a girl and her purpose

The other day, in moment of lamenting to my husband that I had no purpose in life, he looked at me and asked the foreboding question we all wince in pain when asked; “Laura, if you could choose to be or do anything, what would it be?” Ummmm… Pain… agony… I had to stop. Think. Ponder and twitch my lip into a thinking pose while glancing up toward the ceiling.

I had no answer.

And to the non-answer, came his reply, “You have raised two beautiful girls. You are the owner of a small business. You have traveled far and wide. You love adventure and most important, I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for you.” (yeah, he’s pretty awesome like that!)

With this little verbal interaction, I found myself thinking about what I had accomplished in my lifetime, searching deep inside to see if there was something missing. Is there still something out there that I need to accomplish before I get too old to get out of bed? – Which on some days, doesn’t seem too far off!

They say that when you face a tragedy in your life, you have flashbacks where memories of childhood and young adulthood suddenly burst before your eyes, taking you back in time.

Is it possible to have these flashbacks even if there isn’t catastrophe awaiting you around the corner?

And… is it safe to say that it is ok to have memory flashbacks, even if misfortune hath not besought thee?

Later that evening, I asked my own self the question, “Laura, when you were a little girl, what did you dream of becoming when you grew up?” You know, others can ask you that question, but it isn’t until you are in a quiet place – like the bathroom – that you really stop to seriously interrogate yourself and it really hits home! “What do I want to be when I grow up?” And even worse… here I am in my final year of the 40’s, and I still haven’t figured it out!

Why am I here?

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What is my purpose?

In 2004, I accepted a job with a company that toured across America. It was a special live event tour that ministered and communicated hope to women from all over the world. It was an incredibly fun job and during the twelve or so years I traveled with them, I literally met thousands of women. Since I worked for the tour, it seemed to the attendees that I had a special gift of having everything all together and found myself in a place of motivating and doing my best to inspire women when I myself was wallowing in pity and extreme lack of self-acceptance. In spite of my tragic emotions, I put on a happy face and offered encouragement to all who crossed my path.

The thing that I noticed the most about these women is that most were finding themselves standing at an intersection in life and they all had similar things in common with each other. They were all 40-something or older. Some were facing divorce, while others; a second or third marriage. Some were becoming empty nesters with the changing of seasons as their baby headed off to college. Many were already empty nesters. A few had lost everything due to poor financial decisions and one lady, in which I will never forget, lost her son to prison after he was found guilty of murder. The thing they all had in common? They had no idea what to do with their life. They had given everything to their family, husband or job and now, they were finding themselves in a place where they were no longer needed to the extent the past had held them so captive.

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While scrolling through social media the other day, I came across a Facebook Live posting by Brene’ Brown. I stopped to listen and even though I can’t remember everything she said, I do remember this quote; “There is power in owning our story. If we own our story, we get to write the ending.”

I began to think about this quote from Brene’, and the thought of purpose seemed to slap me upside the head – as we say in the south.

Our story is our purpose. It’s our story that inspires others and changes the way we look at life. It is the actuality of who we are and the roadmap for others who are following close behind.

Our story is our entire existence and it is our entire purpose. Not only do we need to own our purpose, we need to be able to write the ending by finding that purpose. By realizing our story, we find purpose. 

So, what is your purpose? What is mine?

I took a moment to look up purpose in the dictionary. Purpose is a reason for which something exists, or is done. It is an intended or desired result, a goal. It is determination and resoluteness, and finally, my favorite, it is a practical effect.

Forget about everything you thought you knew about purpose and think about this one thing… Purpose is my story. It is the story in which I am the author. Since I am the author, I get to write the ending. And… in the end, my purpose / story is the practical effect I have on others.

It is my determination to travel and see the world. It is my purpose to help those who are in need and lift up my family when they need me. It is my purpose to be the best co-worker or CEO the company has every experienced. It is my resoluteness of power to inspire others and be kind to everyone I meet.

When we can focus in on our day-to-day purpose and find joy in it, we can then find purpose for our future. What we build up in our lives today is building purpose for our tomorrow and that gives us the ability to write our story and have an unbelievable ending that causes others to then find their purpose and write their own ending.

