Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Name is STEPH

My name is Steph and I am happily imperfect.

 I am 29 now, but the more dramatic events of my life started 11 years ago.

As a senior in high school I loved sports and exercise.  It was what made me happy and seemed to cure anything that ailed me.  Due to my love of fitness and a fear of gaining the “freshman 15” in my upcoming college years, I asked my parents if I could go have fitness testing done instead of a typical graduation present.  My mom obliged and I got to go to the hospital and meet with a nutritionist, have my vitals taken, and my weight in water measured.  Lastly, was a treadmill test in which they monitor your heart via an EKG.

As the technician applied the EKG leads just before the treadmill test, he got a puzzled look on his face, and left to get the doctor.  They asked me a few questions and then put me on the treadmill.  The doctor then left and came back with four medical students that all crowded around me as I ran.  I felt like I was in a fishbowl and hoped I didn’t fall in front of everyone and get one of those horrible road rashes from being pummeled by a treadmill!  Once I stopped running, the students asked me all kinds of questions about how I was feeling.  I was confused and no one was telling me what was going on.  Finally, the doctor explained I had been born with a problem with the electrical system of my heart and would need to see a special cardiologist.  I was rather surprised but truly grateful to have made it as long as I had without any cardiac incidents.

The doc said I could return to my sports, so I did.  A short while later, I tore my ACL, my meniscus and strained all the other ligaments in my right knee.  It was four days before I was to fly across the country with my team for my last competition in high school.  I had to fly with my team and watch my teammates from the side.

Surgery to fix my knee was scheduled for four weeks later when the swelling had gone down.  The orthopedic surgeon said they could not operate on my knee unless a cardiologist said it was alright.

My mom got me into a really great heart doctor who was a cardio-trician (handles electrical cardiac problems.)  He said I would need surgery but that I was lucky because they use catheters through your veins now and ten years earlier they would have cracked my sternum and done open heart surgery to fix it.  Everyone seemed concerned and yet routine about the entire thing so I had to ask, 

“What happens if I don’t have the surgery?”

He blankly replied,

“If you don’t have surgery you risk dropping dead.”

I tend to be overly calm when under extreme stress.  Often, I make jokes instead of crying or flipping out, so when the doc said that to me, I laughed.  They said they could fix it so I didn’t feel any need to really panic. The cardiologist said I could have knee surgery, but would need to have my heart fixed shortly after.  My senior year spring break trip ended up being knee surgery. I spent my time vomiting from pain killers, sleeping to Harry Potter movies with my leg elevated and on ice, and trying to negotiate my way into the tub without getting my incision wet or putting weight on my leg.

And then before my knee was even fully recovered, I headed into the outpatient cardiology department to have my heart fixed.  I was set to have a radiofrequency catheter ablation.  They cut into your veins, usually through your groin, and feed wires up the veins into your heart.  Then they find where your heart is conducting too much electricity and they burn the areas with radio waves to stop it.

What was supposed to be a quick and easy 45 minute procedure took nearly three hours.  Apparently, I am one in a million and have an uncommon problem of multiple parts of my heart conducting too much electricity.  Most people with my condition have only one extra “wire” in their heart.  The doc said they tried to burn the extra tissue, but it seemed to be too deep and they didn’t believe this tissue was causing any heart rate problems, so I should be fine.  I was pleased it was over.  And I was released to do whatever activity I wanted and should never need any treatment again.

A few weeks later I was grateful to be back on my road bike and getting my knee back in shape.  I tipped over a bit and felt a pop in my bad knee.  It didn’t hurt too badly so I continued on and prepared to move away to college. I was a few months back into school when I realized falling on my bike had done some actual damage.  I went back home and saw my doc who confirmed that I had ripped out the anchor they had put in my cartilage and would need to have it fixed arthroscopically. I had the surgery a few days later and healed up rather quickly.

About one month later, as I was swimming laps at the pool at college, I started getting light headed and realized my heart was racing.  The doc had told me they had fixed my heart so I thought I must be losing my mind and creating symptoms that didn’t exist.  When I swam another lap and nearly blacked out, I panicked because I realized if I didn’t get hold of myself I could actually drown.

I made another drive to my home town, this time to see my heart doc again.  He confirmed that I wasn’t crazy and my heart was actually having problems. I could try medication for the rest of my life, or I could have a repeat surgery and they could fix it permanently.  I opted for another surgery to fix it and be done with it.  This would be my 4th surgery in 9 months.

