Saturday, December 27, 2008
When I first went in my mother-in-law’s room, I held her hand and commented on her long finger nails. Mine don’t grow well and I’ve had acrylic nails for the past 15 years. My mother-in-law slowly turned her head to me and, quietly and with difficulty, asked if I’d cut them for her. I carry nail clippers and a file in my purse, so my husband went to retrieve it from the waiting room. I clipped her nails, talked with her and, once in awhile, she’d respond. My daughter and niece also tried to talk with her through their tears. I felt old. Not in a creaky old-age sort of way, but in an “I’ve lived a few years; I’ve had experiences” sort of way. When my dad died, I was twenty-eight and I was totally distraught. I remember sobbing in my aunt’s arms and asking her how she managed to maintain her composure so well. She said to me, “Honey, as you get older, you just figure out how to handle these things better.” Well, here I am – older. There are both positives and negatives about growing older and, after yesterday, I believe that the ability to better handle life’s traumas is definitely a positive. It’s not a matter of being unfeeling or not caring; it’s simply a matter of learning, in some small way, to do what has to be done; to take the bumps in stride.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Our journey together began at Holt Korea’s offices where the escorts (there were four on our Gift Team) met the babies and their foster mothers. While our hearts were full of joy at the role we would be playing and in anticipation of what the new families would be feeling, the reality of meeting the babies and their foster mothers was, in many ways, quite heartbreaking. The four foster mothers had spent months caring for these babies day and night. Even though they knew that their role in these children’s lives would be temporary, they still loved them and had become attached.
The woman who held the baby I was to escort was obviously full of grief. The other three women seemed more experienced and handled their sorrow with less outward emotion, but my baby’s foster mother was crying openly, even though I think she’d rather have hidden how she felt. I tried to comfort her with a gentle touch on her shoulder since language differences prevented me from telling her just how loved this baby would be. I hoped to somehow convey to her that both she and the baby would be alright; that her role in caring for this child would have a tremendous impact on the baby’s happiness and with how she would accept and bond with her new family. But all I could really do was gently touch her shoulder. Adoption is said to be part grief, part joy. For every loving family who receives a child, there is a birthmother who grieves for that same child. When a child has been in foster care, there is also a foster mother who grieves. I saw that grief at Holt Korea’s office.
As we traveled across the Pacific Ocean, I thought of the baby’s family and the great anticipation they must be feeling. I held the baby in my arms most of the trip; I slept intermittently as I tried to lie quietly so as not to disturb her as she slept against my chest. She cried quite a bit – perhaps experiencing some grief herself and I did my best to comfort her, to assure her, too, that she would be okay.
When we arrived at our final destination, tired and anxious to meet our families (my own family was waiting for me as well as the baby’s new family), I experienced such joy! First, I caught sight of my husband and four of our children – what a beautiful sight after being away for a week, then, shortly afterwards, I saw the baby’s new parents! They were easy to spot – Dad held a video camera and Mom held a sign with the baby’s Korean name written in both English and Hangul (Korea’s alphabet). I have been in those parents’ shoes and I know the level of joy and excitement they were feeling. My heart burst as I shared in this experience. I felt so privileged to hold this beautiful baby girl in my arms; I felt privileged to be part of her story; I felt privileged to have this small part in making these parents’ dream come true. I handed the baby to her mother and watched as a family was formed.
Our journey began with a foster mother’s grief; it ended with a family’s joy – we had journeyed through 360 degrees of love.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Yesterday, we visited an unwed mothers’ shelter and, after a small party and a lot of laughter, there was time to sit quietly as a group in order to let the young women ask us, adoptees, parents of birth children and adoptive parents, questions that are tugging at their hearts. Many of the young women were crying; they are making a monumental decision: to try to parent their child or to relinquish it for adoption. I think their tears were tears of sadness and grief at the enormity of this decision. As we all sat quietly on the floor waiting to see if any of the young women would have the courage to speak, many of them rubbed their bellies. It was a clear sign that, even before birth, they love their babies and are trying to take care of them. Finally one young woman spoke up, then another. The theme of the questions was “will my baby be loved”. As we parents and adoptees tried to answer their questions, we also shed tears – tears of joy when we told of our love, tears of gratitude when we tried to explain how much we honor our own or our children’s birthmothers, tears of sadness as we saw how hard this process is for these young women. So many tears, so many types of tears; sometimes the same tears come from so many sources.
When we finally left the shelter, I asked our team leader, with hope, if this process is therapeutic for the young women and he assured me that it is; that it helps them in part of the process they must go through to make the decisions they must make. Then, I realized that it was also therapeutic for me as well. I would so love to be able to reassure my children’s birthmothers that their children are, in fact, loved; that they are growing up to be wonderful, caring and loved individuals. However, I know that I will probably never have the opportunity to say these things to any of them directly, but I could say it to these women; I could attempt to reassure them. My hope is that there were other adoptive parents sharing their own stories of love when our children’s birthmothers were making this decision. My hope is that they had an opportunity to shed tears like this; that they had the chance to gain some reassurance.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Yesterday, Sunday, was a day of sightseeing and learning about Korean culture. As one team member said, “No tears today,” – nothing emotional, no children waiting for families, no simple gifts, no overwhelming love – just sightseeing. This trip is not a vacation; there is no relaxing time by the pool or luxurious hours to sleep in. We are up before dawn and back to the hotel well after dark. The schedule is hectic and the events are emotion-filled. I think my heart did need a rest. I think I’d hit an emotional wall and I wonder at how many other times in my life I’ve reached a similar point and haven’t figured out what I need to do. I love the analogy of the heart resting; sometimes we just need to take some time to regroup.
