If I Made You a HOPEful Sign, What Would It Say?

Some days are a struggle. And even on those days that aren’t a particular struggle, we can all use a little encouragement, a little inspiration, a little Hope. And while it won’t solve the world’s issues or cure our illnesses or anything like that, sometimes, it really helps to hear or, in this case, see someone say “You are worthy. You are strong. You are courageous. You are beautiful. You are enough.” Sometimes, we need to be reminded “There is hope” or “You’ve been here before, and you got through it, you’ll get through this too.”  So we’re going to be making signs. And we have some plans for these signs, but for now we want to cultivate all you’re awesome sign ideas along with our own, and create.

We want to hear from you. What would your sign read? We could all use inspiration from time to time, so we’re asking for you for your ideas – after all, these signs would (will…. stay tuned) be for you!  Here are some examples.  Choose from these examples, or give us your own!

Sometimes, we just need to be reminded that we are already amazing.  Just by being ourselves.
You are enough.  Exactly as you are. We use this reminder often here at Spread Hope Project!
Maybe your sign reminds you that everything you experience is valid – from your struggles to your dreams. 
Or perhaps, you simply need the reminder that there is hope. 

So what would your message of HOPE say? You can give us as many as you’d like (there’s always room for extra Hope!). Let us know in our comments,  send us an email, or share it on social media with the tag #SpreadHopeProject.

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What Are You Really Afraid Of?

This week’s topic is fear – a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. To clarify, not because I love fear. Not by any means. But because I have fear, or should I say fears, and plenty of them.  While I do deal with some more external fears, like claustrophobia, heights, flying (ironic, for a travel planner I know), and a particularly strange fear of getting locked in a bathroom (there’s actually history to this one), my biggest fears are internal:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of loss of control (of life, of my mind, of anything)
  • Of never being truly happy
  • Of never finding my path in life

So if you, too, battle these, know that you’re not alone. Often, fear of failure and rejection, and even fear of loss of control, can show up as behaviors such as self-sabotage (whole week’s focus coming up on this), procrastination, talking ourselves out of going for something we really want, giving up on our dreams and goals even if they’re attainable or in reach. And frequently, because of these, our fears become a “self-fulling prophecy” and form a vicious loop.  If you struggle with depression or anxiety, this loop is often even trickier. To clarify, I am NOT saying that these things are our faults, that we’re to blame for feeling depressed or for having low self-esteem or confidence or self-worth. I’m not saying that at all. Here’s what I’m saying:

Depression and anxiety make it difficult for us to fully trust ourselves. They lie to us, telling us that we’re worthless, hopeless, not good enough. They tell us we’ll never be successful, or catalogue a list a mile long of all the things that will go wrong, to the point that we may be overcome with anxiety. When you’re consistently being told you’re worthless and hopeless and not enough, that you’ll never succeed, that nobody cares about what you do, or whatever other lies our illnesses tell us, the results are often low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and low self-worth. Afterall, being told this enough, even by ourselves, has a lasting impact. And if you’ve ever been told this by others too, that only compounds it further (note, we’ll go into stigma and dealing with other people’s B.S. later in this topics series). Speaking from personal experience, convincing yourself that you’re going to succeed, that you don’t need to be afraid of failure or rejection or anything like this,  can be incredibly difficult when you’re really struggling with feelings of worthlessness.

This is something I’m working with actively at this moment, and it’s something that I think a lot of us experience, at least on some level. Over this week, I’m hoping to offer some thoughts to help maybe break down the fears a bit, to make them seem more manageable, and also offer some tools to try to work through them.

To start with, here are a few questions to think on:

1. What do you truly fear? This could take a little digging, but it helps to get to the bottom of the fear. A few tools that might help dig deeper here.

