Friday, December 20, 2013

Dear Rhys

Dear Rhys,

Thank you for the birth announcement, I'm so happy to know you arrived safely. Absent the (questionable) advantage of verbal communication skills or a proper introduction, you have already made me smile with your sweet little photo. Thank you for that.

Because my "babies" came to me as walking, talking older children who could tell me exactly what they thought from the moment we met (and boy, did they...) I am somewhat enchanted by & fearful of the newness of babies. You all have such a magical quality, what with your ability to render intelligent adults speechless with one sweet little sigh, or hold an entire household hostage for days at a time while you voice your displeasure in any given situation.

I wanted to let you know something pretty magical about your parents. While it seems to me, as a bystander to biological parenting from birth, that it might be easy for parents to be lulled into the likely instinctual urge to try to shape children into what they want them to become, you were born into something exceptionally rare that in my mind surpasses even parental love.

True acceptance.

While I assume your parents have hopes & dreams for you, I have a very strong sense that their truest desire is to provide a safe, loving, supportive & encouraging environment in which you can grow to be, well... you. Not the you that society expects you to be based on who your parents are or that you were born in the South or that you are part of whatever the generation of this time period will be referred to in a decade or two. We all can't wait for you to show us who YOU are.

So welcome to the world, wee little fellow. I am genuinely grateful for the opportunity to watch you become whomever it is you will be. May you always know that even before your sweet little name passed from your mother's lips to your father's ears, you were not only loved beyond measure but also genuinely truly accepted. And that is magical indeed.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


We stand side-by-side in the passenger seat of her car, my big sister & I; holding sticky, sweaty, candy-covered hands & squealing with delight. 

“Again, again, Aunt Melba! Let’s do it again!”

It is 1978 & my sister & I have the good fortune of being with our childless aunt absent the weary gaze of our parents. We have our heads stuck out the sunroof of Aunt Melba's car on a freezing cold evening & she is patiently driving up & down the driveway. I look down at her & see the playful expression on her face, bathed in the fading light of the evening sky. She puts the car in reverse, smiling as she looks in the rear view mirror to begin again. And again, until the street lamp comes on & we finally collapse in a fit of laughter.

She is the identical twin of our mother, who is also an amazing woman although her position as our actual parent has forced her into the unenviable role of bad cop to Aunt Melba’s perpetual good cop. Having a childless aunt was one of my favorite memories of childhood. Think about it. They are as blinded by unconditional love as any parent, yet have an almost infinite level of patience & a rather blurry view of what is or isn’t age appropriate. Discipline is routinely mocked by the childless aunt or uncle. 

When my nephews were born, Aunt Melba & I had a talk about my new role as the childless aunt. She was very matter-of-fact in her assessment, waving her hand in the general direction of my sister’s hospital bed. “You just have to say yes to anything she says no to, but wait until she is out of earshot.”  Laura clearly wasn’t at that moment because she overheard & I immediately recognized the wary expression on my sister’s face as she looked back & forth between the two of us. It was the same look Mom was always giving Aunt Melba. I considered the love Laura & I had for Melba as we grew up & I looked at my tiny nephews in their bassinets. This was going to be fun. And I have to say, 16 years later that it has been. I have heard "again, again let's do it again" my fair share of times.

The memory of standing with Laura in Aunt Melba’s car with laughter trailing behind us out the sunroof, accompanied me in the passenger seat as I drove an hour to the hospital at 1:00am last December. My family was coming from the other direction-  Mom, my brother-in-law & nephews in the car. My sister was in the ambulance with Aunt Melba. I look up at the night sky through my sunroof, push away the laughter of 1978 & try to piece together the phone call from my mother.

She said stroke. And heart attack. All I could really hold onto was my mom doing CPR until the ambulance arrived.

It was the longest 24 hours of my life. There were hushed discussions with doctors. We were told to say goodbye. Call the family. Turn off the machines.  We waited. I reluctantly returned home late the next night to see the boys, who had only been with us for a few weeks at that point, knowing that I would be awakened by the phone call nobody wants. 

