inspiring stories

Inspiring Latina | Liza

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What does being a Latina mean to you?:

Being unique and authentic, staying true to my roots and culture.

What do you identify as?

Mexican

Share your movement, business, non-profit, dream, with us::

Simply Destinee Youth Center is a not-for-profit youth dance team and center that promotes suicide awareness in memory of my daughter Destinee, who I lost in 2010. We focus on anti-bullying by teaching them to learn to express themselves through music and art. We focus on self-love, self-acceptance, and promoting positivity in the world. We serve minority children and at-risk youth. We offer services and resources for their parents and guardians as well, as we believe in the importance of providing suicide awareness to the entire family.

After losing my daughter, we realized that there was a need in the community and so many children are suffering in silence. We felt that we needed to find a way to offer a safe space for the children that allowed them to express themselves, as well as, learn how to accept themselves for who they are. We have been in operation now for over seven years and have had several hundred kids go through our program. We also offer services through the after-school program on the east side of Aurora which is primarily minority students as well. Since that time we have helped several families and children in crisis.

What are some preconceived notions/stereotypes that you've faced in your business, movement, non-profit, etc?:

I think for us the greatest stereotype that we face is that if you say that you have mental illness, you are crazy especially in the Latino community. A lot of people also look down on our organization because they feel that since we are talking about suicide, we're implementing ideas in the children's head. When in fact we're here to celebrate life. We love celebrating each child that goes through our program during their birthday month. We talk about things that are going on in today’s world that are greatly impacting our youth. We foster a safe space for them so that they can learn to express themselves in a more positive light. There's so many other things that we do that are quite the contrary but people assume that because of the fact that were talking about suicide prevention, which is such a taboo topic, that that means it's very negative and dark.

Are you a US citizen? If not, could you share what your experience has been being an immigrant, and the process of becoming a US citizen, resident, etc:

I'm fortunate enough to be a US citizen however my mom would often tell me stories about how my grandmother would have to cross over to give birth in the United States so that her children would be US citizens. As my mom was growing up she also faced a lot of discrimination because she had darker skin.

Who are some of your Latino inspirations?:

I think that any woman or man that is of Latin descent that has a social position is an inspiration for our younger generation. I feel the biggest setback for most of our children is that we don't have those people to look up to as inspirations. I am 46 years old and I feel like it’s just now where I’m meeting so many inspiring latinos that I wish I had met in my younger years.

Is there something else you'd like to say or add?:

I'm very proud of who I am and where I've come from and I know that a lot of those struggles have made my family who they are. There's nothing I would change about my life. I'm here to be a leader, a helper and most of all of friend. I would have never imagined my life to be the way it is right now and I know the selfish part of me says that I would give anything to have my daughter back. However, the other part of me says that we are put on this world for a purpose and this is my purpose.

WHAT'S THE FIREHOUSE DREAM?

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Friends today I'm sharing what The Firehouse Dream is, and what inspired the whole idea.

Watch the video below!!! Also follow us on IG and IGTV for updates @authenticadventureco

CLICK FOR HOPE | A NEW DIAGNOSIS

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Please share your story:

Hi I’m Jamilla Yipp and I have suffered with many forms of chronic illness my entire life. One of my current ones started at the age of 9. I was on a track team. My mom had to take me out due to nightly pains that I had in my legs. Doctors would just say it was growing pains. My mom sent me to many doctors, and blood tests, trying to rule out the issue. The pains are severe, and crippling. To this day, I can’t be under direct cold air as it will trigger the pain. The sad things is I still don’t have an answer for what it is. The closest diagnosis I've received is Fibromyalgia but I didn’t have the trigger points which brings me back to square one of not really knowing what's causing the pain. Fast forward to my teenage years and I began to have crippling menstrual pain, which as a teenager my mom thought they were normal. At the age of 20, I learned they weren’t normal and that I in fact had endometriosis. I choose to have kids early due to knowing the reality of infertility with this, and thankfully the endometriosis would go into remission. However after my 4th child, it came back with a vengeance. Fast forward once again to last year, I have been recently diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia nicknamed the suicide disease. Last year was tough as it took many hospitalizations and tests to get the medication right. I’m currently on epilepsy medication to control it and it works for now, but during the process they thought I had Multiple Sclerosis which turned out to be my high blood pressure triggering small strokes. So here I am, figuring out how to live with a new diagnosis while being a mom to 4, wife, and small business owner.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: It has made me stronger and appreciate the little things more. Each day I’m pain free is a day to cherish.

