Human and Happy

One of my favorite things about Facebook is how I can scroll through my news feed on an ordinary day and unexpectedly come across something extraordinary. As I’m sure you know by now, when that happens I like to share it here. The other day I came across one such extraordinary video and I hope you’ll love it just as much as I do.

Entitled “Human and Happy,” it’s a small project thought up by a group of friends with no agenda, other than to share with the world what makes them human and what makes them happy. In just under four minutes, each person featured is able to offer a mere glimpse of what their life is like. Their smiles are infectious and their stories are honest. Take a look.

Though the stories are presented as obstacles or trials each individual has faced in their life, they are shared in a way that reminds us even our biggest trials are part of what makes us human and, ultimately, they’re part of what makes us happy, too. Simple, yet profound.

In a TED Talk, researcher Brené Brown once said, “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” I think that’s what I loved most about this video. As I watched, I found myself connecting with each person’s story and, in them, I found my own life story reflected back. It’s that personal connection with those around us, each in our individual struggles, that makes life a little better every day, and a little easier to get through. No two people have the exact same story, but each of us can find something in each other that reminds us we’re all human, and we’re all trying to be happy.

As a challenge to myself, I wondered what personal struggle might I have shared. What makes me human? What makes me happy? Life has been overwhelming in general for me lately, but there is one particular trial that stands out for myself. For as far back as I can remember, the one thing I have always wanted to be is a mom. I couldn’t wait for the time when I would have my own kids to consume my days with. Now that I’m here, a good chunk of the time I feel like I want to walk back into my room, close the door, and never come back out again.

Motherhood is hard, even without the added challenges of having a history of depression and anxiety. But I am blessed beyond imagination by the opportunity I have to be a mom, especially to the sweet boy I call son. Sometimes his smiles and giggles are the only things that get me through the day. That, and remembering that one day not too far off, he will find himself facing his own personal demons. When that day comes, I hope I will have given him the tools he needs to look himself in the mirror and find the grace to search out what makes him human and what makes him happy.

“Our job is to look and say, ‘You’re imperfect and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.’ Show me a generation of kids raised like that and I think we’ll end the problems we see today.” ~Brené Brown

This is that generation of kids, and I’m so proud to be witnessing them and their powerful vulnerability. Together with them, we will change the world.

Be good to yourself. Be good to each other.

❤️ 💛 💚 💙 💜

What makes you human and happy? Leave your answer in the comments below.

Sunrise: Robin Williams Tribute

The news of Robin Williams’ death hit me hard. I just couldn’t believe that a talent like his was lost to the world forever; I couldn’t believe he was actually gone. It was the day before my son’s first birthday and it felt like losing a loved one. He was a brilliant man with a singular gift for making all of us feel like he was a close friend, not just another face on a screen.

It’s been more than a year now and every time I see his name on Facebook or in the news for whatever reason, more than anything I wish he were still here, still making us smile. Like many of you, I grew up on his films. He’s known best for his comedies, but my favorites have always been the ones with more dramatic roles, from which there are lots to choose: What Dreams May ComeBicentennial Man, and Hook top the list for me.

I’m sure, then, you’ll understand what a treat it was to come across this tribute to him. I couldn’t help but share it with all of you. It covers the spectrum of his vast career and leaves you wanting more—leaves you wishing more could be possible.

(Take note: Not all of Robin’s films were kid-friendly. As such, there are a few shots in this video that are unsuitable for little eyes and little ears.)

Is it possible to watch that and not be uplifted? I’d love to learn more about KatrinDepp (the talented creator of the video) because she did a brilliant job. And in case you missed it, the song that closes the video will leave you breathless. I’ll share the lyrics here for you (and hopefully you’ll take the chance to watch and listen again):

Saturn by Sleeping At Last

You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.

I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again.
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen.
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time,
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.

With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.

Please tell me I’m not the only one feeling chills.

This talented man died way too young, but he left the legacy behind of being a phenomenal human being. He is someone I aspire to be like. His name will be spoken in my home. He will not be forgotten.

I’m no authority on the man, but if there were one thing I could tell you that I’m certain Robin would want all of us to hear, it would be this: live your life while there’s still life to live. Don’t wait to be the person you’ve always dreamed of being. If you wish to do good in the world, do it. If you wish to have joy in your life, find it—nay, make it. If some days are just too hard and too painful for you to cope with, that’s okay, too. At the end of the day we are, each of us, merely doing the best we can with what we have to work with, and that’s all that anyone could ever ask of us.

Remember: “How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.”

I’ll leave you with the words from the title character of his film Jack:

“…if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky… make a wish, think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”

Be good to yourself.

 

Lucky Fin Project

I will never forget the moment I first held my son in my arms. It seemed like time slowed down after a whirlwind of a day. I looked at his scrunched-up little face in wonder, trying to see who he looked like. I took in the surreal moment and just snuggled up to him, glad to be through with the work of labor. I can say for a fact that I fell in love with him. He was perfect.

