Archive for ‘Friendships’

March 9, 2013

My Evening Walk to Austria

It was routine. Time to put the chickens to bed and let the dogs out one last time for the day, but when I reached the bottom of the stairs I stepped right into another time and another part of the world. Suddenly, I was in Graz, Austria twenty years ago.

Wearing just a sweatshirt I anticipated getting chilled. Instead the air was damp, but not cold, in fact it was warm for a winter evening. Fog hung low in the air, gently hugging my arms as it tried to touch the ground. The snow beneath my feet wasn’t squeaky or crunchy as it has been the rest of the winter, instead it provided a silent, gentle cushion as I walked. The scent of a neighboring wood fire kissed my nose.

By the time I reached the coop I had relived memories I didn’t know still existed. I’d waited for the train in Jakominiplatz, I’d walked my daily route from the bus to my host family’s house looking up to the foothills of the Alps. I’d spent evenings hanging out with friends in some of my favorite pubs and took relaxing walks home. My heart filled with fondness and a sense of peacefulness washed over me. Paralyzed, I stood and smiled.

They say once you leave, you can never truly go home, but the weather tonight triggered memories of my home away from home. A place in time and in my heart that will never change. To go back today would be different. I wouldn’t be twenty one, in college on a new adventure. I would already know what great friends my travel companions would become. My host family would still welcome me, but things have changed there too. My host sisters are all grown up with lives of their own. And while the city of Graz is several hundreds of years old, I’m sure it is different today than it was twenty years ago.

So tonight, when I walked back to Austria, I was happy. Happy to see great friends to share laughter and tears and sleeping cars with as we traveled. I was happy to have my nine and twelve year old host sisters try to teach me to ski while I failed miserably. I was happy to drink coffee with my host father and learn about Austrian politics. I was happy to laugh hysterically with my host mother as she clarified my misunderstandings as she taught me the Styrian dialect over her homemade apple strudel.

And as I looked off at the silhouette of the trees in the distance, the light struggling to make its way through the fog, everything was just as I’d remembered it.

Then I turned, whispered “good night” to the girls as I closed the coop door and made my way back to the house. I paused one last moment to say goodbye and then headed back inside to 2013.



February 15, 2013


20130215-151356.jpgFive Minute Friday. Writing to write not worrying if it’s right.


beloved are our families, our friends, our pets. hopefully our things aren’t as beloved as them.
i hold in my heart the love of so many, to love, to be loved, beloved.

so important, it is, to let them know. to share the feelings, let them out and let them go.

so often i’m busy, so much can distract me, that out of the corner of my eye i nearly miss the affection. my child looking up, the gaze from my spouse, my mother’s warm voice, my father’s heart in his eyes. my four-legged babies with their eyes all adoring, tails wagging, awaiting the love they deserve. the soft rub and meow. even the girls with their clucks. life is so precious and love is so much.

but sometimes i forget to say what i feel. the reality is that often i go about my day, rushing here, running there, always failing to say. my have tos and my need tos seem to get in the way of letting my beloved feel what i feel.

today my heart is full, i feel like the grinch with his make-over. my heart is nearly bursting, like water balloons in the summer.

beloved are my friends with whom i’ve lost touch and i yearn for the day, that we bond again, just us.

for my beloved are many and i feel oh, so blessed. so fortunate, so lucky to touch and be touched.

to all of my friends and my family and critters, if you’re reading this now take a moment to feel, whether you are near or you’re far, whether we’ve just spoken or not. i think of you often, probably more than you think. just in case you wonder or ponder or doubt, i’ll forever hold you near and dear to my heart. for if you’re my in my circle, if i call you a friend, i love you, my beloved, forever.

the end


Five Minute Friday

November 2, 2012

End of The Challenge: Final Reflections, Life Lessons and New Habits Going Forward

The 8 Weeks to a Better You! Challenge ended this past Saturday, October 27th, but I have to say that I learned a lifetime of lessons on this challenge.