  •  Note that the true fear may be hiding behind another fear. For example, you may be saying, “I want to start my own business, but I’m afraid I’ll make less money, and I won’t be able to pay my bills.” And maybe money is where the fear ends – maybe you are making six figures now and your business plan you’ve created for your own business doesn’t account for that kind of salary. But often, it’s not this cut and dry and we have to dig deeper and ask ourselves, “Is a this really what I’m afraid of?”  Or to put it another way, in this example, “If you started your own business and you were successful, would you have less money and not be able to pay your bills?”  See if this assumption of success changes the inner dialogue. If so, the real fear not be simply be the salary to bills ratio, but that you’ll fail in your business venture. When examining your fears, look for what’s being left unspoken, and that might help you get to the heart of the issue. Often our fears are layered, and we need to address each aspect of them to fully work with them.
  • Also note that sometimes, fear disguises itself as anger. For instance, say you’re a writer and have a dream of getting published. And someone says to you, “You’ll never be published. You’re not all that good. Why don’t you go after a more realistic dream?” Sure, most people would get hurt. Because it’s a hurtful statement. But if you get really angry, and (internally or actually) start screaming at them, “How dare you say that. You’re an a$$hole! You don’t know what you’re talking about. You wouldn’t know good writing if it hit you in the face!”, make note. Make further note if you’re still mumbling to yourself about how wrong they are days or weeks later. It is true that it’s a pretty rude (and unless they’re your editor, probably unnecessary) thing to say. But often, we get most angry at something because deep down, there’s a tiny voice that says, “what if they’re right?” It doesn’t mean it’s a justified voice, but it’s often there all the same. People putting a voice to our deepest fears can make us feel exposed and vulnerable, and that’s often not a comfortable place to be.Often, to protect ourselves (think fight or flight), our body goes into anger mode, to mask feeling exposed. So take note of those moments. They can often be the most telling.

2. Do you feel this fear is holding you back? I ask this because it’s not always the case. Three reasons: First, some fear can healthy. It can keep us from situations that are actually potentially dangerous. Second: Fear can make us think things through more. For instance, if you think starting your business will result in a lower salary, you probably should address the “how will I pay the bills” question, even if it’s not your deepest rooted fear.  Third, some people use fear as a motivator. They are determined to get past their fear, and it fuels them to push themselves when they otherwise might stop. Sometimes, pushing past the fear in itself is a goal, and it can be a good one. But if this does not sound like you (I know it often doesn’t sound like me), here are some ways to figure out if fear is holding you back.

  • Do you notice you often get stuck at the same point in tasks/projects/activities?  I, for instance, am gung-ho in the idea and brainstorming stage. I am great at the planning, I make content calendars and marketing plans, I have business plans bulleted down to the tiniest detail. And then, when it’s time for implementation, I freeze. Or I make one small effort, and if it doesn’t seem to immediately return a positive result, I get discouraged and often back off. It’s easier to find reasons why it’s a bad idea or it won’t work or I’m too busy, or I just can’t do it right, now than to face potential failure.
  • Do you procrastinate consistently when it comes to certain tasks or goals (by which I mean tasks or goals that you want to do, at least in theory – not like taking out the trash or cleaning the toilet)? To clarify, procrastinating doesn’t have to be scrolling through Facebook for hours (though it can be). But if you find that every time you have to do xyz, you suddenly realize that you’ve been meaning to organize your sock drawer, or rearrange the kitchen pots and pans, or clean the tub again, note it. Or, if like me, you constantly think you’ll just make one more list or read one more applicable article just to make sure every tiny detail is perfect, instead of actually starting on the next steps, you may well be procrastinating. Procrastination can be sneaky, so look for it in non-obvious places – like working around every other item that could possibly ever be on your to-do list, instead of starting on the one task you said you were going to do today.
  • Do you deal with all or nothing thinking when it comes to your goals? For instance, for the writer above that wants to be published, if they say something like, “It’s not like it’s going to be a best-seller, so what’s the point?”, fear is probably holding them back. This falls under the “I’ll never succeed so why try” category.  When you deal with a mental illness, gray areas can be especially tricky. Speaking from personal experience, when I struggle to trust my own brain, it can often feel like I need “solid” thoughts to hold onto – something is good/bad, right/wrong, this way/that way, success/failure. And having that anchor can be really important, because there are times that the whole world can feel gray, fuzzy, wobbly. But it can also feed fears of failure or rejection, because we may see the only possible outcomes as success or failure, not a sliding scale. This is something I am especially working on right now, and there will be a whole theme on “gray areas” later on.

