finding hope in the heartbreak

inspiration, motherhood, stories from our community, the meaning behind By April 21, 2016 4 Comments

When you share your stories with my on Facebook or Instagram, it often stops me right where I am. It’s humbling to create jewelry that holds deep meaning–and when these handmade pieces become part of your story, it fills me. Jen’s story of heartache and hope resonated deeply with me–and you! When she shared on Facebook, many of you responded to her comment and encouraged her. This community is a beautiful place where people can be honest and feel loved. I’m grateful. I reached out to Jen to share more of her story with us. Here’s Jen’s comment from Facebook…

‘2014 was supposed to be a joyous year. In the spring, we thought my mom’s cancer was on the up and up, and my husband and I finally became pregnant. We told my mom early, thinking it would give her final push to really kick cancer’s butt. It turned out that it had a stronger hold on her than anyone knew, and the hospital stays started. We find out at our 3 month ultrasound that the baby has an irreversible birth defect. Everyone fought and prayed for the best. However, angels were made that summer; my mom passed in July, and we lost the baby two weeks later. I didn’t know what to do, that fog was so think. My family and I stuck together and through them and friends, I pulled myself out. There are now sunny days again–we have a beautiful little girl, named after my mom. Her room’s theme is You Are My Sunshine. ‘

It warmed my heart to see the ways you and others in our community responded, encouraged, and shared in the joy and pain. We asked Jen to share a bit more about her journey, and where she finds hope. Read for more…

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How do you experience hope each day?

I experience hope every time I look at my daughter. Rosabella fills me with hope every day — hope for a bright future for her, hope for the best for our family, and the knowing that everything is okay. My mom believed in hope, had given me a bracelet with that word on it.  We always hope for the best outcome possible. Sometimes the best outcome isn’t want we want, but what is best for the person going through the tough time.

When in this journey did you experience a glimmer of hope?

I first experienced a glimmer of hope when we found out we were pregnant. It was right around Mother’s Day 2014. I had wanted to give my mom a grandchild so badly, especially knowing she was sick. We told my mom early, at about 8-9 weeks. I thought that maybe this was the bump she needed to finally get her body back to where she wanted it.  We gave her a bracelet that said Grandma on it.  At first, she thought it was from our cat!  Then she thought about it, and I hadn’t seen her so excited in a long time!

What are some of the ways you feel supported by friends and family?

My husband was my rock during that tough summer. He was there at every doctor’s appointment, and had no problem with me staying for days at a time with my mom when she was home.  He encouraged me to do silly things to keep my mind off of things while my mom slept. Once my mom went into hospice, he came every night with me to see her.  My dad has always been an amazing person, but blew me away during those years.  They were divorced but became her main care taker.  He took her to every appointment, every treatment, and spent nights at her house as well.  He told me everything that happened at those appointments, and we all talked a lot as a family.  I see my father at least once a week now (he does some baby-sitting now and again too), and we do lots of talking and reminiscing.  I have a close group of girlfriends; like all friends we get involved in life and don’t always see each other.  During that time, they were the first to come to my mom’s house and brought food for my dad, my brother, and me.  They were always checking in. I don’t know what I would have done without them. Now we all have kids (well, one has a nephew she adores), and we try to get together at least once a month.

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How would you encourage someone going through the process of grieving the loss of a loved one?

I would say take life one hour at a time.  When you’re ready, take life one day at a time.  There is no amount of time that can totally take that hurt of losing a loved one away, but slowly the hurt does lessen.  No one can tell you that enough time has passed and you should be “over it”.  Only the person grieving knows when they are able to put one foot in front of the other.  What I also found helped was joining a support group.  Members of this group had all experienced a loss, and although not all losses were the same, we all knew that deep feeling of despair and grief.  It started as more of a therapeutic gathering, but now I attend because these people have become my friends. 

What have you learned about yourself this year?

