Monday, September 17, 2018

Self Care

Self care, for me is that never ending chase. The reality of self care in my life is a double edge sword. I am a more balanced (less yelling, kinder words, more patience) Mama when I get time to refocus, but pulling that off feels impossible some weeks. Here are some ways as a single parent, I work self care into my daily life.

My Job
I am one of those fortunate souls that absolutely enjoys my job. My role for the last nine months has been Director of HR, my job absolutely hits all of my strengths, I so enjoy my daily to do life. Thriving where I spend a descent chunk of my day because I am working in my strengths and passions, allows me not to dread my work week or dropping my little ones off at daycare. My role with this company has changed right along side of my life, I was not a mom when I first started here as a barista a little of five years ago. We are a growing local business, with over 40 employees, three locations with an in house bakery, coffee shop and roasting facility we are always growing. This job allows me work life balance and brings life to my soul, it is my extrovert outlet and I am so thankful for this piece of self-care in my day to day. 

Travel once a year, in the fall I get the chance to get away for a week. My kids get divided up between our community and this Mama heads to the mountains.  This year, in just a month or so I am heading to beautiful North Carolina. This first picture was from my 2017 trip to Utah and the Grand Canyon. The second picture was from my 2016 trip to Oregon (a frequent stop). Seeing the world and changing my perspective is the best way I recharge. I like mountains because they remind me how small I am in the scheme of things. 

Community we are all in different life stages but they have embraced me and loved me well. They are the friends who come for brunches, late night wine on the porch and for loud and messy family dinners. They bring activities for my kids, help me pull of gigantic adoption parties, show up to the courthouse, snuggle my neglected dogs and make me laugh. I am so beyond thankful for the tribe of humans who have surrounded us. Without them all I would be lost. There are so many more than what this picture can contain. 

 Food I love good food. After going vegan almost 10 years ago, I have learned and loved food so much more. I love food that is fresh and nourishing. I love to cook, after a long day, I put the baby gate up, turn on a podcast and start chopping. My spiritual practice is trying to ignore the little ones screaming at the gate, as if that cheap $10 gate was drawbridge equipped with a moat.

Hosting the greatest moment of fear as a new mom was realizing I was locked inside my house from about 6:30pm each night. My survival technique, as an extrovert, early on was to make food and open my home. If you build it, they will come. So several times a week, we host dinner parties, brunches, family dinners with a table full. We live life around our table and we share it openly. I host a Saturday morning brunch and my table is filled until well into the afternoon as we eat, sip on mimosas and talk about life.

Adventure whether it is in our backyard or something completely brand new we love adventure. We load up, suit up, waiver up and find out the next new adventure. I am so thankful for brave kids who have conquered their fears to try new things. 

Renovate my space I don't talk about my house enough, I am beyond blessed, proud of and humbled by this space. One and half years ago we took over a 4 bedroom, built in 1900 home, filled to the brim with character and charm. This space has allowed us to double our family and entertain all our people. I learned early on that once the crew was all tucked into bed, I could do anything with a paintbrush and a podcast. I would work late into the evening painting and creating space. Most of my projects start about 8:30pm until 3am and I have the bad habit of starting three things at once, this picture shows, the tile I painted and in the background you will notice the carpet I tore up to reveal wood floors that needed refinished and a beautiful built in I am stripping. 
Three projects I decided to start all in one night, I like the challenge. 

Them they have the unique ability of being able to zap all of my everything, leaving nothing behind. Then somewhere along the day of baby snuggles, morning snuggles, middle of the night snuggles, hugs, kisses, pictures drawn and kind words said, my cup is overflowing. I love hanging out with them, knowing them, and being their Mama. They bring life to my soul and purpose to my days.


Also this hot tub... from our MI vacation we took in June. I drank all the beverages in this hot tub, just out of the frame, is literally all of my children watching me, but they could not touch me, for 30 mins. It was delightful. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Our Ecosystem

Two years ago I experienced a really painful break up. Recently, I have realized that a lot of fear crept into my heart with the end of that relationship. As an effort to fight my fear, I signed up for online dating. I have many friends who have met really great partners through online, my current day to day life has minimal viable male options, so online seems to at least make my pool a little larger.

I share with you a section of my online dating bio.

‘...four and a half years ago I followed a call from God that radically changed my life, to pursue foster care as a single woman. I am the adoptive Mama of 4 awesome kids and foster Mama to 3, yes, that is 7 kids total. God told us to love orphans, widows and foreigners and I take that very seriously. Our dinner table is full with visitors of all backgrounds and realities. We are a packaged deal, quite a big one but we are also some of the coolest people on the planet.

