Sunday, November 24, 2013

Orange and Grey

It's orange Against grey. The gym resounds with the thump, thump, thump of the rubber ball. Refs blow whistles, stopping and redirecting the team. Two points, missed baskets, girls guarding opposing team. It's just another Sunday afternoon for fifth grade little ladies basketball. I am sure all the other parents are thrilled when their girl hits the basket and the small crowd roars! Yay!! One team will win and the other will lose. But I don't get nearly as excited about the two pointers. I Mean, they are great. But mostly, for the last hour, my heart swells just watching my fifth grader on the floor. I love how the coaches respect her, encourage her and let her play. I hear the new friends call her name out. She's the third tallest on the team, slender, spry and fairly quick. I give her a thumbs up whenever I catch her eye. But I swallow the lump in my throat with every tennis shoe that hits the floor. One, two, three- guarding her opponent as if her very life depended On this one minute in time. Her shirt is too long, her bangs almost cover her eyes. She is guarded and not very interactive. But she is playing the game, and she's doing a great job at it, too. Of course she has played on several elementary school teams, so it's not really new to her. She has the rules down and she goes for a shot, shaking her head to get the too-long bangs out of her vision. She misses the shot, but sidesteps to guard the opposition, just like a pro. She takes the ball to the other end of the court, effortlessly bouncing the prized ball with every beat of my heart. She shoots the golden egg. It's in!!! I yell, fighting the urge to stand on the tallest bleacher, "YAY!!" I scream her name. I am so proud. I really couldn't care about this game. Or any other. What fuels my pride is seeing her determined to play on a team, at a new school where she has just begun learning names of other kids. She walks into the gym, tenuous when she can't remember what her coach looked like from practice this week. She spotted someone she recognized, although she can't remember her name, and walks toward her team. She takes her place, throws some practice balls: game on! Her spunk and determination have carried her this far. The trauma of her past has stopped at the doorway, she has overcome her damaged brain from fetal alcohol syndrome, at least in this way, at this time. She has become an important part of a whole. She is a winner. Yeah, it's not the points she scores. It's not just the hour we spend together on days like this. She is an overcomer, a treasure in the rough that is easy to forget on the "dark" and hard days . That's why I want to shout from the bleachers, yep, that's my girl. That cute blonde that looks just like every other girl on her team. Because, I know her struggle. I know her heart. I know that smile is as genuine as it gets. She succeeds above all others because it was determined at her conception that no matter what bad she inherited, her future can look wonderful. Yes, today is her future and she makes me extremely proud to call her my girl. My determined, obsessive/compulsive, hyper vigilant daughter. The one who was delivered to us a day after my birthday one warm summer day. Sprite like in appearance, a worried ticking timebomb of emotional issues that could swallow her whole. A mere baby at 17 months, in a car seat that didn't fit her frame. A whole lot of pain wrapped around her from her family of origin that NO ONE should ever have to deal with. Today I see hope. It's a long journey to go. But I am so very proud of just how far she has already come! Way to go, girl!! That's my girl!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


I can honestly say, moving to a new home after 17 years in the last one, may have been the toughest thing I have ever done. Three birth children,raised and out of the house. Done. Several years of foster care and 7 adopted kids. Done. Two special needs children, non-verbal, unable to walk, severe developmental delays. From Africa. Done. I have been through surgeries, pain, sick and even more sick children. Hospitalizations, funerals, crazy relationships, life. Done. Moving ten miles from one big house to another (that needs repairs too). NOT DONE. We have spent several weeks remodeling the new home, moving in here, and moving out of the other one. Every trip to the "old" house uncovers more that needs to be done and it Of course, 6 kids had to switch schools, three different ones at that. The baby boys got to stay at their school, but we had to switch counties for their special care programs that help us with their medical needs. The home based computer kid had to re-establish his area in the new home,and now goes twice the distance to his job. He has taken one drivers class, but we transport until he drives. The oldest girls got involved Immediately in the new high school drama department, which has them bringing the 4 middlers home and then walking back to their play practice. To top it off, one six year old is a budding cheerleader, and the 9 year old goes to weekly scout meetings. The 11 year old started basketball and even scored two points at her first game. The next sport will be the 9 year old boy basketball games. In a month during this move,dear hubby has repaired two roofs,built one floor for a bedroom for the boys, closed in a narrow doorway, removed a built in cabinet and opened a wider doorway that accommodates wheelchairs. Oh, not the mention carpeting 5 rooms, repairing old wiring, and moving 2 freezers downstairs in the narrow basement. He finished the wheelchair ramp within a week so I didn't have to carry the boys chairs up and down stairs. At the same time, maintaining his 50 hour a week job. And we are still NOT DONE!! I have cleaned, cleared, unpacked and set up house. I have painted and arranged rooms. I have tried to keep food in the house, even if it meant someone else has been helping with cooking! We have had wonderful friends along the way, who have supported us with meals, and child care,and making sure we are not forgotten now that we live in the next town over. But whew, moving has been rough! I love our new 1904 farm house in the city! We have great plans, one of which is to fence the back yard real soon. I can't wait until spring to redesign gardens and power wash the house. I have so many plans to make this home a beautiful place we all will love for years to come. I still have boxes to unload, but it already feels like home to me. I sleep better, have plenty to keep me busy, and love welcoming people into our home who come to visit. It's been a great change,brought on by a much needed change. We are almost ready to list our other home and we are hoping a big family will love it as much as we did for 17 years. I never thought I would leave the home my grandpa built. I also never thought we would adopt 9 kids and need to be closer to schools that can meet some of their special needs. But we made the move, we made a huge change in our lives, and now, as the moving winds down, we can say CHANGE IS GOOD! I am almost at the point where I can get back to the business of doing what fuels my fire - advocating for the orphans in Africa, and praying for the funds to go again to help the people I love clear across the ocean. More to come! Change is good!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The travelers

