April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a SPED (Special Education) teacher and mother of two children adopted from foster care I'm highlighting Jeanell Climer as one of Lucy's Ladies of the Season!
Jeanell Climer has been near and dear to me for years. We met because of our work with children and in many ways children have kept us connected through the years. Not just our own children, but school children and children in foster care. Jeanell is all about the children (I like to describe her as a Mama Duck, she just watches over the children like a sweet mama duck!) so there's no better person to interview this season and this month. Her faithfulness to the Lord and kids in special need is so inspirational and admirable. Jeanell truly makes the world a better place and daily helps to keep kids safe! Without further ado, I give you an interview with a child advocacy queen:
When did you first know you wanted to work with/advocate for kids?
I don’t feel like there was ever an “aha moment” but rather I often found myself talking to or helping the underdog. I do recall being a secretary at a high school and often having conversations with a young lady about all kinds of things. She was struggling with things at home and she often shared things with me when she stopped by to say hello. As the year progressed, her visits increased. At one point, she noticed a special cross necklace that I had on. It opened the door for us to talk about church, and she asked a lot of great questions. I was always very careful talking about my faith in a public school, but the memory of those conversations have stayed with me 18 years later.
What made you hone your focus onto SPED?
There are two things that come to mind. The first is the first high school I worked at, we had a sunshine group that would celebrate birthdays and other special events. A teacher thought the life skills class students might want to share in the celebrations. A conversation happened, and I was the lucky one chosen to work with the students, and their teacher, to have them participate in celebrating birthdays. The second thing that made me consider SPED is a former neighbor. Her son, who happens to be six months younger than my oldest daughter, is on the spectrum and her stories always made me smile. (Our house was called the three girl house because he knew we had three daughters, and he was FASCINATED that the garbage truck came every week to take the “stinky trash” away - he would watch them come down the street and giggle as they picked up at each of the 20 houses.)
What sorts of advocacy for children have you participated in throughout your life and career?
I was part of the iFrosh team at Wenatchee High School, which gave me some great conversations with kids and parents. I had the privilege of being part of JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) when I worked at Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center. My husband and I helped with the Special Olympics ski team for a few years. I was the “lodge mom” so I helped the head coach with paperwork, and kept attendance for each practice. I was a volunteer with Girls on the Run for two different seasons. The first year I was a running buddy for a student in Chelan. I was able to run a 5k with her. The second time I volunteered, I was one of three coaches at Sterling.
How did you find yourself the mother of two special needs girlie girls adopted from foster care?
This was totally a God thing! The girls were students of mine during the 2019-20 school year. I tell the story that on the first day of school, I came home and told my husband that I have new students – twins – and there is something special about them. Little did I know how special they would be! As a teacher, I want my students to know that I am a safe person and they can tell me anything without judgment. I want to help them find solutions to things that might be a challenge. The girls each shared things they were struggling with. Based upon the things they were telling me, I ended up having to contact their DCYF Case Worker to report things. During these conversations, there was a hint on both our ends regarding the possibility of my husband and I becoming foster parents. My husband was not on board. I also knew that if we were to do this, we had to commit to the long-haul as these girls had been in multiple foster homes in a short period of time. There was a big incident in January 2020 that resulted in my husband deciding he could commit to bringing the girls into our home with the goal of adopting or being their foster parents until they aged out. We started the process at the end of January and then the Covid shut-down happened, which delayed things. We received a call on April 16, 2020 that the girls needed to be moved that day, and asked if we were ready for them. We were, and the rest is history. Due to their disabilities and all of the changes happening (we were their seventh placement), the girls needed extra time to process all the things. The state wanted us to begin the adoption process after six months, but the girls were not ready. We officially adopted the girls in November 2021.
What is life like now?
Life now is interesting. Texas has been something we have talked about off and on for many years. My father-in-law was born in Texas. We talked over the years of moving to Texas, but the doors were never opened for us. There was always a big obstacle that blocked the idea from moving forward. In mid to late September 2021, a friend of mine randomly called me and asked if we were still thinking about Texas. I told her it would probably always be something we would dream about, but that was it. She suggested we consider it. I laughed and told her I would pray about it, because that would be a BIG move. Random (more like God winks) conversations started happening that all tied back to Texas. In early October, we started looking at the possibility of relocating to Texas when the school year finished. By the end of October, we decided we should probably go visit Texas to make sure this was something that could work for us. We decided to spend Thanksgiving week in Texas. During the month of November, God laid it on our hearts that we should move before the school year ended. As a teacher, I was freaking out. We trusted that He had a better plan than we did, so I started to apply for positions. We made plans to visit five different areas, but when the trip actually happened, God had other plans. We only went to one area - Bryan/College Station which is near Texas A&M University. We came back to Washington with a house offer in the works and I had three virtual job interviews scheduled that week. I accepted a job offer one week after we returned from Texas, we put our house on the market, and we moved 2,100 miles away from all our friends and family to an adventure in Texas six weeks later in early January 2022.
