Life’s little lessons: The woman without a tracking device

“loved your article & the best friend one especially the picture miss you love you & admire your dreams, ambitions & your heart your mom”

This was a comment left on my last blog post. I stared at it for a good 15 minutes trying to figure out if it was a joke. The comment was left under my account. Apparently I had left this last post on my own. What kind of joke as this? A virus? Who really uses the term “your mom” anymore? Then it hit me.

My mother had left me the comment. She had not signed out of my account and she does not often use punctuation on the computer. She just learned that a link does not always mean sausage links and now knows that if you send an email like this: hbrencheratgmaildotcom, it will be sent back.

In the spirit of life lessons, little morsels of knowledge that I tuck away like chocolate coins (almost in a greedy fashion), I have decided to share three of the most simple and valued that I learned from the most important woman in my life: my mother.

Not Lost But Not Found

My mother once asked me why I don’t list my neighbor as an emergency contact before her. Well that’s a silly question with a outstanding explanation: My mother is nowhere to be found half of the time. She has never owned a cell phone, she doesn’t “text”, Twitter is a foreign word to her.

Pick your jaw up off the floor, a life can be lived without a tracking device of some sort. Even though I don’t plan to drop my cell plan anytime soon I learned from her that sometimes it is important to be not lost but not found. Sometimes we should leave the cell phone home or at least leave it turned off. We should venture off on our own, sit with our own thoughts, detach from that constant connection we have with other people. I am convinced that there is greatness to this idea, anyone who meets my mother will see that she is more connected to the people and passions of her life than a blogger with 1,500 Facebook friends, an iPhone and a GPS.

Eye Contact Before Eyelash Glue

I grew up in the world of competitive dancing and yes I can fully recall mothers similar to those on “Toddlers and Tiaras.” My mother (sorry if you didn’t know this before mom) was never exactly a “dance mom”. The term carries a lot of weight. A dance mom knows the perfect amount of blush, the secret to applying eye lash glue. A dance mom is ready for the quickest of changes and can jam a bobby pin into a bun harder than anyone.

I wanted my mom to be like these other mothers at time. However, I learned on my own to apply eye lashes and secure a head piece, maybe only because my mother was teaching me something larger. My mother was busy teaching me independence but more than that: manners.

She was teaching me how to say “thank you” for a dance award, how to make eye contact with my peers, how to act graciously and poised even when I didn’t get the gold. These lessons stick out a lot more than the materialism of the dance world and where I have not been able to use my tap skills and amazing ability to braid my hair in 10 seconds, I have been able to use the manners she taught me in almost every interaction.

When a Hug is Out of Arms Reach, Reach Out with Words

I kid you not, every thing that my mother writes to me drives me to tears. I don’t know if it is the love behind them or the beauty of their placement, whatever the combination they mean the most to me.

People will be far away from us at times, either abroad or living apart, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot use the most precious thing we have: words. Write Letters. Compose Notes. Send Emails. Express Gratitude. Keep connections alive with people through heartfelt expression and say “I love you” always and often.

Dear Hannah,

Before May 31, 1988 I carried you inside my heart. We would walk, talk, pray and sing even then.

When I held you my heart would melt but then grow strong to teach, protect and guide you.

As a little girl you were always so independent, set apart–playing by yourself, creating elaborate projects with your dolls, crayons, scissors and paper. And us? We were walking, talking, laughing, shopping and singing.

Then came your writing: stories, newspapers, thoughts beyond your years.

Soon you were picking out your own “outfits,” choosing your own friends, acting, dancing, making books. You were always embracing new friends, new concepts and new confidence.

We could always talk, shop, laugh, walk and sing.

Along game high school years and fears. Your neighborhood news articles advanced to “dramatic poems” and family books. Joining clubs, yearbooks, Kids for Kids and Heart bracelets. Your heart developed into “reaching out” and touching others. Helping, encouraging, and saving starving children.

We were driving, singing, talking, shopping and laughing.

Now you are here- learning more ways to grow your heart, New York, excelling in your academics, still writing, creating, always giving. Bravo my daughter- how special you are.

I look at my little girl and my own heart is so proud and full of love. Just like 20 years ago. I will always encourage and support you in all ways.

And still we laugh, sing, shop, talk and pray.

