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Special Mamas

March is flying by! Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Easter’s here in a few weeks, and Mother’s Day follows soon after that. Believe it or not, I’m already planning into May for the blog. Hence, a random Mother’s Day post in the middle of March!

Let me explain why I’m reaching out to y’all today.

In 2013, I hosted a month-long Mother’s Day series titled Special Mamas. The series featured guest posts from a variety of special moms, including a foster mom, a mom of seven, an adoptive mom, a mom of a child who has autism, and a mom of three from my blogging community. The series went fabulously and I intended to continue the series on an annual basis.

Time got away from me in 2014. I’d planned to move forward with a second annual Special Mamas series, but didn’t get moving on it early enough. I invited one mama to participate and she was excited to write a post, but because of legalities surrounding the adoption of her foster children, she decided it would be best to wait. Around that time, a bunch of posts on motherhood were swirling in my mind, so I decided to skip Special Mamas for 2014 and wrote a month-long series titled Motherhood Unraveled instead. It, too, went fabulously, but I always knew I’d return to Special Mamas in 2015.



Brian and Jennifer


So here we are! Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching. I run the Special Mamas guest post series all of May, which means it’s time to start lining up a group of special mamas who are willing to write about their journey to and/or through motherhood.

In 2013, I personally invited all the special mamas who guest posted.

This year, I’m extending an open invitation to anyone who’d like to participate!

Here are the basic requirements:

1) You like to write! And maybe you’re good at it too?!

2) You’re willing to share your mothering story publicly in a guest post on my blog,

3) You’re willing to be vulnerable in telling your story, at least a little. These posts will have the greatest impact if you’re willing to share your journey, but also your thoughts and feelings about the journey. Perhaps you’ve had to be patient. Perhaps your faith has led you through. Perhaps you’ve had to tap into community to help along the way. Perhaps motherhood isn’t anything like you expected. I don’t know your story, but we want to hear it.

4) Your guest post will need to be between 500-1,200 words in length.

5) I’ll need a minimum of three photographs from you to include in the blog post, horizontal orientation strongly preferred. More photos are just fine. This blog is big on photos!

6) You have time to write and edit a guest post between now and May 17th. All posts will be published on this blog between May 1st and May 31st, 2015. All posts need to be submitted to me 10-14 days in advance of your assigned date of publication. When you sign up to guest post, I’ll ask whether you prefer to be published early, middle, or late May. I’ll assign a date based on the preference you indicated!

7) You don’t have to be a blogger to participate in this series, but bloggers are more than welcome! If you’re a blogger, I will NOT edit your post unless I catch spelling errors. If you’re NOT a blogger, I reserve the right to make some small edits to your post (only as necessary), with final review by you prior to publication.

And last, but not least, I want to clarify who I’m looking for as far as “Special Mamas.” You might be a good fit for this series if you are…

  • A foster mama
  • An adoptive mama
  • A mama actively in the process of adopting
  • A mama who’s desperately waiting to be chosen as an adoptive mama
  • A foster mama who turned into an adoptive mama
  • A mama who’s going through infertility
  • A woman who REALLY WANTS TO BE A MAMA, but isn’t in that life stage yet for some reason
  • A mama of a child who has special needs of any kind
  • A mama of a child who has a mental illness
  • A mama of multiples
  • A mama with multiple children (6 or more children)
  • A mama who has one child (by choice or for other reasons)
  • A mama who’s going through a major life transition
  • A teen mama or someone who gave birth as a teen
  • A military mama
  • A mama whose mother passed away at an early age
  • A mama who never had a mother in her life at all
  • A mama who was adopted as an infant or child
  • A mama who’s single
  • A woman who doesn’t ever plan to have children
  • A mama who’s living in poverty
  • A grandma who’s raising her grandchildren
  • A grandma who’s actively helping raise her grandchildren
  • A stepmom
  • A mama who has a mental illness
  • A mama who’s experienced more than one miscarriage
  • A mama who’s experienced stillbirth
  • A mama who’s lost a baby or child
  • A mama whose child HAS experienced or IS experiencing a significant medical crisis

If you don’t see yourself listed above, but think your mothering story is similarly unique, please let me know! We’ll connect and definitely get you in the series if your journey seems to be a fit.

