When hope is taken away, what is left?

My husband wrote in his letter to the court on behalf of our son, that “an endless supply of hope is what every parent of an addict needs”. And he is right.

Hope got us through some of the darkest days. And along with the hope, our faith kept us going. Even when we had no idea where our son was or when we would……if we would….ever hear from or see him again.   Yet, we continued to hope…..and pray……and hold on.

My son is still facing the probation violation charges in Yavapai county that I previously wrote about and is facing charges here in our county, and despite all of that we have held on to hope.

My son continues to move forward in his treatment, making forward progress every day. Is it perfect? Is he perfect? No. But that is the nature of the addiction beast.

Hope keeps him going. The hope for a future without drugs….the hope for happiness…..the hope for a light at the end of this long judicial tunnel……the hope that he will be healthy……..

Hope gives him a reason to keep trying, to keep working on his recovery.

And then this week we hit a roadblock and hope was pulled out from under him…..and us.

Imagine, if you will, that you received a speeding ticket and were dealt your punishment. But after the punishment was decided…..well, the court goes back in time and discovers that you were pulled over two other times, but never punished….so now they are going to bring you back to court and punish you for those two previous speeding tickets.

That is what my son is facing now, only his crimes are victimless……well, not really if you take into account that he is the victim of his addictions.   He was arrested in March of this year and was sentenced in April for that arrest. And then the day after his sentencing, the same county and the same prosecutor’s office filed new charges stemming from an arrest 3 weeks prior to his March arrest……for the exact same charges, related to being an addict. We have been to court for this newest charge three times now, each time resulting in a continuance, twice by the prosecution and this week by my son’s attorney. The prosecutor continued the case, because they wanted to decide whether or not to file more charges.

And this week, when we went to court, my son’s lawyer informed us that they had filed charges for an arrest he had in April 2016……..more than a year ago.

And the plea deal from the prosecutor’s office was awful……….

Now, we go to court again, in a three weeks and my son now faces 4 more felony charges stemming from 2 arrests that occurred before the arrest that resulted in his current sentence…….

I have struggled the past few days with how to put into words what I am feeling. This hit me hard. And it hit my son hard.

I finally had my son back. He is alive and trying to get himself whole and healthy. He is going to treatment, he is participating and talking with us. He is present. I had my son back.

But I have now watched these past two days as he slips into depression and I am scared. The hope he had for his future, the plans and the dreams that he finally started allowing back into his mind…..well where is that hope now? When hope is yanked right out from under you, what is left?

My son has lost everything because of his addictions. And just when he thought he had a chance at a real life without drugs, this happens…….so why try? Why continue? What’s the point when the punishment being offered is worse than the punishment he is already serving?  A punishment, by the way, given him by a judge who knew about the other arrests and took them into account when deciding my son’s sentence.

I am at a loss. How can an addict, any addict, get clean and have a real life when the system is set up for punishment, not rehabilitation? Shouldn’t the goal be to get addicts clean and help them to become healthy, functioning members of society? Shouldn’t we all, as a society be trying to help these addicts, especially those participating in their own treatment? When is it enough punishment……..when we take away all hope? Addicts lose everything and then the system takes the last bit they can hold onto, their hope.  And this loss of hope leads to the cycle of drug use—arrest—incarceration—drug use–arrest–incarceration……..

I am angry and frustrated. I am scared. I don’t understand and am trying to, but this defies all reasoning. My son is sick and more punishment is NOT going to make him better.

He needs to continue treatment.

He needs help.

He needs hope.

I am disillusioned and losing hope. And when hope is gone, what is left?

For me, what is left is my family—my husband who is my rock through everything, our boys who are my purpose and gifts from God, and extended family who are all a source of comfort and strength– and my friends.

And what I am left with is my faith. I know that God is right here with all of us. I know He will not leave me to drown in this storm. I know that He will make sure that I and my son and our family will be provided what we need to weather the storm hitting us. My faith keeps me going and will keep me going…..and one day I will find hope again.

I am trusting God and taking the leap……..

SOLD!

My husband was in the Air Force for 30 years and we moved a lot. For most of his Air Force career we lived in the housing on whatever base we were stationed at……. all over the US and in Turkey and England. I loved living in base housing, in the community where others were going through the same things we went through. Each house became our home, where we laughed, loved and created memories. It was never about the building, it was about the love and the memories. But we knew they were all temporary homes.

