To Love a Rose: An Ethiopian Adoption Journal

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Empty Chairs and Empty Tables

Photo Courtesy of In Focus Daily.

My heart and mind are still reeling from the tragedy that occurred last Friday.

A mother shot by her mentally deranged son, who then targeted and killed many children and teachers at an elementary school before taking his own life.

Tragic.  Terrible.  Heart-wrenching.  Disgusting.  Painful.  Horrific.  Nightmarish.

Words are never enough, are they?  That's how I've been feeling; that's why I've been silent.  What can I say?  No, words are never enough in the aftermath of tragedies like these.

But many people seem to have plenty to say.  Mostly about gun laws - pro or con.  This has sparked a massive controversy in America as people on both sides of the fence and people like myself (somewhere between protecting our second amendment rights and making it harder for the mentally ill and unstable to obtain guns/ammo).  And as the days go on, that seems to be the only topic of conversation coming out of this event.

Sure, there are those photo collages popping up here and there on F*cebook; and they all have thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of "likes", don't they?  All those bright, young, beautiful faces staring back from a computer screen, perhaps with a name typed above or below them; but more often than not it's guns we are talking about, and not these selfless and brave teachers and innocent children whose lives were stolen in an instant by a madman.

After any act of violence, I agree that it is right and good to examine ourselves and how we stand as a people and society.  But in this instance, I find myself exhausted of the use of these students' and teachers' lives being used as fodder for political agenda.

All I can think about is the endless amounts of empty chairs there will be this holiday season for the families of these victims.  All I can think about are the presents with children's names on the tags that will remain forever unopened.  All I can think about is the gaping hole in the hearts of the mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children of these lives so senselessly wasted.  The magic of the holiday season is going to be a whole lot dimmer this year for these families; and my heart doesn't just break, it twists and moans and stretches and bleeds for them. 

If we want to discuss something, it should mental health - that of the many perpetrators of violent crimes every day in this country as well as that of those friends and family left behind in the wake of this horrific crime.  What are we doing for them?  For both sets of them?  Obviously, not enough for the one...hopefully, an over-flowing of support and resources for the other.

Someone on F*cebook said that "prayers and hugging won't help; so stop repeating these things" concerning the Newtown, CT tragedy.  Well, I disagree.  I have personally witnessed the power of prayer over and over and over again (I also know how much relief and comfort a well-timed bear hug can offer).

So, please know that if you are reading this, and you will be facing an empty chair this holiday season at your get-togethers, your parties, your family dinners, etc. I will be praying for you and your heart.  I will be praying for peace to somehow, someway hold you together and comfort your body, mind, and soul as you weather this treacherous storm of emotions and try to put together the pieces of lives ripped apart by sudden and tragic loss.  May LOVE and HAPPY MEMORIES forever fill those empty spaces this holiday season and always.

All the Love in the Universe,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Natural and Eco-Friendly Health, Beauty, and Home Care

One of my favorite spots on the farm where I grew up.
Many people don't know this, but I grew up on an organic farm in Iowa.  Eating organic, recycling, finding alternative power sources, using natural health/beauty/house cleaning products, etc. has been a part of my family's life for decades.  Being with mom through two cancer diagnoses, though, has made us hyper aware of our health and specifically what we put in our bodies, what we put on our bodies (I'm talking to you, ladies - our skin is extremely absorbent), and what we use to clean the environment around our bodies.

Me on the farm in 2009.
I realize that there are people who do "everything right" - eating well and taking good care of themselves - and they still get cancer or get sick.  I'm not claiming that by using natural products I am exempt from illness, but I do want to try my very hardest to take the best care of myself that I can by using products that are as natural as possible.  I also feel that it is our duty to care for the Earth and many of these products are kind to this planet we inhabit as well - a double whammy of goodness for body and environment.

When we were at the CTCA, people would often ask me what natural health and beauty products I used.  There are now so many all-natural companies offering excellent options, I really encourage everyone to go out and try things for themselves as tastes vary so much from person to person; however, I do happen to have some favorites that I love to recommend, because I think they're just so darn good!

Many of the products listed below can be found at some of my favorite online retailers as well as convenient shops in nearly everyone's neighborhood such as TargetLucky VitaminAmazonVitacost, and others.  Look around and seek out the best price at the time; which might change from month to month or even week to week with sales and specials.

Favorite Shampoo and Conditioner: Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo and Conditioner

These two are by far my favorite hair care products!  Mr. C and I both love this pair by Giovanni Cosmetics.  The tea tree oil is invigorating as it tingles the scalp.  The smell is almost minty and not at all overwhelming like some tea tree products can be.  I also love that it is safe for color treated hair (more on natural hair color further down).  Most conditioners leave my uber-straight, fine hair feeling heavy or at worst greasy.  This conditioner is light yet moisturizing.  All-in-all, I adore these products!

Runner Up: Avalon Organics Lavender Shampoo

I'm a big fan of Avalon Organics.  I think their product line is amazing, and this shampoo is really nice.  All of the scents are lovely, but there's something soothing about the lavender that I simply love.  It has a matching conditioner as well, and they both come in large bottles (shown above) with pumps that last forever and give you the best bang for your buck.

Favorite Body Wash: Dr. Bronner's Magic Castille Soap

Mr. C and I just recently started delving into the fantastic world of Dr. Bronner's magic soaps, but can I just say this company is amazing!  I am so impressed with their ethics and commitment to creating the best soaps with the highest quality, fair-trade ingredients possible.

