Friday, December 19, 2014


bebo norman has this song, written many years ago now, and he sings, "the clock moves so slowly; time moves so fast." i don't think i'll ever get past the mysterious truth of that line. time is a strange thing.

i just reread my last post, the one about grandma. during those 2 1/2 short weeks in july, we wanted whatever time of suffering that lay ahead to happen swiftly, for her sake....and yet, we clung to every moment we had remaining with her, always reaching for more. five months later, my sadder days seem to drift by slowly, like a lazy river current...and this mornin, i can hardly believe it's been a whole five months since she left.

i'm beginnin to feel this way a little about adoption. well, this adoption anyway. we were cautious to find and apply to another agency. we had a lot of money to work for and save. i was in grad school and, ideally, wanted to be finished writing monster papers w/o an infant learning how to sleep and wake w/the rest of us. josh and i had simple differences of opinion regarding how many years we wanted b/w our kids. probably underneath it all was a question as to whether we could do it - could we save enough money? could we put ourselves on the line again? could. we. do. it. ?

needless to say, it took us a while to pull the trigger and begin the process again. it was on our minds every day for a long stretch of days...days that turned into weeks....and months. but we finally took the plunge. we made phone calls and went to meetings and completed the application and worked to save and cleaned the house before the home-study. those days seemed to last a lifetime. and days/shifts of extra work? josh would say his night shifts crawled by...sometimes i visited patients and was pretty sure i wasn't gonna make it out of their houses before nightfall. the clock moved so slowly.

when we had enough money to feel a little more comfortable, we turned in the application, and we had the home-study done. suddenly, we realized those laborious days had somehow turned into months and months. nine months, actually, b/w deciding on an agency and submitting our application. did we intend for it to take so long? time moves so fast.

neither of us believed adoption #2 would play out as quickly as riley's did. with riley, by the time we finally decided on adoption and submitted our application, it was may...we met her birthfamily in august....she was born in december. bam. i kinda thought baby #2 would come in the summer. so we tentatively made a fewish plans for last spring. after finishing school, i didn't even consider looking for a teaching position. just a few weeks out at a time, we'd put things on the calendar. never spending nonrefundable money or committing to responsibilities we couldn't slip out of. my aunt gave me a book series by madeleine l'engle for christmas, and i eagerly shelved it, saving it for the during-the-first-few-months-of-mothering-another-infant time sure to come. the closer to summer we drew, the less further out we made plans. the pictures of riley we'd taken in february i kept in the thick folder, waiting to send them out (however belated they might be) with the birth announcements we'd be sending out (i presumed) soon.

then the summer came, the summer our family will never forget. a whole lot of days that seemed to last years - the night daddy went to the er, the next few days when he was diagnosed with lymphoma, and we scrambled to make sense of it all. we braced for a long and unexpected journey, and every single day we spent attentively to switching gears to do whatever might need to be done. then a couple weeks later, grandma, and the couple weeks that we had left w/her. hour after hour on the road, caring for riley and grandma and each other...navigating the unwanted decisions of grandma slipping away. all the while, daddy began having appointments and procedures and began treatment. it wasn't until about the middle or end of august that i even remembered adoption.

oh yeah - we were still waiting. the summer had now come and gone, and not even a hint of baby on the horizon. but my stars - i was relieved. there was no way we could have cared for an infant the way we'd wanted and been present w/my family the way we were, all at the same time.

autumn arrived. daddy was doin well. we were grief-stricken over grandma, but we'd all had to return to at least a semblance of normal work and kids and bills had never gone away. nor had adoption. our routine 3-month follow up calls came and went. our profile was still bein shown; we simply had not been chosen. the agency had no suggestions - no changes to our profile picture might help, no tweaks in our letter should be made. just....wait.

so we return to our springtime mentality a little bit - plan for things a little at a time, though there was a newer mix of surrender and breath holding, as we began making decisions that weren't as easy to get out of - like my decision to take a 6 week position teaching nursing with midwestern starting in october.

