Friday, January 20, 2017

African-American

We try to be very (age appropriate) proactive in talking with our children about slavery, racism, and civil rights. Yesterday, Matthew had a substitute teacher. He came home and told us that she talked with them about MLKJ and that she used the N-word.

"Wait. What now?"

He stuttered and stammered and said that she said that people used to use that word.

"Did she ACTUALLY say the word or did she say 'the N word'?" I asked.

"Oh she said it!" Matthew replied.

Guys, I was just about to lose my EVER LOVING MIND. The only reason I didn't was because Troy was there, imploring me to figure things out BEFORE I lost my religion.

"Maybe it was...okay? Maybe...we need to figure out the context," he said. Because I'm married to a man who really wants to give people the benefit of the doubt.

"I AM SORRY," I clenched my jaw, "but a teacher--a SUBSTITUTE teacher--should NEVER actually say that word. Especially in a room that has TWO BLACK STUDENTS!" I turned to Matthew. "I need you to tell me exactly what she said."

"Well. She was talking about that new movie with the ladies who work for NASA and, Mom, she didn't even say it RIGHT! She said, 'NigRO' with an O on the end. I mean she said it ALL wrong!"

"Wait...did she say, NEGRO?"

"Yes!"

Now, I don't really know the context in which she said it but it sounds like she was talking about something in Hidden Figures and that it was maybe okay. This prompted our family to have another discussion about the N word and a talk about the evolution of the words Negro, Colored, Black, and African-American.

Matthew always identifies himself as Brown and it's only been recently that we've explained that while he is certainly brown, the world refers to him as a black man. In the course of this discussion of words, I informed Matthew that the only acceptable words to describe him now are Black and African-American.

His eyes grew huge. "Wait! I'M AN African-American???"

"Yes..." I replied.

"Well, okay then."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Two

To Kate on the occasion of your death and birth,

I never want to leave you there in the ground. I want to scoop you into my arms, run fingers through your curly hair, kiss mocha colored cheeks, dress you in ruffles and bathe you in snuggles. I want to do a lot of things. But I never want to leave you there in the ground.

I imagine you, buried under the grass. I remember your tiny casket and the flowers that were there, trying their hardest to mask death, their colors begging us to look away from the sadness. I remember choosing your grave marker, none of the dozens of choices seeming at all right. Because nothing was right. It was all messed up.

Everything is wrong when your baby is in the dirt.

The stages of grief aren't stages at all. They're fluid pockets of space and time, connected by wires that allow a girl to travel into any of them at any time.

Acceptance comes.

But even two years later, there is anger and sometimes denial, even.

You didn't die. Why did you die? If only you hadn't died. I'm mad at the world because you died.

In the end, I set my face stoic, remind myself of God's goodness and that the essence of who you are is with Him. I thank you for being you and making me fall in love with you so completely. I rub the dust from your stone, place the things we've chosen, tell you how desperately I continue to miss you. And then I turn and walk away.


But I never, ever, want to leave you there in the dirt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

That's All

I don't want to talk politics. I really don't. During this past year, I had people say to me or, at least, very near me, that people were horrible, awful, terrible people if they voted...

Clinton
Trump
Third Party
Not third party

"Anyone who votes for Clinton is a horrible person."

"If you vote for Trump, you're a racist."

"Vote third party. It's the only option in this election and you're part of the problem if you don't."

"If you vote third party, you're wasting your vote and giving it to ___________."

Here's what I think though. I think, on a sweepingly large scale, our country has lost the ability to empathize, to understand why someone votes a certain way. Obviously, I've been thinking about this for awhile. Well, for two months anyway.

I maintain that I'm still really angry about the options the Republican Party and the Democratic Party gave me. I was politically kicking and screaming for the better part of a year. But it was what it was. And it is what it is.

In the aftermath, I still want to be a person of integrity. I still want to love others. In many ways, I consider myself an artist--even though I never really did much with my art beyond college. The reason I love the theatre so much is because it conveys the human experience, one moment at a time. One person at a time. One idea at a time. It helps us understand people who think differently than we do.

Do I understand why people are afraid of Trump? Yes. I do.

Do I understand why people were afraid of Clinton? Yes. I do.

I know amazing people who passionately or grudgingly voted for Clinton and my life is richer for having them in it. I know incredible people who passionately or grudgingly voted for Trump and my life is better because they are in it. I know great individuals who voted third party and my life is sweeter because they are my friends.

We need to be able to look past our own fear and into the lives and hearts of people who don't vote the way we do. We need to realize that, generally speaking, roughly half the country is always sad or angry or appalled with the outcome of an election. I have voted in five elections. More often than not, the candidate I've selected is not the candidate who ends up sitting in the oval office. It's neither here nor there how I've felt about Bush, Obama, and Trump. What is here and there is how I love people.

Ultimately, my one vote makes very little difference. Especially since I reside in a state that is always, decidedly, red. And at the end of the day, at the end of my life, I don't think it'll much matter who I voted for. What will matter is how I loved people. Sometimes, how we love people is seen most evidently in the way we care about those who are different.

Regardless of how you voted (and how you feel about the electoral college), these are the numbers I found--

Clinton--65,844,954
Trump--62,979,879

That is a lot of people with very different opinions. They ALL have a story. From the blue collar farmer in Iowa to the Wall Street stock trader. From the black man to the white one. From the single mom to the Texas house wife. From the immigrant to the Native American. Our stories are different so we vote differently. But empathy SHOULD remain.

