Because you might need to read this today…

I know my blog has been a happy place for a while now, when I do make these fleeting posts. But, I know, life isn’t always a happy place. And that is precisely why I’m so grateful for these days, for these people, for this sunshine, to feel loved – by family, by friends, by new people who bring such light into life with just their refreshing presence. I feel like my appreciation for this time, for these days comes from the times when it wasn’t exactly there…and it’s not that the love wasn’t around me, but you can’t always feel it. It wasn’t an absence, it was more of an invisible barrier between me and all that positivity. And sometimes darkness creeps in, and it’s so much harder to see the light that’s peeping from under the cracks. It’s a battle to fight the inner demons that so badly want you to just give in. I know what those times are like when it’s hard to remember the days that have a light an airy weight in living, laughter that flows freely, and a clear mind. And oh those battles are so difficult to fight, but I’ve been thinking lately, (especially over the past few days with the loss of Robin Williams and the social media world abuzz with mental health discussions) about the feeling of exuberance that washes over me when the curtain is lifted and light shines again after times like those…

I guess I just didn’t want to keep letting these thoughts float around in my head without sharing them. How everyone is fighting their own battle each day, and you might not have any idea what those around you are dealing with on the inside, and they might not have an idea what you’re dealing with either…but you’re not alone. And there is hope. And there is light.

A few years ago when I was doing a series on the blog called “Spend Less, Give More” spotlighting my favorite give-back organizations, I featured one called To Write Love On Her Arms. (You can see my original post, here.)  There’s a shirt my parents gifted me with the following quote from Jamie Tworkowski,

 

This past week I’d seen the quote from Rob Bell on Twitter: “It is as if the smallest amount of light is infinitely more powerful than massive amounts of dark.” which just instantly resonated with me, and I’ve thought about these words each day since then. When I get to my dark place my coping mechanisms for life usually have to do with writing, reading, prayer, music, and movies. Art. Creating. But what else I’ve found? Big changes happened to my life when I started letting people in. When I started saying yes, when I embraced who I was and I met people who not only accepted me for myself, but appreciate what makes me, me. Coffee, putt-putt, scary movies that make me squeal in the theatre, hanging out with a friendly acquaintance that could turn into a great friend, phone conversations that make you feel love despite distance, spontaneity…openness, that vulnerability can be so so worth it in this life. We do need other people, and when we find the right people, man it’s like more lights turn on in the world.

I guess what I’m getting at here, is that if I felt on my heart strings that I needed to put these words into the universe, than there was probably a reason for that. Depression isn’t something to be ashamed of, or kept secret, or to write-off. You know how you can scroll through someone’s instagram and it’s all happy pretty stuff? (Here I’ll point out my own: flowers, sunsets, icecream, smiles, puppies, music festivals,…all the good stuff.) But in between all the really great little moments that make life so darn beautiful – the soulful conversations, the forehead kisses, the friendly “good morning, how are you?”s from people that you encounter each day, the joy that comes with singing along to your favorite song with the windows rolled down and a breeze on a summer day, a chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven, a text message that puts a smile on your face, bear hugs, hand written mail, tired lungs and legs from a long run outside, laughing ’til your stomach hurts, cotton candy colored skies…in-between all of these absolutely wonderful things can be some really rough times. Days when your friends feel far away, or you don’t feel like getting out of bed, or listening to your favorite song, or really doing much of anything…They might not show up the way the good stuff does on our social media networks, but there’s no avoiding that the twisty-thought days are there.

So I guess I’m saying, don’t be afraid to talk about it, don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed about it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help (resources)…Sending so much love and hugs into the universe right now…

National Hopeline Network: 1.800.SUICIDE (784-2433)

National Suicide Prevention Line: 1.800.273.TALK (273-8255)

 

Believe In the Good

Okay, so I know I’ve been silent on the blog this week. Life has been a little bit crazy with some curve balls that got thrown during my trip, and then when I was driving back to Tallahassee I heard about the Boston Marathon bombing on the radio. Throughout the week things have still been a little crazy, and I have been trying to process what’s happened. Of course now as the events just get more wild it’s an even harder thing to comprehend but I have a few things I want to put out there! I will elaborate on my Knoxville and Nashville adventures sometime soon, and I will share pictures. In the meantime, I’ll tell you that Tennessee won me over instantly. I have a special spot in my heart for this state, now.

