Custer State Park, South Dakota

Bison Crossing at Custer State Park

“Then she gave something to the chief, and it was a pipe with a bison calf carved on one side to mean the earth that bears and feeds us, and with twelve eagle feathers hanging from the stem to mean the sky and the twelve moons, and these were tied with a grass that never breaks”. – Black Elk

The joy of any driving trip through Custer State Park in South Dakota is the sighting of the Great American Bison. Once a prominent presence throughout this landscape, today their numbers are sadly dwindling. At the height of the bison population, there were over 30 million of them roaming the grasslands of North America. However, the arrival of European settlers and the desecration of Native American communities and territories significantly reduced the bison population to almost extinction. We almost lost one of the greatest symbols and species of the American West.

Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a special place because it is one of the only truly wild places left in the United States where bison roam free. In fact, there are nearly 1,300 of these magnificent beasts wandering about the parks 71,000 acres.

During a family vacation to South Dakota last summer, we spent many hours driving through the beautiful, winding roads of Custer State Park. Yet it was not until our last day while driving along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop of prairie land that we finally encountered our first bison.

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Driving along the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park

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Sunset on Mount Kilimanjaro

What Victory Means to Me

“You won’t win until you learn how to lose” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Following and fulfilling your dreams is not easy. Oftentimes the obstacles and hurdles that lie ahead seem so insurmountable that they hold you back from even trying. Whether it is the fear of failure or anxiety of the unknown we all have our reasons.

I’ve realized over the years that if I do not take risks or step out of my comfort zone than I am miserable. I don’t grow as a person nor do I feel fulfilled or happy. The more I challenge myself both mentally, intellectually and physically, the more peaceful I feel in my own skin.

High Line Trail, NYC

The Extraordinary High Line in NYC

There is no place on earth like New York City. It is quite a city and I’ve been lucky to have visited on three separate occasions over the past six months.  If you have never been, It is hard to describe New York City. It is so busy, overstimulating, overwhelming and congested with people from all over the world that as much as I love it, it also wears me out. Just walking a few blocks down the streets of Manhattan is enough to make my mind swirl and go into overdrive trying to process everything I see. The people. The places. The restaurants. The shops. The poverty and the wealth to the extreme. The homeless living in the dirt of a noisy street right outside of Prada. The brand new Ferrari pulling up curbside at a small cafe in Little Italy to eat. It is sometimes amazing and other times overwhelming.

In my early twenties I had the opportunity to live in Chicago for five years, right in the heart of Lincoln Park, and I also lived in Paris for a semester abroad during college. While both cities are large and amazing in their own right nothing compares to the sheer size, concentration of people and magnitude of New York City. I am not sure I could ever live somewhere so intense, invigorating and so over the top without going mad. (I loved living in Paris and Chicago by the way).

In big cities I need to find space and solitude which is a rare commodity. In Chicago, I had Lincoln Park and the lakefront. In Paris, I lived right across from Parc Montsourris in the 14th and found tons of green spaces throughout the beautiful city. In New York, there is an awful lot of concrete jungle outside of massive Central Park. So you can imagine how utterly delighted I was to find the High Line during my past visit in April.

The High Line is an urban park-like oasis in the heart of Manhattan and ingeniously built on an abandoned, elevated railroad track high above the street below. It is an extraordinary concept and example of inviting nature into urban planning.

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Hike to Karanga Camp Machame Route Kilimanjaro

My Happy Place

Life is abundant, and life is beautiful. And it’s a good place that we’re all in, you know, on this earth, if we take care of it. – Alice Walker

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog and know me, then you will not be the least bit surprised when I tell you that my happy place is being outside in nature. I prefer being in the mountains, hiking and breathing in the fresh, magical air but of course it isn’t possible that I’m always in this special place. Instead, I find beauty, peace and solitude in being anywhere outdoors and at home I generally find my happy place at my favorite neighborhood lake, Lake Harriet in Southwest Minneapolis. I walk and run around that lake year round, rain or shine, snow or sleet. I watch and marvel at the changing of the seasons  and the cycle of life. I reflect on the migration of the birds who come and go with the changing of the wind. If I’m lucky, I see a pair of bald eagles or a distant loon. I’ve even see a wild turkey and a group of deer which seems crazy given the fact that I live in the heart of a city.

Fall is by far the most beautiful season in Minnesota and I take advantage of being in my happy place as much as possible. The air is so fragrant, the sun so bright and the sky is usually a deep, dark sapphire blue on most days. But best of all, is the magical tapestry of leaves in their deep scarlet reds to pumpkin and burnt orange and golden yellows. It is a time of year that I always feel incredibly vibrant and alive.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”. –Albert Camus

Lake Harriet Walking/Running Trail Minneapolis MN

Lake Harriet Walking/Running Trail

I took this photo just yesterday on my walk around Lake Harriet, one of four urban lakes in Southwest Minneapolis that make up the “chain of lakes”. We are so fortunate to have over 10,000 lakes in this state and many in the city have walking, biking and running paths that are plowed year round. 

