Amsterdam Bike Town

Amsterdam – Bike Town

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Amsterdam.

I’ve returned from my first journey overseas. While technically my first stop was Frankfurt, Germany for my layover and also my first passport stamp, Amsterdam was the first city in which I got a view of more than than just a runway.

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The weather in the spring can be fickle, and it proved so on our journey. Amsterdam was a little more wet and cold than we had originally thought that it might be. It worked out well for my photo of the I amsterdam sign. I don’t know anyone in this photo, but it was the only occasion on my 2 1/2 days there that the sign wasn’t swarmed with tons of people. That is the Rijksmuseum in the background.

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In case you missed it, we did not take only carry-ons. However, that decision was made 45 minutes before we got in the car to drive to D.C. and included dashing to the store to buy two medium suitcases and rapidly moving our clothing from two of the carry-ons…which meant I did not actually get to take more clothes, only that my camera traveled in its padded case. Priorities… ūüėČ

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The view of the Earth from the sky was beautiful. We watched the sun set and rise again, over the ocean. After we landed at the airport and collected our luggage, we decided to take the train and then tram toward our hotel. Amsterdam has a good public transport system. We purchased a 3 day travel ticket.  This was good for trains, trams, ferries, metros, and buses operated by GVB. I will note that this is 3 physical days, not 72 hours. We were there for 2 1/2 days and did try to see if it was valid to take the tram to the train station our final day, at less than 72 hours. It was not.

IMG_0743.jpgWe stayed at the Hotel City Garden, which is located on P.C. Hoofstraat. Finding accommodations for a family of five is never easy. Add to that fact that we were traveling during prime tulip and spring bloom season, wanted a hotel that made the city walkable, and did not want to stumble into the red light district (which we did anyway…but that is a future post) and this hotel worked well for us.

We had the room listed as Souterrain family 5 person. ¬†It has 5 single beds, although 2 are pushed together, so if it’s a friend group going, you should make sure you don’t mind feeling like you’re in a king bed together. Our room was located in the basement, with a window opening into an enclosed garden. Since it didn’t appear that there was air conditioning, the window came in handy.

Right at the end of these buildings is an entrance to Vondelpark, which is a beautiful 120 acre park that we spent a lot of time strolling through.

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I will tell you that this was the location where we most encountered the scent of marijuana, so if you are hoping to avoid that smell, this probably wouldn’t be a lovely stroll for you.

But then again, Amsterdam may not be for you if you think you will avoid the smell. We smelled it here… we smelled it near the I amsterdam sign…. we smelled it down at the fun fair in Dam Square… and probably tons of other places.

Personally, I think it smells better than cigarette smoke, the scent of which seems to be more prevalent in Europe than it does in the parts of the U.S. that I frequent.

And yes, Amsterdam is known for it’s legality of pot and prostitution. But I went there for its tulips, its architecture, its canals, and its friendly reputation.

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On the train from Schipol Airport to Zuid station, we were trying to make sure that we were going to get off at the right stop and this lovely girl informed us that this was the correct stop. ¬†When we got off the train, we were looking at the map that came with our ticket. The girl had walked toward her destination, and she turned around and came back to us and told us how to get to the tram station. It was a welcome experience upon my first interaction with a foreign country. We made it to the tram and were trying to figure out how far until the stop listed on the directions to our hotel. A gentleman offered to look it up on his google maps (and yes, I had this app downloaded, but was so overwhelmed that I hadn’t thought to use it yet. It would prove to be a lifesaver throughout Paris and extremely helpful in Amsterdam).

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Another thing that Amsterdam is well known for is…

Its bikes.

And there were bikes everywhere.  They have their own lane and lights.

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I took the photo above while on the canal cruise. ¬†It had just stopped raining so there were still raindrops on the windows. ¬†That’s an entire parking garage of bikes!

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The kids really wanted to rent bikes and go for a ride, but the weather was mostly drizzly and our time there brief.

What I found most surprising was how many children just rode behind a parent on the little metal piece over the back fender. I don’t tend to take pictures of strangers unless they happen to be in my shot so I don’t have any examples of how it appeared. One child was toddler age and the mother rode along with her arm behind as a back rest holding the child in place.

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Quite often there are baskets attached so they can carry the groceries or other purchases.

I have read that bikers get irritated if you are in their way. I don’t know if this is sometimes true, but there were accidental moments of stepping onto the bike path because it seems like a sidewalk. They would ring their bell as they approached and you would realize your mistake and move. Never once did I see anyone angry about anything.