On Sunday night, at the Golden Globes, Meryl Streep used her speech time, essentially, to talk politics. I respect her right to use the time however she'd like. I respect her freedom of speech. But, personally, I almost never want to hear actors getting political. However, she did say something at the end of her speech that I want to quote.

"...we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy." It is a privilege and it is a responsibility. The world is not black and white. We must have empathy for all: for minorities and majorities, for the disabled, for those with different religious beliefs, for those on the other side of the vote. For all.

And one last thing because it is my blog and I can say what I want. President-elect Trump, you are free to disagree with Ms. Streep. You are free to defend yourself however you'd like on Twitter or in any other forum (although I truly wish you'd stop). You are welcome to your opinions on policy and business and, even, acting. But I am free to my opinion that you are wrong. Regardless of whether Ms. Streep shares your politics or mine, she is not overrated. She is the greatest female actor of our time. And, in the words of Miranda Priestly, "That's all."

 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Because This Is Us

Back in September, when all the new television shows were playing their promos, Troy and I kept seeing commercials for This is Us. Somehow, I thought it was only about one woman's weight loss journey. It was intriguing, to be sure, and I knew it had potential but I try to be really intentional about which shows I add to my lineup. We really only watch a few and it takes a lot of great acting and an intriguing story line to make the cut.

Throughout the fall, I kept seeing Facebook posts that said, "Adoptive parents must watch!" and articles with titles like The Show That Gets Adoption Right. And so, over Christmas break, after telling Troy several times that we really needed to watch it, we binged the first 10 episodes. I mean, it started with a casual, "Hey, let's watch the pilot and see what we think," and ended with us wondering how we'll ever make it until Tuesday when the show comes back after its winter break.

The soundtrack.

The storytelling.

The relationships.

I feel so completely invested in the characters.

This show has so many story lines that people can relate to for one reason or another but, of course, for Troy and me, it's the transracial adoption plot that keeps us coming back.

I'm sure there are people watching who relate to Kate and her journey with her weight. I'm sure others identify with Jack setting aside his dreams to provide for his family. Some might relate to Toby or Kevin or Beth or William.

If you have ever wondered what it might be like to be me, watch this show.

Because Mandy Moore as Rebecca Pearson is pretty much my spirit animal.

That is NOT to say that I agree with some of the choices she made to keep certain secrets. Intellectually, with the benefit of 30 years between her adoption of Randall and mine of Matthew, I know and believe that our kids are better off with knowledge and relationships--when either of those things are at all possible. They are better off knowing and they are certainly better off when we allow them to talk about adoption like it isn't a giant elephant in the room.

But what I love about this show is that it isn't afraid to expose our secrets. I try so hard to make sure that Matthew and Will know I'm not threatened by the fact that I'm only one of their moms. And I'm not. Because this world is big enough, Matt's world is big enough, Will's world is big enough, for both of us. But, I'd be lying if I said I didn't love them so very much that I wish I could be enough, the way that I'm enough for Garrett.



I don't know if the story line will continue in such a way that I will always feel this camaraderie with Mandy's portrayal of Rebecca, but as for the first ten episodes, well, like I said, spirit animal.

It's personal. It's thought provoking. The credits roll and we talk about what to do and what not to do. Or what Jack or Rebecca should or shouldn't have said. Or done. It makes me infinitely thankful for these three decades of growth and awareness that separate me from Rebecca. It makes me thankful for the portrayal of their relationship now--that we might see one writer's spin on an adult transracial adoptee and his mother. I love that we see the things done right mixed with the mistakes made.

I am cheering for Rebecca every moment. She is me. We don't make the same choices. No one experience is ever the same as another. Sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong. She opens herself up to us, showing her flaws, bruises, and struggles. She navigates loving these three children with their unique needs. She tries to do right by them. She fails and she succeeds.

She doesn't apologize for the fierceness of her love.

My children have two moms.

I am one of them. And I love them fierce.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It Is Well

My husband informed me last night that, just maybe, I should think about blogging again. On account of the fact that it's been more than a week.

Since I last blogged we:

-Legally adopted Will
-Had Christmas Eve
-Celebrated Christmas
-Celebrated Post Christmas with my parents once they arrived on the 26th

It's been a busy week.

Our Christmas was such a sweet time celebrating the birth of our Savior. It was especially wonderful because we held our boy tight--knowing he's here permanently and forever. There was really never a question with this one. Once his parents signed on the line in June, it was smooth sailing. It's just that, with everything that has gone on in the past for us, there was always the nagging pull in the back of my mind that something might possibly go horribly wrong.

It didn't.

On December 21, we gathered with close friends at the courthouse downtown. Our judge who was seriously the Doogie Howser of judges, was so nice. I didn't feel like she could possibly be a day older than me. But then I looked her up online because I'm weird and stalky like that and she graduated from the University of Utah in 1995. So, unless she is actually Doogie Howser, she's roughly eight years older than me. But, really, still. It's not like I'm going to be a judge in eight years. It was pretty much my life goal to be a mommy though so I AM TOTALLY ACHIEVING IT ALL, Y'ALL.

Diapers. Report cards. Teaching kids how to swim and how to read and how to do long division. It's all happening!

She was just great though and, in my stalking, I discovered that she practiced law in New York for awhile. I feel like, in a parallel world where she wasn't the judge and I wasn't nervous and tripping over my words, we could have been good friends.

In the end, my child spit up all over his collared white (because what was I thinking) shirt, she declared us fit to parent forever, we posed for a picture, and the rest is history.

