Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Did The Turkeys Cross The Road?

I wish I could answer this question. I'm just happy that I didn't hit them. 

LittleDebbie didn't sleep well last night, so neither did I. The coffee hadn't completely kicked in yet. And the two giant gobblers just came trotting across the road as I rounded a corner. 

Thank you, Lord. I really didn't want to add "clean turkey guts off front of van" to my ToDo list for today.

We Are Wealthy

I was talking to another mom at the playground after school today, and we got on the discussion of what we wanted out of schools - the non-academics that enriched our children's lives. We both agreed that we didn't want to send our kids to schools in the wealthy suburbs. She didn't want her children to be in the pressure-cooker environment - one that makes kids think that the only things that mattered in life were what college you got into and what you did for a living. I agreed with her. We both grew up in the South, and find New England's preoccupation with academic pedigree to be a bit concerning. (Of course, as I look up from my computer, it's BestestHusband's diploma from a school in TX that is larger than my other diplomas combined.)

But my greatest fear of sending my girls to an environment like that is that they'll grow up thinking they're poor. 

If we were to live in a ritzy suburb, we would be in the bottom half of incomes there. We would live in a more modest home than the girls' peers. We would drive an older car, with a less-impressive name. The girls would not have the same electronics as their peers. They would not jaunt off to tropical destinations and tour foreign countries on their Spring breaks. They would not have the same things as their wealthier classmates. And they would likely feel themselves lacking. They would likely conclude that they were unfortunate, and poor. And this is so far from the truth.

Now we are not wealthy by Boston's income standards. There is a great deal of money in this city. And if you know how to spot it, you see it everywhere. (It's not as easy to spot as it was living in Houston. But that's another post for another time.) But Boston provides a poor yard stick for measuring wealth. 

Here's how I know we are wealthy:

  • We're not one payment away from losing the roof over our heads.
  • We don't have to choose between buying food and buying medicine.
  • We don't have to choose between paying our electric bill or our phone bill.
  • When we're cold, we can turn up the heat.
  • When we're hungry, we can buy food.
  • If we lose our mittens, we can buy new ones.
  • When we outgrow snow boots, we can buy bigger ones. 
  • We can afford reliable transportation to get everyone to work and school.
  • We can afford to fill the gas tank, even as gas prices climb.
  • We can afford safe, reliable childcare for our children so we can show up for work every day. 

We may grumble about some of these costs, but it's not really a question of whether or not we can provide what our family needs. We may wish we had a bigger house with an actual garage, but that's a want, not a need. And it's a luxury. Our children don't really know what hunger is. Nor do they really know what it is to be constantly cold. The addition of one extra mouth to feed does not plunge our family into financial insecurity. 

I want my children to grow up knowing that this simple fact of having their basic needs met on a daily basis is a great blessing, and that we are part of the world's most fortunate and wealthy inhabitants. Because, regardless of what they see on TV, and regardless of hearing "we won't buy that, it's too expensive", there is nothing they really need. And that makes them wealthy.

Of course, the next thing they need to grow up understanding is that wealthy people need to help people that aren't. But that's another post for another day...

I pray that you'll recognize your own wealth, and give thanks for it as well.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Not To Do

I'm going to tell you what not to do. I know you shouldn't do it, because I just did it. You don't need to learn this first-hand, my experience should be enough. 

When your kindergartener brings home the class pet for the weekend, and has a "journaling" assignment to chronicle the fun events of the weekend, do NOT get involved. Don't agree to take pictures of all of the fun they're having. Especially if the "pet" is a stuffed animal that can go everywhere with your child. 

Don't encourage her to type her journal entry on the computer. Don't agree to create a document with the text and pictures. Because your iPhoto might be wonky and refuse to save your photos on the computer. And then you might have trouble actually inserting those carefully taken photos into a Word document. So you might need to start all over with a Powerpoint document. And then you might feel the need to crop and edit the photos so that they neatly fit on a few pages. 

Just don't do it. 

It will take up your entire night - that Sunday night that you use to catch up and prepare for the upcoming week. You need that night. Desperately. You don't need the frustration of cropping and rotating. Of copying and pasting. Of trying to reconnect with your inner Powerpoint diva.

