Thursday, October 30, 2014 THE worst traveling companion....

Sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed by all that can be crammed into the waking hours of one day. Today ran the gamete of emotions and experiences and my brain continues to buzz at a pretty high frequency. Sandwiched in-between sending email, unpacking supplies, meeting with community partners and school district staff…racing from one part of the city to the next…shopping, shopping and more shopping…all in preparation for opening the new YouthCity program next week, today I attended the funeral of a dear family friend. I love my job. I love everything about this new opportunity and I don’t even consider these tasks real work…it’s just part of the stuff I get to do…but this afternoon while I attended this service…my heart and soul soaked in a much needed infusion of light and truth and perspective.

Like many in attendance, I was inspired and uplifted by the life and death of a twenty-eight year old man who just lost a harrowing battle with Leukemia. He did not shrink! I was reminded of what it means to be part of a community as a chapel was full of people who emanated love and support and respect for his young widow, his loving parents and his faithful siblings took off work, silenced their cell phones and simply poured out their love by showing up and being present. There is something sacred about the process of mourning with those whose hearts are breaking and I so needed to be apart of this reflective process today. The service ended with…

Be still, my soul: The hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last

….Oh, the cycle of human development and experiences…it’s not an IF disappointment, grief and fear enter your life…it’s a when…why is it that some wounds heal quickly while others take years to process through. This sacred and often hellish refining process comes in various shapes and colors and sizes and without much effort each of us get a customized collection of challenges all designed to stretch and shake and burse and rattle us to ultimately determine how we will respond…. what will we do with that we have been given. This isn’t entirely a religious concept…it’s a life concept. Last time I checked, I don’t think anyone independently signs up for the personal disappointment party and yet somehow we all seem to end up there.

What I loved and so needed to experience and perhaps even remember from today was the whole…sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored…bit. Why is it so stinking difficult to hold on to that part of the process when you are slogging through the muck of life. When it dark…and I mean pitch black…why do we so easily forget. I consider grief to be THE worlds worst traveling companion and I’m pretty confident that in time each of us…and sadly more than once in the span of our lifetime…grief and pain will show up and get comfy in our lives for a season. If grief joined me on a road trip it would not only eat all of the red vines, it would demand soul control over the radio AND AC and switch channels and temperatures far far too frequently, it would demand frequent and inconvenience pit stops and it would most assuredly provide inaccurate and misguided driving directions….and then take no responsibility for sending me way off in the wrong direction. Plane and simply grief sucks! Like I hate that it’s part of life and yet I’m learning how to not only recognize it but I’m learning the important role it plays in this human experience.  

Today, I was thankfully reminded that in time…and with hope…and thanks to love…and only when patience and forgiveness have been applied….when change and tears are past….things will feel safe again and sometimes a greater sense of peace and safety are experienced…Oh, this process…how I wish I could hold onto the realness of each phase just a little tighter so I’m better prepared for the next round. Kinda wish that these type of “ahh ha’s” could be ordered at Costco and yet so grateful I was able to press pause on the daily grind long enough to sample some of the sweetness that always follows the ending of a life.  Tomorrow starts early and my to do list is LONG. My life is full and I’m blessed far beyond what I deserve…I’m even a little grateful for for the dark days…I’m sharing…because I’m hoping I can hold on to this feeling…just a little bit longer...they say it takes a village to raise a child…I think it also take a village to heal up a heart….So, thanks for reading…now go hug someone….

Saturday, October 4, 2014

100 Happy Days...Part 10

Day#91 - September 12, 2014

Day #92 – September 11, 2014
You know that time...when after you’ve made a big decision…big like you’ve really had to wrestle to get to the right answer...and when that answer...your decision....and it's right-ness….is confirmed and then re-affirmed to you. That time…when you know both in your head and in your heart that you found clarity….those…those are the best of times…

