To Ella on her 11th birthday


Ella Boo,

I remember the day I finally was able to call and make my first appointment with the infertility clinic. I was so excited. I had known from the beginning that having kids was going to be some work and I had been waiting for what seemed like forever to make that call. Many, many months later your daddy was laid up sick on the couch when I was on the other end of the house taking the test that would change our lives. When that second line finally came up, after seeing only one for SO LONG, I screamed my face off and went running into the other room to show him. Within about five minutes everyone I could possibly call knew I was finally pregnant and you were on your way.

Being pregnant with you was amazing and hard. I was grumpy and hot all the time. I passed a ton of kidney stones and developed gallstones. But every kick and nudge made it worth every bit of it. I would lay down and just marvel that there was another human in my belly, punching my bladder and playing kickball with my kidneys. You had long legs even then and you would push and stretch those legs as often as you could. I remember one of the ultrasounds we had, we all laughed because you were all legs….just like your daddy.

The day you were born was the best day of my life. I had imagined and daydreamed for months about what you would look like. I had a c-section and wasn’t able to get a good look at you for hours later. Everyone came to the hospital to be there for your birth. You were so loved, even before you took your first breath. All your people were there to welcome you Earth side. When they placed you in my arms everything in the world was right and I thought my heart couldn’t take how much I loved you. You looked just like your daddy. You still do and I love it. You had a head full of blonde hair that stuck out all over like a baby duck. You were the sweetest, most laid back baby. And I thought I loved your daddy as much as I could, but when I saw him hold you and love on you for the first time I thought my heart would burst.

Watching you grow up is the greatest joy of my life. Being the one to teach you is such a blessing that I will never take for granted. You were so wanted. You were longed and prayed for before I even knew you existed. I know how fortunate I am to be able to stay home with you and see all your successes and be here to comfort you when things are hard. I am so lucky.

Sweet girl, you are more than I could have ever thought to pray for. You are smart. You are immeasurably kind and tenderhearted. You love people with your whole heart. You don’t know any other way. You are goofy in the most amazing way and one of my most favorite things about you is your ability to laugh at yourself. You never take yourself too seriously and that will be such a gift to you as you grow up. You have empathy for hurting people that belies your years. You are such a good friend and you will fight for the people you love.

It’s hard to believe that you are eleven. My sweet little squishy, long legged baby has grown into a beautiful, sweet, long legged preteen. And it has gone by in the blink of an eye.

My prayer for you, my love, is that you will remain tenderhearted. That all the yucky stuff going on in the world will not harden that precious heart you have. That you will continue to be a fierce friend and someone who people can count on. Success in this world is measured by so many things that, in the end, don’t mean very much. But if I can teach you one thing in these years that I have you home with me, I hope I can teach you to love well. To serve others. To always look for the best in people, even when it can be hard to find. To know how much you are worth and that your worth is not measured by the standards that the world will set before you. And that to love
others well, we must sometimes sacrifice what we want to give others what they need. That love is patient and kind. And that it NEVER fails.

I love you more than you could ever know. You were worth every tear shed, hormone injection, medical procedure, check written. You were worth all of that and more. I would do it over and over and over again to have you. I am far from a perfect mom. I yell too much, play too little, and my patience runs out more than it should. And for that I’m sorry. But I want you to know that my love for you is unconditional. You don’t have to worry about messing up and me not being there. There is nothing you could ever do that will take one ounce of that love away. I will be here when things are hard and scary. I will fuss at you when you act a fool. I will celebrate every victory and I will be your soft place to fall when things don’t go your way.

I hope eleven is your best year yet.

Love you the most,

Holy Ground and Sacred Things

Navigating the waters of loss & practical things to help your grieving loved one.

