And so it begins again…

When I stopped running, I stopped blogging as much. I know, that sounds kind of ironic because you’d think with more time on my hands, some activity would increase. But it’s been a touchy subject in the cobwebs of my head. I’ve tried to distance myself from it because I thought what I used to know was over, and I had to move on. I know, that sounds dramatic but I have to give myself a hard truth to face sometimes, or I’ll convince myself otherwise. So back in April when I was hurting really bad, I took time off. I was trying to do it the right way, underwater running, other strength training, rest days, etc. I did it for the 8weeks, maybe even a little longer. And I eased back in and I was so slow, and it was so discouraging, but I was trying to just be grateful for the whole act of running itself. Then I ran a 5k on the Fourth of July. It was raining, and by that I mean it was more like hurricane conditions. They decided to do it untimed. I was like oh hey, I don’t care I won’t be competitive, but it’s impossible – it’s some innate quality that ignites when they scream “go!”

So, whatever, I thought I was back at it, slow as a turtle – but still moving. And then I started getting worse pains than before and I couldn’t really figure it out. It didn’t matter about stretching, or swimming, or rest days or what. I couldn’t get more than two tenths of a mile without having to turn around and walk (and wanting to cry.) So, lately I’ve just been trying to deal with that. Accept it for whatever it is, and think that maybe two-ish years of running started to take a toll on my body that was just now starting to appear? And I tried not to feel bitter towards the people trotting around the neighborhood, when Running Times showed up in my mailbox, when raceday photos appeared on my Instagram. And then something in me, one morning this week made me decide to just try again, lace up some different shoes and see how it went. Somehow I managed two miles, and the air was cool and breezy and it was so beautiful and perfect I wanted to scream with joy, after being so frustrated.

That’s where I am now. Just taking it one day at a time. And being infinitely grateful for every single run. Every step I take that doesn’t hurt. And I’m not exaggerating. I thought I’d be fine without it. But there’s something about that sport that has a strong hold on me. I can’t quit. I can’t let it go. I ordered new shoes, and I’m hoping that that might have been a factor, that my others needed to be retired. Before I had half marathons (like the Rock n Roll in Savannah) in my starry eyes, but now I’m just thankful for the recreational activity. Maybe one day I’ll go back to races.

I was thinking about it this morning. Tallahassee was graced with this incredible weather this weekend. Fall surely has arrived. The humidity has been low, the sun shining, a breeze in the air – just absolutely gorgeous. I forgot the mindset I get in with running, nothing else clears my head in quite the same way. (Like when I’m swimming? I’m concentrating on breathing and if I’m keeping a good form too much to be thinking about anything else.) Especially when it’s just me, an early morning, an empty neighborhood, clear skies, cool breeze, and some thoughts or dreams. I forget about the emotions, I access when I’m running. It’s like an inner layer pealed away that I leave covered up the rest of the time. Facing all my insides, ugly or not.  Anyway, maybe another day I’ll have to deal with it, but at least for right now I don’t have to because I don’t want to. I don’t know how yet to start over with something else. It’s an addiction, sure, but it’s the only good one I have. I guess I never realized how much it all became engrained in me. I need running for so many reasons. And sure, those PRs I reached, or finish lines I crossed brought a certain sense of accomplishment I’ve never experienced from anything else, but right now it’s not about that anymore. You know that part in “Wear Sunscreen” that goes “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself.” 
Well it’s true. It’s just an inner battle right now, (and for the record? Right now, I’m winning.)

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A Simple Saturday Morning

So some days the weight of frustration is like an elephant sitting on my chest, and it’s been holding me down for so many hours that even when I finally move out from under the crushing impact, it’s still hard to catch my breath. It takes a little longer to let the bird out of the cage, to feel my wings spread and the breeze wash over me again. But when it does, I feel a wave of gratitude. It’s easy to neglect the simplicity of carefree breaths sometimes, when your brain doesn’t feel like it short circuited and you’re left with all the frayed wires to make sense of the mess. On this simple Saturday, I’m thankful for exactly that.

Really what’s better than a group of people sitting around a table in the evening, with good food, good drinks, and plenty of laughter? And my days have been full of that lately. Whether it’s in my kitchen, or my parents’ kitchen, or a restaurant. There are few things I love more than laughter, (and music.)

