The Samantha Years

I Have a Dream

I sometimes forget when the working world has a national holiday….

I also sometimes hold full-length conversations with myself. Today I was remembering the national holiday and talking to myself….

9:00 this morning I remembered it was Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Quite a man. Do you know he was only 39 when he was assassinated?

I turned 39 on Saturday. I certainly don’t feel old. I always thought powerful, thoughtful people had to be older than I am….someone with a couple more years under their belt. I certainly don’t feel empowered enough to move mountains, people and ideas the way MLK did. Perhaps I need to get a move on.

So what is your dream? My little voice said this morning over a cup of Starbucks.

Oh, for Samantha to be happy and healthy

Phhhhffffff…she’s happy and healthy now. Really, if you could shoot for the moon, what would it be?

So I shot for the moon….We would be able identify the mutated gene, the one causing all of the problems. And doctors would fix that gene; either through stem cells or some other sort of therapy. And Samantha would be fine. She would walk. She would talk. That nasty mutation would be fixed. That, is my dream. I have a dream And I felt so idealistic for even voicing that thought.

And then my little voice said Many of those people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial who heard Dr. King make that empowering speech in 1963 never thought a black man could be president only 46 years later. They never thought a country could change so much. That dream, like your dream, was beyond their comprehension.

This is why I enjoy my talks with my little voice.

And even though my dream is so very different from what was discussed on those steps in 1963, it is still a dream, a hope, it is about looking forward, change, about expecting more from people-kind. It is about not giving up and believing in what seems impossible and so very far away.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back. MLK 1963

Because we all have a dream.

The Samantha Years

Pat, God and Haiti

Haiti has been on my mind. Haiti has probably been on your mind too. I have tried to put my feeling to words but sometimes things are just too awful to verbalize.

So I have said nothing.

But then Pat Robertson said something….putting words to my emotions.

In case you missed it, Pat said the Haitian earthquake was “God’s punishment for Haitian slaves’ ‘pact with the devil’ to win freedom from France.”

Instead of sorrow, I felt rage, disbelief, horror and embarrassment. The Christian Science monitor stated that his remarks “got the usual chuckles of disbelief among local intelligentsia about American culture.”

Boo, hiss, Pat.

I gathered my rotten eggs in retaliation. I came up with poopie-head names to call him. I started to throw my stones. And then my smart friend Renee posted this on Facebook; A Response to Pat Robertson’s Comments about Haiti. I read Don Miller’s forgiving, intelligent post and lowered my eggs.

When Samantha got sick, I used to comment that we must have done something in a past life to anger the Karma gods. . I would think, why us? Where was God in the ICU?

And then I discovered that God was not in the seizures or the sickness, not in the sadness. God was in what we discovered from our hard times; the people in our lives, the amazing doctors, the ability to tell our story, our fight for Samantha and others. God was in our ability to keep loving and be loved.

God is not in this earthquake; not in the overwhelming death and destruction. God is in the doctors who fly in for 20 hour triage missions. God is in the small miracles that we hear about day by day. God is in the outpouring of aid to this poor nation.

This is not my sermon. People who know me know that I am far, far from a Saint. This is my speech, for myself, to keep me from throwing rotten eggs at Pat.

I want to say I feel sorry for a man whose spirituality is embedded in guilt, blame, hell fire and brimstone but I can’t. His words are too damaging. Instead I will search for the good and compassion in people trying to help. We will make a donation to help the people in Haiti and I will put down my stinky eggs.

Too bad…I was hoping to clean out my refrigerator.

The Samantha Years

The Cream

Some days are cream days. Some days are skim milk days.

The skim milk days can do the trick. They add something to the cereal but deep down inside you know you are really just having milky water. The skim milk days leave you wanting more, wondering if there is anything more. Skim milk days still leave me hungry.

And then there are the cream days…..ahhhhh…the cream days. The cream days are rich, they leave you feeling full and content, happy and satisfied even if nothing outstanding happened.

Today was a cream day. I had a great coffee date with a friend this morning while Samantha was at school. I then met my special needs supermoms for lunch. My interactions with the supermoms always leave me feeling content. I can joke about meds, suctioning techniques and appointments. I don’t get the ‘sad’ look. The sad look makes me feel like maybe I am missing some undeniable truth in my life…like maybe I should be sad too. The sad look gives me wrinkles. I don’t like wrinkles.

It’s the cream days that get me through the skim milk days. Perhaps I live off the excess fat. No it’s okay…I can cut back a little…yesterday was a cream day…

Wishing you all a cream day.