Most natural soaps (shampoos included) don't lather as much as their chemically-laden counterparts, because they are lacking the nasty stuff (sulfates, phthalates, etc.) that are known carcinogens and therefore bad for you.  Dr. Bronner's castille soap still gets super luxurious lather, though, by using massive quantities of fair-trade coconut oil.

They also offer about a million scents (okay, that's hyperbole, but there's a LOT of them, really!).  I like to mix and match them in the shower to create my own, signature body wash scent based on my mood and how my skin is feeling.  For example, most days, I love mixing the almond and rose for a sweet and feminine scent; but if I have a few blemishes trying to pop out, I'll use the tea tree or eucalyptus oil soaps because of their bacteria-killing qualities (bye-bye break-outs!).  And just for clarification, this stuff is SO GOOD, I use it as facial cleanser, body wash, and bubble bath.  It's also good for making an all-purpose cleaner and laundry soap. :-)

Runner Up: Jason Soothing Aloe Vera Body Wash

The Jason company has been a pioneer in the natural body care market for decades.  Their products are top-notch in quality and their selection is vast.  Mr. C and I love the aloe body wash for its neutral scent and soothing properties (it's very kind to Mr. C's year-round dry skin).  These body washes also double nicely has bubble baths. ;-)

Favorite Deodorant: Soap Walla Deodorant Cream

My struggle to find an effective, natural deodorant has been literally years in the process.  I think I've tried nearly every brand and every product type available to no avail.  My main goal was to cut out antiperspirants from my daily routine since they contain aluminum which is linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer disease (and we apply this stuff to our under-arms, a place chock-full of lymph nodes - ugh!).  

While I quickly got over the fact that I do, in fact, sweat (imagine that!); it was harder to get over the constantly sticky feeling most of these vegetable oil based deodorants left behind.  But I could have dealt with just about anything to find a natural deodorant that actually deodorized!  Most of the time I felt as though I needed to apologize for my own "stank".  I'm all for embracing the human body's natural processes (such as sweating), but I'm just not one of the those folks that feels everyone should have to endure my smelliness therefore.

I had all but given up on the possibility of finding a truly effective natural deodorant when I stumbled upon an online review of Soap Walla's deodorant cream.  Yes, I said cream.  Instead of the traditional hard stick, this deodorant comes in a little tub and is applied like a lotion to the under-arms.

At first, I thought this would be a massive inconvenience; but as I started using this product on a daily basis, I quickly got over any reservations I may have initially harbored toward this incredible product.  This deodorant goes on easily and soaks in quickly - no wetness left behind.  The best part is that it's not at all sticky and (wait for it) it actually works!  Unlike most all the other natural deodorants I had tried over the years, I apply this once in the morning and it lasts all day!  Miracle of miracles!  The smell isn't over-powering at all, yet it's effective; and it is so masterfully compounded that I truly believe both men and women could get away with wearing it without feeling as though they are compromising their masculinity or femininity, respectively.  Tea tree oil is used to keep bacteria from growing (and making the aforementioned "stank") while natural powders and clays help to dry up any wetness that may occur.  

I cannot stop bragging up this product; it is truly that amazing!

Favorite Toothpaste: Tom's of Maine Spearmint Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening Toothpaste
Tom's of Maine has some of the best natural toothpastes around, in my opinion.  In my experience, many natural tooth polishes are gritty and taste terrible.  Spearmint is my personal favorite as far as toothpaste flavors go, and this one is fresh and invigorating.  I also love knowing that I'm using a natural toothpaste without having to forgo whitening benefits - win-win!

Favorite Lip Balm: EOS in Sweet Mint

There's just something about those bright, little, round globes of lip goo goodness by EOS that I can't help but be drawn to time and again.  My favorite lip balms are almost always some type of mint, because they double as breath fresheners; but EOS' sweet mint is especially tasty and not at all over-powering.  

The little dome of balm is held in an egg-like container that fits surprisingly well in my new small handbag, and I love how easily it glides on my lips.  Best of all it's nearly all organic, and is entirely natural - very important for a beauty product you literally end up eating most of the time!

Runner Up: Burt's Bees Mango Butter Lip Balm

I really love the original Burt's Bees lip balm, but the fruity flavors have been growing on me lately.  Mango is one of my favorite flavors and fruity scents; so, I was drawn to this balm immediately.  It glides on smoothly, smells (and tastes) great, and is 100% natural.  

Favorite Moisturizing Body Lotion: Renew Melaleuca Intensive Skin Therapy Lotion

Over the past few years, as I've entered my early 30's, I've noticed that my skin has begun to get fairly dry and itchy on a regular basis (an issue I never had to deal with before).  I would often slap on some scented lotion from a prominent beauty goods chain only to find I was still dry and often sensitive to the harsh chemicals and scents in their products.

My parents buy each month from the Melaleuca product line, and one day my dad offered me a bottle of their Renew lotion.  I was hooked!  I especially love to lather this on after I've shaved or after a hot shower. It soaks right in without feeling too thick or gooey.  Although, I love nice smells as much as the next girl, this isn't full of fragrance; which is actually good in my opinion for irritated or dry skin, especially in the winter.

Favorite Shave Lotion: Kiss My Face Green Tea and Bamboo Moisture Shave

Although, I believe these moisture shaves by Kiss My Face are intended for men's shaving needs, I find they work well for a woman's as well.  My dad always used the key lime scent, and once when I was out of shaving cream of my own I used it on my legs.  I was pleasantly surprised, so much so that I bought my own bottle; later, I decided to try a new scent, and the was drawn to the fresh, clean fragrance of the green tea and bamboo.

For those women who find their legs getting particularly dry or irritate during/after shaving (or men whose faces feel the same), I highly recommend this product!

