INVASION

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I had a beautiful strawberry patch at the beginning of the summer. I had worked the ground, prepared the soil, delicately hand planted every single small yet mighty strawberry sprout. I watered them and watched them shoot and grow. I tended to them with the greatest of care and knew that my work invested now would pay out with delicious, ripe, sun kissed red fruits later. I was excited, and proud of myself, and easily found the time to invest into my garden and especially my little patch of fruits.

Summer came upon us and we filled our time with travel and laughter and fun. I noticed the weeds beginning to grow in the garden, and every time we would drive out of the driveway past the little plot, I would remind myself that when we got home, I really needed to tend to those weeds, but for now there was better things to do!

Another week passed, then another, and before I knew it, it had been a month and I had not been in the garden at all, except to occasionally pick what fruits or veggies I needed at the time. I had all but forgotten the garden even existed except when I needed to revisit it for something to serve.

By now, the weeds had grown taller than the stalks of the highest vegetable plants, and the strawberry patch couldn’t be  seen because of the growth draping over it, concealing it from the daylight. It still lived, just hidden under the darkness waiting for me to tend to it.

Somehow, during the invasion, I told myself it was alright. I saw the weeds begin to show, but I could still see my fruits, so I let the few weeds go. Then, as they became more and deeper in their roots, I again told myself it was alright because I could easily take care of them when I had time. I could put my strawberry patch aside until I felt like tending to it. Now, I couldn’t even see it because the invaders had covered up all of its beauty and were beginning to snuff it out…but there was one mighty little sprout that stuck its little green leaves out for me, and I knew he was showing me where I needed to tend to first…so I dug in.

At first, it was easy to see the weeds. I could easily identify which plant was good, and which was sucking the life out of my garden. I was pulling them out, one by one, and cleaning up my little patch nicely. I kept going and going. What could have taken me a few minutes in those first few days was now going to take hours of weeding.

Time passed and a strange thing began to happen. It became harder and harder to identify the fruit from the weeds. I would pull what I thought to be a weed, but it would actually be a fruit, and I would save what I thought to be a fruit, but it would be a weed! I was being deceived.

You see, the weeds had disguised themselves to look like the fruit. The shape of their leaves had evolved and even begun to change shape and color to match that of the fruit. The weeds were rooting right through the heart of the strawberry sprout, going deep into the plants lifeline. Even when I could identify the invader, when I would go to eliminate it, it would pull out the plant with it. My little strawberry plants just weren’t rooted deep enough to survive alone, and this invader had deceived them as well, giving them a strong deep root to wrap themselves around. They didn’t know that this root was their own undoing, their own death. They only knew that they could hold on to the root of the deceiver and stay alive. Not much of a life, being swallowed up under the overgrowth and covered in darkness, but they were surviving and hanging on in hopes that eventually, they could be saved.

I kept working, delicately separating the invaders from the roots of the fruit and reburying the fruit in the loose damp soil. I had to re-prepare the soil to accept the fruit because it had been neglected so long, but the soil was still good, and the plants were just strong enough that they would still be able to thrive.

After some time, I had rescued my little patch from the invaders and they were all standing tall. I could see every little shoot and every leaf. My fruits were once again pure. For now.

You see, the invaders left behind seeds. Every time I would pull them out and discard them, they would drop many tiny little seeds over my fruits. They were many, and some so small I didn’t even see them as they fell to the plants and the soil. As I would cover my little plants, some of the seeds would sneak deep into the soil where they will lie and wait. They will steal the nutrients and suck in the water as I tend to my fruits, and I wont even know they are silently beginning to take root.

I wont be able to leave my fruit to defend itself. It will need my time and my care. I will need to tend to it, and keep a close eye on the sprouts and the foundation around it.

More invaders will come. They are already lurking underground. If I am not there to pull them out by the root when they first appear, the will again overpower and overtake my fruits. In their deceit, I wont even notice it at first until they have completely covered my fruits in the darkness. It is important that I tend to my garden and I work hard to identify the weeds among the plants. It wont be easy, because their deceit runs deep and they use disguise…but it can be done, and their damage can be undone.

How are your fruits doing? Are they producing or are they being invaded? Are you tending to them, or are you being deceived? How often are you visiting your garden? Are you only taking the fruit and using it when you need it, or are you watering it and weeding it daily and weekly?

