Hope Warrior- NY Smile Movement

Browsing through #randomactofkindness (RAK) on instagram one day and I came across @nysmilemovement. A whole year of RAK’s documented. How cool. And what an impact they’re having! From leaving lottery tickets in grocery stores for strangers to find, to volunteering to pet sit, to giving away arcade tickets, smiles and hope in humanity are being shared everywhere, Join in the movement! Get to know a little more about Alex and a little more about Alec below, and then find @nysmilemovement on instagram and @ROCsmilemovement on twitter! And then go spark some hope with your own SmileMovement! Let me know what you do in the comments!

How did you come up with the idea for 365 days of Random Acts of Kindness?

Earlier this year I saw a couple of inspiring posts throughout the week on social media and spent some time pondering the effects that such kind deeds can have on the world…I thought up my first idea soon after and decided to attach quarters, with kind notes attached, to vending machines at a Tops market near my house.  The joy I got after seeing the “free candy recipients” post a picture of their combined smile to my feed was so contagious I couldn’t stop!  I then made a personal goal to perform the 365 days of Random Acts of Kindness and the rest is history!  

What project/activity has impacted you the most so far?

I can’t choose just one so I’ll give you my 3 personal favorites! 

1) I got contacted by a mother who really wanted to give her son WWE tickets for his birthday.  I had just sold the tickets however, but had an opportunity to win another pair that night if I somehow won another 16 person competition at the nearby bar that night.  I ended up winning the whole thing and surprised the mother, and her son, by giving him the tickets for free on his birthday! 🙂 Seeing his smile was absolutely priceless.     

2) Shoveling out cars on my street for 2 hours after a snow storm so my random neighbors could get out easily in the morning 🙂 Actually putting in all that sweat and effort for others felt great to know I saved each of them that task. 

3) Personally Messaging all 700+ of my followers has been amazing so far.  Spending the time to view most/all of the pictures on each account and tailor each message to every person has brightened dozens of people’s days.  I approached this with the mindset that “You never know quite how rough someone’s day/week/month could be and how much that person could benefit from the tiniest thoughtful gesture of kindness to show you’re thinking of them”.  I’ve connected with 230/700 people so far that I’d normally never interact with otherwise.  Of the people that responded, SO many of them said that I had made their day and that “you have no idea how badly I needed this…thank you”.  Over and over I’ve seen that response this past week and it just reemphasizes how important such a small gesture can truly be.  On top of that, I’ve gotten to know so many of my “followers” that I’ve never talked to before and have found many things we share in common after lengthy convos.  It. Has. Been. Great!! Can’t wait to conquer the next 2/3 :] 

Rules to live by?

I grew up with the golden rule and have been stickin’ to it ever since (thanks Mom haha).  Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.  It’s that simple! 

Quote you turn to when you need to be uplifted:

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”. 

Music/Song:

“Don’t worry, be happy” 🙂 Also, Funk. Funk warms the soul and gets the people movin’! haha

Activity that lifts your spirits:

Random acts of kindness ALWAYS lift my spirits whenever I’m having a crummy day.  Putting a smile on the face of a random person, or even a friend/family member, is priceless.

Your philosophy/mantra that you’d like others to know about you.

For so many years of my life I never truly understood the power, and meaning, of giving with the intention of getting nothing in return.  Now, that is how I live my life.  Many of the RAOK I do, I don’t even get to see the reaction of the people who end up receiving them.  I just try to do everything with strong faith that they’ll reach a person who needs it, (hopefully) appreciates it, and (hopefully) pays it forward.  I believe in “creating waves”.  The power of the ripple effect that follows from a single good deed can be tremendous!  The best part?  We all have that power!!

What would you do with a million dollars?

I’d travel for awhile and then invest a big chunk into my big RAOK career idea that will be very well spent towards inspiring & uplifting the country if it all pans out! To be continued… 🙂


Who do you admire?

I admire anyone and everyone in this world that lives their life with undeniable passion working towards their dreams.  Anytime I see someone like that I admire their drive and it reignites the fire in me to keep doing the same!

What is your mission?

