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Nashville Strong

As some of you may know, I am Ohio born and bred, but I spent a couple of the best years of my life in Nashville, TN while pursuing my undergraduate degree at Belmont University.

That time in my life is so special to me. I finished degree and had some of the greatest experiences. I met some of the most amazing humans there and made some of the best lifelong friends that a girl could ask for. It was the place where I found myself and really came into my own.

Nashville will always be home to me.

Yesterday morning a horrific act of what can only be described as terrorism happened in Music City. Some one for some reason decided to set off a bomb on 2nd Avenue. It destroyed buildings and businesses and it displaced residents from their homes.

Thankfully due to the quick thinking of first responders the damage to human life was minimized.

If you have ever been to Nashville, 2nd Avenue is a big part of the tourist district. I walked that street so many times in my years there venturing in and out of bars, restaurants, and shops.

The thought of what thr damage could have looked like had it occurred at a different time of day makes me ill.

It makes me sad that someone believed that they had the right to damage, break, and destroy what was not theirs. It makes my heart heavy to acknowledge that kind of evil in this world. These kinds of acts can never be justifiable.

My heart is with that Southern city.

I mourn with Nashville for the damage and heinous act that was perpetrated yesterday morning.

I loved my time living in Nashville and I would move back given the chance. I love the place and the people and my time there. I will always claim it as “home” to me.

Nashville, you’re strong and resilient.

We are all praying for you.

Parenting

Taking the Attitude of Gratitude

This year has been a tough one. I think it threw us all for a loop. We all had plans and goals and dreams for the year that the world has other plans for.

We were cruising right along until a worldwide pandemic and slow down stopped us.

If I take a moment to step back and reflect, there is a lot for me to be grateful for during this season of thankfulness.

I would not fault anyone for marking this the worst year and writing it off as such. It is easy to lose sight of all the great things that 2020 brought when we think too much about what it didn’t.

I worked full time for the first eight years I was a parent. I missed out on so much extra time with my older kids. This year gave me a lot of additional time with my kids that I wouldn’t have otherwise.

📷 : PS Photography, LLC

During the shutdown we spent more time as a family enjoying each other than we ever have. We played games. We binged on movies. We spent ALL the time we could outdoors. I think our front porch, front yard, and swimming pool got more use than they ever have.

My husband and I spent so much more time talking, connecting, and yes, bickering than ever. I wouldn’t trade any of it though.

I think I spent more time talking to my parents and siblings this past year than I have in a long time. Using FaceTime requires a bit more communication than just sharing the same space in a room.

We were and have been (knock on wood) able to maintain good health.

My husband’s job has survived a shut down.

We have a warm, safe space to lay our heads down in each night.

The fridge is stocked and the lights are on.

We have good friends and a tribe that loves us and it is there for us. They allow us to return the privilege.

I am thankful for the amazing teachers in my children’s lives that worked so hard this year to be partners in learning with us. We are so lucky to have the educators we do who love our children as much as we do.

We have been really lucky to have amazing therapists for our boys. They have both made amazing strides. I am thankful for finding them and for all the amazing work they do.

I have really learned that sometimes life is best lived when you finally get that it isn’t about always having what you want, but wanting and appreciating what it is that you have.

When you take the time to realize who and what really matters, you’ll find that you’ve really missed out on nothing.

📷: PS Photography, LLC
Parenting, Social Media, Special Needs

The Why Behind I

I have always been a lover of the written word. I love to read and I love to write. I spent my college years studying communication and the art of crafting it.

Post college graduation I ended up stuck in a job I hated that was the furthest thing from creative. I still read, but I had pretty much abandoned my writing aside from a rambling Facebook post here and there.

In Spring of 2018, my oldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Around that same time my husband landed his dream job and the dream of me being able to stay home with our kids became a reality. By that October I was a full time stay at home mom.

I love being able to home with my kids. I am grateful for my husband’s hard work that allows us this opportunity. The transition from the workforce allowed me to also think about creative outlets again.

