Every Very Long Day

It’s been a long day, with a lot to get done,

 A huge To Do list, and none of it fun. 

The dishes are piled so high in the sink,

The clothes are all dirty and some even stink. 

The children now cuddled all snug in their beds,

While I run around, half out of my head. 

And I, in my sweats, grab a broom now to sweep,

When really all I want is a good night of sleep.

When in my exhaustion I imagine an elf,

I tell him, “Go quickly and please dust a shelf!”

 Grabbing a vacuum I fly like a flash,

Cleaning the living room and picking up trash. 

The moon shining in, mocks me with glow,

There’s no time to get it done and still sleep now I know. 

But then what to my amazement comes from the mess? 

A few lost dollar bills to pay for my stress. 

Not enough for a spa or even a drink,

But enough to buy a new glass, since one broke in the sink. 

Faster than I can wipe, the dust bunnies settle,

Then I hear a message, whistling from the tea kettle. 

“Now, Mother, now Teacher! Now Cleaner and Friend!

On Daughter, On Woman with work with no end”.

To the back of the house, to the closets and more,

Clean it all, clean it all and clean it some more!” 

As the sun starts to rise for the dawn of the day,

I am more tired now than mere words can say. 

So down on the couch I sit with a thud,

Slipping to sleep and a dream about mud. 

Footprints all over the newly waxed floor,

I cry out in my slumber, I can’t take any more. 

As I pull myself up, weighed down with no sleep,

I hear a soft noise and my heart takes a leap. 

He comes down the hall, his hair all a mess,

Saying, “Mama, I poo poo”, I expected no less. 

I change him and hold him as he drifts back to sleep,

I give him a kiss on his full little cheek. 

His curls are so soft and his feet are so small,

I remember again why I am doing it all. 

His brothers are snoring so loud from their rooms,

And I treasure the sound for adulthood looms. 

All too soon these days of working so hard, 

Will lead to me sitting, in a childless yard. 

My kids will be grown and will all move away,

And I will sit and remember all of these days. 

So no matter how much I hate to clean and to cook,

And regardless of the times I chose not to look,

At the piles of magazines and unopened mail,

And the times that I listed my day as a fail,

I know I am so blessed by this life that I have,

And though some days are hard it is not at all bad. 

Laying my head down for a few quick winks,

I know life is more precious than anyone thinks.

As I finally let myself drift off to dream,

A small little tear gives my eye a slight gleam. 

And if you listen close you will hear me, as I pray

“Thank you so much, God, for every very long day”. 

Seeing Miracles

When I was little I loved to hear the Bible stories of the miracles Jesus performed during His time on Earth. The thought of “magic” healing or food falling from the sky, was just enthralling. But those kinds of miracles are not seen in this day and time. Right? Oh, but they are! And I have seen so many miracles with my own eyes.

I think the majority of mothers will tell you that their child is a miracle. There is nothing more amazing than feeling some thing…someone…grow within you. Feeling the first flutters and then movements and finally the hard kicks against you. There is no way to wrap our heads around the process of creation of a baby. But it does make you think of how amazing and all powerful God must be. And when you read Psalm 139:13-16, you become even more amazed to realize that God tells us He knits us together. He forms us before anyone even knows we exist.

Yes there are scientific explanations of cells dividing and multiplying and becoming organs and growing. But that doesn’t really explain it. Because how does that process begin? Yes, I know, the egg and sperm join and it starts the process, but where did the egg and sperm come from? Yes from the female and male but how did those develop? Who or what decided a woman needs to have eggs and a male needs to have sperm? How did someone or something “program” the cells to know what to do and what to become? Have you ever thought of the millions and millions and millions of intricate details that have to happen for a person to be formed? There is no way it was an accidental spark or Big Bang that led to the creation of the world and somehow to animals and people and plants….If it were, it couldn’t have been replicated over and over and over again through reproduction because no accident could program so many pieces that have to all fall together to make life happen.

I have seen the miracle of life through carrying and giving birth to two children. But I have also seen miracles beyond that. Some were small, every day kind of miracles that could have easily been overlooked or dismissed and some have been huge, unmistakeable miracles.

One of those big miracles happened a little over 6 years ago. My youngest son is adopted. He was placed with me through foster care when he was just 3 days old. He was an itty bitty thing and I realized fairly quickly that something was wrong. Over the first many weeks he did not interact like my other children had. He didn’t seem to make eye contact all during bottle feedings or to track anything with his eyes or even have responses such as flinching when something would come near his eyes (like 2 year old brother’s fingers when he would point to the baby’s eyes and accidentally poke him!). After a couple of months I noticed he wasn’t smiling back at me or copying me as I made faces. I knew that something was wrong. I didn’t think he could see.

