what makes a hero?

Recently I entered into a facebook dialogue about fathers. Specifically the sort of father who isn’t much of an active father at all, rejecting and abandoning their children. What made me truly sad, within the context of this discussion, was the number of people who share that very story. I know that this idea is not exclusive to fathers, but it does seem pretty common all the same.

Some time ago I read a letter my daughter meant for another. Within it she talked a lot of negative untruth about me, but the part that really pushed my emotion over the edge was her writing about her dad, my husband. She spoke about her dad abandoning her and how she had all of these daddy issues because her dad had neglected and rejected her throughout her life. The reasons she was going into such fictitious detail, in page after page was actually to deflect her own responsibilities from decisions she’d made, but that isn’t the point. The point is that this child has grown up being tucked in and prayed with, by her dad, every night that he was not away on business. She has lived through hundreds, if not thousands of movie nights snuggled into her dad’s embrace. She has maintained the second part of inside jokes and daddy/daughter dates, coloring, puzzles, projects, games, shopping, road trips, piggy back rides, video games, bedtime stories, amusement parks, etc. He has never not been present for a birthday, and Thanksgiving or a Christmas. Her dad is 100% all in…

When we think of heroes, we imagine brave individuals, swooping in to save lives, villages or entire planets. These are the things which books and movies are made of. This has, perhaps distorted our view of heroism. Men who stay home and own their responsibility- is this not courageous? My hero is my dad. My dad met me when I was twelve and placed in the house which he and his wife were foster parents. He was not my father (whom I had never met) nor the first person I called dad. I did not like or trust men (thanks, first person I called dad) and so it was an awkward and tough process. Dad can be a title, but it is intended to be so much more. Over the following decades of my life, this man would teach me so much about myself, accepting others, empathy,  and unconditional love. He would meet and embrace my boyfriend/eventual husband in the very way a father should. He would give me a pet name, be at my wedding, repair things in my life that needed fixed, lead Thanksgiving dinner grace in my marriage home, be the only person by my side during an emergency hysterectomy and be such a rock for me as I navigated adulthood through various difficult stages. This man is not my hero because he became my dad, but because I was not alone here. This man has a large number of children who knew him as dad, whose lives he helped shape. Whose lives (in my case, and a few others I know, anyway) he saved in various ways of meaning. When I think of a brave man, I think of him. Some of the kids he sheltered had dads, but many didn’t, and this man bravely stepped in to do what others either could not, or did not. I look at him and I know, without a doubt, this world is a far better place because of him and how he’s chosen to live his life.

The question I was challenged to write about was someone heroic that I admire, who embodied sacrifice and courage. I know a hundred soldiers, all of whom I admire immensely (my son tops the list) and I did not want to deflect from their sacrifice and heroism. On my heart though, were the dads. The men, like my husband and my dad, who love beyond themselves and open up their hearts to parent the unparented and abandoned as if they were their own, signing on for the whole of their lives… I was asked to choose someone I would stand up for. Regarding these two men- (and, my son. :) ) in a heartbeat, time and time again…

Partnering with the release of the up and coming film The Promise, starring Christian Bale, (you can watch the trailer here) I would like to offer a small giveaway. The promise is a story of sacrifice and love. It is about two heroes, one who stands up for truth and injustice and the other who is willing to pay the ultimate cost for what is right.  I would like to give a $25 Fandango gift card to one winner. To enter for a chance to win, please leave a comment on here, or our facebook page, talking about your own hero- and why. (if you share this on twitter, please leave a link in the comments for an extra chance to win.)

A family journey…

emmxokmbsik-emma-dauI have been thinking a lot about family lately. My birth family, who i lived with until I was 12, I was the youngest, my grandmother was the woman who loved others through baking, cooking and making for them. My mother was crippled with mental illness and depression and so the most stable parent in my home was only there part time and pretty abusive, but that’s an entirely different story.

The dynamics were skewed but it’s what I knew. “family time” with my mom looked like my mother in front of the TV, smoking and moody. I could watch the westerns or old movies she watched, or I could go play in my room alone. When my step dad was around, “family time” included movie nights, (often inappropriate, but still it was something) and games. My mom really went on and on about how she hated games, but I loved those game nights the most. They were rare. Dinner when he was around was always large meals like Tbones, baked potatoes, corn on the cob and the perfect iced tea. When he wasn’t around I had frozen dinners, half-cooked, nearly thrown and me and verbal abuse about how I would eat it, not gag and not complain. There was also the months long period of time when I only ever was allowed to eat bologna sandwiches.

There was no talking, not really. No parental guidance, or heart to hearts. There were lots of rants, lots of two-faced confessions and a lot of verbal abuse. There was not a “how was school?” or “what are you interested in these days?” Birthday plans, from my mom, typically consisted of plans she made to mess with me the most. The one that sticks out the most is the year she went on and on about how she was going to do something so special and amazing for my birthday, IF I DESERVED it. When the week of my birthday came, I asked her if I’d been good enough and she told me she’d never said she was doing anything for my birthday and I didn’t deserve to even be told Happy Birthday. I was turning 10. The morning of my birthday my mother was especially mean. I walked to my grandmother’s for lunch and tried talking to her about it but she just kept saying “well, you know how your mother is. Just try to enjoy your day.” When she took me home I walked in to a surprise party and my mom crying happily because she had “pulled it off”. I just remember feeling so confused. To this day, 30 years later I still remember that lost and worthless feeling echoing What is going on???, throughout my head.

