Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Its Another Open Letter Thing

An open letter to my daughter

Dear daughter, today is the first day of the rest of your life. As you leave on your journey you are not just going on a trip. Today when you leave it is the culmination of your life’s preparations. You are not just taking on a new job, you are embarking on a new life that you built – all on your own. They say a parent’s job is to teach their children to not need them anymore. The hardest part of that job is accepting success. And success is what you have achieved. You may not be thinking that now, but each step you take is success, even if it’s not what you expected or wanted. Because with every step forward or backward is a lesson to be learned. To accept success for every step is to revel in the achievement or learn the lesson and move forward. If you do that you will always be successful. Great men and women aren’t great because of what they achieve. They are great because they learn the lessons along the way and believe they can make a difference. And you do make a difference. Believe this and you can never truly fail.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, “Always bear in mind that your resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” Your success may not look like someone else’s success. At some point this may bother you or them. But that is not what is important. God says in Deuteronomy 8:18, “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Success is to let God guide your every step. If in all your years at home you take away nothing else, take away this: You will never fail as long as He is your guiding hand.

Parents all over the world hold many memories of their children, some memories are stronger than others. I remember that call you made to me to tell me of your plans to move to North Carolina to continue your employment with Publix. I remember specifically the joy in your voice as you told me your plans, how excited you were that this opportunity had presented itself. But it wasn’t the joy over that that thrilled me. What thrilled me was the joy you exuded over finally knowing your place in the world, your purpose, and how relieved you were that your dad and I were on board. How could we not be? Your success and happiness overshadows any feelings we have. I’ve told you from the time you were little that all we want is for you to be happy no matter what your chosen profession. So go be happy, even if it means in North Carolina. You’ll be back to visit, and you’ll miss us like we will miss you. But you’ll build your new life with new friends and opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily happen here. So go – build it! Life is about living so make it count.

I pride myself on being a whiz with words but I find myself utterly speechless at this moment trying to finish this. I am filled with pride at the beautiful, vivacious, brilliant young woman you are. I look at pictures of you as a baby or young child and it’s so precious to me to see that look in your eyes, that spark that has now been illuminated. It’s always been there only we didn’t really know how you were going to use it. Now we know. I am so thankful that God gave me you. You have been my angel, always having faith in me no matter what. I thought telling you I had cancer was hard; this is probably more difficult than that. But I’m not saying goodbye. I’m saying until we see you again beautiful girl. Be good. Be strong. Be sure. Be humble. But most importantly, be you. I love you over and over again.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

It's an Open Letter Thing

An open letter from a birth mother to her daughter:

You are 28 today. Happy birthday. Every year you grow more beautiful and it has been my privilege to watch your transformation. They say pain and grief are lessened over time, but in 28 years I still remember the physical pain of childbirth and the emotional pain and grief over letting you go. But what they say is true because that pain and grief have been replaced by happiness and joy at being a part of your life, if even only for a little while. That happiness is multiplied as you have expanded your family with a daughter of your own, a husband, a wonderful stepson, and a new life on the way. My heart grows every time I see you and the little ones that call me Ninny. There are so many layers to this thing called life, and it is only made more rich as I remember exactly how I felt that day 28 years ago.

I was young. I was scared. I had no idea how I was going to care for you the way you deserved. So I knew what I had to do but that didn't make it any easier. I thought about you every day, wondering how you were doing, if you were growing, if you were sick, if you were happy, if you were learning, if you were safe, if you had everything you needed...all the things all moms worry about...because no matter how far away from me you were, I could feel in my heart you were still mine. I understood you had a mom and a dad - as you deserved and needed - a mom and dad to help you grow and care for you, to love you unconditionally. And to this day I am ever grateful for the sacrifice they made for you, to love you so much and bring you into their family as their own. Without them, you would not be you, or have the life you have.

For the past 28 April 28th's I have had these very thoughts, and for the first 17 I never knew if I would ever meet you. But your parents instilled in you the virtues of honesty, family, integrity, and purpose, and inspired you to know that biologically your history was different from theirs. They wanted you to know your heritage and be proud of it. Because of this, on your 17th birthday, I was your wish come true - something so rare that many reading this will not even understand how that would feel. Your birthday wish was to meet me - your birth mother - and it came true. That day, oh that day will always live in my memory. That moment you turned around and I saw you for the very first time holds an island in my memory bank that will forever be etched in gold.

Since then, on every April 28th I have been able to wish you happy birthday in person rather than just in my mind and heart. We have celebrated with you, sent presents, cards and text messages...something moms do for their kids every day. So on this golden birthday you should know how much light and sunshine you bring to my life. To know you, to see you build a life and family of your own, to celebrate weddings, babies, birthdays, Christmases and summer vacations with you is truly a joy, an honor, and a privilege. Knowing all this it occurs to me that I guess I'm not that much different than any other mom. I worry about you. I pray for you. I hope you are safe. I tell you I love you.

So to you daughter...from one mom to another...happy birthday. I hope it is all you wish for and more. I love you.


The Mom Who Wasn't

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's a Christmas Thing

There are many ways to say Merry Christmas. There are many reasons to celebrate and many carols to sing. But God laid on my heart a new song - actually, a different twist on an old favorite.

The twelve things at Christmas that I am thankful for:

12 - The dozens of blooms in our yard showing me that no matter how dormant and dead something may seem on the outside, life is still brimming on the inside just waiting to bloom again.
11 - The eleven bills I paid last month without wondering where the money was coming from. Do you realize how big a blessing that really is?
10 - The number of chances I get to make things right; well, maybe its more than 10.
9 - The number of angels surrounding my girls each and every day.
8 - The number of hours I'm able to work in a day at a job I love that provides for my family.
7 - The number children and grandchildren (of course I'm already counting the newest addition even though he/she is not here yet!).
6 - A magical age full of wonder and the blessing that we can remember long ago, a time past, when dreams were really big.
5 - The number of years I've been cancer-free.
4 - The number of bars on my black belt; yes it's a blessing because I'm physically fit and able to do something I love.
3 - The magical number of cats we always seem to have.
2 - This represents the two most loving, caring, perfectly imperfect parents who raised me to love, to question my world, to have a moral center and let God lead me.
1 - I'm most thankful for God letting me spend this life and the next with my husband, the one person who embodies the spirit of Christ - love, hope, patience, kindness, forgiveness.

As I was lying in bed dreaming of Christmas, I marveled at how simply God works. I was looking out my window and the clouds were very thick and heavy with coming rain. But the light of the moon was even stronger. It shone through enough to light up the sky like our very own nightlight. As I ponder on the things I'm most thankful for, it is this time of year that we celebrate Christ's birth. And I can't think of anything I'm more grateful for than God's forbearance of the human race and His capacity to love us beyond measure. He sent His son so that we could spend eternity with Him. As in the song, Anno Dominae, "the past can be forgiven, the future be rewritten". Like the moon shining through the darkness of the storm clouds, God's love can shine through the murkiest sins and make you new. May we remember in this world gone astray that God still loves us and is waiting.

May you all have a blessed, merry, peaceful Christmas and a joyous new year.

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's a Halloween Thing

With Halloween right around the corner, I couldn't help but share this poem again. It's so fun and whimsical. Happy Halloween!

Once upon a time
On All Hallow’s Eve
There were moans and groans
And many screams.

Goblins and ghouls
Roamed the halls
Looking for victims
Or chocolate popcorn balls.

Zombies and ghosts
And superheroes galore
Ninjas and turtles
All added to the gore.

Houses dressed up
In ghoulish delight
While witches and warlocks
Watched into the night.

Pumpkins were carved
And lit from within
They smiled and grimaced
Through thick or thin skin.

Soon the streets emptied
The wookies were tired
The monsters were sated
Even the vampires.

All Hallow’s Eve
was once again done
Till this time next year
Beware – they come!

(c)jma 2013

Saturday, September 26, 2015

It's a Top Ten List for Ninjas Thing

I've been thinking about this blog for a couple of weeks now. I really did want to get something out there about my most recent accomplishment, but I wasn't entirely sure I wanted it to be one of those feel-good, gooey blogs. I could write about how much power your mind has over your body, or how I set my sights on 4th degree after my breast cancer diagnosis 5 years ago, or how I trained so hard the test was not easy by any means, but not near as hard as I thought because I'd prepared myself well. Or even how I know there are things I need to work on and want to improve. There's all sorts of ways this blog could go. I settled on a Top 10 list type of blog. So here it is:

My Top 10 List for Ninjas
10) Be pink. Ninjas can't be seen because, well they're ninjas. So wearing pink won't give you away. And pink is a tough color to  pull off, so only the best ninjas can wear pink and wear it well.

9) Train hard. And then train some more because someone will eventually record you and you will instantly know you have to train even harder. So just get used to it.

8) Pet a cat. Cats have natural ninja power. The more you pet a cat, the more ninja vibe you can extract from them. Don't worry. Their power regenerates nightly. You know because they use it to wake you the following morning for breakfast.

7) Spar a kid. Not just any kid; choose wisely. Nothing makes you better at sparring than getting your butt kicked by a kid half your size and 3 decades younger than you.