I talked to my son’s pediatrician about my concerns and she tried to assure me that everything was probably fine but humored me and sent us to an ophthalmologist who quickly confirmed he was completely blind. He didn’t even react at all to lights. There was nothing. His eyes themselves seemed fine and healthy. His optical nerves were there and fine. The doctor said it was a brain issue. He was diagnosed with Cortical Vision Impairment (CVI). And the doctor didn’t know if he would ever gain his sight.

I should mention at this point that I grew up learning sign language and was very involved in the Deaf community from a young age. I had a degree in Deaf Education and was a highly certified interpreter for the deaf. But blindness?? I had never been around anyone with significant vision loss. Still, I felt a peace. When I said ok and didn’t seem upset and even told the doctor that I didn’t think this would be permanent, I think he assumed I was in denial. He was a Christian doctor and I remember praying with him that day before we left.

I immediately went home and researched what things I needed to do to make it easier for the baby to connect with us. I started talking to him before I would touch him or pick him up. I made sure he was close to me and could hear my heart beat by wearing him in a sling. I bought toys that were recommended for children with vision issues. I talked constantly around him so he would know he wasn’t alone. And I just accepted that this was something that I needed to learn about so I could support his needs, either long term or short term. But I still never felt concerned.

The doctor had referred us for an MRI of his brain to see if they could determine the extent of brain issues that were causing the blindness and that could potentially cause other issues. Because he was with me in foster care, biological mom had to give permission for the procedure which would require that he be put to sleep. He was only 3 months old at the time, so there were some increased risks with anesthesia. His biological mom came the day of pre-op and they explained the procedure and that she would need to sign paperwork the following morning when the procedure was to be done. The next day she didn’t show. Because she was not there to approve it they could not proceed. I called the caseworker and I was given the authorization to approve the procedure but after talking to the anesthesiologist, I declined because of the risks with putting him under at such a young age. This was not a medical emergency that I felt warranted that risk.

A couple of weeks after the cancelled MRI appointment, he went with his brother for the supervised visit with mom during which he was abducted, which I have written about in a separate post. The very next day, after this traumatic and emotional event, he started reacting visually. I first noticed it seemed he was beginning to react to lights. Then he was reacting to any visual stimulus. And very quickly he was starting to track my movements and make sustained eye contact. It was truly amazing. No one believed it at first. I called the ophthalmologist and made another appointment. A little over a month after he was taken we went in and stunned the doctor. He was seeing. He was responding. And everything was happening much more quickly and completely than the doctor had seen with other CVI patients. It was almost like that intense time of shock and trauma somehow powered that part of his brain to life. The doctor was amazed. I told him I knew it was a miracle and shared my belief of what happened.

As I mentioned he was in foster care when he was placed with me. I already had his older brother who was 2, and had gotten brother when he was just 2 days old. We had gone through many times of changing from reunification to the adoption track and then back to reunification and back again. It had been grueling on all of us. I believe that God’s plan in this baby being blind was that it could be used to support termination of biological mom’s rights because she could not safely take care of two children, especially if one had special needs. The system and the courts knew this. God was making a way to end the back and forth games and to lead the courts to terminate her parental rights because she was not able to provide for their needs. But when she used her free will to abduct the boys and run with them, that part was no longer needed. The events that happened would lead to her being sentenced for child stealing and eventually giving up parental rights. There was no reason for the blindness to continue. That baby is now 6 1/2 years old and sees every little piece of fuzz on the carpet. He doesn’t even need glasses. Yes, he has some delays which are likely a result of suspected and admitted drug use in utero (which could have been the reason for the CVI), but even those challenges do not slow this little boy down.

You can explain things away however you want, but for things to happen the way they did at the time they did… that was a miracle. There is no other way to describe it. I believe miracles happen all around us each day. There are big things that happen like the creation of child and the healing of the blind, but there are small miracles around us, as well, if we take time to notice.

Small miracles come in the form of a person giving you a message you need at just the time you need it. It can be a smile that cheers you up when you are feeling down. It can be an unexpected financial gain. Miracles happen all the time but may go unnoticed. They are all those little things that you just can’t explain. The things we tend to call “luck”. It’s not luck. It is a direct blessing from God. It is a little miracle just for you.

