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Photo credit: Sona Psotova

I’m a dreamer. I’ve finally come to realize that about myself. Dreamers aren’t known for being practical.

My latest dream isn’t new at all. It’s been at—or just below—the surface for 20 years. All those years I’ve had a hunger to foster and adopt children.

There are times when that hunger buries itself in my chest, and I can think of little else—like after Haiti was ripped apart by the earthquake in 2010. “Can we please go to Haiti and look after the orphans,” I begged my husband. But Kevin is the practical one. He sees the consequences and obstacles with clarity while I only see the need and feel the pain.

I’ve tried to be more practical over the years. When I hear of suffering children—of orphans and foster children who never find a forever family—my heart squeezes with the desire to help them, but I remind myself that I’m raising six children in an unfinished house. “It’s not real,” I tell myself. “It’s just a dream.”

But last week, as I watched a friend snuggling her baby girl, I felt the desire to care for hurting children resurface. Maybe it’s time, I found myself wondering. Our house could be finished this summer. My youngest is four, and I have more time now. Kevin might even be semi-retired.

The next day, at an archery meeting, I overheard a woman talk about her experiences as a foster mother. I unabashedly drew near. “I’ve always wanted to foster or adopt,” I said.

“Really?” She seemed surprised. Maybe the idea to foster children crept up on her instead of being the culmination of decades of desire. She talked about some of the joy and pain she and her husband have experienced on their journey.

Over the years I’ve read dozens of books related to fostering children. Knowing that many children in care have special needs led me to studying about Down’s syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and autism. I’ve also looked into caring for drug addicted babies.

But what is it like to love a child and then lose them? What if we did decide to foster children, but the pain eroded our family like a sand castle caught in the tide?

There have been times in the past when my dreaming and scheming have gotten us into trouble. Maybe I’m finally learning. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to rush into anything this time.

I found a book titled A Baby’s Cry by a foster mother about her experience with fostering a newborn. She and her two children form a deep bod of love for the baby, and then they must let him go when he is returned to his birth mother less than a year later. It’s helping me to understand what it’s really like to willingly suffer pain to offer a child a home and love—for a time.

I started reading A Baby’s Cry to my whole family a couple days ago. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a foster mom, but I need to believe that the ache that lives in my heart is there for a reason. Maybe some of my children will remember reading this book and decide to one day foster and adopt children themselves.

Maybe the time will be right one day for Kevin and I to welcome some of these little ones into our own hearts. I don’t know, and I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to know. I accept the pain and pray that one day I’ll have the chance to alleviate some of the pain of a hurting child.

 

A Baby`s Cry at Amazon.com

Glitch

Image credit: Lora Bates

Image credit: Lora Bates

I bought my new phone just after my husband bought his. Kevin couldn’t wait to get his new phone set up. Mine sat on the counter in its crisp little box for months. Why bother? My old phone worked fine.

Finally, I decided to contact Telus and have my new phone set up. I used my husband’s phone to make the call.

I’m not sure if I can write out the following events and have it make any sense at all. I went through hours of frustration when the agent switched my husband’s number instead of mine to the new phone . . . the call dropped . . . I called back on my phone and was put on hold . . .  I totally confused another agent when I tried to fill him in on what happened . . . he put Kevin’s number back on his phone and discovered that they’d wrecked the SIM card by putting Kevin’s number on it . . . now I had to go buy another SIM card.

Argh. Sigh. Groan.

The Telus agent offered to put a $15 credit on my account and apologized for their mess up.

“I’m sorry if I sounded irritated. I know this wasn’t your fault,” I told the agent at the end of our long conversation.

“You have every right to be frustrated. I’d be pretty irritated too.”

“Well, thanks for your help.”

I set the phone down and rested my head in my hands. Why did I buy a new phone anyway?

We drove into town to buy a new SIM card . . . the store was closed. The next day, when I finally got the stupid, puny little card—it was almost $2 more than Telus had given me to buy it. “Just let it go Rachel,” I told myself.

Thankfully, the transfer went smoothly this time. “Are you sure it’s my number?” I asked the agent for the second time. She was patient with me.

Whenever I feel like freaking on someone in customer service, I’m reminded of my years as a waitress. If someone is angry because the food is too cold or it takes too long or doesn’t meet expectations—they take it out on the waitress. Not fun.

I few years after I’d quit waitressing, and while we still lived on Cortes Island, Kevin and I were grocery shopping. Our town trips were always stressful and rushed with ferries to catch. We stood in the lineup as the cashier moved with the rapidity of a frozen sloth.

“Would you like your milk in bags?”

“No, it’s fine!” I replied, snatching the milk jug from her hands and packing it into the cart.

Later, as we sat on the ferry and watched the trees slide away, Kevin turned to me. “I was shocked when you snapped at the cashier. You more than most, know how hard it is to deal with angry customers.”

I nodded. An image of the woman’s hurt expression flashed in my mind. “You’re right.”

I’m glad Kevin said something to me that day. It doesn’t matter if Telus cost me hours of time and $1.81 in cash—I’m still responsible to treat others with respect and to apologize when I fall short.

