BLR Play it Forward 2012

go get ’em, girls!

I feel like such a proud Mamma today.

Long ago I hired a mousey, quiet, seemingly timid college kid named Crystal to work for me. I saw something special in her I knew for sure most people missed. In the 10+ years since then, I’ve watched her do amazing work in the communities she’s lived in and grow into this strong, intelligent woman who knows exactly who she is. She’s this perfect mix of sweet, kind, and silly, but serious and driven too. One of those watch out, you’ll never see me coming in all my awesomeness, but I’m going to continue changing the world into more of a positive place kind of people. She posted something on Facebook this morning about her new adventures on the west coast and a new job she’s starting. She decided she wanted to move there, made a plan and just did it. No surprise she’s already “making it”- she believes in herself and goes for it. Love that girl and her spirit. It has been an honor to tell her potential employers over the years they’d be fools not to hire her because she’s the best.

I got an email today from one of my BLR Play It Forward year #1 scholarship winners, Raheema. She graduated in June and told me she was going to SUNY Cortland in the fall. She’ll be majoring in athletic training, and doing indoor & outdoor track. Though I’ve only seen her in person a couple times since 2012, I can sense how much she’s grown and I have no doubt she will do amazing things. According to my hometown Mount Anthony Union High School 2015 yearbook, she’s Most unforgettable:

Unforgettable Raheemah

I agree! Another person I’ve been lucky enough to come across who embodies that undeniable zest for life that always makes everyone she meets, smile.

Then there comes other BLR Memorial Scholarship winners Mercedes Chen & Jami Mathers who came bounding into Willow Park last month for our Alumni Soccer Game portion of BLR Play It Forward, 2015 – with big grins, words of thanks, and gifts for me from their trips they took with their earned scholarship funds:

BLR girls

Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend but a few seconds with them as I was running around trying to make sure to cover all my event organizer bases, but I could feel from their thanks, and see from their excited faces in the short time we had together- their lives are never going to be the same. They’ve seen new parts of the world and new parts of themselves. That was precisely my hope, my biggest goal and dream when starting the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Life gets crazy, It’s not always easy, there are good times and bad, and you wonder if you’re ever doing anything right. Then days like today happen and you truly feel the gift that it was indeed possible you made a positive difference in someones life. This is a beautiful feeling.

I’m so proud of these young ladies, so thankful to all the ladies in my life, (some still on this earth, and some in  other places), who’ve inspired and supported me always. I can’t wait to do more to give back for all that’s been given to me.

#Unforgettable #PlayForwardGiveBack #Believe

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live, uncut, and unfiltered; warn the children

Can I get a whoop whoop?! Tell-ya-like-it-is, soul-sister in not being afraid to throw eff-bombs when necessary, and Author of You are a Badass, Jen Sincero- linked to Blue Lollipop Road in her blog post yesterday!

Boom chicka BOOM!

Naturally I’m thrilled to potentially have some of her readers eyes here on BLR considering they’re probably total badasses, or soon-to-be total badasses after reading her book, but mostly todays linkage is awesome  because as I have always said (and Jen writes to this point in her book)- when you take a step towards life, the universe responds. (Translation; Do things you love, are good at, and that feel natural to you, because when you do, traction and movement just starts happening. Period.)

I wrote this blog post on January 19th, because I was genuinely pissed off at myself for not posting here regularly like I used to/not working on my book more, for wasting my time working with a ridiculous client over the past 6 months who was not worth my time or energy, and for being apprehensive about generally writing in the tone I most enjoy; my actual own voice! I’ve been skittish about really throwing my eff-bombs and uber opinions around like I used to, since starting the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship Fund and BLR Play It Forward in 2012: What if a parent of these girls applying for my scholarship read my blog posts that are often littered with cuss words and over-the-top-sass and thinks I’m crazy? 

As I read Jen’s book it was like she snapped her fingers in my face to wake me up from some kind of filtered trance that I had put myself in when I decided I wanted to launch Play It Forward. The do-gooder in me worried about community members and parents shunning their children away from “Crazy Diane who has that event and scholarship fund.” So I haven’t been living like my awesome badass self as much as I have wanted to, writing freely. (Blasphemy!)