FORGIVING MY DAD

I shared this story on my Click For Hope website back in August of 2016. I'm resharing it here, one because, I feel like you need to know this part of my story, before I could share my other blog posts.

Why?

Well because I believe our stories matter. I believe the things we experienced as children have affect on who we become when we get older. Our experiences create stories, that then create "mindsets" or "lies" that we believe to be true. Even now, as I reread this story, I'm learning that God is still healing me. While I forgave my father, and our relationship is reconciled, I still have mindsets that shaped me when I was little, that I'm now beginning to break down with truth.

So here it is friends! My forgiveness journey....

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I was born into the world rejected by my father, who made a new life with a new family. So all I knew was our little family: my mom, my older brother and me. I don't have many memories of my childhood. If I'm honest, I've suppressed so much of it, that I can only recall a memory here and there, and they aren't all good.

I do remember my mom doing her best trying to juggle it all. She was determined to figure out how to make it work with no assistance from anyone including the government.  A few of my fondest memories together was having a sock fight and making cheesecake for bake sales at church because I always got to lick the spoon with that delicious cream cheese filling. Other than that I don't remember much.

As a teenager, I was very cold, angry, bitter and didn't really know what I believed about "love". In fact "love" was distorted to me. I hadn't seen a positive example of it as well as marriage because all I was surrounded by was divorce. I don't think I realized it then nor could I even communicate that I had daddy issues. I just knew that when he'd come to pick us up I'd find an excuse to not go to his house. I wanted nothing to do with him. I didn't care if he ever got to be a part of my life again. I felt he had lost his chance.

Summer of junior year I was reacquainted with a childhood friend. It was through her a series of events happened where I found myself going to a youth retreat. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, and my motives in going were totally wrong too! But God had a different plan for me. After a fun day full of competitive games and teaching, there was a worship experience that I will never forget. It changed my life forever!

I remember being in a room full of other high school and college aged kids, but somehow the room felt empty with just me and God. I was sitting on the floor in a fetal position and I heard a voice say, "I've missed you!" Tears began to stream down my face, as a LOVE no words could describe consumed my broken heart, and filled the room. I wanted this LOVE. It felt so warm, inviting and perfect.....and all I could say was, "I've missed you too!" As more tears streamed down my face I heard a voice tell me, "If you're going to follow me you're going to have to forgive your father." A simple nod was my response.

That Labor Day weekend was the weekend I decided to surrender my life and follow Jesus. What I didn't know how to do was forgive. My mom worked nights so we had opposite schedules and my brother was off at college, so I began having beautiful moments with Jesus as I studied and read the Word every night on my bed. I was intrigued by the simplicity but yet complexity of who Jesus was. The miracles He performed was something I wanted to see one day. The stories of Paul and how he was redeemed and used to do a amazing things was only evidence for me in how I could have a similar story.

Three months later, my mom called my dad and told him to call me. A part of me felt so betrayed, but knew deep downside she only did what I didn't have the courage to do. Over the phone I began sharing my Jesus story with him, and said, "Dad, I just want to let you know that I forgive you!"

I cried. He cried.

I can't say that instantly we began a relationship and everything was just peachy, but what I can say is that when I said those words, I literally felt bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness and so much more lift off my shoulders. I was instantly a different person. I began to learn what love was according to 1 Corinthians 13. I began to let the walls down that I built up towards my dad, and in turn, other people.

