Sunday, October 31, 2010

Boo - Circa 2006

Just tell me this...

Why does Sarah's interpretation of The Lady in White look perfectly eerie...

And Stephanie's looks teen horror-flick campy, complete with stylish earrings...

But mine just looks - frightening? And not in the good way?

Must be those danged claw hands.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rolling With My Homey

This weekend, Cory and I had 24 blessed, childless hours.

I'm a big fan. I'm a real big fan.

There is something about connecting alone that cannot be precisely replicated in the presence of small people requiring assistance with tasks such as mealtime, bathtime, bedtime, everytime, anytime, and wiping.

There is much to be said for tending only to one's own needs, even if just for one brightly lit moment in time.

We didn't take a single picture, but being creatures of habit, our archives are fully able to pinch-hit.

As with most of our dates, this one began with Mexican food.

I wore this hat.

We thought we would split a mango margarita, but it arrived looking like a goblet of nacho cheese, so Cory had it all to himself. In lieu of a date-night beverage, I hooked up an IV to the salsa bowl and teetered out of the joint in a self-imposed tomato stupor.

From there we found ourselves splitting up for a half hour. One of us found a TJ Maxx. The other found a camera store, serendipitously right next door. The together-but-not date. I don't recommend this arrangement for the entire date, but history has taught me that racks of tank tops and Cory do not mix.

Having had less than three hours of sleep the night before, I fell asleep not once, but twice on the way to the movie. Both times Cory jolted me awake with what seemed at the time like very nonsensical questions. I felt like I was back in study hall, trying my best to look like I hadn't been sleeping with my face smooshed into my physics book when the bell rang.

The Social Network lived up to the hype in a big way. I loved every thing about it, and as my friend Holly said it best, it made our college years look like Vacation Bible School.

Back at the hotel, we were asleep by midnight (minus the kid, of course).

Scratch that. One of us was asleep by midnight. The other was saying things like, "Hey Honey - why do you think they titled the movie 'The Social Network'? Do you think it was a legal thing?" and "Did you think that Stanford girl was sort of strange looking?" and "Why do you think they went to such great pains to make ______ appear crazy?"

After three unanswered questions, I took a hint and drifted off into the blissful sleep that only comes when you know you will not be stripping bloody-nose sheets at 3 AM or making a bed on the couch for "I got a bad dweam" boy at 4 AM.

I dreamed that we were vacationing in Nassau, Bahamas. I have never been there, discussed being there, or even hoped to go there, so I have no idea where such specificity came from, but I can tell you this - It was dreamy.

We did not get out of bed until 10:30 the following morning.

Lunch was bowls of soup and that salad. You know the one.

Then the outlet mall, where I spent an entire hour in one store and lingered up by the cash register just to hear the totals racking up for the ladies with the high heeled boots and high maintenance hair.

I walked away with my new favorite sweater - dove grey, adequately gramps-ish and most importantly? On clearance.

Another stop at a camera store gave me a chance to sit in a quiet car and read.

It was a perfect day. We pretended that we're going to do this once a month, and even though we both knew it wasn't true, there's no one else I would rather dream big with.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Instructions for Fall

How To Eat An Apple

How To Look Cool Without Even Trying

How To Hatch An Escape

Enjoy this last October weekend, friends.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Beauty in the Falling Away

I look around, bundled in a new day, and then the next. With each one that passes, a little more color drains from my world. The saturation bleeds, circling the drain. The pink and gold crackles and browns and I drum my knuckles mindlessly on the pane. Can I do this Winter thing again? Can I embrace the utter absence of color that stretches out until I just really can't take it anymore, and then stretches a little more, just for spite?

At first glance, I somehow miss the vibrant sky only pretending to play second fiddle to the blooms.

I don't notice the beauty. I see sadness and loss. I see looming months of white.

But then, I lean in for a closer look at beauty marred by decay and I see myself. I see you. I see us. I see humanity unfurled, a rose so lovely not in spite of the spots, but because of them.

Lessons learned leave visible reminders. Poor choices are permanently marked by redemption. Uncertainty is overshadowed by what is known and true.

I see a choice, every single day - "whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy." (James 1:2)

The words beat like timpani in my soul and so I go out and clip that which has fallen away. I drop them into a beat-up bucket that probably never turned a single head and from the corner of my eye, I see beauty. I see joy shining bright over a bucket of blues. I see opportunity sprouting new life.

The air around me cools, but I shed no tears for my zinnia friends fading gracefully into their destiny. Some linger, stretching their necks toward the sun.

I think they know something I still struggle to learn.

They're not wasting time begging for one more day, one more blessing. I think they're spending every last moment in adoration, faces blazing glory. They may feel a shift in the air, a nudge toward darkness, but they clasp opportunity tightly, holding on just long enough to warm their hands. Then they unleash wide-awake, petal-pink JOY.

And if they can do it?

So can I.

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 10

Shoshana L.
Age: 27
Date: August 26, 2010
Location: Portland, Oregon

August is upstairs packing its bags at the moment, drawing to a close its visit to the cozy brick home that my husband and I share here in Portland, Oregon. Fall is not far off. Soon the leaves on the trees will begin to turn, filling the city with the warm colors of a fiery hearth, their crooked branches dripping flames of orange, red and yellow onto grassy embankments and silvery ponds. August is a time of contemplation for me, a time of introspection as I look through the mirror of the past. My daughter was born in August, and I find my thoughts gravitating toward her and the memory of her adoption a few short days after her birth.

I don't often bring up the story of her adoption because of its intensely personal and emotional nature, but when I do I find that people always ask one question: "Do you get to see her?" I am always so thankful that I can tell people I do get to see her and that I have a great relationship with her parents. I am continually amazed at their love for her and the phenomenal way that they take care of her. Beyond that, I am amazed at their ongoing love for me, and their desire to get to know me and include me in their daughter's life. For the most part, I feel their love is undeserved and I often struggle to accept it. People often look at me with awed wonder in their eyes when I tell them I chose adoption for my daughter, but most often the feeling evoked in my own heart is shame. In the same way that explaining the brutalities of war to a civilian is difficult because the civilian has never known war, it is nearly impossible to express the feelings and self-perceptions that come with giving a child to someone else to care for. I have not known many other birth moms, so I can only speak for myself when I say that shame is a big part of my association with adoption. Someone put it to me this way, explaining the difference between guilt and shame: "While guilt is a painful feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a painful feeling about oneself as a person." My shame is that I got pregnant out of wedlock, that I let my family, my friends, my church and God down, and that I could not give my daughter the life she deserved. All of those things compound on top of each other to make it difficult to accept love and forgiveness, but God is slowly stitching my heart back together, and he's using people to do it; family, friends, church and most notably, Ruby's parents. My husband has also been a great source of strength, support, and encouragement even though he has never had personal experience with adoption. His compassion towards me has given me courage to push forward, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I spoke once on a panel with two other birth moms in Indianapolis, Indiana. The audience consisted of couples who were waiting to adopt, or were curious about the process. One thing I learned is that many couples who wish to adopt are apprehensive about open adoptions for fear that the birth mom will change her mind after she's had some time apart from the baby. I and the two birth moms on either side of me were quick to put these fears to rest. We love our little ones, and put lots of thought and prayer into our decisions. The choices we made were for the good of our children, and not for any other reason. It's probably safe to say that there have been situations where birth moms made that decision for other reasons and later came to regret them, but speaking for ourselves, we couldn't imagine undoing the lives of not only our little ones, but the new families they belonged to. When I was pregnant and debating my options, I didn't think of the baby inside me as merely a cute and cuddly infant. I imagined her as an adult with a career and an apartment. I imagined her in social settings and relationships. I considered what emotional and psychological tools she would need to succeed in life and to build healthy relationships. For a number of reasons, I knew that she needed more than what I had to offer. I wish that a lot of things had been different, but the reality is that I had a hard choice to make - one that would decide the path for another human being forever - and I chose to give that person the best possible chance to thrive.

I've learned a lot about myself and others through the process of adoption, and because of the mutual trust, love, and respect between Ruby's parents and myself, I'm learning about a world of grace and acceptance that I didn't know was possible. Instead of shutting me out of her life because of fear of the unknown, they have taken me into their hearts and lives as though I was a dear old friend. They've chosen to include me in their daughter's life so that she can grow up in the beauty of her miraculous story without shame or secrecy. Her life is special because she is loved by so many, and I can sleep at night knowing she is where she's supposed to be.


I cannot express to you what a gift it was for Shosh to agree to write this post for me. It is impossible for me to read her words of truth and beauty without tears. She is every bit as beautiful and amazing as you think she is.

Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 11

(To catch up on Chapters 1-9, click here and start from the bottom.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Falling

We stretched out our hands and snatched up so many gorgeous October days that they spilled through our fingers a little.

Leaf throwing in short sleeves. You cannot top it.

At least not in October.

In keeping with Fallishness, we've hauled out the flannel shirts and the water resistant eyeliner.

I asked my girl if she wanted to be a Princess for her Fall party. Or maybe a bride!

