Monday, October 1, 2018

Vegas Strong: One Year Later

This is a post I never thought I would have the courage to write, but as the one year anniversary of the Las Vegas Route 91 mass shooting is approaching, I thought it was time.

Quick Backstory: I work in a Children's Hospital within an adult hospital as a child life specialist in the pediatric emergency department.

October 1st 2017, started out as a normal night in the emergency department, it was low census due to a strange annual lull in patients from the end of September to the second or third week in October. 
It was almost 10:00pm. 

I remember, I was sitting at my station chatting with nurses and teaching a resident how to blow a big bubble, waiting on a doctor to do a laceration repair. The LET would be ready to go in about 10 minutes. 
At 10:15pm the all hospital tele goes off..."mass casualty incident 10 gun shot wounds coming by ground, more to follow."  
Since the patients were headed to the adult side and not pediatric we all kind of ignored it for a few minutes. The doctor appeared around the corner and said, "Syd are you ready to go stitch this kid up?" 
I grabbed my iPad and light spinner and said, "Yes, lets go." As we approached the room the doctor said, "You know what, I'm going to just walk over to the other side to see if i can help. I'll be right back.
As the doors opened to the adult side of the emergency department, I saw him take off running. Shortly after he left, our charge nurse and other nurses went over too. 
Shortly after that, an all call hospital page said, "Any available physicians to the Emergency Department Stat." 
About 10 minutes after that a new one said, "Any available nurse to the Emergency Department Stat.
About 5 minutes after that another one said, "Anyone with hands to the Emergency Department stat"

At this point multiple stories had been thrown around, a shooter on the strip, a shooter at a concert, a shooter at the hockey game. 
We had yet to turn on the news. 
We did not know six miles away, a gunman had shot through his hotel windows and opened fire on 22,000 fans at the outdoor Route 91 Harvest Festival. 

We did not know we would see almost 200 patients—And we surely didn't know that fifty-eight people would die. 

Unlike a normal day, the wounded arrived in waves. 
First the police came dropping off people two at a time, 
Then the pickup trucks, 
and then the two-door sedans with as many they could hold. Ambulances that abandoned protocol, bringing five at once, no time for backboards or stretchers. The walking wounded, staggering through our hospital doors. 
No one could ever imagine this.

It was now 10:50pm. 
We finally had the news on and knew there was a mass shooting at the Route 91 concert. 

On this particular night, several of my co-workers, friends and even my boyfriend were on the strip at the Vegas Knights Hockey game. Another one of my co-workers was at the concert. 
As the news of the shooting arrived, I began to frantically text them- hoping they were okay. They were on their way back to their cars while the shooting was happening. 
I remember texting in all caps 
"get off the Strip," 
and them texting back - 
"it must be a joke" or 
"just a few people we don't see anything.

And then there were no texts for 10 minutes... the longest 10 minutes of my life..

[Thankfully] then the texts rolled in...
" I've got a wounded person in my car I'm bringing them to the hospital"
"we are safe on the highway", 
"I'm barricaded in the MGM hotel", to 
"I'm safe. I'm home."

Back to the hospital: 
About this time, the police showed up... this time with children who had been at the concert and gotten separated from whoever they were with. 
And this is where Child Life comes in :)
The kids ranged in ages from 5-12. 
The police had told the kids fireworks had gone off early and hurt some people. The younger kids believed this story while the older kids knew the truth. 
Instead of telling the kids the cops had lied to them, I had each one of them tell me their stories of what they saw. I corrected any misconceptions and validated everything. 
We talked, colored pictures and squished some play dough while waiting for their family members. After about an hour all the children had been returned to family members. 
It was such a great relief to see the families reconnect. 

I then moved on to comfort care, 
and did whatever I could do to help anyone in need. 
I started in our waiting room which was now full of friends, family members, and other concert goers looking for their loved ones that were hurt. I brought warm blankets, water, Kleenex, shirts, baby wipes, band aids, gauze and crackers to these people. 
I sat with them, hugged them, cleaned them, prayed with them... everything I could think of to make them more comfortable... and it just didn't seem like enough. 

