Amanda Christmann Larson

Easter Island

2014-04-28 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Lifestyle


Writer Amanda Christmann Larson On a bright day in April 1722, while Johann Sebastian Bach was at the height of his career and Boston, with a population of 12,000, was enjoying its status as the hub of the American colonies, a 62-year-old Dutch lawyer-turned-navigator named Jacob Roggeveen led an expedition through the wilds of the Pacific Ocean.   Nearly 2,200 miles west of Chile, he was hundreds of miles from populated land and was headed for the famed “Terra Australis,” or “The Unknown Land of the South,” a name conceived by Aristotle and carried on by explorers during the dynamic Age of Discovery.   Rough surf forced his ships to anchor off the newfound island’s north shore for a week, but when Roggeveen and his crew finally disembarked, they discovered a sight that would intrigue the world for centuries to come.   Great monoliths lined the shores of the island, their carved faces illuminated by fires. Aboriginals, their earlobes slit and hanging to their shoulders,... More

Fanning the Flames of Purpose

2013-08-13 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Adventure


Photo Credit: www.compassionatejourneys.com
  Meeting new people is kind of awkward for me, and not just because I'm a writer and don't get dressed much.   Don't get me wrong, I like it and all, but there's always that bungled moment when people inevitably ask me what I'm doing with my life and I flounder around trying to explain it in the length and depth of a Tweet. I've kind of narrowed it down to, "I'm a freelance writer, and I do some other stuff, too," mostly out of a strong sense that if I get going on the answer for real, it makes people uncomfortable. That's a lousy way to make friends.   So what makes it uncomfortable? Well, kind of a lot of things. Those of you who know me know that I spend kind of a lot of the year in Ghana. Many people don't know where that is on a map - including me, before I found myself on a plane heading there. I also know my life isn't normal, so it's hard to find common talking points on the whole topic outside of the usual, "Aren't there snakes/bugs/diseases/wars there?" kind of stuff.... More

When I Grow Old ...

2013-06-21 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Photo Credit: http://www.dejoost.com/dejoost-inspiration-gallery-1
I thought I was having a nice afternoon with my boys, cozied up in a movie theater with a box of Raisinettes and Diet Coke. Turns out, I was having a moment of clarity.   We were at the SuperSaver, where the darkened halls are a bit of a gift, covering years of wear and tear and lord-knows-what else. The lobby is lined with pinball machines and arcade games - some that work, and some that don't, and the cotton candy costs about the same price as a movie ticket. It's perfect. It's a blast from the past - nearly exactly like the little theater my friends and I went to in Festus, Missouri when I was a kid. There, they played the same single movie for weeks at a time, so date nights were often limited to re-runs. It was good stuff.   Back in the day, we always wanted to sit in the back corners of the theater, hidden from view of the adults in the room. Those adults - the men with their mustaches and sideburns, and the women with their Zena "mom" jeans and perms, knew nothing (or so we... More

Dear Younger Me ...

2013-06-11 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Health and Beauty


I met up with an old friend from high school last week in Scottsdale. She was in Arizona for a few days, and thanks to the Almighty Power of Facebook, we were able to spend a couple of hours together over lunch. It was really great, because by the end of our time, we'd gotten into the nitty gritty real stuff that is adulthood. We dropped all pretenses and didn't try candy coat the struggles we've had (or the awesome things that happened because of them). We were just flat out real, ugly spots and hair color, and it was really fun.   There is something about spending time with people who knew me before I was the goddess I am today (ha!) that makes me want to snuggle in bed watching Oprah and cry over a bowl of raisin bran. Like everyone else who has an ounce of awesome in them, I've walked through some murky waters, and some of those waters were so clogged with yuck that I feel like washing out my soul with antibacterial soap just thinking about it.   Connecting with people who knew... More

And Then I Said Something Politically Incorrect ...

