Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Blessing's been a while. Life has been hectic and we are getting ready to launch our oldest to AFRICA. He will be volunteering for a year in Malawi at Heaven House Ministries.

So my therapist. O therapist! haha! said. Write him a blessing.
A blessing? wow. never thought of that. so two weeks ago she said that. Here I am two weeks later and 45 hours before he leaves sobbing over some notebook paper putting my blessin' on paper.

I will tell you that she also asked if I had read a book called The Blessing . I urge you to check it out. It's good stuff.

By now you all should know that I am pretty transparent. So I am going to share what I wrote with you today.

Dear Zac,

I have been prompted to write you a blessing. Having known your departure was approaching I have pushed aside writing this day after day. This is not a good bye letter, nor is it meant to be advice. It's simply a Blessing.

My blessing letter to you is to let you know that you have my blessing, my support and my love...100%.

I want you to know that where ever you go, Whatever you do- I support you. My love and adoration for you is never ending. Rain or Shine. Happy or Sad. This is what a Mother does. I knew the moment you were conceived. But I knew you were a gift. Something Special. You are and always will be my son. My joy. My funny, handsome, loving boy!

This morning during my prayer time I heard a quiet voice that explained why I feel regret for not raising you in faith, That NOW I am showing you true faith. Walking by faith can be scary. Waiting for God's provision is unnerving. But the blessings God has given me are immense. You are one of those blessings. You also were able to see your Mother walk "outside" of faith, then come back to God and begin to show how it is to lead a Godly life.

I have Salvation. Therefore my entire household is held in God's hands. I love knowing that. Perhaps there never really was a "golden horseshoe" in ya! It was God's protection keeping my awesome son safe!

I bless you so you can go and walk in Africa and see those who have so little. you will see things that I have never dreamed of. I pray that you have open ears, open eyes, and an open mind for the miracles you will see.

I bless your hands for they will provide joy not only for the children but for Heaven House Ministries and the surrounding areas. Believe it or not your path has been divinely appointed by God. He has given you all the tools needed for this "season" . He has prepared YOU, Zachary for such a time as this.

I bless your mind. You will have to rely on a sound mind to stay safe while traveling. A sharp mind when dealing with strange situations and difficult people.

I know you are blessed with gifts of music and art. Those two gifts will continue to bless others in difficult situation with a levity and a sense of hope. Your gifts are important! You yourself know how much music can "lift" the spirits and how great art feels when you can "express" yourself.

I pray you continue not to be a sheep! Walk outside the "herd" . Be YOU. Better than that. Be the BEST YOU possible. Embrace this season with a passionate grip. Hold ON. It will be an adventure full of ups and downs.

I bless your heart. It is SO large! I bet you will fall in love with Africa. I know Africa will fall in love with you. Honor Yourself. Journal and take pictures. You were built for this. Home will always be here, but really...the world is yours. I pray that God will break your heart for what breaks His.

Cry when you need to. Laugh with abandon. Write Music. Paint what you see! Love everyone you meet. Create memories that your great grandchildren will talk about!

Be Brave. Be Bold. Make Friends. Eat Strange Foods. Never think that you are too young to make a difference. If it feels wrong, don't do it. Say what you mean. Be kind to yourself.

Be the voice for those that have no voice.

And...always know that you can call your Mom. ANYTIME- Day or Night.

love you with all my heart! May God Bless you and keep you close

Momma Dukes

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Many many moons ago, in a A.A. meeting somewhere...I learned an interesting Acronym.
H is for HUNGRY...

lately I have been hungry. Sadly for "comfort foods" . Junk. coffee. ice cream. chips. spoons of peanut butter. cookies. cupcakes. gross stuff. stuff that does not GROW in the ground. all joking aside. I have found that my life is RUNNING so fast...I skip breakfast. Then it's lunch time and I am STARVING------and being starving makes me ANGRY.
look, I get up at 6:30 am every morning. I FEED the dogs, I FEED the guinea pig. I medicate myself and FEED the kid. Then I pack the kids LUNCH/SNACK for camp....all this food flying by and I do NOT take one hot minute to FEED myself. This is my fault. So when I am hungry I get Angry....

