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14 ounces, 14 years later.

This past weekend, we celebrated Hope's 14th Birthday. Which inspired many of us to think back to that time 14 years ago, when our lives hung in the balance, in the hands of medical personnel and definitely in the hands of God. Her birth wasn't that which mothers dream of, the joyous occasion marked by readiness, and great celebration. Yet, what the day became was definitely the launching of our family and friends on an epic voyage of faith, perseverance, and hope.

I decided to write this post not to perpetuate the struggle, to languish in the pain, but to celebrate the journey, to the lessons learned, insights gained, connections made and community experienced.

Born the day before Thanksgiving, but not due until mid March. Hope weighed a mere 14 ounces at her lightest, yet now bounds off the school bus with vibrancy and an infectious smile. I often think, "How did we get here from 14 ounces?" She has in fact....come a long way baby!

In that journey, we have grown, learned a lot and were blessed to have encountered a number of really incredible people, without whom, we could have never made it through intact.

I would like to take the time to reflect back on the journey thus far, and lessons learned, sharing our journey in hopes of easing the path that lies ahead of you or the struggles you have or find yourself facing, whatever that might be.

Using her name to explore lessons learned, join me on this journey of H.O.P.E.

H: Have faith.

Regardless of your religious affiliation, we all need to have faith. For me, I vividly recall lying in bed following Hope's birth, moonlight streaming through the window, and it was in that moment, that I surrendered her to God. Acknowledged that I was not in control, that I would hold on for the roller coaster ride I was about to endure, but that the outcome was not in my hands.

We have the illusion that we are in control of parts of our world, there are so many that we really have no control over. That is where the fine line lies. Imagine hands, in your left are all the things you "cannot control" and in your right the "can control" aspects in our worlds. Now you can spend your day obsessing over those left-hand things; birth, death, weather and......other people. Or focus your attention on your right hand. What does that hold? Well, considerably less. In fact, the only thing in that hand, is yourself; your feelings and your actions. That is where faith comes in.

Faith is a necessity in life. A faith in a higher power (God), faith in a partner, faith in medical professionals, even faith in our faith. Each day we have faith that our alarm clock will go off, that our car will still be in the driveway, that our appointments will show up, that our world will still be spinning. But, the truth is that we really don't have control over any of those things. What we can control is our action; setting the alarm, locking our car, showing up for our appointments and facing each day as best we can, but knowing that total control is just an illusion.

So, when you feel stressed, encounter an obstacle, or feel that your world is spinning out of control. Take your right hand (what you can control) and place it over your heart. If it is still beating, you are still in control of one thing, so address that which you can control, your actions, and move forward with the faith that you will not be given more than you can handle. Even if you currently are underestimating yourself.

O: Open to Possibilities.

When faced with an obstacle and you can't possibly see any good in it, be open to the possibilities that the situation may hold in a silver lining. Yes, I know it is difficult to see in the midst of crisis, but if you really look, often times and maybe not until it has passed, you can find good in something. When I look back to our journey of Hope, there were so many good things that came from it; meeting great people, medical knowledge, connection with other parents, and one connection that would change the landscape of our family forever. 

While at the hospital one day, I was joking with one of the nurses that I was going to design and post an "Aunt Wanted" sign in Hope's isolette. That the NICU seemed to be an environment rich in young single women that might be well suited for my younger brother. She laughed, and then looked at me and indicated that there was in fact, a very nice girl who worked nights. And what followed was a relationship, literally born of the NICU, facilitated by Hope, and it has brought me a wonderful Sister-in-law, nephew and niece.

So, while I hadn't really set out to find a sister-in-law, and had only mentioned him in jest, we, and they were open to the possibilities of good things coming from a less than ideal situation. Sometimes the possibility is just that of learning we are not in control, or that we are in fact, stronger that we thought.

P: Patience is a virtue.

