10 Friendly Reminders

1. Greet everyone with a SMILE 🙂
2. If you have a question; ASK someone! You never know where the conversation will lead.
3. When MEETING someone, repeat their name; it makes a great first impression.
4. Practice makes Perfect! The more you introduce yourself, the more COMFORTABLE you’ll feel!

5. Build TRUST— it’s the Foundation of Friendship.
6. YOU have a gift to offer. Believe in yourself.
7. Become a good LISTENER. You will learn so much about your “Stranger”
8. Common Interests = CONNECTION. Surround yourself with Strangers that SHARE the same Passion.
9. Remember, EVERY person you know was at one point a Stranger. Strangers aren’t Scary.

And Most Importantly….

10 HAVE FUN. Meeting new people opens you up to new worlds.

Practice Meeting People While Waiting in Line

  Compliments = Connections

How often do you find yourself waiting in line for coffee? On average, a person spends 45-62 minutes waiting in line every day! AND, if there is a line, you obviously are not alone. 🙂

One of my favorite ways to “practice” meeting people is to offer a compliment to someone standing next to me in line. To start, compliments are courtesy and being courteous means you are being nice. I can’t think of anyone that does not appreciate the kindness of a stranger and what better way to make someone’s day then to praise them personally! You can also use the compliment as a conversation starter. For example, rather than say ‘I love your necklace” – ask “I love your necklace. Where did you find it?” The simple act of stating a question without a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer opens the door to dialogue.

In the beginning, giving compliments can feel awkward. Try not worry about whether you will offend the person, instead, focus on your confidence that you are contributing to their day. If someone argues with your compliment then they are usually having their own issues, that have nothing at all to do with you. However, if they chose to reject your attempt to boost their day, at least you’ve added a little boost to your own! A believe a compliment is a gift. If someone chooses not to accept your gift, at least you still end up with a good feeling knowing you offered it to them in the first place. I live my life knowing that it takes givers to be receivers and receivers to be givers. Therefor, the more compliments you give away, the more goodness you will feel and your own self-esteem will grow.

So the next time you are waiting for a Vanilla Latte, take the time to tell your Line Partner-in-Crime something nice. Compliments are like a cup of coffee, a great way to start your day 🙂

This Blog was originally written for NextforWomen – Please visit the site and their Facebook Page – Whitney, the creator, is one of my favorite Stranger To Friends.

Bumps = Blessings. Finding Joy in the Journey.

2 weeks from today I’ll be traveling to Sedona, Arizona to join 20 other “strangers” for a 5 Day Writing Retreat. Taken from the website for the program: For most people, “I don’t have time” is the number one reason (read: excuse) for not writing that book they’ve been thinking, talking or dreaming of writing. Fear, the real reason, also comes up. The retreats are designed to overcome both.

In preparation for this process of tackling fear, I’ve been given various Meditation CDs to focus my mind as well as writing assignments aimed to clear a path so that I can connect with my inner truth.  Each assignment is meant to overcome a road block, whether it be to tap into the imagination or draw out pain that is shadowing the source.

Today’s assignments read:

1) Who has wronged you, hurt you? What was it that was done? When did it transpire and how has that adversely affected you, the direction and the quality of your life?

2) Write down the name of the person and next to it write down the words “I forgive you” and what you forgive them for.

It’s interesting for me to notice what comes up with this assignment. It seems the first names to pop into my mind are the guys that have hurt me over the years. It’s a fairly easy task to go back to the age of 16… the first time my heart felt like it was trampled and then fast forward to how that played a role in my future relationships. He promised me I could trust him and then he turned around and vanished. Then the age of 20, when the shift from ‘for now’ to a possible ‘forever’ scared him away, at the exact time in my life I needed him the most. This brings me to 31… learning how to let go of someone whom I loved dearly, but admitting to myself that he had no plans to put me at the top of his pedestal, no matter how hard I tried to change that.

