Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and A Wonderful New Year!

  The holidays are upon us, and while it’s a magical time, especially with 2 young children, it’s also an extremely stressful time, especially with 2 young children.  With 3 kids, 1 income, and an E-4 income at that, we’re not usually all that comfortable.  We tend to live paycheck to paycheck, and I can assure you, there isn’t a penny in any savings account, and the amount of debt we’ve procured throughout the 6 years of marriage is embarrassing.  Neither my husband nor I were taught the valuable skills in budgeting and money management and it’s taken these long 6 years together to learn how to TRY to pay bills on time and race the clock against getting utilities and cell phones shut off.  I don’t typically put our financial business out there, I view putting that business out there right next to marriage issues.  I don’t like the world knowing because it creates room for other’s to pass judgment because they believe they have the facts. 
  This past week we decided to load the kids in the car and take a trip to Walmart.  We immediately regretted this decision when we remembered it’s the week before Christmas, but we were already there, and the kids were excited to go shopping.  We’d received a good amount of money in gift cards from family for Christmas, and we were excited to go spend them and bulk up the present load under the tree.  Once getting up to the register, I realized I’d gone about $100 over the budget we had, and then realized that I had gone another $50 over if I expected us to get by until the next paycheck.  I was left to make the embarrassing move and ask the cashier to wipe out the transaction while I stepped aside and removed all the things that weren’t priority.  There were at least another 10 people waiting in line behind me, so I couldn’t just sit there and ask her to take a bunch of items off, one by one.  I spent the whole way home from Walmart thinking “This effing sucks, I’m so done being this broke.  I can’t even afford to get something for myself this year.”  And then I realized.  I’m so NOT broke.  I am BLESSED!!  I stepped back a moment, and I remembered that we always have food, we have diapers for our son, we have a house, and clothes, and gas.  We may struggle to pay the cell phone bill some months, but the very fact that we can is a blessing.  We have each other, we have a beautiful tree, pictures on our walls, a car (that I’d like to kick most days, but we have one none-the-less) and good memories. 

   I, like many others, find myself most often focusing on the things we DON’T have, instead of focusing on the blessings we DO have.  I look back at this past year alone, and I’m just SO overwhelmed at the amazing opportunities I’ve been so blessed to receive, and I have to stop and mentally smack myself for be such a Debbie Downer. 

 In the last year alone, I’ve received:
  • Received my GED and walked across the stage.  I missed that chance when I dropped out of high school and never dreamed I’d get the chance to do it one day.
  • Enrolled in college and graduated, receiving my certification in Medical Billing and Coding
  • Externed at an amazing skilled nursing facility, where I fell in love with the environment, staff, and residents. 

  • Was offered 5 different articles, both online and in magazines, and invited to appear on a MAJOR syndicated talk show, watched nationally by millions of people.
  • Began volunteering for Sold No More, falling absolutely in love with the amazing individuals who run it, and it’s programs, who invited me with open arms, and helped my dreams come true.
  • Had the opportunity to attend the Shared Hope International, Sharing the Hope Conference at home in DC, and learned AMAZING things I’d never known before.  I met amazing people, survivors just like me, who I bonded with and will cherish for life.  Most importantly, I got to see someone who I will always credit for saving my life 9 long years ago.  The amazing work Steve has done has saved more than just me, and he should be given a damn medal. 
  • I started this blog!!  This damn blog, it sometimes feels like a job (that I’m not getting paid for haha!) but it ALWAYS feels important to me.  I worry about trying to push it out and get it noticed, that people will think I’m just tooting my own horn, but I PRAY that someone who needs to read my words will, and maybe it’ll change their lives.  It’s the same reason I do the magazine articles.  Sometimes I hang up the phone after those interviews, and I cry at how they leave me feeling, but then I remember the greater good, and I wipe away my tears.

  • I found myself.  In so many ways, I discovered who I am, what I want, how I want to help shape the world, who I want to support and fight for, and where I want to go.  I discovered my political beliefs as a Liberal, I discovered my desire to find Christ (still looking, the journey is really effing hard!), I discovered my voice!!  I discovered just how loudly I can yell when I want the world to hear my words, especially if I expect anyone to hear me, and change their perspectives.  I discovered that the LGBT world needs straight allies to rally for them as well and that I am so down to help!  I discovered that I am so so much fucking stronger than I ever allow myself to believe.  I can hold my ground, whereas before I would have backed down and let it go.  I discovered that sometimes it takes humility and understanding that I may be wrong, and to accept that.  I found my strength as a mother, as both my children were finally talking, and could express their feelings.  I discovered how something I was so afraid of doing, leaving them to go to school and work, wasn’t going to kill me or them.  I discovered how much I enjoyed being successful and active. 

  •  I found friends.  I found deeper bonds with friends I already had, and I found new friends who I know now I have always needed in my life.  I also had to say goodbye to friends, especially one of my best friends.  I don’t do well with goodbyes.  I tend to be stoic and strong most of the times, but goodbyes get me every time.  It’s been hard having her be so far away, and I pretty much fail at Skyping every week or even finding my phone to catch a call.    I also let friends go, people who I felt were toxic to my life, or simply watched other friends grow apart from me, and by the time I’d realized are truly far we’d grown from each other, it was too late. 

  • The last way I feel that I may have succeeded, despite how ugly and awful it feels, is that I learned to let my mother go.  I learned that she and I would never view the past with the same perspective, and that her views, and her feelings about it, were toxic to my life.  She spent all the years after my time being trafficked telling me it was my own fault, and that she did the best she could.  I spent those years believing her.  As much as I miss her, I realize I just really miss the illusion that I had a mother at all.  In the end, the undeniable truth is that I never had a healthy mother, and that what mine really was, was someone who gave birth to me and my siblings.  I pray that there might be a day sometime in the future that we’ll be able to forgive one another and that we’ll be able to stop hurting one another.  And believe me, it takes a lot out of me to realize I need to forgive. 

  In the end, what all this comes to, is that even in those moments where I’m feeling helpless, and broke, and angry…I really am blessed.  I know that someday I’ll look back to these years and smile.  I know that because I look back to 6 years ago, and I smile and cry when I remember the struggles Drew and I went through at 18 and newly married.  We were always broke and hungry, but we had each other, and we loved hard.  And we’ve gotten to this point by working hard and learning with one another.  I know that the future will be amazing, and I look forward to looking back at these days as memories. 

Merry Christmas loves.  Have a beautiful holiday, love hard, and cherish everything.  Do something amazing for someone who needs it.  <3

Genevieve and Dominic with Santa
Sarah and Paul with Santa