The Business of Being Grateful

Fairfield Citizen-news
May 9, 2008

Looking at the outward trappings of Liz Flavin's life, an observer would say this woman has a charmed life. Her looks would give competition to any model on the pages of leading women's magazines. Her manner of dress is understated elegance. Her smile is bewitching as she speaks with a passion and sincerity fueled by the challenges she has faced in recent years.

Yet, when she sits in her beautifully appointed home that sits on acres of land on one of Greenfield Hill's most beautiful country roads and volunteers that she is "renting" the house, she begins to give hints that all is not what it may seem.

This outward appearance, this once-picture-perfect postcard of life in New England with husband, three young children, even at one time a $6 million house on acres of land, with a barnyard of sheep that attracted groups of schoolchildren, no longer represents the truth of who Liz Flavin really is and what her life is really about.

Flavin's story is not a new story. As with others, she has faced many unexpected challenges in her life. She has endured a very difficult divorce and the death of her two parents. However, it is the close proximity of the three events all in just a little more than a year that catapulted her into a tailspin.

While many may sink in such despair for years and years, especially with divorce where many people never get beyond the change in marital status and finally come to acceptance Flavin's life has taken a dramatic turn and one she wishes to share with others.

Flavin calls post-divorce in 2006 "a dark time." To ease the pain, she invited five "favorite" friends and e-mailed 60 others to join in what she called "a gratitude gathering at her home."

"I wanted to publicly claim my soul and spirit," said Flavin.

In discussing this dark moment in her life when light began to filter through with rays of gratitude for the friends in her life, she noted how there are two ways to hold an egg. If you hold it around the middle, it is very fragile; but if you hold the egg with your fingers grasping its tips, it will not break.

During the gathering, Flavin thanked her friends for their friendship and shared a bit of her story with them. She spoke to why she had created the evening and theme. As she spoke, people started to thank and acknowledge her for how gracefully she had conducted herself during a very difficult time in her life. Many thanked her for inspiring them.

In recalling the gathering, Flavin said, "This is when my friend Gabrielle presented me with her 'egg toast.' She had a basket of eggs and gold pens and simply asked that everyone write something to me. It was a personal message to me."

Some of her favorites are: "Renew lovely girl" and "You inspire us."

In writing the acclamations, Flavin's friends had given her the strength, dignity and courage to move forward.

She now saw herself faced with another challenge to rebuild her life. In doing so, she has decided to share what she has learned through her own personal tragedies to help others see how one individual can turn a negative into a positive.

This attitude translates into the word "gratitude." She encourages people to be grateful for the good aspects of their lives and to move forward and build upon the positive. Flavin is an example of doing what one believes.

"I've been thinking of how to turn this [feeling] into a business," said Flavin, explaining "Gratitude Etc." a multifaceted business that includes Gratitude Gathering workshops to teach others how to practice gratitude as a way of life. She is encouraging others to change a negative into a positive or as others have said, '"When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."'

"I made a decision to proceed with grace and dignity and to take the high road out," Flavin said. She decided to focus on the good. When she wakes up in the morning she is grateful for the sun. At night, when she sees the moon, she is grateful for "this amazing day."

When she was divorced, and a lot of the material trappings of a marriage were gone, she said, those trappings had nothing to do with who she was. "I learned to be a woman embracing 'self' and I decided I wanted to make a difference in other people's lives."

Starting and running a business is not unusual for Flavin. She has been a business woman in the fashion, retail and advertising worlds; a public speaker; a host of a TV pilot; and founder of a nonprofit organization. She has worked on the business side of women's magazines for many years, including Vogue, Elle and Brides, for whom she was the merchandizing editor. During her tenure working for magazines, she traveled throughout the country speaking to groups of people.

Flavin founded The Gratitude Etc. Jewelry Collection of handcrafted 22-karat and 18-karat gold bangles with diamonds and colored gemstones, pendant necklaces and cufflinks. Flavin launched the line in April with a trunk show at Mitchells of Westport, where the jewelry is available. Each custom piece is engraved with a reminder to be grateful. The collection is the collaboration of Flavin and Stephanie Albertson, a New York jeweler. "Gratitude is the most precious jewel," Flavin said.

In attention to the jewelry line, the Gratitude Etc. product line will also include candles, stationery and a Gratitude Gathering Kit.

In her promotional material, Flavin notes, "Like the women or men who wear them, each piece is unique and precious, a gift to wear, or share, or give as an expression of gratitude."

The line of jewelry is a manifestation of what she is feeling inside and her philosophy that individuals should be grateful for all the wonderful aspects of their lives. A portion of all jewelry sales is donated to the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, based in Norwalk.