Tag Archives: seasons of life

“I’m fine,” she told herself…

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I feel as though I’m suffering from an emotional hangover…

Too many feelings squeezed into too short a period of time,

With all of the residual manifestations connected to an excess of living.

I literally feel as though I am emotionally hungover, with many of the symptoms seen in alcohol induced hangovers.

I find myself weary, heavy, numb, foggy and teary as I try to continue navigating the responsibilities of day to day life while accepting that life as I have known it for 20 years, is changing…

And changing very soon!

The crazy thing about it all is that everything I am navigating through is exactly the things I have prayed so hard for. There is a part of me that wants to smack the tears off my own face and remind myself that this is all good stuff!

Feelings of gratitude and joy are the prevailing emotions, but closely tied to feelings of gratitude and joy, are feelings of uncertainty and loss…

And guilt.

Guilt that I am feeling anything but gratitude and joy in the midst of such blessings. Unlike the seasons we have had to endure that are filled with such darkness and danger, despair and loss, this season is blessedly positive, but I still find myself struggling.

Perhaps I am unaccustomed to things going so smoothly.

Perhaps I have forgotten how to navigate life outside the emotional bondage of crisis management.

Perhaps I feel as though I am losing some of my purpose or value.

Maybe it is simply the emotional push-back that is rooted in the fear of change.

Or maybe, just maybe, this weight of emotions is simply bone-deep fatigue, born from trying to fit in so many “lasts” before life changes for good.

I am not certain.

I only know that time seems to be racing past and I am desperately grasping for its tail, hoping to slow it down.

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I know that I am not alone in this place. Many other friends have expressed similar emotions, born from similar situations. I take strength from knowing that this muddy mix of emotions is normal, that I am not the only one trying to gracefully navigate them, and that millions of mothers before me have made it through this season to find joy and purpose in the next season of parenting.

So many changes are coming down the pike, not the least of which are:

  1. Gracie getting married! Only two months until her big day! The last few weeks have been spent entrenched in bridal shower planning, bachelorette party planning and wedding planning. Grace and Zach have also been on the hunt for an apartment. They will be staying in the area, as Grace still has a few semesters of school to finish before earning her degree in American Sign Language interpreting.

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 Well, they found one that they love and fits their budget. And we have the benefit of having them nearby for at least the next year…which is a HUGE blessing for our adopted sons who have been struggling with triggered feelings of losing another person they love.

Last Sunday we drove over to Ellwood City to check out Gracie and Zach’s soon-to-be newlywed digs.

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It is an upstairs, one bedroom apartment with a big kitchen and lots of light. It is perfect for them and so exciting. Grace can’t wait to start decorating!

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2. Molly is about ready to take flight! In less than three weeks she will be heading out to school. Rusty and Braden will be joining us as we take a weeklong road trip to Idaho to drop her off. Along the way we are going to revisit some of our favorite national parks from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience some of these national treasures.

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Over the last month Molly has been making piles in preparation for college, getting together with friends, and finishing out her employment at Eat n’ Park. In fact, a few weeks ago she was asked by her employers to reconsider heading west for school. They wanted to offer her a management position. Her boss told her how impressed they have been with her since she began working for them in the spring and could see a great future for her with the company. She sweetly declined, knowing that BYU-Idaho is where she is being called to, but was honored and touched by the job offer.

3. Molly will not be the only college student this year. Grace and I will also be working towards our degrees, and Rusty is now unexpectedly joining the college ranks as a duel enrolled high school senior.

A few weeks ago we toured our local community college’s aviation program to find out more about their drone piloting program. This is a field that interests Rusty and so we added CCBC to our college tour list.

As we sat and spoke with the Dean of the program, he encouraged Rusty to not wait until graduation, but rather enroll for the fall semester as part of the duel-enrollment program. After speaking with his cyber school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we learned that Rusty had the option of replacing his high school electives with college courses and receive both high school and college credit, thus getting a jump start on his college degree.

He is very excited and will be taking most of his classes at the local airfield where he will learn the skills to graduate with a drone piloting license. Toby and I were pleased to learn that the high demand for drone pilots, coupled with the minimal number of colleges offering this newly emerging degree, meant that 100% of their past students have graduated with job placement.

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4. Braden is also venturing into new territory. In June he expressed a desire to cyber school like the other kids for his senior year. He struggled with our local brick and mortar school and some of the negative influences that proved too much for him to manage. Since being home this summer he has felt the difference that separation has made on his emotions and his ability to make good choices. He is happier and more at peace. I’m hoping it is as good a fit for him as it has been my other kids.

