Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Beauty in Waiting

I'm finally well enough to get out into the garden.  And while I can't do everything I usually do, I was able to pull some weeds (with the help of this handy contraption--I'm still too sore to do a lot of bending from the waist.)  As I worked, I inspected the beds, trying to get an idea of what needed to be done and how to pace myself.  From past experience I know that while I will probably cleared for normal activity in mid-June, it will most likely be several more months before I'm able to do everything I want to do. Hauling mulch bags.  Digging garden beds.  Transplanting overgrown perennials.  Since I'm the family gardener, all of that will have to wait.

I hate waiting.  Yet it seems that half of my life is spent waiting for something.  Waiting to recover from surgery.  Waiting to bring my kids home from China.  Waiting for the new kids to adjust to living in a family.  Waiting for my book to be published.  The list goes on an on.  If I could, I'd cut out all of the waiting in my life and just. Get. On. With. It.

While I slowly worked my way through the garden, I noticed spent daffodil leaves in all of my beds.  What a mess.  The impatient part of me said, "Cut the leaves back immediately!"  The gardener in my said, "Wait."
Daffodil leaves beside a hosta.

You see, those spent leaves are more than an eyesore.  They're working, absorbing sunlight and transforming it into food for next year's blooms.  The leaves must be allowed to yellow and then brown before you cut them back.  Cut the leaves too soon (or braid them as some gardeners do) and your daffodils won't bloom next year.

It's taking everything in me not to run out and cut these back.

How do I know this?  Well, let's just say that last year my impatience go the better of me.  Despite knowing better, I cut back the leaves before they had completely died, and this year, less than half of my daffodils bloomed.  Waiting and dying are vital parts of the daffodil's life cycle.

As much as I hate it, waiting and dying are also vital parts of our life cycle.  I don't mean physical death, although that can apply too, instead I meaning dying to our selves.  To the fast paced world in which we live where everything must happen Right Now.

I'm working to consciously slow down, because I wonder what we're missing as we rush through our days.  We need to stop and appreciate the beauty in waiting, and in dying to the need to hurry through our lives.  If we do, I believe we will be stunned by what blooms when the wait is over.      

Monday, May 25, 2015

Love is a Verb

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend Together in the Trenches, a retreat for adoptive and foster moms.  The purpose of the retreat was to provide a time of rest and refreshment for adoptive and foster moms.  And let me tell you, I needed that rest and refreshment.

Other moms put this retreat together just to love on those of us who are struggling in the adoption journey.  You all, I have never experienced this before.  Someone did my hair.  (I haven't had a hair cut since August!)  There was coffee and chocolate (name-brand chocolate!) available All the Time.  Someone else made bath salts for us.  If you're a mom, you understand just how much it means to have someone take care of you for a change.

I have been trudging through the trenches of adoption since 2005, and I am weary.  I often feel lonely.  But not this weekend.  This weekend I saw Love In Action.  Love expressed the way I believe God means for us to express it.  It's great to have someone say they love you, but to have someone show you that love is an entirely different experience.

I didn't realize how much I needed to be with a group of moms who "got" my experience.  To be in a place where I could say, "It's been a month since my five-year-old has tried to stab anyone," and they would understand that that was progress.

These moms got just how tough it is to parent our kids.  They understood that sometimes (okay, a lot of times) I just want to hide in bed and pull the covers over my head.  I don't want to change an 11 year old's diapers.  I don't want to spend the day teaching my five-year-old that we don't hit the cats with wooden blocks.  I don't want to spend the day searching for my eight-year-old's glasses because two of my kids steal and hide things.  Then there's the lying, the manipulating, the stealing, the food hoarding...sigh.  It's enough to drive you nuts.

Can I be honest a minute?  (Okay, you know I will.  I like to keep it real here.)  All parenting is tough.  But you enter a new dimension when your kids come from hard places.  In the sports world, they have Extreme Sports.  I like to call adoptive / foster parenting Extreme Parenting.  There are things I just can't talk about with my mom-friends who have not adopted.  And while I love, love, love, my non-adoptive mom friends, it was so nice to be in a place where everyone's family looked like mine!  Where we shared the same griefs and triumphs.  Where it was safe to say, "I'm barely hanging on here," and not fear judgement.  Where those other moms understood both the depths of my grief for the pain my children have endured, and the depths of my joy at the hurdles they've overcome.

It was a weekend of finding beauty in ashes.  A weekend of walking beside other moms who are laying down their lives daily for their kiddos.  Even when those kids spit on them, or hit them, or scream, "You're not my real mom!"  These moms keep showing up.

To my fellow adoptive moms.  Keep trudging through those trenches.  I'm with you.  I love you.  I support you.  I'm in awe of your strength.  The width and breadth of your love for your children inspires me.  I know you don't always feel that love.  I don't either.  But love is a verb.  You show your love for your kids every day.  Some days, just the fact that you get out of bed is an act of love.

Somewhere along the way, I started to believe that I had to be perfect. I forgot that sometimes, just showing up is enough.  This weekend, I realized that I don't have to fix all of my kids' issues.  It's enough that I show up and walk beside them on this journey.

This weekend I saw love in action, and for that I am so thankful.

Friday, May 22, 2015


A sunflower from the beautiful arrangement my cousin and her husband sent while I was in the hospital.

I'm finally well enough to give everyone an update.  For those who don't know, I spent the last month in the hospital and then recovering from surgery.  On a Sunday night in mid-April I started with abdominal pain and a fever so it was off to the emergency room for me.  Once there, a CAT scan showed an abscess on my left ovary / fallopian tube.  This is the second time in two years that I've had an abscess in the same spot.  Last time, they were able to insert a tube and drain the abscess, but no such luck this time.

This time, I needed surgery, but because of my history of Crohn's disease, I am not a good candidate for surgery.  I've had several abdominal surgeries and this has resulted in a lot of scar tissue which is what makes surgery so difficult on me.  For example, several years ago, doctors tried to remove my right over because I was having trouble with cysts and pain.  But there was so much scar tissue in my abdomen that they couldn't find my ovary.   That's right.  After looking for over an hour, the doctor Couldn't.  Find.  It.  I don't know how you lose an ovary inside your body, but apparently that's one of my skills.

Needless to say, the doctors were reluctant to operate this time, but abscesses can become life-threatening so we pushed ahead.  I spent a week and a half in the hospital hooked up to IV antibiotics before the surgery, waiting for the fevers and my white blood cell count to drop.

Luckily, I had a great surgeon.  He made an eight-inch vertical incision on my abdomen and plunged in.  The plan was to do a complete hysterectomy.  Basically, to go in and take everything he could find.  (Ha! I thought.  Maybe this time my uterus will be the one playing Hide and Seek!)  Typically, the surgery takes an hour-and-a-half.  On me, it took four hours.  But the good news is all of my organs were where they were supposed to be, and the surgeon removed everything except the cervix.  He couldn't take it because it was plastered to other organs with scar tissue and he didn't want to risk cutting something vital.

Good move, I think.

It's now been three weeks since the surgery and I'm finally able to walk without doubling over.  I'm exhausted by the end of the day and still pretty sore, but I don't need pain meds constantly.  Driving is still difficult.  I still have lifting restrictions, and I need to rest pretty often, but all in all, it's been a pretty good surgery/recovery.  (And as this is my 7th abdominal surgery in 12 years, I think I now qualify as an expert!)

Slowly, I've been venturing outside of the house.  Last weekend, I forced the family to drive to Lexington for the Kentucky Wool Festival.  Yes, it was raining.  Yes, I needed pretty heavy pain-killers to survive the long drive, but it was worth it!  (I'm planning a write up next week.)  We made it to church on Sunday, and today, I'm heading to a retreat for adoptive and foster moms.  (I'll also write about that next week.)  Despite still being in a fair bit of pain, I feel like I'm getting my life back.

Truly, the psychological recovery from major surgery is as difficult as the physical recovery.  We don't pay enough attention to that, and so before I had all this surgical experience, I was always surprised by how depressed I would get.  This time hasn't been that bad, and I am Grateful!  In fact, as I write this, in little bit, I think I'll do a week-long series on surviving hospital stays / surgery.  I think as a culture we ignore anything involving sickness / death and as a result, we are completely unprepared when it happens to us (or a loved one.)  I'd like to start a dialogue about that.

Finally, I'll do separate updates on the kids and on my novel.  But here's a very short update.  The kids are all doing well.  They all finish school next week.  And Sarah graduates from high school!  Crazy!  Gabrielle turned 5 on Sunday.  She's so stinkin cute, I can't stand it!  We still have some (ok, a lot) behavior issues to work through with the two newest kiddos, but that will come in time.

On the book front, I have a tentative publication date.  Right now, the book is scheduled for release in August of 2016.  (The release date got bumped back a few times due to various publishing conflicts.)  Right now, I'm working on my second novel (or rather, I'm trying to get back into working on my second novel.  This surgery has thrown everything out of whack!) and waiting for the final edits for the first novel.  The publisher needs the final manuscript for Book One this August, so I'll likely spend the summer going back and forth with my editor a few times to make the book even more Fabulous!

I know this post was long and rambling.  I blame Percocet.  :-)

My girl loves her birthday cake!