It took me 38 years to figure out that I need to be working with my hands every day.
I studied journalism at Northwestern and pursued a career in magazine editing in New York, but I never felt I was truly myself all those years. I’d always had creative hobbies—painting, interior design, knitting—but they were always just hobbies. And I’d always felt an enormous, guilt-driven responsibility to continue with my journalism career. It was my job, after all. I had gone to an expensive college to pursue it. How could I waste my professional contacts?
Then one Christmas I decided to make jewelry for gifts, and I couldn’t believe how much fun it was. I was thrilled to get positive feedback from my friends and family members, who told me that I had a knack for it, and that I should consider selling my designs online. Of course, my first instinct was to say, “I can’t do that.” There’s such a glut of jewelry in the market. What could I possibly contribute? But the more I thought about it, the more excited I became.
Once I decided to officially pursue my own jewelry business, friends bent over backwards to help me. My friend Kathleen’s husband, David Maloney (www.ocomolo.com), generously offered to design and manage my web site. Through David I met a fabulous local photographer, Catherine Kiernan, who offered to barter with me. (Thank you for your support, Catherine!) Another friend, Jen Hurley, also takes fabulous pictures for me. And I’m grateful to all my delightful, good-natured friends who have agreed time and again to be my models, devoting big parts of their day to smiling for the camera. Some of these dear people have even offered to host jewelry parties to get the word out. Thank you!
I feel lucky that it only took me 38 years to figure out that true joy—for me—comes from working with my hands. What a simple thing that is! It’s not rocket science! And yet for so many years I had ignored this creative compulsion in myself and tossed it aside to the relegated “hobby” pile. I thank God that I had the courage to look at myself and re-evaluate my goals. I thank God that I felt brave enough to pursue this dream, despite the fact that it’s a “long shot.”
When wise people say it’s the journey, not the destination, I finally get it! Every day I feel such joy as I sit at my dining room table and create jewelry. There is joy in every step of the process! I’m not sure where it will lead. I do have a few long-term goals. I’d love to be able to donate a portion of my profits to a special need. (I’m still working on the profit part!) But I truly believe that by pursuing something you love, and infusing everything you do with love, you will bring out the best in yourself and others, and ultimately bring good to the world.
Listen: Jen Conroy on Bloom Talk
Jen’s Website: www.JenConroyDesign.com
I published my first book, There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose, when I was in fifth grade. The teachers in my elementary school asked me to speak to their classes about how I pursued my dream of publishing a book. At the beginning of my talk, I asked the kids if any of them were interested in writing, and a few shy hands raised. In contrast, at the end of my talk when I asked the same question, nearly all the hands in the class shot up. The students told me they didn’t know that kids could be writers. They didn’t think of writing as something that could be fun or empowering.
Writing and reading have opened the doors to so many amazing opportunities in my life: a scholarship to attend college, a semester studying abroad in England, a trip to New York City to be a guest on The CBS Early Show. Not only that, but writing gives me a healthy outlet to express my feelings and connect to other people.
I started “Write On! For Literacy” in 2001 to encourage kids to discover confidence, joy, a means of self-expression, and connection to others through reading and writing. My website www.writeonbooks.org features writing contests, book reviews, fun writing prompts, and more. I still frequently visit classrooms to speak to kids about my writing journey (another published collection of short stories and a novel followed There’s a Huge Pimple On My Nose) and I teach a Youth Summer Writing Camp every year in my hometown of Ventura, California.
Perhaps my most rewarding project is an annual Holiday Book Drive that I started to collect and distribute new books to disadvantaged kids who do not have many books of their own. More than 11,000 books have been donated to date.
The biggest lesson I have learned is that it is okay to start small. The first year, my Holiday Book Drive only donated 125 books to the local Boys & Girls Club. Still, even small acts make a difference, and small acts often snowball into amazing contributions bigger than you ever dreamed.
What is your passion? How can you use what you love to help others? Get friends involved. Spread the word to your community. Overwhelmingly, I have discovered that people very much want to help, but they don’t always know what they can do. If you can supply a meaningful avenue for people to help, they will join your cause.
One of my favorite quotes is by legendary basketball coach John Wooden: “Make each day your masterpiece.” Don’t wait until next week or month or year to make a difference. Start small. Start today. The most important thing you can do is begin!
SEED for SUCCESS: Be positive, Love life, Organize, Own your life, MOVE FORWARD
“Start small as small acts often snowball into amazing contributions bigger than you ever dreamed.”
Dallas Woodburn is an award-winning author and journalist whose work has appeared in Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, The Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. For her volunteer work, she has been honored with a national Jackie Kennedy Onassis/Jefferson Award, a Congressional Award Gold Medal, and most recently a “Best of You” Award from Glamour Magazine. Learn more about Write On! For Literacy at www.writeonbooks.org and http://dallaswoodburn.blogspot.com/
As a lively tap dancer with the Blossom Tappers (love that name!), Louise lives life to the fullest and proves that age means nothing.