I love this family. We're quirky and silly and we deal with some real life stuff just like everyone else. But, at the end of the day, there isn't anyone I'd rather wake up to or come home to or live day in and out with. These are my guys. All four of them.


If I was like a princess, I would feel very safe in their arms. Turns out, I'm nothing like a princess. I'm a boymom though and through. Snips, snails, puppy dog tails, mud and muck. Those are the things God has blessed me with. Still, I feel very safe and very loved in the middle of them.

One night, just after Will's adoption was finalized and just before Christmas, Troy and I sat on our couch and stared at the twinkling lights on our tree. Our three boys were asleep upstairs and I was snuggled in my guy's arms. We worship the One. We have amazing friends and family who love us. We're teaching our boys to adore the Savior of the world, come as a tiny babe. These are the things that matter.

It is well with my soul. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gift

In five and a half hours, barring any unforeseen roadblocks, Will will officially become a Bassham. The weight of that isn't lost on me. I'm thrilled. It's what we've been waiting six and a half months for. But the me who has raised an adopted child for nearly eight years knows that, while this day is of vital importance, the journey doesn't end here.

The adoption process doesn't stop when the judge declares him ours henceforth and forever. It is stunningly beautiful, a masterpiece painting of the love our God has for us when He adopts us into His family. It is also loss and anguish. The adoption relationship is ever evolving and we, as his parents, must be willing participants and, in fact, advocates of that evolution.

Today, Will's birth certificate will change. It will list me as his mother, as though I felt every burning labor pain, as though I watched his tiny body emerge from mine. I did not. It will list Troy as his father, as though he stood by, holding my hand while I pushed this boy into the world. We did not give him his beginning.

His original birth certificate will be wiped away.

And so we made sure to obtain it months ago. The information his mother gave the hospital is preserved in a safe, that he might have it one day, that who he began as is not erased forever.

Today is a day for joy and we will celebrate.

But, under that elation is the knowledge that our joy comes from grief. The grief he will battle, in ripples and waves and, sometimes, tsunamis as he navigates this world of nature and nurture. The grief his parents felt as they placed his life into my arms. The grief they continue to feel--whether in moments or in constants.

Today, he will be ours.

But it remains our job to teach him that he was first, and always will be, theirs.

This story is a tangled web of hope and expectation and sadness and miracles. What began as the dream of his sister more than two years ago will become the reality of her brother becoming our legal son. Finally.

Happy Adoption Day, Will. My promise to you is that I will let you feel whatever you feel. I will always be here for you. You will never have to worry about hurting me with your concerns or desires to know your family and your beginning. This is your journey. I'm so glad that our Father gave me such an important role in it.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. -James 1:17

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Reason

We took our children to see Santa. None of them believe in Santa Claus. Garrett and Matthew are too old for that these days and Will doesn't believe in much of anything yet. He believes that I'll feed him. Although, with the way he sometimes screams like a banshee for his next bottle, I'm not even sure he has complete faith in my follow through. One day, I assume his eyes will light up with the magical fairy tale of Santa Claus but, at the moment, we have no believers.

We had to twist Garrett's arm to sit on Santa's lap "one last time" because we wanted just one picture with all three boys together with him. When we got there, Santa was on his break. We waited forEVER. Will very nearly had an exhausted meltdown at the last moment but he rallied and we got this adorable picture which we paid way too much for.


This isn't a post about visiting Santa though.

I have something important to say.

We have never spent more than $100 dollars on each of our children for Christmas. I am not saying that so that you will feel sorry for them and think we're the poorest of the poor. I am not saying it because I want any kind of sympathy. Nor am I saying it to try to make anyone who spends less than that feel like I'm bragging. That is what we choose to spend. More or less. (Usually less.)

We taught our children from the moment they started believing in Santa that he would bring them ONE parent approved gift. Generally, we've limited this gift to roughly $20 or less. Christmas is a wonderful time of gift giving and receiving. It's magical and there are sparkly lights and pine trees erected inside our homes. Our favorite decorations come out and remind of us Christmases long, long ago. We sip hot cocoa and eat cookies. In our family, we focus on the Christ child, come to set us free. We teach our children that Christmas is in the manger, not in the packages under the tree.

Receiving gifts is a fun tradition. Receiving the Savior is a matter of life or death.

Yesterday, when we were just a few minutes away from meeting Santa, Garrett turned to me, his eyes WIDE as saucers. "What?" I exclaimed because, clearly, something was wrong.

"Did you hear what she's asking Santa for?" he whispered the sentence in one long exhale of air.

There was a girl, probably somewhere between my boys in age, standing just a few feet away with who I assume to be her father. I shook my head from side to side, I hadn't heard. He pulled me down closer to him and whispered, "She wants a hatchimal, an iPad, and a phone!" he paused. "She wants all that. SHE IS ASKING HIM FOR ALL THAT!"

When the boys were in preschool, I realized this was going to be an issue. I stood around and listened as parents told other parents what the red-suited man was bringing their children. I did mental math and gave up when I'd estimated the loot to be well over $500. FOR PRESCHOOLERS! I was getting my kid a couple of toys and some clothes. Long ago, we explained to our children that some kids receive a lot from Santa Claus but that the parents have to approve it all. We told them that we only wanted them getting something small. So as not to ruin what Christmas is all about. They understood and this has been our policy ever since.

"What is a hatchimal?" I asked. He gave me a look that shouted, "HEY, MOM, YOU'RE MISSING THE POINT!" What I was impressed with, in my ten-year-old who doesn't believe that Santa brings anything, was that he seemed not jealous but appalled. There was real concern in his eyes that someone would even dare to ask for ONE of those things, let alone all three.

