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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Healthy, Safe, and Free

I am healthy. I am safe. I am free.

I'm constantly amazed at the extent to which the universe will go to teach me perspective...

For those who know me, I'm not a politically inclined person. I honestly don't follow it. On purpose. It annoys me.  So, this is not a political post. This is simply an observation, by a human being. based on life. Her life.

Recently, I became ill. I had pneumonia. It's not fun. In fact, I don't recommend it. Anyway, I was trying to muddle through some ridiculous insurance crap in order to be seen by a new provider because my employer had changed some policies. I couldn't get in to the person I wanted and I was quite upset about it. In fact, I cried. Cried.

The same day, a sweet friend of mine checked in just to see how I was doing, as she does most days. I saw her name pop up on my phone, followed by the inevitable, "Hello friend! How are you today?"  I responded by telling her that I was ill, and that I had pneumonia, so I wasn't feeling well. I put the phone down and walked away for a moment. When I came back, I noticed that she'd responded to me. I opened that message and my jaw dropped, and this time, the tears were warranted.

My friend is Haitian. She is a beautiful, vibrant, Haitian woman. She is driven and compassionate, and one of the most loving souls I've ever met. But perhaps the most inspiring thing about my friend, is her optimism, her ability to hope in the face of diversity. Today, some people in her country decided to riot against a proposed increase in gas prices. For reasons she doesn't understand, her streets were on fire. Buildings surrounding her had bricks thrown through the windows. Her sister was unable to come home after a day of work because there was literally ZERO transportation. So, what did she do? She walked. All night. Alone. In Haiti. She arrived home sometime this morning. She is safe. And we are grateful.

I've thought about my friend all day today. She was in the forefront of my mind as I drove to work, in a car that I own and can afford to fuel appropriately. I drove without fear and without any thought as to whether or not it would be safe to leave my place of work later that night and drive to my home. I thought of her as I climbed the stairs and although it caused me to cough a little, I could breathe for the first time in a few days, thanks to antibiotics I'd gotten the day I was diagnosed. Do you know what my friend's response was to my message about being ill? Let this sink in...

"Oh my! I pray that you can get to someone to help and that they can find a treatment for you! Please tell me you will be well again!"

Like I said, this time, my tears were warranted. Get to someone who can help? Pray there is a treatment for me? I hadn't had either of those fears. Not once. Of course there is treatment for pneumonia and of course I could "get there." But these privileges are not a given, for my friend. They are not a right.

I began to think about what makes us different. Did I work harder than she did? Absolutely not. Am I smarter? Certainly no. The woman speaks three languages fluently, and dabbles in a few more. Am I more compassionate? I challenge anyone to find a more compassionate being than this young woman. So what is different? There is only one thing that separates us. I was born here. She was born there. I didn't earn my birthplace. She didn't earn hers. It's where we landed. So why did I get this life full of abundance and privileges that I'm too ignorant to even recognize that I have, and she is the one with hope. She is the one spreading optimism and love and, for her, the importance of Jesus.

I don't live under a rock, and so despite my disdain for political rants, I see the memes and the posts related to borders and who "should be allowed in" and who shouldn't. I wonder if anyone who feels that people should "stay out" would feel that way if they met my friend? I don't know any human being in my circle who would be a better neighbor, a more driven student, and more compassionate friend. She encompasses all that I believe this country truly wants to see in its citizens. And I see the plea for people to "just come legally." Oh friends...if only you knew what that meant.

My friend wants to study music. Her voice is sensational, and she wishes to teach. She could go to school in Haiti, but when she finished paying the tuition that she can't afford, even if she excelled greatly in her studies, she could simply be denied a diploma. Even if she gets a diploma after her years of study and hard work, she cannot get a job in Haiti after being taught IN Haiti. If she were to be taught in a developed country, she could go home and be nearly guaranteed a job. Easy fix, right? Just come to America, and better your life. Oh if only it were that simple. It takes YEARS to even be considered for a visa to get here. She must prove to her country that she has a reason to return home. For example, if she were to leave behind a husband, or better yet, children, she might be granted a visa to leave for study. Even then, even with the proper documentation in hand, the wait list to enter is years long. Years. So, better her life? Tell me how. Tell HER how. She'd listen. She's all ears. I'M all ears. If I could make it happen,  she'd live in my home TODAY. I couldn't find a better role model for my children.