I spotted them as soon as we pulled into the gas station. She had long dark hair falling freely along both sides of her petite face, with a jaunty dark hat perched on the top of her head. She let lose a beautiful full tooth smile, and I am pretty sure her eyes twinkled, even if it were slight. She had her knees drawn up to her chest, sitting on a bag or something like it, on the sidewalk to the left of the entry door. Her counterpart, with an equally unique black top hat on his sandy brown haired head, looked me straight in the eye when our van rolled to a stop in front of them. I liked him immediately, feeling some level of shared comradre all because he never shied away from a forthright look into my eyes. I trusted him. I noticed the star tattoos on his cheeks, his slightly dirty clothes and hands but I liked his smile. I rolled the window down most of the way before Mike Turned the key off to the engine and exited the vehicle to fill up the gas tank. He left the car as I poked my head out the passenger side door, and pointed to her cardboard sign. "Chicago? What's in Chicago?" I asked. She twinkled and opened her mouth to answer, while her companion spoke up first. "Fast trains. To anywhere! " I smiled. I told them, sincerely, that I was sorry I could not take them to Chicago. We were going a completely different direction. Although they smiled, I thought her shoulders slumped a little when I looked away. Someone else pulled in behind us, and the young man pointedly asked if he were headed toward Chicago? The answer was no, again. In seconds I had felt connected to these young travelers, realizing they had already seen more of the world than I had. They were eager, too old to be run-aways, but looking for adventure. I saw my daughter in her eyes. Guarded, but trusting, hopeful and determined. If my daughter had approached a stranger in a strange town, I hope the stranger was kind, like I hoped I was being to them. I had a huge chocolate chip cookie ,the size of a dessert plate, wrapped in plastic that we had purchased, unsuspecting, in the earlier part of the day. I don't know what prompted me, but i called out to the pair. "Would you care for a cookie while you wait?" Dual smiles confirmed it. Had it been a while since they had eaten or maybe treats were rare? It's all I had to offer and I was secretly glad they took it. They seemed so thankful for that cookie, I started wishing I hadn't eaten the other one so I could have offered them each one. They looked as if sharing was something they were accustomed to. I liked that part. They were on a mission to go somewhere, anywhere? Together. They were bonded together on their quest, partners to the finish. It was a brief moment in time. We pumped our gas and left. It took nothing from me, but I felt as if I had experienced something deeply that afternoon. Their smiles, their hope and excitement, their quest. The connection was made, albeit brief, I appreciated the spark I felt for them as we waved and pulled away. Young people, follow your dream. I hope you made it to Chicago. And beyond your wildest dreams. Your smiles will stay with me a long while.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

When A Mom Is Sick

Having just experienced what may classify as the most horrendous stomach flu, I now believe there is a series of unfortunate events that occur when a mom gets sick. Things spiral over the course of time, albeit no one in the household quite understands what really happens when Mom takes a bucket, cold washcloth and Tylenol to her room. The flu. As mom tries her best to sleep off the hideous headache that keeps pounding at the backs of her eyelids, NO ONE is pounding on the very-out-of-tune piano in the next room over. Mom is said to be hallucinating during this time of duress as she lie in her chambers, and coming out of her room to correct the children who are possibly swinging from the livingroom light fixture probably are not really misbehaving nearly as much as mom supposes. Mom just has the flu. Just as mom falls asleep it is a sure thing SOMEONE needs to know just which vegetable would be perfect for dinner, even though, #1 - no one usually cares what vegetable is cooked because, no one will eat it, and #2- mother is sick and does not really care if anyone eats a vegetable this night or not. All mother wants is to go back to sleep and not hear the banshees In the next room practicing their tribal calls. Mom is not available, when she is sick unto death, to squeeze the toothpaste tube back Into shape, return the cap and place it back in the drawer, and further more, when Mom is this sick, she really doesn't even think about the children brushing their teeth. At this profound stage of illness, mother could care less if their teeth all fell out. Or if they miss the bus, join a traveling circus or marry a biker. Mom is too sick to care. If mom is sick, no one keeps the cats away from the fishbowl. It's every fish for himself when mamma has the flu. No one realizes how many times the rolls of toilet paper are taken away from fish-bowl-tormenting-cats either. Apparently mom will clean up the shreds of tissue all around the house once she crawls out of her stupor. No one dares bother mom when she is this sick. Except to borrow her cell phone, get the code for the Internet, or tattle on someone who is doing something that can not possibly, at all ,be worked out by dad. Moms sickness also seems to slow down the laundry schedule. Although dad is great at sorting and keeping it clean, he really has no clue how to sort it correctly, thus creating yet ANOTHER reason at least one or nine children must wake mother up to ask where their tights/favorite shirt/ undies/ pet snake are. Although the teens have been washing/drying/ putting away their own laundry on the same weekly schedule for the last three years, apparently mom is the only one who knows what that schedule is. So being sick, mom has to yell out of her illness to said teenagers to do their laundry on the scheduled night, or be woken up in the morning after a sleepless/sick night to borrow MY clothes/sweater/belt/ earrings. Obviously teenagers really miss mom when she is sick in her room for two days, because they can't seem to stay away. Especially if they were told to do the dishes/clear the table/pick up livingroom/ watch your baby brothers til dad gets home without making sure the other teens are getting just as many chores as they are. A very sick mom can not usually ignore what is going on in other rooms. Partly because the noise level is so intense it can not be ignored even if mom was asleep outside in the van down the road at a nearby park and also because a mom knows there may be something that she will have to jump out of bed and deal with (as she is holding wet cloth to aching head, and kicking bucket along in front of her so as to not make a mess on the carpet as she screams at no one in particular ). Meals will be cooked loudly when mom is sick, because her quiet room is directly off the kitchen. That way, she can tell no one is left in the kitchen when she smells the food burning and she knows immediately all the children are once again in front of the television and can not hear neither the smoke alarm or timer going off to alert them its time to call dad and have him pick up pizza for dinner. Of course the nine children decide to play Dreidle on the night mom is sick, LOUDLY so she doesn't feel as if she is missing out on family game night. When mom is sick, she really doesn't care about Dreidle, hopscotch or making moonshine, as long as the nine children (or 17 or 31) are playing quietly. Mom tries her hardest to get well. She prays, sips weak tea, and eats nothing for two days. The teenagers, however, decide to come talk to mom as she lies dying in her dark room whereas they had not spoken directly to mom two weeks prior to her illness except to ask for money and a ride to the game. When a mom gets sick, she usually gets back into action sooner than anyone else who gets sick. A two day illness can last a week to a kid who wants to skip school, until the neighbor shows up to play and the kid who threw up his gizzards all night long insists he was never really sick, just didn't want to take a shower. Moms really can't get sick gracefully. It's hard work to stay down and get enough rest to get well. It's harder yet to spend so much quality time with all the kids parading through your room to ask questions every 10 minutes when you are nauseous and just want to sleep. I have learned if I can plan my next bout with the flu, I am checking In at the local hotel and maybe, just maybe, a good nights sleep with no distractions will put me back on my feet much sooner! Mommas must stay well! They just can't live without us!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two brothers. Two houses

The aunt and uncle that I grew up living directly next door to, have their home for sale.
Well, technically, they have both since passed on to Glory, so their daughters are arranging the details in their absence.  Being that my siblings and I are also arranging the sale of our parents home since their passing, I totally understand the agony, yet need, to accomplish this huge endeavor.

I have a dear niece that is looking for a home for her growing family, so when she Arranged to see my aunt and uncle's home, I was delighted to be a part of the home tour!  We had already peeked into the solid front picture window, trespassing although it were, and got excited about seeing the home from the inside out, and not just sneaking a limited view of what lay beyond the front glass.  I had already explained a few of my recollections of the homes layout to my niece, but as memories flooded back to my heart, I was excited as we turned the lock and entered.

