How 9/11 Shaped our Lives

I was twenty-three years old with three children and recently separated from my ex-husband. Sitting in my first home of my own, a small three bedroom single wide in rural Virginia, I looked around at the suit cases packed for my “separation celebration.” We were going on our first cruise! My children, 2, 4, and 6 at the time, were starting to stir out of their rooms and pitter patter down the hallway when my phone rang. It was my mother and I was sure she was going to tell me that she was on her way as we were leaving that day from my house to make the drive to Miami, Fl. All I heard, instead of the excited squeal that I expected, was a somber “turn on the TV.”

I remember collapsing. I remember pulling my children close and sitting down on the floor in front of the television unaware of their stares as they watched their mother sob in fear. They, of course, were unaware what those images on the screen meant to their world but I could not imagine the world beyond that very moment.  Everything was over and all I could do was take in these last moments with my children in my arms.

Then it hit me. If this would be their last moments, what kind of mother would allow them to be spent in fear and uncertainty? What kind of mother would I be if I allowed a group of terrorists to take away the last smiles on their faces? No, I would not allow this. I would not be a victim nor would I allow my children to be victimized.

I called my mother back and said to come on and bring her suitcase. When she arrived, we sat for a moment and knew what we should do. I spoke with my father who thought it was a bad idea to go on with our plans and, perhaps he could have been right, but my decision that day made all the difference for my family.

That day, we made a decision to live. We live cautiously, but never scared. We boarded that boat on September 13, 2001, and we set the tone for our lives ever since. Eleven cruises later and I cannot say that I have ever learned more in three days than I did that maiden voyage.


I learned that there is more to the world than what we see in our daily lives.

I learned that fear keeps us from seeing the most beautiful places, experiencing the most beautiful moments, and connecting with the most beautiful people.

I learned that my children need my strength in order to find their own.

I learned that the ocean is large enough to hold every hope and every dream.

I learned that there it is possible for people from all around the world, even in the face of such events, to come together and enjoy the beauty of the world.

I learned that wars are fought in politics not people.

I learned that everything in life must be learned and that this cannot occur without experiences.

Most of all, I learned that we can all live in fear, as the terrorists wanted, or we can continue to win every day that we choose to experience life.

To those who lost their lives that day, we owe it to you to continue to win!



Taking Charge in your CPS Case

Be active. Be present. Be heard.


One of the most frequent complaints I read in the forums about CPS is that the lawyers do not submit the requests for different orders that the parent feels may help their case and bring their children home to them.  It feels as if we depend on our lawyers to actually do their jobs and speak up for us, their client, in a timely manner so that we do not have to spend years in the nightmare of CPS. Yeah, it feels just like that alongside a smack in the face that the world of family court does not actually work that way.

I was lucky to have a lawyer who readily listened to me and this required a great deal of his attention as you all now know that I can talk A LOT! However, I did not know that he would follow through with our conversations early in the case and decided that it was best to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. In other words, I kept him in the dark about my intentions at each move so as to avoid him redirecting what I aimed to request. I could not afford the element of doubt as I had to maintain my image of confidence.

I am not advising you to go against the advice of a lawyer but I am saying that if you are adamant that something should be done and you have done your research, then do not leave it up to them to get it done.

My grandson did, in fact, suffer from broken bones. The father was charged with these injuries and they removed the children stating that we must have known that he was abusive. Our job was to prove that we did not know. I mean, the fact that we took him immediately to the hospital and left the father sitting there the moment we knew what happened should have been an indicator that, had we known there were previous injuries, we would have done the same sooner.

Regardless, here we are with them telling us that we must have known. They said that it was impossible for us not to have known even though the doctors had stated that the only way to know a rib is broken is through an x-ray. But, CPS “knows more than the doctors” and therefore took my grandchildren.

There had to be some answer that would explain this. I had never seen or heard anything that would make me think that this man would harm his own child. I never believed my grandchildren were in danger. I began to look into the concepts of medical kidnapping. I got copies of medical records and began to learn about the everything from copper levels to osteogenesis imperfecta. That’s when things began to change in the case.

I arrived at the next MDT meeting toting every medical document I could carry along with a typed summary of what I believed to be true. Briefly, just as we entered the conference room, I told my lawyer that I wanted my grandson tested for OI. I had found the name and number of a geneticist that specialized in pediatric medicine and handed him this information.