This morning I went for a little run. It’s overcast, the sky is full of gray clouds, but the air isn’t too heavy yet. (For a Saturday morning post sun-rise in July in North Florida.) It’s nice to have those moments again, where my own time is carved out from the world, this little piece of solitude. It used to be about time, and distance but not lately. Lately it’s just about enjoying the whole activity, getting to do this thing that’s my instant ticket to clarity – no matter how short lived.

Maybe today will see some beach time. Maybe it’ll see some crafting. Who knows? But I hope your Saturdays are sweet, and simple and your hearts are full of carefree easiness of summer.

Trail Run Thursday Week 3: Joy of Community

Hello, hello! I know I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately, but bare with me. I come and go and you’d probably much rather read an enthusiastic post than some dribble that rolls out because of obligation. No obligation here, alright guys? So! First & foremost Happy Thursday! As you might have noticed I’ve rolled over from Throwback Thursdays to Trail Run Thursdays where I ramble a little bit about running. Coincidentally, it’s not always just running – it turns into a story about life too ya know?

Well, my running ‘schedule’ got a little crazy with my travels and all of the adventures of life last week, but I managed to get in some runs Wednesday-Friday, so I’d feel somewhat prepared for the Palace Saloon 5K on Saturday. This is a race I’d been looking forward to since my very first 5K last August. All through college I saw the t-shirts around town, and when I “became a runner” I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. Well, as it got closer it held a new significance in my mind because from what I’d read, it’s one of the fastest (and oldest) 5Ks in Tallahassee. I had a goal for myself to break 25 minutes in a 5K this year, and I knew if I worked hard this could be the one. As it got closer and all that craziness went down, I decided not to put too much pressure on myself because I wanted to enjoy it and there would be other races if it didn’t work out. Well, Saturday was a cool morning and I met up with my cousin Tim and his group and we did a couple warm-up runs. We met at the bank by McDonald’s and the rest of the group hopped in the truck to drive over to Messer Fields. We jogged there. At the crosswalk Tsige was standing there and I got so excited I screamed! At that point, I didn’t have her phone number, so it was the first time I’d seen her since our last trial run and her husband had been running Boston and I had been dying to talk to her! We hugged and dove into conversation, it was really nice and somewhat of a relief. We hung out at the fields for a bit and then went on another warm-up run. I was feeling good and excited (plus it was cooler than I thought it’d be because the sun wasn’t shining, so it definitely helped with that!) I ended up racing with Tim for the first 1.5mi and that really helped me hold onto the pace I needed. At the hill, I just told myself – if I wanted it bad enough, I could make it happen. I ended up finishing with a new PR of 24:40 and it was such an exciting feeling. I found people I knew during the race, and I love that too. I might have my goals, but I don’t ever take it too seriously – it’s too fun for that! I saw and talked to a sorority sister, a friend from Gulf Winds, my running buddy Tsige, my boss’s wife, and the list goes on. My cousin Sara lives right by the Palace so she came over with her dog Darla, and we all hung out for a bit. It was just a really fun morning, I was on that high of endorphins and adrenaline, mixed with that excitement I had for achieving that personal accomplishment. Plus it was exciting to see all the blue and yellow ribbons in support for Boston, (and the really awesome banner they had made for everyone to sign to send to the Boston Athletic Association!)

Those are post Palace pics!

Later, I’ll fill you all in on my Orlando concert experience of seeing Andrew McMahon on the Beacham on Saturday night, but that doesn’t really have to do with running. It does have to do with how awesome the weekend was though, and how much got packed in, and how I think it caught up to me since I went to bed at 930 on Sunday night! Following post-race hangouts, (and a little bit of beer and a taste of bloody mary because it was the Palace after all) I went home and showered and ate breakfast and headed on over to Orlando. Sunday morning after a great visit with JD and Tony I got back in the car and came back. I changed into my running clothes at a rest stop in Madison, and I arrived over in Southwood just in time for the 5.2 at 5 for Boston memorial run. I am so glad! There was an incredible turnout (more than 1,000 people!,) and it was a really inspirational experience. We sang the national anthem together, and “Sweet Caroline” and it was really touching. Tim and I ran together again (he slowed his pace down for me.) It was a hot, muggy run (because I wouldn’t normally run in the sun at 5pm) but it was wonderful. We hung out in the parking lot chatting for a long while afterwards, and like I said – I was exhausted! I didn’t even feel like making dinner, so after picking up a tuna sandwich from Jimmy John’s, and taking a shower – I crashed.

