Friday, December 31, 2010

With a Purpose

Goodbye 2010, hello 2011! Reflecting yesterday, I am happy about the year, but I can always reach for so much more! I love setting resolutions and goals...and usually I fail miserably, but I always start out with high hopes. This year is no different. I think overall, I want to live each day with a purpose and act with intent. Clint and I recently went through a study with our church called 'Merge' that discussed how we are to be the spiritual leaders for our children and to help them grow and know Christ. We can't just depend on others to do it. It made Clint and I realize that we have so much to improve on. It's easy to say, well, we'll start doing XYZ when baby(ies) come along. We need to start doing these things NOW and not simply 'for the kids', but for us, for those around us. They need to become habit, a natural part of us! So, I want to live each day with a purpose and act intentionally, not just let things happen. And I think a BIG key to all of this is going to be time management! Here are some specifics I've come up with:

  • Devoted quiet time every day. And in this quiet time I want to read through the entire Bible this year, maintain a study, despite whether our small group is in one or not. Small group is nice in getting things started, but I can't rely on it alone to study the word.
  • Healthy Eating (or eating healthier more often). Following Dave Ramsey and setting up a budget, we have become better about this, but we still put a substantial amount of money in the 'eating out' fund each week. I want eating out to become much more of a treat rather than the 'necessity' we act that it is. Really, it boils down to laziness and lack of time management; we don't plan ahead and then we're too tired to want to cook. Of course, just eating at home doesn't mean it's healthy, I want to start eating better meals at home too. Cut out the junk and fake stuff!
  • An established training/workout plan with race goals! Over the years I have backed myself into a corner. I worked my way up to bigger and bigger races. So big, that if I want to do anything bigger, I just about have to leave the country to do so. So, why not go back to some shorter races? I'm scared I'll be slower or worse than I was before. Stupid really, but that's how my mind works. I'm scared of failure in the short stuff and don't have the time/money to do the long stuff, so I do nothing. That changes in 2011! I was going to do a marathon in February, but I realized that I was hiding in it again because it was a trail marathon so I was able to tell myself 'times aren't comparable, so my time, if slow, doesn't matter (meaning, no one will look down on me).' Well, due to the PRIDE classes, I can't do it anymore anyway, which is good! I am setting out to do the local half marathon in March, and then the three local sprint triathlon races this year (and we'll see about other stuff along the way). It's time to face my fears, if I'm slow, so be it, work harder to get faster. I've gotten myself so worked up about what others think and worrying about being a failure that I no longer enjoy the sport I used to love. I'm coming back, no matter how ugly my results may be, I'm going to have fun. :)
  • Lose weight. Yep, isn't that the standard for everyone? If I'm doing my two previous points, this will fall into place.
  • Ditch the TV! Okay, so perhaps I don't want to totally get rid of it. I'm thinking I'll watch the news, sports (we love us some football, but really, even then, we don't see too many games), and then if I'm on the trainer I can watch it. Really, I just don't want to come home in the evenings and automatically flip on the TV. Too many times I plop down in front of it and then nothing gets accomplished. It's not that I'm addicted to the shows, so much garbage these days, but I think it's just a way of checking out from the day. There are much more useful ways to check out from the daily grind.
  • Read LOTS! Without the TV, I'll have much more free time to read. I have books written down all over the place that I want to read that people have told me about, I've heard about, etc. Books on adoption, raising kids, addiction, books for fun, educational books such as photography. I could live in Books A Million and still desperately need to get a library card because I can't afford to buy every book I see!
  • Take more photos! We have a wish list of things we want and one of the items I want is a nice DSLR camera. I've already picked it out! If/when I do get it, I want to take LOTS of pictures. Stay tuned, perhaps this blog will get a little more colorful :) So see, I need to do my reading so that I know HOW to take said pictures.
  • Volunteer more. Being in Leadership Longview has been great; I've learned about so many organizations in our community that need help. I want to volunteer at our church more and continue to mentor 'my' girls. I'll also be helping our Leadership group install the new gardens at the ARC. Still, there is so so so much more I could do.
  • Be more active in my tri club. I'm the club president again this year. Last year, I'll admit to just going through the motions, doing the bare minimum. I'd like to really reach out to the beginners and establish some group workouts that help the beginners feel comfortable in getting started. Triathlon can definitely be an intimidating sport. I may even go to the level 1 coaching clinic so that I can be a certified coach. Might be a way to bring in some money on the side when I am a SAHM in 2012.
  • Follow through with my projects. I have a handful of projects such as organizing my photos and creating photo albums; putting together a recipe book of all the recipes that I've found over the past few years; and home improvement stuff. It's time to stop saying I'll do them, and actually do them!