day after day of decisions...small ones and big ones. flexible ones and ones that don't bend as readily. an hour here, a weekend there. a month over here, six weeks there. the clock moves so slowly; time moves so fast. now it's december. almost christmas. riley's almost four years old. we've actively waited for her brother or sister to come home now for a year. a year. how did that happen? 
still no prospects on the horizon, as best we know. so we look ahead into 2015 and pause, our eyes beginning to look a little heavier with the weariness that comes from long waiting... and we wonder. we can't help but wonder a little if we made the "right" decision, whatever that means, about the timing and the agency and what's good for our family.....and the list goes on.

the saturday after christmas, our social worker will be here. home-studies are good for a year. after that point, if no baby has been placed and no match has been made, the home-study must be revisited. the social worker is required to physically inspect our home. as we'll be away most of next week for christmas with josh's family, i'm tryin to skim away the most visible layers of untended-to chores. 

in the meantime, our waiting stretches on. our waiting and our wonderings aren't as tumultuous and volatile now as they were during the wait for riley layne. they're quieter, more settled. but they're here all the same. so we wait. we wait with whispering hearts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

grandma, who wouldn't have approved of me devoting a blog post to her

death is strange. it's equal parts hard to believe and permanently real.

today marks 2 weeks since grandma died. i can't quite wrap my heart's mind around that truth. it seems like yesterday. and it seems like weeks and months ago already. i haven't had a tear-free day since july 5th, the day we learned of the cancer that was ravaging her body. and yet, there's this part of me that feels the slightest bit disassociated with the if grandma's just out visiting my aunt's family and will return after what used to be her standard 2-week stint out west.

one week, we were talking about riley's singing, incessant chatter, and obsession with cats...immigration reform....rain. a few days later, she was in the hospital. a few days after that, we were taking care of her as she began slipping away. a few shorter days, and she was gone. i think we're all havin a difficult time adjusting. it was so sudden. well, she was 86 after all, so i don't suppose we can label it a shock. but the ferocity of her independence was such a normal and daily part of our lives, that her absence is deeply felt....nearly palpable at times.

grandma was the one i remember encouraging me to write - my most vocal writing advocate. so i suppose it's fitting that i'm scribbling with words as a way to grieve.

at grandma's funeral, daddy talked about one of grandma's character traits - an unusual but somewhat exceptional one. she had this ability and willingness to disagree with someone while maintaining a respectful position, and in the case of family and close friends, a loving one. daddy's example was tattoos. all six of grandma's grandchildren are adorned w/permanent ink. did grandma approve? no. did she ever "come around" on the issue and give any of us her blessing regarding future inking? nope. she maintained her opinion on the matter while not once ostracizing any of us.

i've thought a lot about what daddy said....thought a lot about my 33 years w/grandma...and thought about the stories and dimensions of grandma that we were not privy to until the days leading up to and immediately following her death.

there's this other part of her character that, in the last month, has been enlivened with fuller color. grandma had this very matter-of-fact way about her that easily led folks to assume she lived unafraid and unbothered. it was an easy assumption to make. after all, she was fiercely independent and lived alone for decades. but i don't believe she was unafraid, unbothered, and unscathed. i heard her talk about bein afraid of the water and afraid of snakes and mice. so it wasn't that she was unafraid, undaunted for 86 years. it was that she refused to be ruled by her fears. so her answer to the things that frightened and unnerved her? she simply faced them. she enrolled mama and aunt janice in swimming lessons when they were really young, and then donned her own swimming suit and took the lessons alongside them. she was afraid of the snakes in the hen house, but she gathered the eggs for her folks anyway. and when she was well into her 70s, her house was infested w/mice...but rather than calling an exterminator, she set mouse trap after mouse trap until the nasty varmints realized they'd met their match.

these are easy examples to describe. but there were other hurdles, other things she learned to do - not b/c she innately took pleasure in such things, or because she sought out difficult endeavors, but b/c she was determined to live, determined to not be ruled by fear. so she lived alone for decades and learned how to change her own oil and how to get out of debt and went back to school. she retired and then subbed for months on end at an alternative school for kids who'd had terrible hands dealt to them - she was in her 70s then. she decided goin to church was better than living with bitterness.

