Monthly Archives: November 2014

Week 15 – Little Bits of Thanksgiving

Happy Week-of-Thanks, Dear Celebrationists!

In honor of this week before/of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a special post with ideas about how to jump-start your Thanksgiving mindset, if you’re having a little trouble getting there.  I know sometimes I can feel blocked from a headspace of gratitude when the things in my life that seem less-than-great are outshining the things that are.  When I get trapped in a mindset of comparison and lack, it can be really challenging to celebrate many little bits I have to be thankful for. And I bet I’m not alone! Here are some ideas to get you ready for a week of giving thanks! But first…

  1. I am grateful for a certain special visitor today : )
  2. I am grateful for Christmas music. Yes, I’ve started.
  3. I am grateful to be a part of Katie Berger’s reading of her new musical Full.  If you are in Florida, you should come check it out on Monday, Dec 15 at freeFall Theatre.  It’s FREE, and you’ll be really moved by it, I promise.  7pm. 6099 Central Ave, St. Petersburg, FL.

All right friends. Some fun ideas to get you in the spirit : )

1.  I’ve mentioned this book before, but seriously, go pick up a copy of Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts. I  can’t think of another book that will get you in the spirit of Thanksgiving like this one will! http://www.29giftsbook.com

2.  Make a list of non-blood-related family members who have become family to you. Revel in this list for a bit.  The families that we build can be just as meaningful as the ones we were born with.  Take a moment and tell a few of these folks how much they mean to you.

3.  Make some art.  Who says coloring is just for kids? This is something I’ve been finding really therapeutic in the last month or two.  I have this incredible Mandala coloring book –http://www.amazon.com/Mandala-Coloring-Book-Inspire-Creativity/dp/1440569983/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1416846486&sr=1-2&keywords=mandala+coloring+book shading in those beautiful patterns is really soothing to me, and also a neat reminder of the fact that we always have the freedom to create, play, and make the choice to use our time in a way that just “feels good.” When we allow ourselves that opportunity, it’s an act of self-care. And I think that’s definitely something to be grateful for : )

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4. This little Josh Groban tune always gets me, and puts me in a mindset of gratitude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9wgeokEsOc Whatever your musical equivalent might be, listen to it on repeat for awhile : )

5. For as much as material items aren’t the reason for the season, take a look around you at the things you have. For as much as most of us have moments of feeling broke or poor, and frustrated by the things we “can’t have,” take a look at the things you do, and recognize that your own hard work, fortitude, and the job that you may or may not adore is responsible for the books you love, shoes that carry you from place to place, and snuggly blanket you get to curl up with every night. That’s more than a lot of people have.  That job is more than a lot of people have.

6. Whether you find yourself in good health or not this holiday season, take a moment to celebrate the parts of yourself that are in alignment/aren’t experiencing dis-ease. Maybe it’s your healthy mind, your strong arms or legs, your eyes that can see, hands that have sensation and can feel things, etc. I think our health is probably one of the easiest things to take for granted until we don’t have it.

7. Reach out to a friend who is really struggling with the season.  The holidays are hard for a lot of people for a variety of reasons.  If you’re a person who is fortunate to experience the holidays as a joyful time, see what you can do for that friend who is struggling to find the light of the season.

8. I love walking. Walking is a really enjoyable, meditative activity for me, and when I need to refocus, blow off steam, etc. there’s nothing I’d rather do.  If walking is your jam, go take one, and as you walk, see if you can challenge yourself to list 10 things you’re grateful for, and you can use the walk itself to inspire you. As you pass a park you might feel thankful to live near a bit of nature, when you pass your favorite coffee shop, you might express gratitude for the baristas who know your name and drink order, etc.

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9. Volunteering is obviously a great way to remind ourselves of everything we have to be grateful for.  NY-ers, I’m such a fan of https://www.newyorkcares.org.  But wherever you are, there are opportunities to be found through the vast powers of google! Even if you don’t make it to a soup kitchen though, there are opportunities to volunteer your time every day.  Help a friend edit a paper or resume, with a home project, ride, or just offering your listening ear when needed most.

10.  Have a party! To be honest, I don’t love big groups of people or lots of noise, but what I do love is getting small groups of people I adore together.  Whatever size group you most enjoy, get a treasured group of friends or family together and remind each other that even when life gets hard, no one is alone. Celebrate the season by celebrating your tribe.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Celebrationists, more next week!

