January 31, 2013

Day 3: Sweet & Beautiful Heartbreak

Yesterday was one of those days where you spend the whole day either crying, or trying not to cry, or eating so much Chinese takeout.

We have spent countless hours on trains and Tom pulled more than one body part brisk walking from one subway station to the next. We have navigated the metro system pretty well, but it allows us very little time to process any of the craziness that we are experiencing.

This is truly one of the hardest things we have gone through together, but also one of the most beautiful. Our time with N. has been very sweet and wonderful, which also describes her perfectly. We also had some very precious time holding baby boy in the NICU.

He was amazing, his grip was strong, he is eating and sleeping like champ and his eye contact was impeccable - like he really cared about what we had to say, ya know? Not like some other babies who are all like "blah blah blah," but never take the time to really listen.

I'm joking, but the point is that deep down I know he has some infection somewhere, but you absolutely cannot tell... to me he just seemed perfectly perfect.

We had the opportunity to speak with the man who's consent we need in order to move forward with the adoption. He voiced his concerns and we were able to address those and share a little about who we are and what life with us might look like. I debated about whether or not to again promise not to burn anyone, but it didn't seem like it would make as much sense in this conversation. Nevertheless, the call was overall very positive and left us feeling pretty confident that he agrees with and supports the adoption plan.

This is a small step in one of a million hurdles before we can actually call this baby ours. But, it's a start. We did get the hospital social worker to sort of advocate for us a little so that the staff can start to understand that we need to be in the loop also, and we did get permission to be with him in the NICU even after N. goes home. This was a huge relief because I am really eager to bond with him, and neither N. nor us want him to be there alone.

Our time was very emotional there, but I have never seen such strength in all my life. I don't know how somebody can be so engaged with their baby, loving, affectionate, proud and beaming... and still have the clarity of thought to remain focused on her plan. In my ignorance I assumed one must remain emotionally closed off or else they change their mind.

This is not the case. Miss N. is very open and loving. She said is remaining focused not on her own pain, but the fact that she believes that what is best for him is to be with us, specifically.

I will spend the rest of my life trying to wrap my head around that. I simply cannot fathom such sacrificial love coming from a human person. That is pure, divine, Jesus love being shown through that young girl.

Please pray for her precious heart, and she is asking specifically for prayers for strength and peace. I have never seen anyone stronger or more peaceful in all my life, so you'll be happy to know that your prayers are working in advance.

Today N. will be leaving the hospital, and hearts will break. Ours, hers, and that sweet boy who doesn't know what's coming. But, as long as she wants us to be his parents... we will be there with and for them both. And we will do everything possible to be worthy of being his mommy and daddy.

The Happy & Crappy of Adoption

Today was, again, a total emotional roller coaster. I always refer to both sides of adoption - the beauty and the tragic separation of mom and baby.

We had our second visit with the the birthmother today, who I am going to call N. for the remainder of the blog. I am tired of figuring out a politically correct term for "lady who had a baby and is planning for you to adopt said baby, but everyone knows that she has a window of time where she can change her mind, in which case she'd just be a mom, you don't need to say birth." Until there is a good word for that, miss N. it is.

Visit #2 happies and crappies:

Happy: This visit was exponentially better than the first one. For starters the social worker actually joined us and was able to facilitate just enough to get conversations going, but not enough to make us feel mediated. Our conversation and rapport is very natural and comfortable. This girl has blown my mind with how kind and respectful and others-focused she is.

Crappy: We did not get to see the baby during this visit. He had been taken to the NICU for IV antibiotics. The infection is either at risk of moving toward the brain, or is possibly already on the brain... But after two unsuccessful spinal taps, they have yet to find answers. When London was sick, I knew how to be there and advocate for her because she was my daughter. It was exhausting and challenging, but my role was clear. It is very difficult to have your child sick in the hospital, when nobody but the child's other mama is acknowledging us as his parents! We have no right to speak with his doctor or ask questions or even be in the room while things are discussed. Even though N. wants us to be involved, we have zero understanding of how to navigate this situation as maybe-parents.

