Pay it Forward

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While I was still trying to recover from the “storm” of trauma, I often thought to myself, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Later, through much time and reflection, I came to realize that bad things happen to ALL people, just the severity differs. We are ALL walking in this life journey together, and trying to survive. Without seeking help and guidance from another person, our hardships might seem impossible to overcome. We will often feel defeated and depleted.

I’ve been able to grow significantly (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) after my trauma, by extending my helping hands to those currently facing the storm. I’ve come to realize that the key to living a more purposeful life is by using my gifts to pay it forward. I’m going to share personal stories of how I’ve experienced and witnessed another “paying it forward.”

A close friend, of mine, was experiencing a difficult break up with the love of her life. She appeared to be in an emotional battle with herself, and kept questioning what she could have done differently to salvage the relationship. I noticed that she was depressed, and it was significantly affecting her everyday life (not to mention she had children of her own). I was currently reading an inspirational novel, Fierce Hearted by Holly Gerth, and knew that I had to purchase it for her immediately. When the novel arrived, I wrote these words on the inside cover, “You will get through this hard-time because you’re “fierce hearted” and I believe in you. Without hesitation, I visited with her, gifted her the book, and explained how it has helped me with my personal struggles. Two weeks later, my friend was able to move forward with strength and dignity. She thanked and praised me for the wonderfully written novel by Holly Gerth. I was able to share my passion for reading to help a friend during a devastating time in her life. I highly recommend it for any woman needing a boost of self-confidence, or facing a traumatic hardship.

An old friend and classmate of mine, Lauren Starkey, pays it forward each day for her career. Lauren is a certified Music Therapist and works at Ruby Memorial Hospital. She starts every morning, on her way to work, praying for the patients that she’ll be working with that day. She’s given a caseload of about 20 patients that could be on any floor, and facing any trauma (cancer, addiction, etc.). Lauren’s job is to simply play “her” music to help grant patients peace and serenity during various treatments. One patient in particular requested that Lauren write and create an original ballad, with her, to help put her mind at peace. Lauren and her patient collaborated and crafted a perfect and original song together. The patient played the song on repeat during all hours of the day to help her cope with her current situation. Doctors were blown away by the drastic turnaround for this patient and incredibly, she was discharged from the hospital shortly after. Lauren expressed that was truly a rewarding moment for her in her career. Lauren also provides her services to hospice patients, and their family members during the last moments of life. She has witnessed many patients taking their last breath, while standing and playing in a circle with loved ones. Lauren has been thanked on numerous occasions, by family members, for providing them with the opportunity to remember and reflect on the song opposed to the tragic loss of their loved one. Lauren also plays local Bridgeport gigs at Cody’s restaurant on Thursdays. If you or a loved one would be interested in music therapy, Lauren Starkey is open to providing services. Lauren is one of the most inspiring and positive souls that I know with a mission that’s driven to help others.
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God designed and crafted each one of us for a specific reason at birth. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” If we are blessed with natural born abilities/talents and fail to use them, it’s a disservice to not only God and ourselves, but those around us. I encourage you to use your gifts, and “pay it forward” to live a more purposeful life.

Let’s change the world one smile at a time!

✌️💛Leigha

Confidence Tip #1-Physical

Rachel Hollis, NYTimes bestselling author, explains in her newest novel, Girl Stop Apologizing, that Self-Confidence is a SKILL that one is able to gain through dedication and commitment to working on oneself. Many people are blessed with self-confidence at birth, and I truly envy those people. It has taken me about 30 years to develop a strong confidence foundation within myself emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I’m elated to finally share with you my #1 tip for boosting physical confidence.

I truly believe that if you want to enhance your physical confidence, you have to FIRST set a specific and manageable goal for yourself. You also need to plan out a personal schedule for achieving your physical goal. How many hours a week will you work towards achieving your goal? What’s the date or time frame that you want to achieve your goal by?
Buy a Planner from the local Dollar Tree to track each time you worked towards your physical goal. This holds you accountable. It might at first appear overwhelming, but that’s everything you try new.

