27 November 2009

Loving Lainie

She is twelve.    
She is excited to be twelve.   
Twelve means she can ride in the front seat of the car.      
Twelve is almost thirteen.  

Twelve is a milestone.

Twelve is not the number I rest on......it is nine.

Nine and a half to be more exact. 
That's how long I've known her. 
That's when life changed for her and for us. 
She is closer to nine than to twelve and yet I try to balance the chronological age with the age of her understanding....
...it gets more challenging each year.


When I saw her for the first time she was a tiny 2 1/2 year old screaming, head-shaking, under-no-circumstances- do -I- want- anything -to -do -with -these- people scrap of a person with
hair cut too short,
 clothes too small,
 and feverish mosquito bites all over her. 
Non-verbal except for that squawking noise and a few baby babbling words in Russian. 
I wondered what in the world I had gotten myself into. 
 I was soon to find out......


I was an experienced mother of six children.....for sixteen years.......tough cookies, some of them.......but I had never encountered a person who had learned to be a survivor by the age of one......who deciphered her world in bits and pieces....."who knew what she wanted and how to get it" as our interpreter commented......


A child touched by neglect....illness....disabilities....poverty........
one who was picked up and taken from the only world she knew and  put down on the other side of the world into another "orphanage" where nobody did anything the way she was used to or spoke the language she had learned to interpret......
for "orphanage" was what we were to her for a long time, 
I am sure of that.

I remember telling her over and over that I was her Mama.....
but in the orphanage, 
every woman is called Mama.
I had to re-direct and claim my personal possession of her...
"you are MY girl......you stay with ME".....
over and over...."look at Me......look in My eyes".

I remember watching every odd behavior and trying to figure out if it was neglect, fetal alcohol, orphanage behavior,
 or just her personality.
I remember thinking that I was not ready for this assignment.
I was failing.


And then, I found it.  

The newsletter from a ministry that we'd supported. 
They had played a side role, but a large  one in our adoption.
 I had saved it because we had sent money for baby formula. 

There had been no milk for the babies and they had been feeding them sugar water. 
As I read the letter of thanks from the missionary, (a woman I now knew and had visited in her 'flat'- who was a big part of our adoption), she described the children who were helped.  

She listed the locations of the orphanages where the formula, "the best money could buy", had been sent.  Listed among them was one I recognized. 
I had been there.....in that "baby house"....
with the director, a physician, who mixed up her own medicines because they had none....
with the workers who had loved Leanichka......
who were washing all the clothes by hand because their only washing machine was broken.....
who had cried tears of gratitude over the instant oatmeal we left because they had nothing to feed the children for breakfast......


This had been one of the orphanages to receive the baby formula before we'd even known we were adopting. 
 What was the date of the letter?
  Wait.  
When did Lainie get there?  
No way. 
Couldn't be. 

Yes......it was true..........she had just gotten there when that baby formula was delivered.  

Before we thought about adopting and before the amazing series of events that ended with her in our home, we fed her. 

Because there was no milk for babies, we sent money......before she was even there, it was purchased and after she had just gotten there, it was delivered........

He had prepared the way........
the path we were now walking in...
even the path I stumbled in.........
through my questions and my tears, 
He had already been there....

Today she is twelve.

She is no longer a screaming, manipulating little scrap of a girl shaking her head at the speed of her no's.


She is a pretty girl who loves Jesus and loves reading her Bible even though it is a painstaking process to de-code every word of the third grade level translation. 

She works very hard to learn and to remember things. 
She practices words and keeps trying even when her tongue tangles up the speech sounds. 

She wants to be "big" and learn to do "grown-up" things like cooking and knitting.  

She enjoys doing her PT exercises to strengthen weak muscles that are causing her back to curve in scoliosis. 
She loves writing letters and calling her friends on the phone. 
She loves the teasing over the fact that she might have "turkey cake" or that everyone will be too full of Thanksgiving dinner to eat birthday cake. 
She laughs when we tell her that she used to think Thanksgiving was a holiday in honor of her birthday.

