A “Happy” Filter

There’s something about this “Bokehful” filter that imbues “happiness”… I mean, it’s like jumping in a pool of happy, bright-light bubbles…  (Which pretty much sums up how I feel about life!)

I was wearing my volunteer hoodie in this picture and that’s yet another aspect of living that feels so incredibly joyous and “right.” Sometimes we find passions later in the journey. . .

On the tougher days it’s especially important to find our “happy” filters – whatever they may be – because life isn’t  always so peachy (and neither are we. I’m sure not all the time!)

Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, a love note, or a listening to the laugh of someone we love. Maybe it’s a call to an old friend, listening to your favorite song, or curling up in the arms of your best friend. Whatever those “happy” things are, keep them on tap for the rainy days.

If you find yourself in short supply? Take a quick picture and slap on a slew of glowing bubbles. If nothing else, it’s worth a smile to see yourself surrounded in so colorful an effervescence. It lifts the mood just looking at it! (“What if I’m frowning,” you say? All the better! The juxtaposition of a frown face with all that bubbling brilliance ups the humor quotient –  laughing at the gloom is half the battle. DON’T underestimate simple tricks and tools!)

A bad-day band-aid? Maybe. But when you smile your brain actually begins to produce more of our “happiness” chemicals (hint: dopamine and serotonin?) so seriously…what’s the harm in that?

Um… N A D A !

What Are The Odds…? Sharing Our Stories And Offering Kindness In Return.

I received this note along with a purchase I made on eBay and it absolutely warmed my heart. I’d say “what are the odds?!” but then I really do believe the Universe finds away to align things for the good…

I wrote this lovely woman a note in return to let her know her words fell into loving hands, and to offer words of support…which she so readily deserves. She is hoping to help her son “chase his dreams” to which I said how blessed he is to have her, and that as a team they will succeed.  

I then shared this Audrey Hepburn quotation:

The world is made a much smaller and warmer place when kind hearts lead the way. 

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Autism Humor – I’m Taking It With Me

I have the honor to volunteer with many children with autism and there are some things that just go with the territory (aside from the fact that I’m always smiling – they light me up every time! 🙂 )

Many of the children I have the joy to work with like to bring personal items along with them to play time (or wear something they love.) We typically don’t allow them to bring toys from home, heaven forbid something is lost in the shuffle – the organization I work with has a TON of toys for the children to play with, so outside items could easily disappear.

Still, when they really WANT to bring something (for example, little felt pieces in the shape of animals) chances are a mountain will be made into a molehill by not going with the flow. Trying to separate them from a comfortable “known” can be a lot more trouble than it’s worth and frankly, at the end of the day, there’s nothing at all wrong with that (particularly in a less frequented environment.)

We do, however, have to keep a sharp eye out so that they also go home with everything they brought along!

Learning About Life Through Another Lens, And How Blessed We All Really Are…

Some weeks ago I started an ASL (American Sign Language) course online – I regularly volunteer with children with disabilities and had asked a mom (whose four year-old boy both has autism and is deaf) for some ASL resources. Her son additionally suffers from a little bit of separation anxiety, which isn’t horribly uncommon with autism – when he comes to our volunteer play sessions, there are times that he begins to cry and it’s terribly tricky to discern what will make him feel more comfortable. While I was already interested in learning ASL (up to 50% of autistic individuals are non-verbal), this little guy was enough to get me on the road to finding a class…as soon as possible.

The awesome news is that I also volunteer with Special Olympics-driven skating sessions once a week that includes a number of children who are either hard of hearing or completely deaf. There’s nothing quite like being able to communicate with them – being able to sign even a single word is exciting! (I definitely have a way to go!)

A couple of days ago, though, I came down with a cold of some kind – as a result of contagiously coughing, I lost my voice – and I mean completely. Talk about being in someone else’s shoes…

Horribly uncomfortable a “bug” is for any of us, it’s nothing compared to what some children and adults have to deal with on a regular, and life-long basis. In a strange way, I feel thankful that I can’t speak because it’s an exercise in understanding what it *might* be like – while I consider myself to be one of the most empathetic people I know, it is impossible to fully understand anyone’s experience without being in their skin.

I have lost my voice on one other occasion – remarkably, I was 16 spending a month in France, with very little French under my belt. I guess life likes to test my ability to communicate (which – as is clear – is NOT always done with speech.)

In any case, it’s as the saying goes – you don’t always realize what you have until you lose it. I’d never anticipate not having the ability to speak was an easy road…but it is a welcome experience. (Now I’m not exactly encouraging anyone to go out to a concert and scream at the top of his or her lungs to deliberately subdue the vocal chords…I’m just saying, there is good to everything. Yes, including getting sick and losing a primary means of communication.)