I awoke with the sun the next day, reaching for my phone before opening my eyes.

“She’s awake.” Mom said, her voice shaking with hope.

I walked into her hospital room an hour and a half later, to find Aunt Melba smiling triumphantly as she ate breakfast. Nurses kept poking their heads into her ICU room & saying, “I heard, but I didn’t believe it…” The doctor arrived & he was baffled. She smiled at him, pleased with herself.

She looked at me as if she was getting away with something.

She went back to work a few weeks later. She is fine. Better than fine, actually. She’s still here & she’s still the same Aunt Melba. 

Almost a year later, as we sit crowded in the bleachers to watch my sister’s sixteen-year-old twins play football, sometimes I watch her as she sits in the fading evening sun as the stadium lights come on. I see that twinkle in her eye & look on her face. As if we are under the street light in front of her house in 1978. And she is definitely getting away with something.

Again, again, Aunt Melba. Let’s do it again. All of it.

I love you.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our little secret

Although I have never been one to do the obligatory Thanksgiving post or the Facebook trend of mentioning something I'm thankful for publicly each day in November, for some reason this year I'm willing to share something very personal around here. We have been keeping a gratitude journal for over 5 years. I smiled as I pulled the little stack of books from the box to take this photo.

Years of individual moments. Stacked up in a neat little column. Two very different sets of penmanship telling the story of some of the best moments of my life.

"Today I am grateful for... 1. 2. 3."

Some are sweet. Some are joyful. I smile at the simplicity of the entries before the boys came home.  I laugh at how clearly exhausted & crazy we were shortly after they arrived. There were days that we we grateful for things we didn't do.

Although it is a gratitude journal, some are heart wrenching. It is clear on the days that we suffered a loss that we were reaching for the gratitude. Searching for something to be grateful for in incredibly difficult circumstances to write in those little books. But we did & I'm proud of us for it. 

I hope someday our boys enjoy looking though them & enjoy the bits of memories of our lives they can see in these minute scribbled thoughts.

This week I bought the boys their very own gratitude journals & we will begin to share this tradition with them. I look forward to looking back at them & smiling over the misspelled words, little boy handwriting & all of the candy & toys & whatever else they want to claim as their favorite moments of the day.

It has been such a wonderful life so far & I have so much to be thankful for, but I won't make a big list here. You are just going to have to trust me on this. I swear it to you on a little stack of books.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'Dear 39' revisited

 Dear 39,

Hello again. I just wanted to check in, now that we have known each other for about 6 weeks. I promised to have fun with you & do my best to show you a good time, which involves stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Last weekend was our first such effort together, as I participated in my first art sale. To be completely honest, we almost missed out on this one. At the last minute. There was a moment on Friday, while sitting in that giant quiet room, over in the corner, looking at the empty grids & the boxes of art & prints that I felt really incredibly uncomfortable. Really, in all honesty I felt lost. Out of place.

I thought about going to sit in my car for a few minutes but I knew if I did that I would leave & not come back. The uneasiness of not knowing what would happen or what to expect made me really uncomfortable. But I stayed, in order to keep my promise to you. Show you a better time than my father was able to show you.

About an hour or so after the sale started,

after a drink from the bar,

after a couple of visits from fellow artists,

after a supportive text or two,

& the cavalry arriving, in the form of my friend who is truly a renaissance woman, 

I realized something that I had not really anticipated. I was having fun.

That evening & the next day were filled with kindness from strangers who bought most of the prints & smaller original art in my booth. There were visits from friends, co-workers & my insanely supportive family. Genuine encouragement from artist I respect & consider friends. It was so much fun. 

As I left on Saturday, exhausted, I smiled as I realized that mixed in with the relief, surprise at how well it went & sense of accomplishment, was a little sadness that it was over. A sure sign that I made the right decision by staying put on Friday morning when I really just wanted to go home.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed it, 39. Not that you have much choice... because where I go, you go. At least for the next 10 and a half months.