Favorite Hair Dye: Naturtint Natural Hair Color in Fireland

Naturtint's natural colors are as convenient as any other box dye without all the extra nasty stuff that comes along with those commercial brands.  Dark hair dyes have been linked to cancer; but as a person who has been dying her hair since she was 13, it was important to me to find an alternative that worked just as well as any other dye I could find.

You can mix any of their colors to get just the right shade, and because it's all natural (NOT henna) you can dye over it within hours if you absolutely hate how it turned out.  I always go for a red; so Fireland is a natural choice, but my sister, W, has used the mahogany-chestnut and it turned out really nicely.

I haven't had an opportunity to mix a custom color yet, but it might be in the near future. :-)  

Favorite Baby All-In-One: California Baby Calming Shampoo and Bodywash

Okay, so truthfully, as you all know I have obviously not been able to put this one into practice yet; but this really is the product we plan on using on Desmond when he gets home from South Korea.  In fact, we're pretty enamored with the whole California Baby product line in general.  All of their products are allergy tested, and many are free of gluten and other known allergens that can irritate sensitive baby skin causing rashes.

Usually, I love anything labeled "calming" (after all, who couldn't use a little more calm in their life?!); and this body wash was no exception.  Desmond's developmental report says he loves bath time; so, I'm hoping this soothing body wash will help keep him loving it even after he comes home to us.

Runner Up: Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Soap

Yep, it's Dr. Bronner's again!  I've already sent Desmond's foster omma a bottle of this to use on his hair and body.  It's completely scent-free; so, I know there's nothing in it to cause an allergic reaction and irritate his skin.  I'm also considering washing his clothes in this as it doubles as a laundry detergent (it even comes in a convenient one gallon jug size for that purpose).  

Favorite Household Cleaner: Homemade Vinegar Solution

Mr. C and I have been making our own, homemade household cleaner out of organic vinegar, alcohol, water, and essential oils.  Recently, we've taken to putting several drops of either eucalyptus or tea tree oils for their bacteria -killing properties.

I feel good knowing that we are saving money on these long-lasting homemade products as well as cleaning with a solution that is safe to spray around my soon-to-be toddler and pets.

Runner Up: Earth's Best All Natural All Purpose Cleaner

This is touted as a "nursery cleaner", but it's really just an all-purpose cleaner that's safe enough to use in a nursery.  Earth's Best is one of my favorite product lines for infants and toddlers.  In fact, we are sending Desmond some of their organic formula in a care package.  I just love their commitment to organic children's food products; warms this momma-to-be's heart.

Favorite Laundry Detergent: Homemade

I like this recipe from one of my favorite blogs The Eco Friendly Family.  It's simple, cheap, and makes a ton!

Runner Up: Seventh Generation 2x Concentrated Laundry Detergent

My family has been using Seventh Generation products for a long while now, and I've always been a big fan of their laundry detergent.

There are more products that I love; so, I think I might have to follow this up with another post.  But I hope this has given all of you just beginning to delve into the world of natural health/beauty and home care products a good jumping off point.

Be Well, Be Blessed,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Best Anniversary Gift EVER!

Photo courtesy of

Today was our 4th anniversary.  That would have been enough to make us gloriously happy, but we got the BEST anniversary gift EVER:


That's right, folks, we're parents!

I can't share a lot of information until our little one's acceptance paperwork is filed (should be next week), but suffice it to say we are wonderfully, amazingly, and deliriously HAPPY.  It was the most incredible moment to open that Internet file and SEE our child's face!

We are so in love with this little one, and can't wait to be able to share more in the near future.  I think it took me a good 3 hours to stop shaking and tearing up every five seconds.  It was so heart-warming to call all of our family members and close friends and shout, "WE'RE PARENTS!"  To be able to finally give such wonderful news to these people who have been supporting us for so long...well, it felt surreal.

The most touching thing for me was to see the out-pouring of love and well-wishes from our friends on Facebook.  Many of these dear friends and family members are now scattered all across the country and world.  We don't get to see each other often, but to know how much they love and support our baby just overwhelmed me with emotion.  I can't wait to share with them how vast the sea of love embracing them was/is.  We are all so truly blessed.

Next time I post, I will *hopefully* be posting pictures of the sweetest little face I've ever seen.  Prepare your hearts for an extreme case of the swoons.

Feeling so, SO blessed right now...we absolutely had the best anniversary EVER!

All the Love in the Universe,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The (forever?) Empty Womb

Photo courtesy of TheMidnightOrange.

*First, I think I need to preface this post by stating loudly that I'm not angry or upset or bitter or jealous of other women's pregnancies.  I'M REALLY NOT!  In fact, when I hear of other women becoming pregnant after long, arduous, heart-wrenching battles with IF, I am actually cheering right along with them.  So, PLEASE, don't get all righteous telling me how I should be glad for others or how I sound bitter...I am glad for others...I'm actually not bitter.  Everything I'm writing about today is really just observation and a healthy dose of realization on my part...about what my future might really (not) hold.*

The past few months have been fraught with pregnancy and birth announcements - many people I know IRL, some I've only ever known via the Internet.  Some are those of fellow cysters or those battling some other form of IF; several have been "regular" folks who just got knocked up the "old fashioned way".  But today, I found out that pretty much the last girl I had known to be battling IF is now pregnant via donor eggs and IVF.

For some reason it all really hit me:

I am the LAST one left standing.  I am the last "barren woman"...I am a statistic.

