Thursday, July 22, 2010

To My Best Friend

I gotta say this was hard to choose between my husband and my sister! I know I am a total nerd because I don't have a best girlfriend but to be honest with you...though I have girlfriends who have been my friends since I was 6 and many other great friends who I life has been such a roller coaster that I always felt like a burden on friends to be too close to them because I come with a lot of baggage and a lot of opinions! It's best to stick with family as a best friend because they are way more understanding and forgiving than a BFF would be and let's face it- that's what it takes to be BFF with me!

Dear my big sister Shelby,

I know this is lame- my big sister- is my best friend? But as we always discuss...who needs a BF when you have a SISTER? Oh my where to start...first of all thank you...for practically raising me from age 10 and doing it with love and sometimes tough love (much needed). I have learned so much from you about perseverance, kindness, grace and being a mom. It amazes me how alike and how different we are. Growing up in the same dysfunctional home we both took our own paths of self discovery to somehow take a negative start and turn it into a positive ending. Truly, I am amazed that we have both a) graduated from college, b) don't have any kind of addiction we battle on a daily, c) are awesome moms and d) are still on speaking terms after all the cat fights under our belt!

I know having me as a little sister has been challenging at times and down right heartbreaking! I cannot imagine! Watching me go through my first heartbreak at age 17, become a single mother at age 20, and suffer through an abuse relationship for 6 years- I am not sure how you did it? And kept our friendship in tact. I know it had to be so extremely hard. Though we had our occasional screaming fights...and when we younger- fist fights- I am blessed by our sisterhood and friendship.

I love you for drawing the line and finally saying to me "I do not want to hear you complain about how he treats you, ask me for help or come to me with black eyes until you are ready to leave him- FOR GOOD!". Thank you! I truly believe it was your solid stance against the relationship and love for me and my kids that finally pulled me out of that horrible miserable marriage I had no business being in in the first place! If I did not have you in my life I think I would quite possibly still be trying to change someone who will never change, letting him beat me and belittle me in front of our children, I could even be dead at this point. Not only did you give me your couch to sleep on throughout my high school years but most importantly you gave my kids and I a place to lay our heads for two months while we were essentially homeless and had nothing! When I finally had enough and decided to leave- I have to admit that sleeping on a twin mattress in the floor of your game room was the most peaceful sleep I had gotten in 6 years! At that point I realized how blessed I was to have family that could give my children and I a safe place to go...and my heart broke at the I thought about all women who did not have that safe place to go and take their children (but that's a whole other blog).

You taught me tremendously about ACCOUNTABILITY! Loving someone means putting them in their place when they need it, not making excuses for them, and always always being honest with them! Thank you for never making excuses for me and always expecting the absolute best out of me!

Thank you for being the best Aunt and Kindergarten teacher to my children and teaching them both about making "good choices"! Oh and for introducing Mady to Michael Buble! She will love him forever! My kids adore you and I am so blessed that they can go to your house and feel loved and safe! If anything ever happen to me I would certainly hope you would fight tooth and nail to be a big part in my children's life because they love you dearly!

Another thing you have taught me about is GENEROSITY! Sis I will never ever forget when you paid me $250 a month to clean your house so I could buy a car that I desperately needed and make my car payment while I was finishing up my last year of college and had no support from my husband. Not to mention letting me live with you when I was a teenager- that could not have been easy! And always helping me with my kids- whether it was babysitting or buying them something they needed- when I was a single mom and needed help the most you were always there without me even having to ask! You would always say "God has blessed us and we want to bless you". Every chance I get I try to bless others and remember what you said to me!

Thank you for just GETTING IT! For standing by me and understanding decisions I made to make my life better and more peaceful! If it weren't for our countless Dr. Phil sessions I don't think I could have separated myself from toxic family that had only caused me pain and heartache. You gave me courage and a strong foundation to make huge strides in personal growth in the last two years. I love that I am not alone in this world- there is also another person here that has been through IT ALL with me and can relate to all the ins and outs of the good, bad and ugly of our past and our present. I cannot imagine living this life without you and I hope I never have to- you truly are my rock!

Thank you for letting me be such a big part of your boys' lives! I love them so much! They are growing up to be such upstanding young men and I am very proud of them! From changing their diapers to cheering them on in sports and band- I am blessed to be their aunt Madeashley! Everyone needs a little crazy in their lives and I am glad to provide them with just that (and a little love too)! They know I got their back if they ever need to put the smack down!

From letting me sleep in bed with you when we little, taking showers together because I was scared to do anything by myself to giving me a place to live with my children when I was escaping an abusive are my best friend! I love our talks and I love how we always see things the same and if we don't we agree to disagree and move on!

Much love to my best friend and Sister,

Ashley B

Monday, July 19, 2010

We Survived

As I reflect on all of "life's curve balls" that have been thrown our way in the last year & a half I am truly amazed that we survived all of them! Here is a glimpse inside all we have overcame as a family:

Losing Papa B on March 17, 2009 was truly a heart breaker. He was such a pivotal and important person in the Bryant family and loved by so many people. The weeks leading up to his departure from this world was truly some of the hardest my husband and I had yet to experience together. Many tears were shed and some still are when we reflect on the times we had with him. My kids had not experienced the loss of a grandparent yet and it was so hard to go through such a loss with them. Their sadness will forever be etched into my heart and I believe that my husband carries the emptiness and sadness with him everyday. I feel blessed to have known such a wonderful man in my lifetime that loved so deeply and was loved so deeply by everyone in his life. I have never witnessed such love, dedication and sacrifice as I did in those weeks when Papa B was at sick at home. I can only hope my family and children take as good as care of me as the Bryant men and family did for Papa B. They are a true living example of family and love. (pic- Papa B with my husband & his family- Billy, Dana & Heather on her wedding day March 7, 2009).

