Saturday, August 20, 2011

Till The Time Is Right

Back in June, we met with our social worker in regards to the re-certification of our adoption license.  Believe it or not, we've been in this process for three years now.  Our license only lasted for two years and it was time to renew.

It wasn't a big deal, really.  It necessitated a new home study, a few signed documents and a little stamp on our license.  A mere trifle compared to the hoops and hurdles and mind-numbing paperwork of the initial certification.

But we had a decision to make.  Do we want to continue on this journey or is it time to let the fat lady sing?  When we first started out, we both said we'd make a commitment for two years.  We agreed to open our homes and our hearts for that amount of time and basically put our lives on hold.  Being in that waiting place is like being in limbo.  You can't move forward and you can't go back.

We had heartbreaking disappointment after disappointment, many of which I never even wrote about because after a while, it got too painful.  We had placements that were removed.  We were lied to by social workers and foster mothers.  We were tapped sometimes up to four times a week and every single time (barring one that was completely unsafe for our children) we accepted them all.  We said "Yes" every time and left it up to God.  He has a serious sense of humor, that God.  He put us through trials that were both unfathomable as much as they were hysterical.

We were offered children of all ages; children with medical issues, mental issues, emotional issues.  There were children with indistinguishable sex organs and children who saw siblings killed at the hands of their parents.  We said yes to them all.  But the social system is a wreck.  It moves so incredibly slow and inefficiently that even when families are ready, willing and able to accept children in all forms of crisis, it fails to capitalize on the opportunity to the detriment of the children.

Children languish because their social workers are on vacation and didn't make plans to match them.  Families can't be matched for trivial issues; rules made by the state presumably to protect yet which ultimately compromise the long term placement of children.  It's frustrating to watch a small child be shuffled around from foster home to foster home while a system designed to help them, continues a new form of abuse where their families' abuses left off.

The decision, after lots of thought, advise and prayerful consideration was that we must terminate our certification.

As much as we've tried to put our lives on hold, things have changed.  Our children have grown up and what would have worked before, isn't so simple now.  Our lives are like a moving train that slowed down for the adoption but never stopped and slowly, eventually, the opportunity passed us by.  We're hoping and praying that while our train is still moving, we will again see in the horizon another opportunity to adopt.

We've learned a lot.  This process has a way of weeding out the weak.  I suppose we have flung ourselves into the weak pile.  We hung on as long as we could.  Would we have eventually had a placement? Most likely.  But it might have taken another five to seven years to finalize an adoption.  It's not that a child isn't worth it, it's totally worth every minute and sacrifice to help an orphan!  But we have to learn to be flexible.  Who knows what's in store?

Every time I prayed about this, it was very clear that God wanted us to make our own decision.  This frustrated me to no end.  We were in a dead lock.  He refused to let us off the hook and take the easy route of not taking responsibility for our decision.  I hid in the corner and rocked back and forth, in denial that we would have to make this choice.  I would scream at him to answer me and all I got was the silent treatment.

  We couldn't imagine throwing away three years and acknowledging that we might have been wrong.  Wrong in the timing, wrong for our family, wrong about something.  I knew for sure that this idea wasn't something I concocted on my own.  I've had the desire to adopt since I was a little girl. But what was it that blocked us?  Maybe we weren't being patient enough or willing to sacrifice enough.

The certification ended in July and it's now been a month without a social worker calling us to consider a match.  The silence has been nice.  It was hard to make the choice but once it was done, I knew it was the right thing to do as it sat so peacefully in our hearts.  It wasn't until recently after the dust had settled that I finally was able to understand anything other than our side of the story.  I was praying and I so clearly understood that we were not wrong for knowing that it's our destiny to adopt.  The problem was that we tried to do it on our own time.  We were fated to fail.  Perhaps I needed to step away from the situation for long enough to hear God tell me that yes, we are meant to adopt but that he would call us when the time is right.  Not a moment earlier and not a moment later.

I can't believe that everything has a purpose and everything has a meaning without believing that there is a plan.  And if there is a plan then we're going to have to wait until it's our turn.  Running amok does tend to get us lost doesn't it?  Running full force across the street while traffic is flowing is not a wise idea.  It's best to wait for the signal, the flashing light that lets us know that it's safe to cross.  Until then it's best to wait, lest we become roadkill.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wherein I Use A Lot Of Allegory

I've made a few new friends lately.  I'm so grateful for that. Honestly, I've been praying for that for a while.  Not that I don't love my current friends, I have a handful that I adore.  There are also a few people that I know as acquaintances that I really like too.  But...

