No. 243: Peggy.

I took Daisy on our usual walk loop today: we cross the street, we walk down the road, and then take the loop around the assisted living facility before heading back from whence we came. I’ve met several employees and family members at the facility before, and now that the weather is nice, the residents are beginning to spend time outside as well. After finding out that she was neither a therapy dog nor a visitor to a resident, an employee thanked me for bringing Daisy by and said that she would hope to see me again. Several passerbys have mentioned that she was adorable or asked how old she was.

But today was the most exciting day: Daisy and I met a resident named Peggy and had the loveliest conversation. She was from Limerick, Ireland, and she even serenaded Daisy and I with a rendition of “Bicycle Built for Two.” Peggy was one of fourteen – fourteen! – children in Ireland. Peggy raised her own children here in the US, and one of her daughters was recently made a partner at a law firm at 33. We chatted about Yeats and Ireland, dogs and teaching. It was one of the highlights of my day, and one neither of us could have planned.

I’m now looking into volunteer opportunities at the facility. I can only imagine that there are other “Peggys” inside. I want to hear each of their stories so they know that they are appreciated.

No. 242: Kelli.

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It is my fantastic friend Kelli’s birthday today. Above is a photo of us at Ginny’s wedding (a year ago this week!)

I know what you’re thinking: Kelli’s really pretty. And I’m here to tell you, her qualities do not end there.

1. Kelli is a loyal and steadfast friend. Share that you’re having a hard day? Expect Kelli to offer to host you at the beach or at her apartment… or drive however long is necessary to come to you. In need of a pick-me-up? Kelli’s got a funny meme to send your way. She is always looking for ways, large and small, to show you that she’s got your back.

2. Kelli is really, really good at what she does. She works in student activities at a liberal arts college, and let me tell you, I don’t think I could do what she does even if I had an additional 10 years of secondary education. The depth and breadth of her knowledge, from psychological development to engagement to sociology to flat out fun activities: it’s unparalleled.She is a complete and total professional. Kelly’s so professional she booked Drake. Come on.

3. She is crafty and puts Martha Stewart to shame. Personalized and decorated glass Christmas ornaments? Done! A new recipe for cupcakes with a decadent buttercream? Check. Hot chocolate whipped cream? She does that too, just because. If you are ever so fortunate as to have Kelli as a friend, know that your apartment will be craftier and your tastebuds will be happier.

4. Kelli is unafraid to try new things. A life-long dancer, she has gotten on a kickboxing tear recently, and girl’s always on her way to or from class to work it out on the punching bag. I am so impressed by not only her fearlessness to put herself out there, but her willingness to learn something new whenever she can.

5. Kelli is flat-out fun. Whether it’s reviving the choreography to “All That Jazz” at the dance club show, people-watching the shore nightlife, or having a sweatpants, snuggle, and wine night in – Kelli is that friend who is guaranteed to start a giggle chain with her infectious laugh and well-timed wit.

For these reasons and so many more: I’m so happy you were born, Kelli! Happy birthday lady!

No. 241: Carolyn.

I spent four hours with my fourth graders today in preparation for their musical, which opens next Friday. Now, a four hour rehearsal with anyone can seem long- but for these kids, four hours is a lot to expect. I found myself wondering how I could keep their attention and if I had given them the tools they needed to be successful.

Enter Carolyn. She is one of our awesome homeroom teachers, and she dropped me and Domonique (my fantastic co-director) an email after. The girls looked great, she shared, but what really hit home was the mention that we “are so good with them.” That email was precisely what I needed during my long day, and feeling as though my work was acknowledged was so gratifying.

Thank you so much, Carolyn, for taking the time to send that: the small note had a big impact!

No. 240: Eileen.

Daisy and I met a new neighbor while we were out on our walk this afternoon. An older woman, who later introduced herself as Eileen, was checking her mail while I was across the street. “What an adorable dog you have!” she exclaimed, and a few moments later, she was walking across the street to come meet Daisy in person. She shared with me that she had seen us walking earlier and just had to come meet her. While it was a short interaction, it was really lovely – and a testament to the fact that there are no strangers, just friends you have not met yet.

