Kathy Sebright

Writer. Speaker. Believer. Runner. Truth Enthusiast.


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Quiet bravery and what writer?

I’ve been waiting. Waiting for the right words. Waiting for the right time. Waiting for inspiration to hit. Waiting to have something more important to say. Waiting and waiting and waiting. And a couple of years have passed in this holding pattern.

I’ve been wondering just how much time can go by before I have to stop calling myself a writer. If I am no longer actively seeking out writing assignments, if I am no longer sending my work out, if I am no longer writing, am I still a writer? What if the words are just lodged in my throat? What if there are thousands of words burning inside of me like an out of control forest fire and I have simply become unrooted in who I am and too afraid now? Am I still a writer if I have become comfortable choking on the ashes of everything that goes unsaid? What if I have very recently turned down not one, but two speaking opportunities? Further tanking the hopes of what I thought I would be, what I thought I could be. What then to this form of self sabotage that feels steeped in cowardice?

Maybe quiet bravery has to come first. A small step forward that no one sees. A dim light in a dark room. A whisper of hope. Giving what you fear a name. Pushing past what would stop most people. Or maybe sometimes bravery just needs to roar. Standing up when everyone else sits down. Doing something even though you have NO idea what you are doing. Saying yes to trying. Maybe bravery can be anything you need it to be. Anything you say it is. Maybe you are already brave.

What if we did that in everyday life? What if we stopped waiting for the perfect time? Because there is no perfect time. There is only here. There is only now. And I have no guarantees in this life. I don’t want a list of things I should have done or wish I would have done if I live to an old age. I want to run a multi-day ultramarathon through another country. I want to jump out of an airplane. I want start my own charity. I want to write books…plural. I secretly even want to write poetry, even if it is seen as an outdated art that doesn’t sell. And more, so much more. I want to do more and see more. I want to take my kids on adventures of their own. I may not always succeed in what I do but I want to try. I have to try. I am not this person who sits on the sidelines. I have never been before and I don’t want to be anymore.  brave-quotes-interesting-best-25-be-brave-ideas-on-pinterest-brave-quotes-be-brave

And so today’s quiet bravery comes in the form of this muddled piece of writing with no real defined edges. (Thanks for reading it anyhow!) I promise it will get better as I get in the swing of it again. Here I sit, afraid to hit this silly little blue button that says publish. But I am going to do it anyhow. And I am going to do it more often.

Join me. Let’s do the small and big things scared. Let’s start today. Not tomorrow. Let’s do it now.


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Eight wheels brought me home

About two years ago, I lost my voice. Not literally of course, just figuratively. All of the words inside of my head shriveled up and slowly died like a forgotten about garden behind an abandoned home. What was once blooming with life was suddenly gone. It had been left behind, the beauty all but choked out by the overgrowth of weeds that descended upon it. All of the joy that had once burst forth from my heart when I sat down to write crashed at my feet in a thousand pieces. I stared at a blank page and recoiled. I felt taunted by the nothingness where I once would have seen nothing but possibilities.

It’d be easy, or maybe not so easy, to attempt to figure out just when I had lost my voice. Although, I don’t know that it does me any good at this point. It doesn’t matter when or why my voice slipped away from me, only that it had. And I went with it. Whether I liked it or not, I went with it. I slipped away too.

I thought I could be ok there. In that strange in between that didn’t feel like home. In that place where nothing made sense and the things I once loved seemed so far away. In that place, all the people I loved felt so out of reach. And for what? And why exactly? Who said I wasn’t worth it anymore? Who told me I didn’t have anything important to say? That I wasn’t a good enough person? Or that I should cower and hide from the world? Who said I couldn’t do the same things I used to because now things were different? Who? The enemy.

My enemy? It lives inside of me. There are two parts of me, the light and the dark. And over the last two years, the dark, the enemy, nearly stomped out all of my light. It buried me so deep under ground I thought I’d never see the light again. The enemy lives in my head, in my heart, and in my soul sometimes. It starts as a quiet whisper in my ear but grows and grows, until it is an all consuming scream that I can not block out. The enemy wants me to believe I have failed. That I am not loved or even liked. That I don’t deserve to be happy. That I am unworthy and unimportant. That what I write is junk. That I have trashed the beginnings of my writing career already. That I have nothing to offer anyone. Oh the enemy tried to get me to believe so many things; and I did. I foolishly believed so many dark and damaging things about myself. And I lost my way. I truly lost my way. These slash marks on my wrists bare witness to just how far gone I was. All the ink in the world can not cover up the truth. I disappeared and went nearly silent.

