Sponsor Love: Gratitude Bags!

On November 11, 2011 I went to a woman’s workshop at a friend’s spa. A participant shared that she kept all of her goals and wishes in a box by her bed; I loved the idea but did not do much with it. A few weeks later, my friend called needing to vent about her day at work. That’s when it hit me. If she had a GRATITUDE bag she could have instantaneously shifted her mood by reading about moments in her life she was grateful for. Voila, GRATITUDE bags were born.

Immediately, I started purchasing fabric and sewing bags myself. However, being a full time teacher and a novice seamstress, I knew that I would never be able to sew the magnitude of bags that I needed, so I put an ad on Craigslist. I must have received over twenty responses, but I only called the last person who contacted me.

Angelique, owner of Marabou Furs Inc., had her own line and created custom pieces for high end clients. I questioned why a fashion designer would want to sew drawstring pouches. We met a week later and I realized our meeting was no accident. I shared with her that one of my goals is to give back to my community, particularly women, and she laughed. Angelique, a former teacher, taught women in the state penitentiary how to sew and later hired them. Some of her former students sewed my first GRATITUDE bags.

The day before Thanksgiving in 2012, my mom was hospitalized. Feeling conflicted, I sat in front of my laptop knowing I HAD to post something about being grateful on my Facebook page but the truth was, I wasn’t feeling grateful for anything. All I could do was think about my mother but I forced myself to sit in front of the computer and type. Within moments, I had a list of 36 things. They were small and unique to my life but they made me smile as I recalled each one of them. This experience reaffirmed my commitment to my business and I started selling bags at different events in South Florida.

In the beginning of 2013, I felt like I was being put to a test. Life felt like a bad joke. On Valentine’s Day my dad had part of his lung removed, two days later, my cousin died, a few weeks after that my mom had a stroke and then my aunt, who had cancer, was hospitalized. Some of my friends joked that they needed to stay away from me so that my bad luck didn’t rub off on them. During this time, I shed a lot of tears but not all of them were caused by sadness. There were moments of pure joy. One particular moment stands out. My uncle, cousins and I were visiting my aunt in the hospital and she asked everyone to leave the room except me. For whatever reason, she chose me to help her use the bathroom. While driving home that night, I sobbed, not because I knew my aunt was dying but because she had given me a gift. Without using words, she told me she trusted me. As soon as I got home I jotted that down on a GRATITUDE card. Memories like this reinforce why it is imperative to remain open to the moments of joy that present themselves when the world seems to be falling apart.

I call myself a working gypsy. When I’m not being a gypsy, I teach. For the past 18 years, I have taught different subjects in the same high school. 
Born and raised in Miami, one of my first memories is rallying in the streets for a presidential candidate wearing a black t-shirt with glittery letters that read. “Never underestimate the power of a woman”. These words, along with my heroes, my grandmothers, guide me. Both were very strong, women who were ahead of their time. My Grandma Ruth rallied for women’s rights and my Grandma Lee was know for the goody bags she prepared for veterans and abused women. They influenced my teaching style, my quest for adventure and my need to give back to my community.

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