Showing posts with label challenges. Show all posts
Showing posts with label challenges. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Mom and Alzheimer's- Forever Grateful for Just ONE Moment

Me and my mama, Jacqueline Joslin Sellers.
In this photo, my mom is 39, the age I am now.

I had a "normal" mother for the first 30 years of my life. But by my wedding date, she was no longer the mom I knew.

My mother has Alzheimer's Disease.

When I finally became a mother at the age of 36, the "loss" of my own mother became more apparent. Strands of this deep loss are woven into my extreme joy. I see how my friends' mothers interact with their grandchildren and I feel sad. Sad that my daughter, my mother, and I were all robbed of generational experiences that I now long for. 

My mother will never know my daughter. My daughter will know of her maternal grandmother, but she will never know her. Not on this Earth, or in this lifetime anyway. I am comforted by a vivid dream my sister, Marilee, recently shared with me. In it, my mother told Marilee that when she wasn't here (mentally present), she was with God and it was beautiful. Marilee said my mother radiated peace and that Mom was the happiest and most beautiful she'd ever seen her.

I'm embarrassed and saddened to admit I never truly appreciated my mother until I became a mother myself. Until then, I focused on her flaws and her parenting faults. But now I want to ask her how she did it. How did she manage birthing and caring for my four brothers all by the age of 26? How and why did she manage to have six children when I find one overwhelming? How did she sacrifice so much to raise us all? How did she not seem to be tired, stressed, or depleted? These are questions that will go unanswered.

At the end of September, my little girl (I call her Beni-Bird) and I flew from Texas to the east coast to visit my family. We made an overnight trip to my hometown and got a chance to see my mom. 

My brother, Paul, and Marilee tried to prepare me as I hadn't seen her for two years. Mom is now in a wheelchair, they said, and sometimes she is unresponsive. Paul said he stayed only three minutes last time because it was just too painful to see her in that state. 

As fate would have it, when I saw Mom it was a "good day" for her. She was awake, and alert, and in a pleasant mood. I knew Mom wouldn't know who we were. But still I was unprepared when my brother, Mark, introduced my sister and I and she asked, "But where are the real ones?" 

My active two and 1/2-year-old seemed to sense the seriousness of the moment. She was very still as I introduced her. "Beni, this is my mama, your grandmother."

At the end of our visit, we all wheeled Mom back into the dining room of the Alzheimer's unit. We put her at the table amid the other unit residents, some who needed to be fed by an aide because they had forgotten how to feed themselves. Mom asked us not to leave her because then, "Who will I talk to?" 

I put Beni in front of her and once again told Mom this was my daughter, her granddaughter. Mom just kept repeating, "she's so beautiful, she's so beautiful" and even got teary as she said it. This was my ONE moment. My mother acknowledged my daughter on an emotional (and dare I say spiritual) level. 

Then, with tears streaming down my face, I knelt down by my mother's side and told her she was a good mother. I told her I loved her very much and I gave her a hug. And then I got a second gift- she told me she loved me. 

There is a lot my family lost to Alzheimer's disease. But on that visit, I was given one precious moment of my mother, myself, and my daughter all together; and my mom was as aware as she could possibly be. She was moved to tears by my child, and it was a beautiful ONE moment. That moment is all I will likely ever have. So I will hold onto it. And repeat it often to my daughter. And forever be grateful. Forever grateful for ONE moment.


Dear Reader, please take note:

November is the month to celebrate gratitude. It also happens to be my mom's birthday month and National Alzheimer's Awareness Month. For all of these reasons, I dedicate this post to my loving mother, Jacqueline Joslin Sellers.

Several years ago I wrote a post about my mom's Alzheimer's called Reflections from the Old Folk's Home. This was before her mental state deteriorated so much that she needed to be moved away from my father's care and into full-time care in the Alzheimer's unit.

A version of this current post first appeared on Voices from the 'Ville.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

10 Easy Steps to Regain Your Sparkle

I'm taking a brief break from the Women to Admire series, to bring you the following Public Sparkle Annoucement:

Several posts ago, I wrote about how the demands of motherhood dulled my sparkle as I put my self-care on the back seat. Since then, I've tackled the mama guilt head-on and I've been taking better care of myself. Operation Reclaim sPaRkLe is in full swing! And these suggestions can help you even if you don't have little energy suckers darling little children. So read on, my Sparkle Sisters, read on.

Here are ten quick and easy steps you can take to aid in your very own Operation Reclaim sPaRkLe.

1. Record the Happiest Moment of Your Day.
Keep a journal on your bedside table. Before turning out the lights, take 1-2 minutes to jot down your happiest moment of the day. You will end your day on a positive note and will soon have an incredible written record of what actually makes you happy. This can be an invaluable tool for future life planning!

2. Take a Bath.
It's good for the spirit and for an aching mama's body. Epsom salts, dead sea salts, and a few drops of essential oils can work magic.

3. Meditate While You Wait.
The next time you are waiting (in line, in traffic, or for someone) turn your attention to your breath. On your inhale say to yourself: receive. On your exhale, say: relaxation. Even a few breaths can make you feel more centered and relaxed.

4. Go For a Walk.
Take a walk outside. Exercise and nature are both powerful rejuvenators and sparkle generators.

5. Clear Clutter.
Clean out one drawer a day (or a week.) Too many things can be a drain on your energy. Let go of some clutter and clear up some space inside your home (and your head.) Sparkle space.

6. Send Some Love.
Write a postcard or a letter to someone you love, a "just because note." The sparkle you send out will come back to you. I promise.

7. Catch more ZZZ's.
Forget the laundry and the dishes and take a nap when your child naps. When my daughter refuses to nap, I have been known to lie on the floor and play "night night mama" while she puts a blanket on me over and over. If a nap isn't possible, go to bed earlier than usual. Sufficient sleep is critical for emotional and physical health.

