Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Little Things ARE The Big Things

It's the little things, really.

Singing loudly to a song on the radio.
Giving in to "just one more snuggle" before bedtime.
Getting weighed at the doctor's office and not freaking out.
Going to lunch with coworkers.
Being able to step in and help someone else.
Teaching dance and watching your tiny dancers improve.
Talking to a friend on the phone.
Full on belly laughing while watching The Office for the hundredth time.
Hearing the words "I love you" without prompting from your children.
Getting a surprise visit from your sister and her kids.
Being invited over to dinner at someone's house.

All of the little things add up and they become quite big.

I'm feeling all of that this week.

The kids have been adjusting to the new co-parenting schedule and it was touch and go there for a while. The changes seemed small to me but when it includes different people dropping them off or picking them up at school, it feels huge to the kids. I lamented to my mom a week ago how hard it is to parent without yelling or losing my mind but that I truly believe that is what my kids need from me so I'm working hard at it---BUT IT'S SO DANG HARD! The kids had both been on a streak of disrespectful behavior. I heard phrases like "I hate you", "Shut up", and "I don't care" more than I've ever heard out of their mouths before.

In fact, I can count on one hand how many times I remember the phrase "I hate you" coming out of either of their mouths.

It lasted almost a full week and I was feeling extremely defeated. I know they're struggling to feel stability. I know they react like this when they're scared.

But it still hurts.

I was nervous for the weekend because I didn't want it to keep getting harder.

Each time my children had lashed out, I had reacted with compassion---although sometimes I was faking that compassion and holding back hurt feelings and anger.

But as the weekend rolled in, there seemed to be a calmness in our home.

We spent a lot of time together doing some of our favorite things:

Watching National Geographic movies on elephants, white wolves, gorillas, and polar bears.
Playing games together.
Turning cleaning into various different races and games.
Going to the movies.
Eating out.
Separate date nights with each of them.

It was probably the best long weekend we've had. Ever.

And as the week progressed, it started to feel a little bit more normal in our home and less hostile.

But the growing pains are still there. On Wednesday, there was a mix-up and Hayley was almost an hour late for dance which resulted in meltdowns throughout the next 3 hours of dance. I went and got her favorite snacks and let her teachers know what was going on and everyone was patient with her. Oh how grateful I am to her teachers for understanding. In fact, one of them took her out in the hall and braided her hair and talked her through her emotions before taking her back to her class. I will forever be grateful to Miss Melissa for doing that for my girly, knowing they have competition in a week but making sure Hayley's feelings were a priority.

The fact of the matter is, none of this stuff is their fault. The kids didn't choose divorce or co-parenting or schedule changes. They don't choose who picks them up or whether they're dropped off at the correct times with the correct things they need for dance or play practice.

Co-parenting is often messy at it's best. 

But I am so thankful that my lingering anxiety hits hardest when the kids are gone. And I'm so thankful that they're not gone from my side often. And I'm so thankful that I have friends and family and therapy to help me through the times when they are gone.

Because it makes it so that I can enjoy those times that they are with me. And I'm learning to practice self-care when they are gone.

And all of those little things that make me happy are truly not little.

They build me up and remind me that life is so beautiful. They remind me that there are always multiple things to be thankful for.

And most importantly, they remind me that my Heavenly Father knows me personally and is looking out for me.

I'll get through this rough patch of anxiety because I have support. And my children have support. And those things mean the world to me and remind me just how blessed we are.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lingering Anxiety

In June of 2017, my world felt like a complete mess.

I'll be honest---my ex-husband getting remarried was not easy for me. It came with a lot of changes and also a lot of heartache, as I watched him start a new life while I was still alone.

But on top of that, I was awoken early on the day of Hayley's summer dance recital to someone banging on my front door and ringing the doorbell over and over again.

Apparently, that's what court servers do... 

The constant door banging and doorbell ringing had woken everyone in my home up at 6:00am, including our foster baby. And then the man explained that he was serving me court papers for a change in child custody.

I could hardly breathe.

But after sobbing on the phone to my mother for a few minutes outside, I picked myself up and walked back into my home to get all of my children ready for the day.

Before we left for the dance recitals, I called my home teacher and received a Priesthood blessing. In it, God told me there were specific reasons this was happening and that I would gain knowledge throughout this process that would help others throughout my life.

And somehow, I managed to make it through the day of dance recitals without crying.

But it was that night that I completely lost it in my room. And it was almost every night after that for the month of June that I sobbed into my pillow as I fell asleep.

Every time my children were with me, I kept them close. And each time they left my side, I felt anxious.

Every choice I made was made carefully. Normal, every day things scared me. I shut my blog down for 5 months. I put my foster care license on hold. I took a semester off of school. I was constantly worried about the future and haunted by the past.

