twenty-two

Home. Growth. Life.

“I really had no other choice”

 

 

Sunday morning dawned a crisp, blue sky with a covered, white landscape as its clean backdrop.  The days prior were blanketed in hues of gray as the storm pummeled our area and canceled our lives in its wake.

In Sundays’ clearness I too found sight. C shared with me a newspaper article from China Daily USA titled Adoptive mother locates Chinese parents.

As an adoptive mother of Chinese children this title wrenched my heart.  In my mind locating our children’s biological parents is impossible as they both were abandoned.  Yet this mother did it~is it truly more of a reality than I imagined?

The article shared that her two-year-old deaf son was recently diagnosed with an incurable genetic disorder that would rob him of his sight.  She thought it important that he “see” his biological parents one last time and began her public campaign in Ningbo, Zhejiang.

Her campaign proved successful as it reached the ears of the director of the local hospital who searched their records and found a case similar to the boy’s that provided a working phone number to his biological father.

When she and her son arrived in China and met his biological mother, a migrant worker in her 30s, she immediately broke into tears.  She repeatedly said “I really had no other choice.”

I visited Beijing, China in March 2008 with C.  This is a country and culture he knows well as he lived in Taiwan for two years, speaks Mandarin and now his career focuses on business relationships between the US and China.  While there he shared with me the gorgeous architectures of the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall.  But he too was able to bring me into villages and less preened areas explaining that many Chinese greet one another with “have you eaten today?”  Their average annual income being $1,000 USD.

This is to illustrate when I read “I really had no other choice” from the migrant worker mother with a monthly family income of $152 and three other children to feed I too broke into tears because I have witnessed its reality.

The father was the one who took their son and left him at a gate of a more luxurious residential area.  There he watched from afar to ensure his son was found by the guard and taken to the police.  I believe the mother would have never found the strength to complete such a task.

I too have thought of the plight of our children’s biological mothers, how wrenching it would be for them as they too must have said “I really had no other choice”.

I love your child, am privileged to be their mother and if ever I may find you we can share in the goodness of their magnificent lives.

 

 

 

Be Still

Our home has few “still” moments and recently I have found my life to have even fewer.

I was grateful that this simple phrase “be still and know that I am God” came to my mind amid another hectic day. It nearly brought me to tears as I realized that over the past few weeks I really had not taken a moment to recognize God’s hand in my life.

Even with our daily family and personal prayers and scripture study.  As life moves forward at a rapid pace these simple actions of daily devotion can become routine vs. reverent.

It is in the reverent moments that my mind seeks to understand the Lord’s meaning in specific scriptures, thoughts or promptings. This is when I feel His love for me and know He is aware, understands and guides each step of my day.

I have failed to seek these reverent moments and allowed routine to take over. When the to-do lists get long, stressful moments take hold  and the unexpected happens I transition into my robot mode of life.

Robot mode allows me to carry-on, not feeling in moments of distress, simply doing to make it through.

My robot mode turned on recently, when at a medical clearance appointment for our little J, he was found to be in SVT, supra-ventricular-tachycardia.

We were the last appointment of the day therefore I only brought one extra child with me and K, our oldest, took care of the rest.

When the nurse took us back for vitals his heart rate was 211 and his oxygen saturation was 72. The nurse simply said that’s his normal, right?

I said no and her response was “I never remember what his normal is, Dr. Henry will be in shortly” and left the room.

As we waited for the doctor I kept my hand on his chest. His heart felt like it was going to burst right out of him. I am not a reactionary mom…robot mode, remember…I patiently waited for about twenty minutes when the doctor waived us back to her room.

Little J was behaving normally, so he walked back with E and me. Once in the room I told Dr. Henry his stats and said those are not his normal numbers. She agreed and asked if the nurse checked a second time, I said no. So she went to find the nurse and again we sat.

The doctor returned first and listened to his heart and said he is going really fast. I brought up his “history” of SVT and she concurred, he was in SVT.

This brings a helicopter from Children’s to our local hospital and a 48-hour admission as they administer his new medication.

What was the medical clearance in reference to; his TEETH!

Our little J does not do things on a small scale. On our “gotcha-day” in Nanchang, Jiangxi over two-years ago we recognized his tooth decay on several teeth, as well as a bed sore on his tail bone, little swollen bites all over his body, a huge scrap on his forehead and the red, puffy incision scar down his chest.

