Careers, Motherhood, and the Burden of Expectations

Careers, Motherhood, and the Burden of Expectations

The burden of expectations tends to fill our lives.

For example, we walk into motherhood thinking – I’LL be the different one.

I can handle it all.

In fact, because we see other women around us caving to the burden of expectations, we now know the prescription to make our own experience different. Cracked the code, so to speak.

To be fair, you probably are different. Furthermore, you set your life up to address or even avoid the struggle you see others face. Good. This means you are observing, learning, and evolving. 

However, the crux of the problem is this. The internal burden of expectation always exists.

Did you notice I haven’t even mentioned career yet and all of the mom guilt and juggling of schedules? And the super irony of this – we’ve touched so far only on motherhood and career. How many other identities are layered on top of these two in our expectation of self?

Which then makes it understandable how we are plagued with the burden of expectations despite our best efforts. Not only from those around us either, but also our own incredibly pressuring expectations.  

While this may sound a bit hopeless, I’m convinced we do have the ability to face those expectations head on and put them in their place. Eradicate the feelings entirely, probably not. But get them in check through a few relatively simple steps? Sure.

Let’s discuss.

THE PERFECT FAMILY DOESN’T EXIST

It doesn’t. I mean, even Full House eventually found Aunt Becky in jail.

All kidding aside though, if perfection is what you are going for, then I guess I will be the one to break it to you… YOU ARE SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR FAILURE. 

We fail forward. In all aspects of life. Family is no exception.

Even as recent as two years ago, I probably would have disagreed with this sentiment.

However, in talking to more and more women and getting a glimpse of their life experiences, there is a common thread. Even in the women who seem to have it all together consequently there comes a tipping point where she shares a burden from family life.

FAMILY- BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS

At first, I didn’t recognize the trend. Then slowly, an awareness of this universal trait in women emerged.

The problems vary as great as the Indiana weather in the spring. But just as sure as a 50-degree temperature swing in 24-hours, family issues arise.

“There it is,” I think to myself. 

To clarify, I mean this from a place of ZERO judgment. It’s just very freeing to finally recognize perfection doesn’t exist.

Instead of a crazy pursuit of this vision of excellence, there is now an opportunity to allow grace. Additionally, breakdown our thoughts in the burden of expectation and understand them in a more powerful way.

My friend, Stevie Cromer, shared a beautiful story in her newsletter recently about her own expectation of family after her divorce.

I’ve found for me, it’s no longer about the end goal or the happily ever after. It’s about the journey. It’s about all of the steps I have to take along the way that get me to the finish line. Sure, the finish line is important, and I want to earn that sense of accomplishment, but if I don’t remember or treasure the work I put in to get there, I find it is far less meaningful.

The journey. What would it look like to shift focus from the end goal of perfection to the micro moments happening in the here and now? Furthermore, what does this do for your own sense of joy to dial down your burden of expectation?

Burden of Expectation- woman balanced on a bridge with arms in the air and mountains in the distance

HAVE FRIENDS WHO CALL YOU OUT

Comparison-itis, as I like to call it, sure can do a number on our well-being.

One way to break this comparison cycle is to ensure you have friends who will call you out on your ridiculousness. 

In addition, if you find yourself in a room of friends and everyone constantly agrees with you, it’s maybe time for a self-check. Despite the validation you are receiving, you actually might be in the wrong room.

Find people who will call you out on your sh*t.

Call you out when comparison-itis is getting the better of you on a particularly low self-esteem day. In particular, tell you when you’ve gone from your normal borderline crazy self to full on coo-coo town in your own expectations.

CALLING OUT THE BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS

For example, I love to entertain. No, I’m not necessarily a fancy host with charcuterie boards and fine china appetizer plates.

However, I do enjoy my own level of perfection for the event itself. In fact, I’ve been known to go into overdrive with re-painting a room, cleaning all base boards, making ridiculous portions of food, studying guest nuances to make what they like, ensuring all food groups are covered for a meal, shall I continue?

I have several friends who will call me out when I’m headed into overdrive with my own expectations. In particular, my sister is great for a dose of reality in my ridiculous pursuit of perfection.

And I appreciate it. The burden of expectation for a perfect Thanksgiving meal can get ridiculous (read: borderline psychotic).

She’ll give me a knowing look of where this is headed and say something along the lines of, “I think it’s fine Heather” to my complete freak out moment.

“I can assure you no one is looking at your baseboards, will you fricking chill out?!” 

While she has stopped short of a good movie scene two smacks across the face – “get – it – together – woman!”, I’m certain it has crossed her mind on more than one occasion.

Left to our own accord though, it’s natural to be unaware of the hole we’re in. In the confines of that hole, all the evidence we see continues to feed into our need for perfection.

On the other hand, having someone to call you out on your sh*t gives you new perspective. Who are your people?

FIND WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO AND PURSUE IT

Life is short. We don’t necessarily think that in our 20s. In our 30s, we’re too caught up in surviving to realize. Then in our 40s, we have an urge to do something else, but life gets in the way (ironic right?).

While I’m being very general here, my point is – with each decade we come up with excuses for not doing the thing. For not pursuing whatever it is tugging at our heart.

Think for a moment about all the things you would do if you had more time. In fact, jot it down now.

Next, instead of reading the list as “I don’t have time for…” read it as “I’m not prioritizing…”

Ouch.

Last summer, we were getting ready to head out on vacation in two weeks. Completely caught up in wrapping up work stuff, getting us organized, making the pet boarding reservations, ALL THE THINGS.

A new car was on the horizon for me. The infamous Biscuit car was acting up and on the verge of a breakdown. Definitely zeroing in on her retirement.

However, I said “after vacation and summer, we’ll figure this out. Absolutely no time for that right now.” The Universe had other ideas. Driving on the interstate 10 days before leaving on vacation, the Ford Edge called my bluff.

Suddenly, the thing I didn’t have time for became THE biggest priority. We had to find a car in a couple of days. Low and behold, my calendar moved around to prioritize for the car search and buying a new car.

Time is an excuse. Switch the phrase “don’t have TIME” to “I’m not going to PRIORITIZE” and see what changes for you.

