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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

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!

File0335

 

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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”

body 1

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!

body

2017 Reflections

In a few short hours it will be a new year here in Arizona.

The end of a year is a time of reflection…..what went well, what didn’t….the joys, the sadness, the challenges, the losses and the lessons learned…..all reflected on during these last few hours of the year.

I have been more than ready to let go of 2017 and move into 2018. This year was difficult and filled with many challenges. I spent more time in courts and doctors’ offices than I care to ever do again. I spent a lot of time talking to medical, psychological and addiction professionals while trying to navigate a very frustrating system. And I have learned a lot about myself, my strength, my capabilities and about my family during this past year.

So, yes, I am ready to move on and leave all of this behind, looking forward to continued progress and continued healing.

I have been writing in my journal a lot these past few days, as I reflected on the past year…..writing a lot about the pain and fears….the loss of my friend….the challenges that faced my son and my family…..and then my thoughts started moving in another direction.

You see, living through this past year, well it was always with me, there in the back of my mind as I tried to enjoy the moments and time with my family and friends….addiction and mental illnesses and all that goes with them hang over our lives like a storm….always waiting for the next round. And even when things were going well, it was hard to not notice it hovering there, in the corner waiting to strike again. And that is what I kept writing….. and still it hangs there….but……

As I sit here reflecting on the past year, my thoughts are moving in different direction. The joy is beginning to outweighing the pain. There was much to celebrate this past year. There were happy times, even in the midst of immense pain. There was joy, travel, adventures, family time, and a wonderful wedding. And there were moments….tiny and large….when the joy took over…… small times when I could leave it all behind and just enjoy……

This slideshow has some of the moments from 2017 that brought me joy…..and the highlight of the year was the wedding of my youngest son to the love of his life, the one time in 2017 when I was able to leave all my fears and worries behind and really enjoy the celebration for a few days.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And that is what I want to reflect on now, in these last few hours of 2017….the joy, the happiness and bright lights found in otherwise dark days. And as I move into 2018, I am looking forward to more light, more joy, more moments of happiness and lots of healing.  And I will remember, that even in the midst of the storm, there is always a rainbow…a light at the end of the day.  There is always something to smile about and to enjoy if I just take the time to notice.

I don’t make resolutions anymore, because, well….I am NOT good at keeping them. So, instead, the past few years I have focused on mantras and mindsets…..challenges, really, that help me to continue to grow and learn and help me to continue moving toward a better version of myself.

To that end, 2018 will be the year I continue to step outside my comfort zone, to try new things and to say yes more! My focus will be to “live in the moment, present and mindful” and to “let go and let God”.

I will continue to look for those moments that not only bring a smile to my face but make my heart sing….even off-key!

And I will continue to take the leap and just breathe!

Shouldering the Load

How much weight can one person’s shoulders carry?

The past couple of years, and specifically the past 21 months have shown me just how strong my shoulders are…..and how much stronger they are when the load is shared with another and when I trust in God.

March 2016……my husband’s birthday weekend, one of the worst weekends we had had in a really long time….years actually. That weekend, we couldn’t reach our son. He didn’t come home. He didn’t answer his phone. And after a couple of days, we decided to try tracking his phone through our carrier…..and that is when we discovered his phone was more than an hour from us, so I called again. This time it was answered by a stranger…..my son’s phone had been found on a garbage can in the parking lot of a casino and the person took it with them. We spent the next few days talking with the police, and driving….hours of driving trying to find our son….up and down every lane in the parking lot of the casino where his phone had been found, looking for his car……hours driving city streets in areas we knew him to have been……hours texting and calling his friends and no one had seen or heard from him……and many sleepless hours. And then we feared the very worst, we would never see our son again……..and then he called. Relief. And anger when he told us his crazy story.

That weekend began 21 months that showed me just how strong I can be. The beginning of months of disappearances and worry. Months of having him home then asking him to leave. Months where weeks at a time we had no idea where he was, or if he was alive or dead. Months of fearing the knock on the door and the ring of our cell phones. Months of dealing with the darkness of addiction. Months of dealing with the justice system…arrests, court appearances, probation visits…….

