A 5 year tale of transformation

5 years ago this afternoon, a few new friends were over making iron on t-shirts with the aspiration of starting a mom’s group at church. I didn’t know how these women would become a life support for me while Owen was on life support (and continue to support me in the years to come). Little did I know that Tony Maroni’s pizza would be the last meal I had with all four of my children healthy. I didn’t know my little sister would be a rock at home so I could hop in the ambulance and focus on breathing.

These past five years started with a mother’s worse nightmare coming true … and have taught me what healing feels like. It’s taught me how surrendering brings strength. When you can’t breath … a mother’s hug, a friend’s card in the mail, a therapist’s ear, a Sunday morning church service, a family remembering your baby brings the air you need. My family and friends have literally breathed for me at times.

To my friends and family, thank you for walking these 5 years with me. Thank you for carrying me when I wasn’t able to stand and for bringing the sunshine through my rain storm.

I still cry during the month of May at random times of remembering what life was like. I am still moved by other women’s stories of loss and wish there was something I could say or do to lessen their pain, knowing all too well there isn’t anything I can say or do but listen, pray and just show up.

Thank you for being a part of a beautiful story of healing. You have helped me. You have helped my family. Without you, this might not have been a story of healing but rather just tragedy. Owen’s story is a beautiful tale of transformation. A beautiful monarch butterfly and you as the cocoon that have wrapped me with protection and shelter.

As Logan and Weston have told me, Owen lives in my heart now.

Love, Mel

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Filed under Grief, Owen's Gone, Posted by Melissa

Why I Have All Boys

I learned just why God gave me all boys on my first Cub Scout overnight.

A few weekends ago, Jaden and I drove up to Camp Rokilio for a two night stay with his Cub Scout pack. This wasn’t tent camping. We were staying in themed dorms. We were in the castle. I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I missed last year’s overnight because I was recovering from my broken foot. We arrived at camp when it was already dark out and took turns unloading all of our cars.

It certainly wasn’t a 4 star hotel … or a Motel 8 for that matter, but it would do. There were only three moms so we got our own wing and posted a “Mom Only” sign on our bathroom. I can’t remember the last time I slept in a sleeping bag!

We made popcorn and hot cocoa for the boys, let them watch a movie and then put them to bed. They were sleeping by 11 ish .. late, but not too terribly bad.

Then the dads busted out the cribbage board. I convinced Nicole to let the boys teach us how to play. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I think part of the fun was skunking them a few times:)

Saturday the boys played outside all day long. I led a few crafts inside when they came inside to warm up a bit. The camp fire was burning all day long. Later in the afternoon/evening we took a walk down to the bog. I hung out in the back of the line laughing at all the funny things the boys were saying.

I remember looking around thinking, “This is what life is about. These are the moments that make it all worth it.” I just loved watching Jaden run by with a stick in his hand. Watching as his face got dirtier and dirtier as the day wore on.

I was oddly aware that I was a single, divorced woman hanging out with a bunch of dudes. Most of whom I haven’t met their wives. It was odd, but the guys were really nice and made fun of me all the same. I admit, making fun of me isn’t that hard to do. haha!

We ended the night with a bonfire and s’mores. I was right next to the boys, teaching them how to make the perfectly golden brown marshmallow. It’s all about the coals and not the flame. I loved watching the 1st grade Tigers trying to keep up with the older boys and the dads showing their boys fire safety.

I whopped the boys in cribbage again that night and someone started a tally on the wall for how many times I snorted when laughing. I have to admit, I think I enjoyed myself so much because of the good company. The boys were all so well behaved and the dads were very welcoming to me.

On my drive home, exhausted and dreading having to unpack the van, I couldn’t help but feel like this weekend was the reason why I had boys. God knew how much fun I would have with them. That my heart would melt watching them play in the dirt. He knew that I don’t mind getting dirty when having fun and that sleeping on a squeaky bunkbed wasn’t all that bad. He knew that I’d love learning pocketknife safety with them and that I think archery is cool.

Most importantly, I remembered why all the hard mommyhood stuff is worth it. It’s about vacations and sleepovers. It’s about the fun random times and not all about the work and chores. I came home that weekend physically exhausted and spiritually rejuvenated.

