Graceful-living Day 5–THOUGHTFUL

Holidays are a great opportunity to be especially thoughtful! I recently took Fourth of July as an opportunity to delight! I found out just prior to the big day that the 4th is my sister’s 3rd favorite holiday of the year and we took the opportunity to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday as well so I wanted to make it special. I usually host the 4th of July family BBQ and it is typically all-American: burgers, corn on the cobb, etc., but this year I wanted to make it exceptional so I paid particular attention to the details…

Extra decorations– flags everywhere, sparkly accents, AND a Happy Birthday banner, giant balloon, and hat for the birthday boy.  Light up red white and blue star necklaces for everyone. Table set with festive placemats, napkins, etc.

Dogs wearing 4th of July bandanas!

Flags at the trees we use to remember my brother and Grandfather.

Paying attention to who’s attending:  I used the tray that Aunt Nancy made for me and was intentional about getting a pic of the two of us together in our matching shades.

I wore the earrings that my mothers gave me recently so they could see how much I liked them.

I put the red-white-and blue hydrangea that my Mom bought for me in the lovely crystal vase that belonged to my best friend’s late mother and sent my friend the picture to let her know I was thinking of her dear, departed Mum.  I also sent the pic to my sister in Boston to let her know we wished she was with us.

Lots O’ pictures of the fun and festivities were captured!!!

It was a lovely celebration.  I look forward to doing it again next year!

So grateful to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave!

CB

Gracefull-living Day 4– THOUGHTFUL

Pay it forward!

Definition: opposite of payback: when someone does a good deed for you, instead of paying them back, pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else.

I adore the movie, “Pay it Forward” (except for the ending).  I think it is such a powerful message and I love the idea of performing an act of kindness with the only hope of pay back being pay forward.

My Aunt Kay provided one of the first PIF experiences I remember– she made an initial contribution to my braces (teeth) which I later paid forward to my God-daughter by investing in her smile.  I hope she knows what a difference she made in my life!  In the professional setting, many have invested in me and I have tried to carry the torch forward by investing in our young up-and-comers. Sometimes we just do something kind because the opportunity presents itself and it is the right thing to do.  We don’t know the outcome, but I choose to believe that the goodness will be recognized and passed on.  It’s Karma.

So today I offered a small gift to the Pay It Forward Gods.  I drove through Good Times and paid $20 for my soda that cost $2.47.  I asked that the change pay for whatever it could for the folks behind me.  I don’t know if the person behind me needed the “credit” and took it or if the Pay It Forward chain continued for multiple cars.  Either way, if my “investment” made even one person’s day, it was well worth it.

See Payitforwardday.com for additional ideas on how you can PAY IT FORWARD!

 

We are excited that we now have over 80 countries participating in Pay it Forward Day with over 100 state and city proclamations.

Pay It Forward Day is a global initiative that exists to make a difference by creating a huge ripple of kindness felt across the world. Of course, our hope is that people pay kindness forward every day and make each day that little bit brighter. We believe that small acts, when multiplied by millions of people can literally change the world for the better — and on April 28th we’ll set out to prove it! For this year’s international Pay it Forward Day (PIFD) we are aiming to inspire over  10 million acts of kindness around the world. Imagine the difference that would make!  Join us in paying it forward, and help spread the word about this important day!

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

  • Pay for someone’s cup of coffeeBusinessman hand with an red umbrella isolated on white
  • Get the next person’s food, toll, petrol, etc.
  • Help someone out in need
  • Host pay it forward activities in your office, school, church or community
  • Become a Pay it Forward Day ambassador and help raise awareness in your circles of influence
  • Let others know about Pay it Forward Day through your social media channels
  • Donate to a worthwhile cause – click here for some amazing charities that help people in need
  • Be creative!!! Click here for more ideas

Pay it Forward Day was built by volunteers around the world to inspire a huge ripple effect of kindness in the community.

