Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Dear Eleven,

Once upon a time, there was a baby. He was thin, long of limb, with a large brain or, at the very least, a big skull. As he grew up, he maintained his slight appearance, with the exception of a time during toddlerhood where he resembled an Easter ham--chubby, warm, and sufficiently succulent. One day, quite suddenly, he was eleven. His mother realized, with a bit of a surprised jolt, that he was somehow closer to turning 20 than he was to that day she first held his squishy body in her arms. If there was such a thing as late onset postpartum depression, she would certainly be presenting all symptoms. For it had come to pass in those days that her baby boy had grown up right before her eyes and she had somehow failed to see it until, perhaps, that very moment. Or she had seen it every day but faithfully perfected the art of denial. 

Garrett, you are, somehow, all grown up. And, oh, I know that isn't exactly true. I know that you have to grow facial hair still and eat me out of house and home and grow taller than me. I know there are still countless report cards to bring home and proms to go to. I know that I still have time. But you have become your own person and sometimes, I still want you to be that little boy who made me fast forward through the part of Finding Nemo where the mama dies, that little boy who made me sing him to sleep for years, that kid who kicked the preschool director in the gut because there was simply no way he was going to stay there for one second without his mom.

But mostly, MOSTLY, I really love this version of you. You are a joy and a delight to me. Son, in my days as a substitute teacher, I have met A LOT of kids. Some of them are wonderful, to be sure. But when I see you walking through the halls or laughing with your friends at lunch, my heart swells with pride. I am SO GLAD that you are mine. And occasionally, as misguided and arrogant as this is, I feel sorry for everyone else in the world because they aren't lucky enough to call you their own. Then you'll tell some horrendously corny joke, thinking yourself to be hilarious, and I'll close my eyes, shake my head back and forth, and praise God for humbling me.

You are bold and brave. So much bolder and so much braver than I am. You're smart and athletic. You take direction and criticism but don't let either soak in and change your core. This past year, you participated in a geography bee and were the only fourth grader to advance into the second round. Sitting at that table, with all the bigger kids, you looked small and nervous but somehow confident and sure. You're gaining skills and speed on the soccer and baseball fields, and in a quick minute you'll be trying your hand at football. We tried to convince you that you're too small, that you'll get smashed--possibly beyond repair--but you won't have any of it. Of course, we have friends who look at us like we're psychotic parents for even thinking about letting you play but, Son, parenting is nothing but a fine line between letting your kids live and keeping them alive. I don't want you to look back on your childhood and say, "All I ever wanted to do was play tackle football and you wouldn't let me."

You're already going to blame us for the fact that you'll never reach your full potential as a rugby player. Because that's what you really want to do. And fencing. But the closest fencing place (studio? field?) is in Park City and that just seems treacherous in the winter and rugby is like football without rules. I'm apprehensive enough about football WITH rules. But you look stinkin' adorable in the shoulder pads so I'm embracing it. I know, I know, you aren't "going for" adorable. You're going for menacing but have you seen yourself? You're nothing but lanky limbs and a cute smile.

You love Jesus and that is a source of abundant joy to me. I hope and pray that you keep that fire as you get older. This isn't the easiest place for a pastor's kid who passionately loves the authentic Jesus of the Bible to grow up but you've made the best of it for the past decade. I'm so proud of your unwavering dedication to learning about the one true God.

I continue to believe that you were born in the wrong decade. You're such a free spirit, like Huckleberry Finn without the abusive father, and seem to have been born to wander. But, as Tolkien reminds us in The Lord of the Rings (look at ME quoting LOTR!), "Not all those who wander are lost." You long to fish, hunt, camp, and live a life connected to the land, to the elements, to the wide open countryside or mountain top. Your soul longs for the next journey and almost everything is an adventure in those twinkling green eyes and welcoming grin. I fear and rejoice in the fact that you cannot be contained.

Use your wanderlust for good, my boy. Be respectful, always. Love others, always. Show the light of Jesus to an unbelieving world, always. And when they hit you hard in football, hop back up again because your mama can't handle waiting to find out if you're gonna live.

I love you.