8. Start with Intention.
Consider starting your day by setting an intention. (For example: Today I am going to focus my attention on how I spend my time. Throughout the day I will ask myself, is this activity adding to my sparkle or taking away from it?) A pack of affirmation cards or an inspirational quote book can be helpful starting points.

9. Add color.
Go buy yourself an adult coloring book and some new colored pencils. Yes, I'm serious. Creating is therapeutic and coloring is an act of meditation. I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating.

10. Paint on Your Sparkle.
If all else fails, paint your toenails in pink sparkle polish. See if that doesn't make you smile. (I even painted my toddler's toes. Now she keeps asking for more "fockle polish." Hey, you have to teach them early about the importance of sparkling.) Everytime you see your fun toes, you will be reminded of the above nine steps and your own Operation Reclaim sPaRkLe goals.


Dear Readers, Please Take Note:
The above post was originally posted here on the Voices from the Ville blog. I wrote it in response to my previous post there- Commit to Sparkle this Month- Saying No to Self-Neglect. I'm super honored to be writing on this national parenting blog. Several of you have asked me for mommy blog recommendations. Well, I highly recomend this one. After all, they had the good judgement to include me on their list of esteemed writers. (Smile, I'm joking. Sorta.)

PS: I know sorta isn't a "real" word.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Woman to Admire: Laura Scholz

Dear Readers, 
This summer I will be writing a short series of posts entitled Women to Admire. Here is the first one:

I am incredibly honored to introduce you to my friend, Laura Scholz. While I admire Laura for many reasons, here are just a few:

1. She started her own company, Scholz Communications. (It takes big ovaries to leave a reliable income for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship! Sisters, give the girl some snaps.)

2. While successfully managing her biz, she decided to follow her passion and get certified to teach Pilates. Anyone who follows her passions, is a winner in my book. And so is anyone who is working towards balance. And, while I'm at it, so is anyone who pieces together an income doing too many things to count.

3. Laura gives back. She's run approximately 7,000 miles for charity (in under 6 years!), earning money to further worthwhile causes. She's also speedy, frequently placing in the top three of her age group at local races.

*4. Most of all, I admire how she wears her heart on her sleeve. Read her vulnerable blog post Rape is Rape. Period. It's raw. It's powerful. And it's an important read. After you read it, I dare you to tell me you don't admire her too. 


Stay tuned for the next post, when I profile another inspirational and couragous woman. Until then, please tell me: Who do you admire and why?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Remarkable Responses

Some people think I am brave for sharing my personal story and struggles on my blog. I'm sure others think I'm crazy. And I have to admit, sometimes I wonder: who am I to write a blog? Who am I to write a book? Who wants to hear what I have to say?

And then I get comments like the ones below and I remember why. These weren't public comments. They were shared with me privately in response to Confessions from an Adoptive Mother.

The messages in these comments are so beautiful, powerful, and affirming, I wanted to share them with you. (Of course, I first asked them for permission. They encouraged me to use their words as source of comfort to others.) I am not sharing these comments to toot my own horn, but rather to add to the collective understanding. I desire my blog to be a resource for people to learn, heal, and help one another. It is in this spirit that I post today. If you are affected by infertility, know that you are not alone. If you are are not personally dealing with fertility issues or adoption, the odds are great that you know at least one person who is. 

(Please note: I used XXXXX below to protect the privacy of one commenter's name and also the name of my daughter. My daughter's name is very unique, and we are not ready for her birthparents to be able to google it.)

Comment #1: I gasped as I read these words, perhaps because of the source. They are from Kathy, a woman who made the courageous choice to put her first born child up for adoption. This comment changed something inside me. They were words I needed to hear, but I didn't know it until I read them.
Kathianne, these are the most beautiful poignant words I have ever read. As a "biological" mother, all I ever wished for my first born is what you have given your daughter. And although I gave birth to her, I know in my heart and soul that the woman who raised her is her real mom. Your child is so lucky to have you for her mom.
Comment # 2: A line in the comment below, "I'll never be called Mom," has haunted me ever since I read it.
So much of what you wrote speaks directly into the depths of my heart and I can relate to the psychological pain. God's plan is really wonderful and I trust him completely but that doesn't mean I'm not occassionally deeply sad. As a stepmom, the only thing I would add is that parents take for granted the amazing gift of being called "Mom" (or "Dad"). For me, I'll never be called "Mom" and that's an ache in my heart. But I am so blessed with my stepdaughters and I take pride in being "their XXXXX" (her first name). Again, your words found a place in a part of my heart that feels pretty lonely and I thank you for that!
Please keep writing! You are truly entering the hearts of others and it is very comforting because it can be very lonely. The honesty of your thoughts and feelings are things that many of us just hold so close and don't share because people who aren't in our shoes might not understand-- so to see someone else put it out there makes me at least feel less "crazy" and alone. It also allows others to see a glimpse into our hearts. I especially like your ability to express your gratitude and JOY for your life while expressing the depth of emotion you're also feeling-- it's not all consuming pain but it is part of who you are. So I encourage you to wholeheartedly keep putting pen to paper!
Comment #3: This comment was initially shared with my sister.
Thank you for sharing this. Your sister is amazing. She's brave. She's opening up about such personal subjects, and expressing feelings that at times are impossible to put into words. Infertility and adoption have to be two of the hardest things to ever talk about-- and she does so in such a beautiful way. I could hear my own voice in my head when reading some of her thoughts. It was incredibly powerful.
She's also strong. She's making decisions and taking control of something that is incredibly hard to do. It's a bit of a juxtaposition-- she's taking control and letting go at the same time. The worst feeling when dealing with infertility is just feeling like you just have no control over your own body-- that you can't figure out why it's not doing what you think God designed it to do. That leaves you feeling damaged, helpless and pissed. The fact that she's saying enough is enough-- that she's taking control of things-- takes so much strength. She'll grieve, probably for the rest of her life. But now she's back in charge, and with that comes renewed energy and purpose.
And she's spiritual. Her words about adoption were so powerful. Adoption is a miracle. Out of all the families, that baby was destined to be yours. It's divined-- plan and simple.
Comment #4: My big brother, Paul, emailed me this last comment. I'm incredibly lucky to have him for a lifetime of wisdom and support.
Dear Sis,That was a very moving piece of prose that you just shared with the world in hopes that it may benefit at least one person out there in cyber space..... I want to let you know of a few thoughts that entered my head as I was reading your passage. "Pain is the difference between what is and what I want it to be." -Spencer Johnson. I must have read this passage at least a dozen times over the years until I finally think that I grasped its meaning. I am a slow learner. 
Another thought that came to me is that everything that happens to me each day is happening exactly as it is supposed to happen in order to teach me while I am attending this "Earth School," this time around. I don't know for certain, but I believe that you and (XXXXX) and everyone else for that matter agreed before you were born to help your soul in this lifetime in ways that you cannot conceive of at this point in time. However, you will come to understand them over time....Whether you know it or not, (XXXXX) knows it because she is only recently removed from the Source. She is at peace and living in the "now" moment. Learn from her as I learn from my children. 
I wish you well today and everyday. Allow yourself to relish in the present moment the apparently good and apparently bad. When you have learned how to do this, please share the secret with me. :) 
I love you, Kats, and I am sure that you are my kid sister for a good reason.Namaste', Paul
Dear readers, your blog comments fill my world with gratitude. Please continue to share your thoughts with me on the blog (so others can benefit from them), or privately, if that's how you roll. (I just ask that if you know my daughter's name, you kindly not post it in your comment. At some point we may feel comfortable with that, but we aren't quite there yet.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Heavy Heart

