Bag Of Lemons (can Include: Health, Relationships, Finances, Death, Loss, Injury, etc) Optimism (Organic)
Can-Do Attitude (Unlimited Amount) A Pinch of Vulnerability
A Dash of Authenticity
Serve With A Smile!
Be The Victim of Your Story or Be the Hero of Your Journey.
After calling the Big Island of Hawaii home for three months, it was time to bid farewell to Kona and make my way back to Colorado. Though bittersweet to say goodbye, I was excited. Merely 10 days prior I’d signed an offer letter for a new job in Boulder and verbally committed to sublet a furnished room with my own bathroom. Preparing for my return had paid off. Everything had fallen into place.
But, in the blink of an eye, the plans I worked sp hard to secure, fell through, or rather, were ripped from underneath me. First, out of nowhere, the organization eliminated my job. Then, the housing turned out to be anything but a good fit. It’s as if the Universe shook her head and waved her finger in my face with a smirk saying, “I don’t think so!”. Devastated, I began to question…everything.
Why would life line up only to fall apart?
Once hopeful, I was now, heartbroken. Anger and frustrate kept me on an emotional rollercoaster. I had so much trust! What did I do wrong? How could ‘they’ do this to me? My responsible decisions felt as if they mean nothing. My efforts felt like a joke.
However, I knew better. This was not my first rollercoaster… or my first rodeo.
Countless times throughout life I’ve fallen on my face, only to dust myself off. I’ve turned bumps into blessings and managed to morph stumbling blocks into stepping stones. So in this moment of “woah is me” I also knew my capabilities. Deep down I had to admit what I knew to be true, even though it pissed me off, I had to trust in the bigger picture. However, when you’re smack dab in the eye of a storm, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a silver lining. I felt lost, lonely, and hurt. But, I also knew I had a choice to shift my stories.
“Rejection is Redirection, Rejection IS Redirection”
Despite struggling with self-confidence, I continued “trying” to find a job and a new place to live in Boulder. Having been an RN recruiter for almost a decade, a former nurse I worked with, reached out to inquire if I’d interview with her company for a remote position. I explained my situation and the synchronicity of her timing. Despite feeling a tad unsure about returning to my former career, I promised the Universe I’d accept an offer. Then, a week after my (stellar) interview, the company decided to freeze their hiring. Seriously? Again hurt by the tease of a routine paycheck and, stability, I badly craved, I whispered to myself, “rejection is redirection.”
Back to square one, I was forced to step back and take inventory of my situation. In this pause of contemplation, I recognized, quite clearly: my heart really didn’t want the job. My heart was still in Hawaii. I was sending mixed messages to the Universe. No wonder I wasn’t getting gigs! No longer could I kid myself. I missed the ocean breeze, humidity, tan skin, even my wild curly hair! Though I was so happy to reconnect with friends in Colorado, but I wasn’t happy with a foot of fresh snow. But, what could I do? Where would I go? Instead of exploring new cities and ideas of leaving, I tucked my awareness in my back pocket and recommitted to Colorado.
From What If… to Why Not
With my decision to stay, I knew I’d continue to resent my losses, unless I changed my attitude. So, I shifted my perspective and began making the best of the unknown. The more I leaned into uncertainty, the more opportunities showed up! From a long term pet sitting gig to generous invitations in friends’s guest rooms, I always had a safe space to rest my head. I even got a free car! A good friend traveling to Indonesia even offered me her car for the month as it helped her have a place to store it! Talk about a win-win! Despite the Universe’s sassiness, she kept offering reassuring hugs and heartfelt high fives. Despite the big picture, life felt in flow.
The more I continued showing up for myself, the more life showed up, for me! The exchanges of energy ranged from babysitting and walking dogs to helping organize a friend’s basement. All for cozy company! Some days I’d wake with a huge smile trusting the yellow brick road. Other sleepless nights I lay awake, riddled with anxiety from the nightmare of not knowing my what next. The “stuck in a funk” days were the toughest to shift my energy. My usual solution was: action. I’d strap on sneakers and go for a walk. One afternoon, while strolling along the Boulder Creek, it hit me, hard. Everything I was “doing”… was not working. In fact, It didn’t feel like it was meant to work! It felt like a lot of trying to prove vs acknowledging my heart. In the moment of sudden clarity I stopped in my tracks. I gave myself permission to say to myself: I’m not happy here. I want to live by the water. My heart belongs with the ocean.
Shortly after my epiphany, out of “nowhere”, I heard a whisper. A gentle voice clearly said, Ask for help. That’s when it dawned on me. Here I was trying to “figure it out” and telling the Universe what I wanted but hadn’t asked for divine guidance! And, now, in my new state of surrender, I had nothing to lose. Wide-open to a change of scenery and decided to dive into the idea of new possibilities. Then, I took a deep breath, put my hands in prayer form, and from a place of gratitude and appreciation, kindly asked my guides, out loud, “pretty please show me where I’m to live the month of April.” I instantly felt a nudge: log into the San Diego housing group on Facebook.
So, I listened.
Having lived in San Diego from 2004-2011, I’d considered moving back, so really, this came as no surprise. So, I picked up my phone and logged into the FB group. And BAM. The very first post on the page read: APRIL ONLY – GET IT BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE DOES! Holy wow, was this for real? Did I really get my answer this quickly? I scrolled through the stunning photos and scanned the details. It was everything I wanted and then some: minutes from the beach, my price range, even a bike to borrow! Without questioning or skipping a beat, I private messaged the owner: “My bags are packed!!” Yup, those were my exact words. I was confident this apartment was meant for me. I was, in fact, following my heat back to California.
However, the house wasn’t actually in, San Diego.
