Cheers to New Beginnings

One of my newest endeavors that has taken me away from this blog, is actually one of my most favorite past times.   I thought today, of all days, would be a great day to fill you in on this adventure.  For those of you who may be unaware to the significance of the day, today marks the 10th anniversary of my brother’s passing after fighting leukemia for 3 years. 

A year ago today, as I sat in my rotary meeting, I listened to a speaker discuss a new park that was (and is) under construction in Greenville.  It is to be called the Cancer Survivor’s Park, and it’s to be a place of rejuvenation, a place of learning, and a place of healing for everyone who has experienced some form of cancer directly or indirectly.  

As I sat in that meeting, I learned that I was considered a survivor of cancer because I am a survivor of my brother.   The executive director, Kay Roper, spoke so eloquently and passionately about this park, what it meant to her and what it would mean to the community.   Within moments, I had a lump in my throat and tears at the brim.  

I’d spent a good year and a half before meeting Kay, trying to find a place for me outside of being Davey and Henry’s mom.   I looked for something that would be an old semblance of myself, the creative, hard-working, career oriented individual I always thought I would be.   I knew what I was looking for was volunteer work as I didn’t have the band width to handle a full time job and still be the mom my boys had grown accustomed to.   Problem was, as I’ve always said, it couldn’t be just any volunteer work.   If it was going to take time away from my boys then it HAD to be something more worthwhile than padding the bottom line of corporate America.  AND it had to be something I could passionately feel good about.  

As with most things in my life, there is always Divine Intervention.   Even when I think the Lord doesn’t hear me, He is always listening.   When He brought Kay into my life on the 9th anniversary of my brother’s death, I knew this is where I was supposed to be and that my patience and faith in Him had finally paid off, as it always does. 

When I started volunteering with the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance, I was intimidated.   As I’d told my husband on countless occasions, I felt like our children were sucking me of any brain cells I had.   My mind, that part of me I once coveted which perhaps wasn’t the smartest in the world, wasn’t feeling challenged anymore.  The wheels were always turning but I wasn’t learning something new.   For a while, and even now, it’s felt like the boys had drained me of any intellect I’d had and I hadn’t been able to replenish that.  

I joined the Communications Committee and listened to all of these people who were still in the working world, mostly in marketing and advertising, and I was in awe, enamored, and as I said before, intimidated.   What could I contribute?   I worried that the Lord had answered my prayer, but perhaps I had prayed incorrectly.   Again, I just needed to have patience and faith in Him.

A couple of months ago, the opportunity arose for me to help out with a series that had become stagnant.   There just were not enough people to get the series going again, to coordinate, organize, and even help write and edit.   I didn’t hesitate.  I immediately spoke up during that month’s meeting and said I would “own” the series, and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

It is known as the Sunday Survivor Series, and is a bi-weekly story published on the park’s website every Sunday evening.    The stories feature someone within our local community who has been impacted by cancer, either directly or indirectly.  In most cases, the interviewees are survivors of some form of cancer, with the occasional relative of someone who has passed mixed into the shuffle of stories. 

As an introduction of me joining the team, I was photographed with my boys and the creator of the series interviewed me.   When I was being interviewed, I was amazed at how raw the emotions still were, nearly 10 years later.   I found I could still feel Brian’s last hug, his last tug of my ponytail, his voice as he spoke to me, and even the raspy sound of his last breaths as he squeezed my hand.   As I went through that interview, I was overwhelmed with a sense of joy that I would be able to help so many others tell their stories, that I will be able to offer that compassionate touch, that vessel for emotions and stories to eventually unfold.  

So, here’s the link to the stories.  Our newest one is out and what a wonderful young man and inspiration he is.   The second story is mine.    

http://www.cancersurvivorspark.org/survivor-series.php

Please take a moment to read it and then take a moment to read some of the other stories.   Follow the Facebook page for the Cancer Survivors Park.  Sign up for email notifications so you’ll always know when a new story is out.   You may get to read some of my words there, even when they can’t always be here on this blog, and you may find an additional person who needs your prayers.  

God Bless all of you for following me, for encouraging me, and for giving me your love in some way.   I’m hoping 2017 will be full of great new adventures and insightful words to share with you all.  

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What I’ve Always Wanted

People tend to ask you that…what have you always wanted?  Others like to rephrase it by saying, if money were not an impediment, what would you do?   I’ve had this tossed out to me in the past and I’ve always answered with trivial things, those that will accentuate my vanity, or my need to outperform my peers.   Yes, those two have crossed my mind.

Then there are the responses of travelling, owning my own business, writing my book, and finally to the point where I am right now.   Money isn’t an issue.   My husband and I have found we can live off of his salary for the past four years.   Would we like more money?   Absolutely, but truthfully we’re living comfortably and a lot better than most.   So, what have I always wanted to do?   Be able to volunteer and devote my time, energy, and skills to a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  I didn’t know what was near and dear to my heart for a long time.   I’ve fought so hard, impatiently asked of the Lord what my calling should be, what more could I do outside of being a devoted and Godly wife and mother   I’ve prayed for a way that I can use my writing skills for something more than just trying to write that painstaking novel that will be my ticket to paradise.   There’s got to be more to my life than that.

