If this were your last morning…

We do not like to think of our own mortality. I mean, if we spent too much time thinking about death, would we really be living? Of course not. We would miss out on so many unexpected joys if we only prepared for the end. But do you ever think about what we may be missing out on by not considering the limitations of our existence?

Now, granted, this is not my typical chipper good morning post, but there is a point. Right now, you are waking up for the day. You may be sipping a cup of coffee on your front porch (oh how I hope that is true) or rushing through to grab a quick bite on your way out the door. Either way, you have taken a few moments to read my words and I thank you for that. My question is, what are you going to do with the rest of today’s moments? How do these plans differ from how you would spend the day if it were your last?

Somewhere on your list today, will you be calling your mother or sibling? Connecting with an old friend? Spending a few moments in prayer? Have you scheduled a time to look up at the clouds and be amazed at the miracles around you? Do you plan to give to the less fortunate today? Will you learn something or try something new? Perhaps you are already planning to forgive or ask someone for forgiveness.

No? These things do not always fit into our day. We are so busy living that we forget that one day, we will not have the chance to do these things. I know that it is not possible every day, but today, take a moment and do something that you would do if this were your last day on earth.

Cherish today, and every day, as if it were your last!

“Gigi”

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As We Ascend from the Ashes: It only gets better every day!

We have been through it. Hell, I guess everyone has in their own way and by no means is one person’s difficulties any greater than another’s. In fact, the perception of one’s own life cannot be viewed through anyone else’s eyes. When considering the concept of perception, I am drawn to another blogger’s discussion as to how to determine how much attention someone’s perception should actually be given to situations. I enjoyed reading this and I would certainly recommend a look if you are struggling with trying to force yourself into seeing a glass half full.

None the less, we all experience hard times and we all would like to believe that we can determine when to make the change to ascend from the ashes of misery.  I would love to tell you that this is true but, I do not like to make a habit of lying. In fact, through all of our hardships, sad times, moments of grief, and sleepless nights, we would tell ourselves that the next day, the next night, the next court date, or the next breath would be the moment that we would begin to rise. NOPE! Another sad memory, postponement, or obstacle would arise and we would fall even deeper into the belief that things would never get better.

But, do you know what? They did! And once we began to rise, we decided to soar!

You cannot talk your way out of a bad time. You cannot force your way out of depression or grief or hardships. But you can keep hope and know that, beyond the darkest moments, the clouds will be at your feet!

Of course, there are ways to get through these times without allowing yourself to sink. To ascend prompted another blogger to speak of the importance of being low enough to remind you to look up to God. Maybe this is why we experience hardships. Perhaps we need to be reminded that we are not alone.

Find your strength to get through the moment then ascend beyond your wildest dreams!

“Gigi”

Peculiar: Things Never Noticed Before Our CPS Case

This storm and process of evacuating Florida to avoid Irma’s fury toting four toddlers have made it difficult to concentrate on blogging and, for that, I apologize. I remember thinking, during our case, that I could not believe that the rest of the world could keep turning while my family was in ruins. I could not imagine that people were cooking turkeys or worrying about graduations when MY family was under attack. Of course, I think back now and realize that I was fighting to be able to enjoy those things in complete oblivion once again. I wanted to focus on the larger picture and be able to concern myself with the problems of others rather than singularly thinking of my own family.

Then the case was won and my family was returned. But, I could not go back to oblivion. I could not only focus on jumping back into the life of the Jones’. My eyes have been opened and every thing that has happened to us is also happening to others. So, thus the apology. Yes, I can get distracted but I should not get so distracted that I lose contact with those who are struggling as we did. Those who are out there who want to be concerned with this large storm and the safety of others but can only concentrate on the fact that their own family is hurting. Please know, that your job right now is to do what you are doing.

Your worry should not turn to ours but rather ours should turn to yours.

