Tag Archives: writing

Every Story Needs A Beginning.

Published on http://www.chicagonow.com/portrait-of-an-adoption/2015/11/every-story-needs-a-beginning/
By Anne Sawan

There are some stories in life that we tell our children over and over. Favorite books, old fairy tales. Books that hold messages and lessons we want to pass on. Stories that have meaning, that matter to us.

I was driving in the car with my seven-year-old daughter. It was a warm summer night, just the two of us, a wide-open evening full of possibilities and fireflies. After camp she usually likes to tell me stories about her day, about the arts and crafts they created, the games they played, but this day she was quiet and I thought she must be tired from a long day. She certainly looked like she had been busy: her hair a mess, her sneakers scuffed, her knees dirty.

It was just the two of us that evening, my other children scattered about at various friend’s houses to swim and eat hamburgers. I asked her what she wanted to do with our free time together.

“Can we go to the mall and get some sushi and Legos?”

I smiled.

It was always the same answer.

As we meandered down the road I glanced in the rear view mirror. She was staring out the window, a serious look on her face, her lips moving slightly as she muttered something quietly to herself.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said, her eyes looking away, her finger tracing a path against the glass.

There was a beat of silence and then, “Mom, I know someone else who

is adopted.”

“Really?”

“Yes, he is at camp.”

I nodded, “How do you know he is adopted?”

“I heard him tell someone.”

“Oh. Did you tell him you were adopted too?”

“No.”

We drove along. Each lost in our own thoughts for a few moments. I wondered why she had brought it up, about this other camper. Having no real inkling about what to say next, but knowing there was something there, hidden in her words, I casually asked, “If someone at camp were to ask you what that other camper meant by adoption, what would you say?”

My daughter shrugged, her finger still smudging an imaginary track against the window. “I guess I would say, it means someone had you but they had to get rid of you, so your mom and dad got you.”

Get rid of you?

I pulled into the mall parking lot, my heart thumping.

My daughter.

My beautiful, sassy, silly, sweet, wonderful daughter thought someone just… got rid of her?

I turned around. “Honey,” I said. “Your birth mother didn’t just get rid of you, she loved you.”

My daughter stared at me, her brown eyes growing wide, her hand falling away from the window.

“She did?”

My mind swirled.

Hadn’t I told her?

Hadn’t I told her, her adoption story a million times?

Hadn’t I told her something like this:

You didn’t grow in my tummy, you grew in your birthmother’s tummy, but she couldn’t keep you, I am not sure why. But your dad and I wanted you soooo much so we flew far across the deep ocean and over the tall mountains, picked you up, wrapped you in a soft pink blanket, flew back across the big ocean and over the mountains where everyone was waiting for you and we had a big party full of love and kisses and cake!

Brakes.

Rewind.

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she she loved you very much”

Did I say, “I’m not sure why, but she loved you very much and it must have been very difficult for her to say goodbye.”

I must have.

I did.

Didn’t I?

My child’s beginning is unknown. I don’t know the reasons why her birth mother couldn’t keep her and I realized that in telling her I try to breeze quickly by that part, the beginning. It just seems tricky and messy and fraught with such hard questions and deep sadness that I hurry through, telling my daughter instead a story of a kisses and cake and a soft pink blanket that enveloped her with love; shielding her from sorrow.

I so want that story to be enough. For our love to be enough…but it can’t be, because it’s not her story.

When we open a book, we don’t just jump into the middle. We need to have an understanding of where the story begins, and my daughter’s beginning, although difficult, is just as important as any other; a beginning that doesn’t start with my love, but with the extraordinary love of another person. A love that while complicated shouldn’t just be casually rushed over. A love that deserves to be talked about slowly and carefully and with respect. A love like a cherished old book on the shelf, that can be revisited over and over again.

So I took a deep breath and slowly, slowly I spoke,

“Sweetie, I don’t know why your birth mom couldn’t keep you but I do know that she didn’t just get rid of you. Maybe she was too young to have a baby, or maybe she didn’t know how to be a mom yet but she loved you very, very much; and she did the hardest and bravest thing a mom could ever do and found you a place where she knew you would always be safe and where she knew there would be a family that would love you as much as she did.”

My daughter stared, her brown eyes meeting mine.

“Really?”

“Yes, really. She loved you and you know what else? You are full of extra love because you have love from your birth mom and love from all of us.”

A broad smile settled on her lips.

The story was shifting, the words were changing, slightly perhaps, but it was enough… for now.

