margaritas, we wandered around until we spotted a sky lift upside a local mountain. We snagged a couple of tickets up the lift to the top of the mountain, where Renée posed in front of some adorable wooden bears and moose characters.

Renee and her friends

Renee and her friends

Saturday we left the beautiful little resort city behind, along with the Colorado River, and headed into Utah. Rigger was having an especially difficult morning, meowling louder and longer than usual. Afraid that she might not have gotten that ½ pill down earlier, Renée pulled over at a scenic view to re-dose her. While we were there we took in the beauty of our Utah surroundings.


IMG_6650Rigger slept soundly as we continued across the hot state of Utah. As we passed the exit for Moab, I looked longingly to the south towards Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, both of which I have yet to visit. Finally we merged onto I-15 South, past Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. After a short 20 miles or so across Arizona, we crossed into the state of Nevada into the blistering hot small town of Mesquite. Our hotel for the night was nice and new, but very isolated. We walked around the blast furnace heat looking for a place to eat with no luck. We got back into the truck and drove to the edge of town until we found a Peggy Sue’s Diner and had a light bite.

The hotel was perched high on the edge of town, and we had a good vantage point for the 4th of July fireworks taking place at the casino that night. After a spectacular sunset, we found a spot on the edge of the parking lot and watched the fireworks display.

DSC04030At last it was Sunday, our final day of driving. We packed Rigger one more time into her cage and departed early. We had the road to ourselves until passing through Las Vegas around 10am. After that, the throngs of holiday gamblers headed back to California. Traffic was heavy all the rest of the way. And unfortunately, the scenery between Las Vegas and San Diego is nothing to write home about!

IMG_6675We passed the final hours of the drive listening to some great podcasts, most notably Marc Maron’s WTF show. We heard some wonderful interviews of Barak Obama, Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air, and comedienne Andrea Martin. Renée also shared her excellent taste in music, and introduced me to a fantastic group, the California Guitar Trio. We listened to their amazing renditions of Beethoven’s 9th Ode to Joy, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and the jazz classic Caravan. Extraordinary musicians!

Finally we arrived in Vista, about 20 miles north of San Diego, and pulled up to her cute townhouse. Rigger was released from her 4-day prison into her new home as we unpacked several boxes into the house. After relaxing for a bit, we drove a short distance to Renée’s office, met her super nice French coworker Francois, and unpacked the remaining items from the truck.

Monday morning I bid farewell to my wonderful little sis, hopped a shuttle to the San Diego airport and headed home to Louisville. Although she lives hours and hours away from the rest of the family now and we will miss her terribly, I’m so proud of her for taking a leap of faith and moving to a new city across the country. I was grateful to have the chance to spend some time with her, and experience some beautiful country at the same time. The amazing adventures continue!

Goodbye, Montana sky…

IMG_6490My time in Montana has come to an end. For now. I was here for only 4 ½ months, but it felt like much longer. This beautiful city of Missoula became another home to me, and I will take part of it with me while leaving part of my spirit behind.

I will miss SO much. I will miss watching the sun rise each morning, casting its first rays high atop snow covered Squaw Peak, making it glow bright white before gradually casting its glow down the dark green, pine covered mountains throughout the valley.

I will miss the sunset behind those mountains each evening, watching as the spectacular colors in the huge expanse of the sky change from yellow to orange to pink and then purple.

I will miss looking out my window and seeing my dear friend, the Clark Fork River. I’ll miss walking right out my building to the banks of the river to watch all the surfers, kayaks, and rafts on Brennan’s Wave. I’ll miss my walks on the Riverfront path, watching the fly fishers as they rhythmically cast their lines out over the waves. I’ll miss falling asleep each night and waking each morning to the soothing sound of the rushing river through my open window.

I will miss my hikes up Mount Sentinel to The M, from which I never tired of the most spectacular view of the city, nestled in this beautiful valley surrounded by snow capped mountains.

I will miss my gym, Missoula Underground Strength Training. I’ll miss how everyone who works there treats every single person who walks into the gym with incredible respect and care, regardless of their age, weight, or physical abilities. I’ll miss the Saturday community-wide bootcamps. I will miss everyone I befriended there, several of whom share the same spiritual path as I.

Being here gave me a wonderful opportunity for self discovery. I was entirely too distracted by my “life” for the past several years. Work, the gym, VOICES, friends, my relationship. I was so busy being distracted that I was sleepwalking through my life… numb, unhappy and unable to connect with my inner self enough to find my purpose. But for the past several months, all those distractions were gone.  I was alone in my apartment, with a figurative mirror in front of me every direction I turned. I couldn’t avoid it, and I had to look at myself. It’s one of the most painful things I’ve ever done. But there was nothing else to think about….my life  and what it’s been, where it’s led me, and where I want to go. And most of all – what has kept me from going where I want to go.

I have confronted all sorts of false beliefs that have ruled my life: I must be perfect or no one will love me. I need approval from others. I’m not smart enough or good enough. Nothing I do is of any value. Recognizing those false beliefs is the first step; dispelling them is something I’ve worked on this entire time, and something that I will continue to work on. Luckily I have found a wealth of spiritual resources with which to guide me. I have found my life’s purpose and set myself on a course to fulfill that. For the first time ever in my life, I am confident that I am headed in the right direction.

I named my journey last summer Alise’s Amazing Adventure. I realize now that my whole LIFE has been an amazing adventure. And I am overwhelmingly grateful for every single thing that has happened along the way. The happiness, the joy, the victories, the hardships, the heartbreaks, the defeats. I’m grateful to the Universe for teaching me all of those lessons. I look forward to more adventures ahead, and I can honestly say that I look forward to and welcome the challenges. Because without them, we can never continue to learn and grow.

