I Believe That Kindness Wins

Wanna hear a fun story? I haven’t written much since summer began, but I’ve been wanting to tell this one since it happened. It involves a few good staples of any summer vacation and a big dose of kindness.

I’m assuming by now you’ve all heard about the US Women’s soccer team winning that World Cup. Well, before they did that, a few of my friends and I made a last minute plan to go see the gals play the ladies from Germany in a semifinal game in Montreal.  We considered flying there, but plane tickets were a wee bit expensive with only a few days notice, sooooo…

IMG_6853

…ROAD TRIP!! Isn’t a road trip one of the best parts of summer?

There was head up...

Car games…

...fellow fans driving by...

…fellow fans driving by…

IMG_6862

…and RoadTrip Radio! Even though they wouldn’t let me play this one loud in the border crossing line.

Speaking of lines, let me cut to the best part of this story.  The whole trip was awesome…we walked out of our hotel on the way to the game just in time to see the team leaving their hotel across the street (Heeyyyy, Pinoe!), some nice Canadian bartender made us custom red, white and blue cocktails, we went on a little hike and especially the win, but I think we all agreed on our favorite moment.

We were feeling so excited as we walked to the metro station on our way to the stadium!  It might have had a bit to do with those America inspired drinks or else the Canadian beer, but mostly it was the hype of the game.  Lots of people were walking the streets in Montreal all decked out in their USA fan gear. It almost looked like the 4th of July.  What I guess we hadn’t thought so much about, was that all those people were going to the same place we were, so that when we walked into the metro station our pre-game bubbles deflated.  There was a crazy long line to buy tickets.  Super long.  All the way back to the back wall of the station long. Our hearts sank as we tried to squeeze into line.  I think we were all thinking the same thing, that we would miss the beginning of the game now. But we didn’t have a chance to say it or even really let the disappointment sink in, because the second we stepped into line, a man walked up to us and asked, “Are there four of you?” We all nodded, not sure what he wanted.  And then…he made our night!!  “Here you go!” he said and he fanned out four metro tickets in front of us. “Wait. What? For us?”  And then he explained, “Yeah, we just waited in that line and wanted to let someone else not have to.  Here you go! Have fun!”  OOOH! MY! GOOOOSH!!  Wasn’t that just a sweet and kind and super fun thing to do?! He just bought extra tickets to give away.  And he gave them to us!  Can you imagine our excitement?  It went a little something like this:  THANK YOU!  THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! And then we ran!  We fumbled with how to work the tickets at the turnstile, and then we ran some more.  Straight down the wrong set of stairs to the wrong track.  That’s when another nice man said, “Uh…ladies.  Do you want to be on the other side?”  We darted a look across the tracks and saw our people, all red, white and blue on the other side. YES! Yes, we definitely want to be on the other side!  We yelled out some more thank yous and took off running again.  We were smiling and laughing the whole way to the stadium.  We made it with just minutes to spare before the gals took the field and the whole night we kept saying, “Remember when that guy just gave us metro tickets?!”

And we vowed to pay it forward.  Because making it to the start of the game wouldn’t have been nearly as great if we hadn’t almost not made it to the start of the game. It was the kindness of a total stranger that fixed that.  He made us so happy!  Thanks again, metro man!

IMG_6880

And to all the people we cut in front of, I’m sorry. But not really.  I am a little bit sorry for taking a picture of you, Backwards Hat Girl, while you were looking kinda miserable and I was looking and being so happy. I’ll try to make it up by being kind to some other stranger sometime soon.

 

Ready or Not, It’s Summer!

So here I am, at the beginning of summer vacation.  I’ve been waiting and longing for this moment for the past several weeks.  I usually try hard to stay present and not really count down the days, but the ramped-up pace of the last few weeks of school did have me keeping my eye on this prize.  Something caught me a bit off guard over the weekend though.  I was suddenly hit with this feeling of not being ready for summer.  I was pretty much ready for school to be over.  Though it’s always a little tough and bittersweet to say goodbye to my students, that part I don’t really look forward to, most of the time, I was definitely ready for the busy-ness of the busy season to end.  I certainly don’t want to stretch school out any longer, but all of a sudden I had this mixture of sadness and maybe a little worry because I feel like I’m not quite ready for the clock of summer to start ticking away.  I need to make some plans!  I need a new swim suit! Seriously! How can all the swim suits I want be sold out already?!

