While working on an Instagram post in mid-April, I realized that I don’t simply talk about what brings me joy.

I talk a lot about what I am doing and how things affect me or even some bigger issues like mental health, foster care, or infertility. But talking about what brings me joy… Somehow I have skipped over this topic A LOT.

Like so many people, I get caught up in all the other things of my life and feeling like I have to share my BIG opinions one life’s major issues that I forget about the little every day things. I haven’t shared a recipe post with family memories in such a long time or even one of my poems, both things that bring me joy. Yes, these things bring me joy but they are not perhaps simple joys.

The picture in this post brings me joy. Every time I look at it my heart swells and a smile creeps across my face. It’s love, time and energy that went into creating the moments before I took the photo and the memory of how I felt that day and every day after when I saw the flowers.

These are the flowers some of the kiddos in my life picked from the yard knowing that I love wildflowers, buttercups specifically, and that it makes me sad when I have to mow the yard, and yes mow over the flowers. I have left out a watering can so the kiddos can pick the flowers before they get mowed, a task they seem to love and enjoy doing.

Following their flower picking, I get to enjoy the flowers every time I leave or enter the house, or even when I am just sitting for a moment on the porch watching the world go by. They make me smile. Now I get to enjoy the feeling from the picture as well.

Picking the flowers brings the kiddos joy. My heart is full from this picture ❤️💗❤️

In a dream, one of my godsons was asking how do you keep a girl as a friend from childhood through to adulthood and this was my reply…

Give respect repeatedly
And share the power

In the dream I even pulled out some pre-made buttons and stickers for him and his brother with this as a slogan on it as if I was preparing them for some kind of rally. Maybe it was the “rally” of life… Then the dream changed and I woke up.

Isn’t it marvelous how sometimes our dreams have much better wording than our reality?

Seriously though, keeping friends and figuring out a way to respect others is a sentiment that I have tried to share with my godsons about how we have to give respect to those we care about. I want them to be able to give the same kind of respect to girls that they give to their friends that are boys. At this age they don’t really know about any great gender divide.

Well, I hope they don’t.

In our house we watch Vampirina as much as we watch Goosebumps. While I know that society as a whole would say one is a girl show and the other is a boy show, Rent-a-Dad and I don’t see it that way. We watch shows based on our interests. The hope therefore is that our godsons will grow up treating everyone equally. I know that at some point I may have to have a more gender specific talk about friends and how to keep them, but until then…

To keep friends from childhood through to adulthood… care about your friends including their likes and dislikes, give respect, share the power, that if we want to keep friends we can’t care about just winning (they are 5&6- winning means a lot), and be nice.

They are young so I don’t expect that they are instantly going to get it and some days it feels like I am a broken record. I hope, like all parents, that they can learn by my example.

Last week on Facebook and Instagram I asked what everyone was planning on doing with their eggs after the weekend.

I seriously and genuinely wanted to know. For a couple of years I have listened to a few mom’s talk about how they helped their kiddos dye dozens and dozens of eggs just to throw all of them away. The first time I heard that I was a bit taken aback. Really? Have we as a society gotten to the point of throw away society that we are just making things up for fun and then throwing them away? It has left me with mixed feelings over the whole egg dyeing business of Easter. And don’t get me started on other holidays with what appears to be throw-away traditions (for Halloween we have always made use of our pumpkin for more than just a decoration).

As a kid, my mom had plans for our dyed eggs post egg hunt. Egg salad, potato salad with hard boiled egg, pickled eggs, deviled eggs… And even snacks/breakfast with a plain hard boiled egg. My dad looked forward to the dishes my mom had planned but also so he could get one or two lunches packed with a hard boiled egg. Years later, I am the only adult in our household who eats any of these dishes created from hard boiled eggs.

So what do I do? Do I suffer from egg overload? Do I throw the eggs away as I have heard other families do who have distaste for egg dishes?

Honestly… We try to participate in egg hunts that involve reusable plastic eggs. Any real dyed eggs we keep down to a few so deviled eggs can be made and shared with extended family who love them too.

So what kind of response did I receive when asked about what others would be doing with their eggs? My favorite answer was one I hadn’t heard in years…

Plan ahead and make scramble eggs. Poke holes in the top and bottom of the eggs and blow out the yolk (saving for later). Then rinse/dry the shells in advance. That way the kids could decorate them anyway they saw fit and could even save them to appreciate later. Since then I have even seen a few gadgets that would help with this process.

