Monthly Archives: August 2016

Jump in and have fun…at every age

When I arrived at Luther Crest in 2011, at the age of 76, I had no idea I’d end up writing a book. But it was, after all, a period of starting over.

I had lived in New York State all of my life before my move and had experienced numerous new beginnings: leaving my parents’ home to marry; moving from Brooklyn to Long Island as a young mother; getting divorced; meeting my life partner and moving to his home; retiring from my job as a social worker in the domestic violence field; seeing my partner through his final illness and then moving into a kind of transitional housing situation until Dan the Moving Man carried me off to my new, and probably final, destination, Luther Crest.

I was happy and excited about starting over again.

I loved my small apartment, crammed too full of precious items from my past lives, and I was excited by the novelty of no longer having to eat solitary dinners in front of the TV.

A lot of other things were different, too. I no longer had an excuse not to exercise; there were all kinds of options available, including a swimming pool and water aerobics classes.  I loved water aerobics but hadn’t attended for several years because there had been no classes nearby.

There also was a well-stocked library, interest groups, lectures by some of my learned fellow residents. Had I stumbled into heaven, or what? Well, perhaps some place more like a cruise ship.

When I went to my first meeting of the Luther Crest writers group, I was terrified. I hadn’t written anything that would be judged by others since I had finished classwork for various degrees and certifications I had taken over time.

I could hardly breathe, but the men and women in the group seemed pleased with what I had written; they actually laughed when they were supposed to! I was invited to submit my two pages to the Crest Chronicle for publication.

So that’s how my writing a book came to be.

The friends I met each month in the group were encouraging, sometimes even cajoling me to keep going.

And it began to seem to me that if I was having so much fun in my new environment, it would be nice to urge older adults everywhere to have fun whenever and wherever they could.

One of the most important things I’ve learned as an “old woman” has been to jump in to whatever interests me and have as much fun as I can along the way.

The responsibilities of mid-life can be soul-numbing, so leaving many of them behind opens the way to experiencing things as we did when we were children and the world was new.

blog 2014 LCBecker Family and Christmas chorus 067 (2)

A very old friend told me she read my book on her 80th birthday, when she was feeling depressed by the weight of years, so she started thinking about the joys she’s had along the way.

“It helped,” she said, and I’m glad. We’re going to be this old no matter what, so let’s have fun and thank God for it.

Helen Wernlund
Luther Crest resident & author

Editor’s Note: Little Excursions in the Alternate Universe, by Helen Wernlund, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $14.95 plus tax. A portion of proceeds benefits the Luther Crest Benevolent Care Endowment Fund.

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Worth the wait

I always wanted to be a mom; in fact, when I was younger, I knew I would adopt someday. I just always knew.

When I was 25, I decided I would go to an information night for foster-to-adopt; this was with another organization than Diakon Adoption & Foster Care. I was a teacher at this point and ready to be a mother.

The training was quick and painless and I was approved. But, if you foster or adopt, you will quickly learn that waiting is part of the experience.

Following approval, I said yes to foster-parenting a girl, but was not selected. Before long, however, I was asked to provide a home for a 15-month-old girl on a foster-to-adopt basis. A few weeks later, the exciting part began and I still recall that day 18 years later: A little girl walking in with her social worker. That was followed, however, 20 minutes later by the toddler’s mother coming by with a different social worker.

I was asked if this was okay. My daughter’s birth mother was young and had not seen her in a while. I agreed; I was new at this and was afraid to say no. But the visit went quickly and painlessly and provided me with the opportunity to meet my child’s birth mother in my home. I knew as well that it would benefit my child to see her two mothers interact in my home. Looking back, I am glad I did this.

In fact, my daughter and I got into the swing of our relationship. She had weekly visits with her birth mom. She always went to her birth mom willingly and always left the visits just as happy. At a young age she understood that she had two moms.

But … I was always waiting for an update, always wondering how long my daughter would stay. Would I adopt her … or would she go back to birth mom?

I think that is probably the hardest part of being a foster parent. You are always waiting.

You wait for the call. You wait for any updates. You wait for court. You wait for termination of parental rights (TPR) or reunification. Luckily, you have things to fill in the wait. You are able to watch a child blossom in your house. You get to bond and create a family. It’s a stressful, yet exciting time.

I was lucky. I had to wait only 10 months for TPR. It was granted by yet again I had to wait—this time for 30 days to see if the birth mother appealed. She did and I went through a year of different appeals, making the time seem like the fastest and longest year I’ve ever experienced. The adoption was finalized just before my daughter’s fourth birthday.

I gave myself a break and enjoyed a quiet life without court dates, social worker visits and everything else that accompanies foster care. I decided that I would try private adoption next, thinking it would be easier. Boy, was I wrong!

Although I was told that as a single mother, I would wait longer because a birth mother, not a social worker, would have to pick me, I waited just three months until news came that my son was born, though seven weeks early. I visited him in the NICU for two weeks, during which time his birth mother left the hospital and could not be found. She had not, however, terminated her parental rights!

But the birth father then said he wanted the child; later, he, too, could not be located. TPR was finally granted on grounds of abandonment—one year later!

My life as a mom of two was great. We went about our day-to-day life and I was enjoying not waiting for court dates and phone calls. Six years later, I gave birth to a daughter. I was now a mom to three! And when my youngest daughter was three years old, I decided to try foster-to-adopt one more time—because I wanted to adopt a boy so that my son could experience having a brother.

I also wanted to take part in an older-child adoption. I wanted to help a child who might not be chosen because of age.

I had heard about Diakon Adoption & Foster Care and contacted the program. From the first call to today, I couldn’t be happier.

