Adoption, birth mom, family, mom, teen pregnancy, Uncategorized

Cassidy…birth mom

 

Cassidy1

I met Cassidy this past year at a support group we both attend. It is for birth mothers and adoptees. Her story touched my heart so much. Her strength and life changing decisions left me in aw. She took some tragic moments in her life and changed things for the better…for her daughter…the daughter she would be placing for adoption. Her story is truly beautiful…

Introduce your self! 
Hello! My name is Cassidy and I am 26 years old from Waconia, Minnesota. I am a birth mom as of January 4th, 2018. I graduated in 2010 and quickly made the decision to run far away and go to school in Arizona. (Go Wildcats!) It was a blast and a fabulous school, but I quickly turned around after that first semester and came back home to Minnesota. It just wasn’t for me. I spent 3.5 years up in Moorhead at MSUM (don’t ask how I went from Tucson to Moorhead) and was lucky enough to be able to continue my dance career dancing on the MSUM dance team. I am big into hockey (Go Wild!), coffee, healthy foods, yoga and meditation. Barre is my latest workout obsession as well. My happy place is up north along Lake Superior (Lutsen area to be exact). Seriously, just plop me in the woods for a weekend and that is all that I need. I also love writing and speaking about adoption and the plan I made for my daughter. I am sober as of June 4th, 2017 so that is a huge part of my life as well. Recovery is hard, but completely worth it.

Describe to me what a typical day in life of Cassidy was like before you knew you were pregnant…
Well honestly, my life was quite depressing before I found out I was pregnant. I was living alone in St. Cloud and working full time as a waitress. I was off and on seeing a guy that I had worked with at the same restaurant as well, and it was an incredibly tumultuous relationship. Mainly, my drinking had a lot to do with that as well as his mental health issues. I have not spoken to him since April 24th, 2017 as there is a no contact order. He is aware of Grace, but I have not reached out to him. That’s what happens when you decide to get physical with a woman, and she finds out a month or so later she is pregnant. I hope he can get his life together, but in the end he made things like this.

I moved to St. Cloud June of 2015 to live alone, be independent, work, and go back to school. Instead, my life started to quickly spiral out of control. Within 4 months I got a DWI, found myself knowing what the inside of the Stearns County Jail looked like too well, without a license for over a year and commuting via the bus lines to work at a restaurant downtown. My life revolved around work, riding the bus home, and drinking myself into oblivion every. single. day. I knew I needed to make a change, because everything alcohol had promised me was not happening. Everything kept getting pushed off and it was always “next time” or “tomorrow”. When they say that alcoholism is a progressive disease, it is seriously no joke. It was a pathetic way of life, which is why my daughters name is Grace. She was my saving Grace out of that lifestyle I was living, and for that I am forever grateful for that child.

When did you find out you were pregnant? How did you feel? What was the FIRST thought that ran thru your mind?
It was June 4th. I met my best friend at Granite City and she knew. She said she could tell all along cause I was always tired and not as up to go out and drink. (ha) So after two cocktails full of tequila, I got the liquid courage to take a pregnancy test. We left the restaurant and stopped at Cash Wise right near by. She pushed me to take it right away, so here we were in the Cash Wise bathroom taking a pregnancy test. (Classy!) I couldn’t look at it. I shoved it back into the bag, but as I did I caught a glimpse and could already see a line forming and knew. When we got back to Ally’s I made her look and tell me. She just sat there and said “Well we know what it says”. I honestly felt even more numb. I wanted to get drunk, but now I couldn’t? Which then made me feel suffocated. So I just sat and laid on her couch staring at the ceiling. I laid there for about an hour. Initially, I googled the nearest Planned Parenthood because I thought “I have to get rid of this!! This needs to go away!”. But as I laid there, I became more calm (shockingly). I knew it was going to be a mess and a hard road, but things in the end were going to be alright, and an abortion was not going to happen. The next day I called the Pregnancy Resource Center and met with a warm, friendly lady who educated me on each option and listened as I explained my fears. That Thursday June 8th, I left for inpatient treatment for the next 34 days.