I was driving on the interstate when I heard the announcement over the radio. Immediately it felt hard to breathe. I kept trying to walk myself through deep breaths, and staying calm. So many thoughts flooded to my mind, between the people that I know were there, the people I know that could be there, but then beyond that – running in general. If you’ve visited this blog before you know how passionate I am about running. There is something incredibly special about races. When I participated in my first 5K in August of last year, I was instantly hooked. I totally felt that sense of camaraderie with the people surrounding me as our feet pounded the paths of the trails. I have never been disappointed about any race I’ve participated in – they’re too fun for that! Between the runners, volunteers, spectators, supporters – I’ve never come across anything quite like it. There is just this overwhelming positive energy that exists every time. These people, essentially strangers, all share one common bond. It doesn’t matter your place in the work world, your gender, race, or age. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running, or how fast or slow you are. It’s an undeniable thread that connects each of us.

(My friend Lizzi who qualified for Boston 2014 posted this on Facebook this week, and it speaks volumes.)

Then there’s the other side of running. It has saved my sanity. Of that, I am sure. And I turn to running as outlet in times of frustration (that’s how it all began for me, anyway.) So to reek such malicious, cruel, havoc on an event of such celebration? I mean, this is like the Olympics of running. It’s a lifelong dream for many. It’s a big deal for everyone involved, the event organizers, the history behind the marathon, for the runners – their families and supporters. What is wrong with people? Such a heartbreaking thing for everyone involved. Just the attempt to take away something people love in such a dark violent way – it’s just sad and senseless. Thankfully, everyone I knew up there is safe. Because I didn’t have a phone, I wasn’t connected to an instant stream of info through email and Twitter like I normally would be, which probably helped my psyche at the time. But when I checked my email on my mom’s phone in Tallahassee I saw the flood of messages from GWTC list-serv, and wow. I was just floored. This is one of my favorite pieces I’ve read that relate to Monday’s events, and a runner’s heart.

While we have this frustrating situation, what is uplifting about everything is the awesome compassion that has shined such a light on everything – how inspiring it is to see pure intentioned people just helping one another – no questions asked, in whatever way that means. I am sure throughout the week, you’ve probably seen this quote from Mister Rogers (genius!) floating around:

I have to tell you, that I know things like this are scary. This morning I woke up and glanced at Facebook and saw some posts that didn’t make sense so I switched to Twitter and woke up immediately when I saw the news that was transpiring with the suspects. I went out of my room and told my roommate who had already turned on the TV (though it was barely 6am.) I was just blown away by how crazy it all seemed, so what did I do? Lace up my shoes and go for a run. Because that’s what I do. So, I’ll say that yeah I feel like this is just really hard to even mentally grasp (especially with the bombings Monday, the explosion in Texas, then with the lockdown and search…) texting my friend who’s parents live there, hearing it on the radio on my drive to work, and now on the TV while I’m at work and it’s just a lot to take in. BUT but so so so important some things to remember: like Mister Rogers says, look for the helpers. They are there. While the world can be so unpredictable, dark and scary – there is so much good. So much good.