I remember sitting in our new RE's office way back in 2010 with Mr. C, god, we were so naive and optimistic - so gloriously optimistic!  Doctor was laying everything out about my recent diagnosis of PCOS.  While he explained all that would be most likely needed to get me pregnant, he noted that we shouldn't worry; because only about 5% of women with PCOS don't end up getting pregnant when medical intervention is applied.

GREAT!  We thought.  We'll be pregnant in no time, then!

Wow, gloriously optimistic, indeed.

Fast forward through all of the meds, procedures, and IUI's; and it looks like we are that 5% that don't ever succeed.  True, we never dove into IVF; but at that point, the money had run out, and it was either adoption (= guarantee) or IVF (= no guarantee).  We went with adoption (which doesn't mean it isn't difficult and fraught with disappointment...only that in the END, there will be a baby).

Sometimes it blows my mind that this didn't work out for us.  Sometimes I cry.  Sometimes I'm super angry and feel like screaming or throwing a pregnant lady off a cliff (okay, not REALLY).  Sometimes I get into a depressed funk that lasts for days.  Sometimes the thought comes and then flits away quickly as if I never really cared about it at all.  Strange.

Now that I'm so far removed from the "trying" (and "failing") stages, I can say that more than anything I wonder a lot about what I'm "missing out on".  And then, I have to think, "What if it truly never happens - EVER?"  What if I die, and I never conceived or gave birth?  What does that mean?  How will it affect me, my life, my family, my marriage?  Does it even matter?  What's God's will?  Or is it all just on me, did I not try hard enough to make this happen?

Knowing what I know now about all the weird, crazy, seemingly random steps God took to protect my sister and my mom from their health issues, it makes me wonder if infertility is a way of protecting me and Mr. C too.  Would we have a terrible miscarriage?  Do I have a malformation like my sister that would also most likely burst if I ever got pregnant that I just don't know about?  Would our child inherit some crazy cancer gene and have to fight for his/her life like my mom?  Would they have epilepsy and get hurt like Mr. C or my sister?  The questions abound, but at the end of the day the reality is - "who knows?"  We could  conceive and have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and child.  OR, something could go terribly wrong.  But, aren't these things every  parent-to-be has to consider?  So, really, am I just trying to make myself feel better over the fact that we FAILED to conceive?

Possibly.  Very probably, actually.

When I was in college, I took an English class entitled "Rooms, Tombs, and Wombs in Women's Literature".  Although there were many themes that ran through this class' coursework, the undercurrent was always the same - all of these things are meant to be filled in one way or another.  And in regards to women, the womb is the most powerful container of all.  Within its confines, the spark of life itself bursts into being; it is truly the most incredible act of creation a woman can participate in.

But what does that mean for a woman like me?  What if I never get to "create" in that way?  Am I in some way deficient?  Do I miss out on touching the universe on some higher plane?

In my heart, I want to believe that these questions are silly; but then again, are they?  I can't be the only infertile woman wondering these things...

I don't have any answers to these multitudinous quandaries...perhaps I never will, and probably there is a life lesson even in that realization as well.  All  I know is that my womb is has never been "full", I have never felt life bursting at the seams within me (our miscarriages were too early for me to even realize I was truly pregnant, let alone feel anything)...and there is a very great possibility that I never will.  I wish I knew how I felt about that prospect, but at the moment I just don't know yet.

Is anyone else out there contemplating the reality of a (possibly) forever empty womb?  How do you cope with this reality?  Does it bother you or do you rarely think of it?

Just thoughts...I hope I can expound upon this at a later time...these have been fairly rambling thoughts, but I think all of these questions are weighty and deserve real and honest contemplation.

Love Love Love,

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pictures from the Cancer Battlefield, Part 17: Almost There

I found this while reading in mom's hospital room one day...very fitting and a good reminder for those days when you feel like your battle is too great.  Your Abba dreamed up the very cosmos...nothing is too great for Him.

Many people have been asking when mom will be going home for good.  The answer is VERY SOON.  The estimate is early November, but there are few things left to be done to wrap up her lengthy stay in Zion.

First, she has two more interthecals (where they shoot the chemo straight into the spinal cord) to do.  She has already done two the past couple of weeks.  A lot of people don't understand why she has to keep doing interthecals when she already did so many during her 8 rounds of chemo pre-transplant.

Well, the idea is that with a nasty diagnosis like Philadelphia positive, adult ALL, recurrence could be high; HOWEVER, they (whoever "they" are) have discovered that after 8 rounds of "A" and "B" chemo (including interthecals each "B" side), a stem cell transplant, and 4 rounds of extra interthecals, the chances of recurrence reduce to something like 1%.  PRETTY DARN AMAZING.  So, while mom was not overjoyed to have to do these last four interthecals; she liked the odds in her favor if she agreed to them, so of course she did.

Even though mom has been out-patient for a couple of weeks, she has still had to go in to stem cell clinic every day for CBC (complete blood counts), fluids, potassium, magnesium, and even some blood products a couple of times.  It's quite common to need these things after stem cell transplant.  When she gets home to Iowa, the plan is to have an organization come in daily to the house to help her with physical therapy (PT), clean, cook a bit, and do her CBC's and med support from the comfort of her recliner.  It will be so nice to be HOME at last!

She continues to do fairly well with her PT - going from not being able to walk at all to being able to walk fairly well with the aid of a walker but still needing some help getting up and down from sitting positions.  This will continue to get better and better, and she will keep up her PT when she goes home to Iowa for an entire year, per doctor's orders.

Her kidneys are functioning at around 40%; which is great considering she had complete kidney failure in July.  Everyone is amazed at how much they have improved and continue to improve.  We are believing for total restoration of kidney function.  I know if God can save her from everything else that He has, He can restore her kidneys entirely too.  But, the good news is they are functioning well enough that she will never need dialysis again - praise God!  Now, we just have to get her to DRINK MORE water during the day; so her creatinine levels will stay down in the normal range!

