Friday, November 30, 2018

TRAUMA ISN'T BOUND BY TIME

November is National Adoption Month, and instead of writing about the joys of adoption, of which there are plenty, I plan on speaking to some of the trauma entailed in the journey.  As time goes on, and I learn more, my awareness about this issue grows.

I serve on the board of Immerse AR, which used to primarily serve youth who had aged out of foster care without finding a forever family.  Our mission has shifted and evolved over the years spent doing the work and now seeks to address the multilayered issues that face these youth.  We have also gone "upstream" to help families who have adopted or are fostering to be healthy places where healing is taking place.  We have broadened our criteria to include runaway and trafficked youth, as well as serving pregnant mothers who wish to parent their children.

As we have done the work and engaged in the lives, clarity has begun to emerge.  We are battling trauma.  Usually, we are facing big T Trauma that leaves wounds at every level of a person.  When kids are abandoned or abused or even placed lovingly for adoption, there is trauma involved.  Losing a birth family for whatever reason is traumatic and leaves a mark.  When that is compounded with physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse or neglect, it means there is much to overcome, and that healing is not easily won.

This work is often slow-going and feels like 2 steps forward, 1 step back and then run a lap backwards and then crawl in the right direction a bit.  Our expectations for people who have experienced such trauma as children have morphed as we've begun to understand what true healing and overcoming requires.  It requires infinitely more than we initially thought.  We are not offering homes to fix homelessness, we are addressing the needs and attitudes that led to the homelessness that are rooted in the crises experienced over a lifetime.

I am someone who grew up in a rather charmed existence, and this has taken me a long time to comprehend.  I arrived into young adulthood without a major crisis to speak of, which I now recognize for the amazing rare gift that is.  But, I remember my first brush with trauma, and it shook my core and reorganized my identity.  I can still see the camp office wall that I was staring at when I got the news that my dad had cancer.  I could tell that the diagnosis was tragic, but I had no grid for tragedy, and it took me far longer than it should have to comprehend what was happening.

I ran through all the stages of grief and for the next two years lived many high highs and low lows in a battle that was ultimately lost here on earth for him and won for eternity.  It has been 17.5 years since I took that call, but my body and mind can go back immediately to those moments and memories.  I am forever marked and changed, and because of the strong foundation I had, I have been able to heal, though I will never be the same.

My trauma is so tiny compared to what so many kids in the foster care system have faced or are facing.  Abuse, neglect, and uncertainty as a way of life is severely damaging, and when we look at overcoming and healing, we have to understand that it will take an equal amount OR MORE healing to break into the damage that has been done.  The good must penetrate as deeply and as widely as the bad did.  There is no quick fix, just as none of the trauma happened quickly.

When I see my own adopted kids, who I have known since the 3rd day of their lives, I have to recognize that there were 35 weeks before that.  They experienced things that are embedded within them that aren't bound within a timeframe.  We have so much hope for their futures, but it has come though acknowledgement of their past and what that past means to us all.  It is far more complex than I imagined it would be, and it shapes all levels of our family.  We need more help.  We need more wisdom.  We have far more needs than we might have otherwise had if we had not walked down the road of adoption.

So as National Adoption Month speeds towards a close, I hope you'll take the time to consider the trauma that is involved in the loss (and the gaining) of a family.  It marks everyone it touches.  I'm so thankful to serve a God who is in the business of healing and hope.  When I am tempted to despair and doubt, he reminds me of his faithfulness and love.  And I hope to keep learning what healing looks like and doing the work it takes.

{Also - if you feel compelled to give to the work of Immerse, our needs have grown as our work has expanded!  We would feel honored to have you join us in this work.}


Thursday, November 22, 2018

THANKSGIVING 2018

Happy Thanksgiving from our crew!

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We had an incredibly low-key celebration, which is good, because our kitchen was made functional just in the nick of time.  Having in-town family also makes a huge difference, because my MIL very graciously did a bunch of cooking since I didn't have a lot of lead time.  She brought a fully cooked turkey over, among other things.  I literally did nothing until 10 pm the night before when I started on some pies.

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John's parents came over around 11:15, and we ate around 12.  Bella helped me a lot with the cooking, which I appreciated and enjoyed.

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After eating, we went around talking about what we are thankful for, which the kids embraced and ran with.

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The weather was so beautiful that we went to the park and then on a walk to get out of the house and get a little movement.

