closer to your destination

It was his thing.  He would leave me a notes of love and encouragement on our photo frame from Martha, a dear friend of mine.  Every day, I would walk in the door home from work and read the note he wrote before he left for work.  Each note would make me smile and laugh bringing me great joy.  But, then there was this note.  It had struck a cord.  One in which I was grateful, overjoyed, teary-eyed, and excited.  To this day, I often go back to his words, Every step in a journey brings you closer to your destination.  Congrats on taking a big step.  (I truly married a man with a heart greater than mine.)  Because it was on this day, I quit my first job and took a leap of faith to start over at 28 years old.

destination 01

Let me backtrack a little.  I have spent the better part of my 20s in school and soul searching.  My family and friends have seen me change career paths more times than I can count on both hands-engineer, advertising executive, business analyst, wedding photographer, pharmaceutical sales representative, teacher, interior designer, and the list goes on.  Honestly, I do not regret this path.  While it took some time to get to this point in my life, it was well worth the journey.  I always tell people becoming an engineer led me to a life far better than the one I imagined.  After all, it is how I met my best friend, married him, and created a life we are proud of together.  But, becoming a photographer 5 years ago is where occupational therapy came into my world.

A few of my clients were occupational therapists.  In between snapshots, they would tell me stories of their patients.  Stories of how they helped someone get dressed for the first time in years.  Stories of how they gave a patient who was a stroke survivor a second chance at living life to the fullest.  Stories of how they held their patient’s hands when they knew they were in their last days of life.  This job is not for everyone.  Occupational therapists have to love people.  They have to be compassionate.  They have to be ok with wiping bottoms and seeing trauma.  They have to make hard decisions.  They have to advocate for their patients.  With that said, a fire inside my heart was lit from that day forward.  I was hooked.

destination 02

(courtesy of Therapy Source)

I spent the next three years (yes three!) researching, reading, and meeting more occupational therapists.  Each time, I resisted the urge to give in to what seemed only like a dream.  But, then one day, everything changed.

I walked into our bedroom and told Bryan I wanted to apply at Rockhurst to get my master’s in occupational therapy.  Not anywhere else.  Not any other program.  I am pretty sure the look on my face is what sold him in 2.5 seconds.  I was confident this was it.  This was my calling in life.  To help others live a meaningful life.  May it be children or older adults or patients with cancer.

We spent the next twelve months living the BEST and HARDEST twelve months we had yet to experience.  Juggling two full-time jobs, classes, photography sessions and weddings, sixty hour work weeks, grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking was not our ideal situation.  However, with team work and prayers to keep giving us the strength we needed, we survived!!!  We had quite a few late nights and there were some days where we felt like we wanted to give up.  But, if I had to do it again, I would without thinking twice.  Because it led to one of my greatest accomplishments.

One beautiful September day, I wore my cutest suit paired with my lucky black heels and pink sapphire earrings as I walked up to the OT building for the interview I spent hours preparing for the night before with Bryan.  Not one question we practiced came up during the interview as I threw all of that out the window and decided to show them who I was and what fired my heart up.  Weeks passed after that one beautiful September day.  Until one day when a certain envelope showed up in the mail.  With shaky hands, I opened the package to find my acceptance letter!!!   It was surreal, and made every one of those late nights, working full-time, and studying during my lunch breaks worth every second of bliss I felt as I read the letter over and over again for the next two hours!

Those sleepless nights of wondering why now make sense.  God gave me all these different puzzle pieces, and it was up to me to put them together.  I was led down this wild path to do something unique with my life.  Something that would bring me closer to the life I am supposed to be living.  Little did I know, four months into the program, we would be growing our family with those two pink lines on a pregnancy test or how our sweet babe nine months later would need occupational therapy.

Life in the last year has really come full circle for me. A little over a year ago, I sat in my professor’s office telling her I was pregnant…and I was not taking a maternity leave.  I had people tell me I was out of mind.  While I agree, I was also very determined.  As in nothing was stopping me from being the best mama and wife while finishing occupational therapy school.  I will say for the record, there were quite a few hard days with being torn between my passions and my loves, but I made it through the hardest part of the program all the while raising a sweet baby boy and still feeling crazy about the guy I married (thanks to our supportive family and friends!).  Not to mention, I cannot get enough of the field I am in.  I mean, I actually read OT magazines for fun.  Say whaaaaat?!  

I will leave on this note.  We get one life to live.  So why not make it a good one?  Filled with passions, adventures, risks, and turning dreams into reality.  As I think about the past few evenings sitting next to Bryan teaching Noah how to crawl and stand with my OT mama heart, I cannot help but smile knowing…I am closer to my destination.

 

  

because…

Because one time we were told, we did not belong together.

because 01

our second annual Valentine’s day tradition

Because you are small town and I am big city.

Because you love numbers and politics and I crave creativity and HGTV.

because 02

Because you are type B and I am type A.

