Written in the Stars: Remembering You

This very post has been a long-time coming – over 7 months, in fact. Truth is, I contemplated and struggled with whether it should even be written at all. Every moment I summoned the courage to sit down and write it, my fears and apprehensions overtook and ultimately, I opted not to. Though for me, composing my thoughts, albeit publicly is often a means for healing and even making sense of what happened. It wasn’t even that something necessarily “happened,” to me, per se, but rather something I felt and eventually, discovered.

Those who know me well, or who may have been reading along the past several years I’ve had this blog, are aware that reading and books in general, are of the utmost importance to me. The majority of my life, I have been reading, spending time perusing library shelves and fully engaging myself in tangible books. With that being said, back in 2012, after leaving a full-time job due to various circumstances, I found myself with large amounts of time on my hand, more time than I’d had in years. Since I’d started working full-time following my college graduation, the time I’d spent reading had dramatically decreased. In fact, I could barely recall the last time I completed an entire book. Therefore, in the days leading up to my job resignation, I started to once again visit my local library – becoming a safe haven for me in those subsequent months. As a teenager, I became quite fond of one still very beloved movie, “The Notebook,” also a book by Nicholas Sparks. I’d heard quite a bit about Nicholas Sparks and his books, but at that point, my only experience with Sparks was through both Message In a Bottle (I saw this as a very, very young child and was not even aware until around the time I began reading his books, that this movie, too, was also a Sparks novel) and The Notebook in their movie versions. Curious about what the allure could actually be, I rented several of his books from the library and that summer, I breezed through numerous ones, becoming entranced and enraptured by his books, his prose and his ability to captivate me even through the first several pages.

Back in the Fall, I learned that Sparks’ newest novel, “Every Breath,” would be released in October. Immediately, I rushed to place a hold on it through my local library and patiently awaited an email informing me it was ready for pickup. Much to my dismay, the email ceased to arrive until just weeks ago. Quickly, I retreated to the library and began reading as fast as I could. Prior to reading, I hesitated, however, given that in the past several years, for one reason or another, I couldn’t connect with Sparks’ newer novels. Something about them failed to resonate with me and I started to distance myself from them, though from the first few pages of Every Breath, I knew the allure of Sparks was back and thus, ended up inspiring this very blog post. Prior to the novel actually beginning, Sparks details his inspiration behind the book, captivating me through the power of one of my favorite phenomenons – serendipity; finding something or someone, for that matter, completely by chance or fate/destiny.

Every Breath

Several pages in, I was transported 9.5 years back in time to my 21st summer, in early June 2009, in the early evening hours. It was a warm, humid night, in very late Spring and given the earlier events in the day, I was overjoyed. Having switched my major in college from journalism to psychology, transferred schools and also having been on medical leave, I had quite a bit of catching up to do and so I made the choice to take on an entire semester’s worth of summer classes that year. Though, that June evening was truly a cause for celebration; it signaled the conclusion of the first set of my summer courses, receiving an “A” in my much-feared math course; an accomplishment meaning more to me than I could even express, given math is a sore subject of mine. Weeks earlier, my sister and I made an unexpected connection to our half-brother, someone we hadn’t seen or spoken to in many, many years and even then, our communication was minimal. Living across the country for most of his adult life, that summer he made a visit to our area and so we opted to connect with him. Though, that night in particular, he casually mentioned he and his friends from high school that he’d grown up with would be visiting a local bar and mentioned it would be fun if I’d stop by. Barely having to consider it longer than a few seconds, I responded with a joyful, “Yes, I’d love to!” There was shock and surprise in his voice as stated, “Oh wow, I didn’t think you’d really want to come.” This was cause for celebration, though, I explained to him; me having completed some of the most trying courses of my college career in a short amount of time and I was looking to celebrate however I could.

