Friday, August 31, 2012

EXCITED to go to the fair....

If you know me in person you know that I have a bad back. In 1989 when I was playing racquetball -- wow, that was a LONG time ago now, I turned it wrong and ever since it's been a real hassle. It hurts when I stand and when I walk. Never when I sit or lie down. Which may explain why I've been able to achieve such great weight gain since then. :-)

If I push myself through the pain and workout enough to get to a certain weight, the pain lessons.... but with the move and everything else going on that hasn't happened.

Typically when I head to places like a zoo or a museum or ANYTHING that involves walking for more than a few steps, I am filled with dread. I associate it so much with pain that it is never fun for me -- and probably not for anyone who is with me.

This year we invited a new family friend to join us for the day and he suggested that I should just get an electronic scooter. I had never even considered that before but I started to give it some serious thought. I had three choices:

1) I could stay home while my family went to the fair (something I have done often in the past).

2) I could go and hobble my way through, stopping to relieve intense pain every 3-5 minutes, crabby and probably mean to the kids. Wow, that would be so fun for everyone! not.

3) Or, i could be a bit embarrassed by my status, weight, etc. but sit comfortably in a scooter that had a place to put the stuff we bought so we didn't have to all carry it. I could be free of pain and taste all of the wonderful foods that would be waiting for me (yeah, I know, sick isn't it).

I wanted to call this post "My 600 Pound Life" because renting an electronic scooter to eat my way through the fair certainly could seems like footage from that show but I figured it would offend someone and I'm all about not being offensive these days. So I'll just say that I'm excited to go to the fair today. Without pain, it might just be a fun event!

And if you see me there you can still wave. I won't be nearly as embarrassed as I should be.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

If you live anywhere near the twin Cities

This is going to be a fun event. I'm going to be speaking in Atlanta at the time -- but my family will be there.

you should come!

And the Plot Thickens

The police department called yesterday to report to Bart that our van, while stolen, was involved in a string of robberies. So, whoever took our key either was involved in robberies or they gave it to someone who was. That's comforting. :-)

Life continues to speed by. Every day is filled with good things.... a few blips along the way -- but mostly good.

And I slept 8 hours last night. Whew. that felt good.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

An Update on Everyone

One of you has asked me to update you on how everyone is doing. So let me do that. :-)

Kyle and Christy are doing very well. Kyle has tenure at the school where he's been teaching for the past 4 years and Christy just got on full time at that school as well. They are building a new starter home north of the Twin Cities. They stopped in to see us about 10 days ago for a few hours. It's always nice to see them.

Rand is doing exceptionally well -- at least from our vantage point. He is working full time, has good friends, is very involved in Young Life and it seems he thoroughly enjoys the people he is living with. I still oversee his finances, but so far he has lived within his budget and is even ahead on some of his bills. He was here on the 18th to celebrate his 24th birthday with us.

Mike and Tessa were here with Aiden that weekend as well. Mike's hand got slammed in a car trunk and he broke his thumb, so tattooing is a bit hard. He seems to be doing fairly well as a Dad, and Aiden is beyond cute (as you can see!). Tessa's handling being a mom and getting lots of help from her parents.

John is getting out of the current jail he is in on September 20th. After that he is supposed to head to the former county where his charges were when he was 18 to be tried for those since he has now lost his stay of adjudication. Isaac -- who we haven't seen for a while -- is growing and changing so much. It's hard to believe that he will be too soon.

Jimmy is doing well in Job Corps. He has had a few mishaps, but when he calls he is usually pretty happy. He says the food is SO nasty though. For my kids, this has been the hardest thing to get used to. They just don't realize that the whole world doesn't have such an incredible chef living with them that they do in their father.

Salinda and Gabby seem to be fairing well. We haven't heard from them in a week and a half and that's often a good sign. She is working, living in an apartment with Gabby, and seems to have made some good friends at work. She was also here 10 days ago -- Gabby is talking all the time and makes me smile.

We have only heard from Ricardo once since he moved. He was asking for money for school clothes and football equipment to play sports (he had his friend ask for me via text) I explained that we would be happy to support him if he was living with us and that we wanted him to move back home. No response. Haven't heard anything since.

Mercedes is kicking butt at Job Corps in St. Paul. She is very motivated to finish as soon as she can and we are having fun when she comes home on the weekends. She is singing with our praise and worship team -- in fact, if you'd like to come here them on friday night at the coffee shop type ministry called "Spirtuality" at 7 at Brunswick we'd love to see you!

Tony seems to be doing well at Job Corps in Wisconsin too. He did call this past weekend and told me that he hasn't been calling home because it makes him miss us too much. But he has 7 tests he has to pass to get his HSED and he has passed 4 of them already. He seems like he is determined to get that done -- and we really want him to finish because he has never finished anything he's started. He NEEDS to do this for him.

Leon is very unhappy that we made him move this year, but even at his unhappiest he is a pretty easy going kid. He has been working as a PCA and doing well.

Dominyk started school Monday and seems to like it. It's a small charter school and they seem really invested in him and his success. He isn't complaining about school -- which is a shock -- and he is saying he is making friends. I have a better picture to share in a couple days.

Wilson, though immersed in shooting the enemy in the PS3 WAY too much of the time, seems to be rolling with the punches. He and Leon start school on Tuesday.

