To Love; However Raw, Real, Heartbreaking and Beautiful, Will Never Be a Regret of Mine

To Love; However Raw, Real, Heartbreaking and Beautiful, Will Never Be a Regret of Mine

The heartache of losing a child in any circumstance holds complex feelings only others who have similar experiences understand. My birth children are here. But my foster children have gone. We loved four foster children during the four years that we fostered. But I feel the greatest loss with Sakura.

TWO YEARS OF HEALING

We cared for Sakura for two years and helped her heal from terrible neglect. She arrived at the age of 4 with her 5-year-old sister, both affected by neglect and suspected sexual abuse. Each girl, wide-eyed, wore diapers and came with a blanket and a small bag of donations from the agency. Sakura behaved like a 1.5-year-old in speech, body movements, and learning abilities. Her big sister holding Sakura’s hand, equaling showed developmental delays and emotional detachment.

Many things happened in those two years: endless doctors’ appointments, court appearances, counseling appointments, a new social worker every month it seemed, speech therapy appointments, parent visits for the first 6 months, and more. By the time two years passed, Sakura flourished and became a vibrant 6-year-old. She eventually attended a public school home-based program and developed healthy peer relationships, laughing and playing.

However, within the first six months, we realized how ill-prepared and untrained we were for her big sister’s behavioral outbursts. Sakura’s big sister entered an in-house intensive behavioral treatment facility and began receiving more specific emotional and developmental support than we could offer. As we approached the two-year mark, both girls became adoptable. Completing the adoption approval process appeared uneventful. With approval to adopt and an established and thriving Sakura, it appeared she soon would be a forever in our lives. We enjoyed visits with her sister who also showed signs of healing and progress.

THE DAY IT CHANGED

The flow of visiting foster care social workers stopped and our adoption social worker assigned to us began her process. With preapproval for adoption, we didn’t think much about it. Then one day, the director of the behavioral facility that Sakura’s big sister attended arrived at my door. She reminded me of Cruella de Vil.  I explained about the approval of our adoption paperwork. I explained how we wanted more training and support from the county to learn about behavioral challenges to support Sakura’s big sister. We wanted to adopt both girls.

AND THEN IT WAS DECIDED

The final decision arrived “matter-of-fact” with no room for discussion: NOT A GOOD MATCH for adoption for the older sister. To “work the system,” the older sister needed to be adopted with the younger sister in a home without siblings due to the older sisters’ behavioral challenges. Alone in her challenging condition, big sister labeled as un-adoptable. With Sakura’s beautiful, happy, angel face accompanying her big sister, big sister can now become adoptable. No discussion.

I will never forget the day, the parking lot, the weather, and where the children were sitting in the minivan. Within a weeks time, I dropped her off like a baby in a basket at a police station. But there was no basket. She was not a baby found on the street. She was our daughter, the one we were adopting. She was our Kua.

And then we never saw her again.

THE SECRET PHONE CALL

One day about a week later, I received a secret phone call from her temporary foster mom giving in to Sakura after she had begged to talk to me, her Momma Jeni. Confused, upset, and crying, she didn’t understand. I could only muster, “I love you, Kua. Everything will be okay.” I trusted in my faith. I trusted in the system. I had to believe that everything will be okay. Shocked, fearful, heartbroken, guilt. How do you help your family and yourself move through the unexpected? 

A year later, we received a letter updating us about their adoption that miraculously occurred within 6 weeks after we “dropped her off” by a family in a nearby town who did not have children of their own. They explained that to help the new family bond, previous relationships had to be cut off. A photo and handwritten notes from both girls expressed happiness and love. Smiling and together. A good ending.

THE TENDER PLACE IN MY HEART

But my heart aches so much. I find comfort mourning with you in this grief group that I found accidentally. I hope you don’t mind. I am not angry or bitter.

I just wish. I wish so many things: wanting more parent training beforehand, ending family violence and abuse, hoping their mother advocated for them, reversing anything and everything to make something less hard.

I wonder too about birthday parties, pictures drawn at school, sporting events, camping trips, and holidays. Do the girls feel loved?

