Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fall Mom's Retreats

I've noticed that even though I've been fairly quiet here lately, I'm still getting quite a few hits to my blog. Thanks for checking in!

Just in case some of you are wondering about those awesome retreats I used to do and whether or not they are still happening, I thought I'd take a minute to share a bit more about what's going on with them. Over the years, they have become such a wonderful and needed thing for our moms that we outgrew what any one person could do on their own.  Earlier this year, our group incorporated into a formal non-profit (501(c)(3) pending organization called Hope Rising.  We've got some really exciting stuff going on over there, too!

First of all, not only will there still be a retreat in Utah this year, but there is also going to be one in Arizona and Wisconsin as well!  That's right!  We're taking our retreats to our moms in various parts of the country now.

Retreat Dates:  September 24-28, 2014

Price: $250-290 depending on the bed you choose

Registration:   Click on the links below to learn more about each locatoin and to access registration links for each venue.  You can learn more about our retreats and what they're all about by clicking here.

Registration for all locations closes August 15!!

After that time, anyone interested will be placed on a waiting list. Payment in full is due at the time of registration. Contact if you have questions.

Utah Retreat:  This year's retreat will be held at the same amazing place we hosted it at last year.  It's a super fun and HUGE cabin nestled high in the mountains above Park City.  The cabin is spacious, comfortable, and charming.  The scenery is breathtaking.  There are also recreation opportunities abounding.  Park City offers everything from quaint shops and outlet malls to alpine slides, zip lines, mountain coasters, and all the hiking, biking, and other outdoor recreation you can imagine.  Park City is located 35 minutes from Salt Lake City and is home to many still busy and very fun to visit Olympic training venues.  Athletes from all over the world train at these venues year round.  It's a lot of fun to go watch them, too!

It's convenient location also makes it ideal for moms who will be traveling.  The Salt Lake airport is easy to access.  We have many moms who pass right by there on their way to the retreat and pick our traveling friends up.  We've yet to have anyone need to rent a car.

We currently have 3-4 queen beds and several twin beds, both top and bottom bunks available in Utah.

Arizona Retreat:  This retreat will be held in Pinetop, Arizona in the heart of the White Mouintains, midway between Phoenix and Mesa.  If you are looking to fly, opt for Phoenix so you won't have to rent a car.  Peaceful scenery and recreation opportunities abound.  There are also some really fun local festivals going on in this are during retreat time as well. Nothing, however, beats the amazing moms you'll be spending the weekend with.

We currently have a couple queens, a king, and a couple twins left at this location.

Wisconsin Retreat:  This retreat will be held in Wautoma,Wisconsin.  This is a quiet, rural community located in central Wisconsin, about an hour from Madison and Wisconsin Dells.  Our location sits right on the shores of Big Hills Lake.  There are lots of waking trails, boating equipment, and the fall colors will be splendid this time of year. And, of course, there's a private hot tub for soaking cares away. (there's one at all locations, actually.)

There's only a couple spots left at this location.  We have two top bunks and/or can squeeze in another mom or two on some good quality air mattresses.

If you need some financial help, we have a very limited number of scholarships and also a sponsorship program available to help our moms be able to find the funds needed to attend. You can find out more about those programs here.

Registration is winding down quickly for these retreats!  Don't wait until it's too late.  We don't want any empty spots.  Empty spots means there are still moms out there who need help and support!  We want to find them!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An Epiphany About Boundaries

I was involved in a conversation the other day with a friend of mine.  She was pretty upset about some of the choices one of her now adult children who hasn’t lived in her home for quite some time has made.  It’s a choice and scenario that I’ve seen so many others play out as well.  The kid that appeared to be doing so well has now left college after only a short time, toured the country with strangers only to find herself stranded in the middle of nowhere, and then claims she is returning to live with her “real” family (aka bio mother). 

The conversation turned to not understanding how our kids can do this kind of stuff or how can they completely reject safety, love, stability, and a supportive family but still fantasize about how great things were with the bio family.  We talked for some time about how kids (and adults, too) are biologically wired to love their birth families regardless of how they were treated there.  My response to my friend was this…

“Their brains don't operate the same way ours do. Remember that they see the world very differently. They don't have the same logic and reasoning capabilities we have and they get stuck in very young developmental thinking. As such, they may truly not get the difference between scum bags and a good life where people love them. All they can see is the fantasy that they can have everything they want and do anything they want without boundaries.”

And then I had an epiphany about boundaries.

The reason so many of our kids got hurt is because there were NO boundaries in their first families.  There were no boundaries among parents, regarding parental behavior, or between parents and children.  Our kids never learned the concept of boundaries.  Far too often, they were not viewed as children who need love and care, but as an inconvenience, nuisance, or an extra mouth to feed.  They became the punching bags, targets, and door mats that their first parents used to hide, express, or manage their own very big problems. 

