I'm so glad you made your way here today! Whether you know me a little or you know me a lot, today I want to break down how I've made it this far...
Another great way to get to know me is through TikToks!
That inner child
I was raised by parents that truly loved me. My mother fought hard to change the patterns of her own childhood trauma in order to create a better life for me.
My dad was an adventurer. He could make a boring afternoon into a thrilling adventure. Every day I saw him he told me, "I love you more than anything in the world."
Unfortunately, I lost my dad to an alcohol addiction at the age of 19. I wasn't aware of his addiction for the majority of my childhood. Once I was made aware so many things made sense.
The mood swings. Tantrums. The "sleepwalking." That time he biked into a light pole and broke a rib.
My adventurous dad could shift into a jealous, distant, arrogant person with the flip of a switch.
However, losing him has reminded me to always emulate the beautiful parts of a person. We all have beautiful parts.
It also taught me to be aware of my vices and to never let any material or earthly possession take hold of me.
Alcohol took my dad's dreams away. The dreams of walking me down the aisle, of spoiling grand kids. He never got to see my brother graduate basic training.
The hell if I am going to let that happen to me.
I choose life. My life. On my terms.
Here is a photo of almost all of my siblings. I have 2 older half brothers, 2 older ex-step sisters, a younger ex-step brother and a younger half brother.
Here's the thing, they are all brothers and sisters in my eyes. Forever.
Growing up calling anyone and everyone family just came natural to me. The more love in my life, the better.
Unfortunately all the blended craziness came with a lot of stress and struggle. AKA divorce.
In my lifetime I have lived through the divorce of my parents, my mom's divorce from my first step dad, and my dad's divorce from my step mom.
That brings me to a total of 3 step parents in my life
Just for fun, toss in a lot of fighting, screaming, lies, addiction, and dysfunction.
A lot of love mixed with a lot of tears and broken family.
This left me with one option in my eyes: learn from their mistakes. Do better when it was my turn. Keep loving. Call anyone I want to my family.
Raise your hand if someone has ever been so good to you your first instinct was to run away? Just me? I doubt it.
That's how I felt when I met Tom. I was just...happy. When we started dating I kept waiting for the fallout to happen, but it never did.
After he proposed I picked a fight and wanted to leave. I wanted to run so far in the other direction and yet cuddle up in his arms.
I continued this pattern after we got married, when I first got pregnant, if he did one tiny thing "wrong." Like go ice skating without me.
The voice in my head said, "This will end someday anyway. It will only hurt more and be harder then. Just get out now."
Perhaps the string of divorces I experienced in my life (including my own) added to this ingrained belief? Yeah. Yup. I think so.
Whenever my head said, "RUN," my heart said, "But, I really like it here."
So I fought my head. For years. I vocalized this fear to Tom because he also has fears of being walked out on. I wanted him to know this was really a twisted way of me being the happiest I had ever been. He stayed patient through it.
I wish I could mark the day that the dread stopped. Somedays it kicks back in. All I know is I have happily chosen my heart for the last 14 years with no plans to stop.
From 0 to 2, 3, 4
Did I mention I didn't actually meet Tom, fall in love and then have kids?
Instead I met a girl, fell in love, and married her dad.
On the first day of school at my new "daycare" job in 2006 I was intrigued by a name I saw on a clipboard. Destiny.
My job was to check in the kids after they were done with school. I sought out the clipboard with her name on it. The reason being, when I was 14, I imagined naming a future daughter Destiny. Instead, I created an AOL screen name using Destiny. 🤪
I checked in kid after kid waiting for her. When she finally said her name, I looked up to see the cutest face in the whole world. It was love at first site.
We had snack together, played on the playground, colored and just before we started to play house...her dad came to pick her up. And I fell in love again.
Turns out Destiny had an older sister, (Marijane). They shared a mom. And mom had been gone for a year. Tom took on both girls as his own and as luck would have it, I got to scoop them all up and claim them as mine too.
