I am one of those people who hate waking up in the dark.  I am a sunny morning  kind of person.  If dawn hasn’t cracked and the sun hasn’t risen, then neither should I, especially if it’s cold outside.  And let’s face it; where I live, it’s dark and cold for a good number of months.

©2014 JFries

©2014 JFries

The exception to my usual disposition is the month of December.  December is special in this regard and I actually look forward to waking up in the dark.  Yes, I said it, “I look forward to it.”  I pull on warm fuzzy clothes to ward off the early morning chill, tip toe down the darkened hallway and stairs, flip a couple of switches and am greeted with the soft coloured lights welcoming me on the staircase where the stockings are all hung with care waiting for the Christmas Eve magic that never grows old.   I step into the parlour which is bathed in warm colours from the glowing Christmas tree, it’s branches spreading protectively over the gaily coloured packages carefully wrapped and placed there over the last few days.

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The stillness of the house is still intact as I make my way to the living room where the villagers are just starting to wake up.   The early risers are already at the bakery choosing their delicacies for their own celebrations.

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On a regular day I would throw on all the lights I could to drive the darkness away, but instead, in December I shuffle my way to the kitchen and make a cup of tea.  Deeply I inhale the rich aroma of bergamot and settle myself in a cozy chair with a view to the East.  This morning I’m in no rush for the sun to chase away the darkness.  Instead I am ready to welcome it with patience and wonder, amongst the softly glowing lights that twinkle here and there, much like the last stars slowly blinking their good night as they take their turn to rest.  I marvel at the beauty as the sun paints the sky with brilliant pinks, reds, and purples, welcoming the new day with all the beauty and all the magic it holds, just waiting for me to discover all it has to offer.

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And now, the adventure begins.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

Photos are ©2014 J.Fries

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Image from CNN.com article Santa, Don’t Pigeonhole My Kid

Things worth seriously considering when deciding what to give impressionable young ones.  What message does our selection send?  Are there options available that convey our sentiment and still get the reaction we all want to see on Christmas morning – or for that matter, birthday or any other occasion where you sweat over choosing that perfect “something” and then stand in line waiting to pay while you second guess yourself?

As a mother, I’ve been surprised as my children have grown that gender specific toys seem to have become more prevalent rather than less so.  For all the discussion about gender equality and gender neutrality I had assumed hoped that the toy manufactures, like Lego, would have been more in tune with the times.

This article on CNN.com by Katia Hetter explores her own experience during a gift shopping excursion for her children.

“I don’t think any parent wants to limit their children now, and I think all of us know that our kids — boys and girls — need skills in both construction and care-taking to be successful adults,” said Orenstein.¹ “So during the holidays, I’d try to think creatively on a number of fronts: where gender is concerned broadening (your child’s) concept of what it might mean to be female or male where and when you can.” Katia Hetter

via Santa, don’t pigeonhole my kid – CNN.com.

¹ Peggy Orenstein, author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter”

Here are some other gift giving related blogs I’ve recently posted.

Zen Pencils A Zen Approach To Gift Giving

Yellowberry Yellowberry – They Have You Covered

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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I experienced one of those unexpected life lessons the other day.

I was in the entry at an event waiting for someone to arrive.  The weather was less than idyllic; sleet, strong wind gusts and just plain not that much fun to be out in.  As people arrived, I opened the door for each one, smiled and usually said “hello” or “enjoy the performance”.  It was no big deal.  As a matter of fact, like anytime I do small random acts of kindness the thank you’s and smiles I received in return made waiting enjoyable.  It was also a pleasure to notice that pretty much every single person or group acknowledge my effort.  I made the conscious note that kindness and etiquette really aren’t dead.

It was getting closer to start time so there were longer spaces between people arriving.  I recognized a man wheeling himself across the parking lot, through the small drifts that were forming.  He’s an example of independence and I’ve seen him maneuver his wheel chair with great competence and ease many times.  Today was no different.  As he approached I did like I had done for every other person.  I opened the door.  He wheeled to the other side of the door and pushed the handicap door open button.  Thinking he wanted to go in another way, I smiled and released the door, only to realize the door that was opening was the same one I had been holding.  He knew this, as we’ve both been to this venue numerous times before.

