October 30, 2014

Day 30: Peaches, and Pits

Can you guys even believe that tomorrow is the last day of October? I can't help but feel the crippling self-doubt that tries to creep in at the end of this kind of project. It's so easy to harass myself with criticism and accusations that I didn't do enough, or that I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be, or that I offended someone on accident, or that even if I did do some good things, I didn't always have that cheerful heart I had hoped to have by now. On the other hand, I feel absolutely exhausted. I feel physically and emotionally drained... so the pride side of me spits back its own ugly accusations, that I have done plenty, too much in fact, and I shall never be kind again, and I need a vacation, nay I deserve a vacation. And then I realize what a sick, sick woman I am, and that's when I decide to stop all the  maniacal  internal dialogue and just show you a picture of this peach.

This was Day 30. I delivered this enormous peach to my daughter's fifth grade teacher, who's adorable baby girl is named Georgia, and is lovingly referred to as "The Peach." So, after searching high and low for an infant size peach costume, he was desperate. And since we are in the business of making frivolous, fruit-related dreams come true... we stepped in and made this adorable little Georgia peach. I painted some upholstery fabric so that it would not only look like a peach, but feel like one too. (Okay, it was a crusty-fuzz after all the paint, but be quiet and just love my peach.)

Then we made a little stem-blossom headband.

Look at all that gorgeous fuzz!

I will post pictures on my business FB page (Piccadilly Rose) once there is a baby stuffed in that thing, because you will throw up on yourself when you see how adorable she looks in it. 

So, delivering that bad mamma jamma was one part, but the second part of #AdamsActs has been in the making since the end of September. I have been trying to organize a team of people to serve my friend's mom who lost her husband of 35 years, suddenly and tragically, just 6 months ago. 
She and her husband lived in their dream house (that he built for her) and together they raised two children who would grow up to devote their lives to full-time ministry. And although this sweet woman, and her children, have had their lives turned upside down by the loss of such a wonderful man, their grief has not taken everything from them. Even in the midst of despair and anguish, their grief has not won. They have a hope in something beyond this life, and they know that one day, they will see and touch and hold this man once again, but when that times comes, he will be in his perfect form, because he has been seen and touched and held by his Healing Father.

And as this woman waits for the moment of that reunion, she is bravely facing this new chapter of her life with such grace. She is beginning this new adventure in a new home, in a new town. That is a lot of new! And while she is looking forward to being closer to her beautiful grandchildren, she is undoubtedly overwhelmed at the task of making this new house feel like home, especially when her husband was a gifted craftsman who built and created such beauty in their home. So, I have been putting together a small group of people to go to her new house on Saturday to help make this feel less like a space more like a home. We plan to paint a couple of rooms, and do whatever jobs she finds us fit to do.  

That won't officially happen until November 1st, but since the planning is half the battle, I am using it for half of Day 30. I painted a peach, and then I am going to paint some rooms. One is frivolous and fun and quite adorable if I do say so myself, and the other act (I hope) brightens up more than a house, but my prayer is that this act of love and service will brighten up this new season of life for her. 

Day 29: It happened.

Today, our friend and pastor, returned from a trip to the village of Maramara in Chad, where he went to see how the people are fairing since our church body donated money to provide a well for clean water (as well as the training to repair and maintain the well, independently) and to build a school. (Talk about your Act of Kindness!) We got the privilege of seeing videos of the people of Maramara drinking their clean water and readying themselves to begin school next week! It was amazing.

One thing that David shared that stood out to me was how the people of Maramara recovered from a fire which recently destroyed virtually all of their homes. When asked how they were feeling since the fire, they simply stated that "It happened." For the people Maramara, health is a luxury, and one that has only recently been made available with the arrival of clean drinking water. Conveniences are non-existent. There is zero sense of entitlement. When their village burns, it just burns. It happened, and that is all. Nobody expects otherwise.

Americans do not suffer like that. We talk about how we feel about what happened. We want to know why it happened. And we especially want to know how bad things could happen to good people. We feel that we don't deserve to suffer. We feel entitled to our safe and convenient lives. We don't suffer well do we, us Americans? I know I don't.

