Sunday, February 27, 2011

This Could Explain A Lot

I spoke with my sister Kelly today and she is ready to pick the winner of the CSN $45 GIVEAWAY tomorrow. She is especially ready now that I finally told her she is picking the winner. Maybe she should read this here little blog more often so she can keep up with the things I am volunteering her for. Anyway, remember to enter as tomorrow is your last chance. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me the craziest thing you and your sibling, (they can be actual, inherited or chosen), have ever gotten yourselves into. Come on, you know you want to.

To finish off this tell all contest, I thought I would repost something I wrote way back. It's a little story about something horrid I did to my sisters. It's still one of my favorite and all time best practical jokes ever played on them. So far. Here ya go....

Have you ever done something that you knew you really should not do, but you also knew if you didn’t do it, you would always wish you had? Yeah? Me too!

A few years ago, one of my aunts passed away. It was very sudden and sad for so many reasons. One of those reasons was her husband, my dad’s brother. When I got the call that Aunt Audrey had died and Uncle Louie had been taken to the hospital because of his heart, I got on the first available plane to California. My sisters and I were responsible for Uncle Lou since he and Aunt Audrey had “adopted” us in their will, not to mention, we loved that crazy, old couple. As I flew out the next morning, I wondered how my uncle would ever live without his wife. Eleven days after arriving in California and bringing Louie home to live with my dad, my uncle passed away in his sleep. I remain thankful to this very day for being able to spend those last days with him.

Surely, you can imagine the stress of dealing with two deaths in twelve days, not to mention having to clean out a house full of fifty years of junk. Then there was selling the house and closing accounts, notifying family and friends. It would have been overwhelming at times if my sisters and I had not had one another. Even so, we did get a bit crazy here and there along the way. Case in point:

I had taken care of Aunt Audrey’s cremation but had not picked up her ashes yet. I was too busy taking care of my Uncle Louie, who was obviously not doing well. When he passed away so soon after Aunt Audrey, I ended up having to retrieve two boxes of ashes at once. My sisters would have no part of the ashes thing, so they did all the administrative stuff. Driving back to my dad’s house with my aunt and uncle buckled in the backseat … hey, I did not want to take any chances of a Stephen King type event on the freeway … I started to get irritated. How come my sisters always get to look good, smell good and take care of the easy crap, while I am always wiping butts or driving dead people around? That’s when I began to devise my plan.

My aunt and uncle did not want a funeral. They specifically stated in their wills that they were to be cremated and the ashes sprinkled at sea. I had taken care of the cremations and my sisters had made the arraignments for the sprinkling at sea with the Neptune Society. When I arrived home and found my sisters had gone out … probably for a nail or hair appointment or some other stupid girl thing … I placed my aunt and uncle in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet and went to work.

First, I ran out to the front garden carrying a plastic bowl and big spoon with me. I quickly filled the small bowl half full with the fine, powdery dirt in my parent’s front planter. Next, I ran back into the house and dug through my mother’s junk drawer finding exactly what I was hoping would be there … chalk. I placed the chalk in the bowl with the soil and grabbed a potato masher out of the pottery crock on the counter. As I mashed the chalk into the soil being careful to leave just the right size and shape pieces, I literally began to sweat with anticipation. For a split second, I imagined my mother standing next to me ready to thump me upside my head in the hopes of knocking some sense into me. Luckily for me, my mom had died two years earlier or she would have killed me right then and there.

Once the bowls content was the exact color and consistency of what I imagined people ashes might look like, I grabbed three plain, white envelopes from the desk drawer in the foyer along with a blue, ink pen. Carefully writing each of my sisters names along with my own, one on each envelope, I could only imagine their faces when this was over. I then slowly scooped a few spoonfuls of “ashes” into each envelope, sealed them and placed them in the bottom drawer on top of my aunt and uncle. I laughed out loud, knowing Lou and Aundrey would have loved this! I quickly cleaned up all the evidence and ran upstairs to change and wash up.

No sooner had I come back downstairs, when my sisters walked in the kitchen door. They were happy and chatty as always and had even brought back dinner for all of us. As we sat eating in the kitchen, my older sister asked if I had picked up Uncle Lou and Aunt Audrey. When I said yes, through a mouthful of coleslaw, both their faces dropped.

“Where are they?”

“In the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.”

“Why are they there?”

“Where would you like me to put them?”

“I don’t know but somehow the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet just doesn’t seem right.”

“Ok, I’ll go get them and we can put them anywhere you two would like.”