Evil is a deceiver. It will appear and take root in your heart. It will provide you with stability at first as it deepens its grip on your lifeline. It will disguise itself so that you cant really tell the difference between it and what is good. It will confuse you and control you. Eventually, you will become swallowed up in its darkness where it will hold you captive and you will try to survive, try to just hang on until you can be freed from its grips and growth. But sin also lives in fear. Sin is the invader that knows that it can be eliminated. It will drop more seeds, but those, too, can be eliminated as they begin to show. You can’t ignore it, it must be tended to OVER and OVER again, forever. But the good news is that even though it will continue to exist within you, you can keep it from rooting deep in your heart. You can eliminate it as it begins to show and you can prepare yourself to not be deceived as it attempts to invade you.

My garden will thrive only when I treat it with care and invest into it. It will produce a little or a lot, depending on my diligence. It will feed me and my family a few small, undergrown fruits here and there, OR it will be abundant and feed my family, friends and neighbors for an entire season.

Its all up to me and you. I will ask again…How are your fruits?

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The last words I ever said to “Him”.

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written and sent on June 7, 2010…

“being busy is an easy excuse as to why i havent called or written, but i guess for me that really isnt the only reason. i dont know why, but for some reason there are just a lot of things that i feel like i cant say to you, or that im afraid to say because i dont know what is and isnt appropriate, and i dont ever want to offend or hurt you. i really loved being able to rebuild a relationship with you, and it has been very healthy for me to hear your side of some of the things that happened between you and debbie. on the same note, sometimes hearing it, or talking about my past (or your past as it pertains to me, even some of the really great things and great memories) brings things up within me that are hard to deal with and hard to think about. again, i dont ever want to offend or hurt you, but its just hard because sometimes i get the impression that the childhood and adolecent life that i remember has been interpreted a little differently by me than it was by you (or by debbie when she was alive). i dont want to make you feel like there werent so many things that you guys did right, because there were many things that i appreciate, and that i as a parent understand and see the importance of. unfortunately though there was also a lot of wrong. im thankful for my past and for the character it has built within me, but i also see now as a wife and a mother, and even as a daughter that it is never okay to raise a child in a home that isnt built on a solid foundation.

(im sorry, but right now im reaching for the words that can best explain how i feel, and sometimes i just dont know how to say it)

being a mother i feel like my singlemost important job is to protect my children from the evils of this world and instill in them self respect and self worth and to try to do this in ways that are healthy and productive for them. before i was a parent myself, it was easy for me to “overlook” some of the techniques used in the way i was parented. obviously, even by the age of 13 i knew that some things were wrong, and extreme, and i knew that it wasnt appropriate for a child to be raised in that, but it was also very easy for me to forgive, and to move past because at that time it only involved myself. before becoming a parent, and even during the first two years of devins life, i found that i was still able to keep that mindset. the mindset that everytrhing from my past was in the past, and that it didnt effect me, or that i had forgiven and moved past it. the truth is though that im finding that i am not as strong as i once thought and that the more and more in depth i become as a parent, the harder and harder i find it to have a relationship with you. i want to be kind, and to show you grace and to completely forgive and forget the past, but now that i am a mom, its so hard. i know that nick and i live a VERY VERY different life than the life you and debbie lived, and i know that in a home where there are drugs and alchohol some things that arent okay might seem “not so bad”. the fact that there were even drugs or alchohol in a home where a child was being raised is just absolutely disturbing and just wrong. i know that its easy for me to say because i am not a drug addict or an alchoholic (or a smoker for that matter, another thing that a child shouldnt have to be raised around) , but i also think that out of the love that i have for my children that if i would ever find myself in a situation where i found either of these to be a weakness for me, i would remove myself from them in order to protect them and i would seek help to try and get as healthy as i possibly could be so that i could reunite with them as soon as possible. if i couldnt remove myself from them, i would find a way to remove them from the situation and get them somewhere safe and healthy where they wouldnt have to observe either of those addictions. protecting and caring for my children is the most important thing i can do for them, and if i do that, then everything else that i need to do to help them grow and deveop should fall into place from there. unfortunately in my home growing up, the addictions were just the beginning….