Burden of Expectation- life is now neon signage

IT’S HARD TO JUGGLE CAREER AND MOTHERHOOD

DUH! Of course it is!

I mean this in a respectful way, but are you wallowing in the “this is hard” and “I’m a victim” mindset here?

If so, I’m now your friend who is going to call you on your sh*t. It sounds like you need a self-check.

Betty Friedan said it best. “You can have it all, just not all at the same time.”

Our burden of expectations can force us into the hole of thinking all our identities need to be done to perfection simultaneously. Nope. 

I’m venturing to guess you plan 26 hours’ worth of activities for yourself in a 24-hour period. Hmmm.

Pick your things. Think of life in seasons. In fact, the things for your season RIGHT NOW, very likely won’t be the things for you in a year, three years, maybe 5. Cool. We change. We evolve. In other words, get over yourself (respectfully, of course) and look through the eyes of grace in the mirror.

Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love has a reference I love about life as a balance beam. YOU get to decide what’s ON THE BEAM and what’s OFF THE BEAM for you right now.

If it feels off for you in your heart, KNOCK IT OFF THE BEAM. Stop “should-ing” all over yourself with the burden of expectations and get clear on what you want. Life is short, remember?

SUMMARY- BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS

If the burden of expectations around career, motherhood, volunteering, being social media worthy… all the things are getting the best of you, PAUSE.

It’s time for a self-check of the load on your balance beam. What identities and values are key for you right now? Where are those being fulfilled? And where are they in direct conflict daily?

Shifting from thinking we will outrun our burden of expectations to instead working with them is pretty darn powerful.

First, what happens to you mentally when you finally admit to yourself the perfect family doesn’t exist? 

Second, who are your people that are going to support by calling you out on your sh*t?

Next, what are you going to re-prioritize and stop with the excuse of time? 

Finally, what’s ON THE BEAM for you and what are you going to shove OFF THAT BEAM with a big ole’ grin on your face? Take THAT expectations!

You’ve got this.

 

 

It’s a good place when all you have is hope and not expectations. 

-Danny Boyle

 

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WOMAN, MOTHER, WALKING MIRACLE

WOMAN, MOTHER, WALKING MIRACLE

Woman, Mother, Walking Miracle

December is often considered a wondrous and magical time of year. When miracles happen. With this in mind, I share with you the heartwarming story of Ali Cobb in Woman, Mother, Walking Miracle.

Having been through a couple of bouts with cancer, Ali’s latest battle would test the faith of even the strongest. However, through it all, Ali remained steadfast in her devotion to God and His plan. Sharing a beautiful story of hope coupled with the power of prayer.

Additionally, it’s not a coincidence our featured walking miracle started a business centered around the beauty and wonder of Christmas. Wonder & Whimsy Design is Ali’s Christmas decorating business. Providing a platform to share her love of Christmas, the beauty this time of year brings, as well as a season of hopefulness.

Woman, Mother, Walking Miracle- Wonder & Whimsy Design Logo

I hope you find Ali’s inspirational story a restoration of your own faith. Furthermore, an opportunity to delight in miracles and the magic of Christmas.

ALI’S BACKGROUND

Ali grew up in Carmel, IN.

My parents were a big influence on me. Mom was a Valedictorian at Ohio State and furthered her education at Harvard, eventually retiring from Eli Lilly after a wonderful 30-year career. She humbly and quietly promoted women and racial diversity during her career, specifically to positions of influence. My father was the owner/operator of Fulk Equipment Company. Both of my parents were and continue to be dedicated to mission work with the Christian Missionary Fellowship.

Additionally, Ali is no stranger to putting in work. In fact, working for their dad, she and her brother did install jobs for Fulk Equipment Company growing up.

I drove a forklift, could run a bandsaw, jigsaw, and cut steel. The only thing Dad wouldn’t let me do was the welding!

Ali attended Ball State University, while her high school sweetheart and now husband, Scott, attended DePauw. Her degree in elementary education got underway and she and Scott began their family.

First came their twin girls, Kennedy and Kirsten, in April of 2003. Then in August of 2004, son Brady. It should be noted, that’s… 3 kids under the age of 2!

Woman, Mother, Walking Miracle- woman holding up a large dog in a family picture with husband, twin teenage daughters and teenage son

The Cobb family pauses their busy life for some family photos.

CANCER

Ali’s first cancer diagnosis came in 2007. Specifically, stage two melanoma requiring several facial surgeries to rebuild areas of her face removed due to the cancer.

Fortunately, Ali recovered and went into remission. While the journey was a difficult one with young kids and multiple surgeries, Ali admits it was nothing compared to the recent fight.

An avid tennis player and runner, Ali felt an intense shortness of breath on the treadmill in December of 2018.

When I started to feel bad, I really can’t explain it, but I just had this knowing it was melanoma again. Call it my inner voice or even God. Whereas I was shocked when they said stage 4, I was not when they told me cancer had returned.

A chest X-ray revealed a shadow in her right lung. Additionally extremely fatigued, she had a 101-103 degree fever every day for two months. Ali describes feeling lethargic and out of it for those couple months.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma and the cancer spread to her lungs and liver.

STRENGTH THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT

Disheartened by the diagnosis while simultaneously feeling out of sorts from the continuous fever, Ali began aggressive life-saving treatments.

After my diagnosis, the kids (all in high school at this point) had to grow in so many ways. We have really tried to raise all three of them to stand up on their own two feet. To know they are not perfect and shouldn’t expect themselves to be. Even so, know their strengths and know when they need to concede. Because of my sickness, we were able to see them put these life lessons to use much earlier than we’d ever imagined. They each absolutely rose to the occasion in their own way.

Ali leaned into her faith as well.

95% of my strength came through the Holy Spirit. I would pray sometimes – just get me through this one day, this one hour, this one test, this 20 minutes of throwing up on the bathroom floor – We all had to depend on our faith. In general, I had no idea what the healing journey would entail and that’s a blessing. If you know, there’s likely no way you would walk through it.