Week 14 – Little Bits of Consciousness

Hello there, Celebrationists! Can’t wait to share a lovely and magical GBD with you this week, as I type away on this rainy afternoon in Florida : ) But firrrrrst…

  1. I am thankful for late night talks with new friends
  2. I am thankful for the opportunity to work with the bright, adorable, and super enthusiastic kids in A Christmas Carol
  3. I am thankful for the butternut squash and kale soup I am currently eating because it is DELIGHTFUL, and this Gator Hammock/Lethal Gator hot sauce is making it the most PERFECT…

All righty, friends. Snuggle up in your favorite rainy day spot, and get ready to meet Pam Berger!

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Pam is a Fair Trade Ambassador through Catholic Relief Services. A super-volunteer, she helps spread awareness about conscious consumerism, and how we can all have an impact on economic justice across the globe.  Read on…

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do as a Fair Trade Ambassador?

As a fair Trade Ambassador, I speak to various groups and individuals about the importance of buying Fair Trade certified products such as coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, olive oil, clothing and handcrafts. I also help people find sources to make Fair Trade purchases. Why Fair Trade? Because many of the goods we import from other countries come to us via means that oppress individuals, trapping them in poverty, illiteracy and unhealthy environments. For example, COFFEE. Coffee is the world’s SECOND most valuable commodity after petroleum, and US consumers drink one-quarter of the beans traded in the global market but, sadly, most of what we consume comes from what can only be described as “sweatshops in the fields.” The workers on these farms/plantations are often children, youth and women earning subsistence wages for, literally, back-breaking work. Imagine changing that by simply doing something that you already do – drinking a cup of coffee – but making sure that it is Fair Trade certified coffee.

How long have you been doing this work? How did you get started?

Well, the official work began this past March when I went to Catholic Relief Services’ International Headquarters in Baltimore, MD for training and commissioning as a CRS Fair Trade Ambassador. But I had been promoting Fair Trade long before that. I have been a long-standing advocate of ethical consumption practices and learned first about Fair Trade through my local grocery co-op, Good Foods Co-op, in Lexington, KY. They jumped on the Fair Trade bandwagon almost from the get-go and I started buying Fair Trade coffee around 2003. I started advocating for the use of Fair Trade coffee where I worked – but did meet with a fair amount of resistance. It does cost a little more than traditional and folks want their goods to be as cheap as possible. More and more I realized that the only way forward was with a lot of really good education and so when the opportunity presented itself to become better educated so that I can educate others, well, I jumped at it.

I understand its a highly competitive process to be chosen to be a Fair Trade Ambassador – what was that process like for you?

A limited number of individuals are selected each year to become trained as Fair Trade Ambassadors with the goal being to have a good distribution of individuals placed throughout the country. There is an application process and CRS is looking for people who have a working knowledge of their organization and of Fair Trade. I believe that being one who ascribes to ethical consumption in multiple ways was a bonus. So, for instance, my being vegan and concerned with buying local and participating in efforts to promote organic and non-GMO along with a strong commitment to Fair Trade all played into my being selected for the Fair Trade Ambassador training program. I am the first Fair Trade Ambassador in the Commonwealth of Kentucky which gives me plenty of opportunities to educate about Fair Trade.

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What would you say are some of the greatest benefits of making fair trade purchases?

Buying Fair Trade cuts out multiple middle men and women who take a considerable share from the proverbial profit pie. Again, let’s look at COFFEE. The traditional cup of coffee that most consumers purchase at a fast food restaurant in the U.S. is handled by 8 or middle people and the farmer who produced it may see a 1-cent return per cup that he/she then has to divide up among his/her workers. Change to Fair Trade and you cut out about 5 of those middle people and get considerable more profit back to the farmer – enough that now his/her workers are receiving a fair wage. In addition, by buying Fair Trade, farmers and their employees are insured of equal employment opportunities, opportunities for advancement, healthy and safe working environments, financial and technical assistance, long-term relationships with their buyers and complete transparency in the entire supply chain. Plus, Fair Trade means environmentally sustainable practices are in place. All of these are staggeringly important benefits but the one that speaks to me the most is the fact that buying Fair Trade insures that children are not producing these goods and being denied an education. In fact, Fair Trade works diligently at making sure children are in school.

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(Just a cup of coffee, or a just cup of coffee?)

What are some of your favorite fair trade products? Something youd recommend as a gift for the holidays?

Coffee ranks as number 1 on my favorite Fair Trade products list – and right now I am all about the coffee produced by Equal Exchange. Many stores carry their coffee but it is also available through their web site – www.equalexchange.coop. There you will also find delicious chocolate bars and gift boxes of Fair Trade yum-yums that would make the perfect holiday gift.

