Category Archives: choices

When a parent quits

Having Pipsqueak in our home, our firstborn turning 13 recently and an ongoing family drama has made this a difficult and reflective season for me. I look at her tiny little face, her big blue eyes and sweet smile and repeatedly think, how? How does a parent just quit? I laugh with my son, his sense of humor becoming more mature – his take on life more adult-like than child-like and I am baffled again. How can any parent quit? At any age?

But parents do quit. They quit all the time.

Sometimes they really don’t have a choice. Their addiction overtakes them and they put that before the well being of any other person around them including their own children and families. Sometimes they become ill and lose their fight and leave their children through death.

But most of the time, they do choose. A woman who chooses abortion over adoption is a parent who quit. Who said, “You are not worth my effort.”

A father who walks out on his family and doesn’t fight for time with his children is quitting. He put his needs, wants and desires above that of his children and family.

Many kids who are in foster care have parents that are working hard to get them back, but there are some who’s parents do quit. They quit trying to go to the meetings, the visits, the court dates. They do not show up when things are hard and ugly.

So how do parents live with themselves? How can they just quit on their kids? And what affect does this have? Do kids really care? Do they know? We naively think that a baby won’t “know” if she’s been without her birth mother. That she won’t remember or realize.

We think older kids and teens will be fine if dad walks out. They’re almost grown, right?

Wrong. When Pipsqueak gets a little older, when she’s 10 or 12, she’s going to know. She’s going to feel that loss, she’s going to know there are unanswered questions and missing pieces of her puzzle. When that teenager is consumed with doubt and trust issues, he or she will realize, this is because dad walked out.

Even as an adult, the pain that hits you when your parent quits is a different kind of pain. It’s a rejection of who you are as a person, of your worth, your place in the world as “child”.

Last fall, my own dad decided that politics were more important than a relationship with me or my children. He decided that his right to be right was more important than love, commitment and family. It has been a hard pill to swallow.

In some of my darkest moments, God has spoken to me and He reminded me that one of the greatest times of pain and suffering for His own son came when Jesus was crying out in pain on the cross. That moment in time when he was separated from God and felt the rejection of his Father.

I do believe there is a deep cavern in all of us that can only be touched and filled by God’s spirit and love. It’s the first need.  We are made to be in harmony with our creator. Our spirits don’t rest until we find that with Him.

The second need is to be connected. We literally grow into humans inside of another human. That basic need of attachment does not leave us.

 

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
                                                                                                                  -Matthew 27:46

 

 

 

Fatty, Fatty 2 by 4

*This post is a follow up to my Social Media Fast post, if you’d like to start there.

Funny-Weight-loss-Cartoon-W630

I decided to move on to another area of my life that has been weighing me down (literally). My eating and my exercise habits (or lack thereof). I have approached these changes with a totally different attitude than I ever have. I am only drinking water and black coffee, no more sodas or tea, creamer or Frappuccinos (evil Starbucks). I was consuming a lot of sugar and crap through what I was drinking and I wanted to see if the same amount of self-discipline that allowed me to quit social media would also be there while I quit eating desserts, eating after 6:30pm and drinking sugar.

As with the social media fast, I quickly realized that this was going to be more of a psychological battle. The first challenge? Becoming obsessed with a number on the scale. So many experts out there will tell you not to worry about what the scale says. I don’t have a specific number in mind, but I do have a range I’d like to be in. And I have to make that my goal because I can’t see my own body for what it is.

When I look at myself it is all subjective. My number on the scale may be 50 pound less than the person next to me, but I still see and feel that I am too big. I know everyone may not have this problem, but I’d venture to say the majority of American women do. We are not usually pleased with our bodies, no matter what we say or project. There is a certain amount of my “give a damn” that broke when I turned 40. But I am human. I’d rather not be buying bigger sizes of clothes. I’d rather be comfortable in a swimsuit. I’d rather not look 6 months pregnant when my youngest child is about to turn 5.