We arranged to meet about a half hour or so later and though as I readied myself, nervousness started to kick in, having never met any of his friends and barely having spent time with my half-brother, himself. Still, I bravely drove myself to that neighborhood bar, as a newly-minted 21-year-old (it was only a month subsequent to that very birthday), unsure as to what would end up transpiring. The bar was filled to capacity, loud and boisterous with TV’s blaring, friends laughing, pool being played and towards the back of the crowded area, sat my half-brother and a vast assortment of his childhood friends. Happily, he rose to greet me, briefly hugging me before introducing me to his friends. Once introductions were made, I sat in the small table off to the side, adjacent to where my half-brother and his friends were huddled. He was on the small side, quiet, with a friendly-face and calming/welcoming eyes. His hair was a dark brown and his eyes a lighter shade of brown (to maintain his privacy, I’ll call him P). My half-brother was staying with him during his visit, as I was told he would typically do. From the moment he introduced himself, I knew he was different than the others. Throughout the course of the 4+ hour evening, he came to reveal more to me than most other guys ever had; he was a survivor of childhood cancer, but the cancer treatments had severely weakened his heart and so he was scheduled for heart surgery in late summer. He was successful in his career, a homeowner and from what I could quickly tell, a kind person and helpful friend. Our conversation was easy and near effortless, even with the silences, they were of the comfortable kind. For the first time as a young adult, I felt seen and recognized. With him, though I barely knew him, I felt a connection, one I’d never known before. He was years older than me, but at that moment, I realized it barely mattered – for me, at least. Still, there was much I didn’t know and so as we approached “last call,” at the bar, we made our way out the door, both into our respective cars and I wondered if I’d see him again and if he’d felt similar feelings.

It was awkward in the days and weeks to follow; I contemplated asking my half-brother about P, but I wasn’t sure if it would be the right choice, so I worked my way around it. My dad, (also my half-brother’s father) would be seeing my half-brother prior to him heading home and so I casually asked my dad if he could ask about P. He agreed and hours following their visit, provided me with P’s email address and phone number. Nervous enough as it was, I opted for the email and composed one that very evening. A short time later, P responded (but with so many years having passed, it’s hard for me to even recall what he actually said, though I do remember certain key points): he stated he’d be having the heart surgery he mentioned, soon and that it wasn’t a right time to “get involved with someone.” It’s hard for me to recall if I actually mentioned anything to him along the lines of dating or seeing him again and I don’t recall if I responded to his email or not, but I remember feeling foolish. Looking back, I can truly see his perspective, but back then, I struggle to remember if I did. It was a chance meeting we had, but in the years to follow, I’d still periodically think of him, wondering if we’d ever cross paths again.

Nicholas Sparks

In the subsequent years, my half-brother and I lost contact, somehow losing touch and moving on with our respective lives. Still, I’d sometimes think of P and would search for him on Facebook, but always came up empty. I knew so little about him, yet, something abut his personality and spirit had captivated me. This past Spring, in the months leading to my 30th birthday in May, I started to reach out to those I’d lost touch with, wondering if it was something I said or did. As I approached my 30th year, I started to reflect on my life and past experiences, feeling as though the coming year and new decade of life was a turning point for me. Thus, this included reaching out to my brother-in-law, as nervous as I was. His response was warm and well-received and so I bravely questioned if he still stayed with P during his visits home, feeling it was a basic inquiry.

Serendipity quote

My question to him went unanswered for several days and I wondered if I’d said something wrong or if my inquiry about P was misinterpreted. Though, I had my answer, one I’d never expect or dream of receiving while in line at a store with my mom. I clicked on the message and nearly felt my breath slip away as I read my half-brother’s words. Just days prior, P had passed away; losing his life on the operating table during another heart surgery (apparently, he’d continued to battle heart issues in the 9 years following that first heart surgery he was scheduled for). Otherwise healthy and active, P had apparently married and frequently visited Utah, where my half-brother lived for numerous years. Reading this and letting the traumatic thoughts sink in, I was left without words; just short of a decade had passed and finally when I’d summoned the courage to ask about him, it was too late. Though, in the months I’ve had to digest this tragedy, I realize if he, or we had been right, it wouldn’t have been too late. There is a true sadness I feel, knowing his life was cut too short, leaving his wife, family and friends and despite only having spent mere hours with him all those years ago, it is better to have known than to always wonder.

For me, the story of P is proof in serendipity; a realization that we can meet, interact with or learn of someone in mere seconds and our lives can be forever changed or impacted. Reading the newest book by Nicholas Sparks somehow afforded me with the courage and bravery to finally compose my thoughts about P and maybe to some, our meeting may seem like just two strangers talking one night, to me, it was the first time I realized it doesn’t always have to take years to know someone and even if he wasn’t meant to always be physically present in my life, he still taught me something – believe in chances and never be afraid to ask what you wish to know.

Meet People quote

Rest in peace, P; “A beautiful soul is never forgotten.”

 

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A Bagful of Rescues: How Chala Handbags Merges Fashion & Philanthropy into “Charitable Giving You Can Wear!”

