I am Big Show

From Addie to You.

We all have a story that tells of our past, our present, and what we hope for our future. And so it is with my story. When asked why I volunteer, what motivates me to get involved, or why I am so passionate about kindness, equity, and inclusion, I am continually reminded of the saying,  “I am not the same having seen the sun, the moon, and the stars from the other side of the world.”

I am not the same having lived as a foster child and ward of the state, or having led global teams for Fortune 50 companies, or conducted research on cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa. Nor am I the same after serving on global health and humanitarian projects in Africa, Central and South America or coming alongside vulnerable and underserved communities affected by national disasters in Florida and Texas.  All of these experiences have shaped how I see the world and how I relate to others.

I give what I am able to and strive to encourage and offer kindness to all, not because I have had so much and my life has been ‘easy’, but because I know very personally what it can be like to have nothing, to be vulnerable, to feel abandoned, neglected, and discouraged from pursuing my dreams. I know how much it can mean to receive a small act of kindness.  I know how powerful it can be to be given a chance to learn and an opportunity to grow, to have someone believe in me and tell me about the potential they see in me, and even more, have them help me to see that potential in myself.   I act out of appreciation and gratitude for how much has been offered to me – from a kind word and smile to unconditional friendship to significant financial support that enables me to pursue my dreams.

As a teenager, as I questioned my own existence and reason for living, I decided that if I am going to live, I want my life to bring more goodness into the world.  I had already experienced how difficult and ‘unfair’ life can be.  And the reality is, life is rarely ‘easy’ for anyone.  Even those with large amounts of material wealth and ‘security’ must face their own vulnerability at some point when they become sick or when a loved one dies.  Many among us who are living ‘the good life’ struggle to find meaning in their lives beyond the appearance of ‘having it all’.  For me, that meaning comes from my connection to our broader community of humanity; from giving what I can, when I can – even if it is only a smile and kind word of encouragement.  As Mother Teresa famously said, “We can do no great acts, only small acts with great love.”

I share my story, not to glorify myself or anything I have done, but to offer hope, inspiration, and a glimpse of what life can be when we hold fast to our dreams and are determined to write our own stories and help others who are writing theirs.

My life is a symbol of what is possible when people help you believe in the dream of your own life.  I was able to break free from the exceedingly low expectations and excessively high barriers of the foster care system only because of the acts of kindness and generosity of those around me.  So next time you meet a foster child or another person who is struggling, don’t tell them what they can’t do, tell them what they can do.  Don’t tell them about the disadvantages from being neglected, abused, and abandoned…we know these much better than anyone else ever could… tell them about the potential you see in them, about their unique talents and strengths. Tell them you will stand with them and walk beside them because you think they are worth it. Tell them about who you see that they can be when they are loved, valued, and included.

And for all of you current or former foster children or those of you who may feel unworthy, isolated, and discouraged, if I can tell you one thing, it is this – Always remember: you have the ability to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself. Know that you have the strength to overcome whatever obstacles or barriers may present themselves. Be resourceful, resilient, and tenacious. If at first you don’t succeed, try again -because you and your dreams are worth it.  Be true to yourself. Find your voice. Lift your voice. Hold your head upright. Be proud of who you are. Never let anyone tell you that you cannot create the life of your dreams.

 

Categories: Blog

From Zain to You.

Ayush is a close friend of mine, and his show inspires us to be BIG, think BIG, and live BIG. I am happy to have been invited to discuss my Grandma Ruth who recently celebrated her 91st birthday! We should all be so lucky to live a long and fulfilling life as she. She has Alzheimer’s Disease which is a devastating brain disease that often causes people to forget who their loved ones are, who they are, what they are doing, and why they are where they are. Due to this increasingly unreliable memory, she responds deeply to spontaneous happenings around her. For this reason we make every attempt to entertain her so that she laughs and keeps engaged in life. In this way she has made me a better person because I always try to act my best whenever she is around. I have learned that the environment I and my family choose to create is the world she lives in, and I want my grandma to have the best possible world. My Grandma Ruth is BIG even though her memory has diminished.

If her story inspires you, please do not hesitate to visit her Tribute Fund below to join our fight against Alzheimer’s.

Click here to view the fund page for Ruth Kope Tribute Fund

Categories: Blog

Many people are bringing their animals into shelters with the belief that this is not abandonment. Last week alone we were witness to several such instances. One family brought their two children into the shelter to leave their cat. One of the little girls had tears streaming down her face as she fought to save him. She didn’t want to leave his side. The reason for breaking this child’s heart? The family already had other cats and decided they no longer wanted him, they were just going to walk away. The cat just watched as they left him, the girl still visibly upset. He went from a warm home were there was at least one little girl who truly loved him, to the cold, lonely life of the shelter animal.

