Fulfilling one of my lifelong (ok, almost lifelong) dreams {my life}

My mama is amazing.  I know I’ve said that before, but it’s true!  She was a stay-at-home mom to 11 kids, but I remember that we always had a couple of extra kids in our house (when we invited friends over, we used to joke that she’d never notice an extra mouth).  Most of our items were second-hand, and when we were done with them, she passed them on.  If we needed her, she always made herself available to help – even now.  I think her sweet, giving nature totally influenced some of my own dreams and goals growing up.
So what might those be, you ask?
Well, when I was 5, I wanted to be a fire engine.  Laugh all you want (I’ll laugh with you), but I thought that the fire engines were what saved people.  They drove the firemen to the fire, they carried the hoses, ladders, axes, and all the other tools necessary to stop the fire.  And yes, I may have possibly been gullible enough to think I could morph into a machine, but I was only 5.  In any case, the underlying theme was that I wanted to help others.
When I was about 16, I had this ridiculous plan to adopt 10 (slightly older) kids and own a Mustang – by the time I was 20.  I’m not sure what exactly prompted my desire to adopt, other than those sad commercials you see on TV of orphans around the world and a book I had read about how no one adopted the older kids.  I wanted the 10-year-olds, the troubled 14-year-olds, the sassy 8-year-olds…I wanted to be rich, own a big house, adopt bunches of needy orphans, and turn their lives around – be someone stable that they could count on.  How I planned to do all of that, I have no clue (I think I thought adopting was free, lol).  I just knew I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.  I still do.  But I have no immediate plans to adopt 10 kids!!!  This dream, however, still sits in the back of my mind, and I would like to adopt an older child – someday.  Again, my goal was to help others, make a difference.
When I was 19, I moved to Gainesville, FL for college (Go Gators!).  Living in a college town was a real eye opener for me.  Prior to that, my life had been in the country, and although I had seen homeless people wandering around during my travels, I never really dealt with it on a day to day basis.  It didn’t affect me.  I raised money for the homeless and the food bank in high school, but I never actually met anyone helped by those fundraisers.  In this college town, however, homeless people were literally on my way to school or work, or on the walk from class to a restaurant.  So I made plans, of course, telling myself that one day I would “adopt” a homeless person – give them an opportunity to get cleaned up, wear nicer clothes, and help them try to find a job.  ::laughs:: Lofty ambitions for a girl who was working two jobs almost 70 hours a week just to afford school.  I dreamed, but I did nothing.
When I returned to Gainesville for my Masters degree in Education a couple of years later, I lived in a place closer to the homeless than before.  They hung out two blocks from me and occasionally walked up and down the streets near my residence.  Again, thoughts of “adopting” a homeless person entered my mind, but my goal of finishing grad school in a year was priority.  I settled for buying them burgers every now and then, giving them my restaurant leftovers, or handing out groceries I originally purchased for myself as I was leaving the grocery store.  I kept non-perishables in the trunk of my car just in case.  I convinced myself that I could make a difference with the teenagers I planned to teach and focused on that.
Fast forward a little more than 4 years.  Marriage, moving to a new state, and two children have kept me from working as a teacher.  My FL teaching certificate expired, Oklahoma has completely different requirements and testing (which aren’t cheap), and I have two cuties I can’t bear to stick in daycare (most days).  My dreams and goals had to morph some, but the main question was still: How could I make a difference?
In 2010, after a couple years of dabbling, I decided to become a photographer.  I took classes with M.Photog Vinny Vitale, worked on my mad shooting skills, studied about starting a business (ack!), and wrote a business plan.  My goal?  To help others {Live. Love. Remember.}  Is it as helpful as helping the homeless?  Maybe –  in a different way.  Photography absolutely offers the opportunity to help others…through the NILMDTS program, OpLove, capturing images of a cancer survivor, or even just donating a session to someone who may not be able to afford quality photography.  Photographers can make a difference!  One of the best things about photography, I think, is the people you just happen to meet, both online and in real life.
While looking for local businesses who might need product photography, I stumbled across the HERR Projects, and I convinced my husband to take me to the Farmer’s Market so I could meet the woman behind it all: Carolyn Herr.  I was absolutely thrilled!  She makes hats and scarves for the OKC homeless, as well as other items that she sells to raise money for food and toiletries (all items are MiO – Made in Oklahoma).  Every winter she drives around and distributes the items directly to the homeless.  I couldn’t wait to help her since I had just started knitting again in May (my first project was a scarf for A, that S promptly stole).  I’m hoping to have several scarves and hats for her before the end of the year (as well as some other items for her to sell), knitting as my time permits.
With the HERR Projects, I am fulfilling one of my dreams of helping the homeless.  Sure, it’s not in the way I originally envisioned, but I look forward to keeping people warm during (brutal) Oklahoma’s winters!  I am so glad that I’m able to help do something that has a lasting effect!  If you’d like to help, you can contact Carolyn by looking up HERR Projects on FB or clicking on the link.

Here’s some pictures of a few of my creations for the HERR Projects (click on the picture for a bigger version):

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”  Don’t measure your success in how much money you make or how big your house is.  Measure your success in how you treat others: helping those less fortunate or just lending a hand where you may be needed.  Everyone has the opportunity to make a difference, photogs included.  Find a way to give back to your community or help others!
Not sure what you can do to help?  Want to teach your kids about giving and helping others?  Visit GenerationOn.org for ideas, lessons, and programs!
SN:  Carolyn and I talked about having a FB auction for her/our items in a couple of weeks (just before Black Friday)…she makes a lot of cute things mommies and photographers would love, including hats, toys, blankets, and more!  All proceeds would go toward items the homeless need – did I mention she keeps absolutely nothing from the sale of her items?!  If we did that, would anyone be interested?  What kind of items would you like to see?  Comment below so we can try to offer what you want!
♥ Victoria
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