“Can we go get some sushi and Legos now?”

“Of course.”

Anne Sawan is a mom of five, a psychologist and an author, having books published with MeeGenuis, as well as having articles published on Adoption Today, Adoptive Families, Brain Child, Scary Mommy and BluntMoms. She won The International Picture Book contest held by Inclusive Works and Clavis Publishing in 2014 and her book, What Can Your Grandmother Do? is scheduled to come out sometime this year.

March Madness and Three Little Pigs

So we are all into March madness over here, both the basketball kind and the kind brought on by prolonged winter cabin fever.  Lucky for me, Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring a March Madness writing contest to help alleviate some of the boredom and restlessness that has settled into my brain. This one requires a 400 word max fractured Fairy Tale. thIt’s all just for fun (and a few great prizes) so give it a try, you just might get hooked!

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-march-madness-writing-contest-is.html

Inspired by almost-true events:

Go outside Three Little Pigs!! 

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.

Three little, lazy pigs that just sat around all day and did nothing but play video games.

Until, one sunny day when Mama Pig decided she couldn’t take it anymore.

“That’s it!” She said, pointing to the door. “I have had enough! Go. Out. SIDE!”

“What?” said the First Pig.

“You want us to go out… there?” said the Second Pig.

“But, there’s never anything to do outside.” complained the Third Pig.

Mama Pig threw open the door.

“Have an adventure! Use your imagination! Just go outside, NOW!”

So the three miserable, lazy pigs went outside.

“It’s sooo hot out here,” moaned the First Pig.

“I’m sooo bored,” whined the Second

“I miss my video games,” cried the Third.

A dark shadow crept slowly along the fence.

“Little pig, little pigs, let me in,” whispered a deep, gravely voice.

“The wolf! Mom! Mom!” The three pigs banged on the door.

“Go away,” said Mama Pig from inside the house.

The three pigs stared at one another.

“Quick!” said Pig Number One. “To the straw pile!”

The three pigs ran across the lawn and burrowed their way into the middle of the straw.

“Ha!” laughed the Wolf. “Do you really think that measly house made of hay is going to keep me away? I am going to huff and puff…”

The three pigs dug as fast as they could through the back of the straw pile.

“To the tree house!” yelled the Second Pig.

The three pigs clambered up the ladder to the tree house and slammed the door shut.

Snap!

A branch snapped, and then another, and another.

Snap!
Snap!

Suddenly through the wall came the wolf’s furry head, his red, beady eyes and his pointed teeth.

“Really, a house made of sticks?” He snarled.

The three pigs quickly threw themselves out of the treehouse, landing one by one with a thud on the dirt below.

“Over there! Behind that brick wall!” yelled Pig Number Three.

The three pigs scampered behind the wall but they knew it was no use;

sharp claws soon crept over the rocks…

“Help! We’re doomed!” They cried.

“Pigs! Oh, Pigs, time for din-ner!” Yelled Mama Pig.

“Awww, already?” said Pig Number One.

“That was way more fun that video games!” Said Pig Number Two

“Sure was.” Said Pig Number Three. “See you tomorrow Wolf?

“See you tomorrow Pigs.”

Do You Believe In Magic?

I am in a really bad mood today. Don’t know why, maybe its the never-ending pile of snow outside my front door. Maybe it’s because the door on my car was frozen shut when I went to drive the kids to school.  Maybe it’s because I had zero gas in my car once I finally opened the car door and then had to stand out in the snow and wind and freezing rain to fill my tank. Whatever the reason, I am not in a good mood. So on the advice of my sister I am headed to HomeGoods to buy something with a starfish on it and then I am going to bake a cake. A chocolate cake. In the meantime here is a little story I wrote about a girl who woke up in a bad mood, and the help she gets from her brother to turn it around, because sometimes all it takes is a little, fun, child-like magic…(and sometimes it takes HomeGoods and chocolate cake)

Harry’s Magic

 

Eliza woke up on the wrong side of the bed,

her hair all askew, her eyes seeing red.

She didn’t know why but she felt angry and mad;

her insides felt twisted, and crinkly and bad!

Her head was all groggy, her lungs full of steam;

she wanted to shout, she wanted to scream!

She put on her shoes and downstairs she clomped,

Each step getting louder: stomp,

STomp,

STOmp,

STOMp

STOMP!

 

“Hello!” Called her brother,“ What’s that? Whose out there?

Is a there a dinosaur in the house?  A monster? A bear?”

“No, Harry, it’s me,” Eliza said with a growl.

