Monday, January 30, 2017

My Letter to Ellen (3.0)

This was such a special day. Glad I could be there to celebrate you, E.
As many of you may or may not but probably may know, I have a deep and abiding belief that Ellen DeGeneres is an angel/miracle worker who can make anyone's dreams come true.

If you watch her show or follow her on any of her social media accounts, you likely believe this, as well. 
I mean, look at this list of ways Ellen has changed lives. She doesn't mess around.

Being the daydreamer I am, I often imagine what wish I would make if I were ever in Ellen's presence. I like to keep a small running list in the back of my mind- just in case. There are some practical things (like some help with odd jobs around the house or a car with more room for car seats) and some fun things (like a vacation or a night out with 
Michelle Obama). 
I'd gladly do any of these things with her any day.
But ultimately, I have one main wish that surpasses all the others.

And that is saying something- because one wish I've consistently had for years is to be set up on a date with Josh Groban, and word on the street is he's single this year, so that's a totally normal, realistic, and not at all creepy wish to have.

I agree.
If I could ask Ellen for just one thing, it would be this: 


I'd ask her to dedicate her annual Mother's Day show to foster moms.

If you haven't read my past two letters and don't want to read all of this one, there are two main reasons I want this to happen:

  1. It would be a great way to celebrate badass women who do some hard and amazing things.
  2. It would raise awareness about such an important issue in our country today. And during National Foster Care Awareness month, no less!
Obviously my personal experience makes me a little bit biased, but the concept of a Foster Mother's Day episode honestly seems perfect to me. Ellen loves making the world a better place! She ends every show by encouraging people to "be kind to one another," so it would fit perfectly with who Ellen is and the message she shares with the world. 
So do we, Ellen. So do we.
And did I mention the episode would fall during Foster Care Awareness month? Because it would.

I feel so strongly about this that I've committed to writing her a letter suggesting it every year until it becomes a reality. This is my third try, and I hope that it (like many third tries) is a charm. Because writing these letters and finding the perfect gifs for them is time consuming. 

If you happen to agree and think a Foster Mother's Day episode would be neat, I'd be honored if you read and shared this letter

Tweet out the link, post it on Instagram, share it 50 times on her Facebook page... whatever. (Here's an abbreviated version: http://bit.ly/2kL5KAF if needed!)  Maybe if enough people share it enough times, she'll actually see it! (Or someone on her staff will, who would then maybe share it with her.) 

In an effort to be strategic, I think it'd be helpful to coordinate sharing and time them for Wednesdays- starting Feb 1st. But if you want to share it other days, I will not object. If you have other friends who would be up for sharing it, pass it along to them, too!

Be sure to tag Ellen when applicable- and use the hashtags #BeKindToOneAnother and #FosterMoms4Ellen if you can squeeze them in there. (I tried to think of a better- or at least shorter- hashtag, but apparently that's not my gift.)
Also be sure to make it public if you're using social media- that way it can be seen and shared!

And on the off chance that you/someone you know is an acquaintance or best friend of Ellen's,  I’ll give you a hand written version to pass along to her directly. If we’re all just 7 degrees from Kevin Bacon, we have to be only 5 or 6 from Ellen. She seems to know a lot of people, so if you're one of them... hit me up.

____________________

Hello there, Ellen!

You might not know this, but I’ve written to you quite a bit over the past few years. I think all of my letters and emails have gotten lost en route, though, because I haven’t heard back from you.

Yet.

This is year three of my annual tradition- writing you a letter in an effort to share a really great show idea.

I think it’s really great, at least. And I have a feeling you’d agree if you saw it.

But first, let me introduce myself.

My name is Kaley. I’m a 29-year-old social worker living in Waco, TX. Like many people, I intend to spend my life living fully by doing things I love and care about.

Sometimes I strive toward that goal by spending time with friends and family, attempting crafts I find on Pinterest, or eating too much Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. I’m a pretty average young adult in that way. 
(How long can I label myself as a young adult? Is there a cap on that? Probably neither here nor there right now, but I’m curious.)

I've also decided to live fully by becoming a foster parent, which I suppose makes me a little bit unique among my age group.

I’ve been a foster parent for about three years now, and I could likely write a short novel on the journey it’s been. In an effort to save us both time, though, I’ll stick with the Spark Notes version for now.

