Category Archives: PeaceJam

Can I hear a “PEACEJAM???”.. All the way from PORTLAND, MAINE!!!!

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Well, we made it. Today was supposed to be a 70% chance of heavy rain all day… We left the Chisolms home at about 8:30 this morning.  We were fed an incredible breakfast and given a wonderful send-off.  The first couple hours were in a light misty rain, which was not too bad.

Today is the Moving Planet- 350 awareness day. The day to try to move globally beyond our need for fossil fuels and to work towards a healthier planet.  It could not have been a more fitting day to ride well over a century towards our final destination on the 7th day.

By mid day, the rain had stopped and the sun began poking through the heavy clouds. Since we thought it was supposed to be a heavy downpour all day, we had ourselves set to be incredibly slow and thought we might even need to load the bikes at some point in order to make our trek to Coffee by Design on time. By the time we entered Maine, we were famished (Did I mention we have been eating like 300 pound MEN this entire week?) so we stopped to get “fueled up”, and made a telephone call. Much to our delight, the cafe thought the conversation would go better tomorrow, so we were able to take our time chowing and get back on our bikes.

This entire trip has been an absolute joy. I began my “journey” with PeaceJam over five years ago as an advisor.  My inspiration has always come from seeing youth reach their fullest potential, especially when they have substantial risk factors. When youth overcome those risk factors and become sparked with a passion.. the sky is the limit.  My job was to provide basic “tools” to youth, help them discover how they best want to use those tools, and then step back and watch the magic happen.   In my work with PeaceJam over the years I have seen that magic happen over, and over again.

This journey has been nothing short of an absolute joy, and also a bit exhausting. The words perseverance, inspiration, strength, and courage made up my internal vocabulary as my legs rotated again, and again, and again.

As I have been able to go into the communities where the youth are doing such incredible acts, I have been reminded repeatedly of how courageous they are.. This ride has been so symbolic on so many fronts.

My hope was to be able to ride these 600+ miles in order to raise signifagant funds for PeaceJam Northeast- since PJNE runs on an incredibly small shoe string budget and serves over a thousand kids a year.. although I still hope the funds will keep coming in (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), I have also been thankful for the opportunity to meet so many of the PeaceJam youth, and talk to countless people along the journey about the PeaceJam Global Call to Action.   When we learn about our inspirations, and can turn them into action.. it is truly a powerful act…. When we sit back and put our faith in youth, amazing things happen.. and that is what PeaceJam does.  As is any fundraiser, most people support an act in order to support an organization.. (I.e.. the MS Bike tour, the Susan Komen race, etc.).   Although our cycling is done for this trip, my hope is that many of you will feel inspired and be willing to still donate towards this ride.

Tonight, we shed some tears…. because this journey meant something signifigant for all of us.. For me, it was experiencing the joy of my work and trusting in God to give me the strength I need to not be defined by my illnesses, rather to embrace all of the incredible moments of perseverance.  For my sister-in-law, it was her first time visiting many of these areas, her first time doing a signifigant ride, and only her 5th month in to ever even ride a road bike.. For our sweet support person, Miss Jennifer Huebner- it was an opportunity to embrace her new life as a retired school teacher and celebrate her love for PeaceJam.

Thank you for celebrating with us, and joining us on this incredible journey of peace and perseverance.   Change starts with each and every one of us.. Change starts here.

With much love and sincerity-

Colleen

 

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“Oh hills, you silly.. silly things…”

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So, we made it… After almost 90 miles of  intense hills cycling up from sea level in Providence into Amherst, our legs said “Hey ladies, time for a break”.

You know how a dog kicks like it is running in the midst of sleep?  Something tells me I might be “pedaling” in my sleep after this ride 🙂  We are a total of 165 miles in… with five more days to go.

The day was absolutely gorgeous. Blue skies, cool temps, and great conversations with new friends.  Along the journey, we have been asking new friends (sounds better than strangers) about what it is that inspires them… we have gotten some inspiring answers consisting of:

1. Man- kind inspires me

2. Children inspire me, because they love to learn and have no fear

3. A fighting spirit inspires me….

We met one man that waived us over and asked why we were cycling and how far we were traveling, after we shared about PeaceJam and our passion for this ride- he shared that his son in law cycled from Killington, VT to Provincetown to raise money for a local heart association in honor of his deceased wife who died at the age of 31 from a heart defect/disease (she was  only supposed to live until she was 6 years old)… as this man continued sharing, he told us that the woman who passed was his daughter and  how incredibly proud he was that he biked for her…

What an inspiration.