A huge goal of mine is to inspire people across the country to start their own “SmileMovements” in every state.  I want kindness to become such a common gesture that it’s rare to see someone not smiling!!

My mission is to make my stamp on this world by doing everything in my power to make it a happier place to live.  One small act at a time.  One small city at a time.  One state at a time.  One Country at a time.  Bit by bit I will be spreading kindness and inspiring people to pay it forward as long as I live. 

 

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WORLD IBD DAY- Hope in the Beatles

In honor of world IBD day and in honor of my 28th trip around the sun today, I’m reposting one of my favorite posts about my IBD story. I will never forget how this disease makes me feel. I will never stop being grateful, and letting others know they aren’t alone.

Been doing a lot of listening to the Beatles and anything on the Beatles Pandora station lately.

Here Comes the Sun always brings me to tears. Good tears. Something about the smiles returning to the faces, it seems like years since they’ve been here. I can feel that. And it’s such a good feeling.

Man, this last month has been…not describable in one word. Not really describable in one post either, which is why I haven’t been sitting and writing lately. Shame, shame, for I really wish I would have documented more. But I remember. I remember sleeping, or trying to sleep sitting propped up on my mom’s couch with a million blankets, only to throw them all off of me to sprint to the bathroom 6-7 times a night. Laying there with my hands hovering over my stomach, praying and pleading with God to make the cramping pain just stop so I could sleep. I remember feeling such loss and loneliness every time my boyfriend would go home after coming to visit me, just wanting so badly to feel better and be there with him, helping him with the purchase of our new home and packing and moving and just wanting my life back.

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

I remember the look of exasperation on my mom’s face when I wasn’t getting better, and the look of love as she made all of my meals to try and get some nutrition in me, and her talking to me about how important it is to have faith, and God would get me through this, He would answer our prayers. I remember her sitting in the car and praying with me for good news before we went in to my colonoscopy. Praying for answers, for results, for improvements. I remember her telling me that I will get better. That I’m an overcomer. And telling me it’s okay to cry. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. I remember her packing my hospital bag, buying random items from the gift shop to make me smile, taking care of my dog and bringing me water or pedialyte or blankets whenever I needed it.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

I remember my dad sitting by my bedside in the atrociously uncomfortable hospital chairs. All day. Every day I was at the hospital that he could be there. Even when I was just sleeping. I remember how tired he looked. How he drove around aimlessly and prayed for answers, and pondered unanswerable questions with me. What causes this disease? Why do I have it? What are we going to do about it? When am I going to be better? How can we get other people to understand this? What’s the bigger meaning beyond this? I remember him going for walks with me down the hall, and joking with the nurses.

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

I remember the nurses. The good ones mostly. But I also remember the one that blew up my vein when giving me a steroid infusion. And the one that said I was admitted for IBS. (IBS and IBD are two different ailments, one is a syndrome and one is a disease with no cure). I remember Jim, my favorite night nurse from  my first hospital stay at the beginning of the month, making jokes and giving advice on how to talk to the doctors to make sure I was heard. I remember on my second hospital stay, him coming to tell me hospital ghost stories and making jokes while I was getting emotional from the steroids and just not having any answers or improvement. I remember my favorite day nurse Jannell with her poufy hair and outspoken voice, telling me that I was one of the sickest patients she’s ever had, calling me Jack and telling me stories. I remember waking up to her Sunday morning telling me I needed blood asap and we were going to be doing a blood transfusion today. I remember being scared and sad and she told me everything was going to be okay, that she would be here the whole time and that I had choices. That it was going to be a good thing and she would be there the whole time.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

I remember the changes in the medications. The discharges. The parasite. The antibiotics. The stomach acid burning. The we’re going to do remicade. The no we can’t do remicade until you’re stable. The phone calls from my doctors cell phone that I needed to make myself available to be admitted to the hospital. The colonoscopy that was useless because I was too inflamed. The TB test that was incomplete because I didn’t have a baseline to compare it to my immune system was so shot. The chest x ray. The blood draws. The IV team being called because I have terrible veins. Baby needles. Poke after poke after poke after poke. The waking up to check vitals. Low blood pressure, high heart rate, danger of organ failure. Blood loss. Cramping. Tears. Weight loss. Worry. Treatment plan change. New doctor. Infectious disease specialist. Lifelong medications. Steroid infusions. Steroid pills. Night sweats. Sharing a bathroom with other patients. Not making it to the bathroom on time. IV poles. Unable to stand in the shower on my own. Passing out while buying dog food. Collapsing on the stairs into the house when my legs gave out from under me. Shaking. Scared.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

