I’m a Bit of a Bookworm

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”.-Maya Angelou

I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t love to read, in kindergarten I read and adored Luisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” I clung the story of a devoted resourceful family who made the most out of their circumstances. Perhaps it was that early that I learned books can teach us to hope. Unlike the March family I did not start out life in a loving and devoted my home,

My early existence was wrought with abuse and neglect enough so that it would have been easy to feel hopeless, but that is not my story…

In all great books we find “Overcomers.” Great writers write what they know. They write of pain, of hardship and of joy and laughter, they write of kindness and mistakes, and hatred and forgiveness. They write of life, truth and what they wish were the truth. In books the hero’s don’t have it easy, there is always a conflict sometimes seemingly insurmountable, and they use their wit and often sheer grit, To EARN their happy endings!

That’s probably the most important overall incite I’ve gotten from books: Victims Cant Be HERO’s. by victim I’m referring to those who have a victim mindset, This differs dramatically from the person who has had terrible things happen to them often through no fault of their own. To me the latter are “survivors“, and if they want it badly enough Thrivers! Victims have a need to be saved because they believe they are incapable of saving themselves.They need someone to tell them how to live and what they can or can’t become. To be a victim, is to give up your power!

Our history does not determine our destination! Through my love of reading (and listening) to great books I have found inspiration and tools, to help me create the life I want to live. Through scouring fairy-tales I developed a belief, that we can all have happy endings. Through reading tragic biographies, I learned to vicariously apply resilience and to find hope in some of the darkest places. Books have taught me about redemption. In their pages I’ve condemned and grieved and felt such extreme comfort, I have hated and loved and found pieces of myself.

Through the wisdom of writers, I have cultivated a better life for myself. Not one filled with luxuries, and fame. Not one void of struggle or heartache but one in which I wake up every day with the knowledge that I define me. That my values and passions are my own. That if something doesn’t work, I can find a way to fix it. That its never to late to create something wonderful!

My hope is that in this blog, you will find hope and encouragement, that you will find solace in knowing that others have been where you are. That you will never ever give up on yourself. That you will as I have done, be inspired my those who went before us, and then go inspire those who come next!

7 STEPS TO START IMPROVING YOUR LIFE TODAY.

Taking steps to improve your life can be difficult even during good times.

We as humans are prone to being complacent. We are often not really ok with where we are at but lack motivation to achieve more.When you are starting at rock bottom moving forward (and upwards) can seem insurmountable!

For as  long as I can remember I have wanted to live life better. It’s not that I’m some sort of social climber! I never wanted to be rich or famous. What I wanted was to leave the labels and stereotypes of being a foster kid behind. I was going to live my adult  life on my own terms. However, as soon as I Aged Out of foster care, I realized I was alone. I was scared, but thankfully not homeless because my college financial aid package. Despite my anxiety I was also excited. Having moved to a new town to start college,no  one knew me. It was a FRESH START and an opportunity to create the life I wanted. Here’s a list of the actions I took. All of these actions are still viable and effective for anyone wanting a fresh start today:

1.       Create a vision

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 As a 19 year old college freshman I saw the world of opportunities and out of all of my options I knew I knew I wanted to be both an actress, and a wife and mother. I knew loved theater down to my bones and through theatre I would live passionately. I also wanted a family that included a good marriage to a man who would love me as I never had never been loved before.

When you create a vision you have to think about everything you want in life. Your Endgame has to be always in sight. I do this literally with a vision board. But list journals and digital options can also be useful.

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2.       You need a plan

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“If you fail to plan, You are planning to fail”

-Benjamin Franklin

Think of your plan as GOOGLE MAPS. It’s a straight forward (mostly) accurate step by step guide to getting you where you need to be. But sometimes google isn’t up to date and misses things like detours or recently construction and you find yourself needing to take a detour — which may take you longer, or cause you to change plans. 

You MUST Develop Grit:

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Here is where you need resilience.  In her book, Grit, Dr Angela Lee Duckwork talks about how “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” In our journey grit is the ability to keep moving forward no matter what obstacles are placed in your way. Not an easy task but made doable by ….

Developing a Growth Mindset:

That in its most simple terms, is not letting things getting you down. Its adding “yet” to the negative things we tell ourselves. Example “I’m not  good at math” becomes “I’m not as good at math as I’d like to be, yet” In Carol Dweck’s book XX, and her subsequence Ted Talk (give date). She explains that the brain is a muscle and that it can grow and expand to increase intelligence. Dweck challenges the stereotype that “some people are smart and some are not.” We can expand our cognitive abilities! It’s kind of surprising to me that we didn’t figure this out sooner, considering some great minds like Albert Einstein and Mozart were once thought to be developmentally delayed. 