By: Rae Sells


I met Amy when I was 20 and living with my best friend, Leslie, in a little apartment in Elizabethton, TN.  Amy was a newlywed and her husband was my soon-to-be-boyfriend’s best friend.  She and I were opposites in every possible way.  She was beautiful and well put together and I probably had on a tie dye that hadn’t been washed in longer than I care to admit.  If you would have told us on the day that we met how close we would become, we would have laughed you out of the state.  Flash forward to almost exactly one year later and that beautiful blonde would be fastening my pearls before I walked down the staircase to marry my husband.  Our friendship is one of the most treasured things I have in my life.


Amy would have three kids by the time I finally got pregnant with my second daughter. I had joked with her that she needed to have a fourth so that we could be pregnant together.  She called me one day and she said, “Well….it looks like you got your wish.”  She had just found out that she was pregnant with her fourth and our youngest kiddos would only be five months apart.


This next part is written completely from my perspective.  I would never presume to know Amy or Charlie’s point of view.  This is the perspective of her best friend, Auntie, and someone who loves her and her sweet family deeply.

What would happen in the next few months were a blur.  At Amy’s 20 week gender scan they found there were several issues with their sweet baby boy, Seth.  The day after Christmas it was confirmed that Seth had Trisomy 18, which is considered incompatible with life.  Amy chose to carry Seth as long as God would allow and even five years later, when I think back to that time, I remain in awe of her strength and grace.  Amy was induced and I was just about to leave the house to go be with her when Charlie called to tell us that Seth had already passed away.  I went to the hospital and Amy honored me greatly by asking me to stay in the room while she gave birth.


Being present in the room for Seth’s birth was one of the hardest experiences of my life.  The room was quiet and the lights weren’t super bright like they usually are when you’re about to give birth.  The doctor and the nurses were so amazing and gentle and respectful.  There was a peace in that room that I cannot explain.  I have never felt the presence of the Lord so clearly as I did that day.  It felt like holy ground. I know that Charlie and Amy’s faith carried them through and continues to today.

Some days in your life are so significant that the memories of the day appear almost as snapshots in your mind.  Or at least they do in mine.  There are four moments in particular that are ingrained in my memory.  The first is of Charlie rocking and patting Seth’s booty while they were cleaning Amy up after the birth.  That’s just what you do with babies. It’s as natural as breathing. The second is the sound that Amy made when her mom came to embrace her after the birth.  If I never hear that sound again that will be just fine with me. The third was seeing the tears roll down the doctor’s face after Amy had given birth. The fourth was the fierceness in which Charlie’s mom held my hand while we watched Amy deliver Seth. He was so small and beautiful.  I stayed for just a little while and then left so that they could have time together with him, alone.


This was the first time I had been this close to loss and grief.  I have had family members and friends pass away, but this was, by far, the most personal experience I have had with grief and a deeply hurting friend. Amy is much more like a sister to me than merely a best friend and I was absolutely desperate to be able to do something to help.  I was terrified I would say or do the wrong thing.  I reached out to friends that have lost children and begged for their wisdom on how to help Amy and Charlie.  Mainly, I just didn’t want to say something or do something that would cause Amy anymore pain.  As a general rule, people are super well-meaning when dealing with grief or other hard circumstances, but they can often say stupid things.  Hurtful things.  And they don’t mean to.  They just don’t know what to say or do.  So they offer platitudes and clichés and inspirational quotes.  They try to fill the silence.  Because the silence and the pain and the grief make them extremely uncomfortable.  Grief is not pretty.  Loss and deep pain make people nervous because they simply don’t know what to say.  And most of the time you don’t really need to DO anything.  You just need to show up.  You need to make yourself uncomfortable to offer comfort to your friend.  You need to hold that space with them.  Grieve WITH them.  Cry with them.  Don’t shy away.  They don’t have the luxury to escape their grief and the very least we can do for hurting people is to show up and hurt with them so they don’t feel alone.

So, what I’m writing next are some things that Amy told me helped her and that other friends who have lost loved ones offered me as guidance.  I hope that they can be of help to you.

The Circle of Grief or the “Ring Theory”

This is probably the most important and invaluable thing I have EVER read about grief and loss.  It is important.  It is essential information.  This is my explanation of the theory and I hope it’s clear enough that you can understand it.  If I don’t do a well enough job of explaining it, then google “grief circle” or “grief ring theory”.  The general idea is that when someone is grieving there is a circle of the people who are grieving. There are many rings to the grief circle.  Envision a target. The center of the circle are the people most affected by the loss.  In the loss of a child, then the center of the circle would be the parents and siblings.  If the loss is of a parent, then the center of the circle would be the spouse and children.  For this example, I will use the loss of a child.  So, the center of the circle would be the parents and siblings.  The next ring would be the grandparents and aunts/uncles.  Next would be other family members.  Then close friends and so on.  When you are grieving you ALWAYS give comfort IN, and dump OUT.  Meaning that if you are in the third ring, you offer comfort to the people on the inner two rings, and when you need to talk about your grief you dump OUT to a circle outside of you.  I have talked to so many people that have lost loved ones and they almost universally agree with the ring theory of grief.


Social Media Etiquette

We live in a world where people can share their thoughts in a nanosecond from their phone…anytime, anywhere.  This can be a wonderful thing.  It can also be a very painful and inconsiderate thing.  Under no circumstances do you EVER post condolences on any social media platform until the family has posted of the loss.  EVER.  Until they make an announcement you DO.NOT.POST.  I have seen this happen numerous times where people start posting condolences on someone’s page and there are still family members that haven’t been notified that the person has passed away.  The same goes with birth announcements.  Until the parents have posted that the baby has been born you DO.NOT.POST.  It’s not your place in either circumstance.

Running Interference

There are lots of things that have to be arranged when a loved one passes away.  Most of those arrangements have to made by the family.  There are things that someone else can handle.  If you are close to the family and have the ability, volunteer to run interference for them.  If you can give people your phone number for them to call and ask questions about arrangements, do it.  It’s going to be hard for the grieving family to answer all the phone calls to ask how they’re doing, when the funeral arrangements are, where they can bring food.  These are questions that you, as a close friend, can answer so that the family doesn’t have to.  Since we knew the date that Amy would be induced with Seth, I set up a private Facebook group and added friends and family to it.  I posted updates on her labor and other info that people wanted so that Amy and Charlie could concentrate on their family without getting a million texts and phone calls.

Another super helpful thing is something called a Meal Train.  This is an amazing service that you can use for all sorts of circumstances.  Death, birth, serious illness.  There is something so comforting about having someone bring you a hot meal.  You can use this website to set up meal deliveries for the family.  You can personalize the page with any food allergies or dietary restrictions the family has and set up a schedule for the deliveries.  People can put the meals they are bringing so everyone can see and they won’t get 42 pot roasts. There is also an option for people to donate money to the family to help with gift cards for meals or other expenses. The website is

This is a very personal decision that the family must make. If you know if advance that the family will be dealing with the loss of a child at birth, shortly after, or from an illness there is a wonderful organization that will come and take professional pictures for the family, free of charge. The organization is called “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”. The photographers are very kind and respectful and these images can be a treasured memory for grieving parents. If the family decides that they do want the photographers to come and it is ok with them, it might be helpful for you to be the one to call when it’s time. The parents might not have the presence of mind to make the call in the hours following the loss and it would take the burden off them for you to make the call and handle the paperwork.

Say Their Name

When our children are born one of the first things that people ask is, “What’s their name?” We spend hours researching and making lists of the perfect name for our babies. It’s not a decision we take lightly. We want our children to be known and this doesn’t stop when a child dies. I know that when you have a friend that has lost a loved one, your first instinct might be not to say their name because you don’t want to cause them pain. Please, say their name. They existed. They are their child. Just because you don’t say their name doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking of them, every minute of every day. Don’t let them feel like their child has been forgotten.

