day in the life

Friday, November 13, 2015

5:50 am – Middle school son’s alarm goes off. Continue to try to sleep.

6:30 am – Hear first toddler’s rumblings. Lay there anyway.

6:45 am – Wake up elementary kids. Endure both school girls’ loud stomping.

7 am – All children awake. Half of them are crying.

7:23 am – Yell at children to get out the door to the bus because no one happened to listen when I said “Watch for the bus” and so it’s waiting on them. One leaves without glasses. All leave without coats. 

7:25 am – Feed Bonnie and Clyde breakfast. They stand at the kitchen door like the goats at our local dairy waiting for the tourists to feed them their pellets. They scream at each other because they cannot be bothered to eat their own food from their own bowls even though both have been served exactly the same thing.

7:45 am – I try to consume some coffee. Two sips.

8 am – I try to interest Bonnie and Clyde in toys. They refuse. Running on the top of the table wins out. In between scolding, bribing, and time outs, I have to forcibly remove them from the top of the table approximately 85 times in the next 20 minutes.

8:25 am – Someone forgot to shut the eldest son’s door completely. I replace his belongings, I climb up into the loft to remove the child who thinks if they just crawl to the back corner that I will let them remain up there. I shut the door.

8:27 am – I realize that when I shut the door, I only managed to actually remove one toddler from the room. The other commences loud banging and MAMAMAMAMMA from the other side until I retrieve them.

8:30 am – I find the eldest daughter’s glasses in her room. I spend several minutes deciding whether or not I should take them to her. I decide to do it, if only because it means the toddlers will be strapped into their carseats for a half hour.

8:40 am –While I’m getting dressed, the toddlers find my laptop and change the screen orientation. Something they often do and something that I yet to figure out how it happens and exactly how to fix it without twenty minutes of four hundred steps and restarts.

9 am – I load Bonnie and Clyde in the van. I leave them in there for a bit so I can brush my teeth, pick up some toys, and drink a half-cup of coffee.

9:30 am – We return from the school, and I lock Bonnie and Clyde in the kitchen with me so I can work on dinner. I decide to try to save pennies by using a bunch of stuff we already have in the fridge. While I’m layering up what I’ve decided to call enchilada casserole, Clyde grabs the sour cream off of the counter, goes through the gate that apparently I did not latch tight enough, and proceeds to eat it in the dining room, on the carpet, by the fistful. I find him and the carpet and the dog covered in sour cream moments later.

9:47 am – After mess clean-up, I return to the kitchen, making sure the gate is securely shut behind me. While I’m chopping something on the cutting board, Bonnie and Clyde open the fridge, pull out a dozen eggs, and proceed to smash three on the floor and one on the dog’s head.

10 am – The dog and I have successfully cleaned up the raw egg mess AND prevented the toddlers from consuming raw egg in the process. I stick the dinner in the fridge for later, and we move on to the living room.

10:10 am – Is it naptime? I give Bonnie and Clyde a snack which only succeeds in kicking off thirty solid minutes of crying for lunch.

10:40 am – I try to distract them with toys. I try to distract them with books. We end up ‘playing the piano’ together.

10:55 am – I stick the popcorn chicken (non-hormone, non-antibiotic popcorn chicken, obvs) in the oven. Bonnie and Clyde get out their plates, cry for water, cry because their plates are empty, cry because I won’t give them candy before lunch, cry, cry, cry until the timer rings upon which they commence dancing and jumping “FOOD IS DONE! FOOD IS DONE!”

11:15 – Lunch is over. That was a short reprieve.

11:30 – Diapers changed, lunch cleaned up, and I sit down with Clyde to put him to sleep. Bonnie sits beside us with her binkie and blanket. 

11:45 – Clyde is asleep and in bed. I put Bonnie to sleep in her bed. 

12 noon – Here’s where I should accomplish adult tasks. Instead I find the rest of my cup of coffee, and I’m not proud of this next fact, but I drink it anyway. Then I nap.

I’d write about the afternoon too, but I’m too tired.
Blessed are you, mamas of multiple toddlers, for one day, they shall grow up and then you can rest.

photo credit: via photopin (license)


Friday, November 6, 2015

This afternoon, I was sitting in my living room, watching two toddlers, who finally seem to have found their groove, chat and play. One without words, one with more words than a two-and-a-half year old should rightfully have, one with a strong biting habit, one who is so used to being the adored baby of the family that it’s been a rough transition to sharing, one who has pain that we can’t begin to understand right now…these two are bridging that barriers and learning to be friends. Little Man wants to show affection; Mira is cautious. Mira wants to play ball; Little Man can only throw straight up in the air and bonk himself in the head. It’s been joy and delight to watch these two find their way in this transitional duet. It’s been pain and fighting and household destruction as well. It’s been hard.

A couple hours later, we drove to our run-down city to drop Little Man off to see his mama and siblings for the first time since he came. Four weeks to the day from when he arrived at our home. This is not at all typical for placements in our county. Usually, we begin visits within a week of placement. They don’t want to keep parents and children apart. I’m not quite sure what the delay was, but I do know our county is overwhelmed with kids this year. Foster care rates are once again rising, and there are still not enough homes.

The visitation center is packed full when we drove in. It’s been years since we’ve had to do visits at the visitation center. Our last two placements both had home visits with parent aides, so there was no need for the scheduling chaos that working with the visitation center requires. The snapshot of that visitation center on a packed full night is one of trauma and pain. Parents are crying, children are crying, foster parents and social workers are trying to wrangle children in and out of vehicles, trying to force them to stay in the rooms where they don’t even want to be, trying to drag them back to cars to go back to homes where they don’t want to be living. Fast food, sugary drinks, dye-laden cupcakes are on the menu for these supper-hour visits.

There’s a smell to this particular building. Not really a bad smell, just a very particular smell. Despite changes to the interior and a turnover in management, this building smells the same as it did the first time I walked into it more than six years ago. I wonder if someday these children will remember this smell – one of those trauma triggers that hold over from this part of their childhood. I wonder if Little Man will forever associate Happy Meals, this smell, and the sound of children crying for their daddy with this time in his life.

