161 Transcript: “Honey, You Need to Find Yourself” (with Donna Simkin)

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J: Hey, hey, hey, you're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 161. We're talking about 5 things you must stop doing in order to be your most authentic and empowered self. Stay tuned.


What's up? Welcome back to Vibrant Happy Women. I am Jen, your friend, and hey, can I just say, you freaking rock, you are a rockstar of amazingness. Make a big smile across your face now, pat yourself on the back, give yourself a hug and just smile because you are amazing, you should know it. I'm so glad you're here.


Well, today, I'm talking with my friend, Donna Simpkin, who has a really amazing life. Sometimes people do things that just a standout, and Donna has that kind of life. She is a foster mom, has fostered tons and tons and tons of kids over the years and she started out very differently. Her husband left and she was a single mom, often without water or even electricity and she met a mysterious older woman at a hospital who told her 5 things she had to stop doing; 5 things, it sounds really magical and mysterious. Who was this woman? Donna had never seen her before and I never saw her again; I'm still wondering about that. You are going to hear the entire story in this episode, it's fantastic.


My assistant, Tara, listened to this episode in advance before you are, in fact, she read the transcript, and she messaged me right away and said, “Jen, I was crying all through that episode, Donna is amazing!” and I agree. Donna, you are amazing. And everyone, you are so lucky to get to hear her story today and I want you to let it inspire you, and especially those 5 things that we all need to stop doing. Let them sink into your heart so you too can be as empowered and inspiring and helpful to this planet as Donna is being in her life. I have nothing more to add, Donna's episode and this interview will speak for itself. I can't wait for you to listen. Let's jump in.


I am chatting with Donna Simpkin today and she's a mom of 11 children, ages 28 down to 3; 3 of whom are biological kids, 5 who are adopted and 3 who are angels now. Donna has been a foster mom for 8 years, and when she's not busy with the kids (which is rarely) she likes to do crafts and make baskets for fundraisers. She lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Welcome to Vibrant Happy Women, Donna.

D: Thank you for having me and inviting me, I'm super excited.

J: I am super excited. I met Donna, everyone, through Heal Your Heart and I quickly learned she is busy with special needs foster kids or foster kids that… I don't know if they're all special needs, but tell us a little bit about that, Donna.

D: Yes. In the county that I live in, it is hard to find people that are medically trained to take on the kids that have medical issues. So I was at one point the only person trained to take on and the, what they call specialty foster care, which is children that all have medical issues, we could have PKU, they could have severe asthma, they could have heart conditions. Right now, I have… well, I guess they're not foster anymore, I just adopted them, but it's hard for me to remember that I did that just this week.


D: I have one that has cerebral palsy and the other one is G tube fed, mentally challenged and has autism. So it's kids ranging all different kinds of special needs.

J: Yeah. And so my first thought when I met you was, “Whoa, whoa, how is she not burned out and like lying in the gutter (Laughs) through all of this?” And so we're going to dive into that story in a second, but I first want to give you the chance to share your favorite quote or a motto that guides you in your life.

D: So kind of mine is more of a motto and it's kind of a quote that kind of brought me into a motto. It is, “The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.”

J: Ooh.

D: So find myself first, before I realize that I could help others. I didn't know what I wanted to do or what I wanted. I mean, typically when I went to… got out of high school and went to college, I was like any typical high schooler, you know, you knew it all, you didn't want to listen what anybody else said. So I went to college and I actually to college to become a schoolteacher and started out in the kindergarten classroom and realized I didn't like kids.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: Which is kind of funny having all these kids, but…

J: That is funny. (Laughs)

D: … it might have just been in that position or whatever but I didn't like that. So of course I had to go back and explain to my parents that what they just sent me through school was kind of a waste of time.

J: Mm.

D: In the meantime I, you know, found what my parents would call a bad boy, rebel and got married and started having kids of my own right away.


D: So needless to say, I didn't have control of myself.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And so when my life crumbled when after 13 years… or 18 years of marriage, my first marriage, everything was crumbling and all that, is when I ran into (by accident) a little lady who sat me down and said, “Honey, you need to find yourself.”

J: Aww, yeah.

D: And I looked at her and I’m like, “Okay, first of all I don't know how you came into my life but I don't know what you mean by finding myself.” And she explained to me that, in order to find yourself you have to stop 5 things in your life. You have to stop trying to please everybody else, you have to stop fearing change, stop living in the past, stop putting yourself down, and stop overthinking.

J: Whoa, the 5 stops.

D: 5 stops, so…

J: Say those one more time so everyone can write them down if they need to. (Laughs)

D: You’ve got to stop pleasing everyone; because that's what I naturally did. As a mom, that's what we all want to do, as a wife, everything, we want to please everybody else.

J: Mm-hmm.


D: But we got to stop pleasing everyone, stop fearing change. I was going through a divorce, I was scared to be on my own, “How am I going to do this?” you know, I had a lot of change going on and I was holding on to that. The third one stop living in the past, stop putting myself down.

J: Hmm, big one.

D: And stop overthinking.

J: Wow, huge.

D: Yes, all huge, all huge. And, I mean, I told her that if I could stop any one of those, I probably… if she had a formula to stop any one of those, we could be rich.

J: Yeah, no kidding, no kidding.

D: Yes.

J: So take us back, you… you did the bad boy thing you married the bad boy (your words, not mine)…

D: Yes.

J: … and you had your 3 bio kids with him, right?

D: Yes, I had my 3 bio kids with him, actually 4 bio kids, I had a twin and my first set were twins and we lost 1; so that's 1 of my angels.

J: Got it, got it.

D: So I had 4 kids with him.

J: And tell us a little about your fascinating family. Like, I've never heard of a family like this, all living together, you know, the Italian thing, it sounds so cool. So tell us what your family was like and what happened as things led up to the divorce.

D: Okay, so we're a big huge Italian family. We would every Sunday get together, have dinner, everybody, all the aunts, uncles, cousins, everything; all lived on the same street growing up in just different houses but we all lived on the same street. We were all really, like I said, all real close, tight-knit family. When I got married, my parents weren't happy, they didn't like my life choice, but they accepted it. So when I got divorced, at this point, well, not realizing throughout this 18 years of marriage I was… he was very controlling, started pulling me away from my family, I didn't see this, you know, I did not know that I was being pulled. He was talking to my family more than I was talking to my family. We would go over there every weekend for dinner and stuff, but it still was not a… as tight as we were. So when the struggle did come for us to… you know, when the marriage was ending and I was in a career as a medic, which I don't know, I mean, some of the listeners out there, if you're in the emergency medicine type field, it's a very burnout field.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So you learn to keep everything inside and become tough and hard and, you know, you're just not… that's just… you live that every day so that's what you tend to start to become.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And while I became that, I started shutting people out of my life simply because I was, you know, hard and I… you keep your feelings in and took care of him on our own way.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And so through that, when I got divorced, my entire family decided to take my ex-husband’s side because he would be the one running to them with this openness of crying of how bad a person I was and what I did and how I didn't care and how I didn't show affection; which I didn't, by all means, I didn't because I was a medic and I was taught… you know, I mean, I was training myself to be hard.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So with that being said, my family decided to choose obviously my ex-husband, set him up a trailer, bought him a trailer, bought him all the furniture, everything that he needed; they even supplied this place with food for him.

