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.)

intent & loving…

Happy Friday!

Things have been fairly quiet around here. Turning 41 and having my youngest turn 18 has been serious business. Add to that my 23rd wedding anniversary and WOW, busy busy. Plus the fact that I spent the upwards of twenty days with an upper respiratory infection. Thankfully Gen contracted whatever nasty virus I had, but in her it seemed to only live a day or two. Chw, thus far, is in stellar health. Minus being a little sleep deprived from sweet Mr. Knightley, we are doing pretty grand.

I have been thinking, over the past few days, about wanting to blog and connect with you a little bit, but perhaps it’s the combination sleep deprivation, our blustery weather outside and just beginning to feel human again, which had me unsure of what to write. Then, this morning, as I was making a small pot of tea- it hit me…

As of late, I have stumbled upon a few things I am really loving. Some have been at the suggestion of friends, some have been by chance and I wanted to share them with you.

  • I love tea. I have likely always loved tea, but sometimes I just get a little forgetful of how much I truly love tea. Then, I wind up being invited to tea somewhere and my love is rekindled. This past weekend I was introduced to a tea flavor by Harney & Sons named Paris. I have to preface the furthering of this subject with a confession. I pretty much detest bagged tea. I am a loose-leaf girl, all the way, for a variety of reasons. My only exception is Harney & Sons. I went to tea on Saturday and this flavor sounded interesting. (don’t get me started on how caught off guard I was that a tea house used bagged tea, because I will come across as a total tea snob and I really am not. I promise) This flavor is AMAZING! I immediately purchased a tin of Paris because- DIVINE.
  • Last night for dinner, I tried this recipe. While I did a couple of things differently, I have to be honest- it was DELICIOUS!
  • My friend Jen told me about the book Big Girls Do It Running. I really enjoy it because, for the most part, I find the Author’s story and approach really relatable. I am inspired to give carb cycling a try.
  • We really don’t watch a lot of TV. Occasionally Gen and I get caught up watching entire series (Currently it is 90210. The girl has a healthy obsession with the 90’s… I am so proud!) There really isn’t much that all three of us really enjoy together, but this new sitcom on NBC called Trial & Error is one we adore. So funny, we LOVE it.
  • I am not sure how familiar you are with Essential Oils. I Swear by them! Over the past few months my dear friend Debbie has turned me on to a few products (that go a bit beyond Essential Oils) that have literally changed my life. They are both in this brand, the ON Guard line. One is the throat drops. While I was sick, these made an amazing difference! Two is the toothpaste. Listen for a moment, this toothpaste, after just ONE use, became something truly special for the three of us, as well as my older daughter and her family. Amazing does not begin to cover it. (I already loved the hand soap, all-purpose cleaner and oil itself.) I am honestly not trying to sell you, just sharing what I love and am willing to elaborate if asked! :)
  • Word searches… No, I am not joking. a couple of months ago I picked up a pretty little Word Search book at Barnes & Noble. (who knew they could be cute and pretty???) I used to love them, was giving up most phone apps (time wasters) for Lent and decided to use this as a substitution. Talk about rekindling a love! For my birthday I received another pretty Word Search book and my spare moments often include doing a quick WS puzzle.
  • Our pet store (which is awesome) told us about these teething rings. They promised a life saver, and they weren’t kidding. Knightley loves them. (he loves chewing on toes, feet, fingers, chins and any other visible flesh more, but these serve as a good distraction!)
  • I received a bag of this coffee, as a gift. You guys, if you are wanting an indulgent weekend coffee, this is the one for you. It is amazing. It is too decadent to drink every day, but it is absolutely our new weekend treat!
  • Rising well before the sun. Having a chronic illness has made early mornings, over the past few years, a struggle. I won’t pretend something changed, because it hasn’t. Because of Knightley, early mornings are a necessity and I have been using that time in more intentionally positive ways. I make a homemade breakfast for my family, play with the puppy, read a little. Whatever I need to do to think less about how crummy and sore I feel, and more about the people I love. It’s not always that easy, but I have seen it shaping my days/week a little differently.
  • If you pay any attention to me at all, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of face masks and skin care. I stumbled upon this mask, and what I loved about it were the ingredients and the price. I used it this past Monday (while sipping my Godiva coffee) and it was heavenly. Five days later and my skin is still amazing. (plus, you guys, we went to dinner for our anniversary and the entire staff REFUSED to believe that we’d been married 23 years and that our youngest was 18. There is really something to be said about an intentional and healthy skin care regimen!)

