Monday, July 16, 2018

6 Strategies to Stop A Panic Attack In Its Tracks

In a recent poll on my Instagram stories, 72% of participants reported that they struggle with panic attacks.  Granted, Instagram stories aren't exactly Brene Brown-level research, however, it's important to me to be able to write about what would be most helpful to you, and so, here we are.  

The tricky thing about panic attacks is that they affect almost everyone differently.  Sure, there may be similarities from one person to the next, but by and large, my clients report a vast array of symptoms that occur when their panic attack begins.  The one thing they all have in common, however, is that THEY SUCK. 

I mean, I'm sorry, but there's really just no nicer way to say it.

From a racing heart and chest pain, to nausea, breathing difficulties, and a sense of extreme terror, there's nothing pretty about a panic attack.  The worst part is that most people report having panic attacks, as in plural, as in they aren't just a once in a lifetime occurrence.  Because of this, some people live in a near-constant state of anxiety regarding when and where their next panic attack will take place.  

As clients and readers have reached out to me regarding their struggles with panic attacks, my heart breaks for them because I know they would give anything to never have to experience the extreme discomfort of a panic attack ever again.  Can you blame them?

Enter, this post.  I'm sharing six strategies that you can try when and if a panic attack should happen to you.  Why six?  Well, if there was just one, this wouldn't be much of a read, now would it?  Just kidding, my friends.  I'm sharing six (the same six I recommend to my clients) because it's not an exact science.  Most likely, you'll have to try a few different things to see what works best for you.  

Before a panic attack strikes

If there was a surefire way to prevent panic attacks, I would have told you in sentence one.  Unfortunately, there's nothing that can eliminate your chance of having a panic attack entirely, but there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of having one significantly.

Meditate and exercise daily - I know you've probably heard me say it a thousand times (well, maybe not a thousand but you've at least heard me say it here and here ) meditation and exercise are almost as effective as medication for people who struggle with anxiety.  And nowadays, more and more doctors are prescribing meditation and exercise along with anything they tell you to pick up at CVS or Walgreens.  So whether you've been having panic attacks, or you simply wish to avoid them as much as possible, I'd highly recommend you start by adding meditation and exercise to your daily routine.

What to do during a panic attack

Try "grounding" - Grounding is a technique I teach all of my clients who struggle with panic attacks, but I think it's also just a good life skill that everyone should know.  It's simple, SUPER effective, and you can do it anywhere, at any time.  

Here's how it works:  When you feel a panic attack coming on, first notice what is happening.  Take a brief moment to notice the physiological changes that might be happening in your body (i.e. shallow breathing, rapid heart rate, nausea, etc.).  Then, you make a list.

Say whaaat?  

Yep, that's right.  You begin to make a mental list of, well, anything really...but here are a few suggestions I give my clients:

1.  Television shows
2.  Movies
3.  States or countries you've been to
4.  Actors/Actresses
5.  Types of fruit/dessert/drinks/food

You get the idea.  If you're by yourself (or if you don't care if people hear you saying every state you've ever been to), you can say each one aloud.  Or you can write them down if you want.  Most people just start listing the items in their mind.  And once they do...BOOM...panic attack subsides or maybe doesn't even fully begin!

Sound too good to be true?  It's not; therapist's honor!  Grounding works because it takes your mind off of the panic attack itself and forces your mind to go elsewhere.  It's the same concept behind meditating before bed to stop your anxious thoughts or replacing your "hot thought" with a more balanced thought, like we discussed yesterday.  We can't just tell ourselves "stop having a panic attack" or "stop being anxious."  Our brains just don't work that way.  It's the same as telling a toddler "don't play with that electrical cord, it's dangerous!"  If you don't give said toddler something that IS safe and fun to play with as well, you know they'll be heading right back over to that electrical cord for some more "fun."  It's not enough to simply say "don't do this" or "don't think about this;"  instead, we must give ourselves something else to think about.  When we do, our brain (and the rest of our body) begins to come out of panic mode, and we find ourselves returning to the present moment with little to no collateral damage.

