It’s Off To Spain We Go

On Monday evening (11/27), my cousin Lauren (Lo, for short) and I are headed to Spain. The trip is for her birthday, but really, we also just love to travel. We’ll be there for just over a week, traveling to Madrid, Barcelona, a brief stop in Cordoba for the night, and Ronda, where we hope to do some hiking.

When Lo and I travel, we spend the majority of the time laughing. Mostly at ourselves, often at the ridiculous situations that we find ourselves in. Like the hotel room in Amsterdam where we found a mysterious wig on the floor, and upon showing the hotel manager, he replied, “Woah, you didn’t expect that, did you?!”.  Because, does anyone? Or the 300 times we crossed the same canal in Amsterdam trying to find the Torture Museum. Then there was that time we accidentally ended up in a window in the Red Light Museum. Or when we thought we had mistakenly trained into Germany without our passports (because we hadn’t planned on leaving Belgium). These are just a few of many examples. But the point is, with all of this ridiculousness we laugh. Many times until we’re practically crying.

Travel in and of itself gives me hope. Connecting with people across cultures and countries, trying and learning new customs, finding hidden gems that we somehow stumbled into, often literally in Lo and my case. It bridges gaps between countries and people. I’ve found myself sitting in a hole-in-the-wall bar where everyone’s watching a football (soccer, Americans) game, and suddenly absorbed in the cheering for some local team I hadn’t heard of before walking in. I’ve made lifelong friends from around the world during my travels.

So as Lo and I travel and exude ridiculousness throughout Spain, I’ll be instagramming and keeping my journal, in order to blog when I get back home. It may be simply happy and funny moments throughout my trip which made me smile, or silly experiences that made me laugh (surely some of those), or something that I learned along the way.

Until the blogs, make sure to follow Spread Hope Project on Instagram, for more frequent updates on our Spain adventures!

 

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In Amsterdam, after the wig incident, and on about 3 hours of sleep from an overnight flight.

 

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Giving Thanks

Last night I watched the local news, and saw something miraculous – every single story was positive. The news was filled with groups donating food to those in need, Thanksgiving drives held by local organizations, individuals giving of their time, money, resources to help others. It was the only time I can remember, and certainly in recent history, that there was not one negative, sad, alarming, concerning news story. (There were plenty in the national news, but let’s not focus on that for a moment). It was all about giving. And this, for that half hour, filled me with hope. Because it proved to me that good still is all around us. It may at times be tougher to find. We may need to look deeper, to squint a bit to see it through to jumble of negativity, but it’s there.

And so, I wanted to give thanks for some pieces of my life that I feel most grateful for.

  • My husband
  • My family
  • My closest friends who have been with me through everything
  • My dog Grace
  • Having had 10.5 happy years with my old dog Cinn before she passed.
  • A home, that I own.
  • Plenty of food
  • The means and opportunity to travel often
  • My creativity and imagination
  • My dreams and my ability to maintain hope (if sometimes only a sliver of it) even in the darkest times
  • A strong mental health and chronic illness support network
  • My therapist and my meds (completely serious)
  • Having health insurance, without which my meds would bankrupt me (really).
  • The many experiences in my past and present that have made me who I am today.

The Great Outdoors

I hope some of my readers are old enough to get this blog title, so that I don’t feel too terribly old.

I am a person that, by nature, loves the fresh air and sunlight. I liken myself to a dog with it’s head out sticking out the car window. Sun on my face, wind in my hair, and copious amounts fresh air is my happy place. Add in exploring, and it’s basically my perfect day.

My mood has been particularly topsy turvy lately, and so I’m making a concerted effort to be outside as much as possible (when the weather cooperates).  The days are getting colder and darker, which I don’t love, but I’m trying to take as much advantage of the daylight hours as I can when I’m not working.

This past weekend, I decided to take a solo hike in nearby Wissahickon Park. The park is quite expansive, but parts of it are 15 to 20 minutes drive from my house, which makes it pretty convenient for an early morning hike. When I arrived, there were three other cars in the particular parking area I’d chosen, which meant that, unless people were just crammed into other parking areas, other hikers would be few and far between for the time being. Perfect. I spent about two hours hiking, all in all. I’ve hiked this area before, or at least some of it, so I experimented with trails I hadn’t taken before. I did know that there was a mini waterfall (I love waterfalls, and anything water-related!) that I hadn’t gotten to visit on prior trips, so I was determined to find it, and find it I did.

 

 

I arrived home before 11AM, several miles hiked, daily step goal for the already achieved, and renewed hope.  Being out in the peacefulness and relative solitude of nature, spending time among the changing leaves, with only the sound of running water, squirrels rustling through the trees, and the occasional fellow hiker is exactly what I needed.

 

Life with a mood disorder and chronic illnesses is never easy.  And sometimes, I’m not able to be as active as I’d like to be. But I’m vowing to spend as much time as I can in the great outdoors going forward. I may have to get creative in the colder months, because the cold and my body do not get along, but I will do what I can.

 

Tiny Hopes Every Day

I’ve not blogged in awhile. I’ve been going through a particularly rough patch, and quite frankly, been struggling with my own hope. It happens to all of us, it seems. So I’ve been focusing on trying to get myself healthy and hopeful, because if I’m not, I’m unable to truly help others.

Sometimes, in the bleakest moments, hope seems dim indeed. In these moments, I’m forced to look for hopes in the tiniest things. The way my dog greets me when I arrive home. Every day. Like it’s the best moment she’s ever experienced.  She has infallible hope, and I think, “Man, I wish I could be like her. She’s literally always convinced something great is about to happen.  I can’t unfortunately. I say can’t, because I really mean I can’t. I battle depression, and when it flares badly, I physically, mentally cannot think life is roses, no matter how badly I want to.

So lately, I’ve had to get back to basics. I’ve had to focus on those tiny moments in life that bring some brightness – the smell of rain, a colorful sunrise, a much needed hug, an unexpected moment of laughter, spending time in the fresh air. These brief moments of brightness tell me that I can, after all, be hopeful. It might not be earth shattering hope, but there is a brightness. The world, and I, am not full of darkness.

So I resolve to live these moments more completely. To enjoy the fresh air more. To see more sunrises (morning insomnia makes this pretty easy). To hug more, when my physical closeness meters allow it. To spend more time, in person or virtually, with people who make me laugh. To focus more on living, and less on the “have to”s. And somewhere in there, I aim to offer hope, to myself and to others. Because sometimes, it’s in offering to others that we find the greatest hope in ourselves.

 

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My dog Grace finding complete delight in a paper towel roll.