I looked around the room. Desperate to continue helping in this crisis. I realized one of our nurses was sitting at the triage window. She was being bombarded by family members wanting updates and locations. The social workers were working as hard as they could to pair everyone back up, but it is a huge undertaking. 
Our hospital saw almost 200 victims that night. 
The nurse and I started our own check-in list to compare with the social workers so we could make sure every one was accounted for. 

Throughout the night, our pediatric Emergency Department shortly became an adult Emergency Department. I handed out stress balls, and even talked a few adults through wound cleansing and IV starts. 

The hours drug on and the rest of the night became blurry. Tears, happiness of reuniting, so many people coming to donate blood... so much blood on the floor... 
directing family members to different parts of the hospital, and so many just  people wanting to help. 

I stayed till 6am the next day. 
I'll always remember how quiet Las Vegas seemed that morning. 

During the next week the Child life Disaster Relief team came to Las Vegas. My coworker and I helped them get some toys and any other items they might need to help the kiddos.

A year later, I really thought I would be okay... but as I started seeing Vegas Strong signs and hearing about events...
 my entire body just becomes covered in goosebumps, and the memories start flashing back.  
The images of that night are still crystal clear. 
The guilt remains for not being able to do more and for being afraid. I remember the outpouring of love, from other hospitals, from other child life specialists, from the community, from my coworkers. For as much pain, grief and suffering I witnessed, I saw even more love, selflessness, and appreciation for one another. There are some truly amazing people in this world and I'm lucky to work with some of them.

Tonight, on the eve of the anniversary, I visited the Las Vegas Sign, which is turned into a memorial. I read about each of the 58 victims. 
I cried. 
I took a bubble bath. 
I feel better. 
I feel ready for tomorrow. 

 I am Vegas Strong and always will be. 
Thank you for letting me take a break from the blog, 
and heal and find my own way back. 

All my love, Sydney

Sunday, September 16, 2018

FACLP 2018- What's in Your Tool Box?

And just like that another FACLP Conference is in the books... 

I love FACLP. 
I love conferences. 
I love child life. 
I love feeling revitalized. 
I love networking with people of like minds. 
What about you? 

This year's FACLP theme was "What's in your Tool Box?" My first thought was... "Well that doesn't really apply to me anymore, does it?" 

But as always, conference has a way of putting things into perspective for me. 

My Tool Box is my Tool Box. Not yours. It's mine. I can have what I need in it to be the best I can be at whatever I might set out to accomplish. 

As is the case with many things in this world, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparison. It's easy for me to quickly assume that as a CCLS, my tool box should contain things such as "5 years working in Children's Hospital of ABC" or "Extensive experience in the ICU setting working with XYC population." 

But as in other areas of life, my tool box looks different... and it's about time I own it with pride. It's time for me to start giving back to the child life community with my unique skill set instead of being ashamed of my tool box. 

My Tool Box contains items such as 

I am a Child Life Specialist. No, I don't work in a hospital. I might never work in a hospital again. Or maybe I will? Who's to say where my tool box might take me next? But what I do know for sure- My tool box is my tool box, and no one can take it from me. 

Remember that iconic quote from The Princess Diaries? 

So why do we give others the power to make us feel like our tool box is inferior to theirs? 

It's your tool box! Own it!

So what's in your tool box? 
How different is yours than mine? 
How similar is it? 
Where has your child life journey taken you? 
Let us know in the comments! 


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Confusion for the CCLS

Hi friends! 
So it's been nearly a year since we have posted anything on here, and yet in the mean time we still have constant emails regarding questions for those entering the wonderful field of child life! Yahoo! 