What happens when all you have ever wanted in life turns out to be someone else’s joke?

For me it has meant turning around and moving on with my plans. While that sounds pretty simple, easy and straight forward it generally feels anything but.

Sadly, I think we all have someone in our lives that is a pessimist, perhaps it is also someone who gaslights1 to some extent. For me this was the case. I had a family member who always knocked (gaslighting) what I had to say and what I wanted to do from ballet (that’s for wusses) to the migraines I had (that’s just something made up in your head).

This person would tell you he was trying to challenge me because what I wanted to do/be just wasn’t right for me and that I needed to think harder and be better. I grew up believing a lot of what was said, including that I was never good enough. Having a huge amount of self-doubt, I am sure meant I came off as a bleeding fish in a tank of piranha. I appeared weak to others whether I was truly weak or not because I believed I was less than.

Even though I believed I was insignificant, I still tried as hard as I could to live with the gusto I felt in my heart. I didn’t give up ballet. Being reminded that I danced before I could walk fueled the fire in my heart that I knew dance was meant to be a part of my life. Even when I got a bit chunky as a pre-teen (thank you baby fat taking forever to go away) I still persisted because I felt that dance was how I was meant to express myself. What ended up smashing my dream of being a ballet dance wasn’t my ever-increasing ample bosom, no it was a freak accident and a broken ankle. Multiple doctors told me I would need pins/rods and dancing (full-stop) was out of the question.

My third “opinion” was my family doctor and we went with what he said. No pins or rods but rest and yeah ballet was out of the question but dance wasn’t. My family doctor told me that I would never wear toe shoes as a professional because all that pressure and hard work that was needed, and he knew I could do, would cripple me. Instead he encouraged me to try other forms of dance and see if something else sparked (ignited) the fire within me the way ballet did. In High school I tried modern dance and loved it. Not enough to pursue it as a career but enough to continue my life-long love of dance and realize that even if I didn’t become a professional dancer, dance was still in my soul and nothing would stop that.

I wish I could tell you that this story of gaslighting and being someone’s joke was a one off. That this family member learned the errors of his ways or was not a part of my daily life growing up but that wasn’t what happened. The gaslighting continued and didn’t really stop, not even now as an adult. I have heard things like “I told you that you couldn’t do that”2 when what was said was that this person could never do what I do; and worse “If I had that condition, I would just kill myself” knowing that I battle with a hidden disease that could steer me towards the condition we were talking about. No, the gaslighting has not stopped and in some cases has just gotten worse as the years have gone on. This person still treats me as if I have no value or worth in the world. 

Growing up, what helped was having supportive parents who tried to remind me I had worth no matter what others said. While I have better control over what I listen to and how it impacts me, the gaslighting and toxicity still exists. As an adult, distance has been the best way to combat the hold and influence this person has over me. Having a good support network helps too. Even when self-doubt rears its ugly head, I know I can turn to friends and other family members that will be honest with me about my fears.

My life may be a joke to this family member, or to a million strangers, but that doesn’t mean I should just stop what I always wanted or even dreamed of doing. While we should always evaluate what we want to pursue (such as a pros and cons list), how others see us and value (or devalue) us should not be part of that consideration. We all have worth, something we are good at, and just because someone else doesn’t see that worth does not take it away or make it non-existent.

While the formula of “what makes us successful” has been defined by hard work (or capabilities) + luck, I personally have always thought we define our own success. If what makes me successful is having a happy life then it doesn’t matter if I am not rich, have no powerhouse job, no mansion… because I am defining my own success. Success to me is having a roof over my head, food in fridge (that I like) and people I love and care about in my life.

What do I do when someone makes a joke of what makes me happy?

I smile.

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1.In another recent post I talk about my childhood trauma and gaslighting fits in to that trauma.

2. This specific conversation referred to here was about fostering.

Fostering is something I always wanted to do since I was a child. As a teenager wondering about life and love, I wasn’t sure I would find a life partner that would share this dream but I was lucky. Rent-a-Dad may not have grown up with the thought of fostering but my passion inspired him and became a dream he wanted to share with me.

When the potential to foster was mentioned to our family members we received mixed reviews but mostly encouragement to see where it led us. The family member involved in this conversation fit into the skeptical but encouraging box (or so I thought) but that is not what happened. This family member was waiting until Rent-a-Dad and I failed so he could point out just what an awful idea we had.

The interesting thing is I don’t think foster parents “quit” or “stop” because they failed. I think foster parents get burned out, need breaks, and don’t always know how to cope because support systems just don’t know how to handle the trauma foster parents go through.

In our situation this family member told us we failed because we were still involved in the lives of three former foster children. The system has seen this as a success not a failure. We see this as a success because these children get the best of all worlds and haven’t had to say goodbye to anyone that has an impact on their lives.

Another point that was made was that our grieving over the reunification of the children we have fostered for any length of time just is not normal. Therefore, once again we are failures as foster parents.

There is no one way to foster. Grieving is a part of the process. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. The key here is to remember those who wish us to fail will find fault with anything. Gaslighters can pick the smallest of details and try to get you to focus on that one small narrow view. This way they can get a toe hold on changing your view to how they want you to see things.

How does one survive chaos, or rather trauma*?

How does one move past the bits of life that you so desperately want to leap over? 

These are just a few of the many questions I have been asking myself for going on two years. 

For me it is no secret as to why our blog posts have slowed down to near non-existent. It hasn’t just been a combination of bad timing, a heavy work load, and kids. I suffered a traumatic blow to the structure of my life as well as the resurfacing of childhood trauma I had packaged tightly away. Nor was it just one small change that undermined life as I knew it or the addition of multiple small new things. Rather it was the culmination of big life changes, bad timing, kids, and trauma all at once.

Still I tried to keep up an appearance of life just tossing lemons my way and me trying to figure out how to juggle them.

The appearance of holding my life together helped keep me moving forward without feeling truly lost. But lost is how I felt when no one was looking.

I knew that I couldn’t maintain our blog while I felt so lost. Rent-a-Dad was busy with helping pick up the slack in other areas of our life that blogging was the last thing on his mind.

While I didn’t give up writing in general (journals, poems… starting a family cookbook) I felt like anything I shared on our blog was somehow tainted by what I was experiencing, and feeling. More than a few times I would start to write a blog post but either I didn’t finish; they felt non-authentic; I felt like my writing style/voice wasn’t represented; and worse… they all felt either too emotional or very watered down. Suddenly I felt like what I had to share had no value. I was struggling with the topics that I felt comfortable making contributions to as well as with feeling what I had to say was relevant, and the thought that I was a fraud (as if suddenly I was “less than” and unworthy to write/share).

Instead of burying myself in writing and coming out the other side through self-expression in blogging, I felt further lost. So, I put blogging on hold, always the thought in the back of my head of returning when I felt more like me.

I needed to find myself.

Looking back, it hasn’t been a journey about finding what I lost. I know what was lost and what changed me. The journey was really about finding a new “normal”/way of life that I could be comfortable with, and found joy in.

Suffering trauma was not new to me. The new factor that spun me around and rocked my foundation was drastic shift in my support system. This shift caused me a lot of pain, both physically and mentally. I was questioning everything I was doing including how much worth I had. 

For all mental health professionals, I am sure this is setting off alarms.

Between good friends and a supportive spouse, I knew I needed help. I talked to my doctor about my physical health and sought counseling from a mental health professional as well as from our pastor so I was taking care of my mental and spiritual health as well.

After a few counseling visits, my diagnosis was given and I wasn’t surprised. I knew I was depressed. Also that I have severe anxiety issues and lived with high amounts of stress. The only thing that really surprised me was being diagnosed with PTSD and that the counselor felt this was something I was living with since my childhood trauma. That the new traumatic event and shift in my support network was making me re-live some childhood trauma that had never really been addressed.

To the world at large I was still presenting a good face while inside I felt like my world was crumbling. Seeking help was what I needed to do. It made me feel better talking about what was happening and the ways I was trying to move forward. My counselor didn’t even feel I needed any kind of medicine to help me move forward. For me that was a relief on several levels but mainly that there is a history of alcoholism in my family tree, and therefore always a fear in my head of a hereditary gene for addiction.

Were there hiccups in all this? Yes, yes, and yes.

For months I only shared my journey with a select few. I had a hard time reaching out and confirming my new support network/structure.

Some close family wanted to call me crazy, messed up and worse. These specific family members were not interested in me as a person getting better let alone the length of time it might actually take. Sadly many people apply a pre-conceived idea of how long they think it will take someone to heal… Healing doesn’t work that way. We all heal differently and in our own time.

No one seeking to better themselves should ever be put down. 

Another truth, I owe no one an explanation into what caused my depression or what traumatic event set off my PTSD. Does not mean I didn’t, or don’t, want to talk about it. I am just a bit more closed off right now then I have ever been in my life. I am protecting myself better, and re-learning who I can/can’t trust; how that looks; and how that feels.

The problem that has existed with some family members is that because I have always appeared to be an open book with others, I was suddenly expected to continue with the same level of openness with the very people who caused the trauma. Those family members were not very happy with the boundaries I was trying to set into place and may never be happy with these boundaries, but they are necessary.

In addition to affirming my new support network and setting up boundaries, it has also been important to recognize the toxic people in my life, what their toxicity looks/feels like, and learning how to section that off from my daily life. Doing all of that while trying to keep pace with kids and other parts of my life has been a challenge.

Some days moving forward is not as easy. I have my setbacks and am still re-learning who I can lean on and for what. Even at the worst point of struggling with depression I still smiled and found joy. What I needed help with was not feeling ALL the feelings ALL the time. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but in my case time, and talking about my problems, has helped me find my perspective again. And in time, in finding my new normal, I am hoping my voice will reemerge.

My backstory and Take-Away:

In college I was blessed with having a good group of friends who openly talked about mental health. It wasn’t something to be shied away from, packaged up or hidden. I went to college in a small Midwestern town and because of the location many of the student body dealt with seasonal depression. January through March were some of the hardest months to deal with for seasonal depression. Not only do those months follow the holidays/joyous times with family/friends, but it also meant a return to school life. For many that alone brought on a heavy sadness. Added to that were wintry conditions that meant staying inside more and evening/nighttime descended upon us by 5pm. Many of us would enter the dining hall on the last few glimmers of sunshine, when it was present, and exit on full darkness. Talking about mental health was important to our daily life.

Leaving college, I found that mental health was not something people easily or readily talked about. It was once again something to be buried away, hidden, stigmatized… People couldn’t be depressed without the worry of being involuntarily committed for a psych evaluation. People fear how others will perceive them as if they are less or not worthy. Fear is as powerful as depression (perhaps more so) as it can hold someone hostage in their own personal hell incapable of seeking help.

Mental health should not be treated that way. The stigma needs to go. We all need to be set free from the fear of others knowing about hidden diseases and hidden struggles.

Everyone suffers from trauma and loss at some point in their life. It is why there are support groups. Counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists are there to help be sounding boards so we know that what we are feeling does not drive us to isolation and darker places. Mental health should not be boxed up and hidden away. It needs to be taken from dark places and light to be shown on it.

We all have our struggles. Talking about those struggles in safe places is what helps us move forward and be over all healthier people.

While everyone at some point feels that they are struggling alone, none of us are without struggles.

Reaching out is hard. If you are in a good place don’t forget to check in on your friends to see how they are doing. Reaching out does go both ways. If you aren’t in a good place don’t suffer alone…


To learn more about the crisis text line, click here

And remember… emotional distress doesn’t mean you are thinking about suicide right this minute, you could just feel isolated, alone, like you have no one to turn to and not sure what your next step should be… but it’s no reason to keep it all caged inside. Feeling isolated and alone can feel like a personal hell with no end in sight. A problem shared can make someone feel like their load is lightened so they can make clearer decisions. I have been reminded recently that humans are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. Call. Share. Lighten your load.

I have been reminded recently that humans are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. Call. Share. Lighten your load.

A problem shared can make someone feel like their load is lightened so they can make clearer decisions. I have been reminded recently that humans are not meant to suffer alone or in silence. Call. Share. Lighten your load.

* Keep in mind, trauma takes on many forms from the loss of a loved one, having to make an unexpected move (residence, schools, even jobs) to surviving events like a robbery or sexual assault. Trauma doesn’t take on one simple form like being a survivor of a war but can also mean you survived your own personal battles that have left you traumatized.

