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The Williams Family is Complete

Williams, Kayva Lanae, Keith, Korin, Family

complete | kəmˈplēt | adjective

  • having all the necessary or appropriate parts: a complete list of courses offered by the college | no wardrobe is complete this year without culottes.
  • entire; full: I only managed one complete term at school.
  • having run its full course; finished: the restoration of the chapel is complete.

As 2017 comes to an end, my husband, Keith, and I have spent the last several weeks talking about how blessed we are. Our lives have been a tumultuous ride for the last four years. We’ve experienced some highs, some successes, some calm, and some blessings but we have also experiences some lows, some failures, some chaos, and some tragedies. But finally, as we move into 2018, we are confident that we are blessed and THIS will be our year.

Why 2018?

….because the Williams family is complete. We have entered a new a phase, we now have all the necessary parts . The events leading up to now are complicated and partly explained in my post Tragedy Strikes….Thoughts and Reflections but now I feel like I can share more of our story. For the last few years it has just been me and Keith but now, there are more parts in place. Our focus and roles have shifted and we are back in the driver’s seat. Once again, we are “parents.”

The Beginning…

Almost exactly four years ago, my step-daughter, Korin, was killed and her 9-month-old daughter, Kayva, was placed in our care. After raising both of our girls, we were forced back in the game. Known as Papa and Mema, we were operating as “parents.”  Taking on the role was a non-negotiabe. We knew we could give Kayva a good life and it was our job to make it happen.

The Battle…

We were met with an unexplainable resistance.  For more than a year, we jumped through the hoops… took parenting classes, met with countless caseworkers and advocates, had our entire lives scrutinized in an adoption home study, attended hearing after hearing, facilitated supervised visits, read motions and filings filled with atrocious accusations and lies, and basically lived our lives on the defense. We were constantly wondering what would be thrown at us next, trying to figure out how to keep up a dignified demeanor and fight a fair battle.

The Decision…

Unfortunately, we did not win. In what I consider an atrocity of the court system, Kayva’s other grandparents were awarded full custody.

BUT…we did not lose everything. The court granted us parenting time with Kayva similar to a divorce…every other weekend, alternating holidays, 2 weeks in the summer. Despite our disappointment with the court’s decision, we readjusted and refocused, and got ready to be “grandparents.” Our visits would be filled with fun, no longer responsible for “raising” a child, we would make the most of our time with Kayva and get back to making US a priority.

The Battle….again

Immediately after the last hearing, we faced another battle. The battle to visit with Kayva. We were faced with more resistance and continued accusations. We resolved to continue fighting for our time, hoping that at the least we would be a happy and safe place for Kayva where she knew she was loved and where she knew she could have fun. It was not a surprise to us when our visits with Kayva became more infrequent and eventually became non-existent. We saw Kayva a few times at the beginning of 2017 and did not see Kayva again for 6 months.

We knew Kayva was not in a good place and was not living the life she deserved. It would be inappropriate for me to share specifics but Keith and I decided that we couldn’t live with ourselves if we didn’t intervene. After initiating the court process, Kayva was returned to our home September 2017.

The End…

The system was finally working and Kayva’s best interest was a priority. It took until mid-December to finish but I can finally say with confidence that the process is complete, it has run its full course, it is finished! Kayva Lanae Williams is home!

Fundamentally, our family will never be complete again but we are definitely as complete as we can realistically be! We are fully equipped to be “parents” to Kayva. Mema and Papa are ready to roll so whatever 2018 has to bring, the Williams family is ready!

 

 

 

 

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My Thanksgiving Must Haves

Thanksgiving, Thankful, Feast, Family, Give Thanks

As I sit here the day before Thanksgiving thinking about the daunting task of food prep before me, I reflect on a conversation I had last night with a dear friend.  We were chatting about the holiday and he asked me what I was cooking for Thanksgiving. After rattling off the huge list of food I was planning to make for my small little family, he looked and me and said something like this… “You don’t have to do all that, there are only four of you.” I replied that I absolutely had to…I didn’t have a good reason, but I had to  because I always had.

What’s on my mind today?

That conversation…I’m thinking about reevaluating my usual practice of cooking as if twenty people were coming when it was only three adults and couple of grandkids max. Usually, I spend the day before Thanksgiving preparing all the desserts and chopping veggies, double checking recipes and ingredients, cleaning the house, basically wasting my blood, sweat and tears trying to make sure everything is ready to go for the big day. What have I done today to prepare??? Bought a pumpkin pie and boiled some eggs.

So why do I work myself to exhaustion every Thanksgiving? I think it is because I have set a standard for myself that is too high.  My family is very large, we are from Utah, and my entire life, every holiday was a huge celebration. I miss my family terribly and the holidays always make me long for our family traditions. For almost twenty years, since moving to Colorado, I’ve been trying to recreate the Thanksgiving experience that I had growing up.

