October 30, 2012

Man Cannot Live on Potatoes Alone

Tomorrow is Halloween.  This is usually the day that I am dreading.  I never know how I am going to feel or what I will want to do, so I dread making plans that I will feel I have to keep.  I spend the week (or two) before Halloween pouring myself into making homemade costumes, like these:

Jesse from Toy Story 2

Daniel Son and Capatin Awesomehook 

Two Cupcakes and a Candle 

A Chick hatching out of an egg, Jesse, Al from Al's Toy Barn and Lebron James

Prince Moustachio

This is how I spend shameless amounts of time, distracting myself from the pain of the anniversary of my brother's death, and focusing on the fun and silliness of the day instead.  This year, all four kids are going to be Santa Claus.  How about that for all your pagan rituals knocked out in one??  Take that legalism.

Anyways, I asked Harper what I should do for my act of kindness when I was sitting knee deep in Santa Fur and red felt... and he said "I don't know, maybe you could make four Santa costumes for us?"  

So, let us count that as kindness #1: handmade Santa costumes for the children... complete with beards, spectacles (thanks Aunt Carlie for making those!), and fur-trimmed toy sacks which double as candy bags.  I might count this as a kindness to all of mankind again tomorrow when I post the picture.  Trust me when I tell you that there is nothing better than four Santas of varying sizes, genders and skin tones.  

Kindness #2: I agreed to start driving a little girl to and from ballet twice a week.  Her mother has work conflicts and would no longer be able to do ballet if someone couldn't take her back and forth.  This might be one of the most challenging and sacrificial Acts of Kindness I have done so far.  It is a mad scramble to get to ballet on time as it is... 

My original Kindness #3 will be postponed until tomorrow because Tom feared for my safety and forbid me from this late-night kindness and instead forced me to commit...

Kindness #4: delivering Indian food to a bachelor down the street who had only eaten potatoes for dinner.

Okay, Tom didn't force me.  I tried to force him, and he wouldn't cave so I delivered some of the dinner that I made, plus a refreshing beverage.  The neighbor seemed very excited and said I was awesome.  Tom coulda been a part of all that... but, he just hates kindness, and bachelors, and he wishes all-potato dinners on everyone he sees.

As for me, I am finding myself dreading Halloween a little less than normal.  It has been a totally different experience using the whole month to really think about Adam in a positive way.  I think that October will start to feel less and less about the anniversary of my brother's death, and more about the month where I serve others intentionally because that is who my brother was, and that is who God requires me to be.  

October 29, 2012

I Hope Sandy's Hungry

Today was a potpourri of kindnesses.  

Kindness #1: I left my purse at church on Sunday and it was rescued by the children's ministry director and his wife, so I thanked him when I went to church to retrieve my purse by bringing him a thermos full of hot, spiced cider.  

Problem #1: His wife was really the heroin of the purse, so I probably cider-gifted the wrong person.
Problem #2: When the kids discovered that I had given the rest of the spiced cider to Mr. Matt, they made it clear that they were ready to be done giving our treats away to other people to be kind.  

Kindness #2: I bought a few extra stamps to leave with the cashier at the post office for other customers who need stamps.

Kindness #3: I bought a snickers for the checkout lady at the grocery store.

Problem #3:  All my little extras have started adding up... I should have budgeted for a kindness expense account so that we can stop hovering just above the poverty line.

Kindness #4:  I gathered and returned people's grocery carts for them so they could get out of the rain as soon as they loaded their groceries into their cars.

Problem #4:  People were bulking up on staples in preparation for power outages, so that meant a lot of standing in the rain waiting for their carts.  This made them slightly uncomfortable, and put me at moderate risk of hypothermia.  

Kindness #5: I brought a meal and a few basics (well, carrot cake isn't technically a basic, unless you have taste buds...) to a man who recently lost his wife.  He is living alone and his daughter is very near and dear to my heart, but she lives out of state.  So, a little extra love and care from me, is like a little love and care from her.  So, I think he was blessed by my delivery.

Problem #5:  This man was not at home, so I had to leave the items on his porch.  Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal, if it weren't for...

Problem #6: Hurricane Sandy.

I know people always say that it is the thought that counts, but sometimes it is actually eating the dinner that counts.  "What!? You're dinner blew away entirely!?  Oh... well, it's the thought that counts."  Nobody would ever say that because it's so stupid.  So, I am hoping that his dinner survived.

I quintupled up on Acts of Kindness partly because I am nearing the end of this month, and I want to get in as much as I can while I am this focused and intentional about doing it... but also because it has become a habit.  I don't know if I can ever go through the grocery check-out and chose to not spring for the extra 70 cents to make someone's day.  It is just becoming a way of life... which is really bad news for my kids who think that in a few days I will stop giving away all our candy.

Okay, readers, followers, friends... I have a favor to ask.  I am in a blogging groove with my daily posts, and many of you have asked me what I am going to do in November. The answer... surprise! I have no idea.  So, tell me this... what would YOU like to see me do for the month of November?  Place your votes in a comment below or on facebook or through an email or private message.  Send me a telegram if you must... but I need input!  I want to keep going because I have so enjoyed sharing this journey with so many of you, it's about time you people helped me carry all this baggage! ;)  

October 28, 2012

A Face-Off With Injustice

One time, I threatened to beat the crap out of a tween.  

True story, and it actually wasn't that long ago.  There were a couple of tweens who were babysitting for one of the girl's nephews and they were terrorizing the poor kid at a playground.  The girl was about 12-13 years old and the little boy was probably 2 1/2 or 3.  (Just about the age of my little London...)

The girls were using horrific language, include racial slurs, and were forcing the poor baby down a big slide... one of those tall, dark, corkscrewing tube slides, and he was terrified.  He was gripping the top of the slide like his life depended on it, screaming and crying, and the girls were just laughing at him and they were using their feet to try to push him down the slide.  Something in me absolutely snapped. 

I am not saying that this is how I should have handled it, but I walked over there and let 'er rip.  I told this girl that she had absolutely no business spending time with her nephew if she is going to treat him like that.  I asked them if they felt pretty big and bad because they could make a toddler cry.  I called them miserable bullies and then I said that if I was that boy's mother that I would tear their faces off, and if I hear them use the N-word one more time in front of my children, that I actually will tear their faces off.

I can't say with 100% certainty, but I am about 95% sure that I committed a crime during all the threatening and the flailing.  (Oh, did you not picture flailing?  Trust me, these gangly arms went buck nutty.  I don't think it helped my street cred, but I think I was subconsciously implementing a strategy I learned from camping in bear country... if you stumble upon a dangerous beast, make yourself appear as large as possible.  So, when threatened, I flail a little.)  

I don't know if the girls were scared or embarrassed or if they were just plain stunned by this interaction with a total wild woman, but they left pretty quickly after that and waited until they were a half mile away, before they started yelling their comebacks at me.   By that time I had already returned to my also-stunned family eating dinner, and tried to explain why Mommy was "talking a little rough and rudely to the strangers."

I sort of think this is a metaphor for my whole life.  I am not a person to sit on the sidelines, or to watch something go down that I don't think is right.  I am just one of those people who is going to speak up or speak out.  Trust me when I tell you that I am not bragging... clearly I don't handle situations correctly all the time!!  But, I can't not try.  There is just something inside of me that longs for justice and for peace.

I was reminded today from an old friend of my brother's how his death left so many young people with the devastating realization that in this world, there is rarely justice.  This led to a huge march and a petition with thousands of signatures, all calling out for justice.  We wore t-shirts and carried a banner donning the slogan "No Justice, No Peace."  These words lit a fire in me then, and now, when things like this happen, and there is a victim who cannot speak for himself, I simply cannot help but speak from him.  

Though I do not speak as politely as I should - I am working on that, I truly am.  I wish that I could have gone to those girls calmly, with my arms staying down at my sides, and said to them "Ladies, I know that you probably lack parental guidance and maybe you were treated like this when you were little... but, what you are doing to this little boy is not right, and it wasn't right when people treated you like that either.  Come now, let us hug it out and I shall retrain you on all the ways of behaving nicely at the playground."  I want to be cool and calm and have superb control over my limbs at all times. But, even if I blow it sometimes, this thing in me, this mama-bear alarm that erupts in me at the sight of the helpless, is one of the few qualities about myself that I love.

The reality is that I am a work in progress and that I blow it, yes, but I have never regretted standing up for what I believe in.  I have never regretted helping the underdog, trying to break up a fight, or to protect someone who is defenseless.  I don't always handle it the right way, in fact I am sure I handle it poorly most of the time, but the actual drive inside of me to respond at all in a world that is sometimes so silent, is a gift from the God who created me for a purpose.  

I spent a few hours on the phone with Adam's best friend earlier this month.  He walked me through moment by moment the night that Adam was killed.  He answered a lot of questions that I didn't even realize that I had.  It was a painful conversation, but it was also a relief in a way.  I could stop wondering about what happened to my brother that night, because every time I did... my victim alarm would sound so loudly it was deafening.  My desire for justice will never be satisfied in the case of my brother's death, but I can honestly say that I think maybe we were wrong about our slogan.  I think that peace doesn't come from justice at all... perhaps peace can only come from grace.

I might be wrong, but I have found that in this past month of extending kindness in the memory of my brother, and living in light of all of the beautiful graces God has shown me... I have had more peace than if I were still in the fight for justice.  In my opinion, the man who killed my brother could have gone to jail for the rest of his life, and he would have gotten what he deserved.  Justice would have been served, but I don't think that would bring my parents anymore peace in the loss of their only son.

I am finding that true and lasting peace only comes from living in light of and in response to the Greatest Act of Kindness that a very just and gracious God extended to me, through the loss of His only Son.

Day 28: We returned our library books with this attached to it.  Sometimes speaking up for the underdog means threatening to tear the face off of a bully, and sometimes it means encouraging a librarian.  But, no matter what speaking up ends up looking like... I think that I will modify our old slogan when I am bringing up my kids in this very unjust world.  Perhaps instead of teaching them that there will be no peace unless there is justice, I will introduce them to the Prince of Peace, who is in charge of justice.  No Jesus, No Peace... That has a pretty redemptive ring to it.  

October 27, 2012

Wrestling with Memory & Regret

My brother was a wrestler.  He was a very good wrestler.  For those of you who are picturing Hulk Hogan in a skin tight leotard, you are not even close.  When I say wrestling, I mean the technical, athletic, focused, discipline of actual wrestling.  This means nothing to most of you, and I am fine with that.  I like being a part of a small percentage of people who have yelled the phrase "up and out!" at an athletic competition.  I don't mind that very few people know what I am talking about, in fact I prefer it.  

I love that my memories of my brother are exclusive.  I prefer that my memories of him are just mine alone.  But, I also fear that they are slipping away from me.  I can remember, a year or two after Adam passed away, the realization that I could not remember what his hands looked like.  No matter how hard I tried, I just could not remember his hands.  Then it was his voice.  To this day, I cannot remember his voice.  

