Share Babyortyl

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

And now for one of the BEST stories having to do with awarding a grant to a heart family! ♥️

{My desktop when awarding grants}

You guys!
I checked in a couple of weeks ago to tell you a story about the cute heart that my new friend added to our sidewalk, and now I have just the best story about awarding a MOHF grant.

Nearly every week I am working on some sort of grant for a heart family. Our process is pretty straight forward, we find a family who needs help or they find us, they complete an application, we work with their social worker to verify the application, and sort of qualify the family and then we continue to work with that social worker to figure out how we can really help that family. Almost always, we are paying bills. We never just hand over money to a family, but instead we go through a process of collecting account information for whatever bill we plan to cover and I then get busy making calls, writing checks or moving MOHF money around somehow.

In case you are new to Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation, simply put we help families who have children with heart defects. After spending 15 months in an intensive care unit with our Oakes, we learned first hand how stressful having a critically ill child is. And we also learned that when your child is critically ill and you are desperatly praying that you kid lives another day, any kind effort to take other stresses off of your plate mean the world. Another big lessons we learned is that LOVE is the best medicine in the world. If that sick child knows they are loved and knows that someone is there fighting with them then they will fight that much harder. So our big goal is to alleviate stress for the families of heart kids so that the families can show up, love on their little ones and give that kiddo every reason in the world to fight.

So, earlier in the week I sat down to work on two different application. They both were for amazing families with really special kids, but the process of awarding one of the grants inspired and touched me deeply.

With the help of this one amazing Mom and her social worker we decided that this single Mom would really benefit from several months of rent being paid. Her son is a teenager, has been fighting a sick heart his whole life but with a recent lengthy hospitalization after a heart transplant Mom has just gotten behind on some of their big bills. To move forward with this grant I called the landlord, Maria to set up my third party payment. This is usually pretty straight forward - confirm address, amount due then mail check. I always introduced myself and talk about what MOHF does when I make these calls. Sometimes the person on the other end of the phone has questions about MOHF, or is extremely thankful, sometimes it is a quiet, "Bless you", and sometimes it is just business as usual, but this time what follwed was a first.

Maria was very sweet, and soft spoken. She was concerned and understanding about both Mom and son. She explained that they were overdue several months but that she had told Mom not to worry about it that they would figure out a payment plan when they were back at home. Sometimes when I make these calls and explain what I intend to do the person on the other end of the call is speechless, but this time I was the one who was lost for words. In five and a half years, and hundreds and hundreds of grants awarded, this was a first. I explained this to Maria. I thanked her for being so empathetic, and caring. I assured her that her kindness had to have brought so much comfort to this Mom and son. Once I found my words, I kind of went on and on at how touched I was, and then after I became quiet, Maria shared that her sister has a son with a heart defect. He nephew is close in age to her tenant. Her nephew has the same doctors as her tenant and her nephew too will likely need a transplant in his near future. Again, words escaped me as I listened to Maria. Maria shared what it has been like to be the supportive but worried sister, and aunt. She shared that she herself would give up anything to see her sister and nephew happy and healthy and she didn't even have to think about helping her tenant in the way that she had. It was the right thing to do. She had seen others help her sister so how could she not do the same.

It is always a bonus when I make these calls and I think I have impacted that landlord, or person in a call center accepting payments over the phone. It feels like icing on the cake. It's as if I can see the ripples floating away from the all of the goodness and love that my Oakes has inspired and I LOVE IT!!! But with this call what I saw was different. It was as if I was walking into someone else's ripples, or Oakes' ripples were colliding with another heart baby's ripples. It was inspiring and heart warming. I just marveled at Maria, her kindness, and that she is taking her struggle and helping someone else - how freaking cool is she!!! Which then made me think that maybe I felt what some of those call center employees feel when I share our story, and if that is the case, I need to make sure I never miss the opportunity to tell these stories and pass those inspiring, heart warming, freaking cool feelings along to everyone!