I've been thinking about you all lately and what I would like to say to my readers... And honestly, I think it's more of a confession. 
Image result for job confusion
I am slightly embarrassed by my current job position. (And I don't know how to talk about it within the Child Life Community.)
Image result for embarrassed I have been working in a nonprofit, community based organization for almost 2 years now. (And I love it so much). 
A little over a year ago, an opportunity arose for me to become the Director of the Early Learning Center within the organization. My first thoughts were "No, I'm a CCLS. Not a child care teacher." "I worked too hard on my certification to go back to early education." 

However, y'all. It's been the best thing for me yet. I work in a city where there is a Children's Hospital right down the road... I could go apply for a CCLS position, but ya know what? I did a few years ago, and I didn't get it after two different interviews. That door was closed. 
Why? I don't know. But I know I am not supposed to be in the hospital setting. It was never in the plans for me. 

So here I am with my CCLS (and MASTERS degree at that), directing a really nice, high quality early learning center with a huge waiting list... 
And when I get that email from the ACLP telling me I owe this fee or that fee, part of me starts to cry inside (Not just because of how much it costs, because whoa!) but because I feel an unspoken criticism from the child life world. I feel as if my certification does not mean as much as yours because I am not in the hospital. 

When we get emails from students asking for an interview for their classes, I hate responding saying, "Well I don't work in the hospital, but I would love to help anyways." 

When I sign up for conferences and all of the workshops are for medical procedures, end of life care, staffing, or new preparation interventions... I ask myself, why am I spending money? 

And most importantly, when people ask me what Child Life is... I struggle to find an answer sometimes. But Child Life is simply helping children cope with life's challenges. And that's what I do every day, just not in the hospital. 

Yes, I am aware of (and somewhat involved in the online forum) the movement for Child Life in a Community Based Setting, but even then it is a focus on medical. 

It doesn't relate to me. Does that make me less of a Certified Child Life Specialist? 

Food for thought? 

Well of course, it doesn't make me any less of of a CCLS because I worked super hard for those four little letters, I pay a lot of money every year to maintain them, and I attend as many professional development conferences I can to continue to increase my knowledge. 

However, when does it change? When does it become acceptable and supported to be a CCLS in an early education setting? When do we start supporting each other for the individual paths we begin on? 

I am not a Director of an Early Learning Center because I failed to receive a position in a hospital- which is what most people assume. I CHOSE to work in the community setting. 
I CHOSE to be the Director of an Early Learning Center. 
I LOVE my job and what I do every day. 

So help me change the expectations. Help me advocate for the necessity of Child Life beyond the hospital. 
I mean hell0- because of my CCLS- I have enrolled a child with a feeding tube, and helped assess a child with a language delay! 

The expertise of Child Life is beneficial way beyond the hospital, clinics, and doctor's offices. Children need Child Life because we know children.

So I am tired of being embarrassed. I am tired of avoiding the blog because I become emotionally fatigued over rationalizing my job choice. I am going to start speaking up for the spread of the Child Life Profession in other settings! 

Anyone feel me? 
Anyone support me? 
What are your thoughts? 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Toy Tuesday: Wiggle, Wiggle

Time for another Toy Tuesday!

Today I'm talking about Water Wiggler toys. These toys go by other names too, like water snakes, water tubes, water wiggle tubes, ect. 

I like to use these toys for laceration repairs. I tell the child their job is to try to hold their head or whatever part of their body the lac is, still like a statue or a rock, but I allow them to move their hands if they get wiggly.

This way they can play with their water wiggler. Some other ideas are having them count how many times they can squeeze the wiggler, hold the wiggler on their tummy without letting it fall, talk about what is in their water wiggler (Nemo, glitter, Spiderman, etc). You can use your own child life brain to come up with even more games to play with the water wiggler.

I just recently picked up some larger ones at Walmart in the "cheap/amazing for child life" aisle, but we also order the mini ones from Oriental Trading which are great for the kids that have trouble letting go of mine that I wash and resuse.