Or try THIS type of grounding - If lists aren't your jam, there is another way to practice grounding.  Instead of making a mental list, bring yourself FULLY into the present moment and become an objective observer of everything you see, feel, hear, and touch.  For example, if you are at work and you feel a panic attack coming on, you might change your thoughts from "I can't breathe, Oh no it's happening again" to "Right now I am sitting in my office.  The chair is uncomfortable, it is made of wood.  My desk is neat and organized.  I feel the air conditioning; it's cold in here.  The painting on the wall is a white flower."  The idea, again, is the same as're replacing your anxiety/panic related thoughts with healthy, calm thoughts.  Remember not to judge the things you are seeing, feeling, and experiencing...just notice them, one at a time and move on.  

Either of these grounding techniques will work, but give them both a try and see which one you prefer.  Usually people have one that becomes their go-to, and that is the goal...for you to have a go-to technique when you feel a panic attack coming on.  

Follow a routine - In addition to grounding, having a routine and knowing exactly what you will do each time you feel a panic attack coming on is very helpful.  This is another instance of different people finding different things helpful, but I recommend keeping a card or paper with a 3-6 step routine that you will follow at the onset of every panic attack. I actually made you a free checklist that you can use to customize your panic attack plan of attack (you see what I did there?).

 Some ideas of things you may include on the card are: stop what you are doing, sit or lay down, take 10 slow, deep breaths, practice grounding, tell yourself what is happening in a non-judgmental way (i.e. "I'm having a panic attack, I'm having tightness in my chest), tell yourself you know what to do when this happens, tell yourself this will go away soon because you know panic attacks don't last forever.  You can add to or subtract from that list as you see helpful - some people like to smell some lavender essential oils, others like to do a progressive muscle relaxation - experiment and see what will work best for you.  But write it down on an index card and keep it handy.  When a panic attack happens, some anxiety is decreased immediately upon seeing the card and knowing that you have a surefire plan to stop panic attacks.

After a panic attack

Use a thought record - Once your panic attack subsides (and you are by yourself), try using a thought tracker to see if you can figure out the WHY behind your panic attack.  Over time, you may be able to recognize a pattern, or at least recognize a trigger that maybe you were unaware of before.  The more you understand what's happening in your mind and why, the greater likelihood you will be able to do something about it in the future (i.e. avoid, alter, or accept the trigger/situation). 

Give yourself grace - Last but not least, I beg you to treat yourself with love and kindness once your panic attack subsides.  So many of my clients' thoughts seems to shift to "What is wrong with me?  Why am I still having panic attacks?  I thought I was getting better!" immediately after a panic attack.  So let me just say:  there's nothing wrong with you, recovery is not linear, and you're showing up and doing the best you can every day, just like everyone else.  If you struggle with panic attacks, it doesn't mean you're crazy - it doesn't mean anything about you, in fact, other than that this is something that you deal with occasionally.  And everyone has something that they deal with occasionally, right?  

Fist bump.  You've got this, my friend.  And if you feel like you could use some extra support for anxiety or panic attacks, check out my free anxiety reducing email course.  Over the course of 5 days, I'll walk you through more of the exact coping strategies I teach my clients.  

As always, let me know if you have any questions or concerns.  I'm here for you!





Monday, July 9, 2018

How To Make Each Day Count

If there's one thing I wish my clients would say to me more often, it would definitely be:  "Tell me how to make each day count."

Don't believe me?

Let me tell you why it's true.  Typically, I hear these types of questions from my clients:

"Why is everything so stressful all the time?"

"Why did this sad circumstance happen to me?"

"Why can't I seem to pull myself together?"

While these "why" questions are certainly understandable when life gets difficult, they really don't do anything to help us.  It's easy to ask "why" or "what if" but what we really need to consider is how to shift our mindset to make the most of every precious moment of life we are given.  

Because the fact remains...even if I could answer the "whys" and the "what ifs" for my clients, it still wouldn't help them increase their peace and joy.  It still wouldn't enable them to love the life they're living.  

So, as weird (or morbid) as it may sound, I'm offering you a free video class entitled "If Today Was Your Last: 10 Principles For Making Each Day Count."  It's about 25 minutes long, and it's full of actionable steps you can start taking today to have a more peaceful, joyful, full life.  You see my friends, considering how much time we waste worrying about things that don't matter, or stressing about things we can't change, thinking about how we can live life to the fullest is not weird (or morbid)'s wise.

