Listening For Your Anything

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me―
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

―Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of two books from my childhood that I still have. I remember dramatically begging my parents for it at a 2nd grade book fair, and being completely devastated when they said No.  But just like magic, it appeared on Christmas morning and inside the front cover it reads:
“To Sarah
With all our Love
From Mom and Dad
Christmas 1986
May you always keep your dreams!”

As 7-year-olds, our dreams may have been as simple as a book of poetry from a book fair, but as we get older we don’t do as good of a job listening to our dreams. School loans and full time jobs and mortgage payments start to create more noise in our lives.

The (joyful) tasks of raising kids and making dinners and doing laundry become the soundtrack for our days and we hum along to the noisiness of being busy. Sometimes plans are derailed by illness or tragedies out of our control and the SHOULDN’TS and MUSTN’TS join in the chorus.  Beeps and tweets and rings keep time.  Our focus shifts from one thing to another and we’re just trying to keep up each day.  We check our phones from when we wake up in the morning until we lay down at night.  And still the noise grows.

But what if we STOP for a moment.

Just for a few minutes or even a few seconds. We shush the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS and become quiet enough for that little voice inside of us to speak.  It has been waiting for just this chance and it may barely be a whisper to start, but it speaks of the ANYTHING.  Trust me, sometimes that voice is too close to the realest part of you that it is shit-your-pants scary to hear what it has to say, but all it needs is for you to listen.  The simple act of listening makes it stronger.

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The MUSTN’TS, the DON’TS, the SHOULDN’TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS and the NEVER HAVES are boisterous and noisy and demanding and a lot of times are all that we can hear.

But the ANYTHING…? It may be quiet and scary, but it might just be what you need to hear today.

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Birthday Gifts

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Yesterday was my birthday and a lot of birthdays are focused on the giving of gifts.  I wanted to focus on the gifts that I am most grateful for this year and here is a list of 35, one for each year I’ve been here on this planet.

1.  My health. As trite as it sounds, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I regularly take it for granted, but have daily reminders of what it looks like to have it taken away, either gradually or suddenly.

iPhone 1452.  My husband. He helps me be who I need to and want to be. He laughs at my jokes, corrects my grammar, loves me fiercely. He is my rock, and my companion to walk this adventure of a life with.

3.  The people who have been here before me. Generations of parents, grandparents, great great great grandparents. There is a layering of lives and decisions and acheivements that my life now rests on. They are woven into my DNA and my story.

iPhone 1374.  My Mom. There’s no one quite like her, and there’s nothing quite like the unconditional love she has for her family. I’m so grateful for the things that she has taught me and that the universe gave me her for a guiding light.

5.  I’m thankful for her teaching me how to sew. It has been a skill that has stayed with me through the years and served me well. It’s a creative outlet and a way we connect.

6.  My Dad. He’s wickedly smart and funny, with a good dose of quirkiness thrown in there as well. He’s always learning something new and excelling at whatever he tries. I love him dearly and genuinely like him as a person and a friend.

7.  The example of love and marriage that the great couples in my life have shown me. Their example of steadfast love and longevity are the building blocks and inspiration for my own marriage.

8.  My sister, Katie. She is my other half, the best big sister a girl could wish for. I can bet 90% of the time, that whatever I am thinking, she is thinking the same thing. We finish each others…sandwiches.

iPhone 6999.  My sister, Martha.   She is a force to be reckoned with, from her smarts to her razor sharp humor, to her mad party planning skills. I have always looked up to her authenticity and confidence in her true self. This woman can move mountains.

10.  My sister, Laura. The baby of the family, she has been the fireball to our lives. I am constantly inspired by the way she loves and experiences life, boldly taking on the world, she is not afraid of anything. She is always there when I need her most.

11. I’m forever grateful for phone conversations in the car on my way to work. It is not rare, that by the time I get to work, I am laughing to the point of tears and have to compose myself before venturing in to get my day started. These conversations nourish me.