Have a wonderful day, friends! I hope you feel the ripples but also create your own!
XOXO, Becky

Thursday, February 9, 2017

BEST heart story EVER. ❤️

You guys, I have THE BEST heart story. 

The first part of the back story: In case you don't know, for about 5 years we have been selling handmade, wooden hearts which we have lovingly cut and painted by groups of mighty volunteers. The hearts have been shipped to family and friends all over the world, but there are lots of them in our little city. Click here here for the full story reported by Heidi Glaus.

The other part of the back story is that this past Fall I had a guy knock on my door and introduce himself as the guy who would be digging up our front yard. He shared with me that the sewer line that ran from our house to the city's line which lays under our street was busted at the street level and the city had contracted him to dig up our yard, fix the line and put everything back together. This guy was nice but all business. Easy to chat with about our lateral line, but no warm fuzzies. Annoyed by the idea of our yard being dug up I called the city to verify the story and dig around on my own. I learned that the plan was really a plan and was reassured that our yard would be put back together at the end of the project. A little annoyed, but whatever. 

So to back up even more, we have been in our house for 8 years and for 8 years we have talked about redoing the sad, overgrown landscaping around our house. We met with a landscape designer this past summer and shortly after hearing that our yard would be torn up by the city, we decided to pull the trigger on the redesign. So I called the guy who was going to do the all of the digging to let him know that once they replaced the line, they didn’t have to put everything back together because we would be doing some landscaping. Little reaction from him, but he got it. 

We seemed to have a good plan about digging then landscaping but shortly after we had a schedule for this big project we scratched that whole thing and bought a new house on the other side of our little municipality. Super excited about the house, but dreading the yard work now. Cringing I called digging guy again. I shared that we had changed our plans and we in fact did want him to put our yard back together after all of the digging happened. Little reaction over the phone, but we were on the schedule. Digging would happen, then they would put everything back, lay grass seed and pour a new walkway after they removed the old one. Great, moving on.

So we waited for our turn. And waited some more. It was late Fall at this point and I kept thinking the ground would freeze soon and the job would never be completed, but finally the digging guy showed up one morning with his guys and their diggers. They pulled out a walkway, some plants, lots of grass. They dug a 4’ square in our yard that was also about 4’ deep. They fixed the pipe and by the end of the day they were finished. I walked past the whole operation maybe 4 times that day. The digging crew was made up of some friendly guys. They smiled, said hello, let Esme and Isla and I look into their muddy trench. But the crew was made up of some beefy guys who wore dirt covered overalls. Dirt covered their gloves and was splattered on their hats. They had beards and looked scruffy. And like the original guy, they were all business. 

So when they left there was a huge, white PVC pipe sticking maybe 3’ out of the ground and a massive heap of dirt piled up where the trench used to be. I was told they would be back once the soil settled. I believed they would be back but imagined it would happen in like, June. Slightly annoyed. 

Next, that PVC pipe that was sticking out of the ground, right next to our driveway got hit by a car. Someone who will remain unnamed backed right into it and it was pushed back into the ground. I had my eyes closed as I explained to the digging guy over the phone what had happened. He didn’t have much of a reaction over the phone but since he is always in the area he said he’d swing by to check it out. He visited the next day and with his eyebrows raised he explained that the entire job needed to be redone and it would now cost us a couple thousand dollars, and being mid-January the weather would certainly slow everything up even more. With my hands pressed to my face, I groaned and told him to just do whatever he needed to do to finish the job. I could have made it up, but I’m pretty sure digging guy walked away shaking his head like I was the craziest homeowner he had ever dealt with. But really, at this point I felt crazy. Our on again, off again plans, and the waiting, and the two different busted pipes had dragged on forever, and we were working on all sorts of little projects around our house to get it listed for sale. I was thinking for sure we would have to go ahead a list the house with a dirt pile in our front yard. “Dear God, please send us potential buyers who won’t be scared of a 4’ hole in our front yard and heap of soil sitting next to it!” I would say at night. 