The definition for hurt literally means: to feel pain. That is where this exercise is tricky! While writing about the “hurtful” people, I find myself being “thankful” that they helped me learn some of life’s most valuable lessons. I feel a sense of joy knowing that I grew from these experiences, in a positive way. There is no doubt that learning through relationships can be tough. We might feel a new emotion- one of anger or jealousy.  We could gain a new perspective, being the “other” girl or the “friend”. Perhaps we discover a new boundary within ourselves, a value that can not be compromised. It’s all part of the ebb and flow.  The cause and effect. But, when I stop to think about the people that have brought so much JOY to my life, I know that the awareness of hurt also brought with it the awareness of what it means not to hurt. Though it is easy to blame another and feel pain, it is just as easy to thank another and feel joy.  I believe it takes being hurt by someone to really appreciate and understand the joy that someone else actually brings- in whatever form that we receive it: a new adventure, a new friend, a new found peace.

Does this mean I have already forgiven everyone that has hurt me? I’d like to think so.

When something doesn’t go my way with someone else, though I might not feel it in the moment or the immediate time after, it doesn’t take long for the “silver lining”  to shine through. I’ve learned to recognize the good that comes out of a rather bad situation.  I’m able to see that one break up lead me to London for a semester overseas. One inspired me to fulfill a dream of backpacking Australia. One encouraged me to spend quality time discovering my own passions, more time with myself.  In addition to my heart breaks, I can’t pretend that a few friends have not hurt me along the way.  However, for those break-ups, I am grateful too. The “new” friends that came in as a result of the ones that walked away, are priceless…and meant to be in my life. It’s an example how gain outweighs loss. We all need time to heal from hurt. But in time, I am happy to realize that all my BUMPS are BLESSINGS.  Just as PEOPLE = POSSIBILITIES I find that the HURT = HEALING. One opens the door to another.

I woke up this morning feeling off balance. Like I hit a “bump”. And even today, this bump has been a blessing. Here I am, at the library, Pandora Nature sounds streaming through my headphones, feeling incredibly grounded. Would I have ended up at the library to gain balance if I had not felt the need to quiet my mind from the world today? Probably not. At the same time, would I be the person I am today, where I am today, had the people in my life not “hurt” me along the way? Definitely not.

I felt compelled to share this because I know many of you will connect with this assignment. Most people I am friends with have been hurt over the years, it’s their beautiful baggage that makes them the amazing people they are today 😉

Feel free to do this exercise yourself! Perhaps you need to be reminded who hurt you and who you need to forgive. It’s a wonderful eye opening experience.

Meeting in the Middle

While on my 2 week job training in Little Rock, I had the unbelievable opportunity to take a trip “home” to the Big D– Dallas, TX!!  I’ve been dying to get back so it was a win win: save the company some money on my expenses and see some of my most favorite people in the world! Having lived in Dallas from 2001-2003,  the Lone Star State has a hold on my heart! I swear, my TX friends are my family; the peeps I’ll be sitting with on rocking chairs,  sipping on bloody marys and mimosas…. when we are 80 years old.  At this point I am the only one of our “group” that does not have a husband or children so you can only imagine how much fun we all have when Carlyn comes to town!

However, not ALL my time was given to my original Dallas crew.  My last minute weekend would not be complete without sharing how Thea Kopley was the glue that brought it all together. It all started in 2005…

Hard to believe it’s been 4.5 years!

The story begins with a Craigslist Ad. Yup… I said it. I have actually met people on Craigslist– but you know me, I didn’t meet them in the usual way :)  It was Jan 2005 and I had finally made the decision to move to Australia for a bit!  Id gotten the gig to work for 3 months with International Student Volunteers. My mission: to backpack a region of OZ and recruit international students to participate in conservation and humanitarian volunteer programs in the Baja region and Costa Rica. I was stoked… but broke… but I had big dreams! I was heading to the land down under to explore life hands on! First step, sell my furniture for extra cash. Then, sublet my apartment before mid Feb. Hence, the Craigslist Ad…and Thea. Having recently returned from a 4 month trek through Australia, Thea, the exact same age as me, was living in Boston, trying to decide what to check off her To Do list next…