So, I don't know what the answer is. I'm not quoting memes. I'm not looking for a political discussion. I'm simply telling you what I know. What I've SEEN with my own eyes. I'm telling you about my friend. My real, live friend. A person. A beautiful person that I'm blessed to count among one of my closest friends. She is driven, she is smart, she is compassionate...and her streets are on fire.

My children will come to live in America. They'll enjoy privileges that some will never know. Someday they will be annoyed with insurance squabbles. They'll whine about gas prices, and they'll be exhausted after a long day of work...hopefully doing something they love. And so today I'm grateful for lungs that work, because I had access to adequate healthcare. I'm grateful for the debit card that worked to fill my car with gas. I'm grateful for tired legs, after a day at work, doing the job I was born to do.

I am healthy. I am safe. I am free.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Heaven, Haiti, Home

Heaven, Haiti, and Home....

"The decision to have a child is to accept that your heart will forever walk around outside of your body."

Remember when you had your first child, and you had no idea that your heart could experience such a capacity for love? And then you had your second and the guilt of bringing another child to share that love weighed on you until you laid eyes on them and you realized that your heart grew once again? I have experienced these emotions more times than I can count, and I consider myself incredibly lucky to know that the capacity of the human heart knows no bounds.

I could never have known, as a young parent, that I could love someone enough to let them go. When my son was hurting, I could no longer put my own feelings first. It would have been so much easier to trade places, but that wasn't an option, and so I had to tell him that it was OK to move on without me. A huge part of my heart is in heaven, and will remain there. Nothing will ever replace that space.

My biological children have been home for a week now, living their busy lives without us. I miss them terribly. They each occupy different parts of my heart and I can't wait to wrap them in hugs again. Part of my heart is at home.

And now I have daughters who have stolen yet another piece of me. Part of my heart is in Haiti. I cannot adequately describe the love and the connection I feel to two little women who just two weeks ago, were strangers. From the moment I laid eyes on them, I felt that pull at my heart. Its ability to grow and create space has not been lost, and I'd feared it had for so long. Their hugs got longer each time I left them. And the last day, I was sure they'd never let go. Watching them cry tears of sorrow as their Dad and I left, broke me. We watched as their friends circled protectively around them, knowing all too well the pain of watching your parents leave and hoping against hope that they would, indeed, return for you one day.

While my heart stretches from heaven, to Haiti, to home, I recognize the gift in that truth. I have learned and experienced the capacity of the human heart and it's more incredible than I could have imagined. I have wanted to be a mother for as long as I can remember, but I had no idea just exactly what that would mean for me. Now I know....

Heaven, Haiti, Home....

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Bel Ayiti

I'm here again. The air is sticky and although I've just showered, I can feel the sweat dripping off of my forehead. But coffee, I still need coffee. The nights are short in Haiti and the days are long, and caffeine is needed. The coffee still has the same deep, rich flavor. The rooster still crows. The early morning, still my favorite time of day in Haiti. But something is different. And although I know that it's me, I can't always pinpoint the words to describe in what way I'm different on this trip than on others.

There is the obvious reason. I met my children on this trip. I experienced a life changing moment, and several of those to follow. But that isn't it entirely. I think that in times past I would lay out every detail of my trip. I would try to do my emotions justice with words, but how does a mother describe correctly the feelings she experiences at the "birth" of her child. I certainly can't, but I also don't want to. And that's a way in which this trip feels different.  I know I will share details here and there about what we have seen here this time, just as I've alays done. But right now I feel like it's not entirely my story to share.

I'm going to be raising two more little girls. They are my children and I love them beyond measure, and although I'm forever grateful to be added to the story, I am not their WHOLE story, and it isn't mine to tell.

So instead I want to share with you what I want you to know about my daughters. I want you to know that their country is beautiful. I want you to know that it is a thing to be loved and not to be feared. I want you to know that if you are more fearful of this place than you are of your own home, then your fear lies in ignorance. And I truly don't mean that in a judgemental way. I'm simply saying that if you haven't experienced the beauty, felt the sticky air, poured your teeth brushing water from a bottle, woken up to a rooster symphony, then you can't know. And there isn't anything wrong with that. But please don't assume that this is a scary place based on things you may have heard.

