5 reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017

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This blog was started in 2016. In addition to the blog; twitter, instagram, and a fb page were created. I gave them all a trial and will be keeping active on instagram & fb and hopefully write more in 2017 on this blog! It was mostly me (R) writing and posting in 2016…maybe D will join me more in 2017. One can dream 🙂

As I begin to briefly reflect on 2016, I will share the following. I recently read my FB Memories from years past re: my new years reflections. Year after year, I wrote something to the effect of the previous year having its share of really difficult moments & good ones. I guess the saying from Ecclesiastes is true: there’s nothing new under the sun. With that said, I’ll pause to reflect on 2016 and offer some hopes for 2017.

2016

2016 certainly had a theme of loss. While we felt peace about our decision to resign from our church, I mourned the loss of those relationships in 2016. We also said good-bye to our dog, Mowgli, and our cat, Storm in 2016. I miss them.

2016 had a theme of personal growth, too. It wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I realized something: I grew a lot this year in the areas of grace and forgiveness. In 2016, I purposed to “feel all the feels” as well as to let go. Being hurt but not growing bitter is hard work! This could be a whole other blog post. Suffice it to say, I’m entering 2017 feeling light and free.

2016 was a year of growth as a couple. We grew in emotional intimacy and spiritually. We prayed more together in 2016 than ever before.

2016 was the year that I grew closer to my co-workers than ever before. I don’t know why this is. I wonder if my heavy church commitments (being married to a pastor & serving in my own way(s) in the church), caused me to be “less available” when at work. I know that I used to use my breaks at work to do church related things (like update the church fb page, read a book for book club, etc). It could also be the fact that several co-workers have gone through super stressful times this year and it’s more natural for me to “show up” for that than to do small talk. For whatever reason, I’m thankful for new and deepening friendships outside of church walls in 2016.

2016 had us feeling tired & so happy as we watched out daughter grow from a baby to a toddler. We feel tremendously blessed that dad was able to stay home with our girl from summer 2016 onward.

2017

2017 will be the year that we plug into our new church. We visited over a dozen churches in our area in 2016. We are praying about where to put down roots. I am so looking forward to having a church family in 2017!

2017 may bring us closer to discerning what’s next for us in pastoral ministry. Or not. We’ll see! The key is to remain open to whatever comes next. And to also enjoy the season that we are in (we are enjoying it!).

2017 is a great time to do all the new years resolution type things: lose weight. eat healthier. purge items from home. work on projects. read more. travel. I would like all of these! But most of all, I desire to grow in relationship with others this year. Family, friends, co-workers, church goers, strangers, etc. To make time even when you think you don’t have any time.  If I spend more time with people, if I’m more present with people, if I’m more vulnerable with people, and if my “people time” decreases online and increases in other ways, 2017 will be a success.

Do you have reflections on 2016 & hopes for 2017 that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear them! Truly.

Thanksgiving: when you’re feeling anything but happy

Tomorrow is American Thanksgiving. More Americans will make it a priority to be with their family & friends tomorrow than any other holiday (yes, even Christmas!). The day before Thanksgiving can be filled with anxiety that has nothing to do with baking or traveling. There’s a type of anxiety that is present for those who have seen heartbreaking changes since last year’s gathering. Death. Job Loss. Divorce. Diagnosis. These are just a few examples of what has happened to too many families over the past year. Individuals and families have been rocked to the core. Things don’t look or feel like they did a year ago. People are holding their breath and hoping for the best for tomorrow.

Thanksgiving can sting more than any other holiday because the focus seems to be pretty much all about family. The message society gives is one of showing up at Thanksgiving as a happy, happy family. To prove this point, what is the greeting that is said at Thanksgiving? HAPPY THANKSGIVING! But we know that for so many, tomorrow does not evoke happy feelings. For several, sadness or anxiety seems more appropriate than “happy”.

If you or your family are struggling on Thanksgiving eve, remember that you aren’t alone. Remember to take it one hour, one moment at a time. Take deep breaths. Hold a hot beverage in your hands all.day.long if that’s soothing. Go for a walk. Leave the party early if you need to. Do whatever will help you. Thanksgiving is about family but remember this: you are a branch in the family tree! You need to stay healthy so that you can bear fruit, too. You matter just as much as anyone else.

Instead of wishing you a “Happy Thanksgiving”, my hope is that you are able to find little & big things to be grateful for in the midst of the sad. Don’t deny your sad. But don’t miss seeing the good, too. With this perspective, show up tomorrow in the best way that you know how while also taking good care of you.

One month til 1 years old!