The double garage was added years after I had married and left the neighborhood, and the green home that I mostly recalled by memory was now sided with vinyl in a pleasant taupe color.  It made a nice solid background for which the bushes stood out against, and the roof on top looked clean and strong.  But as the door to the front of the house opened, I was astonished at the memories that flooded my senses!

I was the child again who came to visit my oldest cousin as she lay in her bed with an injured heel that sustained a nasty bike accident (of which I was the driver of!), icing a painful foot of stitches. Oh I felt so very sorry for what my carelessness had caused.  I hoped then that she would have forgiven me sooner than later!  I felt tremendous guilt and couldn't stay around to see what the verdict would be!
Or the time she had her tonsils removed, I visited that room again, wondering if her voice would ever sound the same again, and feeling sad for her painful throat, but secretly wishing I, too, could have my own tonsils removed so that I would get to eat as many Popsicles as I wanted like she was enjoying this day.

I could smell the overly salted pretzels we made with her Easy Bake oven, hardly tempting I am quite sure, yet my dear uncle swallowed them up with smiles as If we had presented a glorious 8 course meal on a silver platter to a king!!  We were so proud!

I remembered where every piece of furniture was placed in the minty green living room,and could hear, once again, my aunts tinkling laughter as she served up her newest concoction to the love of her life as he returned home from work. She had infectious smile and a twinkle in her eyes. Then there was the time I could hardly wait to see the newest member of their family! Just after school we quietly peered into a bassinet, marveling at the bundle of pinkness that lay sleeping there. It was my earliest recollection of seeing a brand new baby, and I could hardly take my eyes off of the tiny roundness of her nose, and how each little finger looked slender and perfect. Her two older sisters enjoyed showing her off, but were quick to frolic Off to play, but I just couldn't stop looking at her. It was better than I could imagine, and I loved that she was now a part of my life. The middle sister was best friends with my baby brother. I imagine they were about the same age, but it was clear they were "cut from the same cloth." Family often commented on how much they were alike, as if they were twins born to differing mothers, but genetically very much the same. They laughed at the strangest things, and even in their growing years, remained close and connected. I didn't have time for them, as our days were filled with swings, forts, neighbor children and late night firefly hunts. The dark would settle in all too soon, as we separated for the day, just waiting for the next episode of our childhood that simply couldn't come fast enough. It was all here now, hitting every sense in me as I stood in their family home, inhaling the memories like a crack addict. I needed this reprieve from today's life. I had to reconnect, although just for a few moments, to a precious time I feared I had lost. My closest aunt and uncle have been gone for a few years now, grief has been pocketed away, in the same compartment, I suppose, as the tidy place I now keep my own parents since their death. Today was the day I took out those feelings, rolled them around in my heart, holding them in my shaking hands and cried. What was the value in all we had lost when we laid them all to rest? They were not properties and accumulations of their meager wealth, but were just all-too-short caregivers of the lives Entrusted to them. They all died, and I am quite sure there were accolades and praises given by their creator for how each of them valiantly carried on the years they were each given. Above all, between the two brothers, they successfully raised 8 children in a tough world, and each boasted of grandchildren and great-grandchildren that will continue use the legacies they left behind. Two houses now hang in the balance. Two homes built together, side by side on a quaint road off the beaten path, lovingly carved out of timber and shingles by the hands of the brothers, brother in laws, their growing children and the patriarch of them all. What will become of the homes, the lots, the yards and memories? I imagine when I am gone, some of my children will recall these homes, as they stand today, empty and longingly looking for the next set of lives who may build new sounds and laughter to their walls. I dread the day they will be deemed unnecessary or undervalued, and torn down for progress. It is sure to happen as progress deems important. But how I hope it's not too soon. I want to hear laughter in these walls again. Fresh, engaging laughter as a new generation builds on top of the memories already so grounded in the soil of this neighborhood. I want to see dogs, and chickens and swing sets and bikes fallen over in the yard, as a new family of children trot off to see what is happening under the big trees. Is it wrong to envision picnics in the shade or make believe stories being played out once again in the safety of their parents watchful eyes, just as a whole generation had done all those years before them? It is hard to watch the changing of the guards. But what a joy if those hands who turn the keys would be an extension of what our mothers and fathers began more than fifty years ago. What if a hundred years from today these homes were shored up, made stronger still, and another generation could stand and hear the echoes of their own memories flood back to their senses when things in the world just feel so out of control? Somebody will love these homes, just as the ones who built them did. Oh that I would see that happen and could rest in my soul and know their life work was not in vain! They are not just houses. They were where two families called home. Our homes. Our memories. Our past. Not crypts of days gone by, but stepping stones to another generation who needs shelter and a place to build their lives. Cornerstones strong enough to shield their whoas, gentle enough to give them peace at the end of their days.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Independence Day 2013