This is even more important to me now that my daughters both serve at Tim Hortons and try to meet even the rude customers with a genuine smile. Everyone makes mistakes from time to time and kindness doesn’t cost us anything.

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IMG_4332[1]We often define a creative person as someone who is artistic—perhaps they’re a gifted musician or painter or dancer. But I think creativity is bigger than that. It’s a state of mind that sees endless possibilities and dreams big, even after facing defeat again and again.

Inventors come to mind when I think of creativity. Alexander Graham Bell created dozens of useful inventions from the telephone to a metal detector, but he also faced hundreds of failures.

Obstacles only make a creative person look deeper and wider for the answers.

Last week I watched a short film on today’s educational system. It raised many questions. Does our educational system kill creativity and curiosity? Does it prepare our children for a changing world? Does it value their unique strengths and interests?

One of the reasons I decided to homeschool was because the current school system seems to be designed to fit kids into a certain mould. I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to love learning and follow their passions and not be afraid of getting a wrong answer—after all, those are the ones we learn the most from.

One day my six-year-old son was painting a ceramic mug to be fired. I admired his bold use of colour. He’d painted a person with brown hair and lovely pointed shoes.  “Who’s that?” I asked.

“It’s you,” he said shyly, looking up at me through his long eye lashes. “But the mouth dripped.”

My heart squeezed with love as I looked at his rendition of me. The dripping black mouth resembled a beard. But it was me he chose to grace his mug. I was honoured. “It’s a beautiful painting.”

I hope he never loses the joy of creating. I pray I never make him feel stupid. I dream that he follows his dreams.

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Here’s the film I watched last week. Very thought provoking! B.C. is bringing in some big curriculum changes for next year. The goal is to create an educational system that prepares kids for a changing future, focuses on their passions, and honours their strengths. I’m proud of my province.🙂

Good Stress

Photo credit: Mirabail Michel

Is there such a thing as “good stress?” We all know that stress is bad. It causes ulcers and headaches, hypertension and adrenal stress. Bad stuff. That’s the stress that comes from worrying about if the money will stretch to cover the loan payment. Or it can come from overbooking ourselves and feeling the pressure to do more than a mortal is capable of.

But good stress is the stress that comes from pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone to do things that are important to us.

Last week I talked about facing our fears, and this week’s post is about accepting the fact that when we do something new and hard and brave—a certain amount of fear and stress can be expected. It’s okay. It means we’re challenging ourselves.

This morning I came across a Pinterest board that I made for Naya—the main character of my novel. It contains pictures and quotes that hold a lot of meaning for her.

One of the quotes was, “It’s okay to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.”

I realized that some of the changes my characters went through in my novel were a reflection of the changes that were happening in my own life.

Today, I’m going skiing with my kids. I haven’t skied since I was thirteen—twenty-two years ago. I’m excited but scared too. But that’s okay.🙂

Have a great weekend!

You can view the Pinterest board I made for Naya here.

Photo credit: Erik Nyrtsm

Photo credit: Erik Nyrtsm

I’ve been working on pushing past my fears over the past several years. I started a blog, became a birth doula, sailed a one-man sailboat, and wrote a novel. All of these things scared me, but I knew that facing and overcoming my fears would give me joy.

But harder and scarier than writing a book is trying to sell it. Nineteen days ago I started querying literary agents. To get your manuscript into the hands of the big publishers you need to get the interest of an agent first and that requires sending out query letters. If an agent likes the sound of the book, they’ll request the manuscript.

After sending out 21 queries, I received a couple requests for my manuscript, but mostly I received very nice rejections. But even a nice rejection is disappointing.

Yesterday afternoon, after assembling my flute in readiness for band class, I checked my email and saw a response from an agent. I sighed—probably another rejection. “What happened to your optimism?” I asked myself. So I squared my shoulders and opened the email.

It was a request for my manuscript from an agent whom I respect and admire. Of course this is a good thing, but it’s just one small step on a rather terrifying journey. One of the agents reading my book needs to fall in love with it and be willing to get behind it, then they’ll need to pitch it to an editor who loves it, then the editor needs to pitch it to their sales team. That’s a lot of people to convince that I have something worth saying on printed page.

I sometimes have the desire to whisk my book away from all these seasoned eyes and keep it safe from rejection, but safe isn’t what I signed on for. It’s not really what I want in life.

What I needed to do is haul my fear out of the dark closet and have a good look at it. What am I really afraid of? What’s the worst thing that could happen? Well, after spending hundreds of hours and bucket loads of devotion on a manuscript, the agents and publisher who have already shown interest might decide that the book isn’t a good fit for them. Or my book could make it to publication and bomb—failing to find an audience.

It would be a sad moment to tuck my book into a drawer and lay it to rest, but it wouldn’t be Armageddon. So what would I do if the worst came to be? I’d put my bottom in a chair, open my laptop, and write another book—a better one.

Taking a good look at my fear and making a plan for the worst-case scenario has helped me to move on and to remember that I’m doing what I love—raising my family, attending births, and writing books. And doing what I love requires not giving into paralysis-inducing fear.

