Parallels

PARALLELS

Parallels. They are everywhere I turn right now. So much about life right now seems to have something deeply rooted.

I’m having a hard time grasping it all and wrapping my heart around what was and is and is to come. My mind is like an overripe fruit that can no longer hold anything in.

The problem is forming sentences. My thoughts and feelings jump all over the place and I feel…tired.

It’s May. This month marks two years since our Audrey came into the world and lived her 81 days. Her life continues to bless me daily. Two years passed far too quickly.

Our little family has been full of life more than usual over the past two months. After a decade away, we have returned to our hometown of Stillwater, OK. Chris and I grew up here. When a wonderful work opportunity for Chris came knocking, we prepared to leave what was our home for 10 years as we became adults and parents.

It’s surreal sometimes, being back in the place that formed and shaped us. So many important people are here and just being near them feels like home. We left behind a group of people who are an extension of our hearts. This was and continues to be hard. Our 81 days with Audrey were beautiful because of so many of these people, our village, stepping in and fueling us. It was bittersweet to sell the home where our baby Cooper became a boy, and the place that housed our emotions during Audrey’s life. There is something almost healing about a fresh start at this particular time. As we prepare for another little girl to join our family, she has a place of her very own. Her room really is hers. She won’t live in what was intended for Audrey. This feels right.

And yet? The parallels continue. This pregnancy has been complicated. The baby is perfectly healthy as far as we can know at this point. This alone is overwhelming. It’s such an incredible thing for a baby to be born healthy, never ever to be taken for granted. At the very same time, thinking of her health can bring on a strange ache about Audrey. It’s hard for me to even put into words.

Almost one month ago, I had stents placed in both ureters because the ureters had collapsed due to my growing uterus, which caused urine to back up severely in my kidneys. Recovery from that surgery has been slow and often incredibly painful. We learned early on that my placenta was very low lying, also known as Placenta Previa. I was hopeful it would resolve itself. It did not. In fact, the placenta continues to be too low and puts me at risk for bleeding should any little thing disrupt the placenta. Additionally, the placenta has grown through my uterus and has potentially attached to my bladder. This is a rare condition known as Placenta Percreta, it is dangerous to mother and baby during delivery because of potential heavy bleeding and hemorrhaging. My team of doctors includes a high risk specialist, a urologist and an OB. Together, they have determined that the best course of action with the lowest risk is to perform a full Hysterectomy at the time of C-Section delivery, taking her at 34 weeks. The urology team will be present and ready to repair the bladder if needed. Doing a hysterectomy reduces the risk of heavy bleeding because they won’t try to separate the placenta. The bladder concern complicates things and we are prayerful that perhaps it hasn’t actually attached, but is just touching.

Delivering the baby six weeks early comes with preparing for a NICU stay. The “party line” is the expect her to be there the full six weeks, but she could come home after 1-2 weeks if she is healthy. Please oh please, God.

This delivery will take us back to the same hospital in Oklahoma City where Audrey was born. She’ll go straight to the NICU where Audrey lived for weeks. And just like Audrey, she isn’t due until June but will celebrate her birthday in May.

I’m working to keep it all in perspective and sometimes it is a lot to take in. Our baby girl is healthy, it is my body that is complicating things. By God’s grace, I have felt pretty calm about it all considering the risks.

I had a box of Audrey’s tiny preemie clothes that I kept for nostalgia, never imagining that we would need them again two years later. Coincidence? Nah…

As I type, these items of clothing, small enough to dress a baby doll, are washing clean. They, too, are getting a fresh start. However, their memory cannot be washed away. And who knows, it may be hard to see Audrey’s baby sister wearing her clothes. I’ll take it all as it comes.

Chris has put together yet another crib, this makes three. So far, only one of our children has slept in the crib their daddy brought to life. Oh, how desperately I want to see this baby girl sleeping soundly in this crib.

May 20th is when our little egg will hatch. I try and try to imagine what the day will look like and, like every other unknown in our lives, I simply cannot.

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Walk by faith, Rachel,” I can almost hear Him whisper, “Remember this. Remember what Audrey taught you. Her gift was and is perspective.

Will my heart grow enough to make room for all three of my children? Will this baby push Audrey to the side? Will Cooper struggle to understand seeing yet another baby sister in the NICU?

Every once in a while, I use Audrey’s name accidentally when referencing this baby and it hurts because I get so mad at myself for it. The closer we get to meeting our Emma, it seems I am mourning Audrey in a new way. My heart is uncomfortably thrilled and broken at the very same time.

In 19 days, another baby will leave my body and become a part of the world. This time, my uterus will go too. I’ll never feel a baby slide an elbow or kick a heel from the inside, nor will I watch my belly dance involuntarily in the wee hours of the morning. My childbearing days are limited to 19.

What a humbling gift it is that I have been able to do this three times. They haven’t been perfect, glowy or easy but they have been. That alone is a miracle.

This song, Small Bump, came on as I typed away, and reminded me of the sweetness of this baby to come. She dances away and I pause to notice and remember the feeling…

As of today, we have all worked together and made incredible progress on funding the Wings for Audrey endowment. $91,150, can you even believe it? They said to expect it to take 3-5 years, but I believe it is going to happen this year. September will mark two years since we started fundraising and it would be amazing if by then, we all celebrated together!

You’ve continued to be there for us. Thank you for helping us keep Audrey’s story alive…for sharing her story. And if you think of it, we would be humbled and grateful for your prayers on May 20th.

Now and always, R

 

 

b l o o m

“12 years ago this Christmas eve, my wife’s brother went into the hospital. January 16th, he went home. But not his earthly home. For months, my wife cried herself to sleep. Their incredible parents experienced something no parent ever should. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, time with God’s presence heals all wounds. So many lives were impacted by this man, his life and his passing. I’ve never known another death to make more of an impact…

…I asked my wife now, 12 years later, ‘If you had to lose all the good, but you had your brother back, would you have him back?”

The entire congregation sat in silence as we awaited the answer she gave our pastor.

“Without hesitation, she says, ‘I’d never want to go through that again, I’d never choose it again. But under no circumstances would I want him back after all the good that I saw God do through it.’ The very worst nightmare in her life, she wouldn’t change because she saw how God used it.”

This was the Sunday before Christmas, one I won’t soon forget. It knocked me off balance. It caught me off guard. The title of the sermon was actually called “When God Seems Uncooperative”. (Click to watch)

You see, I was recovering from an apparent sinus infection, it was tempting to skip church that morning and opt for my cozy, warm bed. But something was tugging at me to pull it together and be there.

By the end, I could hardly hold it together. For some reason, on this day, each point he made hit incredibly close to my heart.

I felt overwhelmed and understood. This wise man literally put into words so many of the things we felt and thought throughout Audrey’s short life. I have learned to seek the joy in her life…her story. I wouldn’t choose it again, but He used her in such beautiful ways.

I wept in the church lobby, completely embraced by my loving husband. We didn’t even have to speak. And then, I just couldn’t turn it off. It had been so long since I cried for her…I didn’t think that was still in me. I have felt so balanced and have moved into a place of peace, but this day reminded me that it never, ever goes away. Nor would I want it to. She was real, she was alive in my belly and, miraculously, in my arms. She will always be our daughter.

I couldn’t stay in the house, I would have crawled into bed with my Audrey Bunny and just cried. So, I decided to be productive and left for Target. I should have known this trip would be different. It was everything I never expected and everything I absolutely needed. I started in by filling my cart with produce, moving to the inside aisles that the Devil himself put there. The bread, cereal, crackers…the most delicious of the groceries! Not two aisles in, I turned and my dear Amy met my eyes and once again, I found myself in the loving embrace of someone I love while tears fell. Of course, she just got it…because she misses Audrey too. While I was a complete mess, Audrey’s nurse and someone who has become precious to me, Kim, turned the corner with her husband and brand new baby boy! We chatted, I met these two important gentlemen in her life, hugged and went about our shopping trips. I nearly entered the baking aisle (judge not, I beg you) when I looked to my left and Sarah was strolling toward me. I told her about this day and she listened to each messy detail and helped bring such a calm over me, in a way that only she can.

It was no accident that these women were there at such a time, perfectly placed. The sermon, seeing the girls, talking to Chris, to my parents and to Carrie…it all just beautifully reminded me that she still lives in all of us. These moments may not come as often as the years pass, but just like the scar where they separated her from me, she is always there.

And I know my emotions were heightened for one reason in particular.

An itty bitty baby girl is blooming within me. 

BabyGirl

A new life has begun…her own story is unfolding. As we wait, hope and expect this baby, I find myself trying to balance out…well, everything.

We wait to learn more about her as her body grows and reveals itself to us and to doctors.

We hope that she will develop in a healthy manner, and thus far, she has.

We expect her to arrive in June.

Sometimes it is hard to think of Audrey and her baby sister at the same time. Sometimes I feel undeserving. Sometimes I feel guilty. Sometimes I feel scared. Sometimes I feel elated. Sometimes I feel hopeful. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with joy.

But I always feel blessed. I always feel love.

I want so badly to shout out that having this baby doesn’t mean that Audrey wasn’t enough. Or when people ask if I have any other kids other than the one I’m growing, I want them to know that this is my third child.

When Cooper asked innocently and logically, “Mama, will we get to keep this one?” You can imagine…I felt all the feels.

I hope so buddy. Can you help us pray that this baby is healthy and will come home with us?

Because how do you reassure a boy who had a baby sister die that this one won’t? He’ll be almost six when she arrives and I just know he will be incredibly helpful, independent and protective.

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Each of my three children has a story written of their own. No matter how long each one is, it is important. It is valuable. From my healthy, happy five-year-old, and my princess in Heaven, to the rainbow baby taking up residence in my womb…I’m so adoringly in love with them all. I get to tell Cooper this every day, perhaps I should say it more. I don’t get to show or tell Audrey how deep my love is for her anymore. And I’m desperately begging God that the new baby will grow up to know my love.

So we begin 2016 in bloom.  

In other news, I wanted to take a moment to share an incredible update about Wings for Audrey.

In January of 2015, the fund was at $45,672.

Today, exactly one year later…I am humbled to type this number…

$89,170

Wrap your brain around that for a moment. Think of how many people have made this a priority in their lives to be so close to the finish line in just 16 short months.

It’s close. It’s so close, the Foundation is ready to start finalizing the paperwork and solidify how exactly the program will work. We are thinking and praying about this often. Ultimately, we want this to make a difference and an impact all in honor of Audrey. And it will. We need just over $10,000 to make it a reality. And it’s coming…I just know it.

Thank you, from the very depths of my heart, for reading this. It means you care, and for that, I’m humbled and grateful. You’ve been there, on the other side of your screen, through so much. You are helping keep Audrey’s story alive, and this is priceless.

Until I write again…love + hugs,

R

Dress For A Cause Recipient

Dress For A Cause Recipient

Just as we suspected, the nominations for the Label Jane Handmade “Genny” Dress have been beautiful to read. Thank you for nominating these sweet little ladies, they each are absolutely deserving. Choosing the recipient took careful thought and consideration. After reading through the nominations, we have chosen:


ELLA MOORE | NOMINATED BY DENESE KNORI


Ella is rainbow daughter to Melissa and Austin Moore. If you aren’t familiar with this term, a “rainbow baby” is one that comes after a miscarriage or infant death. A baby that brings hope and light after a storm of loss. In March of 2011, Melissa and Austin welcomed their son, Greyson, into their family.  Little did they know, he had an undiagnosed heart defect.  It wasn’t until two days later, when his PDA began to close, that they realized that something was wrong with Greyson.  Denese, a nurse and who nominated Ella, was at the hospital the day Greyson was brought in, limp and lacking life within him. He was transferred to OU Children’s and there it was determined that he had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

Greyson put up an incredible fight. In the end his body succumbed to his heart disease and, only nine months after his birth, he flew home.  After losing Greyson, Melissa and Austin made it their mission to lobby for the state of Oklahoma to make it mandatory for hospitals to perform pulse ox screenings on all newborns prior to discharge from the hospital. This would help detect chronic congenital heart defects.  They also began an non-profit organization, called Greyson’s Advocates, to provide assistance to families with newborns dealing with congenital heart defects.  Melissa personally visits with any family that reaches out or is referred to this organization to provide a medical journal as well as to determine how Greyson’s Advocates can help the family.  Melissa and Austin have poured their hearts into helping other heart families despite their own loss.

In the Winter of 2012, Austin and Melissa found out that God has blessed them with another miracle of life. While they were both frightened of going through the same experience again, they trusted and prepared for their new baby. In September of 2013, Austin and Melissa welcomed a healthy baby girl, Ella, into their lives.

What an incredible story, right? Thank you, Denese, for your beautifully written nomination. And a big thank you to The Moore Family for all you have done for babies and their families in Oklahoma. We hope Ella loves her sweet new dress, we’ll share a photo of her wearing it soon!

Again, we appreciate all of your love and support, thank you for your nominations. All of the Label Jane Handmade “Audrey” Rompers were purchased in a matter of minutes! Amazing. We are getting very close to reaching $75,000, 3/4 of the way there…which means Wings for Audrey will soon be a reality.

Love + Hugs, R

Dress for a Cause | Part Two

DressForACause_PartTwo

It’s time again to announce the second installment of Dress for a Cause. Allow me to introduce you to Label Jane Handmade. Founder and designer, Jordan Gray, has taken little girls’ style by storm. Think Anthropologie in miniature [swoon]! She started her brand in her own home not many months after having her first child, a daughter beautifully named Georgia.

LabelJaneHandmadeJordan hand picks vintage fabrics and pairs them with amazing trims which combine to create one-of-a-kind pieces for baby and toddler girls. In her own words, Jordan says, “My favorite line from the song that has been my mantra this year is, “You make beautiful things out of the dust.” God does that for me and so in my own way I do that for you. I take dusty old fabrics and envision something beautiful and full of life. They are tangible symbols of hope. These pieces represent where I have come from, where I am going and who has won my freedom for me.”

So much care and personality goes into each one, and because fabrics are truly vintage, there is very limited availability. They are pieces of art, to be photographed in and captured for years to come.

Part Two of  Dress for a Cause actually has two parts.

The Genny Dress | 18-24 Months

The Genny Dress | 18-24 Months

First, we want to gift a romper to a special little gal. We purchased one Genny Dress in a size 18-24 month and need your help to determine who will wear this piece of handmade art.  Nominate a recipient by emailing rleslie84@gmail.com. We will announce the winner next Friday, July 17th.

The second part of this installment is an incredible opportunity for you to purchase the Audrey Romper, $78. Label Jane Handmade will release this and the entire summer line this coming Monday, July 13th at 8:30pm CST. There is a VERY limited availability, one each of the following sizes:

The Audrey Romper | $78

The Audrey Romper | $78

12-18  |  18-24  |  2T  |  3T  |  4T

Act fast! The shop opens at 8:30pm CST SHARP and they sell out fast every, single time due to incredible popularity.

Here is the link to shop, set your alarm!

http://labeljane.bigcartel.com

20% of sales from The Audrey Romper will generously be donated to Wings for Audrey. Also, I have the inside scoop and let’s just say there is going to be a surprise in Audrey’s honor!

As of today, Wings for Audrey has reached $72,654 – thank you for making this happen so quickly. It is so close to becoming a fully funded program, keep it up!

We’ll watch for your nominations to rleslie84@gmail.com by next Friday and happy shopping this Monday evening.

Love & Hugs, R

 

 

The Results Are In! Drumroll, Please…

ResultsAreIn

My mind swirls with memories as moments drift in and out. It’s almost as if I can see the thought bubbles form as they float away and join the clouds. Lately they seem to play in slow motion with soft piano music sweetly but almost painfully echoing in the background.

Heart to HeartWe’re having a lovely lunch at West, enjoying each other’s company while munching on delicious zuccha-chips on what will forever be Wings for Audrey Day. Out of nowhere, I’m hit with the memory of holding our daughter in my arms for the very first time. She was five days old and her scent was intoxicating. I fell so madly in love with her I thought my heart my burst. She was so tiny under that heap of blankets and her head fit snuggly just under my chin. My arms were full of her…and in that moment everything seemed perfect. Audrey’s heart beating in sync with my own, Chris bravely towering over us, beaming with joy while overcome with love, and adoring Cooper peering in on the other side, curious as George asking nurse Kim a plethora of darling questions. Her little body was broken and imperfect, and it didn’t matter in the slightest. I remember thinking that for the first time, I understood just a smidge of God’s love for people. I am a broken and imperfect person, and despite that, He shows me love and grace. I can understand that more fully now. I’m humbled by it and oh-so-grateful.

This happened a lot last Wednesday. We spent the day keeping busy, supporting a few of the many businesses participating in Wings for Audrey Day. As full as the day was, memories and moments crept in and all but stopped me in my tracks, still I kept it together…I kept my cool.

At one point, however, tears formed as my feelers came all the way to the surface during a car ride with Deb. My mind went to the one place I didn’t want it to on this day. The day was meant to rejoice in the celebration of her miraculous birth and praise how her story is and will continue to inspire and help future babies. It went to that place called “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda”. For a second, I let my heart drift to what I had hoped would be.

I thought about Audrey in an ivory colored tutu with little gold dots wearing a sweet gold bow on her head.

I imagined pulling up tiny pigtails with pink ribbons delicately tied in bows around each one.

I envisioned her smile as she tasted sugary-sweet icing from the cake she smashed with excitement. 

I pictured the faces of those watching her turn one. Those who, instead, helped send her to Heaven…the greatest gift of all.

She just didn’t make it to this milestone. That’s the uncomplicated truth.

I jolted back to reality, kept driving and when we got home…snapped a photo of my precious niece, Sophie. She wears a headband given to Audrey, bunnies on her shirt and, most special of all…wrapped around her tiny and perfect wrist, she happily wore what became Audrey’s signature itty-bitty flower headband. Sophie is such a light in my life and I’m thankful her mama and daddy let me snuggle her whenever I need a baby kiss or the feeling of full arms.

BeautifulSophieThe day was wonderful in so many ways. Many of you supported the businesses participating. Thank you. Many of you made individual donations directly to the Wings for Audrey Fund at OKCHF. Thank you.

She came into this world a miracle and the day of her birth is one I will replay over and over and over in my mind forever. It was an incredible day full of blessings. And then a full year later, even after she left this Earth, her birth and her story were celebrated and her memory was kept alive because of you.

So now for the good part…the part you really came here to know.

The results. Are you ready for this? I promise it will blow your mind just like it has ours.

Look at what you…YOU…have done. YOU made this happen.

WingsForAudreyDayResults

Amazing, right?

“Thank you” will never be enough. But what will be is when the program is up and running and you will know that you played a role in making it a reality. How many people can say they helped start a program that could help babies live longer? Well, you will be able to. Soon…very soon.

Our love and appreciation runs deep. Our hearts are full.

Love + Hugs,

R

Happy Birthday, Dear Audrey…

HappyBirthday

It has arrived, the one year mark since our Audrey took her first breath and graced us all with her presence. When I say “our” Audrey, that means more than Chris, Cooper and my girl. She belongs to so many people…to you. The ones reading this prayed for her before she arrived and haven’t stopped since. Even after she entered the gates of Heaven with her newly grown wings, you continue to love on us and show your support in hundreds of ways. Ways in which we’ll never be able to fully express how deeply we are moved and honored.

This post from one year ago tonight, brings back a world of emotion. I’m heavy tonight and I’m having a hard time gathering my thoughts like I had hoped I would. I’ll write again soon because tomorrow is going to be a beautiful, incredible day.

Why? Because it is Wings for Audrey Day. What an amazing gift that so many businesses have generously chosen to give. Tomorrow, businesses all over will celebrate and honor Audrey’s story while bringing hope to future babies by giving a portion of their proceeds to Wings for Audrey at Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Help support this cause by eating, drinking, shopping and playing at these businesses. Share this with your family, friends and colleagues. If you cannot participate in person, consider placing an order by calling the businesses, or if you would like to make a donation directly, click HERE (Be sure to Select Gift: Wings for Audrey).


2015 WINGS FOR AUDREY DAY PARTNERS

Arbonne, Jenny Elam
Donation: 35% throughout May  |  Click HERE to shop Arbonne  | Email orders to: jenny_gwen_elam@yahoo.com

Aspen Coffee Company, Edmond
Donation: 100% Granita sales  |  180 W. 15th St. ste 140, EdmondShesHere

Blo
Donation: 20% ($500 Minimum)  |  Book Your Appointment by calling 405.286.2900 or click HERE

Collected Thread
Donation: 15% |  1705A NW 16th St., Oklahoma City | Click HERE to visit Collected Thread online

Cuppies & Joe
Donation: 10%  |  727 NW 23rd Street, OKC  |  Click HERE to like on Facebook

Dental32
Donation: 100% Adult & Children’s Sonicare Toothbrush sales  |  To order, call 405.605.2332 or email jamie@dental32okc.com

doTERRA, Julie Garver
Donation: 25% | Click HERE to shop doTERRA’s online party

Jackson Diamond Jewelers, Stillwater
Donation: 27% of all proceeds and 100% of Endless “Rose” Bracelet with “Butterfly in the Sky” Charm  |  414 N. Perkins Road, Stillwater | Visit Jackson’s online by clicking HERE 

Johnnie’s Charcoal Burgers
Donation: Up to 20%  | You must mention Wings for Audrey for credit | All 7 locations participating | Click HERE for locations

Jolynn Kids New York
Donation: 20% of all ‘Audrey’ dress sales | Click HERE to shop

Junk in the Trunk Boutique, Purcell
Donation: 50%  |  In store and online purchases included  |  1720 S Green Ave, Purcell, Oklahoma 73080 | Click HERE to order online

Kendra Scott Jewelry, Oklahoma City
Donation: 20% during Wings for Audrey party from 5pm-8pm  |  5810 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 2, Oklahoma City

KEEP Collective Jewelry, Susan Givens
Donation: 25% | Click HERE to shop KEEP Collective online

Kismet Flowers
Donation: 100% Quick Smile Sales  |  All spots have been filled, thank you!

Lake Pointe Dental Group
Donation: $1/Facebook Page Like & Check-In During May  |  Click HERE to like Lake Pointe’s Facebook page

The Mule, Hot Melts + Cold Beer
Donation: 10%  |  Restaurant open from 11am-10pm  |  Click HERE to view menu  |  1630 North Blackwelder, Oklahoma City

Pen to Paper, Beginner Brush Calligraphy Class
Donation: 50%  |  Wednesday, May 27th from 6-8pm at Cuppies & Joe, OKC  |  Hurry! Space limited to 12 people  |  Click HERE to register

Raising Canes, “Chicken Penn” Location
Donation: 15%  |  Must mention “Wings for Audrey”  |  Location: Penn & Memorial (Near SuperTarget)  |  Click HERE to view online

ScentsyJennifer Quan
Donation: 20% | Click HERE to shop Scentsy online

Thirty-OneLaura Franklin
Donation: 25%  |  Click HERE to shop the Thirty-One online party

West Bar & Restaurant, Oklahoma City
Donation: 15%  |  6714 N. Western Ave., Oklahoma City  |  Click HERE to view menu

Whatcha Cookin’ Alice
Donation: 35% | All orders have been placed at this time, thank you!

White Rock Paddle Company, Dallas & Stillwater
Donation: 50%  |  Click HERE to learn more

Going The Distance

GoingTheDistance

It’s May. Beautiful, warm, green May. School years are coming to a close, engagements are turning into “I Do’s”, ice is melting faster, sunscreen sales are up and dormant plants are blooming once again. We received a healthy serving of rain recently. The land around us drank it in and rewarded the skies with a burst of color. One sunny afternoon, when the rain had ceased, I was in the backyard, listening. I knelt down closer to the grass below my feet and I could hear it. The sound of the rain water seeping into the soil. It sounded alive…it sounded simple and amazing.

May. This is the month Audrey’s 81 days began. As her birthday approaches, there is a part of me that wants time to slow down again. This time last year, we felt so much uncertainty, we were unsure what each passing day might bring. We wondered if we would get the chance to hear her cry or if she would know our touch. This year, life is just as uncertain, the difference is that I’ve come to appreciate feeling unsure. It is when I think I feel sure that I quickly doubt myself. I doubt my faith, my intention to trust.

On the very last day of 2014, I was challenged. Of course the entire year had been one of new and different challenges, but this one required a commitment I wasn’t sure I was willing to make. The challenge came from my Debbie. She’s my friend, my sister and my accountability partner. Debbie challenged me to run the OKC Memorial Half Marathon with her. Now, I live with a runner. This year, Chris completed his third marathon in 4 years. So I am well aware of the commitment it requires. Chris really is a runner, I’ve watched what it takes, even flirting with the idea of doing half of a marathon caused my face to do one of these…

Reaction

I’m definitely NOT a runner. I’ve always claimed to loathe the sport. Last year, the most exercise I did consisted of ascending the occasional flight of stairs at Children’s Hospital or taking a barre class once every six-to-eight weeks. When Debbie presented this idea to me, I chuckled at first. I told her I would need to think about it, knowing I would find some lame excuse why I couldn’t, or rather didn’t want to, do it. We hung up and, as promised, I thought about it. And thought about it and thought about it. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of one valid reason why I should say no. Believe me, I tried.

With a smidge of hesitation and an overwhelming amount of doubt, I accepted this challenge. “Okay Deb,” I said, “I’ll do it.”

Fast forward to last Sunday. Debbie and Carrie, both more experienced runners, gracefully flanked my sides as we ran 13 miles…forgive me, 13.1 miles.

At about mile 10, guess who appeared on my shoulder wearing her devilish horns? The Ninety-Percenter. But I wasn’t about to let her get the best of me.

I wanted to be done in the worst way. Everything hurt, I was using muscles I didn’t know I had. My girls were right there with me. Encouraging me, supporting me, pushing me in the most gentle of ways. They would have stopped right then and there if I really needed to. But I was determined. I wanted to make them proud, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this well, I wanted all the hard work and training to have purpose.

It was brutal, but we kept going. I thought often during those miles about the adults and children who lost their lives on April 19, 1995. I thought about the families who were and still are left behind. And I ached for them. Literally, I ached FOR them. This run was to remember. We honored Audrey as well by wearing wings on our backs.AudreyGivesUsWings

Training for the half marathon gave me something to focus on this year. It provided a goal for me to chase after…quite literally. I felt healthier and happier these months of training than all of last fall. In part, this was because time really does play a role in the healing process, but I am utterly convinced that running helped me turn a corner in my journey through life after Audrey. I look back and my only regret is not starting earlier.

And now, it’s just…over. We did it, we finished, it is done. All week I’ve been missing the training and the feeling of being a part of something so big with thousands of others.

So, on to the next. I looked at the calendar. May. Oh yeah…May.

On May 27th, all four seasons will have passed since our Audrey took her first breath. Instead of slowing time and dreading that day, we’ve decided to celebrate in a big way. This year, we’ll honor her birth along with many others. Businesses are partnering with us for Wings for Audrey Day 2015. They are giving a portion of their proceeds from that day, Wednesday, May 27th, to help reach the lofty $100,000 goal. The number of businesses is growing and has even extended into Texas! What a day it will be, family, friends and even people we don’t know will honor Audrey while giving hope to future babies at Children’s Hospital. Isn’t that amazing?

If you own or work for a business and want to get involved, it would be quite an honor. Email rleslie84@gmail.com for details.

As this, the first day of May, comes to a close, we inch closer to the beginning of those 81 days Audrey stole our hearts. There will be hard, tearful moments but I choose to believe there will also be incredibly heart-warming ones that help dry the tears as quickly as they formed. Emotions will run high over the next few months, but I will do my best to honor her, we will keep her story alive through Wings for Audrey. Running for a couple of hours is one thing, but raising $100,000 is an incredible goal in and of itself. As of today, $54,478 has been raised! We can and will make $45,522 more happen. Let’s partner together and go the distance.

Happy May Day everyone!

Love + Hugs, RCallForPartners-01