Mom

Today is my mother’s birthday, so I thought I’d honor her by sharing her absolutely phenomenal talent.  What’s even more wonderful than these beautiful arrangements is the reason behind them. . .

For as long as I can remember, my mother has participated in some kind of volunteer or charitable work.  She’s done countless classes for children, in particular, over the years, and loves nothing than giving, sharing, and seeing others surprise themselves with talents of their own.

She recently spearheaded an event, Flowers, Fashion, and Footwear, that raised money for a local social service agency that she has worked with for many years, Community Centers Of Greenwich. CCI services children, adults with special needs, and seniors, and provides educational and financial assistance for lower-income families.

I am convinced that my love and passion for volunteering with these communities was passed down by her and my father’s dedication to helping where they can.  I am honored to be their child and thankful for the early exposure to these wonderful aspects of community service.

For the CCI event, flower arrangers were called upon to pick a pair of Louboutin shoes – owned by Kent Russell, perennial specialist – and design an arrangement to match.

I looked at the photos in the Fairfield County Look article (event link above) and without knowing hers, I gravitated to them as my “favorites.”

I grew up with the great fortune of having flowers and nature in our home all year round (yes, even in the throes of wintertime!) And it wasn’t just the beautiful blooms or branches, which I, for one, adore… The unreal sculptures and art she always manages to create look more like they belong in THE fanciest spas, homes, hotels…whatever!…in the world. They’re always breathtaking.

The shoes, of course, were art of their own.  Having been in the footwear and fashion industry for many moons, I watched the birth to death of many a pair…and I know exactly what goes into them.  I’d personally steer clear of stepping out in these if I were him, however, simply in fear of dirtying their impeccable polish!

In any case, I’ll maintain my mother has a supernal gift because there’s no explaining the talent – it’s an inherent spark I wish I had.  But I’m so very proud of her, and I’m inspired by the things she does to raise money to help wonderful causes…all the time. I can only hope to make as much difference in my life, and am blessed to have the example. (Keeping in mind I won’t ever quite get the hang of flower arranging!)

 

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Perspective – When My Attitude Flares Up, How I Tone It Down, and Why I Should

MOST of the time I *try* to be a decent human being.  I try to reflect on my behaviors – good, bad, and ugly – and to conduct myself in an upstanding way as much as I can.

I ALSO fall short plenty!

As human beings, we are subject to more influences than I think we ever want to admit (hell, even the moon has me all off kilter when it’s full!) We are subject to changes in mood, for so many reasons that it would be nigh impossible to list them all.  But that’s okay.  We are allowed to ebb and flow, because that is just the nature of life.  We don’t have to be perfect all the time, and even if we have some grandiose notion that we’d like to be. . .it doesn’t always play out that way.

But the other day a thought came to mind that stopped me right in the middle of my “if-the-car-in-front-of-me-doesn’t-speed-up-I’m-going-to-go-nuts!” rant.  It was such a jarring thought that my attitude shifted. Instantaneously.  

I have the wonderful fortune of volunteering with children with disabilities with two organizations – I’ve never found something that lit my heart quite as much (and that’s saying a LOT, as I am a truly passionate person about my life, my activities, and the careers I have had.) I love the kids, and I love meeting their parents – learning about them, their individualities, and what makes them happy, is an overwhelming joy.

So as I was having this moment of “can’t stand anyone” (and I think it was in reaction to a woman tailgating on the highway and giving me the middle finger, despite that I had no idea what I did to warrant it) I thought to myself. . .

What if the person in that car who I’m getting all flustered because of, or at, was one of the parents of the kids I get to work with?  Would I act the same way?

Resounding NO.

I wasn’t *trying* to give myself a guilt trip, or make myself feel badly.  When my behavior deviates – and I think it’s fair to say, as adults, we generally know when we are being unreasonable and inappropriate with our reactions (should we choose to be honest with ourselves!) – I am aware of it.  I do try to correct myself and in effort to curb poor actions, I have said to myself everything from “you never know who has a weapon!” “you can’t take back what you say,” to “that really doesn’t make me a good person to flip someone off”…!

Doesn’t always seem to calm me down, though!  

But. . .the thought that it *could be* someone in a situation such as the families whose children I work with shut me down pronto.

I would never want to behave that way with one of them.  And when I think about it, I can’t imagine I really want to act that way with ANYone.  What does reacting poorly say about me anyway? Nothing grand, I assure you!

When I think about it, it makes me feel sad that I would allow temporary emotions to overcome me in such a way that I lash out – in any regard.  As a human being, I know it is bound to happen, and that expecting myself to be Miss. Goody Twoshoes is NOT realistic.  But because I don’t know what other people are facing, and because I also know how blessed I am, I appreciated the supernal reminder. . .which stopped me from getting angry, or for the woman who flipped me off to ruin more than the few seconds of my day during which she did so.

I know I’m going to fall short sometimes, but that moment was one I know I will remember. . .

I have the blessing to work with those who have a journey fraught with challenges, and I LOVE the work because I have the opportunity to make lives better. To behave poorly as a result of flared emotions is to contribute in a negative way, and I will suffer personally when I choose that route.  The only thing that would make it worse is to also hurt someone else who didn’t deserve it to begin with…and I’d say I don’t really want to decide that someone deserves any of that.

 

Fearless

Fear of failure is common amongst us all… It is a painfully debilitating attitude which not only keeps us from learning, but potentially also from something we may truly love.  

