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One day, you’ll pass through a place, a least-suspecting place. And it’ll occur to you that you’ve lost every piece of you.

You, beautiful you. You who were created with a design in mind. You who were created to breathe, be and bask in beauty. You who were created to live full, real and true. You whose soul was made for more. You, dear you, you lost yourself.

Sit with that.

You lost yourself.

Somewhere along the way, someday became the way. Circumstance turned to circumstance upon circumstance. Come what may became your day, after day, after day.

Come what may.

Come what may.

Come what may.

But come what may didn’t serve you well, did it? Because here you are. Barren. Hollowed out. Nothing but a body walking, talking with nothing inside but come what may. That emptiness, how does it feel? Sit with it, my friend. How does it feel? Do you feel anything anymore?

You’ve done your duty, sacrificed for the greater good, tended and nurtured everything and everyone, lived and loved to the best of your ability. But the question begs to be asked. If you don’t tend to yourself, won’t your soul wither under the weight of coulds, shoulds and should haves? And the Bible says love your neighbor as yourself, but what if you haven’t been loving yourself?

So today I’m asking…

What do you need?

What is it that you need?

Let’s make space for that, for what you NEED.

Take care, my friend.

Take hold.

Take hold of YOU, the YOU that’s more than coulds, shoulds and should haves. The YOU that’s created specially, uniquely, the YOU you know is inside. Take hold of her. Be tender and gentle towards her, the woman who’s still standing after ALL this, ALL that, all the world’s weight upon her shoulders.

Let’s go, now. Let’s search the ruins, explore this least-suspecting place. Let’s gather remnants of you, fill the spaces hollowed by come what may. It’s time for you, my friend. It’s time to harvest the remnants, the bits and pieces, the fabric of you.


Stand and look.

See what you need to see.

Where are you? Do you know where you are anymore?

Where have you been? Where, oh where, have you been?

It’s okay to just stand there and take it in. It’s okay to acknowledge where you are and where you’ve been. Nobody will give you that permission but you. Take it in. Acknowledge it. Claim it. Because you are fierce and strong, and only YOU and God know what YOU know. Only YOU and God know where you’ve been, where you are, where you’re going, indeed. Stand there, my friend. Stand where you need to stand. Stand. There you are. Here you are. Here.

Let’s gather remnants now.

Look over there. Look at the mess. Right there on the table. Everyone got up and left. And there you are with the mess. Just look at it. Look at the way you’ve treated yourself, as if you don’t matter, as if your sole existence is to to take care of everyone’s mess. It’s good to take care of messes, my friend. It’s our call to help others in need. But it’s not our responsibility to manage every mess we encounter. It’s time to start looking at the messes and ask important questions. Is this my mess? Did they leave this mess because they know I’ll clean it up? Am I just good for messes, or am I more than messes? Am I needed in this mess? Should I clean it? Should I leave it? Or would everyone be better served if everyone took part in the cleaning? The questions are endless, my friend. Just stand there. Look at the mess. Look at the pain. Pick up your part. Perhaps it’s time to leave the rest, that bit of a mess, right there on the table. Then remember your remnants, remnants of you left tableside.

Let’s head over here, to the YOU who once was. Look. Just look. This is who you used to be. YOU before come what may. THIS is the YOU you loved, the YOU you embraced, the YOU you saw as beautiful. This is the YOU who had vision, clear vision. This is the place you came back to, the place you found YOU, every time. Is she gone? I don’t think so, my friend. She’s still there, waiting quietly. Come in. Be you. Become you again. Pick up the remnants, put on the garments. Feel beautifully YOU again.

What about there, the place you meandered in and back out as if it didn’t bother you a bit? You’re not sure you belong there, are you? You love that place. It feels like home, a warm and familiar place to rest. But you’re just not sure. Is this home? Or is this a show? Pick up a remnant, my friend. Pick up the one that feels right. If this is your home, let this be your home. If this is your place, your space, your place to BE, then BE. So look around. Pick up that remnant. See what’s yours. Take it. Stay a little longer. Stroll and see what fits. Feel the textures. Linger. Look. Pick things up, put them down if they don’t work. But gather the remnants of you, my friend. Don’t leave without a few. It’s YOU who will lose if you don’t take remnants of YOU where you find them. It’s OTHERS who will suffer if YOU’RE not fully YOU.