While holding my fifteen year old cat last week, I snuggled him, cuddled him, and rubbed his belly just as I’ve done since he was a kitten when a sad thought came to mind. I am closer to the end of his life than to the beginning. One day, a lot sooner then I ever want to come, there’s going to be a time in which I won’t get to do any of this so I ignore the slightly old smell that he’s not cleaned himself quite so well like he used to, that his fur isn’t nearly as shiny or new and I held him close anyway and loved on him just the same. In that moment I knew that unless something happens to me that I will have loved my fur baby from cradle (he has been with us since he was 8 weeks old) to grave.

When you love something like that, no-matter the relationship, it changes you. Some people can’t handle that change and gracefully (or, not) back away when they need to and other people hold on a little bit tighter, kiss a little bit harder, love a little bit longer knowing all the while that they have been graced with this gift of being involved in another’s life no matter how long or short. I think about that term “cradle-to-grave” and what that means to me. Blessed and honored are the feelings I have. Also, there is hurt. I hurt for the future that I know is inevitable. A time where my kitty won’t be there. I hurt just as much for that time as I hurt for the babies Rent-a-Dad and I were never able to hold.

Somewhere in all this thought is another, a connection to a Japanese tradition of when a bowl or cup breaks that instead of just throwing away the pieces they fill in the cracks with gold (Kintsugi). And I think about what that means for me in terms of my blessing and how cracked I feel at this time. That how even when I feel cracked/broken there is a bit of grace to be found there. That I don’t have to feel there is a need to throw away the broken pieces. I don’t need to package them up in a box and shove them on a shelf. What I can do is let the gold fill in the cracks and hold it all together. Because I know these cracks exist and are a part of who I am. That by letting the gold (the grace, the love) fill in those cracks, that I am honoring what has happened, my part in it, and I am still letting the love wash over me and surround me. It also lets me know that there is still love out there in the world with animals and children and people who need and want my love. Whether that is for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. I’m going to take that opportunity when I have it and I’m going to let that gold fill in my cracks. I am going to let that love pour in and share that love.

Yes, I am going to love a little bit longer, hold a little bit tighter, and hopefully be stronger while I feel gracefully cracked.

Today is December 27, 2018. I always think of the in-between space for the holidays as being the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The time jam packed with one holiday right after another from Hanukkah and Solstice to Christmas and Kwanzaa; and many more that I can not even bring to mind. For many Christians this short time between Christmas and New Years is a bit like a holiday coma, or that is how I have heard it described this week.

For me this time was always meant to be a catch-up time. Time to catch up with friends and family; a time to sit back and enjoy the moments before the new year takes over; a time to make sure the New Year’s meal is planned and bought for; and ultimately a time of reflection. This year really has been no different. Sure, I am sad and hurting still from the loss of my mom and that is playing a big part of my reflection, but I am also reflecting on who I have been, how I have grown and where I see myself headed. It is something I do every year right before New Year’s.

This year a big portion of my reflection has been sitting on family traditions. Since truly starting my own family (apparently until kids are involved people don’t take you as seriously in saying “my own family” or feelings get bent out of shape), I have been trying to figure out what traditions mean to me, to Rent-a-Dad and ultimately to the children in our lives. It has been this give and take of “yours, mine and ours” between all of the adults involved. There are birth parents and families as well as our own family and our own traditions to sort through.

In the past six years the biggest part of any tradition for all of us is making sure we are all included and represented in some meaningful way that we do not feel left out. That is what has been the most important to me.

As a child I often felt like I had no say in what we did as a family for the longest time. I was told I had to go along with traditions that had been established well before I was born. As I grew up and our family dynamics changed, my parents let there be a little more leeway (flexibility) in what we did and when.

What I learned from that experience is the importance of involvement, being accepted, and a developing need inside of me for holiday traditions that were flexible and relaxed.

Over the years, too often my mom was very stressed out because everything had to be perfect so we could have a perfect moment/time. Looking back with memories of her like a mini-tornado around the house fussing and stressing just sets off my anxiety.

The moments I remember fondly and miss the most? The imperfect impromptu ones like my dad and I horsing around at church on Christmas Eve when I was in 7th or 8th grade. It was one of the last times my mom, dad and I all went to church together. Or the times the three of us spent just driving around looking at Christmas decorations. The Christmas days we went to the National Cathedral to be together, be reverent, and light a candle. I remember feeling loved and protected in all of those moments.