“I woke up feeling grumpy, my mood is just foul.

I don’t want to laugh or smile or play.

I just feel like yelling, so stay out of my way!

I am furious, irate, annoyed and quite fuming.

I feel like a beast, like something not human!”

 

“A beast!”  Harry said. “Well, I can fix that!

Quick, bring me my wand, my cape and my hat!

I will drive out that fiend! I will shatter that curse!

I will make you a potion before it gets worse.”

 

“Now, let’s see…

First, I will need the dog’s chew bone, then some old bubble gum,

three hairs from a hairbrush and an earring from Mum.

A sock that is smelly, a Band-Aid that’s new,

a crayon that’s green and dad’s left running shoe.

Some Halloween treats, an old boiled egg,

a button from your sweater, a scab from your leg,

some bologna that’s slimy, an elephant with wings,

three rotten apples and a dolly that sings.”

 

Eliza reached under sofas and reached under chairs,

she peered into closets, and ran up and down stairs.

She pulled back the curtains and opened the drawers,

she climbed into the bathtub and searched behind doors.

She gathered it all, the old and the new,

the smelly, the gross, the slimy, the chewed.

 

“Let’s go!” Harry said, throwing open the door.

“Outside! We aren’t done, there is still a lot more!

We must search all around and find all that we need,

like that slippery worm! Quick! Over there, by that weed!

Next a butterfly, then some flowers: both yellow and red,

a grasshopper and a rock from under the shed.

Wild goose feathers, and a jumping bull frog,

a nut and a twig and some moss from that log.”

 

So, Eliza ran and jumped and climbed into the trees,

she crept through the bushes on her hands and her knees.

She gathered it all up and put it into a pail.

“And lastly,“ said Harry, “one teeny-weeny snail.”

 

Eliza searched and searched until at last she found one.

“There!” She said, “Is that it? At last, are we done?”

“Almost,” said her brother, slowly stirring his brew.

“But there is just one more small thing I still need you to do.

You must jump! Dance! Leap! And sing out a song!

And when you are done, that beast will be gone.”

 

Eliza growled and groused, but did as he said,

singing sort-of-a song and barely nodding her head.

She gave one leg a slow shake and the other a jiggle,

she wiggled her backside and then… she started to giggle.

Huh?!

 

Eliza’s eyes grew round, her mouth opened wide.

“Harry,” she whispered.  “I feel different inside.

I am no longer crabby, or mean, or a beast!

I feel silly, elated and not mad in the least!

All gone are my monsters, my meanies, my pout,

I just feel like singing and dancing about!

I feel crazy and happy! I’m Eliza! I’m me!

Oh, thank you! You did it! You set my fun free!”

 

“You’re welcome,” said Harry, with a wink and a bow.

“My magic always works and I’ll tell you how.

First you conjure up some sillies, then stir in some fun,

give a hip and a hop and… ABRACADABRA! It’s done!

Because no beast can survive, no grumpies will stay,

if you just let a little Harry-magic into your day.”

Wedding China

IMG_1695

 

I took down my wedding china this morning. I pulled a stool over to the cabinet where it is hidden away on the top shelf, I climbed up and took it all down: the smooth, ivory plates with the ebony and ruby etched borders, the dusty, cut crystal wine glasses and the tarnished silver forks, spoons and knives.  I took them down and stacked them all by the kitchen sink and after I finish writing this I am going to wash them off, and get them ready to be used tonight. Why tonight? Because it’s Monday.  Because it’s Monday and we are having lasagna and salad and garlic bread for dinner. Because it’s Monday and my kids will get a kick out of having their milk poured into those fancy wine glasses. Because it’s Monday and after dinner my kids will pull out their notebooks and calculators and start their homework. Because it’s Monday and for the twenty-three years I have been married I have only used my wedding china twice. Twice.

I remember the first time I used it. It was our first wedding anniversary and I made my husband a “Chinese” dinner using some sort of pre-bottled sauce that I poured over a few pieces of chicken and some frozen vegetable mixture. Then, as the gummy concoction sat and simmered on the stove, I proudly set our tiny, second-hand kitchen table.  I took out two settings of our wedding china, filled the sparkling glasses full of wine and carefully polished the silverware before neatly placing it by each plate; and then we celebrated.  We celebrated with cheap wine and gluey chicken over sticky Minute rice served on magnificent china plates, in a four room, drafty apartment we rented above a dance studio, across the street from a noisy twenty-four hour gas station, and it was grand.

