As I watched the above video this morning I knew in every cell, every molecule of my being that, when all is said and done, Curious George & Co. represents me breaking free from The Stumbling Stage. The love I feel directly in the center of my chest when I see kids and families meaningfully connect or, as the case often is, struggling to connect. The passion I have for finding and creating ways for kids and families to learn, build skills, and grow. The complete certainty with which I know that together, we can create spaces of belonging: safe places for all to experience wonder, curiosity, fun, acceptance, and connection. Love, passion, certainty; these are the feelings and emotions that have and continue to lead me. And it is these feelings and emotions that are helping me, day by day, continue to break free of my own Stumbling Stage. And it is this freedom that allows me to leap with clear head and full heart into helping others find their own version of these feelings and to bear witness as they, too, find steadier feet.
My time owning The Curious George Store, although short in linear time, was an entire lifetime of lessons. With all that I learned and experienced throughout that incredibly crazy, challenging, and fun year and a half, when Covid knocked our feet out from under us, I just knew that it wasn’t the end of the ride. I may still stumble a bit here and there but, with the clarity I have now, I also know that this dream ain’t over – not by a long shot.
Curious George & Co. is founded on, grounded in, and taking shape out of that lifetime of lessons combined with the passion, love, certainty, clear head and full heart that led me through it all. And it’s here, my dear Curious George Community, fresh from The Stumbling Stage, that I ask for your help: if any of this resonates with you and/or you think it will with others, if you believe that our shared love for our friend Curious George is strong and meaningful enough to build on, please share and like our website and social media pages. Tell others about our Holiday Sale and upcoming AUCTION (That’s right – I said it… We are indeed holding another auction of the vintage and collectible display Curious George plush that helped make The Curious George Store so special!! Cyber Monday, anyone?… 😊). These events are our very first means of breathing this labor of love into the full, lively, and meaningful life I know it will enjoy. So please help spread the word to those you know that want to support small business, minority-owned business, and community-strengthening business. Or don’t – that’s ok too! Having broken free from The Stumbling Stage, I know now that I’m unstoppable…. xoAstra
This past year has been a challenging, tumultuous year by pretty much anyone’s standard. Most everyone has faced some sort of difficulty or change in their day-to-day existence – with a world-wide pandemic, I think we can count on that as universal fact. Many of us and our children have experienced new sides of stress, new challenges to our mental well-being. But, true to human nature, we continue seeking ways to navigate it. To find our way back to some sort of stasis, a new normal; to find our way to feeling ground beneath our feet – to safe harbor.
As someone who’s spent her life coming to terms with bipolar disorder, I intimately know the ins and outs of tumult, chaos, stress, anxiety. I have tried countless medications and therapies, working to achieve balance, to feel grounded and whole. So, I’m sure you can imagine that while it had been years since I felt completely unhinged and desperate, at times during this past year, I was strongly reminded me that that place still exists inside of me.
But this time, something felt fundamentally different while I was stuck in that place. This time, though I still felt unbalanced and desperate to find peace, that desperation actually came from a place of wholeness. I learned that, at the core of my vortex of emotion and panic, lies tremendous strength, energy, and creativity. I was desperate to reach safe harbor, to feel grounded, to feel (as I now can say) “myself”. But at some point, I realized the desperation came from knowing what it is to feel balanced, healthy, and grounded though at that moment, I just couldn’t seem to find mySELF.
I am able to launch Curious George & Company today because I’ve come to fully see and embrace that it’s the love, passion, and drive for something greater than myself, certainly MUCH greater than my bipolar disorder that brings me a deeper, fuller sense of stability, health, balance, and wholeness than any medication or treatment ever will. The heart of my soul cracked wide open when I bought The World’s Only Curious George Store. I fell in love with something that gave me purpose, passion, safe harbor. Since then, I’ve touched and felt a greater peace, joy, and wholeness than I thought possible. Sure, I don’t live and feel it all the time. But, even in my times of greatest desperation, I know it’s there.
I say all this because I want Curious George & Co. to be a safe harbor for us all. A place to be joyfully curious, to find wonder, to learn and explore new things. I want Curious George & Co. to be a place where you can touch, feel, and sense wholeness even if you don’t quite feel it in yourself – ESPECIALLY if you don’t feel it within. No one can create the feeling for you, but it’s there – you just have to connect to it. Curious George & Co. is the space and the means for all ages to learn and grow towards that wholeness. A space of curiosity, exploration, and acceptance. A place to learn, build skills and experience connection and belonging. A place where precisely BECAUSE you belong, you’re that much closer to your wholeness.
I’ve poured and continue to give every fiber of my vision and passion into The Curious George Store and now, Curious George & Company. But I can’t do it alone. The Curious George Store is no longer, but I have been inordinately blessed to ride the tremendous wave of love that Curious George and The Curious George Store engendered. To all of you, my fellow Curious George Community members who are part of that giant wave, you will always hold a special and critical piece of my heart. Without you, there would not be a Curious George & Co.. It’s in our collective love for Curious George that I anchor Curious George & Co. — it’s the cornerstone of the entire endeavor. I again call out to each of you to continue sharing the specialness of Curious George with each other and with Curious George & Co. – as long as we have our Curious George Community in place, I know we can’t go wrong.