The surgery was the same as the previous one.  It took longer than expected.  This time they said they had burned so much heart tissue trying to get to the problem that they had to stop the surgery.  They were not able to fix it, and they couldn’t continue because they would cause damage and have to put in a pacemaker, which is something they certainly wanted to avoid in a 19 year old.  I was sent on my way with assurance that I shouldn’t have any more problems and had no restrictions.

After the heart surgery I met an amazingly wonderful man and we got married.  I felt like he was my blessing after enduring my storm of surgeries.

He and I began our marriage by working multiple jobs and taking full class loads to finish our degrees.  My senior year in college we decided it was time for him to live his dream of being a police officer.  He took a break from school, got hired and went through the police academy.  While in the academy we found out we were pregnant with our first child.  We were a bit surprised by the pregnancy and when I told my husband we were expecting all he could say was, “I need to lie down.”  Eventually, he recovered and we began preparations for parenthood.

Then there was a shooting.

 I was five months along and home sick from work when I turned on the radio.  There had been a mass casualty shooting directly where my husband was on shift.  The reporters only knew that police were there and several people were dead and a shooter was still killing people.  The first thing I did was call my husband’s cell phone.  He answered!  He said,” I am alive.  I am not hurt.  I will call when I can.”  Then he hung up.  I was so relieved.  Yet, there was a part of me that knew he was facing something horrific that night and we would never be the same.

We spent the next week together in our home. We just sat together and tried to cope with what had happened and what he had been through.  My husband left for a few minutes to go to the store and when he came home, he had red, swollen eyes and said he had a sudden meltdown in the store parking lot.  I too tried to leave to go to work one day and I got halfway there and started bawling.  By the time I got to the office my motherly supervisor took one look at my swollen eyes and told me to go home and be with my husband.

My oldest child was born the summer after that.  The idea of being a parent is what had given me motivation to fight for hope after the shooting. I had determined that though we had faced the worst humanity has to offer, I owed it to my child to teach them there is good in the world, even if I couldn’t see the good myself.

But once the baby arrived, things got tricky.  I progressed into post partum depression.  The trauma of the shooting and being a police officer also changed my husband.

We grew apart.  We lost each other.  We lost ourselves.  And we nearly lost our marriage. I don’t recall a time of misery as great as that time before or since then.

Late one night my husband was at work and I was alone feeding my baby and I started crying.  Actually, I was sobbing.  I felt so alone.  I was married to a stranger who seemed angry at himself and humanity.  I was depressed and didn’t know how to tell my husband I needed help because I was so worried about the trauma he had already endured.  I was completely lacking hope.  At that moment I reasoned it would be better for my child to be raised alone by me than with a father who seemed to no longer have compassion.  I was ready to pack up and separate from him.  Then I got a feeling.  I looked at my baby through my tears and knew that this child would be better off with her father being my husband and that this situation wasn’t about me.  It was about our family…myself, my child, AND my husband. Whatever my issues were, I was to fight to fix it and be willing to change myself in the process.

So I stayed. And things didn’t really get better for a while.  I felt very misunderstood because I knew all marriages had their ups and downs, but not many wives dealt with tragic shootings, the reality of PTSD and a police lifestyle.  It was a dark time.  I read books, and scriptures, and asked questions.  I tried all kinds of different methods and tips given to help.  Many times I wanted to give up, but I knew I couldn’t and I just kept hoping that it had to get better.

In one book it suggested writing love letters to your spouse.  I was deeply saddened when I thought of writing a love letter to my husband and realized I couldn’t think of anything to write.  We had fallen out of love.  That’s when I learned that love is a choice.  I figured I had to start somewhere so I was determined to try.  I started writing about what things I respected in him rather than a love letter.  I taped the letters to the mirror while he worked nights so he could read them when he got home from work while I was asleep.  I didn’t even feel comfortable seeing him read the letters.  Over time, I realized what a great man I had married.  I had been wasting my years with him only seeing the negative.  Once I chose to see the good in him, I started to fall in love all over again.  And that love has continued to sustain me.

Time passed and my husband was promoted to detective.  He did some undercover work and thoroughly enjoyed looking like a scum bag to fit in.  There were a few close calls with his safety but we had gotten used to it.  Our marriage was back together but we still didn’t feel right about the way our life was headed so my husband started looking into other occupations.  He ended up getting into law school and we moved states when my second child was four weeks old.

