Tuesday, January 11, 2022

I shaved my head and something amazing happened

 Last March, after months of considering, many conversations and even a therapy session, I did something drastic, that made no sense to most people around me.

At 38 years old, the person I saw myself as and the person I saw in the mirror were so drastically different. After 8 years or hormone issues and 5 years on HRT ( working to balance what was terribly unbalanced), I had gained weight, my shape changed and my brain fell back into some of the patterns of thinking (about myself) that I remember from my teenage years. 

My hair... Most of the time was very long. I used to dye it red but after so many years of dying it frequently ( because I grows so fast) my head was covered in scabs so I made the choice to stop dying it and because I have an auto- immune issue called vitiligo, almost 1/2 of the hair on my head was now white, and the other half was brown. And I got compliments on it all the time (sometimes by strangers) and while there WERE times that I liked it, even loved it, I started to see the white hair age me, then I only ever wore it in a bun, and despite not dying it for years, I still had terrible scabs and would pick at them constantly. I also suffer from hot flashes quite frequently and my thick head of hair did not help with that.

Fast forward to March 2021. I shaved all my hair off, and documented it in a YouTube video. I bought some wigs and took back the reigns a bit on how I look and something amazing happened. It didn't happen overnight, but I started to see myself again when I looked in the mirror.

It's been almost a year since I shaved it off, I grew it out for 6 months but felt like I was starting to feel that old way again so it was shaved again. I can't say that I will keep shaving my head for the rest of my life but I can say that I will for the next few years. 

I do still get scabs but I can treat my scalp directly now, and having no hair helps to cool me down much quicker when a hot flash comes. I do wear a wig 95% of the time when I am out among people but at home, or in the homes I work in ( with the kids) I ditch the wig and Rick the buzz, it looks a bit strange with all my white spots but I've grown used to the look and feel and last month I started challenging myself to go out (run errands) without a wig on and it's been a confidence stretching experience.

I can't speak for anyone else who shaves their hair off, and willingly chooses the bald/buzzed look, but I can tell you that for me, it has allowed me to find myself again, to feel comfortable with the me I see in the mirror, somehow my clothes fit better and my face doesn't look so old- it freed something within me. I had no way of knowing that it would do that.

and if you did not see my video of the shaving process, I'll link it here. 


Saturday, October 9, 2021

the Value of an unbroken promise

 You were supposed to come get her after school. She was going to see your new apartment and spend a whole weekend with you.

But you didn't come. Something came up and you had to leave town. When I told her she screamed, she sat on the stairs and cried, she threw her shoes at the wall. 

She had been counting down the days til today, to when she would see you again.

You would think that after all the broken promises, after a year of not seeing you, that she would expect the worse but she sees you as perfect.

You may have felt like a failure, you may have made a million mistakes with her in those first few years, before rehab, before divorce. Even still, you are her hero, you can do no wrong.

I planned all kinds of fun things for us to do, to fill the hours, and try to make her forget what this weekend was supposed to be, we painted canvases on the floor, we went swimming and made swid hotdogs and brownies, she had fun, but she still would have rather been with you doing anything.

I was her nanny, I spent ALOT of time with her, she is wonderful, she is curious and wild, she speaks her mind ( even it very inappropriate times) but more then anything, she is your daughter.

That day, that you didn't show, that was more then 10 years ago and I have no idea if either of you remember that weekend.

There were many weekends after, where you did come, and she did spend the weekend with you, but for me, the caretaker of this child. I will always remember her disappointment, her anger, her struggle to understand, her broken heart, and it is this I remember anytime a child asks me to make a promise.

I have seen "THAT DAY" play out more times then I care to recall, it always looks the same, a broken heart getting a little more broken.

So I say maybe, even if I am 95% sure that it will work out, and I know it drive the kids crazy not to have a YES or a NO but I do it because I know the worth of keeping a promise.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

the HEART of a mother

Every women's story is different. I will pull back the curtain and let you see a bit of my story.  A bit of an origin story (you know, like in the super hero movies.... how they got to be who they are) 

the HEART of a mother 

Many years ago (when I was 22) those words were prophesied over me, by a Godly leader that I trusted and respected. I had no idea what those words meant or how they would come to be so defining for me.