Yesterday I let my heart rest.
Friday, December 12, 2008
We were running late, so when we walked into the gymnasium the residents were already there, gathered around their family tables, Christmas music blaring from the speaker system. Housemothers, staff and dozens of volunteers milled around helping to ensure that each person was able to enjoy the party food. Volunteers maneuvered wheelchairs, helped with feeding those not able to feed themselves and provided additional company around the tables. As we entered the gymnasium, the level of excitement increased dramatically. The men at a table near me were so excited by our arrival that many were actually bouncing up and down on their stools. As I looked around the room, people would catch my eye, smile and wave enthusiastically.
Later, after the official party was over, we all prepared for a group picture: wheelchairs in front of the stage, the rest of us behind the wheelchairs or up on the stage. As I maneuvered around to get in place for the picture, random hands would reach out to touch me; people would try to get my attention, to smile at me, hug me, sometimes even to kiss me on the cheek. I realized that, in anticipation of this trip, I had been hungering for this moment, hungering to be part of this excitement, this love, this joy. I, who had helped supply the simple gifts distributed earlier, had just received the greatest gift – the gift of pure Christmas joy.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
For the third year in a row, I am in South Korea at Christmastime as part of a Christmas Gift Team from our adoption agency, Holt International Children’s Services. Yesterday, we attended the 40th annual celebration for foster mothers who provide care here in Korea for babies waiting to go home to their adoptive families. The celebration honored women who have given five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five and thirty years of service as foster mothers as well as a handful who are retiring, having reached their 65th birthdays. I have seen these foster mothers in action. On my first trip to Korea, while I waited to meet my son, I watched as foster mothers, babies on their backs, came into the clinic waiting area. Many of them know each other and the chatter in the room was constant – and it was clear that the main topic of conversation was their babies. “See how he’s grown!” “Look at this new tooth!” “Watch her smile!” I didn’t understand the words, they were spoken in Korean, but the meaning did not require translation. Caring for these babies is not just a job, though they do it 24/7 with very little in monetary compensation; it’s obviously a passion. It’s my observation from watching the foster mothers and from hearing them speak at these luncheons, that they do this job, give their love because they see it as their part in helping these babies survive and thrive while they wait to go home to their new families – they are a bridge of love from the birth family to the adoptive family.
Two of our team members, girls ages eleven and twelve, had the opportunity yesterday to meet with their foster mothers for the first time since leaving Korea as infants. These girls had been with their foster mothers for a few short months, but the connection was obvious. The older girl, having seen her foster mother (and the entire foster family) in a different part of the room, could hardly wait to go to her. She had a small gift for her foster mom and as soon as there was a short break in the program, her mom told her that she could go ahead and take the gift to her foster mom. The girl jumped up from her seat and made her way in the crowded room to the place where her foster family waited. The girl greeted her foster mother and handed over the gift, but it wasn’t the gift in her hand that held meaning, it was the gift of the engulfing, mutual hug that showed just how much value both the children and their families put on that bridge of love.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Last night I arrived at Incheon Airport in Seoul, S. Korea for my fifth visit. As I prepared for the trip I anxiously anticipated the sights, sounds and smells of this country. While still in the airport, the smell of sesame oil reached my nose. The smell of Grandma’s apple pie baking in the oven certainly evokes memories and emotions of my own childhood experience, but now my nose knows two cultural experiences. The smell of the sesame oil was comforting and exciting. It’s the smell that wafts through our home when my husband cooks Korean food; it’s the smell that greets me at the entrance of the Asian market at home; it’s the smell that permeates this country.
I am thrilled to be back in S. Korea. I am not Korean; I have my own Finnish heritage (which I’m less familiar with than I am with my children’s Korean heritage), but when we adopted our children, in many ways, we adopted their birth culture and country. Being here I feel a sense of familiarity and connection.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
I won’t divulge my own plan for passing on kindness this holiday season; after all, anonymity is part of the fun, but my little red Camry and I plan to be busy. Pass it on!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Every year for Thanksgiving our family goes to our home away from home for the holiday. We usually pack the night before so that we can pick the children up from school and be on the road. Since most teachers send holiday art projects home on this last day of school, it has become customary to decorate our vacation spot with those art projects when we arrive for the Thanksgiving holiday. This year our first grade son’s class made Thankful Trees, a piece of brown construction paper with a tree drawn on it and the leaves made up of painted pieces of paper cut into the shape of leaves on which the children wrote short sentences describing why they are thankful. When we arrived and unpacked one of our daughters gathered the Thanksgiving art projects and began taping them to the dining room window. We have a turkey dressed as a University of Oregon Duck (Go Ducks!), another turkey with dangling legs and a bonnet, a mosaic corncob complete with raffia stem and the Thankful Tree. After the decorating was finished, I admired all of the colorful art that would brighten our Thanksgiving table and then stepped closer to read what was written on the leaves of the Thankful Tree.
