Friday, January 30, 2009

West Nodaway FCCLA

I was honored on Wednesday with a visit from three girls from West Nodaway FCCLA, Chirstina Calfee, Shelby Fox, and Tricia Bollar. They decided to tackle the topic of drinking and driving for their competition next week and incorporated our story and the Foundation into the speech. They did their presentation for me and gave me the 236 stuffed animals and 6 coloring books they collected as part of their service project. The girls did such a good job on their speech and I wish them luck in their competition.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Butterfly Came Flitting...

A Butterfly Came Flitting...
A butterfly came flitting
Across my window pane
As if to bring a greeting
And sing to me your name
The spirit of your essence
Comes wafting back to me
Each time I see the flutter
Of butterflies in spring
They rise and fall around me
Adrift upon a breeze
Then off to do their calling
Among the cherry trees
Yet, I see your gentle smile
Each time that one draws near
And it fills my heart with longing
As I brush away a tear
For they bring such precious memories
Of a heart so kind and true
And of all the love I’m missing
That was shared between me and you
And they sing to me in motion
As they waltz across the sky
I can almost hear your laughter
Floating like a lullaby
In swirls of blue and green
I see your shining eyes
As they flutter all about me
Then flit into the skies
On painted wings of gold
To brighten up my day
They touch me with your spirit
And then they drift away
I know that you still love me
When I look into the skies
And there I see aflutter’
A dancing butterfly…
Copyright © 2007 Leria Hawkins, All Rights Reserved
Leria Hawkins

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


A scrapbook site I follow challenged us to create a page with our "Word of the Year" to help inspire us to reach our personal goals. I pondered on my word for a while, trying to decide exactly what one fit best for this point in my life. I finally chose "believe". Here is my page.

I pulled out different definitions of the word that apply to what I need to work on in my life. I have struggled with these since we lost Abby and hopefully looking at this everyday with help me in accomplishing my goals for each one. They say~

Have trust ~ I have always been a self-reliant person, so I have had to try and change my ways now and rely on other people to help me when I need it. It's been tough on some things, but I'm working on it. I realize that I am not a superhero (finally).

Accept something as true ~ This applies in different ways to my life right now. This may sound strange, but there are times I think I can open the door to Abby's room and she will be in there playing. I can just envision her sitting on the floor on her knees, playing with her Barbies, and she would spin around to look at me and say, "Hi Mommy" in her sweet little voice. I also have to accept the fact that I did my best to save us all in the accident, which is a major struggle for me still. Those that are close to me know I still blame myself everyday and practically cringe when I have to get behind the wheel with my girls in the back seat.

Think something is good ~ Not that the loss of my little girl is good, but I have to believe that letting her go to Heaven is better than how she would have been left, that would not have been fair to her. The other aspect is that we are able to make something good come from it for others, whether it be through organ donation or the Foundation.

To accept that somebody or something has a particular quality or ability ~ I am wanting to begin to function through life on my own again, not without people support, but without medication. I want to get rid of the "happy pills" and try to tackle things as "just me" again. I have to believe that I can do this. I don't want to go around crying all the time, but I don't want to feel numb either. I want to be me again. I know I may still battle depression, how can I not with my little girl gone, but I plan on giving it a try without the pills very soon.

Have religious faith ~ If this doesn't test your religious faith, I don't know what would. I admire those that cling to the cross more tightly during these times, but I just have not been able to. I still battle being angry at God.

Think that something exists ~ I have always believed in God and Heaven, but this kind of goes back to the "have religious faith" one.

So, I guess this is kind of like my resolution for the year on a personal level. Pray for me as I try to "believe" this year and hopefully can find some peace deep inside.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bagging News

It seemed like we sped through the bagging on Saturday night. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough labels printed off to put on all the coloring books, crayons, and such. We will just have to get them labeled next time. Here are a few pictures from the evening.

We also did some pretty good brainstorming and came up with some fun ideas for the Celebration. If anyone should have any ideas for us, please let us know.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Collection Donated

WOW!! Talk about a HUGE donation! Linda Smith brought us part of her beanie baby collection (she kept her bears). These amounted to over 150 beanies! We can use these because they have not been played with. They have been kept in curio cabinets and in tubs. Thanks Linda for the wonderful donation.

Do you have a collection living in a rubbermaid that you have outgrown? If so, we would love to have it if you're ready to part with it. In fact, this is how the Foundation got off the ground. My sister Becci donated her beanie baby collection of over 300 stuffed animals when we were in the start up stages of the Foundation. At the time, we had not told the public of our plans for the Abby's Hugs program and I was buying animals at Kohls when they were marked down and some other relatives and friends were bargain hunting too. It was after we had over 500 stuffed animals accumulated that we made our first donation, so you can see how important Becci's donation was.
Did you remember we're bagging tomorrow night? See you at 7.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Christmas Cuties

Look at these cute little Christmas plushes that Donna Pope found for us. She scooped them up after the holidays when they were a bargain (darn it, missed this sale). Plus, we're pretty good at "converting" animals so they no longer have to be used for a specific holiday or time of year. Like the little puppies up front, if we snip their little scarfs off, they are just puppies and can be given at any time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No Escaping the Memories

No matter what I try, I am still not able to separate someone elses traffic accident from my own. I was the second car at the stop sign on South Avenue on Friday night, waiting to pull out onto the bypass, when the car in front of me pulled out in front of another car. I just sat there watching everything like it was in slow motion, unable to move. I finally came to my senses and dialled 911. Thankfully no one appeared to be injured and I finally pulled out around the accident. The noise is what bothered me the most. It was like as soon as I heard that sound, my brain immediately transported me back to that tragic day. It felt like that same helpless feeling as I sat there in a trance, knowing I needed to help (or call for help) and not able to move. I choked back the tears as I drove home and tried to push the memory out of my head. I was so thankful that Mady was not with me because I try so hard to make her believe that accidents don't happen very often (to help her feel safe) that watching one is not what she would need. I feel like she is doing better as time goes on. She will sit by the door in the vehicle sometimes now without freaking out like before. I have fixed her hair a couple of times since school started and she has tried to on her own a few times too. I do catch her talking to Abby's pictures in the hallway, kissing her finger and placing it on Abby's cheek. She asked to keep Ripley (Abby's teddy bear) in her room to sleep with, which I agreed to (partly because I didn't want to go back into Abby's room to put him away). I know she still misses her sister, as we all do, but am glad to see parts of my Mady coming back to life.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"Homesick" by: MercyMe

You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times

And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you

But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry

Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face

If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place

Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways

The reason why, I wonder if I'll ever know

But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same

Cause I'm still here so far away from home

I close my eyes and I see your face

If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place

Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

In Christ, there are no goodbyes

And in Christ, there is no end

So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have

To see you again

To see you again

And I close my eyes and I see your face

If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place

Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Monday, January 19, 2009

From A Daughter in Heaven

From a Daughter in Heaven

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies,

She never did before.

But from now until she dies,

She'll tell a whole lot more.

Ask my Mom how she is

And because she can't explain,

She will tell a little lie

Because she can't describe the pain.

Ask my Mom how she is,

She'll say 'I'm alright.

'If that's the truth, then tell me,

why does she cry each night?"

Ask my Mom how she is,

She seems to cope so well.

She didn't have a choice you see,

Nor the strength to tell.

Ask my Mom how she is,

'I'm fine, I'm well, I'm coping.'

For God's sake Mom, just tell the truth,

Just say your heart is broken.

She'll love me all her life,

I loved her all of mine.

But if you ask her how she is,

She'll lie and say she's fine.

I am Here in Heaven.

I cannot hug from here.

If she lies to you, don't listen,

Hug her and hold her near.

On the day we meet again,

We'll smile and I'll be bold.

I'll say, 'You're lucky to get in here,

Mom,with all the lies you told.'

Friday, January 16, 2009

ANF Gives Preschool Gifts

Before school was let out on Christmas break, I visited a few preschools in the area, passing out gifts from the Foundation. The bags contained a teeny beenie stuffed animal, a mini notebook or mini crayons. The kids love looking through all the animals to find their favorite. Here are a few pictures that Mrs. White took at the all day preschool class at EFE when Mrs. Nielson and I passed out bags.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Support for a Friend

A cyber-friend of mine is experiencing the one year mark today of the loss of her little girl, which is really tough. I wanted to share the poem she posted with you. Please say an extra prayer for her to get through the day today.

I Lost My Child Today

I lost my child today

People came to weep and cry

As I just sat and stared, dry eyed

They struggled to find words to say

To try and make the pain go away

I walked the floor in disbelief

I lost my child today

I lost my child last month

Most of the people went away

Some still call and some still stay

I wait to wake up from this dream

This can't be real, I want to scream

Yet everything is locked inside

God help me, I want to die

I lost my child last month

I lost my child last year

Now people who had came have gone

I sit and struggle all day long

To bear the pain so deep inside

And now my friends just question Why?

Why does this Mother not move on?

Just sits and sings the same old song

Good heavens it has been so long

I lost my child last year

Time has not moved on for me

The numbness it has disappeared

My eyes have now cried many tears

I see the look upon your face

"She must move on and leave this place"

Yet I am trapped right here in time

The songs the same, as is the rhyme

I lost my child...............Today

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Christmas Gift

My niece Emily made a beautiful drawing of Abrielle from some of her pictures and gave it to Marc and I for Christmas. Here's the drawing.

Here are the pictures they came from...

Abrielle at 3 ~ June 2006

Abrielle at 2 ~ June 2005

Abrielle at 22 months

Abrielle at 17 months ~ December 2004

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Do you have a Foundation bracelet? Here's what they look like...

They have the Foundation logo engraved in them, with the butterfly of course.

I want to publicly thank Warren Tate for all the work he has been doing for the Foundation selling bracelets, tshirts, and educating people on the Foundation. Warren works at the Maryville Treatment Center as a correctional officer and wears his pink bracelet every day. Some of the inmates would tease him about wearing it, until he would tell them our story and what the bracelet is for. Warren has sold over 40 bracelets to fellow employees and friends. He proudly wears his pink tshirt and has started gathering orders for them too. Due to Warren's support, the inmates want to help out. We are currently working on some things they can do to help. They have made some bound notebooks and decorated the covers (journals, we'll call them) and we are going to see what other projects we can have them do. I think if our story has touched them, these men must be on their way to being reformed (unlike some inmates that don't know how to accept responsibility for their actions).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Flashback of Memories

The memories came flooding back the other night. Elly got sick in the middle of the night in her crib and woke up crying. We weren't sure if it was from a bug or the teeth she's cutting, but either way, we were up at 2:30 stripping her bed and giving her a bath. We just brought her to bed with us after that. I don't think I could even begin to count the times that we were up in the night cleaning up puke from Abby's tummy troubles. It all seemed like we were on autopilot still and had the routine down pat, even though it's been almost two years. Needless to say I didn't get much sleep with Elly in the bed and my mind thinking about Abby.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Mark Your Calendars

We are planning our next bagging on Saturday, January 24th at 7pm. We have quite a few critters to bag and things to label, but the good news is that we have a bunch of cards already decorated from last time. This should make it go a little faster. I'm not letting you get lazy though - we will still have to decorate cards that night to stay ahead. We will also be starting to plan the Celebration for this year. If you have any suggestions, ideas, comments, or whatever, we want to hear them to improve and expand on what we did last year. Such as, have any entertainment ideas or contacts, know someone with a kangaroo for the petting zoo, got some ideas for a way cool game or attraction, we want to know. I know it's 6 months away, but when we just meet once a month, we have to get cracking on it already. As we get closer, we will be looking for volunteers again to help in various places that day. Be thinking if there is something specific you want to do and we will be glad to mark you down. Thanks for all the help and we hope to see you there on the 24th.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Official Notice

It's official! We received the actual letter in the mail stating that Ryan Sundermann is scheduled for release on June 11, 2012. It does continue by saying "Please note that if the offender is scheduled to participate in the Community Release Program, Electronic Monitoring Program, Long-Term Drug Program or a Residential Treatment Program, they could be released in advance of the scheduled release date. Upon release, the remainder of the offender's sentence will be served under parole supervision. You will be notified if the offender's release date is advanced or if the offender is revoked and returned to a correctional facility." As far as we know, he is not scheduled for any of the release programs and should remain in the facility the whole time. I know we already informed everyone that his parole was denied, but the notice from that state makes it official instead of just a phone call. Speaking of that phone call, I didn't tell everyone how that went. It is an automated call with kind of fill in the blank talking. It started off by saying that the phone call was to update us on the status of offender Ryan Sundermann. It then said ...Ryan Sundermann ... is scheduled for ...release... on ...June 11, 2012. My heart was racing as I was waiting for the release date to be said and it seemed like the pause was even longer than the fill ins before it. But once I heard the date, there were just happy tears. I am working on a public thank you to put in the paper and will post it when I get it done.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sewing For Abby

I'm not sure if anyone saw the ad in the NW Tech classes insert in the Penny Press yesterday, but here's the scoop.
Saturday, February 7th
9am - 4pm
Sew For Fun
218 N Main
Join us as we make a simple stuffed animal for Abby's Hugs. Lunch will be provided. Bring your sewing machine and basic sewing supplies and spend the day with us. We not only need sewers, but people to cut fabric, stuff, and do hand embroidery. Fabric may also be donated any time between now and the 7th.
Pam Baumli has graciously offered to do this for the Foundation at her sewing store. I personally don't sew. My Mom does and so does Beth, but I have not taken the time to learn to quilt. So, I plan on stuffing or cutting! I can embroider, but it's been a while and I would feel bad if I gave the little bears and bunnies crooked eyes. So, even if you can't sew, come join me in stuffing.
I will post pictures of the cute little bears and bunnies we will be making closer to time, but mark your calendar now to come join us.

Preschool Donations Continue

The Christmas donations from the preschoolers have kept coming in. We received some more stuffed animals, coloring books, crayons, and some money. Thank you EFE preschoolers!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Venture Club

The Venture Club brought in donations from its members (10 wonderful ladies) last week. Here's what they brought...

13 cute stuffed animals3 bags of ziplocs, 2 books, 1 marker, 20 boxes of crayons, and 20 coloring books.

Thank you ladies!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Donate Life Float

Did you get to watch the Rose Parade? What a beautiful float! The float was titled, "Stars of Life". This theme was chosen because "donors and recipients of organs are true stars of life - real life stars who make the gift of life an inspiring story of courage, compassion, hope, and renewal." The float featured 34 gold star floragraph depictions, white stars representing those touched by donation, and transparent stars symbolizing those in need of donation. The large orange and yellow stars at the front of the float carried more than 1000 dedicated roses, each containing a personal message of love, gratitude, and hope to a donor, recipient, or candidate in need of a life-saving transplant. Each name and message was read in a public ceremony before the rose was placed in its individual vial. The float also won the Queen's Trophy for most effective use and display of roses in concept, design, and presentation. When I watched the parade, the float made me cry. Not sure why, I think it was just the fact that someone wanted to honor our little girl like that and her name was read to thousands.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Walmart Donates

Walmart donated $200 to the Foundation on December 22nd. I received the donation for the Foundation. Here is a picture.

They thanked us for what we are doing in the community. We thank them for their support!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Year in Review

This may be cliche to do, but I am going to overview what happened during the past year with the Foundation and our lives....

The Foundation seemed to really take off this year. Through the support and donations, Abby's Hugs was able to expand to include the hospitals in Fairfax and Albany, it was able to give books and coloring books to the Nodaway County Health Office, and the program allowed me into schools to speak about compassion. Abby's Gift was begun to help educate on organ donation and we hope it has helped people express their wishes to their loved ones. Abby's Gardens program was created and has taken the beginning steps to help EFE in their outdoor classroom. Hopefully other schools will soon be interested in help for theirs also. June brought the First Annual Celebration of Children which, despite the weather, was a wonderful, enjoyable family day and a successful fundraiser for the Foundation. The Foundation celebrated its anniversary in August, marking one year since the first donation to St Francis ER. And, of course, this blog was started to help keep everyone up to speed with what is going on.

We rang in 2008 with two girls instead of 3 like we had planned for our lives and faced many battles as we struggled through the year. The year was filled with legal battles. We spent numerous hours in the courtroom and with the attorneys as we planned for a trial in April. Then the letter came on April 1st telling us the trial had been canceled. I still have the email I sent to everyone....
The end is in sight! Trial has been cancelled...On April 28th Ryan Sundermann will change his plea to guilty to the higher manslaughter charges that carry 7 years max. On May 23rd he will be sentenced. We will enter a joint recommendation of 6 years, but the sentence will be totally up to the judge. This is the day we need everyone there. On this day we will be able to read a statement to the court. He will be sentenced that day and taken away that day. That much of all of this will be over. I can't even begin to describe the emotions today. The tears just won't stop. Mostly they are tears of happiness and relief that this stage is all but over. Our Abby will finally receive some justice and we can move on to the next steps that need to be taken. It just seems unreal and hard to say....It's over.
The year continued as Ryan Sundermann was sentenced on June 25th to 6 years. I was an emotional wreck that day as I had to read our statement to the court before sentencing. Our hearts then ached with sadness as we were informed Ryan Sundermann would be up for parole consideration in December, and we had to travel to the prison to prevent this. We, along with family and friends, read statements tearfully asking he not be released. Our Christmas gift came early as we were informed parole was denied, bringing us some relief that this battle should be over.
Everyday life was different without Abby there. We were forced to "celebrate" her birthday without her in June and marked her "Heavenly Birthday" in March. We let Mady have the pool party we had planned for a combined birthday party the year before as we tried to not deny her the enjoyment because of our pain. Our Elly turned one and learned to say Abby's name. Every holiday and event was marked with tears and pain as not a day went by without us missing our Princess. We hope that 2008 brought "closure" to some issues and that the rest will be resolved in 2009 (another trial in September).
We have only been able to make it through because of the support of family and friends. Seriously, without all of you I would still be curled up in my bed, tears flowing, having a pity party. Not saying that doesn't happen ever, but I don't think I would be able to leave and know I would not have been able to start the Foundation and grow it into what it has become so far. So, THANK YOU to everyone out there that has helped us in some way, no matter how small you may think it was.
2009~ We have some more plans for the growth and expansion of the Foundation. There are more needs that need filled and more kids that need "hugs". We plan to begin the processes to change the legal things that we have discovered need changed. We plan to start local and work up (or out) on some things. We will keep you informed as we make our progress to try and correct these issues.