November 22, 2013

No More "No Problem"

As long as it has taken me to get myself together to post an update, it took significantly less time to be slammed back into reality when we returned home from our trip to Jamaica.  For those of you who didn't know we went, and are wondering how we could possibly be so negligent as to take a trip to paradise while we have no income, you can read that back story here.  Coming home from paradise was sort of like getting sprayed in the face with pepper spray.

I say that figuratively, of course, but I also mean that literally... but more on that later.

Jamaica was perfection.  We had no idea how much we needed that time away, but when we found ourselves in bed asleep by 8:30 on the first night, we realized how exhausted we have been.  I realized that in the past nine months we brought home our fifth child - and a number of unexpected medical concerns we had not anticipated - and although that was a huge adjustment, we changed almost nothing.  We did not slow down, we did not adjust our lifestyle to make room for the countless appointments with specialists, or for physical and speech therapy, or for learning sign language.  We didn't stop serving at church or volunteering at schools, we haven't cleared our schedule in any way.  

In fact, that is pretty true of the last ten years.  We had Annalee five weeks after our wedding, and that kicked off the whirlwind of a life we now consider normal.

So, when we collapsed into our bed that first night in Jamaica, we slept like elderly people.  

Our time consisted of eating and lounging and basking in the kind of sunlight that never quite reaches all the way to the frozen tundra of upstate New York.  We experienced the energizing effects of sleep, coffee while it is still hot, uninterrupted conversation, and massive amounts of all natural, equator-style Vitaman D.  Jamaica is a natural anti-depressant.

This was actually our view.  This really happened.  Places like this exist.


I cam back comparing everything to the idyllic time we had in Jamaica.

"Babies don't gag on their own hearing aids in Jamaica!"

or

"Jamaica would never make us pay bills!"

or

"I would never drop one thousand brussel sprouts in the parking lot in Jamaica!"

or

"I never had pepper spray in my eyeballs in Jamaica!"

You get the point.  We miss Jamaica.

Don't get me wrong... we had our troubles in Jamaica too.  I would drop brussel sprouts in Jamaica, because no matter where I am or what I am holding, I spill/drop/ruin it.  In fact, I spilled my coffee every single morning in Jamaica.  The difference was that I was a slob in JAMAICA!  Not only did the spilling continue as normal, but so did my general absent-mindedness.  I left my phone by the pool, thinking Tom had it, and when I came back (hours later) to look for it... it was already being sold on the Jamaican black market.  But, I was a an absent-minded victim-who-kinda-had-it-coming in JAMAICA!  The bad luck wasn't just me, Tom had his own absent-minded trouble.

Like when he lost his precious baby.

His precious baby is his I-Pod that he got for free 100 years ago.  It was the first one Apple ever made.  It is like the Model T of I-Pods and he got it for free by signing up for a ridiculous amount of junk mail.  He loves it, it is precious to him, and it is the size of an actual human baby, and it is full of music he considers a "variety" despite the fact that it is 90 giggawatts of identical sounding songs.

When Tom shook the sand out of his towel, absent-mindedly, you can imagine his shock when he realized that his precious baby was sailing in slow-motion through the air into the deep end of the swimming pool, headphones and all.  I have never seen him move so quickly or methodically.  He scrambled with the purpose and precision of an EMT with his eyes steadied on his precious baby.  He checked the buttons, looking for a pulse... when finding nothing, he proceeded to perform CPR.  The mouth-to-earphone jack resusitation looked exactly as it would if it were an actual living thing.  He pressed his mouth to any possible opening where water could have leaked in, he sucked water out, he spat, he put his ear to it to listen, then he used his finger tips to gently press on it's little Apple chest.  He repeated this scene until I had to pull him away, and calmly explain to his that it was over.  It was too late.

He, naturally, could not accept this.  He spent days, baking it in the hot Jamaican sun, inside a bag of uncooked rice, convinced that this would create the most absorbing ecosystem in which to dry out his precious baby. He refused to even attempt to plug it in until he was sure it was thoroughly dried out, and when he finally gathered the courage to charge it up and powere it on... there was nothing but the faintest error message, and no other sign of life.

Tom wept.

That last part was a lie.  But, it was still very traumatic for him.  Almost as traumatic as having to leave Jamaica and come back to real life.

We came back to snow.  We came back to the news that Tom, sadly, did not get the job we were hoping for at RIT.  And, inexplicably, we came back to 8 different versions of why we discovered a can of pepper spray in Harper's backpack, (which got all over my face.)