And today, finally, relief……

My son has been under the threat of prison time since last April, when the system decided to file more charges from earlier arrests. And those charges started months of stress for him and for us…. Probation violation and the nightmare that followed in Yavapai county, then the threat of prison. In September, my son decided not to accept the plea deal to go to prison….. and he opted for trial.

More stress. Worry. Fear.

The last nine months had my son finally at a point that was positive in his life. He had completed intensive outpatient drug treatment. He was present and working on staying clean. He had monthly random drug tests that kept coming back clean.

But the threat of prison weighed heavily on him. And that stress sunk him deep into the dark hole of depression and severe anxiety. I was scared. We were beginning to lose him again, but this time to depression not drugs.

My shoulders were sagging under the weight of all that had happened and the weight of the fear and worry while watching helplessly as my son sunk deeper and deeper into that black hole.

And then things started to look up, positive things were happening……an emergency visit to a real psychiatrist had my son hopeful, finally being put back on medication he had been without for a couple of months. Hope. Relief.

And then a letter in the mail a few days ago, one that may have upset another, but for us…..relief. My son had gone through an evaluation for mental health services and was accepted, his mental health illness severe enough to warrant real help…..finally! Someone listened. Someone saw what we were seeing. Someone heard my son and knew he needed help. Hope. Relief. Weight lifting for all of us.

But we were still facing today, a court appearance for sentencing. The choice to go to trial gave my son another chance for treatment and not prison. They offered him a much better plea deal, one that would not send him to prison and one that dropped the charges from 2016. He accepted the new plea deal last month.

And today we were back in that courtroom in front of the judge. It was a long morning. Stress. Worry. Fear. And then my son was standing in front of the judge. And when she told him she was sentencing him to 3 years probation…..the weight I had been carrying suddenly lifted. I didn’t hear the rest of what the judge said.

Everything these past 21 months, every moment of fear, worry, anger…..every moment that sought to destroy me, to destroy my family……. It suddenly bubbled to the top…… I wasn’t sure I could walk out of there in that moment.

Relief overcame me…..

This chapter is over. And in that moment, as the weight on my shoulders lifted, I realized just how much I had carried….. and wondered how I had done it…… How did I manage to still get through a day at work? How did I wake up each morning and get through my day? How did I manage to take those trips that needed to be taken? How did I stay afloat when the weight was trying to drown me?

I have heard many times that “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” True. I am stronger, much stronger than I ever thought I was. And I can do so much more than I ever imagined. I have traveled a road I never imagined I would find myself on…… and now I get ready to help my son navigate this new road, one that is leading him toward hope….. hope for a life without drugs….. hope for a life with some meaning…… hope for a life where he does not live in fear and where he can find peace.

And I know that I did not carry this load alone.

How much can one person’s shoulders carry? It depends. I have discovered that my shoulders can carry a lot of weight, but not alone. I have only gotten through these past 21 months because of my family, who helped me and gave me strength when I thought I would fall….. some dear friends who checked in on me and gave me a listening ear, a hug when I needed it and a shoulder to cry on……. and my faith, with God by my side I can do anything, and He made sure that the people I needed were there when I needed them….. and I carried this load because my best friend, my partner, the love of my life and the father of my sons was right there next to me, helping me to carry the load and at times carrying all of us when I was too tired to keep going and then resting while I was strong.

We now have hope. We are ready to continue this next chapter, to help our son get healthy and find his way in the world.

It won’t be easy for him. But it sure will be easier without the fear of prison weighing on him every day.

These past 21 months I trusted….. and I just kept breathing…….

And for those of you reading this, who find yourself going through the storm, don’t give up…… hold on…….reach out to others….. and know that you ARE NOT alone. So many are going through this and you do not have to shoulder the load alone.

For those of you who know someone going through the storm, don’t pull away….. instead reach out to them, give them a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, let them know they are not alone. The storm of addiction is lonely and isolating and the weight of it all can crush a soul, but with support, with care and understanding, the weight can be carried, the storm can be gotten through and lives can be changed.

My hope is that by sharing my families story we have opened the minds and hearts of others so that we can support each other without judgement and stop the isolation and loneliness that comes with addiction.