My womb has "held" two little lives that my arms never got to hold and I'm ok with that - I never longed for newborns like my sister did.

My story is a bit ODD.  I felt at a YOUNG age (17ish) that I would not birth my own children and then as life progressed and more health issues were discovered, I add to that initial "hunch" that I didn't need to pass on these health struggles. 

My life as a foster sister had taught me that blood was not a requirement when it comes to family. 

In fact, the very first time my heart broke was not from a boyfriend but instead from a quick and unexpected removal of my two little sister (they were foster sisters but we had begun the process to adopt so they were my sisters to me, and I had grown to love them so deeply - that I still have that scar today, 25 years later).

So - BOTH times that I found I was pregnant, I was perplexed and confused and wondered if I had misunderstood my "calling" and perhaps God did want me to go down that road, I struggled to find the "normal" emotions tied to pregnancy because I was so sure that I would never experience that in my life. So yes, there was sadness in both miscarriage's, but only because I knew that a life had ended, and a possibility had gone away. I do often wonder how different my life would be if either or both of them had lived. But I am not that women who wishes to be pregnant or gets jealous of friends babies, honestly I'm not a really big "baby" person anyways...

In my life I have loved many kids - worked as a nanny, in children's ministry and countless friends children's and my niece and nephews.

I am 38 now. I am a proud CAT mom (and they bring me more joy than I could ever express) and my job and passion project at the moment is to be a Relief house mom (alongside my husband) - I get to pour my heart into little (and older) kids who need it so desperately. 

I am happy that I get to be a "mom" in this little way, because I had such an amazing mom (and still do) who taught me how to love others in an effortless but intentional way. And though I don't have anyone who will carry on my family, and I'll never be a Grandma, I am content, I feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be. 

My story is not over, I still might get to call someone my daughter or son - cause God is rarely predictable. But for now I will do my best to use this heart, the heart of a mother, that God placed in me.

I am NOT a mom, but that is ok


some photos - of me and the Kids I've had the privilege of loving over the years 


Me and Bobby - one of my two little foster sisters. (I was 15 or 16 here)

a baby I watched for a few days when she was only a few weeks old 

This is me and Wesley, one of my very first nanny kids - I was 18 here

Me and Lily - I nannied her and her siblings when I was 22.

and this is Rohan - I spent my afternoons with him for 2 years :) he was such a sweet boy

And this is Ailsa - I was her nanny in 2009 -2010 

And then Came Joelle - I've never loved a child as much as I love this girl - she is probably the closes thing I will ever have to a child of my own - she is my niece. When I moved to Arkansas in 2013 - it was HER that I missed the most (and still do) 

she has a brother too - but he was really little (6 months) when I moved so I love him too - but we didn't bond like me and Joelle did.

and then I got to spend 6 amazing years as a youth leader at my church in Arkansas

These two girls I babysat for the last year before I moved to Arizona - they helped me with my "i miss working with kids" phase :) 

and if you want to see photos of my current job - me and the kids - that is the post before this one :) 

I hope this post did it's job of explaining ME a bit more, and why I'm not a mom but why and how I have the HEART of a mother. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Houseparents - My one year recap

Last year I turned 37 and we celebrated my birthday by saying goodbye to our lives, and a lot of people we loved. Some of those people came over, to our empty house and sat on the floor and ate cake and hung out with us one last time. 2 days later we loaded up our car and cats and drove to Arizona, to a new job and a new life. 

 I have sat down many times since then to write about this last year but I never felt I could properly describe it so it always got deleted. But here I am, just turned 38, it has almost been a year since we started this job so I decided it was time to REALLY write a "recap". 

 When we moved here to Arizona to work at a place called Sunshine acres, a wonderful little community, it honestly seemed WAY too good to be true, but it really IS, just as it seems. 

and quick overview of this place and my job. Sunshine acres has 7 kids homes, with room for up to 10 kids in each, 3 of the homes are Boys and 4 of them are girls. Each home has one full-time set of houseparents that are ON (duty) 5 days a week (most weeks) and then there are 6 relief couple. each has a set house that they are in on the full-time parents 2 off days (one couple has 2 houses) and the other 3 days of their work week they go where needed (in any house, or on "support" helping everyone). Me and my husband are a relief couple and our "set" house is a girls house where we spend every Monday and Tuesday. 

I feel in many ways that my whole life prepared me for this job and with that being said it is both the easiest job I've ever had AND the hardest job I've ever had. We started just as covid effectively took over anything and everything normal at Sunshine acres, as well as in Arizona (& the world really) so it was a bit like trying to stand up-right on a rocking boat. 

Fear and confusion and sickness and death was all around, quarantine and hand sanitizer and facemasks, social distance- these became a part of everyday life and we learned to find our place here, as everyone struggled to find a new normal ( not unlike adjusting to life after losing a loved one) 
  At first I could not remember anyone's names, not just the kids but the other house parents too. I still mix up names occasionally but for the most part I know most everyone here. 

 My favorite things about living and working here are 
 - having a dining hall that cooks 95% of the food for the kids (& us) 
 - driving around in our golf cart 
- no snow, no frozen icy roads, no REAL winter
 - my commute from home to work is very short 
- prayer and God are a part of everything and not just something I bring to the job like every job I had prior 
- and I work alongside my husband 
 - the dr I found because of this job that is so very awesome and actually listens when I talk, and works with me to fix any issues I'm dealing with 
- coloring and crafting and taking pictures are all a part of this job 
- I get to braid and create fun hairstyles for countless girls 
-and at the end of the day, when I'm tired, I know and feel that I made a difference and I can see the impact of my job and that is wonderful
-I have no doubt that this is where I am meant to be, that God called me here and has equipped me for this job

 My least fav parts of this job 
 - waking early for school days (I am allergic to mornings) 
 - with a job like this, on my off days I run errands and do stuff around the house and I’ve not really had any social life outside my job, covid has NOT helped this 
-it can be difficult to cultivate relationships with the kids when there are so many of them, it takes time, and lots of patience and it can be really hard to NOT compare ourselves to other houseparent's
-its equally hard to build relationships with the other adults here, our focus is first the kids and so conversations are short and broken and can be few and far between.
 - emotionally it can be hard, and draining 
- I am not a part of a local church anymore where I volunteer and soak up the word and worship (we have a church here but it’s not the same, and covid has kept me from visiting outside church on off time) 

 I cannot really tell you what a typical day is like here, at sunshine acres, as a relief houseparent, cause there really is NO SUCH thing as a typical day. Every day includes lots of kids, usually at least one “meltdown” or “attitude problem” , snacks, homework, laundry, chores, meals in the home and at the dining hall, goofy/silly/fun stuff, and boring/blah stuff. Its a bit like my live-in nanny job from a decade ago but on steroids (instead of one kid, it’s 8,9, 10 kids) , instead of one house, I work in many (mostly the 4 girls houses but occasionally a boys house for a day or two). 

 I find myself answering the same questions again and again “what’s for snack?”, “ can we go to the park?” … and the like, but I have found that over the weeks, months (over the last year) we have developed relationships with these kids, we love them, I love them, so very much. I don’t ever want to say that I know where I will be 5 years or 10 years from now because I always want to leave that up to God but I could see myself, (and so could Tim, he’s said so often) being here for a long time. And I’ll just end by saying one little thing. 

You might not be able to pick up your life and come work at a children's home, and it’s probably NOT your calling but you can do something (so many things) to provide love for a child who needs it. I talk to people all the time about how my parents did foster care, and how I had so so many foster brothers and sisters over the years, and usually what they reply with is - I could never do that, it would be just so hard to fall in love with those kids and then to have to say goodbye. 

 And I will add - JUST because something is hard - should NEVER be a reason why you don’t do it. You don’t have to foster, maybe just volunteer with an organization that works with foster kids, or other kids in need,  find out what their needs are and work to help or fill a need, or if you are doing great financially then look around and see where you can send that money to help kids. 

 And that’s all I have for my ONE YEAR RECAP. Come back next year and I’ll write another one.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

A new adventure

If you want to know where we are moving to and why, take a moment to read this -

Let me give you a bit of background before I tell you what is ahead for us.