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Last year, still in a debilitating downslide, I saw a Facebook post about roller derby tryouts. It seemed like a ridiculous idea. I went rollerskating once in the fourth grade and I wasn’t any good at it. But my days and nights were long and lonely then and I needed something good to focus on. I needed something for myself. Anything. And I couldn’t bring myself to write or run because it was too much like the old me and I was this new dark me now. So I needed something new. I decided it had to be roller derby. I was terrified walking into that roller rink for the first time but something inside of me knew I needed to try. I needed to throw myself into it. And try I did. It was hard and it hurt, but I loved it. Pushing and fighting my way through a crowd of women that wanted to stop me, made me remember how hard I used to push in real life. Dropping low and preparing my body to get hit hard, over and over, by a woman that wants through made me remember I have always been able to take a hit and keep going. I came back in glimpses, the darkness fading just a little bit at a time. Roller derby made me feel strong and brave and I had forgotten that feeling. I had relinquished my power in this life and gave up in a lot of ways. In a sense, roller derby was me learning to try again. I had to give even more when I felt I had nothing to give. I had to (literally) pick myself back up off the floor no matter how hard that hit was. I had to find that drive, that will, that strength to dig deep. The power was cumulative. It snuck into other parts of my life. I started to get back up, in a hundred different ways. I started to run a little bit at a time again. I started to write in an old notebook, just for myself. This quiet and methodical rising happened when I wasn’t even looking. Because I knew I wasn’t ready then, but today I am ready now.

It is time to get back up. It is time to write again. It is time to live again. I will not hide any longer. It was a long, hard fall, and it took me much longer than I would have liked to stand back up, but here I am. Eight wheels brought me back home. Eight wheels brought me back to myself. And it is good to be home again.

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Today, June 21st, is National Skate Day. I will be celebrating on those eight wheels that have taken me places I never knew I was brave enough to go. #Yayskateday


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My story isn’t over yet;

I abruptly left the room. It was Sunday and as usual, I was crying in church. Every Sunday, before I step into that building, I tell myself I’m going to do better this time. I’m going to hold it together. I’m going to put my brave face on. I’m going to be settled. But every Sunday, a tidal wave of emotion washes over me and I can’t shut it off. I desperately try, because I’m so tired of being that person, but I can’t make it stop. My soul is overcome.

At the end of the service, a friend from church held out this small green felt bag to me and said something like “I saw this and thought of you” before someone started talking to her. And I wanted to stuff it in my purse and open it later, but curiosity got the best of me. The look on her face was important. This small bag felt important. I stood at the back of the church and opened it. With trembling hands, I read the words etched on the silver bracelet as tears ran down my face. I didn’t have a response. I think I just hugged her and cried. Maybe nodded a few times and said thank you. I couldn’t make an intelligent sentence, I do know that.

I clutched the delicate silver bracelet in my hands that proclaimed “my story isn’t over yet” with a semicolon charm attached. The semicolon of course is used when a sentence could have been ended but wasn’t. I am the semicolon. I am not done. There is no ending punctuation to my life, not yet. My story continues on because I continue on. Even in the wake of the regrettable and reckless things I have done, I am still here. I am still alive. My story is not done; there is so much I want to add to it.

It wasn’t so much the gift of a bracelet. It was the gift of being SEEN. I was seen by her. During this dreadfully long and lonely road I’ve been on, she saw me, shoulders hunched forward in the driving rain, and sobbing all alone. What a gift it is to be seen by someone who cares despite the disastrous mess you have become.

It was so dark at times I couldn’t see it. I had been so focused on the love that I couldn’t feel and the deadness of my heart that I hadn’t noticed right in front of me, there were those willing to step up and step in, giving their love freely to me. Love has been there all along. I haven’t been alone. Love was showing up on someone’s doorstep and crying at their kitchen table. Love was a sweet compliment on my jacket and a squeeze of my shoulder as I cried in a hallway. Love was a phone number on a sticky note and the offer to call anytime I needed someone. Love was a bracelet with the words of my heart etched on it. Love was in the encouraging words and a genuine laugh. Love was in a prayer, a kind smile, and a couch that automatically reclines. Love was the good kleenex. Love was a bottle of windex and a roll of paper towels, ready to protect me from hurtful words. Love was in an email from my soul sister. Love was in the hands of my husband, always steady and strong, willing to pull me back up when I fall on my face. Love was in the faces of my children. There has been so much love around me.

I have been blind. So very blind. I am still here and I am not done. It’s time to get back up. It’s time to rise. It’s time to feel love again. It’s time to be brave again. It’s time to stop hating myself for what I can’t change. It’s time to stop using what others feel or say about me as a measuring stick to what I should feel about me. It’s time to shake off anything that does not fill me with love, peace, or hope for tomorrow. It’s time to break free of the sorrow and anguish that has been dragging me down and I am ready. Yes. I am ready now. It’s time to see myself through the eyes that matter most ~ God. 

Dear friend, I see you. You are going to be ok. I don’t know what it is but I know that you will be ok. You are loved. Please know you are so loved. Find help if you need to. Come find me if you want to. Together, we will be ok. Together, we will keep going.