I think this is probably the most difficult lesson, because we have become so impatient in all aspects of our lives. We live in a world of fast food, instant communication, 24/7 news, and television on demand. So when something enters our life that cannot be rushed, it is hard to slow down. Patience isn't easy.

With Hope's birth, we knew we were in for a long haul. In fact, it was almost exactly one month from her birth that we were first able to hold her. Even touching her was something that we couldn't do at will. I won't lie, those were some of the longest days of my life, sitting at her isolette, staring at her, dreaming of a day that I could hold her. My arms literally aching with anticipation, with nothing to do but wait, and wait, and wait. 

In hindsight, it was time that I needed, time to settle my mind. So caught up in the "shoulds" of life, trying to have and be everything, I was burning the candle at both ends. And this was a sure fire way to readjust my priorities for how I was spending the time I had been given. A crisis has a way of sifting through what is really important in life.

E: Expect Miracles.

You can either go through life expecting miracles or trying to deny them. When Hope was born, her sheer survival was a long shot. Being the vibrant young woman she is today, surely just a dream. But, I have always been a fan of dreaming, expecting big things and wishing on falling stars.

We were once told by a doctor that she would never run and play like that other kids. And we often joke about that comment as she has excelled beyond all expectations. Entirely justified in trying to brace us for the definite posibilites, we chose not to believe in that vision of her future. We didn't know what her future would hold, but weren't going to throw up our hands in defeat.

Was there something special that we did, no. Beyond taking care of her the best way we knew how, praying and believing in miracles, relying on faith and moving forward.

Who were we to expect a miracle, what had we done that was worthy of such a thing. Nothing. And that is the beauty of miracles, they happen beyond all logic and explanation. And those privileged enough to be touched by a miracle will be forever changed by it.

So, wish upon that falling star, dream the impossible dream, and hope beyond hope. You never know when you will be blessed by a miracle. And don't forget to say "thank you" when you get it.





Sharing the story...of Hope

About two years ago, I decided that I wanted to write a book to share our story of Hope. While the media in our area has done a wonderful job in following Hope's story, I wanted the ability to share our thoughts, perspectives, and unique blessings we have found throughout this journey. Through the book as well as through the creation of this website. If you have a story to share, or have suggestions or recommendations for the site, I would love to hear them!

The book is about half completed and I am currently looking for an editor/publisher. If you have any resources in either of those areas, feel free to contact me at:

Here is a sneak peek excerpt (unedited) from the book:

What happened next reverted to that slow motion portion of a movie, a dream. Things are moving quickly, yet you see everything in slow motion. You have a heightened sense of awareness, the doctors eyes, the nurses. What are they holding in their hands? The room in my recollection couldn’t possibly have been the one I was in, it seemed to be glowing, lit from within. I felt as though I was outside my body watching from a distance, and yet in my body too, in shock perhaps, highly medicated, likely. Why do they appear so hurried?

So I ask the question. “How soon do you think we are going to have to do this?” Expecting an answer of a month or so. He responds, “You are crashing, this needs to be done in 30 minutes or we could lose you!” His delivery left no question, without truly hearing the words, it was evident, the gravity of this situation. The words aren’t fully out of his mouth, and absolutely no semblance of reality has begun to set in even as one of the nurses approaches the bed, flips up my gown and starts preparing me for surgery. Is this really happening? What does he mean I am crashing? The gravity of that instant, the flood of emotion, and reasoning, the heightened awareness, is indescribable. All I can utter to Tom is to try to find our parents. And as those words leave my lips, nurses push my bed out of the room and into the operating room.


Embracing the silence

Over the course of the summer, I intentionally took time to pause, take a break from blogging. It wasn't as much a "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" type of a situation, but more of a need for contemplation, for stillness, to reconnect with myself, focus, find direction.

You can choose for life to be busy, chaotic, overscheduled, overworked, and many of us thrive in those type of situations, but what I am finding more and more is the desire or need for "pause." A time for quite contemplation, collection of thought and perhaps plotting your next wild and wonderful adventure.