J: Wow, wow.

D: He could have a place to take his kids.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And at that point is where I had this… I was at work, it was a busy night, I was having this disaster meltdown because of everything going on in my personal life and because of what's going on. And I'm working in an ER so we're having a bad night in our ER, and this is when this little lady sat me down.

J: Mm.

D: She actually brought me here and I don't know how it came about that she was bringing us dinner or if she just was bringing me dinner, I just cannot all remember that because all I can remember is sitting down in a quiet lounge with her and she's pulled me aside and said, “Listen, you've got to change what's going on in your life or else you're headed for disaster.”

J: Yeah. So she gave the 5 tips and you're sitting there probably kind of deer in the headlights thinking, “Whoa, how do I even do this?” So how did you do it, Donna. (Laughs)

D: I said to her, I said, “And how am I supposed to do this?” because at that point, I'm still kind of going, “Right, you have all these answers, lady, but you don't…” So she hands me this little pocket book.

J: Ooh.

D: Okay, it's a little pocket book and it was the little pocket book of ‘The Secret’ written by Rhonda Byrne.

J: Oh yeah.

D: And in there is where she wrote… told me, “The most difficult thing in life is to get to know yourself,” and that's where she wrote down the 5 things I needed to stop.

J: Uh-huh. So the little old lady wrote the 5 things, not Rhonda Byrne?

D: No, the little old lady, not the Rhonda Byrne.

J: Got it, got it, got it, okay.

D: Yeah. She just wrote that in the book for me so that I had that. And she told me that, on my next… to take a day off, and on my next day off, to go through and read this book and do what it says.

J: Wow. It kind of seems like this mysterious, you know, angel almost that comes into your life right when you need it; it's kind of crazy.

D: I am telling you it was. To me, that's… and that is all I can remember of that night. I know it was a hard night for us, but that is the only thing I can remember. And I can remember from that day forward… I mean, I couldn't tell you if it was a Monday, Tuesday or exactly what the date was, but I can tell you from that day forward is when my life changed.

J: Really? So wait…

D: Yeah.

J: … did you ever see the lady again?

D: Never saw the lady again.


J: Oh my gosh, what if (Laughs)… you never know, you never know.

D: Yes, yes.

J: It could have been some amazing divine being giving you wisdom; oh my gosh, that's so cool. Okay. (Laughs)

D: Never seen… seen her and never even looked for her again; that's the thing. In my own mind as I was going through my book, you know, every time I need something and I need to go in there, I never even really thought about, “Hey, did you ever think about wondering what happened to her or what…?” it never did, never crossed my mind at all, ever.

J: Wow, that's fascinating. So how did your life change? I mean, you're closed, you're tired, you're mad at your husband I'm imagining…

D: Oh yeah.

J: … and then you get all of this, what was different?

D: Exactly. And so I started doing what the book said and what she said, I stopped trying to please everyone. At that point, I had to tell… my family had to be done.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: I had to stop trying to explain to them or trying to make them happy or try to do whatever they wanted me to do to get them to affects… thinking I needed to do for them to love me.

J: You mean your extended family?

D: No, like my parents and that kind of thing.

J: Not your kids, okay, got it.

D: No, not kids, not my kids at all. No, the kids are not even in this ratio right now, just my extended family, my parents, all that that were I was trying to please, because they were helping my ex and not giving 2 craps about me is what I was thinking.


J: Yeah.

D: And I had to give out that… let go of the fear that I can't to be alone because I can't do this, that change. I need to be in this abusive relationship because it's what I know, it's what I need and I can't change it right now, and that's also… it’d be better off for the kids if we stayed together kind of game.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And I had to stop living in the past, I had to stop thinking about what he did and how controlling he was and everything, how's that going to affect, you know, my future. I had to just stop living in there, just stop worrying about the… what happened in the past kind of thing. And the putting myself down, I had to stop putting myself down on the fact of saying, “You can't do this, you have to live… you know, you have to have him around, you have to be there,” kind of thing. And then the same thing with the overthinking, all those together was causing me to overthink…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … how all this was going to be. So I just… as Rhonda Byrne puts it out there, “You’ve got to tell the universe what you deserve, what you want, and let it go.”

J: Yeah, what did you decide you deserved and wanted at that point before it all happened?

D: Well, at that point I just started out with, first of all, I deserve happiness.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: Second of all I deserve a man who is going to appreciate me…

J: Yeah! (Laughs)

D: … and my children like we deserve to be treated. And I also thought, “You know what? I deserve to stop struggling.” I work 2 full-time jobs. I worked on the ambulance service, you know, 12-hour shifts, 3 days a week.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And I worked in the emergency room, 12 hour shifts, 3 days a week.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So I work 6 days a week, 2 full-time jobs and I said, “I deserve a break. I deserve to be able to pay my bills with 1 job, I deserve to be part of my family, I could take care of my kids, you know, we deserve to be happy.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And believe it or not, things started changing.

J: Wow. So that easily, that quickly?

D: It wasn't really quick, but I stopped… I mean, some of the things were quick. I stopped overthinking, I started becoming confident in myself on, “I could do this.” The fearing the change was… the stop pleasing people, that stuff was easy. And once I stopped doing that, it was amazing how the other stuff was coming in.

J: Mm, oh yeah. It's almost like you were blocking all the abundance that probably could have been yours all along just by changing your thoughts, then…

D: Yes.

J: … then you unblocked it. Oh yeah.

D: One day, we decided it was… we had spring break, we had some time off, I looked at my kids, I said, “Where do you guys want to go?”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: They said to the beach. Well, we have a little reservoir around in our county and I said, “You want to go to the like the gorge for the weekend?” and they're like, “No, we want to go see the real beach.”

J: (Laughs).

D: I'm not proud of this part, but my daughter, I talked her into taking her dad's credit card when she was on a visit with him and we decided to go to California.

J: (Laughs) That’s so fun.

D: And not on our expense. (Laughs)

J: Right, right. Well, I mean, he had to pay some child support and alimony anyway, it was okay.