And those are just the major ones. I don't think people care to hear about my minor resolutions like wearing my mouth guard every night (I'm a teeth grinder) and not sleeping with my contacts in, yada yada. Oh, and while these are some of my daily goals, Clint and I have some life goals for this year too, 1) Foster/Adopt (well, at least get the licensing, we'll see when the state is ready for us), 2) Take a real vacation (still undecided where, but it will require a plane!), and 3) a fully funded emergency fund.

Hmm, does 2011 come with 30 hour days? Looks like I've got a full schedule for the new year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Setting the Foundation

Last night I destroyed Christmas in our house. Took a few hours, but I almost enjoyed it because I bought some great bins to store my ornaments in and I'm all about organization. Clint laughs at my obsession with it. The house is so empty looking now, we really need some decorating help! But I am happy that everything is now back in its rightful place.

With Christmas down and put away, the year is running out, which makes almost everyone reflect on the year. For so many people, evident on facebook, it was a bad year. If you talk to just about any of our family members, it was a horrible year. For us, however, I would say it was a great year! Nothing really earth-shattering, especially in others eyes; we didn't go on any great trips or do any big races. It wasn't a year of birthday milestones or really any other milestones so to speak. In fact, most of our friends and family think we are crazy because well, we didn't do a whole lot of anything because we were 'paying off debt.' Man, do I know they got sick and tired of hearing that from us! Wanna go out to eat? Nope, were out of money in that envelope. When are you going to get another car? Why, when our cars run just fine. You have such a little TV and, gasp! You don't have sat. or cable! The TV works, and we're not paying for junk.

I'm calling 2010: The year we Set the Foundation. We may not have accomplished anything major in 2010, but we layed the groundwork to have successful, God-driven lives ahead. We tackled a lot of financial goals that will allow us to foster/adopt and provide for our needs without stress and worry. We joined a new church where we feel much more connected and pushed to learn more. We made so many Christian friendships which will also help us in our spiritual journey. Expanded our volunteer work and hope to dig even deeper in the years to come. So, I'm proud of our 'boring' year and can't wait to see what the future holds!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Awkward Day

Christmas is finally over and things are slowly starting to return to a normal schedule...with the exception of Clint having the entire week off and not returning to work until Jan. 3rd (I'm not jealous or anything, ha!). We had a good time in Abilene and it was nice to sit back and relax. Abilene kind of forces that on you and we needed it. And while I was excited about seeing my mom and my sister's family, I was apprehensive about visiting three people and somehow it worked out that I would be visiting them all on the same day. Poor Clint was a trooper and things actually went about as good as they could go.

First up, my grandmother (My Dad's mother): Now, I truly LOVE this woman, so what could be so bad about seeing your grandmother, right? Well, it has been a long time since I've seen her and her health has greatly deteriorated. She is now in a nursing home, is in a wheelchair, and has an inoperable brain tumor. Her memory has good days and bad days and so my hesitation was, what if she doesn't know who I am? How awkward will it be? Will I scare her? Fortunately, my mom, sister, and niece all came along for the visit. It was hard seeing her in a place like that, but she looked good and was still as sweet as ever, just quiet. I'm not sure if she knew who any of us were, but I think she may have recognized my sister. But she was happy with the company, no matter who she thought we were. So, I would call our visit a success. I definitely need to get up there to see her more often.

Next up, Mr. Aneff: So, a little background. I dated a guy in high school and into early college. We eventually broke up (he broke up with me, and yes, my little teenage heart thought it was the end of the world, oh young naive love, ha ha. To know then what I know now! We were going in two totally opposite directions in life {and really came from two totally different backgrounds} and boy would our worlds collide if we had stayed together; I can't imagine two more different people). Anyway, even though we were no more, I was still close to his family, the Aneffs, his mom and older sister in particular. When my family and I were going through rough times, they were always there for me and they did SO much for me, I will be eternally grateful to them. Sadly, Mrs. Aneff passed away in August of '02, which was extremely hard on me...I think because I had no idea how bad she had gotten (died of the big C), they really kept that from me, I'm sure trying to protect me, but in the end, I wish I had known! I felt robbed of being able to say goodbye, I don't even remember what my last words to her were. Anyway, as usual, I am getting sidetracked. Even though, I wasn't as close to Mr. Aneff, I've always tried to keep in contact with him and visit him when I can. I know, having his wife pass away and having all of his kids grown and moved away must be hard. Normally, visiting him goes fine, but over the years, he's turned into what I call 'the cranky old man'. I won't go into the details of their family issues, but every family has them, even the wealthy ones like theirs. When I speak to him now, I get to hear him complain about all that is wrong, and then he usually pauses just long enough to ask how my job is...apparently that's my only defining worth in my life to him. So, I was dreading having to hear the same complaints again. Well, that's just what we got, but with a bonus!

