Monday, February 24, 2014


This feels deeply personal, and a little strange to post. But I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from the other letters in Amber Haines’ Marriage Letters link-up. So, I’m jumping in with a letter on this month’s topic: Once Upon a Time.

Dear Glen,

Remember once upon a time, when we lived to be together? Starry eyed teenagers… with a smug certainty of our own importance and bright future… with a mix-tape blasting cheesy love songs through the speakers of your Volkswagon Rabbit… with plans growing, morphing and changing in all aspects except one – we’d be together.

We weren’t wrong about that.

I got to know a lovely young woman in my last writing class. She’s 19, the same age I was when I chased our happily-ever-after down the church aisle in my white dress. She’s in love with Mr. Wonderful and they’re making plans. She assured me that their happy ending wouldn’t dare start until they had finished school, established careers, built a nest egg, and put a down payment on a reasonably-priced nest in a good neighborhood.

The Sensible Mom in me was pleased. The Romantic Teenager in me sighed.

It wasn’t easy, getting married as young as we were. But we were too
stupid naïve, too thrilled with our new-found freedom and togetherness to care. Remember the hideous second-hand couch we were so excited to receive? It was SO uncomfortable! But we threw a green sheet over it and decided we were really grown ups now. At our age uncomfortable seating didn’t seem like such a big deal. Besides, it was just temporary. Eventually life would get easier, better, more secure.

Somewhere along the way we stopped scrambling for every penny. We added meat and the good toilet paper to our grocery list each week. Acting like grown ups stopped feeling like a thrill. We faced losses and victories, created homes and packed them into boxes, had children and buried children, changed jobs and sizes and styles and beliefs. We bought ourselves a huge brown sectional, big enough for a family of 6 to stretch out and watch American Idol together.

It is SO comfortable!

And crowded.


All along, we’ve expected things to get easier, better, and more secure. Someday.
I don’t think it ever has. The things we planned on - careers, moving away, having children… are harder than we ever expected. The things we hadn’t planned on – grief, changing goals and ideals, special needs… are more than we could have anticipated or prepared for. In many ways, those early years were the simplest ones.

The only thing we got right was that we’d be doing it all together. And even that isn’t as easy as we expected.

So I told my young classmate that. That I didn’t regret our years of eating ketchup sauce on noodles and going to the library as a “date.” That there’s no way to skip ahead, past the hard stuff. That as much as I’d like my own kids to take an easier road, I’m not sure it’s the best road. Or that it even exists.

She laughed at my jokes and nodded her head at my advice. But she didn’t really understand. Of course not. No one does. Not until they live it.

Growing up is hard. It’s been 22 years since you held my hand in the halls of our High School. We’re not the people we were then. In some ways we’ve grown together, in others we’ve grown apart.

Most days we feel old, and tired, and a little bit overwhelmed. This life stage is tough. I want to believe that it’s going to get easier, better, and more secure. I want to believe that we’ll be finished growing up and have life all figured out eventually. But I doubt it.

Maybe the only realistic goal is that we’ll face it together.

After all we’ve been through… that’s good enough for me.

Loving you more than ever,



So here’s us.


Monday, February 17, 2014


The Boy

It’s all over me. Pulling me down. Wrapping all around me. A heavy fog of numb.
…so bored.
HAVE to escape. Now! Shake it off. Break free.

I felt that. Train + Window Pane + Bang… vibrating in my fingers, up my arm, echoing in my ears.


Trains in both hands now. A tingle of energy moving from deep inside out to the very edges of me.

Bang! Bang!! BANG!!!
Jumping. Laughing. Feeling.

Hands snatch the trains from mine. Even that feels good. Anything better than the dull nothing.

Words. Close to my ear.
“…blah, blah, gentle, blah…”
I pick up the basket at my feet.

Feeling the toys rolling off my belly, my legs, my feet… then the glorious clatter onto the floor. I make things happen. Me! I am powerful.

More! More!

Mommy bends down, pressing toys into my hand, pointing to the basket. We drop them in. Small bang. Meh.

“…blah, blah, time to go… van.”
Van! I love the van! I love to GO! Coiling my body, ready to run to the door… until it catches my eye. Catches me, body and soul.

On the edge of the table. My favourite thing. The best thing. So many buttons. So many colours and noises and games. So much everything.


And, she’s looking away. Quick! Feet skittering across the floor, arms and legs climbing frantically, heart pounding… Got it!

She sees me! Now throwing myself off the table, prize clutched to my chest, down the hallway – the chase is on! Running. Laughing. Feeling.

More! More! More!
* * *

Today is exactly 1 year since our adoption was finalized, and the boy became ours for good, forever. It’s been exhausting and overwhelming at times, but never, ever, boring. At least not for long.
 It’s been pointed out that “Gotcha Day” (which many adoptive families use to describe this day) sounds creepy and vaguely kidnap-y.
“Signed the Paperwork Day” doesn’t really capture the sentiment either. Nor does ”You’re Stuck With Us Now Day.” We’ve finally settled on:
“For Keeps Day.”
 Definitely worth celebrating! And yes, there will be cake.
* * *
So here’s us, where we’re learning to make room for: fun, impulsive, hyperactive, sensory seeking, rough & tumble, and being a boy.
The Weekly Adoption Shout Out

Monday, February 10, 2014


It’s one of those subject lines that grabs you by the throat. Time slowed as my mouse hovered over “Baby Died.”