Tim, me, and Carson post-run in the parking lot.

Someone had a remote control helicopter flying over the crowd, and it turns out it was a video camera! My friend Brian sent me this video – it’s pretty cool, check it out!

Monday, the events of the weekend kind of caught up to me. There was so much excitement, and activity, and driving! I was feeling kind of sluggish (I’m sure my off kilter eating habits weren’t helping me out any.) Part of me was thinking I might  not go to the week three meet-up of Trailblazers, but by the end of the day I was like no! I was disappointed I missed last week, and it’s such a good start to the week! Plus, Tsige called me and having a running buddy is so encouraging. Of course, then I got stuck in awful rush hour traffic on my way to the trails and there was a disabled vehicle making the road I was on one lane, with one of those trade off deals, so I was late. BUT because life is awesome – there were people waiting at the crosswalk, to run with the “stragglers” through Forest Meadows. So, I made two new friends and we did two laps through the woods together – talking about all sorts of things. Central Florida, Mexico Beach, kayaking, cycling, motocross, (those last two I listened intently obviously not having experience in those areas haha) how we got into running – all sorts of stuff! After we made the loop two times, we were back at the entrance and mingling for a minute and then the group Tsige had been running with finished up. She was so nice about how she’d been worried I’d get lost because I was late and she kept an eye out on her phone in case. Running friends are awesome friends. I joined that little group and we did one more loop! (So much for “taking it easy” on Monday, I had planned on doing 2.5 or 3 miles, but that turned into 5.) But it was awesome because it gave me a new surge of energy, and those trails (of course!) were beautiful.

It just made me extra grateful for the community I’ve found in running. All of these days. At first I thought it might be a bit ambitious, or taking too much on pushing myself a few days in a row – but it was totally worth it. (And why I took two rest days this week, so I’ll be in shape for the Rose City 10K on Saturday.) It just filled my already full heart with an added appreciation for these people. I am just very content with where I am in life right now, and it has been a long time since I could say that. The fact that it’s not very conditional is so key, and important, and extra exciting. These new relationships I’ve formed (and older ones that were strengthened) just give me a new perspective on life. It’s been a really cool experience to get to know new people of different ages from different backgrounds, and to see support of each other in action. Picking up running changed my life, but I’ve seen it change even more as I’ve built relationships with people through running.

Believe In the Good

Okay, so I know I’ve been silent on the blog this week. Life has been a little bit crazy with some curve balls that got thrown during my trip, and then when I was driving back to Tallahassee I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing on the radio. Throughout the week things have still been a little crazy, and I have been trying to process what’s happened. Of course now as the events just get more wild it’s an even harder thing to comprehend but I have a few things I want to put out there! I will elaborate on my Knoxville and Nashville adventures sometime soon, and I will share pictures. In the meantime, I’ll tell you that Tennessee won me over instantly. I have a special spot in my heart for this state, now.

I was driving on the interstate when I heard the announcement over the radio. Immediately it felt hard to breathe. I kept trying to walk myself through deep breaths, and staying calm. So many thoughts flooded to my mind, between the people that I know were there, the people I know that could be there, but then beyond that – running in general. If you’ve visited this blog before you know how passionate I am about running. There is something incredibly special about races. When I participated in my first 5K in August of last year, I was instantly hooked. I totally felt that sense of camaraderie with the people surrounding me as our feet pounded the paths of the trails. I have never been disappointed about any race I’ve participated in – they’re too fun for that! Between the runners, volunteers, spectators, supporters – I’ve never come across anything quite like it. There is just this overwhelming positive energy that exists every time. These people, essentially strangers, all share one common bond. It doesn’t matter your place in the work world, your gender, race, or age. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running, or how fast or slow you are. It’s an undeniable thread that connects each of us.