If you're interested in attending my free video class on how to make each day count, you can find it here, along with all my other video classes.  Oh, and if you're into comedy, my cat tries to (and nearly succeeds in) sabotaging my whole live video about halfway through.  So even if you're not really interested in living your best life, at least there's that, right? ;)

Additionally, I made a cheat sheet for you so you don't have to take copious notes while I'm talking (and while my cat is trying to attack the camera).  You can find the free 2 page cheat sheet here. 

I hope you find this teaching valuable and applicable, my friends!  As always, I welcome your feedback and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about this or any other topic.  And if you have any suggestions for how to make each day count, feel free to let me know in the comments!  Have a wonderful week, Besties!

Monday, June 25, 2018

FREE 5 Day Self-Care Challenge!

Who wants to join my FREE 5 day self-care challenge?!  

You, me, errrrybody! (cue the thunderous applause).

Yes, my Besties, it's about to get REAL.  Because I don't want this to be a place where we merely think about self-care.  I don't want this to be a place where we merely talk about self-care.  Ohhh heck no!

THIS is a place where we will actually prioritize and participate in self-care (and the crowd goes wiiiiild).

Starting July 1, I'm holding a self-care challenge like no other.  And the good news?  You can sign up today!

When you sign up, you'll receive one email per day on July 1-5 full of the encouragement you need to finally start making time for self-care.  There will be one short activity per day, PLUS I'll be going live on the Self Care Bestie Facebook page as well as on my Instagram account to answer any and all of your questions about the challenge, self-care, mental health, or wellness.





Monday, June 18, 2018

4 Tips On Making A Regular Date Night Happen

Making a regular date night happen can feel like a major impossibility to couples who are working long hours, keeping kiddos fed and clean, and keeping up with household maintenance.  So basically, making date night happen probably feels like a major impossibility (or at least uncertainty) for almost every married couple with kids.  

First of all, let me say:  I get it.  Just after my oldest son was born, my husband and I discovered that we had spent six months slowly drifting apart without even realizing it.  We were so hyper-focused  on all that work, volunteering, and now parenting required that it took a while for us to notice something was off.

When we finally did come to our senses, we realized something kind of awesome:  we missed each other.  We missed laughing together, we missed having fun.  We missed truly connecting with each other, and we missed the people we were before our sweet baby boy came along.  We realized:  we were pretty cool back in the day (or so we thought).  And we decided:  we need to be those people again, together.

So what did we do?  You guessed it.  We made date night a priority.  And guess what else?  Through many years of consistent date nights, we have a rock solid marriage that we have worked hard to cultivate.  The best part?  Date night is something we both look forward to.  Because we are continually realizing that not only do we love each other, but we like each other...we really like each other.

If you've been feeling like you haven't been as connected to your spouse lately, or you simply don't have the time or money for a regular date night, allow me to share 4 tips on making it happen.

1. Schedule a date night once a month.  If you have young kids at home, a weekly date night might sound amazing, but it's probably a lofty goal.  In my experience, it has been much easier to make date night happen when we schedule it once a month.  At the beginning of each month (like when you first flip that calendar page over and say "rabbit rabbit"), schedule your date night.  Put it on the calendar.  In Sharpie.  Tell your spouse when you think the best night for date night will be, and ask their input.  Then, no matter what, keep that night (or day) just for the two of you. 

2. Make date night non-negotiable.  Eventually, you may run into "something else came up."  Or "we have to _______ (work late, go out with friends, attend a party)."  I get it.  Life happens.  Every once in a while (and I mean like once a year), you may have to re-schedule or just forgo date night altogether.  But for the most part, date night should be a non-negotiable.  If you have to miss it, re-schedule it within the same month if possible.  Trust me, once you begin connecting regularly on date night, you and your spouse will be sad to miss it.  So make sure you do what you have to do to keep it happening.  

