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happy monday!

In case you’re feeling bummed about the weekend being over:

Blue Lollipop Kids

…let these blue lollipop eating twinsie nuggets make you smile.

I love the continued flow of photos like these that fill my inbox. Thank you to all who send them. Keep ’em coming!

#DontLetMondayRuinYourSunday #CelebrateEveryday #BlueLollipopTribe

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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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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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remember, celebrate, live

I’ve always been known as the “energetic” one. That “Boy if you could bottle that energy and sell it, you’d be a millionaire!” gal. That friend that “we just can’t keep up with.” I don’t feel like a freak of nature, but sometimes I have to remind myself that in fact I’m not, when I hear the constant barrage of:

“I’d love to hang out, but I know you can stay up all night.”

“Good lord, where did you come from? How do you have all that energy?!”

“I’m sure YOU don’t need sleep, but I do.” 

Can’t a girl just be herself? It’s tough not to get a little insulted over here, when these “compliments” are regularly hurled at me. I have some very disappointing news:

I don’t stay up all night, I’m from a tiny town in Vermont, not space, I cannot explain how I have the energy I do (Mom, can you tell the people?), I actually need sleep like you, and no, I’m not a unicorn, Ewok, or other worldly being. I have shitty days. For instance, the other day I cried during a meeting with my accountant at Panera (yes, as in Panera Bread, in public), and it had nothing to do with finding out I’m not a billionaire. I already knew that and I don’t care. If you really want to know where the tears came from call me, (804.339.6514) I’ll share anything.

In an effort to solve the energy mystery right here, right now, after much reflection, I have come up this:

I CHOOSE TO CELEBRATE, PEOPLE. I AM JUST FREAKING CELEBRATING THAT I AM ALIVE.

Put that in your I’d rather stay miserable and quiet about it pipe and smoke it.

We’ve all been beaten into a life happens pulp. Do we need to recap on that again? So what do we do about it? Stay in the drone zone, or wrap our wounds with whatever we’ve got left, own and accept our crap, and drag our asses out of bed everyday in the never ending search for those few last tiny beautiful things that are left?

I refuse to wait for a weekend or big event to wear my sassy shoes:

Sassy Shoes

(This photo was taken on a Tuesday after stopping into my friends office to have coffee. I think that’s all I got dressed for that day.)

…I don’t say no to invitations to road trip to beautiful places with good friends:

Amelia Island

…I don’t save treats for only special occasions:

Dessert With Dom

…I always play like a kid and jump for joy at sunset:

Sunset Jumps

…and while things are often better shared with good company, (and oh my do I love a lot of humans!) If it’s 86 degrees on a random Tuesday in March like this week, I’m not afraid to sit outside at a picnic table to enjoy an after work beer in the warm and sunshine, alone:

Beer at a picnic table

I don’t have too much energy. I JUST ALLOW MYSELF TO BE ALIVE BECAUSE I AM, and I fully plan to continue celebrating the bleep out of this life while I have it.

I’ve never asked anyone to be like me and I would never dare. You do you, dudes and gals, quiet, loud, whatever you are…I accept all of you! You’re always invited to my party over here, but if this sparkly blue lollipop is “too much” for you, please walk on. I’m only interested in those fellow tribe members who might roll their eyes or shake and scratch their heads a little, but simultaneously are thrilled about getting smothered in glittery, energetic, life-celebrating love as we run down this steep, wondrous, rocky road together.

I’m off to my Friday morning dance party. I’ll see you and Beyonce in the soul train line…

#ShineBright #TodayIsTheDay #LessMiseryMoreLaughsHappyLife

*(This post is dedicated to everyone in my tribe (I LOVE YOU GUYS, you know who you are, but particularly Maria, Brandy, Leslie, Katie, Sam, Joe, and Grapa. I will forever be inspired to keep smiling and dancing because of you.)*

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get a life! (outside.)

Bright and early this morning and just after writing this last night, I heard something VERY disturbing as I was grabbing a coffee. The TV was on in this public place with me paying no attention until my ears caught a designer on a home show who was being interviewed; “The average American spends 23 hours a day inside…”

Twenty three hours out of twenty four a day, INSIDE?!