Day #93 - September 12, 2014

Day #94 - September 13, 2014 

Day #95 - September 14, 2014 

Day #96 - September 15, 2014

Day #97 - September 16, 2014 

Day #98 - September 17, 2014 

Day#99 - September 18, 2014 

So, ninety-nine days of happy thoughts. I'm sure for some...this silly Internet craze can be considered both cheesy and perhaps a bit exhaustive at this point.... I mean 99 posts....excessive? Neurotic? Overboard? Lame? Perhaps a little bit of all four. To those who have wondered...will this silly countdown ever stop? Thanks for your patience and Woohoo we have both finally made it. For me, this little reflective practice started with a determination to find...and let’s be real, some day’s milk...a little focused happiness out of life. I'll be honest, some days it was easier to write about happiness than others. However, now 100 days later.... this little positivity seeking practice has proven to be very beneficial in increasing my overall outlook and mood and I've discovered a few important things about myself.
What is happiness anyway? How do we get more of it? AND when will they start selling it at Costco? Endless self-help books, seminars, workshops, conferences and research projects are centered on the idea of lassoing and even harnessing life happiness. I'm clearly no expert on the topic but I do know that there is some kind of cosmic connection between happiness and our willingness to seek it out. After 99 pesky posts...I think I may have a better idea. It’s long lunches with good friends. It’s flowers and mountains and gardens and vistas. It’s belly laughs with family. It’s children…children and teens everyday. It’s movies and music and books and podcasts. Its color-loaded paintbrushes and jars full of sharpies. It’s every book written by Dr. Berne Brown. It’s road trips. It’s sleeping in and working hard both in the same day. It’s getting acquainted with teens and young adults who were once children and realizing what incredible adults they are becoming. It’s the determination of garden slugs. It’s fine art and pom-pom and pipe cleaner creatures made by children. It’s the knowledge that families come in all shapes and sizes. It’s ping-pong patio parties with popsicles and popcorn and people you love most. It’s starting and ending each day with Burke by my side. Happiness takes work and it’s not for the weak at heart. It takes focused energy and attention to chose the better part…daily…and especially when you’d rather crawl back into the comfortable dark places of doubt, indecision and fear.
Now 100 days later, I can easily report that I’m a big believer of actively seeking out the sunshine especially when so often this human experience demands we not only deal with… but dance with our personal demons. Sometimes it's a Waltz and the demons show up with measured… the demons demand a Tango with dramatic changes in perspective and direction. On other days, the emotional and mental throw down looks more like a Cha Cha with equal parts progression as regression. All the while, with every carefully choreographed port de bras, barrel roll, split leap, jazz hands and courageous shuffle ball change…its happiness we want to reach, experience and hold on to. My demons are no bigger or more challenging than anyone else’s demons. Over the last year, life has provided ample opportunities for me to build up my Ginger Rogers dancing skills and focusing on happiness each day has absolutely increased my ability to both deal AND dance.
I claim to be no expert on happiness and Burke can quickly report that not all 100 days have been jam packed with kittens and licorice rainbow experiences. Like so many, most of my days are held together with scotch tape and string and in the end…I think that is actually pretty all right. My flowerbeds have weeds. My bathtub could use a good scrubbing. My car has not been vacuumed in….months? I’ve got stacks of “to do’s” and piles of “when I get time…”and I think it’s actually just fine. What I do know is that after 99 days of searching for the good...even when at the garden snail level...and writing it down has increased my ability to stabilize and balance. I have a greater understanding of life limits and the need for self-care. I've learned to slow down a bit and focus both my brain and my camera phone on the little things that make up the big things. I’ve learned that I need to paint and write everyday. I now take greater confidence in my limited understanding of THE great Creator; in the world He created for me and in my tiny abilities to improve it. The older I get the more convinced I am that life is as messy and nuanced and complicated and dynamic for EVERYONE! This human experience is beautiful and exciting and challenging and fun. After 100 days of posts and photos and attempts of capturing, investigating and identifying happiness I think Henry David Thoreau actually said it best: “Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come sit softly on your shoulder.” Thanks for humoring me along the way. 

100 Happy Days...Part 9

Day #81- August 31, 2014
Spent the most delightful morning with one of my all time favorite people. We caught up on life while casually roaming through the 
Downtown SLC Farmers Market. I met this dynamo several years ago as a precocious third grade girl, bound to harness the world, registered for YouthCity. We got to hang out everyday after school for several years and now we share endless stories and memories. Back in the day, we made quilts, read books, learned how to cook and had lot and lots of engaging conversations. Today, that curious third grader, is both taller and much smarter than I am and attends a local high school. Within moments, it became clear that this once bookish girl has quickly bloomed into a stunning young woman who may actually harness the world one day. She is smart, and talented, and compassionate, and curious, and kind….and I’ve never been more confident in our future. Wowee! What a powerhouse! I’m so grateful our paths have crossed and I look forward to many more mint limeades and moody strolls. Being a teenage girl these days…and let’s face it really at any point in history…. and figuring out how to hold on to yourself during THE most treacherous phase of human development, takes serious guts. Would not return to the roller-coaster that is adolescence for ten million dollars and yet I stand in awe of so many teens who are trudging their way through the muck and yuck and yippee of high school with a refined sense of grace and resilience and humor and drive. I think it's actually this case...girlish grit...and it's a seriously powerful force in this world. SHE, this one who let me consume a few hours of her morning just one of many with whom I draw inspiration and hope from. Feeling both lucky and grateful to have the chance to watch the magic of this gritty girl continue to bloom.

