confession, friendship, infertility, journey, travel

My first time. {A tale of woeful regret and embarrassment}

Chw have had quite a few dreamy conversations about working towards a big backpacking trip. He’s never gone, and we both love the mountains so much. I love sharing adventures with my husband and so, with baby-steps, we work towards the possibility of it someday.

I had the really awesome opportunity of going on a week-long back packing trip deep into an Idaho mountain range, when I was 14. It was hard and I’m sure I complained a lot. As I am old, my 14-year-old self did not have the ability to take incessant selfies and photo document every single moment of the amazing trip, so I am left to rely on my memories. Tucked within those memories are some of the most beautiful things that my eyes have seen. The trail we went on, (there was a group of us. It feels like about 20, but I’d have to ask my dad to be sure.) where the ability to drive stopped. I remember really narrow and terrifying mountain side passes where, one landslide, and we’d have all died. I remember wearing black trash bags because of rain, eating astronaut food (MREs) and countless other amazing things.

It was a trip of firsts. First night in a tent. First hiking. First exploring. First real trip, ever, of any form of self resilience. First real, deep conversation with a peer. First time wearing a tampon…

Yes. You read that right. It might seem like an odd first to remember, but as with most things- there is more to the story.

When you go on backpacking excursions, you are obviously pretty limited on what you can bring. Looking back, I’m thinking we must have camped for a week, and so the hiking in and hiking out may have accumulated an additional week. At any rate, we girls had to be prepared. In my packing list had been tampons, and I’d brought them obediently. I mean, I knew I would not need them… But then I did. And I had no idea what to do, at all. The group home I resided in, (because, if you remember, the dad I refer to was technically my foster/house dad) had a closet full of donated items, and among those items were some outdated, generic tampons. My plastic wrapped items had no instruction. I asked the only other teen girl on our trip and she quickly tutored me through what to do, and off I went, into the woods to do it.

But the translation or something went terribly wrong. Terribly wrong. Walking back to camp took ten times longer and the pain grew more and more excruciating. The tears were not at all exaggerated and I had no idea how to deal with it. Eventually the trauma had me double over, in agony, in the tent I was sharing with my faithful friend and feminine hygiene tutor. We tried problem solving but eventually she either grew frustrated, scared (or most likely a combination of both) and went to seek out our female staff on the trip. Her name is Carol. (I LOVE Carol. It is a small list of truly amazing women I’ve encountered over my life, and Carol is at the top of the list. The important thing to note, at this point in the story, however, is that I had not ever really interacted with Carol before.)

Carol, poor-poor sweet Carol had to dig out the horrible little cotton object, from deep within the depths of my blossoming womanhood. She then had to replace it with another cotton foreign object. She was reassuring, while I was beyond mortified. She was so sweet and exclaimed several times, “I have no idea how this happened. I have never heard of anything like it.”

Several years later, as a 17-year-old and out on my own, I decided buy a box of regular, pink wrapped tampons. While bored, one afternoon, I read the little accompanying pamphlet. In the back of said booklet were a few Q & A’s. Right at about the middle of the list read this:

Can my tampon get lost inside of me? I am living proof that their response was a lie. And I can tell you this resolutely because it happened one other time, with far worse repercussions, but that is best as a story for another time. (and probably NOT on this blog.)

adoption, beautiful, chronic illness, confession, entertainment, family, fibro, food, friendship, gratitude, home, infertility, journey, Lately, marriage, parties

Consider it an invitation…

I love Jesus.

I am pretty ok with that, and I hope that you are too. If you aren’t, just know I am ok with that too. My loving Jesus isn’t about you at all, it is about me. It’s about my heart, my life, my choices, my journey, and a lot of other large and small things which add up to equal my faith.

I cautiously consider myself a Christian. I say cautiously because, honestly, at least in America (and some perceptions of American Christianity) the name has gained a bit of a rough reputation.

My pastor spent Sunday morning talking about Detroit. This looked a little like a history lesson. It involved political bits, heart bits, hard truths and a bunch of other uncomfortable and completely relevant things which together equalled a pretty amazing talk. He challenged us to be honest with ourselves about the walls we build. Initially the topic came up because Detroit was once known to have a dividing wall. I guess pieces of this wall still exist. This wall was raised to literally divide the African-Americans and the Whites. Though the wall isn’t technically much of a thing anymore, Detroit is still ranked as the most segregated city in America. I live in the metro part of this amazing city and I have to say this announcement shocked me. Our church alone, (granted, it’s a pretty huge church) likely has multiple people from most nations, in attendance. Our neighborhood actually has a dozen flag poles sporting flags from 12 different nations because we are such a diverse little community. Then again, this is the metro area, and not Detroit itself.

