Wisdom From David

david, hope, inspiration By June 30, 2017 63 Comments

David, fifteen years ago we held you in our arms and cried. You weren’t what we expected and we were grieving. I didn’t expect to have a baby with a syndrome, heart defect and only two fingers on his left hand.

I cried tears for me, what would my life look like now that I had a child with special needs?
I cried tears for you. What would your life look like as you navigate living with special needs?
From the moment I saw your sweet face I loved you. I was your mama and I would do whatever I could to protect and nurture you. But I worried about how other people would treat you. I wished you could run and play and be silly like other children.
I feel silly saying this now, but I wished I could change you.
I felt pity for you, I felt pity for me.
I didn’t know it then, but sweet David, you were born to do big things.
You are a world changer!
My pity has turned to pride.

My worries have subsided as I see you soak up life and give love to those around you.

Everyday you teach us how to live with well.
You have helped us stretch and grow our hearts to make room for more joy.
You have shown us what it looks like to love with your whole heart.
Now my wish is for you to be YOU.
You are one of a kind.
You are a light.
You inspire me.
Today, for your fifteenth birthday, I wrote down bits of wisdom you have taught me.
What follows is how you live, how you love.

Happy birthday, my love! I’m so incredibly thankful you’re my son.

***

Wisdom From David

Come over
Settle in
Sit down

Snuggle up

Let yourself relax
Let yourself enjoy
Let yourself let go

Let yourself be loved

Make friends
Make music
Make messes

Make memories

With open hearts
With honesty
With happiness

With your hand in mine

Let’s dream
Let’s explore
Let’s learn

Let’s be brave

Today holds newness
Today holds adventure
Today holds beauty

Today hold hope

We are us
We are you and me
We are each other

We are family

Slow down
Breathe deeply
Be quiet

Let your heart speak

Listen closely
Feel your feelings
Think outside the box

See with new eyes

Forgive
Forget
Let your heart

Be free

All is right
All is known
All is safe

All is well

No shame
No fear
No hiding

No worry

You are precious
You are seen
You are loved
Be grateful
Be curious
Be gentle

Be you

One of a kind
Three words (I love you)

Forever, for always

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You’re The One

father's day, steve By June 13, 2017 29 Comments

A few nights ago, I had a very dark dream. I dreamed there were a group of middle school boys picking on a young boy. They were carrying him by the arms and legs. As we drove by them, one of boys started putting a plastic bag over the head of the young boy. Steve pulled over the car as quickly as he could and ran toward the crowd of boys. I woke up shaking and couldn’t fall back asleep.  I had so many thoughts running through my head–but the most important was this–if we were ever in a situation like the one in my dream, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, Steve would jump in to help the young boy.

It was the middle of the night and I was wide awake, so I wrote down these words…

***

When you asked me out on our first date, I wasn’t sure. But soon I had no doubt; you are the one.
You are the one I want by my side, for my whole life.

When I wanted to start a little jewelry business, you are the one who said, ‘Yes! Go for it. You can do it.’  You are the one who saw the vision of what it could be. You are the one who spends countless hours dreaming, working, inventing, reimagining and building our business.

When our boys were little, you are the one who could cuddle them for hours on end. You are the one who would take an afternoon nap with them on your chest. You are the one who was first to comfort a scrapped knee or bruised elbow.

When we disagreed with David’s surgeon, you are the one who said, “We’ll get a second opinion. We’ll fight for what is best for David.” You are the one who will go to any length to protect our boys.

When we saw one of our vendors mistreating an employee, you are the one who stepped in. You were the one who said ‘No, I won’t stand for this.’ and ended the relationship.

When we were on vacation and saw a man mercilessly beating up another man, you are the one who immediately intervened. You are the one who began yelling and running to break it up. While everyone else stood around watching, you are the one who didn’t hesitate to fight for the one in need.

When Matthias has thoughts, hurts, dreams, ideas, you are the one who listens and affirms and encourages and builds him up. You are the one he looks to for support and boundaries. You are the one who has helped shape him into a confident thirteen year old ready to take on the world.

You are the one who took up cycling again after twenty years and excelled. You are the one who joined Gymnazo and soon became one of the strongest and fastest. You are the one who took up guitar lessons and acting lessons. You are the one who bravely steps into new things.

You are the one who pursued a doctorate–connecting deeply with your professors and cohort in a way that changed not only your own faith, but helped mold mine as well.

You are the one who went to Onsite and counseling, then The Meadows to heal your hurts and love yourself. You are the one who bravely engages to live fully and love with your whole heart.