Good Morning to you and Happy Fall Weekend! For years, the Fall season has been a favorite a mine, combining many of my favorite holidays, activities and weather. In fact, just a few short days ago, on October 10th, unbeknownst to me in years prior, National Handbag Day was celebrated, falling in line with an opportunity I was recently presented with. For me, as someone who has always loved shopping, though I enjoy shopping for apparel, accessories (i.e. handbags, jewelry & shoes) have always held my true affections, given no matter one’s size, accessories can often last a lifetime. An accessory can truly make an outfit, with the ability to dress it up or down, adding a hint of flair, sophistication and a chance to put a unique spin on anything one wears. From a chunky bracelet, a colorful pendant necklace, vibrant heels, or a crossbody bag adorned with charms and other details, accessories allow for one’s personality and creativity to shine through with ease and endless options.

Fashion and Style                Beauty Begins quote

With that being said, several weeks ago, while accompanying my mom to her doctor’s appointment located within the medical building in our local hospital, St. Mary Medical Center, upon exiting the building, we came to a halt as we approached the gift shop. Recently renovated and expanded, the window displays stopped us in our tracks, adorned with charming jewelry, mugs, decals and beyond. Taking a closer look, I focused my attention on what I noticed peeking out from behind; an assortment of handbags with keychains, friendly images and a style about them drawing me in. Though it was getting to be later in the day, my mom questioned if I’d like to take a look and after brief hesitation, ultimately, I agreed, tempted to see what treasures I could find, curious about the aforementioned handbags summoning my attention. Weaving my way through the slim aisles of the shop, the display of totebags, keychains and small crossbody bags appeared before me. Seeing the friendly images emblazoned on them, I couldn’t help but smile. Without hesitation, I grabbed the tote bag, placing it on my shoulder while searching inside, lined with polka-dots. Calling my mom over to see for herself, she and I stood for several moments taking in the collection, as I became fixated on the words imprinted on the tags, detailing their charitable partnership with an animal rescue organization.

Serendipity quote

For those who know me well, or have been following my blog, it is a known fact that animal rescues in particular hold a special place in my heart. My first dog, Oliver (pictured below), a 15.5-year-old Bichon Frise who was beside me from the time he was six weeks old, passed away in November 2017, leaving a deep void in my heart and family.

Oliver tongue

Not simply a pet to me, he was an active and imperative role in my family, my trusted confidante and his absence still is felt each day. Though with that being said, with his passing came a deepened interest in animal rescues. More and more I began to follow local animal rescues on social media, seeing the rampant need growing each day. Innocent, deserving and worthy animals in need of homes, care and treatment began to actively fill my newsfeeds, tugging on my heartstrings until one Sunday morning in early February 2018, the choice was made. All it took was a moment for my eyes to settle on her friendly, furry face; her white fur accented by light brown, her uniquely-colored amber eyes, and her pleasant demeanor and within hours, the application for her adoption was submitted. About two and a half weeks later, that very dog became Daisy (pictured below), my feisty family member who brings joy and sunshine to my life each day, providing me with awareness that I could care for and love another dog as welcomed her into my life and she becomes as important as Oliver, her “brother,” as I refer to him as.

Daisy chair

Nonetheless, as my mom and I stood in the gift shop and I took in the collection of handbags – Chala Handbags, to be specific, it was my first experience ever seeing and hearing of them, knowing I’d surely be a customer. Not only does their strong partnership with animal rescues heighten their allure, but their vast collections and array of merchandise is in a class of its own, with a product surely for everyone. Whether your interest is in animals, music, nature, and beyond, Chala Handbags offers a unique way to showcase your affections, offering a collection of items designed in the USA, with sophistication, style, and class. Much to my delight, the team at Chala Handbags offered me the incredible opportunity to select any item of my liking and today, I’m here to share not only my direct experience with the handbag I chose, but also detail the full company background, as they offer not only high-quality, durable fashion accessories to complement everyone’s unique style, but the chance to help animals in need, simultaneously.

Gift Shop Full Photo            Gift Shop Photo 2

CHALA Handbags: (www.chalagroup.com – official company website)

Chala Handbags Logo

Social Media Channels:

  • Facebook: facebook.com/chalahandbags
  • Twitter: twitter.com/chalahandbags
  • Instagram: instagram.com/chala-handbags
  • Pinterest: pinterest.com/chalahandbags

CHALA Handbags Company Information: (via chalagroup.com, the company’s official website):

Chala Handbags Small Offerings

  • Chala Handbags identifies itself as a “team of creative designers who love handbags so much, they decided to craft their own!” They pride themselves in creating fashion rather than following it and add a unique touch and flair to all of their products.
  • As stated on their website, they approach life with both “passion and creativity,” believing that “doing what you like and liking what you do are the keys to happiness.”

