Hope. Strength. Courage.

There was a time and place where I would have written, “Facing the unknown creates anxiety and fear.”

I find myself progressing and developing awareness of self, which allows me to experience life differently and more fully.

Today, I write, “Facing anxiety and fear moves you from the unknown to full knowledge of your potential to do the impossible.”

These two thinking constructs are true, but one is more healthier and demonstrates a growth mindset.

Everything prepares you for your life-defining moment, if you are willing to seize the day, when it arrives.

——————–

Earlier this year, I was struggling and afraid to reveal my personal struggles with depression and anxiety. I suffered daily, from daily panic attacks and my mind played tricks on me. It wasn’t easy to walk away from five years of beautiful wins and difficult losses, but when I made the decision to care about myself, my struggle transformed itself into vanishing points rather than places of terrifying convergence. There was something about letting go and beginning again that gave me permission to breathe again.

I didn’t spend the summer reinventing myself or starting over; I just needed to jump-start my passion and purpose. I spent considerable time reflecting and meditating about what I would need to do to live happy and whole. I re-centered my focus and energy on what mattered the most – I needed to prioritize how to better take care of myself and my son. I made myself a promise- I would dwell on the lessons learned, rather than the struggle. When I became conscientious of defining my space, I experienced a new beginning.

But this all seems poetic, rather than real, right?

I had a lot of questions and I asked myself (and God),

1) “Do I really want to move and start over?”
2) “Who will help me move?”
3) “Can I leave my family and friends”
4) “What about money, how will I pay for all these changes, especially rent in two places?”
5) “How will I manage my anxiety and pack at the same time?”
6) “Will my son be okay with changing schools again?”
7) “How will I pick the best community, school & after-school program ( & Babysitter)?”
8) “I have no sense of direction, how will I learn to drive in a new city?”
9) “What about scheduling a last minute physical and paying for an epi-pen for Carter?”

(and the list went on and on….)

Without knowing all the answers, I accepted a job offer to work with foster youth and took a leap!

Guess what?

In just one day, I found a place to live (3rd floor apartment, which helps me with my anxiety) and paid the deposit with money that came right on time.

I moved successfully & start my new job next Monday! I had a crew of folks in Cbus and Cinci. I would have never made it without everyone. (There are 36 steps up to the third floor of my new apartment and there must have been 100 trips up those stairs, by five generous people). Seriously, the awesomeness of people left me speechless. My heart is full of gratitude.

Guess what, you never really leave your friends and family, you just make new friends and family!

Two weeks ago, I had a balance of -$20.17 in my checking account and a week later, I had 2K! Everything has been provided through the generosity of others – Money, food, essentials, trash bags, boxes, containers, gas, school supplies, etc. I am incredibly thankful. My friends and family helped me with extra funds; I also got a loan from a friend, sold some paintings, and had two paying clients this summer!

I manage my anxiety, but sometimes I falter. I find that writing, praying and lemongrass oil help me cope.

With the advice & support of others, I realized that I was transferring my own fear and experiences of my childhood onto my son; I moved three times in first grade and wondered how my son would overcome change. It was communicated to me that I am offering my son the support that he needs to be successful; I was also told that I am not my mother!

I found a great school & after-school program, and have a college friend nearby for emergencies.

My phone helps, but my son is my GPS. He already knows how to get around!!! He told me this morning, “Mom you cannot use GPS to get to school. Don’t use your phone and I am not helping you either!” (That kid!)

I was able to get a physical appointment for the very next day (& pay for it). I was also able to get a free epi-pen for my son – they shipped it over-night for free, just in time for my son’s first day of school!

——————–

Honestly, I wanted to give up several times. I tried to convince myself that I was unworthy, unintelligible and pathetic. I walked myself into a corner and felt sorry for myself. I grieved my loss and I debated “what ifs” until my mind was a stinky pile of poo. And I couldn’t change the past, so I just had to reinvent my thinking process and meditate on what I know to be true. I might have failed throughout my life, but I never gave up. I never allowed circumstances to define me or people’s perceptions to dictate my purpose. I began to zoom in on my passion and decided that I wanted to support foster youth full time.

But guess what? I still I tried to walk away from a new job (my dream job), because I was afraid of change. This summer, one of my mentors told me that I had to “unpark my comfort,” and I realized that I had to be okay with being uncomfortable. Being vulnerable requires a step of faith, which expresses “hope, strength and courage” to grow and be challenged each and everyday, even when we don’t know how everything is going to be resolved.