You are the one who speaks honestly.
You are the one who tries new things.
You are the one who loves deeply.
You are the one who believes in big dreams.

You are the one who’s showing our boys what it looks like to be, not only a good man, but the best of men.

You are the one who will do whatever you want to do.
You are the one I want by my side forever and for always.
You are the one for me.

Happy Father’s Day, sweetheart. I am so glad you’re my partner in parenting, in business, in creativity, in dreaming big, in LIFE! I love you!!


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a magical moment

david, matthias, the meaning behind the jewelry By April 19, 2017 14 Comments

Last night Matthias sat down beside me on the couch and told me, “Something amazing just happened.”

I set aside what I was doing so I could give him my full attention.

“Tell me.” I said.

“David was relaxing on the gray couch so I went over and sat down. I said ‘Hi David.’ and he looked at me, I mean really looked into my eyes. We sat there for a moment just looking at each other. I saw him in a new way and I felt something deep inside.”

“That sounds like a soul connection.” I told Matthias.

“Yeah” he said with tears in his eyes, “A strange feeling came over me. I felt an overwhelming love for David.”

I felt goosebumps on my arms. Matthias and David shared a moment beyond the physical, beyond the ordinary. Despite David’s disability and his inability to communicate with words, their souls met, their souls connected.

“Yes,” I replied, “I’ve had those experiences with David, too. Every once in a while, we have a moment where our souls connect in a deep and meaningful way. There are no words spoken, we’re just caught in a quiet moment and souls see each other. It’s a beautiful and miraculous thing.”

Matthias’ experience reminded me how important it is to slow down, be quiet and listen. He reminded me when I take time to simply be present, with an open heart, amazing things happen. We are drawn to each other with a kind of magnetic power. We walk together on this beautiful winding road, and sometimes we have a magical moment where our souls connect in a way that’s impossible to explain. Love is powerful force that draws us near. This is the meaning behind the Draw Near necklace.

Have you experienced a deep soul connection with your child, spouse or friend? Tell me about it!

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hello family time

family, hello monday By April 3, 2017 2 Comments

We had a great weekend together, enjoying some quiet in the midst of a crazy season. There’s so much going on but none of it is more important than family time.

Since we have to say goodbye to the weekend, we may as well greet the new week with open arms and an open heart. How about some hellos for new week.

Hello hiking a new trail along the creek. So beautiful!

Hello bonding.
These two have been cuddling a lot lately.

Hello new designs. I’m so excited about them. These are charms from the North Star initial necklace above.
See all the new designs here.

Hello smiles between tummy troubles. David had kind of rough weekend–more tummy pain and tears than normal. We’re not sure why?

Hello look-alikes. There two don’t just look alike they are so much alike. Love them.

Hello Louis healing nicely post surgery. Hooray!

Hello guests from out of town. So fun.

Hello Beauty and The Beast. We loved it! And we also watched the cartoon version this weekend.

Hello sitting in the sun in the backyard with coffee. I can’t wait for summer.

Hello reading more with David. He loves it so much.

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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My Spark, My North Star

david, hope, the meaning behind By March 29, 2017 5 Comments

Can I tell you something? I have worried about David his entire life. And the guilt, so much guilt. At times it has been completely overwhelming. I’ve worried about his physical health–making sure he has nutritious foods, the right medicines in the correct doses, and doctors who take time to understand his unique needs, but I’ve also worried about his mental and emotional well-being. What is it like to be trapped inside a body that does not cooperate? David cannot speak with words. He cannot dress himself or prepare his own food. He depends on me for survival. I worried if I did not give David every single thing he needed, he would not be okay. It all depended on me—or so I believed.

This simply is not true.

David is not only okay, he is incredible. He is powerful. He is learning to communicate his needs and wants. He entertains himself and soothes himself when he is upset. He connects deeply with other people. He is genuinely happy and it’s not because of me. Yes, David needs extra help and attention. There are things he cannot do for himself. But his disability does not mean he is powerless. He does not need my pity.

{Can you see that spark?!}

Inside David’s heart there is a spark all his own. It shines brightly. It is what makes David, David. It is why other people connect so easily with him. It is how he connects to the God of the Universe. I am able to meet some of David’s needs, but I am not required to meet all of them. I am just one person. When situations arise where I am unable to meet David’s needs, God will provide a way. Either David will meet his own need or someone else will be there to help. David will be okay, I truly believe this.

It wasn’t just David I worried about. For so long I believed I was responsible for everyone else around me. It was my job to manage their thoughts and feelings. I believed somehow I could control the world around me. It all rested on my shoulders. It was my job, and mine alone, to create a beautiful home, raise kids who thrive and to nurture a marriage with deep connection.

