I’m Emmalee, an ordinary gal born and raised in the Heartland. Wife to Chad, and Mom to Elena, Calvin & Turner, I spend most my days ridin’ dirty (literally so much trash) in my minivan carting kids to and fro. When I’m not being a Momager, I excel at self-care, cooking gourmet meals my kids won’t eat and deep-diving all the feelings. Gratitude is my attitude most days, and grief the others.
This is Elena. Our Light. You can see all the goodness and joy that shines from those deep blue eyes. She loves sneezes, yawns, industrial toilet flushes, automatic paper towel dispensers and The Star Spangled Banner. Music is her everything, specifically Moana, Frozen (really all Disney), Queen & Taylor Swift. Nothing makes her squeal quite like swimming, fast boat rides and her two brothers in trouble. In addition to her megawatt smile, Elena reminds us to cherish the smallest of victories, to live in the present, and to daily dwell in a posture of gratitude for every breath and every blessing.
Not everyone remembers the moment their life changed forever, in one single instant, but I do. Nearly four months into Motherhood, I found myself panicked and alone in the ER of a local children’s hospital awaiting an ambulance racing my infant from her babysitter’s house. Not knowing (to this very day) how or when or why, my healthy, beautiful daughter suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury, leaving her with devastating life-long injuries. Her life, my life, our lives were forever changed.
I’ve spent the last nearly ten years documenting, not only Elena’s rehabilitation, but also my own struggles and success wading through grief via a blog — Our Shining Light. It details my journey through unimaginable pain, heartache and loss, but one that unexpectedly uncovers forgiveness and renewed purpose. Even after a loss so great, one cannot deny all that I have gained along the way.
Though I experienced an incredible tragedy, my life isn’t tragic. In fact, it’s just the opposite. For me, it has never been about the “what happened”, but rather the “what next”. Life isn’t about what happens to us, but rather how we overcome. Years of soul searching and reliance on my faith has brought about hard-fought growth and healing. Though I’m certain I’ll never completely overcome, I’ve most definitely put a load of tools around my belt for when life throws its next inevitable curveball.
From the very beginning, I’ve felt moved to share. To share Elena (who’s name means “Shining Light”) and the magnificent gift that she is. To share my faith and its paramount. To share my grief and its heaviness. To share my joy, my peace, my forgiveness that, I believe, is entirely divine. Most of all, I share my story in all it’s grit and grime, growth and glory to bring meaning to our experience. Inevitably a connection is formed with someone out there in my audience, perhaps shifting a perspective, helping to form an understanding and best of all, allowing someone out there who is also struggling to feel validated and seen.
That, unexpectedly, has become my passion. Helping others feel validated, seen, heard, witnessed in their adversity, their pain. Because I’ve been there. Chances are you have too. It’s the collective human experience, and I stand in awe and humility when that beautiful connection is made. I love to feel that connection, to hear that story, to see that small step in healing take place. I would be honored for you to use my pain, my struggle to help you take a step through yours. I believe life is about human connection, offering others love and grace and encouragement to get through the challenges each of us face.
My intent has always been to offer my story honestly and myself authentically, taking off those filters leaving simply, awkward, emotional Emmalee. Life isn’t meant to be spent pretending we have it all together, thinking we can do it all alone. Let’s step into ourselves, harness the power of truth and story, and move forward with grace and gratitude.