He illustrated his point by having several people from different countries approach the front of the church. They looked at each other, chatted some, laughed a little and then affirmed “there are no more walls between us.” I’ll admit it- it was emotional and I totally teared up. After this, he had fans of rivaling college teams do the same thing. It was funny and laughs were had, but when he sobered and asked us what walls we put up, I was challenged. I am pretty accepting. I don’t shy away from anyone really. I love meeting people and things that are different don’t scare me. Since that service, I’ve thought a lot about this. There are off-putting things, about me, which likely cause others to put up a wall between us. Despite losing 130 lbs, I am still overweight. I have a lazy eye. I was separated from my husband for 6 months (an issue that many fellow Christians we know can’t seem to get past.) in fact, here is a list of things which have caused people I’ve known to distance themselves from me…

I voted for Hillary.

I have a diverse taste of music.

I don’t support people who discriminate against ANYONE and using their religion as an excuse.

I worked as a film critic for years.

I drink.

As a photographer I have done many boudoir sessions.

I am an adoptive parent.

I struggled with infertility.

I am pro-choice and hate abortion.

I was sexually abused.

I hate porn and believe it decomposes a person’s ability to have healthy self image/relationships/etc.

I am a feminist.

I believe in marriage.

I support equality.

I do not believe men and women are equal. I am different from my husband and my brother. I am not better, but different. I don’t want to be like them.

I do believe men and women should have equal rights, DO HAVE equal worth and value.

I love Jesus.

I will never “shove Jesus down your throat” or preach at you.

I am a person and so each of these things make up a piece of my story… Each of these things has a story and reason for it’s position in my life.

I will not bother/hurt/offend me if your stories are different and your beliefs do not match mine.

 

If you know me, you know that I am a party planner. Best of all are dinner parties. LOVE THEM. Upon moving back to Michigan in 2013, my party opportunities are limited, and this makes me a little sad. After that sermon though, I got to imagining a dinner party. What if we had a lovely homosexual couple over for dinner. What if, in addition to them, we had an African-American couple, a middle eastern couple and a few other diverse additions? Other than the likely fact that we would have some really interesting and unpredictable conversation, what would we have?

A dinner party.

That is literally it. It would not be an experiment. It would not be a meeting. It would not be anything other than a group of people getting together to share a meal and converse. Obviously we would all have SOMETHING in common, or the dinner party wouldn’t exist in the first place. (hence the interesting and unpredictable conversation)

I really wish this dinner party were happening. Do you know why? Because I am seriously lonely and want to host a lovely little dinner party. (That’s the only reason actually. Maybe you should come for dinner…)

When it comes to a different race, or a different class, or a different religion, I am unruffled. None of these things will hinder me from approaching someone, or befriending them, or responding to them if they approach me. The one thing that may honestly hinder me is the fact that I am a total introvert and often have much better intentions than follow through, and I get a little insecure. While I want to approach someone, those things I first mentioned (overweight, lazy eye, etc.) become the wall I throw up to save my ass from someone else’s rejection.

Recently I had the opportunity to get to know a small group of women. One of the women I shallowly pegged immediately as a little stuck up and clearly she had it all together. She was thin and honestly, gorgeous. As time progressed though, it became surprisingly obvious that this beautiful woman and I had far more in common that anyone else in the group. Ironically the fat girl with the lazy eye and the drop dead gorgeous and in shape woman became friends. Is that how she saw me? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I threw up a wall with my initial assessment, and what I assumed would be hers… Thankfully that wall became a gate and now it is gone completely. My point is, when pastor Bob challenged us to find our walls and why we build them, this friend instantly popped in my head. I could have missed out on so much because I jumped to conclusions. I don’t do that as a habit, but I don’t want to do it ever. I want to be better, with others and with myself.

I want to have dinner party after dinner party where my table is filled with people who contribute to great conversation, people who enjoy food and maybe an occasional game or glass of wine. Beyond that, while I don’t want to be blind to their differences, I do want to understand and appreciate them for the unique people they are. (whoever they will be)

 

 

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…

adoption, confession, gratitude, infertility, journey, parenting, rant

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.)