Your story is not over; there is still so much to add to it.


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Find Help

Tonight, something happened. Something real. Something true.

I didn’t really want to go for a walk anymore. But I had already told myself this morning I would go after dinner. It wasn’t much, but it was something. A new tradition in an attempt to gain some head space and clarity in a life that has been nothing but murky and muted lately. TWLOHA_TitleLogo

My headlamp illuminated a small path in front of me as tiny flakes of snowy rain fell. The small beam of light staring straight out into the darkness had a mesmerizing effect, like turning on your high beams during a snowstorm and suddenly feeling almost lost in a world of snow that seems to be cutting straight through your windshield.

I pulled the collar of my jacket up around my neck as I turned the corner and was hit with a blast of biting wind. I could hear wind chimes in the distance: beautiful deep, metallic sounding chimes that rose and fell with the gusting wind. It was the perfect melancholy soundtrack for walking in the darkness.

I kept walking as tears began to fall from my eyes. I sighed. I did not want to cry again. I was so tired of crying. So tired of swollen eyes and sore noses. So tired of looking like a mess and feeling like an even bigger mess inside. I tried to stop the tears, but I couldn’t. They slowly rolled down my face and became mixed in with the snowy rainy bits that landed on my cheeks and instantly melted.

In that moment, I heard it clearly. As if someone were standing right next to me and whispering into my ear. “It’s time to stop hiding Kathy. It’s time to tell the truth.” My stomach lurched. The truth? No. I couldn’t do that. What would people think of me? How would they look at me now that they know? Again, that voice whispered. “It’s time to stop hiding Kathy.”

You see, I want to hide. I’ve been doing just that for months now. I don’t know what I’m doing right now or if it’s right or wrong. All I know is that when I hear a quiet, stubborn voice telling me to do something I really don’t want to do, I need to do it. I should be saying this to some of you in person. Please forgive me for not being strong enough to tell the truth until now. For keeping you on the outside. For letting you find out with the rest of the world.

For months now, everything on the inside of me has burned with fire and I didn’t know what to do with it. I wanted to scream for help in the midst of these ashes but the words were extinguished in my heart, never to grace my lips. Fear and guilt extinguished those words before I ever got a chance to breathe them out. I wanted to ask for help so many times, but the words floated away from me weightlessly. I wanted to stand on my chair at church and scream at the top of my lungs for someone, anyone, to see that I was vanishing before their very eyes. I wanted to confide in my family that I felt like I was dying and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. I wanted to curl up into a ball on the floor in the hopes of someone swooping in to save me. I wanted to be saved from myself but I couldn’t be. I was too good at what I had done many times before: hiding and pretending. Only I could decide if I was going to be saved this time. I had to say yes.

“Yes,” I whispered to the wind. “Yes. I will tell the truth.” THIS IS ME. I pulled the sleeves of my jacket up to my elbows and felt the snow fall on my forearms. I inhaled deeply and threw my bare arms straight up into the air, like waving a white flag of surrender into the dark night. Snowflakes kissed my exposed wrists adorned with jagged slash marks that aren’t even a month and a half old. It started as a whisper. “These are my battle scars. These are my battle scars. These are my battle scars.” I felt hysteria building in my heart over the words I was saying. I repeated myself, saying the same thing over and over. “These are my battle scars.” I don’t even know where that phrase came from. It just popped in my head but it wasn’t enough. I could feel it building and so I did the only thing left to do. I screamed into the night. Not a scream of pain or anguish or even defeat. This was different. If these are my battle scars, this was my battle cry. This was a scream of power. Of fighting back. Of standing back up and charging my way back into my life.

I have been looking at these ugly scars on my wrist like they were my weakness. I saw them as proof of my undeniably weak character. But maybe, just maybe, they need not be weak any longer. Maybe they can become powerful. I got help. You can too.

wspdlogoToday I want you to get help if you need it. You are brave even if all you feel is weak. You can rally every last bit of strength you have left for this fight. You can return, weapons drawn to the front line to face off against your demons. Scream words of resilience and hope and power to the sky. You are not a lost cause. You are not unworthy of love. You are not worth giving up on.

This is me. As flawed as flawed can be. But I am strong. I know I am. Somewhere deep inside lies a soul covered in truth and bursting forth with a light so bright, I know I can banish the darkness inside. Today I beckon you forth from your darkness. Tell the truth. Find help. You are not alone.

If you’re struggling, TWLOHA has local and 24-hour resources on its FIND HELP page: https://twloha.com/find-help

Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255


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The Book of Secrets – a scared author’s memoir

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The sky is blue and the air is warm. It blows in through the sheer bedroom curtain as I click the keys furiously. I am alive and well. I am happy and content. But I am also scared and unsure of myself. My book will be out in less than four weeks. This is big. Like REALLY big. This is something I’ve wanted to do my entire life. A dream that I’ve carried around with me ever since I could hold a pencil and write more than just my name. It’s more than I could have ever hoped for.

