Love Rocks • Bellingham WA

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For as long as I can remember, I have always been drawn to the ocean.

I spent the first 28 years of my life, wandering the beaches with my beautiful mother, in search of the “holy grail” – aka agates. I loved watching her big brown eyes light up and the full body smile that overtook her when she reached down to pluck one from amongst the seemingly endless array of barnacles, sea glass and every day equally beautiful stones that did not go unnoticed by her, but it was the agate she treasured most.

We would drive around for hours, walk for miles, scale cliffs, walk live train tracks and put our lives in danger more often than I realized back then, simply to find a new beach where no one else dared to go. It was like she was hoping for the off chance that somehow, we would find “agate paradise” and could simply plop down in the damp sand and have as many sweet little creamy stones as we could ever want, within arms reach.

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Every year for her birthday, no matter the weather….all she wanted to do was go to the beach and look for rocks, have a bonfire and enjoy a picnic.  Here in Bellingham WA, March 11th is very rarely anything but windy, stormy and often times, downright miserable as far as the weather goes. Being the only fools to spend half a day at the beach in the middle of a windstorm, having to chase our potato chip bags across the sand before the seagulls stole them away, bundled up in our big poofy coats like poor “little brother Randy” from “A Christmas Story” who couldn’t put his arms down and laughing through chattering teeth… just so we could find the “Mother of all agates” for Momma for her birthday, brings nothing but warm memories for me.

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She passed away in 2002 when I was just 28 years old, after a long fought battle with her fourth round of cancer and it wasn’t until after she left us that I started to really think about how much time she spent at the beach and how it seemed to be the one place where I could go after she passed away, where I felt the closest to her…even if I was just sitting in an emotional heap, sifting rocks through my fingers for an hour.

Boulevard Park, at “home” in Bellingham WA, became my “Momma” spot where I would walk the beach for a bit and then go find my way under the boardwalk where no one could see me cry and the waves crashing on the boulders around me, muffled my sobs.

Over the years, I started noticing that I was not the only person wandering the beaches alone with their head hanging low, hoping to hide tears that left salt streaks on their cheeks. I passed too many  faces filled with worry, anxiety, fear and grief. I noticed the people sitting on the edge of the water, appearing to watch the sunsets along side of me – but knowing that familiar glassy eyed look, meant they were no where near me, but were off in a memory of another time and place, wishing they could go back.

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I watched the single parents struggling to keep up with a tiny explorer while trying to hold themselves together and hide their pain and envy at watching all of the two parent families who oozed love all over the playground.

I noticed the elderly that walked alone… slowly, painfully…sometimes with tiny dogs in tow, sometimes being towed by a snorting, equally gray-haired mass of fluff…just to feel alive for a while and to hear someone else’s voice besides their own.

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Discovering that “My” place to “ponder and wander” was home to so many others who went there to emote, think and sometimes to forget…gave me a new way to honor my mother in a way that would have made her eyes light up the way they used to when I would come running back toward her on the beach, oblivious to my skinned and bloodied knees – holding out the “Mother of all agates” that I had risked my life to get, just for her.

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Now, instead of wandering my “Momma spot” to hide myself away to have a good cry – I walk along the path, pulling painted stones from my pockets with little messages I have written on them. I leave them along the way for those that are hanging their heads to hide their tears that are falling… for whatever reasons, the ones that are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders and just need a little “something” to remind them that they are stronger than they think they are and for the people who just needed to know that there are others out there in the world, who really do care…and they aren’t as alone as they feel.

I don’t cry when I go to the beach anymore.

I smile and I remember that a single beautiful stone, found in a sea chaos, relentless winds that threaten to knock you down and days that chill you to the bone – can bring warmth and joy to the person that finds it.

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Follow my treasure leaving adventures on instagram and see where I have left little bits of love along the way. – PocketSizedPhilanthropy

The Helpers

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Sometimes we log onto Facebook to “Check on our friends and family” and see how much their babies have grown, if the cancer treatments are working, if they got the home they have been dreaming of, if there are new photos of their crazy dog destroying yet another couch, how much their gardens are flourishing or where their reunited band will be playing so you can finally get out and catch a show…and instead, you are staring at photos of things you can’t wrap your head around…video clips of devastating horror…something evil.

You suck in your breath (and you try to look away but you “Have to know…”) and you try not to cry and think about “What if that was someone I loved?” or “Oh no…do I know anyone that might have been there?” and your brain starts going a mile a minute thinking about all of the places you will never take your children again (Movie theater? Public School? Post office? Convenience store? Bank? Marathon? Parade?) because you are afraid that this could happen to you…to the ones you love the most in the World.

We can not allow ourselves to live in fear of these things. We can not deny ourselves the joy of doing things and going places we love – because of the “What ifs.”