Cassidy 4

Once you found out you were pregnant, what plans did you have in mind? What were the feelings? Thoughts?
For most of my pregnancy I was in pure shock, major denial, and had tremendous amounts of shame. I found out I was pregnant 4 days before leaving for treatment. I already felt like a total piece of crap because I couldn’t get my life together and the only accomplishment I had on my list was out drinking most people at the bar. I went to treatment and told my nurse at intake I had just found out I was pregnant. I was going to tackle the treatment experience and go from there once I was discharged. I was so scared because I honestly did not know what to expect. I was never a baby person, never got baby fever or wanted to hold newborns when they came around. I hardly babysat when I was younger, so I really had no experience around little ones. I never imagined being a single mom, newly sober either. So I had tossed around the idea of adoption in my head, but it seemed like it would be impossible to find a family that I would actually like and trust. I honestly just kept getting through each day hoping for a sign from God. I had kind of planned on raising Grace on my own and making it work, because I really didn’t see how any other option would play out. All the good things that work out perfectly only happen in the movies.

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Open adoption seems to be more popular these days. You are part of an open adoption…how does that work? Is it enough? Is it hard? What are the pros and cons of open adoption?
So I knew from the start of looking into adoption that I would only do an open adoption plan. Closed was completely out of the question. For someone who was really contemplating raising her own child, I just couldn’t imagine placing my child with a family and never knowing anything for over 18 years.
We have an agreement (sort of like a contract) and in that agreement I have certain things put in place that I knew I wanted. At least once a month visits, updates (via text, email, social media, etc.), gifts from my family to Grace would be okay, things like that. Basically a relationship and connection to her! It works out great. Wendy is friends with myself and family via social media so we can all see updates on Grace there. Ben and Wendy are really good about texting and updating me on things. I still have this excitement, and maybe it will never go away, that whenever Wendy texts me I get giddy like a little girl and jump to grab my phone. I’ve never gotten like that over a guy texting me!

Open adoption is great and amazing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But it has that side of it that is hard. Being able to watch Grace grow, but also watching her grow and bond with her family. It can be hard at times when I go to visit and she may be getting hungry or tired and starting to get fussy. She cries and reaches for her mom or dad, and it honestly tears at my heart.
I know more at the beginning when I was adjusting to being a new mom with no baby at home, when Wendy would post a picture of Grace and all of the comments would flood about how beautiful she was, what a gift, etc. The comments are amazing, but there’s that side of me that thinks “these people are talking about MY child!” “She wouldn’t be theirs if it wasn’t for me”. It is incredibly negative, but also incredibly honest coming from a birth mom. I don’t know if that will ever go away.
Open adoption takes a lot of work, communicating, and understanding. You have to understand that you made that choice for someone else to be your child’s parents and that it is NOT co-parenting. That has been the most helpful piece of information or advice, I suppose, I learned from the agency I placed through.

I think being open and honest from the start with the child about their adoption plan is a total game changer. I know I chose parents for Grace that will follow through with that. They talk about it at a young age with her older brother, who was also adopted. I am also prepared for when Grace will want to ask about her birth father and that story. She deserves to know and it is her right. My hopes is that she will have enough of what she needs from her adoptive family and my family being there for her as well. I definitely wouldn’t blame her for wanting to know where she comes from, because I would want to know as well.

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What keeps you moving forward emotionally? Support groups? Self care?
I have to stay busy. Once I have that free time, lingering thoughts come in. I work two jobs and am big on attending support groups. I go to two different adoption support groups and I recently went through the adoption speakers training through Bellis. November 15th is my first classroom I will be speaking to about my adoption plan! I am also big on fitness. I have a membership at YogaFit and all of my time, outside of work and support groups, is spent at the studio. I also recently just completed YogaBarre Teacher Training, where I became certified to teach YogaBarre at my studio. I plan to audition to be a teacher at YogaFit before the end of the year. Self care is huge for me, too. It’s learning to say “No” and taking time for yourself. I do things that make me feel good–manicures, pedicures, facials and peels. I spent years not taking care of myself while I was drinking, so it’s fun to be able to take pride in taking care of my skin, body, and health now.

Support is another big thing for me. I have a huge support system of people that honestly keeps me going. Granted, I do have family who do not speak to me or have yet to reach out regarding my adoption plan, which makes it difficult and frustrating. But truthfully, I know what I have done for Grace was right for her and if you have negativity surrounding MY decision for MY daughter, then that’s on you. Understanding that toxicity is not worth it! I have zero time for that.