I smiled, stepped aside and let him enter as I reached to open the second set of doors (ok I apparently don’t catch on), just as I had done for many of the other people coming in as they stomped snow off their shoes.

This time he turned to me and rebuked me with a terse “I have it Thank You!”

I must admit I was somewhat stunned.  Embarrassed, I mumbled an “Oh, ok” and turned back to the other doors.  Another group of people were walking in and I let them open the door themselves.  I gave a slight nod and smile. It took me another 3 groups of people for me to shake it off.  Suddenly I felt insecure and unsure of myself.  Just before it was time to head to our seats I let the last few stragglers in, greeting them with a smile and a “hello.”  They greeted me with smiles and thank you’s too.

I kept trying to let the experience go.   I reminded myself that he might have just been having a rotten day, been patronized, was running late, just got bad news – any number of things could have caused him to react impatiently.  After some analyzation I realized what bothered me in truth, wasn’t so much his rudeness or lack of gratitude; although I am a big proponent of etiquette and manners.  What really bothered me is that he seemed to so misinterpret my intention.  So I was actually coming from a place of feeling misunderstood and apparently I really wanted to be understood.

I debated about finding him and explaining my intentions but in the end I came to think that it was more about the realizations we could/would come to on our own through self reflection.  Direct translation, I was too worried I’d end up making matters even worse.

I realized that what I consider kindness isn’t always what the other person considers kindness.  The idea of treating someone how you want to be treated is only a half truth.  Ideally as we’re considering that we need to consider how they actually want to be treated.  A mother who comes to visit a child who recently moved from home might think she’s done the kindest thing by cleaning the entire apartment while her child sees it as an overbearing infringement on their privacy, or a lack of faith in their abilities.

Treat Others As They Want To Be Treated, Not Necessarily How You Want To Be Treated.

It was also another example of the power of words, something so many of us do not seem to realize.  I believe we ultimately choose how we react to things and people.  In that process though actions and reactions occur which affect the choices we make.  The point isn’t whether one of us was right or wrong, nice or not nice – it’s the effect it had.  My attempt at kindness, which was supposed to provide a moment of happiness actually did the opposite.  His reaction then triggered the subsequent reaction of hurt and uncertainty that I experienced.  At that point it’s all feelings but feelings affect our actions as well.  That very brief terse interaction we shared resulted in me withdrawing into my own shell immediately.  I began to shut down until I consciously chose to change my thoughts, actions and reactions about the situation.

My point is the words we use, the tone we use, the body language we use actually directly affects people, consciously and subconsciously.  If we aren’t even aware of the huge impact every single one of us has every single day with our interactions with other people and even ourselves, it becomes impossible to make our choices wisely, to make impacts that count in ways, if we actually think about it, we’d want them to.

One Syllable Can Change The World.

“Nah”  Rosa Parks, 1955

Just like in kindergarten, I was reminded that when all else fails, a smile and a thank you go a very long way most of the time.

Smile And The World Smiles With You… Usually

After realizing all these things though I realized something else.  Like everyone else, people with varied abilities have different desires, ideas and preferences.  Do I now assume that anyone managing their wheelchair well on their own doesn’t want me to open the door for them?  Of course not.  I opened the door for another person in a wheelchair at the same event and they were genuinely thankful for the help on such a rotten day.

No matter what, I know not all the interactions I have with people are going to go seamlessly.  Sometimes its going to go according to plan, sometimes it won’t.  That’s perfectly ok; part of this human experience we share is  to make mistakes, learn and grow.  I’m definitely doing that, how about you?

You Live, You Learn. So Celebrate It.

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©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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from ZenPencils webpage

from ZenPencils webpage

Having a tough time thinking of a perfect gift?  Aren’t we all.  Well, here’s something that is on my list.

