Day 222. The Extraordinary One.

There are some people I've got on a list to get on this blog that I'm just waiting to find the right words to do them justice. Today, I'm going to highlight one of those people because it is her birthday, its my friend Winnie.

Winnie lives in Belgium and though I have never met her in person I feel like I know her so well. Let me tell you what I know: I know that Winnie is someone who is always there to offer support or encouragement; Winnie remembers the important stuff that's going on in people's lives and will be sure to highlight a birthday, an exam, a big event and then celebrate it; Winnie is an excellent detective when there's something, or someone, she wants to find (and that's all I will say about that ;) ); Winnie is a true friend - dedicated and loyal; Winnie is open about her feelings and her life; Winnie is honest; Winnie is willing to share who she is, what she's about, and what she's striving for; Winnie knows how to celebrate the simple pleasures in life - whether its the new iPhone or a walk in a beautiful park.

There are people who are constants in your life and are amazing in their every day existence. Winnie is one of these people - and today, of all days, I wish her the happiest of birthdays - as I have said before, a birthday is the one day that's all about you and I hope that that comes true for my friend Winnie today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Day 221. Who is YOUR One?

Michael Jackson died yesterday and I am having an extremely visceral reaction to the news. Not because of how I felt about him, as a person, one way or another but because of how the world is reacting. Stephen and were out of town yesterday, and as we drove home, Michael's death became the top headline. His music started to play on every radio station after news of his death was confirmed. Major media outlets that had vilified him, called him "freak", covered the incredibly annoyingly minute details of his trials, financial struggles, and children were now mounting 3-4 hour long "tributes" to remember "The King of Pop".

Here's my thing...48 hours ago, how many of us thought negatively of this man or would have allowed others to say negative things about him in our presence? I am not writing this to say that I think he was good or bad - to be honest, other than knowing I love his music and that he was an important part of my 80's childhood experience, I don't know what kind of person I think he was or how I will remember him. What bothers me is that it is almost undeniable that for the last 20 or so years of this man's life, we, as a public, dragged every detail of his life through our judgment periscope and often came out with a condemning negative opinion, and now we all love him and pay tribute?

Again, this brings back feelings of why I started this project: why must someone be gone to finally have a nice thing or two said about them? What is going on in our culture that we need to tear someone down while they are "around" but the minute they are "gone" we suddenly reflect on pretty much only the good that that individual brought into people's lives? I don't get it. It makes me very sad and not a tiny bit angry.

Seriously - I know this man has some pretty serious allegations in his history and I am not making light of what may, or may not, have happened under his influence. But I am using these past 24 hours as an object lesson: in my opinion, each of us needs to take the time to decide how we will perceive the world - personally, I would argue that part of that perception should include always trying to find the good. And, if someone is good, or if someone does something to make your life better - no matter how small - let them know while they can still know it. Today - can't you find one person to say something nice to? Even if someone holds the door for you can't you say "thank you"? Can't you think of one person who's made a difference to you, and regardless of where your relationship may be now, let them know, that for one moment, however brief, that that person made a mark on your life?

I can't stop thinking about how Michael thought he may or may not have been appreciated in these past 10 years...if only he'd received the outpouring of love so many want to throw his way today while he was still alive.


Day 220. The Long-Time One.

Last night, I had the pleasure of having dinner with my friend, Sarah. Sarah and I have known each other since I was 7 and she was 4...her family moved to my street - two doors down. We were the only two girls our age and luckily this kinda forced us to start to become friends.

We've been through a lot together - all those childhood memories you have: playing freeze tag in the front yard, watching movies, biking to the ice cream store, playing softball, driving to high school together - that was us. A lot of things that are part of who I am were found with Sarah - she was the very first person to go to sushi with me (at the same place I still go today) every week (we rode our bikes). We would do crafts together. We'd cook and bake together.

Through it all - all the experiences, all the ups and downs that are natural in knowing someone that long, Sarah has been a true and loyal friend. She is a scrapbook of my life in living form.

She is a truly good person - she's had some curve balls thrown at her in her life and I am amazed at how little she lets them affect her. She's honest in how these things make her feel but she never over dramatizes or over analyzes anything. She has become a teacher and I have no doubt that the innate qualities of who she is serve her - and her students - well in the classroom. A few years ago, Sarah and her (now) husband moved to Florida and I applauded her desire to make a big change in her life and see "what would be next".

Having dinner last night reminded me that often, good people don't have to have a big shining moment of amazingness, nor do they have to be ever present in your life. I appreciate Sarah for who she is, and who she is in MY life. I appreciate her for how she nurtures our friendship through these many years. I am so thankful that she is my friend.


