Strong Mojo

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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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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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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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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get your give on

Hello, Monday!

Today is May 9th. This means exactly 2 months until our 5th Annual BLR Play It Forward Event & BLR Memorial Travel Scholarship award, July 9 2016 weekend. (FIVE years!)

We’ve been doing good on our Remember, Celebrate, Live promise since 2012 and couldn’t be more proud. We love playing forward to give back.

Inspired by us? Well thank you…but we wouldn’t be able to do it without YOU! So how do you get involved?

1.) If you’re MAU Women’s Soccer Alumni, you can register here for just a $35 donation to play in the game, Saturday July 9th at Willow Park in Bennington, VT. 100% of registration fees go to the scholarship fund.

2.) Get an event shirt for yourself or your kiddos here. Shirts come in blue and pink, youth and adult sizes.  Just 20 buckaroos donation! 100% of that loot goes straight to the scholarship fund.

3.) Rally your friends, family, neighbors, former teachers, coaches, strangers on the street, or anyone else you like, to come join/hang out/socialize for our Friday night (July 8th) open Welcome Back Party, and Saturday day and night (July 9th) Alumni game, scholarship announcement, and Celebration Cocktails.

4.) Sponsor! We’d love any sponsorships, and promise if you do, we will give shout-outs and love on all print & social media, along with on the BLR website here and more. (We’d especially like to to find a jersey & t-shirt sponsor this year to cover that huge cost. Please call 804.339.6514 or Diane(@)BlueLollipopRoad.com if you’d like to sponsor.)

5.) Donate! 100% of all donations go straight to the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Travel Scholarship Fund. This fund supports deserving high school students to travel and do community service work. (Wha?! Yep, students doing good while getting a chance to see outside their everyday world. Exposure! Service! Character building! Building a badass next generation! Super awesomeness:)

If you’re a regular reader or BLR follower, you obviously know this Blue Lollipop Road is my life, my passion, my everything, and Play It Forward is by far the work I’m most proud of. I can’t do it alone, so I present a challenge to you readers who I know and strangers I don’t:

Donate $5 now! 

I figure $5  for 5 years of playing forward so we can give back is not too much to ask. Everyone can afford 5 big ones. Won’t you support what we are doing? Click here to donate through PayPal, it is secure, easy, (and dare I say, fun?), or send a check made payable to:
Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship Fund
PO Box 34661
Charlotte, NC 28234

…or

…simply pass this post on! My Christmas wish is that some one, some where, some day, who’s big time, will notice what we are doing and say “Hey! You are spectacular BLR Play It Forward! Here’s some ginormous media and/or a million bucks for your scholarship fund! What you’re doing with your event & scholarship fund is like…totally awesome!”

(Hey- it could happen. It WILL happen.)

So won’t you send some love and spread the love? Oh how important it is, to…

Remember where you came from.

Celebrate the memories and time you have have together.

Live like today is the day.

BLR Play It Forward

BLR Play It Forward

BLR Play It Forward

BLR Play It Forward

BLR Play It Forward

Image

Boom-chicka-boom!

Together we can do so much good.

#RememberCelebrateLive #GetInspired #TodayIsTheDay

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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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lucky me to have held this hand

This weekend brings a sad ending, but inspiration for new beginnings, too. I have so much to write and share here, about a very special person. This is just a preview…

Sam was my boyfriend years ago. I saved this photo, through many iPhoto edit sessions when clearing my computer, even though we never stayed in touch after we parted ways. I never knew if I would ever talk to Sam again even though I stayed in touch with some of his close friends. I never knew if he and I would reconnect in any way, but this photo always made me smile so I never deleted it:

Sam Shelby

Boy am I glad I kept this. I will cherish this photo forever. I’ve had a Sam Shelby blog post brewing for months now, and it will come, very soon.

It’s beyond surreal that I will attend a service for this man on Sunday. Lung cancer is a nasty, nasty, bitch. It took this super healthy, non-smoking, happy-go-lucky person who we all loved so much- out of nowhere, and so quickly.

It is so hard not to curse and hate this world, sometimes.

Please, as soon as you read this, go hug, and get all love-y, up on anyone you think is amazing and tell them what they mean to you. Love hard, don’t be afraid to speak up and say whatever’s on your mind, and take a chance on anything. Let Sam’s sweet, big smile, be your inspiration.

#YallRelax #MojoWarrior #ThankYouSam

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