At that last comment, they both began screaming, “No! Don’t bring them in here! Leave them there!”

That’s when I did it. I went into the dining room, opened the bottom drawer, took out the three envelopes and took them into the kitchen. I placed one in front of each of us and sat back down.

“By the way, the people at the mortuary gave me these. They are for the service on the boat, you know, when we go to sprinkle the ashes.”

As they each reached for their envelope, my oldest sister asked, “What are they?”

“They’re part of the ashes.”

Both my sisters literally threw the envelopes on the table screaming.

“Don’t be ridiculous, you two. It’s not like they had cooties. All we have to do when we go out on the boat is stand at the railing, say something nice, tear open our envelope and pour. Simple.”

My little sister sat staring at me shaking her head. My older sister looked completely horrified and made it clear, that was not going to happen. That’s when I grabbed my envelope, ripped it open and poured some of the “ashes” into my left hand.

“Look! It’s no big deal. It’s not like they’re going to bite you.”

My sisters jumped up and looked at me like I had completely gone mad, yelling, “Have you lost your mind? What are you doing?”

I replied, “Crap, now I have ashes all over me.” I then reached out and wiped my hands on the front of my oldest sister’s sweater. I truly thought I had killed her by the look of terror on her face.

Falling to the ground, unable to breathe from laughing so hard, I believe I heard “Idiot” right before I heard the front door open and then slam shut.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Decisions, CSN Giveaway and Childhood Mayhem Revisited

I spoke with my sister Kelly yesterday. It looks like some decisions are close to being solidified. She has pretty much decided to go ahead with more chemo and with the surgery. I am happy. So happy I could cry. Ok, I did cry after we hung up because I surely was not going to cry on the phone with her. No way. As I have said many times, crying is a sign of weakness between us sisters. The underbelly of the beast. Cry and the other sisters will go in for the kill. I'm no fool so no crying until that phone hit the cradle then it was Niagara Falls. I hate that my baby sister has to go through more of this cancer crap but I am happy. There is hope again.

Speaking of my baby sister, don't forget she will be picking the winner on Monday for the CSN $45 gift certificate. From Legos to LCD TV Stands, CSN has it all with over 200 online stores to browse. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me the craziest thing you and your sibling, (they can be actual, inherited or chosen), have ever gotten yourselves into. The comment that Kelly fancies the most will be announced Monday the 28th. How easy is that? Well, easy until your sibling finds out you told the world about them. Then it gets really interesting. Believe me, I know. Anyway, to kick this into gear, I am reposting a story I wrote last year about a little incident when Kelly and I were kids. Enjoy!

I was thinking about my mom today. I was remembering how mad she would get at my sisters and me when we were little. I never could understand why she made such a big deal out of things. I mean, seriously, we were just little girls doing little girl stuff. It wasn’t like we were biting the heads off of bats and knocking down old ladies on the street. That came much later in life. Although, there was that one incident with the new furniture.

My mother was very frugal. My dad was just the opposite. While my mother sat at the kitchen table for hours clipping coupons and planning the route to the seven stores she would hit to save a dollar, my dad was out buying the latest and greatest gadgets and gizmos the world had to offer. My mom wanted to drive her car into the ground while my dad was off to London on the Concorde. They were quite the pair, those two.

When my father finally talked my mother into new living room furniture, it was an event in our home. The green scrolled velvet high backed chairs with matching Mediterranean couch and fancy hi fi in the cabinet that matched the end tables which matched the coffee table which matched…. Well, you get the picture. Then there were the new lamps to complete the ambiance of the place. There was the giant round ball looking thing on one side of the room but on the other side, are you ready….on the other side was the three foot naked angel lamp. Yeah, you read it right.

This amazing creation of a living room was really more like a museum to us. We were not allowed in there. It was for company. Adult company. Not us. “Do you girls understand?!?!?!?!” Now think about that. You have a room in your house with all new stuff in it including a three foot naked angel lamp and then you say stay out. What do you think is going to happen the first time you leave your little darlings home alone while their dad is on the Concorde and their mom is hitting seven stores to save a buck?

So we decided to build a fort in the museum living room that fateful day. First, we got rope from the garage. My sister Kelly tied one end of the rope to the giant round ball looking thing on one side of the room while I tied the other end of the rope to the three foot naked angel lamp. Once we got the rope just the right height, we ran to our bedroom and pulled the blankets off our beds. Running back to the museum living room giggling with excitement, we each grabbed an end of the first blanket and threw it over the rope. Imagine our surprise when the giant round ball looking thing on one side of the room and the three foot naked angel lamp on the other side of the room flew off their matching Mediterranean tables and came crashing down onto the coordinating green shag carpet.

