Tag Archives: guest post

Redemption: Guest Post by Margie Bryant

6 Jan

In October 2002, I experienced the heartbreak of a pregnancy loss in the second trimester. I was not given an explanation as to what had gone wrong, but the pregnancy had been riddled with problems from the start. It was devastating. As devastating as it was, though, that loss paved the way for tremendous blessings. If we had not lost that precious baby, we would not have our son George. And I would not have had my life enriched by the friendship of an incredible woman named Margie Bryant.

When George was born, I suffered from the same angst faced by most women who have had a pregnancy or infant loss. I was paranoid about every single little thing. I feared losing my child like I had feared nothing else, and my mind read every minor problem as a sign of impending disaster. Fortunately, there was an Internet group for people like me – women who are parenting children after a pregnancy or infant loss. It is through this group that I got to know Margie.

A few years ago, Margie went through a major turning point in her life. Today, she tells us about her experiences, and how they motivated her to change her life completely. She is truly one of the strongest, most inspirational people I have ever known. She has turned her life around in a spectacular fashion. If anyone is in doubt that they will be able to improve their lives, they need look no further than Margie to know that the sky is the limit.

I can still remember the exact moment that I exited the white bricked Receiving and Discharge building, wearing commissary purchased gray shorts, short sleeved shirt and white Reeboks. In my arms, I carried the cardboard box taken from my last kitchen shift and it was filled with my possession of the last seven months: a crocheted purple and white blanket, two Bibles, the few paperback books that I didn’t leave behind and the multitude of letters that had sustained my sanity. The sun was already beaming a warm Texas ray on my pale skin and I could feel my face perspiring under the borrowed cosmetics. My thick strawberry blond curls were pulled tightly into a corkscrew bundle with just a tendril framing my face. It felt odd to be “pretty” again after months of a bare face and ponytail existence.

It was surreal that this hell was finally over; the worst experience of my thirty four years had come to an end. There would be no more sleepless nights in the frigid tiny room that contained two sets of metal bunk beds with thin mattresses that made your bones ache, four tall metal lockers, a small desk and chair, a roof that poured rain from eight holes in the ceiling and the lone window that looked over the razor wire fence. I would no longer have to take eighteen steps up the stairs in my black, ten pound steel toe boots, just to get to the cramped space that I shared with three women.

As I walked toward the green sedan where my Dad and step-mom sat waiting to drive the five hundred miles home, it felt almost surreal to be leaving this enormous, overcrowded encampment. A quiet, empty home was waiting for me, with a private bathroom and a large, comfortable queen size sleigh bed. There would be no more monitored phone calls, I would not have to dress in the drab khaki uniforms worn by one thousand others and I had eaten my last bland, overly starched meal served on a heavy plastic tray. I was free to be myself again, not merely a last name and a nine digit number.

After placing the box in the trunk of the car and waving my final goodbye, I climbed into the back of the sedan and my Dad steered us out of the parking lot. I will never be the person I was before I left the Texas federal prison camp on a steamy and humid July day. As we drove past the security gate and onto the street that would take me home, I did not look back. Sinking into the comfort of the seat, I relaxed and allowed the joy of freedom to stream down my face.

Four and a half years later, my redemption has been paved with a loving family and generous friends who never gave up on me.  Prior to my incarceration, my low self esteem and emptiness were filled with drugs, alcohol and numerous worthless men. Literally, I had to learn the truth in the cliché about loving myself first and sobriety made that possible.

Simply, I finally stopped running from myself. I was able to look into the face of my children and know that I had the capability to be an outstanding mother. It still makes me emotional to remember my oldest son, who tried to have the strength of an adult, breaking down and crying on the morning that I left for prison. The constant ache of missing them and not seeing them for seven months is a memory that still causes physical pain. My redemption has not been about me; it is about my children.

It amazes me on an extremely regular basis that my life is full of such joy and pure happiness now. No, things are not always easy (I will be paying a monthly bill to the United States government for the rest of my life. Literally. ) but I have far more than I expected after almost losing everything. In the last four years: I went back to school (will graduate with a Bachelors degree next December), worked my way up to a well paying position in the field of my study, have a closer relationship that ever before with my family and more importantly, my children.

And….

At long last, I found love. True, functional, healthy, romantic, laughter filled, passionate love. I met him two week after I came home from prison and last weekend, on Christmas Eve, in front of my family, he asked me to be his wife. My heart and my home are finally complete.