I remember the night my boyfriend came to visit me at my mom’s house in the evening. I remember when he looked me in the eye and told me “I need you to get better. Now. I miss you.” I remember his text messages telling me that he was always going to be here, that even though I am sick now, and not to undermine my illness, but this is part of life and we will get through it together. That he’s going to be there for me in the good times and the bad. That we’re a good team and when one of us needs the other one to be strong we balance each other out. I remember getting strength just from holding his hand. I remember just being held in his arms when I was able to move into our new home. Just being so grateful to have time together, to be able to have our new home, to relax and to heal and to make memories and be together. I remember sitting outside and crying just tears of joy at how lucky and blessed I am to be here and able to experience these moments of love and to just feel happiness.

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear

I remember the prayers. I remember my grandma coming to visit me at my mom’s house and crying on the couch with me. I remember her telling me that she does her walks in the basement and says her prayers. That she won’t stop, ever. I remember my aunts sending prayers and prayer chains and being on church lists. My grandma’s brother even did a whole sermon on me. I remember the novelas, my grandma praying every hour on the hour for my healing. Saying she won’t give up. I remember the prayers and visits and emails and texts from wonderful friends that I now consider family, bringing laughter and cheer and Golden Girls cards and books and magazines, and just checking in daily to see how I’m doing, sending pictures and memories past to bring smiles. I remember the encouragement from social networks, people I have never met before praying and sending kind thoughts and positive vibes. The power of prayers. And they were answered.

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
It’s all right, it’s all right

I remember getting discharged and my mom wheeling me out to the car to my waiting dog, and how he put his head right on my shoulder and just hugged me. I remember being weak and unable to walk through the grocery store, riding an amigo to get food. I remember sleeping and sleeping. I remember the first infusion. And the naps afterwards. And the feeling better the next day. Feeling stronger every single day. Doing a little more each day. I don’t want to forget it. I don’t want to lose sight of the beauty of this life. Because it is so beautiful. There is so much to be thankful for. I know that sick days can come again. I don’t have control over when this can happen. It’s not my plan, it’s His. But I do know that what I can do right now, is shine like the sun. And share love. And light. and hope with the rest of the world. Because it’s there. You just have to believe it.

Here comes the sun. It’s all right. 20140531_210240

 

Hope in Being a Warrior

“I am not the victim of the world I see.” 

-A Course In Miracles

 

I haven’t posted much in the last week because I was scared I’d start delving into the negative instead of staying above the water. I refuse to become a victim of this disease. I would rather be a survivor. But it’s been challenging this last week. So I’m going to acknowledge these negatives as what they are, and move on. Ignoring them is not good, and dwelling on them doesn’t do anything either. So bear with me as I exhale and let out what’s been going on this last week. I promise it will end on a light note.

 I had one full day of work on Wednesday but was unable to attend any of the other days since last Thursday when I left because I almost had an accident. I work in a call center and if I have a sense of urgency, it’s not simply so easy to run to the bathroom when someone is on the other line and you can’t place them on hold. In that instance, I made it but I went home immediately after. I’m scared for Monday. I’m starting to feel a little better and the bathroom trips are lower, but it still scares me. It felt like failure. I’m a good worker. I can do my job well, and I know I have opportunities for advancement. But I have to take time away for myself to heal, and because I am incapable to doing my job fully while I’m flaring. It felt like weakness. Aside from the embarrassment of letting it all go with a coworker in the stall next to you. But I’m pretty much over that. Judge me, please. At this point, grossing someone out from the symptoms of my disease is barely a blip on my radar. Yeah, I’ll blush and be embarrassed, but I would never wish this on them. So let them think whatever they so chose.  

