Not just ours…

We watched it.

Mesmerized by it’s glow. It’s charm.

Its seemingly languid way.

Of slipping away.

Until it was gone.

Kind of like it was teasing us with a childlike chant…

“now you see me, now you don’t”

The afterglow was proof enough that truly we hadn’t just imagined it.

It really had been there.

But.

If we had blinked, we would have missed it.

We watched it slip behind the horizon, slip off the edge of our today.

A new thought washed over me.

We think of the setting sun as ours, the closing of but just one of our many days.

I, for the first time, realized…

that final slip, that closing…

…is not just ours.

It is now the beginning of something altogether new.

For someone else.

It is not just ours

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Those Rocks. That Tree.

As time passes, and life happens to and around us,  we are not necessarily the same people year after year.

And, it seems, to me, that we shouldn’t be.  Without compromising who we are at the core; we learn and grow. As a rock erodes into a pebble and eventually into sand over time, we have the potential to change in seemingly invisible ways every day. Our minds can change. Lord knows our bodies change. Relationships come and go and add rich layers of memory and story and sometimes hurts and forgiveness.

Our kids, the people we are raising, leave us changed daily.  Responding to the struggle(s) of the day, whether it’s the 7th grade math, freshman year jitters, college goodbyes, first heart breaks, puberty, or the teething and diapers – it all becomes part of our core. Like cooking from a recipe made so many times we feel it more than we can explain it. It just is. We just are.

My son is on the early cusp of puberty, my father has dementia. I am still a mother and a daughter but what that means and requires of me is changing as they change. Some days it looks no different than the day before, and then suddenly it’s obvious we are all different.

That said, among all that we juggle – the balls we manage to catch, and the ones we simply know are hovering in the balance, seemingly invisible but so very present – comfort can be found when we return to a place that does not change. A place that is somehow a constant for us, a landmark in both the metaphorical and concrete kind of ways.  A place that somehow soothes our soul, beckons us to memories that we can smell and feel from visits gone by, but it’s as if it were yesterday each time we return.

When you recognize a tree in the forest like an old friend, and know the one rock on which to sit by the lake.  They are unchanged and exactly where you saw them last.

That.

A place where the soul settles and rests.

And exhales.

We should all have that kind of place.

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.  – John Ruskin

A place where we are sure of who we are, excited about possibilities we perhaps can’t even fathom (but like those balls hovering in the balance, we know they are there…) and revel in all that has been.  From good to difficult and everything that lies between. A place where –  no matter the season,  no matter the weather  – gives us just exactly the moments we need. No matter in what direction the winds may blow, to have and find comfort in a place that we are so very lucky to know.

And I’ve been lucky enough to learn that when someone you adore adores the same place as you – well, that’s one sweet exhale.

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Ps…thanks to Lori for the Ruskin quote!
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Dear Old Love Letters,

Dear Old Love Letters,

I found you, in the bottom of the big old box. There you were, tucked away safely, all this time. You have stayed so true, so loyal over all these last thirty years. You have not seen the light of day nor felt the warmth of hand to open you and turn your sweet pages.  Thank you for your patience, and knowing, that perhaps now was the perfect time to find you. Read you. Rediscover you. 

As life brings closure on a significant chapter of life, you bring me back, so sweetly and innocently, to the one that began the history of them all. The first.

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It’s been thirty years since you were penned and mailed, with a stamp that cost twenty cents. It’s been thirty years since your words have been read and savored. Thirty years since feeling that flutter of happiness upon seeing the yellow envelope on my dresser when I got home from school.

You were written for a sixteen year old girl, and you were written long before you could ever know that letting those words flow freely from your yet unbruised heart would begin the first of all bruises yet to follow. Your wordy news and little updates of seemingly mundane moments pre-date any form of text messaging that today, would surely consume hours of our days. Every little detail, so important.

Your sweet innocence and vulnerability is almost too much…

“My mind is on other things, so I decided to write to that one other thing – you!”

Your uninhibited words play across the pages – the slightly sappy, but so very endearing Snoopy stationery, chosen by your author – in your own unique way; you convey his heart, his thoughts, his cute little sighs.  You reveal a heart as yet unbroken. You tell me that I am missed, appreciated, and while the word graces not the page, in between the lines it’s there. A naive first love.

