Monday, January 1, 2018

Let Me Introduce Myself

At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to focus on personal growth and pursuing opportunities that allow me to follow my dreamsone of those being the creation of my blog "Hot Mess to Super Mom." As my readership grows, I want to let everyone get to know me a little better. 

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a writer. As a child, I spent my free time writing stories and illustrating them while dreaming of one day becoming an author. My most treasured possession as a child was my typewriter.

In elementary school, I started a newsletter and began writing the first of many short stories. In high school, I started the school's first newspaper. I had drive and ambition at such a young age that I was able to carry over into adulthood. I turned my interests into opportunities to continue chasing my dreams.

As a freshman in college, I was chosen to be the editor of the school yearbook. It was everything I wanted all rolled into one. It allowed me to write stories, take pictures, design layout and oversee the entire creative process. I stuck with being a yearbook editor throughout college, and the experience paid for my four-year degree in journalism and graphic design. 

After college, I worked as a newspaper reporter for one year. I loved the fast-paced grind of the daily paper. It was challenging and allowed me the opportunity to become immersed in the local community. I enjoyed being able to meet interesting individuals and tell their compelling stories. I learned so much within that year. 

My next career endeavor required making a big move. My husband and I were newlyweds when I was offered a job working in public relations at a community college in another town. Together, we made the decision to move over an hour and a half away. I loved everything about that job. Not only was I able to write press releases and create graphic design material, I was able to work with the students on the yearbook. It was a dream job and a great opportunity to work my way up the ladder. 

That was almost seven ago. I have not worked professionally since the end of 2011. You may be wondering what happened. Well, life is what happened. Things beyond my control began to occur, and I had to learn to accept that life does not always go as planned. My career was put on hold indefinitely after our second child was born with multiple disabilities. 

Her needs took priority over my own. She needed me more than I needed my career. Those first few years were a blur of medical testing, multiple diagnoses, dealing with insurance, surgeries and feeding tubes, daily vomiting and formula spills, an endless accumulation of new specialists and frequent doctor visits, navigating the world of early intervention and therapy, and the constant worry of what the future held. 

Over time I began to let myself go and not care as much about how I looked. My weight continued to go up, and the stress of having a child with special needs began to wear on me both mentally and physically without me even realizing it at the time. My day-to-day life revolved around Alyssa’s schedule. My oldest son, Triston, who was not in school at the time, stayed at home with me and would accompany me and Alyssa to all of her appointments. That is the only life he has ever known. 

Growing my family was something that meant a lot to my husband and I. With the birth of our third child, I felt my family was finally complete. Having three children has had its challenges, but I wouldn’t change anything about it. Two years ago I finally reached a point that I knew I needed to make changes to my life in order to find inner-happiness and become the best mom and wife I could be. 

I started my weight loss journey in August 2016. For the first year, I focused on eating healthier and becoming more physically active. I had never dieted or tried to lose weight before, so I had years of baby weight and food addictions to overcome. It wasn’t easy and I fell short more times than I can count, but what I accomplished in that one year helped motivate me and bring back my confidence. I lost 64 lbs and four dress sizes. I still have a long road ahead of me and many health and fitness goals I want to accomplish.

Changing my mindset and outlook over the past two years not only helped me reshape my physical appearance, but it also reignited a flame inside of me that hasn’t been lit since I worked six years ago. I had this longing and a nagging feeling of being incomplete, but I wasn’t sure exactly what was missing or how I could fill the void. Certain areas in my life had to become more figured out before I could start focusing on my own ambitions. 

Alyssa’s future has always been a bit of a mystery. We have chosen to enjoy life living in the moment without a sense of fear and worry of the unknown. I don’t put a value on other people’s expectations of my child. I let Alyssa determine what she will accomplish in her own time, while always giving her every possible resource available that will help her reach her full potential. We celebrate each and every inch-stone as they come, and take things one day and one step at a time. 

For the longest, I have pretty much determined that Alyssa would need me on a full-time basis for all of her daily care, aside from when she was at therapy (Kids Therapy Spot in Starkville, MS) and her special needs preschool (T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability's Project IMPACT, located on the Mississippi State University campus in Starkville, MS). We’ve known from the beginning that Alyssa would only be able to attend Project IMPACT for a short time. Children age out of the program at the age of five. Each school year has been a blessing because we never know if funding will be available. Knowing that Alyssa would one day age out, I began planning for life after T.K. Martin, which hasn't been easy. Alyssa has attended there since she was 15 months old. *(edited to note that Alyssa is, in fact, attending T.K. Martin for her sixth year)

Last year, I had a meeting with our school district to determine if I wanted Alyssa to attend their special education class or be considered homebound (receive services from a teacher and therapists at home) after she ages out of T.K. Martin. The answer was made very clear to me at the time based off of the school’s limited funding—a big fat NO. I was not happy with the thought of Alyssa missing out on being with other kids throughout the day, but I knew I needed to put her safety and medical needs first. We have always enrolled Alyssa in extracurricular activities that give her the chance to experience things, other typical children, her age do. Therefore, I had planned to make the best of our homebound experience and get her out of the house and engaging as much as possible. 

A new blessing entered our lives in the form of a care facility for medically fragile children called PediaTrust in Columbus, MS. PediaTrust allows Alyssa to attend the center (with a schedule of our choosing) and engage in a variety of activities, therapies, and interactions I could only dream of. There, she is cared for by a team of well-trained pediatric licensed nurses. She started PediaTrust in March two days a week after school. We started her slowly to see how she would adjust to the new environment and schedule. She is now attending the center four days a week after school and gets all of her therapy done there (except for aquatic therapy). Alyssa thrives in an engaging environment around other kids—and PediaTrust offers just that. 

Overnight it felt like I had this huge weight lifted off of me. I didn’t have to worry about the unknown of Alyssa’s day-to-day care anymore, and all the responsibilities did not have to lie solely on my shoulders. I could finally have a life outside of just being Alyssa’s caregiver. However, putting my child and her care into the hands of someone else was not easy for me, but it was a necessary step I had to take. 

The timing felt right for me to start thinking about my future again and what I personally wanted out of life. Did I want to go back to work? Did I want to get my master’s degree? Did I want to start my own at-home business? The opportunities felt endless. At that time, I knew I wasn’t ready to go back to work full-time and put my one and a half-year-old in daycare. I love the quality time I get to spend with Addison. I value being able to be a stay-at-home mom, thanks to a devoted and hard-working husband that supports our family, and I realize others are not as fortunate. 

Over the past few years, I have made our family’s struggles and triumphs public through my personal social media account. Many family, friends and even strangers, have become invested in Alyssa’s journey, as well as my own. I love having the opportunity to share these stories with the world. Through that passion and desire, I have decided to invest my time and energy into my blog that will chronicle my life and my family’s highs and lows. I want to show the world that no matter the challenges you face you can overcome them and live the life you have always dreamed of.

I’m starting this next chapter in my life with an open mind and an open heart. I am taking on things I have never done before, and I am willing to learn from scratchwhile sometimes making a complete fool of myself. After all, being a Hot Mess comes naturally! I know I won’t be a success overnight, but if I put my heart and soul into everything I do, the world will see how genuine and cathartic this endeavor is for me.  

I want to have something that I can look back on and truly be proud of. I want my kids to see me living my dreams and investing in myself, as well as my family.  This website is only the beginning for me. I still have a long list of things I want to accomplish, and here is where I plan to open myself up for the world to see. 

This has been years in the making. 

I’m finally ready!


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