I am a single mom, of seven through foster care and adoption. Finding a life partner is hard enough as it is, adding seven other humans into the mix feels impossible. I am upfront in saying that I need a man who can handle the package deal, I am looking for a husband and father. My days are full, time is limited and most days I have snot somewhere on my clothing.

Early in my journey of motherhood a well meaning relative made the comment, ‘well you’re certainly not making yourself more attractive to man by doing this.’ I must (and did) say, I disagree, for the wrong men I may be less attractive but to the right man I am just right. I have gotten used to the reality that my story will always be a little a-typical, so I know that it may take me a little longer to find that life partner.

When I jumped into the foster care world over four years ago, I thought my singleness would limit me, as if my being one person instead a couple meant I had less to offer. What I once viewed as a handicap was actually a gift. Raising children exposed to trauma, in our case at the hands of men, means that we do life a little differently. Our daily life rotates around healing, we fight for it, seek it and ease into it.

My crew, needed a single mama, they needed some time to heal. They needed to be the main recipients of my energy and love. Choosing to be a single mother of traumatized children has a price tag, there are days where I just don’t feel like I have enough to offer, where I am tired and depleted myself. I would be lying if I didn’t say that my heart aches for a partner and I have a deep longing for my kids to experience a healthy father figure.

I truly believe our family will heal much faster when a man does enter our world but I am not interested in rushing or forcing that. There is a deep kind of pain that can only find healing when pressed a bit by circumstances. Deep healing that takes place over time, layer by layer. For now our healing is talking about our someday dad, discussing both the good and hard things about having a dad. Most days we cry about it because trauma runs deep and healing comes slow.

If I can be a little honest I am scared of him too. Scared for how it will affect our beautiful ecosystem and change our unique family. I worry that no one will ever love them as much as I do. I worry about the logistics of switching off single mom brain, allowing a co-parent to join us. I am afraid of getting hurt again. My step towards healing this season is stepping out and pressing the wound a bit.

My kids make me brave, I have watched these past 4+ years as they have pressed in and healed. So this is my act of pressing in, the vulnerability of writing these words in a effort to declare that I will not shy away from even this. Dating for our family means new healing but also change, it feels bittersweet to me.

Most days there is this very real part of me that thinks if I am going to pay a sitter then I am not going to risk that time on a bad date. Most days, if I got a sitter I would rather drink wine on a patio with my girlfriends, take a shower or just wander through Target.

There are days when I can’t imagine one more person needing something from me. Days when it seems I have lost all communications skills. Days when the thought of change is overwhelming and the calendar seems so full. I am in no hurry to step out of single motherhood but I also don’t want to be opposed to it.

These last 4+ years have made me better, my kids have changed me. They make me brave, fierce and more compassionate. They cause me to slow down, communicate better and stand taller. The silver strands that have popped up recently have been earned and my snot covered attire reflects my love. This calling has not halted my status change but enhanced it and each day we live is one day closer to finding healing and to meeting him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The darkness.

Countless times I have had conversations with people, that the only reason they haven’t done foster care is because they can’t imagine letting kiddos go. Today I answered someone with a simple, “that is exactly what they deserve, someone who is aching to let them go.” These kiddos have been viewed far too long as disposable. In four years as a mama, I have said seven different goodbyes to children I parented, and I hated every moment of it. Two of those five goodbyes were sending kiddos to loving relatives so their departure was far less achy but five of those goodbyes gutted me.

I used to be afraid of the dark, like sleep with the bathroom light on afraid. I hated the dark, the dark felt scary and lonely. I didn’t like how it made me feel, as I grew older my fear lessened and my appreciation grew, I began to see the beauty of darkness, one of my favorite are the stars. I live outside of a large city so we have the gift of the stars, such unexplainable beauty exists in the skies that can only be seen in the contrast.

My journey of motherhood, has shown the reality of the beauty that dwells in the midst of darkness. My faith is my guiding force and in the midst of those painful moments, I have found a greater understanding of who God is. We are drawn towards light and it is easy to stay there, light is comfortable. Darkness can feel bad, there are so many unknowns and it is there in the dark that we lose a sense of control. In the dark we see hidden lights, the magic of glow sticks and it is the place where my heart lets go and the tears flow as the chaos of the day comes to an end.

So as gut wrenching those goodbyes are, in the days that follow them there is some kind of unexplainable beauty that happens. The gift of connection even for a moment changes our lives, so I delight in the hellos I get with my ever evolving crew and I love well until one form of goodbye changes our lives. I am no longer afraid of the dark, for I have found the beauty that exists there.