Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Five Things I Discovered Today

1.You can always find nice people on a bike path.

2.Dandelions are gorgeous. They're like freckles on a face: they pop out at the first sign of sunlight and the owner might find them annoying.  But they're a beautiful sign of spring and makes whoever/whatever's wearing them unique.
3.There is beauty everywhere - as long as you let beauty in.
4.Spending time with people you love is awesome.  Spending time alone is necessary...and well :)
And finally: 5.Sometimes all a girl needs is a double-stuffed Milano cookie.  Or - the whole bag. And it's okay.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hiking Away Fear

Spring is slowly emerging here in New England and my body and mind feel like they're finally ready to  shake off the winter blues.  I'll admit, I'm definitely one of those gals that goes into a sort of hibernation in the colder months.  I don't go out very often, I despise the cold weather, I dream of being salty on a hot beach.  So when the sun finally peeks out and the clear blue skies are upon us, it's very hard to keep me inside.

Today I came home from a beautiful weekend with friends and found myself pretty tired, and I lay down to take a nap at about 1pm.  Not tired enough to sleep, I lay there feeling the cool April breeze through my window and looking at the perfect blue sky.  I immediately reached for my laptop and looked up hiking trails.

I moved back to this area about 8 months ago, just in time for fall.  I ran a lot but didn't do much hiking.  I printed out some information and a small map but none of the directions had GPS coordinates on it - just state street names and since I'm kind of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of gal, and didn't feel like looking anything up any further I just went for it.  Twenty minutes later, finding myself completely in the opposite direction of where I had wanted to go, I told myself I would just keep my eyes peeled for any interesting trails that might pop up along the way.  All of a sudden, to my left, just inside the woods I saw a car that appeared to be parked in some sort of dirt lot and 3 people talking. I wouldn't have noticed this spot otherwise.

It was a really narrow driveway so I parked on the street and walked in.  (I know what you're thinking - I could be walking into - a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g.)  A couple was talking to a woman of about 60.  I interrupted what seemed to be a lively, friendly conversation. "Excuse me - sorry  - is this a trail?" Beyond them, I really saw nothing that seemed to be a delineated path so I thought I would ask to see what their reaction was.  The man answered, "Oh yea - we just went Geocaching!" A few other mumblings on how great it was, and I went back to my car and drove on in.

After the crazy week Boston has had, people have been talking a lot about fear.  For an entire 5 days, the people of Boston were left with unanswered questions, anger, fear that someone or many were out to harm the people of their beautiful city, a whole 24 hours in lock-down - unable to leave their own homes.  But on the other hand, I heard a lot about resilience, overcoming fear, and love.  "That's exactly what terrorists would want - to lock us down with fear."  And with so many people still to help, how can you just sit idle?

As I said, I have spent the last eight months reconnecting with friends and family and - hibernating.  Today I wanted to get back to my adventurous self but also now have the voice of people who care about me in my head saying, "Be careful - don't go anywhere by yourself." I decided to listen to my heart.

As I got out of my car and walked toward that "trail" I - uh - didn't notice a trail at all.  The trio was still chatting behind me and although there was one of those big signs that outlines the trail, I was still skeptical.  All of a sudden, a beautiful lab-mix came running out of the woods.  Hmm.  Perhaps he knew where the trail was.  The nice woman finished her convo and came running down with her pup.  I asked again, "So does this trail open up a little bit once you get a little further in?"

"Oh yea, yea.  I don't know if you saw the three Chinese boys run by earlier.  Those are my exchange students."  She kept walking and talking.  I assumed she didn't mind if I follow.  She went on to tell me that she just got back yesterday from a mission with 2 of the boys in the Dominican Republic, building hospitals.  Some people would have sighed relief right there but I've watched too many foreign films to believe that she was this nice, just freely offering information to a complete stranger, without trying to drag me deep into the woods to - I dunno - do...something.  I kept listening.

I found out that every year, she bikes with a group of about 200 from NH to Maine to Vermont to Quebec and back. "Where do you sleep?" "Tents," she nonchalantly uttered.  I found out that the trail we were walking was the site of an old educational children's camp.  It was also the site of many girl scout excursions, the home of mountain laurel flowers, blueberry and raspberry bushes.  She also has a daughter and two sons, one of which went to my alma mater, UNH.  We passed one pile of moose poop.  Then another pile of moose poop.  Then another.
"Do you, uh, ever see the moose on your walks here?"
She laughed. I wasn't sure whether or not to laugh too.

I hadn't seen my folks in a while and pops happened to call in the middle of my hike.
"Where are you?"
"Oh I just got back from CT and decided to go for a hike."
"No I'm here with this lovely lady Laurie and her dog, Jack." I said within earshot of my new friend.  All of a sudden Laurie stops and points: "Look!" She points to a large garden snake in our pathway.  "Oh! Laurie just found a snake!" (sh*tting my pants)
"Are you on a trail or, like, in a park somewhere?"
"Oh we're on a trail by some reservoir."
"She's safe!" Laurie exclaims.  Then all of a sudden, once again, I wasn't so sure.  You know how parents are - always putting the fear in you like that to be safe!!!