I am always interested in book, show, music and product recommendations! What are you loving lately??? PLEASE SHARE!

Her Children Will Rise and Call Her…

Decades ago there was a woman who identified herself as wife and mother. She had a heart for Jesus, and this would come to sustain her more than she may ever have imagined. It is easy, in such a role, to find yourself in the details of sack lunches, ironing shirts and after work embraces, greeting your husband at the end of his day. When her husband found himself unfaithful and interested in a life & family with someone else, leaving her and her four daughters, it may have been hard to imagine herself at all- for a minute…

These days this scenario is almost expected, and there are programs and plans to help. Decades ago, this was not the case. To be the left, carrying the load, well- I can only imagine she endured judgement and bigotry at times, at the hands of others maybe so trapped in their fear. An absent husband/father and the either compassion or disapproval of others will not put food in your daughters’ bellies, so this beautiful woman had no choice.

She rose.

In an era where men were still handed most opportunities, she marched into a bank and offered them herself. She presented herself with such honesty: this would be her first job, she was an abandoned single mom, she knew she would work hard, and she did. Many years later she would retire from that very same bank. Times were so different then that, truthfully, we may have a tough time even understanding how isolating and brave this all had to have been. While her friends were lunching and sharing in each others lives, this beautiful soul would miss class parties and the like, just to keep power on in her very modest apartment. These days single motherhood is such a thing, and working mothers are very common, but this story is more. Even though single motherhood and working motherhood are among the most common elements of todays society, the fact that this woman’s life fell utterly apart and she rose in the morning, rising to give her daughter’s life. Rising to create a life that was so full of something bigger than any dollar could buy.

Rising up and moving past is not something common these days either, but maybe that has never really been on trend…

Beyond that, any of us who have been parents for any point in time know that parenthood is hard. So hard, and going at it alone only multiplies that. This incredible woman raised four incredible women. Women who went on to raise incredible kids. While no one is perfect, these 5 women have set the standard for keeping family at the center of the vitalist of priorities, also in a time when family grows less and less important.

There is not a person out there who could not learn something life affirming from knowing these girls or their mother. These days, most of girls themselves find themselves grandmothers. Their family has seen illness, loss, struggle, death and heartbreak. The tragedy which altered their world at the start of this story did not cripple or eternally victimize these five women, though it could have. It did not create an opportunity for them to settle down and live off of charity. It did not inspire deep, life long rebellion and acting out. Did it devastate them? yes. This woman, whom I admire beyond words, worked hard every day for her family.  In rising above and with such courage, she planted the seeds which would grow what was necessary, in her daughters, to stand throughout the heartaches and struggles they would face. She fought hard, for her family. She prayed hard, for her family. She was in the trenches for these girls, without ceasing. What began as clothes on their bodies and heat in their home continued through dating, marriage, childbirth, some divorce, heartbreak, health problems and even burying one of her own beautiful daughters. She still stands strong for these girls and their children, and their children’s children. Having known this beautiful soul since I was sixteen, I have to believe that if we are earning “jewels in our crown”, in heaven, for the beautiful things we do on this earth, this woman is going to have a castle filled to the brim with jeweled crowns.

Her daughters continue her legacy, rising up and fighting for the ones they love. They are united, kind and supportive and their children have become this as well. Among them is so much success, many geographical locations and, at the core of everything, family.

When I was challenged to write about a woman, a heroine, whom I have known in life who has gone above and beyond, sacrificed and inspired, there was no one else I could imagine. I met this soul when I was sixteen, visiting her tiny apartment with her granddaughter, who was my friend. I had no idea the ways that this woman would be so important in my life. She has stood beside and fought for me more than any one I’ve had. She is tiny in stature and fierce in heart, even so much as going up against my husband 18 years ago for his own adultery and abandonment. There she stood, taking him on and this man of 5′ 11″ towered over this tiny little woman and yet the only thing he was feeling was terrified. She, one of her amazing daughters (who would become my mentor and one of my dearest friends) and her own mother made three of four people who attended my wedding shower, when the world I’d lived in had all but thrown me away. I have recovered from miscarriage in her home, cried on her shoulder, prayed beside her and had so much loving conversation.