"It's a thing. It...hatches. It's...well it's really expensive."

He wasn't joking. I searched Amazon. The cheapest one I can find is $150. It's true that it hatches. Once hatched, you can teach it to walk, talk, dance, and play games. Alright, but, for that price, I'd also better be able to teach it to do the dishes, fold the laundry, and change diapers. 

I have no idea if "Santa" is going to bring all of her requests but I'm willing to bet she also has stuff coming from mom and dad and grandparents. Perhaps even aunts and uncles. Maybe she knows the true meaning of Christmas and maybe she doesn't. She certainly knows the true meaning of consumerism. 

I know it sounds like I'm judging because...I am.

I'm judging a society that teaches children that asking for all three of those things isn't pure madness.

I think I was born in the wrong decade. Maybe I'm some kind of old school mom in a new school mom body. I don't know. What I know is that it made me sad. It isn't that we can't afford to spend more than $100. It's that I don't want to. I want them to understand that the stuff will break. The gifts will long go forgotten. 

What we remember about Christmas is the ham at Grandma and Grandpa's house, the way the family laughed when great grandma said she wanted some of every kind of dessert ("A little of each," she'd say.), the way the tinsel shined on Grandma's tree. We remember the roast and potatoes at the other grandparents house, the way their mobile home lit up with just the lights from their table top tree, the sound of my grandmother's laugh which still brings tears of joy to my eyes when I hear it ringing in my memory. We remember being five years old and moving the stuffed bear on the advent calendar. We remember daddy rolling sugar cookies and mommy tucking us in so that Santa could come. We remember Christmas Eve candle light services and carols. We remember Linus and what Christmas is really all about.

We remember Luke 2.

Teach your children to remember these things or, rather, their own versions of these things. Teach them that it is not about phones and iPads and hatchimals. Teach them to be thankful for what they get to give, not what they will receive.

Teach them about Jesus.


But, I mean, if someone knows about a hatchimal that DOES fold laundry, can you pass that info on to me? It's just that I could probably get on board with that.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Remember Me?

Remember me? I used to blog.

I watched this phenomenon happen with so many of my favorite blogs. Writers would blog the heck out of the first handful of years of their kids lives and then close up shop. I was always angry at them because I felt so invested in those kids and I wanted to know what happened to them beyond age seven or eight.

I totally get it now.

They get older. Their issues become much bigger than poop and spit up. In fact, they start taking care of their own poop altogether and they stop spitting up. When they throw up, they're mostly self sufficient. We don't blog their issues because it wouldn't be fair to them.

This year I have blogged far less than any other year. I felt like I was keeping the biggest whopper of secrets for the first five months of the year and anything I wanted to say was filtered through the fact that I wasn't sharing Will's existence with more than a handful of people. I was treasuring him up in my heart and nothing felt blog worthy. I thought for sure I would pick back up with intense writing once he was born because I would want to share every little coo and every little smile. Turns out, we have Instagram for that. It is much quicker and less labor intensive than writing A WHOLE ENTIRE BLOG.

He babbles and smiles but I'm usually busy running to soccer or Kids' Club or cub scouts and I can't sit down and write about it. Maybe when he turns two and starts saying hilarious stuff?

For now, he just practices being the happiest baby on the planet. And I go weeks without blogging. It is what it is.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Real Nativity

It seems that, whenever I have a baby, I get to thinking more about Mary's vital role in the Christmas story. And, okay, so it's not like I had a baby, in the literal sense of the word but, in the past, I have birthed a child. So, I've long been a serious critic of the traditional nativity scene.

I love them. I have many. They are among my most cherished Christmas decorations. But they are ridiculous.

Chosen One straight up just gave birth to a baby in a cave. Or a barn. Or a stable. In any case, it was NOT a hospital bed with doctors and nurses all around. It was not her home with her mother and trusted women of the village.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that there was probably a considerable amount of animal feces. There was straw--hopefully some of it was still clean. There was blood and, after the baby, came the rest, the part that horrifies the husbands in the delivery room because, they were totally expecting that baby but, they maybe weren't so knowledgeable about the afterbirth.

I'd like to think that someone wiser in the ways of labor and delivery came along to help Joseph out but the Bible doesn't mention her. Had there been a midwife or a villager, she would have been the first to lay eyes on the Savior and I think she would have warranted a Biblical mention. So I feel like it was maybe just Joe. I've heard of husbands delivering babies in cars or hallways and even the most stoic of them seem a little rattled.

So in a room of animal waste and blood and guts, a baby came into the world. My baby came into the world in a sterile hospital environment. I had every benefit of modern medicine and it still took me approximately thirty seconds of gingerly lowering myself into a sitting position just to perch on the end of a bed. I was certainly not kneeling on any floors, sitting on my feet. Yet, this is always how Mary is depicted. Crouched on her heels like giving birth took nothing out of her.

Yes. We're told that she placed him in a manger because there was no room in the inn. But I don't know any mothers who just put their baby in a bassinet and leave them there all night long. Certainly the manger contained him for a time but I'm willing to bet good money that Mary did a considerable amount of holding him. I think she also laid in a pile of hay--the cleanest Joseph could scoop into a heap. I suspect she looked tired, perhaps swollen, her tunic all in disarray and her head covering askew or, maybe even, folded beneath her for a pillow.

Joseph was, no doubt, overwhelmed. Exhausted. Concerned for his wife's well being and anxious about what the future held. Perhaps it was he who sat on his heels, staring at the baby while Mary slept, watching the rise and fall of his tiny chest.