...there are a few that I am distancing myself from.

I think, that when it comes to friends, you have to consider how you feel after a visit with them.  Do you feel loved, accepted, comforted, understood?  Do they make you laugh and let loose?  Or do they make you feel sad, depressed and exhausted? Do they make you feel rejected and unheard and unimportant? Is the relationship complicated and high maintenance?  Do they meet you in the phase of your life?

I've had to answer those questions recently only because I feel like I deserve people in my life who love me,  who know who I am and encourage and challenge and inspire me.  People who hug me when we part and who listen and don't appease me for the sake of superficiality. People who are going in the same direction.

The wisdom that age brings is a double edged sword.  One one hand, there comes a peace with knowing who you are and what is good for you.  On the other hand, you suddenly have an uncanny ability to sniff out the bullshit around you.  In this case, I've come to realize that many people who I count as friends, aren't really my friends at all.

Friendships often have a shelf life.  And every once in a while we have to comb through our relationship cupboards and check for expiration dates.  Some, like leftovers in the fridge, are rotting because they've been long forgotten.  Others are still good but we have yet to incorporate them.  Some, like that bag of delicious salty chips, seem wonderful but are actually terrible for us.  It's time to clean house and carefully examine every person in my relationship pantry and make sure that they are contributing positively to my life.

As for my new friendships- it's a funny thing really.  One new friend is someone who has been around me for a while but I never really recognized as good friend potential.  I always like her, I just never cultivated that relationship for whatever reason.  I like her a lot.  She's authentic and caring.  She takes the extra step to be a great friend and love me.  Even better, she's willing to humble herself and ask for help when she needs it and lets me love her in return. Those are fertile grounds for a lasting friendship.  How did I miss that for so long?

Another friend is someone who I just met a few months ago.  We share a heart for God and people.  It's scary how much we are alike.  She is someone who is going to do amazing things with her life, I can feel it.  There's no way that someone that passionate will go idle and that is so inspiring.  She lives her life in a way where she focuses a lot of energy on service and that is right up my alley.  I could probably call her and be all, "lets go to Uganda next month" and instead of calling me crazy she'd be like, "I bet I could sell my car for airfare."  When I told her of my recent plans for my kids to raise money for Somalia she was immediately excited and asked if her nieces could join in too.  When I told her I want to go on a mission in Mexico in the winter she asked if we could wait until the spring so she could come too.  She's the kind of person you want standing beside you while you're being strip searched in a foreign land. :)

I know that everyone who has come into my life has been there for a reason.  Even those friendships that have run their course have been a blessing and I'm grateful for them.  They met me where I was and sustained me.  Some friendships are like a chrysalis.  They protect us as we change from phase to phase in our lives and as we transform, we often leave them behind.  It doesn't mean they weren't valuable or necessary, only that we've outgrown them.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Are Tattoos So Addictive?