I absolutely love Divine Chocolates as well, again available in many stores and also via their web site – www.divinechocolateusa.com.

I am in love with Fair Trade jewelry, too, and therefore have to recommend SERRV International and their catalog of all sorts of handcraft goods from around the world – www.serrv.org. – clothing, jewelry, home décor, food products, etc.

What is something youve learned about the impact of conscious consumerism on poverty, that you may not have known before becoming a Fair Trade Ambassador?

The disheartening fact is that US citizens are by-and-large driven by an insatiable appetite for CHEAP. We want our goods to be of the highest quality for the lowest price possible. Actually, maybe not even the highest quality but passable quality. We turn a blind eye to what consuming in this fashion means to the world. We have some big problems in the world today – war, terrorism, environmental degradation, species extinction, illiteracy, oppression of women, etc. – and so much of this is tied to how we consume goods. For an example, would we have the immigration issue in the U.S. if we all bought into the notion of Fair Trade? Farmers in developing countries and their workers would be making enough money to live in their homes, not seeking a “better” life in the U.S. But we want cheap coffee and have thus made it impossible for countless farmers and their families to earn a living in their native countries. And here we are today.

Becoming a Fair Trade Ambassador has made me far more aware of the connections between our consumption practices and the impacts that consumption have on a myriad of world issues.

Who/what is another person/organization that you believe to be doing Little Bits of Good?

SERRV International. I mentioned this above but have to say a bit more. SERRV is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide. SERRV began with a small group of Church of the Brethren relief workers helping refugees rebuild after World War II. It was at the forefront of the Fair Trade movement. And since its inception it has grown to be an independent non-profit organization offering a large range of products through seasonal catalogs, three SERRV stores, and hundreds of stores and churches throughout the country selling their goods. It is staffed by primarily volunteers who believe in the mission. I had the opportunity to visit their headquarters when I was in Maryland in March and am so impressed with the operation. SERRV is doing great work and, I am pleased to say, partners with Catholic Relief Services in promoting Fair Trade. https://www.serrv.org

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What is the best thing that happened to you today?

I got to stay home from work on this snowy cold day in the Bluegrass and am lounging, reading the book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by Jimmy Carter, and sharing more about Fair Trade. Pretty awesome day thus far!

What is a favorite piece of inspiration that you’d like to share?

From Pope John Paul II’s Go In Peace: The crowds of starving people – children, women, the elderly, immigrants, refugees, the unemployed – raise their cry of suffering. They implore us, hoping to be heard. How can we not open our ears and our hearts and start to make available those loaves and fishes that God has put into our hands? If each one of us contributes, we can all do something for them. Of course, this will require sacrifice, which calls for a deep inner conversion. Certainly, it will involve changing our exaggerated consumerist behavior, combating hedonism, and resisting attitudes of indifference and the tendency to disregard our personal responsibilities. With more than 800 million people suffering from malnutrition, it is often difficult to find immediate solutions for improving these tragic situations. We must nevertheless seek them …For each of us, moderation and simplicity ought to become the criteria of our daily lives.

For more information go to www.crsfairtrade.org.

Thank you so much, Pam! Have a great week, Celebrationists, and more next Monday!

Week 13 – Beginnings and Endings

Greetings, Celebrationists! I know I got super excited about sharing another GBD with you this week, but with the closing of Into the Woods yesterday, I feel more compelled to write about something that I think we all have plenty of experience with – beginnings and endings. And first,

  1. I am thankful for a really exceptional final double show performance day of Into the Woods. Could not have ended much more beautifully than that
  2. I am thankful for avocado toast – don’t knock it ’til ya try it : )
  3. I am thankful to start rehearsals for A Christmas Carol, tomorrow

As I sit here on my bed writing this, nestled between something ending and something beginning, it makes me think about the following: the tricky balance between the reverence and longing for what has ended, and the openness to what is about to be. I have so many memories over the years, of ending a particular experience and sobbing in my bed, inconsolable for days because I felt like my life was over. The things I used to think a LOT, during such times…and still have moments of, from time to time:

  1. I will NEVER see these people again in my life
  2. This show (experience, etc) was the most AMAZING thing to EVER happen to me, and nothing will ever be this good again
  3. Now I’m forced to go back to this thing called “real life,” and must be (mostly) morose for at least a solid week

I look back on this little self and want to squeeze her, to tell her that she just might see a lot of these people again – and that if she doesn’t, they will have left a little piece in the mosaic of her life regardless, and won’t ever really be forgotten. That it’s totally fine to be sad for a little while. That new experiences will come, and that she will be ready for them. That it’s all “real life,” and she’ll experience this losing of people and special moments over and over and over, and she won’t break. Her life will go on. And it will be amazing, and just what she needs at the appropriate times.