Monday, July 24, 2017

This Side of Grief

Before I say anything else, I want to preface all of this by saying that I know, by the grace of the detachment of time, that everyone meant well. I know that people were speaking to me from a place of utmost compassion and love. I appreciate the way that many of my friends reached out to me and gave me support, encouragement, and permission to be authentic. All of that needs to be recognized, thanked and celebrated.

I have an analytical mind. I'm organized and administrative despite my detestation of math, science, and pocket protectors. In spite of my penchant for the arts and my flair for the dramatic, I need everything to fit into appropriate boxes. Everything has a space and a home. Perhaps this is why I escaped into a place where grief was categorized and shoved into a sort of child loss flow chart.

I knew at the time that this was horrendously misguided but I couldn't stop the distraught thought process. I somehow needed to place grief against grief in some sort of fight to the death. I still don't know why this comparison felt vital to my existence.

In that intense Anger stage of Grief I wanted to say to everyone, "This is the worst thing I've ever felt. My baby died inside a womb that wasn't mine ONLY EIGHT WEEKS BEFORE HER DUE DATE! I held a pink blanket wrapped refrigerator bag at the funeral home! I drove my daughter inside of her casket in the back of my van to the cemetery!" Find me someone else who has done that. THAT woman I want to have a cup of coffee with. THAT woman has something in common with me. I felt all alone because my situation was uniquely mine.

In the many months since, I have purposed in my heart not to compare pain with an actively grieving woman. I will not feel the weight of her grief because it is uniquely hers. We can talk later, when the pain is not acute. Of course, if she asks, I will share. But I will not place my grief on top of hers, unsolicited.

Two and a half years after the fact, I'm not gasping for breath in the survival state of grief and I have come to recognize that It destroys people in different ways. It cannot be quantified. No one life matters more. No one human's existence is any less or any more important. No one mother's grief is bigger or better or more deserved than another's. I'm willing to bet good money that every mother, in the smack center of grief (and, maybe, forever), feels like hers is the absolute worst pain that ever there was. I realized that I was comforted most by hearing someone saying, "I cannot imagine your pain." Even if she believed she could. Even if circumstances were seemingly identical. Even if she believed hers to be much, much worse. Maybe if more people said, "Your pain is unbearable. It is the worst pain there ever was," the one grieving could honestly and wholeheartedly say, "Thank you. Thank you for seeing me and meeting me exactly where I am, swimming in the most pain I've ever experienced."

I would like to say that I've come out on the other side of grief. It simply isn't true and I'd be lying to pretend it so. There's a family at our school whose little boy is the exact age that my little girl should be. Their due dates were about a week apart. We ran into them at the pool a few weeks ago. I can still barely look at him. My brain fights my heart because I'd like to think that I'm not stupid. That little boy is not my girl. But my heart knows that his life reminds me of hers. It is not his fault that he makes me want to cry. The waves of grief ebb and flow and rush more slowly in the passing of years. But I do not think it is something we can walk through and come out on the other side. I think it attaches itself to our bodies, like a tattoo we cannot erase. It becomes a part of us. Forever.

It creeps in, like ink through skin, to the very fiber of our existence, so that when someone hurts, we long to tell our own story, to breathe life back into the corpse. As time goes on, tell their stories. For all the love in all the world, remind people that you had a child who is gone. Write. Share. Speak. Weave that One throughout your narrative because her life mattered. Because his soul still exists. But also, consider taking a moment to step outside of pain and whisper to the one who is surviving in the acute stage of grief, "I cannot imagine."

Because I think we can all agree that the weight of a little life lost is simply, unimaginable.