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It could not have been more pleasant.  Sadly, Grandma and Grandpa could not join us, because Lenny's knee was giving him trouble.  They ended up going to the ER since he couldn't walk, and he was given crutches and pain-killers, so it was probably good they didn't try to go tromping through the woods.

2018 has pitched us all kinds of surprises - good and hard.  I'm thankful for the mix, because it keeps us humble and looking towards the Lord for all things.  I hope and pray that your heart is filled with gratitude for how he is shaping your life.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

CARTI FESTIVAL OF TREES

This week we've had all kinds of fancy fun and everyone but William has had a chance to get very dressed up.  John even got to double up.  😜  We did all this last year for the first time, and it was fun to know what to expect and be looking forward to it all.  CARTI is such an amazing organization here in Little Rock, and it's a treat to be able to support their invaluable work while also making treasured memories along the way.

On Thursday night, John took the girls to the Sugar Plum Ball - they loved getting fancy and going dancing!

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They really did have a great time at the ball, and while the daddies and daughters danced the night away, we mothers and sons did a night out at Flying Fish for dinner and then a fun dessert.  The boys had a blast hanging out together.

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On Saturday night, we adults had our turn with Tux n' Trees - a formal fundraising event with lots of Christmas Trees and other great items up for auction, dinner, dancing and a fantastic program.  Spending the evening with friends was a delight!  And, we won a disco ball that the girls had picked out while at the Sugar Plum Ball.  We made great use of it on the way home.

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All in all, I'm so thankful to have had these opportunities and thankful for the work that CARTI is doing every day to serve the cancer patients in AR.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

KITCHEN REMODEL: BEFORE & DURING

I used to blog a lot about our house.  And then I ended up with 4 really little kids and survival mode was all that we managed.  Just in the last year do I feel like I've been able to shift some of my focus back to our house, which has been exciting.  We are neck deep in a kitchen remodel.  We've lived in our home for 8.5 years, and to be honest, I never liked our kitchen from the moment I walked into it.  That said, it has served us well and is functional and pretty in its own way.  It's just not my style.  I felt guilty changing something brand spanking new.  8.5 years later, I definitely feel that we've gotten good use out of it, and John is graciously indulging me with this change of kitchen scenery.  I certainly spend a lot of time there.

Here's a shot from earlier today.  Sheetrock also went up, and I got a new sink after I took this picture!

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After years of dreaming of this change, it feels pretty amazing to witness the transformation.  I am using the same contractor who redid our fireplace last year, and I have been so pleased with his work!  He also made it a goal to have us "out of the kitchen" as little as possible, which I really appreciate.  He's let me keep things intact and had cabinets built and counters ordered before anything was torn up so that it could all go in as quickly as possible.  The current goal is to be done by the beginning of next week - we'll see.  I know there are still things that can come up, so I am hopeful but also not holding my breath.

Here are our BEFORE pictures.

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The first thing that happened was having the vent hood removed and cabinets installed above our existing cabinets.  They were built to match what we already have, because I liked my cabinets - just not the color.  The vent hood turned out to be built into the wall - it was made to last.  😳

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(funny story about those tiles behind the stove.  We randomly bought them at Morocco in Epcot at DisneyWorld in 2008.  They actually fit in that spot perfectly, and though they are not a style I would choose now, it is still a fun memory.)

Last week was by far the most disruptive time we've had so far.  The painter came and ended up taping off my entire kitchen and garage to be able to spray everything.  He was quite perfectionistic, which I appreciate, but which took the entire week.  We were all fooled into thinking that the kitchen was not that big.  However, when he removed all the cabinets and drawers, it turns out, there are a bunch of them.  So, this stage took a few days longer than expected but was overall not too bad.  Though I was very glad to reclaim my refrigerator.

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The painting really does make a huge difference in how bright and open it feels!

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Since everything from my kitchen cabinets is getting to spend time in my dining room, I took this opportunity to clean and line all my shelves and drawers.  I also massively underestimated how much liner I would need and ended up needing to go to 5 different Walmarts to get enough of each pattern to finish the job.

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Countertops will be going in during the next couple of days, as well as backsplash.  And in the midst of that, it's little details like outlet covers, glass in some of the top cabinets, as well as a little accent lighting.  I'm so excited about how it's turning out, which feels really good, since I picked it all based on looking at other kitchens I liked online.

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Looking forward to the big reveal in a couple of weeks and to having full use of my kitchen again.  In the meantime, we are enjoying eating a LOT of CFA and ordering pizza.