By the time our mother arrived home with her value crammed grocery bags, the blankets were back on the beds, the rope was back in the garage and the giant round ball looking thing on one side of the room and the three foot naked angel lamp on the other side of the room were back on their matching Mediterranean tables. It was years before she ever noticed the glued back together body parts. That is the very good thing about a room rarely used. It buys you time to live.

What made me think about this story today? As I was putting away the last of the Christmas decorations, something caught my eye in the nativity. Baby Jesus is missing an arm and I am pretty sure his head was not on backwards before Christmas.

Darn kids!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week Seven of The List, My Sister the Instigator and A CSN Giveaway

On my drive home from work tonight, I had decided to quit blogging, slink off into the real world and pretend I had never started this whole writing thing. Of course, as I was thinking this through, I was writing the blog about it in my head. I fear I am doomed to continue to write the crap that ferments within my brain which means people somewhere are doomed to continue to stumble upon said fermented written crap and read before they realize how deep the fermentation is. For this, I apologize.

The List

7. Volunteer to tutor a kid at your local elementary school.
(Try to get to know the kid’s family.)

Well, I had this one all figured out until tonight. A few weeks back I met a teacher who works in one of the inner-city schools. When I mentioned The List and specifically wanting to find a kid to tutor she was thrilled and said to call her as soon as I was ready. Then tonight when I got home, my 12 year old told me about one of her new friends in the neighborhood who is having a miserable time with life right now. Actually, the entire family is suffering through more than any one family should have to face at one given time. Now I am thinking maybe this is the kid and the family I am meant to reach out to. So, that is the plan this week. I am going to march myself right over there this week, introduce myself with some home baked goods (bribery, I know) and see what happens. Have I ever mentioned that I am an extremely outgoing person on the outside but on the inside I am a constantly, quivering coward who just wants to stay home and hide from hard stuff? There, I said it. Now you know the truth. However, I am also one of the most competitive people I know and failure makes me miserable so in order to not fail at this mission I have undertaken, I will be door knocking later this week. Oy!

Now about my sister, the instigator. Kelly is home resting and feeling better now that she is back in her own bed. I call her just about every night on my way home from work. Most of the time the conversation revolves around the insanity at my workplace. Kel and her husband are franchise owners of the same company I work for only I am in a corporate store. You would think that would automatically mean I am in one of the good stores and it’s a crap shoot with a franchise. I mean seriously, some of those store owners are whackos, I’m sure. (Remember who I said owned a few? hint hint) Anyway, the truth is, the corporate store I am in could seriously be perfect fodder for a reality show about humanity at it’s strangest level. Oh yeah, I know I’m in that mix but still, you wouldn’t believe the half of it. Again, ask me about the cockroach guy. Seriously I dare ya.

As usual, I digress. The short of it is this: there is some drama unfolding in my store right now with me as a key player. Shocking, right? My sister, the instigator, has decided to get involved in a sneaky sisterly, keep your mitts off my sister or I’ll poke your eye out, kind of deal. Oh yeah, this could get interesting. I’m hoping all that blood boiling cures her cancer and we can open our own store together and finally show these people the right way to do things. I mean, Kel might be sick and I might be tired but think about it. Two sick and tired women are a deadly combination not to be taken lightly.

Which brings me to THE CSN GIVEAWAY! CSN is an online store that knows how to roll. From Legos to LCD TV Stands, there is no drama involved in shopping the aisles of CSN’s more than 200 online stores. One lucky Butts and Ashes reader will win a $45 CSN gift certificate. How you ask? Leave a comment telling me the craziest thing you and your sibling, (they can be actual, inherited or chosen), have ever gotten yourselves into. No siblings? You can have mine. You’ll have plenty to write then, I promise. Anyway, my sister the instigator, will then read through them all and pick the one she fancies the most.

Here’s your chance to pretend your me and put it all out there for the world to shake their heads at. Come on and spill the goods. It could earn you $45 to buy a gift to send with that apology letter you‘ll owe your sibling for spilling the beans.

