family pic

family pic

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Single Mom & Government Assistance

I've chosen to write about a very controversial subject. Government assistance. A completely different feeling, mood, and/or mindset came over you when you read those two simple words didn't it? Most people have strong opinions regarding their stance on this topic and tend to be very verbal regarding their views. The purpose of this post is not to change your viewpoint, but to hopefully help you become more aware of the effects your verbalizations about government assistance can have on others. Let me share some of my story.

A couple of years ago I very suddenly and unexpectedly found myself on my own, without a full time job, without a place to live, without enough money for a rental deposit, and without a credit score as I had never even used a credit card. A dear mentor of mine offered for my children and I to move in with her until I had saved up enough money for a rental deposit. 

I had always seen myself as a strong individual. If someone told me I wasn't capable of doing something... I was going to do it. You guys, I even thought about joining the military after high school just because I felt like people viewed me as weak. Yes me, the girl who will not step foot out of the house without some makeup on. I was going to get out of my financial destitution. 

But... I couldn't.

For two weeks I sent out dozens and dozens of job applications. I didn't get one single interview. I sent out private messages to my Facebook friends. Nobody was hiring.

I had another dilemma going on. If I got an 8-5 job that would require day care expenses for my 4 year old along with before school and after school care for two kiddos. It would also require over $3,000 a year in summer childcare expenses. After calculating out the expenses I realized that I would actually be in the hole at the end of the month paying childcare expenses if I obtained a normal $10 hr job. 

I went to apply for government assistant childcare vouchers. There was a waiting list to obtain a voucher and you also had to show that you had already obtained a job before the vouchers would be granted. 

I ended up finding a part-time 9-2 job. This would prevent before school and after school expenses, but I would still need to find childcare for my 4 year old. Less than 2 days into the job I received a call that my son had received a spot in a Head Start preschool. I just needed to go into their offices to complete some additional paperwork. This preschool is a government assisted center for low income families with children who need academic help before starting Kindergarten. 

As I walked into my caseworker's building I felt so ashamed and embarrassed being on the receiving end of a "hand out". I had just heard some acquaintances state that they were pulling their children out of their school because of the low income children of various races in that school. I was not only putting my son in that school, but I was now categorized (with the exception of race) as one of those families. 

As I waited in the waiting room, my name was called. The case worker was a large jovial Hispanic man. You couldn't help but love this man. He began to ask me difficult questions about our income, housing status, etc. I reluctantly opened up about our current circumstances. He immediately jumped into action and helped me come up with a game plan in order to provide for my family. While he was giving me information about various government assistance available to me, his boss, an empowering exhorting hispanic lady, came and sat with us. While I was talking to her, she stated, 

"I feel like you are a believer. I am a believer as well.. along with your case worker here (who was beaming from this information). I feel like this meeting today has been God-ordained. I can see that He has a plan to take care of you."

Which was through government assistance.

I cannot express how big of a blessing Kydon's preschool was not only to Kydon, but to me as well. I chose to represent his school as their policy counsel leader, and once a month I met with the other policy counsel leaders representing all of the other Head Start programs in our area. I met the most beautiful souls during those meetings, one of whom was an African American mother of three children. She worked full time, taking the bus at 6 am in order to get her child to daycare and to make it to work on time. She received no child support and obviously could not support her children off the minimum wage amount she was making. I was kindly put back into my place when I expressed my ignorant opinion about not needing to make a big deal about their preschool graduation. I stated how I felt like they would have plenty of ceremonies from elementary to high school. I was reminded that this may be the only ceremony for some of these children.

During this time I would read Facebook posts about people's disgust over food stamps, medicaid, etc. Tears would well up as read and heard about how these people needed to just go and get a job. "It's not that easy" I would think.

Some people, aware of my situation, would quickly end their opinions with "it's different with you". Their words still stung. 