This is the first time I have ever been this sick. There has been blood in the toilet for the last year, but the bleeding and cramping and weight loss and sever flare has never occurred until these last 3 weeks. So the reality of it all has hit.  I have an autoimmune disease. My body attacks itself, in my case my large intestine which causes it to inflame and creates bleeding ulcers. I have a leaky gut and my body is having a hard time absorbing nutrients. I’m on hospital watch until this Thursday, if I show any declining further in health I am to go straight to the emergency room. Talk about scary stuff. And the steroids that I tried so hard to avoid are part of my hope in healing. My back and hips ache like I have the flu and I look like a ghost. However, the emotions are not as bad as I thought they would be, so far at least. I cry at commercials, or songs, but I haven’t over-reacted or had any rage attacks. I cried for a good thirty minutes the other day, but I would call those legitimate tears at the frustration of this disease, not steroid induced. 

I haven’t been able to get out and do anything much beyond going to the grocery store for toilet paper and soup bones or going to my moms. I’m scared to go out further in public because my auto immune system is shot. My roommate has been sneezing and I’ve been spraying lycsol on every surface I can find. I’m terrified that a cold will send me to the ER. I had to cancel tea with friends for the same reasons, also due to the fact that I need to be near a bathroom at all times. Or at least near enough to run to it. Like I could run. My weight hasn’t been this low since middle school. My boyfriend says you can’t see it, but he can feel it when he hugs me. Just a little more bones. 

So, what do you do when you look in the mirror and just see a sick person looking back at you?

You see something else. 

Yes. I have an autoimmune disease. But I am more than my disease. 

I am strong. This disease will not keep me down because I am a fighter and I will keep getting back up. 

How am I fighting? 

I’m resting. I’m reflecting. I’m researching. I’m accepting. I’m changing. 

I took the time I needed from work to allow my body to heal and to avoid as much stress as possible. This is not weakness like I wanted to think originally. This is empowerment. I acknowledged that my body was not capable in that moment, and took the time away to allow it to heal as much as possible. This will allow me to come back and continue to do my job well instead of making myself worse. This is okay. 

When I was told that I am on hospital watch, it was shocking. I knew I was sick, but hadn’t really accepted it until that point. After being sent straight to the lab for testing, I went home and did a little reflecting on myself. This is real. I’ve made some adjustments over the last year to deal with this disease, but at this point, I need to say goodbye to my old lifestyle and start opening my heart to a new one. I spent that evening praying. Perhaps this is my second chance to do whatever it is that I’m supposed to do while I’m here. Perhaps this is my reminder that I’m here to share love with the world. It’s my second chance to do what I was made for. To fulfill a purpose. Perhaps the path I’m taking is the wrong one and I need to hop off of it for a while. Perhaps there are many better things waiting for me to discover. 

So, I’m making some small changes and doing a lot of reflecting. i’m saying goodbye to the things that don’t serve me any more. To taking days for granted.  And I’m saying hello to good health, to love, laughter and happiness. I’m saying goodbye to being a victim, and I’m saying hello to being a warrior. I know this won’t be easy. It will take constant effort to remind myself that I am more than this disease. I am not just an ulcerative colitis patient. I am a young woman who enjoys being with friends and family, practicing yoga, helping others, playing and snuggling her dog, reading, writing, exploring, learning and so many more things she doesn’t know about yet. And yes, I happen to also be battling an autoimmune disease. . 

How do you keep your disease from defining you?

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Hope In the Battle

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Yesterday started beautifully. I woke up with energy, took my yoga mat out the back porch and spent a good hour flowing and connecting. I had plans to get some grocery shopping done for the SCD diet and do some packing/purging of items in preparation of the move, as well as to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. I was happy, blissful, and feeling like the medications were finally working. Around one in the afternoon I lost my energy, and the evening ended/proceeded with the worst episode I’ve gone through since my diagnosis.

This is the thing with ulcerative colitis. It challenges you. It wants to beat you.

