Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful

As the Thanksgiving holiday approached, a lot of my friends have been using their social media accounts to proclaim that for which they are thankful.

I didn't do that.

Oh, on Sunday I told the world that I was thankful for the man who brought me coffee, the Sports section and breakfast in bed, then went downstairs to take care of his own damn mother.

And today I said I was thankful for my husband's ex-wife because she is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for us and all the kids tomorrow. All we have to do is bring the turkey, because the one thing my husband learned from his father was how to cook a fabulous turkey.

Frankly, there hasn't been a whole lot of stuff to be thankful for this past year or so, since I lost my job, my identity, my livelihood and much of my self esteem.  Since then I've been taking care of my mother-in-law on a daily basis, feeding her and dressing her and arguing with her as I drive her to dialysis three days a week, failing the math portion of the Praxis, trying to do freelance work for anyone who wants me to, waiting for those checks to come in, counting pennies to come up with the monthly car payment, living with broken heaters in my house and in my hot tub, reusing my daily-use contacts, dealing with kids who have gotten themselves in trouble and tried to deal with an estrangement from my own mother.

Basically, the last year has sucked balls. Big ones. And still does sometimes.

And while the rest of America is spending this week gathering around tables with their families and friends, I am not. My family doesn't do that. Not anymore.

But I can still find things for which to be thankful. Like ....

My husband, who loves me, who treats me like a queen, who cheers me on, who encourages me when I'm down, who picks me up when I fall, who always -- and I mean always -- takes my side, who believes me and believes in me, and who tells me, "Yes! I feel that new muscle in your leg." and "Yes! Your knees are getting prettier."

My daughter, the light of my life, who spends too much time in her room and needs to learn how to clean it, who cooks her own macaroni and cheese,  who is smart and funny and talented and sarcastic, who loves real books from Barnes and Noble, and alternative music, who draws kooky pictures, who can sing beautifully (but won't because it makes me cry), who writes beautifully, who gets up a half an hour early every morning so she can come upstairs and cuddle with me, who made my life the other day when she told me "You're the strongest person I know." Who knows I did what I had to do.

My stepchildren, who include me as part of their family, who claim me as their stepmother, who didn't need any therapy because of me, who make me proud to see them all grown up with wonderful careers and full, rich lives and who back me up when they need to. And my new step grandchild, who doesn't cry when she sees me anymore.

I'm thankful for my sisters. I'm thankful that I had a brother once. I'm thankful that I have a bunch of cousins that I've reconnected with on Facebook and some in real life. I'm thankful that I have a whole bunch of nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews.

I'm thankful for my friends, who listen to me, who laugh with me, who cry with me, who give me advice, who know my stories, who drink with me, who take me to lunch. Who believe me,  and know I did what I had to do. Who believe in me and give me chances to do new things.

I'm thankful for my husband's ex wife, who agreed from the beginning that we were going to play nice, for being a friend and not an adversary, for sharing her children with me, for accepting mine into her her life, for all the wonderful keepsake gifts she has made me over the years, for going with me to see Donny Osmond, and for cooking Thanksgiving dinner so I didn't have to! And I'm thankful to her husband for being such a cool guy, too. And his kids.

I'm thankful for my dogs, who think I'm just the cat's meow.

I'm thankful for my walking shoes that allow me one hour every morning to dance down the street and clear my head and strengthen my body and give me prettier knees.

I'm thankful for the iPod portion of my iPhone, which holds more than 400 songs for me to dance to.

I'm thankful that, even though the newspaper took away my job, it could not take away my ability to write. And I'm thankful that other newspapers have given me the opportunity to use my talents to continue to tell stories.

I'm thankful for this blog, which allows me to write and tell stories and share our adoption journey with so many people. I'm thankful for each and every person who follows it, who subscribes to it, who has hit upon it accidentally while searching for "Mardi Gras and big tits" and "50" -- thinking it had something to do with "Fifty Shades of Grey."

I'm thankful for my pool. I know it's silly, but I dreamed of having a pool when I was a kid living in a trailer by the bayou in Houma. To me, it was the ultimate luxury. Now, I just love having it, looking at it, listening to it. It soothes my soul in ways I can't even describe.

