Bathroom Fears

It's been too long since I last posted here. I've been consumed with kids and another writing project that's kept me from posting on this blog. This morning I found a few spare minutes before I head to a sub job, so I thought I'd break the silence today with a poem I wrote a few weeks ago--it's not great, but it's different from anything I've written before, so I kind of like it.

Bathroom Fears

Every time I use a public restroom
I search closely for the sign--
the one with the silhouette  of a human figure in a dress
to affirm that I am, in fact, headed into the restroom assigned to my gender.
I fear accidentally walking into the wrong restroom
and awkwardly confronting a man when I am expecting a woman.
I fear embarrassment.
And even when firmly planted on the toilet’s seat,
the thought of accidentally squatting in the wrong bathroom
sends me to panic,
so I listen to each foot step
praying to hear the click-clack of high heels on tile.
I strain my ears to hear the sound of a woman's voice--
I have never longed to hear the sound of a woman's voice
like I do in this moment.
I peer under the stalls hoping to catch a glimpse
of a woman's bare ankle
to reassure me that I am in the right restroom.
This sense of fear sends me to a downward spiral
as I question whether or not I remembered to put on deodorant this morning,
and then I think of the stove in my house--I’m sure I left it on
and my house will start on fire swallowing my dog in flames;
I don’t remember shutting the garage door either after leaving for work,
a black masked robber is sure to steal my computer and guitar
and TV, the only valuable possessions I have.
Were my kids wearing underwear to school today? I wonder.
And just when fear has gripped my thoughts I
suddenly remember the absence of urinals in this bathroom
and from behind the locked stall door
I realize my fears, like most of my fears, are irrational.

Posted in , | Leave a comment

From haggard to happy

I've almost made it through two weeks without a full time teaching gig. And I gotta say...it's awesome. I've been able to pick up somewhere between 15-20 hours each week of shifts at the Writing Center at various Omaha Metro Community College campuses, I'm being added to sub lists at Millard, Bennington, and Fort Calhoun, so hopefully I'll be able to sub in a few weeks. I'm even judging a speech meet (like the good ole days of my first two years of teaching) on Friday night for some extra cash.

I've had time to clean my house, grocery shop, make meals, write, run, play guitar, make bread (yeah...I'm making my own bread now...Sara Lee can shove it up her butt), read, run errands, and visit the kids' classrooms, and after I pick the kids up from school I'm physically free and mentally ready to spend time with them. I'm even able to keep the kids at home longer in the mornings. When I was teaching, I dropped them off at 7 AM each morning to make it to work in time (they don't start school until 9). Today they slept in until 6:15, and I kept them home until 8:20 and dropped them off on my way to work this morning. Until the end of February, Nate's schedule is busy with musical rehearsals in the evenings and honor choirs on the weekends, and I haven't been stressed about it because I'm not juggling kids, maintaining a home, and grading over 300 things each week.

It has taken me a few weeks to escape panic mode--I wasn't panicking about not having a job, I just always felt like I was forgetting something. My adult life has never been this free before..hell, even when I was in high school, I was stretched thin. Training my brain to calm down and chill out has been difficult, but I think I'm finally "settled" in my new routine. I love being able to serve my family and put their needs first. Perhaps I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but I haven't been this happy in a long time...