To find you now is perfect really. A time of re-calibration. A time of reflection. A time of being intentional. A time of new direction. It’s like you knew, that you waited for me somehow.  You remind me what is possible. You remind me that the heart is beautiful, resilient and wise. And that the telling of one’s heart is in fact an act of courage.

“I’m sure extra glad that things are working out with your parents about me. If I come up to visit, I’ll probably get real nervous and blow it though. So, they said it’s ok to come up and visit and stuff? Well, I’m interested in the stuff 🙂 “

Letters, you are a landmark of sorts; a familiar, even if so very vague, place worth remembering, perhaps keeping an eye out for.  I would like to somehow convey to your author  – the sweet boy who was brave enough to pen his heart on your pages for me, for to be so transparent is truly an act of bravery – how grateful I am. That he owns a corner of my heart. Always. How could he not?

“I sure had a super great time on Sat. Thanks! We didn’t do much, but it didn’t matter. Just being with you made it worth it.”

Letters, sweet old letters, thank you for staying safely tucked away and finding me again all these years later.  I grin and blush just thinking about you and feel almost sixteen again.  I am comforted by your presence, for the 16 year old girl then, and the woman now old enough to be her mother.  Like muscle memory, our hearts have a memory too. It is good.

Love,
Bonnie

______________________

*These letters are real, and were from my first boyfriend when I was 16 yrs old and he 19.  We met while working together at a summer camp. I attended his wedding years later and we danced together, talking and sharing, knowing we’d always think fondly of the other. While I congratulated him on his big day, and said I wished he and his bride so much joy,  I told him I still had his letters. He said he still had mine.  

I could tell you what happened or who broke who’s heart, but when a first love ends, isn’t it both hearts that twist and crumple, never to be quite the same ever again?

How the story ended is not so important as remembering the sheer openness and accessibility. Every girl should be so lucky to have letters so sweet and that remind her that she’s been cherished in the eyes of another. 

You listen, is what you do.

What do you do, when you meet someone and walk away from the conversation and a little voice inside says, ‘we need to help her’?

You listen, is what you do. 

And you talk about it with someone who is willing to listen to you.

Listen to you share your feeling of being moved by another human being and their misfortune, difficulty, hardship, heartbreak.

You risk feeling vulnerable about caring so much.

You push past the feelings of uncertainty.

And, you listen to those  who encourage you to not lose the moment, to not let it pass.

And then, you do something about it. Get busy. Make something happen.

That’s what happened to me two weeks ago, and it’s one of those things that will leave an imprint on me forever. One of those moments.

Two weeks ago, I was in my neighborhood grocery store and true to form, (I talk to just about anyone) I struck up a conversation with the gal at the check-out. I was in a great mood, it was a Friday night and I had company coming for the weekend. I was there to buy fun food for snacking. Engaging with the woman at the cash register, we slipped easily into conversation about feeling tired, end of the day, end of the week, end of her shift. Recognizing her exhaustion, I asked if she had little ones at home to attend to when the work day came to a close at ten pm later that night. She responded that no, she does not but that she has one on the way, as she gently patted her rounded belly that I had not noticed before. We moved easily into the language between two women who share the wondrous experience of motherhood – no matter that she’s at the wee stages and I am on the cusp of having a decade of motherhood behind me. We are the same, bonded, in that moment. I recognize her fatigue.

I ask questions, and the story spills out of her, bit by bit. She’s on her own in this maze of motherhood she has only just entered. I gingerly ask about support from the baby’s father; not so much. I ask about family support; not so much. I ask about friends, girl friends, someone? She confides that yes, there are a couple of friends on hand, there for her. And that she’s going to have to move. And that she can’t continue with this job, it’s just too physical. Underneath the utterly delightful smile and despite it all, such happy eyes, I can see her exhaustion. She’s on her feet nine hours a day for her job. I can sense in her the looming questions of ‘how is all of this supposed to work’?. Something inside me pinged and panged. I wanted, I needed, to know, that she’s going to be ok. It was just way too easy to insert myself into that place of alone-ness. And only later did I realize that It scared the hell out of me.

I left the store, looking back at her and smiling and said, straight to her, “I will be thinking about you.” 

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I just had no idea how much.