Day 219. The Spanish One.

When I was in Germany, I was lucky to be hanging out with friends who live there who also were hosting some get togethers while I was there. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous. I know some German, but certainly not a lot. I have also found that since I've studied quite a few languages in my life, hearing one might activate another. (Note: responding in Japanese to a French speaking person is not the quickest route to understanding)

Anyway - there I was at a wine tasting pretty much by myself. Everyone was tremendously friendly and kind but mainly speaking in their native tongue (as they should!). I felt anxious approaching folks and being able to speak only English, in fact, it became a joke that my full name became "This is Alison, she only speaks English". One couple that was there was new to me - I had only met the male the previous night briefly - but they came over and we began to visit. Turns out, that the woman is originally from Spain but now lives in Munich and is planning her wedding to a "True" German - he was born in Munich as was his father and his grandfather :).

I spent most of the entire evening with this couple and my concerns about them feeling "Stuck" with me quickly disappeared as we found more and more in common and really started to enjoy each other's company. They even spoke English with me all night. I ended up having a really great night and meeting some really great people - as well as making plans to see them again in the fall when Stephen and I head back "across the pond". So, to my new friends, I appreciate you reaching out to me that night and I am so thankful that we came to know each other across all the differences that existed between us!


Day 218. The Sock One.

This past Friday, my friend, Lisa and I attended a session at the annual Knitters Connection event in Columbus Ohio. Its a knitter's extravaganza where you can get as involved as you want - take a ton of classes or take none and just go shopping in the marketplace. ANYWAY, this year was the first year Lisa and I decided, yep, we'll take the plunge and take a class. With major kudos to Lisa and her ability to correctly select the most appropriate class for us, we decided to take a class on a new ways to make socks taught by Cat Bordhi.

I've heard about Cat - she's somewhat of a celebrity in knitting circles and I was excited to learn from her as socks are a finicky thing to make. Without going into a lot of detail that would bore you non-knitters, its all about the fit with socks. Its pretty hard to make a pair fit exactly right and I have often felt tied to a pattern versus tied to making something for someone that will be a great gift.

Anyway, Cat came in and began her 8 hours with us (ok, 6 with a 2 hour lunch/ shopping break :) ). I was curious how someone would teach knitting and Cat pleasantly surprised me. Not only did she come up with great, easy to understand handouts, but she used clever tools to demonstrate knitting techniques on a grander scale so that we could all see and understand. She also did small group tutorials, and best yet, she quickly got us working on smaller projects that reinforced the techniques she was teaching - the worst thing you can do to a knitter is just "talk" about knitting all day versus letting them actually do it!

Above and beyond her knitting teaching skill, what really blew me away was the innovative technique that Cat created and taught us. Suffice it to say that the sock I started Friday is already done (Sunday morning) and fits me PER-FECT-LY. Its the first time that's ever happened! Knitting is a very mathematical, pattern-oriented, repetitive craft. But is also requires creativity and an artistic view. I'm rather lacking on those last two things so to see someone take an art, turn it into somewhat of a science so that you can once again explore the art itself, like Cat has done, simply blows my mind. So, I am so thankful for someone like Cat, who continues to challenge and innovate in the craft world. She's a great thinker, knitter, teacher and encourager of the art.


Day 217. The Pilot One.

Ok. I know I've used "pilot" before but it must be used again. To summarize a very VERY long and painful process, on my way home last night I ended up delayed, sitting on a plane, with no air conditioning for two hours while mechanics tried to diagnose and fix a problem with our plane.

I was exhausted, and luckily, this put me in a state of mind where I was just happy the problem was found before we were 10,000 feet in the air. But, as the situation dragged on and on, it was the kind of event that was ripe for drama. We all remember the stories of the flights that sat on runways for hours with no food and drink and people filed class action suits blah blah blah...

But I would like to highlight our captain because throughout the entire experience, he kept us updated in just the right intervals, with just the right words. He never talked down to us, he even explained choices he was facing and how he was making them. When he was told maintenance was going to take 15 minutes, he told us that his experience told him that minutes were like dog years and not to believe the 15 minutes ;). He also took the time to repeatedly walk through the cabin to assess how truly uncomfortable we were (or weren't) and help decide how to handle the situation.

When I look back now, even though we got in two hours late, and were quite uncomfortable in the heat for the last hour on the ground in particular, I am more and more pleasantly surprised as to how little griping passengers did and how very NOT rowdy we all became. Other than folks calling/texting to update loved ones after each status update, the cabin remained extremely calm and "go with the flow". When you look at the circumstances we were facing, it was quite astonishing. I attribute this 100% to our captain's amazing communication skills.

