originally written April 11, 2015 

“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’
I am always tempted to ask,
‘Compared to what?’”

Sydney J. Harris

I subscribe to Thoughtful Mind and around 7:45 every morning I receive awesome quotes via email. I love them! Yesterday morning’s quote was on perspective. This was one of my favorite ones I have received to date, and came at such a great time for me. I stopped and thought really hard, paying attention to all of the words and how they were speaking to me. People often tell us they don’t know how we do it – our life isn’t exactly typical. While most families that “look” like ours spend their afternoons at sports practice, doing homework, and eating as a family…Jeff and I typically divide and conquer: driving around town and participating in various therapy and psychiatric appointments, practicing social skills through strategic activities and interactions, emailing with teachers and providers to be sure we are all on the same page, and crises management which lately has involved a lot of physical restraints.

Most of the time we can honestly answer that it’s our life AND not only did we choose it, but we begged, pleaded, and fought for it.  We truly wouldn’t have it any other way.  And because this has been our way of life, it actually doesn’t seem SO hard.  It seems quite typical.  We’ve got a good groove going on.

This morning, though, I woke up feeling just HOW HARD LIFE WAS. I didn’t even roll over in bed, before it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I woke up on the “woe is me, life is so hard” side of the bed.  I am suffering from a major back injury and the pain and symptoms had gotten worse throughout the night.

I knew Jeff and I were going to need to finally pull the plug on our adoption celebration trip, and I had NO energy to put my two feet on the ground to get the girls ready for camp.  So I grabbed my phone and yesterday’s thoughtful quote was right there (I had taken a screen shot).  I started analyzing my woe is me wake-up: What am I really comparing things to when I say my life is hard? And are these things really where I want to be investing large amounts of my time and energy?  As I thought about these things, I made sure to notice and observe every feeling & sensation in my body, concentrate on and be mindful of my breath…I spent about 20 minutes focusing on this quote through prayer, meditation and yoga breathing. I have found that mindfulness practices like this are an important way for me to start my day.

Thankfully this 20 minutes allowed me to  shift the rest of the morning and tackle it with a clear and beaming perspective.  Despite the pain, lack of sleep, and being drugged up, I was able to use these 20 minutes to refocus my perspective.   Just so happens it was good that I had taken this time as we ended up having a MAJOR crises at the Phoenix Home.

Despite lots of calls and texts, we weren’t able to arrange for help. SO, all 4 of us girls ended up having to rough it and figure things out on our own this morning. We did a mighty fine job following our safety plans, allowing safe restraints, and using our coping skills if I must say so myself. Our good friend, Kristen, stepped in and got Savanna and Shianne to Spring Break Camp (does this feel like déjà vu to you Kris, as I’m pretty sure last year played out in a very similar way? :-)) Once Chelsea calmed down enough and was safe to go, I dropped her off at Camp.

Today was the last day of camp and the memories made today will stay in my girls’ minds for a lifetime, so I am so thankful we were able to get all 3 there. They had an AWESOME week! A huge thank you for this amazing event Seneca Creek Community Church put on; we appreciate all who contributed ideas, supplies, time, help, moola, and/or dropped off and picked up their children to make this event happen. I believe about 250 local children attended and benefited from the hours upon hours of time and service that went into pulling this off.

The theme of Camp this week was MOVE. All of the girls learned the memory verse their first day of camp, which amazes me because this is one of my biggest weaknesses.  Ask me to quote the bible and it gets pretty hard. I’ll be able to relate truths and principles like faith, hope, love, grace, kindness, respect, obedience, mercy, patience, and did I mention grace? That’s about all I know most days 🙂 The first part of the memory verse that all the MOVE campers learned this week was:

“I move on toward the goal to win the prize. God has appointed me to win….”  (Philippians 3:14 NIRV)

So, anyways, the girls continued MOVING after camp by helping me get the house cleaned up.  I am not in good shape and am going through a very difficult season in life. Mainly because I have injured my lower back and will be having neurosurgery to repair everything. I’m on a crazy cocktail of pain medications, anti inflammatories, steroid injections, and muscle relaxants plus have been working with an amazing physical therapy team at NRH. Unfortunately, over the past few days I have taken a turn for the worse and the weakness in my left leg has gotten so bad that I’ve fallen a few times. So, I am now walking with a cane. It’s pretty and pink and I feel much stronger with it because all I really have to do is lift it up and point it at someone and they’ll do what I ask. I don’t recommend this as a tool for your parenting or marriage toolbox, unless you find yourself in a similar state! I’ll be having surgery to repair the disk and relieve all the ruptured pieces that are compressing my nerve among other things. We don’t know the date yet, but are hoping for next week.