ive found myself many times making excuses for you and debbie as to why the things that happened happened. i find myself saying “oh she wouldnt have done that if she werent high on drugs” or “he wouldnt have done that if he werent drunk”, but there arent excuses. there isnt excuses to validify hitting your wife, hitting your husband, or EVER EVER HITTING YOUR CHILD. i know that you and debbie both grew up in homes where you observed and experienced this very behavior. i know that statistically they say that this behavior continues in families because a child raised in it thinks that the behavior is okay and will then adopt the behavior themselves. im sorry, but that behavior is not okay. i was raised in it, and i knew it was not okay, i still know that it is not okay, and one of the hardest things for me to deal with as an adult is the question as to WHY DIDNT EITHER OF YOU THINK IT WASNT OKAY? didnt you remember what it was like when your dad hurt you? didnt she remember what it was like? did either of you watch your parents get into physical altrications and remember what you felt like when observing them? how could it have never crossed the minds of either of you that you were introducing me to the same evils or your very own past that hurt and scarred you?

i fear even right now writing this that in your mind you are defending yourself, defending your own past and your metholds of parenting. it seems like most of the people i have met that have “problems” often feel like everyone else is the “problem” or that the person telling them that they have a problem is wrong, or not valid in pointing it out. the intent of this email isnt to point fingers or to try to demean you, or to hurt you in any way. its just that every single time i have talked to you (since becoming an adult) i get this big ball in the pit of my stomach. its all of these feelings and questions that i have, and when i am face to face, or talking to you on the phone i cant find the words to ask them. i cant find the words to say or im afraid to say them because i fear that if i question you, you will downplay it, or make excuses, or make me feel like “things werent that bad.” and maybe that is how you feel, or how things were for you in the situation, but for me, they were that bad. (and maybe im projecting what “i think” you might be thinking, and im way way off) im not going to go into what exactly i went through, or how it made me feel…i just need you to know that it was bad, and that everytime i talk to you i find myself back in that place. i so want a realtionship with you, and i so want to be able to chat about our shared love of animals and gardening and politics but when im talking about those things my insides are all balled up thinking about the things i ‘cant’ say. i love those conversations with you, but for the next few days i find that i deal with a flood of emotions because i have to again revisit the past and continue to wonder why things were the way they were and wonder why i cant just bring myself to ask you.

im so happy that you have found love in carolyn, and that you are not alone…but that too brings up so many concerns and issues for me. i know there has already been fighting and not getting along between the two of you, (and i dont know what kind of “fighting”) but it all makes me revisit your relationship with debbie. ive never asked you because i dont know how, but are your “fights” with her the same as your “fighting” in the past? once i had called you (it was actually one of the last times i had talked to you, and was actually what prompted me to put a hold on our communications) and carolyn answered. i had asked her how things were and she seemed very happy, but she had coyly mentioned that she “wouldnt put up with you when youve been drinking.” i cant even tell you what this little statement did to me. i know your life is your life, and your choices are your own, but the very thought that you would again return to alchohol just sickened and (if im being honest) infuriated me. you are an adult and you are free do to as you wish, but when i heard that there was even a chance that you were again stepping back into alchohol i knew that i needed to remove myself from the situation. i cant be in contact with a person that is an alchoholic, just as i will never be able to be in contact with a person that is a drug addict. people that chose that life are not productive to my life. i dont know if that is coming out the way i intend for it to, or if it just sounds rude and wrong, but if saying it means that i am rude i guess it has to be so. there is not a place in my life, nor my families life for addictive behavior- abusive behavior- sinful behavior….just as a dog returns to its own vomit a sinner returns to sin. maybe im too harsh, maybe im unforgiving… i dont know, but i know that it is my job to protect my family and protect my children and that starts with protecting myself. if you are drinking, or having physical altrications- im sorry…i cant have a relationship with you. this isnt to hurt you, and im in no way judging the way you live your life- im only protecting my own spirit. having a relationship with a person who is in an addictive or abusive relationship (be it with a person, with alchohol, or with a substance) could break my spirit and could really do damage in my life, and for that reason i must be strong and determined in not allowing that into my life. i hope that i am way way off and that none of this is a problem in your life right now, and i hope that you are as alchohol free and as healthy as can be! again, these are just questions that i find that when i am on the phone with you i cant bring myself to ask.

