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celebrating with my girls

Tonight I’m having dinner with some of my home base gal pals. A few of my besties/girl tribe/bishes/(insert whatever ridiculous or funny name you call your peeps here.) These are ladies in my life who make up just a small portion of badass women who know my crap, call me out when I need it, and who make me laugh until both my face and stomach hurt. I like to refer to some of our antics as complete jackassery, but really our gatherings are pretty tame; food, drink, and conversation about any and everything- no judgments, secrets, or bs, just love, support, and fun, while lots of hours fly by.

Lucky me to have these people.

We will be celebrating my birthday a week late, because last Tuesday (on my actual birthday), I was playing around at Glacier National Park:

Glacier National Park

That trip was a gift from another set of ladies who mean the world to me, my BLR Play It Forward alumni crew. They gifted me a “travel scholarship” at our annual event in July. These ladies thanked me for providing travel scholarships to students in our home town during our first 5 events, and this was their give back to me. In reality, they are the very reason I’ve been able to pull off making Play It Forward a thing all these years.

Lucky me to have these people.

More girls? These two, who are the backbone and continued inspiration for everything Blue Lollipop Road:

Maria and blue tongue

(Yes, that would be a blue lollipop tongue:)

Brandy suited up

August 18th marked 23 years of them gone. It still doesn’t seem possible.

Lucky me to have had time I did with them, even if it was far too short.

Yet another girl bestie (can a girl really have too many besties? I don’t think so. Is it permissible to use the term “bestie” for your gal pals when you’re 39 years old? I think so), this one:

Sweet Katie

Sweet Katie

Today would be her 39th birthday, too. I wrote this on one of the days in this life where a piece of my heart forever broke.

Lucky me to have had time I did with her, even if it was far too short.

I will celebrate tonight with and for girls I can, and cannot see. I will celebrate tomorrow the same. (And with guys too!) I will continue to celebrate everyday. I will never apologize for laughing too loud, having too much fun. I won’t be worried about telling someone I love them, even if there are a lot of “them” (as in, people- that probably includes many of you reading this), because life is only so long, and the one thing I know for sure is that there’s no reason to wait…or to be afraid.

I hope you will raise a glass of any kind tonight, too with/for yourself, or with the good people around you, celebrating the luck in every healthy minute you have.

Cheers!

#RespectTheClock #TodayIsTheDay #HopToIt

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get out in it

I’m on the last leg of a long birthday weekend adventure. Delta was my flight brand this go around, and I’m pleased to share I’ve had an atypical flying experience this time; a pleasant one! The past few years have been met with a lot of bizarre rude humans and all too often, not so smiley airline staff, but all the Delta employees during my there and now almost back trek have been above and beyond friendly, helpful, and actually seem like they love their jobs.

Yahoo!

I saw this commercial on my way out west:

Click here for video link. 

Delta Commercial

I high-fived with the sweet cowboy sitting next to me after seeing it. We agreed it’s a fantastic ad.

…because the ones who truly change the world, are the ones who can’t wait to get out in it.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been big on that whole waiting thing.

What are you waiting for?

#WakeUp #StepOutside #HopToIt

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when your mom gets you

In pops this on my phone from the amazing, selfless woman who gave me life:

Adventure travel

…along with “I saw this the other day and thought of you!” and a globe, airplane, and heart emoticon.

My Mother is so cute, and such a nerd. (See where I get it from?) I love that lady so much! The best is, she continues to encourage me to be exactly who I am and go for anything and everything I want.

I’m currently in Charleston at the beach on a client project that has been a big one and kept me all consumed the past few weeks and far away from computer and writing time. Oh my do I have some exciting things to share! BLR Play It Forward event news, upcoming travels, and a story of a random encounter with a person last night that totally blew my mind.

More than any other time in my life, this summer has proved to me 10 times over that if we stay open and authentic, spend time doing what we love, and share our experience and knowledge, the doors of opportunity will fly open.

When you take a step towards life, the universe responds.

I’m off to be dangerous. Won’t you join me?

#LifeOutsideTheDroneZone #Adventure #NeverStopExploring

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p(L)aying forward feels so good

It’s Thursday July 13th now, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around what an incredibly powerful BLR Play It Forward weekend we had just a few days ago. It is always the most bittersweet day of my year.

