Souls On Fire Feature: Melissa

Melissa is someone I’ve known since I was a child, and we reconnected on a deep level when she volunteered to do a live boudoir session in my private Facebook group.  Watching her come alive during that session (and after) has been an amazing thing to witness.  We called that shoot “Untomboy Melissa.”  I wanted her to see a different side of herself, and that she did.  Her transformation since that first boudoir session is too awesome for words.  I was honored to have her as part of the group shoot.

Today, I share with you Melissa’s Souls On Fire story.

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I have spent my entire adult life worrying more about others than myself. I went straight from being someone’s daughter & the oldest of 4 children to being a mom, then a wife, then a single mom, then a wife again and having two more children.
My middle child and only daughter is now 20 yrs old. She is on the Autism Spectrum and has intellectual delays. She is very high functioning, it is amazing the progress she has made and continues to make BUT she is still very much like a young child, 7-9 yrs old or younger in most aspects of life. This was not part of the plan! this is NOT the way it was supposed to be, by this point in life with our children ages 17, 20 & 24, we were supposed to be free of caring for them full-time. They were supposed to be independent, fully functioning human beings!

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A special needs parents grieves, maybe almost daily but maybe not consciously, for the loss of the expectation they had when planning their family. Don’t get me wrong, my daughter is an amazing person and her innocent unfiltered view if the world is humbling and refreshing and exhausting all at once.

My husband of 20 years is a workaholic, he does not often relax or sit still. While this has always enabled me to be home and available to care for our children and him, it has also enabled me to be in the caretaker RUT of always looking out for everyone but me.
Stay with me, I’m getting to my moment of clarity and the beginning of a spark that started the fire that made me realize I needed to take care of me!

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My mom. When I lived at home as a teen we were like oil & water. When at 20 I moved out and had a child of my own we became fast friends! She was my rock, my biggest supporter & adviser. Through wedding/marriage #1, divorce, marriage #2 2 more children she never faltered. When it came to learning of and accepting my daughter’s disabilities she was the BEST! She became my biggest helper & often planned activities to give me a break. I don’t have enough words to describe her. In 2012, I was given the opportunity to work side by side with her in the elementary school cafeteria, a job she had held for more than 10 years at that point. It was awesome getting to work everyday with my best friend.

self love photo shoot pittsburgh

In 2014, my youngest child became a teenager(march), my oldest child got married(june), my middle turned 16(august), my baby sister (nearly 18 yrs younger) got married(september) and Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer that had spread to various other places(december). 3 shorts weeks after diagnosis, she was gone. Jan 8, 2015 – my whole world STOPPED.

Becoming a motherless daughter changed my view of the world and myself. Adjusting to the new normal of reality was/is a SLOW and painful process.

Shortly after Mom’s death my brother & his wife announced they were expecting their first child and just a few months after that my son & his wife did the same. I was going to be a grandmother!!! (and an aunt) These events in 2014 and early 2015 gave me the push, started the spark, it was time to take care of me!! Life is too short! and even if you are taking care of everyone around you, you must find time to take care of, appreciate and be just YOU!

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