building on the journey

building on the journey
Our family...just waiting to add our sweet smiling little girls!

Friday, November 30, 2012

hold my hand

Tonight as we drove and the traffic thinned and the car got darker with the night, my girls both wanted to hold our hands. Now, have you ever sat in the front passenger seat and tried holding the hands of two toddlers in carseats on opposite sides of the car? Gumby would find it challenging, and 7 feet of stretchy I am not.

BUT, then this little sob would escape RayLee and Sophie's tiny voice would speak for them both to say, "hold my hand, Mommy?" with a hopeful, willing ask. And, well, car yoga it was.

So, with my left arm jacked under and back, a thumb held by RayLee and a pinky by Sophie, I giggled in a pinch of pain with my husband about how life has changed.

Then, as I tried to sneak my hand away when I was sure they were "over it," the cycle would start again.

When the girls finally fell asleep, I snuck my hand back and Chris and I rode along and talked. As we talked about the adoption, things we've read, when we might travel and all we need to do next, it hit me...She hasn't had anyone to hold her hand when the night scared her. She hasn't been rocked to sleep, read to day and night, cuddled endlessly on lazy days. She hasn't had anyone there to reach out when she cried, "hold my hand."

But she will now!!!





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

make good choices

Have you ever really stopped to consider the surreal nature of watching your friends parent???

This week, the son of one of my college girlfriends turned 9... 9!! Now, I know this means little to most of you, but please understand that I met this woman about 18 years ago, just moments before she went "stair surfing" down the steep basement steps of a fraternity house, cackling her crazy laugh, and giving herself floor burn on most of her body, including her face, the night before parents' weekend... Just months later, now good friends, she would yell/scream/rasp in a way only she could do, "Make good choices!!!," as girls in our sorority house would leave the house on dates... THIS crazy, fun woman has a 9 year old!! In my mind, she is still this cackling, crazy, platinum blonde haired girl who slammed a mysterious concoction and screamed, "see ya at the bottom!," and I am still the overly eager to please, body conscience, BEANPOLE girl who watched her carefree exuberance with envy.... we've both come a long way.

BUT, tonight, as my husband and I sat through a home study review of our autobiography questionnaires with a clinical psychologist, I kept thinking, "don't think I'm crazy!! Like me! Like me! Pleeeaaasssse!!!" I really only hoped that she wouldn't judge me. That she'd think my humor funny and not compensating. That she'd find my husband and my relationship very "opposites attract," and not, "how'd she get him?!?!" That she'd find my breakdown of my ex boyfriends witty, self-deprecating, funny, and not sad, pathetic, or, God forbid, revealing!!

Revealing of what? I have no idea... (well, other than the fact that it is no great mystery why I needed to be set-up on a blind date to find a husband... God love 'em, but few of my previous "loves" were good husband material!!! Fun? Oh my, yes! But, as a husband... oh man!!! No way! Thank God some prayers are, well, redirected!) Anyway, as the interview progressed, I found myself obsessing over the alphabet soup after her name on her desk placard, an article in Cosmo I had read about 20 years ago about nonverbal body language, and what that may mean she was inferring from the fact that for the first twenty minutes I had sat with my leg crossed AWAY from my husband and the fact that Chris, while amazing, can look sort of like he's being paper-cut to death, even at his happiest!! (I love you honey!) ;)

Why was I so anxious? For the most part, people like us. We try to be kind, like able people... we are, I think?? THEN, it hit me, it's that Reece's Rainbow family page!! Have you read it? It reads like a canonization nomination roster!!! These people are saints! A who's who of deeply religious and righteous folks. Everyone's story is different, their journey to this place filled with any number of twists and turns, but all are these amazing, sort of conservative to ultra conservative families. In their facebook posts and family stories they speak so freely of Christ's guidance in this endeavor. They hand sew EVERYTHING. They wear their faith on their sleeve. And, while I consider myself very faith filled, and a Christian devoted to worship via service of my fellow man, I'm pretty sure none of them ever, shortly after coveting a strangers crazy bravado, tossed one back and let loose a half war cry, half plain ol' cry and "stair surfed" down into a waiting, welcoming, dirty basement, filled with the throbbing tones of Nine Inch Nails and debauchery... THAT was me! That was us. My husband lives his life in the most Godly way of any human being I've ever really known, at least in terms of what he does for this world, but he's also human. He used to be sort of a punk. A long-haired, hippy rocker. Now, the bald, stoic, principal in a tie, you'd never know it, but trust me, that punk is still in there!!! Yes, neither of us were nearly as "bad" as we thought we were. We were actually each really good kids, but not perfect. And, massive sinners if you are a Bible literalist... How can I be me in this light of inspection and be expected to pass? But, I have to be me. We have to be.

At the end of the day, we are not perfect. In any way. But man, can we love. We love God. We love each other. We love our kids. We love our family. And, we love our ginormous, diverse, circle of friends who are, in reality, amazingly good people who know how to have one hell of a good time.

