To Family, Old Memories, and Making New Ones

To clarify, I mean new memories, not making new family members. Though more babies are born in September than any other month (note: that’s approximately nine months from now), so I guess ’tis the season. But nobody involved in this story is planning on that immediately, so we’ll stick with new memories.

First off, happy holidays, everyone! I hope you had/are having/will have a great one!  This post was inspired by our family Christmas yesterday.

There’s some family history here, so bear with me. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, got a bottle of Galliano liqueur from his boss during his first year of working as an accountant, when he was 22. He would have been in his 90s today, so we’re going back 70ish years. It remained unopened – why I’m not sure, but probably for the same reason people frame the first dollar they made in their business, instead of spend it. Approximately 39 years ago, as he was dying from ALS, he gave it to my mom. I was 10 months old at the time, so needless to say, I do not remember this or him. I have a great memory,  (I can remember back to when I was about 2 1/2), but not that great. So this story is all passed down via my mom.

The Galliano, still in its original box, has made – and surprisingly, survived intact – every move with my mom since then. Buffalo to California. California to Georgia. Another move in Georgia. Georgia to New Jersey. And finally, to the house in New Jersey where I grew up and my parents still live. She’s been saving it for a special occasion. In this time, her kids and stepkids (there are 5 siblings total) have all gotten married, and there are now eight grandchildren. So I feel like the clock has been ticking on the Galliano. A bit of a “if not now, when?”.

Yesterday, as myself and my husband, my brother, his wife, and their two kids sat in my parents’ kitchen, my mom declared, “Let’s open the Galliano tonight!”. Apparently, its time had come. Let me pause here to say that we actually had to google what exactly Galliano was, other than generally knowing it was a liqueur.  Also, at least three of us were nearly certain that the bottle would contain, as my brother called it, some of the best vinegar in existence. I mean, it’s in a glass bottle and, while it has sat in a box all of these years, is over 70 years old. The chances of it not being skunked were pretty slim, in our opinions. But this bottle had survived two owners and at least six houses, probably seven (I’m not sure if my grandfather received it while living in the house my mom grew up in, or the one before). We owed it the dignity of a fair chance.

So, we opened it. Low and behold, it was perfectly fine. I can’t really compare the taste to anything else I’ve had – it’s called an herbal liqueur, which I anticipated to taste, honestly, pretty rough even if not skunked. It conjured up images of liqueur made from parsley, oregano, and other questionable ingredients. For the record, it didn’t. At least not to me. The closest thing I could compare it to is limoncello, but it isn’t nearly as, well, lemony, and has a different finish. I’m about to make it sound disgusting, which it is not, but it almost has a finish akin to when you’ve just had a throat lozenge. Not the taste, but the airy, passageways cleared out, feeling.

As we toasted each other and family and Christmas, it felt like the passing of a torch somehow. A nod to the memories of the past, and a commitment to those of the future.  A lot has happened in those 70-odd years since my grandfather got that bottle, and the almost 40 years since he gave it to my mom. My grandma (my mom’s mom), who survived her husband by 30 years, passed away in 2008. She had nine grandchildren, and I believe three great grandchildren, two of which were only 3 or 4 years old at the time, and may not remember her. Were my grandparents still alive today, they’d have 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Their own three children have traveled the country and the world. They’ve made countless memories over the years, some together, and some with their own individual families. In these years, the remainder of my grandmother’s’ siblings have all passed away, and as my grandfather was the youngest of his siblings by something like 15 years, I’m guessing his have too, though we aren’t in contact with them so I can’t be sure.

The Galliano opening was, in a way, the end of an era. Of the nine of us grandchildren, only two have any memories of my grandfather, and even those are probably a bit hazy, though I can’t speak for them. We are now the ones getting bottles of wine or bourbon or other presents as a thank you. Who possibly have a gift still in its packaging years after the fact, that we haven’t yet brought ourselves to open and will one day pass down to generation that follows, still in tact. And if we are all lucky, we are the ones that, years from now, when the current children in our family are all grown and perhaps have children of their own, will sit around recounting stories and memories together one holiday and say, “Remember that Christmas when we finally opened the Galliano?”.