3. Have a no-spend date night.  $20 for movie tickets.  $20 for movie snacks.  $40 for a babysitter.  Before you know it, it's easy to rack up a hefty bill on date night (this is literally why we go to movies like once a year).  But the best news ever about date night is that it doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.  In fact, as I shared on a recent Instagram Live, my favorite date nights are usually the ones that are free!  My husband and I love to sit out on our deck, listening to music.  We love to watch a movie at home (but we do spring for movie theater popcorn...come on, that's the best part!).  We love to play a game or even just read together (nerd alert, I know!).  The point is, you don't have to spend a cent to connect with your spouse, so there's no need to get hung up on not having a lot of money.  There's no need to even leave your house, if you don't want to!  Once the kids are in bed, try one of these fun self-care date nights with your spouse!

4. Think about what will happen if you never actually do date night.  This last tip is the kicker.  I do exercises like this with my clients all the time.  Think about what will happen if you NEVER ever have a date night.  Ten days from now, you might not feel much different than you do right now.  Ten weeks from now you will likely feel super disconnected from your spouse, and maybe even resentful or bitter, or at least sad about it.  Ten years from now...well, I really don't want to even want to speculate about it, but I doubt you would be happier and have a healthier marriage.  

The point is, if we care enough about something, we will find a way to make it happen.  It's hard to feel like something is urgent when we are not in the habit of prioritizing it.  I feel the same way about exercise.  I know I should be exercising, and that it's really good for me, and that the long term effects of exercise are awesome and medically proven.  And yet, if I don't really think about what will happen in ten days, ten weeks, and ten years without exercising, it's easy for me to just live another day not doing it. 

Likewise, if we value our marriage, we will do what it takes to keep it healthy.  Date night isn't the end all, be all, but it for sure helps. 

If you are struggling to make a regular date night happen, feel free to download this free date night planner!  I know I sound like a huge nerd, but if you don't plan for something, it's probably not going to happen.  So print it off, plan something fun, and let us know if you have any other great ideas for making sure date night happens in the comments!


Monday, June 11, 2018

10 Ways To Declutter Your Home and Regain Your Sanity

On my latest Instagram Live, a sweet mama reached out to me to say she was struggling with clutter - not because she isn't a tidy person, but because she has two boys at home with her 24/7.

Believe me, I get it!  As a boy mom myself, I often find myself chasing after little men with my arms full of forgotten cups, plates, socks, towels, and toys.  It seems a never-ending battle, and even as a non-neat freak, I struggle to feel as though my home is ever all clean at the same time.  

Whether or not you can relate, I'm sharing ten ways you can declutter your home and regain your sanity, because as I mentioned here, cleanliness may not necessarily be next to godliness (where in the heck did that expression even come from?!), but it certainly does ease anxiety and make us feel better about life.  

Some of the methods I'm sharing are strictly about decluttering.  Some are more about regaining your sanity.  All of them will help ease your clutter-induced anxiety. 

1.  Have less stuff - This may be super obvious, but I believe it warrants a mention.  Decide that less is more and then strive to live by that ideal.  I found this to be quite true when I began a capsule wardrobe.  Simply choosing one area of life to be a minimalist in has made the getting dressed (and laundry) situation so. much. easier.  

2.  Change your mind - Practicing mindfulness is essential to experience present moment joy.  Truly, if you want your clutter induced anxiety to become a thing of the past, I recommend meditation to help you first declutter your mind from those thoughts that clutter is "bad" or you don't "have it together" if clutter is present.  Mindfulness teaches you to recognize what is with a gentle, objective sense of observing.  There's no judgement allowed!

3.  Declutter before you clean - This seemed super counterintuitive to me (because the only thing I have in common with Monica Gellar is that I may or may not have a closet that is jam packed with stuff), but it really does make sense when you stop and think about it.  Hiding clutter just means you're going to have to deal with it later and cleaning clutter just makes no sense.  Why spend time dusting something you're going to throw away or give to Goodwill?  If you are looking for some more advice (from a real expert) on decluttering, check out  

4.  Delegate, delegate, delegate! - I mentioned this in my Instagram Live also...if you don't live alone, that means there is more than one person making a mess.  Ergo, there should be more than one person is cleaning up.  Ideally, each member of the household should contribute to keeping the house tidy (something I intend to be better about enforcing this summer...muahahah and they thought summer was just going to be spent at the beach!).  Delegating could also mean getting some professional cleaners to come in every so often.

