20 May, 2014 15:57

Athletes who become authors

Who doesn’t want to be an athlete?

We all love adventure but Athletes live the ultimate adventure from the time they decide to embark upon the challenge. There’s the daily grind, the discipline and sweat, and the mental challenges.

My most recent athlete client lives in Florida. And this was my evening view writing his story.

Q was drafted to the NBA as a teenager and has an incredible story. Writing books for athletes is always an adventure. I learn about the things they’ve learned along the journey.

Q played for the Knicks and LA and a host of other teams. It required being in elite physical condition, and having the mindset of a navy seal. Along the way, there were victories and adversities. Some unthinkable.

He lost his role model at 12 to breast cancer. His mother had taught him how the play basketball. And yet he continued the dream. He was on the Lakers bus when he got the call that his brother had been shot and killed in his driveway, by thieves stealing a car Q had given him.

How do you rise up after that?

You make a choice.
To live, or look back.
Life is a series of heartbreaks, and setbacks and victories.

But Life is also an adventure. Q decided to live. To get married and have a child of his own. And after years of playing in the NBA, raising this little girl, in memory of his mother who gave him so much, might just be the greatest adventure of all.

Tammy Kling is a best selling author, adventure travel writer, TEDx speaker, and the ghost writer of 107 books. Her work in the jungle of Colombia working airplane crashes in crisis management led to her desire to use words to change lives.


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The cost of adventure

No one knows what happened to Wesley Hixson.

He disappeared on my favorite biking trail, and today when I ran it I searched for him, scanning the ravines.

He went riding with his friends, and somehow got separated. They found his body today, on a scary stretch of trail I’ve run at least fifty times. Scary, because it’s abandoned, the home of campers and vagrants and wanderers. When I’ve run there, I’ve often changed my mind. Got back in the car. That strange intuition that says stop and turn back.

It’s possible Wesley had a head injury from a crash. The autopsy report will explain more.

This photo was taken at the trail he lost his life on. He left his kids and family behind.

When I drove past after my run today this was the scene. News cameras everywhere. Not how you think your adventure will end.

A reminder – to be cautious when you’re adventuring. Have fun, but be aware.

Rest in peace Wesley.


Where’s your heart leading you?

I’ve been thinking about setting off on a mission, again.

My heart is stirring to take the kids with me this time on an adventure of a lifetime – serving the lost.

But where to? There’s the dump, where the children live in Latin America. There’s the children in India or Africa. And then there’s my favorite mission field of all in Brasov, Romania.

At the orphanage there, I saw an old man. He stood outside in the courtyard mainly, watching while we built the swing set. It was a two am dream. Let’s build swing sets for the orphans who don’t even know what one is. So we did.

The playgrounds were bare. We’d been traveling in romania for days, holding babies, playing with older toddlers who slept in the same cramped cribs, and my heart was raw.
When we built the swing sets some kids screamed and panicked, scared of the big wooden monstrosity.

The orphanages had no mirrors. They took them down to prevent the kids from seeing themselves. In the bathrooms there were no mirrors. In The wash room area you could see holes in the concrete wall where they’d been removed. This struck like an arrow in my heart.

A child who is given up by his parents doesn’t know himself anyways.

The indignity of the shaved heads, identical clothing and mirror less world served to strip their identity further.

They all had been given the same hair cut. You couldn’t tell the girls from the boys. Elena stood out though. Large, wise eyes. Wise beyond her little years. Each day if she saw us building or painting, she came in to help. I named our organization Elena’s wish.

And then there was Michael. He pulled my hair roughly and wouldn’t let go in a hug. Giving a hate hug.

I understood that kind of affection because it was the only kind I had ever given a mate.

I changed, inside. My heart started defrosting and I
wept every time I had to leave.

Abandonment is a city
I understand.

That year changed my heart. We went back again and again. We considered property in the country there. And w met Anca, a young girl we grew to love who came to America to stay with us. She had helped us on our trips to Brasov, by guiding us through the town and culture.

Orphans in orphanages have unique traits. Too long to go into here. But I was built with a heart for kids like that.
Why couldn’t we take them home?

We discussed this each night and decided that we would. We formulated a plan to adopt Elena, and then the twin boys too.