He took it all in suspicious stride. No visible reactions, as is his typical way. He keeps things tight to his chest, even at 18 months. There are a lot of people; it’s overwhelming, I’m sure. His lack of emotion saddened his mom, I’m sure. I wanted to make it better for her. I wanted her to look at his curly hair and feel like it’s well-taken of. Did she feel it, I wonder? Did you notice how well I’m keeping it moisturized? I hoped she liked his shoes. Name-brand on purpose, because sometimes those things are really important to people. The irony inherent in my desire to please birth families with how well I’m caring for their children is not lost on me, but the minute I start thinking of myself of better than and above ‘these people’ is the minute that I need to quit doing this job altogether. These families and parents are every bit as worthy of respect and dignity as anyone else on this earth, most especially me.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about visits. I have a lot of mixed feelings about foster care in general. Now we’re full into the middle of this case with visits and team meetings and all that goes with it, the familiar confusing emotions come back. Conflicting desires to reunite and to protect, to love and to keep distance come rushing all back. Most of my days are spent just living life normally, but in foster care, there is a constant weekly (or twice weekly, in our case) reminder that these children are not your own. No matter the groove you find yourself in, there’s a consistent off-beat because it’s not a completely harmonious normal life. Trying to keep our own beat steady with that conflicting rhythm will be a challenge during the next long while. We’ll just keep on singing our song of love and peace and safety, praying that those notes sound forth from our lives, not only into Little Man’s life, but also in the lives of his family as well. 

grunge filter

Thursday, October 22, 2015

In the line at a local dairy farm/ice cream establishment, I looked back at the nearly 15 people in our party and thought about the strangeness of my particular life. Birth family, adopted family, foster family, and some extra non-official children that we never really asked for yet can't quite seem to not love like our own to boot. Kids from 18 months to 20 years old, and I'm not quite sure what brought this woman who started her adult life insistent on only three children and fairly attached to her 1950's American dream view of how families are created and how they behaved to this place.

We sat later, in a row, on the farm wagon tour: myself, my kids' big sister's adoptive mom, their birth mom, their big sister, and then all of my kids....and my littlest was passed from person to person to person, affectionate towards every person in the line. The women bonded by being moms to the same kids, the children bonded by familial bonds that they don't seem to question whether or not they live in the same house.

Not that this was all rainbows and unicorns. Obviously not. There was pain underneath this whole family fun day, for sure. There are kids who are struggling through homelessness and learning to be adults in a world stacked against them when they've never been given the skills they need to navigate it. There are mamas whose choices have taken them a dark, dark road, with permanent scars to bear from those years. There are mamas who have struggled to make their families whole and healthy through the hard road to parenthood that they've chosen. There are little children with a lifetime's worth of pain and trauma in their little bodies. Our day may have appeared rosy from the pictures, but for those of us involved, there's always a grunge filter applied.

I've spent the rest of this week anxiously waiting for a caseworker call. I have no idea how court went last week. I have no idea what their case plan is, and what my part will be in that plan. Little Man settles in further, and every day that passes is a step up in difficulty. As he gets more comfortable, we see more and more evidence of the trauma he's been through. As he gets more comfortable, the harder it will be on him when we start visits with his mama. I want them to call. I want to know what my life is going to look like once the case plan starts for real. I told Wendell that today, and he says with this existential air, "Whatever it's gonna look like, it's gonna be nothing like we thought it was going to be when we got married seventeen years ago."

He's right. Our first date was 20 years ago this Thanksgiving. Twenty years, and I feel like we've barely started. Aren't most people established by now? Don't they have their big house and their family firmly in hand and their careers figured out and their crap together? I can't keep my house clean right now, and once again this week, I'm being humbled by my need for a friend to bring an evening meal. I don't even know how many children I'll have next week, much less what my schedule will hold. My kids have some semi-public issues, and I can't remember the last time I went to the grocery without it becoming somewhat of a spectacle.

But then today, I'm sitting on my couch writing this post while Little Man runs with a face-splitting smile towards my biggest boy, and my littlest girlie points to the big sister that she doesn't even realize isn't actually her biological sister in the picture on the wall, talking about when we saw her last. I scroll through the pictures of last Sunday's family visit on my phone, and I'm thinking that there's nothing in this world - no big house, no amount of well-dressed, perfectly behaved children who only ever belonged to me, no retirement account, no security about what my schedule will look like next week...there's none of that stuff that I would trade for what I have.

It's dirtier (quite literally. you haven't seen my house lately) than I imagined.
It's more beautiful than I ever imagined. 

 photo credit: It was here via photopin (license)

in the middle of the crazy

Monday, October 19, 2015

Little Man has been here a little over an a week and a half now. The house is filled with adorable as he and Mira are exactly the same size, though 10 months apart. The twins comments proliferate. He's warmed up. We get smiles and giggles and play. We still get scowls, but very little crying. We get glimpses of what he has likely been through, but I expect the bulk of it will come once visits start. This relative calm before the inevitable storm is a blessing since our household is anything but calm right now

No matter how good of a handle I think I have on things, a new placement always catches us unprepared. It's like having to constantly be prepared for the birth of a baby. People get things extra clean, they make freezer meals, they get all of their projects out of the way, they make sure the nursery is stocked with diapers and gear and clothes. While I do have minimal stock of a few items and the foster agency requires us to have the beds and car seats we need, I never have enough, and because our house is so small, we don't keep the beds in a constant configuration that leaves space. So the first night is inevitably filled with moving furniture, emergency store runs, loads of laundry (first to clean everything the child comes with and then to make sure the bedding and clothes are clean for his/her arrival as well), and purchased supper. 

Unfortunately Little Man came right at the time I needed to be switching out the kids' wardrobes for fall, which is a task that regularly brings me to near tears and/or violent murderous thoughts. So add that to all the stuff I listed, and even though I thought I was ready for this, turns out that was far from the truth. It's emotionally exhausting to bring home a new child, no matter the age, and while Little Man is a good sleeper, he does require a lot of supervision as he is not a respecter of boundaries or safety concerns. In addition, I was in the middle of a several day stretch where I had run out of one of my medications so I was beyond exhausted and not feeling super well.

Add to that a fairly serious medical issue with your tiniest of the bunch that lasts a whole day and brings back traumatic memories of hospitals and near-death experiences and compounds shame and guilt on top of all this stress I'm already fighting, and this is all an overwhelming recipe.

This placement, however, came right before a pre-planned evening away with non-refundable concert tickets so that I was forced to override my instincts and leave the new one for awhile to get away. We sat with friends who need nothing from us, who understand us, who follow Jesus the same kinds of ways that we do, who speak life and truth, and we ate well and listened to phenomenal music thanks to the collective efforts of three different babysitters (and let's be honest, a significant amount of cash)...since that's the kind of complicated shenanigans we go through to go away for a night. It was a deep breath in the middle of a week where everyday left me feeling like I was struggling a little for air.