We are still walking down that path that He has set before us. 
I, fearful at times and unsure of the outcome, 
and she, trusting, holding my hand and running eagerly ahead. 

 I don't know the time she was born. 
I do not know what she has been through.....
but I know that He was there.....
and is there......
teaching me about what real love is all about. 
 That love is an action and not a feeling. 
That love is of Him. 
Agape.

Today she is twelve.

It is a milestone, indeed.






26 November 2009

Grasping Gratitude: a desperate act


disappointment.

decisions.

disillusion.

depression.

death.

disabilities.

disorders.

disease.

these are things that we face every day.....they come unbidden.......      unwelcome.......      unwanted.......

How are we to deal with these things? What are we to do?

Analyze? Synthesize? Anesthetize? Sympathize?

I have pondered and prayed..... considered the truth that how we think and act are intertwined.......considered that gratitude leads to greatness of faith......and decided that it is necessary to obey God's command to give thanks even if one does not feel thankful at that particular moment......because the alternative is bitterness. 

I will write down my things to be grateful for......thankful for......no matter how small......small things are easily overlooked and they make up the bulk of my life anyway, so why miss life waiting for something large to be thankful for?

The large things are obvious.......salvation, husband, children, home, food, family......

....the small ones, not so much....

.....remembering the sound of that letter........pronouncing that word correctly.......ability to bend a finger that might have to remain crooked.......the loan of an exercise ball for therapy......children who love each other....grandparents who go out of their way to help...

stopping. noticing. writing it down.

I'd like to say it was my idea. I'd even like to say that when it was introduced to me, I jumped right on it and said, "what a great idea".  But no. I think that when you are dealing with the "hard things" so often, it becomes sorta like looking into a microscope. You see things that others can't see....but you have to see them and deal with them......you forget that if you step back from that microscope you can see the whole object in a different perspective.


That is how gratitude becomes a desperate act......it is necessary for survival....for life........for abundance.

It is not easy to "see" things to be thankful for.......but with practice, it becomes easier.......natural......nay, supernatural....because it forces you outside of yourself. 

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.
 Psalm 28:7 NIV


16 November 2009

Things I Want to Learn


Why is it, that when you decide you will put your thoughts out there for others to read, 
you can't figure out what those thoughts are? 
 I will just blame it on "mommy brain"......
or fatigue.........
or stress.......
or too much sugar.....
whatever.  

Honestly, after I started this blog, I began to look around here in cyberspace a bit and I have found some wonderful places. 
There are many out there who have so much wisdom and wit. 
Oh- and what about all the unique blogs out there. I have found a few gems,  
.....which made me a bit keyboard shy.

Mostly, my experience with my computer has been limited to one email address (well, there is another that I rarely check), one Etsy store, a few trips to Ebay Land, and a Message Board of faithful friends, 
some of whom I have never met in real life. 

There are searches for things I want to buy or learn about and a few dips into topics that interest me such as homeschooling, genealogy and photography. 

But, until now, I have never written a blog.

It's intimidating.

Okay.....so, in my distracted and nearly-middle-aged mind , I have decided that all of the fragments that swirl in my head all have one thing in common.

 They are new interests.  
They are things I want to learn.

 Recently, I was browsing around on Facebook (forgot to mention that one) to see what my grown kids are up to.....
umm, I do talk to them on the phone, 
but I can't see photos of their vacations on the phone....
anyway, one gal who is a very young twenty-something was making a Bucket List.  

I don't think she needs to worry about that now, but there are some things that we think about doing, and then, oh, a couple of decades or more fly by and we've never given them another thought........

I don't have a Bucket List, but lately, there have been a few things about which I have thought, 
"I'd like to learn how to do that."  
Some are expensive and some are not. Some require a little practice and some will require more years than I probably have to master.  
All of them are creative, artsy things.