 

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The Galliano, post sampling, on my parents’ kitchen counter. 

 

 

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Nostalgia and Hope

To preface this, I have to explain a bit about my background, career wise. For the first five years of my adult working life, I worked in corporate fitness (I have a B.S. in Kinesiology). After getting my Masters in International Marketing, I started my own travel planning company, Chimera Travel, that I ran full time for eight years (shameless plug, you can visit my newly brought back to life travel blog here). But life happens, and with changes in technology and the economy and numerous other factors, I needed some extra help financially. So I took a part time position at a front desk, which has grown into an almost full time position, while still running my travel business. In the midst of all this, I became a significantly more active mental health and chronic illness advocate which is currently out of the goodness of my heart – i.e. I make zero money and sometimes spend money doing this. And believe me, I don’t do this for the (hypothetical) money but I can’t do full time, or even significantly part time, and still have a roof over my head and eat. So, I have my numerous jobs/would be jobs.

Yesterday, between my job job and yoga, I sat and wrote/blogged and had coffee at my favorite cafe. When I previously lived in Old City Philadelphia, I my apartment was literally around the corner from this cafe. I was there probably three times a week on average. I worked solely for myself at that time, and I’d meet friends there for coffee or breakfast, spend my days enjoying free refills and snacks while planning client trips, blogging, working on business marketing. I knew all of the staff, and many of the other frequent customers. I’d run into neighborhood friends there almost every time I went. It was like my Cheers, but with coffee (I also had my “Cheers” bar/restaurant, which was two doors down from my apartment, but that’s a different story).

So yesterday, I sat down at the cafe, ordered a coffee, and took out my notebook and computer to start working. I had some blogging and journaling planned. And I found myself almost in tears with nostalgia. I can’t really call them sad almost-tears, nor were they happy. They were nostalgic ones. I can’t explain it any other way.  I sat there with my coffee, hoping my face didn’t betray how I was feeling. And I began to understand that the way I remember feeling in those days was how I was meant to feel. I had felt a purpose. I felt motivated and inspired. I felt control over my life, at least pieces of it. No, I couldn’t control when a client’s flight was cancelled, or when someone had a last minute request on a day I’d planned to take as a wellness day. But there’s always going to be something like that, in any job. Or volunteer opportunity. Or life. And if it’s not your job or client or organization, it’ll be your child waking up sick on a day that you planned to be out and about and getting things done. Or your car breaking down when you absolutely had to get to an important meeting. Or something else.

 

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From my favorite cafe. I love their mugs – and free refills! 

 

My point is, there’s always going to be something out of our control, as much as I dislike this (I need to work on my letting go). But those days in which I worked for myself, I had control over so many important factors: the company as a whole – the direction it went (or ideally went), the mission and vision, the goals, the values it all embodied. I had control of the marketing, both in print and online – not only the content, but what I chose to do/not. The target market. Not to mention that, client emergencies aside, I got to make the schedule. I chose when to start and end work. If I needed a personal or wellness or sick day, I took it. If I had to make it up later by working longer other days, I did. I made those decisions.  For someone with chronic illness, that’s particularly important. And possibly, most importantly, I felt like I was working toward something and for something. I had goals for my company, and for my life involving it.  I felt like a made a difference – not necessarily in the world at large, but to my clients. I felt important to my little piece of life. Because without me, the business wouldn’t run, and the clients wouldn’t get their travel planned by my company.

So I sat there remembering this feeling. Being reminded of what it felt like to really feel feel connected to my life’s work, like what I did 40+ hours a week mattered, not only to me, but to others too. I helped people experience the world. They explored new cultures and traditions. They had their first experience ziplining or swimming with dolphins or hiking a mountain they always hoped to hike.  They had exciting honeymoons and destination weddings. They had family reunion trips.  I had clients who came to me never having owned a passport and, after their first trip overseas, decided to take one every year.