Since Bella was born, I have learned that I am stronger than I thought in many respects.  The late nights, working on my Master’s program, working full time… I do have my moments where I think I cannot do it and I break down. In the end, though, it gets done.  I just think of my mom, and how hard she fought against her illness.  I am nowhere near the hardships she had to endure, and I know she would not want me giving up or breaking down.

Are there any other details or thoughts you would like to share with the community?

I know we’ve all heard this, but do not take anything for granted.  Life is short; a loved one is there one minute, and could be gone the next.  This is something that I keep in mind everyday.  Yes, I am busy and there are things that have to get done (work, classwork).  However, the laundry can wait.  Dinner can be later.  What matters most is my family–making sure I play with Bella as soon as we come home, chasing Chewie around the house for playtime, sitting down and spending time with Jason.  Take time to be with the ones you love.  But also remember to love yourself, too–for you are no good to anyone if you yourself are unhappy.

Bella and Chewie

Buffett concert

 This is so beautiful, Jen. Thank you Jen for sharing your heart! I am so glad the sunburst ring holds deep meaning for you. You are strong and brave. xx

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hello kitchen redo

hello monday By April 18, 2016 3 Comments

For the last few weeks we’ve been under construction–painting cabinets, getting new countertops and some appliances. We’re still waiting on our oven and a hood–but it’s coming together and I’m thrilled with how fresh and bright it looks. We’ve been wanting to freshen the cabinets since we moved into this house 7 years ago–and it’s finally happening. Hooray!
You can see a peek of our old cabinets in this post.

How about some hellos for a brand new Monday?

hello kitchen redo lisa leonard-03 Hello bright and sunny. I can’t get over how much light is reflected off the cabinets now that they’re lighter. I think light is good for the soul.

hello kitchen redo lisa leonard-04 Hello massive sink. I’m actually enjoying doing dishes these days. I love Mrs. Meyer’s–especially the lavender scent. So good.

hello kitchen redo lisa leonard-05 Hello fruit–real and porcelain. We’re trying to snack on fruit, nuts and string cheese when possible.

hello kitchen redo lisa leonard-06 Hello unkillable plant. I love snake plant–they hardly need any water and don’t need a lot of light either.
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Hello fun chairs we found at a local wholesale furniture place we love. They are so comfortable.

Hello making pancakes on our new stove. So much easier than the hot plate we’ve been using the last month or so.

Hello journaling, reading and taking time to nurture my soul.

Hello longer days. The sun is staying up longer and we’ve been getting some evening walks in. I love it!

Hello splitting the boys into two rooms. They’ve shared all their lives. I’m busy organizing and planning. I think it’s going to be great for them–and maybe a little bit of a transition too. pics of the boys room before the split here.

Hello slowing down. I’m trying to rush less and breathe deeper. It feels important.

Hello to you! It’s a brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

 

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Moments of motherhood

family, motherhood By April 15, 2016 2 Comments

Will you walk down memory lane with me? Looking back through these old photos has my heart melted into a puddle. Have you ever snapped a pic in what seems like a totally normal, mundane moment and then years later look back and think ‘OH MY GOSH I’m so glad I captured that!’ It’s the everyday, mundane moments that make life truly beautiful.

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Matthias loved dressing up as a toddler and preschooler. Every day he wore elaborate costumes and pretended to be a superhero or fireman. I loved watching him express himself then and love looking back and seeing how his passion for creativity and expression is still so much the same!

And David {above middle} learned to feed himself spoonfuls of yogurt and we CELEBRATED! Such a big accomplishment. And those sweet baby cheeks melt me.

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I’m somehow with two of the cuddliest kids in the world. They love to hold hands and snuggle up on the couch. They would happily snuggle up in our bed every night if we let them. I believe one can never have too many cuddles.

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Looking back on these pics I can see how much David has changed. He’s filled out–he’s not so skinny any more. He’s much sturdier health wise {thank you Lord!} and has a lot more opinions than he used to have. But oh my goodness, that little sparkle in his eye and his love of life hasn’t changed one bit. I love it!

