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I was born into a large family who pride themselves on the land they own and the history we keep in our little corner of Charlotte NC, otherwise known as Shuffletown to the locals. β€œThompson’s Furniture, Third Generation Craftsman” is what my dad’s business card read, presenting a kind of family loyalty and tradition. Big Christmas gatherings and family reunions we had free reign over a 50 acres homestead, formerly owned by my great grandmother, and now divided among my great aunts and uncles. My childhood was immersed with a canopy of trees over my head, digging in the creeks, getting lost in the trails, and camping under the stars. My dads’ ashes are spread near the trees where we would carve our name in the bark. He made sure we had a connection with our roots and the land our family tended to, but he also cultivated a relationship with creation. An awe of the creator and spirit that runs through all lands.

I was 19 going on a peacemaking delegation in Northwest Ontario with Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization dedicated to non-violence and organizing direction actions in areas of conflict around the world. I was enrolled at the local community college and had two years of working with a local grass root non-profit under my belt. I was looking for something meaningful( and maybe a little radical )  to do, so I signed up to learn about the struggle of the First Nations Anishinaabe people of the Grassy Narrows reservation. I had no idea of the weight of the things I was going to learn and experience, you could say I was naive. I am forever caught in the irony of taking this trip during Canadian Thanksgiving and triggered something within me to explore being an anti-racist. Our time was filled with prayer walks, and listening to stories, even taking the holy sacrament of communion with Native People, praying for a way forward to reconciliation with the land. This was the beginning of a great detangling of my different perceptions of history.  A kind of dissonance that leaves one feeling confused and angry. Their story captured my heart the most because it evoked a journey of mine own to be more connected with  family and land.

This trip has made its way into my distant memory but still makes my heart swell when I recall the experience, because I know it holds an experience of truth for me- being connected with creation is something of the divine and should be available to all people. I have learned that going to therapy to learn healing relationships does work! Having a holistic and integrative view of health is helpful and mental health is much more than sitting in a room for talk therapy. Cultural competency is important for people who have been finding solutions for their communities for generations before pharmaceuticals.

Journey Well Massage and Bodywork is the project of me Anna Garner LMBT#15807, HTP-A, and my husband John Garner LCMHT to explore life to its fullest. Building a community of therapists that advocate for mind, body, and spirit connection. A place for people to slow down and engage in integrative somatic therapies for the body to engage its healing intelligence.  We provide tools for learning and grounding into one’s own body when stress arises.  We are thrilled to offer these services and inspire creativity  in the back drop of Wilkes County's natural beauty!

Anna Garner

Anna, thanks for this gift of sharing the beautiful story of your awakening to your full self after time with the Anishinaabe people. I have found that leaving my own culture for a time awakens me to see my life with fresh eyes. I'm trying to build my ability to always see the world with "beginner eyes" by practicing meditation. Do you have a practice?

Michael Skoler


Thank you for your kind words. I too am trying to see the world with "beginner eyes" . I notice when I cannot change the external circumstances, my only other response is to turn inward to navigate and notice what is happening inside of me. And to find ease in difficult times through prayer and meditation. Much of my meditation practice is rooted in my Christian faith and learning from Christian contemplatives like those at the Center for Action and Contemplation .

I have been practicing Traditional Thai Massage for about 5 years, and this work has brought me to the concept of Metta- loving kindness. I follow the work of Pierce Salquero to be more informed around Buddhism as medicine. I do feel that adopting some Buddhist practices just deepens my own faith of origin.

Lastly, from a more clinical perspective I am a Healing Touch Program- Apprentice with plans to complete Level 5 to have practitioner status. HTP curriculum is full of different meditations from various practitioners. My psychotherapist introduced me to this group after I became a Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapist in North Carolina. This was the integration I was looking for and it really resonated with my interest in spirituality and science.  Something about this training just clicked with me and I use it almost daily to ground and center when working with clients and for myself.