I go real tent camping in two weeks … we’ll see if I feel the same way after a weekend without flushing toilets.

Love, Mel

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Filed under Jaden Story, Mommyhood Meditations, Posted by Melissa

The Newest Member of Our Family

It’s been a real rough school year for Jaden. He’s been getting into all kinds of trouble, which is totally not like him. I started offering incentives for doing well in school. He’s got a behavior chart and can earn up to three points in the morning and three points in the evening, for a total of six.

Our original goal was five 6’s in a row but that proved to be too much pressure. If he didn’t get a six on Wednesday, the rest of the week was shot. He didn’t have anything to work towards for the rest of the week. We decided that he needed to get six 6’s without going to the principal’s office, then we could get a pet. That meant he could get as many 4’s & 5’s as he needed to … but he needed six 6’s.

This pet thing is a big deal … I’m not an animal person. I believe animals belong outside, not in my home. Maybe that makes me cold hearted. Animals just sort of freak me out.

Then began the conversations about what kind of pet to get. My rule was that it couldn’t be something that would get lonely. We aren’t home enough during the day to have something that needed company, i.e. no cat or dog. Like any rational mom, I suggested a fish. Easily replaceable when it croaks, cheap and not hard to care for.Jaden suggested a turtle. Not a horrible idea. A turtle makes a cool “boy” pet.  I figured that would be ok … I could use plastic gloves if I ever needed to touch it.

Then, my brother brought home his guinea pig, Ruby, for Easter. Now she was cute … from a distance. I didn’t mind watching others hold her, or snapping a cute pic of her in an Easter basket. Jaden on the other hand, was totally in love. He held her for 12 hours straight … just chillin’ with Ruby on his lap; loving the little piggy snot out of her. Crap.

Surprise, surprise Jaden now wanted a guinea pig as his reward pet. I started googling and consulting with other mom friends. Adopting a guinea pig seemed like it might be a plausible idea. At least it wasn’t totally ruled out.

Then the week came when he got four 6’s. Dang we were close. Then Monday he came home with another 6. Tuesday morning when I dropped him off, I just knew he was going to have a great day. In fact, I submitted an application to the Humane Society that morning when I got into work. The text came right after he got off the school bus. “I’m getting a guinea pig.” Funny thing I was so dang proud of him, I hardly thought about the fact that I was about to let a rodent live in my home.

When I got home from work, we hopped in the car and headed straight to Petco. I wasn’t ready to buy one just yet, but we were going to LOOK and get the supplies so we’d be ready to adopt. This is what I was shopping with:

The young man helping us was very sweet answering all my dumb questions. Then he mentioned that there was one more guinea pig in the back and she was the littlest guinea pig he’s ever seen. Yes, of course we wanted to see her.

Out he came, with this little fur ball in his hands. It was love at first sight. Jaden held her and I knew there was no leaving her at the store.

Welcome to the family Buttercup Cookie Dough:)

This is what life is all about. These moments are what fill our love tanks so we can do the day to day crap. I’ve been stuck in a no vacation-homework every night – pay the bills – do the laundry – wash the dishes kind of rut.

The glitter in my boy’s eyes and how they just love her up is totally worth it all. I’ll deny it until the cows come home, but I think I just might love her too.

Love, Mel




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Fun New Writing Opportunity – MKE Moms Blog

Milwaukee_Contributor_BTNI’ve got some exciting news to share with you! I was recently accepted as a new contributor for the MKE Moms Blog. Can I get a whoop whoop?!?! My “Meet Mel” post went live a week or so ago and I’m super excited to let my creativity run wild and share my love for the Milwaukee area with other moms.

I’m positively excited about this opportunity. I’m not so positive how much of Mel I want to share. Do I allow myself to get all messy all over the computer screens of Milwaukee? Do I let them know I can drop an F bomb when something goes wrong? That sometimes I have NO clue what to do so I just ignore issues hoping they will resolve themselves until the moment I have to accept that it’s not going to get better and in fact, I let it get a whole lot worse and out of control.