So there I am a few weeks back, reading Jen’s words, getting all fired up thinking Bitch stole my book! I’m the one that get’s on my soap box spewing everything she’s talking about! She took the words out of my mouth! That’s how I usually write! Then I wrote that blog post, giving Jen props because hey- while I’ve been being all sissy and filtering my words, she was taking action actually writing her book, and well- the early bird gets the worm, baby. After writing my post I popped on over to good ol’ Facebook and put the link on Jen’s page with a “Thanks, Jen!” – and didn’t think another thing about it because I was busy focusing on kicking my ass back to myself. Meanwhile, in pops a response from Jen that she was going to share my link in her next blog post (yeah!) and here we are.

I did what was genuine and made me feel good by writing that blog post about Jen’s book, and the universe (Jen in this case) responded with some payback love.

Pretty awesome. That’s how it works!

I decided long, long ago to ride the badass train of living it up after losing 2 of my best friends who all of this Blue Lollipop Road awesomeness is dedicated to. I think I’ve managed to do a great job with that…most of time. As I look back at the past few years, I can see myself falling off that train here and there. Learning big time stuff about your adult self and leaving the younger you behind is no easy task, but now- especially after reading Jen’s book which made me feel like I was looking in a gargantuan mirror of my own words, I’m back to the game plan, laser focus, and reality that was burned into my brain back in 1994; there’s no time to be filtered or afraid. Life is too short for any of that crap. 

Today is February 11, 2015 and this day would have been my friend Maria’s 37th Birthday. Here we are in 6th grade before a big field trip, all badass like we owned the world. We didn’t care about a thing (including how ridiculous our hair or fanny packs looked) other than being happy, and feeling alive like we could conquer the world:

6th grade class trip

We were #1 for sure that day. Talk about dance like nobody’s watching. LOVE. THIS. PHOTO. The two of us were always uncut, unfiltered, and having a blast when we were together. That’s how I fully intend to live the rest of my years, inspired by people like my friend, who I wish more than anything, was here to celebrate with today.

Who inspires you to take your filter off?

#BadassBook #BeYou #Unfiltered

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HAPPY 5TH BIRTHDAY BLUE LOLLIPOP ROAD!

YIPPEE!!!

Today is Wednesday October 16, and this makes b-day number 5 for BLR. Let’s celebrate!

Cupcake anyone?!

She-Daisy Cupcakery Cupcake

This is the perfect time to write about the above de-lish treat (sun drop pound cake with a sun drop glaze and lemon buttercream) that Wendi, Owner of She Daisy Cupcakery gifted me a few weeks ago after she bought a pair of my vintage Frye boots. (Craigslist rocks.) So yeah, I took a treat from a stranger. (I seem to keep breaking all those rules our parents told us to live by.) Wendi was a blast to talk to. She quit a career that was blah, followed her passion to the land of things sweet- and voila a cupcake company! Another good story about a random encounter with a hard-working, inspiring person who followed their heart. I love being able to share about these kind of people here.

Without a doubt the best part of these past 5 years on the Blue Lollipop Road, has been meeting new people, the kindness of strangers, and spending time with those already in my life that I love. What else is there, really?

Ahhh- yes, the people I’ve met along the way, who share similar interests:

Million Mile Joe

Hood River, Oregon travel people

Allen & Judy Kirkwood on Alaska Ferry Boat

Meet Jack Burrows: Blue Lollipop Road

…the cities I’ve fallen in love with:

Chicago skyline from my apartment

Toronto view

…my various office locations:

Blue Benn Diner Office

Coffee Shop Office

Finger Lakes Office

My BLR Chicago Office

Coffee Shop Office

Coffee Shop Patio Office

…the food I’ve noshed on:

Chicago Brunch de-lish

Food truck tacos

Bongo Room Pancakes

Blue Benn Diner breakfast appetizer

…the places that’ve helped me find the way back to myself:

Thank you Argentina! I found myself again

…the signs that make me laugh:

Signs at The Chocolate Barn

Signs In Bathrooms

Upstate, NY Road Signs

Farmer's Market

Funny Signs: Blue Lollipop Road

Funny Signs: Blue Lollipop Road

…the excitement, energy, and adorable kids (and adults) who keep the Strong Mojo alive:

BLR Play It Forward Day 2012

Ben & Sam with blue tongues

The Carter Girls playing mini gold in BLR tees

Blue Lollipop Kids!