In the midst of my excitement, I failed to notice a really big detail! This dream come true was not in San Diego, but instead, in Tulum, Mexico!!!! Wait a minute, in asking the Universe to show my next move in California I was being guided to leave the country – to a place considered, paradise? Holy moly this was better than I could have dreamed up for myself!
Visibly shaking with that feeling when you know something is meant to be, my intuition smacked my upside the head with a big, fat “YES!” Pumped for my new plan, I recognized the need to act quickly and prove to the Universe I was serious. In my usual spontaneous style, Only flying Southwest since they allow charge-free changed, I logged in my app and searched for a direct flight from Denver to Cancun. BAM! Perfect: April 1st, only $135. I clicked “purchase” Despite the looming state of affairs around the world, in this moment, I felt FREE. Within a few days, I spoke with the gal behind the ad. We both agreed the room was mine! I was now the proud owner of a new plan I never would have planned. Something had shifted. Even though this felt crazy, it was crazy good.
Accept… COVID- 19.
As reality took shape, crossed my fingers, and held onto hope all would work out. Unlike most Americans, I wasn’t worried about being “stuck there”. Are you kidding? I loved the idea of being quarantining with palm trees and an ocean breeze! Some friends thought I was nuts, others were jealous, a few concerned. But 90% gave me their blessing. Those who know me agree: they have no idea how I do it but they couldn’t deny I always land on my feet. (I’m like a cat… watch me!) I wasn’t trying to go to Mexico. The opportunity found me.
And Then…Southwest Canceled all International Flights.
I understood their decision. Yes, people were sick and dying and I felt empathy for those suffering. However, to me, fear was spreading faster than the virus. Why didn’t I feel any anxiety? Was I selfish for being called to travel? Why was I more afraid of the people hoarding toilet paper, judging others, and giving away their personal power so quickly? I wasn’t worried about getting sick or getting others sick. I didn’t feel the need for a mask. In fact, despite the uncertainty. something inside me felt more certain than ever.
The world was shifting
People were becoming hyper-aware of other people. The global pause was connecting us in ways like never before. Social distancing forcing us to separate, but also to face ourselves. Habits were no longer hidden, use of time, core values, and priorities. COVID was robbing people of their breath, yet Mother Earth thrived, breathing with ease. Daily communicating came to a halt, flights grounded, factories no longer fuming smoke. Plants and animals reaped the benefit of our reset. Unconscious humans were “waking up”. Healing was happening. We were being brought back to basics. For the first time in my lifetime, everyone on earth was experiencing the same story. Humanity was in the midst of a massive hero’s journey. lens. Instead of wearing a mask, I rocked a pair of rose-colored glasses.
At the last minute, I bought a cheap flight and flew to San Diego to celebrate my 42nd birthday on March 15th with an incredible dinner, lots of wine, and good friends. What none of us knew at the time, that night, my birthday was literally the last night the world would be the same. San Francisco went into lockdown and my brother lost his job as a bartender, the very next day. This meant two things: life would never be the same and moving to San Diego was now no longer an option. Sh%$t was getting really real, really fast.
That day I called Tina, one of my best friends living in Florida, to tell her about my birthday and what was happening in California.
Flashback: How a Stranger To Friend Invited the Idea of Saint Petersburg
In 2008, working for the same Healthcare Recruiting company in San Diego, CA, I met Tina in… the Women’s bathroom. I mean, how many bestie stories begin like that? Then, I was laid off and she resigned the next day. Soon after we bumped into each other in dance class, fast-forwarding our friendship from co-workers to partners in crime. Then, in 2010, Tina and I decided to move to Wilmington, NC together. Then I moved to CO. No matter where we’ve lived, we’ve remained the closest of friends. She’s literally become a part of my family. Then, Tina moved to St. Petersburg, FL, where she bought a home, complete with an adorable studio surrounded by palm trees.
In December (while living in Hawaii) Tina was visiting with my Mom at her home in Delray Beach, FL, 4 hours from Saint Petersburg. , Curious about my “what next” they called me with an idea: rather than moving back to Colorado, I could move into Tina’s studio, typically listed as an Airbnb. Though I loved the idea of living with Tina and close to my Mom, the timing didn’t feel right, as if I had unfinished business in Boulder. I was set on returning to Colorado. But, the St. Petersburg seed was planted.
Timing Is Everything
It was March 16th. Thinking back to her offer a few months prior, I inquired about her Airbnb. She explained the current guests were booked through March 31, but once they left, she’d happily let me move in! I had to let it sink in. Never in my dreams could I have imagined a pandemic being the reason to move… to St. Petersburg.. with Tina. But, then again, I never imagined a pandemic and quarantine. Though I didn’t know anyone else nor had I been to visit, her offer was perfect. Except for one part: I needed a place by March 23. But, she also wanted them to leave early. We both crossed our fingers.
March 19th, 4 days later, in the midst of a massive Colorado snowstorm, I got the text from Tina I’d prayed for: “The Airbnb guests are leaving! The casita is ready on March 23. Let me know if you’re coming!
As quickly as my plans fell apart, now they fell together.
I called everyone to give them the good news: I had a place to quarantine! Within 72 hours, I used the same Southwest ticket originally to Cancun to book my flight to Tampa. As if it couldn’t get any better, my friend traveling Indonesia, whose car I’d been driving for a month, texted asking if I’d be possible for me to leave her car parked at the airport by 6 PM on March 24th; She wanted to land and immediately self-quarantine. Since my departure time was 5 PM on March 24th, without trying to make it work, it worked out perfectly.
Time To Make Lemonade!
With only a few days to get everything in order, I downsized my storage unit and moved my stuff into a smaller space. On my last day in Boulder, I left time to enjoy myself. I rose early for an epic sunrise and hiked a beautiful trail. Then I packed the same suitcases I’d taken to Hawaii, hugged the same two friends who’d picked me up at the airport six weeks prior and said, goodbye. It was bittersweet.
Driving to catch my flight felt like I was a character in a movie. I was leaving behind everything I knew, having no clue when I’d return or what to expect. My emotions ranged from grief to gratitude. Then, to add fuel to the fire, 20 minutes away from the airport a friend called to tell me the Governor of Colorado announced a mandatory LockDown beginning at 5 PM, the very next day. Instantly I felt a panic jolt through my body. Like those scenes in the movie, I could feel a tornado on my tail, like I was outrunning an Apocolypse, with only seconds to spare. Only this wasn’t a movie, it was real life. I had no doubt I was getting our of dodge, right on time.
Once the car was parked, my bags were checked and I was cleared through security, I finally, for the first time in weeks, took a huge sigh of relief. I made it. I took the time to take in the other people in the airport. I wondered about their stories, where they were going. Were they scared? When I got to my gate, people were six feet spaced out, but, they were friendly. It was like we were members of the same club. When it was time to board, the flight attendant called us up at the same time. With a smile she Instructed us to pick out our own rows, insisting we were all first class, bottomless pretzels for everyone! I chose a window seat. There were 25 of us, total.
—————— This Brings Me to Today, April 24, ONE MONTH LATER —————
As I write this, I’m sitting at my desk in my little (well, tiny) Pinterest perfect studio, watching the warm rain dance on the saltwater pool that separates my space from Tina’s place. My skin is golden brown and my hair is soft with curls. And most importantly, I am safe, I am healthy and I feel… at home. As Joeseph Campbell says,“we must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” As i look back on the chaos: the job, housing, flights everything had to happen, in the time that it happened, in order for my opportunity in Florida, to happen. Fully leaning into the uncomfortable space of uncertainty was the key to my daydream of quarantining with an ocean breeze and palm trees, coming true. Lemonade isn’t made from luck. It’s made… from lemons.
My Mantra: I AM WHERE I AM BECAUSE IT’S WHERE I AM SUPPOSED TO BE. I CAN’T BE LATE, I CAN’T BE EARLY.
The first step to making lemonade is to admit, “it”…happened. You must call out the chaos and acknowledgment the wrench in your place. You must look your lemon in the eye and… accept it. Acceptance is the first step toward healing, anything. When you release tension in the body you not only open yourself up to positive energy, but you allow yourself to feel deeply, ultimately releasing negative emotions from the body. These emotions might include disappointment, sadness, anger, frustration or grief. Expressing emotions is anything but a sign of weakness. A good cry feels good, for a reason. Only after you accept your fear can you turn it into fuel. Feeling your feels is what I consider to be the ‘first step to freedom’ Vulnerability is the prelude to the perspective shift.
Keep The Faith To have faith is a choice. Like I showed in my story, it was the act of surrender that invited the Universe to meet me halfway. But to bring myself to the point where I can let go and trust, I must trust, myself. The moment you start to doubt your worthiness or your capabilities, you fall off course. You must believe in the greater plan, for it all. I know it’s easier said than done. Faith only becomes my friend after I’ve been brought to my knees, that moment of pulling myself up by my own bootstraps. Believing in myself empowers me to believe in others. Though I empathize with the unsettling and often, terrifying feeling of uncertainty, I also can’t emphasize the role you play in attaching meaning to what it means to “not know”. Even when we feel certain in what’s ahead, it all can change in the snap of a finger. This proves “knowing” doesn’t protect you, just like “not knowing” doesn’t destroy you. There’s always a method to the madness.
Let Go To Grow. Detaching from the way something ‘needs’ can determine whether someone is going to spiral out, or remain balanced. It’s the assumptions and the expectations that lead to disappointments and misfortune. Holding onto assumptions blocks your ability to visualize and feel into what you want to co-create in your life. You must not limit your ability to look outside of your bubble.but instead see the limitless possibilities in every which direction around you. Our conditioning has taught us there is a right and wrong. But to move through life with ease, you must also have grace, with others, with outcomes and with, yourself. You know the phrase, “go with the flow”, well, it’s true. When you let go, you flow. Think of your limiting beliefs as a dam holding back raging waters to a calm standstill. Now imagine removing the dam. Water begins rushing over and under, around rocks, through trees, but all streams of current in the same direction. That’s what happens when you stop holding yourself back and begin believing it’s all going to work out. Your willingness to shift your perspective shifts your energy! In this space of a higher vibration, you will attract who and what you need. Manifesting isn’t magic but rather your heart and your mind agreeing to align in their common pursuit of a greater purpose.
The moment you’re able to look on all the lemons that brought you to exactly where you were meant to be, you experience a level of peace that’s hard to put to words. The weight is lifted off your shoulder. And as your story continues to shift, your confidence continues to grow. This feeling becomes a stored memory you can tap back into any time you need the extra motivation or a reminder of your why. You now hold a personal play-by-play of how you turned lemons into lockdown lemonade. Never will you not know what it means to be brave and forge ahead. You know your ability to love yourself so much nothing can stop your Pheonix from rising. You know not only do you deserve to dream, but your dreams deserve to you, too.
This is your life. These are your lessons. What you decide to do with what you learn is up to you. But please, do me a favor. Please give yourself permission, to give yourself permission, to live your most authentic life. Imagine the unimaginable. Speak your truth. Follow your bliss. And most importantly, practice gratitude. To be grateful is the greatest gift we can offer to honor the journey we call, life.
Let’s Make Lemonade, Together.