A is for Angry...

when I am angry I do NOT honor people around me. shoot, I do not even honor myself. My potty mouth comes back, I ask more WHY than WHY NOTS. I become small and petulant like a toddler. Imagine that. A 42 year old toddler. Good grief. No one should have to witness that. But the people I love the most encounter that little hot mess quite often.  When you walk around angry all the time you become SOLO. So Low that no one wants to hang out with you. Angry = LONELY

L is for Lonely...

Lonely is horrible. sometimes it's good to be alone. But being LONELY is horrible. you want people around you, but your attitude towards life drives them away. you want to stop. yet you just keep rollin' on the hate train. I have been lonely in a room FULL of people. I have been lonely being held by my beloved husband. I have been lonely after saying something hurtful to my child and watching them walk away. Being lonely is very trying on a soul. We are built to fellowship and connect with others. But sometimes taking that step out of the door, room or out of the DRIVEWAY is hard. Lonely is a liar. it wants you to stay home and cultivate it...dont' from Lonely. find someone with an ear and let it OUT!

T is for tired....

rest is something that escapes me. although I should be the most rested person on earth. one of my children is in camp for 8 hours a day. two of my children are young adults, one of which is getting ready to leave for Africa. one of my children is in a residential facility. they say. Rest , care for yourself, she is in a safe place. Well , if the insurance companies, therapy appointments and endless phone calls would REST then so would I! I must keep going and sometimes do...from 6:30 am-11 at night. that is a long day. add that with some improper eating, bad moods, isolation and you have a recipe for disaster.
That disaster can be falling prey to illness...or relapsing into my addiction to alcohol. Last week I fell flat on my face. I did NOT HALT. I pressed on. I pushed too hard. I got put in the corner...and nobody puts Baby in the corner.

Raising children is hard. Raising them and letting go is harder. Adopting one that fights you tooth and nail...well now that is the HARDEST thing I have ever done.

But if I don't care for myself...HOW can I care for others? I must feed myself, physically and spiritually AND emotionally. Be happy. Happy happy happy. like that crazy bearded guy from that crazy show

. not happy about my life. just happy where I am. Happy with what I have. I must connect. NOT just with my children and spouse but with my girlfriends and more importantly with myself. As a Mother I have lost a bit of my "self" . I need to commit to finding what makes Tracy happy. I must get sleep. Not just 9.25 hours recommended by Dr. whozywhattzitface....but rest in the peace that God has this. I don't. Game over Tracy. this is not Pac Man and you are not going to win. Cease. Sit. Be Still. words I need to say DAILY to myself. (and most days FAIL) .

So on I go. with the path I have chosen. and that path is God. There is no easy way. no reset button. I have to learn to live NOW. I have to learn how to LOVE now. I am mad, mad as hell. This was not what I envisioned. Why, just yesterday I saw a teenage girl and her Mom shopping in Walmart...all smiley and laughing over cute outfits and I want to smack the hell out of them. I WANT MY HAPPY!!!!

Instead, I am bring clothing without strings, bras without wire and body wash without Alcohol as the FIRST THREE ingredients to my daughter. I have creepy comb over wearing doctors telling me what I should have SAID. sweet crimson. for real. I try and so far have succeeded at NOT dropping the F BOMB in a family session. I have NEVER hung up on this raging child. Although she has BEAT me to the punch 6 times...but who is counting.

Hugs are stiff. Love you's are forced. I refuse to buy the game Sorry and bring it to visiting day. I will not SELL out to this crazy residential normal. you know why?????BECAUSE it's NOT my normal. What the hell do I do? Hang up her "awards" from residential...such as:
most 100 point days on the unit
cleanest room
Safe award.
for real. sweet crackers. this is the girl who tried to EAT me like a big mac.

so for now. I will focus on me. Heal me. Forgive. with NO strings attached. water her cactus and pray.
all I can do is pray.
I read The BOOK. He has this. so again. I hit send...and give it to GOD.
So today my anthem is this song! Go ahead. play it. sing it with me.

God Bless ya'll,

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Can I ask you are personal question?