Tomorrow rain is anticipated.. as are the Berkshire mountains, so we will ride as long as we can while the roads are safe.

We are very excited to arrive in Pittsfield and see Lori (The Pittsfield PeaceJam advisor), and the amazing PeaceJammers!!!!

Tomorrow night we will be joining them and the community for a fantastic night of celebration.

If you visit Amherst, check out Laughing Dog Bike Shop.. these guys are the real deal.  A great big “THANK YOU” for taking our bikes tonight and giving them a tune up..

If you are reading this tonight, consider making a donation… we are riding for youth.. we are riding for change.. we are riding because we have been inspired by the positive changes this generation of youth are bringing to our world!!!

And so.. we ride on…

http://www.razoo.com/story/Cyclingforpeace

What do you fear?

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Fear Can be just as much as a driving force as it can be debilitating.

Understanding what you fear, and WHY you fear it can become empowering.

Allowing yourself to know the what and why then leads into “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”

Fear is a word we can all relate to, for some it is a fear of heights.. (that’s me), for others it may be: snakes, spiders, planes….

What about when fear is correlated with your health?  What if your fear is daily? Some live in a constant state of fear to a point that is becomes “normal”.  Our PeaceJam Program Director told us that she was on a Skype conference call with some students from Afghanistan and they asked if she was safe in Colorado.   For many of these students they fear not even making it to one of their meetings due to bombings, people being shot, and/or beat up.  Fear is a buzz word these days.

When asking people what it is that they fear, the following are at the top of the list:

1.  Death

2. Losing someone you love

3. Getting very ill

4. Failure

I am sure the list can continue, however these seem to be the most common fears… Do you ever face these? I know I sure do.

At what point do we accept fears and at what point to we challenge them and do something about it? This past week I was out west in Colorado at a PeaceJam affiliate retreat and training.  Believe it or not, I was in fear boarding the plane.. then I was in fear sleeping the first night….. then I was in major fear on a team building exercise where we shimmied through a tight crevice on a mountain and then stepped backwards down a rock face into a cave… Then, I flew to AZ over the weekend from Denver to see some sweet friends, and felt Fear as we took a ski-lift to the top of the Snow Bowl in Flagstaff.

Why?

I have blacked out, had seizures, went numb, had major panic attacks, and seem to be a pro at getting sick… So of-course, MY FEAR went right to everything happening at every one of those places and events.  Guess what? I made it through the flight, I made it through the rock climbs, and I had minor problems with my Cryoglobulenemia on the ski lift (only because of elevation and dangling my legs for thirty minutes).  All in all, I returned home to my healthy and happy husband and I was juuuuust fine.

All of us have work to do while we are on this earth.  Many times fear gets in the way. When I study the lives of the Nobel Peace Laureates that we work with, I am inspired by their courage as they face many dark fears…. Fears that to them, have come a reality, but fears that they held onto to help fuel them towards change.   Rigoberta Menchu Tum could have cowered in fear when her family members were being killed.    Instead she stood up against the regime and helped to fight for the rights of the Guatemalan people and helped to get a peace accord.

As I prepare for this cycling ride, I also prepare myself for all the “what if” thoughts… or “fear” that whirls through my mind.  Last summer I was not even able to drive, now I am back on my bike, hiking,  swimming, working, and finding thanks in every breath of my life.  Will I have another significant lapse? Will we have more significant natural disasters? Will myself or someone I love be hurt, fail, or die?  Most definitely yes.

Why do I work for PeaceJam? Because even though there are a lot of  fears out there, there is an ability to understand, accept, and work towards change… Everyone deserves the opportunity to live without fear… and every youth deserves the opportunity to live in a just world where they can walk down the street safely, speak their heart, be educated, have health care,  learn how to fail, and find their own voice.. and create their own peace…

And so, I ride on….

Digging a little deeper.