One of my favourite childhood memories was the warm summer night we packed a huge bag of popcorn in a brown paper grocery bag, a new pack of cookies and a thermos of koolaid and loaded up the family car just before dark. We were headed to the small city airport in our town for the annual fireworks display. It was often on a weeknight when my dad had already worked a long, most likely hot day as a sheet metal journey man, tired and barely rested after his shift of climbing ladders or crawling through an old building to install duct work, when he would slip his comfortable loafers on, take the wheel, while four children squirmed in the back seat of the auto and we made our way to town. We usually met other family members there and would park our cars side by side, throwing old quilts on the ground while adults leaned on the hoods of their cars or set up lawn chairs. I remember smelling the faint cigarette smoke in the air as the men puffed on the sticks that eventually were banned, listening to the parents conversations with one ear, while leaning into the stories of the cousins gathering around our blanket. We ate snacks, talked like crazy trying to get it all in, while anticipating the show that couldn't begin until the last rays of sun sunk below the skyline and it was perfectly dark. The years were all different, but so very much the same. Laughing, talking, waiting in community until the first pop and bang signalled the show had begun! It was like magic to my young eyes, and so,sorely missed as an adult when I lived away from my childhood home the first July after my marriage. Even then, my soul sought out the crackle as the booms sailed over my head and sulfur smells as the fireworks lit up the sky , no matter what town we called home in those days. A variety of events in adulthood gave me experiences I wouldn't trade for the world, but none can compare to those summer nights, as a family, that we gathered under the massive sky, watching the heavens light up in declaration of our country and her independence. Tonight is the time where we have continued the tradition with our own family. Though grown, I hope my first three children are looking at the night sky tonight and watching for the colours to erupt and shimmer down like magic. I hope my grandsons out East are seeing colours in the clouds and hearing the boom, boom BOOMS that shake the ground. I pray that all are safe, and the night explodes in pride for our country, and we all remember the great land we live in. But tonight, I am missing the displays. I am in the hospital with our youngest son, Isaiah, (3) as he recovers from the breathing difficulties he had earlier today after a routine surgery to replace his feeding tube. Isaiah is a fragile child medically, which we tend to forget until something like this disrupts the normal routines we have grown accustomed to since he came to our family 15 months ago. It feels as if he has always been a part of us, but it's just been this year that our lives have learned to slow down to accommodate a sick child. His smile - oh, I wish everyone had a child who smiles like our Zay! He has a complicated history, including abandonment in his own country (which saved his life!) to the prized "baby of the family" here in America, where he is enveloped in the largeness of our lives, getting the medical support he could have never gotten there. His life is a miracle even now, having survived two years of little nourishment, medical needs that are complicated, yet able to be managed here. He radiates love and gentleness and is teaching us more each day of the things that really matter. So I sit here remembering. America. Fireworks. Family memories. Missing my other children who are gazing at the skies in our hometown with their daddy, seeing magic like I remember so clearly when I was a child. And I remember last year, sitting with my mom, watching the last fireworks display she would ever see on earth, as this year she is seeing them from above the clouds in heaven. With dad. And I smile. Isaiah now sleeps peacefully, breathing regulated after a day of struggles, with a moderate supply of oxygen, rhythm re- established, making me believe he will be able to rest well, and return home tomorrow. He dodged another scarey twist in this complicated little life of his, and I am grateful, once again, to the ONE who keeps him safe. He had known him in his mothers womb, created to be unique and perfect, and who guides each of this breaths as HE ordained from the very first one. In a way, I am quietly celebrating a different independence tonight. Isaiah's. Although his body is entrapped in stiff limbs due to his cerebral palsy, and the tremors overtake his peacefulness much more often than I care to admit, he is free. He is free to love, to be loved, to smile, to bring joy. His deep eyes twinkle when he is happy, fill with tears when he is in pain. But he is free. He is not a slave to empty pursuit of things. He is simply content when his most basic needs are met. He doesn't crave notorious fantasies, or desire great wealth. He is a simple, although brilliant minded boy, who's biggest joy is to have me lay beside his frozen body and just BE there. Loving, cooing and stroking his frailty, I hope he always will know just how very treasured he is. I am grateful for the memories I hold dear, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pass on the traditions that meant so much to me to the children I call my own. And more than anything, I thank God for the way He leads me and assures me I am His own. He continues to walk this medical path with Isaiah, reassuring me He will never leave us or forsake us. Happy Independence Day, Isaiah. Perhaps someday you will guide others to seeing the beauty of life from your simple perspective to love and be loved. There can really never be anything sweeter than that.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ahhhhhh, camping

I was feeling pretty low and discouraged the last few weeks, so my hubby arranged a perfect restful solution to my mood. LET'S. GO. CAMPING! So, after 48 trips to the grocery store for "a few camping items" and 2 days to pack everything we need for 10 people for a week,(Nicole is on a musical mission tour this week to New York so we are down a kid!) plus refilling all of the meds for everyone who needs them, and making sure all the laundry was caught up so we had enough to wear for a week, then having a trial run in the camper overnight in our back yard, we boarded the dogs (after the vet bill to get their shots up to date), a quick trip to the paediatrician for two ear infections on two different kiddos, then more meds needed from the pharmacy, and finding out it was time to put one of the baby boys on more meds for his spasticity (that the doctor said was 'impressive'), and packing the diaper bags and van as full as it could be, we were ready. The helper dog, Kramer, sat in my seat and had to be coerced into the back seat with the kids. A former show dog, he obviously is used to top seating privileges. Of course the hamster had to come with us, although the fish, chickens and cats agreed to stay home to tend the house in our absence. A dear friend agreed to feed and water everything at home, so we were off! "Are we there yet?" We had driven a total of ten minutes, max. "I want to swim as soon as we get there," it came out in unison. "The lake will be too cold to swim, but I am hunting for rocks anyway!" That was me. I planned to sit by the fire, after making my dear hubby his banana cream pie for Father's Day dessert. Oops, forgot the cream part. Hubby runs to the local gas station. Unfortunately, this area had suffered a very big wind storm the prior week, and had lost most all of their frozen goods when the power was off for days. We missed that, thankfully, and hubby found someone with spray whipped cream. Pies were saved!! We ate a fabulous dinner of tacos from the fire cooked burger and every thing tasted good. (Except the boxed shells were stale so we had taco salads instead.). We ate pie, made s'mores, and we turned in for the night, everyone tucked safely in their camp beds, while we dreamed of the days plans ahead. It was close to midnight. Now keep in mind, I have kids who go to sleep late and still get up at the crack of dawn. Camping only accelerates their alarm clocks. T was up and fishing at daylight, waking up most everyone else with her fish tales. It was true, a girl had caught a 17" large mouth bass the Saturday before we got there, and T was determined to catch it again. At this writing, the 17 incher was still lurking in the pond, but T holds the record for the most catches so far this week. M caught the largest bass, but was SO incredibly freaked out about it her enthusiasm for fishing has waned considerably. Boy T has now caught a sun fish, collaborated on several of Girl T's catches/releases, and basically baited hundreds of hooks this week. It appears he is not nearly as squeamish poking hooks through harmless worms as as few of the girls are. I just wanted to sleep in. I caught a tiny sunfish one day, like just a bit over aquarium size, and was so proud. My mom was a fisherman and would have been so proud of us along the banks of the mighty pond. I have been missing both my folks this week, as memories surface of the many times we went camping together. This is a week dad would have loved, at a place just perfect, the weather grand. Even the kids wondered who would be cutting potatoes for breakfast, since that was grampa's job each trip. Yes, they are smiling down from heaven at us all muddling through this trip, smiling at their biggest catch ever, their eternal home in heaven! I really just wanted to sleep in. Gb has been out of sorts, I imagine another ear infection brewing for him. He is totally into throwing rocks and dirt, especially after a bath. He has eaten everything in sight, and must be growing with all the sun,sand and pool time. Speaking of pool, baby Zay loves the water more than anyone. He cackles and screeches with the biggest grin on his face, making me wish more than anything we had a pool! Therapeutically warm, all season indoors, for him to stretch and relax those cerebral palsied arms and legs. It's such a blessing to see him laugh so heartily just by floating effortlessly on the surface. The kids who can not lift him gather around to guide him in the water, his body as light as a feather in the pool. We all join in his laughter. This morning I just wanted to sleep in. The alarm, (mike), reminds me there is stacks of laundry to do before everyone gets to the laundry room. He sorts, loads in the van, brings me a ROCKSTAR sugar free drink and a snickers bar (sorry doc!) and helps me load the washers. He returns to the RV, cooks breakfast on the fire, brings me fresh coffee and a covered plate for breakfast, returns to the RV to play with the kids and clean up breakfast, while I slave over four loaded washers and dryers with the dirt you can only get at a campground coming out of our clothing. Ahhh, the hard job of camping. We always fight to determine who GETS to do the laundry. I won today. I have taken a few naps this week, collected beach glass and interesting rocks, swam in the pool (the lake is freezing), sat by many fires, read some, crafted some, and relaxed! This past year I lost both parents, made it through many firsts without the ones who always loved me the most, and celebrated a year home with my African angels. I have been through many invasive tests, had my gallbladder removed in march, and got to be with my four beautiful grandsons for a couple months. I have felt stress and discouragement, but I think I am on the mend emotionally. There is still much to settle with our parents estates, and life will never really be easy, but I am grateful for this week to relax, unwind and have no schedule. I really, really just wanted to sleep in, but listening to the laundry machines whirring as I write is almost as good! I love camping, even all the hard work, because we are all together, good and bad, which is what matters the very most in life! Ahhhhh, camping. Worth it all!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