So, what does that all mean to me now? Do I throw out old traditions? Make new ones? How do I keep a balance?

This is something I thought I had a good foundation with / a handle on until last year when I was told by a family member that I was not keeping family/their traditions in mind. It, and well a few other choice words, rocked my foundation a bit. I knew this family member had felt this way for some time so I wasn’t shocked by the admission of what I had known. Rather what shocked me was the vehemence and anger that went with those words. I was doing what I had thought of as my best to keep a balance between traditions I had grown up with while incorporating traditions from Rent-a-Dad and now the birth families of our kids.

So, what had I done wrong?    

What advice had I received over the years about traditions?

From my own parents, and their lead, it was to keep sacred the ties with our faith, keep close to those we love, and once we had our own kids to make sure to stay at home and develop family traditions with them. That grandparents, and traditions with extended family would have to fill in around what we did with our family. Would it always go smoothly? No. Just do your best. And most importantly think of the kids.

A lot of the advice I have received from friends and other family members over the years has been very similar. As Rent-a-Dad and I have built a family through non-traditional means, the same advice has rung true. Friends have still stressed how important it is to build traditions with these children we love and care for; and how they admire that we are doing so with the birth families and still trying to hold some of our own traditions intact.

By those standards and advice, I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was listening to all those involved in creating family traditions with our kids and trying to make everyone feel heard. It was my extended family that was feeling left out (or rather one member) and marginalized because he didn’t want change to come to the traditions he grew up with. He wanted me to send our kids home to their birth families and celebrate with my family not with Rent-a-Dad included, or if Rent-a-Dad was he had to follow “our traditions”. The funny thing? This family member and the traditions he wanted held sacred were not always so important to him when I was a kid. His way and what he wanted was important. The same thing held true here. His priorities needed to come first. He did not want to be flexible and involve others unless it was his choice, his decision, his rules. That is fine in his own residence with his family.

It is important to evaluate relationships from time to time as well. Toxicity exists. At the holidays toxic relationships make memories painful and hearts heavy with sadness instead of letting the magic of children’s joy ring out or the uplifting words from a good sermon wrap you in warmth and light.

The holidays, and the traditions around them are supposed to wrap us all in love, magic, and fill our hearts with all things positive and good so we feel renewed and ready to begin this yearly cycle of birth, death and renewal all over again.

As I am wrapping up my reflection of 2018, and hoping for something a bit lighter and brighter in 2019, I want to remember a few things about traditions.

Traditions are NOT meant to be:

  • Hard and fast
  • Unbending
  • Uncomfortable
  • Burdens that make you, or others, feel left out

Traditions ARE supposed to:

  • Be source of identity
  • Bring magic/ light into your life
  • Be powerful and uplifting
  • Be done with a purpose (require thought, care and consideration)
  • Provide reassurance that all will be right (a sense of comfort)
  • Be done with love
  • Be (most importantly) what you make of them

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If you have been following our blog then this post might bring up a memory of another post we made about traditions and the need for flexibility. The post, Traditions: Cornerstones, Hassles, or Non-Existent, was also a reflection in a way, about our journey into what traditions mean in the foster care system and how our own thoughts on traditions have evolved. I think back often to this original post and my advice to others as I am still journeying forward. It closed with similar sentiments “Focus on the happy messy moments, no matter how small (time or space), as they are the ones you will always remember and hold dear!”.  

While struggling with the anger of the words that made me question how Rent-a-Dad and I were going about establishing our own traditions, I did a lot of reading, reflecting and talking to others. A post from another blog helped me in my journey to squarely being on my foundation is Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions.

Within minutes of receiving our first placement we were hooked. Those big blue eyes and chubby cheeks they both had. Going back to work would never be the same. Life would never be the same. The acceptance and reality of that change is not just a one-time deal but a constant ever “reminding” feeling.

Why is it ever “reminding” instead of just “is”?

For me it is because as a foster parent I know that nothing is permanent. Often I go along in what feels like my normal and then I am reminded that my life is a bit odd and not quite normal. It is like walking along thinking you are on firm ground when you then realize you were walking on top of a board covering a quagmire.

So how does that apply to my reality of school aged children?