OK, I really don’t care all that much about the swim suit, but I was having this weird anxious sort of feeling about summer starting. I was expecting to feel all jumping-in-the-air-clicking-my-heels-together excited like I do at the start of most summers, but that kind of wasn’t the case this year.  I’m quite sure it has to do with a whole host of factors.  A few of which I thought might be worth mentioning here.

One thing is that, endings are hard, even when you’re looking forward to what’s on the other side of the end. This year the end of school brought a few more goodbyes than usual as several close colleagues retired.  I’m often asked, as school is about to finish, about how to handle a child’s sadness and tears about the ending.  A few years ago, I started sharing Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto and directing parents to the part about teaching kids to feel their sadness instead of trying to take it away or brush it under the carpet. It’s hard to end something that was good.  It’s hard to adjust to the fact that you won’t be seeing the same people every day who you are used to seeing.  So I tell the kids that it’s ok to be sad about this. I am.  It’s ok to cry about this.  I did.  And then I remind them of an R-word (we’re big on R-words at our school). I tell them that they are resilient.  They will recover from this sadness and fairly quickly too.  I tell them that their heart can be sad and happy all at the same time, even if it feels very weird, it’s ok.  They’ll learn that this is the way of school (and life) and soon, before they know it,  they’ll be focused on pools and popsicles.  And so I’m telling myself the same thing.  (except I might focus on these grown up pops!  Scroll down for the boozy section.)

Another thing about the start of this summer that brought on some weird feelings for me, is the shift in schedule and that I don’t have all my plans all set. I don’t have a giant trip planned. I don’t even know what I’m doing for the rest of today. It feels like a little bit of a transition to go from the super scheduled and jam-packed days of June to the wide open days of summer.  Now, I know this is not an actual problem. There are people who are sick or hurt and there are huge injustices in the world, those are problems. I know plenty of people really deserve the wide-open days of rest and summer and some people never get them. I am so very grateful for mine.  I’m also very positive that I’ll come up with plenty of things to do and those wide-open days will soon be fun-filled.  I’m just saying, I felt a little uneasy about how my time would play out. I want my time to be well spent. I want this to be a really good summer.  But sometimes I fall into that whole trap of thinking that if I’m not being productive, I’m not spending my time well. And sometimes I get too caught up in planning and being “ready.” But only sometimes. I’m reminding myself of what I really know in my heart, that some of my most well-spent time and treasured memories have been those spent doing what seems like nothing with my family and friends, spontaneous happenings, unexpected meetings and unplanned moments.

I’m at that age where time seems to be going a lot faster.  I just kind of want a little buffer zone right now in between when school ends and summer begins.  Like a pre-summer, for deep breathing and dreaming and plan making. But we don’t get that.  So today I’m using a little lesson that my dear friend Regina taught me.  I can’t stop the clock from ticking, but I can notice this moment, this end sliding into this beginning.  And right here, the whole summer is stretched out before me.  Who knows what wonderful things will happen?!  I’m hoping it’s a season full of family and friends, lots of time outside, wonder and big newness.   As much as I can, I’m going to make sure it is.  I’ll keep you posted.

photo-99

I really love this line from the book I’m reading right now. It’s called “Phenomenal” and it was written by Leigh Ann Henion about her explorations of some of the world’s most extraordinary natural places. Her life and my life are quite different, but still…I love being wondrously astounded! I hope you also can’t believe your life in a good way this summer and ten years from now. I wish us all many moments of being wondrously astounded. Happy summer!

A Hike, A Hang Out and A Full Heart

So my last post was about this busy season I’m in right now, and it seems to be getting busier and busier.  But a sweet and fun part of this full season, is that it’s also my birthday season!  OK, I don’t claim the whole season for birthday celebrating, but maybe I stretched it out for at least the weekend.  And I might extend it even a little more still too.

I know a few other girls who were also born in May, so I took advantage of several reasons to celebrate and planned a little something.  I’d been wanting to host a get together at my house and also to do some hiking, (my spring hopes come true!), so I combined the two and we headed out after school on a Friday to hike and hang out.

IMG_6360We took the Continental Lane.  Washington’s army did a good job of blazing the trail long ago, so it’s a nice easy walk through the woods.  Which was good for us.  We had kind of a larger hiking party and lots to chat about, so we couldn’t really focus on rock climbing  or scaling boulders.