I ran my first half-marathon in January of this year. The victorious sensation of crossing that finish line, after brutally preparing for three months, was a feeling that I’ll NEVER forget. I truly felt that I was invincible, and could conquer the world. That feeling was so incredible that I couldn’t wait to experience it again(which is why I’m signed up for the Pittsburgh half-marathon in a couple weeks). My plan for conquering my half-marathon goal was simply to download a running schedule off google, plan my weekly runs around my crazy schedule, and track each run in my cheap planner. I also tried to drink as much water as possible. I joined a local running group, Bridgeport Road Warriors, and made many friends which helped hold me accountable. It’s often easy to back out on yourself, but when you’re committed to someone or something, it’s more unlikely.

In less that 6 months, my beautiful Mother lost 55 pounds(more weight than my 5 year old son). Mary Randolph is a 100% full-blooded Italian woman that’s entire life revolves around food. Every single morning at about 6AM for 18 years, my Mother would ask me what I wanted for dinner. My reply would often be, “I want water because I’m still dehydrated from last night!!” Mary is the BEST cook I know, and her food is made with love and passion. How at 65, was my Mom able to change her obsession for food, and lose the weight so drastically? The answer is a strong commitment to the Weight Watchers program.

Mary taught herself how to track every meal using the Weight Watchers Point App. She made sure that EVERY Thursday, she went to meetings, and weighed in at the local facility. Everytime she lost a pound, her W.W. support group cheered for her. She even received pins after each milestone of weight loss.

I’m a very proud daughter because not ONLY was my Mom able to reach her goal weight, but she also walked her goal distance last month. A year ago, my Mom was lucky if she could walk a quarter of a mile. However last month, she walked 3.2 MILES at a local park full of hills. The confidence she gained from achieving her first weight loss goal transferred to her new goal of walking a particular distance. That’s the remarkable thing about goal setting, once you achieve your goal, you keep creating new ones. It becomes a healthy addictive behavior.

Mary is truly an inspiration for others and proof that at 65 years old, you can still achieve your physical goals. Our success stories are a little different, but have two common factors. We both wanted to change something physical about ourselves, and we both followed a simple plan for achieving our goals.

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Imagine what physical goal you, yourself can achieve in three or six months. I can guarantee that when you master this goal, your confidence level will grow tremendously, and you’ll too be hooked on boosting your physical confidence.

Let’s change the world one smile at a time!

✌️💛 Leigha

Count your Blessings

B2BA7AED-6302-4712-9EC9-EE29CEEFD21AIt was a beautiful life. My son was almost two, I had one on the way, a wonderful job and incredible home. I had it ALL and knew exactly who I was at 28 years old. My fairytale life quickly became a nightmare on December 4th, 2015. I went for my scheduled Sonogram to find out the sex of the baby. While I was there, I found out that I was pregnant with Monoamniotic or mono/mono twin baby girls, and one had Anencephaly. The baby with Anecephaly wouldn’t live long after birth, and it was a mystery if the other twin would be healthy. I also learned that I’d have to be hospitalized for two months because there was a high-risk that the umbilical cords would tie, and cut off the blood supply to the healthy twin because both twins shared one amniotic sac. If it couldn’t get any worse, I had to be hospitalized on my son’s birthday. How was this happening to me? I was a kind-hearted girl that did everything right, and bad things like this didn’t to happen to good people. This wasn’t part of MY plan, and I wasn’t in control of what was happening. This lead me to start questioning God.

While I was hospitalized, everyday I had 3 twenty-minute heartbeat tracking tests, constant shots in the stomach to avoid bloodclots, and a picline flush in the arm (precautionary in case of early delivery). My brain quickly became numb, I had no control over my own health let alone my amazing son’s. I felt completely depressed and worthless. The only luxury I had in the hospital was taking a shower, and going to the Main Floor to Starbucks (which I avoided because I didn’t want to see HAPPY people). I felt as though I was a prisoner and was serving a crime that I was being wrongfully accused of, and it was unfair. At a high-risk/trauma hospital they tend to inform you about ALL the things that could go wrong and possible outcomes. The bad things definitely dominated the good things. It was difficult to hang on to a tiny glimmer of hope, for a healthy baby girl, when I had doctors repeating that they’ve NEVER seen a mono-mono pregnancy where both babies aren’t affected (especially if one’s severely sick).