Our son’s tree has seven leaves, a lot to be thankful for at any age. There are the expected, but still welcome, “I hav a dad” and “I hav a mom”. Every child needs to know that they have parents (or a parent, in the case of single-parent families) who are always there for him. My son and I have had our moments – he is one of those “spirited” children who pushed every button and sent me running back to the parenting bookshelves at Barnes & Noble looking for ways to deal with him. My husband and I have worked hard to steer his behavior down a positive path and our efforts, along with his emerging maturity, have taken hold and he’s a delight to have around. So seeing that he is thankful to have a mom made me feel especially good.
He also honored his other family members with “I hav brrtrs” and “I hav sisdrs”. Yes, he does – two brothers and three sisters to be exact. As an almost-only child myself I always wished for brothers and sisters to play with. Now that my husband and I have a large family I cringe when one of our children quite naturally complains about his or her siblings, the need to share or to help out a younger child. There are days when the bickering seems non-stop. Of course, I know that they each value the others. I see it when they stick up for each other on the school bus, share information about the latest music or movie craze or include brothers and sisters as something to be thankful for on a Thanksgiving art project.
The wider world is also acknowledged on his tree. First he includes “I hav a scl”. This one took me a long time to figure out. What is an “scl”? Then I tuned into my kid-spelling and it became clear. As a first-grader, our son is excited about learning to read and finding out about the oh-so-many things of interest to a six-year-old. I, too, am thankful that he has a school to open the doors for him, to touch his mind and draw out his interests. Second he writes, “Korea” – not “I am Korean” or “I am from Korea”, just “Korea”. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I think that’s pretty interesting. At six, he doesn’t know exactly how Korea fits into his life. We’ve traveled to Korea, we participate in Korean cultural events, cook Korean food, talk about his Korean heritage, but the information and experiences haven’t yet jelled for him. He does know, though, that Korea is important in his life and I am thankful that he knows that, even if he hasn’t yet put it all in perspective.
The last leaf on his tree encompasses all the others and really expresses the core of what a Thankful Tree is meant to be – “I m love”. Now, I know that what he meant by that was, “I am loved” because he had told me about that leaf the day they made the trees and all I can respond to that is, “Yes, he is!” But how interesting that he left off the “d” because, as a child full of intense feelings and excitement about his world; always ready for a huge bear hug or a simple kiss on the forehead; obvious concern for the people and even the animals around him; and a smile that can light up my heart, it is not only accurate that he would write, “I am loved,” but just as accurately, he could write, “I am love.”
Monday, November 24, 2008
As an example, yesterday my husband and kids spent the day putting up our 12-foot tall artificial Christmas tree. Because of our holiday schedule this year, we decided to put the big tree up before Thanksgiving and then I will do the rest of the decorating after Thanksgiving. The kids had the lights on and about three-fourths of our massive amount of decorations on when the tree started to tilt and would have fallen completely were it not for my niece and future daughter-in-law catching it mid-fall. With the two of them holding it up, my husband and I worked for an hour trying to stabilize the base. The end result was that, after eleven years of use, the welding on the base is tired out and needs to be reinforced – something we’re not prepared to do. So, we began un-decorating the tree. All of the ornaments were taken off and laid on the couch, the light strings were removed and wound back up and the pieces of the tree were put out on the front porch with the hope that some Craig’s List reader will come to take it away to a new home. Today I will go purchase a new tree.
Throughout the ordeal last night I remained relatively calm. When it became apparent that we would not be able to fix the tree, I simply stated what needed to be done – “Take the tree down.” As I was going through the process, my husband’s comment about me not liking to be out of control rolled around in my head and I realized that, in maturing, I have learned (most of the time, anyway) that even in a situation I can’t control (a broken tree base), I can still be in control of my response. For a controlling personality like mine, it truly does feel much better to be personally in control during an uncontrollable situation, rather than letting go of all control.