Sometimes, I dream of Adam.  Almost always, we are skiing together, which is weird because in real life, we never skied together.  In real life I missed Adam's 17th birthday because I wanted to go skiing with my friends, except I don't think they were really my fiends.  I think what really happened was that some of my friends had gotten in trouble and were not allowed to hang out with each other... but they were allowed to hang out with me, because I was a "good girl."  So, my friends (who actually wanted to see each other) asked me to go skiing so that they could hang out with one another.  They asked me to go skiing on January 26th.  My brother's 17th birthday.  That was as old as he would ever be,  and I wasn't there to celebrate because I went skiing with friends who really had no interest in being with me.

I have hated myself for that for so long, and I have never told anyone, besides my husband, this story.  I wish so much that I was with him for the last birthday of his life.  I dream of skiing with him, and I dream that he forgives me and that I bring him a big present and everything is fine.

I am almost done with my 31 days of kindness.  I don't think I am ready to be done with it, because it is the closest I have come to hearing my brother's voice again that I don't want to stop.  I am terrified of losing more of him, and I am afraid of letting go of the hurt of losing him, because sometimes it feels like all I have left to remember him by.

Then, I think of what only I know.  I think of sitting next to him on the couch while he shakes his feet habitually, to "make weight."  I think of me and my friend, Sarah, hiding candy from him because we didn't know that it was his.  I think of when he and I talked about my parents getting divorced and him telling me who I would need to be: the forgiving one, the compassionate one, understanding everybody and hearing everyone out.  I remember watching him do his hair, and talk about the girl he liked, and the time he was proud of me for being defiant.  

Some of these details I will always keep to myself, because they are my sacred... my treasured secrets that nobody gets to sit in on.  I will hold these memories as long as I can, and I look forward to the day that I hear my brother's voice again in heaven.

For Day 27, my sister-in-law and I brought dinner to a widower who is on dialysis three times a week.  He lost his wife fifteen years ago and I am certain that he has plenty of memories of her that he keeps all to himself.  He probably has a world of regrets, like my skiing day, and I am certain that a lot of those regrets will remain until the day he dies.  

I am glad that we were able to bring a meal to this man, and while he is battling the inevitability that he will forget his wife; her hands, her voice... we were able to make him feel that he is remembered, that he isn't alone, even if he can't remember her... 

October 26, 2012

Oxygen First, Then Helium

Day 25 may seem like I was cheating, but hear me out because this was one of the more difficult Acts of Kindness for me. Yesterday, I took the day to be kind to myself. I know what you're probably thinking, "psh, big sacrifice."

Well, I am not going to pretend it was random or sacrificial... because it was totally indulgent, but I think that many of us are guilty of focusing on others too much. We can be guilty of focusing more on other people's shortcomings, needs, feelings, choices, etc.

I am guilty of all of the above, and I am even guilty of forgetting to show myself compassion, kindness and grace. So, yesterday was my turn.  Don't the flight attendants always tell you, in case of a "situation" make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others?  Well, I think that we can fairly say that we have had a "situation" and I just needed to breath yesterday.

I took myself out to lunch at a restaurant that I haven't been to since I lived outside of Philly. I ordered my favorite thing without looking that the price. (Tom, I forgot to tell you that... Surprise.)

Then I went to a beautiful spa where I finally redeemed the gift card I got for Mother's Day. I got a massage and a mini-manicure and I drank water with a strawberry floating in it. They put me in this puffy, oversized robe...

...and gave me a magazine that made me realize how ridiculous the current fashion is.
 I took these appalling pictures to prove it.

If this is how everyone starts dressing and cutting their hair, I am seriously not going out anymore.  Except the first one, that one's kinda cute.  Anyways... Day 25 was a much needed time to relax (and cry) while some lady rubbed my back.  

Day 26, focus is back to others. I attached a note and a $5 Starbucks gift card to a helium balloon in hopes that it reaches a stranger who needs cheering. As it turns out, one gift card is just heavy enough to perfectly weigh down a balloon.  It is rarely a good idea to get my husband involved in a project like this.  He insisted I get ten helium balloons, and reinforce the hole where I tied the strings, and that maybe we should strategically release the balloons in an open field with the least obstacles and lowest chances of landing in a body of water.  He also wanted to follow the balloons in our van for as long as we could.  I think he was living out he fantasy of being a storm chaser.  I just wanted to let the stinkin' thing go in the parking lot.  Regardless of our strategizing, it is way more likely that it will become entangled in one of the thousands of tree limbs or power lines that it will pass than actually deflate at just the right time to float down into the hands of a coffee lover... that being said, Day 26 is actually a Random Act of Environmental Negligence. Still, I thought it worth the risk.

After all the pain and heartache of the failed adoption placement, I think it was good to symbolically let go of something hoping that it finds it's way into the hands of another.

October 25, 2012

10,000 Prayers and He's Mine Forever

This month, my blog has had about 10,000 hits. I can only think of about 40 people that I know, so this is kind of a big deal. Many of you started following my 31 Days of Kindness - an effort I began as a personal journey in honoring my brother and glorifying God by loving others in the process.

The journey, for me, quickly made me realize that what I was really doing was mourning the loss of my brother, as an adult, for the first time. I don't think you can fully mourn a loss when you are in middle school. I don't know if I could even tie a double knot in middle school. (Late bloomer and all.) So, I am certain that I was not even close to being capable of grasping the intensity and the gravity of what my family would face in this lifetime. I did not realize how much grieving I had left to do. This journey has really helped me do this, as an adult, and that has been a real gift.

Another unexpected twist was this hope of our family finally being complete with or last child. This happened to take place right in the height of my blogging career, when I had the most followers I have ever had. I keep think about how I wanted to give this baby the gift of my home, and when that was no longer needed, I wanted to give the gift of some items that would provide a little something for his first weeks here on Earth. When that didn't work... it all just feels really pointless.