So I guess the only question now is this- 

Where do we go next?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Feature Art Friday: Mandalas

More half-finished work for the art sale. These are all actually finished at this point, hanging on the walls in my garage. Never has the garage looked so good... at least the walls of it. It's a bit odd, all of the art that I have worked so hard to make hanging on the walls with all of the piles of boxes for a garage sale stacked precariously beneath it, near the shelves full of tools & the tangle of bicycles & scooters. Over the next 2 weeks, I'll share photos of some of the finished art. Minus the garage paraphernalia.

Our living room is full of half-cut mat board & stacks of prints to be signed. Wee little bookmarks I've made to give out with my contact information on them.

Two weeks until our home becomes a home again & no longer an art sweatshop/staging area.

Two weeks until the art sale. 

Butterflies in my tummy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love & stuffed animal bodyguards

spotted on the country highway we walked along to meet our boys at a DHS picnic last October.
 One year ago this weekend, the boys came home. That’s how I refer to them moving in. They came home. As if they left briefly & returned, rather than the more unfortunate truth of their beginnings. So one year ago, the boys came home. It is hard to remember a time when they weren’t here, until I see a toddler & am reminded that we did not know them when they were toddlers. We have never even seen photos. None may exist. I remember sitting in the floor the day we received paperwork including their birth dates. Sitting there with all of my old calendars, I planned to figure out where I was & what I was doing when my boys were born. Then I started wondering where I was & what I was doing the first time one of them was scared or hungry or hurt & needed help & no one came. I put the calendars away.

For the boys, their past- at least the good bits of it, seem to be bleeding into the present. Our youngest, thankfully spent his entire two years in foster care with two of the most amazing human beings on earth.  He seems certain that we were with him for many of the good times he had with them. Memories that were made before we knew him.

“Remember mom? Don’t you remember?” he will say in the middle of a story, confusion on his face as his voice trails off.

“No baby, we weren’t there. That was before we met you, remember?”

Sometimes he refuses to believe me.

I can’t help but wonder if some of these memories from long ago, memories that now conveniently include us in his seven-year-old mind happened during the moments that we were sitting in our then childless house, waiting on a call about kids available for placement & wondering where our children were. What they were doing. If they were safe. If they were loved. While we were wondering about children we had yet to find, he was apparently holding a space in his memories for the parents he had yet to meet.

This time last year was hard. The hardest thing we have ever done. And you really can’t be prepared for it, anymore that you could train enough for a marathon & expect that to mean it will be easy. You just have to be willing to keep pushing through the hard part & celebrate the tiny victories. (a bit of advice, don’t celebrate by fake fainting.) The first few months with three foster children who have already had a failed adoptive placement is no joke. Trying to learn to be a parent in the midst of it had me feeling pretty broken for a while. It’s hard to find your footing & even when you do, you still slip & fall sometimes. We didn’t even really know them when they moved in. When you adopt children from the state, you go through a long process to qualify, then you wait for a long time, but once they match you with children, you have a few visits & then they move in (or at least that is what happened in our case).

Because we didn’t know them, we didn’t know that when they are scared, they don’t act frightened. They act out. Now we know. And they were clearly afraid the first few months. Most likely of being rejected & cast aside, yet again. We also didn’t know who would eat what, who was afraid of the dark & who preferred showers or baths. It didn’t help that the answers to these questions seemed to change on a daily basis.

I remember vividly sitting on the couch one night next to a giant pile of their clean laundry & bursting into tears because it was MY children’s laundry, yet I literally had no idea what belonged to whom. It was tangible evidence of how little I knew these three little humans that we would be raising. And I was terrified.

Slowly they learned to trust us & we eventually started to trust ourselves, checking in with each other frequently to figure out what we were doing right & what we were doing wrong. I don’t know how people do this alone & I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. As the boys began to trust us, we got a little more eye contact. More interest on their part to be around us for no reason, just to be close. They would bring us a favorite toy.