Instantly, I had moved states and became a “law school widow”.  I had two young children and didn’t know anyone.  My mom had helped me move in and the day she left and my husband went to school I sat on my kitchen floor holding my newborn and sobbed.  My sweet four year old brought me a paper towel, wiped my tears, and told me I didn’t need to cry anymore.  I didn’t know a soul and I knew my husband would be mostly absent from our lives for the next three years.  That was the first time I realized you could be surrounded by a city of people, and yet feel completely alone.   Relief came in the form of friends and neighbors who are some of the greatest and most supportive people I have ever known.  I will always cherish them as family.

We had become pregnant with our third child and were a few months into the pregnancy when I felt my heart racing again.  It progressively got worse and it was getting increasingly difficult to take care of my other kids and my pregnant self.  I was afraid the stress of being a pseudo-single mother was causing me to have panic attacks.  The symptoms continued to worsen so I found a cardio-trician in my new city and went to see him.  He informed me that I still had the same heart problem they previously said was fixed and it had grown worse.  

I would need another heart surgery.  .

Surgery wasn’t possible until after the baby was born so I was given beta blockers to manage things.  The medication didn’t work as well as I had hoped and I spent a lot of time hugely pregnant, lying on my floor with my face and neck pressed against the cold tile surface to try to get my heart to slow down while my 18 month old and 4 year old played around me.  You never know how dirty your floor really gets until you lay with your face on it for long periods of time!

My third kiddo was born in the spring and I had heart surgery six weeks later.  I had already had this surgery twice, so I knew what to expect.  The hospital methods had changed a bit and after I was taken back to pre-op they had a new way of lining the patients up in a large room to wait.  I looked at all the beds to my left and right and was the youngest person by many years.  The other patients were very old, or looked very sick and too tired to stay awake.  Surrounded by sleeping elderly people, I surmised this might be what it’s like to be in a morgue.

As a kid, everyone is told they are special.  Everyone is different and unique.  Sometimes, I would appreciate being like everyone else.

As I came out of this surgery I was told they successfully got the bad conductive tissue, but I was unique and had another problem. They found I was also born with two AV nodes that had not been previously discovered.  They tried to fix this, but couldn’t.  Many people have this condition, and I could go the rest of my life with no problems, or I could end up with more medications and surgeries.  There is no way of predicting what will happen.  My best option is to continue with high intensity endurance exercising as a form of self medication and surgery prevention.

Then, in the fall, when my third child was six months old, I sat up from doing an exercise and felt my ear “pop” and then I heard ringing.  Immediately I feared my heart was acting up again and making me light headed.  Over the next few hours my dizziness and ear ringing got worse to a point where everything seemed to be tipped 30 degree to the right.  I had to lean against walls to get from the bed to the bathroom and figured I had my first case of vertigo.

It was the weekend, so when things were still spinning the next morning I went to an after-hours clinic.  They gave me a steroid and said they couldn’t see any fluid but it seemed like I had a sinus infection.  Then the doc rubbed his fingers together next to my right ear.  I didn’t respond and he asked if I could hear his fingers.  I couldn’t hear a thing.

By Monday I had decided to just go to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist to get the pesky sinus infection taken care of once and for all.  He gave me the same blank face the cardiologist gave me when he told me I might drop dead and then said, “We need to talk.”  He walked me to a small room and informed me I had sudden sensorieneural hearing loss.  The test showed me to be deaf in my right ear.  There was only a 20% chance I would regain any of my hearing.  They have no idea what causes it.  They guess it might be a virus, but they have only found a virus present in 20% of patients who have it, so they really don’t know what it is or how to treat it.  Hearing loss can also be caused by multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor so I would need to have an MRI.  The only treatment that occasionally works to help the hearing is a course of steroids that I was to begin immediately.

I was alone at this doctor appointment.  I thought I had a simple sinus infection.  I had not anticipated that I had lost half my hearing and there was little hope of recovery.  I made it to the lobby before I began to tear up.  Then I called my husband.  Then I called my parents.  Those were possibly some of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make.

When I arrived home my sweet husband met me at the door, gave me a big hug, and he began to cry.  It’s interesting to me what can bring great men to tears.  For my husband it is things like our wedding, the birth of our children, and me losing my hearing.  You can judge a good man by what makes him cry.  I am married to a very good man. When I saw him tear up it seemed to motivate me.  I remember subduing my own tears and telling him I was going to be ok.   Everything would be alright.  Somewhere deep inside me, I knew my hearing was gone and was not coming back, but the more I told my husband I would be alright, the more I knew it myself.

The next few weeks I took the steroids and got no sleep.  Every time I stopped being busy and tried to sleep I became weighed down by the reality of losing my hearing.  Instead of tossing and turning, I organized drawers and painted walls.   I got the MRI and it came out fine.  I do have a brain!    Subsequent hearing tests showed some hearing improvement but nothing that put me even close to normal ranges of hearing.  Sensorineural hearing loss is a nerve problem so hearing aids won’t help.  I just had to learn to deal with it.

Being partially deaf is oddly noisy.  My bad ear is constantly ringing.  They say it eventually goes away as your brain stops paying attention to it.  It has definitely gotten better, but I certainly miss actually having a moment of silence. I can still hear my phone ringing or my kids calling for me but I can’t tell what direction sound is coming from so I can never find them.  Going to noisy public places can be a pain because I can’t decipher what people are saying.  I seem to get tired after being in noisy places too.  It’s as if my brain gets overworked from trying to listen with one ear and it exhausts me.  I also know what it feels like to be bullied after I had a woman berate me at a grocery store when I couldn’t hear her.  (I think I made it an entire block away before I started sobbing after that incident.)
There are also some perks from losing my hearing too.  My vision has improved and I no longer need glasses.  And if I want to sleep better I can lie on my good ear and enjoy a quieter night.   If someone is annoying, I can just turn my bad ear towards them, and the problem is solved.

I ended up researching a device called a BAHA implant and have a neighbor that has the implant who graciously came over and showed it to me.  BAHA stands for bone anchored hearing aid and can help people with neural hearing loss.  I decided that since I am still in my 20’s and my kids are small it might be worth doing. In the meantime, my husband graduated and began to study for the Bar Exam.  He passed the Exam and was hired a few months later.  After a few more months, we finally had health insurance and I was able to get the surgery for the BAHA implant approved.

With the BAHA implant a surgeon drills a small hole in your skull behind your bad ear.  They implant a small metal post in your skull that will be the anchor for the BAHA receiver.  After they put the implant in, you wait three months for the implant to fuse with your skull.  Then it is safe to attach the receiver to aid in hearing.  The receiver is a small box that snaps onto the implanted post.  As sound passes by the receiver it picks it up and converts the sound waves into mechanical vibrations.  The receiver vibrates the post in your skull and the vibrations travel across your head to your good ear where the sound is picked up.  

The night before the surgery I was ready, but nervous.  I had endured several previous surgeries, but this was the first one where I was purposely changing my exterior by more than a mere scar.  

I was choosing to have a permanent post put in my head and purposely disfiguring myself.  I was also revealing to the world that I was disabled.  I was unsure how all of this would affect me, my husband and my children. In the end, I went through with the surgery because no matter what insecurities I may have had, I felt very strongly that I needed to get the implant for my children.

During that time I noticed more knee pain.  Another round of orthopedic visits later, and I was informed my cartilage was deteriorating and I could choose to live my bucket list dream of becoming a marathon runner and have a knee replacement at 35 or I would need to stop running and save my knee. I lost more sleep over this diagnosis than all of my heart surgeries combined.  

Running had been my method of coping.  When I couldn’t hear—I ran.  When I feared I would have another heart surgery—I ran.  When life in general stressed me out—I ran.  The docs were taking away the one thing I felt I had left and the one thing that gave me strength and relief when I needed it.  I was devastated.

The  third and most recent knee surgery actually came and went just a few weeks ago and I am mostly recovered. I have graduated from physical therapy and am back at the gym doing low impact exercises to hopefully save my knee AND my heart.  As for the hearing, I have an upcoming appointment to attach my receiver and hopefully begin a new phase in life adjusting to having a hearing aid.

To sum it all up, I have learned so many things in the last decade.  I have learned that there are many things we can’t control.  I can’t control if my heart will go bad in the future, or if my knee will need replacing, or why I lost my hearing, or why that shooter killed people years ago.  But I have learned that I do have control over my pursuit of happiness.  I am not always strong or perfectly happy.  But I let myself cry in the shower when I need to and then get myself together and do my best to be busy in happiness.    I know it can sometimes be a struggle to see the good things the world has to offer, but choosing to fight to be happy is completely worth it.  I choose to laugh often and make jokes because laughing is so much better than crying!  I have so much to be grateful for! 

