The Bigger Picture

I was thinking about hope, as I of course tend to do often, and I realized that it’s been awhile since I really sat down and thought about the things in my life, right now, that make me hopeful. There are the everyday inspirations, of course – a beautiful sunset, a warm spring day, flowers in bloom, a positive conversation with a friend. And those things all keep me going in the day to day. They’re the pictures I post on Instagram in my #365DaysofHope campaign. They’re crucial for getting through the rough days, and I’m lucky to experience them. But I sometimes, ironically, forget to take stock of the bigger things that offer me hope. 

It’s not that I’m not grateful, or don’t appreciate these “big picture” pieces of life – I am, and I do. It’s that they sometimes get lost in the day to day. And I find that, when I sit down and list them out, when I truly focus on those hopes, it surprises me just how much is on that list. My brain can play so many tricks on me, making me depressed and anxious, bringing tears out of the blue, telling me I’m worthless and hopeless and incapable, that it becomes easy to spend my days just trying to get out of that, just to not feel so bad.  I often am so exhausted – mentally, emotionally, physically –  from that struggle, that I lack the energy to look beyond them. To look beyond “well today isn’t so bad” or “Ok I got through that” to “Wow, these other things offer so much hope.” And while it’s incredibly important to find hope in these moments of getting through, of not feeling so bad – because they often comprise much of our day and carry us through those rough times, I wanted to also voice those really positive, exciting, hopeful “bigger things”, for lack of a more eloquent phrase.

  • Family and loved ones. I am so incredibly lucky. I have a large family, a loving husband, and some best friends that have been by my side for forever, even when they’re not physically by my side.  I know that, even on my darkest day, I am surrounded by love. It may not always feel that way. I may feel terribly alone, because depression often makes us feel isolated. But I know, deep down, that I have so many people who love me. That offers me hope. (This includes my dog, Grace, who is the absolute epitome of hope personified… or dogsonified….)

 

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Gracie, the epitome of hope, finding pure joy in a discarded paper towel roll.

 

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Yep, we’re those people. Our dog announced our engagement.

  • I have a new job that I enjoy, and I am learning more and more each day. It’s not a sector I’ve ever worked in before, and it gives me hope not only of my ability to grow and learn, but to expand my horizons. It’s not a path I’d previously considered, and I now feel that the opportunities for my future are broader.

 

  • If I haven’t mentioned it 1000 times, I’m going to GREECE! And then in June our whole immediate family (all 20 of us) are going to Spain. It’ll be my second time in Spain in 7 months. I’m so lucky to be able to see the world like this, and to spend quality time with my loved ones doing so. Travel always makes me feel hopeful. It helps me view the world on a larger scale, and it feels incredibly freeing. Often, I find that a literal change of scenery does me a world of good (no pun intended – Ok, maybe a little).  Not to mention that as a travel planner, blogger, and someone that wants to spread hope around the world, it makes me feel hopeful for ways that I can expand my work.

 

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Some of my many travels. Clockwise from top left: Amsterdam, Paris, Jordan (Petra), Olympic Rings in Barcelona, Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. 

 

  • This Spread Hope Project. I have no idea where it might take me. But I see possibilities. It offers me a purpose, a way to help others, which is something I crave. I have  big dreams for it, and even if those adjust, or are ultimately not realized to their full extent (I’m a big scale dreamer), it shows me that I do have the ability to help people and make a difference, even if on the smallest scale for now. And I have met, and continue to meet, some amazing people on this journey.

 

  • The future. My husband and I want to own a farm one day. We want to grow fruits and vegetables. He wants goats and chickens for milk and eggs, and I want a Scottish Highland Cow because they’re adorable and I’ve always wanted one (you now see why I’m the dreamer and he’s the realist in our marriage).  He has generously said that we can have up to three dogs one day, which I feel is a fair compromise since he’s fine with the one we have and I want to rescue every dog ever on the planet. Big emphasis on one day for the dogs, maybe when Grace gets older and doesn’t take the strength of the World’s Strongest Man to walk her. Even though these goals will take a lot of time and energy and funds to accomplish, we have them. Having dreams like this, together, for the future makes me so hopeful.

 

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Being silly with Scottish Highland Cows at a B&B in the Catskills. (Note the HOPE shirt!).

 

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More silliness at the B&B. 

 

I found that, just writing these down, I began smiling. My mind starts to fill with ideas that give me further hope. Ideas for my travel business and blog. Ideas for Spread Hope Project. Excitement about our future farm (and cow! and dogs!), and all the things we could do with it. Yes, a lot of it is my mind wandering, as it does so… err….well? But they give me something to reach for. Some “one day”s. And when you have “one day”s, you have hope. Because it means that, even if it seems so far off, almost impossible perhaps, you still can see the possibility, or at least consider that there could be the possibility, of a brighter time. 

 

Self-Care Sunday

I’m going to be honest – I thought I published this post a week and a half ago. But… brain fog. So, this is about two weekends ago. My apologies. Anyway…

As someone who wants to spread hope and to help others, I often find I’m pushing myself. I’m pushing myself physically, but also emotionally and mentally. I’m constantly trying to figure out the next step, continually brainstorming and tossing ideas around in my head of what other programs and projects I could run, or how I could better spread my message. And I love this piece of myself. My imagination, my creative brain gets me through some super dark times. But it can also drain me. When I’m working extra hard on these things, focusing more than usual, I find myself physically and mentally tired. Add that to severe congestion and a cold that’s gone into my chest, which make it difficult to breathe, plus jet lag, anxiety, depression, and the usual exhaustion, and I needed some self-care.

So Sunday, I did just that. I spent the first part of the morning journaling and drinking  coffee. I had been excited about revamping my travel blog, so I worked on that, but casually. No expectations, just seeing where it took me. One might think of this as work, and technically it is, but I was excited about it, so felt more like a fun experiment than something I had to do. Then I relaxed and watched some football and saw my Buffalo Bills get an OT win in a foot of snow, which was pretty amazing.  I reheated some pizza (not the most healthy lunch option, but it didn’t require much effort, which helped conserved energy). I played a few games on my phone – I love word games, and they help keep me feeling sharp while actually enjoying what I’m doing. I ate a dinner (part of which involved more pizza … I clearly need to grocery shop) while intermittently blogging and watching more football on the couch. I did all of this in leggings and an oversized shirt that could possibly be mistaken for pajamas.

What didn’t I do? Answer work emails. Blow dry my hair. Put on makeup. Run any errands/go anywhere. Try to solve any major issues/questions/concerns in my life. Anything I didn’t want to.

I relaxed, I did things I enjoyed, I did minimal beauty regimen shenanigans (with the exception of showering, though half the reason for doing so was the hope the hot shower unstuffed my nose).

Sometimes, even the most hopeful of us need to replenish our stores.  That’s completely ok. We need to take care of ourselves in order to help others. And sometimes, taking a break from trying to figure everything out – whatever that everything entails – can actually be the the respite our mind needs to help us do just that.

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A Little Hope A Long Way From Home

Last I posted, my cousin and I were headed to Spain for an eight day adventure through four cities.  I absolutely love to travel. In fact, my alter-ego is that of a travel planner – I’ve owned my own business for almost 12 years. So there was no doubt we’d have a great time, despite the taxi strike and the super cold temperatures and getting lost a thousand times and the fact that we nearly had to strip down in a waffle shop (there’s a longer story there, as you may imagine). But this trip was particularly timely.

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On the balcony of our Parador in Ronda

You see, I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. Not the same type of actual, “haven’t we passed that restaurant five times” lost that we were in Spain, but lost in life. I’ve been searching for how to turn my passion for helping people and inspiring hope into something thats… more than a passion. Because as much as I absolutely love doing these things, they don’t currently pay the bills. So I’ve been stuck in this grand “what do I do with my life” for the past few months or so. I mean, to be honest, I have that question often, but recently, due to certain circumstances in my life, it’s felt more pressing, more urgent. Like I need to figure it out now, and to start making the next steps.

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Sunrise as we hiked down the mountain in Ronda

And I am not going to say I had some sort of epiphany during a sunrise hike down the mountain inRonda, because I didn’t (I did do the sunrise hike, but I couldn’t feel my hands, let alone an epiphany). I wish I could say this truly. I wish I had a eureka moment where everything made sense, and I knew the path ahead. But I have too low self-confidence to have those. People who have these moments are sure of their ability to make that path work. I, on the other hand, continually question myself, even when I’m succeeding. But I did have some tiny little lightbulbs start to brighten. Something akin to dim path lighting on a dark sidewalk. Out there, in the fresh air overlooking the countryside in Andalucia, as I froze my way down the mountain, I gained some hope. Hope that, perhaps I might not be able to accomplish my goals in the way I originally wanted to, but that I would somehow get there. Ideas, small ones, began to pop into my brain. What if you did this? How about that? More like tiny directives, stepping stones. Which is what I need, because I’m a big picture person who can see the end goal, but not how to get there.

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At the Alcazar in Cordoba. View from one of the castle turrets.

And so there, in the hills of southern Spain, my perspective changed both literally and figuratively. It may have taken me traveling thousands of miles away to get to that point, but hope is hope, and sometimes, it comes in forms that you least expect. I guess I’ll just have to travel more often!

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View of the Puente Nuevo as we hiked in Ronda.

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.

 

Going to Africa, & We Need Your Help

It’s been a busy couple of weeks as we get ready for our trip to Africa. We leave a week from today! Exciting stuff. We have our Hope shirts all packed and ready to go, and are looking forward to exploring Kenya and Tanzania with them. While we’re not sure of the wifi/internet access we’ll have there, we hope to upload photos to Instagram throughout the trip when we can.   Our trip destinations include:

  • Nairobi (and a chance to visit the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – they’re into spreading hope too, to orphaned baby elephants and rhinos.
  • The Masai, including a hot air balloon ride
  • The Serengeti
  • Ngorogoro Crater

While we’re unbelievably excited to be Spreading Hope over in Africa, we could use some help keeping the momentum going here. That’s where you all come in. While we’re traveling, we’re asking a big favor of those friends who are … well, anywhere, really. Take photos throughout your neighborhoods, on your travels – day trips, vacations, family reunions, it all counts – post on Instagram, and hashtag #spreadhopeproject. If you want to create some homemade swag, even better! Make a Spread Hope Project sign or wear some purple (the color scheme of SHP) or whatever else you feel like doing.  Don’t forget to add your destination in your post too.

Have questions about the Spread Hope Project, or interested to learn more ways to participate? Let us know!  The more people involved, the more people we can reach and the more hope we spread.

We’re Headed to Africa!

The goal of the Spread Hope Project is to, as it sounds, spread hope, to as many places and people near and far as we can. In February, we have a fantastic opportunity to head to Africa, Kenya and Tanzania to be specific.  We’ll be there for almost two weeks, heading first to Nairobi, then to the Masai Mara, over the Serengeti, and finally, the Ngorogoro Crater.

We will be taking Hope photos in our various destinations, sharing our journey through these countries with you.  Make sure to follow us on Instagram to keep up today on our photos!