We had a mini first-aid kit with us and began to daily nurse all of his exterior sores and brush his teeth. Once back in the states our priority was to understand the anatomy of his heart, his teeth took the back seat.

His final open-heart surgery was completed in December 2013. Mid-2014 I began to explore his dental options. After a year of trying to get his teeth taken care of, we finally opted to go out of network, pay cash and use Children’s National Dental Clinic.

The best part is the Lord’s hand in it all.

His first complaint about tooth pain was three-weeks ago and today he had one tooth pulled, two baby root canals, five teeth crowned with stainless steel and his two front teeth crowned with white.

If my teeth were in that state, I would have complained a long time ago.  Yet the Lord, in His goodness, gave me time to get little J on the right path for dental care.

Next up, an ablation~burning the electrical connection in his heart that causes his SVT.

It’s My Way or the Highway

I am obsessive compulsive.

Our home is where it begins.  We have different colored, kid-friendly plastic dishes, when not paired with their matching color companion in our cabinets, I fix it.  When a canned good is not facing outwards (like others in our pantry), I fix it.  When towels are folded differently and laid on top of one another, I fix it.

Neurotic.

I have found myself correcting others in our home for these very things not being done the “right-way.”

The “right-way” when it comes to loading and unloading a dishwasher, folding and putting away laundry, cleaning counter tops and putting away groceries is, of course, subjective.  Yet in my psychosis it has to be done in a specific fashion or it is incorrect.

My weakness: there is only one-way to get the desired end result, MY WAY.

I know that we are all placed here upon the earth to gain experience…our own experience, not an experience dictated by me.

As parents we should love, give guidance, make necessary corrections and then allow our children to flourish. As human beings we should provide similar respect to all others within our sphere.

Here’s my dilemma…I STINK AT IT!

I am better than I was five years ago and then I have set backs and am worse than before.

Recently, I have experienced a set back.  An overload of maintaining a “happy” family and the reality of its difficulties.

I participate in an event and rather than enjoy myself, I will mull over in my mind how I would have done it differently…the”right-way.”  Our children finish their chores and I go in and criticize all that is not done “right.”  My words, tone, and demeanor are rude.

This is not my desired end result.  I am going the “wrong-way.”

In these moments of realization, when I recognize I am no longer enjoying the journey, I step back and…

GO TO THE BEACH!

Okay, maybe not.

But in this moment it is exactly what I did.  I took the kids for an impromptu trip to the beach.  We rented a beautiful beach house three days in advance, visited friends nearby and thoroughly enjoyed a break.

Here’s the issue.  We returned home.

As I stepped back into life and its commitments, I literally felt my heart rate quicken.  The difference, I was able to take a deep breath and push forward with a new attitude.

I have been counseled not to run faster than I have strength.  While at the beach I reflected on where I gain strength.  It is when I love and serve my family with gladness.  It is when I exhibit faith and allow His strength to buoy me.  It is when I recognize the need in helping others feel valued as more important than the “right-way.”

I am back on the path…the “right-way” for me and only me.

I too hope you find your “right-way”, if not~I can give you some pointers :).

A First Date Poll

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After my post on our first date, found here, C felt I should share the truth.  His opinion is that it was our second date.

 I now seek your opinion.

If it is helpful, C is currently out of the country with limited internet access, so there is no pressure for you to feel the need to support him.

While I have begun this lightheartedly, it is a heartfelt story that I am blessed to have.

A few months into my separation, I began to attend the Washington, D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints every Saturday evening to participate in its final, 8 p.m., worship service.

 If you are not a member of my faith, a temple is our sanctuary and you can find more information about it here.

I know this is where I began to heal and rebuild my sense of self-worth.

Within its four walls God’s love for me was tangible.  I yearned to feel loved, to feel special and here, in this magnificent edifice, I did.

These Saturday evenings were precious.

 It was nearly 6 months into these regular visits when my divorce was final and I felt a hint of desire to date again.

My sights were set on a specific gentleman whom I had regularly seen in the temple.  He volunteered for the final Saturday evening shift.

Again, I was beyond scared.  So my dear, married, friend did the investigative work for me.  She involved a few other volunteers on the same temple shift.

He was, in fact, single and open to taking a single mother of two out on a date.