IMG_6364I had a few moments during the hike and at my house afterwards when I saw this group of ladies before me  and my heart was so filled with gratitude for the people in my life. All the people.  I feel truly blessed to have these gals and lots of other good, good souls in my life and many others who aren’t in my daily days, but who have crossed my path and I keep in my heart.  I wish they all could have been there.  I could probably go on for a while about something sappy like how walking this trail in the woods is symbolic of the paths of life we walk with each other, but you probably saw that one coming, right?  I’ll spare you.  Just saying, my heart filled up. And my eyes might have too a few times… and then someone was walking without a shoe (Not naming any names. Or even initials!) and we had to poke in tree holes and we laughed and talked and walked. IMG_6372I took my Ling Bling along and found a good place to leave it for someone else.  Part of me didn’t want to give it up, but I like the idea that someone else might find it, get a smile from it, feel gratitude and pass it on.

IMG_6369After we hiked enough, we went back to my house and some more friends came.  We muddled drinks and cooked on the grill, enjoyed the patio, toasted to birthdays and friendship, ate cake and lingered around the table.

IMG_6359Full heart!  And a happy birthday month to my May girls!

PS – I didn’t draw that heart.  We just found it there on our path.  I hope you find lots of love on your path today!

 

 

Gifts of Gratitude

Last weekend, I spent a lovely afternoon with some good friends enjoying a spring festival at a local winery.  I’m just so happy that it finally feels like spring!  And we can spend afternoons outside in the sunshine!  We chatted and sipped wine and ate good food and shopped a little.  And while shopping, I got an unexpected gift and a little chain of serendipity.

I saw these really cool re-purposed wine bottle lamps, vases and wind chimes.  And I wanted one for my patio.  So I bought this one…

photo 1-1And then I got talking to the artists who make them.  You can find them on Facebook here.  I found out that they host DIY parties and teach people how to cut and create their own bottle artwork.  We chatted for a few minutes while they wrapped up my purchase and then the woman told me that I was their first sale that day, and so she was giving me a special gift…

photo 2-1I got a Ling Bling! The artist, Lori Merck Ingwerson, creates these whimsical charmed sun catchers, calls them Ling Blings and gives them to her friends (and customers!) to remind us to be thankful…for what was, what is and what is yet to come.  She sends them with people when they travel and asks that they leave the bling somewhere for someone else to find or to give it away and then to send her a picture of your bling out in the world.  This kind of thing is totally up my alley!  And that’s exactly what I told her when she gave it to me.

I love the idea of giving thanks, of gratitude, and especially of gratitude in action.  I’ve written here before about one of my favorite authors, Brene’ Brown.  She is also a researcher who studies shame.  Which might sound kind of sad, but in the process of studying shame, she has discovered and taught many ways to live courageously and authentically. One of her findings is that people who practice gratitude often feel a deep sense of joy in their lives.  She writes in her book “Daring Greatly” about practicing gratitude.  She says, “I use the word practicing because the research participants spoke of tangible practices, more than merely an attitude of gratitude or feeling grateful.  In fact, they gave specific examples of gratitude practices that included everything from keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars to implementing family gratitude rituals.”

When I got my ling bling, I immediately thought of this idea and I love how this artist is doing something to spread the spirit and action of gratitude in others. I’ve kept a gratitude journal (because Oprah said to!)  on and off for years.  During some seasons of life I write in it every night, other times I use it more sporadically, and there have been stretches of time when it’s been almost forgotten.  The practice of writing down things, people or situations for which I’m thankful has pulled me through some tough times and helped me savor the sweet seasons of life.  What I’ve found though is that whether it’s a rough season or smooth sailing, I can always find something to be thankful for, and in addition, perhaps most importantly, the more I notice the good things, the more good things show up in my life.

Perhaps a little example of this is that one day this week, as I often am, I was thinking of what I might like to write about.  This ling bling popped into my mind and I decided I would write about it and thankfulness.  So I was scheming up how I’d compose this post, and on that same day I was to teach a lesson to a girls running group that I coach.  When I flipped to that day’s lesson in my coaching manual, I got another little gift from the universe…the topic I was to teach to my little runner-girls…gratitude!  So we practiced turning our ungrateful thoughts into grateful ones.  And then we ran our hearts out!