We only lived in off-base housing, twice in his career. The first time was when we were in Alabama for my husband to go to school. We rented a house then and loved the house and quickly made it a home.

After Alabama my husband was sent to the Pentagon and base housing was not going to be an option for us. We were okay with that. We made the decision to buy a house, a decision that was hard for me because I knew that the house we bought would become our home, I would get attached and I had never desired to buy a house until it was THE ONE, the last house we would live in. So, I went to Virginia, alone, to find us a house.

I looked at a lot of houses and then I found the one that I could picture us living in and in a neighborhood that looked wonderful.

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We bought that house.  Brand new.  Never lived in.  Ours.

A house is just a house, until you fill it with family, friends, love, memories and the sweat and tears that go into making a house a home. And we did just that.

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It was our home. Filled with lots of memories of holidays, birthdays, fun, and even sad times. We painted every room in the house and all of the halls…..colors that reflected us, no more white walls. And my husband and youngest son worked hard building the fence that would make our backyard an oasis for our dog. And they built a beautiful deck for us to relax on while watching the corn in the field behind us grow. We landscaped and planted the flowers, trees and bushes we wanted. We had friends and family visit us. And we all worked hard finishing our unfinished basement, creating a space where more fun family memories were made—playing pool and playing Wii games.

We had only planned to live here 2 years, the norm for us. But that two years became three, then four and before we knew it we lived in our home for 6 years…..the LONGEST home either my husband or I  had ever lived in. Our youngest son completed all of his high school years in that home. We had teenagers in and out of the house, became close with our neighbors and built a life in that community. This home was the last one our dog would live in.

We were putting down deep roots.

The memories created are strong in that home, filled with love.

Then the day came when the Air Force moved us and the thought of leaving my home, my friends, my community really hurt. I was attached to this place and I wanted to stay. But the Air Force had other plans.

At the time, we could not sell the house, the market had dropped drastically. So we rented it out, in the hopes that we would return after two years and move back into our home. But the Air Force had other plans for us……we never did move back to our beautiful home.

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Now here I am, 8 years after leaving the house we made a home. Others have been living in the house since we left, renting from us. 3 years ago, we went back to Virginia to make repairs to our house to get it ready for the next tenant and it was then, in the midst of the damage caused by our first tenant that I realized this house was no longer our home. We weren’t living there, creating memories anymore and what we had created was no longer there…..it was now just a house.

The only reminder of the family who made this house a home was the growth marks still visible on the laundry room wall.

We made the decision to put the house in Virginia up for sale when the lease ended. I was ready. My husband was ready. Being landlords was not a job we enjoyed or envisioned we would ever find ourselves doing. So, when we started the process, I was surprised by the emotions I found welling up in me…….this had been our home……the memories made there flooded back…….I was sad about selling our home. But it wasn’t ours anymore and hadn’t been ours for the past 8 years.

Today we closed on our house, selling it to a young couple who I hope will see those growth marks and realize that at one time this house was a home, filled with love, laughter and tears. And my hope is that they make this house into a home and fill it with wonderful memories and lots of love and raise their family, with new growth marks on the laundry room wall.

We only own one home now! We are relieved. The stress associated with owning a house on the other side of the country is gone. A weight lifted off of our shoulders.

And I am a little sad…..it was our home and the memories made inside those walls will forever be cherished!

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My Call to Action

It has been almost 2 weeks since we took our son to self-surrender for his probation violation at Yavapai County Jail, in Camp Verde and almost a week since his court hearing. And it has been an emotional time.

I was proud of my son for doing the right thing when he self-surrendered and I thought that doing the right thing would matter…….little did I know that doing the right thing would be the beginning of a nightmare for all of us.

We left the jail and had no idea what would be happening to our son or when we might be able to pick him up. That was hard. But even harder was the call I received later that night from my son, from the infirmary…..

He told me that despite having his prescriptions with him, the contracted medical staff told him he would NOT receive any medication while there in the Yavapai County Jail and would just have to withdraw. I could hear the fear in his voice. I felt the fear rising rapidly through my body……..