I’m going to skip over the years leading up to it and begin with September 2014- when my foster care journey officially began. That's the month I completed all the requirements and signed licensure paperwork, making my "foster parent" title official. On paper, at least. It became official in a more tangible sense two weeks later, when I got a call about my first placement. 

There was a mom scheduled to give birth in the next few days, and her baby needed a home immediately. I eagerly said yes and, like most moms-to-be (although at a slightly faster pace), I started preparing. A few days later, on September 26th, I went to the hospital to pick up my first foster son. Miraculously, the hospital staff let me leave with him (I had no clue what I was doing) and, even more miraculously, a judge let me leave a courthouse as his forever, legal mom 15 months later! It wasn’t even remotely what I expected to happen 2 ½ years ago, but every day I am remarkably grateful as I think about the magnitude of that gift and responsibility.

After my son’s adoption, we spent a few months enjoying time as a family of two and getting re-licensed to open our home up for more placements. We finalized that process in October of 2016, and one week later I got a call about a 12 year old boy. One hour after that, T1 arrived on my doorstep, and my world shifted again. Caring for a 12-year old has challenged and stretched me in some big ways, but just as I felt like I was maybe sort of starting to get the hang out it, things changed again. In December, I found out T1’s brother needed a new placement and, long story short, we became- and currently remain- a family of four.

I’ve had 3 placements in 3 years, but I still feel inexperienced in the world of foster parenting. I’ve definitely learned a lot, though, and I have gained a tremendous amount of respect for the people who sacrifice so much to take on this role.

As a foster mom, I've had to sacrifice my:
  • time, 
  • finances,
  • physical and emotional energy, 
  • mental health,
  • paid time off at work, 
  • and my ability to do things like spend time with friends and family, travel, sleep in past 6AM, stay out past midnight, make last-minute plans with anyone, Netflix-marathon Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life in one sitting, and generally live a “normal” 29-year-old-single-lady life. 
And that’s not even an exhaustive list. Being a foster mom is freaking hard, and some days the only thing saving me from careening over the brink of insanity is the knowledge that there’s a bottle of wine with my name on it waiting for me after the kids go to sleep. Real talk.
Thank you, wine.
The thing is, being a foster parent opens your heart up to so much love and joy- which simultaneously leaves it open to a lot of grief and pain. It really requires a unique sense of vulnerability, because you have to balance two very different truths and figure out a way to carry them both at the same time.

In one hand, you hold the truth that these children are your own. You open up space for them in your home and heart, and you care for them as though you gave them life and will walk them through it from start to finish. You love them completely and without condition, because that's what parents do.

But in the other hand, you hold the truth that there’s another family out there- one they could return to any day. You have to accept that, no matter how much love you pour into them, they might not remember your name- or you at all- years down the road.

And those are hard realities to reconcile.

But even so, foster parents stick with it because this work is important. 
And it is so desperately needed.

And I have to believe- especially on the hard days- that it makes an impact. Not just in the lives of the children in care, but on the lives they touch, and the lives they touch, and so on and so forth until it spreads throughout the world.

It may sound cheesy or cliché, but it astounds and humbles me just thinking about it. That impact is one of the things that makes this responsibility so beautiful and rewarding.

Which brings me to the purpose of this letter. Every May, you have a wonderful Mother’s Day show where you celebrate women doing an amazing thing- bringing life into the world. Your audience is filled with women proudly rocking their baby bumps, and it's one of the best shows of the year.

But over the past three years, my eyes have been opened to the many mothers out there whose stories aren’t often celebrated- or even shared. From women who are led to foster care because they are unable (or choose not) to have children biologically, to women who foster just so kids can experience safety and love before finding permanency with their biological or adoptive families- there are many mothers out there who don’t necessarily bring lives into the world, but they certainly work hard to make sure those lives thrive. Their stories are complex and challenging, but they are also beautiful and very much worth telling.

I think it would be amazing to host a Foster Mother’s Day show celebrating these women.  Not only because they deserve it for the love they selflessly give, but because it would inform millions of your viewers about a really important issue. 

Did you know that in the United States, more than 400,000 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system? And more children enter than leave each year.* In many states- like my own- there is such a shortage of foster families that children wind up sleeping in CPS offices for nights at a time.** 

There are so many things- big and small- your viewers can do about this, but they may not even be aware of them.  They could donate items to children in care, volunteer with an organization that supports biological families working toward reunification, register to provide respite care for foster families, or could even become foster parents themselves.

