lee, hope and the many names behind glassybaby

Posted on Monday, December 3, 2012

We’ve heard names such as rudolph and robin hood often chosen for pets or stuffed animals, but its not too often a glowing glass votive of light holds such names – or one has even given thought to naming such an object.  But Lee Rhodes, owner and creator of glassybaby has and still names each of her over four hundred glassybaby, not in a corporate office, but with co-workers in her favorite local Japanese restaurant.  Lee tells me, “We’ve always named the new colors at this restaurant with whatever’s on the table.  That’s how we always do it.” If naming night took place over a glass of wine, I like to imagine likely names such as first kiss and cabo emerged.  On soothing nights nestled with a warm cup of green tea, I wonder if zen or gratitude transpired.  Whether we desire a tutu or a wingman, or are in need of, a dream or chocolate, each glassybaby holds a personal meaning and a special significance.  They are indeed more than a votive; the light they hold extends a promise of something greater than words, something Lee understands personally.


Lee first experienced the power of the light illuminating from a glass votive fifteen years ago, when battling her third round of a serious and rare form of lung cancer.  Cancer, a name unlike these charming and occasional goofy glassybaby names, can bring shivers up the spine.  Sadly, cancer seems to touch each of us in some way, and this name, this life rival, is what sparked Lee’s glassybaby.  In a time of uncertainty and gloom, she describes her memory of what the flickering flame inside a colorful glass candle holder meant to her.


 It helped me slow down.  It allowed me to take a breath.  It helped me heal.  You can’t help but he touched by color and light, 


says Lee.  Whether contending cancer or simply in need of a candlelit companion, Lee wants to touch others by encouraging people to take thirty seconds out of their day with a glassybaby.  Today I sit in my room with hope.  I watch a vibrant illumination from within its white walls.  In the shadow’s light, I see my husband’s reflection and am optimistic of the years ahead.  I sit, hopeful and grateful that he is healthy again, like Lee, both survivors of the awful word, awful disease cancer.


To Lee, hope, her favorite glassybaby represents, “the Moms that don’t get any credit, it celebrates the nurses that are uncelebrated” and honors all caregivers.  Lee says, “The white of hope is so representative of what we do.  It’s a color that I love.”  The combination of the name, hope, the purity of the color white, and the partnership with Children’s Hospital creates a special meaning to Lee.  Lee’s vision to partner with the Children’s hospital, a national organization dedicated to finding breakthrough discoveries to help prevent, treat and cure childhood disease, allows for her to donate ten percent of glassybaby sales to Children’s Hospital.  Lee, who partners with many organizations, thrives on giving.  Her giving spirit is infectious.  “The more we grow, the more we give, and we are all about giving,” says Lee.  Her desire to give and grow encourages others to grow and give, give and grow – she is like lively fire that spreads quickly and breaks down painful walls with great force.


Lee’s unquenchable fire has ignited and awakened numerous sets such as sarah’s strength, donating ten percent of sales to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund, a Children’s Hospital guild dedicated to funding research for curing kids with brain tumors.  A personal favorite of mine are the drinkers; ten percent from the sale of each drinker is donated to the Seattle Division of V.A. Puget Sound to support veterans battling cancer.  The glassybaby names valerie, hector, tony and mimi transform these objects out of merely material possessions and personalize each of them, commemorating an individual person.  I secretly scan through the hundreds of glassybaby and decide to name one kevin, after my husband who is also a Seattle division V.A. cancer survivor.  Admiring both the votives and drinkers, I ask Lee how she uses her glassybaby.  She tells me,


 I just like glassybaby sitting in the windowsill.  I like them sitting around.  There’s nothing like a lit glassybaby. That’s why it is hard to choose a favorite.  There is no color that’s lit in front of me that I don’t love. Every single one I light I respond to in a different way. 


Some friends have creatively served desserts in their glassybaby as a way to make the experience more special.  Some place succulents in them on the dining table.  Others have placed make up brushes in them on the sink, or, as Lee tells me, her husband uses his glassybaby to house his change, a reminder of the blessings of abundance.  Whether used to as a reminder of the special gift of friendship when hosting others, or for light in those dark moments, there is a bond Lee sees in each glassybaby – they offer comfort in our busy world.


In all the business, I ask Lee, was it destiny, misfortune or luck that brought about glassybaby?  She humbly states, “I was just awake when I tripped over it.”  Wide awake in our conversation, I ponder the words she says…“awake.”  How many times in our busy lives are miracles presented to us and we close our eyes to them?  What glassybaby moments have we experienced?  May we all learn from Lee to trip with grace, and with our faces in the dirt and knees scuffed, praise the purity of the earth and the pain, reminding us that we are so very much alive and so very open to something great.  Just as Lee’s trip tossed her into the creation of glassybaby, we too must thank our feet for our trips and falls and see each opportunity as a step closer to our purpose.  We can find what we deeply love does not have to be separate from our daily work.


 I don’t see love and passion as separate from my daily life.  I am so incredibly lucky to have tripped over something that incorporates both those things.


Healthy and vivacious, I ask Lee when she’s able to find those ‘deep breath moments’.  She tells me how she’s able to balance it all.  She brings up the word: perfection – women’s nemesis.  She tells me, “It’s showing people that perfection doesn’t have as much value as we put on it.”  It’s as simple as that, isn’t it?  It can be and it should be.  Instead of putting so much value on perfection, let us put value on existence.  Like the light of the glassybaby, it’s that gentle reminder that we are alive.  Lee doesn’t strive for perfection, but lives pure with integrity to be the best person she can be.  We all sacrifice something – some of us sacrifice money, some of us sacrifice time.  For Lee, she sacrificed perfection.  “I just found that I don’t do it all.  I can’t do it all, and I don’t do it all.”  Lee admits, she’s “okay at some things some days and really great at some things other days.”  Lee gives a little more time to work some days, other days to family and soccer games and even days to herself.  She says,


Women battle with trying to do it all – that’s a life sucker.


Battling enough with cancer, Lee chooses to back down to the battle of perfection as well and settle with greatness.  When I think of Lee, I think bravery and beauty. When I think of Lee, I think courageousness and honesty.  When I think of Lee, I think heroic, playful, strong, passionate, mother, survivor, inspiration, human.  Among all the names I’ve heard, Lee Rhodes is a name I will not forget.


Post script

This morning, I read a quote by Edith Wharton: “There are two ways of spreading light; to be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.” I ask myself, is Lee the candle or the mirror and I ask am I the candle or the mirror?  Lee, whose fire stems from her strong voice speaks of her desire to help the community.  She is the very candle that shines inside each glassybaby.  If she is the candle, I am grateful, through my words, to be the humble mirror, shining her light on others.  Either way, as long as we’re spreading light, we all win.


feature image provided by glassybaby photo gallery



  1. Thanks for the introduction to glassbaby. The Edith Wharton quote you mention at the end of your post is a favorite of mine. I appreciate the Monday morning inspiration!

    • Hi Andrea,

      That’s just what Lee does. She’s an inspiration. Cancer can impact all of us in such personal ways, Lee’s story touches me personally due to my husband’s cancer. Lee battling cancer three times not only shows me her determination, but her need to be here longer to shine bright and impact others. I love her story and what she’s done. She is someone who turned a devastating illness into a blessing, or as she says, a “trippable” moment.

      And yes, I felt Edith Wharton’s quote just summed things up nicely. Thanks for your kind comment.

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