Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sleep Just Gets In the Way

Sleep is overrated.

I’ve always fallen asleep easily, but I’ve always been one to wake-up throughout the night.  Sometimes I’m able to fall back to sleep; sometimes I’m not.  And then, regardless of how much I’ve been awake during the night, I wake-up early in the morning.  Last night, after going to bed at midnight, I woke up some time later.  It was still dark outside, but, since I wake-up early, that didn’t give me any clues.  I thought surely it must be morning.  But, no, it was only 3:00 (an hour I see on my clock almost every night).  I was disappointed, but I made an effort to snuggle back under the covers and fall asleep.  I woke up again thinking surely now it must be morning.  But, no, it was only 3:58.  I realized then I just don’t like to waste time sleeping.  Each time I wake-up during the night, I hope it is morning.  I eagerly anticipate the morning hours.  I like having time to putter, to write, to read – all in the quiet of a sleeping house.   I also like having time to exercise in the early morning hours when it isn’t so easy to make excuses.

I know my body needs rest, but ME, that inner part of me, has to so many things it wants to do and sleep just keeps me from them.  Somehow that realization comforts me.  I like the idea that I have purpose, that I’m excited for each new day.  I do, however, wish I wasn’t so tired during the day; then I’d have more energy to do some of those things.  Hmm, maybe sleep isn’t overrated.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Best Gift

I don’t get very excited about most holidays, but Christmas is my favorite time of year.  The lights and decorations, the songs, the traditions, and, most of all, time together with the people I love.

One of our Christmas traditions: the angel
tree-topper I made for our first married
Christmas.  It has graced our tree for 36 years.
This year, due to a tree malfunction, it
is gracing our mantle.
This year as I compiled and distributed Christmas Wish Lists from each of our kids, I didn’t make a Wish List of my own.  For years I’ve told the kids I don’t need gifts for Mother’s Day or my birthday.  One year the kids all got together and decided to write me letters for Mother’s Day.  We spent the day together at an Oregon Ducks’ baseball game.  I was speechless (and then tearful) as they arrived and, one-by-one, handed me their letters.  This year I decided to extend the I-don’t-need-a-gift idea to Christmas.  I said if there was something sentimental or something they simply came across that they thought I’d enjoy, that would be fine, but with everyone on limited budgets I didn’t want them to feel like they had to go out and shop for gifts for me.  I did receive gifts and they’re all lovely, but the best gift was having everyone together.

Our family has many Christmas traditions and I love that, with the exception of one year when oldest son was living in Texas, we have always been together for Christmas.  Last night there were thirteen of us around the tree:  seven kids, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law, one boyfriend, one girlfriend, my husband and me.  I remember fondly the years of going home to my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses for Christmas, but I also remember when it became important to us to celebrate Christmas with our children in our own home in order to create our own family traditions – some drawn from our families, others we started on our own.  I know the day will come when our children (who are really no longer children) will want to begin creating their own family traditions and we will no longer all be together.  (I just hope my husband and I are invited to join in somewhere.)  I know that day will come, but I hope it is many years away.  In the meantime, I will cherish the best gift of all:  having our entire family together teasing, taunting, laughing and loving.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Two Arms

I got my baby-fix today.  A little more than an hour in the infant room at the children’s home our Gift Team visited.  This visit is always a mixture of joy and sorrow.  A building full of children from newborns to five-year-olds, laughing, playing, running around like children do – joy.  A building full of children from newborns to five-year-olds, laughing, playing running around like children do, but as part of a group, not as part of a family – sorrow.

There were four babies in the room I was in and the two workers were, obviously, very attentive, but two adults have just two arms and four babies want eight arms.  I was holding one baby when the worker asked if I would please feed one of the other babies who had become fussy (the babies are held while they’re fed, a big plus).  I handed off the baby I had been holding and picked up the fussy baby.  While he sucked down his bottle of formula, he played with my hand, looked in my eyes and the worker took his temperature.

When he had finished eating, I put him up on my shoulder to burp and realized how hot he was and then I also realized that he was wheezing.  It was the same sound my middle daughter used to make when she had bronchitis, which was a regular part of her childhood.  The baby eventually burped, then cuddled into my shoulder as I rubbed and patted his warm back.  It was clear he didn’t feel well and just wanted to be held.  How many hours have I sat holding and rocking sick babies?  I knew well this type of cuddle.  This was an I-don’t-feel-well-and-I-just-want-to-be-held cuddle.  That was fine with me, I was enjoying my baby-fix, so there we sat – me relaxed against a pillow, wheezy baby falling asleep against my shoulder.  But then our team leader stuck his head in the door and said it was almost time to leave.  With reluctance I motioned to the lead worker (I don’t speak Korean) to ask where to put the baby.  By this time there were three workers in the room, all feeding babies.  She indicated a crib and the baby was carefully laid inside.  Of course, as soon as he was put down, he started to fuss.  He was sick, he was tired, and he just wanted to be held.  But even with six arms now in the room, that still left one baby looking for the two that would hold just him.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Many Hands

This is the time of year when, for six of the last eight years, I’ve joined with a group of people to spread Christmas cheer in South Korea as well as in our own souls. Yesterday was the first official day of the 2013 Holt Christmas Gift Team Tour and the first order of business was to assemble 96 gift bags for the foster mothers we would be seeing later in the day. Word went out that we would meet at 9:30 in room 1720. When my 15-year-old daughter, who is traveling with me, and I arrived at room 1720, activity was already underway. We were directed to the tissue paper – take a piece of tissue paper, grab it in the middle and slip it inside a bag to make a poufy resting place for the gifts. Others were stuffing candy bags, opening bags to ready them for the tissue paper, dropping gifts into bags and, very importantly, keeping count of the bags since there were different gifts for different recipients. It would have taken one or two people hours to assemble these bags, but with our group working together, we had the job done, the area cleaned and the bags on their way to the bus in less than half an hour. Many hands…

The foster mother event we were attending is an annual event that began in 1969 to honor the foster mothers who so selflessly give of themselves to create homes for children waiting to join their permanent families. Each year, Holt honors foster mothers who have served 5, 10, 15, 20 years, sometime even more. The women being honored are normally formally dressed in traditional Korean hanboks, their hair properly coifed and faces made up. In addition to the 46 women being honored other foster mothers from the area are invited to attend the festivities – most bring along the children they are currently fostering.

The room buzzed with activity throughout the event. The emcee announcing each foster mother by name, the foster mothers each taking their turn to go to the stage, receive their plaque and gift and have their photograph taken with the President of Holt Children’s Services of Korea, other foster mothers milling around in the back of the room trying to keep babies and children quiet (and not succeeding), Holt staff shuffling throughout the room to have plaques and gifts ready for presentation and to help foster mothers with the task of entertaining little ones – it’s a very formal occasion made light by the reality of so many people in a small auditorium with so many of those people being under the age of two.

As I looked around the room I smiled at the thought of all these people: Holt staff, foster mothers, foster fathers and other family members, all working together not just to find families for children, but to give the children a sense of family and a family’s love while they wait for that forever family. The work of providing a child with a home and love is not light and is, obviously, much more difficult than simply assembling gift bags, but again, many hands…