WALKING MIRACLE

With the stage 4 diagnosis, cancer spots in her lung, and the mass in her liver, Ali’s doctors recommended immunotherapy. The immunotherapy eliminated the cancer spots in her lung. In addition, the nest in her liver shrunk from 7 inches long/3 inches wide down to 3 inches long/2 inches wide.

After this was achieved, it was time for surgery.

The goal of the surgery was to remove the nest in her liver. However, there was great risk given the potential for bleeding and other complications with the location and attachment to the liver.

The night before surgery, our family and friends gathered. In a powerful laying of hands, everyone prayed for healing and for the surgeons. As I reflect, it was in this moment I know God healed me.

Ali underwent surgery the next morning in June of 2020. After the surgery, she met with the pathologist, oncologist, and liver doctors.

They were all astonished.

Each of them looked at me and were in shock. Despite the difficulty of the surgery, the cancer was completely gone. Each stating they had no idea why or how. While they were saying they couldn’t explain it, I knew exactly what had happened. I had this overwhelming sense the cancer had been lifted from my body over prayer in the prior evening.

Additionally, Ali shared her love and appreciation of the doctors throughout the process.

While I put my healing ultimately on God, none of it would have been possible without the work of my team of doctors. I had to walk the path with my doctors to get to where I am.

WALKING MIRACLE LESSONS

In awe of Ali’s story and the way in which she shared it, I asked how being a walking miracle changes life perspective.

We live in a society of plan, plan, plan. Then achieve, achieve, achieve. Going through cancer gave me an incredible gift of perspective. On one hand, there is what society deems important. Conversely, there is what you and the Lord find as your purpose.

Ali also talked about the outpouring of love from friends and their community. This love being not only for her, but also Scott and the kids as well. In fact, she thought…

I need to love better and do better after this!

Friends sitting with her on the bathroom floor, sick after treatments, while others cared for her children as their own. The Cobb family is truly grateful for the wonderful support they received and continue to see.

Without a doubt, love given through not only word, but also action. One evening I told Scott – I didn’t know this many people liked us! (Said through laughter!)

The biggest blessings to Ali are being alive as well as the deepened faith by their entire family.

Woman, Mother, Walking Miracle- husband and wife pictured together smiling on a patio at dusk

Ali and Scott enjoying a summer evening with her in good health.

WONDER & WHIMSY DESIGN

2021 has been Ali’s year.

I feel more normal again. Particularly like I have the mental and physical capacity to take on more. Even make decisions where before I felt too much in a fog to do so.

Subsequently, feeling mentally and physically better along with the desire to do something for herself, Ali launched her business, Wonder & Whimsy Design.

I absolutely love Christmas. Armed with the encouragement of those closest to me and feeling the desire to do something for myself, I decided to start a business centered around decorating Christmas trees and mantels. Previously, I’d done some decorating for friends and a few events on the side. Ultimately, I want to share my love of Christmas and the beauty of it with others.

Check out @wonder.and.whimsydesign on Instagram.

Furthermore, get signed up for 2022 soon. This walking miracle already has a wait list!

SUMMARY- WALKING MIRACLE

Ali and her family are faithful servants of God, gaining strength through the Holy Spirit even in difficult times.

There were times I couldn’t find the words. I would get in the trap of thinking, “why me?” In those moments, I turned to gospel and Christian worship music. Memorizing the music, in particular, and reciting the words became a great comfort.

The chorus to Raise a Hallelujah being one of her favorites:

I’m gonna SING, in the middle of the STORM

Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar

Up from the ashes, HOPE will arise

Death is the defeated, the King is ALIVE!

As you walk into this holiday season, let Ali’s inspiring story of hope be a gentle reminder of the miracle of Christmas and this wonderful time of year.

Thank you, Ali and the entire Cobb family for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

 

How many times have you heard me cry out

“God please take this”?

How many times have you given me strength to 

Just keep breathing? 

Oh I need you

God, I need you now.

– Lyrics from Need You Now by Plumb

 

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WOMAN, MOTHER, SERVANT LEADER

WOMAN, MOTHER, SERVANT LEADER

Woman, Mother, Servant Leader

From a Middle East bomb shelter to the founder of non-profit Purposeful Living, Inc., Nadine McGowan shares an incredible story in Woman, Mother, Servant Leader.

I’m in awe of her resiliency and steadfast trust in God. Not only is she completely inspiring, but it was also easy to see how she leads. From the heart while simultaneously focused on listening to God and fulfilling His purpose through her work.

Nadine was born and raised in the Middle East. Lebanon more specifically. 

Ever since I was born, there has been a war. I remember being an 8-year-old and sitting with my cousins in a bomb shelter. In fact, I spent a lot of my childhood sitting in bomb shelters. This particular time though, I remember we were playing a guessing game of where the bomb would land. This was normal.

Can you even imagine? I know I for one, cannot.

However, at the age of 10, Nadine, her two younger siblings, and her parents moved to the United States. First to Long Island, NY and eventually to the Detroit, MI area.

10-year-old kids can be cruel, and I didn’t want to be the weird kid. Therefore, I learned English very quickly in my efforts to fit in.

She now embraces the weird. Without a doubt, it’s given her a different perspective on diversity than most. Moreover, Nadine has a grateful heart. As a result, finds herself encouraging her own son to be kind to others who are different. 

Enjoy Nadine’s inspiring journey of faith, hope, and purpose in Woman, Mother, Servant Leader.

Woman, Mother, Servant Leader- man and woman with adolescent son with a window in the background

Nadine, Jim, and Josiah enjoy an evening out for quality family time!

CUTCO SALES EXECUTIVE

Even though Nadine’s degree was in elementary education, upon student teaching she had an epiphany. Frankly, her heart wasn’t in it.

On the other hand, she was selling Cutco knives to put herself through college and loved it. Through Vector Marketing and a combination of sales and leadership roles, she felt at home.

I did really well at Cutco. They saw, in particular, the leadership in me and while still in college, I was promoted to run a branch office. Crazy, right? I then took on the District Manager role and trained college students. Teaching and coaching, but in a entirely different manner than I ever imagined.