My name is Steph and I am an imperfect person with a simple and sweetly happy life and wouldn’t want it any other way!


*Steph, you are amazing and beautiful and so very strong. You've endured so much-- thank you for sharing the deep, and sensitive parts of your journey with us today. You're a true pillar of light and strength. 

**Remember that the purpose of this series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Steph will be reading your comments so you may comment directly to her. 

(Find out more about the "My Name is" series and read the stories of other brave and inspiring women, here.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

He Has Things to Process, Too

The other night, Seth and I found ourselves in the middle of a slightly sarcastic misunderstanding.

Let's be honest... We all have them.

What the misunderstanding was about makes no difference.

I was thinking one way.  He was thinking the other.

Once the sarcasm turned more serious, I started to get snippy.

He got snippy back.

I pulled the 'turn the shoulder and give him the silent treatment' method.

That genius, nonproductive, technique lasted a whole 3 minutes before I caved in.

Abruptly and snootily I said,

"Are you being serious? Like, really?  Why are you caught off guard by this? Why don't you understand what I'm saying?"

He began to tell me his thought process.

I tried to listen, but I kept cutting him off, with the intent to plaster my reasoning all over him.  I was hoping that my relentless gumption would somehow, miraculously, make him understand my train of thought.  And in the times he was trying to explain his side, I secretly found myself yearning for him to pause so I could jump back in and prove my point even further.   I found myself saying the same thing in circles.  I was repeating myself time and time again.

Our voices weren't raised quite yet.

But our squabble was still squabblish.

I tried one last time to get him to jump ship and settle it by agreeing with me when he said very even keeled,

"I have things to process, too."

His words stole my thunder.


He calmly and non-accusingly said,

"You know how you have to process things?  Like your triggers?  Or flashes from your past?  Or your trust stuff?  Well, I have things from my past too... I have insecurities too... I have things that creep up and cause me to panic a little too.  I need to work through those things, just like you do.  But the good thing is that we are able to talk about this now so that it doesn't fester and get bigger and grow out of proportion."

I had no sharp comeback after that.

He had things to process too.  How could I argue that?  I was in the wrong.

After we talked it through, he said,

"Thanks for talking this out with me.  I feel better.  Things take time and I'll work on X,Y,Z.  But in the mean time, I still might give you crap about it here and there."

He smiled, we laughed, and hugged and diverted our attention to whatever else needed to be done.

Life moved on.  The debacle was over.

But in that moment, I had this realization. One I already knew, but apparently I need to be reminded of it.

Instead of being so focused on trying to persuade Seth to come to my side and see things the exact way that I do, it's more productive and healthy if we both come from our own sides and work on creating a safe, understanding and comfortable home in the middle.  Because it's not always about me and my feelings all the time.  So instead of thinking only about me, and getting consumed in why I feel the way I do, and why I think my way is the right way, and how on earth could he possibly think that?, it's so much more beneficial to actually HEAR what he is saying, PROCESS why he is saying those things, DISSECT where the issue/misunderstanding/hurt is coming from on BOTH sides (not just mine) and then WORK on how the two of us can compromise and find balance, together.

Our time and energy is better spent when we approach our issues/insecurities/hurts this way.  Because by doing so, we don't yell.  We don't argue.  We don't storm off mad.  We don't react.  We don't say things we regret.  We don't do the silent treatment.  We don't escalate.  We don't lash out.

We work on coming together.

Two different people.

Two totally different experiences.

Two sets of ideas.

Two types of personalities.

Two different genders.

He is patient and calm.

I am a flipping roller coaster.

He is quiet and reserved.

I am loud and over the top.

But we come together.

We grow together.

And we are building something stable and consistent and safe.

It takes work; lots of work.

It come with tears; lots of tears.

It requires listening; oh so much listening!

It involves patience; holy patience (which I lack, but am working on).

And it takes massive amounts of humility and empathy; real humility and genuine empathy.

Because it's not just all about me and my feelings all the time.

He has things to process, too.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

There is an Answer

I heard this song yesterday and I felt like it was a message straight from heaven, meant specifically for me. I love when music (or heaven :) does that!