I have no doubt that the shepherds found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in the manger just as the Bible reports. I just think Mary looked haggard and was, at best, propped up in the corner of the stable. I think Joseph was welcoming but disheveled from his recent hands on experience with childbirth. I think the animals were slightly agitated, their home overtaken by first a screaming woman and then a crying baby.

I want to add a nativity to my collection, one in which Mary is lying down. Joseph is sitting beside her. The baby is sleeping. He is not glowing nor is he wearing a crown. The shepherds are there but the wise men are still two years away.

This, perhaps, is Christmas.

Frozen statues in the cold
Washed in moonlight, blue and gold
Mary's babe in plastic hay
Quiet wonder on her face
Mary you look so serene
Far too pretty, much to clean
We might think we know you well
But what stories would you tell?
Of all the dirt and dust and shame
Every burning labor pain

And as I turn to walk away
I hear you say
I am real
Don't turn me into memory or myth
Let me be real
And I'll show you what it means to love like this
To be real
-Nichole Nordeman

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Half a Year

Dear Will,

You're half a year old today. That seems utterly and totally impossible. Six months. This shouldn't seem insane to me because, after all, I have a ten year old who was JUST BORN LIKE YESTERDAY. But this growing up thing is something a mama never gets used to. It's the strangest thing, being a mother. One lives in a constant state of wishing it was yesterday and wishing it was tomorrow.

Yesterday you were smaller. You fit more easily into the crook of my arm. You slept more, snuggled more, stayed put. Tomorrow you will be bigger. You will learn to crawl and walk and do long division. I'm always hoping for more milestones achieved and mourning the time passed.

You're so grown up now. You roll both directions, occasionally sit unassisted without toppling into a heap, babble incessantly, laugh at everything, smile at everyone. Today, for the very first time, you saw me, standing several feet away while another mommy held you and your lower lip folded into a frown and you whimpered as if to say, "That's my mom. The lady over there. I'd like her, please." On the one hand, I could do without that annoying stranger danger thing. On the other hand, my heart was happy that you like me. You really like me.
You're the cutest thing with a larger than life personality. It's becoming slightly less chill than when you were tinier. You have a voice. You've found it and you enjoy shrieking at the top of your lungs any time we put you down. It's like you think you're the king around here.

Oh, who are we kidding, the way we cater to your every whim would suggest that you are, at the very least, a prince.

Every morning, you snuggle into my arms for your bottle, your soft curls brushing my cheek, and I can't help but catch my breath for a moment and thank God for you. Because you are amazing. Sometimes, if there's time, you fall back asleep, there in the crook of my arm, and I listen to you breathe, your sweet milk breath, an exhaling of life and joy and contentment.

Your cappuccino skin, chocolate eyes, and wild curls are a constant reminder of your perfect blend of mother and father, of brother and brother. Although, speaking of those curls, your hair is having an identity crisis. It's patchy curls on top which fade into a giant bald spot which trickles down into a mullet. You're like Crusty the Clown, an old man, and a redneck all at the same time. It's ridiculous and completely adorable in a hot mess kind of way.

You think solid food is just divine and you'll eat anything. Seriously, at six months old, your list of consumed foods is quite impressive including but certainly not limited to, green beans, peas, squash, carrots, corn, potatoes, yams, peaches, pears, apples, bananas, blueberries, beets, cranberries, oatmeal, noodles, beef, and a few tastes of pumpkin pie. I'm thankful for this love of food as it finally has you on the fast track to Chub City. (And by that I mean that you might finally get out of the 2nd percentile for weight. Who knows? We'll find out on Monday.)

I'm really glad that you stopped screaming like a banshee every time we put you in the car. You still have your moments, especially when it's dark, but it is so much better. My ears thank you. So do my nerves. It might have something to do with how much you like music and the fact that it's almost always playing when we're driving all around town. I feel like I hunkered down at home more with your brothers because I had nowhere I really had to be. But you, buddy, you're just along for all the rides. It's an almost constant go go go lifestyle and you're handling it like a pro.

I love you so much.

I can't believe there was a time when you weren't here, when I didn't know you. I could never have imagined the way you would change me and make me better.

Thank you for being you. Perfect. Amazing. Exactly what I didn't know I needed.

Love,
Mama

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Orphan Thanksgiving

I love being with my family. I hate being away from them on holidays. Or birthdays. Or family game night. But, it is what it is.

We're almost never alone on Thanksgiving. Either we travel or someone comes to see us. We've been here for 9 years and I can count on a couple of fingers the number of times it's just been our family. This year, no one was able to come visit us and we didn't make plans to be away. Weeks and weeks and weeks ago, Garrett asked me who was coming for Thanksgiving this year. When I told him we'd be alone, he loudly declared, "Thanksgiving is for a lot of family getting together. I HATE when it's just us."

My sentiments exactly, kid.

And that's when my idea of Orphan Thanksgiving was born. If we were going to be all alone, we were going to make the best of it. I invited two families from our church. One family is here from Ukraine and the other moves a lot and has no family in town. About a week ago, another couple, who'd heard about my plans for Orphan Thanksgiving asked if they might be able to come over.

Of course!

The more the merrier!

I asked each family to bring a dessert and a Thanksgiving staple. I handed out a list of what would be on the menu. I told everyone that if there was something they always had, if it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it, to please, by all means, bring it.

There would be six kids so I decided to do a table for them. I bought a tablecloth (tablepaper?) that they could color.