There are ugly people in this World that for whatever reason – feel the need to destroy other human beings. Innocent human beings. Children. Families. Entire villages. Entire races and religions…

But today – when you look at those images flooding your newsfeed – look not at the blood stained sidewalks or the fear and tears on the faces of those who were in the midst of the chaos…look for the “Helpers” who heard a bomb go off,  had their ears filled with the cries of injured and terrified people, saw things they will never be able to erase from their minds – and instead of running away…they ran toward the destruction, putting their own lives at risk to do what many would not..HELP.

Look for them in the photos. Look at their faces. Remind yourselves that for every one evil human being who is determined to destroy a life – there are hundreds who would give their lives to save one.

Today – Instead of clicking on that link of yet another video clip of footage of something destroying peoples lives…maybe spend 1 minute writing a thank you to someone that has devoted their lives to saving yours.

You might be surprised at how much a simple thank you can mean to someone that probably doesn’t hear it enough.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the Helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

The Trampled

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When I was little, I was so shy that I could barely make eye contact with anyone, let alone speak to them…which made for some cute photographic opportunities (and quiet family outings) for my parents, but made it nearly impossible for me to make friends once I started elementary school…and it made me the perfect target for being bullied.

In kindergarten, there was a boy on my bus who delighted in telling me how ugly and “too small” I was every single day and made sure to sit in front of me so he could watch me cry all the way home. The bus driver would ask me if there was something wrong, but I was so shy that I wouldn’t even look at him, let alone tell on the “mean boy that broke my heart” and every day while I sat there listening to the insults and the never ending verbal abuse, I could almost hear the sadness in his voice.

In fourth grade, there was an older boy that used to come to the bus stop at the very last minute and find the smallest of us and push us down into the dirt right before the bus came so we either had to  go to school with grass stains or mud caked knees or risk missing the bus if we ran home to change. His sole purpose was to be first in line at the bus and even when we stopped fighting him for the number one spot, he still found pleasure in throwing mud at us or “accidentally tripping us” on his way to the glorious first position. He always seemed so angry…and so happy to watch someone else hurting.

In seventh grade, we had to move in with my grandparents and I had to change schools. If you thought I was shy before, surrounded by children I had spent nearly my whole life with, imagine how horrible it was to go to a new school in the middle of the school year and not know a single soul. I immediately attracted the attention of the bulliest of bullies.

She would walk behind me in the hall between classes and kick the back of my knees. I said nothing. She would empty her lunch bag chip crumbs into my hair. I said nothing. She would glare at me from across the classroom and leave me notes under my books when I wasn’t looking that told me I “Better watch it.” I said nothing. I let her bully me.

I had been bullied so much by then – that I knew that this poor girl had to have some kind of anger or sadness living inside of her that made her want to make someone else feel as sad and angry as she did and though I found myself uttering the words “I hate her.SO.MUCH” – I could never shake the thought of what it must be like to be her.

When I grew up and had children and made a life for myself, I often wondered what has happened to those bullies in my life. I have found 2 of them on Facebook. They actually “Friended” me and sent me messages to tell me how sorry they were that they treated me so horribly as children. It was incredibly healing.

But the last one? The last one was a little different. I went to the grocery store one day with  my little girl and found myself face to face with her in the cereal isle. I could never forget those eyes and how sad they were. She looked at me and instantly knew that I recognized her. She was a hot mess. She looked like life had only gotten worse for her (If that were even possible) and she looked at my amazing daughter who was happily waving at her and offering her a bite of her free bakery cookie and then she looked at me and burst out crying.

There I was, standing in the cereal isle with the bulliest of bullies from my childhood – wanting nothing more than to run over to her and hug her and tell her it was going to be ok.

We talked a while. She told me some things that had happened to her that made her the way she is today …and all of those years I spent “hating” this hurtful human being – were washed away and replaced with the urge to love her – because no one else ever had.

Today – instead of posting another FML status update on Facebook…how about you spend a few minutes finding someone on your “Friends” list that always seems to have nothing good to say, who always seems to be tearing someone else down, who always seems to be so angry about….EVERYTHING…and go say something good TO them and ABOUT them on their wall.

Sometimes those that bully us (or quite often…bully themselves even more so) – are the people that need someone to tell them how good they are at something, how strong they are, how beautiful they are, the most – because no one ever does – and so they spend their lives trying to make themselves feel better by tearing other people down.

Even if they don’t appreciate it – it will make you warm and fuzzy inside knowing that you tried to brighten someone’s day …even if a part of you feels like they don’t actually deserve such a random act of kindness.

Try it. See what happens. You may be surprised at the results.

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” – Dahlai Lama