In addition to cyber schooling, he and Rusty will be getting together with other teens from church each weekday morning at 6:00am for early morning seminary (a religion class that allows for studying the scriptures and discussing gospel topics with the other youth from church under the guidance of a teacher.) I think this will be beneficial to both boys and will meet some of Braden’s social needs as one of my extroverted children.

5. Tyler also continues cyber schooling, but through PA Cyber. And although I feel that PA Cyber falls short when compared to the education offered through 21st Century Cyber School, it has proven to be a great fit for Tyler. Last year was his best year ever and he took off under this model of cyber schooling. He is eager to get back in touch with teachers and peers whom he hasn’t talked to all summer. Tyler will be in 7th grade this year. How is that possible?!

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6. Ozzie continues to thrive in the residential treatment facility that he has been residing at for more intense therapeutic work. His success there is not surprising but rather an expected result of a structured, unattached environment. The goal we are working toward is for him to successfully transfer the skills he uses at the RTF to the home environment, thus making his presence in the home safe and stable. This isn’t an easy transition, as his diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder makes the thing he most stands in need of (connection and attachment to family) the very thing he fears and fights against. It is heartbreaking in its presentation and heartbreaking to know that as devastating as this diagnoses is, it could have been easily avoided through loving maternal care as a young child. The transfer of skills we are working toward is accomplished by slowly introducing interactions with family members (and eventually visits home) to his treatment plan and then addressing the negative reactions to triggers  with his therapeutic team in the RTF upon returning back at the end of a visit.

This week he and I had our first off-grounds visit. I was allowed to take him to lunch for two hours. This initial off-grounds trip consisted of just the two of us spending time together. We will slowly be adding additional family members to upcoming visits as deemed safe by staff.

I let Ozzie pick the restaurant and he chose Quaker Steak and Lube, a well known wing place in this area.

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He chose it partly for the food but mainly for the décor. He loves walking around the restaurant and snapping pictures of all the cars and memorabilia with my phone.

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He did well and we had a good time.

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He got all dressed up for our date 🙂 

This week we will be taking Ozzie out again following his family therapy session. This time Molly will be joining me so she and Ozzie can have a visit before she leaves for Idaho. We are praying it is healing and positive.

And then there is this guy… working hard and making sure everyone stays in line. 🙂

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This is  BIG week for our family with many monumental events. We have an off-grounds visit with Ozzie on Wednesday, Tyler’s 13th birthday party on Thursday evening, Gracie’s bachelorette party Friday night, Gracie’s bridal shower on Saturday, all among everyday living. It promises to be a full and likely emotional week…

Wish this momma luck as I try to keep it together!

 

 

Sending Hopes to Heaven

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Hope Floats is one of my all-time favorite movies.

I have always loved the concluding line of the movie:

“Beginnings are scary.

Endings are usually sad,

But it’s what’s in the middle that counts.

So, when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up,

And it will.” –Hope Floats

I find myself teetering on the edge of one ending and the start of another beginning, and in the midst of that transition I find myself awash with these very emotions. Life is transitioning from one season to the next, and as wonderful as that transition is, and as happy as it makes me to see my children growing into amazing adults, with any change comes feelings of grief. Endings are sad, even when an ending is necessary for the next beginning. And the unknown of a new beginning is scary, despite the eager anticipation of the changes it will bring.

This trip has been an amazing blessing and a special gift of family time in the midst of riding this wave of change that is playing out in front of us. My goal this trip has been to do as the quote above councils and recognize the gift of the middle…that time that exists before the end of one season and the beginning of another. I have tried to allow myself to simply be, to rest in the present moment, and appreciate the gift of today and the magical experiences this vacation offers.

Yesterday marked the halfway point of our houseboat vacation and last night we had one of those magical experiences planned.

We brought with us 10 sky lanterns, knowing that we wanted to recreate some of the special moments from our past houseboat vacations.

The dark night, lit only with stars, made the perfect backdrop for this magical experience.

We told the kids we were sending hopes and prayers to heaven.

With a black Sharpie each person wrote upon their paper lantern the hopes and prayers of their hearts. Many in the group were feeling that same sense of nostalgia, as we all recognize the change of seasons that is bearing down on us. With kids leaving for school, working, getting married and nearing graduation, etc. everyone was more thoughtful about their prayers and wishes they wrote down.

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Toby and I shared a lantern and here were the hopes and prayers we penned:

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When everyone was done writing down the wishes of their hearts, we headed upstairs with our sky lanterns and a lighter.