(My friend Lizzi who qualified for Boston 2014 posted this on Facebook this week, and it speaks volumes.)

Then there’s the other side of running. It has saved my sanity. Of that, I am sure. And I turn to running as outlet in times of frustration (that’s how it all began for me, anyway.) So to reek such malicious, cruel, havoc on an event of such celebration? I mean, this is like the Olympics of running. It’s a lifelong dream for many. It’s a big deal for everyone involved, the event organizers, the history behind the marathon, for the runners – their families and supporters. What is wrong with people? Such a heartbreaking thing for everyone involved. Just the attempt to take away something people love in such a dark violent way – it’s just sad and senseless. Thankfully, everyone I knew up there is safe. Because I didn’t have a phone, I wasn’t connected to an instant stream of info through email and Twitter like I normally would be, which probably helped my psyche at the time. But when I checked my email on my mom’s phone in Tallahassee I saw the flood of messages from GWTC list-serv, and wow. I was just floored. This is one of my favorite pieces I’ve read that relate to Monday’s events, and a runner’s heart.

While we have this frustrating situation, what is uplifting about everything is the awesome compassion that has shined such a light on everything – how inspiring it is to see pure intentioned people just helping one another – no questions asked, in whatever way that means. I am sure throughout the week, you’ve probably seen this quote from Mister Rogers (genius!) floating around:

I have to tell you, that I know things like this are scary. This morning I woke up and glanced at Facebook and saw some posts that didn’t make sense so I switched to Twitter and woke up immediately when I saw the news that was transpiring with the suspects. I went out of my room and told my roommate who had already turned on the TV (though it was barely 6am.) I was just blown away by how crazy it all seemed, so what did I do? Lace up my shoes and go for a run. Because that’s what I do. So, I’ll say that yeah I feel like this is just really hard to even mentally grasp (especially with the bombings Monday, the explosion in Texas, then with the lockdown and search…) texting my friend who’s parents live there, hearing it on the radio on my drive to work, and now on the TV while I’m at work and it’s just a lot to take in. BUT but so so so important some things to remember: like Mister Rogers says, look for the helpers. They are there. While the world can be so unpredictable, dark and scary – there is so much good. So much good.

I myself have been overwhelmed with the kindness of people in the past month. It hasn’t even been a month when my engine exploded on the way to Jacksonville, (and look what happened then? Cousin rushed to where I was on the interstate, Jules scooped me up en-route to Jax.) Over the weekend I accidentally left my cell phone in a cab. The manager of the cab company (Brett) was so nice and really tried to help as much as he could. No luck, but that is not worth spoiling a trip over. When I got back to Sanford on Monday (well, after another stranger who had helped me with my bag when I was flying out on Friday AND REMEMBERED ME we chatted about our trips, and he helped me with my bag, again!) I was walking to the parking lot and thought it was odd that my horn didn’t beep when I pressed the key. Come to find out my car battery had died over the weekend. So there I was with no phone and a dead car. A couple across the lot asked if I needed help, and they saved my day in a big way. The husband got out to help me, and let me borrow his phone, while his wife CIRCLED THE PARKING LOT attempting to find someone with jumper cables! She found someone, then that van load came over as well. (Weird coincidence the man was someone I remembered from the airport on Friday because he was also wearing running shoes sitting down the aisle from me.) This man jumped my car, and then looked in his GPS and gave me the address and directions to the nearest Advanced Auto Parts. Then the couple, offered to let me FOLLOW THEM to the store, to make sure I got there alright (not lost, and without breaking down.) Can you believe that? We stopped at a Napa first, and the man got out to go check on the battery so I wouldn’t need to turn off my car. Then we went further up the road to Advanced, and he went in and checked there (the other place didn’t do batter installations.) At that time the woman let me use her phone again to call my mom so she’d know I got somewhere that I could get a battery (She said, if it were my daughter I’d want her to be able to call and tell me.) Then the husband came out again and they did have the battery but he was soo nice in making sure I had the funds to pay for it because they didn’t want me to get stuck there! Then the Advanced Auto Parts guys, Chris & Michael were so kind as well. I was there for a while. They let me use the store phone. I made a plan with my mom. Figured out an exit to meet her at because they wanted me to take my car to a shop they were concerned at the levels it was showing up at on the test even with a new battery. I was there for more than an hour, and at one point it was like I was a fellow employee (they even joked that I should apply for a job there, and about how I should meet Brucey (apparently a grumpy sketchy old man.) They even let me behind the counter to use the phone and helped me with directions (another stranger letting me use their phone.) I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards this constant stream of generous, good spirited people. My “luck” (it’s not luck, it’s like this crazy combination of grace and guidance in this path of sweet people) continued throughout the week. I don’t know much about cars, so really anyone could take advantage of my weakness there, but they don’t. A friend from Inverness gave me her daughter’s old phone, so I didn’t have to buy a new one. I wasn’t charged for getting my car checked out, (when they didn’t find anything wrong with it!), a man at Sam’s had the installation fee waived on some new tires since I’d come in last week too. Then there was this weird thing going on with the windshield and the guy was like hey! this is no problem, I can just snap this little piece here and you’re good. Seriously. Not even kidding you.

