This Little Light of Mine

To Look or not to Look: That is the Question

In times of uncertainty, when there is so much out of our control, one of the things that is within our control is how we show up for others. And how we show up for others often has a lot to do with how we show up for ourselves. Since my posting last week, my self care regimen has taken on a whole new look — prayer and yoga are now online rather than in person. Each day I have decisions to make about how I spend my time, who I am in contact with via phone and video conference, and how I interact with others.

Child life specialists are trained to acknowledge and respect the many and varied coping mechanisms of children and families in hospitals. We are trained to assess, respond to, and expand these coping skills. For example, some children like to watch when they are undergoing an iv insertion. Others would prefer to close their eyes, blow bubbles, or search for items in an I Spy book. Some children want to know every detail about their diagnosis and treatment, while others prefer to skip the details.

Well, when it comes to coping with uncertainty and isolation, we all have different ways of self soothing. My husband likes to watch the news, but I find my anxiety ratchets up considerably when I hear statistics about numbers of coronavirus cases and upsetting information about the financial challenges in our midst, especially in the evening before I go to sleep. It occurred to me yesterday how it might be helpful for us all to:

  1. Reflect upon our coping mechanisms – what helps us? What upsets us? Knowing what triggers our anxiety, worry, or sadness is a vital step to being able to protect ourselves and self soothe. You might wish to journal about this, create some art expressing your preferred method of coping, or even a 3-D loose parts representation of your hope and resilience.
  2. Explore the coping preferences of your family members and friends. Whether you are all at home together, or you live separately, it is a good thing to know what your family and friends need to feel safe and calm at this time, especially if it is very different than how you cope. The only way to know is to ask.
  3. In accordance with what information your loved ones share, make a concerted effort to self edit when you speak to others. When you are in conversation with someone on the phone or online, instead of launching automatically into virus-speak, ask them how they want the conversation to go. This isn’t meant to make COVID 19 talk taboo, but we all need a break at some point during the day from the constant barrage of news.
  4. Tell loved ones what your favorite method of coping is, and what is a challenge for you. Sharing coping strategies can ignite great ideas in others. As far as challenges go, I asked one friend to not discuss financial news with me. I told another that I am avoiding the news in general, and that I would appreciate it if we didn’t discuss the news when we speak.

What Role Will You Take?

Another way to approach this issue is to ask yourself, what role do I wish to play in this adventure?

  1. Newscaster: If you are keyed into the latest breaking news, you might be able to be a trusted source of information for your loved ones. They can ask you for the latest updates. But do your best to leave any dramatic flare aside, and to set aside a time to share, rather than shouting out every news banner that appears on your screen
  2. Advice Giver: This is one of my favorite roles! Can you tell? Haha. This is fine when it comes to blogging, but when a friend needs a little empathy, jumping in with advice could make them feel overwhelmed and invisible. Your friends and family might appreciate it greatly if you ask them, “Do you need advice or empathy right now?”
  3. Listener: A good listener may hold back on advice, but the role is still an active one. You can express caring in so many ways as a good listener. Here is a link to a brief handout on active listening skills.
  4. Comedian: Some people are blessed with a great sense of humor. Jokes, quips, memes, and funny videos are appreciated by most. A good laugh is great for your immune system!
  5. Worrier: You might be tempted to share all of your worries with people. Instead, consider creating and decorating worry jars from empty jam jars. Whenever you have a worry about something outside of your control, write it on a slip of paper and put it in your “Big Worries!” jar. When you have a worry that you can do something about, put it in your “To Do Worry” jar. Then, when you have the energy and time, address the manageable worries with action.
  6. Expert: Do you have a specific skill that may be helpful to others? For example, many people, especially the elderly, may need tech advice and expertise during this time of isolation.
  7. Volunteer: In the same vein, where are your expertise, energy, and hands most needed? How can you serve your community at this time? You might want to reach out to a school, a religious community, a shelter, or a food pantry.
  8. A Good Neighbor: If you are going to the store, ask a neighbor if they need anything. If you have neighbors or friends far away who live alone, check in on them. Ask them what they need.
  9. Little Light: It doesn’t take any expertise at all to shine the light on people’s strengths, helping them see their own hope and resilience. Whenever you are in contact with anyone, look for opportunities to be the light in the darkness, and encourage them to light their own candle for themselves and others.

Cooperative Play in Nature at Camp Klicek, Czech Republic

the volunteers!

Photo credit: Jiří Královec

(Thanks to Jiří Královec for many of the photos! The best ones are his and noted beneath each photo. The rest are my amateur work.)