The old man with the sunny smile drove us around each day. Cornell was a ray of sunshine. He chatted gleefully and animatedly with his hands in romanian and we pretended to understand. We grew to love him.

We flew to romania time and again to see him and his family. Words cannot describe how we grew to love him.

The day his wife called, distraught, she said he had fallen. Cornell had a brain tumor. I searched airfare and it was six thousand dollars to fly back. I said: will you ever regret this expense? The answer was no.

I met Cornell in a concrete block hospital without windows. When he saw us his eyes widened, and his
face lit up. The next few days transformed his ending as we shaved him, prayed for him, eased his fears, and stashed cash under his pillow to give him the security he needed to feel for his family. We talked by his bedside for hours. He sailed into heaven peacefully.

I want to show my kids the world and how God can lead to somewhere distant, that becomes a part of your heart. They’ve worked with homeless people for ten years.

Where’s my heart leading me this time? I don’t know. I’m in search of that place.

The one that needs us. Where we can serve and deliver truth and change lives in an instant.

Where’s your heart leading you?


14 May, 2014 18:35

An adventure you’ll love.

The first thing I consider when I’m about to book a trip is how and where will I run?

I love a good mountain or scenic trail, but never a hotel gym.

When I booked a trip to the luxurious pink castle in St. Petersburg Florida, I envisioned a run on the white sands beach.

The Don Cesar hotel is positioned perfectly on the glistening oceanfront. Built in the 1920’s, and a haven for the rich and Famous, it often hosted Al Capone, Babe Ruth, and global leaders and socialites.

Today though, it’s been redefined, and the hip renovation by Loews hotel group has made it once again the in place to be. Hip blue interiors with blue leather chairs, bubble glass lighting, and modern accessories.

I’ve traveled all over the world and the sunset and service here, is one of the best I’ve experienced with a beach front that rivals St. Barths.

And herein lies the problem. I didn’t run once. This is normally a running blog. I love to write about my new Reebok spartan race shoes, or Lulumon gear, or running, adventure, and travel. But I didn’t run. At all. This is what I did instead.

The staff was so excellent, serving lunch and libations right to my beachfront cabana, that I did everything BUT run.

Yes, this is an adventure travel blog and so I can vouch that this is a hotel where adventure awaits.

I didn’t run, But I did jet ski, write a fabulous book with an NBA player client, and watch the kids snorkel in the magnificent pool and get tossed in the surf.

This hotel has five star service with an approachable staff. General manager Stephen Cummings was extremely personable and responsive. He’s clearly built a service minded team, down to the remarkable server, Michael, at the poolside restaurant. I love being a food writer, travel writer, ghostwriter and adventure traveler. It’s. great life.

And don’t get me started on the phenomenal chef, and the dishes prepared poolside or in the elegant lobby restaurants. The brunch on Sunday was reminiscent of a fine European restaurant with carving stations, unique compilations and a fantastic dessert station with bananas foster, creme brûlée and chocolate croissants.

Book your affordable flight to Tampa and take a car service to the Don Cesar. Skip the rental car! You won’t want to leave.

Tammy Kling is a Bestselling author, TEDx speaker, fly fisherman and adventure traveler. Www.tammykling.com

27 April, 2014 22:58

What are you running from?

guest post: Nate – from homeless to hope.

I live in a shelter. But I’m beyond joyful, I just bought a new car, and I’m getting back on my feet. Last week I ran the Chupacabra 5k race with Tammy and her family. Finishing the race felt amazing, after running like a child through the woods in total darkness, with nothing but headlamps and fireflies lighting the way. It was an adventure.

When I first met Tammy, it was in a parking lot outside the homeless shelter. I was standing with several shady characters. Tammy turned and looked at me directly in the eye.
“You don’t belong here!” She said. And those words struck me like an arrow in the heart.

I had heard about Tammy from the homeless people on the street and in the shelter. They said she helped people get back on their feet, by coaching them to write, and heal their struggles.

I don’t belong here.

Those words remained embedded in my heart.