Here is the link for the oriental trading minis- Check it Out!

Do you guys utilize water wigglers?


Monday, May 29, 2017

That's a Wrap: ACLP Conference 2017

And there you have it, the ACLP Conference 2017 in Las Vegas is over. Thanks to all of you lovely people who came up to us and introduced yourself! 

Check out the hashtag #childlifetakesvegas on Instagram to see all of the fun from this weekend!
In order to recap everything we learned, we would spend most of our next waking hours typing vigorously away. Instead, we will just highlight the things that stood out to us the most! 

Sydney was lucky enough to be able to spend Wednesday with the winners of the International Conference Scholarship winners. She was able to tour them around her hospital in Vegas and learn about their programs(in the UK, Malaysia, and Hong Kong). It was so surprising to hear that some things about child life are universal.  


 Caroline arrived Thursday and we wasted no time hiking Red Rock National Park in true southern belle fashion in dresses and heels.

 Alright enough fun and games let's get on to the conference!

Key Note: 
The key note speaker, Kevin Spencer is the founder of the foundation "Healing of Magic." His presentation was compelling, educational, and inspiring. After a personal injury that landed him in the hospital, he strove to discover how magic had its place in the therapeutic realm. Read more of his story at

The Punitive Nature of Rewards: A Controversial Assessment of Popular Behavior Modification
How many times do you catch yourself or maybe a team member say, "If you just hold really still, will give you a prize?" Catherine Reed from Golisano Chidren's Hospital of Southwest Florida completed some research regarding the success of such rewards, the dependency on the treasure box system, and new ways to teach children life long skills instead of quick compliance. She argued that while incentive programs are sometimes easier and maybe even most appropriate, as Child Life Specialists we should challenge ourselves to be creative and look for alternative ways to get to the root of behavior that may be getting in the way of procedures, etc. 

Back the the Basics ... Examining the Modern Child Life Toolbox
This was potentially Sydney's favorite session! Thanks Karyn Positano and Shaindy Alexander from the Hospital for Sick Children in Canada for an incredible learning adventure. Keep an eye out for a future Toy Tuesday post in the days to come to hear all about Hermin! 

What Do You Stand For? Being an Emerging Leader in Child Life
Stephanie Hopkinson sought to inspire and empower all those in attendance of her session to truly reflect on their values and experiences that led them to where they are today. She called out the leader in all of us and had some very interesting concepts she introduced. Be on the lookout for another post going into more detail about her session on Leadership! 

Constructing the Play Lady: Child Life and the Female Human Identity
Have you ever been ashamed to be referred to as the "play lady?" Our founding mothers held that term with pride all the while seeking to pursue a higher level of dignity and respect as an advocate for developmentally appropriate practices when it came to children in the hospitals. Davina Wheelwright of Children's Hospital of Michigan presented a compelling review of literature and personal insight about the history of child life, the evolution of gender roles and stereotypes, along with the modern day struggle of women to balance a work and family life. 

Closing Session: The Positivity Solution
Shola Richards, human resource trainer for Children's of Los Angeles by day and motivational speaker and author of The Positivity Solution by night, presented an empowering and soul searching closing session to launch us back into the world. 
He challenged us to ask ourselves three questions: 
1. Is it kind? 
2. Is it true? 
3. Is it necessary? 
He also reminded us that we are Child Life Specialists and we have a place at the table. Don't ever let anyone steal your thunder, power, or joy. We can make a difference today.

The Exhibit Hall did not disappoint either, full of toys, distraction items, MRI goggles, VR games, alternatives to the dreaded hospital gown, and much much more

Thanks to the ACLP for putting on an engaging conference!

Couldn't make it and would like to learn more? Conference All Access Pass should be available for purchase in the weeks to come from Remember every 5 years, we are up for re-certification and this is a great way to earn some PDU's. 

Were you there and we missed you? Tell us your favorite part about conference! Which workshop fired you up to go back to work this week?

