Livin’ the dream

Teachers and educators,

You have to admit that this time of year, we really love our job! No alarms. Long lunches. Time to read new books. Working in the garden. Sun. Time and energy to exercise. Friends. Vacations. Sleep! -Time-.

It’s our rejuvenation time. And, as a mom, I love it. Tons, and tons of time with my kids. No camps. No schedule. No rushing. Just time.

So this evening while I was starting laundry, I found Anna like this. In the middle of the hallway, she was video taping her baby (again). She loves to make videos, all kinds. Slime, babies, makeup, singing….the typical 9 year old stuff. It’s her own little reality that she can erase and redo day after day.20180710_193611.jpgIt was just a few minutes earlier that I’d been bragging to my mom on the phone about the run I had with the kids. I suggested it to Brody so that he can start getting back in shape for soccer. Believe it or not, a dark, cool room and Fortnite don’t really help your heart or lungs, and soccer is starting back up! (Pause to say that I still feel like it’s a miracle that he can play soccer after not one but two brain tumor resections in the cerebellum…..really awesome). But, we need to ease back into shape and running will help. He didn’t fight this suggestion. In fact, he seemed excited to go for a run at the hottest part of the day around 5:30. But, Anna didn’t want to stay alone for that short time and insisted on joining us. So, we all did one slow, hot mile.

20180710_172853That makes me happy. So while sharing this small success with mom, I also was telling her about Brody’s early morning MRI tomorrow. Anna insists on going. It’s a lot of waiting around at the hospital, and then more waiting while we visit the neurosurgeon’s office for his appointment. But, she really wants to go, and I suspect that’s because since Brody’s recent surgery, she has decided that she wants to be a nurse!

For years, she has wanted to be a teacher. And, she has practiced hours upon hours in her school room. But, suddenly after observing the sweet, young nurses in action at ETCH, she’s had a change of heart. And, we do think she’d be a good nurse! She’s responsible, diligent, and super nurturing.

So, it makes me even happier catching her practicing. Nana had just said she could see her in the NICU, and I walked upstairs 5 minutes later to find her measuring Lily and recording the data. Livin’ the dream!20180710_184347

We all have our dreams. Some dreams are grand. Some are so simple, yet just as satisfying. Here’s to celebrating it all. Short, hot runs. Baby dolls in the hallway. And, time. We love it all, don’t we!?




Failing, and it’s kind of fun!

Parenting is tough. The job is around the clock. It brings unexpected twists and turns. It tries your every last nerves, and challenges you to put others first while being a role model who stays on your toes. We want to be tough and have boundaries, while also being fair….but not too nice because we don’t want to be their best friend either. Like Goldilocks, it’s gotta be just right. That can be hard and definitely tiring……

….Which is why I’m ‘failing’ a little bit. Typically, I reflect on good practices, good choices, and ‘winning’ at life. However, this summer has been filled with a little more wiggle room, a lot more sleep, even more laziness, and some bending of good choices! Yesterday while leaving Starbucks, I realized this when Anna was slurping down a decaf- caramel Frappuccino for the first time.

Image result for caramel frappuccino

We go to Starbucks periodically, and we have a for years starting this bad habit early. Often, she opts for a chai tea (yes, she has always loved unusual 40-year-old women things)! Yesterday, however, I opened a whole new door when I explained that she could indeed get the sugar-laden, but insanely delicious Frappuccino made with decaf. She loves coffee flavored things and she absolutely freaked over this drink, finishing it before we even arrived at home for me to take a picture.

When we were leaving Starbucks, Anna and I with our overpriced, super unhealthy drinks in hand, she grabbed my hand and said, “You’re the best mom ever.” Bad choices= happy kids.

It made me think about other bad choices I’ve made as a parent, bad habits we accept. Take for example that Anna got her first pedicure before she even entered kindergarten. Now, I know this is ridiculous. I was in high school or maybe even college before I got my first pedicure yet here I was taking cute, little girly Anna to pick out her polish when she was a tiny squirt. She loved it then and now I basically don’t go without her!……another parenting fail.

