Sunday, February 12, 2017

Elizabeth Jean-A Phenomenal Woman

When I was 10 years old, my parents went on a cruise. They dropped my brother and I off at my maternal grandparents' house before leaving. 
As a young child I had severe anxiety about my parents leaving out of town. There was no rhyme or reason to this, except that it was my personality. 

My grandmother, who we all call "Mimi", was not overly affectionate to us growing up. She left that to my grandfather. Instead she seemed all business. She made sure things got done and she did it effortlessly. She had a plan. 

She made sure we were fed, bathed and in our pajamas at a decent time. 
But my "Popi" played silly games, made us belly laugh and kept us up too late. 
Except on this night, after my parents left, I just couldn't calm myself down. 
I got so worked up, that I could feel my stomach churning as I got ready for bed. 

Laying in bed, I could tell I was going to be sick. I rushed to the bathroom. Scared and sad, I longed for my Mom. And that is when my Mimi showed up. 

She ran into the bathroom, and put one hand around my waist and one on my forehead. She held my hair back. And the embrace felt familiar. It felt better. 
And I realized she was holding me the same way my mother did when I was ill. 
She cleaned me up, and to my surprise, let me sleep in her bed with her. 

I saw a different side of my grandmother that night. It felt so special and I felt loved. 

As a mother myself, I now know she was an old pro at helping sick children. After all she raised seven of them. 
At the tender age of 19 she delivered Richard. Living in Louisville and as a young Mom, she likely learned ways to get by on less, yet live richly in love. 

She had seven children. Which meant she mothered for nearly 20 years straight. 
Which meant she was strong. Which meant she drew the strength of mountains. She could withstand the weathering of the seasons. She had the grace to let the wind and rain shape her. She could stand, freezing cold, in the face of life's winters. And she could let the warmth of summer let her rest as the sun shown against her children's faces. 

My mom, Alice says: 
"When Mom says she loves you, it's like seeing both ends of a rainbow."

I've heard many stories of her resilience. I've witnessed her battle cry. She is the woman who taught me to ALWAYS stand up for what you deserve. She taught us all to never back away from what you believe is right. 

Mimi is the strongest woman I've ever known. 

And now, she is in the evening of her life. She's tired. Her body is growing thin, but her mind prevails. She knows her heart. She always has. 
And when I think of Elizabeth Jean Ward and the woman that she was, and is...I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou. 

"It's the fire in my eyes,
and the flash of my teeth,
the swing in my waist and 
the joy in my feet. 
I'm a woman. 
Phenomenal woman
That's me." 

We love you Mimi. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

There's Always Room to Grow

You are growing.
Every morning I see it.
I see it in your smile. It's wider, shiny with anticipation.
I feel it.
I feel it in the way you hug me tighter, but quicker. Your little hands longing to move on to the next big adventure.
I hear it too.
In your use of words. Big and bold. Beautiful and new.
You are growing.
You are taking risks, challenging us.
You understanding love, showing us.

In one short week, you will graduate preschool.

Three years of learning and discovery wrapped up into a tiny piece of paper tied with a bright bow.
Your chubby cheeks given way to a slender jawline. Your short, baby legs growing strong with the muscle of a boy.

You are growing. And I am proud.

Proud of everything you are. Everything you stand up for, notice and take care of.
Just tonight you opened the door for an older man. He didn't say thank you, but you opened the second door for him too. You opened it anyway.

When we pulled into the driveway, you said: "Omma, the keys? I need to open the door for us!"
And you struggled. Like you usually do to twist the tiny, golden key hard enough.
You pushed and turned. Turned and pulled.
Then click.

And my heart ached longingly for you.

Because you are growing.

And next week you will reach another milestone in the many to come in your lifetime.
And I will be there to see you.
I'm positive a thousand memories will flood my mind. So many memories I've held under the lock and key of my Mommy heart.
I love you so much Holden.

I love watching you grow.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday mornings

It's Saturday morning and you're laying right next to me. Your black hair is spilling all over my arm and you're still sucking your thumb. Your eye lashes still curl at the ends just like when I first met you. I lean into your cheek, close to your neck and breathe in deeply.    

I just want to smell you. Every Momma knows the smell of her baby. You came home smelling this way, and I will never forget how your skin smells as long as I live. So sweet, and soft with a hint of little boy. And I swear some days when you're not here, I walk by your room and the scent overwhelms me. It's seeps into the mattress, layers the walls. It whispers you. It pulls at my heart with a magnet force. And I wonder how long I'll have to smell this preciousness? How long will I be privy to snuggle up to you on Saturday mornings? How long will you wrap your legs across me, and just be? 

How many years can I buy of you and me? 

I'd lie, cheat and steal for them. I promise I would. 

You're 4 & 1/2. In my mind there's still so much little boy to go around. God, I sure hope I'm right. 

