You will be (as was I) surprised by his choice.

I keep 4 or 5 different types of gift cards in my car at any one time (so if you want to break in, you’ll now know what’s there!). I always have a number of fresh fast food gift cards and usually some for coffee shops. I give them away when I see people on my way to and from work. Last week I saw three guys sitting on a corner. No signs asking for money. Just sitting there with all their life belongings, listening to a radio. I pulled over and asked if they would have any interest in a Subway gift card. They looked up and came to the car. I pulled out the others, Chipotle, Five Guys, and Jimmy John’s. Then at the last moment I realized I had a couple of Caribou cards. The first two guys immediately took food cards. The third guy stood there for what seemed like forever – as if he couldn’t decide. I asked him what he was thinking and he shared this story:

Yes, he needs food and that card would be the right choice. But the coffee gift card reminded him of his love for coffee. Not the actual coffee but the smell. He told me that when he was a kid, his mom would make a cup of coffee every morning and he would sit on her lap while she drank it and read the paper. She had a smell about her that he’s never forgotten but can’t find anywhere else.

I was stunned. I wanted to hug him but of course, I couldn’t. I gave him a food card and a coffee card – then I gave his other two friends additional cards (having kids makes me want to be fair when I can!).

I cried all the way to work.

What a reminder that we cannot judge what we see on the outside as having anything to do with what’s on the inside. He had a life. A mother. Her lap. Her smell. And the most beautiful memories. Now he lives on the street. With those things as only memories. Yet, despite the outside part of his existance, his inside has remained as soft as ever.

That I never, not for one moment, thought about what was on the inside, makes me sad. Clearly, I’ve been missing a lot.

While helping with the outside stuff is critically important, we have to remember that outside appearances or life choices are not always indicative of what’s on the inside.

Look around. We are judging at every turn right now. It was a cold hard reminder to me that I judge too and I need to stop.

I will remember him for the rest of my life. Just as he has the wonderful memories of his mother, her lap, the paper and her coffee.

With joy comes sadness but enlightenment. I guess we need all three.

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend.

XOXO

It’s time.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Gandhi

I’m tired of the craziness we’re all feeling about the world today.  I hate seeing friends tearing each other apart. Good people who see the world differently. It’s time to stop.

We’ve let fear control our thinking. From fear comes intolerance. Intolerance of other opinions.  It’s not the opinions that are the problem (and please know, this is hard for me to say because I have some pretty strong f***ing opinions on certain issues).  But, but rather intolerance is the problem. Other people have a right to their own opinion just as I’ve a right to mine.

My grandfather once said, “If you see two people arguing and you want to figure out who’s losing the argument, just listen to who’s shouting the loudest. The person who is not listening is losing the argument.” Makes sense.

We must listen to understand. Only understanding will bring change. 

I’ve been studying Gandhi and here are my favorite themes in his life’s work:

1. Change yourself. If you change how you think, you’ll change how you feel and what actions you take. In turn, the world will change around you. Lose your old thought patterns about how to make change and find new ones. Throw away fear and anger and use understanding.  Simplistic? I don’t think so.

2. Forgive. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  Fighting evil with evil won’t help.  Listen and respond with empathy – not with more anger. When you do that, you can focus totally on the next point. The next point might make the difference.

3. Persist. Success will seldom come as quickly as you like. We live in a world full of magic pill solutions where we’re promised that we can lose a lot of weight or earn a ton of money in just 30 days. It takes time. Be patient.

4. See the good.There’s always something good in people and also things that aren’t so good. You can choose what things to focus on. If you want improvement than focus on the good in people. Because if you respect them and they respect you – even if there are differences – you’ll find common ground.  And with that, will come change.

5. Be authentic.  I love being around those who are open and clear about who they are – even if they’re different from me.  It’s powerful. When your words and thoughts are aligned that shows through in your communication.

Change is in the air. And, while it may be a s*** storm for a while — it’s a wake up call for us to refocus on that which is critically important. But, remember – we can only do that by understanding and acceptance first. We got here by fear and intolerance.  Let’s get to the next place by love.

I’m energized and on a mission now.  It’s time. Let’s go!

XOXO

 

 

 

Even 2/3’s full can be exhausting.