So I’m holding on to my ling bling for now.  It’s hanging on a hook, right across from where I eat breakfast each morning and where I finish up this blog each week, and I’m looking at it and I’m looking for a good time to give it away or leave it on my path for someone new to pick up and carry on.

photo-94

For each lap the girls ran, we wrote a letter or a heart. These rock stars busted out 16 laps! I’m so grateful for these girls, our whole little running crew and the lessons I teach and learn along with them.

photo 3-1

I’m grateful for these friends! I’m grateful for spring, sunshine, wine, artists who share their work with the world, ling blings, food trucks and all my people (I hope you know who you are! 😉

 

 

What Happens at Starbucks

I didn’t quite know what to write about for this week. So I sat around in the coffee shop, looking for inspiration in my old posts (What were my spring hopes again?) and maybe in the pictures on my phone.  I sat scrolling and sitting and thinking, but still my screen was blank. And then I overheard something beautiful at the table next to mine. It touched my heart, so I thought you might like to hear it.

This is not my story to share so I hope I am forgiven for eavesdropping.  I wasn’t trying.  I just couldn’t help but notice the love.  Really, I couldn’t help but notice the adorable baby first.  She was crying when she arrived with her mom.  So mom walked her outside while they waited for their friend.  When friend came, baby settled happily into friend’s lap and the two women chatted.  I didn’t really notice them for a while as I chatted with my own friend.  It was when it was time for me to write, and I couldn’t, that I turned my head and noticed the mom wiping a tear from her own cheek.  I looked away to give them their privacy, and also because I was supposed to be writing, but then I started to hear the friend’s words.  I glanced back and saw that they were holding hands, their eyes were closed and the friend was praying aloud for the mom.  She was asking God for support for this new mom and her family, to send the right people into their lives to help them, praying for the woman’s husband, the baby and also for herself. She asked God to show her what she could do to help the mom.  It brought tears to my eyes.

This moment struck me as beautiful in so many ways – the friendship, the faith, the connection. The mom was struggling and the friend was sending these beautiful hopes of goodness out into the universe for her.  The mom was struggling and here she had this other woman sitting with her as she cried.  I thought of how we are gifted with friendship and family, with each other to help us through.  I thought of how we are called to show up for each other as we walk through the tough times, how my own people have done this for me and how I try to do it for them.  These women were obviously holding some big pain in their hearts, but at the same time they were literally holding this tiny, adorable, baby-girl-miracle in their laps.  And I thought of how we get the most amazing wonders and beauty even in the midst of our hardest trials.  They prayed.  To God.  They prayed to God in public, out loud, right in the middle of strangers.  And I thought of how amazing it is that people can choose to live by faith. Faith in a higher power or even just the hope of happier times to come. Seeing these women…I felt my heart.

And then they left and two college kids sat down and started loudly talking about Nine Inch Nails. Ya know? The band.  And listen, I have been to a Nine Inch Nails concert.  But something about it rubbed me the wrong way, and I wanted to stop them and I wanted to ask them, “Do you know the sacred thing that just happened at this table?!” How could they just sit down and start talking about rock music when people were just crying there and praying?!  My friend and I rolled our eyes and joked about it.  But then we wondered…are they on a first date?  And so I asked myself, “Do you know what sacred thing could be happening at that table?”  Because before the praying women, a couple was meeting with their wedding photographer, dreaming up what would surely be one of their most sacred days.  And I wondered what else has happened at that table – breakups, job interviews, new friendships, house purchases, business deals, and so many just every day average, sacred cups of coffee…all right there in public, out loud.  This life, you guys!  It’s what happens at Starbucks.  And all the other places too!

I'm praying today for moments of happy, for my people and those women, for the college kids and the engaged people, for the photographer and the baristas.  May there be many moments of happy in your days!

I’m praying today for moments of happy, for my people and those women, for the college kids and the engaged couple, for the photographer and the baristas. May there be many moments of happy in your days!

 

Sharing Food

I love food!  I think I may have hinted at that once or twice in this space, I mean, except for the tomatoes.  But even those, I have learned to at least try.  I don’t consider myself any kind of chef or foodie expert, I just like eating and I think about it a lot.  I’ve recently given up sugar and nearly all processed or packaged foods which makes eating out a little trickier, but not impossible, maybe even tastier.  A few weekends ago my sweet and super-fun friends, Martha and Neil, invited me and my good friend Jackie, to go dining in Doylestown, PA.

There are so many cute restaurants in this town that it was hard to choose just one for dinner.  I will definitely be going back!

photo 1

We started out at the Station Tap House. This place continued the “It’s Hard to Choose” theme because they have so many beers on tap. If you’re into craft beers (Like I am!), this is a good place to do some tasting. We each chose a different brew and enjoyed the Happy Hour crowd.