I’m standing on the edge of that cliff, on the cusp of jumping over, and I hesitate. What am I doing? What on earth am I doing?

It has been seven months since I have published a post. Seven. I could make excuses, but why bother? As I’ve stumbled through the editing and formatting process and attempted to learn as I went, it’s been undoubtedly slow. It’s taken up most of my free time and zapped all creative energy from my brain. With every misplaced comma, incorrect tense, and each capitalized word in quotation marks, the words in my head fell farther and farther away from me. I forgot that I actually enjoy writing. I got focused. Too focused. I wanted to make the book perfect. I HAD to make it perfect. I couldn’t do anything else until I got it just the way I wanted it. That would make me feel better. Or so I thought.

I sit here today in front of my laptop. I should be working. There are people to contact, facts to go over, last minute things to check, bottom lines to look at, and more. I’m bored with it though.

What am I doing? I am telling the truth. The whole truth. The bits and pieces that I have buried like treasure for safekeeping. I have built wall after wall around these secrets to keep others out. And just like that, I’m going to blast a hole in the wall for the entire world to see. Seriously? What on earth am I doing?

You see, I have secrets. Lots of secrets. For every word I share, there are twenty more lurking beneath my fingertips. For every devastating memory I bring to light, there are five more that I choose to keep in the darkness. I am publishing a book of secrets, things that my own family and friends don’t know about me. My final chapter – that’s the real deal. It’s the true test of my bravery. I wanted to take it out. I really wanted to take it out. I still do a little bit. But I can’t. It’s too important. It changes everything and there will be no going back. I have to tell the truth. There is no other way around it. I have to tell the truth. And I am scared and unsure of myself.2016-05-24 14.05.43

I stand on the edge of that cliff, on the cusp of jumping over, and I hesitate. It’s going to be okay Kathy. I close my eyes, take two steps forward, and free fall into the great unknown. Today, my book is finished.


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Seasons change and so did I, you need not wonder why

I have this dream pretty regularly. I am running from someone who intends to do me harm but can’t get far enough away. I end up backing myself into a corner, in a dimly lit room with this beat up creaky old white door that doesn’t lock. On the other side of that door, they push and push trying to get in and I can’t hold the door closed. The intruder is powerful and strong while I am defenseless and weak. The door opens a little bit at a time and I’m screaming, using all of my force to attempt to close it but it’s just not good enough. The door opens wide and then I awaken with a jolt.

Now I’m sure some dream analyst would have a lot to say about the dream but that’s not really the point at all. The point is that no matter how many times I have this dream, I can’t change the outcome. That door is coming open whether I want it to or not. That’s kind of the way it works in the waking life too, isn’t it? Change is right there, pushing at our door while we waste precious resources of time and energy fighting it, hiding out on the other side of the door attempting to hold it back. Still it spills in a little bit at a time until its invaded the whole room and there’s no denying its presence anymore. IMG_7553.JPG

I have spent a lot of time looking for who I used to be to no avail. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t find her. I was so sure that if I just kept at it eventually I’d run into her; pun intended of course. Much to my dismay, she was gone without a trace. My endeavors were fruitless. She had blown away in the wind. Only I was left. There was no old me or new me; there was absolutely nothing. I had to start all over, rebuilding this person I only had a vague recollection of. I stood broken and full of despair for what no longer existed. I didn’t know where to start and the world felt dark and shadowy beneath my feet.

What I didn’t realize was that this was always the way it was going to be.  I was never going to be able to be the same person again. We are not supposed to be. We are supposed to change. Grow. Leave little bits and pieces of ourselves in yesterday. With every heart break, success, failure, and joy, we change. It happens whether we want it to or not. It’s hard to accept that we don’t really have a say in the process, especially when the change takes you by complete surprise and leaves a gaping hole in your heart. We can deny it or we can accept it but either way, it is happening. To accept it doesn’t mean you have to like it; it just means you don’t settle in that in-between space trying to relive out all the different ways it could have or should have went. You can accept something that you really, truly hate. It will be hard. It will hurt. It will shake you to your core. It will feel like the entire world is caving in around you at times. It will be a long process, one step forward, two steps back, and then again until you gain some traction and start moving forward but you can do it.

Tony_Robbins_Quote_Change_Progress-e1345880409149Maybe that’s an overly simplistic view of change. Maybe it’s all way more complicated than accepting what has happened has really happened. Maybe I don’t understand it at all. Or maybe I’m still too sleep deprived to tell if my words are coming out right. Either way, this is what I am going to do today. This is what I want you to do with me. Give up chasing the ashes of what wasn’t. Give up clinging to the hope of what truly can’t be. Extract yourself from the tangle of webs that have held you down and still for so very long. Stand tall and believe that you are capable and worthy of moving forward. Take that step. Just one. Just for now. Just for today. Take that step and know it will be ok. Maybe not right away, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but someday, it really will be ok.


