I sat talking to a woman not long ago, and we were surprised to discover that we are almost exactly the same age! I think the reason this was surprising is because our lives are so very different. I am 34 years old and have been married for nearly 14 years. I have 4 children and I am blissfully content taking care of my home and family. The woman I sat beside is 34 years old and single, with a successful career as a make-up artist for major productions. She lives in California and has lots of friends and is very happy with her life as well. We are SO different, and yet…in that moment of laughing and chatting and sharing, we connected and I realized that we are really the same inside. We are women. We both worked towards the goals that made us happy and have achieved them. We aren’t really so different after all.
Here at everyday-creative.com, we have noticed the gap between women who are different growing steadily wider. There are so MANY ways we are different, from the ways we raise or children, or the choice of how to spend our time, to the color of our skin, or our pants size. We want to embrace the idea that instead of breaking us apart, these differences should be celebrated! Women are doing so many amazing things in our world today, and we want to spotlight some of those women weekly in our Everyday Extraordinary Series. Our first Spotlight said it best in her interview, so I’ll just quote Brandis here.
“In the most difficult times in my life, I have found that people are put into my path whose stories give me strength, and who I can lean on for support to help me navigate through whatever I’m dealing with. [now I can] see the value in MY story, and realize that I can be that strength for other people too.”
Without further adieu I would love to introduce you to Brandis Goodman. Brandis was nominated by a mutual friend, and even though we have never met, I can’t help thinking we would be friends in real life! I think you will agree that Brandis is making everyday extraordinary.
My name is Brandis Goodman. I was born and raised in southwest Idaho and have lived in the Phoenix, AZ area for the last 13 ½ years. My husband, Donny, and I have been married since September 2001 and have 5 really awesome kids. Donny is my greatest supporter in life. He is a great partner, especially when it comes to raising our children. He teaches them things that I can’t teach them, and he does it in ways that only he can. He helps each one of them set goals and then constantly encourages them to work towards those goals.
Our oldest daughter Ashtyn is 12. She is responsible, nurturing, patient, loving, creative, friendly, dependable, and she is my right-hand girl. I would be up a creek without a paddle if I didn’t have her around to help me. She cleans the kitchen better than any other 12 year old I know and never complains about doing it. Her younger siblings look to her as an example and thrive on her attention and approval in a way that warms my heart.
Cole is our one and only boy. He is 10 years old. Cole is a hard worker. Once he decides he wants to do something, he is not afraid of the work it will take to get it done. He gets a little frustrated sometimes by the ratio of boys to girls, but he is really sweet to his sisters. Cole is my #2 man.
Kaida is 7, and is my mini-me. Maybe it’s the middle child in both of us, or maybe it’s the redhead, but either way, Kaida is the child my mother blessed me with when she said, “Someday I hope you have a little girl just like you!” She is my snuggle bunny, and she loves to make me happy. Kaida LOVES school. She is sharp as a tack and catches on quickly with her school work. She makes friends easily and lights up a room with her contagious smile and cheerful energy.
Raya is 5 years old and is very excited about kindergarten in the fall. Life has not been easy for Raya. She has faced chronic medical challenges her whole life, but she is a great example of living out loud and does not let her challenges hold her back. Raya is an amazing little girl. She is tough as heck and she is not afraid to tell it like it is. She has an electric personality and a fabulous imagination.
Rounding out our little clan is Piper, who had her 1st birthday on Valentine’s Day. She has brought a joy into our home that we did not know was missing. Having another baby after going through the challenges we have gone through with Raya was scary for me. Although Piper has faced a few little hiccups of her own, being able to care for her and see her grow and thrive has brought peace and healing to my heart.
Do you struggle with self esteem? How have you worked to overcome this?
Self-esteem is something that I have struggled with off and on for as long as I can remember. There have been 3 things that have helped, and continue to help when I am struggling. One is to remind myself of the things I have accomplished and the things I am good at. When I start to catch myself in a pattern of negative self-talk, I have learned to stop, reflect on my strengths, and think about how I can use them to improve whatever I am feeling insecure about. Another is to fill my head with enough positive to drown out the negative. It is difficult to think negative thoughts about myself when I am listening to talks by motivational speakers or religious leaders that remind me how much God loves me. I have also learned that it is okay to let go of toxic relationships and surround myself with people and things that help me to feel encouraged and uplifted.
What is a struggle you have had in your life (that you are willing to share publicly) and what did you learn from it?
