I posted this picture on Facebook the other day. It popped up in my newsfeed and I just said something short. But I keep going back to it. I keep thinking about that time, that period in my life and my children’s lives. And I can’t get it off my heart, so y’all are just gonna have to hear about it 🙂


I’m guessing Christian is 3, Sam is 4 and Cameron’s about 6. So many memories came flooding back with this picture.

This time, I was in a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 kids. They all slept in the same room. They had bunk beds and Sam just slept on a mattress and box spring on the floor.

I was in nursing school at Miami University. And anyone who has been through nursing schools knows it’s BRUTAL. It’s stressful. Kind of horrid to be exact.

We couldn’t have been anymore poor (money wise) than we were. Federal grants gave me a check twice a year for attending college. I would pay 6 months rent, car insurance, and car payment. And then that money was gone.

I was on welfare, but didn’t qualify for food stamps. Just daycare for my kids. And I still had to pay a little on that. Because I was in school all day, I could only works the weekends my ex kept the kids. So my paycheck was 20 hours. Soon as they left for the weekend I worked as many hours as I could as a nurse aid at Mercy Fairfield.

I remember the days of eating ramen noodles 3 days in a row. Cause I couldn’t afford to feed my kids. I remember figuring out which bill I could NOT pay for another month, because something else was going to get shut off. Those yellow notes on my door, “your utilities will be shut off on this day”…was a common occurrence.

I remember cutting my boys hair because I couldn’t afford haircuts. I know, it looks pretty bad in the picture. Remember, I was a nursing student, not a hair stylist. LOL!

I remember my kids getting sick, and getting the call at school. Having to leave and knowing I would be punished. More than once, a lady named Loretta (she was in her 70’s then) would pick my kids up if I was at clinicals or in exams. Loretta and I met in a Bible study. She was my savior. She kind of adopted us and I never would have made it through college without her. My kids tell people Bud and Loretta are their grandparents. They even went to Grandparents Day at their schools when they were younger. She was angel sent from God, no doubt in my mind.

I remember my radiator going out in the middle of the road. My car just stopped. I barely know how to put the gas cap on, couldn’t afford a pot to piss in, and I just slumped over the wheel and cried. And cried. And cried. Until someone knocked on my window to help push me off the road.

I remember the sense of anxiety walking to the mailbox. Because I knew it was full of bills I couldn’t pay.

I remember putting  $2 at a time in my gas tank. Because it’s all I could afford if I wanted to feed my kids that day. I missed many a meals those days myself. But it never bothered me cause I was so riddled with anxiety and sadness at what my kids had to endure because of my choices.

I remember the jeans in this picture. I got a flyer in the mail for a free 8×10 and I was so excited to get this picture of me and my kids. But we didn’t have anything nice to wear. I remember so clearly, the stain on the jeans I was wearing. You can see it in the picture on my right leg. I was so distraught that it was the only thing I had to wear. It really bothered me that THAT is how I would be remembered.

I remember that bruise on Christian’s cheek. And how many times I cried because I had to take him to the doctor. Another bill I couldn’t pay. More work and school I had to miss.  That kid had more staples and glue on his head than all 5 of my kids combined.

I remember putting my kids to sleep in their clothes for the next day. Because I had to wake them up SO early to get them to daycare so I could be at clinicals in God’s country somewhere far away, with gas I couldn’t afford. I remember my sleepy little Sam rubbing her eyes when I woke her one morning at 5am. She looked outside and said, “but mommy, it’s not even today yet”. Those words broke me down for weeks. And I’ll never forget that moment.

I remember good things too though. I remember Cameron giving his playstation to a young boy at the daycare because “he didn’t have anything”. I thought, “My God, I must be doing something right.”

My mom always told me, God will never let you down Missy. Just when it seems you can’t take anymore, something will happen to let you know he’s there. And it always did. I would get a refund check in the mail. or someone over charged me. Or some random act of God. And I mean like $7. That was enough for me to feed my kids that day, you know? But He always came through.

And as I look back, I realize this picture is who we really are. My circumstances did not DEFINE me. I was working. I was working harder than anyone, because I had someone to work FOR. I knew I would get my children out of that mess. I knew I wasn’t lying to them, when I told them I was making a better life for them. When I told them they would all have their own beds one day. And someday the fridge would be full and they could pick out whatever they wanted from the grocery store. Sometimes those dreams are big for your little people. And they were. My kids longed for a normal life.