The Samantha Years

Important Stuff!

Tomorrow is our first meeting of the Larimer County Epilepsy Support Group! If you know someone in Northern Colorado who might benefit from a latte’ and a little support regarding epilepsy, send them our way. I have no idea if we will be helpful but we’ll be supportive……and perhaps entertaining. I’ll tell a joke or two.

Here are the details:

Tuesday, January 12th at 7:00 (moving forward the second Tuesday of the month)
Mandolin Cafe, 210 East 4th St. Loveland, CO

You can post any inquiries here or email me at

AND, my lovely friend Jenny gave me a Lemonade Award for my blog!

Jenny writes The Fish Tank which if you haven’t visited, go now! Jenny has three little ones under four and manages to stay sane, much more organized than I am and gives wonderful answers to my many questions.

Thanks Jenny!

A lemonade award is for those bloggers who make ‘lemonade out of life’s lemons’….hmmm…somedays I think I’m looking for lemoncello….Also, part of getting a Lemonade Award is passing it on to ten other blog writers. So watch for your award!

The Samantha Years

Reporter Herald

I got a call the other day from my publicst at Chicken Soup. This was funny because I didn’t know I had a publicist…but what the heck.

Our local paper wanted to do a story on the Blessing Bowl. The article came out this morning. You can read to story below or go to the Reporter Herald and check out my mug shot.

Small miracles fill ‘Chicken Soup’ edition
Local resident recounts a personal blessing for recent installment

By Jessica Benes
Loveland Reporter-Herald

Two nights after her daughter’s memorable first birthday party in 2007, Loveland resident Heather Schichtel sat down to write a story.
The story talked about her daughter Samantha’s seizure-free birthday, how the child had awakened without a problem, her blue-and-yellow daisy dress and her blessing bowl.

On Schichtel’s request, her family had brought things that meant something special, to be put into a special bowl for Samantha.

This day marked the last of a long year of infections, seizures, hospital visits and two emergency trips on a medical helicopter.

The short article, called “Blessing Bowl” recently was published in the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings” that was published in November.

Schichtel’s daughter, Samantha, has a mitochondrial deficiency at the cellular level. The disease affects multiple systems, but Schichtel said the exact disease remains undiagnosed. Doctors don’t know which gene is mutated.

Samantha, now 3 1/2, has seizures and doesn’t walk or talk.

She takes medicine and is on a ketogenic diet for the seizures. The fat in the diet controls the seizures, Schichtel said. She’s fed through a tube in her stomach.

The medicine and diet, however, don’t help with her development. Samantha is at the stage of a 4- to 6-month-old child. She does develop, but very slowly. “With us, it’s about the tiny developments we see,” Schichtel said. “She smiled today, she made eye contact with her dad, she had a seizure-free day.”

It’s hard to find a support group for a disease like this, she said. She can’t just go to a Down syndrome or autism group.

She and her husband, Bart, a Longmont engineer, find support in their parents, and once she started to blog, she also discovered another resource — other parents in Colorado like her who have children with mitochondrial deficiencies.

Someone in the group is always at The Children’s Hospital in Denver for one reason or another, and the other parents have made it a habit to bring meals and call.

“We would never have met if it weren’t for this,” Schichtel said. When she visited a friend at The Children’s Hospital, a third friend brought sandwiches. Schichtel offered to pay, and the friend said, “No, next time we’re here, you can bring us something.”

“We’re constantly paying it forward,” Schichtel said.

She finds that writing is an outlet and a good way to relay her perspective on life to the rest of the world. About “Blessing Bowl,” she said, “It was really easy to write. I felt really passionate about it. You know when you have a really good night and you think, wow? Not to be cliche, but I felt blessed.”

Schichtel belongs to a writers group in Loveland. She also writes a blog, which she started during Samantha’s first year of life.

After she’d posted the blessing bowl story to the blog and received a good response, a friend forwarded her an e-mail from Chicken Soup for the Soul, seeking submissions.

She sent the story in, and it was accepted for the November publication.

“With all of this, it’s easy to look at everything and say, ‘well, crap.’ But we try to find each little piece of good and look at that. This has made us more gracious people,” she said.

She has another story that will be published in April in an edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul titled “Thanks Dad.”

Schichtel and a friend are starting an epilepsy support group in Loveland, sponsored through Epilepsy, Colorado. They will start meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mandolin Cafe, 210 E. Fourth St. They will meet the second Tuesday of the month and are open to parents who have children with epilepsy and adults who have it. For details, e-mail Heather at Also, visit her blog at