The winner will be chosen next Monday, February 28th. Only US whackos can win. If you are an out of the US whacko, and I am not naming names glen comment anyway. Kelly is easily impressed and could possibly be moved to send you something as well. I’m just saying.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Meaning of Significant

I have been thinking about the word significant a lot these last few days. Webster’s says it means important, noticeable, caused by something other than mere chance. People use the word to describe the person they are sleeping with this week, the raise they hope to get next week or the weight they need to lose by next month. Doctors use the word to scare the holy hell out of you and help you prepare for what lies ahead. All I know is I have come to hate the word. I find significant an absolute insult to my psyche.

Brain tumors show significant growth.

Tumors on the spine show significant growth.

Lung and liver tumors show significant growth.

The only significant thing that has come out of this last week in Houston with my sister is this: I cannot imagine going through what she has gone through. I cannot imagine what she now faces. I cannot imagine my life without her.

I am significantly sad.

Dr. Doom has recommended “trying” more chemo of a different flavor with a side of radiation possibly. Dr. McDreamy feels more surgery on the spinal column is in the cards. Kelly is not sure what she will do. She is home with her husband and her menagerie. Life is good for her there. Beyond that, the rest of us are waiting for her decision. Waiting and praying and hoping for a miracle of significant proportions.

Kelly and McDreamy

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inappropriate Conversations Continued

We had to be up and out by 6:30 this morning for Kelly’s brain MRI. Amazingly enough, they found one. Anyway, when we got there, Kelly had forgotten her glasses so I had to update her medical record for her. Every single time she goes for a test, she has to update. This place is such an amazing place that it is weird they can’t seem to update through the intranet here but whatever. I’m a team player. I’ll fill out the form 27 times a day for the next few days. And that’s when it happened.

“Ok Kel, yes or no. Pregnant or breastfeeding?”

“Very funny.’


“One too many.”

“Psychiatric illness, high blood pressure, alcoholism?”

“Only when I’m with my sisters.”

“Whatever. Penile Implant?”

Kelly covered her face to muffle her laughing as the woman sitting across from us looked up then quickly buried her face back in the magazine she was pretending to read.

“Ok, I’ll take that as a yes.”

When we got thrown out, I mean when Kelly finished her MRI, we went back to the room to relax. Kelly immediately got on the phone even though she didn't call her friend Nicole back. (Just stirring the pot, folks.)

Since she was not calling Nicole back, I decided to catch up on my reading as I strongly value keeping my mind sharp as a used nail file.

That’s when Cher decided to try and get a photo of the three of us together. This meant she set the camera to click a pic after 10 seconds and made a mad dive onto the bed.

She did this move several times which had us in hysterics but it finally paid off. In the words of Cher, we have the three pigs in a blanket for all posterity.

Like that’s a good thing. Blog fodder for weeks, I tell you.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Who Writes This Crap?

Here I am in Houston, Texas with my sister Kelly and our cousin, Cher. Even though Cher is our cousin, she is really more like a sister. So much so that our kids call her Aunt Cher. Anyway, having the three of us here together has been great and exhausting all at the same time. Staying up half the night and then having to get up at 6am to schlep Kelly to her bazillion tests is tough. For one thing, all these tests are cutting into our gossip time not to mention our afternoon ice cream and nap time. Stupid cancer tests.

Kelly is doing her best to get through all this craziness with as much diplomacy and decorum as possible. So imagine her dismay when after blood work, xrays, infusion and cat scan behind her, she prepared for her first of about four MRI’s only to be informed the doc also wanted to have a barium enema done. When she refused and started to cry, the nurse wheeled her back out to me so she could talk it over with her big sister.

“I’m not doing it, Marla. I have had enough of this crap.”

“Crap. Bwahahahaha!!”

“It’s not funny!!”

“Then why are you laughing now?”


“It’s ok, Kel. Just get through the next few days of tests and tell the doctor he’ll need to give you a good reason for wanting to do the barium enema.”

“He doesn’t have a good reason. It’s like he pulled that test out of his butt.”

“His butt. Bwahahahahaha!”

“No really, you are an idiot.”

The conversation unfortunately went on for way too long and at a volume that was way too loud and involved both of us trying to outdo one another with butt jokes and then laughing hysterically. We finally realized the packed waiting room had become fairly quiet with multiple eyes and ears turned in our direction.

“Kelly! Behave yourself. I can’t take you anywhere. Butthead. Bwahahahahaha!!”