then there were the rivers more personal, more sensitive. every one of her grandkids (myself included) made lifestyle decisions that were not directly in line with her preferences. decisions more difficult to grapple with than tattoos and piercings. decisions about religion, spirituality, relationships, marriage, race. not one time did she smile and nod and accept our choices blindly. and not one time did she hold so tightly to her established viewpoint that her grandchild was tossed aside. i don't know that there are many octogenarians who were as determined to work through their prejudices and long-held beliefs for the sake of loving and accepting their family.

with a heart as sturdy as hers, i think it would have been easy to push folks around. independent, determined folks sometimes bully others. it's a means of survival. but somehow, grandma steered clear of that slippery slope. she somehow managed to not jump onto every religious, political, social bandwagon, while at the same time she refraining from forcefully pushin and pullin people into her corner.

time and age and life ultimately softened her. grandma was intelligent and thoughtful. she was never the "sweet old lady" type, to be sure. she never placated people or pulled back on who she was for the sake of complacent harmony. she wasn't without her flaws, either. she was determined to the point of stubborn, independent to the edge of closed self-sufficiency. but, at least in the last 20 or so years, she was never so set in her ways that she isolated herself.

at least in part, i believe this is why many have been moved to tears by her death. not only her family, but her friends, too. she lived, determined to engage in life thoughtfully. not all of us are that brave. we can't help but be sad.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

gratitude and grafting

it's mother's day again. officially my fourth to celebrate. i tend not to succeed in the "be really excited on holidays" category. the pressure of it all causes me to recoil. when given a gift on a particular holiday, i've never been the demonstrative recipient who makes the whole gift giving event fun. so four years ago, when i awoke on a sunday mornin with a 4 1/2 month old precious little girl in our house, i was taken aback by the delight swimmin in me. mother's day. my first mother's day. after years of this day bein soaked with ache, occasionally sprinkled with confusion and anger, my arms were now full. a squishy, dark haired little girl captivated me....and turned mother's day on its head. i remember tellin josh, "now this is a holiday i can enjoy!"

so here we are, four years later. my delight this mornin is less expectant and more....restful. mothering a 3 year old is a continuous mix of pleasure and pain. equal parts laugh out loud fun, melt your heart sweet, and infuriating. and i don't expect anything less or anything more than that today. maybe that's why it's a restful delight.

there's an ache here, too, though. a small part of it is, i think, tied into a broader world....the horrors mothers and fathers and children endure, like in nigeria. but admittedly, the ache i am more familiar with is my own... as we await another baby to be grafted into our family. 

the ache now is different than it was before riley came home... it's not as tumultuous, and i'm not angry about it. that's enough different to make it different....not to mention the tectonic changes that come with having just one baby-toddler-preschooler fill your home and your life. but it's an ache all the same. an ache to love and an ache to hold...and ache to stretch and ache to graft a friend and brother/sister into riley's world. 

so we wait. we wait for an agency staffed by diligent women to tend to an unborn child....we wait for a long-suffering social worker to match us...we wait for a brave birthmother to choose us. we wait to be grafted into a stranger's forever life. we wait to graft the stranger into ours.

and that's where we are right now. we're living life here while waitin for a call from there. 

for a year, we've waited and worked toward meeting the financial requirements of affording this next adoption. workin more (for me), workin extra (for josh), workin creatively (both of us)...and humbly receiving the generosity of family and friends. i don't think there's a single person who's given to us that wants to be named, but i have to mention at least one.

betsy reynolds. she contacted me several months ago about doin a fundraiser for us. she was starting up as a new consultant for usborne books. it's not like she'd been selling books and such for a long time and was reaping the rewards of success. she was brand new to it. she wasn't offering to help with a fundraiser out of the abundance of her success...she was offering to work on our behalf so that we could benefit. i wrote about this fundraiser several weeks ago here. well, the book sale and the card fundraiser were quite successful - thanks to betsy's hard work and the extended generosity of other friends and family (some of whom are reading this post as we speak). 

thanks to yall, we received $445 that's now in our adoption fund. what's more, this $445 directly helped us meet our goal. our adoption funds are now raised and taken care of!

happy mother's day.... to all the women who have taught, loved, and helped. and thank you to all who generously participating in betsy's fundraiser. we're so grateful.