Day#82 - 

Day #83 – September 1, 2014
You know when a song or a catchy jingle gets stuck in your head and just keeps playing over and over and over. For the last several days, I have had the lyrics…a phrase really…on constant repeat and I just can’t shake this ear worm. Could be way worse, right? Perhaps it’s a sign…
…Let thy goodness, like a fetter, 
bind my wandering heart to thee. 
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, 
prone to leave the God I love; 
here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
seal it for thy courts above.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing 
Text: Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

Day#84 – September 2, 204
Twice today, once on my way into my office and just now as I'm heading to the parking garage, I am stuck by the same random act of natural splendor. Two brave little yellow flowers, boldly standing with confidence amid a collection of shrubs and bushes. Both blooms were kinda out of place and perhaps even awkwardly placed and yet exactly where they needed to be all along. There they were. Just doing what they do best. Blooming. Regardless the location. All alone and yet never lonely. Quietly communicating the inspiration to not just adapt....but thrive. These two pops of yellow goodness not only caught my eye today but they kind of spoke right to me...being a bit know when you feel like a big dorky yellow flower trying to make it work in a world of thick green shrubs...all in all it ain't soo has its moments....take heart....we are in good company.

Day #85 – September 3, 2014
No words needed. 

Day#86 - September 4, 2014 

Day #87 – September 5, 2014
So so so very excited to be returning to YouthCity full time this October as the new Programs Manager at the Sorensen/Unity Center. Salt Lake City Corporation has successfully secured funding to open a fifth YouthCity after-school and summer program in a terrific pocket of my favorite city. I think the only thing that could pull me from Westminster College is the chance to develop... and be a part of a new YouthCity program. This little youth program, now serving several hundred kiddos and families, is so easily my heart. And Westminster College is so easily my brain. I can't think of two better intuitions to work for and I will be forever grateful for their symbiotic connection and influence in my life. This summer confirmed in both my head and my heart that working directly with kiddos every day is actually what I do best. Feeling so grateful.....blessed have had the opportunity to extend my education at Westminster, dust off a little professional ambition in Dallas, experience higher education from the other side if the desk and now, five years later, get the chance to return to the program I helped build....a girl could not be more happy or excited. Feeling so grateful for the professional mish mash of the last several years and ready to put it all into practice with a whole new crop of kiddos. It’s not lost on me....getting to actually DO the thing you love, IN the city you love…WITH the people you respect the did I get SO lucky?

Day#88 - September 6, 2014 

Day#89 - September 7, 2014  

100 Happy Days...Part 8

Day# 71 – August 20, 2014
My drive home from work today was absolutely stunning. Vibrant colors. Clear blue sky. Late summer perfection. I get home and decide to sit at my Grandmother patio table and paint for a bit. Again I think of how lucky I am. Then the cricket orchestra begins. The sky darkens. The temperature drops to a resting cool. I sit, lapping up the peace and contentment and stillness, and feel desperate to preserve this feeling like home made jam. Then, when it gets too dark and I begin to hear some thunder, I head inside and make the cardinal error of reading the news. What was I thinking? Are you kidding me? Within seconds my jaw has dropped. My heart is broken. My head is spinning. C'mon world....we have got to pull this together. Stop. Just stop. Stop with the crazy. Stop with the shootings. Stop with the rabid fighting. Stop. Take a big breath. Just stop it. So grateful I've found a little back yard sanctuary to escape to and so wishing others had the same. Sending up a few extra prayers tonight to those whose hearts are hurting. A good friend of mine frequently asks, "what would love do?" Hug the ones you love just a little longer tonight tonight and only read the news when you are good and ready. We need more peace and more summer night jam.

Day #72 – August 21, 2014
Zucchini...evidence that you have friends...and that those friends learned how to share. How many ways can these magical gourds be enjoyed? And are they actually gourds? What makes a gourd a gourd anyway? 

 Day #73 - August 22, 2014

Day #74 - August 23, 2014 

Day #75 - August 24, 2014

Day #76 - August 25, 2014 

Day #77 – August 26, 2014
Evidence that re-entry can be brutal! Hang in there little buddy...every little thing is gonna be alright. This is the second student I've caught sleeping on the couch that rests outside my office this's only Tuesday. I left my office to make some copies in the work room down the hall and found this either very sleepy or terribly depressed student taking a serious was not even 10:00 a.m. After I made my copies and started back down the hall he had sprawled out in the other direction with his face on his book. I think there was drool. Tried to snap a photo but then I saw his eyes moving...and I faked like I was reading a text because if not...that would just be weird. Today is only the second week of class. This is going to be an awesome semester!