The ending of something incredible evokes an awful lot of wonderment for me, now. When you’re in the midst of whatever the experience or relationship is, you can’t imagine it NOT being a part of your life. Then when it’s over, you realize you’re the same “you,” and it’s all a memory, sometimes almost like it never happened at all.

But you also know it did. Then you smile, and remember how you’ll never be the same for it.

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There’s a line I love from the song “Giants in the Sky,” sung by the character Jack – he’s recounting his experiences at the top of the beanstalk, in the world of the giants. Near the end of the song, he sings the lyric, “…and you’re back again, only different than before,” and I’m just fascinated by that bit of mystery. We have these wonderful moments in our lives, they consume us fully, and then leave as quickly as they came.  We are the same, but different. And sometimes we have to wait a bit before even noticing the new little bit of wisdom we’ve acquired, the new lesson we’ve learned, and how the experience has worked on us. It’s really beautiful I think, and one of the amazing mysteries of being human.

Beginnings can bring about their own challenges, after something awesome has ended. Things I used to experience, a lot:

  1. Unconsciously resisting new people who weren’t part of my common experiences
  2. Resisting new challenges that were outside my comfort zone, because I was ridiculously afraid that this time I would fail
  3. …resisting. In general

Resisting feels passive while we’re doing it, but is a totally active choice to make. After the fact, we can see how sometimes (code: most, if not all of the times) it would take far less energy to give in to an experience than to keep resisting it. However powerful a motivator fear is, we are alway equipped to say “thanks for your opinion fear, now here’s a nice cookie – you go snack over there, and I’m going to get on with my life, thanksverymuch.”

What I think about new experiences now, when I get out of my own way (which, to be fair, is not all of the time)

  1. New experiences give us the opportunity to discover what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown from everything that’s happened up until that moment in our lives
  2. New experiences allow us to meet our new “teachers” and “mirrors” (code: every single person that we meet). These teachers sometimes stick around for a brief time, and sometimes a lifetime. Sometimes we enjoy/adore/fangirl them, and sometimes we can’t stand being around them/think we are NOTHING alike. But even when we don’t connect with a person, we can gently remind ourselves that there is something to learn from everyone if we stay open
  3. New experiences give us the opportunity to have a new perspective and make new choices. We all have patterns of behavior that we find ourselves playing out over and over again. Every new experience gives us the opportunity to say “Just because I always….this time, I can make the choice to….” – it never feels that easy, but it kind of is.

So. Beginnings and endings. Let’s celebrate them as much as we can, always being gentle with ourselves when we just “aren’t there yet.” And if we feel ourselves closing off and shutting down today – we get to try again tomorrow!

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(My birthday gift from the beautiful Katie Berger)

I’ll leave you with one more set of lyrics from my favorite song in the show that I think speaks to all of this:

“Let the moment go…Don’t forget it for a moment, though. Just remembering you’ve had an “and,” when you’re back to “or,” makes the “or” mean more than it did before. Now I understand – and it’s time to leave the woods.” 

See you next week, with a new interview with an exciting GBD! A reminder that if you’d like to nominate a person or organization (take a peek at past interviews, to spark your imagination!) drop me an email at littlebitsofgoodblog@gmail.com

 

 

Week 12 – Little Bits of Wisdom

Hello and Happy Monday! Hope you had a great weekend, and that this next week is a wonderful one for you.  Today we’ve got one more “Shakin Things Up” post before a new GBD next week!  Today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics (but actually.) Children.  I’m fascinated by them, adore them, and growing up/evolving/the parent-child dynamic is something very present in Into the Woods, some other material I’ve been ruminating on, and I’m getting ready to work with a bunch of great kids in the next show I’m doing – which means that the brilliance of children has been tumbling around in my thoughts an extra amount, as of late.