When they came to us, they came with absolutely no concept of what healthy boundaries and discipline are.  Therefore, they also came with no concept that boundaries are there to keep them safe, not oppress them. Nor do they comprehend that the lack of boundaries is WHY they got hurt.

I wonder now if that lack of boundaries if that's not part of the fantasy and connection some of our kids have with their first families, though?  I wonder if because they don't understand boundaries and don't like the parental boundaries we impose, they long to go back to a place where there are no boundaries and they don't have to rely on or trust anyone else to keep them safe. And yet, at the same time, they also lack the logic and reasoning skills to know that the reasons they got hurt…and will get hurt again…is because of the lack of boundaries.

I get accused all the time of being too strict and not giving my kids enough freedom.  I've known many of the reasons for this all along.  I do believe, however, that my little epiphany has just given me even better words. 

It’s not about strictness.  It’s about safety in all areas (physical, emotional, and sexual) TEACHING my children about the personal and interpersonal relationship concepts they didn’t have the opportunity to learn through normal developmental means.  In order to be able to function in society, they need to learn how to conceptualize and practice boundaries at home.  Once they learn that adhering to, living within, and setting boundaries on their own is what keeps them safe and functional, they will have more and more freedom to explore the world.  Until then, we will continue to enforce and teach the concept of boundaries regardless of whether anyone else likes it or not.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Helping Families with Tough Kids

Two REALLY great blog posts went around this week regarding families who are parenting difficult teens.  The first was written by Jenn Hatmaker.  If you haven’t already done so, you can read it here.  And yes, please do take the time to do it!  She herself is a parent to “normal” teens, but has a great deal of concern, along with a guest post from another mom of a really difficult teen.  That mom shares some great words of wisdom, support, and strength for other families who are also struggling.

The second post was in response to some of the questions posed in the first post regarding how other people can come together and help lift and strengthen families of teens (and tweens) who are struggling.  That, too, is an excellent post worth reading.  This author so eloquently answers the questions and his responses are spot on.  Among other things, he talks about not asking trite questions if you’re not willing or interested in sticking around for the answers, being willing to hear the truth even when it’s not pretty and handle it in a Christ like manner, and reaching out to help in ways that are actually helpful and not more hurtful for the families

Really...If you've ever wondered how you can TRULY help and understand my family or a family like mine who is parenting some
 very difficult teens and tweens, please read both those articles!! 
Long story short, they both really struck a note with me.  We are asked ALL. THE. TIME. about how we're doing, what people can do to help us, how our kids are doing, etc. It rarely ever changes anything, though.

I realize that situations like ours are very tough to understand. It's human nature for people to believe what they see. That’s why eye witnesses are allowed in courts of law.  However, what most people don’t understand is that in cases like mine, where 90% of what they see is darling, well behaved, and very engaging children whose biggest problem is that they have stressed out, frustrated, overly strict, controlling, and angry parents is really an acting performance worthy of an Oscar award!! They also don't realize that what they do see really IS the illness!! That charming, well behaved, engaging "normal" side they see of our kids who struggle with attachment disorder is actually carefully calculated manipulation designed to hide their own true colors and the shame and guilt they feel over the stuff they know they do. They deliberately do it in order to convince people they're the victims and their parents are the crazy ones. Most people also have absolutely NO IDEA how incredibly destructive it is to our kids and our entire family when they buy into it, too.

As one of my friends pointed out yesterday when I shared a version of my thoughts on Facebook, our kids aren’t the only ones who are award winning thespians, either.  We as parents often are, too.  So many of us, and most definitely myself included, have been so beaten down, run over, judged, and criticized so many times that we plaster on that fake smile…until we absolutely can’t hide the stress and pain any more.

Yet, as the author of this second article mentioned, whether most people want to accept this piece of truth or not, most people really do only ask questions such as “How are you?” or “What can we do to help?” out of social obligation and because they have no idea what else do say.  They say they want to help, but when it comes right down to it, they only want to help in ways that work with what THEY want to do or in ways that are comfortable or convenient for them…and they also know that most people will never actually take them up on their “offer.”

Sadly, during those times when we do find the courage to be honest and actually answer those questions of "How are you?" and "What can we do to help?", the overwhelming majority of the time we learn exactly what was said by the other authors...people really don't want to hear the truth, they can't handle the truth, they don't know what to do with it, or they want to debate the truth, especially when we tell them the best help they can offer is not to give our kids treats, trinkets, or gifts and not to touch them or let them zone out!!  During those really off times when they do hear or see the realities of what we live with for themselves, they either minimize it, tell us “all kids do that”, or turn their backs and don't want to be involved…because, let’s face it, sometimes our truth and reality IS painful, ugly, and consuming.

