Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Utilizing My Talents For Good

I have always had a passion for helping kids in Foster Care!
At 26 years old I started volunteering as a Guardian Ad Litem, representing kids in the foster care system. I then got on the Board of the Guardian Ad Litem Guild to help recruit and retain more Guardian volunteers.

But I continued to see so many needs for kids in foster care going unmet. About a year later, I decided to create a non-profit to fill those needs. It was called For The Children.

Over the next 5 years we did a lot of great work to get kids adopted out of foster care, to provide backpacks filled with necessities for kids who are immediately placed in foster care, we assisted in building a clothing closet and held a clothing drive to fill it. And with a partnership with the Junior League, we created a Basic Needs Fund.

When I was planning my return to Tampa, I wanted to get back involved with helping this population. ~ But I didn't want to create another non-profit.  I believed there were some great organizations out there that were already doing great work.
I wanted to see how I could get involved, maybe rally some people to collaborate, and assist a non-profit in making a bigger impact.
Shortly after arriving in Tampa I saw an article in the local paper about an organization called Social Venture Partners that was doing just that!
SVP is a national organization that started in Seattle in 1997.  The chapter in Tampa Bay was fairly new, only forming in 2013, but it joined a global network of 3500 partners aligning passion and purpose.  It sounded like my kind of group!
What I loved was their business model and their focused areas of assistance being kids in foster care, homelessness and education.
I immediately reached out to them to learn more.
After a few meetings I decided to join ~ just as they were about to decide on the second non-profit they would help.
Out of the 3 organizations that presented I was drawn to Ready for Life - a non-profit that helps kids aging out of foster care, provide them with services and tools they need to succeed.
I wasn't the only one impressed.  It was a huge landslide of the partners voting in favor of Ready for Life.  
After the vote, while sharing cocktails and celebrating the decision, the Executive Director of SVP approached me about taking on the role of Co-Lead for Ready for Life.
I was hesitant at first because of the time commitment, but my heart kept pulling me towards a "yes." 
I also could see the impact that I could make by taking on that role.
Several months later, we have put together a Work Plan/Set of Goals for this year and it is going to be exciting to see what gets accomplished!
The Executive Director of Ready for Life is amazing, the two founders/board members are entrepreneurs so I  clicked with them immediately. I liked all the members of their Passionate Board and the staff is inspiring!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Recharge With a Staycation

Have you ever been pushing so hard that you realized you never took a vacation to recharge?

Last year I was so focused on getting away from my house in New Jersey any chance I got, that during many of the holidays I would figure out ways to "get away."

Then once I came back from Spring Break last April and put my house on the market, it has been non-stop every since.

I spent the next three months organizing all the pieces to move us down to Tampa.  I packed up our whole house by myself, and handled all the details of bringing in a renter instead, and then made time to say good bye to all our friends and family.

By the time I got into our car, after the moving van was loaded up, Zack and I were ready to go!!  

I then drove us all the way down to Florida in a couple of days.  

When we finally crossed over the border into Florida, and I turned over my car keys to the valet at our hotel I was exhausted.  It took me three days to just decompress and then another 3 days to gear up for driving another few hours to our rental house and going through the whole process of settling in.

Our rental house is so comfortable and has a pool that it hasn't even felt like I needed to get away.  And with family visiting we've enjoyed spending time with them.

Several times Zack and I planned to head down to the beach for the day but we were either too exhausted or didn't feel up to it.

It was only last week when I totally hit a wall and didn't feel like doing anything, that I realized I haven't had a break since last Spring Break.

While hanging around the house can be relaxing and is a way to regroup.  My problem is that my office is there and I have a tendency to check e-mails, go follow up on something or start working on details.  Also, being at home there is still laundry, dirty dishes and items to be picked up. 

I can never totally "check out."

So Friday morning I dropped Zack off at school, grabbed a coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and my beach chair, and I drove down to the beach.  

I suddenly realized how much I loved that drive, almost as if my body sensed that I was heading to the beach and a calm started to over take me.

Once I dropped my chair on the white sandy beach, right near the edge of the ocean, I felt relieved.

I spent all day staring at the waves as they lapped up on the shore, heard the caws of the sea gulls on the breeze and allowed the sunshine to penetrate my soul.

While I was sitting there communing with the ocean I had an idea and called over to a local hotel in Tampa that I love. I wanted to book an overnight on Saturday, after Zack's soccer game. 

Come to find out I had enough points accumulated that the overnight was FREE!  Didn't that reconfirm to me that it was Exactly what we needed to do.

After soccer, I threw our clothes in an overnight bag, drove down to have lunch by the water at Bahama Breeze and started enjoying our Staycation!  

At one o'clock we pulled up at the hotel and even though we probably could not get our room until 4:00, I was hoping my luck would continue and we could check in early to then change and head out to the pool.

Sure, Mrs. Serebin we do have a room available with a Bay view right now for you!

Thank you so much!!

