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Living Gratitude

Bear with me, this is something I’m hashing out in real time, so I don’t have it all polished and pretty. In fact, this writing is primarily intended for myself in order to work through my thoughts.

At Thanksgiving we pause to profess gratitude, often for things we take for granted on an ordinary basis. It’s a beautiful practice, especially before a giving (and receiving) season, to appreciate what we have. But…

Is there more?

Should there be more?

What if we take this day of thankfulness and soup it up, put wheels on it, and take it out for a drive?

For example: “I’m thankful for my healthy body.” What is the logical way to enact that thankfulness? A conscientious diet? Giving up a vice? Committing to exercise?

Or “I am thankful for my spouse.” But are you acting like it? Would your spouse say they feel appreciated? Do you thank them for their contribution to your home and family? Do you show them how much you value them?

What about your house? Your children?

Looking at myself, I suspect that my gratitude can often be superficial, just lip service, something to check off my list of things to do before digging into a glorious feast and then turning around and griping about the dishes.

I know that mindfulness and intentionality are buzz words that we hear too often, we slap the word authentic on something to make it look like we mean it, but do we? Are we fleshing out our gratitude and walking a thankful life every day? Are we even pausing to do that with sincerity for this one day a year?

It seems that I have more questions than answers, I’m afraid. But I can’t help but notice that even though I have more than I could ever need, I still crave more and more. And I’m not alone. I want to at least slow down this runaway train instead of just shrugging my shoulders because I’m not the engineer.

I guess what I’m saying is that I want to live out my blessings. I want my spouse to know what he means to me, and my kids to feel valued. I want to recognize the great fortune of having a home that stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer and a luxurious bed to sleep in. I want to live and breathe and eat and sleep gratefulness for each advantage I enjoy each day.

And then, (and I think this is the real key to happiness) I want to share it.

adoption · Uncategorized

5 Things I Think You Should Know About Adoption

Oh man, it’s Adoption Awareness Month. I had no plans of writing about adoption, but then I realized that there are things that I do wish more people understood about it, so I invite you to sit down with me, maybe grab a cup of tea, and consider this:

  1. I have a legal certificate that says that I gave birth to my adopted child. Now mind you, he was born in a different state, I had no knowledge of any of it until over a week later, yet our government sees fit to create false documentation that lists my husband and I as parents…saying that I gave birth in a hospital I have never set foot in, in another state with a doctor I have never seen. I was alarmed when I first saw this, and still am today.
  2. An adopted person’s original birth certificate, the one that lists the mother who did give birth and the biological father, is permanently sealed in 44/50 states in the United States. That means that an adopted person will never be able to access the truth about their birth in those states.
  3. I am often called a saint for adopting a child with special needs. Please understand that I simply wanted another child. In fact I coveted another child. Because of the makeup of our family, we decided that adopting a child with Down syndrome would be a good fit, but the bottom line is that I was desperate to have one more child, and adoption was the method we decided upon. The reasons were convoluted, but fulfilling the desire of my heart was in no way saintly. In fact I was pushy, determined and tunnel visioned in my desire to adopt a child. Coveting will do that to a person.
  4. Speaking of that, I don’t for a second believe that God chose me to be Ben’s mom. For that to be true, God would have planned for another woman to conceive, carry and deliver a baby and for them to be torn apart for life in order for me to be that baby’s mom. I have no desire to believe in a God who would authorize a lifelong separation between parents and their child in order to hand pick a certain mom for a child. If this confuses you, this is a brief article that explains a theory that people remember losing their biological mother in a very real way for life after adoption. Why on earth would God do that? It probably sounds like a quaint notion until you dig in and think about it, which is exactly what I’m suggesting you do.
  5. Don’t assume you know anything about an adoptee’s biological parents. Stereotypes do everyone a disservice, including you.

This post is simply to get you thinking. Twelve years ago I had many preconceived notions about adoption, many of them have been challenged and examined over and over in that time. If something in this post makes you uncomfortable, please know that is has made me uncomfortable too, and that’s why I think it needs said.

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Do I See An Impostor Here?

I’ve been married for 22 years, been a parent for 18, yet I encounter situations every single day that baffle me.