My beloved city.
My home for 10 incredible years.
I no longer live in you, but you will always live in me.
My heart aches for you today.
Patriot's Day 

Powerful Serendipity

Serendipity fills me with awe. It's a split-second in time when I can sense the order in the Universe. When all the stars are aligned and I feel that we are all connected. That everything is and always has been ok. That love is all there is.

I had a serendipitous event last week. It was so powerful, I had to share it with you, my dear readers.  

Last week I headed to a follow up appointment for my recent mouth surgeries. The first floor of the parking lot (where I always park) was completely full, so I parked on a higher level and took the stairs. In the stairwell was a mama of a newborn. She was lugging him down the stairs in his carseat, quite a few steps ahead of me. 

For some reason, I felt drawn to them. When close enough to get a peek, I noticed her baby had a double cleft lip. It was not yet repaired. I'd never seen someone without the repair. (In fact, it was only a few years ago that I first saw my newborn photo. I was moved to tears, seeing myself before my lip was sewn together. Somewhere in my kid brain, I thought my parents were embarrassed by my birth defect so they didn't have any pre-surgery photos.)

I called down the stairs and asked how old he was.

"Nine days," she replied.

He looked at me so sweetly from under his pale blue beanie. He was blissfully unaware of the long road of surgeries, dental issues, possible speech therapy, tears, and insecurity that can come from having a facial birth defect. His mama, however, had a troubled look.

"He's going to be okay," I told his mama. "I too have a cleft lip."

She stopped walking and leaned toward me to inspect my face. "Yeah," she said, "Your repair looks really good."

"It will make him a stronger person," I said, as goosebumps covered my whole body.

"Thank you, thank you for that," she said with a smile. She seemed genuinely grateful for my remarks.

And then we parted. It was a brief moment in time. One that I feel will stick with me for a long while. I even have goosebumps now, as I type this.

God put us on that stairwell at exactly the same time. I am sure of it. 

Of course, I didn't tell her that I was on my way in to see the doctor because at 38, I am still dealing with issues because of my cleft palate. Hopefully, with medical advancements in the treatment of cleft palates, his journey to healing will be much shorter than mine. 

At first I thought our paths crossed because she needed to hear that her precious baby was going to be ok. Upon further reflection, I realized I needed to see him too. I thought of that baby boy when I was at my doctor appointment and thought, Be strong for him, Kathianne. It doesn't make any sense, really, but it did give me strength. And perspective. 

This little guy is just starting on his path to healing. And after 38 years, I am (hopefully) near completion. 

Dear readers, please join me in sending out healing thoughts to this anonymous little boy.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Confessions from an Adoptive Mother

Thank you, Dear Readers, for the outpouring of support I received for my last post, Time to Confess. Your blog comments, Facebook comments, and emails reminded me that I have a "virtual village." I am honored you shared my words with your friends. I am grateful you took a moment out of your busy day to write a comment.

So, while I'm at it, I have some more confessions to share.

Once a month, I get angry at The Powers that Be. I'm working on letting go of my anger, because I know it only hurts myself. Anger is a stage in the grief process, and it's the emotion I feel every month when I am suffering from severe menstrual cramps.

Many years ago, when I was complaining to my sister, she comforted me by saying how cramps are the body's way of preparing the uterus for childbirth. So, for a few years there, her words provided a teeny bit of comfort. I felt like my pain had a purpose and one day, when I experienced the miracle of childbirth, it would all be worthwhile.