Are you ready to shift your story and shift your life? Do you want support during the journey of discovering your silver lining? This is where I offer you an opportunity to allow me to help you. If you crave a connected conversation or want guidance connecting with yourself, I‘m here to help. For some the shift happens, fast. For others, it’s more complicated and takes more time. There is no right or wrong and the Universe doesn’t choose favorites. As long as you are open, you will experience a positive change.
Due to the extreme circumstances of COVID, I recognize many of you are in a space where a little support can go a long way. For this, I’m extending a special opportunity for us to connect for 30 or 60 minutes, discussing whatever you wish. Whether you want to turn lemons into lemonade or simply want a genuine, connected conversation about life, you’ll receive my intuitive guidance, optimistic attitude, and enthusiasm for what I know to be true, for you. Consider me your on-call cheerleader and therapist all rolled into one!
Connection Sessions are via Zoom and… only $1 per minute! During our call, you can decide to add more time to our connection.
Back in June, on a sunny, blue sky Colorado afternoon, I decided to go to a yoga festival in Boulder, by myself. The idea of movement, chanting and positive energy called me to play, even though I didn’t have anyone to play with!. Given my love for strangers, I had a gut feeling I’d meet good people. I mean, how could a Yoga Festival be anything but welcoming!
Upon arrival I glanced around the green field, circled with colorful booths selling everything from recycled material clothing to handmade lavender soaps. But what really grabbed my attention, a jewelry booth draped with every size imaginable heart shaped necklaces! I also noticed “You Are Beautiful” stickers adorning the mirror you use to decide if you’ll treat yourself (or a friend) to a fashionable new find!
A smile crept across my face and I immediately asked, ‘Any chance a gal named Hailey visited your booth? She’s one of my best friends! 7 years after surviving a stroke, she surprises women on a daily basis, handing these stickers to women, as a reminder of their beauty within!” Lisa squealed, “Yes, I loved her! We talked about hosting a Women’s Gathering & Pop Up Store at her home on Tuesday!”
Wait, it was Saturday. That’s a fast turn around! Would people come? Ah… this is why Hailey serendipitously brought us together. My eyes lit up with love when I told her, “I want to support you and invite my community, Strangers To Friends to join in the connection, too.” And, just like that we, Lisa & I began our friendship and collaborated on an experience! Below is me, Lisa and Hailey, all brought together via hearts.
With the HOLIDAY LOVE upon us, I’m excited to partner with Collective Hearts as a LOVE AMBASSADOR! Every purchase from my unique link, Strangers To Friends receives 10%. This money will go towards updating the website and growing the community!
As a gift that keeps on giving, Lisa offered a 15% Discount for Strangers To Friends! Use the code: Friends at checkout
For the month of November, a portion of all proceeds will benefit the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund. This fund supports immediate and long-term assistance, helping residents recover and rebuild. In addition, every Collective Hearts purchase contributes to the Jacmel Children’s Center in Haiti. The center is a two-story permanent school and home in Jacmel, Haiti, where 27 children live, learn and thrive. To learn more about the center or make a contribution, visit www.jacmelchildren.org.
This holiday season, gift yourself self love. Show a best friend, your Mom, a colleague, how loved they are! I get compliments EVERY TIME I wear mine. Remember, we vote with our dollars. Wee have a choice who we support. Please consider helping a heart-felt small business. Lisa & I invite you yo be a pert of the ripple effect! (PS: post a photo wearing your necklace on Instragram and tag @strangerstofriends & @collectivehearts to be shared with our followers and friends.
This Thanksgiving, I’m THANKFUL for you! Thank you for being a part of my Strangers To Friends Journey, with me. Everyone of you is a unique contribution to collective love shared around the world, connecting us all together.
In the meantime, watch this 5 minute, LIVE VIDEO of a Strangers To Friends Moment!
Learn HOW I initiated our conversation and where it lead us.
I often reference Strangers To Friends as, STF. Then one day I started thinking of what else “STF” could stand for. That’s when it hit me: STEP THROUGH FEAR. Why? Because… to experience anything in life, from introducing yourself to the stranger at the coffee shop to running your first half marathon to moving to a new city by yourself… it requires us to: step through fear. I thought to share a story where I practiced what I preach and how it created connection!
The Story: With a Coffee Date on the calendar I couldn’t wait to catch up with my Stranger To Friend, Ron, to learn what was brewing in his world. As a multi talented comedian and performer, he began by telling me about his upcoming One Man Show at a theater close to my house. Little did he know, I loved the idea of being on stage entertaining with a story, too! From studying theater at performing arts school in high school, to taking Improv Comedy classes to my Television Broadcasting degree… I love, speaking and story telling. I know for most, public speaking is like death. SO SCARY! But to me, there’s something about the freedom to express myself with an audience; hearing their reactions, contributing to their experience: I FEEL ALIVE!
Seconds after I finished soaking up his story, without thinking, the words, “I’ve want my own stand up show, too” jokingly flew out of my mouth. Famous last words, right? Ron picked up on my truth and followed my up with an tempting offer, “want the first 10 minutes of my act as a Story Teller?” The smile crept across my face and again without thinking… I squealed, “oh my goodness, yes! Let’s do this!”
–Record Scratch– as quickly as I said yes, reality set in. Was he being serious? What story would I share? Did I just… commit? Oh boy, the rear rose in my chest. Recognizing my resistance, he reminded me I’ve told stories on Facebook Live… only this time I’d be face to face! He offered me a chance to check an item of my “don’t just dream it, do it list”! All I had to do was say, YES!
Our expressions in the selfie below say it all…
What is Fear?
The voice in our head is a trickster. I know first hand that Fear, our Ego often serves to keep us small. It pretends to keep up safe but instead acts as avoidance or procrastination, convincing us we’re being productive. The ego likes wants you to stay inside the lines, safe from judgement. The ego does NOT want you to get on stage to tell a story to a room full of strangers!