7 years ago I moved to Jonesboro Arkansas (from Bend Oregon) - I moved here because I had fallen in love with a man who lived here, we were long distance for a year and then I moved here for 6 months before we got married. Those first few months were hard, I cried myself to sleep a lot of nights because I missed my family so much (we are close and this was my first time being so far from them).
Shortly after we got married I started to pray that God would move me and my husband closer to home, I prayed that for several years and then decided I needed to be more specific so I started to pray that God would move us to somewhere that is ONE flight from home.
I did my best to make Jonesboro home, and becoming part of a ministry was key to making me feel like I belonged, I became a youth leader at our church and loved it! I did that for 6 years and then I felt this past September that God was telling me to step out of that ministry, so I did.

No ministry and not job - I was in a holding pattern... just waiting...
I didn't know what was next but I started to pray that God would open the doors for a ministry that me and my husband could do together.
Around the same time (sept-october 2019) we began to start looking at bigger houses and getting info on becoming foster parents. We heard someone mention a children's home one Sunday and it sparked a curiosity in both of us, so we started to look into that and learned that couples were hired to be HOUSE parents, meaning that you live in a house full of kids, family style, and you get to love them & that is your Job, I showed the info to my husband (not thinking he would be interested cause he has a job that he loves now, BUT) he was interested, so we started looking at it seriously.

I found a site that listed all the Jobs for Childrens homes (http://www.houseparent.net/Direct1.php)
and through a lengthy process of elimination we had a handful of locations on our list - but ONE OF THEM stood out, among all the others, because of the community feel they had between the houses, we both had a really great feeling about them so we put all the other places on hold and pursued this option.
Skipping forward, several months, many emails, skype calls, prayers and answers we went to visit SUNSHINE ACRES in Mesa AZ in Feb 2020 (which was just 2 weeks ago as I write this post). We came home feeling sure that we were meant to be there, and we were set to wait for a job opening to present itself.
A few days after arriving home we got a call and a job offer to be relief parents and support staff and we accepted! Originally we had 6 weeks to pack and move but some things changed and now we are looking at being in Mesa by March 18th.

If it seems like that all happened really quick, it's cause it DID. It's a crazy packing frenzy over here as we get rid of stuff we don't need and plan for our new life and OF COURSE the kitties are coming with us!!!!
We will miss our church and all the people who made this place home. We have people here that we consider family and it's hard to leave them but we feel that it's God who is calling us, so if would be foolish not to go.

and to reference the 2 prayers I was praying - YES mesa has an airport that flies DIRECT to Redmond/bend airport, and this is 100% a ministry that me and my husband will be doing together.
I could go even further back over the last year and show you how every little upset or hiccup was in preparation for this move but I will just relay to you that we are confident that THIS is where we are supposed to go. We would love your prayers as we go through this move, as all kinds of emotions flood to the surface and moving is stressful.

I will end this post by leaving some links so you can check out the website and social media page for Sunshine acres as well as some videos I found on Youtube -they do a great job of showing what they do and I'm sure after looking them over, you will see why we are so excited about this next chapter.



Thursday, December 12, 2019

A safe place to land.

Feeling mighty emotional today... not sure why but I thought I would use the emotion in a productive way and write a post on my mostly neglected blog.

There's a song I love -

Christian Burghardt - Safe Place to Land

I hear that song and it makes me tear up, from the very first time I heard it I knew it was a song that I could have written. It expresses the feelings that I feel about my kids. 

Those of you who know me, you're a bit confused by that last part. I don't have kids. Well, I have always known that I would adopt my kids, from the foster care system,  that they would come to me with broken hearts and baggage and that I would need to be a safe place for them, that I would have to work for their love and trust and that it might not be love at first sight like it is for most parents (who bring their kids home from the hospital smelling like a newborn, shiny and new). 

I'm gonna write out  the lyrics from the song I mentioned above, if you've not heard it, I would encourage you to go over to YouTube or wherever you listen to music and look it up, listen to it, and I hope it will stir something in your heart or inspire you in some way. 