You are in a battle that affects all of our lives. I felt like less of a person, disconnected from the world. We who have overcome this obstacle to happiness should not allow you to feel those emotions. Instead, we should always let you know that you are not alone and that you are doing everything that you can. The destruction that I may find at home following the storm is nothing compared to the destruction that your family is going through and I know that this realization has not been properly portrayed through my absence this weekend.

In a loss for words and a tired mind, I turned to a daily prompt provided by a fellow blogger and found the word “peculiar.”  I couldn’t find the connection between my need to connect with you and this word. Strange, different, directly associated with…Discussing CPS is not considered peculiar to those of us who have encountered them and those who have not encountered this injustice would not understand any metaphorical connections that I might make. So I nearly closed up my laptop and went to check in on the little ones before turning in for the night. But I still felt like I was missing something that might keep my mind awake through the night. Then it hit me, there are things that I once thought were normal but now I see them as peculiar to the child protective system that has destroyed so many lives and families. So, these are my thoughts on the oblivion that CPS stole from us all:

  1. The Oblivion: I once saw two people having a discussion about maybe a reunion whereas one of the friends brought their laptop to save the plans and the other one could not get a baby sitter for the day so they had to bring their children alone. The friend with the children may seem a bit distracted but the friend with the laptop was clearly inspired as she typed away and checked for any messages that were perhaps from other friends engaged in the planning.
  2. The Reality: These are not casual meetings and they are not friends. The individual with the laptop is a supervised visitation provider and the distracted individual is trying to both interact with her children and appear engaged with the provider. I want to call out to her and tell her to truly be in the moment . I want to ask the children if they are okay. I want to tell the provider to put herself in the parent’s shoes. I see the drain in their eyes. I see the fear and the sadness. I no longer think of a planned reunion but rather of a plan to prevent reunification.

 

  1. The Oblivion: I saw those billboards asking for foster parents and I envisioned families reaching out and putting aside their own needs to help children who had maybe became orphans or their parents were getting treatment. I saw good in a system where people would willingly open their homes just to make certain these children are not alone while their family mends. I saw the billboards and saw hope.
  2. The Reality: I can no longer feel hopeful driving down the interstate and looking up at these billboards. In fact, I cannot even look. I see people who will stop at nothing to replace the family bonds with those that will program the children into what the government wants them to be. I see the foster families as carefully selected computer programmers and the children as pawns to be bartered or sold to bring revenue for this mission. I see the parties who were involved in our heartache and those who are involved in yours. I see a loss of hope and fear that others feel the same.

 

  1. The Oblivion: All families are happy on the holidays. Or so I thought. I lived in a world where I understood financial struggles but I also knew that the holidays always worked themselves out. We made silly boxes of Christmas Eve necessities. We made peanut butter bonbons. We held the grandchildren up to the tree to hang the star. I believed, and loved the idea, that all families were doing the same thing at the same time.
  2. The Reality: Every happiness can be ripped away at no fault of our own and this means that many families are not doing these things. Many families are unable to put up a tree or bake cookies because of their sadness and loss. Many families are struggling to open up their social networks to reach out for help because they will immediately see the family photos with Santa that will surely flood their news feed. Not everyone is happy and not everyone is ready to deck the halls.

Do not get me wrong, there are so many other moments and situations that I would never have found to be peculiar during my previous state of oblivion but these are just a few that my tired mind can recollect. At times, I would like to go back to feeling hope for all of the society and believing the best in every situation. But, if I were to do so, then I could not reach out to others and try to help to guide them through the maze that is CPS. And quite frankly, I am afraid to be oblivious now as we can never let our guard down.

So, when you feel that your whole world has changed because of this, know that you are not alone. But also know that we can change the whole world because they have changed ours.

Please let others know that oblivion is a dangerous place to live,

“Gigi”

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Peculiar

Beyond the Anger: Emotional Stages of CPS

Leaving the courtroom that day, I moved to a stage that I had not anticipated. Embarrassment. I walked out of that small-town courtroom and passed people that I had once worked with. I saw the faces of others who were so worn down and seemingly alone. I did not pick up my phone to call anyone. I did not tell my father, my best friend, no one.

