Adoption

My husband is adopted.  It was a closed adoption.  We don’t know much about his past.  He has a condition which I would have liked to know if it was hereditary.  He is not curious and has decided to not pursue knowing any information about his birth parents.

My friend adopted a baby in an open adoption.  Information is shared, pictures are traded.  Recently, he had his baptism and his birth family came.  It was an easy mixing of families and talking and lots of picture taking.

I’ve also heard stories supporting both sides.  First person stories either for or against.   I’ve heard more second hand stories of someone they know who {insert horror story}.  However, unless they are first person stories I don’t take heed to those.  Who do those people know/ hang out with anyways?

If you are considering adoption, it is a decision to weigh carefully before signing up with an agency.

-Elle

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History over Mystery

This week marks my 14th wedding anniversary.  By this time in our marriage, there is more history than mystery.  I know from a facial expression when someone has pushed his buttons (which is hard to do and seldom seen).  When he brings up a random fact in the middle of a conversation, that he is avoiding saying something difficult.  And how, when he says he’s a little bit tired, he will fall asleep immediately from exhaustion when he decides to take a break or watch TV.  I have enough experiences and history to know him.

I always thought years of marriage would get stale like watching older couples at restaurants barely speaking to each other; relationship on auto pilot.   They bring the newspaper, switching sections until their food comes.  Then they eat nearly silently, heads down on their own plates.

I didn’t have much experience with marriage myself.  Or rather, my family had too much experience with marriage.   Multiple marriages, multiple divorces which made me overly cautious when dating.  And, yet, my husband’s parents were married for over 50 years (until his dad has passed).

It’s important to keep things fun and to keep dating each other.

At a restaurant recently, I asked my husband to guess my hotdog toppings.  I have food ‘issues’ and feel a little like the TV character Monk; only certain combinations and certain things can’t ‘touch’ on the plate.  My hotdog always has ketchup, easy onion, and pickle.  When he guessed relish and mustard, I said in mock amazement, “You don’t even KNOW me?!”    Then, I had him study a poster on the wall for a minute and asked him 5 questions about the content on the poster.  When he only got 2 out of 5 correct, he had to throw out our garbage at the end of the meal.   We had fun, talked about our schedules for the upcoming week, and didn’t have to cook that evening.   It’s nice to break routine and enjoy each other’s company.

Marriage, like a dance, requires coordination but becomes more comfortable with time.  You can waltz with ease knowing the moves and countermoves of your partner.  I’m more self confident after all these years and more comfortable in my own skin from the partnership.  And yet, it doesn’t get boring.  It’s still fun to explore a city, a cuisine, or a movie together.   Or learn something new about each other- like how I like my hot dog.

-Elle

Balance

I saw a commercial on TV while on overseas assignment.  The mother in law is talking to a new bride.  She says, in essence, that her son is her dream.  But since dreams can’t be shared, she is giving him to his new bride as her dream.  It was sweet and brief and memorable.  I have thought back on that about dreaming and passing along those hopes.

Women/families who give up their children are gifting those dreams to new parents in order to fulfill their children’s dreams.   The dreams they have for a happy childhood or college education are handed off to the new parents to fulfill.

I think it is similar to the lesson of keeping your hands open to blessings.  If you hold onto something, your hand is closed to receiving new blessings.   I closed the chapter on raising children and came up with new dreams.  Letting go to move on.

I recently heard Matthew West’s song, “Dream Again.”  I have heard it before, but I never realized the words before.

“One stopped when the doctor said you’ll never have a baby of your own.

One stopped after two attempts at rehab couldn’t help him get control.

Open your eyes, open your eyes and dream again.

Your lungs are still breathing, your heart is still beating.

The ‘Yes’ is where the future begins.”

What are you dreaming about for your life?  How are you working toward that dream?

When I was 22, I was involved in a serious car accident.  It was a life changing experience where I faced the fragility of life and it was months of healing to feel whole again.  I viewed time after that as ‘bonus’ time and it helped me refocus outside of myself.