Uhuru Peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, SolarSisterSummit

Reaching up to the sky on top of Kilimanjaro

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. – Bruce Lee

What are the boundaries we make for our lives? I know for myself, I have certain boundaries I will not cross. I will not be dishonest, disrespectful, or full of hate. Instead, I will be as open-minded as I can, as loving, loyal and honest as possible. I have set my standards high at trying to be the best “me” I can humanly be. Do I make mistakes? Of course! We all do. Yet I strive to correct them, to push ahead and to always try to improve myself to make me a better person and human being.

While I may be an adventurous person who is driven to explore, wander and challenge myself physically there are other aspects of my life that are relatively structured and risk free. I have my boundaries on what kinds of risks I want to take and what kind of life I want to live. My family always comes first. Yet thankfully I have the most incredible, supportive husband possible who encourages me to follow my dreams and challenge my boundaries. Climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro is one such boundary I had dreamed to conquer, and thankfully with plenty of hurdles and obstacles along the way I fulfilled my dream at the end of July.

I have written a lot about each day of my Kilimanjaro climb. But I have not written yet about the hardest, most difficult day of all. The Summit. So here the story goes.

Shira Camp, Machame Route, Kilimanjaro

Sunset at Shira Camp. 12,600 feet/3,840 m

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SOS Children Ethiopia

Make Change #2030NOW #GlobalGoals

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
― Lao Tzu

As I prepare to head out to NYC tomorrow to attend my fourth Social Good Summit (#2030NOW) I could not help but wonder about what kind of world I’d like to see in 2030. As 193 global leaders meet at the United Nations General Assembly this week and commit on the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that will guide our planet for the next several years, there is no time more important than today to think about the change we want to see in the world.

The three main areas that the bold new SDGs address include ending extreme poverty, eliminating injustice and inequality and climate change. For me, I am honestly hoping that the world does something to change the future of half our planet – the future for women and girls – who continue to suffer the most from injustice, inequality and poverty.


Why? Because women and girls are critical to transforming the future. Without them, we are missing a huge transformative, powerful piece of the puzzle. In honor of women and girls, I look forward to attending the Social Good Summit (#2030NOW) and live reporting via twitter (@thirdeyemom). It will certainly be an exciting few days!

The photos below were all taken in June 2014 in Ethiopia during a two-week reporting trip on maternal and newborn health with the International Reporting Project. These woman and girls remind me of the personal commitment I have made to helping change the world to the way I want it to be.

Ethiopian mother

Maternal and Newborn Mortality rates in developing countries are improving but not fast enough. Education is lacking as are opportunities for women and girls to start business, have a career and improve their lives. We face a critical moment in time when we can change the direction of their paths and make the world a better place for all, no matter where you live, what language you speak, how much money you have or what religion you practice. No matter if you are a man or a woman, a girl or a boy. It is up to us. 
Faces of Ethiopia

Freedom Tower NYC

Remembering 9/11: In a Series of Monochromatic Photographs

“A powerful monochromatic image is composed of a gradient of a single color, and has an emphasis on texture and composition. While the images I’ve shared in this post are not entirely monochromatic, they show the power that a simple color palette can have in a photograph”. – WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge Host, Jen Hooks

September 11, 2001.  Fourteen years ago today.  How long it seems since that fateful terrifying day.  How fast time has gone that it seems as if it was just yesterday.  The images and feelings of shock, anger, horror, sadness, fear and what ifs will forever be engrained in our minds.  The images and emotions are things that we will never be able to forget and will never stop seeing when we close our eyes.   The fruitless human lives that were lost.  Our freedom imprisoned.  Our hearts never the same.  Our lives forsaken.

Today, I want to honor the people whose lives were lost on that horrific day and every single day in this cruel world. The people of Syria dying in search for freedom and a better life. The endless murders and shootings of innocent human beings. All lives that are lost, everywhere on this planet due to another human being.

Will there ever be peace? Will the countless mass murders – many happening here in the United States – ever be curtailed? In a world of violence will we ever truly be free?

Freedom Tower NYC

1 World Trade Center Tower or “The Freedom Tower” is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, in July 2013. She looms directly behind the 9/11 Memorial.

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways – either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength”.  – Dalai Lama

9/11 Memorial

Each name of a person who died on 9/11 is inscribed along the side of the memorials.

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Doors around the World

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”. – Walt Disney

Whenever I travel I’m always mesmerized by doors. I often wonder what lies behind those doors. What kind of hidden world lies beyond, unseen to the world. For the curious onlookers like me, I love to ponder about the significance, uniqueness and beauty of doors.