Sydney and Caroline

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Anger Management

I work in a children's home. This means that most of my clients have a history of abuse, neglect, and trauma and have been separated from their family, home, and what they considered "normal" life. 

Children and teens who have been exposed to these life experiences often struggle with anger management amidst many other things. When I meet with my clients, it is my job to provide activities that allow children and teenagers to learn and practice anger management strategies. While doing some research and gathering ideas, I stumbled upon this awesome website with lots of anger management activities! It's called School Counseling Files

The first activity (and free download might I add) I used was the Miner 5 Point Scale. It prompted the 12 year old boy I was working with to label characteristics of the five point scale in categories of "Feels like," Looks like," and "I can." I used this activity for anger but it could also be easily adapted to anxiety, sadness, or fear. 

The second activity I used with an 11 year old boy was the "Don't be an Angry Bird" booklet. It works through all the different possibilities that can happen when you are angry and allows the child to provide alternative behaviors or thoughts to the situations. At the end, it prompts the child to draw their favorite coping strategy for dealing with anger. 

My boys are very dynamic and I am still working to figure out what works for them. But I thought I would share this website with you because I really liked it! 

What activities have you found successful in working with anger in kiddos and teenagers?? Leave a comment! 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

See You in Vegas Baby!

Guess who has ....

her plane ticket :)
conference registration :)
free place to stay :)
and bags not quite packed :)

That would be me! Next Wednesday, I will be on a plane to LAS VEGAS to see my sweet friend Sydney!!!!!!
(BTW: This was my face on the zipline at Camp Blue Skies about 6 hours before Daniel proposed to me!!!!)

Oh yeah, and to go to my first ever Association of Child Life Professionals NATIONAL Conference

To say I am excited is a complete understatement! 

Will any of you be there? 

We promise we haven't left the blogging world and many of you wonderful people continue to reach out to us for questions! We want to wish all of those who were offered an internship a huge CONGRATULATIONS!!!! 

(We know those around you may not understand the relief it feels, so don't be afraid to express yourself!) (And don't forget to read our post: You got the Internship, Now What?)

We also want those who did not to eat some ice cream, and go back to the drawing board! Don't give up yet! You can do this!

Go refresh your memory on the crazy competitiveness of the field here

We also have an entire series on Self Care!
Our favorite Self Care posts are...
Why do we do it? 
How to handle rejection

I'll tell you, working a full time job is for the birds! Blogging has been at the bottom of my priority list as I have been planning a wedding, interviewing for a new full time job (story coming soon!), and trying to focus on my health in order to be the best me I can be! 

How are you guys? We love you! We are thankful for you! And I hope to see some of you in Vegas Baby!!!!!


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Professional Identity Crisis

When you spend 7 years of your life pursuing the opportunity to become a Certified Child Life Specialist, you begin to form an identity and a foundation that defines who you are. The theories of child development and the importance of play begin to penetrate your blood until it becomes part of who you are. Coping skills and therapeutic interventions become your immediate answer to any challenging behavior or life circumstance, and you begin to think your biggest professional challenge is proving your worth as a profession to the other members of the interdisciplinary health care team.

But I've run into a completely different type of professional challenge... a professional identity crisis.

After 7 years of working to become a CCLS, studying to become a CCLS, fulfilling all of the requirements of certification, paying my annual dues, and advocating for my profession, I have reached a crossroads in my life.... I have never actually been employed for pay as a Certified Child Life Specialist.

I look down at my name badge and glance over my job description and realize that no where does it indicate "Child Life" or a "Children's Hospital."

My first inclination is to label myself a failure, hide away from my fellow child lifers, and avoid questions such as "Oh, what hospital do you work at?" (Which is what I have been doing for the last year or so...)

Or I can be proud of where I work and what I do, educate my fellow child lifers on non-traditional settings for child life, and educate my coworkers on the skills I do have because I am a Certified Child Life Specialist. I would like to be able to boast that option 2 is what I have been doing, but unfortunately, wallowing in the perception of failure is probably more reflective of the truth.