You should follow the example of the 7th child in the class who took the "pet" home - the one who wrote her entry in "kindergarten spelling" and drew pictures instead of taking them. The one whose family printed a few photos in black and white printer ink and just pasted them on. Her journal entry was lovely and charming. It was perfect. You should do that, too. It's a wonderful idea.

Trust me.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


In the car today, HeyMama announced suddenly,
"Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a scientist."
And then MeToo chimed in,
"And I want to be a mermaid!"

Everything you need to know about my older daughters is summarized by that conversation. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Girls Weekend

I'm down a child this weekend. BestestHusband left with LittleDebbie on Friday to visit his parents in MN for the weekend. So the big girls and I have a girls weekend planned. It's amazing how quickly our agenda has filled up. We have gymnastics, a birthday party, a play date, a volunteer event, church... Those are just the scheduled events. We also need to walk the dogs, watch our new Frozen video, buy new church shoes before a coupon runs out, paint toenails, make food for the firefighters... The list goes on and on. These things would be impossible with a baby around. But without her, well, it's possible. Hopefully. 

HeyMama is very motivated to make food for the firefighters. The recent tragedy has hit very close to home for some reason. Maybe it was because the fire was down the street from our church. Maybe it was because we saw it happening as we detoured repeatedly around Boston and Cambridge, trying to get to Wednesday Lenten services in the Back Bay. Maybe it is because both firefighters that died live in our side of town. And one of the funerals is down the street from us. And one was a father of 3. Whatever the reasons, we're all taking it pretty hard. 

We were living here the last time 2 firefighters died, and it was in West Roxbury, at a location we pass every day. It was tragic, but didn't feel this tragic. Perhaps this means that we're officially locals now. It feels like we lost two of "us", whatever "us" means. 

So tomorrow we'll try to bake something. And I'll get the girls to draw a picture and write a card. How exactly do you write a note to someone who lost the greatest man in their life - their husband or father? What do you say to the mother who lost her son? Especially when you've never met them, or the person they've lost? All I know is that they were aware that the job of a firefighter is to risk your life at a moment's notice to save the lives of others. And to love a firefighter is to know that any day is a day you could get an earth-shattering phone call - that the fire was too hot, too fast-moving, too uncontrollable for their loved one to escape. But that, thanks to him, the other people in the building did. 

So if you need someone to pray for, pray for firefighters, and their families. There are quite a few who could use those prayers right now.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


I’ve always known that I was adopted. I was told at an early age, so early that I don’t remember not knowing it. And adoption was spoken of so positively and matter-of-factly that the knowledge was never something that bothered me. I thought of it occasionally throughout the years. I’d been told that my mother was 18 when she had me. I occasionally calculated how old my birth parents would be, and occasionally looked at people the same age, wondering if I would recognize them on the street. In my self-absorbed moments of teen angst, I wondered why someone would “just give me away”. But when rational thought returned, I realized that was just silly. I had a pretty fortunate life, and I knew that I was very-much loved. My senior year, I contemplated what it would be like to be pregnant and dealing with the decision my birth mother had faced. I gained a full appreciation for it in college when classmates spoke of abortions. I was not a statistic. I was not discarded. I truly was loved.

Over the years, I’ve always spoken of my adoption openly. When someone asked if I’d ever try to find my biological parents, my answer was always, “Yes, Someday.”

I was raised by two wonderful parents. They always told me that they would support me if I tried to locate my birth parents Someday. I was a good student. I loved music and learned to play the French Horn. I played handbells at church. I was active in my church youth group. I had great friends there and at school. They knew I was adopted, but didn’t think much of it, especially since I looked and sounded so much like my adoptive parents. We spoke occasionally of what it would be like to find my birth parents Someday. But my life was pretty fine, pretty complete. There was no reason to go looking for something I didn’t miss.

I got scholarships to go off to college. I left Houston for Boston, and eventually stayed here to work. When I decided I was ready to go back to Texas, go to grad school, meet my Prince Charming, and start my “real life”, I met my reason to come back to Boston. I finished school, married BestestHusband, and started my career as a Speech Language Pathologist . We traveled. We bought a house. We got dogs. Then we got pregnant. We have 3 girls and 2 dogs. If this isn’t “real life”, I’m not sure what is!

Finding my birth parents was always something I’d do Someday. I was always too busy doing something else. I was training for a race. Or working and commuting too much. Or doing too much at church. Or not sleeping enough. Or taking care of too many babies. Or something. There was plenty of time for Someday to happen.