We've also learned the hard way, I suppose you could say by falling into the trap and touching the hot stove one too many times, that there's also often an ulterior motive driving those questions, too. That ulterior motive is usually "What can I do to change you and make you see and do things my way because your story makes me really uncomfortable amnd I want you to change it so I don't feel so rotten, inadequate, or guilty about being around you." Or worse...that ulterior motive is really "What I'm really looking for is justification for what I see before I report you to the authorities and slap yet another one way ticket through hell on your family!" 

Of course we know that's not always the case with everyone! Believe me, we also know who those of you are who are actually sincere and really are seeking to be supportive of our family and our situations. You're the ones who are still reading, who didn't scroll past this post, and actually took the time to read the attached articles...and then you said something to us about it! You are the ones we are so very grateful to have in our lives, too. 

There is one more thing I would like to add this author's very good response of how you can help, though. When seeking to understand what families like mine are dealing with, please respect our children's right to and need for privacy. Please don't pepper us as parents (or our kids!!) with questions about their birth families and what happened during their early life that lead to their adoption. The truth is that regardless of who the child is or what the details are, their stories are bitterly painful and ugly and our kids carry a LOT of shame, grief, and guilt about all that happened to them. Our kids also carry a very real and very deep seated belief that all those things that happened to them are their fault, too. No matter how ridiculous any of the rest of us think that might be, it's real for them...and it drives a whole bunch of very real issues, too.

So, when seeking to understand our family and situation, please don't take it personally if we are evasive, choose not to share details about their story, or if we put the brakes on conversations about their adoption circumstances or birth families. We do so because it's inappropriate for us to share such things, especially in casual settings, and it's also very hurtful to our kids when we do. If you know us...or you know families like us, please accept what we offer, hold what we do share as sacred, please don't gossip about it or us or them, and don't assume you know what really happened. I can 100% guarantee that if we did share a little tidbit with you, it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the real story.

In cases like this, it really is both safe and appropriate to assume that the things that happened were horrible, are scary and overwhelming beyond what you can wrap your head around, and one of many reasons we choose not to share their story is that we know that it would literally traumatize you. Please, please, please try to understand that if just hearing their story from us has the power to do that to do that to you, consider what it has done to our family and what actually living every little gory detail of it has done to our kids. If and when they can finally find the words to talk about those things that happened AND if they feel like they want you to know about those things, they will tell you themselves.

Otherwise, yes, do keep loving us.  Do keep praying for us.  By all means, please do research and learn more about the illnesses and conditions we struggle with.  And then, please don’t keep your distance, even when we can’t participate in or aren’t up for social events, activities, or even conversations. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Speak Up!

A dear friend of mine was standing in line at the post office the other day.  She watched a dad smack a young boy’s hand very hard and then verbally threaten to break the child’s arm if he did whatever it was he was doing again.  My brave friend spoke up and told the man she’d heard what he said.  Of course, he quickly changed his story, lied about what he’d said to try to convince her she’d heard incorrectly and then made sure everyone heard him tell her that she’d best mind her own business.  I commend my friend for having the courage to speak up and say something to this man, especially in front of the child.  She sent a message loud and clear to both the man and the child that what she’d seen and heard wasn’t ok.  Better yet, she gave them both the opportunity to step back, reassess, and do things differently.

I had the lovely opportunity to be on the other side of that coin today.  Four men watched my son hit me today. I saw the horrified expression on all their faces when he did it.  The speed in which I blocked the blow was a tell-tale sign this wasn’t the first time this has happened. These men knew what they had just witnessed wasn't in jest. They knew it was real.  They also knew there was some real intent to do harm behind the blow.  I have no doubt that if he could have, my son would have hurt me in that moment.

I was stunned. It’s not the first time he’s come after me when he’s been highly triggered, but today was the first time he's ever done it in public. I looked at him in surprise and said "Oh, you didn't just do that! You didn't just hit me in front of all these men??" The smug look on his face said it all. He did, and he was proud of it, too! My next comment was "Hmmm...I wonder if all these men right here might have anything to say about that?" 

Indeed those men did have something to say, but it certainly wasn’t what I expected!! Had any one of those men said "Um, no. It's not ok to hit your mom!", my son would have immediately turned around and sobered up. But they didn't say anything of the sort. Rather than being anywhere close to supportive or acting like the descent, grown up men that they are, they laughed about it!  They minimized it. They joked about it.  They told my son it was indeed ok to hit his mom, that they’ll cover for him any time, and that it’s funny to hit your mother. 

I didn't even think about what came next. I just turned around with more firey passion and venom than I've had about anything in a very long time. I looked squarely at those men and VERY firmly (to the point I was shaking) said "Don't you EVER tell my son it's ok for him to hit his mother!!" Their response was instantly very hostile and along the lines of "Don't involve us in your family problems. We didn't ask for it. We were just sitting here!" And with that, they continued to be even more flippant about the whole thing and minimized the situation even more.

I left the exchange shaking, furious, and felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.  Try as I might, I couldn’t pull it back together and settle down. I finally had to leave the building.
  It took a couple hours after that before I could even speak to my son.  When I did, I learned that one of those men had the audacity to later chide my son because my son got him in trouble. Seriously?
  Newsflash, Mr. Arrogant!!  My son didn’t get you in trouble.  You got yourself in trouble when you sent a loud, clear message to a teenage kid that it’s ok and even a little funny for him to hit his mother!

I really don’t care who is involved or what the situation is.  I don’t care if you’re at the post office, in the park, at the grocery store, at church, or in the privacy of your own home. It’s NEVER ok for a teenage kid to hit their mother.  It’s equally not ok for a man to hit a woman, a woman to hit a man, or an adult to hit a child.  I’m not talking about a brief disciplinary spanking, either. That’s a whole different situation with different intent we're not getting into here.  I don’t advocate for spanking kids, but the type of hitting I’m referring involves more than a swat across the fanny.  It’s hitting with force, in anger, and with intent to do harm…and if it’s happening, it’s a sign that something is terribly wrong and these people need some help!  It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong in the situation.  It just needs to stop immediately so both sides can step back, regroup, and diffuse.

Just as it’s not ok for a teenage kid to be hitting their mom, for a spouse to verbally abuse their partner, or for a dad to be threatening to break their kid’s arm if they don’t behave, it’s also not ok not to say anything when you witness these things.  We’ve all heard that saying (that I utterly despise) “It takes a village to raise a child”.  I’ve noticed a really disturbing trend lately.  The village is right there, sometimes even right in your face, when it’s easy for them to be there.  The village is great about bringing in meals when someone is sick, or teaching Sunday School, or serving on the PTA, or loving on adorable babies so their tired mommies can have a breather, or bringing in home baked treats to make the kids smile.  But what about when the help that is so desperately needed is not so easy or pleasant or convenient? What about when we face situations that are awkward or hard or messy?  What about situations that are clearly backwards from anything we think we know, such as a kid who is abusing their parents? What about when we see a yard in need of attention?  What about when we witness stuff as innocent bystanders that we wish we hadn’t seen?  The truth is these are the times when people need help the most!  They don’t need to be shunned or ignored or judged.  They just simply need compassion, a courageous intervention, and help.  Sadly, though, instead of offering anything that actually resembles help, in times like these the villagers tend to scatter…and gossip…and judge…or they turn a blind eye because they don’t want to “get involved” or they pass the buck and call the police and let them handle it.

It’s time for another newsflash here.  Rarely is a call to the police the type of help families such as mine, or probably even that man at the post office need.  There certainly are situations that warrant that type of action, but most of the time it only adds a whole lot more stress, anguish, and hurt to an already overwhelming situation.  Very often it turns out to be a giant waste of public resources, too. Neither the police or DCFS have training in how to handle mental health related cases.  Sometimes the kids are too young for them to do much of anything. Sometimes they already know from looking at previous records that this is a mental health case, not a criminal case.  What that really means is that they don’t usually end up doing anything except talk to the kids, tell them to do better next time, and file an incident report.  Before you get button happy and make that anonymous call, take some time to observe what’s going on and find the courage to and ask some questions.  It’s quite possible you’ll find a situation isn’t what it first appears to be and that a simple, kind, short, no-nonsense, supportive intervention exactly what is needed to calm a storm.   

Please, when you encounter situations where something doesn't seem right, know that it's probably not.  Find the courage to speak up and say something!  Please don’t make light of another’s situation. You likely have no idea what's driving it or what they've been through that you can't see. Offer to help…even when it’s hard or messy or awkward or inconvenient!  Remember, that’s probably when they need you most! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hope Rising

As many of my readers know, I have hosted small retreats here in Utah for moms of kids with serious emotional and behavior issues for the past several years.  These retreats have been an absolutely amazing opportunity to get to know other moms IN PERSON who are living my same crazy life, dealing with many of the same issues I am, and build an incredible network of support, friendship, and healing.  I have come to love these women dearly.  We’ve stuck together and have carried each other through some seriously HARD stuff over the years.  There aren't words to express how grateful I am to have these women in my life.  I literally would not have made it this far without them.

What started out with just a few has reached a point where we’ve grown so much that we can no longer accommodate all who want and need to attend in any one location.  Plus, pulling these retreats together became a bigger job than any one person could do on their own.  Those are wonderfully stinky problems to have, too.  They're stinky because there are SO MANY moms out there who so desperately need this same level of support and camaraderie that we’ve found with each other. We all know this gig of parenting tough kids is the suckiest club in the world to belong to, too. On the other hand, if our circumstances have made us part of it, it's absolutely wonderful that we are reaching out and finding more and more moms.  This job is too big to do alone, and no one needs to do it alone!