Don't get me wrong, I am thankful to live in a community where a woman dying in childbirth is extremely rare and appalling, I am glad that when someone's home burns down, it is recognized as a tragedy. I appreciate that the way my brother's life was taken from him is still shocking. I don't want to live in a world where that stuff just happens and that's that.  Still, I think we could learn from the people of Maramara when we are focusing on our grief, our loss, our idea of stress or inconvenience. We are spoiled, and we are rich, and we don't even realize it. Even our suffering is defined by our expectation that we be spared from such pain. We get so angry and shake our fists at God and demand an explanation, as if the Creator of the Universe owes us anything.

Anyways, I was struck that the people of Maramara expect to suffer, but they probably didn't expect to have clean water. They can rejoice so freely because they see the gifts as gifts, and the suffering, not as a curse, but as part of life, just something that happens. I want to be more like that, where I am so pleasantly surprised that anything good could happen to such pitiful people as us that I see it as a gift, a mercy. I want to feel my grief, and I want to continue to be shocked and saddened when horrible things happen, but shocked because I haven't been desensitized, not because I felt entitled to a comfortable life.

I always dream of doing something big like that, going to Africa and making some big impact. But, the truth is, they don't need me there. They need clean water, and education, and they need their own people to be equipped to lead their people, they don't need me. This is when I wish I was a dental hygienist, or a doctor, so I had some skill that would be useful to a village in Chad. But, alas, I do not. So, until they need tutorials on how to make a fool of yourself in a blog post, I am staying stateside.

Which brings me to Day 29. I went, under the cover of night, to rake leaves for our friends who have a really busy schedule (both work full-time, three kids, etc.) They were talking about how their yard has been overrun with piles of leaves, and I have it on good authority to say that they were not exaggerating.

To save time, I will summarize Day 29's #AdamsActs and what I learned in the process:

  • I learned that these friends live on a corner lot. 
  • I learned that corner lots are bigger, and that means more leaves, and that means more  work  kindness, so, woohoo! I  hate  heart corner lots.
  • I learned that if you are 5' 9", you are too tall to hide behind a limp, quarter-filled leaf bag, and the homeowner will see you crouching like a criminal if they pull into their own driveway.
  • I learned that I am exponentially more afraid of pedestrians after 10 pm, than I am before 10 pm.
  • I learned that I am slightly more afraid of pedestrians that are smoking than those that are not. (I really, truly did not know I felt this way, and I don't know why that is. Perhaps, deep down, I believe that someone who is willing to completely disregard the collective world-wide opinion that something is horrible for you, is also - just slightly - more capable of ignoring the notion that skewering me with my ancient rake handle is a bad idea. I don't know, maybe it's something else, but this was a new discovery.)
  • I learned that damp, dead leaves smell like the breath of a drunken man.
  • I learned that they also sometimes smell like poop.
  • I learned that when leaves do smell like poop, it's because you are actually smelling poop.
  • I learned to always wear gloves when scooping leaves into a bag by hand.
  • I learned to always keep baby wipes and hand sanitizer in my car.
  • I learned that if it's really dark, you can still see how many leaves there are left, but you can't see your rake.
  • I learned that once you lose your rake, you have to go home. Ashamed.
  • I learned that even if you aren't a doctor doing important medical missions in Africa, you don't need a PHD in poop-raking to make an impact in your own city.
So there it is, Day 29. It happens. Suffering just happens. Literal and figurative crap happens. Right in the middle of a good thing, there is this heap-o-fecal matter just waiting to get scooped up into your bare hands. That is life. It stinks, but I think I am learning to expect it in this life, knowing that on this side of heaven... we can either focus on the whole corner lot of gifts we have been given, or we can let the one pile of poo rob us of all our joy. I think it's a worthwhile pursuit to just dig in and hope for the best.

The first/worst rake ever made. And bags that promise more than they deliver.

I didn't know I was raking crop circles until just now.

That's like nine bags, son! 

October 28, 2014

Day 28: Vidglogger

I don't vlog. First of all, I am not mature enough to handle video blogging, and second of all... I think the word vlog sounds dirty and I refuse to say it.

So, tonight we made a vidglog. It's terribly ridiculous. Enjoy.

October 27, 2014

Day 26: Cider, Santa and Squalor

For Day 26 we delivered cider to some neighbors. This doesn't sound like that big of a deal, because it isn't, but we did make the cider ourselves which I think earns a few extra effort points.

Our friend, Dave, came for dinner and brought over a medieval torture device, that doubles as a vintage cider press. The kids absolutely loved it, and my blood pressure  was  wasn't at all through the roof as the children's precious fingers continually came too close to the finger-remover  spinning gears.