What are we doing to ourselves, people?!

This fact is almost as disturbing as a couple others I’ve learned, such as the average American home built in 2016 was something close to 4,000 square feet, and there are an average of 300,000 items in American homes.

I’m about to cry over here.

Holy mother lode guys and gals, these facts and figures are so NOT cool. Are you in Target right now? The mall? Hiding at home with all the windows closed? Please take your hands off the cart, hanger, or remote, and walk outside for a minute. Do me a favor and think of why you are in Target, at the mall, or on your couch. Do you actually need what you’re shopping for? Do you have any bills you could pay where your money could be more effectively used rather than that “I can never seem to get out of Target for less than $200” that I hear all the time? Are you just bored?

Please put me out of business! Remember we declared together (by that I mean I’m pretending like you all agreed) that 2017 is THE YEAR OF LESS CRAP? How about now we add that this year can be the year of more fresh air? The year of more adventure out of four walls with your bestie exploring a new neighborhood, more time to kick the ball around at the park with your kid, extra hours losing yourself on a road trip alone, more fun gettin’ frisky under a tree at the top of a mountain with your shmoopster….oh the possibilities!

Here’s a teeny sampling of my past few months:

In the Mountains

Aspen

Red Rock

Palm Trees

Red Rocks

Colorado

Spain sky

Lake Sunset

I don’t know about you, but this girl sure isn’t staying inside for a minute longer than she ever has to.

Consumerism and isolation are forceful breeding grounds for fear, hate, obesity, misery and all those other things that sound just awful, sad, and not fun.

Life is WAY TOO SHORT to be awful, sad, and not fun…don’tcha think? Yahoo! The bell just rang for recess! It’s time for all of us to go play. Get up, open the doors, walk outside, hug a tree, a person, or both, and find a little more health and happiness on this crazy ride.

#LessStuffMoreFreedomHappyLife #MoveIt #TheGreatOutdoors

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BLR PLAY IT FORWARD 2016 KICKS OFF TONIGHT!

Here we go year #5!

Doing good feels good with all the bad and sad news in the world. Tonight we will kick off our 5th Annual event starting at 7pm at Ramunto’s with our Welcome Back Party:

BLR Play It Forward 2016

Ramunto’s will donate 10% of all sales from anyone joining us, back to the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Travel Scholarship Fund! Come one and all for craft beer, wine, great pizza, lots of specials and fun! 7pm until ?

Tomorrow we will award scholarship funds, play some soccer, the kiddos will do a fun run at halftime of the game, and we will have Celebration Cocktails to wrap the weekend at Pangaea Lounge. Pangaea will also donate 10% of all sales from anyone who joins to the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship Fund. They’ve whipped up a special menu of BLR inspired craft cocktails, too. Yum…

ALL ARE WELCOME FOR EVERYTHING! Bring yourself, your lover, your friends, your dog, your kiddo’s, your former coach, neighbor, grandparents, and whoever else you can think of. THIS IS A COMMUNITY EVENT. (Rain or shine!)

Three cheers for the Bennington Banner and writer Adam Samrov who put out this article about our event, today. Thank you, Adam!

Want to get involved, donate/sponsor, or have a question? Great! See event info. here, or call/email Diane:

804.339.6514

Diane(@)BlueLollipopRoad.com

See you this weekend!

#RememberCelebrateLive #StrongMojo #PlayForwardGiveBack

 

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blr play it forward 2016 kicks off one month from today!

What happens at Play It Forward, you ask?

All awesome things like friends, families, and neighbors, coming together (new and old), lots of socializing fun, honoring people we love who are no longer with us, and gifting scholarship dollars to deserving high school students to help support their travel goals. Doing good and p(L)aying forward to give back, makes everyone smile:

BLR Play It Forward 2015 Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 11.23.12 AM

We are all hands in for our community kind of gals! So what’s in the hopper for this year? Well check out our event poster:

BLR Play It Forward 2016

…and mark your calendars to join us!

If you can’t join us in some way for this great weekend in Vermont, maybe think about what really matters to you, and make your own community give back wherever you are. Our Play It Forward theme; Remember. Celebrate. Live:

*Remember where you came from

*Celebrate the memories you have

*Live like today is the day

Pretty good rules to live by, right?