I myself have been overwhelmed with the kindness of people in the past month. It hasn’t even been a month when my engine exploded on the way to Jacksonville, (and look what happened then? Cousin rushed to where I was on the interstate, Jules scooped me up en-route to Jax.) Over the weekend I accidentally left my cell phone in a cab. The manager of the cab company (Brett) was so nice and really tried to help as much as he could. No luck, but that is not worth spoiling a trip over. When I got back to Sanford on Monday (well, after another stranger who had helped me with my bag when I was flying out on Friday AND REMEMBERED ME we chatted about our trips, and he helped me with my bag, again!) I was walking to the parking lot and thought it was odd that my horn didn’t beep when I pressed the key. Come to find out my car battery had died over the weekend. So there I was with no phone and a dead car. A couple across the lot asked if I needed help, and they saved my day in a big way. The husband got out to help me, and let me borrow his phone, while his wife CIRCLED THE PARKING LOT attempting to find someone with jumper cables! She found someone, then that van load came over as well. (Weird coincidence the man was someone I remembered from the airport on Friday because he was also wearing running shoes sitting down the aisle from me.) This man jumped my car, and then looked in his GPS and gave me the address and directions to the nearest Advanced Auto Parts. Then the couple, offered to let me FOLLOW THEM to the store, to make sure I got there alright (not lost, and without breaking down.) Can you believe that? We stopped at a Napa first, and the man got out to go check on the battery so I wouldn’t need to turn off my car. Then we went further up the road to Advanced, and he went in and checked there (the other place didn’t do batter installations.) At that time the woman let me use her phone again to call my mom so she’d know I got somewhere that I could get a battery (She said, if it were my daughter I’d want her to be able to call and tell me.) Then the husband came out again and they did have the battery but he was soo nice in making sure I had the funds to pay for it because they didn’t want me to get stuck there! Then the Advanced Auto Parts guys, Chris & Michael were so kind as well. I was there for a while. They let me use the store phone. I made a plan with my mom. Figured out an exit to meet her at because they wanted me to take my car to a shop they were concerned at the levels it was showing up at on the test even with a new battery. I was there for more than an hour, and at one point it was like I was a fellow employee (they even joked that I should apply for a job there, and about how I should meet Brucey (apparently a grumpy sketchy old man.) They even let me behind the counter to use the phone and helped me with directions (another stranger letting me use their phone.) I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards this constant stream of generous, good spirited people. My “luck” (it’s not luck, it’s like this crazy combination of grace and guidance in this path of sweet people) continued throughout the week. I don’t know much about cars, so really anyone could take advantage of my weakness there, but they don’t. A friend from Inverness gave me her daughter’s old phone, so I didn’t have to buy a new one. I wasn’t charged for getting my car checked out, (when they didn’t find anything wrong with it!), a man at Sam’s had the installation fee waived on some new tires since I’d come in last week too. Then there was this weird thing going on with the windshield and the guy was like hey! this is no problem, I can just snap this little piece here and you’re good. Seriously. Not even kidding you.

My point is, life is crazy, the world is crazy, you never know what’s coming. If all these things came my way when I was in my earlier twenties, I’d have fallen apart some where. These days, I’ve learned to roll with the punches. You gotta take what comes your way and figure out how to keep moving, make a plan of action, do something. If I was sitting in the middle of a parking lot crying, I’d probably still be there. None of these people had any obligation to me, no one had to help, or offer anything but again and again they appeared. One person after another continued to be an example of compassion, love, and sweet-natured kindness. My faith in humanity couldn’t be stronger.

So now what? You continue to look for a helper. You BE a helper. Be nice. Everyone seems surprised at my own weird chain of events this week, but the thing is the nicer you are to people? They have to try really hard to be mean back. It doesn’t always work, but you have to try. And not being nice is stupid. Don’t let fear stop you from living your life. Appreciate where you are, what you have, who you’re surrounded by. For me, this is a year of reunions – a celebration of friendship, and with everything going on it just makes me more thankful for the time I’ve spent with people I love lately. Make the most of life, enjoy all the little moments. Make spontaneous decisions, take the adventures.

Tomorrow morning Tallahassians will take to the streets and run the Palace Saloon 5K wearing blue & yellow ribbons showing support. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll drive over to Orlando for Andrew McMahon’s show at The Beacham, but Sunday I want to be back in time for the 5.2 at 5 for Boston. I am looking forward to pounding the pavement with people I’ll feel connected to, without question.

Keep running, keep loving, keep living. Smile. Believe in the good. I promise, it’s there.