The day after we witnessed this heartbreaking scene we checked in on the cat and were informed shortly after the family had left, he had became confused, visibly depressed, exhibiting an emptiness after being abandoned that becomes all too familiar to those who rescue. Its when the animal realizes their family is never coming back. We couldn’t leave him in that state, and we went and got him out. He is currently staying at a foster for now until we find him his forever home.

Not all stories end this way, the majority don’t get out! People don’t realize the trauma an animal experiences when they are abandoned by their family, and for many it can take some time to begin to trust people again.

The cat’s tale has also brought to mind another story of a pair of 6 month old terrier siblings a family had brought into the shelter to get rid of. They also brought down their two children. The children ran around out in front of the shelter pulling the dogs all over the place, the pups shaking, terrified the entire time. The parents were not giving any direction towards the children on the proper ways to handle and care for the dogs or to the depth of the situation at hand. They were just young pups and in their short lives they have experienced being taken away from their mother and other siblings, brought into a home with no guidance (for the children or the dogs), and now abandoned by their family into a shelter to be further separated from each other or worse. Their lives have been that of chaos, loneliness and uncertainty.

We have to stop this madness. Speak up for the animals and tell it like it is. Everyone who brings an animal to a shelter chooses to do so. There are other options, but they take a little more time and effort. Rehoming is the alternative in which an animal gets to keep its dignity and does not have to experience the traumatic effects of life in a cage or worse, die alone.

There is always a choice. Every animal has the right to love and respect, there are resources available. Please choose wisely.

Abandonment is never the answer, ADOPTION IS THE ONLY OPTION! Rehoming is the solution.

Gloria Lissner

President Famous

Fido Rescue and Adoption Alliance

Fido@famousfidorescue.com

www.famousfidorescue.com

 

Categories: Blog

Being interviewed by Ayush was an honor, because what gets left out in our interview is the way he paves the way for people like me to do what I do.  Ayush is a pioneer in the LGBT South Asian community, and was writing gay advice columns in Indian newspapers when I was still trying to find my steps in the gay world.  To be interviewed by such a powerhouse of knowledge, activism, and compassion made me feel big.  While my story is very much about my gay and South Asian identities, I hope it is clear to the audience how comfortable I was to talk about such things because I was speaking with another gay South Asian.  I felt like I was talking to family, and I knew he understood me.  I Am Big was a vulnerable place to be, and to be honest I’m nervous for it to go out into the world — I can’t even remember what I said in the interview!!!  I wonder what my mum’s going to think…

But I trust Ayush, and the story he wants to tell; he is giving the world new stories full of emotion, labor, and community, and is helping little people like myself find the bigness in our lives.

Categories: Blog

From Denise to You.

To have hope is to desire something with the expectation of obtainment as defined by Merriam-Webster. When I was told that there was no possibility of me ever having my own biological children, panic took hold of me. I couldn’t fathom the idea of never being a mother. I awoke with the intense longing for a baby and went to sleep with the very same obsessive craving.  While I had hope, I had no idea when or from where my bundle of joy(s) would come and that nearly drove me crazy.

Once I accepted the fact that my husband and I were going to have to come up with a work-around solution, we began to devise a plan that would hopefully lead us to our unborn child(ren). The most difficult part for us was agreeing on which path to take. My gut told me that adoption was the best route for us and my husband’s heart was pointed towards an anonymous egg donor cycle.

Our journey to becoming parents was physically, spiritually and emotionally draining; it tested everything I thought I knew about myself, my husband and those who were desperately trying to support us. In the end, we were blessed with 3 gorgeous sons. Our eldest came to us through a private domestic adoption and our identical twins were born just under a year later via an anonymous egg donor cycle.

I write a support blog Hope4Fertility that provides resources and encouragement for those trying to create their families through adoption and/or fertility treatments. In it, I stress the importance of those struggling to build their families to stay in the mind frame of WHEN and not IF. I discuss how we navigated the adoption process and built a relationship with our son’s birth mother. It only took us 10 months from filling out the initial paperwork to when we took our newborn son home. I feel that the connection we established with our son’s birth mother was what solidified her decision to allow us to be his parents. When we went through the egg donor process, our anonymous donor only created 1 egg. Our endocrinologist was of the opinion that the cycle would likely end in failure. He was just as stunned as we were when the first ultra-sound revealed that I was pregnant with identical twins. My pregnancy with the twins was highly risky and I suffered tremendous trauma when they were born. Thanks to an amazing group of medical professionals, I was granted me the gift of raising our 3 boys.