My phone number was passed along through these “back channels” and I was told he would call.

SCORE!

As I anxiously awaited a phone call, I became friends with another volunteer at the temple, a single woman.

She rode to and from the temple with a different single male volunteer.

Our friendship grew and she invited me to get a bite to eat with a group of temple volunteers the following Saturday after their shift.

That evening arrived and as we walked out of the temple, I learned the group consisted of her, her “ride”, myself and another man that she needed to pick up once at the restaurant.

In the parking lot I wrote my cell phone number on the back of an old receipt from her ride’s wallet in case we lost one another in the caravan to our destination.

Once there, she joined us at the table for maybe two minutes before she excused herself to pick up her friend.

I am now alone, sitting across from her ride.  Yes, it is C!

We ordered, talked and I was charming and witty :).  When she did return, 45 minutes later, her male counterpart was less than charming.  This enhanced C’s gentlemanly demeanor.

The evening ended late, we left the restaurant about midnight and my drive home was over an hour.

I was tired, but accustomed to the drive and hurried in when I got home.  I knew the morning hours would come quickly and the girls and I had 9 a.m. church.

That morning as I loaded K and M into the car, I noticed my phone had been left inside it for the night.  It was chirping at me because there was a voice mail.

It was C apologizing for keeping me out so late when I had such a long drive home.  I returned his call, thanked him for his concern and asked how he got my phone number, having forgotten I had given it to him.  Our conversation was brief and uneventful.

This story he claims as our first date.

I countered it by stating our mutual friend set the entire thing up and therefore it cannot be considered a date.

He looked at me and with a smile shared, for the FIRST time in 10 years, that he had arranged the entire evening and that our mutual friend was happy to help.

It is now obvious to me that he arranged it yet during that time of my life it was a challenge to have faith that a man would truly choose a divorced mother of two over so many other beautiful, child free women.

If you are wondering my “SCORE” moment…he never called.

I too must share that C still has the receipt with my very out dated cell phone number on it.  While I get on him about holding onto things for too long, this one makes me smile 🙂  I am one lucky lady!

So there you have it!  It is now in your hands…whose first date story would you claim as our true first date?

Personal Patience

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Personal seems a funny term to use on a blog post…possibly it’s private that makes less sense.

I enjoy learning the details of a person’s life; it draws me to them. Each of us possess a distinct story that fashions who we are.

As I write the details of my life I am reminded of my strengths and more often my weaknesses.

Writing is my escape. It provides clarity and calm in fuzzy, frustrated moments.

I write to understand the purpose and meaning behind an experience.

Journal keeping is another term for it. I am a journal keeper and have been for years.

I rarely journal at a scheduled time, our children’s milestones are my most “scheduled” entries. Occasionally I feel prompted to record an experience but mostly it’s in moments that necessitate calming.

As I read past entries during times of struggle I am embarrassed for recording, hardly believing, how I felt so strongly in such hurtful ways.

Then the moments that I am grateful to have recorded when the loving hand of my Heavenly Father is evident.

Finally, the adorable stories of our children are some of my favorites and I am reminded that I do not write them down enough.

Yet, most often are the seemingly recurring moments of my life…impatience, ingratitude, exhaustion, frustration and utter befuddlement.

That is how personal fits in…my bewilderment in His plan for my life. Do you encounter moments where you feel overshadowed by uncertainty?

I know I am on His path but the end purpose in our current situation is fuzzy. C and I have been seeking direction, for several years, in a specific area of our lives. Nothing of alarming consequence, just guidance.

I continue to study, pray, journal, serve and clarity continues to allude me.

Gratefully, peace does not as my mind returns to this quote~

“What, then, does it mean to wait upon the Lord? In the scriptures, the word wait means to hope, to anticipate, and to trust. To hope and trust in the Lord requires faith, patience, humility, meekness, long-suffering, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end.

To wait upon the Lord means planting the seed of faith and nourishing it “with great diligence, and … patience.”

I have peace. I know His purposes will be clear in His time.

While fuzziness is frustrating, faith is what He asks for.

So in faith I wait.

A First Date That Ended in Tears

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There is a certain amount of anxiety that surrounds a first date.  This particular one seemed bone trembling at the time.

I was a recently divorced, single mother of two.  The idea of dating after seven years of being out of that “scene” was nauseating.