Last month, that opportunity presented itself to me on the nine year anniversary of brother’s death.   When I attended my first meeting for the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance Group, I was a little nervous and a bit overwhelmed.   I was surrounded by philanthropists, business owners, executives, and artists.   I was engulfed by an overwhelming body of water that I had never been a part of in my life

Thoughts swirled through my head after I left the meeting.   Could I do this?   Would I really have something to contribute?   Would they all laugh at my ideas?   Flash forward a month, and it’s a completely new spectrum.   Yesterday I attended my second meeting for the CSPA Group.   I listened to stories of what’s happened in the press, the discussion of those lives who were recently lost to a form of cancer.   I watched potential commercials, looked at designs for banners, flyers, and digital signage.   I asked my questions and offered my input and what’s strange and exhilarating for me…I engaged in intelligent conversations, had my thoughts taken seriously, and actually walked away with an eagerness to work.

Tonight, I sit here in bed, The Greenville Journal, my notes, and various websites pulled up.   I sit here and work on my ideas, write marketing plans, and watch House of Cards.   As much as I love being home with my boys, it’s so personally rewarding to be doing something more.   My stomach twists in pains of guilt and anxiety when I contemplate going back to work full time and leaving my boys.   I don’t want someone else raising them and I don’t want someone else experiencing all of their firsts or even their seconds and thirds, but I do love feeling like that missing piece of the puzzle in my personality is now back in place.

As ridiculously cliché as it may sound, I feel like I’m whole again and it’s refreshing.

 

Testing The Waters

For some time now, I’ve felt as if I could do more with my time.   I don’t homeschool my boys (at least not right now, that could change in the future) and with the two of them in preschool and mother’s morning out programs, I’ve had some of my time freed up.   At first, I thought I would devote my time to me, either working out, writing, reading, relaxing, or running errands.   And why not?  I work hard in my stay at home mom position.   But something deep down within my heart and in my head told me that my time could be better spent elsewhere.

Two weeks ago, at our local Rotary meeting (of which I am the Communications Director), we had a speaker who is the Executive Director of the Cancer Survivors Park Alliance.  It’s a park created for cancer survivors and their families, as well as those who are currently fighting the horrible disease.   The purpose of the park is to create a space for hope, healing, learning, and celebration.   The speaker happened to speak to us on the 9th anniversary of my brother’s death to leukemia, a debilitating blood cancer.

cancer survivors park
An artist’s rendering of the park.

I took it as a sign from God, a sign that I had prayed about for quite some time.   I’ve longed for something with which I could devote my extra time (what little I have).   I’ve told my husband that I want to do more with my life, but I don’t want to sacrifice the flexibility of a stay at home mom lifestyle.   I want to go to my children’s events, be hands on with them and involved in every aspect of their lives, more so than I would be as a working mom, but still be active in my community.   I’ve sought out an organization with which I could be passionate about.   If it’s going to take away any of my time, then it has to be worth something for me, and by something I mean more than money.

After our rotary meeting, I spoke with the director and offered up  my services in some form or fashion.   She said she couldn’t pay me, and I told her I wasn’t looking for money.   She informed me of a couple of opportunities, one of which is on the communications committee.   Given my background in communications, we both decided the group could benefit more from my expertise in that arena.   So, last Wednesday, I dropped my boys off with my mom and dad and headed out to my first official meeting.

Although, I’m not being paid, this is still a professional organization and I hemmed and hawed over what I should wear.   It’s been 4 years since I’ve been in the corporate world and either my business suits no longer fit or I just don’t have them anymore.   I settled with a nice pair of jeans, a button down shirt, and a blazer…business casual.

As the meeting got underway, my head started pounding and my heart beat started accelerating.   All of the people in the room with me were currently working.   Not a one of them was a retired philanthropist or fellow stay at home mom like me.   They all were able to contribute to the conversations by injecting in some sort of anecdote from a previous experience either with a client or an idea.   Me?  Well, I just listened intently and took notes.

Secretly, I sat there wondering if this was a good idea.   My thoughts kept revolving around, “do I have the intelligence for this?   what about the bandwidth?   Have I been so long out of the working world, that I can’t contribute?”

After the meeting, I tossed around a couple of ideas and I have meetings scheduled to find ways to increase fundraisers, to market them, to write up press releases, and encourage the overall notoriety of the park.

That night, my husband asked how the meeting went.  I told him it went well.  I told him about what was being done and about some ideas I had.   As with everything else in my life, he told me he was proud of me for taking on this added responsibility, for finding a way to help others.    Who knows what may come of this?   I definitely don’t, but I do know that the excitement of being involved in something like this is exhilarating.   I’m likely to have less time for my blog posts, but it’s worth the sacrifice.

By the way, if you’re interested in learning more about the park, you can visit their website.  http://www.cancersurvivorspark.org