I'm certainly not rescuing anyone. In fact, I struggle with guilt every day about whether or not I'm doing my daughters a favor by bringing them home. And that's not to say that I'm not proud to be an American, that I don't know the beauty, power, and opportunity that lies within its borders. I absolutely do. But I do not feel that it's MORE beautiful, MORE powerful, or filled with MORE possibility than that of Haiti. As many things as we do well in America, there are some things that Haiti just gets right. I've never met a more optimistic, or resilient people. I've never experienced a big city atmosphere where people smile and acknowledge you like you're in a small town, the way I do in Haiti. The point is that my girls aren't being saved. There is likely some "saving" going on, but they aren't the recipients.

Adopting my children doesn't make me feel like a heroine. I simply didn't give birth to my children and I had to go about getting them home with me in a different way. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to do so.

I will do my very best to keep the love of Haiti and its traditions and its people alive and well in our home. I'm so excited and terrified and grateful and feel a major sense of responsibility to do justice to the gift that is having a piece of Haiti in my home. Because Haiti is not a place to be feared. It is a place to be loved.

Bel Ayiti  (beautiful Haiti)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Eight

You're supposed to be 8 tomorrow. Eight...what should be a day filled with dirt and skinned knees and driving your siblings crazy will instead be yet another reminder of your absence. It will be a day spent, in part, in oblivion....because that's the only way I can make it through the day. It will be a day of close family and friends, holding me up and allowing me to just "be". It will be a day of gifts you'll never open and cake you'll never eat. It will scrape at my soul and open that wound yet again, so that I feel it in its entirety.

Sara and I bought your lanterns last Monday. It's become a tradition, and one that we both dread actually. It's hard. It never gets easier, and each year we add one more lantern. Eight of them will light up the sky this year. Eight. I can't seem to wrap my head around that.

I know you're aware of the changes in our lives lately. I have no doubt you orchestrated our path, and will be with us as we travel to meet your sisters next week. And still there is that part of me that screams out in pain, hoping that you know you can never be replaced. Your presence in my life will never take a back burner.  I cannot, WILL NOT exclude you when telling others that I have several children. I have 6 children. It sounds crazy to some, and for those who dig deeper and ask your ages, they'll hear that you are no long here with me. That fact is often met with an "I'm sorry" and an "oh, so you'll have 5 in your home then..." almost as if this is better, as if this lightens the load. What they don't know is that parenting you hasn't stopped for me. In fact, in some ways it has become more present in the past few years as the rawness of early grief shifts into moments of wondering "what if". I very much have 6 children. Three are in my home and three are currently outside my reach. Please know that the physical presence of your sisters, and the coming together of our family is only complete with you there.

I make no promises on your birthday.  I spend the day trying to remember how to breathe...in and out...in and out....and occasionally hoping I'll forget how. I love you with my whole being, sweet boy. I love all eight years of you....EIGHT.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day

Oh this day...it's supposed to be a happy day of celebration. And I suppose it is, for daughters whose mothers are still here, and for mothers who can still hold all of their children. For those of us who don't fit into those categories, it's another reminder of that empty chair...those arms we can't feel.

And of course it's beautiful today. Of course the sun is shining. It's a mocking reminder of the way the world keeps turning despite the pain of those suffering loss. And it's a life sentence, one for which we didn't ask to experience. On the one hand, I don't know know that there is a group of people who can truly appreciate this day more. On the other...my own broken heart cries out for theirs in mutual pain over the existence of this day.

This year, Mother's Day has taken on a different meaning for me. Somewhere mixed in the pain of loss of my precious son, is a sense of deep gratitude for the birth mother of my daughters. So, today I will honor him and celebrate her.

Happy Mother's Day, M. I have never met you, and yet you have have proven to be one of the most important mothers in my life. Your body carried our daughters. Your arms held them first. Your lips kissed their heads. You bravely brought them into the world in your own home. I can't imagine the fear and pain you must have endured, experiencing the birth of twins in that way. I'm eternally grateful for your grit and courage. I know you never meant to leave them so soon. A piece of my heart lives in heaven too. If you'll hold him for me, I'll gladly love our girls as my own. I'll wrap them in the love of a mother's hug, until we all meet again one day. My boy likes ice cream and "moos". Please tell him that I miss him with every breath I take. Guide me as our girls become American citizens and enter a world completely foreign to them. Help me to know their pain and joy, as any mother does. I promise to speak of you often. I will say your name, and remind them that they were loved by two mothers in this lifetime.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the beautiful souls I've been fortunate enough to know. To those whose children are being loved by them on earth, I learn from each of you and I'm grateful. To those who had to give a child back, my soul burns for you as we navigate the pain and strength it takes to mother a child we can no longer see. To those whose mothers have been lost too soon, I promise to cherish every moment I get with mine, in order to honor the pain you experience. Love and peace on this day full of mixed emotion.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Visit Dreams

