inspiration, letter, writing, youth

Beautiful: CBS This Morning Features Emotional and Inspiring Note to Self by Congressman John Dingell

Congressman John Dingel being sworn into office
Congressman John Dingel being sworn into office

CBS This Morning has an incredible feature called Note to Self that asks prominent people in our society to write a letter to their younger selves and share it with the world. Art Garfunkel, Oprah, Dr. Ruth, Tyler Perry, and Maya Angelou comprise a small handful of people who have participated in the project and each brings a unique blend of comfort, wisdom, humor, and profound understanding to their letters. Congressman John Dingell is about to begin his 58th year serving our nation and his letter is the latest addition to this fine collection. I was transfixed as I heard him and watched him read his four and a half-minute letter to his younger self on Monday’s episode of CBS This Morning. As much as we try to live life in the moment, it can only be fully understood and appreciated in hindsight. Thankfully CBS This Morning is capturing these words so that we may all benefit and learn from them at any age.

Video of John Dingell’s letter to his younger self:

friendship, hope, letter, loss, nature, women, writing

My Year of Hopefulness – Owning Pink’s Tribute

I usually only publish one hopeful inspiration per day on this blog. Today is special for a lot of reasons, so I’m publishing two.

One month ago today, my apartment building caught fire, and set off a month of changes in my life that I never saw coming. Quite, frankly, none of them were changes I wanted. They were uncomfortable, sad changes that made me question everything in my life. Everything. One month ago today, at this very moment, I ran out of my burning building, fire crackling underneath my kitchen floor. I was standing on the street with nothing but my keys, watching my building burn. I was crying, scared, and alone. And much to my surprise, I emerged from this month, today, a stronger, happier, more confident person than I ever was before.

So it is with such heart-felt thanks I wanted to pay a big Pink tribute to a group of women who are one of the very best parts of my life. Today my lovely friends, Lissa and Joy, over at Owning Pink, an on-line community I belong to, honored me by making one of my recent blog posts, a letter I wrote to October, their mainstage story. I barely know what to say. I had no idea that my little post would inspire such beautiful writing from others women whom I respect and admire so much. I cried when I read the story that Joy and Lissa wrote about my post. I really don’t have any words to tell them how honored and fortunate I feel to have them in my life.

Today I realized with clarity how much good we have to offer by sharing our stories. One of my favorite quotes is by Isak Dinesen: “All sorrows can be borne if you can put them into a story.” I am living proof of this. As the telling of our stories frees us, they also allow others to free themselves through their own writing. The ladies of Owning Pink also made me realize without a doubt that I can make a go-of-it as a full-time writer. It’s a gift that I am not sure how to repay.

Owning Pink is a community I am so fortunate to be a part of. They have gone above and beyond the call for me during the last few weeks of my life that have been so difficult. Their love and support is a gift in my life that I truly cherish and I look forward to being there for them in the months and years ahead. Here’s to a beautiful, enlightened October for all of us!

To view the story on Owning Pink’s website please visit:
http://www.owningpink.com/2009/10/05/mojo-monday-exercise-write-a-letter-to-october/

child, high school, letter, school, student

My Year of Hopefulness – First Day NY

A friend of mine from college recently invited me to join a Facebook Group for First Day NY, a program that looks for volunteers to sponsor New York City children for their first day of school. I signed up immediately and today received some information about the child I’ll be sponsoring. She’s 14 years old (and I assume heading into 9th grade), wants to be a nurse, and loves language arts. My mission is to get her a backpack, a first day of school outfit, and an age-appropriate book based on her interests.

It’s been so long since I thought about the first day of 9th grade. I started high school that year and I remember being so nervous. All my same friends from middle school went with me since my town only had one set of schools. There were kids who were so much bigger and smarter than me. They played sports and ran clubs. How would I find my classrooms? Would boys like me? And the dreaded cafeteria, every 14 year old girl’s nightmare. The movie Mean Girls comes to mind.

The other piece of my mission for the child I’m sponsoring is to write a note of encouragement. “We would like your child to know someone out there cares about their success…with this note you can offer a window into the world of opportunity that awaits them if they always do their best and stay in school.” I’m not ashamed to say I teared up a little upon reading this instruction from First Day NY. This is more than just a backpack and some clothes for a 14 year old; it’s a signal to her that there are people out here cheering her on, people who believe in her potential.

As I think back, 9th grade is the time when I realized that if I worked really hard, I could go anywhere and do anything. That year opened up a new gateway to the whole rest of my life, and how I thought about my purpose in the world. And now I think I have the beginning to my note of encouragement…

If you’d like to get involved with First Day NY, please visit their website: http://www.firstdayny.org/

family, gifts, letter, moving, relationships, writing

My Year of Hopefulness – The Things We Keep

I’m in the midst of packing up my apartment. I’m amazed at the stuff I’ve got hanging around – old yearbooks, varsity letters from high school, cards, photos, letters, journals, magazine articles I meant to read once upon a time though for the life of me can’t remember why I was interested in reading them in the first place. It’s amazing what we accumulate.