A few days ago mom had another bone marrow biopsy...I remember last November when they couldn't even get a good sample of her bone marrow, because it was so incredibly riddled with leukemia cells.  Now, it's clean as a whistle; not one trace of cancer resides there.  How amazing is that?!  Her spinal fluid came back completely negative as well.  God is so good to heal!

The next day, I had a biopsy of my own...remember the stage 3C, cervical pre-cancer I had back in 2010?  Well, yeah, it's STILL gone - woo hoo!  I've been pre-cancer free for almost TWO WHOLE YEARS!  I'm so blessed!

Meanwhile, Mr. C and I are glad to have this month off and be back in Branson (home!).  We have used this time to *nearly* finish Baby C's nursery, clean the house, sleep a LOT, take walks, be with our doggy who has stayed with Mr. C's mom and step-dad this whole time, and see people/go places we haven't laid eyes on in months and months.  It's been glorious!

Towards the end of this month, we will head back to Chicago/Zion to help move mom and everyone from the apartment in Waukegan back to my parents' house in Iowa.  As glad as I will be to have this awful/amazing journey over with, it's going to be so incredibly strange to leave the CTCA.  We've made so many friends, and it's really become the norm for Mr. C and I to be there every day.  I can't imagine what it will be like to be "done" with it all.  At the same time, I'm delighted.  It's time.  We're all weary and exhausted of hospital rooms and hospital food and protocols and doctors and just all of it.  It's so hard to just "go back to real life"; but then again, that's the point of all of this, isn't it?  To get healthy so you can go back to living your "real life".  So hard to remember that when you're caught up in the midst of the every day fight.

I know we will all forever be grateful to the doctors, nurses, PCT's, radiologists, assistants, culinary staff, janitorial staff, pastoral care, care managers, and so many, many more at the CTCA who made us feel welcome, comfortable, and like family along this journey.  And to all those fighting along side us in the trenches - the other patients and family members - we will never forget you and are now friends for life.  There is an unbreakable bond connecting those who have suffered so much together, and I know we are truly "family".

Mom and Pastor Toi from religious care.  She is a blessing  - always so positive and full of God's word!

Though this hasn't been the most fun journey that we've been on the past year, it's been a journey I will never take for granted.  My mother has been healed and we have been shown the power and might of our Abba God - some people never get to see that in their whole lifetimes and only wonder if He is great and faithful and compassionate.  We were shown all those things and more.  BLESSED.

I look forward to the day when I can shout that mom will be going HOME to Iowa for good.  It's very soon, my friends...we're *almost* there!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

I'm in love with a boy in the world

*We received notice that the answer is "no".  We do not get to parent "L".  We're both pretty heart-broken and are back to waiting for a referral from the Korea program.  It has been 17 long months since we started this process...we are aching to know who our child is.*

Photo courtesy of The Berry

It's true...I have fallen for a waiting child.  I think I'm in love with this little dude.

And while most people would be giddy with delight over finding a kiddo they connect with...I'm worried.  Worried we'll get denied, turned away - and one day soon I'll see a big "I have a family!" posted happily across his sweet photo-listing picture; and I'll have a hole in my heart.

What's the big deal?  Well, this little guy is in the China program; and we have been approved for Korea.  Would it be a big, giant pain-in-the-butt to switch programs?  Kinda.  China is a Hague country, while Korea is not.  It's a whole different set pile of paperwork and a whole new bag of rules.  Then, there's the fact that this sweet boy has some issues that would need surgery.  I know our insurance company will cover any child we adopt; but with recent changes to our policy I'm not sure how far they'd go for a pre-existing condition, and his treatments *could be* costly.  I think everything would be okay, but in truth, I don't know.  So, we've got a lot of praying to do and a lot of questions to ask to more than one person.  I'm hoping we'll learn more on Monday from our agency and our social worker.

In all honesty, I never thought I'd connect to a waiting child.  This probably sounds terrible, but the children on the waiting child photo-listing are the ones who are usually older and have more demanding special needs.  Looking through the sea of faces in the past, I always felt over-whelmed and nearly felt like hyperventilating when reading through the kiddos' medical files.  But when I found little "L", I didn't feel that way at all.  In fact, I burst into tears for no reason whatsoever.  He just looked so precious, I couldn't help but feel an instant connection.

I have no clue what the future holds.  In all reality, we are probably not eligible to adopt this boy; which is really going to break my heart in half.  Even though he's not what I thought I "wanted" - special needs kiddo, already 2 years old, in the China program - I am truly drawn to him, and Mr. C is too.

If you find the time, please pray for God to guide this whole situation for us and "L".  If the answer is "no"; I just want him to find the best family EVER and SOON.  Also, I really need hope that we will get a referral from Korea soon; and that I'll feel the same "zing" I feel just looking at "L".

Trust me, I'm the first to realize how foolhardy this is - so much of our journey toward adoption is done and now this could throw everything for a loop.  It's not the wisest, and I can't explain it; but I can't stop staring at this little boy.  I'm just giving it over to God; I have to keep trusting that He does, indeed, have a perfect plan.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Mystery of the Vanishing Post

You may have noticed that my last post has vanished.  No, it's not an evil, Internet magician, just me deciding that it was far too whiny and sad and pathetic.

Honestly, I feel I've been entirely too pessimistic lately.  Rewind to where my family was last year: wondering if my mom was going to live or die and what a holiday season without her would really be like, and I find myself slapping myself in the brain screaming, "Why are you so sad/angry/depressed right now anyway?!"