Zack and I spent the rest of the afternoon out by the pool playing football and having cocktails.  Later we took the elevator upstairs to the hotel restaurant that night for dinner, and didn't get back into our car until we left the next afternoon. (after more pool time of course!)

Getting away from the chores, the responsibilities and the computer, while spending quality time with my son was priceless.  It also helped me clear my head and give me that recharge that I so needed.

Before we left, my son stated that it was his "favorite hotel!"

Everyone wins.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

Where is God?

After the announcement of the Death of Prince yesterday, his lyrics about the After Life peppered social media.

Reflections are also given to the fact that since the beginning of this year we have witnessed so many famous singers and musicians all passing away before their time. Some have suggested, is God forming a rock band?

According to a survey taken by PEW: 55% of Americans said they think about the meaning of life at least once a week!

When we stop occasionally, and look around at our crazy world and how, at times, it seems to become more negative and fear based, those thoughts have us looking to God for answers, for support and for some sort of confirmation that He knows what's going on.

We Hope that He Has a plan for all this.

Maybe all the craziness and the fact that we are losing loved ones at earlier ages......has us drawing Closer to God for answers?

I was watching the National Geographic channel the other night as they have a series running right now called "The Story of God, with Morgan Freeman." I love Morgan Freeman as an actor and I'm sure most people can name at least one of his 45 movies.  The Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson pops to mind right away. So I was intrigued.

When I looked up this program online the reports say that The Story of God is one of the highest-rated programs in the history of the National Geographic Channel!

And what about our books and movies?

Where faith based movies were only produced by smaller studios and didn't get much attention, now we have big production houses releasing movies like "War Room" and "Miracles From Heaven," which are getting a lot of media attention. 

One book that has topped the Best Seller list in non-fiction since the middle of January, "When Breathe Becomes Air" is a memoir about a doctor with Stage 4 cancer, who ultimately passed away.

Christian Faith books have experienced the most growth at 11.3% between 2009 and 2014.  

People are looking for answers, inspiration and Hope.  What is our purpose here on earth?  

And when our loved ones leave us ~ do we.....go to the "After world.....A world of Never Ending Happiness?" 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Give Yourself a Break

2 1/2 years ago I ran the Marine Corps Marathon with my sister and brother.  Five hours without stopping.  Then after I came back from Washington, DC I got caught up in Jeff's health crisis again, as well as starting a new consulting job.

So running got put on the back burner.

Then during that first year after, running and speed walking would happen in spurts because for me, running is as much mental as it is physical.  I couldn't seem to muster up the energy.

My body, all fit and lean from training for a year was No Longer.  

And I got so busy packing and moving us down to Florida that my energy was sapped up.

After getting settled in Tampa, I started working out with a trainer to get back into shape.

But with the pressures and stress of building a foundation for mine and Zack's future, it drained most of my energy!  Although......I continued trying to push through.

Right now I can see where I can make improvements on my physical.......and I will!

I just have to remind myself that it's OK to go through this phase......Be Easy on myself ~ I can't do Everything!  But that can be hard for me to accept sometimes.

I keep saying......The physical will come.....and mentally I will get back into that training mode.

To motivate myself, my sister and I signed up for a Half Marathon in October to celebrate my birthday.  It is a worthy goal, and it gives me enough time to train.  

All in good time! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I'm Coming Out

Yesterday when I was in the car with Zack, driving back from a Tampa Bay Rays game, Diana Ross's song "I'm Coming Out" came on the radio, and it had me reflecting.

My journey of life has been very interesting.  

When I think about my life in Tampa years ago, I was so entrenched in business, building up the non-profit I created to help kids in foster care, and constantly entertaining clients.

Then after moving up north, due to many different dynamics, I almost wasn't the same person I used to be.  I have looked back over time and felt like I lost a big part of myself.  And now I realize it wasn't lost, just maybe hidden away.

As I have moved back to Tampa, I find I am rediscovering aspects of myself that I haven't seen in a very long time.

When my friend Diane, was here visiting in February, she said I am this new and improved version of the Tracey she knew.  And this is probably true.

Even during my previous life in Tampa there were parts of myself that hadn't had the chance to bloom ~ some negatives even then were holding me back.

I feel like I am in the blooming stage of my life right now.

I'm Coming Out! 

As if layers of an onion are being pulled back to get to the heart of the real me.  

Even the other day, another piece of me unfolded and I was like "Wow! I remember that part of me ~ it's been a long time!"

I still see aspects that are fertile and ready to grow, to become stronger and shine.  In another 6 months or a year.........I look forward to seeing who I become!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Stop Looking Backwards

I know all about Leaving the Past behind, Living in the present and keeping my eyes towards the future.  Those statements do resonate in my brain as true.

But yesterday, I had a Realization hit me that resonated with me Emotionally.  And the emotional side is what has to buy in to believe it, and achieve it!

I flipped over to look at pictures of Jeff on my phone and I stopped myself........a thought hit me ~

Stop Looking Backwards ~ There is Nothing There!

I kept looking at a ghost ~ remembering good times ~ wanting the other parent to help me with Zack ~ and envisioning a partnership.

