Eternal Gifts of Life

Today is a special day for my family in more ways than one. This morning, when I awakened, I realized that exactly 5 years ago to this very day, I was gifted a title that would become my favorite and most important. The evening of August 15, 2014, I became an Aunt to the most intelligent, wise, beautiful and remarkable girl named Brielle. For me, sometimes it is difficult to find my place in this often chaotic and hectic world, struggling in a professional and personal stance, unsure of my contributions. Though, as I was gifted my title of Aunt, I then realized I would forever have a place, a responsibility to ensure Brielle would always have me to come to for advice, guidance, comfort, support and also someone to have fun with.
Keychain
 
Whether we are dancing to the latest songs, taking Daisy for a walk or watching her jump several feet in the air, impressing us with her talents, Brielle has a way of making even the most mundane moments incredible ones. Walking into a room, Brielle brings an adventure, with a creative imagination, an inquisitive nature, and a kindness and softness to her gestures and conversations. It amazes me how so many days I spent in the company of Hope, Brielle’s mom and my sister/best friend, and Brielle watching Brielle try new foods, learn to walk and discover all she has, leads to this day, as a newly-minted 5-year-old.
 
Throughout these past 5 years, Brielle has taught me more than I ever dreamed possible. During times of personal struggle and upheaval, when Brielle is nearby, those worries seem to fade into the background. The moment is now, when we are dancing in the living room with the music blaring, our voices harmonizing and our feet tapping to the beat, that is all that matters. Sometimes when I look at Brielle, I remember what it was like to be her age, young and carefree, with a responsibility to only have fun, learn and be kind and helpful to others. When I see her being kind to others, petting Daisy and ensuring she is happy, I can’t help but smile in amazement, impressed by the beauty of her heart. There is no doubt in my mind she is and will be a success in life, personally and emotionally.
 
Today is a gift; Brielle is a gift and though today is Brielle’s birthday, each August 15th since 2014, has felt like the ultimate gift to me; as an Aunt to my niece and dear friend, Brielle. Thank you for making me an Aunt and for always being a shining light in my life. Please know how loved you are and always will be. ❤
Happy Birthday Niece
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Strength In a Story

No matter what you’ve been through; an illness, a difficult or loss of relationship, personal or family struggles, no matter how big or small they may be, it is worthy/deserving of acknowledgment. It’s okay and even a beautiful thing, to celebrate overcoming what you have, being proud of yourself and being at peace with decisions and outcomes.
 
So often, when traversing through a trying time, whether it is a public or private battle, we may struggle to admit and acknowledge our strength in overcoming. For me, I only started to acknowledge how far I’ve come after I reached a milestone birthday last year. It was the conclusion of one decade of my life and the beginning of another and prompted me to reflect on all I’ve been through. It was then I recognized the strength and magnitude of what I overcame. The proof was not only in the tangible things I held, but in the way I am now able to reflect on and make sense of my behaviors, actions and the events I encountered.
 
Today and each day moving forward, take a moment to reflect on and celebrate your strength and all you’ve overcome. Be proud of your story and focus on all that is waiting for you with each new day instead of what’s been left behind.
Strength In You

Breathe in Beauty

A challenging, emotionally-trying and intense day, filled with uncertainty, worry and fear; days like these can creep up upon us without warning. Life is unpredictable and sometimes, it can summon feelings or reactions we intensely believed we’d placed and kept in the past. For me, this was yesterday. In the afternoon, it felt as though life was moving a mile a minute, rendering me breathless. What only and truly brought me solace, was the arrival home and the appearance of a book and TV show; distracting me and bringing comfort.
 
This morning, bringing a new day and the chance to file away the past and yesterday’s misgivings, I spotted this statement of truth as you see below. Mindlessly flipping through the latest issue of ULTA Beauty‘s monthly sale supplement, this phrase; “It’s a beautiful day to be alive,” caught my eye and I found it fitting to see this printed before me, after the intense day I experienced yesterday. Is it a coincidence? Maybe. OR, maybe it is a necessary reminder to all of us who are here today, at this very moment.
Alive
 
During our most challenging days, it can be difficult to always believe/remember this, but it is still a truth I intensely feel we can benefit from being reminded of.