Caleb & Carter with blue tongues

Scott & Sierra love blue lollipops

…the adventure from coast to coast and beyond:

Cape Elizabeth, Maine

BLR-Mobile at the Alaska Border

BLR in Bermuda

The original Blue Lollipop Road: Cafayete, Argentina

Henna in India

Bermuda sights

Iquazu Falls, Argentina

London

"Crabbing" in Ketchikan, Alaska

…the lessons I’ve learned:

BLR inspiration

…the special friends I’ve reconnected with:

BLR Play It Forward Day 2012

BLR Play It Forward 2013

BLR PLay It Forward Day 2012

BLR PLay It Forward Celebration Cocktails 2013

…honoring lost friends by giving back to hometown female athletes, so they have the opportunity to go out and see a bigger world too:

BLR Memorial Scholarship recipients Hannah Patterson & Mercedes Chen

(Above left 2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson, and 2013 recipient Mercedes Chen at a recent soccer game:)

…events with good friends in beloved landmarks:

Cubs at Wrigley!

…the strangers out there who’re also on the Blue Lollipop Road:

BLR partners in crime

…the freedom I have found and felt:

Finding freedom on the Blue Lollipop Road

Finding freedom on the Blue Lollipop Road

…the truths I’ve come to know and trust:

Knowing what makes me richer

…the journeys and daydreaming in the sky:

Plane ride to Bermuda

…and on the road:

VA farm country

…the cheesy places I’ve been:

BLR-Mobile at South of the Border

…and the beautiful:

Napa hot air balloon mornings

…the nicknames I’ve acquired:

Nicknames

…knowing that there will always be bumps, so I better strap in tight:

Buckle up on the BLR

…never losing faith in things that I hope for:

I think so too

Things I wish

…and to wherever, and whatever- the road leads to next:

The Blue Lollipop Road

5 years ago today I drove down a road in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and “Blue Lollipop Road” popped ever so randomly into my head as I was brainstorming a best way to share my stories with more than just family and close friends. Who knew this is what it would become! I’ve managed all the above on a shoestring budget and with no plan whatsoever. I didn’t grow up with a trust fund, I never spent my childhood jet-setting the globe with my parents (I barely made it out of the state of Vermont until I was 15), I’ve never taken any writing or computer classes (I’m sure that is very obvious considering my regular grammatical errors and other:), and at the risk of sounding so cliche’- I’m just a small town wildly curious kid, that came from humble beginnings, learned in an heartbreaking incident at a very young age how short life is, and since then have decided that every day is a chance and a choice to live like I mean it. During my journeys on this Blue Lollipop Road, I’ve learned things that’ve absolutely changed my perspective and my life as a whole, I’ve seen places that’ve taken my breath away, and I’ve met people I wouldn’t have been able to in my wildest dreams- all because of this platform. Now that is something to celebrate!

I’ve written and shared here in and effort to keep myself in check and awake about what’s really important, to prevent myself from falling into the drone-zone, and to remember all the things that are possible. I hope by visiting here, you stay fired-up about life, like a kid in a candy store too.

Here’s to the next 5 years, and to going for it all.

What are you celebrating today?

#HappyBirthday #LifeOnTheBlueLollipopRoad #ThisIsWhatILove.

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this is what the blue lollipop road memorial scholarship does!

As you all know, I awarded the inaugural Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship last year. The scholarship fund was established in 2012 in honor of the spirit and zest for life embodied by two former Mount Anthony Union High School soccer players, Maria Greene and Brandy Brown, who were killed in a car accident in 1994. (My friends- the incredible girls BLR is dedicated to.) The mission of this scholarship is to encourage a commitment to maintaining an active lifestyle, and to support travel for education and self-empowerment. The scholarships were awarded to not one, but two deserving MAU soccer playing students last year because alumni and community members were so generous with donations! These scholarships were a one-time monetary gift, awarded to Hannah Patterson & Raheema Madanay for:

*Participating in a MAU student exchange program;

*Taking a “Gap” Year between graduation and post-secondary education; and/or

*Going on an adventure travel trip intended for personal growth.