D: Well, he wasn't paying a thing. Our house was in foreclosure, my car was being taken, all this stuff was going on because he wasn't paying anything to help us out because he was controlling and I was becoming new me and it wasn't what he was wanting.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So of course, you know, it was the typical not doing things so it wasn't that bad. But we decided to go to California.

J: Mm-hmm.


D: And we went to the Golden Gate Bridge and we wrote down everything we wanted to change in our lives and we screamed it off the bridge and we tossed our paper overboard. And from that point on, even the kids changed, we all started following in believing the same thing, the know ourselves and those 5 things to stop.

J: Wow, wow, this is such a good story, I didn't even know all of this about you, Donna.


J: So you're in a house that's in foreclosure, you can't… I think you mentioned you couldn't pay the bills. It sounds like it's going wrong, but you get back from California, you've done this amazing thing, you're completely different people, then what did life look like as you moved forward? Just kind of tell us that story.

D: Well, we still had our days where like I… you know, I've mentioned in our group where we would come home and the power would be off because that bill, I couldn't get paid that month or whatever the case may be. And because I did take myself down to 1 job so that I could spend more time with my kids. So, you know, maybe that month, I didn't have money for the light so we didn't pay the light, so we would take… and at that point, we had a little guy who was 6 years old; my youngest son of the bios. So the older ones, we didn't want him to know what was going on and the struggles we were having, so we would make up games and play like, “Hey, we're camping. We can only use flashlights. No one can turn on any lights,” you know?

J: (Laughs) Aww, that's so great.

D: The water would be shut off so it'd be like, “Hey, saving the planet, everybody has to use the potty outside,” you know, kind of game. So we would do games and stuff and make it fun and have fun and play and make memories that way through playing, and things just started turning up. One day, I met this gentleman who really wanted to be in my life, and at that point, I didn't want a man in my life. Things were going so good, I was like, “Why mess it up?”

J: Yeah.

D: “Why bring him? We're just getting rid of one, why do we want to bring another one?”

J: (Laughs) Yeah.

D: He insisted on (Laughs)… he insisted on still becoming part of our lives, and when he found out my house was in foreclosure, he actually went and paid all the past mortgage.

J: Oh gosh! You were pushing him away and he still did this; that’s amazing.

D: And he's still doing this. But see, and the thing is it's like he's never had been married, never had any children, but was taking care of me and my kids and I’m like, “You don't understand what it's like to be… have kids so you need to just stop and back…” well, he goes, “Well, I'm not going to understand if you're not going to let me in your life to show me what it's like to have kids.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So at that point, I decided to give in, start dating him, and long story short, he is my husband now.

J: Aaw, that's a good story. Well, that's really romantic.

D: Yes, everything came full circle, that's once I started giving up and I started paying attention and asking and saying what we needed and what we deserved, things just went full circle. I left the emergency kind of the emergency medicine job, I opened up the pain clinic with one of our local anesthesiologists and we had this business that was just booming. I mean, things just started pouring in for my favor.

J: Mm-hmm. So you married the guy and you have your 3 biological kids, so he helped you to raise them, how did you …

D: Yeah.

J: … get into foster care?

D: Well, I decided that he met me when my bio, the youngest one was 8 years old.

J: Okay.

D: So at that point, he'd never really had a baby or what it's like to, you know, have little tiny kids or anything like that of his own. And my older ones… there was an age difference, my older ones were basically he graduated them out of high school and sent them on to college. So he really didn't have… so when we had the 2 in college, we decided that maybe we should try to have a child together since he’d never had one.

J: Okay.

D: And we weren't able to conceive. I had my tubes tied, we were not able to conceive, so we tried in vitro.

J: Uh-huh.

D: We did that 3 times.

J: Ooh.

D: All 3 times was not a success. I carried the fetus for a little while, but then would miscarry before, you know, too long. So with that being said, my sister worked for our local Department of Family Services and she’s like, “There's a lot of kids out here that would just love to have you as even a parent in their life for a week.”

J: Mm-hm.

D: And I thought, “Oh.” So I brought it up to my husband, he was like, “Oh, heck no.”

J: (Laughs)

D: “We are not going to foster kids. You have to give those people so much information and I don't want no one to know anything about my life.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And I’m like, “Okay.” So I get the packet anyway and we sit down and we fill it out, and he’s like, “Oh, this might not be bad; alright, it might not be bad.” So be it, we went ahead and finished got the home study done, decided this is what we wanted to do. We gonna wait till the older kids, we were able to get everybody together and talk because it's a life-changing event and I wanted to know if the older kids wanted to be involved in this also, because they kept coming home.

J: Yeah.

D: And so they decided to be part of the event and we all decided to do it and we did. We jumped right in, full force and started doing foster care. I still had my full-time job, my husband still had his full-time job, kids going to school, and we had the 1 that we did… kids we still have at home did traveling sports so we were constantly traveling all over the place with his sports. And boom, knock on the door one day in the middle of the night, we end up with a brand-new baby girl.

J: Whoa, oh gosh.

D: We were in the middle of a tournament weekend, it was Father's Day weekend, here comes this little baby girl into our lives, her name was Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backwards.

J: Oh.

D: And it came on Father's Day weekend. The only reason why we were doing this whole entire foster care thing is… for me, was because I wanted my husband to see what it's like to have children.

J: Right, generous.

D: So…

J: Yeah. (Laughs)

D: So I'm thinking, “Wait a minute, here's a baby girl, she's on Father's Day weekend, her name's heaven spelt backwards, this is a sign.”

J: Ooh.

D: The only thing that didn't deliver it was the little lady who handed me the book.

J: Yeah, exactly.

D: … or else we would be…

J: That would have been… your jaw would never have come off the floor. (Laughs)

D: Yeah. So at that point, we just figured, “Wow, this is meant to be.” We ended up a very hard 4 and a half years but she did stay in our lives, we did adopt her and… but prior to adopting her, we adopt… 9 months later, we get another little baby girl and we adopted her shortly after we got her within 6 months. And within a year of that, that child's biological parents had another child and gave… wanted us to adopt because they were not going to be parents.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So we had 2 adoptions and still the first girl that we had in our care working on you, you know, whether we're reunifying, whether we're not. At the same time that… this is so hard and so confusing now, I just call them baby mama 1 and baby mama 2.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: Baby mama 1 and baby mama 2 were both pregnant at the same exact time, gave birth to kids 3 days in difference.

J: Wow.

D: But another mom’s decided to take off with the child.

J: Oh, okay.

D: She was lost somewhere with this child, we couldn't find her, State was looking for her, probation was looking for her, everybody looking for her, couldn't find her. So in the meantime, we took in this other one, adopted her. And at about 2 years in, they found the mom that ran with the first baby.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: She happened to be pregnant.