“You can play with this one…”  our now eight-year old would say as he backed up & pushed his glasses up on his nose, eying me expectantly.

The younger two still bring me bits of string or broken beads they find in the floor at school. Our eldest brings me change. Pennies. Nickels. All of these things are pulled from pockets gleefully.

“MOM, just look what I found for you today!”

I fell asleep alone in bed & awoke to a staring contest with a zoo, brought in quietly, one at a time by our eight-year-old. 
I love going to visit them during the school day. After the older two boys were in about 10 different schools in two years, they have all three now been in the same school for a year. I see such confidence in their faces & they are so relaxed as they walk around the school building. I have taken to pretending I don’t know where I am going so they can lead me.

I hear them talking at the dinner table at home about what happened on the playground that afternoon, or trying to figure out which child has a friend’s brother in his classroom. I hear them talk about teachers & friends & schoolwork. I see them get up & know precisely which drawer or cabinet to go to in order to find something. I think about a year ago, then I look at them now.

We have come a long way. All of us. We are a family.

We made it through the first year.

Did you hear that?

We made it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Feature Art Friday: Art in Progress

So this is what you get today for 'Feature Art Friday'. A mostly-finished blurry church window photo, snapped quickly last night in art class. It isn't the planned, well-documented, from beginning to end, step by step thing you usually get on Fridays. It was honestly almost an afterthought... but there is a great reason.

I feel so inspired & so motivated since this happened. Something about saying out loud that I really wanted to be brave made it happen. Imagine that. Certainly there will be nerves prior to participating in my first ever effort to sell original art, but I'm not going to be scared anymore. It's hard to learn to ask for help & show vulnerability when you are middle-aged. But it is happening.

While I have several canvases finished for the art sale, I have almost as many in varying states of completion, like this church window. Last Thursday, feeling brave, I arrived in class with a written list of questions... what sorts of displays do I need? Lighting? How do I price everything? What does the art hang on? One of my friends went so far as to walk me to a chalkboard & draw me a picture. He's a patient man. Last night, I announced that I had an eyelash-less giraffe & a floating chicken that needed some help. And they got it. The chicken is now standing firmly on the ground & the giraffe has not only eyelashes, but perhaps a bit of eyeliner as well.

So maybe things are a little messy here on the blog & not quite so well-planned. And that is okay, because I'm too busy running the legs off of my 39th year with all of this inspiration.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My old friend

Grief is a strange thing. People speak of getting over it or through it, as if it is something tangible that should be maneuvered around or scaled like a wall. If only.

For me, grief goes along. Or maybe I should say it comes along. Oddly, it travels better than you might think... more so if it is old enough to know how to behave itself, which my grief does. He should- he is 30 years old today. We actually grew up together, I only vaguely remember my life before he arrived.

We have developed some sort of uneasy friendship at this point, or at least a mutual respect. We certainly know more about each other than either of us care to admit. He has learned to do a better job of picking his moments for wanting attention & I have learned the hard way to let him have his time.

Whenever there is reason to meet new grief, as there was a few years ago, my old friend shows up to make the introductions. I angrily told the newcomer that she wasn't welcome here. Not to get comfortable. She refused to leave.

My old grief waited. He stayed a while to see if I would learn to be kind, which I would not. It is easy to find kindness for grief when it shows up so early in your life that you don't know any better- when you set him a place at your imaginary tea parties & play on the tire swing together. It inspires a bit more anger when you are old enough to know better & see the unfairness of it all.

So my old friend waited, even though I refused to give in. Who knows what his intentions were. Maybe he was here to support me. Or maybe misery really does love company.

Either way, he's worn out his welcome this time around & I've asked him to pack his bags.

See you next year, old friend. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dear 39

Dear 39,

Good morning, it’s nice to meet you. In order to get off on the right foot, it’s important that we cover a few things, starting with my feelings about you. After observing many of my friends during your introduction, it seems reasonable that you might have a bit of a self-esteem issue.  Unlike many of your relatives, you somehow found yourself in the unenviable position of having to stand right next to 40 your whole life. It isn’t your fault and 16, 18 & 21 are rude to pick on you about it.