In the meantime, I will relish in our time together. Just us. When I'm stressed and feel like being alone, I will take a swift breath in over the crown of your head and remember:

~these days are the greatest I'll be given.
~these days are short.
~these days matter the most.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Leaps of faith

When we first announced we were adopting, we didn't receive cheers and congrats. At least not right away.
Instead, there were questions. Many, many questions. Some you would expect, and some we didn't. Some that made us laugh, and some the broke our hearts.

What we came to learn over the year and a half before we got Holden's referral picture is that 99% of those questions came from fear or ignorance. Fear of the unknown, the new, the unchartered territory. Dare I say, the different?

Adoption was brand new to us, to our families, our friends. It a was a giant leap of faith full of unknowns, uncertainty and no set plan. Pretty much all the things that 5 years ago made me bat shit crazy!

But here is where I'll start with the miracle. The miracle that is adoption, that is my faith, that is my son.

Nearly five years ago, we began our adoption paperwork. Two years ago next Wednesday, we brought our miracle baby home.

And the in between of the then and now is where the magic happened. Where I grew to believe in faith for it's true meaning. To believe when I can't see, feel, touch or know the outcome. I trust in a bigger picture and a reason for things.

In those five years, Travis & I have become less fearful of life. We look at our son, and see our hopes and desires for his soul. We see everything good in ourselves, everything loving we have to offer. A raw, real love that we would do anything for. Absolutely anything.

In our families, we see a relaxed face. No more worries over when the baby will come home. No more sleepless nights praying the baby is being well cared for. No more worrying about whether the baby will "fit" into our family.
We see grandparents who have never once batted an eye at color, race or heritage.
We see grandparents who are head over heels for their grandson. 100% percent in mushy, gushy big love.

In aunts & uncles we see laughter and moments of pure happiness. We hear a lot of 'we love that little guy' & 'he is so great'. We see affection. We know he's loved.

You see, five years ago, there were so many questions, concerns and worry.

Replaced with so much peace, joy and love. Because Holden is ours. I believe in a big picture. I believe he always was.

My heart swells at the sight of him each morning. My arms relax with the weight of him each night. I'll spread the incredible joy that is this boy, the miracle that is adoption for the rest of my life.

Happy almost two years home Holden. You are our everything.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Maybe it's the changing season...

Maybe it's the chill in the morning air.
Maybe it's the feel of a hoodie around my neck.
Maybe it's the sense that everything in nature is about to shift.

But, I have that excitement building in my heart again.
I've had it for the past 30 some years now as Fall slowly approaches, and summer fades.
My favorite season is upon us.

But, leaves and fires and sweaters aren't what makes Fall my heartsong anymore. It's much more than that.

On Nov. 19, Holden has been home for two years. TWO YEARS.

This time two years ago seems like two minutes ago in my mind. Two seconds ago in my heart.

The utter waiting and longing for our adoption agency to give us the green light was excruciating. And, that pain will never be erased. I remember checking my email no less than 10 times a day from Sept through Nov. 3. Waiting. Waiting. Screaming. Crying. Waiting. Simply going crazy.

I remember my friends listening to the same old story.
I remember our parents just loving us.
I remember my boss letting me use her office one too many times. To make phone calls. To cry. To vent.
I remember feeling Grade A crazy. And, then having my adoptive Mom friends remind me that they too were crazy one time. And, it's OK to be when YOUR CHILD is half way across the world.

I remember it all.

And, all we ever wanted was to get on a plane, and pick Holden up, and love him forever.

Eventually, the call came.

I was sick with bronchitis, and Travis was stressed out with everything. But, when our agency said, 'he's ready!'-- every part of me lit up. I was on fire and in love with my baby!

I seriously don't remember finishing our packing or leaving our house. But I remember boarding the first plane. And, I remember how scared I was of flying. And like fog lifts off a sunny horizon, my fear nearly vanished. I didn't need the 10 anti-anxiety pills my doc gave me cause baby, I was high on love. Pure and raw and real. There's nothing like love.

November is just around the corner. And, a two year celebration is near.

Join with us in celebrating love, time, commitment and the ties that bind a family.

Happy Fall too :)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Life Lessons

On the advice of an article I read about a dying mother who wrote notes to her daughters, I decided to do something similar for my son. I'm not dying, thank goodness. But I did recently open an email account for Holden where I can send him memories, notes, pictures and just life lessons and love. Here's a piece of my first entry.

Hi Holden,
I hope on the day you are reading this the sun is shining on your face, and your heart is happy.
I wanted to take a minute to give you a few important lessons I've learned. Some words to try to live by if you can. I know you will figure things out yourself, and in your own time, but these nuggets of life might help.

