I’m Not Broken, Just Bent

23 May

KidsCourthouses are always so stale. So much life buzzing around yet still so lifeless. Today was no exception. As I passed through the metal detectors I already felt an overwhelming sense of loss and nothing had even transpired yet. Well… Nothing and everything had transpired. It was complicated as everything in life seems to be lately.

I found my way to room W160. It was down another stale hallway filled with regret. The clicking of the lawyers heels resonated through the hall just magnifying the eerie quiet. First I passed him and then her. And then the team of people typing feverishly on their iPads trying to find some semblance of calm in the chaos that was this case.

I got this.

Awkward silences. I knew they were watching me. I knew I intimidated them. I knew I was the enemy to them. I understood.

Finally. Our turn.

I walked in the courtroom with the rest of them. I sat in the third pew back. Enough space to lose the intimacy, but close enough to show I cared. The room was quiet. Five people sat in pews and seven sat in the front of the courtroom.

Proceedings began.

It was all so formal.

I observed.

Stand when you are talking. Speak confidently. Speak with conviction. Ask for permission. ALWAYS ask for permission.

Legal mumbo jumbo. So much black and white in a case that only had gray in my eyes. The father must do this. We request that the mother does that. Progress. Setbacks.

Placement. Placement. Placement.

My hands trembled the whole time. I reminded myself to use my poker face. I pressed my hands on my skirt to both disguise the shaking and to wipe away the sweat that steadily gathered on my palms. This stale black and white hearing was going to change so many lives.

And then…

Is the foster parent present?

Yes, Your Honor.

Do you have anything you would like to add?

Yes, Your honor.

I wanted to tell them how Pixie has learned to love cauliflower. How she gives me the biggest hugs around my neck at bedtime. I wanted to tell them that she requests pretty braids in her hair each morning and that her favorite drink is chocolate milk.

I wanted to tell them that Rocco has the world’s most infectious giggle. How in the morning he zooms into our room to tell us good morning with a big smile on his face. I wanted to tell them that ten times a day he reminds me that his favorite colors are blue and orange and that Paw Patrol is his favorite show.

I wanted to tell the courts that we can keep these children more safe and secure than they can.

But I couldn’t.

I prayed they couldn’t hear the thumping of my heart and that the lump in my throat would disappear. I stood with all of the grace and poise I could muster. I spoke confidently. I spoke with conviction. I asked permission. I fiercely yet respectfully advocated for the two precious souls I had grown to love.

And then I had my heart shattered.

The system is broken. So broken. Pixie and Rocco deserve a childhood of laughter and peace. They deserve a carefree childhood. They deserve for their biggest worry to be what they are going to pick for dessert.

Pixie and Rocco were never “ours.” We fully supported reunification… When the time was right for reunification. This was not the right time.

Pixie and Rocco will always have a special place in my heart as our first foster placement.

We are bruised. We are bent. But we are not broken.

Clift Family Year in Review

1 Jan

January- RECOVERY. I spent most of my month healing. I got my sense of taste back. This made my husband happy. It turns out I may or may not be a cranky witch when I can’t taste my food. I also took Miss Ariahna to the aquarium and we saw “real live mermaids” and it made her life complete.

february

February- We enjoyed the abundant Colorado snow. We also started our house hunt in Colorado Springs and put an offer on a house. After 9 other offers this one was accepted! The month was spent packing, packing, packing.

March- Nikkos celebrated his 8th birthday a week before we moved. The last of many celebrations in our old home. As a gift we got him tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game. We had a great time. Then came moving day and we moved in the middle of one of the biggest blizzards Falcon had seen in years. Our trampoline blew into the neighbors yard 24 hours after this photo was taken. Welcome to the neighborhood!

April- The kids started at their new school after spring break and both really loved their new school. Such a relief to a worried mama. We also explored our new area in the snow and ended up coming home covered in mud. One morning we woke up to brand new baby bunnies right outside our front door. We were finally settling into our new life.

May- Tom and I got away for a weekend and went to a beautiful bed and breakfast. Ariahna graduated kindergarten. I cried. She cried. Her teacher cried. I did my first podcast interview.

June- The start of our Summer adventures. We took a road trip to Casa Grande Arizona to visit family. Along the way we went to Roswell, saw “the thing” (no, I can’t tell you what it was), fed an ostrich in 120 degree heat,  went to museums, and had some amazing family time with our desert family. Unfortunately when we got back our sweet old kitty Galahad passed away. A week later we took a long weekend trip to a cabin in Glenwood. I got plenty of baby cuddles from my niece.

