Monday, November 12, 2012

Life is short...

Life is short!  How many times have we heard that refrain... and how many times have we nodded our heads in agreement and then just gone on with our lives.   This phrase hit home hard with me this week as I lost a dear friend and sorority sister.  She was only 49 years old, too early to pass on, we all said.  I then learned yesterday of the deaths of two high school classmates each of whom also died at the age of 49.  Forty-nine.. my age.  All three women left children, friends, and families behind.

The loss of someone you care about makes you acutely more aware of  the death and loss that surrounds you.  Every single day, we hear of the loss of life somewhere in the world.  Accidents, disease, war, natural disaster- people are dying, or as I like to think about it- transitioning to the other side on a daily basis.  We are all headed there which is a thought that is both scary and conforting at the same time.    It still hurts when someone passes on and we grieve in spite of the fact that they are not truly gone...just somewhere else.   Even when you believe in life after death, in heaven or reincarnation and a heavenly love-filled otherside as I do, the people we love are no longer here, no longer with us on earth.

So if death is unavoidable, what is there to learn from the passing of those in our lives?   It sounds so cliche, but for me it really does go back to the idea of "life is short."  So often we take life for granted and these deaths are certainly a wake up call to me. Enjoy every precious second, squeeze every drop of joy out of life, treasure those you love, don't let fear stop you from trying to live your dreams and petty disagreements should not ruin relationships.   The phrase "don't sweat the small stuff" has never had more meaning to me then it does today.  

Have you ever met someone who lives life with the motto of living with joy?   They are fabulous to have around and are generally surrounded by people who just want to be near them.  Why?  Because they are not complaining, arguing, judging others, trying to gather more "stuff" or wondering what others think of them.     They are living in the moment and finding joy and peace even in the tough times.   I want to be one of them.  I am not there yet, but I strive to be.

All I can do, all any of us can do is to start today.  Start over and work toward a life where every moment is precious.  I heard a saying once- "While you complain about your life, someone else is wishing they had just one more day left in theirs."   I will make an even more concerted effort now to seek joy and beauty, to savor a good book, to learn, to take risks to pursue my dreams, to write, to enjoy the company of others and myself and above all be grateful for my blessings.  I will work to block negativity, anger, and toxic words and thoughts from myself and others.  Life really is a more peaceful and joy-filled experience when you filter and control what you allow to rent space in your head.

Life is short.  I am guessing that my friend and classmates would tell me to start living it to the fullest because there are no promises as to how long it will last.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I Wish She Knew

Thirteen years ago this week, my life changed in a most extraordinary way. After 24 hours plus of plane rides and bus rides, I was in Nanchang, China. I stood in a hotel hallway, a little weary from lack of sleep and then the babies and their caretakers began arriving from the Suichuan orphanage- which was in the country, 3 hours away by car. My name was called and placed into my arms was a beautiful 8 1/2- month- old baby girl who had been named Long Feng- my incredible Lily Grace. In that moment I became a mom!   Her Chinese name, bestowed upon her by the nannies in the orphanage can be translated to Phonenix and Dragon or Emperor and Empress.   She was aptly named.

I began the journey to adopt Lily on my 35th birthday.  I was not married and wanted to become a mom.  I had researched every possible option and decided that adoption, specifically from China, was the right answer for me.  I wanted a daughter and I knew that thousands if not millions of baby girls were abandoned in China- the pressure was intense for a woman to produce a son and when you added in the government's one couple/one child policy and a big dose of poverty, especially in the countryside, it was a recipe for a huge problem.  At the time, single women could adopt after age 35 so, on that birthday, I visited the adoption agency and began the paperwork.  Lots of paperwork followed- applications; social worker visits and homestudies; proof of employment, income, medical status; letters of reference and more.  But I got it all done and mailed it off to China.  About ten months later, I received news- I was matched with a baby!   I got a photo and medical information and needed to make my decision- was this my baby? Yes it was!   Travel was set for the next month.

Lily has always been strong-willed, smart, confident and a force to be reckoned with.  She never whined or even cried much as a baby and toddler- she screamed instead.  Once she found her words, Lily would try to reason, cajole, debate and convince you to get her way.  This is the child who told me at about age 4-when she had a fever that wasn't breaking and I said we might have to go to the hospital- that "I  (meaning me) had lost my mind if I thought we should go to the hospital this late at night."   When asked at age 5, "who you going to be for Halloween"- she looked puzzled and said "Um, me, I am going to be me just wearing a costume."   My brilliant Lily - who made a powerpoint presentation last year to give us a Christmas wish list for herself and her sister. 