If everything I’ve listed above feels like a match, and you’d like to write a guest post for my “Special Mamas” guest post series in May 2015, please fill out the Survey Monkey form below. It’s just a few questions and shouldn’t take you more than a couple minutes. I wanted to offer you a way to share your contact information and brief summary of who you are without making it public quite yet.


I’m looking for a total of 12 guest post submissions for May. If more than 12 mamas are interested, I may open it up to more!

Thanks everyone! I can’t wait to see who’s interested! I’ll try to keep an update here on the blog, and on Facebook as well so you know when I’ve reached 12, or if I’m still looking for submissions. Oh, and one more note! If you know a mom who might be interested in this, or are connected to a group of moms who might be a good fit, please share this post with them. Looking to get the word out on this one!





As many of you know, my younger sister has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. I’ve featured Tiffany five times on this blog, and recently invited her to be a regular contributor. At this point, our plan is to have her write a guest post once a month, although there may be occasional months we skip. In her guest posts, Tiffany will document a single day in her life. For the most part, Tiffany has been stable for the past 4 1/2 years thanks to medications and hearty support from our parents, a psychiatrist, psychologist, and other professionals. My hope is that these posts will raise awareness of what it’s like to live with a mental illness. But I’m also hoping these posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce you to my sister, Tiffany. 


When you have mental health issues, every special occasion has one thing in common. WARNING!

I just had my 35th birthday. This year, I wanted to reclaim my identity, my unique fingerprint that makes me an individual. If there is a day any of us should be happy, it’s our birthday. This year, I did not want to be happy all day. I wanted to be purely me.

The prelude to my birthday became a combination of emergencies and celebrations.

The night before my birthday, my kids were getting sick. I rushed my one-year-old, Xander, to urgent care. The doctor diagnosed him with a lung disease called RSV. The doctor said it could be months before the problem cleared itself. My four-year-old daughter, Raegan, was complaining about her ear, but refused to go to the hospital. The morning of my birthday, blood and puss were coming out of her ear. We went into the ER and found out she had a broken eardrum. A significant sized hole was in her ear. They recommended that we come back in ten days for an ENT visit. We followed the recommendations and the hole has healed.

The day of my birthday, I was preoccupied with problem after problem, but felt calm overall.

I watched Facebook pretty closely. I wanted to see who stopped in to say hi. I started to overthink the birthday wishes that were coming in, as I do in a number of situations. Do I push “like” now or later? Do I comment? So in the morning, I started to comment on the birthday wishes. All of the sudden, my phone went dark. A couple hours later, I gave the phone to Raegan and she figured out the malfunction. Then I was able to read and appropriately respond to the Facebook messages again.

The day must go on and hopefully get better! After all, it’s my birthday.

Mid-afternoon, I went to a sports bar with my dad. One of my favorite activities has always been going on “dates” with my dad, so the day was definitely getting better. We communicated our views on life as we often do when we go out together. I started drinking Red Bulls and proceeded to do so the rest of the day, which led to an all-night Red Bull high.

Finally the main event, with my parents babysitting my sick kiddos. I went to a traveling art pub event. The events feature different artists who guide you through making a masterpiece. I arrived early and picked a great seat up front. I had extra room to paint since nobody sat next to me. I painted and painted, and felt as though I was painting out emotions from the day. My painting was used as an example for the class about halfway through. The finished product hangs in a prominent place in my apartment, the bathroom. What a way to end a hectic day. I felt good about getting care for my kids and accomplishing something great at the same time.