Last week, in Nearing The End of The Challenge: Lessons 1 & 2, I posted the first two lessons I learned:

Challenge Lesson 1: Live mindfully, but keep everything in perspective, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Challenge Lesson 2: Don’t take life so seriously.  (You can be happy, have fun and live mindfully!)

Then, in The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, I posted the next few lessons I learned:

Grow food! Eat Plants! Plants heal.

Not wanting to drag out the lessons forever, I thought I’d do a quick summary of the rest of the lessons I learned.  As a refresher, here are The Rules:

  1. Get at least 45 minutes of exercise per day.
  2. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  3. Drink 8 glasses of water per day
  4. No sugar, no white flour
  5. No soda, fast food, junk food
  6. Eat at least 2 fruits and 2 veggies per day
  7. No eating after 8pm
  8. Journal daily
  9. Read at least 15 minutes of scripture or uplifting reading each day
  10. Do at least one Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness or  each day

And, here’s what I learned:

  1. Exercise is my friend.  This challenge, I decided to take it easy on the exercise.  I have a tendency to push myself too hard, which usually means injury or burn-out.  When I was trying to figure out what I would do for exercise I knew I needed something I could sustain for eight weeks. I thought of the story The Turtle and The Hare.  I chose walking.  Ironically enough I’ve had two doctors tell me not to run, just walk, I actually listened.  I loved it, looked forward to it and missed it when I didn’t do it, just like a friend.
  2. Exercise in the morning.  I realized that if I don’t exercise in the morning, I usually won’t do it.  I learned that I love my morning walks, it wakes me up, fills my lungs with fresh air and lets me sort out my thoughts and plan my day.  When I’m done, my mind is clear and I feel good.
  3. Not enough sleep is not enough sleep.  With eight weeks to practice getting 7 hours of sleep, I paid close attention to what I felt like when I did get enough sleep and the days that I didn’t.  And now that I know what it feels like to get at least 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, I’ve learned that my patience, creativity, understanding and happiness depends greatly upon how much sleep I get.  If I don’t get enough I’ll be setting myself up for disaster the next day.
  4. Water is key.  I’ve always had a tough time drinking enough water in a day, or rather, tracking how much water I drink, but I used a few tricks this time.  I have a couple of 16 oz. “beer glasses” at home.  I realized that if I drink four of those in a day I’m done.  And the nice thing is, most restaurants serve water in the same glasses so whether I’m home or out and about I can still keep tabs on it.  The other trick, as crazy as it sounds, is that I like to sip hot water.  I grab a coffee mug and sip away just like I would a cup of coffee.  If I combine my pint glasses and a couple of cups of hot water throughout my day, I know I’m set.  Amazingly, I now rank hydration right up there with sleep.  Being hydrated makes me feel fresh and energized.  When I get enough water I’m not groggy, my skin looks full (for a lack of a better way to put it) and I feel good.
  5. Sugar and white flour are not your friend.  Oh, I know they are tempting, trust me.  Pre-challenge I had the sweetest of sweet tooths and love bread and pasta.  What I’ve learned though, is that when I eat white sugar and white flour I feel hallow.  I have cravings that don’t stop, but when I replace white sugar with honey, agave, etc. and replace white flour with whole grain flours or other grain flours I feel satisfied without cravings.  I feel in control.
  6. Soda, fast food and junk food are poison.  I know it sounds extreme.  Everyone knows that these things “aren’t healthy”, but we still eat them.  I focused a lot of my energy in the past 8 weeks on food and it’s downright appalling that most of the stuff on grocery store shelves is legal much less labeled as “food”.  Food is nourishment for your body.  The junk that fills the middle of our stores is not food, it does not nourish our bodies and in most cases we can go so far as to say they are toxic.  There is study after study that shows that this is the stuff that causes Diabetes, Cancer, Heart Disease, contributes to ADD, ADHD, the list goes on.  What’s sad is that so many of us trust that if we find it on our store shelves it is okay to eat.  Wrong.  Basically it’s there because it won’t kill you, today, but keep eating it day in and day out and you’re just running an experiment, waiting to see which disease you will get. We all have to do our due diligence to read labels.  If it has more than 5 ingredients, has “hydrogenated” anything, high-fructose corn syrup or ingredients you can’t pronounce, put it back!  If you happen to frequent fast food restaurants, do yourself  favor, go online and look up the nutritional information for the things you usually order, if they’re bad, find some alternates and circle them.  Keep them in your car so you aren’t tempted to order the bad stuff when you go there.  And please, skip the soda, especially diet.  Your body and bones will thank you.