If you’re working on determining your fears, I hope these help. My next post will be on what we can do once we have determined what are fears are, and how (if) they’re holding us back.

And to close, a final reminder: fear is a natural part of life. It’s ok to feel afraid. I’d venture to say nobody lives without some fear – even if it’s a small, less-obvious fear that they may not even be aware of. Having fear is part of the human experience.  We don’t have to be fearless. We just need to work on identifying those fears, and how we can best work with them to move towards our goals and dreams.

 

It's perfectly OK to be afraid.

 

 

Depression, Anxiety, and Trusting Yourself

When you live with mental illness, it can be difficult to trust yourself. Not in the “I don’t trust that I’m going to do the right thing” sense (though there’s plenty of that for me too!), but in the sense that often, it’s difficult to tell if you’re assessing a situation as it is, or as it is through the lens of our illness. Now of course, everyone looks at life with some sort of lens. None of us are completely objective about every single situation. But when you live with a condition like depression, anxiety, or a mood cycling disorder that includes mania or hypomania, it often feels (at least after the fact), like our brain might be lying to us. Depression, for example, often makes us feel that we’re hopeless, worthless, that our lives and what we do is pointless. It can make us feel unlikeable and unlovable. More than that, it can make us tell ourselves these things, repeatedly. When depression hits, a small setback may feel like a massive failure. It may throw us completely off course, not because “we’re over-reacting”, as we may be accused of, but because our brain actually sees it this way. Anxiety can act in a similar way, running away with worst case scenarios without our permission or cooperation – it isn’t conscious thought, it just happens. Mania, or hypomania, on the other hand, can make us overly energetic, sometimes to the point that the energy feels almost uncontrollable. On these days, distinguishing the (hypo)mania from just feeling really positive and good about ourselves and capable, can be tricky (at least for some).

 

trust yourself

 

All of this makes it difficult to trust yourself. Because when you have difficulty determining a good day from hypomania, and depressive lies from the realities about yourself or your situation, it makes it difficult to trust anything. This feels especially true these days, when we’re constantly reading phrases like, “You can’t control what happens in life, but you can control how you react to it.”  A nice sentiment in theory, but it can make you feel like you should be able to control every thought in your brain. You should be able to just tell yourself not to be so anxious, not to feel so hopeless or worthless. And when you can’t, it may feel like “If I can’t even trust my own brain, what can I trust? Certainly not myself.”

 

If you’ve been here, or you are here, know that you’re not alone. So many of us go through this feeling. And I wish I had all the answers, but quite simply, I don’t. But I’m hoping, through this series of weekly topics that I’m starting, we’ll cover topics that will help you (and me!) learn to trust ourselves more. By digging deep into some of our fears, patterns, and struggles, especially those that often make us feel stuck, that we can learn how to trust ourselves better. I do, though, have one piece of advice that I have to remind myself of time and again, and it’s this:

 

When in doubt, go back to your core values. When it’s all said and done, what really, really matters to you deep down at the core?  If you took away all the external factors, people’s thoughts and judgements, even some of those critical self-judgements and lies our brain tells us in a bad flare up, what would be most important to you?  If you aren’t sure how this ties back to trusting ourselves, think of it this way: Our core values, the ones we’ve held since we can remember, that are so near and dear to our heart, that make us feel like something’s off when we aren’t holding true to them, don’t tend to change drastically without some sort of major life change (i.e. having children may zoom “keeping my children safe” right to the top of your list, and alter your perspective on other, previously high ranking items). But for the most part, without major life changes, these stay consistent.  Therefore these core values be can generally be relied upon to guide us. For example, one of my core values is putting people first. My loved ones especially are the most treasured piece of my life. Money, on the other hand, is not (don’t get me wrong, I like money, but it’s not a “treasured piece of my life”). So no matter how stressed I get about money – and I get highly stressed about it at times – when it comes down to it, if I have to make a decision that puts the choice between my loved ones and money, I can always look back to my core values, and know that putting my loved ones first is the right decision. I can trust myself, when I look at my core values, to make the choice that I feel is best, even when I’m severely depressed.