It was blow after blow.  And it burned, both our hearts, and our eyes, nose and throat.

None of this would happen in Jamaica, it's true, but we also came back to a lot of good things and those, too, would not be in Jamaica.  My sweet girls, and their  almost clear  fair, fair skin... that would never survive in Jamaica.  And my darling boys... does Jamaica make high quality hearing aids to gag on?  Is Jamaican pepper spray as potent and as readily available for six year old boys as, apparently, it needs to be for my son?  I doubt it.  I don't think Jamaica has all of that to offer.

Sure, for now, Rochester is the land of gray skies and unemployment, but... it's also home.  And I have faith that God has us here for a purpose, and once I regain the use of my pepper-riddled eyes, I will be able to look around and see that my wild and crazy life, is just a different kind of paradise.










November 4, 2013

Honeymooners.

I am sitting at the airport, about to board a plane for my honeymoon. I know that makes zero sense because we have been married for ten whole years this month, but I am not making this up.

Some friends and family all pitched in to surprise us with an anniversary getaway.  Apparently the original plan was to send us away for a few days, maybe even get us some place far away enough to take a flight!  Well... Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of our wonderful friends, sisters, brothers, parents, and family, we are going to JAMAICA for a whole week!  

I mean...

A) we named our second-born Marlie, a more feminine spelling of Marley, as in Bob Marley, as in "ya mon."   So this is pretty much a dream come true.

B) we did not really have a honeymoon.  For those that don't know this already, our Annalee was born five weeks after our wedding.  (It is a little depressing when you can't travel too far for your honeymoon because you have to stay close to your gynecologist.) So, you get the point.  It was winter, I was large and in charge, and our few days in Niagara Falls... Not hot.

C) we have had a wild ten years.  Five kids - 3 horrific pregnancies, 2 emotional adoptions, we've lost loved ones, we've moved five times, bought our first home, and fought about whether or not burning said home down is really the best way to declutter.  The past year alone we have had a failed adoption placement, a successful adoption placement, many unforeseen challenges with Jay's health and development, and that seems like a good time for Tom to get laid off.

After all that, then the 31 Days of Kindness (which are wonderfully challenging, but also draining and exhausting) we are ready for a getaway.  We would NEVER, ever take a trip like this - even if Tom still had his job - but we had certainly resolved that our 10th anniversary would have to be celebrated on year eleven or twelve.  So this whole thing has totally blown us away.  

But, when the islands call, you go.

Unless you abide by Tom's traveling motto, which is more like, "When the islands call... you panic."  Or "...you print out TSA toiletrie guidelines, then panic."

The Lord knew that he could use a little Jamaica in his life.  And so we're off, with nothing but our bathing a suits and sunscreen (meticulously measured into 3.4 ounce increments) and I think it's gonna do us nothing but good.







October 31, 2013

Day 31: A Final Tribute

Buckle up guys, a lot's going down in this post.  We've got something for everyone:  Pictures!  Videos!  Environmental hazards!  Take your pick.

For starters, I need to double back to Day 30.  Our friends, Pat and Megan, are getting married this weekend and I made the hair pieces for the bridal party and threw in a few extra pieces too.  This was actually my wedding gift, so I admit that it is a bit of a stretch to call it an Act of Kindness... but so much love went into each piece, and time, aaaand I am adorable and convincing and you will accept this all as sufficient for day 30.

For Day 31, we sent a little something out (a couple bucks leftover on a Dunkin Donuts gift card) into the universe, hopefully to bless a person and not just to entangle a ducklings little flippery-paw thing.  We captured it on video so you could all see our ridiculous costumes, as well as our antics.  I have a little enviro-guilt about this one, so please refrain from chastising me, taking comfort in the fact that I have already done so myself.






From L to R (Jaylen - Was supposed to be London's groom, but he ate his top hat and vomited on his tuxedo. Tom - Groom, Me - Bride, Annalee - Tweedledee, Marlie - Tweedledum, Harper - Spiderman, London - Groomless Bride.)  If you are having a hard time picking up on the theme, that's because there really isn't one.






So, our video is nothing compared to what's next.  The boys from Day 2 have a little something to contribute.  If this doesn't melt your heart, then I will pencil you in for 31 Days of Interventions because you have serious emotional problems  then we can agree to disagree on this one.  Check it out...



It is crazy to me that my brother's short, stolen life continues to impact people to this day.  I cannot even count how many messages I got from people who knew my brother, Adam, and were impacted by his life.  I cannot help but feel that God refused to let Adam's life be lost in vain.  I just imagine God saying "Alright, fine... but good luck trying to stop that kid's legacy."