J: Oh boy.

D: And since she broke all her probation and everything, she was going to finish her sentence out in prison; she was going straight to prison. So she was off on her way to prison and we get this knocking on the door, “Hey, your baby mama is pregnant with twins.”

J: Oh wait, so she's pregnant with twins and you already have 3 babies around, or 2?

D: No, this is years down, it should be about 2 years later.

J: Okay.

D: So they're… you know, they're all still young.

J: Well, how many kids do you have at this point; the foster kids? That's the part I'm… I want to make sure I get.

D: At this point in my life?

J: Yeah, how many foster kids did you have before this knock on the door with the twins?

D: I had the original… the older one that we were working on adoption, she was still in foster. I had a lot… foster kids in and out. We've had over 50 some foster kids in our house.

J: Oh! Well, okay, we can't then understand…

D: Yes.

J: … the whole story. I'll just let you go then. (Laughs)

D: Yeah.

J: Oh my gosh, 50; oh my gosh! Okay.

D: No, we had them in and out, we didn't just adopt everyone that comes through our house.

J: Got it, okay.

D: We got to be reunified, which is great.

J: Okay.

D: So at this point, we still have a 4-year-old, we have a 3-year-old and we have a 2-year-old.

J: Oh my gosh. (Laughs)

D: And we also have a newborn.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And this is a newborn who has had heart problems, born with… we had to take… born with a single valve so… and mom just kind of walked out.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So it was more of a hospice type thing, but we took this baby on and was running back and forth to Children's Hospital and doing things and taking care of this baby. And I was on my way when they let me know that this baby mama had been picked up and she's in our local jail and… but she's going to be headed to prison and that she is pregnant and she only wants to talk to me.

J: Oh, wow.

D: And I’m like, “Well, I don't have time to talk. I have this child in my care that is on a ventilator, that is feeding tube dependent about ready to go in for another surgery, and just his breakfast alone could kill him. So I need to concentrate on what I am doing with this one, not talk to a baby mama in prison; in jail.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And they're like, “Well, she won't talk to us, and if we… you know, just try to reach out to her if you get some time.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So I said, “Alright, if I get time, I'll reach out to her,” and off to Children's Hospital I go. Our Children's Hospital is 200 miles away so we travel there all the time.

J: Wow.

D: I’m at Children's Hospital and the baby takes a turn for the worse, we all decide that we're just going to say goodbye.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And after 40 days of trying and working and surgeries and everything else, we finally just decide that it's for the best. So we are saying our goodbyes and I obviously am losing it because my 6-month-old is dying in my arms.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And the nurse sits down and says, “Is there anything I can do to help you?” and I said, “I just want this to be over, I'm done.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: “You know, I don't want to do this anymore, I don't want foster kids anymore, I want these kids gone, I can't do this anymore.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And she said, “Remember to take care of yourself.”

J: Mm.

D: And I said, “That is so hard to do,” and she says, “Well, obviously you were meant for something greater.”

J: Wow.

D: “And you need to find out what that is. If you haven't already, everyone around here knows what you're here for; what your greater being is.”

J: Really?

D: And I'm just looking at her like, “What?” and she says, “You have been awesome with this child.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: “It's not yours, it's a foster kid, it's somebody else's kid, and you're sitting here day in and day out 40 days, loving this baby and giving this baby everything that this baby would not have gotten if he was just sitting in here.”

J: Hmm.

D: And I’m like, “You're right, you're right, this is what I'm meant to do.”

J: Wow.

D: Well, I decided at that point that, “Yeah, this is what I was meant to do and I'm going to go back.” And this is where I had to finally pull myself back together and go back 5 years from when that lady told me, “Find yourself, stop overthinking, stop all that good stuff.” And I wrote a letter to the girl in prison and said, “I would be more than happy to help you out.” And that is prior to me finding out they were twins, I thought it was just a single baby.

J: Yeah.

D: I said, “But in the meantime, tell me where the other child is that you've hidden because we need that one too.”

J: Ooh.

D: And she did, we started building a relationship. They hadn't quite taken that child from where the house was that it was at because she was being taken care of, even though it was another house that did drugs so they were had to work on getting, you know, a reason to pull that child. So things started looking up, we just prayed for it, we stopped overthinking. I quit my job…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … that I had because I decided that being a… working in the pain management field, I was basically causing addiction…

J: Ah, that's true, yeah.

D: … taking kids in that were born addicted. So I felt like I was being part of the problem instead of part of the solution…

J: Yeah.

D: … when I was finding myself again. So I said, “This is not for me,” so I quit my job and started making the life changes like I did 5 years ago on that one, and the babies were… the 1 month, May, my little 6 month old died, in June, my twins were born.

J: Oh, and they came to you right away?

D: Yes, right out of the hospital, yes, they were C-section so I had 24 hours to drive across the state and pick them up.

J: Oh my goodness. And so those twins you just adopted recently, is that correct?

D: Recently, yes; 3 and a half years ago was when they came into our life and we adopted them just Wednesday, 3 days ago.

J: Aww, congratulations.

D: Thank you.

J: That's amazing. So when I hear you sharing these stories, I have a cousin who did foster care, and the level of drama involved and the heartache involved dealing with the birth moms wondering, whether the child is going to be reunited with their birth parents or whether you'll be adopting them, it just sounds so emotionally draining. I would love to hear how you have dealt with the emotions of all of that, or maybe you were primed for it because you did the emergency care, I don't know. How have you been able to manage 50 foster kids over the years?

D: It is very overwhelming and draining. And that's the most scariest thing I hear from people when they're like, “How do you do that? I could not let them go back.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And that's why I became a mentor for… in our county, I am the only mentor to mentor biological parents.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And that's why I went to mentoring biological parents; teach them to be parents. A lot of these people that get their children taken away are not bad people at all.

J: Right.

D: They never grew up in a home that taught them or even showed them love usually, let alone how to be a parent.

J: Right.

D: And so I mentor them. And one set of my parents that I mentored that I have actually adopted their kids, just mentoring them, they realized that, you know, we can have a good life. And they're productive members of society, they both hold down full-time jobs. I could go over their house right now and it's going to be clean spic and span, but they can't do it without being high.

J: Mm.

D: They hold… they cannot be sober.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So they knew that they couldn't be parents because they couldn't stay sober.

J: Right, right.

D: So they just need to be educated on the fact of, “Well, you can't stay sober and then you need to stop having children.”

J: Right.

D: “So let's work on getting that fixed.”

J: But in the meantime, they are very happy and they are aunts and uncles basically to my kids because I keep them in their life…

J: Ah.

D: … as an aunt and uncle, not as, “Hey, this is other mom and dad.”