Love,

Your mom

Growing Up: Where I learn to leave a legacy behind instead of myself.

Last year I imagined I would always be the girl wearing the “College” T-shirt and signing on for a 16th semester because I could not get enough of this place. I used to believe this single place could hold my heart forever. I thought I would never be ready to leave college because there would always be something new to learn.

College has taught me a great deal about friendships, loss, love and beauty. Growth. Dreams. Setting my mind to something and seeing it done. College has taught me about satisfaction and complacency, of soul searching and realizing what I am made of. As I eagerly awaited even more life lessons at the beginning of this semester only one in particular has seemed to come around, being as obnoxious and loud as a Jersey Shore cast member: I am ready to not be here anymore. Is that bad? Is that horrible? Am I getting sick with something worse than the Swine? I am here, at a school that has blessed me with this person I am so proud to be today, but I know I am letting it go. Slowly And Surely My Hands Are Loosening Their Grip And I Am Beginning To Look Towards A New Chapter.

116 days. That is all that remains. The internships are over. The seminars have passed. The leadership positions still exist but for some reason they don’t feel as pressing this semester. I don’t necessarily feel like I need to be here anymore but the point is that I am here. I have 116 days left and I intend to make them as beautiful as the three and a half years that have come and gone.

So what can I do to “carpe diem” if you will? Here is the start of a beautiful bucket list: Make time. Go to school sponsored events where my presence is not mandatory. Give the meaning back to the “weekend” and allow myself to lounge, relax and take a break. Be spontaneous, anywhere and everywhere. Realize that it really is not the end of the world if I don’t score an A on a paper. Give everyone a chance. Find moments to laugh for no particular reason. Talk to strangers on this campus. Realize that people trump obligations, always. Dance in random places. Go out even when I know I shouldn’t. Leave some kind of legacy behind.

The last one is important. No matter where we are– college, grad school, the work world– we should be seeking to leave some kind of legacy behind. How do we want to be remembered in this place? What would we like people to say about us when your name enters into a conversation? If we could be described with one word, what word would we want that to be?

So I will continue to sculpt a legacy in this final semester. If I could be granted one sentence about my character, one that I would want to be remembered by I think it would be this: She was a girl who had a big heart and she chose to use all of it.

That seems simple. I can work with that. I can turn that into my legacy here, of this I am certain.

If you could only be granted one sentence that would slip out of the mouths of others, one sentence to describe you as a person, what would you want it to be?

Best Friends: They live in our hearts but they always pay the rent.

It’s that map you can draw perfectly on the back of a napkin leading to exactly where they are.

It’s those seven digits that you know by heart and one of the few “home phone numbers” still stored in your memory.

It is the words that never take shape. You glance at one another and you realize, words are not necessary for this moment.

This is a best friend.Most of us have these people in our lives, the people we can call at a moment’s notice and they will be there without a second thought.To Sweep Up Our Broken Hearts. To Bottle Our Sobs. To Skip Through Life’s Wonders Alongside Us.

I believe in fate and if ever I begin to doubt it I only need to look to my best friends to reassure myself. Think for a moment of your best friends. Picture in your head where you first met them, that first encounter. Think about how that friendship grew and progressed to what it is now. My best friends came from all over, a retreat, my kindergarten class, freshman orientation. But what if I had chosen to skip the retreat that weekend or attend a different college? My life would be so drastically different and they would not be a part of it. It is this: I was somewhere. They were too. We both collided. The world looked different from that moment forward.

I woke up this morning with swollen eyes because I spent all last night sobbing. It was a final farewell to my best friend as she made her way to Prague for five months. I know it is not over, that we will see each other again, but I still felt my heart break as I watched her in the rear view mirror as our car pulled away. And She Stood There. And I Wanted To Turn Around.

We have talked a lot about how it doesn’t feel like it is time to say goodbye; we have been inseparable for the past few months that it feels like we should have longer. But We Shouldn’t. Why? Well, it is the simplest of life lessons. If we needed more time, we would be granted with it.

But this morning I awoke, puffy eyes and all, and I looked in the mirror and realized, “I am who I am because of her, because of all the people in my life who have come and gone. I would not be the same without them.” What a crazy, crazy thought: We undergo change and development because of the little fact that people are constantly coming and going in our lives. Makes me think twice about my every day interactions and potential that each person holds.