6) Find your groove. It's easy to get caught up in all kinds of diet fads, but ninjas need energy therefore the logic would follow that ninjas need cake. And pizza. And chocolate.

5) Get gross. Get used to being gross. Get used to taking lots of showers and doing lots of laundry (unless you live in California).

4) Skip the doctor. Unless it's serious, while you're in training you gotta suck up the soreness, strained muscles, and bruises. The doctor will only laugh and shake his head at you in disbelief that a normal person would do this to themselves.

3) Recruit the doctor's kids. This way you can skip No. 4 and go to the doctor because he will now understand. You can laugh and shake your head at him.

2) Get a pedicure. Nothing pampers a ninjas feet more than a pedicure. And cute nail polish - don't forget the nail polish.

1) Write a blog. Chronicle your journey somehow. After all, people love reading about a complete stranger's exploits in becoming a ninja.

But probably my overall advice for ninjas - don't take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the journey because you don't want it to end.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

It's a Miracle Thing

God says in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God." This one sentence packs a powerful punch. The Bible also tells the story of when Elijah went up into the mountains of Horab, the mount of God, looking for his Lord. In 1 Kings 19:11-12, the Lord passed by him and there was a mighty wind, an earthquake and a fire, but the Lord was not in any of those; He was in the still, small voice that spoke to Elijah. In our modern world view, we think that miraculous has to be big – like the parting of the sea for the Israelites, or a burning bush calling to Moses. To bring in some pop culture to this discussion, the movie Bruce Almighty comes to mind. Bruce, played by Jim Carrey, thinks that God has forgotten about him because everyone around seems to be getting what they want while he is left behind. When ‘God’ actually takes him up on his offer to run the world better, Bruce decides to get some things for himself first…without thinking of the consequences. After much calamity, God tells Bruce that if he really wants to see miracles, he should be the miracle. A kid saying no to drugs – that’s a miracle.  A single mom working and raising her children – that’s a miracle. Miracles are in the small, everyday things that we take for granted. Bruce had taken for granted that he had a good job, a girlfriend who loved him, and was doing what he loved – the small things.

I think we need to let go of our delusions of grandeur when it comes to miracles. God can be in the big things, because He is everywhere, but He would rather speak to us in the stillness and quiet when we can really hear Him. He cares about every aspect in our life and sometimes we get so busy, our lives get so loud, that we can’t hear Him. But if we only stop for a moment, we can grasp how much He really does care and plans things to perfection just for us because He loves us. Remember that appointment you had to go to but were running behind through no fault of your own? And how all the lights seemed to be green, traffic was light, and there were no obstructions? You probably had a fleeting thought of, “oh, wow, lucky me; traffic is light today.” What you didn’t notice was the string of angels left panting in your wake who were instructed to help you out because God knew how important that appointment was and you were not at fault for being late. He took care of you in the still, small voice.

God loves to show up big – parting of the Red Sea, raising the dead, 10 plagues, driving out demons –  but He can use the small things to make just as big an impact. Consider the story where God instructed Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, on the altar to test Abraham’s faith. At the very last moment, God provided a ram caught in the bushes for the sacrifice instead. We believe it to be a miracle – just in time – but in reality, God knew Abraham would obey so He knew to have that ram ready to be sacrificed.

Right now in our lives, God has provided a ram for us – just in time. You see, our oldest cat, Aladdin, who we adopted shortly after we moved into our home 16 years ago, is not doing well. In fact, by the time you read this he could be gone. It’s hard to say goodbye to these fur-babies. They are more than pets – they are family. We come to care about them, love them, understand their meows and barks, and make the commitment to care for them like family when we invite them into our home. Although we gave Aladdin to Lorrie for her birthday the year we moved in, as you may know, the human doesn’t choose the cat – the cat chooses their human. Aladdin is an ‘every cat’ meaning he didn’t particularly choose one of us over the other. We call him our only ‘real’ cat because he’s the only feline we have right now that actually acts like you think a cat should. But over the years, he took a liking to Kellie and summoned her to bed for most of her primary school years, all the way through high school. 9pm every night, he’s calling her to bed and lying with her until she was asleep. Somehow he knew she needed something furry to help her settle in at bedtime. Now, as he nears his walk over the Rainbow Bridge, God knew Kellie would need something to fill the hole left by Al’s parting.  As if by miracle, a few weeks ago Geoff and I heard something crying near the taekwondo academy. It was a kitten – and not just any kitten. It turned out to be a female calico who looks a lot like JackJack’s baby sister, Mia, who died when she was 7 months old (which was a tough loss for Lorrie who had raised both JackJack and Mia from birth). Why is this important? Although Lorrie is the main cat whisperer in our home, Kellie was the one who took this kitten under her wing, and in turn the kitten, Mo, chose Kellie as her human. Even JackJack has embraced this new addition to the household which was important for all of us considering JackJack’s place in the cat pecking order. Al’s place can never be taken by another, but I believe God knew Kellie would need to love something else to help her heart heal, so He sent Mo and provided us the means to be able to keep her. God cares that we love our pets – His creation! – like we do and in turn took care to ensure Al’s love would continue through this new little gal. Now THAT’s what I call a miracle. In the still, small voice God spoke through that kitten, ensuring we would hear her (she’s not cried that loud since she came to live with us!). And right now, Mo and JackJack are curled up together on the back of the couch, safe, loved, and (I’m not ashamed to say), a little spoiled. All because God cares.