We do not have any children of our own. In terms of our fostering journey, we have only had one school aged placement and that was for just one day. We have yet to really experience first day school jitters.

Yes we have dealt with daycare. And before this week I would have said dropping kids off at school is a similar feeling to dropping kids off at day care, but it isn’t. At least that is my feeling.

Daycare is a place I can choose to have my kids in, job or no job. Even mothers’ day out programs are at their base, optional. Even though I feel they are very necessary for a mom or dad. Every parent needs a break at some point.

School on the other hand has a more permanent feeling. No longer can you just drop by when errands are done or your work day is over. There are specific drop off and pick up times. Rules are rules.

I have been dreading this year. First because it meant I would become a weekend aunt. Then after plans changed, and we were asked to have a more active daily role, I dreaded all the things parents dread. I was worried I would not know things (very important things), be tardy, forgetful or worse. Am I a good enough role model? Please no phone calls about dirty words!!!

And my biggest worry… what am I going to do when I miss them more than they miss me?

Of course I have been working towards a balance of letting them be kids and striving for independence. But the reality that you have done well and have a good balance, well sometimes that reality knocks us flat. We are proud that they are prepared and confident but we miss the “mommy, please stay.” In this case I would have liked a goodbye hug or a wave of dismissal.

Rent-a-Dad took our eldest nephew, with his mom my adopted sister, to school on Thursday. We did photos outside of our home with both boys even though JoBe wouldn’t have his first day yet. I gave my hugs and kisses and then said goodbye. Rent-a-Dad got to feel his first day jitters with our oldest nephew.

My first day jitters didn’t hit until the following day when we took JoBe to school. A month prior I had to soothe JoBe’s fears about attending school without me. He has always loved making friends. When he attended daycare as an infant he loved that experience too. My worries were about him realizing I wasn’t staying. I shouldn’t have been worried. He handled the whole thing like a pro.

After getting into his classroom, we found his cubby, he washed his hands and we worked on writing his name. Once he was finished with the tasks the teacher gave him he asked if he could play. That was it.

Tasks were done and he was ready for us to leave. No hugs, kisses or goodbyes. I didn’t feel totally deflated as he had given me hugs and kisses when we got out of the car. But after all of preparation for school, he was definitely ready. I was so proud… and a bit sad. Thankfully I had plenty to keep me occupied from doctor appointments to helping my brother with his move.

At some point early in the day I did have a moment of panic. The age old question that enters a parent’s mind from time to time “what if I am not needed?” Followed by the one that enters stay at home parent’s minds “What am I now going to do with my time?”

I knew I would be a bit sad when the boys started school. In knowing that I took measures to make sure I wouldn’t have time to focus on any sadness that might linger. Well in some ways it wasn’t that simple. Life has been reminding me I have plenty of things I have neglected over the past so many years of toddler life.

Truth is I am never truly bored. I have so many irons in the fire that having a little bit of free time may make me feel giddy, or even nervous, for a bit but reality always clicks into place. The little bit of free time I did end up having meant I could have a sit down lunch with my mom after a doctor appointment instead of my grab and go lunch that I have been used to for months. I also sneaked in some blog maintenance and a tiny bit of actual writing.

No, I don’t think I have to be too worried about what to do with myself. The reality for me of having school aged children is making sure I have all my ducks lined up so the boys have what they need. We are all very proud that the boys were as ready as we could all help them be for their first big day at school. I am just a bit sad that they are so growing up so fast.

Sometimes I feel like I am a glutton for punishment. Some days it is a Monday even when it is a Friday. So getting back into the groove of something ends up being about as easy as trying something new and complicated.

All summer long I have been doing what I said I would from getting the boys’ room ready to enjoying time spent with family and friends. At different points though a part of me would secretly wish that I had just an hour of time to myself so I could sit and write. I knew I didn’t have time to sit and write the way I like to so I didn’t even dream big.

An hour would have afforded me some time to write down titles and notes for future articles. That way when I finally found time to write I wouldn’t have this inevitable dreaded writers block.

Well time never did present itself to jot down some notes of thoughts on topics or titles. So when the first fully kid-free, and adult-free, day finally arrived…

Did I have writers block? Nope.

In fact, I had quite the opposite problem. Titles and topics wouldn’t stop flowing.

The problem?

