Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Tribute to Jeremy Cross

A couple of months ago, our community lost a great friend and a very special person. Jeremy Cross passed away on March 13th, and left behind a large circle of family and friends who will dearly miss him and remember him fondly.

Someone who was very close with Jeremy is Amy Furey. Amy was his caregiver, his confidant, and his best friend. When I asked Amy if she would like to share a few words about Jeremy, she said, "Writing about my best friend will be easy!! Jeremy and I often read your blog and he would be jumping up and down in his chair to know he was a focus point!"

Here is what Amy had to say about Jeremy:

"My best friend had Cerebral Palsy. He was born without the ability to speak. At a young age, complications from CP took from him the ability to eat in the usual form, and he had a feeding tube. He was in a wheelchair, never with a hope to walk or even bare weight on his legs, but all of these things together didn't amount to even a fraction of who he was. My best friend was courageous! He was funny! He communicated with his eyes, and did so very well. He faced life with a strength we can all only wish to possess. He was an athlete. He was a college graduate. He was a teacher and role model to children who faced some of the same challenges he did. 
Jeremy George Watkins Cross moved to St. John's about 8 years ago, and just like every young person leaving home for the first time, he was excited and full of energy! He may have also been scared, but you couldn't tell. From the time I met him, until the time he left me, he never stopped amazing me! Jeremy never feared a challenge, he was game for anything! There was no "can't" in his vocabulary, there was only, "I'll try anything once!" And he did! 
Just like in all of our lives, some days are bigger than the others. I am blessed that my great days were given to me by Jeremy.  I took him to get his first set of keys to his very own apartment, where he lived independently in St. John's. I had the privilege of helping Jeremy cross the stage at the Arts and Culture Center to receive his diploma in Therapeutic Recreation. I was honoured to drive him to his first day of work at Easter Seals House. I turned on his iPad so he could explain to the Department of Education why adaptive technology was so important at a primary level in our education system. I was his sports assistant as he competed in a National Boccia competition, with his teammates at Easter Seals. All of these days I consider the greatest ones in my life. Jeremy's great days, he shared with me and with everyone who's life he touched. 
Jeremy was put here to make his mark, accomplishing things we never imagined possible, and by doing so, inspiring us all to reach higher and to be better. It wasn't until March 13, 2015 - the day this amazing young man left that I, like many others, realized we had not been aiding as much in his life, as he was in ours. 
Jeremy, with his powerful force, drew each person he met into his world, and by doing so, you became a better person. We started to believe in things that seemed out of reach. We stopped setting limits on our goals. Most importantly, we didn't sweat the small stuff. After all, it's so much fun overcoming barriers! 
Jeremy had an ability to change us, and his legacy to me will always be to LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST! The things Jeremy taught me I truly believe I could not have learned from anyone else. He was the greatest part of my life. Jeremy will be missed forever and thought about often. But he lives on everyday because of the powerful lessons he taught us. 
My best friend had CP, and he used it as a tool to change the way we view people with a disabilities.
My best friend was perfect, in every way."




Amy, your words speak volumes about Jeremy's character. The things that marked him as 'different', and his presumed 'disabilities' are actually the things that cultivated the most love and respect from people around him. Jeremy had a remarkable ability to attract wonderfully caring people into his life. As painful as the grieving process is, what rises above are all of the connections he created, all of the loving gestures and generosities people gave and continue to give on Jeremy's behalf.

This past week, Easter Seals hosted a Boccia tournament in memory of Jeremy. Dozens of his teammates, family, and friends gathered to play the game that Jeremy so dearly loved, and competed to win the first annual "Jeremy's Cup". It was truly moving, to see so many people come together in the spirit of love and friendship, to pay respect to their dear friend and to keep his memory alive. Jeremy's spirit was present with us that day. You could see it in the faces of his loved ones and in the smiles of his teammates. Easter Seals hopes to continue "Jeremy's Cup", as a tribute to a young man who gave back to the organization in so many ways. Jeremy was a member of the Easter Seals family, and he left it a much richer community because of his contribution.

As a parent of a child with Cerebral Palsy, I want what we all want for our children - for him to live a life to the fullest and to make his mark on the world. Certainly, Jeremy did this and much more. Jeremy had a way of bringing people together. He changed people's lives by showing them what it means to truly live, without boundaries and without fear. Jeremy's life will continue to touch people as his family and friends carry on his legacy of growing, learning, teaching, and always inspiring.

My heart goes out to everyone who is mourning the loss of Jeremy.
He will forever live on in the hearts of those who loved him.

 Jeremy Cross 1985 - 2015

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." -Thomas Campbell

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Holland Tour Guide - by Littlest Warrior Apparel

So, I'm a little bit addicted to Instagram. In one of my marathon searches, where one thing leads to another, and another, and another, and the next thing I know I'm drooling over someone's plant collection, I came across this awesome account called littlest_warrior. I was so taken with the t-shirts I saw on these beautiful little children, and I knew there was something 'different' about them, but I didn't know what. Only when I clicked on the link in the profile did I read the words that pulled on my heart-strings: "Spread awareness in this rad tee inspired by the Welcome to Holland story by Emily Perl Kingsley."

As many of you know, my life has been touched and deeply affected by the poem Welcome to Holland. I wrote about it HERE. It is the meaning behind my blog's title - 'Tiptoeing Through', as well as the message behind my child care program, 'Little Tulips'. For parents of children with special needs, it is a powerful message - 'Holland' may not be where we had planned on going, but it really is a beautiful place, once you allow yourself to see it.

Holland is certainly not where I had ever dreamed of going, but we are settling in quite nicely. It really is beautiful here.. and I have THE BEST tour guide!!

I contacted Michelle about her clothing company, and she told me her story:

"Littlest Warrior was inspired by my son, Eli who is my biggest hero. We found out when I was 20 weeks pregnant that Eli had a heart defect and his intestines were blocked. Both those things pointed to Down Syndrome as well, so we had a blood test to confirm. 

He was born full term via c-section, weighing 4 pounds 3 ounces. When I heard him cry for the first time, relief washed over me. A nurse brought him over and I got to kiss him before they rushed him to the NICU. He had his first surgery at 2 days old to unblock his intestines, then it was an agonizing long 2 days before I could hold him again. He was able to come home after only 12 days in the NICU. The next six months was a waiting game for his open heart surgery to repair his av canal defect. After countless visits to the cardiologist for echocardiograms, it was time. Handing him over to the surgeons that day, knowing that I may never see my baby boy again was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. But the surgery was successful and he amazed us again by coming home after only 6 days in the hospital! Eli is exactly who God wanted him to be and exactly what He knew our family needed. I will never be the same and my daughters will grow up to be kind and compassionate advocates, and for that I am grateful. Eli is a gift that keeps on giving! 
After his heart surgery, I was looking forward to connecting with other Moms who have kids with special needs, and the thought of a t-shirt business to spread awareness and inclusion really sounded great to me! My very first design was the 'Holland Tour Guide' tee because I read the poem when I was pregnant with Eli and it brought me great comfort. I love that when we wear Littlest Warrior t-shirts, they end up being conversation starters and that's a great way to spread awareness!"

Littlest Warrior Apparel - Spreading joy, awareness and inclusion one rad t-shirt at a time!

Check out some of their other awesome designs.
10% of all sales are donated to a foundation or family in need.
Use discount code: holland for 10% off your purchase!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Living in the Moment

Time is a crazy thing. While we were in Mexico, time seemed to stand still. The days were long. The nights were longer. We were present in the moment, and time didn't seem to matter. We had no schedule to adhere to. No appointments. No meetings. No looming deadlines. We were free to do as we pleased, and we enjoyed every restful minute.

Time has been heavy on my mind lately. It's been creeping in and out of my thoughts since we returned home - there are no guarantees of anything other than right now. I am grateful for these moments. I am grateful for right now.

I am going to make a conscious effort to do more 'living in the moment'. Too often we get caught up in the busyness of life, and time slips quietly by. I want to be more present, more mindful, focusing on what's happening now and not on what has happened in the past or the millions of things that will happen in the future. I will try to focus on what is great in my life, and not all of the things that I tend to worry about. Too often, the beautiful moments of my life are drowned out by anxiety and thoughts that I cannot control. Focusing on the present will force me to stop over-thinking, and stop worrying about the future.

These are the moments I want to remember. This is the good stuff.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”  

― Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mexico, 2015

Andrew and I just returned home from a much-needed holiday in Cancun, Mexico! Our life is hectic and crazy-busy, and it can become overwhelming at times. We were longing for some rest and 'alone time', so we escaped to the Mayan Riviera.

Our resort was spectacular, and the beach was breathtaking. We woke up every morning with the sunlight spilling into our bedroom, and we spent most of each day relaxing and soaking up the sun's rays. We were surrounded by palm trees and golden light and every view was postcard perfect.

The city of Cancun is vibrant and picturesque and alive with colour. Walking the streets, I was fascinated by the colourful houses and overflowing gardens. We visited Mercado 28, a huge open air market with local vendors selling traditional handicrafts and many other unique items. It is also home to many restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine.

We soaked up all that we could in one short week, and we have returned home refreshed and recharged, and ready to take on life and all that it has to offer. We made memories this week that strengthened our relationship and reminded us of the importance of adventures and making time to appreciate things together (and to appreciate each other).

Here is our trip to Mexico, in photos: