I realized yesterday that I've been entirely self-focused and as a consequence, debilitated by that.
Even by writing this, I am talking about ME, engaging in navel-gazing, focused on how I perceive the world.
Part of that is inescapable. You and I have our own unique perspectives to offer up right where we are, and there is good in that.
But I've been so focused on how I am being impacted that I've been forgetting about looking for ways to engage and listen and pour out what I have to offer.
As soon as I realized that, my whole being felt relief.
Because engaging and giving what I have to offer isn't only a chance to feel good about myself; it is being in relationship as I am meant to be. I give because I was made to have something to give and because doing so is a part of fulfilling who I am.
I am terrible about asking for what I need, but I have to practice. Because I have gotten into the ridiculousness of assuming those who love me will just know what I need and if they want to, they'll do it. But THAT JUST ISN'T TRUE. I need to ask. Just by doing that, I am being in relationship as I am meant to be.
Give and take. Give and take. Consider myself, but consider others just as much, if not more.
It's time to get back to that beautiful dance.
I recently posted a request for questions on Facebook. Based on those questions alone, I have quite a few posts to write!
Let me just put in my disclaimer here: I am not an expert on fostering. I don't know all the answers. I am learning more and more about the realities of the foster system, but I still have my rose-colored on about it. I am writing to dialogue, process, and share.
With that out of the way, let's address the easy stuff first.
What agency are you going through? We are going with Cobys Family Services.
I think that about covers the easy stuff.
How about one more?
What sparked the interest in becoming a foster family? Has it always existed or did it come up when you were doing research on adopting?
It came up when we were doing research for adopting. I can't even remember a time when Tim and I didn't want to adopt. We have never been the people that know exactly the place they want to adopt their child from, so we ruled out international adoption. (It's expensive and there's a greater chance of participating in a corrupt adoption.)
At the time, we weren't even considering fostering. We didn't want to deal with having our child taken away from us after falling in love with him or her.
But then we found out that there IS a time period that birth mothers are allowed to change their mind.
Well, that ruins THAT plan.
Oh, and there's this whole thing about paying for an adoption that's a little out of our reach. Even if we could raise enough funds, there's a LOT of extra expenses that coming with raising a child, particularly one that might need extra services based on his or her history. (More $$$)
We found out about SWAN adoptions. Essentially, the state will pay adoption fees for kids ready to be adopted from the foster system and in many cases, will pay a stipend for their care until they reach the age of 18.
Yup, money was our obstacle and then it was our motivator (to look into fostering, that is. Let me be clear, we are not going to MAKE money off of this if we properly care for our child(ren). Which we will.)
The more we learn, the more we think fostering-to-adopt is something we can do.
One of the things that foster kids really need from foster parents is a willingness to ride the parallel tracks of adoption and reunification with their families.
I can't say I was always up for being a middle man while birth parents sorted out their issues and maybe reunited with birth kids. For me, it came with time and education.
If I do end up pouring myself into a kid in the process of finding a child to adopt into my family and then that kid leaves, my hope is that I will have been a part of being Jesus with skin on for a little while. Healing broken spots. Finding beauty and joy. Loving when my foster child doesn't want to be loved/doesn't feel deserving/rejects love. Challenging what isn't right.
Fostering and foster-to-adoption is a function of tragedy and loss. My end goal is currently adoption but if a family gets a chance to heal and try again and my (current) family gets to be a part of that, awesome.
We said, "we couldn't be foster parents because we could never deal with loving a child and then giving them up."
I laugh about that now because we are currently in process of training to become foster parents.
They said, "we're going to tell you the horrible things these kids go through, what it's like to be them, so you know what to expect, so you're equipped to deal."
And they do.
I think it's been every week that I've thought OMG I didn't know what I was getting myself into! Every week, I think that the foster system needs many, many more loving people involved in it, and I'm pretty sure me and my boys are supposed to be some of those people.
I have a lot to say and a lot to process.
I have a lot of interests, a lot of feelings; I am an all over the place kind of person. It's why I've never really been able to stick to one topic on this blog.
But I think I'm about to enter the all about family/fostering/adoption portion of my blogging life. I have lot of posts to catch up on, but right now I'm wondering....do you have any questions for me, related to the process?
Be back soon. Even if I can only carve out 5 minutes in a day, I think writing about the way my family is about to grow is something I need and want right now.
One day, maybe I'll stop offering an explanation when a visitor walks into my house to find Nolan's eyes glazed over in front of the TV or he is eating crackers for lunch or he is refusing to do what I ask him to do.
Maybe I won't.
Maybe I shouldn't.
There is that side of okay, I don't have to answer to everyone for everything I do. We could have had a perfect day up until the moment that thing I am offering excuses for what just happened; I don't have to prove that to anyone.
But there is this other side of maybe we should talk more. Maybe we should listen more.
I hear a lot about The Mommy Wars...but you know, sometimes I wonder if they actually live in our insecurities and are pumped up by media.
I haven't experienced any sort of Mommy War other than the ones inside myself. She probably thinks I shouldn't be working at all. ..She doesn't respect me because I don't have a career. ...I can't talk to her about this because we ______ differently.
NONE of my fears have been founded in someone else's remarks. They've come from the messiness and uncertainty that comes with being somebody's mother. They've come from old insecurities and the feeling that there must be one end-all, be-all book on how to be a parent in just the right way in my particular family and I am missing it.
There are times when I feel like, "Hey, I love my child, we're doing great, I got this." There are other times when I want to yell into a canyon, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M DOING!!!!"
Those are the times I need to talk most. I need to share my story and I need to hear yours, even if it is different than mine (because it's going to be.)
I think the story-sharing is why I have a hard time believing that The Mommy Wars actually exist. If you tell me you've experienced them through actual words of other people, I will believe you. But I really believe if we get to know each other's stories, instead of looking for where we stand on a particular issue, the wars won't exist between us. Maybe there will even be the support we all very much need. No one was meant to raise children alone.
an ordinary person whose go-to means of interacting with the world is food.
People don't have enough to eat and meat requires lots of crops? Go vegetarian.
Someone is sick, needs some love, just had a baby, or is grieving? Make a meal.
Stressed? Lonely? Bored? Eat, eat, eat.
Sad because I'm feeling especially maternal and I know baby animals are taken from their mothers so I can eat cheese? Go vegan.
Freaked out because all that stress eating planted several pounds on my butt and thighs? Count calories! Eat all the protein! Find the perfect eating plan!!!
I make my own head spin sometimes.
I am easily distracted, easily influenced, and an easy target for marketers.
So I forget, quite easily, what sits best in my spirit. And what that is goes something like this: Eat real food. I , you, and every other person, animal, and this earth are masterpieces. As best as you can, eat in a way that honors that.
(Sometimes that looks different on me than it does at other times.)
I need to be reminded.
I am not a finished product.
This includes fitness, relationships, how I look at the world, how I move in the world, what I do with my time, EVERYTHING.
I will keep marching on.
I will collect experience and wisdom and smile lines and I will carry them like trophies.
I will hit re-set on my anxious thoughts and behaviors more times than I can count. Because they are there. Always ready to come back. They are weighing on my chest and shoulders now, but I will eventually throw them off with enough reminders of beauty and good and consistent decisions to MOVE FORWARD and leave dead weight behind.
I am still not all I should be or will be, but I WILL keep pressing on.
I did it! I worked out in that section of the gym that always seems full of big, loud guys and really heavy weights and where I never, ever went since I joined my gym (until today!!!). It was me, in my undeniably pink tank top and a bunch of guys. I was intimidated, but I did it, and I'm feeling proud of myself for that.
About two months ago, I was gifted a 2-month. Child care was $10 a month, unlimited, and it was (is!) awesome. Nolan and I fell in love, so when my two months were up, I decided to join if I could get the price I wanted (I did!).
Lately, I've been on a mission to "get my groove back." I'd been doing too much stress eating and not appropriately taking care of myself, and I just had enough. I am a capable, intelligent, creative, thoughtful, and loving human being. I can and should take some time to maintain the body I live in. I can find clothes that fit properly (and preferably, that I feel great in). I can let myself walk through tough spots instead of trying to numb them with all!the!food!.
It's been sort of a zig-zaggy path, but I'm on it and I'm moving.
Today, I decided I'd like to add some focus to my fitness. I like a good plan to follow; I like to see progress. I also like to feel strong, a feeling I haven't felt for awhile and when I DID it was with the help of a DVD or a group class.