My personal belief is that our minds and spirits play just as important a role in our fertility as do our bodies. Even though I didn’t get to experience the idealistic pregnancy or birth all of my sons, I love how they all made their way to me/us–truly. Their journeys were all uniquely beautiful and make me cherish them all the more. In addition to our oldest son’s selfless birth mother and our younger sons’ amazing egg donor, we will be forever grateful to an entire team of dedicated people who helped create our family. I went from wondering and wishing to loving our 3 sons and I thank God for them every day. I am 100% certain that my bond with them is just as strong and as deep as if they shared my DNA. They have my heart and that’s all that matters to me.

Denise Steele

Categories: Blog

From Hannah to You.

When my father was murdered almost eight years ago, my world was shattered and an indescribable grief consumed my entire being.  There were so many experiences, as father and daughter, that we had yet to share and someone on the planet took it upon himself to deprive me of them.  Somewhere in the haze of shock and my deep, piercing pain of loss, I forgave the culprit, whoever he was.

I realize that I may be an anomaly and to this day, I can’t really pinpoint a single reason why I forgave.  I think a number of considerations came into play:  my Christian upbringing, being overwhelmed with sadness so much so that there wasn’t any room for hate, the reality that retribution wouldn’t bring my father back, and the list goes on.

Whatever the reasons, when I chose to “live” my life again, I am convinced that forgiving allowed me to do so with more ease.  I chose to look forward to what the future had in store and directed my energies away from seeking retribution or answers and my own stagnant state of loss in favor of appreciating those special people in my life who remained and accomplishing my dreams.  The murderer took my father’s life; I would not let him take mine.

Categories: Blog

From Jen to You

Where do I fit in? That’s perhaps one of the most vexing questions of a teenager’s life. All of us have experienced that longing to feel that we fit in, to have a sense of belonging. We all have a unique identity that we want to share with the world.

But what happens when that identity is not accepted…when we are told that because we are different, we are “less than”?

All of us can remember a time when we were made fun of, or called a hurtful name, or even physically assaulted. We remember wishing that someone would stand up for us.

We also remember the times we saw these things happen to others. We wanted to say something…do something…but we didn’t know the right words or actions. We ended up being the ones who stood by while someone else wished we would stand up for them.

I can recall many times when I witnessed bullying or taunting and stood by, watching it happen. Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I say “stop?” It seems like such a simple thing.

I remained silent because I was afraid. I was afraid that if I spoke up I would become the target. I would be the one being called the hurtful names; being told I wasn’t good enough.

The truth is that we are all afraid. But the even bigger truth is that we all want the bullying to stop.  We all wish we had the courage to speak up.

Let’s remember that the next time we witness someone being called a hurtful name.  In that situation, let’s take a look around and remember that we’re not the only ones who want to speak up. Let’s realize that we don’t have to be afraid to say “stop.” Because chances are, if we speak up, others will too.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Blog

As we know the economic downturn affected people in several parts of the globe.  For some the impact was harsher and tough decisions had to be made.  Our guest John found himself in the midst of a tough financial situation. John had to make some major changes. He significantly downsized his home and car and got rid of fancy things he did not need.  He took ownership of the situation and worked through it. He also took a hard look at his life and redefined his priorities. His cat, Benjamin, has been his loyal companion in this journey.  John also took full responsibility of making sure that Benjamin’s needs were met the whole time. John might have lesser things today but he has more control and freedom. Most importantly he has lovely Benjamin by his side. John says that he has learnt a lot from Benjamin.

Have you had a similar experience? Do you agree that less is more?

 

Categories: Blog

Yes we can. Our guest Jenna Benn, at the age of 29, was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer.  One of the hardest three words one can hear in their lives is ‘You Have Cancer’. This was not part of her plan. However, she took control and empowered her life. As a result, ‘Twist Out Cancer’ (TOC) was born.  

TOC is a movement today and helps survivors and their loved ones combat the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and helplessness that often accompany cancer diagnoses and treatment. In other words, Jenna wrote her own story and continues to do so. It is our honor to have Jenna on our show. The post below is from Jenna to You. Read Jenna’s story and then please tell us your own. With gratitude, Ayush.