At the time my friends weren’t really friends at all. But we tend to make compromises when we are in a time of desperation, and we settle for less than we should. How about you? Is it time to do a house cleaning? What are the things, people, or places in your life that you’re still allowing in, when they don’t belong there?

Tammy undoubtably saw what I had lost sight of in myself. At the time I was homeless, and running from years of drug use, in and out of difficult homeless situations for nearly 15 years. How did she see that there was more inside, without even knowing me?

My past was so devastating that any attempt at overcoming was only seen by a few close family and friends, but then dashed, as one blind attempt after another would lead to relapse. I knew in my heart that God did not choose this life for me. Encouragement was something that I needed and no longer had. Tammy also encouraged me to write. So I began writing my first book, Overcoming Any Addiction. See, no matter who you are, whether you’re addicted to shopping, or eating, or drinking, or relationships, or whatever – addiction creates a stronghold. It covers things up. And you’re running from anything that’s hard to face.

Tammy’s words “You don’t belong here” ….penetrated an invisible wall I had built as a defense against those who would judge me by my troublesome past. These words revealed themselves as confirmation from God, but from the mouth of saint.

Life changing words. Words can change lives. They save lives or destroy a life. That Sunday at the homeless shelter, during a time when I was hustling for food, and fighting frustration, someone stepped in. What are you running from?

9 April, 2014 20:37

10 simple Ways to be More Creative

Sky Marie
Guest post

“I’m not creative.”
“Oh I could never make/do that”
“I’m not musical.” “I certainly DON’T dance.”
“I’m just not one of those ‘creative people.”

Ever catch yourself saying any of these?

If you have, stop it. Don’t say it anymore. There’s a LOT of creativity in you. If your creativity is a little shy, well, don’t insult it and scare it away even more. Creativity is a bit like a timid but brilliant little animal that can be coaxed to come near if you’re kind, consistent, and feed it a bit. Your creativity needs to trust you, and you need to trust it. Why, is it worth investing in your creativity?

A creative life is a FUN life, a life filled with limitless possibility. A person who is chronically creative sees opportunity where others only see obstacles. They boldly take on risks and achieve success because they know they will be able to find solutions along the way. And who doesn’t want that??
Artists aren’t the only people who need to develop their creativity: Creativity is for salespeople looking for a new way to reach their customer, for engineers looking to improve a product, for teachers looking for a way to inspire their students, parents seeking to engage with their children…
Every person NEEDS to be creative, every person IS creative, and every person can become even MORE creative.
So how does one go about deepening their creativity? Here are ten valuable habits that can help you draw out your own unique creativity…

1. Be proactive. Practice being creative in a context that’s safe and rather inconsequential. Stretch yourself to create in a way you haven’t before, in a way that really doesn’t matter a lick. Experiment, take creative risks, and even “fail,” without a high cost.

2. Be prolific. Saturate your days with little creative explorations. Draw a doodle on every restaurant check you get for a week. Carry your camera on any ordinary day and take some “artsy” shots. Turn off the radio on your commute and hum an original melody instead, even if you feel stupid. Listen to the sounds in traffic and decipher the rhythm on the street. Try to remember that rhythm and tap it out with your pencil later in the day. Go in your room and shut the door and dance. With or without music. Write a poem. Paint. Build. Knit. Make a sculpture out of butter. It doesn’t matter. Just make SOMETHING. And do it frequently. The more often you engage your creativity, the easier it is to access.

3. Be original. Exercise great caution when it comes to copying someone else’s work. Unless you’re able to duplicate it exactly, you’ll likely feel “less than” in comparison. Do your own thing!! You know those parties where everyone paints the exact same thing step-by-step? Ever tempted to exactly copy something you saw on Pinterest? Things like these are absolutely great but they don’t really count as your *own* creative thinking. Go deeper. Think about why you are attracted to a certain thing and then incorporate similar elements into something that’s originally yours.

4. Be a thief. Okay, yes, I just told you to be original… Now I’m going to tell you to do the opposite. Steal ideas as jumping off points for new ideas. Artists often say, “Everything has already been done before…” As a creative person, give yourself permission to borrow an old idea and run with it. Shamelessly. (But this should go without saying- DON’T copy someone’s work and call it your own! Give credit where credit is due.)