This remnant-collecting journey won’t be complete unless we take a take a stroll through baggage, the baggage of whether you deserve all these remnants or not. Do you deserve those remnants, those pieces unique to YOU and only YOU? Do you deserve something FOR you? Do you deserve that thing GOD wants for you? Do you deserve the life God planned for you? Touch the bags. Feel the remnants. Stand there in the beauty. Now I know you hate the word “deserve.” It’s not a good word at all, friend. I know. Most of the time you’re not sure you “deserve” anything at all. But there’s not a word that fits better. Bare with me, dear one. Here’s what I’m saying, the best way I can say it. You have been gifted with grace, the amazing grace of life. Accept the gift. Live the life God’s given you. Just pick it up, my friend. PICK. IT. UP. Pick up the most beautiful remnant you can find. It’s not too expensive for Jesus. He already paid the price. He already said you don’t have to be rich. You don’t have to be the wealthiest woman in the block. In fact, you can’t afford that remnant. So take it. You deserve it, He says. Or maybe not at all. But grace is my gift. To you. Take all the beautiful remnants you can. Find them where you may. Gather them and store them, for the days are long and your future is certain.

We’re walking now, closer and closer to you, the YOU you’d lost, the YOU who’d been emptied, the YOU you’d left behind. Tell me, dear friend. Tell me. Have you gathered a few remnants? Remnants needed? Remnants necessary? Remnants new? Remnants of you?

Bring them. We’re almost here. You’ll need those remnants for the journey. We need you. ALL of you. Let it be said. We. need. you.

Back to the center now. Here we are. You have some remnants, I know you do. Maybe just a few.

Stand there. Still. Just stand and listen.

He’s playing now. Do you hear it? He’s playing your song. You can see it, the way He’s looking at you, the way He’s making eye contact with you, the way He’s following your every move when the world’s pulling at your feet, distracting you, telling you it’s time to go, it’s time to be done with this remnant-finding nonsense.

Don’t be done, my friend. Don’t leave. Stand still despite the pull. You’ve come this far. Don’t stop now. Keep the remnants tucked in your pockets. Keep the remnants stuffed up your sleeves. He’s still watching you. The pain is growing, the pain is welling inside. You’re not done growing. You’re not done collecting remnants. Look. SEE. He’s STILL playing your song. He sees you’re about to burst into tears. He sees those remnants hanging from your pockets, those remnants slipping from your sleeves. He plays. He just plays. He keeps on playing and playing. For you, my love. For you. Keep listening. Keep SEEING Him SEE you. He is playing your song.

You want to run. You want to hide. You don’t want anyone to see the you that’s truly you. “Forget it,” you say to yourself. “This remnant collecting adventure was the stupidest, lamest adventure ever. I don’t need these remnants. The pain is calling, pulling, never-ending. I just need to run. Go. Get out of this place. These remnants? Whatever. They were just pieces of fabric, anyway. Who needs these pieces of me but me, anyway?”

No, He calls.

Stop running.


Come closer.

I see you. I see you across the way.

Stand with your remnants.

Let every fiber of your being, every fiber of those remnants STAND.

Hear the notes.

Listen to your song.

Stand strong when the world is pulling.

Look at my smile. I’m looking at you.

I love you.

Remnants of you.


For months, the striped duvet and shams in the Pottery Barn catalog wowed me and called me. When it comes to decorating, our master bedroom is at the bottom of the barrel. The dining room, living room, powder room, kid’s bathroom and kids’ bedrooms have always taken priority over ours. It’s just the way we’ve operated. So there wasn’t any chance I was getting that Pottery Barn duvet until Chrismas Eve 2008 when I opened a surprise package from my mama. Somehow, she’d gotten whiff that I wanted that duvet. She bought it and packaged it up pretty with my name on top. It seems silly now, but I shed a few tears over that surprise. Because somebody noticed what I loved, somebody cared, somebody bought me something beautiful. Just for me.

Within a couple weeks, I’d ordered shams and pillows. In no time flat, the set was up. Bright and beautiful, comfortable and classy, just the way I envisioned it.

Now all we needed was fresh paint.

We just so happened to be working with an interior decorator on window treatments for our living room, kitchen, entryway, and two kids’ bedrooms, so when he came over for the consultation, we brought him upstairs to look at paint colors for our master bedroom.