I found myself at the court house four different times and each time, the anxiety I felt on the inside was almost unbearable. But somehow I kept it inside and was able to get through each of those court appointments.

I met with my attorney on numerous occasions and felt anxious each and every time I had to speak about the possibility of the future.

Any time an email would come through from my attorney or the opposing attorney, my body would immediately revert to a state of anxiety, without even knowing what I was about to click on.

The entire process was extremely traumatic for me.

And the week before trial, the panic I felt anytime I was separated from my children heightened.

I'm a planner by nature. And thanks to my diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I hate feeling like I'm not in control. And this whole thing had me feeling very much like the choices of our future were not in my control but in the hands of a judge who doesn't even know our family.

It has been almost nine months since I was woken at 6am on a Saturday morning.
I spent most of 2017 wondering why this was happening and how this would affect my children.

And last Sunday, I asked my bishop for a Priesthood blessing as I was going into the week of trial.

In the blessing, I was told that I would be able to speak calmly and feel peace during this process. I wasn't sure I believed it because I know myself---and I am not an eloquent speaker nor did I believe it would be possible to feel peace inside that court room.

But I tried so hard to trust that blessing.

And when Wednesday rolled around, I decided I was going to have a great morning with my kids and trust that God would be there when the afternoon hit.

And all I'll say about the trial is that God delivered on His promises. I felt incredible peace and reassurance and I spoke more clearly than I've ever been able to before.
It was miraculous and beautiful and empowering and since that day, I've said prayers of gratitude daily for a God who was there exactly when I needed Him.

It's now over.

And all of the promises made to me were given.
And in so many ways, I am grateful for the past nine months and everything I have learned.

But what I've experienced in the past week has been really difficult.

I assumed when this ended, the heightened anxiety would end.
Unfortunately, it didn't.

Sometimes the anxiety hits when the trauma is over because our brains tell us it's safe to feel

This isn't the first time I've experienced this and it won't be the last. It's hard to have a major portion of your heart walking around without your protection for most of the day. Motherhood is the greatest thing I've ever been given and yet, it comes with a lot of anxiety because I cannot always protect my children when I want to. 

So this is where I'm at. It has been a long nine months and I am extremely grateful that the hardest parts are over. But please be patient with me throughout this transition. It's going to take me some time to feel like I'm back to a new normal again.

Thursday, January 4, 2018




As a whole, I hated this year. But that's mainly because of a bigger picture issue that started in May/June.

When I really think about it, 2017 wasn't half bad. 

Hayley was baptized in January.
I graduated from ASU with a bachelors degree!
We dove into foster care with our sweet Yaya and since then, have been taking a break due to the 'bigger picture' issues mentioned above. But hopefully, 2018 will bring with it more children into our home that need us.
Hayley chopped almost ALL of her hair off!
Hayley also made Company at her dance studio.
I started teaching dance again in July at the same studio.
We were surprised and blessed with a new van in July---and with it, a stability that was something I hadn't even realized would bring so much comfort to my heart.
Andersen was baptized in October.
Andersen also landed an ensemble role in The Lion King play and will perform at the end of January.
We were able to go to Carlsbad twice.
Andersen tested into the 94th percentile nationally in reading and writing at school.
Hayley got her aerial and a round-off back handspring (and she's super close to her back tuck)!
I got to spend this second half of the year focusing on my kids while taking a break from my schooling.

So many amazing blessings came to our family this year. 

And it truly would've been a near-perfect year without those dumb 'bigger picture issues' clouding my brain and making this year feel darker than it actually was.

I have had moments of doubt and despair this year, as I've considered how our family situation will change in 2018. I have let fear and anger control me and have relied on my family and friends to talk me through those hardest moments where I don't feel like I can continue to be brave.

But through it all, I am stronger. Through it all, I am learning so much about myself.

And because I want to have gratitude for the good intertwined in those darkest hours, here are some things that the 'bigger picture issues' have taught me: 

I have kept my 2017 goal of being more present with my children. I have tried to make this year a year of making memories, teaching/practicing patience, listening more and talking less. I have realized just how precious every moment with my children is and have tried so hard not to take our time together for granted.

I have grown closer to my parents and have a deeper sense of appreciation for everything they do to support our family. I have felt the love they have for me and for my children in a completely new way this year.

I have learned more than ever how to deal with my anxiety. I definitely still have panic attacks. I definitely still get knocked down with feelings of fear. And I definitely still thank God for the creation of Zoloft. But I have learned how to help those feelings leave quicker. I have learned to talk myself down when I am scared about the future and I have learned how to stand up for what I believe in, no matter how scary it feels.

I have prayed more and have drawn closer to my Heavenly Father---knowing that if there is not a good outcome when all of these 'bigger picture issues' are decided, I will need to rely on Him to help me through.