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Have you found your story? If so, write and tell me about it!

a girl and the end of an era

When I was thirteen years old, my mother married a man from Orlando. I hated him. He was not welcome in my life. My biological father had left us a few years prior to this union and since he was a painful memory, as far as I was concerned, no man could ever be a dad to me. Not only that, this man was also taking my mother away from me! How dare he.

As an extremely overly dramatic teen, I threatened to run away; so armed with peanut butter jar in one hand and a change of clothes in the other, I stormed into the bathroom. The fear of not knowing what to do next changed my mind and I took the peanut butter back to the kitchen with defeat. 

In the midst of all my issues, I began to see that this man was the real deal. He loved my mother with crazy love. In fact, he cherished her. And in loving her, he loved her children. In spite of my hatred for him, he decided to make me his daughter, and I began to love him and call him “Dad”. (Pictured below is my dad in the 90’s – center – and all of us siblings! He went to his place of peace in June 2010. And oh how I miss him!)

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One of the amazing things about my step-father (turned Dad) is that he worked at Walt Disney World, back when there was just Walt Disney World – as in what they now call “the Magic Kingdom”. No Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney Tokyo or any of that… Just WDW. Disney World. As a buyer, he was tasked with the duty of buying the materials to build Epcot.

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After a long day at work  he would come home with blueprints of the planned park and would ceremoniously roll them out on the kitchen table. All of us kids would eagerly gather around as he would point out all of the areas under construction, telling us what the buildings meant and how they were ideas of the future. Sometimes he would have samples of the building supplies that went into the building of the structures. I’ll never forget him bringing home plastic fish eyes. They were the eyes that would go into the animatronics for one of the shows. He had bought those eyes. I was so proud. 

The best project he worked on was Space Ship Earth. You know, the big ball in the front of the park? Well, each of those triangles are individually placed on the sphere and was at one time an element of imagination, measurement, purchasing and construction. My dad was the one who read those plans and blueprints, then worked with builders to create them. For some, this may be trivial, but to my family and I, it is a legacy. 

Another project he worked on was The Universe of Energy. This incredible, futuristic ride was an innovation in energy technology. It’s roof was covered with 80,000 photovoltaic solar cells that help power the ride. It featured a newly discovered Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy and was a thirty-something minute long wonder ride that included dinosaurs and creative filming techniques only to be seen in a Disney park. 

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I remember riding the ride before it opened to the public and the pride my dad had as he  explained what everything meant and how it was built. It truly was an amazing event… In the eighties. 

Time has marched on. It is now 2017 and The Universe of Energy still welcomes visitors with dreams of technological advance in the world of solar, hydro-electricity through tracing the history of our use of energy. 

Last month, I heard that The Universe of Energy would close its doors, developing a whole new ride experience, and although I had not been in the pavilion for over ten years, I was appalled! What? This is part of my childhood. It’s part of my legacy! My dad helped build that ride!

So, a week before it closed, I decided to visit The Universe of Energy one last time. To my surprise, there was no picket line. In fact, there was no line at all. It seemed no one was even interested in going on this ride. We walked right into the show where Ellen in all her fashionable eighties hair and style greeted us on a screen larger than a two-story building.

Somehow, I didn’t remember the acting being so bad and the fashion so dated. The storyline was flat. The futuristic technology had bloomed and was now the past, and the cinematography we once thought “before it’s time”, was no longer breath-taking. And you know the 30-something minute wonder ride I told you about? Well, it was 30-something minutes of boring! Outdated and obsolete. 

As I walked out of the building, I realized that it’s time had come. In fact, it was probably overdue. It is an era in my life, but it’s an era that severely needed updated. 

Life has a way of out-dating us, just as theme parks and amazing one-of-a-kind rides. We experience something and place the memory in a special vault, making it a legacy in our lives. Sometimes the memories are good, sometimes bad. We don’t visit it, we just keep it tucked away. Remembering it.

I recently had a conversation with a man who was innovating an incredible invention that could possible change so much of the way we do things in this era. He began to tell of a family owned company that was built by a fore-father and was stuck in the past of what the father and grandfather had invented. The company was suffering due to the lack of vision. They could only see what they had done in the past and were stuck on re-creating the grandfathers work instead of learning from the former and reinventing into something that was relevant for today.

