Browsing the thickly laden shelves of a Northampton bookstore, I sucked in the aroma of freshly printed works by people who could be my friends. My pal Lara had shared one of her favorites with me the day before at her Lincoln, MA home. It was there that I recalled the treasured moments of sitting in the sun, reading, uninterrupted and carefree. Other than vacation, I rarely read a book just because. And I remembered how good it felt.

“There it is!” I nearly shouted, drawing my voice to a theaterical whisper. It was the same book my friend had loaned me for the day. I promptly bought it, then devoured its pages, morsel by morsel.

Barbara Kingsolver, best known for her novels, penned a book entitled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life in which she and her family took on a year-long experiment to eat only locally produced food products. Other than olive oil and a few select items, they lived off the land…and long enough to tell us about it.

I’m only part way through (life and its pressing demands have since taken over), but I wanted to share the importance of the Earth, its soil and the oil we use unwittingly, nay passively, when consuming goods grown halfway around the globe.

Barbara goes into a lot of detail in the beginning, capturing the reader’s interest with statistics and sustaining it with sultry writing. I can read anything, if written well.

Barbara’s is one for the bookshelves in my own home. It shares recipes anyone can try out (even for a disabled cook as myself!) as well as the trials and tribulations of an Appalachian family that embraced Slow food, one root, fruit and lettuce leaf at a time. I highly recommend it!

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Life is not a plan. It’s a journey.

This is something my mom knows well. So it was fitting that, as we journeyed NYC-bound on the Acela Express, we would soon learn not only people can travel, but things can, too.

You see my mom lives in the belief that life is a God trip; God only knows where you’ll end up. As we zipped up the East Coast toward Manhattan, I helped her set up her blog, aptly named Life is a God Trip to celebrate her philosophy in an online space. Snapping a photo of her, I wanted to capture her joy. But little did I know that that photo would be the key to the camera itself.

We got settled in our hotel room, had a nice meal and retired early as we knew the next day would be long. Up at dawn, we breakfasted, then took a taxi to the harbor for a boat tour of Lower Manhattan. It was then that I realized my beloved camera, the holder of so many memories during my mammoth five-state five-week trip, was gone.

I should have known the camera had its own ideas. It had slipped from my lap and into my bag on the train. Little did I know it was practicing its escape!

Later that day, I half-heartedly asked the hotel security if they had seen the camera. They had not. Saddened, but steeped in my God trip knowledge, I sensed the camera had decided to take its own journey.

And so it had.

Yesterday a woman left a comment on my mom’s blog, explaining she lived in Venezuela and that her mother had found a hot pink camera in a NYC taxi. She scanned the pictures to find a clue as to the owner’s identity. That’s when she came upon my mom’s photo of joy in front of her newly birthed blog. She must have read the URL, then matched her picture to the one on the camera. She was writing to ask for the address so that she may return it on her trip to Florida, where my own God trip in April began.

No, my friends. Life is not a plan. It is indeed a journey, one of joy and grace and miracles.

For this I am forever grateful. Thank you, Alexandra, of Venezuela. Your kindness will live on in all that I do.

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Celebrating Time

May 23, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Image via Wikipedia

No other time of the year is quite as remarkable as your birthday. It’s the anniversary of your coming into full being on the planet. If that’s not reason to celebrate!

The best part is when others are joyful and congratulate you for another year as the person you are. And that’s pretty darn special.

The truth is birthdays wouldn’t be possible without a team of people making sure you make it here.

And so to my mom, my dad, my sisters, the doctors and nurses on staff (not to mention the people who made sure the place was clean), I say thank you. Because without you, things wouldn’t quite have worked out as they did.

Life, from beginning to end, is a team effort.

Here’s one for the team. Thank you all for making my birthday (yesterday) a most incredibly special one. I was overwhelemd with the number of people on Facebook alone who took the time to wish me well.

Blessings to you all!

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Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

A visit to the mobile phone store taught me a lesson or two about what happens when you don’t know the questions to ask.

After purchasing an iPhone, I was told I couldn’t change my two-year contract for another month in order to add the Internet option so I surfed the Internet via my home-based WiFi, with inpunity, or so I thought.

Until I got the bill two months later (I was in the US for one of them). It was then that reality hit. My mobile phone company was charging me for what they thought was data transmitted by their system, which it wasn’t. And when I confronted them, they blamed the Apple store, that mecca of cool, for not telling me.

It’s a classic case of the consumer paying for service providers’ lack of intelligence; or, put bluntly, my not knowing the right questions to ask. As in, “How can I surf without said phone company claiming money for work they had not done?”

You’d think one wouldn’t have to pose such a question, but today, it’s cover your butt at all costs or everyone in the fluorescent-lighted store will stare unblinkingly at you.

The truth is our hand-held devices may offer us a lot of freedom, but they also sacrifice our privacy. The phone company knows whether I’m using their system or not, but because the phone was not set on ‘airplane modus’, they could happily claim I had. And don’t get me started on the whole ‘iPhones-have-GPS-and-therefore-Big-Brother-knows-where-you-are-always” shtick.

Puzzling.

Have you, in your work life, wished you’d known the right questions to ask before you started something? It seems to be the lesson of the month for me. It’s not how much you know, but whether you know to ask the right questions before it’s too late.

Or too expensive, for that matter.

PS  Here’s a great article to avoid my mistake!

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Clear email inboxes are like post-partum when you rediscover that you really do have toes! Are you with me on this?

It was bound to happen. As you know, I’m a recovering speedaholic and there are days when I fall off the wagon and do something too quickly. In our 24/7 world, we often feel the crush of the rush. It’s as if a little black cloud nestled above our right shoulder is whispering our doom if we don’t hurry up and finish. Hurry up and react. Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!

But our inner tortoise says, “Hey, you! Slow down and breathe….”

So I sent out a notice on behalf of a client, then got an astonished response from them that I sent it already. It was supposed to go out tomorrow. They had hastily read their e-mail from me confirming the release date and agreed on Wednesday, although they were thinking Thursday.  But Thursday to me, who travelled 1,000 miles in the last  four weeks, meant last Thursday. And I thought I was late.

Turns out I was a day too early.

In the PR world, that’s heady stuff if you send out an announcement before it’s time. Like grounds for dismissal forever.

And whilst the black cloud to my right was telling me to hurry, my sweet and wise turtle was plodding unnoticed to my left.

But then the air cleared once the client admitted confusion and we all made up. In record time.

Instantaneousness can lead to heartache. That hasty e-mail sent without thought, the fierce text message dashed off without care, the flaming Facebook rant for all eyes to see.

We live in a transparent, harried world. My dear slow, I love you so. If I ever leave you again, you have my permission to give me a nudge.

Slowly, of course!

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…there’s a way!” That’s what Willow Drinkwater grew up believing. Tasked with a fundraising effort that she thought nearly impossible, she set about to raise funds for a new library. Collect $300,000 in three motnhs? In her sleepy, yet tony town outside Charlottesville, VA?

Absolutely.

Not only was she (and her team) able to raise the funds, they also motivated Bill Gates to donate the computers that now grace the roomy 6,000 square foot building.

“It was about intention,” says Willow. “We put up a thermometer and our small town saw what had to be done, then did it. Gordonsville is the little town that could!”

Stretching beyond her perceived limits is something Willow is used to doing. She has the ability to motivate people, which, in turn, motivates her to keep going. Life has thrown many curve balls her way, and she has risen up to meet every challenge…and in most cases, she’s managed to have fun along the way.

Hers is an amazing story of endurance and grace. What better way to end The Daily Stretch than with her story? She’s a role model for many. And you know what else? She’s my mom!

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