Can I ask you a personal question?

Well my friends when you are sitting in a salon chair with sharp objects fluttering around your cranium this is always an interesting question.....

Let me back up a bit...yesterday was a scheduled "ME" day. Do you have ME days, or shall I say YOU days? You know days that a person takes all to themselves and just gets all refreshed and renewed etc?  OK....well once a week I take a me day. It's not a whole day but from 10-2 I get to be ME! So I got the children off to school I started to make my plans. I wanted to get a haircut, eat something and maybe hit a thrift store. This may not sound very exciting to you but for me this is divine!

So out I go to accomplish task number one. Haircut. I had a hard time choosing a salon, I normally go to a friend but today I was workin off the cuff so I chose a fancy schmancy new salon right up the street.
Lesson Number ONE: never judge a book (salon) by it's glossy, chevron and turquoise cover.
Lesson Number TWO: never ever EVER enter a salon for a precision short hair cut when it looks like a foil factory....everyone had Barbie hair and aluminum foil....

Yes girls...I should have known better...but my inner Tracy wanted to be pampered. It was a new salon and so well, chic.
Lesson Number THREE: If they don't look at the picture you brought in with more than a passing glance RUN....I want that sucker taped to the mirror. You hear?
I WANT TO FEEL SPECIAL---------------this is what this blog is screaming. Just had to say that, thank you for letting me get that off my chest.
ME day is about ME feeling special. :)

So back to the chair....
I am sitting in the chair and this young gal with the personality of a slug on Valium begins to cut my hair. She's doing an OK job meaning she is probably not 1rst, 2nd or even 3rd chair. she is new. O my heavens...I got the new girl......HELPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP....still , it is too late to run now. The cape is on. I am in for the long haul.

So as she starts cutting the stylist at the next station says: Excuse me, May I ask you a personal question?

O MY we my brain is going a mile a minute I know her...does she know someone that knows me...o GOSH....does she know MY FRIEND that cuts my hair. I am SO BUSTED!

I say, sure....what's up?

She says: Do you regret getting tattoos?

Me: HUGE sigh of RELIEF
...this question I know the answer to, it has been asked soooo many times it's like. B O R I N G (said in my best teenager voice)

Me: Well yes and no. Some of my choices yes, having them no. They are a part of who I am. Each one represents a chapter in my life. They are me.

Foilmaker woman: oh, cool. Cuz I am going to get a sleeve on my arm and boss just wants to kill me.
(then she turns back to making the blond next to me blonder)

So for some people that would have been one hot second that they did not blog about...but for me I found it burning in my head this morning when I woke up, the creative juices were flowing and it needed to be put out there....

There are many moments in life where we "walk in" and the gut feeling is run, get out, go back to where it's comfy and yummy and not STAY here. THEY will make your head looks like a box....but you stay. You settle in and you relax. There is a reason for you to be there. Sit back and let God take over. He has a plan. I just roll with it!

So after surviving an overpriced head choppin I ventured across the street for some Goodwill retail therapy. After trying on 30 items I found two. It was worth it. As I checked out I realized my oldest called me ----right at lunch time! (no surprise there) So I ran home and grabbed my 22 year old baby boy. He knows what Me day means....It means WE day :) So we ate....and it was good.

So after 22 years of being a Mom I still have not mastered the "ME" Day. The Time to Myself. But the bits I do get are good.

It could have been worse.....check this poor girl out: Curling Iron Tutorial

Until next time , walk bravely, pay attention to your gut and don't fall for glossy covers!

Have a Blessed Day ya'll!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Father God, it's been 3 months since my last confe...I mean Post.

Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy ride. - Bette Davis in All About Eve (1950)

So it has REALLY been 3 months since my last blog. I have a great excuse. We have been growing a child. Adopting an orphan. But most of all we have been walking with the Lord. We were called and we showed up. We have learned that we are ENOUGH. We are REDEEMED. We cannot change Ambriel, BUT we can change the way we react to Ambriel.