I have some good news for you. I’m happy to see you. Seriously, we are going to do great things together. You are special. Why? Let me explain. My father died when he was 40. By the time he met you, he knew that he didn’t have much time left. It’s heartbreaking that he died so young & painful to think about all of the things he missed & is missing. I try very hard to be positive & continue to learn from him- from his life as well as the unfortunate loss of it at such  a young age.  Yesterday I realized the significance of his 39th birthday. He probably wondered if he would make it to 40.

What did I learn from this? I was reminded that I don’t just want to be alive. There is an almost immeasurable distance between simply being alive & actually living. It reminded me of this quote from author Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world.”

I don’t want to just be alive. I want to live.



With a wide open heart.

When I am afraid, I want to recognize that it is an indication of how much something means to me & that I need to suck it up & be brave.

When I feel vulnerable & want to shut down or paste a smile on my face & pretend it isn’t happening, I want to lean into the vulnerability & recognize that I will learn something from it. It might not be pretty. That is ok, I’m 39. I don’t need to worry with pretty. I’m sorry, 39 I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. You may not be as pretty as 25 but you are so much wiser. Yes, I still like you better.

So I want the two of us to have a great year together, as another lesson to learn from Pop. If you ever think I am playing small, feel free to remind me that unlike my father, I still have my health. I still have the ability to conspire with the universe & co-create my life. I am not only still alive, I am living. And I do not want to play small. I hope you are wearing your running shoes & feel like an adventure, 39. Because I’m about to wear you out.


Pop & me, a few weeks before his 39th birthday

Friday, October 11, 2013

Feature Art Friday: The Lobster

I'm getting things ready for the first art sale I have been involved with, so there has been more painting & less blogging over here lately. The lack of posting isn't tied directly to the increase in painting, it's more closely related to the paralyzing fear I am periodically feeling with regard to standing in a room full of strangers, not really knowing how the art will be received. It's difficult to type with clenched hands. I'm also (believe it or not) an introvert, which makes the art sale even more daunting. 

I spoke to 3 of my art friends about it last night. Two of them are introverts & it made me feel a little better to hear a story about an incredibly talented artist who literally hid behind his art at his first sale. Another amazingly talented artist is an introvert who paints in such a large format that I almost wonder if part of the purpose in the large scale is to keep people back. Now that I think about it, it seems less likely that you would have to carry on a one-on-one conversation with someone when they are standing 20 feet away to take in the beauty of your work. She's one smart "art lady" as my boys call her. The third friend involved in the conversation is such an extrovert that he seems baffled by the idea of strangers in general. He doesn't ever seem to meet a stranger & is one of the most friendly & open people I have ever met. I'm somewhat envious of his people skills & open heart. There is so much learn to from them all & I'm grateful to have them in my life... & I'll be even more grateful when they are taking turns talking me out from under the table at the sale next month.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Feature Art Friday: Hydrant

 No... I have no idea what possessed me to paint a fire hydrant. Or to paint it pink, for that matter. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I have a plan.

For real, I have a plan. This is a phrase that tends to strike fear in anyone directly in my path, other than my best friend who (obviously) immediately gets on board with any scheme I come up with. The only thing worse than me saying "I have a plan" is the two of us together saying, "We got this." This happens less often now that she unfortunately lives several states away... but the world is probably a safer place, depending on who you ask. (Anyone but the two of us.) The last time we were together when that line was uttered we found ourselves driving approximately 10 miles in 45 degree weather with the windows of her car rolled down so that we could hold a 4' x 4' sheet of plywood to the roof of her car. Her geriatric dog had arthritis & was having trouble with the back steps, so this is the project we focused on during my 24 hour stay. What can I say? I love dogs. And my best friend. 

I know what you are thinking...why didn't we just tie it down to the roof of her car? Duh. (eyeroll.) We did. And we were so focused on tying it down really well that we accidentally did so after the doors of the car were closed. I'll let that sink in for a second.