My larger family consisted of an aunt, uncle, cousins, grandparents, etc. Pretty normal. We did family holiday dinners, when my mom allowed me to participate. It was always fun and there was good food, lots of laughter, games played and I loved them. There still wasn’t talking really. It was, at least when I was around, pretty light-hearted and fun. Well, that’s not entirely true. There were often yelling matches when my mother was in a mood, which soured everything.

At 12 I went to live in a foster family filled to the brim with two biological children and 8 fosters. Family time looked like everyone piled around watching movies and drinking soda and eating homemade popcorn. On Sunday’s, after church, we sat at the table lingering after lunch and telling jokes. We baked and cooked together. Things like parental talks and advice, honest criticism, encouragement, etc were something I balked at because, lets face it, they were a foreign language to me.

I changed foster families once, about a year and a half later. There were similarities but a lot more tension and “joking around” which could have been borderline bullying…

Fast forward to a dinner when Gen was about 9. My son sat at the table and said something very sexually crude, to which my older daughter laughed and said something to follow-up. Chw and I looked at each other and realized that we were standing on a parental precipice. We decided then and there that our home would be the home were things could be talked about, and over the years they have been. If questions were asked, we answered them honestly, without candy coating anything. There were moments when he or I would question if we were doing the right thing, allowing such candidness, but with our youngest heading to college in a few months, we know we did it right.

Family time, in our family, does not happen enough. (That’s the way with older kids I guess.) When it does though, it looks like movie nights with homemade popcorn, or game nights, or family dates to dinner, etc. It looks like walks and bike rides or light hiking. Sometimes there is teenage attitude which puts a damper on it, but most of the time there is laughter, conversations ranging from politics to religion, sex to relationships, etc. There are always movie quotes and references to other times together, littered throughout.

I am not a perfect mother, thankfully I have never strived for perfection. I haven’t ever really worried about if my kids like me or not, but more on loving my kids where they are. Parenthood for anyone is speckled with disappointments and triumphs, adoptive parenting is no different. The journey is hard and our family has a lot of evidence of my shortcomings, but that is ok. This weekend everyone (but my son) was together. As open and honest conversation (about pretty much every possible thing, including an in-depth discussion on poop), laughter (sometimes at someone else’s expense, in a loving way) and at one point we just looked around and thought, this… Of all the dynamics I have known, ours is the one I love the most. It may not be your style, or her style, or that guys over there, but it IS ours. This is us, and I love us…

A house/A home…

I have the heart of a true dog lover…

When Chw and were young and a bit crazy, and two new kids living in upstate New York, we grew our little family with an adorable little roly-poly Golden Retriever puppy named Makaila. Makaila became the very best friend of our little Gen, when she came home to us.251415_10150202049326277_874492_n

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When Makaila was five years old, an adorable little newborn black and barely white puppy fell into our laps. We named her Paisley, for no particular reason other than I had dreamed of getting a puppy named Paisley the night before. Paisley was tiny and dependent and bonded to me very, very deeply. As she grew, my heart wrapped so tightly around that precious little dog.

In August of Makaila’s ninth year, we learned she had bladder cancer and in a very short amount of time she made her way across that rainbow bridge. We had her cremated and her ashes were scattered at a Christmas tree farm, which I still think is the loveliest of things…

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A couple of months later Paisley was lonely for a canine companion and we foolishly jumped at the first puppy we found. She is called Emma and she is a character. She and Paisley never hit it out. Emma can be funny, but she is seldom sweet and often her soul is more fire than love (in a sassy and prideful way, of course). She is the most un-dog any of us have ever known, she has made home what it is and we love her quirky ways all the same.

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Ironic as it seems, this past August was Paisley’s 9th year and she too found her way to the Rainbow Bridge. It was sudden and gut wrenching and a piece of me went with her. I think a piece of all of us, even little Emma, went too. She was the epitome of love in a dog. The most pleasing, comforting, loving, accepting, reassuring creature I have ever known…

Emma has had a tough time recovering the loss of the other canine presence. She lost herself a bit and is finally emerging. My husband assures me there will be no future dogs for us. My heart both sighs with relief at his words, and aches to beg for another.

I love my kids and they make the two of us a family, binding us together and bringing about rhyme, reason and purpose… But our dogs, our dogs have made our houses home. They’ve breathed life when the darker times convinced us there was none. Their wet noses have whispered love into the loneliest of moments and often been the only things that dragged me from the pits of a depression hell in the dark days.

Dogs make the world a better place…

Tell me about any pets you have loved?

Thanks to the release of the new film A Dog’s Purpose (based on a WONDERFUL film, of the same name), which opens on 1/27, I am happy to give away a $25 Fandango credit to one reader! The giveaway ends at Midnight on 1/26! To enter simply comment here with your story of a dog you’ve loved.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer. And just in case you missed it, here’s a link to a post I wrote about their charity support.