Grace-full Living Day 3– THOUGHTFUL

 

There’s always time for a bow!

I can’t help it, I love the animated movie Arthur Christmas and my favorite line in the movie is, “There’s always time for a bow!”

Giving gifts is one of my favorite things to do.  That seems to surprise and confound some people (my Grandmother, one of the most generous spirits I know claimed not to have gotten the “gift giving gene”), but it brings me joy to give presents.  I try to be thoughtful and creative about gifts.  I try to be personal and unique.  Sometimes I hit a homerun and sometimes I strike-out in a big way… but it’s the thought that counts.  And part of the thought is the presentation… There’s always time for a bow! … or something special.

Flowers are fabulous!  Make them special by arranging them yourself (supermarkets have a great variety these days), adding wine, or adding bows!

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We are doing a family vacation this summer and including a book club (along with competitive dock yoga, paddle-boarding, kayaking, croquet, and a splash ball tournament).  I purchased a couple extra copies of the book, put pretty ribbons on them and inscribed, “Family vacation 2017.   Lake Minnetonka. Sunset Point. July 2017” so wherever those books surface, they will provide memories.

 

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Even little things are fun to dress up.  My son’s dear friend was recently drafted to the Nuggets.  I wanted to give his Mom a hard copy of lovely story about him written in the Denver Post, but I didn’t want to make a big deal of it so I put it in a simple Nordstrom’s bag and tied a little bow on it before dropping it at the desk of her hotel.

At holidays I can go a little crazy… I love wrapping paper, ribbons and paper gift bags (we have access to such great tissue paper these days!).  Re-usable gift bags (like Storybags) are great too.  It’s my friend, Paula who is the master and I’ll never catch up to her elegance and artistry (her tree and gifts represented below), but she provides inspiration.

 

When it comes to making a gift extra special, here are a few ideas…

  1. There’s always time for a bow!
  2. Include an inscription or a note whenever you can.
  3. Gifts for no reason are always delightful!
  4. Anonymous giving us great too!  Try putting  small vase of flowers on your neighbor’s front porch– (daffodils: $2, tiny vase: $1, happy neighbor: priceless!).

Happy giving!

XO

Cindy

Grace-full living day 2: THOUGHTFUL.

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2. Save your pennies… and give them away.

I kept a coin jar for  years.  I collected pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. I was saving them for a rainy day.  I fantasized about what fun extravagance I would indulge in.  I marveled at how heavy a jar of coins was and wondered how many hundreds of dollars were in there. I identified coin machines at the local grocery stores where I could exchange the metal for bills.

There were several times I thought about cashing in, but never quite got around to it.

One day it became clear what I had been saving it for.  A dear friend needed it more than I did.  I was delighted to drop the heavy jar off on her front porch and drive away. I would have loved for it to be anonymous, but she knew it was from me.  I never knew how much was in there or what she did with it.

She was very appreciative, but I GOT THE GREATER GIFT.

I have a new coin jar going now.  I’m working on filling it up, and I look forward to giving it away!

Got coin?

XO

CB

 

Feeding your soul by brightening someone else’s day

 

KINDNESS is a pillar of grace-full living as is THOUGHTFULNESS.  I truly believe that most people intend to be good to others, but those who live a grace-filled life are intentional about it and actively seek opportunities to brighten. But the commitment to GIVE can be daunting.  I don’t have millions to donate, my time is limited, I don’t have obviously monetizable talents, but I can change the world one smile, one hug, one wink at a time.  And what I’ve learned is that kind gestures don’t need to be earth-shattering, life-changing, or planet altering… they just need to make someone feel acknowledged, appreciated, noticed, loved, liked, honored, supported, not alone.

So to that end, I’m going to provide 1 example per day for (at least) 7 days of acts of kindness and CHALLENGE YOU TO COMMIT TO 7 DAYS OF ACTIVE KINDNESS.  I hope you’ll share your experiences, inspiration and challenges along the path as well!