Friday, November 21, 2008
• Clean sheets
• A view of Mt. Hood, especially when it peeks through on an otherwise cloudy day
• Catching a whiff of jasmine or some other floral fragrance while out on a run
• A real hug from one of my kids
• Turning on the radio to a good rock beat
• The feel of the air on a crisp fall morning
• My husband’s smile when he comes in the door or catches my eye across a room
Monday, November 17, 2008
I tell my children that they are responsible for their own moods and attitudes; sometimes I need a reminder that the same principle applies to me.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
What I’ve realized during the last few weeks is that I’m not really taking very good care of myself. I’m to the point where stress has me breathing funny on a regular basis; sleep consists of six hours a night, if I’m lucky; food is the comfort I give myself to get through the day. Not a very healthy way to live. But the question is: how does one change that lifestyle? Meditation is the answer that comes most readily to mind, but I’m not sure when I’m supposed to do that – stay up later to meditate? Get up even earlier? It would also be good to have fewer “have to’s” piled on my plate, but again, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that – what job, activity or responsibility do I forego? This sounds somewhat whiney and I don’t mean to say that my life is busier than anyone else’s. I know far too many women, and men, who are in this same boat with me. I just don’t know what to do about it and, while I try to figure it out, I just continue to feel too tired to think.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Yesterday was performance day. I was surprised that I didn’t feel as nervous as I expected. In fact, I didn’t feel particularly nervous until taking my seat on the stage. At that point, a few little flutters of nerves blew through me, but it was much more comfortable than I had expected. So, I got through the live performance in front of an audience and I felt good about it, but the real accomplishment of the weekend was not the showcase performance, but the act of actually signing up, attending, learning, struggling, overcoming and doing it at all. Thank goodness for the community of dozens of supportive women. John Bingham, one of my favorite running writers, says, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” That’s true in so many areas of our lives and it was brought home to me this weekend. The Ladies Rock Camp was an enriching, enlightening, enjoyable experience. But the fact that I signed up and persevered throughout it is what gives me the greatest sense of accomplishment; the performance was just the icing on that cake – not necessarily the best icing I’ve ever tasted, but sweet nonetheless.
For information on Ladies Rock Camp or Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls, go to girlsrockcamp.org.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Friday, October 24, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
I initially found out about the class and began the enrollment process over a year ago. I had hoped that before attending I would actually gain some experience on the drums either through lessons or self-teaching videos. While I’m happy with my progress toward my goal of writing regularly this year, I have not done anything toward my goal of learning to play the drums. Now, the camp is two weeks away and I’m beginning to feel a bit nervous. Last week I confided to a friend that I’m really not very good at taking risks of this sort. I do a lot of things well, so I tend to stick with the areas in which I know I can excel. Now I’m set to go to a three-day camp with women from all over the country; many of whom are accomplished and/or professional musicians. On the first day of camp we have to connect with others and form a band and then on the last day of the camp we have to give an actual, public performance! What was I thinking?
I initially felt this same kind of nervousness about participating in walking and running events. I’ve overcome that fear by reminding myself of the exuberance I feel at the end of a race, regardless of how far back in the pack I finish. I have given serious consideration to canceling my participation in this camp, but I keep reminding myself that it’s just like walking or running an event. I’m not there to impress anyone else; I’m there to fulfill a dream of my own. I’d like to be able to say, “So what if I bomb on stage?” but, the reality is, I don’t want to bomb. I want to do well. Right now, however, the challenge isn’t getting up on stage; the challenge is getting myself to go to camp that first day. Stay tuned.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
That was almost two months ago. Since then, we’ve been up to see our son’s dorm and he’s been home a couple of times. He’s home this weekend and, when he arrived, he went out to the garage to look for something. He came back in carrying a zip-front sweatshirt that I didn’t recognize. He said to me in a somewhat-joking tone, “Mom, I know you’ve had a lot going on, but do you remember when I called after I was here last and said I’d left a sweatshirt that belonged to someone else and asked you to send it to me? And, I don’t want to make you feel bad, but do you remember how you said you’d send it and you’d include a care package for me?” Yikes! Somewhere in the depths of my brain little bells were going off. I vaguely remembered this conversation, but I also realized that, since I didn’t write myself a sticky note about it, the entire conversation went to the recesses of my mind, taken over undoubtedly by some other more immediate, read “local”, need. It’s true that life’s been a little busy around here lately, but added to that is the fact that this son moved out so easily. He was ready to go, he had his plan formulated before approaching us, he stays in touch, but I think he’s enjoyed his new freedoms and independence. It’s been easy to just let him be without too much worrying. That does not, however, excuse my error in forgetting to send his package. I would LOVE to send him a care package; that’s such a new-kid-at-school kind of thing to do. I hugged my son and apologized profusely. He just chuckled at me. I said, “I can’t believe I forgot about that! I’m just a slacker mom!” At that he gave me his million-dollar smile and said, quite sarcastically, “Yeah Mom, that’s what people think when they think of you – slacker mom.” One smile, one sweetly sarcastic sentence and this slacker mom felt loved and appreciated.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
This past year has been full of mostly good times: trips around the country and to Korea and Europe, a houseful of kids and young adults, activities galore. We had an adult niece spend four months with us while she settled in the Portland area. Our oldest son and his fiancé moved from Texas to also settle in the Portland area; they were here for eight months. Our middle son struggled to find his way out of the house and is now settled happily at school in Tacoma. We have an extra “unofficial” son still here who is also finding his way out. We are dealing with an aging parent and volunteer commitments. It has been wonderful to have the extra young people around. We know our niece and future daughter-in-law much better because of sharing a home with them. It’s gratifying to see our middle son and the “unofficial” one finding their paths and developing their own personal responsibility. The travel has been memorable and rewarding. Our younger children, their activities and our own personal goals and desires fill up most days on the calendar, but that’s better than boredom.