 

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about topics that I hope will help those who may struggle like me, especially during bouts of depression and anxiety, to trust ourselves. Often this requires us to dig deep, and examine those things that are really tough to examine. I’ll be doing this right along side my readers, so please know that you’re not alone in this.

 

And of course, thoughts and inspiration are always welcome, so if you have something that helps you trust yourself, even when you are struggling to trust your brain, I’d love to hear them!

And remember….
You Are Amazing

When You’re Tempted To…

When you’re tempted to start talking negatively about someone/thing you don’t like, instead say something nice to/about someone you do.

When you’re tempted to get frustrated with someone for something they did, ask yourself what their struggle might be that lead them to do that.

When you’re tempted to think you aren’t enough, think of something you do well, or something positive you offer. If you struggle to, ask someone you trust.

When you’re tempted to put yourself down, pretend you’re talking about your best friend and see if it changes the narrative.

When you’re tempted to keep falsely smiling and saying “everything’s fine” when it’s not, think about how someone else might benefit from hearing your story.

When you’re tempted to focus on those you think don’t care, instead, make a list of people who do – even if they’re not people you know in real life (spoonie online family totally counts!).

When you’re tempted to feel guilty because of your symptoms or illness limitations, gently remind yourself (and anyone else who may need reminding) that you did not choose to have this illness, and you’re doing the best you can with what you have.

When you’re tempted to think you don’t matter, list three (or more!) nice things you’ve done for someone recently (even if they’re tiny things). Those things made a difference to someone – often we don’t realize how big of a difference the smallest kind actions can make.

When you’re tempted to think there’s no hope, remember that you’ve been here, or somewhere similar, before, and you got through it.

When you’re tempted to compare yourself to others and feel less significant, remember, someone else is looking at you and thinking they wish they were as strong and motivating and inspiring as you.

And finally, when you’re tempted to give up on your dreams….

 

pool noodle

 

A Note to Those Experiencing Thoughts of Suicide

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Suicide Prevention is a cause near and dear to my heart. A family member (my mom’s cousin, who was my second cousin) died by suicide approximately eight years ago. I have friends who have struggled with suicidal thoughts and have attempted. A family friend died by suicide this past year. I have struggled with suicidal thoughts myself, and have battled a rapid mood cycling disorder my entire life. Being a suicide prevention and mental health advocate is, for me, one of the absolute most important task I have undertaken in my life.  It can literally save lives.

I’ve previously addressed the myths about mental illness suicide, the ones that create such a stigma and make the topic still so taboo to many. And addressing those myths is extremely important. But today, I would like to “speak’ directly to those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, or bad depression, or are struggling in some other way.  Here’s what I want to say:

I know you feel alone. Having a mental health condition can feel incredibly isolating.  Depression often makes it feel like nobody will ever understand you. I know it’s dark. That right now, it’s impossible to see any light, any hope. I know you may even at times blame yourself for how you feel.  Feeling guilty about your illness, the way it affects your life, and others in it. I’ve been there. Being ill, and then taking the burden of that illness on yourself, blaming yourself, can make the pain feel inescapable. I’ve felt that. I know.

But I am here to tell you that it is not your fault. You have an illness, and  you are not alone. One in five people in the U.S. has a mental health condition. Twenty percent of our population is with you. Not perhaps experiencing exactly what you’re experiencing – we are all unique, as are our situations and illnesses. But we, too, struggle. We too, know the lies that depression can tell us, and how convincing those lies can be. We too know what it’s like to feel utterly alone in this world. To feel like you don’t matter, to feel like you aren’t enough.

And I bet you could look at so many of us and think, “Look, they still manage to ‘have it together’. They aren’t alone. They matter.” Or maybe you look at us and think, “They don’t have it all together, but they’re still doing so much better than I am. They’re strong, and capable and getting through this.”  Well I’ll tell you something:  we’re looking at you and thinking the same thing. We’re thinking how strong you must be to go through everything you do.  We’re thinking how much you inspire us, motivate us, experiencing all you do and still fighting each and every day.  Because you’ve made it through every day so far, and that’s incredible. Or maybe we’re looking at you and thinking how much you matter. How “enough” you are.