The very next month my mom was admitted into the hospital. Suffering from a 15 year battle with Chrons disease her stay spanned for an entire month. Surgery was eventually inevitable. She went through surgery well only to contract an infection. During her time in the hospital my patience and sanity was tested beyond belief. Her doctors were careless and negligent and let things go way too long! I had to "show the bad side" a time or two and even initiated the help of the patient advocate at the hospital. I thanked God for my ability to always speak my mind and stand up for my family because it was an everyday fight for my mom to get the care she needed so badly. I was born with the outspoken gene- what can I say! At the end of that month with my mother I felt completely emotionally drained and in much need of a summer break. (in the pic- you can see how my kids spent their time on one of the many visits to see their Gee Gee Debi in the hospital).

When the school year ended I embraced sunshine!

Only one week into our summer break our family took a huge blow. I cannot go into details in this blog because really it's much too painful to elaborate on. I will say that I cried a river for seven months because of the damage that was done. I feared for my children, their safety and happiness on a daily basis. My faith was tested beyond measure. I truly felt defeated until one day I realized that God had control of the entire situation and I needed to let GO! So on a cold December day I chose to change things- to have the best attitude, most positive outlook on things and give complete power and control over to God and trust the He knew best and would take care of my precious children.

After that day- things changed. No more money was flushed down the drain on attorneys, I made a promise to myself to no longer exchange harsh hurtful words with a person that has caused me so much pain in my life that could span a lifetime times two. Everything was settled and the path to healing was paved. Hours of counseling and communication with a person who brought pain into our lives opened new doors and a new hope for peace for our family.

In October 23rd, Maggie, our precious family dog- that my husband had had since he was in high school passed away. Just when we thought we couldn't possible carry another burden we lost a very important part of our family. My children, myself and especially my husband were completely devastated! We miss her everyday! She was the first dog I had ever let sleep with me and my first indoor pet ever! I grew to love her like a child...losing her was horrible! You can see her in the pic- she's sitting on Mady's lap...this is my favorite memory of her- always in the middle of everything!

Amidst the custody battle, healing from a loss of a loved one and a beloved family dog, recovering financially from countless investment in attorneys...we listed, sold our home, remodeled another home ourselves and moved. The transition was bumpy because we were remodeling another home while also living with my in laws for two weeks. It was truly a "House Crashers" episode from HGTV. But we got moved and settled in just in time to put up the Christmas Tree. We are on the tail end of our "house flip" and we look forward to selling the home and building on our land near my in laws whom I love so dearly! The future is bright!

I truly believe my husband deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for standing firmly beside me throughout the entire roller coaster. He sacrificed financially to keep my kids safe, held me while I cried, comforted me with his never wavering faith and always always loved me everyday- even at my lowest point of defeat, fear and utter shambles. When he said to me in the beginning of our relationship that he "has broad shoulders" and "can carry us both" I am sure he never imagined the amount of time he would spend carrying US BOTH! I thank God everyday for him, I truly think I would not be half the woman I am today without his love...he makes me a better person and his love sets me straight. I love him more than I ever thought I could possibly love a man. He has shown me what unconditional love and family loyalty really means. Most importantly- he shows my children everyday how a man should love his wife- and that is a true treasure. So throughout this struggle I see that it brought him and I closer, made our family stronger and also made us thankful for everyday of peace we get with the kids.

I was blessed with the most amazing job this Spring which was a total answer to prayer. I believe it was then that I was reminded that God heard my silent prayers not really spoken or said aloud to anyone. But when He sees us struggling and wanting something more in our life, He provides.

This summer is our first summer to actually enjoy one another since we were married Nov. 2007. 2008 was spent working like crazy because we were in child support battle which cost us more money in attorneys than we had at the time, 2009 was spent missing Papa B, worrying, giving attorneys all our money & fighting in and out of a jaded court system...this summer has been the when I look bad on everything...I can only think one thing- I am so thankful we survived! Not only did we survive but we came out on top with a stronger love for each other and better appreciation for the little things in life. We are enjoying so much about our life, things have certainly "gone our way" time and time again for the last six months. We have a camper now and we have enjoyed 4 weeks so far at the lake with of all the Bryant family and some of my family. Dustin and I are more in love now than we have ever been and I truly believe letting go of all the negative things we can't control anyway is the key to finding true happiness in this life. I am thankful for every moment....

Thank you to everyone (and I know there are so many of you) who prayed for us, listened to my soap box speeches on child abuse and had "our back" throughout the entire battle. In times of adversity we see who our true friends are and I am blessed to have such awesome people in my life. As for family...well you all just simply ROCK and you are my rock! Thank you for the countless hours of praying for us, listening to us and just being there for us! We are blessed to have each and every one of you!