Jax Weekend Recap: Stranded to Rescued and a Celebrity Meet & Greet Come True

PART ONE

Oh my. How about that premature St.Patrick’s Day post the other day? How would I have known all those mentioned activities were this close to not going into fruition?! I was just chugging along I-10 on my way to Jacksonville destination (one): Florida Theatre – Lisa Loeb. Then out of nowhere, I hear this weird clicking noise so I turned down Phoenix on Pandora Radio, so I can listen. Then the clicking noise stops, and about a minute later (my car that’s on cruise control at 75) seems to be slowing down on its own? My foot wasn’t on the break, so I press the accelator, and…nothing. It’s gone from 75mph to 50mph in about zero seconds. I try not to freak out, so I start to pull over to the shoulder of the road and before I can even get the car all the way in the grass to park – it shuts off! None of the lights had turned on or anything, and to make things more crazy – the car has filled up with smoke. Me and my wild imagination immediately envision the car bursting into flames, so I grab my purse so I at least half some money and an ID, grab my phone (which is all wrapped up in the car charger, trying to trap me in the smoking vehicle,) and literally like attempted to jump out of the car. Of course it’s tilted on the side of the road so the door was too heavy (and there was traffic) to open all the way and it comes swinging back and slams on my knee which has been a lovely shade of green and purple this week, ha! So then in m efforts to escape I ran to the woods, and called my Dad. I know, always calling the parents – but hello! I didn’t know if I was about to be in a Fast and the Furious scene on the side of I-10 in the middle of nowhere. What went down next was a very long ordeal of a thousand phone calls, and amazing people coming to my rescue. I was trying to stay calm but got pretty freaked at some points because I was on the side of the road, by myself, dressed for the concert, scared to get back in the smoking car – and I could hear voices coming from the woods. Is this not the perfect scenario for every horror movie you’ve never wanted to watch? Phone call after phone call, lots of text messages. Where the heck to get it towed to, where was I, etc. The guy from the insurance company was like “hey, not to make you feel worse but I had a Mustang and it sounds like almost the same thing that happened to be. Unfortunately it was a serious problem.” Oh great thanks! What’s that place you want to tow it to? Pineda? Vaneda?! Oh you don’t know? Me neither, I think that’s probably not the best choice. OH my word. I eventually walked back to the car, so I’d be closer by and after like an hour and a half a cop comes pounding on my window. What’s going on? What are you doing? What happened? Is someone coming? Oh you know, I just like to chill on the side of the road for fun. Anyway. So! As fate would have it, a friend of a friend was also enroute to Jax and would actually be passing me on the side of I-10. I went from being alone, to then Jules (to the rescue! who first pulled up to a van with a family and a bunch of confused children as to why she was approaching them,) then my cousin! Who left his hang out to come save the day and because he didn’t like me chillin on the side of the interstate by myself, and thennn a tow truck all at the same spot. I am so eternally grateful to my cousin Tim, and to Jules for helpin a girl out. Like seriously. Life savers. And my parents for their patience, since they were trying to help from a baseball game in Panama City. And Beth the friend I was enroute to visit, for orchestrating the rescue to Jacksonville. I mean seriously? Way to pull through and ignite my faith in humanity. No one had to do anything they did, and it really meant a lot. I tweeted on the side of the road about being disappointed since I’d wanted to see Lisa Loeb since like middle school. SHE TWEETED ME BACK! “Oh no! Someone call triple a” eek! I had kind of just let myself try and accept that if I could even get there, it’d be worth whatever came of the weekend. And you know what? After a crazy adventure in weird directions and getting stuck waiting for the longest train ever to come through Jules got me there in time! (And we had a nice girl talk on the way over, and that was nice after being in the middle of no where by myself with just my thoughts.) I didn’t even miss her! How that magically worked out? Ohh definitely not by my doing. Apparently, according to the woman seated next to me (who’d seen LL seventeen years ago with Lyle Lovett, and then later at Lilith Fair) the opener had gotten stranded in Dallas, so I didn’t miss that either. (I guess one of the band members of Nine Stories, played in the meantime?)