What it is about new ink that makes you want to go back for more? I ask this question only because I’m currently in the clutches of tattoo addiction. *twitch*
I may need a 12-step program.
I got a tattoo back when I was 18 years old and while I thought it was cool, I mainly did it to drive my parents crazy and boy, how I loved to drive them crazy.  That tattoo was like my way of outwardly showing them that I was no longer in their control; that I had grown up and I could make decisions that they may not like, but they’d have to accept. I was claiming my independence.
Fast forward another 18 years to about a month ago when I up and decided that it was time for a new one. I got it and absolutely loved it! And before the skin had stopped itching on that one, I had already gotten two more. And before I left the tattoo shop for the last two, I had commissioned another one and I can’t wait to saddle up for it.
Half the time, I’m deliriously fantasizing about how much of my body I could tattoo while still being able to cover up and look professional in the workplace. Honestly, this is the only thing that keeps me from going flat-out crazy and covering a whole arm and part of my chest.
It’s surprising seeing as how I’m not exactly what you’d call the poster child for tattoos. Kat Von D I am not. I’m a fluffy housewife with three kids who teaches Sunday school and has a noticeably frumpy sense of style. Talk about not fitting the bill. I suppose that speaks to how mainstream body art has become. And how these days there isn't "a bill" to fit when it comes to tattoos.
Nowadays, you see body art on a majority of people. Not to mention, you can read about it on the internet, in magazines or even watch TV shows about it! I’ll ask this again since I so defiantly avoided the question five paragraphs ago: what is so addictive about tattoos?
Clearly it’s not the pain. Well, I suppose it could be to some. You most certainly get an adrenaline rush from a new piece. But for the most part, tattoos hurt. A LOT! I’ve had them done on my ankles, wrist and chest and all three times, it felt like someone was scraping my insides out with a jagged nail file.
In fact, when I was getting the one on my wrist, I kind of wished that the artist would nick a vein and put me out of my misery. So for me, the pain is definitely not what’s drawing me back to the needle.
I suppose it’s a really personal thing. Each person is drawn back for their own reasons, but for me, I guess, it has to be because it allows me to externally share my individuality. It’s more significant than my hair color or the shape of my body.  Sure, those things say something about me, but my tattoos, well, they give you a visual testimonial of what’s in my heart. The idea of being unique is appealing.
And once you express one part of yourself, it’s really hard to stifle that expression.
Of course, it could be that they are just so darn cool!
What about you? Do you have any tattoos? How many and do you want more? Why did you get them and what do they mean to you?
If you don’t, do you want one? What do you think of people who have them?

A Child's Prayer For Somalia

Last week, my kids and I were reading "The Legend Of The Bluebonnet" by Tomie De Paola.
If you've never heard of it, it's a story about a young Comanche girl called "she-who-is-alone" who makes an incredible sacrifice in order to bring blessing to her famished people.
The story was appropriate considering the devastating famine happening right now in Somalia.  Millions of people are suffering and it's such a horror story that it makes my stomach ache.
I have this nagging feeling of nervousness knowing that something like that is going on.  I know that hunger is not a new problem for Africa but the sheer magnitude of this famine is heart-breaking.
Here is where I may part opinon with some of you.  I believe that it's important to teach our children about the realities of life. Otherwise, they will not know how to cope when they finally realize how hard it really is.  It's appropriate to shelter them sometimes because that's what parents do, we protect our babies but as they grow up and we find them able to handle things, we should not pretend that life is always perfect.
I thought about it for a minute and then decided to share with them the story about the devastation happening at this very moment on the other side of the world.  They were already asking so many questions after the story we'd just read so it was perfec timing.  I explained to them an extremely simplified version of why this is happening.
We talked about the drought and what happens to crops without rain and what happens to animals and people without crops.  They learned the meaning of the word "refugee" and discussed how hard it would be to leave your family and home in search of food and water.
It was a solemn moment but I explained to them that while Africa seems like a world away, it's still something that we need to be concerned with.  We can't make the rain fall but we can do something, anything to contribute.
And like "she-who-is-alone" was just one small child who sacrificed something special and blessed her entire community, so too one small child like mine can learn about self-sacrifice in the name of helping others.
My children cried and we mourned for those who are suffering.  I told them that it was a good thing to cry because it means their hearts are full of love and compassion.
It would be really easy to keep this story from them.  After all, they are asleep when the news comes on. But to let them know about it and watch their hearts grow with love for people they will never meet, was the right thing to do for them.
If my husband and I are to teach our children to be citizens of the world and to give to others freely, we have to start with being honest about the needs that exist.  When a commerical comes on TV about hungry kids, we can't change the channel.  And when we see a homeless person on the street we can't ignore them.  That only teaches them that it's okay to look away.
No.  It's not okay to look away.  The need is there and while it may seem impossible to solve the problem, there is no excuse not to do your part!
We're still thinking about what that part will be.  There are so many options.  Perhaps we could give up meat for a month and send the savings to a relief organization.  Or, we could sell something that we love yet don't need.  Maybe we could give up Christmas presents this year.  Or maybe we could do all three!
I want them to know that this is their problem too and I hope that if they learn this lesson from a young age, they will grow up to be people who cannot lead lives unto themselves alone.
After everyone was tucked into their beds, I reflected on how lucky we are that our kids went to bed with full bellies and were clothed and laid down in comfortable beds under a secure roof.  And as I walked down the hallway and passed my four year old's bedroom I heard her say, "Dear God please bring rain to all of those people and take care of them and thank you for all I have."
That's when I clutched my chest and cried just a little bit because it was the purest prayer I'd ever heard.
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
-John Donne