I write this post to you, encouraging you to be aware of the stories behind the individuals receiving government assistance, encouraging you to be sensitive in how you verbalize and post about your opinions, encouraging you to be quick to offer a helping hand rather than to pass stereotypical judgements.

God has graciously brought me into a new season of life, but I can honestly say I am deeply grateful for the previous chapter of my story and the life changing lessons I learned during that time. I'll leave you with a precious video of my son during his preschool graduation. He went into the program with delayed speech, barely able to state his first name. He left able to state his first and last name, his age, and his birthdate. I feel honored to have been a part of this program. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Single Mom's Most Embarrasing Experience

Boys and I after we finished cleaning the home we moved out of.
Okay my friends. I've decided that it is time to share one of the most embarrassing experiences of my life. I'm pretty certain that majority of people feel best when their embarrassing experiences are shared with and known by no one. I on the other hand, being the extrovert that I am, have to verbalize the incident in order to have closure.

So THE incident. A couple of months ago the boys and I moved. We were planning on moving at the end of the month, but early on in the month, on a Sunday, I discovered the upcoming Saturday would be a better date for recruiting help from our new church. That's 6 days folks. 5 of which I was working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 2 of those evenings were filled with ball practices. Homework, laundry, cleaning, etc still needed to happen as well. Needless to say, I was nowhere near ready for this move. BUT I couldn't do this on my own, so somehow I was going to make this work.

Also let me add... Many people are familiar with the sheer utter chaos that comes with my family. I even talk about embracing chaos as a single mom. Remember I wrote a blog post about it. But... I didn't want that to be my church family's first impression of me. You want to look like you've got your act together... with a side of chaos. Chaos cannot be the foundation. Yes, in reality it most definitely IS the foundation of my family. I know. I'm a hypocrite. Stop. Just Stop. 

So fast forward to the day of the move. The people helping me out were to arrive at 11 a.m. We had to fit in a walk through of the new place and a ball game in before 11. I KNOW. So the morning of I'm rushing around the house trying to get everything all set for the ballgame. You guys, there are clothes all over the house. Not just from the boys, but from me as well. Not just shirts and pants if you know what I'm saying. There were dirty dishes in the sink and pots and pans covering the oven and the counter. It was terrible. I was having major anxiety looking around at the mess IN ADDITION to all of the boxes all over the house. The silver lining in my head was the 30 minute window in between the game and the time people were supposed to arrive. I was going to get a surge of adrenaline.. like the people you hear of who end up lifting a 3,000 pound car off a trapped victim..  I was going to get that kind of adrenaline rush and accomplish a month's worth of cleaning and packing in those 30 minutes. 

So fast forward a bit more. We drove out to the house, did a walk though, walked out of the soccer complex, and now .....Ready, Set, GO... GET TO THE HOUSE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I jumped in the car, seriously about to pop with anxiety and stress. As soon as I started driving I received a call from our pastor who had come to help with the move. 

They were already at the house. 

I can't. I can't even describe. The horror. 

You guys. My under garments were on the bathroom floor. Was there another pair behind the dresser... under the dryer... under the bed? The horror.

So the actual move....
Sitting here, thinking about the move...

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. Maybe it's because I don't want to fully have to remember it. Maybe it's because I'm still suffering from some PTSD. Pretty much all of my fears came to life, including a spill of my "unmentionable" dresser drawer. Yes, they all fell out in the yard. Yes, this was when one of my pastors was moving it. Yes, it was terrible. Yes, I literally died... all life was gone from my body. Yes, I probably met Jesus, but He decided to send my soul back to earth because apparently the sole purpose of my creation is to humor Him.

So... after this move I was faced with 2 options. I could run away in shame, avoiding those people who saw me and my family at our absolute worst. Or I could let go of the shame and accept the season of my life the Lord has put me. You guys, this season is so incredibly humbling. It's not a pretty season. It's messy. It's loud. It's chaotic. And... it's what my family is right now.