12.  The breath-taking sunrises that greet me on the mornings I get up early enough to see them.iPhone 565

13.  The lottery of my birth. In no way did I deserve the place, the time, the family or the circumstances of my life, but it is undeniably a gift.

iPhone 08514.  The entire Kray family. They have welcomed me in, supported my crazy ideas, and celebrated big milestones throughout the years. I love watching my niece and nephews grow up and miss being so far away from all of them.

15.  I’m forever grateful and indebted to the role models of strong women I have in my life. The tough women who have gone before me, fighting battles for all of us and creating the world of opportunity we live in now as women.

16.  The reflective, and soul-feeding practices of yoga, writing, meditation, and photography that help me slow down, appreciate the present, and look differently at myself and the world around me.

17.  My aunts and uncles. This is a unique person to have in your life as you grow up. They straddle the line between the authority and comfort of our parents, and the fun freedom they have precisely because they aren’t our parents. All the aunts and uncles in my life have taught me how to be an auntie, a role that I get so much joy out of now.

iPhone 49918.  The gift of Brayden. As the 1st grandchild in the family, he taught our family a whole new kind of love, and he continues to bring joy in all of our lives. He is kind, and curious, and I melt when he hugs his brother or cousins with such love. His enthusiasm is contagious.

iPhone 22819.  The gift of Brynne. Yesterday she told us how when her mom is a grandma, she will be her mom’s age, and she’ll have a daughter who is her age, “and then it just keeps going and going.” She is wise and caring, and she makes my heart smile.

20.  The gift of Barrett. His handsome smile hides a quick wit and mischief. He’s tough. He’s hilarious. His his little hoarse voice is about the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

iPhone 66221.  The gift of Everett. He is a trooper through and through. I love watching him grow and learn and change every day. A hard day gets instantly better when I see his tiny little cherub mouth smile.

22.  Public education. When I visited Uganda, there were kids that wanted to go to school but couldn’t afford it, and I had never realized what a gift free public education was. Say what you will about the current state of our schools, but I’m so grateful it is there and the education I received.

23.  The opportunity of higher education. Going to college helped me shape my ideas about the world, it taught me how to think and provided me with even more opportunity in life. I didn’t earn this gift, but I will forever be appreciative.

24.  A job and a profession that lets me contribute to people’s lives. Work that is fulfilling. I’m honored by the trust and confidence that people put in me.   It has been a wonderful way to make my living.

Nina n Us-00125.  My mother in law. She has given me an example of strength and resilience and generosity. She has always treated me like a daughter and I’m forever thankful that she raised the kind of guy that I wanted to marry.

26.  The gift of struggle. Nobody guaranteed us that there wouldn’t be hard times. Loss is the price we pay for living and loving. Hardship is the great teacher of our lives. It brings perspective and change, and if we can make it through, we can sometimes see the gifts it brings.

27.  The gift of nature. I can go up into the mountains whenever I want to connect with the natural world. It reminds us of the older, bigger world out there with all its mysteries and beauty and that we are a small part of the picture.IMG_1871

28.  Being able to turn on a faucet and get cold, clean water. Such a basic thing, but such an awesome gift that is by no means accessible to everyone in the world.

29.  The big, beautiful world out there, where exotic destinations are within a day’s travel and they’re all out there just waiting to be explored.

30.  The gift of friendships past. They leave the imprint of memories and will always be a part of you.

iPhone 57931.  The gift of friendships present. We’ve been lucky enough to be in an amazing community and found kind, generous, inspiring people to call friends.

32.  The gifts of friendships far. The people that you can go years without seeing in person, but are able to pick up wherever you left off. The lack of proximity has no effect on the closeness of these bonds.

33.  Dreams, hope, optimism. Because if you carry these gifts, the future always looks splendid.

213-00134.  Quiet weekend mornings that stretch into the afternoon with a mug of coffee, lazy conversations, and the down-time I always need.

35.  And finally, the gift of another year, another day, another hour. The universe needs me here another day and that is the greatest gift we all have this very moment.