I’m in probably the most stable season in life that I have been in the last 12 years. My nights are pretty uneventful. I’m not longer just struggling to survive, but I’m starting to focus on making life better for my children. I own a home that I love to be in. My nights are filled washing dishes (sometimes), crime tv and little boys crawling in bed to snuggle.

I’ve got this fresh slate on this new blog. These readers don’t know me as Owen’s mom. They don’t know about my abusive ex husband or the struggles I had leaving him. This is a chance to live out the life that I’ve wanted. That I’ve fought HARD for! This is a chance to share the good parts of me and not the parts that, while inspiring and brutally honest, are not high points in life. All these other moms are beautiful working women. SUPER OOBER nice and totally real … but I feel like I’m still a mess compared to them.

I have a photo shoot (don’t I sound legit?) tomorrow for a professional headshot to be used on the website. There were conversations about getting hair cuts and highlights. Postings of adorable heels and ankle boots. I haven’t gotten my hair cut in six months … and it didn’t occur to me that I might need one until all these other beautiful ladies started talking about it. Then all of a sudden I needed a cut and color before Thursday. I stood in my kitchen, making mac’n cheese, yelling at Weston to put some underwear on, when I thought to myself … Stop. Stop trying to be like them Mel. Just be you. You’ve worked so damn hard to be the women you are today and you should be proud of that. You are a no fuss, only wear mascara kind of gal and that’s good enough. Who are you trying to impress? Just be you … and they’ll love you for it!

I’m scared to show them my messy side. I’m writing for a Mom blog … shouldn’t I know a thing or two about motherhood? The only thing I know is how to survive when things fall totally and utterly apart. I’m not good at keeping a clean house. I don’t know the first thing about teaching my kids how to tie their shoes … I get just a frustrated as they do. I know how to kiss away the tears, how to talk to them about their brother in heaven and how to snuggle with them on the couch while ignoring the laundry in the corner that should be folded. And some days the only thing I know how to do is keep them occupied enough so I can get lost in my facebook feed without the house totally burning down.

I know I just need to be the real Mel. I’m the best me when I’ve prayed hard before writing. That’s what I’ll do! Sounds so silly, but seriously, as I share my uncertainty with you … it might just be that easy. DUH Mel, just pray about it. Before each writing assignment, pray. Allow God the time and space to whisper what He wants me to share. Maybe I’ll be called for some great DIY posts … or maybe I’ll be the one who gets “real” … a lot. What I need to focus on is that I’m enough. I have a story and I shouldn’t try to be someone I’m not.

It’s time to celebrate a good season! It’s time to be thankful for the stability in my life and it’s time to protect that.

I’m absolutely tickled for this opportunity. If you have chance check out the blog and like MKE Moms Blog on facebook and show the gals and I a little love.

Love, Mel


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No One is a Pinterest Mom

2I love my kids more than anything. When my day at work gets tough, I look forward to snuggling with my little men. I want to enjoy my kids. I want to spend Friday nights building forts, watching movies and eating popcorn. I want to spoil them and make memories. I want to really enjoy life with my children. What I didn’t anticipate is how hard discipline would be. I absolutely hate having to be the bad guy.

When it comes to discipline I’m dumbfounded. I’ve read books. I’ve followed blogs and watched videos. I know how important it is … I just find it so hard! I lose my temper instead of staying calm. I don’t know what to say when the timeout is done. I also find that I tolerate a lot from my kids. My sister looked at me during dinner and said something about Jaden’s comment being so sassy. I didn’t even notice.

For my children’s sake I’ve got to figure out how to be good disciplinarian … and fast! I’m great at the loving them up, supporting them, being there for them and having fun with them. I want my teaching to have meaning … purpose.

During a phone conversation with my mama, I mentioned to her that I knew discipline was my shortcoming of being a mom. I know I can do it, it’s just harder for me – it takes a lot of effort. Knowing what to say when you child is pushing the boundaries comes naturally to them. That’s why I value her and my sister’s opinions so much. If it’s not something I’ve read about in a Love and Logic book, I’m not totally sure what to do. I’m also pretty quick to forgive so I tend to let my kids off the hook pretty easily. My mom said she was glad to hear me acknowledge that. No mom is good at everything and if we aren’t honest about our areas of weakness we won’t ever improve.

