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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…