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This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with a mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read all the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.


My life is not all glorious and sucks sometimes! The night before, I told my mom I was going to write about this day. Little did I know, chances to grow were in the making. Here goes a day.

Positive attitude.


Coffee. Pills. Smoke.

Brush teeth.

Kids awake. Feed them.

Psychologist appointment in an hour.

Get kids ready. Drop kids off at mom and dad’s place.

Off to appointment.

My psychologist asked me what emotions I was experiencing. We are working on emotion. I feel lonely, sad and get kind of angry at times. My psychologist recommended a book on loneliness for me to read. I am also in the grieving process. The stages of grief can last for years. Reality is that my dad is probably going to die in the next couple years. He included us in helping plan his funeral. The process has caused growth, and I’d almost say it has been beautiful. I selected a blue urn with butterflies on it for his ashes. When he dies, I am going to sprinkle them at special places. I also selected a pendant for his ashes. I am having a hemp necklace made to go with it. My dad is still around, and we enjoy each moment we can. We cannot always control the situation or outcome. Only God can. One day at a time. I am also grieving the loss of a boyfriend I was with for a year and a half. We are both addicts, and are attempting to live one day at a time. We realize that we cannot plan the future. I wish him the best, whatever direction his life goes.

Leave psychologist.


Pick-up kids from mom and dad’s place.

I drove home and found a book on the table outside my door. The book is called Women Who Love Too Much. Yes, I have always loved too much. This book calls for change, which is in process for me. My mental health worker arrived at my house. I was looking through the book and thinking. My mental health worker asked, “What’s that book telling you?” I told her I need to think about it and read it through. The rest of the time, we talked about what else was happening in life.


WIC shopping. I think WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children? Those are coupons for food that qualifying families get. The food really helps us. We also get help with food from my mom.

That same day I decided to give away my pregnancy clothing to my adorable neighbor who is having a baby. I am done having children. This decision was hard for me, but I realize I have enough work with two children.


My mom wanted to bring all of us out for dinner. I just wanted to feed the kids at home. We came to a consensus for my mom to bring my daughter, Raegan, out for dinner. They also went shopping. This day, just live.

When Raegan and my mom got home, we went outside and played.


Night time.

Kids asleep.

Planned time for myself, but I fell asleep because I was so tired.



I took a risk. I knew I needed to.

I’d been following the fundraising race announcements on the nonprofit organization’s Facebook page for weeks. Something told me I was supposed to go. Something told me I was supposed to race. Something told me I needed to be there. Something whispered. Take a risk. Ask. Just ask if they need a photographer.

My brain told me no. My brain told me stop. My brain told me I should stay home. This is a ridiculous idea. It’s too late. Don’t even go there. I have nothing to offer. I’m not professional. And duh! They already have a photographer. What qualifies me to photograph a race projected to earn $40,000.00 for children who have Down syndrome? What makes me believe I’m good enough to take on this task when I’m still in exploration mode? Where in the world do these crazy ideas keep coming from anyway?

I didn’t know.

I don’t know for sure.

Perhaps it was God’s still small voice.

So I called.

I couldn’t ignore the feeling I was supposed to do this.

I picked up the phone. She answered.

“Hi! My name is Amy. I see you have a fundraising race coming up this Saturday. I have 14 1/2 years of experience as a speech-language therapist, but I stopped working in December to focus on writing and exploring special needs photography. I’m looking for opportunities to do some special needs photography and wondered if there was any chance you needed a photographer for the event this weekend. And by the way, one of my former patients comes to your center for activities quite often. I’m sure her mom would be happy to vouch for me if you need a reference.”

She told me that when the race planning committee met a week and a half prior, the news was that the originally scheduled photographer was no longer able to shoot the event. She wasn’t sure if they’d found a replacement photographer, but she was going to check with the committee chair. And she wanted to know the name of my former patient’s mom. I reluctantly shared the mom’s name, and she knew her right away. “Oh yes, they’re very active here,” she said, and promised to get back to me within a day.

I hung up.

I’d done all I could.

Now it was in God’s hands.

30 minutes after I hung up, I decided I’d better text that mom and give her a heads up that I inquired about photography for the race…just in case they called her for a reference.

When I texted the mom, she responded immediately. “Ha! You are actually already too late! I just got off the phone.” In those 30 minutes between my phone call to the nonprofit and my heads-up text to the mom, the mom just so happened to call the nonprofit for something else, found out I had made the contact, and gave me a “rave review” without me even knowing!


Quiet confirmation.

The next day, the nonprofit called with an update. They’d found a replacement photographer, but could really use a second one. So they invited me to photograph, confirmed that my name would be added to the list of volunteers, and reminded me to pick up a t-shirt at the volunteer desk.