It's 1am, and the tears I feel are real. It's because the dream was so real. The world I was just in was so filled with emotion and hope and laughter, and when I opened my eyes and the cruel, harsh reality slammed me in the chest, the tears were all I had left.

I had reached for you. I'd seen your sweet face and soft curls and when you reached back for me, I'd buried my face in your scent. At the time, I didn't know why I was crying. All I'd done was pick you up...something I'd done a hundred times before. But somewhere in my dream brain, it was registering that the ability to do this was special. So I snuggled you closer, and I whispered to you that I'd never let you go...

So you can imagine the burning in my chest when I opened my eyes and reality raged through my heart. I'd done exactly that, again. I'd let you go. Why did I do that? Why did I think that I could handle cutting myself in half and continuing to "live."

It's amazing to me how physical my ache for you continues to be. The triggers happen in a million different ways every day. They're present in a moment I have at work, or something someone says to me that makes me remember how very lonely this grief process is.

I wish you'd never left. Sometimes I'm mad as hell at you for leaving. Most of the time I'm mad at me. But the burn is the same either way. It's moments like these that make life seem so incredibly long, and I need that day that will bring me back to you.

So, I'd ask for you to make these days I'll have to endure, burn a little less, but then Sara's words ring in my ears..."you don't want this to go away. Not really. You want the dreams, because they connect you." I know you gave her to me, and I'm grateful. But goddammit, I hate when she's right. So maybe make that happen a little less often...ok?

I miss you, my boy. I ACHE for you. I'll feel that burn in my chest every day until I get to bury my face in your hair again. Until then, help me to find the moments that allow me to breathe. Give me the strength to want to stay...and don't stop visiting my dreams...


Friday, February 23, 2018

Palm trees, Self-doubt, and Bitchy Crabs

I'm a disaster. Let me explain. (Although that opening sentence is rather hilarious  considering where I'm going with this. So, I'm on a tropical island. As in, one of the most beautiful places on the planet and I have still managed to judge myself daily, from appearance to how I spend my time here. It's a gift,  really, this ability to degrade myself in any possible situation. 

The funny thing is that I sort of pride myself on not judging others. And, as a parent, although I know I will inevitably screw up my children, I do think my number one priority is raising them to NOT be judgemental assholes. However, in my constant quest for reserving judgement of others, I forgot someone. And that someone is arguably the most important someone...me.

The weather is beautiful here. And when I say "beautiful" I feel that I've failed to do it justice. I could say "exquisite", "superb", "magnificent" and still, all words would fall short of describing the innate beauty of this island. And yet, despite my surroundings, I'm still me, stuck in my never-ending loop of self-depreciation. So....I'm anorexic. I know what you're thinking, "well that's funny, because usually people who are anorexic aren't upwards of 50 pounds over their goal weight." (Or maybe I'm just thinking that and am putting words into your mouth. I'm apparently pretty good at that.) By saying I'm anorexic, I don't mean that it manifests in a physical way, but emotionally and mentally. I judge myself on how I look, what goes in and what physical effort I put forth at a constant rate. And maybe I'm using the word wrong, but it's my blog, so I can. I doubt it will bother the 10 or so people who are actually bored enough to read my thoughts.

But I digress. You see, I was walking along this incredible beach today and had plenty of time to ponder my life (dangerous pasttime, I know). I was thinking about how amazing it is that in everything I've ever written/complained about/discussed in my blogs, they always seem to be these external issues. Warranted, sure, but the truth is that my inner struggle existed much earlier than anything external that I can remember. And if we're talking honesty, this is as honest as I can get.

