Looking back 

April 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

So many of you have sent kind words and expressions of love lately. Wright’s birthday is May 2. The day after mine. I remember last year, one of the things PopZ said was that he didn’t want pain to always be associated with these days, that he hoped we would be able to experience these May days with full hearts. I think of that often. 

I’m not sure we are there yet, but I carry hope that those days are ahead for us. 

I think often of the dear family I shared so much with you about last year, Elisabeth Maxine Scholes. Who brought joy and miraculous life to her family for 373 days. I hurt physically for their loss. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. 

As for us, I have to say that we have spent the last year in a daze. I’m not sure how long shock lasted but it only now feels as if we can step back ever so slightly and look at the situation. The other day we were talking about trauma, vulnerability, and pain – we were able to see that so much of what hurt us and felt so uncomfortable to us during this time was inevitable. We were in so much pain that everyone and everything close to us hurt us. It would have been impossible for that not to be the case. 

Then Cal came. So many people said to us, this must be so healing. Cal has brought a different dimension to our lives. My Papaw, whom I adored and spent a significant portion of my time with, passed away when I was 5. I was devastated and lonely. I ached for him. The next year I moved in with my other grandparents in Arlington. I adored my Grandfather and we were buddies – I loved being with him, I shadowed him. While the loss of my Papaw the year before may have somehow made me more grateful for Grandpa, he did not replace or fix the loss. Our hearts explode with love for our son, it’s almost hard for me to even imagine that he hasn’t always been here with us. He is so right for us. So right with us. I CANNOT imagine having a 7 month old baby AND Cal (though surely we would have managed it somehow.) None of this makes me LESS sad about what happened. It does not replace the baby we don’t have in our arms. It’s simply a lens we see things through, and if anything increases our incredible gratitude for the immeasurable gift our son is. 

I had a little time alone yesterday and the grief came like a flood. Often I see that the challenge of incorporating a new life into ours has spared me from the waves of sadness that surely would have overhwhelmed me. There simply isn’t time for it. Life doesn’t stop for our loss. 

I have thought again and again that I need to write more about the experience of adopting within family. It has, by far, been the most difficult and complicated part of this process. Honestly, the conflict and demand of that dimension of this process has consumed much of my emotional energy. When it is your family experiencing the loss of a child (that you’ve just been through) – many of them feeling as if they were spectators to the decisions that led to their loss – it’s almost impossible to not feel as if you need to ease their pain and grief, even at the cost of smoothly integrating your child into your family. It took me realizing I had no control over their loss or pain, that the best way I could love them was to love C with everything I had. My first priority was to our little nuclear family. The relentless support and emotional nurturing of PopZ and GBey have saved us. Justin’s parents and my Dad have been beacons of celebration and acceptance. You can’t predict or control how adoption will be received by your family, ours never blinked and have loved Cal as their own blood from the moment we said his name. 

We haven’t done any of this perfectly. If anything the last year has been an example of failing and trying again. Of apologizing. Of having nothing to give and needing a lot. School, work, finances, and relationships have suffered (we’ve also been MIRACULOUSLY blessed in these areas – in ways we could have never dreamed or imagined.) I can say every step of the way we did the best we could in the moment. 

This week, as the most painful of the memories of what we lost are raw and real, we reflect humbly and thankfully. Never have two people been more loved and supported. I’m ONE YEAR behind on thank you notes. ONE YEAR. If you know me, you know this is NOT ok with me – but I just haven’t been able to do it. I will. And I hope that the delayed letters will be met with grace. Honestly, I have lacked words, energy, and emotion to write the thank yous in the manner they deserve. A terrible rationale but the reality of where I am. 

I don’t know how we will handle this weekend. Likely with little fanfare. Maybe we’ll try to go to dinner on Friday sans kiddo, and on Saturday we’ll begin some sort of tradition. We imagined it would be Montauk, but that feels like an extravagant expense in this moment, so we will do something that feels right. 

It will be a busy week. Right now we are packing up for a move at an unknown date, to an apartment we are hoping  we will get approval from the Condo board for. Hoping that will happen before we are supposed to be out of this one – where they are doing a major demolition project that can’t start until we are gone… Eeek. 

Other than that we will huddle close and love deep – and we will give our best effort to moving toward experiencing these May days with thankfulness for what Wright’s life has brought us. 