At first, you will be angry. Of course, that stage does not leave you. It does not leave you throughout the case and, as we are learning, it does not leave you after the last court date. You are angry because of the lies. You are angry because you cannot believe that this could happen. Let’s face it, this list could go on and on. But there are other emotions and reactions in play that affect others that we often forget.

For me, the first of these was shock. How could this happen? Surely this will resolve quickly. The department is just making sure. That lasted until the preliminary hearing when the judge appeared to be drifting off and the first of the lies surfaced inside a courtroom.

Leaving the courtroom that day, I moved to a stage that I had not anticipated. Embarrassment. I walked out of that small-town courtroom and passed people that I had once worked with. I saw the faces of others who were so worn down and seemingly alone. I did not pick up my phone to call anyone. I did not tell my father, my best friend, no one.

You see, I was known as that go getter Mother and Gigi. My college advisor once gave me a postage stamp with the image of Atticus Finch. Her statement was that my relationship with my children reminded her of how the character allowed his children to figure out the world but always stood close by to offer gentle guidance. To me, this was the greatest compliment that I could receive; someone complimenting my parenting! I attended every prenatal visit possible, stood in the room as each of my grandchildren were born, helped to select Gloria’s therapists, helped pick out names, and bragged nonstop about my growing family.

But, as we all do, I have a past and many of the things in my past I am not proud of. I just knew that this small town would echo my younger days and that everyone who now knew me as a grandmother would believe these lies based on who I once was. I was afraid they would look at me differently. After all, they all had the assumptions that I discussed here earlier (5 Things I thought I knew about CPS), so why would they think anything else? I knew everyone would turn their back on me so I turned mine first.

When I finally began to speak, I spoke ill to those who I was most embarrassed to tell. I wanted to push everyone away so that I could be alone in my misery. I knew that I was being judged by the state but I could not take being judged by those who actually knew me.

Following embarrassment, I found myself in isolation. Only my children and my mother were allowed into my world at this point. Once you reach isolation, then you have two choices Depression or Survival. I chose the latter. I used all of my now free time from others to focus solely on the case. I not only turned my back on all others outside of the case but also on all responsibilities other than the basic survival needs.

ALL OF MY ENERGY WAS ON SURVIVING THIS AS A FAMILY!

As I stated before in Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity, I did not make it out of this case without any regrets but I made it out regardless. It does not matter how you make it. You may need to lean on others. You may need to isolate. You may even need to take a moment of depression to allow your brain to reboot. But you DO NOT need to feel embarrassed. You did not deserve this. You do not have to feel regret because, although we are all here for you in this war, this is YOUR battle and it is your knowledge of your family that will help you to choose the best way to come through. All that I ask, is that you remember that YOU WILL!

 

May your outcomes be worth your regrets,

“Gigi”

Prisoners of War: Bringing our Children Home from CPS Captivity

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I will once again preempt this post by stating that everything on this site is intended to promote hope and bring awareness to obstacles that we have faced in our family. I understand that our tactics in working through the hell of CPS may not work for everyone and may come across as somewhat sheepish as we smiled through our tears, spoke politely, and held our tongues about our anger with the system. Regardless of these differences in approaches, the fact remains that my grandchildren are safe at home and we did not have to jump through mandated hoops. Our anger at the system, our shock that this could happen in a “free” country, was the same as so many others are feeling right now and all that we could find online was stories of TPRs and brutal war tactics. We chose to use war strategies that worked in our case.

However you fight your battle, know that it is possible to win. That was all that I wanted to hear the entire case. I wanted to know it was possible. I wanted to know that all of the stories online did not have to be MY story. I wanted to know that there was a way to bring my family home. Just as when two families have of Prisoners of War received the news that one has been freed, the other family then has hope that their soldier will come home, I wanted to hear that my grandchildren would be returned. Not being able to find this could have led me to a state of depression with no way to come out of it. Not being able to hear that there was a chance could have cost me my life as it has so many other broken parents. I WANTED TO LIVE THROUGH THIS! So, I decided that I would be that positive outcome at all cost and that when it was over, I would tell others that it is possible and that they must continue to fight every day.