If you did not already know, March is Child Life month. It's the 31 days out of the year where Child Life professionals all across the globe 'go big or go home' when it comes to showing professional pride, educating others, and planning exciting events in the work place. So this year, as I reflect on my profession, my journey here, and my current place of employment, I want to swell with pride again to be a Certified Child Life Specialist. I want to be proud of what I worked hard for and feel no shame for the simple fact that my name badge does not read "Child Life."

No, because I am a Child Life Specialist. Every day I use my skills as a Child Life Specialist. I rely on my knowledge of developmental theory. I facilitate therapeutic interventions. I utilize play with children as an integral part of learning, coping, and communicating.

I am a Child Life Specialist, and I do not need a name badge to validate me as a Child Life professional.

So in the spirit of Child Life Month, let me tell you what I do every day.

  1. Coach parents: One of my main roles is to supervise visits between parents and children who have been separated by the Department of Family and Children's Services due to allegations of abuse, neglect, etc. (I am not employed by the state; however, the state contracts out my organization to provide psychosocial and clinical services to their clients.) Through supervising visits, we complete assessments and provide modeling and coaching to parents. This allows them to learn developmentally appropriate parenting techniques and demonstrate mastery of them. This is where I get to do child life! Most of my parents do not understand basic developmental milestones, appropriate developmental stimulation, and the importance of limit setting with their children. While most of my children here do not have a chronic disease, they are emotionally scarred from some type of traumatic experience.
  2. Support children: Even though in the visitation program, the client is the parent. All of our children have experienced some sort of trauma, abuse, neglect, or poor decision making on their parents part. Because of this we often see behavior challenges, emotional outbursts, and developmental delays. So not only do our parents desperately need to know how to parent in a developmentally appropriate way, they also are in need of knowing how to respond and support the emotional needs of their children in a developmentally appropriate way. This goes down to the basic need of not even knowing how to play with their children, so again this is where I get to do child life! I literally teach parents how to play with their children and use play as an integral way to learn from and with their children.
  3. CSI: One of my job titles is a CSI, which stands for Community Support Individual. One definition states that: "Community Support services consist of rehabilitative, environmental support and resources coordination considered essential to assist a youth and family in gaining access to necessary services in creating environments that promote resiliency and support the emotional and functional growth and development of the youth." As CSI, I work one-on-one with our residential children and teenagers, primarily the 12- 17 year old boys. This is where I get to do Child Life! Translated into Child Life lingo, as a CSI I teach, practice, and facilitate:
    1. Coping Skills: In the hospital, Child Life teaches and supports coping skills through new diagnoses, procedures big and small, and even death. In my organization, I teach and practice skills that allow my clients to cope through situations such as physical and sexual abuse, loss of family (i.e. realizing they may never be reunited with their biological family), and anger and depression as related to trauma, abuse, or neglect. My clients have experienced some of the most horrendous conditions and they have a lot they have to cope with every single day. It is my job to teach, practice, and support coping skills to assist them in managing the stressors of every day life as well as the uncertainty of their permanent living conditions.
    2. Life Skills: In the hospital, Child Life teaches and supports the big transition from pediatric care to independent living and adult care. Child Life also teaches and supports children to learn new life skills when given a new diagnoses or post major surgeries (i.e. transplants or amputations). In my organization, I teach and support the big transition of group care under the custody of the state to independent living as an adult. This includes: applying for and learning job skills; money management and understanding financial responsibilities; preparing and passing the driver's license test; finding and securing housing; applying for and preparing for college; and the list goes on. Not to mention skills such as time management, peer relationships, and respect for authority.
    3. Therapeutic Interventions:  In the hospital, Child Life facilitates therapeutic interventions that allow children the opportunity to work through their emotions, share their fears, and build new skills regarding their diagnosis, upcoming treatment or procedures, or even facing death. In my organization, I facilitate therapeutic interventions that allow my clients to work on impulse control, anger management, and effective communication. I use role play, modeling, and real life practice for situations such as peer pressure, conflict with authority, and peer conflict and this is just to name a few. Some of my kids are just very angry at their situation or very sad. They are all assigned to a therapist, but the fact that I am not a therapist for some reason opens a door for them to feel comfortable talking to me. (Sound familiar fellow Child Lifers? Often times your kiddos might feel more comfortable with you than a nurse??)
So, today I am a Child Life Specialist. Every day I am a Child Life Specialist. It does not take a name badge to define me as one. In fact, I actually have my certificate of certification hanging in my office along with all of my Child Life text books and favorite distraction toys.
Thanks for letting me share what I do. In all honesty, it was therapeutic for me because as I started this post by saying I have really been having a professional identity crisis. I've been second guessing myself and wondering if I wasted all of those years drowning myself in Child Life. But nope. Not at all. In fact, I plan on attending the national conference in May, and I know somewhere down the road I will be able to contribute to the infiltration of Child Life Professionals in non-traditional settings. For now, I have to maintain a relationship with the Child Life community, continue to pursue education regarding the growth of the field, and advocate for myself as a Child Life professional in the workplace.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Struggle is Real

