For Me, Sexy is a Size 10

I’ve experienced many pant sizes in my 32 years of life. For most of high school and college, I was a size 6. I was what I generally call “skinny,” especially due to the fact that I am almost 5’9″. I have very long legs and no torso. Well not really, but it sure does seem that way when I’m shopping for jeans.

When I gave birth to our last son in 2009, I walked into the hospital weighing in at 226 pounds. I had gained 60 pounds during that pregnancy. When we arrived home, I found that my true body weight, now without baby and extra fluid, was 201 pounds. I was miserable. My body hurt and I had no energy. My jeans were a size 16. So I made a commitment and stuck to it.

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I’ve learned that any weight loss program will work. It’s not the program; it’s the commitment. I lost 35 pounds following the Nutrisystem program. In the picture above, I was a size 10. It fit me well, and it was comfortable. I was happy at that weight for quite a while. Then I learned that my friend was getting married and I allowed society’s pressures to overtake me. Even though my body was happy and comfortable at a size 10, I convinced myself I needed to lose more weight in order to look my “best” in my bridesmaid dress for the May 2013 wedding. I lost another 30 pounds on my own. At 5’9″, I was 140 pounds.

This is what I got…

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I get that in 2009, I was too heavy. Losing weight was needed, but I took it too far. Yes, I lost the weight and everyone told me how good I looked, except for my family…those close to me saw what a struggle I was in. They told me I looked too thin and they were genuinely worried. I didn’t want to hear it then, but you know what? They were right. They told me the truth. I knew it then too. You know how I know? Because I had to work my ass off, literally, to get to that size and then to stay at that size.

I was obsessed. I didn’t enjoy life because everything I ate made me feel horrible about myself. If I indulged even the tiniest bit, I just knew I would regret it because I would have to work so hard to over-compensate for that moment of yumminess. Every conversation turned into working out and eating right. Nobody cared but me, so essentially I was talking to hear myself. I wasn’t living life to enjoy life. I was living to stay skinny. I was taking time away from my family not only by working out constantly but also by obsessing over my weight; and these were the people I wanted to better myself for but who just wanted more of me…in quality time.

I had to focus so hard to stay at a weight my body didn’t like that it overtook me; I saw myself going down a dangerous road. Was this the life I really wanted?

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This was the picture that changed everything for me. I looked at myself and saw someone skinny…and miserable. Those sweet boys and that handsome husband deserved to have more of me. Jeremy, my husband, has always loved me completely. I remember looking at him and saying, “Do you think I look better at this weight?” I could feel the pain in his voice when he had obviously had enough of these conversations, “No. I think you look better when you allow yourself to enjoy life more.” Who was I doing this for?

In truth, I was covering up an awful lot of pain. And Jeremy knew it. My husband suffered from severe depression and had survived multiple suicide attempts; my weight was something I could control when the rest of my world felt like it was crashing around me. It took me almost losing Jeremy, really almost losing him, to remember I’m not in control. And even trying to control something as simple as my weight was turning into just another pressure in life. I was taking it too far. I had to learn to let go and let God.

This video will detail more of our life’s struggles so you understand my need to control something…

So here I am today. We’ll fast-forward quite a bit. It’s almost 2017 and everyone is talking about their desires to lose weight. I’m included in that conversation since I indulged over Christmas a bit too much. I also learned, in April of this year, that I have Celiac disease. Gluten-free products are everywhere now, so it wasn’t a super difficult change. Don’t get me wrong, it was very overwhelming at first. But I have found it’s not so bad. And I feel amazing so that helps too. After 32 years of gut problems, my body is healing. But those gluten-free products are packed full of sugar. And I’ve gained weight.

I’m a size 13-14 now and my back is starting to hurt a bit. I can tell I have a little more weight on me than my body likes because, over the years of healing, I’ve allowed myself to indulge maybe a bit more than I needed to and all that sugar is packing on the pounds. My husband is doing amazingly; it’s been almost 9 months since he’s had even a suicidal thought. He takes his medication daily, sleeps with his CPAP nightly to get more oxygen to his brain, and meets with his psychiatrist, counselor, and pastor regularly. His brain is healing because he works hard to help himself by accepting help. So I need to do it too.

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My seven-year-old snapped this picture of mommy today. I know how to lose weight because I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again, but I won’t allow it to overtake me. For me, sexy is a size 10. My body is comfortable at a size 10 and I can stay there by eating sensibly, walking regularly, and indulging occassionally.

The right weight is about your own body’s healthy, and we all have different body types and comfort zones. My body likes a size 10 and I like it there too. So that’s my realistic and healthy goal. 

I’ll let you in on a secret, you’re sexy. Find your own body’s sexy. And if someone is telling you you aren’t, no matter what your size, find someone else to have a conversation with. For me, sexy is a size 10, but my husband clearly thinks sexy is a size 13-14 right now. 😉 When I get to a size 11-12, he’ll think I’m sexy there, too.

When we learn to listen to our own bodies, we can get excited about losing weight. We can even enjoy it. I’m looking forward to losing weight in the coming months because I know I can do it. I know my goal is realistic and healthy and I know it won’t happen overnight. I won’t let it overtake me, I’ll allow myself to indulge every now and then, and I’ll lose weight slowly and on my terms.

Follow our journey advocating for mental health and raising two boys on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Learn our whole story at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Advice For My Sons: Top Seven Things That Are Not “Okay”

I’d like to think that I gain knowledge as I get older, that the world makes more sense, and that past mistakes change from feeling like mistakes to feeling more like missed opportunities or even lessons learned. I’m past my years of having babies as our boys are currently 10 and 7 years old. Our family feels complete, and we are truly enjoying the years of helping our boys grow and learn.

I’ve been in school for a long time, and I’m a teacher, but I’ll be the first to admit that the greatest lessons I’ve learned have not come from within in a classroom or from a textbook; they have come from experience, tears, and triumphs. My greatest lessons have come from my own lessons learned, but also from watching others.