Because you are quiet and reserved and I am as loud as they get with my crazy, colored outfits.

because 03

he keeps denying it but he is one amazing painter.

Yet, we chose not to believe.

Because you are the realist and I am the dreamer.

because 04

hi, my name is shefy.  i have a chocolate addiction.  i am working on it.

Because you are the the ying and I am the yang.

Because after 10 years, we are still crazy for each other.

because 05

Because we have faced hardship.  Together.

Because we have learned how to pick one another up when the other is down.

because 06

Because we have explored the world hand-in-hand.

Because we have danced in the living room when good things have happened.

because 07

Because we have learned marriage is not easy.  It takes work.  A lot of work.  But, it is worth it.

Because we have fun with our silly jokes.

because 08

this painting stuff is serious business.

Because we have supported turning one another’s dreams into reality.

Because we have created a true blessing together who encompasses the best parts of both of us.  Plus, he is really cute.

because 09

our finished product.

Because we were lucky enough to marry our best friends.

Because we have said vows.  For better or worse.  For richer or poorer.

because 10

Because…it is you and I.  Always and forever.

because 11

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.

Susie - So sweet! Love this!

B - You have a way with words babe! I had a wonderful valentines with you and I can’t wait for next year. We keep this up soon our house will look like our own little art museum! Luv u!!

  

being chosen

The day our sweet baby boy was placed into my arms was the day my heart was cracked wide open for the world to see.

As a first time mama, I had dreams of holding him all day long after his first breath, being surrounded by family and friends in our room, and spending all day falling more in love with our beautiful blessing.  However, these dreams were replaced with ones I will forever hold dear to my heart.  These dreams were the start of something new, something challenging, and something better than I could have imagined.

Noah was a preemie baby born at 36 weeks & 1 day and automatically admitted into the NICU.  The first 48 hours were a blur.  The nurses and doctors were monitoring our little man and watched as his weight dropped slightly ending at 3 pounds and 10 ounces.  The memories I have over the next few days included holding hands in the elevator on our way up to feed Noah with excitement at 3:00 am, soaking up every inch of those precious fingers and toes, and learning the ins and outs of being new parents.  The NICU gave us an experience we will never forget.  After all, his first days of life are what inspired me to start this lovely space.

One of my sorority sisters had messaged me on Facebook two days after Noah was born.  She had been in the NICU with her baby boy not too long ago, and instead of sending advice, she sent me the most beautiful story I had read.  One that left tears strolling down my face.  It was a story about being chosen.  Being chosen to be a mother of a special baby whether that be a mother of a disabled, genetic disorder, or preemie child.  Being chosen to have strength, grace, and a positive attitude.  Being chosen to face challenges leading to a life far better than imagined. Being chosen to look past normal and see beauty with a new perspective.

being chosen

the day we got to finally bring Noah home.

Mothers all around the world face challenges with how to care for their little blessing. But mothers of a baby who is disabled, born early, or smaller than the norm deal with a level of new obstacles they must overcome. I knew the road ahead was not going to be easy with Noah.  After all, we were told he was going to have difficulties with developing on track, cognitive impairments, and learning disabilities.  It aches a little more each time we are out and someone tells us he is so tiny or he gets mistaken for a four to six month baby.  And, I have not been able to leave our pediatrician’s office without calling my mum and husband in tears because his growth was not as expected.  Let me go ahead and say it, being a mama is hard. It comes with its good and bad days. But…

It took me eight and a half months to finally understand the true meaning of the words being chosen.  I owe this to my husband who came across a video by a gal named Lacey Buchanan.  Her heart is pure and filled with unconditional love.  The best part, she is a mother of a boy (Christian) who not only has a rare cleft lip and palate but was born blind without his eyes.  She dealt with a lot of negative people telling her horrifying comments about her sweet love.  (Heartbreaking, right?)  But, she never let any of that stop her from raising Christian and giving him the most normal life possible.  Talk about the art of making lemonade.  It was after watching this video, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for being blessed with all I have been given, the struggles and the moments we have celebrated as not only husband and wife, but papa and mama bear.

While I struggle with Noah’s weight gain, I also remind myself, he has surpassed all of our expectations by gaining over 11 pounds and 9 inches in eight and a half months!  It has been amazing to witness him achieve every milestone with his daddy’s smile.  (Just yesterday, we cheered as he held his own bottle and drank his milk before bed.)  Our hearts flutter a little more each time we get confirmation from Noah’s OT about his progress since birth.  And, although comments are passed about the size of our baby boy, I have grown stronger.  When I look at him, I see our precious boy with his round head, rosy cheeks, and two-bottom toothed smile. I have learned this being chosen is serious business.  It requires a heavy dose of faith.  Love. Trust.  Understanding.  Patience.  Most of all, gratitude.

