Archive for May, 2009

There’s no download this week – I needed a little break.  However, something has been on my mind that I want to share with you instead.

In the scrapbooking world there are a plethora of products on the market that have the word “discover” on them.  Trust me – I’ve created a ton myself.  I always knew that the word was popular for scrapbookers for travel and just as a generic word that seemed to work in a variety of places in a project but I never knew until the last few weeks what that word would come to mean to this new mom.

It’s true that it seems like Cole changes before our eyes and has from day one.  Just two months after he was born I saw a newborn baby only a week old and thought, “How is it possible that he was that tiny?”  Already he had grown so much, learned new tricks with his mouth and didn’t look like a newborn any more.  I think that during that time we, as new parents, were doing most of the discovering when it comes to babyhood.

But over the last couple of weeks we have seen a distinct change when it comes to our understanding of “discovery.”  Coleman is able to focus on objects and on us now.  He can open his hands to start and grab things like his current favorite: his burp cloth which he puts to his mouth accompanied by a growl to go with it.  What started out as waving his arm and to his delight, accidentally hitting a toy swinging in front of him, he now hits the toys with purpose and determination, knowing that it will get the desired response.

head up

Then there is his smile.  Sometimes it’s a crooked little crinkle of one side of his mouth turning up.  Sometimes it’s opened wide in sheer joy.  We even have been getting giggles and laughs thrown in along with his shrieks and squeals and grunts that come with discovering he has a voice – perhaps the ultimate discovery of all for any individual.

Smiles at Cousin Brynne

Smiles at Cousin Brynne

As an educator by degree and a former school teacher, I am amazed and transfixed watching this learning process happen right in front of me.  Although I have witnessed many awe-inspiring lessons through teaching, I have never had an experience in education like this particular one I am having right now.  And I am finding as much delight and joy in Cole’s discovery process as he is.

My one question is: How do you get the jingle tunes emanating from the star that lights up above his activity gym from running constantly through your head?

activity gym

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This month we have been talking about hope in our Big Picture Scrapbooking workshop “A Life Well Crafted – Great Expectations.”  Registration closes tomorrow – click here to join us and here if you want to sign up for next month’s workshop called “The Comfort of Color.”  Since you can still squeeze in to this month’s, then I thought you might like to get one of the quotes that we sent out during Week 2 of the workshop.  It comes from the audio portion of the class and is a quote from Jason himself:


We truly believe that the first step to being happy and successful is just having a little hope that it’s actually possible to do so.  In this time of uncertainty and distress, we can and should have hope.  We can be happy in spite of the turmoil around us.  We can live richly in spite of unemployment.  We can find success in spite of dire news reports.  All it takes is a little hope in our hearts.

When we choose to approach each day (and sometimes we have to remind ourselves to do so as often as moment by moment) with just a little hope that we can be happy, our chances for achieving that happiness increases dramatically.

Now, we all know that Jason hasn’t really done a scientific study that has helped him arrive at this particular percentage that he quotes.  In fact, the running joke in our family is that Jason likes to speak in percentages on a regular basis with no actual statistics to back up his findings at all.   You can often find him saying things like, “I would say that there is a 65% chance that I will make it to my appointment on time.”  Or even”There is a 40% chance that Cole’s diaper is poopy.”  Huh?  What’s with the percentages, Jason?   Maybe he has an app on his iPhone that converts real life into statistics for him – who knows.

But what I do know is this – hope does matter.  And waking up each day, approaching each moment with a little hope really is the key to being successful, happy and living the kind of life we want to live – no matter what our circumstances might be.

So I’m sticking with Jason on this percentage of his.  In fact, I might even up it a little bit and say that hope could actually be as much as 95% or 97% of our success.  How’s that for scientific facts!

Hope.  It matters.  And after the last 7 days of living with a raging flu – I am going to say that I even have a little hope today that it might be on it’s way out of here.  58% chance, as a matter of fact.  I’ll keep you posted on how the stats are changing as the week progresses….

Happy Download Day!

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J - Rock

When we first moved into our house about a year ago we planned a family get-together with my family.  My brother was down from Washington with his kids plus all of my siblings that live here in Utah so we were going to have a full house for dinner and hanging out.

Jason and I certainly got a late start when it comes to having kids so most of Coleman’s cousins are age 7-21.  Lots of teenagers in there.  Since we didn’t have children at the time – especially not teens – we decided to buy Rock Band so that the kids would have something to do.

Little did we know that we would become obsessed with it ourselves.  The first day we had it set up, Jason and I played it for about 8 hours straight and emerged from the basement blinking our bleary eyes just like you do when you come out of a movie theater.  We were hooked.

That day, because Jason has no mobility in his hands and cannot move his fingers at all, he was the lead singer while I switched back and forth from the guitar and drums.  However, it got me thinking about how we could help Jason be able to use the instruments – specifically the drums.  After a trip to the drugstore, I came home with two thumb brace bandages that each have a loop for his thumb and then wrap around his wrist.  We also added some coban (like an ace bandage except self-adhesive) to the drumsticks themselves.

With the thumb braces on each hand, we then slid the drumstick through the thumb loop.  This simulated “holding” the drumstick for his quadriplegic hands.  Then we wrapped some coban around the drumsticks to provide the needed resistance to hold the drumstick in place in his hands.  Basically, now the drumsticks won’t slip out of the thumb loop as he rocks out.

Rock Band Drums

Thus began Jason’s love affair of Rock Band.  He can’t use the guitar – but you don’t need to.  He is drummer extraordinaire and rocks out on a regular basis.

Here’s the amazing thing, though.  Even though we have him all set up to pound on the drums, there is no way that he can use the foot-operated bass pedal.  Let’s face it – he’s paralyzed.  So the bass pedal is not an option unless he can convince some lucky niece or nephew (or wife) to hit it for him (which is quite boring so the wife pretty much said, “You’re on your own with that” a long time ago).

To compensate (and Jason is the kind of guy that figures out how to get around barriers in his life) he has had to become really good at rock band.  If he hits all the right notes on the drums then it keeps him just high enough on the scoring level to stay in the game.  Sometimes, in order to not be kicked off of the song he has to be practically perfect on the drums themselves in order to make up for not being able to hit the bass pedal.

It’s been interesting to watch him become better and better at Rock Band.  Believe it or not, banging those drums actually requires a lot of effort for a quadriplegic.  He basically uses all of the muscles that still function in order to pull it off.  He has to work hard at balancing forward to hit the drums and it ends up being quite the cardio workout.  In fact, after he started playing Rock Band, people began to comment that he was looking more fit and we decided that for a quadriplegic, the way that Jason uses it, Rock Band is like going to a gym for an able-bodied person.  Go figure!

Because of the workout value as well as the entertainment value, Jason plays Rock Band quite a bit.  I have been fascinated by what happens when he plays, though.  When a person is good at hitting all the right notes, the crowd literally cheers you on because of your ability to rock.  Unfortunately, if you don’t hit all the correct notes, your level drops lower and lower and the crowd starts to boo instead.  If you’re doing badly enough, the boos get louder and you are eventually kicked off the game.

Now let’s go back to the bass pedal dilemma.  Because Jason can’t hit the bass pedal, even when he hits all the correct notes on the drums, he hovers down at the bottom of the perfection meter.  Almost the entire time that he is playing, he does so amid the boos and complaints of the crowd.  Yet he still keeps playing.  Even when it takes practically a perfect score on the drums themselves to not be kicked off, he still keeps trying.

It seems like when I listen to him play that all I can hear are the boos.  But he still keeps going.  He blocks out the jeers and the boos and the complaining yells from the crowd and keeps himself just above the mark by being good at the part that he actually CAN do instead of focusing on what he can’t.  He doesn’t allow the crowd to discourage him – he just moves forward.

Now, I know that Rock Band is not real life.  I know that it’s just a game.  But still…you have to admit that it’s pretty impressive that he keeps on going even though all he hears are boos from the crowd instead of cheers.  It has occurred to me more than once that it takes a lot of mental control on his part to not be discouraged and to keep moving forward even though the crowd is telling him otherwise.

What are the “Rock Bands” in your life?  I think we all have crowds that sometimes cheer us on but often we are also amid crowds that are jeering and complaining and looking for us to fall.  But we believe that it’s possible to overcome those crowds – to block out the negative people and move forward as we strive to reach our goals in spite of our individual abilities or our disabilities.

Resist the temptation to give in to the boos around us.  I know that if we believe in ourselves we can do great things – even be a ROCK STAR like the legendary (at least in his own mind) Jason Hall.

Family Rocks Out

Our nieces and nephews rockin' out with him - it's fierce down there in the basement

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I didn’t buy a lot of maternity clothes while I was pregnant.  I hate shopping in general and hated the idea of “wasting” money on clothes that I would only wear for a short time anyway.  So I made due with a lot of the tops I already had and just kept rotating the few pairs of maternity pants that I had to buy.  About 6 weeks before Coleman was born I was in A Pea in the Pod store and decided to get some jeans.  They were expensive but fit great in a very non-maternity way.  So even though I knew I wouldn’t wear them for long, I went for it!

I’m still wearing them.

Cole turns 4 months old next week and yes, my maternity jeans are still the ones that look the best on me – and still very non-maternity-ish.  Every time I put them on I think to myself, “I really should wear something normal.”  But then I know how great they are so I give in and wear them yet another day.  What’s not to love about the cool low waist paired with the belly band that is reminiscent of those belts we used to buy from the “Units” store in the 80s?  It’s a totally FAB combination! (so I tell myself).

I’m trying to decide if I’m really lame for still wearing them or if I’m really smart.  Let’s put it out there to the general public.  What’s your opinion on how long a person (me) should wear their maternity jeans?

Lay it on me – I can take it!  I may not follow your advice but I definitely can’t wait to hear how you feel about this topic.  And even if you haven’t been pregnant before, you don’t have to speak from experience to vote.  As always, all opinions, thoughts and general observations are welcome at http://www.kolettehall.com.

Enjoy telling me what to do!

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I was just having  a conversation with a neighbor a few days ago about friendship and including people into our lives.  I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the years because although I feel like I am a good friend, I’m not necessarily the one putting myself out there to seek out new friendships.  I get nervous.  I’m not ever sure what to say or how to do it.  And I am very comfortable with having a few close friends and many, many acquaintances.

Jason, on the other hand, can make friends with a person while they wait on a street corner for the light to turn green.  It is his gift and talent.  He has and makes friends everywhere.  Thomas Hughes wrote:

Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts.  It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.

In the last 16 years (almost 17 – I can’t believe it!) of our marriage, I have often used Jason somewhat as a crutch when it comes to this friend-making ability.  When we go to a new place, he is in charge of making the friends and forging a path in the “building relationships” area.  With him paving the way in this partnership of sorts, I then have more courage to follow along, using his strength to help me be more brave.

However, as we have recently moved to a new town, I have decided that I want to become better at doing this myself.  I believe that people can change.  It’s true that we come pre-wired, so to speak, with certain attributes and characteristics that make up the essence of who we are.  On the other hand, I also believe that we each have the ability to adapt or change, improve or get rid of certain qualities that we don’t like while adding characteristics to ourselves that we want to have more of.  With desire and hard work, we literally have the chance to become the best version of our own selves that we can be – no matter what our past has doled out for us or what our natural tendencies are.

So, with that in mind, I have worked on developing this quality of making friends in my life over the course of many years.  I want to be more like Jason.  I want to be more comfortable and open and able to create more meaningful relationships with those around me.  Throughout this personal quest for the ability to make friends more easily, I have learned something.  Having acquaintances is easy for me.  I have a lot of those.  I have business acquaintances, church acquaintances, neighborhood acquaintances, and so on.  I try to be kind to all those I meet – whether they are the person at the checkout stand or someone I pass while taking Cole for a walk.  That’s not the issue.

The trick for me that I have been working on is in developing those deeper, lasting relationships that mean more than just a wave or a hello in passing.  And the hard part about that is one simple thing – it takes a lot of time to build a strong friendship.  It takes effort.  It takes moment after moment after moment, all piled on top of each other to create something more substantial than a friendly smile to an unknown stranger.

But I’m working on it.  I am mustering up my inner courage and I am getting better at it.  I am taking the initiative more to be “that friend” to others.  I am stepping out of my comfort zone on purpose – with the understanding that if I truly want to become better at making new friends, I have to be willing to put in the time and effort to develop something with more meaning.  How do you do it?  Think about the best friendships you have – and they can include family because sometimes those are the hardest ones to maintain.  What do you do to develop and cultivate meaningful friendships?

With those thoughts in mind, here’s today’s download.  You can use it to make a card for a friend or maybe you are a little like me and you want to become better at creating strong friendships in your life.  If so, perhaps you’ll want to print it out and frame it as a reminder of this inner characteristic you are trying to develop or strengthen.

The best friendships are built piece by piece, conversation by conversation, kindness by kindness, memory by memory.  A million little things that each take a little time – but as that time passes, we emerge with more of our best selves invested in someone else’s life and deeper, stronger, more meaningful friendships.

please click on image to download pdf

please click on image to download pdf

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I know, I know….I haven’t been posting all my photos from my Project 365 of Gratitude lately – still figuring out this mom juggling thing.   However, I am proud to say that I have been taking the pictures every day and even have them all printed!  It’s a miracle!

Here are some highlights from the last couple of weeks – our lives in a nutshell:

Seriously - who isn't grateful for the Bumbo?

Seriously - who isn't grateful for the Bumbo?

Whether they are clear sets or wood mounted - I always love getting the samples in the mail because it just reconfirms how thankful I am for my work

Whether they are clear sets or wood mounted - I always love getting the samples in the mail because it just reconfirms how thankful I am for my work

I'm grateful that so many people love Cole as much as we do - notice little 3-year-old Mackenzie helping to pose his head

I'm grateful that so many people love Cole as much as we do - notice little 3-year-old Mackenzie helping to pose his head

This was one of the first mornings he didn't wake up at 3 or 4 - now he even sleeps longer sometimes

This was one of the first mornings he didn't wake up at 3 or 4 - now he even sleeps till 7 (12 hours) sometimes

Jason is a great walk-taker with the litle man

Jason is a great walk-taker with the little man

I finally got a pedicure - it was looking bad down there

I finally got a pedicure - I'm grateful for the simple things that make me feel good about myself

I think that I am most grateful for Nikki - my next-door neighbor and fabulous babysitter.  She's clean, calm and has rules - what could be better?

I think that I am most grateful for Nikki - my next-door neighbor and fabulous babysitter. She's clean, calm and has rules - what could be better?

I'm grateful I actually cooked a real dinner!

I'm grateful I actually cooked a real dinner!

Of course, this Mother's Day (and every other day for that matter) I am grateful for this little guy.  I thankful for motherhood.

Of course, this Mother's Day (and every other day for that matter) I am grateful for this little guy. I'm thankful for motherhood.

It is so apparent as I go through this journey of gratitude that we have so much to be thankful for.  Even in the daily struggles, stressful situations and things that don’t seem to go our way, our lives are full of miracles, blessings and opportunities to choose joy.  William A. Ward said,

(You have the) gift of 86,400 seconds today.  Have you used one to say, “thank you?”

Have a wonderful weekend – and thanks for reading my blog!

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I am a strong believer in the power of personal choice when it comes to how we respond to life’s ups and downs, twists and turns, and peaks and valleys.  I know that times are tough for many of you out there right now.  I don’t have to look far in our own neighborhood to see the effects of the economy.  We feel the pinch in our lives as well.  And if that isn’t enough, many people have challenges with health issues, relationship problems, self-esteem struggles, natural disasters, and anything else imaginable (as well as much that is beyond imagination) to deal with.

But through it all, no matter what your individual challenge is, we each have a choice.  We get to decide how we are going to respond to our circumstances – those of our own making as well as those out of our control.  Yes, things are hard right now for many people.  Yes, it might be discouraging or scary or overwhelming.

So take a moment to pause.  You may not like what you are dealing with but you have to go through it anyway.   How are you responding to your circumstances?  Can you change the choice you are making in how you deal with things you are facing?

True, there are definitely people who struggle with chronic depression and I know it’s hard to overcome that.  But if you can, remember what Jason would say:

Happy or sad I’ll still be in a wheelchair, I still won’t be able to walk…so I might as well enjoy the ride.

This week’s download is a quote that our lucky Big Picture Scrapbooking students got to have a few months back and now I want to share it with you.

Give happiness a try.  In spite of everything – make the choice to be happy.  Choose not to complain.  Look at the positive instead of the negative.  Be grateful.

You just might be surprised at how your life changes when you do.


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