Then, there’s Brody and food. (And, Bo is just as responsible for this fail as much or maybe more). The kid is picky, like super-duper picky. Yes, we know that you should not feed your children different foods than the adults. Yes, we have read that they’ll eat when they’re hungry. Yes, we know that white pasta isn’t a healthy carb yet we have been failing at this habit for years. The kid simply never has and never will just eat because he gets hungry enough. He’s skinny and food just isn’t important to him ( don’t understand how he’s our child!). So what have we done? Catered to him.

King Brody gets something different to eat about 75% of the time, which is progress because it used to be 100% of the time. And while my rational brain knows this is simply not the best habit, we have made this choice because he eats. Much like when he was a baby and we cuddled him every night, in our bed or laps never putting him down because he would scream. We kept him happy. And what does he still do now? He’s a cuddler! (not a fail)

Then, there’s the Fortnite obsession that even this mama gave into this spring after much deliberation. Now this full-on addiction has infiltrated our house and my 45-year-old husband plays daily too! He verifies that it’s addictive (duh) but also very strategic. And while I worried most about the violence at first, it’s really the amount of time that concerns me most. There’s always another loooong round. But, wow do boys love this social game!

Image result for fortnite obsession

Now this fail has actually provided some really good leverage and motivation at our house. I’ve conditioned Brody to have to do his 2 chores and reading before he can start Fortnite. So, he’s read a lot this summer! I’d still be waiting at bedtime if it weren’t for Fortnite. In fact, he loves those new skins so much that for the first time in his life, he has asked to do poop-duty when it’s not his week to earn money. So maybe these fails aren’t really so bad.

When thinking about our parenting fails, it makes me realize that we all fail sometimes. Sometimes, it’s a parenting fail. Sometimes, it’s a personal fail. But, it makes us realize that we are human. It also makes me think that ‘failing’ is kind of fun too, and we do all need some fun in our life! I want to be healthy as much as the next person, but maybe some of these unhealthy, ‘bad’ choices aren’t so bad either. Or, maybe like me, you need to loosen up a little! Like parenting, life is a balancing act. Allow yourself to ‘fail’ a little in order to win.

Let them drink the Frappuccino, play some Fortnite, sneak a little Coke, and stay up a little past bedtime because before we know it, they’ll be grown and making their own choices! Have fun within reason. Allow for imperfection. And, maybe even enjoy ‘failing’ or simply making some poor choices every now and then!






20 Easy Summer Outings for Family-Fun!

The saying, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’, certainly seems to pertain to summer. Before you know it, it will be August. Days will become more rushed, while schedules will quickly fill up. The wonderful thing about summer break is that we have more freedom to choose what to do. So while we have this precious free time, let’s fill it up with memories, friends, and exploration.

There’s actually a lot of fun to be had in and around Knoxville. Swim teams and camps are already in full swing at this point. Vacations have been planned. Lessons have been scheduled. Teams have been formed. And while all these structured opportunities are wonderful, often preferred by some, there are also a lot of amazing, free opportunities for fun and exploration right in our back yard.

We should seize this season and schedule quality time with our children. Knoxville actually offers a lot in terms of family outings but most of us have had our share of the Zoo or Jump Jam. So, here is a list of inexpensive, free, or just simple things to do with your kids before life gets crazy again. Skip the chaos and keep things simple with:

·        Mead’s Quarry at Ijams Nature Center: You can rent paddleboards, canoes, take your own, or just go for a dip.

·        Ijams Nature Center: There’s some learning to do inside, special educational opportunities on their calendar, and lots of simple hikes, as well as movie nights. But, the sunflowers along the Forks of the River are out of this world!

·        Navitat at Ijams: This adventure ropes course does cost money but it’s a pretty setting to face your fear of heights. $

·        Frozen Head State park (Morgan county): Home of the Barkley Marathon, this is a great trail for hiking with dogs and kids while also getting a little wet by the series of small waterfalls.