I’m not a lover of looking backwards or looking too far forward, but I do think this is a good time to reflect on a few things:

  1. Life can be exhausting. If you are like me, you are working and/or raising kids, in a marriage or a relationship, trying to manage your home, your health, and just keeping your head above water.  It’s a freaking lot of s***.  Acknowledge it. Embrace it.  Admit that  even though life is 2/3’s full – there is 1/3 that’s completely exhausting.  You know to whom you can admit that too.  Allow yourself this year to get a hug and a smile when you are spent. You are not alone.
  2. Are you really emotionally transparent? We have walls, boundaries, fears, you name it and we have it. But think of those people you love to be around – they are emotionally transparent. Those are the friends we should surround ourselves with this year.  Thank those in your life who play that role.
  3. To whom much is given, much is expected. Or, in Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom to Peter Parker in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”  The idea here is that we are and should be responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, love, good health and the like, it is expected that we use those things well and to benefit others. If you believe you have been given any of these in this life time – then we are held to a higher standard and should give back.
  4. The world doesn’t owe us anything (no one does) but we owe the world. Enough said.
  5. Promise yourself that you won’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy stealers, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
  6. Look around, keep your eyes open and watch the next place in your life beautifully unfold.  Ask yourself: Am I open to the universe or is fear standing in my way?
  7. Create (and cultivate) relationships. Relationships cost you nothing but give more back then you can ever imagine.
  8. Finally, know that there isn’t a solution to every problem.  2017 (and life) will be full of those things we can’t solve. Pause.  Breathe.  Appreciate. Lean on those in your life. And, of course Love.

Here’s my theme song for the new year.  Two-thirds’ full, right?  Have a happy, healthy and safe New Year!

Even not giving can turn out to be a gift.

Today a friend thanked me for helping her do something that felt good.  It was an easy one on my end.  I gave her a couple of my “caring bags” – large plastic baggies where I put a pair of wool socks, a warm hat and gloves and a granola bar.  I’m giving them to friends so they can give them away to those in need.  She gave her first one to someone today and thanked me for the gift of an “awesome” feeling.  To my friend: It was all YOU.

This all started with my umbrella project  (giving away umbrellas to those I see standing in the rain with nothing).  It’s been great.  But the one experience that really stuck with me was the umbrella I didn’t give away.

I drive home on Glenwood Ave. and late one night there was a guy, pants hanging down quite low, standing in the pouring rain with no jacket and no umbrella.  I decided to pull over and offer him one (my kids worry about this project – but I can’t help myself).  I stopped, rolled down my window and asked “Would you like an umbrella [holding it toward the window].”  “No!” he angrily responded.  My response, “Ok. Have a great night!”  Then, as I started to roll up my window I heard … “Hey … Thanks.  I appreciate it.”

It was a powerful moment for both of us.  We give with no agenda.  With no care for race or gender or economic status.  At that split second – I think (hope) he realized that there was no agenda.  Just me and an umbrella. And maybe, just maybe, it hit his heart as it hit mine. A gift with nothing but words exchanged.

In these crazy times – let’s just keep giving, keep working, and keep spreading the kindness and love.  There will always be anger and hurt.  And, of course, there will always be love! 🙂

Here’s my song of the week (year) (lifetime).  I hope it puts a smile on your face! (words below) xoxo

 

Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place [x2]
For you and me
You just wait and see
Another day goes by
Still the children cry
Put a little love in your heart
If you want the world to know
We won’t let hatred grow
Put a little love in your heart
And the world (and the world) will be a better place
All the world (all the world) will be a better place
For you (for you)
And me (and me)
You just wait (just wait)
And see, wait and see
Take a good look around
And if you’re looking down
Put a little love in your heart
I hope when you decide
Kindness will be your guide
Put a little love in your heart
And the…

He left her the day she came home with her baby son.

While it might seem normal to you that I would meet someone in the sauna and learn her life story in five minutes, I’m still constantly in awe of the people that come into my life.

When she was in her last few weeks of pregnancy with her second son, she found out her husband was cheating on her (turns out I know him).  She confronted him and the day he brought her and the new baby home, he turned around, got on a plane and left her for the “other woman.”  She raised her two (now 30-something) boys herself.  She almost lost her house in the divorce, but her wonderful neighbor co-signed on a loan so she could stay.  When her son graduated from school, the “other” woman confided in her that she knew what it was like to be cheated on by her husband (of course he did it to her too).  She later met and married a wonderful man, who recently passed away.  She’s now alone again and wondering what’s next.  Her story took my breath away.

One thing I noticed immediately about her was that she had no complaints.  In fact, she literally said  – “I have the most amazing children and I got to raise them myself – I wouldn’t trade that for all the hurt that came with it.”  Her energy felt light and bright.

In our everyday life we are surrounded by a variety of people. Some of them are a joy to be with, and their loving presence nurtures and encourages us. Others have the opposite effect: draining us of our energy, making us feel tired and exhausted. We have to work hard to refuse that energy.