I had been toying with the idea of blogging for a while. I wrote a guest post for one of my favorite blogs and constantly formulated blog ideas in my head. But, to be honest, every single time I came close to taking the leap, I talked myself right out of it.

Enter Toledo Moms

Earlier this year Toledo Moms launched in my area and I was an absolute fan from the start! It is an amazing resource of moms in my area that covers all sorts of life stages and topics.

They put out a call for writers in February and I applied. I was hopeful and nervous about putting myself out there, but so excited to be welcomed on their team. I am proud every day to be one of the amazing Toledo Moms.

Joining up with Toledo Moms and writing with them relit my fire. It gave me the push I needed to start my own blog and put my thoughts out there.

So I did it. This little work of heart launched this summer. It is a work in progress.

That’s the how, but what’s the why?

So, I have explained how I got here, but what’s the point? What is my point? Why do I put my thoughts out there like I do?

Well, it is my passion. I love to write. I love to create. I love the craft with words. I don’t think I have the great American novel in me at this point, but I do have some pretty big thoughts and opinions.

And, Autism. I have two boys who are on the spectrum. They are at two very different places in their journeys and their autism manifests in very different ways. One very important thing I have learned on this journey with them is that even though autism is fairly prevalent, it is still very misunderstood and the resources are still very limited.

When my Jack was diagnosed I was sent out into the world with basically a wing and a prayer. I learned to research. I learned the lingo. I sought out other mothers who were navigating similar paths. I learned a lot from some amazing moms who have chosen to share their hearts and families with the world on Facebook and blogs.

I also learned to advocate like a mother. I learned very quickly what it means to be the driving force and push for evaluations, push for funding, and to seek out the right interventions and providers.

I choose to use this blog in part to be a voice for my sons and for others like them. Education is key and understanding is so important. If I can spread some awareness, sprinkle some kindness, and help someone else along the way, I will consider it a success.

I am me first.

I don’t just intend to blog about autism. It is a big part of my life now and a huge piece of our family dynamic, but it isn’t everything. My boys have autism, it doesn’t have them. So, while it is always there and always with us, it still isn’t everything.

I’ve got a pretty awesome husband and I have two amazing girls to go right along with my boys. We have some pretty awesome (mis)adventures that I like to share too. There is a lesson in everything.

While we are living in a moment in time where the world seems so heavy and sad and angry, my message is kindness and hope and the power of yet. I hope that always shines through.

Parenting, Special Needs

What I Wish Someone Had Said to Me

Dear Mama,

Today you received your little one’s diagnosis. You have answers. Sometimes answers make more questions. Sometimes answers suck. Sometimes answers are just hard to absorb.

Today is a hard day, I know- I’ve been there. Sometimes there is no preparing your heart no matter how hard you have tried.

The day I received my older son’s Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis I was a cornucopia of emotions.

I was sad.

My heart grieved. My tears weren’t because there was something “wrong” with my child. The tears fell because I was accepting that autism would be with us forever and autism would complicate some things for my boy. All parents want life to be as simple as possible for their children and autism added a caveat of hard to his life.

I was angry.

How many times in our lives do we say, “It isn’t fair?” That is how I felt. It didn’t feel fair that my boy would struggle.

It didn’t feel fair and I felt angry that the pediatrician didn’t take me seriously when I first suggested something wasn’t right. We lost precious months of early intervention because I wasn’t being taken seriously.

I was lost.

Okay. We had a diagnosis, but now what? They hand you a nicely typed report and send you out to navigate it yourself. There is no one size fits all therapy combination and nothing holds guarantees. It took me a moment to find my footing again.

I wish that someone would have told me that it was okay to feel my feelings. Because you know what? It is okay to feel every which way you feel in this moment!

Be mad. Be sad. Be relieved. Be stressed. Be strong. Be whatever you need to be. Give yourself the grace to feel what you need to feel.

I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know that it will ever be “alright” in my life so I can’t truly tell you it will be “alright” in yours.

What I can tell you, though, is there is nothing like the power of a mother.

There is nothing like the unstoppable Mama Bear who will be there and advocate and take to task whoever’ be it a doctor, insurance company, therapist, school, whoever she has to to fight for her child.