Bart and I? We are both overwhelmed with the challenges of transitioning and everything else that is happening (mortgage still not settled so we can close on the Mankato house, all this nasty van-theft-insurance business, trying to get settled while taking on extra stuff because it's too fun to say no. But we are happy with where we are and see good days ahead.

How'd I do?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Not So Subtle Reminder of the Pain

Yesterday I wrote that nice bubbly post. But as you will recall, I indicated that I knew that the past (or present) could pop in to burst the bubbles at any point. Probably should have knocked on wood.

We got a call yesterday noon from the insurance company about our van, which has been recovered for a couple of weeks. The story is so incredibly long that I'm not going to take time to type it all here. In order to attempt to recover something from the stolen van episode we have been on the phone over and over again trying to come to some resolution. We have gotten the runaround in many ways. But yesterday's call was completely disturbing.

It appears that the case had been sent to investigations because the person who stole it had to have a key. Once the van was recovered and inspected, they realized that it had not been tampered with and that meant that one of our children must have been involved. When I made some calls it became apparent that one of the keys is missing. In addition, the inspection of the outside of the vehicle that we had done was messed up by the dealership that did it and it made it appear that we were claiming prior damages, when we were attempting to be as honest as we possibly could be about the whole situation.

So the conversation was troubling on many levels. First of all, I HATE having my integrity questioned. And the suggestion (possibly even strong enough to be an accusation) that we had orchestrated the whole theft was so far beyond stupid that I was pretty angry. But under all that was this deep reminder of pain.

One of the kids did it to us again. Whether it was taking the van themselves or giving the key to someone else, it was most likely another violation of who we are. And all the junk from the past... all the times we had been betrayed and violated and hurt ... it all came back like waves in a turbulent ocean.

Prior to this call I was planning a follow-up post today to encourage people that if you hang in there long enough, things will get better and you're life can be very good. And I still believe it. The hurt and pain didn't take over my day -- they were a small part of it, and the rest was a great day.

It isn't so much that it happened. Stuff happens. It's just that being reminded of the fact that the pain that someone else caused my children somehow gets poured out on me is so hard to take sometimes.

All that to say this: I talked it all through with a friend and then Leon before I told Bart so I was much calmer and we handled it rationally. The rest of my day was awesome and I woke up feeling good. So it was a blip. But it was there. And I think those blips will always be there.

But it doesn't mean life can't be good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

A New Ring Tone

It's the honeymoon and I get that. But we are just loving our new church and our new friends. This is a place that understands what it means to take care of people. And we are having a blast being taken care of.

I have spent a total of an hour school shopping this year. Friends from church have taken the kids school supply shopping and clothes shopping because they think it is FUN. I never thought it was fun -- ever. Part of it is back pain -- part of it is just that I never have in all my life enjoyed shopping. But the kids had really good times -- Dominyk even got taken out for lunch as part of the deal! And we avoided arguments and stress. Very good deal.

Yesterday I went clothes shopping for my new job with Sadie and two new friends from church who view shopping as a hobby instead of purgatory. I brought my credit card and my body (since apparently you have to try things on when you shop -- a new concept for me) but they did everything else. I sat in a chair and they went through nearly every item in the super fat store.

Which leads me to a tangent. Yesterday we were having lunch with some new friends and we were talking about my upcoming shopping trip that afternoon. I explained that I was going to Catherines, and that if you get too fat for JCPenney Women's Sizes, you go to Lane Bryant -- the Fat Store. If you get too fat for that you head to Catherine's, the Super Fat Store. But, I pointed out, that isn't their byline. They don't advertise themselves as Catherine's: The Super Fat Store. And Bart quipped, "Nope, it's called Catherine's Tent and Awning."

So, anyway, back to the shopping story. So, I was sitting in this chair, playing mindless IPhone games and checking my Facebook, while Sadie, Karen and Joy looked at every single item in the store and choose about 420 items (ok, I think it was more like 19, but that is still more than I have ever tried on in one day in my life). After they gathered the stuff they made me go into a dressing room and try everything on!!! So i tried it on, flung the door open for their approval or disapproval, got the yay or nay, took off the item, threw it over the changing room door, chucked a hanger over the top of the door attempting to hit one of them, and then tried on the next item. By the time we were done we got a LOT of clothes that they say looked good on me (I never bothered to look at the mirror). And they thought this was a very fun day.

I hope they don't read the blog because it would blow my crabby cover, but it was actually a pretty fun day... and I think the items will make me look about as good as a super fat person can. :-)

People are offering to take the boys places, to do special things with them individually, to keep them when we are out of town. Sadie has begun to sing in the praise band at our church and they are like family and are treating her as such. Bart and I are making close friends already and our social calendar is out of control.

Looking back, our years in Mankato were spent under a cloud of anxiety and depression. We had really good friends there and there were glimpses of fun and hope in the midst of it all -- which is why we were able to make it through. But generally there were so many traumatic events that occurred there that we lived in a fog. And now we can see clearly again.

Sometimes when I think about it I wish we could have been better friends in Mankato -- less self centered and less obsessed with our own drama -- and we are super grateful that those people were in our lives to get us through those six years. We couldn't have done it without them.

I recognize that our drama certainly isn't over as a family. We are probably just experiencing a reprieve right now (Ok, so maybe I have a bit of PTSD since I keep waiting for things to fall apart). But for now I'm going to enjoy it. Life is Good.