It's now been 16 years since that beautiful exchange took place. My dad has been in my life for as long as he was out of it. To me it was worth walking down the path of forgiveness, not just for our relationship, but for me to become the person I am today. My dad and I have a fully restored relationship. He walked me down the aisle when I got married 10 years ago, he's been at the hospital for the birth of each of my daughters. My girls know their grandpa and love him very much. We talk on the phone about marriage, faith, and life. When I look at my dad, I don't see him as the man that abandoned me... I see him as forgiven. All those feelings of hatred no longer reside in my mind or heart. I live my life free, knowing I'm forgiven and loved by my Heavenly Father.

So I end with this! If there is someone in your life that you want to forgive, my hope is that you would begin to walk down that path. It's not easy, and everyone's forgiveness story is different. What I do know is, when we choose to forgive it frees us up to love. It humanizes your pain. It allows you to feel versus numbing it all away. I pray that you would open your heart! Please feel free to email me at connect@authenticadventure.co if you'd like more information on how I walked through that journey or if you are looking for help/advice on how to forgive someone who hurt or abandoned you.

Until next time friends,

Jasmine

CLICK FOR HOPE | RAISING CHILDREN WITHOUT A FATHER

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Please share your story:

When I was 24, my daugthers' father was shot and killed, I was devastated. I never imagined having to raise children without a father. God spoke to me and said that He was their father. I raised my daughters the best I could but it was hard and I had no support system and no time for tears. I had to deal with the pressure of being the mother and the father to them, and the thought of that was overwhelming. I was married 5 years later and had a son and another daughter. I wasn't really looking for love but someone to raise my children with, to give them what I thought would be best for them. I was afraid of loving someone again because of the hurt and pain I had endured. My now ex-husband touched one of my daughters inappropriately, which turned my world upside down, I had to deal with divorce, being a single mom again but now to four children. Two of whom, belong to a man who brought so much hate, anger and pain into my life. I couldn't understand why the unimaginable was happening. Through it all, I have four amazing children who I love dearly, who I have sacrificed, and given my heart to. I am so thankful to God and the community we found at church that prays with and for me.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

It has made me stronger and wiser. I love me, I don't have to settle for less. I never knew how much fight I had in me. I love more, trust more and I have faith.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I feel that women stay with men that hurt them or their children because they don't think they can do it, but you can. God gives you the strength, and he will be with you every step of the way. I want them to know that they are loved. People like to sweep molestation under the rug but that kills the child. I encourage you to face your fears, there is joy on the other side.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Forgive yourself, embrace your children, get in community with people you can do life with. Make sure you take time to yourself each week, you can't help anyone if you're falling apart.

You can do this!!!!

CLICK FOR HOPE | BEING A MOM WAS MY LIFELONG DREAM

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Please share your story.:

"You have cancer". Three words nobody ever wants to hear. Three words that changed everything for me in 2014, at the age of 33. Just when I felt as though my life was coming together, my world fell apart. In the days leading up to my diagnosis, when I already had a biopsy and was just waiting for the confirmation it was indeed cancer, I remember so clearly researching treatment for young women like me who get breast cancer. The surgeries, the chemo, radiation, the medications. And then, I read what felt like an immediate dagger to the heart. That chemo often destroys the fertility of young premenopausal women like myself. That the medication most take following treatment would cause birth defects if you were to get pregnant, and the recommendation would be to take that medicine for 10 years after chemo. I physically dropped the computer out of my hands. I was preparing myself to lose a breast. Lose my hair, my eyebrows and eyelashes. I was not prepared to lose my ability to be a mother. Some people just know that they are meant to be a parent someday, and I have always been one of those people. And now, I found myself facing the threat of infertility caused by cancer. A few days later, when my cancer was confirmed, the first words out of my mouth was, "but I haven't had kids yet." My surgeon recommended I talk to the oncologist about fertility preservation before starting chemo. 1 week later, I was in their office with my boyfriend talking about freezing embryos and having our blood drawn. In a normal, non-cancer world, women undergoing IVF take medications for a month prior to an egg retrieval. I had 1 week. That was my first miracle- my body responded well to the medications, and 8 eggs were saved; 5 were successfully fertilized and frozen in time until the day I would get permission from my oncologist to stop medications and try to have a baby. Two years of surgeries, chemo and radiation went by; those years were tough, and put a strain on me and my relationship with my boyfriend that our relationship could not withstand, and we separated when my treatments were over. Months went by that I would cry myself to sleep at night over all of the losses I had suffered in the past 2 years. So many losses. But nothing compared to the loss I was feeling about becoming a mother.