All of the people at Diakon have been wonderful and helpful. I went through the training and was ready for the call. But waiting is part of the process; this, I’ve come to know.

While I waited for a boy, I was approached about providing for care for a 12-year-old girl facing several challenges. Diakon needed someone to care for her temporarily while a permanent family was found for her … but, three years later, she is another loved part of my family—adopted.

I now had four children but still felt as if something was missing. I still wanted to adopt a boy.

I went back on the list and was called for a five-year old boy. He stayed with us for four months but had behaviors I could not handle. I felt like such a failure. I knew that I could not give him the help he needed. Diakon was very supportive and helped me during this process and he moved to a home with fewer children. I knew that move was best for him, yet I still found the situation among the more difficult ones I have experienced.

Seven months later, I was called about an 8-year-old boy but he soon returned to his home. I knew that was a possibility in foster-to-adopt, but I was still shocked. Three weeks later, I was called about an 11-year-old boy from a large family. I said yes and headed to his county to pick him up.

The experience changed my life forever.

In fact, I experienced many things for the first time with this placement.

First, I learned how much he missed his siblings. The first night home I said to myself, “I should have taken one of his siblings, too.” I learned how important it can be to try to keep as many siblings together as possible.

Second, I had the wonderful experience of connecting with his birth mother. She has had a hard time in life and needed help and support as much as her children. She truly appreciates all the things foster parents have done for her children. So I learned that if you have the opportunity, you should try to connect with your children’s family. In fact, that connection made the placement so much easier.

Because of the support the mother received, the boy was able to return home in a few months. I was sad to see him go yet so happy for him and his family. They had worked very hard to get back together.

Unfortunately, the situation didn’t last and when I was called about the boy again, I asked to care for one of his siblings so that he wasn’t alone.

So here I am today—a mother of six! I don’t know yet what will happen with the boy and his sister. Will they go home? Will they go to a relative? Or will they stay with me?


I am always asked by others: How do you do it? How can you sit and wonder each day if these kids will stay or go?

I tell them that it is just part of the foster-to-adopt process. I get through it with lots of support from adoption staff, social workers and others who are going through the same process. I connect with people who are walking the same walk. I use my Diakon staff worker for support. When I am stressed from all the waiting, I reach out to her. She tries to get me information and supports me.

The key to surviving the wait is to surrounding yourself with people who have done the same thing.

But—all this waiting and risk-taking have given me a family! I have grown as a person through these experiences. And I can truly say all of it has been worth the waiting I have done the last 18 years.

If I had to give advice to those just starting the foster-to-adopt process, I would tell them the journey may well be full of highs and lows. I also suggest thinking outside of the box and being flexible. Everyone goes into this with a specific picture of what you want in a family.

However, be open to expand on that picture.


I also would say to be prepared to be patient. The process can be full of waiting. But it also is full of amazing people who will support you. It is full of children who want to be part of a family. It is full of children who need you for support, love, and safety.

Trust me when I say it is worth the ride.

Diakon Adoptive/Foster Care parent

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Rebuilding after Disaster

Colorado. The word conjures images of the majestic Rocky Mountains and herds of Elk roaming freely … thoughts of relaxing in the outdoors … and feelings of awe that we have been blessed by God with such beauty.

Peaceful, isn’t it? In September 2013, however, the region of Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties was anything but peaceful. Heavy rains prompted flash-floods across some 2,000 square miles, destroying or damaging more than 7,000 houses. Miles of roadways were gone.

This spring—thanks in part to Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor Fund—I made my eighth trip as a volunteer with Brethren Disaster Ministries—this time traveling to the Loveland and Estes Park areas of Colorado to assist in recovery efforts.

The work is often tiring, reminding me of muscles I didn’t even recall having. My job with Diakon Family Life Services’ Specialized In-Home Treatment Program involves driving, sitting and talking with people, not hammering, dry-wall sanding and painting. Yet both jobs are enormously satisfying as you make a tangible difference in someone’s life—just in different ways.

I enjoyed the time spent working on the homes and learning skills new to me—on-site project leaders instruct volunteers in such tasks as mold-remediation, wall-framing, roofing, plumbing and even cabinet installation. Often, I worked side-by-side with the home owners and listened to their life stories.

The residents told stories of being stranded for days and wondering when or if they were going to be rescued. Of course, with flash-floods there is no warning, no time to prepare, and little chance to gather any possessions or photographs you may hold dear. In fact, I heard stories of people who had to be airlifted from their mountain homes or climbing into trees that towered over their homes because a roof just wasn’t high enough.

A particularly rewarding experience came as we helped a man who consistently had redirected volunteers to his neighbors’ homes “because,” he always said, “they need your help more than I do right now.” Yet he was nearing the end of his approval period for funding, his home still in need of significant repairs. So, in May, my fellow volunteers and I spent time painting ceilings, breathing in more drywall dust than I ever thought possible, finishing interior edges around recently re-installed windows and gutting a bathroom that was breeding mold inside its walls.

By the end of the week there were plans in place for kitchen cabinets to be installed and the homeowners were able to move out of the temporary housing they’d been in since 2013 and into the functioning portion of their home.

We did have time when not working to enjoy some of Colorado’s scenery. I enjoyed a few hours of hiking, as well as falling down a snow-packed hill in Rocky Mountain National Park, walking around a nearby lake and learning some new card games.

Mostly, however, we worked to aid those whose lives had been turned upside down by the flooding. With support from Diakon’s Love of Thy Neighbor Fund, I hope to take more such trips, possibly even another one this year.


—Erin Bell

Case Manager
Diakon Family Life Services Specialized In-Home Program (SPIN)

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