I have had so many answers to prayer & needs met! I am stepping into my future because I am not alone. I am grateful for my faith and all my friends, family and supporters. I know I am loved and capable of fulfilling my passion and purpose. I am incredibly thankful to be a mother (and my role in my son’s life). I am excited to see what unfolds in the next Chapter, for us!

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3/30 The Maybe Musings of an Artist, #napomo

There is a passageway

A darkened tunnel

filled with complete disaster

and breakthroughs

To create something new

is to unveil inner-most knowledge

In the midst of roadblocks

and life’s many responsibilities,

Including motherhood-

Space is pushed back from all sides

And compacted to clear the mental clutter,

to do lists, and piles of laundry-

Given permission to begin again

Consecutive hours in the zone

spilling out my soul

an undefined canvas given flesh

and breadth of life

to expose vulnerabilities

excavating underlying realities-

affirming the existence of flaws

and skewed perceptions-

actualizing layers of congruence

and resistance-

emerging to illustrate the narrative

of my combined life experiences-

posted via my digital thumbprint

on the world wide web-

to be seen and felt-

(or unseen and indifferent)

without ever being displayed

in the very formal space

of a galleria or book-

but maybe someday.

 

 

1/30, A proper introduction, #napomo

For a long time,

I have considered-

No, I have definitely scrutinized the odds,

The peculiar pull of knowing that there is more to be known.

Not just more, but someone-

One person who gets most of my quirky tendencies-

An equal confident and best-friend

Who doesn’t reject my instinct to pull away-

(Because unfortunately, I happen to do that when I am afraid)

To accept possibility-

 

There is comfort in a glance,

The tremendous effort of a half-smile and the complexity of a furrowed brow

Seemingly acknowledging a sacred connection without having to dance –

deferring judgment-

launching a paradigm shift that changes fault lines to linear truths,

rest assured

providential circumstances prevent time from being threatened again-

peaceful salutations deliver ground-breaking awareness-

 

it always seems too difficult

to shift from one side to another

from yes, to no, to well, maybe I will

to finally, I definitely cannot find another answer, other than yes-

to wonder and wander in dreams beyond fantasia,

diving deep into the depths of the sacred universe

it is much too similar to holding a kite in the middle of a storm,

and it supposedly happens-

 

just like it always happens in the movies-

between

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan

the maximum power of vulnerability

transforms the miniscule molecular fibers of the wounded spirit

to inspire the reconciliation and introduction of hope within a new beginning-

 

and it might be called conversing-

or simply defeating former complexities

that previously existed-

or it might be called a proper introduction.

 

More about  #napomo, AKA: National Poetry Month:

  1. What is National Poetry Month? National Poetry Month is a month-long, national celebration of poetry established by the Academy of American Poets. The concept is to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern.

Ready to win my life back

Today’s post is inspired by a phrase that Dolvett Quince speaks to his contestants on The Biggest Loser. During workouts on the show, he shouts, “win your life back!!!”

Last week, when I heard him shout, “Win your life back,” I wept.

Since I was 11 years old, food has been an inappropriate coping mechanism.

At first, I ate, because I thought if I was fat, I wouldn’t be (sexually) abused.

But he didn’t care; he abused me daily, for three years.

Eating food was the one thing I had control over, so I kept eating and eating; Unfortunately, this has been my fight for the past 25 years; even when I was in foster care and had a supportive foster family, I kept over-eating;  even after I had my gallbladder removed, I kept over-eating;   even when I earned my MA in Creative Arts Therapy and knew better, I kept over-eating.

(Deep breath)

Over the past month, while spending time with my mom during her radiation treatment (for her brain cancer),  memories have resurfaced in full force about my childhood. At first, I wanted to maintain a safe distance; but during the process of forgiving her, I realized how important it is to accept grace and forgive myself too (daily).

Over the past few months, I have gained weight; everyone has been kind; no one has pointed it out, except, I feel it every day, when I try on my clothes and they don’t fit like they should. It’s as if my childhood is mocking me; I’m definitely ready to stop reaching for the comfort food; it’s so ironic, that comfort food actually makes me feel so uncomfortable; I just want to build a fort and hide; instead, I just need to sit at the table and give myself permission to eat healthy and be thankful for a new day to begin again.

I always wanted my mom to fight for me (she didn’t), but now, I need to win this fight once and for all. It’s time to win my life back…25 years is weigh too long to be carrying an albatross around my mid-section. I am ready…

The following is a poem/narrative of sorts, that I Initially wrote in 2010:

Thick

A pinch turned into a roll into curves into the full-figured voluptuous woman that appears before you today, but when I was a child, a natural instinct to eat three meals a day was warped when self-confidence diminished at the hands of an abuser.