Ten years from now- where do you see your relationship with the adoptive family and your daughter? 20 years from now?
This is hard for me because I live by “One day at a Time”. Once I look into the future it usually starts to make me panic. HOPEFULLY things are still well and visits are still a thing. I am aware that my life will change once I am ready to have a family of my own and monthly visits might be hard. Who knows where I’ll be at in life?! But I plan on never leaving Grace behind. She will always know who I am and I can only hope that she will understand how incredibly difficult this was for me. I did it all for her out of hopes that she will have a fantastic life. When I think of down the line when I’m in my 40’s+…I hope that I have a big family who are close with and love Grace as much as I do. I picture the holidays and having all of my children under one roof celebrating. Grace would never be treated differently, she would be as one with the rest of us.

If you could give any advice to a young girl facing an unplanned pregnancy, what would it be?
Take a deep breath. Weigh your options. Take your time. Do your research and look into what is best for YOU. Not for the birth father, your parents, your teacher, grandparents, siblings, etc. I was very pleased with the Pregnancy Resource Center and the information I received on each option. It helped me to take a moment and truly think about the 3 options us women have, and what really would work for me. In the end, it is YOUR decision. You are the woman and the one growing the life inside of your body.

 

Thank you Cassidy for sharing your story. The more different sides of adoption and situations we hear about – the more understanding we all have about the topic 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Anonymous Birth Mom…

 

generic borth mom

I have done a lot of reading and listening to stories of all sides of adoption. So many of these stories have the same back story and trauma to them.  It is the generation of birth moms that were pregnant in the era between WWII and Roe vs Wade. Back then, birth moms were whisked away to a home for unwed mothers. There was shame, guilt and so much emotional pain. You were looked down upon. Women weren’t really given the “choice” to keep their baby and parent it. They were told adoption was the only way, you wouldn’t see your baby again, there would be no contact, and to “forget about the child” go on with your life and pretend this never happened. No counseling. No support. So many woman believed this to their core. They closed that chapter of their life and moved on. The BELIEVED that door was closed. They would go on with their live, marry and have children of their own – while keeping this secret from everyone they knew – including their spouse and children. I often think about these scenarios when the child now an adult wants to search for their birth mother…if they could understand the back story and how things were back then, it would help them understand. So many birth mothers were “brainwashed” for a lack of better words – into thinking they would NEVER see this child again. They went on with their life, carrying that pain and BELIEVING it. They felt shame and never talked about it. There is a wonderful book that tells such stories and really helps you see into the life of a birthmother in those years. I wish all adult adoptees looking for their birth family could read this before they search – so they could “feel” the process of the times.
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In this interview, you will see and understand that pain and thought process of the times…I’d like to introduce you to my friend – she wishes to remain anonymous. I met her through our support group and have learned so much from her. To know someone (altho a different generation) who gets it – who understands the feelings of a birth mom is priceless. I spent 20+ years trying to find peace and once you find a group that understands that journey…it is so healing.

Tell me a little something about yourself – year you were born – your family life – what times were like and your family now.   I was born in 1953, the second of three kids. We were a middle class family and because my father was ambitious we moved around a lot in my growing years as he moved up the corporate ladder. The most notable experience was three years that we lived in India; we moved there when I was five. Before then, we lived the typical white suburban middle class existence. In India, I quickly learned about extreme poverty and racism. Don’t get me wrong, we still lived the good life in India, but it shaped me more than I could imagine. As we three kids got to be middle school age my mother insisted we stop moving. We settled in a small outlying suburb of Minneapolis, put down roots, and had wonderful years in high school. Today, I have been married for 37 years; have two children with my husband – a daughter who is 34 and is married, and a son who is 31 in a serious relationship. No grandkids yet and I’m not holding my breath.

How old were you when you found out you were pregnant? What was the relationship with the birth father?   I was 22 years old, just graduated from college and looking for a teaching job. I had been dating Nick for about 6 months and we had plenty of fun times, but I don’t think either of us thought it was a serious long-term relationship.