There are not enough hours in the day for Louise Cavallaro, age 81, to do everything she wants to do. But she makes sure she fits in dance practice, classes and performances with the Blossom Tappers, a senior women’s tap dance troupe she joined over 20 years ago.
“I loved ball room and square dancing with my husband. But when he died I was looking for something to do.” Ironically, while at probate court for her husband’s estate, Louise heard the tapping of feet across the hall. It was the Blossom Tappers, originally called the Orange Blossoms, and she immediately joined up.
The Blossom Tappers, currently ages 63 to 87, tap their way into everyone’s hearts, most recently performing at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven CT. Louise and the troupe were also invited to be the first senior group to take a workshop taught by a former Rockette and performed at Radio City Music Hall.
So I asked this peppy senior, what gives her such a zest for life? “I’ve always had a get up and go personality and also take kickboxing and aerobics. I don’t think about my age. Until last year, I never stated how old I was in years. But, my daughter recently said I should be proud to be in my 80’s and so active. So now I am proud and reveal my age.”
I also wanted to know which Seed for Success was important to Louise in her journey through life. “Owning my Life was something I had to learn. I was always a daughter, student, wife, mother and widow. I was so busy being all of those people, I didn’t have enough time left over for me. Now I found me…the person inside of me who does her own thing.”
Louise’s advice on how to bloom at any age. “Just be yourself and never give up. Always take a new path. I follow what my father taught me. The most important thing you learn in life is what you learn after you think you know it all.”
“How can I leave my job?” became “How can I stay?” when Deb Gillap-Bassler realized she needed a career change. Here’s Deb’s story of how she followed her passion …
Wow! I often think my life has been incredible. I have tried and enjoyed many occupations from fitness instructor to personal chef, marketing executive to interior designer, with an office overlooking the Statue of Liberty to a bullpen shared by 100+. The good, the bad, the ugly. It’s been really hard work because the pursuit to create the life I’ve always wanted has finally paid off.
I fell into marketing, suggested by a headhunter. With no other clear path and a good salary, why not try it? But it took so much work for me to be okay at it. Recognized for my loyalty and commitment, I still never really measured up with my peers. I was forever the square peg in the round hole.
A decade into my marketing career, I was still struggling with my role there and a lack of inner comfort in performing the job well. My job paid for the American dream - a house, a nice car, savings, etc., how could I leave? But the question clearly became, “How can I stay?” Read more
Ann McDonnell overcame a health challenge as she followed her dream.
Stricken with Croan’s Disease at 25, Ann found herself in the hospital and unable to hold down a 9 to 5 job or any structured job. But, that didn’t stop her. A former model always in love with healthy skin, she followed her dream and founded Ecogenics, a natural skin care line made with active botanical ingredients. She also created a healthy lifestyle to manage her illness by eating very healthy foods and reducing stress through meditation.
Ann planted her Seeds for Success to love what she does, organized her life and then made it happen!
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I’d love to share an email I received from a busy mom who started to Bloom in so many ways.
A little background first. Jennifer signed up for a BloomStorming session because she was struggling with a full plate of responsibilities but wished to carve more space in her life for things that really mattered, like volunteering as stage mom at her daughter’s dance recital. She couldn’t understand how to manage everything going on in her life and be available to pitch in back stage. Surrounded by guilt “weeds” for not feeling she was someone who could do it all…career woman working full time, loving wife and the best mom to two small daughters… she was stressed and stuck.
We discussed how she could get over the guilt and make her wish come true Read more
As an avid tennis player and mom-on-the-go, Chris froze every time she had to dash off the court in her tennis skirt and out into the cold outdoors to get the kids or be somewhere on a schedule. “There wasn’t enough time to go into the locker room and get tangled up in sweat pants and sneakers and be where I had to go.”
That’s when Chris thought up the idea of a warm skirt with an easy Velcro closure that she could toss over her tennis duds in a flash. Read more
Jennifer always loved to write. As a child, she would spend time copying special poems and sayings into a notebook and kept a detailed journal of a 6 week trip to Italy when she was just sixteen. And even though she pursued a technical degree in college and landed a corporate job, her work always involved some type of writing.
As life went on with career demands and starting a family, her passion for writing was put aside. But that all changed a few days after her son Christopher was born when Jennifer decided to write about her experience from the first labor pain to bringing the new baby home. Once she started writing she couldn’t stop and chronicled every milestone, every event, every new activity and life event that happened in her child’s life. Read more
How does a six figure television producer from the City step into the shoes of a suburban history teacher? The journey doesn’t happen overnight but it’s actually easier than you think if you Love What You Do.