I’ve been amazed by how little most people seem to know about the reality of fostering. Many people tell me, “I could never do that!” without having an accurate understanding of what it’s like. Because of this, I'm passionate about changing people’s misconceptions by being honest about my experience- both the joys and the challenges- in my conversations and writing, but I know your voice can carry a lot further than mine. (According to my very formal Wikipedia research, your show averaged 3.9 million viewers per episode in 2011, which is a pretty incredible sphere of influence).  

I also know you use your voice to make a positive impact on the world- it’s one of the many reasons I admire you.

I know you can’t support every cause people point you toward, but I at least wanted to ask you to support this one. May is National Foster Care Awareness month, too, so it could be perfect!

I’m not sure if this will actually reach you, but, if it does, I’d be so grateful if you’d even consider this. Whether you think about making a change to the Mother’s Day show or share this information in some other way, I really believe it could make such a difference for the kids across the country in need of safe homes and loving families.

Regardless of whether or not this letter changes anything, I really am thankful for all you do to make the world a better place. You bring so much joy to so many people, which is why you always make my list when I answer the classic getting-to-know-you question: “What five people- dead or alive- would you invite to a dinner party?” There’d be so much good conversation and dancing.

Thank you for being kind.

All the best,

Kaley

(p.s.- I realize it may seem a little self-serving to make this suggestion given the fact that I am a foster mom myself, but I would be totally fine if you did this and I wasn't there- I'd imagine there are plenty of other foster moms who could fill an audience.)

(I mean, I wouldn’t complain if I was there, but I’d be genuinely thrilled to watch from afar, too.)

(pps- I’ve had a few years to imagine what this show would look like, and I have some celebrity guest ideas if you need them. I've been told Sandra Bullock and Nia Vardalos were both foster moms! I don't know either of them personally, though, so I can't confirm the validity of that statement.)



*AFCARS report, 2015: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/trends_fostercare_adoption2014.pdf

**http://www.mystatesman.com/news/state--regional-govt--politics/texas-foster-children-slept-state-offices-march-and-april/VM2oQCF3iLPdgbOebj2kEN/











Thursday, January 19, 2017

"IT'S NOT ABOUT THE LAUNDRY!"


I started writing this post back in December and have debated since whether or not I actually want to post it. I wrote as a necessary reminder for myself, but doing so required me to be very honest about something I don't always love to admit publicly. As someone who is passionate about advocating for foster care and encouraging others to get involved, I love having the opportunity to highlight the Instagram-worthy parts of being a foster parent, and I could talk about how important and meaningful this work is all day.

But when it comes to the challenges? I like to keep it light. That's partially because I like looking like I have it all together, but mostly because I am aware that foster care intimidates a lot of people, and I worry that being too honest about the difficult moments might, in some people's minds, be a confirmation this path is one they should avoid. 


At the same time, I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking this is an easy road once you muster up the courage to take those first steps.


Because the truth is: sometimes being a foster parent is incredibly difficult.


The past few months have been hard. Like- ready to quit because I’m just so exhausted and overwhelmed hard.

T1 and T2 are remarkable kids- they are resilient and caring and sensitive and funny. And they are also punks, for lack of a better term. There are probably numerous reasons for this fact- some revolving around their life experiences and some revolving around their life stage. But caring for them has challenged me in both expected and unexpected ways, and- to be very honest- there have been times when I’ve felt ready to throw in the towel. I’ve been yelled at and threatened, laughed at and mocked, and just disrespected in general. And it is really, really f****** hard and frustrating and exhausting. (The “f” word seems to be one of the few words that do it justice, but I know not everyone loves its use. I generally don’t, but I have found it an accurate articulation of my feelings lately.) 

I am not always able to think clearly or respond with patience and grace in those tense moments of frustration and exhaustion. I haven’t done the math, but I think recently the percentage of times I've handled them well has been pretty low. Truth be told, I have dropped the “s” word twice in front of them, which feels a little embarrassing in retrospect- although I know they have heard (and said) much worse. I’ve been pushed to the point of tears on multiple occasions now, and I regularly have to follow Daniel Tiger's advice to take a deep breath and count to four. Or a million. (It's a little song from the show that J-Bear is starting to learn, which is really adorable. That's neither here nor there, but maybe I'll share a video sometime.)

When I am able to calm down enough to think clearly, which sometimes takes a while, I remember a conversation I had with T1 not long after he joined our family. We were getting ready for school/work one morning, unsurprisingly running behind schedule, when he- clearly frustrated- yelled to me from his room, “MS. KALEY- WHERE’S MY WHITE POLO SHIRT?!”

