Thursday, July 28, 2011

Charley's Lesson

One of my favorite students from my first year of teaching died at the beginning of school year. He wrestled a match, won it, shook his opponents hand, waved to his Mom and collapsed while he was walking back to his bench. He was rushed to the hospital, but died in route. The cause of death was having too big of a heart. 

This was a big kid. In 8th grade he was over 6ft tall and looked a lot more like a high schooler than an 8th grader.  He made my first year of teaching better. When I had a bad day, he would leave notes of encouragement on my desk. I still have one "Miss Lomas, you are good teacher and we like you. You are funny and make me like Language Arts." As my TA he defended an autistic girl against other students who were making fun of her. He was goofy, funny and pushed himself and his peers to be the best version of themselves that they could be. If I have a son, I would be happy for him to be like Charley.

The 8th grade football team was undefeated for the first time in LCMS history that year. When I asked Charley why that was, he told me that it was all about the attitude. He liked to think to that if he went into things, even tough things, with a good attitude things would work out. In the last moments of his life, he was still living that philosophy.

No one teaches you what to do when a student dies. No one tells you how to comfort the students crying in the halls, or how to speak to his friends who come back to work in your classroom. There is no amazing message to write to two parents who have lost one of their two young sons, and no amount of preparation can get you through a funeral where boys on the brink of manhood carry the casket of one of their best friends. All you can do is remember the lessons they taught you.

Charley has been on my heart the past week. I have been thinking about how he chose to embrace life and use it as an opportunity to spread good things and not bad. His heart really was too big. When a young person with unlimited potential dies, you want to get angry at such a senseless loss, but Charley would have pointed out that God is in control and it is all about his timing.

Our social worker told us that children's social workers aren't picking us because we don't have children, or experience with children. I want to be angry about this. I want to point out that no one has experience with children before becoming parents, but we have been given a chance to get experience and help kids. We are going to be respite providers.

Respite care is taking in foster kids for a weekend to two weeks to give the foster family a break or allow for a transition. We will have our first visitors August 5th -13th, twin two year old boys. Let me say that again, twin two year old boys. My instinct is to run and say I can't, but somewhere I hear Charley's note, telling me it is all about the attitude. I am thankful for the chance to be able to show two kiddos love and happy to allow them to teach me what I need to know. It is all about the attitude.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting Room

It has been awhile since I wrote. We enjoyed a lovely vacation on Lake Shasta and have been running around figuring out our jobs, seeing family, and running errands. I am always amazed at how fast the summer can go by. I have struggled the past week. A lot of it has to do with summer doldrums. I feel like I am waiting for everything at the moment. Do to some personnel changes at work, I do not know what I will be teaching next year. I am happy to have a job, but hate not knowing what will happen. Now that I have finished my pre reqs, I am waiting to find out if I am in PSU's admin program. Than there is the big wait, waiting for our child.

I am not a patient person. I hate waiting. This is a control issue. Waiting means I am not in charge and have to depend on others to make decisions that will affect me. In some ways this makes me want to scream, and in others this is the reality of life. Being a control freak, I struggle to have faith that things will work out. My human nature is to turn to anxiety and worry. To imagine all the negatives and picture the ways it won't work. My spiritual challenge is to ignore that instinct and have faith that God has a plan and it is the best one. I have found myself reciting Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Prosper means "to thrive or succeed in a healthy way." God has plans for me to succeed in a healthy way. A way that will enrich me and make me a better person. It makes me think of working out. I hate working out, it hurts. I am sweaty, my body doesn't want to cooperate, my coordination is lacking and during the workout I am very angry. It feels like the workout is going to harm me, when it is actually going to make me healthier. Over the past year, I have very slowly lost 40 pounds. I average a half pound to a pound a week. It was excruciating and often I didn't notice the weight loss, but when I was DC I could run with my students and I never had a day where I thought I couldn't go on. I had prospered even when I felt harmed.

That is a bit of how I have to look at my current life. I can't control anything and it is all working to help me have a better life.  This is hardest to embrace with adoption, because I am so excited. I am an expectant mom without a due date. I want to buy things and decorate and count down. Instead we live in a weird "what if" limbo. It can feel as if it will never happen and we will always be childless. I know this isn't true, but there are days when that feeling is hard to shake.

In the waiting, we are trying to focus on ourselves. How we communicate with each other and our families and healing old wounds. Paying down bills and balancing the budget. We are preparing for the moment with excitement and fear. I am elated and terrified at the thought of being a mother. My impression is that everyone feels that way.

Our social worker has suggested that we consider being respite care providers. This means that we would take children for a week or two to give their foster families a break. She feels that this will help convince a panel that we are ready to be parents. The largest thing that will prevent us from being chosen is the fact that we don't have children and aren't currently parents. Providing respite will give us chance to show that we have experience. We haven't decided whether or not we will do it. We are going to ask questions and seek guidance. More waiting, but another opportunity to practice faith and not anxiety :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rogue Valley Dreaming

Medford, I wanted to leave it so badly. It was too small, and too far from anything. I was ready to go out and meet new people and do new things. I wanted to see things and do things that were different and new. I didn't want to be trapped by the mountains with nothing to do. I went back to visit a few times, but then my Mom moved to Silverton and I had no reason to. The truth is I didn't miss my hometown. I was happy. Even when I went back for visits, I stayed in Ashland and did touristy things. I didn't see myself ever wanting to live there again. When I left I was very sad and I connected that sadness to the place.