Our Church Educational System (CES) was hosting a dinner event, and as a part-time CES secretary, I was encouraged to attend with a date.

The encouragement consisted of: “you have to bring a date.”

My friendships with singles were VERY limited.  And single men…I think I had spoken to two.

Trying to remain optimistic, at least I had two choices (a back up if the first turned me down).

When I found the nerve to make the phone call, I was trembling, struggling to keep my voice steady in order to extend the invitation.  I fumbled my words, but completed the task and the question loomed.

His turn.

“Let me check my calendar,” he said as he grabbed his Blackberry.  The silence seemed ominous until finally he responded, “it looks like I’m free; I would love to join you.”

Breathing once again, we worked out the details.

He worked in Washington, DC, and my event was in Fredericksburg, VA.  We arranged to meet at my office in Stafford, VA.

When he arrived, he had a “slug” with him.  It’s an awful commuter term.  In order to keep his trip south moving in rush hour traffic, he stopped en route to pick up two “slugs” so he could drive in the HOV lanes.

One of the “slugs” was a person whose wife was my friend.  I honestly don’t remember how the “slug” got home, but I do remember his expression when my date and I greeted one another.

I was accustomed to shaking a man’s hand.  I put out my hand just as he went for a hug.  It ended up being a half hug-handshake…it felt awkward and judging by the smirk on the “slug’s” face must have looked even more so.

Keep moving forward.

We left his car at my office, and I drove to the event location.

We maintained pleasant conversation throughout the evening.

After dinner, we sat down in a pew to listen to the broadcast presentation.  We made sure to have comfortable space between one another…not touching, of course.   This portion of the event began with an opening hymn, and as we began to sing, I was shocked.  He had a strong, beautiful tenor voice.  I know men who can sing, but I had never sat next to one who had a trained voice.  I could not hold back my smile, inside or out, and thought to myself,  a man who can sing…I may struggle to focus on the speaker.

Following the broadcast, dessert was served.  He offered to get the dessert for us.

Note to self~never again.

He brought one of everything and being new to this, I didn’t want to be rude and ate it all.  When I was finished, he said in a kind way, “wow, I enjoyed watching that. I thought you would only eat what you liked.”

Oops, my mistake!

Dinner was lovely, the speaker was inspiring, and dessert…I think I had too much.

When we returned to his car, I gave him a proper hug and thanked him for joining me.  He had made it a lovely evening.  At this, he thanked me for inviting him, opened his trunk and handed me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers.

He, noticing my surprise, commented that his female colleague made the suggestion to have them on hand.  If he enjoyed the evening, he could pass them along; if not, he could give them to someone else.

The evening ended as he helped me into my car, stepped back, and watched me drive away.

As soon as I was out of his sight, I began to cry.

I had long forgotten what it felt like to be treated with dignity and respect by a man.  It was a humbling reminder of who I was as a daughter of God and my worth in the sight of God.

This gentleman extended every bit of that worth throughout our evening together.  He knew his Father in Heaven and, therefore, knew how I was to be treated.

I never again would accept anything less.  Nor did I have to; we were married nine months later.

C~my love is yours.

My Favorite Things

Giggles from children and friendships of dear ones.  Organized spaces and beautiful places.  Amazon Prime shipping all of my needs…these are a few of my favorite things!

Okay…not as good as Julie Andrews…but absolute truth for my life!

A smile comes as I hear my children laugh & play with one another.  Comfort is felt as I talk with a dear friend.  Sanity gained when a space is organized.  Eye candy enjoyed as I view a beautiful room.  Shopping with 5 of the 6 of our children…or Amazon Prime…not a hard choice!

Favorite things are important to bring perspective back to a gloomy day.

So I have to share one of my recent favorite things that happened last week and each time I step into it…I smile!

An organized master bedroom closet…ooo-la-la!  (hee, hee)

C and I have allowed our shared closet to be another catch-all in our home.  And because it is out of sight from everyone but us, we allow it to grow exponentially.

Over the holidays it got to a point where we could hardly walk in because of the need for gift storage.

While C will attest to its disorderly appearance, he vehemently states that he knew exactly where everything was.

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I am grateful that he agreed to a MUCH needed change.