Last week we sat down for a family dinner. For the past year, dinner has meant eight, nine, ten or more people around the table on a regular basis. Last week there was my husband, our four youngest children and myself – only six of us. My husband looked around the table and said, “Is this it? Is this everyone?” It felt like such a small, easy-to-manage group. Life is looking simpler. We mentioned this change to an acquaintance and he said, “Six! I can’t imagine how I’d deal with six people in the house.” I realized then that this busy-life thing, this stress is really a matter of perspective. While we had a busy year, we didn’t have the upheaval of a major life change like becoming parents for the first time, no loved one died this year – we were just busy. And now, with all but one of the “extras” out of the house and with some major events behind us, we are looking forward to having our household back to a more normal state. Less stress, more quiet. Did I mention that we’re thinking of remodeling?
Saturday, September 20, 2008
The day before the season opener this year, my husband and I went on a beautiful nine-mile hike on Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon. My husband happened to wear a UofO hat on the hike. Several times as we passed other hikers, we heard the casual “Go Ducks!” greeting. Graduating from college makes us part of a group – the alumni of that particular school, but until I discovered college football, I didn’t really have much of a connection to the University of Oregon after our college graduation. Now, I proudly wear shirts that proclaim, “I am a Duck” and “I feel Ducky”. Today I will don my yellow and green, my husband and I will gather up six kids and young adults, park our car on the UofO campus and walk from campus to Autzen Stadium, crossing the footbridge over the Willamette River with thousands of other Duck fans. I’ll send “It’s Game Day!” text messages to a select group of friends and I’ll revel at the sight as I enter through the walkway into Autzen Stadium – the players on the field, the fans milling to the their seats stopping to greet people along the way, the student section already full – a sea of yellow. The air will be clean and crisp (this is Eugene, after all). There will be a buzz of excitement in the air and in my ears.
I read recently that as we grow older it’s good to have passions. Activities that we love help to keep us young and vibrant. I have several passions that I will carry with me as I age and one of them will be Game Day. I do feel Ducky today!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
This past Sunday, several of us ran a 10k and afterwards went to a popular local café for breakfast. As soon as we were seated I left the table to go to the restroom to wash my hands. I was exhilarated from the run, but sweaty and dusty. I had changed shirts before we entered the restaurant and had taken off my running shoes in favor of flip-flops, but I didn’t feel ready to enjoy breakfast until I’d washed my hands. Again, what a wonderful feeling: a body tired but happy from a good run, the odors of wonderful breakfast foods wafting from the kitchen, people I love waiting for me at the table and clean, fresh-smelling hands!
What simple pleasure can you identify for yourself today?
Saturday, August 23, 2008
A Michael John performance is not just a concert; it’s an audience participation event. There’s dancing, sing-alongs, the occasional audience member spotlight and lots of laughter. When we first started going to Michael John’s performances, he always ended the evening with You’ve Got a Friend. I remember many evenings, standing outside in the warm summer air, arms entwined with friends and family who were with us, swaying back and forth to the lyrics of You’ve Got a Friend. Twelve years ago or so, he changed the last song from You’ve Got a Friend to Shout! Now, there’s a lot of difference between swaying back and forth to You’ve Got a Friend and jumping up and down to Shout! Personally, I used to think I preferred the former, but, as with most changes, over time I learned to love the new ending. Part of what I loved was that our children really loved getting involved with Shout! They jumped, they lowered themselves to the ground (A little bit lower now, a little bit lower now), they threw their arms in the air and, the highlight of the acrobatics, their dad, my husband, would take them, one at a time, and throw them into the air while singing, “Shout!” The kids loved being tossed up into the air; they would jump around their dad waiting for their turn to be lifted high above his head.
We have a wide age range of children (ten to twenty-six) and, obviously, the oldest have been too big to toss for several years now, but the four youngest have always taken their turn at being tossed, even though the older of them had to help by putting in a good jump as they were lifted. Last summer, our four youngest children (nine to fifteen, at the time) still each took a turn at Shout! with their dad. Last night, none of them did. My husband started out the song on his feet, ready to take on the challenge, but as the song began and he motioned to each of them to come Shout! with him, they each, in turn, declined. It’s true, my husband is recuperating from tennis elbow and is wearing a brace on his right arm, but he was willing to forego the elbow recovery in order to continue this much-loved tradition with the kids; however, the kids (perhaps acting more responsibly than their dad), each declined, afraid of further injuring his arm. My husband eventually went and sat down, rubbing his elbow while the rest of us finished out the song on our feet. This morning, while we were out running, my husband lamented that last night was the first time that he had sat out Shout! He said that, while he’d known that eventually all of the kids would be too big to toss, that eventuality always seemed so far away, that he hadn’t really given it any serious consideration. Then, without warning, last night was the night – all the children were too big and my husband sat out the dance. I’m looking at this as a lesson for us for the future – when we can no longer do an event or activity, when something changes for us, do we just sit out the dance or do we accept the change and figure out a way to adjust? I’m hoping that next week when we go see Michael John perform, my husband will dance with me and Shout! – I don’t need to be thrown up into the air.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The Phantom of the Opera is my all-time favorite stage-play. I saw it twice with friends many, many years ago and then took my oldest son to see it, followed a few years later by taking my middle son and a nephew to see it. I promised my two oldest daughters that it would be their turn to see it the next time it came through Portland. Almost two years ago the announcement was made that Phantom would be playing in Portland in August of 2008. My husband bought tickets immediately. My daughters and I have been talking about and planning our night out for months. Last Saturday was, finally, that night. Without giving away too much of the story, I’d given the girls a quick rundown on the basic story line and I had prepped them for an emotionally charged evening. Well, let’s just say that the evening did not live up to what I had experienced in the past. This particular performance was, simply, not very good. The characters weren’t compelling, the enunciation of the lyrics was so poor that it was difficult to follow the storyline; there were very few moments that brought a chill to my soul. We left the theatre somewhat disappointed – me, more than the girls, because I knew from prior performances just how powerful this should have been.