When she first contacted me about the room, I was simply excited about the idea of helping bring a native Bostonian, aka another New England Fan, across the frontier and into my pad! I know what it means to trade in the Atlantic for the Pacific and thought everyone should know that feeling, too.  However, once she realized I was leaving for OZ, she was more excited to give me pointers for my journey! And so, the pen pal-ing began. As she wrestled with the decision of moving to SD, she helped me prepare for my own adventure. In the end, she got a fabulous job with Anheuser -Busch as a Marketing Rep an decided to stay in Boston… and on Feb 27, 2005, I hopped on a plane (without my wallet, but that is another story in itself) and headed to hang with the Aussies!

After 3 months in the land down under, that took me from Sydney to Adelaide to Melbourne to Hobart,  followed by an unforgettable  trek to Bali, Indonesia, I returned back to San Diego…slowly realizing I was not ready to be in one place.  I was still restless. I didn’t want to settle on a job, I simply was not ready. Seeing that I was sofa surfing on what was now my Brother’s Place, I was far from being stable. I put everything I had into the universe to guide me towards my next step on the ladder of life. I was ready to move forward and I was open to ideas!

Then I met Laura Sechrist… as it turned out, the friend I was obviously praying to pop into my path!  LONG story short, it ALL comes together. The job. They passion behind the job. The traveling. And… the pay!!! I was now the PR Manager for the Volkswagen of America mobile marketing “Force of Good” Tour, launching the 2006 VW Beetle. I was going to travel the country “spreading goodness” along the way– a $15,000 budget per city to make people smile! It was a DREAM JOB and had my name written all over it. Not to mention I was gonna cruise around in a red, 5-speed convertible bug with white hearts wrapped around the entire vehicle. So, to plan the tour, I was being flown out to Arnold Worldwide to live in a snazzy hotel, the Lenox Hotel, for 6 weeks in the Back Bay…. no, not San Fran… but Boston! Who did I immediately email: Thea.

One of the best parts about meeting a stranger you know is going to be a friend… well, is just that!!! When you have been getting to know someone long enough that are certain you will hit it off, because you have already helped each other get to the point of where you are that day. I never thought twice about meeting someone that I only knew through the internet. I didn’t find it strange at all that we met on Craigslist.  And literally “felt” that we were meant to be friends. And… I had the exact same feeling when she and I met at a bar for a few drinks… and laughs! It was as if it all came full circle.  As it turned out,  we had a blast putting a face with an email address, but she and I never saw each other again.  I went on to travel cross country with my tour and she went on to travel cross country on a mobile marketing tour, too! So, after our tours, we both started “real” jobs and our pen-palling came to a halt.

And then years later…. came Facebook. 🙂

I can’t remember who found who first but I can remember giggling with glee as I realized we had both gone on to lead incredibly colorful lives. AND, of all places, Thea was now living in DALLAS!!! How in the world did she get to TX?  Had we really swapped places again???

So, when I got an email message from her asking for my phone number so she could ask me about my trip to Peru since she had seem my photo album and was planning her own South American Tour, I jumped at the chance to catch up! Plus, how cool to be able to repay the favor and give her MY travel tips all while  talking the talk about what was now my old stomping grounds!!!  For whatever reason, we both played phone tag but we never had that “long phone call”. But, I never deleted her number. You know those times you scroll through your phone getting rid of the random names of people you met and forgot to put in their “code name” so now you have no clue who they are… yup, she survived all those sweeps!!! I can look back now and know I didnt delete her number because deep down I really wanted to talk to her again.

10 months later… I did 🙂

I sent her a text from Little Rock to see if she would be in town. She, on the other hand, didn’t have my number saved in her phone!! So, when she responded that she was in LA but would be back in town on Sat (What– now she was in Cali???)…Thea actually thought she was talking to her friend from Dallas that travels all the time! You can imagine her surprise when she realized it was me. Luckily, I was so excited with the idea of hanging out after all these years that I called her and left a voice mail.  Mystery solved on her end!!!!