The day didn’t go as planned, but I adjusted to the various circumstances that were thrown my way. My birthday felt complete with the cards I received, one from my sister and one from Raegan. My sister’s card said “You’re original, unique, and loved for everything that makes you, you.” Raegan made her card with the mental health professionals that work with her at school and at home. It said “I love mom because she gives good hugs, takes me to dance and piano, and cooks good food.”

This is a glimpse of a day in my life. I’ll be highlighting other days in the future. Thanks for reading!



Pastor uttered these life-changing, life-breathing, life-affirming words to me after church on December 14, 2014.

“God is going to do phenomenal things through you.”

I didn’t do anything in particular to deserve this blessing. It was, perhaps, the most incredible blessing I’d ever received.

I was alone. Nobody heard. Nobody witnessed this moment but me, pastor and God himself. I’m pretty sure I beamed, glowed with possibility.

Pastor was just passing by. But as he passed, he stopped. He looked me in the eye and asked with all sincerity. “How are things going?” “Good,” I told him, “I just have one more week of work.” “You’re looking good, healthy,” he said. And that’s when he blessed me.

“God is going to do phenomenal things through you.”

“Thank you. Thank you so much,” I said, smiling quietly.

I’m pretty sure I teared up at that point.

Pastor knows my story. Over the course of the past three years, I’ve invited him in on my journey. Three or four times, we’ve sat down and chatted about life. He’s guided me, counseled me, provided Godly insight where I needed it. Our pastor is a man of God. I trust him whole-heartedly. Through our meetings, he has developed a good understanding of who I am. He doesn’t know every detail of my life by any means. But I do believe he has a good grasp of what God might have in store for me.

Since I stopped working as a speech-language pathologist on December 18, 2014, life has been a whirlwind. I have been pressed to release everything that’s familiar, everything that’s known, everything that’s safe and sure.

Last week, I finally began to grasp new normal. And let me tell you something. New normal is going to be phenomenal.

In the past month, during the heart of the storm of my husband’s eye cancer, God opened doors and clarified His vision for my life. I have greater clarity than ever as to where I’m heading. His call is crystal clear.

In addition to my primary roles as wife and mother of three young children, I believe I’m being called to press forward in two areas of work. For now, I’m choosing to keep the details private. But wonder and worry not. I will most definitely bring you in on the journey when the time is right.

All of this to say that this is NOT going to be easy. It is NOT going to be free sailing. This is going to be difficult and challenging. This will require trust and patience, discernment and discovery. I will be journeying into uncharted territory, and more than ever, I’m going to need community rallying around me, loving me, caring for me, and coming alongside to help and support. The journey ahead will not be easy, but it WILL BE phenomenal. And let me add, phenomenal things will NOT happen if I try to do them on my own. God must and will work through me. Because I can NOT do these things out of my own sheer will and determination. Faith, yes. It will be through faith. And trust that this is God’s plan for my life.

So today I’m wondering…

Today I’m pondering…

Has anyone told YOU…

“God is going to do phenomenal things through YOU.”

I know reading those words on a screen isn’t the same as having me stop you in the aisle, look you in the eyes, and give you real-life words of encouragement.

But today I want to stop, take time, and give you this blessing through the screen. It’s as best as I can do.

“God is going to do phenomenal things through you.”

Believe it. Trust it. Know it with all of your heart.

Open your heart to the possibility that the thing you’ve been dreaming of, the thing you’ve been longing for, the thing that feels out of reach, the life you’ve been waiting for – is possible.

God is waiting. He wants to do amazing things through you, phenomenal things through you. But there’s an element of surrender, of trust, of believing there’s something more. Even when the “something more” seems impossible.

So please…


Stop going through the motions.

Stop viewing life and faith as an academic exercise.

Stop surviving and waiting for the big break.


Have faith.

Take a little step. Or maybe a great big one.

Work with God, even when it seems and feels a little crazy.

Believe that “thing” is possible.

Phenomenal is possible when we step out and do things beyond our human capacity, when we partner with God who’s much bigger than ourselves, when we trust in the unseen, intangible forces of good and grace.


Let’s be phenomenal.