We adopted the girls in November 2021, the week before we visited Texas. They are juniors in high school. I am currently working as a special education teacher in College Station ISD, but I will be moving to a smaller district next school year, which I am really excited about. I will be moving to a self-contained classroom, which is very much like my first two years of teaching. Remember that friend who randomly asked me if I wanted to move to Texas? Her family bought a house in the same neighborhood we live in. She works in the same small district I will be working in next year. God had a much bigger and better plan than I could have ever dreamt.
What inspiration/encouragement do you have for others who may be interested in advocating for abused and neglected children?
When I reflect on this question, I think it is important for people to know that you need to do what is comfortable for you. There are a lot of programs that are seeking volunteers to help abused and neglected children. For all kids (and people), knowing that someone is in their corner is a HUGE thing. With my adopted daughters, they knew when they came to school every day that my classroom was a safe place, and a place where they could tell an adult anything. I tell my students all the time, you are safe at school and you can tell me anything and I will still love you. They all know there are some things they share with me that I have to share with others to keep them safe. For some kids, it is knowing that someone is going to show up at school to eat lunch with them. I would say if you feel like you want to volunteer in this area, make some phone calls and find the place that fits you best. Big Sisters/Big Brothers is a great option in bigger cities. Many schools have a Lunch Buddy program. The CASA Program is another amazing opportunity to show up and show love and kindness to kids in need.
Last book read:
The Maid by Nita Prose
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The Light in Hidden Places by Sharon Cameron
His & Hers by Alice Feeney
The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
In addition to ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) training, four books that have helped me as a teacher, and now as a mom of twin girls on the spectrum, are:
Population: One by Tyler McNamer
Lost At School by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.
Eyes Are Never Quiet by Lori L. Desautels, Ph.D. and Michael McKnight, M.A.
This week I'm prepping the blurb and title for the new book. All along I've had one sub-title in mind:
She was resigned to the weight gain and extra pounds. It was midlife with fibromyalgia and chronic pain. She almost gave up hope. Then Dina Goodman, more than a hundred pounds overweight, got tired of the excuses and tried one more time to drop the weight and this time it worked!
At the height of the pandemic Dina was working in health and human services, fielding call upon call from individuals in the throes of mental-health crisis because of pandemic grief or isolation. The stress from the secondary trauma had long since driven her back to food and drink and extra weight. Just before COVID hit she had actually found a “comfy” weight. Not as small as she wanted to be, but not so big that she couldn’t enjoy floating the river with Gus, her husband, or camping with her grandkids. “Comfy” was enough for a grandma with a husband who lavishly loved her no matter what the scale said.
The stress, the isolation, the pandemic, the failed attempts to medically mitigate her pain and thyroid issues all added pound upon pound until she was not only back to her weight before “comfy,” but beyond it. The pain was nearly unbearable. Forget camping with the grandkids, she couldn’t even get down to sit with them on the floor. There was no way she could float the river or leave Gus at the fire pit for a leisurely solo hike. She hurt too bad. Hope was almost gone, but something, likely a nudging from the Holy Spirit, compelled her to not give up just yet. She had another try in her.
She reached out to a friend who was sharing her weight loss journey on Facebook. The friend, Shannon, had joined a program designed by a critical care physician. It made sense to Dina and appealed to her. Shannon encouraged Dina to pray about it. Dina did pray, and on March first of 2021, she joined the program. The program focused on “whole health” and wellness. Though mild caloric restriction is part of initial phases of the plan, so are healthy food options, high protein, probiotics, vitamins and minerals. More than this, a large focus of the program is tackling mindsets that distort healthy food associations. Dina’s work in mental-health affirmed the program was going about things correctly.
After just three days on the program she was pain free and on the floor playing with her grandchildren! Gus pointed it out to her and she was amazed she hadn’t even noticed. The weight loss program mitigated her long-time pain; it was enough to keep her engaged. The high protein and “lean & green” meals knocked out her hunger and helped her identify when she looked too food for emotional support rather than nutritional value. It was fascinating and freeing to her. As a life long Christian she’d never thought of herself as an addict to anything, but through the program’s education, she realized her emotional relationship with food was, in fact, addictive in its nature. The pounds came off quickly and in less than nine months she was down nearly a hundred pounds. Her results aren’t typical for the program, but it makes sense to her, because of how dramatically, her mindset, not only her nutritional habits changed.
