Unclutter Your Life

What Does Your Success Look Like?

Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and is something different to everyone.  The true meaning of success is up to YOU.

A new year at Thirty One allows me to reflect on my accomplishments, where I stand on my goals for the year and define (or re-define) what success will look like for me.  When you think of success, you probably think of more money, maybe another car, travel – all tangible things, right?  In the past, I always said success was being debt free. I still want to be debt free, who doesn’t, right?  But will it alone get me up in the morning?  For some the answer would be yes.  For me, no.

I want my legacy to be more.  I want to know I have made a difference in the lives of others.  I want the ability to give to those in need.  Success to me isn’t about just being debt free, it is about what I can do with the money.  Don’t get me wrong, part of the reason I have debt is because I give to those in need and try to make a difference in the lives of others even when I don’t have it.

Do you have tunnel vision when it comes to what your  successful life will look like?  Are you focused on the tangible things or are you creating a legacy?  I have heard it said often “people may not remember the day you were born or the day you die but they will remember how you lived your life (or made people feel)”.  What will they remember about you?

Success isn’t a destination—it’s a progressive realization of a worthwhile dream or goal.  What is your dream or goal?  Dream BIG!

Years ago, I had a dream of opening a house – a place where those infected/affected with HIV/AIDS could come and enjoy life forgetting about their life struggles for a moment.  In the early days of my work in HIV/AIDS, I created a place like it.  For some it was my office to get help with problems, for the kids it was a place to play and get snacks, and for others it was just a place to forget for a moment how cruel life could be.  The last time I was in Bridgeton, I drove by what used to be “Hope’s House”.  The small office, long since closed and moved to a new location, brought back some memories I thought were lost.  I honestly didn’t know what I was creating.  I didn’t know I would make a difference but my passion to help others showed through all I did.

As I moved from HIV work to working with struggling addicts, chronically unemployed and single moms – the dream faded slightly but my desire to make a difference in the life of others was still there.  Since retiring from social work, almost 6 years ago, I’ve been searching to find the dream and the passion.  Despite my best efforts, the MS beats me up and steals my passion as a result of stealing my memory.  Some days I feel like it is an excuse while other days I embrace the reality and enormity of it all.

Do I still dream of making a difference?  YES!  Do I know what it looks like?  NO!  Success to me is seeing a smile on the face of a single mom struggling to provide for her children.  It is seeing a struggling addict believe in themselves if even for a moment.  It is seeing a smile on the face of someone enduring the pain of treatment of a chronic disease. In today’s busy world, I’m not sure how my view of success fits in.  I’m the eternal optimist, seeing the good in everyone and looking for a place to make a difference.  What is your dream?

While I continue to search for a place to connect, I will continue to give back in small ways.  This month we are again doing our FIGHT HUNGER campaign.  A chance for YOU to make a difference in the lives of a child.  You can sponsor a thermal tote which I will fill with healthy snacks and school supplies.  These will be delivered to children in need in the local area to bring a smile to their face.  My Thirty One team, the Rays of Hope, will be collecting thermals all across the country and delivering them to children in their area to make a difference.

Remember you can also help me to make a difference by nominating someone on my “Give Back with Me” page.  Each month, a someone special will receive a Thirty One product and words of encouragement.  Do you know someone who needs some “loving on”?

I know I squirreled.  When I started today’s blog, it was about defining success in your life and I’m not sure I have helped you to do it.

I challenge you to take a moment and think about what success means to you.  Think about what people will say about you when you are gone – how will they remember your life?  I would love to hear your definition of success….

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

 

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Learning To Love

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“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Well, I beg to differ. I’ve learned at least one new thing. Every. Single. Day. Of the last year and a half.

Most of the lessons have come courtesy of a joyful 6-year-old Haitian with a wee rambunctious streak named Missy, who officially became my daughter in April 2014 after a tumultuous two-year adoption process.

My little girl has a brave warrior spirit and a predisposition to wiggle gleefully in the grocery store and greet bemused shoppers with the invitation, “Hello ma’am, do chu wanna dance wid my mama and me?” My little girl also has HIV.

She was unwittingly infected by her biological mom who, like far too many people living in impoverished conditions in third world countries, never got tested and died of AIDS without ever realizing she had it.

As a result of Missy’s disease, one of the first new lessons I learned was about loving more people, more. My tutoring session took place in the private non-chain pharmacy we visit monthly that specializes in meds for people with HIV and AIDS. They don’t sell candy, cards, breakfast cereal, toothpaste or Chia pets, just pricey medicine for pretty sick folks. It’s tucked away on the fifth floor of an old building that used to house a low-budget shopping mall.

Of course, at first some of the other customers glanced at us with curiosity. This was probably because — with Missy dressed in a plaid school uniform and a bow bigger than her head, and me wrapped in my whole harried, disheveled look — they assumed we were lost.

Some even hurdle over benign curiosity and jump straight to barely disguised contempt. This aptly describes the man with an angry expression who rode up the elevator with us one visit. He literally averted his gaze and exhaled in protest when Missy blurted out happily, “Hello Sur! How awe you?”

I put my hand protectively on her shoulder and tried to scoot her a few inches away, but this was one time her ardor was not easily redirected. She tugged on his sleeve and persisted with more animation, “I’m Missy Haar-Purr. I’m FIVE! And this is my MAMA Haar-Purr!”

He threw me a look of frustration and exhaled louder. It was all I could do not to grin at his surprised expression when we walked into the pharmacy behind him and the darling employees swarmed Missy like a bevy of favorite aunts.

He seemed startled when they asked her to sing and she responded by belting out the praise chorus of “Your Great Name” followed by an enthusiastic, hip-swiveling encore of “Shake Your Booty.” (Missy’s musical repertoire is surprisingly vast.)

A few minutes later, after she’d proclaimed, “I lub ya’ll!” she handed a big sucker to each one of the staff. Then Missy turned to the man, held up her last remaining lollipop, and asked sweetly, “Wood chu like a sucker, Sur?”

His expression softened as he leaned down and replied gently, “Well, yes, honey. I believe I would.” My daughter hugged him before bellowing a rather bossy “Goodbye Sur, it was nice to meed you!” At which point he reached over her head and shook my hand.

When our eyes met, we both smiled. I couldn’t speak, because I was too close to tears. But I don’t think we needed any more words. Enough had already been said.

What Thanksgiving does annually for my waistline, Missy has done for my heart. She’s increased my capacity to “be kind and compassionate to one another,” which is exactly the kind of effect the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit has on Christ-followers.

Our Heavenly Father’s forgiveness and acceptance causes our hearts to expand far beyond our previous boundaries. As maturing Christians, we’ll scoot past simply being consumers of grace and become carriers of grace, becoming brave enough to embrace people we never noticed before as we seek to act like Christ.

Thank you Lisa Harper and Encouragement for Today.

 

Hope Wissel

World AIDS Day

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Yes, I am a day early….Tomorrow is actually World AIDS Day but for some every day is a day living with HIV/AIDS.  The recent disclosure by Charlie Sheen about his HIV status has brought this disease to the forefront yet again.

The theme this year is “Getting to Zero” which is in tandem with UNAIDS vision of achieving “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths”.

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For me, I am reflecting on the lessons that I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” that stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, that is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.

I didn’t see any of the people that walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I too had  made bad choices over the years.

So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart that wanted to save them all.  In the early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers, it took moms and dads from their kids, it took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma that went with HIV/AIDS.  This was the world that I dedicated a large portion of my professional life to – a total of about 15.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people that I admire.

Fast forward to today, where little is spoken about HIV/AIDS unless a celebrity says the words.  It is now a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines that can help to keep you going, so why worry, right?

We aren’t there yet – we are close.  There are still 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US today.  Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.

Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

Today is in honor of those who lost their fight, and those who continue to fight every day.  You blessed my life more than you will ever know.  Thank you for allowing this “crazy white chick” to be a part of your lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel, Relax, Reflect, Recharge

World AIDS Day

On this day of Relax – Reflect – Recharge, I want to take a moment to talk about something near and dear to my heart.  Today December 1st is World AIDS Day.  For some, it is just another day.  For others, it is a time to remember those who have fought the battle and lost, encourage those who continue to fight and educate to end AIDS in our lifetime.

For me, I am reflecting on the lessons that I learned when I worked for the South Jersey AIDS Alliance.  As a new “inexperienced” Social Worker and a recovering addict, I was the “crazy white lady” that stepped into Bridgeton wanting to help the world.  Yes, that is what many of my clients thought of me and willing shared as we got to know each other.  I didn’t see any of the people that walked through our doors as “diseased”, “hopeless” or less than.  I saw them as people who because of their bad choices were sick.  “There by the grace of God go I” was a constant reminder for me since I too had  made many bad choices over the years.  So what could I do in a little office (actually half a duplex) with little funding, the only paid staff, a handful of volunteers (who in many cases were also clients) and a heart that wanted to save them all.  In the early years, AIDS was not a “manageable disease” for many it was a death sentence.  It took babies from their mothers, it took moms and dads from their kids, it took people from all walks of life – yet no one talked about it.  I can remember the first few funerals where the family said “they died of cancer” because they did not want their loved one to be remembered for the stigma that went with HIV/AIDS.  This was the world that I dedicated many years of my professional life too – a total of about 15.  Belinda grew up joining me in this battle to end the stigma of HIV/AIDS.  She played with kids who were HIV-positive, she shared her toys, she helped with fundraising, as well as sorting and delivering holiday toys.  She grew up with a passion for helping people that I admire.

Fast forward to today, as little is spoken about HIV/AIDS.  It is now a manageable disease so we seldom hear the prevention message.  There are medicines that can help to keep you going, so why worry, right?  The theme for World AIDS Day 2013 is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation.”  We aren’t there yet.  There are still 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US today.  Only 1 in 4 people are making their way through the obstacles called health care and medications.  Let’s not be complacent.  Let’s continue to share how HIV can be transmitted.  Let’s all work together for a day when there is an AIDS-Free Generation.

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World AIDS Day Events in North Carolina – an AMAZING Quilt display.  What are you willing to do to help?  Today, I remember those who fought a great fight – Jackie Wise, Matt McCrossen, Sam, Maria and all of the others who walked through the doors of my office in Bridgeton and the other SJAA offices.  I honor those who continue to fight especially Jeff, Donna and Veronica.  They continue to inspire me with their strength and determination after 23 years.

Honor someone you know who is living with HIV/AIDS or who has lost the fight.  Share their names so we too can honor them.  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Hope Wissel

Addiction & Recovery

YEAH!  It is the weekend….Today is about a time in my life that was both a trial and a blessing.  In October, 1990 my drug addiction took me down a road that I never thought would be possible.  I mean, I was from a middle class family, a college graduate (Dean’s list in pre-law),  had a great job and was a mom of an AMAZING daughter – Belinda.  Life was good – so I thought.  My addiction caused me to lie, cheat and manipulate family, friends, and employers.  It was not a pretty sight.  On the outside, I was looking good (or so I thought) but on the inside I was an emotional and spiritual train wreck.

A bout with the law and a judge who saw the person inside, gave me a chance to get my life together.  It was a difficult time for my family – the perfect world that I had created had just shattered.  Off to detox for 10 days where a wonderful doc knew that if I was going to make it in recovery, heading home after detox was NOT an option.  So, off to Riverside in PA for 30 days of rehab.  Talk about life changing.  It took about that long for me to give myself a break.  See, as the counselors said – I didn’t need any help breaking down what I had done because I carried my own bat to beat myself up.  The hardest part was being away from Belinda.  At the age of 2, I left her for about 6 weeks.  There were NO visits at the detox and only twice did I see Belinda when I was in rehab.  She was with family but I feared that I would never be able to repair the damage by my leaving her.   My key motivation to get it together – to get home to my daughter.   When I did, life was not the same.  First, we were locked out of our home due to my drug using antics.  We were blessed with a site manager who practiced tough love.  For 6 weeks, we lived with Elsie (my aunt) and worked on getting our home back.  It wasn’t easy but I was determined to make things better for my daughter.  The people in Narcotics Anonymous became my second family.  Not only did I do 90 meetings in 90 days but I became active in using my talents at meeting planning to help organize the regional NA conference.  Belinda proudly wore her “NA Rocks” shirt whenever she could but I am sure that she didn’t understand it, but mom was home!  Life now consisted of meeting people and having fun.

Community service was also part of the agreement with the courts.  Now to find something that I could do and enjoy.  I mean, aren’t you supposed to enjoy community service?  I began to volunteer at the South Jersey AIDS Alliance in Atlantic City.  My work with this agency and the clients that walked through the door would change me FOREVER.  Doors opened to a new field of interest – Social Work.  This was during the early days of HIV/AIDS and I quickly realized how blessed I was to have survived my drug addiction and my risky antics.

God has a plan for me and though I don’t always know what it is, he finds a way to get me back on the right path.  I detoured through my 8 years of drug use but a bout with the law brought me to my knees.  See, I always wanted to help people but I got caught up in the fast lane – drugs, alcohol, partying but my community service brought me back to God’s heart – helping others and serving him.

Today, I continue to help women to see their potential and do what I can to help them reach their personal goals.  At times I forget that sharing my strengths, hopes and experiences of my recovery can help others.  I still have doubts and fears but I figure if I was blessed to come through my past trials, I can accomplish anything with God’s help.  Life’s struggles make us stronger – what struggles have you endured or are you working on that will make you stronger?  Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

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