So please, if you are this person, sitting there in the dark, not feeling like there’s anyone who understands, who you can reach out to, reach out to me. Because I’ve sat there in the dark feeling that same way, possibly by your side, in reality or virtually, near you and so many others, but feeling so hopeless and isolated.  And I’m here for you. Because you do matter. You are enough. And you are not alone. 

 

You are not alone.

 

One Month to Go

A year ago June 1, I started the #365DaysofHope campaign. The idea was to post one picture every day with some sort of Spread Hope Project gear in it, based on suggestions of photo subjects from others. I did it for several reasons: of course, to raise awareness of Spread Hope Project, to focus on even the smallest things (or seemingly smallest) that can bring hope, and to get me doing/trying some things that I may not think to otherwise.

I didn’t get a full 365 suggestions, so I had to improvise a bit. Additionally, I’ve switched jobs and have less free time to get these photos, and also realized I just don’t have *that* much SHP gear, so I’ve had to be flexible with the rules I set. Basically, I’ve been trying to post a pic a day, either with a message of hope, or doing something that makes me hopeful, using the hashtag #365daysofhope. When I can, I try to wear/use Spread Hope Project gear.  You can check them out on Instagram.  Well, it’s just under one month until June 1, and therefore the technical completion of  the#365daysofhope campaign. I have not yet managed to get all of the suggestions given. Some due to time/monetary/logistical restraints, others I just… haven’t yet gotten. Here are the picture suggestions I have yet to get:

Bike ride 

Underwater pic of fish

Jersey Jets (this is where I trained gymnastics my entire youth)

Kids performing something

Swinging on a swing set

Running through a sprinkler

Playing catch with Grace (dog)

Mailing card/letter in a mailbox

Reading an actual newspaper

Playing a board game

Walking on a boardwalk

Toes in the sand

Doing a cartwheel

Rock climbing/rock gym

On a ferry

On top of a human pyramid

Plant a tree

Draw with a child

Cook a meal from a different culture

Draw with a child

Plant a tree

Go to the ballet

Go to Niagara falls

Go camping

Magic gardens on south street

Mosaic at the Curtis Center

Lobby of the customs house

Jail at Eastern State Penitentiary (in case you’re wondering it’s now a historical site in my neighborhood, not currently working jail!) 

Lucy the elephant

Swimming

Rolling down a hill

Building a sand castle

Watching fireworks

I’m not sure how many of these I’ll get to. I’d REALLY like to get to the top of a human pyramid, but I’ll need some help. So if you’d like to volunteer for that particular tasks, please let me know. I probably (read: definitely will not) get to Niagara Falls, go camping, or to the ballet in the next 23 days. It’s unlikely I’ll go rock climbing. I may be able to improvise some pictures (I did climb on some rocks in Greece!). But let’s see how many I can get to. What are your favorites?

Of course, if you’d like to help me get these photos and/or experiences, please raise your hands! And naturally, keep an eye on our Instagram to see how I fare!

Below are two of my favorites: Climbing/hiking up a mountain (taken in Ronda, Spain – technically I climbed down it first), and doing a handstand. Well, technically it was supposed to be a press handstand but I like to keep all of my parts in tact and I’m not that strong anymore, so handstand it was.

 

ronda

Hikiig a mountain in Ronda, Spain

handstand

Handstand. Grace doesn’t look impressed.

May Is Mental Health Month

Happy May! It’s sunny and getting warmer here in Philly, which is amazing. It’s incredible how much difference a little sun and warmth make, at least to me. While I can certainly battle depression on the brightest, warmest days (because it’s an illness, which doesn’t care about the weather forecast), I usually feel significantly worse in the short, cold days of winter when it’s difficult to even go outside for fresh air. So I’m super excited for the weather to finally be turning.