Sadly, the ravages of COVID took their toll on Dina and Gus. Both fell prey to the virus in November of 2021 and battled with COVID pneumonia. Gus, like so many, wasn’t able to overcome the virus’ hold. The man, loved and revered by many, went home to be with the LORD November 21st, 2021. Dina was left to grieve. She sees now how God was gently preparing her for Gus’ loss all those months before. A whisper of encouragement to carry on. A decision to embrace something new and change her mind and nutritional habits. With all of the preparation equipping her, she turned to Christ and to family and community support instead of food to cope with the grief and loss. A year into her health journey, Dina is just beginning her grief journey and life without Gus at her side. He always loved her, no matter what her weight was. He adored her for who she was, but she’s still grateful he was able to see her near her goal weight before he moved on to heaven.
Today, Dina is down 119 pounds. She found her healthy, “ideal” weight based off of her physician’s BMI charts. With the weight off and pain gone, she’s beginning to incorporate exercise and movement into her lifestyle. Short walks, bicycle rides, planks and resistance bands currently comprise most of her activities while she waits for hiking trails to open up. Dina’s current goal is to find her healthy, “ideal” caloric intake to match with her ideal activity level.
Dina is no longer “on plan” and foods other than just “lean & green” are allowed back in. For Dina her tastes have completely changed, what once was not enough cake, is now far too much and way too sweet. She allows herself small indulgences but notices what her body resists and what makes her feel ill or less than her best. She prefers the holistic approach to her food and cooking and is glad her family has embraced it as well. The family has always enjoyed cooking together, and they still do, but now the foods are better for them and the recipes they try are health and wellness minded.
Dina’s one more try was worth it. She found a healthy weight and nutritional lifestyle she can embrace and maintain. She enjoys coaching others into healthier life and mindsets now. She welcomes anyone who is curious about the program to reach out to her on Facebook. She trusts God to continue to prepare and equip her for all that’s in front of her and is grateful for all she has despite the loss of Gus.
** In the Optimal Weight 5 & 1 Plan(Registered) is 12 pounds. Clients are in weight loss, on average, for 12 weeks. **
Wendy Jones was reluctant to change her health, fitness or nutritional lifestyle. Her mother, gone too soon at the age of 53, lost her life largely due to the use of Fen Phen. Wendy’s boyfriend, Tim, was of the mindset that if death is inevitable, it at least doesn’t have to come from starvation. With an aversion to dieting aids and a culture of eat-what-you-want surrounding her, Wendy took the blows to her health as they came and accepted the extra pounds as part of life.
Sure, she knew that just a little bit of walking, like she’d done for one short month in her thirties, was enjoyable and netted a noticeable weight loss; but the effort and the stress of changing her lifestyle wasn’t worth the pay off. She’d tried many of the fads, the shakes, the weight watching, the pressure to try this exercise or that fitness routine. It frustrated her and turned her off. She didn’t need someone telling her she was overweight, the mirror did that just fine. She didn’t need someone to push her to do an exercise her body raged against. She just needed … to move.
There was more to it than a move, but purchasing a home and moving last summer was the catalyst that got her health and fitness on track, on her terms, maybe for the first mindful time. It’s sticking too! On a keto diet often strict, but admittedly holiday dirty (or gracious depending on how she looks at it) Wendy has lost 45 pounds in about 6 months.
How did a move motivate the change? It started when her boyfriend, Tim, passed away. The reality that life was short and her weight and health were out of control overwhelmed her. She knew she ought to do something but not what. She was grieving and didn’t want to do anything. How did she stick with healthy changes when she never had before? The overwhelm of it all stopped most of the momentum before it ever got past her thoughts.
Wendy’s a teacher and COVID sent her home for far too long. Her fit bit told her she took fewer and fewer steps each day and her seat told her she was the dictionary definition of sedentary. Anything she lost all those years ago walking, were long since put back on, along with other pounds that added on over the years and COVID months. Her dizzy spells got worse with medications meant to treat the issues that were causing some of her weight retention. Headaches and lack of motivation made even going upstairs for a charger cord nearly impossible. But she had to move, and a lack of motivation to pack and haul food from an old pantry to a new pantry got her thinking about food.
She wanted to eat what was left in her house before moving to avoid packing it. One by one, the processed foods and packaged products came out and got used up. She noticed that nearly everything was somehow processed, refined or preserved. The fresh foods were gone soon enough and she was left to use what she had. It was enough to get her beyond thinking. She looked into keto. Less carbs meant more whole, fresh food. Whole, fresh food was fancy, like the cheesy eggs she now enjoys for breakfast instead of sugar cereals.
