R-E-S-P-E-C-T

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Respect. This word is specifically important to me this week, as I’ve seen examples of it all around me and witnessed situations where I saw great respect and places where I wished I saw more respect. It’s amazing, because like many things, I feel respect is something we learn as we grow up. What do our parents, teachers, role models, heroes teach us about how we should give/take respect? Whether it’s respecting ourselves, others, our job, our relationships, our property, our hearts, etc. we’ve learned what we give and what we accept from somewhere.

Growing up I was taught to always respect myself and others will respect me. This came from my family and my karate academy, which taught me how to carry myself and how to put positivity forward. Of course, you can’t control others and their upbringing, but if you emulate that you accept nothing but respect, others will only give that to you.

When you experience disrespect, that’s where you need to step back and evaluate where that person or situation stands in your life. Meaning, is this something worth salvaging, or am I showing this person/job/relationship that I’m accepting of their actions and think I’m deserving of them. We all have someone in our lives who may have shown disrespect, but they’re deserving of our understanding and discussion to make things better– I’m not talking about these people. This would mean we’re all perfect, and I know we’re not (as a 25 year old, I still get the respect speech from a parent every so often).

I think what I want to focus on mainly, are the people/relationships/job/situations where we are continually not getting the respect we deserve and are putting up with it. We’re displaying the message I WILL TAKE WHATEVER YOU THROW AT ME and leaving these moments feeling less than what we deserve. I have so many places in my life where I feel respected so much, that it’s easy for me to spot when I’m not feeling that in a specific situation or moment. Not all of us are in this boat, but nonetheless YOU deserve to look into these areas of your life and demand better.

We all deserve healthy environments where we feel respected, and furthermore, where we DEMAND respect, by the way we treat ourselves and encourage others to treat us. Are you strong enough to let go of the disrespect in your life? And can you identify it? You can!.. And you owe it to yourself to do so.

Respect yourself, and each other.

Aurora

Cancer: Reflection and Hope

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This week is particularly one that is reflective for me because it has a sad theme of cancer surrounding it. Sunday night I heard of an old acquaintance who passed after a long, painful battle with cancer, and he was only 27 years old. This deeply saddened me, as I knew he was once close to a dear friend of mine, and I was worried about her, but it also reminded me of our own mortality. As we spoke on the phone I asked how it is that we are so lucky? Cancer, as it has proven time and time again, has no M.O. It doesn’t target a specific person, nor are there many indications of who will and who won’t have it. Of course there are preventive measures for some cancers, but many creep into individuals lives, completely unexpectedly, and face them with the most challenging battle they will ever fight in.

This lead me to think about my amazing friend, Moira, who was taken from us a year ago, having suffered from many forms of cancer at once. Again, a beautiful, driven young woman, who never expected the disease and one day was hit with the most terrifying news of her life. After a long, painful and trying battle, we said goodbye to Moira last March and it was the first time I was personally affected by losing someone close to me with the disease. It’s painful to think about even now, because the beautiful memories and great times you had, are jaded by a bitterness that you feel for that person being taken so soon.

And the positive way to look at this is that these people are brought into our lives for a special purpose. We learn from them, love them, and now know what it’s like to care for someone so deeply that it hurts you to watch them suffer, and then sadly, pass away. I believe that Moira made me a better person, and that my friendship with her is something I will keep with me always and treasure.

I have known from a young age just how brutal cancer can be, as it has taken distant relatives and even found its way to my parents, who amazingly were able to beat it and are now healthy and cancer free. This is where my passion comes with volunteering and working with many cancer organizations. This is where my inspiration for THON came in, and how it literally SAVES the lives of children with cancer (thank you Penn State). In addition to this organization there is Relay for Life, American Cancer Society, St Jude’s, Target House, etc. which I like to stay closely involved with and support. These organizations raise millions of dollars a year and help fund treatments, support and research to one day DEFEAT cancer, so it can no longer take the ones we love away from us.

Cancer makes me appreciate life and those who were brought into it, even if it was for a short time. I know that I’m honoring Moira, my parents and those who have fought by continuing to fight for them; for a cure. That being said, cancer needs to end. The continued support we all give is what has the power to make it go away. I live for the day when cancer is one of those diseases that WE found a cure for, and that no one loses their life to anymore. For our kids, grand kids, the future… I hope it’s an old, distant memory that they never have to know the wrath of.

With a heavy heart this week,

Aurora

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Paying It Forward (and Upward!)

It’s a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and I can’t help but reflect on how great this week has been so far. The kind words of someone you know (or don’t) can carry enough weight to make a significant difference in your life. Let me elaborate; Have you ever done something good and wondered what its effects would be or if the good deed would be passed on to someone else? Does it actually happen?

A few months back immediately after the tragic events at Sandy Hook, I joined the “26 Acts of Kindness” pledge that swept the nation. In this, you committed to performing 26 random acts of kindness, inspiring the person interacted with to pass it on and brighten someone else’s day. I instantly wanted to be a part of this movement and started to come up with ways in which I can add some sparkle to someone around me, whether I knew them or not. I spent the next few months doing small things like: paying for the person behind me while getting my morning coffee (I did this 5-6 times, I’m an avid coffee drinker and support those who are too!), cleaned off the random car next to me after a snow storm, let an elderly shopper in front of me in line and helped her unload/load her groceries and my favorite, was when my boyfriend Joe and I left a $26 tip on our $30 bill at dinner. This moment is particularly special to me, because the server chased after us to say thank you and Merry Christmas!

We began doing this at work as well, and some of my team members went above and beyond with their good acts. One put 26 candles and kind messages in random mailboxes around the neighborhood, another adopted a stray dog from Hurricane Sandy, one organized a snowflake drive for handmade snow flakes to be sent to the kids of Sandy Hook as they transitioned into their new school… (My Target team is amazing!!) just to name a few.

While doing these 26 Acts of Kindness, you should try to educate the person you’re helping and encourage them to pay it forward. For example, this is what we wrote on the receipt to our server.

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The act of Paying It Forward is something I’ve always held dear to my heart, so when I knew it could benefit Sandy Hook victims and commemorate them in an amazing way, I was immediately inspired and wanted to spread as much positivity around this as I could. Around this time, I posted a lot on my Facebook page about how I would Pay It Forward and challenged my friends to do the same. Well, when I received this text on Monday, my heart melted.

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So the answer is YES. To the fullest extent to what is possible, yes. Whether its the same day, the following week, months later or years long after you’ve forgotten, good acts do get passed on and people want to Pay It Forward! It humbles me to know that we are all capable of making a difference. And while those military men make sacrifices everyday and would give their lives for our country, Angela made a significant difference in their day, and I have full faith that they’ll Pay It Forward the way she did.

So truly inspired. Pay Your Sparkle FORWARD to someone,

❤ Aurora

Attitude of Gratitude

I feel like a major theme of a lot of things I discuss is strongly focused around the subject of gratitude. Meaning, overall attitude; is it thankful, appreciative, is there acknowledgment of the good things going on in our lives, or the things given to us? Do we take a second and be thankful for all the things going right, or can we only focus on what we don’t have or wish we had (more of)?

It is always easy to see and complain about what it is that we don’t have. Right?

I read the quote a long time ago, and each time it pops up in my life, I feel like its for a reason…

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How spot on is this in many of our lives? It’s so easy to complain about how we don’t have enough of what we want, or aren’t happy with aspects of our lives. The challenging piece is recognizing it in the moment and changing our thoughts. We can control what we have and don’t have, but it’s socially acceptable and normal to voice what you’re unhappy with, rather than praise all the good things going on.

I feel like this is particularly hitting home for me now, because I have so much to be grateful for yet I find myself focusing on the things I want to change in my life, and areas where I feel like I’m not good enough. The truth is, I am good enough. And I know this, but it’s the negativity and stress of everyday life that makes us all question ourselves, what we know we’re good at, our intentions, our capabilities, and so on and so on and so on.

So I’ll end by saying that I’m grateful for my relationships. All of them. I’m gracious that I am related to some of the most supportive, amazing people I’ve ever met. In addition to my family, I’ve formed friendships and bonds with other people in my life that lift me up and motivate me to become a better person. They say, you are who you surround yourself with, and if that’s not enough to make me grateful, then I don’t know what is.

Sparkle on, you!

Xo Aurora