So here I am. Owning this move... undergarments and all. Living in the freedom of Christ, and surprisingly experiencing a taste of His acceptance and grace from all of those poor souls who helped me with the move :)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Church & The Single Mom

Picture of some of the ladies from our new church.
This past year the boys and I left the church I had attended for the past 12 years. To say this was a difficult and emotional decision would be an understatement. I was left feeling like a fish out of water. We visited countless churches and found a few that we liked, but just were not compatible for our family whether due to location, service times, etc. I'm happy to say we've finally found a church that has welcomed us in with open arms!

During our hunt, I began to realize how tricky it is for a single mother to attend church. I also began to notice the lack of single mothers within the church.

Our society is full of single parents. There are 12 MILLION single parent families in the United States. 1 out of 3 children live in a home without their father. Guys, that's astronomical. What concerns me is that this statistic is not true within the church... 1 out of 3 parents within the church are NOT single parents. The reality is that 1 out of 50 single parents attend church. Yikes!

I've concluded that the average church is afraid to address single parenting. After all, the single mother may have gained her "single mom" status because of sin in her life. If the church started to reach out to single parents it may look like they are supporting unwed pregnancies or unbiblical divorces.

At the end of the day, avoidance doesn't change reality. The reality is that the culture we as a church are trying to reach is filled with single parents.

Some churches realize this and hesitantly address single parenting with controlled instructional classes with the goal being to help the single parent get out of their sin. I've heard a pastor say that their church loves single parents and desires to "help them out of the ditch". This gives the assumption that single parents are in a state of sin. Ministering to them looks like 10 step programs with the goal of getting them out of their sin.

Let's go back to the first single mom mentioned in the Bible, Hagar. God promised to give Abraham and Sarah many children. Sarah began to get impatient with her seemingly barren womb and gave Abraham her handmaid, Hagar, to fulfill God's promise. After Hagar gave birth to a son Sarah was able to get pregnant and gave birth to a son as well. She became resentful of Hagar and her son Ishmael and ordered Abraham to send them away. Hagar and her son were left in the desert to die.

But then God spoke to her from heaven, giving her a 10 step program on how to become more Christlike.

No. That would would have been absurd. God spoke to her with encouragement, reassuring her that He would bless her son's life. Then God took care of her physical needs providing her with a well of water.

What an amazing example of what our ministry to single parents should look like. The single mom needs encouragement, not judgement. Maybe her status was the result of a sinful decision, but how wonderful is it that God sees her through Christ's lenses of grace and redemption. May the church view her through the the lenses of Christ as well. May we be filled with encouragement and support,  the same encouragement and support that God poured onto Hagar.

Statistics taken from:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Striking out in Life

The inspiration for this post ;)
A year and a half ago life threw me a curve ball. In the game of baseball curveballs are unexpected and are thrown for the sole purpose of striking out the batter. The pitcher assumes that batter will be anticipating a pitch based off of a prediction from the speed and direction of his previous pitches. He then throws the ball with a completely different technique startling the batter, which typically results in a poor swing and ultimately a strike out. 

The curve ball I received actually nailed me, the batter, and left me laying in a fetal position on home plate. The ball was made out of steel... with nails sticking out of it... and it was on fire. I'm not sure if I am accurately conveying just how destructive this curve ball was ;)

So there I was laying in the fetal position on home plate.

"STRIKE 3!" What?! The ball had hit me. My uniform was seared and bloody. Clearly this was not a strike. But the call was nonnegotiable.

The game was over for me. But in this analogy, the game was life. Life kept going on. The baseball game was not over, but all I could do was crawl helplessly to bench and passively watch the game unfold. 

I tried to make the best of my bench status, indulging in peanuts and bubble gum. I told myself, if this is my new position I might as well make the best of it. But after a couple of innings, I was deeply discontent. I was chosen to be on this team. I was a Cardinal (seems like an appropriate team name considering the red hair). I could pretend that I was no longer on the team and live life as a mere fan, but that did not change the reality. I was still a member on this team.