Please have a listen... And add it to your playlist! You will love this ;) 

There is an Answer
~A Great Big World

I am just a sailor in a great big sea 
Searching for what's meant for me 
And I thank my lucky stars every single day 
I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be 

When the storm begins to blow 
When I've lost my way back home 
Oh, there is an answer 
Oh, there is an answer 

There is a ripple to every wave 
A rhythm to the days and nights 
And all our thoughts, they make the world go round 
All our efforts multiply 

Make a change, and you will see 
One small step is all we need 
Oh, there is an answer 
Oh, there is an answer 

There is no difference between you and me 
It lies beyond our history 
And if we only take the time to see we're all we need 
Just take my hand, and see me as a brother 

Look inside, and you will find 
Love exists in every kind 
Oh, there is an answer 
Oh, there is an answer 

Near or far, oh I believe that love will find us there 
Through the dark, oh I believe that love will find us there 
Oh I believe that love will find us there 
Oh I believe that love will find us there 
Oh I believe that love will find us there 

Oh, there is an answer!


I'm listening to this song as I write this post and I just feel good.

So good.

What are other songs that make you feel good? I'd love to know so I can add them to my personal list :) SHARE here in the comments or on the Facebook thread.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Togetherness in PHOENIX

It's time to start planning a girls weekend!

Book your flight or arrange a carpool because The Togetherness Project is hosting its 2nd semiannual women's conference in...

We've been busy the last few months and are SO excited about this! I can't hardly believe it's already time to start all over again ;)

We have a really cool venue reserved, we have a great layout of classes, and our speakers are dynamite!

So! If you're reading this right now and you know you need to attend this empowering conference, be courageous and do it for YOU!

Because this is no ordinary day.

This day is about being part of something bigger- a movement, if you will.

This day is about discovering that you're not alone after all.

This day is about rediscovering how powerful and brave and beautiful you really are.

This day is about finding your place among a sisterhood of women who understand.

This day is about rising above and continually striving to overcome and find healing, happiness, and hope.

For more details about registration, classes to be taught, and anything else you'd like to know about The Togetherness Project, check out our website at:

*And, for anyone who is interested, you can read a recap from a beautiful woman who attended the last conference that was held in Salt Lake City, UT,  HERE

** And as always, please like our Facebook page (HERE) and share this with your friends and loved ones because you NEVER know who might need it!  Many women, more than you can imagine, are suffering alone, in silence, ashamed and scared-- and our mission to change that. That's what this is all about.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Live for the GOOD

One of the main questions I am asked- just the other day and on a regular basis really- is:

"How were you able to trust again? How were you able to remarry again? How are you happy again? I don't think I could do it!"

I've written a few different posts about trusting and overcoming... you can find a few of those here and here and here... but the other night, I heard a commercial that explained my jumbled (often times very wordy haha) thoughts in about 60 seconds.

It was an All State commercial (of course I must credit the professionals who said it so eloquently- that's why they get paid the big bucks and I don't :) that said:

"There are man-eating sharks in every ocean, but we still swim. Every second, somewhere in the world, lighting strikes, but we still play in the rain. Poisonous snakes can be found in 49 of the 50 states, but we still go looking for adventure. A car can crash, a house can crumble, but we still drive and love coming home

Because I think deep down we know: all the bad things that can happen in life, they can't stop us from making our lives good. PEOPLE LIVE FOR GOOD."

I think this is how it's all been possible for me; I want to live for the good. And so that's what I'm trying to do. 

In the meantime, I'm learning to deal with the hard, the bad, the sad, the scary (whatever it is) as it comes.

Please watch this- even if it is an insurance commercial- it is SO touching.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Wig and a New Stomach

Over the holiday, Seth asked Little Dude what he wanted to get me for Christmas.

This was Little Dude's reply:

"Well..." as he tapped his index finger on his cheek "what doesn't mom like about her body?"

He stood there for a minute, thinking.

"Let's see.... she doesn't like her hair and she doesn't really like her stomach either! Maybe we should buy her a wig? What do you think, Seth? Oh! I know! How about a new stomach? What else doesn't she like about herself?"

Obviously, and thankfully, Seth diverted his attention from all the negative body image talk and they opted for a massage gift card instead.

However, later, when Seth told me of this little encounter, I may have let out a forced light chuckle because it seemed sort of cute, but in all reality, my heart just sank.

This is not okay.

My 5 year old son thinks that I don't like myself!

So much so that regardless if I expressed distaste for my hair or stomach (or whatever else) just one time, or a million times, made no difference; he wanted to help me fix the things I didn't like about myself for Christmas. That's what he wanted to gift me.