Then I realized that by sharing this journey, openly, with so many people... This baby boy was covered in more prayer in these few days than most children are in their whole lifetime. Perhaps, THAT is the sole gift I was meant to give this child.

Isn't a mother's love sacrificial, unconditional, and free of any requirements on the child's end? I think I can release this little boy if I can stop thinking of him as the baby that should have been mine, or was almost mine... Instead, I am just deciding that he is mine, and he is yours and he belongs to 10,000 others who have made him the child of their hearts.

He belongs to us, guys, and we get to keep loving him sacrificially by praying over his sweet little baby self for as long as we like... Maybe even forever.

I guess that makes him my forever baby after all. What healing this brings to my soul.

We Graciously Reject Donations...

Today was one of those days when you force yourself to take a shower, just so you can cry without scaring the children.  I am not one of those women who hides emotion from my kids, I think that the sooner they view me as a human person, with real feelings, the nicer they will be to me when they are teenagers. *This is an untested theory, but I plan to let you all know if it works out.  

I don't hide my emotions from them, but I also try really hard to not scar them for life either.  If nothing else, I want to create the illusion that their mother is a sane woman... but, the kind of crying that I had to get done today was the kind that shatters such an illusion.  The cry on the agenda was the kind that really needs a good amount of water pressure to drown out.  

After my shower-fit, I mustered the strength to pack up some of our maybe-baby's things and walk them over to the community food pantry.  As it turns out they "graciously accept donations" during two 45 minute windows of time during the week.  I had not arrived during one of these windows.  I don't get it!  First I try to give these items to the birthmother, and that didn't work out, and now even the food pantry is against me.  By the time I walked back, my mother-in-law Cindy pulled into the driveway and saw me standing on my porch like a zombie, holding a bag of bottles and formula and diapers.  Unlike the food pantry, my sweet mother-in-law "graciously accepts donations" at all hours of the day.  

So, Day 24, I put  a bag of baby things in the back seat of my MIL's car and she will deliver them to a local mission.  Kind of a flop, I know... but, my expectations for today was just to make it into the shower to cry, so, sadly, this was really a mind-blowing accomplishment.

Apart from that, we are all just sort of processing in our own way.  Some people have asked if I regret that we brought the kids with us to Manhattan, and would I do it differently next time?  In a word: nowayjose.

Here is what I am thinking... Was this a painful experience for the kids?  Absolutely it was.  They are feeling confused, maybe a little guarded as far as the "next baby" goes, and they are very disappointed.  The bottom line is that in the past week I have heard my kids (2, 5, 7 and 8 years old) discuss the pros and cons of parenting vs. making an adoption plan, evaluate socioeconomic issues like poverty and homelessness, as well as how different cultures view adoption.  These have been heavy conversations, but I have got to believe that my kids are developing an usually mature understanding of life and issues outside themselves.  My hope is that they are being seasoned in a way that is painful, yes, but also very growing.  And I can't wait to see the compassion, the sense of social consciousness, and the cultural sensitivities that these understandings will develop in them.  I may be biased, but I have got to believe that kids who have these kinds of discussions at such an early age... are just going to be awesomer for it.  

So, no, I do not regret including my children in on such a potentially amazing experience.  The bottom line is that I really wanted Harper to see exactly how we felt when we came to meet him.  I wanted him to see how we frantically packed and prepared when we got the call that we had a baby and "it's a boy!"  I wanted him to feel the same anticipation we felt for him.  I wanted him to see all of us rejoicing in the birth of this tiny, brown baby, and he could think "Oh, this must be just what they felt when they met me."

I told him that today, that Mommy and Daddy are so sad because we wanted this little boy so very much to be in our family.  I said that we wanted him that much too, and that we would have been so sad if we hadn't gotten him.  He looked at me with those dark eyes and said, "But you weren't sad then, because you did get me..." Then he did a slow, dreamy blink with his long false-looking eyelashes and added with a sigh,

"You got me forever."

I know that this baby was not mine to keep.  I know that this baby was meant to be in a different home.  I know that I will probably wonder about him constantly for a while, and from time to time down the road.  I know that I loved him as much as anyone could have in my position, and I know that I loved his birthparents as much as I possibly could.  The truth is that God is who He says He is and He was here first... so, how He chooses to act, or not act, in any given situation is really none of my business.  In light of that, I am just trying to remember His promises to me, and I believe that He has called us into this adoption journey for a second time, not to torture us, but to teach us something we could not learn any other way.  And, in the end, I will get to look into the dreamy, slow-motion eyes of my last baby and I will know, that this one is forever.

October 23, 2012

What if God Isn't Safe?

I want to thank so many of you for the encouraging comments, messages, texts and calls. We are overwhelmed by all of the support we have received. I expected to be sad if we didn't get a baby, but I did not expect to feel like my baby was taken away from me. We are grieving and trying so hard to trust the Lord in all of this, and all of the kind words and affirmations have really helped.

One thing I would like to clear up, though, is that I am not an amazing person. Trust me... there was more than one time over the past week when the pressure got to me and I snapped at the kids, and I even fantasized about dragging one lady out of the hotel lobby by her perfectly highlighted ponytail and throwing her into the Hudson. I don't know if it was something specific that was irritating to her, or if her distaste for me was general, but there was nothing I wanted more than to throw down with that woman in a parking lot. Trust me, I am not amazing. I am capable of a lot of things, but left to my own devices... I will almost always do something stupid or selfish or just the teensiest bit violent.

The truth is that I serve a God that is amazing, and *anything* that I have done that isn't completely heinous and sinful... is only evidence that God loves a lost cause and He is committed to making a redemption story outta my pathetic self.

