Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Because He Lives....there is love!

Dear Life,

As I contemplate my life, and my relationship with Christ during this Easter season, I want to share my story, my journey to Christ.  During high school, when a lot of teens are struggling to find out who they are and where they belong, I was part of the group that knew a lot of people but didn't really fit in any group.  I felt ugly, unpopular, and unloved. I started to feel depressed and completely alone.  I was hurting so much inside.  I felt like no one understood, that I was a burden on those around me.  I found myself literally thinking of ways to leave this earth.  I felt like everyone around me would be better off if I was gone. Unfortunately, one day, when I was feeling extremely low, I took handfuls of my medication.  Then I went for a walk.  I truly wanted to die, but when I started feeling really sick, I called my friends and they took me to the hospital.  I was put in the psych ward for teens battling suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.  I felt sick and angry.  I wouldn't see my mother.  My friends didn't want to come see me because I was "the crazy one".  I spent two weeks going to group sessions, one on one therapy meetings with psychologists, and hating every moment.  I did not feel any more loved.  And when I went to school, it was worse.  Everyone knew what I had done and while some kids were kind, others were not.  My senior year, I tried suicide again and was not successful.  And one of my good friends fathers told me in no certain terms that I needed to stop being so selfish, that I needed to see how many people love ME and how it would devastate them all if I were to succeed.  Somehow, I managed to graduate high school, I moved out of my mom's house and moved out on my own.  

The next three years, I worked full time and spent time going out with my friends.  Looking back, I realize that I was still punishing myself.  I was taking risks, not taking care of myself, passively hurting myself.  I told myself I was having fun, but inside, I was still hurting.

When I was 21, I met an amazing man.  He was funny, he was a good friend.  He listened to me.  He held my hand.  He cared.  He loved me.  He became my very very best friend.  One day I asked him if he went to church.  He said he was a Mormon, but wasn't currently going to church.  I told him I knew that I wanted to belong to a church, just wasn't sure which one.  He took out the Book of Mormon, and read the Joseph Smith story to me.  Hearing that story made me curious, and I wanted to know more.  Two weeks later the Sister Missionaries were going from house to house and landed on our door step.  Stuart and I took the discussions together.  

We got married that year, and then one week later I got baptized.  That was twenty years ago.  I remember when I was first baptized sitting in sacrament one day, and tears just came out of my eyes as I realized that all those times I thought I was alone, He was really there with me.  Although I didn't grow up with a father in my home, I had a Father in Heaven that was always there and loved me and protected me.  That He got me through those difficult times.  

Now, as I look at the last twenty years, my sweet husband, my amazing children, I thank God so much for giving his only Son......for Because He Lives.....we will all live again.

My son who can't walk right now will walk one day; he will be whole.  

My daughter who doesn't talk will one day run and jump and play and talk my ear off.  

Because He Lives, there is love.  My heart is so full and I am so thankful.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Kindness Matters

Dear Life,

Two years ago,  Kumaka received a pair of shoes.  At first glance you can tell they were special.  They were hand painted after all. They had his name and all of his favorite things.  

They reminded him to be brave when he was in the hospital.  And they gave him courage when he was trying new things.

 The shoes were given to him by Peach's Neet Feet, a non profit that is founded by Madison "Peach" Steiner-Akins.  

"At a young age, Madison Steiner discovered that no matter what labels were assigned to her, the most important was the label she assigned to herself. This discovery led to her cultivating the label of kindness ambassador, which has grown into the creation of Peach’s Neet Feet. This organization provides custom, hand-painted shoes to children living with disabilities and fighting serious illnesses. What began as a love of art and giving has grown into a movement of kindness."
Peach's Neet Feet Website

The gift of shoes isn't the end of the story.  Truly it was the beginning.  The beginning of a life altering change, not only for Kumaka, but for our whole family.  The same year Kumaka received his shoes, Peach threw a very special Peach's Neet Feet Party in our town.  Kumaka was so excited to see his new friend.....

He gave her a big hug and kiss.  The first of many more to come! That day, he met many new friends, played games, had so much fun painting and doing crafts, and just got to be a kid!  As a parent, I got to meet new families, each battling their own wars, but doing so with grace and courage. Because of this Peach Party, we were able to connect in a way that would not have happened otherwise. The shoelace of kindness wove our community into one unit.  

Kumaka learned a very important lesson from "his" Peach.  He learned to be give back....and to be fierce.  

He has attended a few other Peach Parties, meeting new friends, reconnecting with old friends, and giving back.  He has been able to be a Shoe Fairy and he has donated his own money so other children can have special shoes like his.  

Because a very special young lady painted on shoes...gave away her art....and shared son will be forever changed. One day he will be a leader....and I hope that the lessons he has learned about being kind....about giving to others.....that those will shape his heart and how he leads his generation.  