What options were available to you at that time in life – what was offered for women with unplanned pregnancies? What made you choose your decision and did you have a choice? I went to a free women’s clinic after I missed a period to have a pregnancy test. In those days there was no such thing as a home test. I remember it was embarrassing just to walk into the clinic and ask for a test. Then I was mortified to have the test be positive. How could I have been so stupid? This was not how my life was supposed to go. Abortion was newly legal but that decision took me about 2 seconds – no abortion for this good Catholic girl. So, the clinic referred me to a social worker at Catholic Charities. She told me I had no options — put the baby up for adoption because “no kid should grow up being a bastard.” Those were her words to me. Talk about a guilt trip! How could I possibly think to keep this child and put that stigma on it – what kind of mother does that to her child? She said I had to give the baby up and forget about it, wipe it from my memory, and get on with my life. The baby would not be mine anymore and I would have no right to be a part of it’s life. Besides, my child’s very future depended on me giving a “nice married couple” a great anonymous gift and walking away. Nick was in agreement. He didn’t want to get married nor be a father yet. At home, my parents were in the middle of a horrible divorce; it was the scandal of my home town. My mother was devastated with my news and begged me to keep it a secret. She couldn’t deal with another scandal. So my social worker arranged for me to live in a “wage home.” I lived with a single mom and was a nanny for her three children in exchange for room and board. I was also given prenatal care at the county hospital under a program for unwed mothers with no health insurance. I gave birth to a beautiful healthy boy, left the wage home, went home to mom, never talked to Nick again.

At that time who knew you were pregnant – who was with you at the birth?             My mom, my dad, my sister and my brother and his wife knew I was pregnant. Also, my best friend. My dad was living out in California, pending the divorce and his reaction to me was “Shame on you, you little shit. You’re on your own.” Nick and I kept in touch by telephone about once a month and then he came to the hospital after the birth of our son. My mom was with me the whole time. She totally agreed with the social worker’s advice to place him for adoption. She thought it was the best decision for me. I see the irony there….mom is advising me to do what is best for her child (me) and I am making the same decision to do what is best for my child

When did you first feel you wanted to search for your child? How old were you and what were the circumstances around it? I didn’t want to search for him at all. I was still brainwashed that I had given up all right to call him my son and that it was best for him that I stay away. I didn’t even know if he knew he was adopted; things were so secretive in those days. My daughter was the one who pushed me. She was 22 years old when she found out about her half-brother (my sister told her in anger at me) and my daughter became obsessed with two things. First, being angry that I deceived her about his existence and second she had to find him. By then he was 31 years old. But first she and I had to resolve some bad feelings. She felt betrayed and lied to because I hadn’t told her about her half-brother. After many years, and having many many counseling sessions trying to repair my relationship with my daughter, I gave in. I finally called Catholic Charities and inquired if my daughter could access his information. The answer was no. It was during that conversation with CC that I was informed about a support group that might help me sort through some of my feelings. I decided to give it a try and it changed my life forever.

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Regarding above question, who now knew about the search? My husband knew about my birth son (he knew long before we were married). My daughter and her husband and my son of course know about my birth son and also were supportive that I started going to support group. My daughter is still intent on the search and my younger son is happy to do whatever will make me happy. (My daughter and I are still dealing with trust as an issue and it breaks my heart that we are no longer close.

If you had advice for an adoptee today who is the same age as your child, what advice about searching would you give them? Go slow and be respectful of the choice the birth parents made at the time. We all thought we were doing the right thing, the best thing for the child, and were brainwashed to deal with the loss as a part of our past and to keep it in the past. I have a large extended family, but none of them know about my first son. My social circle of friends do not know. I feel it is a part of my past and is private. Then there’s the issue of feeling ashamed. I still feel like I did something really bad and will forever be judged. So the fewer people who know the better. I am a logical person and when faced with difficulty, try to look at things from all sides. Who will be affected by this knowledge? Who will benefit? Who will be hurt? Since I am not in reunion, the answer is still to keep it private.