My son is on Methadone and the withdrawals are horrible, but that knowledge did not stop my breath…..it was knowing that he would not receive his Klonipin, the medication for his anxiety, a medication prescribed by a psychiatrist and one he has been taking for 13+ years…….a medication that when stopped suddenly can cause life threatening seizures. And we know all too well about those seizures, caused when doctors, who did not understand the dangers, would stop his medication.

So when he told me that the medical staff was refusing to give him his medication, I was in fear for my son’s life. How could that be legal? Surely this was not right? Other times that he had been in jail, he had received all of his meds……why was this different?

And then I remembered what had happened last fall and that this was the SAME jail where the nurse refused to give him his medication, even after the police had told her he needed them. And a few hours after his release, he had a seizure, prompting a 911 call and an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

Now, I was really scared and my anger began to grow. I knew I needed to do something and I needed to be at the court the next morning for my son’s initial appearance, to stand up for my son and make sure the judge had all the information needed to make an informed decision about my son.

I drove north early in the morning and more than 2 hours after I left home, I arrived at the courthouse. I checked with the information desk to find out which courtroom my son would be seen in and then I was informed he would not be seen at that courthouse because the judge for his case was not on the docket that day. Instead they were seeing him at the courthouse next to the jail. Crap! That was another hour away, I would NEVER make it in time. The clerk took mercy on me and gave me a number to call at the other court in order to find out information about my son and to get information to the judge.

I called. I talked to the clerk. She told me to call back after 9am to find out what the bond was set at. I told her about the medication situation and the dangers. She told me the judge couldn’t do anything about that as it was under the jails control to make that decision.

I should have known right then that there would be NO help, NO concern, NO caring.

I called after 9am. My son was seen and the judge set his bond at $25,000. It didn’t matter that my son was clean at this point. It didn’t matter that my son was to start treatment that afternoon. It didn’t matter that my son had never missed a court date. It didn’t matter that my son was being denied medication that was necessary for his physical and mental wellbeing. It didn’t matter that my son did the right thing…….it didn’t matter.

I immediately called the Yavapai County Public Defender’s office and I got the same response as last time—they can only talk to my son. But she took my name and number after I told her about the medication situation and my fear that my son would end up being taken to the emergency room or worse, lose his life. She said someone would call me.

And someone did. She listened to my concerns. She told me that the jail makes the decisions about medication based on their assessments. She said she would look into it.

I spent hours talking in person and on the phone with many people. And no one cared.

I started the process to see what we could do to get my son out on bond, could we use the house for collateral, because now it was my son’s life that was at stake. And I called attorneys that I could hire to see what it would cost and what they could do.

And then I drove more than 2 hours home. It was one of the longest, loneliest, saddest drives.

Later that night we heard back from a lawyer and decided to hire him. What was happening was beyond legal and was inhumane…..and we didn’t know the whole story yet.

I talked with my son many times that day, each call worse than the previous. He was suffering. I made sure he knew I was doing all that I could for him, that I was fighting to get him his meds or get him out of there. I was not going to stop fighting. I told him I didn’t know if we could get him out. And he understood. He took it all so well and his attitude stayed hopeful and positive. But he was suffering.

It was breaking my heart.

And then the public defender called me again. She told me that she had typed up a letter for the nurse at the jail and would go see my son in the morning to get him his meds.

I was hopeful. But in the conversation I could hear that she did not really understand what was going on or the dangers.

The next morning when my son called, he was worse….unable to keep food down now. I knew this preceded the seizures and was more worried. And I started making calls again.

Finally, we were able to find a bonds agency to bond our son out. And we headed out for the 3-hour drive. When my son called we told him we were on our way, but it would be a few hours. We arrived in the town where the jail was and waited to get him out. He called shortly after we arrived in town.

And that was when he told us he had had a seizure.

My heart stopped. I held my breath. I told him to hang in there, we are getting him out.

A couple of hours later we saw him walk out of the jail. Relief. He was alive. I immediately gave him his medication. And he hugged me….tight.

On the drive home he told us what had happened in the Yavapai County Jail, Camp Verde infirmary. After my son’s seizure, when he was aware of his surroundings again, the other inmates told him that as soon as his seizure started, they banged on the windows to get the guards. They told him the guards came rushing in, asking what they should do. And the nurse looked at the guards and told them to do nothing, that my son was okay.