I changed the ring tone on my phone. For the past 7 years it has been the song from Super Chick that says: We live, We Love, we forgive and we never give up. That song got me through calls from police officers, probation officers, chemical dependency counselors, psychiatrists, psych hospitals, you name it. It reminded me of our philosophy of commitment to our kids.

But I think that I started to associate it with negative things and so when I heard the ring tone...

So, I have changed it to this. Because I really do have 10,000 reasons.....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

FINALLY .... Let Me Tell You a Story.....

Soon after we moved here in June I connected with some women and we began planning a statewide Christian Adoption Conference to be held on October 27th which we have since named Choosing Hope. I'm getting more and more excited about this, by the way, and if you haven't heard about it, you should check it out.

As we were talking about collaborating with other organizations, I remembered that two of the women that I especially enjoyed from the Adoption Competency class that I taught this past fall were employed at Bethany Christian Services. Not knowing a lot about the organization, I simply had the idea that if they had Christian in the name they should partner with us with the conference. So I sent a quick email to these two women and asked if we could meet at Dunn Brothers and chat.

So we did. And I told them about the conference, and they said they agreed -- and then they said, "We thought you were asking us to meet because you wanted to talk about THE JOB." I said, "What Job?" and an very long journey began.

Apparently their Branch Manager position for the branch in Minnesota was vacant and had been for some time. They encouraged me to apply for it and I explained that I wasn't looking for a job -- that I had plenty of those. But they made it simply by saying I could avoid all of the application materials on the web and just shoot them a resume and that the regional Director of Operations happened to be coming to town that week. If he liked the resume, they said, he might have time to meet with me.

So I went to the Bethany website and was very impressed with so many things. I read through the job description, realized I was qualified (which surprised me because I don't have an MSW nor do I have a license), and worked on my resume. When I was revising an old resume, I realized that it might look like I had made up my resume because it so clearly fit into the job description! It looked as though God had been preparing me for this position all my life.

A few days later I met with the DO for an hour and he concluded that we should think about things for a few days and then decide if we both wanted to move forward. I already knew my answer. He took a while to get back to me.

A couple weeks later I had a chance to meet with the Interim Branch Manager who is also the Manager of the Colorado Branch and we had a wonderful two hour conversation that got me very excited about the position. She told me what it was like to have the position -- about the autonomy of the local office combined with the support and services of the Corporate Office. It was a very encouraging conversation.

The Regional DO wanted to talk to me at length and was not going to be in town when I was for quite some time, so we agreed to webcam interview. For almost four hours on a Saturday morning we talked about all kinds of things -- and then it was time to think and pray some more. (For him, I guess. I was sure).

Another phone call a few days later was a role play -- him acting like an angry adoptive parent and me being the Branch manager. The next day he wanted me to do an analysis of a sample budget and make recommendations. And then he wanted to talk to someone who I had supervised in the past.

Wow. That was tricky. I haven't supervised anyone except my children in a long time -- in fact, it had been 20 years -- but fortunately one of the guys I supervised remains a good friend and I have seen him several times since then. So that led to what I understand was a 45 minute conversation.

By this time it was vacation time, so we went on vacation with the understanding that after my return I would be meeting with the local board of Directors upon my return. On August 7th I had the privilege of meeting those people. I had been told that I needed to be professional .. and I tried to be very careful -- for about 7 minutes -- and then I was just myself. I figured that if they hired me to be someone different that it would be a long fivge years (that is the commitment I had made) of pretending. I loved the board members and felt like it was a great meeting.

By the next day I had been informed that it was unanimous that I would be progressing to the next interview -- which was to take place at the headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I flew on Monday. I spent 5 hours on the main Bethany campus on Tuesday morning and it was awesome. I could fill pages of the things I learned about the amazing work Bethany is doing around the world. I loved the people I met and could sense their intelligence, kindness, and passion for children.

Thursday the Regional DO called to let me know that he had gotten the feedback and that the report for Michigan was a good one. The local board was meeting one more time on Thursday evening to vote on their final decision.

Yesterday, just two days short of two full months of the hiring process, I was offered the position and accepted it. And that, ladies and gentlemen -- (ok, possibly not gentlemen), is my unbloggable news.

It's been an interesting journey. I know in many ways I am going to have to grow up. For one thing, I'm going to have to go into an office every morning. For another, I am going to have to dress up. My words are now going to be representative of an organization that has a huge impact on children (nationally Bethany served 66,284 children in 2011). If you want to check out the annual report you can find it here. I also encourage you, if you are at all interested, to spend some time on the Bethany website to see all the places in the world that they are making an impact.

Most of this summer I have been too excited to sleep. Our new church is amazing. Our new friends so much fun. And the possibility of working for an organization like Bethany seems like the culmination of everything I've done so far. It brings me back into the Christian world -- a place I've been away from professionally for 16 years -- and back to my roots. It incorporates my passion -- finding homes for children before they age out of care -- and expands it to include all kinds of edgy programs that help take care of the orphans of the world.

I'm ready for the next adventure and apologize for my poor blogging this summer. I'm really bad at keeping a secret so I figured I sen hould just shut up -- and I didn't want to talk about it online until the families I'm currently working with had been notified.

I'm not sure exactly what direction my blog will head -- but don't worry, I'll still be around. You guys are my extended family.

Quite a story, huh?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

It's Killing Me

I have a secret that some of the people in my "real world" know -- but I can't tell everyone yet and it is making me not blog.