I hung up and continued to enjoy my workout up rocky hills and my conversation with a new friendly face.

By the end of the walk, not only was I relieved that I was still alive - I was totally energized from time spent in the woods, psyched that I found not only a safe place to walk, but one riddled with blueberry bushes, a new acquaintance and the hope to travel on a mission trip some day, and thankful that I followed my heart.

Just like Jozie says, all you need is love.  By feeding into fear, you're not only paralyzing yourself but you're paralyzing your community and a society that needs your loving energy.  So on the next sunny day, or even on a rainy one - get off your butt and hike away your fear.  You'll be happy you did.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spread the Love

April 15th 2013. Patriots Day in Massachusetts - a day to commemorate battles of the Revolutionary War.  Something once tragic from which we've moved on, honoring those who fought for us long ago. Traditionally, a family day for those kids and parents and loved ones who have the day off in the Bay state.

There are so many wonderful things that are planned on this day and so many other days in Massachusetts and all over the world.  So many events and reasons to celebrate family, friends.  Spring time.  Sunny weather. 

My grandmother has been in a nursing home for a few years now and when I go to visit her, I can't help but think, I wish there were more activity for them.  I wish there were things that brought them back to their youth, or reminded them about their gardens or music that was such a big part of their lives.  I asked the Activities Director about music and she said that, actually, they provide the residents with music all the time and are always looking for musicians.  I told her to sign me up.

I thought of all the nursing homes and assisted living homes in the area and began calling around.  I told them about my career in singing and what songs I would plan to sing.  Yesterday I happened to be booked at a lovely facility in Central MA and began my set at 3pm.

After the little concert was completed, I had a line of residents waiting to talk to me.  Some had tears in their eyes.  Some thanked me over and over for offering my gift. One woman in particular would not let go of my hand.  The last person to come by was the Executive Director of the facility.  She told us about the horrible news that had just occurred - double bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  My heart sank. My eyes got big. I couldn't breathe.  I thought of everyone I know who has run that race; all my friends in Boston and from all over the place who love going to watch; the crowds of tourists who travel just to see the amazing event.  The woman looked at me and said, "Right when I found out, I couldn't work anymore. I heard you singing Amazing Grace and I had to just come in and be with everyone and start singing."

Jennie sings Amazing Grace with residents

There are so many beautiful things in this world and big-hearted people who do positive things to spread light and love.  There have been horrible, devastating things that have happened over the past months and years - they're big - and they're terrible.  Just like the battles in Massachusetts were so long ago.  But they're few compared to all the wonderful acts of kindness that I witness every day from everyday people.  I encourage you to continue to spread the love and fill others' eyes with tears of joy.  I encourage you to allow people to hold your hand.  I encourage you to share your universe-given gift.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."  Martin Luther King, Jr.


Friday, April 5, 2013

A Gift for You

A light may have come onto this earth and attached itself to a terrestrial body who my parents named "Jennie" thirty-one years ago but today is really a day for you.

Today I was blessed to wake up to texts and calls from people I love.  And it's for them - to everyone in my life, to everyone reading this blog and to everyone I meet - that I am grateful.

As my 31st day on Planet Earth approached, I sincerely felt the need to give.  I'm getting together with a few girlfriends this weekend and I am, like, giddy to cook for them....and maybe give them a few treats. :)

I received a gift of yoga today in the form of a gift certificate from a family member. I was so ecstatic but it wasn't a feeling of success as if to say, "Yes - I got what I wanted."  I literally had zero expectations coming into this day and have been so busy I almost forgot what day it was. My reaction was instead a warm feeling in my heart - literally as if it melted a little bit - thanks to an unexpected good deed somone had done for me. Grateful. 

I was almost late for work (again) this morning because my boss is going to Italy for the next two weeks (jealous!) and I wouldn't let myself leave the house before finding my audio italian CD for her. I'm so happy for her! She's popping her Italy cherry! I couldn't wait to share every italian book I own and try to teach her daily phrases before her trip. She's been a blessing in my life and I'm grateful for her and glad I can help and contribute to her trip.

Today I'm going to go visit my Grammie at the home where she's living.  I'll stop and get her some flowers and even have a card for her.  She deserves it. 

My Gram and her birthday monkey.
 But it's a new feeling on this 31st day.  It's more and more the little things in life that make me tear up with happiness - the little acts of kindness - the random smiling face that walks by - cut-out cardboard figures of Elvis:

I am so grateful for Elvis.

So THANK YOU for reading this; for those who have crossed my path; for being in my life; for conflicts that have taught me and made me stronger; for being my gift.

I didn't have the foresight or creativity to do what Lucas did in Australia, but maybe I'll save that for my 32nd.