But, I was scared of doing something new for the first time. I was scared of criticism. I was scared of not being good. enough.
That is, until I did it. And the fear shifted into… fun.
I picked one of my favorite stories: “How I got on the airplane to Australia knowing I’d lost my Wallet” — yes, TRUE STORY. I knowingly flew penniless to the other side of the world, in 2005, before Social Media or Travel Cell Phones. My delivery isn’t perfect… but what does perfect even mean? I DID IT! I even got a few laughs! I’m proud of myself… and that is all that really matters.
Listen below… then let me know… what would YOU do if you found yourself in the same scenario?
After the show, a few folks were so excited to tell me their crazy travel stories too! Once again, I was reminded, when I share my mine, I give permission for others to share theirs, too. A positive ripple effect!
TRUTH: The adrenaline coursing through your body when you’re scared is the same adrenaline that courses through your body when you’re excited. Fear and excitement feel the same physiologically! Elevated heart rate, maybe some butterflies in your stomach, increased awareness and inability to sleep, and a feeling of pent-up energy are very common signs of both fear and excitement. They feel the same physically, but emotionally and mentally they are polar opposites. Fear can be debilitating at worst, and needlessly (and negatively) stressful at best. Excitement is fun, enjoyable, and addictive.
At a recent Strangers To Friends experience, a man let me know he’d been receiving invitations via Meetup for over a year but resisted coming out of fear. With a huge smile he exclaimed, “I can’t believe I waited so long! “. I smiled back. You see, many people have expressed the same feeling! The only way to discover the other side of the fear is to take action and do it! EVERYONE is a first-timer, their first time they do anything. You’re not being set up to fail. You’re being challenged to.. .Step Through Fear.
When was the last time you stepped through fear — and experienced joy?
What action can you take this week to step through fear and invite a new experience?
Having lived life “turning strangers into friends” for the last decade, you can imagine the countless times I’ve called my Mom, slightly hysterical with a, “Holy Moly, you’re never going to believe this strangers to friends story!”. But after 10 years of me spewing tales of synchronicity, she’s never really surprised. Because…it’s me. And this is the story of my life. BUT, this story in particular, how I unknowingly created connection on November 20, 2018, took my “Holy Moly, Mom!”… to the next level.
I wasn’t even there!
This is the Story of 2 Women, Bali, Indonesia, Intuition and Crazy Synchronicity. Oh yea…and Me.
First, meet Marcy Morrison:
In 2009, after working for 4 years as a Travel RN Recruiter in San Diego, I put all my energy and intention into manifesting my job layoff.. and it worked. This inspired two things: the “invention” of my first Strangers To Friends card… and… the questioning of “My Purpose”. Turned out, a RN Recruiting Co Worker had a son who was best friends with a boy who had a Mom, who was the Founder of Careers With Wings, so she connected us. Cue in Marcy. In 2010, Marcy became the first ‘Coach” I ever worked with, before everyone had a coach, but divinely on time. You see, this was the point in my life I began to recognize I had a gift of connection which opened myself to explore more passion in “what do I want to do”. Though I’d go onto accept another RN recruiting job a year later. I also, like the previous one, realized it no longer served and believe it or not, once again, manifested my layoff. With another “window of opportunity” to pursue my “purpose” of turning strangers into friends, I decided to leave San Diego and take on a 6 week, 15 city, cross country road trip and move to Wilmington, NC. This photo of Me & Marcy was snapped at my “Going Away” Party days before I hit the road! Fast forward 8 years: though we don’t regularly keep in touch, we’ve literally been each others “cheerleaders” from afar. If nothing else, never missing a “Happy Birthday”. That’s how I knew, via Facebook, Marcy chose to celebrate her 50th this year in Bali, Indonesia!
Next, meet Sarah Leger:
January 2018, promoting an upcoming STF Experience, I sent a newsletter to the Strangers To Friends Meetup, announcing giveaways at the event from one of my favorite Colorado Local Businesses (another Strangers To Friends Story), Be Hippy. (PS: Enter code “Friends” to receive 10% off) The next day, I got a Meetup Message from a gal in Fort Collins asking to be connected with the owner of the company to inquire about sponsorship for her retreat! So, I connected them… and you guessed it, they agreed to partner! But it wasn’t this success that sparked my excitement. As Sarah and I moved from Meetup to Facebook, I asked questions! Turns out she’d recently relocated to Colorado via Boston (where I was born) and I was already friends with the gal speaking at her retreat! Small World! Clearly, we were meant to meet. This photo of Sarah was taken on Jan 16, 2018, the we sat for hours story swapping and salvaging over our synchronicity– and this slice of lemon cake ! (Side Note: the man behind us overheard our conversation… and us eyeing his piece of cake… and surprised us with a huge slice to share!) But, the real story: this coffee date was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. For the last year, she and I have coached each other, collaborated with each other and even helped each other move. Moments she “needs” someone, I’m her go to. The moment I need a “pick me up”, she seems to know. That’s why I was so excited she was off to Bali, Indonesia for the month of November for the trip of a lifetime. The next photo was taken Jan 20, 2019 unaware it was our 1 Year Friendaversary!
Now…the REAL STORY BEGINS:
An 18 hour time difference text message pops up from Sarah, “You’re not going to believe this, but I channeled my “inner Carlyn” and met a friend of yours in Bali!”
Wait, what is she talking about??? Who do I know in Bali?
Here’s the CRAZY “small world” story:
After traveling for 2 weeks in Asia with her job as the Alumni Events Director for Semester At Sea, Sarah was on the last leg of trip, now waiting in the Bali Airport to get picked up to head to her Uncle’s Home in Ubud. Feeling all the feels from a day of travel, she craved connection with someone friendly, perhaps an American Woman, someone with whom she could relate. Have you ever thought to “randomly” talk so someone across the room? Though I know Sarah as a leader, I also know, she isn’t the gal who typically jumps up to head across the room and strike up “stranger” conversations. That is, until the “What Would Carlyn Do?” thoughts popped into her mind!