As the meeting began, before the worker could even start to speak, my lawyer gave me the floor and I presented my case. The order was agreed and the tests were scheduled. The tests thankfully were negative but there were other tests and options to follow up on. At each meeting, I reported the findings and proposed the next steps. I knew every piece of medical record inside and out. I pushed for depositions and attended each of these. My presence and overwhelming attention to the possible explanations could not be dismissed.

When I first met the GAL, he stated that he needed some possible explanation for these injuries. I worked tirelessly to provide an explanation other than what was already known at the point that the children were removed by GPS. In the courtroom, the GAL made note of my position in the case as well as my efforts to find the truth at all costs. He then recommended that my case be dismissed.

When you need answers, find them. When they need answers, do the same. Your knowledge and confidence will win your case, not the lawyers or case plan.


Be active. Be present. Be heard.


Preparing for Irma: When to Make a Decision with Children

We are in North Central Florida. Our area is deemed a low flood zone and has a very rare history of hurricane impact. The long term residents here chuckle at the overly long lines at Walmart and complain that they simply cannot get through to get their basics without regard to the storm. However, the number of different projections are flagging a bit of concern even among these individuals. So we all sit and watch, wait for updates, and consider the levels of our stockpiles of water and canned food.

Last night, my mother and I ran out to Walmart for diapers as our attempts to potty train are still an ongoing process. The shelves were nearly empty. We found one pack of diapers that would fit the children and two packs of wipes! SERIOUSLY PEOPLE? The governor, in his statement to call the entire state under a state of emergency, said to take what you need for three days and no more. This is what the long term residents were talking about.

We get so caught up in what could happen to us that we forget about other people. Irma is still days away and yet we are already feeling its effects. It is not the wind or the rain that we must fear, it is the reckless behaviors of others.

Granted, I am not saying that the storm is not scary. Irma is HUGE and will bring destruction wherever it hits. I am not saying that we are not worried. But we have enough water and food. We have three vehicles filled with gas and car seats secured in each. We have our hurricane kits and candles. But those things are not for our everyday use. Those things stay put away for an emergency. Going to Walmart for our basic needs should not leave us realizing just how little others think about other people in such a time.

With that said, I met a man yesterday while picking up pool noodles at the Dollar Store. He was purchasing two cases of water and asked me if I needed one of them. I was floored! Of course, I told him that we had plenty and thanked him for the gesture. He continued to tell me that he was on his way to Okeechobee Fl to pick up his camper but he knew many of the people there were not going to evacuate so he was taking as much water to them as he could but did not want to leave anyone without. What a concept!

When I asked him about his plans, he stated that he would return to this area and use well water. When he saw that I had pool noodles, he realized that I had children under my care and said it is different with children though. With children, you do not consider a stockpile at home but rather consider a place to go. He said if you need to use a stockpile, then it is not safe for children. If there is a risk that you will not be able to get out, then do so before that risk manifests.

Tomorrow, we will cross over into Georgia to buy our basic needs such as diapers and wipes. Then, as Irma makes landfall, we will make a decision based on her path. If there is any concern, we will make it an adventure and let you all know where we head.

Stay safe and look out for one another. We are all we got!


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.


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,


Facing your Fears: Encountering Health Care after a CPS Abduction

The most important thing to remember from our CPS case is that my grandson has healed completely from his injuries and the state finally realized that his injuries were not caused by any wrongdoing on our behalf and returned full custody to their mother (Ashley). We carry with us a copy of the formal decision and transfer of custody. There is one in the van, one in the file cabinet, one in the diaper bag, and the list goes on. We are NEVER without this piece of paper.

But the paper does not give the details. The paper says that custody was returned but does not state that there was no fault on her part. The paper says that the children are hers, but it does not explain why she needs that paper.

As I stated in  We Blew Bubbles: Ten Minute Memories that Helped to Get Us Through, we did not stick around town once we had this paper. This means that we did not pick up any other paperwork including shot records so, when we reached our destination, we had to have these faxed from their pediatrician that had been used by the foster parents. Notably, this meant that the pediatrician was unaware that they would ever be sending these records out of state.

So, here we stood filling out the medical release form and knowing that we would have to send a copy of this document in order to prove that my daughter had the right to sign for the medical records for her own children. As Ashley discussed in CPS Stole My Peace Of Mind. , the fear is unreal when you live day to day wondering if the unthinkable could happen again. Could we be struck by lightning a second time? If we mention the case to these “mandated reporters,” would we have to answer questions again? Could they manipulate the situation and cause problems for our family?