I had a plan. I had a vision. I’m telling you now, I knew what I wanted before the interior decorator even stepped in the room. I wanted green, one of the shades of green in the duvet. Either shade, any complementary shade of green would do. That’s all I wanted. GREEN. Just make it green, please.

I told him straight up. “I want green. I was thinking green. Like this shade or this shade.”

He pulled out his big ring, flipped through all the blessed colors of green, and by golly, green just didn’t seem to settle right with him. (To this day, I still wonder if he didn’t have a true paint match, or whether he just downright hated green. The world will never know.)

“How about tan?” asked the interior decorator as he flipped through his color ring in search of the perfect tan to match my beloved duvet.

“I’d really love a dark brown wall,” my husband added. “Maybe on this wall, behind our bed.”

Honestly, I don’t even know how green turned to tan and dark brown, but it did. Before I knew it, this wall was going to be dark brown, this wall was going to be tan, so forth and so forth. Right before my eyes, the whole room had been revised. Tan and dark brown. And oh yes, let’s add a dark red stripe on the top AND on the bottom for good measure. Maybe it sounded like a good idea at the time. Yes, that would pull the color and pull the stripe up from the duvet onto the wall. A pop of color. Yes, indeed. I reasoned with myself, I convinced myself that’s just what we needed.

So up it went. Up went the paint. We hired the interior decorator’s suggested painter to come and do it. Because TAN plus DARK BROWN plus a DARK RED stripe not only on the top, but the bottom, too, was going to be a lot of work and there was no way I was doing this myself.


I liked it at first. It was good.

I had my duvet. I had my shams. I’d even met the interior decorator at the discount fabric store and found the crazy floral fabric for our window treatments (all by myself, mind you…without his help, but with his approval).

But as each day passed, I grew to hate the tan, the dark brown, and especially the red stripes on the top and bottom of our walls.

I never wanted tan.

I never wanted dark brown.

I never wanted dark red. And I never wanted stripes.

I loved the striped duvet.

I loved the striped shams.

But I wanted GREEN on the walls. GREEN.

Every morning since the winter of 2009, I’ve woken up next to my beloved husband, snuggled up in my striped duvet. I look over on my dresser where I keep a family photo and all my Kenya, Haiti & Dominican treasures, and I’m grateful for the life and opportunities God has given me. But then I look up at the Target tan and red walls, I look over to our beautifully framed wedding photo and the big red stripe right above it, and I’m reminded that I LOST. MY. VOICE. I didn’t know how to assert myself in a moment that counted. Sure, paint color WAS and IS a simple thing, a superficial thing. Honestly, paint color doesn’t matter one iota in the scheme of much-more-important life things. But my voice DOES matter. My opinion DOES matter. What I THINK, what I HOPE for, what I WANT, what I DREAM of, and what I LOVE DOES matter. I must not deny that. I must not deny my voice. Even when it comes to superficial things, like green walls.

Not now, but sometime in the next year or two, we’re hoping to buy new furniture and bedding for our master bedroom. As two first borns, it takes us a bazillion years to agree on pretty much anything, so we’re already starting to look and dream and talk a bit about what that new bedroom furniture and bedding might look like.

This week, we received a Pottery Barn catalog in the mail. I’ve been throwing them straight away for months because we’re not in the position to buy furniture, bedding or anything from Pottery Barn right now. But this time, we did take a peek. My husband wants this page…neutrals, grays, dark browns with a light neutral on the walls. I want something more like that page…creams, linens, with more color in the quilt. And I won’t say what color I’d like on the walls until I know what bedding we’d get.

Yes, I reminded my husband that I won’t be promising anything this time.

Because I’ve learned my lesson.

I will not surrender my voice to paint colors. I will not surrender my voice to the colors on a quilt. I will not surrender my voice to the type of wood we have or the type of light fixtures that hang from our wall, or anything of the sort.

Never again will I stare at a wall for 9 years, letting it remind me that I not only surrendered, but LOST my voice for no good reason.

Just in case you wondered where all the passion comes over paint colors…this losing my voice for no good reason? It isn’t a first, you know. This isn’t about green paint. This isn’t about tan or dark brown. This isn’t about red stripes. This isn’t about my beloved duvet. This isn’t about me being married to another first born or us taking a bazillion years to choose things together. This isn’t about our interior decorator. This isn’t a debate about superficial things vs. things that really matter. This isn’t about me being a bratty baby and needing to “suck it up buttercup” because paint color doesn’t matter in light of hurricanes and fires, nuclear bombs and starving children. This is about me OWNING my VOICE, being able to express myself and standing strong and steady in that space. This is about me seeing that I matter, that my thoughts and opinions count for something, that I was created for a reason and that I should feel free to release my voice and gifts into the world just as much as anyone else.