The kids got to make their own cider with this contraption, and it was some seriously good cider too. So, we jarred some up and delivered it to people down the street. I had a nice conversation with the girl, who remembered that I brought her husband some curry last year because all he had eaten that night was potatoes. #worstdinnerinhistory

Every year, I also give myself kindness credit for the amount of time I spend making Halloween costumes.  I spent a lot of years not participating in Halloween. It wasn't because I thought it was dark or evil, or anything like that. Sure, some people take it too far and make it dark and sinister, but to be honest, we grew up making silly costumes and carving pumpkins and hoarding candy under our bed, ya know, like Americans. So, for us, it was never about anything scandalous. We didn't use it as an excuse to dress like prostitutes, or sacrifice animals in satanic rituals. (That's what Thanksgiving was for in the Provencal family.)

Still, as harmless as I found Halloween to be growing up, I felt some loyalty to my brother to sit on the sidelines each year. On the night that Adam was killed, I was dressed as him for Halloween.  I wore his wrestling singlet and warm-ups and had his head gear dangling on my hip, just like he did between matches.  I braided my hair into pigtails, because, obviously, that made me look more like a teenage boy, and I was him. When everyone else dressed up like their favorite super heroes, I dressed like mine. It just so happened that my hero was a 17 year old kid. And truth be told, Adam loved Halloween. He loved to be silly, he loved to laugh and play, and he inexplicably loved hammer pants.

So, right around the time I had kids, I decided that I would let them experience all the fun and shenanigans my sisters and I experienced with my brother when we were kids. Nothing dark or scary, just haphazard and offensive hobo costumes, harmless gender swapping, and juvenile diabetes.

But despite my decision to embrace the fun of Halloween, rather than the sad reminders... I still struggled so much when the holiday actually came around. I just dreaded all the leading up to it. Then I discovered that I could throw myself into making the kids's costumes, and it would help me look forward to the fun, and distract me a little from the grief triggers. It doesn't always work, but hey! we have some pretty fun costumes out of it.  So, here is a little smorgasbord of costumes from Halloweens past.

 Annalee's first Halloween... speaking of gender swapping, we went as boys. Okay, she went as a boy, and apparently I went as a pedophile. (I worked at a preschool at the time and, I kid you not, they would not let me into the building. True story.)

Baby's first sideburns.

Marlie as Jessie from Toy Story 2

Danielson and, if memory serves me correctly, I believe I called myself Captain Awesomehook 

The year of all the Santas

Accompanied by Mrs.Clause and an elf.

I feel very strongly about drawing facial hair onto young children whenever possible.

Chick hatching out of an egg was pretty epic. London was afraid of Lebron James apparently.

Two cupcakes and a candle

As much as I preach kindness this month, none of my #AdamsActs would make my brother more proud than the fact that I have become so much like my mother in all her costume-making glory, that I (spoiler alert) sewed a bean bag to a bicycle helmet today for one of our costumes. Absurd and wonderful and truly something that Adam would have appreciated.

Tom's act of kindness, besides continuing to help with all the kids while I continued to recover today from the pink eye of the throat... was dealing with the mess of homemaking Halloween costumes. He secretly loves living  in squalor  with such a fun, creative woman. 

October 26, 2014

Day 24 & 25: The Better to Slap You With, My Dear

The past couple of days have been a hodgepodge of #AdamsActs. I manhandled the post lady into letting me leave a book of stamps at the counter for anyone who might need a stamp. She kept saying that she didn't think she could do that, and I kept saying that I believed in her and that I knew she could do it. Eventually I said "Thank you, bye! Pay it forward!" And skipped out in the midst of her protests. 

I also gave my mother-in-law a free haircut, which I always do, but when you devote a whole month to kindnesses, you count all the usual stuff too!

Before I de-mudflapped her...

And after



So. Now that my mother-in-law looks younger than me, let us move on to the rest of the family.

Annalee volunteered our crafting skills to make a Hallowern costume for her teacher's baby.  

Marlie had to dress as a storybook character for school.  She chose to be Little Red Ridinghood and brought a basket of apples to deliver to teachers and bus drivers. (Though I think her greater act of kindness was looking this adorable in her costume.)

I am in a particularly busy season of life, and in Tom's words have "run myself down to the point of being sick." So now, I can wheeze every time I breathe and bark like a seal every time I cough. I have felt miserable all day and for Tom's #AdamsActs, he has banished me to my bed to rest. I am not the best at staying in bed or being a patient, but he has been quite insistent.