Me: “I’m not sure- have you checked your closet?”
T1: “YES! IT’S NOT THERE! IS IT IN YOUR ROOM?”
Me: “Honey, I do your laundry separately to avoid mixing our clothes up.” (This was an important lesson I learned the week before, when he couldn’t find the socks he wanted.) “I did your laundry two days ago, so it has to be somewhere in your room. Is it in the dirty clothes?”
T1: “NO, I ALREADY CHECKED THERE!”
Me: “Well, you’re welcome to check the laundry room- and I’ll skim my room, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s not in here!”

After this exchange, he stomped through the house to the laundry room to rummage around and, as I suspected, did not find his white polo shirt. He returned to his room, continuing to stomp and mumbling about how someone probably stole it or buried somewhere in my laundry. I checked my laundry basket (which essentially functions as a closet at this point because it holds all the clean clothes I’m too lazy/tired to put away). No dice. When I informed him it wasn't in there, I heard his door slam in response. Not long afterward, it was (past) time to go, so I announced we needed to leave the house in the next few minutes while attempting to pull J-Bear’s jacket over his squirming arms (because, oh yeah, I’m also trying to get a toddler ready through all of this). One arm into that process, T1, threw open his door and marched out of the house and toward the car without a word. He hadn't quite reached the doorknob, though, when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye... 

You probably guessed it- he was wearing the missing white polo. I muttered a quick prayer of thanksgiving that my assumption about the shirt’s location was accurate and carried J-Bear to the car.

Cut to a few minutes later. We are now driving to T’s school in silence. He’s staring- or perhaps more accurately glaring- out the window, refusing to look at me. I wait for a bit and muster up some empathy (after all, I experienced similar frustrations as a teenager with a chronically chaotic room- sorry, mom!) before saying, “Hey, T, I know this morning was stressful. It must have been frustrating not being able to find your shirt when you wanted it. Maybe after school today, we can brainstorm some ways for us to stay more organized with your laundry so we can avoid that stress in the-”

“It’s not about the laundry!” he interjected sharply.

The silence returned as his words sunk in.

And I felt like an idiot.

Because of course it’s not about the laundry!

Sure, that may have been what he was responding to in the moment. But what’s really going on is that this kid is living with a strange white lady and her son, missing his family, worried about his siblings, devastated over missing his brother’s birthday, confused by how quickly his entire world shifted, frustrated by how little control he has over anything happening to him, and scared of the uncertainty of his family’s future. 

He’s not mad about his shirt. 


He’s terrified by everything going on in his life.

As a foster mom of older boys, I have found myself so frequently losing patience because I am horribly short-sighted. And often selfish. That's not me being modest or seeking reassurance those things aren’t true, because I promise you- they really, really are. (I am a human, after all.)

When I’m dealing with another temper tantrum or mood swing or the millionth repetition of a basic instruction like “brush your teeth,” it’s easy for me to focus on how hard this is for me- how frustrating it can be to deal with remarkably disorganized rooms (I totally get it now, mom), having to pick up wet towels from the floor for somehow the 10th time this week even though it’s only Tuesday, short tempers, insubordination, and blatant disrespect feebly disguised as “just a joke!”. It is hard for me to realize I’m not the only person struggling with this change.

I know enough about childhood trauma to know not to expect this, but deep down I want these boys to walk into my home and immediately understand/adapt to my habits, my personal preferences, my rules and expectations, my family culture, etc. But that’s not very realistic. And it’s certainly not empathetic or fair. Because, the truth is, they're adapting to and dealing with a lot. They've spent their entire lives in a different home where things likely look very different, and I can't really expect them to navigate all of these changes with ease. 


That being said, I am clear with them that there is no excuse to be disrespectful. I set high expectations for them, and I remind them at every opportunity of the gifts, strength and potential they have.

But I'm still working on the grace part.


I'm not sure I'll ever fully get there- because being disrespected just sucks. But I want to try to be more aware of what's really going on- what's happening behind the meltdown over the laundry.


And as I reflect on how important that is for my life with these boys, I realize it doesn't end there. I want to practice seeing deeper and extending more grace to everyone- even the driver who honks at me for driving the speed limit while cutting me off in a school zone.


I often see people simply through how their actions affect me.

Instead, I want to see them as people who are doing the really hard work of being human. (Because let's be honest- sometimes being a person is rough.)