J: Right, right. Oh, that's cool.

D: So… and just mentoring them and working with them. And still today even, they don't have kids in foster care and they have the issues, they will call and ask, “What should I do about something like this?”

J: Aww, that's really meaningful to be a mentor like that.

D: Yes. And so that's what I do is mentor these other parents and teach them… and you… they learn. I mean, there's ones… I had one that I mentored that I had her child and I was mentoring her, and I'm just telling you, she just really did not have a support group. So I became her support group, mentored her, she was doing wonderful to get her kid back. She got scared that she wouldn't be able to do it, she started overthinking; which is one thing we worked heavily on. She started overthinking, went straight back to what was her comfort zone, which was her drugs, and walked out and we haven't seen her since; and that was 2 years ago.

J: Mm, that's so sad.

D: But… it is because she was having that… getting that relationship back with her child and then just dropped like that. So it's… you know, you do have ones that you think… I thought was being really good, but then there's other ones that will just realize, “I can't do this.”

J: Yeah. Is there a certain drug that's most problematic in the foster care field?

D: Meth.

J: Meth, okay; not heroin then.

D: Heroin is… well, it's opiates basically and that's… the opiates are big here too and…

J: Oh, like the oxy… taking the oxy and stuff.

D: Yeah.

J: Okay, huh.

D: Yes. And that same thing with getting the same feeling by crushing it or liquefying the oxycodones and shooting them up.

J: Yeah; oh man. Well, so one thing I heard you talk about which was fascinating is you mentioned the RAD kids.

D: Yeah.

J: And the way you help them to heal from any of the past traumas they might have experienced with their birth parents, tell us more about that.

D: So the RAD kid, RAD is the Reactive Attachment Disorder.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And a lot of those children, they just… they don't attach. The little girl that was brought into our house right… the very first one that I was telling about, our little Nevaeh, she wasn't an infant, I mean, she was an infant but she wasn't like brand-new out of the hospital, she was 2 months old.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: She was heading down that road as a RAD child because what… usually they do is they’d get to take their babies home and then they just ignore them.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: In fact, this particular case, they were following her biological father and he had actually left the house at 6 o'clock with the mother in the morning, drove to Utah which is 200 miles away from us, picked up drugs and then drove back, which in turn took a good 8 hours.

J: Yeah.

D: And the task force team, since they were watching him, they waited until a little bit later and a couple hours after they gotten back home and then they went and broke down the door, not even knowing that there was an infant in that house.

J: Oh my gosh. So she was left alone for 8 hours…

D: Yes.

J: … at least.


D: Yes.

J: Oh my gosh, that's so sad.

D: And at that point in time when she first came to us, she didn't realize, she didn't know how to cry… she didn't cry, period.

J: Aaw, oh my gosh.

D: All she would do was suck a binky because she didn't know what else to do. She never cried because she was hungry, she never cried because she was dirty because she just spent almost 2 months learning that crying didn't get her anywhere.

J: Yeah, wow.

D: So that right there would have been a RAD kid provided we didn't jump in right away.

J: Yeah, yeah.

D: Because that's what happens, a lot of these kids, the infant, they'll get past that to where they can start you know holding a bottle on their own and stuff like that, then it becomes easy to feed your child…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … and have your child and still do your drugs. So anyway, these RAD kids, when they come in, some of these kids we don't even know… you don't even know they're RAD kids until their way into school, 7, 8, 9 years old.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: But these RAD kids, they have… they're always constantly in fight-or-flight.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: They don't know how to get out of that, they're constantly…

J: Aww.

D: So they do something wrong, they flight. There are kids that in foster care are moved from home to home to home to home because each parent… nobody can handle them.

J: Yeah.

D: These are the ones that you hear the horror stories about, these are the ones that people see when they typical think, “Oh, foster house, foster home, foster kid.”

J: Yeah, yeah.

D: The bad, the RAD, because that's all we ever hear about is the bad.

J: Okay.

D: And it's not. You know, these kids are just kids that nobody knew how to handle, nobody knew what was going on. They didn't… you know, you couldn't ground them you couldn't do the typical things you do with your own kids because objects were nothing to them.

J: Yeah.

D: If they wanted an object, they would steal it.

J: Wow.

D: If you took it from them, they didn't care, they'd steal another one.

J: Yeah. So how do you heal that?

D: What we do is we found that we need to go back.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: We need to start back at the very beginning; so even back to infancy. So we would have to take this child and go all the way back to, think about holding your own children and cooing in their little faces and smiling at them and showing them that bond.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And that's the same thing we got to do with these kids. Obviously we're not going to hold them like little babies at 7 years old, but you just get down, everything is play within, play therapy. You can find out so much with just… with playing. In fact, our motto with our playing is, “Play is the highest form of research.”

J: Oh yeah.

D: So while you’re around playing with this child, you can get all the research you need.

J: Yeah, wow.

D: And even with your own children, it doesn't have to be a RAD child, you can play with your own child, someone else's child, but just that play with… playing with somebody, even a teenager, you're playing cards with them, you can get the most research out of that…

J: Yeah.

D: … just with playing.

J: Like information that you need to know about them.

D: Yes.

J: Ah, that’s fascinating.

D: … form of research is play.

J: Yeah. Have there been moments in this process of foster parenting which, again, to me sounds exhausting, yet I hear in your story it does seem meant to be. You had the medical background, you had the pain background so you could understand the drugs, I mean, now you're a mentor, it all just builds and it's beautiful; what a gift. But are there moments when you had to stop and go back to that little lady's first point which was, “Can't please everyone,” you know?

D: Yes. And I’m…

J: To put your first, yeah.

D: Exactly. And that's why I decided to start Heal Your Heart. I need to go back, I need a refresher course. I need to go back to… back to my beginning again. I started finding that… okay, so like when I said May of 2015, my baby dies, June, my twins come along, and anybody with any, even a singleton baby knows that you don't get sleep that first year anyway, let alone having 2 of them.

J: Yeah.

D: And 2 having special needs. I mean, the first one was in the NICU for 4 weeks, but then after he came out, there's all these special needs and stuff that's going on with these guys. I lost that whole entire first year and I became back to robot mode, back to, “I have to do this. I have to please this. I have to be this. I need to be a mom.” And then I felt guilty about not being a mom to the other kids because I spending so much time with these ones that I would join the PTO and, you know, started back into that life that most everybody falls into being a mom and a wife.

J: Yeah, doing too much.

D: Doing way too much and worrying about that very first thing, pleasing everyone.

J: Ah yeah. That's funny you mentioned because I think we all do that. We all learn it but we'll slide and then we have to remember again.