Hope abounds because friends pull through. Whether it's the day-after arrival of an extra toddler bed, a double stroller, and some apple crisp, or the week-later gracious gift of a home-cooked meal, which I was uber-embarrassed to have to admit we needed (but after a week of hamburger helper and fast-food dinners, we WERE in need), sometimes God gives you the sweet sweet gift of a friend who shows up when your house is messy, you haven't showered, your kids are a circus, and everything is in chaos. 

It's hard stuff, bringing a new one into your home. No matter how many times we do it, it's still hard. It's emotional and exhausting, and there's always that moment a couple days in where my heart catches up with my brain and I get panicky because I know the hurt that's coming. There's no way this ends happily. It can end well, but someone is getting hurt in the process. And honestly? I hope it's us. I hope we're the ones grieving and missing him and fighting the take-your-breath-away pain that comes with sending a child home. I hope that's how this ends because that means this boy is back in a healthy and healed family. That means they've won. They've beat the odds and done the hard work to make their family work. That's the outcome we pray for right now. That's why we do this, all the crazy and the hard and the hurt. It's for restoration. It's for redemption. It's because, after it all is said and done, we still believe love wins.

photo credit: clean up time! via photopin (license)

compelled by love

Friday, October 9, 2015

There is so much indignity involved in a child being brought into foster care. There are caseworkers and law enforcement sometimes and intake exams and being stripped naked outside of homes to avoid pest infestations. There are showers with strangers and hours of hair combing culminating in strange pajamas and a strange bed and a strange mama to try to put you to sleep. These are just the mild cases. Some of the worse ones involve x-rays and pelvic exams and measurements and a gazillion documenting photographs of injuries.

The worst part is that the person a foster parent needs to talk to the most is unavailable to them. There's no mama or daddy interaction to ask about schedules and preferences and even what nickname you might use. You don't know if they drink from a sippy cup or a bottle or just disposable juice boxes. You don't know if they only eat twinkies or whether they like a myriad of vegetables too. You don't know this child because they are not your child. And yet they are. You're not a babysitter, you're the everyday parents for this kid now.

When we asked our eldest on Wednesday how he felt about another placement, he said, "yep." No questions. No hesitation. Just an immediate affirmation. This is what we do.

When we told our other kids, our oldest daughter, as typical in our family, replied with all the drama she could muster, "YES!! I LOVE what we do!!!"

But then later, she tells me that she really does love it, but it's just kind of 50/50 because when we get new kids in our family, it's because their families couldn't take care of them. And they're sad and they miss their moms. So it's not just all fun. 

We've always done foster care as a family. We've always approached it holistically and while we aren't really running a democracy, our children have voice in this. Not only do they have voice, but they have a huge role. We can't be successful in integrating a new child into our family without our children's participation. In fact, I would argue that their role is maybe even more vital at first than our own. Children look to one another for cues, to judge safety, to experience fun. Our kids are rock stars at foster care.

Our newest Little Man is cautious. He has a grown man's worth of suspicion packed into a tiny toddler body. He's spent far more time scowling than smiling, and the only thing that seems to have truly brought him joy is playing ball. Oh, and meat. Little Man loves meat. I don't think I've seen anyone enjoy meatballs as much he did this evening.

His story will unfold slowly, I'm sure, as all of our cases do. When we told our families, almost everyone asked 'how long'. When we first started foster care, that was a question we asked at the beginning often. I wasn't even tempted to ask this time. Whatever they tell us is going to be wrong. Things never turn out how they're expected. So we treat this little guy as we do all the others we've loved in the past. We love him with all we have for all the time he's with us. Beyond that, it's not up to us.

As with every new placement, the past couple days have been excitement and chaos and so much sadness. Babies without their mamas. Mamas without their babies. This world is broken, and sometimes I get cynical and overwhelmed. But in the end, we do what's put in front of us. We help the ones we can help, and we step up where we can step up. We give family to the lonely, and we do it all in the name of Love.

"For Christ's love compels us..."2 Corinthians 5:14

photo credit: JOHN WATERHOUSE, NOV 4, 1930-MARCH 25, 1992 via photopin (license)

breath of hope

Friday, September 18, 2015

The past ten days have not been my favorite. I'm nervous and stressed, I've had children stuff to deal with, marriage stuff to deal with, meetings and messages, worry over a friend's trauma, and a truly unpleasant dental experience to top it all off. I'm not pretending it's any worse than any one else's week; I'm just tired. But then...last night:

After months of no contact, the young man who lived with my parents for a few months this past fall and winter texted my husband. Months of checking inmate rosters, news stories, waking up at night to worry and pray and worry and pray some more. They've ended with an inexplicable text. Why does he still have my husband's number? Different phone. Several different living situations. Weeks and weeks to forget, yet somehow, he has my husband's number. This Sunday, he's coming to dinner. I am undone by the beauty of this particular moment. Are things fixed? Probably not. Is everything going to be perfectly fine and smooth from here not? Definitely not. Will we ever see him again after Sunday? No idea. But God writes the best stories, and this one isn't done yet. We so needed this glimpse of hope.

Later that night, I got an email from our son's teacher from last year. She'd been thinking of her favorite students, and he came to mind, she said. A teacher that checks on her kids after they've left? That's a beautiful thing. A teacher that spent so much time loving and caring for our son? Oh, my words cannot express my gratitude. God loves our boy. He shows him His love in a million ways every day.

I don't know how theologically sound this makes me, but I love God more because I see how He cares for the least of these, the smallest child, the most vulnerable among us, the young man who is looking for his future and trying to forget his past. It's one thing to feel loved yourself, but it's another to watch those you love feel that same way. God cares. He loves. We matter. I'm breathing in hope.

photo credit:

friday link love

Friday, September 4, 2015

It's been ages since I've posted links. Therefore, I give you the best of the best from this past month:

*the one which most summarizes my parenting focus for the past month or so:
The Gift of the Green Blob - Glennon Melton on Momastery

...Do whatever it takes to remember that you’re a child of God, friends. Paint it above your door, tie it to your wrists, stamp it on your forehead: I AM A CHILD OF GOD. And then remember the flip side of that brilliant, life-saving truth: So is everyone else...