Baby girl is 11 months old as of March 4th. Less than a month away til her 1st birthday! Wow. This year has both crawled forward and flown by. It’s been hard and heart warming. Adding a human being to your family rocks your world and it takes some time to adjust to your new normal. With each month that passes by, it’s less of “this is so new” and more, “this is our family”.

In the last month, our girl has gotten stronger at standing unassisted. She’s so proud of herself when she does this and gives us a big smile (she stands unassisted for 5-30 seconds at a time). While she mostly has purees, she’s started to feed herself with mum-mum rice crackers. She LOVES them. She will offer a bite or two of her cracker to me and smiles when I take her up on the offer.

In the last couple of weeks, she’s started to be a bit more cuddly. She’s never been super snuggly. This girl wants to be on the move! But recently, she’ll lay her head on our shoulder when we are carrying her and stay put for a minute or two at a time (occasionally, like, once or twice a day, ha!). We soak up those snuggles. She’s also learned how to give kisses! Just last night when Derek went to pick her up out of the crib at 3am she gave him a kiss without him asking for one. Adorable.

She continues to wave “hi” and “bye, bye” but its a backwards wave (waving to herself). She sometimes sees our neighbour walking their dog in the mornings and she’ll stop what she’s doing and wave to them.  The only thing that she’s afraid of is the vacuum. She shows zero fear of dogs or cats (even the ones that aren’t hers). She says “mum mum” when upset and “da da” occasionally but both don’t seem to be directed towards us yet. She also says, “ba ba”at times (offering her a rice cracker, giving her a stuffed toy).

We started to leave her in the last month to go on dates.  She’s been watched by my cousin and two sisters (all together) for a couple of hours. She’s loved it both times. No tears.

We love you, baby. So glad to celebrate 11 months with you!

Why I have always loved Valentine’s Day

Over the years, I have noticed that quite a few people don’t care for February 14th. Mind you, some think this holiday is a money grab (maybe), while others are upset to be single on this romantic holiday. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed valentines day. The following are the reasons why:

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1. First and foremost, my mother made Valentine’s Day so special for us. I’m a words-of-affirmation type girl, and she’d always write each of us a nice card. I felt particularly loved by my mother on Valentine’s Day. To me, Valentine’s Day seems more like a holiday to celebrate ALL of the people you love in your life, especially family. So it never really bothered me if I was single on Valentines Day.

2. Did I mention that my love language is words-of-affirmation? Oh how I loved writing and receiving valentines in grade school. I also love the colour pink. It’s my favourite.

3. There’s nothing sweeter than seeing grown men picking out cards, flowers, or chocolate for their sweetie. This morning while driving downtown Napanee, I saw an elderly man who appeared to be in his 80’s walking down the street with a heart-shaped balloon and a bouquet for flowers. The poor balloon was mostly deflated due to the cold. But it was the sweetest sight, like something out of the movies. I must admit that I became teary while watching him hobble down the icy sidewalk with his gift for his sweet heart.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to you!

Attachment and Adoption

Attachment. Most go through their day to day lives without an understanding of terms such as “secure attachment”, or “insecure attachment” or “reactive attachment disorder”. So why is “attachment” on my radar? For one reason, I have learned a little about the utter importance of attachment as it relates to child development in my social work training. But that was several years ago in my BSW program. More recently, as friends and acquaintances adopt or are attempting to adopt, attachment is a major topic.

What is an attachment disorder? This article by an adoption educator is excellent! Click here to read the whole thing. Here’s a brief explanation:

Attachment disorder essentially occurs when a child has not developed a healthy sense of being able to trust others and internalizes a message that she will need to look after herself because there is no one else who can be depended upon to be responsible for her. This child may appear outwardly charming, outgoing, “together,” even quite appealing, but their underlying motivation is to get their needs met themselves.

Several years ago, I volunteered to help run a VBS program. There was a little girl from the community who came the first day. She checked out all of the adults and then chose me to try to be close to while at VBS. Within 30 minutes of meeting and hanging out with her, she took my hand and asked me, “will you be my mommy?‘ My heart melted. I was so flattered at the time. Now, learning about attachment, I reflect on that experience differently. This was a little girl (not adopted), who was a latch key child, who was not able to relax and go and play with the other children. No, instead, she was motivated to get her needs met for adult attention by asking me to be her mommy.