Today, for the first time I feel I can acknowledge the pain so openly. Certainly, I felt super heavy-hearted at the beginning, as did all my children, especially Max, a 6-year-old at the time. Max and Kua always played together, like twins, forever best friends. And then, just like that, gone. Just gone. Empty car seat. Empty bed. The toys starred at me. 

Alligator tears slide off my cheeks. It’s been 9 years. It feels good to cry.

TO LOVE WILL NEVER BE A REGRET OF MINE

And then 2 days ago, I mentioned to someone about this place in my heart that is still tender. His response was bewildered and a bit crass, “Well, you signed up for this. What did you expect?” Stunned, I think. The statement was true and I knew it would be hard when we decided to foster. I wasn’t expecting the dismissiveness. To decide to open your chest and tell someone, “Look, see here, this is a part of me and I am tender here. And I want you to know. I loved this beautiful person who is no longer in my life,” and then receive nothing heartfelt or empathetic in return. 

We sign up for life every day that we live. Do we blame the survivor of a car crash for driving? Can big tender feelings find empathy and compassion? Lost in the incomprehensible thought of such a tender connection that he most likely never experienced. 

HERE I STAND

Here I still stand with the memory that I treasure hoping the short time together gave her and her sister what they needed to be strong and brave. Because that is what I set out to do, to love and treasure the people in my life for however long or short the season may be as best as I can.

“To love, to have the capability to love and to choose to love unabated; however raw, real, heartbreaking, and beautiful, will never be a regret of mine.”

How very fortunate that I can feel this deeply unable to know how long the connection will last.  

Still standing on my mountain searching for others to love,

Jeni Davenport

www.thestandingmountain.com

All rights reserved. May 5, 2019

Taming Anxious Moments: Pocket Power Tips “I AM”

Taming Anxious Moments: Pocket Power Tips “I AM”

There are so many unexpected moments in life where one can experience an anxious moment: medical procedure, job interview, speaking engagement, landing a plane, tough client conflict resolution “opportunities,” a day without your loved one, to name a few. Anxiety is a BIG topic for many people. All of us experience anxiety moments sometimes and often it is in the oddest time. Note that I am referring to “Anxiety Moments,” not attacks and not disorders. I use the word “moments” because anxiety typically doesn’t stick around. It passes. And then it’s over. Most anxiety is perceived danger and is the body’s way of telling you that you are nervous, scared, or fearful. By using the acronym “I AM” (Identify, Acknowledge, Manage) with some power words, your anxiety moments can quickly dissipate. Let me explain with 2 quick stories.

I will never forget having the privilege to speak to approximately 800 military personnel in a large auditorium during their annual safety stand down event (for those of you who are nonmilitary, it is an ALL HANDS event -like everyone- HAS to be there from the new seamen all the way up to any Admirals in town). I was VERY, VERY pregnant and I was the special speaker for the sweet topic of (drum roll please) prevention of unwanted pregnancies, sexual misconduct, AND sexual assault (i.e. keep your horse in your barn, “no means no,” and stay together in foreign ports). You know the drill. You can only imagine how ridiculous it was for me, “the VERY pregnant one” to talk about sex to 800 (mostly men of all ages) in an atmosphere that they DID NOT want to be in. So, my only hope was to turn my speech into a comedy show. I mean, I had the belly (right?). “You too could be like me or have a pregnant girlfriend like me! And I am really not all that fun right now!” Well, I was actually pretty funny at the moment. But I WAS VERY NERVOUS and ANXIOUS. The thoughts going through my mind before my turn to speak were “What am I doing? How will I keep their attention on this very serious topic? Will they take me seriously?” So… it went fine. I lived and they laughed. I did not die. With the power tips I mention below, I managed to work through my anxiety and successfully complete my speaking engagement. Woot Woot! Another day for me, the daring pregnant one!

You may not have been in that exact situation, but I am sure that there are things that you have faced that have caused sweaty palms and shallow breathing and blurred vision. And if not and you are a cool cucumber, keep reading. You too can help someone whose “Anxious Alex” overtakes your friend’s body when they are faced with some perceived terrifying situation.