A “Match” From Within

As an avid magazine reader, there is often nothing better than a mailbox full of them, filled with knowledge, insight and also fun ideas and concepts. With that being said, on a quarterly basis, arriving usually midway through each season, Real Woman Magazine, the publication produced by a local hospital in NJ – Capital Health arrives in my mailbox. Many of the stories published hit home, as they are told by residents from my hometown, or close by. Though, the Summer issue, delivered yesterday to me, is one filled with some of the most powerful/impactful messages, yet.
 
On the sixth page of the magazine, the monthly publisher’s note appeared, written by Kate Stier, the Director of Public Relations & Marketing for Capital Health. The title of her letter was simply – The Perfect Match. At first glance, one might think it had to do with romance of some sort, but one sentence in, one would learn is of the complete contrary. Having joined the national database of bone marrow and stem cells entitled, Be the Match many years prior, Kate had never been anyone’s “perfect match,” until recently. Losing both her nephew and father tragically to cancer, Kate personally knew of the devastation, heartache and loss associated with cancer; from the diagnosis, the treatments and ultimately, her loved one’s losing battle.
 
The call came and much to Kate’s surprise and delight, proved to be a perfect match to the recipient – a 48-year-old woman battling the same cancer which took the life of her nephew at the tender age of 7 – Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This story, in particular, hits home to me, as my own maternal grandmother passed away from AML at age 64, shortly following my 9th birthday. From October 1996 to May 1997, my family and I watched my grandmother, a sophisticated woman who never once was seen without lipstick, heels and stylish clothes, battled the disease as intensely as she could. If our love and in particular, my mom’s, could have saved her, it surely would have.
 
Though, because of Kate’sgenerosity and selflessness, this particular 48-year-old woman, is given another chance at health and life, receiving Kate’sbone marrow through the donation process. Coincidentally, Kate’s donation took place on July 16, just one day prior to her late father’s birthday.
 
Towards the end of 2018, having read much about bone marrow and stem cell donations, clicking on and off the official Be the Match website (bethematch.org), I ultimately took the leap and submitted my application for processing. Within weeks, I received my official donor kit, instructing me to take numerous cheek swabs to submit for processing. It was a quick and easy process and I could feel my heart intensely beating, realizing that through this swab and further testing, I could potentially save a child or adult’s life. Through donating, a child or adult’s grave diagnosis could take a turn for the better, giving them the chance to heal and a newfound chance to lead a fulfilling life free of their diagnosis.
 
Weeks following my cheek swab submission, tissue typing was completed within their lab, and I received the email certifying I was officially added to the Be the Match Registry and would receive my donor identification card shortly in the mail. After receiving the card as you can see below, I proudly placed in my wallet, honored to have the chance to potentially donate to someone in need. How incredible I felt to have the chance to make a difference and though there is the chance I may never receive the call to donate or pass the intense health screenings, to me, it a comfort knowing I can at least try or make the concerted effort.
IMG_5181
 
Physically donating or joining the Be the Match Registrymay not be for everyone and that is okay. There are plenty of other ways to show support or donate, through monetary donations, spreading the word publicly or even through hosting a registry drive within a local community. Albeit, there is no “wrong” way to donate or show support. The process of me deciding to join the registry, myself, was not a quick or simple one. After closely reading and absorbing all the information provided on bethematch.org, I read about some of the stories of the children and adults affected by the cancers that are able to be treated through bone marrow and stem cell donation. Reading their stories and even personally experiencing the pain and loss of cancer in my own family, I knew joining the registry was the right choice for me.
 
It can be challenging to go through life wondering if I’m making a difference or doing what I can to make an impact in peoples’ lives. So often, I can become lost, berating myself for not achieving all the goals I set for myself over the years, so for me, joining the registry is a way to reach out to others; to let hem know there is someone out there who truly wants to help. More importantly, I think about my own family, friends and neighbors. Life is never promised to us and if the situation were reversed, I’d want someone to be out there willing to do the same for me; do for others what you’d want done for yourself and/or your loved ones.
 
This post has been a longtime coming, but thanks in part to Kate’s story in the latest issue of Real Woman Magazine, I felt compelled to share my experience, as I patiently wait for the call as a potential donor.
 
Donate what you can; whether it is yourtime, acknowledgement, awareness, bone marrow/stem cells; ALL of it makes a difference.
Believe in Others

Freed by Failure

A recurrent theme in my life has been failure. Often times when I don’t succeed at an endeavor, albeit at all or maybe not in the way I feel is sufficient, I end up berating myself, subjecting myself to harsh criticisms and a desire to give up. From my understanding, odds are, I’m not alone in these sentiments, but this morning as I was scrolling through my social media feed, the quote listed below captured my attention and inspired these very thoughts.
 