*the one I needed to read after a particularly confusing conversation with another believer about guns:
Let Us All Now Pray to the Almighty Gun - David Gushee Follow for Religion News Service

...When we doubt, O Gun Almighty, strengthen our faith in You.When the number of killings rises, strengthen our faith in You.When children are murdered in large numbers, strengthen our faith in You.Though You slay us, yet will we trust in You.As for me and my houseAs for us and our nationWe will trust in You alone, O Gun Almighty.

* the one from the mama praying with abandon to the One who calls us to abandon everything in pursuit of Him - even our cautious prayers:
I am a long way out on the water - Hillary Sherratt at The Wild Love

...I don’t know how Jesus is speaking to you about prayer. I don’t presume to know. But if I can ask, if you would, come out here with me on the water for a little bit? Whether it is about Jackson or about something in your life, will you come out here, where the reasonable drowns in the presence of grace, where what is expected  falls at the feet of the one who promised it was not too late for Jairus’s daughter? Here, in the middle of the water, there is none but us and Jesus. And we are safer here, in the arms of the one who saves us, in the hope of the one who heals us, in the mercy of the one who loves us...

* the one from the one who shares the same heartbeat as me:
The Staying Part - Shannan Martin at Flower Patch FarmGirl

...God tells us over and over, "I will save the weak and helpless ones; I will bring together those who were chased away."(Zephaniah 3:19) His heart beats for the fugitive kids and their tired-out, spent-up moms and dads, the ones we're quick to ignore or chase away.
When we allow our lives to intersect with souls wearing the sharp edge of pain, we cannot expect to walk away unmarked. I can't do a single thing for daughters abandoned by their Moms, or sons expected to fail. I can't help them at all.
But I feel myself rising up for them, and I don't know where it will go from here.
Three years and counting have taught me this: going might be hard, but it's the staying that will break you.

* the first one I needed to read for my mama heart this month:
In Defense of ADHD - Shannon Evans at We, A Great Parade

...So now I’m a naturally-minded mama with a baby on Ritalin. Turns out the two aren’t mutually exclusive, or at least I’m guessing not since the earth didn’t start quaking the moment he took the first pill. And the truth is, Ritalin has been a life-saver. If I had any doubts after our appointment about whether he actually had ADHD, they’re out the window now. That medicine was exactly what his little brain needed, and I am thankful for it. He gets to be his real, true self but now he’s in control of his own body. I think in some way he’s thankful for it too...

*the second one I needed to read for my mama heart:
8 Things to Remember as You Mother Your Children - Lori Harris 

...Mothering is the hardest, best thing I’ve ever done that I never want to end.And if I could give you one thing to tuck in your pocket it would be this:
You are the person God chose to hold his babies. Lift up your head and mother them like you believe that. 

celebrate adoption

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Earlier this week, an anniversary came and went without much fanfare on our parts, school and the transition back to that routine consuming our lives. We don't make a huge deal of adoption days around here, out of respect for our children and their first families, but we typically go out to eat or something. We want to follow our children's leads when it comes to processing their adoptions. They get to do this on their own terms. While we did make a big deal out of their adoptions when they occurred, this happened with sensitivity to them and their first families. We probably wouldn't have done the same things if they'd been older, if they'd had more contact with their parents, etc. 

Adoptive parents are always walking this fine line of reminding our children that they are special, that they have unique stories, that we love and respect every part of them, including their past and their first families and not making too much out of all that. Not to make them seem "other" or to remind them of past trauma. Never to make them feel like they don't belong or that they're less than in any way.

This week, however, we fielded multiple situations in our family where things were 'not fair'. Where they felt like other families had more things, more money, where other kids get better material items, better experiences, and on and on. These are times when we need to remind our children that they were, each of them, placed in our family for a reason. They were placed in our family through different ways, but that doesn't change how our family functions. Regardless of how things started out, we believe that we're all in this family because God put us here. He gave us to one another. Our children to us, us to our children, the kids to one another. We are a team, and there is no one else in this world that can fill each of the positions on our team other than the ones already here.

Thursday night, we headed downtown to the courthouse yet again. Four years and four days after the first time we walked into that building. This time wasn't for an adoption finalization, but the unveiling of a mural that some of the adoptive families in our county helped create. We each made appointments, went and painted for an hour or so, and now that mural hangs in the hallway of our county's Probate Court. It's beautiful, and it was an amazing way to commemorate our anniversary. Special in a way that another dinner at Cracker Barrel could never be.

It reminded our kids, both the ones who were adopted into our family and the ones who were born into our family, that our family is unique. We are special, and we get to do amazing things that all of those families that they feel have more material goods and bigger houses and more money will probably not ever get the opportunity to experience. We might not make a huge deal about adoption all the time here, depending on the needs and mood of our kids at any one time. We might not have big parties and give gifts like some people do on adoption anniversaries. We will continue to be sensitive to the pain and loss that our children feel surrounding their adoptions, but one truth remains this week: no one else in this entire world will have the experience of being a part of this particular family at this particular time. And that's something to celebrate.

saying yes

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When I started parenting, there were so many things that I was never going to do. You know, arbitrary moral-ish type items. A lot of them are just my own standards - I don't pretend any type of holiness or extra morality over them...they were just things I do and don't like when it comes to parenting styles and children. Random things like (and don't judge me here. I know some of them sound stupid) not letting my kids go to dances, making my son have his shirt on outside even when it's hot, not painting my little girls' nails, putting a onesie on my babies at all times, not piercing the girls' ears, etc. Mostly appearance type things that really have no bearing on real life problems or solutions, but just existed in my head as standards for our family. I wouldn't say I have no reason for these standards - I do have valid reasons for all of them; it's just that those reasons aren't life or death, future threatening reasons.

One of those 'things' happened to be class trips. We don't really do overnights for safety reasons. There are a couple families that we know well and that have a specific familial make-up that we are comfortable with that I will allow my kids to go to their houses, but we're talking once or twice a year usually. The oldest has gone to church camp the past couple years, but understand - this was difficult for me. I did not love camp as a child, and beyond that, I have heard enough stories from the teenage boys in our former youth pastor days to be more than a little leery of the locker room behavior that occurs. We sent him off with prayers and a little gratefulness for the break from all the early teenage angst.