There’s something else that has weighed heavily on my heart over the years, too.  Not all the moms who need and want to attend an event like this have the means or opportunity to travel across the country in order to make it happen.  The time has come for us to start bringing our retreats to other parts of the country and to help moms in other areas start building support networks where they live!

And so Hope Rising came to be.  What used to be my own grassroots effort to bring moms together is now a fully incorporated non-profit organization with many people participating in governing it, running it, and keeping things moving forward.  Come check us out on our website!!    The neatest thing, I think, about a non-profit organization is that it no longer belongs to just one person.  By their sheer nature, they are a community affair designed to serve a community.  They also provide the structure and framework to allow us to grow over time and serve even more moms.

That growth and expansion process has already started, too!  Instead of there being just one retreat this year, Hope Rising will now be hosting multiple retreats in various parts of the country!!  We have some super neat places picked out, too! Click the links below for more information.

Pinetop, Arizona:  This area is located approximately 3 hours from either the Phoenix or Mesa areas.  Those who attend this retreat will be staying in the lap of luxury in a spacious and richly appointed cabin in the woods.  There’s plenty to do and see in the area, or you can enjoy your stay hanging out with friends and soaking your cares away in the home’s private hot tub.  Click Here to register for the Arizona Retreat!!

San Antonio, Texas:  Those who attend this retreat will be staying in a lovely home right on the channel of Lake Placid.  Come enjoy your stay connecting with amazing women, soaking in the scenery, or lounging by the private pool.  There’s plenty of room to relax and enjoy getting away from the intensity and craziness of day to day life. Click Here to register for the Texas Retreat!!

Park City, Utah:  Come enjoy the gorgeous mountains of Utah.  They’ll be bursting with fall colors this time of year.  Those who attend in Utah will enjoy breathtaking views, a private hot tub, spacious accommodations with many different areas to relax and enjoy making new friends who understand this journey.  Park City is only 35 miles from Salt Lake City and is home to many Olympic training venues and world class ski resorts, all of which offer loads of fun activities that don’t require snow. Click Here to register for the Utah retreat!!

Wautoma, Wisconsin:  We’ve got a gorgeous lake front cabin reserved for this retreat!  It’s surrounded by acres of woods that will be brilliant in the fall and plenty of walking trails.  There’s also access to boating equipment to enjoy being out on the water.  Or, you can just spend your whole retreat soaking away stress out in the hot tub.  Wautoma is located in a quiet, rural area approximately 90 miles north of Madison.  Click Here to register for the Wisconsin retreat!!

Dates:  September 24-28, 2014 
Retreats will be held on the same dates in all locations

Price:  Pricing will depend on availability and the type of bed you choose.  Generally, prices range from about $250-290.  That includes 4 nights accommodations, meals, activities, t-shirts, and all that fun stuff.  As of right now, we only have one or two private rooms left.  Those run a little more.  Exact prices and availability can be found on the registration forms for each retreat.  A deposit of $150.00 is due at the time of registration, with the balance due by July 26.  Registration will be closing soon, so don’t wait to register!  

If you need to work out a payment plan, email  We’d far rather work out a payment plan than have you miss the opportunity to register and join us for one of these events.

Don't be bashful!  We’d love to have you come and join us!  If you’d like to help spread the word, you’re welcome to copy and share this flyer below with any of your friends, associates, or other moms who might be interested in coming as well.  Regardless of whether you attend our retreat or not, we also have an online support group sponsored through Facebook for parents of tough kids as well.  We'd love to get to know you!

Oh yes, and one last of the really fun things I've been able to experience over the years is meeting moms from different parts of the country.  Since I’m not going to be the house mom at any of the retreats this year, it’s my turn to travel and spend time with friends in other parts of the country!!  If you’re just dying to know where I’m going to be this fall, email me and I’ll share. :-)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A New Phase of Life

My, my, my…it certainly has been awhile since I’ve blogged.  Life certainly has a way of marching on and slipping away from us, doesn’t it?  I really haven’t intended to take this long of a blogging break.  It’s just the way things have turned out in my world.  I will confess that the break has been good for me and my family, though.  And yet, blogging is still a part of me and I do miss it.  I really do hope I can get back into the swing of things and begin blogging again more regularly and frequently than I have been.