2013-06-09 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Adventure


Photo Credit: www.3-dolls.com
So I'm parked behind my desk with my bare feet up on my chair, Pandora singing to me softly in the background. She's so cool that way. I'm on deadline for the July edition of ImagesAZ, and I have three stories left to crank out before tomorrow. I like all of them, so that's not the problem. I'm actually stuck a little because I'm trying to shape a New Age story into a mold that feels comfortable for people of all kinds of belief systems ... specifically, the Wonder-bread-and-baloney-9-to-5-because-that's-the-way-it's-always-been crowd, of which I was born and bred - and have since diverted a bit away from.   It's not a matter of disrespect. There are so many things that are good and kind and right in the values I picked up along the way. But call me crazy; I believe it's OK to embrace those ethics and still get to know each other and talk about our differences. For me, that has led to some pretty profound personal change, which is frankly, a concept that is scary as hell for many... More

Back to Me

2013-06-03 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Photo Credit: A. Christmann Larson
It's been so long since I felt I had the energy to blog! I frequently have thoughts I'd like to share, but they get replaced in my head by so many other things throughout the day. There is so much to care about, it's difficult to balance what I let in and what I let out of my head. My brain feels kind of like my sock drawer - there's always that one pair that won't quite fit inside when I shove it closed.   Last week, I had a couple of those days.  You know the ones I'm talking about. After logging in about 6 million hours of computer time working and schooling with nothing but Facebook and Diet Mountain Dew to help me maintain my sanity, I felt like I was in a funk. Although all was perfectly normal in the world (whatever that means), I just didn't have it in me to do things like write a paper that was due, fix the vacuum or, you know, bathe and stuff.   Also, I've been kind of running on empty lately, up late at night and up again early in the morning. My training schedule has... More

From Paris with Love

2012-07-26 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Travel


Photo Credit: Jared Levesque
I was really fortunate this month to meet 22 wonderful teachers and students from the International School of Paris. They came to Ghana to help us build a computer learning center for kids in a rural village, braving rain, insects and more white rice than they have probably ever eaten in their lives to make a difference for strangers.   On the first day I arrived, they had been already hard at work for several days, working along side many of the village men who joined in to help out with the project. On the day I arrived, a group of boys and girls were at the construction site forming a chain to lift concrete bricks and heavy headpans of mortar. They were sweaty and tired, but they were working without complaint. Another group was hauling water for laundry and showers in buckets from the village bore hole. They carried the buckets a good city block to their housing. A third group was out  in the forest, picking up trash and putting waste cans along paths through the monkey... More

The Slave Children of Lake Volta

2012-07-24 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Youth

I have a confession: I live a double life. OK. If I'm really honest with myself, it's more of a triple or quadruple life. There are so many things I'm passionate about, and I have a really difficult time not doing any of them. I love writing, I love school, I love family life, and I love my life in Africa. I am still waiting for that Star Trek "beam me up" technology to come along so that I can pop here and there and be several places at once, but in the meantime, I live a life juggling plates, so to speak.   One of the things I'm most passionate about is creating awareness about child trafficking and making a difference in the lives of children who are living as slaves. There are an estimated 27 million women and children living in our world as slaves today - many of whom are American cities and towns. They are invisible. They have no voice. My friends and I are trying to give them a voice, and also maake a very real difference for a group of slave children in Ghana, West Africa.... More

Rise and Shine

2012-05-15 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Photo Credit: www.compassionatejourneys.com
I remember, when I was a girl of about 15, sitting on a limestone outcrop on a hillside near my grandparents' Missouri home. It was springtime, and the dull brown grasses were just beginning to emerge from their winter sleep. The sunshine was warm, but gusts of chilly wind put goosebumps on my arms. The white stone was cold beneath my jeans, and the smell of wet earth and cedars filled the air.   There was nothing earthshattering happening ... no big "aha" moments or huge revelations. But what was happening were the quiet whisperings of my own soul stirring inside. For the first time, I felt the enveloping embrace of Purpose. I felt a buzzing inside of Connectedness, of being a part of something so much bigger than time and the body I inhabit.   "Remember this," I heard my Self say. "Hold this moment."   I had no idea at the time the significance of that instant. In fact, I doubted myself, thinking the whole experience may have been a little foolish. I did remember, though, and over... More

Back to School with Larry

2012-04-23 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Photo Credit: bleacherreport.com
Let's face it. Larry Fitzgerald is pretty awesome, and even a little bit on the hot side, if I'm perfectly honest. Now that I'm a middle-aged, happily married mom, I can get by with saying things like that, in the same way your grandpa can get by with saying waitresses are cute. Sad, but true. Not sure when that happened to me.   But Larry is a different kind of fantastic. Not only is he an incredible football player (arguably the best wide receiver of all time), he's a real class act. He's focused, he has integrity and, after a loss, he takes responsibility, moves on, wakes up to a whole new day and plays another game with his whole heart and soul. And, there's the part where he's paying for me to go back to school.   Just before I left for Ghana in November, I saw a posting on Larry's Facebook page (I can call him by his first name, can't I? I mean, we are one step closer to the part where he knows I exist ....) that mentioned his University of Phoenix Finish Strong Scholarship. I... More