These 31 Days of Kindness were done in loving memory of my hero and big brother, Adam.  I am so thankful that I got to be his "lil' pinner."


Love, your baby sister

October 30, 2013

Day 29: The Arctic Skinny Dipping of House Visits

As it gets closer to Halloween, I've discovered that it gets harder and harder to write.  And not just to write, but to pour myself into this project.  Grief can make you feel like you are swimming with your clothes on.  I can feel so heavy, that it requires slow, labored, intentional movements in order to survive.

Even mundane tasks during times like that are exhausting.  And after Day 29, I am reminded how some people feel like that, emotionally or physically, every single day. 

Yesterday, our Act of Kindness was to visit Lexi's grandmother.   This past summer, she had a stroke and has been wheelchair-bound ever since.  The last time I was out visiting her, she was playing with the kids, cooking from scratch and telling funny stories.

This visit was very different, and though she said very little, you could still see that mischievous little grin during playful conversations.  Still, she is now completely dependent upon her children and grandchildren for her daily care, as well as for the managing of her home.

So, Lexi and I took London and Jay on the hour long drive out to the boondiggities to visit the apple farm where grandma lives.  My goal was to give relief to Lexi's aunt, who is now living with grandma indefinitely to care for her.  I have seen my mom diligently care for my great aunt and grandmother, both living with us at different times, and both with Alzheimer's, as well as a close family friend, Carol, who faithfully cared for her mother-in-law in her own home for years.  Seeing it first hand made me aware that caring for elderly family members is certainly one of the most sacrificial labors of love I have seen expressed.

I fear that our visit, while a welcome distraction, probably was not a "break" for either of them.  Let's be honest, any time I show up with my spunky London, really, only her own grandmas are relieved!  London was really just in it for the apples, and Jay, he was in it for the opportunity to scavenge for whatever choking hazards he could find.  

Needless to say, we were useless in the relief department, but I am going to pray that our visit was, if nothing less, a little break from that heavy, swimming-with-clothes-on feeling.  Even if a visit with us is more like the shock of a skinny dip in arctic waters... it broke up the monotony.  And while actual arctic skinny dipping would be horribly dangerous and ill-advised for a rehabilitating stroke-victim, a couple of silly kids is maybe just what the doctor ordered.

Plus, Lodon got those apples after all.





Thanks to me...









October 29, 2013

Day 27 & 28: Babies and Snickering

So the past couple of days were a whirlwind.  I was in New York City visiting Miss N, Jay's birthmom, when I got the call that my friend, Erica, was in labor.  Erica was the very first friend I made when we moved to Rochester about 7 years ago, and she remains one of my very best friends to this day.

We have babysat each other's kids, we've shared tips about raising our kids, we have begged for prayer for our kids, and we were both in the rooms when we each gave birth to a kid.  We've been through it all... So, Day 27 was hopping on the first flight out of NYC to get back to see this little girl be born!! 

Just in case I missed the birth, I gave the JetBlue ticket taker a metro pass that  still had a couple bucks on it.  When I gave it to him he said "I don't really ever take the train, but I can give it to people as a souvenir."  I don't even know what that means, and it took me a while to realize that that was probably a huge waste... But whatever, I was gonna see baby girl enter this world!

Then she was born.  

Twenty minutes before my plane landed.  

Which I found to be a very selfish start for her.  Nonetheless, miss Sadie Marie Robinson came into this world with a beautiful face and the tiniest, most edible little ears you ever did see.  


You can't tell, but that ear is the size of my thumbprint.  I want it on a key chain.





Since I missed the birth, Day 27 was really just wasting a metro ticket.

For Day 28, I was in line at the grocery store with some friends, buying some personal items (eh hem, that's really all you need to know...) and since I am truly a seventh grader trapped on the body of a, well, let's be honest, the body of a seventh grader... I was giggling about the personal nature of my personal items.  For general informational purposes, you should probably be made aware that giggling makes the cashier so uncomfortable... and if your item is really worth giggling over, then you should buy that cashier a candy bar.

She seemed pleasantly surprised, probably because she hasn't ever had a customer with so little maturity, but maybe also because she didn't see that Snickers coming!






October 26, 2013

Day 25 & 26: Big City Stories & Sandwhiches

I received a message yesterday (Day 25**) from an acquaintance who mentioned that she was following these 31 Days of Kindness, and also that it would have been her late father's 91st birthday.  I have found that sharing my grief so publicly seems to give others permission to share their grief as well.  I can only hope that sharing the healing that these small acts bring me will, similarly, have that same healing effect on others.