July- Probably the biggest adventure yet. We flew to the northwest for an epic 2 week family trip. We spent a week on the Washington coast in a beautiful cabin on the beach with my grandparents, cousins and their kids. Days were spent building a huge septopus and playing in the ocean. Nights were spent full of laughter and lots of wine. The following week was spent in Salem, OR with my dad and his wife. We went to the beach, aquarium, winery and breweries. More sweet cuddles from my niece. Ariahna also learned to ride a bike!

August- The kids went back to school a few days after our trip ended. Ariahna started 1st grade and Nikkos started 3rd grade. We had a cheesy Olympics party as a family. My grandparents were in town for a couple weeks and my husband and I snuck off to the mountains to celebrate our ten year anniversary. We also started the very long process of becoming foster parents.

September- School was in full swing. We went to a hot air balloon festival in Colorado Springs and both of the kids participated in cross country and loved it!

October- We announced our foster journey to the world. Ariahna got glasses and “I can finally see!” The kids had a dress as your future self day at school. Nikkos dressed as an engineer. Ariahna dressed as a mermaid. The kids decided to be a carrot and peas for Halloween. We went trick or treating with friends in unseasonably warm weather.

november

November- My dad and his wife, Martha flew out to celebrate Ariahna’s 7th birthday. Best. Present. Ever.

December- We spent Christmas day flying to Texas where we would spend a great family week. It consisted of ice skating, museums, a safari and nights on the patio talking about anything and everything over a glass of wine. What a great way to end the year.

2017 has a lot of adventure in store for our family. 30 days from now we will be a licensed foster home. New business ventures are also in the works and of course our kiddos always keep us on our toes. Happy New Year!

What a Difference a Year Makes

16 Oct

I don’t really know where to begin, so I suppose I will just start at the very beginning.

October 16th 2015

I woke up around 4am, but I am not sure I ever really slept that night anyway. It was the day I had been preparing for for months. I was excited to get the tumor out of my face, but knew there were a lot of risks in this surgery compared to the last one. Much of my waking hours that day were a blur. I do remember waking up in recovery drenched in sweat. I looked at the clock. 2pm. I knew something hadn’t gone right. I should have been in my room by now with my family. I worried that they worried. I made the nurse call them to tell them I was ok.

They eventually rolled me into my room as I was heaving into a paper bag. Not my finest hour.

Eventually I had to talk….but I really couldn’t. That is when I realized the nerve damage was bad… Really bad. I had no use of the entire left side of my face. I couldn’t blink, I had to physically close my mouth with my hand and drink through a straw to drink. I was mortified. But the tumor was gone and I was happy about that.

Two days later I got to go home and face the months of recovery ahead.

I got the drainage tube out a few days later and then the staples out the following week. I was depressed. I had a cavern in my face, a scar that would never go away and my face still wasn’t working. My doctor feared my eye may never close again.

November 16th 2015

D-Day. The day my radiation would start. I naively thought it would be easy, well, not easy, but not as bad as it turned out to be. I had radiation 5 days a week. I cried. I whined. I hated it. Every last bit of it was terrible. I won’t sugarcoat it. I was exhausted, I was in pain. It felt like I had a bad sunburn constantly. I lost chunks of hair and even worse, lost my taste. I felt like a human punching bag.

December 31st 2015

MY LAST TREATMENT!!! I couldn’t wait to put this all behind me and start my life again. The pain lasted another month. My taste came back sooner than expected. Slowly but surely my nerves started working again. I could get back to my life.

March 18th 2016

We purchased our first home

new-home

We love it here. It is my peaceful place away from the city.

May 2016

My baby graduated kindergarten. Life was finally starting to fall together again.

kindergarten-graduation-may-27

Summer 2016

We had some amazing trips planned and were gone most of the summer. It felt so great to have my energy back. I still have a lot of pain in my face, but everything else is back to normal. We made some amazing memories in New Mexico, Arizona, Glenwood, Washington and Oregon.

June 11 2016

Our beautiful old kitty Galahad passed away. It was the first pet loss our kids have had and they were completely broken hearted.

August 2016

My husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in a beautiful bed and breakfast in Glenwood. And some other things were in the works like….

fostering

starting the process to become a licensed foster home!!!