WHAT?? I was livid. How could anyone, especially a medical professional, behave in such a manner and with such disregard for another human?

And then he told me the rest of what was happening….how NONE of the inmates in the infirmary were receiving their prescribed medications from the contracted health company. Not the individual who was on high blood pressure meds, he was just told to lie down and drink water. Not the man who had been laying in a bed in the infirmary who suffers from severe neuropathy and was denied his non-narcotic and narcotic pain medications….this man could not walk because of his pain. NO ONE was given medication in this jail.

I am appalled that this is allowed to happen, that no one has stopped this. And I am taking action.

The medical staff and the contracted health agency for the Yavapai County Jail, did not count on my son having a family who cared about him and about others. My heart breaks for those who are still there and I worry that someone will lose their life in that infirmary.

I am taking action, through my letters to local, state and federal politicians, my letters and calls to organizations who help and advocate for the mentally ill and addicted, and through my calls to the ACLU. I will not stop until those held in that jail are treated humanely.

My son is still working through the justice system in Yavapai County and in ours. He had his hearing this past week and when his lawyer told us that the prosecution wants him to spend a week to two weeks back in that jail, my heart stopped…..I couldn’t breathe. And I told the lawyer that my son would not survive that. So, he listened and heard us and decided we needed some more time and had the hearing delayed until next month.

A month in which my son will have more time in treatment. A month in which my son will have more clean drug tests. And a month in which we can breathe just a little.

And a month that I can spend working on behalf of those still suffering in that jail, at the hands of the contracted medical staff.

This is my call to action.

God’s Hand at Work….

It has been a difficult week for our family. It began when we took our son to self-surrender, thinking that doing the right thing would help him to continue on the right path to living a clean and healthy life.

What we didn’t count on was the events that occurred while he was held in jail on a bond that was excessive when taking his case history into consideration. I will be sharing the nightmare that ensued and that led to my son’s seizure while in jail, after his court appearance this next week.

Today I want to share with you how I am seeing God’s Hand at work in all of this.

While we were struggling through the trials of last week, and while trying to stay strong for our son, I asked my family and friends for prayers for my son…..I believe strongly in the power of prayer and that through prayer we find strength and comfort. And my family and friends came through for us, praying for my son, our family and for those involved in my son’s case.

I could feel their prayers.

And I know God heard all of the prayers.

And it was through those prayers and our own that we were able to make the decisions we needed to make and that we were able to find the help we needed at that moment.

We were able to bond our son out of jail late at night, and he was thrilled to see us. I expected that due to his experience, that my son would need some time to recover and that he would not want to jump right into all that he needed to do for his recovery, at least not for a few days……I was wrong.

The long drive home after picking him up was filled with conversation and planning.

And then my son jumped right in, the next morning. I have been amazed every day since we brought him home from jail at the transformation going on in his life, his attitude and his actions.

My son started his outpatient treatment the very next day. He made his appointments to get his meds back and to take care of himself…..no prompting, he just did them!

For years we have had to nag him to do anything…..and now he is doing those things. What happened?

He is clean! He cares. He is engaged and trying now. He wants this now.

And I can see that God has His hand in this…..that God has been watching over him, bringing people into his life and answering my prayers.

My son is not only going to treatment now, but he has also started his community service…..at a church!

When my son received the call yesterday to let him know where he had been assigned for his community service, I could hear the determination in his voice to start and finish this aspect of his probation. Then he told me where he would be doing his community service hours…..a church, just down the road from us. A church that has a Recovery program. A church that has programs for supporting addicts and their families.

Yes, God has His hands in this!

I have prayed, daily, that God would find a way to reach my son, to touch his heart and to bring people into his life that will help him to become the person he was always meant to be and to help him to have the life he was meant to live.

My prayers are being answered. Though my son would say that it is the universe that is playing a role in all of this…..I KNOW different. I KNOW that God is there with us, and has been every step of the way. And I KNOW that my faith is what is getting me through this and keeping me going. And I KNOW that God is with my son, protecting and providing for him.

As I dropped my son off at the church this morning, I sat there and watched him walk inside. And I smiled.

As I drove away I said to God, “You work in mysterious ways! Thank you!”