I'm thankful for Pensacola Beach. And boiled crabs. And rib eye steaks. And chocolate covered cherries. And snowballs in the summer. And peppermint bark at Christmas. For Vodka. And Margarita daiquiris. And my two DVRs. And OnDemand. And my computer. And the Internet. And my cell phone. And SiriusXM radio. Any my piano. And MusicNotes because I can download sheet music anytime I want. And Amazon.com. And my Kindle reader. And my hair straightener. And Facebook and Twitter, because that's where I get my news nowadays. And football. And baseball. But not for soccer.Or mosquitoes. Or train crossings. Or hard freezes.

I have my health. I have all my senses. I have a family to call my own and people who love me.

And that's really all I need.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
My little turkey.








Monday, November 11, 2013

The things you remember

It's strange, the things you remember.

I remember standing in my closet that January day, staring at my clothes and asking myself, "What does one wear to the birth of one's child?"

I remember wearing the same clothes for three days because my silly husband forgot to put my bag in the car. My makeup case, too.

I remember thinking we would be there for a long time, so I remember packing a tote bag with my needlepoint, cards, books, newspapers -- things to wile away the time. I never touched any of it.

I remember the drive from Norco to Houma. Highway 90 was under construction and down to one lane both ways. We were stuck behind a State Trooper the whole way.

I remember trying very hard to read the newspaper on the way, and failing.

I remember sending Marty off to run errands while we waited. We had blown a tire a few days before and he had brought it to Sears to get it fixed. He also needed to go cash his paycheck.

I remember my brother showing up to wait with me. I didn't know then that it would be one of the last times I would ever see him. I remember my niece showing up to wait with me too.

I remember frantically calling Marty to come back to the hospital because he was about to miss it.

I remember standing outside the doors to the maternity ward, waiting, praying, not breathing at all. I remember waiting for Marty to get back, still afraid he would miss it.

I remember the nurse coming out of her room carrying a huge load of linens and signalling me with just her head, "Come on. Go on in." No words were said.

I remember walking into the room and seeing Gail holding this little bundle as a nurse smoothed the new linens on the bed, being so afraid I would hear her say, "Go away. I've changed my mind. I can't give her to you."

Instead, I remember hearing her say, "Are you ready to hold your daughter?"

Then the nurse saying, "Wash your hands first!"

I remember everyone in the room crying. Even me.

I remember handing her back to the nurse, oh so reluctantly, and thinking, "Doesn't she understand how long it took me to get here?"

I remember dying to get to the payphones to call everyone. (We had cell phones, but you weren't allowed to use them in hospitals back then.)

I remember spending the rest of the morning waiting to see her again, hoping the nurses understood who we were and why we were there (they did).

I remember hours later, walking into the little room they found us in the back of the NICU, and seeing our baby in the warmer.  I remember sitting there and sticking our hands in the holes, one of us taking her hand and one of us taking her foot.

I remember the nurse coming in and asking if we had held her yet. When we said no, she scooped her out of the warmer and handed her to me.

I remember Marty having to run to the car to get the camera. And I remember Marty grabbing a nurse to take our picture, and recognizing an old high school friend.

And I remember this joy.



It's been almost 13 years since the day my daughter was born, in the same hospital where I was born, to another woman. It's been 13 years since her birth mother --  her first mother -- put her into my arms and turned me from a heart-broken woman battling six years of infertility into a mom.

And I will never, ever forget it.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. 




Sunday, November 3, 2013

No matter what

One Saturday night a few years ago, my little girl and I snuggled up together to watch the movie, "Despicable Me."

Because of our busy lives and bustling schedules back then (even before the MIL came to stay), we hadn't been able to go to the theater to see it, so we had to wait until it came on On Demand.

Ready with our popcorn and sodas and all the lights turned off to make it look like we were at the movies, Lora Leigh and I were enjoying the movie about an evil genius who plots to steal a giant ray gun to shrink the moon so he can steal it. And to further along his plot, he decides he needs some cute young children to penetrate his adversary's lair. So, he heads on over to the local orphanage to get him some.

Eventually Dr. Evil accomplishes his goal of obtaining the weapon. But then, no longer in need of his adorable little orphans, he takes them back to the orphanage and the mean old woman who runs it.