Sunday, February 2, 2014


in a round-about, adoption related post...

one of the benefits in growin up in the texas panhandle when i did was the circle of people you knew. now, we call it networking. fifteen years ago, it was simply a part of bein a church kid. at the height of the youth group era, when youth group kids went to church and camps together, traveled in small mobs for mission trips, and ventured into the emmaus movement, we knew folks all over the panhandle. lots of our circles overlapped... maybe we went to school together. if not, maybe we played against each other in sporting events. there was a pretty good chance our parents knew each other, too - from their own days of growing up in the panhandle way of life.

so what does this have to do w/round two of adoption? well, i'm glad you asked.

an old panhandle friend of mine - yep, one of the very kind that developed through camps and chrysalis and maybe a little basketball - sent me an email the other day. as a wife and mother of two little ones, she's started selling some books and greeting cards on the side. as she read about our adoption process and the financial burden of it all, she wanted to help.

honestly, i was a little hesitant. josh and i are working in all sorts of ways to fund this deal, and we've believed it's no one else's responsibility to make this happen. but the more i prinked (like that word? it's kinda like thinkin and kinda like prayin...), the more i find myself thinkin - who am i say no to help? 

we ask for and hope for and want and need other kinds of help in adoption...from all sorts of people. from the adoption agency, to our friends and family prayin, to the birth family's support system. so i finally emailed my old friend back and said yes.

so here's the deal.... my friend betsy is selling great children's books and really fun, well-made greeting cards. for every book and every box of cards sold, a good portion of the proceeds will go toward our adoption. 

there are books for children of every age. there are cards for all sorts of occasions. if you're interested in buying a book or a box of cards, you have from today, february 2 to saturday, february 15th.

to peruse the book selection and place an order, follow this link: books for riley to have a companion

to order a box of cards, you need to contact me. to look at the options, follow this link and click on "products": cards for riley to become a big sister

thanks.... for following, for prayin, for believin, for helpin...

thanks, betsy, for your thoughtfulness and generosity.

grateful for the panhandle way of life today.

Monday, December 16, 2013

a lot of little things

i'm walkin through an advent series right now... read some Scripture, read the author's poetic take on said Scripture, reflect on both through a couple of questions at the end. i love questions - i love asking them, and i love answerin them, so this is good for me. one of the questions this week was, "when have you seen God take what was torn and turn it into a gift?" (voskamp, 2013, p. 83...probably not the correct form of citation, but apa has served me well the last four years).

i read the question and immediately thought of a few friends.... those whose lives have been struck by ridiculous illness...but rather than gettin stuck with their families lives bein defined by those illnesses, the illnesses seem to be serving some sort of more beautiful turn strong men tender, to turn sure people gentle, to turn stories of grief and labor into stories of profound faithfulness. i'm 32 years old now, and when i have these moments of recognizing the stories around me, i'm often struck...i find it hard to believe that i'm old enough to know people who struggle and fight and grieve and suffer like this....through illness and divorce and abuse and death and loss.

it's easy for me to get stuck here, in the suffering and in the struggle. it's where i lived for years in the realm of infertility. and it made me angry. really angry. i felt bombarded by the injustice of of it all... how could i, of all people, not be able to have a baby? i actually had someone tell me once that i was "the all-american girl," so what was there about me (or my handsome, smart, tender, big and strong husband, for that matter) that deemed us unfit to conceive? and this self-righteousness was inflammed every time someone else became pregnant or delivered a baby or nursed an infant...