Happy: We got to meet another one of N's family members... and it was still very emotional, but with her there was obvious love and support along with genuine grief. She was not pressuring N. to change her mind, there was no guilt or manipulation. She was accepting of the decision and we spent a good amount of time alone with her, and letting her know us more. She said that this made her feel much better about the adoption.

Crappy: We have found that a lot of people involved (miss N. EXcluded) are confusing adoption with foster care. Some have not understood that adoption would be long term, and others have concerns about whether or not the baby would be properly cared for. Yesterday, the family member said she was just scared because she had heard horrible stories of kids being beaten and even burned. What on earth do you say to that?? We were shocked and horrified that THAT was what we had to address to make her feel at ease.

Happy: We are not criminals, so we could actually reassure her that we will love and care for this baby well. We described all of the fun things we take our kids to do, in Rochester and on our cross country road trips. We described a typical day in our home, which involves neither neglect nor abuse. We also mentioned that we would never burn a child. It made me sick to even have to say that out loud. In the end, she felt very positive and reassured and wants to remain involved.

Crappy: During this discussion, the family member mentioned that she has a box at home that she has been keeping for N. when she had the baby. It is full of diapers and clothes and little things she would need as a young, single mom. She said she still wants to send it for the baby, which is so sweet and should be a happy, but when I pictured her saving away little baby items to make sort of starter kit, I couldn't help but feel like it was just a straight. up. crappy.

Happy: In the exact moment that Tom and I were deciding how often we could realistically afford to travel to New York City to see N., we got a message from a long ago acquaintance who offered us the use of buddy passes available to her as an airline employee, as well as a stay in her Queens apartment if/when we would need. This was such an overwhelmingly generous offer, which would allow us to travel back and forth so cheaply that we can actually agree to all of N's visitation requests!! It felt like more than a happy, it felt like God's perfect providence... and timing!

Crappy: There is still a major piece of the puzzle missing in order for things to move forward. We need the signature of the birthfather. Whether or not he would be willing to sign is still a little wishy washy. Whether he has any real interest in parenting or not, remains uncertain. The not knowing is craptastic.

So, we keep waiting. We head back to the hospital shortly and if I don't get my hands on that baby today, miss N. and I are storming the NICU. I think that the best way to connect as two mom's is to have a good caper on the books.

N. may be discharged today, so I am dreading what this goodbye will look like. I don't know how to do this. I have decided that I love too much for my OWN good, but I think it might be good for her. And as we face a possible goodbye today, I would be lying if I said that I didn't want to adopt her too.

January 30, 2013

First Meeting

It's very hard to blog about our meeting because it was such a personal experience for everyone involved. As much as my desire is to share my story, my heart, my life... an even stronger desire is to honor the family involved.

So, in vague and general terms... Here is how it all went down. On the car ride we were notified that the baby has some sort of infection and was having a spinal tap done. We know nothing more than this at this time. We are praying it is not any of the scary stuff, but something simply treatable. We would ask for every prayer you can muster for God's healing touch on his tiny body. And for calm hearts for all his family, both biological and maybe.

We arrived at the hospital about 2 solid hours late. We got stuck in traffic, then took a couple wrong turns, and it literally made us two hours late.

By the time we actually arrived, London had said "this is NOT how we get to New Yoyk Thity" a minimum of one zillion times and we were all kind of on our last shred of patience (or for me in particular, sanity.)

My mom got dinner for the kids while Tom and I went up to the hospital room. It was such a surreal feeling taking the elevator up. We truly had no idea how on earth this was going to go.

The room was very small, absurdly warm, and full of family members, (mostly disapproving). Our interaction with Mom and baby was very brief, but positive. I think she was happy to see us and she happily passed the baby to me to hold. I got told hold the sweet baby boy and hug his mommy a time or two. We did not discuss much or stay long, as the emotional climate in the room was very charged.

I did not expect a fairy tale visit where we all sang worship songs together, and I did not expect anyone to yell out "leave, white devil!" I expected something in between. And this visit was definitely somewhere in between... but a little closer to one end than I would like.

Nobody called us white devil. Nobody called us anything really. I think we just represented a horrible outcome in their minds, and I really cannot blame them for feeling that way.

We stayed only a short time and said our goodbyes. We took flowers and a card and a book called A Mother's Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words. It is sort of a journal with guided questions about your life and your upbringing, who you are and what you want your legacy to be. Whether she parents or we do, I think that it will be important for this little guy to really know who is mother is, in her own words.