There is a reason I share our story of Peach's Neet Feet.  Peach works so hard to give to all of these children.  Sometimes the load is heavy.  And she needs help.  Our help.  Your help.  She needs funding.  She needs us all to share her story.  For kindness to keep moving forward, we need to share her story.  We need to shout from the rooftops how Peach's Neet Feet is changing people.  She is now a part of our Ohana (family in Hawaiian) and we do everything for our Ohana.  Please go on the Peach's Neet Feet Website and see how you can help.  And SHARE.  Please.  Our children need to  be taught kindness. They need to be taught that labels don't matter.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

A tribute

Dear Life,

Two weeks ago, my beloved grandmother passed away.  My grandma was amazing.  She wasn't raised to be the lovey dovey, sweet as pie grandma that one might think makes an amazing grandma.  She was a no- nonsense, speak her mind grandma.  She was frugal, and you knew when you went to her house you better not put your hands on the wall.  But she was always there.  ALWAYS. 

 She taught me to love God.  She taught me about Jesus.  Not in words, but in actions.  She was a servant of God until the day she died. She served her church every single day.  Literally until she went into the hospital.  And even then, she tried to leave the hospital to finish what she was doing.

  She taught me about unconditional love.  She was a presence in our lives always.  When I was little, she took us to church every Sunday.  She gave us a dollar to put in the offering basket.  After church, we would always go to breakfast.  Such favorite memories.  Once a year, her and my grandpa took my sister and I to Disneyland.  We never got souvenirs, we ate at the burger places not the sit down restaurants, and she sure did love the Country Bear Jamboree (which I HATED as a kid), but it was a place that we went to with them.  It was so fun.  As we grew up, got married, had kids, she was always there for them.  She went to promotions, graduations, soccer games, choir performances, baptisms, baby blessings, birthday parties, and anything else that was important to us.  

She has been constant in our lives.  Over the last few years, she has been sick, and she has missed my grandpa terribly.  He passed away before he could meet Kumaka, in October 2006.  She had been alone a long time.  I knew that one day, she would have to leave our world, and go to the next, happy to see her husband and her family.  We are all so sad that she is gone.  There is a gaping hole where she used to be.  But I am so very thankful for the gospel, for knowing that we can be together as a family again.  I am thankful she is no longer suffering.  And I am so thankful for every single thing she taught me while she was here.  I asked my boys what they remember about grandma, and the first thing Kekoa said was she was always there. That is her legacy.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Confession

Dear Life,

When I went to church for the first time with Sofi, I got my feelings hurt.  People didn't know what to do with her, what class she should go to, what to think. I mean, she was so teeny tiny, she didn't look like a five year old, she was like a baby.  

 I went into fight mode.  This was my baby we were talking about.    I spoke with our bishop expressing my frustration.  Then I took a minute and realized I needed to TEACH people what to do, not ASSUME they know what to do when they see children that are disabled.  I live with disability day in and day out.  Most people don't.  I forgot that.  I was not being fair to those in our church.  For that, I am so sorry.  I took my sweet girl into Relief Society, dressed in her prettiest dress with her hair as perfect as could be, and introduced her to the women. 
 I shared her story.  And with tears in my eyes I asked them to please consider taking turns with her so that I could go to class.  I needed spiritual edification more than ever.  The sisters were amazing.  They got lists together and every week people took turns taking her to primary.  I have since communicated with the Primary President to talk about the best placement for Sofi.  Talking together, sharing what works and what doesn't, and putting aside my very tender heart to be able to not get my feelings hurt but hear what people are actually saying really helped me resolve our issue.  Since then, our church has put a great article about how to reach out to those with disabilities.  I love this article so much and it's applicable to so many areas.  It's called "Reaching Out to Those with Disabilities-And Their Families" in the February 2015 issue of the Ensign.    Please take a few minutes to read it.  Its opened my eyes and touched my heart.  It can be applied outside of a church environment as well.  Be a friend, take the time to listen, be understanding.  Parents of children or caretakers of adults that have disabilities are often exhausted, and don't realize that they need to take the time to explain what their life is like.  I am so thankful for Sofi.  She is such a bright light in our family.  And we are so thankful to everyone who has taken the time to spend an hour with her, to sing with her, to ask how she's doing.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Love Dare Day 8

The Love Dare
Day 8

"Love is as strong as death; it's jealousy as unyielding as the grave.  It burns like blazing fire."  Song of Solomon 8:6

I am so thankful that Tausha put together this challenge and is allowing me to participate.  I think this is a particularly difficult challenge because you have to come clean about  your own shortcomings.  No one wants to admit to being jealous! goes!