Dear You, oh Addicted One:

I see you brother. I see you sister.

Who are you? Where are you? What are you doing, dear one? What makes you flee from the beauty that is you? What binds you, traps you, chains you to the drug? Why lie, steal, rob and cheat yourself of life that was meant to be yours? Why, oh why? Why, oh why?

I see you brother. I see you sister.

You’re handsome, a hunk. You’re beautiful, beaming. I wonder why such beauty doubts its worth. Don’t you see God made you for a better story? He created you, dreamed up your days, every one. But dear, you’re wasting your days away. Don’t waste any longer. He says, you can be free in me. Trust, I’ve made you for a purpose. Trust, I’ve got your back. Your beauty’s longing to break free. Your beauty’s waiting to speak life, hope and truth to a broken, desperate world. Why are you wasting your days away? Why, oh why? Why, oh why?

Look in the mirror, dear one. See who you really are. See the body God’s given you. See what you’re wasting away. See that He’s ready to shine through you. Look and see. He’s waiting. He’s waiting for you to say. I’m done with these drugs. I’m done with this life. I’ve had it. I’m beautiful and I’m breaking free from this pain, breaking free from those days of old. I’m breaking free. For I am redeemed.

I see you brother. I see you sister.

You’re brilliant. Heck, you’re genius as far as God’s concerned. He gave you a brain, man. Why let it waste away? Why, oh why let a day go by without putting it to use? He’s given you an assignment. Your time on earth is limited. So head to work, dear you. Head to work. It’s no accident you’re beautiful and brilliant. It’s no accident you’ve come this far. It’s no accident you’ve made it through. But you’re stuck, dear one. You’re stuck. Climb up. Go. Climb. Climb. Climb. You need to keep moving through, up, onward. So go dear one, keep going. Don’t let your brain trick you. You’re worth more than this. He made you for brilliance, for beauty. Your thoughts are powerful. You’re trapped in a cycle that’s nearly impossible to break, but your brain can be restored, friend. Renew yourself in God’s word. Renew yourself in truth. Find a way out. Drug’s power has a hold on you. But there’s a much better choice. You know it. You know it. Use that brain, friend. Use that brain. Use it for good. Use it for beauty. It’s filled to the brim. It’s worth more than this. It’s waiting, wringing its neurons, desperate to break every bind. The years aren’t on your side, friend, but God. God can do anything. He can transform, He can restore, He can redeem, He can heal those hurts and fears and all the pain that’s ever washed over you.

I see you brother. I see you sister.

You need to know. We are here for you. We see you. We acknowledge your humanity. You need not be perfect. You need not be anyone but yourself. But we need you. Whole you. All of youThe YOU God created. We need that you.

Let the earthly, fleshly, ugly desires of the drug wash away from you, pour out of you, disappear into nothingness, pure oblivion black hole.

We need your story. The world needs your story.

Come on, you.


Let the drugs control you. Or let God control you. It’s your decision now. Yours and yours alone.

We’re waiting. We’re waiting for you. The world is waiting for you, the real you.

Surrender that old man’s story. Surrender that old woman’s story. It’s tried and true, but it’s old now. It’s ugly. And it’s painful. We’ve tired of that old story. It’s time for new.

So surrender, friend. Wake up.

Surrender this story of addiction. Give it up.

Release the beast. Release the prisoner inside.

Break the chains. Break free.

You must. You must, friend.

Because this is your life. This. is. your life.

Be beautiful. Be brilliant. Be you, real you.

Free the drugs to go, to be, to flee. Forever.

Let us hear your story.

It’s waiting, you know. We see it.

God wants to perform a miracle in you.

He’s waiting on you to decide.

Will it be the drugs? Or will it be me…God…Christ living in you every day?

Come on, you. I see the story all played out. It’s beautiful and brilliant and He wants to work through you to restore thousands. But it requires you to break free first. Once and for all.

So come on you. Come on. Let’s get this show on the road.

We want to see the real you.