After the move, she made a mindful switch on the foods she purchased. She bought more fresh vegetables and foods and discovered that she actually enjoys prepping snack bags for the fridge. She has healthy treats ready to grab-and-go whenever she or one of her daughters wants to eat. She preps healthy, fresh snacks and her kind of salads (the kind light on lettuce and loaded with other yummy whole food additions) on Sundays, and often reloads again on Wednesdays. She’s noticing that the girls, who she didn’t want to deprive, ask for less junk with the availability of more healthy snacks at the ready.
Her weight loss wasn’t on purpose, in fact it was so slow she really didn’t notice until she saw an “old” picture from 2019. The change was dramatic! She didn’t think she was ever THAT big. She hadn’t felt that big. She wondered what she looked like now and took a full length selfie. The difference was evident, not just to her but her Facebook following too.
It’s been all intake and nutrition for Wendy, exercise was NOT in her plan. She hated to sweat, there was no motivation to move. She knew food was the way to go for her, but oddly enough, she remembered those walks from years ago along the ACC woods loop. She enjoyed them, and after the move, she started to walk again... down random streets in the old section of her beloved town. Unscripted, spontaneous zigs and zags along friendly streets to see what the town has to offer from day to day. Sometimes it’s for her easy to get up and invite her young daughter, Dalilah, out for a walk with her. Sometimes Dalilah invites her, but Wendy is exercising, on her terms. Her exercise looks like a friendly neighbor keeping tabs on her town. She’s changing her food intake, on her terms, getting comfortable cutting veggies and the quiet joy that comes from an unexpected pleasurable activity. She’s changing her health and fitness for the better, her way, one snack, one step at a time.
Weight loss goals aren’t necessarily a focus in her life, but she does think it might be nice for once to walk the full 5k the town hosts each October. She’s thought about it for years. Maybe this is the year she does it! Maybe this is the year the scale drops under 200! No matter what, she’s proud of her changes and intends to keep at it and see where a healthier mindset takes her!
Tranquility today: 12:25 am snacking on the last of the berries & broccoli from the fruit and veggie trays listening to Passenger who Keeps On Walking. 4 women connected by technology, motivation & ... me?! This life coaching gig is a full circle trip. Is it about coaching at all... Or is it … respite?
My auntie Laurie and uncle David Iverson gave me respite once (yeah, Emma Rose them... way back when). Two glorious weeks free of chaos & confusion, I got to cross-stitch and watch Ben Hur in black and white. They were two weeks of safety and serenity for me... I don't know what they were for my uncle Dave, or cousins Em & Micah, but I know my auntie doesn't even remember them. Now, I want to give kids safety, and people rest & reprieve even if just for a moment from the stress, chaos and demands of life to connect with... themselves, their laugh, their emotions, their wants, their humanity, divinity... breath... life. I'll be honest, I hoped for 5 today and had to beg for 4. I'm not proud, but I'm not super duper embarrassed either... I believe people have a right to be safe enough to feel and breathe and process... And as imperfectly unsteady, unready and human as I am... I believe I can offer moments of respite & reprieve, rejuvenation, reflection, & maybe even rejoicing. But, unlike auntie, I hope I never forget this unmonumental "beginning".
It's officially the LAST day of the year. I've looked for tranquility everyday this year. Most days it's been there, sometimes tucked into the trials, but there. They’ve often been life savers, these tranquil nuggets in this chaotic cacophony we live in:
sharing the Blessing song with parents of a newborn grandbaby,
a hot jetted bathtub and a certain bearded mountain man,
a 15 minute meditation,
an online worldwide waterfall hunt after someone sends me a picture of an amazing waterfall,
a playful tryst in another new home,
a Bible verse that jumped out and hollered at me
an hour and a half Haystack hike,
a warm under-the-covers sleep-in on a too-cold morning,
getting lost in a book on a plane,
a naked stretch out on sun drenched triple pile carpet… like a fat, happy cat!
a wrinkly arm hug from a forgetful, frail woman,
still making index card memories, every… single… month… with a man worthy of my love,
a grandchild's laugh as we walk the neighborhood circle,
a warm cup of something good and time for no one but myself,
oddly enough… mourning with those who mourn, because my time has come and gone and will come again and as morbid as it is, this time with them reminds me of who I was before loss changed me and that I will change again into someone new the next time it happens,
a tick tocking clock while I read the Bible and Calathea plant unfolds to the light of day
a slightly planned waterfall hike with a world traveling baby brother,
a dock and tent in some forgotten Tennessee town
line dancing on cousin Rick’s property during the Barrett Family Reunion
a Bunko game with real-live, not zoomed people, after too much isolation
no work days to just read and write until she wakes
warm fuzzy socks to squish cold toes into,
… a twinkling Christmas tree and empty fruit & veggie trays.
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