So there we were, two middle-aged women climbing in the windows of her car Dukes of Hazard style, at 10:00 a.m. one morning, laughing hysterically while reminding each other that we really should both make more time for yoga. For the person who watches the security camera footage of the parking lot at Lowe's Home Center in Richmond, Virginia, you are welcome. I sincerely hope you laughed so hard you peed your pants.

It's funny how everything really is relative. You know how a quarter doesn't seem like much money, until you just need one more nickel to have enough to get a soda from the machine, and you find a WHOLE QUARTER? Sweet! Jackpot! We were discussing this as we sat at stop lights & pleaded with them to stay red so we could keep our now blue hands inside the car in front of the heat vents. Normally, two super cold people would be pretty disappointed in finding one set of gloves, but we immediately started high-fiving each other with our one free hand after scoring this awesome find. She immediately put one on her left hand & I took the glove for my right hand.

As we crawled out of the car windows in the front yard of her new house, we congratulated each other on how much more graceful our exit from the car was than the much more public entrance, discussed what quick learners we were & wondered how many YouTube videos were made of us so far that day. We discussed how disappointed her 20 year old daughter would be to have been absent for our latest adventure... although now that I think about it, she hasn't really been out in public with both of us much in the last couple of years. It almost seems intentional.

So anyway, I have a plan... one that will make every other member of my household play a one-sided game of hide-and-seek from me until it is finished & make my friend wish she was here for the trip to the store. I'm going to turn the garage into an art studio. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Confessions of a New Parent: the one about my purse

Are you familiar with the oversized posters located at security check points in U.S. airports? The posters include photos and text outlining what sort of items are prohibited on aircraft. Some are things that could be considered dangerous, but useful. Things you might forget to remove from your bag before going on a trip. In my mind, that is the purpose of the sign- to remind you to take these useful, yet dangerous items out of your purse.

For instance, I have an incredibly calm friend with no criminal history who also happens to have an affinity for Swiss army knives. You know, the little kits that look like a pocket knife, but in fact hold enough teeny tools to build a submarine? I could see how it might be useful to see a photo of your teeny submarine-building knife on a poster with a big circle around it & line through it in order to remember to take it out of your bag.

There are, however, many items on the poster that make no sense. I can’t tell you the number of times B.C. (before children) that I stood in the security line at an airport rolling my eyes & snorting at these posters as I asked myself, “who has to be reminded to take a BRICK out of their purse for heaven sakes?” More on that later.

Recently, after fishing in my purse for a pen at the post office while a line of customers waited behind me, I found myself standing at the counter holding a Holstein cow hand puppet.  The cow & an oversized yellow plastic whistle had been confiscated from my seven-year-old’s backpack while in the drop-off line at school earlier in the week. (You’re welcome, second grade teacher, you’re welcome.) Of course I didn’t have a child handy to blame for the puppet, which is especially frustrating since I usually can’t move six inches without stepping on at least one of them. Nope, I was standing in line at the post office by myself clutching a hand puppet.

The postal clerk looked me calmly in the eye, slowly lowered his gaze in what attempted to be an effort to make eye contact with the cow, then looked me pointedly in the eye again. It reminded me of that safety session in college where you are told to look strangers in the eye if you are walking on campus at night, as if eye contact will somehow cause them to reconsider their plan to murder you & chop you up into bits. I can only assume the post office has a similar presentation based on the assumption that this whole “eye contact” trick also applies to crazy people.

Nobody uttered a word. He sold me my stamps, took my money & made change without ever breaking eye contact, which I found admirable. As I walked out the door, I noticed a car barreling down on a woman crossing the street to the post office. I toyed with the idea of pulling out my handy oversized whistle to help her out until I saw the way she was looking at me. Only then did I realize that in my relief of being free from the staring contest with the postal clerk, I was still clutching the Holstein cow hand puppet- although at this point I had changed hands & I was now holding the helpless cow tightly by the throat. The only thing that might have made this worse would have been if I was actually wearing it on my hand & carrying on a conversation with it. Good thing I didn’t have any additional stops to make. No, I was headed straight home where I would likely spend the rest of the day stepping on children each time I moved.