But I am not destined to be a biological mama. And each month for the past 25 years, I've been experiencing one to three days of severe cramps and/or associated PMS. It just makes me, well, a bit pissed off. Because, what is the point?!?!? Each month now, the physical pain triggers a deep, deep psychological pain. It is a reminder of what I will never experience. I will never carry a life in my womb. I will never feel a baby kick from the inside. I will never have a child with my legs or my husbands eyes. My genetic line (and I can trace my ancestry back at least four generations with photos) dies with me.

I'm still mourning the death of my dream. I sometimes wonder if I will ever stop mourning. The wound will heal, but will the scar remain or fade away?

Ironically, adoption was always a part of my parenting plan. I used to tell people that I just wanted to have one of my own first because I wanted to experience the miracle of pregnancy. I wanted to create life. I dreamed of witnessing my baby's first breath; of feeling overwhelmed with love when I held my seconds-old baby.

Adoption is a miracle. No less of a miracle than biological childbirth. I tell my daughter she is my miracle. Because of all the mamas and all the babies in the whole wide world, we found each other. I tell her mommy waited and waited and waited for her spirit to come to us and she was worth the wait. I tell her she is my wish come true and she made me a mama, something I always dreamed of. I'll tell her that for some reason, she didn't come through me, but she was always meant to be mine. A fellow adoptive mother once told me we adoptive mamas are the space holders. We are an open space for babies who need a home. Maybe this is the reason.

But I am dreading the day she realizes she did not come from us but instead grew in another woman's belly. We've never made her adoption a secret, it's just that now she's too young to understand what it all means. It pains me that she could feel a lifelong sense of loss because her birthmother chose to give her away. One adopted woman told me no matter how good she had it in her adopted family, she always felt a sense of loss because she was given away. I plan to tell my child she was always destined to be my daughter. We don't have a genetic connection, but we have a spiritual one. And that is the one that counts. That one is even thicker than blood.

Hours after she was born, her birthmother asked us to love her baby like she was our own. This now seems odd to me, because SHE IS OUR OWN. I can't imagine loving her anymore. I'm almost positive that could not even be possible. (Although, how would I know for sure? Sometimes I wonder, which is ridiculous, because why does it even matter?)

But here's another confession: it saddens me that I am not my child's ONLY mama. I know this is selfish. If a mother can love more than one child, I'm sure a child can love more than one mother. So I tell myself that she will experience more love. I should be happy about that. It's just that I have this fear that when she chooses to track down her biological family (if she does), that I'll be replaced. That she will want to spend holidays with them. It's not a huge fear, but it's still there.

Sometimes I forget she is adopted. But sometimes I'm painfully reminded. Once at Gymboree, a nanny asked me if she was my child. "Yes," I replied. "Are you sure?" she said, "She doesn't look anything like you." WTF!?! Of course, I started crying. People say the rudest things. Several people have asked me about her "real" mother. I now reply that I am her real mother. I'm the one who checks her in the middle of the night to make sure she is still breathing; the one that wipes her tears and kisses her boo-boos. I have been there for her since she was ten minutes old. (I wanted to be there sooner, but legally she wasn't ours then and it wasn't my decision. So I missed her entry into the world. When she took her first breath, I was feeling helpless from the waiting room. I heard a cry (hers?) and my arms longed to comfort her. "She needs me," I sobbed into my husband's arms. Although, to be honest with myself, it was me who needed her.)

So, maybe you can understand my feelings a little better now. My journey to motherhood was complicated. Just like all the other really great things in life, it was joy and sorrow, love and loss, pain and sheer bliss all rolled up in one. Because I am immensely grateful that my daughter is healthy, and beautiful, and exactly as she is. I honestly wouldn't change how she came to us. Because then she wouldn't be her. I am a better person because of my journey. I am for sure a better mother too. Infertilty and adoption were a challenge for our marriage, but my husband and I have grown closer as well.

I will never take being a mama for granted. I want to always remember how much I loved and longed for my baby before she even was conceived (in a state far away, in a different woman's body, just waiting to reunite with me, her own, real mama.)

It's just that, even while somewhere in me I knew otherwise, I was still kinda hoping maybe I would get pregnant too. Deep down I was hoping that my parenting plan was just reversed. I was hoping maybe the pregnancy would come after the adoption.

But that won't happen. Last month I decided to go back on The Pill. After almost five years off of it, I can't take the pain anymore. By choosing to take it, I am completely closing the door on my dream of a biological baby. While I'm pretty sure the door was closed already, my hope had kept it just a teeny bit ajar. I visualize that hope as a light seeping out from the edge of the door. But now, that light has gone out.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time to Confess

Dear Readers, 
I have a confession to make. 

I have not been nourishing myself properly. 
I have not been creating to the extent I need to, in order to feel like myself. 
As a result, I have not been blooming. 
I feel like I've lost my sparkle.

This parenting gig is hard. Harder than I anticipated and I feel like it's kicking my ass. The first year of my daughter's life I was high from the euphoria of finally becoming a mama. Toddlerhood is a different story. My little one is spirited. A climber. Fearless. Fast. And Loud. 

She might end up being an only child.

I now know why "it takes a village." The problem is we don't have a village here in Dallas and minimal traveling familial help. My hubby works at least 60 hours a week and often travels. Almost all the other mamas in my moms group are preggers or just had a baby and I am thinking: how the hell does anyone have more than one child? 

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE my daughter. She is my glitter. My heart and soul. My joy. My snuggle. 

She is also the cause of my sleep deprivation (anyone who knows me knows I need a lot of sleep to function) and the cause of my new white hairs (still so few I can pluck them, thank goodness.) 

I've lost balance. When she first clung to my leg, my heart melted. Now, I would just like to walk unencumbered. 

Yes, I can hire help. But now that I'm a parent, I finally understand what mommy guilt is. I don't want to stick her with an anonymous sitter.