So my motivation initially to make diet/exercise changes was to lose weight. But just like with the social media fast, I quickly realized with every day that passed that I was sleeping better, having fewer headaches and fewer mood swings. It’s funny how much and how long we justify our bad habits. I have had so many sweet friends over the years try to give me advice on how to better care for myself physically. Drink more water. Walk or run. Cut out most sugar. Don’t eat late. Eat more veggies. Don’t eat out.

And I appreciate every moment they took to try and help me. Unfortunately, what comes easier to some, comes very painfully to others. I DETEST exercise. I didn’t say that so plainly for many years, but it’s the truth. I didn’t play sports as a kid, the opportunities weren’t afforded me to even try. By college, my roommate was a runner and exercise science major. At that point I was about 120 pounds and thought exercise was a) BORING b) quite uncomfortable (with all that sweating) c) pointless. Then my mid-20’s hit and along with it came 5 babies in a less than 8 year span. And I grew all those babies. Like I gained all the weight and have all the stretch marks (making me regret the belly button ring I had in college).

Along with the eating changes, I do want to start walking. The three oldest kids will be running cross country this semester. I’m hoping to walk while they are practicing three times a week, IF Parker and Jonah will cooperate and walk with me.

Here’s to hoping I can continue to establish good habits, feel healthier and lose a few pounds. Without having to eat a skinny person.

Social Media Fast

Sometime in June I listened to a podcast that discussed Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. The podcast resonated with me. I often feel distracted by all the social media apps on my phone. I have turned off notifications, deleted apps, hidden people that annoy me. I realized that I was spending way too much time and putting way too much emotional energy into these gathering places. I needed a break. I have very important work to do and I was tired of being distracted and not being able to put full energy into it.

I made the decision to quit all social media for the month of July. I didn’t announce it. I just deleted 6 apps off my phone and haven’t been on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat for the past month. How has it been? 99% glorious and 1% irritating. I have realized a great deal about myself and my relationship to social media (and my phone) in the past month. For the first 6 or 7 days I found myself still mindlessly picking up my phone where I would stare at it and cycle from checking the weather, to looking at photos of my kids, to checking my email. I’d put it down after a minute or two and have to face the fact that my pacifier wasn’t giving me the instant gratification it gave me before.

The 1% irritation? I was trying to have a garage sale and I needed to hop on Facebook so I could announce that. It was a waste. I shouldn’t of even spent those 5 minutes. I made $30 at the sale. The other irritation is a genuine need to acquire information from our homeschool group or church youth group. Many of today’s groups use social media as their first and foremost mode of communication. Which is understandable. The latest statistics show that about 91% of people use Facebook on at least a weekly basis. BILLIONS of people.

What I have learned about myself is that it will be better for me to leave social media(especially FB) off my phone. I am on my computer at least once a day if I feel I “must” check it. I may have to restrict myself to certain times I’m allowed to check it. It’s too distracting.

Two weeks after starting my social media fast, I felt a different kind of peace and strength. My mind felt much more clear and focused. I decided to take that peace, strength and focus and apply it to another area of my life that needed attention. More on that in the next post.

Wishes and Obstacles

I turned 40 years old in April.

I am probably about halfway there, if I live until I’m 80.

A little backstory to my wish. When I was 8 years old my cousin, who was 6 years old, spent time with us pretty often. Things were rough at her house. My aunt had made another bad man choice and I’d say odds are pretty good that my little cousin was being abused. She was definitely being neglected. I grew up on the good side of town. But my cousin, she was on the poor side of town. The times I went to her side of town and stayed are burned in my memory. The games we played in the trailer park where we dug for treasures in the dumpster. The times we stayed outside as long as possible to stay away from her “step-dad” and all the smoking and drinking. Her mom and step-dad fought a lot. They screamed and threw things. Then as we got a little older, they had a baby. He was left next door with his grandmother for hours or days. They preferred the baby boy so my little cousin was treated even worse into her preteen years.

As I got older, my middle school, middle class attitude caused me to draw a line in the sand between myself and my cousin. She was over there with THEM. I was over here, where things were clean, quiet and comfortable.