The difference in how I tell my story is that I am not filled with hatred. I could be. I could wake up each day fueled with anger and go into attack mode. But (A) my grandchildren need my happy goofy self to play on the floor and I cannot do that if I only focus on the negative and (B) we did not win our case by coming off as being in attack mode. Yes, THIS IS WAR but WARS ARE NOT WON WITHOUT STRATEGY!

When you enter a war, you assess the situation. You learn as much about your enemy as possible. You find out what allies you have and who is still on the fence that may serve your cause with a little bit of influence. You find out who the actual enemy is and who is simply a soldier following orders. You can take out all the soldiers that you want but unless you go for the true enemy, then you only win a battle rather than the war.

When we watch the news, we often wonder why our military leaders make certain decisions that seem to be detrimental to the primary cause. Why do they appear to be diplomatic when there are clear threats to our safety, our freedoms, and our way of life? There is a bigger picture that the news does not cover. There are interactions that we may never know about. There are moments that even these leaders question their own tactics but move forward with confidence so as to not show weakness. But the fact remains that all tactics, all strategies, all methods of winning are justified when the outcome is favorable. One battle at a time. One soldier returned. One life saved. Every win serves to justify the choices of these leaders.

In the war against CPS, and trust me this is a war against the entire system, we have assessed the primary enemy. We are aware that we must stand together against the corruption of the system and this must be done with all of our emotions. When the military wages war, it does so with a primary goal of defeating the enemy. THIS IS THE PRIMARY GOAL and we cannot waver in our efforts. However, when a soldier is taken captive, we must first be diligent in bringing them home. Often times, we must use diplomacy rather than aggression.

OUR CHILDREN ARE PRISONERS OF THIS WAR!

Make no mistake, throughout our case, we were aware of the primary enemy. We knew that we would continue to fight once our battle was won. We knew that bringing home my grandchildren would not be the end of the war. But we were in that battle at that time and there was no one else that could fight it for us. We read all of the posts that told us to scream and yell and never be agreeable. For some, this tactic was working but for most, I watched their battle continue with devastating outcomes. I grieved as I watched prisoners of war essentially become casualties of war. I feared for my own family. I feared for the families of others. I spent countless nights watching and listening. I studied the battles of others and strategized accordingly just as military leaders review previous battles and adjust their tactics.

To some, we may have appeared weak and, even as we tell our story, our tactics are under scrutiny. In fact, many times we question ourselves. Some moments throughout the case are not without regret. But I will stand by our choices because, at the end of the day, we won our battle and came back up to continue to fight the war.

Our children did not enlist for this war. They did not come into this battle with an understanding that they could become prisoners. They are not trained to withstand the manipulation, the hardships, and the emotional distress of being taken a prisoner. They are depending on us to bring them home from their captivity at all costs.

When one tactic fails, do not give up, re-strategize!

“Gigi”

Prayers for Texas

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We all understand tragedy to some level of our own perception. We have all faced an illness or lost a loved one. We have all had moments of despair that made us question our own ability to overcome the obstacles placed before us. No one, from any walk of life, is immune to tragedy even if others may not perceive the situation as such. For most situations, perception is the key to overcoming these moments in life and, following what seems to be an eternal plight, our lives are able to return to a relatively normal state.

This, unfortunately, is not the case when it comes to a natural disaster. The people in Texas are not experiencing a tragedy made from their own perceptions. People are dying. People are suffering. People are without food and water and shelter. People, our fellow citizens, are on top of houses praying to be rescued while looking across their city and knowing that everything that they had built is now destroyed. They are looking across the water for their loved ones. They are hoping to survive only to later question what that survival will look like. This is not a tragedy of any other sorts. This is a tragedy of total destruction that will not quickly retreat.