So, this is me... imperfect me: I cuss too much; I guffaw too loud; I love a dirty joke; I occasionally over imbibe; I overuse exclamation points, run-on sentences and ellipses; I've got a temper like no other if you lie to me, hurt or mistreat someone just because you can, or, you catch me on a bad day (just being honest); and I have a really hard time forgetting when someone lets me down. I'm a sinner. I'm human. I'm just like you.

Why am I telling you my flaws when this whole process is about hiding them? Because I know those people on Reece's Rainbow are also human. I know you are human. I know that if we make it seem like only "perfect" people can do this, only perfect people will. And, well, I don't know any perfect people. Well, at least not any that I like. (I had a "perfect" boss once... She was actually the most heinous human being I've ever known, but she portrays herself as perfect. Ack!) See, we don't need perfect people. We need perfectly imperfect people with a desire to create and be change....we need perfectly imperfect people who believe that to truly spread the word of God, you need not speak or write a word. Just DO and BE God's vehicle to peace and a loving home for these abandoned children. Stop comparing yourself to those bios, I'm going to, and just DO!!

Moral of the story: if you are reading this blog expecting a wholesome story of a do-gooder...well, oops!! This is a blog about a human journey to help bring home a child who needs a home with loving, imperfect people. A home with dog hair tumble weeds, sippy spill stained couches, dishes in the sink and "homemade" dinners from Stouffers. A home with too much on the calendar, but more tickle time than timeouts. A home.

Tonight's happy ending...the meeting ended with our caseworker saying, "You are the perfect couple to do this. You get it. God bless your journey." ...now, isn't it ironic that my fears were of being compared to perfect and she called us perfect. I do believe she's right...while we're not perfect, we are perfect for this journey!

Happy Thanksgiving!!! In the words of my friend, B, "...MAKE GOOD CHOICES!!!!!!"




(Thanks B, your laughter will forever inspire my ornery nature. Much love!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

simple math

Today my friend Leslie and I connected after weeks of it just not working. She immediately said, "So? What's going on with Tabitha? When's your next fundraiser? What's the plan?"

I said, "I don't know!! It is soooo much harder to ask for money for yourself! I ask for money for my job all day long, why can't I do this? I'm struggling!"

She said, "Suck it up!"

That's right, no sympathy, no commiseration, just, "Suck it up! This is not about you, this is about that little girl who may be in a decent enough baby orphanage right now, but she is ultimately going to be sent to an asylum. So, you have to put on that Jill face, the one you put on all the time and use to make it happen for your athletes. It was hard for me to do, too, but then you remind yourself that it's important. It's why God put you in this place at this time. Don't ask why, just set the plan, pray and keep working, it'll happen. So, what's the plan?"

Okay, so I've known Leslie for a lot of years and believe me when I tell you, this woman has a strength that the girl I once knew never had. She gave me a good ol' Southern drawl tinged, fire and brimstone, come to Jesus, kinda talkin' to!! (see, she even made my written words lose their "g's"!! That's some kind of powerful!!)

So, after my "normal" work day ...ha! What's that?... I take the girls off to dance class and then, tu tu's and all (I was not wearing a tu tu, for those of you that got a momentary flash of crazy, the girls were), off to an S.O. basketball skills practice, then finally home. Dinner. Baths. Teeth brushed. A fight over who gets the Elmo jammies and whether chocolate is really an option after brushing our teeth (Sophie won, btw, so chocolate it was. then another round of teeth brushing). So, finally, peace and quiet. Now, how do we make this happen?

Well, it's simple math.

Looks like our total costs will be somewhere between $37-47k, depending on our luck with flights, lodging, lengths of stay required, etc., etc. (plus, if we aim high and you all prove me right, once again, that I've got the most amazing global circle of friends, then we could raise more than we need and whatever we don't need will go toward bringing home another child...so, in this case it's go big and bring 'em home!!

So far, about $2300 has been donated directly to Tabitha's adoption "account." I think we are going to raise around $1000 from the fudge fundraiser...probably more, but I'd rather be surprised with more, than disappointed with less. So, that leaves a target of $33.4-43.4K. Sounds ginormous, so how about we break it down...

Let's say we got a bunch of people, this is where the village comes in, to give $20...
 how big would that village need to be? Tiny! ...well, sort of tiny!! That's 1670 -2170 people.

This is doable.

Yes, a ton of people, but I know that between all of us, we can do this. It's telling our story to 1 more person. It's not being afraid to say what we're doing to one more stranger. It's asking our friends to please, please, please help us spread the word.

I may still be struggling with this, but with knowing that simplesth says that in 18 months this sweet little girl will be institutionalized because she had the audacity to be born with Down Syndrone, well then, Leslie's right, I can suck it up. I'm counting on simple math, the power of numbers, the power of prayer... Please join us and help us bring this little girl home. 

http://reecesrainbow.org/49961/sponsorreffett

1670 people! Can you help us reach out?

Thank you for joining this journey!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is this it?

My Mother did this amazing thing when I was a child...she told me that I was meant to do something great!

It was simple, and somehow not filled with pressure, just a statement made in the midst of hugs and kisses. When this is what you are told everyday of your young life, you live your life the way you want, but at the same time, there is a constant voice saying, "Is this it? Is this the great thing?"