So back to the security posters in airports & my ongoing judgment about the unnecessary inclusion of many household items that would never be carried in a purse by a sane person. On my first trip to the pediatric dentist with all three boys, after reaching in my purse for some paperwork, I found myself standing at the checkout counter holding a hammer. Not a little tack hammer (as if that would have been better), it was a big hammer. The kind you might use to build something, like a deck. Or maybe a submarine. I silently congratulated myself on inadvertently solving the mystery of why my purse had been so heavy lately while admiring the fact that motherhood had clearly turned my tiny purse into some sort of bottomless Mary Poppins bag. I rested my elbow on the counter (the hammer was getting heavy) as I peered into my bag. How did that giant hammer fit in there? Never mind why. I wasn’t even going to waste my energy wondering why. The “why” ship sailed about 6 weeks into parenthood & I haven’t seen it since.

Once I finished these vaguely connected thoughts, I looked up to find myself in a staring contest with a woman in scrubs. By now I knew how this game worked, having been to the post office a few short weeks ago. I waited patiently as she made eye contact with me, slowly lowered her gaze to the hammer & turned white as a sheet as she glanced at the giant glass window between us on her way back up to make eye contact with me. I calmly put the hammer back into my purse as the boys stood by patiently, not even bothering to ask & I signed our paperwork & left. Honestly I’m not sure what was more perplexing to her, the hammer-wielding stranger or the children who were clearly unfazed by the whole incident. This happens with kids who spent two years in foster care… they are unfazed by crazy things but freak out over completely normal occurrences, like being picked up 10 minutes early without days of advance warning.

As we walked into the parking lot, the airport security poster flashed in my head & I could clearly see the outline of a hammer, with a circle around it & a line drawn through it. I imagined my pre-child years of eye-rolling & snorting while I stood in the security line (likely well-rested & with eye make-up on both eyes). No wonder that sign had never made sense to me before. I had not been to the airport since becoming a mom. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Best of August 2013

The 'Best of August' could have included lots of other things. All of the trips to the pool. Almost every weekend really. Good weather- a little cooler a few days so everyone could spend some time in the yard. Buying school supplies. All of these things were fun. But the "Best of" list this month is being devoted to one big thing.

School started and for the very first time, the boys were able to go back to the same school after summer break. During the period of time they were in state care, in addition to never all being at the same school, the inconsistency of foster care and living situations had them changing schools frequently. Not having much opportunity to make friends and even less opportunity to tell them goodbye.

So on a Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, we took the boys to open house at school to see their new classrooms and meet their new teachers. They initially seemed shocked to see many of the same kids they knew from last year. The boys were visibly pleased with themselves when another kid or a teacher would speak to them in the hallway. They beamed, elbowing each other and smiling. I never want to forget these things.

Can you imagine this thing we all took for granted as children, that most of us felt from before we could remember? Feeling it for the first time when you are old enough to realize the difference?

The feeling of being recognized. 

Being cared for.

Being known. 

Being remembered.

My boys got to feel that at school this year. No moving. No newness, unless you count the backpacks and lunch boxes that they each picked out with painstaking care. Returning to the same school... one more little proof for them that they are finally home. That was the best of August.

Friday, August 30, 2013

I love you more than all the waves in the ocean

Art inspired by my handsome brave boys...
after our first ever family trip to the beach.
A year ago I didn't know them... and now,
I love them more than all the waves in the ocean.
Prints available here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

38 things list: update

It became clear that my '38 Things' list appeared to be one of many things that fell by the proverbial wayside after receiving an email from one of my good friends. The email when something like this:

"So I was just reading your blog & saw your 38 things list in the sidebar and none of it is colored in... can I help? It looks so sad... all black & white...I go to the farmer's market every weekend. Do you need to come along? Want me to take you somewhere I know you would want to buy art? I bet you could even but something at the farmer's market to plant in your yard & get two of them out of the way at once..."