Do you ever feel like just when you think things are finally going ok and you’ve got things figured out that something comes along and changes all the rules on you?  That’s very much what has happened in my world.  It isn’t that any of the big things have changed in our world.  I’m still a mom. I’m still married. I still have two kids with RAD and daughter who hasn’t escaped the realities of living with them.  People still think I’m the crazy one and the ridiculously oppressive, witchy mom.  Oh well.  They never see what we do because my boys are still so very good at people pleasing and performing for the outside world.  Those things aren’t going to change anytime soon.

The biggest game changer in my world as of late, though, has been that my kids grew up.  They’re no longer little kids anymore.   My older kids are now teenagers and my youngest is a tween.  We’ve been introduced to all kinds of new adventures because of it, too.  Some of those have been really fun…and some of them have been really tough.

We’re in the throws of experiencing all the normal stuff that parents of teenagers all go through…things like puberty, high school, drama with friends, changes of friends, zits, periods, messy rooms, moodiness, basketball games, scouts, and busy school nights where the family is running in all different directions.  We’ve been able to come up for air a lot more frequently and for longer periods of time than we used to.  Some of that is that is because my kids have all experienced some genuine healing and attachment. Some of that is due to the fact that the kids are all old enough now to actually help out with chores and meal preparations and yard work and other household tasks and not all of that is falling squarely on me and my husband anymore.   Some of it is that we really do actually have times when we act and feel “almost” like a “normal” family…well, ok, until we actually try to interact with truly normal people, that it.  Then we remember pretty fast just how far from mainstream normal we’ve really drifted. 

We used to cry about those realizations.  Now we mostly just laugh about them, embrace our weirdness, and carry on with doing what works for us and keeps everyone in the family reasonably sane and intact.  We do, of course still have a human side. We still have our days and moments where all of this still weighs heavy on our family and our souls and sill sucks giant buckets of rocks. But for the most part, we are able to get through it and bounce back a lot faster than we ever used to.

Even though the journey is still a crazy roller coaster ride, it’s not the same one we used to ride.  We’ve switched tracks.  There aren’t as many cork screws and super loops on this ride as there used to be.  There are more gentle bumps and bends and level spots than there used to be.  But, when we do hit those more “exciting” parts of the ride, we’ve found significantly higher highs and lower lows than we previously experienced.  I’ve heard many others express this sentiment over the years, and it really is true.  It’s HARD to see them backslide and get stuck in dark places when you’ve seen who they really are and really can be and what they can really do.  It’s hard on everyone, especially when all those things that used to work when the kids were younger don’t work like they used to and things that would have been disastrous back then are exactly what they need now.

I wish I could say that once attachment forms and begins to heal that their brain wiring is all fixed and life is perfect again.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.  Even when there’s genuine attachment and healing happening, the long term effects of trauma, mental illness, and prenatal alcohol exposure are all still there.  As such, the tween/teen years have also introduced us to things I never could have envisioned in my life before we adopted our boys…things like police records, misdemeanors, detention, psychiatric hospitals, implementing safety precautions I swore I’d never resort to (even though they had been recommended by DCFS!!), angry defiance over every little thing, dangerous rebellions, homicidal threats, suicidal ideations, hiring attorneys to go up against a school just to get them to wake up and pay attention, and learning first hand just how very lacking our mental health system really is and how beastly hard it is to get appropriate services for our kids. 
Lucky us, all those things I once could never even begin to wrap my head around are commonplace in my world.  Old behaviors we hadn’t seen since we first adopted our boys are back in full force…except now the kids are a whole lot bigger and stronger and know a lot more swear words..  Sometimes they’re really scary for the people living in our house, too.  Sometimes we’ve even had to make 911 calls ourselves.  Yes, I get that all parents think their teenagers are crazy. They aren’t.  When I say “crazy teen behavior”, I’m not talking about teens not wanting to clean their rooms or be seen with their parents or who break curfew, send inappropriate texts to their friends, or even take unauthorized joy rides in Daddy’s car.  I’m talking about tweens and teens who run away, threaten suicide, tell you and the police and the hospital admissions staff that they intend to chop you and others up, deliberately cause significant property damage, are verbally and emotionally abusive to everyone in the family, but so highly manipulative that all anyone outside the home sees is their super compliant, people pleasing, and charming ways, yet they warrant the Easter Bunny bringing 3 police cars, a fire truck, and an ambulance to haul their sorry rear end off to the hospital after holding their family hostage for hours on end…and are then escorted out of the hospital several hours later in handcuffs by the police and sent to spend a night in juvenile detention when the doctors and social workers at the ER don’t buy into their shenanigans.