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September is Craniofacial Awareness/Acceptance Month and here’s why it should matter to you

Maybe it won’t be your baby. Maybe it will be your neighbor’s new baby, a cousin’s baby, the baby of the checkout girl at your local supermarket, or the baby of that nice couple at church. Rest assured it will be somebody’s baby because the statistics don’t lie. 1 in 2,500 babies will be born with Craniosynostosis. I know. I know. Craniosynostosis sounds like a really long, boring, and clinical word. I have to move quickly here now because I know once I start in with the medical jargon; many people tend to lose interest.

293121_3005087664604_1543276242_nHere’s what I want you to imagine: it’s your baby. If you don’t have a baby, then it’s a baby you love such as a niece, nephew, or a friend’s child. First they are going to push your baby, your very heart and soul, away from you in a hospital crib down a long white hallway. They are going to cut open your baby’s delicate, soft, sweet smelling head from ear to ear with a zigzag incision. They are going to peel your baby’s face off all the way down to their cheekbones. I’m going to pause here for a moment to let that sink in. Honestly. Your baby’s face. They are going to saw and cut into your baby’s skull so they can break it apart. They are going to remove pieces of your baby’s skull as if it were a jigsaw puzzle. They are going to take extra care around your baby’s brain that lies underneath. They are going to mold your baby’s bones into what they want them to be so that they may function and grow the way they are supposed to. They are going to put the pieces of your baby’s skull back together with an insane amount of screws and plates. They are going to put your baby’s face back on. Lastly, they are going to sew everything back together on your baby’s battered, bruised, and bleeding head. They are going to push your very heart and soul back towards you in a hospital crib down a long white hallway and into an ICU for days. You won’t be able to breathe the first time you look at your baby after surgery. It will be like a punch straight to the stomach leaving you gasping for air and void of all words.

IMAG0312Just days after my youngest son Emmett’s first birthday, he began having seizures and wildly convulsing at random times. In those long days and weeks of ambulance rides, emergency rooms, and multiple tests, no one could tell us what was wrong with our baby. A naturally impatient person, I could tell my son was suffering so I obsessively turned to Google for answers. I spent hours poring over websites, looking up words I didn’t understand, and reading things that went way above my knowledge base until I found it. I diagnosed my son with Craniosynostosis with Google’s help. A Pediatrician, a Family Doctor, a Neurologist, and 2 Emergency Room Doctors could not help us but Google could. I don’t think we had bad Doctors, just Doctors that had never heard of this birth defect through no fault of their own. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story. Even though this is a relatively common birth defect, there are scores of medical professionals that have never even heard of it. It took over 14 months for my son to be diagnosed with the birth defect that he had been born with.

IMAG0418My son was 15 months old when he had his first surgery. It took exactly 7 hours and 26 minutes. I ran while he was in surgery, suspended in a restless state of both drive and despair. I was just as broken as his skull that drained a sickening thick, red blood day and night. No matter how often I wiped up the pools of blood at the base of his neck, they kept reappearing. His eyes were swollen shut for 8 straight days. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still hear him screaming in terror and see him holding his head tightly in his blood stained hands. He’s had 5 surgeries so far in his short life, all related to Craniosynostosis but only 3 of them were on his head and skull. Some of the additional surgeries might have been avoided all together if he had only been diagnosed early enough. If only…

imgsvr.ashx2 While Craniosynostosis is only one diagnosis covered under the blanket for Craniofacial Awareness/Acceptance, it is the one I chose to focus on because it has impacted our lives so greatly. So what exactly is it? Craniosynostosis is a birth defect of the skull. It occurs when one of the sutures in a baby’s head closes too early and changes the way the skull begins to grow, thus inhibiting brain growth in the process. The only cure for Craniosynostosis is surgery, the optimal age for it being between 6 and 12 months. There is a less invasive surgery available in some cases, but many babies face this same very extensive surgery as their only hope. Symptoms of Craniosynostosis in an infant include an unusual shaped head, a hard, raised ridge along the affected suture, and a soft spot that closed too early. Craniosynostosis can inhibit brain growth and can cause intracranial pressure, seizures, eye problems, developmental delays, and more if left uncorrected.

945865_418390074926464_583492023_nAfter all of this, you may wonder why it should matter to you.  Here is where I must call out to you with a mother’s heartfelt plea. It has to matter. It just has to. It has to matter to our trained and trusted medical staff so that they can learn more about it, how to recognize it and how to treat it in a timely manner. It can’t go the way it went for us anymore. It has to matter to other families so that we can teach our children not to point and stare at someone that looks different, but to offer a warm and accepting smile. These kids have lived a life most adults can’t even comprehend; we needn’t make their lives harder with harsh words and exclusion. It has to matter to the other parents out there so that they could identify it in their child or another child if need be, in case they were to fall between the cracks as we did.