I’ll be honest that I love social media and writing in general. Mostly, I share for the fact of knowing how easy it will be for our boys and us to reminisce about our life later. The Internet knows all, sees all, and remembers all. It’s a digital yearbook that can be used for good or for evil. By sharing both the good and the bad of our lives, I like to think that I’m helping our boys remember reality and know, when they hit bad times in their lives, that life gets better when you have a positive attitude. You can get through anything when you draw strength from Him.

It’s amazing how much trash there is on the Internet; it makes me so sad to see things that others are celebrating when in reality, they are completely selfish acts. I’m a mom and a teacher, and there are some things in life that are just not okay. I’m not afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if I’m standing alone. I once read a t-shirt that said, “No more Mr. Nice Christian.” It really hit home with me.

So after seeing much more than my eyes want to see on the Internet, I’ve decided to compile a list. My husband and I won’t be around forever and we want our boys to know what we believe is right and what isn’t. It’s most important to remember that nothing is unforgivable. Nothing. Forgiveness is real, but there are still some things that are not “okay.”

  1. Playing the victim.You make your own decisions every day. Nobody forces you to do anything. You cannot control what others do, but you can control how you react to them. You do something stupid, you deal with the consequences.
  2. Living in a constant world of negativity.How you see the world says an awful lot about you. If you are living in a constant world of negativity, see number one above. You are the reason you are miserable because you are not allowing yourself to see the good that is all around you. Miserable relationship? Work on it…hard. Frustrated with your body? Change your habits. Hate your job? Work harder to find something you love.
  3. Lying.Not everyone appreciates the truth. But when it comes down to it, you’ll be thankful you were strong enough to speak it. When you speak the truth, you build trust and respect. Someday, those who don’t want to hear the truth now will appreciate that you were not afraid to speak up.
  4. Cheating.If you are in a relationship, especially if you are in a marriage, you work your butt off to make it work. If the love is gone, you try your damndest to get it back. I’ve seen it happen. God can move mountains when you let Him. If the love is truly gone after you have given your all, then you amicably part ways. You respectfully part ways. You do not ever move on to someone else while still in a relationship with another. And if you have children, you put them first. You display what adults should behave like and you show that you can be respectful without having to agree. You can be happy for each other that love will come around again.
  5. Stealing.There are so many times when “stealing” happens and our society doesn’t even notice. You already know it’s not okay to shoplift or take items or answers that aren’t yours. But I want you to know it’s also not okay to steal time or joy. I have mistakenly done this many times, and I’ve learned my lesson. When you live in negativity (see number two above), you steal time and joy not only from yourself, but from others as well.
  6. Refusing to forgive.By refusing to forgive someone, you are hurting nobody but yourself. We all make mistakes and hurt others; you will do it many times too. Refusing to forgive leads to both points one and two above.
  7. Refusing to listen to or see Him.You gave your hearts to Jesus. Whether or not you choose to follow Him every day, you are His. He will fight for you. He does it everyday in those good voices you hear and the good things you see. You see someone in need of help and hear a voice telling you to help…listen. When something good happens, thank Him. When something bad happens, pray to Him and look around. You’ll see good if you allow yourself. See Him. Listen to Him. Be ready for some to tell you you are crazy for believing the way you do. But trust me…He’s worth it. Stand strong in your faith and He will make you stronger than you could ever imagine.

Follow our journey advocating for mental health and raising two boys on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Learn our whole story at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Lies and Gravy: Ignoring Depression

I made gravy tonight…real gravy. The kind you make from scratch. Jeremy and I have been married for 12 1/2 years and together for 16, but I’ve never made real gravy before. I’ve made gravy often from packets, but I refused to make it the way my husband made it. He always made the good stuff, the kind you make on a crisp fall day or even while the snow is falling and you are inside snuggled up under a blanket drinking hot cocoa. Soul food. I refused to make “real” gravy until today, and I have a reason.

After five failed suicide attempts over a period of six years, my husband is still here with me. I’m blessed beyond words. For six years, Jeremy was physically here, but I was married to a stranger. I was a single mother who was married to my children’s father and was madly in love with the man he once was. I had faith he would be that man again one day, but I was damn good at ignoring and pretending. Every morning, Jeremy struggled to get himself out of bed even to say goodbye to our boys after I woke them, fed them, dressed them, and gave them love and reassurance that daddy was “just tired.”  Every day, I called from my workplace so many times that I lost count. Why? Because I knew Jeremy wasn’t okay by himself. I knew when I was gone, he had more and more opportunities to take his own life. I called often to be sure he was still alive, and the sound of a voicemail message left me so terrified that I regularly had to leave work to check on him.

It took us years to figure out that our faith was in each other and not where it needed to be. But trusting God would mean giving up control.  That wasn’t easy for me. It still isn’t.

Jeremy was usually better in the evenings. He would “come back” from time to time. And when he would, he would cook. Breaded pork chops, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and peas has always been a family favorite. We’ve had to get creative this year as I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, but cooking incredible food gluten-free isn’t as hard as it sounds at first. I couldn’t go without this meal, but mostly because of the emotional weight it carries within my heart.

Jeremy always took the reigns on this family-favorite meal. And I pretended. I pretended that I couldn’t make the meal as good as he made it. I pretended because maybe, just maybe, if I coudn’t make this meal, Jeremy would have to stay. My boys would have to have their daddy stay alive because…who would make the gravy? Daddy made it best. Mommy would just mess it up.

Without daddy, who was mommy? My identity was wrapped up in being Jeremy’s wife.  I lied. I pretended. I needed him to be me, to be a mom, to be anyone worthy of love. I needed Jeremy to make the gravy. I couldn’t do it alone.

And then. And then I almost lost him…really almost lost him.