There is more of me (I gained a few pounds) and less of me (mojo, where did you go?). Is the creative, hip woman I used to be inside this mama who wears yoga pants everyday? On the positive side, I've also gained insight and empathy for all who are in a similar situation. Caregiving is tough. Caregiving with limited support is extremely tough. 

Sometimes I cry to my husband, "I feel like a failure! How is everyone else doing this?" He says, "Look at her! She is thriving!" And it's true, she is. But look at me. I need to find some middle ground before she sucks me dry.

I don't want to model self-neglect to my daughter. 

I want to be a mama who sparkles.

So, in December, I made a choice to focus on my own care. I'm fighting the mommy guilt head on. And it is not easy, folks. I joined a new gym (the last one kept kicking her out of the day care for crying too long) and I've set monthly goals for myself that I'm tracking in a fabulous Wizard of Oz datebook that my mother-in-law gave me. At first, I was also recording everything I did that nourished my body and soul (crafty time, writing time, baths, etc.) I've had 2 set backs, but each time I got back up, and that's all that counts. And I'm now taking my own professional advice on balance (which I took pre-baby, back when it was easier.) Preschool a few days a week has also turned out to be life-changing.

So, I'm not going to pretend that I am a mama who has it all together. My hope is that my confession helps me stay on the path back to myself. I also hope it helps you as much as it helps me. Maybe you need a bit of a kick in the butt too to start making your health and happiness a priority.

So, tell me, dear readers: What are your struggles and what are your goals? How are you making your wellness a priority, or how are you going to do so moving forward? Please share your insights here to help others. Or share your struggles and seek support. Or share your plans: how are you going to nourish your sparkle?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Four Years Ago Today

Today as I watched the inauguration of President Obama, (on the exact day we celebrate MLK!), I am reminded of this same ceremony four years ago. At that time, while feeling the magic of history unfolding, I penned the following words to my unborn biracial child:

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009
As I write this you have not even been conceived, although I am hoping and praying it will be soon. I am watching the inauguration of Barak Obama and I am filled with such excitement for your future. History is unfolding in a huge way and the implications for you and other children of color around the world are profound. You will never know a world in which only white men ruled this great country. You will be born into a new era-- one filled with hope and the promise of a new day. I have wanted you for so long and have cried many tears during the long wait. But I can now see, this is the year of your arrival.

Well, I was wrong about that last line. I shed many more tears in the twenty three long months between writing the above letter and our child's arrival. As you may know, our precious baby girl came to us via the miracle of adoption in the last month of 2010. 

This year I watched the inauguration ceremony after I put her to bed. (Unfortunately, I was watching Yo Gabba Gabba during the live television coverage.) Typing my 2009 words into this blog post reminded me of the excitement, the national pride, and the severe longing I was then feeling. It makes my chest feel tight and almost brings me to tears. But it doesn't. Because in the next room, my beautiful little mocha latte girl is now sleeping. I look forward to teaching her about President Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. I also look forward to sharing this letter with her. But most of all, I look forward to telling her how much she was loved and longed for, years before she was even conceived.

Dreams can come true.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Big Day with Oprah- Take Two

Did I mention I was in the same room with Oprah?!?!

Being present for the taping of two Oprah's Lifeclass episodes was just a bonus. And sitting next to my bestie in the front row (stage right) to boot! Dreams really do come true.

"My" shows already aired live on and will air on television (OWN- The Oprah Winfrey Network) in January 2013. I'll try and give you a heads up on an exact date if possible. But only if you promise not to laugh if you see me jumping around like a crazy woman.

The theme of my Lifeclass episodes was Living with Purpose and Rick Warren was the guest. Warren is the author of The Purpose Driven Lifethe #2 best-selling non-fiction book of all time. Second only to the Bible. I had forgotten that President Obama selected him to give the invocation at his inauguration (which, by the way, upset a lot of social progressives.)

I wasn't excited when I discovered Rick Warren was going to be the guest. I knew he was an Evangelical Christian minister at a religious right megachurch, and that made me a bit skeptical. (But it didn't really matter who the guest was because I was going to be in the same room as Oprah!) Of course, I shouldn't have doubted my Oprah. Warren turned out to be a great guest and I learned a lot from him. There were a lot of ah-ha moments, a lot of murmered mmm hmms, and a few Amens! from the audience. It was a great reminder for me not to prejudge the messenger; to just listen to the message and then let my heart judge it's truth for me.

Which reminds me of a great quote from another spiritual leader:
Believe in nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. -Buddha

Here are the notes (quotes, concepts, and meaningful phrases) I furiously pecked into my phone during the taping:

In the poker game of life, we are dealt five cards:
1. Chemistry- our physical make-up, appearance, DNA
2. Connections- our relationships
3. Circumstances- we give them too much power
4. Consciousness- how we talk to ourselves, the voice in your head
5. Choices- this card can make or break your entire hand

Nick Vujicic was dealt an incredibly rough hand. If you are not familiar with his story, please take the time to watch this YouTube video. The 4 minutes and 11 seconds will undoubtedly be the most inspirational of your day. It's a great reminder that 95% of the things we worry or complain about are miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Warren's only request for his appearance on Oprah's Lifeclass was to have Vujicic on the show. It was powerful to see him in person- he radiates positive energy and an authentic power despite his enormous physical limitations. (I am happy to report that Vujicic just got married and his wife is expecting their first child. Doesn't that make you smile inside?)

And now on to more show notes:

God's plan for us/ our life's purpose is like a Polaroid picture. It starts out just a shadow, and with time the picture becomes clearer and into focus. If you don't yet know God's plan for you, just wait. It will become clear in time.

Hope= Holding On Praying Expectantly

If you live by the approval of others, you will die by their rejection. -Rick Warren

The two things that will cause you to miss your life's purpose:
1. Envy- I must be like you to be happy.
2. People Pleasing- I must be liked by you to be happy.
You must live your life for an audience of one.