D: Yes, and I slide…

J: Get… get out of that. (Laughs)

D: I do, I slide all the time. Like I said, 5 years after I started getting into this groove, things started working for me things, started being… my life started going, “Dah dah dah!” and then all of a sudden, I had to regroup and say, “Oh, this isn't working for me.” And then unfortunately, it didn't take 5 years this time, it's only been a couple of years, but I finally decided, “Whoa, this is… I'm back to that…” I'm recognizing I'm back to that person again so I had to find something to pull me back out of it and to do that whole fear of everything, change and pleasing everyone and living in the past and putting myself down because that's basically what I was doing.

J: Yeah, yeah.

D: “I'm not a good mom, I can't do this,” you know, with my whole putting myself down of not thinking I was a good mom, so I had to join the PTO and I had to do…

J: Well, so I know since joining Heal Your Heart, you've made some big changes this year.

D: Yes.

J: Tell us about those.

D: Well, I just back to the… you know? I actually… healing your heart, I kind of jumped ahead without realizing I jumped ahead. Just the very first couple of weeks brought me in to the point where I was like, “Wait a minute, I need to stop doing this. I have to say… be able to say no to this. You know, I've got to clear my schedule, do, you know, healthy no’s and boundaries,” which was down the road a little ways. But so I did, I had to… I just completely stopped being on the board of directors for the kids in school, I dropped the PTO for my kids at school. I decided that, you know, I needed to focus on only one thing. I had students in the house taking… helping me take care of these kids as like in nanny positions where college kids that were learning about like going to the nursing program would come in and help me clean the tubes on the tube-fed kid or change them or physical therapy on the cerebral palsy child. And I had people in here fixing breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. And I just finally had to say, “You know what? Everybody needs to just stop.”



D: “I need to focus back in my family, I need to come back together with, you know, my happiness and me.”

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So we got rid of a lot of that.

J: Nice. And how do you feel different with those changes? How are you feeling different?

D: Well, I feel like you said before, well, in this thing, I used to have to have a lot of control. And I now feel that, believe it or not, I'm in more control of what's of the situation now then I was, but to me it doesn't feel like I'm in control. I feel like just being… this weight is lifted because everybody… we even had to go back, all the kids had to go back. We had to sit down and write down a list of everything in the house that needs done, whether it be vacuuming, cleaning toilets, whatever the case may be, we wrote down every single thing that had to be done and then we divvied up the chores with everybody in the house.


J: Mm-hmm.

D: So everybody knows exactly what everybody's doing.

J: Yeah, you had to go back and reorganize your system really.

D: Yeah, yes.

J: Ah.

D: And that, we reorganized, everybody knows what they're doing.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And then that also holds accountability and able to teach consequences.

J: Yeah, nice.

D: Because if you're not going to get your shoes on and get to the car when I need you to and you take up 5 minutes of my, time then that's 5 minutes off of one of my chores that I'm not going to get done so you're going to have to come home and do something for me that lost that 5 minutes.

J: Yes, that's a good one; I love that.

D: And so that's… and we do things, we learn consequences, they have to learn to pay back if they do something that's going to harm or hurt somebody else.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: But at the age my kids are, I mean, I have 7 or 6, 5, 4, and twin 3 year olds.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: So, you know, everybody has to learn. But another thing we went back to that was slacking is, at the very beginning of all this when this lady first came into my life, we got a grad… what we call a gratitude rock.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And we would every night pull that rock out and touch it and say something that we were thankful for or some kind of gratitude towards it.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: Well, that rock now sits outside of our front door.

J: Aww.

D: Before you come in the house, every single time you leave or come back to… and come back in that house, you have to touch that rock and say something you're thankful for.

J: Oh, that's so smart. And do the kids do it?

D: Everybody does it, yes.

J: Aww, that's really good! I'm going to do that; I thank you. (Laughs)

D: And it doesn’t have to be… I mean, at first, it used to be where you'd stand outside for an extra 10 minutes because, you know, everybody has to, “Uhm…” you know, kind of thing, but when it's snowing and raining or whatever outside in this bitter cold, they learn to just go, “Thankful for the sun.”

J: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s good.

D: “The heater right now,” whatever, you just have to touch it. You just have to say something positive, and that will get us into the house already on a positive note.

J: That is brilliant, I'm stealing that.

D: It works.

J: That's awesome. Well, Donna, I want to take a quick break for our sponsor and then come back and talk a little more about some of your favorite things.

Welcome back, everyone, I'm talking with Donna Simkin who is an amazing mom with just so much goodness that she's offering to her own kids and her adopted kids and doing good things in her community. But, Donna, I want to hear more about your personal morning routine; the things you do that fill your cup. Tell us about that.

D: Well, like my mornings, I get up before everybody else, I set my alarm so I can. I'm not a coffee drinker but I do like hot tea. So I'll sit back and drink my hot tea, usually reflect on maybe what's going to happen today and how I'm going to get all this done, what my goals are, how do I plan on achieving them, that kind of thing. I do like to take a cleansing breath and breathe, and sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I just like to sit here in the quiet.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: My mornings usually… because that's when all the chaos until everybody gets going, that's how we do it. But I do have an evening routine that, right after dinner, as the other adults in the house or the older people in the house are cleaning up and doing… getting the dinner, now getting dishes and that stuff cleaned up and getting the kids ready for bed, that's my time. I come up to my room for at least an hour, shut the door, sometimes I take a bath, sometimes I'll take a quick shower and then just sit and watch a movie that I don't get to see or read a book or… well, not read a book because me and books don't get along.

J: (Laughs)

D: Whatever it is I want to do.

J: Yeah.

D: And usually, that's when I do a lot of my journaling to get over whatever happened during the day, because there's definitely a lot that happens that I want to get out, and reflect on pulling myself back before we go downstairs and have our family meeting and go to bed.

J: Yeah. So you mentioned to other adults in the house. So who do you mean by other adults? Just so those listening can understand; I think I know what you're talking about.

D: So the other adults in my house, my 28 year old lives here because he is a certified chef…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … and we've hired him as our chef.

J: Nice!


D: And so he still is in the house so he helps out a lot with obviously the dinners and the cleanup of the kitchen and stuff. I do have… my 20 year old son goes to college but he's lives here so he stays. So in the evenings, he doesn't go to school, he goes to school during the day, so he is at home and helps out. And then occasionally, we have my husband home. My husband has a job that usually takes him out of town and he actually works more out of town than he is in town. So we see him… now, right now, he's working close enough that we can see him every 2 weeks, so he comes home for the weekend.

J: Oh nice.

D: Sometimes, he goes clean back east and he's in New York for like 8 to 10 months at a time.

J: Wow, that's tricky.