Chala Saying with Bag

  • Their optimistic, encouraging outlook and philosophy on life spills across their vast product line and offerings, summoning smiles and a lighthearted vibe, with each bag and accessory item unique from the next. They pride themselves in adorning their items with a “hint of whimsy,” as they describe it on their website. Therefore, with Chala Handbags, there’s never a need to sacrifice sophistication with a unique complement of fun, as the two are definitely merged.
  • Showcasing their love and dedication to animals and nature, Chala Handbags emphasizes the importance of “celebrating who you are and showing it to the world,” and being “bold and unique while keeping one’s feet on the ground.” In other words, be humble and uniquely you.
  • By carrying a Chala Handbag or accessory item, not only will you showcase your flair and sophistication, but you’ll also help rescue and provide care for deserving animals in need of a loving home and potentially life-saving treatments.

CHALA Handbags as a Charitable Partner:

  • With many of their products adorned, complemented or emblazoned with animals or animal symbols, Chala Handbags is a proud advocate of animal rights and welfare.
  • In fact, each year, 5% of Chala Handbags’ net profit is proudly donated to their charity partner, Heart and Home Animal Rescue (heartandhomerescue.org), a California-based animal rescue serving both dogs and cats. Operating solely through sponsors/partners, like Chala Handbags, as well as donations, Heart and Home Animal Rescue is run by a team of dedicated volunteers eager to provide care and loving homes for animals in need.
  • Therefore, customers and retailers alike purchasing and selling Chala Handbags can feel good about their purchases, receiving not only an exquisite product designed in the USA, but also are making a worthy contribution, simultaneously.
  • Each Chala Handbag comes adorned with a heart-shaped tag detailing their charitable partnership, as showcased in the photo below.

Chala Handbag Tag

Where to Buy CHALA Handbags: If I’ve piqued your interest enough to stimulate a potential purchase, have no fear, there are numerous retailers offering Chala Handbags for purchase –

  • Amazon.com: Simply type Chala Handbags in the search bar and you’ll be afforded with a vast array of Chala Handbags and accessories to choose from.
  • The Handbag Store (via shopthehandbagstore.com)

CHALA Handbag Collections: Though Chala Handbags exhibits a strong interest and emphasis on animals, featuring them on many items, their vast offerings are certainly NOT limited to strictly animals. Whether your interests are rooted in animals, nature (i.e. bees, butterflies, birds, hummingbirds), music, dance, oceanic or sea life (i.e. turtles, seahorses, fish, mermaids, whales), origami, safari (giraffes, bears, etc), the Winter season (i.e. snowmen, polar bears) and beyond, there is surely a collection and associated item for you! The following are the official Chala Handbag collections:

  • FARM

Chala Handbags Farm Collection       Chala Handbags Farm Collection 2

  • GARDEN

Chala Handbags Garden Collection

  • MUSIC

Chala Handbags Music Collection    Chala Handbags Music Collection 2   Chala Handbags Music Collection 3

  • OCEAN

Chala Handbags Ocean Collection   Chala Handbags Ocean Collection 2

  • ORIGAMI

Chala Handbags Origami Collection   Chala Handbags Origami Collection 2

  • PET

Chala Handbags Pet Collection

  • SAFARI

Chala Handbags Safari Collection   Chala Handbags Safari Collection 2

  • TURTLE

Chala Handbags Turtle Collection   Chala Handbags Turtle Collection 2

  • WILDERNESS

Chala Handbags Wilderness Collection  Chala Handbags Wilderness Collection 2

  • WOODLAND

Chala Handbags Woodland Collection  Chala Handbags Woodland Collection 2

  • WINTER

Chala Handbags Winter Collection   Chala Handbags Winter Collection 2

TYPES of CHALA Handbag PRODUCTS: Though their official name is Chala Handbags, they do not solely offer handbags, but also feature a vast array of merchandise, equally as diverse as their collections including traditional wallets, crossbody wallets, keychains and fobs and beyond:

  • ACCESSORIES

Chala Handbags Accessories  Chala Handbags Accessories 2   Chala Handbags Accessories 3