In response to her message, I wanted to bless a man who was as old a her father would have been.  So my goal was to find the oldest man I could, but I wasn't sure how to bless him.  I discovered that there are zillions of old people in Manhattan, and almost all of them have seem to suffer from severe mental illness.  It was actually really sad, but I discovered that the greatest kindness one could probably show to an elderly person is to take time to listen to the story of their life.  

Stories of war, love, disability checks, feast and famine, becoming a widower, estranged from children, illness, pain, loss and loneliness seem to be a common thread woven in the stories of these long lives.  Yet, being seen and heard, is a healing kindness to a people who are largely ignored.  
--

In selfishly unrelated news, Melissa and I saw (and maybe followed) Diana Ross and her daughter all the way to their building!  Her hair was sensational and I love her so much.


And you may not be able to tell from this picture, but if you look really close, you can tell that she loves me too.

I love this city.  I love Diana Ross.  I love old men with tragic stories.  I love seeing a perfectly serious woman on a bicycle wearing regular clothes, and a top hat.  I loved seeing this truck full of singing, dancing farm animal puppets, for no reason whatsoever. 


I mean... Why!? 

It's a wild city, but I love it.  And I loved Day 26.

I met up with Jess and her son Colin.  I knew Jessica back in high school, and not even that well really, but my brother Adam went to prom with Jess' sister Jean-Marie, back when the tea-length ball gown was the cat's meow.



So, Jess and Jean-Marie followed our 31 Days of Kindness last year, and Jess blessed our family with a huge kindness of helping us with flights so we can bring Jay to NYC to visit Miss N.  She and Melissa are the reason we were able to agree to having such an open adoption.  

It goes without saying, I owed her a cup of coffee.  But her and her amazing son, Colin, had grander and kinder plans.  They wanted to participate in Day 26.  So they spent the morning doing this:


So that we could spend the day doing this:


Colin made and delivered about a dozen sandwiches for homeless men and women throughout the city, making sure that each person had dessert as well.    After reflecting on all that we saw and the experience of the day, Colin drew this remarkable picture when he returned home.


Jess is raising such a talented and terrific kid, and it was fun to get to know them both.  It made Day 26 very special.  Almost as special as the man we saw dressed in all red, with a flowing black mullet holding a mirror-encrusted school folder in front of his face so people couldn't look directly at him.  It was so bizarre, and the only thing I loved more than Diana's glorious hair.  

**For the purpose of continuity one detail of this story was altered, I actually did both kindnesses today.  Melissa, while the most kind and generous possible host one could imagine, it turns out that she hates, and does not support, my acts of kindness.  When I told her yesterday that I had to "bless an old man" she simply said, "I hate this."  

So, I was forced to wait until she was on an airplane heading out of the city before I blessed the elderly. Against her wishes.  

October 25, 2013

Day 24: A Dollar, Dishes and a Delivery

One year ago, almost to the day, I was in Manhattan.  I was in the middle of my first annual 31 Days of Kindness, and we had gotten a call that we were chosen by a birthmother to adopt her baby.  You can read the original post here, but the long story short is that she changed her mind in the hospital, and we had to drive home with one empty car seat.  That was not the baby that God had intended to be in our forever family.  It wasn't until the following January until we learned who our "mistry baby" would be. 

Jaylen came to us months later, and without a doubt, he is the child that was meant to be in our family.  (You can read about his homecoming story here.)  Jay was also born in New York City, and coming back a few months after our failed adoption was very challenging, but healing at the same time.

We have, what is called, an open adoption with Jaylen's birthmother.  Every open adoption looks different, but ours looks like this:  I send Miss N. text and picture messages every couple of days, I update a private blog with pictures and information about Jay's health and development, we talk and/or FaceTime occasionally, and I bring Jaylen to visit every few months.

Day 24.  It may be a bit of a stretch because it is hardly a random act of kindness... but this morning, I packed up a zillion pounds of baby gear and I boarded a plane to come to Manhattan to honor our commitment to facilitate a relationship between our son and his first mama.  As thrilled as I am to make these visits, they are a bit of a sacrifice, and I have to rely on the generosity of my friends Jessica (who helps with flights) and Melissa (*who forced me to do her dishes as payment for staying at her place.)

*That was a total lie, but I did do her dishes, and I put a dollar in a homeless man's change receptacle which I am counting as a kindness in case this doesn't do it for you people:







So there you have it, dishes done willingly, dollar given joyfully and birthmom reunion.  How ya like that Day 24?