As I said though, my life isn’t a carefree romp down Easy Street. My self esteem is daily work and something that I must continually improve upon. I wake up every day and have to make a choice to continue in a new and better direction. The problem with old, lifelong habits is that they die painfully slow. However, when times are extremely hard, I think back to those seven months in 2007 and know that very few things could be that dreadful again.

Throughout my journey over the last four and a half years, here is what I have learned to be true: change for the better is extremely difficult and takes constant work. However, once you start making positive changes, life starts to become incredibly astounding.

(Photo credit: Dave Hopton)

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From Humble Beginnings: Guest Post by Jennifer Burden

5 Jan

A little more than a year ago, I was wandering around on the WordPress site during a quiet lunch hour, and I stumbled across a blog called World Moms Blog, a group blog that had a handful of writers from three or four countries. I was just starting to take blogging seriously at the time, and I was hungry for opportunities to write. I emailed the founder of World Moms Blog, Jennifer Burden, and kind of wriggled my way onto the list of writers.

A year on, World Moms Blog is more than just a blog. It’s become a social project. There are more than 50 writers from all corners of the world. Women from all walks of life tell their stories, share their dilemmas, and take readers on their journeys through the parenting jungle. Jennifer has started looking at ways in which to use the blog to make the world a better place, and she has even formed some relationships with representatives of the United Nations. Through World Moms Blog, she has promoted awareness of some important issues, like infant pneumonia, and vaccinations for children in impoverished nations. It is my pleasure to give Jennifer an opportunity to talk about her visions for World Moms Blog.

It’s been over a year since World Moms Blog was founded. At the beginning, I thought it would be easy to find international moms to write, but it was an uphill struggle at first!

Today, we write from 17 countries and have over 50 bloggers.

And I have been creating relationships with international foundations, such as the United Nations Foundation and the GAVI Alliance to find ways in 2012 for our global mothers to help raise maternal and children’s health awareness around the world.

We have added both, a Human Rights and Social Good column, in addition to our daily posts, Saturday Sidebar question and Sunday’s Travel Itinerary (written by Kirsten @runningforautism!)

The international writers have been stellar.  Their thought-provoking and well-written posts have attracted and persuaded more amazing mothers to join our mission.

And speaking of missions, this year the World Moms Blog writers helped create our mission statement, as follows:

*Connecting mothers around the world through their stories.

*Promoting understanding and tolerance of other cultures, religions and nationalities.

*Encouraging discussion of important motherhood/parenting/cultural topics.

*Creating a support system for mothers via the blog.

*Helping to promote our writers.

*To strive to create opportunities for social good to help mothers and children around the planet.

We couldn’t have accomplished what we’ve accomplished so far without all the pieces of the puzzle.  It would be impossible to do all the editing, scheduling, writing, welcoming, new writer selection and social media myself.

The synergy and enthusiasm of this global group of women, all mothers, is contagious!

Keep us on your radar.

Help us promote diversity and understanding.

Help us save the lives of children.

You can do this by sharing this post with a friend.

We hope you’ll be glad you did.

Jennifer Burden
Founder/Editor
World Moms Blog

www.worldmomsblog.com

Twitter: @WorldMomsBlog & @JenniferBurden

Thank you, Kirsten, for inviting me to guest post today on your blog.  I want to recognize your volunteerism and writing contributions to the scheduling and writing of World Moms Blog and send you a big THANK YOU!  You are an important piece of our puzzle, and it’s been so great working with you. Here’s to more fun in 2012!

(Photo credit: Jennifer Burden)

Lessons Learned: Getting The Cup To Be Half Full: Guest Post by Phaedra Kennedy

4 Jan

Almost 12 years ago, I packed my life into checked baggage and moved, by myself, halfway across the world. When I landed in Canada, a country that I had never set foot in, I did not know a single soul. My friend Kane (a truly amazing human being who really deserves a blog post all of his own) put me in touch with his friend Phaedra Kennedy, who happens to live in Toronto. When Phaedra and I met, we discovered to our mutual delight that we shared an interest in running.

Since we met, a lot has happened. We met our life partners several months apart and we are both now married. We’ve moved around, stuff has happened in our careers, and for both of us, running took a back seat to other events that were going on in our lives. Now, we are back in the running scene, and Phaedra is coaching me for the 2012 season. This is truly an honour: Phaedra is the kind of runner other runners look at in envy and admiration.