*** please excuse any typos. I’m not going to re-read or edit this or it won’t get posted. 

In Summary

April 10, 2015 § 1 Comment

I totally stole this idea from my friend Jill over at Short Stories from Long Runs (she happens to be having a Blue Apron giveaway so you should head over and enter to win.) I keep telling myself to get back on here and make myself write while I am in ULTIMATE procrastination mode – she gave me just the inspiration I needed.

So here’s my To Sum it Up Friday post.

Making: myself exercise. I’ve put on 15 pounds this winterIt’s always brutal when I start out, but I know I won’t regret it. Also, my friend Bunch told me I had to a while ago and I am afraid of her.

Cooking: Eeek. I have been a lazy chef lately.

Drinking: Margaritas. The James Beard award winning chef Lisa Fain of The Homesick Texan has opened a restaurant in NYC called El Original. Haley got us reservations last night during their soft opening. It was utterly disappointing. The food was super bland and not at all like any of the incredible recipes on her blog. Hoping it was opening week jitters and they’ll get in there and start making the crazy delicious recipes we all know and love from her!

Reading: Books no one is interested in about marketing and politics. Also, a great book called Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Pre-School Years by Elizabeth Hainstock. It’s basically about how to create a home environment and lifestyle that is not only seamless with the school environment, but also ripe with opportunities for your child to learn. It’s really good.

Wanting: I am almost aching for spring. It sleeted on us yesterday morning in our commute. Not. Fun.

Looking: for apartments.It’s a long story, but we’ve basically been given the opportunity to move. We weren’t looking for it, but now realize we probably needed to be pushed to do it. We’ve been looking at two bedrooms. When we ask Cal if he wants his own room he says, “Oh yes! One with you and Daddy.” hmmmmm.

Playing: Spotter. Cal got a bike for his birthday because he had already outgrown the one we got him in September. We were looking for another strider since we have seen all the benefits gain from using them. However, as you all may well have guessed, he is not only too tall for any size of strider – he’s too tall for all the first sizes of kids bikes. So we got the bike sized for 5-7 year olds. Little muffin.

Eating: Carrot cake from Easter weekend at Jill’s (yes, the same Jill from the above blog.) She sent us home with HALF A CAKE. I think you can see why I need to be exercising.

Wishing: Someone would come organize & pack my house. C has been fighting a cold all week and the house basically looks as if something exploded.

Enjoying: Long walks with Cal and Jackeogh. The weather has been getting increasingly warmer and it’s just so nice to be outside more.

Loving: All the new emojies the new Apple update released, but sad that there’s no unicorn.

Hoping: I can get my act together and start focusing on all the stuff that needs to get done in the next couple of weeks.

Needing: Sleep. April is always very short on sleep.

Smelling: Wen’s SIXTHIRTEEN. For those of you who have been told not to wash, instead to rinse your hair daily, and wash every few days – this product is incredible. Also, it smells heavenly. (but it on Amazon for much cheaper.)

Feeling: Super Anxious. There’s a lot up in the air and a seemingly endless amount of unknown information that we have little to no control over. Trying to remind myself that time is not the enemy, and all of life is about waiting.

Wearing: A lot of stretchy pants and fleeces. My jeans are all a bit tight…

Following:My friend Kat’s incredible journey into Grad-School at Columbia. So thrilled for all that she’s going to bring to that school.

Noticing: How much C has been transforming before our eyes. He’s SUPER cuddly right now. Snuggles me all the time. Loves for us to carry or hold him, I probably get 50 kisses and 20 squeezes a day. It’s such a sweet stage that I am savoring, with a full knowledge that little boys outgrown covering their Mommy in kisses in public.

Bookmarking: All the things I want to go back and read when I have time. They are in a long line of things left over from every previous semester, but I am really going to try to get to them this time.

What about you guys? Anything from the above strike you? Is there something from one of the above categories that you should be sharing with all of us?

Happy Friday! I hope everyone has an excellent weekend. And don’t forget to click on the above link and register for Jill’s contest.

Comparison and Love 

March 27, 2015 § 3 Comments

Does anyone remember a little while back when I wrote about how I was OK with being average? That I didn’t love the concept of global domination, being “the best”, or needing to be awesome beyond measure. Intrinsic in these ideas is comparison. 

Let me unpack this idea. 

Global domination of whom? 

The best in comparison to whom or what? And then what are all the others? Just OK? Bad? Sloppy second!? 