I documented everything I felt and we experienced during the time when Jeremy was fighting for his life on CaringBridge. Feel free to read it if you’d like. When I almost lost Jeremy, I found my own worth in Christ. I found how tough I am because of Him. I prayed prayers that most wives would never dream of praying. I was ashamed of my prayers for a long time until I realized even those prayers were meant to happen. Hundreds of times, I prayed that God would just take Jeremy. That He would end his suffering. “Jeremy doesn’t deserve to live in this Hell on Earth that is depression.”

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I found my worth in Christ when I almost lost my husband. I found my worth in Christ because I loved Jeremy so much that I didn’t want him to have to live with depression controlling his life. Jeremy, for six years, had managed to stay alive. But he hadn’t learned to live.

Not yet, anyway.

After the accident, my faith exploded. I went into fight mode and started living with faith, not just talking about it. I sought Jesus. I prayed and changed the way in which I spent time with Jesus. Jeremy watched and his faith began to grow too. We ultimately learned that embracing humor would be our saving grace in addition to taking the horrible parts of our lives and allowing God to make them good in order to help others. We wrote and published our story. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” came out in 2015.

Jeremy designed the cover of our book himself as this was such a personal endeavor.

Jeremy and I have lived through Hell on Earth together. My prayers have changed; I don’t pray for God to take Jeremy anymore because my husband has learned to truly live with depression. No, his chemical imbalance, disability, disease, brain malfunction (call it what you want…depression is real) has not disappeared. Depression does not have a cure, but we have learned to live with it…not just stay alive. Our faith, Jeremy’s medications, and our enormous support system including doctors, counselors, family, and friends are our lifelines. Most importantly, Jeremy and I have now begun a support group called “Anchoring Hope” for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We are there every Sunday evening and truly cherish our time together surrounded by so many who understand and are just wanting to support each other. God has brought so much good from so much pain.

I don’t need Jeremy anymore, but I do want him. I choose him every day, day in and day out, over and over. But my identity is in Christ. And tonight, I made gravy for our family. Jeremy loved every bite. Thank God for unanswered prayers.

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As always, if you feel like our story can help others, please share. God bless.

~ Jeremy and Bailey Koch

“I Do” Again

There are few things more important in the world than being surrounded by people you love and trust, especially those who return the sentiments. David and Cara have been friends of my husband and I since we were in high school. In fact, it’s quite a hilarious story that Cara actually tried to set me up with David when we were in our early high school years. Why? Because David was a genuine nice guy, and Cara wanted that for me.

What Cara didn’t tell me then, and what I know to be true now, is that she tried to set me up with David because she didn’t believe she deserved that nice guy. She believed he was too good for her, that somehow her past made her inferior to him. But alas, years passed and David made her way into Cara’s heart not long after Jeremy made his way into mine. We lost touch over the years but came back together when Jeremy and I were hired to DJ at David and Cara’s wedding on September 4, 2004. We were there to witness their union. Time would part us again, but not for long.

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Cara and I say that “the baby years” are what brought us together again. We were both younger than many of our friends when we began our families so we understood the time of life each other was in. But some things just didn’t come easy…

Cara watched and supported Jeremy and I as we navigated the choppy waters of living with mental illness. She was the first person to whom I revealed the whole truth of Jeremy’s suicide attempts. She was the person I called when I needed to cry, to be completely honest, and sometimes to just scream. Cara is, without a doubt, the most forgiving and accepting person I have ever met in my life. She was my comfort and steadfast support person always reminding me that Jesus had a plan for good in all the mess we were living.

Cara taught me so much, never realizing most of what she taught me came from how she handled her own life. The truth is Cara was fighting her own battle. Over the years of our friendship, I watched her and David struggle. I watched the reality of a blended family take its toll on their relationship. I watched priorities become confusing. I watched hurts happen and then become reasons for bigger hurts. I watched love fade, arguments turn to battles, and shots fired turn into full-blown war. But there was something else I witnessed.

I watched as two people were realizing that the people who often hurt you the most are the people who love you the most.

There are people in this world who can’t handle seeing others happy when they are unhappy themselves. These traits do not live in David or Cara. No matter what their lives consist of, they can genuinely and completely be happy for others. This is truly a trait to be admired and is certainly what I admire most about our friends. David and Cara could have pushed Jeremy and I aside long ago because our relationships had little in common. But what I love about our friendship is that none of us ever gave up on each other even when the world told us we should. And our kids…our kids adore each other.

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It’s hard to love two people so much and watch them struggle so hard. At one point, I did almost give up. I didn’t know how to help or what my place was. I said things to my friends I had no right to. I was tired of watching the hurt and part of me stopped believing in God’s ability to heal. I had started to take sides, human sides as opposed to where I had always stayed safe and steadfast before…on Jesus’ side.

And then it happened. I watched as David and Cara hit true brokenness. I had never seen either of them so low, and it was because they were finally seeing what life without the other would look like. I’ll never forget having many conversations in the past with Cara telling her the truth of why I knew my relationship with Jeremy was so strong.

I would say, “Picture your life without him. Look into the future and imagine he’s really not there. What does life look like?” It was only when I saw what life would be like without Jeremy that I truly began to appreciate everything about us. I knew the same would be true for them.

But life has a way of not allowing us to imagine situations like this in such detail until we are actually living it. I saw David and Cara truly broken and I learned an important life lesson. Sometimes, it’s actually easier to heal broken than it is to heal bent.

After being broken, David and Cara began to heal…truly heal. Cara tells me now that it took them 11 years to figure out marriage, to truly understand the sacrifice, the give-and-take, and the dedication to never let love fade. I watched them begin to have weekly date nights, something I had never seen, and to rarely allow exceptions to the date night rule. I watched them begin to understand that the marriage has to come before the children, a real and accurate rule of relationships so many young couples struggle with. I watched them begin to attend church together and truly worship Jesus knowing He is the reason that which was broken is now healing. I watched them attend marriage counseling and both be completely honest.

But you know the best part? I watched David become Cara’s best friend instead of me. I watched her run to him and not me. I watched my knowledge of their relationship become less and less. 