I broke the news to Mr. Aneff about our plans to adopt. We then received a 20 min. lecture on why it is so important to check into their medical histories because he knows this person, that person, so and so, and on and on that have adopted and the kids have no mental capacity. I kept my cool while there, but Clint could tell I was mad and I am! Furious in fact! 1) For him to treat us to be so stupid to think we would not look into the files and gather as much information as we can so that we can pass it on to the child. We want them to have as much background and history possible. But, we know, there is only so much information that we will be able to obtain. 2) For him to infer that children that aren't scholars aren't worth adoption is infuriating. 3) I cannot stand when people want to rattle off every bad case they've heard. YES, we get it, some adoptions go goes bad from time to time, but I just don't understand people's need to do this. It's like telling a pregnant woman your horror stories on childbirth. And 4) I can't stand when people want to 'teach' me about adoption when they haven't been through it and don't really know. We were telling him about the process and he had no idea how it works. Heck, we haven't even begun, so we don't even know it all, but don't start to 'educate' me on something you know nothing about. But this last one is something that you would really have to know him, to understand (I love him, but he definitely has that 'I know everything' attitude). I know, I know, Mama Lion coming out again (and when we are still SO far away from even being licensed to get a child), but to say our visit was frustrating would be an understatement. Deep down, I know he wants what is best for me and doesn't want to see me struggle, but he has a crazy way of going about it!

I tried to cool off from that visit on our way to see, number three, my dad: As previously mentioned, we had a huge falling out after my wedding. My dad has struggled with drugs and alcohol addiction all his life and then there are other skeletons in the closet that don't need to be discussed here that make the situation even worse. We'll just leave it at this 'his actions leading up to my wedding and then the wedding itself were the straws that broke the camels back.' My husband and I came back from our honeymoon and I turned on my phone and was already receiving nasty text mesages from him. I didn't respond...for a year and a half. I was done. Done with the guilt trips, the twisting of reality into things being 'my' fault, the lies, etc. He had hurt me SO many times, yet I always came back, but after my wedding, I had enough, enough of the abuse. Last Christmas, I finally decided that I had to turn it all over to God, all my anger, disappointment, my want to change my dad, all of it. It was for God to handle, not me. Whew! Letting go of control is hard! So, I called my dad last year and opened up the communication. It was nice. We didn't talk again, with the exception of a 'happy birthday' text from him on my birthday. So, my sister and I decided to get together for Christmas with him, just to spend some time together, perhaps play a game. We decided on her place, so that we would not have to go to his house, which is a toxic place for so many reasons, I don't think I can go back there.

Clint and I pulled up at the same time that my dad was pulling up...well, being dropped off. I was instantly nervous! Great! He's already so tanked up that he needed a ride! Clint and I went in first and we and my sister's family all braced for him to come in. We were a little nervous when he came in. There are some definite cues that my sister and I have picked up on over the years that alert us when he's 'not himself' and our radars were up. But things stayed calm and pleasant even and seemed to get better as the night went on. We were even able to play one of our favorite card games. It was such a relief. I'm so happy I got to see him because honestly, I worry about him. I worry about what he may do to himself and how much longer he may be around. I hate what addiction and the other skeletons have done to him. He's such a brilliant man, a creative man. I pray that he will some day want to seek help for his addiction, to clean up the other things in his life, and that we can all hang out and enjoy each others company like we did Sunday night. I miss him and Clint says he can tell that he misses us because he kept talking about things from when we were little kids, which was before things started to unravel. I think he does miss us, but I think his addiction brain thinks that we turned against him (he's told us so before). His sense of reality is so warped, who knows if he will ever see the truth. I do love him though, he's my dad.

The awkward day ended up not being so awkward after all and I am glad that I did in fact go see them when I would have much rather been somewhere else. These people are important pieces of my life; they have all helped shape who I am today. Their ways aren't the 'easy' ways, but God has a purpose for everything and everyone.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Will my hands ever recover?