But I will be able to tell you soon. Until then, things are wonderful and life is good.... and there are Aiden pictures coming -- as soon as I can find that little thingy that transfers pictures from the camera to the PC that one of my kids probably borrowed and didn't return....

More soon.

Friday, August 17, 2012

When the Inner Fire Goes Out

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Albert Schweitzer

Do you ever feel like your light has gone out? I know yesterday morning mine sure did. I had been pushing myself so hard -- not sleeping much because I was excited to get up and get going -- and my adrenaline had carried me for almost two weeks since we returned from our vacation. But yesterday that light was out. I was exhausted and crabby and depressed. Fortunately, I had a couple of people I got to see yesterday and each of them contributed to a transformation that had been energized and smiling by the end of the day.

I have experienced this on a much larger scale in my past. I remember when the ATTAch conference was in Minnesota in October of 2000. I had been attempting to parent older kids for about two years at that point and any fire that I had as a human being had burned strong for the first year but by that time was completely gone. I had never in my life been so angry or so discouraged. I remember thinking, in reference to our kids, "this is NOT what I signed up for!!!!"

And then I went to the conference and heard Deborah Hage speak. She was probably at that time in the same situation I am in now -- several of her kids transitioning to adulthood, a few at home. She had been through the fire but was still resilient and energetic. You can see from her website that she remains so (I have kept up with her Christmas letters that she posts there ... in fact, this morning I caught up and I have to copy and paste a quote from one of her letters -- it's not the topic of this post, but it is a freebie because it's so good. I know it's not Christmas, but I think you'll get the point.

So Jesus comes, as Jesus does every year about this time, in the form of a small baby. The question becomes will we worship The Christ, as the Wisemen did, who knelt down in awe, gave gifts and then left, never to be heard from again. Or....... will we follow the Jesus that the Christ child becomes? We have Biblical pages and pages, text after text describing Jesus' work on behalf of the poor, the hungry, the weak, and the powerless. We have a couple of verses describing the birth of the baby. Yet what do we do? We spend months preparing to kneel down and worship the baby. However, Jesus is not there being worshipped. Jesus is not floating above the altar basking in all of the attention being paid. Jesus is not sitting around a tree opening presents. Jesus is the the dark.....with the immigrant, with the gay couples, with the hungry...with the unemployed.....with those being spurned. Jesus is looking in the window and wondering, "Whatever are all those people doing in there?"

Anyway, Deborah was that person for me in 2000. My inner spirit, dead and exhausted, was brought to life again in one of her seminars and in many respects I've never been the same.

I get emails these days saying that I have done the same thing for others now and it is so incredible to come full circle like that.

I can point back to many people in my life who have done this for me -- who after one encounter with them my soul has burst into flame -- and through knowing them my life has remained richer and fuller since the day I met them. The list is not long - maybe 10-15 people stand out -- but I can't imagine who I would be without them.

So has your inner fire gone out? If so I want to share with you three different things that are currently happening within the next couple months that might just be a place you would meet a person who could rekindle your flame.

If you're a mom, the mom's retreat September 21-23. I'm going to be one of the speaker's but that isn't why you should go. You should go to meet some of the other amazing women who are going to be there all weekend -- people who could be that flame ignitor for you.

I'm also very excited to announce that the new church my husband pastors, Brunswick United Methodist in Crystal, is putting together a faith based special needs ministry for all parents of kids and adults with special needs (not just adoptive parents). We are planning to start with a faith based support group that deals with educational issues. We are hoping to provide child care and would love to see folks in the adoption community both take advantage of the opportunity to be part of the group as well as to help as volunteers. I am waiting on dates but will share them soon. Would love to hear if you are interested.

And finally, mark your calendars! A great group of women in the Twin Cities has been working together to host a Christian Adoption Conference and they have chosen to have it at our church on October 27th! The website isn't complete yet -- but if you would like a sneak preview you can check it out. There are so many exciting pieces to this conference -- including Bart, Kari, Deb and I as speakers -- that I hope you won't miss it! It's going to be such a great day.

I am spending my day today grateful for those people who have been there when my inner fire had gone out and could burst it to flame again.

It's been since 2006 since I've emailed Deborah Hage. I think I'm going to do that now.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

We Made Them a Promise

At the closing awards ceremony at NACAC, my friend Pat O'Brien, founder of You Gotta Believe, gave the keynote address. He said a whole bunch of things that I've heard him say before that I completely agree with. In fact, I think Pat is amazing because he agrees with me on almost every topic. I tend to like people who agre with me. And the topics we disagree about we have discussed at length, but there are only a few.

But he said one thing that I had never heard put just that way before. He was discussing the 26,286 children who aged out of foster care in 2011 ... though he didn't quote the number -- and the others who aged out every year before that at the rate of at least 20,000 a year. If you do the math that was about 72 young adults a day in 2011 who walked away from foster care without a family. Grant it, some of them have committed foster parents who they view as family for the rest of their lives, but many are left to themselves. You've heard this speech from me a million times.

So in Pat's closing keynote, he reminded us that the system -- we in child welfare -- we as a nation -- made these kids a promise when we removed them from their parents care. We told them that we would take care of them. We promised them, in a sense, that life would be better because we came in to "rescue them."

But as he pointed out, there are a number of kids to whom we aren't keeping that promise. We are saying goodbye to them as a system and telling them that they are ready to be on their own when they are 18 or 19 or 21, depending on the state where they live. They walk away and face life alone -- which may or may not be better off than dealing with life in the context of the families we removed them from.