The district manager role brought her from Detroit to Indianapolis, IN. While in pursuit of establishing her own community in a new city, she became a Christian.

Before, religion was just a checkmark for me. However, as I plugged more and more into the community of faith, my questions started changing. What was the impact I was going to have on this world? How could I be of service and help? I was studying scripture and could feel myself changing.

FAMILY

Nadine and her husband, Jim, were married in 2008. Along with Nadine, Jim was also employed by Cutco.

We wanted to start our family and embarked on infertility struggles. Simultaneously, I was changing as a person. Spiritually, mentally, even professionally and that was confusing for some, including my work family. Ultimately, I decided to leave Cutco and a week after I did, we got pregnant.  

Their son, Josiah, was born in 2013.

Woman, Mother, Servant Leader- Nadine pictured in sunglasses with son and husband at baseball game

Nadine and Jim with Josiah taking in a baseball game for some family fun.


Nadine describes herself pre-motherhood as busy, driven, self-focused, but with a servant’s heart hidden underneath.

Nonetheless, after motherhood she discovered her servant leader’s heart was the hidden tool. 

I began coaching people. Initially, it was previous co-workers who wanted advice. However, I began to feel called to coach full-time. Bringing my business to life shifted me. Specifically, I had a deep desire to work with women.

MISSION TRIP- SERVANT LEADER

On a mission trip to South Africa, everything seemed to come into focus for Nadine. 

Here I am on a mission trip to South Africa to help and serve these women. However, I couldn’t help but notice even with superficially nothing, the women in Africa seemed happy. I’m coaching women back in the United States who have successful careers and seemingly everything they could want, yet they were miserable. It didn’t add up.

Nadine began to think about the differences and landed on this:

We have become a completely isolated culture. The women I worked with were unhappy because they lacked community. Women desperately wanted to be supported by other women. To know they aren’t alone. To hear, “I support you. I believe in you.”

And as they say, the rest is history. 

It should be noted, there was still a lot of work to be done and plans to figure out. Arguably, this is still happening for Nadine and her team. Even so, the premise for Purposeful Living, Inc. was born in this moment of clarity.

Woman, Mother, Servant Leader- Purposeful Living Inc. logo

PURPOSEFUL LIVING, INC.

The Africa mission trip was in October of 2015. Purposeful Living, Inc., however, didn’t launch until January of 2017. Consequently, the 15 months between were spent in prayer, visioning, talking to people, and allowing God’s hand to guide her servant leader’s heart.

I came back from Africa and just wanted to give coaching away. We’re such an isolated culture and once I came into the realization of what was missing, my servant leader heart wanted to act. As I described my thoughts, someone said, “this sounds like a non-profit.” That definitely seemed like the next right thing, so I started down the path.

The vision became providing authentic community. Creating a girl posse even. Through a business coach and consultant, Nadine knew she wanted a faith-based organization to support the modern woman.

We define the modern woman as the woman who looks like she has it all together, but behind closed doors she’s hurting, searching, or lonely. We’re here to talk about real things with real women. To heal, to grow, to inspire, encourage, and empower women to be who they were created to be.

Nadine’s key steps to founding a non-profit:

First, trusting what God was putting in her heart through prayer.

Second, stepping down from other volunteer obligations.

Finally, putting an effective board in place. 

I prayed so hard on the board. In fact, it ended up being key because it served as accountability for me. Someone to report to. The wisdom and council they provided was invaluable. Effectively, showing me the benefits of surrounding yourself with the right people and how results come.

Woman, Mother, Servant Leader- Nadine with 9 other women posing in front of a green wall with Purposeful Living, Inc. logo

Nadine with the leadership team of Purposeful Living, Inc.

SERVANT LEADER

Nadine dove in headfirst. The first fundraising conference raised $17,000. There were 125 ladies in attendance in the rain! 

Women were hungry for a purpose and to serve. It was amazing and simultaneously overwhelming. Our first-year goal was to serve 50 women through coaching. Conversely, we served 307. I just continued to lead us to the next right thing. It was overwhelming to keep up. Our biggest challenge was understanding exactly who we served and how.

Nadine continued to pray on this. Feeling as though God would give her the answer in a “here’s the next right thing” manner. Starting with events, then workshops, then bringing on and training volunteer coaches, and eventually groups.

It took about two years for us to decide who we are and who we are not. Big picture, I just keep envisioning 100s of thousands of women dressed in glowing white, linking arms together sharing in community and faith.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP/NON-PROFIT

Whether your goal is starting a non-profit like Nadine or venturing into business for yourself, I asked Nadine for words of wisdom in tackling what may seem like an impossible endeavor.

Try to figure out early what you do and what you don’t do. As I look back, figuring that out earlier on would have saved some time and effort. What do you do and for whom? What is your mission? Make this as simple as possible and you’ll be more effective.

What’s next for Purposeful Living, Inc.?

Being a culture shifter. We want to reach the unreachable. Women who are at home depressed. Lost in their day to day, we want to reach them.

Because of Nadine’s tumultuous upbringing in a war-torn country, she recognizes her desire for safety and stability. In addition, she has a strong sense of fighting against entitlement. Whether consciously or not, these traits have found their way into what Nadine has created in Purposeful Living, Inc.

We believe in authentic love and support. Moreover, support without strings attached.  

Purposeful Living, Inc. being the constant. The stability and safety for women when they may not feel this anywhere else in their lives.

SUMMARY- SERVANT LEADER

As Nadine began to evolve as a person, it was met with some resistance.

“What are you, trying to be Mother Teresa?”

Change comes with resistance whether it’s from within or from those surrounding us. Ultimately, Nadine followed her heart and put her trust in an unwavering faith in God.

Just do the next right thing.

Finally, I asked her best piece of advice in motherhood. 

Don’t let your child’s choices define your identity. Allow theirs to be theirs. In fact, their decision doesn’t mean something about you. Women, especially, can get so caught up in feeling their children’s life choices reflect on them. Stay attuned into what they want and do your best not to force your own will upon them.  