Check back tomorrow. There will be photos. There will be tell all stories. There will be trouble. I guarantee it. Next Monday, I will be back to The List and also there will be a fabulous giveaway. I promise this one will not involve pooping chickens or card shark parrots. Other than that, who knows what will happen?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cancer Sucks Much Like My Writing According To My Sisters

My butt is being kicked on a daily basis these last three weeks. I started my new job as a sales manager which means 50+ hour work weeks. Add grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and trying to be a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, chicken farmer and good Samaritan on top of it all and you have the perfect storm. I keep waiting for this ship to sink and yet, it continues to bob along the tops of these waves without taking on too much water. The one thing I truly have missed is my blogging time. You know, where I sit and smoke cigarettes, eat bon bons and blog. Ok, I don’t actually smoke although this job has the possibility of changing that. I also don’t eat bon bons any longer. Did I mention I lost 27 pounds? Anyway, I refuse to give up blogging so stick with me. There’s more to come. For instance, ask me about mice or cockroaches. No really, go ahead. Those are stories you won’t want to miss.

Anyway, tomorrow I fly out of Oklahoma City and head down to Houston, Texas. I will be meeting my sister Kelly there at MDAnderson for her quarterly battery of testing. She says she goes there every three months for the last 4 years because she has to in order to keep her cancer under the gun. I am no longer buying that story. I am pretty sure she goes for another reason.

Dr. McDreamy.

I expect my time in Houston to be one full of complete and total mayhem. Why, you ask? Because every time I meet my sisters down in Texas town, it is like stepping into a Tim Burton movie. No really, it is. Think Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Big Fish all rolled up into one week. Oh yeah, it’s craziness at it’s finest. The good thing is, I will have so much blog fodder, I will be writing like Hemingway. Maybe even while drunk like Hemingway. Who knows? It should be worth checking back for, that’s all I’m saying.

Now about week six of The List. The assignment was to mow my neighbor’s grass. There are just a few small problems I have to overcome like the fact that it is February in Oklahoma and we have had nothing but snow for the last two weeks. Those three points do not bode well for grass mowing. No fear however because spring is right around the corner promising green grass, torrential rainstorms and tornadoes galore. I’ll get the mower out then, I swear. Well, as long as a tornado doesn’t take it out first.

This whole mow your neighbors grass idea is not new to us. It is also one of the simplest things on The List. Bob has mowed the neighbors lawn in the past. It actually brought another neighbor out of his house, asking why. That's a long story but here is the condensed version. The lawn being mowed was owned by a less than nice person. The questioning neighbor along with a few others despised the less than nice neighbor. Seeing Bob mowing this guys lawn not only brought neighbors out of their homes, it got them talking. To each other. Kindly. Nicely played, Mr. Bob. You are a smart man. I think I want to kiss you when you get home. Yes, I believe I do.

Like I said, it is one of the simplest things on The List. You should give it a try. Unless you live in California. I am pretty sure you can get sued for random acts of kindness there. Check with your attorney first, just to be on the safe side.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Adoption and The List: Week Six

As an adoptive mother of four beautiful girls and a birth mother of three unruly boys, I am pretty sure I have been asked just about every question and heard every offbeat statement the human mind could possibly muster. These questions and statements have not only come from friends and family but also from complete strangers. Allow me to list my top five favorites and save the rest for my book.

"Where are their real parents?"

I never cease to be amazed by this question. I understand people have a "National Enquirer" curiosity about things but please. As if asking this question itself isn't enough of an invasion of privacy it has been asked in front of my children. I learned early on to forego the right to be offended and instead attempt to educate the offender. I say attempt since it has become obvious through the years that there are those who refuse to be educated. Their loss. My simple answer has become, "You're talking to them!" For those foolish enough to push the question further after that response, I have found a direct, "…and you need to know because...?" usually changes the direction of the conversation. We are not ashamed of our children's birth families however we believe this information is for them to share with whomever they choose if and when they choose.

"Those girls are so lucky you adopted them."

Really? Why? Not one single soul has ever approached us to let us know how lucky our boys are that we birthed them. Believe me, that was no easy task! We adopted the girls for the same reasons we birthed the boys. We are selfish. That's right, selfish. We wanted children to love and care for. We wanted a chance to raise children and maybe make the world a better place because of it. Ok, maybe we also wanted lots of kids so when we are old there will be people around to love and care for us. Like I said, adopted or birthed, it was all selfishness on our part.

"Aren't you afraid there could be something wrong with them?"