Then comes this 8th grade class trip. The expensive one to Washington, D.C. I have so many objections. So many. The separation of the haves from the have-nots. The dangers of having 100+ kids away from their parents for four days. The sheer expense of it all. The chaperone situation. On and on. I actually didn't even consider it. Sign-ups were last year, and they sailed by. This fall, the pressure to go came back with a vengeance. Let's put aside my irritation with the teachers pressuring kids to do an expensive extra-curricular in the classroom, and go forward to the point when our son presents us with a contract he had typed up himself, outlining a payment plan for him to pay us back for the trip and the pros and cons for him going, complete with fanciful calligraphy font and signature lines. He'll be irritated when I say this, but it was adorable.

Due to his commitment to his project, we decided we had to give it a more serious consideration. At which point, we surprisingly found ourselves coming up with our own negotiations to counter his contract with. My objections? Almost completely answered, down to hired hotel security guards that are stationed in each hallway for the night shift to assure that no one comes our of their rooms.

That's how I ended up in a crowded cafeteria to sign my son up for the White House tour and figure out room assignments, and that's when I re-discovered how crazy I am about my son. He already had three roommates eager for him to join their room as soon as they found out he was attending, but one of his other classmates came up at the meeting to ask him if he had a roommate. This kid didn't have a single person to share with. Of course, my mama heart was bleeding for this kid who is, from all I can see, completely sweet and kind, but I wasn't about to force my son away from the first group.

First thing he did the next morning was come and tell me that he texted his friend, and he still hadn't found any roommates. So he went to the school, on his own initiative, and told the teacher in charge of room assignments that he needed to switch. He talked to his other friends and explained the situation. If this had been just a case of our son switching from one group of friends to another, I'm not sure I would've cared. But I sat in that cafeteria and watched all the other kids match up in groups of three and four, watched this kid cross the cafeteria specifically for my son, and watched him leave after realizing he was already in another room.

I asked some questions later. You know, why this kid didn't have other friends. Why the other kids didn't like him. All the usual probing questions a mama wants to find out. According to my son, his friend just has mostly girl friends. He's interested in different kinds of things than most of the other middle school boys. They make fun of him. They call him gay. They do all those crappy middle school behavior things, and my son is still his friend. He told me just because someone's different doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. He said being quiet isn't a reason to not like someone. He said even if he is gay, what difference would that make in how he should be treated? 

My son and I have been at odds lately. He is in the throes of teenage hormones, and I've been less than generous in my responses. In the middle of the yelling matches, I find it hard to remember that my son is kind and compassionate beyond measure. I forget how completely smitten I am by him and who he is becoming.

This week, I was reminded of how strong he is. How brave. How unafraid he is to be friends with a kid whom others make fun of or to room with a kid that others are calling gay. It clearly never even crossed his mind to consider what others would think of him, and I am so thankful for that. I'm so envious of that, actually. If I could've navigated my school years with half as much grace, I would've been much better off. It took me a lot of years to come to that kind of self-assuredness.

This week, I was reminded of his diligence and commitment to hard work and responsibility. I don't know too many other kids that would plan a year-long contract to repay a debt for a trip they wanted to go on. Not to mention, his repayment schedule solely depends on his hugely underpaid newspaper delivery job that pulls in a regular salary of a whole five dollars per week. He said he didn't include tips or extras because that money is unreliable so he can't depend on it to repay the debt. I mean. My kid.

This week, I was reminded of last year's end of the year awards ceremony. Our oldest has always gotten a plethora of academic awards. I'm happy he is successful at school, but honestly, I'm not that proud of it. It's largely genetics that makes him think in a way that is well-suited for traditional schooling. But last year, he won a different award. A write-in ballot from all of his classmates for the Character Award. Now that's the kind of award I can be proud of. Proof that he is living his life with integrity. Proof that other people can see the light of Jesus in him daily.

This week, I was reminded that sometimes we make decisions for our children that look different than what we imagined our lives would entail. Other people might not approve or understand. Maybe we never expected to say yes to the things we find ourselves saying yes to, but then again, we didn't know the kids we were going to be parenting when we thought about all those things. Every kid is different, and every kid needs parented differently as a result.

I've spent way too much time lately concentrating on the negative, and I just forgot who my son really was. In my willingness to say yes was hidden the truth of all of that. Sometimes the joy and reward of my yes is for more than just my own kids. Sometimes it's for their friends too. And sometimes it's for me. I'm so thankful I said yes.

so loved

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I've detailed our struggles with school some in the past. We made some mistakes, for sure. Last year brought us to a near breaking point with one of our kids, and I was worried that we wouldn't be able to find our way back out. His traumatic kindergarten year was beginning to visit itself again in a new classroom, with a new teacher, even in a different school building. Through some tough choices and some concerted effort on both our part and the teacher's part, we ended the year in a glorious wave of success. I have never been more grateful for a teacher in my life, but as summer began, the flush of victory faded, the urgency lessened. My dreams and prayers for my kids' teachers dwindled until it was time for school to begin again.

We got the all-call about posted class lists, but fresh in my mind was the knowledge that my son had to return to the school building he attended during kindergarten. Back to this building where he had such traumatic memories. Different teachers and a different administration, yes, but it also brings the real need for him to ride the bus again. I felt like all the stuff we sacrificed to do last year to help him succeed was impossible this year, and my fear that we would regress back to previous behaviors and intensified fears. I couldn't bring myself to drive the kids by the schools for several days.

When I finally succumbed to their pleadings to find out their teachers, we pulled up to the curb, walked up to those giant windows and nervously scanned the sheets looking for their names. Neither the children nor I were reassured by anything we saw on the papers. We had no personal knowledge of the teachers and no one we knew personally had the one to whom my second grader was anxiety and my guilt over my lack of real concern over the bulk of the summer was not really abated.

I went to open house with an apprehensive heart, armed with our 'introduction' letter for the teacher. We walked the opposite way from that classroom where the ill-fated kindergarten year had taken place and walked into a new classroom that I was earnestly praying would give him a fresh start. Within minutes, I had hope for our son's whole year. It was an easy introduction, the teacher was so responsive to our letter, and by the time we left, I knew she had been a foster parent for fifteen years while her children were smaller. I left the building with far more peace than when we arrived, yet still in prayer for my littles' first days.

Once they left for school that first morning, I spent the whole day in appointments without much time to think about what was going on. I was just resting in the hope from open house. By the time we slowed down at all that evening, I had an email waiting in my inbox from our son's teacher. Before I started reading, that familiar pit in my stomach from the previous years' teacher communications had arrived. 