I wrote about Gavin Aung Than, a free-lance cartoonist and creator of Zen Pencils, about a year and half ago.  I was fascinated with Gavin’s ability to capture the essence of classic quotes within the cartoon or graphic genre.  I wasn’t used to seeing such inspiration and empowerment expressed graphically before; at least not like this.  I immediately understood how his unique pictorial representation of inspiring and powerful quotes appealed to such a diverse audience.

In case you missed it, or don’t want to read the entire article Gavin left his secure job in 2011 and began Zen Pencils in the beginning of 2012.  Within short order his talents were noticed by the online community and suffice it to say the rest is kind of history.  He recently released his first book, Zen Pencils: Cartoon Quotes From Inspirational Folks, in paperback so yes, it’s an extremely affordable gift too!  Is it good?  Well, it’s number 7 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Paperback Graphic for starters and if that’s not enough, a quick perusal of his website will quickly allow you to form your own opinion.

NYTimes Best Seller List Paperback Graphic

NYTimes Best Seller List
Paperback Graphic

If books aren’t your style you could consider one of his prints, suitable for framing, which are available on his website.  He has recently added canvas prints to the selection . Oh, and if you subscribe to his email updates you also get 3 free posters in pdf format, with resolution making them suitable for framing.

No one in need of such a gift?  Don’t collect books yourself?  That’s ok, you can enjoy his talents by following his blog and checking out his regularly posted inspirational creations.  Be inspired.  It really is that easy.

Here are some other gift giving related blogs I’ve recently posted.

Toy Buying What Do Toys Tell Us?

Yellowberry Yellowberry – They Have You Covered

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

Thanks for stopping by, we always appreciate it. Want to connect with Rise Like Air?  Here’s how!

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Grief Is Like An Ocean Image from the Web

Grief Is Like An Ocean
Image from the Web

We said goodbye to an incredibly special man last week, a man who I have been proud to call “Dad” for over 30 years.  He was a man who accepted me into the family without question and with a smile and open arms.  I think my own dad felt a little better knowing that when I was miles away from him, he could count that there was someone else who I could turn to.

My father in law suffered a stroke nine years ago. Even though he was no longer able to do all the things he had before, the importance of family never faltered. We realized how fragile life really is and how quickly things can change.

We were fortunate to be able to visit him and enjoy each other’s company the afternoon before he passed. At the time nothing seemed any different. We joked and visited. Knowing the comfort that church gave him I even attended service with him and mom. We all bid farewell promising to return later in the week.

The following morning everything changed. It wasn’t completely unexpected but it was still a surprise. A big one.

Later that evening as we hugged and cried and shared our grief in our own ways, my daughter put it in perspective for me.

She said that she was glad she went to see her Grandpa as often as she had. She’d made each time special just in case it would be the last time.

And as I look back that’s exactly what she did. There are no regrets, no hugs not given, I love yous not said.

And that my friends is how we should treat every encounter we have every day. Not because we are dwelling on the possibility for sadness or loss, but because we honour and are grateful for every experience we have, every special person in our lives.

We owe it to ourselves and everyone else. Seize the moment. Seize the day. Just don’t delay. Tell the people in your lives how you feel about them. Do it now.

No regrets.

The “After” of Happily Ever…

No longer a person in his place,
Yet it is far from empty.
Love and memories fill this space,
For breaking hearts a remedy.

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There are many ways we can remember those we’ve lost.  Bonnie, From Memory Bears by Bonnie, creates beautiful stuffed bears out of favourite pieces of clothing from loved ones.   A keepsake to hold and hug no matter what your age. The idea touched my heart so I’m sharing a link to her blog for others who may decide this is a perfect way to remember and bring comfort to those who remain.

If you have found other unique and comforting ways to remember loved ones please share and I’ll be happy to add any links.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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If you read my blogs or FB posts you probably already know that I am very big on using words wisely, because to me, words and subsequently communication is important.  This Huffington Post article by Rebecca Fuoco is straight talk about communication, in this case when we flippantly use mental illnesses as figures of speech.  I have also noticed this prevalence develop and every time I hear a someone say “That’s so OCD” or “Don’t be so schizo” I get a bit of a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I want to shout, “If you think that’s so OCD then you know NOTHING about OCD!”