But first –

  1. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach/coach/work with some amazing kiddos, coming up. It’s something I love, and I’m excited for the chance to do it in a place that means a lot to me
  2. I am grateful for this weather over the past few days – 60s and 70s, but beautifully sunny
  3. I am grateful for the incredible Emi Stefanov, Katie Berger, and Nick Lerew for lending their time, talents, and calming energies to me on a day off

So, children. In a number of spiritual/self-help/hippy-dippy books (which are most of my most favorite books, if we’re being real) I’ve come across this idea that as adults, one of our jobs is to unlearn a lot of the unhealthy habits we’ve developed over the years, and get back to the way we thought/existed in the world as children. Now obviously there is balance – it wouldn’t serve us well to start eating glue and screaming our heads off in the grocery store when that $5.99 bar of chocolate isn’t in our budget and we can’t have it…but I do think we have a lot to learn from children, and the little bits of good they are, in the world.

(Meet Hugo, our baby model for the day : ) Thank you Julie and Irene for letting me show your incredibly handsome and wonderful son!)

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  1. Children are direct – They aren’t afraid to ask for what they need – and make their feelings, wants, and needs known, without apology.  As adults, sometimes it can be easy (for me, anyway) to fall into the world of incessant apologizing for myself, or pretending that I don’t need things. Asking for what we need, claiming what we want, and even stating our opinions can be a challenge.  Children know how to be direct without ego.
  2. Children love their bodies – I really like the idea of this video, http://aplus.com/a/jubilee-project-comfortbale-one-question particularly when the kids start to speak.  Before a certain age, we haven’t learned yet that there is anything “wrong” with our bodies.  We start out in this life as beautiful, perfect babies who adore ourselves  Let’s use these little people as inspiration!
  3. Children are honest – Plain and simple.
  4. Children breathe perfectly – Have you ever watched a baby breathe? If you haven’t – go find one (but don’t be a creeper about it, if possible…) babies aren’t racked with the tension, breath-holding, slumped shoulders, tightening, squeezing, and shallowness that we all invariably develop, in our ways.  If we want to know how to exist in this world in a perfect state of release – ask a baby.
  5. Children know how to play – Thankfully I get to play for a living, but I don’t always remember that it’s perfectly wonderful to do it in my life, too. Children don’t have guilt about pulling out their legos or dolls, thinking “Oh man, I should really be doing something much more important with my time.” Play stimulates creativity, imagination, and helps remind us that life doesn’t have to be so serious. Or like my friend Annie says, that we can “choose to live in a comedy!”
  6. Children know how to dream without limitation – As I get older, I find it can be harder to voice my dreams out loud, without a qualifier.  As in “Well, I’d really love this, but I know…..(insert some practical and apologetic nonsense)” – children aren’t afraid to think BIG, to be BIG, and to desire the things we’ve come to believe aren’t “realistic.” How do we know what is “realistic,” anyway? Who decides these things??
  7. Children believe in magic and possibility – Linked to the idea of dreaming, children aren’t as close minded as most of us adults. They are open, and are more excited about new possibilities than worried about them. Children aren’t afraid to believe in what can’t be seen – why are we so afraid to? When we cling so tightly to our egos and imagine that we know everything about the way the world works…that just doesn’t seem as fun or exciting as believing in a little magic : )photo-41 (my young self loved being a fairy, all of the times…)
  8. Children notice the little things – I’ve been on walks, adventures, or even places I’ve been a hundred times before, and had a child say to me “Wow, look at THAT!” – the “that” being something I never would have noticed on my own. The smallest details, the most beautiful moments, the things that we’ve tuned out in our “busy-ness.” Kids know how to stop and smell the chocolate.
  9. Children love unconditionally – We started out on this planet without the slightest concept of “game playing,” withholding affection, or conditional loving. We develop these habits for protection, we think, but the more we can challenge ourselves to let all that go and just value each other on this planet – because we are all together here for such a short time, and we can’t even begin to know another person’s full experience…to find that kind of love in ourselves…what a challenge. But what a joy.
  10. Children are kind to themselves – Children don’t flirt with guilt, shame, self-punishing behaviors, and self-ridicule until they are taught to. We can choose to study these small people with wonder, and use them as a shining example to emulate.IMG_1308

Obviously you could choose to take any of these ten and say “Well yeah, they have it easy – they just don’t know any better yet! They haven’t dealt with reality!” And you’d have a point.  But I think we can also be gentle with ourselves, drop defensiveness and say “How beautiful is the wisdom of these little beings. It was a process for me to become the way I am, so why not begin a new process of learning as much from people younger than me, as from people who are older than me?” We all have our wisdom, at any age.  Don’t forget the little people : )

Find a “Little Bit” in your life, give them a hug today, and study them hard.  We’ve all got a lot to learn. Unlearn. Re-learn : )

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Have a wonderful week!