Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thoughts on Life and Ferguson

 We used to have a dog named Iko.  We got him at the pound.  He was the most loving and gentle dog we’ve ever had.  Mackenzie would dress him up in hats and scarves.  He would look at us with big sad eyes as if to plead, “help me!”, but he would sit calmly and let her play.  He would wake me each morning by standing beside our bed and laying his head on my pillow, just staring at my face until my eyes opened.  We never saw him growl or snarl or attempt to bite anyone or anything.  Not even when we got a cat and it scratched him in the nose.  Or when we got a second cat and it did the same.   The most he would do was to take his nose and scoot them away from his space. 
One day, I noticed Iko acting strangely.  He was shaking his head and scratching at his ear.  Several times, I attempted to touch his ear and he pulled away from me.  I looked at Eric and said, “Hey, I think there is something wrong with Iko’s ear.  He won’t let me touch it.  Watch.”  I bent down and quickly reached out to grab his ear.  And he quickly jumped up and bit me in the face.  He was in pain. 
Pain causes unexpected behavior - behavior that is atypical and not in the norm.


I have a sister who is a year younger than me.  At one point when we were teenagers, our mom  was on crutches for a stress fracture in her leg.  My sister was out with friends and I was home.  The phone rang and I could instantly tell by the look on her face that it was not a good call.  Within a few short minutes, she dropped both crutches and the phone and began to scream – hysterical screaming.  She paced back and forth across the dining room crying and wailing while the phone dangled from the cord.  My dad picked it up and talked.  He got the story.  When he hung up, he had to literally grab my mom by both arms and yell in her face, “PAULA, SHE IS OK!!  SHE IS OK!!”.  My sister had been in a car accident.  It was the hospital that was calling.  My mom was overcome by fear. 
Fear causes panic.  It prevents the ability to calmly listen.  It brings about fight or flight responses.  


Have you heard of Aron Lee Ralston?  He was born October 27, 1975.  He was an outdoorsman.  He hiked.  He climbed.  He rappelled.  On April 26, 2003, he was hiking through Blue John Canyon, in eastern Wayne County, Utah.  During the hike, a suspended boulder he was climbing down became dislodged and smashed his right hand against the canyon wall, trapping him for over 5 days.  He had not informed anyone of his hiking plans, so no one was searching for him.  He tried to free himself, but he could not.  He rationed his food and water, but he still ran out.  On the fifth day, he drank his own urine.  Then he broke his own arm.  Then he took out a dull, 2” knife and cut off his own arm. 
The desire to survive makes people do things they would never do otherwise.  


After the Ferguson verdict was read last night and we sat and watched the news, I wept.  Eric and I talked.  Actually, it was more like ranting, but still.   I read some articles online.  I read some news reports.  Then, I began the always frustrating process of reading through Facebook. 
I am glad that I have a wide variety of friends.  There are many, many issues that my ‘friends’ and I disagree on.  There’s politics.  There’s religion.  There’s adoption and foster care issues.  We spend our free time differently.  We spend our family time differently.  Our families look different and act differently.  We support different causes.  So, it’s never any surprise to me that I will see both sides of any issue supported on Facebook.  But what also never fails to surprise me is the lack of love that is frequently shown.  The lack of empathy.  The lack of compassion.  So often, these issues bring about a desire to ‘win’ – as if life is one big competition.  There is so little respect shown for people’s feelings.  There is only judgment. 
When I climbed into bed and was tossing and turning, still wiping tears from my eyes, Eric asked, “what’s wrong?  Ferguson?” and I answered, “No.  Not Ferguson –people’s responses to it.”  It breaks my heart.  It really does. 
I am sure that I have also been guilty of letting my passions and my strong opinions on some issues trump others' feelings.  Please don’t think that I believe I have it all together or that I am perfect.  I know I am not.  I just can’t help but be overwhelmed on this day by a desire for change.  My heart is so heavy, I almost couldn’t get out of bed this morning.  So, in the spirit of ‘let’s unite and make a change’, I am writing these things…

Please try to consider the other side of any issue.  Please try to share your thoughts and feelings with respect.  With compassion.  With love.

Please try to understand that a momma’s son was shot dead in the street.  Not once.  Not twice.  But five times.  Then he laid there for 4 ½ hours.  4 ½ hours!  Imagine that it was YOUR son or YOUR daughter.  Notice I did not mention his race or his age.  It doesn’t matter.  It was her SON!   He was someone’s son.  Someone’s best friend.  Someone’s brother.  He was a person whose life mattered to people and to God.

