Thursday, November 29, 2012

To Jacob on your 5th Birthday...

The familiar patting of feet-on-hardwood grew closer as I heard the squeals of excitement. "I'm FIVE today! It's my burt-day and I'm five today!" A huge grin appeared on my face as my youngest ran into my arms with an air of celebratory glee.

"Are you SURE you're five," I inquired playfully.

"YES! I am five and I am a big boy and today is my burt-day and we're gonna get doughnuts and take them to my school because one of my friends cannot eat peanuts and doughnuts do not have peanuts in them so we're gonna stop by Krispy Kreme and get some doughnuts for my burt-day!"

((deep gasp for breath))

His excitement was contagious. My mind traveled back to 2007 when there was another type of excitement in the most foreign to me but palpable all the same. Jacob's birth mother had gone into labor and was at the hospital. It was happening. This new addition to our family (that we had just learned about three weeks prior) was coming into the world and, consequently, our hearts. And the scariest part? It was completely out of my control.

I had been nesting since getting the call on November 9, 2007 that we had been chosen by birth parents to raise their child. It was all at once unexpected, thrilling yet frightening to know that in a matter of weeks I would be the mother of a newborn--a fete I had yet to experience. In 20 days we had notified the world, furnished and decorated a nursery and accumulated enough infant outfits to clothe a small country. Now it was happening. She was giving birth and I was petrified at the possible heartbreaking outcome that lay before us. Would she change her mind? Would all of this preparation--both physical and emotional--be for naught?

November 29, 2007 was possibly the most grueling day of my life. Knowing that your future lay in the hands of a young woman who was understandably going through a staggering range of emotions was impossible to fathom. So I waited. I cleaned. I walked. I cried. I paced. The hours began to curl in on each other as I eagerly anticipated some word from the adoption agency that he was here and that he was O.K. Each time the phone rang I would leap out of my skin only to be disappointed at each well-meaning call from concerned friends and family.  Finally, at 5pm, the call came that he had arrived and was a beautiful fuzzy-haired boy weighing 8 pounds 2 ounces. My excitement was tempered by one small question... when would she sign the papers? Round 2 of the agonizing wait began and did not end until 10pm when we got the call we had so desperately awaited:  SHE SIGNED. The emotions of that day are forever burned into my memory. The fear, the elation, the uncertainty... all so life-shattering at the moment but distant as I swung my now-five-year-old around in celebration of his big day.

Five years later, I am in awe of this child whom my heart has fallen for hook, line and sinker. This once-shy clinger-of-the-pantleg is blossoming into a bold, confident little boy eager to absorb all the many things happening around him. His baby blues sparkle with the perfect combination of mischief and sweetness and his ever-expanding vocabulary amazes me daily. His passion for the little things in life is something I hope to emulate as I try my best to see the world through his eyes. The joy he exhibits in receiving a cup of strawberry milk is equivalent to winning the lottery for most and his gentle heart endears him to all those around him. Not without a stubborn side for sure, Jacob provides just enough boyish challenge to make the sweet parts that much sweeter. He's all boy and I couldn't be happier.

When I answered the phone that fateful November day, I never dreamed my heart could possibly expand to love another child as much as I loved my first. Boy was I ever wrong. Jacob, you teach me daily that kindness and gentleness will take you far in life. You teach me that being a mother is by far one of the most rewarding jobs I could ever have. But, most of all, your spirit teaches me that there is no hurt, no pain and no sadness that a hug and a little strawberry milk can't fix. I love you and am so glad that God chose me to be your Mommy.

Happy 5th Birthday sweet boy.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's All How You Spin It...

Well, she's gone and done it again.

A friend of mine Darlene has been through a mine field of trials since her battle with breast cancer began over a year ago. She has, as you would expect, had her share of ups and downs and days where I'm sure she felt less than inspired, motivated or even hopeful. But, through it all, she has never ceased to amaze me with her optimism and graceful handling of her circumstances.

This attitude has been ingrained in her kiddos as well as evidenced by a recent post on her CaringBridge journal about her daughter Riley Grace. At a recent Father/Daughter dance, she and her Dad Brandon were learning the steps to a waltz. When he seemed to lose track, Riley Grace looked up at him with wisdom beyond her years and said "if you get lost-- just spin me." In her post, Darlene declared that as their new motto... when we lose our way or seem to get not know the steps, let's just spin and enjoy the dance!

I love this more than I can say.

Regardless of what it may be, we all have struggles that we deal with in life. Sure, some may be health-related or more tragic in nature but we all have times when the road doesn't seem as smooth as we'd like it. That's where I am right now. And this morning, as those unwelcome feelings of overwhelm and doubt seeped in, I felt hopeless as if things would never smooth out again.

And that's when I read Darlene's words. And that's when the tears began to flow.  I am usually such an optimist and a glass-half-full kinda gal. Why couldn't I see past my own struggles and realize just how blessed I am?

So thank you Darlene and thank you Riley Grace for words that made a huge impact on me today. I want to dance. I want to spin and sing and enjoy every note of this song as long as it's playing. Sure there will be ups and downs but the key is always looking for ways to soak each day for all it's worth.

Spin, I shall.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Boys of (Almost) Summer

Through the back patio doors, I sat and watched. Yes, I had a car to clean out and a garage to reorganize. But this seemed far more important.