As she shared with me, she glanced around the airport and spotted a blonde woman by herself, who she did a double take on because the thought looked just like me! She sat thinking, “I bet Carlyn would walk up to her and stranger to friend her!”And with that thought, she inspired herself to walk up to her and initiate a conversation. Per her story, they immediately fell into a comfortable flow and realizing they shared a lot of small world stories! Both are in the “coaching” world. Both have a passion for travel. Both are spiritual. But it wasn’t so much what the had in common but, per Sarah, how she felt: at ease. An instant connection. AND the connection boosted her confidence and self trust, knowing her intuition was spot on! Knowing Sarah’s family would be there shortly to pick her up, they began to wrap up their conversation. Thats when the story went from good to… you’ve got to be kidding me! Without thinking anything of it, Sarah casually said, “I’m so happy I came and said hi! You really do remind me of my friend, Carlyn”. Cue Marcy looking at her a little funny. Without skipping a beat, she replied, “Wait, Carlyn Shaw?”. Marcy knew Sarah lived in Colorado, I lived in Colorado and how many Carlyn’s in Colorado could there be?
Think about this: Sarah thought “what would Carlyn Do?”, spots a woman who she think LOOKS LIKE ME (on the OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD), in a small airport, builds up the courage to practice what “Carlyn Preaches”, and as a reward…. the universe hands her MY FRIEND! Imagine if she’d allowed the little bit of fear or resistance to talk her out of saying hello. What a heartbreaking thought!!! It always comes down to the moment we decide to say YES TO CONNECT that the magic happens! Second guessing due to threat is one thing but doubting due to fear of a story you make up in your mind is another. I still shake my head in disbelief: I wasn’t physically there yet my spirit kick started a stranger to friend story, in Bali. I’m beaming with pride.
So, since both of them know the power of “the follow up” they exchanged contact info to connect again in Bali! Now, I don’t know what I love more about this story: how my words of wisdom helped inspired action– or the fact she thought we looked so much alike and THAT’S what ultimately made her go say “Hi”. You see, everything’s connected. People. Places. Timing. Thoughts. All of it. here’s proof:
The Post Epic Story Follow UP
Best part about their connection is it reconnected me & Marcy, too! Having not spoken face to face in several years, she couldn’t wait to tell me her side of the story. So, she asked if I’d like to hop on a Zoom Chat and be interviewed for her new show, The Passion Purpose Academy. Just think, 10 years after I hired her as my “Purpose” Coach and she’s interviewing me to learn about Strangers To Friends. Talk about a Big, Small, World. Check us out below!
A month ago I ran the 119th Boston Marathon with Marathon Strides Against MS Boston Marathon Team. Not only was I honored to make my dream come true along side 53 team members who raised money for the same cause, but I was asked to be the only team member to speak at our pre race pasta dinner. Living in Denver, CO, my only connection with everyone until this point was our Team Facebook Group. Being able to introduce myself while sharing my passion and purpose for the pursuit of these particular 26.2…. with everyone all at once, was the icing on the cake.
SO…I thought to share my speech with all of you, too. Here goes:
“I can’t believe this weekend is finally here. If you’re anything like me, you booked your flight in December and told the Customer Service lady that it was taking you to run the Boston Marathon. I’ve pretty much told anyone that would listen to me since the day I found I was on the team. You see, I have Boston Roots. I was born in Framingham 37 years ago. My Dad raised me to be a die-hard Pats & Red Sox Fan. My Mom raised me to be a die-hard Lobster & Clam Chowda fan. My Grandma didn’t call me Carlyn, she called me CAH-LYN. Boston is in my Blood and I love being in this city! This is one of the reasons I stalked David for weeks before he officially told me I was accepted to run with all of you. Being here, and especially being asked to speak tonight, truly is a dream come true. I’m honored to share my story of WHY this particular marathon, for this particular cause was a must on my To Do list in life.
Can anyone remember when running 6 miles scared the hell out of you? I can. It was my training run for my first half marathon, 5 years ago. Standing before you now, I can honestly say that I don’t just like to run, I love it. However, running the Boston Marathon never crossed my mind until the tragic events of April 15, 2013. A voice from within spoke to me and I knew I had to run–for Boston. I also knew there was no way on earth I could qualify. It just so happens that I met Phil Yastrow, a former runner with this team, who told me he got in by running for MS. What? You mean I can fundraise for my cause AND run the Boston Marathon? This had my name written all over it.
The decisions I’ve made over the years led me to this moment. I believe every day we have the choice to look at life from a positive or negative perspective. We have the power to allow tragedy to create purpose and take action rather than waiting for life to happen. I know I am here with all of you because I have chosen to walk (or in our case, run) a life paved by optimism and opportunity.
To start, it was October 1997. I couldn’t feel the water hitting my arm in the shower. Then my entire left side fell asleep. Within a day my torso was numb, followed by the loss of vision in my right eye. I was an invincible 19-year old sophomore at Indiana University until I was given my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. MS, what the heck was MS? Thankfully, I was told to look up the National MS Society. I read that MS was different for everyone, that the symptoms varied and there were treatment options. Yes, I was scared. But I was comforted by the love and support from all my friends and family. However, any scared thoughts soon vanished when 2 of my best friends died 10 months apart in separate car accidents. The first was one month after my diagnosis. I share this as part of my story because accepting their deaths was much harder than accepting my MS. Rather than feel that life was unfair, I felt fortunate to be alive. I wanted to experience all that I could for myself and their spirits, too. Shortly after their passing I had my first of many AH HA moments and declared a Mantra I still say today: I will plant my feet all over this planet as long as I can.
