Julie and the Rushed, Grumpy, No Yoga, Very Disorganized Morning - With a Surprise Twist!

"I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," said Alexander in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and this morning, I felt his pain.

I forgot to set my alarm for my favorite yoga class, I nearly twisted my ankle tripping over the cats on my way to feed them this morning, I was running late for a meeting, I had to print out some papers and we didn't have any ink, and I had to mail some packages. I groused to L that it would be a terrible day. 

As I raced to Kinko's, my face already reddening from the heat, I thought about L's sage advice to look on the bright side, to think about the best possible outcome from the meeting and from my subsequent busy day. But I was too mired in my Scrooge-ish thoughts for it to make a dent. I was, in short, determined to be miserable.

Shayna greeted me with a huge smile as I sat down at the Kinko's computer. I can't resist a good smile, and I smiled back, spirits rising just a tad. I printed out my papers, and then set out with my handful of items I kept dropping to try and find packaging for my stuff I needed to return. Shayna put her hand on my arm. "Baby, we're going to take care of you, alright? Just tell me what you need." Her kindness brought tears to my eyes.

"I'm just having such a rough morning," I sniffled. "And I'm not sure how to send these back the proper way..." Having a meltdown in Kinko's was not my finest moment. But Shayna persevered, taking the packages from me, easily figuring out what needed to be done (it was actually quite easy), and cheerfully sending me on my way. At the last minute, when I was awkwardly clutching my water bottle, phone, and a folder I needed to have easily accessible for my meeting, she stopped me.

"Honey, I'm going to give you a bag so you can have all of your stuff together. We don't want you dropping anything now, alright?" I gratefully accepted, thanked her profusely, and raced to my meeting, which ended up going swimmingly.

Shayna was my light at the end of the tunnel this morning, and L was right to look on the bright side (I'm admitting it!). Everything turned out to be just fine, although the story I was telling myself this morning was that things would be far from fine. It just goes to show that in a single moment, your story can always turn around. Even though I need to be reminded of that as well, I promise it's true.

Have you ever had a really terrible time turn around in an instant? Share your story in the comments below!

100 degree weather, a swimming hole, and some ice cream

In case you aren’t living in Philadelphia (or the East Coast), it’s hot here. I’m talking 95 degrees that feels more like 105. It’s the kind of hot where you walk outside and the heat envelops you immediately. The kind of heat that zaps your energy and makes you want to lie on your couch with a fan blowing on you, eating ice cream out of a carton. Or maybe that’s just me.

At any rate, it’s also the kind of heat that makes swimming a necessity. This past Sunday, my friend M and I set off to find a natural swimming hole on French Creek. After a few false starts (namely, me searching for the wrong French Creek on Google Maps), we found it. It was glorious – a semi-deserted stretch of creek, cool shade, a rope swing, and best of all, water.

We immersed ourselves in the water and essentially sat and floated for the next few hours. The creek wasn’t deep enough to do any serious swimming. I floated on my back, staring up at the clouds floating lazily through the sky, when I realized that for the first time in a while, my body was completely relaxed. I languidly stretched my arms over my head and – did nothing. I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually not done anything. There wasn’t anything really to do – except for chat, find sticks to throw for Gigi, M’s adorable pup, and just – float.

Eventually the creek got overrun by children and we knew it was time to go. The creek was muddy and we reveled in it, digging our fingers into the mud, playing, and relishing in the feeling of being gloriously dirty. On the way back home we stopped for ice cream, letting those last few drops run down our chins, sitting barefoot in the grass. It was the kind of day we would have thought nothing of when we were kids. But amidst my adult responsibilities and worries, doing nothing, getting dirty and not caring, and playing was exactly what I needed.

When’s the last time you allowed yourself to get dirty and/or not be productive? To just be? How did it feel? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Playing with Poetry

As a forever teacher (although I haven’t been full-time in the classroom for – gasp – almost four years) there’s nothing more fascinating to me than seeing learning and creativity in action. As teachers can attest, literally witnessing that light bulb moment is what makes it all worth it.

I worked with a friend’s organization called Pop Up Play a few days ago. The goal is to inspire leadership and change through play, which I love. My job was to support the youth teen leaders in the word games – a perfect job for me. We had boggle in huge blocks, huge memory cards to lay on the ground, Pictionary with chalk on the sidewalk, and big boxes with letters on all sides to build your own poetry. Once the kids got tired of the huge slide and monkey bars, they usually migrated on over to us.

One young lady said she wanted to create a poem, so we walked over to the word boxes. She kept searching for the perfect words – and as you can expect, some of the words weren’t there. She had this specific phrase in mind that she wanted to make, and she was having trouble seeing any other way around it (sound familiar?).

I told her that she could maybe try to put words together and see what happened. It was a challenge for her. She kept asking for different words, and we kept looking for them and coming up short. Finally, in the last few minutes, she started to play. She started stacking boxes randomly on top of each other, forming different pairings of words. This is what she finally came up with:

“All children speak for joy”.