Nadine may have what some consider an unconventional path to get to where she is, but frankly, that’s the beauty. Actually, this servant leader’s journey made her who she is today and created a non-profit honoring everything she believes in.

Thank you, Nadine, for sharing your story with The Mom Huddle!

 

 

Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.  

– Brene Brown

 

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WOMAN, MOTHER, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR

WOMAN, MOTHER, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR

Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor

Admittedly, it’s taken me about 40 years to recognize, but there are individuals who view life as a victim of circumstance. Conversely, there are the resilient. Those with an innate ability to rise. In fact, use their circumstance as a jumping block to create something beautiful. Story after story of breast cancer survivors exhibit this incredible resiliency and outlook on life. I’m extremely excited to share with you the story of Cari Hahn in Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor.

Cari took what some would call a terrible, even hopeless situation and turned it into intentional purpose and fulfillment. Giving back to others and creating hope even when, as she says, it felt like she had none. As the founder of Karma, Candles & Kind, she utilized her therapeutic candle making hobby and pivoted into a thriving business focused on hope and giving back.

Recently, she and husband Matt, added repurposed fire hose products to the candle business becoming Clutch & Kindle. Realizing their platform provided not only hope in cancer diagnosis, but also as a forum to break down the mental health stigma specific to first responders.

You really can overcome hard things. This is why we share our story. To give others hope. People are capable of much more than they believe. Don’t be hopeless. 

Cari was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 at the age of 40. Through chemo treatments, raising twin teenage daughters, and supporting her firefighter husband, enjoy hearing Cari’s story of resilience and self-reflection. She’s labeled as a breast cancer survivor but shows us this is only one of many embodied labels.

Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor- Cari pictured with scarf on her head with twin daughters in cheerleading uniforms

Cari attended Carly and Grace’s activities in either a scarf or wig during her battle with cancer.

DIAGNOSIS

As you can imagine, hearing the words, “you have cancer,” is a scary, confusing, even gut-wrenching diagnosis. After the initial shock wore off, Cari took the mindset her oncologist encouraged… trying to do everything as normal as possible.

“I’m going to be so good at cancer,” was her mindset. She is now telling me this five years removed with laughter and a bit of an eyeroll at herself.

However, this type A mentality did support her in getting through the 80-90 trips to the hospital for treatments. Additionally, the brave face she continuously put on for her daughters and husband. Even the full-time job she continued to work only missing a total of 3 weeks during her battle. 

The problem wasn’t with this mentality per say. In truth, she agreed it’s what got her through a very low point. However, the brave face was exhausting.

After cancer, I was tired. Exhausted really. Physically, emotionally, deep into my being tired. Women are great care takers but just not so much of ourselves.

She went out to talk about motherhood in general.

Being a mom is so overwhelming in our society. Think of all we’re expected to do. We have a hard time practicing self-care. It feels selfish. I think the stress of this is related to the uptick we are seeing of sickness, even cancer.

BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR

Cari beat cancer. Only to have an entirely different battle take form.

First, she lost her job. Feeling hurt and defeated, confusion of what to do next set in. 

Additionally, her husband, a firefighter for the last 22 years, was suffering with alcoholism fueled by coping with her cancer diagnosis as well as PTSD of a firefighter.

Matt is a first responder and there are just things they can’t unsee. He’s responding to the worst day of someone else’s life. The problem is most of them in that position (first responders) won’t ask for help or even talk about it.

Depression and helplessness set in for a bit. However, in typical Cari fashion, after a brief period of reflection, she shifted quickly to action. 

I have a degree in art therapy, I just never put it to use. Candle making became my therapy. My basement transformed into a healing space for me mentally. The business was never about money, but rather allowing me to heal.

Playing with scents and creating became an outlet. She then began Karma Candles & Kind. As the candle and accessory business took off and Matt continued in his recovery, they realized this creative outlet was an incredible therapy for them both. In addition, it gave the couple a platform to share their story of encouragement and hope to others. Clutch & Kindle which means Perfect Fire. 

As I look back on my cancer diagnosis, the treatment from my former employer, alcoholism with my husband, and all the things we’ve been through as a family, I wouldn’t change anything.


Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor- Cari with husband Matt standing linked arms in front of the firehouse door

Cari & Matt relaunched Karma, Candles & Kind recently as Clutch & Kindle.


 

FAMILY

Cari and Matt have twin daughters, Carly and Grace, who are now seniors in high school.

Age appropriately, of course, Matt and I have always talked to the girls very openly. Sharing with them and creating a trusted space. They are wise beyond their years, and I think it has to do with our open discussions. We sat them down and talked to them about cancer. Always being transparent, even beyond cancer when I go in for scans and I’m scared. We talk about it. It’s important to be open and transparent. They know my truth.

The Hahn house has become the safe space for not only the girls but also their friends. Cari shared even recently on a Saturday night their house being full of teenagers. She sat in the midst of them on the couch in their living room feeling all is as it should be. 

I’ve found that when you face your own mortality, you become much more intentional with the life you’ve been given.

This intentionality has had a direct effect on not only Matt, but the twins too.

As an example, Cari shared the story of Carly and Grace’s friends asking Matt to pray with them over something they were struggling with. Exemplifying the couple’s unique ability to connect, live intentionally, and share hope through struggle.

 

LEARNING FROM CANCER

After cancer, Cari looked at her lifestyle and made a few key changes. 

First, prioritizing herself.

Take the time and fill your own cup. If you don’t, you can’t fill anyone else’s. Filling your cup is prevention for your own health. Stop putting yourself in last place.

Second, holistic living.

After cancer, I looked at all of our cleaning product, deodorant, and even make-up. And I take a lot of supplements. There are so many toxins and chemicals in our environment. Look at what you are not only putting in your body, but what you are around.

Lastly, understanding what impact her charitable giving is having.

October is a frustrating month for me. I don’t feel like we need to talk about cancer awareness at this point. We need research efforts for stage 4 cancer. Metastatic cancer numbers haven’t really changed in 30 years. Therefore, Clutch & Kindle donation efforts are intentionally made to organizations like Twisted Pink and IWIN- Indiana Women in Need Foundation. Organizations focused on research.