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Owning our own business has been good and bad–but mostly good. There are nights Steve and I both have to work late, but we also have the ability to take time off when we need or want to. We’ve taken two weeks off to travel to England. When David had heart surgery when he was seven years old, we took a lot of time off to take care of him. We were able to from his hospital room or make calls after he fell asleep. I am thankful so thankful for that flexibility. I don’t take it for granted.

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Oh my gosh those frog rain boots were Matthias’ favorite for a couple years. We went through a few pairs! What is it about kids and boots–there is nothing cuter. Nothing.

Being a family isn’t made up of one huge success or one massive failure. Family is formed over days, months and years. It’s the day in, day out mundane stuff of life that creates a safe place to truly be yourself–and know that you’re loved no matter what. Every kiss, cuddle, tear wiped, lunch packed, homework packet signed and bedtime prayer bonds our hearts together. Being a mom is life giving and heart breaking. It’s so incredibly hard and so amazingly beautiful. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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being shaped and formed and molded

jewelry, motherhood, the meaning behind By April 12, 2016 4 Comments

I don’t know how to make jewelry–or at least there are times I want to give up because it’s hard! Over the years, I’ve learned how to use my tools, but sometimes they still won’t cooperate. When I set out to create a new design, I dream, sketch, metal work, file, hammer, polish—and I can tell you, nine times out of ten, the end result is different that what I imagined when inspiration first came to me.

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I see symbolism here with motherhood. I dreamed about being a mom since I was a little girl. I wrapped my baby doll in a blanket and carried her around the house. I changed pretend diapers and hoped some day I would have my own, very real baby. When I held David in my arms for the first time, everything I imagined fell away. With a disability, he wasn’t what I expected, but he was adorable and precious. He was part of me and also uniquely himself. With Matthias’ birth I was similarly unprepared and facing the unexpected. When each of my boys was placed in my arms we met for the first time. That first day we began the adventure getting to know each other.

With every cuddle, kiss, tear wiped and hand held we are molding our children. With every comforting word and piece of advice shared, we are guiding and training our children. Each child brings his own personality, spunk and curiosity to life. Like metalworking and jewelry design, it’s an imperfect process. The artist and the metal work together. The parent and the child are each growing, changing and being shaped into something lovely.

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There is a beauty to a handmade piece that is forged from metal and shaped into something meaningful. When our pieces are made, sometimes the metal works in our favor, and sometimes it works against us. The process involves fire to soften and shape the metal, but it also requires cool water baths and the gentle brushes to buff and shine. There is push and pull—two forces at work. What results is better because of the struggle. The finished design is a combination of what I bring to the workbench and what the raw materials allow.  Motherhood, like jewelry making, is two forces working together. It’s a process of being shaped and formed and molded—not just the child, but the mother as well.

Each handmade piece of jewelry represents my mother’s heart. It’s the deep significance of a journey walked together. Through highs and lows each of us is changed and deep bonds are formed. This is where love flourishes. This is the meaning behind each piece of jewelry I create.

Stack on a few delicate birthstone rings or wear a handcrafted necklace close to your heart with the knowledge that being a mother is magnificent work—not because mother or child is perfect, but because together we are growing, becoming stronger and more whole.  Together we are better.

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Mother’s Day is just a few short weeks away. There is a perfect gift waiting to be created, just for you or a dear one in your life. Don’t wait—click here to see the pieces I’ve created for you.

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hello wildflowers

hello monday By April 11, 2016 1 Comment

Hello friends. I’m taking some time to rest and reflect for a few days. It’s been good to look at my soul, look at what I need and nurture my heart. I took a long walk the other day and snapped pics of the wildflowers and cacti. How about some hellos for a new week?

wildflowers lisa leonard-01Hello new growth sprouting from what looked dry and dead.

wildflowers lisa leonard-02 Hello thorny thistle bursting with color.

wildflowers lisa leonard-04Hello heart-shaped crack in the dirt. Can you see it?

wildflowers lisa leonard-05 Hello yellow flower standing tall and brave.

wildflowers lisa leonard-07Hello journaling and putting thoughts down on paper.