Finally, a few weeks ago the diggers came by. They dug a new hole, fixed the busted pipe and refiled the trench with all of the loose soil they had just dug out. They put up stakes and wrapped the whole area off with neon ribbon. Thanks, diggers. Before they left there was a knock on my door. My all business digger guy was standing there will a little smile on his face. He told me they were finished for the day and would return when the soil settled to pour concrete. He pointed out the neon ribbon, and then mentioned the big heart on our porch. He told me that he has always noticed the hearts everywhere in our town and has always wondered what they were about. He mentioned that he saw my interview with Heidi Glaus and was really touched by our story. He apologized for our loss, but said something like he thought it was great what we were doing with all of the hearts. He absolutely caught me off guard. He wasn’t just digger guy anymore, he was really sweet and thoughtful and I had warm fuzzies all of the sudden. Now I was smiling. It would have been really easy for him to stay in business mode and say nothing to me, but instead he went out of his way to be kind. But it didn’t end there. 

Last week, at 7:55am I walk out of the door to walk Isla to school and there was the digging crew getting into their trucks. They had come really early in the morning, poured the concrete to our walkway, cleaned up all around the area and put down grass seed and straw where the grass used to be. By the time we walked to the end of the driveway they were pulling away. All those bearded guys, with their dirty overalls and jackets just smiled and waved. All of them. two trucks worth. It was sweet but I wondered if I looked super crazy as I shuffled Isla to school. Why were they all so cheery?Instinctively I turned around right to look at the new sidewalk and I just froze. By the time I turned back around those big trucks full of kind, gentle diggers were gone. 

And look at what they left us. ❤️ 
We didn’t ask them to do this, and they didn’t ask us about doing it.
Digger guy, Jason, got our story. He saw us, he saw me, he saw Oakes. Something clicked. 

First, I LOVE this ceramic heart that was placed in my new sidewalk with all of my heart. I love that someone went out of their way to cut and lay it in the concrete. I love imaging Jason, showing his crew the heart and explaining that they were going to lay it in out sidewalk. I love imagining Jason retelling our story to his crew. I love thinking of how good they must have felt as they smiled and drove away from our house. 

What I also love are the big, amazing and gorgeous ripples in life that still come from Oakes. That cutie was born. He touched our hearts. He was an example of love and patience and hope. Of perseverance and health and beating the odds. He had our focused attention when he was here, but now that he is , what we call, “gone” his story lives on, it still touches lives, it still fills our hearts and the hearts of our friends and neighbors with love and hope and all of the good stuff that we search for, but….OH! What I really love. What this grieving Mom clings to is undeniable fact that Oakes is definitely not “gone”. I can’t see him. I can’t hold him. But as I wipe tears from my face I assure you I can feel him, and I have evidence that others feel him too. 

Thank you Jason Jerome, and Bi-State Utilities for the quality work your company provides, but thank you even more for being so compassionate. Thank you for the enormously, kind gesture. Thank you for perfect little red heart. Thank you for helping us tell Oakes' story, and for sharing the love. 


Friday, June 3, 2016

Let's proceed. guys, 

I just had the kind of week that felt great. It felt like an easy, everything was flowing as it should, birds were chirping, the sun was shining, everything in my garden is growing sort of week. And I wanted to share a little bit of it to hopefully inspire you.

So in case you dot know, our foundation, Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation, supports families who have children with a congenital heart defect. We usually help families in financial ways, and we strive to award big, miraculous grants which will hopefully aid a family in a significant way. What we hope for is that if we can alleviate some financial stress of a family in crisis, then that family can redirect their attention to their sick little one, so that that baby (or big kid) is showered with love and affection - the best medicine and therapy for any of us!

We cannot just give a family cash, though. We typically pay a bill or several bills for them, and they can sort of move money around as needed. We have a pretty great system of awarding grants, and it fills my sometimes heavy heart that we can help families who are fighting this exact fight that we fought with our Oakes. I have said it here before, but I know that this is the great work that I will do in my lifetime. I will raise two amazing girls, and I will run Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation in honor of my amazing boy.

When it comes to paying bills for people it can sometimes be an afternoon of making 1-800 calls, and talking to people in call centers who know nothing about me, MOHF, or the families who I am calling about. These calls always start off with the annoying, pre-recorded prompts which lead you in the direction which you need, but they always end with a smile on my face, or even a tear stained issue to the side of my computer, because every time I make one of these calls it is a quick opportunity for me to talk about Oakes. To share what I am up to. To tell my story, and the story of Oakes. And I think almost always, that person on the other end, who I imagine has pretty typical calls throughout the day, is touched by what I have to share.

This past week I called a large national bank to make a payment on behalf of a family. I shared that I was a third party, that I had this families account info as well as our checking account info and I wanted to make a payment for them. After sharing my 3 minute little spiel, the lady on the other end of the phone paused and then said, "This is gorgeous and wonderful!"

I said, "I completely agree, and I'm so happy you can help me with this."

As our conversation went on and and we got down to business, sharing info and numbers as we moved money around, after I would share info with her she would repeat it all back to me then say, "let's proceed." I bet she said this a dozen times during our brief call, and it really struck a cord with me.

Google says:
Proceed verb
  1. begin or continue a course of action.

    synonyms:begin, make a start, get going, move, set something in motion; take action, act, go on, go ahead, make progress, make headway

    • move forward, especially after reaching a certain point.


      go, make one's way, advance, move, progress, carry on, press on, push on

    • do something as a natural or seemingly inevitable next step.

      Such a simple phrase: let's proceed. And the lady at the call center probably says it everyday, all day long, with the intention to keep her calls moving along. Maybe when I am on these calls my heart is just wide open, I am so tuned in,  I am genuinely excited but I am also sort of hyper attentive, sharing numbers, and info that is critical, I don't know, but this just resonated with me in a big life lesson sort of way. 

      Sometimes it is easy to pause, sometimes we get stuck. Sometimes staying where you are is just comfortable. Sometimes it is just hard to let it go or drop it. We fall into ruts, we get in our own way, we stop moving. Sometimes we don't know what to do, or how to react and so we do nothing at all. Sometimes, life is really, really hard, but when the inspiration comes, when we see that it is time to continue our course of action, and move, by all means, lets proceed. 

      My conclusions on this call that I recently had:

      Do gorgeous and wonderful things. Help however you can. No contribution is too small. You may not know how important your gift may be, or how much you are needed. Then move along. Keep going. Proceed.

      XOXO, Becky

Friday, May 6, 2016

Listening to your heart

It is Spring in Saint Louis and beyond gorgeous outside! I have been busy in my yard, on outside outings with Esme and finding all sorts of reasons to get out of my house but I just dragged myself inside to share a little something with you!

I recently had two speaking engagements. Both were very different, different audiences, different topics, but both extremely exciting and heart warming.

My first opportunity was to talk to a fourth grade girl scout troop about being a small business owner and what a delight that was! I went in prepared with a simple outline and a handout, but I had been forewarned that the girls had questions for me, so I kept my mini presentation short and sweet. My overall message to the girls: Listen to your heart! Listening to your heart or following your gut is an essential when running a business, but also a great skill for anyone, especially a young girl. I went in hoping to inspire them, and encourage them to listen to their hearts and follow their own dreams, but once they started asking questions I felt like I was in a little group therapy session. They asked me about my dreams, they wanted to know what sort of sacrifices I had to make to make my dreams as a small business owner come true, they wanted to know how life has changed since we started our small business. Their questions showed that they could see the complexities of the work/life balance, which struck a cord. And I had no idea how attentive, intelligent, thoughtful, and creative these girls would be, but I enjoyed every minute of my time with them and I have loved daydreaming about the amazing business owners, which I hope they become!

(Talking to the girl scouts and a glimpse of my hand out! Photo credit to Holly Kunze.)

 The following day I spoke to a classroom full of Saint Louis Children’s Hospital Cardiac Fellows. I was asked to speak to the fellows about our experiences receiving bad news. When I was introduced by one of Oakes’s doctors she noted that we received lots of bad news. Almost continuous bad news for 15 months, and she thought I would be a good person for the Fellows to connect with. So again, I shared what I had prepared and then they began asking questions, which again, took us to a place that I didn’t really think it would, a mini therapy session.