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I love gardening as much as I love cycling. When you dig down into soil, you really find out what quality the earth holds for your seeds.  Once you understand the “deeper levels” of earth, you can determine what elements need to be added in order to obtain a good harvest.
Growing vegetables in theory seems simple.
1. You rake up the dirt
2. Stick a seed in the ground
3. Cover it up
4. Water it.
5. Weed around it
6. Then harvest the goodness…

That’s it!! Right??? Well, kind of… In actuality, one must truly understand how to prepare the earth, weed the ground, make sure the nutrients are in place, the soil temps are appropriate, the air temps are within range, the seeds are planted at the right depths, you are watering as needed (but not over-watering, or under-watering), you are fertilizing with healthy organic matter, managing pests, tending to the new plants as they grow, supporting them… and on and on….

When we talk about Peace and Non-violence with children and adults the same sort of dialogue needs to happen.

When asked what Peace is; the response is often- “No war”, When asked what violence is, the answer is often “Fighting and being hurt”.

When we dig a little deeper and ask “What does Peace feel like, look like, sound like?” we start to get answers like- “calm, laughter, equality, joy, productivity”.

Then we ask the same for violence… and so the questions go on…

1. What does violence look like in your community?
2. Where is it stemming from?
3. Why?

Only when we understand the true elements of what causes violence (environmental, socio-economic, political, religious, etc). Can we hold those elements in our hands.  Then we can begin to do the same for the solutions towards peace (environmental, socio-economic, domestic, etc)

As this bike tour is now a little over a month away, I am really taking the opportunity to solidify the outcomes needed for this tour.  Certainly raising awareness about the effectiveness of a program like PeaceJam is at the forefront.  It is also imperative that a powerful outcome will be community engagement in discussions around these issues.

Just as honey bees are necessary in the cycle of life, and pollinate our earths gardens and help  nourish our beings, we as a human community need to work together to identify, explore, and work on issues effecting the peace of our existence. Only when we truly understand, can we work to create lasting change.

And so, I ride on.

If we have hope, then we must believe.. and we must act…

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WHAT A BUSY WEEKEND!

On Saturday,  I had the joy of spending the day with Kate Cumbo from the PeaceJam headquarters in Colorado.  Kate is the Director of Education and training for PeaceJam, and brings an incredible amount of energy and passion into her work.  Some people are good at what they do, and others radiate what they do… Kate is that woman! Kate believes in PeaceJam, she has seen the change it has made in thousands of youth and communities world-wide, and her belief and passion is infectious.

Kate is the definition of Accountability.  She works tirelessly for the organization, and her incredible zest never seems to fade.

She has written much of the curriculum for the K-College programs.    As an “affiliate” for PeaceJam, (which means we are the affiliate for the Northeast section of PeaceJam), I am so thankful to have a woman with a backbone for justice and a soul for change at my side.

On Sunday, it was time for another century ride. This time, my husband joined me.  This was his first ever century on a road bike.   Sean lived in the great state of Colorado at 8,000 feet in elevation for close to ten years. He was an avid mountain cyclist, and had competed in century races out west, so clearly he was MORE than fine on a road bike for 100 miles.    Sean and I got off to a later start than we hoped (we hoped to depart no later than 6am).  Our furry children demanded some morning attention.. and needless to say, we simply struggled with Sunday morning motivation.   We departed by 8:45 and returned by 4:45.  The ride was a bit longer than anticipated, as my body struggled immensely with the mid day sun, and I required several “cool down” stops along the way.  One of the medications I take is called Plaquenil.  Plaquenil is used to treat Lupus, and has proven to be incredibly effective for me in reducing pain and inflammation.  The draw back is that it causes a decrease in tolerance to the sun.  Compound that with fever spikes and it wasn’t pretty.   So, lesson learned that early morning motivation is a must and next century ride will depart by day break.  When Kaori and I ride in September we will be departing each destination by 5:30-6:00 am every morning, so we can have most of our ride completed by noon.   This will allow us time to relax and get ready for evening discussions.  During community discussions, we will share about PeaceJam and what inspires us.  Once we learn about our inspiration, we can educate ourselves and then take action towards change.   We all have the power to make a change in the community and the world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNiAt2GcoA8&feature=relmfu

“Grandfather Desmond TuTu”, he asked me to call him that after his dinner of fish and chips 🙂

The sister of the Century.. ride.. that is…

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This past weekend my brother and sister-in-law visited us from Pennsylvania.   When I first mentioned I wanted to do this fundraiser for PeaceJam Northeast two months ago, my dear sister sent me an email on Facebook and said she was interested in joining me.