There were days I would walk around in a fog. Other people’s thoughts and emotions crowded in around me to the point where I could barely breathe. It was a fog so thick, I could not see through it. I could not think straight. It was too messy. I could not make sense of it all. The fog was suffocating.

I tried to be needless and wantless and put myself last. I tried to be everything I thought I should be. I tried to say everything I thought I should say. I tried to prove I was lovable, I was enough, but I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, it never seemed to be enough.

I am learning I have nothing to prove. I am growing and beginning to believe I am lovable just as I am. In this process I found out something AMAZING.

When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible. ~ Brené Brown

Inside my heart there is a spark. It’s the center of who I am. It is my truest, most beautiful self. This spark is my North Star and it is there to guide me. My North Star shines so bright it burns away the fog around me. My North Star is how I connect with the God of the Universe.


I hold this spark inside my heart.
My spark is what makes me, me.

My spark makes me beautiful.
My spark lights me up from the inside.
My spark has facets like a diamond.
My spark makes me curious, angry, sad and silly.
My spark makes me wonder and explore and ask questions.
My spark makes my feet stomp and my voice loud.
My spark makes me cry while heavy tears fall.
My spark makes my eyes twinkle and my mouth smile.

My spark is all mine.
And David’s spark is all his. It shines bright!
And your spark is all yours. You shine so very bright.

God has given each of us our own spark, our own North Star. I cannot tell you how to follow your North Star, just as you cannot tell me how to follow mine.
I cannot make my husband okay.
I cannot make my kids okay.
I cannot make my friends okay.

I can love them. I can listen to them. I can walk alongside them. But each of them must look to their own North Star to find their way.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure everything out on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do,
everywhere you go;
He’s the one who will keep you on track.
Proverbs 3:5-6

I can feel my feelings, you can feel your feelings.
I can think my thoughts, you can think your thoughts.
I can say what I want and need, you can say what you want and need.
Each of us can be completely ourselves.
Each of us can look to our own North Star.

This where we find love and hope. This is where we find peace.

When I follow my North Star I will always be where I’m meant to be.
When you follow your North Star you will always be where you’re meant to be.


This is the meaning behind the *new* North Star necklace. Each handcrafted charm has an initial on one side and a Braille constellation on the reverse side. Your personalized initial is a sweet, gentle reminder to follow your North Star.
Create your own North Star Necklace here.

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hello cousins, hello long weekend

family, hello monday By February 20, 2017 2 Comments

My brother is in town this weekend with his wife and twin daughters. We love when they come to visit! We ate out at some of our favorite places, showed them the workshop, watched a movie and ate waaaay too many peanut butter m&ms. Yum.

They are leaving town today and we are enjoying an extra weekend day before we jump back into the routine. How about some hellos?
Hello cousins. We are so thankful to have wonderful cousins.

Hello beanie. David really rocks the beanie.

Hello tools lined up in a row.

Hello catching a moment to read while we give them the workshop tour.

Hello having fun together.

Hello rain and rain and more rain. And wind. California doesn’t know what’s happening! Several trees in our neighborhood have fallen down, there’s been flooding and mudslides–it’s crazy!

Hello new beginnings. Matthias is trying something new this week. New things are so hard and so good.

Hello napping. Aren’t naps a beautiful thing? Love them.

Hello searching thrift stores for vintage floral paintings. They’re hard to find!

Hello new computer. It’s awesome except change is hard for me. I’m not used to this computer so it’s an adjustment.

Hello taking David off diary to see if that helps with his tummy pain. Fingers and toes crossed.

Hello designing new jewelry. I CANNOT wait to share it with you!

Hello brand new, beautiful week. Good things are ahead! What are you saying hello to this week?

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We Need Each Other

david, matthias, the meaning behind By February 1, 2017 43 Comments

I have been surprised to find many times, instead of me teaching my kids, it’s my kids teaching me.

When Matthias was in first grade, David’s 1st-3rd grade special needs class would walk over to Matthias’ classroom for reading time, language arts and special projects. Mainstreaming created a space for students with special needs to learn beside their typical peers. In this environment every child benefits and grows.

While Steve and I love mainstreaming and having special needs kids working with typical peers, we were concerned for Matthias. He had just begun first grade and was adjusting to a full day at school. We didn’t want him to have to explain why his brother had only two fingers on his left hand or why his brother couldn’t speak with words. We didn’t want Matthias to feel he was in the spotlight. We wanted Matthias to have his own space at school. We explained our concerns to David’s teacher and we all agreed it would be best to have David work on skills such as kicking a ball or sorting colored blocks, while the other special needs student mainstreamed into Matthias’ classroom.

