Week two of ten

We're approaching week three of our ten week training to be licensed foster parents. It's been an overwhelming two weeks. In fact, on my way home from our last meeting, I cried my eyes out. I cried for the biological kids we'll never have, I cried for the little boy we lost in August, I cried for the thousands of kids in our state who experience the trauma of being removed from their homes for whatever reason. I cried because I don't know how a ten week course will prepare us to be foster parents or adoptive parents. I cried because of the overwhelming amount of paperwork we still have to fill out before our meeting on Tuesday. It was a blurry drive home.

This week we read horrifying case studies of kids that simply heartbreaking, and then we were given 15 minutes to analyze and write up what we felt these kids need based on their history. I felt almost paralyzed as the rest of my group began chatting and assessing their needs. I just read the four sentence profiles over and over again and thought to myself, How the hell am I supposed to figure what these kids need in 15 minutes?! How will I ever be ready to be a foster parent?! 

I know this isn't a real-life scenario; we'll have a little longer than 15 minutes to figure out how to meet a kid's needs. But it will be high pressure like this scenario. And how does a person even prepare for this? How can a 10 week course prepare me to parent a child who potentially has several layers of trauma? The class left my head spinning, my heart racing, and the questions scrolling through my mind. I didn't sleep well that night.

In the last few days, we've chipped away at some of the paperwork. In addition to background checks, health forms,  and miscellaneous release forms, we each had to answer a packet of questions about our family history and personal life. Because I'm a writer, this quickly turned into four single-spaced typed pages of responses. We still haven't had time to sit down and fill out the packet about our relationship or write a letter to potential biological families and foster children. That's our task for tomorrow; it's daunting to say the least. Once we submit this paperwork, then we'll move onto the family consultations (I think that's what they call them), where they inspect our home (ours might be a little delayed since we won't be able to move into our new home...yes...I said NEW HOME!...until May 23rd) and then interview us. I think we have at least three of these meetings...

It's been a long week. I think stress gave me the flu; I had a fever from Wednesday night until Thursday night and just felt miserable for 24 hours. Nate and I want so badly to be parents. It's been awhile since I last asked God why He has us going about it in such a non-traditional, uncomfortable, and sometimes downright painful way...but in the last five days, this question has spilled out. Tonight as I wrestled with our infertility and failed attempt at adoption, I felt led to this verse:

So to keep me [Paul] from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." --2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

I haven't yet been able to boast about my weakness or trials, and I definitely haven't learned to take pleasure in these troubles, but the bolded lines bring me great comfort. Though it's painful to submit entirely to God's will for our family (which means letting go of the fear, the doubt, and the pain of infertility), I'm glad that I can rely on God's grace and power to hold me up when I'm weak. I'm exhausted right now, but I'm looking forward to what God's going to teach us and bring us along the way. 

"To a Young Father"

April is National Poetry Appreciation Month--I've been celebrating by sharing a poem a week with my juniors and reading more poetry on my own time. Today I ran across the poem below, which I feel is fitting for both Nate and me in our recent de-cluttering of our time as we prepare to be parents through foster care or adoption. I've got a post in the works about the aforementioned subject, but it will have to wait until I've graded 30 essays and read Macbeth...stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the poem:

This riverbend must have always been lovely.
Take the one-lane iron bridge shortcut across
the town's west end and look downstream
to where the water backs up by the falls.
Boys once fished there with butterball bait
because the creamery churned by hydro
and the trout were so rich, says my ancient neighbor,
they tasted like heaven, but better. Try to
stop on the bridge if no one's coming
to see the back of the furniture mill

in upside-down detail on the river,
assuming the day is clear and still.
I've lived here and driven this road forever.
Strange therefore that I've never taken
the same advice I'm offering you.
I've lived here, but I've too often been racing
to get to work or else back home
to my wife and our younger school-age children,
the fifth and last of whom will be headed
away to college starting this autumn.

I hope I paid enough attention
to her and the others, in spite of the lawn,
the plowing, the bills, the urgent concerns
of career and upkeep. Soon she'll be gone.
Try to stop on the bridge in fall:
that is, when hardwood trees by the river
drop carmine and amber onto the surface;
or in spring, when the foliage has gotten no bigger
than any newborn infant's ear
such that the light from sky to stream

makes the world, as I've said—or at least this corner—
complete, in fact double. I'd never have dreamed
a household entirely empty of children.
It'll be the first time in some decades,
which may mean depression, and if so indifference
to the river's reflections, to leaves and shades,
but more likely—like you, if you shrug off my counsel
or even take it—it'll be through tears
that I witness each of these things, so lovely.
They must have been lovely all these years.

--Sydney Lea


Changes on the horizon

Well, after praying and struggling for a few months, I decided to hand in my resignation from Gretna Public Schools last week. It was a tough decision because the district, administration, teachers, and students are all incredible. So why the decision?

First, Nate and I start our 10 week foster training on Tuesday. We're hoping to adopt children from the Nebraska Heart Gallery program who are currently available for adoption. We'd like to open ourselves up to adopting sibling sets--so two to three (or four?!) children. Even if an adoption doesn't work out, we'd like to foster up to three kids at a time. Going from zero to three or four children will take time that I don't have with my current job as an English teacher in Gretna. I can barely manage taking care of the little family I have and maintain my career now. I love teaching, but I've dreamed of being a mom for nearly seven years (since Nate and I married), and I don't want to feel divided. I want whatever children we have in our home to be one of my top priorities. Since we cannot afford for me to stay home full-time, I've decided that if some of the applications I have out for Instructional Facilitator/Coach jobs in the Metro area don't work out, I'll substitute teach until we are accustomed to our sudden change in lifestyle.

Secondly, I think I need to step away from teaching English even if it's just for a short time. I know I'm early in my career, but I think I pushed it too hard too quickly. I'm sure my crazy personal life (infertility, failed adoption, etc) hasn't helped, but this year my love for teaching has diminished more than I'd like it to. I find myself being a bit cynical, and that frightens me.

Initially I worried and stressed about this decision. I didn't sleep well for many nights and felt physically sick as I grappled with whether to stay or leave. Now that it's all said and done, I feel relieved.

Our lives could look very different by late summer. We sold our home in Ogallala a few weeks ago and began our search for a new home in Omaha this week. We're praying that it's finally time for us to grow our family. Nate and I are anxious to be parents; we really just want to love kids and provide them with a stable family. Hopefully it will be our turn very soon!

If you're the praying kind, here are a few requests:

  • We're searching for a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 2 car garage home in a safe neighborhood that's not more than a 15 minute commute for Nate to work that's $150,000 or less....pretty specific, right? Yeah, we know! There aren't a ton of options that meet our requirements, but we have found a few. It's been a tough process because though Nate and I are similar in a lot of ways, we seem to be running into some conflict with this process. Pray we'd be patient and understanding with each other, and pray that we'd be wise. We'd like to be into a house by early June.
  • Now more than ever we both want kids so badly that it hurts (check out Nate's blog for his thoughts). Pray that God would settle our hearts and cause us to seek shelter in His love and promises. Pray that we'd not be controlled by this anxiety. The agency we're working with has a website with photos and descriptions of kids who are available for adoption, and I look at it every day...I'm starting to get attached to certain kids, so pray we'd keep our hearts guarded. The other night before we drifted to sleep, I whispered to Nate that I was scared we'd have another failed placement. My heart is still fragile from our last one; I know I couldn't handle another. 


The Runner's Rut

It's been awhile since I posted a running update...perhaps that's because for the past two weeks I've been in a running rut. About three weeks ago I ran a half-marathon that was a trail race. Cold temps and a tougher terrain made the run difficult, but I did run a PR.
The look on my face says it all: "Where is the bleepin' finish line?!"
I felt pretty good about it, yet after that race, my motivation to run declined drastically. Usually spring and temps high enough to run in shorts gives my running mojo a new boost. But lately all I've wanted to do after work is watch TV and eat cookies....

A few weeks ago I tried out my Vibram Five-Fingers for a short three miler. I've been wearing them on my dreadmill runs for up to five miles and have done fine. On the day that I strapped them on, it was 50 degrees, I had a day off from school, and I found myself feeling as free as a naked toddler. This ensued in a sub 8 pace for much of the run (MUCH faster than my treadmill runs). I noticed a little tenderness in my calves that afternoon, but it was nothing unbearable. The next day when I tried to get out of bed, I nearly fell over because my calves hurt so bad. I felt like my legs could not support me; it was a feeling similar to my post-marathon soreness (which was terrible). The pain kept up for a few days. My 10 miler that week was atrocious. Normally I'm a light-footed runner and can't hear my steps over my music, but on that particular Saturday I sounded like an elephant. I couldn't flex my feet to land on my mid-foot, so instead I was landing flat-footed which in turn made my hips sore for the next week. In short, my careless Vibram running led to two weeks of lower body misery, ocasional cursing, and perhaps is what sparked my desire to trade running for binge eating. I began flirting with the idea of just giving up running for a month. It's been two years since I've taken more than a week off of running. Last night I set my alarm for 7:30 so I could set out for my scheduled 11 miler. When I closed my eyes last night, I gave myself permission to sleep past my alarm and maybe skip the run.

Then the morning came. I woke an hour before my alarm and could not fall back asleep. I checked Facebook and notice a post from a local running group that said: "The air is warm, the birds are singing. Get out and run!" I have to say, runners can be pretty damn annoying. We also tend to be a competitive breed (either with each other or with ourselves), and I couldn't let this annoying runner taunt me with his sickeningly happy Facebook post. Begrudgingly, I grabbed my gear and set out for Lake Z to rack up the miles.

Besides the raging wind for the last four miles, it was a pretty good run. It wasn't my fastest, but I still ran a decent pace which puts me on track for another PR at my next half in two weeks. I don't know what was different about this run, but afterwards, I felt much better about running. Perhaps the sun and a little time alone to think and pray with no papers to rush back home and grade was all I needed.

It also helped that Nate sprung an early birthday present on me today: a new Garmin and four packs of Honey Stinger fruit chews! My Garmin is about three years old and lately has been losing satellite connection during my runs which messes up the total distance and pace counts (which, for an anal runner like myself, is maddening). And the Honey Stingers are a treat to myself at mile 10 on my long runs. They're like Cliff Shot Blocks, but are much easier to chew and are made with honey and other natural ingredients rather than weird stuff.

If you've been running for any length of time, you've experienced the "runner's rut." There's not much to do other than run through it. These crap moments are what makes our training tough, but they also make us stronger mentally. Oh, and a word of advice: don't rush into minimalist running--especially with those crazy gorilla shoes. As great as they feel while running, pushing too hard too fast will equal pain.