Category Archives: Vermont

When one closet closes, another window is opened–Wendy’s Closet Clothes Out

Yesterday marked both an anniversary and the end of an era. Wendy’s Closet in Stowe, Vermont, closed its doors after 24 years (to the day) of business. Those who have shopped at Wendy’s know that her store was so much more than “fabulous” fashions. Her goal has always been to help women feel beautiful and confident in their own skin, and she has empowered women for years to embrace their unique beauty. The energy and love that filled this small shop knew no boundaries.  All who passed through her doors received the utmost service of loving-kindness from Wendy and her staff, or her ‘Angels’ as she liked to refer to them.

I was blessed to be a “Wendy’s Angel” myself, coming to the store in 2008 on a return trip from college. With no summer job prospects, I happened upon Wendy’s looking for a birthday gift for a friend. As a long time customer of the store, Wendy knew my retail history and offered me a job the moment I told her I was looking for work.

Little did I know that this moment would alter the course of my life. Wendy took me in and opened up a world of love, kindness, generosity, loyalty, and spirituality to me. She is truly a guru among humans–humble and noble, fabulous and fashionable. She’s a woman who can throw anything on with a tee-shirt and jeans and make it funky and classy all at the same time. She taught me lessons about self-confidence and the importance of self-love as we played marathons of backgammon, read our horoscopes from the Seven Days and ate cupcakes from Harvest Market.

It was in her very shop that I even landed my current job. I had moved home from living abroad and had little more than two dimes to rub together. I called Wendy, as I always do when I am home and in transition. As expected, she opened her doors wide to me and offered me my coveted job back. I came to work only for the weekend, taking the bus from NYC to Stowe. Some might call it luck, but I call it fate, that on this very weekend back in October of 2013, I helped a customer who would end up offering me a position within a company called Education First, which would eventually launch my career as the Director of the Cultural Care Au Pair Training School.

The path that my life has traveled since that day has everything to do with Wendy’s Closet. All of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from Wendy about facing my fears, taking chances and opening myself up to the gifts of the Universe came to pass under her roof on this fateful day in late October.

Wendy is a woman of strength and character, and has been both a mentor and a dear friend to me. Her store was my haven, a place I called home. I knew it inside out, from the merchandise to her loyal customers. I relished my afternoons working with Wendy and the Angels.

And so, it is with bittersweet emotion that I write this piece. It is difficult to imagine Stowe without Wendy’s Closet, but I, like anyone else who knows Wendy, am certain that whatever this new chapter brings, it’s going to be “fabulous.”

Wendy, these mere words I’ve conjured pale in comparison to the feelings of gratitude and love I feel for you and your store. Thank you for everything, and my best wishes to you in this exciting transition.

Lots and lots of love,

Lizzie

wcvt

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 19: Bittersweet Transitions

There are multiple moments in my life where transitioning from something comfortable into the unknown has been electrifying, yet all together bittersweet. Leaving behind people and places in order to embrace the unfamiliar is never easy, and I have done this multiple times throughout my late teens and early twenties as I moved away from home and subsequently made my way all around the world.

Though I feel that this transition into some semblance of an “adult” life is well underway, it has brought up lots of of reflections on all the people and places in my life that were once brand new– all the strangers that became friends, places that became home.

I always think back on these people and places in fond reminiscence, and there are so many little triggers that quickly jog my memory of them. I can smell Burkina Faso. I can dance San Francisco. I can drink France. I can hear Morocco. I can walk Spain. These small things, which act as portals and transport me through time, if only for a minute or two, so that I can relive a beautiful moment, in a beautiful setting, surrounded by beautiful friends. And when I come back to the present, it’s always with a smile and a sigh. A smile of thanks for all the day’s that have been seized, and for all of the amazing people whose presence has graced my life. But also, a sigh of longing for the days gone by,and the people who are now so far away.

Thus, today I am thankful for the smiles and sighs, because I have been blessed with countless opportunities to discover the world and to befriend genuinely amazing people. They are a reminder that each one of my fond memories was once an uncomfortable new beginning, which blossomed into something worth longing for when it passed.

