community Tag

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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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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paying forward and getting so much back

I just returned from this amazing LeaderSurf program in Nicaragua where I learned a ton and was able to give back and share the blue lollipop Strong Mojo magic:

Blue Lollipop Road in Nicaragua

As I arrived home and plugged in, I discovered that Team Awesome (I just made that up) who includes my family, some alumni friends, and other perfect strangers from my hometown have been rocking and rolling with plans & construction on our community donation project for the 6th Annual BLR Play It Forward to be revealed on Saturday July 8th:

BLR construction project

People coming together, spending time doing good things for, or in honor of others feels incredible. My heart could explode!

I am 1,000 times more determined than ever to keep educating myself on everything I can, do work I’m passionate about, and to help lead others to do the same. This above is the stuff a full life is made of my friends! I am so thankful, inspired, and motivated by all this collaboration right now…happiness!

How are you sharing things that fire you up today?

#ServantLeadership #FollowYourPassion #RememberCelebrateLive

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the pivot of the strong mojo

Today is Monday which is technically a work day for all of us adults, but it also happens to be one of those work days I have done very little to make actual money. As much as money is a necessary thing, I realize once again on days like this, there is absolutely nothing that could ever make me feel richer than the time I have with all the amazing people in my life, and doing work that makes me proud. I’ve spent my entire day on a project that has meant more to me over the past several years, than I could ever put into words. A few photos from our 2016 summer event:

BLR Play It Forward 2016

BLR Play It Forward 2016

BLR Play It Forward 2016

BLR Play It Forward 2016

BLR Play It Forward 2016

BLR Play It Forward 2016

The original idea for BLR Play It Forward, was to have a travel scholarship that would be gifted each year during our alumni reunion event, to a deserving soccer playing student at my hometown high school in support of them participating in either a language exchange program, a Gap Year, or an adventure travel trip for personal development. The first few years we had great luck with finding deserving students and programs. I don’t think there are a lack of those anywhere. The adults are the problem. (Always:) Let’s just say after this amazing force of nature we created, happening year after year, with all it’s amazingness, we found out that if there are hundreds of people yelling, YEAH! over here, and one or two people pretending they don’t see you over there, you’re better off barking up the tree that wants to actually participate.

So this means a shift for our annual Play It Forward give back.

Starting this year instead of attempting to partner with the school, we are partnering with the community as a whole and we have plans for a VERY exciting gift that will be a permanent fixture in town. All is in the works and will be a big surprise revealed on event day, July 8th.

The point of this post is to say, when you find what you really love, that thing you feel in every ounce of your bones that means so much to so many people, don’t ever give up. The student travel scholarship portion of my perfect dream for BLR Play It Forward worked for a few years at first, and we have incredibly impressive students who were recipients. Raheema is one of them and she’s pictured above. I’m hugging her in the photo at the registration table last summer. She is now a college athlete and we could not be more proud! We’ve watched her grow up and become every bit of the awesome we knew she would be. Now my perfect dream has shifted for this event and where raised funds go, and that’s Ok. The most important goals will always remain the same. There will always be Strong Mojo. No one could ever stop that.

I hope you will mark your calendars for the weekend of July 7th, and join us in Southern Vermont for this weekend of all things old friends and neighbors coming together, with all the new people in our lives, too. We are an all-inclusive kind of crowd, because love rules on this Blue Lollipop Road. Everyone is welcome!

Here’s to the indefinable essence of something magical coming together. 

#RememeberCelebrateLive #PlayForwardGiveBack #DoGood

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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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community support = awesome

What a happy surprise to arrive at my office today from the Bank Of Bennington!

Scholarship Donations

One of our alumni friends works for Bank Of Bennington, and now for 2 years in a row, they’ve matched her donation to the Blue Lollipop Road Memorial Scholarship fund. Now that’s what I call awesome! I dig companies who do good.

Thanks Bank Of Bennington! Your support helps give students the opportunity to travel and see a world they might not otherwise have the chance to.

#Community #DoGood #PlayItForward

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