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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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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Finishing is Winning! My first 10K

It was Valentine’s Day, 2017, and I don’t think I had fully thought through the choice I had made. My foot was still bothering me, but there was hope it would get better and I needed to do some training and lose some weight to meet this new goal….but I pressed submit and signed up for the Disney World 10K for January 5, 2018 during Disney’s Marathon weekend.

I could do this. I had a plan.

I was going to walk, fast. I knew that. And it meant I needed to get back into fighting shape….I wanted to complete the 10k at a 13-minute mile pace…. I could do that…. After all, when I was younger I had completed a 5k at a 13-minute mile pace…. (but I am a little older now…ugh!)

The year went on and life got in the way.

So did fear.

I feared the pain in my foot returning and every little twinge since last February made me contemplate not being able to complete this race.

But I kept planning for the race…. Not really thinking about the complete picture and what it meant for me.

Not only was there fear about my foot and my back acting up, but there were some other deep-seeded fears beginning to bubble to the surface…and I kept pushing them aside, ignoring them.

After all, I had a plan—

–train for the 11 months leading up to the race

–follow what I know and love about Weight Watchers and drop the 20+ lbs I wanted to lose

–get to the race and get in the front of the corral to create a buffer between me and the 16-minute mile pace balloon ladies (the ones who pass you and then you get picked up because you couldn’t keep up the pace, but I wouldn’t have to worry about it because I would have a buffer and I would be going faster….)

–And finish!

And then January 2018 arrived and I decided my goal this new year would be to continue to step outside my comfort zone, to try new things and to continue to take the leap. And little did I know when I signed up for this 10k back in February that it would test all of this and more…..

I don’t like to do things on my own, especially things that I have never done. Yes, I go shopping and travel alone. I have done a lot on my own, but each time was a test for me to push myself outside that comfort zone and to see what I was capable of. The thought of doing something on my own scares me, makes me anxious, and has my mind finding excuses to NOT do those things. And though I have done things on my own, there are still some things I cannot do—go to a movie alone, go to a restaurant alone….. It is just completely outside my comfort zone……

And this race was testing me, scaring me and making me anxious. As we packed for the trip I realized I was going to be doing a 10K alone….sure there would be thousands of others out there with me, BUT I wouldn’t know them. I had never done this! I would be alone. I have walked this distance and more with friends and family….but…..never alone.

My mind was trying to find ways out of it….I was just getting over the flu. My foot might “pop” again. What about my back? It is going to be FREEZING!!

And then this morning arrived.

My husband drove me to the start at Epcot and walked me to the corral area. I was a NERVOUS WRECK!

Remember that plan I mentioned that I had when I signed up for this race….well…….

–I didn’t train. No. Not. At. All. Life just got in the way

–I didn’t lose the weight. Not. One. Ounce. Life got in the way

–I was in the LAST corral. And tried my best to get toward the front. I was somewhere in the middle of the corral….until……..

The race had started.  I waited for my corral to get the chance to go. We were last. But I could see a lot of people behind me. A LOT! And then the corral began to move to the start and they broke us into two waves. I knew I was far enough ahead in the coral that I would start with the first wave and create that buffer…..until……..I looked behind me…..there were only about 50 people there.

WHAT??? HOW did that happen?? I was now at the very back of the racers, thousands ahead of me…..and the balloon ladies were right behind me. CRAP! There goes my plan for a buffer!

And we were off. I took off. I didn’t look back. I focused on those in front of me, picking one person to pass. And then another one. And another. I was going to put space between me and those pacers and create a buffer.

I felt good. The first mile done. Then the second. And I knew that when I reached the 3 mile mark I would be almost half way done and would be in World Showcase in Epcot. As I turned the corner and saw the flames in World Showcase I knew I was half way done. I could do this!

I had passed a lot of people and with a quick glance back I felt I was doing well. So, I stopped for what should have been a quick bathroom stop…….and there was a line……..and that quick bathroom stop turned into minutes……..and I was finally leaving the bathroom, just as the bicyclist stopped to tell all of us in the bathroom we were now BEHIND the pacers…….

Ugh! That bathroom stop.

There went the last bit of my plan.

I was NOT going to let it stop me from finishing. So, time to adjust. They were 1 ½ minutes ahead of me at that time. Okay. I hadn’t come this far to ONLY get this far! I was going to FINISH this race ahead of the pacers!!

And I left that bathroom and ran.

Yep. There went the plan to just walk.

No training and now I was running (slow, but faster than my walk!)

I could see the ladies ahead of me. I had to stop running and walk fast for a bit, but even walking I was gaining ground. And then I ran again, getting very close. I could hear their conversation. I walked a minute and then ran again. I ran right past them. Me! I RAN right past those pacers. Now, to create some distance between me and those balloon ladies.

I focused on one person at a time to pass.

We ran around the boardwalk and then back into Epcot.   Mile 5 done! And when I looked back, I couldn’t see the ladies. I was building that buffer and passing a lot of people. Walking fast with short moments of running.

And then mile 6.  Emotions started building.

Only .2 miles to go. The longest .2 miles ever.

I rounded the corner. There was the finish line. Yes! I was going to finish!

And I jogged across that finish line! I did it! As I crossed the finish line, I told myself just how proud I was of ME!

I am not often proud of myself, really proud. This morning I was proud. I had pushed past the fear. I had pushed past the discomfort. I had silenced the excuses and negative thoughts. And I DID IT!

I DID IT!!

My husband was there at the finish waiting for me. The look on his face when he saw me, the pride in his eyes……brought me to tears. My husband believed in me even when I didn’t and he knew I could do it, even when I doubted. That hug was the BEST hug ever!

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I did it! I realized that by pushing myself out of my comfort zone I am so much more capable than I thought, I can do so much more. I can accomplish a goal even when the plan gets derailed. And when faced with the possibility of not finishing what I started, I found that my determination will get me there. I won’t quit! I will succeed!

I took a chance. I took the leap and I finished!

 

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.

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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!