I didn’t breathe at all until I realized it wasn’t my friend’s baby. Except, it sort of was. One of the babies she works with in a Ugandan orphanage. Not family, as are the 7 dependents she claims on tax forms, but close to it, when you know her heart and her view of the world.

As I read about her many kids, her son’s broken arm, the challenges of life in Africa and her husband’s upcoming trip, I couldn’t help but feel small. Small in my scope and my reach and the type of things that seem SO overwhelming to me right now.


I pulled up my calendar in Outlook, adding “letter to Cher” to my task list when the words “Nicaragua trip” caught my eye. I realized that it’s almost time for 32 local high school students to put the rubber of global education to the road of real life experience, working with families living, literally, in a garbage dump in Central America.

Since trips to the grocery store down the street take monumental effort for our family, it seems inconceivable that my friend Ginny and her husband manage to not only plan and lead this annual trip, but build an international aid organization and spend summers exploring Europe with their children. Before reaching double digits, their girls have seen and experienced more of the world than most adults. Extraordinary. Adventurous. So beyond our reach.

It should be a good thing, to be trusted with someone else’s story, a much needed gift of perspective. Instead, too often, I let the comparisons steal from me. Spiriting away my confidence and contentment, making my stories seem less important to my own eyes.

Sighing, I scrolled through the rest of my emails, perking up to see an email from a new friend – one of my English professors. I had been thrilled to connect beyond the classroom and honoured to act as a sounding board for her upcoming blog. Not only does she have a depth of experience as a mentor and academic, she’s already a published author. That she also happens to be stylish, beautiful and eloquent only reinforced my belief that her life must be glamorous.

I braced myself for another dose of envy and insecurity. Somewhere along the way, I cast myself as the frumpy housewife inching towards an undergrad degree at an absurdly glacial pace. But that’s not who she sees.

Our paths have been very different. As she put it, we are ”opposite ends of the contemporary women’s spectrum,” yet somehow, kindred spirits.

She sent me a draft she’d written for the new blog about our unexpected, providential friendship. I am the other side of that mirror for her, just as she is for me… a glimpse down the road not taken. Reading it, I was reminded that her life, so glamorous to my eyes, has actually been a hard-fought, often scary journey. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

That much we have in common.

I don’t regret my journey. I don’t regret my destination. Even though I caught vomit in my bare hands twice yesterday. Even though I haven’t had 4 consecutive hours of sleep since Thursday. Even though I throw embarrassing, self indulgent pity parties for the whole internet to see. Even though I’m not a saint, or a world traveller, or a ‘real’ writer.


I won’t let comparison steal anymore from me today. I am surrounded by exceptional women with challenging, complex, beautiful stories. Not molds I must pour myself into. Not scales to weigh myself against. Not competition.


The grass on our side of the fence is a unique strain. It might not spread as far and wide as some… it might not grow as tall or as quickly or as easily… but it’s home. When I stop filtering my life through everyone else’s story, this messy, noisy, beautiful life comes back into focus. And it’s good – hard, but good. And I can appreciate the view into other lives all the more.

So here’s me, in the ongoing battle to just be. Thank God for my story. And yours.



Monday, February 3, 2014


I love getting compliments.

I hate getting compliments.

I have a complicated love-hate relationship with compliments.


Ditto for accepting help. Even help I really need from people who really love me. Especially help I really need.

I’m not sure if it’s tied to insecurity, pride, or the constant suspicion that I’m just pretending to be a well-adjusted adult. So when you say something nice to me, or when you do something nice for me, I feel guilty for being such a fraud.

Because sometimes I yell at my kids. And buy myself a bag of candy I don’t need, which I then hide and don’t share with anyone. Because sometimes I roll my eyes when I should nod my head. And I really can’t stand Christian radio, at all, but I like listening to Eminem. Because sometimes I ignore my husband and the housework and homework and exercise when I know it’ll just make everything worse. And the other day I threw something across the room when the vacuum broke, right after giving my daughter a lecture about watching her temper, and I didn’t even feel bad about it.

But sometimes, I don’t do the lazy, selfish, short-sighted thing. And I actually get it right.
While all those nice things that you’ve done and said (and I’ve had a lot lately) might be hard to swallow at first, after I’ve had time to digest awhile, they nourish my best self. They make me stronger. Strong enough to do better. Strong enough to believe that I really am the better person you see. That maybe the real me, the me God designed me to be and is helping me become, is patient and loving and wise, and okay… imperfect, but totally cool enough to pull it off anyway.

So here’s my thanks to all the encouragers in my life; sometimes I’m uncomfortable in the face of your generosity and kindness, both the words and deeds, but you make me strong and I couldn’t do without you.