And those years that we were "protecting them" and "giving them a better life?" We've all heard the horror stories. We ourselves have a son who was neglected in his birth home because of a birthmom's drug habit. He wasn't getting enough supervision as a toddler and so he was removed. He wasn't abused though .. .until he entered the system. Seven years and 15 placements later, he now had a history of sexual abuse, physical abuse that was so calculated and deliberate that it almost makes me vomit, and years of emotional abuse. And then the "system" made the decision that it was OK for him to be separated from his younger birth siblings. As a woman I met with yesterday said passionately, "who thinks they have the right to make the decision to separate people from their siblings???" And, because of the situation, no contact was allowed for these then three little boys until they were all eighteen. When he came to us it is no wonder it took years and years for him to heal.

I can hear all the arguments coming back at me as I type. I know that there are exceptions to every generalization, but really, who do we think we are as a child "welfare" system to do this to children? Why is it that we can fail on a daily basis at keeping our promises to them without more of an response from society?

There are some issues that people are bent out of shape about in our country ... the issues come and they go. But to me this is something worthy of national outrage. This is an issue that should be clouding the pages of people's facebooks and being written about in blogs. This should be one thing that everyone can agree needs fixing.

And then, I ask myself, "Where is the church?" How can it be that there are more churches in the Twin Cities than there are waiting children in Minnesota? How can it be that so many counties are searching for foster parents when there are literally thousands of people who call themselves Christians in each of those counties?

OK, I'm getting myself all worked up here. ;-)

My point? Well if you've been reading this blog for long or met me in person, I think you know the point. It's time for us to do something about the 26,286.

We made them a promise.

We need to figure out a way to keep it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Misc. & Underestimating My Friends

I am really needing a pause button for my brain because I wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 and my mind spins and spins with all I need to do so that I can't go back to sleep and so I get up and all the mental energy seems to have faded away and I spend the day on the edge of tired... But it beats sleeping 12-15 hours a day and still feeling very tired-- which is what was happening last year.

Bart has mentioned that I was possibly clinically depressed when I was in Mankato because of all the things that we went through as a family there. The years from 2000 to 2010 in our families life were very hard years. Those were the years when my blog was, as my BFF Kari put it, "like a bad car accident. You know you shouldn't look but you can't help yourself." During our years in Mankato it was almost a daily thing that there was some near tragedy that had us on the edge of our seats emotionally, always on hyper alert status and it was exhausting! Throw in health issues over the last two years and some of the abandonment feelings we experienced as parents as young adults started leaving our house in less than wonderful ways, and I guess depression is an understandable result.

Speaking of abandonment, my friend Chantill found this excellent article that explains inducement much better than I did. It continues to make a great deal of sense to me.

And speaking of Kari, I had a home visit in Mankato yesterday and because we only have one vehicle I had to make a quick trip (the previously stolen van is currently being inspected to determine how much it would cost to repair it -- or if it will be called a total loss). But I couldn't resist adding an hour to the trip to spend time with Kari.

That conversation and a text from my friend Sue made me realize that I'm understimating my friends. I keep feeling bad that I'm having such a wonderful time in my new world because I didn't want them to think that I didn't love or miss them. It's been a weird set of feelings and I have chosen not to talk about my happiness much so that I don't make anyone feel bad.

But how dumb is that? My friends want me to be happy! And I am. Since I love new things I am in my element. I'm loving my new friends, our new church, our new home, the new business associates I'm meeting -- and the list goes on and on. My health is fairly stable right now, which is also helping.

So I apologize for underestimating people. Silly of me.

Time to head into another exciting day. Among other things, we have a potluck lunch at the church and people over tonight from church and a bunch of work in between.

The Future's so Bright I Gotta Wear Shades.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Inducing Abandonment

In 2007 I attended a workshop about inducement. I blogged about it then, but unfortunately the link to the page explaining it all is now dead after five years. But you can get the idea from reading that post.

To repeat for those who aren't inclined to click on links -- Inducement is the idea that children who are abandoned feel many emotions -- anger, grief, loneliness, out of control, crazy. When words are not adequate, they attempt to communicate those emotions but it is too difficult. So instead, they attempt to create those emotions in the person with whom they are beginning to build a relationship.

Inducement is very well seen even by adults. It is all subconscious.... dad has bad day at work -- comes home, kicks the cat and throws his briefcase on the floor, stomping off to his man cave. No matter what mood everyone was in before he walked in, everyone is suddenly now in the same mood he is in....BAD! That's inducement.

Here's another example. Teenage boy comes home from school where he has been bullied and threatened all day. Inside he is a swirling tornado of anger, fear, and frustration. He comes home and his mother does something that triggers those emotions and he grabs a chair and stands over her threatening to kill her. When he does this she becomes inside a swirling tornado of anger, fear and frustration. She now knows how he feels.

So even though it is subconscious, the boy has reached his goal -- he has helped his mother understand how he feels.

So what is an appropriate response? In the past we've been taught to always be the strong ones as parents, to "never let 'em see you sweat." But in all actuality what we need to do is to acknowledge our feelings and model what a person should do when they feel out of control. So back to the teenager/mom scenario above. An appropriate response would be to label the feelings "Wow, son, right now I am feeling very angry, frustrated and scared. I think I need to go lie down on my bed for a few minutes and practice breathing slowly so I can calm myself down." (And yes, I have done this, and yes occasionally something does get broken, but no one gets hurt and more often than not, just disengaging and walking away resolves the situation).