5.  Do your best and forget the rest - I say this to my boys all the time, and I'm pretty sure it's from Paw Patrol.  Regardless, if it's something I'm saying to my kids, it's probably something I should be saying to myself.  Usually, the reasons I get stressed about cleaning are because I'm worried about impressing other people.  And that, I'm learning day by day, is just a waste of mental energy!

6.  One in, one out! - Once things are decluttered (or mostly decluttered), it's time to institute the one in, one out rule.  When you buy a new pair of shoes, out goes an old pair.  When your child gets a bunch of new toys for their birthday, several more old ones get donated.  If you stay disciplined about this, it will definitely make life a lot easier.

7.  Get your family on board - If you're not the only person in your family who doesn't appreciate clutter, it's good to have a chat about what you can, will, and won't do.  Explaining to your family that your major cleaning days will be Tuesdays and Thursdays because those are the days you're home and not working will let them know to expect a little less tidiness the other days of the week.  If you explain this in advance, you will feel less pressure to hurry up and clean before your spouse gets home (or a friend comes over).  You know what you can and can't get done in a day (see #5), and it's time for you and everyone else you live with to be ok with that.

8.  Give whimsy a try - While schedules and plans and decluttering are great, whimsy is even greater.    Life is oh-so-short, my friends.  We are here to experience joy, hugs, long talks, nature, art, music, parties, deep relationships, intimacy, and JOY.  And while having a clean house might make you feel less anxious, I promise you, whimsy will make you feel like you are doing the right things with your life.  I understand that we can't throw caution to the wind everyday, but I do think we can do it probably every other.  Just sayin.  

9.  Avoid comparison - No one you know is "doing it all."  No matter what their Instagram feed looks like, I promise you, they're not.  When you go to someone's house and it looks "perfect," please know that it doesn't always.  When you catch yourself worrying that a loved one or acquaintance is far more put together, or has a nicer home, car, etc., remember what you have.  Remember your people and the joy they bring you.  Remember that nobody's perfect...not even Suzy Instagram Feed (yes, I just made that a thing). 

Full disclosure:  Clutter is not a trigger for me, although I definitely appreciate a neat, clean house.  At this point in life, I have come to accept that when the kids have flown the coop (cue me ugly crying), there will be plenty of time for a perfectly put-together abode.  However, as we get closer and closer to becoming foster parents (as little as three months away now!), I know we're getting closer and closer to messiness and craziness.  It's a fact of life, and one I'm choosing to accept, rather than fight.  So tomorrow, guess what?  I'm getting an estimate on having the house professionally cleaned once a month.  And I'm prouuuud of it.  

We really can't do it all.  In the aforementioned Instagram Live, I also shared with the aforementioned sweet mama that Shonda Rhimes said, "If I'm winning in one area of my life, there's a good chance I'm failing in another."  Amen!  While social media (and our own imaginations) would have us think otherwise, the truth is perfect is overrated and unachievable.  Instead of striving for that elusive appearance of perfection, let's strive for full life.  Let's remind ourselves over and over (and over) again that those tiny faces around us will one day be fully grown and when they're remembering their childhood, they will remember what an amazing mama they had, not what an amazingly clean house she kept.


Monday, June 4, 2018

100 Ways To Celebrate Summer

Ohhh, summer!  How I love to celebrate summer!  With the unofficial start of summer being Memorial Day, 4th of July being right in the middle summer month, and the unofficial wrap up being Labor Day, it feels like there's always a reason to party during the warmest months of the year.  

Last year, I wrote this post, which tells you exactly how to plan an amazing summer.  Because, if you're as type A as I am, planning is an essential component to having an amazing anything.  Can I get an Amen, Besties?

This year, I want to share a MEGA HUGE list of 100 ways to celebrate summer so that plan or no plan, you'll never find yourself without something fun to do each and every day of this glorious time of year.  Are you ready?  Let's get this party started!