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While most bikes are purely functional, there were quite a few that put time into making their mode of transportation unique.

I did not even capture a fraction of the amazing bikes or multitude of bikes around the city.

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Another sight that seemed so romantic were the girls who were probably in their early 20’s riding sidesaddle behind what I assume was their significant other. ¬†They were just sitting on the metal plates over the back fender. I wondered how in the world they could stay up there, but given the fact that they had probably been on a bike since infancy, it was probably deeply ingrained into their being.

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Amsterdam definitely stole a piece of my heart.

I’m only just beginning to process through my pictures and have so many more to share.

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I hope that you’ll check back as I share more about my excursions in Amsterdam and then over to Paris!

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions"

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves – European Vacation


Here we are at Friday!

Tomorrow I will catch a flight back to the United States.

All in all, I would say that my first vacation overseas has been amazing. I’m looking forward to sharing so much when I return home. I have lots of photos to process, with only the ability to share Iphone pictures today.

It’s closing in on 11:00 pm here, and we are mostly packed. I wanted to share just a few photos for my Friday Faves… because this weeks Faves were all about Europe.


Amsterdam was beautiful.


Paris was beautiful.


Integrity prevailed in Vondel Park in Amsterdam where items found in the park where hung to be found by their owners.

Arc de Triomphe Paris, France
Resilience prevailed in Paris. This capture of the Arc de Triomphe was taken this evening. Yesterday evening , there would have been chaos ¬†on this street. Today… strength. And not just on this street. We were near Montmartre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and Champs de Elysses over the course of today.


We have formed a lot of memories during our travels. I look forward to sharing them when I get back home.

I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend and I will be spending next week playing catch up, both with editing non-phone photos and reading blogs! ūüôā

So lastly, a song:


Let your light shine!

Amy

Friday Faves – Europe Bound


I’m heading to Europe!!

I didn’t actually get any posts scheduled. Packing for a trip gets crazy towards the end.

So I’m writing en route to D.C.

I wanted to share some of my faves this week.

So I’ll go ahead and let you in on a little secret.

We didn’t end up taking only carry-on bags. Everything did fit in them, but I needed more space for my camera and wanted to be able to bring things home.

In the end, we have 2 medium suitcases and 3 carrry-on size bags that will be checked. Each of the three teens and the hubby brought a backpack for the plane. I have a purse and and the carry-on suitcase.  The carry-on has our raincoats and my camera bag and a few toiletries.

 

Carry On toiletry flatlay

We found a dual voltage flat iron. Yay! ¬†I’ve not had luck with dry shampoo in the past, but I’m going to give it a try. I’ve heard great things about Wet brushes. I have the hardest time brushing my hair when it’s wet. I also got Travel size Buxom mascara, some Peter Roth moisturizer, and a Smashbox palette with eyeshadow, blush and eyebrow powders all in one container.¬†


This is my bag for around the city. It holds my camera. If you need you camera padded, this wouldn’t work. It’s by Kipling and has an cute monkey keyring.


Isn’t he just adorable.

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Some reading and some backpacks that fold up nice and small!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you might know that one of my faves this week is some new Converse. They aren’t coming to Europe though. The black Converse are the ones that are making the trip.


I’m sure that these pink ones will see lots of use when I get home.

They are one of my absolute favorites this week.

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What’s a plane ride without some snack, some good reading, and some shut eye.

I also picked up a rechargeable power source.

Of course I can’t leave you without a song:

Check me out on Instagram for stories while I’m away. :).

I hope you all have a wonderful Friday!


Let your light shine!

Amy

Reflecting on a Door

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I love old buildings.

Some buildings, I’m sure, were admired from the moment they were built. ¬†Others, perhaps not until well after their builders and original occupants had long since moved on.

And not every building is admired by every person.

The same thing could be said about humans.

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He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

This building is in downtown Roanoke, Virginia.

I have admired this building since first moving here in 2013. Perhaps it is because of the symmetry… the double arches over the windows, the black rectangular word boxes drawing the eyes upward, the green window frames along the alley side popping off of the brickwork.

It wouldn’t be until later that I would realize this building now houses Walkabout Outfitter, a store that I mentioned in this Friday Faves post.

But another reason that I came to love this building is because of a surprise door in the alleyway.

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Every exit is an entrance to somewhere else. -Rebecca Puig

This door.

This door would open up a whole new world for me.

Why?