finally, where is this relationship going and what exactly is this relationship? this is a question that nick is constantly asking me. i guess i need to just tell you what i am thinking and feeling. ive put a great deal of thought and a great deal of stress into figuring out what is the best way to approach this. i really love that you have put so much effort and i can tell love into trying to build a relationship with me and my family. its very kind and i know that you are just trying to be a “dad” to me. the reality is though, that you and i dont have a ‘normal’ father daughter relationship, or bond. i will never strip you of the title ‘FATHER’ because for 13 years you were my father, and im sure that in your heart you will always be a father, and in my heart you will always be my ‘dad’. i dont know if im going to get through this next part using the right words. i love you, and i do want a relationship with you, whatever kind of relationship we can have as long as you are free from alchoholism, but my job as a mother is to protect my children. this hurts me so much to say…but my children cant have a relationship with you. my children cant know (until they are adults and able to comprehend what has happened in my life) who you are. i cant explain to them who you are, or let them talk to you or have a relationship with you. my dad tim is their grandpa, my mom rita is their grandma. even if your life is completely healthy now, i just cant do it. i cant try to explain these things to them, and i cant have them around you because the one time we brought devin into your house and i saw you holding him, i didnt feel like i was protecting him. I KNOW THAT YOU WOULD NEVER EVER DO ANYTHING TO HURT THEM, and i dont question your intentions at all, it isnt you at all, its me. when i step into your house, im a child again, and the feelings of my childhood flood my being. to see you holding or to watch you have a relationship with my kids makes me feel like i am failing to protect them, or that i am introducing them to something that they shouldnt know. i would love to tell you how they are, and to tell you about their development and their successes, but i just cant let you be a grandfather to them. i cant give devin cards and gifts from you and try to explain who you are, or why you are sending him a gift. i didnt understand how all of this was going to effect me until devin became old enough to ask me “who is this from?” when i handed him a card from you. i cant answer him. i know everything im saying right now is hurting you, and that hurts me so much. i wish so badly that it could be different, but i know that it cant. i dont know if this seems extreme, or like im trying to hurt you, or like im trying to keep something from you, i dont know how you are feeling right now. all i know is myself, my husband and what we have decided would be the best way to protect and raise our children and the conclusion that we have come up with is this, i shouldnt even say we, its me. its the only way for me. like i said in the beginning i would LOVE for you to see pictures of the kids, see my daily updates of what they have done that day or what their little successes and accomplishments are.  i would love to share that with you, but it would be between us. it cant involve them, does this make sense? i dont know if it does to you, or to anyone else. for me, it does though. right now this is how i would need for it to be.

i dont know where all of this puts us. i cant tell you how to interpret anything ive just said, and im sorry if anything ive said brings you back to a place (emotionally) that you dont want to be. believe me, im in that place far too often and i dont want to be the cause of making someone else feel ‘bad’. i hope that by sending this im answering questions that you might have as to why i havent contacted or called you in a while. i dont know if things came across the right way, i dont know if god gave me the words to explain how i am feeling without being hurtful. im not a direct and confrentational person, and even typing this makes me feel like im attacking you. i really hope that nothing ive said made you feel “attacked” or “ambushed”…its not my intentions at all! i guess i just have a few questions and i am not even sure if they are questions that can be answered or not. i hope that we can continue a relationship, and im open to whatever you have to say, to whatever you are feeling, and to whatever you are thinking. and im fine with continuing our talks, i just havent called because i knew that i needed to direct these things before we could continue (and quite honestly it was easier for me to just not call, than to have to bring all of this up).

im not sure what “salutations” is appropriate to end a letter like this…i just hope that i havent offended you, and that you feel like you can respond to me. i really do care about you,, and the very last thing i want to tell you is how hard it has been for me to say these things because i knew that in asking and saying them, i could hurt you. i care anough about you that it has been easier for me to feel and deal with it than to just come out and say it all. i dont know if that is healthy for either of us or not…but now its all out there.”

….he never responded.

EPIPHANY

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our family and our parenting style lately.

Coming from a background of little to no “parenting” and conflicting ideas about discipline, I have to be honest, this parenting thing seems all the more difficult. I know, I know…parenting is such a huge responsibility and learning curve for ALL parents, but sometimes when I really sit and try to work through “my next step” during the more difficult parental responsibilities, I cant help but find myself disappointed at my own lack of experience in being “parented” in order to have a healthy understanding of how to address the next kid-tastrophie. I am a learner though, so I love to research, absorb and play out different styles and techniques and find our own path TOGETHER with our children on this journey called being family.

Recently, I found one of those “hokey”, “new age”, “eastern” ways of thinking about parenting, and its slowly changing the way I think about my children, my self awareness, my personal growth, my children as individuals, my marriage and clearly, our PARENTING. Without preaching a sermon to you, fellow parent or future parent, I will just share with you a little glimpse:

Our children are people.

REALLY.

They are already born as their own unique person. You can try all you want, but unless you BREAK them into compliance or submission, you are not changing who they ALREADY are. They were born as an individual, with a personality, with a soul, with a DESTINY all their own. We spend so much time as parents under the impression that it is OUR job to mold and form this little being into the person they will someday become….GUESS WHAT MOM, STOP!!! Instead of looking at this little person and finding all of the things that YOU need to change about THEM, out of love of course, SEE THEM FOR WHO THEY ALREADY ARE!!

I have spent far too much time trying to parent my kids the way I wish I was parented, or teach them the way I think I would have learned best, or (this list goes on and on). The fact is, my boy and my girl are their own person and they have their own destiny….WITH OR WITHOUT ME! That’s a hard pill to swallow, and you, reader, are getting a little defensive right now right? “Well they are MY kids, and I can parent them the way I see fit! Its MY job to ensure they become successful and have a good life. THEY need to learn from me.” Your thinking right? (Maybe?) Because that is exactly how I thought, until it hit me: They are my children, but I do not OWN them! I have to give up my “self” and my desire to control the outcome of their life by taking my ownership of my children out of the equation. Furthermore, my job is not to control them nor is it to create them (other than conception)…its to simply keep them safe and provide an environment in which they can flourish into the person they were already created to be! I’m positive of this: my children were entrusted to me to TEACH ME…not the other way around.

I have an analogy to share with you: Lets look at Jesus. (You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate what I’m about to propose)

Jesus was an infant child born to a young mother in the dreariest of circumstance. I can only imagine the responsibility young, unwed, under-resourced Mary must have felt when it was determined that she would be the mother of the child that would someday become the infamous savior of the world, right? Big Gulp. Well guess what…(enter sweet relief)…it was NOT Mary’s responsibility to turn the child into the man that would one day become the King of Salvation. Did you just catch what I said? It was never the virgin mothers responsibility to mold the infant into anything or anyone….he was ALREADY the savior, the prophet, the teacher, the son…already JESUS on the very night he was born! He was ALREADY the person he was destined to be! Although helpless and tiny, there was nothing Mary could or could not do to change the destiny or outcome of the future of this baby. Did all of the parents reading this just let out a sigh of refreshing acceptance or what? All Mary had to do was provide a safe environment in which the child could grow to become the person he was already pre-destined and born to be. Its radical, I know.

When I figured this out, my mind was literally racing.

It isn’t my job to turn my children into the man or woman, husband or wife, follower, athlete, student, entrepreneur or citizen they will someday become. I don’t get to decide if they will be successful, or wealthy, or stable, or happy, or faithful…THEY will decide that. They will choose their path and accept the consequences of their every decision, REGUARDLESS of my attempts to control them! They are already predestined to become and decide to become the person they will someday be. My job is simply to withdraw my ownership of their lives (and relinquish it back to THEM where it belongs), to provide a safe environment in which they can explore and flourish, to continue to grow and improve MYSELF to give them an example to reflect back to, and to provide safe boundaries for them to identify cause and effect of their own decision making.

I’m changing the way I see the tiny humans that I share this family and share this home with. I’m going to take a little more time to see the inner workings of the people they already are and quit trying to turn them into the people I think they should be and furthermore spend more energy investing into the person I AM CREATED TO BE so that they can do what young children do- mirror and mimic.  

I have about 15 follow ups to this one…but for now I will let this soak in and make us all say “hmmm”…..

MONDAY

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I’m a real mom, okay? Im a joy filled woman. I play with my kids, I laugh (a lot!) and my love for my family (and others) is unbridled. I’m also a failure, every single day, at something. It’s cool. I’m not easily embarrassed, nor do I care about what others think of me when it comes to vanity issues…. I want to be authentic, and I want to give others the freedom to be authentic as well! I have never laughed as hard as I laugh at myself, and believe me, I give myself plenty to laugh about! Lem’me tell ya about my day….

