Wednesday, March 30, 2011

That big thing I was telling you about..

Remember I said I had big news? I am going to share it with you :)

In November of this year, I am going to Ghana, Africa on a mission trip. Here is what we will be doing (in summary from JD)

Our trip to Africa will be in support of George and his team at PACODEP. We will serve alongside of him while he visits the child slaves on the islands of Lake Volta. This will allow us to gain a better understanding of their situation, which will help us as we work with the rescued children on the mainland and share/write their stories. God willing, we will also witness first hand the rescue of any children released while we are in Ghana. 
On the mainland, we will work alongside of George and his team at the Village of Life, the campus built to accommodate the children who have been rescued. Love will be poured onto these children as they adjust to their new freedom and learn to read and write, learn the basics of hygiene, get proper nutrition and care… even as they learn to play.

I will be fundraising from now until we leave on November 6 for 2 things: 1) trip expenses (which will be roughly $2-3000... I am still working on figuring out a narrower window on how much it will cost) and 2) $30,000 to build a new school at the village of life so that George and his team can have the room and resources to continue rescuing children off of the lake (they are at max capacity right now). 

I will share more about our fundraising efforts in the days coming. Until then, I want to share a video with you that shows you exactly what George does on Lake Volta...

For a more poetically and beautifully written blog post on it all you need to go see JD. This is a beautiful opportunity to be a part of what God is doing on Lake Volta. I have such a passion for children and human rights and I am ready to join God in this journey. I ask for your prayers, thoughts and support as we launch into fundraising for this trip and planning for it as well. If you have any ideas you want to share with me about fundraising or you can help with some of the things JD lists in her post, feel free to contact me, JD or Tia

More to come soon, I promise. Thank you for joining me in this fascinating journey. The passion and pull for these children that I feel is amazing and beautiful and I am thankful that God has put this on my heart and brought me to people who who are passionate about the same things in their lives. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Other goals

I have also been thinking about some other goals that are not really as "heavy" as life goals. Still important to me though.

1) Get a dSLR and learn about photography
2) Find some new alternatives for competitive sports that doesn't require tearing my knee up (which is a frustrating goal but apparently necessary as I can't play volleyball and basketball and soccer... sigh)
3) Read more often
4) Get our house ready to sell (craziness that we are moving in a bit over a year)
5) Continue working out the health issues I have
6) do something (even something entirely selfish!) for myself at least 1 time a month

Will post some ideas and steps to how to accomplish some of these goals soon. Some of them are obviously self explanatory (like picking up books more often).

And there is something stirring in my heart that I hope to fill you in on soon. Pray/think about me as I make a big decision about something I am really becoming passionate about.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I am trying to go about really figuring out what I want in life so I am going to list some goals as I think of them. I already have many scribbled into my journal so I am going to start there I guess.

1) Raise successful/content children. An ongoing, constantly fluid goal. One that influences pretty much all of my decisions and right now my number one goal.
2) Get a degree: The problem... I have no clue what I want to do when I grow up :) Right now I am leaning toward an online Psychology program at Penn State. Should only take 2 years and then I can pursue further education or licensing for some of the jobs I might like. I also figure if I am still interested in nursing down the road, I can pursue it. Lately I have been leaning toward child advocacy or child life specialist. Both meet many of the needs I have for a career and psychology would put in a field of study to pursue either one.
3) Have a career that has a positive impact on my community. That impacts people and helps people in a real and tangible way.
4) Adopt 2 more children. My hope is to adopt siblings so they don't have to be split up (I have some personal experience with this that really drives me in this direction). MW would rather not adopt a baby.infant but we also don't want to go too old. So I am thinking probably toddler/preschool siblings. I would love to adopt from a country where children are very at risk of being sold into the sex trade industry or abandoned. Most of the time my heart leans toward China because I have made some wonderful friends in Chambana who have opened my heart and eyes to the little girls of China. At any rate this is one of the bigger goals I have. I feel like my family has some children out there somewhere. Maybe they are not even born yet but I feel like I will find them when the time is right. The more time I put between me and the birth of Slobber Rocket, the more I feel convinced that we will be adding children to our family through adoption and not my uterus. And I love that idea because I feel like it is what is right for us.
5) Go to a Superbowl: completely superficial but one of my goals none the less. Anxiety poses a pretty big barrier to this but I will get to one in my lifetime if there is a way.
6) Do something life altering for someone with no expectations of them and without them finding out. Pretty self explanatory.
7) Contribute in some way or in many ways to decrease poverty and human rights abuses.