·        Bald River Falls (Tellico): Take a day trip to Tellico Plains to eat in the adorable bakery and snap some amazing photos by the large falls. You can hike as little as you like because you basically drive right up and park at the falls (if you can get a parking spot!).

·        Big South Fork (Oneida): If you don’t mind a little drive (plan on 1.5 hours), there are wonderful camping and hiking options in this less crowded park. Check out the natural arches on the Twin Arches trail or a great view on Angel Falls overlook.

·        House Mountain: This is such great option if you don’t want to drive far and want a nice vista without investing a lot of time. The parking area gets full on the weekends, though.

·        Big Ridge State Park (Maynardville): This quiet park not too far away offers swimming and fishing in Norris Lake. There are 15 miles of peaceful hiking trails.

·        The downtown Farmer’s Market (Saturdays): It’s grown in popularity but it’s an easy Saturday morning to stroll with a fresh cup of coffee or homemade pastry.

·        WDVX Blue Plate Special: Monday-Fridays at 12, there are free concerts at the Knoxville Visitor’s Center on Gay Street. It’s a fun way to surprised by some free music!

·        Trolley ride: It’s free and fun just to ride the trolley around our growing downtown. When the kids are little, any moving vehicle is fun so jump on board!

·        Baker Creek Preserve: Grab your mountain bikes and helmets and check out this mountain biking course close by. Although some trails are not for beginners, there is a small loop for kids. And, you can always grab a bite at SoKno Taco afterwards!

·        Rainforest Adventure (Pigeon Forge) : If you are willing to brave the roads and want a day filled with animals but have used out your zoo pass, kids love this place. $

·        Sunsphere: It is free to tour the Sunsphere and kids think it’s pretty cool! While you’re there, make sure they have their bathing suits because the fountains on the lawn are a blast too.

·        Maple Lane Hall and the Phoenix Pharmacy: If you are willing to spend some money, an afternoon bowling downtown and authentic (delicious and expensive) ice cream treats are appreciated by all! $

·        Central Filling Station: This food park off Central Ave. is pretty hip. With a variety of food trucks and even adult beverages, it’s a pretty fun place to grab some grub if it’s not too hot. You can even bring your dogs! $

·        School of Rock concerts: School of Rock is a music studio in West Knoxville for kid rockers. Throughout the year, and especially during the summer, they offer lots of concerts that showcase their stars. It’s cute, cool, and impressive all at the same time!

·        Painting with a Twist: Sure, this is nothing new but did you know that you can make your own class? If you have a small group of family or friends, they will make a class for you. You choose the theme and people, and they’ll provide the paint. It’s a creative way to bond. I like the one downtown. $

·        Humane Society of Tennessee Valley (Bearden Hill): Until recently, I had no idea that you could get your fix of cuddling puppies even if you’re not adopting….just be prepared that you might fall in love.

·        River Rats (Townsend): When it gets just sweltering hot, floating down the creek on a tube is not the worst idea. With a group of friends, you can make a day of it! $

This summer, think outside the box! Grab a friend. And, try something new with your family. Vacations are great but ‘staycations’ can be too! Experiencing something new together makes for great memories, inside and outside of East Tennessee. And, we all get in a rut sometimes so I’m sharing some of my family’s favorites. Hope you venture out and experience something new this summer too.



God’s Plan

We survived D.C.! Wow, it was a lot. A lot of kids. A lot of chaperones. A lot of tour guides. A lot of police and nurses. A lot of buses. A lot of sightseeing. A lot of smiles. A lot of memories. It was A LOT!dc5

We are wiped out, the kids and adults. But, was it worth it? I wasn’t sure the first day after that painfully long bus ride and sweltering hot Manassas. Brody almost passed out. The nurses came and we had to go sit inside the museum after his lips turned white. It wasn’t the best start to our trip, yet we pushed on.

And, yes, it was worth it. As I have talked about many times, especially recently, friends make life better. These kids, including my own, just want to be with their friends. Whether it be at the Capital or (better yet) in their hotel room, they are just happy being with their friends. The experiences just grow richer when shared.



