Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stalk new friends, but keep the old...

So, I haven't had the time yet to tell you all about our cruise.

We stumbled upon a super amazing deal for a Disney Cruise that just happened to be during the time Dan was in-between jobs.  Oh, and it happened to be during Elizabeth's birthday week.  Not at all a hard decision whether or not to go... it was the perfect time.

The first night, as we were leaving the theater after the "welcome show", Dan said, "Um... is that your boyfriend?  You know, the one from Hoop De Doo?"  Why, yes... yes I think it is.

We went to Hoop De Doo at Disney our first year.  We had such a good time, we went back this past year.  In our opinion, Sixbits Slocum (featured above) was the star of the show.  He was hilarious... and totally "worked" the crowd.  After our first year, we referred to him either as my boyfriend or my best friend, depending on the moment.

So when Dan spotted him on the cruise... I knew it was fate.

That first night after spotting him, I couldn't figure out when to talk to him... but I knew I had to.  He was on the cruise as a guest, not a "Cast Member", so I needed to be thoughtful of his vacation time... but I knew it would be in our best interest to meet.  His and mine.  Yep.

We went to dinner that first night.  Our 8-top table?... just the Johnstons.  The other family didn't show up.  Our hopes of our new cruise best friends that we'd share meals with each night- instantly crushed.  But who was, like 3 tables over?

That's Dan's shoulder.  And then some other people.  Then my boy/best friend is in the 
blue sweater vest.  Yep.  Continuing to FULLY enjoy his tablemates.  
Not that mine weren't great... but....

A couple of days went by.  He would pass us and Dan would crack up at the look of panic that came over me.  It was like I was star struck.  I couldn't spend the whole cruise like this.

Then it happened... we met.  One day when E was in the kids' area and Dan was at a lecture, I was at the pool with refreshments and a book.  One of them gave me courage... and I can tell you this, it wasn't literary.  I put my book down and right as he got in the pool, I went over and said those dorky, embarrassing words: "Hi. I recognize you from Disney World.  I think you're hysterical."  (I blushed just reliving the moment in my head as I wrote that.)

He laughed, introduced himself (his real name is Ben! not Sixbits!) and we had a wonderful chat for 30 minutes or so.  I learned that he has moved to another location at WDW... that he can see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from his backyard... that he's originally from Pennsylvania.  He learned that I went to Africa this summer... and that... I, well, think he's hysterical.

We had a great conversation... then it happened... I realized my hopes and dreams may not come true.  We might (gasp!) not instantly become best friends.  I know, I know... hard to believe... but it's true.

As we saw each other throughout the rest of the cruise we'd always say "hi" and briefly chat (his promptness to get away might possibly have something to do with the fact that a strange woman from North Carolina had trapped him in the pool earlier)... but we weren't best friends.

Until the last night.

Our last 3-minute conversation was fun and bubbly and magical and funny and charming.

And so the dream is still alive.

So, Ben... wherever in Florida you are... even though we didn't exchange information... and you told me you weren't on Facebook... and you may think you're safe... just know this:  I'm coming back to the Magic Kingdom in January.  And I'm sure I'll find you again.  Just accept it... I'm a good stalker.  And I make a good best friend, too.

Me and my Bestie, Ben.

Watch out, Jen Hatmaker... I'm comin' for you next....

Monday, November 21, 2011

I love my.... er... E's preschool

This morning I am catching up on things at home.

Because last week I was never here.

And that was fine by me.

Last week during the time I normally get stuff done (read: while E is in preschool), I had my own assignments at school.  One morning I attended a class that a preschol teacher presented about helping kids with fine motor skills.  Then I went shopping for Breakfast with Santa- my favorite event of the year that I have the privilege of helping with for the second time.  Then I sold Rwandan pens and necklaces at our school's craft fair.  Then I stayed for our monthly prayer meeting (when we pray for each teacher, family, and staff member at the school... it's a precious time.)  Then I had two days of prep for Breakfast with Santa where I met a bunch of new (and quite fabulous) preschool families.  Then I went to dinner with 3 ladies from preschool (and one new-to-town friend!) on Friday night.  Then I hosted co-hosted a baby shower for one of my best friends who I met when our kids were "randomly" put together in their Toddler Class our first year at preschool.

Y'all.... I freakin' love that school.

Yes, I realize that E benefits from her experience at preschool.... but... let's be honest... so do I.  I have made friends, found kindred spirits, had an outlet, had a break, met people who genuinely love my child... and who love me.

That 3-hour segment of time I'm blessed with 4 days a week gives everyone in our family something special.

And I'm gonna miss it a lot next year.


(this post was not sponsored by the staff of Messiah Moravian Preschool.  seriously.)
(you're welcome, Barbara.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Broken trust.

My heart is heavy and my head is full.  Actually, that's a lie.  My head is overflowing.

The last 48 hours I've had some pretty serious talks.  This weekend while in Wilmington, my girl friends and I tackled major life issues: heaven/hell, abortion, government systems, hypocrisy, and abuse.  Then I got home just in time for our College Ministry discussion on this topic: How can a loving God send people to hell?  Then today my brain was spinning during Kindermusik while a new friend and I talked about how to explain the Trinity to children. 

And in the midst of all of this heavy, heavy stuff... I got an email from a friend.

This is a friend who has shared part of her life with me... and for that I am grateful.

In light of all the media attention on Jerry Sandusky, she feels it's time to share her story.

And she asked me to help her do that.

This is her story to tell- and at this point, her story is being shared as "anonymous."  I respect her desire to share it, as well as her desire to keep her identity in confidence.  Several of you know lots of my friends, and several of you know her... so please understand that even though I'm sure you'll be curious as to the author, it's not my story to tell.  It's hers, and she's asked me to share it with you.
From an Abused Childs Perspective – Anonymous

In the wake of all the media surrounding a football so called “scandal” there are many of us children of abuse listening and watching. I see this in another light than most because I have been abused by an adult, a friends’ father, while only 8 years old.  I watch the media just as everyone else does and hear the anger in people’s voices as they chant for either side. This is my opinion and of course there are many of them out there but for me I am saddened that someone was fired – let me explain. Also, let it be known I am a graduate of another University and have no ties to that “other” school.

When this happened to me I had the know how and the strength to tell my parents the day it occurred. Luckily for me it happened only once because I did tell my parents and wasn’t scared to do so. My perpetrator knew I told and there for never came after me or did my parents allow me back in their home. But this one time was enough to change me forever. This one time put me in a statistic I wish I did not belong. For me I do not remember a portion of my attack, though through counseling I learned that your body has a built in “safety net” and when it feels you can handle this information, you will remember, well I still do not remember.  Do I blame God for letting this happen to me or others, no, he knew human kind was not going to be perfect and created this  “safety net” therefore I am thankful. 

Back to my sadness over someone getting fired, I told you that I had told my parents. Should my parents be fired?  Well as I do not remember getting away from “him”, my friend’s father, I do remember hiding in a closet until my friend found me crying and she pulled over the phone as had I requested, at that time phones were on cords attached to the walls. I called my parents and said, “Come get me”. In that time waiting for them in the closet my friend looked out the window watching for them to come.  Never did she ask what was wrong, I think she knew, and now think she was a victim as well.  I rode in the car in silence and then when we got home I sat up on the kitchen counter, for some reason I remember this fact, and told both my mom and dad what had happened. My perpetrator is not in jail, I have never pressed charges, so should my parents be fired?

Years went by and ninth grade came, I liked a boy, my memories starting coming back. From the period of third grade on, my thoughts or feelings of this past life changing event never bothered me. Surprisingly so because I had to see her dad in church each Sunday and at every school event, and no longer had a friend I once had. Until every night in ninth grade I would wake up crying and knew I needed help, I went to my dad and told him I remembered what happened and couldn’t deal with my emotions. I asked him why the cops were not involved and he told they had been. His first comment to me was, “I thought you forgot it ever happened.”  

Should he be fired?

He rocked me in the rocking chair as I sobbed, which seems silly because now I was not a baby but a teenager, but I remember feeling so loved. I do not blame my parents or God for my pain, but wish I never had it.  My dad told me that he thought he had done all that he knew to do at the time. I never knew he went to the police until this discussion. They had gone to “his” house and questioned him, but really what good is that when they never questioned me.  The police had advised my parents to just never discuss it again, so they had followed this advise until now.

Should the cops be fired?

Being a teenager now and have emotions for wanting to kiss boys, I needed to control my other emotions of wanting to run and hide at the same time. Confusion of past emotions filled my thoughts and I needed more help.  So I went to the school counselor, and in my starting to tell the details of the hide and seek game in which I was abused, she was crying.   

Not helpful, should she be fired?