There are a few things I have gotten tired of hearing since we began our adoptions over ten years ago. Here are a few of them: *Do you have any of your own kids? (Who do you think these 12 belong to?) *Couldn't you have anymore of your own? (Personal) *I bet that costs you a fortune to feed them! (Umm, and house them, clothe them entertain them, vacation with them...etc) *Are you competing with brad and Angelina? (We beat their record a long time ago) *You must like chaos. (No, not really) *You and your hubby are saints! (Not even close!) *So you have your own baseball team? (I hate maybe) *You running a daycare? (No, we are a family) *So how many of your kids are half & half? (Really?) *Why did you bring foreigners here? Aren't there enough local kids who need homes? (That's another post. If you are interested in adopting I suggest you contact the local foster care system). *I had 2 (or 4 or 6 or 1) and he/she is hard enough. I couldn't handle one more- especially someone else's kid!! (These ARE my kids) *Why don't you just babysit? (Again, really?) It depends on the day as to how I respond. For the record, I don't suggest adopting or fostering children if you don't believe you could handle it. Children are alot of work. Children from dark places are even harder. Traumatized children are not going to get better in a few days (or weeks, or months, and maybe not years.) However, what we have done by bringing 9 more children into our home is not because we hoard, or think we are perfect parents, or have unending supplies and resources. We felt there was more to do in this world and we thought we could make a difference in a few more lives. We stand against abortion, so feel we had to provide a solution. Adoption is a valid and needful way to add to a family. It works for us. Are we done adopting? That's not my decision. God knows our hearts and our abilities. I want to remain open to whatever He requires of us. Do we have a plan to adopt more?Nope. That would have to be Gods plan. We spend a lot trying to give our kids what they need. What we spend the most of is time and energy. Yes, we do get tired. Yes, we "asked for it." And no, we wouldn't change it for the world. So when my kids are sick and hospitalized, or you see us at the doctor "again?", just know we will probably make many more visits than smaller families will due to the number of children we are caring for. We also have numerous special needs kids - many that you would never guess by looking at them - and we spend a lot of time seeking the help they need to thrive and grow. We try really hard to not ask much of other people. We appreciate the ones who stand beside us and encourage us. We are grateful for online groups who deal with a lot of what we deal with daily. We always pay for our sitters and never get enough time to get a date night or (gasp!) go on a trip. We camp so our vacations are manageable and we have more control over our kids environments. We are picky who they spend time with, and who we allow into our lives. It's called parenting. And sometimes it is just plain hard. But we feel like we can make a difference in our kids lives. We may not see it yet, but are hopeful each one of our kids will also give back to others. We know there are some of you who could make this work in their lives too. Be open. It would change your life on a whole bunch of different levels. Positively. We are glad to know so many families who have adopted some of the hardest kids too- kids who came from dark places, but their futures look much brighter already! I don't mind answering questions and love advocating for children all over the world, but please be kind. I am pretty open but some topics are really no one else's business.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lessons of life

We had just come back from the neurologist appointment with Gb and my mind and heart was still reeling from all of the information I had to absorb (or adjust to again!). Bella had traveled with me, since she takes a very personal interest in just about anything her special brother does! We were hungry and needing a distraction before the hour and 1/2 ride home, so we stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken for supper. It was completely empty at first but customers streamed in one right after the other once we got there. As we ate, a large lady came in, ordered and took her place directly next to our table. She had extremely colorful makeup on, which Bella noticed right away and commented on. When the lady looked up, I said "my daughter said she likes your pretty eyes." She looked stunned, but said, "thank you. Thank you." As she ate, she grunted quietly, poured salt over her food with abandon, laughed like she was in a crowd of extremely funny people, and yet stayed completely focused on her interior thoughts and world. It struck me, she was not used to anyone talking to her. For whatever reason, she was alone, lonely, focused on her inner world, and only broke free from her thoughts long enough to hear a compliment from a tiny child. She was stuck inside of her self. I recognize her in my son. From traumatic early life experiences, to malnutrition and need, to enormous brain malformation that will forever keep him young, he tends to function best in his own little world too. We pull him out and teach him signs to communicate so he will have a way to express his needs, but often he is lost in a faraway world, happy with his own thoughts and play, drastically far from any of us, until a sibling or friend gently lifts him up, or calls his name so that he jolts from his hidden world and (for at least a short time) gives us glimpses of a part of his mind that still seeks engaging in life outside of his interior one. In some ways I am saddened. But I look at Gb and see how very many people are investing in his life. His loving sisters, caring brothers, plus teachers and therapists who refuse to stop teaching and reaching him. I compare it to a depressed life in his country of birth, to his blessed life here, with countless doctors, educators and loved ones who will stand in those mental gaps and love him through to this world to be as perfect as he could ever be. Peacefully, we remain determined to bring him out of his inner world to help him thrive as the contented individual who can make everyone smile with his antics. His giggle is refreshing, his determination to be applauded, and his tenacity to carry on when most of us would never be able to face the challenges ahead. He is Gods gift to the world, a teacher as well as a student. Thank you for loving your precious brother, Bella. It has already made you more accepting of those around you who may not be quite like anything you have ever know before. And I know you are a great example of love and Jesus when you wipe your brother chin or share your cookie with him. The special people in the world have so very much to teach us. I pray we will be open to learning how to reach each one .