He didn’t talk to me a lot on the trip, as in as little as possible, because he just wanted to hang with his friends! But, the second day, we opted out of the trip to Mt. Vernon. After taking our first Uber in D.C., we had a really good meal at the hotel restaurant just the two of us (I kind of loved that.). He had to talk to me then! I tried not to hover too much on the trip, despite worrying about how he felt 100% of the time. (I thought I was pretty balanced in giving him some space, but he probably begs to differ!)

He wanted (and wants) a little space so while I know a lot of what went on, I also did make an effort to back off. Unbeknownst to me, Brody must have been listening to Drake’s popular song, God’s Plan,  at some point. Maybe it was on the hours we spent on the bus, or maybe it was at the “party” we let them have at the hotel because they had been so good! Regardless, when we arrived at home-sweet-home last night with the juicy burger that I’d been craving, we anxiously hopped out of the car. He was excited to be home and was talking more than I’d heard him within the past 4 days,

He turned to me before we came into the house and said, “There’s a new song I like, God’s Plan. We should have played that the morning of the surgery.”

I’ve been hearing this song on the radio some but I just pulled up this video this morning. -Tears-


…..Tears because Brody believes his brain tumor is part of “God’s plan” and somehow came to that conclusion along this trip. Tears because he got to go on this trip. Tears because he will have his 3rd and final physical therapy session today. And, also tears because if you watch this video, you see what God’s plan is, giving back to others because we are part of one big community and family. Good stuff.

We go back in less than a month for a follow-up MRI. If you are a part of our community, please pray there shows no growth and confirmation that there is no longer a tumor indeed.









It’s a weird way to start summer by having a brain surgery. The end of the school year wasn’t like most. But, you all know that by now. No cute photos by the school sign. No 5th grade graduation walk. No swim party. When friends asked Brody to go to summer camp months ago, I couldn’t tell them the real reason why not. When planning for summer, camps and organized activities were just weren’t the priority like other families we know. No, looking at summer camp guides. No, coordinating schedules with friends. No joining the pool. Nope, it was pretty simple goal: Recover.

Recovering from brain surgery is the first priority that changes everything. No swimming allowed until August. No sports or activities that could involve contact. No being out in the hot sun all day. None of the above are on our list. And, that’s really more than ok.

In fact, I am NOT complaining. What we get to do is recover. We get to see if naps are needed. We get to read a new book. We get to lay down in dark rooms in the middle of the afternoon. We get to forget what day of the week it is. We get to eat treats whenever we want. We get to forget the alarm. We get to laze in Eno’s and watch the garden grow. So, don’t for a second feel sorry for us. It’s actually quite nice.

Actually, maybe it’s the way our lives should look more like. Wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t a schedule to dominate our lives? Wouldn’t it be great if we woke up and then decided what we feel like doing? Wouldn’t it be pretty awesome saying no to things that don’t serve us? You know, it’s not all that bad. I think a lot of teachers, children, moms and dads could also use a recovery time.

What our summer will be filled with is:

  • (Not Fortnite…..ok, now you know I’m lying) Ok, so not Fortnite all of the time!!
  • New hikes
  • Bike rides to spot wildlife
  • Art projects gone wrong
  • Pinterest cooking fails
  • Experimenting in our little garden
  • Helping new people (my kids will (NOT) love me for this)
  • Reading new books
  • Chores 🙂
  • Chillin’
  • Exploring some new spots in and outside of Tennessee
  • Spending time with friends

All of the above will lead to healing.  All of the above will allow us to recover, physically and emotionally. There’s no pressure to preform. There’s no rush to start or end. There’s room for creativity. And, there is quiet time to still the mind. Will it look like most of my friend’s summers? Nope, and that’s ok for us. In fact, I realize that’s what’s needed and even preferred!

R– rest

E– exercise

C– create

O– outdoor fun

V– vacation

E– experience

R– revive




Be open

There has been so much that’s happened within the past week or so that I don’t even know where to begin. How can I begin to explain it all?  So much love. So much kindness. So many miracles. How can we even begin to thank everyone? As I wrote in Dr. Savage’s card, there are no words to describe all the gratitude. No words can do this experience justice. Yet, on my walk today, the message that kept coming back to me was ‘be open‘.