She called my parents, in which my mom was embarrassed I had told my personal story, she blamed herself for allowing me to go to their house to play. I don’t blame her at all, bad things happen and it isn’t anyone’s fault but the perpetrators.  So I went to another counselor, and another counselor. By then I was over telling my story and having each one cry back in my face. I discussed going to court but the report that my dad had gone to the police was missing or thrown out. I had no record other than me against him.   

Who should be fired now?

It was a decision I had to make in ninth grade if I was strong enough to go to court, did I want it all over the local small town media. True fully, all I wanted at that time was him to be dead.  Maybe it was teenage melodramas but that is what I wanted.  Then a friend of mine had his father pass away unexpectedly and I went to the funeral in support. As I sat at the viewing and saw my friend crying I realized I could not go to court. I knew I would win and then would be putting away a past friends father and therefore taking him from her too.  Maybe I would have saved her from him now that I think she was abused, but that wasn’t a thought at the time.

Should I be fired?

In writing this I just want you to know that people look for someone to blame for bad things all the time. Someone wants someone to be responsible; I don’t think people should be fired for not trying to do the right “thing” at the time. You may not know what that right thing is at the time.  I still am learning from my own experience and trying to gauge who should be fired or even myself maybe for not taking action when given the chance. I believe that my perpetrator did not only do this to me but to his own daughter and one other that I know of.  There is a long line of people that could be fired including me- should I be? 
Thank you for trusting me, Friend, with your story.  My prayer is that your boldness to share your story will lead to healing in your life as well as in the lives of others.  I also pray that we respond to those children whose trust is broken every day by adults who owe them so much more.

It's not about football.  It's not about coaches.  It's about trust... that was broken.

Praying for peace.

Monday, November 7, 2011

what you don't know...

I've been incredibly overwhelmed lately with our "perspective" on others. We constantly view those around us in light of how they affect us.  And, y'all?  That's jacked up.

I have had numerous friends comment to me how people are rude to them.  Or standoffish.  Or "too cool" to have time for them.  Or that they are not important enough for that person's friendship.  And, in full disclosure, I've been on that critical side of thinking as well.

Then "those" people- the ones that are rude, or standoffish, or "too cool"- will speak.  And they will speak words of pain or hurt or exhaustion.  I have, thankfully, had the opportunity to listen to some of "those" people recently... and their stories are more than their exteriors could tell us.  They are dealing with parents who are dying, husbands who are unfaithful, spouses who are addicted, loneliness and hurt.  But we don't see that.  We see how they affect us.

This weekend I was fortunate enough to go away with 20 girlfriends to the mountains.  Just before playing cards on Saturday morning, one of my friends said to me, "I have a confession.  I may have come across rude to you in the past... but it's because you intimidate me."

Um, what?

Me?  But I'm so _______ (insert non-exciting word there), how could I intimidate you?  You are gorgeous and witty and amazing....

And there in lies the problem.  While my friend and I debriefed this phenomenon of how little we understood each other it hit me again: we just don't take the time to know people.  We go in with our preconceived notions... we interpret their actions based on how they affect us... we don't get past the surface to know the person.

This is no way to live.

In the midst of this "thankful" month, I'm choosing to be thankful for those around me.  I'm choosing to see the person, not just their actions.  I'm choosing to give them more grace instead of just interpreting their distance as a lack of interest.  And... I'm choosing to not make me the focus of it all.  We just don't know what is going on in the lives of those around us... and, it likely has nothing to do with us.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

waiting... (an update on Foster world for us)

(So, I'm dying to tell you all the fun time we had on our last week's vacation, complete with cute pictures... BUT. I. CAN'T. FIND. MY. CAMERA. ADAPTER. CORDS.  Junk.  And we're in the midst of getting over bronchitis in this house, so basically, that'll have to wait.  But, it's killing me.  I have some fun stories.)

I mentioned that I have bronchitis, right?  That has led to some "fun" time on prednisone, which basically makes me both bat-crap (like that editing?) crazy and highly productive at the same time.  It's a joy.  The good pharmaceutical news is that it has made me be able to breathe (along with the crazy expensive antibiotic, zeesh).  The other good news is that I have gotten more done in my house in 3 days than it feels like I've gotten done in the last 3 months.  Part of that is because Dan has been off this week and we've had some good team work.  Part of that is because... well... I'm on prednisone.  And part of that is because I'm *sick* of this house-to-do-list-are-we-ever-going-to-get-it-done-we'll-never-have-foster-kids-and-its-our-fault.


