Friday, July 27, 2012

11th set of books delivered (Goal surpassed!)

When we set out to do this project, our goal was to provide collections of 25 of Isabelle's favorite books to TEN different facilites who were stretched thin, under resourced, yet providing an invaluable service to those in need.  

The enormous generosity of our friends, family, and people who were moved by our cause, allowed us to give extra books at
Christmas, books to children programs, and spread books and love across the world.  We have one more exciting delivery after this before we announce our 2012-2013 project - stay tuned!

Our 11th collection of books goes to the Bradley Angle House in Portland, Oregon!

The mission of Bradley Angle is to offer survivors of domestic and sexual violence options for safety, empowerment, healing and hope, while collaborating with our communities to create social change.

In 1975, Bradley Angle became the first domestic violence shelter on the West Coast (and only the fourth in the United States). Over the years, our services have expanded to include a 24- hour crisis line, transitional housing, support groups, community-based advocacy, and three programs unique to Oregon: culturally specific programming for African and African-American survivors, an economic empowerment program called Making Cent$, and support for LGBTQ survivors.

Bradley Angle has a long history of providing local leadership to address unmet community needs and services for domestic violence survivors and their families.

Here's what my dear friend Tracy had to say: 

"...I feel like we picked a very special place with kids in an especially difficult time in their lives. I think about them reading Isabelle’s favorite books and escaping into all those happy stories and pictures, and it makes me smile."

THANK YOU Tracy for delivering these books in Portland!  We love you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our birthday girl

Our little super girl in her new backpack on her 2nd birthday

Tomorrow is Isabelle's 4th birthday.  It is impossible to believe that another year dawns without her.  This time last year we were operating in a completely different space-time where our world had stopped and the rest kept going.  We were living in a constant state of vertigo, in which life was a fuzzy program outside the windows of our shock, sorrow and devastation.  Stumbling and literally nauseous with sadness, we kept walking forward - somehow we kept walking forward - as hard as it was.  As hard as it sometimes still is.

This year, shaky ground continues to make way for balance and the world is more and more something we live in and take part in.  Our days are no longer completely crippled by devastation, though make no mistake;

the presence

of her absence

is constant and unrelenting.

We are often told that we are strong, that we are doing well.  But if we are strong, we are strong because strong is our only choice. You may not see the lump in my throat or the tightening of the tear ducts as I fight for composure, but every minute of every day I am gripped by the longing for our little girl.  And as time separates us, I ache with the unknowing of what she would look like now, what she would sound like.  What wonderful new things she would be doing; what discoveries we would be making together.

Richard and I are blessed with a beautiful love, beautiful children and beautiful people in our life.   Despite our pain we've learned to enjoy life again.  To laugh again.  We roll in the grass with our son and float on the sounds of our baby girls' giggles.  And one of the only clear moments I recall in those terrible first hours of this new normal of ours, was that I had never ever felt as close to another human being as I did to my husband.  And that feeling remains, for which I am grateful.  It is a stark paradox within which we live; elevated in peaks of happiness and joy, surrounded by love, family, friends and laughter, while anchored with the vacancy of our cherished first child.  Both extremes are real, and both are present.  We're learning to allow them to co-exist.

I would give anything to be naive again, to believe that only good things happen to good people, to believe somehow that the world was fair.  I'm still figuring out what to do with this unwanted enlightenment, which ironically only makes our world smaller.  I do not want tragedy and loss to define our lives - and it won't - but yet, how do I place what happened to Isabelle?  It still seems so unfair, so very wrong.  I can only say there is a sense of freedom once it is realized that things are out of our control.  You let go.  I'm not there yet, but my grip is loosening.

In the end it is not honoring Isabelle by giving up, by crawling under a rock and never coming out.  That much we knew from the beginning.  We can only take the knowledge of how fast our world turned upside down and try our best to feel our way through every moment given to us.  To enjoy it, to see the good in it.  To focus on what matters.  Most importantly, to not let it slip by.  For Isabelle, we choose to live.  To try to live life as fully as she did.  That, I believe, is the best way to honor celebrate her, not only on her birthday, but everyday.


Our sweet girl Isabelle,

We will blow bubbles to you on your birthday.  They are filled with billions of particles of love that will float up to you and embrace you.  We will bake Magnolia cupcakes with your favorite pink sprinkles.  The four of us will hold each other tight around the memory of you in the middle.  Please know that while our life continues down here, I can still feel - really feel - the soft contours of your face in the palm of my hand, your daddy thinks of you when he reads your favorite books or sings your favorite songs, your brother inherited your same gorgeous giggle, and your new little sister has the honor of carrying your name in hers.

We love you, our enormously missed Isabelle.