Being quiet isn't always easy. Each day we are bombarded with messages trying to convince us to buy or do one thing or another. It is easy to get caught up in the mode of reacting to the messages we see, buying into their advice, opinion or smarmy sales pitch. The challenge here again is not to react, call now, order today, but to be able respond thoughtfully. Will I use another pieces of exercise equipment, or will this new piece only join the mounting pile that I currently have and don't use? Does the product really do what they say? Do I even really WANT that?

As children, many of us were afraid of what lurked in the darkness of closets or recesses under the bed. As adults, do we still have that same fear, only a fear of silence? What scary thing lurks in the silence in your mind? Are you afraid of the....silence? Maybe like the monsters under your bed, there really isn't anything scary at all.

Working very hard to avoid silence, we talk about the weather, listen to music, spend hours in front of the TV, and surf the web. We bombard ourselves with noise, distraction, worry about things that will never happen. So, what if we could just turn that all off. I am not suggesting something radical like taking a vow of silence, joining an ashram, becoming a recluse. Maybe it is just 5 minutes, perhaps one conversation where you allow there to be pauses in conversation, or even just leaving the radio off in the car on the way home from work.

How do we quiet our minds from all of the "I need's (which are probably just "I want's")," "I should's" and the regrefull "I didn't's?" More importantly WHY?

It is in silence that our heart truly speaks to us.

As I contemplated a visual to accompany this post, I came across an image of a spider web coated with early morning dew in the glow of the rising sun. It occurs to me that the spider, works thoughtfully and silently in its task in creating a web. He doesn't need to consult his "spiderbook" friends for location, web building techniques, spend time complaining that the brush of a hand destroyed hours of work. The spider pushes forward, creating its own vision for its web, not worrying about when that next brush will unravel its work. An in the event of disaster, it rebuilds, again and again. The web is the accomplishment of the spider alone, its vision, its effort. I hope the spider has friends that appreciate the beauty if its work, but if not, that's OK too.

One of the joys that I have discovered over the course of the summer is volunteering. I spend four hours each week in the NICU of a local hospital. My job: rocking premie babies. Having had my own H.O.P.E. (Hands On Premie Experience) it was a very natural fit for me. I also fulfilled something else, the need for silence.

Upon entering the NICU, you are required to scrub your hands/arms for two minutes. Now if you have never tried that, set a timer and see how it goes. That is a lot of scrubbing action, a lot of time to think. The NICU is a pretty quiet place typically. Quiet, with the exception of an alarm or the hum of a ventilator, perhaps the occasional cry of a baby. Yet, in all of this quiet, I have found some spectacularly meaningful interactions.

As a rocker, baby rocker that is, I have one job, to be present. I am not allowed to pick up, put down, feed, change, or deliver medicine to a baby. My job, is to sit in the rocking chair and hold the baby the nurse hands to me, nothing more. In the silent stillness and rocking motion, I am touched deeply by these children, and the silence and reflection they provide allow me to more clearly navigate my day.

My challenge to you: find 5 minutes of silence for yourself. In the car, in the tub, in the bathroom washing your hands. If nothing else, it will make people wonder what you are up to.


Choosing your words

I am always been more of a "paint the picture" kind of a person. As a designer, it was the graphic that was truly important, that thing that draws you in, the words are just something to keep your attention on the image longer. They often are too plentiful, and choke that ever valuable "white space" that makes a design beautiful.

Lately, though, words have found a much greater significance in my world. I think one of the first areas that it really hit home was with Mike Dooley's "thought become things" in Notes from the Universe ( In essence, the things that you think about are the things that you attract into your life. In turn, those things that you say, have a similar effect.