Take time to appreciate the miracles that are in your life. They are there. They are little hugs from your Heavenly Father who wants to remind you that He is in charge and that He loves you. And that is the biggest miracle of all.

When It Catches Up

“You definitely have PTSD.”

I wasn’t surprised. But hearing a medical professional confirm it stunned me. I hadn’t even expected to do a questionnaire on mental health when I went in to the doctor today. But there it was and I answered honestly. Even though I knew what answers would get a better rating for depression and anxiety and PTSD. I answered yes to having frequent nightmares. For disrupted sleep. For avoiding certain things or places that trigger memories. All of the things that I had tried not to think about for myself over the last 4 years. But I wasn’t in denial out of choice. I was in denial because I was a mom on auto pilot more focused on my younger kids who had gone through so much in their short little lives, that I hadn’t even taken a moment to self reflect on how things impacted me.

A day later, and I am faced with PTSD again, this time with one of my older children. I always think they had a pretty typical upbringing but when I really take time to reflect I realize they went through a lot as well. This son had a horrific accident a couple of years ago in which he hit a man who intentionally jumped in front of his car, while he was driving in Tulsa. He believes that he killed the man. We don’t know for sure what happened. The police told him it was not his fault. They took his statement and told him there was nothing else to do. He was not given a citation. He was just told to go home and that he would have to get his car fixed. My son has nightmares and thinks about this man constantly. There is no way to get closure because there’s no one that can tell him if that young man survived. And would it help him to know if he didn’t? I truly believe that if the man had passed from his injuries it would have been on the news. That is what I have used to reassure him. And I thought he was doing okay with it all. Until last night. Last night that darkness of fear and doubt and bad dreams and avoidance all caught up to him.

PTSD is expected for soldiers in combat. It is more understood in this arena than in civilian life. I think there are so many of us who walk around with the weight of events bearing down on us and we think it is “normal”. But when it covers you in darkness and depression, when it haunts your dreams and pops up into your mind at random times or there are things that trigger a physical reaction from your body and brain’s memories of events, it is NOT normal. It is time to ask for help.

For me, my primary source of help and strength comes from my belief in a loving God who is there to help me bear the weight of my pain. He never promised that humans, even Christians, would be free from hurt and tragedy and trauma. See John 16:33. He even says we WILL see trouble. But He tells us that we can have peace even in these times because he has overcome the world. In Isaiah 40:31, He tells us that He will give us strength and endurance if we will rely on Him. These truths give my soul, heart, body, and mind peace. I BELIEVE these words to the depths of my soul. Not just because someone told that to me in church. Or because I read it in the Bible. I believe it because I have experienced it. Over and over. And though I am continuing to work through the effects of trauma I have been through, and though I struggle at times (because I am human), I know that God is there helping me through it.

I don’t know that my son has the same confidence that I have developed over the years. It took me many times of feeling desperately alone and fearful before I fully understood that God was there beside me in those stormy moments and not just in the sunny days and miracles. But my prayer is that through the experiences he has had and that my other children have had, they will come to realize the truth: Their Father in Heaven loves them and has good plans for them.

PTSD won’t define me. It won’t define my boys. It will be a piece of the testimonies we each have of the way God has loved us and helped us through devastating times. And maybe our stories of healing will give hope to others who are now battling the invisible foe we have known.

For a Time

Me with my Buggy boy when he was about 15 months old.

I don’t think anyone steps into fostering or adoption lightly. I also don’t think most people step into foster care or adoption truly understanding what is involved. Such was the case for me and my family. I was a single mom of two boys, ages 10 and 12. I had been divorced for about 7 years and was a Deaf Education teacher at a public elementary school. I had arrived at the conclusion that my Happily Ever After man had taken a wrong turn and perhaps had an unfortunate accident involving quicksand that had postponed his arrival in my life (though I STILL hold out hope that he is very slowly making his way free and will show up one day!). Things were calm. My children were at the age that they could be alone, if needed. They didn’t need me to look over their shoulder all of the time, though I was still an involved parent. They were great students and life was pretty easy. Other than my second son having constant bouts of asthma and sinus issues, things were predictable and stable. And what do you do when things become predictable and stable? Well you mix it all up a little, of course!