the adoption process inflammed the anger, too. although my logical mind understood the reasoned purpose which drove so many facets of the adoption process (i.e. homestudy, cost, legal aspects, strangers delving into our most personal matters), logic didn't make it any easier. of all people - rich and poor, active and sedentary, urban and rural, broken and whole, educated and illiterate - only people who choose to adopt are required to take such profound inventory of their lives and relationships, turn back pretty and ugly corners alike, and bear all to a group of strangers (a.k.a. the adoption agency) in order to be measured and found fit-to-be-parents...and that's before the tumult that can follow bein matched with a birthmother!

even the word "choose" there inflammed the anger and the hurt. we weren't choosing to adopt out of the benevolence of our hearts or the abundance of our lives or b/c we felt divinely called. we were "choosing" to adopt b/c we longed for children we couldn't naturally create, and we flat out didn't have the money to pursue fertility treatments and then have enough reserve to adopt if the medical world didn't fix us. we didn't feel like we were choosing as much as we felt backed into a corner with only one realistic way out - adoption.

 i was sad and heart-broken, but those two emotions make me really uncomfortable. they have a connotation related to weakness. anger made me feel better. it made me feel less weak and less out of control. it gave me somethin to clench in my fists when all else felt like sand runnin through my fingers. it gave me a way to emotionally bull-doze my way through a situation i wasn't at all happy about. anger gave me a way to avoid the sadness.

i've grown up in the church and done all-things-God for as long as i can remember, and yet during this time of loss, all the things that were supposed to help and comfort weren't doin the trick. it didn't soothe any place to "trust that everything happens for a reason" or to hold to the belief that "God has a plan." even those exhortations felt like invitations to avoid the sadness. tossin romans 8 and jeremiah 29 into a chasm of confusion and hurt didn't seemed more like tryin to swing on Scriptural ropes across the chasm rather than walking through it one small, treacherous step at a time.

i can't really say for sure what happened, what changed between then and now. i didn't have one singular moment in time when the momentum slowed and then shifted away from anger. i didn't wake up one day and see the world from a different perspective. it was more like a series of moments, a string of countless decisions and subtle realizations that i didn't want to live angry. i didn't want to be an angry mother (or wife or friend or daughter or neighbor or....). the only way out of anger seemed to be a journey through the depths of sadness.

so i started learnin how to be sad... how to be sad about living my life with an empty womb...

avoiding the uncomfortable has never proven helpful for me... it's led to anger, depression, and life hurled toward blame. for me, the uncomfortable here is inextricably related to sorrow. so it came as a surprise to me a few weeks ago during our homestudy when the social worker asked us somethin to the effect of, "tell me about your journey through infertility and healing from that." healing? i don't feel healed. i'm certainly not physically "healed" of whatever keeps me from carrying a little life inside. i don't feel emotionally "healed" either...

but maybe that's b/c my definition of "healed" isn't a whole one. because the thing that surprised me when the social worker asked that question was the answer that came out of my mouth. "i think i'm learning to accept that i may never have a baby that we create. i may be sad about that for the rest of my life. but i'm learnin to be okay w/that. and i'm not angry about it anymore."

i'm not angry about it anymore. do you know how big of a deal that is?

that doesn't mean that i'm blindly trusting that "everything happens for a reason" or that "God is in control" in the ways i've always understood those things...b/c even now, even though i'm not seething anger, those claims don't quite settle the dust.

what i am beginnin to believe wholeheartedly is that The Lord is Good, through and through. that He may not move the mountains of circumstance around me, but He continually offers to move mountains of anger, hurt, and unbelief in me. that in the really crappy context of infertility, He gives the most beautiful gifts. w/o infertility, we wouldn't know our riley bear. and i cannot imagine my life without her.