We often look for love in our accomplishments, acheivements, and appearance. To be authenically powerful (significant,) we need to find a way to give our gifts in service.

Stages of a Dream
Dead End (Death of a Vision)

I'm sure you can relate these stages to a situation in your own life. To illustrate the idea for you, I'll use the example of my dream to be a mama: Once Hubby and I decided to start conceiving, we were met with significant delays. Followed by significant difficulities. Then our dead end- IVF failed and we were told we wouldn't have our biological child without a miracle. Then 5.5 long (and yet now seemingly short) months later, a stranger birthed our baby. The baby destined to be our child. In fact, the one we were always waiting for, we just didn't realize it. Deliverance!

Miser- the root word of miserable. Not a coincidence. We receive by giving.

How do you find your life's purpose? Look at the things that shape you:
1. Spiritual gifts (I'm not 100% sure what he meant by this. Anyone have input?)
2. Heart (What are your passions?)
3. Abilities (What are you good at/ with?)
4. Personality
5. Experiences (Jobs, education, family, painful experiences)

Our greatest strengths often come out of our pain -Rick Warren

God never wastes a hurt. We might, but he won't. He will use it for good.

The way you serve God is by serving others.

It's all about love.

Humility- It's not about denying your strengths, it's about being honest about your weaknesses.

There are accidental parents, there are no accidental babies.

You can waste your life, or you can invest it. Invest in what will outlast you, people and love.

Please share if any of these notes touched you in some way. I know I'm going to buy the book. Anyone else? I'd love to have some people to discuss it with chapter by chapter.

*FYI: The first seven chapters of The Purpose Driven Life are available free on the book website.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Life is a Roller Coaster

I'm immensely grateful to my readers who have been asking for a new blog post and a surgery update. Thank you for your interest and concern. It warms my heart to know that my words have been missed and that in my blogging absence, I've still been remembered.

Much has happened since my last post. Here are some highlights:

1. We put our little bird in preschool 2 days a week. With my newly cherished "me time," I've been working on my book and making progress. The first 50 pages have already been sent to my book coach. I plan to give you, my dear readers, previews along the way. Stay tuned.

2. After at least 6 years of trying, I got tickets to Oprah! I went this past Friday and it was amazing. That will be the next blog post I write. Hopefully this week.

3. Surgery update: The good news is that 2/3 of my surgery was successful. Yay! The bad news is that 1/3 wasn't. Boo! So I am in for another surgery. Boo! But I've been assured it will be significantly less painful and recovery will be only a day instead of a week this time. So, Halloween morning is the day. While you are eating your candy, think of me. I won't be eating anything but liquids and pureed foods. Boo! After surgery there is a 4-6 month wait to see if the bone around the cleft in my jaw healed correctly. If not, I am in for another surgery with a bone graft. I'm hoping it works.

4. And here's the big one: For those of you who have been following my (in)fertility and then adoption journey, you know it has been a roller coaster. I received crazy and unexpected news over a week ago that I could possibly get pregnant. I wasn't even looking for this information- it just fell out of the sky (or from my new Ob/Gyn's mouth.) Then, as easy as it came, it was quickly retracted when my lab work came back. I was elated for a week, then devastated again. While I wouldn't change a thing about how our daughter came to us, I am still grieving my inability to experience pregnancy, childbirth, and a baby that is 1/2 me and 1/2 my husband. I was again feeling it was hopeless, but some serendipitous events (you know how I LOVE those) have my mind and heart in a tailspin. Is the universe sending me signs? Did I give up on my body too soon? Is my dream of getting pregnant and carrying our biological child possible? I'm reevaluating, wondering, and very scared to even get on that roller coster again. But this time, it's different. While it would still take a financial and emotional investment, most of the pressure is off. We already have a child and I know that adoption is no less of a miracle. So I'm going to try take deep breaths, be still, and listen to what my heart has so say on the matter.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Prayers Please

I haven't written in while, but it's because most of my limited free time is now spent working on my book. Frankly, I am so far behind on making and mailing out gifts to friends and sending thank you notes and cards, that I am amazed I get to blog at all. Since we aren't ready to put Baby Girl into nursery school, I'll just have to blog less and be behind on just about everything. I remind myself that this phase in her life is so short and in time things will get done.

I do have a big (and unwelcomed) event coming up so I somehow found the time today to blog. I am writing to shamelessly solicit prayers, well wishes, and healing vibes.  Whatever positive energy you are willing to send, I'll take.

On Wednesday, I am having extensive oral surgery which will hopefully (fingers crossed) be the last attempt needed to repair my mouth. I was born with a cleft lip and I also have a cleft in my upper jaw. Even though my lip was fixed through several surgeries during my childhood, the cleft in my jaw has caused lots of significant (and expensive!) issues into my adulthood. The last surgery, at age 27, attempted to graft some of my hip bone into my jaw. It was unsuccessful. Let's hope this one is the last.

You would think that with 4 surgeries for this issue under my belt already, I would be a pro. But, as I cried to my husband last night, I am scared. I draw strength from the son of my high school friend, Jodi. Ari, who has VATER syndrome, has had over 65 surgeries already and he is only four. If that brave little boy can make it though all of those, I can make it through one more myself.

And I am in good hands. My doctor pretends to be tough, but he is such a softy. His assistant told me he moved us his shoulder surgery up just so he would be ready for my surgery.  My mother-in-law (Miss Gwen) is coming to take care of Baby Girl while I recover. I won't be able to bend over or pick her up for 3-4 days (which I can't imagine.)  But I am grateful for Dr. Parel and Miss Gwen and also my hubby who took the day off from work to take me to and from the surgery.

Last night, during my teary conversation with my husband, I told him something I wanted him to know- just in case. "If something bad happens during my surgery and I die, I want you to know that I died happy because I finally became a mother."  Now, I don't think I am going to die, but you never know. My husband is a surgeon, and he comes home with crazy stories all the time about people who died during seemingly routine surgery.  So when he tried to tell me I wasn't going to die, I reminded him of his stories and he was silent.

So, prayers please dear readers.  For me and little Ari.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Too Much Knocking

I recently came across this quote and it smacked me in the face:

Many of us knock on the door but remain outside, because knocking and entering are entirely different actions.  Knocking is necessary, consisting of reading books, attending meetings, asking questions.  But entrance requires much bolder action.  It requires one to enter into himself, to uncover hidden motives, to see contradictions, and to realize the actual power for self-change.  -Vernon Howard

In regards to a certain dream of mine- writing and publishing a book- I've been knocking for quite a while now.   The above quote made me uncomfortable because I was made aware of my status- firmly planted on the welcome mat in front of a closed door.  I'm not sure what is stopping me (fear of failure probably), but I've decided the knocking stops here.  I'm taking a bold action towards entering: I'm going public, dear reader, and I'm letting you in on my secret.  I'm hoping your words of affirmation and the forced accountability that going public provides will have me soon crossing the threshold.

Here's the scoop:
All during my journey to motherhood, I was journaling.  Through the months trying to conceive, the etopic pregnancy and loss, the unsuccessful IVF, and then our adoption, I wrote to the baby girl that I knew would one day be ours.  I filled one journal and started another. While a few steps along the journey were posted on this blog, the most raw and private details stayed hidden in my notebooks.  I never posted anything about the esoteric ways I tried to increase my fertility, the challenging and sometimes insulting adoption process, or the sadness that occasionally still stabs at my heart when I see a pregnant woman.  My daughter will inherit the journals when she is mature enough to read them.  They are a testament to my deep desire to be a mother, my longing for her to come to us, the inner struggles one has when "choosing a baby" through adoption, and the challenge infertility and adoption place on a couple.  They are a heart-felt written record of all we endured to become parents.

During my journey, I did a lot of reading.  The most healing books for me were the memoirs of women who went before me.  I related to those women in a way that I didn't relate to anyone else.  Especially because so many people keep their baby struggles private.  To someone going through the journey, it seems as if everyone got, is, or can get pregnant without issues.  I believe publishing the journals would be healing for other women.  I believe this so strongly, I've asked my extremely private husband for his consent.  For our pain to help others, for our story to impart hope, well, that would make it all worthwhile.  Almost.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Proud to Be Colorful

Our little family is proud to be colorful.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I feel overwhelmed with gratitude to those who stood (and continue to stand) for equality.  Many risked their lives and some were murdered for their beliefs.  It wasn't long ago, and it happened in our country of freedom.  The actions and sacrifices of those brave activists have enabled our family to live MLK's dream.

Personally, I think we'll know our country has overcome it's race issues when the mall Santa isn't always white and no one thinks it's a big deal.  I hope that happens in my lifetime.

PS:  For information on how to talk to your children about race, I recommend Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.  Chapter 3, Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race, is fascinating and may be surprising to many parents.
PPS:  Thanks to my baby girl for lending me her dolls for this photo.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baby Steps to Big Changes

    Last week I witnessed an incredible event. My baby girl took her first-ever unassisted steps. The next morning, two Today Show guests- both had lost half of their body weight during 2011- encouraged others by saying, "Take baby steps." 

    And once again, I was humbled to realize that I am learning as much about life from my one-year-old as she is learning from me.

    As a dietitian and health coach, I have told many clients over the years to take small steps to achieve their goals.  But having witnessed Baby Girl's breakthrough the night before, it dawned on me that there was much more to this suggestion than merely the size of the steps.  

    So whatever your goals are for 2012, here is some advice from Baby Girl on how to reach your next milestone:
    • Prepare. First we did tummy time. She hated it and cried a lot but we did it anyway. Then she learned to roll over. Then stand, crawl, and walk with a walker.
    • Celebrate successes along the way.  She squealed with joy when using her walker for the first time and would shake her bootie when learning to climb.  She reveled in her progress and had fun along the way.
    • Find support. She held our hands, the couch, and the walker, before she could go solo.  At each milestone (and in between) I cheered for her.  I clapped and encouraged.  As my girl Oprah says, find people who are going to lift you higher.   
    • Set reasonable expectations. Baby Girl wasn't trying to win a race, she was just trying to go two feet to reach Auntie Lisa.  
    • Keep looking forward. Learn from the past, but look ahead of you.  And keep your eyes off the floor.
    • Expect falls.  Focus on progress, not perfection. Learn from your slips.  Cry if you need to but then get up and try again.
    • Don't worry if you aren't perfect.  It's okay to be wobbly.  It's okay to put your hands in front of you and walk like a mummy. It's okay to revert to crawling on occasion.
    • Have faith in the process and faith in yourself.  Many have come before you and succeeded and many will follow.  You too can do it.
    • And finally, let go of the coffee table and just go for it!

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Happy Miracle Day

    What a difference a year (or two) makes.  

    Days before Mother's Day in 2009, my first and only pregnancy ended in the emergency room.  Mother's Day was a painful reminder of what I was not.

    Last year, I went to our IVF clinic early in the morning and awaited a call from the doctor.  After shots and procedures, we were hoping for a miracle.  What were the odds that the test was scheduled on Mother's Day?  I was certain it was a positive sign.  It wasn't.  Our hopes and $20,000 lost.  Not pregnant.