During my stay, I had an incredible amount of visitors. It occurred quite frequently that family members came to visit, and would just cry because they felt remorseful. I would often cry with them. My Sister was my cheerleader and as a Nurse herself, made sure I knew all the scientific terms of what was happening, and how there was still hope. She helped boost my spirits by providing me with scheduled massages, Taziki take-out, pedicures, and even popped in an occasional pregnancy workout video. A close friend came to visit me about two weeks into my hospital stay, and I truly feel her advice, along with my Sister’s motivation, is what got me through that tragic time. This beautiful friend brought me a journal,and shared a spiritual game plan. She informed me that each day I needed to write down ALL of my blessings, even if they were small, and reflect upon them. She advised that I focus on these written blessings everyday,all day, and by doing this, God would direct me to HIS word. Each time I received scary/bad news, it was imperative that I study my journal of blessings. I thought in my heart that it was sweet advice, but a little cookie-cutter and probably wouldn’t work. I was desperate though to try anything! I wasn’t doing anything or going anywhere, so why not?

When I began my blessings plan, I wrote bulleted points that the drink lady brought me an extra soda, and smiled at me. The next time I added a couple more blessings that someone from home sent food, and a stranger prayed with me in my room. By the end of the week, I had full pages of blessings written. When I left the hospital, on March 10th, I had an ENTIRE journal filled with blessings. This very simple task helped me to become happy and hopeful again. I started joking and formed a close relationship with the medical staff, prayed with other patients going through similar situations, and became closer to God than ever before. That tiny glimmer of hope for my healthy twin started to become a DEFINITE precursor of what was to come. I KNEW in my heart that God was going to bless me with a healthy baby girl, despite what the doctors and medical staff prepared me for in the delivery room.

On March 7th at 9:30 A.M., Martina Grace was born HEALTHY with a fierce and ferocious cry. She surprised and shocked the doctors, and everyone in the delivery room that day. She stayed in the NICU for three weeks where doctors ran every test imaginable. Interestingly, the doctors couldn’t find ANYTHING wrong, and were stunned because scientifically it didn’t add up to their expectations. I quickly informed them that it was all GOD, and part of HIS plan for Martina Grace. The blessings list got me through the next hard phase of Martina’s stay in the NICU. I continued to use it when she came home from the hospital, and still use it today, three years later. It’s pretty remarkable that the common cliche, “Count your blessings” turned out to be my saving grace and key to happiness.

If you know ANYONE facing trauma please buy them a journal, and share my story with them. We often feel that it’s best to give our distance and privacy to those facing trauma because we don’t want to say, or do the wrong thing. If it weren’t my Sister and this amazing friend’s advice, I wouldn’t have gotten through what I did, or been able to share my story. It’s our call and duty on this Earth to reach out to those that need us no matter how small or great the need.

” Love one another. As I have loved you.”-John 13:34

Let’s change the world one smile at a time!

✌️💛Leigha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Gratitude

Thank How can we as educators/parents teach our students/children to be kind to one another if we ourselves aren’t filled with gratitude? Gratitude is a CHOICE that is often pushed to the side because of the rustle and bustle in our daily lives. If we want to truly be happy, it’s vital that we practice gratitude each morning. This is a picture I took a couple days ago of the gorgeous sunrise I witnessed, while drinking my morning cup of coffee, before work. I snapped this beauty and sent it to my amazing friend/colleague with a message that read, “This is our morning sign that today is going to be a good day at work!” My coworker, like myself, believes in symbolism and wrote back, “Amen, sister!” Do you know that this particular school day was one of he best I’ve had all year long? My colleague also exclaimed that she had an amazing day! This simple act completely jump started my entire day in an incredible way. My students and children also reaped the benefits because of my CHOICE in gratitude. I challenge you to snap a picture, everyday for one week, that makes you happy. It could be a coffee cup, children laughing, a motivational quote, etc. I PROMISE that a daily commitment to this simple task will fill your heart with gratitude to the top, and your cup will overflow to others you come into contact with.

Let’s change the world one smile at a time!

✌️💛Leigha