Education:

There are many ways to be educated that don’t include a formal degree. And if you were a foster child after the age of 13 there may even be options for university degrees. I am an “Autodidact ”. That’s a big word to say that I am self- taught. I continually homeschool myself in whatever I want or need to learn. There is a plethora FREE educational resources online (some even offer degrees). Even YouTube (when you can trust the speaker) can be extremely useful. If you do better in a class setting, many charities offer free classes.  I’ve taken some computer classes at my local Goodwill.

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Possibly the most important trait you must develop is character.

Now it goes without saying that many Important people are lacking this. But as a person RISING, You must develop DIGNITY. And that comes through having strong personal character. We have no parents or family name to vouch for us. When people give us a chance they often see it as taking a RISK, We must turn that risk into a reward. That means we must be honest in our dealings, whether that is with money or HOW we work. But beyond just honesty, we must be gracious, we must  be pleasant, and we must be likable. We must take the brick of anger that often often rides on our shoulders, that sense of unfairness–whether perceived or true– and turn that brick into a stepping stone. Use that stepping stone to lift you to where you want to be. 

This is a brief overview of the essential skills you NEED to have to start to improve your life today.

Over the next few months we’ll dig deeper into each of these topics in my blogs, podcasts, youtube channel. Subscribe so you won’t miss a thing!

Until next time, 

Keep Rising!

Carob

Why I Write..My Foster Care Story..In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month.

I believe that suffering has a purpose..

I once attended a class where the speaker was someone in recovery, someone who had a hard life, and as a result treated her children harshly. Perhaps if she had started out with a better statement I would have had more empathy. Her opening words were. “My mother was an alcoholic, so of course I abused my kids, I NEVER HAD A CHANCE!”

Those few words have prompted me to start writing. I don’t believe that children of abuse and neglect “never have a chance”. I don’t believe in using ones upbringing as an excuse for failure. I believe every single person has a chance to have a  beautiful life, healthy relationships, success at work and at home. It takes work, in fact, much more work than it does for others but it can be done.

You make think I’m naive, that I “don’t know what people go through” or that I have no compassion. If that’s the case, let me assure you, You are wrong!

I am an adult survivor of the foster system, I experienced unspeakable abuse and neglect at the hands of my mother, and worse at her boyfriends, when I was 8 years old I ran away to the police station and begged them to put me in foster care, They didn’t at first, instead they took me home where my mother put on a show for the caseworker and as soon as she left, pulled out pliers and threatened to pull my tongue out with them if I ever brought “pigs” to her house again. My mother was well versed in the art of cruelty, making me address her as”Your majesty, and she called me “slave-girl”. She pinned dirty underwear to my clothes and made me wear them to school. The best I could hope for in my house was to be forgotten, and I hid under piles of laundry so she couldn’t find me and beat me. So at 8 I ran away and the second time, after the police took an inventory of my welts and bruises, I went to a foster-home. It was the 80’s a time when they didn’t want families to get attached so I moved 18 times in 9 years. I did not have a family. I did not have a lasting role model, some homes were not bad, others…..

In some homes people called me, the “N” word- Their own adult children were like the evil step-sisters, and I lived there to be unpaid help, In others I opened my package of socks, while the bio children opened rooms full of presents on Christmas day. Still  in others, they made prophecies about how by the age of 15 I’d have three kid’s and be on welfare. (Even though there was NO basis for the comment) My mother mercifully went to prison for selling drugs and then my brother who was a toddler, joined me for a few years on my journey.

I was never adopted, at age 18 I aged out I was able to finish school, and then I was quite literally on my own. My social worker enrolled me on food stamps, and my friend’s mother paid for my first months share of an apartment. And that was that.

20 years later I just celebrated being married to the best (normal) guy ever for 15 years. We have a lovely life with a charming and brilliant son, a comfortable home and very little evidence of the past I left behind.

Some of us have a long road to travel one so rough and ragged that thankfully others will never experience. This blog keeps in mind those who dare to hope that life can get better, it’s for those who crave a “normal” life. It’s for those who want success at home, and in the wide wide world. My personal belief is that our lives have PURPOSE. I think the reason I experienced the things I did in my childhood, is so that I can really help others. This blog will, I hope, be a little bit of the “mother” you maybe didn’t have. I’ll share with you everything I know about how to succeed at life, I promise to be open, and speak with compassion, I promise to be honest with you even if it hurt’s. You will find on this blog, how to keep a house, how to dress in a way to command respect, land a job, attract the right kind of mate, I’ll share with you (though I’m still learning) how to budget, and the importance of setting goals. I want you to know, you don’t have to be a statistic, you can be happy, and have a great life! Whether you are 80 or 18, I want you to know, YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN!