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Entries in motherhood (9)


A Go West Mom You Should Know: Sharon Sychta

If you’ve ever visited the family-centered “Awesome Art Afternoons” at Water Street Studios in Batavia on a Sunday afternoon, you’ve likely met Sharon Sychta, our latest Go West Mom You Should Know.

Artist Sharon Sychta. Photo provided.Sychta, 47, is an artist who volunteers at WSS creating and organizing the art projects for that free, drop-in event. She lives in Batavia with her husband Jim Sychta, a vice president for company that produces commercial and industrial lighting. They have twin 15-year-old girls and an 18-year-old daughter who just headed off to college, a transition that Sychta admits was “traumatic” for her as a mom.

I decided I just had to do a Q&A with Sychta after my daughter and I visited an Awesome Art Afternoon this summer. Not only did we have fun with the project (glue, salt and watercolors!) but a friendly chat with Sychta provided me with a multitude of new ways to entertain my preschooler cheaply and creatively. Read on for more ideas from Sychta and learn about why she’s definitely a Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you describe when and how you were drawn to creating artwork?  

A. I have always been an artist. I remember living in the city and playing in the gangways between the city bungalows digging in the mud and loving the texture. I remember hanging out with my grandfather that lived in the top floor of our bungalow.

We used to create all kinds of things with scraps of wood, old screws, washers and anything else he had laying around in the basement and the garage. I truly believe this was a major influence in my love for 3D Sculpture. 

My mother was always an influence when it came to art. She is a painter. Her medium is acrylics. I also had some great experience during my grade school and junior high days. I really enjoyed my junior high art teacher, Bill Voss. He pushed me and gave me many opportunities to develop my fondness for sculpture. I started out hand-building with clay trying all kinds of techniques, coil, slab, pinch and moving on to wheel throwing. I continued ceramics in high school and into college. I had my first show at the Naper Settlement in Naperville during my junior high school days.

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: DiDi Foley

Diana Foley has a lot on her plate.

She is the Aurora/Copley Campus Manager for Waubonsee Community College. She recently completed work on her master’s degree. And she also works part-time as as DJ at radio station WTMX (101.9 FM). Did I mention she has two young children? Foley and her husband Sean are parents to Duncan, who is nearly 6, and Roxanne, who is 18 months old. Sean is the director of human resources for a security company in Chicago.

Photo by Waubonsee Community College.Nearly everyone calls Foley, 35, by her awesome nickname “DiDi.” She grew up in Naperville but graduated from high school a year early because she was so desperate to get out on her own. Now she and her husband are back raising their children in Naperville – proof that you really can go home again.

Read on to find out why we think DiDi Foley is a Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. I hear you jut finished your master’s degree. Congratulations! How on earth did you manage to get an advanced degree while working two jobs and having two children? Any advice to share with other moms trying to keep many balls in the air?

A. I just completed my Masters in Leadership Studies from North Central College.  I look back and don't know how I did it, but I know that I could not have done it without the support of my husband, children and my mom and stepdad. They were all instrumental in the logistics and the support.  My co-workers and supervisor at Waubonsee also gave me a lot of encouragement.  I took one class a quarter (minus two due to bed-rest and the birth of my daughter) and it took three years to compete the program. While I was unable to always give 100% to everything (something has to give, right??) I just kept plowing through. I knew it was all temporary and the education that I was getting will be an asset during my life and also to my children's.

I am not sure how to relax. I need to practice! I enjoy being busy and am always moving.  I think the busier that I am, the better I function. I don't think I can pass any specific advice on to someone with out knowing her situation. What works for me might not work for her. However, you must believe in yourself that you will accomplish your goals. Just stay focused and persevere!

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Suzanne Thibeault of the 500 Things Project

All of us who feel like we’re fighting a losing battle with clutter in our homes will find some inspiration from our latest “Go West Mom You Should Know.” She’s Suzanne Thibeault, and she lives in Naperville with her 18-year-old son Sam and her husband Paul Deffenbaugh.

Suzanne Thibeault. Photo provided.Thibeault has a blog called the "500 Things Project.” Each day she chooses to get rid of something and then explains its history, value, how she feels about parting from it and where it went. It sounds like a fun way to tackle clutter, right? But for Thibeault, there is a lot more behind the project than just having some clean shelves and extra closet space.

Thibeault, 49, is a writer and editor who volunteers extensively withFamilies Helping Families, a DuPage County charity that provides transitional housing and other resources for formerly homeless families.

Her husband is a writer and magazine editor with over 20 years experience in the housing industry. When both the journalism industry and the housing market nosedived  during  the Great Recession, Deffenbaugh lost his job. They were worried about losing their home. Meanwhile, they faced the prospect of sending their only son off to college. Suddenly, it was very clear how little their “stuff” really mattered.

Read on to find out why we think Suzanne Thibeault is a Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you describe for a reader who has not seen it yet your "500 Things Project"? The inspiration for it? And how it is organized each day?