We’ll do this every year I thought. But we didn’t, we forgot how nice it was and went out to eat on our other anniversaries because for some reason we thought we should, because somehow that seemed better, fancier, more grown up, and so the china stayed unused up on the shelf.

The second time I used my china was years later, when I hosted Thanksgiving in my now bigger, not so drafty home. I was nervous that day, nervous about the turkey being too dry, the stuffing being too bland and my china being chipped or broken.  When the kids reached out with their sticky fingers for the pretty china dishes, I smiled politely and quickly handed each one a paper plate, hoping to avoid dropped dishes and shattered glasses.  After dinner, when everyone had finally left and the kids were in bed, I washed, dried and carefully inspected each piece of china before breathing a sigh of relief and placing it all back up on the shelf; it had made it through unscathed.

Then, this past week my parents who have been married for fifty-four years finally decided it was time to move out of their home. The home they have lived in for forty-five years.  The home where they raised their children, and kept them warm and sent them off one by one to find their way into the world.  It is too big now for only two people, it needs a lot of work, upkeep…and it is just time. So, as we sat around the other day, drinking coffee and discussing the impending move, what they will take with them, and what they will have to leave behind, my mother mentioned her wedding china.

“I need to take my wedding china. You know, we never even used it.”

“Never?” I said in disbelief (as if using mine two times in twenty-three year was so much better than never.) “Why you should be eating off china every night! You earned it! Forget getting new plates, use your china!”

My brother chuckled. “I’ve never used mine either” he said, the pain of his still recent divorce barely hidden beneath his deep laugh.  We all paused and then giggled as we imagined the certain therapeutic release that would be felt if he were to eat off his wedding china and then promptly smash it all on the floor, before sweeping up all of the broken pieces and throwing them away.

So, that’s why I am using my wedding china tonight. Because it’s Monday.  And because we are having lasagna. And because the truth is, no one gets through this life unscathed.

2012: Off And Running And Writing.

2012! Wow! How did that happen? Weren’t we all supposed to die about a million times already from some sort of apocalyptic disaster? I think there is one happening this year as well.  So this might just be it, the real end.  Better go live your dreams, make your wishes come true; eat that chocolate cake before we all explode into a million microbes.

I had a great 2011. I felt like I made some strides in my writing, and want to thank you all very every much for your votes in the various contests I entered. I truly appreciated all the support and encouragement.

These writing contests remind me of the races I subject myself to every few months.  I run and run and run, maybe limping a bit a long the way, then come home proudly clutching the medal that shows I did in fact pay the entry fee for the race and my kids jump around, asking, “So, did you win?” To which I inevitably reply something like, “No, but I was the 200th runner over the line!”  They stare at me, sadly shaking their heads and place a sympathetic hand on my shoulder saying, “That’s okay Mom.” Or, more likely,  “Wow, you stink.”

Look, I know going into these races I am not going to win but I love them. I am hooked. They challenge me, give me something to put my energy into and inspire me.  I see the true athletes out there and I am in awe. These people are good! They train year round, living and breathing this stuff. Me…not so much.  In many ways these races are a lot like the writing contests.  They provide me with a goal, urging me on, daring me to learn from my mistakes and to strive to become perhaps a just a little bit better.  Afterwards when I read over my material, see my glaring errors and then read other peoples entries and see their genius I think: That’s it!  I am done, no more writing for me… then I get just a sliver of good news.  Just enough to keep me going…like two great things that happened this past week.

One, I received news from Adoptive Families Magazine that my book, The Very Best Day, was the most read printable article of 2011. That felt great! (Not exactly sure what it means.  Aren’t they all printable?  But hey, take what you can!) Now I just need a publisher…

And, two, my book A is for Adoption was published last week in the January 2012 issue of Adoption Today. So all and all, a good end to 2011 and off to a running start in 2012.

I am placing a link to Adoption Today below, but I know some people have had trouble accessing it, so I will include a copy of A is for Adoption as well.

Now here is a quick disclaimer about the book. The book is narrated by a girl named Anna, which some people, including my own children, found a bit confusing given the makeup of my family (my oldest is named Anna).

Teddy: “Wait! Anna is adopted too?”

“No, Anna is not adopted. Eliza is adopted.”

Harry: “You never told us Anna is adopted!”

“Because she’s not.”

Teddy: “Am I adopted too?”

“No!”

Eliza (crying) “Wahh! I want to be adopted like Anna.

“You ARE adopted. Anna is NOT Adopted.”

Teddy: “Are you sure I’m not adopted?”