I hope i didn't over explain! Haha, When you asked this question, "Do you have a practice ?" I kind of went, " Phew, that is a big question for me." My practice has been a real journey of curiosity to find what resonates most. Thank you for asking your question, it has really encouraged me to flesh out my answer.

Cheers !

Anna Garner

Building on Anna's brave move to share her story of self... Here is one from my life πŸ™‚

I became a reporter because I thought stories – and the truth – could right wrongs and change the world. I had seen it happen. I grew up during the Watergate scandal, when Washington Post reporters painstakingly tracked down President Nixon’s election crimes. People were outraged. Nixon resigned.

Twenty years later, I was in a refugee camp outside of Rwanda. I had been covering the government-led genocide  for months as an NPR correspondent. Now the tide had turned. The government and Hutu majority were fleeing the country chased by a Tutsi rebel army. I was doing a story in a camp for children who had become separated from their parents in the chaos.

A small girl in a tattered dress, maybe six years old, had followed me during my interviews. As I prepared to leave to file my story, she clasped my right leg with both arms and wouldn’t let go. I asked an aide worker what would happen to her. He said most children would die within a week since there were not enough people nor supplies to care for them. With my deadline approaching, I knelt down and unpeeled her arms from my leg.

I have regretted the choice ever since. That day, I chose my job over a life. I chose what was expected over what might have been. I could have taken her with me and faced whatever that would have meant for my life.

A few years later, I left reporting. I didn’t want the awards. Journalists were supposed to be dispassionate observers. I wanted to be part of the stories, and part of caring for others. If we are not in the stories, then who are we? Can we love with all our hearts and leave?

That day unpeeling clenched, but slight arms from my leg started me on a winding road… a road that has led to Weave. I still believe stories matter, and I still want to change the world. Now I work with weavers everywhere, people so enmeshed in their communities they can’t imagine leaving. And I help get their stories into the world, so more of us can be inspired to not just stand back and observe, but to love and heal, immersed in the messiness that comes with it.

Michael Skoler

Anna, Michael, and Charlene.  I just discovered this discussion line today.  I discovered Michael when first joining Weavers and being involved in his circle last year.  Michael's story about an encounter with a little girl made me think of an encounter that my wife and I had 10 years ago that was life-changing.  We were both recently retired and looking for something worthwhile to do in this next faze of our lives.  We were bored with our new life of reading and taking walks.  One Sunday, a friend of ours in church told us of meeting a young woman at a neighbor's backyard BBQ the night before.  She had come from Syria to our local university's summer program, Global Village.  She had no money, coming from a poor family, and over on a short 2 month scholarship.  And the US government had just issued an order including people from Syria in the Temporary Protected Status program.  She had heard about "hosts" and was wondering if that was a possibility for her.

One of her summer program leaders brought her over to our home the next day.  We were easily and totally persuaded to have her live with us for a year.  My wife, a retired administrator, talked to her friends, one of whom knew about a never used scholarship, set up by an Iranian ambassador to the US, limited to students from the Middle East.  Wafaa enrolled in an intensive English program for the year, intending to then enter graduate school.  She did well, and moved to and completed 2 graduate programs at Brandeis U in Boston.  We are still her American mom and dad after these 10 years.

But during her year with us, we met quite a few graduate international students who we discovered were very isolated in their lab or office in their single department, with significant loneliness.  The university had previously had a program with 3 employees that worked hard to get these students out into the community, but the program had been axed due to cost-cutting in 2008.  With several friends, we started International Friends to create opportunities for the students to get out into homes and make connections.   It has been a struggle, all with volunteer help, but recently making connections with our community's refugee and immigrant office and community, with Athletics United, a running and soccer program for families and kids that can't afford the expensive sports programs, and now the university's new  office of DEI, interested in fostering an international community of professors and staff on campus.