Bet your bottom dollar, I’m saving my beautiful, beloved duvet for a guest room. Maybe this time, I’ll paint the walls green.

I woke at 5:07 a.m. on Friday, December 16, 2016. Within a couple minutes of waking, I felt a tingle rush down my left arm. This wasn’t your average “my arm fell asleep” kind of tingle. It was different. Significant.

I’d been feeling tiny pains in my heart on and off since February 2014, the night before I left for Haiti. And for months prior to this particular day, I’d had several spells of unexplained dizziness when standing. Add to that three weeks of unusually elevated stress including two days of appointments at Mayo Clinic for my husband’s eye cancer, returning home to grandma and three kids with head lice that would NOT GO AWAY for NINE DAYS, my husband’s birthday, my last published post on my old blog and a new website in development, my daughter’s birthday and birthday party, one early Christmas with my side of the family at our house, and preparations for an early Christmas with my husband’s side of the family. Add to that 12 years of significant stress, including my dad’s layoff from his job two years before retirement; my sister’s SIX YEARS of significant addiction and mental health issues followed by two pregnancies with two children, one who had a serious medical problem requiring surgery three days after birth; my brother’s accident; my dad’s heart attack; my husband’s eye cancer; my dad’s rare lung disease which lead to a lung transplant; my mother-in-law’s heart attack; several years of chronic bleeding with multiple doctor visits and no answers; a vocation change; lice not once, but THREE times; and other diagnoses and discoveries we’ve chosen to keep private.

I was CERTAIN. Absolutely CONVINCED that morning of December 16, 2016, that with the tingling down my arm, the pains in my heart, unexplained dizziness and ALL the stress both long-term and short-term, that I was HAVING A HEART ATTACK.

I grabbed my phone from the nightstand, typed “symptoms of heart attack in women” into Google, and began reading the first article that popped up. No kidding. I didn’t even make it half way through the article and my heart began beating SO fast, SO out of control, SO out of my chest that I knew something was terribly wrong. My husband was sleeping, so I gave him a swift and hefty nudge.

“I need to go to the hospital. I don’t feel well.”

“What?” he said as he pushed himself slightly up and out of sleeping position. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I NEED to go to the hospital. Call 911 RIGHT NOW. I don’t feel well at all!”

I wasn’t sure my husband believed me. This was totally random. It was still 5-something in the morning. I’d woken him from a deep slumber, asking him to call 911 and get me to the hospital.

“I’m not kidding! I’m going to DIE!!!! Call. 911. NOW! I’m having a heart attack!!!” I yelled in a panic over my symptoms and my husband’s disbelief and disobedience over not calling 911 the millisecond I asked him to.

My 11-year-old daughter rushed in our room after hearing me yell “I’m going to die.” I gave her a hug, held her hand tight alongside the bed, told her I loved her so much and that they need to call 911 right away!

At that point, I’m pretty sure my husband started to take the situation seriously. He whipped his clothes on and called 911. As soon as he connected with 911, we got me down the stairs. I hugged all three kids as big as I could, told them I loved them SO much and to hang on until we could get a neighbor to come over to watch them, and made my way to the cold car. If I was, indeed, having a heart attack, and if, indeed, it was going to be fatal, I knew this was a beyond-traumatic way for my kids to see their mom one last time. In the panic of the moment, I did my best to reassure them of my love and give them one last memory of their mom holding their hand as she rushed to take care of her health. It was, indeed, a memory four of us will never forget.

After taking my heart rate and hearing my symptoms, 911 confirmed that they should send emergency services. An ambulance was on its way.

My husband helped me back in the house.

I lay flat on the living room couch with my blue snowflake pajamas and disheveled morning hair. My arm wasn’t tingling anymore, but my heart rate was still unusually elevated, far beyond anything I’d ever felt working out faithfully for 11 years. I was dizzy, lightheaded, nauseous and shaky. I felt weak and disconnected from my surroundings. I was going crazy, having a heart attack or dying…perhaps all three.

Before I knew it, my neighbor who’s a firefighter was kneeling beside me. His wife was in the background gathering our kids and basic belongings so they could hang at our neighbor’s house before school.

