Brooke Conley

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

DFW Child Magazine -- She's Not There

I wrote a feature article for the April issue of Dallas Child Magazine. Please click the link to read a fascinating piece on a medical mystery that can turn the life of a child -- and their entire family -- completely upside down.

SHE'S NOT THERE by Brooke Conley

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Celebrating Our Differences

Today we spoke to Elle's class about Down syndrome and what it means to be "different." We talked about how we are all different in some way - we all have different color skin and different texture hair; different religions, cultures and beliefs. We talked about how everyone has different likes and dislikes and how our preferences, background and genetics work together to make us each a totally irreplaceable individual.

The kids learned that Reid is one-of-a-kind. Not just because he has an extra chromosome, but because he has a beautiful smile, a deep love of music, and an ability to communicate through sign language.

We shared the things that make us each special and learned that every single person on this planet is worthy of abundant love, respect and happiness. We talked about how much it would hurt to be called a mean name or left out. 

But mostly, we talked about how deep down we are all more alike than different. How we all want to laugh and hug and act silly. We all want friends to play with and family to love us. And because we are all the same on the inside, it's super important to be kind to one another despite what we may look like on the outside. 

And you know what? THEY GOT IT. You guys, kids want to be kind. These boys and girls kept shouting out the Golden Rule -- wildly interrupting me with "DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU!!"

Kids don't care about the incredibly limiting stuff that adults care about. Extra chromosomes don't bother them much, nor does the fact that someone has a different point of view or curly hair or different color skin. But the world will send them other messages as they grow -- they WILL start to notice differences in themselves and in others.

It's our job to continuously remind our children that they are remarkable and invaluable. So that when they get older and witness intolerance or when the world tries to make them feel unworthy in some way, they can be equipped to make the best, most loving choices -- for both themselves and others. So that when these little people turn into big people, they are able to look past all the differences they see with their eyes and cherish one another with their hearts.  💙💛

 #worlddownsyndromeday #choosekind #kidsgetit #friendsdontcountchromosomes 

via instagram: @campshree

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trust Your Gut

I wrote a piece for this month's Thrive Magazine on probiotics and autism. 

You can check it out here:

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Writing Update

For those of you who have been kind enough to ask, I have been focusing my writing efforts on freelance projects for a few local print magazines. I enjoy having a deadline, working with an editor, interviewing subjects and exploring different topics. I have also begun work on a two larger personal projects (only one involving writing) that I am incredibly excited about. 

As such, I have redirected my interests away from blogging. There are so many wonderful opportunities for those of us who have the passion to put pen to paper, and I am much more interested in exploring those avenues over sporadic blog updates. However, I'll continue to post whenever the notion strikes me.

At some point, I hope to transform this page into a more modern, user-friendly website, but that will be further down the road as I continue distill my writing projects and interests.

I am still very active on Instagram and would love to connect there: @campshree 

However, I have decided to deactivate my Facebook account as I never managed to consistently use it. I will reactive in the future should the need ever arise.

I will link to any published pieces here moving forward. Thanks for reading!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mama Ain't Dead

Jake's grandmother picks him up from school, so I think his mom is dead.

Hmmm. She probably just works.

No, I think she's dead. Maybe she was in the Army.

What happens in the Army?

Well. Sometimes you get really ill. Or people stab you. 
Or you could get shot or something. Or just be really old. Like 98.

This is the conversation I had with my daughter yesterday after school. It was a pretty excellent tête-à-tête, and after a long laugh over the unique decoding process of her methodical little mind, I came to the somber realization that my kid has somehow decided if a mother isn't around every second of the day, then the only logical conclusion is that she's dead.

Well, shit. 

I clearly need to get a hobby. I also probably need to explain to her how the Army works.

But, back to the former. Is this really the message I want to send my little girl? That my only purpose in life is to be her mom? Don't get me wrong. I definitely define myself as a mother hen before all else -- it's just that I know I'm capable of so much more than tending flock.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Keeping the Faith

Being as private as I am effusive, I have a habit of spontaneously shutting down, the weight of oversharing at times causing me to cocoon into my inner sanctuary of family, self-care and Netflix.

It's a balance that I at times struggle to maintain: My willingness to be an open book versus my desire to keep certain things mine alone, coddled and gently cared for. It is especially this way when I'm tired or going through periods of adjustment. Often, I remain open and that helps me navigate choppy waters. But there are also stretches of time, like this past half year, when life feels especially turbulent and I'm compelled to shut out the world in order to get things done. 

About a year and a half ago, my husband and I finally came to terms with the fact that we weren't happy in the city we were in. We wanted more than my hometown could offer: increased opportunity and adventure; energy and connection and a looooong list of other things both whimsical and practical. But in order to get said things, we knew we would have to permanently alter our entire existence -- including all of the people, places and routines our children had come to rely on in their short lives. 

We are no strangers to moving and have lived all across the country, but transitions that involve little ones do not come easily. After several months of praying and soul-searching and basically letting the universe know that we were willing and ready if this was indeed the path we were meant to take, we made the decision to uproot our family and actively claim the life we were after.

The overall process of relocating was long and arduous to say the least. But we both firmly believed that we had to give up everything we knew to get everything we wanted, so we continued on. We shared our worries and fears with one another, and found solace in our mutual excitement over new beginnings. Eventually, we began the painstaking task of dismantling our life. We got out the proverbial bulldozer and dropped one hell of a wrecking ball right in the middle of it all - we tore the whole thing down in order to build it up bigger and stronger. 

I've gotten used to seeing that wrecking ball over the years. It usually appears after strong currents of change have lead our lives down an unexpected route. Sometimes it shows up unforeseen and in the worst way. Other times, we purposefully bring heavy machinery into our lives, blindly wielding the controls and trusting instinct to hit our target.

After struggling to control everything for most of my existence, I have for the most part come to terms with this ebbing and flowing of life. For me, true happiness is an equal mix of chasing my dreams and letting go, paired with a deep and profound understanding that when all is said and done, my best laid plans don't mean shit.

Because we operated out of faith with our recent move, everything worked out beautifully. But our lives haven't always functioned that way.

Faith is an oft misunderstood thing and it has taken me years to finally grasp that trusting what is, is an active and conscious endeavor. It sure as heck isn't about sitting around and letting things happen TO me, but it's also not about micromanaging every outcome. It's a delicate balance of determination and surrender. It's about unapologetically and wholeheartedly trusting myself.

I'm not talking about religion here. I'm talking about the difficult work of shutting out the noise and opinions and judgements of others in order to focus within. It's about making dynamic choices based on listening and honoring whatever is meant to be for me

And because I do happen to believe that God is ultimately in charge, my personal faith requires me to accept that those plans will sometimes align with what I want, and other times send me running into my self-contained womb of doubt and fear. 

At times I am me of little faith. But even then, I trust the process. 

I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. For a large part of my life, I operated out of fear. For sooooo long, I was under the impression that I had to be something or someone to everyone. I truly believed that I had to remain unfalteringly consistent in my thoughts and actions; that I must define myself and stick to that definition for a lifetime. This was hard because I am incessantly curious and like to change my mind. I ended up resentful of the times I obstructed my inquisitiveness in order to conform.

I got caught up chasing "should"s and started seeking validation from absolutely everyone but myself. I got in the habit of questioning my choices and didn't honor who I was inside, which made me kind of messy on the outside. I was scared of who I was becoming, but even more scared of not being who I was. I wasn't honest about what I wanted and became moored in bad decisions and moments of regret. 

Paralyzed from old wounds and harsh words, I viewed my worth through the lens of others. I grew up with vastly different feelings and opinions than many of the people around me and instead of being true to myself, I let certain people just assume I agreed. This disconnect was incredibly painful and I covered up my hurt by being defiant, loudmouthed, needy, controlling and, ultimately, STUCK. I second-guessed myself constantly, all the while fighting an interminable stirring deep in my bones that urged me to let the noise of the world fall away.

I found solace in moving to new places, having honest conversations, learning about different cultures, and nurturing friendships that brought deep and meaningful connection. When I became pregnant with my first child, my desperation to be authentic grew even larger. I couldn't show my little girl how to live an honest life if I wasn't living one myself. God was specifically and carefully creating this baby in my belly, just as he specifically and carefully created me. If I couldn't be myself, then who would I be? And if I couldn't teach my daughter to be herself, then who would she be? 

I started peeling back the onion of my life, and began the difficult work of figuring out who I was. I learned to be still and in those moments of stillness, I allowed my thoughts and prayers to be raw and vulnerable. I slowly started to ignore the voices outside and listen to the one inside. Things began to seamlessly fall into place and I started feeling at home in my own skin. I realized that trusting myself is directly correlated with my happiness and that it doesn't have a thing to do with anyone else. It's not about outward acceptance or "likes" or conforming or doing what is expected. I can have bountiful and meaningful relationships without always having to be consistent or accessible or even-keeled or agreeable. 

This doesn't equate to disrespect or combativeness, nor does it translate into being defensive or self-righteous or self-serving. In fact, trusting oneself goes hand-in-hand with increased compassion for others. I've learned that I can't honorably follow my own heart if I don't respect others when they follow theirs.

For me, following my heart simply means taking the next right step - whatever that means in the moment. Faith is a constant flux of tearing down and rebuilding, of listening and acting. I can cocoon, open up, shut down and expand again. I can finally love and accept the person that I was created to be without depending on someone else to do it for me. I can act on my instincts without looking to another person for approval.

And because I have given myself permission to re-mold, re-think, re-group, re-work, and retry on an ongoing and permanent basis, I can also love and accept whatever choices I happen to make tomorrow.  

These past six months have only cemented my beliefs. Instead of giving into the numerous doubts that came with moving our family across state lines, we understood that Fear is just the louder, more aggressive partner to Faith, and we politely asked it to shut the hell up.

We trusted our choices implicitly and proudly showed up for our lives. We let uncertainty and discomfort unravel all around us, but we did not change our course. We kept our heads down and forged onward, relying on faith to safely deliver us to our new home -- believing all along that we were only moving closer to ourselves. 


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