And yet, through it all, I’ve learned how to take better care of me, go with the flow, chill out, relax, and take things in stride more.  I’m not perfect at it…but I’m a WHOLE lot better at it than I used to be.  I’m finding that’s a really good skill to have in parenting crazy teens and all the stuff they can dish out, too.  It’s also a lesson I wish I would have and could have learned sooner.  Take heed, mamas still on this journey behind me and beside me…chronic high stress really does do horrible and irreparable things to your body.  You know all that stuff that people preach about taking care of yourself and making YOU the top priority?  Yah…listen to it.  Stop making excuses, stop saying you can’t afford it, and find a way to MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Seriously.  I know it’s in our nature to sacrifice for our families and put ourselves last, but when you wake up one morning and realize you’re so burned out that there’s nothing left of you, you’re really not any good to anyone, including yourself. 

On that note, there’s something else has changed a LOT over the past couple of years, too.  Me.  I’ve changed.  I’m nowhere even close to the person I used to be.  I don’t even remember what life before RAD was like.  But I’m also not even the same person I was a year or two ago.  In most ways, that’s a good thing.  I’ve had the opportunity to work through a lot of my own issues of hurt and loss and learn what TRUE grace, mercy, and forgiveness are really all about.  I’ve found a tremendous amount of peace and healing and acceptance…acceptance for myself, my kids, my life, and for what is and is going to be.

I’ve learned not to worry about what other people think of me or my family.  They’re going to do what they’re going to see what they want to see, think what they want to think, and do what they’re going to do regardless my efforts to persuade them otherwise.  Sadly, sometimes those things they choose to say and do are going to be squarely aimed at hurting me and my family.  They might even be intended to try to take me down.  A lesson I’ve learned over and over and over again is that the fight is rarely ever worth it.  Why?  Because very rarely are any of those things actually about me.  They’re about pride, arrogance, insecurity, fear, jealousy and faulty and/or incomplete information on the other person’s part. 
In conjunction with that, I've learned very clearly who my friends really are…and who they are not.  This has been a tough lesson for me to learn on many levels.  By nature, I’m a pretty open book and am also quick to forgive and trust, often too quickly and easily.  Once I’ve called you friend, I will consider you my friend for life.  It’s been pretty humbling (and heartbreaking) to realize that not everyone believes that or values friendship as I do.  Everyone says they want and need friends.  But for many people, they seem to be about as useful and disposable as tampons.  They’re great when they’re right there for you in a time of need, but once that time passes, they’re discarded or traded in for a different brand. Sometimes that’s necessary, but not always.  Sometimes it’s a good thing, but not always.  By far the hardest part of this lesson on friends, though, has been realizing what levels some people will stoop to in order to make themselves look better or further a social cause.  There’s nothing worse than being stabbed in the back, manipulated, and beaten down by people you once loved and trusted.  If what I’ve experienced is anything even close to what my kids went through in their early life with people they once loved and trusted, no wonder their hearts and souls were shattered. 

There’s a silver lining in every storm cloud though.  I’ve also had occasion to discover who my real friends are and what qualities my REAL friend possess. I have been blessed with some pretty wonderful and cherished surprises in this department. I am grateful beyond words for those who stand by me and accept me for the perfectly IMperfect, struggling to figure it out just like the rest of you, person that I really am. 

The only part of any of anything I can control or change is me and how I choose to respond.  One of the many things this journey has taught me over the years is to purge toxicity, extend mercy and grace, and then maintain boundaries of steel.  Sometimes that has meant letting go of people, relationships, and associations I once treasured.  That’s not an easy thing to do!  Sometimes it hurts…a LOT!  Other times it’s meant changing the ground rules in significant relationships, rearranging priorities, and rediscovering and redefining what is truly most important to me…and how to make all of it work in harmony with each other.

I’ve also finally embraced something I thought I knew about myself, but was, in reality, quite far off base.  I really and truly am not the extrovert that everyone has always said I am, or might think I am, or even as I myself once masqueraded as.  I’m certain that some of that stems from the need to protect my heart from the countless judgments and barbs and heartbreaks that have been slung at me over the past many years.  But, it’s actually been very liberating for me to realize and embrace the fact that I really never have been an extrovert. I’ve always preferred the more quiet side of life and never really have enjoyed being in the spotlight, standing out in a crowd, or being in the middle of social drama.  It’s been quite refreshing to have even more reasons to slow down, let go, and find freedom in solace and accepting me for who I am.

So, there you have it.  It's the lowdown on this new phase of life I'm in exposed for all the world to read.  It will be interesting to see where it all goes from here.

Friday, November 1, 2013

I Stand and Knock

Revelation 3:18-21
 18.  I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
  19.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
  20.  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
  21.  To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
These verses of scripture have stirred my soul today.  I'm not even sure I can convey my thoughts, as many of them are too sacred to me to share publicly.  But I will try to convey at least some of what I have learned from them.  They have touched me deeply. 

The message I see in these verses that this life wasn't meant to be easy. In fact, it is part of the Plan that it not be.  As Thomas Paine once so eloquently stated to the soldiers of the American Revolution, "What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated." 