What struck me about these students (and I remember this same observation with Oakes’ doctors years ago) was their real, genuine, heart-felt interest. It was clear they weren’t just in a classroom because they had to be. Their hearts were in it. They had real concerns and questions. They wanted to hear about the worst news we got, and how it was delivered. They peppered me with all sorts of questions. Some I had answers to, some left me shrugging my shoulders. I welled up with tears a few times, but overall I loved it. I loved talking about Oakes. I loved telling our story. I loved being back at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I loved that my perspective was so valued and helpful. I loved seeing a classroom full of people who were going out to battle congenital heart defects, and to care for it’s victims and their families.

I would have loved to turn the questions around on these students. I would have loved to learn why they all chose this line of work. What pulled them into medicine, into pediatrics, and why Cardiology? Why would they want to be in such an intense setting? I imagine when you go to school for as long as these doctors do, and you choose this specialized area that you are called to this career. You are pulled in this direction. It must resonate with you. And you must listen closely to your heart to get to this place.

(A blue heart sliding down a rainbow, spotted by our house last week after a little rain storm. )

It sounds like such a simple thing to listen to your heart, but it isn’t always that way. Sometimes it is difficult to get to that quiet place were you can really listen, but as I’ve been outside enjoying this weather and pulling weeds in my yard, thinking about all of this, I do think that the times in life when I have followed my heart I have almost always been pulled down really exciting paths. Maybe those decisions where I have followed my heart, but that have started with a leap of faith seem scary at first, but I think I have always end up in a place that feels extremely comfortable and familiar. Like I was meant to be there.  I think I almost always have had a feeling of, “thank goodness, I chose this/did this/picked this” sort of conclusion. It is so easy to listen to fear and let it hold you back. It is easy to talk yourself out of something hard. It is easy to listen to the stories that you make up that limit you and create little boundaries in your life, but what a reward it really is when you listen and bravely leap where your heart wants to take you.

Enjoy your weekend friends. Enjoy the budding trees and blooming flowers. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you. I hope you all have a moment to listen to your heart this weekend. I’ll be here cheering you on if you decide to take that big leap.

XOXO, Becky

(The storefront of Olive + Oak, one of the small businesses which our hearts led us to!)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Putting myself on my list.

Ok, no big deal blogging. Here I go.

You guys.
I was so touched by all of your comments and texts and emails encouraging me to get this dusty blog up and running. I really, really, really did not expect that, so it really, really, really made my day last week!

Also, sharing what I did sparked a few really great conversations with friends this week, which was an added bonus. I mean, I was truly tickled that you guys read my blog and wanted to chat!

So, OK…..In one of those conversations that was sparked by my last post, I shared something like this with my girlfriend. It just came out as we were chatting, but I think it is worth sharing with you:

I feel like when I sort of glace over my shoulder at my life, I can see the different chapters of my life laid out. I can see how life event’s, closed or opened chapters. All of those chapters flow pretty gracefully together. As a group, the chapters make sense together. They build on each other and there are common threads and connections between them. For sure, some chapters were better than others. Some I’d love to go back to. Some I am glad they are in the past. But I just feel so aware that the chapter that I have recently been in has just a hard one, but there hasn’t been a big life event that would have made it obviously hard, so it has just been tough to put a finger on what was off, or what I needed to change. And I think from the outside looking in, things would look pretty great. But I have needed a change. A shift. And I think that maybe this little blog could offer the creative outlet that I really think I need.