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Eyes have It

I sat at the eye doctor appointment with the boys today. Not only do we have two African boys, they are both in wheelchairs and both, obviously, have special needs apart from their vision issues. I can't really take the boys anywhere alone anymore. Too big for strollers, they each have a chair for transporting easily. Except it takes one person to push each chair. Of course, that usually means mike needs to take a vacation day to help out. Or sometimes we can fit it into a lunch hour. The general clientele here is over 55. Probably closer to 70. We get alot of stares. Some folks smile as we stroll past, but mostly we see blank looks like they are trying to figure out what we are. This is always quite traumatic for GB . I don't know what he had to face in his first 4 years of life in Africa, but he starts screaming as soon as we walk into almost any medical facility, especially if there are white sheets. Today was a bit different, since he let the doctor do a small exam of his eyes without crying. Until the eye drops. The nurse kindly says, "he's got good lungs." They changed his prescription today. He squints more with one eye which seems he's trying to focus. He only hears with one ear, so he needs his vision to be as clear as we can get it to help him maneuver through his world. As our appointment came to a close today, I met a wonderful older couple who struck up a conversation with Gb. He smiled and clapped and charmed his way into another life again. The couple were open And receptive, relaying their own experiences with adoption when they welcomed two of their grandchildren from an orphanage in Russia. They get what we are doing. And they smiled genuinely at our little man. We don't get that type of encouragement everyday. It felt good. It's a challenging life at times but we wouldn't trade it for any other.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Under Construction - BOUNDARIES

Disclaimer: I am horrible at this I was born in 1960, grew up in a small town in southwestern Michigan, and hit the teens years in the mid seventies. My parents were still together, we managed going to church regularly, and I was taught that dads word was th
e final say (although I think mom usually told him what he needed to say!). I didn't get spankings, although my leg was swatted with the hairbrush if I squirmed or complained too much, and I actually kept long hair until I was about 16, mostly because my dad liked his girl to have long hair. I was the only girl and I was taught it was important to please daddy. I wore hand-me-down jeans that my mom would lengthen with lace when I started growing taller, and I only remember getting clothes when I absolutely needed something. I remember certain purchases were between just mom and I, and I was excited as a teenager to be able to babysit for cash to start buying my own things. I played with baby dolls probably longer than my peers. I had a limit of how much time I could spend on a telephone call, and I NEVER had a call that was in any way private, because I was anchored to our kitchen table with that old coiled cord that could only stretch so far. My brothers did the "hard" work outside with the barn and animals, or trash and lawn care, while I worked along side mom with meal preparations, housekeeping chores, dishes and laundry. Everything was divided according to gender specifics, which also meant I was the only one who had a room of my own since the rest of the siblings were boys. I was in the peacemaker position, because I was between the oldest boys and my baby brother, and yet I had a special place in my dads heart as the only girl. He always said I didn't have shoes until I started kindergarten because they were never needed. He carried me everywhere. I grew up hearing that if I complained there was always someone who had it worse. If I wanted to do something or go somewhere, there were most likely chores that had to be completed before I went. If the chores were not done, it was no use arguing,as I would not be going anywhere. I always knew my mom was the strict one, and dad was the breadwinner. He encouraged my poems and prose, and got really frustrated that I had a difficult time comprehending mathematics. It was never discussed that we would attend college, because on dads income, there was rarely any extra. I did complete college in my 40's, and both parents were really proud of me. They just never thought it was needed. I was just a girl, anyhow. We ate meat at meals, usually with a potato of sorts and canned veggie. Mom tried to surprise us by fixing liver all different ways and telling us we would like this one, but I still can't stand the thought of eating liver in any way, shape or form. Desserts were never elaborate, but we had them after every meal. My favourite was when mom would make fruit dumplings, and part of the appeal was that there was a magical time we could take the lid off the pot and not one moment too soon or too late, else it ruin our dish. We had gardens, canned fruits and veggies, and lived frugally. Christmas was never a guarantee because dad often had winter months off, but somehow there were always gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. My uncle played Santa Claus at the large family gathering on Christmas Eve, and we all pretended like we did not ever suspect it was him. He lived next door to us, and I could recognise his hands in a heartbeat. Typical life, a good childhood. Camping, friends and family around our table and sometimes an odd fellow who would stop by for a chat and we would hear later that it was a distant family member, or old friend from my folks school years. We played outside after dark chasing fireflies, and we knew when mom or dad called, it was time to come. Home. NOW. What I don't get is how I could live such a typical, good life, and have NEVER MASTERED the art of setting good boundaries. I love to help and I love having folks over. But somewhere in my world the whole boundary picture never cemented itself in my mind, and now, at nearly 53 years old, I find I am totally helpless in seeing what will happen until I am in the thick of pain or disappointment because I didn't know how to set clear expectations before I went into __________(fill in the blank.) My oldest daughter tells me I set myself up for heartache because I don't plan ahead by setting clear boundaries. She is right. When I worked in human resources, I had no problem saying THIS is it, or THAT is how IT'S done. But the people I worked with were really just strangers thrown into a building together and we had our work cut out for us. It required little, if any, emotional attachment. It required well executed plans and strict processes. Unfortunately, life is different than that. We are extremely connected and emotional beings, so setting boundaries is not only needed, but healthy! I am trying so hard to understand how this all works. I see the need for it in my life, but executing it is tough. I care too much, want to help too much, and get taken advantage of because I have yet to understand this mystery called BOUNDARIES. So please, if I am one to step on your toes trying to do this new way of living life the healthy/right way, forgive me right off. Exercise your right to boundaries for your own health, and lets dialogue about how we can do this better. I do know when I feel overwhelmed, I shut down. That's not healthy. Boundaries are. Knowing how to set them is an art. Until I get it down, continue to see me as "under construction" and realise I have nothing but your best interests at heart. I am just not very good at protecting Me, while wanting to serve YOU, and wondering all the in-betweens that life throws out there. Yet. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well!" Ps. 139:14

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


What is a normal time to grieve? There have been several emotional hurdles to bolt over since moms death in January, like her birthday in March and Mother's Day this past month. Now I am nearing Father's Day next month, and realize I am almost gritting my teeth and clenching my jaw in anticipation. Since my dad had the very best Father's Day last year, his graduation day to his heavenly home, I probably should be viewing it as a celebration. I don't. Grief is weird like that. I find myself avoiding places where we used to eat breakfast together, because just passing the restaurant causes me to tear up and swallow harder than normal. I look at things while I am shopping and think how much mom would love this or that little trinket, and I have to remind myself she is gone. For good. End of relationship here on earth. After Mother's Day, my oldest daughter brought her gardening set and we went to their grave to tidy up. We planted a dahlia . Seems like a good place to put something alive and colorful and bright! It thought it would make my grieving easier. Or put a different feel to what goes in circles around in my mind. Or maybe, just maybe, put an end to the pain surrounding my heart. But it really didn't. I feel good we honored them, but it really didn't bring the peace I was searching for. I have had two different friends lose their fathers in the past month. I want to be a available to help them heal, and I know the words I have hated hearing since my parents died, so i want to avoid saying them, but I am at a loss for words. Everything seems so trite in the midst of great loss. Yes, we believe they are in glory, surrounded by family and friends, and we will all be together one day! But the reality is, I saw my folks most every day until their passing, and there are huge holes in the spots where they used to sit. I am glad they are out of pain. I am sad they couldn't live here pain free. I am getting used to them being gone, but I really don't like it at all, and I have no words to say when someone else loses their father or mother that would ever make it seem ok. This is our new normal. This is the circle of life. This is the hard part of being loved and accepted and challenged and protected. When your parents are gone you suddenly realize no one else can or will ever love you more than the ones who brought you into this world. I have nine adopted kids. Kids from dark places, kids displaced from their families or origin. We have taken on the roll of unconditional love to these kids, trying to help them heal emotionally in an area of great loss. We are the parents who will not give up, will not accept less than they are capable of, and will continue to be their biggest cheerleaders. They may have biological parents aching and caring, or they may not. But we have agreed to step up and be the parents they need today. Tomorrow. For their futures. Someday, as life goes, ours will be snuffed out and they will be left to ponder this circle of life. I hope they all will grieve our passing as I have been grieving the loss of my parents. Not because I want them to suffer, but until I grieved their loss, I never totally understood how magnificently my mom and dad built into my life. And someday I hope and pray everyone of my kids will feel the ways (though far from perfect) we have done our best to build them up and make them the very best they could ever be. That they will have know the unending love of parents who cared. Deeply. Someday they will face death too . I hope we have prepared them for a life worth living. I hate loss and grief and carrying on in the midst of pain. But I move ahead for my children and do my best to love them to death. Literally. I hope beyond our deaths they will all understand. I do. I miss you both so much, dad and mom. I don't know that I will ever really stop grieving.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