It's the Little Things

2012-03-31 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Adventure


Photo Credit: www.compassionatejourneys.com
I just returned from a quick two-week trip to Ghana. My main goal was to register with the government and meet with the regional Social Welfare director to get everyone on board for development and implementation of a really wonderful program, including a boarding home and community development center, our Compassionate Journeys volunteers are building to rescue child slaves and provide resources to train them up as leaders. My thinking is that it will be these children, not people like me who come to visit, who have the power to create lasting change on the issue of child trafficking, so we need to give them all of the resources and love we can to let them make a difference.   But, I digress. Stepping off my soapbox now.   Before this last trip, I put out a few Facebook messages asking for school supplies to take along. The response from people really touched my heart. Kyle Davidson, sixth grader from the East Valley got permission to speak to his class about the project. He alone... More

Embracing the Journey

2012-02-28 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Photo Credit: www.taftar.deviantart.com
Something must be in the air. I don't know if it's the solar flares or some other universal tug, or maybe it's just because all of my friends are starting to get to that age where we've earned the right to sit down, relax with a skinny vanilla latte and reflect on our lives so far, but I've heard so much talk about "what could have been" lately that I just need to add my two cents.   "Who could I be now if I could erase mistakes and forget the pain of the past?" wrote one of my Facebook friends today.    Really? Why on earth would you want to do that?!   I have wandered through iife without fear, for the most part, sometimes foregoing what my mom would call "common sense" to follow my heart. I've made decisions by listening to my heart and experienced tremendous joy and fulfillment. I've climbed higher mountains, broken out of the box, and lived out a whole lot of other greeting card clichés because I haven't been afraid to say, "Why not?"   But, I admit it. I have made more... More

Melor Vinye Wo - I Love All of My Children

2012-02-25 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Youth


Photo Credit: Deb Hoenig for Compassionate Journeys
I have been so incredibly humbled by so many things these last couple of months. Ever since the fateful day when two other volunteers and I sat in a small hut in Ghana and made a pact to build a home for rescued child slaves, the number of things that have fallen into place has been staggering.    I can't count the times when we've had a need and someone has stepped into our lives the very next day, or shortly after, with exactly what we asked for. It's as if, once we stepped into the line we're supposed to be in, the rest of the universe all clicked into place.    Three months ago, we sat in plastic chairs near a dirty shore line of Ghana's Lake Volta as dozens of children stood huddled in groups waiting to speak to us. Each one had a slip of paper in their hands with two names scrawled on it. The first name was their own; the second was the name of the person who owned them.    These kids were all child slaves. They'd been sold by parents, mostly single mothers, and were... More

The Power of One

2012-02-14 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Photo Credit: Unknown
Many years ago, I was a young, single mom struggling to raise a baby on my own. Times were really tough, and by "really," I mean the kind of tough that turns a trip to Wal-Mart into a special holiday and makes adding hamburger to Hamburger Helper a reason to break out the good china, if I'd have owned it.   I lived in a small Iowa town in an 800-square-foot house with a single wall heater stuck in the plaster between the kitchen and the living room, and a single bedroom where my son's crib covered nearly the whole floor. I worked at a veterinary clinic because I liked animals, but it was the people who made the biggest impact on me.   One morning, somewhere in between paychecks, I found myself pouring the last of our milk into my son's bottle. He was less than a year old, and a very, very picky eater, so one of his staples was toddler baby formula in milk. I watered down gallons of whole milk to save money: one gallon of milk became two, but we still went through it quickly because... More

Beware and Be Aware

2012-02-02 | Amanda Christmann Larson | Family


Kids and traffic: Two things that, together, make a mom's heart skip a beat.   No matter how many times we tell our kids to be careful, there's always that youthful element of "It won't happen to me." Children just don't get it ... but then again, why should they? They don't have the life experience to understand that bad things can and do happen, and that things can go wrong in the blink of an eye.   That's what happened to my friend's son yesterday.   In case you didn't happen to be home during the daytime, the Anthem Skate Park was completely packed. School was out for a teacher work day, and word got out like lightening through the elementary school grapevine that non-motorized scooters are allowed at the skate park for a one-year trial period. Every kid who's gotten a scooter under the tree or for his birthday over the last five years was out there giving it a whirl.   Confidence can be pretty high when you're 11 and losing a tooth is the most traumatic thing that's happened... More