An ambulance and two medics arrived. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. The Christmas tree was decked to the nines with red ribbon, sparkly poinsettias and Hallmark ornaments aplenty. And there I was on the couch having a heart attack…or not.

This was absolutely, without a doubt, the most humbling and humiliating experience of my life. 

One male medic and one female medic rushed in the front door with their medical equipment. They asked about my symptoms and took my pulse and blood pressure. Still super high. Unusually elevated considering I was just lying on the couch. They listened and decided to take a quick EKG to see if any unusual heart activity could be detected.

Nothing. Nada. No unusual heart activity except my reported symptoms and extraordinarily high heart rate.

I KNOW myself. I KNOW my body. I KNEW something had happened and was terribly wrong.

I also happen to be a highly sensitive and intuitive individual.

I sensed pretty quickly that the male medic didn’t believe me. He thought I was some crazy person, that I was making all of this up, that there was no heart attack happening here, that it was high time for them to get out of our house and let us take care of this in our own due time. Okay, perhaps I’m being overly sensitive, but everything I read from the male medic’s body language was dismissive rather than supportive. I didn’t need any sort of dismissive. Dismissiveness, whether subtle or outright, is not a way to handle anyone’s story.

What did I have to lose in that moment? I’d already lost all sense of dignity. Heck, I was humbled prone on the couch.

“I know you don’t believe me,” I exclaimed as respectfully and NOT-crazy-person as possible to the male medic, “but I’ve been working out for 11 years and I know my body. I’ve never, ever experienced anything like this in my entire life. Something happened. Something is wrong.”

“Let’s see if you can get up and walk around a bit,” said Jordan. I got up. Made a few slow laps around our kitchen island. “Have you experienced any stress lately?” inquired one of the medics. “Yes. Significant stress for many years.” I shared the stress in a sentence or two, knowing full well that reality was more like a book.

Humbled and humiliated, I got back on the couch.

We decided, reluctantly, that the medics and ambulance would leave, that we would drive ourselves to the ER.

It hit me. I started crying as they looked at me one last time and made their way out. Something significant happened. We called 911. I traumatized our kids. Our neighbors came over. An ambulance and two medics came to my house at a freaky early morning hour. And now they were all gone. It was just me and my husband. Something had happened to my body AND I was crazy all at the same time.

A half hour later, we found ourselves in the emergency room.

Four hours later, after physician interviews, a chest x-ray, another EKG, TWO enzyme tests used to detect a heart attack, and continuous blood pressure and heart rate monitoring showing my pulse was still totally out of control, it was determined that I had NOT had a heart attack, but a PANIC ATTACK.

Yes, this was definitely the most humiliating experience of my entire LIFE.

The only consolation was the emergency room doctor who said she could see in my eyes that it had all been too much, that I had been through a lot and my system crashed once and for all. She said she wouldn’t have been surprised if my enzyme tests had come back positive considering my unusually high heart rate for all those hours; she’s seen runners leak enzymes at those heart rates post-marathons. Yes, she assured me that my heart was, in fact, INCREDIBLY STRONG.

That was Friday.

I had another panic attack on Sunday and another on Monday. On Monday, I made a doctor appointment for Friday; I’d read up on panic attacks and had no interest in this moving into the realm of panic disorder. Tuesday and Wednesday were okay, but my nerves were COMPLETELY FRAYED that whole week. I could feel my heart beating ALL the TIME. I had to move quarter to half my normal pace just to fend off another panic attack. I did very little around the house and had to take breaks to sit or lie down throughout the day. Thursday I had a panic attack. Friday I had a panic attack in the morning and was NOT well when I went in for the doctor appointment. I scored top of the charts on the anxiety test and began a medication that’s used to treat panic attacks that same day. Christmas Eve afternoon was terrible. I’m pretty sure I had panic attacks, one after another, all through Christmas Eve service. I only slept 3 hours overnight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day because I was cycling through panic attacks all night long and was certain I was going to land in the hospital again. Yes, it was that bad.

Thank the LORD, my last panic attack was late Christmas morning on our way to the airport. Praise the LORD, we just happened to be heading to Orlando that afternoon for a 4-day family vacation. God knew I would need to get away.

The medication kicked in. I was able to enjoy the vacation and haven’t had a panic attack since late Christmas morning.