                                                

The adult table took some work because my house was not made for entertaining. Seriously, I don't get it. Utah homes are built for Mormons. Mormons have big families. This house was not made for entertaining big families. It makes no sense. After reconfiguring our furniture 32 times, borrowing a table and chairs from the church, and buying some blue tablecloths (tableplastic?) from Dollar Tree, we were finally ready.


                                              

                                             

On Thursday, we woke up, turned on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, debated the merit of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and got to work. About the parade. I generally find it boring but I love all the musical numbers from Broadway shows and all the aerial shots of NYC give me chills. My husband would rather be watching football. My boys told me when I turned on the parade that they hated it. But then they were squealing like school girls over the giant Pikachu balloon. Garrett helped me in the kitchen while Matthew yelled, "MOM! GARRETT! COME SEE THE GIANT POWER RANGER!" or, "WHOA! YOU SHOULD SEE THIS PIRATE SHIP!" Troy cleaned floors.

I cooked this guy...

                                                 

and yams and green bean casserole and gravy. I made a Cool Whip Fruit Salad which my family just refers to as Pink Salad. I opened cranberries and olives and pickles. We set out drinks and we waited for the stuffing, potatoes, rolls and pies to arrive with their people.

                                        

At 1:30 our guests began showing up. One of them brought us this!!!


We ate at 2:00. It was delicious. It was a feast to behold. We stuffed ourselves and talked and laughed and before we knew it, it was after 6:00. The kids were all getting along--although loudly. The adults were having a fantastic time. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and everyone left around 7:00 pm. 

It turns out that family is fantastic but orphans are pretty great too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Return of the King

My pastor is a wise sort of fellow. Don't tell him. It'll go to his head. In and of itself that would be no problem. But there is the little fact that I also happen to live with him.

He writes a monthly article for a church newsletter. I'm hijacking his musings and posting them here without permission. I don't really need permission. I always have the option to just kiss him and make up. Here are his words:

Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                                               Hebrews 11:16

I don’t know if you heard but there was an election recently.  You might have missed it.  It was really hard to find any information on TV.  So few people were sharing their opinions on social media that it is easy to understand if it escaped your notice.

The truth, of course, is that unless you were living under a rock or just emerged from a year-long coma, you are well aware of the election that just transpired.  There were widely varied responses: shock, euphoria, anger, despair, ambivalence. 

Let me say this.  It is no secret that our nation is deeply divided and much variance exists, even within the body of Christ. So how do we respond?  What words do I have to say to all of us as we move forward?

First, let me break my longstanding pattern of not endorsing a party or political candidate.  I would like to tell you where my allegiance lies.  I am a monarchist.*

That’s right.  I’m done with democracy as the ideal, I long for a return of the King.  My advocacy, my hope, and allegiance is to Jesus Christ.

I’m not saying this as a cop-out or an attempt to be tongue –in-cheek.  I am reminded that it is God who raises nations and brings princes to naught.  Any success that our nation enjoys is not the result of our own gifting or cleverness but is a demonstration of God’s mercy toward us.  I realize that God smiles upon obedience but I also know that this principle extends to all peoples. I realize that God’s salvation plan is not based upon nation building but is to be the spread of the Gospel all across the globe.

I have come to learn that I am an American best when I am not an American first.  When I remember that I am an ambassador and a stranger in a foreign land, I realize it is my job to represent Christ, His love and His character.  I am called to live at peace, if it is possible, and to conduct myself in a respectable manner while I wait for Christ’s return.

So how should we respond?  What do we do until Christ’s comes back?

Do not despair if an election does not go your way.  Likewise, do not rejoice overmuch when your candidate wins.   Human beings will let us down.  Even the political parties that you have the greatest affinity with will disappoint you and break their promises.  Remember that God is in control.  He still holds this world securely in His hands.

Be a good citizen.  We are called to live at peace, if it is possible, and to conduct ourselves in a law abiding and respectable manner.

Exercise your right to vote.  It is a great privilege to be a part of our own governance. 

Pray for those in authority.  Scripture states, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3. 
Remember that God used pagan kings like Cyrus to accomplish His work.  He humbled rulers like Nebuchadnezzar to reveal His power and greatness.  And those words written to Timothy were written during the reign of one of the most notorious Emperors of Rome: Nero.

Finally, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Remember why we are here.  North America could disappear like Atlantis under the waves of the Ocean but even if this happened, our calling would not change.  We are here to share Christ.  To live as His witnesses.

Like you, I enjoy living in a land of freedom, of opportunity, where I can raise my family in peace.  I will do what I can to preserve such blessings. But I need to remember that this is not my home.  I need to remember that elections and edicts do not determine the ultimate course of human events.  It is God Almighty, my King, who holds that power.

Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
                                                                                                                                                Daniel 4:34-35


*When I read the Bible, I am sadly reminded that the majority is often wrong.  From Babel to Kadesh Barnea, the majority of persons, time and again, walks in a manner contrary to God.  I, however, will side with the King, regardless which direction the crowd goes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

I Will Hope for a Better Tomorrow

I'm an Independent. I'm moderately conservative. Out of high school, I considered myself moderately liberal. I registered Democrat. Most of my views haven't changed. The line has. Out of college, I realized that I didn't want to be identified as a Democrat OR a Republican. I've been an Independent ever since I changed my last name in 2003. I cannot vote in the primaries. If I could have, I would not have picked the candidates that were chosen.

Every day, when I drive my children to school, we repeat the same two things. They tell me that they will be men of honesty, integrity, and kindness. Then they tell me that they will do their best to practice the Fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They fail every day because they are still small and because they are human. But I am striving to teach them by example.