Me with my Mom & her Boyfriend after I gave my speech.
After graduation, I moved to Dallas, TX. I was 23 when I happened upon a Lunch & Learn presented to my company by the Director of the local MS 150, now called Bike MS. I walked up to the Director and said, I have MS. It was the first time I’d shared it with anyone that understood what that meant. Though I didn’t own a bike and I was anything but a runner, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and join a local friends & family team. The Society asked if I would appear on the local news to promote the bike ride. My Dad flew out to crew, my friends made signs to cheer me on and I met other people like me. Most people I met with it were much older than me yet often I had an earlier diagnosis! So I made up the joke that I’d had MS longer than I’d been legally able to drink. I’d never been an adult without it. But jokes aside, I liked this new sharing role. I liked fundraising and I liked making a difference. I loved this experience so much I did it again the following year.
Fast Forward to 2004. I followed my dream of living on the beach and moved myself to San Diego, CA. Soon after, I called the Society to get involved. Upon hearing my name, they immediately asked if I was related to the Chapter President, Allan Shaw. I laughed confused because I was not related to THAT Alan Shaw, but I was related to an Alan Shaw, my Dad! Coincidence? I think not. I had an instant family! This family turned out to be incredibly helpful when at age 26, I had my next exacerbation. I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. My left leg was paralyzed. This would last for a week. I couldn’t drive because I couldn’t feel my clutch, but I was able to take my wiggle of a walk to the gym and use the recumbent bike, lifting my left leg onto the pedal, making sure to stay active with my right. And after a couple weeks my body was back to normal but I was forever changed. This is where I would adopt my next Mantra: Move it or Lose it.
In 2006 I signed, by myself, and walked in my 1st 3 Day, 50 Mile MS Challenge Walk in San Diego. At this point, my Dad had previously walked in 5 Carolina Challenge Walks so he was the inspiration for me. It was my turn to show that someone with MS could walk for others with MS. The following year I convinced another girlfriend my age with MS to join me. My 3rd year she & I formed Team OptiMiStic, with the M and the S capitalized, and recruited 5 others. I gave my first MS speech at that candlelight dinner. The drug company, Acorda, also selected me and my team for a documentary about the challenge walk. Each year I looked forward to seeing my extended MS family while creating awareness and assisting others living with MS. It felt like my purpose. MS was literally paving a path of amazing people and experiences in my life. Upon feeling this silver lining with all of my being, I declared my next Mantra: Set Backs are Stepping Stones in Disguise.
By the time I walked my 4th Challenge walk, I’d become a bit of a runner. Then, one afternoon in late 2009, at the beach, some friends challenged me to join them for a half marathon the beginning of 2010. After a several beers my arm was twisted. Little did I know that would be one of the best, life-changing decisions I’d ever make. By the end of 2010, I’d run 3 half marathons. Yup, I’d been bitten by the Run Bug, hard. And each race I planted my feet somewhere new. Each time a little faster. I had MS but MS did not have me.
Fast Forward to 2011. After being let go from my job in San Diego, I created a 6-week cross country road trip filled with 15 cities, lots of friends and now lots of runs and landed myself on the beach of Wilmington, NC! I also started my blog Strangers To Friends. I couldn’t help but reflect on all the serendipity in the form of friendships, especially with people I met because of my MS. Without fear, I followed my intuition, allowing one closed door to be the opening of another. Within the next year I appeared on The Anderson Cooper Show to speak about my MS, and ran 3 more half marathons, including the NYC Half. The day I ran my 6th, I got the tattoo Love (a heart) Life (it’s actually my Mom’s handwriting) on the back of my neck, base of my brainstem, top of my spinal cord, where I knew my lesion to be. I thanked my body for each step it had allowed me to take and every experience MS had motivated me to accomplish. I still get excited when a runner behind me notices it and asks me about it. I like to think it’s my bumper sticker 😉
This brings me to 2012. I heard one more whisper, to bid farewell to the beach and take on the mountains, which brought me to where I am now, living in Denver, CO. Within 3 months I ran half marathon #8 and signed up for The Portland Marathon. My friends followed along on FB, watched how Iâ€™d not allowed the label or disease to hold me back and called me an inspiration. Ha, but after that marathon I swore on everything in me that I would never, ever run another one again. Famous last words, right?
The following year, 2013, was really tough. I broke my 5th metatarsal on my right foot. 4 months later I was in a horrible bike accident that launched me face first into the street, shattered my 2 front teeth and caused my back and neck muscles to tighten up so badly that it took another 5 months before I could run. Being forced to be still from freak accidents that had nothing to do with MS was almost more challenging than when it happened because of MS! While healing my foot without surgery, I was forced me to rely on my left leg, the one paralyzed years before, which to me was a silver lining. So, 9 months post foot break, I drove to Moab, UT for my first time and PR’d my 9th Half Marathon. To date, this is one of my proudest moments because I had to mentally and physically over come a lot to make it happen.
And here I am today, in the best shape of my life, ready to make my dream come true and take on 26.2 miles with all of you. My journey with MS seems to run parallel with my journey of running. Think back to the moment you decided to commit to the 2015 Boston Marathon to run with our team. You knew you were giving up sleeping in on Saturdays for long runs, but could any of us have predicted ALL THE SNOW? I salute your commitment because you made my Colorado Winter look like a walk in the park! But just like our commitment to accepting MS and doing something about it, we put one food in front of the other. We can’t predict the storms ahead, but we can choose to power through life, like we power through 18 miles on a 15 degree day. By saying yes to this marathon, I said yes to so much more. I made the choice to take on training for the past 4 months and to raise money for my cause. None of us can control what happens in life, but we can control how we respond to it. And I couldn’t ask for a more epic way to use my MS to motivate me that to run a marathon with all of you. So on behalf of everyone with MS, thank you for your choice to be here, so that we can run as a team and do all we do to help those with MS.