I know that God is faithful, but I have a long history of believing that when things like this happen it is because He secretly doesn't like me. I am working so hard to uproot that lie... but moments like these are vulnerable times for me to let Satan whisper in me ear, "See. We both knew He didn't care."

I know now that it is a lie, and I know that He is the God that sees, and cares, and holds, and heals. I do not know what is on the other end of this sadness I am feeling now... but I know that I am not the first woman on the planet to grieve the loss of a child, or the idea of a child.

Sadly, for Day 23, I was not able to deliver all the baby items I wanted to bring. I was told that in this particular situation, it would be better for responsibility to be taken independently by the caretakers and my gift may send a mixed message about that. It makes total sense, and I completely trust the social workers' authority and discernment in this situation... but it left me feeling helpless and deflated, as I just wanted this one way to kind of release him. Now, all I picture is this newborn baby riding around without a car seat in the back of some taxi, lying in a stranger's lap.

Although my plan fell through, another opportunity presented itself when a sweet, beautiful, brilliant friend asked if she could share some of our adoption story with her own family who suffered through the years when adoption was something, not to be celebrated, but hidden away like an untouchable family secret. These old mindsets left so many victims in their wake, and this woman asked for Day 23 that I would give permission to print and share some of our story with her hurting family members. This was my pleasure to agree to, even though she totally could have printed it without my knowledge or consent! :)

Apart from our own feelings about this failed attempt to complete our forever family, we are very concerned about the kids... but mostly Harper. How does our adopted, five year old son process this new awareness that sometimes birthmothers do change their minds? Will it hurt him more to realize that his didn't, or that she might try to get him back down the road? I knew these realizations and fears and hurts would surface eventually... but, I was unprepared for it to happen this way, and now.

I don't know what to do about any of it, but... as we already covered, if it were up to me to make it all okay, I would just blow it anyways. So, I am going to work very hard to lie back in my Father's lap, knowing that whatever crazy journey He takes us on next, I might not be safe from pain, or danger, or heartache.. but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

October 22, 2012

A Different Gift

If you are checking in because you are just dying to know what my Random Act of Kindness was for Day 22, THAT I can deliver: I bought a hot dog for a homeless woman. I once saw a documentary called The Faces of Meth. This girl definitely had The Face of Meth. Since that documentary, I have had an irrational fear of catching a meth addiction, so bringing her a hot dog was actually a big deal for me.

If, on the other hand, you are tuning in for happy news about a successful adoption... I am so sad to say that I cannot deliver. After waiting all day, we received very unexpected news that while the birth parents were still choosing not to parent, a family member stepped in and will be taking the baby.

I will not share more details than that about the particular family dynamics in such a public setting, but suffice it to say that we are absolutely crushed about this decision. I know that we have been calling him the maybe-baby, but in my heart he was just... definitely.
And now my heart feels broken.

I have said from the beginning that if I came all the way here to Manhattan and all I did was help this girl through this time, it would be worth it to me, even if I came away empty handed. I promised myself that I would have no regrets being there to support someone who had no one else. I swore it wouldn't be a waste, no matter what happened.

So, to keep my promise to myself, to make this trip worthwhile, to show this girl some grace and love, I am taking my sister BethAnn's advice and I am going to the hospital tomorrow to bring the baby his things. Clothes, diapers, formula, bottles, pacifiers, bibs, blankets, burp rags, and car seat... All the basics that I brought for him, and I am giving them to the social worker so that my almost-baby can have something from his almost-mama.

So, that is going to be Day 23. I don't know if I will have the strength to do this, and also write it down.

Since July I have been envisioning this day. The day where he would be discharged from the hospital and I would go there and I would have his seat all ready, and the gentlest newborn formula, and glass bottles because the plastic ones have all the chemicals, and I would wrap him tight and snuggle him into me and I would make him mine. I don't know how to walk into that hospital knowing that he is there, and that he still needs two parents, and that he will never be mine.

I will do it. But I don't know if I can write about it. So, if there is no post tomorrow, consider it my moment of silence after doing Day 23's Random Act of Kindness: giving a gift I didn't want to give, because the gift I really wanted to give was a family, a home, and my heart.

October 21, 2012

Is An Untitled Post Okay, Just This Once?

I committed to doing 31 days of kindness for the month of October because I wanted to honor my brother's life and memory in a way that would also honor that God that he and I both adore. For Day 21, I forced my family to cheer loudly for participants in a cycling race because the smug folks of Manhattan refuse to humiliate themselves for the sake of encouragement. Many cyclists were visibly appreciative, some were audibly appreciative, and some were smug Manhattanites who were clearly irritated at our humiliating ourselves.

We did this, and some other fun things today as we waited for news about this little baby boy we have come to bring home. After waiting all day, we finally got some news.

The baby was born very early this morning. He is healthy and so is his birthmama. I have waited so long for that news, and I know that many of you have also. The bottom line, though, is that birth is a game-changer. I get it, I have done it three times. There is adrenaline, the sense that you can do anything, and emotions run high... and the reality is that people change their plans after a baby is born.

We don't know anything for sure, but at this point it is looking like the birthparents are overwhelmed with the emotion of it all, and it is absolutely their right to respond to that with a change of plans, but that would mean it isn't really looking good for us.

I meant it when I said that I truly want what is best for this baby, even if it isn't me. But, I didn't know how hard it would be. And I couldn't imagine that it wouldn't be us, our family, our home.

A lot of decisions have to be made, by people who love this baby even more than we do. I am praying that their decisions be wise and sure and that we have the grace and peace to handle it.

I know that a lot of you started following this blog because of the 31 days of kindness... And I am certain this is more than you bargained for. (Trust me, it's hardly what I had in mind.) But, I think I knew my brother pretty well in his short life, and I am learning that my life is what honors his memory, not how I spend the month of October. So, although it is more than we bargained for... This is my life. It is a lot like this crazy city. There is some beauty, some stench, some tension, some devastation, some history, some mystery and some chaos. It's the truth though... My life is like this, this city is like this, adoption is like this.