To bring us full circle, we now have a new professor in the music department from Syria, by way of Cedar City, Iowa.  He came to the US 10 years ago, at the same time as our daughter Wafaa.  And he is the new conductor of our local symphony orchestra where I met him.  He and his family are fully Syrian and fully American, a part of the weaving that is going on in our country and in much of the world right now.  I am constantly reminded that we all have a common set of ancestral parents, Adam and Eve.  And many wonderful sons and daughters.  Thanks, Anna, Michael, and  Charlene, for being part of my world as fellow weavers.

Nathan Hult

Nathan, I have often marveled at your stories of your wonderful work weaving international students into your community. Now you have shared the origin story and I understand both the heart and passion you bring to this work. Our family welcomed a mother and daughter from Senegal into our home for a few years. We didn't have a big place by US standards - three-and-a-half bedrooms and one full bath for the six of us. But of course, that is a very large home to many in other countries. Our kids saw that there is always room to share and we conversed in English and French with some Wolof thrown in for good measure. It helped set a value in our lives to think in a more open way about family, caring for others, how much space we need, what is our common humanity, and what we can learn from other cultures. My wish is that everyone has a chance to benefit from welcoming those from foreign lands into their homes and hearts. Thank you, Nathan, for sharing your story of self.

Michael Skoler

i am not sure if i am supposed to comment on a posted story or...but i am just going to share my own story...

almost 20 years ago i started volunteering at a rural assignments were a lot different than i had expected...i had thought i would sit around with patients and play cards, exchange stories etc.  instead i was the water getter, the bed maker, the wheelchair finder which i did...but not happily for a while till i discovered the joy of doing all these things.  my favourite became making beds...the hospital where i volunteered had a lot of doctors from india so everytime i entered a room the patients...and visitors...thought i had come in with medical news so everyone was always surprised that i would start stripping the bed...i started telling them i flunked out of med school!  But slowly i also discovered that this was such a great time to exchange about ailments...and then talk about recovery...and then about home...and then about family...and in those sharing of times i discovered that i had a talent to bring joy to make people feel better...and so i became what i have now described as my career as a professional volunteer...for the last 20 years i have done nothing but volunteer...i limited wants and moderated needs and discovered a new life of simplicity and endless receiving of smiles and blessings...

its been the best of times so my mantra to all i have met...and retire and volunteer...and you dont have to wait till 65 to retire and volunteer...just retire now and volunteer...

be well

rakesh misra

Roger and Rakesh.  I just discovered the "alert" tab in the menu and these postings.  I also discovered a message from Michael in October that I hadn't responded to.  So my new related story about our international students is in connection with my getting 2 new knees in July.  Our dear daughter Wafaa came out from Boston to help me for two weeks after my first knee replacement, and then our daughter Aditi came up from Dallas to help me after the second replacement.  Many of our international students have become our kids and we became their American parents.  It is hardly fair, having such a large family.  

Rakesh, I admire your volunteering in hospital work for 20 years.  And yet, we find that that is just the place that we recommend to our student spouses who are looking for a setting where they can be of service, with the side benefit of working on their conversational English.  The more they talk with patients, the better for both.   Here is to all professional joy-bringers!

Michael, I apologize for not responding earlier.  I'm learning new things about our Weaver environment each week.  I am still here and trying to be active.  And I am continually blessed with so many kids from so many places.  Right now we have a student from Ecuador whose lease ran out at the end of the summer though she hadn't finished her master's degree.  She has introduced us to her friends.  Now she wants to make Thanksgiving dinner for them and us.  It will be a joint effort with so much to be thankful for.  Our table is and will be full.

Nathan Hult

This is excerpt from my memoir on community development that I learned in my Peace Corps service that fulfilled 3rd goal--bringing what I learned back home:

          Fulfilling the third goal of my Peace Corps service, β€œto help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans,” wasn’t as easy to do. My PCV service was implementing a rural community development program in a Turkish village for two years in the 1960s. I partially fulfilled it on my return home by organizing tours of Turkey that was full of Greek and Roman tourist sites for Americans.