Here are Hannah and Raheema below:

BLR Memorial scholarship winners Raheema Madanay and Hanna Patterson

Hannah has shared the story of what she used her scholarship funds for, along with some great photos below:

     Hi, my name is Hannah Patterson. Last year I won the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship with my fellow classmate Raheemah Madany. I used some of the money I won as part of the scholarship to travel to Nicaragua with the Rotary Interact club at my school. This is a service trip taken every two years to the Sister City of Bennington Vermont, Somotillo, Nicaragua. I spent nine days in 90+ weather with about 20 other high school students. During these days our group worked with the Social Commission of Somotillo to help the community in any way we could.
     This included going to a few local schools and working with the kids as well as handing out dental supplies, painting a church, planting over 100 shrubs at the only hospital in Somotillo, delivering over 65 suitcases full of medical supplies to the hospital, helping to build a roof for the newly constructed kitchen in the Mother’s and Infant’s Center, painting a mural at one of the schools and much more. 
     Although doing all of the projects was more gratifying than anything I have ever done before, for me the greatest experience was being able to interact with the people and become fully immersed in their culture. The people of Somotillo were some of the happiest people I had ever seen and it was truly inspiring to see that even without the material items of first world countries, they were much more content than many who live here. Every day local children would come to where we were staying and invited us to play soccer (in which they completely put us to shame), or to come be a part of their community. Whether that was eating in the houses of many different families, listening to music, watching cultural dances, or best of all playing games, they were always willing to show us their lives.
      As traveling is a big part of my life, I was intrigued by a saying that one of our guides shared with us. In essence, once we have experienced this we are now “perfectly ruined” in the sense that we can no longer ignore the poverty that consumes a majority of the world and even in our first world lives we can not ignore the struggles that others face throughout the world. This trip allowed me to experience another culture without so much of a tourist’s perspective, which I have not been able to do before now. Being immersed in the culture gave me a more complete understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world. I am grateful that I received this scholarship because it allowed me to further my passion for traveling and grow as a person. I am glad to say that I have been “perfectly ruined”.

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

2012 Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship recipient Hannah Patterson trip to Nicaragua

How inspiring and memorable are these photos? (And yay for some soccer playing fun too!) Love it all.

I’m so glad Hannah said she is now “perfectly ruined.” I felt the exact same way about myself as soon as I stepped off the plane in Germany during my 1994 student exchange trip. To this day my Mother always jokes that I “never came back the same.” She’s right. Once you jump out of your everyday surroundings, experience other cultures (in the US or abroad), and work side by side with people you’d never otherwise meet in your regular daily life- your eyes open to a bigger world than you ever knew existed and you grow in a way you can’t describe. It’s as if when you’re submersed in any “place” outside your comfort zone, you change in an instant and you’re inspired to do, be, and see more. Your confidence grows, you suddenly “get” what really matters, and a drive is born inside you to really live more each day. I took my trip abroad nearly 20 years before Hannah, but it sounds like she had the same type of rich, unforgettable, life altering time that I did too. I can’t wait to see what she does with her next 20 years. I have a feeling there will be wonderful things to come.

Thanks for sharing Hannah! I’m so proud of you. This is a fantastic example of why creating BLR Play It Forward and the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship Fund has meant so much to me. I truly believe that travel changes and enriches lives. I’m glad it has changed and enriched yours!

Thank you to all my fellow MAU alumni who paid registration fees to participate in BLR Play It Forward 2012 and to all the community members who generously donated to help fund this scholarship! Hannah’s story illustrates my dream coming true. It’s always been my goal with Blue Lollipop Road, to provide an avenue, an opportunity, for young people to see that there’s a whole big world out there- and that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. Your support made this happen! Together we can keep the next generation healthy, active in community, and traveling for education and self-empowerment. I can’t wait to award another scholarship this year on July 13th with all your support again, and to see where the next deserving MAU student adventures, to learn and grow..

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blr play it forward: part 1

Where to begin a post about a weekend that was so intense and special?