October 22, 2013

Day 22: The Counter-Terrorist Unit

When my brother, Adam, was in kindergarten he would dismember our oldest sister's Barbies and hide the body parts around the house.  Kristin would come home from school, furious, and have to locate and reassemble the limbs and heads and bodies.  

I have a little boy in kindergarten.  He isn't dismembering Barbie's anymore... that's child's play for Mr. Harper.  The latest scandal for our kindergartener is that he has been getting off the bus early to partake in our school's breakfast program, which is a great program designed for low-income families who are unable to provide breakfast for their children.  

Let me clarify something... Harper gets breakfast at home.  We have never sent him to school without a hearty and healthy breakfast.  Still...

My Harper has been double-dippin' on breakfast the whole school year and we didn't know it.

The bottom line here is that even boys who grow into fine young men like my brother Adam was, they all start out as tiny, nightmarish fools.

For Day 22, I chose to pop in on my friend, Karolin.  She spends her days (and oftentimes long hours into the nights) shaping these monsters into single-breakfast eating ladies and gentleman.  She is a generous, strong and selfless woman, putting her friends and students ahead of herself... so we paid her a visit.

My friend Lexi and I went together, neither of us had a clue how to get to the school where she works... but we found it and she happened to be outside at recess dealing with the exact terrorism I am referring to.  She had them all lined up to head to the playground, she fielded complaints and tattles like a pro, she had even prepped a little work study for a few of the especially naughty delinquents before they were released to enjoy the privilege of recess... 

Sometimes a teacher like that deserves a turkey hat full of goodies.  



Day 21: Beautiful Heaven Awaits

As I have shared, unexpected Acts of Kindness elicit a variety of responses from people.  More often than not, people are skeptical, hesitant and confused.  Fewer, but some, act angry and defensive.  Fewer still, act like they won the lottery.  These are my favorites, when such a small thing knocks someone's socks off.  One of my favorite responses was from last year, when I gave a kid a snickers bar, and in disbelief he kept saying he couldn't accept it and continued asking me if I was sure.

My brother, Adam, had very eclectic taste in music.  Before a country/hip-hop collaboration was cool, my big bro was collabbin' Bob Marley, 80's hairbands, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Run DMC and Kenny Rogers on a regular basis.  He truly loved all kinds of music, and dancing like a fool, was a natural accompaniment.

One of his favorite songs around the time of his death was Mr. Wendal.  One of the best known lyrics from the song is the opening line:

"Here, have a dollar,
  in fact, nah, brotherman here, have two
  Two dollars means a snack for me, 
  but it means a big deal to you...

 Be strong, serve God only,
 know that if you do, beautiful heaven awaits..."

Day 21.

I decided to use another gift card from The Unnamed Benefactor of Kindness who anonymously mailed me a few gift cards to use on others this month.  I had a plan to give the gift card to someone unsuspecting that I had in mind, but my plans changed as I was driving to my Bible study last night.  I had the card in my pocket, ready to deliver, when I pulled up to a red light and saw a man, holding a sign.

 Hungry. 
Will work for food.

I had this Starbucks gift card just burning a hole in my pocket.  This guy is sitting there, and as I pulled up and rolled down my window, he didn't even look my direction.  How long must one sit and hope and experience disappointment before they stop noticing someone actually willing to give?

So, I yelled to get his attention, he startled, came over and I handed him the gift card.  He looked at it, unsure. I had a brief and horrible vision of someone handing out empty gift cards to homeless people as a cruel joke.  It made me sick, and worried that his hesitance was due to the same worry.  I said "Hey, the card is good, it's ten dollars to Starbucks."

His eyes widened, and he did the whole "Really!?  Are you sure!?  Why??  For me?"

I reassured him that it was definitely just for him, and not to think twice about it, and that it really wasn't a big deal at all... (granted it was not my money, but someone else's, but the reality remains that ten dollars here and there for most of us, really isn't that big of a deal.)

He looked at me in total disagreement and said "Ten dollars!?  That's like chocolate chip mocha frappeccino kind of money!"

It turns out, he's one of those lottery guys.  Like Mr. Wendal, a little generosity means a big deal to him.