Being awesome rather than what? What’s our baseline for evaluating awesome? Normal? Average? Lame? 

Social Science PhD Brené Brown actually does not allow such adjectives to be used in her home. This is because they are so fundamentally derogatory to someone. These concepts are impossible to use without utilizing comparison. 

I say this because I believe comparison is a really tragic thing that occurs in our culture unintentionally. For instance when I was single in my thirties I was acutely aware of the language and the unintentional way that people spoke about committed partnership that left me feeling that as a single I was somehow incomplete. 

After Justin and I got married it was children. 

I’ve harped on this topic too much, but I hate the rabid comparison that occurs here. 

“Being a parent is the most fulfilling thing in the world.” “Our lives were incomplete before…”

Are these intentionally trying to take a stab at singles or those without children? NO. 

DO THEY? Sometimes. 

The ones that are even harder for me are these:

“Being a parent is the hardest job in the world.”
“Being a working mom is the hardest job in the world.”
“Being a student, working, parenting, and training for a marathon is the hardest…”
“Two under two…”
“Twins and a baby under two…”
“No, teenagers.”

How does the mom of one who is barely making it ‘just’ staying home feel? What about the mom of two sets of twins and pregnant (I actually know someone in this exact situation!) who is incredibly content and never considered her mom job a chore ( I have never talked to that friend about her experience.) Or the widower raising his toddler daughter alone that doesn’t want to get remarried or have more kids – but sees all the time how much more fulfilling life is with MORE kids? 

Or me. C and J are my heart. But so are K&M. So are my dear friends. C didn’t complete me. Raising a kid is hard, really hard – but going back to school and being a student have been infinitely harder. We adore him, he had added to our lives in ways we couldn’t image, but we aren’t suddenly more valuable or worthy as humans than we were before. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a little kid. “you complete me” “our lives were empty before you” EEEEEK. 

There has to be a way we can express the reality of our situation – honestly – without elevating our personal position to a more fulfilling, valuable, or difficult position than another’s. 

I have not mastered this concept yet. Often I find myself wanting to convey how hard it is to become an instant mom to a 2 1/2 year old. I stop myself because I consider how hard it is to have given up a 2 1/2 year old. Something I have no ability to understand. 

One person in C’s and my  family expressed their personal helplessness in the entire situation. How sad they were that they were experiencing a significant loss that was totally out of their control. I think about this often when I don’t have the energy to post pictures of him, or feel like my friends must be tired of seeing pics of him in my social media feeds. This is the lifeline of our family to C – is it my style – no? But I can’t worry about that, I also can’t understand where they are coming from. So I can do my best, and try not to compare myself or my experience to anyone else’s – pain or joy. 

I think as a society we don’t intend to hurt or compare – often I think we are seeking to validate our own experience, effort, joy, loss, or decision.  Perhaps if we were all a bit more encouraging of each other’s uniqueness, more sure of how hard we are all working, and attempt a little more empathy we can all lift each other up in this crazy life. 

I know I’m going to at least try. 

And if I fail? I’ll keep trying. Because in the end, if we want to be the given grace, perhaps we should also offer it. 

Down with comparison and up with love. 

Time Hop 

March 3, 2015 § 2 Comments

Two times this week I’ve talked to dear friends, pregnant, it feels like all our friends are pregnant – about what it’s like to live through the anniversaries of last year. This week is THE week. The week we found out for sure that Wright was a girl, that her chromosomal design was terminal, and that we didn’t know how long she’d make it. 23 weeks is what the answer turned out to be. As every pregnant woman around me marches happily along I tick through my pregnancy at those weeks. 17 weeks, felt her flutter, 22 weeks felt her slow down… 

Sometimes you don’t need an ap to hop back to an exact moment. Sometimes you can’t stop yourself. Even when you wish you could. 

Stuck in the Middle 

March 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

Stealers Wheel wrote the song, Stuck In the Middle With You, – a parody of Bob Dylan – about actually being stuck in the middle of their record label and producer. 

For the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about the loss of the middle – or more precisely – the moderate. As the rhetoric amped up regarding the potential shutdown of Homeland Security, the impending speech of Netanyahu before congress, and of course the meeting of CPAC – one gets the sense that there is only a right or a left. There might even be a temptation to believe that there is mostly a far right and a far left. 