There is no question that our well-being is influenced by those around us.  And, if we can keep this in the fore of our minds, it will increase the quality of our life and give us energy.

Of course, we affect others – even at a subtle level. Think about how you use your energy with others.  Is it creating a safe and open space for people to share or is it one where you are just taking from others?  Obviously it is not possible to be happy all the time and sometimes we do need energy from others.  But are you a bright light for those in your life?

This woman – she survived.  She found a way to live her life with a half-full (maybe totally full) heart.  To thrive rather than not – and in the face of some horrible situations.  And I must tell you – it felt empowering and beautiful to be in her presence.

Choose wisely my friends – “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person, or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” ~ Plato

Have an amazing week!

Her first trip to the grocery store after getting out of jail.

I’ve not been paying attention lately.  A lot on my plate and focused on not being focused.  But today I went to the grocery store  – which oddly enough was busy – to pick up a few things.  I was in the hot food area and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman who was taking something from every tray and putting it in her container.  Then, she’d taste a tiny bit of it and make a sound as if it was the best thing she’d ever eaten. I became fixated on watching her (I know – totally rude – but I couldn’t help myself).

Eventually, she came toward me and as she did, I suggested some balsamic beets, which I knew were very good.  She smiled at me and asked if her “odd” behavior was noticeable.  I pretended that I didn’t know what she was talking about when her sister walked up to us.  Apparently, the tasting-woman had just gotten out of jail yesterday. She’d been in almost three years.  During that time, she’s gotten clean and this was her first trip to the grocery store.  Wow. An activity I take for granted and sometimes just don’t want to do – was a totally amazing experience for her.

She told me about her past life and her (hopefully) future life.  She said that she was thankful for getting a second chance.  And, although she was so excited for dinner later in the day, she just couldn’t resist trying everything that was in front of her.  She reminded me how easy it is to miss the beauty of a hot food bar!

How many times do we need a reset and we don’t take it?  How many times do things happen to us that take our breath away but the next week we are back where we were before it happened?  This beautiful and joy-filled woman was getting a new beginning and she planned to take it.

What a wonderful reminder to me of the grace of g-d and the goodness of people.  And – thank you to ____[whomever], for opening my ever-so-busy mind and heart to meet this woman and experience her first trip to the grocery store in a long time.

I’m grateful for today, for you, for my life’s trials and for my wonderful family. I’m off for my traditional movie and Chinese food with my dad.  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.

XO

“If the mountain were smooth, you couldn’t climb it.”

I’m watching someone close to me struggle.  I know this is a chance for growth but my heart breaks watching it.  What is it about struggle that we try to avoid?  We know intuitively that not having trials leads to a kind of shallow, compassion-less life.  So, why not run head first into trials?  Why do we try to help our loved ones (and ourselves) avoid them?

We are all on this journey called life.  We are here to learn, to grow and to become better people.  We are here to experience all the emotions we can.  Yet, while I can say that, I can also say that I’m looking for love and joy and peace.  I’m not looking for pain and hurt and tears.

Maybe we don’t know what to do when we have a trial or when our loved ones are struggling.  I know many people who, when they are in a difficult spot will lash out at others. They’ll feel sorry for themselves.  See themselves as the victim.  Know anyone like that? 🙂

Haven’t you ever met someone who just “can’t get a break”?  Or they ask you, “Why do these things always happen to me?”   Why does it seem that some people just attract negative circumstances?  I think it’s because they never learn from their trials.  And because they never learn, the same things happen over and over again.  The definition of insanity …

On the other hand, there are others – those who I want in my life long-term – that are different.  They handle trials differently. They believe that trials help them learn and grow.  They embrace challenge and face hardship and they often ask themselves, “What am I supposed to learn from this?”   Those are people who take ownership and are able to move forward.

So, with my loved one – I know I must be patient and grateful for this life challenge. I can put my support and my hand out there but I know that if life were always smooth, there would be no perspective – no empathy.  Thus, with a deep breath, I watch and wait.

What has happened to you this last year?  Maybe you had tragic loss. Maybe small hurts that added up to a big hurt.  Maybe so much on your spinning plate that it sometimes dropped and broke.  When you think of these things, think of how you’ve endured, how you’ve grown, how you’ve learned and what joyous moments have occurred in the midst of those painful things.

It’s exquisitely beautiful, and sometimes painful, this life.  And those trials  – well, I guess it’s just evidence of being alive and having yet another opportunity for growth and clarity. Hard not to want to continue on that path. 🙂

Have an amazing weekend everyone!