SO, what does this all mean? What exactly is Curious George & Co., anyway? I’ll be sharing more details of the overall vision and plan in the forthcoming weeks but, for now, I can tell you that we’ll start by offering ways to:
You’ll find fun, interactive ways for kids to build and sustain early reading, STEM, mindfulness and resilience skills.
Many of the interactive games and activities are designed for kids and adults to build and strengthen emotional bonding and connection.
We’ll have forums for kids to connect, socialize, and have fun.
We’ll also offer forums for adults geared to support their children’s remote-learning and overall parenting while under stress.
Feel a sense of belonging:
No matter who you are or where you’re from, you will find only curiosity, tolerance, and acceptance.
We’ll be providing tools that can help you and your children discover and build upon your sense of wholeness and belonging from within.
Find Curious George and other great merchandise:
Oh yeah! And OF COURSE we’re ramping up to bring you all things wonderous and utterly fabulous!
As we continue to build out the website and programming, at times we’ll directly ask you to provide your insight, input and feedback. You are an integral part of this process and extremely important as behind the scenes, we plan and build the AMAZING NEW AWESOME EXPERIENCIAL INTERACTIVE PHYSICAL LOCATION. WAIT, WHAT?!?!?!!! Did she just say PHYSICAL LOCATION? That’s right folks, The Curious George Store may be gone but that doesn’t mean the dream is too. Keep coming back – establish yourself as a solid member of the Curious George Community – it’s all a work in progress and I plan on working and progressing with all of you by my side; I can’t do it without you.
And so, we’re kicking the whole thing off with our Holiday Sale. Visit our store page to see what we currently have to offer! AND, stay tuned – we may just have a few more vintage Curious Georges looking for a new home. There could perhaps be an auction in the not-too-distant future….
Over my 49 years, I’ve had to learn how to live in gratitude. In the past, I could be and often was grateful for things, people, and opportunities that came into my life, but I wasn’t living in a state of sustained gratitude.
Owning The Curious George Store was one of the biggest reasons that I am now capable of living in gratitude. Having never before owned a business, I had NO idea of what I was in for when I bought it. But some little voice relentlessly insisted that I had no choice: our friend Curious George was calling to me. And so, I did what any sane and reasonable person would (not) do in that situation: I closed my eyes and leapt, both feet forward. Turns out, the little bugger was right. The Store has brought so many gifts, learnings, and so much love and generosity of spirit into my life. It has been such a powerful force that even with the incredible difficulties, obstacles, and challenges I’ve faced in the past year and a half, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
For me, not knowing a thing about what I needed to know turned out to be the best place from which to start. I had absolutely no choice but to rely on the help given to me in so many ways; incredibly smart, gifted and skilled people that DID know what they were doing, opportunities I had no clue were even out there, and support and love from countless people, yourselves included.
So, I’m sure you can imagine, all of this kicked my gratitude into high gear. When you bear witness, as I have, to the amount and sheer force of love that I’ve been so lucky to see and receive, I imagine even the greatest of cynics wouldn’t be able to remain so: gratitude is such a bigger force and stronger place in which to live.
And now I find myself amid a pandemic, social/racial/cultural/economic injustice, political wars, fear and hatred. Yet, I remain happy. It’s not that I’m unaffected by it all – of course I am – I’m biracial, bipolar, and at the moment, have lost my business. And yet, because of gratitude, I can and do remain happy. Gratitude as opened a space within me that can only be filled with acceptance, grace, and joy. It is all of you that are filling that space.
The auction was a huge reminder of why that gratitude space is so powerful to me. The enthusiasm, energy, and love brought by each of you was nothing short of amazing. The grace, patience, and support you all showed – sitting through technical difficulties and the time it took us to learn – was completely astounding.
I am so grateful to each and every one of you – whether you took part in the auction or just now randomly happened across a blog post about a girl, a monkey, a store, and gratitude – you, as individuals and collectively, make me so incredibly grateful to belong to and be supported by one of the strongest, kindest communities I’ve ever come across: The Curious George Community. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind – the auction was just living proof – that every last person in our CG Community holds the same qualities I mentioned above: acceptance, grace, patience, energy, enthusiasm, and love. And because you chose to share all of them with me, I am filled with unending gratitude and support.
So, to all my Curious friends, I say thank you. Your support is the wind beneath my wings. Let’s work together to build a space and place that can act as a launching pad: a place that is about all things Curious George – a space where we can teach our kids or anyone else who may need to feel the acceptance, joy, and love that the Curious George Community so readily provides.
Keep coming back – make your stake in the Curious George Community and help me build what’s to come. Make sure to keep checking in – we’ll be offering opportunities to do just that in the very near future. And please, keep showing your generosity and love, which makes me certain that through the obstacles and challenges waiting down the road, I will nevertheless remain safe and happy in gratitude.