SUMMARY- WOMAN, MOTHER, BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR

A cancer diagnosis becomes a forced reflective process. One which Cari is grateful for. In truth, it completely shifted the trajectory of her purpose.

You know you are in the right space when it’s what you want to do all the time.  

While Cari beat cancer and Matt is 3.5 years sober, they both still live with an underlying sense of anticipation. Things could change in an instant. Their accountability comes in supporting others and sharing their story.

On a recent trip, Cari and Matt celebrated their 22nd Anniversary, 5 years cancer free, and Cari’s 46th birthday. As they enter a new chapter, soon being empty nesters, the couple is excited to be on this new venture together.

When Cari began her cancer fight, she told the oncologist, “I want to see the girls graduate.” As she approaches this milestone, she cheerfully shares her mentality… looking for the good in situations is what carried her through and continues to do so. 

You really can overcome hard things. People will say, you are so brave and strong. But remember, sometimes brave and strong is just getting up and taking a shower. Or asking for help. That is brave and strong. 

Thank you, Cari (and Matt) for sharing your story.

Woman, Mother, Breast Cancer Survivor- Cari and Matt standing by a firetruck with smiles

Cari and Matt have been married for 22 years. They are enjoying this new venture together.

CAUSES

Want to support Cari and Matt’s business? Check out Clutch & Kindle.

Interested in the causes they support? Find those here:

Indiana Women in Need Foundation

Twisted Pink

Indiana Public Safety Foundation

 

 

Let light shine out of darkness.

– Anonymous

 

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GAME CHANGER MOTHERHOOD ADVICE

GAME CHANGER MOTHERHOOD ADVICE

MOTHERHOOD ADVICE

During this motherhood journey do you ever think, I wish someone would have just told me… (fill in the blank)? Amazing nuggets of motherhood advice are like gold.

Sure, we absolutely get unsolicited, full of judgement, and even terrible advice at times too. On the other hand, sometimes we get a little dose of info that winds up being a game changer to the way we parent. The way we approach a situation. Even the way we feel.

Welcome to the Woman, Mother, Motherhood Advice feature. Contrary to the rest of the Woman, Mother, [enter a label] series for 2021, this is featuring tips and tricks from The Mom Huddle at large. And I LOVE it!

I solicited advice on everything from engagement with kids to self-care and everything in between. And The Mom Huddle answered.

Enjoy these motherhood advice tips from a team of experts!

Women, Mother, Motherhood Advice- black background with ADVICE written in white

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

BABY ADVICE

First, breastfeeding and leaky boobs (oh yeah, we’re going there):

“Instead of investing in breastfeeding pads – disposable or reusable, both of which are NOT comfortable (preach!!) – all it takes is when you feel your milk start to let down, take a free hand and press firmly against the leaky nipple. The result? It will stop your milk flow and keep you dry.”

Jordan shared this tidbit and said she didn’t learn this until baby #3.

“It was a GAME CHANGER for me! God gives us these amazing things to feed our baby, surely He gives us a way to stop them from flowing.”

Who knew? (not me… I didn’t know this was a thing!)

SAYING NO – EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE CUTE

“As tough as it can feel, kids need to hear a firm “no,” have boundaries, and get in a routine.”

This advice was so spot on but can be one of the hardest when that cute little face looks up at you wanting to break all the rules. 

Expert advice from The Mom Huddle though, stand firm momma. You are doing great!

As I read this advice, I was taken back to Bryce being about 4 years old. He would go to sleep in his bed, but inevitably by 3 in the morning, the little ninja would sneak in and curl up next to me. We’ve established this before, but I sleep like the dead. In turn, this wee hour of the morning visit never really bothered me. In fact, half the time I didn’t even know he was there until the morning alarm went off.

It was cute and I loved the snuggles.

However, it became a nightly thing. Then it began to get earlier and earlier. Eventually leading to him not wanting to start the night in his bed. My allowance of letting loose on one boundary turned into months of trouble with bedtime which hadn’t existed before.

Boundaries, routine and “no” in their safe place with us as parents make them understand rules and feel safe in their environment. Even when they may act as though they want to break all the rules. #toughlove

EMPOWERING KIDS

On the other hand, find opportunities to also say YES, YOU CAN, or YOU ARE RIGHT!

This advice came from Dr. Nerissa Bauer and empowering kids.

“Yes, we need to protect our children and set limits and boundaries. But what if occasionally you did say YES? How empowering would that be to a child? Along with this, a rule of thumb if you find yourself constantly saying no, try to find at least 3-5 other ways to say yes. That way kids are hearing more empowering statements than negative ones.”

For the record, this doesn’t mean a yes to something compromising your family values. Create scenarios though in which your child will get a yes.

As an example, signing your pre-teen up for social media may be off the table for your family, but allowing your child to stay up 15 extra minutes to finish watching a show with you doesn’t feel like a deal breaker. In conclusion, pick your battles.

Being present and thinking through where you want to empower your child can support you in setting up situations where you can give them an empowering YES!

(Totally going to be utilizing and thinking through this for the record!!)

RAISING TEENAGERS

Remember our February feature Adenike Makinde?

“We bring stuff into our lives because it’s what we expect. I just always rejected the idea.”

While this statement can be applied to basically everything in life, she was specifically talking about her approach in each phase with her children. Rejecting the idea that teenagers are bad or will always get into trouble, as examples.

While it’s true, there will likely be moments of rebellion as teenagers figure out their new boundaries and grow into themselves, their entire existence cannot be summed up by a few labels. Just like yours can’t.

Truth bomb.

Her advice is to keep this in mind. Reject the notion to generalize teenagers.

Additionally, talk to them. Keep talking. Even when they don’t want to talk, they are listening. And watching.

Adenike has a very open and honest relationship with her kids. Sharing not only the wins and successes, but also loss and frustration. Obviously, keeping an eye on it being age appropriate, but knowing kids are better off in the long run having open and honest dialogue. Even feeling comfortable knowing they have a sounding board in you as a parent.

Woman, Mother, Motherhood Advice- black background with HERE TO HELP in white

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

KEEPING YOUR IDENTITY

Have you gone through a period where you don’t know who you are any more?