Hello alone time–my soul needs this.

Hello long walks and deep breaths.

Hello reading this book and this book. So good.

Hello finding beauty in the journey. It’s imperfect but it’s worth it.

Hello to you! It’s Monday–and brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

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Autism Awareness {so much to celebrate!}

finding love By April 5, 2016 15 Comments

today is a good day lisa leonard-01

Before I had kids, before my first baby was born with a disability, I taught 3rd-5th graders with disabilities. Maybe I should back up even more. In college, while working on my degree in Psychology, I did an internship with kids who had Autism. The internship was through UCLA and we used Applied Behavior Analysis {ABA} to teach new skills. It was awesome and I loved it. Of course, the internship paid almost nothing–but it sparked something inside me.

After college I worked as a wedding coordinator for a couple years, then at a group home and eventually worked my way back to special education in the public school system. For two years, I had my own classroom, teaching 3rd-5th graders with special needs. Then I became an advocate for kids who were fully included in typical classrooms. My job title was ‘Full Inclusion Specialist’. I had found my niche, I loved my job and I loved my kiddos. They changed me. At the time I had no idea that in a few years I would have my own baby with special needs.

Although a diverse group of students, most of my kiddos were diagnosed with Autism. Some were non-verbal, some were very high functioning, each in his own way, gave me a glimpse of their soul. I connected and bonded with each student. My husband, Steve and I, would have long talks about what it meant to be a soul stuck inside a body that wouldn’t cooperate. We talked about the value of each person–regardless of what he or she ‘contributes’ to society. We talked about knowing another person, even if she can’t talk or share their heart with words.

In the days following David’s birth, after we were told he had Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, I remember thinking, “Each of my student’s parents went through a similar experience. Each of them had a ‘diagnosis day’. Each of them has experienced heartbreak and fallen in love with their child in a new way. I wished I could go back and hug each of them. I wished I could ask them to share their story with me. What was it like when you heard the word ‘Autism’ for the first time? How did you move forward? How did you find hope?

Last week we celebrated Autism Awareness Day with a fundraiser in the shop. And friends we raised over $5500!!

My kids with Autism prepared me to be a better mother when my first baby was born with his own disability. My kids with Autism showed me their souls and gave me hope that I would need to lean on heavily once David became part of our family. My kids with Autism were {and still are} amazing, brave human beings who make the world a much better place.

Thank you for helping us raise over $5500 for Autism Speaks. I am so grateful for this community and the way we care about each other.

Do you love someone with Autism or have Autism yourself? I’d love to hear about your journey!

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hello mcway falls, big sur

adventures, san luis obispo By April 4, 2016 4 Comments

We braved the windy roads to explore Big Sur. It’s about 2 hours north of us–and we’ve never ventured that far up
Highway 1. Wow! The views were gorgeous. We did a short hike to McWay Falls. The drive home was long and were tired and grumpy. But we did it!

It’s Monday–how about some hellos?mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-02Hello waterfall. This was the first time the boys had seen one in real life!
mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-01Hello boys. They love their dad!

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-03 Hello holding pinkies with Matthias. He’s such a tender heart. I love my stacking rings that keep him close even we’re not holding pinkies.

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-04Hello beautiful painting. Wait, that’s real life?! Impossible!

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-07 Hello unassuming, yellow flowers.

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-08 Hello sticker art. Creativity amidst the natural beauty?

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-09 Hello walking well. David’s foot is feeling much better–so thankful!

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-10 Hello eyes with yellow and green. Love his eyes.

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-11 Hello superheros on their way to make the world better. Or maybe heading to the restrooms near the ranger station.

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-12 Hello helpful sign that leads to somewhere breath-taking.

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-13 Hello sweetie in the backpack. He is seriously getting to big for the backpack. I don’t know how we’ll hike when he outgrows it!