As Cara’s support person, I listened and did the best I knew how to try to support her. But now everything is different. Healing is happening and I get to just be the friend. Why am I writing this? For one, David and Cara told me I could. For two, the couple hopes to help other struggling marriages through their trials and triumphs. But for three, I want David and Cara to know how much respect I have for them and how proud I am of them.

So on September 4, 2016, Jeremy and I were there to witness their “I Do” again. David and Cara vowed to recommit themselves first to Jesus, second to their marriage, and third to their children. What an honor and a blessing. I could not be more proud to call them my friends. Congratulations to David and Cara. You two are an inspiration.

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David and Cara would like you to have their email address if you feel inclined to reach out to them. Perhaps you need some hope in your own marriage. Trust me, they are a great resource. Email them at carabcochran@yahoo.com

~ Bailey

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

Real Advice to My Children As You Head Back to School

Back to school.

A few months ago, the words seemed forever away. Excitement filled the air as kids were dreaming of what fun adventures their summers would hold. Well…the time has come. Summer is coming to an end as it tends to do. School shopping has commenced and the air is now filled with a mixture of excitement and terror (depending on who you talk to of course) with the impending first day of school just around the corner.

Myself…I’m an educator. I’ve always looked forward to back to school. I love the excitement in the halls and the promise of lessons learned. I have one son who absolutely loves school…just like his momma. Hudson will be in the fourth grade this year and is extremely social. He loves being around his friends all day and having similar experiences as them. He can’t wait. And then there’s Asher. Our youngest son will be entering the first grade this year, and he’s a ball of nerves. He’ll do fine, but the initial shock and adjustment is always a bit of a challenge.

But no matter what your child’s mood is concerning the unavoidable, school is starting. Words of wisdom don’t come to me when my kids are leaving with backpacks loaded to the brim. They don’t enter my mind as we are in the car on the way to school. And they certainly don’t come as I watch my boys jump out of the car and run to eagerly pull open the door of knowledge.

What does come to me? Tears. Always tears.

I’m not one to want my babies to stay babies forever. I am truly loving every minute of them growing and establishing their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. But every year I am overcome with emotion as soon as their little bodies leave my line of sight. Why? Every year, I marvel at how proud I am becoming of my humans.

So here is my real advice to my children as you head back to school. This is what is most important to this momma:

  1. Show your Christ-filled heart in everything you do.

    This is something I’m still learning as I get older. People will know you by what you say and do, not what you say you are going to do. Do not be afraid to show your heart, the heart your momma knows, to everyone you come in contact with. Open doors for your friends and say, “Good morning!” as you all flood in. Imagine how many of these kids are just as nervous as you are. Your smile may be their comfort and hope of a great school year. Give high-fives and hugs to your friends (old, new, and future). Visit your teachers. Your smile, positivity, and excitement will be contagious.

  2. Be you. No worse and no better than them. Just you.

    Equality. It was 1954 (yes, before I was here) when segregation was finally considered illegal in public schools across our country. But watch the news today and you will see it everywhere. It’s as though our world is digressing and it’s shameful. You, no matter what color you are, what your social status is, how much money you have, or who your family is, are just you. Just be you, the you who Jesus loves the same as the person you are standing next to. Stand up for you and for others. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

  3. Wrong is wrong. Take a stand.

    This one requires some more explanation and is a perfect continuation from point number two. Wrong is wrong. It does not matter if you are white, black, brown, purple, blue, orange, rich, poor, somewhere in-between…wrong is wrong. You, my children, know right from wrong. I will never…NEVER…punish you for standing up for what is right. But you know what the consequences will be if you choose to make bad decisions and treat others, any others, with disrespect.

  4. Stand up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves.

    To me, my sweethearts, this is most important. There are some people in this world who choose to take advantage of others, some who are just plain mean. Sometimes standing up for others is as simple as putting your arm around another, extending a hand, or offering to play and be a friend. Others will follow you. Be a leader, one who helps and doesn’t hurt.

  5. Encourage others.

    Someone has to win and it won’t always be you. In fact, most times it will be someone else. Learn to give a high-five to the winner and say “awesome job” to everyone else. Change the definition and help yourself and all others understand that a winner is also someone who can win and lose with grace. One day, the one who lost will win. Help everyone remember that.

  6. Be honest.

    Remember what I said about others knowing you for what you do and say, not for what you say you are going to do. It becomes all too easy to tell fibs in life. And then those fibs turn into lies, and the lies turn into deceit. Learn now to be honest and it will come easier and easier as you get older. Listen to that little voice inside of you telling you to tell the truth. Sometimes, honesty will get you in trouble; this is true and something I know all too well. But the reality is that the trouble you will be in will be far less than the trouble that a fib, lie, or deceit will cause. Just tell the truth.

  7. You make a mistake. You fix a mistake.

    Yes. Stumbles will happen. You will make bad decisions from time to time. There is a lot to be said for being able to say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” There is a lot to be said for “doing your time.” You won’t always be forgiven right away by whomever you hurt, but healing will happen in time. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. If you make a mistake, you fix a mistake. You learn, you move on, and you try not to let it happen again.

  8. Believe in yourself and work hard.

    You are so smart and so capable. I truly believe nothing…NOTHING…is out of your reach if you learn to truly believe in your abilities and work hard for whatever your goal is. Success is what you make it.

  9. Be a gentleman.

    Yes, this one is specifically geared toward my sons. I understand the push toward gender equality and I fully support it, but I also am extremely old-fashioned when it comes to the role of men in society. I do believe you, my boys, need to understand the importance of growing into a man who can lovingly and faithfully lead a wife and family one day. Open doors for girls and women, tell them they look nice (not hot and not sexy), offer your jacket if someone is cold, encourage them to achieve their goals, stop negative or inappropriate talk if you hear it or are being part of it…the list goes on and on. Help females see themselves as you see them…beautiful and capable, strong and worthy.

  10. Be the good.

    We say in our house all the time that God will make all things good, and it’s so true. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we don’t understand the bad, then we must work to show others that good exists. It’s not as hard as it sounds when we remember to give the credit where it should go. God is the good. God is all things good, and He made you. Be the good.

Have a wonderful school year, my sweethearts. I will shed some tears as you jump out of our van and run to open that door for others, but they are tears of joy. They are tears of excitement at the promise of lessons learned and more opportunities to spread good. I love you so very much and am so proud to be your momma.

All my love,

Mom
***

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

We Don’t “Need” Each Other

My husband and I have been married for 12 years today. I’m writing this on July 24, 2016. But in February of 2012, I was writing a very different part of our story. It was then that I almost lost my husband, Jeremy, in a car accident.

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Jeremy in ICU at Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska after two life flights. He suffered a leg broken in four places and repaired with titanium rods, fractured pancreas, punctured lung, brain bleed, face laceration, and a bruised colon that required complete reconstruction. Six intense surgeries in five days. Jeremy survived for a reason. You.

I watched him fight for his life, enduring surgery after surgery, and I knew the possibility existed that Jeremy had tried to take his own life. Severe depression had run our lives for three years at that point. I prayed God would just take him. I witnessed the hell on earth that mental illness can be and I didn’t want my husband to have to endure it anymore, not if there was no hope for a cure. And I didn’t think there was, at least that’s what the world tells us over and over.

Did you read that right? She PRAYED that she would lose her husband? 

Yes. I did. And for a long time I wasn’t proud of it. But for a long time, Jeremy and I lived in the dark about our reality. Why would we tell the world that Jeremy had tried to take his life five times? Why would we tell the world that I was terrified to walk in our home from work for fear that I would find my husband had finally ended his hell on earth? Why would we tell the world that suicide notes were not uncommon?

The truth is that accident happened for a reason. Jeremy survived for a reason. It was both the absolute worst and best thing that has ever happened to us. We were brought to our knees and we learned true faith. God showed me what life would be like without Jeremy. He answered my prayer. I didn’t know if Jeremy would survive; nobody knew. What I did know is that I had two little boys to raise.

So while Jeremy was fighting for his life, I was plotting how to never allow Jeremy’s death to be in vain. I plotted how I would raise our boys to know their father and to be like him.

Little did I know, God was plotting how to never allow Jeremy’s LIFE to be in vain. He was plotting how He would save my husband, turn us into warriors, and raise our boys to know their FATHER and to be like HIM.

Life changed for us. We have been married for 12 years today, and we can both honestly tell you that we do not need each other. God is our number one. He is the reason we are here together. He died for us; so we will live for Him. We share our story because so many suffer in silence. God brought us to our knees so we would learn to lean on Him.

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Jeremy and I wrote our story because we knew God would take what was meant to destroy us and make it good. Sharing our reality and helping others living with mental illness or supporting a loved one is our mission, our passion, and our purpose. You are the reason we are still here together on this Earth.

We do have a strong marriage, but it’s not the work of us. We have learned, because God had to bring us to our knees, to live for Him, listen to the Holy Spirit to guide us, and help others through our mission. So no. I don’t need my husband, and my husband doesn’t need me. I need Jesus. Jeremy’s needs Jesus. That’s why we have a strong marriage. We choose each other over and over, day in and day out, every day. Some days are easier than others, but that’s life.

So today, on our 12th anniversary, Jeremy brought me a vase of hand-picked flowers, a beautiful card, and a hug. We made breakfast together, attended church together, and worked in the back yard together. Together. That’s what makes an anniversary perfect. I choose him, but I need Him.

http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

As always, if our story touches you or if you know of anyone suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one suffering, please share our story. Our “Anchoring Hope” support group meets every Sunday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 at United Way in Cozad, Nebraska. Please join us. You are never alone.

And if you don’t live near us, please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

I’m Not Stuck in a Small Town. I Chose It.

One of my former students recently shared an article and said something about being thankful to not be “stuck” in a small town. So this is my rebuttal, because let’s face it, I’m not exactly a quiet person. And bagging on my small town life? Now it’s personal.

What I want to say is this…

You’re kidding me right? You think we’re stuck? Oh, honey. Life is what you make it. I’m not stuck in a small town; I chose it.

Choosing to come back to our simple hometown life after college was, by far, the best decision we have ever made. And you know what? We’re not alone. So are you going to tell me that those who choose to leave and head to the bigger city are better than the thousands of us whom have chosen to raise our families in a small town?

When we came back, we began a family business that has contributed to our small town economy for over 10 years. We are business owners and we are as successful as we want to be. Do we have loads of cash? No. But we have a roof and food. We have enough.

So if you’re too good for this small town life, there’s a lot you’re too good for. Here’s a little list for you…

  1. You’re too good for the teachers who stayed in that small town you grew up in in order to help you further your education and go for your dreams.
  2. You’re too good for your own family. You know…those people who raised you, fed you, and picked you up every time you fell in that small town.
  3. You’re too good for the job your mother and/or father had, the job that provided for you to be able to get “unstuck.”
  4. You’re too good for the cooks who fed you, the librarian who provided enriching activities, the guidance counselor who led you, and the principal who disciplined you when you were showing your disrespectful attitude.
  5. You’re too good for the doctors who saw you through every sniffle and hospital stay.
  6. You’re too good for the nurses who comforted you and knew you by name when they saw you in the grocery store.
  7. You’re too good for the secretaries, teachers, and role models who made sure you were where you were supposed to be and not where you wanted to be.
  8. You’re too good for unlocked doors and friendly highway waves.
  9. You’re too good for cruising with your friends on country roads until all hours of the night.
  10. You’re too good for the fundraisers your hometown puts on for every person ever suffering from anything.
  11. You’re too good for playing until the street lights come on without fear.
  12. You’re too good for those people who run the swimming pool every summer and somehow manage to babysit half the town every day.
  13. You’re too good for the volunteer firefighters and EMTs who saved your friend or family member.
  14. You’re too good for raising your family with the help of 3,000 others.
  15. You’re too good for Friday night lights and prom parties, for your coaches and teammates, and for your memories.
  16. You’re too good for the mechanic who fixes your car, the vet who takes care of your dog, the convenience store clerk who knows you by name, and the pastor who prays for you.
  17. You’re too good for the radio stations you jammed out to while you dreamed of a different life.
  18. You’re too good for the safe and comfortable home you grew up in and for the volunteers who saw you through every youth event you were ever a part of.
  19. You’re too good for the farmers who grew the food you eat every day.
  20. You’re too good for me and all of your friends who want to raise their families in a small town.