Sit with your friend and talk about their child. Cry with them. Let them know you are grieving with them. Let them tell you about them. I know it can be hard and uncomfortable, but HOLD THAT SPACE. Do not run away. Do not shy away because you are afraid of saying the wrong thing. You don’t have to say anything other than I love you and I am here. And then BE there. I remember one night in particular, a few days after Amy had gotten home from the hospital after Seth’s birth. Amy’s parents were there and Jon and I brought a meal over. After we had talked to everyone for a few minutes, Amy took me by the hand and we walked back to her bedroom. She locked the door and we sat down on the bed. She got out the special box that held all of Seth’s things. His footprints, the gown he wore, the blanket she wrapped him in, and the urn that contained his ashes. We sniffed the gown and marveled over how teeny his little feet were. And then she asked me if I wanted to hold him. She placed that tiny urn in my hands and we both just sat in silence and cried. I can’t even type that sentence without crying. This was a precious moment shared with the woman I love more than anything. That she would trust me with this most sacred moment took my breath. It still does. Say their name. Realize it is sacred and precious. Treasure and protect it. And always let them know you will never forget them.

Just BE

This is a HARD one for me. I’m a fixer. I want to fix ALL the things. If you’re sad, I want to make you laugh. If you’re hungry, I will fix you 39 casseroles. If you’re burned out, I will take your kids and buy you a pedicure. Just BEING is hard for me. I want to DO something. Every year around Seth’s birthday I try to do something special for Amy. I either send her out for a day and keep the kids, get her a massage, buy her a little “happy”. This past May around his birthday I was fretting over what I was going to do for Amy. I was on the phone with my sister and I was talking 90 to nothing about what I could do for her. Should I send her to a spa? Should I get her a gift card for a pedicure? How about keeping the kids to send her on a date with her husband? While I was rattling away, my very wise and very blunt big sister interrupted me and said, “Rae….STOP!” I stopped, because I always do what my sister says. She said to me, “I know you love Amy and I know that you want to do something for her, but you CAN.NOT.FIX.THIS. There is absolutely nothing you can do to make this better. You can’t make her forget that she lost a child. You need to stop.” To be honest, it hurt my feelings. I got off the phone and cried. But she was right, as she always is. In my fury to make it better, I lost sight of the fact that nothing I can do can make this better. I can’t bring Seth back. A pedicure or a massage isn’t going to make her forget the fact that her son is not here. But what I can do is listen to her. I can talk to her about him. I can tell her that I love him and all her babies. And that I love her. You don’t have to fix it. Not only can you NOT fix it, you may end up making it worse. Your time, love, and acknowledgment are what your friend needs.

If you made it through this gigantic novel, thank you. I know it was long, but I hope that there is some little nugget in here that will help you help someone you love when they are grieving. I know that I didn’t do everything right when Amy lost Seth. Nothing anyone did could have made the loss of that precious boy any easier. But what I do hope, is that Amy and Charlie felt my love and that they know how much I love Seth. I hope they know that his Auntie will not forget him.


Meet Rae


Hi friends!  My names is Rae and I’m so happy to meet you!  I’m 39 years old and I’ve been married to my handsome, bearded love for almost 18 years.  We have two amazing, crazy girls and I’m currently homeschooling them.  Ella is almost eleven and Charleigh is five.

Most days you can find me in gym shorts, messy bun, and coffee cup in hand as I try to keep my kids from killing each other.  I love listening to books on Audible, talking to my sister, and consuming as much caffeine as possible.  I am passionate about homeschooling, natural birth and breastfeeding (even though those days are LONG behind me), and women supporting women.  I am lucky enough to have the most amazing support system of strong, loving, and intelligent women. They are my tribe and I adore each and every one of them.

I’m in a deeply committed relationship with my Instant Pot and Pinterest.  I remain convinced that my big sister, Kelley, knows everything.  She told me that when I was about six and at 39, I know that she was right.