A couple months into the school year, David was playing in the small playground next to the larger playground. Matthias spotted David and his aide over on the little playground.

“Oh my gosh!” Matthias yelled as he ran over to the chain link fence separating the two playgrounds.

“David, DAVID! I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” he yelled, waving and calling to David.

As David and his aide made their way toward the Matthias, Matthias turned and called his friends over.

“You guys, come here! Quick! I want you to meet my brother.” Matthias said.

Matthias was joined at the chain link fence by three or four friends. On the other side of the fence stood David and his aide.

“This is my brother!” Matthias said with pride. “When David was in my mom’s tummy his instructions got mixed up. That is why he only has two fingers on his left hand. That is why he is so small. That is why he can’t talk. But isn’t he AWESOME?!”

Matthias’ friends nodded with smiles.

“Bye David!” they all yelled as they ran back to their game.

When I arrived at the school that afternoon David’s aide recounted the whole story to me. I could feel the lump in my throat as she described how excited Matthias was to see David and introduce him to his friends.

I felt tears filling up my eyes as I realized I didn’t need to worry about Matthias. I didn’t need to create a safe place where he could be himself without having to explain about his brother with special needs. Not only was Matthias capable of explaining David’s special needs to his peers, he was proud of his brother. He loved his brother. He wanted to be near his brother. Matthias is better because of David and David is better because of Matthias.

{The Cross Bar Birthstone Necklace represents stability and strength}

We need each other. Together we have stability. Together we are stronger.
Family is messy and imperfect. Family is the foundation that keeps us on solid ground. Family is love. And love is everything.

Matthias has taught me so much about what it means to LOVE with your whole heart.
These two are better together.

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Hello Harry Potter World

adventures, hello monday, matthias By January 23, 2017 1 Comment

Matthias turned thirteen, THIRTEEN last week. Hello thirteen! To celebrate we went to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, Hollywood. We had so much fun! I was impressed with the whole experience. The buildings are straight out of the movies and the interactive wands are so cool!

It’s Monday and time to jump into a brand new week. Ready or not, here we go! How about some hellos?

Hello Harry Potter and Hogsmead. We’re huge fans. Are you?

Hello wands–so many to choose from.

Hello climbing and laughing and celebrating.

Hello super amazing train conductor who taught Matthias the Ravenclaw handshake. The staff at the park was incredible.

Hello wand ceremony. Matthias got picked by a very special wand. The wand said Matthias was creative, smart, brave and friendly to all. The wand is so right!

Hello feeling like I need at least one more day to be ready for Monday.

Hello grocery shopping.

Hello watercoloring and writing. I’m in full on creative mode over here.

Hello rain and rain and lots more rain. I haven’t seen this much rain since I was in college. My car got stuck at a flash flood in an intersection. It was nuts!

Hello being a mom to two TEENAGE boys. How can it be?

Hello bulletproof coffee. It’s strange but we love it! Have you tried it?

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

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hello thirteen!

hello monday, matthias By January 16, 2017 3 Comments

Impossible but TRUE! Matthias turned thirteen years old yesterday. I am so proud of him. Matthias is insightful, kind, artistic, hard working, passionate, articulate and full of opinions. He keeps us on our toes! He adds balance and silliness to our family. Matthias we love you so very, very much! Happy birthday bud.

Here’s pics from Matthias’ 9th Ninjago birthday.
When Matthias turned eight we had an art party.
And way back when Matthias turned three and we had a Thomas the Train party.

Matthias is saying hello to thirteen. How about some hellos for a new week?

Hello celebrating at Harry Potter World, Universal Studios. Pics to share soon.

Hello feeling surprised how grown up Matthias is at thirteen! I love it.

Hello one week into Whole30 but bending the rules slightly for a few bites of cupcake.

Hello trying new recipes and eating lots of delicious food.

Hello DISHES. Oh my gosh, so many dishes. I guess that’s what happens when we cook more.

Hello missing diary. I love creamy coffee and cereal with milk. Comfort foods.

Hello feeling sad lately. I’m not sure exactly why–it’s hard to pinpoint. I’m trying to find a balance between feeling my feelings and not completely unraveling. I think it might be partly Whole30 detox and partly just stuff of life.

Hello walking and resting and downtime. These things are good for my soul.

Hello lots and lots of rain and sunshine in between. We are so grateful for the rain.

Hello brand new week with beauty to be found. What are you saying hello to this week?