          But I also found ways to bring back the knowledge I had learned in rural community development to my home community, an unincorporated area of Santa Barbara County that ultimately resulted in the formation of a new city.

What could be more community developing than that? This is an excerpt from my memoir published by β€Ί 2023-winner-of-the-peace2023 Winner of the Peace Corps Writers’ Publisher’s Award.

          As a bedroom community to Santa Barbara, the Goleta Valley had no real community organization of its own other than the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce. It needed an established entity to ask for what was needed to improve the valley’s aging and dilapidated infrastructure, and to reduce chaotic development. More public transportation, water resources, and just smart community planning were needed to mitigate the effects of a growing population.

There was much opposition to any organizing effort that would create more than a bedroom community in the Goleta Valley. There were those who wanted to β€œbelong” to the City of Santa Barbara so their property values would be the beneficiary of Santa Barbara property values. They wanted no part of a new, more rural city. Then there were the environmentalists that tended to cluster around UC Santa Barbara with its strong environmental studies program. They were afraid a new city would encourage more development.

But in fact, being unincorporated didn’t prevent development: property owners and developers had only to convince one County Supervisor that represented a larger area, rather than a city council responsible for the entire community.

Goletans couldn’t agree on what was unique about their own community. Was it a farming culture, bedroom community, or just funky adjunct to UC Santa Barbara? Many thought that, with prosperous Santa Barbara next door, what was the need for another city on the already crowded South Coast? Hence the impasse that had defeated earlier cityhood attempts.

The first step in building a livable community, in my view, had to be creating a town center that could focus planning efforts, and Old Town Goleta seemed just the place to do it. Old Town had been the historical center of the Goleta Valley with stores, a saloon, and a blacksmith for farmers in the early days.

It took two years’ of planning to accomplish just the first step that was formally approved by County Supervisorsβ€”The Goleta Oldtown Revitalization Plan.

Follow Harlan Green on Twitter:

Harlan Russell Green

A little of my story of self.

I didn't belong.  I didn't fit the molds that others cultivated or expected. My life often has felt like a confluence of paradoxes.

  A small girl who loved every sport I could find. A quiet athlete who thrived in roles of directing how the team played.  An athlete who went home to devour everything I could learn from encyclopedias, sat in the bleachers before the game doing AP Calculus work, or taking a university engineering exam while teammates relaxed on the beach during tournaments.  An engineer who loved to discover how people work.  A scientist at heart who integrates faith and science, viewing them as teammates in discovering truth.  A believer that there is real truth about God out there AND that every person has worth and has something to teach me. A mom who stayed home with kids and also has real contributions for the world.

I have spent a lifetime learning to weave all these seemingly separate threads of who I am together.  For a long time, I tried to keep them separate. My friends and peers seemed to demand that I choose one thread.  That I fit into one mold.

Growing up with all these threads and more, I struggled to weave them together because I really just wanted to find my place.  As a religious minority that is often ridiculed or rejected, I felt the burden of being the other often.  When it came time for college, I decided to seek the "safety" of a university where my faith is the majority.  But my arrival didn't make all the threads fall magically into place. I still didn't fit into one mold.

During university, I pushed forward through highs and lows of the weaving my story together. Bright successes and dark threads of depression, short, powerful bursts of progress and long periods where things seemed gray coalesced as I sat in the nursery, holding my oldest son at 3 am, wondering who I was now that I had paused my career.  The answer that whispered in my mind was "I am me".  All the threads that for years had seemed to compete for prominence in the story of who I am came together.  Because I am ALL of those things.  I am an athlete, a leader, a nerd, a mom, a scientist, a coach, a child of God and a believer who seeks truth in every person and experience of my life.  To take away any of the threads of who I am is to not see all of me.

My personal weaving led me to seek weaving with others. Just as I am so incomplete without all of my current and developing threads, WE are incomplete without each individual I meet. I love to discover what we can co-create together, and that is the foundation of the work I do in all aspects of my life.

Rachel Cannon

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