Today, Phaedra tells us about how she rose above personal tragedy and sadness to have a phenomenal season of running. This is a tale of strength and determination that I for one will take with me as I strive to achieve great things in 2012.

When Kirsten asked me to write a guest blog post for her, I was incredibly flattered.  I was also a little befuddled.  Her goal was to start off the year on a positive note so she approached 5 women she considered to be inspirational.  To be included in that group was high praise.  Me, inspirational?  I don’t know about that.  I thought long and hard about what I should write about.  She gave me no guidelines only that it had to be positive.  Which was challenging for me given that I had been in a bit of a funk as of late.   To top it off, I don’t normally think of myself as a positive person.  That had been cemented by the fact that I took one of those online tests a while ago to determine if I was a pessimist or an optimist.  Surprise, surprise, I was a glass half empty kinda gal.   But, somewhere along the way this year, my mindset MUST have changed a bit because this year has been one of the best years of my life and I chalk that up to me WANTING it to be that way.   Positive thought and determination made it so.

It all started in November of 2010.    I had just run a dismal race at the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon.  I had decided to do the marathon after spending 1.5 years going through 3 failed IVF cycles.  It was a half-hearted attempt to get my athletic mojo back.  Over the course of the year and a half, my body had become a science experiment.  I had given up control over it in the hopes of starting a family.  I had been poked and prodded, injected with drugs, monitored on an almost daily basis.  My normal exercise routine went out the window.  I became a slave to my cycle.    Instead of early morning swim sessions, early morning clinic visits became the norm.  It took a toll on my body and my emotional state.  We had one last kick at the can in November of 2010.  When that failed, we were devastated.   When you’re used to being able to train your body to do what you want it to do, to have our 3rd IVF attempt fail was frustrating.  Especially when your doctor kept telling you everything looked great.  For whatever reason, my body was not meant to bear life.   It was a tough pill to swallow.  I went back to running to help soothe the pain.  There were some tears shed on those runs.  But there was also a realization that perhaps I had been given a different kind of gift.  The gift of being able to really follow my passion, to really delve into running like I never had before.  I was coming up on 40 and I thought You know what, I’m going to make 40 the best year of my life (to date).  With that simple vow, a world of possibility opened.   I rose to the challenge of taking the knowledge I had and crafting a plan that would get me to my goal.  I set what I thought was a lofty goal:  I was going to run 3 half marathons in 2011, with my last one being run in 1h 40 min or faster.  And I was going to blog about it.  Blogging would keep me accountable and if I managed to reach out and inspire a few folks along the way, then that was a bonus.

My plan was a departure from most traditional distance running plans.  Too much mileage and I will get injured.  This time around I focused on quality vs. quantity (no junk miles!!) And I added more strength training to my routine.  My diet also changed thanks to an amazing program called Precision Nutrition.  Gone were the processed foods and larger than necessary portion sizes.  I did a complete overhaul. I was quite proud of my little plan and my body responded to it well.

My first half marathon was the Chilly Half in March 2011.  It was the weekend of my 40th birthday.  My goal was to run sub 1:50.  No surprise, it snowed the night before so the conditions were horrible.  I didn’t freak out.  The snow was a blessing.  It made me start out slow.  Which was great.  Even with the slow start, I managed to pull off a 1:47 and change.  Perfect.  I was pumped.  I didn’t let the weather get me down.  I just went out and ran.  Lesson learned:  Don’t worry about things you don’t have control over, just go out and do your best.

My second half marathon was the Toronto Women’s Half in May.  I had been really looking forward to this race.  I had finally gotten back out with my running group so I had been getting some good speed work in.  I couldn’t WAIT to see what I was capable of.    The course was rolling and it was on bike paths so I figured it might be a bit challenging.  Bring it.   Race day was muggy and gross, but nothing that a few cups of water from some shirtless firefighters couldn’t help.  I busted my butt in this race.  Went out way too hard and paid for it near the end.  But I pushed through pain that normally would have me backing off.  I came out with a 1:41:39.  A new PB! And 5th place in my age group!  Lesson learned:  I’m tougher than I give myself credit for.

I went on a racing frenzy during the summer. It seemed like I raced almost every other weekend.   With each race, my results were better and better.  I started to get spots on the podium.  I won my age group a few times and then I actually snagged a women’s overall win.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have a year like this.  It took positivity to a whole new level.  I trained hard and continued to race all summer.  I learned to really listen to my body.   I went into each race with a positive outlook.  And a goal of working hard and giving it my all.   My new motto became leave it all on the race course.   This was a new thing for me.  I was always so cautious when I was racing.  What if I went out too hard?  What if I blew up?  No longer a concern.  I had faith in my abilities.    This was new to me!

As my 3rd and final race got closer, I thought about revisiting my goal time.  I was running the Scotiabank Half and it was flat so my husband said I should aim for 1:35.  In the back of my head, that became my new hard goal.  I recruited a friend from my running group to pace me.   This time I wanted to race smart and not go out too hard.   Race day I was calm cool and collected.  I knew I could do it.   Sub 1:40 would not be a problem.  Could I break 1:35?  If I raced smartly, and trusted my abilities, I figured I could.

In typical fashion I wanted to go out hard but my friend kept me in check.  I made a few mistakes early in the race that would have saved me some panic late in the race but at about 19km, I knew I was going to make it.  It would be close but I knew if I pushed myself I’d be ok.  Before I knew it I had hit the 500m mark.   I was overcome with emotion as I ran towards the finish line.  The culmination of a year of hard work was coming to a head.  The doors were finally closing on an old chapter of my life and opening on a new one.  I could see the clock counting down to 1:35.   I crossed the finish line in 1:34:48.   Amazing.  What was even more amazing was that I managed to place 6th in my age group out of 662 women.  6th!!!   When my husband told me that I burst into tears.  Tears of joy, amazement & thankfulness.

Lesson Learned:  Trust in your ability and most importantly believe in yourself.

I had exceeded my original goal by 5 minutes and I had crushed my PB from May by 6 minutes.    I never imagined I’d have a year like this.   All because I made the decision that 40 was going to be the best year of my life AND I actually did something about it.  I was amazed by the things that happened along the way.  I realized that my mindset has changed.  I’m no longer a glass half empty kinda gal.  I’m not quite at the glass half full point but I’m working on it.  2012 will be the year the glass becomes half full.  Of that I’m certain.

(Photo credit: Phaedra Kennedy)

Autistic Is Better Than Dead: Guest Post by Sara Morgan

3 Jan

Two years ago, my husband’s cousin lost his 20-year-old son to cancer. At the funeral, I kept myself together reasonably well until I saw the friends of the deceased enter the church. I remember thinking that this – the loss of a friend – is not something that any college student should have to deal with. And later, in the cemetery, I saw the bereaved mother standing there bravely, clutching the teddy-bear her son had had as a child. The overriding thought in my mind as I watched a mother and father burying their child was, “Thank God all my child has is autism.”

Today’s post, from Sara Morgan, expresses the same sentiment. Sara and I have two things in common: we are both autism parents, and we are both moms of angel babies who never got to live. In this heartfelt post, Sara reminds us that where there is life, there is hope.

As a mom of a child with Autism ( and one Highly suspected of having Aspergers, but that’s it’s own rant) I seem to get a lot pity, or compassion, or…I’m not always sure what to call it…. thrown at me.Like I’m some sort of saint for not thowing my child in the dumpster because of his Autism. I’m not brave, or special really in any sort of way except that I’ve come to the conclusion that Autistic is better than Dead.

When people see me walking on the street they see me and my 3 children,Faith, Alexia & Gabriel. What they do not see is the 3 I carry in my heart. Angel, Devan & Jeremiah….who would have been Gabriel’s twin. Pregnancy loss has long been a taboo subject, and I have fought hard to keep thier memories alive…how they died doesn’t matter near as much as that they once LIVED. That they will continue to live on in our hearts and our memories, that I will share them with thier siblings, even Gabriel with his autism and his limited understanding will know someone was in there with you….and he has a name, and a place in this family as do all his siblings.

Autism can really be it’s own depresing journey, it has it’s own grieving process, just as losing a child does…..It has the ups, the downs. The times you just want to throw yourself on the floor right along with your child and scream “WHY ME?” At the end of the day I can hold myself together because in the long run, he’s still HERE……I can do Autism…..Autism is Better than DEAD any day of the week….we can work with this! Autism will always be a debilitating condition,My son will always stuggle….but there is nothing more debilitating…more final…than the death of your child, anything else has possibilities.