Here we go…

 

  1. Postcards. It might sound silly, but I travel a lot for both business and pleasure and I send postcards to small group of people from nearly every destination.  The recipient list changes, but it might include a dear friend in her 90s who doesn’t get out and about as much as she used to, grand-parents who just like to know what I’m up to, a loved one who is incarcerated, a neighbor and dear friend who just likes to know I’m thinking of her, a friend battling cancer, a young niece, a god-daughter, my son’s good friend who is away at college and missing family, etc.    I carry a list of all of their addresses along with post-card stamps with me wherever I go.  It’s a simple way to show people you care, provide a “warm hug” in the midst of junkmail and bills, and open up the world to folks who may not have access to great adventures.  I love that postcards are always hand-written!  I use way too many exclamation marks and always include XOXOs.  Corny–but that is part of the charm.

Your assignment– think of someone(s) who might enjoy getting a postcard from you.  Write down their address so you have it with you the next time you find yourself in a new spot or send one from a local venue.

Send a postcard! Wait for delight upon delivery!

XOXO!!!

Love, Cindy

Today I be’d.

Today I did the unthinkable, the almost unimaginable… nothing at all.  I just be’d.

I have a client in San Juan, Puerto Rico, so I’m “required” to visit 4 or 5 times a year. I know, I know… poor me. I flew in a day early early this trip to spend some precious time with my dear friends: ocean, beach, and sun. And they did not disappoint.

I had an agenda for the day:  get up early, spend time on my yoga mat (travel mat given to me by my dear sister, Jess– great gift!!!), meditate, go to CVS and pick up some nice-to-haves, go to the beach, read a book, get my steps in, prepare for meetings, maybe visit the beach again, find a fab place for dinner (AKA explore the city)… gogogo, dodododo, seeseesee.

My day went another direction.

I woke up at 7:30 to a room full of beautiful sunshine (the best way to be greeted by the day as far as I’m concerned– black out curtains be damned) and I popped out of bed.  At home, my two beautiful golden retrievers seem to sense when I wake up even if I try to trick them by keeping my eyes closed, and they demand to go out side immediately.  So out of habit, I woke up and jumped up, but the only urgent pressing matter was morning breath.  So I brushed my teeth, surveyed the situation and decided that the best next step… was to jump right back in bed.  Ahhhhh, what a treat!  Waves crashing, comfy pillows surrounding, dozing in and out of fascinating dreams with absolutely no pressure to be anywhere, do anything or please anybody… paradise!

Needle across the record, I get a text from my colleague who is joining me as the technical subject matter expert for client meetings on Monday– her uncle passed away last night and she THINKS she’ll be able to make the trip, but still working through the funeral details so it’s iffy.  Yikes!  These meetings will be rough without her, but of course I encourage her to do what she and her family needs her to do– I can handle the meetings this week by myself if I need to.  I resist the urge to worry and ban anxiety from the realm of possibility.  I’ll have faith that it will all work out.

So now I’m up, and eager to take advantage of every beach moment possible.  I jump into the shower, but skip the hair straightening torture that I’ve inflicted… well since my hair came back after the first round of chemo.  Before I got sick it was thick and curly, but it was a little shy in it’s return so the wave’s lost their conviction and it looked more mousey and frizzy than “done”, so I tried to blow and curl it into a style. But today, I let it be free.  Just jumped out of the shower, fluffed it up a little, put it in a pony tail.  Lathered up on the sunscreen in the room.  Bathing suit, sun dress, favorite flip flops, sun hat– check check, check, check!  Good to go.  I stopped in the gift shop and picked up a diet pepsi and a bottle of water, stopped at the towel cabin and stocked up– and I was off to the beach.  The lovely gentleman at the gate got me a front row lounge chair and an umbrella.