Challenges!

I hope you all have a good, healthy, and happy New Year.

http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=95083&p=38

A Is For Adoption

A is for Anna, that’s me! What’s you name? When you see the first letter of your name in this book shout it out!  A is also for adoption. I’m adopted, are you? Adopted means your birth parents couldn’t care for you and your parents really, really wanted you so they made you a part of their family, forever.  Some people are adopted when they are babies and some when they are older. Some kids are in foster care first, and some aren’t.  How were you adopted? What’s your story?

B is for birthday.  I have a birthday party every year to celebrate the day I was born.  This year I want a chocolate cake with rainbow sprinkles and a HUGE piñata. B is also for birth parents, the man and woman that made you but couldn’t raise you. B is also for brother. I have three. They like to wrestle, look for worms and play baseball.  Sometimes they let me play with them, sometimes they don’t. Do you have any brothers? Do they live with you? Do they look for worms?

C is for cookie.  Everyone knows that!  C is also for caseworker, some people call them adoption workers or social workers.  A caseworker is the person who watches over kids before they are adopted and makes sure they get to the right family.

D is for Daddy. I love my dad. He takes me on bike rides, and buys me ice cream.  I also have a birth dad. I never met mine. Do you have a dad? What do you guys like to do together? Do you know your birth dad?

E is for eternity. Eternity means forever and ever, which is how long I am going to be a part of my family.

F is for Family.  My family has a mom and a dad and three brothers and a sister and two dogs and a turtle and some fish.  My friend Lizzy has two dads, one brother and a cat and Jay has a grandma and that’s it.  All families are different.  What is your family like?

G is for Gecko, which are the only lizards that make noise. They live where is it warm. They have nothing to do with adoption, unless… are you from a warm place? Did they have geckos there? I hope I get one for my birthday. That would be cool!

H is for Happiness.  Happiness is love, fun, friends and families…. oh, and Disney World, of course!

I is for I love you. That’s it.

J is for jumping, juggling and jogging.  J is a fun letter! J is also for Judge. A judge needs to say it is okay for your parents to adopt you. I had to go with my family to a judge when I was a baby. I saw a picture of us all in our dress up clothes.  The judge wore a black robe and was holding this hammer thing called a gavel. Everyone was smiling.  Some kids go to the court when they are older.  Do you remember going to see the judge?

K is for knowledge.  That’s a big word that means to know or learn stuff, like who you are, where you are from, what your adoption story is.

L is for life and learning and love.  My birth mom and birth dad gave me life, so I could breathe and eat and swim and run, so they are really special.  Learning is important because you need to learn about who you are, where you came from, and then there is learning in school like how to read and do math. Love is the best.  I love my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters and friends and pets and teachers and cousins and grandparents and…whew! That’s a lot of love!

M is for Mom.  I love my mom; she plays with me and likes to read to me.  What do you like to do with your mom? I know there is another person out there who is my birth mom, but I didn’t know her. I am glad she had me though, or I wouldn’t be here! Do you know your birth mom?

N is for Naked mole rats. They are small rodents who live in underground colonies in Africa. They have large teeth that stick out that they use to dig. They have very little hair and have wrinkled pink or yellowish skin. They are really funny looking and have absolutely nothing to do with adoption, unless…are you from Africa? Maybe you have seen one?

O is for open.  Open means you can talk about anything and not be scared or embarrassed to ask questions about adoption.  Your parents might not always know the answer, but they will try to figure it out for you.  Open also means something you forgot to shut, like the refrigerator door and then your mom will yell, “Who left the door open!”

P is for parents.  I have two, a mom and a dad. How about you? Parents get to make the rules like say what you can eat and where you can go, and tell you to do your homework, and stuff like that.

Q is questions. I have a lot! Like who were my birth parents? Why couldn’t they keep me? What did they look like? Where are they now? Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? How do fireflies light up like that? Do you have questions?

R is for rainbow.  Rainbows are cool and have so many different colors, just like people.  Some families look like rainbows because there can be all kinds of colors in one family: brown hair, red hair, blue eyes, green eyes, brown skin, tan skin, light skin with freckles.  If you line up your family maybe you can make your own people rainbow.

S is for super, stupendous and special!  I am all those things, super, stupendous and special, oh and my mom says I am silly. S is also for sister. I have one older sister.  She likes to play softball, swim and shop for clothes.  Do you have any sisters?  Mine is awesome, even though she doesn’t like me touching her stuff.

T is for together. Adoption is about being together as a family.