My best friend had fostered a little boy a year or so before and my sons were really taken with the whole idea of taking care of a little one. My parents had fostered when I was 5 and I had memories of two preteen girls living with us for awhile. My memories were of them screaming at my parents and running away often, so I had never really considered fostering until then. But after about a year of my boys talking about wanting a baby brother or sister, and talking to me about fostering, I started to consider it. I wasn’t sure where to begin because when my friend fostered it was a kinship placement of a child she already knew. I did not know of any children needing a safe place to stay. I started by calling a local Christian foster care organization which told me that they only place children with traditional, two parent families. So next I called DHS. They told me they welcome single parents and gave me information on the process. I thought about it and prayed about it and talked to my children about how how hard it would be because we would get a child and then have to say goodbye when he or she went back to their family. In the end, the three of us agreed this was something we wanted to try. I knew I wanted to limit the age range to birth to 2 years of age because I didn’t want them to have a lot of traumatic issues or memories that might be more difficult to handle, or a lot of hard to handle behaviors. (Oh, how much I didn’t know!). Over the next few months I completed the required classes, we went through the background check and home study, turned in our clean bills of health from the doctors, and then we were approved. The boys and I were excited and immediately got a crib and set up a room.

When you go through the application process you are able to specify an age range and list what disabilities or other needs you are able to handle. While I chose 0-2 years with no large medical needs, I quickly learned they would still call to ask about children outside of those areas as well. The first call I got from DHS was asking if I would take a 7 year old who had cancer. I knew that was not something we could handle emotionally and that the care needed and medical needs would be too great, so I declined. The next call was for a 4 year old with severe special needs and medical needs. Again, I knew this was not something I could do. The third time I got a call that a newborn was going into care. It was summer, and I was out of school for the next 6 weeks, so I said yes. The next day I met the caseworker at the hospital. I walked into the newborn nursery, and after signing placement papers, was handed a sweet little baby boy. It was an indescribably strange feeling to walk into the hospital and then walk out, taking home another woman’s baby.

I knew that my role as a Bridge Resource foster parent was to help biological mom learn the skills she needed to be reunited with this baby and, in order to support this goal, I supervised visits between mom and the baby several times per week. I showed her how to make bottles and change diapers and how to calmly hold him when he cried. Most of the time I just watched her hold him and talk to him and show him off to various friends and family who would always show up during the visit times.

The older boys and I talked often about the reality that we were just taking care of the baby for a time, and then he would return to be with his mom in a couple of months. I wanted to prepare them and myself for that emotionally, because we were already so in love with this little one. We talked about how fostering is just for a short time and then you send them back and another comes and you do it all over. I was right about some of that, but we had no idea our story with our little “Buggy Boy” was just beginning.

Taken

“I am so sorry to have to leave this as a voice message, but during the visit this morning she took the kids and we don’t know where they are. Call me as soon as you can.”

I don’t think I will ever forget those words. Or where I was when I heard them. It was October 19, 2012. I was at the local extension of the state university I was attending, working on a project for grad school. My two older boys were with me, just hanging out in the sitting area because they were out of school for Fall Break. The ringer on my phone had been turned off because phones were not allowed to be used in the computer lab where I was working. I had dropped my little ones off at daycare that morning with the goal of completing my project and then hanging out with my older boys for awhile, so I was trying to focus and get the needed work finished.

I didn’t know the caseworker had tried calling me, then my parents, before leaving that message for me. I didn’t know my grandma had talked to him when he called my parents’ house and that she had tried to call me, too, and then had called my oldest son’s cell phone. It was only when he came in to get me and told me to call my grandmother because “something was wrong” that I saw the missed call.

I called my grandma first, thinking something had happened to one of my parents. She just told me that the caseworker had called trying to get ahold of me and that I needed to call him immediately. I hung up and listened to the voice mail message from the caseworker.

My mind immediately went into emergency mode when I heard what he said. I called him back and got the information that during a supervised visit with their biological mom, the little boys were taken, by biological mom and uncle–they had grabbed the children and run to a waiting car and sped off. The police were there but were refusing to issue an Amber alert. Even though I was the one with custody of the boys through foster care and she was not to have any unsupervised visits. Even though the case aide who worked for DHS transporting the boys to and from their supervised visits and the DHS caseworker were there telling them that this was an abduction. Even though DHS provided written proof. By then they had been gone almost 2 hours.

I hung up the phone and told my older boys all I knew. And then I sank to the floor, shaking, with tears steaming down my face. These boys were 2 years old and 3 months old. They had both been with me since birth. I was the mom they knew. We were the family they knew. A connection had never been made between them and biological mom. The older boy cried every time he was taken for visits.

