Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Day To Save Olga

Dear friends,

So many of you already know this beautiful little face....

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Olga turned five last month. She has spent the last five years in an orphanage in Eastern Europe, without the love of a mommy and daddy- simply because she arrived in life exactly as God designed her. One chromosome too many, and her fate was sealed from birth.


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Sealed, because in Eastern Europe, babies who are born with Down syndrome are deemed unacceptable at birth. They are discarded as cast-offs of society, and when they turn five they leave the only home they've ever known...


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And I wish I could say that for most of these children, leaving that home means going to a place of safety, a place of happiness, a place where they would finally know the love of a family...know what it means to be cuddled or sung to or read to, tucked in at night, prayed for, loved.

Instead, they are taken to a place that most people wouldn't leave their family pet.


A place of living hell, where they will never know the tenderness of a parent, never know the security of being raised in a family, and there they will stay, one ugly, pain-filled day at a time...until they die.



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I read a post last December that stayed with me to this day. It was called from baby dolls to bedstraps.

The blog author wrote about Elizabeth, an orphan on Reece's Rainbow who had been transferred to a mental institution, waiting for a family to step forward for her. Her words still haunt me.

I wonder where she thought she was going as they led her out of the orphanage that day. Did she think that maybe it was finally her turn? That they were taking her to her forever Mommy and Daddy?

And when they instead took her inside that dreadful place, when they shaved her head and tied her to a too-small metal crib

when they turned their backs and

walked

away…



when they left her confused, terrified,

in a room where the wails of schizophrenic adults echo through the cold air

what was going through her young mind?



Did she wonder if she was being punished?



How long did she hold out hope that this was only temporary?

That any minute, they would come and take her back to the baby house

to her baby dolls and teddy bear,

to her best friend, Angelina?


Did she long to free her arms from the restraints

to cover her head with her hands to drown out

the scary noises

the scary sights

the scary smells?



That could be my Lily….


It could be your child.

And what if it were?

What if you woke up one morning

and by some hellish, twilight-zone twist of fate

your child wasn’t still tucked into that warm bed down the hall,

what if your child was trapped

across the dark sea

in that nightmare that is

the institution?

What

would

you

DO?

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. Proverbs 24:11

Elizabeth is being rescued today, thanks to the efforts of that blogging mama, and others like her.

Olga is being rescued today, thanks to so many of you...you gave so much and created such a large grant that a family was able to step forward and start the process of adoption.

The Abells have done so much already, towards rescuing Olga. I can't even imagine all the paperwork and prayer and emotion and finances that goes into an international adoption. They have done numerous fundraisers, and will continue to do so until they can bring Olga home.

Through the help of so many, a grant of over $13,000 has been raised for Olga's adoption. That grant is set aside for the final travel costs and fees that it will take to bring Olga home. It will take every penny of that and then some.

Right now the Abells are in need of raising the $7,000 that is needed to submit their dossier for Olga. Without that dossier we don't even know if Olga has been transferred yet. Here in America you just pick up the phone and ask these questions. But here in America we don't tie five year old girls to cribs to keep them from climbing out.

The Abells need to submit that dossier as soon as possible- at the very least to find out if she has been transferred already- because I know an army of prayer warriors who is going to want to know that piece of information as well. And at the very most, it could be able to hold Olga at the baby house until the Abells can rescue her. I wish I could say with certainty that she won't be transferred- truthfully we just don't know that.

Olga has been so heavy on my heart for months- friends, I want you to know that I DO trust that God has a plan here.

I prayed like crazy for a way to help the Abells. I truly believe that there is a network of people who love Olga here in blogland...a net that is woven by God and is stretching out across this blessed country we live in, and even beyond to generous hearts in other nations. I really cannot express enough how thankful I am to be a small part of what God has already done for Olga, Peter and Kareen. But I don't think our job is done.

Olga needs us.

I don't want her to spend one more forsaken day in that place than she has to.

We're not doing a giveaway here today. I don't even think we need to do one- I know so many just have a heart to help and to give, and prizes were never the real reason we all gave anyway.

So I'm just asking- for one day- for you to do whatever you could to help Olga. Whether that's $10 or $20 or even a hundred...if you are able to help raise this money for the dossier, please do so HERE... This is the Abell's chip-in.



This is the link for the Family Sponsorship Page on Reece's Rainbow...every single dollar goes to the Abell's adoption fund, and every single dollar will help.