A candy bar turned into a bag of chips into a pint of ice-cream into stuffing my body with food; this process insulated my body with a layer of protection to fight off his advances at age 11.

I had convinced myself that if I was overweight, he would leave me alone. I figured that if I was unattractive on the outside, that he would stop looking at me; all of this thinking and eating did not stop him at all.

Worst yet, my mother ignored the abuse and told me that she wasn’t going to have a fat daughter, so she forced me to exercise each day, proving that she didn’t give a damn about what I was feeling on the inside.

Three years passed and I was thickened like a plump chicken; I wanted nothing more than to die; a recipe for redemption was inscribed upon my right thigh and I found a way out by speaking the truth.

Years of molestation ceased to be a part of my daily routine but food continued to console my mind and 126 pounds turned into 157 into 176 into 198 into 210 into 234 into 246 (what I weigh right now).

A pattern of compulsive eating without exercising has given my body an over-sized shape and created a false facade; my curves are my battle wounds; they have been gaping open for 25 years.

Today, I begin to heal, inside out….

Purposeful Beginnings (Via Family Tree)

ImageFYI: This post was inspired by National Adoption Month!

  • I am thankful for folks who choose adoption, especially my grandma and grandpa, who adopted my Mom.
  • I am thankful for my foster parents who didn’t adopt me legally, but who still call me their middle daughter, 20 years after they invited me to join their family.
  • I am thankful for my cousins (via my mother’s adoption). My cousins “adopted” my son and I; they love us, just as my grandmother loved me.

When I was in my graduate school program for Creative Arts Therapy (2004/05-ish), I was given an assignment to create a family genogram. I knew my family history, but I really didn’t know the “entire” story. To explore a genogram, is to look for patterns and make connections about all the different generations.

In April 2011, I wrote a poem (see below) about my family’s patterns of connection and disconnection. One of the connections that strengthens my spirit, is the fact that a woman, my grandmother (my mother’s adoptive mother) adopted my mother when my mom was four years old. My mother gave me up twice, both when I was a toddler and then again, when I was an adolescent. Prior to my son’s birth, several folks asked me if I was going to give up my son for adoption; I respect those women who make that choice, but for me ( I was 33) , I knew that I wanted my son and I decided to be a single parent. My son and I are connected to our larger family, which ranges from biological to foster to adoptive; the definition of family is most transparent through my son’s eyes; my son doesn’t understand the difference between foster, biological and adoptive, he just loves our family as our “family.”

Tonight, I asked my son what he wanted for his birthday this month; he didn’t ask for toys, he joyfully said, “MY COUSINS!”  He said them all by name (biological, foster and adoptive). This makes my heart smile; he teaches me that “love is blind, except, blind can see hope.” I am so thankful that he will teach future generations about my grandmother’s legacy of love!

COLANDER GIRLS

We are born with bowls-

not hearts- in our chest,

naturally,

we are able to receive and contain love,

enough to overflow

and fill our souls

until life’s consequences

or pure selfishness forms holes,

one at a time,

pressing pain

like pins and needles

through what was meant to protect us

from aching.

These bowls are passed down

from one generation to another,

from one mother to her daughter,

to another daughter,

and another.

My family bowl

has seemingly

been empty and repaired for years

the strongest women

have learned how to patch up the holes

placed there by my ancestors-

if the truth be known,

during the great depression

my great grandmother

gave birth to many children

she became a widow,

she was rescued by a man’s proposal

he gave her one condition,

she could only bring one child into the marriage.

This is how the story began,

with loss and more loss,

afterwards,

however,

my great-grandmother

had two more children,

one in 1925, my grandmother,

a beautiful girl.

She grew up

and patched her colander,

finally married,

but couldn’t bear children,

found it within her heart to love a child,

not born under her heart,

but in it.

She adopted my mother,

a beautiful girl in 1960

My mom inherited a patched up colander,

but love poured through her

as if she couldn’t feel anything at all-

her own biological mother

was addicted to drugs,

abandoned all of her children.

it’s a fact,

life’s consequences or pure selfishness forms holes,

one at a time,

pressing pain like pins

and needles

through what was meant to protect us

from aching.

In 1977,

my mother’s colander

was passed down to me,

a beautiful girl,

who was physically, verbally and sexually abused

by the men my mother invited into our lives;

she relinquished

her rights to me,

her only daughter;

so my mom’s own existence

could only be validated by

a marriage to a criminal;

I was abandoned,

but I was patched up

by the embrace

of a foster family-

I was invited to become

their middle daughter;

To be welcomed-

Meant not being lost anymore-

While discovering

My identity,

I learned to be more open than closed

It didn’t happen all at once-

to consciously break the cycle,

I attempted to prove failure

wasn’t an option;

for many years,

I successfully pushed away

every opportunity

to be intimately connected

with another,

I built up a resilient shield,

until I stopped caring and

allowed one man after another

into my life

who didn’t deserve

to be there at all.