Race day arrived in the blink of an eye.

The air was brisk, chilly. I wore a long-sleeve t-shirt with a short-sleeve t-shirt over it, and figured I’d put the volunteer t-shirt right on top of that. I chose jean leggings and Target Toms. Neither were perfect for a race, but the Target Toms had brought me through long days in Haiti and Dominican Republic just fine, so why not for this, too?

The race was awesome, a photography dream come true. Hundreds of children who have Down syndrome and their delightful family and friends? Free reign to photograph those beauties in a fun, purpose-filled setting? Who could ask for more? Seriously. It was a joy.

After I picked up my t-shirt, I realized I just needed to own this thing. I needed to go ahead and take those photographs. Ten minutes in, I noticed the other photographer in the thick of things at the registration desk, but I knew that wasn’t my place. So I set my mind to do my own thing and just go for it.

I photographed moments leading up to the race. I photographed the race. I photographed special events after the race. And get this…I walked-ran the race, too.

I didn’t plan to walk-run the race, but how silly was that? Apparently, I didn’t know myself quite as well as I thought I did. Me at a race with hundreds of children with Down syndrome and I’m NOT GOING TO RUN with them? How clueless was I arriving in my jean leggings and Target Toms?

So after I took all the starting line and first block photographs of the 5K heat and 1 mile heat, I decided to bring up the rear and run the 5K. I ran. As fast as I could. With my camera. My goal was to catch up to the 5K stragglers. I ran for a long time all by myself. When I finally caught up to the last of the stragglers, I ran up ahead and captured their moment. Then I ran more until I caught up with the next group, and captured their moment. I ran further ahead, group by group, moment by moment. I was the racing photographer and I was bound and determined to photograph this race in real time. Because why not?


I ran with children who have Down syndrome. I ran with their families. I ran with their friends. I ran with their teachers. I ran with their siblings and supporters. We high fived. We laughed. We stopped for bruised knees. We cheered each other on. It was awesome.

I crossed the finish line by myself. There were no familiar faces cheering me on in the final seconds of the race. There was nobody to hug, nobody to high five. There was nobody there to take a photo to mark my first 5K. But it was truly okay. That day, that race, I didn’t need external fanfare. I had all the fanfare I ever needed. Internal joy and peace that this was totally my gig, my happy place.

Quiet confirmation.


I took 1,014 photographs that day. I had to triple check the number. I couldn’t believe it was actually true.

For the next two days, I spent nap time and late night time editing the photos, deleting the junk and selecting the ones I felt were best to share with the nonprofit. Three days after the race, I delivered a CD of 419 photos to the nonprofit’s office.

All in all, I was proud of those 419 photographs. I was happy with the way they turned out. They brought me joy. They brought me peace. I knew now. I had confirmation. Given complete freedom to photograph and the right set of circumstances, I really could create the beauty, the art I’d envisioned.

Of the 419 photographs, I was particularly proud of a smaller group of them, and ADORED six so much that I wanted to share on my blog and a new Facebook page I’m developing for photography. I sent an inquiry to the hosting nonprofit and discovered that race participants signed a release for the nonprofit to share the photographs. As a result, the nonprofit has kindly agreed to contact six families on my behalf to see if they’ll give me permission to share the photographs (without any reference to names, of course).

When I received that notice, my heart shifted.

Inquiries will be made. Perhaps some or all six families will give me permission to share the photographs I took of their beautiful children at the race. But there’s no guarantee. There’s a chance that all of the photographs from that day will remain a quiet confirmation between me and God, a quiet confirmation of my call to press forward with photography, especially special needs photography.

Quiet confirmation.

Early last week, the nonprofit organization shared 100 of my photographs from the race on their Facebook page. They included a few of my favorite photos. Let me just say, it has been pure joy to see complete strangers’ response to the photos. God knew this was the quiet confirmation I needed.

In response to a sweet girl’s photograph that was a bit too dark in my estimation, a photograph I knew I could’ve shot better had I more time with her.

“Beautiful. Seriously.”

In response to the photo I LOVED, but critiqued because it was a bit blurry.

“You look great Benny!” and “Go Benny go!”

In response to a photo of a daddy hugging his baby girl that showed the deep emotion I sense from parents of children with special needs.

“This is so sweet.”

In response to the photo of a little boy who toddled towards me at the finish line. He was so cute and so on the move that my best photo of him turned out a bit blurry for my preference.

“Love you Luc!” “Great photo!” and “Love you buddy!”

In response to the little girl that hid behind her mama and ran away from me earlier in the day, the little girl I captured on stage after she was tired and worn out, but still endearing and oh so sweet.

“My princess Aly!!”


Quiet confirmation.

None of those people knew me. None of those people had any connection to me. They simply saw the photographs and recognized them as beauty.