Because about three months into my blogging journey I would stumble upon Thursday Doors. Hosted by Norm 2.0, it’s a place where door lovers come together to share wonderful doors from around the world. Now I wouldn’t have considered myself a door lover. I was working on my photography skills and had found various photo challenges hosted by other bloggers and also one hosted by WordPress. ¬†I found Thursday Doors intriguing because it forced me to look at details that I usually miss in the rush of everyday life. I was practicing living in the present and what better way than taking the time to notice one of the most important features of a building: the way inside. The welcoming point (or perhaps, as can be the case of an alley entry, a place only known to the inhabitants).

This door would become my first post published and shared on Thursday Doors. A chance encounter. ¬†We had spent the day downtown. ¬†I was looking for the door that I might want to showcase, but none had caught my eye. ¬†We were heading back to the parking garage when this door caught my eye. ¬†I snapped a few shots, did what little editing I knew how to do (if I weren’t leaving town so soon, I might have tried my hand at finding the original and re-editing), and shared the post here.

This week I was thinking about Thursday Doors because I will soon be heading off to Europe (Amsterdam and Paris) for the first time ever and I am sure to encounter amazing architecture and beautiful doors. So I looked at my first door post. ¬†Imagine my surprise to see that it was published one year ago, tomorrow. So much of the blogging community that I interact with has been met through Thursday Doors. I am not as active there this year because I had no archives and my recent journeys have not afforded me time to stop at many doors. Even still, when I do not have a post to offer, I stop by and visit many people’s door posts each Thursday.

That journey that began with that first door has changed the way that I view my every day world. I still notice doors as I pass. I wonder about the occupants. I marvel at the intricacies. I am present. I am living in that moment breath by breath.

I hope that you have the time to read the original post¬†(it’s a very short read),¬†but I will offer the part that left me in awe as I re-read the words that a penned one year ago.

I have not yet left this country so I have not been able to gaze upon some of the stunning overseas architecture that I have seen in pictures. I hope to someday walk among some of those streets, standing in awe, and creating my own moment in history. -Amy Lyon Smith

Tomorrow, exactly one year after I published those words, I will board a plane and leave United States soil for the first time.  I will walk the canal-filled streets of Amsterdam. I will admire the tulips and walk among history. I will travel to Paris and walk along the Seine. I will see sites that I have only witnessed on TV or in the pages of a magazine.

I will marvel at the works done at the hands of people who are long gone and in some cases long forgotten.

But that brick that they lay or that cobblestone that they placed is there… a reminder that they existed.

A small change they made in the world by showing up and doing what they were meant to do.

How will you show up today? What difference will you make in the world? Every choice has a ripple effect. Even if you don’t think that you are making a difference… You Are.

I hope that you have a lovely day. I will be pretty scarce on the blogosphere over my vacation. I’m hoping to schedule some posts, which I have never done (that’s right, you usually get it fresh from the presses), so we’ll see if that works. I do plan to update Instagram and hopefully post some things to my story (if you haven’t used these, just click on my IG profile pic if there’s a colored circle around it… that means that I have a story to be seen).

I hope that you have an amazing day filled with sunshine and smiles!

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Let your light shine!

Amy

18 Years Later... And Still Doing Life Together

18 Years Later…And Still Doing Life Together

I’m still running around like crazy trying to plan for our first overseas trip.

BUT…

I wanted to pause for a moment.

To pause and acknowledge the man who has stood faithfully by my side for the past 18 years of marriage. To be thankful that he is with me on the journey of raising teenagers.

To stop and smile because he still has my heart.

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Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. -Ruth 1:16

When we stood before our pastor, our friends, our family, and our God and declared our vows 18 years ago, we had no idea what was in store for our future.

We didn’t know that we would have three children. Or that there would be two boys and one girl.

We didn’t know that we would move from our first home in Naples,Florida. First to a new city in the center of the state, and then to another city on the opposite coast. Or that we would¬†then cross many state lines and settle down for this season of life in Roanoke, Virginia.

We didn’t know that we would experience heartaches, sicknesses, and deaths.

We didn’t know there would be moments that would test our commitment to each other when life became hard. Those moments when it would be easier to walk away. Those moments when you don’t agree on how life should be done.

But it’s there in those vows.

…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.

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Marriage is a commitment.

Each person growing and changing.

It takes a choice. Both people have to make that same choice. The choice to stand firm in the words that you spoke.

To find harmony in the ebbs and flows of life.

To love greatly and deeply.

My husband has stood faithfully by my side through my edges of depression, through my moments of anxiety.

He has been my encourager when self-doubt begins to creep in and I begin to tell myself that I am not enough.