It wasn't far into it before I knew this communication was different. She explained classroom protocols - and it's a truly positive behavior system! no color cards every day!! - and she outlined ways she had already made efforts to help our son feel safe and secure in her classroom. She explained her background as both a therapeutic foster care worker and parent, she expressed her commitment to working with us, our son, and his therapist if necessary to make this year successful for him.

By the end of the email, I could not hold back my tears. Not only of gratitude for this teacher and her commitment, but just in absolute wonder for how loved my son is. Oh, not by me; I already knew how much I loved him. Not even by his teacher, although that was something I had definitely prayed for. But by the One who created Him and knows Him by name.

We sent our kids to school this week with a verse of promise from Isaiah 43 - a promise that God created them. He formed them. They do not need to fear because God is with them. He has freed them from that. He has called them by name. They belong to Him. Even when the teachers might not remember their names right away, even when the kids might not know who they are, God knows. He knows them so intimately. The very Creator that formed the universe formed my son's heart. He loved him before he was even born, and He loves Him still. He knew the teachers my child needed to counteract what happened to him his first year of school. He knew and He cared even when I forgot to think about it. I can't control all these things that may or may not happen to my son, but there is One who loves my son more than I ever could. He loved him when he was born. He loves him still with such tender care and mercy. 

I know that our son doesn't quite yet get this. He doesn't see how our Jesus is loving him so beautifully. He doesn't see how he's being drawn in with arms of love. But I see it, and it just makes me love Jesus more. I am not the rescuer. I am not the healer. I am not the controller of all circumstances and happenings in my children's life. But I know the One who is. He is my friend, and I love to see how He is patiently waiting and working to become the friend of my children too. This week, there's this song ringing in my heart, and that's how I want to leave you today...with these words that I can sing about myself but have become even more powerful when I can sing the truth of them over my children:

I'm no longer a slave to fear.
I am a child of God

summertime gratitude

Friday, August 14, 2015

In the early summer, I found myself standing in the middle of a weedy, tick-infested Christmas tree field, weeping with gratitude that I had the capacity and opportunity to spend hours with those trimming shears with sweat pouring down my back. 

I've written here before about Grave's Disease and the permanent hypothyroid condition caused by the treatment. Last year, I wrote about anxiety and some of the physical reasons behind that. This summer brought me a new recognition of my previous fragility and a new thankfulness for a well-functioning body. After I was diagnosed with a new chronic illness last year and treated for those symptoms, I felt better than I have in years. I could accomplish things, even manual labor things, without the effort that it took before. I could spend time outdoors, OUTDOORS, in the heat of summer without negative consequences. It really felt magical.

The diagnosis I received last summer is for an autonomic disorder called POTS. The autonomic nervous system, according to Wikipedia, influences the function of internal organs. It's a control system that works unconsciously and regulates bodily functions like heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, urination, and more. POTS is a syndrome that, at its most basic level, means that my heart and my brain don't communicate as they should. There are a multitude of symptoms associated with POTS, including extreme fatigue, low blood pressure, high heart rates, fainting, digestive issues, heart palpitations, heat intolerance, exercise intolerance, and on and on. I'm on a low dose of a steroid which, combined with a high salt and high fluid diet, has been managing my symptoms swimmingly for the past year.

Until the past few weeks. When I started having several near-fainting episodes, overwhelming fatigue, extreme heart palpitations, and more. But time stops for no man, or syndrome as it may be, so I continued to plow my way through the most stressful month we've had in a very long time, compounded by multiple broken bones in the family, a huge family reunion, and some complicating personal and familial issues. Stress brings an increase in symptoms in this particular disorder anyway, so this became a really, really hard month. 

So it's back to basics until we figure out if it's transient or if I need to switch meds or something else. Yoga every day. Walks, even when I get short of breath just climbing the stairs. Hot tea. Hot tea. Hot tea. And so many naps. When my children speak of the end of this summer, I'm confident they'll talk only about the hours I spent in bed in the afternoon. Or maybe they'll just think about how many hours of video games and movies they consumed while I was resting. Guilt stacks on shame (because there's very little more humiliating than nearly passing out in the eye dr office during a routine test), and I'm once again brought to my knees in humility and dependence.

Even though it's a different kind of gratitude, I am as grateful at the end of this summer as I was at the beginning. I am grateful that I have access to medicine to make my life bearable. I am grateful that I have a health care practitioner that doesn't resort to dulling symptoms with psychiatric drugs but looks for the underlying causes. I am grateful that my children are mostly old enough to care for themselves while I take a necessary nap. I wish that the medicine was working well, and I could work out in the heat like I did at the beginning of the summer, but that's how where I am today. Today, I'm just grateful to sit down when I get too lightheaded. I'm grateful for salty tortilla chips, for tall glasses of cold water, for my essential oil diffuser, and for school starting soon. Practicing gratitude might not come easily when things get rough, but from my perspective, it's a deep inhale in a world where, quite literally, my breath too often comes shallow. It's life.

Where can you find gratitude today? Look for the small things, whether it's triscuit spread with cream cheese or the smile from your littlest. Counting gifts reminds us of who we are and whose we are. It's a direct connection to the things and the One that matters. You won't regret it.

photo credit: Route 91 nr Hatfield via photopin (license)

soapbox friday: in which I am pro-life

Friday, July 31, 2015

My facebook feed is overtaken with Planned Parenthood haters. Truth be told, that recent video makes me feel ill. It's callous, and it breaks my heart that human beings can speak so callously of other humans. I want to hate that woman and all she stands for.


Personally, I'm not a Planned Parenthood hater. I have mixed feelings about this agency. They provide services to women that literally no one else is doing in many, many areas. (Fact Check: Abortions are only 3% of their total services, and by law, no federal funding is permitted to be allocated for abortive services.) They provide contraception, STD testing, ultrasounds, prenatal care, counseling, and so many other necessary services. I have three different friends who were helped in a very specific way by this agency. After rape. After an abortion. After an unplanned pregnancy. They went to Planned Parenthood because their own churches and Christian schools would give them no assistance. You tell me who the callous, hate-filled agency is in those instances. 

That said, it's really all this call for this to be our "moment", for this to be a galvanizing incident for the pro-life movement that's getting me at this particular moment. It's often coupled with ideas of ways to help, most of which do not even begin to address the real problems that lead to abortion. Frequently, it's accompanied by graphic descriptions of what happens to babies when they are aborted. It's awful and makes the stomach churn.