So, that's inducement in a nutshell. But a had one of those "a-ha" moments while at NACAC a couple weeks ago when an older gentleman in Bart's seminar started talking about inducement when he was referring to the transitioning of children to adulthood and the way that they often simply walk away from the family as Salinda did a few years ago and like Ricardo did a few months ago.

It's almost as though self-consciously they are saying, "So, how do you like that? Do you like it when someone walks away from you and doesn't come back? How does that make YOU feel?" Perceiving themselves as having been abandoned, they abandon their parents inducing those emotions.

While inducement was something I've understood for years, I had never applied it to kids who leave their families in a huff when they near 18 or go back to birth parents or, in the case of our two, who in essence found another way to choose a new family. Now I'm trying to figure out what the best response is to their behavior. What we have done so far is simply sit back and wait. We haven't stopped loving them, and when we see them at their initiation we say that we do, but we have to find a way to let them go, hoping that some day they will return.

Inducing abandonment. Just understanding this one thing made the price of our trip to NACAC insignificant.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Parent's Pain

I go to church often. In fact, I go every week. Funny how that works when you are a preacher's kid and then you marry one.

I was conceived in church and I've gone nearly every week since. (Literally -- my parents pastored a store front church and the apartment we lived in was in the back -- so I was conceived in church!)

I can only think of 15-20 times in my 48 years that I haven't been in church on a Sunday morning. I have experienced a whole lot of good worship services in my day. But I must say that this morning was REALLY good.

My husband is the pastor so I might be biased -- but church today wasn't just about Bart. The praise team sang very well -- phenomenal spirit of worship... it all just flowed.

The sermon was called "A Parent's Pain" and was about King David and his son named Absalom who, as Bart mentioned this morning, took teenage and young adult rebellion to a whole new level. In fact, he did everything he could to push his father over the edge. He even went so far as to form an army to fight against his father's troops.

If you know much about the Old Testament, you know that David wasn't a perfect man. He did a whole bunch of really bad things including having a man killed so that he could sleep with his wife. And yet David was called "a man after God's own heart." But even in all of his imperfection, David remained a man committed to loving his son. In fact, he loved him so much that he begged the soldiers of his own army not to harm him.

The soldiers couldn't resist, however, when Absalom's long head of hair got caught in a tree and his donkey kept doing. As he was left dangling there David's soldiers just had to kill their enemy.

When David heard the news 2 Samuel 18 tells us that this what happened:

The king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

That story is so moving because David loved his son to the end, even when his son did everything to make him hate him.

After telling the story, Bart read through the genealogy of Jesus. He pointed out that David's parenting may not have given him the results he wanted but generations later Jesus was born from his line. The idea that the lineage of David -- even after that horrific parenting experience -- led to the birth of the Messiah is an incredible thought. Looking at life through the eyes of faith and in the light of eternity gives a whole new perspective.

Sometimes I think a story needs an explanation and that I need to interpret for my readers.

But not this time.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I am only one.....

After having several days where I was too excited about life to sleep, I believe my manic days are over and I'm back to some sense of normalcy this morning. I'm still excited about my life but today I'm more balanced -- missing my old friends, realizing the huge amounts of stuff I have to get done, and recognizing that it's a good thing I'm not quite as frenetic.

Yesterday I had lunch with a woman who is passionate about the issue of human trafficking. While working her latest job from which she took an early retirement, she traveled extensively and saw enough that she had to say "enough" and get involved.

I love to see passion. I would love to have time and energy to dive into more than a few social issues... but I heard a man speak during a chapel service in college who said something like "a thin wedge drives deeper." He expounded on that to say that if you want to make a deep impact, you have to have a life mission that is very focused. So I took him up on that and have had very centered efforts through my life. My first passion was Christian higher education, my second was Hispanic Ministry and the migrant population, and then we dove into foster care and adoption (OK, that's an understatement) and now for the past 16 years my focus has been on the 20,000+ kids tha age out each year.

So I had lunch with my new friend who is especially plugged into Not For Sale, an impressive non-profit that deals with the issue. She says "Many people have asked me why I even try when the issue is so huge." And we went on to talk about how significant it is if even ONE person finds a way out of slavery -- how that would be worth years of a person's time.

I feel the same way about foster care. 26,286 is a big number, but if I have helped match over 600 kids in the last 9 years -- theoretically that number could have been 26,886 if I hadn't been doing what I do. Those kids would have gotten older and had nobody adopted them -- they'd have been part of the 2011 number.

But really human trafficking -- especially when it involves children -- is all a part of the Orphan and Adoption Umbrella. I talked with my friend Michele at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, Washington on Friday. She and her husband Andrew are amazing advocates for kids and orphan care and adoption ministry. They spearhead the Refresh Conference where Bart and I will be speaking in February. In fact if you go to the website and watch the What Comments do you Get While in Public? video Andrew and Michele are the last couple to speak on the video.

Anyway, we were talking about just how many different things are part of making sure children are secure in functioning families before they become adults. Andrew, who is a lawyer, is opening a non-profit clinic to serve children in the system. It is so exciting to have so many cool people in my life who are passionately doing things to change the world.