A few weeks ago I called The Container Store with the dimensions of our closet.  We discussed our specific needs and they sent, via email, their design.  After a bit of fine-tuning we had exactly what I wanted.

It was installed last week and the Hallelujah chorus resonated in my mind 🙂

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Today has been a bit of a gloomy day and as I was getting ready for bed the thought popped into my head “a few of my favorite things”.

So I will affirm “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”

(if you are wondering…yes, I listened to the song as I wrote this post)

The Catch-All

I strive to be a person of order, a zealot of sorts, and fair rather well in the uphill battle of our home (no doubt because of my zealot-like tendencies).   Yet this spot has been my nemesis.

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This bit of our kitchen countertop is our family’s catch-all.

At any given moment you will find a week to a month worth of mail, school papers, art projects, crayons, markers, watercolors, paint brushes, play jewelry, Legos, coins, remotes, hair accessories, nail clippers (except when you actually need them), vitamins, medicines.  You name it and most likely it has found its spot…right here!

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For over a year I have wanted this piece from Ballard Design to generate order.

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Unfortunately, it seemed expensive for its purpose.  Where I loved the idea of an immediate fix, I decided I would try to manage it in different ways.

I tried pails to hold loose items.  I tried a mini Lazy Susan with the pails.  I tried neat piles.  I tried putting it into the drawer in front of our computer so it wasn’t out in the open.

NOTHING WORKED!

So this week my immediate fix arrived.  Only time will tell…but what I have found is that there is a place for EVERYTHING!  Which makes it so much easier to keep it orderly.

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C’s comment was “wow…it’s much bigger than I pictured.”   It is large, but we need large to accommodate all that our family has going on!

Ahhh…order at last…one zealot is smiling!

‘Tis the Season

Our home transforms into a Christmas wonderland the day after Thanksgiving as we don the tree and trimmings.  Our children’s anticipation buzzes as the magical sound of the Carpenters Christmas fills the air.

My smile broadens as their excitement revolves around our nativity collection.

M & I were eager to unpack each one and find the perfect place to set it while E, R & J’s only desire was to play with them.  Thankfully, I was able to appease them all.  The little ones played with our plastic toy nativity as the older ones worked with the more fragile scenes.

This morning I noticed R, our 3-year-old daughter, reverently run her finger over baby Jesus.  Later it was E, our 4-year-old daughter and then little J, our 3-year-old son.

Each, in their own way and in their own moment, approached a more fragile nativity with a slow softness.  Their innocent reverence was profound.

As we approach the hustle and bustle of this holiday, may we remember to exhibit a “slow softness” toward the reason for this season.

To Succor Another

Monday, Wednesday & Friday mornings M, I & myself drive 40 minutes one-way to swimming.  It’s early, so we often listen to an audiobook.

Recently, our book of choice was Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl.  One morning a specific conversation between the two female protagonists struck me.  “And when you get tired of worrying and mourning…and trying not to be afraid, tell me and I’ll do it for you a while so you can shut your eyes and sleep peaceful.”

Our little J is awaiting his final open-heart surgery.  In preparation, two procedures were recently performed: a cardiac MRI & a cardiac catheterization.  To be clear, either procedure would be an ordeal for most adults let alone a three-year old.

The day of his procedures was long.

After little J was under general anesthesia, I sent C off to work.  He was to rejoin us that evening with dinner and then spend the night with J as I went home to be with our other kids.

The procedures took 7 hours, during which the nurse updated me every hour.  Finally, the nurse came out with, “we should be finished in 30-45 minutes, and I will be out to get you.”

45 minutes came, then 60…75…90 minutes.

I was now in a calm-faced panic and needed that female protagonist willing to be afraid for me.

We are asked to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” 1

In that moment of panic I found succor in the example of another.

This picture (below), I viewed on Facebook a few weeks earlier, succored me.

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My friend stands with her few-week-old baby, two-year-old son & husband before he boards a bus for deployment…with a SMILE.

I am blessed to have friendships with many women who exhibit the same strength as the one above.  Women whose role to care for their children, household, everything – ALONE – and bear a restless concern for the safety of their spouse who is away.

Six hours and counting no longer felt stressful.

Her fortitude, unbeknownst to her, did “succor the weak”  and for that I am grateful.

I found succor in the picture of a friend…ultimately in her Christlike example, for He is the one who truly succors us all.

Where have you found succor in your life?