Good question.

If I had to get all psychoanalytical on myself, I'd say I have a bit of survivor's guilt.  Now, I know I wasn't the one battling stage 4 leukemia; but I was there every day (save 4 weeks spent back in Branson doing adoption "stuff") from November 15th, 2011 onward, and I felt every bit of the nerves and fear and terror that comes with battling this terrible disease.

While God answered all of our prayers concerning mom, I had to watch some very dear, sweet, amazing friends lose their battles with cancer.  I realize that most people say life will never be the same after such a journey, but I didn't know how truly UN-cliche those statements were until I lived it - twice in 3 years.

No, life will never be the same; and while I know I'm a better person for what I have witnessed and been through, I am sporting some pretty raw scars in the mind and heart departments.  And while I'm hurting like mad, I can only imagine what these people's family members are feeling - the constant ache, the never-ending sadness, the twisting of anxious stomachs and nervous minds.  Terrible.

I think it's only natural, then, that my disgusting self-pity spilled over into the adoption process.

Okay, seriously, do I think it's unfair that I have now heard of THREE families who have been matched before us when their HSTK were MONTHS after ours?  YES.  I think it really sucks, actually; but here's the deal, folks: there's nothing I can do about it.  And whining, complaining, throwing a fit - none of these things will help us get a referral any sooner.

It was really hard to hear Holt say what they did to us during our recent phone sessions, but in the end I have to keep my eyes focused on God.  I have to believe He has a plan for our family - for our child(ren) - or else I will literally lose my mind.  Am I still upset?  Absolutely.  Tremendously.  Achingly.  Do I cry often?  Yes, more than I care to admit.  But, do I still have hope?  Yes, so much.  I cling to it.  I have to believe that we WILL be able to complete our adoption from Korea.  I have to just keep praying daily that for some reason we are on the Korean social worker's heart and mind, and that she finds a match for our family very soon.

So much of this family-building process has been out of our control.  You can't control lost fertility.  You can't control miscarriages.  You can't control failed fertility treatments.  You can't control wrongful actions made by adoption agencies.  You can't control a birth mom/family changing their minds and deciding to parent when they've made you promises to the otherwise.  None of those things can be controlled.  BUT, I do know that God has always been in control.  In the midst of chaos, He was working things into His perfect order.

Our child is out there.  He is waiting for us just as we wait for him.  We will be united someday soon.

These are truths I cling to when the wait gets too tough to bear.  I'm still upset, but being negative doesn't help anything at all - ever.  My parents were always grinding it into my sisters and I that the Bible is clear that what we speak and think goes out into the universe ahead of us creating a path for us that is either negative or positive - but the choice is ultimately OURS.

So here is something I can control: what I say and think.

If you send out negativity and pessimism, how can you be surprised when you fail or do not get what you want?  Most people who are successful are extremely optimistic.  They shine out positivity and it gets radiated back to them in so many ways.  It doesn't mean that bad things never happen to you, but it means that the outcome will almost always be in your favor - even if only in the sense that you will be able to see the  light in a dark situation.

"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." - Mark 11:24

"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." -Proverbs 12:19

"I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." -Matthew 18:18

"...You do not have, because you do not ask..." -James 4:2

All four of these verses demonstrate the power of positive thinking and positive confession.  We are promised that we will have what our hearts desire (Psalm 37:4), all we have to do is believe and ask and then stand firm.  So, instead of whining and complaining about other families getting matched way out of order or crying all the time; I am going to start confessing every day (and night!) that our child is out there, doing great, being loved by his foster family, and that we will be matched VERY soon.

I hope that the next time I blog it will be because we have been matched; but if not, I have some super exciting stuff to share with you all - pictures of Baby C's nursery!  It's *almost* done.  We are just waiting on a few more things to get here from some online stores, then I can officially step back and breathe a bit.  I'm sure I'll want to tweak things here and there all the time; but when these last items come in, I feel fairly confident that I'll be content for a while, at least.  Oooh, it's seriously so exciting to me to decorate his space!  It really makes the adoption "real" to me for some reason.

Today is Cheseok in South Korea (sort of like our Thanksgiving); and besides Christmas, this is probably the biggest holiday of the year.  I can't help but wonder where Baby C is and what he's doing.  I'm just sure he's with his foster family, hanging out with relatives, being showered with love and attention - at least that's what I hope and pray.  Gosh, I'm grateful for his foster family!  How will I ever be able to thank them enough?

Anyway, that's the mystery of the vanishing post...I hope you can all forgive me for my negativity; it's toxic, and I'm going to try so hard to quit letting it get the best of me.

Love and Blessings,

PS: Mom is going out-patient tomorrow!  Yes, it's true!  I will try to write a blog tomorrow reiterating some of the information about her prophylactic chemo treatments and how she's doing tomorrow or the next day since I had several paragraphs about that in the post I deleted.  But please know it's all amazing, fantastic, wonderful news; so NO WORRIES. :-)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pictures from Cancer Battlefield, Part 16: Dad's 54th Birthday or Every Holiday but One

Wednesday, we celebrated dad's 54th birthday.  This means our family celebrated EVERY holiday that a year has to offer here at the CTCA except one: our 4th anniversary on October 18th.

Everything from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years to Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and Easter...they were all spent here this past year.  All the birthdays too - from Whitney's in November to dad's here just Wednesday...  It reminds me of the song from the musical "Rent" when they ask how you measure your this case, I suppose we could measure in holidays and birthday celebrations...and the fact that we even got to celebrate mom's in February was a miracle to be marked in and of itself.  God has been so good to us.

