Hope is a Journey….

Archive for August, 2013

Celebration

8 years ago today, Sasha entered this world unexpectedly – with a fierceness that would shake and embrace our hearts forever.

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From the moment she took her first breath, Sasha has always played by her own rulebook.

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She was supposed to be ‘perfectly healthy’ – but instead, she was critically ill…doctors scratching their heads – baffled by the unexpected situation on their hands. We were told that they didn’t know why she was so sick, they couldn’t promise us they could fix it, and that we were in the best place for her.

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Little did we know that this was just the beginning of our journey through peaks and valleys with her.

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I can’t even begin to describe the fear that takes over your heart – squeezing and crushing you with every beat – when you’re faced with ‘the unknown‘ and you find yourself holding on to every shred of hope that comes your way.

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But Sasha…she became my lesson in faith, perseverance, and strength.

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Mom and Sasha

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SHE became MY teacher…

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There’s no denying that Sasha has been through hell and back….that she has experienced more in her short life than any human being should endure in an entire lifetime…yet this little soul shines joy, courage, and love.

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Ralph and I have done our best to find the best, most compassionate and brilliant team to walk with us on our journey with her, and we are incredibly grateful for their dedication, candor, and willingness to help Sasha thrive, blossom and grow to be the sweet little girl that she is today.

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Over the years, Sasha has certainly had her rough times…

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Sasha Bear

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And while we can’t escape them…

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Or deny them…

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We have found our way through them….

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We’ve grown from them…

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And Sasha has taught us SO MUCH about what is really important through it all.

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But there’s more to Sasha than the ‘tough times

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And THAT is what we focus on…

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THAT is what we celebrate…

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THAT is what we hold tightly to…

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Between the fierceness and the fragility, Sasha has blossomed…shined…and become the most precious ray of light this world has to offer.

Sasha has taught me to be courageous, even in my own fear.

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She has taught me to be patient, even in my frustration.

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She has taught me to be strong, even in my weakness.

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Sasha has taught me to find the hope…even when I feel hopeless.

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While I would never wish her journey on another soul, Sasha’s life is a testament to how joy can exist – flourish, and shine through even the darkest night.

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Today, and every day – I celebrate the true gift that Sasha is, not only to Ralph, Will and I….but to this world.

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Happy Birthday to my Fire and Flowers….to my precious sunshine….to the most fierce bit of sweetness I will ever know.

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Love and Light,

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Stefani

BIG NEWS!

After a Season of Silence…my cold fingertips danced across the ivory keys – it was as if not a day had passed since their last encounter.  Within hours, 4 songs were born.

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It had felt like forever since I just opened up and released what had been contained for more than a year.   I couldn’t believe the rawness and the depth of the emotion that poured out of me.  It was as if it had been pounding on the floodgates relentlessly just waiting for the moment that stopped fighting it.  That moment was one of the most powerful moments I have ever had.

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Over the next 2 weeks, another 6 songs crept their way across the blank paper that rested upon my piano top.  It was then, that I knew that it was time to make another album.  Since then, I’ve written enough songs to fill an entire album…and then some!

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Originally, back in 2011, I had planned on immediately working on and releasing another album  after “Unleashed” came out given the fact that I had more than 50 songs waiting in the wings.  Life, at the time, had other plans.  Between all of my own medical chaos and new issues arising for my children (medically and academically), the time was not right – and I was not willing to embark on a project that I could only give ‘some’ of myself to.  If I was going to do another album, I would do it when I was able to give ALL of myself to it….and that time is NOW!

I have prayed about this, I have spent hours planning this, I have talked with Ralph about this, and I have reached out to those who have worked with me before – everything is falling into place, and I can’t be more excited and more driven to make this project become a reality!  I’ve spent hours with my friend, Rob Marshall, revamping and updating the Hope Rising Website (you should check it out…I think it came out great!), my friend Matt Hanson has spent hours editing and creating a fantastic video…and I have even snuck into the studio for a few hours in preparation for THIS moment….

I learned so much from making my first two albums…I have new ideas, fresh songs, and (hopefully) an inspiring message to share with the world – but I need YOUR help to make it happen!

How can I help?” You ask…..

There are a few ways in which you can help:

1. Head on over to my Kickstarter page and select a “Rewards Package” that strikes your fancy.

2. Share the page with your friends, family…EVERYONE you know via Facebook, Twitter, your blogs, email, snail mail…any way you can think to share my “Kickstarter” page – I am asking you to do it.  Even if you can’t help financially, it will cost you nothing to share the project with everyone you know.

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You see, if I don’t reach my ‘bare bones‘ fundraising goal of $2,500.00 for this project….then the project doesn’t happen…it disappears back behind the floodgates and is silenced.