It takes a lot of self-awareness to know where my strengths and weaknesses are. Moms tend to think we are horrible at it all … but that’s just not true. Each of us have special gifts. We are all uniquely paired with our children. There is a reason my kids are my kids and not yours.

When we are transparent, we can hep each other. My weakness is someone else’s strength and visa versa. I know I’ve helped some of my friends lighten up. When the entire box of cereal spills on the floor we take a moment to laugh about it, play a little and then clean it up. Some of my mom friends would just get angry at the wasted money and food on the floor. I get it … I feel that too. My response doesn’t make me a better mom, it’s just a product of my strength in enjoying and savoring moments. Now this same mom, when her child acts disrespectfully, she knows just how to respond. My kids are the ones who run wild and I struggle to pull them back in line.

See? We need each other. We can learn from each other.

Rather than trying to pretend we were all perfect Pinterest moms, what if we were honest about what our homes and lives looked like? What if we let each other in and allowed our fellow mom’s strength become our strength? Rather than sit envious and feel ashamed because my children act out in public, what if I asked her how she does it. Have any tips for me? No one is a Pinterest Mom … let’s stop acting like we are.

Let’s spend more time building each other up, rather than comparing ourselves to each other. It’s the only thing I am 100% sure of, we need each other.

Love, Mel

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Filed under Mommyhood Meditations, Posted by Melissa

Bow and Arrow Practice

Jaden got a bow and arrow for Christmas. This has been the year of “boy toys” … BB gun, pocket knife and now a bow and arrow. Jaden and I went to Buck Rub last weekend where Jaden participated in a youth bow and arrow league. The league is run by volunteer hunters who spend time giving kids pointers and keep score.

Jaden has been going thru a phase … or maybe he has reached the age where mom isn’t cool anymore. When we are home he is a total mama’s boy. He holds my hand when he falls asleep. ::insert sigh here:: However, when it comes to things like Cub Scouts, or bow and arrow, mom is no longer qualified. He just wants a dad. I thought Cub Scouts would offer him some male role models … it seems that in some ways it has only magnified the fact that the other scouts have their dads at tent camping and he has only his mom.

Kids are smart. My family is incredible and my dad and brother do a ton with him and show him father figure love and role modeling. Again, kids are smart. He knows it’s not the same as having a dad. For whatever reason (I may never understand but need to acknowledge) he feels a hole. It tares me up knowing that when I was pregnant with him, and his biological father walked out … this was my biggest fear. My one nightmare … that my precious, loved-beyond-words baby boy would feel the loss of a dad. I was determined to not let him feel this kind of pain. In fact, I have gone to great lengths of trying to compensate and ensure this didn’t happen. Yet, with regret, I know that his feeling of loss is also the product of my failed marriage and mistakes.

On Saturday morning, I sat at the table on the other side of the glass window and watched Jaden learn how to shoot bow. He looked up at these male volunteers with eyes that he doesn’t give me. His shoulders were held back and he was proud.


I looked at these male volunteers and knew they had no clue the impact they were making on my son. These men were kind and instructive. They gave him a whole hour of their undivided attention – correcting him when he was loading his arrow pointing at the kid next time him. They offered him pointers on how to hold the bow steady. They walked out onto the range with him and helped him find the arrows that missed the target.

Thank you. Thank you for giving an hour or two of your weekend to mentor these young men. You may never know the boys who are looking at you with eyes like Jaden … you may never know the impact you made on a young boy’s heart. To you, it’s a simple few hours of shooting. To my nine year old boy, it’s filling a hole.

Love, Mel


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Put Me In Coach!

Have you ever walked into a place for the very first time and thought to yourself, “Wow, this feels like home.” After a long, two year search for my new church home, that’s exactly what I felt when I walked into Shorepoint City Church. It’s not something I can totally explain. In fact, it doesn’t make much sense. How can a place you have never been before feel like home?