To all the mamas out there with a new baby who are given the opportunity for this special job, here are some thoughts to share.  Breathe.  Deep breaths.  Pray.  Have faith.  Let go of what is not in your control.  Learn to be your baby’s biggest fan and advocate.  Have an open heart.  Do not let others’ comments bring you down.  Keep in mind how far along your baby has come from where he/she started.  Do not be afraid to lean on your better half.  It is ok to cry tears of joy and sadness.  Take “your baby’s future…” with a grain of salt; you have no idea how much they will surprise you.  Because they will leave you speechless. This I can promise. And, do not forget to be grateful.  Grateful to be given the rare but humbling opportunity of being chosen to become your baby’s protector, best friend, and biggest fan!

This mamahood thing kind of rocks.  A lot.

  

good reads: balance and perfectionism

This will be my third time reading it.  While some of the words will seem familiar, the book as a whole has been read in a new perspective each time.  The first being when I had faced a truly dark period in my life.  The second time when I was attempting to live this idea of perfection working a full-time job, managing a photography business, taking prerequisite credits, and applying for an occupational therapy program while being the best wife and friend to my dream guy.  This time, the book was no stranger.  But, it was a time where I needed to read her words the most.

Let’s face it, as a mama of a new baby boy juggling the life of an occupational therapy student, the battle of perfectionism is one I face often.  A little too often, if I am being honest.  I had this idea as a mama and a wife, I needed to have it all together.  I should be able to teach my little man all he needs to know, make sure to be strong for Bryan, and be a rock star of an OT student.  I will go ahead and stop right there because I remember the spiraling effect this mentality took on not only to myself but my sweet family.  So I needed a little kick to remind myself, I will not find happiness and joy living a perfect life; I find them by living a balanced life free of perfectionism.

balance

I highly recommend giving Alexandra Stoddard’s books a chance starting with The Art of the Possible.  I found it was fate years ago, on a summer’s day in Anthropologie, that led me to seeing her colorful book cover.  Since that day, I have been a fan.  A BIG FAN!  Her words are full of grace yet powerful.  She has made me think.  After reading each book, I have aspired to become a stronger version of the gal I am today.  See what I mean…powerful.

If you do not believe me, I will leave you with one of my favorite excerpts from the book:

We regain balance by focusing our energies not on becoming perfect but on transforming each moment of our lives into realistic possibilities.  Think of this energy as the light and the love that can surround you.

We can  have all the perfect things, put them all together perfectly, and still not be satisfied.  This outer- or other-directed road to happiness never leads anywhere but to a dead end.  When we’re not striving for perfection but thriving in a well-balanced life, we have more perfect moments.  When you simply live your life rather than always measure it, you become open and engaged; let those moments in and they will infuse your life with a sense of infinite possibilities for peace, happiness, and joy.  

The art of balance is not an easy path, but I have a feeling it is a journey well worth taking.  By letting go and living a balanced lifestyle, my hope is to discover a new definition of those perfect moments life has to offer and find a deeper sense of gratitude to all the blessings I have been given.

Kathleen Quint - Need to hear this today! I will be buying this book ASAP!!!!

  

almond butter goodness

I will admit.  I was a little skeptical.  I mean, how can something be both paleo and gluten-free wrapped up in sweet goodness?  This does not happen.  At least not often.  Last week, I was set out to find a healthy recipe that I could bring over to our newlywed friends who were hosting the Super Bowl.  I knew I wanted something sweet.  That in and of itself is asking a lot.  I believe it was fate that landed me right to Elana’s Pantry.  This woman is pure genius.  Seriously.  As for her recipes…I am sold.  (Sign me up for all of her cookbooks!)  I came across this recipe that looked a little too simple.  Still skeptical.  It involved SIX ingredients and took only 10 minutes to mix up.  WHHHHHAAAAATTTTTTT?!?!?  Well, I gave it a whirl.  And, you know what?  IT. WAS. AMAZING.  This delicious yet healthy treat melts into your mouth.  (I am drooling just thinking about them.)  They were a hit with our friends for the big game.  Even more, because they were healthy, they did not make me feel embarrassed for eating more than five one.  Did I mention, I am a dessert addict?

Below is the recipe, which can also be found on her blog.  You can thank me later!

Ingredients:

  • 1-16 ounce jar of almond butter (if you are going the budget friendly route, JIF makes it!)
  • 1 cup of agave nectar or honey (we used honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (key ingredient!)
  • 1 cup of chocolate chunks (we used dark chocolate chips to make it even healthier)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, with a hand mixer or blender, mix almond butter until creamy and smooth
  3. Mix in agave/honey and eggs
  4. Add sea salt and baking soda
  5. Mix well with hand mixer or blender until all ingredients are combined well
  6. Mix half of the chocolate chunks/chips into the batter
  7. Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish
  8. Scatter the other half of the chocolate chunks/chips on top
  9. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  10. Dig in!

almond butter blondies

(photo courtesy of miss elana)

Please excuse me while I find the ingredients to make another batch.  Hey, it is the weekend after all!