The reality… I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in years and I don’t even know how my meal can compare to the family feast but the effort is there. I’ve recreated what I remember to be important but I will never make Jello (or Jello salad) and chips and dip are off the list. I have, however, tried to make Thanksgiving something special that my kids, and now grandkids, will appreciate and remember forever.

My usual MUST HAVES for Thanksgiving:

  • Turkey…the entire thing in the past but most recently just the breast
  • Ham…my personal fav!
  • Mashed Potatoes…basic
  • Gravy…also basic
  • Stuffing…the NOT stuffed in the turkey kind
  • Macaroni and Cheese…Patti Labelle’s recipe, 5 cheeses, butter, whole milk…basically death in a bowl
  • Rolls…sometimes homemade, sometimes storebought
  • Deviled Eggs…my Aunt Karen’s recipe
  • Salad…varies from year to year
  • Carrots or Greens…sometimes neither, greens are disgusting but if the spouse is lucky I’ll make ’em
  • Pumpkin Pie…homemade is great but Sam’s Club kills it
  • Caramel Cake…um, delish
  • Chocolate Eclair Dessert…Cooking Light recipe but mines not “light”
  • Fudge…Grandma Jeannene’s recipe minus the nuts
  • Cheese Ball…recipe compliments of my momma

In light of yesterday’s conversation, I’m considering cutting it down slightly this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 2017:

  • Turkey…pre-fried, just needs reheating
  • Mashed Potatoes…always basic
  • Gravy…from a mix
  • Stuffing…same old
  • Mac-n-Cheese…a non-negotiable
  • Carrots…forget the greens
  • Cornbread, not rolls,…from a box
  • Salad
  • Deviled Eggs…because Kayva could live on them
  • Pumpkin Pie…compliments of Sam’s Club again
  • Cheese Ball…because that’s basically all I eat while I’m cooking
  • And MAYBE Chocolate Eclair Dessert

I wasn’t able to cut the list down by much THIS year but next year might look a little different…it would definitely be nice to spend LESS time cooking and to have MORE downtime to enjoy my family… BUT I really just like to eat so we’ll see.

So tell me, what are your Thanksgiving MUST HAVES?

 

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Barely Breathing

In one of my first blogs, I wrote about how much my life had changed over the years and how, following several tragic circumstances,  I finally had time to breathe and make time to focus on myself. Almost two years later, I am back to the drawing board, life has changed again and finding time to breathe is a challenge.
Prior to turning 40, I hadn’t had many opportunities to put myself first and focus on doing things that I was passionate about. Like many, my life had been a rollercoaster ride that seemed to never end. In a earlier post, I wrote that there have been several speed bumps, some by choice and some not, some huge and ugly and some small, that have slowed me down. The one constant…I never truly lived my authentic self. In fact, I would say I didn’t even fully know who I was as a person until I was almost 40. Looking back, you could say I was barely breathing.

An unthinkable tragedy…

When my step-daughter, Korin, was killed our lives changed forever. Our family will never be the same.  Following Korin’s death, we got custody of her daughter Kayva. We committed ourselves entirely to taking on the responsibility of raising Kayva, then only 10 months old. We had raised our kids and for the first time we were finally rollin’ solo.  Raising another child was a total game changer BUT we were mentally and emotionally ready to put her before our needs and give her the life she deserved. And then, more than a year later, at the final custody hearing, the judge ruled in favor of her maternal grandmother and step-grandfather. We were devastated, for ourselves but more so for her. Our lives were again changed forever. We knew the ruling was a mistake but we knew that being awarded regular visitation, we would still be in her life. We accepted our new role as simply “grandparents.”
That was two and a half years ago BUT, as I have grown accustomed to, adversity strikes again. After losing custody, it was difficult but we had finally regrouped, refocused, and readjusted to life alone. We had goals, passions, visions, and dreams and could again put ourselves first. And then BOOM, we were required to step back into the role of “parents”… prepared and fully committed to raising Kayva.
The details are complicated, and as with many of my stories, better saved for another day. In fact, the final decision has yet to be made but we are hopeful that the court system will not fail Kayva again. It is difficult to set aside my goals…almost painful really. But it is more important that our little lady has a safe, stable, loving home where she will be offered every possible opportunity to succeed.
With the happiness and relief comes a sense of sadness. The life that I was looking forward to living was on hold….in a sense I feel like I am barely breathing again.  But this time, if given the opportunity to raise Kayva, I will not forget who I am. I will not neglect my authentic self. I will continue to make MY dreams and passions relevant. I’ll ride the rollercoaster with new purpose. I will BREATHE!
At 4Kayva has grown into a magnificent, intelligent, curious, kind, affectionate, loving, resilient, flexible, patient, beautiful little girl. She is one of my biggest motivators, one of the reasons I KNOW that it is important to keep breathing. Like I said, the final decision has not been made but in less than a week, we should know what we must do. If you are reading this before November 9th, please send any and all positive vibes, prayers, good juju and love our way. Little Kayva deserves to live her authentic life!
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Guess who’s BACK

It has been more than a year since I posted a blog but I’m BACK! I apologize for “disappearing” and have let you, and myself, down but I have been busy BEYOND belief.

