susie’s got her groove back

Oh, okay. I never really lost it…

But it’s officially Fall and I just like the sound of that: I’ve got my groove back. I’m getting my groove on. I’m in the groove. Grooving.

These first days of Fall are delicious. When the air starts to feel crisp and sleeping with the windows open means pulling the covers tight and snuggling in, when sandals get traded for boots and the leaves begin to change… A perfect time to reflect on what’s gone by and what is to come.

The past few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Summer vacation, a major hiatus from my computer, lots of little trips to here and there… it was the Summer of Yes!

Saying yes is easy when you don’t have a shower or a toilet for two months. Yup, that’s right. I had no shower or toilet for two months. This summer included the DIY transformation of my hideous bathroom into a sparkly, beautiful new bathroom! For this, I have my amazing Dad to thank. I said yes to his offer to help me with the renovation; he said yes to helping me and took on the project with such enthusiasm and energy, I can’t say that I did much other than cheer him on. I can say that this was truly a labor of love… it was not an easy project.

The moral of the story is that one has to be resourceful when without a shower and toilet! So YES! I was open to whatever came my way. I said yes to opportunities. I ate out. I went to the beach. I road-tripped with my mom. I picnicked. I visited the beach my family camped at when I was little. I drove to Rhode Island to spend a few hours on the beach. I chilled with my family and my oldest friend. I danced my butt off with old friends. I flew to Florida and laughed myself silly with the girls. I went wine tasting with new friends. I visited my camp GALS. I carried a bag full of necessities with me wherever I went and I said yes to any invitation that came my way… it was a wonderful summer!

And so it’s Fall. And things are changing…

It’s time to let go of the pieces of myself that no longer serve me. It’s time to prepare for the hunkering down, to take a good look at  life and see what I really need to move forward.

I learned a lot in this Summer of Yes that I will take with me into this transformative time:

  • It is the people in my life that make my life beautiful. Wherever I am. No matter what.
  • Laughing rocks. Even when crying seems more logical.
  • Being there matters. It matters to someone. It matters in ways that are immeasurable.
  • Sometimes there is nothing to say. So don’t say anything. Just hug.
  • This is your one life. So live it. Live it big.
  • Maybe the things we think we really need aren’t really the things we need.
  • Love is the best.

It’s amazing what you figure out when you don’t have a toilet.

Groove is in the heart.

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crazy, stupid, mindfulness

Yesterday I had one of those days.

You know, one of those days where no matter what you do, nothing goes your way? Yup, that was my Tuesday.

I had a pinched nerve in my neck. I woke up an hour late. I rushed to work, arriving late, only to walk into a big, ugly girl-fight as I came off of the elevator. Decided that my pinched-nerve-self needed to break up the fight, which then left me all shaky and freaked out. I got my haircut and couldn’t pay because in all of my rushing, I grabbed the wrong bag and forgot my wallet.

Stupid day.

Nothing horrible. Just stupid.

A stupid day every once in a blue moon is good for me. It brings me back to the moment. It makes me remember that all of my busy, crazy, rushing, overworking, nuttiness is just that: busy and crazy and nutty. No matter how much I try to control things and put everything in its place, I’m still going to have a ridiculous day every now and then. There will always be things that just don’t go the way I want them to go.

And so?

I breathe. Deeply.

I slow down.

I call someone who will marvel at how tired I must have been to sleep through my alarm clock blaring for an hour. I call someone who will laugh at the image of me jumping into a fight and pulling some angry girls (and a 40 year old!) off of each other. I call someone who will tell me that it’s okay to take the battery out of my butt and just relax.

And then, once I’ve stopped? I see what has been in front of me all along.

This moment.

Pretty freaking amazing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.

“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”

– A. A. Milne

roots and wings

Staying put was never my thing.

There was a time when I moved every two years, at least. I itched for change. For the rush of starting something new, carving out space in an unknown corner. I traveled, I moved. I made friends, started to get settled, and than picked up and moved again. Sometimes I’d move back to my hometown for a bit and then take off again. I was in full on flying mode, wings ever at the ready; I knew I wasn’t ready to put down roots just yet.

And that made my life pretty interesting.

In 2004, I wound up on a road trip in the Kalahari Desert with a great friend, her mom, and her stepsister. Four women piled in a jeep, cruising through desolate southern Africa; it was really something. At the time, I was living in New York City, just finished grad school and had turned down counseling jobs in the Bronx and Shanghai. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got back to the U.S., so my desert adventure was a perfect detour. We spent our days spotting rare birds and springboks, goemsboks, and zebra, chatting with San Bushmen. At night, we’d crouch in shelters overlooking watering holes, hoping to spot a lion, drinking tea out of thermoses, whispering and giggling in the cold.

