Birthday Revelations

I turned 30 a few weeks ago.  For years I can recall family and friends wallow in sadness about leaving their twenties behind; about how everything would so different. Gone would be the days of pulling all-nighters and slacking off. Although that is exactly what I did the night before my birthday, and I paid for it many days over.

It seemed that turning 30 was the official mark of adulthood; no more screwing around. Then there was this lingering expectation that people around this new age would have their lives in order at that point. I was genuinely puzzled by this.  Who made these rules? No, seriously who?  I have a few questions. I expected to feel something similar as my twenties came to a close. But I didn’t, which makes sense because I have never mourned the passing of another year.

I was excited for my birthday, and I would tell me friends that “I am going to own my thirties.  They’re going to be some of my best years.” They would look at me with disgust for my eagerness to reach a new decade, wondering how I could feel excited about getting older. For the past ten years, my life shifted and transitioned more than I was ever prepared for. There are many things from my twenties that I am not proud of, but there were also invaluable experiences that I am so grateful for. Within those years were monumental, life-changing moments that shaped me into the woman and person I am today; the good, the bad and everything that falls between.

The months leading up to my thirtieth were very challenging.  During those months, I spent a lot of time focusing on where I was at in my life and what I wanted to doing that I already was not. I was facing big, ugly stuff and overcoming endless hurdles. Challenges that forced me to dissect many smaller facets of my life. Which led me to this blog, this place I hold so dear to my heart, and how it became one of the main areas I devoted my mind to during that time. And it is funny because I spent basically zero time blogging while this was all going on.  I’ll explain.

Since I started blogging, I have genuinely enjoyed it.  It has been the gateway to my scattered thoughts and has healed my worried heart many times. Blogging was something I never thought I would do.  Hell, I was not even real positive about what a blog really was until I had Tessa.  But here I am, nearly six years later, pouring my heart into my little piece of internet real estate.

If you have been a dedicated reader here, you know that much of what I write about or to is Tessa; the motivation behind the blog.  I had not experienced the lows of writing until I learned that my blog was ticking some people off.

Hmmm…maybe I am a real writer after all…

Things were said and assumed about me and my character; but it wasn’t until my thoughts and words were being used against me or shared negatively in other blogger groups or posts as examples of how not to write or rather what not to write about surfaced, that I stopped writing. Fear of opening my heart, sharing too much, saying the wrong things and having my words policed in other forums held me back. I retrieved from blogging and withheld my desire to journal until I could figure out what I was ever really trying to say in all of this writing.

I know that it is impossible to please everyone and that is not the reason I write in the first place.  I am a big fan of a little idea I like to call don’t like it, don’t read it.  However, I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me think about things. So bravo haters, you win.

Dr. Seuss always gets it right.

I had a lot of “come-to-Jesus” talks with myself.  Perhaps it is not my place to share things about my daughter’s life with the rest of the world the way I have been doing it.  Does this make me a bad person?  Does this mean my character is flawed? I don’t really think so. As a mom, I was simply reacting to what my heart felt like it needed and wanted to do. And selfishly, I needed lots of healing and blogging provided that for me.  Especially before, during and after my daughter’s battle with leukemia.

As my blog grew, I caught myself writing just for the sake of writing; hoping to meet arbitrary deadlines. Most of the time I was trying to promote advocacy and inclusion for my daughter, but I walked straight into seriously unfamiliar and rocky territory.  All I wanted to do was shout out to the world, “Love my kid and accept her,” but–if I am being honest–the world doesn’t owe me or her that. Clearly my intentions have been misunderstood a time or two. In advocating for her, I somehow put boundaries up around her without knowing it.  We do not need to prove anything about her, nor does she of herself.

I guess maybe it took confronting myself through ugly times to reevaluate the end goal here. In these revelations, I have decided to shift the tone of my blog. Down syndrome and cancer have held a huge place in our lives, but they aren’t our entire lives.  There is so much more to me than those two things.  It took a lot for me to realize that I can write about other things, too. For instance, I can go on about how I shamelessly pin things about raising chickens on Pinterest (there is some interesting stuff out there by the way).  Or I can talk about the exhaustion of being a working mom or about health and fitness.  I can spill for days on the perks of country living or my daily struggle with anxiety and PTSD. And that is exactly what I plan to do. Who knows…maybe a new blog name in the future.

There will still be days where I talk about extra chromosomes and cancer and how they have impacted my life, but I will not apologize for my personal feelings or experiences regarding either because I do think it is okay to speak for ourselves and share our stories.