Please try to understand that those rioting are not representative of an entire race.  Just as the Christian’s who picket military funerals are not representative of all Christians and the Muslims who fly planes into buildings are not representative of all Muslims. 

Please try to understand that if you are white, you CANNOT understand what it is like to be black in America.  You have not experienced the unfair treatment by law enforcement.  You have not been picked out and watched by security in many stores that you’ve entered.  You have not endured years of injustice and discrimination.  You cannot understand.  So, don’t judge.

I am trying to understand that the police are people, too.  That they have a huge job to do and that they put their lives on the line every day.  That they are put in dangerous situations, sometimes with limited assistance, and that they have to make unspeakable decisions and then live with them for the rest of their lives.

I am trying to understand the fear and the sacrifice that the policemen’s families make sending their husband or their daddy or their mommy off to work every day knowing that it could be the last time they see them.

We all need each other.  We need to grieve together.  We need to fight injustice with love, with understanding, and with compassion.

I was thinking last night, and I really believe that if Jesus were here, He wouldn’t be standing up shouting what should be or who is right.  He wouldn’t be puffing out His chest and posting headlines that support how we should be living or why we’re all wrong.  He would be sitting amongst the broken people.  He would be holding them and wiping away their tears.  He would be loving His people.  We should be doing the same.

Father, forgive us all.

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:36-40

Monday, December 16, 2013

Times flies when you're having fun!

Have taken a long break from posting to the blog.  Still haven't decided what I want to do with this blog (if anything) in the future, but in the meantime, hope you all have an amazing Christmas and a Happy New Year!

christmas card 2013
View the entire collection of cards.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Long Way

We've come a long way, baby!

The loss of the sad, scared look and the addition of the big smile brings me great joy.  But my favorite is the return of the sparkle in his eye....even if it is oftentimes the result of him being naughty!  :-)

Monday, January 28, 2013

2 Years Ago Today...

OK, So it's been a little while since I've posted on here.  I'll just go ahead and admit that I'm having a bit of an indecision problem with regards to what to share, how to share, and if I even want to share.  I love to write.  It's therapeutic for me, but sometimes I feel like I need to control who will be reading what I write.  Anyway....

Today, I wanted to share because it's been exactly 2 years since we arrived at that airport in D.C., completely unaware of what our life would look like for the next week, month, year, lifetime. 

That first year was hard.  Much harder than we had anticipated, yet not as hard as we had feared it could be.  But, we survived.  Now, we have 2 years under our belts (a few extra pounds, too, but that's a whole other issue.).  And we have gone from surviving to thriving.  Thank you, Jesus.

It's still hard sometimes, and Markos is definitely more difficult loud exhausting challenging than the other two.  However, we've reached a place where we know we can do this thing.  We will make it.  Life is good.

Here's a little video montage of pictures from Year 2.  No more cocooning.  No more hiding.  It's full speed ahead.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First Day of School!

I rarely have the time to post on here anymore, but thought today was something special - worth remembering and sharing.

Since Markos first arrived in America, he has been begging to go to school.  Those first few months home, we planned to "cocoon" with him - keep him home with us as much as possible - but every morning at the bus stop as Daniel boarded the bus for school, Markos cried and begged, "When do I get to ride the bus?  Why can't I go to school?".  So, we made what turned out to be the best decision for our family and allowed him to start going to a drop-in daycare program a few days a week which led to a three day a week preschool program.  He absolutely loved both.

He was used to structure.  He was used to being around a large number of children at all times.  No matter how much time I spent trying to entertain him, or what activities I would come up with to occupy his time, it was just no match for 40 kids in a care center in Ethiopia.  However, just that few hours a few days a week at the daycare or the preschool was enough to meet that need for him, and made our time together at home a million times better.

Regardless, today was THE DAY!  The day he got to ride the bus and go to kindergarten!  He has been so excited!  For days, he's been driving us crazy asking, "Do I go to school the day after the day after tomorrow?"..."How many days until I go to school?"....."What is the day that I go to kindergarten?".  Yesterday morning, he stood by my bed and woke me bright and early with, "Momma!  Tomorrow, I get to go to school!"  While my other two children whined and moped, "ughhh....I don't want to go to school tomorrow.", he couldn't wait!

Side note:  Oh, how I wish my kids all realized how truly blessed they are that they get to attend school in America.  That they have all their books provided.  That boys and girls get to attend.  that they learn to read and write.  That they eat a nice lunch there.  That they ride a comfortable bus to school.  That they are safe at school and at home.  So many children around the world aren't so fortunate.