Sometimes in life, we need to soothe someone else besides ourselves and help them move forward with something they need to do. It could be something simple like taking a test, giving a speech, teaching your kid to drive, talking to a person in authority, or having a baby (that one is not simple), but you know what I mean. You will find people in all walks of life, of all ages, groups, seasons, ethnicities, and status who experience anxious moments. Standing or sitting alongside someone and helping them through a tough moment is… the essence of humanity. It is what we are called to do. So get good at it.

During the hot summer months, I help patrol a remote wilderness trail looking for hikers who are beginning to experience heat exhaustion. Now when they start the trail, they are so happy and refreshed. They are upright and skipping along with singing, “I’m fine. I don’t need more water.” But when they return from the waterfalls and begin to ascend up the “SANDS FROM HELL” in temperatures that reach well into 100-115 degrees or more, they are tired, hot, and dizzy. Their attitude changes. They begin to totally freak out. They think that they cannot make it back to their vehicle. The scene is real. They must believe me when I tell them that we will get through this. In this instance, the situation is dangerous. The body’s response to real danger or perceived danger is the same.

Whether you experience anxiety moments (remember most anxiety moments are perceived danger) or want to help someone move through their anxiety moment (whether perceived or real), review and remember the tips using the acronym “I AM _*insert a power word*_”

Pocket Power Tip #1
I: IDENTIFY: I am having an anxiety moment. Say, “Well, hello “Anxious Alex,” I see that you are here to overtake my body for a moment. Nice. I certainly notice the breathlessness, dry mouth, sweaty palms, and rapid heartbeat. No problem. I am going to wait it out because I know that this moment is NOT HERE TO STAY. You, my friend, are just passing through. I am basically okay. I am not in immediate danger. I am just a bit nervous or afraid. It is okay to feel this way.” Stop and identify that your body is concerned.

Pocket Power Tip #2:
A: ACKNOWLEDGE: Acknowledge your surroundings and be aware of the details and resources around you. Look or focus on something ahead of you. Remind yourself, “I am basically safe right now. My body is working. I am free to sit here and take a break OR move forward with my task.” You are in control.

When helping someone, have them notice something a distance away like a plant, artwork on the wall, or the song that is on the radio. Ask them open-ended questions unrelated to why they are anxious. Be still and talk about random things for a few moments. This method helps to slow down the racing thoughts, even out their breath, and calm their mind. Acknowledge what they are saying but do not argue about anything. Do not dismiss their anxious feelings. Nod. Hold their hand. Be their safe place. And remind them that they are safe. This moment is passing through and is not here to stay.

Pocket Power Tip #3:
M: MANAGE THE BREATH. There are many techniques to breath work. Controlled breathing calms your body and allows your beautiful brain to think clearly. And right now, your beautiful brain is in overdrive with thoughts of perceived danger or threats. By slowing your breath, you can IDENTIFY and ACKNOWLEDGE that your anxious moment is only here for a little while and you are CAPABLE to wait it out and when ready you are DETERMINED to move forward. Here are only 2 examples of managed breathing techniques. If you have another one that works for you, share it in the comments section so we can help each other.

The 4×4 BOX BREATH method is where you inhale (through your nose) to the count of 4, exhale (out your mouth) to the count of 4, inhale to 4, and exhale to 4, then repeat many times until you feel centered. This is easy to do anywhere at any time without anyone noticing. Definitely works. Easy to remember.

The HEALING BREATH method can be done with open or closed eyes. The person visualizes their breath as healing energy. Imagine your inhale breath (through your nose) entering your body from above your head, traveling into your head, moving down your throat, circling your heart, passing through your pelvis, and leaving through your feet into the ground. Notice during the inhale any tension in those areas that your breath traveled through. And then with your exhale breath (out of your mouth), travel backward through your body and grab all the tension areas you noticed before and carry them out of your body. Let them go. Let go of thoughts and feelings that really don’t need to be there. This method takes practice. And as you improve on your concentration you can add specific muscle contractions to help move tension out of your system. Not something I would teach to a stranger in the middle of an anxious moment, but it is something to learn and keep in your pocket. ? Message me for more details.