Two days later my husband and our oldest daughter came home with the 2004 Phantom of the Opera DVD. I have always been hesitant to watch this movie because, just as with a book, the movie version of a story is rarely as good as the original product. However, given our disappointment over Saturday night’s stage performance and finding out that the actor playing the Phantom is a recent favorite (Gerard Butler – watch the movie P.S. I Love You for a real treat), we decided to give the movie a try. The result? I’ve been consumed with the music – the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind. So, I have other blog topics rolling around in my mind, but for now, I’m having trouble getting past Phantom – maybe I need to give myself a good dose of country music.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
As wrinkles appear and skin begins to sag, we can begin to feel that the face in the mirror is a vision to be avoided. Well, I have discovered the secret to looking in the mirror and liking the reflection! Yesterday, I went into a restaurant restroom and immediately admired the mirror on the wall. It was a large oval mirror that was set fairly high and held on to the wall with a bracket at its midpoint. The bracket stuck out about two inches, which allowed the lower part of the mirror to rest against the wall, while the upper part tilted out. The end result was that, when I looked in the mirror, I had to look slightly up into the tilted mirror. Looking up stretched the skin of my face and neck taking ten years off my reflection. I think I’ll be tilting all of the mirrors in my home.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Every summer, however, we rent an RV, spend a week preparing our camping gear, the food, the clothes and then making the four-hour trek to a state campground on the Oregon Coast for a family reunion of a different flavor. This is a reunion of more than eighty families who have adopted children through Holt International Children’s Services. We come together as separate families with a common bond – the love of our children and the miracle that they are with us. We come together as separate families, but we all claim the same “grandparents”, Harry and Bertha Holt, who began the mission that, decades later, brought our children to us.
We camp in two connecting “loops” within the park, electrical sites on the inside of the loop, tent sites on the outside. Children ride around the loop on bikes, blades, and scooters – anything with wheels. Parents, coffee cups in hand or dogs in tow, wander around the loop, stopping often to greet, to talk, perhaps to meet a new child or a first-time family. “I’m going around the loop.” It’s rarely a direct trip.
People accidentally driving through our loop all have the same surprised, questioning look on their faces. This obviously isn’t a place where eighty individual families are camping, each staying nicely within the bounds of their campsite, careful not to look through the invisible boundary walls between sites. Instead, small groups of people stand talking in several places, teens are gathered at the intersection of the two loops, children are everywhere – not a typical loop. And then there’s the diversity. Not the diversity of back-at-home lifestyles that would not be apparent to these accidental visitors, but the diversity of color, the diversity of ethnicity. These children that bring us together come from all over the world. Added to the mostly “vanilla” variety of the occasional birth child, they are a rainbow of color. Some have handicaps that might seem daunting, but they run, they ride, they play hacky-sack, they climb sand dunes – handicaps do not define the person. The accidental visitors cannot possibly understand the depth of what they are driving through.
Then there are the activities. Beginning with the ethnic potluck, the week’s activities are as diverse as the families who sponsor them. Each day includes a schedule of arts & crafts, outings and activities; each coordinated by a different family. Some are specific to children of certain ages, some specifically for parents, some open to all. But each has a special flavor, a hint at the interests or background of the coordinating family – diversity at its best.
This family reunion is a special type, a special time. There’s a warmth and a camaraderie that defies explanation, but that brings us back, year after year, to share the joy of our families. It reminds us of all that is good in our world. What would our world be like if we could transfer this atmosphere to the larger screen? If we could all forgot the invisible boundaries? If we all focused on what we have in common rather than what makes us different? At this reunion, we come together as separate families, but within hours we are a community.