After being so hurt by the church, I’ve found myself critical and angry. That church turned into a place that didn’t need or want me anymore. The work I had done as my ministry, the way I served my church, was taken over by staff. I tried to convince myself that I could know God without being a part of a church. Churches are run by people. And people hurt each other. I don’t want to be hurt, I just want to serve and worship and serve God. I told myself that I worked in a church, therefore, I got my weekly dose of church. But I’m not worshiping when I work. I’m not singing about God’s greatness. I’m getting things done. I’m preparing for others to come and worship.

Imagine being a kid who has been away from home. Imagine what it feels like to walk through your parent’s front door for the first time in years – excited yet comforted. I belong here. I have purpose here. There is a place for me here. I am needed and wanted here. I’m where I belong. I’m home.

God is in this place. He is doing amazing things at Shorepoint and I want “in.” I’m all in. Put me in coach! Use me! I want to be a part of what’s happening in this place. Planting a church sounds like a whole lot of work, sweat and hurt feelings. But it also sounds soooooo worth it!

God gave me gifts, just as He has given each of you a special set of gifts. I turn my palms towards the heavens and offer every gift I have received back to Him. I’ve been to hell and back and all I want is for the pain to mean something. I want something good to come from my story – even if it means that just one person knows the eternal kind of love I know.

Sometimes I get so excited to get in on the action, that I jump ahead of a process. I forget that good things come with time. Relationships need time to cultivate, deepen and for trust to be formed. My insides feel like they could burst I am so excited to do God’s work. I forget that it doesn’t happen overnight or in one conversation. The introduction has been made and I just need to wait patiently. I’m committed to the team, I’ve got the team colors on. Now I need to wait for my turn to hit the court and continue to pray for God to point me in the direction He needs me.

Dear God,
Thank you for the gifts you have given me. Thank you for a church that awakes your spirit within me; a place where I can go each week and know that you’ll meet me there. Please use me. Use me to tell of your goodness. You have planted in me a passion for communication, writing, graphic design, technology. Show me what you want me to do with these gifts. Lead me in the direction you want me to go. I’m ready and willing to go wherever you lead me. In Jesus name, AMEN!

Love, Mel

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Sometimes I Just Don’t Wanna

Last week, Weston woke me up before my alarm clock went off. “Mama! Logan is peeing in the corner by his dresser!” Crap … I figured he must be half asleep. I walked across the hallway. “Logan, hunny, are you awake?” He turned around, grinning ear to ear. He was not sleep walking … What the heck is going on here???

“Logan, did you pee on Mommy’s carpet?” He just grinned and giggled. That little …. “Logan, why did you pee on the floor?” This time he hid his face in the floor. I knelt down next to him, so he had to look me in the eye. I asked again, “Logan, what happened? Why did you pee on the floor?”

This time he answered. “Jaden was in the bathroom and you were sleeping so I didn’t want to wake you up using your bathroom.” Oh heavens to Betsy … #1 – me sleeping has never stopped the boys from anything before, including nerf gun fights in my room or jumping on my bed. #2 – the boys often have stream fights against my disapproving head shaking #3 – there is another bathroom downstairs!

I was be-fuddled … the kid just decided to pee in the corner for no apparent reason. But then again, I could kind of relate. There are days when peeing in the corner seems like a better idea then doing the extra work of solving a problem. Heck, I’ve just wanted to give up plenty of times. Days when “I just don’t wanna” seems like a reasonable explanation. Sometimes I just don’t wanna solve my problems, I’d rather pee in a corner and call it a day.

Logan helped me clean up his mess and we talked about never peeing anywhere else besides a toilet.

Certainly not the way I thought my day would start. lol … I swear it’s never a dull moment in my house …

Love, Mel

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Getting on the Scale

I know I’m not alone when I say I was appalled when I stepped onto the scale this morning. Where on earth did those extra 10 pounds come from? My pants didn’t feel tight yesterday, but since I’ve seen that number, they feel suffocating. I suddenly hate the way that I look and start thinking about eating only lettuce and drinking ice water for the next week. Why did that number change the way I look at myself? It didn’t happen overnight, yet I suddenly felt very uneasy. I found an immediate motivation for finding healthy recipes. I started tracking what I eat in the handy iPhone app I have. With one glance at the scale, I felt a new way of living coming on.