 Being the mother of two rambunctious boys, I endure countless hours of bickering, fighting, name it. The soundtrack of my house is often a cacophony of a television blaring, footsteps running on hardwood and screams. Not this afternoon. The boys had their friend Asher over to play after church and I had the privilege of witnessing children at their finest and most innocent.

There, in a backyard where the late afternoon sun dropped long shadows on the dark green grass, I delighted in watching three boys play a game of baseball. With nothing more than a couple mitts, a ball and a bat, they took turns pitching and swinging and, upon any form of contact, took off running for imaginary bases that seemed to be in a different place with each turn at bat. What warmed my heart the most, though, was the simple joy with which the three interacted. There was no fighting, no arguing, no wrangling for whose turn it was. Instead, I watched as an older brother helped a younger brother including kissing a hurt finger from a stray pitch. Giggles erupted as they chased each other trying to tag for the out and the uncorrupted joy on their faces was a sight to behold.

It reminded me of the beauty of friendship and just how genuinely fulfilling it can be. I remembered the days of playing flash light tag or hide 'n seek in the back yard while my parents visited with other adults. Or endless days lacking technology but filled with hours of just being a kid-- filthy clothes and hands but enough memories to last a lifetime.

I'm so glad I took the time to watch the boys play today. What a sweet reminder of why being a parent might not be the worst job in the world ;)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Focusing on the Good Stuff

It's so easy to let our minds get stretched and twisted and focused on things that steal our joy. So, for the past couple days, I have really tried to pay attention to the "little stuff" that makes me smile. It works wonders:

Making pancakes with a four year old
and having him tell you it makes him feel special

The smell and sound of the rain
as it pours outside an open sliding glass door

An unsolicited kiss and hug from my 10 year old son

The same child vacuuming the dining room without being asked

Laughing out loud at a tweet

Song lyrics that hit the spot

Red jellybeans

The happiness on my child's face as I made him
a ghost from 2 pieces of Kleenex

Dancing to 80's music as I clean house

Picking up the phone and hearing a friend
say "Girllllll...." as she starts in on a story.

Seeing how excited your son is to have
his Daddy take him out for a "Man Breakfast"

and... being blessed with another day
to appreciate all the little stuff in my life.

Onward to the weekend...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saving the Best For Last

It's really not even possible to sugar coat a day like today.

As the largest street newspaper in North America, the twice monthly paper releases we conduct are vital to the distribution of each new issue produced. It's the first time our vendors--all homeless or formerly homeless individuals--get their hands on their new product to take to the streets of Nashville. It's a very important day in the life of our organization. But today was one of those days when Murphy's Law kicks you in the head and then laughs at you just for spite.

In short, we had to relocate to a new area of the church where the release is held because of an art project consisting of handmade birds perched on lines strung across the front of the sanctuary. And even the best laid plans don't prepare you for the unexpected hurdles: record high temps outside and an AC unit trying to keep up, volunteers calling out, printers not working, the power (and thus the microphones) going name it. Needless to say it was one of the afternoons you just heave a deep sigh and keep on chuggin. But there's a bright spot in this whole scenario and I wish my tired brain would allow me to recall his name.

After serving hundreds of familiar faces--some gracious and some in their usual state of ornery--we finally called the last numbers to come through the line to purchase their papers. And the very last person to come through was a new face--a vendor trainee--participating in his very first paper release. He was short in stature with rosy cheeks and sandy blonde hair and his awe at the assembly line we had constructed to distribute over 12,500 papers in just a few hours was apparent on his face. As the very last person to be called, he had every right to feel grumpy or impatient; instead, he was a refreshing reminder of the reason we do what we do.

As he pulled out a few wrinkled bills to pay for a handful of papers to sell, he grinned and thanked me and said, "This is all very new to me. Thank you so much."

And with that, all the tension between my shoulder blades and every ounce of frustration I had felt over snags that were beyond my control melted away. This guy was genuinely excited about the simple blessing of having a job.

And suddenly, I became very grateful for my own.

Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile. ~Wilfred Grenfell

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another March 13

March 13 reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Carl Sandburg:

"The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on."

It always seems to sneak up on me but once it's here I feel the silent weight of it perched on my heart until March 14 rolls around and then it simply moves on.

If I look back at my blog at the different ways I have observed the day my Mom died it is as varied as the colors in an early morning sunrise. There are some years I am more upbeat and reflecting on all the quirks that made her the fabulous woman and mother that she was and then there are those more melancholy writings where the longing for her in my words is palpable.

2012 seems to be one of those years.

Unable to sleep last night, I lay there struggling with a pretty big decision in my life. What advice would she give? What insight would she shine into the situation to make clarity seem even remotely possible? She knew me like none other. And even though I sometimes pushed back against her advice out of sheer stubbornness, I always knew it was the best path to take.

But, she also raised me to be a strong woman able to weigh the pros and cons of any situation and arrive at a sound (most of the time) decision. So, I'll channel that today. I'll also crank open the windows, let the breeze blow in and saturate my senses with the sound of bird songs, the gentle dance of bright yellow daffodils, the smell of fresh cut grass that she loved so much and the peaceful cadence of clouds floating by in a perfectly blue sky. She thrived on the simplicity of these things.

That's how I know she is still very much with me. No March 13 can take that part of her away from me.