The truth is, we were never afraid there might be something wrong with them. We knew there would be. Just like we knew there would be things wrong with our birth children and just like we know there are things wrong with us. No matter how much you know about your genealogy you will never know it all. Life will surprise you. Sometimes with illness. Sometimes with character flaws. Sometimes with biology. Sometimes with environment. But sometimes life will thrill you with what lies beneath the surface. It will amaze you with a child that has a hidden talent you could have never imagined. It will leave you in awe of a child's character trait you could only hope to find in yourself. Who has time to fear when you are watching with wonder as your children become more than you could have dreamed for them?

"I could never adopt. They wouldn't be my blood."

Guess what? Your spouse isn't your blood. Many times neither is your best friend. Sorry to burst your blood bubble but there it is. The truth is, you CHOOSE to love and who to love. Love is not always a feeling or blood-based. Ultimately, love is a choice.

"Don't you worry they will go looking for their birth family?"

No more than I worry I might go looking for mine. I am not adopted but I have a curiosity about who my relatives were and are. I know a lot of them but not all of them. There are times I have sought out the unknown and then there are times I have been content with what I have. As an adult, this is one of the joys and prerogatives of my life. Why would it not be the same for all my children? Just as my family has helped in the search for answers to our families questions, I would count it my privilege to help my children to find their answers if they so choose.

Ok, so I know I am a smart alec. I come by it naturally I suppose so blame it on my birth parents. Anyway, one of my reasons for sharing our adoption stories this past week was with the hope that maybe, just maybe, someone reading this blog would have an “AHA” moment. Every person is different and called to follow their own path. But what if even one person reading this last week suddenly saw their path open up? A path that would change their life forever. A path that would lead them straight to the heart of a child through foster parenting or adoption or being a mentor or... What if…?

Now, onto week six of The List.

6. Mow your neighbor’s grass.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Surprise! It’s A Girl!!

Moving to Oklahoma from California sixteen years ago was surely going to be the biggest adventure of our lives to date….or so we thought at the time. When we embarked on that journey, our vans were filled with every item we owned including our six children and more animals than should have been legal. I am quite sure our traveling caravans made people think the circus had come to town. They weren’t far from the truth on that one. Where we had lived in a small California beach town, population 17,000, we now lived in a small farming town, population 1,000. School started the day after we arrived, so to say we were thrown into small town life quickly would be an understatement.

That first year was really hard for me emotionally. I missed my family and friends and often wondered what could have possibly possessed us to do such a radical thing. That is another story, however. Probably the worst part of the move for me was the lack of social interaction. The people in our new little town were friendly enough but definitely different than what we were use to in our home state. Although we handed out dinner invitations on a regular basis, very few were accepted and even less were given to us. I began to seriously wonder what was wrong with our family that made people not want to get to know us.

During that first year, a woman in her eighties named *Emma, knocked on my door one morning. She introduced herself as a neighbor from around the corner. Of course, she had heard all about the new family from California and wanted to come meet us. Thankful for a friendly face willing to enter my home, I invited her in for coffee. That morning coffee would begin a life changing friendship for both of us. As we visited, I learned this amazing woman was raising two of her great-grandchildren, a twelve year old girl and a ten year old boy. She had little to no help with this daunting task and yet she did not regret a moment of her decision to care for them. She had even legally adopted them. I sat in amazement listening to her story. Our friendship began to make sense to me. We were definitely the oddballs in this little town of “normal” families.

Over the next few years, our two families formed some very deep bonds. We loved and cared for one another’s children and did the best we knew how to help each other through some trying times. One of those times came after we had moved to our farmhouse out in the country. Emma called and asked if she could come for coffee. Of course, I was delighted at the thought of a visitor so I put the coffee on and prepared a coffee cake. The moment Emma arrived at my front door, I knew something was terribly wrong. She immediately broke down and cried; something this old, German farm woman was not known to easily do. As we sat at the kitchen table, she explained that her now fourteen year old great-granddaughter had confided she was pregnant. She didn’t know what to do or how she was going to get through this. As I wrapped my arms around her, I assured her that Bob and I would do everything we could to help and that we would be there for both of them. I never imagined what that would eventually come to mean.

The next six months went by quickly. When I got the call that the baby, a little girl, had arrived, I drove to Emma’s home filled with thankfulness that mother and daughter were both well and also sadness at two young lives that were facing a challenge that statistically, could turn out less than positive. In all truth, when I finally held that new little one and smiled at her mother, I really wanted to break down and cry for both of them.