As evidenced above, Tom is very aggressive about his kindness. And he thanks you for your continued prayers for his rage problem.

October 23, 2014

Day 23: Adopted.

We have an open adoption.

A lot of people think we are crazy.  (We also think we are crazy, but for totally different reasons.)  Actually, maintaining a relationship with our son's birthparents is one of the least crazy things we have ever done. When the alternative is withholding a relationship with people that created him, it seems insane to do anything else. Trust me, I am not being judgemental, I know that there are a million nightmare scenarios where a relationship must be withheld for the child's safety and well-being. But that's not what I am talking about.

I am talking about two people who absolutely adore their child. I am talking about a beautiful, bright, amazing young woman who created a life from scratch, and then birthed absolute perfection. She not only gave him the gift of life, she gave him the gift of a family. And for some reason that blows my mind every single day, she chose us to be that family.

I do not think of choosing open-adoption as some heroic act of mercy like some people think it is. Mercy is when we don't get punished for something, even though we deserve it. I think that is how a lot of people look at it, like birthparents lose their right to be involved if they choose to place their child for adoption.  If I gave birth to a child that I did not feel prepared to parent at the exact moment of their birth, I cannot imagine the pain of receiving a life sentence of separation from my child because of it. I honestly don't feel like we are doing anything remarkable by facilitating a relationship with Jay and his first mommy and daddy... rather, I think we have the privilege of being part of something remarkable.

We fell in love with our son's birthmama, Miss N., the moment we first spoke with her on the phone. She and I have been texting and calling and facetiming and sending pictures and videos... almost daily ever since. Yes it is a huge commitment.  Yes it is time-consuming. Yes it can sometimes be messy and enmeshed (see why I have a low tolerance for that with neighbors!?)  No, it is not easy or convenient to travel to New York City every few months to visit them. Still, it is nothing remarkable on our part.  What she did was remarkable.  She entrusted us with the life of her only son... and we are merely reciprocating the trust and respect she showed us, even though we did nothing to deserve it.  That is called grace.  To give a blessing that someone does not deserve.

Adoption is such a sweet picture of our belief system. We actually believe that we are adopted by God, because he essentially traded in His only son so that we (ie; heinous sinners) could be made His perfect sons and daughters. That is both grace and mercy. He showed us grace in pursuing us though we did nothing to deserve such love... and He showed us mercy by not separating His perfect self from us, even though I sin enough in my sleep to warrant permanent banishment from His perfect presence.  I know how crazy this all sounds... which is why I admitted that texting my baby's birthmom is hardly the craziest thing I do.  I actually believe this Jesus stuff, and I know that makes me wacky to a lot of people.

But, here's the cool part. Because I actually believe this stuff, I get to live with a peace and a reckless abandon that nothing else in this world can give. So, sharing my son with the only other people on this planet who adore him as much as we do, is not that hard in light of my own adoption through the grace and mercy and loving kindness of my God.

Day 22 was a lot of adoption love. I spent time talking with Miss N. and messaging back and forth with birthdad (or "Pop" as Jay calls him). I also spent an absurd amount of time searching online for a very special fox. When Jay was first born, we bought Jay two adorable stuffed woodland creatures. He has a bunny - which represents Miss N.- so she has a matching one. And we got him a fox - which represents Pop. I have been searching for a matching fox for Pop and have planned to give it to him in November when he comes to Rochester for his first visit here.

On the train going to see Jay and Miss N. in the hospital when he was first born.

I ran into a little glitch while attempting to get a couple foxes, one for Jay in case Mr. Fox 1.0 has an accident of any kind and one for Pop. Eh hem... the stinkin' fox has been retired! Sooo... instead of ordering that for Pop as an act of kindness, I had to ASK POP to take a train all the way to the Bronx and SEARCH FOR IT AT THE HOSPITAL GIFT SHOP AND BUY IT FOR ME, FOR HIMSELF.


So, as much as I had hoped to bless him with a really meaningful, matching woodland fox... instead, I sent him on the world's worst errand. Buuuut... I did send them both some adorable pictures of Jay, and I thanked them both for procreating the world's most adorable child. This is not an opinion, this is a fact. That I will prove to you.............. now.

I enter into evidence, Exhibit A

Photo cred: Me, but that was easy thanks to his DNA.
DNA cred: Pop and Miss N.