Another December Birthday

I went to the grocery store yesterday morning (unsuccessfully) rushing to get out of there before it was packed with throngs of Christmas shoppers, running out of time to prep for their holiday weekends. I finished up by grabbing the last of the produce I needed and was winding my way towards the checkout counters.

At my grocery store, the produce section is directly in front of the entrance, so it often becomes bottlenecked both with the shoppers buying fruits and vegetables and the people who’ve just walked in the store. They inevitably stop right in front of moving carts as they try to get their bearings – it’s not a great setup. In other words, there were a lot of mildly irritated people trying to get their carts through a small space with varying degrees of success. Add to that the stress of the holidays and I was honestly waiting for someone to lose their shit. For someone who absorbs the energy in a room like I do, it meant I was in a hurry to get out of there as soon as I could.

As I was waiting my turn to get past, a women coming from the opposite direction suddenly yelled rather dramatically, “It’s your birthday?!?!?!?” I, along with most of the produce section looked up to see her talking to a small girl sitting in one of those enormous double-seater kid carts. You know the ones- they weigh about 100 lbs empty and if you’ve ever tried to maneuver one, you know it’s like trying to land a 747 right there next to the organic strawberries. The mom had just entered the store with her two daughters sitting in the molded plastic seats – the kids were maybe two and four. The oldest girl, sitting closest to this woman must have blurted out her news as they were waiting to pass. The woman wished the little girl a happy birthday with the same enthusiasm and then looked around for a moment impishly. Suddenly, as loud as she could, this woman cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled, “Hey Everybody!!!! It’s this little girl’s birthday!” She stopped, looked at the girl and quickly asked, “Wait, what’s your name?” The little girl whispered something shyly to her and the woman yelled again, “It’s Maddy’s birthday right here!”

A few of us close by answered with a “Happy Birthday, Maddy!” and a small smattering of applause. But that wasn’t enough for this woman. Suddenly she started belting out “Happy Birthday to you….” And we all joined in. By all, I mean EVERYONE in the produce section: all the people stuck in the log jam by the door, and all the people grabbing fruits and vegetables in the back who couldn’t even see Maddy. Cashiers and managers looked our way and started singing too. All the annoyed people trying to just get home before traffic got bad. We all stopped our busyness for 30 seconds, united to sing a rousing chorus to this child as a woman who didn’t know her but knew the importance of this birthday, directed us with a huge grin on her face. The song ended, people applauded, the mom thanked the woman and everyone went back to what they were doing before.

And yet, as we dispersed, we all had smiles on our faces. I can’t speak for everyone, but my heart was filled, my stress lifted for a few minutes and I felt a lot of gratitude that a little child in her innocent enthusiasm told a stranger about her special day and that woman knew exactly the correct way to respond.

Happy birthday, Maddy, wherever you are: thanks for giving us all a gift.


“Fall down seven times, get up eight.”
-Japanese proverb

I’ve been trying to play the guitar proficiently since I was in high school. I’ve had four teachers scattered over the years. I’ve read books and studied YouTube series. At several points along the way, I put the guitar down and walked away, too frustrated to keep hacking away at it. I even sold my only guitar at one point. For a long time, I’d make incremental progress but never enough consistently to feel like I was getting anywhere. Have you ever felt that way about something?


2014 Word of the Year

IMG_2536As many of you know, every year, instead of creating a list of resolutions to make (and then shortly thereafter break) each January, I find a word of the year to focus on. I’ve been doing it maybe five or six years now – it’s not my original idea by any means; I’ve seen lots of people who embrace this tradition. It’s a powerful one so I encourage you to try it.

One of the reasons I like the word of the year concept so much is that it’s not much to remember. I really don’t have space in my brain for a new list of things to be mindful about every year. So I give myself one word. It becomes my mantra, my meditation, my touchstone. And even then, sometimes I go weeks without thinking about my word. But when I come back to it, I always find I have a deeper understanding of how that particular word plays out in its many forms in my life.

Continue reading → 2014 Word of the Year

10 Things I Took Away from NaBloPoMo

keyboardSo my month of daily posting is over. For those of you who don’t know, I was participating in The National Blog Posting Month Challenge, otherwise known as NaBloPoMo. The challenge is to write and post a blog entry every day during the month of November. I made it 25 out of 30 days. Not bad for a first attempt.  It’s been a good month generally and it was definitely a learning experience.  Some were new lessons, some were reminders of things I already knew but could use some reinforcement. Here’s what I took away from the month: Continue reading → 10 Things I Took Away from NaBloPoMo

Play Up

NaBloPoMo_November_smallThis year I’ve worked harder to learn to play the guitar than I have in past years (lots and lots of past years). While I’m not ready to open for Aerosmith on their next world tour, I’m making progress. More importantly, I’m having more fun playing than I have ever before.