Planning for BLR Play It Forward started in September 2011 during a visit in NH with an old high school friend and fellow soccer alumni I hadn’t seen or spoken to in over 10 years. From her initial idea for a reunion soccer game, to executing our full-scale weekend long event in Vermont just 10 days ago, it all ended up being far beyond what I (we) had hoped for. I am more proud of what we created with BLR Play It Forward, than anything else I have ever done.

18 years and 10 days ago, I woke up to a day that devastated me like no other with the news 2 that my very good friends and soccer teammates had been killed in a car accident. My life changed forever in an instant and for every one of the 6,580 days I have woken up since, I’ve thought about 8/18/1994. That will never change. The loss of 2 people who represented pure joy, love, and fun to so many of us, delivered the most heartbreaking, yet greatest most cherished lesson I have ever learned- that people and time are the most precious gifts in this life.

To properly illustrate the impact or irreplaceable moments our big event made on me, the families of our lost friends, the alumni who were there, our coaches, and community members feels impossible. Such a striking pain on a day that reminds us of such loss, coupled with the overwhelming joy-filled moments of reconnection with the community we grew up in, and fully feeling the love and spirit of our two girls up in the clouds on one day all together- will likely leave my head in this humbled, thankful, daze for a long time to come. 8/18/12 was a day that will never be replaced.

I will do my best in my several-part posts here to properly share with you all about a weekend I will never forget. First and most importantly a thank you:

To the families of Maria and Brandy~

The fact that you came to share yourselves with us on the 18th day of August day is beyond anything we could thank you for. Your bravery and generosity are admirable. We were able to see again that the girls you raised came from places of pure authenticity and heart- this is how It was so easy to love them to this day like we do. I hope anytime your hearts feel empty with the pain of your loss, they will always fill right back up knowing how much we all live better because of your daughters. I am absolutely a better person than I ever could be, because of the time I got to spend with Maria and Brandy.

You accepted our wishes to create this event with 100% open arms after not seeing or speaking to most of us for nearly 18 years. That is a gift beyond anything I have ever received. I hope you all know that in every moment during and since our BLR Play It Forward Weekend, I have been inspired more than ever to keep living like I mean it. I promise to never stop. You should also know that the “space” that you were such a significant part of creating with us, has in turn made this open door for all of us (alumni) to share thoughts and feelings with each other that we never would’ve felt comfortable sharing had this event not happened. Please know that we all carry a piece of number 10 and 18 with us everyday, close to our hearts. The positive impact your blue lollipop eatin’ crazy fun, soccer loving daughters still have on every single one of us- is a light like no other. I thank you with every piece of my heart for making 2 people who will forever be my great example of pure happiness.

Blue balloons and Strong Mojo forever~

Blue balloons for our girls

Love, Diane.

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what’s the hold up?

It’s been a week since we kicked off BLR Play It Forward. I still feel like I am in a daze, a high, a whirlwind- one or all of those things.

Our weekend was this incredibly overwhelming mix of happy magical and heavy emotion. It was a thrill to connect and see old friends who I can still give physical hugs to, and a sadness remembering of 2 friends I can’t ever give physical hugs to again. This is why I am still in that daze-high-whirlwind. The biggest simultaneous high and low I have ever felt. Because of this, I haven’t yet felt ready to post here what I plan to; I am still taking it all in.

To you who are following here, I thank you. For you all who’ve supported me, BLR and our amazingly special event, I thank you. For all of you who’ve supported me in my adventures of the last 18 years, I thank you. For all of you who have been patient with me, I thank you.

Last weekend will never be replaced. You all (whether you were there or not) helped me pull off an event that I am more proud of than anything else I have ever done. I’m looking forward to sharing details when my daze-high-whirlwind calms…

 .

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what a weekend

I am still trying to wrap my head around how amazing this weekends BLR Play It Forward Event was. It was a truly magical time and I have never been so proud or felt so much love in my life. We are wrapping up event logistics, and getting ready to share photos, videos and more here so please stay tuned.

For now a thank you bigger than any thank you- to the families of Maria Greene and Brandy Brown, all the MAU Alumni, coaches, parents, friends, and community members. My heart is full and so grateful..

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