Now, after all these years look what happened! I had the pleasure of meeting her. I bought that poster she signed and spelled my name right! She told the woman who took our photo, “we tweeted each other! We talk on Twitter.” Because you know the first thing out of my mouth was “I was the girl who tweeted about being stuck in the middle of nowhere!” And she was like oh no that was you! Did you get to see the show? I’m so glad! ahh etc. but my brain is mush because I was so in awe. She’s just as beautiful and awesome in person as she seemed in my head all these years.

The show was incredible, too. She was so funny on stage. And she played so many songs! Wishing Heart, Truthfully, Jake, I Do, Stay, Dance with the Angels, Snow Day, Hurricane, Bring Me Up, This even The Disappointing Pancake! And several songs from No Fairy Tale! Ohh, I thought my heart might explode. She’s just so talented, and I was trying to soak it all in, each note, each strum. She had some anecdotes to go along with the songs too, and it really felt like she was just having a normal conversation with the audience.

So yeah, just like a friend said – what had temporarily seemed like a bit of a nightmare turned into a pretty memorable night, in a good way.

To be continued…

Spend Less, Give More: Warby Parker

Hello, hello and welcome to another post in my Spend Less, Give More series! If you’re just now joining us,  here’s a recap: I’ve been using Mugs Life to spotlight some different organizations to consider contributing to during this Christmas season. If you’re going to give gifts anyways, why not try presents with a purpose? Give something that will have a lasting impact on someone’s life! The previous posts have highlighted different needs people face on a daily basis, both physical and emotional: : clean water (Charity:Water), food and sustainability (to put it simply) Heifer International, shoes and eyesight TOMs, mental health with To Write Love On Her Arms, and yesterday’s which is mental health in a different way where you contribute your time instead of money through the outreach of writing love letters with More Love Letters.

Today I’m shifting the focus again, and if you’re a vet reader of Mugs Life today’s post won’t be much of a surprise. I’ve been gushing about Warby Parker Eyewear for a while now. (I even enlisted your help when I was deciding on frames during the at-home try-on process.) Like TOMs, Warby Parker Eyewear is a one-for-one organization, with every pair of glasses you purchase, a pair is given to someone in need! Did you know that “almost one billion people worldwide don’t have access to glasses?” The people at Warby Parker believe that “everyone has the right to see.” Why don’t we join them in their mission, by improving eyesight and in turn improving the condition of people’s lives!

(Image borrowed from the Warby Parker Facebook page.)

I found out about Warby Parker from my friend Megan. I had mentioned at lunch one Sunday that I was on the lookout for a new pair of glasses, and she asked if I had checked out Warby Parker? She’d seen one of their pop-up shops before and said, she thought I’d really like them. So when I got home, I went to their website and was intrigued immediately. I’ve always loved funky frames, back in seventh grade mine were kind of Drew Carey style (just smaller for my twelve year old face.) And I have always wanted glasses that looked like something Lisa Loeb might wear – stand-out, bold, different. Warby Parker definitely fits all these adjectives. BUT what really sold me, and I knew I was in as soon as I read it, was that with every pair of glasses purchased, someone else would be getting a pair. They’re partnered with Vision Spring and other non-profits to make such distributions possible! AND I knew, that like other pieces I’ve mentioned (TOMS shoes, Charity Water shirts, etc.) that people would ask me about them, that once I had their attention I could gush about what a wonderful company they are. And I kid you not – that happens on a regular basis. I’m a proud owner of the Colton whiskey tortoise shell frames. Warby Parker is able to deliver their customers extremely reasonably priced eye-wear because they sell directly to you! Seriously, when you pay $95 for prescription glasses (INCLUDING frames AND lenses!!), and you’re essentially buying two pair does it get better than that? Warby Parker has a great at home try-on process, where they’ll mail you five pairs of glasses that you can keep for five days. Take pics, share with friends, wear around, get opinions and a feel for which pair you think best suits you! The return process is extremely simple as well and did I mention FREE SHIPPING? (Side note: international ordering coming soon! Share with your friends around the world!) And if none of those five pairs were the right fit for you? Try again!