I haven’t blogged in a little while. I’ve been trying to get my sh*t together, reorganize my thoughts, plus I’ve been traveling in Greece. Side note: if you ever get the chance to go to Greece, go. It’s a gorgeous place, the people are the friendliest, the food is the freshest, and …. just everything about it. You can check out pics on our Instagram.

But I digress. May is Mental Health Month. A cause near and dear to my heart, as most of you know.  Every day my brain wages a battle against me, and every day I win, even if sometimes just barely. I am the one in five adults in the US that has a mental illness. Specifically, I am one of the 0.4-1% of the US population with cyclothymia. There is little known about written disorder, and it’s difficult to find others who have it. It also tends to be pushed aside as “not as big a deal”, which anyone who’s dealt with the rapid cycling nature of the mood cycles knows is inaccurate. The lack of information and difficulty finding others who have it has driven me to do two things – 1.) start my personal  blog over at Lilies and Elephants. 2.) Help others whose causes and/or organizations need exposure. Because nobody should feel like what they’re going through or fighting for is “not a big deal”.

This month, I’ll be focusing on mental health causes and organizations, as well as those causes that can be associated. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Local organizations or projects raising funds or awareness for mental health.
  • Local business partnering with an organization to raise funds or awareness
  • Local, orgs, businesses, or even individual advocates looking to be more involved in mental health and related causes

We want to know about you, and help others to know about you! Zero cost, I promise. It’s just what we do here at SHP.

Questions you may have:

  • Does local mean Philly area where SHP is based? Nope. Just means not a big global or national  company. In other words, we’re a small org helping other small orgs/businesses.
  • Does it really cost nothing? Yep. Our thing is promoting your thing. Or you. Or your cause. That’s how we spread hope. Or at least one of the ways.
  • My cause/project could be related, but I’m not sure. How do I know if my cause/organization/business qualifies? Ask us! You can hit us up on email, Instagram, FB (we’re less frequent on there), or my personal account on twitter.
  • How can you help my cause/project/etc? We can help you tweet, post, and share. We also can add you under our Projects tab on the website, and if you’re interested, we can “interview” you for a blog post. We can also help you with additional ideas specific to your cause/project/event.
  • I know I/my company/my organization want to do something, but I’m not sure what. Can you help? We can. Or at least we can try. Reach out to us at the above.

Mental Health is important. It affects 20 percent of the US adult population, so the chances are, we all know someone affected – even if we don’t know it.  Let’s help erase the stigma and raise awareness together.

 

The Bigger Picture

I was thinking about hope, as I of course tend to do often, and I realized that it’s been awhile since I really sat down and thought about the things in my life, right now, that make me hopeful. There are the everyday inspirations, of course – a beautiful sunset, a warm spring day, flowers in bloom, a positive conversation with a friend. And those things all keep me going in the day to day. They’re the pictures I post on Instagram in my #365DaysofHope campaign. They’re crucial for getting through the rough days, and I’m lucky to experience them. But I sometimes, ironically, forget to take stock of the bigger things that offer me hope. 

It’s not that I’m not grateful, or don’t appreciate these “big picture” pieces of life – I am, and I do. It’s that they sometimes get lost in the day to day. And I find that, when I sit down and list them out, when I truly focus on those hopes, it surprises me just how much is on that list. My brain can play so many tricks on me, making me depressed and anxious, bringing tears out of the blue, telling me I’m worthless and hopeless and incapable, that it becomes easy to spend my days just trying to get out of that, just to not feel so bad.  I often am so exhausted – mentally, emotionally, physically –  from that struggle, that I lack the energy to look beyond them. To look beyond “well today isn’t so bad” or “Ok I got through that” to “Wow, these other things offer so much hope.” And while it’s incredibly important to find hope in these moments of getting through, of not feeling so bad – because they often comprise much of our day and carry us through those rough times, I wanted to also voice those really positive, exciting, hopeful “bigger things”, for lack of a more eloquent phrase.

  • Family and loved ones. I am so incredibly lucky. I have a large family, a loving husband, and some best friends that have been by my side for forever, even when they’re not physically by my side.  I know that, even on my darkest day, I am surrounded by love. It may not always feel that way. I may feel terribly alone, because depression often makes us feel isolated. But I know, deep down, that I have so many people who love me. That offers me hope. (This includes my dog, Grace, who is the absolute epitome of hope personified… or dogsonified….)