My point is, life is crazy, the world is crazy, you never know what’s coming. If all these things came my way when I was in my earlier twenties, I’d have fallen apart some where. These days, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. You gotta take what comes your way and figure out how to keep moving, make a plan of action, do something. If I was sitting in the middle of a parking lot crying, I’d probably still be there. None of these people had any obligation to me, no one had to help, or offer anything but again and again they appeared. One person after another continued to be an example of compassion, love, and sweet-natured kindness. My faith in humanity couldn’t be stronger.

So now what? You continue to look for a helper. You BE a helper. Be nice. Everyone seems surprised at my own weird chain of events this week, but the thing is the nicer you are to people? They have to try really hard to be mean back. It doesn’t always work, but you have to try. And not being nice is stupid. Don’t let fear stop you from living your life. Appreciate where you are, what you have, who you’re surrounded by. For me, this is a year of reunions – a celebration of friendship, and with everything going on it just makes me more thankful for the time I’ve spent with people I love lately. Make the most of life, enjoy all the little moments. Make spontaneous decisions, take the adventures.

Tomorrow morning Tallahassians will take to the streets and run the Palace Saloon 5K wearing blue & yellow ribbons showing support. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll drive over to Orlando for Andrew McMahon’s show at The Beacham, but Sunday I want to be back in time for the 5.2 at 5 for Boston. I am looking forward to pounding the pavement with people I’ll feel connected to, without question.

Keep running, keep loving, keep living. Smile. Believe in the good. I promise, it’s there.

Just Do It

One of my favorite pages on Facebook, Distant Runners posted this image recently and I just think it’s great:

I know I’ve mentioned it before, but this season I joined a training group that meets on Monday nights to gear up for the Springtime Tallahassee 10K. It’s been a great experience, and has given me the opportunity to meet so many new people. Prior to this the only time I’d run with others was on race days. There’s something special about hitting the road with a group. I find myself exerting more energy into the hills, picking up my pace, and I love being able to keep up a conversation when we’re running. I swear it’s what’s been shaving time off my 5K results lately. Unfortunately the past two weeks, I missed the group run. It’s crazy how much a difference it made in my week. Even throughout the day when I’m feeling sluggish and tired and would really rather go shopping or home to take a nap, when I pull into the parking lot of the park my stomach gets all full of butterflies with nervous excitement. You never know who you’ll see or what the run will have in store.

Yesterday, I finally made it back out there. Even though I was like ehh I don’t know, some of my normal running buddies lately wouldn’t be there, and I really took it easy last week so I knew the last long group run would be tough. The intermediates were going to run 5.5 miles, but I ended up running with a woman I’d met a few weeks ago, who also missed last week, and oh my gosh it was one of my favorite runs in so long. She really pushed me. We were keeping up with what’s normally my 10K race pace, and after a turn off we missed a turn and ended up tacking on extra mileage (we knew where we were so we just took a long way back to the park.) She was so encouraging on the hills, and it was really nice to have someone to chat with. It just reinforced all the reasons of why I go out there. And it felt so good to dominate that run. Plus, she works at the hospital and told me a crazy story about another woman we were running with in the beginning. Apparently she was her patient when she had BYPASS surgery a year and a half ago! She’s not even fifty! And you should see her run! She’s so healthy and fit, and it just blows my mind that she went through that so recently. (And it’s also scary to be reminded that sometimes it doesn’t matter how healthy or in shape you are, some kind of sickness can still attack.) It was just so inspiring to see and know.