Whew! What a weekend! I started on Friday baking/cooking fast and furious and it continued all the way up until everyone arrived on Sunday evening. I don't know how women do it! My hands were so sore because they became so dry from washing them so much inbetwen cooking different things and keeping dishes washed (I don't have a lot of mixing bowls, etc., so most I had to reuse over and over). And my feet! Oh my feet! I'm weird in the sense that I don't stand well. Those that know me probably think that sounds crazy since I have done so many races where I have been on my feet and going for 24-36-45 hours. But the difference was that I was mmoving. If I'm moving, it's all good, but if I am forced to stand, I want to sit down in a matter of minutes.

I am certainly not complaining though, I really enjoyed it and I almost felt domestic in the end. Although, I must confess that I did have to call my mom twice for foolish questions...such as, how to broil something. Embarassing, I know! And I want to bring children in my home?? The poor kids! But I think everything turned out great, with the exception of a candy cane cake that fell apart, but that's okay because the sopapilla cheesecake MORE than made up for it! I almost wish I had never discovered that recipe because I am IN love. I am a cheesecake fanatic as it is, throw a yummy flaky crust and cinnamon and sugar on top? Ahhh, slice of heaven!

All of Clint's family seemed to really enjoy the food too. I hope they did and weren't just trying to be nice. We had a fairly nice time together. But it is hard to see one of Clint's brothers struggle with addictions. He was pretty much a zombie and not really 'there' so to speak. He says he will be going to rehab soon and I pray that happens. Unfortunately, my side of the family is not immune to substance abuse either. We will be seeing my dad for the first time in 2.5 years (since our wedding) over Christmas when we go to Abilene. My sister has been keeping me in the loop and I have to be honest that I am nervous about our visit with him. Substance abuse and addictions like these are so hard for me to grasp and understand. Why would people do it? Why do they hurt the ones they love? How can they put these addictions before everything else and risk their own lives even? Sadly, I know that the reason so many of the kids that are taken out of their homes by CPS is due to the root cause of addiction and substance abuse which leads to neglect and abuse of the ones you love. While I hate that Clint and I have to see this in both of our families, perhaps we will have an understanding and deeper perspective for the kids that do come into our home and become part of our family.

I really didn't intend to get sidetracked like that, but Clint's brother and my dad have really been weighing heavy on my heart lately. Anyway, our calendar is clearing up and now to just make it to Friday, Christmas Eve for some much needed time off and getting to spend time with my family.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Let's get this ball rolling!

Clint and I have been talking about adoption, reading about adoption, and talking to others about adoption for what seems like forever now (I know it's not and I'm sure that many will probably think that we aren't thinking things through all the way and 'jumping the gun'). We are so anxious to get things in motion, but we also have a timeline with me wanting to work another year so there is no reason to get ahead of ourselves either. I finally called Buckner (yes, we are going to work through Buckner) on Wednesday to get an understanding of what the timeline is for the process.

We will have to take a PRIDE training course that is offered in February (on Saturdays) or in August (Mon/Thurs evenings). They might add in a third/fourth class series, but are unsure of when. The process to become licensed will take 4-6 months. The PRIDE classes are good for one year. We were concerned about starting those too early, having the certification lapse and then having to take it all over again. However, we were told that if we stay in contact with Buckner, etc., that we wouldn't have to repeat the entire class, but perhaps take a one day class on something such as 'attachment issues'. So, knowing all of that, we have decided to take the February class! We worry that if we wait until August, we wouldn't be licensed until well into the following year. I'm sure my employer will want to replace me at the calendar year so I don't want to be sitting at home while we wait for licensing. We were also reminded that we could put our child in day care if need be. So, if we get licensed before the end of next year, and a child needs a placement, while daycare is not ideal to me, it would be a short term situation.

So, like I said, February it is! We are so excited! Of course, this is all based on our pre-application being approved (filled out today). In addition to PRIDE, we'll have lots of other documents/things to take care of such as the main applicaiton, CPR, criminal background check, and the 'scary' home study! I'm just so ready to be 'in' the process rather than saying we 'will' do the process.

Currently, this weekend is going to be a busy one! Lots of cooking/cleaning to do to get ready to host Clint's family for Christmas on Sunday evening. Making of the Christmas 'goodies' is new territory for me. Pray for me that it turns out...or perhaps, pray for Clint's family since they will be eating it, ha ha! After this weekend though, life begins to slow down a bit and then we will be headed to Abilene for Christmas. I can't wait!

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's that time of year

I love the Christmas season! I love it so much I put up two Christmas trees! Of course, I know I'll be kicking myself come January when it's time to take them down, but how awesome would it be to have them year round? I love a room lit by simply the glow of a Christmas tree. And I have to avoid the stores because I want every sparkling decoration out there. Totally not necessary I know, and definitely not a part of the Dave Ramsey plan.