As we exited the plane, I prepared to let him know he'd be on here shortly and thank him (also as a defensive move against the number of folks I expected to growl or grumble at him as they walked by the cockpit. But, not only did the Captain stand right by the door to thank and apologize to each of us, but I heard many other passengers thank the crew for taking care of us, for getting us to our destination safely, for keeping us informed. I was pleasantly dumbstruck - not only because it wasn't only me that was calmed by our Captain's leadership but also that they too, took the time to let him know.

Situations can suck - communication can get you through.

Day 216. The Laughing One.

Sorry for the delay. Whenever I've tried to login the past few days Blogger has decided not to play nice so we'll be in catch up mode today :)

I was away at a conference for the past few days in Dallas. Its a panel that I sit on where half of the members rotate every two years. This session was the first for a new group of panel members. Its always a fun sociological experiment to see how the group influences the new folks and vice versa. One of the new members was a woman named Evy.

The first night, Evy sat with us at dinner and we couldn't quite get a good read on her other than she sure was friendly and she was very excited to be there. By the end of the second day, we had all fell in love. Evy has truly one of the best personalities I've ever encountered. This woman looks at everything openly, honestly and with a positive outlook without becoming a Pollyanna. She takes care of people without being too mothering. She offers critique without being punishing. She's open and honest without being fake or patronizing.

And then there's that laugh. She has one of those laughs that is 100% genuine. When Evy laughs, you know, without a doubt that she is enjoying something to its fullest extent and allowing herself to feel it. Its a deep, loud, wonderful sound.

I have to say, that the next two years of this project just got a lot more fun knowing Evy will be around!


Day 215. The Goodbye One.

Last night one of my friends left after graduating from an advanced degree from the Ohio State University to return to his home town. It had come as somewhat of a surprise to a bunch of us as we didn't expect him to leave. So, last night, after all the "official" graduation activities were over, we all met up at a local bar to hang out and have some drinks.

What was really special was to see all the people continue to come flooding in to say goodbye. This was not any sort of "official" gathering - no gifts, no meals - just hanging out, and by the time I left (rather late) there were easily more than 35 people still there celebrating our friend KC. I considered this a real tribute to how amazing he is.

KC is going to be a doctor, and he is also truly one of the kindest, most people focused individuals I've ever met. When he's talking to you you know he's paying attention and when we makes little jokes or comments they are related to real things about you - not just generalities but real things that show he pays attention and knows who you are. KC was in constant demand all night from men and women just to hang out, make a joke, take a photo.

I personally will miss KC, but I wanted to commend him not only for who he is and what has acheived but also because I think its super cool he arranged his own goodbye party. Goodbyes can be so hard, and they can be melancholy and sad. KC made this get together all about celebrating friendships and having amazing fun memories to carry us through until we see each other again. And I love that. I love KC. Godspeed, my friend!


Day 214. The Door One.

Heading to the gym yesterday, (to undo the damage done eating amazing German food for a week), there's always the weird phenomenon of people trying to get to the door first without looking like it. Heaven forbid anyone need wait more than five seconds to get their card swiped as they enter...

ANYWAY, as I got to the door out of the corner of my eye, I saw a little boy (couldn't have been more than 5) scurry past me to hit the Handicap Entrance button that automatically opens the doors. Now, honestly, my first reaction when this happens is irritation. The button is usually hit 4 - 5 times in rapid succession by any given child (they love this) and the door slowly starts to swing open and closed and I always figure its only a matter of time before the whole thing breaks. But, the boy hit the button once, the door didn't open, so he hit it again. I thought I would just go to the door and open it myself and skirt the whole spectacle when the little boy scurried up ahead of me again, reached up for the door handle and said in the sweetest little boy voice ever "Let me get that for you". And he valiantly began to leverage the entire weight of his body to open the door. I couldn't help but smile.

This little boy reminded me of the inherent sweetness in children and also showed that he clearly had good parenting in his background to speak so politely and be so kind in his actions even at such a young age. So, I thank this little boy - I had to thank his father who finally caught up to us at the counter - for both of their parts in the beginnings of who I think will be a truly sweet person.


Day 213. The Graduating One.

Today, my friend Anne graduated! She has had a very long journey to this place. What has astounded me the most, however, throughout this process is not the process itself, but how open and honest Anne has been throughout the entire thing. There have certainly been some struggles, some minor, some very significant, but she has always told people what was going on and how it was affecting her.