My worldview is not seen in the Republican Party or the Democratic one. I can't find it in the Green Party or in the Libertarian one. My worldview comes from the person of Christ Jesus. If He did it or said it, I want to try to emulate it. I fail every day because I am not perfect. But I am striving to show people the love of Christ by example.

I have voted for President five times. I've voted for the Democratic nominee. I've voted for the Republican nominee. I've voted for someone who is not the nominee of either major party. Not one time has the candidate I've chosen represented everything that I should be about. Because I have never written in Jesus.

One day.

One day, He will reign supreme.

Until then, I am for kindness. I am for integrity. I am for honesty. I am for compassion. I am for love. I am for listening. I am for respect. I am for forgiveness.

I have a lifelong friend who would probably identify herself as pretty liberal. She was a Bernie supporter. Over the course of this election, we have lamented our major party options and briefly discussed third party candidates. Today, she posted this on social media and it is with her permission that I post it.

I didn't want either candidate to win. I was prepared with 100% certainty that when the winner was announced, I would not be happy to hear it.

I figured it would be a close race, but Hillary would take it. Never could I have dreamed Donald Trump would sweep the votes across our entire country. Is it that people hate Hillary so much that they reluctantly voted Trump? No, that's not what I'm gathering from all the cheers of his supporters. He didn't just get "lesser of two evil" votes...he got eager, hopeful, adoring, excited votes.

It's not his win that breaks my heart; I was prepared for the possibility. The heartbreak is in watching those who truly celebrate this man's victory. -Jayni

I had had a discussion with my husband the night before the election. I told him that I just didn't understand any evangelical wholeheartedly backing either major party candidate. I responded to my dear friend's message.

As an evangelical Christian, I told Troy two nights ago, "I understand Christians making their choice, either way, come what may. Because there are only two viable candidates. And, obviously, I respect the third party vote. But I do not understand how anyone can call themselves a believer and give either of these candidates anything but a reluctant vote. They do not represent what we stand for or the people we should be. To back them and eagerly support them is appalling to me." In case you, or anyone else, wondered what THIS evangelical's position is. Although I do completely agree with praying for whomever is in office and doing my best to coexist.

I didn't want these choices. I had no part in the two of them making it through the primaries. I didn't want to wake up to President Clinton or President Trump. Still, like my liberal friend, I knew it would be one of them. Come this morning, one of them was going to be the President elect--barring some unforeseen miracle. I am not celebrating this new President. I believe the psalm that says, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God." Psalm 146:3-5

I hope that my friends, family members, and acquaintances can see Jesus in me. If they don't know to look for Him, I hope they can see something that resembles kindness, integrity, honesty, and compassion. They will not see a woman who is happy about this outcome, but neither would she have been if the electoral map had been shaded entirely blue.

I'm just a girl who, come what may, is going to try to live out her faith on a daily basis. I will pray for our leadership just as I have done for every other President since I've been able to vote.

I will hope and pray for a better tomorrow.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

2+1+K = 4

"Bash. Um," I always say to a new group of kids before I take roll. "Mrs. Bash. Um." It doesn't really matter. I'll get any number of new names assigned to me throughout the day. Teacher. Bashel. Bash. Bashman. The list goes on. Then, if I'm at my boys school, I will tell them that I have a fourth grader and second grader there. Now, of course, I also share that I have a baby at home. Because kindergartners and girls of every age will inevitably squeal and, seemingly, instantly like me once they know I have a baby. On Wednesday, a bright little kindergartner exclaimed, "So you have two kids here at school and one kid at home so you have THREE KIDS?" He waited expectantly, as though he wanted me to affirm his addition.

Great math, five-year-old.

He's too young to understand algebra. He doesn't know that 2 + 1 + = 4. It's always a strange sort of thing whether it's a kindergartner or a woman in a store who stops me to say, "So you have the three boys?" It's the very worst when a well meaning person says, "Time for your girl now."

There's an awkward pause every time as I struggle to figure out what to say. Usually, I just say, "Yes." Or, in the case of the people who tell me it's time for my girl, I smile and reply, "Well, I'm happy with what God has given me."

Yesterday though, the little boy in kindergarten got a longer pause and, as sometimes happens, I felt the tug not to erase my daughter from the equation. "I have three kids with me and one in heaven." I don't know if I'm allowed to mention heaven in public school but it's as much a part of my reality as breathing so there you have it.

Another boy instantly joined in the conversation. I don't know his story. Maybe he's lost someone close to him, maybe he was just curious, but that little guy wanted to know. "Oh. That is sad," he said. "Your kid went to heaven?"

"Yes," I replied.

"A boy or a girl kid?"

"A girl," I answered.

He lowered his voice and asked, "What was her name?"

"Kate."

And at that, he seemed content to move on.

I've thought a lot about grief in these past 21 months. My heart had never broken like that before and I needed to know that it was the worst grief anyone could ever feel--because I could not imagine anything worse. Except my head knew that it could be worse--that one day, it would be worse. And so I walked a precarious tightrope of emotions, upset with everyone who said they knew how I felt and upset with myself for embracing, so intensely, a grief I have sometimes felt wasn't mine to experience.

She had never really been mine.

Only the dream of her belonged to me. How can the loss of a dream hurt so completely and how can I think, every day, of that little dream and what she would have become?

I struggle to find answers. I continue to peel away the layers of the feelings, to understand more and more as the pain becomes less and less. I mourn the loss of the dream. And I mourn for Kate. For her life, unlived. 

