Sweet Victory…?

“Victory begins when you are willing to run by faith, trusting that He will lead the way.”

When a marriage ends in divorce, there are no winners.  No matter how amicable things are, someone, somewhere ends up being hurt by something that is either said, done or unintentionally willed against the other party.  It is not possible for two people to spend any length of intimate time together, share things that a man and wife do, and walk away from that time unscathed.  Bring children into the mix, and the wake of devastation increases exponentially, causing normally rational adults to act in ways they would otherwise not act, all ‘for the sake of the children.’  The shame of it all is everyone suffers damage – everyone.

After preparing half the night for what promised to be an epic battle at court this week, I felt ill at ease.  I thought these feelings were my typical issues with self-doubt creeping back in; I had prepared well, and had sufficient documentation to present a balanced argument for the points I planned to present.  As I finished with my outline for each of the three planned motions, I could no longer contain the overwhelming dread I had been feeling.  I called the one person I knew who could balance my rocking canoe and help me calm the waters before I set off to court.  As usual, she listened to my concerns for what might happen, my lacking abilities, and all my doubts.  And in perfect step she surrounded me with Gospel Truth – and reminded me that this battle was already decided, I was merely walking it out that morning to completion; she reminded me that God had wonderfully gifted me with the ability to speak eloquently and remain on task and that He would be with me that morning, as He always was; and most importantly, she told me God loved my children more than I did, and that He would not allow harm to come to them…those were the words I held on to as we hung up and I got dressed.

What I found at court when I arrived was as I had expected – he had support in his sister and brother at his side.  I did not come unarmed, as three great friends joined me as well.  The process began as it typically does – Family Relations – where he usually disagrees to all I present, and then we are sent to an awaiting Judge in a courtroom.  Two cases were heard before ours, and as I half-heartedly listened to those cases, I found it difficult to quiet my spirit.  The atmosphere there is so negative, even hostile at times, to breathe in the air seems almost toxic.  I closed my eyes trying to focus myself, trying to replay my plan again in my head – anything to disconnect me from where I was yet again…and then it was time.

We both approached our respective tables, took our oaths, stated our names and sat down.  I began my initial motion, and immediately the Judge questioned my direction.  I was thrown, seeing instantly that I’d made a tactical error – that what I’d considered an ‘order’ from the previous Judge was in fact listed in my notes as a recommendation, and thus not subject to a contempt order.  I felt childlike and stupid in that moment, and my mind raced as I tried to recover – I could feel ‘their eyes’ burning the back of my head, taunting me.  The Judge ruled against my next point, and while not critical, again I received it as a blow.

We moved on to the most important of the three issues at hand, and I tried to regain my stride.  I spoke off-script, and while most points were mentioned, I was far less succinct as I am capable of being.  He was offered a chance to rebut, and his words were void of truth and hurtful.  I hurriedly made my notes, sure to catch key phrases to use in my retort.  Almost directly on cue, he began to cry – again – and I found myself not anguished over his emotions but disgusted by his display yet again.  I quickly brought us back to task, and felt I finished strong.

As the Judge began his summation, his initial words led me to feel he was not going to rule in my favor.  I remember shaking my head and immediately thinking what would the next move be, as this would be completely unacceptable.  But as the Judge continued, he did in fact, rule in my favor.  A few more formalities, and I was up and out of the room.  And once again, as soon as I made it out the doors, I was sobbing – the stress of holding it together had completely overwhelmed me – and my friend grabbed me into her arms, apparently in an effort to shield me from them as they exited.

The physical and emotional toll these court days take on me I find difficult to express.  That was yesterday, and mentally I was garbage for the rest of the day.  But when you are a single mom, you do not have the luxury to mentally check out, for any length of time.  I try as much as possible to shield my children from what transpires during these days – because football, chess club, dinner, Click the Mouse, soccer, going to a friend’s house, going to the park, getting to their job, selling fundraising tickets, PPT meetings…all of these things happen whether court goes well or not.

So today, as I lay in the bed for most of the day, reflecting on what happened yesterday and where we go from here, I realized there was no winner in court.  We all lose…we all lose.  Until such a time when we can communicate together and parent these children without the law having to intervene.  Until we can BOTH have parenting time with these children and not disparage the other parent.  Until these children are not hurt by our supposed ‘grown-up’ actions…both of ours.  Until ALL the people in these children’s lives get on the same page about what is in the best interest for them, and work to that end.

What I know is this:  I cannot control him or his actions.  But I am responsible for me and my actions.  And that means I can still continue to be the example – to my children, and to him and his family.  It cost me nothing to be who I already am, so that is no sacrifice.  To sacrifice, I need to take an additional step.  I have the benefit of Jesus Christ, and because of that, I am required to do more.  So I will be seeking God’s face on how He wants me to do more, to take additional steps to make this work.  Because doing what I’ve already done isn’t getting it – it’s merely wearing me out – and that will accomplish nothing in the end.