We all have defining events in our lives, and quite often they seem to be the events that have been most difficult for us and pushed us to our limits. I have had many along the way, but quite possibly the biggest defining event in my adult life was embarking on the journey of parenting a child with special needs. When our fourth child was born, things seemed okay at first. My pregnancy and delivery had been mostly uneventful and she seemed okay. We were so enamored with our sweet new baby that we didn’t realize right away that her reflux was significantly worse than her older sisters’ had been, nor did we recognize the significance of several other seemingly small problems. The first two months of her life were a downward spiral of reflux, food refusal, projectile vomiting, and poor weight gain that culminated in a hospital admission and feeding tube at 10 weeks. The next year was intense as we worked with an ever-expanding team of specialists to try and figure out what was at the root of the growing list of diagnoses she was accumulating. It was a whirlwind that we could not escape from. In the midst of it, we learned some powerful lessons:
- God is over all, and we are not. As hard as I tried to gain control of an out-of-control situation, I could not, and over time I learned to do what I could and turn the rest over to God. It was something I had always heard people talk about doing, but that was the first time in my life that I truly internalized that lesson and found myself able to do it.
- Prayer is powerful. When Raya was 13 months old, I flew across the country with her to have some medical testing done. It was one of the most exhausting weeks of my life but I felt as rested on 3 hours a night of sleep as I normally would on a full night’s sleep, and I attribute that to the prayers of my friends and family.
- There is more than one kind of patience. In some trials in life, the need for patience spans months and years.
- I am not alone in my struggles. Some of the most incredible people I know are people I have met because of the things Raya has gone through. Although we do not have an exact diagnosis that explains all of Raya’s medical and developmental issues, we have been blessed with friends along the way who are walking similar paths, and we are able to relate to each other in a way that most people cannot.
- I have found passions in life that I would not have otherwise found, and interests that I didn’t know I had.
I have always been interested in things of a medical nature. I remember even as a child that I seemed to pick up on medical words easily. Growing up on a dairy farm, there were many opportunities to be involved in caring for the cattle in a medical capacity, whether it was giving shots to sick cattle, delivering calves, or helping my dad give IVs to sick cows. I realized recently that my first experience with tube feeding was actually not with Raya, but with sick calves. It made me laugh to think about that. In all honesty, the toughness I developed through growing up on the farm has been an important survival skill for me in caring for Raya. I have held her down through countless blood draws, IVs, and other unpleasant and painful medical procedures. For 6 ½ months, it was my job to put her feeding tube back in her nose each time it came out, which consisted of wrapping her tightly in a towel or blanket, kneeling over her, and sliding the tube through her nose and into her stomach while she screamed, cried, and tried to get away from me.
As things evolved with Raya’s medical conditions, I realized that I had a thirst for knowledge when it came to anything related to her care, and as we have met more kids with complex medical conditions, I realized that my thirst for knowledge of a medical nature extends beyond Raya and her conditions. I decided a couple years ago that I would like to go back to college and get another bachelor’s degree; this time in nursing. I’m not sure exactly when I will be able to start nursing school but I am very close to being able to apply. I will wait until I finish nursing school to decide what area I want to go into, but it is very easy to imagine myself going into pediatric GI nursing after learning more than I ever wanted to know about the human digestive system over the last 5 years.
Other unexpected blessings have come through our trials with Raya’s health. Early in 2012, I also became part of the staff of the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation, which is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to spreading positive awareness of tube feeding as well as assisting families of children with feeding tubes in navigating through tube feeding in a home setting. We have a website where we share information about the practical day-to-day aspects of tube feeding at home. I contribute content to the website, to our “All Things Tubie” blog, and I co-moderate the Facebook page of over 30,000 people. I spend time each day answering questions about anything feeding tube-related and pretty much any and all aspects of life with a tube fed child. We also spend a great deal of time reaching out to medical professionals and the companies that manufacture all of the products that are involved in tube feeding in hopes of improving communication and building relationships that result in better outcomes for those who depend on feeding tubes. Being part of this incredible organization has been a source of healing for me. It has given me a way to use what I have learned in the course of Raya’s life to help other people who are going through similar struggles and usually save them a little bit of the trial and error that I and our other staff members have gone through. I never imagined that I would become so passionate about something like a feeding tube, but that little device has kept my sweet daughter alive and allowed her to thrive, so I am grateful to be able to share that message with the world.
What are your creative outlets?
I have always loved writing. I started a blog (www.agirlandhertube.blogspot.com) when Raya was a baby to chronicle our journey, in hopes that what we have learned would help someone else in some way. Writing about what we were going through and journaling my feelings about things has been more therapeutic for me than I can find words to express. In the beginning, I really only expected a few family members to read it but readership has grown and it has taken on a life of its own that I never imagined. Blogging is one of my creative outlets, and photography is the other. (yeah, sometimes life gets busy and there just isn’t time for more than 2 creative outlets!) I love photography, and because I enjoy it as a hobby, I have never turned it into much of a business venture. I didn’t want it to become something I resented or became bored with, so I don’t really market at all and mostly do sessions for family and friends. I have also taken a lot of pictures of medical supplies for various projects for my blog and the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation.
What has been your greatest triumph?
One of my greatest triumphs and proudest accomplishments was winning the pole vault competition at the state track meet my junior year in high school. I won my senior year too, but my junior year was special. I had started pole vaulting as a freshman and I don’t know what made me so self-assured, but I just knew that someday I was going to be the state champion like my older brother had been. I was not the most naturally gifted athlete, but I loved that sport and I worked hard. Our school had one of the worst tracks in our area, and by far the worst pole vault equipment. Our runway was an old conveyor belt from a potato truck, rather than a nice rubberized asphalt runway like most of the other local schools had. I had injured my ankle near the end of the track season my sophomore year, and tried to come back too soon from the injury. My season that year ended in heartbreak when I failed to qualify for the state track meet, despite being one of the top ranked pole vaulters in the state. My junior year, I was determined to do whatever it took to come out on top. I was blessed to find great mentors, and with their support and the support of my coaches, family, and teammates, I was able to stand at the top of the medal podium and claim that victory. I was the proverbial “comeback kid” and it felt incredible. Even now, it is one of the highlights of my life. Reaching that first goal of being a state champion made me realize that I could set my sights higher, and I decided I wanted to pole vault in college. I continued to work hard and was able to win another state championship and then become a college athlete. I had to pinch myself the first time I put on that uniform! I often reflect back on those accomplishments now, at times when I need to be reminded that I am capable of doing hard things. Life has a way of wearing us down and making us forget that we are powerful, and we are meant for greatness. I am grateful for those experiences that taught me to believe in myself and in my ability to set and reach goals.
Do you ever feel disconnected from other women? What kinds of things make this worse, and what kinds of things make it better?
In every phase of my life, I have felt like there are times when I’m drawn to other women and also times where I feel very disconnected. I think that the difficult trials in our lives have the potential to affect us either way. Either we feel isolated because we feel like nobody understands what we’re going through, or we feel drawn to others who have gone through similar struggles. I remember sitting in church one Sunday and hearing a woman talk about how amazing all of us were. At first, I let it go in one ear and out the other because it sounded cliche’ and I was feeling a bit anti-social and like I just didn’t have the energy to care about making friends. Then she said something that has stuck with me ever since then, and has encouraged me to make a greater effort to connect with the women around me. She said, “Each of you has a story. Each of you has an incredible, unique story, and you NEED to make an effort to get to know each other so that you can all benefit from building relationships with each other and learning each other’s stories.” In the most difficult times in my life, I have found that people are put into my path whose stories give me strength, and who I can lean on for support to help me navigate through whatever I’m dealing with. Her comment helped me to see the value in MY story, and realize that I can be that strength for other people too.
What is a motto you live by?
When Raya was a newborn and her medical problems started to escalate, I found myself often feeling overwhelmed. On top of the typical sleep deprivation of having a fussy newborn, we added in the demands of a rigorous feeding schedule in hopes of helping her gain desperately needed weight, and there were also trials of many different medications due to the problems she was having.
Our oldest child turned 7 when Raya was 4 months old and was in 1st grade, and we had a 4 year old and 2 year old at home as well. Even on nights when all of the children slept well, I still had to wake up multiple times overnight to give medications and deal with the feeding pump. There were also late night and early morning vomits to clean up, almost like clockwork. I don’t remember exactly when it happened, but somewhere in that first year of Raya’s life, I adopted the mantra of “It won’t be like this forever.” At first, it was what I told myself in order to make it through the hard days and long, sleepless nights. I had faith that things would get better, but we had no way of knowing when that would happen, and the only way I could keep from being utterly depressed over how out of control I felt was to remind myself that whatever was beating me down at that particular moment was just a small part of the bigger picture. I knew I could expect things to change, so I kept repeating to myself, “It won’t be like this forever.” Over time, I realized that it also applied to the positive side of life. Yes, the hard things in life would pass, but so would the good times. Reminding myself “It won’t be like this forever” has helped me to fully embrace the joyful experiences with my family and those fleeting moments of childhood that will be over too quickly as my kids get older.
Aaaaaand sometimes I just tell myself I’m Wonder Woman. I think we all have a bit of Wonder Woman in us. ☺
Thanks Brandis! Click HERE to nominate the women in your life!