I had a doctor’s appointment and a few errands that had to get done. So as I was driving around with no hands free device to take dictation for me all of these thoughts on the things I could write came flooding in. I tried my best to hold onto three of the best thoughts and write them down when I got to my appointment.

Dutifully I had set aside my tablet to come to my appointment with me. Sadly, I had forgotten that my word program on my tablet has been acting up recently and only really wants to work when I have a net connection.

Ok. Me being the person I am, normally I have a notebook and pen or pencil stashed in my car.

Nope. Not this time. Over the summer I had been trying my best to keep my vehicle clean from one adventure to the next. I was not always successful on this but at some point in all of the trips to and from the car I must have taken away my notebook. Sigh.

Thankfully the tablet took pity on me and I was able to enter my top three ideas into my back-up note pad program. Yay! Win!

Fast forward past the appointment, past the errands, past lunch with my mom… and I was able to share a few older posts I had written but not yet uploaded. Fast forward past the computer angst, it is now time to pick up a few munchkins and start our Friday night fun time.

Ok. Writing back on hold. Maybe I can get back into the groove next week? Hrm… We will have to wait and see.

While I am a good couple of years away from being forty, the topic of turning the big four “o” has come up several times this year. For starters Rent-a-Dad rounded that hill this year, sorry babe, and so have several good friends. Not so many of the men but quite a few of the women turning 40 on my Facebook list have made “40 b4 forty” lists.

Like a bucket list, this list is about setting goals of things you would like to achieve by X time. Like any big wish list it should be one that is filled with goals you can actually achieve.

I can admire having such a list and have considered making a 40 b4 forty 40 list. What stops me are many things that I know I would like to put on such a list but in reality probably would not accomplish. It is not that I would purposefully put something on a list and not do it. No, rather life (Murphy’s law) has taught me that if I make a list with more than five things on it that something will do its best to stop me from accomplishing those goals.

Considering that I have done some really cool things in my life so far, I don’t want to make a list of things I might not achieve in the next couple of years.

So why not make a list that seems more realistic, more attainable?

My life really has been about balancing lemons that come my way. Things never turn out the way I plan them to; sometimes badly and sometimes much better than expected.

Instead of focusing on 40 things I can do before I turn forty (40 things that will not go as planned) I chose to put a twist on the 40 b4 forty list. So here is my twist… 40 things I am proud to have accomplished by forty (heck… maybe I will add more to this over the next couple of years):

 

  1. Be there for my family (don’t loose sight of family goals)
  2. Share our family values
  3. Don’t loose sight of who I am and where I want to be (we all falter… am very lucky to say I have been able to find perspective and not loose sight)
  4. Worked in old towne Alexandria (specifically on King Street)
  5. Receive a college degree
  6. Operated my own business
  7. Member of Art League in Alexandria
  8. Artwork displayed in a museum
  9. Multiple art shows
  10. Worked in professional theatre
  11. Cut & style hair (in a theatre)
  12. Be a costume designer
  13. Run a nonprofit
  14. International travel (Ireland for work)
  15. Helped children other than my own reach for their dreams
  16. Inspired others
  17. Have a blog
  18. Define my own success
  19. Be able to continue passions had as a child into adulthood
  20. Keep in touch with friends
  21. Continue to celebrate and enjoy the fall season (festivals, farm visits and more..)
  22. Travel a road less taken
  23. Have a family vacation
  24. See the United States (been to 28 as of 7/17)
  25. Travel/Roadtrips with family
  26. Attend a variety of Renaissance festivals across the US
  27. See Williamsburg
  28. Go to Disney world (been now 3 of the big seasons)
  29. Show my husband some of my old haunts
  30. Visit the Wizarding World of HarryPotter in Orlando
  31. Go to a comic type of convention
  32. Meet David Tennant (bonus such a good picture someone thought he was my baby daddy)
  33. Meet and interact with people I loved since child hood (Captain Kirk, Bo duke, Hercules, Spike… yay!!)
  34. Be a foster parent
  35. Make costumes for munchkins in my life
  36. Enjoy bedtime stories with munchkins in my life
  37. Inspire the children in our lives to have passions (by sharing our own from cake making and photography to theatre and more)
  38. Share my creativity and love of “dreaming” with those I love
  39. Share our love of road trips
  40. Hike and have outdoor adventures with each other and the kids in our lives