5. Be flexible. Be OK with letting the finished result differ, even greatly, from your original idea. One of the biggest hindrances to the creative process is defining the finished result before it’s finished. Of course sometimes you know what a finished product needs to be and the real challenge is trying to figure out how to arrive *exactly* there. But if that’s not your task, just let something develop organically, let it speak to you as you go. Start a drawing, a poem, a story, anything, with no particular end in mind and see where it goes.

6. Become limitless by imposing limitation. Sometimes too many options can be paralyzing to creative thought. Give yourself some boundaries to work within. You can create boundaries with the materials you use, with the concept, or with time… Create a poem using ONLY the words on the back of your cereal box. Make a silly dance that initiates with only the elbows. Take photographs of things that are found at waist high. Write a story in only two minutes. Then, once you’ve got the ball rolling, you can lift the limitation if you desire.

7. Be absurd. Don’t worry about making sense when you’re practicing being creative. People’s opinions are of no consequence here. Don’t judge yourself or what you make. If you feel silly, that’s ok. Feel silly and keep going. If people raise eyebrows, let them. Everything new seems foreign and strange at first. Go with it.

8. Be an audience. You’re also practicing being creative when you appreciate other people’s creations. Go to a museum and spend a little time taking in the exhibits. Don’t worry about whether or not you “get it.” Just consider the color, the texture, the design, let your mind arrive at any meaning it comes up with. Change your radio station, frequently. If you know the words to every song on the radio, you’re boring your creative brain to death. It’s time to branch out into another genre. Notice how listening to a jazz station affects your mood vs listening to a classical station vs a country station. Keep an open mind and make yourself listen to new music. Don’t worry about whether you “like” it or not. Just take it in and wait…

9. Be a collector. Saturate your senses and stock your memory with snippets of information for later use. Close your eyes and touch things (fabrics, produce, whatever) just to consider the texture. Flip magazines from the back to the front, don’t necessarily read for content but briefly scan for phrases and images that jump out at you. Let your brain fill in the gaps. Keep a Pinterest board or create a literal bulletin board of pictures that speak to you. Take note of new or interesting words and write them down. People watch. Watch their walk, their gestures, watch the way they interact. Close your eyes next time you’re in a crowded place and listen to the many sounds. And then, just remember. Store the information as fodder for later creative endeavors.

10. Be a collaborator. When you’re ready, try creating with another person. Paint together on the same canvas. Create a story with your kids by taking turns adding a sentence at a time. Take an existing poem and sing it to a melody of your own. There are lots of ways to create with another human being. When we put our creative minds together, there’s no telling what we can achieve…

Choose a couple of these steps to try and commit to incorporating them into your life for one week. Once you have the hang of them, add in a couple more. It won’t be long before you’ll feel your creative juices flowing and your artistic horizons expanding exponentially. Without changing a single circumstance, you life may begin to look a little brighter, and people and places may become more interesting as you learn to engage creatively. You’ll likely begin to feel your confidence in general increase as you realize that you, too, ARE a very capable and creative person, indeed!

Sky-Marie McDonald is a multi-disciplinary artist whose passion for the arts and culture has lead her throughout the United States and abroad. Of particular interest to her is the effect of the Arts on society as a barometer of cultural health, and the Arts as a vehicle for positive social change. Sky-Marie has had the privilege of studying under some of the premier artists in the dance and theatre scene, in NYC and beyond. She has spearheaded research projects to preserve Native American Dance forms on reservations, taught in outreach projects to children in rural Central America, developed and implemented inner-city outreach programs for at-risk youth and founded arts programs for displaced children in shelters. She has been the recipient of various awards for her choreography and has had several works of poetry published. In 2012 she founded Early Spring Arts Conservatory in Southlake, TX, a non-profit organization committed to helping children and pre-professional artists reach their artistic potential. She currently serves as the school’s Artistic Director and the choreographer for the resident dance company, Early Spring Dance Theatre. She teaches dance, photography, costume design and construction, drama, and visual art. Besides her work with the Conservatory, she is also the owner of SkyMarie Photography Inc. and is sought after for her unique perspective in photodocumentary storytelling and portraiture for weddings, families, and professionals.