I walked home in the warm fall evening and that little voice said to me, ‘We need to help her” and I had the idea of just putting it out there on Facebook. See what happens. Then something in me started to second guess myself. And then, I was swept up in the busy-ness of the weekend, but though the voice inside was nearly drowned out with other activities and conversations, it kept whispering to me. I shared this experience with my guest and in a quiet, simple comment the message to not let this pass was conveyed. I heard him.

And I didn’t. Let it pass. I wish I didn’t have to say that for some reason I still hesitated, but I do. I hesitated. Why? Perhaps that is for another day, because this story is much larger than that. I pushed beyond and posted a note on my Facebook wall sharing this encounter, with a gentle invitation to my friends if they also felt compelled. 

What happened next still gets me.  Within hours, more than a dozen of friends from around the country responded. PayPal started hopping, requests for my mailing address started and i was again moved, as I watched this take shape before my very eyes. I hesitated? How could I have second guessed this goodness?
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By week’s end, nearly twenty of my trusted friends – who in turn trusted me, trusted my instincts – came forward so readily, with amounts ranging from $10 to $100 each. In the end, our pennies all put together really added up. I was moved at each turn in this process.  Amazed by the momentum. Standing back in awe that others saw what I saw.  Graced by the opportunity be part of something far larger than me. And that my kiddo could witness this greatness unfold over the course of just a couple of days.

I took Kiddo with me and we went to see her. As she walked out from the back of the store, we were met by those same happy eyes and a beautiful smile. She recognized me but had no idea what was coming. I simply asked her if she remembered that I had said that I would be thinking of her. She nodded, a bit perplexed. I handed her two envelopes; one a card with a message from me and the list of first names (and their city) of everyone who jumped on board with me; and a Target gift card for $500. Yes, $500. That will buy a lot of diapers. Or binkies. Or toys. Or whatever she needs.  Wow.

The hugs. The smile. The gratitude. The tears.

Words like miracle. Angels. Gift. Grace.

I was adamant that this was not about me but she insisted on getting my phone number; saying she wants to keep in touch with me and the next day I received the most beautiful, moving, transparent and articulate voice message. It is still on my phone. I am certain that this woman, and her baby [oh, it’s a boy!] will somehow be part of our lives for a long time.

How could I have hesitated?

What do you do when a little voice inside says, ‘we should help her?”

You listen, is what you do.

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Chalkdust

When things are new, and in transition,  one might be reminded of  a chalkboard.  One that has boasted messages and lessons of days gone by, and then erased over and over again to make room to teach new lessons, inspire new ideas and challenge the students’ ways of thinking.

Transitions are an opportunity to begin, but from this point, this moment.

Not all over again.

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To wipe the slate clean, so to speak, would be fruitless wouldn’t it?

There should always remain the dust of important lessons learned.

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46 for 46

In approximately 46 days, I will turn, well, 46.  There it’s out.  That means you all have 46 days to get my mailing address and send a gift! Oh, wait, did I say that out loud?

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Oops, that’s not what I meant!

What I meant to tell you is that I read something last week that made an impression on me.  From a blog I follow, called Kind Over Matter and whose tagline reads: ‘touching the world with kindness, inspiration, gentleness and love”  authored by a variety of writers, came an email with the subject line  “how giving gave my birthday meaning”.  Knowing that I am just mere days away from turning a new number, it caught my attention.  I am not one to shy away from birthdays for fear of more wrinkles, aches and creaks; I believe that age is a state of mind. But I do approach a birthday with an appreciation for and an interest in looking at what my life means, to me and to others. Cake [lava cake to be specific] and presents are always welcome, but not required. Wine, on the other hand; is most definitely required. I’ve heard that anti-oxidants are good for anti-aging…

When Random Acts of Kindness was a novel idea, I was an early adopter, intrigued by the whimsical and yet positive impact of reaching out to others in unexpected and unnecessary but delightful ways. I may have actually paid someone’s toll booth fee on at least one occasion. It also reminded me of a memorable experience from college, when all my friends and I were broke and had had our fill of Top Ramen and mac-n-cheese.  A lasting impression was made on me when one of our friends invited a large group of us out to a nice restaurant – and paid  – for a fantastic meal for everyone. He shared that in his culture, it’s the custom to give to others in your life on your birthday, to return the gifts of friendship and love.  So, the more I considered this notion of a giving birthday, the more captivated I became. The blog post illustrated how one woman completed 35 acts of giving to celebrate her 35th birthday, and because this is me we are talking about, I have to take this literally – naturally  – as much as I appreciate the random nature of things – and have 46. Right? Right.

I have been quietly pondering this possibility, considering the different sides of ‘signing myself up for this’ and on some days, I am fascinated, and on others, intimidated. I have a lot in front of me at the moment;  this is my busy season at work, a big presentation to prepare for later this spring, and so on. And then I remind myself: we are all busy, everyone has too much to do.  And each time I gave myself permission to let it go [after-all, who would know?], I found myself coming back to this idea. In my mind, the challenge has been presented, and frankly, I think it’s probably necessary, something I may even need.

So, here we go, we are doing this.  Yes, you heard me correctly. We.

I was tempted to go about this quietly, not say anything, in part because that makes sense to me and in part because it’s often just how I do things.  It’s counter-intuitive to me to make it my mission to share and then tell everyone about it. But then I realized: I would not have learned about this possibility if someone else hadn’t talked about it. I would not have been inspired if someone hadn’t taken the opportunity to be an inspiration.  So, I convinced myself that sharing this is OK and again, because it’s me, put my own twist on it, and ask you for help.

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Remember the WE that I mentioned earlier?

This is where you come in and where YOU and I become WE.  I want to let myself be nudged, and turn the turning a new number into one of giving, and I’d like your help.  My goal is to somehow give in 46 ways to mark 46 years and I need your ideas for how to give, what to give, and to whom.

Let your brains fly   – WWYD – What would You Do?  Think of ideas – from simple, sentimental, and silly, to as fun, crazy and  ridiculous as you want.  Some can cost money, and some shouldn’t.

I will make a list of our ideas…a combination of yours and mine..and over time, as I complete them, share how it goes with you. We are in this together after all.

And for those who might be wondering, my word for 2013 is…

give.

And yes, I am intimidated. And fascinated.

“We make a living by what we get.

We make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill

It Takes Just a Nudge to Budge

A few years ago, I resolved to no longer make new year’s resolutions. I had come to see both their transience and their permanence: a lofty idea with weak velcro and little sticking power and yet a  lasting sense of failure.  I even tried tricking myself once – in the way some of us set our clocks back an “x” number of minutes thinking that it may get us to arrive on time, but really all we do is calculate those minutes into our arrival time, and we still end up being late,  or at least not early. I tried starting my resolutions in October that year, somehow thinking that I would be more successful when no one was looking, or expecting anything, and then by January, I’d be well on my way to a new habit.  It’s o.k., you can laugh.

I have seen a few different approaches to the notion of inviting positive change into our lives  and you may remember that I am a firm believer in the 21 days rule; do something {or stop something, say…eating Cheez-Its?} for 21 days and you’ve got yourself a brand new habit.  So, a little over a year ago, I found myself needing to bring more positive balance into my life.  Things were not necessarily bad, just kind of blah, stale, stuck and I found myself in a spot where I had let some ill feelings and resentments accumulate and I wanted to shake things up a bit and reset my focus.

That was also about the time I started this blog, and I got busy reading other blogs to  – a) learn from;  b)  torture myself;  c) be inspired by or d) all of the above – and came across what would quickly become one of my favorites, Create as Folk, where Laura shared that she had adopted the practice of simply choosing one word – or phrase –  to guide her year. A mini mission statement of sorts.  She explains it as choosing an intention, or choosing your own personal theme to guide your year.”  I interpreted this to mean, for me, that the word had to have meaning that I wanted to embrace, provide direction in a way in which I wanted to go,  and challenge me. Her approach had a calming effect on me; it gave me a sense of direction without the impending fear of failure; it wasn’t a commitment to anything specific, but instead suggested a gentle guiding force willingly chosen with no certain expectations for outcome.  It would serve as a framework of sorts, and I saw it as  a way to invite something good into my life that I wanted, even though I couldn’t see its form.  I viewed her video  and clicked out; I was fascinated and intimidated – I craved the direction and challenge but feared the failure. I mulled it over and over in my mind, letting myself percolate as I do.

It finally came to me one day. Quietly. Gently. Calmly. Just like I needed. The word is even somewhat gentle and quiet.