The next book that I read that reinforced this was Hidden Message in Water by Masaru Emoto. At first it was a little "woo woo" for me, yet I was absolutely fascinated. The synopsis on Amazon states:

He found that water from clear springs and water exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns, while polluted water and water exposed to negative thoughts forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors. Emoto believes that since people are 70 percent water, and the Earth is 70 percent water, we can heal our planet and ourselves by consciously expressing love and goodwill.

The book has beautiful images of snowflake patterns with their corresponding words they were associated to. For me, these words being transformed into this beautiful visual is something that challenges designers every day. How do you take a concept and create a visual which accurately represents the words and spirit that it entails. And the thought that your words can have an influence over the crystal structure of the water amazed me. Here is a link to the childrens book.

So how does that translate in our day-to-day lives? How do the words that you say, affect your own body? How does it influence those around you. Obviously if you tell a child every day of their life, that they are worthless, useless, brilliant, or special, over time they will believe it. As such, if you do the same with telling someone they are terminally ill, plagued with chronic disease, healthy or strong, will they become those things? Think about how you feel when someone pays you a genuine compliment, or says something cruel? How does that change your attitude and your actions, for better or worse?

The mind is a mysterious beast, I had once heard that if you blindfold someone and tell them they are being burned with a hot poker, and hold a pencil eraser up to their skin, they can form a blister in that spot. I have also heard that many people are killed by the diagnosis as by disease.

If that is true, what are things like saying, "I'm getting sick," or "I just know I am going to get the flu" doing to our bodies? Are we opening the door and welcoming illness in?

It makes me think of our food. As a child, many of us were taught to say a prayer of gratitude before eating, bless this food to our bodies, etc. Is that blessing actually changing the food? If Emoto is correct in his studies, yes. Regardless, I think I would prefer to eat food which was lovingly grown, prepared by someone who loved doing so, and served by someone who wasn't just looking for a good tip. If you are grumbling all the way through preparing dinner each night is the food the same as if you slowed down, were grateful for having food, and the ability that you have to make something wonderfully nourishing for your family? Even if it didn't change the food, would it change that 30 minutes of your life you spent preparing it?

In Emoto's studies, the words written on the bottle label influenced the structure of the snowflake if produced, so what does that say about packaging design? About the brand name you choose? Is your tagline even more important that you thought?

What about your refrigerator? What do you post on the door? Are they words of love and peace, or are they sarcastic cartoons, or a flurry of "have to do" or "guilt-lists?" If you are looking for less clutter in your life, maybe starting with your refrigerator is a good place. Mine was full of things, drawings from the kids, schedules, magnets, notes, etc. I removed it all, down to the school calendar, and some photo magnets of the kids and some affirmation magnets a dear friend gave me. I must say, having that visual clutter removed did help in some small way.

But, might we take that a bit further? Since your food spends much time in your refrigerator, holding your food, should we look to the inside of the refrigerator as your next DIY home improvement project? Would it change anything if the shelves and drawers in your refrigerator were labeled with words like; health, love, peace, calm, harmony, strength and gratitude? You could simply take a dry erase marker and write on the glass or plastic. Would it hurt?

Experiment, play with it, what do you have to lose? A project or a bill that you have been worried about, write positive affirmations on it, in your car, on your bathroom mirror, try to incorporate more positive words into your life. When decorating your home, fill it only with things you love or that make you truly happy.

And choose the words you say wisely because....... "I'm never gonna stop the rain (snow) by complaining..."


If the Shoe Fits....or doesn't

This past week, it was pointed out to me, that sometimes existing schools of thought about "living" are continuously shifting. Do you ever feel like you are squeezing you size 8 foot into a cuter size 7 shoe? Or perhaps you have a vision of the perfect shoe, only when you try it on, for some reason, your foot doesn't see to fill it?

In the past several decades the roles of men and women have been evolving, changing. Yet, I have been pulled, drawn to the concept that I can or "should" be everything to everyone, but where does that leave what I "want" or what I am "inspired to do?"

Can we have it all?