How did all of these miracles transpire? Because we are open.

How do so many people care? Because we are open.

How did Brody make it through that surgery twice with no deficits? Because we are open.

When you allow your heart to split open , which I can promise you it does when you are a parent of a child facing something life-threatening, it can turn cynical and shut good out. Or, it can become so raw that you allow all the good to seep in because you know you need it for healing. The prayers, be open. The hugs, be open. The truth, be open. The fear, be open. The victories, be open.

brain surgery2

When we first learned that his stubborn tumor had decided to start growing again after a couple years of stability, I just couldn’t believe it. How could a child who is exhibiting no symptoms and has this amazing life need another risky surgery? If he had to have another surgery, how could we ever become so lucky twice? Knowing more and more brain tumor families, we are now brutally aware of challenges that can come with a growing brain tumor: chemo, radiation, hydrocephalus, shunts, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, depression, and the list goes on and on. Would God spare us twice? I decided then to be open. There is no limit to good in the world or miracles that occur so I opened to the belief that he would be ok yet again.

Was I scared? YES. Was Brody? Not until 5 minutes before surgery began and I will never forget that moment of utter fear, heart split open again as Bo, Brody, and I cried together before they wheeled him away. I begged God for him just to be ok. Please let him wake up. Please let him be able to breathe on his own. Please let him to able to swallow. Please let him talk. Please let him run again. These are real risks and really scary feelings.

I’m not ashamed to say that we are not very religious people. I cannot quote scripture and I don’t read the bible daily. I don’t feel bad that we don’t attend church every week. And, I wasn’t even baptised until I was an adult. But, those are traditions that don’t always reflect a person’s true soul. What I am is a deeply spiritual person who believes in the power of God, prayers, love, and light. I believe in action over word. I believe in good over evil. I believe in having faith when it doesn’t make sense to. I believe that when we quiet ourselves, God speaks to us. I believe in miracles and can give testimonials all day long about what I have witnessed with Brody.


Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles. Notice them. @chellyepic

  • Massive amounts of people, even people we don’t know, reaching out to pray for us and offer encouragement, favors, and hugs
  • Brody not being scared and living a normal life weeks up until the surgery
  • Dr. Savage being in Knoxville and operating on our child not once but twice (*she’s a true angel)…while having a one and half year old and being 8 months pregnant!
  • Dr. Savage being able to resect all the tumor this time
  • The first night in the PICU, his nurse being “Anna H.”
  • Brody waking up, talking, and being able to stand all within the first 12 hours
  • Brody getting out of PICU in less than 24 hours
  • Brody having the will and determination to get up and get moving so quickly
  • Brody coming home 4 days after this surgery when he predicted he would be in the hospital 4 days
  • Brody not taking any meds just a week after brain surgery

I know there are many, many more examples of the power of prayer and love but you get the point! When you are open, good things can happen. Not only does this apply to brain surgery but to life. Be open to change. Be open to new people. Be open to new experiences. Be open to being a better person. Be open to giving. Be open to forgiving. Be open to loving.Very true!

To all our friends and family who were open alongside with us, thank you. Brody’s recovery is a testimony to all the good in the world.  Good surgeons, good friends, good family, good food!, and good prayers. Your hearts were open along with ours and it’s healed us. Don’t wait for brain surgery to be open to love and miracles! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, friends. Thank you, family. Thank you.

post brain surgery

The above was taken TODAY when Brody met his friends for lunch on the last day of school. He came home and has been playing Fortnite (surprise, surprise) with some of them all afternoon too! Just incredible, as Nana would say.

The morning of the surgery, I played this cheesy song at 5:30 am (Bo loves me, wink-wink!!). I had been hearing the words for weeks and I kept thinking, “whatever it takes, ’cause I love the adrenaline in my veins. Whatever it takes, ’cause I love how it feels when I break the chains”….. That same day, Anna says Mrs. Sitzlar played the same song in her PE class!


