Carry on, Hope.

There are some days in which the news and current events overwhelm me. My heart aches with sadness. Sometimes, my mind flashes with bitter, angry thoughts. On more than one occasion I have visualized God as having a big, messy desk that is in need of a deep cleaning. Like others, I struggle to  comprehend why things happen. More often than not, there is no reason. Sometimes, this leads to feeling powerless.
When I get upset about the lack of compassion, empathy and kindness shared in our world, as well as the judgments we cast so easily upon one another, I try to remember something my son once said to me. “Everyone has a different way of seeing things and telling a story. That is their perspective. We can look at the same thing but all see it in many different ways.” His words caused me to pause.
When my heart tugs at the cords of my existence, I now give myself permission to do just that- pause. In doing so, I’m reminded that while we can’t control everything that happens, we can control our reaction. By pausing, I can reflect and own my personal bias that influences my perspective.
I may never have all the answers or reasons. I may never be able to help an entire village or community. However, when I see an opportunity to do good, I can choose to embrace it.
Yesterday, I saw a woman with a little girl, not much older than 4 or 5, holding a sign asking for help in the form of donations. Going against everything that a “street smart” Chicago Dad instilled in his daughter, fully aware that many people are known to “scam” others with these tactics, my heart tugged in their direction. I went into the grocery store  they were standing in front of and I bought lunch for the little girl.
Sometimes, we must expose our vulnerability and fight the fear of others seeing it as a weakness. The choice of feeling vulnerable often leads to an opportunity to use what we have to lift someone else up. It is my hope that my little bit of good imprinted a positive memory on a child beyond a sandwich. Above all, I hope she felt as though someone did notice her and does care about her.
God’s big desk has many, many files. Good comes in all forms, on all levels and even the most seemingly small act of good contributes to the greater good of the world. That’s a message that my youngest seems to already comprehend. Feeling overwhelmed is no more an answer than judging someone or feeling angry is. Doing what we can, in our own way and playing our part is.

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
Loren Eiseley

Golden Gate Park: Tea & Carnivores.

Every time I approach San Francisco my heart flutters a little. San Francisco is my favorite city in the United States. Long before kids, every time I visited, it felt like I was coming home. Now that we live here, it is home. We couldn’t be happier. The culture, the arts, beaches, mountains, parks, museums, variety of food, innovation and weather are all pluses in our book!
Golden Gate Park offers a peaceful respite from the rush of the city. With 1,017 acres to explore, you will forget you are actually in city with a population of 837,442. One of my favorite places to visit in the park is the Japanese Tea Garden. After I was spoiled by this tea garden, no other tea garden could hold a candle to it.
The last time our oldest was here, he was 6 months old.
If you arrive before 10a.m. on Monday, Wednesday or Friday you can get in free. No such luck today as we were there on a busy Saturday. At $5 per adult and $2 per child (ages 5-11), it’s not going to break the bank. For the summer, the garden opens at 9a.m. and closes at 6p.m. – starting in November, the garden closes at 4:45p.m. The garden doesn’t close for holidays. Bathrooms are located in the Japanese Tea Garden along with a water fountain.
The very pathways of the Japanese tea garden invite visitors to slow down. As we began down the winding path, my boys were immediately drawn to the variety of koi fish in the ponds. They kneeled down and studied them, mesmerized by their colors and size.
The Arch Bridge (also called the Moon Bridge) may have been one of their favorite experiences. If you have younger children, you’ll need to accompany them. However, at 6 years old and 8 years old, they seemed to be a perfect age to climb solo.  As they soaked up the peaceful scene, it was as though you could physically see them relax their bodies. They climbed this bridge several times. My youngest even motioned to me to put down my camera- he didn’t want to be disturbed. My oldest son asked if we would buy him a bonsai tree after he saw how uniquely different and neatly manicured they all were along the path.
My and my oldest now at the Tea House.
No visit to the Japanese Tea Garden can be complete without a stop at the Tea House. We ordered and shared sencha tea, tea house cookies, kuzumochi and Japanese pancakes. They also sell ice cream and other bottled beverages. When we placed our order at 4:00p.m., there wasn’t a line. However, by 4:30p.m., there was a very long line that trailed along the outside the Tea House area.

One of the biggest, most pleasant surprises of our visit to Golden Gate Park was situated between the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers. We stumbled upon a roller skating club! People of all ages and abilities danced as they skated and attracted quite a crowd of spectators (rightfully so!).


 The last place we explored on this visit was the Conservatory of Flowers. This was only about a 20 minute walk from the Japanese Tea Garden. The conservatory is open daily from 10:00a.m. until 4:30p.m. (last entry is at 4p.m.), but closed on Monday. While the conservatory does host a free day on the first Tuesday of every month, we paid $20.00 admission for our family of four.

Our main mission of visiting was to see the Special Exhibits Gallery transformed into a swamp filled with carnivorous plants- specifically, the Venus flytrap. The boys really enjoyed riding their scooters in the garden outside. This was a great spot to have our lunch.

The boys wandered around in the gardens and found a new treasure.

Golden Gate Park is a San Francisco gem. While these are just two spots we visited at Golden Gate Park, there is no shortage of places to explore or things to do. I am sure there are some people that tackle the entire park in a day! However, when it comes to visiting with kids, I prefer focusing on one or two different things. This makes for a much more peaceful, memorable visit.