There's a quote I love that is often accredited to Plato but may have actually been adapted from something Ian Macalaren wrote (thanks, Google!): 


I so often need this reminder- in my home and life in general.

Or this one, from Kid President:

Now this isn't to say I will simply accept meanness and overlook disrespect. That behavior isn’t acceptable and needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

But I will work on looking through the behavior to see the person behind it, so compassion- rather than anger/exhaustion/frustration/etc- will inform my response.

I don’t know what’s in store for me and T1 and T2. There’s a lot we’re trying to figure out in order to ensure they’re being loved and cared for as fully as possible. I hope that can happen in my home. But no matter what lies ahead, I always want to remember:

It’s not about the laundry.



**Just in case anyone is interested, one book that has really informed my understanding of child development and behavior is The Whole-Brain Child. If you have, work with, or know children- I highly recommend it. I wish I were being paid to promote it, but I’m not- it’s just genuine praise for this book. The authors have written other books that I have purchased and am working on reading in my incredibly limited free time, but I bet they're great, too.** 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

On Fear and Fostering


     When I was young, I- like many children- had dreams of becoming an actress. I wanted to be on Broadway, which I think surprises a lot of people because I tend to be somewhat reserved and don’t have an especially magnetic personality. It’s fine- I can embrace this fact about myself. I have an awkwardness I like to believe is endearing, but charisma? Not so much. Nonetheless, an actress I wanted to be- so much so that I asked for an agent for birthdays and Christmases for years, which probably never annoyed my parents at all. There was something about inhabiting another person and living her story that I  loved.

     It started in 8th grade with The Great Bear of OrangeThe Great Bear of Orange was a brief, one-act show in which I slayed as the evil witch- a part I received because I was the only student willing to let go of my middle school inhibitions and self-consciousness long enough to do the classic witch voice during auditions. I cared about being a star more than I cared about fitting in. Or maybe I thought it would help me fit in? Either way, I still remember what a rush it was to perform in front of an audience- even one as apathetic as a room full of middle schoolers forced by their teachers to be there.

Pretty sure I saw a few of these faces.
     I had this great dramatic monologue I gave while standing alone on the stage, which felt like such a big deal to me.
Someone managed to capture the moment. But seriously- this is what it felt like.

   To this day, I can remember some of it. “So Great Bear of Orange- you’ve managed to lure a fair maiden into your lair! You think you’re so crafty you can skin an eel?? I also will see she is well-cared for…” Unfortunately, the Great Bear messed up his lines and skipped over the entire thing during our only evening performance for parents and family. It was devastating, but I have found it in my heart to forgive and move on. 

Mostly.

       Anyway, the point is I loved acting. All of my free time in high school was split between theatre and youth group, and when I wasn’t doing either of those I was listening to Broadway soundtracks or performing them in the shower. (I’m sure you are already picking up on this, but I was obviously very cool and popular.) By my senior year, I decided I’d go to college to study musical theatre- every parents’ dream for their child. I auditioned (and was accepted, nbd) to programs at a few universities and ultimately decided to attend Baylor. (Sic ‘em!) But as high school drew to a close, I started to realize that my dream of Broadway was big. And hella risky. 


      And that terrified me. 


      It was right around that time that a small, fearful voice packed its bags and moved in with me, settling down and taking up more and more space (as we all do when we live somewhere for a while), growing and expanding until it became this loud, booming sound I couldn't really block out.

It grew kind of like this, except doing so wasn't particularly helpful in defeating Bowser.

    So I spent a lot of time listening to it. Fear told me all too often that I probably wasn't enough for that dream of mine, and it's easy to believe anything you're told so confidently and consistently. I started questioning whether I was pretty enough or had a good enough voice, I started over-analyzing every part I didn’t get, and suddenly I was unsure if I had any talent at all. (You’d think being accepted into theatre programs would have quieted the fear, but it didn’t- that’s how quickly it grew and took over.) I showed up to college so afraid  and certain of my own failure that, during the first week of classes, I sat in my dorm room late at night and changed my major as I cried over my keyboard. (To elementary education, which also did not work out, but for very different reasons.)


      As sad as that moment in my life was, I am not sorry it happened. (Although, real talk, I do feel a little sad when I see a show and wonder if it could be me onstage.) If I hadn’t made that decision then, my life would probably look very different now- and I am pretty happy with the life I have going on. Mom to the cutest 2 year old in the world? I think that surpasses all the Tony’s I would clearly have won by this point.