I will have a full post coming soon with some of my favorite images, but in the meantime here are a couple that show what community and coming together to do something good looks like:

All hands in. BLR Play It Forward 2017

BLR Play It Forward Community Kick Wall Gift

Being a part of something bigger than myself that means something to so many people is by a landslide the best work I have ever done. Love, joy, and time together to celebrate memories is the most I could ever ask for in this life, and I’ve been lucky enough to experience that for 6 years in a row now. This is my team. The rest of the people who support us were all there too, just a few feet away. I’m always so honored to be in such wonderful company.

Thank you.

#RememberCelebrateLive #StrongMojo #PlayForwardGiveBack

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still hearing laughter

I’m currently sitting in my travel office for this week; the counter at the Blue Benn Diner:

Blue Benn Diner

Blue Benn Diner

I can’t get enough of this place when I’m in my hometown for BLR Play It Forward week each summer, even though I miss my coffee buddy so much.

I arrived in Vermont late Sunday night, and have spent the last few days reconnecting with some of my favorite people, and putting the final touches on plans for our 6th annual event that kicks off on Friday night. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at how ridiculously gorgeous this place I grew up in, is:

Vermont Views

Mount Anthony - Bennington Battle Monument

That’s view of Mount Anthony and the Bennington Battle Monument above. I took this photo from the town park where we will reveal our community give back surprise on Saturday. To say I’m excited and proud is an understatement. I’m trying my best to keep things under wraps as we complete all parts and pieces, but I really want to shout from the green mountain tops about the all the good heart and effort so many people have put, into making this special gift happen. I know the families of our girls will love it.

Today this article was published in the Bennington Banner.

REMEMBER. CELEBRATE. LIVE.

It’s so important to remember where we came from, no matter how far we might go from “home.” Giving back is key. Celebrating each day, and the happy memories we have, honors those we might not be able to see in person anymore. Living, realizing today is the day, to go, be, see, and do, is how we respect the clock that doesn’t stop.

Much of this life is so bittersweet. As we carry our bruised hearts around each day, I hope the voices of laughter that remain will always inspire us to keep arms wide open.

#AlwaysLookingUp #PlayItForward #RespectTheClock

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good thing I had sunscreen on

I just spent the better part of 2 hours on a pier in the blazing sun talking to a dad (I’m guessing this guy was 60-ish) about his college-aged daughters, and travel. I was waiting to get on a boat for a cruise on the river where I’m staying and the boat was having some issues, so as we patiently stood there, we started the typical friendly conversation about the gorgeous weather and scenery.

York River Pier

(I took this photo last night looking back at some of the cottages from halfway down the pier right before sunset.)

Our chat quickly launched into who I was connected to here, and how long this friend (who invited me), and I have known each other. (I’m the only non-family member, mixed among generations upon generations of people who’ve come together in this 24 cottage community for 4th of July weekend for the past 90 years.) We talked about where I was from and that lead to me sharing I’m on a road trip north for Play It Forward. I mentioned that I love being on the water and that I just got back from a leadership development program where I learned how to surf. After excitedly telling him about my Nicaragua time like a kid telling her friend about a favorite toy she just got for Christmas, he shared that his older daughter is currently in NYC at an internship for photography and she loves to travel, too. This adorable proud dad told me all about his two girls who both started school in one place, decided they didn’t fit, moved to spots that fit better, started focusing more on what they’re each truly passionate about, and now seem to be well on their way, much happier in their lives.

Yeah!

There were about 50 people at the pier all around us, eating, drinking, swimming, socializing, getting on boats…the total summer scene. This man and I were so engrossed in this conversation, there could’ve been a fireworks display overhead and neither of us would’ve picked up our heads. He sweetly bragged details about his hard working kids, we collectively agreed that we wished travel was seen as more an investment in oneself, and I thanked him for being the kind of parent that would encourage and support his offspring to chase the things that light them up.

If you’re a parent reading this and you have a child (of any age) who feels a burn enough to speak up and tell you they’re not happy in their current school, life, whatever (even though they might think they’ll be an incredible disappointment to you)…please listen. Be the cheerleader along the way as they change what’s not working. Make sure they know you’ll love them even if they quit and start again 100 times, as long as they promise to always speak and live their truth.

Thanks, Mom!