D: So when he is home, he's helping, but other than that, usually it is the… my 28 year old, he's not married, doesn't have any kids, and my 20 year old. My 26 year old daughter is here during the day usually, but she is married and has me a grandbaby and lives out on her own.

J: Yay.

D: But she does come over and help out a lot. And when she's at work, I watch their child.

J: Oh, that's nice. And it says a lot, I mean, you sound like really close-knit, kind of like how you grew up in the Italian street with your family. (Laughs)

D: Yes, I am very close with my older kids and I could not do this without my older children.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: But like, you know, they're free to do whatever they want to do, but this was a choice when we took on foster kids, we took on this choice as a family. We decided this as a family and so we pretty much do it as a family. But everybody still has… I mean, I'm very big on finding yourself in your own time, so as soon as our family meeting is over 7:30 every single night, the little kids go to bed and basically everybody's off to do their own thing. If the big guys want to go to the show or one of them has a girlfriend wants to go do something with the girlfriend, whatever, they still have plenty of time…

J: Yeah, yeah.

D: … to go do that kind of stuff.

J: So what do you do during your family meeting? That sounds intriguing.

D: So our family meeting is we sit down and everybody sits in a circle, it's kind of like circle time in a school.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: We all sit in a circle and we tell something about our day. We do have a little princess wand since I have 3 little girls that are… think they're princesses, we do have a princess wand and you cannot speak unless you have the wand in your hand, and we go around and just say something about our day. If anybody is in trouble or anybody had any problems during the day like, you know, are disciplined, we got… we don't… there's no grounding. We get thing out right then in there so everybody goes to bed happy and knowing that tomorrow is a whole different day. We don't carry that grounding on, we don't carry any of that on.

J: Mm-hmm. So how do you discipline? I mean, just to give us ideas, because that's one of the biggest things we moms struggle with and maybe you'll have an idea for us.

D: Well, with my little ones, I discipline with… we have a ticket system where they sat down and made a chart, we made a chart together of things that we need to work on. “We need to be better in the store. We need to be better out in public. We need to be better to each other. We need to be able to clean off the table and do our chores and stuff.” And with that, they earn tickets. And then we made another board where we have a store, our ticket store where you had to pay. So like if you want to make cookies with mommy or you want to go on a date with mommy, you have to save up 60 tickets.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: If you want to go to McDonald's and have a happy meal, you have to save up 120 tickets.

J: Oh (Laughs). How do they earn a ticket?

D: They earn tickets by what they did. So in our family circle every night, we go over how everybody did during the day and pay them their tickets.

J: Wow, wow. So how many tickets would 1 child earn in a day say?

D: Oh, they could earn a lot, they could earn 120 tickets in 1 day.

J: Oh.

D: But they have failures so they have to pay me some of them tickets back.

J: Ah, okay.

D: It's just like having a job now. If you did not brush your teeth properly, you owe me a ticket.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: You might get 2 tickets for brushing your teeth, but you didn't do it properly so you have to give me back one.

J: Oh wow. How do they react to that? Do they ever get upset they have to give a ticket back?

D: At first, when they… with kids that come in, the new kids that come in in foster care and stuff, yes, they usually get upset at first, but then they realize it just works on them being a better person.

J: Yeah, nice.

D: No, they will brush their teeth better so they can get that extra ticket. And in the long run, that helps me because there's less cavities that I have to pay for.

J: Yeah, and it's cut and dry, it’s…

D: Right, everything is…

J: There’s no… it’s fair, yeah.

D: Yeah. And they know the consequence to whatever the action they're going to do is going to be.

J: Yeah.

D: There's no unexpected… all the expectations are met at the very beginning. So even like going to the store, I have expectations that if you're going to come to the store with me, I don't want you every 5 seconds saying, “Can I have this? Can I have this? Can I have this? Can I have this?”

J: Yes.

D: Because that's not what it is, we have a list. And so they know that when we go to the store, we have a list, if they're big enough, they go with one of the other kids and/or they grab something. And everybody has their things on the list that they can grab and we grab and meet back and put all of our stuff from our list in the cart.

J: Wow, that's really cool.

D: Yes.

J: That’s amazing. What is your favorite happiness tool, Donna?

D: My gratitude rock at the front door.

J: Oh, that's good; totally stealing that, for sure.

D: Yeah.

J: Right after this, I'm going to go paint mine gold I think (Laughs). What's your favorite really simple meal?

D: Oh, my favorite meal when I have to cook, I love waffle pizzas.

J: Oh! I've never had one. What is it?

D: We just take the refrigerated pizza dough…

J: Yeah.

D: … and you put all your toppings in it. Don't put any sauce on it, you just put whatever topping. So if you want just cheese, you just put just cheese in there and basically sandwich it, put it in a Belgian waffle maker and cook it that way.

J: No way.

D: Uh-huh.

J: And it has to be Belgian, it can't be the small squares?

D: Not the small ones, it has to be the Belgian. And then you just take a pizza cutter and slice it into strips, just like you have strips of waffles…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … and you dunk it in the marinara sauce.

J: Oh my gosh, kids have to love that. And do they make their own?

D: Yes, and then everybody can choose what they want. So if you are one that loves everything, you can fill that thing up and put it in that Belgian waffle maker and cook it that way, and then you have all that ooey-gooness between both of the pizza crusts.

J: I'm so doing that; thank you. I’ve never heard of that before.

D: It’s that easy and it's wonderful, so that's why that's my favorite one.

J: Yeah. What is your favorite life hack? (Laughs)

D: You know, I thought about this one and I don't know that I have a favorite life hack. Well, I think my favorite life hack is that I have the USB plugins in all of the outlets and in the back of the seats of the cars now.

J: Oh, for cell phones.

D: Yeah, cell phones and iPads and stuff. Because when I'm traveling to Salt Lake with one of my little kiddos and that iPad goes dead, it could be a heck of a ride.

J: Oh, that's where you go to the hospital is Salt Lake Children's Hospital?

D: Yes.

J: Oh, okay.

D: Yeah, 200 miles away. And like my little tubey guy, we have therapy down there every week. So I do class with Heal Your Heart on Wednesday morning and then we take off to Salt Lake for therapy.

J: And you take all the kids with you or just him?

D: No, one at a time.

J: Yeah.

D: Whoever had the appointment at that time. So sometimes I go to Salt Lake 3 times week.

J: Yeah, wow, that's crazy. What do you do while you're driving to, you know, make it worth… fun a little bit?

D: I don't know if I should say this but that's when I get caught up on my movies. My…


J: How do you do that? You… do you use your phone?

D: I just put it on my phone, and I have a, you know, cell phone holder in the car.

J: Yeah.

D: And even just listening to it it's fine with me, but it's right there, yeah.

