Cancer - Words I Wish I Didn't Ever Have To Write


My best friend's little boy has cancer...CANCER...That big, ugly thing that scares the be-jezus out of everything...I can't believe I am even writing these words...

This is a friend I've had since I was a baby - Literally, we like to tell people when I was born, her mom who was pregnant with her at the time, was my mom's nurse and held me up to her belly & told us we'd be best friends...We told it so many times throughout our life that one day when our moms told us it didn't happen we actually didn't believe them...It was a story we based our friendship on & made last 30+ years...


A friendship that grew up through each phase of life together...A childhood full of fun & mischief, the teenage years surrounded by boys & Taco Bell, and adulthood set with marriage & mommyhood...


That being said, nothing prepares you for the phase in life when your best friend calls and through sobs tells you her son has cancer - NOTHING...


What was supposed to be a visit to the hospital because her little boy had a stomach ache turned into test after test pointing towards cancer...


I had to bring Pip to the ER the other night and after a chest x-ray, I just kept thinking of my friend, getting that news without ever seeing it coming...I pictured the doctor coming in to tell me Pip's chest x-ray showed signs of something awful, almost to prepare myself. So when he told me she unfortunately had pneumonia he must have been surprised when I smiled and said, "We'll take it"...


It's amazing that after all Pip's been through - After all her hospital stays, surgeries and doc appts, you would have thought that I would be a pro at how to handle this situation...That I would have the words to say, or the actions to do something...But I don't - I'm numb by fear, saddened by circumstance and feel so very helpless...


All I could tell her was what I know...I know as a momma you are so choked by fear, saddness and the unknown...But I promise you this, you will get through it...All of it, no matter what may happen...The strength from within will somehow come when you need it most...The power you have as a momma is so deep in you, you need not worry if you can do it...You can do anything because you are fueled by the love of your child and that is more powerful and holds more strength than literally anything else on the planet...


I talked to him the other day on the phone, I tried to tell him he was so strong and so brave but hearing his little voice was too much...


I cried so hard...For him...For what he's about to have to go through...For my best friend...For all that she as a momma is going to have to endure and for the unfairness of it all...Her son, who despite the fact that she has 3 children is my absolute favourite...


I know you shouldn't say that but I have right from the start...Something about little Maiysn just always felt special...When we moved back from Ireland my husband moved to our new town while I stayed and waited for Maiysn to be born...



Noal even has the exact same birthday as him...So you see he was meant to be my favourite and I will never apologize for saying so. 


At the end of the day I realize, this is part of his story...We don't see the big picture and while it seems like Fate/God or Whomever doesn't know what the hell they are doing, really they do...Really they know that this little boy for some reason or other was chosen to be one of the ones who kicks cancer's arse...And let me tell you he is going to kick it and kick it hard...


I asked Happy Soul Project friends if anyone was willing to make and donate a super-I'm-going-to-kick-cancer's-arse cape so he could wear it and know how very strong he was...And because of the overwhelming response, just like that Happy Soul Project is starting a new initiative to give out capes to kids battling cancer...


AWESOME RIGHT?


So if you can sew, always wanted to learn to sew or know someone who does, what better thing to make than one of these capes...Let's do this- Let's make em and give em out to kids who need that extra super-strength...



You in? If so email me at t@happysoulproject.com - And if you can, send up a little prayer to help my Fav...


Just Cause...Pip & Loch Celebrating Each Other

On top of everything we did on World Down Syndrome Day, we also got to hang out with Pip's best bud Loch...It's as if they knew they should be celebrating each other...









Adore these two together...I mean how could you not?

Second time around I think I got it right...World Down Syndrome Day


Some wear funny socks, others paint their nails blue...Some make touching videos or organize big community events...Some quietly celebrate in their own way or like me yell it for the world to hear...But however they choose to do so, they are celebrating the magic that is within Down syndrome...They are acknowledging that there is something so beautiful in a diagnosis that need not be negative...They are bringing awareness in their own way and that in itself is a pretty awesome thing...


Last year my little girl was in heart failure...I was in such a different place than I am in now...I was worried about her turning blue in the middle of the night, and learning to change a feeding tube...I was focused on keeping her alive and trying to beef her up for heart surgery....World Down Syndrome Day was the last thing on my mind...And to be completely honest, I didn't even really know it existed...


But fate like it always does works in funny ways....A friend I was close to in high school that I hadn't seen since, popped back into my life just when I needed her most...A friend who has one of the kindest spirits and most generous hearts I've ever know...A friend who also is a nurse and works with people with special needs...

Serendipity indeed... 

This beautiful friend showed up at my house with way too many cookies and cupcakes all decorated in yellow and blue, she was holding balloons and had the biggest smile...In a way in that moment, she taught me I needed to celebrate Pip...Celebrate this part of her...

So for Pip's second #WorldDownSyndromeDay that's exactly what I did...I did it all...Almost as if I had to make up for not doing what I should have the year before...


I  wore the socks, painted all our nails including Noal's, made videos, attended a school celebration in which Pip surprised a little girl named Emma who was getting honoured by her classmates...At one point Pip was called up to dance with Emma and I thought that was special enough...But when the entire gym full of students, teachers and parents were on their feet dancing freely and happily, it is a moment that will honestly stay with me forever...Click HERE to see a clip of it


And to do my awareness side of things I talked to a radio station in the early morning and spent my afternoon telling Pip's story to another tv crew...Sidenote: Hello my name is Tara, and when I am nervous I talk with my hands and inside want a gin and tonic.


But it was actually the moments right before Pip went to bed...When she grabbed my face with both her chubby little hands and looked at me intently with her beautiful, almond shape eyes as if to say, "Don't worry about last year momma, you made up for it this year"...Then gave me one of her big, open mouth kisses that she always giggles while doing and snugged her little body into mine...


I rocked her way longer than usual reflecting on the day and her, and that is when I felt such a celebration...


This beautiful little girl, my darling Reid Layne, my pig-tailed Pip is such a life changer...And I'm not talking about the people she's helped, or the smiles she's brought or the perspectives she's shifted...I'm talking about me...


She's changed me...So, so very much...


Today Pip was named a Canadian Down syndrome Hero by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society:
"While we never chose a baby before, Pip is remarkable and unique and she speaks to the optimism of the community in a way that nobody else has before,” Canadian Down Syndrome Society’s communication co-ordinator Kaitlyn Pecson said.

So as I felt her nuzzle deeper into me, I continued to rock her...I continued to rub her neck like I always do. Her neck that when she was first born and even now has a bit more extra skin because of that extra chromosome...That extra chromosome that just a year ago worried me oh so much, is now something I celebrate proudly...The pride I feel for this little girl is indescribable...


I can't believe someone so extraordinary is mine...


Happy World Down Syndrome Day friends...Hope you found your own way to celebrate this magic...



P.S- Obviously #OperationEllenMeetPip didn't work...If I am being honest, I really thought she was going to call just because the amount of love & support y'all showed in sharing Pip's story and message. But we shall keep on trying...Pip will definitely dance with her one day...I mean how can she refuse this:

Happy Soul Project's First Choir Member


While my daughter Pip happens to have Down syndrome, Happy Soul Project is not necessarily just about that. Yes, in my own way it's about bringing awareness to it and hoping to change perspectives and such. But it truly is about celebrating differences whatever they may be...Pip's just happens to be Down syndrome...


That being said I am only one voice and while it truly amazes me that anyone has been helped in anyway by my words, having some backup singers would be kinda cool. 


So in opening up Happy Soul Project to other voices - it will be just that- A beautiful choir of stories that all sing the same song of celebrating the beauty in differences...Whether that's Down syndrome or not...


That being said meet our first new member Jamie Freeman & her adorable little boy Benny...When Jamie wrote this, it not only had me in tears seeing the impact my little Pip had on her but I loved the fact that she is helping others, and her & Benny are changing lives...Just amazing...





Tara from Happy Soul Project has asked me to guest blog and I couldn't be more honored!!! So, in honor of Pip and the Happy Soul Project, here is my story about how one beautiful little girl brought back my smile. 

In November 2012, my husband and I FINALLY became pregnant with our first child. We had been trying for years, to no avail. We were ecstatic. We didn't even wait to tell everyone, like they usually say you should. We were in love with this little man even before we knew he was indeed a little man and not a little lady. I don't think I stopped smiling from the moment those two little blue lines showed up until my 4 month appointment at the OB. That's when the smiles stopped.


At that appointment my OB informed us that my results came back as high risk for Down Syndrome on my Quad Screen. The next few weeks were filled with level 2 ultrasounds, blood tests, fears, and lots of crying. We were terrified. Finally, we got the final results back of the MaterniT21 test, and found out that there was a 99% chance Benjamin had Down Syndrome. 

The next two days are a blur. My husband left work without saying a word to anyone he was leaving. I crawled in bed and sobbed uncontrollably.I am embarrassed of the thoughts that were going through my head. I didn't know anything about Down Syndrome. My husband came home and crawled in bed with me. We cried together til we finally fell asleep. 

The next few months were nothing but doctor's appointments and anxiety. I started hearing all the horrible medical problems associated with Down Syndrome that the doctor's said Ben would have. Every day I was more exhausted than the next. All I wanted was a beautiful little baby. I wanted to show him off. I wanted people to coo over him, and instantly fall in love with him. With all the horrible information I was being given, I felt like I was going to have this sick child that nobody would love but me. The picture in my mind was nothing like the perfect child I had imagined dressing up and taking pictures of. It was nothing like the child I imagined at all - This is so hard to type right now, because I don't think I've ever admitted that to myself or anyone else. 


Around 8-9 months pregnant, I decided to look up pictures of babies with Down Syndrome. I just needed to see them. I needed to know. Enter Pip...

One of the first pictures that came up when I searched the Down Syndrome hashtag in Instagram was of Pip's smiling face. I will NEVER forget that first picture. She was wearing nothing but her diaper, with the biggest, most precious smile I had ever seen on her beautiful little face. She wasn't a baby with down syndrome.  She was a gorgeous, smiling little light that instantly brought me to tears! I am crying now just typing this. 


I felt better and ashamed all at the same time. I was ashamed that I thought Down Syndrome would define Ben. I was ashamed that I thought it would make him less than anything. I was ashamed that I thought having a baby with Down Syndrome was anything less than beautiful. I looked at Pip and my favorite emotion of laughter through tears came pouring out of me like never before.  I instantly began cyber-stalking Happy Soul Project. Every picture I looked at made me me feel stronger and stronger. Every smile on Pip made me realize how amazingly lucky I was to have been blessed with a child that has even an ounce of the beauty Pip has in her. Pip made my smiles come back...


The day I had Ben wasn't a sad day. It was the best day of my life! I was ready for my baby boy! I was excited to bring him into the world and COULD NOT WAIT to show him off! He was and still is the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on.  There was no fear, there was just love. 


Not only was I excited for him because of Pip's pictures, but I was also ready for him because of the information I read in Happy Soul Project. Reading about Tara's struggles with Pip helped me prepare myself for what was to come with Ben. I knew I could handle it because I gained strength and knowledge from Tara's stories. Yes, I can get information on Down Syndrome from a lot of sites; however hearing about it from a fellow mama that has been there before me is much more helpful that a bunch of statistics. It just helps your soul...


Today, I have started my own blog titled "Ben Through It All". I know how much Pip and Happy Soul Project helped me, and I want to do that for someone else. Getting that diagnosis is so difficult, but I thank God every day for that first picture of Pip.

Tara, thank you. You have no idea how much what you do can heal someone else. Your words and your pictures saved me from spiraling into a very dark place. You gave me hope, and that, my friend, is something not just anyone can give. I can't wait til the day Benny gets to work some of his charm on sweet Pip. 


God help him if Noal is around... 

XOXO
Jamie Freeman


Thank God I love Roller Coasters...

My absolute favourite part about riding a roller coaster is the anticipation - climbing up that hill on the verge of falling and then feeling your heart about to drop, throwing your hands in the air and just letting go...The other day I felt like after a long, steady climb to the top with Happy Soul Project {writing my heart out, sharing our story, different media outlets featuring us, re-designing the entire blog, etc} I was sitting at the top kinda waiting to feel that excited drop...


Our little family was watching Global News at possibly the worst time ever for two young kids, so between Noal whining for dinner, Pip banging anything she could get her sticky little paws on and my husband trying to shush us all, I sat, then stood, then froze when I saw my face on TV.


Me and the hooligans made our TV debut on a feature about Making a Difference and in that moment seeing it all come together, I felt like I was on the best damn roller coaster ride ever...Such a rush, so exhilarated, picture me literally "eeeeeecking" in delight...To see the video click HERE.

Just so you can try to understand how weird & wonderful it was seeing our story on tv, here are just a few thoughts that were running through my head as I watched:

  • Eeeeeeeck - there we are...Eeeeeeck the hooligans look so cute...
  • Why did I have to sit beside the giant lizard decoy on my cousin's wall - It looks like it's coming out of my head.
  • I sound so husky - Do I normally sound so man-like? {I was trying so hard to hold it together and thankfully they didn't show me crying but in turn my voice sounded so manly}
  • God my kids are so freaking cute, it's ridiculous.
  • Ahh Trianna's interview with her cute son Thatcher was so touching. {I was in another room while they were interviewing her so that was the first time I saw what she talked about}
  • Do I really talk with my hands that much?
  • Haaaa amazing they got in Noal's little dance - {Noal actually gave Susan Hay and her crew a full performance of What Does the Fox Say and meant it like a star}
  • Oh wow, the news anchors seem genuinely touched by our story.
  • Dammit my hooligans are outrageously adorable.
  • Wow these kids are aging me fast - Those crowsfeet are taking over my entire face. HD tv wowza you show it all...
  • I can't believe this is happening - I can't believe that is me and that is our story...
Kinda surreal watching all of us looking up at our TV watching all of us...Noal pointing out, "Hey there mommy, there Pippy, there Noal"...Really such a proud moment for us...

And if that wasn't enough - Our Happy Soul Project store opened after months of designing it, working with partners, figuring out the administration and logistics of it all...Within hours we had sold out of most items...HOURS...I mean come on - That was utterly humbling and well just pretty bloody awesome...Thank you friends for supporting it...


Pretty awesome day right?



So anyone who had the day I had would probably be flying high on that roller coaster, with their arms fully up, enjoying the ride and taking it all in...


But like any good ride at some point it must come to an end...I absolutely hate that jerky, back breaking, tug on the tracks stop at the end of a roller coaster ride...And yesterday well Fate/God/Karma Whomever thought it would be fun to have me going full speed ahead and then wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am crash stop on the tracks...

Yesterday I opened this in the mail...


If y'all can't read that, it is Pip's pre-surgical patient information package "What You Should Know About Your Child's Anesthesia"...Bloody hell...Pip's scheduled for another eye operation in April and while we knew this was eventually going to happen, actually having it scheduled and getting this damn package made it oh so real...


So Fate/God/Karma Whomever, it's a good thing I bloody like roller coasters cause you know what I'm gonna do? Eject that seat belt so hard and fast, scootch my way right back to the front of the line, throw my arms up in the air the entire time and begin the climb to the top again...







SideNote: Last night I had to submit a "reference" for Pip - She was nominated as a Hero of the Year with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society - Amazing right? Even more amazing is within an hour more than 150+ people left a comment about how Pip had inspired them...Without even knowing what y'all were doing you lifted me up - You didn't know I got bad news today, you didn't know I was completely gutted about thinking of yet another operation for Pip...You just wrote because she touched your life and those words helped me get off the roller coaster, soak it all in and get on back for another ride...So thank you, once again for your part in our journey...







You hear about everyday people doing random acts of kindness or organizations making someone's wildest wish come true. I wanted to find a way to do something in the middle...


I wanted to find a way to make someone smile...


I wanted to find a way to help others and feel like I am giving back in life...


I wanted to find a way in which people could be involved in something they thought was pretty cool...


And I wanted to find a way to do something for someone in which they have absolutely nothing left to say but, "Awesome Eh?"



And so a portion of proceeds from every sale at the Happy Soul Project Store will be going towards our new Awesome Eh? Project, which is random acts of awesomeness proving to others that there is hope and happiness out there...It could mean buying a teenage girl with Down syndrome a prom dress or sending a new momma who is struggling with her baby's diagnosis something special...It could be anything yet to me it is everything. To me thinking of someone feeling so special and having nothing to say except, "Awesome Eh?" is pretty damn amazing.



How can you help?
  • Shop...Shop...Shop

    • Nominate people who need a bit of awesomeness in their life - Doesn't matter who they are, where they live or what they need...If there is something we can do to bring them kindess then lets do it. To nominate someone, contact me HERE.
    • Donate items - I have been amazed at the amount of cool businesses out there willing to donate items to our Awesome Eh? Project. From prom dresses to scarves, moccasins to gift baskets - Every item donated has made my heart full and in reality made me say, "Awesome Eh?"...So if you are interested in donating something or would like more information please contact me HERE.


    What's Next?
    • Just a whole lot of awesomeness really...We will be sharing through the blog & store all of Awesome Eh? Project's random acts...
    • We will be bugging more stores/businesses/organizations to get involved and help or donate stuff...
    • Who knows really? This is just the beginning but we can't wait to make people say "Awesome Eh?"...

    Thank you again friends, it truly means the world to me that you support Happy Soul Project and I am so happy that you are a part of changing the world just a wee little bit with us...


    Painting Outside the Lines

    Sometimes if you let yourself dream big, windows end up always open, a breeze constantly swirls around you, as if seamlessly putting pieces all together, helping to make that dream come true.


    That is the case, above and beyond with Happy Soul Project's "Painting Outside the Lines" Collection. What started as an idea to support artists with special needs has turned into a beautiful collaboration and a friendship that I am oh so grateful for. 


    I am outrageously happy, ridiculously excited and honoured to work with a very special Mother-Daughter Team who make all of our inspiring art pieces in our "Painting Outside The Lines" Collection.


    I first met Tricia through Instagram and was immediately drawn to her positive spirit, sense of style and crafty/creative talent. She is a painter, decorator, teacher and blogger and she also just so happens to have a daughter with Down syndrome. 


    In one of our conversations she said something to me that I will remember and pass on to other mommas. We were talking about how we "grieved" what we thought life and our daughters were "suppose to be" when we found out they had Down syndrome.

    "It's funny, one of the things I was so sad about, was thinking Sara wouldn't go to Prom," Tricia told me and before I could chime in with a "Me too" she said, "Sara has been to 6 Proms - If I could give one bit of advice to other mommas out there who are just starting on this journey. Love more and worry less. I look back on the things I used to worry about that never came to be and realize that it was wasted time. Things always had a way of working themselves out, and Sara continued to surprise and amaze us along the way. Don't set the ceiling for what your child will accomplish. It will be so much more than you ever imagined."
      

    Amazing right? This is my kinda momma and I am so thankful to not only partner with her on this Collection but look up to her as someone who has walked this path before me...


    As for the Prom Queen herself, Sara is 21, enjoys swimming and bowling for Special Olympics, hanging out with her boyfriend, singing karaoke like a rock-star and spending time with her family. Sara is the inspiration behind "Painting Outside the Lines" and works with her mom creating our one of a kind home decor signs with uplifting, powerful & inspiring messages. 




    What does Happy Soul Project & Painting Outside the Lines mean to you?
    Being a part of Happy Soul Project and Painting Outside the Lines means changing perceptions of others regarding adults with Down Syndrome and their ability to positively and productively contribute to society. For Sara it is an opportunity for her to do something she loves and be a part of something bigger than herself. Sara has a positive outlook on life and is a master at reveling in the little things. She doesn't take experiences or the people around her for granted, and I am confident that spirit will shine through the signs we make.


    What did you think when I first approached you with the idea? 
    I was so excited! Sara is aging out of the public school system this year and I was anxious about coming up with something purposeful for her to do with her time. The school kept suggesting things that I knew she wouldn't love and made me feel uneasy about her safety.Sara had been looking at my Instagram each morning as she waited for the bus, and pictures of Pip would pop up. She would tell me, "I like that little girl, she's sweet like me." We were already painting furniture together, so transitioning to just signs is really just kismet. 


    What's your favourite sign so far? 
    Our favourite sign so far is the one we did for you! Just the words,"be awesome today", are words that we can all live by. It's not about being perfect, how you measure up to someone else, or having the BEST day, but simply going out there and being the awesome person you are.  




    What message or feeling do you want people to have when they get one of your signs?
    I would hope that anyone who purchases one of our signs knows that there is not only meaning in the words, but a special person had a hand in making it. Sara takes pride in her painting, waxing and distressing of the signs- it is purposeful work that she can do independently. The messages are all ones of positive thinking, joy and love. If we all took those sayings to heart and carried them with us throughout our day think of what an amazing world we would live in!



    What do you hope to come from this?
    I hope that someday soon there is an online workshop community of people with special needs that can produce and sell their art work online. That others will support their endeavors and celebrate their differences. That eventually we will reshape people's perceptions of "disabled" into the realization that we are all differently abled, and that each person brings a unique talent to the table.  


    What did I tell you - Amazing right? So very grateful they have become part of the Happy Soul Project Team...

    • To Shop this Collection, click HERE 
    • To visit Trica's blog Little Cottage on the Pond, click HERE

    And a big thank you to everyone who helps support our "Painting Outside the Lines" Collection.