We have been working on the six month process of getting our foster license and have about 6 weeks left. We are beyond excited to welcome a new little one (or two) into our family! I am happy to answer any questions, but for now we are just excited to let the cat out of the bag. Our kids are excited to be foster siblings. I know they will be great ones.

SO..

It has been a year. A crazy year. But our family has been blessed beyond measure by so many people who have prayed for me, for us. I’d like to think we all came out stronger. I know I have so much more appreciation for the little things now. For my kids giggles and my husbands unwavering support. I am one lucky gal.

To the next year!

Parenting Is HARD

26 Sep

When you are expecting people like to tell you all about how hard parenting is. They warn you about the sleepless nights when your child is an infant. They warn you about how hard the terrible twos are and they may even eventually tell you how hard it will be when your kids go off to college and leave you as an empty nester.

Those are all good “warnings” and are all very accurate, but there are warnings I never got that I am now discovering myself.

Parenting is HARD

They don’t warn you about the heartbreak that often accompanies parenthood.

They don’t warn you how heartbroken you will be when your little girl is working on a poster and has to say who her best friend is. They don’t warn you about the absolute agony you will feel when she pauses, looks down at her fidgeting hands and quietly tells you she doesn’t have any friends. They don’t teach you how to quickly dry your own tears and comfort her broken spirit. They don’t warn you about how bittersweet it is when she writes down “my brother” as her answer.

When you are pregnant they don’t tell you about how you will stay up at night worrying about your son who has an anxiety disorder that is slowly emerging. They don’t tell you that no matter how many times you tell him he is wonderful he won’t believe you and it will break your heart. They don’t tell you that he will be up in the middle of the night vomiting because he is so anxious about a solo audition in elementary school choir.

Parenting is HARD

But parenting is also abundantly REWARDING

And today I am trying to pick up the pieces of their broken hearts and remind them that life is one big beautiful oops and we will get through it together.

 

 

When you run out of words

19 Jan

You know those days where you have so much to do and you don’t even know where to begin so you just end up doing nothing? That is how I feel with words today. My brain is full and needs a purge, but there is so much to say so I am left to say nothing at all. Instead I will post my motivation. I hope God is working hard on my life right now to help purge the bad thoughts and welcome the positive ones. I need things to start going right for my little family.Faith

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

28 Oct

my why

July of 2007- A few months prior I felt a small lump on the side of my neck. I didn’t think much of it, but my dad encouraged (read MADE) me go get it checked out. He found me the best head and neck doctor in the state (some would argue the country). After biopsy and MRI it was determined that I had Pleomoprphic Adenoma, a benign tumor that had invaded my parotid gland, salivary gland, lymph node and facial nerve. Surgery was scheduled for June and I was ready to get this tumor removed.

Well, it didn’t quite go according to plan (what ever does?). In my pre op appointment they did some routine blood work and SURPRISE! It turns out I was pregnant with my son, Nikkos. What a way to find out you are pregnant. This of course caused my surgery to be delayed.

September of 2008- Surgery was rescheduled as this tumor kept fiercely growing inside of me. This time I was NOT pregnant and surgery went as scheduled. What was supposed to be a 1 1/2 hour surgery turned into a 4 hour surgery. The tumor was far more complex than MRI showed. Recovery wasn’t terrible. A week or so later I was mostly back to normal and a few months later I had a faint scar that went into my hairline. I had minor nerve damage to my ear, but who needs to feel their ear.

Years passed and I thought I was in the clear. I was done with this stupid diagnosis.

Wrong.

July of 2015- As I was surfing Pinterest (literally) I felt a few very small bumps on the side of my neck. I brushed them off as being maybe the start of pimples or something. But they didn’t go away and they didn’t turn into pimples. My husband and grandma encouraged me to make an appointment with my neck doctor to just get things checked out and to (ideally) rule out a recurrence of my Pleomorphic Adenoma. I scheduled my appointment and the next one they had was 2 months out.

September of 2015- I finally had my appointment. It felt strange to be back at that same doctors office years later. The doctor remembered me. I remembered him well. After about thirty seconds he confirmed my worst fears. It was back. Recurrence of this particular tumor growth is troubling as it generally means the new growth is cancerous.

I hated giving this news to my family. I hated the unknown. Many tests were scheduled. I went to Missouri to visit my brother and his wife the weekend I would find out if this tumor was or wasn’t likely to be Cancer. When the doctor called and said it likely wasn’t cancer I was both relieved and still very worried. The only way to truly know was to biopsy the tissue and glands during surgery.