Next week is our taper week and a little celebration leading up the race on Saturday. I’ll be disappointed when this group comes to a close! They announced that they’re starting up a Trailblazers group though that will run out at the Greenway (remember all those photos at sunset I used to post?) That area kicks my butt on runs, but I should probably suck it up and face the challenge.

Anyway, if you’re a runner (or if you’re not and you wanna get into it) if you’re feeling sluggish or slackerish just remember how good it feels when you get out there and do it. Happy Tuesday y’all and happy running!

Spend Less, Give More: More Love Letters

Good morning! Welcome to the Spend Less, Give More series here on Mugs Life. If you’re just joining us, I’ve been making suggestions over the past few days of different organizations to contribute to this Christmas season, encouraging giving gifts with a purpose. The first few organizations highlight supporting immediate basic physical needs: clean water (Charity:Water), food (to put it simply) Heifer International, and shoes and eyesight TOMs. Yesterday, the focus shifted a little bit with a spotlight on emotional needs and mental health with To Write Love On Her Arms. With all of these posts there’s been a push for monetary donations, but today is a little bit different. If you’ve got the money to buy a stamp, a pen, paper, envelope, and some kind words? The only thing else you need to give is a few minutes of your time! Today’s spotlight: More Love Letters.

It’s been less than a year since Hannah Brencher started sending bundles from The World Needs More Love Letters. Thanks to the I Heart Daily Newsletter in my inbox last week, I can say I’ve participated in this wonderful movement. Hannah‘s mom had written her letters for years, so like me, she already had a love for snail mail. It’s funny because the day I got that e-mail, I was in a rough place myself, and I thought “this is perfect” because for me: one of the best ways to push myself into the light when my love tank is running low, is to write to someone else in hopes of lifting their spirits. That’s what More Love Letters is all about. Back in 2010 Hannah living in NYC, was in a dark place herself, so she started penning letters to strangers she thought could use a boost of encouragement, and leaving them all over the city. After that she invited her blog readers to request a letter, if they were in need of one themselves. From there, More Love Letters became what it’s known as now – a global initiative. Hundreds of letters have been sent. You can sign up to join the team, where you’ll be emailed a request each month, you pen a love letter, mail it to the PO Box and a bundle of letters will be put together and sent to someone who needs a little love.  One of the things I think is really cool about More Love Letters are the requests. People write in to request letters for a friend in need. The request could be for a teammate, relative, friend, fiance, coworker, people from so many parts of life that someone has recognized could use some light in their life. This was the request for Madeline, the day I got the I Heart Daily e-mail, which was encouraging participation in More Love Letter‘s “12 Days of Letter Writing.”

Madeline, due to depression and anxiety issues, left high school last year to homeschool herself. She has made some progress but has fallen behind in her studies and really needs some motivation to keep going even though she is falling behind even more every day. Her letter request writes, “It was this time last year when she left school and I know she is very prone to become depressed again in the winter time. I try to involve her in social activities as much as I can, as she will isolate herself otherwise, but I think a little love from a stranger could really help her outlook on life right now.’ Scratch out “stranger” — we are about to bless Madeline’s life with a whole lot of love letters. Help us in showing her how very wonderful and capable Madeline truly is.

(My letter for the bundle.)

You wanna know something a little crazy? I had just finished penning my letter for Madeline’s Bundle, around 10:30am last Friday morning. It was only about an hour later when I started seeing the news reports of the horrific tragedy taking place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. The innocent beautiful children’s lives ending far too soon, and the brave teachers who’d lost their own protecting them. (Just to note – I’m not trying to loosely combine these two things, or breeze over such a significant event, that has forever changed so many people.) I had just finished expressing how, even though it’s hard to see it sometimes, how true the words from one of my favorite songs are: “This world can be ugly, but isn’t it beautiful?” (“There, There Katie” Jack’s Mannequin.) Seriously. It kind of caught me off guard because one of the first things that flashed through my mind, despite the shock of such a tragedy was: more love. We need more love. And I knew in my heart it wasn’t a coincidence I wrote the letter that morning. It was like God whispering in my ear, encouraging me to follow through knowing of course, when you spread love you can feel love.

And now in recent days, we’ve seen a community come together, we’ve seen people reaching out, we’ve seen love being spread. In the face of such tragedy, we’ve seen compassion. Like six year old Emilie Parker who’s dad has shared how Emilie constantly was coloring pictures, and writing notes to cheer up people around her whenever she saw someone looking down. Robbie Parker said himself: “(that the tragedy) not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.”

So, today that’s what I’m encouraging you to do. More Love Letters is a simple, but extremely powerful way to contribute to making the world a better place. I know, that you know, someone on this planet who could use a little love. We could all use more love. Pick up that pen, and get writing. It’s a small gesture, that can make a world of difference and have such an impact on turning around someone’s day.

Here you can watch the TED Talk video of Hannah discussing More Love Letters:

 

Stay connected to the journey of More Love Letters: find them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, read the blog. Be sure to share with you friends too, that’s how a movement of love grows!

 

Spend Less, Give More: To Write Love On Her Arms

If you’re just now tuning in, I’m doing a “Spend Less, Give More” series. I’ve spotlighted several awesome organizations so far: Charity:Water, Heifer International, and TOMs. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I’m encouraging you guys to not waste money on junk, but instead contribute to something with a purpose, somewhere that will improve someone’s life! So far, these organizations have centered around assisting basic physical needs in life (that obviously have chain reaction effects to everything else – education, opportunity…) but today I would like to share with you guys To Write Love On Her Arms. This is a different one because it’s about the inside – suicide prevention, mental health help, recognizing emotional issues.

(Image via TWLOHA Facebook.)

To Write Love On Her Arms mission is simple: “a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

The TWLOHA story started back in the spring of 2006, (founded by Jamie Tworkowski)  when a group of friends joined together to help Renee, a 19 year old girl suffering from depression, a drug addiction, she was a cutter…a treatment center refused her, so a group rallied around her and provided her with a support system for days. Just loving her, praying with her, taking her to events, coffee runs, cigarette breaks, just being there for her before she entered a rehab program. The group started selling t-shirts to fund-raise for Renee’s treatment, and with those t-shirts a movement was sparked. The team soon realized that there were literally thousands of people all over the world, who had questions, who needed someone to talk to, who could benefit from the message of hope and encouragement – people need to know they are not alone.

 

Did you know that more than “350 million people around the world, suffer from depression?” (Find out the FACTS.) It’s sad because depression is almost like a taboo topic in our society. It’s deemed normal to talk about our feelings in the face of tragedy, but what about the rest of the time? There seems to be a stigma surrounding depression. It’s a shame because not talking about it, is part of what makes people think they’re alone in what they feel. We all have questions. We each have a story. Your story matters. You are important. You are loved. You are worthy. God has a purpose for your life, and you are not meant to walk alone. That it gets better, that there is possibility, that things can change…

“The vision is better endings.  The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships.  The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love.  The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise.  The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.  

The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.  

The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.  

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.” – TWLOHA, vision

To Write Love On Her Arms is meant to serve as a “bridge to help.” You’re encouraged, if you or a friend needs to talk to someone – call a helpline or seek treatment.

If you’re not familiar with To Write Love On Her Arms, I encourage you to go check out their website, read the blog. If a TWLOHA event is coming through your area – go. The Heavy and Light tour kicks off in January! There are a lot of ways you can contribute to the TWLOHA movement. You can make a donation here. There’s a huge assortment of merchandise in the TWLOHA store, everything from the original t-shirts, to hoodies, stickers, even iPhone cases. Like other items featured in the previous posts, something as simple as a t-shirt can be a great conversation starter, and a wonderful way to spread the word. Is TWLOHA an important cause to you? you could even Join the street team!

 

 

If this is you, don’t be ashamed to seek help, don’t give up, and please don’t feel like you’re alone in your struggle, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you think you have a friend going through some of these problems, support them, love them, encourage them, make sure they know how much they matter to you, help them find help. Life is a heck of a lot better when we support each other.