Friday, December 6, 2013

our christmas girl

as it began to grow colder, and the days grew shorter, i found myself wonderin how we'd pass the cooler, darker hours of the evening. during the warmer months, we stay outside as long as possible, which is a great way for a toddler to spend her last couple hours of each day. i was a little afraid she'd grow restless w/all the time spent inside - i knew i would! fortunately, her imagination has taken off the last few weeks, so now she spends the better part of her evenings lost in a world of stuffed animals and song. 

of the many wonder-full delights that her imaginary world brings into our lives, one of the sweeter ones has begun this week. sunday school this last week was spent decorating one of the church's christmas trees. though reluctant at first, riley eventually joined in the fun and had a ball. the next mornin, we loaded up into the pickup and went into town to buy a real christmas tree. a while later, the tree assumed its rightful place in the livin room. from that moment on, there's a phrase that's been repeated countless times... "mama, it's christmas! it's christmas, mama!" it's as if she forgets over and over that there's a christmas tree in the house....and so over and over again, as she emerges from her imaginary world, she realizes that it's there, and she exclaims suddenly each time, "mama, it's christmas! it's christmas, mama!"

i love it. i love her surprise and sudden recognition over and over again. i love that she delves so deeply into her world of song and play that becomes unaware of the obvious. 

she loves christmas music and christmas cartoons. in the middle of summer, she sometimes asks to watch this old mickey mouse christmas carol movie. 

while watching 'the sound of music' last night, she sang and danced around the living room.

she likes crawling up into our bed, squirming under the covers, pulling the comforter up to her neck, and sayin, "it's chrismas every day."

there's a dusting of snow on the ground right now. she was pining to go outside yesterday evening: "mama, we'll get our socks and our shoes and our jacket and our hat on and bundle up and go outside, and it'll be okay." how could i resist? so bundle up we did...and we stayed outside for a few minutes, just long enough for our hands to hurt. when it was time to come in, she cried. at first, i thought the tears were due to the pain of having such cold little hands, but when i asked her if she was crying b/c of her hands or b/c she wanted to stay outside, she blubbered, "b/c i didn't want to come inside."

and i know - all of these things are probably universal findings in all toddlers.... but as a mother of a baby born on christmas day, i've slowly begun to melt into the beautiful delight of this season...and i can't help but watch her, listen to her, laugh w/her, sing with her, and think.... our christmas girl, through and through.

as advent lingers and draws us to linger as well, i do so w/the smell of a fir tree and the sound of a fire and the beautiful presence of our christmas girl lightin up every corner of every room....

and still we wait and we long.... our christmas girl will be a big sister at some time in the (hopefully near) future. the agency called and told us we've been approved. there are a couple of logistical things josh and i have to take care of before we're "official." but hopefully we'll get those things wrapped up next week. 

in the meantime, we savor every "mama, it's christmas. it's christmas, mama." yes, darlin, it is....

Friday, November 8, 2013

we survived

monday mornin came and went and left us tired :)

as best we can tell, the home study went well. no red flags during the home/environmental inspection. it helps, i think, that we have an almost-3-year-old runnin around who has yet to seriously harm herself. as for the interview-y part (which comprised about 85% of the 3 hour visit), it was very similar to the home study we had to have done before riley came home. lots of questions about our pasts and present, both individually and as a couple. lots of questions that were the same or closely related to the application questions we had to answer on paper a few weeks ago. no big surprises, though it always seems different to talk through things like that rather than write a few words. 

for what it's worth, this application and home study process this time around has given me a little different perspective on the purpose of the process. on the surface, and for good reason, it seems to be a system established to ensure that the adults wanting to adopt a baby/child are reasonable, well-adjusted, responsible folks who have the potential to be really good parents. i'm also beginning to wonder if there isn't somethin really good, albeit difficult, about goin through the process... b/c it's like taking an inventory of our life/lives. whether that's taking a little bit to think and reflect on who we are in our different roles (mama, daddy, sister, brother, daughter, son)...or havin to sit down and hammer out some money stuff that we've been puttin off. it just seems like a good idea. 

and for me, it's been a process that has caused gratitude to stir from somewhere deep within. gratitude for the growth and the gifts of the last 32 years and the last 3 years. gratitude for people....and, dare i say, gratitude for circumstances, however unforseen and unwelcomed, that have worn me to patience and kindness and love. 

the road from here.... the social worker will take a couple weeks to work through and write up our home study. then our completed application will go before an approval committee. in the meantime, we will write a profile letter and create a scrapbook of our family. once we're approved and have submitted our little projects, we'll be "officially waiting." 

thanks for hangin on for the ride w/us :)