#Travel #GoForIt #ConversationsFromTheRoad

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a road trip is brewing…

I’m about to shout “Vermont or Bust!” and do what I love more than anything in the summer; ROAD TRIP!

I will get to see these little smiling nugget faces:

Blue Lollipop Tongues

Blue Lollipop Tongues

…who are actually not so little anymore, I will get to hug my family & lots of friends, I will get to have long relaxing mornings at my favorite breakfast diner and most importantly, I will get to give back to the people and the place that have given so much to me.

I hope you will join me with all your windows down, too, celebrating everyday you have in the sunshine over the next couple of weeks. Watch for lots of good stories from the road, coming soon!

#TheBlueLollipopProject #Travel #PlayForwardGiveBack

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let my people go surfing

A week ago yesterday, I woke up in warm, peaceful, palm tree riddled Nicaragua:

Nicaragua Palm Trees

It was glorious. That day was my travel home day from a leadership development program I participated in called LeaderSurf. By the time planes, trains, and automobiles got me to my place in Charlotte around midnight and I opened my windows and balcony door, the city had shut down, and all was quiet and dark. Late night Sunday night transition was lucky timing for me as I was already feeling overwhelmed by the ding, ding, dings on my phone after choosing to be unplugged for 10 days. I woke up Monday morning to get my run in and was met on the streets with screeching, honking, red-light running cars…and before it was even 7:30AM. This morning was exactly the same. Cement city, a mad dash rush before the business day even started, and drivers looking fired up. (I’m not sure this fired up meant anything excited or happy about where they were going, either.)

You could say I miss the Nica Life.

Back to my stint in learning paradise:

LeaderSurf is based on experiential learning. It focuses on enhancing leadership capability by taking business leaders out of their comfort zones to teach them more about themselves. My time in Nicaragua and in this program was one of the best times in my adult life. I learned a ton:

Business Challenge

That’s me presenting my business challenge looking very serious. Being in the hot seat isn’t easy! OK, that’s a fib, because this is where the hot seat is:

Tiki Classroom

Tiki Classroom

…now that’s what I call a classroom!

Founder Brian, the Buena Onda Resort staff, and the surf instructors were all wonderful hosts and teachers:

Buena Onda Staff

Brian LeaderSurf

LeaderSurf Instructors

Surf Lessons

…the views were gorgeous:

Mag Rock

Buena Onda Resort

Buena Onda Resort

Buena Onda Resort

Buena Onda Resort

Nicaragua Sunset

…and I had a total blast, surfing, and wiping out:

Surfing Nicaragua

Surfing Nicaragua

Surfing Nicaragua

This one is my oh my god I just learned how to surf and I have no idea how to control this board yet, so please don’t make me run into my new friend, look:

Surfing Nicaragua

Later in the day we were both so excited we were up we didn’t realize we were heading right towards each other until the last second. Abandon ship!

Surfing Nicaragua

We didn’t event come close to hitting each other, but our faces?! No matter how many times I look at some of our group photos I cannot stop laughing. Donald, the photographer who was with us all week really knows how to capture a moment.

Surfing NicaraguaSurfing Nicaragua

Best? We got to give back:

LeaderSurf Community Project

The community we visited doesn’t have a source of clean drinking water. We brought 16 water filtration systems that we helped show these community members how to use. One of the filters can provide 100 gallons of clean drinking water per day:

Community Project: LeaderSurf

LeaderSurf Community Project

I won’t ever look at or drink a glass of water the same again. Here’s a portion of an email I wrote to my fellow LeaderSurfers the morning after I got home:

Late last night after getting back, the last thing I unpacked was my backpack and in the very last pocket I found the tiny round piece of a bucket that one of you had taken out to install one of the water filtration systems and handed to me on the community project day. That piece now has a home on my desk. Right after I found that piece I poured myself a glass of water out of the refrigerator on my way to bed and had an unexpected moment seeing that clean water flow out so easily. I will never forget it. After that I couldn’t sleep all night. Needless to say, lots more perspective than I ever imagined after this trip. I am so incredibly thankful!

LeaderSurf Community Project

2 days after getting back, I had a meeting at a local brewery. I swear when I saw this on the wall behind the bar, the world went silent for a minute and my jaw dropped to the floor as if I had never laid eyes on anything like it before:

Water on Tap

A water tap. Bottomless. Just hanging out, free-flowing, clear, and safe, for all to enjoy. I’ve been to that brewery before, but had never noticed this. Oh how eyes are so much more wide open after traveling to a new place that doesn’t have the everyday amenities I do.

