Friday, November 30, 2012

Stump Recovery Program- Step 1- Identify Stumpiness

We all know that the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem right? So here's the question... ARE YOU A STUMP?

What is a "Giving Tree Stump" you ask? For that answer just click here...

I myself discovered I WAS indeed A STUMP.

I wasn't always a stump but I became extremely stumpy. 

As I have visited with more and more women have I realized this is not a just me thing. There are a lot of stumpy women out there. So how to recover? 

Here's step 1. Are you a stump? 

You might be a stump if.....

1. You think life is like a metaphorical pie and if you take a piece for yourself it leaves less for everyone else so you try not to take much for yourself.

2. You feel guilty... like A LOT. You feel guilty anytime you take care of yourself. You might even sometimes feel guilty for feeling guilty.

3. You feel proud of yourself when you are able to keep going even if you are completely drained. You don't stop to rest until you are completely spent.

4. You often give to others to the extreme and sometimes feel hurt or resentful that people can't see what you feel and need. You may wonder why they don't give to you the same way.

5. You have quit doing things that used to be extremely important to you because you just don't have time for that.

6. You have lost your spark.

7. You find yourself resenting it if you see people close to you taking care of themselves because you "can't" do that.

8. Things you used to love (like being a mom, homeschooling, helping people, planning events, or fill in the blank) now leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

9. You begin to wonder if you will ever be that person you used to be or if this is your new personality.

10. You find worth in how much you sacrifice and feel frustrated by those you don't feel are sacrificing to the same degree. 

If you identify with 4-5 you are approaching stumpy. 6-7 and you are pretty stinkin stumpy. 8-10 and you are the stumpiest stump in the woods like I was. So let me know... how many of us are there? 

Are you ready to dustump with me?

There's hope my stumpy friends. I believe we can be way more than stumps. Who's in? 

Part 2 coming soon....

HUGS, Angel

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cracked Foundation


There are people who think that children who are adopted are weird. There is nothing weird about them. There is, very often, something broken... cracked.. at their very foundation.

Similar to a beautiful home that has a crack in the foundation.. these sweet ones have been hurt and wounded at their core. 

That's the reality. The thing about a cracked foundation is it must be repaired or the structure is unstable. It's likely to be a messy job during the process. It may look HORRIBLE for awhile. It may require intense work. It may require special tools and skills. 

Here's the amazing part though. If repaired correctly and with skill the foundation will be stronger after the repair than it ever was originally. 

That's the beauty of things... people that are broken and healed are stronger in the end. Our children come split wide open with trauma and grief. They have most often endured more than the average adult. 

They were not easily broken. They have endured an emotional earthquake. The very fact that they are ALIVE is a testament to their strength. 

So here they are... by no fault of their own... cracked wide open. We walk into brokenness and pain. We have to walk into that house with that gash in the floor knowing the mess that's going to occur. 

Even when we DO know it catches us off guard. We wonder what we've gotten ourselves into. We wonder if we will survive. We wonder if we can ever find the skills to help repair the foundation. 

And it's slow.. and it's hard.. and it's messy.. but we usually figure it out with some help. Our children heal. The cracks close. We find the tools or help or resources or knowledge and we DO THE WORK. AND IT'S WORTH IT! 

I'll tell you why it's worth it. A person who has been broken to bits and keeps fighting is the one we scream the loudest for isn't it? A person who loses everything and keeps going... THRIVES.. That person is different, unique, special.

That is who our children are inside. Just as sure as some children are born without limbs many of our children are established with deep wounds that they overcome. The overcoming and healing of these obstacles, wounds and grief makes them MORE. They become MORE. They have been rejected and learned to love again. They have been ridiculed and continued to try. They have been denied food, shelter, care and attention and survived it to find a home. They are not weird. They are MIRACLES.

They are being forced to learn lessons in forgiveness, kindness, survival, empathy, determination, courage and surrender that most adults don't learn... ever.

When we look at our adopted children we must see the cracks, attend to the damage and expect the healing. We will get there and our children will not be normal. Heavens no, when a child's foundation is broken and repaired with great skill it can be stronger than it ever was before.

Our children will never be normal. They will be phenomenal. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

There are things you want..

My dad is not always a man of many words. When he does say something it's usually because he HAS something to say and it's worth hearing.

One sunny day, years ago, I was sitting on my parents front porch while my dad was working in the yard. I was explaining some very big life decisions Russ and I were facing. I explained to him how hard it was to make these choices and I asked for his advice. This is what he said to me that day...

"Angel, there are things you want and there are things you want MORE. You have to decide which is which."