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Fortunately for me, my ex agreed to sign the rights of the embryos over to me as they were my only remaining possibility of biological children. But choosing to use them would mean single motherhood. Was I prepared for that? Emotionally, physically, financially...? It was not a decision to be made in haste. I sought therapy, and had lengthy conversations with my parents, my sisters and my close friends. At the end of the day, it was clear to everyone- especially me- that my biggest regret would be to let life pass me by without attempting to be a mom. Being a mom was my lifelong dream. The odds were against me, and I knew that. The odds of a successful pregnancy using frozen embryos after cancer treatment is low- for my age, ~30%. But after everything I had been through I had to try. I underwent the transfer on Friday, January 13th. I went alone. I remember sitting in the office by myself thinking...well, if I am going to be a single parent, I need to get used to this. 2 weeks later I got the call. THE call. My blood levels were elevated, indicating that I was pregnant. I WAS PREGNANT! Only 2 weeks pregnant though, and I had a long way to go before I could ever feel "safe". I lived blood test to blood test, ultrasound to ultrasound, for weeks. For months. It wasn't until I was at least 20 weeks along that I finally felt it was really real. Being pregnant and single was harder than I imagined. I knew it would be difficult, but little things were hard. Like the exhaustion you feel throughout the first trimester. Walking my dog and making myself dinner were a challenge some days. And then there were the comments and questions I wasn't prepared to answer from strangers or people who didn't know "my story." Assumptions about "my husband", then me trying to figure out what to say, what not to say. It never got easier. I moved in to my parents house a few months before my due date, which was an incredible help as my pregnancy only got harder the closer I got to my due date. And on October 10th at 4:52pm, my miracle baby entered this world- healthy, beautiful and perfect.

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I’ve only been a single mom for a few months now. There are times I look down at his sweet, angel face and shed some tears that he doesn’t have a dad. Times I feel guilty that I brought him in to the world without one. But then I have to remind myself is that truly, what he doesn’t have is a family defined by old societal norms. My son has a family. He has a mother who fought for her life first, so she could then fight for his and would do anything in the world for him. He has grandparents who adore him more than life itself, who have given up their house for him to live in and help raise him. He has aunts that left work the second they knew his mom was in labor to be there to hold her hand and witness his birth, and are here to snuggle him and love him and spoil him at every opportunity they have. He has an uncle and cousins who adore him. A great grandmother, great aunts and uncles, 2nd cousins, family friends…all who would drop everything to help him. He even has a fur brother, my rescue dog Riley (who is adjusting to having to share the spotlight). My son is loved. So very loved. Love makes a family.

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I have always wanted to be a mom, as long as I can remember. In the few months that I have been blessed with that role, it has exceeded every expectation I have ever had. My son has filled my heart with more joy than I ever knew was possible. The road to being a mom was not easy, but as one of my favorite sayings goes, "anything worth having comes with trials worth withstanding".