About 2 years ago right around this time, I told the girls’ former attorney and now dear friend, Amy, that when we got all 3 home and finalized the adoptions we were going to Florida to do Disney, Sea World, Magic Kingdom, and Discovery Cove. And that she was going to come with us. Amy is a Disney fanatic. Never met anyone who loves Disney more than she does, so this was the perfect way to celebrate with our biggest partner in saving our 3 starfish. We made arrangements to get a nice unit at Sea World Resort over 2 years ago. At that time, we had no clue how things were going to play out. But this goes back to our hope and faith. We were hoping for the best and took a leap of faith.  It all worked out, as it usually does! We were scheduled to leave on April 25th. I’m sure you can imagine the excitement and anticipation that has grown for the 6 of us these past few weeks.   We have finally gotten SO CLOSE and could say the trip is THIS month 🙂

Earlier this week, we had to make the upsetting decision to postpone our trip. Florida is not going anywhere anytime soon and we want to go when all of us are healthy and can enjoy the trip to its fullest. We hadn’t yet told the girls and, personally, I was dreading and wanting to find a way out of it.  Jeff and I are still in a bit of denial and have held out hope that maybe the steroid injection would finally kick in or I’d have a positive breakthrough with physical therapy.

Back, to the moving and cleaning. The girls were doing an awesome job helping to vacuum. We have a Dyson which is awesome; but, with the 3 dogs it fills up quite quickly with all the dog hair floating around. SO, Savanna and I needed to go empty the canister outside in our big trashcan. We have had these 3 horseshoes that mysteriously showed up by the trashcan the other day. Jeff and I couldn’t figure out where they had come from.

As we are emptying the canister our conversation goes like this:

Sav:  “Mom, where did these horseshoes come from?!?”

Me:  “I have no clue. Daddy and I were wondering the same thing. Do you think you could help us figure it out?”

Sav: “I don’t know. But I think I might know. I think I accidentally took them from Ms. Mary and Susan’s house the other day when I was riding my bike.”

Mom: “Savanna! Thank you so much for helping us solve the mystery! What do you think you should do now?”

Savanna: with her head down and in a soft voice “Return them.”

Mom: “Yes! Exactly!! I am SO proud of you. And Sav sweet girl, I think you actually STOLE them. So, when you return them what are you gonna say?”

…..convo continues and together we decide she is going to tell the truth, apologize for stealing, and ask if she can put them back where she found them. She wanted all 3 of the sisters to go together, so they needed to finish the vacuuming and other chores before the Big Return….

Once inside:

Savanna: “Guys! We get to go return the horseshoes!”

Shianne: “What horseshoes?”

Me: “Savanna stole some horseshoes from the neighbors and she would like them. Since there are 3 of them she was thinking all of you could go together and each carry one.”

Shianne: “Ahhhhhh! Savanna you are going to be in big trouble!!!!”

Me: “Girls. While you are right that it was NOT and good choice for Savanna to horseshoes, I am very proud of her for telling me the truth and coming up with a plan to return them. We already worked out the consequences. So please work with us if you would like to go together.”

Savanna: “MOMMMMMMMM! It is NOT called stealing!!!”

Me: “What’s it called, Savanna?”

Savanna: “Horseshoes.”

My sweet, sweet Savanna. We are making good progress, but she can be so literal which sometimes gets in the way of effective communication 🙂 As it turns out they were not Ms. Susan and Mary’s but rather Ms. Sherri’s. Thank you for loaning them Sherri! And, I heard from Ms. Mary that Savanna and her sisters did share that they were returning what Savanna had stolen.  Since Ms. Sherri wasn’t home, Ms. Mary helped the girls put them back where Savanna had originally “found” them.