I laughed and agreed with him. It didn't seem like rocket science but it kind of was. Sometimes the most difficult things to do are so simple at their core. So much of what it comes down to is what do we want MORE.

Sometimes it's not good and bad or black and white or right or wrong. Sometimes it's just so many good things we could do and we have to really listen to what God is whispering to our hearts... Which means getting quiet enough to hear that still small voice. Which means drowning out the guilt, obligation, dream scenarios, romantic lenses, selfishness, anger and frustration to just be honest with ourselves... And KNOW our own heart.

I can't tell you how many times over the years that advice has rung in my ears. I can tell you that it's ringing in my ears over and over for the past couple of months.

There are things I want... And there are things I want more. Which is which?

I just wish my dad could tell me what I want more cause I OFTEN have trouble figuring that part out. Dad??? ;-)

Hugs, Angel

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Letter to a new Trust Based Parenting Momma

Recently I was contacted by a parent who is fairly new to Trust Based Parenting and feeling a bit overwhelmed. She found herself overcome with emotion as she saw parenting in a whole new light. As I wrote to her I wondered how many of you have felt the daunting fear of failure. As I have taken on this monumental task of parenting outside of "normal" I know I have felt that terror.. Many, many times. So I thought I'd share my response in hopes that it might encourage someone out there in bloggy land. I will edit a bit for clarity.

... I am so glad you got them (The Trust Based Parenting DVDs from TCU) and am grateful to hear they are hitting home... Though I know that can be so very painful and understand that feeling well. :-( It's hard sometimes. I can relate. This week, seeing hard truth, was so emotional for me too.

I have to hold on to knowing and embracing this is what has and what is going to help us all thrive as a family.

It's what we ignore that we can't fix.

It's not an ability to be perfect that makes us good moms. It's a willingness to be vulnerable and grow that makes us great moms.

So don't you dare become discouraged. ;-)

THIS is the stuff great moms do. They are weak sometimes and get real and break and grow.

I'm really proud of you for putting it all out there emotionally. It's courageous.

I have to remember not to let my mommy guilt or fear overwhelm me. When I first learned all this I had to forgive myself for not knowing what I didn't know. :-)

The Bible says we are responsible for what we know. Giving yourself and your children tons of grace is so important in this process. It's not about being perfect. It's about compassion and putting more and more tools in your toolbox.

I have talked to family after family who has been RIGHT where you are... The beginning of something beautiful. It's a scary, wonderful place to be but if you can let those emotions just flow, forgive yourself for being a human and then use your new tools to connect on this deeper level you will start to see some amazing things happen. I want to hear about them when they start.

OH!!! And don't try to start using all your tools at once. You'll be EXHAUSTED. Just choose 2 or 3 favorite new tools.

When I first started learning all this I remember realizing how punitive I was. Ugh! I had no idea how I would take this kinda thrill in making things "just." I felt awful. One of the first things I wanted to do was learn to do something different. I immediately started really ramping up giving choices about everything I could and doing re-dos.

After that I moved onto things like the IDEAL response, giving yes, empowering their bodies... And then sensory, and regulation techniques and... And... And...

Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by it. Learn to use one or two tools at a time and be grateful there are so many to choose from.

Now most of this comes very naturally. It was VERY hard at first. It was like learning to build a house. ;-)

You can do this slowly and surely with us all cheering you along and handing you any tools we know about.

Hugs!!!! Angel
PS um this kinda turned into a blog post... I may just copy it on there. I bet we aren't the only ones who ever weep during TBRI ;-)

Much love, Angel

Sunday, July 22, 2012

From Selfish to Giving Tree Stump then back again... Somewhere in the middle

When I was younger... MUCH younger :-) I was selfish.

Not mean, bratty selfish. Ok, maybe there was a touch of that but mostly just young selfish. Selfish like I had a lot of time. Selfish like I had a lot of margin. Selfish like I thought about my needs and had time to meet them.... A LOT.

Then I had a baby, then we moved, then my husband went to a demanding MBA school program, then my baby had surgery, then we moved again, then we adopted, ran a not for profit for awhile ON THE SIDE, adopted again... Adopted AGAIN...

And this last year I realized that along the way I had almost completely lost myself. It happened slowly like a frog being boiled alive.

I didn't mean for it to happen. I didn't feel like I had a choice. I didn't know another way to be enough so I just gave up pieces of myself to give to others until there was almost nothing left. For about a year I just felt.....trapped. Trapped, trapped, trapped, trapped, miserable.