Over the next three months, I stopped by to visit now and then, checking in on Emma as much as on baby and mother. During one of our visits, I was asked if I would be willing to watch the baby so mom could finish high school. I didn’t even need to think about it. I immediately said yes. In my mind, if there was going to be any chance of making it in this world, education was definitely one of the main keys.

By the time Miranda was six months old, she spent half her life with us, including many nights and weekends. At a year old, she lived with us full time. Shortly after, we took full guardianship. It was during that second year, that we asked her mother to move in with us. We felt strongly that she needed to be mentored if she was to have any hope of raising her daughter someday. She turned us down, eventually dropped out of school and out of all of our lives for the most part. I was forty-two raising a two year old. I saw where this boat was going and I began to freak. I was too old. This wasn’t fair to Miranda. She deserved younger, fresher parents. We were old and worn out. I argued with God for a solid week. At the end of the week, I clearly heard this, “Ok, so imagine your life without this gift I’ve given you.” I knew I had lost the battle right then and there. I had been given something so wonderful, so amazing and yet somehow, I never saw it coming.

Miranda is turning thirteen this May. She is my joy, my heart, my gift. Loving her is more than I could have hoped for, more than I could have imagined, more than I deserve. Thank you, God, thank you.

Miranda Nicole Hansen ~ 2009

Oh, one last thing, God. I know you are fully aware that I am turning fifty-three next month. I also understand that you know what I am capable of more than I do. However, I am pretty sure I have reached full capacity at seven. Pretty sure. But then, you're God and I'm not. So, I'm ready for whatever lies ahead. But if there are more children coming, could they come with a maid this time? I mean, it never hurts to ask, right?

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Parent Trap

Adopting our first two daughters took a little over two years. They had been in the system their entire lives so getting them out took some doing. While we were going through the process, the state of California required us to become foster parents. It was explained that even though we would not be required to take in any other children, we would need to do this for legal reasons until our adoptions finalized. Of course, we fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

Going through the process of becoming foster parents was not difficult at all. We took classes, filled out paperwork, had a home study and received our official titles of Mom and Dad Foster Parent in just a few months. Once that was done, we figured we would go on with life as normal while we waited for the girl’s adoptions to finalize. Looking back, I now realize Child Protective Services probably saw us coming a mile away and set the trap catching themselves two wide eyed and bushy tailed parents. Seriously, after going through all the training, how could we not use it to benefit some little kid? How much trouble could one little temporary kid be, right?

Our first few foster children were very young, under two and with us for short terms: the first for two weeks and the second for a few months. It was so wonderful to be able to love these little ones during such a difficult time in their lives. Being able to comfort a small, scared child and see them eventually smile and laugh was worth the pain of any goodbyes we would say later. Then came Lizzie.

I received a call from a social worker one morning asking if we would take a thirteen month old baby girl. She didn’t eat, only drank bottles of formula, wasn’t walking or talking and had just begun crawling. I was told she did not smile, play with toys or show much emotion. She lacked socialization and would need special services to learn how to interact with others. The placement had the possibility of lasting as long as a year. The social worker knew we did not want to take any long term commitments, so he promised if we would keep her for just a few weeks, he would be able to find a long term foster home by then. I called Bob to get the ok and called CPS back agreeing to the placement.

As I loaded our five children into the van, each one was buzzing with excitement over the new baby we were on our way to pick up. I explained that it was only for a few weeks and there were some things they needed to know. I went through the checklist of known issues with my kids just as the social worker had done with me. Of course, there were lots of questions, most of them I had no answers to. We all agreed we would just do our best to be kind and loving to the new baby, trusting that God had a plan for her life just like He had for each of ours.

Once we got to the office, we were taken to the holding area where we would wait for our caseworker, David, to return with the baby. Before leaving the room, he explained her name was Liz and that it was important we remain fairly quiet when he returned with her. He was concerned she could be overwhelmed by six of us attacking her with kisses like we were known to do. We all promised to wait quietly and follow his lead.

When the door opened and I saw David standing there, holding the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, I was not shocked by my kid’s oohs and ahhs. Liz was commercial baby perfect in appearance. David stood calmly, holding this little piece of life that stared straight at me, giving no reaction to anything around her. As he entered the room and sat down, placing her on his knee, Liz squirmed to get down. Once settled on the floor, never once taking her eyes off me, she crawled as fast as any baby I had ever seen straight into my arms. Picking her up, I couldn’t help but cover her with kisses unleashing the other kids from their confinement. Within seconds, our new little short term placement was covered with kisses, head and belly rubs. Though she never smiled or cried, she accepted it all in stride. We left before David could wipe the look of shock from his face.