I’m winging it all the time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one that feels this way. I suppose not, my guess is that this feeling is why adulting jokes are a thing. I’m 44 years old and I still think that someone should probably be supervising me a bit more.

Should a woman well into her middle age still make decisions using “eenie, meenie, miney, mo”? If not, I’m woefully under-qualified for this role. I show up and say the right words and try my best to make it look like I’m qualified, like I know what I’m doing, but I’m always afraid that someone will call my bluff; that someone with insight will look me in the eyes just long enough to see that flummoxed look that I’m desperately trying to cover.

Outwardly, I can see that I’m doing pretty good. My children are well-cared-for, my home is reasonably clean, I cook scratch meals almost every day, and my pets are in good shape. Why do I feel like at any given moment someone is going to stop me in my tracks, take me by the shoulders, and say, “honey, we need to talk” and proceed to tell me just how inept I am?

I feel like an impostor.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Whoa.

*Slowly raises hand*

That’s me. Constantly trying to appear as if I know what I’m doing, and plagued by fear of someone hauling out one of those stage hooks like they used on Sesame Street and pulling me aside to call me out.

I feel like I’m never enough, never worthy, never quite competent, and I always suspect that just around the next bend is that colossal failure that will prove to anyone and everyone that I never actually had my shit together in the first place. Here I am, going through life just whistling in the dark.

So there. I admitted it. Now what?

Frankly, I have no idea. I suppose there are articles and books and I’m sure I can track them down, but for now, I’m just leaving this here.

(It kind of feels like having that dream where you realize that you’re naked in front of everyone.)

Deep breath, close my eyes, click “publish”, go for a run and pretend there’s nothing to see here.

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Sitting on the Porch Swing

The life-affirming heat of the sun is scorching on this otherwise chilly morning.

My to-do list unrolls like a cartoon scroll in front of me. I'm choosing to look the other way for a moment, but the moment keeps stretching out in front of me.

There are so many tasks demanding my headspace that I feel guilty for indulging in this extended pause of my day.

I shove the guilt back into the box it emerged from and sit on it. I feel it shaking and protesting beneath me, as I stubbornly stay put.

Once set into motion this day will continue on it's own momentum. Phone calls and housework and the care and keeping of young ones. I'm certain it will spill over into tomorrow and endless days following.

I'm ignoring all those tasks screaming for attention and being. Just being.

Somewhere in this being I recognize someone I love. Someone I neglect. Someone worthy. I nod a silent greeting to her, wink, and toss that box of guilt off the porch rail to the ground below, out of sight. We decide to sit and catch up for a few more minutes. It seems like this impromptu connection deserves coffee; alas, if I move to perform even that one task, the spell will be broken and the to-do list will unfurl and demand to be reckoned with.

So I sit on the porch swing with my beloved and we commune for awhile longer.

And she is lovely.

And she is me.

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10 Things That Happen When You Have An Unusual Name

Picture this:  

It’s March of 1973 and a couple is expecting their third child.   Deciding on a name in case of another girl proves fruitless (they already have two well-named girls), and mom has been trying to convince dad to name this one after her grandfather (and it’s going over like a lead balloon). 

They sit down to watch the show “King Fu”, (about a Buddhist monk in the old west) and Jodie Foster is playing a girl named “Alethea”. Mom slyly sees an opportunity to nickname the baby “Lee” after her grandfather and both parents agree to the name (and hope for a boy). 

Having an unusual name has it’s ups and downs. For example:

  1. I’ve never had to deal with being one of two or three people with the same name in any situation ever. 
  2. In fact I’ve never met another person with my exact name. I’ve seen Aletha’s and Althea’s, but never another Alethea. (Though I know they exist!)
  3. I’ve never had my name on any item, ever (unless you count “World’s Greatest Mom”.)
  4. I get nicknamed, whether I want it or not. 
  5. Mispronunciations can be comical. I’ve been called everything from Athena to Ophelia!  (It’s pronounced Uh-Lee-Thi-Uh). 
  6. Spelling it every time. Except to the few people who know Greek. In fact clergy always get my name right!
  7. It’s just about magical when someone gets it right, especially when combined with my last name, which is equally challenging. 
  8. It’s so exotic people ask me what country I’m from. (I’m Dutch/German from Michigan, for what it’s worth). 
  9. I feel loved when people use it preferentially (my husband often does and my dad nearly always). 
  10. I turned out to be just as unusual as my moniker, so it’s utterly apt. 
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6 Observations From an Hour at the Beach

Have you heard enough swimsuit conversation yet this summer?  If you’re like me, the answer is probably, “a million times, YES!”  But here I am with my two cents to throw into the conversation.

Yesterday, since our day was already a shit show, I decided that nothing could get worse if I took the shit show on the road, and since the boys love water, we went a few miles down the road to a local lake, in hopes that we could “blow the stink off” as my mom always said.

I don’t actually enjoy swimming, I think it’s because I sink like a stone and have zero coordination, which makes it ironic that I own quite the collection of swimsuits.

I’m constantly in search of the swimsuit.  The one that covers all my scars, stretch marks and cellulite, as well as flattering the girls and magically making me look like Gisele Bundchen, which not a single suit ever made could possibly do, but I hold out hope anyway.

For no other reason than my failure to shave my bikini area before our impromptu trip, I chose a skirted suit, threw it on, and took off.  (After slathering children with sunscreen, getting all the necessary equipment, and having to back up the driveway twice for forgotten items, that is).

Upon our arrival at the lake, I scanned the scene.  You know what I saw?

  1. A bunch of people, mostly women, in a wide array of swimsuits.  Not a single one of them looked like Gisele Bundchen!  NOT A SINGLE ONE!  (So that was a relief).
  2. Every single one of the women had flaws.
  3. Not a single one of them stood out.
  4. It didn’t matter if they wore a bikini, a tankini, or a one piece or any other combination.
  5. Not a single person showed any sign of caring that my girls aren’t perfect, that I have cellulite, stretch marks and scars.
  6. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure every other woman there had imperfect girls, cellulite, stretch marks and scars, or at least 3 of the 4.

In other words, every single person there was entirely nonplussed by the whole thing.  As a group, people were having fun, playing with the kids, beating the heat, and enjoying summer.  And on my way home I had to wonder why on earth we get so darned haired up about putting on swim suits.

I get it, I’m not the same as I was when I proudly stood on the dock in a bikini, posing for pictures at age 16, but neither was a single other person there; not a single one!

I don’t know where it comes from, this toxic obsession with looking perfect, but I, for one, am over it.  I don’t want to be self conscious, or believe that everyone expects me to be perfect or notices when I’m not.  That, my friends, is a load of crap, and I’m not buying it.

 

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11 Observations About Being Fabulously Female

This summer I’ll be celebrating 44 revolutions of around the sun, and as such, I hope I have learned a thing or two about existing in the female form.  We’re a pretty remarkable bunch, I must say,  I am continually amazed by the women around me and my own self.

  1. It’s fabulous to be female…except when you have to pee outside.
  2. You can bleed for a week straight (or longer if you’re going through menopause) and not die.
  3. We have a reputation for being catty, but when it comes down to it, we have each other’s backs.
  4. No matter how thin you are, your body will have dimples and rolls.
  5. Fussing about the dimples and rolls won’t help.  (So just get over yourself.)
  6. Women are more likely to cuss than men.  (Perhaps there’s a reason for this, no?)
  7. Boobs are a blessing and a curse, and often both at once.
  8. Speaking of boobs, they’re lopsided, pretty much universally.  (Or is it just me?  Please tell me it isn’t just me!)
  9. We have less physical strength and speed than men, but more flexibility and better senses.  (I personally think there’s some huge advantages here).
  10. Our bodies change enormously throughout the normal lifespan, with more girls having more obvious changes than boys from puberty through old age.  (Fighting it doesn’t help).
  11. Multitasking, we rock at it!  (Speaking of which, I have been interrupted about 58 times during the writing of this post.)

You might notice, these have nothing to do with pregnancy or childbirth.  The capacity to produce children is remarkable, but women are so much more than our capacity to bear children.  I’m sure I haven’t covered them all, what is your favorite or least favorite thing (or anything in between) about being a woman?