So go for your dreams, but remember all these people are living their dreams, too. We chose small town life. It doesn’t mean we’re stuck; it means we chose differently than you. You’re not wrong for wanting to leave, but don’t assume we’re wrong for wanting to stay.

Life is what you make it.

~

Like Jeremy and Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Health on Facebook

www.jeremyandbailey.com

www.jeremyandbaileyblog.com

 

My Dear Children: I Don’t Like You

Cue the confetti and the trumpets, “Mom of the Year” goes to…anybody BUT Bailey Koch.

Oh. My. Parenting. Seriously, guys. This week has been bad. We are talking “keep the boys from smashing each others’ heads into the tile,” “lock mom in the bedroom for your own safety,” “slam doors and break door trim” kind of bad.

So after today, I’ve seriously had it. I’m one who wears my heart on my sleeve, so hiding my feelings is not happening. My kids know mommy is officially losing it. Seriously thought about walking out of the house and going for a drive alone; and I would have had I not remembered the fact that our youngest has a serious case of “If you leave, you are never coming back” syndrome. I get it. He’s been through a lot with daddy’s accident, heart attack, and so on and so forth. So I didn’t leave. I locked myself in the bedroom. Or was that last night? OHHHH right. It was both.

But with that being said, this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week has left me with a big realization…

My dear children: I don’t like you.

You can officially give that mom of the year award away to anybody but me now. But it’s true. It’s summer, and I swear my children have turned into whiny, hearing impaired aliens. And it all comes down to one word, one word I can’t stand and absolutely despise…entitlement. I’m pretty sure both of my children have the word written across their foreheads at this very moment.

Get food out of the freezer and a few items fall out? Don’t worry. It works best if you stand there and scream and jump for mom to come pick it up since your “hands are full” of your nice cold treat.

Hungry at 5:00 and mom isn’t making supper fast enough? No worries. Just open up a can of spaghettios, warm them up in the microwave, and enjoy your time ruining your appetite for the nice meal your mother is about to begin preparing. Oh but be sure you leave all trash out, your bowl sitting in the living room for three days, and splatter that yummy sauce all over the microwave. Awesome.

Too tired to lift the toilet seat? Don’t worry. I genuinely love cleaning up pee all over the bathroom. Oh, and I adore sitting in it. Thank you!

Can’t find that precious stuffed animal? Oh it was me. Totally me. I hid it in an underground cave of wonders because I generally suck. That is all.

But entitlement is not only extremely annoying, it’s also dangerous. I refuse, REFUSE, to raise children who believe the world owes them anything. You work hard. You stand up for what you believe in. You get knocked down and you get back up. That’s what I want them to know. But right now, I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that a bad day does not mean a bad life. But this entitlement issue is bad.

So it’s true, my boys. I don’t like you right now. I love you. Oh my goodness do I love you. You have no idea how much, but that’s why you have to know why I don’t like you. We all have some work to do. Because when I don’t like you, I generally don’t like the person I become either. I turn into a screaming maniac. And if you ever videotape one of my outbursts, I will send your most embarrassing pictures to every girlfriend you will ever have for social media sharing.

Entitlement equals disrespect, and those are the issues we are having. While I love you, my children, I don’t like you right now. And if this behavior doesn’t stop, nobody else is going to like you either. Keeping a job? Forget it. You’ll believe you only have to show up when you feel like it and can leave whenever you want. Having a meaningful and loving relationship with a woman? No way. You’ll believe any woman is only there to pick up after you and allow you to walk all over her. Succeed in school? Nope. You’ll find a way to blame all of your mistakes on someone else.

So guess what, my children? You live under my roof, and this behavior stops now. I love you too much to not like you.

Love,

Mom

www.jeremyandbailey.com

https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

You’ve Been Punked: Top Five Commonly Told Lies From “Old Moms” to “New Moms”

As a mom of two young boys, ages 6 and 9, I can tell you I’ve been given a lot of advice over the years. I remember being a brand new mom and getting lots of unsolicited advice…that still happens. But please remember, there is a difference between advice and criticism. I respond well to advice; take it or leave it I figure. I’ll listen and be polite, but I don’t have to agree. But parenting criticism? No. Just no. I’m the mom and won’t pretend I’m right all the time concerning my parenting, but you sure as heck aren’t going to tell me you are right about how I should parent my kids. That’s just rude.

I’m currently in the stage of life when I know I am done pro-creating. My humans are made and growing. My husband and I made two males, and our family is perfectly perfect for us. I have lots of friends with kids and I have lots of friends without. In fact, most of my best friends since I was a wee-one are just now beginning to think about starting families. Today, I was on the phone with my bestie since fourth grade and we laughed about the stage of life she will be entering soon when she and her husband begin their family. I’ve been through a lot as a mom.

So my discussion with my best friend, who is thinking about the prospect of mommyhood, made me really start thinking about the fact that I was punked by a lot of moms who tried to give me “advice” when I began my family. I’ve compiled a list for you so you know when you’ve been lied to and can properly prepare for the reality of life as a parent.

Disclaimer…I understand trying to be super positive. Mommyhood is an absolutely awesome gig. However, in never sharing the reality that we all struggle at times, we make new mommies feel badly for not always enjoying every minute. So let’s be honest on both sides, shall we?

  1. “Trying to have a baby is fun! It will be a magical time for you and your husband.”