However, when I sit among my friends and family my intuition screams to me the truth – the American people are stuck in the middle. Politicians and their rhetoric may be extreme, but for the MOST part, my intuition tells me that most Americans remain as they have always been. Fairly moderate. This is not an empirical judgement. 

This semester I have not been in the numbers, and it has been a welcome relief from the statistics and data of politics. It has left me with the ability to step back and breathe and think a bit.  

What do I think? 

I think people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

I think people need jobs. 

I think people have radically different values financially, spiritually, and morally – and for the most part they don’t feel that their neighbor is constitutionally bound to hold their values. 

I think people want a break in the gridlock. 

I think people want more bang for their buck in city hall, at the state capital, and in Washington. 

I think people are patriots, I think people are afraid of terror, I think people are willing to pay a certain cost for safety, but I don’t think people are willing take Soma for safety. We are not looking to move to a Brave New World. 

I think the American voter has campaign fatigue. We realize that we cannot trust media, politicians, the lobby, the military-industrial-complex, or big business to represent our interest. We’ve been left stuck in the middle – clowns to left of us, jokers on the right… 

I heard an interview this morning with the creator of the show House of Cards. He explained that the show is not about politics, instead, it is about power – that what’s happening in Washington is a subset of power. 

My friends, in a representative Republic the power is in the hands of the voter. We will be reminded again and again over the next two years that the power is in our hands to place people in power that represent our values, diverse though they may be, I believe we are still moderate at heart. I encourage each and every one of you to begin to consider if your interests are truly being represented. If not vote the jokers and the clowns out. Similarly, it is in our power not to give power to vitriol, lobbying firms, and media power sources that perpetuates & keeps political polarization and misinformation in play. There is absolutely a way to disagree with civility. I do so with many lifelong, soul & spirit friends on an almost continual basis. Being right is not the stuff progress is made of, critical thinking, civility, & justice is.

If you’re sick of politics. Vote. 

If you’re sick of the options. Get involved at the local level. If you’ve done that – it’s time to get engaged in state politics. If you’re past that, then national level participation is available a million and one ways. Run for office if you need to. 

If you don’t think it will change anything – set out to change it personally or with an action committee. 

But don’t sit around and get cynical. We’ve got plenty of that on the left and the right and we’re already here stuck in the middle – sick of it. 

Happy Birthday Baby 

February 26, 2015 § 2 Comments

I’m a girl who loves birthdays. I’ve been known to celebrate birthday months. Since we arrived in New York birthdays have become another day, but we couldn’t let that happen to C. Thankfully, Columbia issues midterms two weeks after the term starts – and I’ve lightened my course load significantly. We’re also at this very clear spot in my project at work. What I’m trying to say, is it’s as if the birthday gods were looking down on us as we prepared to celebrate our first birthday with C – and his third birthday. 

All he asked for was balloons. 

Justin and I took about a week carefully considering how we wanted to celebrate, what would be public, what would be private, and what kinds of traditions we wanted to have. Would we have a party? What kind? C is a SUPER extroverted child – so there cannot be enough people for him… We talked to him about some of this. For those of you that spend time with him, he’s an incredibly verbal child, due – no doubt to the high levels of Theraplay, mindfulness interaction, and concerted effort we make to speak to him with absolutely no baby talk. 

He had cake for breakfast dessert. He referred to the cake as his birthday. All day he talked about how he would share a LITTLE piece with GBey when she got here tonight – until I tried to send her a video of him talking about it – and then he decided he wanted to share a big piece with Daddy and HayHay. 

I had dreams of a magical day of all of his favorite things. He was so amped up that he asked to take a nap at 10 and was asleep by 10:15 and he slept until 1:30. 

When he got up he was so overstimulated by the toys and stuff that he probably had to have 5 times more time-ins than normal… Enough that we were 20 minutes late leaving for dinner. 

Also. Not just today, but many – so so many days – navigating the relational web of a familial adoption ends up taking exponentially more time than I plan for. 

What am I proud of? Despite the fact that my dreams of a perfect day proved to be – characteristically – unrealistic, the day was perfect for him. He loved every minute of it. He loved the over the top encouragement. He loved the different than normal schedule, balloons, the cake, the cheese cheese cheese, the presents, the über, the surprises… He expects for the boundaries to be held. He looks at me expectantly when he crosses a line. 