And if I am able to remain aware through discomfort of the new life chapter I’ve begun, I can let the wave of bittersweet memories wash up on the shore of the present moment, and offer up some gratitude to those people and places who have made my life so meaningful.  I must continue to breathe myself back into the present moment, so that I am able to create new memories here and now that will ultimately be worthy of a smile and a sigh sometime down the road.  There-were-some-memories-1024x884

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 13 : Letting Go and Letting Long Island

Today I was given a very valuable insight, which came in the form of an improvised mantra–Let go, and let Long Island.

For a little bit of context, my recent move to Long Island is probably the biggest culture shock of my life. I’ve traveled to, and lived in places that many people can hardly pin point on a map, let alone pronounce. Ouagadougou anyone? However, the contrast of my lifestyle and where I am now living  has never felt more stark and pronounced as I feel it here. Pretty much everything from the accent to the driving etiquette is a foreign to me.

I can honestly say that I am SO grateful for my new job and all of the opportunities for self-growth that it is affording me. However, I have felt myself resisting this culture shock deep down in my DNA. Upon analyzing it, I see that the resistance is coming  from my ego.

What do I mean? I mean that my whole story, everything that I identify as me, contradicts the Long Island stereotype. I wear my travels like badges of honor and boast my Vermont roots proudly.  Seriously,  I’ve been drinking my water from mason jars since before it was hipster, and today I wore my clogs because they are comfortable AND I think they’re cute.

Something about being here has brought out the crunchiest granola parts of me, as if my identity feels the need to hyper exert itself as a defense mechanism against the drunk Rangers fans on the train, the inconsiderate drivers and the mile long strip malls filled with Starbucks and nail salons.

So this evening, when I wound up with my colleague, Caitlin, at a Miller’s Ale House chain restaurant in an Outlet Mall, I could feel myself about to go all judgmental on the place. Intuitively sensing this within me, she said, “Let go, and let…. Long Island.”

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I laughed, partly because it was really funny, but mostly because the mere thought made me incredibly nervous. To be honest, though, I was instantly humbled by the advice. So much of me has been actively trying to make myself feel at home in my new apartment and with my new staff, but I hadn’t quite accepted the fact that Long Island (in all its glory) is going to be my home for the next few years. I kind of just assumed I’d delve head first into my job, make friends with my staff and escape to New York City  when I needed a healthy dose of culture and entertainment. No part of me had even considered giving Long Island a chance…OK, well maybe some vineyards on the North Fork or a swanky day in the Hamptons, but aside from that, no way.  Fortunately, as we pulled up to Miller’s my ego awareness switch flipped on and I realized that if I wanted my life here to be pleasant, I would need to nip the ego in the bud,  drop the judgement and adopt the mantra, “Let go and let Long Island.”

So today, I am grateful to Caitlin for the humbling, to my awareness for recognizing my ego and actively choosing to let go of the judgement. Furthermore, I’m grateful for the reminder that resistance to change amplifies negative energy and that it’s healthier to go with the flow.

I’ve learned this lesson a million times over, and somehow throughout every period of change in my life I have to continually be reminded to let go. Let go of your ego, let go of your story, let go of expectations, because if you can you can approach each situation from a place of higher consciousness. When we are in tune with the Self that is within all of us, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

So I am going to get down with Long Island and embrace all of its quirks. The non-judgement will be a practice, but I think I can honestly say I’m up for the challenge of going with the flow, and of course, adding some Lizzie flair to Long Island!

ImageOk, not judging starting………………………………………………now.

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Monkey Mind

The other day I decided to take a walk in the woods out to Sterling Gorge Falls. I knew approximately the direction I was going in based on a mental image I had of a trail map, and I figured it couldn’t be too far from my launch point on Maple Lane. With the trail map in my minds eye and my two chipper canine companions, Sadie and Ben, I felt secure and confident as I headed off down the narrow logging road. I knew the road turned into the trail, which I hoped that would lead me to the falls. Having left my usual distractions behind such as my cell phone and my iPod, I set an intention to walk with purpose and relish in the present moment. I busted out my ujiyii breathing (that’s fancy sanskrit for “ocean sounding breath”) and counted the length of my inhalations and exhalations. I also made mental notes of my physical being. How were my knees feeling? Achy. How was my psiatic? Twingy. Apparently I’m a grandma in a 23 year old’s body… But that’s beside the point. I was being present. Or at least I was trying really REALLY hard to be present.