  • BACKPACKS

Chala Handbags Backpacks  Chala Handbags Backpacks 2

  • BOWLING BAGS

Chala Handbags Bowling Bags

  • CROSSBODY BAGS (Dazzle, Deluxe, Organizer, Half-Moon, Wallet)

Chala Handbags Crossbody    Chala Handbags Crossbody 3  Chala Handbags Crossbody 2  Chala Handbags Dazzled Crossbody  Chala Handbags Half Moon CrossbodyChala Handbags Wallet Crossbody

  • DELUXE MESSENGER BAGS

Chala Handbags Deluxe Messenger Bag 2

  • KEY FOBS

Chala Handbags Key Fob

 

  • SWEET HOBO/TOTE

Chala Handbags Sweet Hobo Tote

  • SWEET MESSENGER BAG

Chala Handbags Sweet Messenger Bag

  • TOTE BAGS

Chala Handbags Tote Bags

  • ZIP-AROUND WALLETS

Chala Handbags Zip Around Wallet

My EXPERIENCE with CHALA Handbags: As I previously mentioned, Cris and the incredible team at Chala Handbags graciously offered me with the unique opportunity to choose any Chala item. Reviewing their vast product line, I ultimately chose the Metal Paw Print Charming Crossbody in Brown. Attracted to its unique shape and design, the paw print charm resonated with me and piqued my interest, due to harboring a strong passion for animals. Upon receiving the bag in the mail, it was neatly packaged, with packaging securing the charms, the strap (also detachable and changeable to your liking and preferences), and came with all tags attached.

Chala Handbag Me

The bag is deceivingly large inside, offering a cell phone pocket inside, a zipped area, as well as a soft, polka-dotted lining with vast space. A large zipper surrounds the enclosure and when unzipped, offers a deep pocket to be easily filled with an assortment of contents, allowing for simple, lightweight carrying.

Chala Handbag Inside

For me, this purse is the ultimate crossbody and solution. For many years, I struggled to find a crossbody large enough, but still a reasonable size and lightweight that could accommodate my full-size wallet. Well, now that I’ve located Chala Handbags, this concern of mine is no longer an issue! Not only does this handbag accommodate my wallet, but also secures my iPhone and other pertinent contents I routinely carry and want to carry around with me. With my new Chala Handbag, I’m confident and at ease, knowing my uniqueness and interests are being equally served. For me, there is nothing better than a company providing me with exquisite merchandise that is helpful and useful in my everyday life, while allowing me to easily donate to causes in need, such as animal rescue. With a Chala Handbag purchase, there is a certain upbeat and optimistic vibe that comes along with it. No two bags are the same, there is always an opportunity to make it one’s own.

I’d like to offer my sincere and genuine gratitude to Chala Handbags for providing me with this incredible opportunity and for supplying me with my handbag of choice! It makes me proud to show my support and satisfaction with a company such as Chala Handbags and my hope that others will feel as intrigued and motivated as I have.

Be unique, be you, and celebrate your style, because nothing you love or makes you feel good is ever out of style!

Faithful to Your Taste Quote

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness Without a Cost

In a world where we are constantly surrounded and seemingly inundated with constant reminders of violence, crime, or the malicious acts of others, there is always another side. This other side I speak of, became all the more telling and apparent to me yesterday, in more ways than one.

During and after a visit to a doctor I saw for the first time, yesterday, during the exam and after, I sat in astonishment and awe, finally being heard and recognized. No longer did I feel ignored or pushed aside, but rather my symptoms were VALID, addressed and acknowledged. With poise, understanding and a positive nature, this doctor spoke to me with concern and immediately set a plan of action in place. Hearing and seeing him yesterday, gives me hope of seeing the good in others, realizing that there truly ARE people who want to help and who want to heal.

Seeing the Good

My discoveries of this continued throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening; scrolling through my social media feed, seeing large companies such as Chobani and Amy’s Kitchen, deploying large cases of foods (yogurt and soup) to fuel those fighting the Hurricane and helping to assist others. Another company, Anheuser Busch was detailed on the news loading cans of water to send to those in the Hurricane’s path. Companies, large corporations, prominent individuals, all doing whatever they can and could to help others, in advance. During these significant times of need, it gives me much hope for humanity and life, in general. Life can often feel so unkind, but when I see images such as this one posted by Chobani founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya and his quote, “first @chobani shipments to fuel heroes preparing for #HurricaneFlorence at @RedCross HQ. thinking of our family, friends, partners and responders in region.. Stay safe !! We’ll be with you,” it is as inspiring as it is invigorating.