Perhaps we don’t need others’ loud fanfare after all. Perhaps quiet confirmation is all we need. Quiet confirmation of a life well lived. Quiet confirmation of a choice well made. Quiet confirmation of a call answered. And warmly received.



It’s summer. Day one.

Hubs last words before heading out to work this morning were “have a great vacation!”


Our oldest was offered a ride to his first day of basketball, then a ride to his first day of junior golf league.

The girls and I headed out for a morning of activities. First, the gym. Let’s be real. The gym membership hasn’t worked for me for the past two summers. I barely went at all, and by the end of both summers, I told myself I’d never do that again, that I’d put my membership on hold for summer because it was a complete waste of money. But this summer, I decided I’d add our oldest daughter and give that a whirl. She’s way too old for the child care center, but exercise is one of my lifelines. I need to workout for my sanity. So today was day one at the gym. The oldest already mentioned a bit of boredom, but we’re going as long as she can stand it. Or mama’s gunna be a crabby vacationer. After the gym, we hit the post office, which was followed by a quick lunch at Taco Bell, which was followed by a stop at the pediatrician’s office to drop off health forms that need to be signed for my daughter’s upcoming church camp. Next was a call to the music store to verify that her trumpet, stand and lesson book would be delivered to school in time for tomorrow’s first band lesson. They weren’t sure. They looked it up and nothing was showing up in the system. Daughter tells me the mass delivery was already made last Thursday, that all of her friends already have their horns. I’m not sure whether to believe her or the representative I talked to at the store mid-last week. We shall wait for the return call to confirm either way. We drove to Target. I didn’t want to make another stop, but truth is, we had enough toilet paper for two more trips to the bathroom, so that Target stop was a do or die. And yeah, we picked up some bug spray for “natural protection” at camp. After all that, we drove home and dear daughter literally jumped out of the car to go visit neighbor friends the second we pulled in the driveway.

The three year old fell asleep on the way home. I’d promised her a regular pre-nap episode of Sofia the First, but since she’d fallen asleep, my goal was to get her in the house as quietly as possible and straight upstairs for nap. She hadn’t used the bathroom in three hours, so I had to wake her enough for a fight to go “potty” on the toilet before nap time.

Oldest daughter was gone visiting friends.

Son was still gone at golf.

The three year old was “napping.”

So I broke out my computer to start a blog post. I knew I didn’t have much time at all. An hour of quiet at best.

Then she came down. “I want some oranges. Can you get me some oranges? I want lemonade.” “We already ate,” I said! “Remember we ate at Taco Bell?” So much for the argument. She kept asking. I couldn’t deny oranges. And I wanted to ensure a full tummy for sleep. So she won. I broke out an orange and asked her to sit down and eat it. “After you eat the orange, it’s time for nap,” I reminded her. “When you wake up from nap, you can play outside with friends!”

Back upstairs.

Back to “nap.”

Back downstairs to my laptop. Uploaded a few pictures, started a post I’ll no longer write. Heard the three year old walking around upstairs.

Back upstairs.

There she was. Up and about.

“I want some lemonade,” she exclaimed.

I put her back in bed and got her a glass of water.

She refused it. “I want lemonade!” she exclaimed.

“We’re not having lemonade now. We’re having water now. You can have lemonade after nap,” I responded calmly.

I left her on her bed, doubtful of a nap ever happening at this point.

Within a minute, our oldest daughter came in the door with her neighbor friend. They needed my help with their box house outside. I pressed save on my blog post. I’d only uploaded three pictures at that point. Not even close to approximating the dream or vision I had for that post. I helped them in their play box, closed the cardboard door, and reminded them to open the “windows” and not stay in it too long. “It’s hot today, and I want to make sure you don’t overheat.”

Back inside.

Back to the computer for a minute. Maybe less. I don’t think I got anywhere on that post.

Girls came back inside, went upstairs, then came back downstairs. “Guess what?” said dear daughter. “What?” I said. “Maisie’s awake upstairs! She’s playing in her room,” exclaimed my oldest daughter. She and her friend giggled. Apparently, they thought it was cool, funny. They asked WHY she wasn’t sleeping. “She knows there’s a whole lotta fun stuff going on around here today, I guess.”

The girls went back upstairs and began entertaining the three year old. They’re up there still. Talking and playing. Doors shutting and opening again. “Come on sweets, come on Maisie.” I imagine they’re going to do her hair now. I’ll go check in just a few.