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Downsizing

We bought our house seven years ago. And since the sellers were desperate to move and willing to take a giant loss, we got the place for a great deal.
The house is large, nearly 3,800 square feet and at the time, we thought we had hit the lottery. The place is spacious with large ceilings and hardwood floors.
It's in a great neighborhood and there was just something great about moving into a huge, beautiful home that made us feel like the Jeffersons. You know, that we were moving on up. In this case, not into a castle in the sky but a castle on a hill overlooking a well-manicured landscape with an inground sprinkler system.
That was all well and good for who we were then. Because as hard as it is to admit, we were kind of materialistic back then. It's ugly but it's the truth. We had a brand new car and nice clothes and expensive stuff.
Thing is, we've changed over the years. We've learned that none of that matters and now, instead of making us feel good and secure, all our stuff just sort of looms over us, like a cloud.
We're not those people anymore. Seven years have changed us. We're now the kind of people who prefers to have the windows open instead of running the AC. We line-dry our clothes in lieu of using the dryer. We trade things on freecyle.org and overall live a life where we consume less and conserve more.
For goodness sake, we cut off our trash service and take our own garbage to the dump. Mainly because since we have started composting and recyling, we don't have much garbage, but also because we are trying to cut out anything unnecessary. Incidentally, doing that turned out to be a great invesment because my husband has found three next-to-brand-new computers that he has rebuilt and given to people who need them. How great is that?
We're not perfect but we've definitely changed — and this giant house? Well I'm kind of starting to hate it. It takes too long to clean. I feel like I spend too much time upkeeping my house and not enough time just enjoying life.
Plus, it's kind of gaudy. I'm kind of embarassed to invite people over because I'm not this person. It used to make me proud to have a nice house and now it just makes me feel ashamed.
For Christmas, we decorated it with lights and a friend of mine jokingly asked me where was my moat and shining turret? Because for real, the place is just too big.
I'm having fantasies of buying a much smaller house. One that provides privacy from the prying eyes of neighbors who I totally love but who know WAY too much about us simply because of our proximity to each other.  One that has less inner space and more outdoor space where I can plant an abundance of fruit trees and build a giant garden.
Who cares if my kids have to share a room? In my opinion, they need more time together and less time apart. Families were so much closer when they shared close quarters and I can't help but think that the separation of the family unit into individual rooms and spacious houses has contributed to the division within the family. After all, if you physically divide, you also emotionally divide.
I suppose I'm finally growing up and learning that quality is so much better than quantity. I want to sell 70 percent of what we have and live a life of simplicity. ] I want to support charitable organizations more and chain stores less.
I would rather my children have less stuff and more experiences. I want them to have less interaction with technology and more interaction with people.
This might be a tough sell for my family but I think it would be totally worth it.  What about you? Do you ever feel the need to downsize your life?

Day By Day

Today, after I dropped my kids off at day camp, I sat in the car and watched them for a few minutes.
My daughter immediately sat with her friends and began making yet another friendship bracelet. Her summer has been devoted to making hundreds of thousands of friendship bracelets as she's determined to single-handedly bring them back in style.
But it wasn't my daughter I was worried about. No, it was my son. He threw his backpack down and ran full force into a pack of boys and they started running and jumping and climbing all over each other as boys tend to do.
And this simple moment in time and the normalcy of that event filled me with such a deep sense of happiness, contentment and gratitude that I couldn't help but smile.
Just three days before, I had preoccupied myself with worries that his symptoms had returned in full force. You see, my son has autism and for the most part, he copes very well. Granted, his is mildly affected and has made such tremendous strides that if you were to meet him you might think I had lost my mind to insinuate that he has autism.
In fact, I've had many a person look right at me and swear that he has been misdiagnosed. These people were not around when he rocked in a corner for six months straight.
Rest assured he still carries his diagnosis and his father and I still notice things that are lost on most everyone else. For example, last week I noticed that when I picked him up from camp every day he was running around the playground pretending to be a dinosaur. For him, this kind of repetetive play is his kind of stimming. This is a behavior done to self-soothe when things get a little too much to handle.
That in itself doesn't sound like a big deal but when he gets into that mode it's like the whole world shuts off. Again, doesn't sound like much. But what if I told you that one day my son was a normal little boy playing pretend and the next day he had fallen so deep into that pit of make believe that I didn't see him or speak to him for nearly two years?
It took him that long to come out of the haze and it took us that long to reach him. So, I do tend to get a little worried when he dives head first into fantasy. When he does this at home, I often test him with questions or interaction to make sure he's still there, still with us.
He hasn't given me any real reason to worry but I'm his mother and I can't help it. I called a friend of mine who specializes in teaching children with autism and she assured me that he's fine. So long as his pretend play doesn't interfere with his ability to interact with others and doesn't affect his quality of life, he's probably fine.
She's right. He's probably fine. In fact, I know he's fine. He's doing great and so great, in fact, that I keep waiting for the bubble to burst. I have faith that my boy is headed in the right direction and we're doing everything we need to do to keep him on the right track but that doesn't always soothe my fears.
But I tell you, seeing him run and play and be "normal" — whatever that is — is exactly what I needed to remind myself that for today, he is perfectly fine.  Austism will always be a part of our lives but today was a really good day.

