RYLA sunrise hike

What I learned at Rotary camp…

… To trust, listen and allow.

Last week I volunteered as a Senior Counselor at a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) camp. Everyone told me it would be amazing. Magical. Life-Changing. Mind-Blowing.

Wow, it was even more than that! I learned so much about our kids, team building, leadership, friendship and trust. And I learned more about myself.

Trust the process:

The conferees (aka kids) were High School Junior age student who filled out applications and applied to local Rotary Clubs for scholarships. They applied for different reasons. Some to add to their transcripts. Some to overcome specific issues such as social anxiety. Some wanted to become leaders. Some because their friends said “They just had to go, it will change your life!” Regardless of why they applied, they left with leadership tools, self-confidence, understanding, awareness and new friends.

In the region where I am, there were over 181 participants in week 1 and a similar amount in week 2.

RYLA sunrise hikeThese kids were in constant motion. They had a schedule that began at 7 am every morning and kept them busy until after 10 pm each night. Every activity challenged them to develop communication and problem-solving skills, to learn from each other and work as a team. Each day included motivational, community and peer speakers with powerfully specific messages. One morning the entire group took a sunrise hike in silence. We slowly made our way to the top of a nearby mountain and sat to watch a new day begin. Some of them had never been on a hike before. For some, it was their first sunrise.

Every day was a different speaker with a different message that reminded these kids to remember to push pebbles, follow the Four Way Test, trust in themselves, honor their stories and follow through. The speakers overwhelmed them with words of hope, love and belief.

Listen and observe:

My role was to support my Junior Counselor (JC). The JC’s were in charge.  My job was to watch the group. To assist when needed but to stand back and let the JC lead our group. With each activity, the conferees  learned to speak up, ask questions, offer ideas , ask to see if others had input and they slowly turned into leaders. Sometimes it was really hard to be an observer! But to see the group get though an exercise by working together and supporting each other was rewarding. And to see a group fail and then listen to them debrief and figure out what happened, how they would do it differently and what they learned was worth my silence. The smile on my face said it all.

There were some amazing and sad stories that were shared. Topics such as school shootings, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying, violence, eating disorders and other heart-wrenching issues faced by these kids were touched on.  The world these kids face every day is so different from the one I lived in. As a kid, if someone said something mean to me, it stuck in my head and I played it over and over (yes, it’s still there to this very day) but now, when something mean is said, it is usually on social media platform for the world to see. Its life span is longer and once published, it’s out there forever. It’s hard to tell them that it doesn’t matter. Or that nobody will care. Or that nobody will know. Not in this day and time. Social media is often used as a cruel weapon that continues to wound.

RYLA’s leadership camp is compelling, impressive and rewarding. The end result for these kids was truly life changing.

Allow for continuous self-growth:

As for me, the wise and mature woman — WOW! Their stories showed me the crazy world they live in. And they reminded me that we all crave the same things, regardless of our age – acknowledgement, support, someone who believes in us, friendship and most of all …love. 


Learn about Rocky Mountain RYLA

Rocky Mountain RYLA

Cassandra Sewell

Chris Natzke


Volunteering: Give and Take

As you may have guessed, I am a people person. I love connecting with friends, strangers and soon to be friends. Although I enjoy silence and time alone, I find I am at my best when I am with others.

I realized the best way to connect is to join an organization that does somethigold rotary wheel-smng I approve of and want to take part in. Organizations like local Rotary Clubs, Peace Corps, Meet-Up groups, clean-up committees, volunteer projects, house building organizations, school tutoring and other similar organization appeal to me.

The act of volunteering allows me to contribute to something bigger than myself. The act of connecting gives me a venue to meet and socialize with others who are drawn to the same issues that interest me. It makes me feel good about myself mentally and emotionally. When I am doing something physical it’s even better because I feel as if I am giving and receiving at the same time.

Another way I receive while giving is by meeting new people. I may be cleaning up a highway or taking tickets at an event and you can bet I am talking to the people next to me, the patrons and the organizers. I learned long ago that we all have a story to tell so when I meet people I wait for their stories. Sometimes it takes a few minutes; sometimes it takes years. In the meantime, I am listening, sharing and enjoying the give and take of it all.







volunteering can improve mental health, extend life



‘No Comfort Zone’ Jitters

Week 6 summary:

So, you remember all those things I said “No” to last month? Well, there are about 4 committees that I did not walk away from and am very much involved with to some degree.

Always remember you are braver than you believe...One of those obligations is where I serve as a co-chair on community service organization for my Rotary District.

This weekend I attended a day long “speed dating” event, where I talked about my committee, our objectives and plans in about 5 minutes.  Once I was finished, 3 others in my group talked about their committees and then we moved to the next table. There were 10 tables. It was a long day. Each time I sat down to give my talk, my body was in  electric-mode. It was the adrenaline taking over, getting me through the jitters and allowing me to deliver my information.

It was a day of being ‘on’ because even though I was saying this information over and over, it was new to each table I approached and I shared it was high energy and enthusiasm.

After it was over, I was spent.

I had nothing left to give, so I did the only thing I could to help recharge me. I soaked in the bathtub, with lights turned off, and let my shoulders drop.

I’ve come up with a new challenge for Week 7. No speed dating and no high energy talking but it will involve movement. More to follow …

——Odds and Ends Thoughts has joined the No Comfort Zone Weekly Challenge as well! Be sure to visit, read and then click on the Out of Comfort Zone page created just for this challenge! Welcome Cris!

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Easing into Happiness: Intentional Focus

Yes, studies have shown that a person’s happiness is determined by: genetics, environment, and intentional activities. Genetics is often referred to as nature and Environment is the nurture component of the equation. The third component, intentional activities is the subject of this post.

Intentional activities are things that you choose to do, things you choose to be, things you choose to have.  Intentional activities account for 40% of your happiness. No longer can you blame mom and dad for the nature and nurture part of your world … instead you have 40% input right here and now.

Smiley Face cookieHow to get intentionally happy?

Do something for someone else.

  • Say a kind word. Move over in traffic. Pick up trash.

Express gratitude.

  • This can be as simple as saying ‘thank you’.
  • Delight in the good things that surround you (can you say clean water, fresh air, a roof over your head?)

Get outside your sphere and take a look at the good that happens across the world.

  • Read about organizations like FINCA which offers financial services to low income entrepreneurs or Rotary Clubs whose volunteers travel to third world countries to assist in clean water, health and literacy programs.

When you do something good for someone else you’ll probably feel better about yourself and your situation. You’ll have a better view of how others are struggling and insight into simple actions that make a difference.

Your world view will expand as you educate yourself on specific organizations in countries across the globe. The next time you hear about FINCA or Rotary Clubs you may decide to research further.

Most important of all is the knowledge that YOU can decide to be as happy as you want …or not.

Scary, huh?

Were The Good Old Days All Fun & Games?
Happiness Studies
How to Become Happier with a Few Daily Family Activities