I love my husband to pieces.  He is my best friend, my lover, my soul mate.  In a week we will celebrate 20 years of marriage. 

 Almost half of my life I've been married!  We've had some amazing highs, and some really challenging lows.  Each one of our children has been a blessing to us.  Finding out that our youngest son was going to be born with a disability we knew nothing about was frightening and really one of the hardest things we have ever faced as parents.  It also made us stronger.  Strong enough to adopt little Ms. Sofi.  Our family now consists of five boys and one girl.  Two of these sweet kiddos has extras.  As a stay at home mom, there are times I sit at home, after changing what feels like the thirtieth diaper of the day, not having showered or looking glamorous for what feels like years, and I can't muster the enthusiasm to praise my husband for something he's done at work.  As a matter of fact, I am guilty of not wanting to hear about his day; of being jealous of the yummy lunch he ate in his meeting or the tickets he received to watch a game with one of the boys.  For a long time, I never understood the need to spend two hours in the ocean surfing...I was jealous of that time he spent away from me.  

Let's face it, relationships take work.  If you are not careful, envy and jealousy can destroy love.  Part of the reason that I wanted to join in the Love Dare is so I can put my relationship with Stuart first, before anything.  Our marriage is so important to me, eternally so.  It's time that I help US find US and strengthen that bond.  

Day 8 dare is to be your spouse's biggest fan!  Reject any thoughts of jealousy. To help you set your heart on your spouse and focus on their achievements take yesterdays list of negative attributes and discreetly burn it.  Then share with your partner how proud you are of a success or blessing he/she recently enjoyed. 

 LOVE is the most important thing in the world.    

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Be the Change

Dear Life,

Now that we've talked about Spreading Sunshine (See post before this one), lets talk about Being the Change.

This summer, we attended a skate event called "Skate for a Cause" hosted by The Sheckler Foundation.  We were there to support our friend Madison with Peach's Neet Feet.

 It was so exciting to see so many skaters out there having fun doing what they do and raising money to help organizations like Peach's Neet Feet dream bigger and do more in the communities they serve.

The next day our family was able to be there to support a few of our friends when they received their new Peach's Neet Feet shoes delivered by some of the skaters on the board of The Sheckler Foundation.  It was beautiful to see our new friends meet these skate legends and get to spend some time with them.  

A few of the kids, Kumaka included, was able to skate that day.  There are a few pictures that I want to share because I was really touched by the symbolism of the moment.  

In this series of pictures you will see some things.

A professional skater.
A boy in a wheelchair.
A father.
A large ramp.

What do you see?

A professional skater?
A father?
A boy in a wheelchair?
A large ramp?

I saw all of those things too.
This is what else I saw.

A father trusting that young man up there to catch his son.
A boy in a wheelchair wanting to skate like every other kid.
A professional skater reaching out to that boy and giving him a hand.

In one arm, Ryan was holding one of my biggest treasures, the other he held his wheelchair.

He settled him in, gave him some tips and off Kumaka went.  

He made it down that ramp.

And Ryan Sheckler was the change. 

I'm not sure that Ryan realizes how symbolic this series of pictures is.

I'm not sure he realizes that THIS is how you "Be The Change".

Physically changing something for the better.  

Kumaka had a wonderful time that day.

Not because he was hanging out with Ryan Sheckler.

But because a skater took the time to reach up his hand and help him out.  

Please take the time to visit The Sheckler Foundation website and support their mission.  They are doing amazing things in the community.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Spreading Sunshine

Dear Life,

How do you try to change the world?  
How do you spread sunshine?
How do you show kindness?

Because of a pair of shoes, a hand painted pair of shoes that Kumaka was given, we met a beautiful soul.  
Her name is Madison. 
We call her Peach. 
Photo cred by Susan Posterro

Our family has known her for a little over a year, but it really feels like we have been family forever. Madison is the president of a beautiful non profit called Peach's Neet Feet

"Madison's mission is to create a movement of Pay it Forward initiatives and selfless acts of giving.  She uses art to create custom, hand-painted shoes to celebrate children who are fighting cancer and living with disabilities." 

Through Madison, our family has grown; our outlook on life, on others, has changed.  We have new layers, new fibers to add to the ones that we weaved already.  We have met so many amazing families.  Families with varying backgrounds, dealing with different stories.  And yet we are all dealing with something in common- our warrior children.  These other stories are now woven into our hearts, and we are truly blessed for it.  Every day, we look for ways to touch others hearts, to sprinkle a bit of sunshine towards someone else, to show love, to share a Random Act of Kindness.   

Please,  take the time to visit the Peach's Neet Feet website. Read about this amazing young girl.  Read about the children she has helped, about the families that have been touched, lifted up because of her passion.  

Then think, what have you done to share kindness today?