Washed outSO…we’ve got 30 days to reach this goal – and I am counting on all of you to help me reach it – to help me share my passion, my hope, my joy with you – and the rest of the world.

Thanks so much for walking on this journey with me, I am so blessed to have you all in my life.

Love and Light,

Stefani

The Horizon

The Horizon

There are times when in life where the landscape is so dark, so bleak and so unwelcoming that you could never envision even the tiniest speck of light being born within it.

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What is it about the darkness that we fear?

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Is it the helplessness that suffocates your spirit?

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Is it the emptiness that you feel when it surrounds you?

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Is it the deafening silence often found within?

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Is it the unending view of nothingness that deprives us of daring to dream??

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What is it that soaks our soul with a breathless and desperate longing during these times?

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It is Hope.

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Hope that tomorrow will be better.

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Hope that, somehow – somewhere within the darkness, someone will find you and grab your hand and be with you through it all.

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Hope that, no matter how helpless you feel, there is always someone there willing to help you find your way.

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Hope that the silence will be broken by the sounds of love.

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Hope that the landscape will suddenly blossom and flourish with a blinding fierceness beyond your wildest dreams.

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Hope that, within you, you can give birth to a glimmer of light that you can nurture, grow, and release to extinguish the darkness that has enveloped you for so long.

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Hope.

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Yes, Hope.

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You see, Hope and I have been on a journey.  One of many ups and downs…

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Sometimes, I’ve even doubted that Hope was anything other than a desperate plea for sanity during desperate times.  I’ve wondered if it truly could exist outside of my heart.  I’ve had many nights that I’ve held onto it by a thread…dangling precariously close to the edge of letting the darkness consume me.

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Yes, Hope and I know each other well.

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The thing about Hope is that you have to be willing to have it in order to be touched by it.

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If you don’t allow yourself to have Hope, then you can’t be carried by the strength within it.

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If you don’t trust in the power of Hope, then you’ll never experience it.

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If you don’t release your fears to make room for Hope, it will never reside in you.

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These past few years have been often dark and scary for me in so many ways….

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It is so hard to truly express the things I’ve felt in the depths of my being, but I could sum it up by saying that I was was in a tug of war between Hope and Fear.

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Between the financial challenges, the emotional heartache, the medical challenges (the changes in my body and the changes that my children and other family members have faced) and the spiritual challenges – that tug of war has been, at times, truly painful,  overwhelming, heartbreaking, and often suffocating.

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There is nothing worse than having your body fail you while you watch those you love struggle, suffer, and fall down.  If you add the emotional toll that takes as well as the financial toll, the weight is crushing.

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On top of all that, you still have to function – the demands never change even when your life does.  You have to find a way to continue on, to make ends meet, to hold it together, and to do more than ‘survive‘ – you have to find a way to LIVE.  AND….the only way to do that is to have HOPE.

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But here’s where the blessing arrives…despite the continued challenges we face, the horizon is finally in our view and it is BEAUTIFUL, INSPIRING, and BREATHTAKING!

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While I still have medical challenges – there is finally a (medical) stability within that has given me a reprieve from the hospitalizations, and the children have a solid medical team and we are making significant progress (though our greatest challenges with Sasha still exist).  For the first time since 2010, I feel like I can finally catch my breath and not just ‘tread water‘ – but actually swim to the shore.  Don’t get me wrong, the road is still tough, overwhelming, scary, frustrating, and crushing at times, but we have found our ‘Room to Breathe.’

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It’s been a long journey for our family, one that is not over – one that will always throw darkness our way…but, as long as we have HOPE, we will always have a light that will dwell within the horizon of our hearts…and as long as we have that – the darkness will never overcome us.

IMG_0838There is more to come….so much good, so much that’s exciting….stay tuned!

Love and Light,

Stefani

Just for fun

And now for a little fun…..completely unrelated to the theme of this blog….but still worth a share!

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For Will’s birthday, we wanted to do something easy, simple, and fun.  Will is a HUGE fan of Mine Craft, so we decided to do a Minecaft themed party.  I dug deep into the internet and got a crash course in “All Things Minecraft” as, until that moment – I only knew it was a game on the iPad that Will, Sasha and Ralph play together.

First of all, let me tell you that I just can’t understand the draw to this mindless game that makes a killing off of sub par pixelated graphics…but, that’s neither here nor there….Will was thrilled about the theme, so I was going ‘All In.’

I finally settled on a cake I wanted my friend Michelle from Cakes by Michelle to make and the cookies by my friend Niki from Simply Sweet by Niki…you’ll see pictures on that later.  😉 Then, I decided upon the favors, decorations, and finally, the munchies.