U is for Ultrasaurus which was a huge, long-necked dinosaur.  Their bones have been discovered in both South Korea and the United States.  They don’t really have anything  to do with adoption either, well unless you are maybe from South Korea or the United States. Are you?  Wouldn’t you love to ride on an Ultrasaurus!

V is for valuable.  Valuable means something that is desired or wished for or important.  My parents say all kids are valuable.

W is for wish.  My parents had a wish and it was me! I have a wish, to go to Africa and see a naked mole rat in action.

X is for Xenops, which are birds that live in South America and again have nothing to do with adoption, unless you are from South America, then, I suppose it could have to do with your adoption story.  Are you from South America?

Y is for yes! Yes I am adopted! Yes I love my family! Yes I am valuable! Yes I was wished for! Yes I have questions! Yes I want to see a naked mole rat!

Z is for zillion. I have a zillion more places to go, things to do and questions to ask.  Oh, yes, and I love my family a zillion times through.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2012

The Very Best Day

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog! I have been pulled into this NaNoWriMo thing and have become a bit obsessed.

NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, is a contest of sorts where writers are encouraged to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November.  Sounds easy? You think you can do it? Go ahead, I dare you.  This is hard work, almost like writing a dissertation in thirty days, but unlike a dissertation, it is actually fun. Also unlike a dissertation, there will most likely be no reward at the end, no cap and gown, no ceremony, but for some crazy reason I need to do this.   I know there is probably no way I will finish my novel in time but the contest has at least finally got me to sit down and put on paper a story that I have been mulling over for a long time.

More on that later.

November is National Adoption month and Saturday is actually National Adoption Day. National Adoption Month is dedicated to educating people about adoption and honoring those involved in the process: adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, foster children, foster parents social workers, judges , etc. Whew! It takes a village! Funny that November is Adoption Month because November 17th is Eliza’s, my youngest child, actual “home to stay day.”

On November 17th, four years ago, we returned to Boston after a wonderful and life changing trip to the Middle East. A trip I never would have taken if it were not for this one small baby with big brown eyes that called me there. I met members of my husband’s family that I probably never would have met, and saw things I never would have seen.  We were treated like royalty, marched around to parties and dinners, tasting wonderful food, visiting villlages, seeing ancient ruins and beautiful underground caves filled with pools of aqua blue water.  The people were so gracious and wonderful yet through it all I felt unsettled and anxious. A piece of me was far away, across the ocean. I needed my kids.

It was freezing cold when the plane finally landed in Boston, the wind howled and snow was whipping about.  We piled into the warm limousine that was waiting for us outside, and started the last part of our journey home.  The drive to our house seemed to take forever. When we were finally passing the shops on the main street of the town where we live, I looked at my husband and said, “Now, I can breathe.”

We pulled up to a house full of family, friends, and balloons.  Eliza was passed around, we all hugged and chatted, and I felt my heart come to a quiet, peaceful rest. The next morning, long after all the well-wishers had left, I awoke to a quiet house.  I picked up my baby and went downstairs. There were plates of leftover cake and empty cups scattered about. It was wonderful. Soon the other kids ran downstairs, there was breakfast to make and cartoons to watch and I thought… this is it.

This is the best day of my life.

And…that’s what I wrote about. The wonder of being a family, the sense that the real miracles of life don’t occur with lots of fanfare and glitz, (sorry Kardashians) they occur in those small windows of time when you just breathe in each other.

I thought I would honor this special month on my small little blog by reprinting the story I wrote about that very day.  This is the original book that started this whole crazy blogging-writing thing. It was published in Adoptive Families Magazine this past summer and I placed a link to the book on the sidebar of my blog, but I never really placed the book here for all to see.

I look at this book now and think, it really isn’t just about Eliza, it is about all of us. All of the pieces of our journey, our family, our friends, near and far that brought her to us.  I also think this book could just have easily been written for biological children as well, and I may just do that one day. Here’s a start:

I remember painting the walls a foamy green, and stenciling a school of silly fish on the nursery wall.

I remember sitting in the rocking chair, my hand wrapped around my big, bloated, belly, feeling you dance inside.

I remember daddy struggling to put together the crib, swearing that several pieces appeared to be missing and the directions only came in Chinese.

I remember the excruciating pain as your big head…

Okay, wait; maybe I should work on this book a bit more.

No matter how they come, plane, or pain, all my kids are special, all are loved. Happy Adoption Month everyone.

THE VERY BEST DAY

Mommy, tell me again about the best day ever.