 I don't have much time to create things with my hands. I read and read and read.....but usually to find information that I need and I rarely have time for my mind to just... think...and meditate on what is important in this life.

I think that we all have the ability and yes, even the need, to create things. To fashion something that wasn't there before. Something that brings beauty to our lives and others.Something that meets a need.  Something that makes us appreciate that someone had to slow down and put forth an effort. Something that took thought and maybe a bit of planning.

I like to make things. I like to feel the satisfaction of seeing something old and ugly become new and attractive (even if only to me). I want to know if anything rational and interesting can come out of the jumble of thoughts swirling in my head.

So, here are a few things that are on my list of Things I Want to Learn.

I'd like to learn how to upholster furniture.

I'd like to finish the research on my house and make a glossy photo book about it.

I'd like to do the same on various branches and people in the family.

I'd like to learn how to make books and journals out of various things and for various purposes.

I'd like to learn how to get my music onto paper so that I can share it.

I'd like to learn how to play the cello.

I'd like to learn how to lay tile.

I'd like to learn how to hook rugs.

I'd like to learn how to write a blog.

So far, I've found several books that can help me learn many of  these things. I have learned how to do many things from books.  Books are friends. Well, the good ones are.  And I have a new folder in my "fav's" that is titled Things I Want to Learn. I also have software to help me do some things like writing music, but I'm still doing the beginning baby steps.  I do not have a cello. But I know where I can find a teacher.

 And, I have figured out how to write something for you to read when I thought I had nothing to say.

Okay, now it's your turn.
What would you like to learn how to do?
  Let me know and maybe we will all be inspired by the new act of learning something new.

photo: north shore of prince edward island, Canada (c) debbie richardson

11 November 2009

To All Veterans, We Say "Thank You"



  


On Sunday,
 I attended a special Veteran's Day service and listened to a stirring cantata given by the choir. 
During the service, each veteran and active service member stood and told his or her branch and duty.  I especially appreciated this part of the service because I knew most of the veterans present but did not know of their service to our country.

     
In the days following the horrible attack at Fort Hood Army Post in Texas, we are reminded once again that the sacrifices of the few provide blessings to the many. 

During the memorial service yesterday, this was demonstrated in a poignant way when each fallen soldier's name was given during the roll call.

In the silence after each name was called I thought of the families who would no longer hear those voices.  Each military family gives their best and brightest to a nation who, regretfully, is not always supportive or grateful.

We must remember that those who can spread the hope of freedom are those who have enjoyed its benefits. 

     If you do not feel gratitude for the liberty you enjoy, it is time to look around you and observe exactly what you have been given.  

Make a list of all the things you are free to do that were paid for by the blood of patriots before you.  

And then say "Thank You."  

It is important and I daresay, it is, at the very least, our duty.

 To all of the great men and women who have given themselves in service to this country, 

I thank you.
      
 To the soldiers in my family, 
I am proud to know you.
       
You are great Americans.



photos: American flag at Ft. Campbell, KY; brother's saying goodbye;   101st Airborne 1-502 return from service in Iraq 2006
 (c) debbie richardson

10 November 2009

What Does Age Have to Do With It?

     The last few weeks have been very hectic in my household. 
I mentioned earlier that my children were participating in co-ops this year and that this was really something we had not been able to do much of over the years.  
All of this running around is beginning to tell on me. 
 I'm feeling it and I'm not liking it.

      Last night we had two committments back-to-back. They were both quite fun, but I was definitely feeling the fatigue of it all. 

Then a conversation about the fact that I was wearing my contacts instead of my glasses 
(no-line bifocals.....did I really just admit that?) 

was the cause of not being able to see what I was doing, 
led to one of the mom's mentioning that she did not want to get bifocals yet, 
which led to another mom saying something that caused me to say.....
"You're not even thirty yet are you?" 

