Mistakes, Miracles, and Belonging

December 16, 2016

I think during the holidays, I seem to find myself thinking about the blessings that I am fortunate to have. I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes people happy.  What makes me happy. I mean truly at the core. I’m not talking about the happiness that is fleeting, like when you buy a new outfit. I’m talking about the kind of happiness that lives in your heart and soul. What I am discovering is that despite being surrounded by “friends” on social media and interacting with them on a daily basis. Many people rarely touch on their loneliness and lack of belonging. I rarely talk about a dark time in my life. It was oh so long ago, but it was a time filled with self-discovery, mistakes, miracles, and the sense of belonging while on the brink of death.



Many, many, moons ago, when I was young. Over half my lifetime ago actually. I spent months in the hospital after a terrible medical mistake. What was supposed to be an outpatient procedure for my appendix turned into months. I nearly died. I got to the point where I would drift to and from, in and out of consciousness, while I was kept alive by beeping, oxygenating, sucking and pumping machines that held onto my life. They were automatic, so I could use whatever energy was left in my body to fight.  I couldn’t eat, had difficulty breathing, couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit up, and I was fighting two infections in my bloodstream after undergoing multiple surgeries to correct surgical damage.  I knew it was really bad, when they eventually began weighing me everyday. I had shrunk and withered down to 70 pounds. How could I have any reserves left to fight?

After eight weeks in the hospital, the doctor told me that they were using a “Hail Mary” medication through the IV. It was either going to kill me or save me. He told me he couldn’t let a nineteen year old girl die. He wasn’t ready. Little did he know that I was. After all, he had called in an infectious disease doctor from Yale University. He asked for a favor. He didn’t know I was already at peace. I can remember laying there and thinking that it was okay to let go. It was surreal. Nothing mattered other than what I needed most. What I needed most was all around me, my friends and family. I belonged to them and they loved me. They were there, in person, supporting me whichever way my life was going to go. They took shifts around the clock and not once did they leave my side. Fortunately, I survived and came out on the other side a different person.

I can remember that night, as the new medication flowed into my body praying and asking God for his guidance and wisdom. Asking him if it was my time. The medications side-effects were causing confusion, soaring high fevers, chills and sweats. They were poisoning me so that I could live. Then in a complete moment of clarity, I recall asking God that if he let me live, that I would dedicate my life to helping others. As soon as I began relearning and focusing on gathering the strength to learn how to sit, eat, and walk again, I applied for nursing school.

So many years now have passed but I carry that story with me everyday. I haven’t shared it with many and this is the first time I have made this public. I guess I felt that it was time. Another moment of healing I suppose. I had so much time to think back then without distractions. Lying there for hours, days upon days. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t remind myself of the important things.

Important things:

Warm place to live shelter




Relationships= Love and belonging

Everything else does not matter.

Everything else does not matter.

Back in the olden days, we all needed to know our neighbors. The farmer fed us. The teacher taught us. The doctor cured us. The mill created wood to build our homes. The neighbor looked out for us and helped with projects and so it goes. Most everyone kept their own flock of chickens. Everyone had a purpose and they needed us as much as we needed them. Because of that we were kind to one another. We looked out for one another and made house calls instead of telephone calls and texts. I look around and think how very far away we have come from that. What made us disconnect with one another?

We have supermarkets.

Our doctors change as our insurances do.

We can go to the store for almost everything.

We’ve moved away from family.

We turn to the internet for advice and mistakenly trust someone we have never met except via a screen.

We no longer rely on friends but companies and corporations for better or worse. Is this why people are pushing kindness? It it because people no longer need other people- one on one- to survive?

Has it become more about one person filling our newsfeed with unlimited selfies?

Do we truly know our real neighbors? Are we spreading that kindness?

Believe me, the internet is fabulous. I think so many of us without it would be lost. I admit that one of my favorite things of the day is checking in on social media with everyone and writing to you all across the globe. I absolutely cannot imagine my life without you. If you were gone, I would miss you! But what would indeed happen if you were gone? What if the internet went down? Do we know enough people personally in our own backyards to thrive? To meet those needs, those important things that I listed above?

It always seems to come back to the chickens.