Growing Old Is A Privilege

I turned 36 this month. Ah yes, the big three-six. I suppose that means I'm closer to 40 now than 30. Wonderful. Excuse me while I take a moment and pop a Geritol.
I'm kind of resigned to it now. Thirty was really hard but now I'm starting to settle into those thirties. I'm getting used to it. Sort of.
I don't dwell on it but still, it's not something I would shout from the rooftops.  I wouldn't want the kid behind the counter at the liquor store being all, "whoa, thirty six!" any more than I would want the nurse at the doctor's office to declare my weight out loud when I step off of the scale.  I would prefer they both just keep it to themselves.
I suppose that I just don't want to hear it out loud because hearing it makes it so real.  And a little painful.  I guess you could say that I'm not exactly accepting my age with full vigor.
This is why it was such a delightful change in perspective when I made my bi-weekly meals-on-wheels run today and chatted with one of my deliveries. I was dropping off food for a spunky white-haired woman named Charlotte when she promptly greeted me and with a slight tremple of excitement, announced that she is "going to be ninety three next month. Can you believe it!?"
She normally likes to talk about the weather or her favorite sports team but today it was like she had been standing at the door, just waiting for the opportunity to tell someone that she is going to be NINETY THREE!
It made me very happy to hear this from Charlotte.  Perhaps her excitment and joy had rubbed off on me.  She was posititively beaming with surprised enthusiasm when she said "ninety three!"  Much like the time that I finished a 5K and could hardly believe that I had crossed the finish lined and survied to tell the tale of actually running THREE POINT ONE MILES!
Or perhaps I was happy at being able to share in this new perspective about aging.  Charlotte wasn't bemoaning the fact that she's headed toward the big one oh oh.  She was simply grateful for the accomplishment of making it this far.   And what accomplishment that is! She was basking in the glow of the privilege of growing old.
Truth be told, making it to 36 is a pretty big accomplishment, too.  I've enjoyed countless amazing moments.  I've fallen in love and had babies and laughed until my belly ached.  I have survivied without losing a limb or getting seriously ill.  There is so much for which to be thankful!
Sure, I'm not as perky as I used to be. I have saggage in unfortunate places and my mane has sprinkles of grey in it. I have laugh lines that show how much I've lived and laughed and loved. But they make me beautiful.
So I'm going to say it here and now, loud and proud.  I'm THIRTY SIX! Can you believe it? THIRTY SIX!

Lordy, Lordy

It's been a long time.  How many blogs have I started with those five words? Good grief!  As you may or may not know, I've been writing for an online news site.  And I keep meaning to add those posts here but then I get lazy and forget.

I should just share the links here so you can go directly there but then you'd know my real name and where I live and what if you're maniacs and will show up at my house and try to eat my liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti?

You know, they wouldn't let me write under a pseudo name on the news site because apparently that makes me seem untrustworthy but like a week after I started writing, I got a phone call from a reader!

Like this woman actually looked me up, found my phone number and called to ask me a question she had about my blog.  FREAKED. ME. THE. FUCK.OUT!  *shivers*

So anyway, I am here to post like a ton of blogs...happy reading :-)