Are you horrified by the description of what happens to babies during an abortion? Me too. But let me tell you about what happens to many of those same babies that aren't aborted. 

Let me tell you about a child who was duct-taped naked to a child's potty so tightly and for so long (more than a full day, actually) that her legs lost circulation and turned blue.

About a child who, as a preschooler, was forced to scrounge for food in the trash to feed herself and her siblings while they were alone, without food or diapers, for hours and hours on end.

What about a child who was walking barefoot through dog and human feces in a home that was so bad that the social worker, who has seen many a dirty home, literally vomited upon entering?

Let me tell you about a child who was not only forced to watch her mother engage in sexual acts with her boyfriends while she was four and five years old, but was also forced to engage in sexual acts herself with those boyfriends.

Or a kid who was locked in a bathroom with only bread crusts to eat.

Or a baby who had a gun pulled on him with threats of murder.

Or a kid who entered foster care with bruises still on their back from abuse that had occurred SIX WEEKS earlier.

What about the baby who had an open sore on the back of her head from sitting in her carseat 24 hours a day? Never picked up. Never cared for.

Let me tell you about what it feels like for a child to know that their mother doesn't want them. Or to know that their parents have chosen drugs again and again and again.

Does that horrify you? Does it? My experience is that most people are more horrified by the thought of abortion than the reality of what these children live through. These are some of the kids that we've met. That we've parented. That's the reality of what it looks like when women choose "life" instead of abortion. This should horrify you. You should want to throw up when you read this, same as when you read the descriptions of what abortion entails.

Are you pro-life? Really?
Because it's about more than calling your congressman. Or funneling money towards that one pro-life women's center in the area. It's about more than sharing articles on facebook.

It's about supporting policies that help women at risk. Expanding government services to those most vulnerable. It's about all of those policies that people love to get angry about: legally mandating that contraceptives are provided free of charge, not requiring drug tests for women to receive food and medical services, paying for mental health care, expanding early childhood education services, providing bus passes, parenting classes, in-home parent aides, and drug rehab. It's about opening more domestic violence shelters, more detox centers, dumping minimum sentencing, allowing felons more rights, and more. 

It's about stepping up and caring for the children whose mamas chose life instead of going through with the abortion. That means exposing yourself and your children to the ugliness of life, yes. It means bringing traumatized, terrified, abused, and neglected children into your safe cozy home. It makes your home less safe, less pretty, more chaotic, but it's what it takes to love and heal a child.

It's about continuing to live in your neighborhood where the neighbors use too much bad language, where the house across the street deals drugs out of their bedroom window, where children come to your door and into your yard at all hours, where your stuff gets stolen out of your cars and garages instead of moving to the country where it's quiet and safe and you don't have to worry about those things. It's putting yourself in the midst of it so you have a chance to make a difference.

It's not about adoption usually. It's about being willing to put your own savior feelings of rescue on the line to commit to help a family do what it takes to remain together and become a safe place for one another. It's about allowing a single mama to live in your extra bedroom. It's about driving her to appointments. It's about providing a dad with a job and very likely, the transportation to get there. It's about loving a child like they came from your very own body, yet still being willing to say goodbye forever when they are ready to move back home to the family they are intended to be a part of.

If you're not willing to be horrified by what these children go through, if you're not willing to step up and put your lives on the line for these women and children, then I would challenge you that you might not be truly pro-life at all. Don't mistake me. I hate that abortion exists at all. Hate it with every part of my being. Life is sacred. ALL of life is sacred. But until we wake up to what's really going on here, until we stand up for what matters most with our hands out in service and surrender to help those who need it the most, saying we're pro-life is just lip service.

Make it real.

Faith, by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:17

learning in solitude

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I've been in such a long season (at least it feels long) of holding things tight to my chest, of feeling like I have no safe and secure place to lay it all out there. Every time I speak, I hear the hesitation. The carefully masked words. The vague answers. It's not really who I want to be. It's not really who I am deep inside, but for some reason, there is still something there holding me back. For what? For comfort? For safety? For pride? 

Simultaneously, I feel myself living in greater vulnerability in my alone times. My conversations with God have never been deeper and more fulfilling. Never more honest. Never more demonstrative. It's a weird dichotomy. Perhaps it's the ebb and flow of life - greater vulnerability in one place while drawing back in another. I find myself weeping alone much more often than I cry in public nowadays.

This season of solitude is drawing me deeper, for sure. I've been learning in some very precious ways throughout the past six months that God loves me. Intimately. Deeply. Passionately. It's hard for me to rest in that. I'm a helper, by nature, and sometimes, ok, often, I take my internal value from that instead of from who God made me to be. To BE, not to DO. I search for value outside myself which sets me up for catastrophic failures. Like cake throwing

Then, in my quietness, I read these words, and my soul resonates with the truth of them:
"In solitude we can slowly unmask the illusion of our possessiveness and discover in the center of our own self that we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us.  In solitude we can listen to the voice of Him who spoke to us before we could speak a word, who healed us before we could make any gesture to help, who set us free long before we could free others, and who loved us long before we could give love to anyone. It is in this solitude that we discover that being is more important than having, and that we are worth more than the result of our efforts. In solitude we discover that our life is not a possession to be defended, but a gift to be shared. It's there we recognize that the healing words we speak are not just our own, but are given to us; that the love we can express is part of a greater love; and that the new life we bring forth is not a property to cling to, but a gift to be received. In solitude we become aware that our worth is not the same as our usefulness..."
Henri Nouwen

My worth. My life. It's a gift I have received. It's a gift to be shared with others, and when I rest in the love of the One who knows me best, that's when the words flow freely. That's when the love inside of me wells up to those around me. No more throwing cake. I am set free.

food fights

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

This past weekend has been extremely full of emotion for all of us. Our Very Big Thing is looking just as impossible as ever, and we have no idea how to feel about it. We have a child who has been in a funk for quite awhile, and things continue to digress between us. As if the continued propensity for running away isn't enough (go ahead and ask me about how I felt when I found said child walking down the busiest major road in our area), things really just came to a head yesterday when I threw a piece of cake at this particular offspring.

You read that right.

I       threw        a            piece         of         cake.

Someday, I'm sure my children will look back at their time at home with their mother and talk about my gentleness and self-control. How long-suffering I was. How I was the calm and steady center of the family. I'm pretty sure that's what they're going to say.