And then I started to breathe again……

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Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

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It has been awhile since my son and I have done something together, just for fun. This past year’s struggles have not allowed us the time, energy or frankly the desire to do something fun, together.

We are still dealing with the remnants of the addiction storm and still picking up the pieces. But amidst the healing and rebuilding and the many other things we need to do, we found some time to spend together, doing something we both enjoy.

Yesterday, after a quick trip to the courthouse for some paperwork, we decided to stop at the Heard Museum. I love visiting museums of all kinds and thankfully, both of my boys do too.

The museum was not far from the court so we stopped to enjoy some culture. I enjoy the Heard Museum, exploring the Native American history, culture and art. So when I saw that the museum was hosting a special exhibit showcasing the art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, I knew I wanted to go.

Little did I know, that my son was a fan of one of the artists, so he was excited to go and see this exhibit.  This exhibit became an opportunity for us to bond and find some healing.

We spent a few hours enjoying the artwork of Frida and Diego, and the other exhibits inside the museum.

We shared our thoughts about the artwork around us.

We talked.

We laughed.

We had fun.

A much needed day of enjoyment, that was long overdue. A day that gives me hope that things will get better, that we can rebuild and heal.

A few hours spent with my son, where I could breathe!

Family

We are born into a family, related to them by virtue of birth.

And some of us, me for instance, are adopted into a family, related not by blood but by love, chosen to be a family. My mother often reminded me that she CHOSE me.

We have family that we marry into and family we gain when our children marry.

We have family born of old friendships from our years growing up.

Families come in ALL forms…….Thankfully!

And then there is the family that is related by a common bond, born out of a shared nomadic life—a life in the military.

My husband served 30 years in the Air Force and we moved A LOT. Everywhere we moved to was new, foreign and a little scary for this shy girl.

Our first move away from home was the hardest for me. We were moving many states away and it would be the first time I moved out of the northwest……away from my sister, my in-laws and my friends. It would just the three of us—my husband, our three-year-old son and myself…..alone. I was nervous and scared. I was shy and making friends had been hard for me every time I moved as a child. And now we were moving to a state in the northern tier, in winter.

I didn’t know how I was going to survive the cold and snow, let alone survive without my support system.

Despite the long months of snow covered ground and roads, and despite the isolation in a time when we did not have internet or cell phones to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, I thrived in our new home.

I made friends.

And I learned during that first assignment away from home that the Air Force was a family. We were all related through this common bond of service. My support system grew and the bonds of those friendships grew stronger every day, lasting all these many years later.

Each time we moved, our family grew. We were so very blessed to be given this family and to be there to support each other through moves, deployments, long hours, births of children, deaths in families and so much more….through everything–the good, the bad and the difficult–our Air Force family was there and I could always count on them. We celebrated together, we spent holidays together, we laughed and cried together and we took trips together. This was a family I did not originally choose, but am so very grateful for, Every. Single. Day! My Air Force family made the good days better and made the struggles survivable.

My husband retired from the Air Force a couple of years ago and we are no longer moving around the country. But that does not change the family we have in the Air Force. We are blessed to still count all those friends we made through our military life as our family. And no matter where we go, we have family to visit—around the country and the world.

It is a blessing to us when we get to visit with our military family—to catch up with their lives and laugh with them again. When we see them, we pick right up where we were the last time we were together, no matter how long it has been.

Over the past couple of months, we have had the opportunity to visit with those family members while we were traveling…..such a blessing to have so many to visit wherever we go.

And we have been visited by family as well, while they were traveling through……just last weekend we got to spend a few hours with friends, family really, who were in the area for a short visit.

Families come in all forms—through birth, adoption, marriage and shared bonds.

I am truly blessed to have such a large family, in ALL forms!

Anchors

When thinking about Anchors, one usually conjures up images of anchors used by ships and boats to keep them from drifting in the current of the river, sea, bay, etc. Those anchors keep them from moving……forward, sideways or backwards. I grew up with a dad who loved boating. We would take his boat out in the summers for days, sometimes weeks, exploring the Washington and Canadian islands. And we used the anchor to keep us in place in quiet inlets, near isolated islands that we would row our dingy too so we could explore them. The anchor kept us from drifting and kept us safely in protected areas…..safe from rough open waters, and safe from getting lost at sea while sleeping the night away.