As the tragedy is unfolding, calls for prayer and aid are flooding the social media websites. This sense of unity is a beautiful thing to witness. My concern, much like that of those who are still awaiting rescue, is in regards to what happens when the waters recede? When the people are able to return to their city? What happens when the last FEMA truck has left? Prayers, help, and support must continue long after the tragedy. The ability to rebuild a life, look towards the future, and move beyond the moment will be strained and difficult. We must continue to show such support when it is no longer taboo. When the social media tags are no longer at the top of the list, we must still pray for Texas!

Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Texas,

“Gigi”

Why do we Wait?

Last night, I did not know what to pack. Do I pack clothes to stay at the hospital? Should I bring a blanket since the ones that they have there are so thin and often smell of sickness? Should I pack a nice dress and shoes for a funeral? Would I be attending this one without her by my side? I did not know what to do but I knew I had to go. 

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Last night, as I sat down at my computer to type about my day and dig into the world of blogging, I received a text message that stopped me in my tracks. When we talk about best friends, we often discuss the person who has most recently been involved in our lives in our current situation. That’s not the case for me. When I discuss my best friend, I am speaking of a person who has rarely, since our adult lives, been involved in my current situations. She has her own. However, since literally before I was born, we were pre-set to be there for one another. If best friends were included on a family tree, our families would be overlapped for generations. This girl, this woman, has been in my life and the one person who, regardless of my situation or hers, has always answered her phone.

Last night, when I looked at my phone, I saw all of that disappear. Unresponsive! Likely brain damage! Life support! Pray! These are the words that I saw and the rest of the night all I could think was that her son graduates high school this year. We have trips planned. I NEED HER! Quickly I made some arrangements for my grandchildren and my daughter took off work so that we could make the 10.5 hour drive to go say our goodbyes. I have not made that trip in a long time. In fact, the last time I saw her was over a year ago at a funeral because we never let each other go to these things alone. Before that, I had been busy with the grandbabies and, even though we were only a few hours apart then, just never seemed to make the trip.

Last night, in the face of her death, I was preparing to make the trip. I was not going to let her die without me getting to say goodbye. This was not for her. She was unresponsive. She may not have even known that I was in the room. But I needed to say goodbye. To somehow relieve my own guilt of not being there more often. To somehow diminish the loneliness that I was sure to face once she drew her last breath.

Last night, I did not know what to pack. Do I pack clothes to stay at the hospital? Should I bring a blanket since the ones that they have there are so thin and often smell of sickness? Should I pack a nice dress and shoes for a funeral? Would I be attending this one without her by my side? I did not know what to do but I knew I had to go.

This morning, against all odds, my best friend woke up! She woke up alert and recognized everyone that was by her side. She cried when her mother told her that I was planning to drive up and smiled when she told her that I love her. My friend is going to make it. She has a long road ahead, but she IS going to see her son graduate. We ARE going to take those trips.

This morning, I considered the long hours of the drive. I thought about the traffic left over from the eclipse. I wondered if I should put the trip off until she is released from the hospital and maybe feeling better so that she could enjoy the company better. Wait!!! What did I just say? Only a few hours ago, I was ready to drive straight through to say goodbye and now I am thinking about the laundry that needs done and what the grandkids might need? I had this covered to relieve my own grief but reconsidered when all was fine?

This morning I realized that last night could happen at any minute. Any time could be our last time. Every time could be our goodbye. Next time there may not be a moment to make a choice about a visit to the hospital. Next time may not come when I am able to cover things at the drop of the hat. Next time may come all too soon.

We will be leaving first thing in the morning. We will be driving and telling stories about my friend. When we arive, whether or not she is alert and ready for company, I will sit by her side and tell her exactly how much she means to me. We should not wait until someone we love in unresponsive. We should enjoy their response, their time, and their impact that they have on our lives today!

Live and love as if it were  last night,

“Gigi”