"Not 'til next year"....and then the first mom mentioned that she would be forty soon..... Sigh.  

I'm the old mom. I'm forty-six. One of them said, "Oh, but you have so much wisdom!" 

     This morning the thought came to me that when I had my first child, 
this "not 30" mom was 4 years old and that
 when I began homeschooling, 
she would have been about eleven! 

Yikes! 

Why does my mind insist on conjuring up these facts for me?  
 Forty-six doesn't really sound too old, but I can remember when I was the youngest mom in nearly every social situation.
 I started my family in my early twenties and I kept it up.....so, now my "littles" are the same age as these mom's "olders". 
It's disconcerting to me, especially since I feel older than I suspect that I should.

     The fact is, eighteen years is a long time to do anything (especially homeschooling) and I am finding that sometimes it is just a matter of will to get this gal to keep going. 
At the same time, my "babies" are not babies at all, they are "tweens" and teens......geesh! 

Am I that old? It's weird because I'm doing things with other moms whose "oldest" kids are the same ages as my "babies".

     I understand that I have emotions that want to surface when I see these young moms with their "littles"......

What do I call my "littles" since they are no longer little?

I realize that I'm in a new "stage of life" (I really don't like that phrase at all) and that it won't be too long until I get to the "grandma stage" and all the wonders of grandchildren.  

But for now, I'm still one of the homeschool moms driving her kids to homeschool group activities and wanting nothing more than a long uninterrupted sleep.....for say...... a week for starters.  

For example, this last week alone we have left early in the morning and not returned until late at night several days in a row which has led to another time-tested reality that I'm really beginning to feel the full force of its existence.

      I have stated and will re-emphasize that I am a Homebody.....
I like to be home. 

It has been a long and established fact that when a person is not at home all day, little faeries enter the house and wreak havoc everywhere.  
They unmake beds, throw dust all around, pile up trash and throw clean clothes and dirty clothes in baskets together and dirty up the sinks.  

You would think that the old stories about elves finishing the shoemaker's work were true ones, but I'm sorry to say they are not. 
There are only wicked faeries who come in and mess everything up especially when you have to be gone for several days in a row. 
Of course, they also eat all the good things in the pantry and fridge knowing that you will be too exhausted to shop for groceries and will settle for toast or whatever odd thing you can concoct.

     I did find the energy to make a list of all the cleaning duties that need to be accomplished to get things back in order. 
But, I'm afraid that is as far as I've gotten. 
 I know all about the wonderful websites that will organize your life in 15 minutes a day, but I am not wired that way. 
I have to go all out and get it all done or it will nag at me. 
I'm not talking about entering the dark recesses of the closets in this house, 
oh no, 
I'd just like the clutter to be out of sight and I don't have the stamina to look at it much longer.

     It is another known fact that clutter is simply "visual  noise".  I don't tolerate noise well these days and everything in my line of vision is 
simply screaming.

 It must be stopped! I suspect that much of the fatigue I'm feeling is the actual drain of seeing so much to do and trying to muster the energy to attack it. 
Talking about what needs done is not always helpful, but writing about it in a public forum just might do the trick. 
 I seem to work better under pressure.  
If you'd like to come over for coffee,
 I am sure that I'd find the energy to clean it up in a heartbeat.......
but I'd still be exhausted and pay for it with aches and pains later.

     I know that I have to come to terms with this "stage" of life.....
I'm in my forties......
I haven't been the young mom in the group for a while.......
I know that I may have more wisdom now than when I was younger, but I can't always remember exactly what it is and I definitely don't want gray hair to prove it.  

I know that like every other stage of life, there are survival techniques that must be implemented.... and for now, I have to work out a better arrangement for staying on top of things if we are to be running hither and yon all the time. 

I know that you have to grow your own "good faeries" who will help you keep things in order and training them young is of vital importance. When my good faeries grow up and leave I will be in big trouble!