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I wanted to share my story for 2 reasons. One, to help encourage other young cancer patients to pursue fertility preservation. I was fortunate enough to be treated at a large, research hospital where it was an immediate option. But if it's not wherever you are, if you want to be a parent someday you should not have that taken from you when there are means to save that chance. The other reason I wanted to share my story was to encourage others to make the choice to be a single parent. Family looks different to everyone, and in my case, one mom with a gigantic extended family full of love. It's not easy, and comes with some heartaches and challenges. But the reward...oh the reward is better than you could ever imagine.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

A few years ago, I was in a deep depression after nearly losing my life to cancer, then losing my boyfriend whom I had loved so dearly. And, I thought I had lost my ability to be a mom. There were days...many days...that I wanted to give up. That I felt hopeless. But I kept going. I got up every day and kept going. I just kept fighting and believing that things would get better. And they did. You have to keep believing even in the darkest of times. God comes through.

CLICK FOR HOPE | JACOB IS GOD'S DAILY MIRACLE FOR ME.

Click for Hope inspiring story SWS

Please share your story:

My name is Jazzmine and I am a single parent to my son Jacob. I don’t like the stereotypes of a single mom, because there are so many negative connotations associated with the term “single mother”. I am a mother first and foremost to an amazing child who has Sturge-Weber Syndrome (SWS). SWS is a congenital, non-familiar disorder caused by the GNAQ gene mutation. It is characterized by a congenital facial birthmarks and neurological abnormalities. Other symptoms associated with SWS can include eye, endocrine and organ irregularities, as well as developmental disabilities. Each case of SWS is unique and exhibits the characterizing findings to varying degree. Jacob has SWS, facial Port Wine birthmark, seizures paralysis, glaucoma, developmental delays, murmur, Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), and auditory processing disorder and sensory disorder. I claim my son’s healing in the name of Jesus.
I got pregnant early in my relationship with my son’s father. It seemed like from the moment I found out I was pregnant; everything in my life seemed to fall apart. I lost my house, I had to declare bankruptcy, I instantly became a step mom, “wife” and expectant mother all while everything I worked so hard for was lost. I fell into a depression and it just was not what I imagined becoming a mom should be.
When my son was born, he was born with a birthmark on his face. I had a very hard labor and the doctors thought that it might be a bruise caused from me sitting on him. My son truly is an amazing child because of what he endured during the labor. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his heart kept dropping. This was just the beginning of his challenging life.
Jacob had his first MRI at 10 days old.
The results showed he had Port Wine Stain. At 6 weeks old he had his first surgery for pyloric stenosis, which means his stomach was not connected to his intestines. It was during the ultrasound that was done to confirm this in Jacob that I knew this was going to happen. At 7 weeks old Jacob had another MRI which was requested by Dermatology and Neurology. By this time, I had just returned to work and I received the call that changed mine and Jacobs’s life in a big way. He was diagnosed with SWS. My heart dropped; I was so devastated. I had so many questions and concerns running through my mind. I had no clue how I was going to handle a work-life balance. After looking up his condition I felt it was a life sentence with no chance for a normal life.

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His first 3 years were very challenging. He had 7 pulsed dye laser surgeries done on his face to help remove the birthmark. Two sets of ear tubes (he had multiple ear infections), Adenoids and tonsils removed and he was hospitalized four times with seizures. He had to see various specialists including neurology, dermatology, ophthalmologist, otolaryngologist, gastrointestinal and cardiologist. At the same time, Jacob was also receiving various therapies such as occupational, physical, speech, and developmental therapy (eyes).
In March of 2011, my life took another turn when I was laid off. I took the opportunity to go back to school and get my Master’s degree. I completed this program in 10 months. However, those 10 months were not easy; my son was hospitalized twice for seizures and diagnosed with a heart murmur and Bicuspid Aortic Valve. To add to the challenges I was facing at that time, my son’s father also decided to move to Arizona to pursue his career. Again, I was heartbroken, I did not know how I was going to handle all of this alone. I had completely lost myself. I did not like the person I had become. In 2012, I made the decision to become a Christian. I knew I could not continue this journey without Jesus.
I finally landed a job in September 2012. I thought all my trials and tribulations were over. Boy, was I wrong. In April of 2013, the city of Chicago froze my bank account, my wages were garnished and my son’s dad was fighting me for custody. To make matters worse, in July 2013, my job did a massive lay off and I was one of them. In the middle of all this my son still had many doctors’ visits and weekly therapies. Even though I was going through all of these problems, I made a huge effort to make sure my son was not affected by any of it. My job as his mother was to provide him a stable and loving home. Jacob was and is still my motivation to wake up every morning and not crawl into a dark hole and forget about all my problems. I could honestly say that in the middle of my circumstances that the Lord gave me peace. He never left my side. In October 2013 the Lord blessed me with another job. Things were starting to look up. I had found a job that allowed me to have a work-life balance. The issues with the city and custody were resolved.
 