What helps you deal with the pain and heal from the trauma of loss? When I signed the papers in 1976 giving away my parental rights, I made a solemn promise to myself that in the future if I was to become a mother I would be the best mother I could be. It would take priority over all else. My husband and I used to talk in our early marriage years that we had the same goal….to be vice president of the corporation we worked for. Me in Corporate Communications and him in Information Technology. However, after our children were born I realized I needed to make a choice and set my priority. Children came first so I quit the quest for corporate advancement. Later on when my daughter opened this private part of me, the support group came to my rescue. It has been a tremendous comfort to find birth mothers who “get it.” It has been a huge benefit to hear adoptees talk about their lives, their loving parents, their love of life. Their perspective has certainly made it easier. But there are times…..when it hurts so much that I have a whole other kid out there somewhere that I don’t know and may never know. I hope to continue counseling with my daughter when she moves back here. I know I have made mistakes with her but she just doesn’t get it. I gave her a copy of The Girls Who Went Away, by Ann Fessler. She found it interesting but her main issue is being “lied to.” Recently I started meditation as a path to mindfulness but can’t say if it will help yet. I am not a religious person so prayer is not helpful, but I choose to believe in the goodness of humankind and put my faith there.

What have you learned from your journey? We were told to put the birth child behind us and were misled that we could forget such a thing as having a baby. Every year on his birthday I think about my birth son. I wonder when I see a young man who is his age… what my son is doing? Is he happy? Does he hate me? Does he have a family? Does he ever think about me? When I finally decided to search and my birth son was contacted, I had a lot of those questions answered. He is happy, has a wonderful family, is thankful to have given life, doesn’t hate me. He also doesn’t feel any great need to meet me or his half siblings. I am content that I know he is alive and well. My heart is finally at peace with the decision made so many years ago.

Anything you would like to say to young women today? Try to forgive yourself for mistakes made in your youth. Learn from them and then share what you have learned to make you stronger. In all things, be the best YOU, you can be.

 

 

 

Adoption, birth mom, cancer, family, gay, Uncategorized

meet Rachel Garlinghouse…

 

Rachel profile pic
Rachel Garlinghouse

Let me introduce you to Rachel Garlinghouse. I met Rachel (online) when I was promoting my book. She interviewed me and since then we message and email back and forth. One of these days I hope to meet her in person! She has a big heart and so involved with adoption.

Tell me a bit about yourself: 

I’m a mom of four via domestic, infant, transracial, open adoption. My husband and I have been married 15 years, and we live in the St. Louis area. I’m a former college writing teacher turned work-at-home-mom.

What lead you to the decision to adopt? Was your husband onboard with adopting?

I was sick for 1.5 years. One day, I was breathless and very tired. My husband rushed home from work and took me to the ER where I was diagnosed with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), meaning, my body was toxic and shutting down. This was a result of undiagnosed type 1 diabetes. During my hospital stay, a diabetes nurse educator came into my room to discuss diabetes management. The subject of children came up, and I knew that we would adopt…just like that! My husband took about a year to come around to my easily-made adoption plans. We spent that time doing a lot of research, including meeting with adoptive families. I’m thankful for our research phase as it prepared us to become parents.

Being a mother of two daughters from a different country, I often wonder what the thought – if there even is one – behind adopting a child from a different country or race. Can you chime in on your thoughts on this topic?

I talk about this in my writing all the time. That colorblindness isn’t real and that race should be celebrated, not ignored. Because adoptive parents who have children of another race didn’t grow up sharing their child’s race, parents need to work very hard to instill racial confidence and competence in their children. Things like having a mentor for their child, making sure to live/work/play in a diverse area, having books, magazines, films, art, and music in the home that reflect the child’s race, etc. It’s a DAILY commitment.

Rachel holding hands

How were your experiences of adopting different with each of your children? Was one harder than the other? What did you learn from each that helped the next one be easier?

We waited the longest for our first child, and the wait was torture. Then one day we got a phone call for a baby girl who had already been born. Two hours later, we were chosen and packing to go get her. Our second adoption was far different. We waited ONE DAY for a child. (I’m not kidding.) We waited four months for our third child, and about five months for our fourth child. It doesn’t get easier with each adoption, because each adoption is unique. And, in fact, in some ways it gets harder. We were already parenting three adoptees when we were matched with our fourth child. We had to explain to our three kids that this was our “maybe baby.” We wouldn’t presume the baby would become ours.

What are you top three myths about adoption and the process?

1: You can “just adopt” if you cannot have biological children.                                          There is no “just” in adopting.
2: Adopting a child isn’t a charity cause. A child is a person.
3: Adoption is always expensive. Foster care adoption is free.

 

Having children of a different race…what are your top 3 pet peeves that you have encountered?