Obviously, we would not put our fears above their medical needs and we stood next to one another and began to explain. Fortunately, the office took a copy of the paper and congratulated us on our reunification. The records were faxed and the office took excellent care of the children.  But the fear remains. What happens if she injures her self in gymnastics or he takes a hard hit in football? What happens when the first x-ray he has to have shows the healed fractures from his infancy? We will always have to explain, and we would have regardless of our case, but now we explain with a fear of one word being twisted into a tornado that could wreck our world.

Where fear exists, there is a reason!


Beach Day!

Earlier in the week, I posted about how my beach trips have changed since having children and I said that I would update you guys on our day.

Well, we get to the beach and it took 3 of us to tote the toys, the bags, and the tent down to a spot on the beach. We get just about to the sand and I hear Clarabelle behind me shout ” mommy, you Have to pick bubby up, the sand is always hot!” I tell her that he will be fine because he has shoes on. “No, he doesn’t mommy!”

This kid walked out of his shoes. So I had to carry him plus the very heavy bags I had down to our spot and walk myself back to find the missing shoes. Thankfully, the man heard Clarabelle scold me for not carrying Elliott had walked around looking for the missing shoes that were about 30ft away from each other. When I got to the parking lot I saw him down by my car waving the shoes in the air laughing.

After thanking him and who I assume was his wife, I get back down to the beach and spray the kids down with sunscreen.

Now, my kids love to play a little game called “see how fast you can cover every square inch of my body in sand.” They’re pros at this game. They even dabble in taste testing the sand, only to turn around and complain that there is sand in their mouth. Then fast forward through the next 2hours of  Clarabelle shouting “THERE’S SAND IN MY BUTT, It’s IN MY BUTT MOMMY!” 

We went wave hopping and we all laughed so much with anticipation of each oncoming wave, and then even harder when one would crash onto their bellies.

And then nap time rolled around. Clarabelle naps sometimes, but Elliott is a real mess if he doesn’t take his. So the tent comes into play. He curls up in there, the wind caused a perfect cool breeze through the openings, and he fell right to sleep.

How perfect is napping on the beach?

We all play in the sand and the water for a while longer. Right after Elliott wakes up, there is a shark sighting (Scary!!). So we go ahead and pack up head home, and recap on a perfect beach day ❤️


Understanding Gender: Toddler Talk

We do not separate “boy toys” or “girl toys.” We do dress the children according to gender but we don’t really emphasize it. We do put pretty little bows on the girls when we go out but do not freak out at home if the boys come through with one of the girl’s headbands. I guess we just do not make a big deal out of it. But, for whatever reason, in the mind of a child, differences are based on the person and NOT their gender.

Earlier today, my mother and I had the four grandchildren on the back porch playing on the water blob (this thing is great by the way) when Clarabelle informed us that she needs 11 baby sisters and 10 baby brothers. We asked her why and she really did not have an answer but just continued counting her “future” siblings. She then called Braxton her baby sister. When we asked why her male cousin was now her baby sister, she says “he just is.” When we told her sisters are girls, she, of course, asked: “why.” We explained that they just are and she went on about her business. Later, when the boys were raiding her lunch plate while saving theirs for later, I jokingly stated: “boys sure eat a lot, don’t they?”

This seemed to offend her as she exclaimed,

“So do girls.”

Well, I said, boys are more rotten and again, she did not like this.

“Girls are rotten too”

I was on a roll! Boys are icky.

“Girls are icky too” she chuckled.

Well, boys do things differently, don’t they?

“No, boys and girls are the same.”

Now, she is almost three and she understands that boys can get away with not wearing a shirt but girls cannot. We are on full blown Potty Training Times Three so she knows there are obvious differences but the point she was making was that boys and girls do not do things differently, act differently, or like different things. She knows that she does not like raisins and the other three do so people can like different things but this is not because they are a boy or a girl it is just because of the individual.

We do not separate “boy toys” or “girl toys.” We do dress the children according to gender but we don’t really emphasize it. We do put pretty little bows on the girls when we go out but do not freak out at home if the boys come through with one of the girl’s headbands. I guess we just do not make a big deal out of it. But, for whatever reason, in the mind of a child, differences are based on the person and NOT their gender.

At some point in life, we are taught to categorize everyone and assume their likes, behaviors, and roles.  We do this based on gender, skin color, ethnicity, religion, and a number of “othering” characteristics when really, WE ARE ALL THE SAME with individual likes and choices that do not justify such categories for the whole.

Appreciate each other as individuals!