I asked late in the day, the party just 15 hours away. I was confident that one of these girly options would strike her fancy. I was hoping one would stick, because those were the only girlish dress up options to be found in this here house.

She shot 'em both down.

Homegirl had her sights set on working the land.

She rocked those overalls. Cutest farmer I ever did see, no offense to the locals.

Then there's this guy.

The scarecrow.

God bless Scarecrow Day for kindergartners. These dress-up days can cause much consternation for us mean no-Halloweeners.

But give us a specific dress-up project, and we'll work it out. It will probably be last minute and the patches on the jeans will be taped on, not sewn. We will ultimately decide that tennis shoes vs. hiking boots is not a battle worth waging.

We will kill that scarecrow costume.

Well you know, we won't literally kill it.

I don't know what's gotten into me with such gruesome language!

Must be the whole Halloween thing.

But I'm no hater.

No way, Jose.

{dramatic pause}

I may even prove it come Sunday.

{dramatic and abrupt exit}

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quick Monday Bits

Quick bit numero uno:

My sister-in-law posted pics of her entirely dreamy, deliciously vintage kitchen make-over. They did such a fantastic job! Go take a look.

Quick bit numero dos:

Lord have mercy, I just discovered that I won this giveaway!

How will I ever choose among all of this swoonery? I need to clear my head once and for all of any lingering Nyquil fog. There are important decisions to be made!

That is all. Please feel free to return to your regularly scheduled Monday broadcasting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Six On Sunday - Supermodels

You heard me.

I've been in a bit of a Nyquil fog this weekend. Those eerie, green horse-pills do strange things to me... They keep me up at night when I'm begging for sleep. They topsy-turvy me.

All night long I did the Sleepless Jig - turning, turning, turning. (And blowing my nose every 15 seconds, but that's not quite as book-worthy.)

I thought about what I would wear to church in the morning (my Rudolph-nosed self ended up staying in bed), I thought about our dinner menu for the first week of November (it's a sickness I have) and then I remembered that the next day was Six On Sunday day, and all I can tell you is that it came to me like sunshine on a cloudy day - Supermodels!

I think I've already shared my early 90's obsession. It was legendary. It was mostly secret, but it was still legendary. At least in my mind.

So, here they are - my top six runway broads (because I know you're just dying to know):

Helena Christensen
Homegirl was always my favorite. If you don't believe me, just ask Sarah. There was something about her face that was a bit otherworldly, in a good way. She was also just aloof enough to be a bit enigmatic, maybe a bit of a loner, and that always speaks to me. Plus, I like the name Helena. So there.

Christy Turlington
Turly, as they (and I - duh) called her, was one of the Big Three, back in the day. She was the nicest. And the most humble. And maybe the prettiest. Rumored to be included in the "we" of Linda Evangelista's infamous quote, "We don't wake up for less than $10,000 a day", she was the very essence of Supermodel. She rocked a multitude of hairstyles, dated moguls and rock-stars, and breezed quite gracefully into post-Supermodeldom. No scandal. No hullabaloo. She's the teacher's pet of the whole lot of 'em. I'll bet she never even did drugs. (Not that any of them did...)

Kristen McMenamy
K-Mac emerged at the tail end of the reign of the pretty, curvy girls. All straight lines and scowly face, odd hairdo and piercings, she was the sour pickle to their cotton candy. She raged in with the Grungy girls and gave a whole new meaning to the catwalk stomp. I loved her for the fact that she was living proof that a girl with a very, ahem, unconventional look, could still be seen as beautiful. She created a ruckus when she shaved her eyebrows off and recently did it again when she emerged from "retirement" with naturally grey hair down to her booty. She's a rule-breaker. She defies convention and even today, refuses her spot in my center-aligned, single-file line. It's all good, K-Mac. We would expect nothing less.

Trish Goff
This cat stayed mostly above the fray. I can't recall even a morsel of juice about her. What I can say is that she was scrawny and brown-eyed and not especially striking, and I liked it.

Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks

Keep in mind - these are my favorite Supermodels. Not my favorite talk show hosts. Not my favorite reality tv hosts. She was beautiful and a little exotic. She was also the rumored subject of a vicious rivalry at the hands of fashion's Loosest Cannon - Naomi Campbell, and we all know how I feel about underdogs...

Niki Taylor
My love for Niki goes way back to her first fashion cover - Seventeen magazine. Although it did always cause me a small measure of distress that she was just one year older than me, I faithfully rooted for her success. She was the quintessential American girl and made Cindy Crawford's mole seem almost garish in comparison. I still remember where I was when I heard the news that her younger sister, and fellow model, Krissy, died unexpectedly. They were like sisters to us. (Sort of.)