1: People asking if my children are “real” siblings.” Of course they are real!
2: People assuming things about birth parents of color (they were young, drug users, sexually promiscuous, poor).
3: People trying to touch my children’s hair. My children are not pets! Hands off!

Rachel hair beads

You have had quite a road with your health….how does that affect your parenting – if at all? 

Yes! Our adoption journey started with my type 1 diabetes diagnosis. I’ve been type 1 for 12.5 years now. Then last summer, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, and I elected to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. I also have anxiety. I think what my health has taught me is that my choices matter, and taking care of myself is critically important. It’s cliche but true: you can’t give what you don’t have/you can’t pour from an empty cup.

What are your relationships with the birth mothers (and/or fathers) like today? They are all open adoptions? correct? what are the pros and cons of open adoptions? 

Openness in adoption should always be about the child and what is best for him or her. So our open adoptions are ever-changing. Some of our relationships are more solid than others. Some are easier. Some have a longer history. I will say, open adoption requires empathy, grace, forgiveness, and commitment. It’s not for the faint at heart, it’s not a magical healer for all adoption related issues, and it can be very, very beautiful.

It’s 10-15 years from now….what do you want your children to know about adoption and how do you see their birthparents fitting into their life at this time?

I’m open the possibilities. I have learned not to predict the future. However, I hope that the foundation we have laid, that of openness, means our kids have positive, healthy relationships with their birth families forevermore.

Rachel quote

 

Thank you so much Rachel for letting us get to know you, your adoption journey and sharing your website with us!

Rachel has a wonderful blog, books she has written and other resources!

Check out Rachel via her website: Rachel’s website

 

 

 

Uncategorized

50 for real?

vintage 1968

Tomorrow I will wake up and be 50. Fifty. Half a century. Five decades. Over half my life will be over. Out of all my birthdays, this one truly does not feel real. I in no way shape or form feel 50. I feel like I’m in my thirties – which is a creepy feeling when I had a child 31 years ago! I still remember my mom’s 50th birthday party like it was yesterday. An odd feeling of time going by faster than I feel.  I don’t see this magical number as bad in any way – or old in any way. I truly believe it is how you live, act and who you surround yourself with that keeps you feeling young…

Laughter: I must laugh everyday – I am the class clown. I get that from my dad. I love to make people laugh, love to laugh and usually deflect to humor when feeling unsure or uncomfortable. It truly does make everything feel better. You can’t take life too seriously. I have wrinkles around my eyes…why would I want to get rid of those with Botox or a “lift” – those lines are reminders of how much I love to laugh and have fun.

Eat, drink and be merry: Am I a perfect single digit size? Nope. Will I ever be? Nope. Do I watch what I eat? Yes. I know what to eat to make me feel good and know what not to eat to feel good. Am I going to pass up a decadent chocolate cake – no – I love chocolate. Am I going to surround myself with organic no sugar gluten free kale filled salads because “It is better for me” or “Isn’t filled with all that crap” – nope. Why you ask? Because most of that is too expensive and tastes like crap. I hate Kale. (if you are the person who LOVES to eat and live that way – I applaud you! And am passing no judgement on to you!) I love a good basket of tater tots and light beer with my girls as well as a good appetizer and glasses of wine with them- screw the calorie intake – we love all those things and it pairs nicely with friendship and laughter. I am in no way saying you should treat your body like crap….I am saying that life is short…drink the wine, eat the cake and have a chip!

Children: I see so many people my age that are empty nesters and at times look at them with a “that light is so far away in the tunnel for me” jealousy…but my best friend always reminds me that we are better at parenting because we are late moms. I also think it was God’s way of having us be best friends AND mom of kids the same age – we can celebrate and complain together! I do love the idea of seeing high school and all the fun of growing up through my girls eyes…how different it is from when I was their age. They do on a weekly basis remind me in a sarcastic tone “We know…we know…’When you were our age’ blah blah blah”. I am the mom who is silly, goofy and wants to be with them and their friends. My daughters may roll their eyes – but their friends like me – I think that says a lot.

Husband: My rock. My laughing partner. My biggest supporter. He keeps me young – probably because he is 6 years older! ha ha ha  It is 2018 – not 1950 – he doesn’t expect dinner on the table, laundry done and ironed, kids clean, tidy and quiet. He does more laundry than I (in my defense he has never cleaned a toilet!), he is quick to say “long day – lets just get something quick for dinner”, he irons his own shirts….what I am saying is – having a good partner that shares in all the mayhem truly is a blessing! Do we always get along and its perfect? No, but with age comes wisdom and you realize what is important…being right, getting the last word or making it last?