IMG_2174-2When all is said and done, all I can do is try to get the word out, to facilitate even the smallest of change with the hope that even a small drop in the ocean of awareness will be enough to make a difference for someone else. I leave that hope in your hands.


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A love like a fairy tale

Happily ever after. That’s what they say, right? You’ve found the one to live out all of your days with and your storybook ending awaits.

I was downstairs running on my treadmill late that night. Our two little boys were already asleep in their beds. My husband and I had been fighting on and off for what felt like forever. Life had turned increasingly chaotic with our son’s diagnosis, a major skull surgery, another impending surgery, and the seizures that raged on with alarms going off in the middle of the night. I was falling apart at the seams with a load of what if questions and the genuine fear I felt for my son’s life. I was no longer myself. I had become an insomniac. I was spiraling into depression. I was also having what the Doctor diagnosed as panic attacks. Sometimes I was a mess, raw with all kinds of emotions that just overflowed from my very being. Sometimes I was numb, cold, and unfeeling, this person who couldn’t even pretend or allow herself to care. It was like watching a stranger act this way. I was embarrassed by this stranger and I wanted her out of my head and out of my life, but she had such a strong hold over me. broken-glass-1391033856ZOj

My husband stood next to the treadmill as I stared straight ahead, with the steady pounding of my feet to block out all of the things I didn’t want to hear. A duffle bag full of his clothes sat at his feet. The silence stretched out between us. Finally, he threw his parting words in my direction “I can’t do this with you anymore. I just can’t.” I didn’t even look up. I didn’t even flinch.  “Ok bye” I said as I continued staring straight ahead of me, running into nothingness. He slammed the door behind him and the sound of my feet started to fade away.

He was gone. It hurt. It hurt everywhere and I had to make it stop somehow. I pushed the up arrow to increase the speed on my treadmill and felt a twinge in my stomach. My entire life was unrecognizable. I was crawling in my own skin. I just wanted to run away. I pushed the up arrow a few more times, speeding up even more as my stomach churned. I was helpless. Everything felt utterly hopeless and now I was all alone. I just wanted to run away. I pushed the up arrow once again. It was too fast. Everything burned: my heart, my legs, and my stomach. I just wanted to run away. I was going to scream, I was sure of it, so I turned my head into my shoulder to muffle the sound. That’s when I threw up. I pulled the emergency stop cord and started to cry instead. Desperate, reckless, anguish poured out of me in the form of sobs. How did everything ever get so wrong?

That’s where he found me an hour later. He had come back home and I was sitting on the hard treadmill belt, puke still in my hair, and crying hysterically. I was the vision of undone. He picked me up from my treadmill and brought me to the bathroom to help clean me up as I gripped his arm. In that moment, no words were exchanged between us. Just a simple and overwhelming act of love. A love like a fairy tale. Someone that could love me when I couldn’t love myself. Someone that could take care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself. Someone in pain themselves that could see how much pain I was in and still find it in themselves to care. Someone that would stand by me.

We both made a lot of mistakes attempting to navigate this new place in our life. Honestly, I have made the majority of them. It took me much longer to figure it out, to find myself again, and to trust the ground below me was steady enough to hold. It was and still very much is a learning process. I patched myself back up together as best as I could. I sought counseling. I attempted to make peace with all of the things I couldn’t control. I found my faith once again. We became a team, united and fighting battles together instead of against one another. We came out the other side even more solid in our marriage, strengthened by the dark road we had traveled.

Maybe that’s not what people had in mind when they said happily ever after. Maybe they meant flowers, exotic trips, and eloquent sonnets professing undying love. Maybe Prince Charming never attempted to leave in frustration to his shell of a bride. Maybe that fairy tale princess never threw up all over herself. Maybe that fairy tale life doesn’t look anything like ours. Or perhaps happily ever after meant something more, like a promise. Love for better or worse: way, way worse. Someone to hold you up in the halls of a hospital when your legs go weak. Someone to rinse your gross hair out for you. Someone that loves you even when you are sure you are unlovable and undeserving of such love. Someone that refuses to give up on you over and over and over again. Someone that will love you through all seasons. A love like a fairy tale.

 


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Out of the darkness – 100 miles for Emmett

Facebook-20150707-033950On June 20th, almost 3 weeks ago, I ran 100 miles for “Emmett’s Endurance Event.” And then I went on vacation and then it was the Fourth of July and then I realized I never wrote about it. And as we all know, inside the mind of a writer (if I can be so bold as to call myself that these days) it’s almost as if it didn’t happen if I don’t recreate it with words. So if you are so inclined to read about my latest running adventure, for my son Emmett, and the deep dark ugly parts and the parts where I beamed with pride, read on.