Take one minute of your Monday to think back on a single moment you have had with a best friend. Perhaps it was that time that you laughed until you had trouble breathing. Or maybe that time you ordered everything on a menu for the thrill of it but spent the rest of the day with belly aches together. And just let yourself go back to that moment and smile.

I will share the moment that is coming to my mind: A few nights ago, my best friend Celia and I were unpacking my room from winter break and I was so excited to use my new bed spread. I had bought this bed spread with my mother and it had been marked down from $160 at Urban Outfitters to $70, however, at the register it rang up as $21. SCORE! Well it was a very pretty patterned black and white bedspread and Celia helped me put it on the bed. We took a few steps back to look at it and realized that there was a giant deer on the bed spread. A big black and white deer, fawn, buck (whatever you want to call it), staring right back at me. I bought the bed spread without realizing that Bambi’s relative was on the front of it. Thankfully it was reversible but Celia and I sat on the floor laughing til we cried for a good 20 minutes over the hilarity of the purchase. And so I realize I am totally OK with the deer being there, I will let him stay for a while, because he brought about that moment.

What best friend moment comes to your mind?

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Unicef

I want to bring 100,000 souls back to life.

But I cannot. Not even 100. Not even one.

I have sat in front of the TV for the past three days, my eyes fixated on the screen that shows me image after image of the devastation that has overcome Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince.

I feel like I know these people. Perhaps because they are not much different than me.  They still laugh at the sun, cry when in pain, kiss the ground for fortune and seek to understand why we walk this earth. Just like me. What separates us? A few borders and a word called economics.

In the past few months I have applied to service programs for the upcoming year. One of the programs that I have interviewed for is  a Catholic grade school in Port-au-Prince, where I would be teaching for 10 months. The same city that sits battered and restless on every news station right now. So I cannot help but see the tragedy that has struck and beg the question: Why? Why these beautiful people? Why this country? Why any country for that matter?

I wonder why this had to happen to a nation that cannot stomach the after math.

These people live in 4th world living conditions. Scrounging for food and water is a daily exercise for them. They beg for people to take their children so that they will a chance at a better life. Can you imagine having a child and loving him or her so much that you give them up because you cannot give them anything? Imagine how your heart might break to see that you cannot given even basic necessities to your child. The lady who interviewed me for the program said almost nonchalantly, “a child is more likely to die of malnutrition in Haiti than to get an education.”

And here I am. Sipping a cup of coffee that costs four dollars. Enjoying the care free life a college student. Getting frustrated when my computer does not load quick enough for my Millenial standards. Crying over passports, too much to do, spilled milk and other “Grown Up Obligations”.

Now I won’t let this realization go to waste. I will learn from it.

The following is an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Dan Zadra’s and Kobi Yamada’s How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference :

YOU ARE ROYALTY.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep…you are richer than 75% of the world’s population.

If you have a little money in the bank or spare change in a dish someplace…you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.

If you can drink from your kitchen faucet whenever you want…you are more fortunate by far than 1.5 billion people who have no access to clean water at all.

If you can attend a church or political rally without fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death…you have the kind of freedom denied to more than three billion people in the world.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than two billion people who cannot read at all.

If your everyday problems are weighing you down, there are millions of people on Earth who would gladly trade places with you right now – problems and all – and feel they have been royally blessed.

Remember: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

We have it good, really good, better than we can even imagine. We wake up every day and we go to the cabinet to get some food and if we are out we simply head to the grocery store and fill up a cart. That is absolutely amazing people. We have the luxury of driving from place to place, of washing our clothes when they get dirty, of bathing ourselves in hot water and of knowing that more than likely we will see our loved ones in the morning. We are blessed and we should never forget it.

Count your blessings one by one.

A Place To Call Home. Loved Ones. Friends. Laughter. Good Food. Warmth. Money. Ambition. A Whole Family. Technology. Clean Water. Conversation. Luxuries. Education. Safety. Arms & Legs & A Beautiful Face. A Voice. A Heart That Is Not Broken.

Count your blessings one by one.

Keep counting until the day is done.

What will you do today to appreciate your blessings?

More to come…

Haiti needs our help. Please act/ pray/ donate/ give/ think/ accordingly. Thank you.

Getting too personal or finally getting somewhere.