I have two large closets in my front hallway that I have dreaded packing into boxes. I knew it would be a long, arduous process and therefore put it off as long as I could. Finally, I couldn’t sleep because I was so worried about packing them up so I just got up out of bed and started the inevitable sorting, tossing, and packing of their contents. Some of the memories they contain are painful, though most of them are happy. And thankfully, the contents are so old that my mind has gleefully erased most of the sadness, loss, frustration, and unhappiness that some of their contents used to trigger, leaving behind only the good memories in their wake.

I got my love for cards and letter writing from my grandmother, Sadie. She sent cards for every occasion from birthdays to Valentine’s Day to Halloween to First Day of School. I found a stack of them in one of the boxes crammed into the top shelf of my closet. I’d know that handwriting anywhere. My grandmother passed away 9 years ago, and still I miss getting those cards in her perfect cursive handwriting.

As I re-read the cards this week, I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I kept them. It’s my own little piece of her that I can always have. I hear her voice through those cards and am reminded of how much she loved me and cherished me. It’s things like these cards that have become my most cherished possessions. They didn’t cost a lot of money and they didn’t take a lot of time to create. Their simplicity and heartfelt emotion are the only gifts I ever really needed.

Christmas, faith, holiday, letter

Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

It occurred to me this holiday season that I have not written you a letter in over 20 years. As a kid, I would leave a note for you, with a glass of milk, some cookies, and some treats for your reindeer. I don’t recall any gifts that I specifically asked for, though I do remember how excited I would feel going to bed on the night of December 24th. I would wake up several times during the night thinking I heard the reindeer on the roof, or jingle bells, or footsteps down stairs leaving presents under the tree. Every night in December we would call a special phone number (from our house phone – remember those?) to hear a message from you about what you were working on or where you were at that moment. I believed.

Now at 32, I don’t make Christmas lists any more. I am very fortunate to be able to have the means to get what I need or want, within reason, for myself. However, I do have one request that I am hoping you can help me with that I have been having a bit of trouble getting on my own.

For the new year, I’d like to be able to capture some of that child-like wonder I had the last time I wrote to you so many years ago. I’d like to believe again – in the goodness of the world, in magic, in our ability to do anything we want with our lives. I feel like “No” is all around us. We are strangled by rules and hierarchy and people who tell us what’s the “right way” or the “wrong way” to do things. It seems that we have lost our collective smile in the face of very hard times that will likely get harder.

I’m hoping you can help me be a little bit stronger, a little bit more hopeful, and a little bit more daring. Can you help me take a bit more risk, go out on a limb from time to time, and have more faith in myself and in people in general? I’d like to do my part in the coming year to generate more joy – for myself and in my community. This will take some focus on my part – even on days when I’m down, I’d like to be able to remember to count my blessing, of which there are many. And most of all, I’d like to have the courage to create the life I imagine for myself.

I know you’re busy tonight, with lots of children around the world to visit. But if you find yourself with a small gap of time as you’re flying over the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I’d love to have you stop in for some cookies and milk. Safe travels.  

Love,
Christa      
books, education, letter, writer, writing, youth

A Letter to My Younger Self

I just finished reading “What Now?” by Ann Pachett. It is her graduation speech to the students of Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater. She talks about crossroads and decisions and happy coincidences. It made me think about a book I read about two years ago called “What I Know Now: Letter to My Younger Self” where a variety of women write letters to themselves when they were younger.

I wrote my own letter to my younger self as part of a final project in business school for a leadership class. I realized I’ve never posted it to this blog, and I went back to read it today. Not only is it a letter to my younger self – it’s a good reminder of how I should be living every day. The letter pertains to many of the principles we learned in the class, the main premise being that if you start every day with 94 out of 100 points, the way a gymnast starts every routine, how will you get to 100? This idea is adapted from Peter Vidmar’s, part of the US Olympic gymnastics team in the 1980’s, motivational speeches that he gives all over the world.

I hope you’ll share your letter here as well.

“Dear Bella,
How are you going to get the other 6? Extend for 2. Take risks for another 2. Be creative to get to 100. Decide what about you remains rock solid and what changes you must make if you are to develop the potential you represent. What really matters?

Denial, passivity, collusion, and habits will try to obstruct your path to change. Work through these phases by trusting life, by trusting that when a door closes, a window opens. Change is about loss. It may be years before you understand why some losses are necessary in order to achieve greater wins down the road. Do not fear – help is on the way. Do not wait for trauma, hurt, or pain to make necessary changes; work toward clearly perceiving a better way.

Disappointment is not the fault of others; it is the result of your own premature cognitive commitment. Don’t be so quick to ignore or dismiss the logs and rocks. Understanding their motivations, or lack thereof, will hold the key to your growth.

Be wary of the boxes: those you put yourself in, those you put others in, those others put you in, and those you allow others to put you in. You must decide which boxes hold your truth.

What vision of the future will sustain you through the valleys of your life and then help you climb to the summits? You choose your energy level, enthusiasm, and sense of hopefulness. Trust is gained by behaving trustworthy.

Eliminate “but” from your vocabulary because everything that comes before it is a lie; replace it with the powerful word “and”.

People will tell you that you feel too much, trust too much, and believe in dreams too much. Smile at them and walk on – feeling, trusting, and believing. Because you feel, you think, and therefore you’re unabashedly, delightfully, and magically exactly who you’re meant to be.
Believing is seeing.

Love,
Christa”