Mission to Mexico: Monica’s Journey with Operation Smile™

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A few weeks ago, I participated in a life-changing Operation Smile™ mission. The opportunity arose at the last second, and even though it meant some schedule swapping, Brian Holman suggested that I should be the one to go, and Jeanette agreed. A huge thanks to Jeanette for sending me and to Brian, who dropped everything on his full plate to take over the Making Connections events I had been scheduled to run. So, with that change to my travel plans, I headed to San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

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This little girl, Daisy, was the recipient of a surgery during a 2010 medical mission.

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This is Daisy before her surgery in 2010.

I had no idea just how uplifting this would be. There was so much joy and heartbreak. I was amazed by the love of these families, some of whom traveled as many as 100 miles to give their child the opportunity to have a surgery. Though at first I felt overwhelmed by the needs of those who came, I knew that my place was to be a comforting presence, reassuring the children and their families. I felt blessed that, thanks to my Mexican father, I was able to speak their language and understand their culture, which helped me to serve them more completely.

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It moved me to see volunteers from all over the world going to such lengths to help these special children. I love the quote from Operation Smile™ founder Dr. Bill Magee, “Love by definition is self-sacrifice. Love is a decision to make someone else’s problem your own.” And that is exactly what I saw these wonderful people doing.

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Among the volunteers on the trip were medical team members from Italy, Canada, Spain, Russia, Paraguay, the United States, and Mexico. These talented individuals took time away from their own practices and jobs to donate their skills to the mission. The gorgeous and talented Kate Walsh, who is now an official spokesperson for Operation Smile, was also in attendance. She was so loving and sweet with the babies and families, and when she dressed in her scrubs, I felt like I was in the operating room with Dr. Addison Montgomery from Private Practice. 🙂

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It was a privilege to be on the mission along with Kathy Magee, co-founder of Operation Smile. Kathy is truly an inspired person, and I can see God working through her. What she and Dr. Magee have created is truly life-changing, and I am so grateful that Close To My Heart is able to partner with her and her organization in making a difference.

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This trip was an amazing experience for me, but there is just too much to share in a single blog post. I will be sharing more details of my story at our 2015 Close To My Heart Convention in Anaheim, California, as well as at our Australasia Convention in Brisbane, Australia. I hope that by doing so, I can help our Consultants feel some part of the motivation and commitment I feel to this amazing organization.

Until then, keep on blessing the lives of these children who need it so much! It only takes $240 to perform a single surgery, and it will change the life of a child. No matter the size of your contribution, you are making a difference. To quote Dr. Bill Magee again: “These children may never know your name, but they will never forget your kindness.”

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You can support the mission of Operation Smile by purchasing the Happy Everything stamp set pictured on the back of the Seasonal Expressions 2 idea book. For each set sold, we make a $3 donation to Operation Smile. You can also include a round-up donation each time you place an order with your Consultant. Thank you for helping us support Operation Smile’s life-changing mission.

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We’re not fooling around—Seasonal Expressions 2 is here!

In honor of the long-awaited arrival of Seasonal Expressions 2, we’ve compiled a list of our 7 favorite products that are now available! Check it out! And while you’re at it, keep a lookout for an April Fools’ Day surprise. 😉

1. Workshops on the Go® Blossom Cardmaking Kit
Grab your swimsuits, everyone! It’s time to take a dive into a pool of colors. We love this kit’s combination of the vibrant Blossom papers and the summery stamp set, which is available exclusively through this kit. Throw in coral reef sequins and Glacier extra thick twine, and you’ve got a recipe for a summer cooler we’ll happily sip all afternoon.
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2. My Acrylix® Wavy Blooms
The flowers in this stamp set practically bloom off the page! They’re breezy and beautiful and will effortlessly take on any color you choose. We love using ShinHan™ Touch Twin™ markers to create luminous spectrums that radiate from the page, but feel free to color them any which way you please because, honey, you’re the only florist in this flower shop.
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3. My Crush™ For Her and For Him Books
We know, we know, we’ve told you we’re in love with our My Crush™ books a thousand times, but this crush just isn’t going away. If anything, it’s getting stronger. We’ve got the love bug, and, with new additions like the For Her and For Him books, we’re proud of it! Everything about these books is on point and, let’s face it, we’re borderline obsessed with them.

4. Carnival and Boardwalk Washi Tape Packs
First there were the strawberries on the cover and now this? Summer can’t come fast enough with all of these new products pouring sunshine into our hearts! This is probably the most versatile washi tape that’s ever come through our doors—you can use it in strips or as individual labels. We can’t wait to see it popping up on all your projects!

 5. My Creations™ Mini Mix Album
Ever since we laid eyes on this little album, our imaginations have been going cuckoo with all the possibilities! It’s small enough to be adorable, but big enough to hold lots of bits and pieces, including all those square photos from your Instagram account. And the variety of vellum, kraft, and white cardstock pages keeps things a little mixed up in the best kind of way.

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 6. Blossom and Jackson Assortments
It’s no secret that we love working with papers, stickers, twine, tape, and other things that bend to our creative wills, but every once in a while a crafter likes to use something with a bit more backbone, which is precisely why we’re smitten with these metal-rimmed, enamel-filled pieces! Each one brings a jolt of personality all its own. They are just the right kind of adhesive-backed novelty we love to stick on our projects.