It’s hard to describe the next few moments as I held his little hand in mine. My breath caught. His three middle fingers were short and not completely formed. I slowly breathed and prepared myself for the discovery that something was wrong. I looked at Jon, who had been my rock the whole day. I tried to communicate with him without scaring him, but there was so much movement going on in the room that it wasn’t possible. After trying to nurse for the first time unsuccessfully, the nurses took him across the room to weigh and measure him, and I saw them noticing his fingers and taking stock of the rest of him. My biggest fears during pregnancy were being realized, that something had gone wrong and I had no control over it.

After x-rays and ultrasounds and a chromosomal study, we were so grateful to learn that our little boy was as healthy as we hoped he would be. The pediatrician on staff diagnosed it as amniotic band, a condition that restricts growth in utero. There was nothing we could have done to prevent it, and because one of the major complications of amniotic band is miscarriage, we knew we were incredibly blessed.

Fast forward to our move back to California. During his 9-month well baby checkup, we told his new pediatrician about the amniotic band diagnosis and how he had done well with his occupational therapist for six months. She told us she wanted to refer him to an orthopedic surgeon at Shriners Hospital to be sure. I didn’t understand the point, but Jon felt strongly we should do it, so we did. And I am so, so glad.

The wonderful doctor we met with today (whose specialty is the hand – how cool is that?) told us it didn’t appear to be amniotic band at all, but rather something called symbrachydactyly (try to say that five times fast). Right away, this diagnosis made much more sense. For one thing, amniotic band is often diagnosed in utero, and there were no signs of it in any of the many ultrasounds I had (you get a lot of ultrasounds after you go into pre-term labor at 26 weeks). For another, Jack has little nubs with tiny fingernails at the tips of his fingers. Why would those appear if growth had been restricted? By the descriptions I have found online, we now have the correct diagnosis; it’s as clear as day. This condition occurs in one of every 30,000 to 40,000 births. It isn’t genetic, and there are no concerns that his future siblings or children will have it. He’s our unique little boy, but we didn’t need a diagnosis to tell us that.

Let me make it clear here that I have never for one second felt my child was less than whole because of a few short fingers; he has me wrapped around those teeny, tiny fingers of his. But I do worry that no matter what we do to help him know that his self-worth isn’t tied to the size of his hand, someday someone with their own self-image issues will come along and say something to make my son feel incomplete. And that scares me to my core. The thing I have to remember is that if it hadn’t been his hand, it would’ve been (and likely still will be) something else. No parent is immune from this fear. All we can do is try our best to fill our children up with every good thing we can give them and trust that they’ll know what to do with it.

From almost the beginning, I’ve been referring to Jack’s left hand as his “lucky fin,” a reference to Finding Nemo. Imagine my pleasant surprise when my research today guided me directly to luckyfinproject.org. When I saw that search result, my breath caught again, and I cried. From their website:

“Celebrating the wonderfully made one “Lucky Fin” at a time.”

How could you not love that?

The project has three purposes (phrasing pulled directly from their site): First, it creates a support network for parents across the U.S. and around the world. Second, it links parents to medical information and resources. And third, it provides education on limb differences.

You can support the project by making a donation to receive adorable handmade Lucky Fin bracelets or T-shirts. Please stop by their store and consider making a donation. I know I’ll be making one ;) And I would like to publicly declare as a designer that I would love to find some way to participate in this project. If you’re with the Lucky Fin Project and you’d like some new designs, please contact me!

Try

I can’t say enough how much I love this video and the positive body image message it portrays. I love this message so, so much, but it has taken me years to internalize it. I think the change really broke through when I became a mom and I had to realize that the babe doesn’t see the makeup… he doesn’t see my size… he doesn’t realize yet how awkward I can be. And whether or when he finally does see those things someday will be greatly determined by whether or not I allow myself to just be myself, and whether I teach him it’s okay for him to do that as well.

Today I have an assignment for you. First, grab a mirror and take a look. What do you see? Wrinkles? Bags under your eyes? A new pimple forming? Reflect on this thought: “Do you like you?”

Now, watch this video and come back when you’re done. (I’ll wait.)

It’s pretty great, isn’t it? Those women in the video are beautiful. But I’m hoping you realized the same thing I did when I watched it: they’re beautiful because they like who they are, inside and out. They know their worth, and they’re not afraid to look in the mirror and see it. And in doing that something magic happens. They become a source of reflection for us and, in them, we see ourselves a little more beautifully.

Go back to the mirror (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?), what do you see? Those wrinkles signify you’ve lived. Those bags under your eyes, they’re a badge of honor that you’ve struggled and you’re still here. That pimple… well, you’ll have to get back to me on how a pimple can become a positive (you enjoyed those greasy chips with abandon?), but hopefully you get where I’m going with this. “Do you like you?”

Take your makeup off, let your hair down, look into the mirror at yourself. Don’t you like you? Cause I like you.

Be good to yourself.

Adding a little positive to your day, one "bright side" at a time.