Take the Step Towards a Better Marriage

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2012…we were battered and bruised, exhausted, every bit the picture of the walking wounded. Financial strain, the depletion of ourselves that came with parenting so many special needs children, surviving crisis after crisis, always emerging a little more beaten down each time had taken a toll on our marriage. We were both hurting.

Around us, one marriage, then another, then another, and another and another began to fall like dominoes including family and close friends. We heard from some that life was easier now that they were separated and there were days when giving up looked almost tempting. Staying together felt like it would be an uphill climb and we were both so tired that it was daunting.

Take the Steps Towards a Better Marriage

To read more of our story and to hear how we were able to better our marriage, continue reading on the Managing Your Blessings site as part of their series on 31 Days to a Better Marriage.

31 Days to a Better Marriage

Forgiveness Heals

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I can talk a good talk when it comes to forgiveness. I think we’ve all heard about how it is for your own good that you are forgiving, about how it doesn’t let the other person off the hook or condone their actions. That’s true. The thing is though, forgiveness is hard. It’s easy to tell someone that they should forgive, but it’s a lot harder to live it.

Forgiveness Heals

Forgiveness is good in theory, but when it comes to:

The dad who abandoned you when you needed him most

The friend who betrayed you

The mom who chose alcohol or men over you

The church that turned its back on you

The person who hurt your child

The love of your life who didn’t love you back

The body that is giving out on you

The spouse who has broken their vows

The God who didn’t answer your prayers

The person who attacked you

The system that hung you out to dry

The husband who ignores you

The boss who fired you

The perpetrator who died before you had the chance to confront them

The man who molested you

The family member who hurts you repeatedly

The bully who made your life a living hell

The judge who took away your daughter

The loved one who lied to you

The parent who was never home

The wife who gambled away your money

The child who is rebellious

The woman who took away your husband

The bank who foreclosed on your house

…forgiveness is not easily come by. Some of the examples on the list above come from my own life. There have been times where I work hard at forgiveness and am able to finally get there only to realize later that there is more work to be done. Sometimes I forgive and then something will trigger the feelings again and I need to forgive the same person for the same thing all over again. Other times, the person hurts me again in the same way and I have to forgive them for the new hurt as well as forgive them again for the past hurts. It’s not simple.

But forgiveness heals. It allows you to love a person while hating their action. It allows you to move forward. The pain of the situation cannot be overcome without first forgiving the person responsible. Sometimes, the person that you need to forgive is you.

Forgiveness does not mean that you have to maintain a relationship with the person who hurt you. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily even have to tell them that you forgive them. It doesn’t require that you like them or that you forget about what was done. It means that you let go. That you give yourself freedom. That you unlock the shackles that are holding you down.

What I’m asking for today in day 17 of this challenge towards having the life you want is that you write down the things you need to forgive yourself for. Maybe you’ve let yourself down by not keeping the promises you made to yourself or by making choices you aren’t proud of. Maybe you are held back by your shame. Whatever it is that you need to forgive yourself for, do it today. There may be ways of avoiding others in your life who have hurt you, but there is no way of avoiding yourself, which is why starting your forgiveness journey here will make the biggest difference.

Once you’ve written your list, work through whatever emotions you have and then as silly as it may sound, express your forgiveness out loud, being as specific as possible.

Like anything else, with practise, it becomes easier. Once you have practised forgiveness on yourself, begin forgiving others. Start with the smallest hurts to continue gaining practise and work your way up to the biggest ones. Be sure to notice how much lighter you feel even after intentionally forgiving the small hurts so that you can build the courage you will need to confront the larger hurts.

Forgiveness frees and it heals.

When you forgive, you love. And when you love, God’s light shines upon you. ~ John Krakauer, Into the Wild

31 Days Towards the Life You Want

Join me this month as I share ways to help you move towards the life you want to live. Join me in the challenge. Ready to jump off the cliff?

Why I Hate the Word “Adopted”

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It might sound shocking to some to hear me say that I hate hearing the word “adopted”. After all, I am an adoption advocate, the founder of an online adoption resource, and most importantly, the adoptive mom to five of my seven kids.

Why I Hate the Word "Adopted"

Just so that we are clear…I love adoption. Adoption is beautiful and complicated and painful and truly, a miracle. But I cringe almost every time I hear the word “adopted”. It is overused, misused and in my opinion, even abused.

To be fair, the dictionary definition of the word “adopted” gives many examples of the uses of this word so I can see why people choose to use it with such frequency and flippancy. In fact, the verb phrase dictionary.com quotes gives as an example is “The institution may keep a child or adopt it out”  Don’t even get me started on how inappropriate this phrase is! The “it” that is being referenced is a child and yet they use the term “it”.

When the word “adopted” is used in reference to things other than humans, it diminishes the strength and true meaning of the word. It also serves to dilute the idea of permanency.

If an idea can be adopted and just as easily discarded by a company or organization when a better idea comes along…

If a school or sports team can be adopted by a business and then the next year, a new class or team can be adopted and take the place of the old one without as much as a second thought…

If a puppy can be adopted but then if that puppy is too difficult or inconvenient or it bites your child, it can be returned or even put down…

What message is that sending to adopted children about the permanency of their situation?

Perhaps you think I’m being too sensitive. Consider these things before you rush to that judgment:

There is power in words and the concepts that we come to associate with them. Could it be that there is a correlation between the overuse of the word “adopted” and the ever increasing rates of adoption dissolution?

Re-homing. That’s a thing. Not for pets but for people. Children actually.

I’m not saying that there is never a situation that warrants that this heart-wrenching, highly personal decision be made. I have several friends who have made this choice and none have made it easily.

There are adoptive situations that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and your brain shudder. There are things I’ve heard that I hope you can never even imagine, so I don’t judge the parents that I know that have chosen to break their adoptions and find new homes for their children, but I do think that perhaps if we as a society made it less of an option because there was more support and more help and less of the mentality that if it’s broken, we throw it away, less of these re-homing situations would occur. I know that there also needs to be further training and more preparation for adoptive families and that nothing is ever simple when you are the one living in it.

But here’s the really scary thing. For a brief second, I almost considered it. Two of our adopted kiddos were older, traumatized children when they arrived in our home and things have been HARD. Five years of day-in and day-out HARD. The kind of hard that people who have not parented traumatized, attachment disordered children will never be able to ever comprehend.

It had never occurred to me that their being ours was anything less than a permanent situation. I have given birth to two children and adopted five and for me, my adopted kids were no less permanent than the ones I had given birth to. So I just kept doing the best I could and trying to find them the best help possible. But there was a time a little over a year ago when several friends of mine made the decision to re-home their adopted children. Around that time, I was also hearing about it more and more in blogs and online and the concept started to become almost normalized. I have to admit that it started to enter my consciousness. For the first time, I allowed myself to imagine our lives had we not added those two more.

I didn’t get very far down that road of imagining before I snapped out of it and knew that for our family in our situation (again, I am not judging anyone else’s situation or decision), adoption really means forever. I had told my kids that adoption meant forever. I needed to honour that…even if adoption also meant hard.

A number of years ago, an acquaintance of mine said to me in all seriousness that she knew exactly what we were going through with our kids because one of the dogs they had adopted had been abused prior to coming to live with them. She was absolutely serious. She was comparing my children and my forever, permanent adoption of them to a dog that she got from a shelter, who she may someday choose to find another home for or bring back to the shelter or even put down.

I’d like to tell you that this is the only time I’ve encountered that mentality, but sadly, it isn’t. Other adoptive parents that I know report similar experiences.

Somewhere along the way, we as a culture have allowed the idea to seep in that adoption isn’t always permanent. Maybe hearing “adopted” in reference more commonly to dogs as in reference to children has started to impact the way we view adoption.

Silly dog photoimage credit: 123rf

So please, next time your company decides to help a soccer team or a reading program and you want to announce it to the world, use the word “sponsor” or “support” instead of “adopt”. If your family decides to take in that cute little mutt from the animal shelter, say “rescue” or “take in” or “take guardianship of” or even “new family member” (if you must…). If you are in a board meeting and want your company to take ownership of a new idea, say “embrace” or “apply”.

There are kids out there who may have experienced several different homes such as their first family, then an orphanage, then another orphanage, then their new adoptive family or twelve foster homes after their birth family and then their adoptive family. They need to be able to learn that “adopted” means “forever” and they need that reinforced in every way possible. At least two of my kids need daily, sometimes hourly reminders that “adopted” is “forever”. Can you help be part of the solution?

Adopted Means Forever

You may also be interested in reading:

Answering the Rude Questions

The 10 Strangest Adoption Questions I’ve Been Asked

When Your Family is a Walking Advertisement

Secrets of Happy People

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

Happiness. We want it for our kids, our loved ones and ourselves but it can seem like an elusive quest. I thought it would be interesting to see what the research says about what happy people have in common.

Secrets of Happy PeopleHave you ever heard of something called Positive Psychology? It’s the scientific study of what makes people thrive. Through many studies and exhaustive research, several commonalities have been identified in individuals who are happy. Perhaps by learning what they are, you can increase your own happiness by striving to emulate these qualities.

  • Wanting What You Have – People who have adjusted their expectations to accept and embrace what they have are happier than those who are in the “the grass is always greener” mindset.
  • Enjoying What You Do – What you do equates to a large chunk of your time so it’s no surprise that loving what you do contributes to overall happiness.
  • Live in the Now – Being present in the moment and not letting worry about tomorrow or regret over yesterday rule your thoughts is another secret to happiness. Notice and appreciate the small moments.
  • Choose Happiness – In surveys, those who reported that they felt that happiness was a choice also reported being happier overall so even just the perception that it is something within your control seems to work in your favour.
  • Relationships and Life Choices – Studies show that married people rate themselves as happier than singles. Staying active and involved also increases happiness. Things such as exercise and hobbies matter in terms of long term mental health.
  • Comparison Kills – Well it kills happiness anyway! While some level of ambition is healthy, jealousy or envy decreases the happiness people feel in their own lives.
  • Be Optimistic – It is probably no surprise that those who have positive attitudes are happier than those who don’t. Glass-half-full people are also less likely to become depressed. Actively pursuing thankfulness by something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal increases optimism.
  • Compassion and Generosity – Looking outside your own pain to help others results in you increasing your own happiness as well.

In our series of 31 Days Towards the Life You Want, we will be exploring some of these in more depth, but your challenge for today (should you choose to accept it!), is to smile more. Fake it if you have to. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Smile at your dog. Smile at the neighbour down the street, the grouchy man at the grocery store, the elderly woman you hold a door open for, the rowdy teens at the corner store, the rattled mom of toddlers you pass by, just smile. Studies show smiling, even fake smiling, contribute to happiness.

31 Days Towards the Life You Want