Its Monday morning.

We traveled this weekend and got home late last night due to 2 totally unnecessicary stops and a wrong turn. We pretty much walked in the house and got in our jammies. I chose my most comfortable and least flattering pair.  

Both kids came into my room (where I remained totally unconscious and still under my comfy covers hoping it wasn’t morning yet) completely dressed and ready for school. They drug me out of bed asking for breakfast…instant oatmeal anyone? I noticed it was about 5 minutes until we needed to be in the car on the way to school. Teeth brushing took about 7. Late we are.

Didn’t worry about brushing the daughters hair, she’s beautiful anyways.

I still don’t have undergarments on, I throw on a light jacket…that’ll do.

We go outside to find our cat bleeding from his ear, I call the vet on the drive and make an appointment at noon.

We pull up to the school, and I hope to drop the kids off without being seen, but alas with the new security system, they need to buzz us in. cool.

I walk in with the kids past the 2 (fully dressed) moms and principal. We make eye contact, I know they “get it”, we chuckle.

I get the kids to their rooms where the teacher says something about a sack lunch. I’m still scrambling. I don’t think much about the comment, they will be more than fine with school lunch.

I walk back upstairs to the 2 moms and principal and make a joke about them being my friends and true friends “love me anyways”, pjs and all. We laugh. One mom asks “So is that what your wearing?” Well no, Ill change when I get home (maybe) I think to myself.

“Today is the field trip. The kids were both supposed to bring a lunch, and YOU’RE a chaperone, remember?”

Awesome.

I rush home, get undies on, pack a sack lunch for both kids. PB&J. My son is a little bit allergic to PB. He’ll be fine.

I scoop out a spoon of powder from my energy drink canister, then drop the canister and powder all over the counter, cabinet and floor. Crap.

I get in the car to drive the hour to the Nature Reserve…my opportunity to ride the bus is long gone. I take a wrong turn and get lost. I’m only an hour late by the time I get there.

We have a fantastic field trip, my kids are laughing and playing and learning. Memories are made.

On the way home at 2:30, I remember the vet appointment at noon. Oops.

So here’s the thing guys; it was a great day. A REALLY great day. The sun was shining, I was filled with joy, and I definitely provided laughter for others (and now you, right?). I made memories with my kids, I learned all about prarie grass, and I enjoyed a PB&J for the first time in a long time. When I finally made it to the vet at 4pm, the receptionist said something about my “awful” day and I quickly corrected her! My day was amazing and filled with humor and grace! May you also find joy in the failures, the oopsies, and the moments when there is nothing else to do but laugh, even if it’s at yourself!

USER

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People often wonder and ask where I stand on the topic of addiction. My past is full of addiction from my extended biological family all the way down to me. Because of my own experiences, I obviously have formed my own “opinion” on the issue, but I am never so naive as to believe that my opinions are the set standard, should be accepted by all, or reflect your circumstances. I form my own conclusions based on my experiences and my direct observations of addiction and its effect on my life and the lives of the addicts I have been exposed to. The following is my own conclusion, and I completely respect that your conclusion based upon your experiences or research might differ. It’s all perspective, life experience, personal convictions and personal truths if you ask me. I’m not a doctor, scientist, neurologist, therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist. I am also NOT an addict. My “opinion” is simply that….one opinion of one person based upon life experience. The following isn’t meant to influence, disregard, hurt, demean, argue or offend. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, I plead that you make the decision to seek help. Don’t ever lose hope!