He cares when you’ve misplaced something you need. He cares when you want to lose weight. He cares when you want a new job. He cares when you need relief from a headache. He cares when you just need to rest because you’ve been so busy. He cares. “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still and listen to Him speak. Be still and let Him lead and perform those miracles in your life, big or small.

Monday, June 22, 2015

It's a Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay Thing

Sunday, June 21, 2015 - Father's Day and the First Day of Summer

I'm sitting on the boardwalk near Pier 5 and the National Aquarium at Baltimore's Inner Harbor. I was wiling away the hours waiting for the Huey Lewis and the News concert to begin. It's a perfect East Coast summer afternoon. There's a breeze blowing across the harbor, fluttering flags and short skirts as it races down the boardwalk. Otis Redding's song, "Sittin on the Dock of the Bay" plays in my mind. The sun is beginning to set and the blue sky is dotted with puffy clouds, plane trails, and the gray bank of a storm front off in the distance. I have a great view of the Hermione, a 12-pounder Concorde class frigate. She is a reproduction of the 1779 Hermione which ferried General Lafayette to the Americas in 1780 to allow him to rejoin the American side of the Revolutionary War. Although the wind is berating her colors, she lies firm in her hull against the barrage. I also have a front row seat of the paddle-boats listing helplessly against the dock, their passengers unable to dislodge them with their mighty peddling. It's all in vain when fighting the wind and tide. The motorized tug boat comes to rescue them, only for others to follow in their wake.

But neither of these views, nor the passersby, draw my attention for long. It's the couple sitting on the next bench. I guess them to be mid-sixties, maybe a bit older - white hair, aging bodies - but absolutely perfect in their embrace. The man sits tall, but at an angle, while his wife (I assume - both are wearing wedding bands) leans against him and has her head resting on his shoulder. His arm is stretched over the back of the bench and he caresses her shoulder. They are watching the paddle-boats with amusement just like I am, sharing a secret laugh here and there. My heart warms at how comfortable they are with each other, how familiar. They have obviously spent a lifetime together. I am drawn to their space - spiritually, not physically. I watch them, sparingly, and am in awe of them. For the most part they sit quietly; no need for idle chatter, social media or smart phones. They only need each other, a comfortable bench, and time to just 'be'. They are clearly of one mind and one soul.

Humans are social creatures. God engineered us this way. In fact, He created Adam because He was lonely and wanted a companion. Then He saw that Adam was lonely and created Eve to be a partner for him. Studies have proven over and over again that humans fare better when they have sufficient social capital to support them through life's curves, turns, twists and peaks.

I am intrigued because it makes me long for home and my 'one'. It also brought to mind another blog I wrote about the passing of time and the movement of generations. First my husband and I were the young couple just starting out, looking up to those families with young children. Then, when we were the family with young children, we couldn't help but look up to and wonder how long it would be until we were the family at the next table with grown children. And now we are the family at the next table with the grown children looking up to the next generation of empty-nesters and how long it will be until we are there. When we do arrive at that moment, I look forward to us being that couple on the next bench, relaxing while the world rushes by - the young families, elderly couples, teenagers, college students - remembering those moments in our lives that brought us here.  As I continue to write this blog (prior to typing it here), many generations pass by, each unaware of the passage of time as observed by a solitary girl sitting on a boardwalk bench.

The breeze is still attempting to dislodge the Hermione from her berth, but settles on moving the hapless paddle-boats. So goes with life - the wind attempts to dislodge us. But like the Hermione, if we are lucky enough to be firmly moored to those around us, the wind may move on and settle on berating the hapless persons who go through life in a singular state. Will we be firmly moored enough to withstand the buffeting of the wind so that in the setting of our lives we are relaxing on a boardwalk bench? Or are we helplessly tossed about, at the mercy of the man with the motorized boat to come save us? The choice is ours. How it ends is up to you.