October 16th 2015- Surgery day. Tom and I got to the hospital at 5am. Neither of us got any sleep. I was oddly calm. I think the nurses enjoyed joking with us. My mom and Tom were there for the surgery. I don’t remember saying anything terribly stupid under the influence of anesthesia, but apparently I kept the nurses entertained. My two hour surgery turned into a four hour surgery which turned into six. This tumor was far worse than the last one. I remember waking up after surgery nauseous and drenched in sweat. They gave me every anti nausea medicine they could. I remember laying in the post op recovery room and seeing the clock. It was 2pm. I was coherent enough to know I should have been in my hospital room hours ago. I knew that was not a good sign.

They finally rolled me to my room. I was very disoriented. I felt really, really carsick. When I got to my room my mom, husband and step mom were all waiting for me. They all stood at my bedside probably not really knowing what to do. I burst into tears and said I wanted my dad to be there (he recently moved to Oregon). That is when I realized my face didn’t feel quite right. I was slurring my words. A mixture of morphine and… my facial nerves were very badly damaged. The left side of my face would not move at all.

Over the next few hours the nausea subsided, but I still didn’t want to eat. I finally settled on a chocolate shake and some mashed potatoes. The next 24 hours in the hospital were as good as can be expected. I was in pain, the nausea came in waves and I was really tired. The staff at the hospital was top notch which really helped my recovery.

Tom went home the night of the 16th and my mom stayed with me. Tom brought the kids by to see me the 17th. We all had lunch together (another chocolate shake for me). Nikkos took things in stride and Ariahna was definitely scared. My mom took the kids and Tom stayed with me. I was released that afternoon.

The next week was kind of a blur for me. I felt like I got hit across the head with a baseball bat. My grandma came out to help us with the kids. It was a huge help. Over that week I slowly felt more like a human and with each day I gained strength.

Then we went to my appointment to get my staples removed.

I was on the verge of a panic attack thinking about them taking staples out of my neck. It ended up being for nothing. My face was so numb that I didn’t even feel it. The doctor was still worried that my eye won’t close on it’s own. Cornea damage is a real fear. When I am outside I am under strict orders to wear glasses to help protect my eye from debris. I have to have eye drops multiple times a day and an oil put in my eye at bedtime that renders the vision in that eye completely useless.

At my 1 week post op appointment my doctor explained that my tumor had malignant tendencies, but was not cancerous. The cells of this kind of tumor are known to morph into cancerous cells. We luckily caught it before that happened. That being said, when this tumor comes back (yes, when) it will very likely be malignant…cancerous. He told me he wants me to have 30 rounds of radiation treatment to my neck…starting four weeks from now. Radiation. I am 27 years old and generally incredibly healthy. It was a big this-only-happens-to-other-people kind of slap in the face.

So that is where I am right now. I still have no feeling to the left side of my face. That makes eating, drinking, brushing my teeth etc very hard. I meet with the radiologist Friday to get the ball rolling with my treatment. Personally and professionally this is going to be a trying experience. This is the busiest time for our business and I won’t be able to work at full strength. Thank goodness my husband is a rock star and can help offset the fact that I won’t be at full strength.

This holiday season will be very modest for us. Things like this sure put life in perspective and make you see what really matters most.

But even with all of this going on I can’t help but feel so blessed.

Blessed to have my husband who loves me through the good and the bad

Blessed to have two children who make me laugh when I am feeling down

Blessed to have family who flies halfway across the country to help

Blessed to have friends who brought us meals

Blessed to have one of the best doctors in the country

Blessed to be alive

Airplane Confessions

31 Aug

Plot Twist

As I watched the sunrise from the window seat of a 6am Frontier flight I finally had time to reflect on all of the things that had transpired in the last week. I began to feel like less and less like a pillar of strength and more like a tumbleweed at the mercy of the wind. I so badly wanted to feel grounded, but it just so happens that my life was literally up in the air. My mind wandered to the “what ifs” that consumed me. You always assume that bad things never happen to good people. This naivety helps to navigate through the cruelties of the world. The problem is, when the bad things DO happen to you it feels like a sucker punch to the gut. You didn’t see them coming so you have no time to brace yourself. Some people get lucky and go through life down the lazy river. Others aren’t so lucky and get stuck in class 4 rapids. I feel like I am in a class 4 rapid and a huge waterfall is at the horizon. The waters are so strong that I can’t simply turn around and go back. I have to hold on tight and trust that my skills will help me navigate down the waterfall so I can come out even stronger than before.

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