When I left college to work in a group home filled with girls in state’s custody, I encountered more girls like my cousin. More children who had grown up not just in poverty, but were growing up with abuse, neglect and hopelessness. For every teenage girl that came through and stayed at the group home, there were a many younger siblings they had left behind. They were old enough to run away, or get in trouble so that they were removed from the home but their younger siblings were still there. Or had been scattered among foster homes.

At 23 years old, I knew that I would be a foster parent. What I really thought was that I would open my own group home. Then the state decided every child should be in a home, not an institution, so true long-term group homes have been all but eliminated. The vision, the dream, the desire I had then looked like this: A safe, stable, clean place that any child could find refuge in for as long as they needed it. This vision included meals together, chores and outings, hugs and encouragement, protection and spiritual guidance.

My belief system is anchored in the belief that God has a plan. He knew my childhood, He knew my early working years, He knows my marriage and family now. He is in control.

What I also believe is that I have to move forward with my wish. So that He can show me how the obstacles can be removed. I cannot stop moving forward because of what other people may think, because of discomfort or inconvenience. I will not stop moving forward. If God wanted me to have a different dream, He would have given me one.

My inspiration for this post came from this TED talk.

Getting ready for 2016

2016 is almost here and I’m excited!

Personally, I’ll be challenging myself to continue to add balance to my life. Somehow, when I began to have children and then decided to stay home and educate them myself, I made a dangerous trade-off.

Not only did my husband and I decide to become a one income family but I lost something much more valuable than a paycheck. I lost myself.

This is a risk for all mothers, I believe. Whether they mean for it to happen or not. Some women pride themselves in throwing their all into their children’s lives, thinking and feeling like their children and their husband should always be first and be given the focus of ALL their energy and time. I did this at first. I decided to stop pursuing a career in the social work world to instead stay home and raise my first baby boy.

I have never regretted my decision. Our family grew quickly, five babies in 7 and a half years and I was BUSY. Busy with nursing babies and changing diapers, chasing toddlers and teaching preschoolers. Busy learning how to home educate. Busy learning how to be married when the shiny and new wears off and the hard, lean, trying years crowd out romance and time together.

In all that busyness, I did forget to add in a little margin for myself. I let old friendships die, I stopped reading almost completely, I did not write my thoughts or my favorite quotes anymore. I did not go out to eat with a friend and sit and talk for hours on a regular basis. I did not ask for what I needed, I did not seek out ways I could continue to fight for children in foster care and meet the needs of a population I feel most called to help.

I let it all get lost and while I can (and have over the years) blame circumstances and my husband and others for this, the responsibility lies with me. This TED talk really sums up the gist of it. It is up to me to get what I want.

If I want to read, I need to take the time and let the people around me know that it is a priority. If I want to write, I need to do just sit down and write. I have participated in and won NaNoWriMo 2014 and 2015 and that has done wonders for me. In 2015, I challenged myself to read 48 books. I won’t make it to 48, not for lack of trying but because my spinal fusion recovery caused me to miss more reading time than I planned. I am on my 43rd book of the year so I feel like I’ve still accomplished a lot!

Deciding to fight for my health, to fight against my own fear of surgery and the feeling of “who will do it all if I’m out of commission for that long”. Making the decision to have spinal fusion surgery – that was another accomplishment for 2015.

So why I am so excited for 2016?

First, I’ll be adding a photography challenge to my current reading and writing challenges. I know NOTHING (a big, fat zero percent) about photography. All I know is that when I look at some of my talented friends’ photos, I am inspired to be creative.

My children are always asking me, “What do you get if you win?” They aren’t very impressed when I explain that I just get the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done it!

Second, I’ll be training and working as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer again. I did this for a short time when I left the Blount County Children’s Home in 2002. I am so passionate about this organization and advocating for children. I can’t wait to get started!

And last but not least, I turn 40 this year. I plan to celebrate the whole year, but so that I don’t drive everyone around me crazy, I’ll try to limit the blatant celebrating to the month of April.

Why do we do what we do?

Have you ever had therapy? Not physical therapy. Emotional therapy. Counseling?