Chobani cases

Today and everyday, if you can do something to help others, no matter how small you think or feel it may be, please do so; the world needs more kindness and as always, a helping hand. We never know just how much a kind word, gesture or thought might mean or help someone.

 

Stand Together and Remember

It was 17 years ago on this very day, when I was a 13-year-old 8th grader. As I recall, on that day, the skies were a pristine shade of blue, not a cloud in the sky with the sun abundantly shining. The weather was temperate and calm, but the events that unraveled as the morning progressed was not.

Though I recall a teacher running into my science class that morning informing us of what occurred, I didn’t comprehend or know the actual magnitude until I entered my mom’s car that afternoon when school ended. As we drove through the shortcut we’d take through a local park, she detailed the horrifying events and it was uncertain what was actually going on. It was perplexing to me and I hadn’t a clue how to respond or act.

Later on that afternoon and evening, as I watched treasured and seasoned news anchors, Diane Sawyer, Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, I stared in shock as tears and fear streamed down and lined their faces. It was the first time I can ever recall seeing a television news anchors lose their composure. For the first time, I saw them as a real, genuine person and not solely a vessel delivering the news with a sometimes stoic facial expression.

Continuing to watch the endless streams of video coverage that day, I was saturated with fear and upset and it was only when I heard this very quote from TV personality, Fred Rogers, I started to feel a bit of comfort and reassurance.

Look for the Helpers

Today and for all the years to come, I remember all of those lost today, all of those who battled through these horrific events, the families and friends affected, and ultimately, all of us who were impacted and changed on that fateful day.

“Never look down upon others unless you’re helping them back up.”

Love in the Aisles

Yesterday, on a fairly typical visit to the local grocery store, while perusing the produce section, I noticed a young father pushing not only a stroller, but also a shopping cart with a front section for a child to sit in. He pushed both carts simultaneously while chatting and engaging his toddler son in a pleasant, lighthearted conversation, answering his questions and making observations. At the same time, he comforted his baby in the stroller and also navigated through the displays, choosing his groceries as he went along.

Not wanting to stare, I found myself occasionally tracking him as I wandered, noticing his smile, comfort level and pleasant tone his voice. I contemplated how it was all possible – him remaining calm despite all of his responsibilities, never once appearing stressed or overwhelmed. From what I could see, it was more important to him, to practice being calm, slowing down and enjoying the moment with his children, wanting to teach them though it is easy to get stressed and overwhelmed, when we pause, we can enjoy even the most typical moments and errands. Perhaps he WAS overwhelmed, but he never once showed it on his face or in his words, from what I could see and hear. It stood out to me, the way his demeanor was, taking his time in the store, being patient with his children, making a routine shopping trip an experience, rather than simply an errand. While observing, I contemplated approaching him and commending him on his ability to navigate the store and engage his children, but ultimately remained silent.

Enjoy the simple things

Looking back, I wish I had complimented him, because all of us are deserving of a compliment, or at least a pat on the back and an acknowledgement that we are doing okay, or even MORE than okay. He deserved to be recognized, from what I could see and hear, so by writing this, even though he most likely will never see it, it is my way of saying, “To the man in the grocery store on Friday afternoon, I see you and I think you’re doing a great job.”

Out of Love quote

 

An Open Letter to “Him”

About two nights ago, my mom and I were together in a crowded venue when a man approached my mom. Assuming he was approaching her due to his interest in her, I turned my body away and focused on what was transpiring in front of me. Though, within merely seconds, my mom turned to me with her face in disgust and stated, “You wouldn’t believe what this man just said to me!” Within minutes, I was made aware that he asked if I was my mother’s “granddaughter,” and then proceeded to question, “If I eat?” Not waiting for a response, he quickly walked away and resumed his position several feet away with his “pals.” In years prior, I might have ignored his comment, internalizing it and allowing myself to feel “less than.” Personally approaching him and standing my ground would have been the furthest thing from my mind in my teens and 20’s, though as I’ve grown older (and clearly as evidenced that particular evening!), my confidence level and desire to stand up not only for myself, but for all women has grown tremendously. Merely minutes after hearing his inquiry to my mom, I approached him, asking him if he had something he wanted to say or ask me, emphasizing I am a 30-year-old woman and if he has a question or concern, he can ask me and not my mother.