I know that people have mixed emotions about helping homeless people.  Sure, he could just be down on his luck, despite good choices and hard work... but I know that some will say "he doesn't want warm coffee, he wants crystal meth."  And maybe that's true.  But, maybe, even if just for the night, the warm coffee and the warmth of a stranger gave him just enough of a high to think twice.  And if not, that part isn't really my business... my job was to respond to the prompting to serve God by showing kindness and compassion, and I have no regrets about that.  That is how my brother lived his life, and I know that not long after this jam hit the airwaves, my brother went home a beautiful heaven.



October 20, 2013

Day 20: Generational Kindness

As I have already shared, my brother was an avid reader and a passionate writer.  For Day 20, we decided to pass along the gift of reading to some kiddos who probably need the escape more than anyone.

We had the kids each choose two children's books that were willing to part with, but that were still in good condition.  They always surprise me with how generous they are with very little prompting.  They brought down a total of twenty two books.

We brought them to Rochester General Hospital, and donated them to the pediatric unit.  They just had a few books in the family waiting room, and the lady at the desk seemed very happy to receive the extra books.

This Act of Kindness was completely free, and took us 45 minutes total.  This is something anyone can do!  I hope you guys who are participating are having as much fun as we are!! 




My kind givers... Jaylen on the other hand, he's still just freeloadin' around. 







October 19, 2013

Day 18 & 19: 'Tis Better to Give than Receive, but Receiving Isn't So Bad

This summer, an old friend from high school, Greg, and his wife sent us a care package.  They put together all the essentials for our family to relax and spend time together.  Because Tom had recently been laid off, they put in some gifts cards, candy and popcorn and a few movies for us to watch during "Fanny Noonie Night."  (This is how the kids used to pronounce family movie night, and it stuck...)

This Act of Kindness was such an unexpected blessing, and it was only the beginning.  The kindnesses have continued to be poured out from others during this time.  

One friend anonymously bought my movie ticket or an upcoming girls night.  One stranger had my friend Lexi deliver some money and an encouraging note.  Others have quietly passed a check or a card our way, just saying they "felt led."  Since Tom and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary next month, Lexi and my mother-in-law coordinated groups of friends and family who pooled together to bless Tom and I with some money to take a trip.  Another friend is helping us with discounted flights.  We never really had honeymoon, so after ten years of marriage and five children... we will finally get that honeymoon.

During this month, where I am supposed to be extending all this kindness... I am being blown out of the water by you people.  It is overwhelming... 

In the mail, we received some gift cards from some anonymous readers.  From two different states, two different people took the time and expense to mail us these gift cards.  Some to pass along for the 31 Days of Kindness, and some just for us.  I have no words.

So, Day 18 & 19 are not only kindnesses for strangers, but they are kindnesses from strangers as well!  It has been a great reminder that none of this really belongs to us anyways, it all belongs to the One who created it... and sometimes, we are just lucky enough to be involved in passing it along, or having it passed back our way.

Day 18.  In honor of Greg and his family, we brought a popcorn bucket, complete with microwave popcorn and a dollar to pay for one Redbox movie rental.  





Day 19.  We used one of the gift cards we received in the mail.  






I trust that every act of kindness will be paid forward.  I believe that, because I have seen how every single thing I have ever given has been heaped back upon us a thousand fold.  

October 17, 2013

Day 17: Random Acts of McShame

So, I don't really eat fast food.  I can count the number of times I have eaten at McDonalds in the past 7 years.  It's the same amount of times I want to throw up at myself for doing it.  *Each time I did, it was essentially an emergency.  And by emergency I mean we were traveling out of state and there were no other places to eat and I had already eaten both of my shoes, so it was a matter of survival.  Still, I regretted it each and every time.  

The shoes, though, I stand by that decision to this day.

My husband is a very different story.  He hates his arteries and wants to McStuff them with as much purĂ©ed cattle tendon as possible.  I try, and I have made a great deal of headway... now, he seldom eats fast food, but despite all my efforts, he still craves fries after watching movies like Supersize Me.

He and his friend, David - who is also our pastor - stood in line at McDonalds one morning at approximately 4:30 am in an attempt to earn a coupon for one free breakfast sandwich a week for a full year. (These are my spiritual leaders ladies and gentlemen... this may help some of you understand my limitations as a person.)   McLawsuit decided not to extend the offer past one year, because no patron would survive past the year on that diet anyways.   

Now, my position on McDonalds has not changed.  The poor quality of their food, their horrifying treatment of animals, their love for little bits of bone in their burgers... it all repulses me.  

But we do have that coupon...

I know, I know... How could I??  

But the sandwich is free!  And I have kindnesses to uphold!  So, here's how it all went down...