He heard the words from my mouth, he stored them into his brain, and he most likely believed what I was saying about myself because, well, that's what kids do.

Why is it so easy to get hyper-focused on everything we aren't, rather than what we are?

Why, after all this time, am I still overly conscientious about my stomach not being flatter, myskin not being flawless or my hair not being thick and dreamy?

Why do I say negative things about myself out loud? I must be thinking them an awful lot if I'm saying them, right?

Why is it so hard to accept and love me for me?

Why do I think the grass will be greener on the other side? If I was this or that, I would be happier?

There are times I think I'm doing better and am thriving in my own skin-- and then my almost 6 year old reminds me that I have a whole lot of work to do.

I know I am not alone in this inner fight with myself.... but surely there are some of you that are better at it than I am...

What are your secrets? How do you love and take care of you? Do you think positively of yourself? If so, are you able to speak positively of yourself? Or do you find yourself always making remarks/excuses that shut down compliments and/or belittle you.

It's a new year... and I'm really trying to improve my self worth and be an overall better example to my Little Dude. Any thoughts would be so appreciated ;)

Image Credit

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Something AMAZING has happened! 

16 months ago, a woman named Allie reached out to me, telling me of her sister Julie's amazing story. Allie had been following my blog for quite some time and thought that her sister's story would be a perfect addition for the "My Name is Series"

Allie talked to Julie about sharing her story, and even though Julie was a little bit nervous to share the vulnerable and raw parts of her past, she felt compelled to do so anyway. Because she felt like maybe someone, somewhere, would be benefited from her experiences, her faith, and her ability to overcome. And so, I sent Julie the little guidelines to follow, she dug in deep and wrote her story over the course of a few days, sent it my way, and we posted it here. It was very well-received and so many people were inspired by her unyielding strength. Well a little bit after posting her story on my blog, she posted the same story on her personal family blog for documenting purposes (you can find that, here).

Little did she know that fall day in October of 2012 that the future had something pretty amazing in store for her "My Name Is" story.

(Flash forward to present time... precisely 2 days ago)

Completely out of the blue, I received a frantically excited phone call from my sweet friend Julie on Saturday night. It was then and there that she proceeded to tell me the STUNNING news:

Incredibly enough, after sharing her "My Name is" story from her personal blog with just one person a few days earlier in the week, Julie's story (written clear back in October of 2012) has spread like wildfire and now has more than 200,000 views in just a few short days!

I'm not sure who was in more shock? Her or me? (Probably her!? lol)

How does this happen!?

Her story was going VIRAL!

As we talked over the phone, Julie was humble and honestly, for her to even think to call me, of all people, when something this BIG was happening in her life, meant the world to me. She is a true friend- the epitome of loyal. She thanked me for encouraging and allowing her to share her story on my blog over a year ago. I reminded Julie of her courage and strength and wanted her to know that they were HER words, HER STORY, that was changing the lives of thousands (200,000 and counting!) of people. The words "My Name is Julie" followed by what she had written were resonating with people all over the WORLD.

How cool is that!?

After our chat, I hung up the phone and have since basked in the AMAZINGNESS of what this blog has personally given me these two past years. I have been reflecting on the resilient women I have met because of this blog, the impact your triumphant stories have had on my soul and how blessed and honored I am to be here, writing and sharing and uniting people through our hard times. 

What has happened in the last few days, as well as in the last 2 years of my life, further proves to me that whatever you put your mind to, whatever you are passionate about, whatever you BELIEVE in, YOU CAN DO! 

Don't be afraid to share. Don't be afraid to try. Don't be afraid to be honest and open. Don't be afraid to reach out to others. If you let fear hold you captive, you will miss out on the absolute BEAUTY, the undeniable connections and friendships, and the lessons of hope and faith and love that exist far beyond our own struggles or insecuritiesThere is a big world of rotten, awful and unideal things- trust me, I know- but there is also a world of vibrance and triumph. There is a great BIG world full of compassion, support and encouragement.

And this is what makes the "My Name is" series so POWERFUL-- because it's about women owning who they are and speaking openly about overcoming the hardest of trials and/or accomplishing the most awesome of things because of them. 

That's why I started this very blog in the first place-- to share my story.

 Because the phrase "MY NAME IS JACY" means so much more than just a seemingly catchy and self-absored title of a blog. My Name is Jacy means that I am proud to be me- even after clawing out of the muck and hell I have been through- My Name is Jacy is about overcoming and rising above!