There is nothing like a Mama who loves beyond measure and believes in her child.

No matter where this path takes you, know that you’re not alone.

And know that you and your sweet child will be okay- whatever your “okay” looks like.

One day you’ll look back and these feelings you have now won’t be so raw. You will feel stronger and more seasoned. You will have a new understanding of yourself, your child, and the world around you.

You will get to the other side.

I’ll be cheering you on along the way.

Love,

Me

Parenting, Social Media

When There Are No Words

This blog has been quiet lately. It hasn’t been because I’ve forgotten about it or abandoned it. I simply haven’t been able to find the words.

Things in our world seem so heavy. There are literally cities burning. There is social unrest and passionate pleas for justice. There is COVID. There is a disturbing, disappointing, and disgusting election cycle well underway.

This is all on top of our daily lives. We each have our own struggles that we are facing down. It feels like there are just so many proverbial balls in the air at once.

All of this is giving my anxiety its own fresh set of anxiety.

There are some topics I try my darnedest to avoid, but sometimes silence is compliance. Sometimes we have to use our voices and our platforms to speak up and speak out. Sometimes we have to do this even when it is heavy.

I am just a mom. I am a mom who is doing my best to raise up her children as good humans. I am also a mom who has two little boys who fit into a marginalized segment of society. I am a mom of two young ladies who I want to raise to be fierce and strong and unstoppable.

I am a mom and a woman and a human who is existing in a world right now that seems to openly tell some of us we’re wrong. It tells us we are wrong because of the color of our skin or because of who we love or because of our gender or our social status or because of our different abilities. It tells us we are wrong because we care too much.

Yet, these same loud voices that tell us we are wrong for simply being who we are made to be refuse to accept that it is the content of character that one should be judged by.

Those loud voices are wrong. Racism is wrong. Sexism is wrong. Xenophobia is wrong. Homophobia is wrong. Discrimination is wrong. Harassment is wrong. It is all wrong.

These loud voices hide behind computer screens and keyboards and find themselves emboldened by the current state of affairs. They lob insults and words of hate towards others who feel differently, who think differently, who believe differently, and who, in some cases, are just different from them. It is all wrong.

Those loud voices fail to accept that it is your actions and your treatment of other people especially those who may be different from you that tells me more about you than anything else.

Somewhere along the line being a bleeding heart, having a heart, or just caring for others in general became a bad thing. I refuse to accept the “screw you because I got mine” mentality as the status quo or even as mildly acceptable. I doesn’t sit well within my soul or my heart.

I speak openly about kindness and how it matters. I speak openly about choosing your words carefully because they have impact and they matter. I advocate for love and acceptance. I believe in these principles in the core of my soul.

Regardless of the powder keg that is social media and society and our leader, I truly believe that kindness still matters. Words should still be chosen carefully. Love still wins.

The whole world can be divided. It can feel like it is on fire. The hatred can rage. It won’t change me or my heart or the content of my character.

If anyone of us want to change the world, it starts at home. It starts in how we raise our families and in how we treat others. It starts in sometimes stepping back and learning from others and getting a little uncomfortable. It starts in understanding one another. It starts with kindness and love and being a good human.

Be kind.

Love one another even when it is hard.

Be a good human.

Parenting, Social Media, Special Needs

The Power of a Word

Words. They matter.

I spent the better part of my post-high school academic career studying the written and spoken word and how those words matter.

I also have three children who struggled to find their voices. They have worked through intensive speech therapy to be able to find and use words.

The power of a word is not lost on me.

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I teach my kids to think before they speak. Is it kind? Is it truthful? Is it necessary? If they can’t answer all of those questions with a yes then maybe they should think about saying whatever it is before they do.

This is why it bothers me so much when people say, “They are only words.”

Words have power.

The way we talk to people isn’t a reflection of them as much as it is a reflection of ourselves. The way we talk to and about our children becomes their inner voice.

I’ve had this on my mind a lot for a few months now. It seems like in our current culture it has become a social norm to be a “keyboard warrior” online and to excuse really, really awful behavior because “they are only words.”

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I really got to thinking about this last night after what turned into a heated social media discussion, if we can call it that, with someone I respected. I generally try not to engage and avoid hot button issues- especially when I know the other parties aren’t particularly receptive to different points of view. I know it was 100% it was my fault for kicking the proverbial bees nest, but it was most certainly not a respectful discussion on either side. I am not too proud to admit it wasn’t a good look for either of us.

Follow me as I dig just a little deeper here…

It isn’t just the written word that matters. It isn’t just what we see each other write online that matters. It is true that social media has empowered a lot of us to say things, really unkind things that we wouldn’t necessarily say to someone’s face and we should think before we type, we also need to think again before we speak.

The Power of a Word

There have been moments in my life where words have been really influential on me: The words contained in the acceptance letter to my dream college. My husband asking me to marry him. My Grandmother’s marriage advice after telling her I was engaged. My Dad’s wedding toast to my husband and me. The first time my children told me they loved me. Any time someone told me “You can’t” or that I would fail.

I also can think of moments where words didn’t just have an impact on me, but also on my view of the world or someone in it.

Once, after the birth of a new baby, some relatives came to visit and meet him. One of them had been wanting a baby of her own and working their way through the options. She mentioned how she was slightly discouraged because another family at their church had received yet another foster placement while she was still longing for her first. Her husband responded with a remark about how that child had autism and that family was able to get another child because they were willing to “take whatever garbage is thrown at them.”

Now, it was a passing conversation and comment and the people involved probably don’t remember it, but I do. Six months later as my oldest son received an Autism diagnosis, it resurfaced in my mind. It took up space and it lives there. Every interaction this person has with my child, his words come to mind.

A few summers back a new family moved into our neighborhood. My girls were thrilled to have more kids their age to play with. It was great at first. They played frequently and I was all for it until I started to hear the way these children were speaking. They were being mean to my girls- cruel, really, and thinking they were funny.

Their words weren’t welcome and it was tough to navigate, but my girls learned they needed to speak up for themselves, but also to believe in themselves and they were worthy and capable of great things.

Around the time of my first son’s ASD diagnosis I reached out to the few mamas I knew at that point in time with children on the spectrum. I was lost and looking for guidance. Out of them, most were encouraging, offered support, and gave some advice. One, however, told me to get over it and not make it about myself. She had nothing to offer and I would figure it out just as she had.

That stung. It put up a wall in our friendship. I often think about her words when I am sharing my perspective on our life with the spectrum. I hope that should another mama ever come to me looking for a lifeline as I had been that I remember her counsel and offer better.

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These are only a few examples of the power of words, but they were impactful enough to bear mention. They were moments said in passing that have an echo that remains.

Lately, this world doesn’t seem built for kindness. To have a soft heart or to admit your hurt almost instantly is met with more insult or a suggestion to “toughen up.” I don’t agree with that, but I am also not saying that we should all walk around in bubble wrap with fragile egos and tiptoe around people. But maybe, speak less and think more before you do.

Is it kind? Is it truthful? Is it necessary? If our answer is no to any of these questions, then maybe we need to rethink our words.

The old childhood rhyme “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” comes to mind. Maybe words can’t break a bone or cause visible damage, but words do in fact matter. Words can break and words can damage.

Words have power.

It is up to you whether or not you choose to use your words and your voice for good.

Choose your words wisely.

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Uncategorized

Vacation Had to Get Away

Last week, my little family and I escaped out state. We got out of Dodge. I am not even going to lie about how incredibly nice it was to stare at something other than the same four walls of my house.

We took a week long trip to Tybee Island, Georgia last summer and fell in love with it. Shortly after we got home we booked another trip for this summer. The past few months we debated back and forth whether or not to go. I spent weeks watching the COVID numbers and what the area of Georgia we were headed to looked like. We decided to go for it.

And you know what?

It was the best possible thing for our family. We spent a whole week being beach bums. We would wake up go to the beach, break for lunch, beach again, and break for dinner. The kids had the best time. Between building sandcastles and taking turns burying each other in the sand, they enjoyed they waves.