So that is the list scribbled down late at night several months ago into the safety of my journal. An assignment given to me by my counselor that I totally didn't follow the instructions to. I was trying to think of things I could do at home to help my progress so decided to write a list of my future goals then make a list for the next year of how to move toward those goals. It turned out my way was also useful :) I have also since figured out a few of the things she was talking about so it all worked out in the end.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finding me inside this life

For the last 5.5 years or so I have pretty much been a mom. I dropped out of college to have my Super Muscles and became a stay at home mom. When we moved to Illinois, around SM 1st birthday, I started really wanting another child. Mostly because I looked at my oldest son and knew that I really wanted him to have a sibling. I knew if we didn't have another child now, even though it was an inconvenient time as far as money went, that our oldest child would not get a sibling until he was 6-7 years old. The thought of that made me sad. Now that we have Slobber Rocket, I think this was absolutely the best decision for our family. I can't imagine our lives without that tiny little blondie in it. And I love seeing him and big bubby interact with one another and learn how to care for and love each other. It is a beautiful bond. But with that being said, having another child pushed some of my goals even further away. And at some point, I got lost. I got very lost in being a mom. I look at my life now and I feel like it is SO much of my identity. And I love being a mom. But a mom is not all of me. A mom and a wife is not all of me. I am starting to really feel like I need to find me again. The "Me" that is separate from "Mommy". The me that wants to get a degree and have a meaningful career some day. The me who is passionate about advocating for children and taking care of the most vulnerable in our communities and world. The me who is fascinated with photography and really wants to learn a lot more about it. The me who wants to stop sitting by, in many ways, and watching the world go by.

I have spent so much time supporting my husband in devoting himself to his career that it has left very little time for me to develop the parts of me outside of my family. I feel like my family is the only thing that defines me to others and while I love them more than words can describe... they are not all of me. They don't embody all of my passions or skills or dreams. And I just feel a little lost, like even I don't know the other parts of me well at all anymore.

So I have decided that I am going to spend time achieving some of my own goals that are only for me. Some of them may take a really long time (like getting a degree while still staying home with my children... ha) but if not now, when? I don't want to keep feeling like everything is about everyone else. Maybe I sound selfish right now but I have to rescue some of the other parts of myself.

I think a lot of it is a product of really figuring out why I do some of the things I do. How I have always been the people pleaser and the one to make sure everyone is happy. And how that has simply led to me neglecting myself and my own goals. I don't mind the sacrifices I have made for my family. I don't want people to think that. I love staying home with my children. I like that they know the comfort of my arms when they get hurt and that my hands are lovingly preparing them food that nourishes them. And I even really love that  my husband is going full throttle after his dreams. It has been beautiful watching him inch closer and closer to getting something he has dreamed about for so long. And it has been amazing how much we have both learned about sacrifice along the way (yea I stay home with our kids so he can do this but he has wonderfully balanced a very rigorous phd program while making time for us,... and PhD students get paid very little so that has been another area of big sacrifice for our family). Anyway I am learning these things about myself and I am also learning that I deserve to be happy. Not only in my family life but I deserve to have a career I love and hobbies I enjoy and passions and causes to pursue.

I am not sure what any of this looks like yet. But I know that I am going to go after some of my dreams. I am working on a list and a plan and MW is helping me figure it out (he is pretty much the best in case I haven't said that before). It is going to take a lot more work. A lot of patience and a lot of help. It is going to take really battling my anxiety and learning to trust a few more people. But heck, that is pretty much one of my bigger goals in counseling :) So... coming at you soon will be a list of long term goals and maybe you guys can help me brain storm how to move toward achieving them?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Parent's Role

A friend of mine and I have been talking a lot about having children and when you know you are ready and how you know your kids will turn out okay and you won't screw them up. She is married and they are considering trying for children soon. I am really the only person her age that she knows who has a few years of parenting experience. So today at lunch we were talking about what a parent's role is... It is something I have thought about a lot in the past. I often wonder what people think their role is in their child/ren's life. I am sure it varies. But I think every parent should try and answer this question because then it kind of gives you a philosophy that helps you structure how and what you teach your children.

I think my role as a mother to my children is to set a good example for them on how to treat others and how to treat myself (as a result modeling them how to treat themselves). I think I need to respect them as people so that they can learn how to respect others. Ideally I want my children to grow up to be content in life. No matter what they have or what they don't have... I want them to find peace and contentment. I want them to be independent thinkers and not just believe something because other people say it is true. I want them to explore ideas and thirst for knowledge. I don't want them to always make choices based on what will make me and their dad happy or their significant other or their friends or their boss... (because, lets face it, that has never brought me ANY peace or contentment). I want them to have dreams and to value themselves enough to go after them. I hope that they treat all others with respect and dignity. I hope they value truth and stick to their moral convictions. And I hope that we model our marriage for them to be one they see love, sacrifice and teamwork in. I hope that we teach them everyday how to work out problems with the people you love (and even with people you don't much care for) with compromise and understanding.

Wow... being a parent seems daunting when you write it all out. I wonder how much of that we actually have control of. I know so many people who have had amazing parents and have turned into not very nice people. I know so many people who were raised by douche bags who somehow turn out to be decent people and great parents. So to some extent, I think we have a lack of control but we do shape our children. I mean its not a 1 to 1 correlation by any means but their childhoods and the habits modeled are often times the foundation for how children learn how to interpret the world and handle problems.

So I guess from my list of things I want for my children... the biggest things I think that I need to do as their mom is to encourage independence and critical thinking. Encourage them to go after their dreams hard core. SHOW them how to treat others with love and respect. Love their dad the best way I can. And always model to them my beliefs and explain to them why I believe what I do and how I came to the conclusions I came to. Role play and discuss appropriate ways to handle conflict and fear. And always always be honest with them. That is kind of my plan anyway. I know I will fail sometimes. I mean, I have failed sometimes already. But these children are 2 of the biggest and most important blessings in my life and I have promised to do things to better their odds at becoming amazing adults with the potential to make an impact on their communities.

And since I am trying to do this whole positivity thing lately... the one thing I am most proud of as a parent is that my children have very carefree lives to this point. Yes, we have had health problems, money problems, family problems but to this point I feel like they are very secure and trust us to keep them safe. By the time I was Super Muscles age, my parents were already divorced, I was going to a babysitter who was abusive, going home to a boyfriend of my moms who was also abusive... I thought no one loved me, especially not my dad. I felt alone because I was the only girl. And I KNOW that my children are loved and feel loved and that means the world to me.

So... what do you find to be your role as a parent and how do you plan to meet the expectations of the role you are creating for yourself as a parent?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Hard Questions

I know that everyone thinks of hard questions. Whether it be about their beliefs or suffering in the world or mortality or... I know the must. It isn't something that people really talk about a lot but, what the heck, honesty is a lens into someones true soul (or something like that) right?

So I am going to put out there some things I have been thinking about. Feel free to comment, think or do nothing. This is for me but maybe it will help someone else too.

I have been thinking a lot about beliefs and God and suffering lately. I became a Christian when I was in 3rd grade. I did not grow up in a Christian home but in 3rd grade I started walking to a church down the road from my house with my brother. And that church family took us in. Then I went to church camp that summer and while there decided to become a Christian. But there is just SO MUCH I don't get about religion. Even more that I don't get about God and suffering. I think these are normal thoughts though and people just don't really talk about them. My husband and I discuss them often though. I just don't understand God as portrayed by most of my friends. Who controls absolutely everything which ultimately makes Him responsible for the good, the bad and the ugly. The general line of reasoning being that God controls everything so everything must be a product of God's will. And if everything is a product of God's will then the horrible things that happen in life are actually good things. They have a good and Holy purpose. ... I have a hard time with that whole line of thinking. I have tried to accept it but I can't. I have experienced senseless thing after senseless thing in life. I have seen suffering that makes NO sense. I know children with illnesses that will kill them before they even get a good shot at life and I know their parents and the agony they experience just trying to live life with this knowledge and give their kids the best chances at life that they can. I know people who have been abused and raped and molested and beaten up by several people and left by spouses and abandoned by dads and moms and ignored by the parents they have who are present. I can think of a million things that are senseless and I just don't get it. And I don't get clinging onto the idea that God causes and/or controls all of life's happenings. Jesus himself prayed that God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven... which indicates to me that this world contains anything but God's perfect and flawless will for man.