I am not complaining; I'm really not.  I know that this journey here in Zion has changed my entire family for the better.  We are so much stronger and more grounded in God's word than ever before.  And what could possibly shake us now?  Nothing.  We know how to let God be in control (as He always was) and let go of our own naive ideas of "want" and "need".

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds; because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work; so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:2-4 (NIV) 

We've been saying for a long while now how God only allows trials and tribulations for one of two reasons: to correct or to perfect.  I know this to be true.  We were corrected along this journey many times, but more importantly, we were perfected; so that when the time comes, we will be ready, willing, and able to stand up and shout His glory to the world.

Oh, and I almost forgot...........Mom WALKED yesterday!  Yep, she WALKED, folks!  This is a HUGE step in her healing process.  Once she can walk unassisted, she will be allowed to go out-patient; and beyond that, her numbers are so good, she will probably go home (that's right, actually back home to Iowa) soon after that!

So many blessed can one family be?

Here are some pictures from the past couple of weeks:

Mom and one of our favorite members of the housekeeping staff, Connie.  She brought mom that little jewelry box back from Mexico a week ago when she went to visit her family.  SO NICE!

Mom and her nurse, Raul.  He was her first night nurse ever, and he always calls mom "his baby".  He's so sweet!

Dad opening cards.

Dad ready to dive into his cake from his employees back home in Iowa.
Big bunch of balloons (alliteration city!) from all of us.
Dad and his Bob the Builder cake from the family.  Chocolate with raspberry filling - YUM!

Love and Blessings to you all...hopefully next time I post I'll have pictures of mom walking, maybe even a video!


Friday, August 17, 2012

No News is Not Always Good News

It's Friday afternoon; which means there's really no way we're going to receive our referral call this week at all.  To say we're disappointed would be an understatement; yet, we know we should count ourselves lucky that Holt is even ready to be making matches for February HSTK (home studies to Korea).  So, we are *trying* to "keep calm and carry on".

Today on one of the Holt online forums, I saw a picture of a baby boy who had just been matched with his family on August 2nd.  He was adorable and chubby and had a big tuft of black, wispy hair sticking nearly straight up on top of his head - SO CUTE!  I realized that he is probably close to the same age and size as our wee one will be when we get our call - that really hit home!

As much as I want to see our child's face NOW, I know that God has a perfect plan and always has.  So, I try try TRY to be patient every day and not look at my phone a million times or check the online forums every quarter hour to somehow, someway discover something I didn't know 15 minutes prior.  It is really difficult, but I try to remind myself that waiting for referral will probably be a thousand times easier than waiting for the EP (emigration permit) or TC (travel call). 


Two days ago, I was heading up to mom's hospital room when I ran into Pil (pronounced Pia) who is the Korean wife of Thomas (a fellow cancer fighter who will be receiving his stem cell transplant on the same floor as mom in about a week).  She had made a bunch of food, but we were late in the game and missed out on getting to try some of it.

BUT, she did take a picture with me and agree to chat more about Korean culture and food when Thomas comes back for his transplant.  She also shared directions on how to get to one of her favorite Korean markets; which happens to be quite close to Zion in the town of Gurnee.  Mr. C and I have wanted to go there for a while now, but it's hard to coordinate a time since we are either here at the apartment caring for my sister or at the hospital caring for mom.  But we are hoping someday soon we'll be able to go check it out.

Pil and I in the CTCA stem cell unit.  Please forgive my face - I had not one drop of makeup on, and I look scary!

We are saying our prayers and crossing all our fingers and toes that this next week will bring some news of Baby C!  In the meantime, God grant me patience! ;-)

Love and Blessings,

Monday, August 13, 2012

Foodstuffs: Bibimbap and Gluten-Free Living

No word today on the adoption front. *insert sad face here*  This is supposedly "our week".  It has been taking nearly 7 months from HSTK (home study to Korea) to receive a referral in Holt's standard program.  Our HSTK was Valentine's Day; so tomorrow is our 7-month mark.  I am hoping against hope that we get a phone call tomorrow, but I'm also trying to remain calm and patient in case we don't hear anything tomorrow or even this week.

I know God has a plan for Baby C, and I want it to be perfect; so, if I have to wait a little bit longer to know who s/he is, that's fine.  I just want everything to be exactly as it should be in God's perfect plan.

In the meantime, Mr. C and I have been delving into South Korean culture as much as possible.  We listen to a K-Pop station on our car's satellite radio that has been full of amazing information on not only pop music in Korea, but also current culture and trends in our child's home country (everything from clothing trends to what Koreans like to eat during the summertime and thoughts on the 2012 summer Olympics in London).  It has been so fun, and many of the DJ's late at night do their shows entirely in English; which is obviously incredibly helpful.

To top things off, last week I met an amazing couple here at the CTCA.  The husband, who will receive a stem cell transplant soon, is a war veteran and former Green Beret who is married to a South Korean immigrant.  She graciously spoke to Mr. C and I for about an hour, and she gave us some great insight into South Korean family life and how children are raised and taught in schools.  She pointed out that there is a Korean market nearby the hospital that has tons of "foodstuffs" and Korean goodies for kids and adults alike.

I found most of it fascinating.  There were a few things that were difficult to understand (like her obsession with weight, which seems to be an ongoing undercurrent in Korean culture - THIN is definitely "in") and her idea that boys are inherently "bad" and "prone to misbehaving" (thus needing more strict rules and regulations in family life and school); but overall, I thought she was full of good advice and really got me excited about getting back into trying to make Korean dishes again.