One night, I looked up at the amazing, huge, sky and marveled at the sight of it. Clear. Limitless. Not so unlike the sky I’d seen lying on my back in the front yard at home. I knew in that moment, that whatever I ended up choosing to do, wherever I ended up choosing to go next, it would be right; I could feel it in my gut.

And so weeks later when walking down Farmington Avenue, rocking my favorite pink “Glam is Back” t-shirt, I listened to that feeling in my stomach when the opportunity to move back home presented itself. Worlds away from the Kalahari, I conjured up that clarity and though it seemed crazy to be 29 and moving from the greatest city in the world back to Hartford, I heard what my heart was telling me.

Seven and a half years later, I am so grateful that I listened.

I wound up back in little old Hartford, whose sidewalks I know as well as my own palms. Whose homes cradle the people that I love. Whose streets inspire me, challenge me, remind me. I wound up wonderfully enmeshed in the lives of family and old friends, in the families of my friends; challenged by carving out a new space for myself in the place that I knew so well but that had changed as much as I had.

I wound up working in a school where I am happy to go each day. Where I have found so much joy and reward; where I have been part of building something exceptional. I wound up being one of the lucky people on this earth who get to make a bit of a difference each day; working in a place with people who have empowered me to grow in ways that I never could have imagined that day on Farmington Avenue when my phone rang.

At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I felt like everything in my life was up in the air. I was mourning the end of a phase of my life and reveling in the beginning of another. I was scared. I was completely in flux.

Today? The flux continues.

And as it does, I go back to that quiet night under the stars; I conjure up the Kalahari clarity and remind myself that change is good; it’s not comfortable, but it is good. I give myself permission to reflect on all that for which I am grateful. I remind myself to trust the process, to trust my gut.

No matter what kind of noise is crowding my mind, my gut is always worth listening to. It has led me to some amazing people, some unlikely places and some experiences that made no sense to me until they were long over, but, my gut, it knows a thing or two.

This time, I don’t need to go to the desert to listen to myself. While my life may not be quite as exciting and interesting and story-worthy as it was back when I was rootless, footloose and fancy free, the flux feels powerful and exciting instead of scary.

And while I haven’t put away my wings entirely, my roots are here, at home; deep and strong and full of hope.

queen of sheba

We live in a shiny world.

There’s a whole lot of bling and bright lights and stages and soap-boxes. There are folks that everybody knows and whose voices are louder and whose connections are deeper and who wind up all superfabulous in the spotlight. There are people who get a lot of love for something wonderful they’ve accomplished or for their brilliant ideas or for their athletic talent. In some cases, this is good stuff; I’m all about sending emotional bling to the Desmond Tutus of the world! (In some cases, this is not so good; I mean, really, why so much attention for the Kardashian sisters?)

It’s easy to admire those that have light shining on them.

Today, however, is all about sending a shout-out to all the people in the world who do amazing things, every single day, and never get the shine.

It’s about spreading a little bit of that light to the custodian at school whose day begins as mine is ending, who cleans up after hundreds of teenagers with a wide grin on his face and remembers everyone’s birthday. To the security guard in my building who works two jobs to pay for his wife’s medical bills and gives me a hard time about basketball. To my student who, even though the spotlight tries to shine on him, finds ways to focus the light on his teammates. To my dear friend who left a comfortable job to take on a crazy challenge at a new school with no resources, who is making significant change in the lives of the kids she is working with and still manages to go home and be a mom to three little hooligans all while going to school at night. To my dad who is simply kind, all of the time, to everyone he meets.

These people don’t do what they do because they want to be acknowledged. They are rocking out and changing the world with their integrity because it’s just who they are. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be acknowledged; some recognition might feel good and encourage them to be even kinder, even more industrious, even more real. And how great would the world be if the great ones became even greater?!

Part of what makes them so great is that they don’t realize how great they really are.

Shiny bling is cool! But all of the humble-rockstars in the shadows? Now, they are the truly fabulous and spotlight-worthy.

Today, remember to snuggle the people who do it all for the love.

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

stress pudding

Yesterday I almost drowned in a sea of paper.

I was at my desk plodding through mounds of work when, all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. Literally. I was struck breathless by stress.