 

I had just started 5th grade at a new school in a new state. I was pretty used to always being the “new kid” at this point because we never stayed anywhere for long. In fact, there was only one year, 3rd grade, when I started the year and finished the year in the same school. We moved a lot. I was in kindergarten the first time I can clearly remember watching Debbie and Jerry (my biological mother and her spouse) use drugs, and by first grade, I was going on most drug runs with them. By second grade, the runs were not only to buy drugs for themselves but this was the first year I remember them selling. It wasn’t a major transition, but life became a bit turbulent at this point. They were in a constant state of paranoia and I rarely remember a time when they weren’t on the outs with at least a few clients or dealers. This kept life interesting and kept us constantly relocating. They were always very forthcoming with me, and for this I am appreciative. I wasn’t confused or scared, as I imagine a child would be in these situations if they weren’t fully aware of what was happening. My parents showed me what drugs were, talked to me about different types of drugs and showed me all of the paraphernalia that accompanied them. They told me what drugs did, how different ones made you feel, and different standards among dealers. I knew about cheating the scale, cheating the buyer, and always knew the cardinal rule: keep the best cuts for yourself. D and J were proud of my vast knowledge on these things. I was always very observant and inquisitive, and I absorbed their information like a sponge. I always knew the real reason I was allowed to know so much. The 90s were the “D.A.R.E.” years, at least in every elementary I attended. There were speakers, police officers and assembly’s revolving around drug awareness and reporting. They were constantly encouraging us to “tell someone” if a parent, relative, or anyone you suspected was using drugs. As if D and J weren’t paranoid enough, now they had the school bombarding me with an anti-drug agenda, so it was time to implement their own conditioning. I loved them, they were my parents, and to be honest I was pretty darn afraid of what would happen to me if they were ever caught. For years and years, the police would frequent our home for domestic disturbances (literally every 2 weeks on the dot) and it became my job to run through the house and clean up all of the drugs and paraphernalia and hide it in my room. D and J were pretty confident that no officer would ever check there and they were correct. Even as a small child, I was their enabler.

Back to 5th grade. As I mentioned, it was a new school in a new town in a new state. I had made a friend, but other than my one friend life was pretty lonely. I was clearly an outcast, and struggled to find things in common with “kids” my age. I always felt as though I was quite a bit ahead of them life wise, and I clearly had street smarts that few, if any, of them had ever cultivated. I was just in a different place, physically and figuratively. I was becoming increasingly curious about drugs, and I was confident that using was my next step. I approached Debbie with my request first, and she couldn’t have been more proud. She was downright happy at the thought of us using together, but Jerry was a little bit of a harder sell. It didn’t take much (if anything) to convince him and before I knew it, we were all three sitting around the kitchen table of our 1 bedroom apartment over the Laundromat. My first hit was easy, I had been watching for so many years it just came naturally. D and J were proud of my ability to hold it down, and we all sat there around the kitchen table getting high. D and J were kind to me this day, there was no fighting, no arguing, no hitting….just family bonding in our own strange and twisted way. It’s literally one of the days that I remember feeling quite loved. I was 10 years old. By the time I left their home, I was regularly smoking crack cocaine and daily smoking marijuana. As I write this, even all these years and a whole lifetime later, it’s still somewhat painful and shocking. I never considered myself a child then, but looking at it now from the lens of an adult and a mother, it just sickens me.

When I was placed in my second foster placement (for the privacy of this person I will call them U) I was placed with a user. U would frequently use with D and J, and I knew U very very well. U and I had used when I was still living with D and J, and it just seemed natural that I would continue. U (an adult with a family and now a foster child) offered to let me use and I did. We would do drugs in the basement while U’s family would walk around above us upstairs. I had a good relationship with U and I know U cared for me very much…U wanted me to be safe and happy, but I don’t think that U could see that this situation wasn’t appropriate. I don’t harbor ill feelings, in fact quite the opposite, for U. U is someone I hold a special place in my heart for and I’m thankful for the attempt at providing me with stability and safety. It was me that finally understood the situation, and made the decision to change. I was 13. I knew that being with U would enable me to continue using and I knew that the vision of the future I wanted was NOT going to come with drugs in my life. Period. It’s taken me many years to consider myself a “victim” in any way, and although it’s easy to accept that I was a victim of physical abuse and assault, it’s really hard to consider myself a victim of the drug use. I chose to use the drugs….every.single.time. I was never forced, it was never imposed on me. I did it because I wanted to. I did it when I wanted to. I used as much as I wanted to. I had a choice, and I made decisions based on my wants and desires. I didn’t “need” to use, I wanted to and I liked being accepted in those circles and life was more tolerable high. What I saw being constantly surrounded with drugs and drug users was people putting themselves in an environment where they could obtain and entertain their addictions. The people I would see day in and day out were controlled by their addictions because they wanted to be controlled by them. They put their want for the high above anyone and anything else in life. Its harsh I suppose, but I saw people that WANTED to get high, be high and stay high.