    This year, a miracle.  As I type this, I am looking at our beautiful baby girl.  She is sweeter and more lovely than I ever dreamed.  She may not have my genes, but somehow she has my eyes.  Her name means "little girl prayed for."  She's the answer to years of prayers.  And I am so blessed to be her mama.  

    If you are facing challenges and losses on your way to motherhood, I understand.  The wait seems interminable.  Each month waiting to take that pregnancy test feels like forever.  And then the devastation when the damn thing reads "Not Pregnant."  And everyone around you is getting pregnant- even those who aren't trying!  And every commercial talks about babies, or motherhood, or pregnancy.  But know this:  your baby will find you.  But it will be on his or her own terms and timeline.  Somehow, someway, your baby will end up in your arms.  And the long wait will make you an incredible mother.  You won't take a moment for granted, you won't sweat the small stuff,  and you will be grateful everyday for the little blessing in your life.  And you will experience the miracle that is motherhood.     

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Embracing Winter

    I feel incredibly blessed that I am now living in Dallas.  The forecast this week is sunny and mid-50's.  But for many long winters, I wasn't as fortunate.  For a girl who isn't a fan of cold weather, somehow I survived a total of 32 long, dark, and freezing winters in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Massachusetts.   So when I was interviewed by NCB reader and WorkAwesome writer, Sarah Nagel, on how to stay healthy, happy, and energized during the winter, I felt I had a lot of experience to draw from.  Here's the interview:

    The article was picked up by LifeHacker too, so you can read the tips here in a different format:

    Stay warm my dear readers and let me know your tips for embracing winter!

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    The Rogue Blog Post

    This morning I received an unexpected blog comment from my sweet friend Heather: "What a great start to the morning!  It's great to see you blogging again, Kathianne.  I've missed you!"

    This was surprising for two reasons:  1. Heather just had her fourth baby so I don't know how she has time to read my blog and 2.  I didn't write a blog post.  Yep.  My blog (or more accurately the email subscription service I use) randomly picked a post from March and emailed it to all my dear subscribers.  You thought it looked familiar, didn't you?

    It appears that the Universe (or my blog?) is sending me a message to start writing again.  Or maybe there was something in that post that a subscriber needed to hear?

    Anyway, my blogging hiatus wasn't planned.  A while ago I told myself I wasn't going to stress about the frequency of my posts.  I'm not getting paid to blog- it's just for fun and because I want to share some of myself (insights, stories, and art) with the world.  (As it turns out, connecting with my readers and other bloggers has been incredibly rewarding.)  It's just that over the past few weeks I just haven't been inspired to share.  Actually, that's not true.  A few weeks ago I wrote a really raw and revealing baby update but my husband respectfully requested I not post it.  In the past, I've revealed a lot on here which I assume has not been easy for him.  He's as private as I am open.  And this was his first request for blogging privacy which I had no problem honoring.  But after that I just got stuck.  I couldn't post about what was most on my mind, and everything else seemed trivial to me.  So no new posts.  Until now.

    So, what to share in this new post after so many weeks of silence?  Well, there appears to be a bright light at the end of our long and dark (yet enlightening and insightful) journey.  The last few weeks I have been busy preparing for something very special.  And I can't wait to share that news with you.  But I don't want to jinx it.  So I am going to tell you after the fact.  I hope that's okay with you.

    So until next time, nourish yourself dear reader.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Embracing Change

    The hubby and I are moving to Dallas in less than 2 weeks.  My mind has been swirling.  When I start to think about the move, my breathing becomes shallow and I start to feel anxious.  I haven't been inspired to write.  So, it's been a long time since I wrote my last post.  (Yes, I do realize my last post was about Jean DiGiovanna moving and how she found the courage to do so.  But even when we make a decision to do something, it's okay to feel a bit unsettled, don't you think?)

    We've been in Atlanta for 2 years now.  And two years ago I was feeling this same way.  It was hard to move from Boston.  I was there for 10 years!  At the time I didn't know how much I would grow to love Atlanta and my friends here.  How this city would become my home.  I feel like I finally know my way around.  We've found our favorite coffee shops, vegetarian-friendly restaurants, and eco-dry cleaner.  I found my sewing circle, a Spanish tutor, Crafty Chick Night, and a great dermatologist (not an easy task).  It took me two years to get here and now we are moving again and starting over once more.  I know that I will make new friends, my old friends can visit, there will be new places to discover, and new opportunities.  But still, I feel a sense of loss.  It takes time to build a community.  And in the meantime, there will be some lonely times ahead.  I don't want to linger in the sadness.  I'm just acknowledging it and moving forward.  

    So I've been practicing the breathing and stress management exercises that I teach to my clients.  I've been journaling.  And I've been reading this quote to bring me peace:

    Change is not something that we should fear.  Rather, it's something we should welcome.  For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they're meant to be.  -anonymous

    You know I love a quote that mentions blossoming!  I also discovered this beautiful art journal from Andrea Schroeder at ABC Creativity that's gotten me inspired:
    The powerful words in her journal have encouraged me to embrace this move: 

    i embrace change.  i am strong.  i am brave.  i trust life.  i trust myself.  even when it's difficult or even hard, i can dive into the unknown.  i trust the process.  i make friends with change.  i know that there are always gifts on the other side.  -Andrea Schroeder

    So here I come Dallas.  I'm ready for your gifts.  I'm ready to blossom and bloom.  And I'm even ready to find a new dermatologist. 

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Bloom Where You Are Planted

    A few weeks ago, when I was stopped in traffic, 
    I looked left and saw this:
    In a rough neighborhood,
    in an abandoned lot,
    on a graffitied wall.
    from an old pipe,
    this little pink flower moved me.
    With an upcoming relocation on my mind, it's presence reminded me:
    It doesn't matter where you are planted.  Just bloom.