But I couldn't get myself to step back onto the field. I decided to spend my time on the bench really watching the game. I saw some of our weaknesses as a team. We failed a lot with many strikes, missed catches, and good swings resulting in foul balls. I became relieved that we were allowed multiple strikes and errors. It even hit me that in this game, we were expected fail multiple times. There was a margin of error in this game.

I saw unfair calls being declared on my teammates as well. I listened to teammates as they passed me in between innings and heard stories of injustices done against them on the field. Some of them experienced a series bad calls and somehow managed to get right back into the game.

I started to watch our coach. I loved our coach, but I had been avoiding Him. He had chosen me to be on this team, even guaranteeing an unconditional life-time membership. I was pretty certain he was regretting this guarantee right about now as my contribution level was at a solid zero. But as I really started to watch Him, I did not see even a hint of regret in His eyes. He loved each one of His players and refused to draft any of them, even after a series of failures.

I realized that I had an amazing coach. He obviously didn't need me on His team. He simply wanted me on His team. Why me? That was a question I would never have an answer for. But it prompted the question "What now?".

I felt like a complete failure. I looked like a complete failure. But my coach wanted me back out on the field. I could finish out my career on the bench in shame, telling myself I didn't deserve to be on the field. Or I could get back out there.... joyful over the fact that I was wanted out there.

So this brings me to the present. Where I am ready to get back into the game, timidly taking a batter's stance on home plate. Going back into the game with a new perspective, a new joy, and the weight of performance off my shoulders.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Embracing Chaos as a Single Mother

Dear single mother. It is 10:11 PM and you have collapsed into your bed.

Your bed…covered with sticky notes because your son decided to remove every.single.sticky.note from the stack. Your bed... with a pile of clothes you never hung up on the corner. Your bed which is very likely to end up containing a couple of children by the morning.

You have collapsed into your bed, but your head is still spinning from your daily chaos...followed by a weight of guilt.

"I have got to get on a better schedule. I have got to get the kids to bed earlier.  I didn't even look over son #1's homework... we should have stayed up tonight to look over it. Kid #2 never brushed his teeth. The kids aren't getting enough sleep… "BOYS! STOP TALKING AND GO TO SLEEP"… I shouldn't yell so much. I need to come down harder on the kids. I never got groceries. I forgot to pick up child # 3's prescription. I should hang up these clothes. My house is a mess. My life is a mess."

A one word description of your day would be chaos. Absolute utter chaos. You feel like a complete mess… and, well, let's admit it… You.Are.A.Mess. 

And this is where you expect me to give you a 5 step plan to create a life of peace and order. I've watched other single families over the years and have analyzed my own life, I've recently concluded that life as a single mom is messy. You can only accomplish so much, by yourself, with only 24 hours in your day. It's not that some tasks might fall through the cracks... but that some tasks will fall through the cracks.

You can choose to live your life... with chaos....and guilt
You can choose to live your life... with chaos... and grace. 

You don't get to eliminate the element of chaos. But when you find yourself laying on a pile of sticky notes at 10 O'Clock at night and the weight of guilt threatens to suffocate you, you can wearily place that guilt into the hands of Christ. And rest in the joy and peace of His unconditional love.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How I Style My Hair

I just received a Facebook message from a friend asking me how I style my hair and I've decided to complete something I've been working on for a while now….I'm going to give you a curly hair tutorial :) I'll be honest with you, I'm just about 29 years old and I feel like I'm JUST now getting a grip on the whole curly hair thing. Some of these steps may sound absurd, but I challenge you to give it a try!

First… some curly hair facts:

Interesting Fact #1. You only need to wash your hair a couple of times a week. You may even be able to get by washing it once a week. You may be thinking but I have to wash my hair every day or two because it gets oily. Each time you wash your hair you strip it of oil causing your scalp to produce more oil. Endure a couple of weeks of gradually washing your hair fewer and fewer times. Eventually your scalp will not produce as much oil. 

