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Wearing my heart on my sleeve

I'm not much of a jewelry person. I love admiring beautiful baubles and gems, especially on those who seem to have a knack for accessorizing, but I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to the shiny stuff. Most of my more valuable pieces are items with sentimental value, inherited from now deceased family or given with an exceptional showing of love (my engagement/wedding ring, for example). While other girls may fantasize about their significant other gifting them with jewelry for a special occasion, I'm much happier with the gift of books. Or a massage. It certainly makes it easy for Roger. He never has to go to Jared.  

I have been known to wear the same pair of pearl posts in my ears for weeks at a time and I tend to go for classic pieces that "go with everything" so I just don't have to think about changing them out. I have a few fun pieces that I wear with certain outfits and I treasure the many pieces of butterfly jewelry that have come my way in the last few years. 

There are a few pieces, however, that I wear as often as my wedding band. One is my Charlotte bracelet. The original pink rubber bands were created by a family friend near the beginning of Charlotte's year of our cancer journey. We used it as a fundraiser to help with medical expenses. Since I first put on a bright pink band in January of 2009, I can think of only a few occasions when I have taken it off. I don't have the original bracelet. I have given many away, usually in the process of sharing our story with others. I have often taken the bracelet directly off my wrist and handed it to someone. Then I replaced it quickly with a new one. Another friend of mine still has her original CJ band. It has faded from pink to a neutral skin tone color over time. She carries it on a keychain. Every time I see her aged band, I'm reminded of the way grief changes over time. Its intensity may wane but it's always there.  Eventually, it becomes like a scar, visible or invisible, embedded into the very essence of who we are. The memory of a loved one lost too soon changes us forever but it doesn't have to define us. 

The second piece that lives on my wrist is a similar band created in honor of a friend. I only knew Thomas George for a short time. I met him through my experiences with improv and ComedySportz. His band reminds me of a few things:
  1. We never know how we will touch a life. I only knew Thomas for a little over a year, but in the time that I knew him, I was enriched by his presence. He was smart, funny, and a world-class improviser with amazing talent. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind but he was also a good listener. The outpouring of love and sadness that was present after his death was a sign that he touched so many lives during his short time on the planet. 
  2. My own mortality is real. You reach a point in your life when most of the people who die are not the age of your grandparents or parents. They're your age. While I'm not quite to that point yet, Thomas is one of the people who was close to my age at the time of his death. His loss was a healthy reminder that we must make the most of what we have, while we have it. 
  3. "Yes, and...". A running joke with Thomas and his friends was that he liked to call himself "The World's Greatest Improviser" and his bracelet has the letters "TWGI". The moniker was definitely tongue in cheek. Thomas was actually one of the most humble people I've ever met. But he was also one of the funniest. He might not be the "world's greatest" but I'd certainly put him in the cream of the crop. You can't be a good improviser unless you have a firm grasp on the concept of "Yes, and...". You have to be ready to fly with what life brings. His bracelet reminds me to have the courage and confidence to try new things, even when they're scary. It's the "Yes, and..." essence of improvisation.
I've added a new bracelet to the mix this week and it symbolizes one of the other great passions in my life. I have been entrenched in the world of autism for more than half my life now, devoting much of my creative energy and technical skills to making a difference in the lives of some pretty amazing kids and families. As you probably have heard, April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance month. As part of that celebration, the HollyRod foundation partners every year with Stella & Dot to make a commemorative bracelet. Portion of the proceeds benefit the foundation but if you shop through this link, a portion will also benefit the school where I work. Sometimes I feel like I'm always on the job. Even when I'm not at work, I'm often thinking about how we can make our school better and help our kids. Sometimes that's more frustrating than others; however, I love my new tangible symbol of this aspect of my life that has become a central passion. 

Side note: if you aren't interested in jewelry but would like to support the autism cause in other ways, my school is participating in the Autism Society of Central Virginia's annual 5K. Your donation (no matter how small) could support families in Richmond touched by autism who need the support this great organization provides. 

I'll close my thoughts today with a teaser. I know it has been a while since I blogged but look for ANOTHER post by Monday. I think you're going to be excited by the content (hint, hint...)

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