Friends: I know a lot of people – I have connected people with other people. My friend Kim always says I am the Kevin Bacon – 6 degrees of separation. I laugh. I do know and have a lot of friends. I feel blessed. I also have a small tribe of best close friends that are ALWAYS there for me whenever I need them. We have happy hours, lunches, spontaneous get togethers….Every single time we are together…there are tears of laughter or frustration with one of our lives. But we always leave feeling refreshed, up beat and having a hell of a stomach ache from laughing so much. These people are my tribe – they make me feel normal and happy…all the time. I hope I do the same for them even in some small way.

The Past: We all have one. We all have things in our past that we have been through that we have learned from, hurt from and had a better view on life because of them. Embrace those things….leave baggage in the past and look to the future! If you must look back…look back with love and what you may have gained from it – hurtful or happy filled. Tomorrow is always a fresh start with a clean slate. Why not make it the best it can be??

Self Care: This is something new to me. As a mom, you tend to put your children and everything else before you – ALWAYS. I have learned to sit and be still and make time for me. I treat myself to getting my nails done once in a blue moon, I watch mindless reality TV to find humor and all that eyerolling will keep my eyes strong! I treat myself to a nap, have a good cup of coffee, and tell my hair girl to “do whatever”! I spend hours in the garage creating and being in the zone with my projects – that gives me pure joy. I am slowly starting to be better about taking care of ME first.

I always sum up each decade I live through….my 20’s were being on my own, learning how to handle or not handle a budget, meeting friends, living paycheck to paycheck. Learning how to NOT have credit card debt. Always trying to impress. My 30’s were growing in a relationship, having children and being a real grownup and parent. Not really caring about a career – but about being home with my kids and not feeling bad. Not having to prove anything to anyone.  My 40’s I really came into my true self. My past and present lives collided into a sense of peace, calmness and healing. I didn’t need a career to feel fulfilled. I found my fulfillment in creativity, laughter and everyday things. I didn’t care what people thought about me – life is too short not to be your authentic self. I have learned to say “no” at things I am really not interested in doing. Saying what’s on my mind…I am not a “walk on eggshell” type gal. Standing my ground with my beliefs, religion and welcoming to all. Being ok with a Friday night in with family. Realizing I don’t have to have a perfectly clean and organized house to have a friend over for coffee or happy hour. I don’t need “stuff” to be happy. I am actually learning to “shut down” and “unplug” to recharge. I have learned to listen to myself…believe in myself and be true myself.

50 is a number….50 years of living, learning and loving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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the darkness…

 

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Those who know me, know that I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am pretty open with my life through my blog and book. But sometimes a topic comes up that hits a cord with me and I wonder whether or not I should write about it. Then I think if my writing can make ONE person stop and think and if it makes a difference to ONE person – then what do I have to lose.

The events of this past week – suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain touched everyone on some level. We all know someone whose life has been touched by suicide in one way or another. I have a dear friend I lost because of suicide not too long ago – it was a shock.

The thing is – suicide and that “dark place” knows no boundaries – no income level, no success, no popularity, no race, no sexual orientation….NO BOUNDARIES. You hear people comment all the time “Its such a shock, he was so happy….he had everything going for him” etc etc. No one truly knows the power of that dark place.

I am an almost 50 year old woman. I am happy, have a great life I love, happy marriage, 3 beautiful children. I grew up in a good home with wonderful parents. I am healthy, close to my siblings…I have a wonderful circle of supportive and awesome friends. I have a fun little business that feeds my creativity and passion. We are regular old income with bills and a regular house – but need nothing. But guess what? I have seen that dark place a couple times. I started an anxiety medicine a few years ago – I was having anxiety and snapping at people without even knowing. That was not me. My doctor diagnosed me with anxiety and depression and soon I was taking a prescription daily.