We decided to leave and allow the family time to continue processing her decision. We assured her that there is absolutely no pressure on our end, and that she can take the time she needs to think through everything. She was lovely and pleasant toward us, and invited us back this morning.

This time, the social worker will be there, which will be very helpful I think. We got to the apartment that some stranger/friends have allowed us to (once again) utilize. We were exhausted and drained and emotional. My head felt empty and tinny and everything hurt. My head, my body, my heart and soul.

I hoped to sleep until we had to get on the train to go back... But a machine is rhythmically making that impossible. So, today we go back, we meet to discuss things... I don't even know what things. I am too exhausted to try to prep for conversations and I am just praying this baby is fine and that his mom can make the right decision... and I mean it when I say that I have no idea what that is.

I know she loves this baby, and I know that I will too if she asks me to. I know I already love her no matter what she decides, and I am pretty sure that she loves Tom and I too.

Nothing white or devily about it.

January 29, 2013

NYC: Meeting Mom & Baby

Last night, the baby was born. I had hoped/planned on being at the hospital when he was born... But he came a few days early and he came pretty quickly. Both mom and baby are doing fine and we have spoken with birthmom/first mom/ new mom with a decision to make. Our contact with her remains really positive and when we spoke this morning she reiterated that she still wanted us to come to the hospital today.

Sooo... We are about 3.5 hours away from the hospital. My mom is with us and will sit with the kids while we meet them for the first time.

In the interest of saving time, here are the answers to the FAQ's:

- No, we have no idea what to say or do when we get there.
- Yes, I am disappointed that we missed the birth.
- Yes, it is looking like this adoption may actually take place.
- Yes, anything could change at any time.
- Yes, there is a window of time where she can revoke consent, it is 30-45 days I believe.
- Yes, that is terrifying.
- Yes, we actually signed up for this roller coaster on purpose.
- Yes, she named the baby.
- Yes, we are considering keeping the name she chose.
- No, we aren't announcing anything or posting pictures until we are certain this is our guy.
- No, we don't know how long we will be there.
- Yes, our blood pressure is through the roof.
- No, the kids are not calmly anticipating both possible outcomes.
- Yes, they are, instead, using sibling aggression and excessive questions to manage their conflicting feelings.
- Yes, Tom's driving has gotten worse.
- Yes, he's still a better driver than me.

We should arrive in a few hours, fly by the seat of our pants as we meet this girl and her babe for the first time, and discuss plans. I do not know how to prepare for the emotions that are coming, but I have decided its probably a bad idea to arrive sobbing. So, I am gonna try to hold that for the parking lot. Tom, however, doesn't care what anyone says... he's just committed to sobbing the whole time. Ain't no stoppin' Tom once he starts.

January 25, 2013

By Faith, I Shall Pack

We are back in that place - that vulnerable place - where we are going through the end of a pregnancy with an even-more-vulnerable girl who is faced with making the hardest decision of her life.

After our last experience, we weren't sure what to think when our social worker called about a new possible adoption.  Most people reminded me to temper any feelings of excitement, so as not to get so disappointed this time.  I have tried that for almost two weeks now, and I have decided that I am all done.  I am just going to dive head-first into all the emotions of it, and I am not going to even try to hold back.  Perhaps that makes me clinically insane, but... is that really news to anyone??

Here is the problem, I have spent a lifetime trying to "prepare myself" for all the horrible things that are coming my way.

Lara: "Oh, this is a happy marriage!"
Lara "Well, he's probably leavin' in a minute, so don't get too excited."
Lara: "Wow, I have been blessed with such a full, beautiful family."
Lara:  "Maybe they aren't beautiful, maybe they are all hideous and you're the only one who doesn't know it."
Lara: "Wow, I really think I am making some personal progress."
Lara: "Ha!  You can't even spell progress!"
Lara:  "I totally just spelled it correctly."
Lara: "Whatever, you didn't even get the underlying point - which is that you are pretty useless."
Lara: "That was mean. But you're probably right."