It says “Try to keep that same blissful feeling,” and laughs while inside the pain is so intense you’re whispering profanities to yourself and squeezing your wrist just to bear through another cramp.

It dares you to not be frustrated when you have to cancel your shopping trip with friends because you haven’t been able to go more than a couple hours without an urgent bathroom trip.

It taunts you to feel energized and get out of bed in the morning when you were up every few hours the night before, rushing to make it to the restroom without waking anyone else up.

It tries to steal your confidence when you look in the mirror and see this gaunt, ghostly figure with dark circles looking back at you. It laughs when you step on the scale to discover you lost another 2 pounds overnight.

It smiles when you still have a terrible taste in your mouth after brushing your teeth and sees the tears in the corners of your eyes.

It wants you to feel the shame burn on your face when you stand in line at the pharmacy with your preparation H wipes and sensitive toilet paper and the clerk tries not to make eye contact.

It may try, but it doesn’t have to win.

There’s always another way to look at things. I’ve felt the worst that I have in a very long time over the last 24 hours. My bathroom trips are in the 12-17 times per day. Everything hurts. I shed a couple of tears of frustration this morning.  That doesn’t mean I’m weak. It doesn’t mean I’m broken. I’m battling. I’m still here. I can fight back. Here are some of my strategies for the war tactics of UC.

The pain is temporary. When it seems overbearing, I try to distract myself with other thoughts. Read a book. Set some goals. Count the tiles on the floor. Make plans for the new house. Hum a song. Think of something better than this moment.

Good friends understand when you have to cancel plans. Start planning another trip. Or a movie session. Or just text. Whatever I can manage.

Don’t make it the disease’s choice whether I sleep more or get up. It’s my choice. It’s not “the ulcerative colitis” that kept me in bed. It’s that I was tired and needed more sleep. Or I’m taking it easy today because I’m exhausted. My choice. Don’t give power to the disease.

Forgive myself for having the ugly thought. It’s not true and it’s not helping anyone to feel sorry for yourself. Yes, this sucks. But I have the power to choose how I’m going to feel about it. Put on a little makeup, and a smile, and you’re good to go. Maybe do a face mask or paint your nails. Show yourself some love. Don’t let this steal your joy. What do you really want today? How can you make that happen?

If the tears come, let them. This is hard stuff. You’re going to be sad. You’re going to be frustrated. Things aren’t going to go your way. Life is not as you knew it before. But you have a choice. You can react in a manner that makes it better, or you can make yourself feel worse. Let the tears fall, then figure out what you’re going to do next and move on.

We’re taught not to talk about our bowels or anything that comes out of them. It can be embarrassing buying preparation H and soothing wipes and keeping it all in a cupboard with your enemas and rectal suppositories next to your boyfriends cologne. Those shameful terms are ones that no one wants to hear or have talked about. But talk about it. Make jokes if it makes it easier. If you keep it to yourself, the disease will stay inside you. The more awareness the better. One of my favorite quotes from Jillian Michaels “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” You never know, something you say might inspire more research, might reach someone who is alone in this disease, or may bring some insight to someone who has no idea what an inflammatory bowel disease does.

Ulcerative Colitis can try to steal my dignity, my confidence, my strength, and it can try to do a lot of things to break me down. But it won’t win. I have hope. I am strong and I am determined to beat this.

I don’t know what brought on the extreme episode. Possibly the piece of Guyere cheese. It was on the SCD safe list, but the extreme pain started after that. I’ve decided to add dairy to my list of restrictions and move forward. I just ate some homemade chicken broth, said a prayer, and am waiting to see how that effects me. Other than that, it’s just been water today.

One foot in front of the other and you’ll keep moving forward.

Hope in Miracles

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“Even miracles take a little time.”
The fairy godmother herself.

I started my miracle journey a few days ago and already am noticing all these good things in my life. Ironically it has been one of my most painful weeks with the dear friend ulcie colitis cleaning out her house again and just creating chaos. But, as I begin to consciously choose love over fear and realize what moments are not created by love, life becomes more beautiful.
Sometimes it just takes a fairy godmother to remind you to be a little patient, and even a pumpkin can be a beautiful carriage.