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I Love You Body and Soul

david, finding beauty By September 13, 2016 43 Comments

At the cellular level, every bit of David’s body has been affected by a chromosomal abnormality. It isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. The coordinates on the map are incorrectly labeled. The recipe has all the ingredients but in the wrong amounts. The computer coding has a typo and the program won’t run correctly. When David was born we saw his left hand had only two fingers. It was the first indication David had a genetic disorder. His body is broken, imperfect, flawed. His soul on the other hand, is intact and whole. We are two parts, body and soul. His soul resides in a body that simply doesn’t cooperate because it can’t. His soul fights every day to live fully.

body and soul lisa leonard

Before David was born, before I was married even, I taught with kids in wheelchairs, kids with g-tubes, kids who were non-verbal, kids with autism. I worked with special needs kids, or I should say, I worked with typical kids trapped inside bodies with special needs. Every day they arrived at school at 8:30am, every day they left at 2:40pm and in between we lived life together; learning, growing and connecting. I knew each of my students well. I knew their physical needs and quirks, their preferences and personalities. I knew their souls and they knew mine.

When two people truly connect on a soul level it’s a kind of miracle. It’s much deeper than a physical connection. It takes time and energy. It takes patience and quiet. It’s a soul to soul, heart to heart connection. It’s the way an expectant mother bonds with her child before he’s born. It’s the way we can’t stop thinking about a friend–so we call up her up only to find out she really needed words of encouragement at that very moment. It’s a deep knowing cultivated over time. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve experienced it, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

We may be tempted to say the body doesn’t matter. The body is broken—who cares?! It’s the soul that truly makes us who we are. And yes, in part, this is true. But the body does matter. The body carries the soul. The body breathes and speaks and sings and moves. The body is the outward representation of the soul. The body works on our behalf to make our soul known. A soul needs a body and a body needs a soul. So we care for our bodies. We walk and run and try to eat healthy food. We brush our teeth and see doctors and have surgery to repair a heart defect. We buy clothes that fit and have our hair trimmed. We honor the soul by caring for the body.

Yesterday David worked on feeding himself. He carefully lifted a spoonful of lemon yogurt to his mouth, took a bite and placed the spoon back into the bowl. He isn’t able to scoop up another bite, so I do that part for him. Again and again, I fill the spoon, again and again he lifts it to his mouth and places it back into the bowl. Over months and years of working on this skill David continues to improve.

And we celebrate! Because David’s amazing, stubborn, beautiful soul is winning over a body that doesn’t work right. We celebrate because it’s a HUGE accomplishment. No, eating a spoonful of yogurt isn’t a huge accomplishment for most 14-year-old boys, but for this kiddo, who lives inside a body that doesn’t cooperate, it’s massive. It deserves shouts of delights and high-fives.

While my hands are clapping and I cheer for his success, a tear slips down my cheek. This sucks. I hate that my son has to fight moment by moment to live a full life with a body that fights against him. I hate that he has to work harder than most kids to communicate and eat and walk and sometimes just to breath. I hate that he sees seven different medical specialists. I hate that he’s had multiple surgeries and will likely have many more. I hate there are times he comes up beside me and takes my hand, looks at me with an intent gaze while he stomps his foot, hoping I’ll know what he wants. I offer him a snack and see the frustration cross his face. He stomps more and pulls on my arm. I offer him a cuddle and he pushes me away. I hate that he can’t tell me what he wants and I hate that sometimes I can’t read his soul well enough to guess.

But that soul. I love that soul. And I love that broken, imperfect, adorable body that holds his beautiful soul. A love that is deeper because our souls have struggled and grieved and found hope together.

i love you body and soul lisa leonard 2

Today I will put this necklace around my neck as a reminder of the love between his soul and mine. He is part of my tribe. He is my safe place and my love. I will do my best to care for his physical needs with patience and tenderness. I’ll help him scoop up spoonfuls of food again and again. I’ll help him put on his pants and button his shirt. I’ll cuddle him and kiss him. In return he will smile at me making my heart do flip flops. He will take my hand and show me what he wants. He will teach me how to be grateful. He will teach me to notice the beauty all around me. He will move through the day with bravery and determination. He will inspire others and spread joy to all who know him.

His soul knows mine and my soul knows his. And at the end of the day, we are both souls living inside imperfect, broken bodies. Not just David, but me as well. And someday I know it won’t be this hard. Someday all with be made right and our bodies will be made whole. Someday heaven will come. Today we find beauty in this moment, hope for tomorrow and a deep love between our souls.

Have you experienced a soul connection?

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