And then a few months ago, friends who’ve always known I was adopted started asking the same question: “Have you ever thought of finding your birth mother?” My answer was still the same, “Yes, Someday.” Having LittleDebbie brought up the issue, as well. She looks like a combo of my BestestHusband and me. HeyMama looks very much like BestestHusband's aunt. But MeToo – she didn’t really look like either of us. BestestHusband’s family is extensive. Genes surface and resurface in that gene pool across generations and time zones. MeToo does not resemble anyone in that gene pool. She favors me. But she doesn’t really look like me. She must look like the people that I come from. But who do I come from? Who do I look like? I was discussing the matter with a friend who encouraged me to reconsider the notion of Someday. Her estranged father had died suddenly the week before. She had hoped to reconcile Someday. But that door closed suddenly before she had the chance. And it can’t be re-opened. Someday doesn’t always happen.

So my Someday is now. I’m filling out the paperwork. I’m working with a social worker to start the process. I’m beginning the journey to find my birth parents. Maybe they’re fine with the door being closed. Maybe they’ve always wanted to find me Someday, too. But I’ll never know until I try to find them.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Lesson in Mercy

Disclaimer:  I tell this story not to show what a good job I did, but to show how God uses children to teach us. It says in the Bible (Matthew 6, specifically) to do our good deeds quietly, in secret, so that God knows the good deeds we do, but that our right hand doesn't even know the money our left hand gives to the poor. By telling you about it, it takes away the goodness of the deed, as your regard is my reward. But I hope it inspires, as I was inspired by the original idea.

One day last week, HeyMama and I were driving home from school. At an intersection, a gentleman was holding up a sign, walking between the rows of cars waiting at the red light. It was a very cold day to be out holding a sign.
"Mama, what does that sign say?"
"It says, 'Hungry and homeless, please help'. "
"Then we should give him some money."
I spent a few moments talking about how sometimes people ask for money for food and shelter, but end up using it on alcohol and drugs instead of food. They might use our money to hurt themselves instead of helping themselves, and we'd rather donate our money to organizations that we know won't spend it on harmful things. Blah blah blah.
"But maybe he really is hungry. We should give him some food."
Yes Joy, maybe he really is hungry. Your daughter is right. Instead of trying to convince her to be as cynical as you have become, perhaps you should listen to her charitable impulses and give the man some food!
HeyMama was right. She was preaching to me the message that I would like her to carry in her heart throughout her life:  People need help, and we were put on this earth to help them.

I remembered seeing the idea of "Mercy Bags" somewhere online. They were gallon ziplock bags filled with shelf-stable foods, including apple sauce, granola bars, a bottle of water, and other assorted items of daily life. I couldn't remember the details, but I knew they weren't all food... The woman made them and carried them in her car. When she encountered people asking for money to buy food, she gave them the bag.
So I mentioned this to HeyMama. I promised her that the next time we saw him, we would bring him some food.

Today, while tucking healthy and nutritious food into the cart around the carseat of my plump and healthy baby, I remembered the Mercy Bag idea. Certainly, while buying food for my well-fed family, I could pick up a few things for others. So I did. And at the checkout, I saw little boxes of Valentine heart candies. So I grabbed one. And when I got home, I made up a few baggies with the supplies. I packed them into the van on the way to pick up HeyMama from school. And when we got in after school, I told her about them. We had a mission to complete on our way home.

It took a while. I made a wrong turn, and missed the intersection completely. It wasn't our usual route from school. I had to loop back through Brookline to find the gentleman. But there he was, in the cold January wind, holding up his sign. But this time, instead of averting my eyes when he approached my window, I rolled it down and handed him a bag.
"Hi, this is for you."
"Wow, thanks!" His eyes grew big. "Applesauce! Lip balm! Candy hearts! This is great! Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it."
"I will! My name is John."
"I'm Joy. Nice to meet you John. Have a good day."
And then the light turned green.

I'm not sure if he had a good day, but we did.
And now there's not a homeless guy at the intersection, there's a guy named John at the intersection. And we know he likes Necco candy hearts.
And we'll certainly have a snack for him the next time we're in that intersection.

So now we have a stash of food in the back of the van. Because when your 5 year old tells you to have mercy on a man standing out in the cold, you should. God has spoken through lesser messengers.

Our mercy bag.