No. 239: Yardwork.

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See that pile of stuff there? That’s all branches, leaves, twigs, and a type of invasive weed called Japanese knotwood. It’s the product of four hours of work in the yard on Sunday.

What initially began as a bit of elbow grease in the gardening beds became an all-out war against the leaves which have piled up since September. Larry, our neighbor, also confided that the weeds should be cut to prevent them from eventually taking over the cut-through to our neighbor’s backyard. Oh, and yes, that’s what had formed the ugly dense pile of beige sticks in the back corner of our fence. They were at least 8 feet tall at one point, and had to be removed if I ever wanted to sleep again. (The unfinished nature of projects tends to keep me awake.)

So, away I went, hacking and tearing and pulling and snapping. Let me tell you, those suckers were not easy to get rid of! I had a cluster of about four or five together that, with my entire body weight, I couldn’t remove for the life of me.

The bane of my existence: Japanese knotwood. (photo credit.)

But after four hours of work, it was done. The knotwood was cut back, the leaves were raked, I had taken the remains out to the curb. As I looked into the backyard, I was so immensely satisfied by the work I’d done. An empty spot now allows me to see more of the beautiful weeping cherry in my neighbors yard, as well as the honey suckle. In yoga, one is often encouraged to “let go that which does not serve you.” The weeding was the physical act, and in turn, it became a spiritual one too: I am making room for better things to grow.

No. 238: Jenny.

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This past Saturday I ran a 5k called the Color Run. The Color Run is part party, part running event, and all fun. Basically, as you run along the running route, volunteers with colored powder cover you until you look like a Jackson Pollack painting. (See above to see the proof!)

The Color Run was my first 5k many moons ago (August 2011). I had never been a runner before, but one of my fantastic roommates at the time, Jenny, had inspired me by her running story. Jenny had never been much of a runner until she started dating her boyfriend, now fiancee, who encouraged her to give it a shot – and soon enough, she was hooked. She recommended that I find a training program and see what happens, but with no expectation or bossiness: that’s just not Jenny’s way. She always gives great advice, but as a true psychologist and scientist, she always waits until the results unfold.

Sure enough, I did get hooked. My secret running habit turned into encouraging Jenny and some friends to do the Brooklyn Color Run with me. Jenny and I paced one another and totally encouraged the other along the way, and eventually treated ourselves to Bialeys and bagels from our local coffee shop as a treat. We trained for the Women’s Half in Central Park together, and spent many runs up and down the Upper West Side debating our bucket list and making each other laugh. We soon became “Two Blondes Moving Co.” and have cheered each other on since as we’ve each run races since.

As I ran The Color Run again, I remembered Jenny’s encouragement. I honestly don’t think I would have run any of these races without her initial encouragement. She is a true friend and added color to my world by being a fantastic roommate, and my running by getting rainbow-ed with me.

Thanks for all of your support and encouragement, Jenny! I miss you!

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No. 237: Rosemary.

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I had a crazy long day on Friday. We’re talking the kind of day where you get up late, run from class to meeting to class, and sprint to the finish line. No time to eat, breathe, or grab a sip of water. Luckily, I knew that at the finish line, I had Corks and Canvas awaiting me.

Corks and Canvas, as I’ve mentioned before, is a recent addition to the main street of Lawrenceville, NJ. I had a great time the last time I attended, in the fall, and was excited to take my friend Emily along. Unfortunately, when I tried to book online with my card, there was one of those technical glitches that the internet elves cause from time to time which prevented it from going through. So I called, left a message, and within a few hours the owner, Rosemary, called me back. She was able to offer me a spot (plus one for Emily!) and squeeze us in. It was a huge favor, and little did I know how much I would need it once my Friday workday came to an end.

Rosemary kept the room smiling with her comments and encouraged us at each step of the way. She seemed more like a girlfriend that I would want to go to happy hour with. She even remembered me from my visit several months back! I was so thrilled not only to walk away with a great painting, but to feel welcomed as a part of someone’s “painting family.” I can’t wait to go again, and this time, maybe encourage Rosemary to pull up a chair and join us!