We all brought school supplies for the kids:LeaderSurf Community Project

One of my most favorite parts, was handing out blue lollipops. It was like sharing a piece of myself. To me they always represent a small moment of magic. Smiles all around:

Giving blue lollipops

LeaderSurf Community Project

Wish I/we could’ve done more? Yes. Motivated to give and appreciate now more than ever. Yes. Living even more consciously than I was before? Absolutely.

I made what I hope will be some lifelong friendships with the other participants.

Sunset Reflections

When you have an adventure like this and all cards go on the table, the playing field equals. It’s the perfect way to step outside yourself and let others in. There’s an instant perspective shift that happens that’s like a new window to every part of your life. It’s as if you bond in an instant with the people around you even if they were perfect strangers the day before. You realize (especially in the silent moments alone) that the world is so much bigger than you ever imagined:

Great learning environment

Sunset Reflections

Sunset Reflections

Our Sunset Reflection times were in a beautiful spot for us to share what we learned each day. It felt so good to actually be IN the moments. I’m so glad I committed to going unplugged. I need to do that more!

Coming right off this LeaderSurf program and into my 6th annual Play It Forward event is like riding this totally indescribable wave (no pun intended) of positive energy. A serious force to be reckoned with! The passion I had before, coupled with the buckets of life and work lessons I learned during my week surfing, will help me be a better leader moving forward. I feel like I already am!

In case it’s not completely obvious, I’m a huge fan of LeaderSurf. The experience I had goes unmatched. I wish there were more programs out there like it, I’d be signing up left and right! Maybe I’ll have to create my own?! (Wink.)

Staying active and challenging yourself to anything outside of the environment you’re used to, is the fastest route to your truth. Be open to alternative ways of learning. Be vulnerable. Encourage the people around you to do things that light them on fire. Stay on fire yourself. Share. Be selfless. Always try new things, and never stop having fun…even when you’re working!

#ExperientialLearning #LifeOutsideTheDroneZone #ServantLeadership

*If you don’t recognize the reference in my title, it’s to this this great book I’d recommend to anyone. Here’s the Author Yvon Chouinard on NPR‘s How I Built This, too. So good!

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smiling this big right now

Aspen BLR

(This was taken on a trip to Aspen in October. Ahhh…nature!)

I’ve gotten a bunch of texts today as my Team Awesome is up in Vermont continuing to prep and build our surprise community give back gift for Play It Forward. (We will reveal the surprise 2 weeks from today at 2PM, at Willow Park in Bennington. Join us!) I’m bummed I can’t be there to help, but I’m so proud to be in such great company of people who have come together to create this gift.

Meanwhile, back at the work ranch when I was getting messages about the project in my hometown, I got a notification from a former client who tagged me in a recommendation to someone that’s feeling stuck and needs help:

“Diane was a godsend to help my husband and I work through some stuff in our bedroom before a renovation. Not only is she the least judgmental person on the planet, but she has extensive experience working with people who are emotionally attached to their stuff (ahem, my husband and I weren’t her first clients to need her services and we won’t be her last = you are in good company.) Do not feel embarrassed at all, reaching out for this assistance will seriously take a weight off your back.” 

This combo has completely made my day! This entire week has been an overwhelming positive inundation of happiness. Spending my time doing things that I love and having those things result in helping others and doing good? My face hurts from smiling.

I hope this inspires you to keep doing all the things that mean something to you.

 #Share #GiveBack #LessStuffMoreFreedomHappyLife
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my bluebird of happiness

In the fall of 2011, Honda sponsored a road trip for me. Honda fans voted on where to send me on my Blue Lollipop Road adventure and fortunately that included all east coast spots. That made it easy on me to pick up the car I got to drive in New Jersey, and also put me close to all things Northeast where I had an excuse to see some family and friends. I hadn’t seen this girl in years, but as soon as I dropped in out of nowhere, she was thrilled to host me in New Hampshire:

Play It Forward 2015

Lucky me.

(This photo was taken at BLR Play It Forward 2015.)