100 Ways To Celebrate Summer

1.  Get donuts from your favorite bakery
3.  Have brunch al fresco
4.  Happy hour with a view 
5.  Complete a crossword puzzle
6.  Pool day!
7.  Visit the ocean
8.  Post a photo of you enjoying summer to social media
9.  Watch the clouds go by
10.  Create a signature frosty summer beverage
11.  Go for a bike ride
13.  Make your own popsicles 
14.  Send cards to your loved ones for no reason at all
15.  Go for a walk in the park
16.  Coffee and a magazine in bed
17.  Enjoy some freshly caught seafood
18.  Take yourself on a date somewhere you love to go
19.  Visit a scenic spot in your own town
20.  Buy coffee for the person in line behind you
21.  Solicit your friends for new music recommendations
23.  Take your work outside for the day
24.  Find a field of wildflowers and mindfully enjoy the view
26.  Add some fresh flowers to your home
28.  Pick some fresh berries
29.  Taco night!
30.  Send flowers to someone who could use cheering up 
31.  Stop at a lemonade stand (or set up your own!)
32.  Take a mental health day
33.  Splash in puddles on a rainy day
34.  Plan a super fun vacation 
35.  Read under the shade of a tree
36.  Take a nap in a hammock
38.  Shop at a farmer's market
39.  Experiment with iced tea flavors
40.  Try a new outdoor sport
41.  Have a picnic with loved ones
42.  Stop by a yard sale
44.  Invest in a new pair of shades
45.  Prepare a dish with fruit or veggies you grew yourself
47.  Renew your passport...just in case 
48.  Bake a summer treat and share it with a friend
49.  Post something kind and encouraging on social media
50.  Go a whole day without social media
51.  Drink out of a coconut
52.  Invest in tiny, colorful drink umbrellas
53.  Add a green plant to your decor
54.  Savor a juicy peach
55.  Meet someone new
57.  Take unnecessary tasks off your to-do list
58.  Stargaze
59.  DIY something for your home 
60.  Draw with sidewalk chalk
61.  Sit outside and paint
62.  Have a pajama day
63.  Roast marshmallows over a campfire
64.  Sleep under the stars
65.  Blow bubbles
66.  Catch fireflies
68.  Visit a waterfall
70.  Have a water balloon fight
72.  Watch the sunrise
73.  Watch the sunset
74.  Visit a beach you've never been to before
75.  Play miniature golf
76.  Go to a baseball game
77.  Go to a movie
78.  Go to a drive-in movie
79.  Watch fireworks
80.  Enjoy some sparklers 
81.  Fly a kite
82.  Go to the zoo
83. Make s'mores
84.  Visit a museum 
85.  Have a game night
86.  Go to an outdoor concert
87.  Make a sandcastle
88.  Enjoy a banana split
89.  Go bowling
90.  Go canoeing (or kayaking)
91.  Donate your time and money to a worthy cause
92.  Spend a day in a new city
93.  Make a summer scrapbook
94.  Actually print and organize the photos on your phone
95.  Go for a boat ride
96.  Feed the ducks
97.  Paint pottery
98.  Try out a new restaurant
99.  Play frisbee
100.  Visit a relative

Ok, my friends - did I miss anything on my list of 100 ways to celebrate summer?  Do you know of any other ways to have summer fun?  Let us know in the comments!

I wish you all a healthy, happy and safe summer, full of self care and much love!


* This post may contain affiliate links.  For my full disclosure policy, please visit my Advertise page

Monday, May 28, 2018

In Honor of Foster Care Month: Our Family Is Writing A New Story

Lately I'm learning that the stories you set out to write oftentimes aren't the ones you actually end up writing.  But that's a good thing.  Allow me to explain.  

When I was a senior in high school, my sociology teacher gave our class an assignment to imagine our life in 10 years.  "What do you see yourself doing?  What will your life look like?  What are your dreams for the next decade?" he asked.

This was no problem for me.  I already knew.  I was 18 at the time, so add 10, that would make me 28.  After successfully completing college and marrying my high school sweetheart (whom I had been dating for 9 months at the time), I would be immersed in full time motherhood - after all, little Scott, Hannah, and _______ (I was  unsure if our third child was going to be a boy or a girl, but I had my list of names prepared either way) would require all of my time and attention.  By the time I was 28, they would have reached the tender ages of 4, 2, and, if everyone paid close attention to my plan, little one # 3 would be only months away from birth.  

