This foster mom is grateful for her ‘miracle baby’

41 min ago

This foster mom is grateful for her “miracle baby”

(Courtesy Cassie McNulty)

After seven years of infertility and adopting twins through foster care, Cassie McNulty figured her family was complete.

“We first started trying to get pregnant in 2015. Everyone around us would plan when they wanted to get pregnant and it would easily happen. We assumed it would be simple for us, but month after month of us trying, I was left feeling devastated when my period would come,” she says.

Cassie and her husband did all kind of tests before they were prescribed with “unexplained infertility.” Instead of pursuing expensive fertility treatments, they decided to shift their focus of wanting biological children to helping children in foster care.

“In 2017 we became licensed foster parents and took in newborn twins. After two years of being in the foster care system, our twins were adopted in 2019. After the adoption was finalized, I gave away all of our baby items,” Cassie says, adding, “I no longer wanted to get pregnant and my mind was set on us being a family of four.”

Cassie and her husband didn’t use protection because they figured, after so many years of trying, it wouldn’t – and couldn’t – happen. So in September 2020, in the middle of a challenging pandemic, they were shocked to find out they were pregnant!

“I had my period date all wrong, so in my mind, my period wasn’t late,” Cassie explains. “A friend quickly reminded me that we were on the same schedule for our cycles and that I should have had mine by now. She made me run to CVS to get a pregnancy test. I took her advice even though I thought I wouldn’t be pregnant. There were many joyful tears over a positive pregnancy test, but I still didn’t believe it until my first doctor’s appointment where I heard the heartbeat.”

Karis, which means “grace,” was born on April 21 of this year and Cassie describes her as their “miracle baby.”

“During a scary, challenging, chaotic time, when our world felt divided and hopeless, miraculously getting pregnant provided us, and those who knew our story, a glimmer of hope,” she says.

“When it’s hard to see any good that came out of the pandemic, we are reminded of this gracious gift we’ve been given, and we are forever grateful.”

3 hr 53 min ago

What are you grateful for this year?

As Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season, many of us are taking stock of what’s most meaningful in our lives. Although times are still tough for many, if we stop to think about it, we still have much to be grateful for.

We want to know what you’re most thankful for this past year?

Has someone done you an act of kindness you especially appreciate? Or is there something else – a gift, a person, a passion or an event – that has brought you profound gratitude?

Fill in the form below and let us know.

41 min ago

This woman is grateful her sister is still alive

(Courtesy Alice Hahn)

Alice Hahn is grateful that her twin sister Margie is still alive.

“Margie has had epilepsy for most of her life, with ups and downs of brain surgery and assorted medications (and their side effects),” she told CNN.

Margie fell on April 7 while attempting to sit in a chair in Alice’s kitchen after washing her hands.

“A sudden seizure made her fall sideways before I could catch her, resulting in a foot injury,” Alice says.

As a result of the fall Margie experienced complications which resulted in multiple hospitalizations and rehabilitations.

“Like others with epilepsy, she has also endured ignorance from others regarding her illness. Yet Margie has continued to fight on as she recovers from the unbelievable nightmare that she had to endure. I am filled with gratitude that she has survived!”

3 hr 31 min ago

She discovered walking in the pandemic – and saw her neighborhood through new eyes

From CNN’s Brandon Griggs

Jessica Homann snapped this self-portrait near her suburban St. Louis home. (Courtesy Jessica Homann)

Jessica Homann was not much of a walker.

But when the pandemic hit and she found herself in lockdown, she chafed at the notion of being stuck inside all day.

So during her lunch hour she began going on short strolls around her suburban St. Louis neighborhood. Just a few blocks, in her flip-flops.

Before long, Homann had bought walking shoes and athletic clothes, and she was striding two miles each morning. Then three miles. Then four.

She began to notice little details around her neighborhood, as if for the first time. She admired the trees. She spied hawks, bunnies and even a fox. When it snowed, she surprised herself by making a snow angel.

And she felt restored.

“These walks, with the fresh air, nature, and opportunity to stop and take in the beauty all around me, have returned me to myself,” Homann, 47, told CNN. “They have physically and emotionally saved me.”

The walks have also encouraged her to delve more deeply into photography, one of her hobbies. Homann uses her phone to document her neighborhood walks on Instagram, sharing scenes of foliage, flowers and holiday decorations – along with occasional shots of rolled-up newspapers in her neighbors’ driveways, their headlines marking the passage of pandemic time.

She’s also connected more deeply with her neighbors – fellow morning strollers, dog walkers and others.

“I have walked through all seasons and holidays – admiring the festivities and decor of the homes I pass,” said Homann, who works as an executive search consultant in the health care field. “I have seen families bring home puppies and babies.”

Homann now walks four to five miles a day, almost every day. Her husband rarely joins her – most days, she goes solo. She’s lost 25 pounds, and her cholesterol has gone down.

But for her, the biggest benefit of her walks might be psychological.

“They have brought me joy and perspective that I am passing on to others,” she said. “It has been the greatest gift – one I had the ability to give myself all along, but likely would not have if not for the pandemic. As a result, COVID will always represent a positive turning point for me – a precious bend in my life for which I am grateful.”

40 min ago

Expressing gratitude can improve mental health for both children and adults

Fromm CNN’s Sherry Liang

Family enjoying Thanksgiving meal together Drazen/Adobe Stock Photo

The season of giving thanks can’t come quickly enough for some parents.