For me, I have put importance in ‘spending’ my time on giving back.  I have this brief life and want to reach heaven with my talents used up.  I want to stand before God with my sheen worn off like the Velveteen rabbit; well loved and all useful bits expended.  I volunteer weekly; next weekend I’ll be volunteering for three different organizations starting Friday after work and ending Sunday evening.  I met up with a friend who is looking for permanent employment for a resume re-write.

I also caught a nap on Sunday and I’m squeezing in a massage late this week.  It’s a balance.  An open- handed balance.  What’s your balance this week?

 

-Elle

You + Me- elaborated

I wrote in the post ‘You + Me’ that you are enough.  I wanted to elaborate, but the point was so important that I didn’t want to dull the message.  So, I elaborate now- a few weeks later.

We can get caught up in being our own toughest critic instead of biggest cheerleader.   Know that you are enough.  Whatever you are facing today, you can rise to the challenge.

Don’t be defined by what you are not.  For too many seasons of my life, I felt that I was defined by my least favorite attributes.  Defined by my weight.  Defined by my worst grade, worst work evaluation, worst project.  Defined by my weight.  The fact that I couldn’t get pregnant.  I limited myself to what I was not instead of what I am.

I started a journey toward owning my path when I chose foster care as an option to motherhood.  When that chapter ended, I mourned.  I grieved.  But, I also set a limit on my grieving.  The kids moved in August and I declared a moratorium on my grief December 31.  Everyone’s grieving process is different and everyone’s path is unique.  This worked for me to start a new year with a fresh outlook.

I said yes- to volunteering, to friends’ gatherings, to yoga, to myself.  I let myself cry and I let myself laugh- without judgment.  I enjoyed sleeping in on a Saturday without guilt, or spending money on a once a year spa day with a friend.

Self care is an important aspect.   As a woman, I feel like so much falls on our shoulders.  At least in my house, the social calendar, groceries and cooking, spring cleaning, trip planning, and all the ‘extras’ not defined generally fall to me to handle.  So, setting limits was important to me so that I wasn’t swallowed up in tasks and had an equitable amount of free time to my husband.

Whatever you are facing, it is vital to know that you are important.  You are not your failures.   Look in the mirror- truly look and find what you love about yourself.  Say yes to one thing today. Find one joy.  Speak one affirmation about yourself.  And believe it.

For me, my affirmation today is that I am stronger than yesterday.  What is yours?

-Elle

The Pursuit

“Today is a day like any other, but I am changed- I am a mother.  Oh, in an instant.

And who I was is disappeared, it doesn’t matter now you’re here- so innocent.

I was lost for you to find.  Now I’m yours and you are mine.

 

Everything changes.  When my heart is at the wheel now. And all mistakes make sense when I turn them around.  Everything changes.

What I thought was so permanent fades.  And I swear I remember to say we were both born today.”   Everything Changes-  Sara Bareilles

 

I heard the song and it struck me how sweet the mother-child relationship is. I always wanted to be a mother.  When I was little, I dreamt of a big family.  Coming from a family of 4 kids where both mom and dad each came from a family of 4 kids– seemed like the right size.   A younger me thought that when I was ready, it would happen.   It didn’t- I had to pursue it.

 

We went the foster to adoption route.  It didn’t lead to adoption.  We closed that option.  I am now firmly in the cool aunt or mentor role. Firmly.  Unapologetically.

 

There are many avenues to this role for you as well.  Pregnancy, adoption, foster, mentor, volunteer, aunt.  If you want children, pursue the route that is right for you.  Search your heart, pray for guidance, and talk with your spouse.  Some doors you may choose to not open and pursue.  Others you may pursue multiple at the same time- like signing up for an adoption agency while pursuing fertility treatments.  A friend signed up with multiple agencies and is now a mother to two children (3 months apart in age).