Within two weeks of bringing Lizzie home, she was eating regular table food, laughing, walking and beginning to talk. This kid never needed special services. She just needed a plain, old family to love her to life. Two years after bringing our “short term placement” foster baby named Liz home, we made it her permanent forever home.

Lizzie Ann Hansen is turning twenty years old in five days. I still remember the first time I held her in my arms, like it was yesterday. It scared me, because I knew from that moment, she was in my heart to stay.

Lizzie Ann Hansen ~ 2008

Three boys. Three girls. We were so done. Our quiver was more than full, it was overflowing. Until.....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This Isn’t The Chocolate Factory and I Am Not Willy Wonka

Sorry for the delay in posting, folks. We had no internet for the last two days due to the crazy blizzard that blew through Oklahoma. Love the snow, hate losing internet. Anyway, the story continues. Like I said earlier, I am going to do some reposting. If you have already read these, go take a nap. If you're new here, read on pretty please. Either way, consider getting involved in the adoption option. It will change your life for the better. It did mine.

When we adopted our first two daughters, I had it all figured out. Since the little one, Belen, was only four years old, she would have an easy time bonding with us. I was prepared for our ten year old, Rachel, to possibly have a more difficult go of it. I quickly learned two valuable, life-changing lessons: I will never have things all figured out no matter how sure I am that I do and God has a plan that is usually very different from mine.

The first words Bel ever spoke to us were these, “Do we have candy at our house?” Seeing that beautiful brown face enter the room for the first time, watching as she climbed onto the couch and snuggled close to me and then hearing those sweetly funny words escaping her mouth should have told us something. We were headed for trouble with this one!

Once the girls were home with us, we quickly moved from the honeymoon period to reality. I am thankful for that now. It wasn’t a week since moving the girls in that Bel began to show what was hidden in that little broken heart of hers. She would scream and throw temper tantrums if I tried to give her a bath, brush her hair or take her picture. Shopping for clothes was a nightmare. The girls arrived with almost nothing so I was thrilled to have a valid excuse to spoil them rotten while shopping for new clothes and toys. I never imagined the scenes Bel would create however.

One of the first times we shopped together, Rachel shyly and quietly would pick out clothing and ask if she might have this or that. Of course, I was beyond happy to get her whatever she wanted. Bel, on the other hand would lay on the floor screaming that I was trying to make her wear “ugly clothes.” My boys were little monsters but rarely in public places so I felt instantly like a failure with Bel. I had no idea how to handle a four year old girl that rejected me on every level. Fear began to creep into my heart. I had taken the classes, read the books, even taught some of the classes for DHS. How could I be so clueless?

Over the next fourteen years, I am ashamed to say that I found myself avoiding Bel on many levels. I was a good mother in that I provided all the things necessary for a decent life. I guarded my heart closely though. Time and time again, when I would reach out only to feel rejected, I would escape deeper into hiding hoping to protect my heart. I never blamed Bel. I knew I was the one failing her, she wasn’t failing me. We even sought counseling. Prayer at church. Fighting it out at home. Nothing seemed to help.

Right before Bel’s nineteenth birthday, she had a medical scare which landed her in the hospital for a week. The thought of losing my baby girl was more than overwhelming to me. It took my focus off of me and my pain and placed my eyes where they should have always been from the beginning, on Belen. The night we rushed her to the hospital, I sat in the backseat of the car, holding my daughter in my arms. I don’t know that I have ever wept the way I did that night. The only words I could say over and over were, “I love you, Bel!”

It’s an amazing thing what vulnerability can bring to a relationship. From that night on, as I opened my heart again, no longer worried about being rejected but focused on what was best for my daughter, each day has brought more than I could have hoped for. More than I deserve. I learned to be honest about my feelings but more importantly, I learned and am learning to listen. Bel has opened up about her fears from the past and her fears of the future and you know what? As we have opened ourselves up to one another, most of those fears have suddenly faded away. Light seems to do that to darkness….melt all the boogie men you just knew were laying in wait to get you someday.

Bel just turned twenty-five years old. She is one of my favorite people in this world and definitely my favorite Belen. She and I have so many things in common. She loves the poor and needy. She cares for others with her entire heart not just a piece of it. She is funny and witty and kind of weird. She is one of the most amazing and strange people I have ever known. She is just like her mother.

Belen Marie Hansen, doing just one of the things she does best.

and the story continues.....