Notice to my readers: This post is written in honor of an individual who’s battled YEARS of VERY SIGNIFICANT drug addiction. I originally drafted it on December 11, 2014, after a time of prayer, seeking what to write and publish next. These words were on my heart, but the post felt too dark, so I chose to publish something more reader friendly. The words were timely then, and unfortunately, they’re just as timely today. This post is highly UNEDITED. I ask you to give me grace in regards to grammar, flow and sense. I wrote what flowed from my heart, what flowed from my head, what flowed from God as I typed. Therefore, these words will remain unedited. Thank you for your grace.


This morning, we made our way to Mayo Clinic for round three. It was time for Seth’s one month post-surgical eye cancer appointment with Dr. G. So we woke at 4:15 a.m., got ready and headed down the road for his 7:30 a.m. appointment.

We arrived 25 minutes early. Seth grabbed some coffee across the street at Starbucks, and I went straight downstairs to the piano, my favorite hanging spot at Mayo by a landslide.

I sat down next to an elderly woman who’d just placed a sign on top of the piano. I thought for a minute she might be performing. But she was a patient, and a regular at that. For 10 years, she’s been coming to Mayo for treatment. Heck, Mayo’s like a second home to her. The woman was feisty, brilliant, beautiful, insightful and with it. Whatever 10 years of health problems ailed her had absolutely NOTHING to do with her brain and her psyche. She was amazing. Yes, she was a glimpse of who I’d like to be at 80-something.

We chatted briskly, like time was short, like we just needed to get down to the business of this piano we loved so dearly. She told me about the elderly woman who comes to play every Monday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon. She plays by heart, by ear. She doesn’t get paid a penny; she does it because she loves it. She watches doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers pass in front of her, above her, all around on each side. She lets the music flow out of her fingers based on what she sees. If peoples’ tone is somber, she plays accordingly. If peoples’ tone is hopeful, she plays accordingly. She’s witnessed, too many times to count, peoples’ moods shift completely as they pass. Hopelessness turns to hope in the form of familiar words and tunes.


There’s a small group of people who don’t care for the piano music. They want to ban it. Get rid of it. Take that piano out of here. It’s distracting us from our work. It’s distracting for our patients. The sound travels too far. Move it somewhere else.

But people love it. It’s healing. It’s holy. There’s no better place for it.

Move it over here.

Move it over there.

Forget it, man. The acoustics have been tested. The acoustics have been measured. THIS is the place for the piano.

The elderly woman and I ponder the WHY of it all. WHY this place? WHY here? WHY not here? WHY is this so perfect? The three-leveled open atrium? The curved walls? The walls mixed with open spaces for sound to travel and dissipate wherever it may? Who knows WHY, but God? This holy anointed piano is here because God wants it to be. Because He wants to heal HERE. That’s WHY.

A princess donated the piano to Mayo, had it shipped after she’d been a patient. It’s worth $150,000 said the elderly woman as we gazed at its grandeur. “Oh, I imagine,” I said. It’s priceless.

We chatted some more, that elderly woman and I. I loved her dear. Such a treasure. Such strength. I’m sure I could’ve sat there all day, but duty called. After all, I wasn’t there to chat with an elderly woman, nor was I there to chat about a piano! Seth had arrived with his coffee and was gently prompting me from behind. “It’s time to go, we have to go.” “Good bye,” I said to the elderly woman. “I hope we see you again, I hope we see you later.”

As we walked to the elevators up to ophthalmology, I told Seth “Twenty minutes in Mayo, and I already found an amazing story. I love this place.” “That kind of thing doesn’t float my boat,” he said. “Oh, it totally floats mine,” I responded.


We arrived upstairs and were called in within minutes.

Over the course of the next two hours, we saw a nurse, a doctor, and Dr. G.