Can we be the June Cleaver housewife who walks around the house in heels and a dress, dinner on a perfectly set formal table, a house of perfection. Home for the children, with cookies fresh from the oven as the come home from school?

And then there is the woman of the 80s who became a "career woman." Bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan, progress, no doubt, and the fresh baked cookies may have turned into bought, but hey now we can afford it.

And what about today's woman? Do the same old paradigms apply? Or do we expect more?

Times have changed, but have our ideals of what we expect of ourselves in the process?

I work part-time from home, so I am home most days, all day. And yet, because I occupy this physical space, in my mind, I start "shoulding" all over myself.

• I should have a perfectly clean house (far from reality)
• my children should be perfectly groomed and well behaved
• I should have the laundry done
• I should have dinner on the table when my dear husband walks in the door (more than just pizza)
• I should have fresh baked treats for my kids when the get off the bus (OK this usually does happen)
• I should volunteer at the kids school
• I should do more for the church
• I should clip coupons
• I should have more clients
• I should work out
• I should lose weight
• I should provide healthy food choices for my family
• I should change the oil in my car every 3,000 miles

I ask, is that the truth? Who has put that guilt on us? Who has made us believe we "should" have or do it all? And is it worth it? Can we find the answer by looking in the mirror?

Last year, I asked my girls, what the best memory of their life has been thus far. I imagined it would be one of our 5 trips to Jamaica, DisneyWorld, Mexico, the Hannah Montana concert, a birthday party, a special performance or a special gift. I was surprised to hear from both of them, that it was indeed a summer day. We took a 97¢ bag of balloons and filled them with water, loaded them in a cooler and went in the front yard for a water balloon fight. All in all, it lasted no more than 30 minutes, we all had fun, we were all together, laughing and playing. And it cost us about a buck and 30 minutes of being fully present with them.

What does that say about where we place our priorities, and what it really means to them?

Will they look back and cherish the hours they spent watching TV or playing their gameboy? Will they look back and wish mom spent more time cleaning the house? That mom would have really worked at losing that last 10 pounds?

Today's economy has in some cases, caused families to cut back, perhaps one parent lost his/her job or chose for one parent to be home. And while at first, that can be shocking, an adjustment, a dramatic change. But, after some time, will they see that it could have all been a blessing in disguise? Perhaps an opportunity? That is for each person to decide for themselves.

I can be everything to everybody, but do I lose myself in the process? If every moment I spend with my kids, I am worrying about work, or the house, or supper. And when I am at work, I am worried about the kids, and the house, and my spouse, and I'm not giving 100% to my work. Are you burning the candle at both ends? At that point, am I really serving anyone? I am certainly not serving myself.

So, is it June Cleaver I look to as a role model? Is it Claire Huckstable? Is there anyone in TV today who serves as a good role model for women? Is there anyone real? Is "Reality TV" even real?

I work from home part-time, because that works for me. I cherish the clients I work for. And no one does exactly what I do, how I do it, with my perspective, history, thought and life experience. No one else has MY kids, or MY spouse, so, why is it that I feel I need that role model? No one else is me, so rather than fitting into a shoe that is too tight or too big, what about building my own shoe? Maybe it isn't even a shoe, perhaps I am more comfortable barefoot? Don't worry about others shoes, what others are doing? What they have, or what they appear to have. More often than not, it is illusion.

Find an hour for yourself, to sit and think, what is it that you really want? Ask your children, what has been the best moment in life so far? Think about that for yourself? Fill your days with that which you cherish. And when you are living a life filled with joy, some of the "shoulds" will fall into place. If not, perhaps they just weren't a part of your shoe.

You really can't know someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes, so don't try. A mile in ill-fitting shoes only ends in one thing...blisters. Their shoes are theirs, not yours. You have your own journey, your own shoes and no one can wear them the way you do. As do they. Respect their shoes, but know they aren't going to fit your feet, they aren't meant to.

Do you have blisters?