Four in five parents who responded to a poll from the University of Michigan Health say children today are not grateful enough.

Parents who responded to the poll say they are teaching their children the magic words, “please and thank you.” However, when it comes to actions over words, the children – and parents – could be falling short, said Sarah Clark, research scientist at the University of Michigan and co-director of the poll.

Expressing gratitude can improve mental health for both children and adults, studies have found. But children don’t develop gratitude automatically – parents need to model and create strategies to teach children these behaviors, Clark said. Volunteering and community service can help children see what they should be thankful for, and what they can do for others, the report said.

Emily Conder, a research scientist and doctoral student in Vanderbilt University’s psychology and human development department, published a study about how children can develop negative biases toward people after overhearing negative words. Children can model behaviors from indirect sources as well.

“It’s important to remember as parents that modeling comes from you and also comes from what’s on TV and what they’re hearing from other sources,” Conder said.

Parents can also play a role in how children process and express emotions, said Ashley Ruba, postdoctoral researcher in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab.

She said when parents talk to their children about emotions, both positive and negative, children have a better understanding of what they are feeling and how to react.

“Gratitude can be socialized in a similar way … actually having conversations about things that you’re grateful for and why you’re grateful for these things,” Ruba said.

Read more on this here.

3 hr 52 min ago

This homecoming queen gave away her crown to comfort a grieving classmate

From CNN’s Marianne Garvey

Brittany Walters hugs Nyla Covington after Covington passed along her crown. (Courtesy Nyla Covington)

When we think about what or who we are most thankful for on this Earth, we often think of people whose presence make the world a little better.

People like Nyla Covington.

Covington is a senior at a high school in Brooklyn, Mississippi. She was voted homecoming queen by her classmates, and crowned in September at a school football game.

For a lot of high schoolers, it’s a dream come true. But then Covington did something selfless – and kind of amazing.

She walked across the football field and handed her crown to a classmate, Brittany Walters, whose mother had just died of cancer. Walters also had been nominated for homecoming queen, and her mother had hoped to be there to cheer her daughter.

“I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart,” Covington told CNN later when asked about the gesture. “I was telling her that she was her mom’s queen and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me.”

Walters was stunned, and in tears.

“I just felt so like so much love from her, and I just felt so much love for her and the whole school,” she said.

Read the whole story here.

3 hr 50 min ago

He’s thankful for his husband – and the gift of life

From CNN’s Faith Karimi

Reid Alexander, left, and Rafael Diaz met in August 2020. “I love this man. He makes me laugh all the time,” Diaz says. (Courtesy Natalia Burrows)

There’s no question about what Reid Alexander is most thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Sixteen months ago, Alexander was suffering from alport syndrome, a kidney disease which required dialysis 12 hours a week. His kidneys were functioning at only 20%. He grew tired easily and had a long list of foods he couldn’t eat.

Then he matched with Rafael Diaz on the popular dating app Tinder.

Alexander didn’t just find a boyfriend – he found a soulmate who may have saved his life. Six months after they met, Diaz got down on a knee at a restaurant and proposed. And six months after that, the couple had surgeries to remove Diaz’s right kidney and transplant it in Alexander.

“He gave me more than love,” Alexander said. “He gave me a future.”

Read their full story here.

6 hr 25 min ago

What a public health expert is grateful for this Thanksgiving

From CNN’s Katia Hetter

Dr. Leana Wen: “There is a lot that we can do this Thanksgiving that we could not last year.”

As Americans head into the Thanksgiving holiday, many people talk about being grateful.

That can feel out of place or even cruel during a pandemic when so much and so many have been lost. But there are still things to be grateful for.

CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, whose husband survived a case of Covid-19 last year, told us what she’s thinking about this Thanksgiving.

“There is so much that I’m deeply grateful for. First, I’m grateful for my family. My husband, Sebastian, and I have two lovely little kids, a 4-year-old son, Eli, and the “pandemic baby” Isabelle, who is now a year and a half,” Wen said.

“Sebastian contracted Covid-19 last year, just a month before the vaccines were made available. We feel very grateful that he survived Covid-19, and we mourn the over 750,000 Americans and millions of people around the world who have tragically succumbed to the pandemic.”

Wen also expressed gratitude for the doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other frontline health care workers who worked tirelessly to keep the rest of us safe.

“These are individuals who were already overstretched and overworked before the pandemic, who then had to take on the responsibility of setting up testing, standing up contact-tracing operations, then running the most expansive vaccination effort in recent history,” she said.

“On top of that, they battle constant misinformation and disinformation. Many public health officials have faced harassment, even physical harm, just for trying to do their job. I give thanks to them, and to all the essential workers and their families who have sacrificed so much over the last two years,” Wen added

Read the full interview here.

3 hr 50 min ago

How to feel more gratitude for the good things in your life

From CNN’s Brandon Griggs

Dana Santas, a mind-body coach, has tips to start making gratitude an ongoing practice. (Courtesy Heidi Joyner)

Events that celebrate gratitude, like Thanksgiving, make us feel good. But how do we keep that feeling of thankfulness throughout the rest of the year?

Like any skill worth mastering, gratitude takes practice to realize its full potential, says wellness coach Dana Santas.

Scientists have found that daily doses of gratitude deliver benefits beyond feelings of happiness, extending to enhanced relationships, self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

Santas offers a free lesson plan to help you recognize gratitude in your everyday routine.

Try it for 5 days, she says, and you’ll see a difference.