Yes, anchors were necessary.

And anchors in our personal lives are just as necessary.

I spent this past week leading my Weight Watchers members in discussions about our “whys” and about anchors.

An anchor is something that grounds us to our “why”, our motivation. An anchor is a reminder of where we want to go, how far we have come, the things we have accomplished and what is important to us. An anchor can be a strong motivator.

Anchors come in many forms…..Things we can see, touch, feel, smell…..Things that we say to ourselves…..The people in our lives……Things we visualize in our minds. These anchors are important in reminding us just how much we CAN do, HAVE done and what we WILL do.

I shared in my meetings some of the anchors that I used on my journey to reach my goal weight and some anchors I still use to keep me from going back to where I started, going back to my before….something that I could easily do if I did not have the tools, skills, motivation and anchors that keep me grounded to, or anchored to, why I started this journey, what I have learned and where I want to be in the future.

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During my weight loss journey, my anchors kept me moving forward, especially after I discovered the POWER that an anchor has in keeping me motivated. My first REAL anchor on this journey with Weight Watchers was given to me by my leader—a popsicle stick to remind me to “Stick to it”. THAT popsicle stick was instrumental in leading me to my “aha” moment…the moment that changed the course of my journey….when I realized that I didn’t think I was worth the effort. And that realization led to another anchor—a phrase said every morning while looking in the mirror….”I am Worth It”. Both of those anchors play a role in my life today.

Other anchors came into play throughout my journey to my goal weight—my Weight Watcher “bling”—kept where I can see it and bling that I continue to add to today as I continue attending meetings as a member, a reminder of how far I have come. And my before picture…..a POWERFUL reminder of just how far I have come, physically and mentally. After reaching my goal, a special necklace given to me by my husband many years earlier, became a strong, emotional anchor….I had never been able to wear the necklace….I was far too big…….and then I put it on. It FIT. It was perfect! I cried……tears of joy, pride and tears for the girl who had been so lost before. This necklace still inspires me and motivates me.

I have anchors that remind this once exercise phobic girl, that I CAN accomplish an activity goal—my 5K medal from my first Disney World 5k race, a strong reminder of the HUGE sense of accomplishment and the incredible PRIDE in doing so. And a Half-Marathon medal that I have not yet earned, that is kept safely set aside as a reminder of the commitment I made to my family and to myself and that I WILL accomplish this goal and EARN this medal when I am healthy enough to do so.

And this week as I talked, listened to the members and reflected on my motivation and anchors, I realized just how important it was for me to continue to set goals, to challenge myself and to remember why I started this journey in the first place. Sometimes we forget why. Sometimes we lose our motivation. Sometimes we think that since we have reached our goal we are done…..but we are not. This is a lifelong journey and one that needs anchors.

I also found this week while contemplating and getting back in touch with my anchors that mine are not just about my journey with Weight Watchers. I have powerful anchors that remind me of what is important in my life, that remind me joy can be found even in the darkest moments….something that keeps me going and keeps me finding the pleasures in this life. Anchors that remind me that I have the strength to get through anything thrown at me……even when I doubt. And anchors that remind me how important my family, my friends and my faith are in sustaining me and bringing me joy.

A bracelet I wear often to remind me of my faith and family…….two bracelets too remind me to never give up and that anything is possible…..necklaces that remind me of hope and that I am worth it……t-shirts with positive, uplifting phrases, bought to inspire my exercise and worn to inspire my day and remind me just how strong I am…..a framed phrase on the wall to reminds me to trust my faith and to hold onto God’s hand when I am feeling weak…..a stone etched with my favorite bible verse reminding me that I CAN do anything, as long as I do it with God by my side…..Instagram photos taken by a dear friend and given to me, remind me of the beauty in the world around me and remind me to appreciate what is here, in this moment right now. There is always something beautiful!……..photos of my family to remind me just how very blessed I am to love them and be loved by them…….. and so many more reminders…anchors.

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Anchors that keep me grounded and connected to what is REALLY important to me and anchors that keep me grounded and connected to my support, my faith, my family and to just how much I CAN accomplish in this life.

Anchors give me the courage to take the leap and help me to just breathe when I am facing challenges.