I am reminded of this quote by Edward Everett Hale:

I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

So if you don't have a passion yet -- pick one and dive in. Every thing you do makes a difference.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Someone to Watch Our Movie

Jen in a comment asked the following questions:

Did you adopt any children who were aged 15-18 at the time of adoption? Have you assisted with any adoptions of kids in this age range? At such an independent stage of a person's life, do teenagers see their adoptive parents as forever parents to depend on, or more as mentors or worse, nuisances?

I figured the answers were worthy of a blog post.

I did not adopt any children that age, but if we ever adopt again that is exactly the age we will be looking for.

I have been the social worker for a few adoptions of kids in that age range.

And your last question is a good one. It reminds me of a conversation I had with Pat O'Brien of You Gotta Believe at NACAC this year. We were talking about why he enjoys placing kids of that age. He mentioned that younger kids -- especially those from about ages 8-14 or 15 -- are directing their anger toward their families and try to destroy their parents and their family. By the time they get to be 15 or 16, Pat says, they are too self-destructive to have time to destroy their families. In my experience it is very true -- it takes a different kind of parenting to adopt kids over 14.

So -- to answer the last question.

Teenagers are teenagers. So seeing adults as "forever parents to depend on" is a little much for most of them. They might view them as mentors. They might even in fact view them as a nuisance.

It's funny though -- I bet if we asked most teenagers that question -- emotionally healthy, attached, parented by birth parents from birth kinda teenagers -- how they saw their parents -- few of them would likely use the words "forever parents to depend on" and most of them would probably say something less sophisticated that would mean nuisance.

The trick with adopting older kids as not in how they see us -- but in the expectations we have for the relationship. I heard it said once that a child or teen needs to live with their new family as long as they didn't live with them to feel like part of the family. Not sure that was clear -- but for example, if a child moves in at 8 by 16 they will feel like they are really a part of the family. If they move in at 11 -- it's 22. At 16 -- well you do the math.

So I guess my point is that it takes a lot of time and that the answer to your question is fluid. There are days when a teenager will see their new adoptive parents as mentors.... there are days when they see them as forever parents they can depend on ... and there are many days when they will see them as a nuisance. But that all will change and ebb and flow as the years go by and I think that at 28, or 32, or 40 it will click that their parents are forever people that they can rely on.

Even though I haven't adopted a child at this age, I have now parented 11 children who are at this age or have passed through it. And I compare the experience to watching a movie. I'm not the director of the kids life any more -- if I ever was. I'm not a screen writer of the movie either. I have no control over which way the story is going to go. In fact, there are many scenes of the movie that I don't even appear in.

Sometimes I'm allowed to comment on the film -- occasionally even invited to do so. Sometimes I can't keep my mouth shut and I have to comment whether or not commenting is welcome.

But really, I think for any of us, it is important that we have a person that is watching the movie of our lives and cares how it turns out. There are times that we need the involvement of that person more than others. I think of my own parents -- I talk to them once a week whether I feel I need to or not... but some weeks I need to talk to them several times. But the thing that matters most is that I know, that regardless of the drama in my life, my parents will ALWAYS care and want to hear about it.

Does adopting a teenager provide immediate rewards or warm fuzzies? Most likely not. Will the kids be grateful and appreciative? Almost never. Will we see progress that makes it feel like it's worth it? Some days but not many.

But we still need people to do it...creative people who have the right perspective and who are willing to do it not because it is something they need -- but because it is something the soon to be adult needs.

People who adopt teenagers should be able to create their own normal as Brenda McCreight pointed out in a recent blog post It's not going to look like other relationships or other families. Each relationship is going to be as unique as the two people who are involved in it.

It's an amazing adventure though -- interesting and captivating -- like a roller coaster ride.. and people who go into it with realistic expectations, tenacity, and a good support system (which has to include their county social services) can make a difference in the world in a major way by doing it. Sold yet?

(To further elaborate on what I said yesterday, this blog entry sheds some more clarity on the situation).

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Nurturing Feeding: Promoting Recovery from Eating Issues in Traumatized Children

Communicating with Birthparents/Family: An Adoptive Mother’s Experience

26,286. That's Why.

Life is crazy busy. I am loving it -- this is my kind of living -- lots of professional challenges, lots of new people to meet and things to do -- and very little family drama.

Today I discovered that the
AFCARS stimates for 2011
had been released and I had to stop everything and look them over. There was some good news. The number of children in foster care is declining and was down to 400,540 by the end of 2011. At that same time, 104,236 children were legally free and waiting to be adopted. That number keeps decreasing which is awesome news.

The funny thing is though, that even though the number of kids in foster care goes down, and the number of adoptions goes up, the number of kids aging out of the system seems to go up every year.





That's why I work frantically. That is why I am so passionate. That is why I firmly believe that we have to find solutions. Adults need families. By the time a child is a legal adult, we must find them a permanent "parent" -- someone committed to them for life.

Twenty Thousand

Two Hundred

and Eighty Six Too Many.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Too Much Enthusiasm Too Early in the Morning

I woke up this morning at five -- wide awake and raring to go.  We have some fun days coming up and I woke up excited about everything and wanting to get busy.

So I got up, showered, and was at the computer by 6 ... and now it's 6:10 and I'm yawning.

I thought I blogged yesterday but it turns out I only wrote one paragraph and never hit send. So we'll start there and then add a few more random thoughts...