A few weeks ago the letters ALS were not spoken of in casual conversation, which is exactly what Pete Frates intended to change. By now the “Ice Bucket Challenge” has it’s own Wikapedia page and you’ve either dumped a bucket of ice on your own head or have laughed while watching the friend you challenged take the plunge themselves.Â While Pete’s mission has spread like wild fire, there are many cure crusaders whose efforts are unknown, but who fight the same battle. According to the ALS Society, there are approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. diagnosed with ALS each year, all with their own story. I never imagined that my dear friend, Gary Daitch, would become one of them.
Gary & I took a selfie after our lunch date in Atlanta, Dec. 2013.
A little background: I met Gary via my Mom in 2005.Â Gary’s love for laughing was a quality he projected into the world long before his ALS Diagnosis. As our friendship grew, so did our support for each other. Gary stayed up-to-date on MS research and always got excited to deliver promising news to me when he’d check in to see how I was feeling. And, like all his loved ones, I anxiously awaited my birthday phone call from him, or rather, from Captain ZOOM! In his Captain ZOOM voice, Gary called friends and family to sing his own rendition of Happy Birthday, always making us laugh. Not only was Gary goofy, but he was an amazing dancer! To say that Gary loved to dance is an understatement. From his Disco ways in the 1970’s to Shagging his way into his final days, Gary’s heart was on the dance floor. He was an active member of various Shag Clubs around the Southeast and competed in multiple competitions, including winning 1st Place in an Amateur Shag Contest in Charleston, SC. (Click Here to Watch His Winning Moves)
What started off as a twitch in his finger that went to his right arm, then left, was initially diagnosed as a pinched nerve. But in August 2011, the scheduled surgery to repair the nerve was quickly cancelled due to unimaginable ALS Diagnosis, at the age of 61. Within the year, Gary’s arms hung by his side. When we went for a walk, I put them in his pocket so people didn’t stare when they dangled without his control. Imagine what that means, you are completely healthy and sharp in the mind, but all of a sudden you need assistance doing the most basic activities such as eating, dressing and bathing. But even with his daily struggles, Gary wore a smile on his face. With strings tied to handles and rubber tubes attached to switches, he’d use his teeth to open drawers and turn on the lights.Â Family rallied to his side as needed and he was blessed with the love and patience of amazing caretakers. In addition, The ALS Society extended his life line by providing him a voice activated lap top and mobile phone, only fitting for someone who was known for his gift of gab.
Mom & I feeding Gary breakfast!
Fast forward to May 21, 2014. Gary felt it was part of his purpose to share his story, and was honored to be invited to speak at an ALS Luncheon in his current home city of Atlanta, GA. He was grateful for any opportunity to address ALS supporters and ALS PALS (People with ALS). By this point, his arms were 100% paralyzed, his neck noticeably weaker and he needed a power chair to save energy in his legs for the times he needed them most…to dance. Gary can be quoted from this speech as saying, “I ain’t complaining. As long as I have my legs to dance I am happy. Anyone can feed me, dress me, etc, but no one can dance for me”. Gary truly considered himself lucky. With confidence, Gary referred to himself as the “CEO of his life”. If anyone showed sympathy for his diagnosis, he’d quickly remind them he was “too busy living to worry about dying”. He went out of his way to connect with others living with ALS, offering his prayers, his faith in finding a cure, but also extending a life long friendship.
To all my PALS (People with ALS) I say, ‘We Are Living’Â Â Â – Gary Daitch
No one in attendance of the luncheon could have guessed that would be Gary’s final speech. The term “blessing in disguise” comes to my mind when I talk about Gary’s passing. You see, his biggest fear was being completely dependent on his family and/or a machine, to live. In a rare twist of fate, Gary’s family would no longer bare witness to him slowly losing his life to ALS. After a memorable night watching a dance competition with close friends, Gary tripped and fell on concrete. To most, this is non life threatening. However, without his arms to protect him, Gary died from injuries to his head he sustained from the fall,Â 5 days after his speech, on May 26, 2014. Memorial Day.
Edna Buchanan is quoted as saying, “Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” Gary was family to me. He loved me like a Daughter and I loved him like a Dad. Over the years I also became close with Gary’s daughters, Elizabeth an Lauren. As if this blog post is ‘right on time’ I found out last week that Elizabeth and Lauren formed Team Captain Zoom in Gary’s honor and are walking in the Atlanta ‘Walk to Defeat ALS’ on Sept. 13, 2014.Â All money raised will go to the local chapter that provided Gary with his care services and to the Doctors at Emory University that did the best they could to give Gary guidance throughout his journey.
If you’ve already donated to the Ice Bucket Challenge, thank you. If you want to give more, THANK YOU! If you feel drawn to Gary’s story and want to donate in his honor, thank you from the bottom of my heart.Â My gift to him is this blog post.And I hope after reading my story you feel more connected to this cause. Please CLICK HERE to read Elizabeth’s Story and consider donating in Gary’s Name for her walk on Sept. 13th. On behalf of Gary and his loved ones, we appreciate your compassion and kindness.
According to the ALS Society, every 90 minutes a person in this country is diagnosed with ALS and every 90 minutes another person will lose their battle against this disease. ALS occurs throughout the world with no racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic boundaries. Presently there is no known cause of the disease though support is bringing researchers closer to an answer. In the mean time it costs an average of $200,000 a year to provide the care ALS patients need. Help make a difference and donate or join a walk today.