I guess I saw it as a zero sum game. There is only so much of me. I have to make sure my husband and children and family and closest friends and responsibilities get enough so I will just have to give up my stuff.

I wanted to love sacrificially and I guess I was. No I was... I just didn't realize the cost or alternative.

There were things I stopped doing that I NEEDED to stop doing. I learned to say no kindly and liberally and OFTEN which has been AWWWWWWESOME and so very freeing.

There were many things I gave up that were truly necessary and right for a season.

I think my failing came in not knowing myself enough to know what NOT to give up. I wasn't just giving up my stuff. I started giving away parts of who I am at a fundamental level. I started giving up things that feed my soul...

I gave up blogging

I gave up intense study

I gave up going to conferences

I gave up eating well

I gave up exercising

I gave up painting my nails

I gave up shaving both halves of my legs

I gave up having personal goals about ME

Some of these things may seem trivial. Some may seem obvious. I think what I realized was this.... These are some things that are inherent to who I am. There are things that are not just things.

When I cut these things out of my life I quickly started to shrivel. Well, physically I quickly started to expand. Let's keep it real people. Spiritually I started to wither away.

I was taking the gifts God had gifted me with and sticking them on a shelf to gather dust in favor of the urgent.

I truly believed I was doing what was right. I couldn't have been more wrong.

I am learning better now.

This is not a zero sum game. There is not "only so much of me." I am not a pile of lumber to be distributed equally among those I care about.

I am a tree. Or I am meant to be. Not a tree to be used up to uselessness. (if you are confused now please see my previous giving tree post)

NO!!! I am meant to be like a tree planted by the water that bears fruit in due season.

I am meant to love sacrificially in the ways God calls me to love but not to abandon the gifts He has given me.

I struggled with this. Struggled to see what I'd abandoned. Struggled with fierce guilt, believing myself to be a selfish shrew. Struggled with believing it could be different.

There is still a strain... But I think I'm on my way.

As I have begun to embrace prioritizing the things that are fundamental to my well being I have found myself feeling inspired, energized, happy and on my way to healthy.

To my delighted surprise I have had MORE to offer my husband and children.

Sure I was giving them everything I was before but how much does a stump have to offer?

Hugs, Angel

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The big "D" in Adoption... When it all falls apart

It's the thing no one wants to talk about.... Shhhhhh.... Disruption.

I guess in the world of adoption this is the unforgivable sin right? And now I'm finally gonna talk about it. Sigh..

This post started in my head years ago. I'm going to confess here. There is a time I held judgment in my heart when I heard that someone had disrupted an adoption. I'm sorry. Truly I am.

I was young, stupid and downright ugly.

Now when I see anyone, especially from the adoption community, tearing down someone who has made this decision it breaks my heart. I'm not really angry at them. I just feel so very sad cause my view of the world has changed.

I guess I'm not as young anymore and I don't see it as black and white. I have friends now who have disrupted or chosen not to complete an adoption. I have adopted a precious little one from a disruption situation. I've had a chance to walk with people through that terrible valley.

In some of the cases I saw that I may have been forced into the same decision. In some cases I would not have made the same decision but saw why they did. In some cases I knew I would choose a different path. Yet, in each and every case there was something in common.

These people were absolutely broken. These families had put blood, sweat and tears into adopting these children just like I had. These people wanted it to work. What they were doing was a nightmare for them. They held a belief that this is what was best for that child.

As I walked this journey the thought occurred to me, "Why is it that the adoption community frequently offers virtual sainthood to a birth mother who makes the decision not to parent for a perceived good of the child but is ready to stone an adoptive mother who does the same?"

Why is it that if we go out on the limb to adopt and then fail the adoption community may just saw that limb off and let us fall?

Do I like disruption? Heavens no!!! I hate it.... I hate it with every fiber of my being. I hate it just like I hate divorce and children being orphaned and that we even NEED adoption and infidelity and bankruptcy and malnutrition and HIV and children with no education. I hate the brokenness and nature of the fallen world we live and love in.

Here's the truth though... These families that adopt... Sure, maybe there are some who are just TRULY evil and don't care about the child and were purely selfish. Let's be honest though... Not a whole lot of that kind of people jump through the hoops of fire required to adopt a child. These are people who not only took on the incredible task of parenting but took on the additional challenge of parenting a child from a hard place.

Maybe they shouldn't have done it. Maybe they didn't have the tools. Maybe they had unrealistic expectations. Maybe they made the wrong decision. Maybe they should have stuck it out.

Maybe.... Maybe not. I don't know. You don't know. And even if we do know it's kinda WAY beside the point isn't it?