Back to being "anorexic" (There. Do the quotation marks make you feel better about a fat person claiming to be anorexic? Yes, Sara, I know...I'm my own worst critic and was probably the only one bothered by that in the first place). Anyway, I did actually try the whole "not eating" thing in high school. And admittedly, it screwed me up in ways I didn't even see at the time. It's the reason I don't own a scale, and also the reason I avoid mirrors. I didn't realize this last part until my therapist brought it up in a session recently. I thought about her statement and was shocked at how accurate it was. How sad is that? I don't even look at myself. (And this is absolutely not a plea for platitudes about my looks. Believe me, this has nothing to do with anyone but myself.) So, here, I've had to look at myself and I realized that in my quest to avoid looking in the mirror, I've somehow gotten to be this person I don't even recognize.

I'm a person who truly does love physical activity. Weird, I know. I mean everyone feels good afterward, right? But it's the true creepos who enjoy the "during" part of pushing your body past its natural limits. And yet, I don't do that anymore. I truly feel that sometimes I can't. Whether grief,  or depression, or depression brought on by grief, or survivor's guilt, whatever it is, it makes it incredibly difficult to move. So I don't. Not unless I have to, that is. I move to go to work. I move to attend my children's activities. I move for all kinds of reasons that affect the lives of other people, but I SUCK at moving for me. (See how I did that?  Judged myself for judging myself?? I'm telling you guys, if this were and Olympic sport, I'd nail it.)

So out here on this island, I just move. I can, so I do. Now why can I? Because I typically have enough energy to do only a few things each day. And those are the good days. Out here, I have no other obligations. Nothing to MAKE me move, except for me. So I move for me. It's an incredible feeling to be spending an entire day/week doing things to take care of yourself. I feel like mothers in general are particularly bad at this. But, I'm not naive enough to believe that this is real life. I know that when I return to my family (whom I love more than life), that I will use up what little life power I've got left each day on just surviving.  I spend so much of my energy on grief, ptsd, and judging myself for doing that, that I'm left exhausted at the end of each day, when some days all I've physically done is moved my arm three inches to the right.

The isolation on this island is magnificent. I'm free to walk around in a bathing suit all day and not give it a second thought when it comes to wondering if others are judging me. That was, until today. I jumped into the ocean today to cool off and then, as always, as I made my way back to my lounge chair to lie in the sun, I made a mental note of how awful my shadow looked. Because that's helpful. I dismissed it quickly, because again, no one is around and also because constantly evaluating your body is exhausting. However, I opened my eyes for a second to make sure I was fully facing the sun, and I saw a crab standing right in front of me. She just stopped there, staring at me. I assume she was staring, because honestly it's hard to know where their eyes are. And I assume she was female because, you know,  we're best at judging our own...

Anyway, I could tell she was judging me. She knew I looked horrible in that bathing suit, and she was judging the fact that I'd been smug enough to assume that no one else was being affected by such a hideous creature, simply because no other humans were around. I also believe she was judging the few times in my life that I've attempted a "crab walk." Because as she sauntered effortlessly, from side to side, I noticed her backward glance at the large lady in the lounge chair, right before she added a bit of a graceful glide to her movements. She did this, as if to say, "not only are you overweight and out of shape, but you have also never correctly walked like a crab. And it's insulting." And with that, she scurried along the shoreline until the waves overtook her little body (skinny bitch) and she buried herself in the sand. (Come to think of it, I may have more problems than made-up, fat person anorexia...)

Anyway, all of this rambling does have something resembling a point. As I was lying there, getting tan, listening to the ocean, and getting judged by bitchy crabs, I was also thinking about how useless it is to continue putting myself down in this way. Has it ever served me? Has it ever motivated me to do more? Has it ever done anything but cut down an already fragile self-esteem? And the answer, of course, is no. So, I'm tired of diets. I'm tired of specific exercise regimens with a specific "goal date" in mind. I've decided that instead of trying to lose pounds of weight, I'm going to try to lose pounds of self-judgement (a word? Maybe not, but again, my blog). And since I've made this incredible discovery for myself and made up words to prove my point, I'm officially awarding myself with 50 pounds worth of self-judgement lost. I'm feeling lighter already.

And while this is clearly a much more healthy way to think, I know that I will have days where this whole concept is more than I can handle and I'll revert back to my old habits. But even those days are going to have the possibility of "pounds" lost, because the acknowledgement that I'm human, and allowed my ups and downs, is a pretty important step too. Don't get me wrong, I'm still gonna screw this up, because I've said, and the bitchy crab also pointed out...I am a giant disaster. :)