You see, back in February when God called us to bring children into our home and family, I imagined having more stockings on our mantle at Christmas.  I pictured having the holidays surrounded my the family I knew now, and children who were in need of some of that Waldrup/Duck/Randolph/Johnston goodness.  I had been told my anyone I asked that if we hurried through our part of the process, the "main" hang-ups would be on the end of the agency, and they would be our only delay.  Not us.  Because we are do-ers.  We are get-it-done-ers.


Then along came life... and that's not been true for us.

If you know me at all, you know I document my life based on events.  I love that I get several times in my calendar year to "start over"... the actual New Year, and then the academic New Year which I've followed since 1980something.  I love having a bench mark of when new habits can be easily formed.  This year, my newest bench mark has been titled "After Africa."  I came home from those 3 weeks full of all of the things God taught me, ready to unleash it on my life, my family, and to run full-speed toward those children waiting for my family.

Then Dan's job changed.  He took on more responsibility at work and things were hard for us.  Hard, y'all.  He cares deeply about what he does, and 90% of his energy went to pouring himself into a place that needed him.

Then we started our MAPP classes.

Then we had a family member end up in the hospital and were needed in other ways.

Then we felt under spiritual attack.

Then Dan started looking for a new job, and, praise God, got one.

Then we went on vacation and for the first time in 4 and half months, we breathed.  We sat together, a wreck of a couple, and breathed.

I had been so ready for 2010 to be over (like, so ready I'll never be able to put it into words clearly) that I couldn't even anticipate what could be waiting behind door number 2011.  It's been easier in physical ways- no tumor, no hospice... but emotionally?  Whew, y'all.  I could use a hug.

Our to-do list for getting licensed as Foster Parents is still there.  We've said numerous times to our social worker, "We swear we're still in this.  We've had a bunch of road blocks.  But we're getting there."  And that's all true.  But what kills me is that the hangup has been us.  Not them.  If it had been them (the agency) I could self-righteously say when people ask me when we'll get a placement (which happens at least every other day) "Well, we're just waiting on them.  We're done."  But we're not.  We haven't had the fire inspection, we have some paperwork to do over, we haven't gotten our fingerprints yet, we have a medical form to re-do.... it's just been.... hard.

So back to the prednisone.  I have been tackling my to-do list since Tuesday in HUGE ways.  My house is finally, finally getting to be the place I want it to be.  We've moved furniture to where it belongs, we've purged bags and bags of things to Goodwill or the trash.  We've filed papers.  We've put the crib mattress in the crib.  Y'all, we're getting somewhere.

And then it happened.

Last night, while I was alone in the office.... I thought I was going to die.  I'm not kidding.  No exaggeration. 

Since my tumor surgery, I get random side pains.  My surgeon told me that these could happen indefinitely.  It feels like a major cramp.  Usually they come in bursts of 2 or 3, and then they leave.  It doesn't happen frequently, but when it does, I can't talk or breathe until the pain subsides.

Last night I had one come on so intense that I held my breath for almost a minute.  Then I saw my side spasming.  Then it happened a second time, for just as long.  And then I called for Dan.  I couldn't move.  I couldn't lie down.  I could barely even speak to tell him what was going on.  When I did, he said the words he's had to say to me once or twice too many times before: "You've over done it and your body has told you to stop."  He pulled me up, made me go to bed, gave me some pain medicine, and made me stop.  And through tears from pain both emotionally and physically I said to him, "I can't stop now.  I'm finally getting it all done."


As I drifted off to a pain-medicine sleep, my to-do list running through my mind along with a little bit of my latest Sookie Stackhouse book there, too (thanks, Anne), I thought about my expectations in all of this Foster World stuff.  A sane person would be able to give themselves a break knock off their to-do list at a reasonable pace, not pulling a muscle in their incision site in the process.  But I am not that person.  I am an emotional time bomb who is dying to bring children into our home.  I'm ready to trade my tears of pre-frustration to tears of post-exhaustion.  I'm ready to be done.

I have no great closing paragraph to tell you all "So God taught me it's about His time, not mine" or "I know that my delay won't stop the kids who need us from getting to us" or "Pain medicine rocks" although all of those statements are true.  I will tell you this... we are ready.  We are getting there.  We are prayerful.  We are impatient.  We are trying.  And we are waiting.  Thanks for asking how it's going... we appreciate you all.