And when I think about being able to help others, to Spread Hope to others, and to potentially be able to combine my love of helping people with my love of helping people travel (and naturally, traveling myself), I think about how amazing that would be.  To get back to that feeling of purpose, that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be. That ability to feel happiness at how I’m spending my days. To feel like I’m making a difference in my little corner of the world, both to others and to myself.  And thinking about it, while a bit sad at not being there, makes me hopeful. I begin gathering ideas, almost involuntarily (though certainly welcomed). I don’t try to, they just fly into my head. I get inspired and motivated.

Now if I could only stop the doubt from creeping in. The doubt that says that, once again, this won’t work well enough. That something – the economy, life, etc – will throw me off and I won’t be able to push through it to ultimately be successful. The doubt that says it’s too risky, that I’m being rash and careless. The doubt that says others will be disappointed me, will doubt me themselves.

And if I could only get some help. Not financially, but in the form of support. If I had friends that would be willing to help me create and run projects for Spread Hope. Or who would help me by participating – whether it’s hashtagging their instagram photos for a photo campaign, or volunteering with a community project I organize, or just sitting and helping me brainstorm ideas. And I know it’s a big ask. I know everyone’s time is so valuable. But we all need help sometimes, and I’m really terrible at asking for it. I’m strong and I want to be able to do it all on my own. And often I think it’s too forward to say, “Hey I want to do xyz will you help?”, despite the fact that if someone came to me and said something similar, I’d probably be super excited (assuming it wasn’t some sort of selling thing). Or I always think, “nobody will say yes. Or they’ll ‘like’ the status but not volunteer”, so what’s the point.

But I need to get over that fear. I need to reach out and ask for help. I may not get tons of help by doing so, but I certainly won’t if I don’t.  So I’m starting 2018 with some opportunities, and call outs, for help with Spread Hope Project… projects. Stay tuned!

And on this shortest day of the year, I hope it helps to remember that it literally only gets brighter from here – and I’ll do the same.

Happy Solstice, and Happy Holidays!

 

 

Self-Care Sunday

I’m going to be honest – I thought I published this post a week and a half ago. But… brain fog. So, this is about two weekends ago. My apologies. Anyway…

As someone who wants to spread hope and to help others, I often find I’m pushing myself. I’m pushing myself physically, but also emotionally and mentally. I’m constantly trying to figure out the next step, continually brainstorming and tossing ideas around in my head of what other programs and projects I could run, or how I could better spread my message. And I love this piece of myself. My imagination, my creative brain gets me through some super dark times. But it can also drain me. When I’m working extra hard on these things, focusing more than usual, I find myself physically and mentally tired. Add that to severe congestion and a cold that’s gone into my chest, which make it difficult to breathe, plus jet lag, anxiety, depression, and the usual exhaustion, and I needed some self-care.

So Sunday, I did just that. I spent the first part of the morning journaling and drinking  coffee. I had been excited about revamping my travel blog, so I worked on that, but casually. No expectations, just seeing where it took me. One might think of this as work, and technically it is, but I was excited about it, so felt more like a fun experiment than something I had to do. Then I relaxed and watched some football and saw my Buffalo Bills get an OT win in a foot of snow, which was pretty amazing.  I reheated some pizza (not the most healthy lunch option, but it didn’t require much effort, which helped conserved energy). I played a few games on my phone – I love word games, and they help keep me feeling sharp while actually enjoying what I’m doing. I ate a dinner (part of which involved more pizza … I clearly need to grocery shop) while intermittently blogging and watching more football on the couch. I did all of this in leggings and an oversized shirt that could possibly be mistaken for pajamas.

What didn’t I do? Answer work emails. Blow dry my hair. Put on makeup. Run any errands/go anywhere. Try to solve any major issues/questions/concerns in my life. Anything I didn’t want to.