So, there you have it. Day 21, we made fools of ourselves as we encouraged cyclists in a race. No big deal.  We are trying really hard to live lives that bring light into a dark world, and I think that just telling the truth about it all is a pretty big deal. No matter what happens with this baby tomorrow, I know that God has him in the palm of his hand, and even of it takes everything in me... I will humiliate myself in encouraging this birthmom to finish this race of parenting before I let myself get bitter and stop trying to do what's right.

October 20, 2012

Falling In Love Before You Should.

Still no news.

Trust me, I know. I am just going to write down the answers to the FAQ's:

No, we haven't heard anything. No, I don't know what that means. Yes, the
birthmom was supposed to be induced today. Yes, that means the baby has
probably been born, or will be very soon. Yes, I am going crazy.

We spent another day of attempted- distraction touring around the city. For
Day 20, we talked about how acts of kindness can be big things (driving to
a huge, strange city, to fetch a child who maybe needs a home) or something
small, like a compliment. We decided to do a day of smallish kindnesses. We
started with holding the door open for strangers, gave change to street
performers an lots of curly hair compliments, offered our seats on the
subway to others, etc. We also put some fare on a metro card and gave it to
a lady who offered us her seat on the subway, and then we tipped a totally
mediocre mariachi performer on the subway.

Nothing was jaw-dropping, but it is nice to see how the kids have come to
expect that our family will look for opportunities to be kind.

We meant to go to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty, and then
Ellis Island...but we accidentally went to Staten Island, which is an
island, but has way less historically significant statues. So, we got soft

Then we went to Time Square, which I have been to before and it remains my
least favorite part of the city. I think I kinda hate it so much. But,
there were some neat things for the kids to see, and some totally
inappropriate things we tried to keep them from seeing.

We had a great time today and saw a lot of great things. But truthfully, I
feel sad. I just wasn't really present today. I really wanted to just enjoy
today because if this adoption is successful, then these are the last days
I have with this family as it is. After this, we will be different. It will
be good, but it will never be like it is now, ever again. So, I want so
much to savor the time we have as a family of six.

But, as much as I wanted that... I couldn't help feeling like a Mama who
wasn't with her son on his birthday. I know he isn't ours yet, and he might
not ever be... but, I don't know how to wait to fall in love until someone
gives the green light. I only know how to fall in love, over time, first
with the idea of someone, then the dream of them, then the possibility,
then the almost... and now, we are so close, and today is probably his
birthday, and I am afraid I am in love before I should be.

October 19, 2012

Mooned in Manhattan

No news.

There. For those who were just waiting for me to post to find out if there is any adoption news... the answer is no. Trust me, nobody wishes that weren't true more than me. So, you'll be fine waiting another day. Hopefully that will be as long as we have to wait, because this baby is scheduled to be induced tomorrow.

To distract ourselves and the kids, especially, we spent the day touring the city. Most of what my kids know about NYC is from the Muppets movie... which means they really didn't have any reasonable expectations. London kept crying out from her bed when I closed the shade, "I can't see Kermit's house!!"

Today, they got a little more realistic of a taste than Miss Piggy's roller skating chase scene. We went to the Museum of Natural History, took a walk through Central park, and got a pizza. The funny thing is that we did all of that with some friends from home, Tif and DL, and their two girls, who just happened to be in the city this weekend! It was definitely our most exciting play date.

Oddly enough, in a city with a kitzillion people, I ran into a childhood friend who grew up literally a few houses up the street from me. Neither of us live here in Manhattan... So it was completely random that we saw each other.

Speaking of random... Onto Day 19 of Random Acts of Kindness. I had one bizarre opportunity to let a woman know that she forgot to wear anything on her bottom half... But I chickened out because I wasn't sure how kind it would be to say "excuse me ma'am, but everyone can see your nakie-buns." So we opted for over-tipping a street musician at the sight of John Lennon's assassination in Central Park.

I also complimented approximately 6 ladies at the museum, all women of varying ethnicities who were wearing their hair naturally curly and beautiful. The one random act of kindness that is almost always well received: a compliment. We just can't get enough of 'em! I think we all long to feel loved and affirmed and encouraged. In my opinion, encouraging and building up others is the easiest Biblical command to follow. I will say, though, that I do regret not telling the lady with the missing drawers to never, ever bend at the waist again, but sometimes a moment passes and you just can't get it back.

Day 19's Kindness Lesson: never just think a compliment, ALWAYS SAY THEM OUT LOUD!

Day 19's Fashion Lesson: nylons do not equal pants. Underpants required, another garment, also appreciated.

Below are some pictures from last night and today. They are ordered grab bag style because I cannot figure out this blog application. But, as you scroll through notice how Harper and the street musician smile the same way! Ha!

Please keep praying for this baby and birthmama as they both face some major life changes tomorrow. And, if things go as planned, we will too.

October 18, 2012

It's Up to YOU! New York, Neeew Yoooork!!

My original plan for Day 18 was to bring dinner to two different households that could use a little break from the everyday stresses of meal planning and prep. I had good intentions, but my plans quickly changed when we got the okay to go ahead and travel to Manhattan. The meals weren't a total casualty, they will just have to arrive a little later than Day 18.

So... WE ARE ON THE ROAD!! We were offered a place to stay in Manhattan, a luxury highrise apartment overlooking the Hudson. This place is so beyond our spending capacity, that I actually had to ask for instructions about tipping a concierge. I picture myself giving him a snickers and then getting slapped with pristine, white bellman's gloves. It was brought to my attention that this is an irrational fear likely shaped by something I had seen on TV. Too true, all too true.

