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Of Thanksgiving & Hope

I am up early this Thanksgiving morning, reminiscing with prayers of blessings for all those who have impacted our lives. For it was on this day 18 years ago I, unexpectedly became a mother. Fighting for my own life, it was the day before Thanksgiving, and it was a day of HELLP & Hope.

Thankful for all of the doctors and nurses who sprung to action, who continued to care for both of us for the coming weeks and months. For friends, family, our faith and local community who came together to help us in a time of need. But, this Thanksgiving, more than ever, I am thankful, for Hope.

When you become a parent, you are consumed with all that you must teach your children, to care for them and help them grow into thoughtful and productive members of society. This morning, it isn't about what we have taught her, but what she has taught us throughout the past 18 years that I am thankful.

Believing in God, means believing in His timing. In the past 18 years, I have come to know and trust in Gods greater plan in my life. I have stubbornly pushed, trying to force things into my timeline, my schedule. In those times when I have trusted in the greater plan, trusted that the people in my life are there for a reason, that obstacles are there to teach me, it is in those times when I experienced the greatest growth. Growth that has made me who I am today. Your feet know the path, trust them and you will not fall.

Patience & presence. Growth happens over time, learning happens over time, have patience and be present in those times. Having a 15.6 ounce baby in the hospital for months on end gives you an ample amount of one thing, time. Savor every day, every breath, celebrate every accomplishment of growth. The outside world will distract you, but never lose sight that this is your life, show up for it.

Love & Compassion. Throughout the years, we have experienced plenty of ups and downs. Hope has a wonderful way of believing the best in people. She truly wants the best for others, secretly cheers them on in their successes. Remaining optimistic when I might have become cynical, freely granting forgiveness when I struggle to find it in my own heart. She is truly resilient, loving and compassionate and that perhaps has been the greatest lesson. Above all things, love.

Work hard & never give up. Things haven't always come easy, but the one thing we have heard repeatedly, Hope works hard. She works hard, but never really makes it seem like work. She is the one quietly grabbing the garbage and taking it out when it needs, picking something up, reminding me of groceries or just stopping to grab them on her way home without being asked. Quietly studying for hours on end, shooting baskets, or mastering a new word puzzle, she wants to do things better each day when many would roll into coast mode. Never, ever, ever give up.

Be You. When Hope was still just a baby, doctors told us she would never run and play like other kids, never go to a regular school, never a lot of things. At each turn, proving them wrong. At one point I asked her pediatrician if she would be able to do something and his response was, "Every time I try to make a prediction, she proves me wrong. When the books tell me she can't, she does. There is not a book that gets it right, that girl writes her own book." People will tell you that you can't, but remember YOU write your own book.

Trust in your own knowing. Hope has always had a strong knowing of what is right and wrong. A desire to understand the rules, to follow them and encourage others to do the same. A stubborness for equality, a knowing of her own path, and a trust of her intuition. A strong internal compass guides her, reminding us to, do what is in your heart and all else will follow.

Smile. I came a cross a quote that reminds me of Hope, "Don't let someone dim your light, simply because it is shining in their eyes." In the face so many ups and downs, one thing has been constant, her smile. She keeps a positive attitude, and when so many are cynical, finds reason to smile. Be happy, truly happy.

Thank you, my dear Hope, for letting me walk this path with you, and for all you have taught me along the way! Here is to the many adventures that are yet to come. Happy Birthday!



Update on Hope

I have gotten several requests for an update on Hope. Soon we will be heading back to school, Hope will be a Junior this year. This image is from last fall, and will be doing some more in the coming weeks. We are so blessed with the young woman that she has become. Thank you for following her story, hopefully it can give you hope in your own.



World Prematurity Day

Today is World Prematurity Day! On this day I am recalling with gratitude all of those who supported us throughout the time of Hope's birth. It was a time of great uncertainty and so many held us in prayer, extended gifts and acts of kindness. For the care we received from the medical and surrounding community we will be forever grateful.

First Hold - Christmas Day 1996

Hope was born the day before Thanksgiving and this photo is of the first time I was able to hold her, Christmas Day 1996. One month which seemed like an eternity. A month that was made much more bearable due to the love, support and care that we received.

Today, I am honored to be able to support others who find themselves in the same situation by rocking at the Sanford NICU.

Each week when they entrust me to hold in my arms another preemie, I am reminded of this very first hold and what that meant to me.

Thank you to all those who care for these precious little ones, for your work truly makes a world of difference in the lives of their families.


Bullying....a cry for help? Are we listening?