My Nephew…the Graduate

I have known you every day of your life.  I have watched you blossom from a wish and a prayer before you were even born from within the womb of your Mother.  I witnessed you spring forth into this amazing world full of promise (with the biggest head we had all ever seen!) and I cherished the moments as you learned to navigate that same world full of wonder, intrigue and the smallest bit of spunk.  It was obvious you had gotten those traits from me – your favorite Aunt – but I digress.

Academically you have certainly found your way, rising to the occasion to meet each and every challenge placed before you.  You never left a stone unturned in your quest for knowledge, and your excellent performance throughout these last four years has solidified your place in an exceptional program in Clemson University, and I certainly could not be more proud.  You will go forth, you will be a mover and a shaker for the next generation, and I have less fear knowing that a young man of your caliber will lead those that come behind him to a vision seen early on and never once given up on.

Athletically, you left every single thing you had on the field, each and every time.  Whether it was baseball, soccer or football – you gave it everything you had and then 20% more for the team.  Your unfailing giftedness is a tremendous God-given talent, and I know you have appreciated this high school experience with these very friends – this ‘family’ to share this last year of lasts with – the ultimate prize being the Football Championship.  I will truly miss routing on “My #55” from afar each Friday night, but I will ready myself to route you on in different ways, in different endeavors, but still filled with the same love that has always been there.

Dalton, as I observe you as a person, a young man – I can only say how pleased I am at the choices you’ve had in your life, how grateful I am for the parenting nuggets you chose to retain and take to heart, at the courage of your convictions that drives your decision making process, and how you remain unphased by the world and its attempts to derail you and your goals.  Always stay true to yourself, and God will honor your decisions.

You have accomplished something incredible here, and in such a way that merits recognition.  You are a leader among your peers, a stand-up guy, and someone any of the lower classmen would be crazy not to emulate.  Accept this responsibility and use it to its fullest potential, in college, in life, in the working world – wherever!

In closing, you are an admirable man.  You are an honorable man.  You are the kind of man I want my son to aspire to be, and that I want my daughters to be drawn to.  You are loving and giving.  You are well-prepared for your future, and because of this you will go far.  God will continue to bless your obedience to Him as you continue to seek His face.  Your foundation is strong and your pathway is clearly marked.  I cannot wait for the next seasons to be revealed.

I love you, Dalton.  I love who you have grown to become.  I wish nothing but the best for you at Clemson, and if you find things get a bit too rough, I always have your back.

Love Always,

Aunt Melissa


Warrior Mamas – Heroes

It takes an incredibly special breed of mother to raise a child who is differently-abled, who comes to you not quite fitting the mold of those who came before, whether they came to you through 9 agonizing months of worry and weight gain, or a trip halfway around the globe.  Those of us who share the privilege of raising these princes and princesses with autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally, interact socially with others, and  causes repetitive behaviors, have been given the term ‘Warrior Mamas” due in some small part to our incredible strength and never-quit tenacity.

I’ve had the great fortune to grow and know many Warriors here, as we’ve shared our journeys together – through tears of triumph and tribulation.  The sleepless night, the raging hormones, the School Board battles, the medication changes, the intimidating IEPs, the State Capital rallies for tax funding, insurance legislation and appropriate housing for young adults – we are a tireless bunch who won’t hesitate to raise our voices when our children are in need, but remain silent when the spotlight is looking for a soliloquy.  We take up our cause at least annually at our favorite walk, race, Puzzlethon™, fashion or art show, or auction – all in the name of research and support for this disorder that families deal with each and every day.  And while each of us hopes for a cure someday, we know in our hearts the time for that cure has passed for our children – the battle has shifted to better long-term care, more planning for adults with autism – the future they face is staggering.

One blessed woman I am lucky to call friend, Judith, ran the Boston Marathon yesterday, as she’s done in many years past.  The weather, as those from this area know, was atrocious – cold, windy, non-stop rainy the entire 26.2 miles.  Each year she runs for her son, soon to be a teen, on the spectrum.  She adorns her tiny body with the names of each and every student from her son’s school – the most perfect of placements for him to flourish and be all that he can be.  She begins her training months in advance, as do most of the seasoned marathon participants, running in the steeply stacked snow banked winter months, building her endurance in preparation for the big race.

The amazing thing about Judith, in addition to being a Warrior Mama (as if that weren’t already enough!) is she works tirelessly for Autism Speaks, an exceptional organization, where she is helping to promote insurance coverage to states where coverage for autism services, such as occupational therapy, Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), speech and language services and the like, are not currently mandated coverage for children.  She travels across the United States all week long, as those who follow her on Facebook are lucky enough to keep up with her current travels, and still manages to find time for her family, her faith and giving back.

As I watched Judith prepare for this race the last few weeks, she really humbled me in a new way.  First, the sheer determination she possesses in that tiny body just blows my mind!  Second, as a nation, we all know what happened 2 years ago near the conclusion of the Boston Marathon.  Judith was present – shaken but unharmed.  Her family was on-hand, as they always are, awaiting her arrival, and as you can imagine the pandemonium…as an observer on television, I was gripped with fear for those I knew were near.  As many who stepped out in true humane style, Judith was taken in by someone on the route, fed and warmed up, and helped to contact her family…an act that still gives me chills today.  I long for a time when we as a country can stay still in that moment…and just be.  We know how to be wonderful to each other – we just can’t capture it for long.  To Judith, and all the others – especially those who were wounded during that awful event – that had the courage of their convictions to return once again; to not let evil win…I am in awe.  You are what I want my life to be about.

Lastly, for as many more years as Judith sees fit to run this race, she has left behind a legacy for her son that he can be so very proud of.  She has left her mark on this world in his name, and that is why I would dare call her ‘Hero.’  Judith…no more, no less…YOU ROCK, GIRL!!

To all my fellow Warrior Mamas: Please smile and take a silent bow!  I know you hate the attention, but from one WM to another, some days we need all the kudos we can get!

Dedicated to: (in no particular order…I love you all!)  Judith U., Beth K., Shannon K., Kristen B., Noreen S., Diana Y., Donna C., Beth L., Vicki P., Kim S., Darlene B., Onika B., Jennifer W., Annie C., Micaela O., Dianne M.


“Do not be sad I am with you always; close your eyes…listen.  Can you hear me?

I am the music in the trees, the song of a light rain, the rhythms of your heart beat.  Can you hear me?

Find the afterglow of my smile in every whisper of a bird’s song, feel the warmth of my touch in every crescendo of the ocean’s waves.  Can you hear me?

Feel the reverberation of my life, the happy times and bright and sunny days we shared and let you tears of grief be dried by the sun; I am the music of life, and my song will play on.  Listen…and you will find me.”


Tonight I spent a few hours at the wake of a young man of such promise.  He was the brother of my daughter’s friend – a senior in high school – an honor student, accepted to an excellent college for the fall, plans for the future, for a life full of LIFE.  A bad decision – one with terrible and permanent consequences – cost this young man his life earlier this week.  I watched his devastated parents, numb from grief, go through the motions – stand in line and hug family, friends, and strangers alike, all who thanked their God that it wasn’t them who stood in their stead, that it wasn’t their child each guest knelt before, praying to whomever they believed in, all with the same look of disbelief that I had as I found my seat.

How could this happen?  How could you think you’d done everything right as a parent – raise a seemingly exceptional kid who checked off all the boxes, but when push came to shove, you had possibly missed the glaringly obvious signs that your child wasn’t prepared for the toughest challenge of all – stepping onto life’s stage and living?  Please hear me when I say I am in NO WAY judging these poor parents.   There but for the grace of God go I most assuredly.  I just find myself at a loss as a parent – as I watched the evenings events unfold, surveyed the roomful of memories, observed countless high school friends experiencing their first loss with their parents in tow – how can I do all I can to prepare my teens for life as it races to meet them head on?  How can I assure them that they are enough in this world when I still doubt my abilities?  How can I trust they will turn to me when they question themselves, their worth, their value and that I will be there in their moment of need?

The world has faster, cooler, and smarter answers than I have.  Their friends are available at their fingertips, always at the ready.  I am who they come to when they’ve exhausted their other options.  I want to change that scenario.  I know I’m not going to ‘replace’ their best friends, but I also know I’ve implanted in them the knowledge that they can trust me – good or bad – they can come to me with whatever is on their minds.  We can talk it through and I can help them, even if they think it’s the end of the world…I’m always going to help them.  I may not love the choices they make, but I am always going to love them.

As I walked my daughter through this first wake experience, I secretly hoped there wouldn’t be any more for her to experience such as this.  Her innocence on what to do, how to react and where to go reassured me that I still had time to plant more seeds within her.  She’s growing into an exception young woman, and my prayer is that the pressures of this world don’t overwhelm her ever.  But if they do, I hope she remembers my subtle reassurances that she can always come to me – even if she thinks I’m goofy – and I am going to help her.

I hope this young man felt surrounded by the overwhelming love of his parents, even as he made a costly mistake last weekend.  I hope he knew without a doubt he was cherished, special and enough.

In Memory of ABR 4/12/15