Using names or acronyms of mental illnesses to hyperbolize innocuous idiosyncrasies and experiences has become pervasive in our cultural dialogue (and Twitter feeds). It is important we end this trend, not because it is my pet peeve (which it is) and not because I am the PC Police (which I am not). It is important because making these flippant references (1) trivializes how devastating the illnesses can be and (2) perpetuates myths and misunderstandings.

Ms Fuoco does an excellent job of articulating her points.  While we might think we’re just being “funny” and don’t mean any harm, our intent and the actual long term results of contributing to the trivialization of mental illnesses ends up hurting us all.  And that is not funny at all.

Now that we know better, let’s all try to do a little better too.

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via Let’s Stop Using Mental Illnesses as Figures of Speech | Rebecca Fuoco.

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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Christmas is coming… and with it the traditions that many families, friends and even co-workers enjoy (or dread), the exchanging of presents. Deciding what to buy is often a challenge.  If you have a daughter (or maybe sister or niece) on your list you might find an age appropriate bra that is comfortable, gorgeous and wearable without making you blush the perfect special gift for them.

What is “age appropriate”?  I would define it as something that makes a young girl feel special, comfortable and definitely not self conscious.  It’s something that allows her to feel good about herself without feeling like she has to “grow up” or meet someone else’s expectations.  Age appropriate also means that it doesn’t sexualize a young growing girl or blur the lines of age and maturity.

I heard about Yellowberry™ in an article that came across my FB feed.

Trying to find a good quality bra for self conscious, developing young girls is a challenge for many of us.  There’s the sexualized images, at times shabby quality and lack of colour and style choices.  It’s hard adapting to all the changes  your emotions and body are going through and shopping for your first bras should be an enjoyable experience, not an embarrassing or frustrating one.

I remember going through stores with my daughter and finally settling on triple packs of sports type bras but they were always white, pink and black.  The sports bras gave good support but usually gave so much coverage it was hard to wear the shirts she liked.  There just wasn’t a lot that made her feel feminine yet still a young girl.

I was taken a back because way back in the ’70s when I ventured out on this right of passage with my mother, there were very cute, age appropriate bra and panty sets that we could both get excited about.  I hardly expected that the time that passed would make this adventure more difficult instead of easier.  I had hoped that we would encounter stores, staff and product that would make this time of upheaval and change something to celebrate and enjoy.  Instead it was a trip that she really would have preferred to forget and did nothing to enhance her self esteem or body image.

After Megan Grassell, a high school student, took her younger sister to buy her first bra she realized it was time the bra industry changed, and she was going to be the change maker. Surprisingly, in my opinion, not everyone supported her endeavours.  Luckily for her younger sister and many other young women, she didn’t give up.

I didn’t care how many adults chuckled at my idea and brushed me away with the wave of a wrist. Many of them were very successful entrepreneurs who couldn’t see that I had more than just an idea. I was told to have fun and enjoy high school, to stop worrying about changing the bra industry. But I am most inspired and motivated to do something when someone tells me that I can’t.

Megan started a very successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 and the result was Yellowberry™  She’s been referred to as a Teen Titan by LingerieTalk.  She is definitely an entrepreneur who is working on building a business and striving to let girls not only feel comfortable in their underwear but enables their own self expression with age appropriate styles, colours and designs.

image from Yellowberry

image from Yellowberry

She describes her mission,

This company is my effort to help other girls who feel the same way I do: that our society pressures us to look and dress a certain way at a very young age. Mary Margaret should feel confident in whatever she wears…

The price tag isn’t cheap at $40.00 a bra (free shipping with purchases over $50.00 last time I checked and specials such as black Friday) and while I haven’t had the opportunity to hold a yellowberry bra in my hands it appears she is certainly putting out a quality product that is made in the USA – not in a questionably run foreign factory.  Currently bras are sold online.   In LingerieTalk’s followup interview with Megan they asked her to address the pricing as many people have expressed displeasure at the cost.