We went in and used the coupon to get the sandwich with the purpose of giving it to the guy on 104 always holding a "Hungry & Homeless" sign.  In a moment of weakness, I almost caved and got one too, because I don't care what anyone says, their breakfast sandwiches are actually delicious.  But then Tom reminded me of scenes from countless documentaries I've seen, and I couldn't do it.  But, I did get a hashbrown, citing "you can't mistreat a potato" as my rationale.

I couldn't have been more wrong.  

The grossly mistreated potato had been cooked in rancid oil.  It was seriously one of the most disgusting things I ever spat into a bag. I just threw up in my mouth from reliving it.

Once again, Tom and I are in different camps here.  He did get himself a sandwich and enjoyed it thoroughly.  While I was spitting and yelling, "We're all dying of Egg McMuffin!" he was deciding which sandwich to keep, and which to give. 

"Who needs the egg more, me or the homeless guy?" 

Tom suggested we go in and complain, but admitted that they would probably just give us coupons for more free food.  When I explained that I didn't want more of their food, but that what I wanted was those years of my life back... we decided to just go find our guy.


We found him.

He was playing a guitar for the passing cars, and He seemed happy and thankful for the breakfast, but I can't shake the feeling that we have done something horribly wrong today.  Still, our heart was in the right place and I do think he was blessed.  We all made sacrifices today, I sacrificed my dignity, my taste buds and the ability to not feel nauseas all day and McHeartDisease, I mean, Tom sacrificed the one with egg.


October 16, 2013

Day 16: Gettin' Schooled

I love my kids' teachers.  All of them.  I love the assistant teachers, the teacher aids, the specials teachers, the cafeteria monitors, the librarians... every adult in my kids' schools are awesome.

I'm really not being sarcastic.  I love the bus drivers too.  Well, the newest one seems unusually rage-filled, but I think she is trying really hard... and I love her too.  

I don't know if my kids have just been blessed with amazing teachers and so I love them, or if I would love my kids' teachers no matter what, purely because they are the people charged with the shaping and care of my precious babies for a significant portion of the day.  I kind of think that I would love their teachers no matter what, because I once loved a teacher that yelled all the time and we loved that teacher anyways and eventually we helped Marlie grow to love that teacher as well.

We have always tried very hard to be a help and a support to the teachers because, frankly, I never had the mindset that the public school system owed my kids anything.  We are those scandalous Christians who send our kids to public
 school because, to date, it has been an awesome experience for our kids.  Trust me, if it weren't the best thing for one of my kids, I'd yank them out in a hot second.  But, we really feel that it's what has been best.  (Each kid, each year, new decision.  That's our educational decision-making motto.)

Anyways, these people deserve a little respect and appreciation from parents.  Teachers are held to ridiculously high standards, forced to adapt their teaching style to meet the needs of so many students with their own unique needs, plus accommodate parental preferences and meet their state and district requirements.  They work hard all year, oftentimes missing out on time with their own children because they are with mine.  

These people deserve a coffee every now and again for pete's sake!

So, coffee they shall have.  Love a teacher today, buy a coffee and if they are a big yeller... mmmmaybe go half-caff.


***ATATT Update: Thank you all so much for your prayers today, Tom's interview was, in his own words, a "slam dunk."  You can safely assume that those would never be my words.  There was no behaviors that could be described as tribal, and his bowels remain in tact.  He got great feedback on his presentation and he really has no regrets and feels that he did everything he could have done, and the rest is in God's hands.  I don't care if he gets the job or not, I am just so proud of him, and thankful for all his hard work and efforts.  That being said, if you are reading this and you are in charge of hiring at RIT, hire Tom or I will key your car. 

Day 15: All Tom, All the Time

Before you start reading this, I am going to ask you to kindly get your grace face on because today's kindness was not all that impressive.  Many of you know that Tom and I began our Adventures of Unemployment this past summer and it has been a wild ride.  I have been  a bit of a crazy person  awesome and supportive, the true picture of patience.  As much as I have loved this wild ride, I am ready for a new ride... one that has a salary and health insurance.

Despite Tom's diligent pursuit of a new job, he has not had any real solid leads until now.  Last week he had a phone interview with RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and he was asked back for a face-to-face interview tomorrow.  He will also have to give a presentation to a panel of brilliant and intimidating people that hold our future in their technologically advanced hands.

I think it goes without saying that Tom has explosive diarrhea.

So, Day 15 (sort of) is that when I was going out to do my Random Act of Kindness this evening, my poor husband begged me to "sit down and listen to him practice his presentation."  He meant to say, "...for one hundred million hours" at the end of that, but forgot I guess.