The quote speaks of a truth that applies to all of us, no matter who may protest or see otherwise. Any endeavor we attempt, no matter if we succeed or not, is not a reflection upon us, as a person. It merely shows we have made an attempt, albeit one that might not have worked out in our favor, or in a way that is optimal, but it in no way means we, OURSELVES, are failures.
 
This mentality and truth reminds me of children and when they act out or exhibit behaviors that aren’t considered appropriate or optimal. Growing up and throughout my later high school and college years, I would assist in many of my mom’s preschool classrooms and often times, the children would ask me after they’d been redirected by other staff as a result of their behaviors: “Am I bad, Ms. Melissa?” The children, THEMSELVES, were not bad, but their behaviors were ones that were not commendable and needed improvement.
 
To me, it is always important to remember that when we struggle, no matter if we are children or adults, we are not failures, we are not inherently, “bad,” but rather it is our behaviors or choices that sometimes need improvements/adjustments.
 
Today and moving forward, remember, have the confidence to try; your only failure is the failure to try and/or begin. Believe in yourselfyou matter.
Fail Proudly

Strangers to Strength

As someone who from a young age, took to reading as not only a way to learn, but a form of comfort, understanding and reassurance, both books and magazines have proven to inspire me. The other day, mindlessly picking up Oprah Magazine, one of my favorites due to the meaningful insight and stories, I was intrigued by several of the coverlines. The latest issue in general focuses on the significance of strangers.
 
So often as children and even as teens and adults, we are often told to fear strangers, as they could prove to be dangerous. This can certainly be true without question, but it can also be quite the contrary. Some encounters we experience with supposed strangers prove to be ones that stay with us for the remainder of our lives.
 
Reading the stories of the impact of strangers in the magazine, triggered a personal event that transpired not more than a month prior. A routine trip to a retailer with my mom resulted in a sudden fall, minor head injury, and an encounter with strangers serving as angels in disguise.It was a split second between when my mom fell and lightly hit her head on a display, but the women following behind, seemingly walking towards the checkout, immediately sprung into action. Within seconds, two women crowded around my mom, immediately comforting her and checking for immediate signs of a concussion and other injuries. Maybe they were nurses or other medical professionals, or quite possibly, they were simply kindhearted, “strangers,” only wanting to help in any way they could. They stopped their lives, no matter where they were going, or what they were doing, to tend to my mom, who was frozen into a state of shock.Watching and crouching down beside my mom, I was in awe as I watched these women, who were in fact strangers, taking their time to ensure they shared what happened with the appropriate store personnel. After they provided their observations and ensured my mom was safe, they quickly left, disappearing into the crowd without letting me even ask their names or thank them to ensuring my mom was so well taken care of and tended to.
 
At that moment, I realized, it was never about the thanks or gratitude they would receive or the recognition; no, it was solely about caring for another, no matter who they are, what their age is, their gender, ethnicity; first and foremost we are all humans. To this day and forever going forward, I’ll be thankful to them not only for taking care of my mom, but for also teaching and reminding me of an important lesson and reality that day; no matter who we are inside or the way we look on the outside, we are all humans with a responsibility to watch out for one another, as these women did that very afternoon.
 
As one of my favorite quotes states, “Never look down upon someone unless you’re helping them up.”
Help someone 2                     Help someone 3

Journey Through Time

Perhaps many of you or some of you can relate; the dreaded message on your phone informing you, “Storage almost filled.” For me, it’s been a routine occurrence, prompting me to delete photos or send them elsewhere, causing me to reflect and in a sense, “relive” many of those memories depicted. When I see myself in particular, I’ll contemplate my hair, my skin, my body, picking apart the changes I see. When doing this, I try to remind myself, life AND ourselves, more importantly are not meant to stay the same. Staying the same, anyhow, is not always positive.
 
Sometimes and often, change brings us happiness we never dreamed possible. Like the quote below states, it can lead us to places we never dreamed we’d travel to and take chances we never thought we would. I’ll be first to admit that change can be challenging, but not impossible. It can take time to adjust and adapt, but most beneficial things in life do and can take time.
 
Trust that even if you, your environment, or both have changed, there is always something positive to be found even if some days, you have to look a bit harder. Like the quote below says, “Trust the journey.”
Life as Change