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A few years went by and my life was great. I had an amazing relationship with Jesus, I had accepted that I was a single mom, and Jacobs’s health was stable. I had a work-life balance. On September 30, 2016, my life took a turn again. I was laid off by my employer. I knew God had a plan for me because I was at peace about it. I did not expect, nor was I ready for the news I was about to receive two months after my getting laid off. Due to Jacobs’s conditions he has to be examined every year. During one of the visits to his Ophthalmologist, Jacobs’s doctor that he was seeing for a few years now, he told me that he was moving to a different state and referred me to see another doctor. (Back in 2015 Jacob was diagnosed with elevated pressure in his eyes -liquid build. They were giving him drops to control the pressure). I went to see her in November 2016. She examined him and told me he had glaucoma and he needed surgery. I was shocked because I had just been at the previous doctor’s office a month ago; he never mentioned glaucoma.
The real journey came on December 14, 2016; it was surgery day. Jacobs’s dad and Godmother were at the hospital with me. We all received the news at the same time. Jacob had 80% optic nerve damage on the left eye and 70% optic nerve damage on the right side. His doctor told us we needed to prepare ourselves because he is going to go blind. My life came crumbling down. I could not stop crying. I remember driving Jacob home after the surgery and I was asking God if it is his will for Jacob to go blind please give me the strength and allow us to lead as normal life as possible.


The next day we went back to the doctor and we received the news that we had to go back into surgery. His eye was rejecting the tube-shunt they placed in. I was crushed. I had no idea how I was going to explain to my son we had to go back into surgery. They needed to remove the tube and allow scar tissue to grow on the plate. He had his third surgery on February 8, 2017. They were going to put the tube back in his eye. I remember this day like it was yesterday. My son made me so proud. They were about to take him into surgery and he told the lady that he was not ready yet because he had to pray. His prayer was “I am healed in the name of Jesus." We were all crying and everything was a success.


The surgery for the right eye was scheduled for March 2017. The day of surgery he was sick so they canceled the surgery. I started panicking. Remember, in December of 2016, he already had 70% optic nerve damage. It was becoming very difficult to control the pressure and every day that went by more optic nerve was being damaged. We finally got rescheduled for March 21, 2017. His doctor gave me the option of performing his surgery in parts or should we take the risk of putting the tube and hoping his eye won’t reject it. I told her to take the risk. We went to the doctor the next day, surely enough the eye was rejecting the tube. As I was in the doctor’s office with Jacob, I got a call that my mom was in the hospital. Again, I felt the world crumbling and I was torn between my mom and son. I wanted to be there for my mom, but my son needed me. At this point I knew I had to reach out to my praying community/friends to pray for Jacob, my mom and I. I was getting very weak and I was not sure how much more news I could endure. I just remember telling Jesus to please give me the strength to continue. I was praying over Jacob telling his body that he is healed.