The day before my birthday, I walked to the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta while on a work trip.  I paid $43 (ouch) to walk around the aquarium by myself and watch the animals do their thing, trying to get plenty of pictures to take back to my girls.  There were at least twenty different elementary schools there with their students, and I looked like genuine creep taking a selfie with a penguin…but YOLO!

While I was there, I sat down in a massive viewing room. I thought a lot about the direction I hoped my blog would take and what I truly wanted to write about in the future as I stared into the big blue wall of water. I also thought a lot about the direction I hoped my life would take, but fully accepting that my plan is already in place. I am really just along for the ride. The rest of the aquarium was rather noisy, but I sat among the crowd in total tranquility as an enormous feeling of gratitude washed over me.

Turning thirty showed me that I do not exist because of the approval of others. It opened my eyes to the idea that I can feed my soul in more ways than one, and that the most meaningful relationships I will have in my life are happening right now. Most importantly, it provided me with fresh perspective and the chance to wipe my slate clean once more.  Cheers 30.  Let’s do this!

Change: Part 1

You know those relationships that come into your life and change everything? Most of them time, it is just one person we think of.  But in my case, it is an entire team of people who have swooped into my heart and changed my way of thinking.  Last week, I had to make the decision to let them go. Not for lack of love.  Not for a lack of caring. But simply because we need to go where the wind is blowing us right now.

I am not a fan of change.  I do not usually adjust to it well.  Routine is good for me. It reassures me and keeps my busy mind focused on a daily plan.  This is where Tessa gets it from, huh?  

That is the really neat thing about life, you really never know what is going to come your way. When opportunity pops up, you can either take it or run from it. And I have learned that that decision is so much more than simply deciding to do one or the other; especially when we cannot guarantee that the decisions we make are the “right” ones.

I broke up with Tessa’s school last week. I can call it a breakup because it was painful and heartbreaking and I was a serious hot mess about it.  Plus every time I thought about it, I just wanted to cry. I held onto Tessa’s open-enrollment at her first school for as long as I could, but it was not until the superintendent called me early last week to chat that I finally broke down and told her the news.  We had a heartfelt conversation and she assured me that Tessa will be incredibly missed. I couldn’t even properly thank her for the chance to have attended such an amazing district without erupting into more tears. Shocker, I know… Luckily for my husband, the crying has finally stopped.

This probably looks and sounds so dramatic for a school change, but it just proves how meaningful the relationships we have built there really are.  We love this school so much; the staff, the students, the atmosphere, the values of the district…everything.  This team of people at her school set the bar so high and blew away my expectations.

Everything I was concerned may happen going into school, didn’t. They took her in as their own and treated us like family. They saw her full potential and pushed her to it; never suggesting that having Down syndrome may hold her back from certain things. Never.  Not once.  They have done so much for her and for me.  This is where she started. They changed a belief in me and ignited a flame in my heart to always push for my girl no matter what.

This team of her’s, so passionate about their roles, has shown us what the right mindset can do.  They constantly demonstrate what every child deserves in education. They see her as a child first over her diagnosis and they fiercely believe that she can achieve anything.  The power of their confidence in her has made such a positive impact on her life.  Because of these values, Tessa accomplished so much with them.  This is all we have ever wanted for our daughter’s education–belief of what she is capable of and the chance to see it through.

I could go on forever about her team of teachers, therapists, aides, etc.  I could preach about how incredible each of them has been, but I will just assume that by now that you get it.  So when I say this decision was incredibly difficult to make, I sincerely mean it.  I am guilty of taking advantage of how good we had it there; how fortunate we were to have had our daughter in great hands. Now that it is time to say goodbye, it is hitting me how much we will miss them.

Tessa will be starting at a new school this fall…because our family is moving (again, this is another post in the near future). Not far by any means, but back near my hometown which is just a few minutes away from where we are now.  I never really imagined that I would find myself there again, but I feel good about it.  It certainly helps that some of our friends and families and their kids are there as well.  We have already been so welcomed by the new school.  They understand that the transition may be hard for us, but they have reassured us that they have Tessa’s best interest in mind as well as we move forward with them.

While this change feels rough right now, I am incredibly fulfilled about the experience we had at Tessa’s first school and thankful for her team there.  I am also hopeful and optimistic about what is to come.

Here’s to a new school adventure–wish us luck!

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Just a few members of her team from this past year. Glad I snagged a few pictures on the last day of school.