I work with a Child Psychiatrist. In her years of practice, she has come across the devastating effects of attachment disorders. The vast majority are children who were adopted. While most were adopted as toddlers and older, in one case the child was adopted as a newborn! This shocked and surprised me. I have also been made aware of the devastating effects of attachment difficulties. I have worked with several teens with attachment disorders and it is heart breaking. I wish so badly that I could give them back their early years , I know their current difficulties stem from not having their basic needs met in those formative years. While attachment problems certainly can happen in children who are not adopted, the vast majority that I have come in contact were.

I appreciate the following blog post (and the comments!) regarding how ill prepared many who adopt internationally are in regards to attachment and other adoption related challenges. Several who have adopted chime in and state that they have been surprised to realize that their attachment work with their child will last for years. They expected, at most,  to experience 1-3 months of attachment work when first home. Here’s the blog post from “Scooping It Up”, it’s really worth the read: Agency and Social Work Fail.

The fact that adoptive parents are beginning to open up and talk about attachment difficulties related to adoption is a step in the right direction. Adoption agencies and social workers do a disservice to the child and new parents by not educating and preparing them for attachment difficulties. It may be helpful to be prepared for the worst case scenario re: a child’s attachment so that appointments with professionals are booked for when the child comes home. Prospective parents should also receive training re: attachment being a two-way street. Sometimes the adopted child does not have difficulty attaching to their new parents but it’s the parent(s) who find it difficult to attach to the child. “Fake it till you make it” has been a motto for these types of situations.

Attachment and adoption: its a topic that needs more understanding for adoptive parents, their family members, and their extended communities. Hopefully, with more understanding, the shame surrounding attachment difficulties related to adoption may be lifted. Then, and only then, will a newly adopted family feel less isolated. Then they will begin to receive more casserole dishes and less judgement in their time of need.

On turning 30 and not having children

In April, Lord willing, I will turn 30. In recent months, I have started to think about this. There’s a real panic that sinks in when I remember how close I am to my 30th birthday.  As I dig deeper, the panic seems to stem from the reality that I won’t be a mom by 30 years of age. While I may not have dreamed of having children as a child/teen/young adult, I must have assumed if I did have any that I’d have them by 30. When I compare myself to friends my age or younger than me with children, I feel little. Gosh, they seem to have accomplished so much in their lives and they aren’t yet 30!

What’s interesting is that I have had others (some young moms) compliment me in what I have accomplished thus far in my young adult years. I received my masters and work in my field. Due to not having children early in marriage, we have been able to pay off our student and consumer debt.  We purchased our home 3 years ago and do upgrades when we can afford to. We have traveled to a few of our “bucket list” locations. Of greater significance is that we have had these years to work on our marriage and that has produced much fruit!

Some young mothers can struggle with turning 30 and feeling that they haven’t accomplished a lot while at home raising a young family.  Yet, here I am, turning 30 in April and feeling anxiety when comparing myself to young mothers. I know that “comparison is the thief of joy” – T. Roosevelt but it’s so natural to compare. The preconceived notions on where we need to be in our lives by a certain age aren’t helpful. They only make a non-mom or a mother feel lousy.

I’m mentally preparing myself for 30. Trying not to compare or freak out. I may not be where society might peg me by 30 (a mom), but I don’t want that to take away from the blessings I have to celebrate in my 30 years of existence. Here’s to not panicking, feeling like I’m not enough, or that I’ve accomplished nothing. We’ll see if I can keep this perspective when the dreaded 30 is days and not months away.

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3 thoughts on “knowing” you want to be a parent

Here are some thoughts that I have had since writing last week’s blog post:

1. I was never the type of girl who dreamed up and planned details of my future wedding. That just wasn’t me. I thought about finding the man of my dreams and being married but that’s about where the dreaming ended. I did not know what colour my bridesmaids would wear until I was making the decision while engaged. It really shouldn’t come as any big surprise that I haven’t always dreamed of having children.

2. While there seems to be a lot of women who always knew they wanted to be a mother, there are others who thought they never wanted children and changed their minds. There are some who never gave whether or not to have children much thought until at some point in their lives, they did. A person who hasn’t always known is not any less worthy of being a mother or father than those who always knew.

3. Just because a person always wanted to be something doesn’t mean that ends up being their reality.  Sadly, there are lots of women who always knew that they wanted to be a mother who never ended up being one. Life sometimes gets in the way of our dreams. Knowing that one wants to be a parent isn’t a guarantee that it will happen, unfortunately.

Ultimately, I want to keep in mind one of my favourite quotes: “Comparison is the thief of joy”  by Theodore Roosevelt. Comparing oneself to mothers who have always known that they wanted to be one can make a person feel inferior. I plan to remember point #2 and keep in mind that comparison is the thief of joy!