But all those struggles, they made me who I am today. THAT is why I share so much. Because I’ve been there. And I’ve seen the other side. I chose not to be a statistic. I chose to not listen to every single person who told me I couldn’t do it and I wasn’t worth it. And you know what? I have the best kids in the WORLD. The most respectful, kind, loving, attentive, amazing, caring, God fearing, children in the WORLD. All we went through. It was all part of God’s plan. To help others. To help other’s see what is possible when you give it all you’ve got. I truly believe that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it. Hell hath no fury like a mother’s heart on fire.

Never let your circumstances define you. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and make it happen. And if no one believes in you, open your Bible. He does. And embrace the moment and season you’re in. Don’t fight it. Just see the other side. And let your children see your vision. Talk about what it’s GOING to be like. And they will help you build that future. I know my kids were so proud of me when I walked that stage with honors. When we rented our first home. When they got new school clothes. They lived my dream with me.

Wow. Sorry guys. LOL! Just had to get all that off my chest before I could move on. Happy Tuesday. Something to chew on today.

Peace out;) Melissa Fietsam


31 thoughts

  1. Melissa, if I didn’t honor, respect, and practically idolize you before, I certainly do after reading this!! I’ve been having a “pity party” for myself and my business lately and I REALLY needed to read this and hear your honesty and determination. The tough get up and get moving and God blesses when we do! Thank you for being so transparent and honest. THIS girl needed to hear it today!!!


  2. Thank you for sharing your heart, Melissa! Thank you for keeping it real and sharing the “raw” emotion. You inspire so many women, including me. Thank you for being you.


  3. So LOVE your heart…and your raw emotion in this. I always think of you when people around me are making excuses…you never make excuses, you just make it happen! I am so proud of you and how far you have come. And all the things you remember about this picture…are the reasons you will never go back to that life. Your children are very lucky to have such an amazing, strong woman in their life. Love you, friend!


  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Brings back memories of my days as a single parent. Which back then was not kindly looked upon. Working 2-3 jobs a day to get myself through school, etc. I luckily had parents who helped watch my son while I worked during the day and went to school at night and on weekends. I needed to remember how much strength I really have and what I have accomplished and what I still can accomplish!! 💖💖💖💖


  5. Melissa, for the last month since I became a consultant, I thank my lucky stars every day that I stumbled upon your blog. At the same time, I have found myself wondering “How can she just keep giving so much??? What drives her to share all of her knowledge and ideas and enthusiasm not just with her team, but with people like me, that she likely will never meet?” I have been battling my own demons as a mother wondering WHEN am I going to be able to give my children everything I want for them? Then, I read this. To say you are an inspiration to me doesn’t even begin to capture it. I am beyond grateful. I am humbled. I am blessed. You are a blessing. Thank you.


  6. What a beautiful, beautiful story of God’s provision and faithfulness. Your struggle resonates with me, so much that it had me in tears! Thank you so much for sharing.


    Sent from my iPhone



  7. This is so inspiring! Girl, you need to write a book, and I’m not kidding!

    I’m 52 and just got fired. Again. (Mental health issues that bosses just don’t “get” or care about.) And I’m trying to decide if I have what it takes to dive in to 31 and make it work, or go look for another job I’ll hate. You truly inspire me. I wish I could pick your brain about strategies that work, but I do subscribe to your blog, so that’s sort of the same thing 😉. Peace and blessings!


  8. Brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes we look at where people are and think “wow they have it so together, how could they possibly understand what I’m going through”. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder to stay focused on the vision we are working towards. I never thought I’d be back in a position of financial hardship and daily struggle, yet here I am again at 50 years old. You’ve inspired me to not despair but to embrace the journey God has me on. I WILL achieve my dreams with my continued hard work and faith! Continued blessings to you and your family! xoxo


  9. Thank you for sharing your story! It is inspiring to hear how hard you’ve worked for what you have. Not that I ever doubted how hard you’ve worked. You’re a living example of never giving up. God bless you and your family.


  10. Hi Melissa! So now I finally have had an opportunity to finish reading this INCREDIBLE story. You really spoke to me today. I am a former classroom teacher who could not balance the 65+ hour work week and my baby girl. I am married, but my husband has a very significant disability and cannot work because of it. And since I had a full time job and health care benefits, we were ineligible for any government assistance for my husband’s care needs. I alone was his primary caregiver, as well as the caregiver for our infant daughter. My parents (mostly my dad) would watch her during the day because my husband couldn’t care for her without support. Outside of my parents (primarily my dad), we have had NO support system. Even the church we attended at the time was unconcerned about us, proven when my husband nearly died in May 2013, from complications related to his condition. A few months later, the toll of my lack of a work/life balance really became too much to bear. My father’s health was declining from the stress of all he did for us, and I’d nearly lost my husband that spring. So I quit teaching. I did not even consider Thirty-One as an option for financial help at the time, and I expected I would wind up working some other job 40-50 hours a week, but with a slightly better work-life balance. We are fortunate in many ways…. I only work two part time jobs, but it has helped to support our family (thank you, Thirty-One, for being the bulk of that income!). While we may not have it “good,” being home more often has allowed me to be there for my husband, whose health has thankfully improved. Also, I was able to be there for my dad when he had open heart surgery last year (he would have died if things hadn’t changed!). I grew up my entire life feeling like nobody believed in me until I was born again, and even then, I didn’t really believe that God believed in me… until I joined Thirty-One. I’ve managed to be in the K groups ever since they were started, and I’ve been blessed with sales $1000-2000 most months. This fall, I was a little disappointed to see a drop in my sales for a few months, but I did not let a few setbacks define me. I just kept going and trust still in the Lord God that His words to me will eventually be proven in time, that I WILL become a Thirty-One Director and leader one day! I am now pregnant with our second child, who might not have existed if I hadn’t left teaching. Thirty-One has given me the CONFIDENCE to live my life and do brave things like stepping out in faith that He has a plan for me. I never could have done that before! Anyway, your struggles really resonated in me in that I also know how it feels to live with less and to struggle financially. But I am *not* defined by those struggles, and I firmly believe that life will get better for us, too. Thank you for sharing this post. I really needed it!


  11. I have an enormous amount of respect for you. I live a very similar life and have had those struggles and sometimes still do. I teared up reading this. You a wonderful women and mom. Thank you for sharing this.


  12. Thank you for sharing. It is so very important for someone reading this to hear. My other job is teaching, and I have so very many students for whom I know there is no meal when there is a snow day and who struggle to eat when we are on “vacation,” but I keep reminding them that we need to “see” ourselves where we want to go and write down our goals and our plan to get there. Public school doesn’t allow me to help them by opening a bible with them, but allows me to minister to them in every other way I can find, and that hopefully, they will find that hope is everywhere. The best part about being at the bottom is that one only has to look up to see it. Thanks so much for sharing your very powerful story. What I see in this beautiful picture is not a bruise on a cheek, or a stain on jeans, but a mother who loves her children and children who fiercely love their mother. Everyone looks very well cared for and no one would ever guess the circumstances you were living in at the time. That speaks volumes about all of you. It’s never things. It’s people that we need. Congratulations for raising a great family!


  13. I love your story and it just proves to us all, yet again, that God gives you no more than you can handle and is always with you to get you through your struggles. I buried my husband when I was 27, he died from a propane gas explosion leaving me a widow with 2 children to take care of and working a gas station job. The following year, I started taking care of my grandmother with Alzheimers and my stepdaughter who had surgery on a dysected aorta that left him a paraplegic. The following year, my mothere was diagnosed with heart failure and put on the transplant list and my brother was diagnosed with HIV. LOL People always asked me how I got through the day bouncing from house to house, doctor to doctor, etc. I said I wake up in the morning with a prayer, pray during the day, and pray at night before I went to sleep. I knew that when I felt alone and wondered when what else was going to happen, who was going to suffer next, I always knew God was with me and would see us all through whatever it was!
    My grandmother and stepdaughter are no longer with us, my brother is with Hospice, and my Mom is now doing pretty good…even with her old heart still. God got is through it in the way he wanted to!
    I believe he did the same with you and brought you into all of our lives now to guide us! You are amazing and your strength is shown in everything you do for us! You no longer need to cry when the car breaks down, or feed your family ramen noodles unless you want to! God is good and will always provide you with answers, you just have to step back and figure them out! Thank you for posting this and I so did not mean to get so wordy!


  14. Thank you for sharing your story. You truly are an amazing lady. I’m always into my Bible for guidance and reading your story proves to me that no matter what God is always there and HE WILL PROVIDE. Thank you for being an inspiring person.


  15. Melissa, you are such an inspiration to me! It was all I could do to keep from crying! I shared your story with my parents and could barely get through it. It is no wonder you are where you are in your life, you are incredibly strong, powerful and blessed women! I know that as God designed you he know what a powerful woman you would become! I think God is very proud of you and your many accomplishments! I am honored to have briefly met you and love what you contribute each and everyday, not just to your family but to your Thirty One Family as well. Thank you for all you do!


  16. You are amazing!! I came from a single parent house and I know how hard it is. My Mom was a lot like you and she absolutely amazed me as to how she made it work. You are a true inspiration to so many women. Thank you for sharing! God bless you! You deserve all of your success, you have certainly earned it!!!


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