So, for anyone that is new here, WELCOME! You just stumbled upon a really powerful and compassionate community.

If you haven't read the entire "My Name is" series yet, PLEASE DO! You will be amazed at the strength that exists within the posts of this blog. These women are remarkable. Truly. You can find all of their stories HERE
Please comment and share your love and encouragement- that's the whole point.... for us to realize that whatever we are going through, we are NOT alone. We are all in this together. You are NOT alone!

Also, if you're new here, please check out the non-profit organization I run that aims to unite and empower women who are overcoming unexpected trials in their lives (specifically women who are effected by the pornography/sexual addiction, infidelity, betrayal, divorce, abandonment, etc of a loved one).

We're about sisterhood, healing and hope and we'd love to have you LIKE our Facebook Page so you can stay up to date on upcoming conferences and projects. We're a team of women who have lived through difficult trials first hand and we're expanding our mission, our community is growing and our work is just beginning.

You can also like the My Name is Jacy Facebook Page, as well, to stay up to date on what I'm doing and to hear from more extraordinary women in the "My Name is" series.

To all of those who have been on this journey with me, thank you for making it so rewarding by being open and by being real. This has been the greatest ride and I can't wait to see what 2014 brings.



p.s. This is a picture I took with both Julie and her sister, Allie, while having a 3-hour lunch date soon after we had connected. Seriously... what was my life like before I started blogging? haha! So many INSPIRING women out there! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Little Bit of Silver

I kid you not... I am 29 years old... and last night I plucked about 15 coarse SILVER hairs from the top of my head. As I placed the tweezers on each strand of hair and yanked I whispered to myself  "No, no, no, no, no, please no....."

I ran downstairs and told Seth about my debacle and he proceeded to tell me that by yanking them out, they'd just grow back coarser and thicker.


I didn't think getting into my 30's would bother me... but that really, surprisingly!, bothered me yesterday.

*When did you start getting grays? Do you embrace them? Or dye them? Or pluck them?

Image Credit

Monday, January 6, 2014

A New Year!

There's something really amazing about a New Year.

It's like it's this refreshing chance to be better than you were the year before.

The night of New Year's Eve, Seth and I sat under the dimly lit ambiance of Cheesecake Factory and he asked me what my personal goals were for 2014.

I thought about it for a minute.

What do I want to do this year?

First and foremost I want to be a better mom, wife, daughter, friend and neighbor.

I want to be more attentive, more patient, more loving, more giving.

I want to continue doing what I love by growing The Togetherness Project.

I want to continue to share my story and encourage other women that they will survive the hardest of trials.

I want to blog more, read more, and write more.

I want to spend my time being less grumpy, less worried, and less stressed.

Oh, there are so many things I want to do!

I want to take care of me a little bit better.

I want to learn to be more efficient and productive with my time.

I want to take better care of my body.

I want to improve my health by being active everyday (even if it's just a walk).

I want to be more organized.

I want to keep a cleaner house.

I want to eat better, and more consistently.

I want to cook more.

But of everything I really want to do, the most important on my list are:

I want to live each day as if it's my last- knowing that I did the very best I could.

I want to live confidently, with hope and love and positivity.

I want to live in the NOW with those I love the very most- my son, my husband, my family, my friends.

I want to be completely and utterly present; not stewing about the past or stressing about the future.

I want to be in-tune because there is no where I'd rather be than where I am right here, right now.

That's what I want to do this year.

So, cheers to a wonderful New Year that will no doubt be full of its hardships! But that's what makes it so rewarding... and that's what makes us better and stronger than before.

Bring it on 2014. I can't wait to take you on!

***What are your goals? Do you have any? Do you stick to them? I have a more detailed list, this is just a general idea :)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Ball at the Balloon Festival

Last night, we were totally mesmerized at the Cave Creek Balloon Festival.

I love events like this- were people gather together as a community to enjoy the whimsical parts of life. Good food, not-the-greatest music, and a whole heck of a lot of big, vibrantly colored, hot air balloons will make just about anyone smile.

In fact, Little Dude loved it so much that he's dying to go on a real ride himself and I may just start looking into that :) The last time I remember being on a hot air balloon I was 15 years old with my crush. Funny how those feelings of nostalgia come flooding back.

**Have you ever been on a hot air balloon ride? They are SO fun! But I'll be honest, now that I'm older, the fear of heights is kicking in... I think I'd be scared to go up... ;)

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