I feel like I’ve been on the grind nonstop, trying to MAKE art, trying to SELL art, trying to figure out HOW to sell art, trying to improve my social media presence…the list goes on. The difficult part, the part that gets in my way….trying to keep up on all the other STUFF I have to do…like work full-time, help run our fitness studio, teach Zumba, help with the grandkids and basically meet my basic life necessities. One of the things I HAVEN’T spent anytime doing is updating my blog.

Despite feeling overwhelmed and often inadequate, I try to celebrate the successes as this is often the only thing that keeps me going. Here is my “success” list for 2017 so far:

  • Completed 6 drawings (one of which took about 45 HOURS)
  • Displayed my art in several shows
  • Finished a few commission pieces
  • Participated in the Jackalope Art Fair, a huge 2 day event that I set my sights on a year ago but didn’t get in the first time
  • Entered 3 drawings into a juried show, Gateway to the Rockies Art Show. Two got accepted and one, and my drawing “Chalk it Up,” won 1st place in the 2D category…what?!

I’m trying to finish out the year strong and have a few more things for my list…I am working on another commission, I am hoping to complete a few more big drawings, and will be participating in several more events before 2017 is over:

And although I have avoided dedicating anytime to my blog, I am making a commitment, trying to add another success to the list. I am back in effect and plan to update my blog more regularly. With only about two and a half months left in 2017, I’ve got to stay focused, stay on the grind, and get back to the hustle. Plan on hearing from me soon, I have lots to share….some good and some bad…but I think all worth writing about.

 

 

 

 

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I can finally Breathe

Breathe, Let it Go, Taking Risks, Leap of Faith, Courage, Focus

A little Celebration…

I posted my very first blog exactly one year ago today. One year ago, I made the commitment to approach life differently, to do what I enjoyed, to take a moment to just BREATHE and focus on me.

It might not seem like a risky move but it was something I was afraid to do. Mostly I was afraid to fail, afraid I wouldn’t be able to follow through, afraid I wouldn’t have time…on and on. After some serious encouragement from a good friend, I decided to share myself with the world. When I look back at everything that has happened since I made that decision, I feel like a little celebration is in order. I’ve accomplished things I never thought I’d do….EVER. And I’m still going. Focusing on me, taking time to breathe, rethinking my life, setting new goals, taking risks…one of my best years yet!

It all started here…

Welcome to my site and my blog! My journey has been long but I CAN FINALLY BREATHE so it is time to begin…

A little background…

I have loved art since I was young but discovered a passion for it in high school. I come from a family of artists, crafters, and creators. My dad and my grandma are both artists and probably my biggest influences. They are extremely gifted in drawing portraits and I grew up watching them perfect their skills, create beautiful commission portraits, and share their knowledge with others. Being a self-taught artist, most of the direction and advice I’ve received has been from my dad and I continue to draw on the guidance he has provided me today. My brother is also a gifted artist, specializing in beautiful airbrush work. On my mother’s side creativity and artistic talent run deep as well.

My journey…

My journey began when I was in high school. I had my sights set on going to art school and becoming a graphic designer but my dreams were cut short. After graduating, I was encouraged to look at life more practically and search for a safer career but because I couldn’t wrap my brain around paying for my college, I choose a different path. I moved out of my house shortly after high school without any real direction or plan. Within a year, I had a daughter which became an entirely new focus but by the time she was one, I had to refocus. I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer when I was 20 years-old and was given only a few months to survive. I would spend the next year and a half battling for my life and many years after that recovering both physically and financially. Art was always tucked in the back of my mind but was the last on my list of things I could devote time to. It wasn’t until I met the man who is now my husband, that I was able to dream again…even if only briefly. There have been several speed bumps, some by choice and some not, some huge and ugly and some small, that have slowed me down but will save those for another blog and leave with this thought today…

“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.” ― Steve Maraboli

Time to breathe…

So because it is time and I can finally breathe, I will live my life with purpose and share me, my art, and my life with you!

A little credit…

I’d like to give a little credit and shout out to my husband, Keith, and my best friend, Sarah, for pushing me out of my comfort zone and for encouraging me take a different direction in life. A huge shout out to anyone and everyone that has either read my blogs, looked at my art, shared my content, passed out my business cards, attended a show, followed me on social media, purchased my goods, or given me extra words of encouragement. THANK YOU!