I chose the word nudge.

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I sensed  a stirring, an urging towards something new.

I felt some trepidation about stepping out of my comfort zone, but I knew I wasn’t totally comfortable where I was.

I desired to move in a new direction and knew that I needed, well, a few nudges to get there.

I wanted to be pushed. But gently.

I chose the word nudge.

Or, did it choose me?   The year began with this notion of being nudged tucked securely in my pocket, and I found that I was seeing things differently. When choices presented themselves to me, I realized they had new layers, new options; was this an opportunity to be nudged, pushed a little bit further? Nudged to take a risk, no matter how small? Nudged to try doing things a little differently? Nudged to let some things go?

With each opportunity came that same fascination and intimidation…As I started to let myself be nudged in new directions, I began to realize a few things. It wasn’t as hard as I imagined, it got easier with each experience, and even when it didn’t work; knowing I had allowed myself to be nudged far outweighed the outcome.

I had started this blog, but was moving forward without certainty, and often considered hanging up my keyboard. The ambiguity and uncertainty were uncomfortable to say the least. So, finally, I took that discomfort as a nudge to look at why and wrote a post that put it out there, fears and warts and all.  That was a turning point; I learned that when we are real, others listen and I learned that some of the best blogging takes place in the comments.   That propelled me to keep going; and I found that as I did, this blog became a part of me, an extension of the person I am, and I found that the challenge to find something to say helped cultivate my thoughts and an increased awareness, understanding and appreciation of things happening in and around my own life.  And more importantly,  I found some phenomenal  friendships with the most amazing people from all around the world.

These nudges gave me the freedom to recognize and accept more nudges, with fascination beginning to out-pace the intimidation. I started to see that I didn’t hesitate as long when making choices, I felt more peaceful than I had in a long time, and in turn, the conversations with others became richer; I felt more confident in my own day-to-day life; opened myself to new projects and people who would have intimidated me the year before, but now they fascinated me;  the old resentments that I had started out with had faded and been replaced by creativity, appreciation, peace and craving more positives. I found that I could open the vault and work my way towards important life changes.

I took  my blog on a virtual cross-country road trip; reaching out and connecting with some of the coolest hosts ever who turned into friends, and with each post I began to wonder how I could have walked away; and glad I didn’t.  Each time it happened I shook my head in disbelief but I was secretly thrilled to be part of the generous and gracious tradition of sharing blog awards.  I always took too long to receive the gift; not out of lack of gratitude but always with a Sally Field-ish disbelief.  The year ended with a gift, icing on such a delicious cake at this point, when my friend Mimi from Waiting for the Karma Truck shared the Blog of 2012 Award with me.  Best.Christmas.Gift.Ever.  Frankly, one of the year’s best nudges too. Mimi, thank you [and forgive me for not following the rules!?]

I can look back now and realize that a year has come and gone, and with it, a year of nudging and blogging, and as they say, ask myself where did the time go? I appreciate the challenge and benefits of both over the last 12 months, often but not always intertwined. I wasn’t sure where to start, but did, and had no idea where I was headed [and still not entirely sure, but I do know that I like being here] and kept going.  I looked back and my second post was titled: Just Start Somewhere. Who knew that was actually for me? It was a simple tip for getting organized and went on to say:

Choose the easiest place to start…you don’t always have to start at the beginning. If that first step seems like it will be the hardest [and keeps you from starting at all!], then start with another part of the project instead. Often, once you get started…it’s hard to stop! Get going and have fun!”

Looking back, that makes all the sense in the world, whether you need to  –  a) purge a closet; b) improve a relationship, c) start a blog, d) invite positive change into our lives; or e) all of the above  – It’s true, just start somewhere. Let yourself be nudged.

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I have chosen my focus word, my intention for 2013, but I am going to be quiet about it  for a little longer; it’s a more outwardly focused, active word, requiring a little bit more of me. Again, I am both intimidated and fascinated. This word and I, well, we still need a little time to get acquainted, see how we work together.  Worried about Nudge? Don’t be, she  is coming with me into 2013 also;  she has served me so well, and I am quite certain that I still need more nudging…

What do you think? Does choosing a focus word make sense to you? Have you ever chosen one and followed it all year; what word might you choose to help guide you through 2013?

With intention for 2013…

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