 Along with age comes health issues. We can't ignore them. We can't wish them away. We have to learn to work with them and try not to be bitter about what they take from us, like our feeling of youth. But such are common to Man. 

So we have to push on.

     Thankfully, the activities for this semester are winding down. I am glad. Because we all know what is lurking coming up around the corner.....Thanksgiving and Christmas! 

     I think  it is time for Home Ec.....where are those dusting rags??

09 November 2009

From the Philippines, With Love........


    

In an earlier post, I promised that I had many more children and their spouses that I could introduce to you. Today gives me an opportunity to do just that. I am still amazed at how God orchestrates the events in our lives in order to bless us.

     Sometimes it just boggles my mind, as it did the Psalmist's when he wrote, 

"What is man that you are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4) 

For whatever reason, the Creator of the universe is interested in us.
 Isn't that amazing?
   
     I am, by nature, a homebody. 
I have no plans for adventure. 
I grew up in a very small town and planned to live there my entire life. 

God had other plans. 

My husband was offered a job in another state and that move began a series of other job offers and other moves around the country. 
I eventually got used to moving and was surprised when we ended up in Louisiana and it seemed that God had stopped moving us. 
We passed the "mile marker" of two years and we were not moving anywhere else. 
In fact, we lived in the same house for twelve years. 
A record! 

     There were several things that I didn't care for in Louisiana.....
the heat, for one. 
I can't tolerate it.  

The mosquitos seem to be a state crop.......
and pine pollen!  
Oh my.......if you have allergies, 
you do not want to discover that your 2 1/2 acre wooded lot at the bottom of a dead-end street that has PINE in the name of it will cause you to close up your house and not want to leave it from February til June. 
That was a major disappointment.  
My body still overreacts to allergens even though I'm 800 miles away.  
Back in my home state, my sinuses rebel to simple things like corn pollens that I've experienced my entire life. 

But back to Louisiana......

The people in NW Louisiana are some of the nicest I've met in my moves around the US.  
We have made many lasting friendships there as well as in Arkansas, Texas, Mexico, and Russia, all because of God moving us there. 

     Twenty-six years ago, in the Philippines, a baby girl was born. 
 She played with her cousins and ate fresh mangoes that she picked from the trees. 
She came to live in NW Louisiana when she was eight years old, 
after her mom married a US citizen.  
That was about the same time we moved to TN and began homeschooling.
 Four years later, 
we found ourselves in NW Louisiana.

      After our son graduated high school,
 he decided to go to college at NSU in Natchitoches, LA.  
He began talking about a girl in chemistry class.....he seemed to borrow her notes a lot.  

He joined the Army and went to bootcamp. 
After bootcamp, he decided that she should be his wife.
 She agreed. 
 Our family loved her from the start. 
She was supportive of his choice to join the military. 
She was willing to wait at home while he served two tours in Iraq.  

When I think of all the things that had to happen in order for my son to meet her, I am amazed. 

Obviously, he would not have gone to that university if we lived in another state. 

In fact, he almost went to another school altogether. 


     Whenever you hear someone tell how they met their spouse,
 remember that many, many choices led up to those two people meeting in the first place, 
sometimes many generations in the past.  

I think it is so cool that God works in our lives in such intimate ways. My husband and I have prayed for the spouses of our children from the time they were little. 

It is wonderful to see the answers to those prayers!

 Today is this special lady's birthday. 
Happy Birthday, L!  
I'm so happy to be your mom-in-law, or as some put it, mom-in-love! 
We hope you have a wonderful day!
    
    
photos: tropical flower from the backyard; son and daughter-in-law birthday (c) debbie richardson

06 November 2009

Moment of Silence

     From the time I left the house yesterday, until the time I came home in the evening, I only had a chance to stop in for ten minutes. The day was filled with various co-op classes and the weekly library visit with a grocery store stop and medical appointment thrown in.  