Friday, August 1, 2008
So, we went out to dinner in the neighborhood at an absolutely wonderful restaurant. We were joined by our not-too-old and not-too-stuffy oldest son, his fiancé and our nephew. We had a lovely Thai dinner sitting outside on a charming patio with great music blasting from the house next door. After dinner we walked down the street to our niece’s gallery showing. We enjoyed seeing her art as well as the other art on display. My husband and I then wandered down the street, looking at some of the art, browsing a couple of galleries, picking up a wonderful maple bar for our dessert at the local bakery. It’s true that the majority of the people attending the event were young and many could perhaps be described as hippies, but my husband and I noted that we weren’t the oldest people in the crowd; we were, however, amongst the best dressed. We had a great time! We wondered, though, at being categorized as not being the right fit for this event. We all have expectations about people based on what we see of them. I think I’ve written before about living with my 85 year-old grandma when I was a teenager and being surprised when she told me that she still had the heart of a young girl. Now, here I am, being classed as too old and I just don’t feel that way. This isn’t meant as any offense to our niece; we love her dearly! But I’m intrigued at the ways we label people, perhaps even how we label ourselves. Do we restrict ourselves and others by how we see them? Because of this experience I’m feeling a little more open-minded than usual. Bring on the eclectic!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
The Yankees have been in Yankee Stadium since 1923. Yankee Stadium is known as The House That Ruth (Babe Ruth) Built. In 1993, the first time we traveled to Yankee Stadium, we met my father-in-law in New York and shared the experience with him. This year, 2008, is the last year for the original Yankee Stadium as a newer, more modern stadium is built next door. Earlier this year, given our love of baseball, the Yankees and Yankee Stadium, we joked about the need to make a pilgrimage to New York sometime during this season to say good-bye to the original Yankee Stadium before it is gone forever. This past weekend, we made that pilgrimage. My father-in-law passed away a few years ago, but this weekend we took along our oldest son and his fiancé (a new baseball recruit). We arrived in New York just before midnight Thursday, ran in Central Park for the three mornings we were in town, saw a Broadway play, walked miles around New York and went to two games in Yankee Stadium. It was a fun-packed, memorable two-and-a-half days.
The first game we saw this weekend was on 4th of July. My husband and I both had tears in our eyes as we listened to the singing of God Bless America – The Yankees vs. The Red Sox and all that means, 4th of July and all that means, God Bless America and all that means, sharing this experience with our son and future daughter-in-law and all that it means – it was almost too much emotionally.
There are times we think, or maybe even talk, about doing something special. Time and financial constraints sometimes make it impossible to follow through with these ideas, but when it is possible we should definitely take the time to plan, to make the jump into the wild and crazy idea, to do something that is really special; something that will be, without a doubt, a memory made. While wandering around the concourse at Yankee Stadium I saw a poster that said, “This Stadium won’t last forever, but your memories will.” We made memories this weekend; it may have been a silly, expensive idea, but sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a serious look at our silly ideas and follow through with them. The silly idea may not last forever, but the memory of making it happen will.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
As we discussed the question, we also wondered about whether these types of lifelong goals are the same as what you’d want to do if, tomorrow, the doctor gave you six months to live (as in The Bucket List). If I had only six months to live, I think the goals I would want to accomplish, would probably not reflect my top three lifelong goals. I’ve struggled with that conflict. If my lifelong goals are different from what I would do with only six months to live, does that mean that the lifelong goals really aren’t that important? Supposedly the activities I would want to partake in for the next six months would be those that are truly most important to me so shouldn’t those activities be my top lifelong goals? It’s a conundrum. I do know that my number one lifelong goal is to write and publish a book and, if I were given just six months to live, I would want to write, write, write – to my children, to my friends. The two goals aren’t exactly the same, but they’re close enough that, for now, I’ll just keep writing.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Check out Mary’s son’s thoughts on the climb and some great photos by clicking here.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
P.S. Yes, I know that Samantha is only a fictional character -- I haven't lost my mind completely.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Years ago we saw the movie, The Four Seasons starring Alan Alda. I don’t remember much about the movie, but I’ve always remembered one particular scene: Alan Alda and some other men are walking through a forest and Alan Alda’s character starts to talk about his theory of marriage. Basically, he states that the feelings within a marriage are like a wave, sometime the wave is crashing against the shore and the emotions are intense, other times the wave ebbs, the water is quiet and we don’t feel so worked up. Throughout the years of our marriage, I remember occasionally referring to “being on a wave” or “the wave is ebbing right now” and feeling that these highs and lows were okay and a natural part of the marital path. It gave me comfort to know that a low time in my emotions wasn’t the end of the relationship; that I could acknowledge the feeling and look toward the day when the wave would once again come crashing to the shore. And so the first 25+ years of our marriage went by with a flow of intense feelings and more emotionally quiet times. But somewhere within the last few years, we’ve noticed that we seem to be on a wave all of the time! There was something about preparing for our big 30th anniversary celebration last year that helped both of us acknowledge and appreciate the relationship we’ve developed, and now, a year later, the high of the 30th anniversary celebration has not waned. Perhaps we’ve gotten through the shallow water and now we’re riding the long wave.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
· I would not have been so stubborn. –age 14
· I would not have been so cautious. –age 50
· I would not have been so mean to my mom. I love her. –age 36
· I would not have done things so late at the last minute. –age 9