Like most times I meditate, I experience what we yogis like to call monkey mind. My thoughts jump and flip and dance around my brain like a chimpanzee at the zoo. With my impending move to Morocco creeping up on me, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. This fueled the schizophrenic conversation I started having with myself as I walked. It went something like this: “What am I doing going to Morocco? Am I crazy? I’m overwhelmed. I should stay.”  Then it would quickly turn to Lizzie #2 justifying and supporting my decision to go. She would say things like, “follow your dreams”, or “trust your intuition” and “you are going to be just fine.”  Then Lizzie # 3 would step in somewhere mid thought to remind Lizzie 1 and 2 that she was supposed to be meditating and therefore should be clearing her mind of all clutter and thoughts and focusing solely on her breath. Lizzie #3 would win out for a good 30 seconds to a minute, before the chatter would start again. Thankfully I was the only person on the trail that evening, because I’m sure if anyone witnessed me and my ocean sounding breathing evidently struggling to contain the voices in my head, they would have turned on the heels of their sturdy hiking boots and walked in the opposite direction.

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Many times when I go hiking in new places I experience feelings of doubt. Though I usually I have a vague sense of where I am headed, I often find myself wondering if I am going the right way. When that feeling of doubt sets in, it can easily pervade your whole being. You get this feeling of anxiety; an uneasy feeling right in the pit of your stomach. Often it urges you to turn back. It starts telling you that it is getting dark out, and that there are bears or woodchuck serial killers that are just lurking in the woods waiting to attack vulnerable weak-kneed girls. Just then, you spot a trail marker indicating your proximity to your destination. The little white paint on a tree is a comforting sign that urges you to press on, and suddenly you are flooded with relief because you know you are still on track.

On this particular walk I simultaneously experienced doubt in its literal and mental forms. I felt equally unsure of where my desired destination was on the physical trail I was walking and the metaphorical journey I am on. However, what I learned from the trail that day is that I need to trust myself more. Even the vague mental image of a trail map I had was enough to coax me forward, and to eventually be successful in finding my desired destination, Sterling Falls Gorge. It was gorge-ous to say the least, and I was thrilled to sit quietly at the edge of the falls and listen to the water rush by.  

As I was walking back I recognized the symbolism and I chuckled. Obviously the trail was a journey… just like the one I am travelling on every day of my life. The doubt was there to try my commitment towards forward progression and it made me anxious and uncomfortable. But I’m stubborn when it comes to my dreams, and I am not the kind of person to succumb so easy to fear and doubt. All it took was just a few trail markers and some trust in my intuition to bring me safely and successfully to my desired destination where I could sit enjoy the gratifying view for a while.

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I’ve learned many things from the woods this summer—trust and gratitude and presence—to name a few. I’m thankful that I was actively participating in seeking the present moment that afternoon, because had I not been, I could have easily missed the symbolism of the trail and its direction markers. As soon as I made the connection I felt instant relief about my upcoming adventure to Morocco and what lays unplanned thereafter. I also realized that everything could be much simpler if we can stay present. The answer I was seeking was playing out before my eyes and it was so simple that it shut Lizzie 1, 2, AND 3 the eff up!

Equilibrium; a recipe

It’s been a good 3 months since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. This is mostly because my “ordinary”  life in the U.S. didn’t seem worthy enough to be catalogued in cyberspace along with the rest of my adventures. Upon reflection, however, my ordinary life has proven to be anything but ordinary. In fact, it’s pretty freaking extraordinary! This summer has been hectic, and I’ve been forced to wrestle my type A personality  into a go-with-the-flow rhythm, which has suited me very well these past few months. Striking a balance has been very important to me, as the past two years have had me oscillating between extremes. In SF I was lucky to clock 5 hours of sleep a night, because of my desire to do it all. Whilst this past year in France, my red leather-bound planner was so free from any black ink rendez-vous’s  that I could sleep 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Thus, this summer has been all about equilibrium; finding a nice balance between the chaos and relaxation  …and I think, dare I say, I’m succeeding.

Here’s my recipe:

  • 3 parts work
  • 3 parts yoga and meditation
  • 2 parts hiking
  • 3 qts. music
  • 2 cups radical people
  • 3 big doses of gratitude
  • 1 part excellent reading material
  • A touch of wine and a pinch of dark chocolate
  • “Mix it all together and put both feet in!”

 … ET VOILÀ ! 

Not having a car, though initially a royal pain in the butt, has been blessing in disguise. Not only did I get to grease up my bike chain (which reminded me that I LOVE biking), but also made into a morning person! I know, crazy, right? I’ve had to get my booty out of bed early enough so that I can enjoy a sit down breakfast and a cup of coffee with the cows, while still having enough time to pedal to work. I’ve actually become so fond of my morning routine that if I don’t get my heavy dose of caffeine and blue grass music before heading to work I feel ungrounded. “The Traveling Song” by the Avett Brothers has been making regular appearances on my cup o’ joe playlists. In preparation for their upcoming headline with Grace Potter at the Grand Point North Festival, they’ve become a religious part of my morning routine.

The Green Mountains have also been a key ingredient to my repose. Whether I’m admiring their majesty from the base or the summit, I feel so incredibly grateful to call these mountains my home. I’ve never been more appreciative of these hills in my entire life. I feel like I’ve been scooped up and hugged by the scenery here. Having taken Vermont for granted in the past, coming back to my roots after 5 years has provided me with a renewed love for the great outdoors and all of God’s creatures… especially Woody and Charles… my two woodchuck friends living in the backyard.

Mount Hunger Summit. Killer on the glutes, but SO worth it!

At any rate, I am leaving home again…. sooner than soon. I am off to Rabat, Morocco (just bought my plane ticket today!) on September 20th. The reality is setting in, as is the excitement. With one month left to enjoy Vermont, I plan on getting in a few more big hikes (a Mansfield over night at Taft Lodge and Camel’s Hump are on the agenda). I’m also anticipating the GPN Festival, which will be my big send off !  Of course, a big thank you  is necessary to the 802  for providing me with a safe green haven to relax and find my balance. I’m hoping to carry forth the spirit of equilibrium and gratitude into my upcoming Moroccan adventures.

Gros bisous,

Home again, home again jiggity jig

I’ve been told that the sense of smell has an incredibly strong connection with the part of the brain that evokes memories. As I deeply inhaled the crisp Mediterranean air, I found myself thinking that it smelled like Christmas. It was mostly the smell of burning firewood that brought on this memory, but as I looked around I realized that the setting has slowly been changing around me. The Christmas lights have been hung and the temperature has dropped into what I like to call “the milds” — surely not as cold as an East Coast winter, but cold enough for me to complain. The Christmas season has always been a time for family and friends, hearty meals, warm apple cider, and snow boots…these are a few of my favorite things…when the dog bites, when the bee stings…ok I’ll stop, but seriously, If I could throw up a gang sign for the Trapp Family right now, I’d be representin’.  All of these things bring back cozy memories of winter in Vermont–my first home, but not my only home.

Leaving Vermont to make a new nest in San Francisco meant leaving the familiar and the comfy, taking risks, being lonely, and discovering some new “favorite things.” Burritos from Papalote’s, babysitting for the Carter Family, Golden Gate Park, the Yoga Garden, nights out in the Mission, and friends who could blackmail me because they know me so well. But settling in SF was not easy for me either, and I recall many nights during my first year where I cried myself to sleep and longed to go home to where it was comfortable, to where I was known and to where I felt important. But as San Francisco became my home, my longing to go back to Vermont lessened and it became the place of my childhood; it’s somewhere to visit, but never again to live.

And now I’ve found myself in France, and I’m wondering again will I ever be so comfortable here that I won’t want to leave this place? I’m starting to get the hang of Sete, its people, its language, its cuisine…and as of very recently I’ve felt like I’m settling in.

C’est tranquil.

Gros bisous,

Lizzie

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