This made me think about my own life and other women who I speak to-day in and day out. Am I holding onto something in my past that is keeping me from moving forward? Is it possible that I could let go of some things in my life and I could re-invent myself to be a better version of the past?

What is holding you back from being what you want to be? What memory or experience has created such a strong legacy, that you can’t move forward? We have such dreams of being “more than we are”, or “doing something bigger than me”, but where do you begin? How do you get there?

Take a moment to re-visit the memorial of an event, career, decision or even a friendship. Is the initial memory keeping you stuck in the past, unable to move forward? Maybe it’s time to, not tear down the memory, but evaluate and reinvent it into something better.

I am reminded of a lovely quote I read by Bryant McGill. “You have to make the decision to let go of the past if you want to move forward… If you look at today through the eyes of the past, you can never see what the present moment has to offer.” 

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Note: On July 15, 2017 Walt Disney Parks confirmed that the Universe of Energy will close on August 13, 2017, and be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction.

a girl and her thrift shop

I absolutely love shopping thrift stores. There. It’s out. My confession is one hundred percent complete. When I go into a thrift store, I am lost in adventure, wonder and history. Seriously, they are probably the most fascinating, common, everyday places in the entire world.

I spent most of my teen-life shopping thrift shops due to being the oldest of six siblings, living on a single income. My mother taught me the value of  recycling fashion and how to wear it, out of necessity. What she didn’t know is that in doing so, she was teaching me how to source for a future life, business and hobby.

A few years ago, my passion of shopping thrift stores led me to create an online business. Within a few months, it grew from a hobby to a full-time “job”, funding vacations, education, mission trips, groceries and more.

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When I first began my little shop, it was all about the money. I won’t lie. I was seriously motivated by how much I could make. I would buy a handbag for three dollars and resell it for thirty. In some cases, I would pick up a dress for a dollar and resale it for two hundred dollars! The money made off of someone’s cast aways would make my head swim and it was so fun. How excited that I could do what I love – Shop! – and make money.

With the growth of my business, I began to get more involved with social media. I learned how to hashtag and create interest to keep others coming to my shop. This created more income and excitement. But it also began to slowly change the reason why I ran my little boutique. I began to glean followers who were recyclers and keen on ethical fashion. They shopped reclaimed fashion because of a conscience, not because of the price or label. It made me stop and think about why I do what I do. And deep inside I, too, had a reason.

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My personality is strange to some in that I am extroverted, but at the same time, a loner. And for a moment of transparent vulnerability, many times it is because I fear rejection. I fear abandonment. The very thought of being nice to someone and having them snub me makes my stomach turn to knots. So, to counteract this, I remain aloof and private. You may see me acting like the life of the event, all fun and crazy, but at the end of the day or by mid-party, I am done and ready to get away and hide.

Going back even further in my life, one would see my father disappeared when I was eight and then by nineteen, we were burying him. Thus the fear of rejection and abandonment. This is a real issue in so many lives and it is still evident in mine, even after all these years. The thing that helps me is that I recognize and deal with it face-to-face. Every single day.

You are probably wondering “what in the world does this have to do with thrifting?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Thrift stores are giant warehouses for cast aways. People, especially American’s – sorry to say, and yet calling it as it really is – are fickle. We see something on TV or something our neighbor/friend has and we covet it and eventually purchase it.  Once it is purchased or obtained, it is no longer an object of desire and within a certain time-frame, it is no longer wanted. It is discarded and cast aside, making its way to the Goodwill or charity shop.

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We often treat people with this same mentality. We look at a relationship or person and long to “be their friend” or spouse, forsaking all else. But as soon as the relationship goes just a wee bit south, the object of our desire is tossed aside. Rejected. Abandoned. Maybe there is a small place where the friendship unraveled, the way the yarn on a sweater pulls to create a hole. Or perhaps a moment of intimacy is lost the way a button fell off a shirt and disappeared. Maybe an unkind word was spoken and we no longer feel the liaison between the two of us are in fashion or on trend. So, instead of mending the hole, seeking the lost button or recreating a new trend, we toss everything aside. Then, go on a search for its replacement. Only to have the cycle continue, the same way we consume and discard the things we simply do not care to invest in anymore.