See!  I know how to temper all things positive and hopeful.  I can straight up ruin a good outlook like nobody's business. The problem is that if/when the other shoe drops, I am not really any more prepared by having been obsessively worrying and protecting myself, and "pre-hurting" certainly doesn't make it hurt less in the long run. The reality is that I have just pre-lived the nightmare before I even needed to. And in the case that no shoe drops... I lived a nightmare for no reason at all!

So, here I go. I am packing bags. I am packing for our family of six, and I am even packing for a seventh, just in case this maybe baby ends up being the "mistry baby" we have waited for for so long.

After another wonderful conversation with the young woman who is planning to have her baby adopted, (and a family member of hers who is her main support) we feel like we need to prepare for the reality that a baby might actually be coming home with us this time.

She expressed her desire to meet with us before the baby comes (he is due in a week, so we kinda gotta hussle!) and also that she would like us to be at the hospital when she goes into labor.

We reassured her that our support for her is not conditional, and that us being there to support her is not  based on any pressure or guilt or attempt to manipulate her into following through with her adoption plan.  Our heart is to be there and support her despite what she decides.  We truly want what is best for her and this baby, and I am thankful that we don't have to be the ones to decide what that is!

THIS truly explains our heart on the matter, and really it boils down to the fact that we love, because He first loved us.  Someone has to love first... so, we are just gonna start. She seems very decided and sure, and said that our conversation and the family member's approval and support of us was a "huge confirmation" for her. Call us crazy, but we are moving forward with pre-loving this woman and her child, opposed to pre-living the nightmare.

We will either live through a horrible situation or we won't... So, we have chosen to wait and just bravely do it once if we must, instead of doing it a thousand times over before we need to.

"Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste death but once." William Shakespeare

So let the packing begin...

January 23, 2013

Adoption Update: One Week Away

We are getting very close to when this little "maybe baby" is coming into the world.  The young woman with whom we have been speaking/texting is due in just over a week.  After everything we learned in October, we are very cautiously and reservedly optimistic that this situation will develop into us adopting this child.  "Optimistic" probably isn't the best word since, as I shared in my last post, it is not without great pain that we pursue the complexities of adoption... we believe that the best case scenario is for a child to be raised by his or her biological parents.  It is with a very heavy heart that we bring a child into our home, and away from his first mother.  That being said, we acknowledge that it is not always possible for a young woman to parent, and I will forever admire any woman in this situation who truly does her best for her child - whether that means single parenting, or making an adoption plan if she feels that is best.

We have another call scheduled for tomorrow, and this time a family member will join the call as well.  (Enter Tom's heart palpitations and full drawers.)  We hope to hear more about her thoughts and plans from her social worker today, as they are supposed to meet and discuss some plans/preferences for when the baby is born.  I have no idea what specifics they will come up with, but "curious" about her thoughts and plans would be the understatement of the century.  (Obsessively preoccupied would probably be a more accurate statement.)

Our communication over the past week has been really positive and even a little playful at times, she has been very careful and respectful of boundaries, despite the fact that we are probably less worried about that than she is at this point.  Still, it is a good sign that we could have a really healthy, open and ongoing relationship with her if she does choose to have us parent this baby.

Over the past week, we have have grieved with and prayed for two families who are suffering through all of the painful emotions of a disrupted adoption.  The heartbreak they are experiencing is overwhelming to me, and and this has, naturally, filled us with a good amount of trepidation moving forward.  It is certainly tempting to close our hearts off to this young woman who has our future in her hands, and I can understand why so many adoptive parents are tempted to keep birthmothers at a distance, but I can't help but admit that I feel like that is a fear-based decision rather than a love-based decision.

I want to operate out of faith and grace and love, rather than operating out of fear.  I am still learning what this even looks like, but this process is helping.  I sooo long for Harper to have a relationship with his first mom, and I can see how it effects him to be without that.  So, as scary as it is to keep moving forward... that is what we are doing.  One call and one text at a time, we are just moving forward in faith and grace and love... trusting that whatever she chooses will be her doing her absolute best for her child.  And if it just so happens that she chooses for us to have the privilege of adopting him, we will spend our lives doing our absolute best, and trying to include her and honor her every step of the way.