Who cries on a stationary bike at the gym?

Really though, who does that?!?

Some of you probably are not surprised that this very occurrence just took place. There I was, riding on level 8, my iPod on shuffle giving me all the right tunes to tackle this gargantuous hill. I had just finished lipping the words to “Low” by Flo Rida when a slow song came out of nowhere, blind siding me and leaving me with tears streaming down my face and what I am sure looked like an awful pout.

As much as I cry at anything, from the Geico Caveman commercials to starving children in Africa, I really hate crying. However, I deem it acceptable when a break through stems from the water works. This, my friends, was a break through.

Now it was Jack Johnson’s “Same Girl” that left me weeping like a willow. I remembered the song from when I was in love. From when my life was messier.

I am over the fact that not every love works out and I am the happiest single girl you will meet but maybe that is the problem. That I am single. On purpose.

We tend to compare pasts and presents. We look back at a time in our life and we think of how we have improved since that very moment. For the past year or so I have looked back at the time when I was first in love and how messy and disorganized and crazy it was and I have felt happy to have made my life cleaner and more predictable and ultimately controllable.

Am I the only one who feels the urge to be a massive control freak even if it means missing out on all the fun? Things are just so much prettier and nicer when we know they are coming. Right? Life is easier and manageable when we insist on disproving fate. Correct? If we try really, really, really hard than we can see to it that we never get hurt, that life never gets tough, that we never are thrown a curve ball. Yes?

Well there it is. Fact #1: We cannot control what life will hand us. Like a roller coaster, even if we don’t want the upside down loops or twisty turns, sometimes we will just be forced to take them. And Deal With It.

But then WHY am I refusing to step outside of this little safety zone that I have constructed for myself and just take a leap of faith and date? And my definition of “date” would be actually putting myself into a position where I could possibly fall for someone or find myself missing that person when they aren’t there or smiling when I catch their scent on my pillow.

Well it seems that I have bared my soul, told more than I have ever wanted to reveal in this blog. I Am Absolutely Petrified Of Someone Loving Me. Loving me beyond what I can hand to them in a resume. Loving me for the little things, for the fact that I have the world’s most hideous laugh or that they know they will always be second in my heart to Lil’ Wayne. I am afraid to be loved for a fact other than that I am good asset to a team or a great leader, but for the fact that I am Hannah Katy Brencher and someone finds that to be enough.More than enough.

Well I can assure you that I will not make this blog all about me, but it feels good to just admit that. It feels good to see why I am standing outside of the pool and only dipping my toe in. When we realize what we are afraid of then, and only then, we can begin to face that fear head on.

So maybe I needed a good cry at the gym (I cannot hold tight to my “tough guy with muscles of steel” reputation forever). Maybe I needed to see that I actually missed the feeling of having a messy life. Sure it is great to be orderly or to be prepared for anything that comes our way, but life is going to be messy regardless so we might as well welcome the chaos and learn to love it.

I need to let go of the reins. Stop holding my love life by the neck and gradually switch to a friendly hand hold. I need to stop letting other people fall for me while I watch safely from the side lines and then move on. I need to stop wishing that I would not be stuck up on a pedestal and just step off the damn pedestal. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

Well there is my heart sitting nicely on the internet. Please don’t judge.

Love is a permanent marker.

Love is a dictionary full of definitions.

Love is different with each encounter.

I am a fan of “Love Is,” the black and white comic strip comic strip collection by Kim Grove. It arrives in my paper every morning and I cannot help but be intrigued by what love will be defined as next. But for some reason, love always seems to take on the verb form. Love is kissing, wanting, giving, holding, wishing, encouraging. Helping, sharing, inspiring, desiring, understanding.

But what if love were a noun, not even a person or a place, but rather a thing. A tangible object. What would love be?

Love is a permanent marker.

I remember the years of childhood when coloring was all the rage. After a while crayons no longer sufficed, washable markers seemed so childish, but permanent markers, they were the real deal.

Every child wants to use the Sharpies, maybe it is because they smell different, they bleed through the paper or they come with a warning from parents, “Don’t get these all over you because it will never come off. Be very careful.”

Well I remember this same warning from my parents when it came to matters of love. “Be very careful. Now hearts are involved.”