It’s a fact,

life’s consequences or pure selfishness forms holes,

one at a time,

pressing pain

like pins and needles

through what was meant to protect us

from aching.

In November of 2011,

I became a single mother

and my son was born-

I will gave him

my patched up colander

pressing my love

as a permanent patch

of healing

to protect my child

from aching,

to prevent a 100 year cycle

from being interconnected

to further victimization

and ache;

through the written word,

hope will patch and restore

our family’s colander

for more purposeful beginnings,

to receive and contain love,

enough to overflow to future generations.

FYI: Learn more about National Adoption Month at http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/.

Cause for Reflection

About a month before I found out I was pregnant, I told a mentor of mine, in these exact words, “I never want to have kids.” I was confident in my decision based on the facts, which included my parents getting divorced when I was 9 months old,  my mother giving me up on two different occasions (age 2 and 14), and all the ache (no matter how hard I fought it) that wrapped around my being. It scared me tremendously to think of myself as a mother; I grew up with this fear in my chest, that I was never gonna be loved, therefore, I was never going to be strong enough to love a child (even though, I can clearly identify more than a dozen people who loved me then and still love me now).

When I was placed into foster care as a teenager, multiple people offered advice, which always sounded like, “When you have your own family, you will be able to love as you always wanted to be loved.” I didn’t want to take the risk and convinced myself that I was better off alone.

Considering my personal choices, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out that I was going to be a mother, but I was completely floored. The week that I found out I was pregnant, I was about to leave for an alternative spring break trip to Seattle with 12 college students. The week was intense. There was a defining moment; I was volunteering with my students at a site for mothers and their children (the organization helps them get back on their feet); a mother entered the classroom with her infant; she reached out and asked me if I minded holding and feeding her child. I think I hesitated, but of course I offered my help.

There are few instances in my life where I felt comfortable enough to hold a baby; there was one instance in high school; but beyond that, I have always declined—even when my siblings asked me to hold their children.  I can remember changing my nephew’s diaper one time in Iowa, when my sister was helping her oldest son; I heard her youngest crying and I thought about it, and finally, I decided to change his diaper. I didn’t have a motherly instinct; I was actually afraid.

So, back to the rocking chair; I was holding a beautiful baby and feeding her; I began to seriously ponder my pregnancy and being a mother; a sea of doubt flooded my heart, but the doubt was washed away with a peace that passes all understanding. I knew no matter my fear, that I would overcome it, to love my child.

In a week or so, my son will turn 3.

And so, here I am. I am thankful for teachers, mentors and family members who taught me to always follow my heart. When my son was a newborn, I didn’t have a rocking chair, but I improvised.  I sat on the edge of my bed and rocked him to sleep while singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Lately, as his third birthday approaches, my son has been asking me almost every day, “Do you want to be my best-friend?” This little question transforms my existence; my heart is filled with love; my definition of love expands and is redefined; loving a child has restored my path in life; being loved is transformational and I feel blessed to be a mother. The fear has collapsed; I am not the same woman who once said that I didn’t want to have kids. And what is the deepest longing of my heart? I can’t imagine any other path, except for motherhood and cleaning dirty diapers, stepping on toy cars in the middle of the night, wiping up a flooded bathroom floor, and sharing the past three years with my son; his love makes me believe I was born to be his mother and his best-friend. To learn more about my pregnancy and my reflections about becoming a mother, please visit my poetry blog, HOPE.

This is a good opportunity to thank everyone for your support! I’ve learned it is okay to ask for help; I’ve learned to redefine family; and I’ve discovered that it really takes a village to raise a child; I’m so glad you are in our lives and that you love my son and I!

Free

So, I had this moment (yesterday), where I told my mom I loved her….and she said that I shouldn’t love her, because she caused me so much ache….

