the 40 year-old PICOUP

My brother turns 40 today.

They say 40 is the new 30. They must know my brother.

He is vibrant and funny and full of incredible ideas and always making something neat happen. He is full of energy and passion and magic and music and stories. His spirit is limitless. He is magnetic. Babies love him. Nuns adore him. Even middle school kids who hate everyone can’t help but love my brother; he’s got a pocketful of stupid-human tricks that throw them instantly into idol-worship mode. (I just felt like Rob Bass: I mean even the ones who never saw him like…)

Since we were little kids and he could stand on his head and wiggle his ears first, I’ve been in complete and total awe of him. That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when my awe was coupled with, “oh my god! get away from me!” There have been plenty of those over the years. The time he tried to vacuum me comes to mind. I mean, literally, he vacuumed me. That’s all fun and games until the nozzle comes towards your hair.

All brother/sister torture aside, being the younger sister is kind of a cool perch.

I’ve been witness to my brother’s journey from a seat of looking up to and learning. He did almost everything first. He tested the waters. In many cases, he didn’t just stick a toe in, he cannonballed right into the deep end. In some cases, he dove headfirst into the shallow end.

No matter what he was doing or where he was, through the darkness and back into the light, my brother has always been an incredibly influential force in my life. I can count on him. Deluxe. And even though we’re older and I’m taller than him, I still love when he calls me his little sister.

My brother’s road has been windy. And bumpy. But as he turns the corner into 40, his road is smooth, new pavement with all sorts of great scenery. He’s kicking some serious world-butt. He has a beautiful family. He’s written a book! He has carved out an incredible career and he has a diverse group of interesting friends who, just like me, are in awe of how funny and cool and smart and ridiculously creative he is.

Today I see him more clearly than I ever could when we were younger.

Today I see a guy who loves so deeply and with so much of himself. I see a guy whose mind is racing, whose ideas are powerful, whose potential is limitless. Today I see a guy who can find something magical in everyone; a guy who seeks that connection, to draw that out in each person he meets.

My brother’s mentor and friend, Mike Gessford passed away unexpectedly last year, just before his 50th birthday. Mike had a sign above his desk that read, “PICOUP: Person In Charge of Unlocking Potential.” Mike was that. And, my brother Justin, he is that: a person who makes it his mission to help others find the magic inside of themselves.

Happy Birthday, Bo. Thank you for being the ultimate PICOUP to me…

UBUNTU and I love you.

 

sweet judy

Today my friend Judy died.

She was a giver. A first-order, drop-everything, be there with a smile on her face, lend a hand, giver.

Judy was full of laughter. She was kind. She was funny. She was feisty. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She spent her days at work helping people out and her time out of work helping people out. And it was never a strain; this was just who she was, a giver.

This completely unfair life left Judy with a brain tumor just weeks after she retired; she spent the remainder of her retirement fighting for her life until today when she passed on while surrounded by her beloved husband, children and others in their family.

When I think of Judy, she’s making a cheeky comment and cracking up. She’s finding the good in the most ordinary of moments.

So life isn’t fair. But it sure is full of amazing people.

I want to make sure that I make the most of every ordinary moment I have with the amazing people in my life.

Sometimes that’s doing something incredible together. Sometimes it’s a quick phone call or a check-in email. Sometimes it’s a full-on snugglefest complete with Thai food or movies or TV reruns of cop shows. Sometimes it’s a yoga date or a group at dinner or just sitting together in silence. Sometimes it’s boisterous laughter or planning a trip or taking a long walk at the reservoir. Sometimes it’s hijacking someone from their regular routine for a glass of wine on the couch while ignoring the kids or driving to Ikea or sitting together knitting. Sometimes it’s doing a whole lot of nothing but being happy with the people that I love.

Our time here is precious and it is not promised to us.

Life is better when you give. It’s better when you laugh. It’s better when you live it up and when you surround yourself with amazing people.

And most of all, life is better when you love with your whole heart.

Rock on, Judy. xoxo

jackdaddy

It’s Monday and everyone’s dreaming about Friday.

I hadn’t even made it through ten minutes of the workday and people were already moaning about the weekend being over, how much they can’t wait for vacation, how tired they are, how much they hate Mondays.

Don’t get me wrong, I was right there with them. This morning my alarm clock and I were far from friends. I managed to get through the day. I whined occasionally about how I didn’t feel good, raced through to get as much work done as I possibly could and then got out of there as soon as I possibly could.

Monday. Done.

And then I saw a note that an old friend wrote about her day. She wrote about the kindness of others, the kindness she experienced while running errands with her father who has Parkinson’s. She wrote about the gentle greeting of the woman at the dry cleaner who hugged her dad upon his arrival and departure and about the man who sang a Christmas carol while helping her dad walk and about the many people who waited with patience as she and her dad slowly made their way through doors.

Her note made me reflect on my own day, the day I had wished away.

The little girl bogged down with a huge backpack and giant saxophone case who rushed to hold the door open for me this morning. The excitement in the eyes of one of my kids who got her first college acceptance in the mail. The cup of hot tea my mom joined me for after a long day at work. The old man who waved me in to merge with traffic even though everyone behind him was honking. The texts with Kate about the amazing bowl full of heads that she crocheted for me. The memory of my friend’s dad playing the drums with wild abandon in his pajamas in their front hallway.

Thank you to my old friend and her jackdaddy for reminding me that today is more important than tomorrow.

My Monday wasn’t much, but it sure had it’s beautiful moments.

taking stock

Yesterday I went to the mall. I very rarely take the plunge, anymore, into consumer crazytown but I had a coupon and a friend needed a new pair of shoes, so off I went.

It was full on Christmas. Music piped in, decorations were hanging from every nook and cranny, even Santa was there, holding court with a few bored elves in center court.  The stores were chock-a-block stocked to the gills with schlock. The windows were filled with extravagant displays of possible presents for everyone and anyone.  And while I’m a huge fan of Santa, love hearing, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” no matter what time of year it is, and generally am in love with ornaments of all shapes and sizes; I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

This week, I just want to celebrate Thanksgiving.

In all of the rush of our crazy culture, the day designated for us to slow down and give thanks for all that we have gets rushed out of the door for all that we think we need.

In fact, all that we really need is what this week is all about.

This week, many of us will descend on a home full of loved ones for a feast lit by candles and dessert enough to feed an army. Some of us will spend the day with just one other and order take-out and watch a movie. A bunch of us will whine about our families and how someone did something to someone that someone thought was something awful.  And a few of us won’t have anywhere special to go or anything special to eat.

No matter what our Thanksgiving day plans, each of us has something in our lives to be grateful for, someone in our lives that makes our days better or some moment that has been meaningful to us.

No matter where I am or who I am with or what my situation is on Thanksgiving; this week is an opportunity to take stock. Not of all the things I have to do to get ready for Christmas; but of all that I have to be grateful for right now in this very moment.

I’ll be making my grandma’s noodles and knitting with my niece.  I’ll be in the warm company of most of my family with a full belly and a full heart.  I’ll be thinking about those whose situations may be different from my own. I’ll be worrying about a few of my students who won’t have enough to eat and I’ll be sending out good vibes to a great friend whose space is being invaded by folks she’s not comfortable with.

I’ll be taking stock of all that is good in my life: Family. Love. Food. Warmth. Friends. Shelter. Meaningful Work. Freedom.

Christmas shopping can wait. This week, I just want to be grateful.

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