What I have learned so far from starting my own business is that there are three main reasons why my Yellowberry bras are more expensive than the competitors': The company is very small, the bras are new to the market, and all products are made with quality in the USA. In my mind, though, Yellowberry represents something more, something that is difficult to put a price tag on. I want to start a movement in which, whenever a girl wears a Yellowberry bra, she is standing up against the early sexualization of young girls. With that movement comes empowerment, change and confidence. Empowerment they can feel within themselves because they realize they have a voice for change. That change is the way they see their bodies: positively, and with pride. With each bra I sell, I want to inspire the girl who wears it to have confidence in who she is.  Meegan Grassell, founder Yellowberry   – Megan Grassell

Megan goes on to say that Yellowberry bras are “comfortable, not conforming”, “designed for a young girl’s developing body” as it truly is, and they “celebrate youth, not the rush to grow up so fast”.  Showing her commitment to her customers, she is working to grow her business and find ways to make the bras more affordable.  However, you have to admit, quality most often doesn’t come cheap.

* this blog was last updated 29Nov2014

via About Megan & Yellowberry : Yellowberry LLC.

Here are some other gift giving related blogs I’ve recently posted.

Zen Pencils A Zen Approach To Gift Giving

Toy Buying What Do Toys Tell Us?

©2014 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

Thanks for stopping by, we always appreciate it. Want to connect with Rise Like Air?  Here’s how!

Visit us on Facebook

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Can art build safer, stronger neighbourhoods?  Could it be that simple?  Could it make a marked difference? Apparently the resounding answer is yes!  Read on to find out how Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope began a “little” project that’s making “big” impacts.  Check out the full article on The Daily Good to see just what those differences are.

Gina Reichert and Mitch Cope are Detroit artists who bought a home here in 2002 in what was once a corner store. Over the ensuing years, the foreclosure crisis hit hard and put the community in a precarious spot. “The neighborhood could go either way,” Reichert said.

via Public Art in Detroit Builds Safer, Stronger Neighborhoods, by Anna Clark.

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riselikeair:

I’ve followed this young woman as she’s shared her journey. There is hope. There is a way. She’s living breathing loving proof that you can change your life. Even if it’s hard and you need help. That’s ok.

Originally posted on A Girl Divided:

I’m officially one year and 6 days sober.  A year ago I was in rehab– scared and completely miserable.  I didn’t want to get sober, I didn’t want to be there, but, on some level, I did want my life to change.  The last year of my addiction, even though I wasn’t ready to call it that yet, had been pretty messy.  I hurt a lot of people that I cared about and I stopped caring about myself.  For someone like me to make it to a year of sobriety– and not be miserable(!)– is kind of a miracle.

My life is so much better than it was a year ago, but that’s not to say that my life is easy today.  I still think about doing drugs and drinking on a regular basis.  The difference is that now I know that I don’t have to act on every impulse…

View original 134 more words

Wonderful article I saw on The Daily Good.  All the ideas are very cool, but something about #6 caught my attention.  Check out the link at the bottom for the entire article.  If I’m ever in NY I’d love to check this place out.

masbia in New York City

The finest dining

Masbia serves up dignity with dinner to hundreds of hungry New Yorkers every day. Instead of long lines and a tedious intake process, diners at this soup kitchen are greeted by a friendly host and ushered to a private table for a delicious three-course kosher meal. No questions, just healthy food. Original artwork decorates the walls, the atmosphere is cozy, and the menu is prepared using fresh ingredients donated by farmers markets and CSAs. Nearly all the kitchen and wait staff are volunteers.

“It’s a restaurant with no cash register,” says executive director Alexander Rapaport. When Rapaport began Masbia, his goal was to provide kosher food in a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. “Doing it with dignity means people will come,” he says, and he’s right. Every day, more than 500 people come to Masbia’s three locations. This year alone, the growing organization expects to serve more than 1 million meals.

via 7 Practical Ideas for Compassionate Communities, by Shannan Stoll.

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