I remember sitting in Kate Emma’s living room after kids and hubby were in bed, talking about our friends and past memories of good times in high school. She made a suggestion that we should have a reunion soccer game, and that I host it. Neither of us had any idea what all of this would become next, but that one night of conversation would end up turning into something so much bigger and more powerful than we would ever imagine. Now here we are, about to kick off our 6th Annual BLR Play It Forward event.

As soon as I arrived back in Chicago (where I lived at the time) from my Honda trip, I got to work putting together this alumni soccer game idea, added in some community social events, and a travel scholarship fund. I keep in touch with a lot of people, but for whatever reason I had barely any connections to, or communication with old soccer friends at that time, and I sure as heck didn’t know how to go about starting a scholarship fund. This was one of those times when social media came in very handy. Finding alumni around the world I’d either never met or hadn’t talked to in years would’ve been nearly impossible otherwise.

I remember sitting in my apartment in Old Town on the 23rd floor right above Second City for HOURS and DAYS planning, planning, planning, and not coming up for air during the fall and winter of 2011/2012. I was clueless on all of it but I had never felt so sure about anything in my life, so I just kept calling, asking, messaging, and asking more, and I knew it would all work.

August 18th, 2012 was our first event, and it was by far the most incredible and bittersweet day of my life. I’ve never been able to put into words what that day felt like. All I know is it was this beautiful blur of celebration perfection for these two people who brought so much joy to the world. I’ve never felt sun on my face since, as warmly as I did at that moment we released those blue balloons in the sky after the game:

Balloons in the sky

Everyday since then, I always look up at the sky and clouds in a different way, reflecting on how lucky I am to have time with people who bring so much love and laughter to my life.

Two weeks from today will kick off our event once again. As I thought about writing this post when I woke up this morning, I remembered the hours I’d spend sitting at my desk planning this big dream we had. For those few months it was like everything else in the world disappeared and I was totally in my flow, completely present to what made me tick in every way. I would go to the gym downstairs in the morning for my booty shaking class, and straight back up to my apartment throwing my sweaty clothes in the laundry and wrapping myself in this beach towel I had that I often wore before hopping in the shower so I could send a quick email or make a quick call, etc. I cannot count the amount of times I’d look down at 9PM to find myself still wrapped in that towel, filthy and starving still sitting at my desk. I would jump up looking at the clock, grab a quick shower and fly out the door of my building to the Chipotle downstairs for a burrito before they locked the doors at 10PM.

Full circle:

Guess where I went this morning? Guess where I’m sitting right now? Guess how much time has passed today and I haven’t noticed because writing about Play It Forward and working on the last bit of push for this year is so my jam that hours fly by? Guess what I am wearing? Guess who still hasn’t taken a shower, and guess where I could run downstairs right now if I needed something to eat? Yes; booty shaking class, my desk, a lot, that same towel (Ok, maybe that’s gross, but I have washed it a lot so I don’t care:), me, and Chipotle. I’m just in a different city and it’s 6+ years later.

What does this mean to me? Everything. When you find that thing, that “place” where you could be hungry, tired, and the world could be swirling in chaos around you, and you wouldn’t even notice because you’re doing something that feeds your soul to the core, THAT is being inspired. It’s the power of Strong Mojo. I think that continuing to do that thing/those things throughout your life is key.

Play It Forward 2012:

Play It Forward 2012

Play It Forward 2012

2013:

Play It Forward 2013

Play It Forward 2013

2014:

Play It Forward 2014

Play It Forward 2014

2015:

Play It Forward 2015

Play It Forward 2015

and 2016:

Play It Forward

Play It Forward

…have been beyond special. I’ve experienced that people will show up when you stay inspired, believe in something bigger than yourself, and continue to share it. THE FIELD OF DREAMS IS REAL. Play It Forward is not me. It’s US. It’s the indefinable essence of magic when everything comes together perfectly. It is remembering where you came from, celebrating the memories you have, and living like today is the day.

I’m so lucky to have had such selfless support, help, and love, so I’m able to host this weekend each year. It would be absolutely impossible without all of you, so if you are reading this, thank you. We honor our friends in the best way possible by continuing to come together, and never taking a single day for granted.

Please join us July 7th & 8th!

Keep celebrating.

#RememberCelebrateLive #StrongMojo #AlwaysLookingUp

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