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photo: Catherine Bennett

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

My guardian angel

Dr. Bert Kolp
Dr. Bert Kolp

I have the most awesome guardian angel: my grandfather Dr. Berton Kolp.

He was an incredible physician, loving father and grandfather, and beloved husband to my now 91-yr-old Grandma Fritzie.

He sang in church and made people cry with his gorgeous tenor voice. He had a quirky and sometimes corny sense of humor.

I adored him.

While I was in college, he wrote many letters of support and always drew some funny doodle cartoon to put a smile on my face.

He and my grandma lived in Santa Barbara for the majority of my childhood. Every other Christmas was spent in this beautiful, sunny, warm fantasy-land with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

A dream!

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8 month old me at Hendry’s Beach with my beautiful mom.

He attended my graduation ceremony at the University of Minnesota in June of 1998 with my grandma.

17 years ago today, my beloved Grandpa Kolp passed away. Less than two months after my graduation.

He collapsed on the golf course with some of his best friends in Santa Maria, CA.

A heart attack.

It was quick and he was doing what he loved, with people he loved.

I am beyond grateful that he was alive to see his first grandchild graduate from college.

His support of my studies was a huge motivator and his dedication and devotion to helping people continues to inspire me to this day.

Grandpa Kolp is my guardian angel.

Every time I get up on stage to sing, dance, drum or speak, he is with me.

I feel him in my heart, always. He visits me in my dreams and calms my nerves when I fly in an airplane.

Today I am incredibly grateful for the gifts that he gave to the world. The broken bones he mended and the illnesses he worked to heal. The gentleness and humor. The devotion and dedication.

I am grateful for his presence in my life while he was in human form and now in the spirit realm.


Santa Barbara, CA: A special city

Exactly one year after Grandpa Kolp left us I moved to Santa Barbara from Minneapolis…in search of a new life, a new chapter.

I left my beloved friends and family. I left a job I loved and a room full of adoring preschool children. I left the life I knew because something was calling me forward.

During the first two weeks in my new home, I cried myself to sleep every night. I mourned the life I left and was overcome by fear of the huge shift I had made.

Deep down I knew it was right and that I was where I needed to be. But I was still scared.

Feel the fear and do it anyways, right?

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Hiking Inspiration Point with friends, March 2000. 24 yrs old.

6 months after my arrival I met my sweetheart, Budhi Harlow, at a party in Montecito. He introduced me to African Drum and Dance. He inspired and reawakened the artist in me. He brought me in to his world and I was never the same.

He continues to teach me how to be a better teacher, artist, leader and partner.

Over the next 10 years, I worked as a waitress, nanny, tutor, dog walker and pet sitter, athletic instructor, after school assistant teacher, and babysitter.

All along the way, I drummed, danced, sang and performed…with love in my heart!

I gained courage and confidence.

I immersed myself in drum and dance workshops and conferences and eventually began to teach.

I slowly let go of my part-time jobs and moved into working for myself full-time. It wasn’t easy and had many bumps along the way. I doubted myself a lot.

But I kept moving forward in the direction of my dreams.

It is because of Grandma and Grandpa Kolp that I call this magnificent city home. It is because of them that my life has blossomed in this way.

I am so thankful that I took a chance and moved my life to Santa Barbara. 16 years ago today.


Gratitude… for life

Since moving to Santa Barbara I have co-created a community of beautiful, generous, passionate, inspiring people.

More and more amazing souls continue to flood in and overwhelm me with their amazing selves. They teach me so much and they nourish and feed this community with their love and light.

Summer Solstice 2011
Winter Solstice 2012
Summer Solstice 2013
Performing West African Dance with Leida and Panzumo at my 40th B-day Bash this spring

And I am so grateful that I found my spiritual home and a strong inner spiritual center through dance, yoga, meditation and conscious breath work. I found my dance and spiritual teachers.

The exquisite Colleena Shakti at the 2014 Kauai Odissi & Yoga Retreat

We make choices in this life that can change the course of our lives. Sometimes those choices scare the pants off of us.

As I look back over the past 17 years since my grandfather’s passing, I am simply overcome by gratitude. I look at the decisions I made and those angels, like Grandpa Kolp, who gently nudged me along and encouraged me on my path.

And I have to say this:

Listen to the sweet loving whispers of your heart. What do they tell you? Where would they like you to go? What is calling you forward? 

How can you move in the direction of your dreams today?

Courage. Determination. Intuitive awareness. Deep faith.

Thank you Grandpa Kolp. Thank you friends and family. Thank you life.

I love you.