I have the best friends. We have been good friends for a few years now & she knew that this list was always important to me... so she was prepared to drag me along on her weekend to get some of these things taken care of because she knew that this was something important to me.

Such is my life, as I continue to get used to this new normal of being a parent. Things get forgotten. Or are just not taken care of as quickly they were before. But thanks to my friends I feel more cared for than ever. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Radical self-care

I have a cold. That's why you get no photo with this post... because who wants to see a photo of crumpled up tissues? Prior to becoming a parent, I would just go to work sick with a cold, knowing I could just pass out on the couch in the afternoon. Clearly this is no longer the case. So there will be sick leave used & a nap in the middle of the day so that I can make sense in the evening on this very important first week back to school for my boys.

My best friend calls it "radical self-care"... when you make yourself be still & listen to your body & do what needs to be done to take care of yourself. To be honest, today it feels a little silly to me. I feel like I am being a sissy & should just be at work, sick. Even though nothing really has to be done today. Even though all I want to do is slip between the cool sheets on my bed & put the pillow over my head. This idea of taking care of myself to that I will be well enough to take care of others is a steep learning curve for me. But I am climbing it. 

I'll be back in a few days, or maybe a few more... when I have something better to show you than my summer cold. See you then.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Once upon a time

This is the story of my fairy tale. It was not the one I was raised to believe in, but it is real and it is true. And it is mine. It is a fairy tale, because it has a happy ending.

Once upon a time, there were three little boys. Three little superheroes, who did not even recognize this amazing fact about themselves. They had no idea that they were superheroes because they had been brave their whole life. In the same way that the sun can’t know how not to shine, because it is the sun- and that is what the sun does, these three little boys were brave. They did not know how not to be. Superheroes usually don’t.

After years of being brave, because there really was no other choice, they were rescued. I would love to report that everything was wonderful at this point, but this is a fairy tale, which means that there were bad guys and good guys…witches and dragons… and a knight in shining armor who taught them to ride bicycles and a princess who baked them the best cupcakes.  So the wee superheroes were rescued and after more challenges, they were finally safe. They were told that they did not have to be so brave. Because it was all they knew, letting it go seemed to be an impossible task. After all, one may learn how to become brave, but when have you ever heard of someone learning how not to be?

So after what seemed like an unending wait, with piles of paperwork and lots of pushing and epic battles for these boys we did not even know yet, we found out that we would be the lucky ones. We would be the family that would get not one, not two, but three boys…and superheroes, at that. We didn’t even check that box on the many forms we filled out.

In the early days, they showed us many other superpowers besides the amazing bravery. Not all superpowers are good… but who could blame them for showing us the worst? They knew that we were outnumbered and they had no reason to trust us. There was an extended battle over turf and ownership and laws of the kingdom.  Finally, slowly, they decided to give in. Give us a chance. Let us show them that these two new adults could be brave enough for everyone.

It became clear that we were getting somewhere the first time we took them to the park that they actually occasionally turned to look for us- to be sure they could still see us. I would catch one of them looking at me from the top of the playground equipment, and I would smile and wave. A slow, unsure smile would creep across his face as he disappeared into the turret. King of the castle, indeed.

Eventually, hugs were returned warmly, even bestowed on us, unannounced. There was laughter and joking and games. Random “I love yous” thrown at us when we least expected it. We caught every single one of them, turning them over in our hands with wonder and tending to them carefully before throwing them back.

They may always circle back around, more briefly each time, to making us prove that we love them. Prove that we will never leave them. Prove that we won’t let them go. And that’s just fine with us… because we have a few superpowers of our own.

So that is how our family came to be.  It wasn’t easy. And our family most likely looks much different from yours. It was not the fairy tale that I was raised to believe in. But it’s mine and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This is what happily ever after looks like.