  7. I love coffee in the morning. The Challenge eliminated coffee.  They lumped it in with soda, because of the caffeine, which I personally had issue with because there are so many bad things about soda and no redeeming qualities, but I’ve found more benefits than drawbacks to drinking coffee.  In any case I ditched coffee for about 6 of the 8 weeks, that is until I discovered a link to coffee having a calming effect with my personality type, the reverse effect that it has on most people.  Like anything though, too much of a good thing is… too much.  Going forward I’ll keep it to two cups a day.
  8. Fruits and veggies are miracle workers.  I mentioned in my previous post, The End of The Challenge: Why You Should Eat Less Meat and More Plants, why plants are good for us.  Go there, read the post, watch the movies listed in the post.  Not to sound dramatic, but it just might save your life.
  9. Vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.  As I navigated my way through food over the course of the past eight weeks, I started looking into a variety of diets.  Not diets in the sense of dieting, but diets in the sense of the way of eating.  When I realized I should be eating more plants, I naturally made my next stop at Vegetarian websites, cookbooks and magazines.  I found some great new recipes, have since subscribed to Vegetarian Times magazine but soon realized that “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy” like I thought it did.  The vegetarian diet still allows for junk food, processed foods and foods high in fat.  So while vegetarian can be better, I still need to make sure it’s healthy.
  10. Eating out is a challenge.  A couple of weeks ago I went out with a few girlfriends for dinner.  I had decided before we got there that I was going to look for the vegetarian items on the menu to make choosing my meal a little easier.  Sadly, other than a salad, my options were veggie flat-bread (which was really good) or cream cheese stuffed, deep-fried mushrooms.  Tasty?  Yes.  Healthy?  Not by a long-stretch.  Menus are gradually changing, restaurants are gradually adding more organic food and healthier options, but we still have a really long way to go.  Unfortunately, if we all keep ordering the other stuff, the owners and chefs think that’s what we want.  If we want change, we need to request healthier options both in restaurants and in grocery stores.
  11. 8pm has become the witching hour.  I realize until I did the challenge, how frequently I used to snack after 8pm.  Thankfully this challenge taught me to plan better.  I try to eat dinner a little earlier, leaving enough time to get a snack in by 8pm which tides me until bedtime.  If I find myself getting hungry after 8pm I drink a glass of water or simply head to bed (depending on the time).  I realized that often times I would eat when I was up too late.
  12. Journaling is cheaper than a therapist.  It’s amazing the healing effect that jotting your thoughts on paper can have.  Whether its daily frustrations, random thoughts, future plans or what have you, journaling can really help clear your mind so you can continue with your day.
  13. Take time to read scripture or something uplifting. So many people I know say they don’t have time to read.  I used to be one of those people too, but when I saw “15 minutes” in the rules I thought, “I can squeeze in 15 minutes.”  Some days it can feel impossible, but I found if I could squeeze it in the reward is so worth it and often it makes me want to read more.
  14. Random Acts of Kindness are addictive and contagious.  I love to see people smile.  And one of the easiest ways to make someone smile is to be kind to them, but sometimes we can do a million kind things and not even get a glance, or acknowledgement, much less a smile.  Sometimes people don’t respond the way we think they should and that’s okay.  To truly do an Act of Service or Random Act of Kindness it takes letting go of expectations.  Doing it just to do it.  Not for recognition, not for reward, not so we can run and tell someone that we did it or so we can get a pat on the back.  Simply doing it to be kind to someone else.  If we go into it in that manner it will feel good no matter what the response and that feeling is highly addictive.  And what’s better is that once you get in the habit of being kind for no reason at all, it becomes easier and easier to do it.  And I’ve found, that when you are kind to others, that kindness is returned, not from the same people necessarily, but from others, almost as though kindness is contagious.  It keeps spreading until it comes back to you.  Karma, I guess you might say.
  15. I choose friends over rules.  The bond of friendship is far more important than any rule we might put upon ourselves.  If I’m offered dessert, thoughtfully made by my Mother, or if a friend asks, on the spur of the moment, if I would like to join her for a cup of coffee at the local coffee shop when I’m not supposed to be drinking coffee, I’ll always answer, yes.