I am so lucky to have this brilliant, strong, beautiful girl in my life and we will celebrate all week! My hope and prayer is that somewhere, somehow her birthmother knows that is growing up to be an amazing young lady and that she is cherished beyond measure.  I have no idea who her birthmother is and have no information about the circumstances of her life.  I don't know if she thinks about the daughter who is no longer in her life but I have to imagine that she does.  I wish I could tell her so much:

* Lily was found where you left her and cared for with love in the orphanage until I could be reunited with her- yes we were together before.

*  She is thriving in America- smart as heck, great student, runner, wonderful cello player and great friend, sister and daughter.

*  She is loved by many including two sisters who love and treasure her.

*  Her future is incredibly bright, she is already planning to attend college, considering a career and thinking about how she will live her life.

* She is curious about you, but holds no ill will against you for the circumstances of her birth and the pain of losing you.  She knows enough about the circumstances in China and the pressure that you must have faced.

* I think of you often and keep you in my thoughts and prayers,  I feel a spiritual connection to you and feel that I have an understanding of why and how we are connected in this way.

*  I thank you for choosing to give her life- she has made my life so much more complete.

 The path to adopting both my daughters was filled with twists and turns, delays, coincidences (not that I believe in those) and a deep sense of knowing that I MUST do this, my children were waiting for me and that everything would line up in time if I just went for it and had a little faith.  I love my amazing daughters!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Myth of Supermom

I feel like a blog slacker! It has been far too long since I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Life as a single mom is a busy one -wonderful but busy! And that is the thought that inspired today's post. "How do you do it" - I have been asked this question multiple times by well meaning people with eyes full of sympathy and sometimes judgement about my life as a single mom. What do you mean "how", you just do it! Motherhood, actually parenthood- in order not to be sexist here- brings with it a bunch of challenges and life style changes. But, for me, the positives so outweigh any challenge or sacrifice, there is no contest.

For me, the challenges of single motherhood come in two categories, financial and logistical. Do my kids have all of the material possessions and stuff that alot of their friends possess, heck no. Can they be involved in as many activities as their friends, nope. It is not logistically possible to pay for it all (esp with an ex who thinks child support is optional- but that is another post) or to drive two kids to different locations for activities at the same time. Did my kids spend time in daycare so their mom could pursue a career and work to pay the mortgage, buy health insurance, food..., etc. Yes they did. Does my house and yard need a ton of work I can't quite afford right now- yep. Lest you stop reading this because it appears to be turning into a post complaining about how hard this all is -take heart, as I am not going there!

I believe that not getting everything you want as a kid never destroyed anyone. In fact, a little struggle and the need to prioritize family needs over personal needs has been a good lesson for my kids. The three of us are a team. My kids both know they will be getting jobs when they can to save for a car and college. Scholarships will need to be obtained. The oldest needs to babysit the youngest so mom can work and has to miss some time with her friends. Such is the nature of life and I see the seeds of understanding developing in them- that everything is not handed to you, choices must be made, times can get tough and guess what, you get through it just fine. Most of all I hope that they are learning resilence, independence and to have confidence in themselves. It is also good for them to know while they don't have "everything" they have a heck of alot more than most of the rest of the world.

My daughters are great kids and turning into amazing young women in spite of or perhaps because of what they "don't have." Both are getting straight A's, are well mannered, strong in spirit, have good friends and are a joy to me. They are not perfect of course- no kid is, but I feel very blessed. Which leads me to the original intent of this post, How do you do it?

1. Gratitude. I am so blessed and lucky to have a good job, talents, strength and good health. I am blessed with healthy, great kids. Frankly one of the reasons I can "do it" is because they are not hard kids to raise. I fully realize that it could be alot harder, neither have major health issues or special needs. I got lucky, and when the China Center for Adoption Affairs matched me with these particular girls, they got it right.

  2. Really want it. I really, really, really wanted to be a mom. I have learned more, grown more and been filled with more love than I ever could have imagined. They have forever altered me and opened up my capacity to love.   I also became a mom later in life, first at 36 years-old and then again at 40. The sacrifices and lifestyle changes that others complain about don't bug me because I was ready for them. I had a ton of fun in my twenties and early thirties (none of which will ever be a blog post!) The adoption process is a long and detailed one and it makes you think and prepare for parenthood.