At the time, I couldn't imagine anything better.  Raised in a quaint suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, I had yet to experience the outside world (even the quaint suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio where I went to college).  

My story would have been an easy one, of course.  No one, when asked to envision their future dares to dream of hardship, let alone calamity of any kind.  With my steady boyfriend (later to be husband) by my side, I was confident we could handle whatever life threw at us.  We would certainly live the "American dream," or at least my 18 year old understanding of it:  happy family, lovely home, no complications.

Yes, the waters I foresaw were calm, like the Narragansett Bay at daybreak.  Glassy, smooth, reflecting perfection, or at least pretty darn close.  

Almost 18 years have passed since I was given that sociology assignment.  I did end up marrying my high school boyfriend, but we have two children instead of three.  Little Hannah was never meant to be, but we were graciously given two wonderful boys (neither of whom are named Scott).  We have moved several times, we have endured family members becoming very sick, family members and friends' deaths, school bullies, ER visits, and many more trials.  But, for the most part, I must admit...the waters have been fairly smooth.

In a few short months, we are writing the next part of our story, creating a new chapter for our family.  This chapter will be different, scary, the waters uncharted.  If I'm being totally honest, it is one that has robbed me of sleep for more than a night or two.  

Our next chapter is foster care, as many of you may already know.  And though we are still many months away from having a child placed in our home, our story already consists of more struggle than I had previously imagined.

My oldest son drew a picture, you see -  a picture of what he fears might become of our family in September, or whenever it is that we receive that first life-changing phone call.  In his drawing, my son depicted me and his little brother in one corner, holding a new baby and smiling.  He drew himself in the farthest corner from us, wearing a prominent frown.  His father was on the opposite side of the page with "zzzzzz" in a sound bubble above his head.  Don't you just love comic relief?

My son had written his own story, and it was riddled with uncertainty and fear.  In many ways, it's like he has read the story I've been writing in my mind and heart, without even realizing it, and interpreted it in his drawing.  

Yet again, my story vastly differs from the one I set out to write.  I wanted to write calm confidence, glassy waters, and perfect composure - at least for my children.  Instead, I'm writing exactly what my son had drawn.  What if our family is traumatized by this?  What if we're biting off more than we can chew?  What if my children don't understand this and what if they resent us for it later?  Or what if they already do?

Holding our collective breaths, we wait. We anticipate what we cannot know, and we're trying as best we can to process it together.  We know that our family will change, each member individually, and all of us as a unit.  Our eyes will be opened to new experiences, emotions, and possibly endings.  

It is impossible to know what lies ahead. Adoption?  Reunification?  Something else entirely?  But day by day, as we inch closer to that first phone call, we grow closer as a family, knowing that we are about to write the next chapter...together. 

About a week after my son processed his fears on paper, we found ourselves in a canoe on the lake abutting our home.  My husband steered in the stern, I paddled steadily with him in the bow, and our boys were seated between us, exclaiming over the turtles, osprey, and swans all around us.  Savoring the moment of us rowing together, and the boys enraptured with creation, I suddenly blurted out:

"Boys, do you know we're a team?"

"Yes," they both replied.  This was something we had spoken of before.

"Do you know that Mom and Dad are a team?  You two are a team?  And all together we're a team?  And no matter what happens in our lives, or in our family, we can get through it if we work together, just like we are right now?"

"Yes!" they exclaimed.  "And God's the coach!" my youngest unabashedly exclaimed.

Smiling back at my husband, I nodded.  "That's right.  There's nothing we can't handle as a family; there's nothing we can't handle with God's help."  

I'm savoring this precious moment in my heart.  I'm savoring the moments that have passed between then and now.  Especially  the moment when my oldest empathically demanded we get new family photos taken once the baby arrives to make sure they feel part of our family.  

I'm so thankful for the team I'm writing this story with.  I'm so thankful it's incredibly different than the one I dreamed of at 18.  I'm thankful that stories don't often end they way they begin, but just like a story that began in Eden and ended on Easter, I now anticipate our story having a glorious ending, come what may.

Thank you for allowing me to process and share my heart here, friends.  I'm forever thankful for you, too.  

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