Pocket Power Tip #4
I AM “_insert your power word_” STRONG, CAPABLE, DETERMINED, FULL OF ENDURANCE, SMART, PREPARED, SKILLED, TRAINED, READY, FEARLESS, DEDICATED ….
Notice your strengths. What are you capable of that can bring you through this moment? You have succeeded before. What strengths helped you before? List your strengths: Capable, funny, kind, intelligent, focused, patient, witty, prepared, wise, seasoned, experienced, loving, smart, resourceful, determined…
Identify your strengths. Repeat your mantra over and over as you watch the anxious moment passing. Breathe deeply and re-create a new perspective of your abilities. Feel your beautiful body calming and re-centering. Be your own guide and lead yourself with the belief that you have what you need to walk through this anxious moment. Whether this is a perceived or a real threat or fear, you have what you need to do what you need to do. It is inside of you. Identify the anxious moment, acknowledge your surroundings and resources, manage your breath, and use your power words to finish the moment with forward movement.

I am capable. I am prepared. I am trained. I am smart. I can do this. I am lovable. I am resourceful. I am determined. I am good. I am patient. I am worthy. Those are the words I use to complete the tasks that sometimes seem overwhelming. Life can be overwhelming. Those are my power words. What are yours?

 

Which SuperHero Cape Will You Wear Today?

Which SuperHero Cape Will You Wear Today?

I don’t know about you; but being a parent of three children in the age range from 9-18, working full time, leading a volunteer organization of teenagers (like a lot of them), co-parenting, and coaching- I have several capes I need to wear. Most of the time, I wear several at once. I am pretty good about balancing it all somehow. There is usually always at least one cape that I must have on at all times because someone somewhere needs something right now.

I’m sure you can relate. Whether you are mid-season parenting with or without a career, with or without a partner, life can be really busy. Even into the later season, careers are still pumping out demands, grandchildren or extended family are in and out and in and out AGAIN. Non-stop shopping, non-stop texting, talking, training, and “teching.” Health challenges arise, relocations, vacations, and oh, right, life surprises step in and we sometimes have ALL the capes on our body, in our bag, covering our head, or dragging behind trying to keep up as we now go to the hospital, unannounced of course. I know you can relate.

What surprised me the other day was…wait a minute…I’m listening…hmm…nothing today?… my ears must be waxed in, my phone is dead, what’s wrong… OH MY GOODNESS…what am I going to wear? I DO NOT NEED a cape today. The lake is quiet. The sea is calm. I must be dreaming. Silence. I can be without a cape? Should I? Could I? like not wear one and still be me? To breathe fully without counting to 10 or displaying my secret superhero “I can handle anything” smile, would be so…. AUTHENTIC, so SURREAL…

CapeAnd that my friends, that is the day I am reminded that I am more than a crisis management queen, more than a mediator or an ATM machine, more than someone’s solution and an answer to that customer or family member who is so very mean.

I am a beautiful, calm, lovely, human being who can enjoy a perfect cup of coffee and the happy, smiling faces beaming at me (yes folks, they are out there). Because there IS beauty, there IS laughter, there IS love for you and me in the midst of the perceived, controlled, uncontrolled, and crazy chaos. I PROMISE. So, when the tide is calm, take note, breathe, enjoy, be good to yourself, and just be… Be YOU.

Take deep, long breathes. Look out. Notice the beauty. Notice the goodness. Notice how awesome you are. Notice how amazing other people are and just be in the moment. Stay there. It is fleeting. But stay there, right there. That’s it. Recognize that you are being still. And notice that you are doing it, you are living your life.

You are going after what is important to you and trying your hardest to make it work. You are a superhero because you keep going. Be tall. Be strong. Be still and take notice that you are AMAZING! …. You really are. Say it, “I am AMAZING.” I survived. I conquered. I overcame. I persevered. I lived. I loved. I am progressing. I am moving forward. I am ready. I am creating my life. I am.

And then your phone wakes up and it’s time. You reach into your bag, and you know which cape you need right away. You can do this with your eyes closed. You are that good! Keep rocking it and living the dream, the life you want and deserve! Be that superhero for yourself first, then go out and change the world! Xo Jeni