Posted on

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!

 

 

 

 

Posted on

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?

 

Posted on

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!
Posted on

When I See You Again: Celebrating Korin

Kayva, Korin, Celebration, Anniversary

Exactly three years ago…

My step-daughter, Korin Lijah Williams, passed away at only eighteen-years-old. Last year, on the two-year anniversary of her death, I wrote a post  reflecting on the tragedy. This year, I decided to pay tribute to her in a different way.

Kayva Lanae..

Korin left behind a legacy, a gift to the world, and a special piece of herself. Her daughter, Kayva Lanae Williams, was only 9-months-old when Korin was killed. She will be four-years-old in a few months. Kayva has brought more joy to our lives than we could have ever imagined. She is the memory of Korin and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Korin’s life than to share her gift with you.

A Celebration of Life…

Until we see you again…

I know that Korin is watching Kayva and sees what an amazing little lady she is. Kayva has a vivacious personality and approaches life with such joy. She exemplifies resiliency as she has already been faced with more adversity than many adults. Like Korin, Kayva has a generous soul and a kind heart. She is fearless, confident, and silly. Her smile fills and eyes light up the room. To Korinwe love and miss you tremendously. Thank you for giving Kayva to the world…she is the very thing that keeps us moving forward. We will tell you all about her when we see you again ♥

Posted on

Winter Break Means Everything to Me

One of the best things about being a teacher is WINTER BREAKTWO full weeks off in the middle of the year…it’s almost impossible to find words that explain how much this means to teachers. Winter break means you’re half-way to summer…the only thing better than winter break is SUMMER BREAK.

I was looking forward to THIS winter break more than I have any others, at least in the last few years. This winter break was going to be exceptional because I was set to spend over a week visiting my family back home in UTAH. And not only was I going to visit, I was bringing my granddaughter Mackinley.

I enjoy every moment of every winter break….ALWAYS! Each winter break is special and each winter break is different but this year, my winter break meant more to me than most.

So….what did winter break mean this year???

Winter Break Meant…

  • It meant almost 30 hours at the airport with a 2 1/2-year-old, 2 cancelled flights, lost bags, endless lines, a baggage claim disaster, the news channel reporting on the Frontier Airlines debacle, multiple trips back and forth to the airport in search of our bags, Mack making friends with the flight crew, Mack meeting the pilot, visiting the cockpit AND talking into the flight attendant’s microphone and FINALLY, to Mack’s abundance of excitement, taking off and soaring through the clouds.

 

  • It meant listening to Juju On That Beat hundreds of times. This is Mack’s favorite song AND dance and she wanted to share it with EVERYONE…..pulling out her iPad…“Can I show them the Juju On That Beat?”…followed by a sweet dance.
  • It meant eating… A LOT and mostly sweets. Don’t judge.
  • It meant meeting my FIRST and ONLY niece Jade Marshall!
  • It meant just chillin at home…MY home, the home I grew up in, the only home that will truly ever be HOME.
  • It meant watching UFC with my mom…one of the biggest fight fans I know.
  • It meant family parties and dinners (yes, more eating).
  • It meant spending time with my Dad, my Step-Mom Joy, my brother Caden, and my sister Carrie.

  • It meant breakfast with my Mom and Dad at Denny’s, several times. Literally my dad’s favorite place to go. He knows all the waitresses and they love him.
  • It meant watching my Grandpa Don play “little man walking” and “da-dump-da-dump” with Mackinley, his Great-Great Granddaughter.

Utah, Winter Break, Grandpa Don, Family, Grandparents

  • It meant watching Mackinley sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at a family party in order to put everyone “to sleep.”
  • It meant figuring out how to fit at least 15 pound of custom-made metal stars that my Grandpa Don, The Tin Man,” gave me in my luggage for the flight home.
  • It meant laughing hysterically during a selfie photo shoot with my mom in which we staged ourselves playing the piano (neither of us can play), singing Christmas carols (we have terrible voices), exchanging gifts, sharing a cup of tea, and gazing in awe at the beautiful Christmas lights.

  • It meant sleeping in a full-sized bed with a 2 year-old for an entire week. Sleeping arrangements were dictated by Mackinley, I slept on the side she told me to, I used the pillow she gave me, and she woke me up everyone morning by pulling on my arms and saying, C’mon MeMa, I gotchyou. We’re awake now.”
  • It meant my 87 year-old Grandpa Don going to the hospital with pneumonia and the flu (He is now back home and his health is improving).
  • More than anything, it meant seeing Mackinley spend time with her Great-Grandparents and Great-Great-Grandparents…there are not many opportunities for them to see her. There aren’t many families lucky enough to have FIVE generations alive and healthy and ANY opportunity I get to take her to Utah I feel blessed. She is building memories and experiences that are priceless. Those, as well as photos and videos, are the best I can do when we live out-of-state. My next mission is to take her mom, my daughter Kira, on our next trip home.

I’d love to hear from you…even if you don’t have an official “winter break,” what does a visit HOME mean to you?