3. Give up the "Supermom" myth- it is not real. I have bad days, yell at my kids, get sick of my work commute, get frustrated and my house is often a mess. We often fish matching (or close to matching) socks out of the dryer, we watch too much TV, sometimes after a long day and 90 minute commute, dinner is unhealthy mac and cheese. I am the mom at the bus stop signing yesterday's homework report and have never been room mom- my volunteer efforts have to be after work hours.  When my kids were younger, I was in awe of the moms with organized, zip locked diaper bags with snacks, crayons and wipes. I was lucky to find kleenex and leftover saltine crackers. We have gone a few days without cable until payday. But I do my best- work hard, try to set an example and love my kids with all my heart.  I strive to excel at work, write, voluteer, be a good friend and better mom.  I  do it as well as I can but certainly not at supermom level. My house isn't organized or always spotless but when you visit you will find a smile, two crazy dogs, great kids and a homemade cookie (I would rather bake than mop the floor.) I get concerned about my younger friends who are about to have babies and are planning to be perfect, it is much easier and more fun to go with the flow.

4. Laugh as much as possible and cry when you need to- there is not a damn thing wrong with letting out a few tears once in a while. As long as when you are through, you dry them off and carry on.

5. Squeeze as much joy out of your kids as you can. I remind myself that time will fly by and in the blink of an eye they will be off to college. I remember my girls as babies needing to be rocked through the night, particularly just after coming home from China. I remember sleeping on the floor by Lily's crib - she was never alone in the orphanage and hated it. Her little head would pop up when I would try to crawl out of the room and she would look me straight in the eye and wail.  Uncomfortable and tired, I had this flash of insight...she will be 15-years-old one day and not want to spend time with me. There will be a "keep out" or "please knock" sign on the bedroom door not an "I love you, need you, please don't leave me cry."  Treasure these moments when she needs you and wants you. Isn't it exraordinary how deeply you can love one another?

6. Don't give other people's criticism, opinions or pity space in your head. Do it your way and if other people don't like it..too bad.

7.  It is OK to ask for and receive help!  This was a big lesson for me- Miss I can do it all by myself. 
Nope, you can't and that is perfectly alright.  I have gratefully accepted lots of help from amazing friends, neighbors and family.  I am also a spiritual person so I have spent time in prayer and meditation seeking clarity and strength.

So when you meet a single mom, don't feel sorry for her or peg her as superwoman.   And please don't assume that her kids are screwed up.  Her kids just might be terrific. She is blessed beyond measure and might be having the time of her life! She gets to be a mom- and it does't get much better than that!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Together Again!

Together Again! Yes, that is the refrain that goes through my mind when I think of my daughters and the amazing journey that brought our hearts and souls back together in this lifetime. The journey to come together through adoption as mother and daughters and sisters spanned thousands of miles and years of planning, praying, hoping and dreaming. Together Again is also the name of the children’s book that I wrote to describe this journey and may resonate with other families who were built through adoption.

I have been telling our story for years to anyone who would listen -through my blog, articles and verbally. If you ask me why I traveled to China to adopt my daughters, get ready to hear the story. Because it is not just my story, it is our story. It is the story of the connection of the human race and of the human spirit. It is the story of the soul connections that are woven between all of humanity - no matter who we are, where we live, how much money we make, who we vote for or how we see the world. Adoption is an amazing example of those soul connections in action. In the adoption triad of birthparents, child and adoptive parents- we are all connected. It is no accident that we feel drawn to adopt from a certain country, from the foster care system or that we connect with birthparents and feel as though we were meant to find one another. It feels real and meant to be because it is supposed to happen that way.

It took me a while to realize what all this meant; that our lives and souls come together as planned. I followed my heart and intuition to adopt my daughters. The circumstances, delays, processes and what I thought at the time were coincidences actually conspired to connect me with these particular children. These girls could not fit more perfectly in my life and family than if they came to me biologically. So many adoptive parents understand exactly what I am talking about. And unfortunately, many who have not experienced adoption or any sort of non-traditional family do not.

It has become part of my life’s mission to help people understand adoption in the bigger context of spiritual connection. Over the past 13 years, as I grappled with the questions, complexities and emotions of adoption, I have come to such an understanding about what it really means. Adoption is not second choice or second best but meant to be, just as it is for all involved. We plan these relationships and these soul connections in our lives for a reason. Discovering the reason and lessons of these relationships are part of the beauty and mystery of our lives.

Ask an adoptive parent about his or her family and they will tell you that is feels destined and “meant to be.” It feels that ways because it is. Blood may be thicker than water, but spirit connects us all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Must politics always get so nasty?

It is that time of year again in the U.S.- we are gearing up for a presidential election. The gloves have come off and the nastiness is in full swing- candidates in the primary airing negative ads about one another and of course name calling between parties and candidates. Poitical pundits, talk show hosts and bloggers feel free to join the fray as well. Lies, taunts and name calling- are we in elementary school? No, I am afraid not, these are grown-ups and they are acting in ways that we would counsel our children against.

The reason for the meanness and vitriol? Well, the other person has the audacity to have a differing opinion or share an opposite point of view. That does not make them evil, nazis or sluts. The funny thing that people have forgotten is that this is America, a country founded on that exact principle - that you are entitled to hold your own beliefs. You have the freedom to practice or NOT practice a religion, you can be a Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, member of the Tea Party, Occupy Movement, Independent, Green Party or apathy party if you want.

So why has this whole election gotten so angry and mean? This country has been in far tougher times before without having to get so vicious with one another in order to make changes. Why the personal attacks, disrespect, name calling and attacks based on gender? What is wrong with a rational debate, discussion of the issues and explanation of different viewpoints? Voters then choose the candidate that best represents their personal opinion of how the country should be managed. And then, guess what- sometimes in a country with varying opinions, you have to find common ground and compromise to get the work done.

How did we get so polarized and lose our focus as a people? When did we lose our ability to see one another's humanity and spiritual connectedness even if we disagree? I guess our politicians and party leaders think Americans are stupid and not able to make an informed choice so they feed us lies, soundbites, negativity and well..... crap. I have greater faith in the American people whom I think are getting fed up and tired of listening to all of the cruelty and PR spin. I hope the politicians are listening to us.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wish I could give them the world!

What a fabulous week for me! We celebrated Avery's 9th birthday and her gotcha day. Eight years ago this week, a few days after her first birthday, Avery was placed in my arms in Guangdong province, China and will forever be my daughter. She spent the first year of her life in an orphanage in Gaoming and adopting her is one the two best decisions of my life. The other best decision was adopting my other daughter Lily, from Jiangxi province several years earlier.

Parenthood is a marvelous spiritual, physical and emotional journey and has fulfilled something in me that I don't think could have been met any other way. I believe so strongly in life plans and soul agreements which are basically deals we make with one another and God before birth. We agree to love, challenge, teach and help one another grow and learn the lessons that we are here to learn. I think of my girls as walking testaments of faith because their entrance into my circle this lifetime was filled with twists, turns, agreements and reaching across thousands of miles for one another. I am lucky to have them because seeing them daily reminds me of how the hand of the divine helps guide us if we let it and that the universe will line up behind you to make your dreams happen if you are on the right path.

I hope my children's book Together Again begins to shed a little light on this beautiful mystery of life, how the cord between heaven and earth is real. Now I need to write more, in different genres to continue to spread the word.

My extraordinary daughters have so many gifts and much to offer the world and one another. I watch them together and realize that they are probably not even aware of how much they are learning from each other. My wish is that they cherish one another for a lifetime. As their mom, I wish I could give them the world, open all the doors possible so they can grow into the women they are meant to be and fulfill the soul agreements that they have made. I am truly blessed to be a witness to it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 is here!

2012 is here! I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around that one - another year has passed. Let's hope the Mayans got it wrong and we have many more to come. Another year older, hopefully another year wiser. I have accomplished much in 2011 and have much more to do in 2012 and beyond. I am amazed at how fast my girls are growing up and how time seems to speed by more quickly, the older that I get.

The New Year is a time to remember the past year and dream, imagine and envision the next one. Lots to be grateful for in 2011- amazing healthy kids who are doing well, wonderful family and friends, a boyfriend who sends flowers on a regular basis and two incredible opportunities- a fabulous new job and the publishing of my children's book, Together Again.

What am I envisioning in 2012- a focus on prosperity of all types- more writing, financial success and stability, continued spiritual growth (need to get my meditation practice back on track) and fitness and health. Instead of resolutions, I am focusing on life themes and goals.

What are your themes for 2012?