I plopped by butt down and raised my eyes up to the shoreline… heaven!  Beautiful blue skies, turquoise water, waves crashing gently on the shore, sun shining, breeze blowing softly but relentlessly.  I took a deep breath, and then another and tried to soak it all in. I could almost feel my blood merging with the salt water and the ions in the salt air melding with my breath.

Some people like this scenery, I am in love with it.  This is my happy place, my sacred space.  It is here that I connect with the enormity of the universe (uncountable grains of sand, a far away horizon where the vast ocean meets a vast sky– but doesn’t really, waves that no human or machine can control) , and the intensity of its’ spirit– grandiose gentleness matched by magnificent power… something to be loved, cherished and very well respected.  It is here where I connect best with God, The Universe, A Higher Power, The Greater Good, Love.

I watched the waves and wondered where they began and where they ended.  What gave them the strength to carry on and what made them decide to end.  I watched them tease and torment people— providing equal opportunities for all people to brave the initial chill, break through the first curls, get jostled and up ended, and then find that place where they could bob and weave in harmony with the big water.  I watched the waves carry people in to shore and graciously deposit them back on the sand.

I watched the people.  I marveled at their bravery as it takes courage for anyone to prance around nearly naked as beaches require and admired those who seemed to embrace the freedom.  I envied the couples and the families with young children.  I envied the old folks who were still holding hands.  I wondered about the young couple next to me who barely spoke and barely touched– were they fighting or unhappy or just loved in a different way than I was used to.  I watched men literally frolic in the waves and saw women get their sexy on as sun tanned skin and water induced confidence ensued.  And then there was the love of families– playful, joyful wave splashing, sand castle building, boogey boarding, giggling F-U-N! WOW!

I breathed in the moist sea air and absolutely relished the warm feel of the sun on my skin and the breeze against my face.

I felt like I SHOULD be doing something more.  Exercising, reading, exploring, learning…

But I did not.

I didn’t want to leave this space physically, mentally, or spiritually.

So I didn’t.

I sat.

I walked.

I sat.

I walked.

Involuntary sighs throughout the day let me know that this was the right path for me today.  I was letting something go and taking something in and it wasn’t important for me to define exactly what.

I didn’t listen to music, I didn’t watch TV, I didn’t read a book or a magazine, I didn’t talk to my neighbors, I didn’t even bother to eat.  I didn’t go.  I didn’t see.  I didn’t do.

I just be’d.

I thought about old lovers and lusters and decided that they had all fed my soul and broken my heart and I was thankful for the the gifts I’d gotten from each one and hoped that I had been able to offer them something in return.

I wondered about the parent I’ve been to Taylor and questioned my choices… 14 years of private schools over fat IRAs, consensus and faith over strict discipline (as he pointed out, I was lucky to get him as a son),  making life as easy as I could for him over making him earn his way.  I did my best to  support him in being him (since he has seemed to have a pretty clear determination of who that was since the day he was born) rather than try to mold him into someone or dictate who he should be or how should get there.  I hoped I made more good choices than bad ones and did well on the ones that really mattered.  I hoped he knew how much I tried and I hoped he forgave me for the mistakes and the bad choices I made along the way.  I thought about his next steps– graduation, first big job, his wedding (how is he possibly going to choose a best man and his list of groomsman is going to be huge because the guy has a million friends!  What a bachelor party he’ll have!  Oh please God let his wife like me and vice versa! And most of all I hope they are good to each other.  I didn’t even question whether he’d find someone who would adore him– he’s easy to love.)  I wished he was sitting in the beach chair next to me, but I was proud that he was playing today in an alumna game at the boarding school in New Hampshire he was bold and brave enough to attend for 2 years and where he made faculty and student friends who will be part of his life for many years.

I pondered my 50th birthday (still some years away).  What do I want to accomplish before then  What will I be doing then? How do I want to celebrate (maybe Turks and Cacaos???)