  Writing My Own Story

When you are forced to come to terms with your own mortality at a young age, the way in which you see the world inevitably changes.

Diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer that affects less than 300 people in the United States, I realized fairly quickly that I had two options. I could either turn into a recluse and cut myself off from the rest of the world -or I could write my own story.

The need and desire to write and chronicle what I was experiencing was almost instinctual. Within days of my diagnosis I had started a blog that served as my coping mechanism and strategy for managing life with cancer.  While the rigorous treatments rendered me speechless- I found my authentic voice through writing.

As I documented my journey I started to realize that I was in a unique position to be able to raise awareness about the unique set of challenges and issues facing the young adult cancer community.

I tackled what it was like to feel betrayed by my body, the inevitable regression and dependency on my parents, and the eventual loss of my perceived femininity. In addition to these challenges, I also painfully opened up about what it feels like to lose your own fertility.

The more that I wrote- the more that I shared- the more I felt the world opened up.

I no longer felt burdened or smothered by my cancer diagnosis, but rather I felt an inexplicable sense of freedom.

Silence is what shames us- and so I was screaming.

I chose to find my voice, I chose to write my own story, and I chose to twist out cancer- because it was what was right for me. I can only hope that my choices and my story will be able to help others. – Jenna

 

 

Categories: Blog

Mark’s transformational journey to health and fitness is commendable. Mark made a life style change and has stuck with it. The results are amazing. He does not think that yo-yo dieting or making drastic temporary changes work in the long run. His approach of making small changes, being conscious of his relationship with food, occasionally allowing himself to indulge in moderation, embracing exercise as part of his life, and most importantly encouraging himself to look at himself differently is very powerful.

As commendable as his weight loss is, what is very inspiring is how he is working on a painful aspect of his life, which has troubled him since childhood.  Being teased for having ‘man boobs’ was very painful for Mark.  I really appreciate him for being so honest about his past. It is very difficult to have to constantly hide a part of yourself from the world because of the fear of being ridiculed.  Kudos to Mark for transforming his life one day at a time.  His journey is a BIG inspiration to me.  Thank you, Mark.

Mark made a life style change which is helping him overcome a painful aspect of his life. Are you doing the same? If so, we encourage you to share it with us. We would love to learn from you.

 

Categories: Blog

Wow!  It is 2013 already and we are on Season 2 of the show. Time does fly, doesn’t it? This year I have a lot to be grateful for. One of things I am very grateful for is the opportunity to share our show with You. It has been my lifelong mission to create different platforms where we can acknowledge and appreciate our everyday lives. I AM BIG show is honored to share your experiences and learn from you. Thank you. I also want to thank all of our season 1 Guests. Each one of them has enriched our lives in different ways.

  • Unstoppable Elissa’s approach to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in small steps gives us a simple  strategy we can apply to complex situations in life. Breaking it down into small steps is much easier than looking at a big goal in its totality.
  • Irresistible Ivo’s realization that he needed help and then reaching out for it is very powerful. He reminds us that no matter what we are going through in our lives, there is help out there and it is ok to ask for it.
  • Bubbly Sara’s ability to laugh and embrace life with grace is beautiful.  Rather than feeling alone she found connection in giving to the world around her. Sara, you are absolutely right when you say that one has to give to receive. Let us continue to connect with the communities around us. We are not alone.
  • Nurturing Noel’s resilience and hope touches our hearts. It makes us realize that no matter what the outcome is, what really matters is whether we have done everything we can to get to where we want to be.  As long as we do that we are doing our part and we are doing it well.
  • The Strong Couple shares with us their approach on fitness and how to make it sustainable. They emphasize to us the importance of actualizing our potential. We can do it!
  • Radiant Racheal’s journey of finding her true calling and then tenaciously working at it to make it into a business is very inspiring. Racheal, you show us that vision empowered by planning and hard work gets results. Success lies in sticking with it.

My resolution for 2013 is to work towards a healthier life style. I am almost 340 pounds today and I want to work towards getting fitter. This time I want to do it for the right reasons. I want to be able to experience the goodness life has to offer for a long time. As I am embark this journey of health and wellbeing, I know what I have learned from the guests who have already been on our show and what I am about to learn from the upcoming guests will continue to inspire me in my own journey. No matter what your resolutions are, I am hoping that YOU will share your journey with us and that together we can support each other to make this coming year a BIG year for all of us! I have shared my resolution with you, now it is your turn. What is your BIG resolution for 2013?   Big Hugs, Ayush

Categories: Blog