Monday, July 16, 2012

10th set of books delivered!

James, Laura, Eric & Prentice blowing bubbles
for sweet Isabelle in front of Wrigley Field Stadium, June 2011.

Thank you sweet friends.
Our 10th set of books were delivered to Children's Habilitation Center in Harvey, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago).
Here's what Laura said about the Children's Habilitation Center:

CHC is licensed by the Illinois Department of Public Health for 67 beds. They serve the most medically fragile infants and children who require complex medical care, including transitional and long-term care.
Children's Habilitation Center provides onsite educational services to all of their children. The educational program is certified by the Illinois State Board of Education & has accreditation by the National Association of Special Education Teachers. Even their youngest children, those under the age of three years old, receive educational services in the early childhood development programs.
Pamela Markle Schaetzle is the Chief Executive Officer and Prentice Dixon is the Licensed Administrator and both were thrilled to be a part of Books for Isabelle and were very appreciative of the donation. I have to tell you the work that the staff at CHC does every day to impact and improve the lives of the children in their care is nothing short of amazing. Their was one little girl Janiah (age 6) that helped Prentice and I open the box of books and was quick to pick out two she wanted to have us read with her immediately. Her smile and spirit were incredibly uplifting and brought joy to my day. Thank you for letting me be a small part of this book campaign and help continue to spread joy and smiles in honor of Isabelle. Where there is love there is life - Laura
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Many thanks to my beautiful friend, Laura, who lugged a huge box of books back to Chicago from our hometown in Missouri and organized everything about with this delivery.  Love you Laura.

Monday, July 9, 2012

More birthday bubbles!

More birthday babes who've helped to remember our girl Isabelle on their special day.  
Thank you Janie, Parker, Miles & Simon!  
Your thoughtful act of sharing your birthday has touched us, and many others, for years to come.    

Janie and Parker Mendel, the adorable offspring of a couple of my college friends from William Jewell College, were very generous to take it upon themselves to collect books in lieu of gifts in honor of Bubbles for Isabelle on their combined 2nd/4th birthdays.  They blew bubbles in her memory and collected over 150 books which they delivered to Hillcrest Ministries.

Hillcrest Ministries is a transitional housing program helping homeless families become self-supportive, self reliant contributors to society. Coincidentally, I volunteered at Hillcrest when I was attending William Jewell and am very aware of the impact this facility makes on the lives of others.  They have a 95% success rate of transitioning graduate families to self sufficiency!

Bubbles for Isabelle at Janie & Parkers birthday.

The books!
Miles and Simon are the twin sons of our very dear friends in New York.  Their dad, Seth, and I worked together in the city and became fast friends.  Before I knew it, our families journeyed together through first pregnancies, first babies and all of the exciting transitions that come with growing a family.  Seth and Jenean had the boys about a year before we had Isabelle, so we watched and learned a lot from them.

They boys were welcomed to this world on May 19, 2007; the day Isabelle left this world four years later.  As an incredibly thoughtful tribute to our precious girl, they have started the tradition of blowing bubbles for sweet Isabelle each year on their birthday.  I am so grateful for the friendship we have in the Eichenholtz' and for the joy and good these boys will no doubt continue to bring to the world.

Bubbles for Isabelle at Miles & Simon's birthday party.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

9th set of books delivered!

This post has been a long time coming!  Earlier in the spring my new friend, Erin, who I've come to know through our involvement with the Midwest Transplant Network delivered a set of books to the Don Bosco facility in Kansas City on our behalf.  She oversaw the "I Am Hope" story that featured our sweet Isabelle back in February, which you can see HERE.

Ben Cascio, executive director of Don Bosco
The Don Bosco Centers has been a source of help and hope in the northeast neighborhood of Kansas City for over 70 years. We have helped empower tens of thousands of individuals and families to achieve independence, to become self-sufficient, to build better lives.

The interrelated Centers provide comprehensive social services to address the daily challenges faced by the community we serve. By addressing multiple interrelated challenges instead of providing a short-term solution to a single problem, families and individuals are more likely to experience lasting change in their lives.

Here's what Erin had to say:

"When I explained Bubbles for Isabelle to our contacts there, their eyes LIT UP at the prospect of having a set of BFI books in their library. I guess there are 125 kids there everyday in the summer, learning to read and working on reading at-level. They said they don't really have books for little ones, so this would be a tremendous addition to the library! I was so happy to hear the true need, and how the BFI books would be so appreciated and enjoyed - not to mention a tool in helping at-risk and underprivileged little ones learn how to read. I will make sure to send more details and pics of the drop-off. Thanks! Erin"

Thank you Erin for your support of Bubbles for Isabelle!