We developed crushes growing up,  Marc who sat behind us in the second grade, Dayna who shared her art supplies with us. But just like crayons, we left these grade school love affairs behind.

Moving on to those washable years. We met boys and girls who we swore had our hearts in their hands. Those were the years of being invincible but unbelievably insecure, the years of wanting to be noticed and falling face first into what we thought was love. Hearts seemed to fall apart but came right back together when a new love came along. Diaries filled themselves with tales of girls who cared too much and boys who never cared at all. We were young. At times, miserable. Teenagers.

But then that permanent marker comes along. That first encounter with a person who makes our mind race, a person who we find ourselves tripping all over: a tangle of legs, arms, freckles and feelings. The first “I love you.” The secrets meant for only two. The late night banter. The cracked code to our hearts. But the warning resounding in our head “Be careful. Once it is there it will never go away.” Permanent.

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Love is a permanent maker. We spend years bracing ourselves for it, pretending and mimicking until we finally grasp it. But once we have it we learn to be careful with it. We learn what it takes to be careful with a heart that someone gives to us. We play this game of trading hearts and we realize the permanence of this. At one point we may get our heart back; we might find it abandoned or recklessly torn, but we never forget the person we traded hearts with. The time we spent with them. The ways in which they defined us and may still do so today.

We have this moment with another forever. A moment that is never washable. A moment that will always be there.

So what is love to you?

P.S.

The premise for this “Love Is” post has been inspired by Lauren Nicole’s Love +100 Strangers Project. I recommend checking it out, this girl is muy talented and the concept for this snapshot project is simple yet remarkable. Look for it also in my “cupcakes 4 thought” section.

You are here. And here. And oh yea, here too.

I woke up this morning and realized I have a super power.

No, but seriously, I really do and if you dwell on this idea for about two seconds I bet you will see that probably have this power as well.

If you could have one super power what would it be? Common question, overused icebreaker. One of the answers used to be: to be in two places at once. But I can do that! I do that on a daily basis! I, along with millions of other people, are in two places at once every single day.

We are grocery shopping, trying to figure out where all these lethal warnings about high fructose corn syrup have come from. but we are also off in a distant land that only mobile devices can take us to. You see, we can be physically present in a moment but mentally off in three other conversations.

I am heading off to NYC for the day and I know exactly what I will be seeing

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on the streets of Manhattan. Busy *important* people on their cell phones, looking straight ahead to get to where they are going, not looking at any one, never stopping to talk. I used to see this just in the city and thought what a pity (poet status) but more and more everyday I see it no matter where I am: Target, the mall, even the gym. People are legitimately burning calories while calling to make meetings with clients.

And I know I am sometimes guilty of thinking, “Who is better than me? I can multi-task like it is my job.” But something slips away in the midst of the clicking our of T9, the sending of that email on our iPhone. We are so busy curled up with someone who is not there and occasions that have not come yet that we allow something even more precious to go to waste. This moment. I know, I know, life is full of moments but where you are right now, all around you, is a moment.

Oh well, we will catch the next one. Or even better we will make up for the lost moment by twittering about the next one. (***If someone can explain to me the point of Twitter I would greatly appreciate it, because I “tweet” and I just do not understand it. When is someone ever going to care that I was here at 10:15pm or eating dinner at the usual 6p.m.?!?***) Excuses won’t really get us far.

And as a blogger I realize it is increasingly more difficult to not be in two places at once. It is very easy to be sucked into the Blogosphere and some days I think my parents are going to put out a Missing Person flier with my little face on it. Of course it is amazing to read what other bright minds have to say BUT… I have my own life, and if I cannot fill it with exciting moments then how can I expect to deliver anything worthwhile to you?

So today friends, I am deciding to leave the cell phone in the purse all day. It will come out on the occasion of locating my friends in Grand Central Station but other than that there should be no reason why I should be frantically checking my Facebook or having conversations with people I am not surrounded by already. Today I will live in the moment, all those waiting anxiously for me to update my 140 character status or email them back will just have to wait because I am in an Empire state of mind today.I want to reach the end of this day and be happy that I really lived it, held hands with my girlfriends, laughed in the city, shared stories and thanked God for such a sweet sweet life.

So I am open to any kind of advice. How do you keep your self grounded in the moment instead of always being in two places at once? What will you do today to cease the moment?