January 19, 2013

Capuano Adoption Update: Open to Love

Many have asked us how our phone meeting went with the expectant mom on Wednesday. I have had a really hard time figuring out a good way to answer that question. It seems that adoption is full of so many conflicting and paradoxical emotions that it is hard to describe.

Really, the conversation went a million times better than I could ever could have dreamed. From our end, we seemed to have a very natural connection. She asked us a lot of great questions, and had great answers for the questions we asked her. Considering the fact that we were getting to know (over the phone) a young woman with whom we may end up having a lifelong relationship, and doing so under such awkward and high pressure circumstances... It all went remarkably well!

The conflict is this: how in the world do we love this girl, support her, root for her, and then walk away with her baby?? Don't get me wrong, it's not at all that I don't want to parent this child if she continues with her adoption plan... I just don't know how to not be heartbroken about it all.

Adoption is like that though... It's beautiful, yes, but also messy. From something being taken from one, it is given to another. The moment a baby transfers from one mama to the next it is both tragic and joyful, an end and a beginning, a loss and also a gift.

I don't even know how to process these feelings I have that vacillate from excitement to fear to guilt to sadness. I have been accused of being an empath. (You know who you are Abby Hanson) and I am realizing more and more how very, very true that is about me. I absolutely cannot separate the paradoxes. I can't just feel excited about the possibility that we will welcome a baby boy into our family in the next couple of weeks, without also acknowledging what that means for his first mommy. The grief and sorrow she would most assuredly endure, while we are celebrating him joining our family.

This is why I am so thankful that Bethany Christian Services does such an awesome job counseling and advocating for expectant parents. I am thankful for the awesome ladies that we are working with to navigate all of these conflicting emotions and all the ups and downs. I am thankful for the heart these women have for protecting these little lives and all the people who are willing to love them.

More than anything though, I am thankful that none of this is up to me! I am thankful for a very sovereign God who loves this baby more than either of his potential moms! I am thankful that He loves me and that He is absolutely wild about this young woman... And that He will not abandon her for one single second. I am thankful that this decision is hers to make, and that while she seems sure now... God is still good and He's still enough if she changes her mind.

The desire of my heart is to have an open adoption. I want to spend this life taking the risk of loving others well and pouring myself out instead of always trying to figure out how to fill myself up. I would risk pain if it meant I would grow through suffering rather than stay small in the safety of my own self-protection. I know that navigating an open adoption is tricky and can be downright miserable at times... But I can't imagine the opportunities it would create, to love, serve and minister to this girl. And after just one conversation with her, I realized that I want to see her succeed just as much as my heart longs to parent another child.

If she continues to move forward with this adoption plan, I will brave all the paradoxes of fear, blessing, loss, grief and rejoicing... And I will choose to love not only this baby, but his mother, his first mother, the one who gave him life.

January 15, 2013

Capuano Adoption Journey: Meet a Maybe Mama

Tomorrow we have a phone meeting with a young woman who is interested in the possibility of us adopting her baby, who is due in just a couple of weeks.

We have never met with an expectant mom (potential birthmom) like this before, and it is both promising and very nerve-wracking. Or is it racking? I never really did learn the proper spelling, or what it actually means to wrack/rack ones nerves.

Either way, it is currently happening to my nerves. Tom and I are not feeling super prepared for the call because I have been in Portland for the past week visiting friends and welcoming their baby, Ava, into the world.

So, I am cramming for the oddest adoption experience to date. I wrote out some questions I anticipate she may ask, and some questions we will ask her. The idea for us will be to ask the same type of questions I would ask any woman who is expecting a child, some light ones that are easy to answer so she doesn't feel overwhelmed... along with some deeper questions to help us get to know her better, in case she does choose to entrust this child into our care.

I am listing the questions below, and answering some of the heavier ones she may ask us. This is mostly for me to process and prepare, but also a great opportunity to share our heart for adoption and answer some questions people often have, but don't always feel comfortable asking us.

Q's for expectant mom:
-How has your pregnancy been? (Any cravings, difficulty sleeping, complications, etc.)
-What are your hobbies? What do you like to do for fun/to relax?
-What kind of support do you have, friends/family/church/community?
-How can we support/be praying for you during this time?
-Why are you considering making an adoption plan?
-What personality trait, talent, or characteristic would you like your child to inherit from you?
-What are your hopes for your child's life?
-Is there anything you would like to know about us?
-If you chose to make an adoption plan, how much openness would you like? What would you prefer as far as visits/calls/pictures/letters?