There you have it, eight weeks of life lessons packed into three blog posts.  Hopefully, despite their lengthiness, you found some value, some tidbit to brighten your day or something to make you think.

I wish you a thoughtful, joyful day packed with your own life lessons and healthy habits.



November 4, 2011


Maybe it’s the weather, that the energy around us is slowing, plants and trees are going dormant, birds are migrating to warmer climates, animals are going into hibernation.  Maybe it’s that the holiday season is quickly approaching and I am thinking about all the people who matter to me.  Maybe it’s that I’m about to hit another monumental number in my years on this planet and it has me looking back on where I’ve been, the journey I’ve taken so far and the path ahead.  Regardless of what the cause is, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately.

It seems that everyone’s lives have gotten so busy, my own included.  There are days, even weeks that pass by that I feel like I’m hanging on by just the tips of my fingers, praying the ride doesn’t go any faster and that my hands don’t get clammy because I don’t think I’ll be able to maintain my grip.  When times are like this, I tend to think about my friends.  I think about how I wish I could talk to them more, see them more, be a better friend.  But at the same time, I know I can only do so much right now and hopefully they know that even though I don’t talk to them as often as I would like, that they still matter to me just as much as the last time I saw them.

I’ve been thinking about what makes a friend a true friend, and what is it that makes someone, well, just not be?

Some of us were born with a keen sense of understanding others.  Sometimes it feels like a blessing, other times a curse.  That sense of understanding or intuition not only allows us to be compassionate and understanding of other people, but also gives us the ability to “see through” others for lack of a better way to put it.  It’s like having a secret decoder in your pocket at all times.  What’s really cool about it is that you can quickly get a sense of what is “going on” with other people and whether a person will be a good fit in your life or… “not so much”.

We’ve all met at least one person in life who only became friends with you because they felt they could “get something” from you.  You get a sense the first time you talk to them that they only have one reason for becoming your friend and guess what?  You’re not it.  I’ve had co-workers and even supervisors who pretended to become “friends” in order to get my input, share my ideas and help on projects, then turn around and take credit for all of it to make themselves look better. Ironically, our friendships faded when the projects were done, but obviously these people weren’t really friends.  And thankfully these people typically aren’t around for the long haul either.  They’re temporary.  They’ll get what they want and move on.  Eventually you’ll be “Un-Friended” on Facebook and the “Link” on LinkedIn will be broken. The good thing is, having that sense or intuition about people can be a true advantage.  It helps you find genuine people and helps you see the people who aren’t so genuine for who they really are. It also makes it kind of entertaining when you see through the others because without them knowing, they showed you their cards at the beginning of the game and you get to sit back and see how they play them.  Once the game is over they’ll cash in their chips, head to another table and never look back.   Thankfully, I’ve only run into a few of these people in my life and only just often enough to remind me how grateful I am for my true friends.

There’s a quote I often think of by Eleanor Roosevelt – “Many people will walk in an out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”   There are so many people who I’ve run across, bumped into, met in passing in my life that I haven’t even been able to remember their names.  There are people who I’ve met, who I would have liked to have gotten to know better but never really gotten the opportunity.  There are the people who I worked with, and become friends with, but once one or the other of us moved on, we’ve lost touch with one another because the only thing we had in common was work.  And then there are the friends that regardless of how often we talk, how long we talk, how infrequently we get together, I know they will always be there.  Those… are my beloved friends.  Those… are the people who have left footprints in my heart.  Those… are the people for whom I will be eternally grateful.

To my true friends,

I love you, appreciate you and you will always have a place in my heart.