#brodystrong         #beopentomiracles    #friends      #faithoverfear     #whateverittakes


No, leave the hill.


March 17, 2018

For those of you who exercise, you know why you do. Yes, there are all sorts of health benefits. But, for me, the reason I run or do yoga is for my mind. My clearest moments of clarity are often while exercising. Movement plus sweat equals some peace for me.

By the time you’ll read this, the secret will be revealed. But like exercise, I write not for people to read, actually, but for myself. So, this secret has been known to Bo and I for months and months.

Yesterday’s run was no different. It was a crisp, sunny afternoon, and I am some extra energy to spend because I was so hyped up over discovering that Weigel’s was going to be a Presenting sponsor for our race ($5000!). A childhood friend, Meg Weigel, made that possible for us. And, one act like that and I’m wired so I needed a run on this sunny day.

While on the run, there are many hills in my neighborhood that I’m mostly used to. But, there is one that gets me every time because it’s short and steep. That’s when I had my moment of clarity. Something Brody said a couple days ago clearly came back to me, “No, leave the hill. It’s how I catch up and beat people.” He was talking about the horrible short, steep hill at Ijams at the very end of the Starry Night Knoxville race. That’s the only way back into the main area but it’s a really hard way to end the race so I’ve been trying to brainstorm an easier way. While sharing these thoughts, Brody was adamant that we leave it the way it is.

He’s won the race the past 2 years. First, he cheated! (not on purpose but because of crazy things that have happened to make them believe the turn-around was before it actually was). So, no he didn’t run a 5-minute mile like we first believed! And, there may have been other kids that would have beat him had he gone the whole distance. Who knows….But since it is a race in his honor, he does have a bit of an advantage with the adrenaline. And, he’s won!


He said he hasn’t been ahead in the short race until the hill. The hill that people dread is his favorite part of the race because he catches people on the hill. *****moment of clarity**** This is just like his brain tumor diagnosis.

Brody is just an ordinary kid. And, the way we look at his brain tumor is that, while we would never choose this path, it’s made him extraordinary. Like the race, he’s normal and chugging along in life and then there’s the steep hill. It’s not long but it sucks. It’s steep. Most ordinary people would choose to skip it; that’s why I considered rerouting the race this year. But, not Brody. He actually likes the hill. Now, he doesn’t actually like having a brain tumor but it’s allowed him to really shine in situations that are challenging to say the least. Maybe, it’s even allowed him to come out ahead. Yes, that sounds crazy but I’m a cup half-full person.

We have to look at his diagnosis this way. I’ve even told him before that carving into his brain may have even made him smarter; she scooped out the bad stuff! The hills help him, unlike most. Why? Because he puts his head down, plows into it, and races ahead. He saves the best for last! That’s what he did before and we have all hopes that he can race up that hill again.

Friends, we are having another sharp hill. On Tuesday, May 15th, Brody will undergo another debulking brain surgery. It’s the same place and same surgery. After having months to digest this, I can type this without crying. We have known this would be coming, unfortunately. Would we choose it? No, and yes. We are choosing the date. We are choosing to stay here at ETCH again. We are choosing to look at this as another short, steep hill even though just like before, there are LOTS and LOTS of risks to this surgery….

But, we just focus on ‘winning’ or beating this brain tumor. We hope she can get it all this time. Although it feels like a race or battle for our whole family, this is really Brody’s race. All we can do is cheer him on. Believe he can sprint up that hill again. Believe in Dr. Savage. Believe that she can get the tumor and cyst in it’s entirety this time. Believe that again he will make a full recovery. Believe that Brody will be running the race in November.


And, by the way, the hill isn’t going anywhere! Brody is my race consultant and the reason Starry Night Knoxville is at Ijams! So whatever lies ahead, help us believe that he will keep racing ahead in life. It’s not an easy race, and it’s a steep climb. But, he’s an ordinary kid doing extraordinary things.