While there is no doubt the freedoms we profess to treasure here in America are being threatened on every front, my thoughts today go more to the freedom (and loss of it) that has come to myself and my family as a result of the things we're all still living with...things that were done to our kids and to us...poor choices that have left a wake of destruction in their path...things that have happened to all of us that have permanently changed our hearts, our lives, and our souls (often in ways we resent and grieve over.)  And yet, we are told point blank here in these verses that whom the Lord loves, He chastens. 

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has ever said that sometimes I wish, perhaps, that He didn’t love or trust me quite so much because this business of chastening is getting really old and has just about done me in.  I’m also sure I’m not the only one who has sat through one of those fluffy Sunday School lessons of “all this stuff will be for your good and if you let Jesus into your life, all will be well” and been very frustrated and disheartened because the reality we live has proven that it isn’t that simple.  Hell doesn’t release its prisoners easily or willingly, and the process of “fixing things” isn’t as easy as simply opening the door and letting Christ into our lives.  In fact, I confess there have been times…more than I care to admit to, actually, when I’ve wanted to stand up and scream “But I’m not I’m not a martyr.  I’m not a saint.  I’m not one of those famous people in history who will live forever glorified on a pedestal because they died for what they believe. I’m little old me.  I’m very human, I’m very imperfectly and weakly ordinary, I don’t have any special training or calling, I didn’t sign up for this, I’ve done everything I was supposed to be doing, and yet the forces of hell…not little trials mind you, but the very forces of hell itself…are still incessantly raging against me and have all but shattered and devoured my family!”

I'm sure many of us have seen this picture, or at least one similar to it.  It references verse 20 above in which the Savior is standing at a door and knocking.  Except there is no door knob on the outside.  The only way for him to gain entrance into this house is if the door is opened from the other side. 

I suppose one could say the "eyesalve" spoken of in verse 18 above has finally began working today.  As I read these verses, I finally saw the person the Savior is really requesting audience with on the other side of this door. It’s not the prim and proper, well dressed, well groomed, and nicely polished soul. It’s not the well-intentioned, or even well-doing Christian. It’s not the missionary. It’s not the people sitting reverently in church.  It’s not the pastor or the bishop or even the Sunday School teacher.  It’s not the ladies who have prepared a lovely meal, and nor is it those who are eagerly awaiting His arrival so they can sit at his feet and bask in His presence.

While I don’t discredit that any of those others will benefit by and be very blessed by opening the door and allowing the Savior into their lives, I realized today that the person He really wants to reach on the other side of that door is me.  It’s my family and my children.  It’s all of us who have been beaten up, knocked around, worn down, burned out, chastened beyond what we feel like we can take anymore, know exactly what the forces of hell and refining fires look like, and have the battle scars to prove it.

Look carefully at the order these things are stated in the verses above. Notice what comes before “I stand at the door and knock.”  There is a lot. We are counseled to buy the gold of the Savior…not just any gold, but specifically the gold that has been tried and refined in the fire of adversity, for it is in that gold…and the lessons we take away from those refining fires… that the riches of eternity really lie.  We are likewise invited to seek understanding, to be cleansed and not be ashamed, to change what is in our control to change, and then to see this refining and renewing process and the purposes of it for what they really are. 

Even more importantly, notice what comes after the chastening, after the refining fire, and after the Savior knocks. Again, there is much.  He isn’t merely asking for us to open the door and let him drift in and out of our lives.  In all his love, compassion, and mercy, He is requesting that He be allowed to come in and sit down at the table with our very broken, worn out, beaten down, imperfect, battle scarred selves. He wants to explain things as we dine…feast…and commune together.

He also wants us to know that we’re not alone. He wants us to know that He understands where we’re at and what we’ve been through.  After all, he’s been beaten down, stripped, screamed at, spit on, mocked, falsely accused, misjudged, and rejected, too.  He’s even had mean people hammer great big nails into his hands and feet just because they didn’t like what he had to say.

And then, finally, He wants us to see that there really is a way out of the darkness.  He wants to help us see the big picture.  He wants us to know that holding on, trusting, doing the best we can, and overcoming is worth whatever it takes to make it happen.  The promise is right there in the scriptures.  Those who overcome are promised the riches of eternity and have a place at His throne, which is right next our Our Heavenly Father’s throne.

Notice he didn’t say that overcoming is synonymous with having things turn out all peachy and rosy, or even with having our trials end.  He simply said the promises are there for those who overcome whatever it is they need to overcome…be that sin, doubt, fear, weakness, anger, resentment, hopelessness, exhaustion, or whatever.  Perhaps, and probably, it also means patiently and willingly enduring whatever life throws at us, regardless of whether we understand the reasons for it, or regardless of whether they come to an end or not in this lifetime.