Oh yeah, having the girls made me actually believe I could be a mom. I had been too afraid of repeating my parent's mistakes. Then I started to believe I just might be good at this whole parenting thing. So I went ahead and made 2 more little people to add to our big, blended tribe. (Kaida and Madden)
In 2012 we moved into our dream house. It was in the neighborhood we had always wanted to live in, had a brick exterior, a stream in the backyard and was on a culdusac. Not to mention it had ample space for me to include a photography studio!
I had started a photography business after my daughter was born as a way to make extra money and it had taken off in a big way.
Tom was nervous about the payment before we signed the papers, but he did it anyway.
Slowly the stress started driving a wedge between us and I began to feel stressed at the amount of space that was in the house.
We spent weekends doing yard work, cleaning the whole house took at least 3 hours and what was the point of a big, beautiful home if the family inside was crumbling?
At the end of 2015, we put the house on the market with the intent to live in a smaller house that freed up our time and money. I was not about to let my family break because of a nice house.
Learn to lean
In our hardest times, things just might get even harder.
I had sold my photography equipment, our house was still not selling and just before Christmas, my step dad, Brian (the one who danced with me on my wedding day), was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.
Weeks after his brain surgery, my son began slipping into a disease called ADEM that would go undiagnosed for 2 weeks until he had fallen into a comatose state.
We spent one week in hospital praying. He didn't open his eyes for days. Doctors told us he had gotten worse and started talking about Chemo or dialysis treatments. Then we got others praying.
The same day they told us he had taken a turn for the worst was the same day he got out of bed for the first time.
The day after we were released from the hospital, Tom was baptized. Our family learned to lean on faith when none of us were strong enough to be leaned on.
We learned the goodness of strangers, and were reminded of how strong we were when we stood together.
I have lost many people in my 3+ decades of life. Each time I have made the choice to learn from each person I've lost. I've assessed their lives after they've gone.
When my dad passed, I learned to not let any THING stop me from living.
When my grandma passed I learned so much. How living with a kind heart will allow you to smile and bring joy to others even on your death bed. The staff at her assistant living home cried with me and hugged me when she was gone.
It was just her and I in her final moments. I flipped through her black and white photo albums and took stock of all the living she had done.
She should have done more for herself. She never really believed in herself. She didn't see what everyone else did. What a shame.
I want to live kind. Live for others and never, ever deny myself either.
I learned that death doesn't have to be scary. In fact, she was relieved when I told her it was her time. Life is long, and tough and there is something beautiful after it.
Strength and strong
I assessed death (or rather life), again when I lost my step dad to his brain cancer in 2019.
He didn't make it out west where he wanted to be until he was given a terminal diagnosis.
His faith never wavered though. He was given 3 years to love bigger, anger more slowly and even though he missed his farewell trip to see the recreation of Noah's ark, he was peaceful in his final days with a faith that there was something greater than The Arc waiting for him.
I was also thankful for starting my own online business. So glad I didn't let a job or a boss stop me from spending his final days at his side.
There is something to be learned from helping a strong man die. A man who used to scoop you up now relying on you to stand or eat.
Stay humble and love big. There will come a day when we will need to rely on others to hold us up.
Travel. Don't put off til tomorrow what you could do today.
All of these life lessons and losses have reminded me that we get one chance at life. One. Unless you're one of those random people who come back.
Do not waste this time.
Don't waste it on jealousy or anger. Recognize these emotions, ask yourself where they stem from and then decide what you can do to make that information useful.
Take a chance. Because can you imagine getting to the end and having played it safe?
LOVE big. Sometimes this is hard. Sometimes love means staying in the icky feelings of disagreements. Sometimes loving well means forgiving when it is undeserved. Love truly hurts, but it trumps hate every day of the week.
Help others. Your story, your hard times can be a pity party you continually throw for yourself or they can be a stepping stone that allow you to guide others through what you've gone through.
They can weaken you or empower you.
You can refuse to go back to the dark places you've been.
You can stand in your power and take charge of your ONE LIFE.
I hope that you do. And I'm here if you need me.
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