From then on, I knew life had to change.

I knew I needed to take better care of myself if I was going to continue taking care of others.

I KNEW I needed to see the significance of my OWN story. 

Since January 11th, I’ve consulted once a month with our neighbor who’s a rockstar personal trainer. I’ve eaten more salads in the past two months than I had in a year. I increased my workouts from 2x/week to 3x/week, and am lifting serious weights EVERY workout which is a notable change from my mostly-cardio workouts. I’ve cut back significantly on sugar, fast food and mindless late-night snacking, and I’m generally eating with MUCH more intentionality. Every day without fail, I log my nutrition on My Fitness Pal. I’ve lost 7 pounds in 8 weeks.

The last day I drank caffeinated beverages was December 15th, the day before my first panic attack. I started going to bed an hour earlier and have been sleeping MUCH better.

I’ve said NO to some things and YES to new things.

I’m trying to reach out when I sense I’m in need of encouragement, community and connection.

Slowly, but surely, I’m allowing myself to dream again.

Something had to change. Praise God, things are changing. For He works ALL things together for those who love Him. He makes ALL things beautiful in their time. THIS is my story and I’m sticking to it.

So here we are. So much has happened since I began working on this new site on November 7, 2016. So much has happened since I shared my last post on the old blog on December 12, 2016. God has worked mightily, and although life has brought new and unexpected challenges, I am 100% confident that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

You might be asking yourself “So why did you tell us this long and crazy story? Now what?!”

Well, let me tell you, friends!

If you followed my story for a while, you know this website is NEW, just launched TODAY! After four months of hard work, I’m so excited to finally have this site up and running, and can’t wait for you to look around. But before you take a peek at our new online home, let me explain where we’re heading from here!

Moving forward, this site will feature four categories of stories:

1. Stories by Me.

ONCE a month, I will write on ONE of four topics, including DREAMS, HEALTH, FAMILY, and REAL LIFE.

2. Stories by My Sister.

Tiffany is a mother of two and has schizoaffective disorder – bipolar type. ONCE a month, Tiffany will write on ONE of four topics, including MENTAL HEALTH & SELF CARE, MOTHERHOOD, DAILY LIVING, and RELATIONSHIPS.

3. Photo Stories

Some photo stories will be simple, featuring my favorite photographs from recent shoots. There will also be full-length stories for people who choose to pay extra for a photo shoot, interview and written story in honor of a special occasion or major life event!

4. Featured “Sisterhood of Significance” Stories

Last, but DEFINITELY not least, I’m beyond excited to announce that I’m launching a long-term series called the “Sisterhood of Significance.” For the past 4 years 8 months, I’ve been sharing my story and others’ stories on my blog. Today, in honor of the new website launch, I shared an incredibly vulnerable and personal part of my story for a reason.

I love stories. I believe strongly that everyone has a story, a story worth knowing and worth telling. Good, bad, beautiful and ugly, your story is significant. I want you to see, more than anything else, the significance of your story.  So we’ll meet. We’ll talk. We’ll get to know each other. I’ll ask questions and I’ll listen to your story. Then I’ll use words and photographs to help you see and share the significance of your story.

Two months ago, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with a crystal clear vision for how the “Sisterhood of Significance” will work! I started the chain today by sharing my story. I’m passing the torch and nominating my college friend and day spa owner, Amy, as next in the “Sisterhood of Significance.” Next week, I’m meeting with Amy. She’ll share her story of significance, I’ll take notes and photographs, and I’ll feature her story on the site! Amy will pass the torch and nominate someone who’s living a life of significance, whether they believe it or not. That person, if they agree to be interviewed and featured on the site, will join our “Sisterhood of Significance.” And so goes the chain, on and on, until we have hundreds of women in our “Sisterhood of Significance.”

The original “Sisterhood of Significance” chain can and will pause and resume on an as needed basis. New story chains will be inserted when I launch special series. I won’t go into detail about how that will work now, but the possibilities are endless, exciting and totally in line with all the visions I’ve ever had.

One more P.S. I’ve dreamed up something super amazing for this “Sisterhood of Significance.” How about a “Sisterhood of Significance Gala” where we take one night, once a year, to honor all the women that have been featured in the series?! I’m just going to put that dream out there and won’t mention it again unless it comes to life. But wouldn’t that be awesome?

One story. One woman at a time. Let’s do this. See the significance of your story.