    Let’s face it. We are taking sex, something that should be quite enjoyable for a married couple, and turning it into a job. The ultimate goal is to create a human. Ready. Go! That’s a lot of pressure. With a job comes stress, and trying to have a baby can be stressful. Every month, if procreating hasn’t happened yet, you’ll get your monthly visitor and you will feel disappointed, sometimes even fearful. It’s not always a magical time. My advice? Try as hard as you can to relax and just “let it happen.” If it doesn’t happen right away, try not to stress and worry. Remember, there are a lot of ways to make a family. Trying can take a long time for many. But the more you stress, the worse your chances are. Trying to have a baby can be fun; with that I agree. But it can also be messy and stressful. Don’t fret; your family will happen. The more you plan, the more God laughs. Take time from baby making to just enjoy your spouse so you forget the ultimate goal. Focus on your marriage first.

  2. “Pregnancy is such an amazing time of life. You will love every minute.”

    Amazing? Yes. Worth it? Yes. You will love every minute? No…not even close. And that’s okay. If you are surrounded by women who say they just “want to stay pregnant forever,” find new friends. Those women are lying to themselves and to you. And if they aren’t, they are aliens whom are obviously not experiencing or noticing the reality of pregnancy. Hemorrhoids are absolutely awful and they certainly happen. Your boobs begin to look like they belong to some old woman but they are still attached to you; it’s very confusing. Leaking happens everywhere there is a hole; again, very odd and overwhelming. Heartburn…ooohh the heartburn. The tiny humans like to wedge themselves in places (mine took up residence with feet under my ribs) and stretch to oblivion so it is impossible to sleep or get comfortable.  And then there’s labor. Actually, labor was my favorite part because it meant I was almost done being pregnant. But I’m not going to lie; it hurts.

    The main part about pregnancy they don’t warn you about? Worry. Worry took over so much of my joy. It is possible to enjoy pregnancy, especially knowing the end result is so worth everything, but there are a lot of normal emotions to be prepared for. There is a lot that can go wrong, but there is a lot that doesn’t go wrong. Try not to worry. Try to enjoy it. You will be uncomfortable and you may or may not love being pregnant. Both are fine. So don’t think you are weird if you don’t enjoy every minute.

  3. “Baby snuggles are the best; you will just love having a newborn.”

    Okay, I can’t dispute that baby snuggles are the best and it’s awesome to have a newborn, but there are some hidden dangers in saying to every mom that you will just “love having a newborn.” When Hudson was three days old, I was so exhausted that I walked through a doorway holding him and nailed his head on the side of the door. Bam! I dropped to my knees and bawled for an hour trying desperately to understand how I, Bailey Koch, was effectively going to keep this precious tiny human alive. I. Was. Not. Worthy. I felt completely unfit. Then, I went downstairs and took a hot bath to try to relax and calm down. My boobs started shooting milk literally across the bathroom. Little did I know, I also had a massive infection. Mastitis. My fever was 103.5 at that moment. I had just given birth and it hurt to sit, stand, pee, poop, move, etc. My emotions were everywhere and there was no escaping the fact that I felt like absolute crap and was one of two people solely responsible for keeping this child alive. In those moments, I did not love having a newborn. I was terrified. And now I see that I was also having a completely normal reaction to being a new mom. I learned to accept help and tried hard to embrace those baby snuggles in between breakdowns, burps, and breastfeeding nightmares. This brings me to the next lie.
  4. “Breastfeeding is a completely natural process. You will catch right on.”

    I’m pretty passionate about this one. No, it’s not completely natural for many. Some moms are rock stars at breastfeeding. Some are not. I am not. In fact (and this is not an invitation to tell me how horrible of a human I am because I am not a fan of breastfeeding), I am quite creeped out by breastfeeding in general. I think it’s fabulous if women want to breastfeed. I don’t even have issues seeing it; it’s a boob with a human attached. The human has to eat, and this is a completely okay decision by the mother to feed her human in this format. So get over it. Don’t want to see it? Don’t look. For me, I hated it. It never felt natural. I never felt bonded to my child during breastfeeding. It never worked, and frankly, I felt extremely uncomfortable.

    I tried to breastfeed; I tried hard. I lasted with Hudson for 8 weeks and had mastitis three times. I bled. My nipples were horribly sore, and I was completely miserable. Every time I tried to feed my son, I cried. He cried. Neither of us were getting anywhere. I utilized the help of everyone, from friends and family to breastfeeding experts and doctors. I only kept trying because so many women made me feel like absolute crap for not loving every minute of breastfeeding. I was made to feel like a failure, and now I look back and want to tell those women, “Shame on you for making some feel this way.” I did not feel supported at all. Finally, a fabulous doctor said to me, “Bailey, it’s okay. Your body is not making enough for Hudson and it’s not your fault. You gave it your all. It’s okay.” I cried and cried and cried that I was never able to enjoy it or make it work like so many made me believe was supposed to happen. In fact, I even refused to give up when I had Asher. I thought maybe I just hadn’t tried hard enough. But the same things happened with him. I lasted two weeks and got mastitis again. Again, I utilized all the help available. It didn’t work. I hated breastfeeding and it did not work for my body. I was uncomfortable and miserable the entire time and my sons were not getting the nutrition they needed and deserved. They needed formula.
    I’m not sharing this for any other reason than to help you understand it’s not natural for everyone; that is why there are breastfeeding experts. If you want to try it, awesome. If not, don’t allow society to make you feel badly about that. If you don’t feel natural about it, or are even slightly creeped out by it as I was, don’t feel bad. Breastfeeding or not is a choice. Do what’s right for you.

  5. “You will miss this.”

    This is my favorite lie, and I still hear it all the time. I post something about a mountain of laundry and somebody inevitably writes, “You will miss this someday.” I say something about my son being grounded for being extremely disrespectful and somebody says, “One day, your house will be quiet.”