Cause the truth is that few people are brave enough to adopt. These people were and then it failed and they feel like they failed. They are making a decision to give up a CHILD, to give up a dream, to give up what people think of them.... I can guarantee this is the worst time of their entire life and was not in the plan EVER.

Then the friends that have been their support are often the ones that pick up the sharpest, biggest stones. Maybe it's because we are afraid. Maybe we think if we yell loud enough it'll stop it from happening. Maybe we are afraid it'll happen to us.

I know the statistics now. This atmosphere doesn't stop disruptions from happening. It just means they happen underground and the people slink away to hide and hope they are forgotten because it's better than being condemned.

I don't want to be a part of that. I don't want to be a part of smashing someone who is already broken to bits. No matter why they are broken I want to be the one who is a safe place.

Whatever caused them to enter into the worst nightmare of their life I'd rather be a part of the healing than the sentencing. Maybe it was impossible... Maybe it was all their fault... For sure they are paying a steeper price than I can fathom without my heaping guilt and anger on top of them.

I want to be part of the solution. I want to be a safe place where adoptive families know they can turn no matter what they are facing. I want to learn tools to help parents walk their children to healing. I want tools to help parents who are broken and can't connect because of their own trauma. (which is quite common) I want to educate people on what the beauty and challenges are in adoption. I want to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. I want to help children be placed in homes where the parents and the children can find deep connection and thrive together.

So anyways... Disruption. That's where I am on that. In CASE you were wondering. :-)

Hugs, Angel

Monday, July 16, 2012

Excruciating Vulnerability- The price of connection

I get calls, emails, texts, FB messages from moms just like me. Moms that love their children and want to see them happy and healthy. Moms who are worn out and down right exhausted. Moms that wonder if I have answers in how to address the behaviors I see.

The truth is I think I do. The truth is I have no idea. The truth is I'm not sure. The truth is I'm learning. AND.. The truth is... It's not what you think.

What I've learned over these past 7 years is that what it takes to love is connection. What it takes to connect is EXCRUCIATING VULNERABILITY.

I mean EXCRUCIATING!!! If I am not a little uncomfortable in the initial process then I'm not doing it right. If it's not challenging at first then I'm probably playing it safe.

Being vulnerable means laying it out there... Opening myself up.. Laying my heart on the table... Saying I love you first.... Being willing to love someone who might hurt me.

Truly connecting means my heart open for someone to see knowing full well it may get smashed to bits... Maybe smashed over and over and over and over aaaaand over.

Just this last weekend I opened up to my husband, my precious and loving husband of 14 years, about a vulnerable need and I cried from the difficulty and fear of laying myself out so raw.

Truly connecting with a child from a hard place I can almost guarantee some smashing will occur. It's not easy. It is what it requires.

So when you ask what you can do I just gotta get really real with you and say, this is what it takes. Jesus got real when He said that we would need to DIE to ourselves.

True love and connection is only available to those willing to be excruciatingly vulnerable.

The truth is that we are ASKING this from our adopted (and bio) children. We are saying to them, "You are safe. You should trust me and love me and be vulnerable to me." Yet have we mastered that ourselves? How can we lead our broken and battered little ones down a road we ourselves refuse to travel?

The road to connection is full of scary shadows. Will we walk it with our children?

Yet with this connection comes a type of joy unavailable in any other capacity. Those who are truly connected believe they are WORTHY of loving. We want our children to believe this... Do we?

Learning this connection is requiring me to have the courage to be imperfect.

It is requiring me to care for myself and believe I am worthy of that care so my love can overflow to others.

It is requiring me to let go of my guilt that I didn't know what I didn't know and my ideas of who I think I should be.

It's freeing me to love... To live... To be grateful... To BE.

Basically, it's making me better than I WANTED to be and I'm forever thankful for the divine shove.

So when you ask me if I can help the first thing I wonder is, "Are you ready to be excruciatingly vulnerable? Is it worth it to walk through the scary shadows?"

If you want behavior modification I'm not so good at that. If you want the hard road to reaching connection within yourself and with your children I'm overjoyed to walk that road as we both keep it real together.

And that is connection.

Hugs, Angel

PS This TED video is amazing and was very inspirational to me on excruciating vulnerability. It is well worth your time. :-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Giving Tree... Thoughts on giving till you're useless

This isn't one of those posts where I know what I'm talking about. Let's face it, there aren't many posts like that. This is just a thinking out loud kinda post.

The last year and a half I gave... I mean I really gave... I mean I gave until I really had nothing left to give and there was a point I felt like I might lose it. No. Let's get real. I did lose it.

