Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Ode to My Mom

I know my mom reads my blog (Hi Mom! :) ), and she had a really rough day yesterday.  So, I thought today would be a great day to tell everyone that reads my blog (all, I don't know, 25 of you) how awesome my mom is.

So, this is my mom, circa 1981.  Not only does she have amazing hair and taste in furniture, but it also looks like she's texting someone -- which tells me that she may be a time traveler.  And check out that adorable blonde girl in her lap!  I mean, let's be honest, have you ever seen a cuter kid?  I'm going to bet not.

While I cannot exactly remember this stage in my life, I'm going to guess this is about the time of my life that I decided my mom was the most awesome lady in all the land.  She baked things, played with me, read with me, and mostly just hung out with me.  She was even my Campfire Scout leader (like a co-ed version of boy/girl scouts).  My mom was awesome.

As the years went on, I never thought my mom was any less awesome.  She continued to do a lot of those things she did when I was a tot.  My mom is probably still the best baker I know.  Just the other night, Mike and I were discussing my plan to tap her brain for her baking secrets.  I'm planning on holding her hostage at my house and forcing her to teach me the secrets to baking delicious bread (Mom, you didn't see this part of the paragraph, act surprised when it happens, ok?).  I have tried a lot of different methods of baking bread, but I cannot mimic the amazing quality that my mom gets.  And while I'm sure her years of experience help, she has made amazing bread since I was small - like 30 years ago.  She still occasionally reminds me of a time when I was 4 or 5 years old when I ate the insides out of a hot loaf of bread, leaving only the crusts.  Yup.  That was me.  I did that.  No shame here.  Maybe a little shame, but it was delicious, so I stand by my decision.  Under certain circumstances, I would do it again.

Who am I kidding.  All circumstances.  Bread is delicious.  Also, cinnamon rolls... but that's probably an entirely separate blog post.

Anyway, I digress.  I'm not going to lie to say that my childhood was all sunshine, rainbows, and fresh bread.  There were a couple of rough patches.  We had our share of frustration and tears; I can actually remember seeing my mom cry from frustration a few times.  But, my mom did everything she could to make sure that we didn't feel too brought down.  She made the best of what we had, and sometimes made miracles out of nothing at all.  She made sure we were never cold, or hungry, or unloved (actually, there were plenty of times I was cold, but I lived in North Dakota, so it was more a function of geography than my mom's downfall).

(feel the cold)

More than anything, I can say with absolute certainty that I was very loved as a child.  I have never once had to question that fact.

My mom also showed me the value of hard work and perseverance.  She worked a lot of terrible jobs that most people would turn their noses up at to make sure that my brother and I had the things we needed.  She worked long, terrible hours, scrounging for child care wherever she could find it.  There were lots of times that she had to work when she would have rather been home with us, or gone to school functions.  And while I was disappointed, I knew she wanted to be there & I knew she tried to get there as often as she could.

I work as hard as I do today because that is what my mom taught me to do.  No matter how terrible your job might be, work hard and be successful.  I've even won awards for my hard work at my terrible job...

My mom showed me how important family is - no matter what your family looks like.  While divorce was not particularly uncommon when I was young, few of my friends had single-parent families.  So,  my family was different.  To supplement this, we spent a lot of time with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.  My grandmother, for the record, also made delicious bread.  Until we moved away when I was a teen, we drove about an hour to see my grandparents at least once a month.  And while I didn't spend nearly enough time with them as I got older, I at least have the sense to feel guilty about it.

As an adult, I'm most proud that I've been able to repay my mom for some of the sacrifice she made for us while I was a child.  I've traveled to China with her - which resulted in her finding a job and moving to China.

We went to Disney World together:

I introduced her to Elvis:

She saw NYC with me, we have been to Phantom of the Opera, Cirque du Soliel, and even George Strait.

I think she liked George Strait the best -- even though our seats were terrible.  I'm not kidding.  Our seats were horrible.  I know that George Strait was there.  My ticket said so.  I heard him singing.  However, I did not really see much of him.  In spite of that, my mom was thrilled.  SO. HAPPY.  I don't know if I've ever seen her that happy - even at Disney World.

As I get older, I want to make sure my mom has a good life.  I want her to be happy.  She worked SO hard when I was younger, I want to be able to repay some of her efforts.  I know it's not not about the financial aspect of it; buying things and taking her places won't make her happy in the long term.  However, I like to think of some of these things as a replacement for some of the many things that she gave up to make sure we had what we needed.

I wish she was closer so we could spend more time together.  But, she's not.  So for the time being, I'm going to have to satisfy myself with learning her secrets to a good loaf of bread.  Or caramel rolls.  Yum.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Minor Setbacks...

So, as many people know, I'm attempting to train for a 10K in January.  Why, you may ask.  I don't like running.  I think running is a terrible thing, which barely meets the criteria of "sport".  If you like to run, that's cool.  I'm not going to harass you about it or make fun of you.  I just don't enjoy it.

However, I realize I need to be healthier.  I've gained a substantial amount of weight in the past couple of years (the IVF drugs alone helped me put on nearly 20lb.), and I should be leading a healthier life in general. This is especially true as I look at the prospect of having kids in the house. 

While I was in Europe this summer, I met a wonderful new friend, who was really into running and marathoning.  She also introduced me to the Disney races.  I thought to myself, "I like Disneyland".  I could probably force my way through 6 miles of Disney.  After a little bit of research, I found the Disneyland Star Wars 10K, which happens to fall on our wedding anniversary!  Both of us love Disneyland, Mike LOVES Star Wars, it seems like it was made for us.

So, we started training.  We would walk the strip once a week (a full 10k), and I was really working on my jogging around the neighborhood.  There's a perfect 1 mile loop right across the street from our house that doesn't require me to cross any streets, dodge pedestrians, or avoid any dangerous corners or other hazards.  I've been working on my 1mile speed pretty regularly and finally got it down to a number that I was proud of.  Today, my plan was to add a second mile to my training.  From time to time, I've been doing two miles in a day, but not at the same time.  I run one mile, then go home and do stuff, then run a second mile.  

It did not go as planned.  I started strong.   I went the first 1/2 mile or so, and while it wasn't my fastest 1/2 mile, it was well within my goal pace.  But, shortly after the voice on the app told me my pace, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my foot and for the first time ever, I had to stop completely.  Not slow down, but actually stop.  I considered calling Mike for a ride home.  But, I thought that would be really embarrassing, since I was only about 1/3 mile from home.  I slooooowly made my way back to the house.

When I got there, I was almost in tears.  After explaining what had happened, Mike and I decided I should visit the doctor.  That part was relatively painless (no pun intended).  The lady at the urgent care center was nice.  She talked to me a little bit and assured me that it probably wasn't broken, but I should get some X-rays anyway.  She gave me a weird looking boot-thing, some pain killers, and directions to stay off it for a couple weeks.  

While it's nowhere near as bad as it could be (I feared broken bones), it's still frustrating.  I was starting to feel like I might actually be able to accomplish the 10K without killing myself.  It seems that may not be the case.  :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Time marches on

I haven't written anything in quite some time.  Largely, because I used my blog to update everyone on my European adventures, and I'm no longer in Europe.  There were a LOT of adventures this summer, but then we had to come home.  There are far fewer adventures now.  

A few times a week, I THINK about writing, but I just don't.  Part of it is because that would require me to sit down with my laptop, which is often the last thing I want to do after being in front of my computer all day at work, and attempting to focus on school work.  However, today I'm sitting in the tutoring office at UNLV, and like most Sundays, have no appointments.  That leaves me here in this office alone with my thoughts, Netflix, and all of the things I should be doing.

I am sitting here thinking about how we are, in many ways, on the cusp of our next adventure.  For the past couple of months, Mike and I have been taking classes to license as foster parents.  Without question, it is a lot of work.  We go to classes every Saturday morning; in addition, we are putting together a portfolio that would put most political candidates to shame.  We had to account for our entire lives -- family, jobs, where we lived, etc.  Since I've never been arrested, I got to skip an entire 5 page section.  We still filled out approximately 85 pages of paperwork.  Then, we had a 5 hour interview.

And that was just the application.  We are baby-proofing our house, updating our CPR certifications, and compiling never-ending lists of documentation to prove that we are not insane people.  It's almost overwhelming at times.  So overwhelming, in fact, that our licensing class has gone from an original enrollment of 29 people (I think it was 10 couples and 9 singles) to 16 (5 couples and 6 singles).  Nearly half of the original applicants have thrown in the towel.  It's not hard to understand why.  The process is daunting.  Not only is there a huge time commitment, but the whole process is very emotional.  

We are asked to write and talk about our own childhood and family experiences, as well as any other significant relationships we've had -- for better or worse.  I'm not afraid to admit that it brought up a lot of emotions that I thought I'd dealt with years ago.  It forced Mike and I to have some difficult, emotional conversations.  Obviously, we've survived the process.  But, I can see how others did not.  

And then there's the class.  Every Saturday morning, we spend 3 hours being reminded of the horrors that foster children have experienced at the hands of their parents or guardians and how our goal as foster parents is to facilitate the reunification of these families.  Yup, you read that right.  We have to go in knowing that our goal is to reunify these children with the very people that have abused or neglected them.  

It's all very difficult.  We have to keep the perspective that we are here to be a safe and happy home for children while their parents are working to overcome the challenges that life has set on their doorsteps, however long that may take.  At times, I think to myself -- my God, there's no way I can do this.  But, we continue forward.

Those of you that have made it this far may be wondering why.  Why are we jumping through all of these hoops to do something that will, most likely, ultimately be painful.  

There are two answers.  The simple answer, and the complicated answer.  

Simple answer:  (much like "why did you donate your kidney?")  It's the right thing to do.  We have a home, space for a child (or children) and the stability to care for kids that need care.  Children need care.  We have care.  Bam.

More complicated answer:  Mike and I started talking about starting a family over 3 years ago.  And since then, we've tried every old wives' tale and scientific breakthrough known to man, including an emotionally and financially devastating round of IVF.  (Let me tell you, nothing wrecks a law school semester like a miscarriage).  We spent the next few months trying to decide where we go from there.  We aren't rich.  We can't afford to do IVF again, and realistically the odds aren't in our favor.  So after a lot of soul searching and realistic conversations, we started talking about foster care.  Weirdly, we both had the same foster student in our classrooms, on opposite ends of town.  We've talked about adopting from foster care if the right kid (kids) comes along, but we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

In the meantime....