So anyways, they came home and were so tired from our hard morning, camp, and all of our chores.  Chelsea fell asleep on the couch and I snapped this shot of her and Louie

When she woke up, I was in the kitchen with the other girls feeding a late lunch/early dinner. Chelsea came in and was in a great mood. I was overjoyed to see my Butterfly Girl Chelsea back – it warmed my heart so much since earlier in the morning was perhaps one of the toughest days we’ve had together. Jeff was one the phone at this point and the conversation went like it:

Chelsea: “Daddy! Guess what kind of place I’m in?!”

Daddy: “I don’t know? A good one?”

Chelsea: “Yeah. You know why? Because I had the BEST nightmare ever. I dreamed that mommy wasn’t in pain and that she didn’t need surgery. But that if she did, I dreamed that I would bring her flowers or whatever I can do to help. I got her roses and put a Hershey Kiss on it. Get it? Hershey Kiss like because I am gonna give her a kiss?!”

Oh my butterfly girl, Chelsea. This totally made my year and broke my heart at the same time. She is also quite literal and has a diagnosed language disorder, so I do believe she meant so say dream and not nightmare, but to her credit that would have made for a less fun story to tell. I tell you all of this because I had every intention of posting something on Facebook about sibling day today this week…

But, as is often the case, life had other plans. The girls and I thought we had gotten our chores done and had a long week MOVING, so we were ready to just relax. We had lit the candles and cleaned up the house a bit so that Daddy could come home and do the same.

Daddy came home with an amazing surprise, though! (Please take the time to read this so you can understand all the pieces that came together to pull it off). And, for that time we got to spend with strangers who went out of their way to make our day…Chelsea’s dream came true…my pain was gone and all I felt was excitement, happiness, and incredibly blessed!

Thank you, Rachel, JoAnna, Shirene, James, and Jeff for MOVING!


Now almost a month later, I’m finally getting around to posting this.  Our octopus, orca, butterfly, and parts of the palm tree and monkey are still holding on and reminding us of that amazing afternoon.  I keep this picture nearby to remind me how a change in my perspective can help change “hard days” into better days.  Yesterday was actually one of those “hard days” for me as I’m back on bed rest & my crazy med cocktail due to a little post surgical setback…which is why I FINALLY came back to finish this post. Gotta keep the perspective 🙂 Life is good…even when it’s hard! And, most times our “hard” can be turned around when we take the time to put it into perspective.

I’ll leave you with another one of my favorite quotes that came the morning after our GigSalad surprise.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear
beginning, middle, and end.
Life is about no knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Gilda Rander


About Kristin Phoenix

daughter turned teacher turned social worker turned wife turned foster parent turned mom When people who don’t know our family story find out that we fostered and adopted the girls, we generally get one of two reactions…”I would have never known. They look just like you!” or “Oh, how beautiful.” Both of these things are 100% true – on the surface. The picture perfect, shiny, pretty surface. But, just below the surface is a whole lot of mess and brokenness. Our girls endured things that I never even read about in my textbooks. Our family endured things that go completely against the 3 philosophies of safety, permanency, and well-being that the child welfare system is in place to protect. When we have the chance to share a little bit more, the response always goes something like “but…how?!…and why?!” I believe in dreaming big. Part of my dream is a child welfare and healthcare system that would have prevented unnecessary trauma for my girls, my family, and our community. The other part is one of redemption and recovery for everyone involved in our story – which is everyone. I now believe part of why our family endured what we did is so that people would hear our story and ask the hard questions of how and why. With sexual abuse, trauma, foster care, and adoption, we never truly know until we find ourselves in a position of not knowing. Because of the nature of our case, I often found myself in a position of not being able to really answer the hows and whys. I reached a point where staying silent was the only option. Now that our adoptions are finalized, it is time for me to break the silence. This blog is me daring to run after my dreams – even when I find myself out of breath (which is mostly every. single. day.) It is stories of how the collective we have lived up to the Phoenix name and are rising from the ashes to burn bright! I also currently write and edit for Social Justice Solutions
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One Response to MOVE

  1. I enjoyed reading your perspective of the day. Our daily schedule and after school activities may be different, we are both vacuuming up dog hair with our Dyson.


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