     I’m not sharing this story to bum anyone out- or to casually inform any potential readers about my hidden talent. (Unless anyone reading this is a casting director looking for an inexperienced actress for a new hit musical. If that’s the case, call me.) I bring it up because, over the last two and a half years, a lot of people have heard my story and generously referred to me as “brave.” It always makes me laugh a bit, because, in all honesty, I have never in my life considered myself to be a brave person. When I was young, my dad made me practice looking him in the eyes while I recited the alphabet because just talking to people made me nervous. 


   The truth is, I’ve spent a lot of my life being afraid. And on far too many occasions I’ve allowed fear to make decisions for me. (And some of them have been big, important decisions.)


    It's hard to look back on those moments, but these days I feel differently about myself. The Kaley of right now could look anybody in the eyes and confidently say, “I am very, very brave.” I think that’s partially because age and experience have a tendency to give us a new understanding of who we are, but mostly I think it’s because being a foster parent- especially this time around with two older and challenging boys- has given me a new understanding of what bravery is. As Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”


     For anyone who looks at me and sees any level of courage or thinks they could never do what I'm doing, I want to make something very clear: I am, quite often, terrified of this journey I’m on. There are times I feel afraid I’m not making the right parenting choices, times I fear I won’t make the right parenting choices ten years down the road, times I worry I’ll never achieve financial stability (I’m a single parent/social worker- dream combo), times I fear my decision to foster/adopt will doom me to permanent spinsterhood (this fear is real from my spot in the Bible belt), times I fear how my decision to foster affects the people around me, times when I'm afraid my patience is about to run out completely, times I worry raising three boys will destroy my sanity, times when I go to bed so exhausted I fear I won’t be able to wake up and do this again the next day… This is list could go on for ages. Choosing to be a foster parent (and a parent in general) is just straight-up terrifying. There’s no getting around it.

     Sometimes I feel as full of fear and self-doubt as my 18-year-old self, crying alone in her dorm room. But, unlike my 18-year-old self, I am no longer willing to let fear define my decisions and actions.


    That's the point I reached in 2014, when I decided to begin my journey as a foster parent. I knew it was something I wanted to do, but always said it would be down the road when I was older and settled down. Then I realized how significant the need was in my community. (If you want to hear more about that discovery, I talk about it in this episode of the Archibald Project's Podcast.) 

     In that moment (and in many moments throughout the licensing process) I was faced with two choices:  one that would give in to fear and be easy and safe and lead to me watching Netflix far too often; another that would embrace fear and be terrifying and vulnerable and (hopefully) allow me to make a positive impact on the world.

Fueled by passion and a strong sense of social justice, I decided to go with the second option, plowing forward to set up meetings with local agencies and begin the work to get licensed.


    But soon afterward fear showed back up, and there were definitely times when I almost caved. One day I convinced myself I wasn't ready to be a foster mom, so I took a "break" from the licensure process that I initially intended to last forever. Or at least for 20 years.

   I thought I would feel a sense of relief and peace after quitting, but I felt surprisingly unsettled. I spent time seeking counsel from family and friends, praying and trying to figure out what I should actually do. In that time of uncertainty, I realized something important:

I needed to make the decision- then and repeatedly for the rest of my life- to let the potential for good outweigh my fear.

I had to let the voice of hope, optimism and opportunity be louder. (Or at least choose to listen to it more than I listened to fear.)

Good words from Gandalf.
     That's not to say I don't allow fear to inform my decisions and actions. I’ve discovered it's an important thing to acknowledge because A) it’s a real feeling, and B) it helps me recognize what’s important. Listening to fear makes me very aware of what I value, as well as what my strengths and areas for growth are.

     I don’t want to pretend my fear doesn’t exist, but I also don’t want to allow it to control my life. 


     I refuse to let fear prevent me from living a rich and meaningful life spent doing big and crazy things that just might make a difference in the world.

    Life is just too short- and far too important.

     So please know as you read my blog or look at my photos or watch me on Fixer Upper- I am far from fearless. And that’s okay.

     And it’s okay if you’re not fearless.

     I mean, kudos to you if you are- I am in awe of you. But if you’re like me (as I suspect most people are), remember that your fear doesn’t need to define what you do or who you are. You can still choose courage- even when doing so feels scary and crazy and makes very little logical sense.


After all, sometimes those are the choices that change your life.