Now my husband has a little bit of a challenge playing the guessing game as far as “what is my wife trying to say now?” He’s doing a remarkable job of deciphering, decoding, and understanding what I am trying to say, and that’s not easy to do! So I’m very fortunate to have the support and patience.

Going to the store is also an enlightening experience – I can’t say “thank you,” or “excuse me” as I normally would, nor can I respond vocally to others. That leaves me feeling a little bit awkward as reciprocal speech is one of the key forms of communication many of us learned from infancy. When I indicate with gesture and my lips that I have lost my voice, people either immediately begin to whisper or act altogether more gently – it’s incredibly interesting! (I actually can’t even whisper, as that puts more stress on the vocal chords than speaking does!)

The other side of it is that I’m derailed from my activities – in part I simply don’t feel up to them physically. The pain and discomfort though. . .I think about all the children with autism suffering from sensory sensitivities without the ability to say “those lights are hurting my eyes,” “this fabric makes my skin burn,” “my chest hurts….” What is life like for them? Many “behavioral issues” are a result of such a scenario – they don’t have a means to say what they are feeling.

For the children who are deaf or hard of hearing, thankfully they do have words at their disposal (albeit non-speech, hand / facial /body gestures.) I learned “sick,” “feel,” “bathroom,” and “okay?” as quickly as I could. Fortunately I’m learning many other words too…but knowing that it will take time, it’s important I know some basics.

Even if I was feeling better, my usual day-to-day would still be a substantial challenge – I can’t make a singe phone call, for one. I can’t ask for help locating a medicine at the store. If I were in an office, I’d have to type everything out (doable, but less efficient.) I certainly can’t breakdown a Ninjutsu technique the way I could by asking questions in class, and I definitely can’t teach or volunteer. I have to rely on gestures to talk to others I might run into in my own apartment building because I am utterly devoid of my usual method of communication…

So it’s been a remarkable few days…

While I’m sure it’s not fun to be around me while I’m loudly coughing, slower-moving, and unable to answer even the easiest question, I feel truly thankful for the experience. In fact, I’m taking the opportunity to review videos from the ASL course modules that I’ve already completed – I will hopefully be seeing the Special Olympics kids on Wednesday to skate and I know a few happy ones who use ASL exclusively. 🙂 

We Don’t Have To Feel Guilty About Saying “NO”

It’s amazing how often I’ve caught myself imposing “should”s in my own life… And it’s a habit that is neither helpful, nor based in reality.  But it happens…and I’m especially reminded around the holidays.

For one thing, I feel like every time I check out somewhere I’m asked if I want to make a donation to a charity. For another, it’s holiday season… This time of year comes part and parcel with the ringing of bells.  Incessant ringing, and I don’t mean Santa OR his sleigh.

Stationed outside each supermarket (which I frequent nearly every day of the week!) will undoubtedly be a Salvation Army post for a bundled individual and a hanging donation bucket. For whatever the reason – and it’s definitely self-imposed – I always find myself feeling guilty when I pass by…or I say “no thank you, not today.” You probably do the same thing…pour a bucket of guilt over yourself for no good reason…?

We collectively need to STOP doing that! 

I find myself reasoning it out – audibly sometimes, though mostly internally….

I don’t really know the charities some places are asking for money in support of. I remind myself that we give to a lot of charities, and physically volunteer. On a regular basis! We do it because we love to help and to make a difference, so that should be enough.

What’s with all the guilt then?! Am I embarrassed that someone will think I’m a cold-hearted person? Is it because I think I don’t do enough? Honestly, I think it’s a little bit of both…but I *try* to stop myself these days because:

  • I have come to admit that I’m unjustly punishing myself and feeling guilty for no reason
  • I know I give and that is (or, here we go with the s-word, “should” be) enough
  • It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks – I never owe anyone an explanation or justification for my choices. Neither do you!
  • We don’t do any of it for the recognition, but rather to make a positive impact…so the audience isn’t necessary, and I don’t have to burden myself with that aspect of it
  • We also – and this is a big one – don’t have to spread ourselves thin financially, physically, or otherwise to prove to anyone that we’re a good people! We already know that about ourselves…!

So when you say “no” at the checkout, or pass by the ringing bells… Or if you don’t chose to throw money to a friend raising some for their own favorite cause…BE OKAY WITH THAT. (I’m saying that to myself too!) 

You don’t need to feel guilty. . . or wrong. . .or less-than. You do what you can, when you can. You work hard for what you earn and you aren’t a bad person for wanting to save up some of that for yourself, your family, and your future. 

So let’s stop with the self-deprecation. We DON’T deserve it.

We all have charities in which we believe…

We all do our part, and our best to help where we can.

And…should we be unable or unwilling, that is perfectly, 1,000% OKAY. 

 

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.