Thank you, mama

Yesterday I went to an event that I almost didn’t go to…. But God made sure I went. Something inside me said I needed to go to hear what my friend had to say when she spoke to a group of women at a breakfast.  I now know it was one of those “God Winks”.

I am so glad I was there.

The emotions inside me. It was as if in those words my friend spoke, there was a message from my birth mother… a message of love.

Before finding my birth family, I had often thought about what I would ask and what I wanted them to know. And when I finally found them, I was able to do just that.

But with my birth mother I was not given the opportunity to ask the questions or to say what I wanted to say to her. She had passed away in 2007, just four years before I would find her siblings.

There have been times these past few years that I have been angry with my birth father, had he just given me the information I asked for about my birth mother, instead of denying our relationship, I would have found her before she passed away…. But the past cannot be changed. So, I have moved beyond the anger and forgiven him. My birth father did what he needed to do based on his own family situation and for that I cannot be angry with him or fault him. We all do what we need to do in the place we are at that moment. And when he finally acknowledged me and gave me the info I needed, I was finally able to find the answers I was seeking.

My birth mother had been searching for me. She never forgot about me and my sister. She loved us. And wanted to find us.

So yes, I have answers.

What I haven’t been able to do, what I have been denied is being able to say to her the things I have longed to say my entire life….

And yesterday I realized I needed to do it, even if it was through written word…. Written to her but for me.

So here, is what I want to say to my birth mother today—

birth mom and meDear mama,

I have always known I was adopted and I have always wondered about you. Where were you? Were you okay?

But mostly I wanted to be able to tell you, that I understand.

I am a parent now and even though I am not sure anything would have made me give up my boys, I understand now the tough decision you made. And that you made that decision out of love for us.

For years I didn’t understand…. couldn’t comprehend how you could have dropped us off at Social Services and told the social worker you didn’t want us…. And then wouldn’t say good-bye to us. Now I understand. It must have been incredibly painful for you to leave your babies in a stranger’s hands. The pain must have been great. Your courage in doing what you believed was best for us was incredible. I admire your courage.

You did what you thought would give us the best life and safest life. I admire you for that. Thank you for loving us enough to realize that in that moment of your life you could not guarantee us that safety.

And I want you to know that yes, I have the best life. I am married to my high school sweetheart, a man who takes great care of me. And I have two wonderful boys who are now grown men. Being a mother has been my greatest blessing.

My life wasn’t always easy, but I did have a mother who loved me unconditionally. She held me when I was hurt and scared, she comforted me, she made a big deal out of every birthday and made sure I knew right from wrong. My mom made sure I knew I was loved and wanted. And my mom gave me a foundation in faith that has carried me through the toughest times.

I want you to know that I thought of you often and wondered. Every year on my birthday, I looked up at the stars and wondered if you were thinking of me too. I now know you were.

I want to thank you for giving me a foundation of love my first three years of life. A foundation I know helped to form who I am today. I know you loved me. And I loved you.

You were my first mom, my birth mom. And you gave me a wonderful gift of this life I have now. I don’t know what life would have been like if you had not given me up for adoption.  But I do know that the life I have now with the man I married and the children I love with all of my being, I would not have any of this without that decision you made all those many years ago.

A decision you made out of a deep love for your children.

I want you to know I hold no anger or bitterness. I would not change anything, other than to have found you sooner so I could say all of this to you in person.

And I look forward to the day when we are reunited in heaven. I know you are there with my mom and the two of you are sharing stories and that she is thanking you for the gifts you gave her in her two daughters.

I forgive you!  I love you!

Thank you mama!

 

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Fathers Day

Today is Fathers Day. A day to remember and honor Fathers everywhere.

I didn’t have the greatest examples for a father. My birth father walked out when I was a year old, leaving my mother, who was pregnant at the time, and me. My first experience with trust and fatherly love. And my adoptive father, well…. abandonment, abuse…. not a great example. My second experience in my young life with trust and fatherly love. Neither of those men showed me what a father was supposed to be and both taught me to distrust men.

You know that Kelly Clarkson song, “Piece by Piece”? I don’t know how, but she knew what my life was like and she sang that song as if it was meant for me, too. I know sadly, that many others can relate as well.