Lessons from Loss

Nick & Brayden

Last Monday would have been my brother-in-law’s 34th birthday.  The day before, my sister followed the voice in her heart telling her to travel to Scotland for the summer and she took off on a brave adventure with the two boys and our Mom.   Saying goodbye to them for the next few months (I hope to meet up with them in July for a few weeks) and then thinking about Nick’s birthday has naturally put me in a reflective mood this week and I have been looking back over the past 6 months to see how losing him has shaped our new lives and affected us all.

Lesson #1:  Any sense of true control we have over our lives is an illusion

It’s a necessary part of our human nature to plan and steer our lives down the path we want.  If we didn’t have that drive, where would the fulfillment in hard work and creating things be?  It’s important to dream and work toward something meaningful, but there is still an undeniable fact that we are all one phone call away, one instant of distraction that could send our lives on a trajectory nothing like we planned or wanted.

Give ThanksWe all know this on an intellectual level.  I mean, in my job, I’ve even had to be the person making that phone call to deliver bad news.    I had to tell someone just yesterday about a new tumor in her lung that is likely cancer.   But I’ve never had to really wrap my mind and heart around this profound thought until 6 months ago.  When you truly come face to face with this…man, it can rock your world.

Sometimes I marvel at how amazing humans are and sometimes I marvel at how dumb we can be.  We can watch Dead Poet’s Society a hundred times, and never really get the message to Carpe diem.  We can intellectually understand this concept, but only experience teaches us the lessons we so dearly need.  No one is immune to loss or tragedy, it is universal.  Sometimes the life you lead is just plain luck.

So I’m taking this thought, and I’m holding it uncomfortably close to my heart.  I can’t afford to forget this feeling, this lesson.  And it inspires me to be a better person and fit more joy into my life.  I don’t need to fear that lack of control, I just need to practice the gratitude of what I have right now.

The luck that is life right now, it’s an obligation to keep dreaming and keep working hard, to keep connecting with and helping others, and to keep moving toward the next adventure.

Awesome Ideas From Awesome People

You will never run out of amazing things to stumble upon on the internet, but most of the coolest things I find come from people sharing what’s inspired them.  Here are 3 of my favorite things from this week brought to you by 3 of my favorite little hipsters.

imageThis newsletter…
Musicgeeks

 

Derek’s newsletter is like having a hip friend that is totally into music, making you a mixed tape of new or obscure artists that you would never find on your own.  I’ve been signed up for his emails for about a month now and he delivers a little nugget of fresh music and quirky dance videos to your inbox most days.

I’m someone with broad tastes but no clue about music, and I’ve found some artists that I enjoy (Where else would I have come across a hip-hop group called the CunninLynguists and their catchy ode to drunk dialing).  Even if the song-of-the-day is not really your thing, his convincing commentaries make you want to like it.  If you listen to his suggestions, I promise you will automatically be 10 times more hip than you are right now.

 

image[1]This article…
Our Love/Hate Relationship With Work by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist

 

All jobs are tough.  Some days are long and things just don’t go well.  When things aren’t going well, you either need a new job or a new perspective.  This was exactly what I needed to read this week and his thoughts about where to find our motivation to work shifted my perspective.  He gave me a new way to look at work by focusing on it as your way of contributing to this world.  Honestly, it made it just a wee bit easier to schlep myself out of bed in the mornings and get my butt to work.

 

image[2]This Quote…
The Universe added one more day in your life today; not necessarily because you need it, but because someone else might need you.
-Timber Hawkeye

Along those same lines, this piece of wisdom floated into my facebook feed a few days ago from an author I’ve found inspriration in, Timber Hawkeye, and I had to put it on a post-it and hang it up by my desk at work.  The phrase “Live each day like its your last” has never really rang true to me.  If today was really your last day here, you sure wouldn’t go to work or clean your house or put money in your 401(k).  But this sentiment, I can completely get down with.   He’s written a book, Buddhist Boot Camp, which I have yet to read, but is definitely on my to-do list.  I always find his bits of insight refreshing.

 

So, go out there and be awesome!