My Muse: Happy Birthday Eddie!

Awww! Aren't we sweet?!
To understand the passion I have for both designing jewelry and for the heartfelt designs I create, you have to know where it comes from.

Today is my oldest brothers' birthday. He passed away fourteen years ago from complications from cystic fibrosis, while waiting for a double lung transplant. Just prior to his passing I had begun an aggressive fundraising campaign to raise money to help defray the costs of his lung transplant and life-long follow up care.

Less than two years after his passing, I had founded and registered a charitable organization in his memory. The mission of the Foundation was to raise money to give to individuals and families faced with cystic fibrosis and/or transplant costs. The Foundation has provided assistance funds to over 100 individuals and families in need.

That may not seem like a huge number, but consider these facts: (1) We are a small all-volunteer grassroots fundraising organization -no big grants, no big corporate donors, no national media attention, no paid staff; (2) We created a solid program structure and, really, a new charitable model where (a) no other organization like this existed that (b) provided the services we provided and (c) actually succeeded at it; (3) We made contact, through the good 'ole method of snail mail letter, with approximately 260 care centers and built long-term relationships with over 70 social workers. These accomplishments were no easy feat. This doesn't even speak to the physical, emotional and taxing work that was involved in fundraising.

However, over the last few years it has become increasingly difficult to raise the funds, find the time and volunteers necessary to support our much needed programs. I have come to the difficult decision that the Foundation will be dissolved by years' end. But, I accept this turning point with an open heart. It's time. The Foundation has been providing assistance funds for nearly twelve years. I am only able to let this go because I can look back at all those families we helped and I know, in my heart, what good we did for them. The Foundation accomplished exactly what it set out to do and now its' time to let it go. I may reinvent the Foundation concept somehow, but the charitable part will have to be dissolved.

While running the Foundation, I had come up with a fundraising idea of selling beaded bracelets, designed for our awareness causes (cystic fibrosis, transplant, lung transplant). I searched high and low and found absolutely no jewelry or bracelets that supported raising awareness of cystic fibrosis, lung transplant or organ donation. So, what did I do? I fulfilled that unmet need, of course! The first two handcrafted awareness bracelets designed were back in early 2004. It makes me proud to say, to date, Crystal Allure Jewelry is the leader of cystic fibrosis, lung transplant, organ donation and transplant related beaded awareness bracelets! In the competitive market of jewelry, this too was no easy feat.

I can stand proud of these accomplishments because really neither were for me. Both endeavors were for the benefit of someone or something else and I wouldn't have it any other way. Okay, in fairness, I do get something out of both. Comfort, hope, peace of heart and mind. Satisfaction that I have contributed back and made a difference. I guess you could say, my brother is my guardian angel. He is and always will be my inspiration.

Born and blessed with both benevolent and entrepreneur qualities, I always knew I'd run my own business someday. I just never dreamed it would be two and that both would help people. I completely realize, I've put in the actual effort that ultimately made these businesses' successful. But it was the short time I had with Eddie that provided me a lifetime of memories that continue to motivate me and drive me to be humble to others' struggles and to be as successful as I can be. From my point of view, he is the sole reason why Crystal Allure Jewelry exists today. Our beautiful beaded jewelry is shipped all over the world and I get to meet some pretty fantastic people along this journey. :-)

Growing up with him, his illness and what it meant really gave me a different perspective on life -on living -and on making the most of everyday. I can't imagine not being able to breathe almost every. day. of. your. life. No. Wait. Yes, I think I can and it scares the bejesus out of me! Even on my most worst of days, if you ask me, my response will always be: everything is fine; I'm good. That's how I roll because I know this is just a day, it will pass. But somewhere, someone most surely "has it worse than me". I'm sure of it.

The lens(es) from which I view life were forever changed the day he passed away. I was changed, humbled, crushed, deeply saddened and felt alone. Through my own healing journey, I have discovered, time heals all wounds. I took my loss, sadness and turned it into two successful businesses, eternally celebrating his memory and what he means and meant to me.

Now you have a little better picture of what motivates me and inspires my jewelry designs. My ability to relate to many of my customers is what makes Crystal Allure Jewelry so personable. I infuse each custom jewelry piece with as many personal touches, from the customer, as I can. My artisan designs are always inspired by everyday life. And what is so great about our awareness jewelry is it works double time. Not only does the purchaser get an exquisite piece of jewelry (that was not mass produced) a portion of the proceeds gets donated to charity. It's a win-win. These, and many more, reasons are what sets Crystal Allure Jewelry apart from the competition and makes our business model and handcrafted jewelry designs so unique.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey of rediscovering the roots and purpose of Crystal Allure Jewelry.

About the picture used: I'm not a fan of being in pictures (I'd rather be behind the camera than in front of one) but I chose to feature the above picture of my brother and myself because, (1) having spent a good portion of my younger years "speeding through life", I didn't get many pictures with him; (2) this picture, for me, invokes a lot of good memories and; (3) this picture is actually the one used in the butterfly wing on the back cover of my good friend, Joanne Schum's second edition book: Taking Flight, Insprirational Stories of Lung Transplantation, More Journeys.

My vision for Joanne's 2nd edition book cover
highlighting one of our most popular bracelets
I was asked to contribute my story to this second edition. I was both honored and thrilled to be a part of this fantastic book. I hope you pick up a copy for yourself. There are some amazing stories that will fill your heart and make you look at things a little differently after reading it.

I was also invited to submit my idea(s) for the new book cover. I didn't win but I was 2nd place and was told it was a tough decision for her to make. I'm sad my idea didn't win the cover, but for the first time, since the book was published, I'm sharing my design idea with you.

My rough draft design idea highlights our most popular Transplant Awareness Ribbons Bracelet (B105). Which is also the bracelet that I guess you could say 'put Crystal Allure Jewelry on the map'!

So, join me today in our hearts in wishing Eddie a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Eddie: I love you, miss you and you will be forever in my heart. Thank you for being the inspiring force behind my success and for listening when I still talk to you. :-)

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