Holiday Honor

Community – a vivacious movement of influence that makes us aware and moves us forward

Over the course of my life, I’ve volunteered for many organizations and service projects and enjoyed those opportunities to bring goodness to others.  But, my recent participation in National Wreaths Across America Day was an experience that I’ll never forget.  I’ve heard about it in the news and in conversation in the work social hub (that’s now the millennial version of the water cooler) these last few years, but I don’t think I truly understood the magnitude of preparation and labor involved.  To be honest, I had never even been to Arlington National Cemetery despite my familial roots in the D.C. metropolitan area until a few weeks ago.  In my quest to do more of what I’ve never done, give back, and explore what’s right in my backyard, I decided to donate and volunteer for National Wreaths Across America Day.

On a designated day in December, fresh wreaths are placed on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and other veterans cemeteries across the U.S. to honor those men and women who sacrificed for our freedom.  This effort is organized by Wreaths Across America and completely funded by individual wreath sponsors, corporate donors, and volunteer truckers who desire to pay tribute to soldiers and their families.  The 2015 event was held on December 12th, and there were literally thousands of volunteers lined up to receive the wreaths driven all the way from Maine by a convoy of trucks that would be placed on the headstones.  Enough funds were raised for a wreath to be laid at every headstone in Arlington National Cemetery.  That’s about 400,000 individual headstones!  The cemetery is massive, which I soon discovered after walking about 10 minutes and still finding myself a long way off from the middle point (oh man, my feet!).  It’s huge!  The even bigger moment for me was seeing all of the volunteers from places near and far gathered to share in this orderly act to simply say thank you.  Everything from the smell of the evergreen to the kids innocently playing in the grass while gripping small American flags in their hands was so moving.  And then when you see the wreaths with the prominent red holiday bow lined up on every row, it’s an image that just stays with you.  Participating in this event reminded me of the vigor and grace of a united community.  It made me even more proud to be an American and further appreciate the gentleness of life and this memorial that I drive by every day on my commute to the city.  It was also a delight and privilege to witness the regality of all the different branches of the U.S. military honoring their own.

Most days we probably don’t think about the cost of freedom unless it’s something that directly impacts our family or lives.  But, this event made it very real for me and further demonstrated the priceless value of what we can do when we exercise the power of community.  I extend my sincerest gratitude to our fallen heroes, known and unknown, to their families and friends, to my grandpa and other relatives who have served, and to all those who serve in the armed forces today.

Monday’s Mantra: Give a Gift of Time

Tis’ the season for holiday parties, stocking stuffers, mistletoe, overcrowded shopping malls, and a smorgasbord of baked goods.  It’s hard to believe the time has come so fast, and some of us are probably trying to catch our breath from all of the festive, extracurricular activities competing for our attention.  But, as we move about this week of Christmas, it’s important that we all pause to take a moment to rest and reflect on the true riches of life.

One of the things I love most about this time of year are the various theatrical presentations of the birth of Jesus.  The story itself is full of majesty and power, but it also serves as a reminder of who Jesus is as the Son of God and as a giver to the world.  While we know that He performed many miracles, it’s also important to recognize that He unselfishly gave His time to enhance the lives of others.  Time is something that we all tend to take for granted because we simply assume there will always be more.  But, in the midst of all the holiday frolic, let us not forget to invest our time embracing loved ones, causes, and humanity.  These are the things that truly make us wealthy, keep us humble, and define the love we all declare we have in our hearts.  I suspect that when we give more of our time, we will find that it’s a gift that’s forever priceless and infinitely nourishing to our souls.

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed holiday season!  xoxoxo

Gift Small: Businesses That Bring Me Cheer

The holidays are definitely upon us.  The fresh smell of pine and evergreen makes my soul happy!  Although I can do without the copious shopping ads I’m receiving in my inbox every hour, it’s beginning to feel and look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas to me is about honoring the birth of a Savior who is selfless, faithful, and loving even in this present day. His message encourages us all to live in a way where we can cheerfully give, uplift, and support the needs, dreams, and talents of others as best as we can.  So, in the spirit of this season, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few small businesses created by individuals who I can personally attest are thoughtful, gifted, and inspiring.  I’ve patronized all of these businesses and believe in their vision as entrepreneurs and as givers to the communities in which they live and work.  And while I don’t think that Christmas is all about Santa, presents, and reindeer sleighs, I do think that it’s an opportunity for us to show the small business owners we know and adore that we believe in their dreams and what they have to give back to the world. Together, we can build and spread wealth to our family, neighbors, strangers, and friends.  I hope you will take some time to explore the businesses I’ve outlined below and what they have to offer. I’m proud of all of their accomplishments and look forward to what they’ll do next!

Happy Holidays to all!

Iyabo Alli, Accent Me
Iyabo is a woman of many talents and someone I have the pleasure of calling a dear friend.  Somehow between her responsibilities as an engineer, health coach, and model, she also makes customized bracelets for her jewelry business.  Each of her bracelets are unique to the individual(s) who will wear them because they are designed to represent personalities, promote unity within an organization, and/or bring awareness to a philanthropic, health, or social cause.  I have no idea how many bracelets I have accumulated at this point, but one of my favorites is pictured below with minty green beads!  To browse other designs and/or order a custom bracelet, you can like Iyabo’s Accentme Facebook page or contact her directly via e-mail.

Elaina & Alysia Bright, Skin Scholars
I still remember the day when Elaina & Alysia eagerly committed to this venture.  Their zest for creating pure and fun products has not wavered. As sisters who love nature and value the authenticity of ingredients in their rawest form, it’s no surprise that they have developed a skin care line made only with what your skin needs.  I’m a regular user of the The Healer Salve and the limited edition Gingerbread Body Polish.  Both of these products have helped to keep my skin supple and moisturized and are gentle enough for daily use.  There are a variety of other products to choose from that make perfect gifts for family and friends.  You can check out Skin Scholars at the Arlington Holiday Bazaar this Saturday, December 12th or order online at any time on their website or Etsy shop.

Kimery Williams, LeMark Photography
As an event planner and my particular love for visual curators of all kinds, I’m always scouting for uniquely skilled, personable photographers.  Taking a photo is so much more than pressing the shutter button on a camera.  To properly capture the creative and emotive essence of people and events, you must be able to genuinely connect to those from all walks of life, adapt to distinctive qualities of individuals and environments, exercise a considerable amount of patience no matter the client or situation, and quickly negotiate postures and props for a quality photo.  Kimery does all of this very well and with an exceptional level of professionalism, which I think is partially attributed to his studies and work as a soon to be criminal defense attorney.  I had the pleasure of working with him for a personal photo shoot this year that was relaxed, delightful, and even educational. It has also been exciting to see the results of his shoots with several of my other friends and colleagues. To view his portfolio and schedule a session for you or someone you love, you can visit his website.