“We have two choices when a situation happens to us; we have the ability to react or to respond. Both look very different and absolutely define the outcome.”
CHAPTER 1 – Falling Stars and Frogs
I was browsing the internet and came across an article about the Perseid Meteor showers. A friend had mentioned the event but what I didn’t realize is that peak viewing hours had just started. The timing was perfect. I immediately grabbed my over-sized fluffy pink bathrobe and made my way to the covered porch, just outside my bedroom.
I tried to view the night sky from the porch stairs, but I couldn’t see much, so I decided to lay down on the cool driveway. I was in the “arms behind your head – legs crossed at the ankle” pose. After some time went by, without a meteor in the sky, it was time to reposition. I was determined to make a memory of that night. Shooting stars had always meant so much to me. My Papa told me that shooting stars should always stay in pockets because then they’ll never fade away. It wasn’t until I heard the song come through the radio in his Oldsmobile, that I fully understood and believed him. I was young and impressionable, as we all were at 10yrs of age.
A good amount of time had passed, still with no meteor in sight. I wasn’t ready to give up, though. Still laying on the driveway, I switched positions and as I did, I hear this… deep groaning sound. I thought it could have been my stomach but because my imagination runs 100mph all the time, I envisioned several different “animal eats human” scenes. I shrugged my shoulders and continued to lay there, patiently waiting to see movement among the stars.
Moments later… I hear the groaning sound again! It sounded the same but a bit louder and deeper. Whatever it was, it had to be close. I sat up, grabbed my phone and turned on the flashlight. I looked left, nothing. I looked right, nothing. I twisted to look back behind me and there it was…
I was laying on a HUGE frog…thee… entire… time.
I think I did about three back flips, a front handspring and seven cartwheels. I most likely beat the world record in long jump, also. I was so shaken that I probably looked like a baby giraffe in a pink bathrobe, trying to walk for the first time as I ran up the stairs and back into my room. It was a miracle that I didn’t break my face. Once I was able to regulate my heart beat and actually breathe, I went to check on the frog. He was still alive.
Thank goodness for my Papa, his wisdom and those song lyrics. I was content knowing that the shooting stars from my childhood were still in my pockets and that they would never fade away. Therefore, I didn’t need to spend any more time laying in the driveway in the middle of the country with a frog beneath the small of my back. I never wore the bathrobe again, it was time for it to retire.
You’ll begin to see a pattern in my life, where very random situations happen to me. Some that will make you laugh, some that will make you cry, and some that will do both. Some of the stories that I share will be difficult to read because it touches you personally and some may even seem insignificant to you and your life. However, you may think of someone who needs a dose of hope and encouragement relating to the chapters content. My hope is that you enter each chapter with an open mind and leave each chapter with new and different perspective, one that has the ability to uplift yourself and others.
I believe in vulnerability and transparency. I value it. In high school, we learned “transparent, translucent and opaque”. The teacher used saran wrap, wax paper and aluminum foil as examples. If I asked you which one you believe you were, which would it be? Some of us are comfortable sharing our lives and the stories that shape it, more than others. One trait is not more important than the other and neither are wrong. It just happens that I fall into the saran wrap category of sharing. Saran wrap is also very clingy, which I have a tendency to be, also (out of love, of course). When I meet new people, I want to know everything about them. I want to know what makes them feel valued and how I can encourage them. The tin foil people out there don’t necessarily appreciate my approach and I’m okay with that. Whether you’re tin foil, wax paper or saran wrap, I’ll love you all just the same.
The hesitation in sharing any part of a personal story, is the confidence factor. Both, the ability to have confidence to share and the ability to trust others to exercise confidence in keeping it to themselves. One promise that I made to myself and that I’m making to you; I will not share anything that will bring another human down. I will not spend time defaming someone because they offended me, or I them. Obviously, most life experiences (whether good or bad) require more than one person to be involved. In this book, no names will be shared if it has the potential to harm. Forgiveness has already been extended, all slates have been wiped clean. As I share, please do not wish ill harm on anyone. That’s not why I’m writing and sharing my heart with you.
In addition, I decided to include “The Red Line” into my book. Some of the content I share will be difficult to read. If there is a sensitive and/or disturbing section within a chapter, I will include a red line before and after the section. If you want to read it all, go ahead. If you feel the content may be too difficult or if you feel it may trigger you, please skip ahead. I will be sure to share enough information before and after the red line, for you to have enough information to understand the story. I care about and want to be sensitive to you. Life is hard enough and the last thing I want to do is cause more stress. If a repressed memory or current situation is being poked at as you read, reach out to me personally and I will do my best to connect you with resources to work through your struggle. Whether it be through online counseling or through a local (to your area) life coach or therapist, I will do my best to help you get the support you need. Just know that my intention is to love on you, to encourage you, to bring you hope, to share new perspectives, and to even make you laugh. It is never to harm.
