encouragement%20cat.bmp I've been thinking about thoughtful things, both those I've done and those I've had done for me. I treasure them. The thirteen red roses Jon sent me for our anniversary, and the way they showed up at work glowing and lovely and interspersed with lilies, were thoughtful, of course. But it was his note that really got me: "I love you! You make everything so easy for me. :-) Here's looking at you, kid."

Just words, right? And yet, in one fell swoop he proved that he hasn't stopped listening to me when I babble on about my beloved old movies (we watched Casablanca together for the first time on our anniversary), and he told me a glorious little white lie. In actuality, I don't make everything so easy for my husband. I'm finicky and spoiled by our lifestyle and demanding and fatigued and melodramatic. Much of the time I think his love for me is quite possibly watered down by tolerance. His sweet lie, carefully tucked into the roses, obliterated that fear. It was the perfect thing to say.

My co-worker, Denise, greets me in the mornings. She is dedicated and has developed a strong work ethic. It is easy for her to arrive at 7:30 each morning to open our office. I schlump in at 8:00, wrapped in my sweater and bleary. She always smiles. On Fridays she gives me a conspiratorial nudge and says, "It's Friday, my girl. Thank God for Fridays!" I perk up. It IS Friday, the end of another long week. I appreciate her reminder, like a shot of adrenaline. Most of all, though, it is the days when she looks at me twice upon my entrance and, once I've settled into my own desk and groaned at the number of emails in my box waiting to be answered, she turns in her chair to give me one more smile. "That color," she says, gesturing to my turquoise shirt, "looks lovely on you." Or, "I think your highlights are holding up beautifully." Or, "I meant to tell you yesterday how happy I am to work in the same office with you." I feel that warm rush that praise and flattery send, as if I am standing on the West facing side of a mountain and the sunrise has just crept over the crest to pour warmth into me.

At lunch with my friend Jenifer the other day, I was feeling a little drained. The end of the long week had merely given way to the beginning of a long, exhausting weekend. We stopped to eat at one of my favorite places and took our seat by the window. I like to have my back to a wall when I eat out, just a little OCD thing I've learned to live with. When Jen slid into her seat across from me, the pretty bright light through the picture window reflected on her face. Light like water made her shine, beautiful. It was her eyes that jumped out at me, sea foam green and so very alive. All at once I told her, simply, "You're eyes look so pretty today." She thanked me and chalked it up to the makeup she'd applied that morning, but it felt good to release some nice words, some kind thoughts, and I was energized by it.

Compliments, especially ones overtly sincere, are precious and, unfortunately, too few and far between these days. Yesterday, though, I found myself swimming in opportunities to encourage and build up those around me. I've been helping the women's' volleyball coaches at Livermore High School this week during tryouts. The JV pool looks strong, capable, and full of potential. But not all of them are shoe-ins for the team. Some are still growing into their gawkiness, unknowing that they have more potential even than the rest. Height is prized in Livermore athletics, especially volleyball, because it so rarely comes along. Other girls misstep and trip and thunk on the floor, smack the ball into (or under!) the net. The ones pushed into the setting position succumb to the fishbowl effect, knowing all eyes are on them, and flub every other attempt. These are tryouts, and a kind word at exactly the right moment can make a superstar, at least for a moment. I made the rounds, clipboard in hand, asking their names, making notes, smiling a lot. When a girl swung hard and fast, even if the ball ended up in Rhode Island, I complimented her swing. If one served to the three spot, middle front on the opposing side, over and over and over, even when asked/ordered/implored to serve somewhere else, I told her how lucky she was to be able to find that "sweet three". I let them in on advanced strategy secrets and, low and behold, a couple of them caught on. One girl, a future power hitter who simply didn't have the height and kept slamming her hits straight into the net, took the hint I gave and began tipping it over like a pro, to a spot the varsity girls would have trouble cleaning up.

But best of all sometimes, better than giving encouragement or being encouraged, is observing from a new authoritative place the way these young girls stopped to talk up one another. I was especially impressed by a red-headed sophomore named Re. She had enough energy to power the whole team, the makings of a captain or a libero, and she never shut up. Good things, happy things, bright yellow, bouncing things rattled out of her as she dove around the court and backed her teammates up. "That was great, Karen!" she yelled. "You're amazing!" "How did you DO that, Kris?" And my favorite of the afternoon: "Smoking hot, ladies! That'll make the young'uns say, 'WHATSUP!'" Funny how just five years of distance can make me smile at that, something I probably would have said from my place on the court. Silly stuff, but stimulating and gracious and wonderful to see.

Thousands of days blur by us all, and on some of those days we pause to take the time to tell someone how much we love them, or how terrific their hair looks, or how often we think of them at their new job or with their new baby or in their new marriage. My brother dedicated a song to his wife and their soon-to-be baby son on the radio. My mom gave Denise a necklace with a whale's tale pendant made of blue stone, and it touched Denise deeply because she loves whales, and more so because Mom remembered such a sweet detail. My father-in-law built a trellis overhang on the patio behind his house as a surprise for my mother-in-law who was returning from a mission trip to India. And every time Cindy or Amy says, "Yaya!" when she answers the phone, my heart beats an extra time, just a little more full of love than before.

How I do love thoughtful things!