Live Well

This is my very first blog post. I am new (again) to blogging as it’s been a few years since I’ve crafted an online journal. Welcoming relationships with other bloggers and blogging friendships from all over the world is exciting. Expressing myself in the way my heart knows how to best is even a greater blessing. It’s been a long time since I’ve bared my soul onto a public page. Scary. I was known for being boldly raw and bare with my heart and passionate about all I wrote. I hope the aging I’ve done since taking a break didn’t stifle any of that honesty.

I don’t blog for a business or to become well known in any world (homeschooling, health, organic church life) and I don’t blog because it’s good for business. This is personal, not professional and definitely not safe or generic. I write this blog in hopes that it fuels the life inside me and maybe I can add insight to someone else going through similar seasons in life. Maybe I write for myself because it brings clarity and I figure things out as I share them. I’m a seeker. I find the best folks, friends, yogis, teachers, wise people and survivors. I find them and I follow them, both online and in real life.

Blogging was a daily habit which began about a year before I started homeschooling my three boys. So roughly over a decade ago… I am the same girl. Grown, stronger and hopefully smarter as I’ve soldiered through some tough years. I have less fear than ever before.

Welcome to my page. My story is written in a post under the “About Me” heading. Read it and feel free to send a quick hello. I would love to read your blog as well!

Love much


New Year, New Vision

Dear friends, my hope for you is that 2017 be fresh and inspired. Last night before heading off to festivities we attended the Saturday night service at Vineyard. I wasn’t real excited about going anywhere because I was still a little sad about some problems my mom’s been having. We haven’t spoken in almost two years and when we do I find that everything is the same. So I figured maybe a little bit of joy was stamped out for a few days and that’s why I was dragging. Couldn’t eat. Had high fevers. Waking up a LOT at night. And now I’m sounding pretty clueless because it’s obvious I caught something.

My emotions and physical health are so closely tied that I don’t even know sometimes I’m sick. I simply think I feel sad for one reason or another. Despite the desire to get into jammies something inside gave me the push I needed to get dressed and go. My kids and I journal in our Bibles during the service and I was looking forward to that part. When I am sketching and drawing and doodling and distressing the pages the teachings tend to stick and I hear them clearer. I have journaling Bibles made specifically for the purpose of illustrating in them which was a genius idea because now my ADD brain can remain aware and focused while spending time reading and learning about Christ.

Usually, when not fighting cancer and thyroid complications (my body can’t absorb thyroid replacement hormones and I had my thyroid removed several years ago) my area of service tends to be with addicts and homeless. I was an addict and I have a special place in my heart for others still out there. Any given church at any given time has so many opportunities to give, whether it be time, skills- like hair cuts, money, or just an ear for listening. That was my thing. I loved getting to know the local homeless and once they realized I wasn’t simply a religious person fulfilling my personal need to feel good about myself (a lot of them feel that way about people who try to help) I actually became a person worth having a conversation with. And that has meant to much to me seeing how much it means to them. I learned that many of these people would rather have good company for a few hours than a sandwich. So wherever we go it isn’t home until I find my place in that part of our community.

Last night was presented with an opportunity to try working in the Creative Arts department of the church. I was so humbled, so shocked that they would want me and today I am getting a whole new vision for this year. Yes, I am thrilled to be back in “ministry work” whether paid or unpaid. This particular job is a paying one. I know, right? I wasn’t even going to attend. A few days ago I felt awful about myself because words really do hurt, more than knives even. And today I am coming up with ways to share the power of art and creative expression with hurting people. With local addicts and women in jail and anyone who could benefit from getting to practice this healing expressive way of worship. Everyone is able to create. We inherit this trait from the Creator (if you believe in a monotheistic God). And if you don’t believe you are created by God, it’s still the most wonderful way to find some beauty and peace in a fallen world. I am going to have an opportunity to share my two main things… loving others through faith in serving this ministry… and being an artist.

So while I still have what looks like could be a nasty bug, or the flu, I am not letting it cloud this New Year’s Day fresh start. I needed this. I needed to be pulled back into the world after being so sick for so long. I needed to be able to have an identity all my own to compliment being a homeschool mom and Chris’ wife. This is going to be new for me as I’ve never been creative for work as I assist the art director in the church’s activities. I am saying yes to all of it, health, trying a new thing, being an artist and getting a job. 2017 is the best year I’ve ever had so far.