Because we have a place to stay, we are able to go now, before the baby arrives so that we can be available to support the birthmother in any way she would like. Or to respectfully keep our distance... whichever she decides.

We are trying to keep the kids focused on seeing the city and enjoying our time as a family, because we honestly don't know how else to handle the very real possibility that we will be there waiting, respecting, supporting... And still come home without a baby.

The only way I can describe what we are feeling is reluctant excitement. It is a hard place to be, but my greatest hope is whether we interact with her or not, that she will feel loved, ministered to, and supported by somebody.

The truth is that I am passionate about my role as an adoptive mother, and part of that role is facilitating whatever relationship with biological family members that is healthiest for my child. A lot of times people say really horrible things about women who have made an adoption plan for her child. Some common ones are "I just don't understand how anyone could do such a thing." and one I hear frequently, "at least you don't have to deal with the birthmother."

Not "dealing" with the woman who gave your child life and the gift of a family, is tragic in my opinion. I long to support this girl in my own way, but the most supportive thing I can do for her is to respect her way. So, I am getting my game face on.

We are expected to arrive at the lap of luxury by 10:18pm and to feel out of our league and keenly aware of our poverty by 10:20 at the latest. For my Random Act of Kindness for Day 18, we have treats for the toll booth operators and a fresh cheek, ready for a good glove-slappin'.

We will see how this all turns out, but I can't help but feel tickled that in the middle of the month that I have been trying to honor God and my own brother's memory... we are coming very close to giving our kids a really special gift, their baby brother.

The Irresponsible Library Patrons Association

Day 17 was a day of unexpected kindnesses.  Mostly received, which is my personal nightmare... but I am really working on it.

It started with a stranger generously providing a place for us to stay if/when we have to go to Manhattan to get the maybe baby.  This woman and I had never met, not one. single. time.  It was totally the definition of a random act of kindness!  To receive something so needed from a stranger was truly overwhelming.  I think God is sweetly bringing me along to see the big picture of how He uses us to intertwine in each other's lives so that He can bless and provide for us, through one another.  Kindness #1, received.

From there, I went to my friend Shana's house, because she offered to take Harper and London for the morning so that I could try to get things ready for the baby.  The kids had a great time apparently, because when I said it was time to get going, London hauled into the back room and locked herself in a dog cage.  I don't about you, but I have ended all of my best dates this way.  Nothing says "Thanks, I had a great time!" like imprisoning oneself in a kennel.  After I dragged her out of the dog cage, she refused to walk or cooperate in general, so I picked her up firmly and carried her to the van while she was flailing and air-swimming with every bit of rage she could muster.  Still, Kindness #2, received.

It was time to pay it forward.  I wanted to do something that someone like me would appreciate.  In this current state, I am a hot mess.  I am obsessively checking my phone for an email, text, call... anything from the social worker.  (It doesn't matter because every buzz or beep that my phone lets out, is Sears.  I don't know how they got my email address, but who cares... it's always Sears.)  Blast that Sears!  Unless Sears can present me with an actual baby, I don't want to hear a single beep or buzz outta them.  When I am in a mode like this, where I am frazzled and harebrained and generally forgetful and aloof... I can forget to take care of basic responsibilities.  Even returning a book to the library proves to require too much remembering to actually do it.

So, for Day 17, I thought that I would bring redemption upon people like me.  I brought some money to the library to pay for late fees.  The librarian was very confused at first, then he got disproportionately excited.  He actually went and got the other librarian and they fussed over the generosity and the inspiration.  All I could think of was the stranger-friend who is blessing us with this place to stay, and the actual friends who are helping support me along the way.  I thought about how little I have actually done, and what I have actually received during the first 17 days, and I am overwhelmed.

Just as I was leaving, librarian #2 said "I hope that you find this kindness rebounded upon your own life."

I am finding that it already has.

October 16, 2012

Nesting, Grooming & Other Mammalian Intincts

Some days are more conducive to being kind than others.  Not necessarily because I am in a bad mood, or because I am a hate monger. I mean, sometimes that's it.  But, it can also be plenty of non-hateful reasons.  For example:

  • There are sometimes whole, entire days where I do not leave my house at all.  I am a shut-in and I'm fine with it.
  • There are days when I am non-stop, no room for anything extra, completely chaotic busy.  I hate these days, and I usually over-correct by shutting in.
  • Then, there are days when you start packing suitcases because your maybe-baby's birthmother is starting to have contractions.  Ahhhhhhh!
Yep.  You read that right.  Nothing is ever for sure in this thing called adoption, but as it stands... we are just waiting for a call to head to Manhattan to GET OUR BABY BOY!!!  The birthmother will be induced by Saturday at the latest, so that means it will literally be any day.  My heart is simultaneously full of joy and breaking from sadness.

I am beyond excited about the possibility of this being our "mistry baby," and on the the other hand I am thinking of this young woman who is experiencing all of the labor pains and fears and concerns... and will ultimately walk away without her child to make it all feel worth it.  I have the utmost respect for birthmothers and I know that I can not undo the pain that this separation will bring to them both.  I am amazed at her tenacity and her fight and her stubborn strength so far... and I am so afraid that if I get the chance to meet her, that I will totally blow it.

Needless to say, I spent the day doing mostly household kindnesses.  I don't know how to cope with all the maybes... maybe this will be the one, or maybe not!  Maybe she will change her mind when she gives birth, or maybe she won't!  Maybe you will have the baby for a month and then she'll change her mind, or maybe not!  Maybe I will say the wrong thing to her, or maybe I won't get to meet her at all.  Maybe, maybe, maybe... It is just enough to make you snap at your husband all day for no reason.  Not that I have done that, I am just saying that I could see how an otherwise lovely gal, could get a little sass to her in such a situation.  