I woke up on Friday, June 19th at 5:15. I didn’t have to be up until 6am, but I couldn’t sleep. I drug myself out of bed and started my pre run routine. When I got to the pile of clothes that I would start out this run with, I was transported. I stared at the white shirt with pink letters with a kind of disgusted fascination. I had bought it special for that day 3 years ago. And 3 years ago, when I stared at this same exact shirt that proudly proclaimed me as unstoppable, I felt like a fraud. I didn’t feel unstoppable, I felt afraid and nauseous and like running away. But that was then and this is now. As I put the shirt on, I knew I had grown into it. I truly believed what it said. And I say that not with arrogance or conceitedness or to pat myself on the back, but to remind myself. I am unstoppable. I have seen worse. I can do this. I can survive anything. I cannot be stopped. I will keep going. Somehow. Someway. I will. And with that in mind, I finished getting ready and took off running full of determination.

When attempting to run 100 miles, time ceases to exist. It’s just me and my legs fighting against my mind. As far as running goes, the first 10 hours were pretty uneventful. Friends came to keep me company and decorated my home base camp with all kinds of signs. I wandered around in the huge campground for a few hours, before deciding on a 5 mile route so as to never be too far away from my people and so I could be easily found.

Facebook-20150707-031330I ran and I ran and I ran. It got hot and I ran. Things hurt and I ran. I got really tired and I ran. I got cranky and I ran. I got discouraged and I ran. I got blisters and I ran. I wanted to stop running and I ran. I just kept going. That’s how you run 100 miles. There is no secret. You just keep going. You shut off everything else and just keep going. If my previous races had taught me anything, it was that once I started crying, I wouldn’t be able to stop. The dam would break and I would never be far from dissolving into hysterics at a moment’s notice. So I worked hard to keep myself together, to not lose it. I focused on my mind, shutting down all the cant’s and negative thoughts threatening to spill over. I held it together, willed the emotions back in until I was ready for them. I told myself things I wasn’t sure I really believed, but forced myself to adhere to them.

I hit 50 miles in a bit over 12 hours. More friends showed up and ran with me and they occupied my mind, kept the impending doom from setting in, and gave me a welcomed and happy distraction.  Round and round the 5 mile loop different people went with FB_IMG_1434829797093me. A group of friends sat around a campfire all night long, taking shifts running with me. I was never alone. These are my people. They don’t need to say it because they are there. They show it.

Highlights of the night include hysterical laughter with friends, high fives from groups of kids on golf carts, being scared of a bug zapper, and blinding everyone around me with my super-powered headlamp. Somewhere around 3 am, it took a turn for the worse. I was sitting on a fence, 80 miles under my belt, feeling sick to my stomach and fighting back the tears with every fiber of my being. Tony was standing next to me, urging me onwards and upwards. Facebook-20150707-031309But under the cloak of night, my resolve wavered and I couldn’t help but cry. It was too long. It was too far. I was too tired. It was too dark. It was going to be dark forever. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I couldn’t do it anymore. I don’t remember what exactly my husband said, nor does he as we were both sleep deprived, but it was tough love. A get up and get your butt going right now because you don’t get to stop here, kind of sentiment. Whatever it was, it pushed me to stand back up on feet that felt like they were on fire. The pain blocked out everything else. All I could feel in each step was how much it hurt. Nothing else registered, just the burning pain in my feet. A very long and very dark night ensued. A darkness so encompassing, I didn’t think I would ever see the light again. I was convinced this was it. When dawn finally broke, I felt hope. The sun rose again and it with it came my spirit. I could breathe easier in the daylight. I was not doomed to run in the darkness for the rest of my life. I had run out of the darkness, both literally and figuratively.

IMAG0010 (4)Now that it was actually June 20th, the day of Emmett’s first surgery, I allowed my mind to go back. I saw myself on that treadmill, tears streaming down my face silently, my teeth gritted in sheer effort, and a crushing despair that filled me as I waited for that blasted hospital pager to ring. Waited to hear that my baby boy had lived. Waited to hear that I could stop running. Waited to hear that everything was going to be ok. I waited and I ran, a terrified mother trying to convince herself how brave she was. I could still feel it as I ran 3 years later. Sometimes I am still that mother, trying to convince myself I am actually brave when I feel anything but. But still, as my home base came into sight, 100 miles within my grasp, I felt the brave rise up. I did not cry. I smiled and sighed with intense relief as I crossed my finish line holding Emmett’s hand. I was victorious. I really felt unstoppable. In previous races, I felt like I had merely survived 100 miles. It was a brutal assault to my body and senses. This time, I felt like I did more than just survive, I thrived. I remembered the reason I was doing this. I used it to power through what I thought I couldn’t. I finished and I smiled.  After running for 27 hours and 38 minutes, I really did run out of that darkness. Facebook-20150707-031351