Interesting Fact #2. Curly hair looks the worst the day you wash it. It typically looks the best a couple of days after a wash after a little freshening up which I'll explain later.

Interesting Fact #3. Curly hair is VERY dry. I feel like you can never have too much moisturizer in it!! A good THICK RICH conditional needs to be your BFF.

Interesting Fact #4. Curly hair NEEDS layers. Without layers the root gets weighed down giving your hair the look of being flat on top and full on the bottom. Curly hair looks great when its full on top and tapers out towards the bottom. You can only do so much with products… you gotta have a good hair cut. Tell your hair stylist that you want your cut to give you this look. DO NOT GO TO GREAT CLIPS. I have shed tears over some awful Great Clips hair cuts. You just gotta spend the money on a good haircut. 

Ok. Now for the tutorial

STEP 1: 

Wash your hair with shampoo. Honestly I don't have a particular shampoo I love. I do know that Suave doesn't work for me. I also know that I have to rotate between shampoos every couple of weeks. I use a lot of shampoo to get all my product out and just rinse it out. I don't try to comb hair during my shampoo. 


CONDITIONER…Your BFF remember. I use:

I use about 3 half dollar size squeezes. This stuff isn't that expensive so I justify the generous amount! I use very little on my scalp to prevent excess oil. Rub it into your hair, work it into the ends first, wait a few minutes (shave, do whatever else you need to do) then, using ONLY your fingers, comb the conditional in your hair. This takes me FOREVER it seems, but remember, we are only washing our hair now a couple of times a week so we can justify a longer shower :) Do no use a brush because a brush will break your hair causing more frizz. I usually take small sections of hair and run by fingers carefully through it, adding more conditioner if it's too tangled for my fingers to run through. 

Finally you can run your fingers through your hair. Now rinse your hair and…. REPEAT. What??? Yes. Condition it one more time. You don't need as much conditioner. Just a quarter size drop. Rinse it out. Your hair is now silky smooth. 

Now ring out the excess water from your hair and…. get ready for it… add just a little bit more conditioner to your hair. Just a dime size amount and LEAVE IT IN YOUR HAIR. Remember we aren't loading our scalp up with moisture, just our dry dry hair. 

Step 3:

Put your hair in a towel. DO NOT BRUSH YOUR HAIR. Yes, this is an important step. Leave your hair in the towel for at least 5 to 10 min. This keeps your hair from frizzing and moisturizes hair even further.

Sep 4:

IMMEDIATELY (if I want a few minutes my hair starts to dry with in an irreversible style of its own) grab some Curl's rock curl amplifier, which looks like this:

This stuff is pricey, BUT it's really the only pricey product you'll be using. See we've totally justified buying this ;) You can get it at Target or at a hair salon. I use about 3 quarter size squirts of this. DO NOT comb this through your hair. Just scrunch it and gently rub it into your hair. Think of your hair as being extremely fragile. You do not want to separate those curls.

Step 5:

Put your hair BACK into your towel for just a minute or 2. A little weird I know, but it takes out the excess product that will cause "crunchiness" and it will get your curls all back together after messing them up a bit with the application of the curl amplifier. Look at this picture to see the different between my curls after removing the towel the first and second times

After hair being in the towel the first time:

After applying amplifier and removing from towel the second time:
Step 6:

Blow dry hair with a diffuser. Which looks like this:

My goal is to dry it so it has body on top and tapers out towards the bottom. I focus on drying my hair (which is simply done by pressing head of the diffuser to scrunch your hair towards your scalp) in the middle of my scalp. Think of where you want body and spend more time scrunching your hair there. For example I want the top of the back of my head to have the most body. I spend more time drying there and leave the section towards the bottom of my head a little wet.

Also use one finger of your hand that is not holding the hair dryer to gently press hair against the scalp the opposite direction you are wanting it to lay. I notice that my curls seem to curl flat against my scalp from the root and they need me to push and dry them the opposite direction in order to give the root some body.

Dry your hair until the sections towards the top middle and back middle of your scalp are dry.