(The song below is one that was played at the end of fantastic yoga class led by a close friend. She played the song on the morning of the day we told the kids, April 14. The lyrics couldn’t be more perfect and aligned with our mindset on this next hurdle!)

His surgery is Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.


There is one good reason that I choose to work with kids. I could tell you all the things that are challenging about my job, or all the reasons NOT to go into Education….but, the good things outweigh the bad at the end of the day. In short, kids are amazing.

Since 2003, I have been a public School Counselor. I’ve worked in very rural schools with a very homogeneous population (loved those country kids!). Then, in Knox county, I have worked with a very wide variety of children. From African American to Caucasian, from inner-city to affluent, from Chinese, African, and Middle Eastern, I have met all sorts of kids from all over of the world, and there is a common thread. Kids are resilient.

  • children in our very own city who are abandoned
  • children who have grown up in refugee camps
  • children who have parents who are drug addicts
  • children who have lost a parent
  • children who don’t have dinner on the table
  • children who don’t know their father
  • children who have 10+ siblings
  • and, children, like my own son, who are battling brain tumors

What do all of the above have in common? First, they are living with unfair and really hard situations! Second, they don’t have a choice and this is a hard daily reality. Third, they are children who wake up and face battles far greater than many adults…..and they can do it with a smile on their face.

That’s why I keep doing it. That’s why my job makes me a better person. That’s why my son makes me a stronger person. If a child can smile, show kindness, face the unimaginable and keep on, then the world is a better place because of it. When students can live in the moment without the worry of the future, they inspire.

As adults, I know we get tired. We get weak. We get scared….But, like children, we have to press on. Their pure hearts remind me that no matter the circumstances, we can and should be our best even when the circumstances aren’t the best!  We adults make excuses. We get down. We over think.

Children are examples of how to live. Full, real emotions (good and sad). Deeply in the moment. Caring about friends. Easily distracted. Ready to have fun. Playing, running, goofing off. That’s how to live. That’s how to love.

So, as tired as this old School Counselor is and as sad as their stories may seem, we should live more like children. Resiliency isn’t even a word they know….but they certainly live out. Children show us a thing or two about living.


Live childlike.






We live in a time and culture that’s intense. As a parent, a citizen of the United States, a neighbor, and even an employee, there is pressure. Pressure to perform. Pressure to look perfect. Pressure to be perfect. We see it on commercials, in magazines, and in social media. How many Rodan and Fields friends do you have? We want to stay looking youthful, while making more money, and proving that we are valuable. It’s a hard game to keep up with!

Our children are not immune. If your child attends a public school, then much of the spring is spent preparing for the big T-cap/ TNReady tests. They practice taking tests. Why? So, they too can perform and get those scores high enough so teachers can prove that they also are performing. Students need to get into honors’ classes in school so they can get into more honors classes. Kids need to earn over a 4.0 to get into the right college so they can rush on the lead the perfect life. We live in a competitive society and we start young!

Why do we have such high rates of mental illness and suicide in this country even among the affluent? Since 2007, suicide rates for adults in Tennessee went from 13.7 % per 100,000 to 16.2% in 2016 according the Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network. Even more disturbing is that suicide rates in youth ages 10-24 went from a rate 7.39 in 2005 in Tennessee to 10.25 in 2016 according to the TN Department of Health. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., and the national rates have been steadily increasing as well according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We have to ask ourselves why and reflect on best parenting and self-care practice in order to turn this trend around.

The intensity and expectation to perform makes both youth and adults feel inadequate. We feel stressed and we barely have time to slow down and think about best practices. Rushing around, leaving little time for true downtime, neglecting our emotional health, and taking on too many tasks is not producing the type of society we can be proud of. In fact, we are a pretty dysfunctional society if you compare stats to other developed nations. Working in a school and seeing the changes and increasing mental and behavioral health needs, even just within the last 5 years, we can see that kids are stressed.

