adoption, beautiful, birthday, confession, family, gifts, gratitude, holiday, infertility, journey, marriage, parenting

17/14 vision…

Seventeen years ago, three very fragile and amazingly resilient children asked me to be their mother. Being a lover of birthdays, I remember this clearly, in that mildew scented cafeteria, because it was my grandmother’s birthday. I am also, I’ll admit, a sucker for symbolism. After seven miscarriages and a failed adoption, wasn’t the very fact that it was ON my grandmother’s birthday exact proof that this was a good sign?

I know, I know. At 24, I should have been much wiser than that. The thing was, however, I loved those kids incredibly. I had not taken the job in that group home in an effort to shop for children. (A phrase my older daughter, at least, will find bitter twinged amusement in.) I had accepted the position because I needed to stand on my own and because I loved kids and was really great at my job.

I had developed various sorts of close relationships with various kids who were growing up there. Some souls simply click, but with these three it was different. The first confirmation, of the miraculous element, for me had been when I developed special relationships and felt drawn to each of them before I was really aware that they were actual siblings. The three were not particularly close to each other, and in settings like that you often have kids refer to other kids as siblings, when they aren’t. When I learned, a couple of weeks in to my tenure, that they were biological siblings I realized that pull had made divine sense.

I had not been expecting the request, when they came together to ask it of me. I was, at 24, far too immature to understand the gravity of how difficult that must have been for them, considering their journey thus far, in life. My co-worker was sitting with me and she squealed a little and remarked “this is perfect! You and those three are a beautiful combination and seeing you all together makes life make sense!”

That journey towards them was not an easy one. There was much standing in the way and honestly, at 24, if I had known exactly what the heart fight would look like, I might have run away screaming. Thank God, I didn’t. I was witness to very abusive manipulations, over the years, and a control battle over those precious spirits, that still (in recollection) makes my skin crawl. Though our journey as a family has not been at all how I would have designed it, the outcome is a familial connection that I would not trade for the world. The journey was long, and eventually one of the three found parents who were closer and a better fit. I always understood, and grieved, and in the end came to peace with the fact that I love her just the same, no matter what…

~~~

Fourteen years ago, I was approached to be the mother of a broken little four-year old girl. It was a decision that we made within a few hours, even though I found myself weather worn from my other mother-journal-struggle. (which at this point, was still going strong) My fear was that we would grow to love this tender little child and then lose her, down the road. The once-again-symbolism of my grandmother’s birthday being near, and what the journey with those three beautiful kids had been like, were not lost on me.

You see, the feared possibility was not completely unfounded. We had been the soon-to-be adoptive parents of twin girls, once upon a time. Our ten months with them were that sort of chapter where every day felt a little like this is what my soul has been waiting for, finally I am complete. Then, due to a technicality regarding a gun, an arrest method and a court loophole, they were returned to the stranger that was their mother, leaving my arms empty and my heart officially shattered…

Two days after being asked, we drove out to pick up our daughter. It was a sunny September Sunday afternoon, and I had made sure to call my grandmother, on the way over, to wish her a happy birthday. The sunshine easily acted like a promise that this time, this time motherhood might not hurt as bad, and may not end with empty arms. This little girl was a gift, but she was also a daily reminder that there were no guarantees. For a very long time I walked the tightrope of guarding my heart and that same heart diving headfirst into the sea of her child-spirit. Tens upon tens of thousands of dollars later, (and sadly a nine-year court battle which always seemed to play out more uphill than down, until we one day found it over) she was legally ours. Throughout this time, there were sadly moments when this growing girl would be used, as a pawn, to hurt our older kids. It was a sick and a meant-for-tragedy thing, and miraculously it never worked. Seeds meant to sow resentment, simply sowed love.

~~~

My beautiful, (now in heaven) grandmother’s birthday has born to me, motherhood. She was such a strong woman who held a family together in ways which I could never replicate, all the while her birthday knit together another branch of her own. My motherhood journey has been anything but traditional. Just the same, I am the mom to some of the most extraordinary humans I have ever known.

For the first time since that timid little seventeen year old request for my motherhood was asked, I am spending this day alone. In the past I have either been with my husband, visiting my kids, becoming a mom again, just with one kid, two kids, or the best of times- all three. One year we were recovering from the wedding, the day before, of my older daughter. One year we went to the Lion King on Broadway, on other we sat around eating chocolate fondue and making silly home movies for my husband because he couldn’t be with us. Somehow the day has always been special, playing out as its own sort of character within our family and lives. (fun bonus fact, my son married a beautiful girl, whom I adore, whose birthday is the day AFTER this little anniversary of ours. Attraction truly is a spiritual thing.)

This year my husband is 8,000 miles and 16 hours away. My son is in the far corners of the country doing his part to keep our nation safe. My older daughter on her own motherhood journey, waking from ringing in her own anniversary- marriage. My younger daughter, the sweet little four-year old of fourteen years ago, is on a dark and prodigal journey that this mmama heart of mine hopes will not last forever, but worries about the consequential scarring that may happen along the way. My family is a lesson to me that fighting for those whom your soul loves, is primal at best and always vital. The journey will never be scripted the way that your heart hopes, but the outcome of love will always be worth it- even when things don’t go your way.

Happy birthday, Grandma…

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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!

birthday, entertainment, gifts, gratitude, holiday, home, infertility, journey, marriage, music

Forty one…

When I was 23 I fell in love with the Dave Matthews Band. As a child and teenager I had often got caught up in the way music felt, and how it made me feel. I was led to believe this was a teen thing, and I’d grow out of it, so I did. In the years between 16 and 23, I followed music trends over content and struggled with the focal point areas of my life, such as marriage and my desperate need to have a baby when all that continued to happen was miscarriage.

Then, I really heard the DMB. Not the first couple of songs that hit the mainstream radio market, because let’s face it- that is NEVER the best tracks a band has to offer. I was given the cd of Crash, by a friend. It sat in my cd rack (that’s taking it WAY back) for months, and then one night I was sitting on the floor amidst my swirling, out-of-control life and I decided to pop the disc in.

It literally changed my life.

Nearly every song reached and then fed a place deep inside of me, which had been dormant for a long, long time. This album would walk beside me through my husband’s affair, through divorce, through an uncomfortable relationship (ie: catfish, BEFORE catfishing was a thing), becoming a mom, reconciliation in my marriage, and so much more. It would see me through the start of beautiful friendships, (it was our mutual love of Dave which first connected my beautiful friend Laura and I, and she is one of my most dear, going on 17 years!) and the necessary end of others. Whenever I still hear the song #41 my heart soars in a way that nothing else can cause. It is fair to say that, since I was 23, this has been my absolute favorite song, above all others. If my life were a movie, or tv show, this song would play a lot. In fact, I would imagine that the instrumental version would be known as Misty’s theme, on the soundtrack. (sidenote: if you have never, ever heard this song, do yourself a favor. Go listen to it. Take a quiet 6 min and 39 seconds and really listen, to the words, the music…) Fun little bunny trail, when I saw DMB the first time, I was so bummed they didn’t do #41, but it was such an awesome show and I had waited to long to finally see them, that the good outweighed the bad. When I saw them the second time, they again didn’t play it, and so I was a little more sad. When I saw them the third time, with my best friend and my husband it was an amazing experience. There I sat between two of my most dear, and DMB played my song. I literally sobbed, it was such a perfect moment. Also: this is the ONLY time I have sobbed at a show.

Yesterday I turned 41. I can say, without any question, that the last few years of the journey to this birthday have been the hardest. Since right before my birthday, 2012, my life has seemed to go downhill a little more with each passing month. For a good bit of those 5 years, I wasn’t really learning or absorbing anything. Instead I found myself praying that it would just get better, that peace could come for at least a little while, and then I simply pretended like everything was ok. My life fell completely apart when I was 39. I found myself in all of the bad places I had feared I would end up (homeless, alone, unwanted and unloveable by the people I desperately wanted to want and love me) and I was ok. I was finding a way that I didn’t know was possible, and though life was not quite what I wanted, i was ok. The bottom wasn’t as unbearable as I had always imagined. (that being said, I do not EVER want to go back to that place)

As a girl who has always struggled with her birthday, the absolute worst was my fortieth. It was a living nightmare and as yesterday came closer, I found myself worrying about it. Then I remembered what last year taught me, (well, one of the trillions of things) it really was up to me to spend my birthday how I wanted. One’s celebration is NOT a reflection of their worth in the eyes of others. Just because I love the birthdays of people I love and celebrate them as thoughtfully as I can, it DOES NOT mean anything if I have to plan my own. So I did.

I bought a birthday cupcake package of the classic illustration of Alice in Wonderland, because I love it so much. I then baked two types of cupcakes (vanilla filled with lemon curd and chocolate filled with blackberry buttercream) and then did not even eat one. Gen had a couple and the rest were delivered to others. I loved it! It was so much fun and something I plan on making an annual tradition! I opted for sparkling moscato with my birthday cake, over the traditional ice cream. I spent the morning having a fun little Twin Peaks inspired breakfast and then retreated to my favorite coffee place, with a book. In the afternoon Gen and I caught a movie (which turned out to be the very best movie for yesterday, The Last Word ) After that, I took Chw as my plus one, to a press screening in Detroit and we had a really great evening. Met some really cool people, were forced to interact with an unsavory few and had an amazing dinner of Indian food. All in all, it was a perfect day. It was busy, but simple, which was perfect! Honestly it may have been my best birthday ever and this was completely because of me.

This morning I woke in the same way I do every single morning. I laid there, grabbed my phone and looked around at various things. As I lay there I questioned if I could go back to sleep, or if I should get up. I really didn’t want to get up. Knightley whined a bit and I groaned. Apparently the first morning at 41 would be exactly like the mornings at 40. Before disappointment crept in I told myself that it didn’t have to be that way, and I got up. I played with the puppy after his breakfast, I broke out my macbook and wrote a little. I drank my coffee and opened a window. It’s chilly out, but a little perfect. I started some laundry and mapped out my day.

What does 41 look like? I don’t know, but it is up to me to decide. I can tell you one thing, #41 sounds even better today than ever before. Here’s to the year of my favorite song!

adoption, beautiful, birthday, confession, family, food, gratitude, infertility, journey

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…