I have Grown so much since I started these journeys, both as a bereaved mother, and as an autism mom. Don’t look at me with pity, Heck don’t even look at me with pride because I’m doing exactly what anyone in my position would do….I’m picking up the pieces and trying to put them back together and move on the best I can…and that my friends is all any of us can do.

(Photo credit: Sara Morgan)

True Heroes: Guest Post by Kerry White

2 Jan

I go through phases where I spend a lot of time whining about how tough my life is. I’m working too much, I’m commuting for too long, I have too much to do when I get home, I get too little sleep. In the end, though, I’m always able to give my head a shake and reflect on the fact that I don’t have to do it alone. By the time I get home at the end of the work-day, the kids are home and fed. I have a husband who carries laundry baskets up and down the stairs so I don’t have to do it myself. I have someone to talk to at the end of the day, and when I go to bed at night, I have the physical and emotional warmth of another human being – one who may drive me nuts from time to time, but who I love and trust and wouldn’t want to trade for anyone in the world.

I have all the respect in the world for single parents, and often I wonder: how the hell does anyone do this alone? It’s hard enough to parent when there are two of you. Today’s post comes to us from one of those people I respect and admire so much. Kerry White is, like me, a transplanted South African. She lives in Texas, where she works as a freelance writer and raises her adorable little son. I am honoured to start of 2012 with this message of inspiration from a mom who helps us keep it all in perspective.

Thinking about what to write for this great and upbeat post was giving me a bit of a headache. I truly wanted to find that inner positive spirit I know I’ve got somewhere! I’ve been feeling so very Grinchy lately because it seems that the entire Universe has conspired against me to give me no end of grief in many areas. My son was sick with repeated rounds of ear infections, bronchitis, and a stomach virus, all in the span of 30 days. It was his 3rd birthday this month and I was so tired with a definite lack of funds in the bank so we sort of just didn’t do anything. I lost several high-value clients due to my need to put my son’s health and care first over their projects. I had someone steal my bank card information on the eve of Christmas Eve. Well, the list goes on and my own blog is filled with angst… but I am going to stop right here, right now.

This isn’t about being down and out. Because the truth is that, while things might be a bit of a challenge for me right now, I am still doing pretty okay considering everything else. My son’s health problems, while irritating and frustrating for us both, are fairly minor. My bank account will recover with a bit of hard work and a few nights of missed sleep for me. My son’s health issues do tend to clear up, with time and antibiotics.

Our house is warm, we have one another, and we have support from those who care about us. There’s even a special fella I’d love to make a much more prominent factor in our lives.

So often those supportive friends of mine tell me that I am a hero in their eyes, a supermom, and a super mom. However, I don’t feel it. I truly don’t. This led me to two other trains of thought.

There are parents who go through so much more with their darling children. Illnesses from which they will never recover, incredible and never-ending financial strife, endless trips to doctor’s offices, trips to the hospital from which their children may never return to their home, parents living in their cars or otherwise relying on the kindness of others to help them and their family. I have friends who were blessed to hold their babies in their arms, but for such a short amount of time before letting them go. I have friends who are parents without children in their arms yet.

Those are the true heroes, the super moms, the super dads, the superparents. They deserve the credit, they deserve the respect, they deserve the love, and the help. Truthfully, every parent needs to hear that they’re doing a pretty okay job at this parenting gig.

As parents, as people who care, we need to recognize in each other the greatness and the pure selflessness of loving parents. Sure things can be tough, rough, and overwhelming. But it seems to be the rare parent who doesn’t find things to be a challenge in one way or another. We need to support, encourage, and help one another realize that this is a big ole job and that it’s okay to not get everything perfect sometimes.

We’re going to feel like we’re at the end of our rope, we’re going to fall on the ground sobbing and begging whatever Powers That Be who may be listening to please friggen help us! But, with the support and help from our friends who may have been there, we can get through it! Maybe not with our sanity intact and our hair brushed, but get through it we will.

It takes a village, right? I think it goes a little bit further than that for parents; it takes a worldwide network of parental support to raise these kids we’ve been blessed with. 2012 is a great opportunity for us to start over, make resolutions to eat less, love more, and just be the support we need to be for others who are perhaps struggling just a little bit more than we are today.

I, for one, am counting my blessings now. I am counting my amazing friends and family members, including my amazing grandmother who is always there to answer the phone when I need support after a particularly challenging day. I wish for you nothing but strength, love, support, and the wisdom to know when you need to reach out to someone for support.

(Photo credit: Jorge Diaz1)