Simply Doors

Paris, France

Antigua, Guatemala

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Hamel's Alley

The World in Color

The world is a colorful place. Color brings emotions from the fiery reds of a brilliant sky to the moody deep blues of an untouched lake and the gentle yellows of a fresh spring flower. I love to capture color throughout my travels. I seem to gravitate more towards blue and green, my favorite colors that remind me of being outside, surrounded by the beauty of nature.


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Minnesota Flowers

The Vivid Colors of Summer

Summer has arrived in Minnesota! Well, at least in my book. Today is the last day of school and the kids will be off for three whole months. Vivid memories of summer fun during my childhood captivate my soul as do the gorgeous, vivid colors of summer flowers.

Walking barefoot across the silky green grass. Eating popsicles on a balmy hot and humid day. Watching the sunset well past nine o’clock over one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. Barbecuing bratwursts, burgers and corn for friends and family. Enjoying a gooey s’more surrounded by a mosquito-infested campfire on a cloudless night. All these delightful things I get too look forward! The adventure and feeling of being a child again all come back to me at the onset of summer.

Just in time for school break, the weather has suddenly improved and has finally stopped raining, leaving behind sensational, vividly-colored early summer flowers. The peonies, day lilies and irises are all in brilliant bloom, making my heart sing. It is a lovely time of year! A time of adventure, fun, and being alive. Let’s embrace it!

Minnesota Flowers Minnesota Flowers Minnesota Flowers

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Photoblog: Forces of Nature

“On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it” – Jules Renard

I find so much peace and joy in the beauty of nature. I love to be outdoors more than anything and oftentimes I am struck by the sheer force of nature to create such an amazing planet. It frightens me that we aren’t acting faster to stop climate change. I wonder what will remain of this amazing world for the generations to come. For my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Will there be any glaciers remaining? Will the world be so green and spectacular? Or will it slowly disappear before our greedy eyes despite the fact that we can do something to stop it? It is our call.

This is what we have at stake. One of the most amazing places in the universe. Our planet.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”. – Albert Einstein

Somewhere in Iceland…

Iceland landscape thirdeyemom

Clouds in Patagonia…..


Sunset on Lake Harriet near my home in Minneapolis…

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Port-au-Prince Haiti

Photography in Motion: A drive through the Haitian countryside

“Dèyè mòn gen mòn” (beyond the mountains, more mountains) – Haitian Proverb 

I would be lying if I said I was good at taking photographs in motion. Learning how to operate my camera off the auto feature has been something I’ve just begun learning. In fact, I went to my first ever photography class just this past weekend SLR I where I finally learned the mysteries behind the terms f-stop, shutter speed and ISO. I have yet to play around with these features in real life but I’ve made a promise to myself that I will learn how to operate my camera off the auto setting. Why? Simply because it is the only way I can truly discover the real art of photography while simultaneously making my pictures better.

Learning how to use shutter speed effectively is high on my list because I love to take pictures from a moving car. Whether I am in a big urban city like Delhi or in the countryside of Ethiopia and most recently Haiti, my favorite thing to do is to document the trip on film. Sadly, many of my pictures do not turn out. The ones that do turn out are due to pure luck which is why I’ve decided to invest my time in learning how to correctly use my camera.

A few months ago, I was in Haiti to see the work of Heart of Haiti’s artisans. We spent the first two days in the country’s capital Port-au-Prince, and then headed south to a small seaside town of Jacmel. We rose early since we would most likely have a 3-4 hour drive depending on traffic. Driving in Haiti can be absolutely crazy and even getting around Port-au-Prince can take hours. There are way too many vehicles for the countries’ narrow, over-crowded streets and way too many broken-down vehicles that can stall traffic for hours.

I knew in order to get pictures in motion along the way, I’d have to be seated up front right next to the driver. I also tend to get rather carsick on bumpy roads. Thankfully none of the other ladies cared and I was rewarded the front seat of the van on the way there and back.

I am a huge map person as I like to see the route and know where I’m going. One thing that truly surprised me about our drive to Jacmel was how mountainous it was. In fact, Haiti is a nation of mountains and its name Hayti (the Indian name for the country) means “land of the mountains.” Some of the mountain peaks reach over 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) and sadly many mountainsides have been denuded and deforested which has caused several disastrous mudslides and flooding, killing many. Haiti is also quite prone to hurricanes and earthquakes given its location, making this small nation a highly vulnerable place to natural disasters.


Topographic Map of Haiti shows the mountainous drive south to Jacmel. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Free Commons

As we left the hustle and bustle of Port-au-Prince and got out into the countryside, I smiled. For this is the place I love to be!

Port-au-Prince Haiti