He insisted that my  mom  readers would understand and would accept this as the greatest kindness I could bestow.  I doubted that very seriously, so I vow to double up on kindnesses tomorrow... but, let me just tell you that doing this for Tom was not without difficulty given out personal limitations.

There is a sort of cocktail of problems really:

  1. I come from a heritage of coaching.  Not just any coach, but a wrestling coach, so I come by these struggles naturally.  When I am put in a situation where I am asked to give guidance or a little gentle feedback, I furiously scribble notes, and yell criticisms spontaneously from the corner.  Tonight was no exception.  I was firmly coaching Tom through the whole presentation, which was maybe the opposite of helpful.
  2. Tom comes from a heritage of worry warts.  Not just any worriers, but the explosive diarrhea variety, so he comes by his struggles naturally as well.  When he is put in a situation where someone is shout-coaching him with disproportionate intensity, he will exhibit bizarre and rarely seen behaviors including, but not limited to:
    • An odd Grease Lightningesque hair flicking.
    • Vocalizing various explosion-style sound effects.
    • Doing, what could only be described as, tribal gyrations.
Once I had aggressively "coached" him to the point of gyrations, I felt a sense that I had said too much.  So, I apologized and backed it down a notch.  His behavior normalized and we were much more productive.  I didn't laugh one single time (except for the first two minutes, straight) and he got through the whole thing several (thousand) times flawlessly.  


So... Day 15.  I helped my husband, sort of.

I have the utmost confidence in Tom, and I have faith that if this job isn't the right one for our family then God has something in store for us that will make us look more and more like Him in the long run.  As a kindness to us, though, it wouldn't hurt if you pray for Tom's interview.  Like, non-stop.  Seriously, please start now... lest the gyrations make an appearance during the interview.
  

October 14, 2013

Day 14: The Valley of One Thousand Rats

One of our more ridiculous experiences from the 31 Days of Kindness last year was the night we tried to bless the homeless.  You can view the full post here, but I'll give you the highlights of the conversation Tom and I had when we couldn't find a homeless person to lavish with our kindnesses.  

L: I don't know, everyone looks homeless.
T: No, he is walking too fast.  The homeless don't have to rush around like that.
L: Just because he is carrying so many plastic bags doesn't mean he is homeless.
T:  Have you ever seen anyone who isn't homeless carry that many bags?
L: Let's just see if that guys needs anything.
T: I'm not just going to assume that someone is homeless, I am not stopping until I am sure.  I need to see someone actually lying on cardboard before I approach them.
L: There are never any homeless people when you need one.
T: I don't know... maybe they cured homelessness.

See.  I told you it was ridiculous.

So, today is my favorite Act of Kindness for this month so far.  Mostly because I believed that it might redeem our relationship with the homeless a little, but also because I think that the homeless and the impoverished are an overlooked and unloved people group that could benefit from everyday kindnesses more than almost anyone else.  Since we are operating on a shoestring budget at the moment, we have tried to get creative with the acts of kindness, but I am so thankful to announce that Day 14 has a generous sponsor!

Today's act of kindness is brought to you by my dear friend, Kathy Blowers, who wanted to donate some money for me to use to bless others during this month.  I was more than happy to put her hard earned dollars to good, kind use!

We used the money to buy warm, second-hand blankets and sleeping bags, then put them in plastic bags to keep them clean and dry.  We placed them in areas of the city that have a higher homeless population with the hope that when the nights get cold, these blankets would be there for someone in need.


I call this one The Valley of One Thousand Rats.  Seriously.  There were like, one thousand, enormous, filthy, steroid-bulked, rats.  I braved the rat-infested grasses in order to provide warmth to the city of Rochester.






Our hope is, ultimately, that someone will stumble upon the blanket but, also, the message that they are noticed, seen and loved.

I started doing 31 Days of Kindness last year because I wanted to focus outside of my own grief, and I wanted to honor my brother's memory by glorifying the God he spent his short life devoted to.  I believe in a God that sees and knows and loves... a God of mercy.  My brother was the type of kid to dance with the shy girl, or stick up for the kid with no real friends, or take the time to sit and talk with his annoying little sister... and those are just some examples of what made my brother so special, but I don't believe that was just "his nature."  I believe that he was showing the fruit of having known and loved the God of mercy.  And when you love and serve the God that sees, it has a way of opening your own eyes to really see.

I think Adam saw.  I think he noticed.  And I think, if he had the chance today, he would walk among a million rats to bring warmth to a weary soul.