It was almost this exact time last year that I left Louisville, my friends and family, and embarked on my summer of adventure. Now, as I leave Missoula, I’m re-posting the same image that I did last year. I will keep this in mind for the rest of my life. We must accept and embrace change, we must leave our comfort zone and step out into the unknown, or we will never learn the lessons that life is teaching us. I’m so looking forward to what this next chapter in my life holds!

goodbye coehlo2

A Look Back and Ahead


I’m reflecting on 2014, a year of immense change for me. Very early in the year I made some decisions that involved a huge amount of courage,  which led to a happiness and joy I’d never experienced before in my life. As we look ahead to a new year, I offer some words of encouragement and inspiration.

  • Take a leap of faith. You are stronger and more capable than you realize.
  • Instead of running away from your fears, turn around and face them head on. Get out of the safety of your comfort zone and embrace your fears. It will lead you to incredible growth, self-discovery and fulfillment.
  • Let go of worry. Just let it go. There is so much we cannot control, yet we make ourselves sick worrying about it. Take care of yourself and let the Universe take care of the rest.
  • Listen to that teeny tiny voice in the back of your head that you know in the depths of your soul speaks the truth.

I am about to enter the new year and undertake another adventure. To take a bigger, longer leap of faith. Instead of a relatively short, 3-month adventure, in which I visited many friends and family and traveled to warm, sunny, lush and inviting places, I am about to leave my comfort zone and move to a city in which I know absolutely no one. In the middle of my least favorite season, to a city and state where the cold and snow of that season is magnified. For perhaps twice as long as I was away this summer.


Because the teeny tiny voice in my head, the little voice that I never even realized was there until this past year, urges me to. It encourages me to continue to face my fears, to leave my familiar home and friends and surroundings and go to the place that beckons my soul. To go to that magnificent state with the immense sky and write about all I have learned so that I can help others realize that yes, you can change your life for the better, and that you, and you alone, are in the driver’s seat of your life, and that you can and will find happiness.

I will admit that I’m more than just a bit scared. But I’ve spent too much of my life giving in to the fear that pulls me back into the safety of doing nothing. For the first time in my life, I choose to believe that I do not have to hitchhike on the back of someone else flying through the air – that I have my own wings that will carry me safely through this next chapter of my life.

I woke up several times in the middle of the night, realizing that I was scared of taking this next step. And that teeny tiny voice spoke to me, loud and clear. “You will be just fine.”

Happy New Year to all of you!

Some fun in Mystic and Newport

“Lobster Rolls….” My brother’s eyes seemed to glaze over as he talked about this delicacy that I must be sure to have while visiting the Providence RI area. I had no idea…I pictured something off of a sushi menu. I would be in for a surprise!

After a lovely visit in quaint historic Cooperstown, I made the drive to Warwick, RI, just south of Providence, right on Greenwich Bay. I arrived around dinnertime, so with my tummy rumbling, I wasted no time in searching for the best lobster roll around my motel. Again, thanks to the wonders of Yelp, I located a highly recommended spot just a half mile from my motel. How can one go wrong with a cute little lobster atop the building?

IMG_4956I went up to the counter and admitted I’d never had a lobster roll. The girl told me I had a choice when it came to lobster rolls: hot with butter or cold with mayo. I thought for just a second and opted for the hot sandwich. I chose a side of slaw and in a few minutes I was rewarded with this magnificence:

IMG_4957It was freakin’ delicious. The bread was fresh and toasted. The lobster was juicy and succulent. I pretty much demolished it in a matter of minutes. Then chased it down with a regional brew:

IMG_4958The next morning I hit the road early and headed southwest to the little town of Mystic, CT. Many folks had suggested that a great place to visit there was Mystic Seaport. It is the largest living maritime history museum in the world.  It is notable for its huge collection of boats and sailing ships, and for the re-creation of an entire 19th-century seafaring village. I’ve never sailed and I’ve been on very few boats in my life, but I found the hours I spent here fascinating!


Here’s the shipyard where they do all sort of renovations on the numerous ships harbored there. They have craftsmen using the original techniques of shipbuilding. It’s kind of fascinating to see history preserved this way.




DSC03438One of the many ships housed here in Mystic Seaport.


This exhibit houses the 50 foot long scale model of Mystic River and West Mystic circa 1870. The detail is staggering.


DSC03455This is the prized resident of Mystic Seaport. It’s the Charles W. Morgan, the only surviving wooden sailing whaling vessel. This vessel must be continuously renovated in order to be preserved. They allow visitors to walk around the ship and it’s really COOL! That is, unless you actually had to live on it at sea among a whole crew of smelly seamen.




DSC03467After three and a half hours, it was time for lunch and luckily there was another highly recommended spot close by. This time I ordered a lobster roll cold with mayo. Delicious, in a different way!


IMG_4964My tummy full, I got in the car and made the short drive to Newport to enjoy the second half of my day. I wanted to do something that would incorporate some physical activity along with the sights of Newport, specifically the beautiful homes and the lovely oceanfront. Lucky for me there is a beautiful 3.5 mile cliff walk that fit the bill perfectly.

IMG_4981Here are some of the beautiful houses I saw along the Cliff Walk.




IMG_4973And here are some beautiful shots of the shoreline.







IMG_4977Beautiful sights. The trip is winding down and there is one more spot on the map – Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park!