Step 7:

Flip your head back.

It looks a bit crazy at this point, but you can see that there is some body on the top and it's a bit wet on the bottom. Fix your curls, tucking in curls that are sticking up and getting your part where you want it (I love a side part with curly hair)

Step 8:

Get out your hairspray. I use this:

Love this stuff! It's cheap and it is the only kind that works from me aside from Big Sexy Hair hairspray (which is much more expensive).

Spray your entire hair with this stuff after you've tucked and styled your curls. I lightly spray it over the frizz that's starting to come up and quickly run my fingers through the frizz very gently, tucking it back into my curls.

Step 9:

Get your diffuser back out and gently dry/scrunch the bottom of your hair. You do not need to flip your hair back over for this because we do not want this section of your hair to have much body, just the top.

You are basically drying your new styled hair into place at this point. If you are having one of THOSE hair days and your hair still doesn't have much body, go ahead and flip your head with the hairspray now in it and dry it a bit more to add some volume.

Step 10:

Go out and rock your curly hair :)

Remember that your hair will look the best a couple of days after your wash. When you go to style it without washing it, simply mix a little bit (dime or quarter size) of conditioner with some water and wet your hair a bit with your hands, Put it up in a towel for 5 to 10 minutes, Add a squirt or two of curls rock amplifier, flip your head over and dry with a diffuser for just a few minutes, and flip your hair back over adding some hairspray. You'll love the results if you just give it a try :)

I know this all sounds so complicated, but it actually doesn't take me much time at all. The days in between my wash I only spend 5 to 10 minutes styling my hair. I hope this encourages your curly girls to embrace your curls and just go with it! Don't try to make your hair something it's not, just figure out how to work with what you have. You won't regret it :)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Loving My Children As They Are

Hey friends… I'm back :) The past month my life has been crazy and my mind has been mush. I'm going to just be honest… this whole blended family thing is hard work! I think I know what I'm doing, then I realize that I've been doing things completely wrong, then I realize that I may not have been entirely wrong, then I realize that I have no clue what I am doing! Really that pretty much summarizes my thinking process… pretty much every hour… of pretty much every day. Needless to say, there can be a lot of confusion!!

I have this vision of the family dynamic I desire for my home. Where the kiddos all see themselves as equal and loved… now part of the same family. I have this picture in my head of what our family should be… and I can't make it happen. My family consists of many ;) other individuals with separate visions and desires for our family. I can't make everyone love each other and accept the love they are given… and it hurts my heart each time I see that play out. 

Words are said that sting at times and cause me wanting to retreat. And to be honest sometimes I have had to retreat, getting alone to pray for strength or to call an encouraging friend. But most of the time I can't retreat. I can either fight back or look beneath the hurtful words to see a little boy, hurting and confused. Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes I have to look long and hard and squint my eyes a bit before I see that hurt, but its there! These boys have been through many trials that were completely out of their control. Every child should have a dad and mom who loves each other and loves them… and they didn't get that. It's not fair to them, regardless of who is to blame for their loss. 

And this brings me back to sacrificial love. Am I only going to love my kids if they love me back and treat me kindly? Or am I going to keep showing them love where they are at in their pain, even when it hurts me? It's not easy and I wish I could be bulletproof, but I'm not. Showing steadfast love will hurt, and is it worth hurting over? 

Christ died for everyone, not just those He knew who would love Him in return. He died for the atheist,  He suffered and bled for him, even if His love would never be accepted. I know what you are thinking, Well, He was Jesus. Of course He could love sacrificially! Like He was some kind of superhero who showed sacrificial love because of his super powers that enabled Him to do so. No, He didn't have super powers. He came to earth as a man, hurting and facing temptation just as we do now. 

So I end this post striving to show each one of my children Christ's steadfast and sacrificial love. How this plays out in all the different circumstances and issues that come up, I have no idea. But I strive to keep my heart tender to their hurt and to love each of them as they are.