· I would have enjoyed each day without any regrets from the past or worries about the future. –age 45
· I would not have lost touch with some very close friends. I would love to be sharing their lives. –age 42
· I would have worked harder and studied in school more. Taking time off to figure out what I would be passionate about. –age 49
· I would have started my own business 25 years ago instead of working for dorks. –“ageless”
· I would have cherished my family more deeply and told my mom that I loved her everyday. –age 49
· I would have been less stressed out over unexpected changes and events and more open to the adventure of not knowing exactly what comes next in my life. –age 45
· I would have appreciated my “young” body that was fine but that I felt wasn’t. –age 41
· And my personal favorite: I wouldn’t change a thing. My mistakes and achievements have been the building blocks of who I am – I just can’t imagine removing any of those building blocks because that would change the magnificent person I am because of them. –age 43
When I first came up with this exercise, I hoped that it would show the girls and young women attending that there is so much they can do. While I think the words can definitely be addressed to those in the 30-and-under category, I also think they’re applicable to all of us today. We can all use a reminder to enjoy each day, to stay in touch with friends, to tell those important to us that we love them, to appreciate who and what we are now rather than waiting another ten years to look back with appreciation. As one person wrote: Be happy. Be present. Live in the now!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
As promised, I’ve worn the crown all week – at home, to the grocery store, bank and post office, out to dinner and to see the new Indiana Jones movie last night. It’s been fun to watch people’s reactions. Most people don’t say a thing (my oldest son says that’s because they don’t want to engage in a conversation with a crazy lady), but many do and those that do say something seem to think it’s fun that I’m proudly wearing my crown and proclaiming my upcoming birthday. My dry cleaner even asked if she could borrow the crown later this year when she turns 50. Would I have done this at 20 or 30? I doubt it. At those ages I was still too worried about what other people might think and I didn’t have enough self-confidence to pull off being “different”. The crown is perhaps along the same vein as the “old” woman in the poem who proclaims that she will wear purple, but that’s okay. I’m happy to be at a stage in my life when I can wear a crown, feel like a queen and not feel foolish about it.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
While getting ready this morning, I asked my husband if he thinks we would have connected in the same way if we’d met later in our lives or is part of our connection that we’ve grown-up together. He laughed and said that he could imagine us meeting at a Ducks’ football game. He said he’d be the person behind me saying, “Lady, will you please sit down! And quit that awful screaming thing you’re doing.” I like to think that my enthusiasm at football games is one of my traits that my husband somewhat adores about me; however, if he didn’t already love me, perhaps he’d find that trait (and many others, I’m sure) annoying rather than adorable. Then again, maybe the reason we’re soul mates is because we find even those little annoying traits to be somewhat adorable.
I read a magazine article recently that made the point: a good marriage is one where both partners feel they’ve gotten a good deal. My husband and I will celebrate our 31st anniversary next week and, one true soul mate or not, I got a great deal and I try to do all I can to make sure my husband feels the same way.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
As I look at gratitude, I see two different types. One type is the more typical feeling of gratitude for what we have in our lives. For instance, I am grateful for parents who loved me and each other, who gave me opportunities to grow, to be independent and to gain confidence. I am grateful for the intelligence they passed on to me biologically and the work ethic to go with it that they passed on by their example. I was fortunate to marry my best friend at a relatively young age and I am grateful that we, as a couple, have been able to grow our relationship as we’ve grown-up together.
The other type of blessing for which I feel grateful is not for a specific person or event, but for a general attitude or outlook. I believe that much of what is good about my life is because of a basic positive outlook. Was I born with it? Did I learn it? I don’t know; however, I suspect that it’s at least a little of both. I remember having a fairly sunny disposition as a child, but I also know that I worked at learning how to stay positive, how to look at situations as opportunities, not problems. That outlook is now very much a part of who I am and maintaining it usually doesn’t feel like work. I am so very grateful that I have, at my core, a positive outlook.
My gratitude list could go on and on – it’s much longer, and a lot more fun, than my list of regrets. Sure, we’re all stuck with some regrets that we cannot deny or erase, but we can offset those regrets with an abundance of gratitude. When I think of the word regret, I think of slogging down into a muddy pit – it feels bad and it’s hard to make any progress. When I think of gratitude, I think of an upward spiraling air current filled with pixie dust – it looks and feels beautiful and I think I might just be able to fly on it.
I am grateful that I like to fly!
Monday, May 26, 2008
That lie is really my only regret that involves another person. My other, few, regrets revolve around actions I did or did not take for myself. For instance, I regret that I didn’t push myself to write earlier, though I can rationalize that with the idea that I wasn’t yet ready for the exercise. That’s an okay rationalization with probably some truth to it, but I fear that it’s probably more accurate to say that I was too lazy (not normally a quality I associate with myself) to do the work. I also regret that I’ve spent so much time and energy dealing with the weight issue. I don’t regret the result, because I’ve been able to keep myself at a fairly healthy weight against the odds of genetics and environment, but I just wish I could have gotten a better handle on the issue early-on; just think of what else I might have had the energy for!
While this isn’t a complete list of my regrets, it’s all I care to go into. Thinking about regrets is pretty much a negative exercise and I’m not interested in expending much in the way of negative energy. I know there are people who have a long list of regrets and I feel fortunate that my list, even if it were complete, is short, but the good thing about a regret is that it’s an indication of growth: we did or did not do something and we’re now able to see that truth, allowing us to move forward and become a better person, acting in ways that, hopefully, spur gratitude, not regret.