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Going to the thrift shop began to change as I thought about these things. In the housewares department, I see a crockpot without a lid or a coffee cup that has a faded picture. Over in decor, a couch has lost a leg and a wall picture has a cracked glass panel. The Michael Kors top color is no longer trending and those pants… well, the wide-leg is no longer acceptable in any kind of posh fashion society. They must be tossed. We obtain. We cast aside. We obtain. We cast away. Possessions. Food. Relationships. And so the cycle continues.

They say that “one man’s trash is another’s treasure”. And that is basically what I do with my little business. I go out and find things that others have cast aside and bring new life to it. And something amazing happens! I get emails from buyers thanking me for the item I sold them. I can’t count the messages I have received where someone had been looking for a particular item for years! When the garment had first been made available, it was sold out or it was unaffordable. The buyer had been searching for it and found it in my shop. Or, a few times I sold a children’s book that an adult had when they were a child and it was lost in a fire or maybe tossed in the trash.

Now when I go into a thrift shop, not only do I see days gone by, the history of a newlywed couple who outgrew the four place setting that was gifted them, or the bed set of a child who loved Barney and Sesame Street. I see shirts without buttons and dresses with a few stitches of the hem unraveled. And I see someone searching for these things. Looking high and low for that which was cast aside, longing to give it a home and ratification.

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So, the next time you are going through your friendship closet or just your clothing closet, think about how you can repurpose or “save” an item you have cast aside. Maybe it’s worth saving. Maybe it’s ready for a new life. Just stop and think about it before you toss it. (Note: this blog is not to serve as a pardon in becoming a hoarder of relationships OR stuff.)

p.s. all photos shown above are my thrift store finds – except the humans.

 

light it up!

We, as in my family and I, have been pretty blessed to be able to experience adventure, risk, opportunity and some pretty crazy stuff. We have traveled like gypsies, eaten like kings, lived like paupers, struggled to make ends meet and laughed like those cute little babies gone viral on Facebook.

The other day, my husband had the opportunity to show off a helicopter he flies to a group of special needs kids on a field trip at the airport. I am not sure who was more excited, the kids or Ty. He is truly in his element and has found his calling in life. But while showing the helo, one of the teachers came up to me (I was there to act as a safety guide) and began raving about how great our life must be and how she wishes she could have our life. This is not something we haven’t heard before, but her gushing was a bit on the “ok, I got it” annoying side as it just went on and on.

As I walked away, I felt a bit sad for the lady. She seemed to enjoy her job, but I wasn’t convinced. As I reminisced the chance meeting, I now remember her being distant from the children. Non-engaging. In fact, she spent most of her time talking to me, never hearing the squeals of excitement from her students as they “got a picture with the pilot” and sat in a helicopter for the first time.

 

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Our story, although seeming exciting and unbelievably fun, did not come about on a whim. The amount of sacrifice and tunnel vision we have put into our lives has made us independent. Sometimes without close friendship. Poor. Life-time home renters instead of owners. Not having a hometown. At one point, having to rely on friends for shelter when we had lost everything we owned.

A friend of mine came over to my house the other day for visit and a laugh or two. After awhile, she looked at a couple of candles I had on my table and she said, “Laura, why haven’t you lit these candles?” And then, glancing around the home, she spied a few other candles I had not lit but were just on display. My answer, “they are for decoration.” To which she replied, “girl, light those candles and enjoy them!” I love that girl.

I started thinking about my unlit candles. They are kind of like dreams and wishes. They sit on tables and counters, looking so pretty. We love the way they look and smell, but we never light them. Our dreams and wishes just sit there. Looking pretty. Creating conversations with our peers and friends (and sometimes strangers) about what we want to do, or who we want to be like. And yet, the dreams remain unlit.

So, Bridget. Today I lit those crazy candles!

If you have a dream. You want to go somewhere. Do something wild. Create a new way to do something. Travel. Become a shop owner…. What ever it is, you can do it! Instead of looking at your wish/dream like it’s a decoration, light it up!