Shots rang out once again today in an American high school, as a student chose to turn to violence against his fellow classmates, killing at least one and injuring several others. Yet, many times they only choose to harm themselves. While we don't yet have the details on this latest tragedy, it is becoming a scenario that plays out several times a year across our country, each time my heart sinks for all families, students, teachers and administrators involved.

What is it that is pushing students to these lengths? Initial reports indicate that once again, bullying was likely a root cause. This isn't the first time we have seen this play out as such, but what is being done about bullying? Many schools struggle with generating a comprehensive policy, and those with the policies in place don't always do a great job of enforcing them. In today's world, with these types of headlines becoming all too common, the stance that "kids will be kids" is one we just can no longer afford to take.

My question punishing the "Bully" the answer? A quote that I believe I heard on Oprah, although I am not certain of its origin, is that only "hurt people, hurt people." If that is true, and I believe it to be so, bullying really appears to be a cry for help, from a being who is feeling less than whole. Much has been said about the lives of those who act out in violence against their bullies, but what do we really hear about the bullies themselves and the world which they live in.

Are mom and dad just not there enough, show them enough affection, are they just insecure in themselves, feeling lost or not fitting in, or perhaps are being overshadowed by a sibling? Are they just not getting the love and attention they need to feel whole? Why do they feel the need to act out? Is it the only mechanism they know to feel less broken? The shattered light bulb needing to break the one still shining and whole?

Frankly, some bullying behavior is simply learned. You guessed it, bullies grow up to become....Bullies. But that isn't always the case. So, the question begs, how do we strive to be whole and nurture wholeness in the children of America? Again, it begins at home, with YOU.

As parents and adults, swirling in a vortex of "busy-ness" of life, we rarely take the time to look at our own lives to determine how we are feeling. Do you find joy in your life, your work, your spirit, your outside activities, friends and relationships? We know how it is, when everything seems to be going right in your world, virtually nothing can sway you from that positive feeling, but when you are dissatisfied with any aspect of your life, or just having a bad day, it can take something miniscule to set you off, totally change the trajectory of your day.

You see, it is by example that we most effectively teach. We teach our children about the world, about dreaming and doing, and living and loving, but how do we teach them to deal with stress, conflict resolution and perspective?

I try to teach my children to see bullies as being "broken." To have pity on them for they are trying to fill up the cracks in their brokenness, by hurting others. Knowing that their actions will never truly fill up that emptiness they feel inside. To have perspective on what their lives might be like, where they are not feeling loved or appreciated, and the jealousy they may feel toward the unbroken.

That doesn't mean they should sit back and silently resign to live with bullying, it just sheds some light on the brokenness in the world. Hopefully inspiring future generations to better understand how to strive for wholeness in their lives. Wholeness which cannot be filled by material goods, food, drugs, alcohol, or the abuse of others.


What if Responsibility, Respect and Resilience were the new Reading, Writing and Arithmetic?

As students hurry back to school and my own daughters are diving in to their 8th grade and Freshman year of high school, I am reminded of a little informal survey that I conducted a few years ago. Polling teachers I knew and encouraging them to share with other teachers as well, I wondered.... If you could teach your students anything, without concern for regulation or requirements, what would that be? What are the lessons that would be most beneficial to them as they being their journey though life?

While the poll was highly unscientific, I think the responses were priceless.

"I want my kids to know compassion and what it means to think about other people before they act.  I want them to be life long learners and be able to think for themselves and love doing it.  I hope that my students develop and continue to have a passion for knowledge and thrive on the quest it takes to get there." ~ Idaho teacher

"Lessons in listening for starters.   Lessons in questioning.  Lessons in conflict resolution." ~ Montana teacher

"Don't be afraid to try something new. We learn from failure. Failure is a positive thing, when we learn something from it." ~ North Dakota teacher

And one of my favorite from a North Dakota teacher....

"I feel that people need to learn how to maintain a positive attitude no matter what the situation.  There are going to be an overwhelming number of times in a person's life when everything will seem to fall apart but maintaining an attitude that allows you to see the silver lining in the situation will allow you to intern maintain hope.  And that hope for something better in life will inevitably allow you to see the doors of opportunity that you didn't know where there in front of you.  Being a positive person will lead to wonderful things - most of them on a small, day to day basis but all of those small blessings will add to a beautiful life."

I am grateful to all of those hard working teachers out there, striving to make this world a better place, and our children better people. As those of us venture on our own journey though life, perhaps we too can learn from these teachers and discover those small blessings we are given each day.

Remember that you too, are a powerful teacher, not only in your words, but in the example of the life you live. Go out there and be positive, count your blessings and create a beautiful life!