A. My family has been in a vulnerable position over these last few difficult years. In 2009, my husband was laid off, and our son would soon be applying to college. We faced losing our house and launching our child. I decided to chronicle this time of crisis and opportunity by creating a blog about the downsizing, both expected and unexpected, we were confronting. I call it the “500 Things Project.” 500 was simply a calculation I made in March of 2010 for how much longer Sam would be living with us. Each day for 500 days, I choose something to get rid of, to downsize, and explain how it relates to what we are experiencing in our lives and what we have learned.

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Nurse and Organ Donor Merri Lazenby

This week is National Nurses Week (May 12 is Florence Nightingale’s birthday) and as luck would have it, our latest Go West Mom You Should Know is a nurse!

Merri Lazenby, 38, lives in St. Charles with her husband Wedge (as she quickly points out -- yes, that’s his real name) and their children: 10-year-old Wedge Jr., 5-year-old Jesse and 4-year-old Sidney.

Merri Lazenby pictured with her husband Wedge and children Wedge Jr. (10), Jesse (5), and Sidney (4). Photo provided.Lazenby is the clinical supervisor at Delnor Express Care centers in South Elgin and Batavia. Yes, Delnor Express Care is now a sponsor of Go West, but you’ll have to trust us the decision to feature Lazenby as a Mom You Should Know was made before that partnership occurred. And here’s why …

In addition to being a registered nurse, Lazenby is also a runner (she ran in her first marathon last fall) and a mother to an adopted child, who was abandoned in a Melrose Park backyard. She and her husband have been foster parents, and their oldest son copes with hearing loss.

You might have even spotted Lazenby last fall on billboards promoting the Chicago Marathon. She ran for Cal’s Angels, which provides support to kids fighting cancer and their families – a decision made after the young son of a co-worker was diagnosed with cancer.

Perhaps most unique, Lazenby is an organ donor. She donated her kidney in 2009 to a security guard at Delnor Hospital – when she started to fill out the paperwork, she didn’t even know his last name!

Lazenby grew up in East Peoria and moved to the Chicago suburbs when she was in the 7th grade. She received her BSN in nursing from Loyola University Chicago.

Read on to find out why we think Lazenby is a Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you tell me about your decision to donate a kidney to Delnor security guard Ray Andrade? What motivated you to donate an organ to someone you really did not know very well?

A. I was having lunch with a friend in the cafeteria at Delnor when I overheard a conversation my friend was having with Ray about his sister not being a match.  In my usual fashion I butted into the conversation and asked what kind of match he was looking for. 

When he told me he needed a kidney it was one of those moments when God just takes over and speaks for you. I told him God gave me two kidneys and I would share. Just like that.  I put no forethought into the offer ...  I think Ray just thought I was being nice and wasn't serious, which gave me time to think about the crazy offer. 

That night my husband and I were fixing dinner together, and he asked me how my day went.  I was a little afraid to tell him but casually mentioned I offered my kidney to someone at work. He laughed telling me it would be my luck to be a match. I waited a couple of weeks and went back to Ray.  I told him that I was serious about the kidney – a week later a packet came in the mail from Northwestern's transplant unit. The rest just kind of fell into place.  When I filled out the paperwork I didn't even know Ray's last name. I did a lot of research before I went back to him and realized we really don't need both kidneys to function normally, which made the decision to go through with it much easier.

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A Go West Family You Should Know: The Lederer Family

We're featuring our first “Go West Family You Should Know” this week. Jean and Gary Lederer, of St. Charles, and their daughter Beth Lederer will also be honored as Marklund’s “Friend of the Year” on Feb. 12 at Marklund’s annual “Top Hat Ball.”

Marklund, which was founded in 1954, serves infants, children and adults with severe and profound developmental disabilities. Its main campus is in Geneva, which is where Jean and Gary’s oldest son, Andrew, lives.

I emailed Jean several questions about Andrew, about being a mother to a child with a profound disability and about Marklund. Her response was honest, beautiful and sometimes heartbreaking. Here, Jean Lederer tells that story in her own words.

Andrew Robert Lederer was born on October 30th, 1978, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was my husband Gary’s and my first child and we welcomed Andrew with all the excitement and joy new parents feel for their children.

Photo courtesy of Marklund.At birth his Apgar scores were normal, but his hands and feet were very purple, which concerned me. He had a bit of trouble nursing, but I was assured everything was fine. During the first few months of his life, he jerked quite often, but I was assured by his pediatrician that all babies jerk. If Andrew had been my third child, or maybe if I had had more contact with other babies before his birth, I might have been concerned, but I was not.

In the summer of 1979 my husband’s company transferred us to England. I have always loved travel, so for me this was a dream come true. In all the confusion of the move, I do not remember any concerns regarding Andrew’s development. I know now it was slower than most, but there was nothing significant that I recall until December 1980. Early that month, Andrew fell down the stairs, and when I picked him up he was having a seizure. Hindsight tells me he had the seizure and fell down the stairs. There had been some other incidents before this that were odd, and Andrew would seem confused, but I had never witnessed a full-blown seizure.

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