Tag Archives: moving

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore!

Toto, I Don’t Think We’re in Kansas Anymore!

Have you ever woken up and no longer recognized the life you were living?  I mentioned in my last post that there were lots of changes in my life.  Some changes have been amazing and exciting, others are incredibly frightening and have left me feeling lost and unsure.  As a result, my entire life has been turned upside down and though I’ve wanted to blog about it, I’ve been a bit unsure about how much to reveal.  I’m still not sure about that.  So this is a beginning of a conversation I hope to continue one day.  I hope you will have patience with me as a struggle through this.

My trip down the rabbit hole began last December.  Life was pretty good.  I was working at a church I loved, with people I respected.  Little Man and I were progressing well, moving toward adoption, and enjoying our first Christmas season together.  I was expecting Baby Amaia to arrive in a few short months, and had been stocking up on the most adorable baby clothes and tiny little diapers.

Then the tornado hit.  Three weeks before Christmas I lost my job.  The job that I loved and was so passionate about.  And although I was beginning to struggle with the 60-80 hour work weeks I was putting in as a single mom, the news caught me completely off-guard.  There is a lot about that situation that I would like to share.  There’s a lot that I feel needs to be heard and understood.  But when you work in the church, things are complicated.  A whole-other-universe kind of complicated.  I was heartbroken, and angry, and insanely stressed.  Because apart from every other thing I was feeling, I was a single mom without a job, and when you work in pastoral ministry you can’t just find another job in town.  Continuing to work in my field would mean moving, probably out of state.  And moving would mean giving up my son and soon-to-be-born daughter, who were still in the foster care system.  And that was not an option.  So I went into full-on panic mode.

I applied for close to a thousand jobs.  I only got three interviews and no job offers.  Then on January 29 I got a call that taught me fear.  Baby Amaia’s bio mother was going into labor almost three weeks early and they had discovered multiple problems with the baby.  They didn’t expect her to survive the delivery.  As the foster parent I had no legal rights, and no way of knowing what was going on.  I waited and prayed all night.  Sometime the next day I learned she had survived the birth.  For two weeks I waited each day for news, hoping for miracles.  I was able to go see her in the NICU and was blown away by how tiny she was.  She was hooked up to dozens of monitors and IV tubes.  Then on February 12 I received the phone call that changed our lives.  Baby Amaia would only live a few more hours.  They had decided to take her off life support and she would not survive.  I rushed to the hospital and held my sweet girl for the first and last time, as I watched the life ebb from her body.  There are no words for the pain I felt that day, the pain that still haunts me.  I miss her every day.

After months of looking for jobs I decided to become a substitute teacher until I could find full-time work.  Subbing in an inner city school district was an eye-opening experience.  I have worked professionally with kids for 13 years but I had never experienced anything like that.  The challenges were incredible.  After a few weeks I was hired to stay at one elementary school where I rotated between all types of classrooms, from pre-k through 6th, from standard, to special needs, to emotionally disturbed.  The students pushed me to new levels of frustration and I came home with more than one injury.  But they also broke my heart and made me fall in love with them.

In March an unexpected blessing came.  Little Man’s biological mother suddenly and unexpectedly signed over her parental rights, naming me as the adoptive parent.  This cleared the path for us to begin moving forward with his adoption.  It’s a humbling experience sitting in the courtroom as a parent signs away their parental rights to make way for you to become the mother of their child.  To sit and listen as the judge asks “Are you sure?” in a hundred different ways.  At the end of the day I was free to adopt my Little Man and his case was officially transferred to the adoption department.

Then began months of waiting, bureaucracy, and frustration.  It seemed like everything was moving at a snail’s pace.  In the meantime I began to explore the possibility of moving back to Illinois to be near my family.  Being a single mom is hard without any family around.  With no family in New York I was at a bit of a disadvantage.  I’d always had a great network of friends and church members who served as my support system, but when I lost my job I lost about 95% of those people.  I had not only lost my job, I had lost my church and most of my friends.  Since I’d been exploring the possibility of going back to school and getting a second masters in teaching, school counseling, or speech therapy, having family around would be really nice.  Now that I was looking at adoption, moving to be closer to family was a possibility.

Finally, just a few short weeks ago, we finalized our adoption!  After 588 days in foster care, Little Man became part of his Forever Family!  I can now officially introduce you to Austin!

