Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nationally Acclaimed Speakers

Bart noticed it before I did. According to this flyer, he and I are nationally acclaimed. Nobody's ever called me nationally acclaimed before.

We are going to go out that way and hang out with my new friend Matt who will soon be our new friends Matt and Krista -- as you probably know, Matt and I co-authored the book, "OK, Which One of You Took My Sanity: A Fun Guide to Foster, Adoptive and Other Kinds of Parenting." They live out there and we plan to stay for a week or so after the conference and hang out in the area.

Anybody else planning to be there?

Feeling a Bit Better This Morning

A few things helped the past 24 hours. I got some more sleep which I obviously needed. I had a long conversation which my youngest daughter which we both needed. I was listened to patiently by a loving husband and a good friend this week.... and it may just be that I had to hit bottom in order to come back up.

Several things brewing for the work side of things and I have a long letter from Mike from prison to decide how to respond to.

I'm starting to recognize a pattern in myself that if I am more aware of might help me. When I train or travel for two or more days in one week I tend to exhaust myself and then do not have the emotional energy to deal with things. It's interesting because the whole time I am gone and working (and most likely leaning on adrenaline) I'm feeling great, but as soon as I come home and rest a bit I'm suddenly exhausted and overwhelmed. Hopefully I can prevent myself from a major meltdown this next week if I recognize the pattern and try to stop myself.

Never underestimate the power of a good nap. ;-)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I have a confession to make. I don't like this age. The struggle to independence is heightened to extremes when dealing with mastery and control issues.

Toni mentioned wanting to know more about mastery and control. Here's what I understand of it.

Adoptees have not had control over their lives. They had decisions made for them from the earliest days of their lives and there is a lot of anger and frustration over that. it isn't articulated as such, and possibly not even recognized as that in adults, but it certainly is subconscious in children who can't articulate their feelings.

If as a small person, I had never been allowed to make any choices -- if things were decided for me and I was moved from place to place -- or if strangers were the ones to conclude that I should be given a new sense of parents -- then once I land in an adoptive home I'm probably not going to be all that cooperative. If in my birth family I had never been told what to do and suddenly I was in an adoptive family with a list of rules, I might not be all that cooperative.

So all this can be described as ODD. The behavior screams, "This is MY life and you can't tell me what to do. I am in charge of me!!!"

If you think about it it requires amazing strength to be completely oppositional -- especially if you have parents who are pushy and demanding and win at all costs (pointing finger at me). It's pretty difficult to stand your ground under those circumstances.

As I mentioned before, if a kid grabs on to mastery and control and is determined to prove that they are in charge of their lives and choose to have a good life for themselves, you end up raising a child like Kyle who, though challenging as a teenager, is now a married, college-educated teacher who has the things he has always wanted to be able to buy for himself (though he will tell you that he hasn't got enough money to buy EVERYTHING he wants ;-)

If you have a child who has issues with mastery and control who is not motivated to succeed you have (fill in the blank with four or five of my kids). They prove their independence from their parents by doing things like skipping school, getting or getting someone else pregnant, moving out before they should, failing classes on purpose, etc. In the end they win the battle of proving they are in charge, but they lose the war ...

Sitting back knowing a kid is on that path is very hard for me. Teenagers assume that they know more than their parents anyway, but to have teenagers with mastery and control issues makes the battle all the more crazy. The kids are convinced somehow that they can make it in life without a good job, an education, or any money. And they tend to surround themselves with people who enable them to do so.

Wrestling season ended on Saturday -- I know, I promised pictures, you'll get them ;-) It was my concern that Ricardo would stop going to school once wrestling was over. He was absent all day yesterday. It could be coincidental --- he could be sick but since he doesn't speak to us, i wouldn't know. But it could very well be that he is done with school -- even though he can't read. So he is going to prove to me that I was wrong -- he doesn't have to have a job or go to school. really?

If you are reading frustration between my lines it is because I am very frustrated. I have one 18 year old who moved out in a huff and has people enabling him to live without responsibility and paying all his bills. I have a 17 year old daughter who has told me that I'm the stupid one if I think that anything I do can MAKE her do homework. That she doesn't care about school and she isn't going to do anything. And she didn't come home last night. And I have another 17 year old who is deciding he doesn't have to get up this morning.

I dream of a day when everyone is beyond this annoying age and I don't have to have the internal battles. I've finally gotten to the point that I have minimized most of the external ones because they don't help matters, but I stew inside like nobody's business.

And yes, if you're wondering, I have mastery and control issues now I think -- because I didn't choose to have bad things happen to my kids either. I just took over parenting them after the damage was done and have done my very best to turn a tide that may have been unturnable -- at least with the resources we had back then.

Yesterday a friend and I had lunch and she said, "So, where would the kids be if you hadn't adopted them?" And I said, "I don't know... maybe in jail? Or raising kids as teenagers? Or skipping class? Failing school?"

I know, sarcasm is unbecoming.

SOrry for hte negative venting post. I try not to do that any more, but some days....

Monday, February 27, 2012

OK, OK, I have started Pinteresting

Or, I suppose it should be calling Pinning... Pretty fun, way too time consuming, but hopefully a way to find more homes for kids and get the word out about my books, as well as to discover other cool things.

But today I pinterested instead of blogging. It's probably better that I did. Not exactly in a chipper mood today.

March Beyond Consequences Series in St. Paul

I know Brenda.

She's awesome.

Check this out.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

I know you'll find this hard to believe...

But I was away from my computer from Friday morning when I last wrote until now -- almost 4:50 on a Sunday afternoon. For me that is really quite overwhelming. It's also quite overwhelming to realize that I now have 322 unread messages in my inbox. Sigh.

So, why haven't I been here? Well, as you read on Friday I had a full day planned, taught all day, picked up Bart after he trained all day, and then came home, stopping to eat on the way. I ended up in bed by 8:45. Just exhausted.

On Saturday we got up and left for wrestling sectionals. Ricardo and Leon were both competing and even though Ricardo does not speak to us and has other people listed as his family on Facebook, we wanted to be supportive. He didn't speak to us, looked the other way so we couldn't catch his eye to smile or speak.

Leon, however, was just the opposite. Engaged, sitting with us between his matches, and just generally making us feel really good.

I took a bunch of picture which I will post when I get them transferred to the computer.

Ricardo lost his first match and was thus out of the competition, but Leon won his next round, but lost his next too. He still came in 6th in the section though and was allowed to march in the "Parade of Champions." Only a few other kids from our school made it that far so he felt pretty good about things. He's such a great kid -- joining our family at 12.

Tony had come with us, the rest stayed home... Wilson had just finished a lock-in and as you can see above he was quite tired (and unbelievably cute). Sadie had an interview to get her job back at McDonalds (she got it back and will have two jobs now) so she didnt' come along. Rand and Dominyk were participating in a 30 hour famine -- and Jimmy just gets really tired some weekends. His job is physically demanding and he gets worn out.

On the way home we had to stop at the ER because Tony scratched his eye ball and so we didn't end up home until about 7:15. I ended up going to bed around 8:30, but was awakened at 10 to have a very annoying conversation with one of my children that resulted in me being up until 1:30 tossing and turning, bathed in anxiety.

Choir at church this morning so I had to leave early and didn't get a chance to blog. Isaac and Courtney came to church and then over to dinner. Even with a nasty bump on his head from a fall and with Grandpa's delicious spaghetti on his face, he's still adorable.

I slept an hour and then Jimmy came with me to my office. I have a big training coming up this weekend (the 16 hour pre-adopt) and have more people than ever signed up, so he came to help me clean. That's where we are now.


So THAT'S where I've been.

Now, paperwork and organization of the office before we head back to town in time to pick up kids' from youth group because the van's headlights stopped working yesterday...

I just need to say at this moment that Jimmy, who goes by Ben at school and church, can really be a charming and wonderful son. He is being so helpful and engaging today -- willing to help out just to please me. Adopted at almost 10 from Guatemala, I don't think there's ever been a day when I questioned our decision to go there and get him. He definitely enjoys being "naughty", even at 20, but his helpfulness and desire to please, as well as his strong work ethic and fun sense of humor, make up for the hassles.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mastery and Control

I'm sitting near the St. Paul campus of the U of M at a Dunn Brothers having breakfast after a worldwind tour of MN. I left at 9:30 yesterday with Bart, dropped him off to get work done alone, then moved on to visit two of the families on my caseload. I really like them. I've always had a bit of a struggle considering "my families" clients, but I always attempt to practice good boundaries.... however, I LIKE them. So the meetings were fun.

Then picked Bart up and we met my friends Sam and Vicki for dinner -- always great to see them. He's kinda famous, but I've known him for a long time so with some effort we can coordinate schedules and I can make their calendar. It's always great to be with them. Sam is one of a kind.

We then headed to the hotel for a short night before I dropped Bart off to train all day and then came to have breakfast before I go to teach.

Before leaving yesterday morning however I had a huge argument with my daughter who still lives at home. Today, ironically, I am going to be teaching about a principle that adoptees struggle with that is very evident in the lives of my children: Mastery and Control. She illustrated the point perfectly.

Because adopted kids have so little control over their own past, it seems they have to go out of their way to prove that they can control their future. We were fortunate that our oldest son, who was our first older kid to be adopted, was determined to do this in a positive way. His goal was to grow up and have a life like he saw as the ideal in society. And he did just that. He is now a college educated, married teacher who has a wonderful wife and possibilities for a very normal American dream life.

Unfortunately we have other kids who have gone the opposite direction to prove that they don't have to listen to us. They do poorly academically to prove that I can't make them study. They drink, smoke, get pregnant or get others pregnant, get high, break the law -- and often it is simply to show us as parents that they are in control of their own lives. It's heartbreaking to watch but virtually impossible to prevent.

So as I listened to her tell me how stupid I was because I haven't figured out that there is nothing that I can do that is going to make her do any homework at all... I should have been simply and calmly telling myself that it was about mastery and control instead of arguing and feeling like I wanted to dive across the room and knock some sense into her. NOTE TO ALL MANDATORY REPORTERS WHO READ MY BLOG: I DID NOT ACT ON THOSE FEELINGS.

Sometimes even if we know the reasons for our kids behavior we don't do a good job of dealing with it. I spend hours a month training people on how not to do some of the things that I do at least a few times a week.


Maybe I need to work on my own mastery and control!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Serving Dinner to Drunk Jesus

The conversation we had on the way to church for the Ash Wednesday service last night was interesting if not profound.

One of Mike's old friends has been coming to our church off and on for the last several months. He is in and out of his mom's house because of drug issues. Lately he has been living in the homeless shelter and not at home. He knows that on Wednesday nights we serve supper at church. When he comes someone always covers his meal.

One Wednesday a few weeks ago he brought some of the guys from the shelter with him and it caused a bit of a stir. They were a rough bunch. They didn't do anything inappropriate but they did wander around the building and make a lot of people nervous. One of them was pretty drunk or high.

So last night we were talking about whether or not it was OK to "kick someone out of church." They mentioned that maybe this friend of Mike's shouldn't be allowed to come to church because he "invited those guys to church to eat." "Why would he invite a drunk guy to church?" they asked.

I said, "well, I think all that he knew is that the guy was homeless and hungry and we had food. I'm not sure that he thought about it any more than that."

I then had to go on to talk about Matthew 25 and how Jesus says, "if you do it to the least of me, you've done it unto me." I explained that that guy gave us an opportunity to serve dinner to Jesus.

So Leon and Wilson were asking me if Jesus was drunk and started referring to our church as a place that would serve dinner to drunk Jesus.

I didn't get into the whole theological debate as to whether or not Jesus ever was drunk or if it was OK for us to talk about "drunk Jesus."

But I've been thinking about it ever since. Could it be that every church should be a church that "serves dinner to drunk Jesus."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sometimes he's kinda naughty.... (the grandpa, not the grandson)

Yesterday while I'm in my 8th of 11 hours of doing a training, I got an email that said "What I See When I Look Down." This was the picture.

I haven't seen him for 11 days!!!!!

Forty Days of Water

Today begins Lent and I am going to join the 40 days of water project again. I did this last year and it rally made an impact on me.

In nearly a third of the world injustice threatens to take away these basic kinds of choices that we take for granted. In these places a woman can choose to drink the unclean river water or the unclean puddle water. She can choose to walk once for four hours to get water or walk twice for eight hours to get more water. She can choose to give her children something to drink that she knows may make them sick or she can give them nothing at all. She can persist or give up. You can help give her a real choice.

Last year every time that I was tempted to complain about having to drink water (purified and flowing out of my fridge at the push of a button) I was reminded of the women and children who have to spend their days just getting water. Many kids in Africa, for example, cannot get an education because their days must be spent hauling water.

I like having other things to drink as much as the next person -- but knowing that I was doing something to benefit those who do not have even water kept me moving forward (what I would have spent on drinks is sent to the blood water mission to be used to provide clean water in Uganda). Last year I calculated over $160 that would have been spent on other drinks and sent it there.

Anyone up for doing it with me? If you've already had one drink today, I think they'd be ok with you starting a few hours late so don't use that as an excuse! Let me know if this is something you're doing so we can encourage each other along the way.

Where I've been (if you care)

I realized after looking over several blogs that not many people feel a need to let their blog readers know where they are every day. Typically they are busy saying something more interesting than that, but for some reason i feel compelled to always give a report of where I've been and what I've been up to.

I last blogged on Monday morning. A few hours after that I drove up to the Cities after a nice lunch with Bart and Dominyk and Wilson, the only kids at home on President's Day. I arrived and immediately napped and then put in several hours for work before going to bed to be up at 6 to head for a training. It was a good day -- a great group of people to train. After the training I drove home, arriving at about 7:40... tried to get things back into shape quickly (the kids tend to ignore chores, etc.) when I'm not here.

Today I'm home with nothing on my calendar today. I like days like that as I have plenty of work inside my computer that needs done. Tomorrow Bart and I will be trying to leave together -- I have several meetings, we are having supper with friends, and then we both train in the Cities tomorrow so we have a PCA coming to stay the night here (yeah, I know, it will take all of the hours for the next two weeks for the one night but it will be worth it).

We typically have more nights away but we haven't been away overnight together since June 15th so it will be nice to relax, even though by the time we finish dinner it will be time to get ready for bed... at least we'll be together instead of sleeping apart, something that has happened way too many times lately.

So that's my wearabouts.... but I understand if you skip these posts. I can't imagine I'd be much interested in reading this kind of stuff about someone else. But you're probably not self-absorbed like I am ;-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

When Home Is Not a Refuge

For a lot of people home is a place where you can go, let down your hair and relax. It's the one place to feel safe and secure. Maybe this is the hardest thing of all for Bart and I -- or for any adoptive parent. I think we grieve the loss of a safe, relaxing place where we can find psychic space.

When others are off at work or out of town they look forward to going home to relax. While we look forward to going home, it isn't the same feeling. We look forward to seeing each other and our kids, but we know that depending on the day, home may just be a battlefield. There might be rages, arguments, accusations, or bad news. There might be drama, conflict, or all manner of interesting things that could happen at any time.

It's not impossible to live like this, or even to live happily like this, but it requires finding other safe places. My safe places include a couple different coffee shops, one crowded, the other fairly desolate, where I can go to get psychic space. Safe places also include the hotel rooms that I am fortunate to be able to spend time in once or twice a month when I travel.

My safe places are also people, people who I know will be encouraging and supportive. When I have a meal with them or am invited into their homes, I can feel that sense of relief and safety.

And of course, my church and my God are places of refuge for me. I don't know what I'd do without them.

Let me clarify something. My home is safe in a physical sense. But when it comes to needing psychic space it doesn't always serve that purpose.

Maybe this is something you have thought of before, maybe you haven't, but it is worth considering. Is home your place for psychic space? If not, where is that place? Have you been there enough lately?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Least Favorite Hour of the Week

Sunday mornings before church aren't fun. School mornings aren't that fun either, but there is an additional layer of consequence on school mornings. If they don't get up on time and get left, they have to walk. And even though most of them are old enough that they have friends now who will pick them up in case of this kind of "emergency," they still have a hassle... and there are consequences at school for skipping class.

On Sunday mornings the only consequence is that if I can't find a way to get them up, they tell me they just won't go. And while very few times in our lives has this been an issue because they usually do get up, it's a fairly stressful hour or so.

I'm not opening up a discussion here about whether or not we should "force" our children to go to church. It's a part of our family culture, it's who they are. Once they move out they are on their own to make choices about this, but as long as they are here it's expected.

Some families have expectations that siblings attend the sporting events of their brother or sister to cheer him/her on. It's not something that is optional if you have the evening or day free -- it's just what they do as a family. I view church as the same way here.

We would be this way whether or not Bart were a pastor.... it's just who we are.

Fortunately, my least favorite hour of the week is followed by some of the best hours of my week so I usually can get the icky out of my system fairly quickly when I am surrounded by people I enjoy and get to worship a very good and gracious God...

On a side note, if you are a Christian who lives in MN and is passionate about foster care or adoption of any kind you may want to email me. One of the things I"m hoping to do is to start plugging into the beginnings of the "Orphan Care and Adoption Movement" in Minnesota. email is maeflye at mac dot com.

My day yesterday introduced me or reaquainted me with a few people who are working towards this end and I'd like to get involved in ways that I can. One way is by finding out who those people are that I am connected with to help plug them in as well.

Everyone has been awakened. I only here that a couple of them are up. I may have to do a second round. I hate having to do a second round.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taking Off...

Speaking in St. Cloud at the Hope Connection Event....

Not too late to come. No registration needed or fee... so if you happen to be in the area:

Friday, February 17, 2012

not dead...

Got up very early. Drove to airport. Rode plane to Chicago. Got off plane. Walked a long ways. Got on another plane. Rode plane to Minneapolis. Got off plane. Bart picked me up. We drove to lunch. It was really good... both seeing him and hte food. He drove me home. I came home. Felt sick with stomach issues. Hoping I don't have what the kids were sick with this week. I took a nap. I am now awake.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stories, Laughter, and Planning

What a great group of fun people I get to work with. We work hard and we come up with good ideas and we laugh a lot. Yesterday was a great day.

I miss my husband though, and the routines of home. I'll look forward to seeing him tomorrow. I know that he misses me too because he admitted it!
Kari just called. She misses me too.

Have been working on promoting the Adopt_America twitter page that was set up by the wonderful Tiruba Tuba.... so follow us if you have Twitter.

Always so many possibilities and ways to spend my time. Wish I had 10 times more of it!

Good day to everyone!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alone on VD in BG

It's Valentine's Day. I'm alone in Bowling Green, Ohio. It is as exciting as it sounds. Good day of planning. Tired tonight. Sleep will feel good.


and that is as far as I got and forgot to hit send last night. Pathetic huh?

Today we have another day of strategic planning. Anyone who adopted from foster care have any opinions they'd like to leave as comments about the matching process to give us some ideas. What was hardest about it? What kind of help would have been helpful?

I figured you'd want to see this picture Sadie took of Gabby this weekend. I know everyone who has grandkids thinks they are the cutest, but look at her.

Just sayin.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Toledo, Ohio....

Made it safely and without much problem to Detroit by plane and through Toledo to Bowling Green last night. Staying with a friend (who happen to also be the PRESIDENT of Adopt America Network... or is that the other way around... my boss who happens to be my friend? I had a delicious dinner and rested well.

Now I'm heading for a day of strategic planning up in Toledo ... I'm sure it will be a great day. Sometimes when I travel I can be a bit overwhelming, but today I'm not feeling I'll be overwhelming. I'm a bit tired for that. ;-)

As far as I know, things are fine at home.... hope they remain that way.

More later....

Dr. Pepper Underwear and Other Updates

Yesterday I made an error in judgment and boy did I pay.

One of my teens had such a filthy mouth right before church -- and the words were directed at me -- that I lost my composure and tossed a 1/4 of a glass of warm water on him to get his attention. I know, I know, it isn't going to help -- but I was incredibly frustrated and once I get to that point things like Pavlov's dogs come to mind and I just get this idea that maybe oparant conditioning might work. (for those of you who didn't study psychology, "Operant conditioning is a form of learning during which an individual modifies the occurrence and form of its own behavior due to the consequences of the behavior." -- Thank you Wikepedia).

So, the nasty words come out of the mouth, the water goes onto the kid, and he learns not to swear again. Right?

WRONG. The nasty words came out of his mouth, the water goes onto the kid, and the entire glass of Dr. Pepper that he had poured after taking it without permission gets thrown all over me, my bedroom, paperwork that was in my bedroom, a pile of clean clothes that was in my bedroom, the sheets, the blanket, the comforter. I had to completely change my clothes and he spent the rest of the morning swearing at me anyway.

I got to church having changed all my clothes, even my socks, and then realized that I had not changed my underwear... and it was wet with sticky Dr. Pepper. I attended church, Sunday School, and church again with Dr. Pepper on my underwear. I bet there was nobody else at church with Dr. Pepper stains on their underwear. At least I'm not falling into a rut of being like everyone else.

All day yesterday I tried to access the shuttle website and the links weren't working. The last time I checked I could have sworn that there was a 10:00 or 10:30 shuttle. They wouldn't answer the phone any of the times I called yesterday. So this morning I discover, at 8:45, still unpacked, that the shuttles don't run at 10:30 but at 9 and 12:40. The 12:40 doesn't get there until after my flight leaves.

It's snowing and Bart has to make an unexpected trip and I feel horrible about it. WE spent most of hte day in the car yesterday. Sigh.

But the tickets are bought and I have to go, so there are no other choices. And I'm so tired from all this health stuff that I was in tears about it....

But he's a wonderfully patient man, we will get some unexpected time alone together, and hopefully the roads will be safe.

I must go pack so the other updates will have to wait until I arrive in Ohio -- or at least until I get to the airport.

Isn't life exciting?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What Would You Want to Forget?

Yesterday a couple of the kids and Bart and I went to the movies and Bart gave in and saw a chick flick with me. We saw "The Vow" -- based on a true story where a woman is in a car accident and loses the last five years from her memory. She had changed so much in those five years that she barely recognized herself. Her husband, who she did not remember, had to choose what he was going to tell her about those five years.

I began to think about that. What if I woke up after a car accident to discover that the last thing I could remember was five years ago -- the year we moved to Mankato. I would not know my daughter-in-law, Christy. I wouldn't know that I was a grandmother. I wouldn't know Henry, or Courtney, or Tessa -- my kid's significant others. I wouldn't know Leon or Wilson or that they were my sons.

I would also not know about some of the mistakes that I made in the past five years, or the hard times we've been through. I would have to be filled in on those things. But I would also not be remembering all that I have learned about God and His grace. I would not ... as the very old song "Through It All" says -- know that God could solve the problems if I never had them.

Did I enjoy the ways I messed up? Did I enjoy the hard times that have brought me to where I am as a person? Certainly not. Am I a better person because of them? Definitely.

Because it was based on a true story -- just not some Nicholas Sparks novel -- it really made me think. The woman who had this happen to her never did regain her memory. She had to trust others to fill it in.

The bottom line, I guess, is that I am who I am today because of stuff that I often think I'd rather forget. I am more patient, more mature, more aware of God's goodness and grace, and less judgmental. The person I was five years ago would probably not even recognize or understand the things that I've been able to write over the past few years... because five years ago the person I was couldn't comprehend it.

And on a lighter note -- one more thing about that movie. If I woke up from a coma and a guy that looked like Channing Tatum said he was my husband, I would not require an explanation. I would just go with it. Just sayin....

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Attachment -- the Next Generation

Both of my grandchildren are VERY attached to their parents. During hte first several months of their lives neither of their parents were unemployed and they have both been surrounded by extended family since they were born and still are. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, even great grandparents, have been holding them, rocking them, talking to them and playing with them all their lives.

yesterday Isaac was here for a few hours and he fell asleep on my lap, a place he used to sleep very often when he lived in our home (from 6 weeks to 6 months). He is very comfortable there. The rest of the time he was here we were playing with him -- having him do his tricks and make us laugh. All of the intersensitivity stuff that the experts are saying is so crucial right now.

I can't change a lot of the facts that surround the lives of my grandkids, but I can rejoice in the ways that they have been given a better start than their parents. They are attached. They were not exposed to drugs or alcohol in utero. They are reaching all developmental milestones and are surrounded by people who love them.

We couldn't undo what happened to their parents -- but we can be part of assuring that they have a better chance. SInce before we became foster parents we indicated that we wanted to break the generational cycles that kids in foster care were trapped in. It might just be we're doing that and it feels really good.

He's coming back for a couple hours today. I'm so excited to see him An rumor has it that Gabby might be here later tonight with Salinda.

That's good. Real real good.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"I'm not giving grace to people who don't deserve it!"

John had insisted that it was very very important for both Courtney and I to attend court yesterday. So we figured out a way to make it work and got there at 10:25 for a 10:30 hearing. After listening to 8 or 9 other cases, his was finally heard at about 11:30.

He had told us that we needed to be there to hear the truth. Well, this hearing was simply a hearing requesting a drop in bail (which the judge denied) and asking that the omnibus hearing be scheduled within 28 days (which the judge ordered). And then it was over. 4 short minutes took up my whole morning. Sigh.

It was interesting being in court though. Anyone can go sit in the courtroom and listen to hearings all day long if they wish. They are public hearings. But most of the stuff is just a bunch of people who made some dumb mistakes. Probation violations, driving without a license, etc. People who have hard lives and who are difficult... yes, because of their own choices, but we never know what led to those choices.

I was talking to Kyle about his brothers the other night and he is SO MUCH like I was at his age. At his age I was so sure that I had somehow earned God's grace by all my good choices and hard work. I was mentioning that he could give his brothers a little grace and he actually said the words, "I'm not giving any grace to people who don't deserve it."

I laughed out loud.

I said, "Do you know what the definition of grace is? It's unmerited favor. That's the whole point. Grace is getting things we don't deserve."

He said he wasn't God and that he wasn't quite ready to do that. I told him I understood that. But life looks a whole lot different at 48 than it does at 25 ... at least it should.

I get now that I couldn't earn grace. I didn't deserve it. It was a gift. And my self-righteousness and judgmental spirit (not to say that Kyle has one, but confessing that I did) was just as wrong in God's sight as the "big sins" that I was judging.

Who knows where I would be if it wasn't for God's grace. I don't even want to know. But it's my plan to offer it everyone -- ESPECIALLY the ones who deserve it the least.

Grace. It's a thought that changed the world. It finds goodness in everything.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


Mike had court yesterday and today he will be transferring up to prison about two hours from here. He will serve 112 days which should have him released by the time the baby is born in June. After that he will be on parole for a few months, but his probation will be over. Probation and FASD are a really bad combination. I know he's dreading being there, but this might just be the turnaround for him.

John has court today. I will be going with Courtney.

Bart and I visited both of them last night. It's a very interesting place. Many times there are girlfriends in there and I am amazed at how they are still being treated poorly by someone who is behind bars. The guy is locked up and they still can't stand up and walk away. It makes me sad for them.

To me, it's a great opportunity to build relationships -- when they are behind bars and only have 30 minutes a day that they can visit someone -- they tend to be a little nicer. ANd knowing you can stand up and walk away if they get nasty is fairly freeing. I enjoy trying to keep things light hearted and make them laugh and since the conversations are being recorded I often want them to have something interesting to listen to. I think I'm hilarious. But you knew that.

Maybe jail ministry is something I should start doing, although I'm not sure that Bart would think it was a good idea for me to be visiting some of those other guys in there. I wonder how many of them never get a visit. Hmmm.

I'll keep you posted on further outcomes. John's hearing today will probably be inconclusive, but I'll let you know that later.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

One Thought Blogging

Have you ever been to one of those well organized blogs that are intentional and promote the author as a writer or speaker? Have you noticed that they often have one thought in each blog post? Nice, neat, and organized?

I have a few posts like that, but most of my stuff is a hodge podge of what is happening here... the daily drama ... of funny stories, pictures, family events, and an occasional really good post with one topic stuck in the mix.

Today I was trying to figure out one thought to blog on and I couldn't choose one. Too many thoughts I suppose -- or just not the ability to select which was most important. So maybe that means this will be a "no thought" blog post.

I learned about the possibility of another already born grandchild out there ... if you are a close follower of my blog and really care whose it is you can email me and I'll tell you. It's all becoming kind of a blur to me these days.

I think I will mention my philosophy on comments. I try to avoid the sensationalism of beginning an argument. Stirring up things is actually a recommendation by some "how to blog" trainers, but I don't need more controversy in my life. I will post nearly every comment, but I don't always comment back, especially if I am in complete disagreement with a comment or part of a comment. I figure if you guys want to fight it out about an issue in comments, that is fine, but that isn't the nature of the blog and usually you guys just let it go too.

Originally this week I was scheduled to go to Toledo for the whole week but we didn't get tickets in time and the prices went up so I'm not going until Monday. This worked out actually very well because I had nothing on my schedule this week adn I'm having a chance to catch up. It feels good to have full days where I can plug away at the things on my desk... and this is the third day I get to do that. Tonight and tomorrow I have some meetings, but all day today I can spend at my desk and maybe by the end of the third day it will be cleaned off.

Time to wake up the kids. Another no-thought blog post. ;-)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Random Thoughts about Yesterday and Today

Yesterday I put in a full day's work! I worked ten and a half hours, more than I have in any day I've been home since the New Year started. I'm pretty pleased to have done so without getting too tired.

Now mind you, I'm a person who has worked 14-16 hours a day since I was 16. Over 30 years of pushing myself to get as much done as possible, so it's been a very hard transition. But I was thankful to have the energy to do that much yesterday and am hoping to have some more today.

Mike has asked that I come with his girlfriend to visit him in jail this morning so I will be going to visit both boys. It sounds like Mike might be staying to execute his time so he will no longer be on probation.

When I visited him on Sunday night I only talked to him for a minute or two as he wanted to give most of his time to Tessa, but I wish I would have had a video camera. He said, in essence, "I wish there was someone in the court room who could explain stuff to me. I never know what is going on. I get in there and all this stuff happens and then suddenly I'm signing a piece of paper and either leaving or going back to jail and I never really understand why."

This would be an excellent thing to show when training about FASD. The judicial system confuses me and I have a very well organized brain, a graduate degree, and plenty of common sense. For him it's impossible to navigate.

Society must find a different way to handle those whose brains are wired differently. Putting them in jail for the weekend to "get their attention" or giving them more consequences so they will learn just doesn't work. Until we can convince people of this fact, there will be no rehabilitative justice.

John's hearing is Thursday and he has concluded that he will most likely have to spend some time in prison, leaving our area. He's quite sad to be leaving Isaac ... but court is Thursday and maybe things will work out differently for him. It's not looking good.

We are experiencing some financial worries because of the cuts in my hours but God is daily showing us that, as we sang in choir on Sunday, He will "supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil 4:19)

Sadie and I had pie yesterday, our thing to do when she wants to talk. She just returned from a youth event which she described as life-changing and has agreed to join the "design team" to plan future events. I'm proud of her. She has so many gifts and has no fear of being in front of people. I have a feeling she is going to be able to do some amazing things once she gets past the stage of being a somewhat rebellious teenager.

Time to wake everyone up and face the day....

Monday, February 06, 2012

Forgot to post this the other day

A Confession

I have a confession to make. I'm kind of embarrassed actually to even write this, but it is true.

As you know, I'm a Christian. I've never hid that or downplayed it and often my blog has been borderline offensive, most likely, to those of you who don't share my faith. But my adoption work has all been in the public sector.

As you may know, for the first eight years of my training and speaking in adoption, I was speaking to caseworkers and foster and adoptive parents at conferences around the country. And my jobs have always been in agencies whose goal is to find homes for foster children and it has been my passion to do so before they age out.

My experience with international adoption, other than our two from Guatemala, has been to try and find homes for the kids who have disrupted from an international adoptive placement. So I began to form a negative opinion about "well meaning people" who are not prepared to handle the children they bring from orphanages to the U.S.

I think this is why I have been skeptical about the orphan care and adoption movement in the evangelical church. In retrospect I'm not sure why I chose not to investigate it further ... maybe it was just a lack of time ... but I was a bit dismissive about the new "fad" of going and getting an orphan and bringing them to the U.S.

REFRESH changed all of that for me. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of people out there who are doing things that are much different than what I assumed. Very few of them are going to other countries to bring home infants are toddlers. Many are bringing home older kids, sibling groups, and kids with medical issues who are hard to place. They are doing so with much less financial support than those of us who adopt from foster care receive.

In addition, the orphan and adoption care ministries in many churches are doing a lot to promote the issue of waiting children adoption in the U.S. as well as supporting foster children. The book Orphanology that I finished yesterday, details all kinds of very cool programs that are supporting orphans all over the world, including us here in the U.S.

When I was at REFRESH I met some amazing people. People who are parenting children that are more difficult than my own and doing it with grace and dignity. People who may or may not have been expecting to have the challenges they do are facing them with God's help and making a big difference in the world.

I'm hoping to slowly get to know other folks and share my story. Mainly because of what I wrote here about encouraging people to prevent their lives from turning out like mine. The Orphan Care Movement is new and the majority of kids who have been adopted in the last decade are hitting their teen years about now or will be soon. Even most of the leaders and speakers in the movement do not have the "been there done that" stories that I have to share.

So I'm excited about possibilities in the future ... even if it is just meeting more amazing people like I met last weekend. I intend to begin to follow some blogs and to reach out to some of the folks out there who are in this journey with me. Maybe that's the one thing that I concluded after my weekend -- it isn't an "us and them" journey -- we are all on the same journey. It may look a bit different as to how we got here, but our kids are the same. FASD, brain trauma, and attachment are all the same whether they were acquired in an African village, an Eastern European orphanage, or the streets of Chicago.

I'm regretting my hasty misinformed judgments and am ready to move on and connect with others and broaden my base of influence... and support! REFRESH did more for me than I did for the people there for sure.

Enough rambling. You get my point.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Happy Birthday, Tony!

Tony, our first son, who came to us at 20 months is turning 17 today. Crazy isn't it? Time has gone by fast and he's definitely been a challenge. I tell people that he is the poster child for the phrase, "Younger doesn't mean better it just means longer!"

Tony is the kind of kid who is charming and fun when he isn't around someone who is in authority over him. Last night we had a great time with friends from church who have become good friends of Tony -- it is what he wanted to do for his birthday. He wanted to try the famous "Duke Burger" - 2 full pounds of ground beef on a huge bun. Our friend Nate shared it with him so he didn't eat the whole thing, but he ate his half very quickly and then ate a bunch of fries as well. Our pride and joy. ;-)

We had a good time though. Today we will eat out as a family -- though only 4 kids are home this weekend -- to celebrate his milestone.

We now only have 1 sixteen year old and he will be 17 next month, the month before Dominyk turns 16.

Because of my health issues I have been doing a lot of relaxing and I'm getting better at it. It's funny how much easier it gets to relax when you don't have energy to do anything else.

Yesterday I started reading the book orphanology and am finding it fascinating stuff. It's interesting that before the refresh conference I hadn't been in tune with this new subculture of adoptive parents who have been motivated in the last 10 years or so to adopt orphans. I am hoping to find ways to be able to help that next generation recognize the importance of early attachment and brain trauma work for their kids ... stuff we didn't have access to 15 years ago.

Off to church now, and then possibly visiting the jail.... Hopefully i'll have energy to do that before napping. And then maybe I'll join the rest of the country in watching the Super Bowl, though I usually don't.

SO that's my day.... hope everyone else has a great one as well!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Just a quick 3 mintes

Sorry for not blogging yesterday. Left at 6:30, taught all day, got home at 7:30 and didn't even get out my computer.

Slept in and am heading up to Crossview Covenant to do their Tropical getaway...

A family member was in the newspaper again this week -- the car accident was given in detail, including Isaac's name.

And I had an interesting almost threatening facebook message from a birthmom -- but it is all a misunderstanding. It was sent in December though and I just saw I'll have to decide if I should answer or not.

Quiet weekend here .. several kids gone which may be good because Bart is swamped today and I'm speaking... and I need to be there in 25 minutes and I'm not even completely dressed nor have I packed up my books to sell.

Guess I need to stop blogging!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Finally Blogging the Unbloggable Goodnews

On Christmas Eve, after Mike had left home after we did gifts, he texted Bart and I and said ... "Do you want to know what you and Dad's Christmas present is." I turned to Bart, and said, "Trick Question." He texted back, "Just having you here was enough of a gift for us." He wrote back, "Tessa and are having a child."

Well, of course I wanted to tell the world because in my eyes, every baby is a celebration. But he wasn't ready for that. In fact, even as late as last week he told me I couldn't tell anyone.

But last night when I visited him in jail he told me that I could share the news.

so... here's the news, finally! The baby is due on June 13th and the doc is 95% sure it's a boy. Tessa is doing well, not drinking at all, I've made sure to have that conversation with her, and taking care of herself.

We are kind of hoping that he'll come early. Bart was born on June 9th, which was his grandmother's birthday, and his grandmother was born on her grandmother's birthday, so how cool would that be?

Grandkids truly are "beauty from ashes" in many situations but it sure is easier to deal with these kind of situations when you've had practice. This is our third time around this circle.

So it's finally out and you can congratulate me!!!!

Last Night I Went to Jail

to visit two of my sons. The visits were very different. One was with one of my sons who has been there off and on and who really doesn't like it when I blog about him. But I went with his girlfriend at his request and we actually had a very nice time. We were able to laugh and joke. He is managing about as well as he can be -- still hoping to get out in time to not get dropped from classes he started at the local tech college this semester. He was pleasant and glad I had come.

The second was with my son who I blogged about yesterday. He is scared to death, incredibly depressed, and convinced that if people knew the whole story he wouldn't be there. I wasn't necessarily kind to him -- I held his feet to the fire so to speak so that he could get real and get out of the fog of denial he is in. But I was also compassionate and tried to help him make sense out of a senseless situation.

Typically Bart has been the one to visit the jail. I have chosen not to go. But for some reason I feel like God is asking me to do this one thing for these guys and so I'm doing it. I don't know that I can do much but listen and give unsolicited advice, but I am doing that.

I am also trying to connect with their girlfriends in positive ways, which isn't difficult because I genuinely like both of them. On the way home I got a call from Courtney saying that she and Isaac had gotten into a car accident. Very scary, but they were calling from the ER and saying they were OK.

It seems like things just keep happening around here!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Upcoming Trainings in Minnesota

The MN adopt Trainings are listed here.

And in addition I'm speaking in Mankato on Saturday and in St. Cloud on the 18th in case you hadn't heard. ;-)

He's Not Just Anyone...

If you read the story in our local paper yesterday or if you saw our local news the night before or if you saw the picture on the internet, you might assume that the guy they were talking about in the most recent crime was a really horrible person. You might conclude that he must not have had good parents growing up and that he was mean and cruel and a psychopath.

You wouldn't know that he is a very gentle father. You wouldn't know that he is very loving and grateful to his parents. You wouldn't assume that he has parents who have loved him fiercely from the time he was eight years old and did everything they could to help him. You wouldn't know that the past month he has been a very good boyfriend, had found housing for himself, was working several days a week, and that his life looked like it was going to turn around.

You might assume, though the details of the crime spoke otherwise, that he had planned the event... that it was premeditated, and because he was caught first, he was the initiator. You might assume that he consciously knew what he was doing the entire time. And you would more than likely say to yourself in your mind, "I hope they throw the book at him."

You probably wouldn't guess that he was impulsive ...or considered that he might have been drunk or high. You wouldn't realize the he most likely was following someone else who was the mastermind behind the plan. You wouldn't ask if he possibly could have a brain that wasn't quite working right due to trauma as a young child.

As you read this you are probably thinking that I am defending him or trying to convince you that he shouldn't have to face legal consequences But that isn't my point. My point is that thought there are stories like this in the news every day, this time, he's not just anyone -- he's my son.

This song has been going through my mind ever since the crime happened, and here's why.

When we look from the outside in at newspaper articles, at news programs on TV, at jail rosters we have feelings that range from disgust to anger at these "losers" who are ruining our society. We can wish for serious legal consequences, not thinking about how they got where they are or how well they might have been doing.

But more than ever before I'm realizing that behind each of those faces on the jail roster website there is more than likely a mother, or other person, who loves them -- or at one point did before it got too difficult to bear. There may be years of neglect and abuse as children where society failed to protect them. They might be people who are homeless and mentally ill who can't get services because we as a society (and dare I say as a church) are failing them.

I know this post may not make everyone comfortable. But raising my kids has made me so much less judgmental of others and so much more compassionate ... because in every homeless young adult, I see one of my sons. In every inmate's eyes, I see the pain of one of my kids. In each pregnant teenager, I see my daughter. And I recognize that the people in those positions potentially have a host of people who have desperately and helplessly watched someone they love fall apart.

If you met my son, you would really like him. You would find him engaging, kind, and loving. You would see that he is a good conversationalist and likes people. You might not be able to understand why he did what he did, I don't know the answer to that either, but I pretty sure you'd think he was a nice guy had you known him before it happened. And you might be able to say, even though he is where he is, "he's not just anyone... he's my friend."