But that doesn't exist any longer.

I am HERE ~ he is not ~ and if I want a personal relationship, someone to have fun with and possibly help me parent Zack.....I have to look in the present and towards the future!

The Past is Gone......

And again ~ Mentally I know that ~ but emotionally it had to sink into my heart.

It's time to put the ghosts to rest. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Release the Negative

I believe that trauma can attach to your body and become part of your DNA, and must be released.  I have known so many people who held on to negatives from their life, or kept emotions bottled up and those negatives ended up manifesting physically.

I feel that is what happened with Jeff, when he developed melanoma. He had a lot of issues from his past that he never seemed to let go of, and when he stuffed them, those emotions found their way out in different ways. 

The doctors told me that his case of melanoma wasn't passed down genetically, and he was rarely in the sun.  When he was in the sun he was usually wearing a t-shirt.   

When you are running like a maniac with no time to stop, no time to think of yourself, or make time for yourself, and you are constantly stuffing the stress, it will catch up to you.  

I can remember sitting in the hospital at the end of Jeff's bed, a few days after checking him into Hospice and staring at him laying there, acknowledging that he will never wake up from the medicine they were giving him.......each time they tried, he would start to seize. So now he was resting.

But for me ~ My whole body was on fire.......I sat there realizing that everything I tried to do and all the efforts that we made, had not changed the outcome and NOW there was nothing I could do.

I couldn't sit there any longer, I had to leave!!  My body was screaming for help. I had ignored myself for too long.

My body needed relief, immediately.  I began running through my mind, where could I go to get a massage, and try to eliminate at least the top layer of pain from my body.  

I left Valley Hospital and drove over to the Fountain Day Spa, walking in to the reception area, almost in tears, and asked if they had someone.....anyone who could give me a massage.

Luckily, one of their massage therapists just had a cancellation and she could take me right then.

Thank you God!

On her massage table I broke down in tears........I had been holding in so much....for so long.

When I left, my body wasn't on fire any longer.......but I was still in pain.  I bought a hot healing neck pillow to put in the microwave and wrap around the area that seemed to hold on to stress like a vice.

Over the next six months I made a conscious effort to get a few massages and release the pain, stress, anger and sadness from my body.  I could not allow my body to break down, my son needed me.

The other day I went for a 90 minute hot stone massage to have the hot rocks penetrate deep into my tissue. I asked the masseuse to massage my scalp and release all that I have been holding in my head.  

Those massages have helped me clear my mind, provide me with the self-care I need, to do all that I have to for my son and for our future.

Are you taking care of yourself, and releasing the negatives from life, so that they don't manifest physically?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Anniversaries Are Hard

Whether the Anniversary was of a good day together or a bad day, both are hard to deal with.

Memories of both swirl through my head.

Yesterday, it was a mix of both ~ thinking back to 2 years ago and all of what we went through when Jeff was so very sick........and the end.  Each hour, and event, plays like a movie in my head.

But then I reflect on the fact that he is NOT sick any longer ~ He is free and happy in heaven and wouldn't want me dwelling on when he was sick.

Then my thoughts flip over to when we met......the good times we had.....and so many memorable times that we shared.

I also think about the times Jeff has reached out to me to let me know he's here and he's always around us!

That brings me comfort.

It doesn't eliminate the sadness, but it does ease the pain.

Today, I pulled Zack out of school because both he and I needed a mental health day.  In my heart I wanted to head to the beach and commune with the ocean, but after a fitful sleep and a couple of bad dreams, both of us didn't have the energy for the drive.

Its better to ease through the day rather than fight the emotions.....or the memories.  Hanging out by the pool and being together is what matters. Sometimes you just have to check out!

We loved him and he is missed!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Now Is The Time

I have spent Many Winters up north cooped up inside, while my soul yearned for running outside in the sunshine, going to an outdoor Super Bowl party, sitting in the stands of the Phillies and Yankees Spring Training games, and walking around the many festivals and outdoor fairs that were going on in Florida.

I would watch my friends and family having a life ~ Living and Laughing ~ while I got by........until the Spring and Summer, when the weather would soften up and welcome me outdoors.

My son would run around in the house diving for balls and pretending he was playing football outside.  That energy needed to be unleashed outside, on the grass, in a wide open field......all year long.

No more time to waste.......time is of the essence.  It is time to live, experience, enjoy and blossom into who I am supposed to be.

When I think back on all the conversations I had with Jeff about places we wanted to go, things we wanted to do, or events that were 'put off until another day' I feel sad, because those some days will never happen.

Life is too short for regrets.  It is too short for 'what if's' and it is too short to let fear stand in the way of what could be.

A lot has been accomplished in the last two years.....I no longer yearn for Florida because I am here.....running outside, going to the spring training games, attending that outdoor super bowl party, Zack is playing basketball outside on our driveway, football and baseball at the park, and swimming in the pool.  We are living, we are laughing and we are building a new life.

I believe there are more adventures ahead.  I just keep walking forward and allowing God to show me the way.