 

IMG_1415

Gracie, the epitome of hope, finding pure joy in a discarded paper towel roll.

 

augelli fam

Yep, we’re those people. Our dog announced our engagement.

  • I have a new job that I enjoy, and I am learning more and more each day. It’s not a sector I’ve ever worked in before, and it gives me hope not only of my ability to grow and learn, but to expand my horizons. It’s not a path I’d previously considered, and I now feel that the opportunities for my future are broader.

 

  • If I haven’t mentioned it 1000 times, I’m going to GREECE! And then in June our whole immediate family (all 20 of us) are going to Spain. It’ll be my second time in Spain in 7 months. I’m so lucky to be able to see the world like this, and to spend quality time with my loved ones doing so. Travel always makes me feel hopeful. It helps me view the world on a larger scale, and it feels incredibly freeing. Often, I find that a literal change of scenery does me a world of good (no pun intended – Ok, maybe a little).  Not to mention that as a travel planner, blogger, and someone that wants to spread hope around the world, it makes me feel hopeful for ways that I can expand my work.

 

travel collage

Some of my many travels. Clockwise from top left: Amsterdam, Paris, Jordan (Petra), Olympic Rings in Barcelona, Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. 

 

  • This Spread Hope Project. I have no idea where it might take me. But I see possibilities. It offers me a purpose, a way to help others, which is something I crave. I have  big dreams for it, and even if those adjust, or are ultimately not realized to their full extent (I’m a big scale dreamer), it shows me that I do have the ability to help people and make a difference, even if on the smallest scale for now. And I have met, and continue to meet, some amazing people on this journey.

 

  • The future. My husband and I want to own a farm one day. We want to grow fruits and vegetables. He wants goats and chickens for milk and eggs, and I want a Scottish Highland Cow because they’re adorable and I’ve always wanted one (you now see why I’m the dreamer and he’s the realist in our marriage).  He has generously said that we can have up to three dogs one day, which I feel is a fair compromise since he’s fine with the one we have and I want to rescue every dog ever on the planet. Big emphasis on one day for the dogs, maybe when Grace gets older and doesn’t take the strength of the World’s Strongest Man to walk her. Even though these goals will take a lot of time and energy and funds to accomplish, we have them. Having dreams like this, together, for the future makes me so hopeful.

 

Mcow

Being silly with Scottish Highland Cows at a B&B in the Catskills. (Note the HOPE shirt!).

 

MB cow

More silliness at the B&B. 

 

I found that, just writing these down, I began smiling. My mind starts to fill with ideas that give me further hope. Ideas for my travel business and blog. Ideas for Spread Hope Project. Excitement about our future farm (and cow! and dogs!), and all the things we could do with it. Yes, a lot of it is my mind wandering, as it does so… err….well? But they give me something to reach for. Some “one day”s. And when you have “one day”s, you have hope. Because it means that, even if it seems so far off, almost impossible perhaps, you still can see the possibility, or at least consider that there could be the possibility, of a brighter time. 

 

Spread Hope This Spring

It doesn’t feel like it here today, but it’s finally SPRING! Which means the days are getting longer, and eventually, I’m sure, it’ll get warmer. Spring is nature’s hopeful season. Animals come out of hibernation, flowers bloom and trees bud, people seem to come out of virtual hibernation – out from behind heavy jackets and hats and scarves and the warmth of their houses – to enjoy the outdoors and interact with each other once again. So it seems the perfect time to focus on spreading hope – both to others, as well as to ourselves. Not sure how? Here are a few ideas:

  • Plant something – a flower, a vegetable plant, a tree (local organizations often hold tree-planting days).

 

plants2

 

  • Purchase something from a local farm/orchard/nursery/etc.Their livelihood often depends on seasonal business, and may be beholden to things outside of their control – like the weather – and each purchase can help offer hope of a season that allows them to support themselves/their families.