Anyway...as expected, he woke this morning before I had to wake him.  (Why would today be any different from any other day?!)  He sprung out of bed and got dressed in the clothes that I laid out for him last night.  Then, he peeked in my room as Eric and I were attempting to hurt ourselves doing P90X and asked, "Hey mom, should I brush my teeth now, too?".  I said, "Sure Markos.  Good idea." and he asked, "THEN will it be time to leave for the bus?".  Unfortunately, we still had an hour before his bus was scheduled to arrive.

After that LOONNNGGGGG hour of waiting, we finally headed out the door -- all smiles!  There was no crying, no sad looks back, no fearful boarding of the bus -- only big smiles and excited waves as his happy little face peered out the window, finally on his way to school. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Sometimes I look at our calendar, marveling at its fullness, and feel almost comforted by the thought, "Ooohh!  So THAT'S why I'm tired all the time!".  At the beginning of every summer, I look forward to all the things that we will now have time to do -- go to the zoo, go swimming, take walks, go to the playground, teach the boys to finally ride bikes without training wheels, go to the lake house, Kennywood, Kings Dominion, Idlewild, the beach.  Then, as August comes to a close, I wonder where the time went and realize that over half the things on my summer bucket list never came to pass.  I hope this summer is different, but I don't know why I'd think it would be. 

Regardless of the schedule, we do usually end up making it to the lake house Memorial Day Weekend and Labor Day Weekend - primarily because since they are holiday weekends, all sports and other activities are usually canceled those weekends.  It actually works out somewhat nicely for us because Mackenzie's birthday is May 29th - always close to Memorial Day Weekend; and Markos' and Daniel's are Aug 28th and Sept 11th, respectively, both close to Labor Day Weekend. 

So, with high hopes for a great summer of fun, relaxation, and family time (as well as getting some home remodeling projects completed), this summer started with our usual Memorial Day weekend trip to the lake house.  The weather was BEAUTIFUL!!!  The kids were fairly well behaved and happy to be there - even Kenz who prefers to spend her free time with friends and not us, the annoying parents and brothers.  ;-)

The boys played in the lake - insisting it was "warm".  ha!  Daniel lost a Croc, which began to float out into the lake, but Kenzie swam out and rescued it for him.  (occasionally she's a nice big sister.)  Markos got in trouble for throwing rocks at or over the heads of his siblings on multiple occasions.

 I camped out in my chair with my book and enjoyed the view while pretending I was alone watching the children as Eric hunted snakes.

Eric has undoubtedly been a very bad influence on our darling daughter (and Daniel) with regards to handling snakes.  Thankfully, Markos has not yet been corrupted coerced cajoled talked into handling the creepy things AND the others will only hold those slithery creatures deemed safe by their good ol' dad (who may, or may not be the best person to ask!).

While Dad was busy teaching the children things that Mom doesn't, he allowed Markos to shoot the BB gun.  I can't believe I didn't get a picture of Daniel shooting.  He is apparently quite the sharp-shooter, informing me that "Hey mom, me and Pap are the best shooters.  I hold the record."  And, he did hold the record for the most empty Diet Coke cans shot off the board in the woods in a row without missing.  I think the record stood at 18 or something like that.  Markos was happy that he shot one.  I was happy that Markos only shot cans.

All in all, the boys had a great weekend, alternating between loving and hating one another.  The woods are a good equalizer, but when Daniel's allergies are through the roof, he tends to be less than patient and tolerant.  And, when Markos is being ignored, he tends to be as purposely annoying as he can possibly be.

The dogs were pretty good.  Lily can sleep anywhere.  Leo didn't run away.  Neither went to the bathroom in the house.  They did, however, shred a bag of toiletries that were left on the bed when we went out to dinner.  Eric decided we didn't need to take the crate to the lake.  Some of us *might* have disagreed with that opinion and then had to bite her tongue until it bled very hard not to say "told you so" upon returning to the mess.

Grammy and Pappy came up to join Nannie and our family at the lake house for Kenzie's birthday.  We had cookie cake after lunch.  Then went to Uno's at Deep Creek Lake for dinner.  

Because she's extremely spoiled been very responsible with the phone that she's had for years now, and she will be paying the monthly increase in the bill and the insurance, Mackenzie got a very special, surprise gift of an iPhone for her birthday.