My name is LeeAnn “Lee” Babirad, also known as; Babs, Knockers, Baduh, and Linebacker. Each nickname has it’s own story, which you will learn throughout the book. I want to start out by saying that I’m a terrible reader and struggled with grammar and English. My reading comprehension level, when last tested, was fifth grade. It’s difficult for me to read a book and explain what I had just read, let alone a short article – I still struggle. However, I do love to write! I’ll also admit that I’m broke and couldn’t afford a professional editor. Therefore, ignore my overuse of comma’s and confusion with apostrophes. I’m trying. You’ll just get the real and raw version of Lee when it comes to content AND grammar.
I’ve always enjoyed art, physical education and computer classes. I thrived in athletics and public speaking, volunteer activities and any hands-on building/creating. My desire to write a book did not stem from believing I had the ability to, but because I recognized the need that we humans need to share our lives and the stories that have helped shape us. Writing seemed like a great challenge and it came at a time in my life when I needed to find a way to encourage and be encouraged.
I live in Western New York. I’ve lived across the country while in the military and while being married. I’d have to say that living near Chicago (military) was my favorite. San Diego (military and marriage) was amazing because my physical aliments didn’t suffer. The weather wasn’t so bad, either. The rainstorms, although infrequent, were amazing. And then came… Iowa (marriage). That was my least favorite state to reside because it was so outside of what I was used to. Although I met some really great people, I just didn’t “fit in”. The cost of living was significantly lower, which released a lot stress compared to those who live in certain other cities across the US. It blows my mind how one thing can cost ten dollars in Iowa but thirty dollars in New York. I don’t understand why but I’m really not interested in knowing why, either.
While driving from Omaha, Nebraska to a town my in-laws lived in just south of Sioux City, we passed many corn fields. Many, no… we drove passed an insane amount of corn and soy fields. I called my father to let him know we made it to Iowa but thought I’d explain to him what I saw for the first time. “Dad, The machines out here are so big! I just saw a columbine, it was huge”! I heard my father and my husband start laughing immediately. I was confused, why were they laughing? My father corrects me and asks, “You mean, a combine”? Aye-yi, a girl from Western New York visiting Iowa, I had a lot to learn. Oops!
I was able to live in, and adapt to, the many different “worlds” within the United States. Each had their own personalities and each of the cities helped me understand my character and personality even more. When I moved back to New York in 2007, I knew that life was going to change. It had to. (I can’t wait to share that chapter with you!)
I currently live in Clarence, NY with a roommate and my two puppers, Willow and Meadow. Willow, a nine year old shepherd/hound mix, has been my best friend. We all have a pet in our lifetime that we know another animal just couldn’t come close to replicating. I refer to her a lot in this book. Meadow, a one and a half year old shepherd/hound mix, has been my heartbeat… and headache. She is my tester, my stubborn child. I did question whether she was going to be a good match for me, as she is being trained for Service Dog. Thankfully, the last six months have been wonderful with her. I thought she was lacking in obedience when really, she wasn’t being challenged to her ability and would act out. Once I recognized that and made some changes, she began to thrive and appreciated the challenges. Willow and Meadow, they are the reason I get up every morning. Aside from needing to go to the bathroom and eat food, they hold me accountable. If it weren’t for them, I would truly be suffering. There is nothing that comes close to the unconditional love of a pet. Willow and Meadow are my sunrise and sunset. I couldn’t imagine life without them.
For those who know me personally, you know how my life took a turn about five years ago. For those who are meeting me for the first time, bare with me through this paragraph. I was a happy and overall healthy woman until a few years ago. I dive into everything in a later chapter but I’d like to share the why and how of why I was able to write this book. Since 2015; forth heart procedure, thymectomy, hysterectomy, bladder sling surgery, majory knee surgery (LCL replacement, ACL reconstruction, MCL repair), IVIG infusions every 2 weeks (most resulting in hospitalization or ER visits for moderate to severe reactions). I was diagnosed with CVID (Common Variable Immune Deficiency) and MG (Myasthenia Gravis) – basically means I don’t produce antibodies to fight infections and my voluntary muscles fatigue very quickly (swallowing, speaking, seeing, breathing). I’ve had several MRSA infections, frequent upper respiratory infections and (as of August 2019) I’ve battled 4 blood infections. I need a fifth heart procedure and a knee replacement.
I went from being an active athlete and social guru, to a bubble girl who relies on social media and facetime to connect with humans. This is another reason why Willow and Meadow have become so important in my life. This is what has given me the time, and drive, to write a book. Just a side note; after this book, I have the next two lined up. I also have three childrens books in the works called “Kindness Kazoo”, “Inky Blotz” and “SubZero, The Deepsea Heroes”. If I could make illustrating and writing my full time gig, I absolutely would.
Before I got sick, I started a project called “The AOK Project”. It was a new social media network for kindness. I had the website developed, The AOK Cards printed, an apparel line printed, and letters ready to go out to local schools to implement the project into the hearts and minds of middle and high schoolers. I spent my entire settlement (from a car accident) on the project, as well as all resources I had saved. Unfortunately, the sudden health struggles had paused the project and I was left battling for a quality of life. Although I “lost” every penny, I will never regret starting the project. One day, I will be able to resurrect the project and with as much enthusiasm as the day it started. Kindness is my first language. It’s my passion and purpose. I’ve never loved something more than I’ve loved The AOK Project and kindness overall.