Have you ever met the Joneses? 

Yeah, me neither.

1950's Joneses
2017 Joneses

However, I am a witness to and a victim of their influence on society. They're the standard of what to live by, what to wear, how to act, how to decorate your home, and even what you should wear in your engagement photo shoot.
As many of you know, I am in a major transitional phase in my life. And to be honest, it's a little crazy (Although, many of you I'm sure can completely relate!) 

Currently I am: 

  1. Attempting to qualify for full time employment by building my client case load;
  2. Planning a wedding and everything involved in that;
  3. Researching, saving, and planning for a house of my own; 
  4. Investing in my relationship with my future husband while preparing to be a wife;
  5. Teaching high school Sunday school and a middle school small group at my local church;
  6. Trying to focus on my physical health by working out and (trying) making healthy food choices; and
  7. Struggling to stay caught up on my two current favorite shows (This is Us and Grey's Anatomy). 
Not to mention, both of my parents are currently unemployed (although actively looking) due to extenuating circumstances in my dad's previous company. 

When I list this out, it sounds like so much more than it did in my head. The last month or so of my life has been very emotional for me. I have cried more than I ever had, and I have struggled to maintain my typical confident composure. But when I look back at this list, those are some major things going on. They each take time, effort, money, and more time to do right and to do well. 

What I don't want them to take, however, is my sanity, my love of life, and my joy. So tonight... as I sit in front of my computer... a little unsure of what I should do next... I open a new post on the blog. This post has absolutely nothing to do with being a Child Life Specialist, but everything to do with reality. Life can be so overwhelming. And those Jones'... they make it hard. I want to do it all right. I want it to appear as if I always have myself together, but the reality is that I don't. I struggle. I struggle with anxiety, stress, worry, comparison, and obsession. I struggle with what people think of me and how they might perceive me. I struggle with comparing myself to other people and their successes they post about on social media. I struggle with wanting people to see the good I do, and I forget that I am not here to impress anyone. I struggle with body image and thinking that I am not good enough. 

We all have struggles. I know you guys all have your own you try to keep tucked away in the closet so no one else can see them. Some of you, like me, post the perfect pictures on social media that show your best side, your newest outfits, and your best hair days. You check your social media for likes and comments, hoping for approval and acceptance from the Jones'. 