(Me in my Warby Parker Coltons.)

I think it’s also extremely important to note that the Warby Parker Eyewear company has impeccable customer service. Honestly they are one of the best companies I’ve ever communicated with. They promptly respond to people reaching out on social media (Facebook & Twitter,) answer e-mails, are completely accurate with estimated mail times and it seems like their employees go out of the way to make your experience with the company all-together pleasant. I couldn’t contain my excitement about them, and as soon as anyone asks me about my glasses, or tells me that they need new glasses I start rambling about how awesome Warby Parker is. Warby Parker is constantly expanding their eyewear selection, now you can purchase prescription (and non-prescription) sunglasses, as well. This is great because you can still participate even if you have perfect eye-sight (lucky you!) If you want to share the gift of Warby Parker with a friend, but want them to be able to pick out the frames themselves, why not try a Warby Parker gift card? Fun fact time! Guess where Warby Parker got their name from? Any guesses? Jack Kerouac’s early characters: Zagg Parker and Warby Pepper! Also, there are some cool ways to interact with other Warby Parker fans, and the company out in real-life as they have a Class Trip Tour with traveling show rooms! Also, be on the lookout for pop-up shops! (PS: check out the blog, and they’re also on Instagram!)

Be sure to check out stories of lives being changed by Warby Parker.

Spend Less, Give More: More Love Letters

Good morning! Welcome to the Spend Less, Give More series here on Mugs Life. If you’re just joining us, I’ve been making suggestions over the past few days of different organizations to contribute to this Christmas season, encouraging giving gifts with a purpose. The first few organizations highlight supporting immediate basic physical needs: clean water (Charity:Water), food (to put it simply) Heifer International, and shoes and eyesight TOMs. Yesterday, the focus shifted a little bit with a spotlight on emotional needs and mental health with To Write Love On Her Arms. With all of these posts there’s been a push for monetary donations, but today is a little bit different. If you’ve got the money to buy a stamp, a pen, paper, envelope, and some kind words? The only thing else you need to give is a few minutes of your time! Today’s spotlight: More Love Letters.

It’s been less than a year since Hannah Brencher started sending bundles from The World Needs More Love Letters. Thanks to the I Heart Daily Newsletter in my inbox last week, I can say I’ve participated in this wonderful movement. Hannah‘s mom had written her letters for years, so like me, she already had a love for snail mail. It’s funny because the day I got that e-mail, I was in a rough place myself, and I thought “this is perfect” because for me: one of the best ways to push myself into the light when my love tank is running low, is to write to someone else in hopes of lifting their spirits. That’s what More Love Letters is all about. Back in 2010 Hannah living in NYC, was in a dark place herself, so she started penning letters to strangers she thought could use a boost of encouragement, and leaving them all over the city. After that she invited her blog readers to request a letter, if they were in need of one themselves. From there, More Love Letters became what it’s known as now – a global initiative. Hundreds of letters have been sent. You can sign up to join the team, where you’ll be emailed a request each month, you pen a love letter, mail it to the PO Box and a bundle of letters will be put together and sent to someone who needs a little love.  One of the things I think is really cool about More Love Letters are the requests. People write in to request letters for a friend in need. The request could be for a teammate, relative, friend, fiance, coworker, people from so many parts of life that someone has recognized could use some light in their life. This was the request for Madeline, the day I got the I Heart Daily e-mail, which was encouraging participation in More Love Letter‘s “12 Days of Letter Writing.”

Madeline, due to depression and anxiety issues, left high school last year to homeschool herself. She has made some progress but has fallen behind in her studies and really needs some motivation to keep going even though she is falling behind even more every day. Her letter request writes, “It was this time last year when she left school and I know she is very prone to become depressed again in the winter time. I try to involve her in social activities as much as I can, as she will isolate herself otherwise, but I think a little love from a stranger could really help her outlook on life right now.’ Scratch out “stranger” — we are about to bless Madeline’s life with a whole lot of love letters. Help us in showing her how very wonderful and capable Madeline truly is.