I relaxed, I did things I enjoyed, I did minimal beauty regimen shenanigans (with the exception of showering, though half the reason for doing so was the hope the hot shower unstuffed my nose).

Sometimes, even the most hopeful of us need to replenish our stores.  That’s completely ok. We need to take care of ourselves in order to help others. And sometimes, taking a break from trying to figure everything out – whatever that everything entails – can actually be the the respite our mind needs to help us do just that.

snowy My

2017: A Year in Review

So, 2017 was a huge year for the Spread Hope Project! Here’s a brief recap:

  • We got our blog underway (this was slightly before 2017, but we’ll count it!)
  • We gained over 200 followers on Instagram
  • We started our Facebook page
  • We started #365DaysofHope
  • We completed our fourth Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention
  • We took Spread Hope photos on three different continents and numerous states
  • We debuted a bunch of Spread Hope Gear, including shirts (for all types of weather), mugs, pet apparel, and more!
  • Met so, so many awesome advocates, and truly amazing people in our first full year!

Oh, and I got married. There’s that!

 

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Just a bit of what I we were up to in 2017!

So what’s in store for 2018?

Well, we’ll I’ll be continuing the 365 Days of Hope posts through May 31st, as this year’s started on June 1. Plus, we’ll be announcing our Ambassador program and some new community based projects.  Oh, did I mention we’ll be headed to Greece, and back to Spain?

Of course, we’re always looking for new local partners, so if you’re interested in a dual awareness project, we’d love to chat with you!

 

 

 

A Little Hope A Long Way From Home

Last I posted, my cousin and I were headed to Spain for an eight day adventure through four cities.  I absolutely love to travel. In fact, my alter-ego is that of a travel planner – I’ve owned my own business for almost 12 years. So there was no doubt we’d have a great time, despite the taxi strike and the super cold temperatures and getting lost a thousand times and the fact that we nearly had to strip down in a waffle shop (there’s a longer story there, as you may imagine). But this trip was particularly timely.

my ronda selfie

On the balcony of our Parador in Ronda

You see, I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. Not the same type of actual, “haven’t we passed that restaurant five times” lost that we were in Spain, but lost in life. I’ve been searching for how to turn my passion for helping people and inspiring hope into something thats… more than a passion. Because as much as I absolutely love doing these things, they don’t currently pay the bills. So I’ve been stuck in this grand “what do I do with my life” for the past few months or so. I mean, to be honest, I have that question often, but recently, due to certain circumstances in my life, it’s felt more pressing, more urgent. Like I need to figure it out now, and to start making the next steps.

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Sunrise as we hiked down the mountain in Ronda

And I am not going to say I had some sort of epiphany during a sunrise hike down the mountain inRonda, because I didn’t (I did do the sunrise hike, but I couldn’t feel my hands, let alone an epiphany). I wish I could say this truly. I wish I had a eureka moment where everything made sense, and I knew the path ahead. But I have too low self-confidence to have those. People who have these moments are sure of their ability to make that path work. I, on the other hand, continually question myself, even when I’m succeeding. But I did have some tiny little lightbulbs start to brighten. Something akin to dim path lighting on a dark sidewalk. Out there, in the fresh air overlooking the countryside in Andalucia, as I froze my way down the mountain, I gained some hope. Hope that, perhaps I might not be able to accomplish my goals in the way I originally wanted to, but that I would somehow get there. Ideas, small ones, began to pop into my brain. What if you did this? How about that? More like tiny directives, stepping stones. Which is what I need, because I’m a big picture person who can see the end goal, but not how to get there.

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At the Alcazar in Cordoba. View from one of the castle turrets.

And so there, in the hills of southern Spain, my perspective changed both literally and figuratively. It may have taken me traveling thousands of miles away to get to that point, but hope is hope, and sometimes, it comes in forms that you least expect. I guess I’ll just have to travel more often!

Ronda New Bridge

View of the Puente Nuevo as we hiked in Ronda.