    Okay, I think it’s great that you miss the mountain of laundry, but I don’t. And I don’t plan on it. I get that my house will be quiet, but that doesn’t mean I will miss ear-piercing screaming and door slamming. You also told me I would miss having infants. Guess what? I don’t. I am in a fabulous time of life when I get to borrow my awesome friends’ tiny humans and then give them back. I am not responsible for them 24 hours a day. Our boys are 6 and 9 and I am learning to embrace every stage. I now have small to medium-sized humans and with that comes new triumphs and challenges; every stage does. Someday, my 9 year old will grow out of fits and door slams when he doesn’t get his way; I will not miss those moments. My children sleep through the night with no problems; I do not miss the stage when we were up with them at all hours. My children know how to tell me when something hurts; I do not miss those moments of tears streaming down their sweet little faces and mommy having no idea what to do to help. My children do not poop in the bathtub or rip off their pants randomly after having done their business only to smear it in or on places it’s not supposed to be; I do not miss clean-up from said disasters.

    Some phases I look back on with fondness and I smile. Some things I miss…yes. Some cause me to look back and laugh hysterically at the fact we all survived. I do not miss everything. I’m thoroughly trying to enjoy every stage (some days are harder than others), and I think that’s okay.

So it’s true. We all have been lied to. But there is one thing we can all likely agree on…no matter what, parenting is a pretty great gig. Just know you are not crazy for not loving every minute. It’s okay to look forward to the next stage.

Read more about our story at www.jeremyandbailey.com. Link to previous blog posts about parenting like “My Kids Hate Me” and “Advice to My Boys: 12 Non-Negotiables.”  Follow us on Facebook.

My Kids Hate Me

You learn you are expecting a child. Whether that child is coming from your own womb or the womb of another, you are about to be a parent. And then, the day comes when the baby enters the world. You marvel at how this tiny human was created. You dream, even plan, of how you will be the most amazing parent ever. You will guide, protect, and be patient and gentle. You will not yell or allow anger to take over your parental decisions. You will raise respectful children who are always kind to others.

Then the tiny human begins to grow. Then one extremely early morning, you wake to find that tiny human has grown into small human and has escaped from his crib only to stand next to you and scare the living crap out of you with the words, “I jump!” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, small human is a climber. Did I mention small human also puts everything in his mouth? Yes, that includes his pee soaked diaper insides that exploded since he slept through the entire night. You learn that the people who work for the Poison Control Center are fabulously understanding and most importantly, that small human will be okay. You learn to be thankful for non-toxic everything.

Ahh, but don’t forget you have another small human, the one who was here first and wants nothing more than to see slightly smaller human destroyed. So one day, you turn your back for a moment and find that small human has convinced smaller human to climb from the upper deck onto the roof. After a minor heart attack, you safely maneuver smaller human back onto the deck.

These small humans have very little understanding of the word “danger” until they experience pain for themselves. Parents know nothing. Experience means little. 

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“Let’s keep him. I want to take him home.” – Hudson (age 2 1/2…proof he liked baby brother at one point)

So now I am mom to two medium-sized humans. Two boys to be exact. I laugh at my parenting plans before I actually had to do my best every day to attempt to keep these children from injuring themselves or others. I remember saying I would never spank. I remember saying I would never yell. I remember believing I would just know what to do. So here’s the truth now, as our boys will be ages 10 and 7 this year. I spank. I yell. And I have no idea what I’m doing or how to handle most, if not all, parenting situations.

So here’s the reality today. My kids generally hate me. They want to eat junk all day long; we don’t let them. They want to eat and run; we make them eat dinner with us as a family most days. They want to pee all over the toilet seat and expect mom to clean up after them; we make them clean it up themselves. They want to stay home on Sunday mornings in their underwear and play video games; we go to church as a family. They want to get angry, scream that I am a horrible mother, and then go back to their video games; they get grounded, spanked, and don’t get video games for a week. They want to forget their manners; they lose Kindle time. They want to destroy their bedrooms and expect mom and dad to clean them up; we shut the doors until they run out of clothes and are forced to clean. They want to be rough on toys and expect mom and dad to just buy new ones; we make them work to earn their own money by doing chores and use their money to purchase replacements. They want to try dangerous stunts; we let them within reason…they learn. They want to play video games all day long; we cancel cable in the summer and only allow television time in the evenings after we’ve been outside all day long. They want to be the first to run in everywhere; we make them hold doors for others. They want to do wrong and blame others; we teach them how to accept responsibility and fix mistakes. They want to have things and favors handed to them; we teach them to work hard and help others without expecting in return. They want to goof off in school; we teach them to respect a solid education and the teachers giving it to them.

They don’t yet understand what we are trying to do…that we are just trying to help them grow into respectful and responsible young men. We don’t know what we are doing as parents, but we do know we are trying our best. Yes, I yell. Yes, I allow anger to control my parenting from time to time. Yes, I will spank our children if the situation warrants it. No, I do not know if what we are doing is working. I believe my roll is to parent and pray; that’s it.

A woman once said to me, “Free will trumps good parenting every day.” This is so true. And honestly, it makes me feel so much better. I will do my best as their mother. I will raise them in a Christian environment with the knowledge that we respect and love others, we treat women with gentleness and admiration, and we share responsibilities in the home. We work for what we get in life and we do not expect handouts. We believe in education and using passions and God-given talents to help others. So at the end of the day, our kids still have to choose. They still have to make their own choices. We can’t be there always to be sure they are following through with what we are teaching. Free will trumps good parenting.

Parent and pray. That’s what I’ll keep doing every day. It’s worth it. I just pray we are doing right by them. Parent and pray.

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Like Jeremy and Bailey on Facebook to learn more about our story and daily life. We are Christian advocates for mental health and Jeremy has survived multiple suicide attempts and lives with severe depression. We run a support group, Anchoring Hope, in Cozad, Nebraska for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. Be sure to check out our website at www.jeremyandbailey.com to find more and even link to purchase our book, “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith.”