That was before I was about to be a Mom. Impending parenthood puts things in perspective. Jill, Lisa and I spent a girls weekend in Medford in October. We stayed at a Marriot a mile from my old home on Micheal Park. It was the first time I had stayed in Medford instead of Ashland. We did Ashland, but we also shopped at the Rogue Valley Mall and ate at the Bella Union. I gave my best friends a tour, my house, Grace, PHS. Suddenly I remembered what an amazing place it was to grow up in.

People are nice,  they smile and say hi. The mountains are beautiful. The great outdoors are a half hour drive away, you can raft the river and see a world class theatre company perform in the same day. Also, no one would bat an eye if we lived out and planted our organic farm and had little hippie children. What is it about my former classmates and their hippie children? What is it about growing up in the Rogue Valley that makes you want to have a little farm and focus on your family?  It just seems simpler. In the past year, I have slowly begun to accept that I could be really happy to move back to  my hometown. I think it would be the perfect place to raise our kids.

I don't know if God's plan will ever take us back there. For now I will be content with visits. In August we are renting a cabin at Greensprings. I know it isn't perfect. The economy is tough and it is far from so many things, but it is sunny. I would not miss the rain. Maybe I am just getting old and sentimental.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


  We have spent the past week deciding whether or not to move forward with a child who was presented to us. This was the first time we have had a child presented to us and I am sure we will go through several more before we find our child. I don't plan on writing about all of them, but the first one seemed important to share. This little person was beautiful, but had had a large amount of trauma in their short life. The trauma they experienced has led to issues that are much larger than we are able to deal with. We decided to say no.
  I have faith that we made the right choice, but my heart breaks for this little one. One of my favorite songs is called How He Loves. It speaks about the all encompassing passion of God's love. How we are loved so completely and fully that we don't need anything else. I need to remember that this little is God's and His love is far beyond mine. It helps that even though we can't let this child into our families, we can pray for them. My Mom pointed out that that is most likely why we will encounter the children we do. So that we can remember to faithfully pray that they will be surrounded with God's healing love.
   I feel that in the past few months, I have seen many examples of God's healing love at work.  Relationships are tough, paticurlary familial relationships.  Something about family makes it all more complicated than anything else.  I struggle with how to build relationships when I feel that the person has hurt me or insulted me in some way.  I also have a hard time with boundaries, how do you set a healthy boundary? A lot of this has to do with being the youngest and just going with the flow. I tend to ignore problems and hope they go away.
    How do you know when to ignore the problem and when to bring it up? If you feel that discussing the issue could make the situation worse is it better to try to move on and forgive? What if that person does the same thing again? Will you explode in anger? Will they feel blindsided?  The older I get, the more I feel like things need to be brought out into the open. Where truth is spoken, healing begins, but if the person isn't willing to listen is it worth it?
    Relationships do not get easier with age. I think they get more complicated.  The most difficult relationship I have dealt with has been with my Dad, the most important with Justin. The most fulfilling has been my ongoing relationship with my Savior. Currently I am struggling with how to approach another relationship that has become mired in anger and miscommunication. I want to offer forgiveness and acceptance, but seem to be hitting a wall. I need to give it up to God, but I keep clutching to it. I will keep working on it. This song has been coming up on Pandora a lot lately. I feel like God's still working on me. One small step at a time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

My country tis of thee...

I love the 4th of July. It is a solid tie between this and Christmas. Mostly I love the celebration of the great experiment that is the United States of America. We spent some time with great friends and I love being in the middle of Riverfront and people watching. There are some awesome people in Salem.  I ran into a bunch of students this year. It was a new experience, but some of them wanted to recite the preamble for me and I loved it.  One of the kiddos told me that she was more aware of the sacrifices we honor on this day because of a veteran we met at the Vietnam wall.

This man stood by the wall and told us about his tour. He served on a boat that went up and down the river to supply troops. He described how in three months he lost his entire crew to guerrilla snipers, and how after that he decided not to make friends anymore. His story was powerful and moving and more than I could have taught in months worth of lessons. He stood in front of my kids and cried for his lost buddies. They cried for his lost buddies. He then told them that he would go back and do it again if it meant that none of them would have to go to war. Finally he explained that he had PTSD and how thousands of Vietnam Vets still suffer from PTSD and aren't being treated.  My students shook his hand and thanked him for what he had done for them.

Today, one young girl was thinking of him while riding rides and eating goodies. She remembered that her ability to enjoy those things was thanks in part to a man who is still crying 40 years after he came home. The best thing I heard today was "I just wish I could thank him again."