Hope is always just one breath away

This weekend, I am in Chicago with Johanna and my older daughter, Anna. We are visiting the CCM3 Clinic for a special type of MRI and an evaluation with gives us some outside opinions for Johanna’s case, as well as advancing the research for a cure. I was a little nervous making the trip so soon after Jo’s last surgery. But even if we planned the appointment later, there was always the possibility that we couldn’t make it. I really wanted to be in Chicago now, to meet a special friend of mine also visiting from California and to spend time with family. It’s all a part of my strategies for maintaining hope in the midst of these trials — for breathing when I feel like I am drowning. Believe - Restore - Exercise - Advocate - Take Time - Heal - Engage This weekend and this column is about [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 23rd, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Take time to heal

I am grateful that God spoke to me in a nightmare and so it became a dream that would guide me on this journey of intense trials and immeasurable blessing. I never dreaded the dreams that began shortly after Johannaʼs birth, because somehow I knew that there was a lesson to be learned. Each night they occurred, I woke feeling like I couldnʼt breathe. While water scenes changed, the premise was always the same. I was in the middle of the ocean trying to keep my and Johannaʼs head above water so that we wouldnʼt drown. It was up to me to keep us alive- at least thatʼs what I thought- till God spoke to me in the dream and told me to let go in that ocean of mercy and He would teach me how to breathe underwater. Over the past few weeks I have shared with you these [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 16th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments

On becoming an advocate: Trust your gut and trust in God

This week I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and exhaustion. My daughter Johanna was released from the PICU this past week. In a two-week period she was in the operating room three times. The final brain surgery seem to correct the problem in her brain so now it was time to focus on transitioning her from hospital to home. As you can imagine, that is scary for anyone, but especially when you are a 17-year-old with disabilities. I worked diligently reminding Johanna of the life she had waiting for her at home. There’s dogs and cats, teachers and therapists, dates with friends, and a little job at Love Lane Kitchen. Only Love Lane Kitchen raised her eyebrow as Johanna wondered how the owner could have possibly gotten all those dinner napkins folded without her for the past two weeks. I built on that interest as I helped her [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 9th, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|Tags: , , |0 Comments

Finding true restoration

Last week I introduced you to my secrets of breathing underwater. Breathing is an automatic response that seems incredibly simple. It is until itʼs not. Spending a fair amount of time in an ICU setting with my daughter over the past 17 years, I have a deep appreciation for heart rate, respirations and the amount of oxygen in the blood. In the ICU, those numbers are monitored very carefully and if something is amiss, an incessant beeping noise calls attention to the change in any of those rates. The dreams I had about being out in the midst of the ocean, treading water with my daughter in my arms, changed a little over the years that I had the dreams. Sometimes my husband and I would be at the beach playing on the shore with the kids when a tsunami would start rolling in. We were frantically trying to grab [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 March 2nd, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Fox & Friends

Elizabeth Hasselbeck interviews Eileen Benthal as a Mom responding to Sen. Harry Reid calling ObamaCare victims liars. For more on Johanna's story please visit Eileen's website

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 February 28th, 2014|Categories: In The Media|0 Comments

Save yourself from drowning in the circumstances of life

Before my youngest daughter Johanna was born, I enjoyed play dates at the beach. I was a decent swimmer, having taught myself how to swim when I was growing up and then taking formal lessons in high school. The past 17 years, I have taken a different kind of swimming lesson. It has little to do with strokes and everything to do with breathing. I have shared in this column a few times about my water dreams that started just before my daughter was diagnosed with a brainstem mass when she was three months old. In the reoccurring dream, I am out in the middle of the ocean holding my baby in my arms, treading water to keep us alive. One night God spoke to me in the dream and told me to let go and to trust that we were in the ocean of His mercy. He promised that [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 February 23rd, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Valentine Reflection: The Secret to Enduring Love

Eileen and Steve Benthal on their wedding day in 1986 and in 2013.   I remember the first time we met. It was right after Mass at Christ the King Chapel. A mutual friend introduced us. We had been sitting in the same pew, but I hadnʼt noticed him until I looked into his eyes. Those deep blue eyes caught my attention right away. He remembers the first time we met. We were standing in the long line for Sunday brunch at the cafeteria. We talked about the eggs and the french toast. No matter. He noticed me and I noticed him; and the rest is “his story” - and mine. We met during my sophomore year in college. We had similar interests, especially music. We were part of a traveling music group that toured around the country giving concerts in churches and private high schools. We traveled [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 February 9th, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|0 Comments

Boundaries and fences: Our limitations are filled with possibilities

When we applied for a CCI service dog, for my daughter, Johanna, I was worried that they might not give us one because we had a history of being really bad dog owners. The first three dogs we owned ran away and two of them got hit by cars. The other one watched me go into labor with my fourth child and decided she had enough. She took off to find another home, probably one with no kids. The application process helped me to let go of the guilt I felt about being such a terrible dog owner. The trainer assured me that the service dog would be well-trained, and I would also be trained to handle it at home and in the public. Over these past 10 years, CCI has really helped me to understand that a well trained dog is a secure and well-behaved dog. After two years [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 February 2nd, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|0 Comments

A time for every purpose, even snowbound in N.J.

It was if I had known her for years. I was speaking on the phone with Angela, a woman that I had never met and yet we immediately clicked. We both were moms to kids with special needs. She had adopted her autistic brother when her parents passed away and she struggles herself with chronic illness. Despite the busy commitments of our lives, we both shared our passion to advocate for the rights of the disabled and their families. I called Angela after I reached out to Allyson Scerri of New Beginnings, whose local advocacy for brain injured patients and their families hits home as we eagerly watch the progress of Brendanʼs House on Sound Avenue. Allyson directed me to Angela when I offered to contact some doctors who I thought might be willing to advocate for Jahi McMath, the little girl from Oakland, Calif. who was declared brain dead [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 January 26th, 2014|Categories: Life on Purpose|0 Comments

‘A person is a person’

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful.”(Psalm 139:13-14) January 22 marks 41 years since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the legality of a woman's right to have an abortion under the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 14th amendment, section I states, ”No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” A new era of an interpretation of this right to abortion began in the United States with that decision. In the wake of that decision, a polarization of groups of Americans based on opinions for or against [...]

2017-01-08T20:42:48-05:00 January 19th, 2014|Categories: Caregiver, Life on Purpose|0 Comments