Help me understand
The war you're fighting
We'll never have a chance
If you fire blindly
You're circling the atmosphere
Unsure if I'll disappear
I'm not going nowhere
Open your eyes
I'm always
Gonna be
Your safe place to land
Safe place to land
The ground beneath your feet
Like you never had
Like you never had
When you're at ten thousand feet
No parachute
You got my hand
I'm always gonna be
Your safe place to land
Safe place to land
You say your heart is made of glass
If you fall apart then I'll glue you back
Well, I'm made of paper mäché
And I'll blow away if I can't make you stay
You're circling the atmosphere
Unsure if I'll disappear
I'm not going nowhere
Open your eyes
I'm always
Gonna be
Your safe place to land
Safe place to land
The ground beneath your feet
Like you

Even just reading it, has me in tears, I'm not sure why it gets me so hard. 
We are taking steps now, me and my husband to be in the place we need to be, for those kids to find us. Maybe we will get to adopt a few of them and call them ours forever, maybe they will be just temporary kids for a while- I'm not sure, all I know is that it's close. 

My parents were those people for so many kids over the years, I saw them love every kid that came into our home, some of them even called them mommy and dad, and then they left to go back to wherever the court said they "belonged" I know it broke my mom's heart, it broke my heart as a sister, to see them go, and I'm prepared for those feelings to come back. Its OK, I'll risk my heart breaking a million times - if only I can be a safe place to land (even if just for a little while) .

Pray for us, we are trying to listen to Gods voice, and follow his direction, we know that the need is so great. and pray for them, our kids, today might be a really hard day for them, they might be in the midst of a mighty storm, they might be praying that God will rescue them, I pray that today they will hear him say- 
"I'm working it out for you, little one, I've not forgotten you, just wait a little longer, help is coming" 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My afternoons with Ro

In another life (years ago, and when I was still single and living in Oregon) I spent much of my time as a nanny and babysitter, mostly for date nights and occasionally a summer job of two but I did have one steady part time Nanny job that lasted 3 years, oddly enough I took over the job for my older sister (she was also a Nanny for quite a while).

He was 14 months when I started watching him. I spent afternoons with him while his Mom taught piano lessons and sometimes while she just did chores or ran errands. He was a wildly imaginative boy- we would go for long walks and spend hours at the park, I taught him some songs that we would sing together. He was small for his age but his vocabulary was amazing, I taught him the word Acapulco and when we went to the boat park, we would always pretend to sail there, to somewhere warm, he was the captain and I was Leen.
Once we were at the park, the one down the road from his house that we went to most often and he ran to greet another kid, he said “welcome to the park, I’m Rohan and that’s my best friend Leen” - I almost cried, it was just the sweetest thing to hear him call me his best friend.

The hardest part about being a nanny is how much you fall in love with the kids, and knowing that you time in their lives in temporary.

Rohan was 4 when I stopped watching him, his younger brother had just been born a few months before and he was a fussy baby who only ever wanted his mommy so after a few months of holding a crying (sometimes screaming) baby I moved on to find a full-time nanny job but I never stopped loving that little red head boy.
Thanx to facebook, I got to see him and his brother grow up, their mom Jennifer and I would exchange birthday wishes and comment on each others photos, she was the kind of hands on mom that everyone wishes to have, spending so much time in their home I got to see first hand how much she and her husband loved those boys.
They traveled to exotic international destinations and she made her living by teaching piano, her house was always filled with music and often, between students she would play the most beautiful songs- their tiny house would be filled with music. I grew up playing Piano too so I could appreciate the difficulty of the songs she would play, but she made it sound so easy and effortless.
She was very kind, an organic vegan, who did all the things that the magazines say you should do to take care of yourself, to Love yourself, so when I heard that she had cancer it was a shock to say the very least. She went through treatment and got better, I saw the photos she posted of the boys Halloween costumes, the birthday celebrations, robotics at school and I commented on how big the boys were. She commented on my kitten photos and videos and said how she would adopt one if I still lived near by.
Ro is a teenager now, and his little brother a preteen and yesterday I got a text from my sister informing me that their mom had died. I had not seen her facebook in a while and didn’t even know that she was sick again. She was 45. I know she will be deeply missed by her husband and the boys and I find myself looking back to those days when I spent my afternoons with her happy little red headed toddler.

They will be in my prayers in the coming weeks and years, that they will learn their new normal without her, that they will remember the very best of times and that they will continue to love each other the way she taught them too.
Life is short. You really never know when your last day will be. So live it, say your I love yous and take your road trips, take photos and videos and paint painting and sing songs- because life is short.