Frankly, I can’t raise both of my hands high enough. As I reflect on this, it seems to coincide with shifts for the kids as well. As an example, from babies to toddlers, from toddlers to starting school, kindergarten to first grade, grade school into middle school… you get the idea. Identity as a mother tied up in what you are doing in the moment for and with your kids.

As this evolves, it can be confusing and even stray away from where we felt a fulfilling purpose.

It’s easy to lose ourselves in the midst of all of the labels we wear, especially the MOM one. Loved these little nuggets to think about from some of our followers.

Jennifer’s motherhood advice:

“Make kids a PART of your world but not the center of it. God chose YOU to be your child’s mother, which means your child needs YOU and all the things that make you unique! Don’t lose yourself in motherhood – rather share yourself with your kids. They will appreciate it much more in the long run!”

Tanya left us with this nugget as well about making time for your marriage. Date nights.

“This year, my husband and I set up a weekly Wednesday date night. Whether it’s a fancy dinner, a bike ride, an escape room adventure, or eating way too much Chinese food on the couch in our pajamas, it’s a scheduled time to connect. I look forward to it every week. I am consistently reminded of why we chose to do life together which brings joy to our marriage, our parenting, and life in general.”

Challenge- Take 10 minutes this week and do something for YOU and only YOU.

HOME REMEDIES

Recently the bees have been TERRIBLE at the baseball fields. Everyone is getting stung, including me last week. This prompted a conversation about home remedies for bee stings I thought I would share.

Baking soda paste is actually one of the top suggestions (multiple sources!). Mixing baking soda with water to make a paste and put on the sting can be very effective in alleviating pain and the itching. However, most ball fields don’t have a box of baking soda just sitting around (hmmm, maybe an addition to the first aid kit?!).

Alternatively, making a little mud paste (yes, dirt and water) can be a decent substitute until you can get home to baking soda.

A few other remedies for stings in general? Witch hazel, nail polish remover, ice, an onion sliced, crushed garlic cloves, and even peanut butter. 

Obviously, this is for someone not allergic to bee stings, but just for general ease of the swelling and itching.

What other home remedies do you have in your family? Throw them in the comments!

SUMMARY- MOTHERHOOD ADVICE

“Never say never. Ever.”

Mollie leaves us with this nugget having kids ranging from late 20s to 12.

It’s hard to deny this motherhood advice: It’s really best never to say never, because well, you never know! Surprises around every corner are normal in motherhood.

Maybe pre-kids, you said you would NEVER put your child on one of those kid backpack leash things. And then you spend one day at an amusement park with a toddler and realize its genius.

Or maybe you think you will NEVER be one of those parents who raises their voice with their children. Bahahahaha!!! Funny now, right? Your dog never talked back to you.

Point is, every mom is fighting a battle we know nothing about. In turn, give them some grace. Meanwhile, throw up a mirror and give yourself that same grace.

Yes, even when it’s time to admit you broke one of your NEVER statements. Is it really that big of a deal? In fact, it probably makes for a great story now.

Find your joy and focus on your joy.

I hope you enjoyed some of these motherhood advice tips no matter what stage you are in with your kids. Maybe this triggered a memory of a tip you want to share with The Mom Huddle. Feel free to share in the comments other advice you would give for ANY stage of motherhood.

 

Your most valuable parenting skill is learning to manage yourself first.  

– Dr. Laura Markham

 

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WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR

WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR

WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR

According to a recent survey, 81% of Americans think they should write a book. EIGHTY ONE PERCENT. That is roughly 200 million people. Now, I know a lot of people. Okay, not 200 million, but let’s talk percentages. Of the people I know personally, TWO have written books and ONE went through a publisher. Consequently, I’m proud to introduce you to the ONE, Jennifer Wright.

Jennifer and I grew up in the same community. You know, Small Town by John Mellencamp kind of place.  However, life has taken her on a great adventure since departing her roots for an undergrad degree at Indiana State and then on to Indiana University for a master’s in journalism.

She met her husband, Jonathan, who is an Air Force pilot. Accordingly, this began her travels around the world and inspiration for storytelling around every bend.

From Germany to South Korea to New Mexico (more than once) to Vegas and everywhere in between, including visiting 13 countries in one year, Jennifer and Jonathan have been on a journey. Not only a journey as a military family, but also as a real time research expedition for Jennifer’s curious mind.

More on that to come.

They have two children, son Matthew (10) and daughter Meredith (7).

Her other baby, newly published book If It Rains, dropped to bookstores on July 6th, 2021. If you haven’t read it yet, do so now!! In fact, I read it in 3 days. Yep, it’s that good.

Enjoy getting to know our August feature in Woman, Mother, Author… Jennifer Wright.

WRITING BACKGROUND

From an incredibly young age, Jennifer has had her nose in a book. Eventually, this led to what she thought was her calling. Journalism. On the other hand, God was making alternate plans.

“I was a journalist with an NPR station and quickly realized I hated it. It took a certain level of callous to shove a microphone in someone’s face as they watched their house burn down to get a story. I couldn’t do it.”

Even so, the urge to write continued to tug. After spending a few years abroad for Jonathan’s Air Force assignment, the growing Wright family moved back to the states in 2011.

“I had a desire to write and had been writing short stories and other articles while we were abroad. Then when Matthew was a baby, I finally settled in and wrote my first manuscript while we were on assignment in Las Vegas.”

Pause with me for a moment… she WROTE A BOOK while TAKING CARE OF A NEWBORN.

Impressive.

WRITING PURSUIT

Was this book, If It Rains, you might be asking? No. In fact, Jennifer has spent 10 years in total writing, editing, writing some more, and living through 100s of rejections on what she considered great work at the time. Her advice on following a dream.

“You know when you have an inkling inside your heart, where you know what brings you joy. That’s what you need to pursue. Absolutely do it. But I also think if that calling is on your heart, you have to have perseverance. Especially, for example, in the writing game. There were 10 years between when I started writing and when publication of If It Rains happened. I absolutely wanted to quit. There were times I was just crying out to God, why does no one recognize this? But I had this nudge… just keep going.”