To impose such binding limitations without offering our minds, bodies, and souls the opportunity to experience and grow with life is an injustice beyond reason.  There is never a rational explanation, nor any excuse – we must, in the face of fear, step forward, lest our lives slip from our fingers while we watch.

 

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Emphasis On Can

I love this quote from Autism Speaks – there’s nothing more important that encouraging children (your own, or otherwise!) by focusing on their strengths and positives.  

Autism Speaks, Dr. Temple Grandin

The world critiques enough, wearing down the strongest and most brave. . . Therefore at least give children (if not also yourself and your loved ones!), unhindered by the “should,”s “can’t”s, and “bad”s of adult conditioning, the opportunity to meet life with confidence and a smile. 

 

Giving Back

Every aspect of life is a journey and I suppose that’s the fun of it – nothing remains static and we always have the opportunity to grown and learn.  As we get older we are often bombarded with the idea that we have to be young, have to portray that image, or that it is simply too late.  None of that is true – there is so much beauty in getting older, and it is absolutely never – ever – too late to try, learn, do something new…especially when that “something” makes your soul glow or your heart beat.

I spent a long time in industries that I was, perhaps, “meant”…but not “destined”…for.  While life ebbs and flows, and is indeed rife with ah-ha moments along the way, I’ve realized that I just had a monumental epiphany. And that’s not only okay, but amazing…

I didn’t question my work in fashion – I’d loved so many aspects of the industry from early childhood that it made sense that I was heading that direction.  No matter we all thought I was primarily left-brained, I was incredibly drawn to the arts, performing sports, to fashion, to photography, makeup artistry – they were worlds so colorful and captivating that I sort of just “knew” that’s the broad arena in which I’d eventually land.  That said, my pedigree was – finally – to the contrary.  I did a double major in International Business and Marketing, not exactly the design and creative background required for a position in Product Development.  But, what I lacked in typical education, I made up for with enthusiasm and a no-bullshit work ethic.

I suppose throughout it all, I always had a feeling that something was missing – I didn’t have a name for the sensation, nor did I know exactly what, specifically, was absent.  I’ve always wanted to do more, be more, achieve more, so I believe I attributed the growing hollowness to that.  

But, it wasn’t.

The truth is, life for me is vastly more magical than it isn’t – I will always strive to be better each day, in every aspect of my life, and I will always have goals and aspirations.  So that sense of still seeking fulfillment might be there…but after having had more recent revelations, I’m willing to bet it will die down a bit.

I began working with children on a whim many years ago as an instructor in Karate – I wanted to get out of my home town (not to escape an increasingly prosaic routine, but to evade one person, of all things) and this amazing gift, so aptly timed, just fell into my lap.  I initially contacted the Sensei in effort to learn new Arts – my background was in the Korean Arts of Hapkido and Taekwondo.  Despite my lack of knowledge (or experience) in his Japanese styles, he welcomed me warmly, and with sincere enthusiasm.  In seeing my passion for Martial Arts in general, and, I imagine, my personality, he encouraged me to stick around and teach. Game changer.

I realized at that moment both the responsibility I was given, and that I was in the unbelievably fortunate position to offer inspiration to these children. You never know when such moments of motivation and revelation may occur. Knowing that I could provide a strong role model, not only by means of a physically active body, but emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, was a gift to be valued.

I was, and still am, more of the disciplinarian – it is incredibly important to me that the children enjoy their time at the Dojo (why bother otherwise?!) But it is also a place in which we discuss and learn core values – how to treat one another, the meaning of respect, responsibility, healthy living, honesty, courage, integrity… It isn’t just about how we control our own bodies and space, but how we affect others around us in a physical way, and beyond.  Our attitude matters. In some cases, we are reinforcing what is taught at home.  In others, however, we are providing a framework and structure that they child is not exposed to elsewhere – a framework that hopefully will help them blossom and embrace life fully, challenges notwithstanding.

I’ve continued working with children in Martial Arts simply because I love to do it – I appreciate the opportunity to instill positive values, to encourage and nudge potential, to lead by example, and to help the children develop important life skills.  Along the way, however – and frankly I don’t even recall the impetus – I began to look into working with Special Needs children.  The opportunities for children with disabilities is far less, and as a huge proponent of physical fitness, I realized I needed to be out there helping kids who are often denied the chance.

Having a BLAST and high-fiving!

By some great fortune there is a volunteer organization in my state that offers the kinds of hands-on activities I was looking for – they serve children with varying disabilities such as cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome, ADHD, apraxia, and others.  None is so severe on the spectrum that they must reside in full-time facilities, but depending on the child, there might be some aggression, or major athleticism (as in, the “runners” who are hard to keep at one’s side!)  For me, though, that’s the fun of it – each child is different, and with my background in Martial Arts training and instructing, I feel very comfortable taking on the toughies.

My time with these children has been relegated to my 39th year of life (and some of my 38th) – my path managed to diverge rather drastically in some way, but I feel suddenly so much more aligned.  While it is not currently my profession to work with children with disabilities, I have made it my mission to find ways to help.  I have purchased several books to begin self-educating myself, and have reached out to others in the field whom I know are both honest and passionate.  It is in so many ways the beginning of a new journey for me, but life has a way of doing that…

Life presents us with opportunities along the way if only we remain open to them. When we listen to what our hearts are truly saying in between the beats, we allow a magic we may not have known existed the opportunity to unfold.  The gifts you will receive will be priceless…