I had friends with dads who were good men, but I still didn’t trust them…. And I still didn’t believe that I would ever find that man who would be a good dad….

Until I married my husband and saw him with our firstborn.

My husband and I were just kids ourselves when we became parents. We were scared. I did not understand that saying “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad”, until that moment that I saw him hold our oldest son, tears in his eyes, and then five years later when he held our youngest son with tears in his eyes. Yes, my husband was that someone special.

He showed me what a dad should be, could be, and was.

My husband was a career Air Force man and yes, the Air Force had to come first. He was deployed, sent far from us for trainings, worked long hours… yet he still managed to show our boys just how much he loved them!

When he was away from home he would send postcards and letters just for our boys, letting them know what adventures he was having and how much he missed them and loved them. He called just to talk to them and when email came about, he would send them notes in emails. Our boys knew their dad loved them, even from far away.

Then there were the nights when he would put our oldest to bed, while I was taking care of our youngest. He would read to him, but more often than not he would climb onto our oldest son’s top bunk with him and they would look at the map of the world hanging on his wall and discuss geography. And then when our youngest was old enough, he would read to both boys before they went to bed. Precious time spent between a father and his sons.

My husband was always finding ways to exercise our boys’ minds… through history, traveling places, and math games on long road trips. He taught them both to do math in their head, quickly (man, I could never keep up with the three of them) and the boys soaked it all in, loving those times with their dad. As the boys grew, he would have deep conversations with them about everything and anything. I loved to sit and listen to their conversations, even when they were way out of my understanding. Watching them interact filled my heart with such joy.

He taught them to love the outdoors and traveling, spending hours planning amazing adventures for our family from the weekend camping trips to the multi-week road trips. He taught them both to skip rocks and the three of them skipped rocks in multiple countries and many states. Adventures were found everywhere he took our boys.

My husband spent many weekend afternoons taking the boys to movies, playing catch with them, reading with them and creating things with them. He coached their baseball teams when the Air Force had him home for the season. He attended their games, school programs and listened to their many hours of musical practice. He took them four-wheeling in the hills when we lived in South Dakota and planned fun things to do with the kids when I took off on my mother’s weekend getaways, NEVER saying or feeling like it was a chore to spend time with our boys.

My husband showed me and my boys that dads stay… that dads hug…. that dads are tough and soft…. that dads love unconditionally!

Was he perfect at parenting? No, but who is? My husband was the best dad I could have ever asked for. So today, I honor the man he is, and the dad he is.

My husband showed me through his actions that a man can be a dad, that a dad is involved with his kids, loves them unconditionally, and never leaves. And he showed me, that a dad builds his children up rather than tearing them down.

He has been the rock in our family, supporting each of us at our times of need. He has dropped everything and flown to see our boys when they needed him.

There are many times I wish that I had had a dad like him…….. and I am so grateful that my boys have had him as their dad.

I thank God every day for this man! And I am now and forever will be in awe of the dad my husband is!

I took the leap and trusted this man and I could not have asked for a better parenting partner or dad for my boys!

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Finding Calm in the Water

Water…. soothing, peaceful, healing……

I have always been attracted to water whether it was a stream, lake, river, ocean and yes, even a pool.

For two summers in a row while I was young, my mom would take us on summer vacation to Bend, OR, and we would stay in a hotel right on the river. I loved that spot. I would walk down and climb around the river, listening to the sound the water made as it ran through, over and around the rocks. I loved that sound…. It was soothing. And there on the river I would relax.

There was also a pool at that hotel and I swam as much as I could. My mom called me a fish. I loved to be in water, feeling the coolness roll over my skin, floating…. letting the water take all my cares away.

There have been many pool, lake, river and ocean swims since those early summers with my mom, each bringing peace to my soul.

I told my husband many times over the years that I would really like to have a pool of my own, in my backyard that I could use anytime I wanted. We both dreamed about the forever home we would one day have and the pool we would build (even if it had to be an indoor pool in the Pacific Northwest!).

And then we moved to Arizona…. a pool year ‘round!

This past week our pool was finally finished and we could swim.