Sort of the way the Lord has been working in my spiritual life too. I felt totally comfortable and at ease with the track my life was on – I finally felt like i had found some stability since Owen died and “the” divorce. Then, I got a glimpse at what my ministry could look like. How my graphic design degree could help share God’s message in new ways. With just a fleeting thought and dream, I suddenly felt really uncomfortable again.

I wake up feeling unsettled. My heart is slightly racing, my stomach churning. Life is good. Nothing horrible has happened … just the daily struggles of raising three amazing, stubborn, colorful boys. But my heart strings are tugging. I know it’s the Lord’s way of getting me to work … to seek answers and start to move.

I’ve been thinking about going for my master’s for about a year now. I know that this isn’t the right time … money and time are just too tight. My children need me and God has entrusted me with these small beings.

So what work needs to be done? What change is coming or needed?

My unsettled feelings find truth in the 29th chapter of Jeremiah, verse 11-13:

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

The answer is in prayer. It’s in seeking our Father first; with every act of every day. It’s less about having the vision all planned out and more about always seeking Him. When you want to write out your to-do list, fold your hands in prayer and offer everything you have to the greatest visionary of the universe. Let’s be real, his creativity far outweighs anything we could ever imagine for ourselves.

Oh how I’d love to know the plan so I could prepare. I’d have a to-do list and be organized and efficient in completing God’s work. I’d have something to look towards and work for. (I do much better with a goal set in front of me to accomplish – do you?)

Yet, this is not the task God lays before us. He does not call us to be prepared. In fact, he calls us to blindly trust – to fully depend on him. In my world, that’s the opposite. Think of the apostles … do you think they were prepared to bring the church to the world? HECK NO! Yet, that is what they were called to do and, with God’s help, that’s just what they did.

Dear Father, calm my spirit. Calm my worry in a way that only you can. Help me to use the glimpses of your plan as reassurance rather than anxiety of what could be. 

Love, Mel

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Screaming White Silence

There are these moments … usually when everyone else in the house is asleep. I can hear a buzz … I can hear all of the gears in my brain turning and spinning. There are these moments when life seems crystal clear – too much is happening. There is too much iPad time, too much sugar, too much TV, too many inappropriate lyrics on the radio, too many hours in a car this week, too many expectations on kids – let them be kids already!

Then, there are these moments that center me. There are these moments that I feel God on the couch next to me. And still there are these moments when He is nowhere to be found.

I get mad … sometimes I get really really frustrated and everything just ticks me off. The fact that you brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to work could irritate me. These moments are when you need to just accept that I’m pissy and meet me there.

There are these other moments when nothing can alter my calmness. I am in complete control of what comes out of my mouth. I’m cool as a cucumber.

But man, those other moments – those moments when the very sound of a clock ticking can send me over the edge. Poor clock is just doing what God intended … keeping time, rhythmic and steady. Yet, that constant tick tick tick can just send me right into a frenzy.

What defines one moment vs another? How are some moments in life crystal clear and others a thick fog?

I sit here feeling both. I want to scream and shout … I’m really pissed off. And another part of me is totally at peace and ready to sleep. The parts of me that are screaming are ticked off that there isn’t enough money or time to go to seminary. The part of me that is at peace is finally knowing that I was made to go to seminary. And the two truths collide. I want to break out of my administrative role and begin a role in programing. Yet, realistically, there isn’t that change in my near future.

I’m not happy with God’s pace … I want things to happen faster. I’m mad at God, telling him off as to why He let me realize this at the very moment there is no possible way of starting graduate school … yet I am so thankful that I know another step to living out my calling. Faster God .. my days here are numbered – I’m but a whisper in the wind … could we speed up the process so I can enjoy the peace of coming into my calling? If we don’t get this seminary thing going, I’m going to miss out on a lot.

I don’t understand God’s timing. I don’t understand how emotions can be so strong in two totally different directions. Gosh, I don’t understand a lot. I do know that God loves me … I do know that he is the most loving father … and I do know that His timing is perfect.

So, in the middle of the night, when the white noise is so loud I can’t go to sleep … I pray for the peace of God which transcends all understanding. I long for the closeness with my Creator, so that timing and reason no longer matter. I beg for patience and yield to the perfect timing of the greatest love of my life.

Love, Mel

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