While ALL of this was actually REALLY easy, simple, and fun….it was time consuming to execute given the absolutely CRAZY schedule we had the week leading up to his party…it was a bit daunting. You see, I didn’t quite think it all through when planning everything and didn’t take into account that we’d be returning from our stay in Myrtle Beach less than a week before his party AND that we’d be having 4 appointments in Boston that week also….which effectively left me with little time to get all of these things set up.

I am quite grateful for the help of my friends Shannon, Liz, and Jill, my niece Brittany, and anyone else who pitched in to help get it ready in time!

The best part about it all was that, while Will knew about the theme, he had NO idea what I was doing or what it was going to look like until the guests arrived and I called him down from his bedroom.  You see, I am a HUGESurprise‘ freak…I LOVE LOVE LOVE to ‘Surprise‘ people.  I love to see the smiles, the joy, the excitement….it’s just wonderful to be able to do something special for someone else with the expectation of nothing but joy in return.

SO, without further rambling (which I do a lot)….here are the pictures of Will’s “Minecraft” themed birthday party!

I started out by making the favors for the goody bags:
Use a simple small paper bag with a cutout of Steve’s face as the treat bag.  SUPER easy!

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Inside the bag, I placed the following items in their own individual clear baggies:
Rock Candy for the ‘Ice’

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Rolo’s for the Gold (Budder)

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Twizzlers and Pop Rocks for the TNT

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A chocolate bar (I used Hershey’s) with wrapped with a print out of ‘Minecraft’ grass and I  printed out a small picture of Steve and cut it out and taped it to the front (this did not need to be placed in a clear bag).

IMG_9546Rice Krispy Treats with Black food coloring as Coal.

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I also created, printed, and laminate cute little Minecraft bookmarks

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And finally, I printed small Steve and Creeper faces, cut them out and laminated them.  I punched a hole in the top of the center of each face and threaded some hemp through the hole to make necklaces for the goody bag as well.

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I printed out labels for each of them, laminated, and then cut them up.  I punched a small hole in the corner of each of the labels, threaded it through a small piece of hemp and then tied the baggies shut.

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I popped them all into a bag….and used a glue dot to seal it shut.

I took small square dark green, light green, and black plates and used some adhesive tacky stuff (I forget the name, but it’s safe for walls) and created a Creeper face on the wall.

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For the door, I took a light green plastic roll of table cloth and cut it up to fit the door (I did both sides).  I then took black construction paper and made eyes, the nose and the mouth for a Creeper.

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I purchased labels (that were excellent) for the water bottles from HERE that were customized for Will (we still have some in our cooler outside and they have held up well over a month since the party!).

I also printed, cut out, and laminated a banner that says “Happy Birthday” in Minecraft font – and secured the back of it with glue dots to some hemp.

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Even the spoons had some decor – I took some of the leftover small Creeper faces, cut them out, laminated them and then used a glue dot to adhere it to black spoons. I used light green plates with dark Green napkins

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The biggest PAIN IN THE BUTT was the cups – I thought it would be simple – but it was not!  Ralph actually took over this project.  He cut out black squares (you can use electrical tape or black construction paper) and arranged them to the green cups in the shape of the Creeper face – using glue dots to adhere them to the cups.

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For the food, I took the many staples found within the game:
Carrots

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Coal (Rice Crispy Treats with black food coloring)

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Budder (Rolos)

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Apples (sorry, no picture, but you can see it in the larger picture of everything together!)

Creeper’s Blood (punch)

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Cookies (made by Simply Sweet)

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Sticks (pretzel rods)

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Trap Doors (Cheezits)

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TNT (Twizzlers) – no picture of this alone, sorry!

Diamonds (Hershey Kisses in the blue foil) – no picture of this alone, sorry!

I also did ‘Earth’ which I also made from Rice Krispy Treats – but I Cocoa Krispies instead and topped it with green frosting for the grass

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And the look on BOTH Will & Sasha’s faces when we finally let them downstairs to see it all was priceless!

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And…the Minecraft Cake was a HIT (made by Cakes by Michelle)!

Will even got a visit from some of his Bentley Football Friends – here are just two of them…

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This was such a great birthday party – and Will had SUCH a wonderful time!  We are so grateful to all who attended….

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And, after all of the chaos of the day, we all went to visit Auntie Chelsea and have some good old fashioned snuggle time with her!

Thanks for peeking!

If you are interested in a Minecraft party and would like the printouts for this, feel free to email me at ivygirlz@aol.com or leave a comment here!  Some of the printouts I created and a few of them I found online, but I can’t remember where.

Dig Straight

Love and Light,

Stefani

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