So I will break it down a tiny bit so you can understand what it has been like in the Niles household for the last three months. First some you really get the picture!
Yes. When you parent a hurt child you pull your hair out a LOT...sometimes they pull your hair out. But most of all at the end of the feel like a tornado hit your hometown. Where do you start.

Where do you start? I am not a professional....but I play one every day in my very own home. Here is where I start:
Cry out to Jesus. Yes. I do NOT call my Mom. I do NOT  call the Social Worker. I do NOT call anyone until I have spoken to GOD. My counselor. He knows my heart. HE knows our daughter's heart. He has Got this.

WE pray . WE wait. But most of all We LISTEN. We walk blindly in faith. We say NO to things that we REALLY want to do, so that we can say YES to adoption. Just this month my husband and I accepted two different ministry positions and one week later had to step OUT of them. Why? I will tell you why, God said so.

Let's break down the last three is a peak into our tiny world:
January: Discovered that our daughter is hilarious after nitrous oxide (dentist appt) .
Our daughters decided to have a sleepover - together- they both survived!
Bryan and I took a weekend away to a local bed and breakfast. It was wonderful!
We were yelled at and begged to quit on her, then I was physically attacked.
We took both girls to a spa salon for young ladies!
We prayed.
that's 5 days...and there are 31 in January. But we still had people tell us how great Ambriel is coming along!
February: We had a small flood in the backyard when our daughter left the hose on.
She got Honor Roll.
She started new meds and told us she feel like a weight has been lifted off her shoulders.
We signed her up for softball.
She helped Cora rearrange her room.
She told us after her birthday comes she is leaving.
We prayed.
That's 6 days of our life and there were 29 days in Feb. :)
She gave her life story at a Bethany Christian adoptive parent training
She broke a door. We tried to have her admitted to a residential facility due to behavioural issues.
We hit our 6 month mark for her placement in our home!
We celebrated her birthday :)
We went on a family retreat to a monastery.
We wanted to quit.
We prayed.
that's 5 days....and there were 31 in March.
April: now remember we are not even finished! :)
We did not quit.
She travelled to Florida with her last set of foster parents and her Brother.
We signed the Order for adoption
She asked us to "unsign" the order of adoption.
She created a costume for Cora that represented a career for a project.
She achieved Honor Roll.
She called me a Bitch
Her medicines have been changed.
This is a sample of our life. Together my husband and I have 4 children. This daughter would be enough to keep us busy. However we have one 22 year old daughter who has disappeared up in Richmond and is deciding not to return phone calls, emails or texts. We also have a 22 year old son who in living out back over our garage. He works and pays his bills and would love to go to Africa to work with orphans, but I have not had one hot minute to sit with him and discuss HOW we will get him there! Then we have our 6 year old daughter who braves the sun and the rain and the thunder and the snow that is our life. She is the one to follow. She leads by example. Hugging her sister and helping her throughout her day.
All of our children are a godsend. They each challenge us in their own unique way! If I had to compare each one to a cartoon character they would be:
Zac: forever young and always with a skateboard
Morgan: studious, wise, in the background!
Cora: Bouncy, joyful, always on the GO!
Ambriel: Brave, Skilled, Beautiful

so there you have it. But wait. If Bryan and I were super heroes we would be:
Wonder Twins! :) in the form of an ice slide! :) this is how we roll in our house. We are united. We follow God. We love our supportive friends and family. WE will get thru this. Our family is if we miss a call or a birthday party, we don't mean to...we are just a tiny bit busy growing a girl from 0-13!
Thank you all for your prayers and love!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lowering the Bar

OK folks,
it has been a while since I last Blogged. Nearly a month.
So welcome, Happy New Year and I pray that you all had a great Christmas and were blessed in many ways.
Many of you know we are smack dab in the middle of an adoption. We have a 12 year old young lady from VA Foster Care placed in our home and we will adopt her in March 2013. She has waited over 7 years for a forever home. This placement has been awesome, scary, nuts, ridiculous, tiring and super all at once. When accepting a child into your home that comes from a "hard Place" you ask for nothing.