You have to know that I’ve been floating along this year on a calm sea of cold-chilling, chocolate-pudding happiness. Even in the moments that I knew the water beneath me was deep, I was blissfully swimming along, making progress while ignoring the circling sharks.

And then, yesterday, I got caught in some weird undertow and was suddenly swallowing gallons of water, spitting and spurting, my eyeballs bulging, arms flailing all in the name of stress.

Everyone knows that flailing when you are drowning just makes things worse. But when you’re drowning, you bug out; all rational thought goes out the window.

Yesterday, I was flailing. I sat at my desk, rummaging aimlessly through piles of paper, talking to myself, gasping for air. Until I finally admitted to myself that I was overwhelmed.

As soon as I confessed to myself that I was, indeed, stressed, a life-raft arrived.

My friends.

Friends who just listened. Friends who gave me long hugs. Friends who reminded me that I dont have to do everything myself. Friends who told me to go home and take a nap.

I count on my friends all of the time to help me put things into perspective. They help me remember how to swim around sharks and to stop every now and then for a breather.

I am no good to anyone when I’m drowning. So that pile of papers? A great reminder that I need to nurture myself. I need to do right by my self. I need to listen to my body when it tells me it’s tired, listen to my soul. I need to care for my self with the same gusto with which I care for others.

Yesterday was a bummer.

Today?

Today I took the time to thank each of the friends that helped me through yesterday. Spending that moment with each of them made my today even better. Today I put music on in my office and rocked out while I made my way through the piles. I asked for help with what felt like too much and let go of everything having to be just so. I laughed. A lot.

I talked about what was contributing to my stress and the processing with friends helped me move through the muck back into a space of calm.

Today, thanks to my friends, I was swimming in the chocolate pudding with long, even strokes.

Mmmmmmmm chocolate pudding.

l*ve, h@pe and other four letter words

I swear like a sailor.

Despite my mother’s attempts to instill in me a fabulous vocabulary with which to express myself in times of strife, I have been known to curse like a truck-driver who’s stuck in traffic with an empty tank of gas.

It feels good! It’s verbal release! And in those moments when I struggle to be brave enough to articulate how I really feel, swearing does the job. I’m pretty good at censoring myself, I do work with kids all day, so I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving out the ugliness. I do not insert bleeps, I just find more appropriate words to express myself. But there’s just something about the throwing down a curse that provides emphasis like no other word; it’s an exclamation point!

The first time I ever got caught swearing I was 8 years old. I had good reason, I was being dragged by the rope-tow up a mountain. One ski was left ten feet behind me, the other was twisting my leg into some inhumane position. I’d taken my mittens off at the bottom as I was sweating from being nervous; I now had the beginnings of rope burn on my palms and still had half the hill left to be dragged up.

I didn’t say it loudly. Just above my breath. But WOW. It felt good. It felt daring. It also was louder than I thought because my mother, who was standing in front of me, heard it pop out. She whipped around and grabbed me by my rope-burned hand, pulled me off of the rope tow and proceeded to lecture me about my language right there on the bunny hill. Embarrassing yes, but enough to scare the swears right out of me, no.

So when a dear friend sent an update a while back about the status of her husband’s cancer, I responded to her email with the classic F-bomb. That was just how I felt. I didn’t really give it much thought.

It didn’t do anything, my swear-word. It didn’t help. No relief; not for me, not for my friend, not for her amazing husband. It just sat there like an undetonated grenade.

My friend gracefully responded that they had surely uttered their fair-share of F-bombs but, given their circumstances, had decided that there were much better four-letter words for them to focus on.

I don’t recall much of what my mom said on the bunny hill that day, just that as she turned to ski away, she looked me dead in the eye and proclaimed, “So Negative!” and left me sitting there, unable to move, in the snow.

So while saying certain words does give release, relief, or even invoke a response, it doesn’t change anything. Negativity doesn’t provide a solution. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The light I intended to shine that day for my friend was lost in dark words. What I meant to say was, “I love you. I wish I had something magical to help you through this challenge. I am in awe of you and your strength, your optimism, your ability to still be there for others when you are going through so much.” I meant to say, “Thank you. Thank you for reminding me about what is important.”

So today, I’m moving forward with the intention to choose my four-letter words with more wisdom. Today, to my friends, I say LOVE, HOPE, PRAY, WISH, SING, KISS, REST and STAR-WARS (okay, it’s hyphenated, so what!?).

Words have power.

Choose wisely.

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