Our biggest news is that the van has been found.... which we did not expect.... and now aren't sure what we think. The kids were dreaming of a new vehicle ... or at least a new used one -- so everyone is a bit disappointed. Of course, it is in the impound lot in Minneapolis and we don't know what condition it is in. Leon thinks it is creepy because who knows what has happened in it. We had to get new tags for it yesterday and today I have to take them to the impound lot so that the vehicle can be towed, at insurance expense, to a body shop to be examined. They will determine whether or not it is a total loss or if it is fine for us to take back and use.


I have an unbloggable situation that has been on my mind for two months and I really think that is one of the reasons why I have been such a lousy blogger this summer. I hate having to remind myself that I can't tell you all something that is important to me. The good news is that it might be bloggable at some point soon.


When I was a college administrator, I spoke in chapel once a year about Integrity. I defined it as having your thoughts, actions and words all match. At that time I was living a life of impeccable integrity (not that since then I've dived into debauchery or anything) because I was a role model to so many college students. One of those students, who is now the director of media development for an incredible organization called Voice of the Martyrs put a link to an video about Integrity on my facebook with this caption:

It is a testament to your impact on me and many others that I cannot see anything with the title "Integrity" and not think of you!

That made my day. Several other students from those years have commented on It's been 20 years since I left my position as Dean of Student Development and I still think about those days at least weekly. Definitely some of the best years of my life. And the reason was the impact I was able to have on so many who are now out changing the world. I'm feeling so grateful today for the ways that God has blessed me over the years.


I had a conference call yesterday with some coworkers who are truly amazing people and wonderful friends. I'm not sure it's that meaningful to Ashley now that she has hit the big time for me to give her a shout out on my blog but here it is. You and Karen are such wonderful supportive friends.

And now.... I'm off to tackle the ever-lengthening to-do list.

Monday, August 06, 2012

People.... People Who Need People.... Are the know the song...

I'm having an absolute blast at this point in my life because I love new things and I love people.  The result of those things together is that I love new people!

Now grant it, I am missing my old friends -- there is no doubt about that... but I still text and facebook and call -- and they are still a part of who I am.

But having a whole church full of strangers who will become friends is always a fun experience for me.

One of the things that we have done in the past two churches and are doing here is to have gatherings in our home to get acquainted with about a dozen folks at a time.

Last night 12 people were here for 2 hours.  We had Bart's delicious banana bread.  We had cheese and crackers.  But best of all... we had stories.   One after another.  And last night's group was comprised mostly of octogenarians or septuagenarians, so their stories were long and delightful. 

The stories were delightful not because everyone's life was perfect and tidy.  There were some stories shared that were not easy.  But they were delightful because through hard times -- death and disease, divorce and disappointment, and all kinds of other things that didn't start with a d -- God was with them.  

And most of the time we experience God's presence because of His people.  God refers to us as Christ's body -- and tells us that we are his hands and his feet.   We are the very arms of God that reach out to hug others when they are in pain (sorry, Minnesotans for suggesting that scary thought).   We are the tangible evidence of God's love here on earth.

So even though it will take a long time to hear all the stories, I'm excited to hear them.  I'm excited to hear about the journeys.

And one more thing -- it's always very cool to hear the stories of couples who have been together for a very long time.  Marriage shapes people -- iron sharpens iron -- and the result is beautiful.

I'm loving the influx of people into my life right now and am excited about the ways that they will be intertwining their lives with mine to further create the tapestry that's my life.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A Run On Sentence

Being away from consistent Wi-Fi as long as I was made it difficult for me to blog very often -- and even for me to gather my thoughts about what I might want to blog about.  So many ideas and thoughts run through my mind during NACAC and when I have time to think on vacation but they all seem to have fled my mind for now as I am back home with a zillion details running through my head.

Let me just give you a glimpse of what is going through my head at the moment.....

Bart's on his way to Salinda's to get Gabby this morning and Sadie's friend from Job Corps may or may not need a ride back this morning and this afternoon all of the kids are helping Deb with an Adoption Family Olympics event and Courtney and Isaac will be coming at some point and tonight we have the MHBA picnic thingy and Sadie kind of has a date even though it's with a whole family from church....

and tomorrow we have church of course but in the evening we also have our first of many "pastor's home gatherings that used to be called parsonage gatherings until we started pastoring churches that didn't have parsonages and now it's just our house but people come over and we serve yummy desserts and here their story and tell ours....

and I have to get all of the paperwork done for the kids MA in a new County by Tuesday and Leon has his registration for school meeting this week and I need to make a trip down to Owatonna and

wow.  My mind is one continuous run-on sentence.

Friday, August 03, 2012


Apparently some of you saw a post I wrote from Delaware -- and others didn't and now it has disappeared.  Weird.

So to recap the last few days -- on Tuesday I got to have lunch with some old friends -- twas awesome.   Then we had dinner at Matt's and met the ever-so-patient Krista -- also awesome.

We decided at the last minute to head to the coast and see the ocean because even though it was a 4 hour trip it's a lot closer than driving to the ocean from Minnesota.  We ended up in a not-so-great hotel room and not many hours on the beach, but we had fun anyway.

Came home yesterday and relaxed last night -- watched Kite Runner -- a great movie if you haven't seen it. 

This morning we are packing and getting last minute things done -- in order to make it more peaceful I'm at the library catching up on some emails ...

We've had a really good week.   Not all that thrilled to go home even...which is weird for me.  :-)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Worst wifi ever

I blogged last night... Seems it never published. We are at the beach in Delaware but I'm not repeating myself. I'll just publish it later.

Using my phone to let you know we are alive....