My favorite things in the world are new books, school and office supplies, new packs of pens, and a fresh notebook.

Grab a cup of coffee and hang out.  We’re all friends here.

Happy Birthday to Me

Hey, hey….It’s my BIRTHDAY!

Today is my 39th birthday.  I woke up at 6:15 and couldn’t go back to sleep, which is unusual for me because I am decidedly NOT a morning person.  Like, at all.  The rest of my family is still asleep. I’m drinking a large cup of coffee and the only sound in the house is the soft tapping of keys and the dog across the street that will not stop barking.  For the love of all that is holy, please stop barking.  Repetitive noises are one thing that will eventually land me on an episode of that show “Snapped”.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about my birthday today.  I’ve never had a huge problem with birthdays or getting older.  When I was younger, I was just CERTAIN that I wasn’t going to be a woman that was obsessed with getting older and trying to turn back the clock.  I decided I was going to be one of those of those hip older women that grew old gracefully and rocked my grey hair.  Mind you, that was when I was 20.  It’s so much easier to be cool and carefree about getting older when your face has no lines and your hair has no grey.  Your chill about your age is harder to maintain when you’re standing in the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant and your best friend is pulling out your grey hairs because your husband has just pointed out how many you have.

For me, the things that are harder about getting older are not so much about how I look, which that part sucks too, but more about how I feel.  There are the physical things, like random body parts hurting and popping when you try to stand.  I had back surgery when I was 29 and there is always some level of creakiness in the surrounding joints from arthritis and disc disease.  I’ve been dealing with that since I was 20, so that’s not really a new issue.  But my shoulder hurting from hanging laundry up is both hilarious and annoying.  My weight has crept up over the years from a lovely combo of hormone issues, a whole lot of infertility treatments, PCOS, and not eating as well as I could and not exercising as much as I should.

What I mean about how I feel is not really about the physical, but about the mental.  My big sister always calls me her “hip little sister”.   I used to feel cool and young and carefree.  When Jon and I met, I was such a free spirit.  Guys….it is SO much easier to be a free spirit when your parents are paying for pretty much everything.  Nothing will break that free spirit like two kids, a mortgage, student loan debt, and homeschooling two kids.  Jon and I went to high school together and when we reconnected I was the hippy living next door.  I went over to borrow his phone because my best friend Leslie and I were too broke to have our own.  I had on a long flowing skirt, one of those gauzy shirts that only had string ties in the back, and my amazing (totally not amazing) lower back tribal tattoo showing.  Because nothing says upper middle class white girl like a tribal tattoo “tramp stamp” on your lower back.  Not one of my finer decisions.  I was always going to see live music and would dance until the wee hours of the morning to any jam band I could go see.  Now, at 39, I still enjoy a reasonable amount of jam band music.  The difference now is that repetitive noise and overly drawn out “jamming” gets on my nerves and I’m like, “move along, Gregg Allman, we get the point. Melissa is very sweet.  Please don’t make me skip to the next song.”


Brandy and I, at 19, dancing like nobody’s watching. This was in my first apartment in Columbia, SC. Let me say, I was not responsible enough to have my own apartment at nineteen.

The hardest thing is that I know, without a doubt, that I am not very much like the girl that Jon met and married.  I’m not carefree.  I’m not as fearless.  I know he doesn’t see me the same.  Some of that is a good thing.  I was super carefree when he met me.  I was also extremely irresponsible.  He had to teach me how to balance a checkbook and budget because I was a pro at writing bad checks and getting, what Leslie and I affectionately deemed, “Love Letters from the Bank”.

There’s a song Sara Bareilles wrote for the Broadway musical “Waitress” that I love and the lyrics resonate with me as I inch closer to 40.  It’s called “She Used to Be Mine”.  Here are some of the lyrics:

“It’s not simple to say, most days I don’t recognize me.  That these shoes and this apron, that place and its patrons, have taken more than I gave them.  It’s not easy to know I’m not anything like I used to be, although it’s true I was never attention’s sweet center, I still remember that girl.  She’s imperfect, but she tries.  She is good, but she lies.  She is hard on herself.  She is broken and won’t ask for help.  She is messy, but she’s kind.  She is lonely most of the time.  She is all of this mixed up and baked in beautiful pie.  She is gone, but she used to be mine.”