(My letter for the bundle.)

You wanna know something a little crazy? I had just finished penning my letter for Madeline’s Bundle, around 10:30am last Friday morning. It was only about an hour later when I started seeing the news reports of the horrific tragedy taking place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. The innocent beautiful children’s lives ending far too soon, and the brave teachers who’d lost their own protecting them. (Just to note – I’m not trying to loosely combine these two things, or breeze over such a significant event, that has forever changed so many people.) I had just finished expressing how, even though it’s hard to see it sometimes, how true the words from one of my favorite songs are: “This world can be ugly, but isn’t it beautiful?” (“There, There Katie” Jack’s Mannequin.) Seriously. It kind of caught me off guard because one of the first things that flashed through my mind, despite the shock of such a tragedy was: more love. We need more love. And I knew in my heart it wasn’t a coincidence I wrote the letter that morning. It was like God whispering in my ear, encouraging me to follow through knowing of course, when you spread love you can feel love.

And now in recent days, we’ve seen a community come together, we’ve seen people reaching out, we’ve seen love being spread. In the face of such tragedy, we’ve seen compassion. Like six year old Emilie Parker who’s dad has shared how Emilie constantly was coloring pictures, and writing notes to cheer up people around her whenever she saw someone looking down. Robbie Parker said himself: “(that the tragedy) not turn into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.”

So, today that’s what I’m encouraging you to do. More Love Letters is a simple, but extremely powerful way to contribute to making the world a better place. I know, that you know, someone on this planet who could use a little love. We could all use more love. Pick up that pen, and get writing. It’s a small gesture, that can make a world of difference and have such an impact on turning around someone’s day.

Here you can watch the TED Talk video of Hannah discussing More Love Letters:

 

Stay connected to the journey of More Love Letters: find them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, read the blog. Be sure to share with you friends too, that’s how a movement of love grows!

 

Spend Less, Give More: To Write Love On Her Arms

If you’re just now tuning in, I’m doing a “Spend Less, Give More” series. I’ve spotlighted several awesome organizations so far: Charity:Water, Heifer International, and TOMs. In the spirit of giving this holiday season, I’m encouraging you guys to not waste money on junk, but instead contribute to something with a purpose, somewhere that will improve someone’s life! So far, these organizations have centered around assisting basic physical needs in life (that obviously have chain reaction effects to everything else – education, opportunity…) but today I would like to share with you guys To Write Love On Her Arms. This is a different one because it’s about the inside – suicide prevention, mental health help, recognizing emotional issues.

(Image via TWLOHA Facebook.)

To Write Love On Her Arms mission is simple: “a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

The TWLOHA story started back in the spring of 2006, (founded by Jamie Tworkowski)  when a group of friends joined together to help Renee, a 19 year old girl suffering from depression, a drug addiction, she was a cutter…a treatment center refused her, so a group rallied around her and provided her with a support system for days. Just loving her, praying with her, taking her to events, coffee runs, cigarette breaks, just being there for her before she entered a rehab program. The group started selling t-shirts to fund-raise for Renee’s treatment, and with those t-shirts a movement was sparked. The team soon realized that there were literally thousands of people all over the world, who had questions, who needed someone to talk to, who could benefit from the message of hope and encouragement – people need to know they are not alone.

 

Did you know that more than “350 million people around the world, suffer from depression?” (Find out the FACTS.) It’s sad because depression is almost like a taboo topic in our society. It’s deemed normal to talk about our feelings in the face of tragedy, but what about the rest of the time? There seems to be a stigma surrounding depression. It’s a shame because not talking about it, is part of what makes people think they’re alone in what they feel. We all have questions. We each have a story. Your story matters. You are important. You are loved. You are worthy. God has a purpose for your life, and you are not meant to walk alone. That it gets better, that there is possibility, that things can change…

“The vision is better endings.  The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships.  The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love.  The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise.  The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.  

The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.  