They did some body surfing and even talked me into trying it. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t a success. The first way knocked me under and my sunglasses were paid as tribute to the ocean. Thankfully Josh did not have the camera ready and zero footage exists of what Emma says was the most hilarious thing ever.

We all got amazing tans and ate way too much ice cream and slept in and napped and laughed so, so much together. And then we came back to Ohio and all lived happily ever after.

But you want to know something else?

When we went to Tybee last year Josh spent 90% of his beach time chasing Wyat. Wy couldn’t relax and enjoy it and in some ways, neither could Josh or I.

This year was way different. He willingly engaged with his siblings. He was able to sit in the sand for long periods of time and play and build. He didn’t run without abandon or caution into the surf.

It was a clear signal to me that even in the stress of the last few months with delays and cancellations in therapies for his autism, we are making progress! So much progress! The occupational therapy is working. The speech therapy is definitely working.

There was a moment where Wyat grabbed Emma’s and walked with her to the edge of the ocean. They stood there together staring out at the surf. It is a vision I will hold in my heart forever. It was a beautiful sight- my oldest and my youngest standing there together as if they were contemplating all that was before them.

That moment wasn’t possible a year ago or even six months ago. But that moment, it will live on for me. It will forever be a reminder to me about hard work and pushing through. It will be a reminder to never ever give up hope just because you aren’t there yet.

Yet will come soon enough.

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Welcome!

So glad you are here!

You’re probably wondering who I am?

Photo credit: Caitlin Breann Photography

Well, I am Marisa. I am a 30-something wife and mother just living her best life in a small suburban town.

Two years ago I left a soul sucking job in corporate America and now I spend my days moming it up. It was the absolute best decision of my life even if there are times I miss conversation with other adult-ish people and the extra money.

I have a wanderer’s soul. I would spend all my extra time and money exploring the world if I could.

Photo Credit: Kinkaid Photography

I am lucky to get to do life with the best guy I know. He’s my best friend with benefits and the yin to my yang. I would not want to parent or exist with anybody else. He gets me like no one else. Bonus, he has a really cute butt!

Photo Credit: Kinkaid Photograpy

My four kids are the absolute coolest kids you will ever meet. I might be biased, but so what? They are freaking adorable and awesome. My two boys are on the spectrum so you might hear me talk about that a lot. Autism plays a pretty big part as a dynamic in our family life. Their journey has taught me so many things.

A few of the best years of my life were spent in college in Nashville, TN. I met some of the most fascinating people in the world there and I made some of the best lifelong friends. I left a piece of my heart there when I left.

I love music. All music. Country is my favorite and Willie Nelson is king and The Chicks are the queens, but I can find something in any genre I would enjoy.

Writing is my passion and I am so excited to get back to it and share it with you.

I cannot live without good coffee and no, I don’t mean Starbucks. Yes, I will drink it, but Starbs is not the bees knees.

I think phrases like “the bees knees” are grossly underused.

I am a tough cookie, but once you hurt my feelings they stay hurt. I can hold a grudge and when it comes to the people I love, I can hold a grudge for them way after they are over it.

I am a Tennessee Volunteer football fan. Most days I wish I was on ole Rocky Top.

I am a Parrothead. I love Jimmy Buffet. One of my bucket list items and the greatest college spring break trip ever grew out of a visit to Margaritaville in New Orleans pre-Hurricane Katrina. I want to have a margarita in all the Margaritavilles. So far, I have visited 11.

I think most of the world’s problems could be solved with a good nap and a warm hug.

I firmly believe it costs nothing to be kind. If you can, you should help the next one in line.

I am a Disney Nerd. I love it. My kids love it. I’ve made my husband love it.

My race is not your race and vice versa. Run your own race.

Speaking of races, I got into running in the last year. Before that, running was solely reserved for when my life was in danger. And even then, well, even then it was dependent on how great the threat was.

As long as I can get to the end of the day and know I did my best, that is all that matters.

Welcome to my crazy life! Sit back and enjoy the ride.