I prayed. Then I got up and began to gather our things so we could head to the apartments where the caseworker and police were gathered. Or to drive around and look for them. Something. Anything. I couldn’t just sit there and wait.

As I was packing my bags so we could leave, I called my parents to let them know what was happening and as soon as I hung up my phone rang again. The caseworker told me that a cousin of biological mom had come by and had agreed to try to help find them. She had been able to get ahold of mom and was trying to talk her into returning with the boys. By the time we got down to our car I got another call that the cousin was on her way to meet mom and had gotten her to agree to give the kids to her to bring back as long as no police came. The police had agreed. I was told to wait for another call so they could tell me what happened next and where to go.

Waiting felt like torture. Every second that passed I wondered if the boys were ok. If mom took them she must have been desperate. Just how desperate was she? What if she decided if she couldn’t have them, no one could? She had said that to me once in a phone conversation. Did she mean it? I prayed for her to release them unharmed.

The minutes passed…my body was shaking from fear and adrenaline. These babies were as much a part of my family as my older biological boys, who sat silent and worried in the car with me. These were their baby brothers who they played with and held and helped feed. At 12 and 14 they knew this was a serious thing and they were mad and scared and in shock, just like I was.

Finally the phone rang. The cousin had the kids. She was taking them there to the apartments where the police and DHS workers were gathered. . I could meet them there. She was close so she would probably beat me there.

When I pulled in to the apartments several police cars were parked with their lights on. Their car doors were open. My heart caught in my chest fearing the worst. I pulled up and the counselor who had been working with us and who had been supervising the visit before the abduction happened, came to me immediately.

“They are ok. They are here,” she said. Everything else seemed to fade into the background as I exhaled in relief.

I got out of the car quickly and went to the boys. I don’t even remember now where they were or who was holding them All I remember is neither of them were reacting to my voice as I talked to them. My usually sweet, bubbly 2 year old, who chased me around saying, “Mommy! Mommy!” all day wouldn’t even make eye contact with me. The baby, who we had just found out was completely blind a few weeks before, just laid there, too, not interacting. I asked the counselor and police if they knew if they had been given anything that would make them so out of it. And then was told to take them to the emergency room to have them checked out. To see if they had been given drugs of any kind. To see if they had any injuries or any kind. It all felt so unreal.

The next couple of hours were a blur. I think i remember the counselor coming with us when I took them to the children’s ER, but memories are funny when you have gone through something traumatic and there are holes in my memory. I remember at the hospital tests were run to rule out drug exposure. The children were checked for any signs of physical or sexual abuse. No drugs were in their system. There were no obvious places of injury. They said the children were lethargic from exhaustion and they had probably been scared and crying during all or most of the almost 4 hours of the ordeal. I was told they were fine to go home. There wasn’t anything wrong that they could see. I was so thankful.

But what I soon discovered was it’s what you can’t see that effects you the most. Now, 6 years later, there are still invisible scars. For the little boys, for the older boys, and for me, and even for biological mom, those scars may fade but they will never fully go away. I have learned, though, that even in those scars, there is beauty. God has continued to show us His goodness as we have moved forward from that day. And He has worked true miracles, even through that scary experience.

(Image from pexels.com)

Welcome!

Thanks for joining me!

Some days we live in what I call “survival mode”–our only goal is to make it through the day and to bedtime. Maybe we are so overwhelmed or over-extended that all we can do is get through the day. It’s too much to do laundry or dishes or even cook dinner. Or maybe it’s because we are going through a season of struggle that is stretching us thin and keeping us up at night with worry. Regardless of the reason, it is not healthy to continue stuck in survival mode for long. It effects us physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

God wants us ALL to thrive, not just to survive, in spite of all of the challenges the world throws our way. So how do we get there? I believe it is by sharing our experiences, supporting each other, and by lifting each other up when we are struggling. It is by understanding that we all face struggles, heartache, loss, and pain, but knowing that we can take the lessons we learn during the “I-just-have-to-make-it-through-today” days and learn how to thrive. And it is by being real with ourselves and facing truths we might rather hide.

In this blog I will share some stories of my “survival days” and the transformation that has happened as a result of these trying times. I firmly believe that each struggle I have faced (and will face) forces growth that encourages me to thrive and become the woman God created me to become. I will share some stories that are yet unfinished, as well. We all have room to grow and change and I hope that by sharing my experiences in a transparent way, my words will calm another worried or overwhelmed or hurting heart, and will somehow help the reader to move beyond just surviving, into THRIVING!

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