I believe they are in my life to continue to remind me of those life’s lessons- Chicken School as the kids like to call it. They have been such a gift to my family on so many levels.

original_caughey-melissa-chickensincoop belonging together

Important Things to Chickens:

Warm place to live- shelter  Chicken Coop




Relationships=Love and Belonging = The Flock

The chickens certainly don’t carry IPhones!  They can’t do touch screens and they don’t have pockets. But what they do have are all the essentials to living a happy and fulfilled life. When we remove the distractions, those things that we think are important, when it comes down to it are really not that important. I’ve said it before, but truly believe we are all one flock of humanity. We need to seek out those in-person encounters with physical hugs. Like chickens, we are definitely social creatures and ones that have habits. I think people are forgetting how much we need one another offline. I think I am going to start with a phone call to my best friend when I was nineteen years old, who washed my hair when I was in the hospital. It had been 3 weeks. My hair was so very long, gross and I am sure certainly stinky. What she did that day for me, I don’t think she will ever truly know. But I do. It lives in my heart. I wish I lived near her. I’d love to give her a hug.

I hope this holiday season you will find time for yourself, others, friends, family and chickens.

Wishing you the happiest of holidays, the Merriest of Christmases and abundant blessings in 2017.

XO- Melissa



Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.



35 thoughts on “Mistakes, Miracles, and Belonging”

  1. Oh Melissa, I can’t begin to imagine what you went through when you were only 19 years old. All I am certain of is I would not have had the inner strength, resilience, faith and wisdom that carried you through. You are an inspiration. And thank you for making the chickens a significant part of the story. It’s a great insight and reminder of how to keep things in perspective. I hope you and your wonderful family have a peaceful, loving, family-filled Christmas and a safe and easy New Year.

  2. Love this and love you for sharing. My niece is in intensive care fighting for her life right now. They said it will be a long tough fight!!

  3. Thank you for sharing. I went through a similar experience. I, too, was 19 yrs. old and the ER doctor misdiagnosed me with a stomach virus and sent me home. I laid in bed for 2 days in agony. When the ambulance came to take me back to hospital my appendix had already ruptured and I was septic. Emergency surgery, 2 weeks in ICU and a month’s stay in the hospital. I vaguely remember family & family visiting, many who probably thought they were seeing me for the last time. I remember one of my cousins running from the room, sobbing. Until then it had never occurred to me I wasn’t going to recover. I learned afterwards the surgeon had told my parents it would be a miracle if I survived. But I did survive. What I remember most is my Mom sitting by my bed for hours and days on end, and the nurses. The nurse that (like your friend!) washed my ratty, tangled, waist-length hair for the first time and shaved my legs for me. Even when I was allowed to eat, I couldn’t keep anything down. I lost 45 lbs. The overnight nurse that discovered the only food I could keep down was milkshakes. Every night she went to the hospital kitchen and made me one. They were my “flock” and I will never forget their kindness. Yes, it always comes back to the flock. Merry Christmas, Melissa.

    • Wow Deb. So similar indeed. Shaving the legs and a very dedicated loving night nurse who took me under his wing as well and told me that I was going to live. He wasn’t going to let me die. Thank you for sharing this with me and writing such a thoughtful and personal comment. One day maybe we can meet. I’d love to give you a great big ole hug. We are definitely kindred spirits for sure.

  4. your story was written so eloquently. wise words, with so much meaning. if only people could understand it. this world would be such a better place to live.

  5. How wonderful that you are still here sharing that connection with us who treasure Tilly’s Nest. Giving thanks is so important.I now want to give you many thanks for helping me and my hens in ways that make me and them happy.
    Merry Christmas, much joy and a lifetime of miracles.


  6. Oh Melissa, you are such a truly special soul. I am so lucky to know you and call you my friend. I wish the very best for you in 2017 and beyond – the world is such a better place because of you. <3

  7. Sometimes it’s so easy to forget the basics – thank you for reminding me to stop griping about my tiny kitchen and be thankful that I have a home and people who love me. I wish you the happiest of holidays too!

  8. Melissa your story made me cry, so beautifully written. We got some baby chicks just before Christmas and already they have changed our lives in the best way. We adore them already. I am going to read everything you have on chickens, so very informative xox

  9. Melissa your story touched so many deep places in my heart. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life. What you said is so true, even if it is just saying hello to your neighbor or picking up the phone to call a friend or family member that lives far away, connection is important. We have 3 lovely ladies that have changed a very sad, closed off heart to one of joy. My chickens are such a gift. They bring joy every day and when I am down, all I have to do is go out and visit with them and I feel better right away.

    • Thank you Rebecca for sharing and reaching out too. I am so glad to hear how much you adore your flock. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. They sure are a nice dose of happiness and inspiration each day.

  10. What a great story.I hope it inspires people to really think about the important things in life.So glad you recovered and have been living well.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.