I cried. I truly wept. It was if a hole was finally patched up–I can only explain what happened in a poem-

Free

To forgive
is to give
Myself permission
to step back, waaaay back
22 years—

I was pulled out of school early in 8th grade (during 8th period class)
My mom and step-father picked me up-
We rode in the car for 6 miles,
An awkward silence permeated my senses-
fear invaded my gut,
The weight placed upon my shoulders, doubled-

We finally arrived at the house and exited the car-
Ironically, I tiptoed next to each of the Christmas stockings
And walked up a hundred stairs (or just 22)
and entered my bedroom.
At first glance, I saw–
my bed-sheets were gone,
I quickly checked all my hiding places–
Clothes neatly folded in drawers
Closet organized (all of the hangers faced the same way)
Even the book shelves were neatly displayed–
What in the hell, did she find?
I walked down the stairs,
through the dining room
and sat on a stool in the kitchen–
She unfolded a piece of notebook paper
Time scathingly obliterated my outer-shell,
she accusingly read my secrets
(my abuser stood by her side or she stood by his side)
I felt his gaze piercing my existence;
His threats pressed nails into my spine-
Tears finally escaped through ducts
previously cemented by terror-

And my mother set me free,
While the floor completely fell away
She called me a “bitch”
And recklessly let me go—
And I never returned.

She told me that she wouldn’t leave him
(I want to believe that her mind
was violently petrified by his control).

In other words,
She abandoned me and I was placed into foster care.
As they say, The rest is history. (scratch that)

Until now-
I’m opening my heart.

To forgive
is to give
Myself permission
To step forward
Fully accessing
The present moment—
To hold her hand–
Not because I am completely healed
(Because I still have scars).
Not because she contributed to the cycle of abuse
(Because I am a survivor).
Not because I am a Christian
(Because I am filled with hope and a purpose).
Not because she’s dying
(Because she’s still alive and can hear my words, when it matters).
Not because she has brain cancer
(Because she’s my mother).

To forgive is to give
Myself permission
To love her—

And finally set her free.

Without Explanation

I close my eyes

And exhale-

Squinting through shadows

Focusing on a bright light

A source of relevation

Increasing the capacity to be

Fully present

In this moment

Even though life is

Fully chaotic

Unclear

Full of knots and cannot-

Squeezing

Fists full of ache

Twisting

Enveloping

Questioning

What is and what is not

Nothing changes quickly enough

An uncomfortable space is born

And expands into undecided

Peripheries

Continually battling-

In a knock out fight

Brutally revealing

Resistance

The pull of gravity

Unravels years of turmoil

Increasingly

Full and empty-

Leveraging the pain

Teetering between

The past and present

Memories

Inexplicably divided

Revealing

A breaking point

Or merely a pinnacle

of strength

Only to be reinforced,

By letting go–

Gaping wounds

Exposed in the light of day

Carve ornate inscriptions-

Within caverns

Leaving behind indentations-

Messages designed to communicate

An evolution of becoming authentic

Vulnerable just enough,

to listen–

Formally addressed

By truth-

Resonating deeply

Rising against

and

Breaking through

Misunderstandings

Unveiled by

Faith-

I don’t know about everyone else

But I press my ear to heaven

And it happens,

Just like that

In a blink

Before it’s too late

A heart realigns itself again

How sweet the sound-

A handwritten note

Suddenly makes me

More aware

Unequivocally declaring,

I am

In need

of a heart

Filled with peace–

I retreat and

Fall to my knees,

Promising not to go back,

the way in which I came–

Learning  to become

all over again.

Pieces of Paper 10/30 (NaPoMo)

my baby book says,

my first word was” good,”

but trauma shut down my lips

I couldn’t speak-

ironically,

I was held back in third grade

but won a 4th grade spelling bee-

I fell in love with words,

I felt liberated-

but that’s when I was given my first diary-

words of hatred expounded

I  described everything until

my mother found it

and

threw it away,

she denied it’s truth-

but she couldn’t stop me-

I started writing on pieces of paper

and

hid them in my room-

under furniture,

in pockets of jeans,

beneath my bed-

any place where

she could find them-

I fought for a voice

in silence,

she never heard me speak,

fear choked me daily-

she was caught up in her land of make-believe

I was too young for reversal of roles

I was already an adult at 14-

In seventh grade,

during reading class,

we began reading,

Not without my Daugher

and

I started a journal,

and kept it safe in my locker at school-

I wrote for clemency,

for a right to life-

I was kidnapped in my own home

ignored, forgotten, abused,

words were my comfort

they offered solace-

It finally happened

in eighth grade,

December 11, 1991-

she found a note

and forced me to read it-

tears released themselves from prison-

words burst through my spirit like lava,

leveling a path to freedom-

I finally spoke what I had written a million times over-

but she still didn’t believe me-

It didn’t much matter,

I became a survivor-

and

continued to inscribe my story

one page at a time–

poetry month

is more like a celebration of my life

words linked together,

connecting chapters of my journey

reminding me,

to not give up,

to keep progressing,

aspiring,

writing,

and

*speaking…

(*eventually, at  an open mic)