You LOWER the Bar-
this is the favorite thing I hear at my therapy sessions with a great man who specializes in attachment therapy. What is attachment therapy? well I am so glad you ask....
you see...there is this koala ....just kidding.
here is the lowdown: read that! :) Our dear daughter to be suffered from RAD- which is this: So you get the picture of what we are dealing with.
I prefer to call our DD (dear daughter) a great push and puller. Basically you never know what you are going to get. a push or a pull. one second it's I love you. the next it's I hate you.
Now in month one it was lovey dovey and lots of testing. far can I push the limits of your parental boundaries. Month one is dicey and also known as the honey moon period.  you are getting to know this child. What they like, what they don't like, clothing tastes, musical tastes. well it's blind dating at it's best. Then as they say on MTV. Shit gets real. yes I cursed. yes I will beg my Father God for forgiveness. But he is working on me with this very issue as we speak!
So poop gets REAL REAL in the second month. Check this equation:
New house, new parents, new siblings, new school, new neighborhood, new church....can it get any worse...oh wait New therapist, New RULES. there it got worse. All those rules she ok'd in month one...Well now those rules are ridiculous. WE are the worst parents in the world. We are not ready to parent...(please know that we have experience in child rearing- we have 2 twenty-one year old children and one 5 year old) She hates me (the Mom) I take all the heat. I get kicked, spit at, punched, slammed, locked out etc. I am the worst mother on earth. But I still keep loving her. Also in the month friends start looking at you strange. You forget to shave and you are constantly cancelling things due to meltdowns. We lower the bar. Expect less and allow for compromises.

Month 3 you basically keep the social worker on speed dial. I am very pleased that we chose Bethany Christan Services, our worker is our advocate. When SS does not answer She always answers. She comes and sits with us as our DD rips up the "meet our family" book that we lovingly made for her. (note to self: never use original pics use copies) whew! She made a one inch ticker tape parade all over the house. Simply ripping it up, putting it in her mouth, spitting it out. then got scissors and tore it up even smaller. for hours we sat while the worker talked to her. When it was all done at 1am I stood up, swept it up made her bed and tucked her in. all the while she asked to be put in a respite stay, or go to the hospital for a "break" I said. sorry. in this house we don't do respite. we do REAL. we work it out and we move on. So that was a very big battle. I think it ended well. She is still here. Normally the last 4 adoptions that disrupted were ended by people being overwhelmed by her physically acting out etc. So what do we do. well. we don't listen to other people who give WACK ideas ....or say I would have beat the living "#$%" out of her. You put the door knobs back on, or put the doors back on...haha, you clean up . But most of all YOU LOWER the BAR (again) AND you Expect LESS and allow for compromises.

Month 4. we are in month four and something alarming is happening. I am having a hard time finding anything to write in the "behaviour" journal. I am getting crafty at ending sibling fights. I am raising the level of LOVE as well as extending more responsibility. I say yes more often than no. The joy is coming back. We make appts now and get to them ON time. The calls from school have gone from 5 in one day to one in a month. I have circled the wagons. All professionals in her life are on the same page. I am directly in charge of placing boundaries in her life that keep her from getting overwhelmed. I know what smells make her "flashback" to old times. I know why she needs tight clothing to make her feel safe. I know that her prayers have changed from I want and God please make my Mom say yes to praying for others in need and "getting it" All this in 4 months. What if we had quit? What if we had called and said THIS is TOO MUCH. What if? I have simply let God lead me. I have stepped out in TRUE faith and NOT listened to logic. My husband and I are a team. He says it is very very difficult to go to work and know what I must pull off in a day to make this house run smooth the minute both girls walk in. My older children still look at me like: are you gonna listen to that? or where in the world did this girl come from. But they also know that if anyone can pull this off their Momma can!

Many moons ago it seems we sat down with an elder in my church. She asked us this question. Why in the world would you want to invite a mentally disturbed child into your home? I have to say when It first came out of her mouth I was livid. We had not even met this child and I had the motherly instinct to smack the living crap out of this woman that I looked up to. But as usual I did not "heed that warning" I proceeded without caution. I proceeded with GOD.
We did it because that is what God calls us to do. We heard him. He told us. We did it.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

God Bless ya'll,