 7. Supersized Diapers
As modeled so elegantly by our COO Brian Holman’s Smart car, these supersized diapers are a godsend to keep your car from making a mess all over town. Thanks to the plush fabric and contouring fit, this baby car can finally receive the care and nurture an infant like itself deserves! If you really want to get creative, try these diapers on oversized cats, dogs, and children. It’s your guaranteed defense for when nature calls! Works like a charm.IMG_0841 (1)
APRIL FOOLS! Sorry, Brian. But your car is kind of a baby. 🙂

AND THE CULPRIT IS . . .IMG_0842
STICKY BOY! Why are we not surprised?

Happy April Fools’ Day, everyone!

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My Story: Monica Wihongi

What stories are you bursting to tell? Don’t be shy; we know you have them. Do you have a few (thousand) that came about because of your connection to Close To My Heart? Good, because we want to hear them!

Whenever we post a prompt here, we want you to look back on your time with us and recall your fun, funny, or awe-inspiring memories—then send them in. We’ll take a handful of the entries that make us cry (or make us laugh until we snort, whichever comes first) and post them here for all to enjoy.

Of course, we believe in positive reinforcement, so all published entries will earn a Close To My Heart goodie or two, just for fun.

To start things off, we’re calling for entries that answer the question: How did you first get involved with Close To My Heart? Entries should be 300 words or fewer and may be edited for length, grammar, and clarity. Email your entry to ctmhblog@closetomyheart.com by November 7 with “How I Met Close To My Heart” as the subject line to be considered for inclusion on the blog.

And now, to get you sufficiently inspired, we’re sharing the true story of how Chief Communications Officer Monica Wihongi got her start. Enjoy! 

Monica’s Story
After I graduated from high school, I moved to Utah to attend college. Leaving Texas was a big culture shock for me, but I bravely made the move and immediately began working as a secretary for a small business. As keeper of the front desk, I got to see everyone that came and went through. A woman named Jeanette Lynton came in every so often to talk with my boss. I didn’t know what she came for, but I was enchanted by her beautiful eyes. That’s the first thing I remember about Jeanette: her beautiful, sparkly eyes.

On one of her visits to the office Jeanette sat in the reception area waiting to speak with my boss, so I asked her what it was that she always came in for. She answered that she rented some warehouse space from my boss, and was running her business from an office directly across the street. She told me she made stamps, and she kindly invited me over to visit her warehouse on my lunch break.

The first D.O.T.S. catalog Monica ever sawA few hours later, I walked into that building 100 percent sure that Jeanette Lynton made postage stamps. I thought, “Well, that’s nice. I guess someone has to make those little designs on all our stamps.” When Jeanette showed me the rubber and wooden blocks she used to make papercrafting stamps, I was both surprised and delighted. She showed me the catalog the company was currently using; I still remember what the cover looked like and everything! I thumbed through it, and after I was done I looked Jeanette in the eye and said, “I don’t know how, but I know that I’m supposed to help you with this.” And I did know. I instantly felt so connected to Jeanette and to her cause.

So Jeanette gave me a job, inviting me to start the following day. I told her, “Let me go back across the street and tell my boss I’m going to be working with you now.” My boss agreed wholeheartedly that Jeanette was a great woman, and said that I was free to start working for her the following day.

Monica and JeanetteI started the next day entering orders. Back then, all orders came by mail, and we would enter them into our computers by hand. It took me two and a half hours to do what I should have done in a half hour. I had no experience doing that kind of thing! Jeanette wisely asked me what it was that I did best, and I told her that I enjoyed taking phone calls. I then became a very happily employed Consultant Services Representative—the only one for the entire company, in fact.

Since then I have stayed with Close To My Heart, working in several different positions. I left for a short while after I got married, but one day I received a call from Jeanette asking me to return. “Can you just stay? Because I need you here,” she said.

She had to be flexible with my schedule because I was in school and starting a family, but she wanted me with her and I knew it because she let me bring my first baby with me to work for at least the first six months. In fact, all of my babies have come to the office with me for the first few months of their lives—and I have seven kids! Jeanette is a very family-oriented woman, and she has always respected me as a mother. Because of her I could and can still do what I’m meant to do (be a mother!) and also be here.

Wihongi Family 2014Now, several job titles later, I am still here, loving the company and loving working with one of my very best friends, Jeanette Lynton. I know we’re a papercrafting company, but our mission statement shows that we’re more than that. This is a place for people to feel connected both to their pasts and to one another.

For me, Close To My Heart is all about the people. I love the people I work with at the corporate office, and it is a great blessing to get to work with all the Consultants outside of the office—really, that is my absolute favorite responsibility. The people of Close To My Heart inspire me, and I love being around people who inspire me.

I have seen how Close To My Heart changes lives for the better, and we can all use a little goodness in our lives, especially in this day and age. I believe in Jeanette’s vision and the mission of Close To My Heart. It is truly touching hearts and changing lives—I know it’s changed mine for sure!


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