1) Always be true to yourself. Always. You know yourself better than anyone else.
2) Take a minute before you pass judgment to think what it must be like to walk in that person's shoes.
3) When you love someone, tell them. But more importantly, show them. Never keep it inside. Let people you love know it!
4) Look for the good in others.
5) Try to be patient and kind. You never know what battle someone else is fighting.
6) Stand UP for what you feel strongly about! Shout it to the mountains! Keep her head up and hold your course.
7) Spend time reflecting on what is good in your life. Keep count of what you do have, not what you want.
8) If you're feeling down, sing, dance, laugh out loud! Or call your Pop. He's always good for a laugh!
9) Never forget about those who know you best. Even if you're mad at them. Never forget how much your Omma and Appa adore you.
10) When you thank God, don't just thank him for a particular prayer answered that day. Make sure you thank him for the days before and keeping you happy and healthy your whole life.
11) Respect people. Older, younger and your peers. Everyone appreciates respect.
12) Develop your passions in life! There's no wrong or right hobby. Do what you like, and do it well.
13) Learn how to cook one or two good meals. Your future wife and children will thank you.
14) Don't wage war in love. Two people in love will always have ups and downs. There will be days when you look at your girlfriend or wife and stare at her with amazement and gratitude. There will be other days when you want to run away for a few days, and scream and knock each other down with harsh comments. But try to remember the gratitude even then. True love is worth the effort and time.
15) Embrace your life story. It's ALL yours. Tell your adoption story with all the soul you can muster. It's such a unique and special story to tell. Remember how loved you were from the very beginning. Remember how many people in your life helped shape you, helped you grow! Your story is so awesome.
16) Be honest. Tell the truth. There is no greater freedom.
17) Listen to all types of music. You may not like them all, but give each a try.
18) Every now and then, go outside with a cup of coffee or any drink you prefer, and just sit. Feel the cool grass between your toes. Take a deep heavy breath. Close your eyes, and rest. Fill your body and mind with God's beauty.
19) Say "Thank You."
20) Say "I'm Sorry."
21) Ask for help. Ask if you can help.
22) Be silly sometimes. Laugh until your belly hurts. I'm sure this will come naturally, but I miss it from my younger days. It's a wonderful feeling!
23) Try new things. Be a little scared.
24) Drive a sports car with a stick shift.  Even if you just test drive for fun. There's nothing like it! (Learn to drive a stick first.) :)
25) Learn to water ski, and handle a boat. Even if it's not with Pop or us, see if you can. Some of the grandest memories in my life (and uncle Adam's too) were growing up on a boat.
Well, that's my first 25 for you my son.
I hope to share many more.
Attached to this email is a picture of you at two years old really in your element. Really enjoying life. Refer to it often.

I love you so much,

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

You know what I find amazing, Holden?

The other night as my family and I got ready for bed, Holden said to his father: "Appa, I brush my teeth. I got it!"
This is a typical nightly struggle as Holden approaches three years old. The independence factor is off the charts! But, it's not what Holden said that took my breath away. It's what his father said next...
"You know what I find amazing, Holden?" he asked.
"This time last year you couldn't speak any English. We weren't even sure if you understood any if it. Now, look at you arguing with me! We were so worried, and now look at you!"
Wow. Seriously. So much can change in one year. A little toddler who had nothing but 3 Korean words flying home with him on a jet plane can now hold his own with you till the cows come home.
It isn't unusual or surprising I suppose. Of course we knew he would learn, and we hoped it would be quickly. But it is amazing. In every since of that over-used word.
This little wonder of a boy is also potty trained (having done so in one week!) He can count to 20, button his coat, and work the hell out of some jigsaw puzzles. Am I bragging? Maybe. I think it's OK too on this one. Because my son is amazing. Most of all I am amazed by how his heart has grown.
If you think about it, REALLY think about it, it is a nothing short of miraculous.
A 20 month old baby is taken away, and given to his forever family. They already love him. They adore him. They want to bottle everything about him, and save it. They understand. But, he doesn't. So, his heart is grieving.
At first, he gives kisses "bobos" to any soul who will ask. He's overly affectionate with strangers, and can't sleep at night. He won't eat much and hates when you leave the room.
His heart was hurting a year ago. His love needed time to grow.
And, boy has it grown.
Present day Holden asks for snuggles with his Omma. He squeals with joy when he sees his grandparents. He begs to play basketball with his Appa every night!
He knows he will be fed. He knows he will be bathed. He knows he will have all of his immediate needs met. But, he also knows he is loved. He calms with the touch of my hand as I wipe his hair off his forehead. He reaches down and hugs my husband's neck as we are walking through the mall for no reason at all.
His heart has grown. My hope as his mother is that it is full.
Full up on all things comforting, safe, warm and happy.
It's been an amazing year in the life of Holden. I can't wait to see what 2014 brings, and how his heart grows.