Maybe this phrase wouldn’t have made perfect grammatical sense, but she was delighted. She had crafted something all on her own, although it wasn’t what she thought she would make when she started.

I always find that young people are my greatest teachers. So often I have a specific idea of how I want something to turn out. I agonize over getting a square peg to fit in a round hole so to speak, and I struggle to make it perfect. Usually when I step back and leave some space for something else, it turns out much better than I thought it would in the first place.

Do you ever find that’s true for you? If you have a story to share about letting go of expectations and creating something different and better than what you thought would happen, please share in the comments!

Stories from the DNC

Ah, the DNC. We all know the big stories, of course. Michelle Obama’s beyond inspirational speech, the big divisions in the party, Bill Clinton being entranced by balloons, the Khan family's heroism and that while Boyz 2 Men are definitely aging, Paul Simon still sounds exactly like he did when he first started singing. But the view is a bit different when you're volunteering. Here are some of my mini-stories/observations:

  • The day before we were to start, we were told that we couldn't bring any backpacks (not even the drawstring ones). Knowing that I didn't want to carry around a purse all night, and knowing that I needed snacks and a water bottle with me at all times, I went in full pursuit of a fanny pack. I went into about ten stores, and each time, got pretty funny looks. "Just so you know, I'm volunteering for the DNC," I would sheepishly say. That usually got me a more positive nod. Finally, an old co-worker and friend responded to my Facebook plea, and we met up for drinks! It just goes to show that fanny packs really do bring people together. However, it didn't exactly bring L and I together (he was pretty horrified!).
 Good thing he already agreed to marry me, right?!

Good thing he already agreed to marry me, right?!

  • Volunteers are incredibly hard working and passionate. I haven’t volunteered that much in the past, and I was so impressed and honored to be part of such diligent, responsible people who were all working for free. Even though there were some organizational glitches, it was such a cool experience! It definitely makes me want to volunteer more in the future.
  • I did a morning social media shift on Monday and covered what had been going on in Philly on Sunday. There were so many amazing photographers and videographers out in the field! Some of their photos really showcased how much people were getting into the spirit. Philly has been on fire (not literally, although the heat is brutal), between all of the donkeys to find around town, PoliticalFest trivia, all of the #DNCDeals, and the general spirit of this city. It makes me proud to be a Philadelphian!
 My "official" badge, which could actually be anyone's!

My "official" badge, which could actually be anyone's!

  • Getting into the coveted Wells Fargo Center (where the DNC was held) was no easy task. First, we had to get our official badges (they changed every day). Then, we had to follow this sea of people in yellow shirts throughout the crowd, and get our posts. 
 Good thing yellow wasn't a popular color for the delegates.

Good thing yellow wasn't a popular color for the delegates.

  • I was an Access Control Volunteer for the Wells Fargo Center (where the convention is actually held), and that means what you’d expect – that my job was to control people’s access. My job, along with my volunteer all-star friend E and our new friend R, was to guard the production podium, aka the band. We let in maybe 8 people throughout our 8-hour shift.
 We tried for about 5 minutes to get a serious picture.

We tried for about 5 minutes to get a serious picture.

  • The very cool part about this was that we got to walk on the podium before everything started! So I stood at the exact same (well, almost exact same) spot that Michelle Obama stood, just 8 hours apart! It was very, very cool nonetheless. Our favorite security guy, Chuck, led us on that tour, and even told us that the lead band member was on American Idol. So for the entire first night, we were behind the stage.
 On stage! Too bad it hasn't really started yet!

On stage! Too bad it hasn't really started yet!

 I'm so excited that I'm sort of near where the speakers will be!

I'm so excited that I'm sort of near where the speakers will be!

  • Spoiler alert: people don’t love it when you control their access. Throw in the fact that I wasn’t given that much specific information about where people could go, and I wasn’t initially a favorite amongst the delegates. Our shirts said, “Ask Me” on the back, so, as one might expect, we were asked questions that we had no idea how to answer. We had to glean information from other volunteers, passers-by, and by taking long reconnaissance walks. By the end of the night, we could at least tell people where to get water and where most of their passes would allow them to go. That definitely earned us some brownie points!
  • I was so excited for the political celebrities I would see, except for I wasn't exactly sure who was famous. I kept texting pictures to L, my political aficionado, asking if someone actually was famous (as if he could tell from a picture of someone's ear!). However, there was one person I had no doubt about - Jerry Springer! I saw him three times within two days. Apparently he's very political now, and even has a podcast. Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!
 I feel like he hasn't aged a bit.

I feel like he hasn't aged a bit.

  • I didn't take many pictures of this, but there were a lot more protesters than the TV production showed. Especially during the first two days of the convention, there was a distinct group of delegates who were still very vocal and adamant about Bernie Sanders. 
  • I was really proud of the DNC for having an all-gender restroom! Since it was the closest one to our gate, I ended up using it, and felt completely comfortable. I hope that more venues end up adapting this practice.
 So cool!

So cool!