What it means to be a woman…

Right now, being a woman is a very trendy thing. There are all of these social media driven explosions about how we should be proud to be a girl, etc. It has happened here or there, over the years but Hillary’s campaign really began the process of bringing it to a head. Because he was running against a girl (and I’m not sure any man would have made it through the election without being painted as a horrible person because of the “Feminist” climate of our nation, honestly) there is no way Trump could have escaped without being labelled a sexist monster who hates women… Then again, it is really Trump himself who made our president-elect such an easy target. I am not going to venture into political waters because everyone else is doing it, and that’s just not my thing. I am here to talk about how this is a really great time to be a woman. You know, #proudtobeagirl and all of that stuff. And don’t get me wrong, I am.

But why now? Why is it so incredibly, mind blowingly awesome to be a girl now? Why isn’t this sort of enthusiasm consistently offered to young girls when they get their first period? Why isn’t it intensified to such a huge degree when a woman pushes a child from her body? Why isn’t being a woman, and all of the awesomeness it entails, being celebrated when the nurturing love of a mother breaks, and breaks, and breaks the heart it beats in because motherhood is painfully hard sometimes?

Feminism is about women having a voice, having rights, being worthy. The heart of feminism is something every single one of us should stand for. TRUE Feminism is not what we are seeing these days. Is it Feminist to have a say about what goes on with our bodies? Ok. I agree, no one should be able to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body. My biggest fear, as far as abortion laws are concerned, is that the government would have complete say in regards to whether a woman could keep her pregnancy. If we have strict abortion regulations, this will give them that power and that terrifies me. BUT why has abortion become this symbol of feminism? Why does abortion represent a subculture that is supposed to be about fairness and beauty? There is nothing fair or beautiful about it. Regardless of your perspective or stance, abortion is an ugly act. Metaphorically, let’s look at Breast Cancer. In a society where great tits are invaluable, imagine the woman who learns she has to have a mastectomy and will be left with a caved in chest in place of her greatest physical asset. After her scars have healed, she may feel a sense of beauty in her scar, but the very process to get from one point to the latter will be a hellish journey, paved with varied indescribable emotions. If a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, should she have the right to make the decision on how to treat it? yes. It is her body. It is her body, period, and up to her to live with the consequences of her decisions…But women should not march the streets deciding that mastectomy scars, or the right to have a mastectomy if we choose, defines us as true women. Just like an abortion. I believe that a baby is a baby from the time it is conceived. I also have a family created by the system in place to remove children from heinously abusive situations. How is abortion any worse than the situations of the 428,000 foster children in the United States. If women who were not going to want or love their babies were forced to have them, what would that number be? And it isn’t just a number, these are children. Broken, beaten, molested, bandaged, damaged, tortured and fractured (sometimes beyond repair) human beings…

Abortion is not something to be celebrated. It also isn’t some deep dark secret that women should keep buried in shame. We each have a story. Those stories are defined by choices we’ve made and choices others made for us. Let’s celebrate our individual journeys as women, and build each other up regardless of differences. Abortion should not be the focus here…

Womanhood should be, In all of its glory.

Hail the women who raise up other women to not only believe in themselves, but to empower other women. Hail to the women who do NOT belittle men as less than worthy. Two wrongs do not make a right. It was never ok for men to treat women this way and it is never going to be ok for us to do this to men. True feminism means we are equal to stand beside them. NOT the same. NOT better, but deserving of equal pay, equal rights and equal opportunity.

I love being a woman. I’d much rather have a vagina over a penis. I love scented lotions, good books, my feminine handwriting, hair products, the very special sanctity that is female friendship and great lip gloss. I love that I have nurturing relationships with my daughter, that I cry in movies and that my shoe selection is much cuter than my husband’s. I don’t want to be a man. I want to be a woman and celebrate true womanhood. True womanhood has absolutely nothing to do with abortion. True feminism, the very essence of feminism, has nothing to do (NOTHING TO DO) with abortion.

Until we can focus on the real priorities and stop getting caught up in the details that distract us along the way, we can expect for things in this country to continue to fall apart. It doesn’t matter who our president is, if we can’t get it together and stand as a diverse community who truly loves and accepts EVERYONE, we are lost. (and by everyone, I do not mean simply the homosexual and transgendered communities, but the Christian Pro-lifers too.)

A dog’s purpose…

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You guys… I am so excited about this movie! I read the book, years ago, and loved it so much. As a dog lover, it is the sort of book that just stuck with me. The movie looks amazing, and emotional, and it seems like a healing balm for my sweet Paisley, whom I lost a few months ago. (She definitely served a purpose!)

I wanted to share the trailer with you, just in case you haven’t seen it, or are just wanting some Friday dog love!

Also, because this is super cool, if you click here, you can upload a photo of your dog and celebrate their purpose in your life! It is a wonderful, interactive way to brag on our furry loves a bit! In addition to bragging on our dogs, we can make a donation to Best Friends Animal society! Even better, for every donation, Universal is matching them up to $25,000! So not only is this a heart warming movie, but their using their film to make an awesome impact!