What got all of this stirred up is a book I am reading called "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp. It is actually quite a good read but I disagree pretty strongly with some of her theology (well... that isn't saying much because I am not sure I agree with most people's theology). Anyway I am to the part of the book where she is trying to learn to be thankful for the bad. And it just... it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I get looking back and being thankful for the lessons the bad has taught you but to be thankful for senseless, horrible things... that is an interesting concept for me. I am not thankful that I have a chronic illness. In fact, I am annoyed by it. I am also not very appreciative that I tore my ACL again and may never be able to play several sports that I love.

But... that is where I differ from many I guess... I am okay with being irritated and frustrated and even angry about bad things happening. I feel no compulsion to be thankful for horrible, painful experiences. No obligation. Because I just don't think God hurts people as a matter of bringing Himself glory. I think that the world is full of crap and sometimes that crap lands at my feet. PEOPLE make horrible choices that end in lives destroyed. Natural disasters happen as freak occurances. Kids play dangerous games and die. Genetics are a crapshoot and some people get the unlucky end of them. And some things are beyond senseless! Abusing children, rape, murder, (some... or most) war, illness... anyway,... I feel okay with things being the way the world turns with no one in particular to blame. It makes me sleep a little easier at night not thinking God causes all the pain of the world.

Now I don't think that learning from pain is bad. In fact, I think we can learn through horrific experiences. It has taken some pretty terrible things in my own life for me to learn how to handle certain things or to speak for innocence or to mature. I think everyone experiences that. And I do think that God helps reveal things we can learn that maybe we wouldn't otherwise (though EVERYone learns from the past... painful or awesome).

Wow this is long and rambling but I wanted to get it down because it was eating away at my mind. I get fixated on things sometimes and just have to get them out so I can shelf the thoughts for a little while.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Some things are moving in the right direction

I have been so busy lately. Don't even really know where to start. I guess we can start with my knee... I tore my acl again for sure. I am in PT twice a week until I see the surgeon on April 5. Slobber Rocket is bouncing between slightly anemic and normal hemoglobin levels on his CBCs. It can be normal variability though. But his ferritin is low (his iron stores) so he is taking ferrous sulfate for a couple of months to see if we can get his iron stores up. One of his hormone screens also came back abnormal. So he does need a stimulation test but we are still unsure about how we are going to proceed. The current thought is to have us come back to St Louis in 3 mos and do a short stim test and if he fails it do the longer one. But she would really rather wait until he is a bit older before trying to do the longer one. And I don't think waiting until he is 3 is that big of a deal. We are still discussing it. She should be calling me this week to tell me about his hand xrays that she had sent to her office. She wanted to read them herself. He had them taken maybe 6 months ago. That is sort of the DL on me and the blonde one.

As far as moving in the right direction... I was cleaning up the kitchen today and thinking. Just... thinking. I do this a lot when I am cleaning. My kids seem to hide when the brooms and rags are brought out so it is fairly quiet in the house then. And the thought of my husband came into my head and just how people have perceived us. Ever since we started dating, people have pretty much openly thought that he was too good for me. He is smarter than me, kinder than me, more successful than me... the list is kind of long. If it wasn't high school friends saying these things it was parents insinuating them and if it wasn't them it was people in the professional world giving me this dumbfounded stare when MW introduces me and they ask me what I do and I say I am a stay at home mom. It has been reinforced for so long that I have often thought that he was better than me. That I just... I don't know, didn't deserve him. But as I was standing in the kitchen this morning thinking... a big smile creeped up on my face and for the first time that I can remember I very much thought... "I am just as worthy as he is." Just as worthy of happiness, success, health. And I am just as valuable as he is. He definitely treats me like I am and he always has. But I have never really believed it. I am not sure why I didn't and I am not sure I can put my finger on why those thoughts have changed. But I am glad that for the first time in my relationship I feel like I am as deserving of him as he is of me. I am a respectful person, I am kind, trustworthy, honest, compassionate, smart. I am a good wife and a good mom. I am educated and when I am not knowledgeable about something, I learn about it. I am capable and valuable and especially valuable in my relationship with my family and in my role in this life I have. And I feel pretty darn good about that today.