I have now been on an anxiety medication for 5+ years. Seems like every year the dose has increased a tad. This past winter I wanted to try to ween my self off it or at least lessen the dose. I was beginning to feel less emotions but got through the day. I wasn’t liking NOT feeling. I missed sobbing at movies, crying when my children were hurting and slowing down enough to love my husband. I was numb to a point. But I was smiling and got through my day without losing my shit on people. That to me was a success. I am not patient, but needed to find a way to be- my daughter needed a parent with more patience with all her quirks and personality.

My doctor changed my dose where I could slowly ween down and find the proper dose that felt right to me. Now, this was a good idea in theory – see your body can take 4-6 weeks to get use to a dosage. I had forgotten that. In 2 weeks time I went from 150mg to 50mg. I thought this is great I feel better…then the dosage really kicked in. I wanted to sleep all the time, wanted to be left alone, cried in the shower every morning. The littlest bit of disruption had me a wreck. I felt out of control and falling down a rabbit hole. I cried on my way to work over my daughter having a cavities and knowing the anxiety she would go through to get them fixed.  I started worrying all the time about the future vs. enjoying the present. I literally felt like I was coming unraveled. I could not get a grip on my feelings, my anxiety and my world. I had actual moments when I was driving that I thought just one swerve and I could end this pain and anxiousness. I was starting to get a glimpse of that dark place when just that night before I probably was out with friends having the best time and lots of laughter. My dark place was so close to grabbing…but I still had the voice in my head that knew it was the medicine not being the proper dose. I needed that medicine because of a chemical imbalance that made me anxious and depressed. I wasn’t just sad, I was anxious and that lead to my depression.

I am back on my full dose and feel normal again. I will never go back to where I was. I need to be strong for my family…I also need them to see that it is ok NOT to be perfect, to have things that need addressing and to be honest with feelings and thoughts. No one is perfect, no one has a perfect life, not one person in this world is without flaws. It is ok. Sometimes you have to compromise things to be your absolute best.

I think of all these teens, adults, musicians, actors, chefs, designers – everyday people that struggle like this. It is a serious thing in our world – mental health, anxiety and depression…people who are one thread away from letting go because they aren’t healthy mentally. It should never be a stigma. It should be talked about in our homes, churches, schools and workplaces. If you have cancer or a broken leg people always ask how you are doing because it is a more visual thing…we need to be asking people everyday how they are truly doing.

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Your baby, my daughter…

Today my heart is full. My beautiful daughter has been with us 17 years. I remember the day so vividly… waking up, making sure we had everything just right, packing the baby bag, having camera ready and stomach full of anxiousness and love. We were heading to the airport to meet our daughter and hold here for the first time. It was all pre 9/11 so we were lucky enough to go to the gate and watch as passengers get off the plane. Then a Korean lady stopped right in front of glass window with a smiley chubby cheeked baby girl in her arms – our daughter. She was finally with us.

I think of her birth mother so many times. I too was once in her shoes, so I understand all the feelings she must go thru on a daily, weekly, yearly basis. I am sure on my daughter’s birthday she thinks of her baby, wonders about her and her where she is and how her life is. That once young 16 year old scared pregnant girl made us a family. Her adoption plan made it possible for me to be a mom. What a beautiful gift that is.

Someday I hope to meet her or at least be able to tell her all about the baby she chose a better life for. Make no mistake – she didn’t give up her baby. She chose a different plan for her baby. There is no giving up – she sent a piece of her heart away and that pain lasts a lifetime. I know how she feels. Exactly. But I want her to know that her baby, my daughter is beautiful. She is tall,  thick dark brown hair, pretty, smiley, funny and quirky. She can be stubborn and hold to her beliefs and choices almost to a fault – but that is her biggest strength. She loves babies. She will be anyone’s friend. She is smart. She loves to sing (altho not always on key – nature or nurture!?). She loves having freedom. Her favorite foods are carbs – pasta, potatoes and snacks. Her room is always a mess but that is her personality at times. Her bravery and confidence in herself awes me everyday. She is not afraid to be herself and doesn’t care what others think – I wish I had an ounce of that!! She is a typical teen – glued to her phone and social media. She fights with her sister but would be the FIRST person to throat punch anyone that hurts her.

Birth mom, your baby – my daughter is loved so fully everyday. We honor and think about YOU all the time. We pray for you, thank you and on this – 17th year anniversary of welcoming her into our family – want you to know how much she is loved, cared for and we hope someday to meet you. Thank you for choosing life and adoption for your baby…our daughter.