At Camp Klicek in the Czech Republic, a place where children and adults affected by illness and loss gather, activities run the gamut from a tiddlywinks tournament to bussing campers to a Shakespearean play.  The Accace Corporation provides tax advice to the foundation during the year, but they look forward to visiting the camp in person to have fun with the children and families each summer. This July, a fabulous group of volunteers  arrived with a day full of activities to engage us all. Their choices promoted creativity and cooperation amongst the campers, and nature threaded its way through the day’s activities. The volunteers brought their A game to the endeavor – with wonderful materials and activities – but more than anything, they brought their hearts. Continue reading

Doll Ambassadors: Providing Comfort to Kids with Cancer

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Guest Blogger: Rosanna Bernstein – Founder of Bee Brave Buddies

When I had cancer and was going through chemotherapy, a white, curly haired stuffed poodle that one of my daughters gave me sat right on the pillow next to me at all times. I named her Gigi. Just looking at the quirky turned-up smile on this puppy`s face always gave me a feeling of comfort and made me smile.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia in 1998. I was in treatment for 3 years and was becoming sicker. A trial in its second phase for a new chemotherapy medication, specific for CML, now called Gleevec, was in its early stages at that time.  I was eventually accepted into this trial, and within several months I went into a remission. This chemotherapy was one of the first magic bullets, a medication targeted to treat the specific genetic mutation.  Although I still take a chemotherapy pill each evening, I have been so fortunate to be healthy and in remission to this day.

I was so grateful, that I decided I wanted to help others.

Through the years I have had several businesses: Yummy Gram, a gourmet basket company, Rosanna Hope Designs, a millinery and hand bag design company and Baby Bonbons, an online shop with vintage lace children`s clothing designs and accessories. During this time, I designed many original designs for baby blankets and matching pillows for the Baby Bonbons shop. I have always had a passion for art, beautiful laces and fabrics.

But, puppy Gigi always lurked in the back of my mind. I could still see that funny little face, and I got a warm feeling each time I thought about Gigi. I remember the soothing, inner peace I felt snuggling her. This feeling gave me the idea to combine my love of art and design with my desire to give back.

I combined my love for fabric and my whimsical children’s digital art drawings to design my original three Bee Brave Buddies dolls: Buddy Brave, a superhero doll for boys with magical powers, his twin sister, Bestie Brave, a superhero doll for girls, who is a true new best friend, and Catie Cuddles, a doll dressed in fancy lace who loves to cuddle and snuggle. I hope to use this same art process to design a line of Bee Brave Buddies Adventure books and other gifts for children.

My dolls were designed to become a new best friend to children who are in treatment for cancer or other childhood illnesses and who need a big snuggle and some magical secret powers to be brave. The three dolls are designed with beautiful bald heads. The girl dolls have special words printed on their long leggings: giggle, snuggle, love, dream, brave, cuddle, smile, laugh, hugs, play, dream, hope.

The dolls are also educational. An adult with cancer can use the dolls to explain hair loss and other treatments that children will face. Each doll comes with a matching hat or headband and the superheroes come with silky minky capes. The dolls have very soft plush pillow bodies to hug and love. Each doll comes in Caucasian or African American descent. Our dolls are printed and made in the USA. They are completely washable.

I have personally been giving my dolls to children with cancer since February of 2015. Bee Brave Buddies have been shipped to children across the USA and to several countries. We are excited to announce that we have now received our determination letter from the IRS and we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit. This will allow us to make and deliver dolls to children battling cancer across the country and beyond with your help and support.

 

What can you do to help? 

We are looking for doll ambassadors, an integral part of our team. They are like the generals in our army, helping us make big decisions: They locate hospitals in their area, make child life connections for delivery of dolls, are available for the doll presentations, help secure local press and manage social media regarding their particular hospital. Doll ambassadors also reach out to help us find local contacts to sponsor these boxes of dolls delivered to their local hospitals, either on a one-time basis gift or an ongoing monthly program.

Our new initiative, The Bee Brave Buddies of the Month Club allows a sponsor to send a box of ten dolls per month to a designated hospital. Our Christmas Holiday program encourages families or businesses to celebrate a holiday they will fondly remember, one in which they gave back to others. Our creative doll ambassadors put together teams from family, friends, businesses, corporations, church groups, school groups or sports teams that would like to rally for our cause. These are just a few examples of groups that can help us touch the lives of these children in a very profound way. Our dolls give the children comfort, courage and confidence. These seriously ill children only want to be normal and play! When the child smiles, the caregivers smile, and all of the medical staff smile. It is infectious! Our dolls provide these smiles when the children are hugging and loving them, much like my Gigi puppy provided to me.

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Our mission is to put a Bee Brave Buddy doll in the arms of all children around the world in treatment or recuperation from cancer who need a hug to help these children feel brave and to provide emotional support to children and young adults with cancer and other serious illnesses. Any child battling cancer can receive a free Bee Brave Buddies doll to love.

If you would like to make a difference in the lives of these sweet children, drop by our web site www.beebravebuddies.com to learn more about our nonprofit and please join us today.

Warmly,

Rosanna Hope Bernstein

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