J: I'll confess, I have done that as well, but I don't look at it too much, I try to listen; at least that’s what I tell myself. (Laughs)

D: No, I… usually the Sun is glaring and so you really can't see a whole lot anyway.

J: Yeah.

D: But just to be able to listen to it. So I will put all the speakers up to the front right where I'm sitting, it just make it all come to the front driver's seat. And my little guy in the back will have their iPad with their own whatever they're going to do, and that's how I spend my time getting caught up on things that I like to do.

J: Yeah, that's awesome. And, Donna, what's your favorite book?

D: Well, like I said, me and books don't get along, but right now, the one I am reading is ‘The Big Leap’.

J: Oh yeah, that's a great one by…

D: Yeah.

J: I just mentioned that one in a few episodes back, so that's cool.

D: Yes, so that's the one I'm working on right now. I guess if I had to say, I guess I would… I'm totally in love with the whole ‘The Secret’, ‘The Magic’, and ‘The Power’…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … all those. But right now, the one that I'm reading is ‘The Big Leap’. But like I said, I'm not really a book connoisseur kind of person.

J: Right, right.

D: My mind's going 50 miles an hour and I trying to remember to listen to read. I mean, maybe if I did books on tape, it would probably a lot easier, I heard…

J: Yeah, while you're driving. Well, so thinking, you know, you're kind of in the thick of things, and I'm sure many of our listeners are as well, with jobs and kids and all the things that we do, what vision do you hold for your future? You know, applying those principles that the little old lady (as you refer to her) taught you, you know, what are you kind of attracting now into your life?

D: Now, I think I'm attracting into my life, and really, I did not realize this would ever… I think I'm kind of… all this is coming full circle to where, at the beginning, I went to school to teach and then I decided I just wanted to help people, and now, I kind of want to… I'm going into helping people by teaching with the, you know, teaching parenting classes and together facing the challenge classes. And so I'm hoping that with the positive and being able to continue to live my life the way I am, I can help others in life coaching type situations.

J: Mm-hmm, yeah, you’d be excellent.

D: That’s what I see myself headed towards.

J: Yeah, brilliant. Okay, and now, Donna, my favorite question, what does it mean for you to be a vibrant happy woman?

D: So, for me, to be a vibrant happy woman is right back to my motto where you have to find yourself first. And I think anybody who has… who gets to know yourself, who does whatever it takes to make that difficult leap in life and know yourself will be a vibrant happy woman.

J: Okay. And what is the one thing you do now in your life that is the most critical piece to make sure you keep knowing yourself, you know, as you move forward?

D: That hour a day.

J: That hour a day, okay.

D: I get relaxed, my night self-time. Either the bath time, the time where I breathe, I can listen to music, I can self-care. You know, I love to try new hair and skin products.

J: Oh fun! (Laughs)

D: Yeah. So if there's something out there, you know, I'll try it, and that's usually my time (Laughs)…

J: Mm-hmm.

D: … where I can try it, because if you're going to try a face mask or put weird things all over your face, you really kind of don't want everybody watching you.

J: Yeah. (Laughs)

D: So that hour of me-time, time where I get to spend on doing something for me. I also tend to get my hair done a lot, I get my nails done. So I have definitely that me-time…

J: Yeah.

D: … is what recharges, fills my cup, that's what feels that every single… you know, I fill it up every night. And I like it better at night because then I can… I think I get better rest…

J: Mm, nice and…

D: … because I go to… yeah, I let everything out while I'm doing my relaxing time, let go, get it all out, get everything done so that I'm not laying in bed worrying about, “Oh my gosh, what's this? Am I going to do this? How am I going to do this?”

J: Mm-hmm, that's really great. And a last piece of advice or a challenge to everyone listening.

D: My challenge to everybody listening would be find at least 15 minutes a day to yourself.

J: Okay.

D: And then reset after that. But if… just challenge yourself to find… to do whatever it is you want to do, even if you just have to go and take a power nap or listen to some type of meditation, there's a lot of meditating apps out there that I have downloaded that sometimes I listen to, and just different things that you just by yourself…

J: Yeah.

D: … nobody else around; not even the pets.

J: Do you have any tips for keeping it consistent? Because, you know, any one of those foster kids could come bother you, right, when you're trying to do that, how do you keep it consistent?

D: Kid gates.


J: Door locks, yes! (Laughs)

D: Kid gates, door locks, yeah, it is consistent because we made it… now back up just a tiny bit, my 20 year old is also autistic.

J: Uh-huh.

D: So everything has to be in set schedules.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And now that I have this new little one that's autistic, it's set schedules. So we live on a set schedule. It's been, for me, consistent. I know that after dinner… we serve dinner at our house at 4:30. I know between 5:30 and 6:00, I start my hour time.

J: Ah. And when do the kids go to bed?

D: 7:30.

J: That's really kind of smart; I like that.

D: So while I am doing my hour time, they're cleaning up the kitchen with the dishes and getting the kids cleaned up and ready for bed.

J: Mm-hmm.

D: And then when I get done with my hour time, I come downstairs, we all circle around, we do our circle time, whoever wants to read the story that day will read the story and then we break and go to bed; all the kids go to bed. Sometimes I will… that's when I'll sit down and start doing some journaling, maybe getting things set up for the day before. I am very bad about ironing, I want everything ironed.

J: (Laughs)

D: I’ll iron… so I don't know if that's just a bad problem I have, but that's usually when I'll get the time in to iron. My kids go to a private school so they were a uniform so everything has to be prim pressed.

J: You are a dying breed, Donna, with that ironing; I'm just going to say. (Laughs)

D: I know and it’s so bad because everybody’s going, “You iron?”

J: (Laughs)

D: It's relaxing or I don’t know.

J: No, I've heard that before, people who iron really like it, and that's probably why they do it. (Laughs)

D: Exactly, exactly.

J: That's great. Well, this is fantastic, I think you've inspired me. I'm going to try those pizza waffles or waffle pizzas, and the rock, the gratitude rock, for sure.

D: And everybody do it.

J: Yes, we will.

D: Add the fun.

J: Yes.

D: The older ones give you grief, but then pretty soon it gets to be fun where they can start thinking of weird things.

J: Yeah, totally.

D: And if there’s attitudes, even better. So if you had a bad talk in the car on the way home and then they have to say something nice before they go in the house…


J: That's really good. I'll let you know how it goes.


J: Well, Donna, this was great, I love all your advice. We're going to put those 5 tips you talked about from that little old lady (I love how you say that), we're going to have that on our show notes page. And I really appreciate you being on the show, Donna, this was awesome.

D: Hey, thank you, it was my pleasure, it was fun.

J: Okay, awesome.