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We went back to the doctor, now for his fifth surgery. Jacob and I were extremely anxious. I had to explain to my son that the purpose of this surgery was to help him not to go blind. Only by the grace of God the tube in the right eye did not have to get removed. The doctor actually took the opportunity to fix both eyes. She kept telling me this is a miracle. Since both eyes were operated at the same time, we had to spend the night at the hospital. Jacob was not happy to wake up with both patches in his eyes. He was so upset. He kept telling me “Mami, why would you let them do this to me?” He was so miserable. He kept crying out to God to help him…that he needed him. We were discharged the next day. These surgeries have been very difficult for Jacob. He is scheduled for one more surgery in March 2018. He hates waking up from surgery with the patch on. He gets very upset with me because to him I allow this to happen. He dislikes it when I give him his eyes drops. (4 different drops, twice a day in both eyes. At one point it was 10 different drops per eye, twice a day.) When they finally took off his patches he was so emotional. He kept telling me “I just missed seeing you, Mami!”


My trials and tribulations did not end. Five surgeries later and going to the doctor almost every week for 6 months, my unemployment was finished and I prayed “Okay God all I have is you. I will trust you.” In June 2017, my previous employer called me back to help them temporarily. Little did I know my child support was stopped due to an error made by the state. God knows all things because if I would not have come back to my previous employer, I would not have had any income. I knew that God was there with my son and me the entire time. I have seen God’s hand move in my life. I have been praying for a career and was recently blessed with a new job opportunity. This is just the beginning of what God has in store for Jacob and me.
The reason why I share my story is because of the great lesson God taught me through it all. God blessed me with the greatest gift anyone could receive and that is being a mother to Jacob. In Hebrew his name means: Holder of the heel; sub planter; may God protect. Jacob has met all odds. He has endured and survived 16 surgeries all by the age of 8. He may have many of the traits and symptoms of a child with SWS, but he is the strongest, most courageous, amazing child I have ever known. He has taught me compassion, patience, sympathy, empathy and appreciation for the smallest things in life.


All my life, I have been very strong and independent, but now I can add to it faith filled and courageous because Jacob is God’s daily miracle for me. He is proof that God exists. I have worked hard for everything in my life from an early age. I believe I have set realistic goals, and have met most of them already. But you are never really prepared for those extras that hit you unexpectedly. You just go with the flow and hope for the best. I know that many women who are raising their children alone never planned it that way. I know I didn’t, but it happened just the same. One major thing I have realized is that, without faith in God, my family, and the support of great friends, I know I could not have made it this far. Everything I do is because God gives me strength and Jacob gives me purpose.

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CLICK FOR HOPE | SEARCHING FOR MYSELF

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Please share your story:

I’m an author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. But I couldn’t say that so concisely eleven years ago…I only found and redefined myself in 2014. Before that, I was Octavia, the cellist, the French major, the world-traveler, Miss Michigan.
After college, I competed for Miss America and when I came home without the crown, I married my love and we moved to Chicago to begin our life together. We were surprised to become parents within our first year of marriage and panicked, suddenly desperate to do everything “right.” The shoulds we were both raised with were that good wholesome Christian families were homeowners in the suburbs with a dog and van. Check, check, check and check.
As we began to complete our American Dream checklist, I realized the more we checked-off, the bigger the void in my heart grew. My husband felt a strong calling to become a pastor of a small urban ministry center and I supported it wholeheartedly. I felt a strong calling too – whether corporate or academic, I felt I had so much more to give than birthing children, although that had become my life.
I went to graduate school. I dropped out of graduate school. I started a full-time job. We had another child. I quit the full-time job to be a full-time mom. But something was wrong. I wasn’t like those moms that are fulfilled being moms. They were so happy with their children, nestling securely in their roles as homemakers. Content. Placid. They LOVED being moms. I loved being a mom, too, but that wasn’t all. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I was far from content. I was lonely and isolated. So I made up some friends; I started writing books.
While writing was my creative outlet, my scientific side was also understimulated and I wanted to have a career that provided more paycheck than risk. I felt called to healthcare and began my post-bac pre-med coursework. I was desperately searching for myself. I was depressed. I was hopeless. I was bored and unsatisfied. I wanted more than my suburban prison with really cute cell mates. I wanted friends. I needed a bigger purpose. I needed to contribute to the world outside of my home. I had drive. I had zeal. I had a full tank of gas but no GPS.
I was pregnant again. I started designing nonprofit youth programs and writing grants to fund them. I lost my third child. I was still taking my classes, teaching private cello lessons, working part-time coordinating a STEM grant at a community college, working part-time at the ministry center, running the grant programs I designed and wrote to fund, and then, yes: enter child number four.
We had our fourth child.