So this past weekend of ridiculous fun, raucous laughter and amazing concerts included a brunch in Northern VA with friends from far and wide. I consumed way too much delicious food and was seriously considering a cat nap when musical instruments started coming out. More than a couple of people in our group are really talented musicians who have been honing their craft for years. One could get really intimidated by their abilities if they weren’t so freakin’ nice and inclusive.

So, I ended up with a guitar in my hands.  My initial instinct was to play the one song I know really well (really well being a relative term) and hand off the guitar to someone more experienced.  I made my way through my song, the other guests sang along and I put the guitar on the table so the “real” musicians could play. Then a funny thing happened, the serious musicians started playing and I quickly realized they expected me to play with them. Again, I found myself ready to hand off the guitar but then I remembered a great rule for beginners or anyone looking to learn more, really. Anytime you have the chance to practice your skill with more advanced practitioners, take advantage of the situation.

In other words, play up.

I struggled to keep up as they went through a number of songs way more advanced than I am, but the others took the time to yell out chords, help me with my strumming and in general allow me to fumble my way through. The great thing is that I learned a few things that I wouldn’t have learned just sitting there. I don’t care if you’re a knitter or a litigator: if someone with more experience is willing to put you in the game or spend time teaching you something new, you take them up on that offer. Check your ego at the door over your imperfections and dive in. It beats sitting in your room watching Youtube videos trying to figure something out, I promise you that.

Did I come out of that jam session an entirely new and improved guitar player? No. But I learned a few things and had a hell of a lot of fun at the same time.

Play up.

Not Over The Rainbow

Chances are if you have kids younger than 15 in your house, you know what this is:


And most likely, you have about 68,000 of these around your house:


Except, they aren’t neatly organized like this. This is the lie they sell you. The reality is they’re strewn all over the house as if a tiny tornado had picked them up and dropped them everywhere within a .2 mile radius.  Plus they show up in the weirdest places – I swear there was one in the bottom of a bowl of cereal today. But I digress…

For the three of you out there who don’t know what I’m talking about, this is the Rainbow Loom and if you Google it you’ll see all the types of bracelets and necklaces and key chains and all the other things you can weave together using the loom and all the tiny elastic bands.

My 8-year-old has one of these and it quite obsessed with it. It’s low tech, no-screen-time fun.  I’m a big fan.

The really interesting thing (to me) that has happened are the types of secondary creativity this phenomenon has created. If you go to YouTube and search Rainbow Loom, you’ll find hundreds of videos showcasing how-to’s for various pattens. Most of these videos are made by pre-teen girls who’ve never made videos before. In addition, kids are taking the loom and creating more than just bracelets – there are mini-bags and animals, pencil holders and even action figures – Thor! And it’s not just girls. Sitting at soccer games this fall I’ve seen boys and girls with their looms sitting in groups, talking and creating.  Love it!

So, this isn’t really a product placement advertisement, just a little musing on something my daughters have been obsessed with the last few months. I’m so glad it’s something that fosters and stretches their creativity. And unlike the newest over-produced boy band, this is a fad I hope sticks around a little while.


This is post #12 in the 30-day National Blog Posting Month challenge.


Let the Fire Burn

I talked to a client today who is participating in NaNoWriMo- that’s the National Novel Writing Month challenge for all you non-wordsmiths out there. NaNoWriMo (or Nano as it’s often shortened to) happens in November just like NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) with a similar goal of getting out of your head and just writing. NaNo participants work to produce a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Pretty impressive, eh? If any of your friends tell you they are participating in  NaNoWriMo, the nicest thing you could do is be very impressed when they incoherently ramble on about their novel. Remember, they haven’t slept much this month.

Many NaNo participants join local and online groups to keep themselves inspired. Groups host meet-ups, offer writing tips and send out occasional challenges. My client was telling me about one group she belongs to, who in honor of Guy Fawkes Day, challenged participants to write a scene that contained someone lighting something on fire. How can you not love that?

So, in honor of Guy Fawkes Day (which was yesterday but indulge me), since I can’t write a character lighting something on fire, I’ll give you this:

“Let The Fire Burn”
by Sister Hazel

A pocket full of matches
Not a cloud in the sky
Rusty can of gasoline
Dry wood stacked up high

I always run wide open
That’s just what I do
I leave behind a burning sky
That lights up my rear view

Hey, hey
Someday I might live and learn
Hey hey
Right now I’ll let the fire burn
Right now I’ll watch the fire burn

The blaze is getting bigger
Flames up to my face
Scars are getting hard to hide
But I can’t walk away

Hey, hey
Someday I might live and learn
Hey hey
Right now I’ll let the fire burn
Right now I’ll watch the fire burn

A little spark between us
Sit back and let it grow
Ride the rush and face the fear
As the wind begins to blow

Hey, hey
Someday I might live and learn
Hey hey
Right now I’ll let the fire burn
Right now I’ll watch the fire burn.

This is post #6 for the 30-day National Blog Posting Month Challenge.