I do not know that I would possess the strength of character or moral fortitude to get through all that she has faced, but I do know that she amazes me. Today, I am so very happy for my friend. She serves as a constant reminder to me that you can accomplish great things both academically/ professionally but also personally by staying in touch with yourself and sharing that with people you can trust and find comfort with.

Anne, my dear, congratulations! Your hard work has paid off! I am so very happy for you and I wish you continued success and the achievement of every single goal you continue to set for yourself.


Day 212. The Really REALLY Patient One.

For those of you who have never flown internationally, returning to the US (citizen or not) can be a rather obnoxious process. Even if you have a connecting flight, you must pick up all checked luggage and take it with you through customs and then "re-check" it through to your final destination. Couple that with the rediculous number of opportunities you now have to buy duty-free goods and the US requirements on no more than 3 ounce sized liquids in your carry on, and this all becomes a mess of juggling too much luggage, repacking it to include large bottles of alcohol, perfume, beverages and the risk of being picked out to go through a thorough exam by an official from the Department of Homeland Security.

If the process wasn't odd enough, imagine explaining it to a Japanese citizen...who barely speaks English...who is departing from Germany...and he barely speaks German...oh, and he bought a TON of Duty Free goods on the plane. Well, it wasn't easy and it wasn't fun. But I watched as our very VERY patient flight attendent took the time (about 30 minutes) to use kindness, English and German to explain how to get into the US (and through our initial US destination) all the way to LA without losing a single bag or purchase.

I must admit, at first, the whole exchange was just funny, and I rolled my eyes more than a few times. But then I looked at it differently. The amount of information this woman had to know to explain what was going on is rather impressive. Languages, security processes, duty free guidelines and airport/ airplane security all had to 100% understood with all their nuances to be able for our flight attendant to try and make it as easy (and safe!) as possible for this Japanese traveller.

I watched after we landed, and it turned out that our flight attendant succeeded. He made it through customs, managed to pack his Duty Free goods up so they weren't confiscated and, I assume he made it to LA safely. To those who ensure our comfort, safety and understanding across cultures, legal systems and geographic locations like our flight attendant on Sunday, I say "THANK YOU!"


Day 211. The Bread and Butter One.

While in Europe, with full credit to my friend, H, I came across my new very very favorite place to eat. Its call Brot&Butter ("bread and butter") and it is somewhat indescribable. Words will diminish how great it was, but the basics are that it is a small little deli-type store/ eatery with amazing cheeses, spreads, and meats all that can be eaten there on bread that is constantly being baked fresh all day long right in front of your eyes.

My friend and I went there every morning, and I am still craving it. There was one server who helped us every morning and she was just lovely. She took the time to not only give us excellent service but explain to us what we were eating (if it was a unique spread or something) and also how it was made. She even was kind enough to share with us a few samples of unique things they made (it may not sound like it, but buttermilk, OJ, shredded ginger and a touch of sugar is a tremendously delicious treat).

Our server was not only kind enough to make eating there a true "experience" but she also was nice enough to help me along as I limped through my meager understanding of German and dependency on English.

I'm telling you that whenever I am in Munich ever again, you will find me, every morning, at Brot&Butter and if you are ever there - GO!


Day 210. The General One.

So. I am back from Europe, safe and sound. Had a great time and just found more proof that there are some really great people everywhere in the world...in fact, I got my first reminder as I was leaving my hometown of Columbus.

On the way out to Zurich, I had some crazy flight plans due to the fact that I booked my ticket rather late (just two weeks before the trip). After going through the automated checkin (because that is ALWAYS faster) I moved on to try and get into a shorter line to get some questions answered. There were quite a few international travelers going from Ohio (who knew?) and some rather complex questions...involving one African family but that is a story for another day...and the line was moving S-L-O-W. One of the luggage porters came over to ask if he could help me.

Now through no fault of any one person in any role, it has been my experience that most airline employees are only well versed in their specific role or responsibility. If you have a question about something they don't do, you're not going to get an answer from that person. But I went ahead and asked my question anyway. Well, this nice gentleman proceeded to tell me "Oh you don't need to wait in this line," and, while I couldn't get the answer I needed in the airport at all, he told me where to get it once I reached my intermediate stopping point and which desk to go to for the quickest answer, as well as how to ask for it with the proper terminology versus my interpretation of the events.

His plan worked like a charm. My new friend made my travel quite a bit more efficient and pleasant, and I thank him for taking the time to ask if he could help me, and then fulfilling his offer 100%.