Interview with an 11 Year Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? Dual Survival
2. What did you have for breakfast? A bagel.
3. What do you want to name your future son? (This is a new question. I got rid of "What's your middle name?" because, well, he's known that for years now. Interestingly, the answer didn't change even though the questions did.) John.
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab (Same as last year and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Mushrooms.
6. What is your favorite color? Brown. (Some things never change)
7. Favorite lunch? Totinos Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go on cruises.
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? A cruise through the Mediterranean.
10. Favorite sport? Football, wrestling, soccer, baseball, swimming...
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? (This is a new question. I also decided to get rid of, "When is your birthday?" because he's also known that for years.) Lori. (Oh child. I hope not. Although it is better than Brickannlie. Or some other atrocious thing he could come up with.
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Ummmm. Morning.
13. Pets? I have a hamster. (Now that he has his very own pet, he's forgotten the existence of his dog and cat.)
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Um. No. Not really.
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to work at Little Caesar's and then Subway. Then I want to go into the coast guard. Then I want to be a pastor.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeer.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Oh. I don't know. Is it Israel, Mom? Yes. Israel.
18. What is your favorite book? Stranded series.
19. What are you most proud of? Having hammy. (The hamster. It's a pretty big accomplishment. Lol.)
20. What is your favorite movie? Gettysburg. Or the Hunger Games. (We recently let him watch the latter. His brother has not seen it yet. He really liked it. I mean, in that way that you can really like something that has a very disturbing premise. Time for him to read the books, I think.)
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Probably dangit. Me: That's your favorite word? In the whole world? Him: Probably. (Oh dear.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Using the Lord's name in vain.
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") I like pizza.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") Asparagus.
5. What sound or noise do you love? I like Will laughing.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Will screaming at the top of his lungs.
7. What is your favorite curse word? Shut up.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A person who studies hamsters.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Cleaning up people's flooded homes.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Welcome.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bring Me Here to Die

The baby is asleep.

The big boys are at the lake with their dad. The dog went too.

For five minutes, it is as though I am the only one, the very last one left in this mountain escape.

I see the vast expanse of blue sky. Pine trees. Squirrels. Cones, fallen from their place in the needles.

I close my eyes and welcome the chatter of birds. A machine buzzes in the distance. The sound of tires on mountain roads-- taking people to all the places they want to go.

The smell of pine fills thick when I inhale. Reminding me of a time when I was five years old. Reminding me of yesterday. Reminding me of all the summers in between.

I feel the hot Sierra sun falling down -- not so far as it falls anywhere else. I am higher here. Closer to the light. A breeze meanders through my hair, blowing it slightly.

This place, this wonderland of nature and beauty, this small niche of space leaks nostalgia from my eyes when I am found alone. Memories of years gone by. Hope of years to come. A glimpse into the peace of eternity. If fate would so permit, bring me here to die. When my time has come, when my breath is close to done, bring me here -- if only in my mind's eye -- that I may leave this earth a little closer to heaven.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Tale of Two Messes

Disclaimer: I don't believe in psychics. I mean, I guess I do in the sense that I believe we can screw around with demons and stuff and get really messed up in all kinds of evil. But I don't believe in them in the traditional way that people do. I definitely don't believe in my own ability to have psychic premonitions.

Yesterday I had a psychic premonition. Except I did not because, as stated before, I don't believe in that. I do believe in the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Maybe, even, on really silly stuff. Like checking the outside freezer.

We're leaving for Tahoe tomorrow. I'm really glad that I had this strange premonition yesterday and not a week from now. I was backing up my car so that I could get to a cooler to take with us when I had the sudden and overwhelming thought that I needed to check my freezer. This was followed by the thought, "Well. If it isn't working, it's going straight back to Costco because we have not had it for very long!" I walked toward it and opened it. Cold air blasted me and I thought, "Oh good." This was immediately followed by my wondering aloud why the bottom of the freezer was red. And wet.

I don't know how long it wasn't working but it couldn't have been terribly long because the ice cream still had a partially frozen blob in the center. I was incredibly thankful that I had some ice frozen in there which had served, for a time, as a cooling device. The popsicles were everywhere. And no longer chilling in their popsicle formation.

I hauled everything out of there. I threw things away. I mopped up sticky juice. I cleaned everything up. Not once did I lose my cool even though I had 99 better things to do. And even though it was approximately 2,000 degrees in my garage. I was so happy for my strange idea that I needed to look inside the freezer. Praise God! At some point in all of this, I'd needed the scissors for something. I can't remember what.

I continued on with my day.

Later, I decided to get my spare key. It wasn't hanging where it usually does (correction: it WAS hanging where it usually does but I failed to see it there) so I started looking in places we've hid it before. That led me to a water toy that I thought would be fun to turn on for the boys. I needed scissors to free it from it's cardboard prison. "Where are the scissors?" I wondered aloud before remembering that they were in the garage. As I walked past the laundry room on my way to the garage, I saw it.

My entire laundry room and bathroom floor were covered in standing water. It was seeping into the carpet. I threw open the lid to the washing machine and the basin was full to the brim with soapy water. And that is the moment that I chose to start crying dramatically.