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After a year and a half, I can finally show you my adorable Little Man’s face!  Officially becoming a family is definitely the highlight of my year, and the best thing that has ever happened to me.  It makes all the struggles and pain of the past year worthwhile.  I am so blessed to call him mine, and so thankful God brought him into my life.

Austin’s adoption day was August 26.  I had decided it was best to move to Illinois, and we had been making plans prior to the adoption.  So a mere two days after the adoption we loaded up a truck full of stuff and the next day we pulled out of town.  We’ve been in Illinois for a few weeks now and everything has been a huge adjustment.  I’ve been living in large cities since I left home at 17.  Now I’ve moved to a small town where everyone knows everything about each other.  I’m coming to terms with the fact that there are no stand-alone Starbucks (although, thank God, there is one in a grocery store), big shopping areas, or fun attractions.  I’m also starting my job search all over again, this time in a small town with far less opportunities.  I’m renting a house for the first time and purchasing appliances, dealing with spiders and cockroaches, and discovering the [insert sarcasm] joys of living in a home that’s over a 100 years old.  I’m struggling with a school district that has been very frustrating to get registered with and just decreased Austin’s services significantly–from 10 times a week in a 5 hour program to 4 times a week in a 2 1/2 hour program.  And on top of all that I’m trying to unpack, make new friends, cook without a stove (going on 2 weeks now), acclimate Austin, and try not to freak out about how I’m going to survive until I find a job.

This is my life now, and I’m definitely not in Kansas anymore.  So much of the past year has been overwhelmingly heartbreaking.  It has challenged my faith and left me in an emotional blackhole.  And yet, there are glimpses of beauty and hope.  Becoming a forever family is the best thing in my life.  Even painful things, like losing my job, have taught me to trust God and allowed me to see the beauty in spending time as a family–which was something we seriously lacked when I worked in the church.  I don’t know where this yellow brick road will lead me.  I have no idea what my life will be like five years from now–what I will be doing as my next career, where we’ll be living (because houses with cockroaches and zero storage space are not my cup of tea), or how far Austin will have progressed on his journey.  But I have hope.  The wonders of Oz await!

Blog Challenge: Day 7


And now for today’s real challenge . . . where have I lived and what was the best and worst part of each place.  I’ve lived a lot of different places.  You might remember from Day 2 that I’ve moved a lot.  Not all of my moves were to new towns, but several were–and there was something beautiful about all of them.  So, here are my hometowns . . .

1. Bourbonais, IL — Bourbonais is a “suburb” of Chicago–it’s about an hour south of the city.  I was born there and spent the first three years of my life there.  Honestly, I don’t remember any of it, but I’ve been back several times and my favorite part of Bourbonais is that it’s close to the city.  My least favorite part is that it’s not that exciting of a town.

2. Somewhere outside of Springfield, IL — Seriously, I have no idea where it was, other than it was a house next to a pig farm in central Illinois.  I lived there from the age of three to five.  My only memory of it was that sometimes we would come home from church and the pigs next door would have broken down the fence and invaded our yard.  And then we would chase the pigs around in our church clothes trying to coral them back into their pin.  As I look back, this sounds both disgusting and hilarious.

3. Monmouth, IL — This is where I spent most of my childhood.  I lived here for a year after living in Springfield, moved away for a year, and then moved back and stayed until I was 17.  Monmouth is a tiny town of about 9,000 in northwest Illinois.  It is a very quant lil’ place–old store fronts, beautiful old houses, and home to all the best and worst parts of my childhood.  I think the best part of that little town for me will always be family.  But second best is easily the amazing group of teachers I had growing up.  I had so many teachers, especially in high school, who profoundly impacted my life.  I think the entire English department of MHS is responsible for me turning out a book-loving nerd instead of a homeless delinquent.  The worst part of Monmouth?  Definitely it’s size and lack of absolutely ANYTHING fun to do (hence the strange tradition of cruising the 1/2 mile strip as the only form of entertainment).

4.  Cameron, IL — The one year we moved away from Monmouth our family lived in Cameron–a village about 10 miles outside of Monmouth with even less people.  A lot less.  Think 600.  Can you even call that a village.  Worst part? 600 people.  Best part?  The stunningly beautiful weeping willow tree in our yard.