For Day 16, Tom mowed our neighbor's yard.  Not the swearer, but the other neighbor, who actually works third shift, and I don't really know what hours those are, but I don't think he comes home during mowin' hours.  Sure, the yard is teeny tiny, and he did it while looking like a mad scientist, because his hair was completely out of control... but he got the job done and it is gonna have to count because Mama was a crazy lady today.  Which leads us to my family-focused kindesses:
  1. Haircuts all around.  Tom honestly looked like Sideshow Bob, so I de-Sideshow Bobbed him and he is looking fresh and handsome.  I gave Harper the sweetest "mowhog" he ever saw, and he couldn't have been happier.  Well, that's not true, he actually would have been much happier if I had acquiesced to his demand that I shave off his eyebrows.  Still, he is also fresh and handsome.  Marlie got a trim in time for picture day.  I got rid of London's Beatles mullet and Annalee is currently growing out, and passed on the trim altogether.  I also trimmed my own hair.  Since I have always cut all 6 (almost 7!! maybe.) of our hair... I will save our family about a quarter of a million dollars in hair grooming services over the course of our lifetime.  That is very kind of me, thank you very little.
  2. I did 155 loads of laundry.  I am nearly caught up.
  3. I started PACKING A SUITCASE!!  Bottles, onesies, bibs, burp rags... all the stuff I forgot about completely.  
Okay, I realize that I was hardly Mother Theresa today, but I am under a great deal of stress...and c'mon... I am preparing to retrieve an orphan.  Does that not count!?  If that doesn't count, then I should show a before picture of my husband's hair.  You would realize the great kindness I have bestowed upon the general public just by removing the wild Mufasa mane that was Medusa-ing directly outward from his temples.

October 15, 2012

Coffee and C.P.F.D. (Care Package Flashback Disorder)

We are halfway through this month people.  I know it sounds like doing 15 kind things isn't that big of a deal... and you are probably right.  Except that you're not right, you're wrong, and it is a big deal.  And why do you have to be so negative about it anyways?

Here is how I know that it is a big deal.  Today, Harper (5) and London (2) were playing in the yard and they went over to the shed, knocked on the door and shouted "Is anybody home!?  Open up!  We have your kindness!"  My kids are playing kindness!  In the almost nine years that I have been a mom, I have learned that kids often use play to act out what they see happening in their daily lives.  I have seen my kids chastise, feed and rock their baby dolls, and put their "awesome football guy" in a time out, and London has covered her stuffed animals' eyes with their little fluffy paws so she can have "pwivatesy" in the bathroom.  They play what they live... and I think it is a big deal that they are playing kindness.

Then again, their random act of kindness was delivering three shovels to the empty shed... which was even worse than offending those ladies at the bus stop with all the delicious donuts.  Harper and London got about as much eye contact from the shed as I got from those ladies.

So, Day 15, the halfway point.  I bought coffee and delivered it to the wonderful teachers who get to shape and teach my two precious girls everyday.  Annalee had gotten the inside scoop (not so subtly) on her teachers' dream coffee.  The two little ones and I delivered those coffees first.  The teachers had been following along on the blog, so they already knew about the 31 days.

Problem #1:  If your children's teachers are reading your personal blog, then they know that you are a crazy person.

Problem #2:  If your children's teachers are awesome, they will overlook said craziness and invite you to help lead a children's writing workshop.

Problem #3: Said crazy person will likely agree impulsively  though she has absolutely zero credentials or legitimate experience in writing and/or workshopping.  

Next stop was to deliver coffee to Marlie's teacher.

Problem #4:  I do not know how this man takes his coffee.  In fact, I know very little about this man, except what I can get from Marlie which is that "He is a man, and he always has a little chest hair peeking out."  This tidbit was a great image to have, but not helpful in determining his coffee order.

Problem #5:  If said crazy person delivers coffee to a teacher while the kids are in art class, he is likely making copies in the copy room.  This is not the time to say his name, or he may jump and squeal like he was poked in the side with a little spear.

After the yelp, he acknowledged that he scares easy (as do I) and he thanked me genuinely  for the coffee.  When we were leaving the school, Harper asked, "When is it time for our kindness?"  I reminded him that our kindness was bringing coffee to all those teachers.  He clarified that he meant, "when would weeee get a little of that kindness??"  Just as I am finishing the sentence, "I think we are plenty kind to ourselves."  I open the car door directly into London's forehead.  She falls on the ground holding her injured "eye-bow."  Harper looked at me like "That was not exactly what I had in mind."

Since crunching the children with doors was the kindest thing I had done for them... it was a nice surprise to come home to these on my porch:

As I shared previously, my mother sends the worst care packages in history, so this was simultaneously exciting and terrifying.  One package was from my friend Julie, and was full of all these great things for our maybe baby:

And just to drag up all my childhood baggage, my friend Julie threw in this almost used stack of sticky notes:

The other package was from my mother.  The mother of the worst care packages in history.  In case you didn't believe my post about this.  Here is photo evidence:

And if that picture of me in that hat isn't hideous enough, she finally sent gummies. In rat form.


So Day 15 was a day of giving and receiving, agreeing to shape the young minds of children at a workshop I am not qualified to be a part of, crunching the baby's head with the car door and eating a rat. All in all, I would say that is a pretty solid halfway point.  I think that my brother would be absolutely delighted that my mother is still terrorizing us via care packages, and I think that this half-month of kindness has been the best way to honor the boy who broke all of her wooden spoons so she couldn't whack him for being irritating.