However, the part I don't like, is the busy-ness. Well, I do and I don't. I love getting together with friends over a good meal and laughing over a white elephant gift exchange. But, sometimes I feel like we put too much stress on ourselves this time of year and do too many things because 'it's Christmas and that's what you do at Christmas." I wonder if we are truly enjoying the season with all that we have going on. We keep a white board calendar in the kitchen to keep track of activities and it is so scribbled on this month. It's exhausting just looking at it!

Clint and I picked out an 'angel tree' child to buy presents for and then he had one through work as well. I enjoy shopping for these kids, especially since we don't have kids of our own and don't get to buy the 'fun' stuff. However, it also makes me so incredibly sad, wondeirng what these kids may be dealing with in their lives. Are mom and dad really just hard on their luck this year, or were drugs and alcohol higher on the priority list than proper clothing? Is dad even around? Do they have a warm place to sleep? I read in the paper about how there were still 500 angels that hadn't been picked so we went and grabbed two more. I know it's a drop in the bucket, but I hope we bring a smile to at least a handful of kids faces on Christmas morning.

Speaking of smiling kids, I met with my little fourth graders today. They did awesome on their journals! I was really blown away. I expected them to only have perhaps a couple days filled out and the rest blank. And then I expected a couple of one-liners for their journal entries. They filled out every day and wrote lots! One of my girls, Miss M, even took hers home and wrote on the weekend she liked it so much. I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and I think they liked reading mine as well. I did notice one common theme through all three, they said something to the effect that they are nice girls but when someone crosses them the wrong way, they get mean. I hope we can work on this issue. I'm somewhat amazed that they volunteered that piece of information out. I wonder if it is something that people tell them often, or if they truly understand that what they are doing is mean.

They were extremely excited about my reward system: 2 stickers for green and 1 for yellow. Earn 7 stickers for a small treat/prize and 35 stickers gets them a lunch of their choice. Two of the three earned at least 7 stickers this week. Miss A however only earned 4. I hated not being able to give her the 'treat' for the week and she was sad. However, I need to stick to my guns and set up guidelines/boundaries. They were already dreaming about what their special lunch would be. Miss N asked, 'Could it be anything? Even McDonalds?!' Ha ha, yes, even McDonalds, even though it will greatly pain me to have to go to that place. Perhaps I should show them Supersize Me in advance to see if that changes their minds, lol.

Again, I am so happy I decided to mentor because they certainly bring a smile to my face. With all of the hussle and bussle this time of year, I'm thankful that I get to slow things down and see the world through the eyes of a child.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stepping outside of my comfort zone

As I mentioned awhile back when I began the Leadership Longview program, I am very much an introvert. I enjoy meeting new people and making new friends, but it's not something that comes easy or naturally to me. Well, I was asked to do something (indirectly through the Leadership Longview program) that I felt was WAY outside my comfort zone...being a mentor for an elementary school. I didn't have to say yes, I wasn't asked directly, just a general question to the group for volunteers. Now, while it may be out of my comfort zone, it's something that I WANTED to do. So, I threw myself in the ring.

I was matched with a fourth grade teacher at a nearby school. I met with her last week and she asked me to take three little girls under my wing. She said they are quite smart, but have terrible attitudes. In just the time I was there, two of them were already in trouble. Yikes bikes! How am I to handle this? I had brief introductions with the girls and promised to be back this week.

All last week I agonized and toiled over what to do with them, what to say, etc. Who knew fourth graders could be so scary, ha ha! I decided on getting the girls journals (and one for me as well). They are to write their color of the day, something they did that day, and then something about a specified topic I give them. Their color is in reference to their behavior color system in class. Green being the best, red the worst. Their topic this week was to tell me something about themselves. I don't want/expect anything long or too private/personal, but it will be a way for me to learn about their days/them and for them to be able to do the same with me. And, I hope it will also lead to some talking points, such as, why they earned a 'bad' color and what are some ways we can do things differently in the future so that we can stay on a 'good' color. Or, what their goals are in life and what are some steps they can take to achieve those things.

Anyway, today was my first real day with them and I wasn't sure how they would respond to the journal idea. Well, they LOVED it! Whew! They were really excited and wanted to fill them out right then and there. One of the girls actually wants to be an author (and chef) when she grows up so being able to write was right up her alley.

I've definitely got my work cut out for me with these three, but I already love them. I'm glad our initial day is over so that now I can relax. I'm trying to put some things together that we can do as a group such as short games, activities, etc. Meeting during lunch time doesn't give me a whole lot of time with them so I've got to make the best of it.