I knew I would love having a pool, even with the work it would take to keep it clean and running…. I just KNEW I was going to love it…

I was right. I have been in our pool at least twice a day, and sometimes more, since it has been full of water and running. I love swimming. I love floating. I love the water.

And I have found the place where I can be mindful…. And just breathe.

I knew I would love the pool but what I didn’t realize was just how much I needed the pool and how much my time spent in it would soothe my soul, bringing peace and calmness to my crazy life.

So early in the morning, before anyone else was up in the house, I got in my swimsuit and headed out to the pool. The water was COLD! At first anyway….

I braved the cold and swam. I started out swimming laps for exercise. But soon, I was not counting the laps anymore…I was just swimming….and noticing……

The birds were serenading me as I moved silently through the water. One bird, in particular, sang to me… different notes, different sounds…all from the same bird. It was if the bird was trying out every “ring tone” it had in its repertoire, making me smile as I listened and swam. Birds were flying above me and they were beautiful.

Early morning, just me and the birds… oh and the cow! At first I thought someone was disturbing my peace and yelling, but alas it was a cow that had wandered from its home and it was talking to me through the wall. I laughed.

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As I swam one direction in the pool, I could feel the cool water passing slowly over my body. And then I noticed my shadow, swimming slightly ahead of me. Beautiful. My inner child was there swimming with me, enjoying the serenity of the morning…. Happy!

Swimming back the other direction, instead of my shadow swimming, I noticed the light from the sun dancing along the bottom of the pool, creating light green and blue designs that delighted my heart and mesmerized my soul. Stunning!

And then I noticed the sparkle of the sea glass and abalone in the pool interior. Wow! It was if there were hundreds of crystals and gems sparkling just for me. Again, I smiled.

I floated for a bit and noticed the dancing light bouncing off of the water, dancing on the wall and trees beyond. Dancing just for me, to the music created by the birds all around. Beautiful. Soulful.

This was my moment. My mindful moment. Here I was, alone with the natural world around me, soothed by the water. And I was just there. Present. Mindful.

I spent time last week talking with the members in my Weight Watchers meetings about being mindful… present….. in the here and now….. and how much our minds and souls need those moments to just take a pause, a step back and breathe.

And that is just what I did for the couple of hours I was in the pool. I was there. Present. Mindful. And I just breathed. The worries of yesterday were gone. The worries of tomorrow were gone. The “to do” list for the day forgotten. It was just me, the water, the birds and my prayers.

Mindful, present moments help us to recharge, renew and begin the day in a calm way.

Who knew that having a pool would be one of the things I would need to soothe my soul and take my cares and stress away?

You will find me, many times a day, in the pool…. swimming, enjoying, relaxing and breathing!

Mothers Day

As a young girl I had dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up….a teacher, a writer, a singer, an actress and then a social worker.  The ideas changed and the dreams changed as I grew and learned more about myself and the world around me.

But there was one dream that never changed….. that of being a mother.  From a very young age I dreamed of having my own children and being a mom.  Of course my dream of becoming a mom was for selfish reasons….I wanted to love and be loved.  And I knew that having a child of my own, then I would be loved, unconditionally.

At my very core, the core of all that I am, I wanted to be a mom!

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I was 20 years old when I became a mom for the first time. From the day I was told that I was pregnant, I loved my son.  I was thrilled, excited and scared. When he was born and placed in my arms, my heart melted.

I never knew a person could love so deeply so instantaneously!

And then, five years later, I became a mom for the second time.  And, like with his older brother, I lovedimg283 copy him before he was born.  When my youngest son was born, my heart melted again….Never could I imagine loving so deeply, so instantaneously…not once, but twice in my lifetime!

My dream to be a mom had come true!

My greatest joy in life has been being their mother. Reading to them, traveling with them, exploring with them, playing games, running outside, playing in the sand, laughing with them, crying with them and watching them grow and learn and develop into individuals with their own thoughts and personalities!

Each of my boys is a caring, big hearted individual..… they both are smart, curious and adventurous…… they both make me laugh with their corny sense of humor they got from their dad (which I love about all of them, even when I am rolling my eyes)…. They each challenge me to look at the world differently….. and they each have their own passions and opinions about the world around us and I am so thankful they do.  I am proud that they think for themselves and challenge me to think differently and see differently.