I personally think that every individual needs counseling. I would make it mandatory before college. Then I would encourage you to go a few times during college. Definitely before marriage and several times during marriage.

I would say that couples should have counseling before starting a family, and then many times after you’ve added those children to your lives.

Maybe you’ve never been to counseling? You might have some preconceived ideas that make you a little wary of the whole process. I hate to tell you, you’re probably wrong.

First of all, if you’ve never been you may think you don’t need counseling. Well, you’re wrong. You’re messed up.

You need therapy. I’m not sure how it happened to you. You lost your favorite stuffed toy when you were 4-years-old and now you are afraid of life taking away all that is precious and secure to you.

You were locked out of the house after you came home past curfew and now you have trust issues with people in authority.

Your first boss fired you for no good reason and now you have an unhealthy compulsion to constantly prove yourself in the workplace.

Did you figure it out yet? Why do you overreact? Why do you get depressed? Why can’t you calm down? Why can’t you just sit and be bored with nothing to do without feeling like your skin is crawling?

This is why we all need therapy. Do yourself a favor and find a therapist. Go by yourself, go with your spouse, go with your kid. Whatever. The beauty is that the therapist doesn’t even have to be all that good. You’ll see. You’re the one who’s going to be doing all the hard work.

Just go. Because we seriously aren’t supposed to be able to do this all alone. There are people out there who are trained to help you get to the bottom of it. They’ll listen and they’ll talk. They’ll ask you hard questions and make you cry. They’ll compliment you and encourage you and give you great advice. Then they’ll give you really bad advice that you’ll ignore, but the advice will be so bad you’ll come up with a better solution on your own.

You’ll come away with ideas that you can continue to apply at different times in your life. Ones that help you focus and gain balance, ones that can help put everything back in perspective.

The last counselor I had gave me one of those great questions.

Ask yourself, “Why do we do what we do?”

Meaning, why are you making the choices you’re making? Why do you homeschool? Why do you work where you work? Why do you parent the way you parent? Why do you spend your money the way you spend your money? Or spend your time the way you spend your time?

If you can’t answer these questions…well, guess where you should go?

 

homeschool and public school families can’t get it right

For the past six months or so I’ve been serving in a communications role for our local homeschool support group and I started leading a “Homeschool 101” class within the same group.

Part of my job is to help those who are thinking about homeschooling or are new to homeschooling with all those first-timer questions.  Ones about which curriculum to use and where to get it, how to do all this legally, how you are supposed to actually get school work done without killing each other…and so forth and so on.

I’ve spoken to many moms and each situation, family and circumstance is so different.  Some families have always sent their kids to public school and some have always homeschooled. Some have children who aren’t even school age yet but they are planners and want to have it all figured out.

What I realized after almost an hour on the phone with one mom (who has very young kids) is that homeschooling families and public school families have more than one thing in common.  We actually have it all in common and that is, as parents, none of us know the “right” way to educate our children.

Oh, we think we do.

If we start them in the right pre-school by 18 months, fast track them to Kindergarten in a private school and start college dual enrollment by 9th grade then we are definitely doing it right.

If we never put them in daycare or pre-school and don’t start book work until they are 8 years old and feel like working on something…then we’re doing it right.

If we keep them home, teach Bible 3 times a day, eat organic and serve in our local soup kitchen once a week, then we’re doing it right.

If we send them to public school and in the afternoons sit beside them and do their homework for 2 hours each night before they are allowed to play a video game, then we’re doing it right.

We know we are.

We would never let our kids watch TV before the bus comes.

We would never send our kids to public school.

We would never homeschool.

We would never let them eat processed food.

Those people who do that are just wrong. THEY are definitely not doing it right.

Then again.

Maybe they are.

Maybe they love their kids as much as you love yours.  And maybe they do have their child’s best interest at heart.

Because I know I do, whether we spend $700 a year on curriculum or $5,000 on private school tuition, I love my children and I strive to do what’s “right” when it comes to their education and growing them into decent, God-fearing humans.

And knowing that we are all in the same boat…that none of us are actually doing it “right” takes a lot of pressure off, doesn’t it?