So... Happy Birthday to me. I woke up at 5:45 so excited about my day that I couldn't go back to sleep. And it isn't because it's my birthday, believe me. It's because things are really quite good right now.
Let me summarize my family life: We now have 4 kids living with us and two of our grandchildren and Jimmy visiting for a week. Salinda moved in about 10 days ago and it has been so fun having Carlos and Gabby with us. Wilson is a month into his Junior year of high school and becoming quite an integral part of our church youth group. He is looking forward to wrestling soon. He is compliant and helpful most of the time and has an excellent sense of humor. Dominyk is living part time in Brookneal working as a groundskeeper at PHFS where I work. He has matured so much in the past two months. I stay in Brookneal twice a week so he and I get to have some quality time together which is pretty fun (most of the time). :)
Tony has been living with us for two months and started a job at Subway a couple weeks ago. That means we never see him. He works and sleeps and only is home long enough to make a mess. :-) He's getting lots of hours in, though, so it's good to see him happy.
Salinda got hired yesterday and will start training soon at Olive Garden. Gabby is loving her first grade teacher, and Carlos is a very easy toddler who is obsessed with cars. Having them here is awesome.
Kyle and Christy and their three kids are doing very well in Forest Lake. The twins are adorable and Silas, well, Silas is a very busy very inquisitive and smart kid. Kyle is now a master's level 6th grade teacher and Christy is doing a job share teaching kindergarten. Kyle is an excellent provider and worked very hard this summer so that Christy could be home half time with the kids. She's a great mom and she keeps us in the loop with several snap chats a week of whatever the kids are doing.
Sadie is still working as a nanny and a PCA in the Twin Cities and she and her boyfriend Matt (who we love) have been together for almost two years. We hear from her almost every day through texts, snap chat and Facebook.
Leon is in college and living in Mankato. He was here last month to visit and brought the best girlfriend ever! Danielle is so much like me that it makes me smile (except she is thin and beautiful... which makes her not like me in a lot of ways too!) She and Leon have a great friendship in the midst of their romance. He is a PCA for a couple families -- one being our best friends from Mankato which makes me doubly jealous. I'm jealous they get to see him so often, and I'm jealous that he gets to see them on a regular basis!
Rand continues to work at Holiday in Plymouth and he is Jimmy's roommate at their apartment in Golden Valley. He was recently promoted to shift manager, which is really an achievement for him.
We don't hear from John, Mike, or Ricardo very often at all. Sometimes we hear from their siblings about their whereabouts... John and Mike are still in the Cities and we believe Ricardo is still in Mankato. John's son Isaac and his mom are still in contact with us somehow at least weekly. We seldom here from Mike's son Aiden, but we do get to see pictures on Facebook.
Bart is frickin amazing. He is holding down the fort at home alone 3-4 days a week, making sure people get to work and taking care of the grandkids when needed. In addition, he is pastoring a church that we LOVE filled with great people. He is also having the opportunity to teach a class at Averett University which is down the street from our house. Teaching Ethics is quite fun for him.
And then there is me. As you know, I was hired to be the "Chief Program Officer" at Patrick Henry Family Services and started on January 4th. The idea is that I would hire a person and would then be supervising three programs, each with a director. But that isn't quite how it worked out.
Through a series of unfortunate events, I ended up running our counseling program for 5 months and our residential care program for nearly 8 months. It was trying, exhausting and frustrating, but also exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding. On July 1st our organization was blessed to hire an amazing man to run our counseling program. He surprises me every day with his strategic mind and gentle spirit (and don't tell him this because I don't want to give him a big head). Then on August 29th, my former colleague and friend accepted the Residential Life position which I have renamed "Director of Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes). She is already doing a great job. I also hired another excellent addition to our staff who reports to her and started August 1st -- and she is our Education Support person. Together (even without any other managers in the program at this time) they are tackling some of the stuff I didn't have time to tackle and the school year is off to a great start for our residents. And I can't forget to give credit to our Safe Families Director who was and always has been a great leader and an all around incredible guy who patiently allowed me to run the other programs without enough of my attention during our kick off year of Safe Families.
All that to say that now that I am doing the job I was hired to do and have my team of three EXCELLENT leaders in place to run the program, my job is a dream come true. We are starting a massive 1-3-5-10 year strategic planning process and so I definitely am not going to get bored, but I am excited about the future -- more so than at any other time in my professional life.
So today I'm 53 and I'm surprised at how little I know. When I was in my 20s and 30s I really thought that by the time I turned fifty I would have little to learn. It just may be that I have learned more in the past three years than I did in decades previous because I finally figured out how much I still need to learn. I have been studying things like resiliency, how to be empathetic, strategic planning, and what it means to be a good team player. I am pushing myself to do things that I don't want to do. I am continuing to move forward, realizing that the number of years I have left on this earth to change it and make a difference are way too few, so I need to do it well.
Yesterday I had the privilege of spending time with a great man -- Dr. David Anderson -- who is the founder of Safe Families. We had lunch together with the Safe Families Director and Robert Day, our CEO, and then he and I got to have supper together. I loved being with someone who had actually, without that being his goal, started a national movement.
This blog post is way too long so i may have to write another about everything I'm learning from him, but one of the things that he talked about yesterday was repurposing the family. He mentioned that most middle class Christian families don't really understand their purpose -- they raise their kids and then they are done. But that we have a responsibility to teach biblical hospitality to our children. Safe Families for Children is a way that families can do that. We are getting licensed for foster care again because we realize that we are not done, and when the pilot program for Safe Families comes to Danville, we may very well be their first host family.
Let me conclude with this: One of the greatest blessings of my life is to see our children living out the values we have taught them. When I see them being great parents, it blesses me. When I see them reach out and extend kindness to someone who may not deserve it, I am blessed. When I hear that they loaned money to someone in need, or bought groceries for someone who is struggling, I recognize that in the midst of all of the foibles and errors of our parenting -- regardless of the special needs and behaviors of our children growing up -- that we have done a few things right.
Would I rather be 23 today? No. Would I love to have the body and energy I did when I was 23 today? YOU BET! But the wisdom that comes with age and the experiences of the past 30 years I wouldn't trade for anything.
Happy Birthday to me. I'm happy to be 53.