Therefore, the following is an “open letter” to this very man and though he most likely will never see it, in my heart, it needed to be written. These words and my reaction need to be exposed and heard, because by staying silent, it is a quiet acceptance and I will never accept this type of treatment or inappropriate comment and it is my hope that others won’t, either. This letter is a call to action, a call to always stand up for oneself and to let others know ignorance and body shaming WILL NOT be tolerated.

Teach others

An Open Letter to “Him”

To the man who reduced me to the size of my body: who are you to tell me who I am? What gives you the right to evaluate and critique my body?

I am NOT my body. I am not the thick, coarse hair on my head. I am not the scars on my legs chronicling a life lived. I am not the blemished skin on my body I desperately attempt to conceal. I am not my uneven spine afflicted by scoliosis.

No, those I am not.

What I am is:

The helping hand I extend to a family member, friend, or acquaintance in need. The listening ear to someone in need or longing to be heard. A companion to those I love or who are lonely. A sounding board for advice or encouragement. I’m also someone who tries their best in life, but knows some struggles are inevitable.

To the man who thought it was okay to ridicule and shame a woman’s body (most likely not only mine):

I’d like you to know that this body you question and chastise is a body that carries me each day. It is a body that has supported me my past 30-years of life. It has not failed me; it persists in spite of all I have subjected it to and though your words may have begun to wound me, to you, I bravely spoke my truth; not solely for me, but for all the others, as well. Why? I’ll tell you; because SILENCE is a form of acceptance and accept judgment of my body and anyone else’s, I WON’T. Humans are not defined by the shape of their bodies; all of us are so much more and I feel sorry for your blatant ignorance and difficulties in seeing/recognizing that.

Today and everyday, I promise to stand up for myself and others, because we do not need validation or criticism for our bodies from others. When we stand up for ourselves, we in turn stand up for others.

To the man who believes a body shapes someone’s worth; I am ME and that is ENOUGH.

Stand Up 3

Many Shades of Red: Learn How to Make a Difference in Minutes

*Note: The following are my own thoughts and opinions. The reason for my post is because this particular issue/topic resonates with me and I feel a personal obligation to share with others, in hopes that at least one person may participate or at least share this important message. Thank you in advance for reading and/or sharing this vital information.

Imagine this: you, a loved one or friend has just been involved in a serious, critical car accident. The theoretical accident has left you or them with life-threatening injuries, requiring an immediate blood transfusion. Or, picture this: your young child, niece/nephew, grandaughter/grandson, godchild, neighbor, friend, student, etc is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease requiring platelets (tiny cells in blood that form clots and stop bleeding, which according to redcrossblood.org, are essential to surviving and fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries).

American Red Cross Blood          American Red Cross 2

Everyday, millions of people worldwide are in desperate need of blood, blood plasma and platelets, which are received primarily, from my understanding, via donations. The process of donating blood typically takes minutes, yet, as of currently, The American Red Cross, the largest organization collecting blood donations, is facing an Emergency Shortage. There are a host of benefits to donating blood, some of which many people may be unaware. Therefore, the the purpose of my post today, is to provide general knowledge and information in regards to donating blood, plasma and platelets, perhaps providing someone with momentum to donate on their own, or at least share this information with others. Much to my dismay, I am unable to donate blood myself, due to not meeting some of the criteria (I’ll share this criteria later on in my post), therefore, I am doing my part by crafting this blog post to inform others about the emergency shortage and the constant importance of these donations and how they can truly save countless lives each day. In a world where we are often faced with stressful, potentially life-threatening situations, or are often spread thin with many responsibilities, donating blood, plasma or platelets is a way to help multiple people at once in a short amount of time.

Blood Donation

CRITERIA for Donation (via redcrossblood.org):

WHOLE BLOOD Donation:

  • Donation Frequency – every 56 days
  • Must be in general good health and feeling well.
  • Must be at least 16-years-old
  • Must weigh at least 110 pounds.

POWER RED Donation: (Two units of red blood cells can be donated versus a smaller amount for whole blood):

  • Must be Type O, A negative or B negative blood type.
  • Donation Frequency – Every 112 days, up to 3 times per year, or 2 times per year for male donors under 18.
  • Must be in good health and feeling well.
  • Male Donors: must be at least 17 years old in most states, at least 5’1″ and weigh at least 130 pounds.
  • Female Donors: must be at least 19 years old, at least 5’5″ and weigh at least 150 pounds.

PLATELET Donation: (Tiny cells in blood that form clots and stop bleeding. Every 30 seconds someone needs platelets. Platelets must be used within five days and new donors are needed each day; as many as THREE patients can be helped with a single platelet donation!)