Here is my conclusion: using drugs (in my experience) began with a choice. D and J and even U made the decision to use the first time, and many times after that. Did they become addicted? Yes. Could they (and they alone) have prevented that? Yes. Did they have a choice to walk away, seek help or change? Yes. Now I am no medical professional, so I don’t know how it all works, addiction and the brain and all. What I do know is that I decided to use drugs for years because I wanted to and I liked it. Every single time I used, I CHOSE to do it. I COULD have walked away, but when I was in the environment where it was available and I was exposed to it, I not only lacked the willpower to say no, I also craved it. If I wanted to stay “clean” then I had to KEEP MYSELF CLEAN by keeping my life clean. I didn’t put myself in situations where “it” would be available to me. I removed myself from any and all environments where drugs or drug users were, including my home with D and J, my foster placement with U, and many other circumstances in High school, college and adulthood. I have the CHOICE to be present in an environment like that, or I have the CHOICE to build the clean life I currently have. I didn’t/don’t befriend people that use drugs because I CHOSE/CHOOSE not to. I know how lucky I am that the despair of addiction is not something that I have to deal with, so I don’t for a second pretend that my situation is similar or the same as another. I can say that I have struggled with accepting D and J’s behaviors and excuses. Once they allowed themselves the excuse of “addiction”, suddenly they no longer became responsible for their actions or behavior. After all, their “addiction” was their “disease” and they certainly couldn’t be responsible for anything a disease made them do right? In my OPINION, that’s bologna. From my perspective, I never, in my 17 years of knowing D and 25 years of knowing J, saw them (or any other addict I’ve encountered) INCAPABLE of saying no. At any time, they could have chosen differently, but they WANTED it more than they wanted a better life for themselves, or for me. I saw people that always had an answer for everything, and that answer would never place any blame or responsibility on their shoulders. In another post about FORGIVENESS, I wrote about Jerry and his inability to take responsibility for his addiction, alcoholism, abusiveness and more. I will not place judgment on him or Debbie (or any user), but I will also not enable them by accepting (or making) excuses or free passes for their behaviors and actions. The user uses everything and everyone around them for their own gratification and agenda. They (like any USER) make decisions and there are consequences, repercussions and casualties along their path of destruction. The difference between me and them was that I accept responsibility for my own choices; I want better, I want to leave a different legacy, I want a different future and I am/was willing to make the hard decisions (and take action) every day to live a life free of that bondage.

Tender Mercies

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Today, while cuddling with my little girl, this little guy flew into our glass picture window. Eden and I heard a small “thud” and looked onto the porch and saw him twitching, legs curled closely to his body and eyes closed. We could see he was very badly hurt, and believed he was dead or near death.

I scooped him up and brought him indoors and out of the wind. He fit perfectly in the smallest part of the palm of my hand. He lay there, and we touched his wings and head, gently and patiently hoping for healing.

After a while, his eyes opened. He still lay there, but now looking at us and blinking as we would rub his tiny head with the smallest part of our fingertips.

After a while longer, he stretched his legs. Still laying on his side, he extended one leg, then the other and uncurled his toes. After a minute of this, he attempted to stand. Shaky at first, he found his balance and regained his wits.

Edie and I went outside and sat on the porch together, bathing this little goldfinch in the bright morning sun. We just sat there, together, smiling and enjoying the warm and beautiful spring morning as the birds chirped all around us. These are the peaceful moments I love about a home in the country, far away of the hustle and bustle of towns and busy roads.

As we watched, little finch took a small jump to the very edge of Edens outstretched hand and seconds later, he flew away to a beautiful old pine at the edge of our property.

In that moment I looked at my sweet Eden (6) with her wide eyes full of hope and pure joy, and I felt a wave of thankfulness and great peace rush over me. I am thankful for her beauty, for her compassion and for her little heart for Gods smallest creatures. I’m thankful to be blessed to be able to spend these days with her, home, together. I’m thankful for our life on the farm, learning all about life and death and purpose and all of the moments inbetween.

Most of all, I’m thankful for The Creator. For tender mercies he provides, sometimes in the form of a broken little finch that somehow found the strength to survive and fly away to his destiny.