We told a handful of people about Craniosynostosis in person. I told even more online. I ran to honor Emmett’s journey. And I did. I ran to remind myself I can. And I did. I ran to make a difference. And maybe I did or maybe I didn’t. But what I do know is that I have done something and that is better than nothing. And you all have made a difference to me. Every text, call, comment, and email. Everyone that shared about Emmett, helped me tell the world what Craniosynostosis is and why it matters. Everyone that has stood by me or stepped in when I needed it the most. Everyone that has cheered me on from near or far.  You are my people. You don’t need to say it. You show it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. Facebook-20150707-031254


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“She put on a lot of weight”

I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of years on the fourth of July. It was hot and humid here. My sweaty hair was stuck to my face. My brave little boy was in my big yellow double running stroller, the strap tied a bit too tightly around my arm digging in. My oldest son was running behind me with my husband. I was surrounded by an amazing group of people out there representing the church we attend, showing love for our community by passing out a few thousand popsicles in the parade. My face was flushed red from the heat and the exertion of running to keep up while pushing a nearly 100 pound load and simultaneously handing out popsicles with one hand while the other steered the stroller. I handed this person a popsicle, smiled, and offered a short, but enthusiastic, “Hey there!” As I turned away from them to continue, I heard ever so faintly “she put on a lot of weight.” I felt my face flame up with embarrassment. My pulse quickened like it would for an impending physical attack. I was stunned for about half a second before I realized there was no time to dwell on this. I had to keep moving and stay with my group even though I wanted to know so badly if there was going to be more to this conversation about me. FB_IMG_1436225638817

I sat with it for 2 days. I didn’t say a word to anyone about it, not even my husband, because I was embarrassed. Because I felt ashamed. Because most of all they were right. I mean yes, they were right. But in those short few seconds they saw me, they didn’t really see me. They chose to see just one thing. My weight. Not me. They only saw my weight.

I wanted to go back and tell them. All the things they didn’t see, that is. All the things they couldn’t even begin to understand. All the things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. All the things I have overcome to be here today, standing in front of them happily offering them a popsicle. All the times I almost didn’t make it. All the ways I have struggled and failed and got back up again anyhow, refusing to let that be the way it ended. So yes. Yes. I have gained weight. And it would be so easy to make excuses and justifications. This is what insomnia can do to you. This is what it looks like when you watch your heart and soul – your child suffer from unimaginable pain. This is what long term, chronic stress and worry looks like. This is what someone that has been on the edge one too many times looks like. But it wouldn’t be the whole truth. The whole truth is I have done this to myself. That’s the whole and embarrassing and painful truth. I have struggled and I have done the very best I have been able to over the years and this is where I have found myself. I have tried and tried and tried. I really have. And when all else has failed, when I have prayed and ran, and wrote and read, when I have cried and screamed and still felt the world spinning out of control in front of me, I have turned to food for comfort. And just because I have put on this weight does not make me any less of a person. It does not mean I am not worthy, not interesting, or not important.

I wanted to go back and tell them more. Like how I just ran 100 miles two weeks ago, for the third time. And while some would attempt to diminish these accomplishments because I was not “fast”, I stand proud knowing the truth of the matter. It takes a level of endurance and grit I never knew I had to run for a day and a half straight. It takes a hardened will, a determination to go forth despite the burning pain, the deep ache that settles in all of your bones, the beaten down body, and the discouraged mind. It takes dedication and passion. It’s all about heart. It’s a feat of strength, not just physically but mentally. And just because I have put on this weight does not mean I am weak, out of shape, or unhealthy.

I wanted to tell them all of this and more. I wanted to make them see how much more I am than someone who has put on weight. But the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. Why does it matter? Why do I care what these people think of me? Why do I look at myself in the mirror more critically after a mindless comment someone made by the side of the road? Why do we let people do this to us? Who is anyone to judge you or me that way? Why do we dismiss a compliment so easily but let an insult stick to our ribs?

So I came to a realization and that is I need to be a better friend, to myself. The next time I look at myself in the mirror before I leave, I will not throw in a biting comment about how I look. The next time I am discouraged that I cannot zip up my favorite pair of jeans, I will not berate myself. The next time I hear a less than flattering comment about myself,  I will not let it take root in me. I will not give it the satisfaction. I will dismiss it the way it should be. I will love myself more. I will look at myself the way a friend would. If I would not say it a friend, I will not say it to myself. As we all should. I will cut myself some slack and acknowledge that I really have done the best that I could. I will believe my own words. I will know that I have not failed anyone and that I am not a failure myself.

I will honestly and truly treat myself like a friend would. That’s what I want for you too. I want you to see yourself for how amazing you are. I want you to see that it does not matter if you are a few pounds heavier than you want to be. It does not make you any less beautiful. What makes you beautiful is you. Who you are. Not some arbitrary number. Not the way your critics may see you, but the way the ones that love you see you. What an amazing thing that would be FB_IMG_1430562952849– to finally see ourselves the way our loved ones do. The way we should be seen. That is the hope. That is the goal.