When I asked if she would try to get the first two manuscripts published now that she has one published and another on the way next summer, she shook her head no.

“At this point I don’t think so. I mean maybe I will go back and edit them one day knowing what I know now, but there is something about those being mine. Being the start of my writing that honestly feels like I should keep them to myself.”

Woman, Mother, Author- Cover of the book If It Rains with a young woman walking through tall grass with long braids

IF IT RAINS INSPIRATION

If It Rains became an idea for Jennifer as a story line in 2014. Rocking her then infant daughter Meredith as she watched a dust storm roll in across the New Mexico skyline.

“I’m naturally curious and was just in awe of this dust storm. I started researching why these exist, how they form, and it took me down the path of the 1930s and the Great Depression. One documentary I highly recommend is The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns. All of the historical information began to create a story in my head about two sisters living during this era.”

I really want for everyone reading this blog post to go out and read the book, in turn I’m not going to give away too many of the story details. Even so, one of the many cool things about this book is the advice Jennifer was given about writing in general.

“Write what you know. Kathryn and Melissa, the main characters, are loosely based on my own sister Erin’s and my relationship. She is also in a military family, so we don’t get to see each other much, but we text daily and talk all the time. You’ll recognize traces of the motherly instinct of Erin coming out in Melissa’s character. And Kathryn being strong willed and childish at times just like myself (said with a grin).”

Another influence on the characters and the storyline? Wizard of Oz, one of Jennifer’s favorites. Consequently, Kathryn’s adventure in If It Rains was inspired by Dorothy’s encounter with the tinman, lion, and scarecrow.

In hindsight, I absolutely see the connection.

CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL FICTION

If It Rains is considered a Christian historical fiction. It was important to Jennifer the book have elements of faith being challenged and the ways in which the characters grew and responded. And although the book is fiction, it’s historical elements are researched and take the reader on a very realistic journey into what life was like on the plains of Oklahoma during the Great Depression.

“My goal in writing, specifically Christian historical fiction, is for the reader to be challenged, encouraged, and inspired to read other books. So much can be learned through history even if the characters and story themselves are fiction.”

WRITING WHILE A MOTHER

At this point, I was in awe of the fact Jennifer has not only written several manuscripts, but all while also being a mother. Specifically writing her newly published book while having a toddler and an infant. My next question was, HOW ON EARTH DID YOU DO THIS?

“Planning was key. When they were little, I would write during nap time and whenever I could sneak in writing time. It took me almost two years to write the first draft of If It Rains. I can very distinctly remember sitting in the parking lot picking up my son from kindergarten and having my laptop on the steering wheel.”

How do you focus and shift so quickly in those small snippets of time?

“Having a limited window, I had to be focused. I’m a hard-core planner. Therefore, I knew in each writing session what was going to happen in that chapter beginning to end. I had to have that planning so when I sat down, I could get creative then in those 30-minutes with the story. Unquestionably, being a mom and having little ones changed the way I write.”

Woman, Mother, Author- Jennifer pictured with her husband, son, daughter, and family dog in a desert sand family pic

Woman, Mother, Author Jennifer with her family enjoying their desert destination.

THE MOM HUDDLE- WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR STYLE

The Wright family has moved a lot over the years. Friendships have been key for Jennifer to maintain not only her sanity, but also her writing.

She has a lot of author friends and is an avid reader of all their books, both for pleasure as well as to learn.

Jennifer credits the publishing of If It Rains to one of her friends and mentors, Samantha.

“She encouraged me to keep going, even when all of the rejections were coming in and I was ready to give up. She told me; you have something here. Just keep going. This is good.”

We all need a friend like Samantha.

She also credits books as being some of her best friends. Books help her get through those lonely times, especially when moving to yet another unfamiliar place.

“They (books) can be a great escape and as silly as this may sound, like some of your best friends. Picking up one of your favorites and getting lost in the story is a lot like visiting an old friend.”

FAITH JOURNEY

How does your own faith come through in the characters?

“I think it’s important to talk about faith in a way that isn’t all about happiness. Sometimes your faith is challenged and that’s where you grow. Additionally, I want to be authentic but also provide inspiration. You can go through horrible things and come out with your faith even stronger. It’s a message I wanted to portray throughout the entire book.”

When working with a publisher, how much of the book did you have to change to make it into what they wanted?

Tyndale was wonderful. They made suggestions, but it always felt like suggestions and not forcing my hand. I was able to keep the integrity of the story as I wanted, including the ending which was really important to me to have it wrap up the way it did.”

And no, I’m not going to share the ending with you. Nice try.

SUMMARY- WOMAN, MOTHER, AUTHOR

Jennifer’s busy juggling writing, publishing, and promoting her book in addition to being a mother. When asked what advice she had for other mom’s feeling themselves torn and trying to balance: 

“Be present. For Jonathan and I, we never want our kids to feel like mom or dad are putting their careers before them. In turn, I do my best to give them attention when they are with me.”

A good mother day to Jennifer is one where she has been engaging, had a good night’s sleep, and they’ve done what the kids want to do. Feeling as if “Mom’s ours today.”

Days often get filled with “have to do’s”. She ensures the kids have opportunity to engage in a way they want to engage. Whether that’s laying on the floor and coloring, reading, going to see a movie, whatever they decide.

“As moms, we build up in our head and think we have to do really elaborate things with our kids. In reality, they just want to be able to make decisions and feel engaged.”

How has this perspective influenced the book you wrote?

“Every mother has an aspirational mother figure they want to be. For me, Melissa was the character in the book who played a mother figure of who I aspire to be. She’s kind, generous, caring, and who I can be on my good days. But more realistically, I’m probably Kathryn who can be immature and snarky. Every mom has that dichotomy of who they are and who they want to be. Move forward with grace for yourself and do your best.”

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing pieces of your writing journey and motherhood experience with us. If It Rains is fantastic, and we can’t wait until next summer for Come Down Somewhere!

 

You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself. 

– Glinda, Wizard of Oz

 

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