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Woody and Toby helped everyone light their lanterns and one by one the kids sent their prayers to heaven on the back of a lantern.

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We stood on the deck watching our prayers float upward until they were specks of light, eventually lost in the shadows of the stars.

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And it was beautiful.

“So, when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up, and it will!”

Here’s to hopes, dreams, and prayers for beautiful bright beginnings.

There is no such thing as a “BAD” emotion.

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“Emotions are neutral. They are neither good or bad. They are simply emotions.”

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This was our lesson this week in therapy.

It was a lesson Ozzie needed to hear, but also a lesson I needed to hear.

The therapy session began, as it always does, with a review of our previous week…

our struggles…our victories….our growth.

We were able to celebrate another successful week. This summer has been wonderfully easy and smooth. Such a difference from last summer when every day was a struggle. It is lovely to be in that season of calm that comes after the storms, and before the next trial. I am grateful for the calm seasons of life. I appreciate them all the more when they follow a particularly trying time. This summer has been the reward for a challenging 18 months. 🙂

This is the season of renewal and reward.

The season of reaping.

The season of rest.

The season of reconnecting.

This is the season of rebuilding and preparing for the next hard season.

This week in therapy we discussed Ozzie’s latest homework assignment:

A few weeks ago I shared with Tina a pattern I was seeing with Ozzie. We would have a couple weeks of near perfect behavior and then over something small and insignificant we would have a nuclear sized explosion. The explosion in relation to the trigger was out of proportion. I didn’t understand. It was then that Tina explained what she thought was happening.

She explained that she felt that Ozzie was trying so hard to be good that he was internalizing all the emotions he felt were “bad.” Every feeling of worry, sadness, anger, and jealousy was stuffed deep down where it couldn’t be seen by others. The problem with stuffing feelings, however, is that at some point you are filled to capacity…

no more feelings can be stuffed down,

and so we explode.

She suggested that what we needed was a safety valve, a tool/ activity that allows for the safe and healthy release of emotions. She suggested we use the organ. Ozzie was given the task of “pounding” the organ keys while shouting out his feelings.

“I am so mad when I have to share my toys!”

“I hate that I can’t live with my sister!”

“I am scared I will be sent away!”

She explained that by giving him a daily outlet to safely release the emotions that are festering within there won’t be the build up and explosions we are occasionally seeing.

We have begun implementing this therapy tool in our daily routines. I have seen it be a blessing and a help but Ozzie struggles with the activity. He hates doing it. So at therapy I asked Tina if we could address his aversion to this therapy tool.

When asked about it Ozzie explained that it made him uncomfortable. He felt “Bad” when he said those things. He didn’t want to admit that he felt angry or jealous because he doesn’t want to be like his dad…

the man who lashed out in anger and abusiveness.

Wow.

I felt like another layer had been peeled away and I better understood my son. He was so afraid of becoming his biological father that he fears feeling any emotion he perceives as “Bad.”

Tina then made two columns on the whiteboard of her office. She labeled them “Good emotions” and “Bad emotions.” We began making a list. I would call out an emotion, Ozzie would say whether it was good or bad, and Tina would write it in the appropriate column. It was a fascinating exercise.

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When we were done we discussed some of the different emotions. Tina used “scared” for an example. She asked why Ozzie felt “scared” was a bad emotion.

“Because we shouldn’t be afraid, we should be happy,” he explained.

She then proceeded to show how fear could be a good emotion:

“Ozzie, let’s pretend a tiger just walked into my office. You would probably feel afraid, right? And that fear would make your heart pump and make you breathe hard. You heart is pumping hard to send blood to your legs so that the muscles in your legs have the blood they need to run away. You are breathing hard to give your lungs the oxygen needed to run to safety. If you saw that tiger and just felt happy then you wouldn’t be physically prepared to run to safety. You would probably get hurt. That is an example where fear would be a “good” emotion.”

She continued down the list of “good” and “bad” emotions explaining situations where that emotion could easily fit in the opposite category.

“The truth, Ozzie, is that no emotion is good or bad. All emotions are neutral. They are just emotions. The only thing that is good or bad is how you choose to act on that emotion.”

Emotions are simply a point on a map to show you where you are.

They need to be felt.

They need to be acknowledged.

They must be validated…

then expressed in a healthy, appropriate way.

This lesson was an important one,

for Ozzie to hear

and for me.

This week we may both be pounding out our emotions on the keys of the organ.

I have some long suppressed emotions that are begging for release. 🙂

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”

It is time to make some music!