I am so proud of my boys!

I love my boys deeply and unconditionally!

I was not and am not perfect as a mother…. No one gives us a manual to tell us exactly what to do and when we should do it.  I yelled too much, I helicoptered at times, and I didn’t always know what I should do or how to help these boys of mine to grow up into men.  I loved and I worried…about them and about whether or not I was screwing them up…. I did the best I could do, knowing what I knew then.

But I know deep inside me at the very core, that I did do one thing right with my boys, the thing I promised myself I would do as a mom…. I hugged my boys, I made sure they knew they were loved and that they were wanted.

Today, I am so blessed to be mom to these two men.

Oh my, what joy they have brought into my life!

And today, as we celebrate mother’s everywhere, I am reminded of how blessed my life is and how much richer my life is because of the gifts God sent me in the form of my two boys, my babies!

It Starts With Me

I opened my Facebook feed this morning, and there it was for the umpteenth time in the past few months….a meme shared that perpetuates misinformation about addicts.

I was angry seeing it, yet again.

And then it had me thinking about everything the past couple of years—the comments, the questions, the looks, and I was angry again…..with family, friends, acquaintances, doctors, psychiatrists, addiction professionals and strangers who have continued to judge and perpetuate the stigma and misinformation surrounding addicts and their families.

I was angry because for the past couple of years I have had to explain to others my son and our situation and the choices we have made that they “kindly” tell me are wrong. And angry because I continue to need to correct the misinformation and have to continue to fight for help for my son from professionals who make decisions on care based on their own judgements and beliefs about addicts.

I was just angry with everyone this morning.

And I realized just how tired I am of all of it.

I. AM. TIRED.

Some days are just like that.

And then my day went on.

My son is having to deal with some health and dental issues now that are a result of his life these past few years. And he was not mentally ready to go to one of those needed appointments today……I was not happy.

We argued.

He said he was just having a really bad day…..and I said I was too….I wasn’t feeling well and wished I could have just stayed in bed today…….

And then, just before my next words came out of my mouth…..it hit me. Another epiphany!

I was about to tell my son that we all have to do things we don’t want to do and we just do it……BUT it hit me in that moment…..I still didn’t completely understand…….

I have been living with my son’s emotional ups and downs his entire life. I have been his biggest advocate for help. I am advocating for change within our broken system. And I have been living and explaining life with a loved one who suffers from mental illnesses and addiction, yet I STILL don’t completely GET IT!

And if I still struggle to understand…..if I still struggle to wrap my head around it when he just cannot get out of his bed or cannot look someone in the eye or cannot do the daily things the rest of us do….then HOW can I expect anyone else to understand? How can I expect anyone else to “get it”? To know what it is like? And how can I expect compassion?

And how can I be angry with those who do not understand….who have never walked this walk……who have never been in my shoes?

I realized that it is up to me to help others to understand what this life is like, to understand the realities and the truths instead of the myths and stigma and stereotypes. I need to help others so that they can find compassion for those who are sick and for their families…….

And my anger left me…..my anger at the world and my anger with my son.

No matter how tired I am, I must continue to explain, to advocate for aid and to advocate for change. And I cannot judge others who have never walked in my shoes, my son’s shoes or my family’s shoes.

I am now taking the leap and formulating what it is I want you all to know……the lessons we have learned, the loneliness and isolation, the fear, the dread…… And I will share this soon, in the hope that it will help to change the narrative surrounding those with mental health illnesses.

The change starts with me.

That View….

My husband and I just spent an extended weekend in San Francisco, visiting our youngest son and daughter-in-law. We had a great time seeing this city through their eyes….food, drinks, shopping, site-seeing, and hiking. A wonderful trip for us and time spent with our kids was priceless.

My husband normally plans all of our trips and what we are going to do. Those trips are filled with so much that we often need a vacation to recover from our vacation. So, when we planned this extended weekend, we let our son do the planning for us….. with time spent with the two of them the priority. And we wanted to see San Francisco through the eyes of these two young adults, to see what they loved about their city, their home.

Our son and daughter-in-law did a fantastic job of planning just the right amount of things to see and do and quite a variety. We completely enjoyed our time with them, creating more memories to look back on.