My name is Erica. I am a 38-year-old public school art teacher. I have been teaching for over 10 years and love my job. Unlike many mothers with children with disabilities, I have managed to maintain my career. I feel very blessed to work with over 500 students in our town in Minnesota.

I have been married since 2006. My husband, Scott, is an outside sales person for a title company. He is the most amazing father. He has stepped up, when he could have run away. I admire his strength for completely doing this with me day-to-day.

Our only son, Grant, was about 6 when his first serious round of self injury began. He has some level of intellectual disability, autism, and Avoidant Restrictive Feeding Intake Disorder (ArFID) which resulted in a g-tube getting surgically placed in August. Below is just a small piece of my life story. I am writing regularly at and share updates on Facebook at if you would like to read more.

Amy is my friend and neighbor. She was kind enough to let me share my story here today. We are seeking donations for our medical trip. Grant is on a wait list for a hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, called Kennedy Krieger. Please watch the video at the end of this post, and check out my site for more details if you are in a position to help. Thank you.


I was cleaning up my art room, like I always do. Pandora was playing “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. I know this song really well. I might be able to sing along without the lyrics without them in front of me. Can you hear it now?

” Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus …”

This song triggers a variety of emotions. I sing along. Just in my head. I don’t need someone to walk in my classroom and hear me.

Taylor sings …

“You’ve got to help me make a stand
You’ve just got to see me through another day
My body’s aching and my time is at hand
I won’t make it any other way”

I push the tears back. I want to let them flow at this moment, but I don’t and I won’t. I have let them flow before. I have had deep, ugly cries in the last six months. I have done this in front of my son. I have done it alone. But, I have never let myself cry like this in front of anyone else. This song is triggering this feeling, but I push it down.

I feel regret and anger when I have cried like this in front of Grant. It makes me cry more. My anger builds with every piece of this of this journey. The tears flow easily if he hurts me and I am not talking about emotional pain. I have never had a verbal argument with him. He is not considered “non-verbal,” but he is not functionally conversational either.




He has attacked my hair so many times I can’t count all of the incidences. Even in one day, he has come at me over 20 times. It’s like he is trying to remove chunks of my hair. I am trained in something called “CPI” so I know how to release his hands from head. I have to press on his knuckles. My scalp hurts after he comes after me. After a summer of hair pulls, I eventually sacrifice my long strands for a chin length “do.” I resent him in that moment at the hair salon. I tell myself it’s just hair. It is not me or who I am as a woman. It’s just hair. I eventually purchase hair turbans off of Amazon to protect my poor scalp. Cutting my hair doesn’t prove to be enough to keep him from hurting me.

He has tried to hurt my eyes. This is how it all started. He would push his fingers into my tear ducts. It happened so quickly. It’s hard to explain how anyone can get to your eyes so quickly.

Today he mostly kicks me. He hits me. He has bruised my eye area. He has scratched my skin and, more recently, he has learned how to head butt. This might be the worst new behavior. It comes out of nowhere. I can be putting on his diaper or he can be sitting on my lap. I might lean over to fix something and his head, with a helmet on, comes at my face so quickly. I can’t get out of the way. I bawl.



There was a day where he hit me so hard, I question if there is blood running down my face. I luck out, it’s only mucus. My nose feels broken regardless. It’s hard to hide my emotions. Tears flow easily. I want to hide. I can’t show him how upset I am in these moments.

This head butting issue really irritates me. On Halloween, his head hits my mouth. I thought he had loosened a tooth. I am not sure if he just caused me serious dental issues. I am hysterical. I grasp my face in horror. WHAT DID HE JUST DO!? How can a 9 year old be this violent? He stares at me as tears make my mascara drip black lines down my face. I am flushed. My lip is busted open this time. I have not overreacted. I might have my teeth still, but that was truly painful. I fall to the floor sobbing. He just stares at me. He might have said something like “mommy sad.” Yes, Grant. Sad is only the beginning of the emotions I feel in this moment.

Deep anger fills me. I don’t lash back. But, every cell in my body wants to fight. But, I can’t. There is no point. He doesn’t understand what he is doing. He just sees his mother crying. To him, this is interesting. So he will do it again. I have sealed that destiny with my outward emotions. But, I can’t stop in these times. I am getting hurt. I am hurt. I cry. I am so unbelievably tired of this.