Q's she may ask us:
-How did we meet?
-What is our parenting style?
-Why do we want to adopt?
A: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to adopt more than one child. We feel that it is really important for Harper (and our next child) to have a common experience with someone in his family. While he has plenty of sisters to go through life with, we think it will be very beneficial for them to have a common adoptive experience, as well as similar racial experience, etc. Life for a child who was adopted transracially is unique and challenging at times, the extra support and understanding of a sibling will be a really special and helpful experience.
-How will we answer adoption questions?
A: We are open, honest and straightforward when answering adoption questions from outsiders or from the children. We try to share how special and wonderful adoption is, but also that it can be devastatingly painful at times. We stress two basic things: that his first mom gave him life and and she gave him a family, two remarkable and sacrificial gifts. We talk about adoption frequently and casually so that the kids feel like they can talk about it whenever it pops in their mind, and that there are no "taboo" topics that will hurt our feelings to discuss.
-What is our primary hope for our children?
A: Our primary goal would be that all the kids become the men and women God created them to be. We want to give them a solid foundation in which they can grow to trust and follow Christ and strive to glorify Him always. We feel that (in addition to a solid biblical foundation) this is best achieved by giving the kids a variety of life experiences (traveling, camping, serving others, sports, art, school, dance, play, music, etc) all of which help develop the kids into their unique, individual selves. Often in large families, kids personalities start to blend together a bit... We try to be really mindful that people serve the Lord most effectively when they are free to be the unique person God designed them to be, using their individual gifts, passions and skill set. If they all started to look too much alike, I would be worried!
-What kind of support/community do we have?
-What are our hobbies/interests?
-What are our thoughts about openness?
A: We are very open to being open! We desire to have a relationship with our child's biological family, but will respect and honor the desire for space and privacy if that is preferred. We view our role to be that of facilitators of whatever relationship is best for our child. It is our belief that a relationship with positive and loving family members (both biological and adoptive) are very important and we will work very hard to facilitate these relationships if that is desired.

Okay... That's about all I can think of. Been through this? Then tell me: what am I missing? Haven't been through this? Then just imagine, what would YOU want to know if you were in her position?

When People Fart on an Airplane it Feels a Little Like Terrorism

This might be the absolute worst flying experience I have had. It has been very turbulent... But not in the traditional sense.

While the Federal Airline Liquid Prohibitory Alliance has cracked down on bringing toiletries on board, they currently have no standing regulations on in-flight gas passing. I have discovered that a self-proclaimed hungover woman can noisily and clumsily board a plane, forewarn row-sharers that she will soon pass out, and then spend a solid two hours ripping toxic toots until other passengers want to go skydiving.

I seriously considered asking the flight attendant for just a hit or two from my oxygen mask, but then it got so bad I was sure that this was sort of bio-terrorism and even the oxygen mask wouldn't stop the slow and stinky death I was about to endure.

Finally the woman actually passed out, as promised. She inexplicably covered her whole entire head with a black scarf and just plopped face down into a cheetah pillow. I am a little worried about her oxygen flow inside that cheetah thing, but more than that... I am thankful for the fart-reprieve and the return of MY oxygen flow.

January 9, 2013

About Leaving a Family.

I have a secret fear that one day I will snap and totally abandon my family.

(Honey, if you are reading this - and you better be reading this - calm down, it's just a deep and irrational fear, I heart you and am not going anywhere. Hopefully my vow to stick around is good news.)

I know that I would rather die than leave my family. I know that I would rather be tortured Slumdog style than leave my family. I would rather impale my eye with a smoldering pretzel rod... you get the point. So, now that it's clear that I'm not looking to get outta dodge, and also that I have violent and disturbing thoughts on occasion, I am want to be open and honest about this fear.

I have known plenty of people who have done heinous and unexpected things to the people they love. I have faced my share of abuses at the hands (and mouths) of people who have claimed to love me. I have even been on the wicked and guilty end of sin situations as well... and I have hurt those I have truly loved. So, while I know I would never leave my family, I also know that we are all capable of terrible wrongdoing and, sadly, I have proved time and again that I am not the exception to this rule.