He reads my words. He looks at my photos. He believes in me even when I don’t believe in myself.

He helps me feel a sense of security¬†when he wraps his arms around me or when he calls me “sweet love”.

He knows me. He sees me. And he chooses to love me.

This is not to say that he is perfect, but this is the place where I share who I am, not everything about those who choose to be a part of my life.

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He puts his family at the head of the line. ¬†I don’t know if our children see that now. ¬†Teenagers are fickle beasts. But someday they will know how deeply he loved them and how he has made sacrifices to give them all of the opportunities within his ability to offer.

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He has been my partner, my helpmate, my lover, and my friend.

I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else.

So I close this moment of pausing in gratitude for the man who brings spontaneity, laughter, and joy into my life, by sharing this song:

Happy 18th Anniversary to the man who makes me smile at least once a day.

I hope that you all find some smiles in your day!  Offer some of your smiles to those you pass.  You never know what kind of difference you may make.

We all are a little weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone with weirdness whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutual satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love. Robert Fulghum quote

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

Friday Fave Countdown to Europe Edition

Friday Faves – Countdown to Europe Edition

T minus 7 days until I board a plane with the hubby and three teens and travel off for springtime in Europe!

The first flight my kids have been on in over 10 years!

The first time 4 of us have ever left United States soil!

We’ve got lots to finish taking care of… but here’s some of my favorite things this week.

Son & Mother-In-Law

Last Sunday, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday. ¬†She’s actually an April Fool’s baby.

I’m not allowed to tell you her age.¬†I will tell you that she looks A-Mazing for her age and I hope my skin looks as lovely as hers as I age. This is her with my 17-year-old, my firstborn. His height to the cabinets is not an optical illusion. He is 6’6″ with his shoes on (if you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then you’ve read about some of my observations¬†about having a tall child. And that we’ve purchased extra legroom seats for him on the extended legs *see what I did there* of our flight.)

Amy Lyon Smith's daughter playing soccer

The girlie’s soccer schedule has definitely been keeping me busy. As of yesterday, her middle school team is 7-0!

One of my big faves happened today.  The delivery of a new mattress and box springs!

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The side wall is two colors. ¬†The bedroom is in the process of being painted my favorite color- Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams.

I really shouldn’t claim how old our last bedset was… but I’m always keeping it real..so… it was 16 years old.

I know…I know… they are supposed to last 7-10 years. ¬†But there wasn’t anything wrong with the last one…until there was.

We had what I consider a family bed when the kids were little.  The oldest took naps with me, sometime slept with us after feeding in the night.  I knew that we would do the same for the next child. The boys are 18 months apart.  So that would mean two in the bed with us.  So we got a bigger bed.

I also believe in children being able to crawl into your bed if they awake frightened in the night. Or if they just need comfort. It wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of the world that we slept in the same space huddled together (and is still the case in some parts of the world).

It was hard for me to let the bed go because it held precious memories. ¬†Reading stories…giggling… tickle wars…nursing my final child…moving its way through a lifespan of seven homes.

But it finally became tired.  It had given all of the life it had to offer.  My back began to suffer and so the shopping began. Culminating in my new mattress that I hope serves me as faithfully as my last.

I finally had a chance to get up to Roanoke Mountain and watch a spectacular sunset. ¬†I’ve shared a couple of shots on Instagram and will continue to do so.

If you caught my last post, then you know that spring has sprung here in Virginia.

Spring Crabapple Blossom Pollination

I’m especially taken by the crabapple tree blooming in my front yard.

But there are beautiful signs of life and color everywhere.

I stumbled across this field of yellow next to the fields where the girlie practices with her travel soccer team.  Of course, I only had my phone to capture the awe of the expanse of color.

Europe to do list

And of course in the midst of all of this… taking care of things before our travel to Europe.

We are getting down to the little details. ¬†I’m very visual so I like to jot them down.

Carry-On Luggage

We did do a trial run and will all be traveling with only a carry-on.  This may or may not be a literal carry-on.  We are flying Lufthansa and their dimensions are somewhat wider and shorter than the other averages that we had used to purchase prior carry-ons.

3 of our 5 bags may end up under the plane because they may be 1/4″ too long. ¬†It’s hard to tell and perhaps when the handle is squished, they will fit. ¬†I was originally concerned about the girlie’s being too big, but given that it was slightly shorter and wider, it was the only one we didn’t have concerns with on this specific flight.

The main reason that we still opted to travel with carry-on is that we will be toting them through Amsterdam and Paris… on trams, trains, buses…whatever method of transport we find ourselves on and we didn’t want to lug giant bags around.