First, I must let you know that she had never been on a road bike.  Kaori is an athlete, and an incredible woman.  She excels in everything she does.  As a mother, she has brought up two phenomenal boys.  Her sons are intelligent, and full of loving kindness and energy.   As an athlete, she is an avid runner and trains in the gym regularly. She is a baker and chef.  She has won cooking competitions, makes wedding cakes, and can knock your socks off with anything she  creates.

Her field of work is even one to be admired, as she works full time with mentally and physically challenged adults.  When Kaori said she was interested in doing this ride with me, I was doubtful. The idea of having her by my side for 600+ miles sounded phenomenal, however knowing she had never cycled made me reluctant. Kaori and I also never really had the opportunity to get to know each other.   We have always lived very far apart, and our busy lives never allowed us much time to know one another.  Those circumstances did not deter her.  Within two weeks, she bought a used bike off Craigs List, and began riding solo.

Within a month, she was riding 20-50 miles… and this past weekend, she arrived with a 15 year old Schwinn strapped to the back of her car… and rode 100 miles with me… and then another 22 on Sunday…. After both rides, her only symptoms were minor fatigue.. I on the other hand, walked like I was severely beat up.  My sister came to the United States from Japan to attend college.   She met my brother, and they fell in love and were married in South Carolina.  She has remained in the states ever since. On Saturday, we not only did the century ride.. We did it together and we worked incredibly well as a team. We finished strong, and with enthusiasm to do a “recovery ride” the following day.   We can do this! Two and a half months ago my sweet sister had never been on a road bike, this past weekend she cycled 123 miles in two days.  She also cycled on a 15 year old bike that weighs three times as much as my road bike.  Talk about inspiration moving into action..  That is what PeaceJam is all about… Finding your inspiration to help you take action towards change.. and that is precisely what Kaori Kelly did. Thank you sister. I am honored to have you in my life.   On September 18th, we will depart together.. and we will finish together eight days later in Thorndike, ME.

We also got our first clothing sponsor! ISIS for woman! An incredible clothing company founded by woman, for woman!! Based out of my loving Green Mountain state! Thank you Isis! We will represent you well!

http://www.isisforwomen.com/

Ahhhh… Vermont….

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This past weekend I had the joy of returning to the Green Mountain State.  My reason for the trip was to meet with a new advisor for the Deerfield valley area and to conduct a training for four new PeaceJam Ambassador Programs.  The Ambassadors curriculum is written for 9th-12th grade youth.

I love PeaceJam. I love Vermont. Allow me to go back to Vermont and teach PeaceJam, and I almost spontaneously combust with enthusiasm.

Nestled in the beautiful mountains of Vermont is a small town called Brattleboro. On Thursday I had the joy of meeting Ms. Patricia Mehlhop. Patricia will be working with elementary school students to implement the Juniors Curriculum. When I first talked to her on the phone, I was impressed by her desire to create a culture of change with the students at Deerfield. She spoke with clarity, love, and the desire to empower her students in a way that would help foster them into adolescence.   We met for lunch and I happily listened to her plan for rolling out the program in the fall.   I am excited to see what amazing things the youth from Southern Vermont will be doing as they enter into their school year!!

Next, I was able to have a meeting with SIT Graduate Institute http://www.sit.edu/.  Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams attended the institute back in the 1970’s.  SIT has a focus on International learning, and transforming lives.  I met with an incredible man named Tony Drapelick who is the Director of Campus Life. This incredible man biked from VA to ME! (and I think I talked him into cycling from Brattleboro to Merrimack with us.. time to dust off that bike!!).   Our stop in Brattleboro on September 22nd will be at SIT, and I am absolutely honored to do a public talk at the institute and have our new PeaceJammers from Deerfield join me!

On Friday I drove into Bristol, VT which is home to the Bristol Hub and Skate Park.   The Bristol Hub is part of Big Heavy World, which is an incredible organization dedicated to VT musicians of all ages. http://bristolskatepark.com/.

Four new PeaceJam groups met at the Hub in Bristol for a day-long training.   Montpelier, St. Albans, Burlington, and Bristol will all be starting PeaceJam!!!   I was honored to have Erin Christiansen who was a former PeaceJammer join me to co-facilitate. Erin is a student at UVM, and embodies much wisdom and passion in everything she does.

After a wonderful two days of work, I was able to join some old friends for cycling, good food, lots of hugs, and even some berry picking before returning home to CT.