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-14Hello sunshine on my face. I tried to soak up as much as I could and let it fill my soul.

mcway falls big sur lisa leonard-06Hello water so clear and green it’s unreal.

Hello backyard changes. We took down the boys’ play structure since they don’t use it anymore. Feels kind of sad to see it go but nice to have more space. The end of an era and the beginning of something new.

Hello pups who seem extra clingy/cuddly lately. I think it might be because the kitchen is torn apart while we get new countertops?

Hello Zootopia. We loved it! Absolutely adorable.

Hello back to our routine. It was so nice to have some downtime over spring break. But it’s back to school today!

Hello to you! It’s a brand new week. What are you saying hello to this week?

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looking for a wife

matthias By March 31, 2016 23 Comments

IMG_0921The other day Matthias said to me, Isn’t it crazy to think my wife is out there somewhere? I just haven’t met her yet. I wonder what she’s doing right now?”

At twelve years old, he regularly stops me in my tracks with this kind of insightful comment and perspective.

I asked him, “What are you looking for in a wife?”

He responded, “Well, first of all, I want her to love and respect David.”

Whoa.

There is a lot of heart and life experience and passion in that statement. Matthias has seen people open their arms to David and love him well. He’s also seen people awkwardly stare at David while they avoid eye contact.

Matthias unconditionally loves and accepts his brother–special needs and all. He wants to build a life with someone who has open heart and an open mind.

I believe Matthias is a better person because of his brother. I believe Matthias will make the world a better place because of his compassion and bravery. And I hope he finds an amazing wife who will be a trusted partner in this beautiful journey.

But it’s okay with me if we wait fifteen years or so to begin ring shopping.

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hello spring break

family, san luis obispo By March 28, 2016 3 Comments

We celebrated Easter yesterday–a beautiful mellow day celebrated with a church service, friends, delicious food and some down time. The boys are out of school this week and Auntie Ellen comes to town! Hooray for slow mornings and time for play.

It’s a brand new week, how about some hellos?
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Hello sunshine. We have had glorious weather the last few days! It feels like summer.

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Hello trying to figure out which setting on my camera is off. I had a lot of trouble getting the exposure right. Hmmm.

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Hello drawing. Matthias always brings his drawing supplies. He also really into the Percy Jackson series right now. I love seeing him draw and read.

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Hello Louis and Beasley hanging out under the table while we eat lunch. Look at those sweet faces.

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Hello smiles at lunch. David has had a big appetite the last few days. Maybe a growth spurt is coming?

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Hello wishing I hadn’t worn a sweater to the beach–it was way warmer than I expected.

Hello family. These are my guys and I love them.

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Hello bum ankle. David is still having trouble with his left foot/ankle. He’ll walk some but not as much as normal. And his gate is all off.

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Hello puppy love. Nothing better.

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Hello crashed out. David has been taking a few cat naps every day. Bigger appetite plus cat naps sounds like a growth spurt is coming!

Hello haircuts this week. Don’t you feel like keeping up with haircuts, dentist appointments, teacher conferences, etc is a full time job? It’s crazy!

Hello eating pizza and take out. We’ll have new countertops soon but until then the kitchen is out of commission.

Hello new designs to share with you tomorrow! I can’t wait to show you.

Hello Monday! It’s a brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

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faith, hope and love.

the meaning behind By March 25, 2016 1 Comment

My heart has experienced things that are more powerful than anything my eyes could behold—and it’s changed me.

I’ve seen hopeless grief turn to unexpected joy.

I’ve experienced circumstances work together in a way that would have been impossible to plan.

I’ve felt hope beyond what my imagination could muster on its own.

I’ve been loved when I didn’t deserve it.

faith hope and love

This weekend we celebrate hope and renewal. The cross symbolizes the place where ugliness turns to beauty, suffering becomes joy and despair is transformed to hope.

These pieces represent the gratefulness my heart can barely contain.

Happy Easter to you, dear friends.

With love, Lisa and the Leonard family

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