I had already made bulgogi and attempted to make kimchi months ago.  The bulgogi turned out fabulously; the kimchi?  Not so much.  I adore kimchi, but mine was way too salty (unbearable so).  Ah well, maybe next time, right?

Recently, I bought Baby C this:

A book on one of Korea's most popular dishes.

Bibimbap translates to "mixed meal" or "mixed rice" and is one of Korea's staple dishes.  It's so popular, there is even a kid's song that people sing about making it for dinner. (I tried to find a really good vid of it online, but couldn't find one I liked well enough; so, that might be in this blog's future, haha!)  Mostly, it consists of a bed of rice with all sorts of julienne, stir fried vegetables, topped off with a large dollop of red chili sauce and a raw egg yolk.  In short, it looks DELICIOUS.  I had never even tasted it, and somehow I was craving it!

I was also excited to try this recipe, because I have been going gluten-free lately.  After years upon years of dealing with daily sinus issues, I had had it.  I was over feeling constant sinus pressure and pain and being unable to breathe normally every, single day.  My sister, M, is gluten-free; but her allergy presents itself through digestive issues.  However, after doing a lot of research, I realized that gluten allergies can present themselves through sinus problems just like mine.  Making bibimbap gave me an opportunity to create a dish from my child's birth country AND eat a tasty and nutritious gluten-free meal. 

So, I dove in.  It was a little time consuming to shred all of the veggies just so, because we're still here at the apartment near the CTCA where mom is recovering from her stem cell transplant.  This, of course, means that I don't have any of my nice cooking equipment; but it was alright.  Here's the end result:

This is what it looked like simmering away in the pan.
This is what it looked like "bi bimmed" or "mixed up".  DELISH!
Keeping with my gluten-free trend, I made a couple more recipes lately that turned out really well both of which were from the Gluten Free Goddess blog; which is just fantastic!  I highly recommend you checking it out if you are interested in going gluten-free.

Lemon infused gluten-free pasta salad with fresh herbs and asparagus. (Yes, that is vegan mayo you see; I was careful to check ALL the ingredients.  Gluten can hide in the most unassuming of places!)
Gluten-free cherry crisp.
AND, we found out that one of our favorite pizza places near the apartment makes a gluten-free crust!

Half garlic, half pepperoni gluten-free pizza from Jimano's PIzzeria.

My adventures in the world of gluten-free baking and cooking have only just begun.  Yes, it is a little more difficult - you definitely have to be more diligent and mindful; but it is worth it to feel so much better.  I'm sure I will be blogging about fun and tasty gluten-free recipes with you all in the future.

I'm so incredibly tired right now; I feel as though I'm in a daze.  Thanks for hanging in there with me, because I'm sure this post has been scattered, and I apologize for that.  Between the adoption, my sister having several seizures the past few weeks, and being at the hospital for hours at a time with my mom every day, I sometimes feel as though I'm losing my mind.  But, I know God is giving me strength and keeping us all on the right path toward restoration and a new life of happiness, health, hope, love, and JOY.

Take care, wherever you may be in this world.  Be well, be blessed, be LOVE.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

I Can't Make My Phone Ring by Looking at It (a lack of patience story)

Korean hanja for "patience/perseverance".  Photo courtesy of Oriental Outpost.

They shouldn't have said a word; because, honestly, now I'm more obsessed than ever.

It's true.

Last week, Mr. C and I were informed that all of the home studies sent to Korea in January 2012 had been matched; which means we are NEXT in line to receive our referral!  AHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Although our home study was technically done in January, a few more pieces of paper were needed and then it all had to be translated; which meant that HSTK (or "home study to Korea") wasn't sent until Valentine's Day.  Being the sap that I am, though, I'm okay with this; because, really, could the date be any more significant?  Valentine's Day is also a huge holiday in South Korea; so that made it all the more poignant for us.

As exciting as this time is for us, I am learning just how fundamentally flawed my patience factor really is.  Essentially, I have none.  I also realize that this is only the beginning of the wait for us, really; however, there is something that comforts me in knowing WHO I will be waiting for - or maybe not...we'll see how deep the crazy gets in a few months!

For the time being I check my phone a million times per day, and check the online Holt Korea forums every hour on the hour (if I can).  I know that all of this checking and re-checking won't make things happen faster or even at all.

I cannot make my phone ring by looking at it. 

However, it gives me a sick sense of comfort to know that I'm at least doing something, even if it's not actually productive or relevant to the outcome.

Truthfully, as incredible, amazing, wonderful, fantastic it is to know that our referral call is only days or weeks away, it's even more mind-boggling to fully grasp the fact that a referral call can't come without being matched with a child.  Meaning, our son or daughter is born - alive and breathing and crying and smiling and sleeping and blinking half a world away - they are REAL! 

This isn't a mere fantasy or figment of our imaginations; there is an actual, FACTUAL baby that is OURS in this world RIGHT THIS MOMENT.  We haven't received the call yet; but really, we're already parents!  I could just burst into tears; this is amazing! 

Who knew that we would be here after so much heartache and pain?!  Who knew my heart could feel this fulfilled and content?  Who knew my soul would be bursting with so much joy and hope?  God knew.  He has answered the desires of my heart.  And I cannot WAIT to lay my eyes on our sweet, little baby!

On a quasi-sidenote, we were also told that there is still a good chance that we could receive a referral of a girl; which took us back, because at first we had been told to expect a boy and only a boy.  So, if it ends up being a girl, we're going to have a lot of boy's clothes/toys/etc. to put aside for later!  Either way, we will be more than delighted!

I hope that the next post I write will be telling you dear readers about OUR CHILD; but in the meantime, be love, be well, be blessed!