We're calling this A Day to Save Olga, because there are about 17 of us blogging mamas and one blogging grandpa who have set aside this day to blog, post on Facebook, pray, give and spread the word to SAVE OLGA.

Will you help us?

I know you will:)

Love,

Patti

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our Little Cheerleader

Dearest Lily,

Tonight was a first for you...

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..your first Beaver's basketball game!!

We got you all dressed up in your OSU cheerleader's outfit...

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...and you knew just what to do!!

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You were mesmorized by that sea of orange and black...

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...and you had so much fun with your biggest brother Jason....

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Mackenzie had four tickets, so she took Jason, Josiah, Mama and you. You loved the noise, the game, the fans, but most of all....

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...THE POPCORN!!!

I think you ate half the bucket.

I had so much fun with you ...I think I enjoyed watching you more than I did watching the Beavers lose almost beat the Bears!


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We were winning the entire first half.

Wait- is it "halves" in basketball? Or is that just football? (Shhhh...Mama's an ex-cheerleader- we don't know the rules, we just scream when our team is winning!)

I know exactly why we started losing in the second half.

The Beavs lost their best cheerleader....

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You were pretty worn out with all the excitement of everything.

Sissy and I thought you were the sweetest cheerleader there...even in your sleep...

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When we got home, you decided to show the rest of your siblings what a great cheerleader you were...


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Okay, so maybe we need to work on your moves a little more, but I think you have the "cute" part down!!

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I love you, baby girl!!

Always yours,

Mama oxox

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Learned Something About Down Syndrome Today Too

Dearest Lily,

Yesterday I read a very honest and insightful blog post about one man's encounter with a girl who has Down syndrome. It was called Today I learned Something About Down Syndrome.

Here is what I read, (and I am using this with the author's permission)...


I'm sitting at Starbucks (that's a worldwide chain of coffee shops), checking email, making phone calls, "sipping my triple tall non-fat latte," and thinking about the fact that people with Down Syndrome make me uncomfortable.

My fear is that if I make eye-contact with a Down Syndrome person they will talk to me, I won't understand them, and then I'll feel embarrassed. (Yes Virginia, this phobia is "all about me")
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Lily, in all honesty, when I read those first two paragraphs...I cringed a bit.

Before I had you, I never thought twice about saying "Down syndrome child" or "Downs baby". Now I find myself a little defensive when I hear or read those words..I never really "got" people-first language until I had you. I am not a huge fan of political correctness- I think if we continue to ban certain words, people will just find new distasteful words to replace them. Changing words isn't as effective as changing hearts. Having said that- words do make me, as a parent, feel a certain way. Hearing someone refer to you as "a Down syndrome child" honestly does- right or wrong- make me feel like people think of you as less than human. As in- there are baby girls, and baby boys...and then there are "Downs babies." Like you are in a category all by yourself, somehow...sub-human.

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When in reality, you are a beautiful, healthy, and adored baby girl..who happens to have Down syndrome. Which is why I changed the way I say things after I had you- not because I am such a big fan of political correctness, but because of how I personally feel when I read or hear those words. I would not say "so-and-so is a cleft-palate child"...he is a child who has a cleft palate. Just as you are not a Down syndrome baby. You are a baby... who has Down syndrome.


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I continued reading that article yesterday, because I really did want to remember what it was like to be someone who was not well aquainted with Down syndrome. Because it wasn't that long ago that I was just as unfamiliar with what an extra chromosome means in real life...


So this particular Starbucks employs a young woman who has Down Syndrome. (I was going say "is afflicted" or "is a victim" of Down Syndrome, but my lack of knowledge of this syndrome leaves me wondering if "afflicted" or "victim" are appropriate descriptions.)

And I realized that much of my defensiveness of you, Lily, and your extra chromosome, is because I truly don't want people to see you as afflicted with anything. And while I really do believe that children with Down syndrome are "more alike than different"...in reality there are a host of issues, physical and mental and even societal, that set you apart.

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The young woman's job is to dust, sweep the floor, clean the display case, bus the tables, and water the plants. She goes about her business with extreme diligence and a broad smile.

So I was sitting there working on a quote for a customer, when my fear became a reality. The relative quiet of the establishment was broken with the words, "So how are you doing today?" I glanced up to see the beaming young woman looking right at me. With a small amount of anxiety I replied, "I'm doing great. How are you?"