The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.  

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.” – TWLOHA, vision

To Write Love On Her Arms is meant to serve as a “bridge to help.” You’re encouraged, if you or a friend needs to talk to someone – call a helpline or seek treatment.

If you’re not familiar with To Write Love On Her Arms, I encourage you to go check out their website, read the blog. If a TWLOHA event is coming through your area – go. The Heavy and Light tour kicks off in January! There are a lot of ways you can contribute to the TWLOHA movement. You can make a donation here. There’s a huge assortment of merchandise in the TWLOHA store, everything from the original t-shirts, to hoodies, stickers, even iPhone cases. Like other items featured in the previous posts, something as simple as a t-shirt can be a great conversation starter, and a wonderful way to spread the word. Is TWLOHA an important cause to you? you could even Join the street team!

 

 

If this is you, don’t be ashamed to seek help, don’t give up, and please don’t feel like you’re alone in your struggle, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you think you have a friend going through some of these problems, support them, love them, encourage them, make sure they know how much they matter to you, help them find help. Life is a heck of a lot better when we support each other.

Spend Less, Give More: TOMs

(Disclaimer: I do not own any of these photos or media, the rights belong to TOMs, I’m just borrowing them for informational purposes.)

I don’t always blog on Saturdays, but I’m posting today to share another Spend Less, Give More spotlight (previously featured – Charity:Water and Heifer International.) By now, I am sure you have heard about TOMs shoes, a one-for-one company founded by Blake Mycoskie. While TOMs now has eyewear and clothing – it all started with shoes. Why shoes? Because barefeet are just the beginning of a chain reaction of things that prevent children and adults from healthy, positive lives. Barefeet put everyone at-risk for “soil-transmitted diseases.” These diseases can cause long-term problems, and in some cases lead to death. Imagine being barefoot all the time, walking, running, playing – you’re bound to get simple scrapes and cuts (especially kids just being normal playful kids,) but even small wounds like those can lead to full-blown infection in developing countries that don’t have access to treatments. Here’s another angle you might not have thought about – many schools require students to wear uniforms in order to attend, and shoes are a mandatory part of those uniforms. Without shoes the kids aren’t able to go to school, thus preventing them from receiving an education which bars them from all sorts of opportunities in life! Do you see how simply lives can be changed through a pair of shoes? So many people have closets full of shoes, but all around the world there are people who have never owned a single pair. TOMs operates under the one-for-one model. With each pair of shoes purchased, a pair is given to a child in need. TOMs shoes are available in men, womens, youth, and even TINY TOMs sizes. TOMs are another charitable gift that’s been given in my family several times. I own multiple pairs, and it’s great knowing that when you buy a pair someone else is getting a pair! Like the Charity:Water shirts, TOMs shoes were a conversation starter from the beginning, and what a great story to tell.

My first pair of TOMs, in the wild in Key Largo.

The TOMs team participates in shoe drops, and going into communities in need and giving them the shoes personally. You’ve probably thought about how fast kids feet can grow, and wonder what happens when the kids shoes don’t fit anymore? Well, once communities in need are identified TOMs works to keep those kids in shoes that fit, as they grow! (See TOMs How We Give page for more info.)

Blake has been all over the world, and visited so many different impoverished communities while giving out shoes. He’s seen so many people who don’t have the ability to fulfill basic needs. Recognizing other needs that could also be helped, he decided not to limit TOMs to just shoes, but expand on the one for one model. So, they launched TOMs Eyewear. They’ve got tons of different styles of sunglasses for men and women, and each purchase can benefit someone with the gift of sight in one of three ways: someone might recieve a pair of prescription eyeglasses, have a procedure that literally saves their sight, or receive medical treatment.

So, you’ve got some options. TOMs is another gift-giving idea this holiday season. Consider giving gifts with meaning, contributing your money to something that will help better lives this season!

You can like TOMs on Facebook, follow on Twitter, read the blog, and even find them on Pinterest to follow them on their one-for-one journeys, keep up with TOMs news, and even submit your own content!