I was praying a few weeks ago about what my next steps should be in life. I wondered if God was going to give me something to focus on in 2018 like He has in the past. Because this is certainly shaping up to be a big year and it is starting with our family facing some significant challenges.

I didn't want to pick another synonym for "brave", although that was exactly what I needed in years past and is honestly something I still remind myself of daily. I wanted it to be something different, something with a more clear purpose. I wanted to be able to set a goal with a path that I could work on periodically throughout the year.

He didn't answer me right then but a few days later, after speaking with a family member, I knew exactly what I needed to focus on in 2018. I knew what path I needed to follow, a path I had been avoiding for years because I was scared of the final outcome and honestly wasn't sure I could succeed in finishing.

The word I've chosen for 2018 is

I have decided to start the LDS church's 12-step program and really dive into those pieces of my life that are still painful and have not been easy to let go.
I've attended these addiction recovery meetings before but only ever as an ex-wife needing support. I have never attended them while having my main focus be how I can improve and let go of the past.
*And although it might sound weird to start an addiction recovery program when I want to focus on forgiveness, the LDS's 12-step program is so much deeper than just recovering from an addiction. It is for everyone. And I have faith that if I work this program through all 12 steps, my life will be changed for the better.

Although I have been adamant over and over that I have forgiven my ex-husband for leaving our family, I think I've always held onto this tiny piece of anger that still flares up from time to time.
Yes, what my ex-husband did was hurtful and traumatic for myself and for our children. And I think I've been afraid that if I don't hold onto some piece of anger toward him, everything that I went through during our divorce would be negated.

And those painful memories are ones that are almost sacred to me. They teach me and remind me and they were very real. And I have always been worried that if I down-play everything that's happened in the past 10 years, I'll just be left with being the crazy single mom who has anxiety.

So I'm working to truly forgive and let go of all of the hurt surrounding my marriage and divorce.

I have also been holding on to some deep-rooted hurt feelings toward a group of people whom I used to call friends. Mostly for the same reasons---if I let go of those feelings, is it like they never happened in the first place? Because some of those traumatic events left me feeling worthless and completely devastated.

I had a really painful experience this past week that revolved around those friendships ending and I realized just how much I need to let that go because the only person it is hurting now is me.

Super profound, right?
{You'd think by now I'd just trust the things I was taught as a young child in Sunday School...}

But I think the person I need to forgive more than anyone else is myself.

Because in both of these situations, and in many others, I have made decisions that were not the best ones I could've made. I hurt people---and I hate hurting people.

I let fear or anger or hurt feelings drive my decisions in how I handled the situations I was put in.

And that is not the type of person I want to be.

I've blamed myself for ignoring red flags, not knowing better, being young and naive, not being good enough, not being compassionate enough, etc. And when I find myself in darkness, it is easy to hate myself and blame all of the hard things in my life on my decisions and actions.

I hold a lot of anger toward myself and most of the time, I don't even realize it. So in 2018, I'm going to dig in and figure out how to let that all go. Because I deserve to be treated well and loved---especially by the person staring back at me in the mirror.

On top of forgiving, I have a few other goals I'd like to be accountable to.

Although I improved this past year in some areas, I lacked in others.

I made a goal to be more organized and that one became a joke as I struggled just to deal with my anxiety. So because I am praying the end to those anxious feelings will come in a week or two, I am re-making the goal to be more organized. I want my house to feel like our home more than it ever has before. I want it to be cozy and calm and inviting of the Spirit. I want less chaos and more peace.
Going along with that, I am going to cook more this year. I did amazingly well this past year and cooked more than I ever have before (which was still am embarrassingly low number) and this year, I plan on showing my kids that the natural question is actually "What are we going to eat for dinner?" and not "Where are we going to eat for dinner?" . 
I made a goal in 2017 to attend the temple once a month and that did not happen. In fact, about mid-February, I pulled the reigns back on the religion thing and then started to ease myself into it from there. Because going back to a religion I left was harder than I had anticipated it would be. But it's now been a year and I'm pushing along each and every day. So 2018---more temple attendance. Because I like that place.
And going along with that goal, I am making a goal to keep asking questions in 2018. Because it seems that when I stop asking questions, my testimony gets halted and stagnant. I want 2018 to be a strong year and so, when I don't understand something or agree with it, I will speak up and ask the people I trust to help me better understand this church I love so much.

2018 is going to be a good year because I plan on making it a good year. 

I have already proven to myself that I am capable of greatness this year and I plan to continue that throughout the year.

As a last sidenote, if you were a part of our lives in 2017, thank you from the very bottom of my heart. We were so blessed and supported this past year and really felt the prayers and strength you gave to us when we needed it most.