I’m a relational creature. I always have been. Here’s a fun fact; I received the “Teacher’s Pet” award as a high school senior. Now, most may think the award would have been embarrassing or pathetic. Spending time with adults and teachers gave me the ability to receive mature wisdom. I learned more from personal conversations with them than I did my own peers. The majority of my peer to peer relationships happened during athletics and volunteering.
Mrs. Morris asked me to attend a leadership camp in 1998 (I was 14, in the 9th grade) called CHALLENGE camp. I had never attended a camp like that before but was honored to have been selected and thought it would be a unique opportunity to meet new friends. That camp was a sling-shot for me, moving forward. I knew that it was my “calling” and I ended up joining other initiatives across the state that I was heavily involved with; CHALLENGE, H.E.L.P, Reality Check, Youth United in ACTion, ACT for Youth, Student Ambassador for the Erie County Sherrifs Dept, United Way (I was the first youth member on the board), SADD. I received many leadership awards, community service awards and honors. Positive Youth Development became such an important cause in my life that I knew I needed to make it a lifelong promise. Igniting hope and passion in youth had, and always will be, a passion of mine.
I decided to attend Hilbert College for Human Services and Psychology to follow my dream of becoming a psychologist. I wanted to learn everything and anything about the human mind so I could move forward in helping youth develop into amazing humans. I was recruited to play Softball (Thank you, Jesse Rosenhahn), too. Of course, softball wasn’t enough, so I joined the Volleyball team as well. I held the record at Hilbert for batting average for many years, for all I know I still do. College went well until I started hanging out with the wrong people and ended up not being able to attend the college after that year. Again, another story for another chapter.
I’m a photographer, graphic and web designer, a videographer and social media content creator and manager. I went from working with the developmentally and mentally disabled/abled and behavioral youth (my all-time favorite), to full-time creative, working from home. Sure, due to the medical challenges, I could go on permanent disability but I’m just not ready for that. Mostly, because although I’ve battled an unreasonable amount of medical challenges, I’ve still wanted to work. The desire to work and the stubbornness behind it is much stronger than (most probably) the need to rest and survive. If there is a chance for me to go into remission, which the doctors say there is in regards to the MG, then I’m willing to wait a while longer. Freelancing has given me the ability to make my own schedule and take on clients as I feel able to. On the flipside, freelance means financial instability. The past four years have been mentally and financially challenging but also very rewarding. Being able to help design logos and brand a company, photograph moments and develop social media strategies have all been amazing. If I could work for free the rest of my life, helping others identify their purpose in whatever industry they work, I would. But, apparently, we need to work and make money to survive.
Outside of working from home, I dabble in all things creative. This brain of mine needs constant exercising and painting, coloring, molding, etc. I purchased an old-school screen printing machine to get my “BE KIND” t-shirts out into the world again. I’m looking forward to warmer weather to get that machine up and running. I’d love to see every student, health care worker, company executive, restaurant worker, and armed forces hero (basically every human on the planet) to sport the “BE KIND” look. Whether it be a shirt from my project or someone elses, the Be Kind message is universal and one of the best reminders to wear. It’s one of the most important, personal, life-purposes that I strive to implement into my daily life… be kind and love big.
One of my favorite chapters is about Sierra Leone, West Africa while on a missions trip through Global Outreach International. I was tasked with photographing and videoing the three week trip and to bring home a story (in video form) to be used for promotional and educational purposes. Let me tell you, I learned so much about myself and faith. What I wouldn’t give to have good health, so I can return to Mokanji and hear the children call me “Shugah” again.
Some of the hardest chapters I share is about marriage, the military, and getting fired from a church. These three experiences turned out to be my life earthquakes. They’ve shook and shattered me and forced me to reevaluate so many things.
The frog, at the beginning of this chapter… I’ve felt like that little guy so many times throughout life; sat on, restricted, pressure, unheard, unnoticed, etc. Life can be vicious and unfair. It can be exhausting. It can also be amazing, full of lessons, love and life. We have two choices when a situation happens to us; we have the ability to react or to respond. Both look very different and absolutely define the outcome. It took me many years to differentiate between the two. As you read my story, as you allow me to encourage and love you, as you laugh with me and ask “she did what?!”, my hope is that I can help YOU to find your purpose and that you also learn to live ON purpose. You are valuable, significant and amazing. That, is the truth.
End of Chapter 1. Chapter 2 release date: 4.26.2020
LeeAnn Babirad went to college and never finished. She joined the military and was kicked out. She got married and then divorced. She even failed at attempted suicide and got fired from working at a church.
Lee takes you on a journey through real life rough terrian experiences and leads you to the place where she learned how healthy perspective, radical love and an unyielding hope can squash any trial or tradgedy.
“LOVE BIG” is being released in an untraditional way. A chapter will be released every Monday and Friday evening. There is a group page set up here if you’d like to join the discussion and have live Q&A with the author.