I could write a book about our trip and all that there is to see and do in San Francisco. But, this blog post is all about THAT View….

Our son planned a hike for us for Sunday morning. Saturday night we watched the fog roll into the city from their living room.   Of course, we checked the weather apps to see what the morning would be like and if the fog would lift before our hike.

And the weather apps all said it would lift about 8am. Yes! We would get to see those views our son had told us about.

He chose to take us on the Lands End trail hike. And said that hike would offer us spectacular, out of this world views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the ocean and the bay. We were excited and my camera was ready to go.

Sunday morning came and we were ready for our hike. The fog was hanging on, but the weather apps said it would lift about 9am now. So, off the four of us went.

We started from the ocean, hiking toward the Golden Gate bridge and the bay.

And the fog hung on…..that view our son and daughter-in-law said was so spectacular was shrouded in mystery. The fog was surreal and mystical. And it was beautiful, creating an air of mystery all along the trail.

Our views were spectacular. And magical. And beautiful.

As we hiked and talked and took in the surrounding areas, I couldn’t help but realize that THAT VIEW was THIS—my family….my son, my daughter-in-law, my husband.

THAT view was spectacular. THAT view was beautiful. THAT view made my heart dance. THAT view was just what I needed and wanted. And THAT view will make my heart sing and bring a smile to my face for many, many years to come.

My son and daughter-in-law were right. The hike would give us amazing views! And time spent with them, talking, laughing, sweating…..all AMAZING!

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The love of family and time spent with family is absolutely priceless and NOTHING beats it!

“I have been waiting my whole life for this”

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I have heard this phrase many times….and even shared it with the members who attend my meetings. I talk a lot to others about being kind to ourselves….

“Would you say that to a friend?” “What if a friend said that? How would you respond?”

We are our own worst critics and sometimes…. actually often…our first thoughts, those words we say to ourselves are not kind…

“That was stupid!” “Really? How stupid was that?” “I am so fat!” Well, you get the idea.

The thing is, I talk to others about being kind and about that voice inside their heads. But I forget to listen to my own advice sometimes….don’t we all?

And today, as I looked in the mirror, I said some not so nice things…out loud. And my husband was there. And he looked at me and asked, “What would you say if one of your members said those words?”

SMACK! Way to hit me with my own words!

And I stopped and thought about it for a minute. What would I say when someone says “I am so disgusted! Look at this! Just disgusting!” I wouldn’t agree with them that is for sure. I would tell them they were beautiful! And I would ask them to focus on that one thing they find positive about their bodies, instead of the things that is driving the negative voice.

So, my husband was right to ask me that (please don’t tell him I said so!).

And that little exchange had me thinking or rather rethinking how I am talking to myself and about myself. Because, yes, my body hears EVERYTHING my mind thinks and says. And I have worked REALLY hard to get that voice out of my head…the one I grew up listening to that told me I was worthless, not pretty, not funny, not…. anything!

I have worked REALLY hard to get rid of my dad’s voice telling me at every chance he could that I wasn’t good enough…..NEVER good enough…..and his words became my words…..after all, I must have been ugly, disgusting and worthless because my own father, the one man who was supposed to protect and love me, said those things about me.

It took me more than 40 years to FINALLY realize that I AM WORTH IT! I AM BEAUTIFUL! And I got there by believing in myself, by looking for the positives to focus on rather than the negative, by saying those four words (I am worth it!) every day looking in the mirror and by forgiving my dad (more one day about forgiving someone who never believed they needed to be forgiven). It took a lot of my life to finally be my own friend and to treat myself as I would a friend.

Still, there are times that despite the changes and despite thinking that I have gotten rid of that voice, well……it creeps in and it takes me a minute to realize what is happening…..and then I kick that voice right out of my head. My dad was the one with the problem, not me. And it was because of his inner ugliness that he had to make me feel less than…..

But no more. A loving reminder from my husband and I am back to being kind. It took me a long, long, long time to get here and A LOT of tears….so there is NO going back. I may slip into an old habit, we all do, but I will not stay there.

I am no one’s victim! I am me…beautiful, caring, loving, adventurous me! And I am worth it! Every day!

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