For dinner, we chose The Hattery, which is the bar and restaurant of the Doylestown Inn, a quaint little historic hotel in the middle of town.  The restaurant’s full name is The Hattery Stove & Still which combines a few things that the building used to be – a hattery, a cigar shop, a shoe store, a restaurant and a speakeasy.  There are so many cool things in the decor of this place.  I wish I’d taken more and better pictures, but here are a few things I enjoyed…

Hanging hat lights above the upstairs bar

Hanging hat lights above the upstairs bar…

Unicycle bar stools...

..and unicycle bar stools!

I didn't understand why no one else was riding their stool...

I didn’t understand why no one else was riding their stool.

The food was yummy!  We shared some deviled eggs to start...

The food was yummy! We shared some deviled eggs to start…

I had the salmon with mushrooms and potatoes...

…I had the salmon with mushrooms and potatoes…

And Neil offered to share his fries...How cute is that little fry basket?!

…and Neil offered to share his fries.  How cute is that little fry basket?!

My favorite part of the restaurant were these big frames hanging on the wall with all these great quotes about food.

Like this...

Like this…

and this!

and this!

They reminded me of something my aunts often say, “Sharing food is a sign of affection.”

Because I love food, but I love it even more when I'm sharing it with my people...Thanks for a great night in D-town, Martha and Neil!  You two are always a blast!

Because my favorite part of the night was… my friends!  I love food, but I love it even more when I’m sharing it with my people!  Thanks for a great night in D-town, Martha and Neil! You two are always a blast! (I’m not sure what kind of blast is happening to the lady behind us, but I hope she had as much fun as I did.)

Seasons

As I begin to type this post we are preparing for some more snow to fall here.  Also, it will be the first day of spring.  Are these two things really happening on the same day?  It’s got me thinking about seasons.  The literal season change from winter to spring of course, but also, the bigger seasons of our lives, which don’t change as predictably or on designated days.

I live in a location where we get to experience all four seasons.  And lately they’ve been a bit extreme, especially the winters – record low temperatures, like just one measly degree, and a parade of snow and ice storms.  One might ask why people would choose to live in such weather when there are plenty of places in the world where the sun shines and the air is warm most of the days.  In fact, I am that “one” asking the question to myself many a day as I strap on my glacier-grade coat for recess duty.  On those days, if I’m just considering the weather, it feels like there is no good answer.  I might nearly be tempted to start packing a U-Haul and head south.  But then…then…

…then comes this time of the year.  The light changes, the sun hangs out longer and one magical day…I don’t need a scarf!  I can see the grass again, it starts to turn green, the songbirds serenade the sunrise and little buds pop out on brown branches.  The winter seems utterly unbearable at times, but the spring always comes.  And after all, as John Steinbeck wrote, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”

I’m sure that people who live on tropical islands do enjoy the warmth of their yearlong summers just fine without ever having to pull on their mittens, but there’s something to be said for coming through the cold and dark season.  It’s such a good lesson from Mother Nature to us about our own lives.  A few years ago I went through a pretty tough season which, (even though I do believe that nothing “just happens”) happened to coincide with winter, and a wonderful coworker-friend of mine gave me this beautiful book called, “Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered.” It’s filled with inspiring words and pictures by artist Nikki McClure. And to accompany the gift my friend wrote a heartfelt note to me in which she encouraged me to take comfort in the rhythm of the seasons.  She wrote, “just as the trees and the rest of nature, you don’t have to flower right now, you just need to survive.  Every day from now, the days are getting longer and you are heading out of the darkness.  Be guided by the healing power of nature which is always renewing itself.”  A little while later, she gave me another thoughtfully chosen card and it said, “Then, when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back.”

That was years ago. And she was right.  That season passed for me and life came back and seasons have come and gone in between. This winter was not at all like that one a few years ago.  Though the weather was a bit rough at times, my life actually had a good amount of growth, lots of good times and flowering.  But every spring since my friend gave those beautiful words to me, I have thought of them.  So if winter tries to linger on and keep us inside with one more day of dark and snow, or if life throws a storm of unwanted stuff our way,  we don’t have to worry,  the spring will come.  Even when it seems like it won’t, we can rest assured,  it will. It will.  Perhaps we just got a few extra dollops of sweetness for the warm days ahead.

photo-85

This morning– the sun shines, the trees are dotted with sweetness…”Be conscious and hold on as we spin around the sun one more time.” ~Nikki McClure