  • Donation Frequency: Every 7 days, up to 24 times each year.
  • Must be in good health and feeling well.
  • Must be at least 17 years old in most states.
  • Must weigh at least 110 pounds.
  • *An appointment must be scheduled to donate platelets (cannot be done at blood drives) and the process is longer than traditional blood donations (3 hours in total as you relax, watch a movie or engage in other activities)

AB Elite Plasma Donation: (Type AB plasma is the ONLY universal type and can be given to patients of ANY blood type. Only 4% of the population has type AB blood! Plasma products are used by burn, trauma and cancer patients)

  • Donation Frequency: Every 28 days up to 13 times per year.
  • Must have Type AB blood.
  • Must be in good health and feeling well.
  • Must be at least 17 years old.
  • Must weigh at least 110 pounds.

*Donation Eligibility Note: These are GENERAL requirements per donation type. As with anything, it is important to consult redcrossblood.org for additional information and also specific state requirements, as they may vary.

Intrigued and curious about how you can actually donate blood or platelets? Here are some quick fast facts to help get you started (via redcross.org)

Blood Donation facts

BLOOD DONATION Fast Facts: (via redcrossblood.org)

  • Donate blood either via appointment (can be made online), blood drive (search for a local one via https://www.redcrossblood.org/give.html/find-drive)
  • RAPID PASS: As recommended via redcrossblood.org, first schedule an appointment, then register for a Rapid Pass (via https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/manage-my-donations/rapidpass.html), which allows donors to share their personal information, including health history for a quick and easy donation experience)
  • Blood Donation can save up to 3 lives!
  • AMAZON Gift Card Reward: Right now, for donating blood, receive a $5 Amazon Gift Card as thanks for helping to save lives; now you can not only feel good about helping to save fellow humans, but also treat yourself to something special (or maybe essential!) on Amazon.com. It’s a win-win for everyone!

BLOOD DONATION PREP RECOMMENDATIONS: (via redcrossblood.org)

  • Consume Iron-Rich foods (i.e. red meat, fish, poultry, spinach, etc)
  • Drink Extra Liquids (roughly another 16oz glass of water)
  • Make an Appointment (helps to speed up the process and choose a convenient time that works best for you)
  • Distraction (Bring along a book, music, friend, etc, to help pass the time)
  • Rapid Pass (create a Rapid Pass to help the process along and decrease time)
  • Photo ID (Bring along donor card, driver’s license and two other forms of ID)
  • Review Eligibility

DAY OF BLOOD DONATION: (What actually HAPPENS when you arrive for your appointment via redcrossblood.org)

  • Registration (sign in, show ID and read required information)
  • Health History and Mini Physical (done in privacy)
  • The Donation (Actual donation takes 8-10 minutes while a pint of blood is drawn)
  • Refreshment & Recovery (Enjoy a snack and drink for roughly 10-15 minutes before continuing on with your day)
  • Testing (Every blood donation is tested and after clearance is sent to patients in need)

Blood Donation facts 2

OTHER WAYS TO HELP: (Perhaps you’re in a similar situation to me and are unable to donate blood. Good news: there are a host of other ways we can help. Here are some ideas to get you started: via https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements.html – scroll down to Other Ways You Can Help section and my own ideas)

  • Host a Blood Drive
  • Start a Virtual Blood Drive
  • Make a Financial Donation
  • Become a Volunteer
  • Share information with others (verbally, in writing, social media, etc) about the importance of blood donation and how easy it can be.

Now that I’ve provided extensive information regarding blood donation, I hope whomever may be reading is inspired either themselves, or to share this critical information with others. My late maternal grandmother was the recipient of several blood transfusions having been a Leukemia – blood cancer patient, as well as my own mother, after enduring invasive surgery for kidney stone removal, where she experienced significant blood loss, on December 13, 1979.

IMG_4778

A photo of my grandmother, Selma and my mother, Marci from March 1997.

Perhaps you, a loved one, friend, colleague, neighbor, acquaintance’s lives have been dramatically touched or impacted by blood, plasma or platelet donations or potentially will at some point. With that being said, all of us can truly make a difference, whether we are directly donating, disseminating information and doing our part to ensure others know as much information as possible to make an informed decision to help others and potentially themselves.

For more information, please consult https://www.redcrossblood.org/ and know that any information shared is a step closer to potentially saving a life.

Blood Donation Quote