And at this point, my adorable, impressionable, ultra-sensitive and oh-so-perceptive adopted  daughter became hysterical.

"He's bringing them back?" she screamed. I mean she literally, screamed. "He can't take them back!"

I quickly paused the movie and wrapped her in my arms as she cried -- sobbed -- hysterically, her heart broken for the little characters.  I tried to soothe her as best I could, and assured her that he was likely, probably (hopefully?) going to have a change of heart and keep the girls he "borrowed."

"No. He can't take them back," I told her.

No. You can't.

As much as you might joke about it or think about it or maybe even wish it sometimes in those moments of despair, you can't take them back. Not when they're crying and hungry at 2 a.m. Not when they explode a diaper right after you've handed your cherub to the Sheriff to hold. Not when they draw on your walls with lipstick. Not when they dump a milkshake in your car. Not when they refuse to eat anything but macaroni and cheese. Not when you find a stack of paper plates and empty soda bottles under their bed. Not when they borrow your favorite necklace and break it. Not when they look you in the eye and lie about not having homework. Not when you think they're lying to you. Not when they puke on you or shit on you. Not when they embarrass you in the grocery store. And not when they grow up and do something so stupid you want to strangle them.

In case you don't know, my stepkid is one of the coaches involved in the recent high school football cheating scandal in Louisiana. He admitted his involvement, he told the truth, and he is suffering the consequences. He is embarrassed, mortified and truly apologetic. His parents are duly disappointed and mortified too.

But what are you gonna do?

You can't just give them back. Your kids are your kids, whether they sprung from your loins or from someone else's. Whether they had you in labor for an hour or 26. Whether they came to you or were sent to you. Whether they look like you or your spouse or your mother-in-law or the mailman. Whether they're smart or funny or cranky or mean or not much fun to be around. Whether they talk too much or not at all. Whether they're weak or strong.

Because parenthood is a privilege. Motherhood is a honor. And you are lucky if you get the chance to do it. Not everyone gets to. Believe me. And some have to work harder than others to achieve it. Believe me.

I may not have been lucky enough to conceive my own biological child, but I am lucky enough. Through fate or fortune or God's will,  I was allowed to parent this most extraordinary child who is the light of my life -- a smart, funny, sarcastic, exasperating, annoying, sharp-tongued, brutally honest tweenager who can draw beautiful pictures, sing like an angel (but won't because it makes me cry), write better than me, and devour cases of macaroni and cheese in a week's time.

Through my fortunate marriage, I also inherited two step children. I have had the privilege of watching them grow up into beautiful, fine young adults. My stepson, the jock, followed his father's footsteps and is a wonderful, bright teacher and coach who specializes in special education. He teaches mild-to-moderate challenged children history and horticulture. He and his students have planted and tend to a large vegetable garden on campus where they grow and harvest a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. He also is a bright young coach whose players look up to him.

I have shared parenting duties with his father and with his mother. I was invited to sit beside her at his wedding. And, at the reception, his mother danced the first half of the Mother-Groom dance, then oh-so-graciously yielded to me so I could have a turn.

And two years ago he faced a darkness harder than this when his baby girl, Parker, was stillborn. Last year he and his wife became parents to another baby girl, Robi, and he is a doting dad.

My stepdaughter is a beautiful, smart, witty young woman. She spent two years working as a photographer at DisneyWorld and now is carving her niche in the hotel and tourism industry in New Orleans. An extremely talented photographer, she and her boyfriend also have formed their own photography business. On the same day her brother made national headlines, she received a fabulous job offer with a huge bump in salary.

But as fabulous as my children are, none of them is perfect.

Neither am I. I'm a human parent. And parenthood is hard. It's messy, it's ugly, it's dirty, it's stressful, it's painful, it's demanding, it's not always fun and we all -- all -- will make mistakes while doing it. It doesn't make us bad people, just imperfect ones. And your kids will be imperfect too. But when you had them -- or in my case, got her -- you are promising to love them no matter what, no matter what mistakes they make. There is a reason adoption folks call it a "Forever Family."

You can't give them back. Ever.


The Lyons Din: No matter what ... Your kids are your kids. No matter what.: