4titude Award – Nicole Cooley

By Heather Ledeboer | Category: 4titude Awards | Posted Monday, October 13, 2008

Nicole_cooley_portrait_3 I want to thank Nicole for being so willing to share her story with us.  What she has experienced is unfortunately more common that any of us would like to admit.  I hate sin and the pain it causes.  But Nicole has found a way to help others though her painful experience and I pray that some of you will find some hope in her words. ~Heather L.

Please share the trial, set back or loss you have experienced:
As a young officer in the military, I was raped by a trusted friend. Later, I made the devastating decision to abort the child conceived during the attack. Both events brought significant pain and trauma into my life which took years for me to overcome. This process is described in my book, Into the Light: Rape, Abortion, and the Truth that Set Me Free, and also on my website: www.nicolewcooley.com

Despite the pain you have endured, what beauty have you seen come out of this?
God has used my experiences as a platform to encourage others. The beauty I have seen is in the faces of others – both women who have chosen life for their unborn children after hearing my story and also for the women who have found hope, as I have, in Jesus Christ for their trials as well. My story has provided a seed of hope. If God has done this wonderful healing in me, then He can do it for them as well. And He can!

To what or to whom do you credit this beauty?
I am a Christian – and only the incredible God I serve could work such an amazing miracle in my life. Through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus, a path to my complete healing was made possible. My personal relationship with God, and following His voice in my heart, has enabled me to deal with all the many layers of suffering and pain. One by one, all the hurt has been healed, and a normal physical relationship with my husband has become possible. I believe God delights in taking the messed up “clay” of our lives and, with our permission, remaking us into new creatures. The old hurt no longer holds me back, but has given me the gift of compassion for others and empathy for their struggles.
Welcome_home_2006 

What advice or wisdom do you wish to share with others having been through this experience?
Don’t settle for less than complete healing. Have courage to face your pain – and allow God to walk through it with you. This process takes time – and can be very scary at times. I liken it to God asking us to jump off the high dive at a swimming pool blindfolded without letting us know if there is any water in the pool below! When you’ve been hurt, trust is hard – even trusting God is hard. But, it is worth it. All the work is worth it to live unencumbered by the heavy baggage of the past.

If someone else reading this is going though something similar, do you have any resources to recommend they look into further for help or support?
Please go to my website www.nicolewcooley.com have a page there called, “Help, I’ m Hurting!” On that page I have links to books, ministries, and websites which were helpful in my own healing journey. Most of all, don’t give up! Hang in there and allow God to work in your life too!

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Heather Ledeboer

I am a Christian, wife, mom and the original founder of Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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4titude Award Winner – Michal Chesal (owner of Baby K’tan)

By Heather Ledeboer | Category: 4titude Awards | Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007

Michal_chesal Please share the trial, set back or loss you have experienced:
I wouldn’t call it a loss by any means, but probably just a set back and trial. My son Coby was born in 1999 with Down syndrome. It was a healthy pregnancy, my first, and we were young, so the diagnosis really caught us by surprise.  We had a lot of adjusting to do mentally, spiritually and physically. Instead of running to mommy and me classes I found myself running to therapies and medical specialists. I started learning about a whole new world I would have never in my wildest dreams imagined I’d be a part of.  Life had changed as we knew it.

Despite the pain you have endured, what beauty have you seen come out of this? 
We really have not endured too much pain. At first maybe selfish pain, like “why me?”, but I got over that pretty quickly and fell in love with Coby for who he was. And to tell you the truth, he really was no different than any other baby. So I proceeded to treat him like “any other baby”.  However, we did still have some adjustments to make regarding our circumstances and his disability.  I needed to create an environment for him that would facilitate his development and provide the extra stimulation he needed for optimal growth. In addition to his developmental delays, Coby was born with hypotonia (low muscle tone) and was adversely affected by carriers that placed his legs in excessive abduction (legs spread too far apart). He also required tight swaddling.  It was disheartening not being able to carry him in a forward facing position as used in traditional baby carriers. I kept reading everywhere how good it was to “wear” your baby. And so not only did I want to hold Coby closely and show him the world, I wanted to do it appropriately. I could not use any carriers that were currently on the market, and with advice from his physical therapist, I ended up partially modifying existing carriers to provide a position for him where he could face forward and see the world and get the developmental stimulation and closeness from me, while having his legs in a more developmentally appropriate posture and having a tight swaddled and secure feeling. To fast forward a number of years, this carrier (which we named Baby K’tan –it means “Little Baby” in Hebrew) became very popular and I realized it was a great carrier for all babies, which is when we began to market it.  So the end result has been that so much beauty came out of his birth, diagnosis and addition to our family. He has taught us so much about appreciating the little things, showing true love, and marching to your own beat.  We have met wonderful people and been a part of wonderful charities and organizations in connection to his disability and all special needs kids.  And we now have a wonderful company with a product that would not have been designed had Coby not been born.

To what or to whom do you credit this beauty? 
Mainly to Coby. But I know deep down inside there is a higher being that made this all happen, and that everything happens for a reason.

What advice or wisdom do you wish to share with others having been through this experience?
The simplest way to put it is not to give up, because things have a funny way of turning around in ways you never expected. And the sky might look gray in the beginning, but there is always a blue sky behind it, and if you have a hard time seeing that yourself, make sure you surround yourself with friends & family that know it’s there!

If someone else reading this is going though something similar, do you have any resources to recommend they look into further for help or support?
The best thing to do is find a local organization and support group that is connected to the disability your child has.  There may be more than one, and you might want to tackle them all or take it slow, but whatever your personality, keep yourself educated and surround yourself with others who know what you are going through. That is a great resource in itself. 

Heather Ledeboer

I am a Christian, wife, mom and the original founder of Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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4titude Award Winner Rachel de Azevedo Coleman from Signing Time!

By Heather Ledeboer | Category: 4titude Awards | Posted Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rachelc Q: Rachel, Please share the trial, set back or loss you have experienced:
A: Finding out that my daughter Leah (shown on the left) was deaf, when she was a year old was very difficult. I felt guilty for the year of information she had missed and I felt silly for not picking up on it sooner. I was angry that I hadn’t trusted my instincts. As a singer and songwriter I felt like my occupation was suddenly a complete waste of time.

Three years later, we had come a long way. My husband and I were fluent in American Sign Language and Leah excelled at everything she tried. At that time we chose to have another baby and honestly, we had hopes that this one might be deaf as well. At our 18-week ultrasound we discovered that our baby Lucy (shown on the right) was bringing a whole new set of challenges. Lucy was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Four weeks later, Lucy and I became the 82nd mommy/fetus patients to undergo fetal surgery for spina bifida. It was risky but we felt it was worth it. After a successful surgery, I was on bed rest for 10 weeks. Lucy entered the world 8 weeks earlier than expected. When Lucy was 9 months she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. At age 2 her neurologist warned us that she would soon be diagnosed as mentally retarded, and that it was unlikely that she would ever speak and with no fine motor skills, it was unlikely that she would be able to communicate through sign language.

Q: Despite the pain you have endured, what beauty have you seen come out of this?
A: Everything we have today has come because of those circumstances. Every positive, beautiful thing we have. Most of my closest friends and most meaningful relationships have come about because of my children’s disabilities. My business, my music all of it!! 

When Leah was 4 years old I was frustrated with how few people could communicate with her and I watched her getting left out at the park or at soccer practice because her peers were unable to communicate with her. No one "spoke" Leah’s language. My sister Emilie and I created a video to help the children in Leah’s life, learn a few signs so the awkwardness could disappear. We called it "Signing Time!". "Signing Time!" transformed Leah’s community, from a community of isolation to a community of inclusion. Now there were no more excuses. If anyone wanted to learn some signs they could, in 30 minutes they could be entertained, and educated and walk away with a new skill.

"Signing Time!" has grown from that first single VHS tape to an entire first series comprised of 13 DVD’s, as well as a soon to be released second DVD series, plus 2 Baby Signing Time DVD’s, flash cards, books and music CD’s.

"Signing Time!" was also instrumental in Lucy’s development. Lucy was by my side through production, editing and post-production. She is the inspiration for many of the songs that I write for the shows. And after more than 2 long years of being trapped in an uncooperative body, Lucy was able to will herself to sign. She was with me as we screen one of the final rounds of the first video. When it was over, I got up and turned off the TV. I looked over at Lucy and she was signing "more."

Lucy is now 7 years old and is in a mainstream 2nd grade classroom. She speaks beautifully, signs fluently and loves to sing. She uses a wheelchair to get around but plays on a soccer team and is a Brownie in the Girl Scouts. You can see Lucy signing in almost every episode of "Signing Time!".

Q: To what or to whom do you credit this beauty?
A: I definitely credit God. Really, I was entrusted with so much more than I would ever have believed I could handle. I love my life. It is the perfect life for me. I get to see and experience miracles daily. Every day this work is making the world a better place. We are helping infants and toddlers express their needs through sign language before they can verbalize those wants. We are helping "The Leah’s" of the world by sharing their language with those around them. We are helping those very special children who may never speak. "The Lucy’s" who need a way to prove that they are in fact "in there." And we are helping the children who just have a hard time getting their words out. The great things is, we are doing all of this by introducing a real skill, a second language; American Sign Language. We build bridges to communication.

Q: What advice or wisdom do you wish to share with others having been though this experience?
A: When you have a child or children with special needs, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Suddenly you have to become and expert, advocate and educator. Most of us are not prepped for that. But, to be an advocate you really do need to be educated. Get connected! In this day and age with the Internet, you can easily connect with families who share similar circumstances as well as families who are a little further down the path you will be walking. Ask questions and find your local resources. I found myself wishing that a specific resource existed (fun, easy, kid-friendly, educational sign language videos) that would benefit my child, so I created it. If you find yourself wishing for something… consider that YOU may be the one to create it. Not only helping your own child, but impacting the lives of countless others.

Q: If someone else reading this is going though something similar, do you have any resources to recommend they look into further for help or support?
A: We have created many of the resources that I wanted. I wanted to be able to connect and share information with other parents. So we have The Signing Time Forums. Where you can ask questions, share, celebrate and learn.

I wanted to be able to find people in my own area who shared an interest in signing. It’s important for children to sign with other children as well. So we created a place on our Signing Time Forums where people can coordinate Signing Time Playgroups in their cities.

I like to chat with parents and meet new people. So, we have a weekly chat on Wednesday nights from 7-9PM MT.

Like I said, if you find yourself wishing that a specific resource existed… stop wishing. You might just be the one to create it!

Heather Ledeboer

I am a Christian, wife, mom and the original founder of Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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4titude Award winner Yamile Jackson PhD, PE, PMP

By Heather Ledeboer | Category: 4titude Awards | Posted Saturday, September 8, 2007

Momandson Q: Please share the trial, set back or loss you have experienced:
In 2001 I was 6 months pregnant and developed severe pre-eclamsia, and to save my life, my child, who weighed less than 2 lbs, had to be delivered prematurely by emergency Caesarean Section . While I recovered in a couple of days, my son was extremely fragile and struggling to survive. If things were not bad enough, three weeks later, his hospital lost power including all his life-support machines due to Tropical Storm Allison that flooded Houston and shut down the generators of the entire hospital. We (myself, my husband and the reduced hospital staff) kept him alive “by hand” for 9 hours until he was evacuated to another hospital. Many things went wrong, and he was hospitalized for 5 months. For 155 days I had to leave the hospital without my baby after giving birth, and knowing that he needed me to feel secure and protected in an environment that was foreign and frightening even for me. I felt helpless and impotent. I thought that I could not do anything to help my child. My heart and soul shattered every time I watched my son in pain, with needles, tubes, tape, and monitor probes covering his tiny face and body.

I have always been fascinated about how mothers can soothe their small child’s pain with a kiss and a touch and I assumed that my child could not be much different; sure, he was small, but he was a child and I was his mother. I wanted so bad to soothe his pain and the fear he could have for being alone or unprotected (feelings I would have if I was in a hospital hurting alone). I wanted so bad to help him!! I hated my inability to give him a
healthy start – no matter how many times the doctors told me it was not my fault or that it was not that bad since he did not know any different. I felt so bad knowing that, probably, my child’s worst days of his life were how we welcomed him to this world.

At the time, I owned an engineering consulting company and I took a leave of absence so I could be there for my child, and I was in the hospital at least for 10 hours a day. I started interacting with the nurses, asking questions, learning about ways I could help my son. The first lesson from the nurses was about how to use my hands to comfort him so I developed what I would later call “the Zaky“, a pillow that had the shape of my hand (I used a garden glove), that smelled like me (I slept with it on my chest), and had some weight to it to give my child some boundaries and help him think that I was there at all times. It made a difference for me every time I had to leave his side, and the nurses told me that it definitely made a difference for my child when I was not there.

I saw many things in the hospital that were donated “in memory of” and the name of a baby, and I was horrified of the possibility of loosing my child.

Every day I prayed and promised to help babies if our son could come home alive with us. I wanted the opportunity to help them ON BEHALF of our child and not in his memory.

Zaky17 Q: Despite the pain you have endured, what beauty have you seen come out of this?
In a nutshell, my child is healthy and we are very close, I have a beautiful family, and I found my purpose in life helping babies, their families and those who care for them. Our child came home still very fragile, with a tube through his nose (that I learned to insert), oxygen, monitors, and medicines. I was so thankful for having my child at home that I started thinking about ways to help other babies. I wanted to find something that would at least help one family; if I could improve the quality of life of at least one baby, maybe one that was never visited or touched, or one that was extremely ill and mom wasn’t allowed to touch… I had to pay my promise! A couple of days later, a nurse from the hospital called me to see if I would make more “hands” for other babies. I had a wonderful moment – I found the way to help babies!! My mom and I made a couple of dozen, and I started my 3 year-research/design/test project to improve the Zaky
to make it the way it is now. One size fits all, antiallergenic, antimicrobial, antifungal, washable, durable, flexible, safe, etc – to be used even with the smallest and sickest of the patients, in an environment that is strictly controlled.

One of the first facts that I learned is that the womb fills 4 basic needs: oxygen (breathing), warmth, nutrition, and protection. If the baby lacks the ability to do any of the first 3, the baby is hooked to a machine or the baby dies. For breathing they have the ventilator, for warmth they have incubators, and for nutrition they use an IV or tubes to the stomach. What about protection? That is how the parents come in – they need to provide the protection because the medical personnel is caring for the rest!! It all made sense, so I continued learning about the importance of bonding, transitional items, boundaries, positioning, pain management, child development, etc. With the help of many parents, health care professionals, and other ergonomists, I finalized the design and the Zaky is what you see today.

In 2004 I started offering it to other hospitals and then the nurses wanted them for their own children at home. Now the Zaky is not only used in hundreds of hospitals worldwide, but it is a favorite item for baby showers and healthy children at home and in child-care. The Zaky is also used to comfort and help special needs children of any age, and children that have to be away from their parents even for a couple of hours or days (military families, cancer/burn patients, or children of working/traveling parents).

It is very rewarding to see how the Zakys help thousands of sick and healthy babies and their families worldwide everyday. In May, 2005 I also had the incredible honor to receive the “Motherhood: Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Texans Can! Academy. This award is presented to exceptional women to honor their commitment to the community, while keeping their privilege of being a mother as first priority.

the Zaky
has received numerous awards (Gold Award by the Family Review Center, one of the Iparenting Media’s Best Products Award in the Gift Category, etc.) because the Zaky “stood out as one that deserved great admiration, for its distinct design, appeal, and purpose”.

By far, the largest reward is the opportunity I have every day to see my child’s eyes and smile. What a blessing!! From the Zakys, the biggest reward is to receive emails, letters, pictures, and phone calls from mothers and nurses thanking me for creating the Zaky and telling me how the Zaky has touched their
lives. I also receive emails from moms whose babies unfortunately have died, and one that stands out and that made me cry is from a mother that told me that she buried her baby with one Zaky (symbolizing that a part of her will always be with her baby) and that she kept the other because it had the scent of her her baby and it was the item that helped them feel close to each other.

Q: To what or to whom do you credit this beauty?
God and health care professionals that saved my child’s life, the strength/support/patience/encouragement and love of my husband, my love for my child, the nurturing, compassion and tenacity traits that I learned from my mother, my uncle’s generosity, all paired with my hard work, perseverance, and even some
stubbornness(!).

My mother, a PhD herself, promised me that someday I would understand the purpose of the sacrifices I made to achieve my goal of receiving a PhD in engineering (like spending long nights and weekends studying instead of having fun with my friends) and of each lesson I learned working in engineering and construction of refineries and power plants learning about projects. And as much as I “hate” to admit it —- MOM: YOU WERE RIGHT!!

All gave me a solid foundation and God helped me put everything together to help babies and families and those caring for both.

Q: What advice or wisdom do you wish to share with others having been though this experience?
A couple of things come to mind:
- Information is power. Read, learn, ask, study, look for answers and it will empower you in ways that you won’t believe!!
- Surround yourself with positive people – don’t let others drag you down.  You must take care of yourself to care for others.
- Children need their mothers, especially those experiencing pain or that are feeling unprotected. You are also your child’s voice and advocate – use that right responsibly.
- If your child is hospitalized, then be a family in the hospital. Visit, touch, pamper, and talk to your baby as much as you can. Hold him/her on your chest so she/he can feel your warmth, heart beat, breathing and voice she/he felt in the womb.
- Also, help your child and one more. It will lift YOUR spirit!

Q: If someone else reading this is going though something similar, do you have any resources to recommend they look into further for help or support?
Ask. Know when you need help or a shoulder to cry on, and ask for it.

Read. Someone has written about what you need to learn. Ask the health professionals for references.

Segregate. Use your judgment and opinions of the experts you know to learn what information is useful and what is not.

Reach. Everybody finds a different support system and different ways to cope. Find what works for you – talk to a friend, family, or find a support group.

Help. I always find time to talk to mothers/fathers that want to talk to someone that “has been there” and need someone that understands the pain and their uncertainty. It helps me tremendously to help others!

Believe. I had a small sign at my home that said: “At the end everything will be OK. If is is not OK, then it is not the end.” That helped me tremendously.

Faith. Need I say more?Award_image150x150

Heather Ledeboer

I am a Christian, wife, mom and the original founder of Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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4titude Award winner Tammie Aaron-Barada

By Heather Ledeboer | Category: 4titude Awards | Posted Saturday, August 11, 2007

Q: Please share the trial, set back or loss you have experienced:
A: We were potty training our two toddlers while I was working on my patent and writing the business plan for PottieStickers. We had just lost our 3rd child so I was very focused. The day after the World Trade Center tragedy on September 12, 2001 was when my world crashed, we found out my husband had cancer. The daily trips for radiation, doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatments resulted in placing our two toddlers in day care and in the hands of neighbors since family was over 800 miles away.  A few weeks later my husband lost his battle with cancer. God knew I could only handle two children alone I guess.  Now widowed with a handful of PottieStickers and two toddlers to raise,  I was devastated and faced with financial challenges as my husband did not have life insurance. Determined to make it, I pursued my goals in honor of my husband and for our children.  Aaron Barrada, Inc. was the first company to provide a toilet training reward system designed specifically for traveling children of today. I recognized and filled the void of today’s family-on-the-go-lifestyle toilet training. We have created a variety of products for kids: PottieStickers, PottieCD, PottiePal toilet paper holder, PottieKits, PottieCombo, PottieSong, PottieRules, PottieTime and RewardEmStickers. Additional information can be found at www.PottieStickers.com.

Q: Despite the pain you have endured, what beauty have you seen come out of this?
A: We donate a percentage of every sale from our whole product line to cancer research.  We have educated many people about on potty training issues. We have won numerous awards and last week (July ‘07) was awarded top 100 people of PA with the Entrepreneur of the Year award. Praise GOD!

Q: To what or to whom do you credit this beauty?
A: “GFW” (God, Family & Work) is printed on Tammie’s products to keep her focused on life’s priorities.  GOD is the only person to credit. Without HIM I could not have accomplished anything. HE gave me the strength and courage to continue after my husband’s death. I honestly do not remember the first 2 years. I simply threw myself into my work. Focusing on marketing, advertising and all the public relations I could get.

Q: What advice or wisdom do you wish to share with others having been though this experience?
A: Assemble a board of advisors to give you startup advice, keep you focused and on track. They will let you know when you are going sideways or going in to many directions at once.

Q: If someone else reading this is going though something similar, do you have any resources to recommend they look into further for help or support?
A: Just do it. Never wonder “what if” about anything for the rest of your life. Know that you did it. There is no such thing as failure… simple God telling you that you are going in the wrong direction because he has something greater for you in store. You just need to find it.

Tammie Aaron-Barrada  106 Valley Hi Lane, Ruffs Dale, PA 15679 USA AaronBarradaInc@aol.com 724-696-9558.

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Heather Ledeboer

I am a Christian, wife, mom and the original founder of Mom 4 Life. Now that Ashley owns Mom 4 Life, I am focusing my energies in homeschooling and asking God to use me in other areas.

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