I wanted to give. I take joy in giving. I have a strong tendency to feel guilty if I'm not giving my all...all the time. So I gave and gave and gave and gave and then gave out.

During this time I was really wrestling through the guilt of being so worn down and feeling so useless.

One day, in the middle of this inner struggle, my daughter brought me the story, "The Giving Tree" and I read it to her.

Honestly, my first thought was that it was probably a great lesson for her. Then as the days went on that dang tree kept nagging at me. Was that really what we are supposed to do? Are we supposed to wear ourselves down to stumps to meet every whim of the people we love till we are good for nothing but to be sat on??? Really? Is that Christ's goal for us? Is that what Jesus did?

And I genuinely wasn't sure what to think... But I'm sorting through it.

Wouldn't the tree have done better to continue being healthy and bearing fruit year after year? Wouldn't the boy have been better served by a tree honest enough to tell him the truth of who he was while continuing to serve him with healthy fruit?

I know, I'm beating a dead tree. :-) I just have a strange feeling that maybe there are other moms that struggle with this like I do.

Taking care of myself... Dying to myself... Giving to others... Living for Christ. I get all jumbled up on what's right.

Here's what I think. I think that Jesus did lay down His life but ONLY when His Father told Him to do it. He also was a slave to no one. He didn't always say yes. For 30 of His 33 years He was a carpenter in a small town. He could have made everything perfect. He could have healed everyone. He could have worked day and night. He didn't help everyone. He didn't heal everyone. He did what his Father told Him to do and served those He was called to serve. He was no stump chopped to the ground. He was overflowing with fruit. He gave that fruit away in season with joy.

I don't get it. I'm trying to learn. Sometimes I want to be able to give it all without becoming useless but I can't... And I don't think it's what God has asked of me.

I think I'm done being the giving tree. I think I'd rather be fruitful.

Hugs, Angel

Friday, June 01, 2012


Sometimes there are just not enough words or emotions or... energy for just how very blessed I am. :)

Monday, March 05, 2012

Still Face Experiment

If you haven't yet seen this I beg you to take a moment to watch it. This is a powerful study of human behavior. Make sure you play it loudly and are in a quiet place. Pay close attention to this little one's face and eyes. 

How many times have we just NOT interacted with our children and had our mind elsewhere? 

Have you ever been trying to connect with someone and had very little reaction from them? Did you feel yourself losing it?? I know I have. It makes me crazy when I get the still face. 

Do you tend to become still faced when you feel someone becoming too relational or doing something that makes you uncomfortable? 

It matters.... How you react to your children deeply effects their behavior and emotions. How we connect with others effects our well being and emotions. Being "cool as a cucumber" isn't always all it's cracked up to be. When we are shut down and elusive we can essentially drive ourselves and others to terror simply by refusing to connect. 

Connection matters. 

The very core of being human calls for closeness and connection. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Grocery Plan

    • After researching and making a spreadsheet for a good portion of the day I think we are getting close to done! What we did was compared what we think we usually spend at the grocery store to the Sam's Club prices and to the Amazon prices. There were items that were far cheaper on Amazon. There were a lot that were within a dollar difference between Amazon and Sams Club in which case we defaulted to Amazon cause I'm a fan of instant delivery! There are a small handful of items we will shop for at the grocery store... Like grass fed beef... Since neither Amazon or Sams carry it for a reasonable amount. Here's what it comes down to... A whole lot will come from Amazon and be on subscription and delivery. Most of the rest I can order and pay for online at Sams Club then all I do is pick it up! Then I just have to run into the store for about 10-15 small items a week I think. So WAY simpler.... Oh and we are getting stuff I would previously skip getting cause it was too expensive AND it looks like we will still be saving a good chunk of change! We will post what items we decided to buy at which stores on my blog. Of course SO much is personal preference. If you have 4 kids, like mostly organic, antibiotic free, healthyISH but compromise if it's too expensive... Then the list might really help you. It may at least give you a place to start. This is all highly experimental and requires the ability to bulk buy certain items but if our numbers are correct I think we are about to start saving some major cash AND almost or more exciting saving tons of time and stress. Here's hoping! I'll keep you updated. I'll tell you when the blog post is up. Happy new year to you!! Isn't our day exciting??? We are party animals!

Last week I posted on Facebook about our attempt to simplify grocery shopping and save money. Here is what we discovered if anyone is interested. :-) Remember... no tax on Amazon and free shipping with Prime. At Sam's Club you can shop on line and they will pull it for you. Then you just pick up. Hope this is a blessing to some of you. Angel