It was ridiculous. It was a cross between actual crying because I was upset and frustrated and theatrical crying because I did not feel like cleaning it up and if I cried loud enough then maybe the universe would hear me and come do it for me. This crying is reserved for things like minor floods and head lice. My boys stared at me.

"What should I do?" Garrett asked? I had no idea what to tell him because I had no idea where to start. He called Troy who did not answer. This is really quite common, When my husband DOES answer, I am genuinely surprised. I'm not sure why we pay for his phone. I didn't know what to even do but I wanted someone to feel sorry for me so I called my parents.

Meanwhile, I'd sent Garrett for towels. He returned with ONE dishcloth. To clean an entire floor of standing water. Good luck, kid. My dad told me to see if I could manually get the washer to engage in a spin cycle. I could. Praise God! Because I did not want to bail an entire basin full of soapy water. Within a few minutes, Troy came home.

Y'all, I was GEARED up. I am not typically a crier, as has been largely documented here. But I am dramatic. I will immediately think that my cough is lung cancer or my flooded washing machine is THE END OF THE WORLD. (Especially when I have somewhere to go. And where I needed to go was Vacation Bible School in two hours to do a skit which I did not have memorized yet. I also needed to go on actual vacation.) Troy came in and I was all high pitched and incoherent. He just looked at that DISASTER and calmly said, "Oh wow." Then he set to cleaning it up.

I decided to run a load and watch every step so that I could tell a repair man exactly where it went wrong. Strangely, the cycle went perfectly. More strangely, we have since done three loads of laundry without a problem. PRAISE GOD! I'm not assuming it's cured. I'm just thankful for the temporary calm before the storm of needing to shell out big bucks for a new one.

Guess who slept through the freezer fiasco? Guess who slept through half of the laundry room fiasco? That's right, the inquisitive man cub who would have found both messes to be thoroughly enjoyable adventures. PRAISE GOD! Because I would not have found it enjoyable when he went running through the neighborhood with all the temporarily relocated freezer food. And I would not have found it enjoyable when he began swimming lessons on my bathroom floor.

The point of this tale is not that I cleaned up two giant messes when I needed to be packing. The point is that while my reaction was to CRY on the phone with my MOMMY and my DADDY, my husband's reaction was basically a quiet, "Good times."

WHAT IF I HAD MARRIED MYSELF? (I mean, someone like myself.) That would have been the greatest disaster of all. Both of us standing, immobilized, in the bathroom, crying. Both of us calling our daddies? Thank goodness God brought that calming presence into my overdramatic life.

Friday, July 7, 2017

For Those Who Wait

My heart breaks in half inside my chest when I think about parents who are waiting for an adoptive situation. Every once in a blue moon, I look at the adoption websites and I click on the waiting families. I count how many there are. I cannot look more often, because empathy bleeds out thick through my eyes.

I look at their faces.

Some of them--many of them--have been waiting for a long time. Some of them have been waiting since before we were matched with Kate almost three years ago.

And I think about the grave that I visit.

And I think about the curly haired toddler who is sound asleep in his bed.

Sometimes, I forget about just how blessed we are. We have gone through the adoption process three times. We were chosen. It was not without heartache. Oh how the Lord knows He grew us and molded us and changed us through each of those experiences. My heart broke each time. But He brought those children to us. He was so very, very faithful to us. When the going gets tough, when I want to give up on whatever it is that has me begging for change, I think about this family He has made for me and I rejoice.

When I watch people waiting and waiting and waiting, it makes me want to cry a river that will flood an ocean. I believe in God's perfect timing, of course. But my mama heart is in anguish for those moms and dads who are desperately hoping that today will bring the call they are eagerly anticipating.

I celebrate those who are willing to wait, those who are willing to put their money and their energy where God has called--maybe not all of us, but so many more than actually answer--, those who know that their children are out there and must be found.

To those who are waiting, my friends as well as those I will never meet, I see you. I understand your frustration and your sorrow, your hope and your expectation. I hope for you because I see the result of perseverance and love in my own children.

You may never know me. You may never know that I am praying for you. But I am here, beseeching the Lord on your behalf. May He lead you to your children, wherever they may be.