Let’s all go and put some more love into the world by being Strong Mojo Warriors. Here we go, year 5!

#RemembercelebrateLive #PlayForwardGiveBack #Community

*(A shout out and huge thanks here to Nicole Sauer for her great photos from our 2015 event, and Tracy Bushee-Boudreau for her continued fabulous logo and poster designs each year!)*

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things that fill my heart

Today is March 9, 2016 and that means it is exactly 4 months until the 5th Annual BLR Play It Forward Event in Vermont.

WHOOP! 5TH ANNUAL! 

In 2011 when we (a couple of my amazing alumni soccer soul sisters from back in the day) came up with the idea for an alumni soccer game which then turned into a full-scale community event and scholarship fund, I spent months in my Old Town Chicago apartment, floor 23 overlooking The Second City entrance, in my pajamas trying to figure out how to make it all happen. I remember some days I’d go to the gym for an 8 or 9am class, come back home all sweaty and yucky, wrap myself in a towel intending on getting in the shower, and start working only to find it to be 8 or 9pm and myself sitting there, 12 hours later stinky, starving, and still working. It’s kind of amazing how time flies when you’re in your zone working on something you’re so incredibly passionate about. I’d eventually shower, and often times take the elevator downstairs to Chipolte (which was in the same building as The Second City across the street), get a veggie burrito, sometimes a beer and by 10pm be eating my one meal of the day on my couch in quiet. Rinse and repeat this is how those few spring months of 2012 went before our first big event happened on August 18, 2012.

Check this out! I just found a photo of my little desk area in that great high rise apartment I had:

BLR work space

Small work space that cranked out some dreams. I can’t even remember what I used for a chair! Not fancy. It didn’t matter. Boy those are good memories. This scene is where Play It Forward was born. To this day, my best work and what I am most proud of.

I’ve got buckets of photos from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 – but I will share just one from each year for space sake for today.

2012, balloon release in honor of our friends to kick off the inaugural event:

BLR Play It Forward 2012

All hands in before game, 2013:

BLR Play It Forward 2013

The Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship award, 2014:

Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship

Me and “Mr. B” last summer, 2015 – one of our most loyal fans and supporters, cheering us on each year in his same white t-shirt:

Mr. B and I

(That sweet guy was my 6th grade teacher!)

There’s no way I could share here, all the photos and words I have that would illustrate properly the amazing impact we make. This day is so special you have to be there to believe it. (I hope whoever you are reading this, you will join us this summer in some kind of capacity!)

On July 9, 2016 we will once again come together to reconnect, reminisce, play soccer, cry together, laugh together, and give back. I already know it will as usual, be my favorite day of the year. A bittersweet day in this “brutiful” life, where nothing else matters other than coming together to remember, celebrate, and live.

What do you do, to make sure you never forget where you came from?

#RememberCelebrateLive #PlayForwardGiveBack #StrongMojo

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playing it forward with forever friends

Here we are a week after BLR Play It Forward 2015 weekend. Thinking about our time together makes me smile. As I work on page updates, stories about what happened during our event, get photos from our photographer, etc. I wanted to share this one:

Good old friends

This is one of the only 2 photos I managed to get during our alumni game time. Things were so busy it was a blur, but I had to grab my friend Kate Emma right after the game while we were nice and sweaty to get a quick shot. Kate Emma suggested the idea of an alumni game when I saw her for the first time in years during the fall of 2011. I’m so glad she did. I took that idea and ran, and now 4 years later (with a lot of help from people like her to make it all happen), we have this amazing annual event that’s done so much to bring our hometown community together. People like Kate Emma mean the world to me. The ones you grow up with know you, they get you, and they love you in a way like no other friends. There’s a unique bond with old pals like Kate Emma that never go away even if our lives run in hundreds of different directions. I feel pretty darn lucky to have such a large core group of hometown ladies who support and love me so much.

Thank you Kate Emma, and to all of my girlfriends from MAU for helping to make my Vermont time each summer so special.

More Play It Forward 2015 wrap coming soon!

#Community #PlayForwardGiveBack #StrongMojoForever

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