When I graduated from college, the first in my family, I thought, "Is this it?" ...No, I can do better than this.

When I worked for corporate America in a worldwide management position in my early 20's I thought, "Is this it?" ...It felt good, but, it just didn't feel like "it."

When I moved back to my hometown area to be there for my family I thought, "Is this it?" ...mmm, closer, somethings starting to feel like the right path.

When I met and FINALLY dated and married a good guy (kissed a lot of frogs) I thought, "Is this it?" ...now we're getting somewhere.

When I was pregnant with my first child I thought, "Oh yes, this is it!" Then, she was born with Down Syndrome and 3 holes in her heart, and even though I had grown-up with a sister with physical disabilities, I REALLY found my eyes were opened to the world of special needs and I found my passion. I thought, "This HAS to be it!" ...getting warmer.

When our second daughter was born and I watched my two beautiful girls push each other through the developmental checklist and I found my 2 year old really caring for, loving and pushing her 3 year old sister to reach every milestone right along side her, sometimes even ahead of track, I thought, ""oooohhhh, if this isn't it, I don't know what is!" ...wait for it...

When I took the local Area Director of Special Olympics Illinois position and I worked tirelessly to show our community all our athletes CAN do and not what they can't, and I thought, "What do ya think, Mom, this is it, right? I'm there, right?" ...she sort of went, "enh, maybe!?"

THEN, I saw this little girl, this little girl who looked like my girls. She could have been one of my girls. Her Daddy's serious forehead and blonde hair. Her little sister's chubby cheeks and dimples. Her big sister's beautiful almond eyes. That was the moment I knew. No question. No fear. THIS was it! So it begins...

...just months ago my husband and I were looking through the site, ReecesRainbow.org, a site shared with us by friends when our oldest daughter was born with Down Syndrome. We had talked about adoptiong or fostering someday, ever since we met, really. Then, after our oldest daughter's diagnosis and rough start, we thought, okay, so we'll adopt a child with special needs...someday. Three and a half years flew, and suddenly, the time was here, whether we liked it or not!! You see, I'll be honest, it wasn't the right time financially, or as far as "time" goes, the RIGHT time, at all. But, while attending the National Down Syndrome Congress Conference in Washington D.C. this summer we both got really excited when we saw an open forum on adoption was set for the third day. We really went into that session thinking we'd learn about the process and ultimately do a fundraiser for them this year, to help get some kiddos home. Then, in looking at the site to find fundraising ideas and to think about exactly how we were going to do this, I saw my daughter. MY daughter. I tried to ignore it...for weeks. Then, I started dreaming about her. A lot. In fact, it was making me sort of crazy. I kept dreaming about her and sometimes she was there with me and my oldest daughter was there in that picture in that orphanage. It was making me ill. I was thinking about how easily that little girl could have been my oldest. If my oldest had been born there, that would be my girl, my RayLee. And then, I thought, that IS my girl. So, I finally fessed up to Chris and he was feeling it, too...

So starts the jouney

Fast forward a million questions, emails, phone calls and forms later and we are in the midst of adopting a beautiul little girl from Russia with Down Syndrome. This little girl is in an orphanage purely because she dared to be born with Down Syndrome...a throw away child...one of the forgotten...the not important. At the age of four she will be moved to an institution, essentially an asylum...a Eastern European asylum. A beautiful four year old with Down Syndrome shut away in conditions that we often see in movies based on our worst nightmares. My logical side says, "how can we do this?" My heart and soul says, "how can we not?"

The first picture we saw of this beauty was so serious, so beautiful, so forlorn, so sad. We said yes, and suddenly the picture was changed, and we have this smiling, chubby cheeked picture of a little cutie in a swing with a smile on her whole face and into her eyes. Coincidence? I think not!

This week we started into the homestudy and the glorious home study paperwork. Let me just say that by the time its all said and done they will know the color of my...eyes...right down to the size of my...shoes...it's in-depth, kids, don't you doubt it! :)

This evening my family attended a small Mass for a Bible study group with Br. Ed and I was reminded of how much I love Mass, but that at the end of the day, my oldest daughter, RayLee, she is the one who saved my soul. She reminded me what is important, and that is proof that God sends us our children to remember, to learn, to grow just as we help them learn and grow. Then, we left to go over to Quarter Madness to see our friends, Gerilynn and Renee, in action as they shared news that will help take us one step closer to making this happen and I realized that while we can't do this alone, and while I am so afraid of how we are ultimately going to make it happen, we dont' have to do it alone...we have an amazing community, amazing friends and an amazing God. We will do this. It may be one quarter at a time. It may mean selling off every single exta little item I have in my home. Heck, it may mean selling Grandma's table that means so much to me, but not as much as the life of a child.

We will do this. And then, when she's home, we'll help someone else do it. Why? Because, if not me(us), then who? If not now, then when?




Sneak peek: next time I'll overshare just what homestudy questionaires are really like...they really want TMI!!! (beware old boyfriends, I was compelled to share all my dirty laundry!) :)