The thing is, this parenting thing is just so very hard, and parenting kids from hard places is even harder. It's hard to explain to parents of kids who have not been through quite as much trauma, because behaviors sometimes look very much like "normal" child behaviors. I wish I could remember exactly where I read it, but someone once described parenting children from hard places as parenting with a highlighter. The words (behaviors) might look the same, but everything is highlighted in neon yellow. There's just something intensifying all these normal looking behaviors. That's our lives right now.

It wears on me. Not only does it take a tremendous amount of emotional and physical energy, not only does it take way more time than anything else in my life, but it also brings me face to face with the ugliest parts of myself. The parts where the child who struggles to believes themselves worthy brings me face to face with my own struggles with worthiness. I'm supposed to be the one teaching them, reassuring them that they are special, that they are  loved, that they are intrinsically worthy, and I can't even believe it about myself. I lose my cool. I yell. I throw cake at my kid.

Let me not delude myself - these moments are not my finest moments,
but instead of thinking all the things that I tell my child over and over,
things like...
our behaviors are not our identities
everyone messes up. we say we're sorry, and we move on.
we can always start again
you are special
you are loved no matter what....

Instead of that, my inner dialogue much more resembles this:
you are the worst mother in the world
no wonder they hate you
their first moms would be horrified to know you're treating them this way
maybe the powers that be made the wrong decision when they decided you could parent this child

and most often:
you are not worthy of love

It's a humbling thing to have your worst behaviors on display for your children to see. It's terrible to realize just how close I am to the most hateful of behaviors on any given day. Coming face to face with all the ugliness in my heart that I thought I had dealt with, but instead is now spewing out at the ones I love the most is awful. I'm scared to think about how my behavior can further harm my child and break their little hearts wide open. Beyond that, I don't like to think of myself as internally fragile, and yet, here I am struggling with the same things as my littles.

Am I good enough?
Will you love me even when I treat you like crap?
Do you still find me precious and beautiful even my behavior is ugly beyond belief?
Am I worthy?

I guess I'm not writing this tonight to just let you see the vulnerable questions of my soul. Or to just give you the assurance that you are a better parent than me. (Did you see the part about the cake? You are a better parent than me.) Really, what I want you to know is that this stuff is hard, and it's ok to admit it. It might not be as visibly hard as someone else's hard, but the minute we start comparing, everybody loses. If you think your stuff is hard, guess what? IT IS. Your stuff is hard. Your feelings are complicated. Some days you are winning, and some days it is utter failure. But you're not alone. I'm right there with you, and my guess is that we're not the only two. So let's do this together.

photo credit: Rainbow Cupcake via photopin (license)

very big things

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

You know how when you're on the edge of a Very Big Thing, and it consumes all of your time and emotions and energy? That's me for the past three weeks. Nothing official to be said about this Very Big Thing, but it still is just overwhelming my inner life right now. So much so that I have not spent enough time dealing with the Very Big Things that my children are struggling with.

Today changed that significantly. We got to the bottom of some specific struggles with one of our children and made good progress towards helping another one of our children through their issues. I'm battling a bit of guilt tonight for not being able to push through to the root causes behind some of the most difficult behaviors, but mostly I'm just angry. Angry because it's not fair that children should hurt. It's not cool that I have to hold my children while they cry because another adult in their lives hurt them. It's not ok that little minds and hearts have to bear the weight of grown men and women's stupid decisions.

I don't have answers for my children. I know it's common for American families to have the parents be the ones to keep their kids "safe" and "protect" their children from all the crap that's out there, and to some extent, that's true, but in real life? In the messy everyday of broken lives? It's not like that. It's not all safe. I can't protect them from everything. I can, however, sit beside them and hold them while they cry. I can tell them I hate what's happened to them. I can tell them that it's not right and it's not fair and they deserve better. I can tell them they are loved, no matter what.

I wish today had been different. Sometimes I wish we were a 'regular' family with a white picket fence and Sunday School behavior and no outside weirdness. But then I would miss the beauty that happens when I get to see healing in front of my own eyes. I wouldn't get that bittersweet elation that comes when my kids share something really, really hard with me for the first time. I wouldn't get to appreciate just how far they've come, just how much redemption we're witnessing. And honestly, I wouldn't be who I am today.

Do I regret the stuff that's happened to my kids? For sure.
Do I regret that we did this? That we exposed our oldest two children to hard things? That we welcomed hurt souls into our lives? That we are now a family through the miracle of choosing to love one another rather than just through biology? Not for a minute.

So, in my weeks of Very Big Things, both for us and our kids, I am reminded anew of how appreciative I am of my family. How blessed I am that they call me their mama. How I would do this all again and again, and how I can't wait for the opportunity to do more Very Big Things together.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

In a facebook conversation with a friend this week, I found myself answering her questions with unexpected candor. As much as I value vulnerability in my relationships, it surprised me that there were areas of my life, fears and dreams, successes and failures, that I had never said aloud to another living soul. Not my closest friends here, not my husband, not even in my journal, quite honestly. I suppose part of it is that no one has ever asked me the questions. Maybe half of the battle to vulnerability is believing that someone genuinely wants to know that part of you. But what's the rest of it? What would make me expose some parts of myself to someone who doesn't even live in my state anymore as opposed to the people I see every day, every week, or even every month or so?

I'm, too often, the person who doesn't know how I feel or what I think until I write it down. That's exactly what happened to me in this conversation with my friend. I read back what I wrote and was extremely glad that I had already pressed enter because some of it was so surprisingly exposed (at least it seemed that way to me) that I wanted to take it back. I'm going to guess that some of you are also familiar with this feeling I'm having: that feeling of being exposed and the gut reaction of wanting to clutch everything tight again, physically draw the words back into myself. 

In the aftermath of all this introspection, I'm left wondering why these particular things are things I've been keeping to myself. I'm wondering who I should've been sharing them with, if anyone. The older one gets, the more you know the value of having some secrets and maintaining a certain amount of privacy, particularly in our social media culture, and just because I can share something doesn't necessarily mean I should. I'm reevaluating my relationships and wondering where I can move forward with greater authenticity.

Are these things you struggle with too? What's holding you back from vulnerability and authenticity in your relationships? Are there things you haven't even voiced aloud to yourself that might need to be said aloud today? There's power in giving something voice. It takes courage, but it's the first step that's the hardest. Maybe you also need to give something voice today - if so, this is definitely a safe space. Leave a comment or email me.

Let's be brave together.

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