 

Find your path.  Pursue it with your whole heart.

 

-Elle

Each and Every Day

I wish somebody would of told me that

Someday these will be the good old days

All the love you won’t forget and all these reckless nights you won’t regret.

Someday soon your whole life is gonna change

You’ll miss the magic of the good old days.

 

Never thought we’d get old, maybe we’re still young

Maybe we always look back and think it is better than it was

Maybe these are the moments

Maybe I’ve been missing what it’s about

Been scared of the future.  Thinking about the past while missing out on now.

We’ve come so far

I guess I’m proud

I ain’t worried about the wrinkles around my smile.

I got some scars

I’ve been around

I throw some pain; I’ve seen some things but I’m here now.

 

Those good old days.

You don’t know

What you got

Til it goes

Til its gone

“Good Old Days”- Macklemore

 

I’m focusing on being intentional about finding the positive.  Today, I drove to work in a massive downpour in February.  It was hard to see and I white knuckled the 30 miles to work.  But, I walked in the door and told the security guard, “Man, if we got as much snow as we did rain, we’d be in trouble.”  Count your blessings.  Find that glimmer of happiness.

When I think about the good old days, I reminisce on my college years.  The ability to sleep in, knock on someone’s door at 2 a.m. just to talk, and the multitude of activities that can be done with little money.  Or the good old days of early dating when you were just learning about your partner.  My husband is super chill and would plan 75 things in one day.

Him: Hey, do you want to get together on Saturday?

Me: Sure.  What time should I be over?

Him: 10 a.m.  I’ll make omelettes.  Then, we’ll go swimming at the gym.  Then, we’ll catch the train downtown and catch a concert.  After a late lunch, we can do a museum . . . .

Me: OK  (Me in my head: I think that is too many eggs in one basket)

We always had fun, even if we didn’t get around to everything planned.

What are your good old days?

However, the good old days are also now.  Maybe more like good new days.  I make the most of my time with work, volunteering, donating, reading, exercising, relaxing, and even a bit of cooking.  To participate in book club with a full schedule, I check out the book on CD and listen to it in the car on my commutes.  I paint my nails while watching TV.  I listen to music while organizing or cleaning the house.  I can also take a nap on a Saturday.

This weekend I’ll be volunteering with a nephew at a Special Olympics Polar Plunge.  He needs the volunteer hours and I ‘plunged’ last year- so I’d prefer volunteering on land this year.  He’ll be over for the weekend and I’ll enjoy the change in pace.  These good new days . . . .

-Elle

A Church Home

My church is growing and there are a number of new volunteers getting trained this spring.  As the church branches out, I decided to send the pastor an email about a personal experience.

“As we prepare to add new talent”, I wrote “may I make a suggestion for the upcoming training? Instead of asking, ‘Do you have children?’, ask, ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘How did you hear about us?’”

I explained what had happened when we were looking for a new church.  We had moved to a new city and spent the summer looking for churches.  The summer is a challenge as pastors are out, schedules change, and services are more flexible.  However, we visited a different church every week and had many adventures (and misadventures).   One Sunday, a location played a movie instead of having a traditional service.  One Sunday, a location had a church picnic instead of having a traditional service.  One Sunday, a location was singing from Godspell the musical instead of hymns/choruses.  We heard many guest speakers or junior pastors speak as pastors were on vacation.   It was better than a vacation itself; a comedy of errors but I grew to look forward to each Sunday and what we’d experience next.

One Sunday, we visited a new location and were sat next to a volunteer couple.  After service, the man stood in the aisle and asked if we have any children to make small talk before we could get out of the aisle.  I am introverted and don’t share personal details until I know you well.  However, my husband shared that we moved to the area after a foster care loss and were looking for a new church.  The conversation went from friendly to aggressive since that couple had adopted from foster care and the husband voiced firmly that we should give it another try.  Several questions in, I was shaking sobbing in the row- not being able to get out and feeling very much a stranger in a strange place.  His wife smoothed things over and made apologies, saying they would take us on a church tour.  The first stop was children’s church.

CHILDREN’S CHURCH?

What?

Are you kidding me?

What do you even say when you’ve poured your heart out and shed tears about a loss and then you are STILL taken to an area that stings?  I was crushed; I said we had to head out and ended the tour.   I told my husband on the way home, “Please don’t ask me to visit another church again because I won’t go.”  We didn’t go for a year.   I would eventually find my home church after much fear and trepidation.

Which is why I wrote to the pastor:  “Instead of asking, ‘Do you have children?’, ask, ‘Tell me about yourself’ or ‘How did you hear about us?’”  What advice to you have for churches to include all members?

-Elle

The Journey

I keep a little metal picture on my desk at work.  It has a girl standing in a puddle in yellow rain boots.  The saying says: This journey is yours.  Enjoy each and every step.

I bought it at a Hallmark when I was training for a half marathon- a stretch goal for myself a few years ago.  It reminded me of tackling a large project and breaking it down.  Like the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”  How do you run a marathon?  One step at a time.

And, so it is with life- take it one step at a time.  The girl standing in the puddle reminds me that you have to choose to ‘enjoy’ the journey because circumstances aren’t perfect.  What is a stretch goal of yours?  What is something you are choosing to enjoy, despite imperfections?

Journey pic

You’ll notice that in the puddle is: ‘Believe you can.’  The girl is standing in a puddle, but she is prepared in her rain boots.  Show up prepared and believe in yourself.

I can be my own toughest critic and the single words around the picture speak to me: amazing grace, hope, imagine, and inspire.  Grace and hope, to me, speak of my beliefs.  The grace of forgiveness and the hope of eternity.  Imagine is using your gifts to the fullest.  Inspire is when people see what you did with what you have and are urged to take action themselves.

Journey shadow

In the shadows at the bottom is written in white: ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13)’.  At the right angle, you don’t even see the quote because the writing is white against a multi-colored background.  Like the still, small voice of God- it can be drowned out by the fierceness of the present messages screaming louder and more urgently.  Yet, it is there.  Settle the noise.  Hear the Calm.  Reassuring- the same yesterday and tomorrow.   What is your life motto?

This sits on my desk, right under my computer monitor.  A reminder of the journey- each day, each step.  We need to look for the silver lining in the even the most mundane of tasks and to keep moving forward.   Enjoy your journey this week.

-Elle

The milestones

This weekend marks my (foster) daughter’s birthday.  Wherever she is, she’ll be 13.  Even though we are no longer together, her and her brother are woven into the fibers of my heart.  I still get ‘weird’ and quiet on their birthdays because I am missing them.  My tribe understands and is patient with me while I work through the day.  If you are dealing with grief, please don’t deal with it alone.  If you don’t know of anyone in your social circle who has experienced loss, look to see if your church has a recovery, loss, or infertility group.

-Elle

An open letter to my daughter:

Happy Birthday!  You are officially a teenager .  This birthday marks the first of many milestones which will be celebrated and show your growth as you transition into adulthood.

You are so smart and I hope you find joy in learning and are excelling in school.  But, beyond school, I hope you enjoy learning about people, faith, nature, ideas.  Try new sports, seek adventures, and figure out things.  Spend time in noble pursuits.

You are so kind; I hope you are kind and people are kind to you.  I remember a shy boy in your kindergarten class whose mother approached me to say that her son felt comfortable when you sat next to him at the movie night.  And your Aunt still remembers you watching out for your cousin when we visited out east one summer when his brother was born.

You have an inner sparkle and I hope you are still dazzling.  I often pray that you are using your talents for good and that no one can dull your sparkle.  It is what makes you special.

You are loved.  This weekend, I will look up at the moon and know we are both looking at the same moon on your 13th birthday!  I will send up a prayer as you begin this new year and your first one as a teenager.

Love,

Mom