As of this one-month postoperative eye cancer follow-up, Seth had this to report to the doctors:

  • He’s continuing to see mild strobing lights in 3/4 of the periphery of his right eye (prior to surgery, the strobing was in 1/4 of the periphery).
  • His vision is “not as good as it used to be, but is acceptable.”
  • The vision in his right eye seems to have worsened as compared to before the surgeries, but when he has both eyes open and they’re working together, it’s just fine.
  • He still needs Tylenol for headaches.
  • He’s using wetting drops for his eyes.
  • No double vision.
  • On the extreme periphery, his vision is not as “trustworthy” as before, but it doesn’t seem to be a major problem.

The doctors checked his pupils to see if they’re working together. They checked the pressure of Seth’s eyes with some fancy device made by Medtronic. They did a quick examination of his sight. They asked a lot of questions and did a lot of “look up, look down, look right, look left.”

As of this one-month postoperative eye cancer follow-up, Dr. G had this to report to Seth:

  • Seth is on the upswing now in regards to his vision. His vision will continue getting better, probably for the next year and a half, then it typically gets worse after that.
  • He has “perfect mobility!” (Dr. G was VERY happy about this.)
  • Dr. G was fairly certain Seth would have double vision given the size of the melanoma, so he was delighted to hear Seth hasn’t had any issues with double vision!
  • A few little stitches remained in the eye.
  • Seth can do “anything [he] wants” in regards to exercise and lifting weights from here on out.
  • Seth is free to see the optometrist for a new prescription, but will need shatter-resistant lenses in his new glasses.
  • No eye ointment is needed after today.
  • He should use “systane drops” for his eyes for dryness and irritation.
  • Dr. G recommends prescription goggles for swimming.
  • He should wear glasses all the time to protect the eyes, especially the good eye, even when getting ready in the morning. (Dr. G was most adamant about Seth wearing glasses. Yes, this has been a bit of a struggle as Seth indicated in his guest post, but is something he’ll be working through.)

As Dr. G removed the stitches in Seth’s eyes with a tiny tweezers, I noticed faint classical music coming from the computer. I hadn’t heard it before. Dr. G must have turned it on when he entered the room. The artist was busy with his craft. The art of eyes. The art of helping human beings SEE. The art of restoring VISION.

Dr. G called into an automated phone system and dictated a report in a flash. Amazing. Incredible. Brilliant.

Dr. G shook our hands and smiled.

“One-month check up? GOOD!” he said as we walked out of the room.

Before we left, we made our next set of appointments for May 21st and 22nd when they’ll look exhaustively at the tumor to see if it’s begun shrinking. They’ll draw blood, do a MRI, take an ultrasound and photographs of the eye, and Seth will see Dr. G again.

At lunch, Seth joked about how we’ll make an overnight date of it. How we’ll leave the kids at home with one of our parents. How we’ll go out for a nice dinner just the two of us that first day back at Mayo, round four. How we’ll stay in a quiet hotel and head back for more testing in the morning. Yes, that’s my Seth. An eternal optimist. Always looking at the bright side of life. Even in the midst of eye cancer.

Signing off for now, friends. I won’t be writing about our journey through eye cancer until May when we’re back at Mayo. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing…right here. So join me, will you? Good stuff’s coming between now and then!






  1. Carol Femling says:

    I smiled when I read this 🙂 . First of all, I learned more in this post about the details of your appointment than I did talking to you two about it over lunch, the day you returned from Mayo. Second, I remembered that Amy and I smiled at each other and shook our heads, when Seth started talking and making his plans for the May appointments. He was excited about the special date he would be having with Amy during the May appointment stay in Rochester – -having dinner out and staying in a motel together. I looked at Seth and said, “No wonder I told you that you are an INSPIRATION to all of us!!” That’s so true! Seth can find the most positive things out of an eye cancer appointment at Mayo??? Yes, that’s our Seth!! He is an INSPIRATION!! 🙂

  2. Joyce Jacobson says:

    Each step in this journey brings some new challenges and some new normals. Seth, the chance to see twice the fish, twice the Shamrock shakes, or even twice the faces of your loved ones may not be in the cards but that’s one of many good reports.

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