And, an Apple gift card from Grammy and Pappy to go pick out her own case.  And, cash from Nannie which she will undoubtedly use to either pay her first monthly bill, or to buy some apps.

We paid for the boat license for the year and got the kayak out in to the water - just in time for each child to have a nice long ride before the thunder started.

The kids swam at the beach and Markos played in the sand.

The boys went outside to play with Pappy while we waited for our food at Uno's.

Then, we had our 2nd annual photo shoot in the big chairs.

Two-headed monster?

So proud of our "baby girl" (who reminded us time and time again throughout the weekend, "next year at this time, I will be getting my driver's license" - which, if I might say so, is not a very nice thing to do to your parents after they've just bought you an iPhone!)  Here's to Summer 2012!  Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Preschool Program and Graduation

Today was Markos' last day of preschool. Wow, how this year has flown by.  Seems like it wasn't that long ago that we were just beginning to weigh the pros and cons of sending him to preschool & daycare for the socialization he was craving vs. how it would impact our attachment as a family.

We definitely made the right decision to send him.  He loved going to school and playing with the other kids.  He has learned a lot and is definitely much better prepared in many ways to start kindergarten next year.  And, I really needed a little time apart from Markos' continuous motion and questions for my sanity (and to complete my Grad school work).  When I was able to have time for myself, the time that he and I spent together was so much nicer.

We were very blessed with a preschool and teachers who were extremely patient and caring and willing to work with us/Markos with regards to whatever he needed during this transition time.  Mrs. L celebrated with us and shared with us when she noticed changes and growth in his behavior.  For instance, when he first started preschool, he was still very set in that orphanage mentality of "everyone must get EXACTLY the SAME thing".   A few weeks ago, she excitedly told me that she almost started to cry during snack time about how far Markos has come because she looked around and noticed that all the kids were eating a bag of chips from one of those variety packs and they all had different chips but Markos hadn't complained or whined about it and was happily sitting and eating his chips while others ate their cheetos or doritos.

 I can only imagine the patience that it took to work with a room full of preschoolers while answering Markos' continual questions about EVERYTHING, attempting to get him to sit and pay attention, AND using paint and clay and all that other messy stuff that I hate to use at home. 

I did have a little bone to pick with her but forgot to mention it today, so Mrs. L if you're reading this, I'll have you know that the other day, Markos was yelling and screaming (for no real reason, just playing and being loud) and I told him to stop yelling and he said, "Well, Mrs. L. said I could!".  I said, "she did not."  And he continued to insist, "Yes ,she did!!  She did, Mom!  Mrs. L said, 'well, you can yell at home but not here'".  Thanks a lot!  ;-)

As for the end of the year festivities, the classes did a Spring Program last night with lots of songs sung, hand-motions, and a slide show.  It's strange how easy it is to think about how far you've come but forget that these hurts run deep and they will take a long time to heal.  As cute as all the kids looked (and Markos did look mighty sharp!), I ended up sitting and fighting back tears the entire program.  He was so excited for this night.  He knew these songs and sings them all the time at home.  Then, he walked up front with these new friends of his and he got that same scared look on his face that I remembered from his farewell ceremony.  He mostly stood the entire program, looking dead-pan out at the audience with his hands in his pockets, barely moving his lips and all I could remember when I saw this:

and this...

Was this...

The same lack of participation and just standing there, afraid, and mostly frozen in place after the nannies insisted that he get up with his friends at his farewell ceremony and sing some songs for the 'parents' who were there (just us!).  He didn't want to go up with them.  He just wanted to stay on my lap next to Eric and watch, but they pushed and made him stand there.  It was all I could do then to fight back the tears, too.  I remember desperately wanting to run up there and snatch him up and bring him back to my seat so he could just relax and watch with us.  After all, how many farewell ceremonies had he already had to participate in as he watched his friends, one by one, leave the orphanage while he waited.  Waited for his family to come.

Praise God.  Last night was different.  He didn't have to get on an airplane later that night to go to a new home where he knew no one, everything was different, and he didn't speak the language.  Nor did he have to see one of his friends head off for a different country.   Last night, after the singing was over, he got to drink punch and eat cookies with his friends.  Then he got to pick the restaurant where his family -- his FOREVER family -- would eat.  (Some of us were not thrilled with the choice of Chick-fil-A, but no one complained!).  Then after we ate dinner, we stopped for ice cream, as a family, because it was a celebration.

Our baby boy finished preschool!  He has grown so much - mentally, physically, and intellectually!  Kindergarten (and riding the school bus), ready or not, here he comes!!