The day the social worker called and said you could adopt a baby, was that the best day ever?

Well, that was certainly a very wonderful day full of wishes, and dreams and hope, but no, it wasn’t the best day ever.

The day you opened the mail and saw a picture of me for the very first time was that the best day?

That was without a doubt a truly marvelous day full of happiness, excitement, and joy, but that was not the best day.

The day you went on the airplane to come and get me and bring me home, was that the best day?

That was such an extraordinary day, full of luggage, and taxis and lots of rushing around, but no, that wasn’t the best day ever.

How about the day you held me in your arms for the very first time was that the best day?

That day was so very close to being the best day.  It was definitely a miraculous day, full of love, and wonder, and awe, but it was still not the best day.

The day you, and me, and daddy all came home and there were lots and lots of people at the house having a big party with a huge painted sign saying, ”Welcome Home” that spread across the whole front porch, was that the best day ever?

That day was utterly special, incredible, amazing, and fabulous! It was a day full of hugs and kisses, meetings and greetings, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends, cakes and cameras and gifts, but still, still it was not the best day ever, because…

While all of those days were wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, miraculous, special, incredible, amazing and fabulous none of them were the best day, because the best day, the absolute very best day ever, was the next day.

The sun came up,

the dogs barked,

birds chirped

and you were there

There were empty cups scattered about the house,

and paper plates with crumbs of leftover chocolate cake still stuck to them.

There were scraps of wrapping paper and brightly covered ribbons covering the floor,

and three clunky suitcases waiting to be unpacked in the corner.

And you were there.

Daddy fed the dogs,

got out the flour,

and cracked some eggs into a big bowl…and you were there.

I put on a pot of fresh coffee… and you were there.

Your brothers and sister came running downstairs and suddenly there was laughter and yelling and sticky pancakes

…and you were there.

The snow started to fall quietly outside… and you were there.

And what could have,

should have,

been just an ordinary day was suddenly

wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, miraculous, special, incredible, amazing and fabulous because you were there.

Now that, THAT was the very, very, very best day ever!

Teeth, Feet and Fly…..

Kenny Rogers - Nov 2004 Photo by Alan C. Teepl...

Image via Wikipedia

Funny, the things we remember from our childhood. Often, it’s not the big expensive trip or the thing that cost the most, but the little pieces that make up the bigger ones: the crazy family car rides, the chaos involved in actually taking the family photos, the tree in the front yard.

Another story I wrote also made it to Editors Picks in The Readers Digest contest.  It is on the front page as of now, titled “Eddie.”

It is about the “photo” tree we had our yard growing up. The maple tree where we would stand and take all of our family event photos, first day of school, First Communion, prom, etc.

“Eddie”

His name is Eddie. The big, tall maple that lived in our front yard. We named it Eddie because momma always said there was a refreshing eddy of a breeze that would come right around that tree in the sticky, hot summer. Eddie is in all our family photographs, the first day of school: “Go stand near Eddie so I can take a picture.” Easter: “Kids line up near Eddie. Quick, before you go get your church clothes all dirty!” Prom: “Why don’t you and George go stand over near Eddie? Ya’ll look so grownup!” Eddie was the home base for our massive neighborhood games of hide and seek “I gotcha ya!” “No way. I tagged Eddie first!” Eddie is still the first thing I see when I pull up to my parents’ house. A few less leaves, bending perhaps a bit more, but standing proud, delivering his cool breeze.

Do you like the Southern effect I threw in there? I think I wrote this after seeing The Help.

(My other Editors Pick, Sunday Car Ride, is now on the third page as more Life Stories flow in.  Some of them are pretty good…but ignore those and vote for mine, http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/)

Don’t you wonder what sorts of things your children will carry with them into adulthood?

I came across an article recently about Randy Pausch. You all probably know who he was, the Carnegie Mellon professor who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, gave a lecture to his students titled, The Last Lecture, which went viral and was viewed and read by people all over the world.  Originally written for his children, he shared it with a million others.  You can find his lecture on YouTube, or buy the book version.  It was a wonderful speech, the wisdom of a dying man, full of the kind of guidance and value only those in such a position can give.  Sadly Randy Pausch died in 2008.

The columnist in the piece I read asked people to send in one piece of  advice they wished to share with their children.

“One?” I thought, “That’s impossible.”

We humans love to give advice. We have whole magazines full of advice on how to parent better, how to lose weight, how to be sexier, how to clean your house.  And then there are books and movies and talk shows full of advice. Every month professional advice givers are coming up with new suggestions for us; people like Oprah (the almighty advice giver), Dr. Oz (who makes me want to run out and buy vats of disinfectant), and Charlie Sheen (who also makes me want to run out and buy vats of disinfectant).  Just please don’t take any instructions from that horrid Snookie person on MTV.

I realized that, thanks to all the media and wise people who have gone before me such as Randy Pausch, Dr. Seuss and Kenny Rogers, all the good advice has already been given. (What? You never thought of Kenny Rogers as a philosopher?)

“Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.” (Randy Pausch).

 “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” (Dr. Seuss).

“You better know when to fold them, know when to hold them, know when to walk away and know when to run…”  (The great Kenny Rogers, he is as of this writing still alive, although his plastic surgery debacle is awful!)

“Man,” I thought. “That’s not fair! Those people got to give a lot of advice! Not just one piddly little piece, lots!”

So…then I thought, I have some life knowledge I would like to share, but I can’t narrow all that valuable insight down to just one thing! Forty or fifty things maybe, but not one! I mean, who can only give ONE piece of advice?  Especially someone like me; I am a woman, a parent and a psychologist. That combination SCREAMS advice giving!

So, after mulling it over for some time, I managed to condense my infinite wisdom down to just three crucial life recommendations I would like to now pass on to the next generation.

Get your pens and paper ready!

Teeth, Feet, Fly.

When I was in college, a friend and I had a rule that when we were out and went to the ladies room, before returning to the table (or the bar), we were to check our teeth (for wayward pieces of food that might be stuck in there), feet (for a piece of toilet paper that might be trailing on the bottom) and fly (to make certain it was properly fastened).

Simple, basic, straightforward advice.

And while you are at it, teeth, feet and fly can also be expanded to looking after other proper hygiene issues such as brush, floss, deodorize, and wash. If you smell bad and look bad, you won’t get in the door: not for a date, not for a job.

This advice may help get you in but the rest is up to you.  (Such as look people in the eye, without being creepy.  Smile and answer them when they talk to you.)

And don’t forget to discreetly tell your friends when they have something in their teeth, or if their fly is down.  Wouldn’t you want to know? Isn’t that what a true friend does? Tells you when something is not quite right? Helps you out when you are in a jam?

(See how I managed to sneak in a lot of advice there? It’s a mom trick.)

Never Say Never.

Never Say Never.

Not as in a, “fight for what you want, and stand up for yourself” Justin Bieber sort of thing, (What? You never heard the Bieber song, “Never Say Never?” You obviously don’t have a teenage girl).

Although that’s all good and true, and you should stick to your guns and not give up (sneaking in more mom advice here), what I mean is never say, “I would never do that!” Because the truth is, we don’t know what we would do, or not do in certain situations. What words we might say, or how we might act.

I am not saying you shouldn’t have your beliefs, or values, those are important, but just realize there are situations in life in which we all become strangers to ourselves, and do and say things we may not recognize.  And if you say, ‘I would never do that,” in a judgmental way about someone else’s behavior and then later do something similar….it’s just awkward for everyone (Ted Haggard).

And, no matter what, when you are a parent don’t ever say, “My kid would never do that!” That is like the kiss of death! Once you look at someone else’s child’s antics and say, “Oh my God, my child would never do that!” I can pretty much guarantee you; your kid is going to do whatever it is… or worse.

Marry the one who makes you laugh the most.

Forget the one who your friends think is the cutest, or the one your parents think will be the most successful.  Life is long, trying and tiring at times.

Marry the one who makes you laugh the most.

Marry the one who makes you giggle at the most improper times.

Who makes you smile at the same time you are crying.

The one who makes you see the absurdity in all of it all: in life, in others, in yourself.

The one who makes you laugh when you come home from an important job interview in tears and tell him/her that you just realized that you had some leftover green thing from lunch  in your teeth the entire time.

Or who makes you smile inappropriately when you catch his eye in the middle of a serious school meeting regarding your child’s less than stellar behavior.

Marry the one who brings you joy, instead of flowers.

(Unless you are lucky like me and find someone with all of those aforementioned qualities, then go for it of course.)

So there it is.

My three pieces of advice  for the next generation.

Now it is you chance. What three important things do you want to say to your children, or family, or friends, or dogs before you go?

If you had three pieces of wisdom to pass on, what would they be?

There is no guarantee anyone will listen but I bet the next time you go the restroom you will remember Teeth, Feet and Fly….