  • As volunteers, we were provided dinner each night, which was so nice, especially since the food lines were very long. The catch was, of course, that we had to stand in line with our vouchers at a food truck outside. The first night, as soon as we got into line, we got caught in heavy, heavy rain. A few kind volunteers offered to let us huddle under their umbrellas, and we laughed as the rain literally soaked us anyways. It was one of those moments that I will remember as my favorite - strangers coming together in solidarity and laughing through it. A charming side affect of the rain? My green fanny pack started leaking green water onto my yellow shirt. Oops.
 My hair is completely soaked!

My hair is completely soaked!

  • I not only made friends with strangers, but I also ran into a friend from college! I know through social media that several of my friends were at the convention, but it was such a treat to run into a former Oxy classmate! (Occidental College, for those of you who don't know - you know, that place that President Obama attended for a few years!)
 Go Oxy!

Go Oxy!

  • Since the DNC was admittedly a bit disorganized for the delegates, you truly saw the best and the worst of people. We had people thanking us profusely for volunteering, and people yelling at us for not knowing where the elevator was in the same moment. I tried to just keep in mind that my job was to try to help people as much as I could, but I didn't feel super helpful most of the time.
  • I snuck into the room to get a picture of Cory Booker for L. I think he's so inspiring. One of my favorite lines: "Our nation was not founded because we all looked alike, or prayed alike, or descended from the same family tree. But our founders, in their genius, in this, the oldest constitutional democracy, put forth on this earth the idea that we are all created equal; that we all have inalienable rights."
 Can you see him?

Can you see him?

  • Michelle Obama just blew me away. Granted, I snuck into a part of the convention where I couldn't actually see her (a rash decision that haunts me to this day), but I could feel her presence and see the crowd's reactions. I can't even cite one single line from her speech because I felt like everything was so important - but I certainly hope she runs for president some day! 
 She's just beyond the podium...

She's just beyond the podium...

  • When Michelle was speaking (I like to think we are on a first name basis), I noticed all the signs people were holding up that said "Michelle". For a second, I literally marveled at the fact that people had all brought the same sign. Then, I wised up. This was actually a job for people - to pass out signs at the appropriate times and collect the old signs. A bit of TV magic, if you will. 
  • The second day, we were guarding a "special guest" section. While we were offered a much better view of the stage, we now had to deal with entire families, some who had one badge and some who had other badges. It was a mixed bag. Some people were very kind, and others literally rushed through anyways, despite our attempts to make sure they had the right security.
  • The actual nomination was just about the coolest thing ever! I had never actually watched one before. The states were asked about their votes, and the way they answered, so joyfully, telling everyone about how amazing their states were, made me so proud to be an American. I loved literally seeing democracy at work right before my eyes. At the end, Bernie Sanders officially said that Hillary Clinton should be the official nominee, and the entire room said "Aye!" I felt so proud to be a woman in the room. Knowing that a major party has elected a woman to be president is so empowering!
 Of course, they handed out the "H" signs. I wonder if they had some bernie signs stashed away just in case?

Of course, they handed out the "H" signs. I wonder if they had some bernie signs stashed away just in case?

  • As soon as Bill Clinton came on, I felt like it was story time for all of the adults in the room. He's so charming, you can't help but be mesmerized by him. 
 Bill Clinton wore a very nice pantsuit for his speech.

Bill Clinton wore a very nice pantsuit for his speech.

  • Meryl Streep was so powerful, saying that women who are first have to have grace and grit. I loved it!
 I love her energy!

I love her energy!

  • The next day, I volunteered for an amazing organization called Pop Up Play. The "Day of Play" as they called it was hosted by different play organizations in the city. It was for the kids in summer camps, as well as delegates and their families. I think my favorite part was watching the kids play in the water on such a hot, hot day.
  • All in all, the DNC was a lovely experience. I was quite tired by the end of the week, but it was well worth it. I would love to hear about any experiences you've had with either volunteering or conventions!

The daily good (illegal) deed

I was about to pull my metro card out on the NYC subway, when he stopped me. "I'll let you through, don't worry about it." I started to protest. He insisted, saying, "I do a good deed every day. This is my good deed for the day." I thanked him profusely, and went through the turnstile for free. Who was I, after all, to stand in the way of a daily good deed, and saving $2.75?

As I stood on the sweltering platform, waiting for the subway car to appear, I looked around at all the people waiting. I wondered what would happen if all of us decided that each day, we would all perform a good deed. Would one of us carry someone's groceries when their load got too heavy? Would one of us stop someone from rushing out into the street when a car was whizzing by? Would one of us hold the door for someone for that extra minute, when all we wanted to do instead was rush ahead to our next meeting? 

And if we did, would that change anything? I would hope so. Of course need real change across America and the world right now, but we also need small acts of human kindness. We need to acknowledge each other's struggles, share in each other's joys, and recognize that we all need to help each other.

Of course, letting someone ride the subway for free isn't quite legal, and I wouldn't recommend that for your first daily good deed. 

Do you have any stories about someone doing something nice for you just because? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!