For Kathy

my story

Our friendship was a treasure.

The kind that comes along only a few times in a lifetime.

It was easy, uncomplicated, and ripe with mutual admiration.

We met on the front steps of our town’s preschool, when our first-borns were just three years old. We held their hands, as their tiny bodies and too-big backpacks made their way to the main entrance each morning. We each balanced a squirmy baby boy on our hip.

She was president of the local Mom’s Club and knew EVERYONE. I had moved to our rural town just a month earlier, and knew NO ONE. But that’s where our differences ended.

After drop-off, we’d often linger and chat. We’d go back to each other’s houses for playdates or meet up at the local library, farm, or music class. Our second-borns became fast friends, and the four of us spent many mornings together.

As stay-at-home Mama Bears, we took our jobs very seriously. We embraced our roles and did everything by the books:
Prenatal vitamins, check.
Exposure to music and literature in-utero, check.
Tummy time, check.
Homemade organic veggie purées, check.
Calendars full of play dates, check.
Nutritious meals, consistent nap schedules and loving discipline, check, check, check.

If there was a Mom test, we would have passed with flying colors.

But this was no surprise. Throughout our lives, we had always been high achievers. Learning came easily. We graduated at the top of our classes, and were familiar with high SAT scores, advanced degrees, and gold tassels on our graduation robes.

And yet, our precious, perfect preschoolers puzzled us. They weren’t communicating with the world in the same way that other children were. We followed pages 1-49 of the Motherhood Manual to a T. So why weren’t our kiddos hitting some of the milestones listed on page 50? We scratched our heads.

We became proficient researchers, observers, and Googlers. We were reluctantly fluent in the same complex language of concern, hope, overwhelm and if I’m being totally transparent…grief. Our vocabulary was rapidly expanding with acronyms like SLP, PSD, OT, CST and IEP. Basically, we were classmates in the same extreme parenting crash course. Both of us were scared out of our minds, but hell-bent on acing the final exam!

Deep down, we longed for the same thing…To connect with someone else who truly understood the journey we were on, as mamas of children who were uniquely wired. This was our common ground. We quickly realized that a challenging path would be so much easier to navigate, with a trusted companion at our side. And we chose each other.

On mornings when I was feeling particularly lost in the forest of motherhood, hers was the number I’d call. Hers was the empathetic advice I’d crave. I’d hear her making second and third cups of coffee, as she listened intently and offered gentle, loving guidance and wisdom. She rescued me many times. She always knew exactly what I needed to hear, and the way I needed to hear it. This was her gift. One of the many. Feeling lighter, I could soldier on.

We were both natural leaders, trailblazers, and get-shit-done kinds of gals. Not only were we fierce advocates for our own children, we also felt called to be a resource for other parents. Together, we laid the foundation for our school district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Committee, and built it from the ground up. Brick by brick, side by side, along with a group of the most inspiring, incredible moms.

SEPAC became our passion project. We were energized by our mission to educate, strengthen connections between parents and teachers, and increase awareness about disabilities in our community. Instead of feeling helpless, now we felt empowered. Instead of feeling like we were fumbling around in the darkness, now we had a platform to shine light. Instead of feeling alone, now we had a tribe.

We made a great team.

Kathy was a woman of faith, impeccable character, and substance. Life dealt her an incredibly unfair hand, but she played her cards with grace. Positivity was her trademark and most powerful weapon, and she wielded it with defiance. And always, always with a smile.

If you’re reading this, I pray that you never know the ache of saying goodbye to a sister-friend, far too soon. It’s excruciating. It shatters you into a million pieces, leaving an unrecognizable, fragmented version of your former self behind. Nothing makes sense anymore. There is no solid ground. Just sorrow, waves upon waves of it.

The pain of her loss brought me to my knees and demanded that I examine the life that I was living. It got right in my face and spat out questions like an angry drill sergeant…Are YOU living the life you were created for? Are you paying attention? Are you honoring your authentic self? Well, what in the hell are you waiting for?

Because the truth is, time is not on our side. The time to live and love fully is right here, right now. It’s time to allow your inner compass to be your guide, and find your true north. It’s time to seize each day like the precious gift that it is. So get to it.

Amidst the gray clouds of heartbreak after Kathy’s loss, every once in a while, a brilliant ray of light broke through. These moments were fleeting, yet profound. They brought peace and they brought clarity. I would honor Kathy and our friendship by continuing forward on the journey we started together. I would dive headfirst into special education advocacy, with more purpose and passion than ever before. And I would never walk alone, because someone very special would be guiding me from above. đź’›

The IEP Parent's Guide
to the BEST School Year EVER!

A month-by-month checklist of Best Practices 

This is the guide you need
to step up your advocacy game. 

Simple, monthly action steps to keep busy parents on track all year long.
*Relevant for all grade levels and disability categories.*