I don't know how to navigate a weight room on my own. I don't understand terms beyond barbell, dumbbell, and bench press. I don't understand what a person would do on a "leg day," and I'm not entirely sure how so many people I see can just hit the weights without carrying around a written plan (like I did today).
It's a steep learning curve, but I want to move past just doing whatever I already know how to do- cardio, whatever I can think of to do with a dumbbell, some push-ups. I don't want to rely on machines. I want to learn how to use weights.
I want to feel strong and be strong. I want to sleep better and feel great about how I treat my body. I want to be able to help friends move or climb rocks or not have to ask for help every time I encounter something heavy.
After a little research, I decided to try out a plan somewhat loosely (I didn't buy the book) based on the old Body for Life plan. It's 12 weeks. After that, I'll reevaluate and decide where I want to go from there.
I'm getting my groove back and conquering fears.
Tim got the job he was hoping for! It gives us a little room to breathe and ask more about what we want for our family and for ourselves individually, too.
"What would I do now if I can do what I want?" is a strange and exciting and sort-of-kind-of terrifying question.
We are settling into our lives for this next bit of time, excited to host more meals, make more connections, be more involved in lives and stories, take time to prepare for a possible foster child, spend more time as a family, all that jazz.
We're not going to be rollin' in dough for a while because I don't need to work and because I want to be home and there are quite a few things my family wants to be involved in that are a whole lot more feasible if I have the hours to make them happen. I'm excited to just be where I am for a moment and be involved in more stories.
I'm happy, but I also feel....weird.
Weird because this simple life of meals and stories and being and sharing is a little bit of what I lost months ago when we had to work more, more hours and I hardly saw my husband. I already mourned that loss and "got over" it, but now that thing I lost is back, and actually it's better this time because everything really seems to be working out for us right now. I really didn't expect that, but especially because I believe life happens in seasons, I'm just going to be grateful and enjoy it (mostly- I have that whole restless spirit thing going on, so just enjoying is a total practice for me).
Weird because I come from a conservative Christian background, where somewhere along the way, I got the impression that the expectations of a woman who loves Jesus is first and foremost to be Suzy Homemaker- great mom, great housekeeper, great cook- and work was really an afterthought. I thought it was part of how a woman is made or something. I've been on quite a journey (haven't we all?) and I've since come to believe that every single being is made individually, uniquely, which different purposes and talents. I believe the saying that "comparison is the thief of joy" because we all have our own beautiful stories to live out and not someone else's. We are not cookie cutter beings.
I thoroughly believe that everyone should explore their own unique make up and then embrace it. That includes jobs (paid or unpaid), hobbies, and generally how time is spent. I am spending a lot of time "at home" (I use that term loosely because some days I am hardly at home at all) because it seems to fit who I am and the interests of my family best during this season of our lives, not because it is what every mother should be doing. But because of the assumptions I carried with me for a long time, it feels like my actions might be suggesting otherwise.
I just want to shout from the roof tops:
MY CHOICES ARE NOT AN INDICATOR OF WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. BE YOUR BEST SELF (NOT YOUR IDEA OF SOMEBODY ELSE'S).
We need a world of best selves.
I firmly believe that.
My dad told me a story about a couple who cared for about 50 foster kids in the span of about 20 years.
The family got a call one day, asking if they could take in 2 more kids- both three and a half years old. The couple was already at emotional capacity, but the kids just needed a place to stay for 6 weeks and were all set after that. They ended up saying yes.
That first night, the 3-year-olds were in their rooms for about a half an hour. Not a sound came from that room, so either the husband or the wife when to check on them (I'm not sure; maybe it was both); their pillows were soaked. They'd learned to cry silently, because crying meant beatings in their last five "homes."
The kids were tested, and that couple was given the list of things those kids would never be able to do because of the life they'd lived so far.
Those kids stayed about 3 1/2 years. They were disciplined, but that discipline was coupled with love. And guess what? Both of them ended meeting and passing every single milestone they were never expected to meet and went on to thrive.
Because they were loved.
I am angry that any child has to learn to cry without making noise. I want to grieve what they should have had. It's been a process, but I know I am a mother to a child I will not birth.
I want to wrap him (or her) up in my arms and rock him and hold him and sing to him until he can breathe a sigh of relief, until he can feel safe. I know it won't be easy and it won't be lovely and wonderful and fun all the time, but real love never is. I just want somebody to bring me my baby.