Oh, hi! I'm so happy you stopped by! I'm Kristina, mom of Avery and Emma, and we are the team behind Brave Birds California. A long and winding road has led us to launch this brand, and we couldn't be happier to be where we are today - sharing mindful, grateful vibes, working with pretty colors & nature sketches, having fun creating while helping to raise funds to support kids & families who are going through what we went through just a few years ago.
Given that September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, we thought it was a good time to start sharing our story in a more personal way . . .
We've lived a LOT of life in the last nine years. Some of the biggest, scariest, and most character-building events you can imagine happened by the time my girls were 3 and 5 years old. In 2014, three weeks before Avery's first day of Kindergarten and Emma's first day at a new preschool, my husband suddenly and unexpectedly died. It was tragic and heartbreaking and the girls were almost too little to understand the enormity of it all. After months of leaning on our amazing community and putting one foot in front of the other, as you're told to do in these situations, we were approaching our new normal. The girls had a semester at new schools under their belts, I was about to go back to my stressful corporate job, and we had just survived our first Christmas as a family of 3, when we received the shocking diagnosis that Avery had cancer. A strange bump on her scalp that the dermatologist had told us to keep an eye on but put it on the back burner, given our current circumstances, progressed quickly into a painful, swollen lump that, when eventually biopsied, turned out to be lymphoma. It had spread to her sinus cavity and lymph nodes in her neck. Thankfully, stage 2. But a rare presentation for this blood cancer.
What the actual hell, right? How could it be possible that both of these massive, earth shattering life disruptions could happen within 5 months of each other? "Is this really happening? Is this really my life?," I would ask myself pretty much daily. It was ROUGH to say the least, but we deemed ourselves the "Three Little Birds" with a little encouragement from the Bob Marley song that says "Every little thing is gonna be alright".
Oh, cancer. So many people have been affected, directly or indirectly. It's hard to know what to do or say, how to help. We received some wonderful mindset advice early on - either stay in the present, or zoom forward to the far future and envision the time when it's all over and the outcome is wonderful. The near-term worries and what if's and urges to google everything to death are just too much to bear.
So we stayed present. We breathed. We looked out hospital windows and appreciated the beautiful sunset or sunrise, depending on what time of day or night a particular procedure was happening. We did a LOT of art projects. Friends came to visit in the hospital and we decorated Avery's IV pole with chains of paper flowers. I knitted hats. Her kindergarten teacher dropped off her very own set of caterpillars in a hanging net so she could watch them form chrysalises and hatch into gorgeous butterflies, just like her class was doing back at school. It was slow. It was beautiful right alongside the heartbreak.
And we zoomed forward. Avery declared that someday she would invent chemo that could be taken in a delicious gummy bear instead of the nasty medicines she was enduring. Once she found out that her wish to swim with dolphins was to be granted by Make-A-Wish, she counted down - "8 more chemo's 'til dolphins!" and told me that thinking about the dolphins made her feel more brave. And with every kind person I encountered - nurses, doctors, child life specialists, the friends who brought us meals and took Emma for amazing adventure play dates while Avery & I were in the hospital, the entire make-A-Wish organization, the girls' school communities - I thought, "how can I ever repay this kindness? We've got to give back once we're through this crap."
And somehow, turning over a new page every day, writing new chapter after new chapter, finding our flock, persisting and stopping to look around every few months, we began to appreciate how far we had come, and realize how resilient we are. In March of 2017, Avery had her last dose of chemo and we celebrated like crazy. We have cake every year to commemorate that kick ass anniversary. We became the people who made it through to the other side. I became the person to call when a friend of a friend gets a tough diagnosis, able to say "we've been there, and we're proof you can get through this." We signed up for Walk for Wishes fundraisers. I started speaking at fundraising events for Make-A-Wish and UCSF Children's Hospital. We looked for ways to give back - by raising money for research and support for families going through it, but also to share our perspective, our ability to breathe through it all, the strange gift of a magical outlook on life that this experience has given us.
We launched Brave Birds hoping that our products bring smiles and mindfulness, and hoping to raise awareness about pediatric cancer while doing a little fundraising along the way.
10% of every Brave Birds purchase is donated to charities close to our hearts - pediatric cancer research and organizations that support quality of life for these brave kids. We are currently supporting:
Wishing you lots of love,
Avery (14), the bravest bird we know, is a cancer survivor and a wonderful artist - you will see some of her art within our collections. She's also our social media consultant - "That's aesthetic, Mom . . . " She's our inspiration!
Emma (12) is our flower photographer (her photos inspire our illustrations!), master typo finder, craft market assistant and packaging helper.
Kristina (Mom) spent 20 years in corporate retail while designing stationery as a side hustle and doing a LOT of drawing with her daughters. It's been her dream to launch a creative business that GIVES BACK!