I surrender the beautiful blog post I was writing. Not going to happen today. I surrender the thoughts of all the blog titles and posts I’ve been drafting and dreaming up in my head the last week of school and moving into this first week of summer. Posts on friendship and community, fighting for our God-sized dreams, our identities when all the external stuff is stripped away, a commemorative post marking my niece’s 5th birthday and all the trauma that led up to her birth, a post where I ask you what God’s working out in your life right now. I think about the writing group I’ll have to miss (again) this week, for the 3rd time in a row, because the hubs has work activities and I have an out-of-town baseball game for our son. I think about this season, how it seems I’m supposed to be here, surrendering the dreams, surrendering the visions I have for myself, for the NOW, the here and NOW. For the kids while they’re little. While they’re here. While they’re still playing and dressing up and going to golf and basketball and trumpet lessons and singing Sofia the First cartoon songs. While they still want me to come with them to the park.

I feel guilty for dreaming something for myself. It’s a tearing of myself in two.

I surrender the beautiful blog post for a simple one I can type as fast as my fingers will write in the in-between kid moments.

They’re downstairs now. The three year old came down in the blue “bow dress” my older daughter wore to her dance recital in preschool. The “baby” is nearly that same age now. The bow dress fits perfectly and is her favorite. “It’s time for memories,” the older girls prompted her as she came downstairs to show me her loveliness. “It sure is,” I said as I gave her a big hug.

They’re here now. In the room next to me, trying to determine what to do next. It’s loud in here. They’re playing kazoo. My fingers are flying, determined to get anything out on this page.

It’s a balancing act.

And I’m not perfect at it at all.

This isn’t vacation. This is a season.

A season of surrender. To what is. To the now. To living for today. To enjoying and finding peace where God has me.

Yes, they are small. This is their vacation. My words will wait. A different kind of beauty is waiting. She’s tapping me now. “Can I go outside with the girls?” Then, “Guys, guys let’s go outside. Come!”







Dear You:

Thank you. What more can I say?

Sure, we’ve crossed paths a few times. But truth be told, I don’t know you all that well. We’re mere strangers in the daily reality called life. Heck, you’re nearly my neighbor, but for some reason, our paths primarily cross online, in this place, my blog.

When you approached and hugged me at the gas station that day, the day before we left for a week of radiation in the hospital, my heart was blessed. Thank you for your hug. Thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you for your sweet smile. Thank you for taking time to stop and see how things were going. Thank you for asking how I was handling it all. Thank you for being you, right then and there at the gas pump.

And then that afternoon, when the kids discovered a bag and your card on our front doorstep? Oh, man. What a sweet surprise that was. What a blessing and delight that was. Who does that anymore? Who delivers goodness straight to someone’s doorstep without seeking an ounce of recognition?

Your words. That card. I’ve read it many times already. It’s stored in my Bible to remind me that people do care, that people do love, that people do understand the quiet power of words, prayer, empathy and sympathy in times of need. I love how you wrote it all out, all your thoughts, all your feelings, all your questioning and wondering, all your wishing and praying for me and our entire family as we faced my husband’s eye cancer treatment. Thank you. Thank you for your words.

And that necklace, that powerful display of faith and beauty? Simultaneously broken and beautiful? That’s what life’s all about, isn’t it? Broken and beautiful. We’re all that way, yes? We’re shards of broken glass, our innermost places filled with painful experiences, haunting memories, things we wish never had to happen in the first place. But those broken pieces come together to create us, to form us, to make us into better, more compassionate people. We are broken. And we are beautiful. Yes. God intended it that way. So we are humbled. So we trust more in Him. So we surrender to His plans, His desire for our greater good. Cancer or no cancer.

That second surgery, the one where the gold bottle cap plaque filled with radiation was removed from my husband’s eye? I wore the necklace that day. I knew I needed the extra strength. For the unknown. For what was yet to come. For peace and comfort knowing I was broken, that my husband’s eye was broken, but our lives were still oh so beautiful.

“In surrender, God can use our burdens as an avenue for His grace.”

Surrender. Oh yes, girl. You got it. I have learned to surrender. I am not in control of this life. I do not have the power to heal my husband’s eye cancer, nor do I have the might to fabricate and maintain any sort of perfect life. The weight of the world is not on my shoulders. But surrender. Yes. Surrender. When I surrender, when we surrender, God steps in. His grace abounds. We need not work ourselves to death. We need not worry ourselves to death. We need not fear the worst possible outcome. We need to trust, hand it over to a higher authority. Surrender. Yes. Surrender.

You must know. This is the last thank you. I’ve been holding off on writing your thank you because words haven’t seemed adequate. I’ve been holding off because I wanted to wait until the time seemed right. I’ve been holding off because my thanks seem small compared to the grace and gratitude I felt upon receiving your beautiful gift.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.



  1. Tom Baunsgard says:

    Awesome post Amy! Sweet Surrender! We are broken here in this life but will be whole in the next, made perfect in God’s Grace. His Grace is enough! Blessings abound!

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