Thanks for reading. Happy New Year- and I wish you the best for whatever your visions is or continues to be!

Jack Leann

It’s okay.

I’ve written the ugly. Flipping the coin, here’s the practical and positive. This post is a two-part blog all in one post. They go hand-in-hand.

Here’s about a paragraph about each of the two reasons I sought professional help…

I will always feel the loss of a loved one taken so unexpectedly, so quickly and while we were both so young. Unless you’ve experienced loss of a young love, a sibling, a parent or good friend to sudden death you can’t imagine the shock. I’m still shocked when I think about the boys being gone. His brother also died while we were young. Today I won’t use drugs because when I begin to hurt I accept it. I feel it as it comes. Sometimes I share one of the many memories of the really good times with my kids or Chris. I have great memories of them. We were nature-lovers so fishing, mountain bike riding and trying to keep up with him as we flew through the trails at the camp close to home live on in this house. Camping in friend’s back yards. Swimming in the lakes at sunrise while the perfect world of a 15 year old girl just swelled in my heart. I love those memories. And yes, there will always be a lot of pain. Sometimes tears. But I don’t need to escape it. I can handle it today.

I will always feel the aftershock of the time Chris almost died. A year of pre-PTSD symptoms before developing PTSD for a very long time. He was hurt so badly that when I asked him to forgive the man who hurt him the surgeons came in to try and persuade him otherwise. The damage that was done was so great he suffered brain damage. He spent 10 days hovering in and out of death, machines keeping him alive and a lifetime of needing medical attention paid to every headache as if he were having an aneurysm all over again. He swallowed any form of justice he was owed because I asked him to… because the man responsible for this (the doctor knew who did it by which side of the head was met with blunt force trauma) was someone I cared about. The strength of several bricks over and over again while he lay motionless in the bed. I wrote an entire book about it in order to heal. The point is… I was the reason my husband never felt any form of closure or justice. I was the reason he lost over $20,000 in restitution. I asked him not to and then I go and get PTSD on him. In the first few years of counseling with a very well-respected man in his field I learned that it is okay. I have walked through the conversations of that evening and through this therapeutic practice learned about what I could have done differently. What I am responsible for and what I am not responsible for because I honestly didn’t know… it wasn’t until I worked through the events which led up to the assault under the care of a doctor in a safe environment that I learned the truth. And it’s okay. I am at peace in knowing the truth. Not my truth, not someone else’s, but THE truth.

Here is what happened after I got the help…

More than eight years I have therapy-ed myself to get whole and healthy. I’m as shrunk as one can be which led to being mentally, emotionally and spiritually well. During the PTSD getting help became crucial. It was a choice, but it was necessary to be able to heal. There were months I saw my trusted doctors several times a week.

I wanted to be at peace. I wanted to be healthy so my family could enjoy  healthy wife and mother. These days I only go in every other month or so. It keeps me grounded and honest. Sometimes I don’t know if my old way of thinking is sneaking back to steal my joy. I get regular check-ups because I spent a long time messed up and I won’t go back there. I learned that without help, unchecked trauma or abuse will lead to unhealthy relationships, unhealthy choices and an overall unhappy life. No one wants to be hurting all the time. Hurting people hurt other people.

Then I lost a relationship with some very important people…

I learned that getting well meant I could no longer connect with those who liked me better sick and hurting. Sounds crazy, but it happens so regularly that family therapy and support groups exist for this very reason- to help relationships change as the person getting help changes. The very first day of therapy and once in a recovery group I was told that the path will lead to loss. Not everyone is going to like the new me. If I get well and honest, then I can no longer accept anything other than a healthy respect of basic boundaries from anyone else. Never thought I would lose my parents. My counselor told me in the beginning I was co-dependent on her. I needed to stop being a child and learn to be an adult. I needed to be allowed to disagree with my mom without serious consequences. I was no longer a teen needing rehab or to be picked-up from the bad guy’s house. I am a mom and a wife and I could have been a wonderful friend and adult daughter to her.