In reality, I just can't get around the fact that people might be uncomfortable around you some day. I can do my very best to shield you from that, and hide the hurt that comes, like an arrow to my heart- when I see the pity in someone's eyes who recognizes that you have Down syndrome. I can pretend not to notice when someone asks how you're doing, with a hint of pity in their voice...when everything in me wants to yell, "Lily is fine! She's happy and wonderful and a blessing and we love her and really- she's not a victim!"


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I went on to read...

It seems impossible but her smile got even bigger. "I'm great too but thank God it's Friday." With that she waved and walked off to continue dusting the Tazo Tea display.

"Thank God it's Friday?" Did she really just say "Thank God it's Friday?" Does that mean that there's a discernible difference between this day and any other day in her life? That perhaps a Saturday spent with family or friends, or by herself, is an appealing alternative to working her shift at Starbucks?

Does this mean that she doesn't just meander her way through the day oblivious to what's going on around her? She has good days and bad days... not just "days?"



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I am beyond guilty of not understanding the nuances of life that a person with Down Syndrome experiences. It never occurred to me that she would have a thought like "Thank God it's Friday." I assumed that every day was the same for her and others with Down Syndrome. In my ignorant mind they seem blissfully disconnected from the challenges of day-to-day life.


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I realized at that moment that I know nothing about Down Syndrome and I let my fear and assumptions dictate how I would interact with people like her.

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She walked back to me, carrying a tray of Dixie Cups. This time I noticed her name tag: Stephanie.

"Would you like to try a Caramel Apple Spice?"

"Sure." She stood, waiting for me to taste the drink. I did. I didn't like it.

"How is it," she asked?

Up until about five minutes ago I would have avoided telling her the truth, fearful that I might hurt her feelings or confuse her.

"Actually Stephanie, it's too sweet for me."

"Yeah, too sweet. I don't like them either." She strolled over to the next customer. "Would you like to try a Caramel Apple Spice?" She points at me. "He thinks they're too sweet."


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Stephanie walked back to me with a look of slight embarrassment. "My name isn't Stephanie. It's Amber. I left my apron home and had to borrow Stephanie's."

I'm glad that I met Amber. Maybe now I will ignore preconceived ideas that are based on nothing other than vague, uninformed impressions, and realize that the Ambers of the world, just like me, can't wait until the weekend arrives.

Or maybe I'll just continue to meander through the day, oblivious to what's going on around me. I have a lot more practice doing that.

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So today I learned that we have a long way to go as a society. We've come so far- it wasn't too long ago that moms were placing their children with Down syndrome in institutions, fully believing that they were doing what was best. But we still have a long way to go, as far as changing perceptions about our children...because honestly, I could very easily have been that person in a Starbucks a little over a year ago.

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And even though I knew that termination was never an option for me, when we were told during my pregnancy about the possibility of you having Down syndrome- I still had to come to grips with the uncomfortableness of it all.

Yet all it took, to shake those preconceived notions of what it meant to have a baby born with Down syndrome...was you.

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This morning I looked at my feedjit to see who was coming to visit you. As always, there are visitors from all over the United States, and some from around the world as well. And as always there were words that caught my eye....words that revealed one fearful mama's heart- and I'm assuming she just received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome..

Iceland arrived from google.com on "A Perfect Lily" .. by searching for Which doctor must i go to to have abortion?.


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Although those words pained me, they also gave me hope...because while that mama was searching for an end to what she perceived as suffering...she stumbled across you- a perfect Lily.

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And while I don't know if that encounter- with your beautiful face and the words of our dear friend Courtney underneath ...

Our children arrived exactly as they were designed. They are a direct and unmistakable gift from God. He has given us children capable of copious amounts of unconditional love because we haven't been open to receiving the more indirect ways He's been showering it on us for the previous years of our lives.

...was enough to change her mind- I pray it was.

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Because I do know it made an impact on this mama...

Hi Patti,

I just wanted to send you a quick e-mail letting you know that I used the Courtney Heigele quote you have on the top of your blog in a comment I wrote on a Norwegian blog. The blog is written by a young mom of a gorgeous little boy with Ds, and the post I had to reply to was about the debate currently going on in Norway about ultrasound in week 12 of the pregnancy. Every pregnant woman in Norway gets called in for a free ultrasound in week 18 to check that the baby is healthy in the womb. The debate now is that it is possible to detect illness earlier in the pregnancy so that it is possible to have a medical abortion before the pregnancy progresses further. This is a sensitive subject, and there are public voices that are negative and not well thought through. The lack of compassion and empathy upsets and scares me, and that was why I felt compelled to comment in support of diversity in the society and I rememebered the beautiful quote I had read on your blog and included it in my comment.

I'm sorry if it seems weird to receive an e-mail from a woman in Norway, but I just felt like I had to send you an e-mail letting you know that your blog is read up here too, and that I'm thankful for the way that you make a difference with your words and kind heart.

Sincerely,

Kjersti Storrø-Trana (a 30 year old mom of a soon-to-be two year old boy with "only" 46 chromosomes who has had her heart and eyes opened thanks to the www!)




as well as this mama from Vancouver, British Columbia...


Hi Patti:

I hope my email reaches you.

I stumbled upon your blog by reading a post that Roger Fallihee wrote. A friend had posted it on her Facebook page and somehow or another, I ended up reading your blog. I honestly thank God and the stars and the universe that I found your letter to Lily.

I have a daughter, who is 9 months and she was born with mosaic down syndrome.

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Your letter touched me so deeply because it is EXACTLY how I have been feeling and EXACTLY how my husband is with our dear Kaitlyn. She is Daddy's girl. She spent nearly 6 weeks in the NICU at our Children's Hospital. I won't go into all the details, but it was hard and I know you understand. It's just nice to come across other Moms who "get it" and don't pile on the "oh, I'm sure everything will be fine" story. Kaitlyn is teaching me soooo many magical things and I adore her, but there are still days that I grieve or feel sad; and not everyone understands those emotions.

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I just wanted you to know that I'm another Mom who is so very thankful for your honesty. God has worked his magic again... just when I needed it most.

Take care,

Heather


And so, dearest Lily, today I learned something about Down syndrome as well...

I learned that it doesn't always take a lot to change how people view a person with Down syndrome. It doesn't necessarily take a lot of money, or education or effort. Sometimes - for the open hearted- all it takes is one simple encounter.

Whether that's with a diligent employee named Amber, who has a smile that lights up a room, or with a beautiful and perfect Lily...

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We're going to change the world, one heart at a time.

Love always,

Mama oxox

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

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And a little plug for my family blog, Notes From Home....

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Commercial Break

Lily's blog was featured here... (apparently they feature different blogs each hour)


Vote For Use @ Top Mommy Blogs

She is # 1 in the Special Needs category and #14 overall. Thank you for voting! (edited to add- your CLICK on the above picture IS your vote!)

If you would like to rate Lily's blog. click here...
Rate My Blog @ Top Mommy Blogs

Thank you!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Announcing Peter's Family!!

Dear Friends,

Please meet Peter's family...The Kehm's!!

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Cam and Julie have 2 children, Kai and Lilah. If you are new here, the fact that Julie found Peter, through a reader of this blog (my friend, Christie from BabyCenter.com!) is nothing short of a miracle.

Back up to a few weeks ago. Actually, back up to January 11th...I had asked Andrea Roberts, founder of Reece's Rainbow, to give me the name of a child to advocate for. I asked her to give me the name of the most desperate child that was on her heart.

She gave me Peter.

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When I saw Peter's profile- I'm just being honest here...my heart sank a little. This precious little guy had so many health issues on top of Down syndrome...I knew my faith was going to be stretched.


Here's what I read:

Peter is a darling little boy with brown hair and brown eyes. He has so much to bring to a family, but he was born with multiple challenges in addition to his Down syndrome. From his medical records: severe delay of stato-motor development, congenital heart disease(ventricular septal defect with high degree of pulmonary hypertension), condition after closing of patent ductus arteriosus and coning of pulmonary artery, retinal angiopathy, farsightedness, nystagmus

Peter needs a family right away, so his medical complications can be addressed by US physicians, and he can finally begin to live life as he should! Please give Peter this opportunity!!


Can you see why I thought finding a family might prove to be a difficult challenge?

Turns out it wasn't so difficult for God.

See, I serve a BIG God- one who is mighty to save.

He knew it was going to take an extra special family to save Peter.