 

  • Smile at people you pass when walking outdoors. Not creepily, but a pleasant smile, wave, good morning, etc. Doesn’t have to be everyone, but just do it occasionally. I say outdoors because I notice this seems to feel less weird to people. We have no issue waving at the other lone morning jogger we pass, or the person walking the dog down the street. But most of us are significantly less likely to walk through the mall or grocery store randomly smiling or waving at people, and I get that 100 percent.

 

  • Donate goods or services. Go through your closet. Donate already read books to a local library, mobile library, or used book store. Bake for charity. Whatever it is you can offer.

 

  • Send a card or a note. Not an email or text or tweet. Write a “thinking of you card” to someone going through a tough time. Or a thank you note to someone who’s done something nice. Or a “just because” to a friend. This isn’t spring specific, but let’s face it – most of us are feeling more generous in spirit when it’s not 20 degrees and bomb-cycloning outside.

 

  • Let out your inner 1980s (or earlier) child. Remember when playing outside was the reward you got for a job well done/being well-behaved/etc? Put down the electronics, go outside – on your own, with friends and family, with your dog, whoever! – and do something fun/silly.  How does this offer hope? It takes us away from our daily routine, it takes our mind, even if momentarily, off of whatever it is that we’re struggling with, and it reminds us, and anyone else involved that we can find small moments of joy in life.

 

What are your favorite ways to spread hope, or stay hopeful, during the spring?

 

Pardon the Interruption

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. In addition to loving hope, I also love puns and cheesy word play. So, pardon the interruption in my blogging. It’s been a minute, as I’ve had a lot of exciting things going on. Namely, I got a new jobby job, which has been keeping me pretty busy. And my travel work has simultaneously ramped up (good things come to those who wait, right?), keeping me busy in my spare time.

But I haven’t forgotten about Spread Hope Project. Far from it. I still have my dream of spreading hope as far and wide as possible, and my more  feasible goal of one day turning SHP into a real, living and breathing organization (with more people breathing in it than just myself).  I’m working on giving my mission and vision for SHP a more solid description, because it’s tough to explain what you do with “I just want to help everyone and give them hope.”  The basic idea is, in addition to my photo taking and individual participation in, and organization of, events,  I want to partner with local and hyper-local organizations to help get the word about their work and events as well. A collaboration of sorts.  I want to serve as a resource, a liaison, between local organizations doing charitable work, and people who want to participate in those activities. Because I know first hand that it’s tough as a solo person or small organization with a big dream to compete with the “big guys” (or ladies) when it comes to marking, promotion, and resources. And while social media certainly makes it easier, the more people you have helping you out, the easier it becomes.

So there’s that.  As for myself and Spread Hope Project, here’s a few things that I’ll be personally participating in/doing:

  • I signed up for my 5th Out of Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention. This cause is very personal and incredibly important to me. I’ll be walking 16-18 miles, overnight, this coming June, in no other than my home city of Philadelphia! I have to raise $1000 to walk. So far I’ve raised $315. If anyone’s so inclined, donation link is here.  You can also help in ways that do not include monetary donation, so feel free to reach out to if you’re interested in that.

 

  • I *may* be walking the Get Your Rear in Gear Philadelphia walk for Colon Cancer.  Potentially more coming on that soon. Anyone else in the area planning to walk? Let me know!

 

  • I’m going to Greece in just over a month! I’m attending a conference in Athens, and then heading to Santorini and Crete. Greece has been on my travel bucket list for a long time.  Keep an eye out for copious Spread Hope in Greece photos in the next month or so.

 

  • My family is doing a full fam (20 of us) trip to Stiges, outside of Barcelona, this summer. Just booked the flights for that. I love Barcelona and Spain. It’ll be my second time in six months. I’m super lucky. Again, lots of Spread Hope in Spain pics on the way in the next few months.

 

  • #SpreadHopeAmbassadors program is still happening. If you’re interested, reach out to me! And don’t forget to hashtag those photos!

There’s probably more, but this is running long, so I’ll stop for now.  Don’t forget to like us on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram, where we post each day as part of the #365DaysofHope Campaign!

Peace, love, and HOPE!

~My