We considered getting backpack luggage, but in the end it was a cost-efficient choice for us.  Traveling with 5 people to Europe is pricy enough.  We already owned 4 carry-ons, so the sensible choice was to add a 5th carry-on.

I found a nice Timberland, which is what the boys have well. ¬†We have an aging Eddie Bauer that’s been all over with us, but is still holding up nicely. ¬†The girlie has Roxy, a nod to our coastal origins.

Countdown to Europe "to do" list

I was really concerned about the weight of my DSLR and given the fact that I still have a lot to learn about photography, I really considered not bringing it.

In the end though, I think that I’d be disappointed to travel to these amazing places and using only my phone.

And yes, we are going to the Anne Frank museum! It was one of my main “must-sees” in Amsterdam. ¬†When people tell you to purchase tickets well in advance, they mean it. ¬†I checked three weeks in advance and they were sold out. ¬†I did not know that they are released two months in advance.

I was sorely disappointed!

You can get in line for tickets on a first come-first serve basis at 3:30, but I read that it can be a 1-3 hour wait.  We are only there for 2 1/2 days, so while I could have had everyone wait for an hour, 3 was unlikely.

However, they also have tickets which are released two weeks in advance which includes a 30 minute introduction to the life story of Anne Frank before the included museum visit.  I made sure to be online when they became available.

I also need to plan for international cell phone usage (which is very pricy x 5) and alert my credit card so that I don’t have denials due to fraud concerns.

I’m steadily checking things off on my #CountdowntoEurope.

I hope that you all are having fabulous weather.  It was spitting ice this morning and snow flurries on the other side of the mountain.

I’m not letting that change my perspective.

It’s springtime! ¬†I am growing and I am spreading my wings!

How about you?

So lastly, I song that I’m loving this week

 

I think it’s so important remember to spread kindness, smiles, and love no matter how chaotic life becomes.

I hope that you have an amazing weekend and that you spread your wings a little more.

Like wildflowers; You must allow yourself to grow in all the places people thought you never would. - E.V.

Let your light shine!

Amy

Spring is here: Virginia

Spring is Here : Virginia

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No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow – Proverb

Thank goodness!

I’ve been waiting patiently for some green to begin sprouting.

And finally… Southwest Virginia has obliged.

 

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Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

There are vibrant greens reminding me that spring is a time of new growth.

This spring I am growing…. branching out in new ways…starting with my first overseas trip in a week and a half. Amsterdam and Paris are that much closer to having my all of my senses take in their beauty.

 

 

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In winter, I plot and plan.  In spring, I move. -Henry Rollins

Like the brand new shoots on a tree, I am determined to press through into new growth and emerge as an evolved creation.

One who doesn’t let fear create stagnation.

Who are you and what do you know of the world if you stay in your little box?

I understand that this is fine for some.  In fact, this is joy for some.

For me, I want to experience the world. To see things that I have only imagined. And this requires pressing outside of my comfort zone.

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To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Just as my yard retains the remnants of fall and winter, I too retain what those seasons have taught me.

Fall has taught me the wonder of letting old things go.  It taught me that change can bring about the most beauty.

Winter has taught me to be grateful.  Grateful for the warmth of a fireplace and cozy blankets. Grateful for the blanket of snow that covers all the ugly and makes it beautiful.

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No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. -Hal Borland

And now Spring.

With its tiny buds shooting forth here and there.  The vibrant pink that will give way to the green leaves that will emerge on this tree.

I will continue to grow.

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Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own. – Charles Dickens

The blossoms on the crabapple tree in my front yard. ¬†It’s weeping willow style branches ¬†reminding me of an aging grandmother . ¬†Standing there despite its decay, producing beautiful blossoms. ¬†Soon little apples will follow and the deer will come to feed. ¬†A circle produced before my time in this home. ¬†This tree who keeps offering what it can.

I want to be like this tree.  Changing the world in the most imperceptible ways just because I have done what I can to make a difference.

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The beautiful spring came; And when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. -Harriet Ann Jacobs

I stood below this dense canopy of blooms, reminded that we are all a part of the whole.

Our choices have a ripple effect.

What do you choose?

Do you choose kindness? Generosity? Compassion?

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Where flowers bloom, so does hope. – Lady Bird Johnson

Each individual CAN make a difference.

Even if it is a smile you offer. Even if it is a helping hand. Even if it is a kind word.

You can make a difference.

You can make the world a little better.

What are you going to do to change the world?

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Let your light shine!

Amy