In just a year, two little African boys have grown like weeds! Starting around 20 pounds or less each, they both weigh 30-32 pounds. They are 34 and 37 inches tall. The oldest one started school in the fall, and my baby, the youngest, just started school this month. They both wear glasses to correct their poor vision. The oldest one will be getting his very own wheelchair on Tuesday, while the youngest one is still borrowing his wheels. They have both endured surgeries to correct health issues or injuries. They have been the test subject of mommy learning to cut tight curly hair, and they have been lotioned from head to toe nearly every day for an entire year. They have been tested and tube fed, and measured and weighed. They have met family, friends, and those inbetween! They have learned to enjoy campfires, with s'mores, and loud birthday parties with a lot of off-key singing. They have slept in cribs and moved into big boy beds now. They have had colds and an ear infection, but no pneumonia or hospital stays due to illness. They know who most people are who walk through our front door, and they have had the fun of holding baby chicks and kittens. They love their baths and bedtimes, and both boys seem especially fond of music in any form. One cries when it's too crazy around here, which always makes the other one laugh. They have a tenderness with each other, and love to be held and cuddled before falling asleep. One has no interest in the tv, while the other one will fuss until certain shows are found. The oldest one is the smAllest, while the youngest is the opposite, and is actually quite tall. They came home wearing 12 to 18 month clothes, but are into 3&4 toddler clothes now. The oldest wears the shorter shirts and the baby wears the longest. They both have leg splints now, and we are quite sure the oldest will walk unassisted this year, while we know for sure the baby never will. They both celebrated birthdays since coming home, but one is five and one half, and the other will be turning three in May. What have the rest of us learned this year? How to speak in baby sign language, and read eye expressions to know how two little boys are feeling. How to comfort a child who can not tell you how or why he is crying, and how to tickle and laugh with a child who is equally non-verbal. We have learned to slow down the pace when we can to accommodate differently abled children, while also keeping up a pace that includes the schedules of 9 other children who are busy all the time. We have learned that most people are understanding when the children's needs must come first, and others who can not make exceptions are not really much a part of our lives anymore. We have come to accept the parts of our children whom will never reach the potential that other kids will, while all the time realising their lives are still so new there is simply no telling how far either of them will go. We are used to friends not really knowing which boy goes by what name, and the others who can even tell you more than one special part about each boy so you know they really have cared. We know we have to be flexible with our plans, but more rigid with their schedules. Each day is "who goes where for what" and as long as appointments are written in the master planner, we tend to make 98% of everything scheduled. We have learned one doctor appointment usually results in at least two specialist appointments in the coming weeks, but nothing is more satisfying than hearing, "you are doing a good job with their special needs." We have learned paperwork is not done after the children come home from an international adoption, and getting any assistance for medical needs is like submitting another dossier. We have learned many people have no problem expressing their opinions of your children/your parenting/your decisions/your housework or home life. We have learned some people think of us as heroes, while others think we are crazy/rich/child hoarders. We have learned you must be awfully thick skinned when you adopt children from other another race, but we also learned many people love to hear how our family found each other and they start to think maybe We are finished with our first year home. No more adoption post placement reports, no more prying eyes. We are just responsible to send a report to their home country once a year until they are 18. We were told we could never handle two disabled children at one time, and now the home study agent wondered when we would plan adopt again because we are, I quote, "a wonderful family, very loving and capable of taking on another child if you wish to." This past year has been one of learning for us all. Feeding tubes, wheelchairs, brain injury and hearing losses, special needs school program's, and busses for the disabled. It's a different world. And we wouldn't change it for anything! We love you Gborlee and Isaiah. So very glad you came to stay!

Adoption can be ugly

I was honoured to attend a welcome-home-adoption party in the last several weeks, and there are so many parts of it drifting through my mind that I had to write it out. The guest of honor wore a pink dress, a big bow in her hair and lacy dress socks. She flitted around the room, with a special sparkle in her eyes. Each table was dressed with thoughtfulness, representing different children's stories with every detail woven perfectly to fit the story. It was a colourful, fun event where even the food treats matched the stories each table told. Simply lovely on a grand scale,yet simply set out for the reigning princess! Just so perfectly right! The sweetheart of the day was smiling, practically dancing, simply loving her spotlight moment. She had made a gramma happy with her entrance into their family, and young parents out of her childless mom and dad. She was given a bunch of books and games, clothes and even a bike, on this, her very special day. She rounded the room, smiling bigger than any eight year old I have ever seen, personally thanking each guest with a timid hug and delicate words. It was fun for us to make her feel so special, and especially rewarding for those of us who knew her past. I tend to put a warm spin on most of my writing, at least a friend accuses me of that, but this story ended much sweeter than it started. You see, this princess has had a rough bunch of years. She was adopted internationally round four years old, probably seeing more in her first few years than most of us care to admit. She may have been a street kid, and she may have suffered abuse at the hands of friends and family. She came from a depressed country, either orphaned or abandoned, and no doubt, suffered through her early years. Her home may not have been a haven, or given her what she needed to feel loved and safe. She may have scavenged for her very existence, all the while building up her own perceptions of a cruel world. Fast forward to her adoption. Kids in other counties who wait for a family have time to dream about new parents. Maybe they hear what an American house will be like, or maybe they are terrified of what is ahead for them in a strange new place. Either way, they come to America full of fear and dreams, expectations and wonder, struggling to express emotions they can not begin to understand, in many places hearing languages they have never heard before. They are forced to eat strange food, sleep in beds where they may have only slept on a dirt floor in their own country. They hear new sounds, see new sights, and begin to form opinions of what their new life has become. Could you, as an adult, imagine the terror? Have you ever travelled from your home land to a different place, and felt relief to know when your trip was over you would finally be coming back home to all the things you know and love. For the orphan, even if their first years were traumatic, that is all they knew. And once they are adopted, there is no "going home" again. I know that when this little princess came to America, for what ever reasons, her first adoptive family couldn't ever bond. She had "issues", or they had "issues" and the adoption, after four hard years, was disrupted. The family who re-adopted her now have the years of her homeland, and all the experiences there, and the former four years where she has been in America, but never felt wanted, loved, appreciated or secure. I am not writing to blame the family. God knows, this child, whatever the reasons, needed a new family. My friends boldly stepped forward, saying "could that be our child?", and have taken her on, lock, stock and barrel. They said, YES! And are beginning their life as a beautiful new family that seems to now, finally, be a perfect fit for all. Will it be perfect? No. No ones life is ever perfect. But this angel has a family, a room, a dresser and extended family who are thrilled beyond all their dreams. She is sleeping at peace, knowing when she wakes up she will be fed and welcomed, and asked if she slept well. She has someone who cares if her homework is done, and someone to help her deal with her traumatic past and initial placement. She will have a bright future, and a family to help her reach her potential. Adoption can sometimes be ugly. Re-adoption can be painful but needed, and the child can be lost in the network or be redeemed into a new family. This particular princess has a new start. At eight years old, she is being born again, with all the hopes and dreams of any new family bound together by love. When I first saw her picture, I saw potential of a young girl ready to bloom. Now she is grounded where her heart can soar and her past can become a faded memory. She is loved, and oh so willing to flourish. Thank you to my sweet friends who saw her potential, and planted her firmly into their lives. Princess, you can reach for the sun!! Bloom, little flower, and grow!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Life Happens

In December, a faithful reader asked why I hadn't posted anything for a few months. Well, Life Happens. In August we had spent a wonderful two weeks with the grandsons (and their parents!) in Puerto Rico. In Septmenber I started getting a small pain in my side, that by the beginning of November had become a LARGE side pain, and extremely sick me! I spent many nights laying on the bathroom floor, and a visit to the ER that my brother and his wife graciously excused the horrible emissions that erupted from my weakened body that night. (Did I say I was sorry, Scott and Linda?) Well, Life happens. I had a nice visit with a GI doctor that scoped me from one end to the other (I was due anyway, being a tad bit over 50 now) and reported that other than a tiny polyp that they biopsied to be sure, everything looked great! My abdominal ultrasound was awesome (her words), so, I was assured all was well. Then, Life continued to happen. I layed on the couch in pain on the saturday morning after my scopes 3 days earlier, and dear hubby just knew something was missing. He called nice GI doctor, and she guessed treating for parasites seemed logical, since after all, he reminded her, I had been in africa three times and puerto rico once in the past year. So, after twisting her arm and crying, she agreed to give me a strong antibiotic that would wipe out anything foreign that was living inside me and making me feel like I was dying. The good news is, within 6 hours of the medicines I FELT GREAT for the first time in months!! So my faithful reader asked, why not blog and catch up? Well, Life Happened again. Things like, even though I felt terrible, Tyler turned 16. Then Gborlee celebrated his first American birthday by turning 5. Then Nicole turned 15, then Jenni turned 29, then thanksgiving (the first without dad). Then I got word that there were, in fact, no "monsters living inside me," and I was welcome to finish the expensive prescription that had, for some unknown reason cleared all my pain and symptoms...We were blessed to have all my siblings and their kids and their kids kids here for Christmas eve. One busy, huge gathering, (over 40 now!) which I always look forward to. Mere turned 9 and even midst all the holiday festivities, we had a fun party at her favorite pizza place. And then, instead of having a big New Years Eve party, we decided to slow down, enjoy the cold outside while we sat by the fire inside, and we just let Life Happen. New Years Day my cousin Mindy came over with TACO's for dinner and we laughed and chatted and even made a midnight run to McDonalds for ice cream. Now I realize in the midst of Life Happening, that was mom's last hurrah. The next day, sitting by the fire and crocheting, mom said she felt tired and was going to lay down. She had been having a few chest pains, but this time, they came hard enough to stop her. She left my house for the last time in an ambulance, but was still making jokes with the kind EMT's that took her. We met up at the hospital in time for her heart catherization, and bolstered our hearts for the "there is nothing we can do now..." talk. She was transfered to a room, made comfortable, and we all said goodnight. The next morning we realized she had suffered a large stroke, which now we realized was the beginning of the end. This was dying. But that is how Life Happens. Mom had the opportunity to tell us all goodbye in the few days that followed. We had some crazy laughs, some beautiful moments together, and we faced the future. We had promised her she would never be alone, and we encouraged her to join Dad. The last words I had with her I will always treasure. She asked, again, "Am I dying, Faithy?" I stood at the end of her hospital bed, with nieces and family around, and said, "Yes momma. You are." She looked at me and said, "Then why are you crying?" Well, because in the midst of Life Happening, I knew I was losing her. The one who I cried with, and spent the last seven months staying frustrated with! The mom who loved me even when I was unlovable for the last 52 years, and shared my passion for the orphans of the world. The one who taught me sarcasm, but also how to love someone who was not "bone of my bone." The one who knew how to make fun in normal life situations, because with all she had been through, she knew, Life Happens. Why am I crying? "because I am going to miss you mom." After that, she spent a few days slowly slipping farther away. She was ready, and we gave her permission to go. She ended her life at Hospice House, believing she was safe and sound in the arms of Jesus, envisioning with our human eyes, all that she could be seeing with her new heavenly eyes. A new, faultless body, robed in pure white, shining with the stars! Eternity. Grace flowed. Life had happened. We celebrated her life, laughing, crying, in the same church mom and dad married in, and we all said our last goodbyes. It was cold at the graveside, but we knew she was not there. We celebrated a life well lived, a goodbye that was in God's perfect timing, and we buried the shell that we had only known as mom. Because once Life Happened, Death was inevitable. And it is okay. Our life continues to happen. Tara turned 11, with a celebration at the same pizza place. We missed gramma being there. We sort thought her things and prepare to sell their home. We each treasure things differently, and remember her by what we choose. I wish I had hugged her more. I plan to hug everyone else in my life more because of it. I will miss her. An awful amount. But, Life Happens. I am packing for another trip to Africa. I am taking a couple suitcases of supplies to more orphans. I intend to hug alot. For mom. For me. For Jesus sake. I have a new grandson, Kainoa Seraphin Kanda Cameron, coming home any day now from the DRC. In our pain and suffering, in our joy and sorrow, our hope and forever days ahead, Life keeps happening. In our lives, in our kids lives, in our family lives, in our friends lives. Our son got a fabulous job and is headed back to the states. Our daughter in Oregon has been on call to help him out through this adoption process. Our daughter in town has been a rock to all of us as, well, Life Happens. Life, precious life. You lived it well, mom. You died as gracefully as dad. No regrets. So as long as I live, I hope to live it well. In honor of my parents, Thomas and Bonnie Meador. As you both rest in peace, surrounded by the glory of your heavenly Father, I will continue to do all I can to love, serve, and well, LIVE. Or, LIVE WELL. Because Life Happens.