Monthly Archives: September 2014

Ms. Angela

We had just moved to town and wanted a safe and loving place to send our 4 year old eldest son to preschool. A friend of a friend steered us toward a place. Inside that place was a vivacious, energetic, passionate lover of all children, Ms. Angela. As a 4 year old preschool repeater, our middle son had the gift of receiving her love and care for two consecutive years. She seemed born to live life amongst young children.

In the years that followed, we became Bible students, friends and moms raising children together. As mom of two daughters and one son, she often talked of raising boys with this mom of three male children. We did not always cross paths regularly, but we did make a point to catch up at least once or twice a year.

Her zest for life spilled over into everything that she pursued, whether it was teaching preschool, selling jewelry, raising funds for orphans or being Nana. Each time we got together, she excitedly shared her latest pursuits, faith journey and general life learnings .

When we adopted our daughters, she gave me her take on raising two girls close together in age. Her gift to them was a pair of monogrammed “fancy pants” to be worn proudly under their beautiful dresses. Not much of a monogram girl myself, she shed light on the idea that two girls so close in age need material things to claim as just their own. Monograms sealed that.

There were many bumps and dips along the way. She didn’t fake it when things were challenging or confusing along her life path. I could safely share my own struggles and valleys with her. I know that there were periods in her life when loneliness was a nagging companion. We were a safe place for each other. I was thrilled to learn in recent years that she had returned to the preschool classroom where she gave and received so much joy.

In early June, my cell phone lit up with her name. Just a few days earlier, she had asked for one of my “move purge facebook giveaways” for one of her children. So I assumed she was calling about that. I answered with a playful “what you want?” I wish I had voiced different words and tone in that moment. Her shaky voice shared the devastating news that she had cancer – the doctors believed there was treatment but no cure. I did not know it then, but on that June day, the last words that I would hear from her voice were, “I feel so very loved and supported.”

The news was grim and just kept getting grimmer along her painful path.   I expressed my love and care for her in several different ways but I wished to have the chance to tell her goodbye face to face, hug her neck one more time and express my love for her. This was not to be and went along with my greater desire that she and her family be allowed to navigate her end of life in their chosen way.

Our initial path crossing happened almost a quarter century ago. Yesterday, my friend left this world and passed on to the next. My heart is at rest and peace that this big hearted, God loving, joy scattering friend left this world feeling loved. I look forward to reuniting with her in a place where goodbye will no longer be necessary. Goodbye for now, dear Angela.

A well loved fish

My writing life has had to lie fairly dormant during this season of change and move and settling. Thankfully, we now have all of our furniture and can see the light at the end of the “making this place our home” tunnel. I wish for more space and time to do the things that I love and high on that list is writing.

Arrow III became a part of our family in the winter of 2012. His predecessors, Arrow I and Arrow II, lived very brief beta fish lives. He was a birthday gift to our youngest, highly heart sensitive, animal loving girl, and this mom was determined that she would have a pet fish that lived longer than a week. The third fish was the charm and he has been loved and cared for by a child with a very nurturing and big heart for almost 3 years.

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He has been in decline for a while. Back in July, friends who keep him for us when we vacation were concerned that he might not make it until we returned. But several times when we thought that he was about to depart this life, he would perk back up and be coaxed by his caretaker to keep on swimming. Until last week.

He was struggling. My sweet daughter and I had many conversations around his decline. Do fish feel pain? Was it time for us to help him along? We had been told that if you put a fish in the freezer, their lives end quickly. One day she tried to do it, but she just could not. She asked me to do it but as I tried to get him out, he darted around, swam to the top of his tank and displayed too much life for me to end it.

But several days ago, he was lying almost sideways in his tank and did not scoot around when jiggled. I knew it was time. Having been given permission by his caretaker, I did what seemed best. It was hard. My girl talked and cooed to this fish like he was a newborn baby.

When she got home from school and I shared the news, she grieved and cried and began to plan his funeral. I got home a bit late that evening and she and her dad were laying Arrow to rest. She wanted him to have a grave marker and so we searched our yard and here is where he is laid to rest.

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We have an almost 15 year old dog, and the day may come when we are faced with this decision about him. Maybe this was a small preparation for a choice that will be much more difficult for me personally. Loss and saying goodbye are a big part of life. I am grateful that my girl and I walked through this together and for all the lessons learned from Arrow the well loved fish.

Transitions and mother guilt

I have a close friend of twenty plus years, and we have traveled through many parenting stages, challenges and joys together. Whenever we begin to criticize or beat ourselves up in front of the other, we have a code phrase – “mother guilt”. The listener speaks those two words, we smile and laugh together and then move on realizing that we are never going to be perfect, we are doing the best that we can and there is grace in the journey. We have been saying this to each other for over twenty years.

In light of our recent move, I have experienced more than a few moments of mother guilt. Phrases such as, “it would have been easier on our children (those currently living with us as well as those who spent most of their childhood in one home) if we had just stayed where we were”, “what were we thinking when we decided to do this?” have at times rolled through my heart and mind. To be completely honest, I have also had my fair share of “I am so glad we are doing this in our 50’s and not our 70’s” moments as well – especially as we have dealt with choosing what is stuff to share and what is treasure to keep for a bit longer.

No one in our family now enjoys going into our staged and sterile house that was once so full of real life and mess and joy. As we travel back and forth between the old and new home, I have realized that we need to do something tangible to mark this transition. It would help each of us to acknowledge and deal with the various emotions coursing through us during this time. Together our girls and I decided we would take a brick from our old house, paint it and place it in a special place in our new home. I have also chosen a special gift for each family member to commemorate our 23 years together in that place. Physical markers of such a transition can be helpful as we move through it and make peace with our new place. 

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On a recent walk with a thirty year plus dear friend and in the midst of one of my “I’m not so sure this was a good idea” moments, she spoke life and grace to me. I wasn’t mindfully expressing mother guilt, but somehow she accurately picked up the vibe. She said something like, “I was thinking the other day that this time of moving and transition will be truly good and healthy for your girls. It will be like a mini, practice college type transition”. My therapist confirmed the truth and wisdom of these words.

In adoptive parenting literature, it is often communicated that leaving home for college or elsewhere can be a particularly stressful, triggering and difficult time for many adoptees. I know that this launching out into the world passage can be challenging for all parents and children. Transitions are a time to stretch and grow and learn and prepare for what might be down the road. We all need to practice. I am most grateful for people in my life who speak truth, love and grace into my heart and mind. Back off mother guilt!