I was aware of the songs that played in my head– Ed Sheeran and Keith Urban mostly (who knows why?).  Do most people have music playing in their head most of the time? And then one of my favorites started– I will always love you– at first it was the Whitney Houston version, and Dolly joined in… and then I wondered what it would have been like if Elvis (wanted to cover the song, but they couldn’t agree on terms) had made it a trio.

I played back scenes and lines from Collateral Beauty which I saw for the first time yesterday on the flight in.  Time. Love. Death.  Universal themes.  Loved it. Favorite line related to the birth of a child: “I realized I wasn’t feeling love, I had become love.”  I totally relate…

I relished the moments and savored the feeding of my soul.

I was grateful for the opportunity to hear myself think and to feel myself breathe.

What a gift.

Ahhhhh…..

I highly recommend that you too engage in a day of vigorously and shamelessly BEING.

 

XO

CB

 

Yoga: a metaphor for life

Grace-full living isn’t always easy or natural.  Sometimes it requires focus, flexibility, conscious effort, and the willingness to let go of being right, of being sure, and of being comfortable.  And it always requires the commitment to be positive, actively look for good and expect the best.

I went to yoga class tonight.  7:15pm slot as I worked a little late and walked the dogs.  Mike (not his real name) was teaching.  The theme of class was “yoga practice as a metaphor for life”: the way you deal with your shit on the mat is the way you deal with your shit in life.    This week my shit is frustration– mostly at work.  Just before I left for the studio I got an email from my colleague, Gayle (not her real name) that made me grind my teeth.  I decided oohhmmmming was better than replying. So I went to my mat.

I got my favorite spot in the corner of the studio, laid out my mat, block, strap, water, and towel– I have a routine.

And so we began.

Child’s pose.

Deep breaths.

Focusing on an intention.

Some cat/ cows.

And then high plank… and hold it… and Hold it… and Hold It…. and HOLD IT– I’m getting frustrated!

When I push back to downward facing dog for a break, he chides the urge to rest.  I take it personally.

I rock back to high plank… and hold it… and hold it… I’m really irritated now.

He finally calls us out to downward dog and I rebel.  I come out of the poses all together– take a sip of water, fluff my hair– not typical yoga protocol.  I grudgingly join back in.  He goes too fast, I lag behind.  He goes too slow, I roll my eyes.  He says arms up and I keep them low.

He’s not the boss of me.

His tempo/ verbiage/ tone don’t resonate with me.  Is he doing this on purpose?  Am I the only one that is uncomfortable?  Is he calling me out specifically?

That email from Gayle… what the deuce?  Who does she think she is?  Is she questioning my competence?  Is she telling me how to do my job?  She’s never done my job and wouldn’t be able to!

Ohhhh.. the light is starting to flicker.

This isn’t personal.  Mike is teaching his class, Gayle is doing her job.  Neither of them are attacking me– in fact both are trying to help me, even if the style doesn’t resonate, the intention is positive without  a doubt. I don’t have to embrace their input/ suggestions, but it might not be bad to at least try them on and see if they fit.

I don’t have to push back or be defensive, I can just bring my hands to heart center and breathe.

I can acknowledge their wisdom and success and my own at the same time– even if we have different perspectives. I can honor them and believe that they honor me.

Most importantly I can appreciate their effort and contribution to the greater good of our community and myself and the fact that I am truly better because of each one of them.

I gave Mike a heartfelt thanks for class tonight which I meant, but I’ll choose other teachers when that is an option (which is ironic since I’ve now written a blog post about how impactful his class was for me).  And I sent an appreciative email response to Gayle agreeing with her assessment, explaining my point of view and asking for her to explain the context of her request– which she did immediately and I found very helpful.

So my lesson for today is about perspective.  Standing on the balcony and observing your own gifts and challenges, looking at a situation through the eyes of another, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and assuming everyone has the best of intentions brings a totally different outcome than if you assume that there are people put on this earth for the sole purpose of pissing you off or making you feel small.

Namaste my friends, Namaste.