Before I left for the day, I watched Fox and Friends who were doing their morning news show live from the deck of the USS New York. 
This brand new Navy ship was constructed with over 7 tons of steel from the ruins of the Trade Center Towers in New York. 

     
It was stirring to watch the footage of the Marines and Sailors on board the vessel raising the colors just as they do every morning 
and to hear the stories of how the ship was
 made in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

I lived in northwest Louisiana for twelve years and remember seeing updates on the ship's progress from time to time.  
Hurricane Katrina caused obvious delays but the workers came back to finish the ship. 
It is a working ship and will carry Marines to fight terrorists. 
The Towers will have gone full circle. 
 They will be fighting back.

     On the drive to the last appointment of the evening, I heard the devastating news of the shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas. 

As an Army mom, my heart was stricken. 

Since details were very few, all I could do was speculate on the cause.  
My evening ended with few details to answer all of the questions in my mind. 
My heart was grieved for the families involved. My heart which was earlier stirred by patriotism was now subdued.

     Today, I watched as the military officials sorted out the facts for us. 
The shooter was not dead.
 He is on life support. 
He was a psychiatrist previously working with hurting soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center. He was recently transferred to this new post. 
He had never been deployed and did not want to be deployed now. 
Other stories said he was giving away possessions. In the midst of hearing these disturbing bits of news, other stories were told.

     It was graduation at the Army Post.  
Medic Officers ran to offer assistance still dressed in caps and gowns when they heard the gunshots. A Private loaded wounded soldiers into his pick-up truck and took them to the emergency room. 

Others provided first-aid even though they were wounded themselves. 
My heart began to fill with the unmistakable sense of patriotism. 
Of being proud to be a citizen of a country where men and women daily make willing sacrifices in service to their country and to their fellow man.

     I witnessed a Moment of Silence for the fallen and their families.
 I saw the flag at half-mast. 
It was a striking contrast to the raising of the flag on the USS New York yesterday. 
In the midst of each of our opinions as to how our country should address the War on Terror, 
must be 
gratitude for the members of our Armed Forces, prayers for them and for their families, 
and thankfulness to God that 
He is ultimately in control of every aspect in our lives and in the life of our great nation.


photos: American flag at Ft. Campbell, KY (c) debbie richardson

03 November 2009

Hey Mom, I'm Going to the Moon Today

     Today, my eleven year old, 
the astronomer, 
is going to the moon.  

Actually, he is going with about 20 of his fellow homeschoolers in our Co-op to the 
Challenger Center. 
The Challenger Centers were developed after the tragedy of the Challenger Space Shuttle which carried, along with the astronauts, the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. 

It has a flight simulator and hosts many school kids to learn about science and experience space missions first-hand.      http://www.challenger.org/

 They have been working very hard for the past six weeks or so to get ready for this trip. 
Every Thursday evening, they have been building rockets, rocket-propelled cars, doing experiments and even building a habitat out of plastic sheeting and a box fan. 
They have been divided into groups, both large and small, and the night they made the "house" out of plastic, they worked together as one large group and were not allowed to speak for an entire hour. 

That's right, no talking for a whole sixty minutes. They did it.....well, the house had a few leaks and technically, they would have died for lack of oxygen, but now they know what to do. 

I believe the objective for this mission is to build a permanent station on the moon for habitation.

Maybe we can take a family vacation there some day??

I have, at different times in my homeschooling career, 
wanted to be part of a homeschool co-op. 
For one reason or another, it has not worked out. 

There were either time conflicts, or age conflicts, or a waiting list and we never seemed to get in. 

Now, in our 18th year of homeschooling and after moving 800 miles "back home", 
my youngest three kids have the opportunity to participate in a co-op. 

Everything has it's time, as the Bible says.....so this year, they are learning to play hand bells and band instruments.....
and one is going to the moon!

I will let you know how it turns out and
 if you will be able to make vacation plans 
to the moon in the future.