The stillborn are handled in one of two ways. They are buried or cremated for the purpose of memorializing them or the hospital disposes of them. We could have stayed in Utah. The baby would have been disposed of according to hospital protocol. We would have grieved our dream and, one day, moved on. That would have been it. 

We didn't stay. We went to her. We held her. We gave her a name on a stone and a piece of grass that belongs to her. We made her ours. She was our dream but she was reality. Her unlived life mattered. I think that is why I grieve so tremendously a little girl I never knew. Because if not her mother, then who? 

I know that if she had been born alive at 32 weeks gestation, instead of still, I would have rushed to her side and sat in the NICU until she was healthy enough to go home. I would have loved her and cared for her and rejoiced with her and cried with her and raised her as best as I know how. She was born still and I was not afforded the opportunity to do any of those things. What I was given was the great privilege to rush to her side and grieve for her.

Now, I have the privilege of thinking about her every day, wishing I could visit her grave every day, and struggling with how I answer the question of how many children I have. Because I have four. And I really miss one of them.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Don't Quit Your Daydream

Don't Quit Your Daydream. Those are the words on a shirt that my mom brought me on her recent visit. 

I was pondering the sentence and how much I liked it and how my mom knows how to shop for me and then I thought, "What even is my daydream anymore?" And while I'm not 100% certain, what I know is that it has always been to create something that lasts. To maybe, someday, write something worth reading or direct something worth watching or sing something worth listening to. I used to want that to happen on a grand scale, to see my name plastered up on some sign in flashing neon lights. Now, to not have my children cringe when I sing a note is daydream enough for me, I suppose.  
It's interesting, the way I have allowed other people to influence how I feel about my own art. It's true that constructive criticism should be embraced. I would certainly hate to be one of those delusional people on American Idol who fancy themselves a brilliant singer when they actually just sound like a wounded cat who is also in heat. But, my overwhelming desire to be liked and to be appreciated has been a huge detriment to my promotion in any medium in which I may otherwise have had a small measure of success.

Why is it that we need to hear positive affirmation approximately 11,225 times before we'll believe it but one person saying one negative thing about us is enough to do us in?

In high school, I had two different theatre classes. I knew I wanted to continue in the theatre and I worked as hard in those two classes as anyone. I listened intently to the notes and I fixed it. I paid attention to everything, as desperate for improvement as I was for air.

At the end of the year, one teacher went around the room saying positive things about everyone's growth as an actor. The bell rang just as she got to me and she put her hand on my head and hurriedly said that I was a nice girl. Literally, everyone before me had been given these glowing reviews of their performances. From the stars of the shows down to the chorus members. Nice is nice, I guess, but it wasn't exactly on point. I was 17, vulnerable, and a complete perfectionist. In that moment, nice sounded a lot like, "I can't think of a bloomin' thing to say about you."

I would never tell anyone that I wanted to continue doing theatre because I was so afraid of rejection. Just before graduation I confessed to the other teacher that "when I grew up" I wanted to be an actress. She looked at me, cocked her head slightly to one side and said, matter of factly, "Lori, you already are." That was half a lifetime ago and I can still remember what the rooms looked like and how both sentences made me feel. One spoke life. The other tore away confidence. One made me question whether I'd had any impact at all while the other ran through my mind whenever I needed a confidence boost during my four years as a theatre major.

In college, I had many professors who praised my creative writing. I loved to write and any creative writing assignment felt a lot more like fun and a lot less like work. Once though, JUST ONCE, I had a professor, who did not teach writing, tell me that I needed to find my own voice and stop trying to copy my friend's writing style. Now, it should be noted that my friend is an infinitely better writer than I am. She's published and phenomenal. But my voice had remained consistent from high school throughout college. It wasn't changing because my friend was an amazing writer anymore than it changed when I read Hemingway, Tolstoy, or the Saturday morning funnies. Always the sponge and never the duck, I allowed that one comment to bother me for far too long, to shake my confidence, to make me wonder if maybe I just shouldn't write at all.

On the other hand, I had a lit professor approach me one day. Earlier in the week, I had been asked to read some of my poetry at a literature luncheon. On this particular day, I had just performed a Laban Crisis Piece as part of a grant application for the Theatre department. The poems were raw--the result of what had been both a painful and joyful year. The crisis piece had also left me feeling bare and exposed. This professor was highly respected by myself and, seemingly, every human being on campus. He came up to me, placed a hand on my shoulder and said, "Thank you. I just love the way you express yourself through your art." He referenced my poetry and my performance and told me that they were a great blessing to him. I have clung to that one compliment for fifteen years.

Because, after all, aren't we all just striving to be seen? In those moments, high school drama teacher and college lit professor had seen me and validated my experience and my dream.

The truth of the matter is that I'm never going to win at any of these arts forms. But it's taken me a long time to realize that it was never about winning in the first place. My daydream is to create. It isn't to be the very best--not anymore, anyway. If I can sing a song and hit the notes, it doesn't matter that I'll never be a recording artist or win a Tony. If I can write a story, it doesn't matter that it won't be published. If I can bring something to life on stage, it doesn't matter that it isn't on Broadway. Or Off-Broadway. Or even Off-Off-Off-Broadway.

I want to make art. I want to encourage in my children--and those I have any influence over--a desire to create and to express who they are, so that we can really see them. I want to encourage their dreams, not discourage them. They may not be the next Picasso, Sondheim, or Shakespeare.

But then again, they might be. A kind word or a harsh one may well be remembered for decades. Both may be relied upon to make or break the artist.

Encourage. Create.

And don't quit your daydream.