Any popular story I hear about people moving great obstacles to accomplish bold things simply does not hold a candle to her, in my book. What she had to do (and really, when she had to do it) combined with how her own daughters turned into loving mothers, fierce advocates for their family, and wild supporters of others- that is everything right there. She is a heroine with an amazing heroic legacy.

There is a film releasing on the 31st called The Zoo Keeper’s Wife. (It is based on the novel of the same title, and you can see the trailer here.) It is the story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński, a Christian couple who save and house hundreds of Jews during WWII. This not only an inspiring and life affirming story of heroism and faithfulness, but in a time such as this, it is a necessary story of humanity tearing down the walls of religion to help others, regardless of theirs. 

The world is scattered with brave souls, their beauty and their stories there for us to learn from and do with. I am so blessed by knowing this beautiful woman who I have shared with you. Who would you have written about? I would love for you to share. On the 31st, at 12:00 a.m., I will choose a winner (at random) to receive a $25 Fandango card… (comment additionally if you tweet or FB share to be granted extra entires.)

To do…

Winter came out of nowhere and slammed Michigan over the weekend. I am sitting in an apartment that I will finally admit we pay way too much for, when our water is disgusting and we freeze with the weather outside. We will not be renewing our lease here for a variance of reasons, but I can understand why people do… Apartment hunting is no fun anywhere but this area is a joke. The income is not high enough here to charge the rates they do. We found a lovely option, over the weekend. If only it were about $300 less a month and with a deposit half that size.

Geez, adulting is tough.

Ideally I am mentally putting a plea out there for someone, in the right location, to have a lovely little condo they will rent for a reasonable rate. Thus far my mental plea is going unanswered.

In other news, I started out the year with a long list of fun things that I wanted to learn how to do, or get better at. Here we are, mid march and I have only managed to learn that my body will not tolerate most medications, and that we pay too much for our apartment. These weren’t exactly the things I had in mind.

I have wanted to be a cupcake baker extraordinaire for years. To date I have attempted this process three legitimate times. It was fun. It was delicious. The problem? I’m not sure. Gen and I have been watching the Great British Bakeoff on Netflix and my baking bug has hit, hardcore. The issue is that I have a horribly unworkable kitchen in my incredibly overpriced apartment. At least eleven times Gen and I have said “oh, I want to bake ________, we should totally do it!” Only to then venture in to our “kitchen”  and assess our less than 1″ of workable space. Yep, it is  sad day when contestants on a baking competition have a better kitchen in their tiny strip of space, than we have. In all fairness (and hindsight) our apartment is made for foreigners here on business, with infinite bank accounts, so you can kind of understand, I guess.

So yeah… in thirteen days I celebrate my birthday. One month ago I romantically answered Maybe i will make a dinner of homemade gnocchi* and cute little Alice in Wonderland cupcakes**! When asked what I wanted to do on my birthday. (*I have never made gnocchi from scratch so this seems like a really stupid idea, as the 28th approaches. Especially considering the kitchen I have.) (**no. I later ammended that I really love Whole Foods coconut lemon cake. Like REALLY love it.)

In case you missed it, Gnocchi is also on my list of things to learn/master. I aim small.

While watching the Great British Bake Off I have lengthened my list a bit, (which ironically was a 2017 goal list, so my time table has shortened.) I would love to make a beautiful braided loaf of bread, master pies (sweet pies, no meat pies here) and wrap some poached pears in swirly dough… Of course, the afore mentioned kitchen may be an issue. Also, re: the pears- the bakers did say it was the worst, so I may scratch that from the list. (which also means rewriting the entire list because the flawed “scratch off” list would be below my highly ambitious standards.) (Perhaps in the new list I should head it “Things to learn and master before I am 50”, which would, obviously, make my 49th year of life incredibly busy…)

I guess the moral of this diatribe is that I need to be a little more honest with myself and my limits. Keep sight of my goals, but honestly accept that I can’t do everything. Some days I can’t do anything. Currently I can’t become an amazing baker and gnocchi maker, and that’s ok.

If I can just manage to find a decent rental I’ll consider it good. :)

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…