Posted in , | Leave a comment

Warning: Cliche metaphor up ahead

A blank screen waiting to be filled with typface seems fitting for a few cliche reasons: 1) It's a new year and B) I'm at a new point in my life. I am a blank screen waiting to be filled with a new story....GAG. What a cliche....but...it's sorta true. I've reached a new point in life that is both freeing and frightening. For all of my adult life (all 8 years of it) I've been either moving towards teaching or teaching. While my recent move away from teaching full time is necessary, I'm nervous. My brain is naturally inclined towards thinking of unit plans and lessons and writing ideas and journal prompts. Most of what I talk about with just about everyone revolves around my job. I found myself today with a few spare hours kid free, and normally I'd fill that time with grading or planning or emailing, but today---nothing. Should I nap? Read? Watch multiple episodes of Gilmore Girls? Play guitar? My options were open for the first time in quite a while. It was freaky and unsettling and very refreshing. It's going to feel even more weird when Nate goes back to school on Monday and I don't. All this nonsense aside, I have noticed that without the commitment of full time teaching, I have more patience for my children. I've wanted to actually play with them, and I've been willing and able to take them to two public places that crawl with children (a place filled with bouncy inflatable obstacle type contraptions AND the children's museum) all within 24 hours. I've noticed that I've yelled less at my kids; I'm well-rested, and I've made actual meals for dinner and not frozen, pre-made junk. While this new identity thing is a bit uncomfortable and will take some getting used to, I'm looking forward to attacking the cliche blank screen metaphor.

Posted in | Leave a comment

Recognizing color

In my experience, the most meaningful, revelatory conversations happen while we're washing our kids up in the bath. Maybe it's because it's the only time they get to themselves free of stimulus so they are more apt to ponder. Maybe it's the proverbial washing away of the day's worries--whatever it is, I appreciate hearing their insights during bath time. This time as Nate washed K up, I busied myself in the kids' rooms putting clothes away and arranging their books while I listened to Nate and K's conversation unfold.

"I wish my skin was white," she told Nate.

"Why do you wish that?" Nate inquired.

"I don't know," she responded.

To be honest, I didn't hear the rest of the conversation because I immediately began taking inventory of all we did or didn't do to make her wish this. She only has one brown Barbie among a sea of white Barbies; she has one brown baby and two white babies. Characters in the books she has: all white. I immediately felt terrible. All of the stuff we have for her has been acquired in the form of gifts from others--which has been a huge blessing, but it finally occurred to me this weekend that these gifts scream of whiteness. There are only few times in my life where I have been the minority, and each time was uncomfortable. Moving into a new home in a new part of town with a new family of a new skin color...I cannot imagine how awkward she must feel at times. I feel terrible that we didn't think and plan for this.

On Friday I showed my sophomores this TED Talk video from a Nigerian writer (it's embedded below) as they begin to identify the single stories they think people assume about them so they can write pieces that speak back to those stories and reveal who they really are. In the beginning of the lecture Adichie explains that all of the stories she wrote when she was a small girl featured white characters drinking ginger beer playing in the snow and talking about the weather--none of which she actually knew of but had learned about through all the books she read since most of the books she had access to were British. She mentioned that she did not ever see herself in literature as a young child. Sandra Cisneros (one of my favorite writers) also talks about this very concept which is why she wrote The House on Mango Street so she could finally see people like her in books. I don't want K to ever feel inferior because of her skin color...I want her to love her deep chocolate skin and her kinky hair...I've got some work to do.

So, today I spent a good chunk of time online researching the best books for African-American girls and made a trip to the library to find books with main characters that looked like K. I brought home a stack for both kids to read through. After the holidays, I think I will swap out some of her white dolls for darker skinned dolls and invest in more books with kids like her. It's not huge, but at least it's a starting point.

Posted in , , | Leave a comment

Adjusting to a new identity

I've debated whether or not to write about this or not, but I figured that writing always helps me process things (and this "thing" needs processing) and my writing could help others process similar situations. So...here goes:

I'm done teaching at Burke on December 19th. After lots of praying, I resigned from my teaching contract so I can be more available to my family. It was obviously a hard decision. For too many years I've let my identity be my career (which is very exhausting by the way), so adjusting to my new identity as a mom has been tough. I wish I was one of those people who could do her job, be a loving wife, and parent well. When I come home from school, I'm wiped and have little left to give to my family. So instead of being stressed out for the rest of the year or complaining about it, I just resigned. My teaching certificate was not negatively impacted since I'm not leaving to teach in another district. Instead, I will sub in the Writing Center at Metro Community College until I can get on regularly in March. I am planning on subbing in two districts here in Omaha, and I might adjunct a class in the spring to keep my resume from becoming stagnant. Finances will be tight, but we'll make it work.

I told my kids today at Burke and will tell another group tomorrow--my kids tomorrow will likely not bat an eye, but I had a group of kids today that was pretty upset :( It's hard to leave kids--as much as I want to say that teaching is just a job, it's really not. Teaching is so much more.

I have 14 days left in the classroom. I'm actually feeling pretty good about the decision; I'm sure it will be different when I start packing my boxes, but for now--I'm at peace because it's one we made with great care. Until December 19th, I'll be going gangbusters grading kids' work and packing boxes looking forward to a more free schedule...

Posted in , | 1 Comment

Protecting My Marriage

My favorite wedding pic...
I've been thinking a lot lately about marriage. We've been married for about eight and a half years, and in this time we've watched quite a few of our friends' and acquaintances marriages crumble. Each time we hear of another couple we know separating or divorced, I just get so sad. There's no other way to describe it.

It's no lie: Marriage is hard. The first three years of our marriage were rough as we struggled to figure out how to be grown ups (we were both young) and how to be married. I was in my third year of college and Nate in his first year of teaching, so we had no money; we were insecure ourselves and insecure in our relationship with each other. Quite honestly, I think I expected my marriage to fail, so when times got tough, divorce seemed like a solution. It was always a passing thought, but there was one argument in the parking lot of the Columbus Hy-Vee--I don't remember what the issue was, but I mentioned divorce out loud to Nate through sobs. I didn't ask for a divorce or anything, but I said something like, "Maybe we can't fix this..." but we did. We dug our heels in the metaphorical ground, and screamed and cried it out. And in the car that night, we decided that divorce was not an option for us. Some will argue with me, label me as idealistic, and throw out "what if" scenarios. Our marriage has never been perfect. We've hurt each other (sometimes deliberately), we've been tempted, we've been unkind, we've been torn apart by grief, and we've been confused, but I simply refuse to give up on my marriage. I've thought a lot about why our marriage hasn't ended in divorce. I keep coming back to these qualities:

1. We realize our need for a Savior, so we share a foundation in Christ that drives our decisions and sometimes, our actions (we both could use some improvement in this area!).
2. We have fun together. One of the things I love about my husband is his sense of humor and fun-loving personality. We don't do a great job of going or getting out, but we laugh a lot. Even if we're just doing mundane housework at home or watching a stupid YouTube video, we manage to find ways to laugh by being sarcastic.
3. We talk. Too many couples don't find time to talk honestly, and we struggle with this at certain points each year. When our communication decreases, the tension increases, so we try to touch base with each other. We talk after school, as we're getting dinner ready, after we put the kids to bed, and as we fall asleep. These chats aren't always sit down, face to face talks that last a long time. Sometimes they're phone convos, sometimes they're short. We make do with the time we have. It's not always convenient or comfortable, but we realize it must be done.
4. We try to be honest. This is the most difficult for me, I think. I'm not a pathological liar who likes to keep secrets from her husband, but because I'm a thinker and a dweller, I will run things over in my head for weeks wondering if what I have to say will upset or hurt Nate. I'll come up with five different ways to talk to him about whatever it is I need to say instead of just saying it, so before I can even get it out, I've exhausted myself. Then when I do finally say something to Nate, I'm often at the end of my rope. I'm learning to be honest and open right away with Nate (he's a forward person, so he doesn't struggle with this quality very much!).

Nate is a swell dude.  He prays for me when he's not praying with me, he makes me laugh, he's supported me 100% in every decision I've made, and he does dishes. But even being married to a great guy takes work to make it right because sometimes, our spouses can be downright annoying (like right now, he's snoring loud enough for the neighbors to hear and farting). Our marriage is far from perfect, but we will continue to work to protect our marriage.