As for Justin and me, we loved stopping – taking stock – celebrating him. He was a banshee, but we laughed, and soaked him in and felt thankful for the ridiculousness of it all. We also reminded ourselves that you reap what you sow – we were likely the exact same child at three. 

I also want to share a picture/post that Haley & Jordan posted on Instagram. I was deeply moved, encouraged, & challenged. Justin & I have been digging deep emotionally lately – doing some back to the foundation work. It’s a little like spring cleaning. It often feels like it’s getting worse before it gets better. These extravagant words of encouragement were water for a sun scorched soul. They were also a perfectly timed reminder. Ken and Marla rescued me and nursed me back to health. Were it not for them, my definition of family would be different. My courage might be less, perhaps we might not have said yes despite everything to C. It was a reminder that the 5 of us have each other. And we know that no matter how hard it gets we can make it through anything. Jordan couldn’t have known how timely the reminder was. Also, I love this picture. It captures us. This love is so deep and so real. I’m so proud of what’s happening here. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

Happy birthday baby. The only thing I can promise you is that we’re going to get it wrong a thousand times a thousand. Let’s just never give up on trying harder. You have our whole hearts. 

Conflict Studies

January 30, 2015 § 1 Comment

One of the powerful things I learned in Italy was how differently people see the exact same ‘fact.’

Recently I saw this photo in relation to the ongoing conversation regarding rape culture on campuses:


Often two people describe the same experience in entirely different ways. This is one of the most complicated things about communication. (The new show The Affair is apparently a perfect example of this.)

I learned early in my life as a leader that it was key to ask how people defined a term they were using. To meet with a team of people and have three people say they prefer early meetings is not enough. Early means what? To a single male that loves to get up and work out daily, this might mean 8 am. To a young couple with a gaggle of children this might mean 6 am. To a retired senior that prefers to read the Times before coming in for a meeting this might mean 9 am. And meeting – what does this comprise of – something led by a single person with an agenda and not a lot of input from attendees with minutes emailed out afterward? A touchpoint for all team members to communicate freely, lasting any amount of time, not to be recorded. A directive where vision is cast and concerns are lodged – for no more than 20 minutes?

If even words as simple as early and meeting require clarification – imagine how complicated words loaded with emotion or values can become. When emotion and values words are not defined the same way, when people are not accustomed to clarifying expectations, or are averse to conflict – what should be simple and obvious can become complicated, murky, and even incredibly painful or relationally harmful communication.

Something Justin and I learned very early in our marriage was that we came from opposite communication & conflict backgrounds. I was raised in a very communicative family that believes conflict CAN (though does not always) breed intimacy. Alternately, Justin comes from a family that deals with conflict in a very different way, and initially found my style of communication very abrasive – until he realized it was my deep desire to know him more and have nothing blocking us in our relationship – I wanted everything on the table – no matter how difficult or painful the communication. I definitely had to adjust my approach, to create more understanding between us. After all, the definition of communication is creating understanding.

In conflict studies, one of the keys is to communication is creating understanding.

Recently, I heard someone say that they believed 100% of conflict was rooted in the desire for control. While I agree that the desire to control things is a driving force in humanity, I believe an even stronger force is the one to be understood. That the greatest desire of mankind is to be loved, followed almost immediately by the desire to be understood. Conflict arises when we are working so hard to make sure that our own love & understanding needs are met, that people see our point, stop and acknowledge us, and make us feel heard – that we forget that others likely have their own perspective and driving need to be heard. The deeper we dig our heals in, the greater our need feels and a vicious cycle of demand becomes entrenched in our communication almost eliminating any possibility to experience or believe empathy or love exists, existed, or could exist.

I once heard a teaching about humility that said a truly humble person hears/reads something and immediately applies it to themselves – they ask themselves what they could learn from it, how they can be changed by it, how it could transform them – instead of immediately making a list of people they wish they could send it to… They aren’t thinking of the person that could really use the lesson they personally have clearly already learned.

Many of us likely fall into the latter category of people – wishing to teach lessons to the world – when there’s a solid chance that what the world needs is a lot less of people pointing out the problem – or people’s problems, and a lot more people seeking to be the solution to the problem.

Today I’m taking a deep breath and renewing my commitment to be one who seeks to understand. As I recently read a friend say, “We’re never too far behind to begin again.” I’m going to work on being the change, instead of sitting around and waiting for the world to change.

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