Honorable Mentions:
Claudia Schiffer - Guess jeans. 'Nuff said. In the end though, she dated David Creepyfield and that just says something about her.

Stephanie Seymour -A classic beauty with an air of mystery. And she rocked that wedding dress in the November Rain video. (We'll pretend that Stephanie's volatile, throwing-large-breakables-at-one-another dalliance with Axl Rose says nothing about her, just for the sake of the argument.)

So, there you have it.

I'm sure we'll all rest better tonight.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Fairytale

I love this house. It speaks to the rescuer in me. I just know it would blossom under the watchful eye and loving hand of one who appreciates its tumultuous past, yet who also sees the glory of its future.

Redemption is what it needs.

Oh, and big suitcase full of cash, but this is a fairytale and fairytales have no standard for currency, as far as I've seen. Maybe a pot of gold?

Sure, a pot of gold.

So, if someone could hook me up with a pot of gold, a big metal bucket and scrub brush (borrow one from Cinderella?), some magical trees from the enchanted forest and maybe some talking critters, well, that would be great.

I don't know what it is - My fairytales don't include a castle.

They include busted-up folk-artish dwellings.

Like this.

This is where we would go to church. Of course, we would walk there.

Scratch that - we would skip.

We would skip from that house to this church, every Sunday and once in between, just because we are quaint and good like that.

I would braid wildflowers into my thick, lustrous hair.

My kids would wear brown shoes and no one would complain about it.

Twice a week, we would stop here for lunch. Free lunch. Free lunch served in a brick house with loads of Gingerbread trim.

A lady - Marjorie - with a soft belly and kindly eyes, would serve us soup and crusty bread. And lemon meringue pie.

And coffee, for Cory.

Because he'd still be my Prince, you know.

Only he wouldn't wear those unfortunate stocking-things like Princes are known to do, he would wear his cowboy boots. And he would be clean-shaven and he would always, always wear a blue shirt so that I could more easily moon over his eyes.

We would waltz all the way home, because this is a fairytale, and in my fairytale, we're really good classical dancers.

We would also sing.

My voice would sound like Alison Krauss, not because she has my favorite voice, but because she has Prince Cory's favorite voice.

His voice would be Brad Paisley.

We would not sing whiskey lullabies, because that would just be depressing and lame, in a fairytale.

Our kids would hold hands the whole way home. They would pick me bouquets of wildflowers as big as their heads. They would call me "Mummy". Why not?

We would read a book at the hearth and the children would smile all the way up the stairs to bed.

And naturally, we would live happily ever after.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Big Adoption Series - Chapter 9

The sun scorched hotter and the days dripped slow with impatience. Shosh's mom called to say that it would be soon, and so began our moth-like existence - breathless banging against the screen, fluttering toward the light. You know, these things always happen in the middle of the night.

One sleepless night would blur into day and our anticipation would desaturate. It was still there, our anticipation, but the demands of the day faded it at the edges.

Then, again, came night.

I would lay in bed feeling so sure that this would be it. It almost felt silly to sleep. I felt compelled to hop up and shower, to fix my hair. I would conjure up the feeling that was sure to sweep in with the mid-night ring of the phone. I would imagine a tail light-streaked drive down the highway to my daughter.

Then inevitably, I would drift to sleep.

Morning would come and with it, the reality that one more day had passed. The glare of day did its work and I pined for night, when my unabashed excitement had my full attention. I did not want to trudge through reality. I wanted to bask in what was yet to come.

August 11, 2006, just a few hours after we had drifted, the phone rang.

The voice on the line spoke with urgency - Shosh is in labor. You need to get here quickly, or you'll miss it.

We called Cory's parents. No answer.

We called Cory's sister. No answer.

We called Cory's other sister. No answer.

We called Cory's parents again. And again.

No answer.

With Calvin asleep one room over, we called a friend who lived two blocks down. In no time flat she was asleep on our couch, and we were headed to town.

(But not before stopping to get gas, since, in typical "us" fashion, the gas light was on.)

We raced in to the hospital, disheveled and glowing, all at the same time.

We waited in straight-back chairs by a pop machine. Before long, I was led into the delivery room where things were heating up.

I stood at the side of the woman giving birth to my child. I felt out of place and silly. I felt useless and like I didn't deserve to be there, in a moment so sacred. I felt panicked, not knowing what to do or how to act. I asked if she wanted time alone with Ruby after she was born and she declined.