Posted in , | 1 Comment

Reflections from a tired momma

K's arrival to our home seemed rushed and a bit unplanned. It was a delicate situation for various reasons, and K didn't find out she was moving in with us until the week she moved in. Nobody really explained to her what was going to happen and why it was happening. So, we had lots of explaining to do when she moved in. We noticed that she was not very expressive--she didn't say how she felt about the situation, she didn't ask questions, she didn't ask about her foster or biological family. She would just get kind of a blank stare whenever we talked about it. Towards the end of week two she told us, "I like y'alls house. I get to play in the living room and y'all cook good." It was her first display of expression--I wanted to hug her, but I didn't want to freak her out because she hadn't been affectionate with us (though she would try to touch strangers' hair or jewelry and give them hugs...).

It's been a little over five weeks since she moved in, and she's opening up more and more over time.  She's expressed a fear of being adopted--mainly because she's afraid of the judge. She told us a few weeks ago that this is the first time she's ever had her own bed. She's asked questions about her birth mom and foster mom and has accepted the truth very well. She has taken to Nate a lot quicker than me--she's never met her birth father before, so Nate is the first male to be in her life. She calls him dad sporadically and she tells him she loves him at night. But it hasn't been so easy for her to make the transfer that I will be her mom. She calls me mom 5:10 times, and she's only returned my "I love you" with an "I love you too" once...and it was mumbled and uncomfortable. If I'm being honest, this is really difficult for me. I understand that it will take her a while to trust me because the "moms" in her life have not been trustworthy. I understand that she has been hurt by these women, but it's a hard pill to swallow. 

****

For the past few days J-man's been talking an awful lot about police officers, asking questions like, Why do police officers ask people to put their hands up? What happens if someone doesn't put his hands up? Why do police officers point guns at people? Tonight the questions continued in various forms. I know J's bio parents have a history with law enforcement, and he's seen his fair share of violence. When he first moved in, he told us lots of stories involving violence, arrests, and his birth parents. I've learned with J and other foster kids to let them talk and ask questions, answer honestly, and then use it as a moment to ask my own questions. So tonight I asked if he had ever seen his birth dad be arrested. I knew the answer to my question, but I wanted to give him an opportunity to talk about it if he wanted to. 

"Yeah," he said hurriedly. "And, and [he stutters when he gets excited] the cops were pointing a gun at the house like this" he blurted as he kneeled on his chair and mimicked holding a shot gun or a rifle. "I don't know why they were pointing the gun at the house," he said curiously. 

"Well, did your birth dad have a gun?" I asked. 

He said that he didn't have one, so I explained that sometimes when police officers are called to a house, they don't know what's going on inside, so they have to be ready to protect themselves and the people around them just in case the people inside are doing something really bad that could put others in danger. J explained that the cops took his birth dad to jail. 

"Is that when you went to Aunt C's [his foster mom before us]?" 

"Yeah," he said in between bites of rice, "but I didn't get to go with the police. I asked them if I could, but I went with two guys instead." And as quickly as our conversation started, it ended as he changed topics like five year olds are known to do. J has been with us for over a year, but tonight reminded me that his trauma is deep. 

As I reflect on all of this tonight, I am pissed that parents could neglect their children. My heart aches when I think about all my babies have seen and been through. If I could transfer all of that to me so they could be trauma free, I would. I feel inadequate to help them through all of this in a loving and patient way, and I feel tired. The tantrums, the out of control, over the top behaviors  (while all justifiable considering what they've experienced), constant redirection, etc. etc. have just worn me down and left me feeling...well, tired, I guess. My whole body feels it. My arms and back ache, I'm not motivated to run or cook, and all I want to do is eat cereal. When I talk to some people about this, they kind of brush it off and say things like, "Yeah, parenting is hard." I recognize that...I do...but what bothers me about statements like this is that I don't think people (unless they've been foster parents themselves) really understand how hard it is to be in our shoes. I don't want a pat on the back or an award, but what I do want is acknowledgment that our situation is different and complex and difficult. I guess I want my feelings to be validated--which sounds lame now that I've just typed it. I know this stress is worth it--but parenting two children with backgrounds like ours is just tough...and tiring. 

Posted in , | 1 Comment

Archives

Powered by Blogger.

Contributors

My Photo
Omaha, Nebraska, United States

Search

Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by LiteThemes.com.