We are taught that we need perfect. We recognize honor roll students. We hyper-focus on data and testing at a very young age. We celebrate being involved in the most extracurriculars. We want medals. And, we value superficial qualities like clothes, shoes, cars, money, and beauty. And, it’s reinforced over and over again on social media. We are taught to want to look different. Hair dyes, skin products, lotions, make-up, diet products, clothes, shoes, jewelry, shiny things….the list goes on. Many pockets of society are living with a superficial sense of security.

But, based on what we are seeing in schools and what’s happening in our society, we may need to reevaluate the meaning of true self-worth while we still have time to influence our children. We don’t need to be perfect, look perfect, or even act perfect. If anything, we need to relax a little more, have a little bit more fun, and maybe just be a little more imperfect.

It was March 25, 2015 that I had a mind-shift. We went from being a pretty typical American family to having an 8-year-old being diagnosed with a brain tumor 3 years ago. Life came to a screeching halt, and it’s never returned to what it was. And while our brain tumor battle isn’t over and it’s a source of unwanted stress, Brody’s brain tumor was a game-changer too, and in a good way. There are many moments from that spring that I will never forget, and many I wish I could! But there a couple moments that are burned in my brain and that changed me as a person and parent.

The one thing you really want going into brain surgery is for your child to come out breathing. You just want them to be ok. The first moment of absolute clarity was seeing Dr. Savage after the 9 1/2 hour surgery. My husband and I both bear-hugged her when she told us he was awake and talking! Then, walking into the waiting room where our family was the only group left, I burst into tears. When my mom asked what was wrong, I sobbed that I was just so, so grateful. I have never experienced such tears of absolute joy and relief. So, first, being grateful for those around you is really the only thing that matters. The ones we love, our relationships, are truly the only things that matter in the end. If we lived every day showing love and appreciation to these people, we would all live more fully.

Another moment of clarity was coming home for the first time from the hospital. I was rushed and I remember pulling into the driveway in our nice neighborhood where most neighbors have meticulous yards and landscaping. Our small yard was overgrown and needed to be mowed….and I didn’t care. I realized looking at the dirty house and long grass that it didn’t matter. It wasn’t important. Suddenly, all the random stuff that we normally give time and value to wasn’t important at all. Who cares about the long grass, the floors I want replaced, and the dog hairs in the corners? We just wanted Brody to be able to come home, to be able to run again, and for the tumor to be benign. When your child is sick or in the hospital, you suddenly don’t care about those surface-value things.

And lastly, there was one, just one goal, Brody set for himself before his big surgery: he wanted to be able to run again. He didn’t say that he wanted to run track and finish first , play soccer in high school, or finish a 10k. He just had that one goal, to be able to run again period. (Interestingly enough, and unbeknownst to him, many children are not able to run again after being diagnosed with a brain tumor in the cerebellum. So, being able to run again was a really important goal that he intuitively set for himself. ) And, Brody was able to run just a few, short weeks after his surgery, not fast but a jog through the yard one foggy morning. Tears filled my eyes as his simple wish was granted. (And, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Brody continues, at age 11, to not only run but run really fast in track and soccer.) So, really our goals don’t need to be over-the-top and we should let our kids set their own goals.

While we, as parents, want to witness our children excel or even stand out, maybe just running is enough, regardless of how fast they’re going. Sometimes, we are the ones to get caught up. Sometimes, it’s the adults that add the pressure when our child just wants to run. It’s especially hard to check our behavior if it’s something we are passionate about, but our children don’t need the added pressure of having to perform in school or sports. Just let them set their own goals and take some ownership. When we take over and tell our kids what hobbies they should have, what place they should finish, and even what grades they should make, it can cause an internal conflict. Kids can’t always live up to our expectations. So, what can we expect?

I think we expect them to be the nice kid. Keep it simple because so much of life is out of our hands. When we try to be perfect, we will be let down because we are inherently imperfect. With so many things in life out of our control, our manners, our attitude, and our behavior is something we can do. Being nice, showing kindness, practicing gratitude, and giving forgiveness is something everyone can do and feel good about. These values don’t go out of style. And, they will matter in the end because we don’t have to be perfect to be nice.

nice kids



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