I had to stop speaking with my parents because we had set the precedent in which I couldn’t be allowed to live outside of the label of an addict. I no longer accept that I owe anyone anything other than love and respect and I’ve spent my entire adult life giving just that… love and respect. As much as it hurts to see relationships fall away, it hurts worse to be threatened and bullied. The last time I saw my mother my bedroom door wouldn’t latch. I spent the weekend in bed during her visit while my husband was a wonderful host. We didn’t know why she came until afterwards, and even now we can only speculate. It was a drop in from half-way across the country. At a very bad time. I was sick, about to be diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t want anyone to know as I had just spent time with family and kept my symptoms well hidden with medication. She waited until my husband and kids went to a boy’s scout meeting and tried to encourage me to do something I would never do. It got emotional. I got emotional, She smiled. I will never forget that smile. It was that smile at my pain which led me to cut ties that day. I needed stitches in my foot because my bedroom door wouldn’t lock and she was trying to push her way in. I had to stop holding the door shut to bandage my foot. She followed me into the bathroom and treated me poorly for the last time. She was told to leave immediately. I even dropped the f-word because I was so angry. I had enough. She was still smirking. Like she got off on my pain. My husband and kids came home and saw the same thing. He was smart to have recorded every word immediately after that as he drove her to the hotel. She wished I would have hurt her. That’s what she said. In Missouri I would have been well within my rights to use force after she broke my door bulldozing her way into my room. I wonder if that’s maybe how she hurt her shoulder. She said I hurt her shoulder and I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. That’s how my family worked when I was a part of it… she breaks boundaries and even laws and when she hurts herself doing it, I’m the reason. That’s why I don’t speak with my family. I would rather be healthy and okay without that side of the family than unhealthy and full of drama with them. I lost my parents. Not to death, but because of that day and some others just like it I lost my parents. I had to move on quickly because a bigger battle was in front of me and I needed to stay good and focused on the positive. I cried because I lost them, but I also cried because I don’t ever have to be the one who causes all their pain anymore. I was recently reminded of how good that felt when someone close to my mom began blaming me for something. It was mean. And it went into the file labeled “this is why my parents are not ready to see the kids yet.” Not that my oldest son will ever see my mom again. He would like to see my dad again one day, but on his (my son’s) terms. My dad was a good grandpa until that final conversation. He threatened our family if we didn’t let our son come stay with them. But I know that was not in my dad’s heart to do that because that’s not who my dad is… with the wrong motivation even a kind person can say mean things.

This is how I live my life today. These are the tools that allow me to feel pain, recognize it, cry my eyes out and then write my heart out about it. I don’t let others dictate what is and is not my truth, my responsibility or even who I am. Words hurt, but they are the spiritual thermometer through which I can see who is good for my life right now and who is not the right person for me to know at this time. I couldn’t do that before counseling. I couldn’t see that there is good and bad in everyone and no one has to be labeled either “all good or all bad.” There is only a healthy respect for the way I would like to be treated and it involves love, not fear, threats or abuse.

Thanks. There’s a lot more to write about. I have causes and missions and purpose I try to live and of course the whole cancer ordeal. But I’m still pretty close to the situation and I don’t know that I want the world to know what I went through just yet. But it will get posted one day.

Thanks for all the love and encouragement from my last post. You rock and I’m so glad to be blogging.

Love you,


The darkest part of me…

This is not what my Grandmother wanted. It’s not what I had in mind when I imagined coming back to social media after the fight. Cancer side effects, cancer itself, the ripple from the “cure.” In the spring I will have spent two years fighting for my life. No one gossiped about me. No one was mean. I call my husband’s parents mom and dad as they have stepped in to fill that role during my illness. Mom and Dad being great. No family drama. In fact, no drama at all! The parents who raised me weren’t in the picture, but I figured they were secretly rooting for my health. Never imagined Dru would be telling this story to people who have only met me a few times. As my oldest son reminded me last night, this is why we don’t speak to them. Drama.

I am going to share with you the absolute worst thing I did as a person. While I was a teenage heroin addict. A story of my Grandmother’s beauty and grace. Boy, did that woman exude grace. She was strength and love and graceful. She never wanted this story told beyond me and her, but I confided in Dru. And Dru turned a lovely story about her mother into an ugly story about the worst thing I ever did. Once I tell it everything else will be okay because there is nothing as bad as this.