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I finally got into the medical program for which I had been applying for years. And my husband and I came to a crossroads. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t fulfilled making our home my career. We went to counseling. We tried going on dates. We tried getting to know each other again. And we realized the very hard and sad truth: I would never be the wife he wanted. He would never be the husband I wanted. He would never be satisfied with me being myself. I would never be satisfied with him being himself. So, now what do we do?
We got a divorce. I wonder if divorce is harder when neither one of you is the Bad Guy. I dropped out of school and feverishly took to finding my footing in a way that I could live in the city, near friends, and finally realize my larger-than-life dreams of serving others, writing books that are more paycheck than risk, and still being a creative and nerdy mom.
As my circle began to learn about my divorce I realized I was part of a secret sisterhood of silently suffering beauties – wives, unfulfilled by their relationships, and suffocated by the shoulds of motherhood. I began blogging to help myself and others navigate the treacherous and uncharted trails of unexpected emotional trauma. I called the blog Road to Relovery (roadtorelovery.com) and continue to write from my experience of being a single mom of three, trying to honor God and myself and my children with every decision I make.
Finally, here I am, three and a half years post-divorce, successfully co-parenting with my once-husband, successfully working in a career that is more paycheck than risk and uses both my writing skills and healthcare passions to serve one of the country’s leading children’s hospitals; and I’m about to release the first episode in my sci-fi fantasy series, The Hibouleans, with nine more episodes already written – and I’m working on my next biblical fiction novel, Hem. I’m proud of my journey, not only because I am being more true to myself, which helps me be a better mother to my boys, but also because I didn’t have to choose between God’s calling for me and the weight of the shoulds.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I am a better me -- author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. My dreams are coming to life. I am flourishing. My children are thriving. And I feel like I've only taken the first step.
www.octaviareese.com

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I have had a colorful reset to the adulthood chapters of my life and I know there are other moms out there that can benefit from knowing they are not alone.

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What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Marriage: it is scary; it is NOT what anyone says. It takes work, no matter what. Your relationship does not define you; you define it and your partnership should serve BOTH of you, not one more than the other. Neither of you should need each other; rather you should want to be with each other and make the decision daily to honor each other and make your relationship work. And finally, whatever blessings and scars you each bring to your partnership from your childhoods, remember that you define your own culture for your family. You determine your traditions, your norms, and your boundaries.

Parenting: there is no manual to parenting, but you can't parent well when you aren't well yourself. If your goals, career, or relationship is detracting from your ability to be your best parent to your children, then that factor needs a reset and an adjustment. You can only be your best parent to your children when you are your best self. Take care of your kids by serving yourself, setting boundaries for yourself and your children, and by carving time for your own spiritual-mental-emotional health BEFORE you burn out! Be gentle with yourself and your children. Always lead with love and be the parent you wish you had when you were a child.

Dreams: a dream deferred isn't a dream denied (Langston Hughes), but don't martyr yourself in the name of fulfilling everyone elses expectations of you. It's OK if you're that mom or dad that isn't fulfilled by being a parent. I wasn’t. And it’s OK. When a tree grows a new branch, it doesn't cut the others off. Parenting is just one branch of the tree that is you, and all branches need nourishment and sunlight in order to bear beautiful fruit. You are a better parent when you are your best self and if your best self finds fulfillment outside the home, don't deprive yourself of that light -- and don't let anyone else tell you you're