Still, I would not leave my family. Well, at least not for long. I am currently on an airplane right now headed to Portland, Oregon to be there with and for a dear friend who is about to welcome her second child, but her first baby girl, into the world. As I was leaving my baby girl, London informed me that she could not be happy or a good girl with me away, or "if you way" as she put it.

On my recent weekend trip to Washington DC for the Move:DC event, my friend Sam said something interesting to me, something along the lines of me being really good at being away. I know that she meant that I was able to leave my family and actually enjoy myself without being constantly worried about the kids or feeling guilty. I took it as a compliment, because it is a skill I am actually intentional about trying to cultivate: being engaged when I am with my kids, so I can be guilt-free and relaxed when I am apart from them. (Especially because these times are few and far between.)

Still, positive as I believe the remark was meant to be... it stirred in me a great reminder of this fear. What if I am good at being away because I am a leaver? What if I am closer to snapping and leaving than I think? What if wanderlust finally gets the better of me? What if I am the worst? What if the threat of a Slumdog beatdown can't even deter me?

This is when I need somebody to slap me really hard, or throw a drink in my face. This is when I need more Spanish soap opera stars in my life, ya know, someone who will get really irate and just shove me down a staircase.

I need a reminder that, yes, while better people have done worse, I am not going to leave my family. I think it is because I am so aware that I am capable of horrific crimes, like impaling someone's eye with a pretzel, that I am intentional in guarding my marriage and family life from those temptations. I think because I know that I could be a leaver, I have to cling to the grace of God. And only by His grace, and all the might and empowerment He stuffs into my soul, am I able to actively and purposefully become a stayer.

Except when my friend has a baby.

Then I go, but just for a bit. And knowing that my little girl can't be good or happy without me there is a great reminder to me about the effects of divorce on kids. I can clearly remember what it was like to feel like I lost the strength and know how to be happy, or a good girl, because somebody left.

I don't care how much we love our spouses or our kids or our lives... sometimes there comes a time when our wanderlust (or a different lust entirely) will call to us and promise something to us that will never be delivered. In those moments, I want to have this healthy fear of losing everything right in front of me...

This fearful knowledge that if I left, my babies would feel like they lost some of their own worth, some ability to muster the strength to be good girls and boys, and that they just couldn't be so happy "ifout me." And, perhaps, someone would also give me a big, fat shove down a winding staircase just in time to knock me back into reality.

I know that horrible things happen, and that every situation is different, and I am not judging any of those scenarios... I am simply saying that Sam was right. I am pretty good at being away, I catch up on reading, I listen to excellent jams, I chat with strangers and drink my coffee slowly and while it is still hot.

I savor each of these little gift-moments. And I do it (for the most part) without feeling guilty. I think that is because I know that I am not really leaving, I know that I am always fighting against any pull or lie that tells me to give up on my life. I know that I am choosing to be a stayer, and even if I am short of soap stars who will do it for me... By the supernatural grace of God, I believe I will gladly put a pretzel to the eye before I let myself be a leaver.

January 1, 2013

New Year, New Contract

Annalee and I spent about an hour and a half negotiating the terms of this contract. And by that I mean, I explained the terms, she asked for a raise, which I denied, and she suggested that I reconsider after she "tries it my way for a while."

This coming from the girl who handed me am invoice the other day for "babysitting" the younger kids at a family party. In the corner of the invoice it said "Key Bank" and included a charge of 88 cents of interest for not paying her on the day that her services were rendered.

I don't know if I am proud, or worried!

Before she signed the terms of the agreement, she asked if it was okay that instead of tithing 10% and saving 10%, that she continues spending, saving and tithing in equal parts. Which means the poor kid is going to work her fanny off for less than a buck a week, so that she can save a third and tithe a third.

When we first started teaching the kids about money we explained the three ways to use everything God gives us: give some, save some, spend some. We knew they couldn't comprehend percentages, so we just have them three pennies, one for each jar. The concept stuck and Annalee thinks that spending 80% "just doesn't make any sense."

Upon further thought... I may consider that raise sooner than later. Of course, after she "tries it my way" for a bit.