Even as an addict I was quite content to hurt myself over and over again. But I never took, stole from or hurt people. Except this one time… my grandmother. In 1998 I was 18, living in Vorhees, N.J. I became addicted to heroin. I knew the first time I used it I would be doing it again. The absence of pain. I could get up and go about the day without immense grief. With heroin I didn’t have to kill myself. Without it I tried often. Back to the worst thing I ever did…

Dru came over one day. At that time she was still “mom” and she was a good one at that. Sat on my couch and asked if I was using heroin again. Everything inside me began to say no when I burst into a giant “YES.” She held me, hugged me and told me she would help me again. When I relapsed and my addiction got out of control she was great in those situations. I never felt like she didn’t love me. She did a great job loving me. And for those 4 years she was all I wanted. I needed my mom and she showed up. She wasn’t afraid of my addiction. She fought it with me and at times she fought it for me. Had I not become a mother I might have stayed an addict just to have that back with her. I would give anything to have my mom. She was a great woman. Nothing can take those memories. Of a mom who gave herself to her children, even the heroin addict. That woman would have been devastated to learn I have a cancer that is fatal. She would never behave the way she now behaves. My other mom is wonderful and is helping our family through sickness. I guess it’s too much to ask for both.

After that day on the couch I went through a brutal detox. Mom was there for every dry heave, every siezure, every moan and tear. After that, Dru and Grandmom Peggy decided I should leave the place I lived in alone and move in with Grandmom. My Grandmother and I were very, very close. I will cherish that time living with her. It was irreplaceable, it was a gift if there ever was such a great gift. I got to know my Grandother deeply. She opened her home to me and she shared her life with me. We racked up hundreds of hours talking, tearing up, and learning about each other. On her deathbed I thanked her for those talks and told her those were what I was going to hold tight. Still do, especially today.

I started using heroin. I was serving tables in a restaurant and making friends. Building a life at Grandmom’s home. But my addiction and all the issues causing it still existed. I was still in a lot of pain. Especially at night. My bed was against a wall and on the opposite side of the wall was my grandmother’s bed. My head was mere feet from hers. I should have told her I wasn’t well. I sobbed quietly at night and pretended I was okay during the day. I lost someone I loved and I never got help for it. I didn’t know how to ask the right way. I got shut down the first time I tried to talk about it with Dru. I should have persisted and told her how important it was… how badly I hurt… how I would hurt for the rest of my life. But I got silent like a coward and then blamed her for not letting me talk. I don’t blame her anymore. She had no idea how to parent a child who lost her first love to death. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was in her shoes. So I cried for three years. Mostly at night and in the shower. And I did heroin. I could do heroin like a champ. And I got addicted like a junkie. For 4 years I was addicted to heroin. And I lived with my Grandmom Peggy for one of those years.

One day I drove into Philly and I spent my money on heroin. Got back home to find that the drugs were fake. I was getting sick. Heroin withdrawal is bad physically, but mentally it’s the worst. And as I got sick, I did the most disgusting thing my junkie mind could think of… I chose a piece of jewelry my grandmom had in her room, one she wouldn’t notice was gone for a while, and I sold it at a gold store. I asked the woman what she was going to do with the necklace and ski shaped pendant. She would possible resell to a jeweler or melt in down. I left and bought heroin and I lived to be a junkie another day.

About two weeks later I thought about all the jewelry in her room. I thought about taking more that she might not miss. I thought those evil thoughts. So I did what my mother raised me to do… I sat across the table from G-mom Peggy and like so many other mornings I began to tell her secrets. Over coffee I told her that I took her necklace, sold it, used it for drugs and I couldn’t get it back. And I wanted to take more. I was an addict and I was not the person she thought I was.

With emotionless eyes which I tried to read with every breathe, she paused for a long time. I looked down and prepared myself for what she needed to say. I hurt her. My Grandmother had loved me to pieces and I betrayed her. As she took in air to speak I looked up and locked eyes with a teary-eyed Grandmom. “I think we both know you need help. You can’t stay here. And this needs to stay between us.” I walked over to her side of the table and clung to her. I don’t know if she held me or I held her, but I clung for dear life.

When I got clean and sober two and a half years later I told my mom what I had done. I told my mom that I wanted to use my cleaning money (she paid me to do jobs around the house for her because I wasn’t working) to buy Grandmom a Christmas gift of gold. My mom helped me choose a beautiful braided gold necklace. She even helped to pay for it because it was important and that’s who my mom was. Grandmom Peggy gave knowing smile when she realized what the gift meant. She never spoke of what I did. My mother showed her grace when she gave her own mother the necklace and said, “This was important to Jackie for you to have.” Never mentioning my sin. Never taking credit for helping me pay for the gift. I was a part of a beautiful legacy. Woman of substance who believed in forgiveness.

Two decades later…

Knowing she was dying, she asked her dear friend Bonnie to give me something when I came home for the funeral. It was a beautiful necklace with a snowflake charm. Presenting me the necklace, Bonnie gave me a message – private and loving. A reminder of how to love. It was more assurance of goodness in the world from the grace of an angel.

That is the story of what I did. More importantly, it is the story of who my Gandmother was. I know she deserved better. When she passed away I was a homeschooling mother of three children trying to make a broken marriage work. I had not been an addict in years. I had achieved more than even I thought possible and I was so proud for her to know that she saw goodness in me and I needed her to know I was worth her love.

That is the time I stole from someone to pay for my addiction. That day I was a thief. My kids know, my husband knows. I tell that story when I talk about what heroin can do to a person. And I remember that story when I think about forgiveness and love and the gentle grace of my Grandmom Peggy.

If you hear me called a “thief” by Dru or by her best friend, this is why… I will never forget what I did. And my Grandmother will never know how I’m being treated now, thank God.

Now that the meanest thing I did to anyone is “out there” I can share openly about everything else. More to come!!!!

Thanks for reading. Love,

Jack Leann



Cause shotgun bullets are bad for your health.

Check yo-self before you wreck yourself. Very nice throwback. And  bit appropriate for this post.

Bladder cancer and interstitial cystitis. My hope is to not only share my experiences and knowledge, but share that no one is alone when it comes to cancer. Withdrawing from friends and family was what I needed to do, but I had support from bloggers. Online has connections to be made.

Paying attention to cancer symptoms can save your life. They can mean the difference between a long life and a short death. I learned recently that once you have cancer and it gets treated, the likelihood of it returning somewhere else is strong, especially for thyroid cancer. Which was the first cancer I had. Breast cancer survivors seem to be an exception, as I’ve known a few who have never had cancer again after treatment. My doctor is a ten year breast cancer survivor! She has learned to trust her body again and she is doing very well.

Years ago I had a hysterectomy and my bladder was placed in a mesh sling. Any normal bleeding I had experienced as a woman stopped. So from that point on anytime my body bled anywhere it was because something was wrong. If I had a cut on my arm or a severe bladder infection a little blood was a sign that something was hurting my body.

About 2 and a half years ago I began to have small amounts of blood show up in my urine. It happened when I was really active, on my feet for long periods of time or when with my husband in the biblical sense (sharing for the sake of passing on knowledge). Once in a while I would feel worried, especially when a very heavy pain accompanied the bleed. Like a bowling ball dropping into my pelvis. It made walking unbearable. That was in interstitial cystitis. The blood? I used my Google M.D. to learn about all the possible reasons I would have bleeding and spotting semi-regularly. Cancer and bladder infections. Awesome, I’m going with bladder infections. No, I’m not going to see a doctor because I just needed the cause to be an infection. I needed to not be sick.

And then I started sleeping all the time. Couldn’t concentrate. My body was not absorbing my thyroid medication (synthetic thyroid hormones) after I had my thyroid taken out. About a hundred nodules (tumors) on the organ. Out of the three tested post-op, one showed positive for papillary carcinoma. Thyroid cancer. When my body stopped accepting the pill I took in it’s place each day I naturally assumed the severe, SEVERE exhaustion was from lack of a metabolism. I had nothing to keep me awake. I dismissed that symptom of bladder cancer easily.

This is the denial phase of my journey. I’ll pick it back up next post. Thanks for reading.

Love, JackLeann (pen name the book is being published under, also now my blogging name!)