I am attempting to reconcile this girl I always thought I was, to the reality of the woman I am at thirty-nine.  I may not be carefree, but I am deeply caring.  I may not be a free spirt, but I have a spirit of discernment.  I still have the tribal tattoo, but now that tattoo has a scar down the middle of it from the back surgery that changed my life and gave it back to me.  I may not have that long hippy skirt I was wearing when I met Jon, but I gave it to my amazing niece so she can dance in it.  I no longer get “Love Letters from the Bank”, but I can budget like nobody’s business (Thank you Jon and Dave Ramsey).  I may no longer be as skinny as I was, but my body has birthed two children I never thought I would have and it can snuggle and hold them.  Jon may no longer see the girl he originally fell in love with, but I do hope that he sees, every day, that I love and adore him in a way I never thought was possible when I was 20 years old.  I have gone from being a girl who was always up for a good time with her friends, to a woman who can hold space with a grieving friend in the room with her as she births her precious, sleeping son.  And I am proud of who I am now.  I am more secure in my womanhood than I ever was in my girlhood.  I know the kind of person I want to be, the kind of friend I want to be, and the kind of woman I want to be. The kind of woman who loves with every single ounce of her being and shows her girls that softness does not equate to weakness.  That you can be both vulnerable and strong.  That those two traits are, in no way, mutually exclusive.

So if you are in your twenties, enjoy them.  Be wild and free, but know that there is something so much better to come.  It may not look like you expected it to and YOU may not look like you expected to, but that’s ok.  But girl…..enjoy wearing a good cat eye, because it’s a lot harder to rock a cat eye when the cat wants to take a nap in your crow’s feet.

Come on 39.  Let’s do this!


Hey y’all!

Thanks so much for visiting my blog!  I say “my” blog, but my vision for this place is so much more.  I want this to be collaborative place where all mothers can see themselves in the posts, problems, and HOPE that we all need to find when mothering isn’t exactly what we imagined it would be.  I know there are days where we all feel like we are thoroughly screwing up this whole motherhood thing.  Days where we’ve yelled too much, played too little, and by the end of the day, we’re utterly exhausted.  On those days I just throw another dollar in the therapy jar, ask for forgiveness, and try again tomorrow.  There are days where my kids say something so profound that I think I’m actually getting something right and other days where I’m fairly certain my youngest is going to go to jail for shoplifting at some point.  And on those days the first thing I do is I reach out to my tribe.  My girls. You know the girls of which I speak, because I bet (I hope) you have them, too.  My group of women that are there to say, “You are not a horrible mother.  She won’t do hard time for shoplifting.  Can I bring you a bottle of wine?”  They are my tribe and they are magnificent.  None of our paths to motherhood look the same, but all of us have had the same feelings of complete inadequacy to the task set before us.  I want this to be a place where you can feel a “me too” sense of commiseration and camaraderie.  A place where you are lifted up and relieved of a sense of loneliness and can find solace in the stories of women that have been where you have been.

So grab a cup of coffee, tea, wine, hard liquor ( I ain’t judgin’) and sit a spell.  If you feel so led, contribute YOUR story.  We are all in this together.

I will be building a collection of stories over the coming weeks so please, be patient with me, and check back often.  I will also be working out the kinks of the site and what it will look like because I literally have no idea what I’m doing.  I just have a love for women and I want their stories to be heard.

Please know….you are loved, you are valued, you are SEEN, and you are NOT alone.

Love from a tired Mama,



Part of my tribe at our last girls’ trip to the lake.  From left to right: Me, Liz, Amber, and Tiffany