Photo credit: Manu Mohan

Photo credit: Manu Mohan

The twins I prayed for

The twins I prayed for

I kept myself awake last night coming up with a list of the craziest things about me. Sometimes we just need to embrace our unique side.😉

Yes, I really do have six kids. And, no, I don’t have running water. Part of me has always loved simplicity. For most of my life I’ve been convinced that I was born in the wrong century (until I had a good think about what it would be like to have a tooth pulled without anaesthetic). We catch water off the roof and store it in tanks under the house. Once a week, we use a small pump to fill up a barrel that we dip out of for dishes and bathing. We heat the water on the woodstove during the winter and on the propane stove in the summer. But I’m ready for a well and running water now. This summer . . . please.

I love giving birth. This is my favourite thing to do. I’d rather give birth than go to Europe or to a U2 concert. I don’t just love the baby-after-the-birth part. I love the birthing part. I love being woken in the night by contractions or my water breaking and the feeling of wonder and excitement. I love the building contractions that force me to withdraw from the world and focus within. I love meeting my babies for the first time. I’m proud of the fact that I caught my first and last babies with my own hands. Best thing ever.

I wrote a book in a month. There’s actually an event—NaNoWriMo—for the thousands of people around the world who are crazy enough to give up sleep and their favourite TV shows to write an entire novel in a month. So if you notice me wandering around with dark circles under my eyes, talking to myself, and it happens to be November—then you know why.🙂

I wanted 20 kids. For real, and I’ve never even seen the “19 kids and counting” show. I wanted to birth 10 and adopt 10, but my husband didn’t want to have any kids, so we compromised and had 6. Notice that I compromised more.

I brainwashed myself to enjoy summer and winter. I grew up on the west coast where it snowed once or twice in a winter and the white stuff was gone by lunch time. And then we moved north. Our first winter we had close to four feet of snow. Turns out we’d bought our house in the “snow belt.” I hated winter and we were stuck with six months of it. But at some point I made the decision to embrace it. I went for walks every day and tried to see the beauty of winter. It worked! I actually started enjoying the winters. I decided to try my whole “I love the seasons” thing on summers, since I hated the heat of summer too. I’d go sit in a chair in the sun, close my eyes and say, “I love the heat. It feels so good.” No kidding—it also worked! It’s the spring I have trouble with now. I’m not sure if I’m going to try the whole brainwashing thing again. I don’t think, “I love mud and mosquitoes is going to work.” I might just keep one season to hate.😉

I prayed for twins and got them. No, twins don’t run in the family. I just got it in my head that I wanted twins, so I prayed for them. Soon after that I got pregnant. We were in a little church at that time—maybe 100 people—and a girl stood up and announced she was having twins. I was ticked. Obviously, there wouldn’t be two women pregnant with twins at the same time in that little church. I was ridiculously convinced that she was having the twins that I prayed for. When my midwife told me I was measuring big, I brushed it off. “Nope, Amanda’s having my twins.” I didn’t even want an ultrasound. At 24 weeks, I was feeling my belly in the night, and I felt two heads! For real—I self-diagnosed twins. They came 10 weeks later.

If you’re shaking your head and thinking, “What a nut,” then I accomplished my purpose for the day. Have a great weekend!

❤ Rachel

Photo credit: ITWeb Tech

Photo credit: ITWeb Tech

 

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon.

December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn.

How did it get so late so soon?”  ~Dr. Seuss

 

I’d never read this little poem by Dr. Seuss until I went searching for a quote on the preciousness of time. It’s fun and fanciful—in typical Seuss style—but there’s an element of truth too. How often I’ve dropped into bed at the end of a busy day and wondered at how quickly it flew by and if I’d made the most of it.

These moments that I’m most acutely aware of the finiteness of time make me realize that I must decide what’s important in my life and choose to commit the time and resources needed to excel in that area. If I don’t make a choice, then busyness takes over and nothing gets done properly.

Being awesome in the things that are important is better than being mediocre in everything. At least I think so.

I want to be an awesome mom and wife. I want to do an awesome job of teaching my children and engaging them in learning. I want to write awesome books. I haven’t attained awesomeness in any of these areas, but these are my goals, and they’re there to aim at.

But you can’t shoot for awesomeness in everything. I’m not awesome at housekeeping. Or gardening. Or cooking. And I’m okay with that. They’re not on my awesome list. I’m going for acceptable, fine, and okay. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for being sanitary and feeding my kids healthy foods, but we live with stacks of books on every flat surface, and I don’t do gourmet.

Everyone is going to have different priorities, and that’s the way it should be! But in a world where there are innumerable things that we could be doing with our time from cooking to cleaning, reading to playing peek-a-boo with the baby, texting to tweeting, watching tv to pet sitting, online courses to knitting socks. And on and on. We all need to choose how we spend the hours we’re given.

As a homeschooling mom of six kids, I’ve learned there are many things that I have to say no to. Not because they’re not valuable or worthwhile, but because there isn’t time to do it all. Because in a few things—I’m aiming for awesome.