I listened to her pain and saw the sweat bead on her forehead, while I stood idly by.

She began to push and the weight of her pain - both kinds of pain - cracked me open. My eyes welled and spilled as I bore witness to the birth of grace - a gift I did nothing to earn, a gift born of selflessness, a gift I could never repay.

How could I simply watch as she summoned all of her courage, her focus, her fierce will to bring life into this world? How could I possibly be a part of something so unfair?

She pushed again and time stood still and the clock hands raced.

A baby cried.

A mama cried.

A mama cried.

A flurry of medical scrubs and jargon buzzed and thrummed and all I could do was look at my daughter.

The truth is, I did not feel that storybook rush of instant adoration. I felt protective and worried as they hustled around in indication that all was not entirely right. I felt confused, like I was standing on the stage of someone else's show - my lines not fitting the plot, my costume from the wrong period.

I wanted to take some of her pain away. I wanted to act in any way that might inspire confidence, but I had no way of knowing what that would even mean. I wanted my compassion to fill with color and become tangible - a warm blanket to wrap around her, the whistle of a tea kettle lilting the promise of comfort.

I wanted to hold my baby.

I wanted her to hold her baby.

I wanted to be fair. I wanted to be kind. I wanted to do whatever I could.

She asked for time alone with Ruby and I was grateful. She was doing what she had to do and she was confident in asking.

I left the room and hugged Cory - Ruby's Daddy. I called my parents and relayed an APGAR number which was not stellar.

The updates came - Ruby was having difficulty breathing. She was being admitted into the NICU.

What should have been a standard two-day affair was now stretched out taut and shiny.

We moved into a room down the hall, with Shosh just a little further down.

Over the next days, we would scrub up and walk through those swinging doors so many times. We would feed bottles and change diapers and watch her chest reach for air. We saw her through a tangle of wires. We watched her yellow right up, then fall back down to perfect.

Sometimes, we would round the bend to find her in the arms of a girl with long, curly hair.

Sometimes, that girl would see us, too.

She would invite us over and we would double-up our love for that precious baby. We would rain it down on her cotton curls. Look at all of this love you have, Lucky Baby. Please feel this love. Please know that this is love multiplied, not divided.

In those moments, my heart swung an anchor that landed square in the heart of another woman. Come what may, our hearts were connected by a fine, pink chain. The chain was beautiful. It was delicate. It was iron coated in titanium.

The social worker came in two days after the birth for paperwork to be signed by Ruby's birth mom. As sure as I was that this was sure, well, I wasn't entirely sure. The game had changed and I knew it. We all did.

We were not present in that room and I am thankful for that.

Inked on tear-soaked paper, the adoption was official. The truth of the last 9 months circled all the way around. It was a sure thing. But I know, it was the hardest thing.

We made a brief visit later and hugged and smiled through a veil of fog, the air clouded with emotion too great for the square footage of the room.

I humbly asked if there was anything we could do for her.

Her request? Cherries.

We brought Bings and Raniers, because there is a big, big difference, and when you want a Ranier, you want a Ranier.

The nurses whispered to us about family members - Ruby's flesh and blood - arriving to hold her in night's dark, to sing to her and kiss her head and pray over her.

I prayed that the prayers would pile up. Come on, heap them on. I want this baby girl - my daughter -  to feel them. I want her to feel love from every direction. Soak her heart in them. Fill it up so full that when the questions come - you know they will - she can reach down and pull up a bucket of love to rinse the salt tracks from her cheeks. Galvanize this child in love clear as the morning light, deep as the brown of her eyes.

Before long, Shosh went home.

But now and then, she would breeze into the room in her exotic skirt and we would talk about silly nicknames. We would share memories. We would not talk about the future. The space was still too tight to linger there, on life outside the hospital walls. Instead, I'd pass that burrito baby to her first mama and we would marvel at how - how? - did we have the prettiest baby in all the world?

I wanted so badly to go home.

And I wanted so badly for time to freeze, so that we could live in the microcosm of our shared life, doing exactly what felt most right for the moment.

Ruby, looking like an eight-pound moose next to the preemies beside her, healthied up. She slurped her bottles. We had more opportunity to look right into her eyes.

Within five days, we bundled up a girl as hardy as oatmeal, as breathtaking as a miracle, as perfect as pie, and we headed home. We crossed the threshold from sterile and cool to blazing August hot.

With just one step, we walked into a future that would have its share of questions, but that would be sure to its core.


Join me here next Wednesday for Big Adoption Series - Chapter 10

(To catch up on Chapters 1-8, click here and start from the bottom.)