Attacking me…this only a piece of what is happening in my home on a daily basis. Some days are worse. Some are better. I ask myself constantly “What is worse than this?”  I mean, I quite literally in my head run through a game called “What is worse than this situation?” We have to find answers. We have to move forward. I remind myself that we are lucky he is alive. We wait patiently for his turn at the hospital. I’ll do the best I can with each day as it comes. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Maybe. I will hold on to the hope I must keep in my heart for the three of us for a better and easier life.



Recently, I received an email from a photography client who loved the photos I took of her family, but…ummm…herself? Not so much. She went on to describe WHY she didn’t like herself in the photos and what specific action she needed to take to remediate that problem next time they take family photos. The funny thing is, I thought she looked STUNNING in REAL LIFE and STUNNING in the PHOTOS. I never thought once that something was off with her look, her style or anything about her. In fact, I thought she was beautiful, poised and TOTALLY put together from head to toe.

I sat and started at the email, wondering if there was something I could have done differently to make this mama feel more beautiful when we took the photos, something I could have done differently with posing to make her feel more at ease, something I could have done differently in editing to make her beautiful self pop from the picture even more.

As I sat staring at that email, I realized this wasn’t about me.

Memories came flooding back. This territory was all too familiar. You see, three years ago, I was the one emailing our photographer, saying I liked our family photos, but I didn’t really like any of the head shots we took of me during the photo shoot. I felt uncomfortable and awkward in front of the camera. I shopped for myself last and bought a shirt that worked with everyone else’s clothes, but I didn’t ever really love it. I felt fat in the jeans I was wearing. The bags under my eyes were too big. I didn’t look like myself. I don’t know. I just didn’t like myself in the photos.

We used the family photo for our Christmas card that year, we printed a family 5×7 for our living room, and I put one of the family photos up on my blog’s “Meet Amy” page. But I NEVER used ANY of the head shots of myself from that photo shoot. Never updated the photo on my blog. Never updated my social media photos. Never used them in blog posts. Never used them anywhere.

When I was going through family photos this fall, I ran across the CD from that photo shoot from three years ago. I took time to look through all the photos on that CD because I hadn’t looked at them in three years and I wanted to know if they were really that bad or if I’d simply fabricated a story in my mind.


Three years later, here’s what I saw…

While the photos of me weren’t awesome, they were also very pretty.

Yes, I said it.

They were also very pretty.

The truth is, there was something INSIDE of ME during and after that particular photo shoot that wasn’t well, something ugly that told me I wasn’t beautiful enough, thin enough, perfect enough in my face. (Okay, I know that sounds weird, but it’s kind of true. Right ladies?) Instead of seeing my beauty, I beat myself up, picking apart every flaw in the photos.

Too fat.

Bags under my eyes.



Ugly, not-quite-right shirt.

Don’t like the way I look.

Three years later and a fresh set of eyes, I could see that I looked pretty in the photos. Totally acceptable. Just right for where and who I was at that time. There was NOTHING wrong with those pictures. Maybe they weren’t perfect, but they were beautiful.

Ladies, for the sake of our own well being, we must figure out how to distinguish between PERFECT and PRETTY. 

Okay, so maybe you’re not going for PRETTY. Maybe you prefer to look beautiful, stunning, ravishing, radical, rogue, hip, cool, casual, fun, friendly, feminine, astute or simply put together.

However you are, WHOEVER you are, here’s what I want you to know if you don’t feel pretty in your family pictures.

  1. First and foremost, the likelihood is that you DO look pretty, you DO look beautiful.
  2. Even if you don’t feel pretty in your family pictures, go ahead and use the photo for your family Christmas card anyway. Go ahead and print the photo and put it on your end table anyway. Go ahead and make the 8×10 canvas and put it up in your bedroom. Go ahead and make a few copies to give your children when they get bigger because YOU are important, YOU are beautiful and YOU are needed in your family and this world JUST AS YOU ARE.
  3. Save the CD. Save the flash drive. Save the proofs. Save the memory card. Just save the photos, wherever they are. Then take another look at them three years later, five years later, ten years later and beyond. You’ll realize you were so pretty, so beautiful, so lovely. And you’ll most definitely wonder WHY in the world you thought anything different.
  4. Give yourself a chance. Give yourself a little grace.
  5. Keep yourself in the picture and call yourself beautiful because you are.


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  1. Jana says:

    This is so good, Amy – and so true! Thanks for sharing.

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