Soon after landing in Dallas that Saturday afternoon, she called.  Hearing her voice felt like talking to an old friend– only reality, we had only met once. Making plans with her and talking about what we were wearing that night felt normal– only we had never done that before. And, introducing her to my Dallas crew after dinner when she came and met us for drinks… was the icing on the cake. Not only were the reactions from my friends priceless as I shared the story of how she and I knew each other, but she then turned her own strangers into friends… out of MY friends!!!!

I think what is neat to note is the role Thea plays now in my life… one that I could never have predicted during our travel banter back in 2005.  Thea and I are a lot alike. We met at the age of 25, swapping Passport Stamp stories… and years later, we are still the same spirited gals. To have someone like her in my life NOW means even more than it did back in the day. As we get older, life happens. Some get married. Some go to the Peace Corps. So have three kids. Some are unsure where they want to be a year from now. Thea and I sat at the bar, sipping on Dirty Vodka Martinis and talked about LIFE for almost 2 hours the night we reconnected– and THAT talk, meant the world to me. We have much more to share with each other now than we did at 25. Like I say, timing is everything and people come in and out of life for a reason. Here was another perfect example!!!

But. The fun didn’t end there. Our adventure carried into the next day when Jennifer Tokash and I  (another Stranger To Friend- the best gal pal of my ex boyfriend  from Fort Worth that now lives in New York City) met Thea and her friends to watch the USA vs Canada Hockey game. JT (as I call her) and I had sworn to each other we would “meet in the middle” but we never expected to both be in Dallas at the same time!  Our plan was Jazz Fest in New Orleans! We LOVE our live music. JT is also the one friend that came to visit with me in Boston during the same work VW period I met Thea. It is as if we were ALL meant to meet.

Me & JT– meeting in the middle!

What I loved most about the fact that JT, Thea and I were watching the Going for the Gold game together… was the simple fact that we were 3 unlikely partners in crime… but yet 3 true hockey fans! I couldn’t imagine a better dream team for the occasion! From Cali to NYC we ALL met in the middle… in Dallas, to watch a once in a lifetime game… on a spontaneous weekend I went to Dallas, JT came to visit her new born nephew and Thea finally came home from work.

Just think– it started with a Craigslist Ad 🙂

What is a “Profile Page” ?

bagsThe other night I literally woke myself up from a dream, grabbed my newly purchased notebook from the sale section at Urban Outfitters and began to scribble down my thoughts.

This is what I wrote:

What really is a Profile Page? We are given a template. We chose what we want to “share” with the world. Our Hobbies. Our Interests. Our Favorite Movies. But… who are we really trying to impress? Do you think you are really getting the chance to “know” someone based on their favorite book?

What if there was a section called “Baggage”. I mean, seriously, we all have it so why don’t we admit it to ourselves and to others? Are we scared that people would not want to “be our friend” on Facebook if we actually chose to be honest with ourselves and others? What if we listed a struggle with alcohol or food addiction? A horrible ex relationship? Money or health issues? Don’t you think our baggage plays as big a part of who we are today and how we got to this point in our lives as our love for music?

Personally, I think so.

And yes, I am grateful for mine!!! How else would I have learned so much! The best part is when you meet a person that shares that the same baggage: POOF, instant connection! Kind of like me and my MS. It blows my mind how many people I have met that are such important friends in my world due to the fact that I have an auto immune disease. Call it a twist of fate.. but I believe it is more than that. It’s the baggage that brings us together!

It simply comes back to how you chose to define friendship. I like to think a real friend knows everything about you and loves you just the same! So… if this is the case,  how many of you have really taken the time to KNOW people? To listen? To learn– and still love?

Ya know, if I were to meet a person and they claimed that they were able to look me in the eyes and say that they did not have any baggage… well, that would make me more worried than if they did!!!

Our baggage is like a building block… one colorful piece at a time. It means we have LIVED. We have traveled the many roads that our journey has put across our path.

Bring on the cargo of life 🙂