5. Nashville, TN — Nashville is where I did my undergrad, and it is an incredibly cool town to live in.  The best part was clearly the amazing experiences I had there with people who have become life-long friends.  I loved my school–Trevecca.  But I also loved late night runs to Krispy Kreme, Pink Poodles at Fido’s Coffee House, SATCO, the tiny Caribbean restaurant with amazing beans and rice, incredible days at Centennial Park, the Old Spaghetti Factory, Shakespeare in the Park, music playing on every street, concerts in tiny venues, and so much more!  I honestly don’t think there was anything about that place that I didn’t love.

6. Raleigh, NC — One summer of college I lived in Raleigh.  It’s a really beautiful area, and I had a job that I never expected, but found really fun.  The best  part of my summer was that I spent it with an amazing friend.  Worst part was probably the traffic around the Triangle.

7. Kansas City, MO — I went to grad school in Kansas City.  It was a tough time to try to acclimate–I was going to school full time, working full time, and volunteering about 20 hours a week at my church.  The city was a place of wide disparity.  You could be in a neighborhood of million-dollar mansions and then drive 10 minutes and find yourself in a slum.  It was crazy.  There were some nice things about KC– the Crayola Museum and the Ice Skating Rink.  Best of all was my church.  Worst part– probably the disparity in economic status, the racism that occasionally roared it’s ugly head, and the state of child services.

8. Washington DC area — I didn’t actually live in the city, but close– I lived in Springfield and Burke and worked in Annandale.  This is a great area to live–there’s so much to do, the public transportation is amazing, there’s tons of museums and activities that are totally free, people tend to be more open-minded, and it’s just a cool place to be.  I have life-long friends from my time in DC.  The downside is definitely the cost of living.

9. Orlando, FL — I lived in Florida for three years, then moved away and came back for another year and a half.  It is an amazing place to live — Disney, Universal, cool theaters, beaches nearby, great weather . . . well, you get the idea.  The best part though was the people–I made some amazing friends there!  The worst thing was probably all the lizards.  And tree frogs.  And bugs.  And alligators.

10.  The Middle East — I lived for a year in the Middle East (in a couple of different countries).  Despite what you may have heard through the media, the Middle East is really an incredibly great place to live.  The people are so hospitable, the food is amazing and fresh, there are beautiful landscapes and treasures, and you’re forced to live a more relaxed life –which is incredibly beneficial for work-a-holics like me.  I made amazing friends, whom I’ll cherish forever.  And I actually talked more to my friends and family  back in the U.S. than before I left the country.  The worst part?  No bacon.  Just kidding.  Maybe it was the cost of computers.  (I had to replace my laptop while I was there and paid almost $3000 for a Dell.  Yikes.)  Seriously though, it was an amazing place to live, I loved it and hope I can return one day.

11. Fredericksburg, VA — Fredericksburg is a town about halfway between DC and Richmond.  It’s not that big, but has an inordinate amount of shopping and restaurants.  In addition to incredible friends, I also loved the downtown area of “the Burg” –it’s filled with really old buildings that have tons of charm.  The worst part was probably the stinkin’ cannons they would fire at those ridiculous Civil War reenactments.  (Seriously, in what other part of the world do people habitually celebrate a misguided war that they lost?)  Those cannons were often fired early on Saturday mornings about 1000 feet from my bedroom window.  Ugh!

12. Syracuse, NY — That brings us to the present.  I now live in Syracuse–the snowiest city in the country.  Which, let me say up front, is by far the worst part of Syracuse.  It is winter here for about 9 months out of the year.  At least, that’s how it feels. I hate it.  I miss my Florida sun.  But there are so many amazing things here.  Number one is the people–I love the people here, my friends, my coworkers, even my boss.  I also love the cool festivals that are always going on here.  Seriously.  There is a festival here almost every week.  A festival for every nationality, time period, food, or other craziness that you can imagine.  I also am excited about all the adventures that I haven’t yet tried.  Even with all the crazy snow and winter weather, I love it here.  It’s a great place to live.

And that’s it in a nutshell–all my hometowns.  What about you?  What’s the best place to live, in your opinion?

Here’s Karla’s itinerary.  We have both lived all over–and even shared a couple of hometowns.