Last summer, I had a series of little melt downs. I wouldn’t say it was a mid-life crisis, because it didn’t feel like a crisis, but it felt big and overwhelming. After a couple months of a bored Isla being at home for summer, and taking care of Esme who was about 15 months and the most energetic kids I have ever encountered, I felt like the walls of my house were slowly moving in on me. Every week it seemed like I bought a new baby gate for a new doorway, because I could not physically keep up with Esme. And when she went from two naps down to one, that was maybe melt down number one. Midway through summer, I desperately started signing Isla up for last minute camps, because she was missing structure, and routines and I just couldn’t quite give her all of the stimulation that she needed. Simply put I was so tired. I was exhausted. I was depleted. I was giving everyday to my girls, Greg, running the house, running MOHF, and awarding grants. In addition to my usual work load, I was involved in the planning stages of opening a restaurant. Plus, Greg was working full time at his “real” job, traveling and staying super busy as we both always are. So as the days passed, they just became too much. I mean, big time first-world sort of stress I suppose, but it was SO stressful and I was keely aware that something needed to change. There was just this hum of unhappiness in my days. And guilt on top of that, because I felt like I should be happy. Still, my life was busy, my schedule was full but my energy was low.

So I did something to change all of that. I started working with a life coach. Her name is Jill Keuth, and holy cow was that a great decision. Jill helped me get back on track. She has helped me to come up with a plan to sort of start the next chapter. One of the best outcomes of working with Jill has been seeing that this most recent chapter may be hard, but it will end and another will begin.

This is just the chapter where I’m wiping a little bottom and a little nose and seemingly every surface of the house, all day.  I’m holding a little hand every time I go up and down the stairs, wiping down a filthy highchair after every meal, and constantly picking up little toys. It is the chapter where a little someone is always on my lap, wiping her hands on my shirt, and demanding constant attention. This is also the chapter where my sweet little Isla is 7 all of the sudden.  Kind and thoughtful, but she has started to roll her eyes, is embarrassed by me, and she does not want to sit on my lap anymore. Both of my girls are in stages of figuring out their independence in entirely different sort of way and I suppose the irony is that I am trying to do the same thing. I am so fortunate to be able to stay at home with the girls, and work when I need to, but the way that I have been doing that for years just needs to change. I have been ready for a change, a shift. I’ve needed a different schedule, some new habits and a more intentional routine.

So, I am giving that a go. I’m mixing things up. I’ve rearranged some priorities. I’m making a shift. I’m going to make sure that I am going to be on the list of people that I take care of.  I’m dreaming about how I want this next chapter to unfold and I have to say, that hum is gone, my energy is up, and as I sit here pecking away at the computer I have a smile on my face.

XO, Becky

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My brilliant revelation

You know how sometimes you are talking to someone and they share a big idea that they have had, and they are so proud and energized with this new discovery and you are like, “Well, yeah….” And you are wondering what took them so long to see what was so obvious? So I recently had what feels to be a huge revelation, but I am thinking you might scratch your head at the end of this and wonder why it took so long for me to get here.

Here is the thing. I have been struggling with this for years. This has been my biggest dilemma with this blog. I have wanted to write and share and reach out, but there have been a few big things holding me back.

One has been this story that I have told myself and I have believed that no one really wants to hear what is happening in my life and in my head. I have looked at my grief in an “Eww, yuck” sort of way, and have been convinced that everyone else would too.

Another part has been this other story that has been circulating through my head that if I blog or if I am writing I should have some concrete message, I should have it all figured out, and I should be some sort of expert on whatever it is that I am talking about. And for sure, 100%, without a doubt, I just feel like I have very little figured out for sure in my life.

So the big revelation has been that maybe I can just write. I can tell some stories. They don’t all have to be huge stories. They don’t all have to be mind blowing, change-your-life sort of stories. Maybe I can just put myself out there and share whatever it is that I want to share that day, and maybe that is enough. I don’t have to have answers, or solutions or offer a road map about getting to a better place in life. Maybe I can just tell my story. And maybe someone will want to listen.

I recently shared this with a girlfriend of mine. I prompted the conversation with the fact that I had this huge revelation but then after sharing, she was just looking at me as if she were waiting for the big reveal. She was sort of like, “What? That’s it? You have been worrying about this for years?” And then she said something like, “Well, yeah…..and, please start blogging again!”

So here, it is. I'm kicking off my no big deal sort of blogging…