The sad thing is, none of this brings fulfillment, none of this brings a deepened sense of self-worth, and none of it does anything for our anxiety or insecurities. In fact, it feeds them. It's been quoted, "Comparison is the thief of joy," and I've found that to be true in my life. But I don't want it to be true. I don't want other people to have so much power over me that I allow what I perceive their opinions to be to steal my identity, my joy, and my peace. Notice I said "What I perceive their opinions to be." This is because our minds are our worst enemies. We create our own perceptions of what we think others think and then those perceptions become our realities. We compare ourselves to others until we've withered away. We forget our own strengths, downplay our own victories, and wallow in our shame. 

I think to myself, "Where is that girl who thought she could conquer the world?" Where is the version of me that knew I was so smart and I could do anything I set my mind to? Where is the confident, fearless, and assertive Caroline who never let anyone tell her no? What has become of me that I am so anxious about everything in life that it has literally crippled my ability to function? 

As of right now, I don't have answers to these questions. I don't have a full understanding of where things shifted. But something happened, and I feel that vocalizing awareness of it is the first step in the right direction. 

So thank you for being a sounding board for me tonight. Thank you for letting me be vulnerable with you about my struggles. And maybe, just maybe, I am not alone. 


P.S. For those of you who follow me on social media, I want you to know the real story behind my engagement pictures. Bear with me, but I feel the need to share it.

My engagement photo shoot session was included in my wedding package, so of course I couldn't say no! I had seen all of my friends and of course all of Pinterest post the perfect engagement photos. I was excited to say the least, but when it came to picking out clothes it became a major anxiety. My mom even made the comment that it was easier to find a wedding dress than outfits for the engagement photos. I started in my own closet, determined to not spend money on clothes I did not need. Surely I had something already that would work, right? However, after trying on every outfit in my closet, it was determined that we needed to go shopping. Shopping trip number one consisted of trying on a few things, but nothing that was "just right." (Remember, you have to have the perfect outfit for this photo shoot because "everyone is going to see these photos" and they have to "be just right." Or so I thought.) Shopping trip two consisted of trying on nearly every solid colored dress in my size in the whole store. Finally we left with two different dresses. 

I got the dresses and two other shirts home and tried them on again with shoes and such, and had a major meltdown. The dress didn't fit right. My chest looked weird in that dress. What shoes would I wear with that shirt? But I don't look skinny in that outfit... and the list went on. I cried. I felt frustrated that I didn't feel pretty in any of the clothes, and then I felt guilty for caring so much about this *silly* photo shoot. I wanted to look like all of the other girls in the other photos so bad that I was losing sight of who I was. I was caring more about what people thought about my photos and the outfit I wore than the fact that the photo shoot was an opportunity for me to spend time with my fiance. 

The day before the photo shoot came, and I had to give myself a major pep talk. I had to write out truths I knew to be true in order to cancel out the lies floating around in my head. I told myself that I am beautiful no matter what because beauty that counts comes from the inside not the perfect outfit. I told myself that at the end of the day it didn't matter if I wore the white dress or the blue dress because no one will actually care. I put on the outfits one more time and made decisions about shoes and jewelry. I told myself that I would make a decision and not second guess it. So that's what I did. 

Now, there is a lot more to that story that is probably better left untold, but when you see my pictures I want you to know that I'm not perfect, the pictures aren't perfect, our photographer wasn't perfect, and trying to be perfect only leads to failure. When you see my photos, I hope you can share in the little victory I had in choosing the white dress over the blue dress (with the help of my parents and sister) because the anxiety in choosing the "perfect outfit" had become crippling. 

I share this because I don't want you to go through what I went through. I want you to not compare yourself to me or anyone else. I want you to be unapologetically you. I want you to not suffer the thief of joy every time you open your phone or computer. I don't want you to struggle with the anxiety of trying to impress other people because in the world we live today, we're surrounded by a constant pressure to be more than we are and even sometimes more than we are capable of being (i.e. my mind instantly thinks about thigh gaps- who even made that a thing to begin with... I mean really). What's wrong with who I am? What's wrong with the real me? The simple answer... absolutely, positively - nothing. 
Here is one of our beautiful photos, but just know that it is not as perfect as it appears.