One who is fully equipped to get the very best medical attention Peter will need. One who was familiar with Down syndrome, to help him get the therapy he needs- he has a lot of years to make up for... years spent in a crib. God knew this little boy was going to need someone trained in helping kids with health issues...someone who had a heart of gold....someone like Julie.

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So guess what God did?

Julie is a nurse in the NICU at Texas Children's Hospital, which is the largest free-standing children's hospital in the country. That medical center includes the premier heart institute in the US....as well as a school that is geared primarily for children with Down syndrome. That school staffs therapists that work with the children daily, and Julie's son Kai (who also shares Peter's extra chromosome) is on the waiting list to attend there....because it's that good.


Are you crying yet? Cuz I am.

God...You are so good.

But there's more to the story...

I have a friend in the Down syndrome group on BabyCenter.com. Her name is Christie, and she has three boys, one of which has Ds. Christie also follows my blog, and she has a huge heart for the kids on Reece's Rainbow. She's one of those people who is such a cheerleader- you just want her on your side if you're going to do crazy things like raise $15,000+ grant money for kids with special needs and multiple health issues.

Christie went a little crazy during my Pure Love giveaway.

She emailed everybody she could think of, asking them to consider adopting Peter. One of those friends was Julie.... and here we are today.

Here's an excerpt from an email Christie sent me... (after I found out Julie was adopting Peter, I emailed Christie to tell her she did it!)


Nah, God did it, I was just a gal with a heart on fire for Peter. I love him. I DO. I would have loved to have had him here with us.

I was nearly fanatical. I could NOT stop myself from posting, blogging, emailing. *wash, rinse, repeat* LOL
I promise I have never in my life prayed like I did that night, not even before my momma passed away I did not pray like I did that night. I begged and pleaded til my heart was nearly empty that I would wake and someone would claim Peter. I cried and wept, praying until I fell asleep.

I had no idea it would be someone I know and love.

But I have to say, Thank You to you Patti, if not for your efforts for all three children I would never have been so convicted to help Peter.


So when Christie emailed Julie...she opened the email, saw Peter's face and immediately knew she was looking at her son. Here are Julie's words...

I didn’t read the rest of the email until much later; instead I woke my husband up at 2:30 a.m. to show him the picture of Peter. I told him I found our son, and it was time for us to adopt. The next morning we contacted Reece’s Rainbow requesting information on how to begin the adoption process. There never really was a ‘discussion’ of whether we should do this or not. We knew this was our son and that our life was leading us down this path to our next child.

Julie emailed me tonight to tell me some more incredible news....


I found out that the hospital I work at also has an International Adoption Pediatric Health Center. I never knew such an animal existed! And I am thrilled that my hospital has one. They will assist us from trying to muddle through his medical records before he gets here, to vaccines for us before we and a medicine kit to take and Peter will go straight there. Im so excited!

You know those infommercials where they keep adding stuff to the product, that was already a great price to start with...and then the announcer says, "But wait, there's more!" Well, here I go...

BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!! :)


Right in the middle of my little giveaway, Christie sent me an email asking if I could advocate for Alexander- a precious little boy on Reece's Rainbow who had just been transferred from his orphanage to a mental institution. When I saw a video of Alexander, taken just before he was transferred to a mental insitituion, my heart literally broke.





You can read more about what happened in detail, HERE on Christie's blog...

In a nutshell- she fell in love with Alexander in the process of trying to find a family for him. She asked her husband (you just have to read how she asked him- I love this girl!) and now guess where you'll find Alexander?

On the My Family Found Me page on Reece's Rainbow.

With Christie and her husband listed right there under his sweet little face.

How's that for miraculous???

SO, if you want to follow the Kehm's journey to adopt Peter, go HERE...and please tell them how loved and prayed for they are. Peter has $15,347 in his grant fund ...the Kehm family still needs help raising the rest of the money for his adoption, so please consider helping them!

Julie sent me two pictures of Peter that she received...taken just last week...

And yes, I cried when I saw them:)

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Is he not the cutest little thing you've ever SEEN???!!! (thank you so much Julie- I'm going to Texas some day, dangit! Get ready!)

If you want to follow Alexander's adoption story, please go HERE. They could use some help bringing their son home as well!

So now I'm looking at that little clock in the bottom right hand corner of my computer monitor and...SURPRISE! It's 12:37. Who says mamas of ten need sleep??

I'm going to bed a happy woman!!